SURVIVAL

(Continuation of the manuscript based on 2 Tim. 3:1-2)

It got even more troubling for the great generations, shoe fashion was on the move as well, and not just in the tennis shoes that went from black and white to technicolor like the TV.

image courtesy of emaze.com

Penny loafers and wingtips were being towered over and tossed aside for the new style, the platform shoes. The taller and thicker the sole the better.

And just when those tougher-n’-nails generations thought that the sissification of society couldn’t get any worse… it did. They could never in their wildest imaginations dream anything could get any worse than long hair on guys… but it did; hand held blow dryers for men. It was bad enough that men had hair long enough to be able to dry it like girls, but style it like them too? Sensory overload.

I got my first handheld blow dryer for Christmas my freshman year in high school… My dad didn’t say much. He’d already surrendered the war between generations of long and short hair. He had a friend that gave his oldest son an ultimatum, “Cut that damn long hair or get the hell out”.

When my dad’s friend told him the story it had been years since he’d seen his son and he grieved the loss of his son. Our dad didn’t think winning the battle of the hair was worth the same risk. He just told us, matter of factly, that if he ever saw it dirty or unkempt, he’d shave it all off. Not one of my two brothers or myself doubted his word or ability to back it up.

My dad looked a little confused when I unwrapped my brown handheld blow dryer from Sears. His forehead creased and eyebrows almost met in the middle. He then opened his eyes wide but kept his opinion to himself.

Another thing he kept to was the tradition of his generation – namely, not ever using a hand held blow dryer, not a day in his life, even when he still had enough hair to be able to use one.

Our dad was numb to the changes of society in his children’s generation. He’d watched the change from black conservative combs to flamboyant colored ones with Texas-sized handles that rode prominent in the bright colored pants that were too tight to suit real men in his generation’s estimation.

He’d seen the black and white high top canvas Converse tennis shoes become obsolete as the new colors and shapes of various logos began to rule the day.

As a boy, my dad pulled a cotton sack across other folk’s fields along with most of his eight other siblings. They weren’t working for extra spending money to use for themselves and a good time on the weekends. They were draggin’ that sack for survival.

PLASTIC COMBS

Continuation of the shelved manuscript based on 2 Tim. 3:1-2

Back in the day, men and boys carried combs. The cheap black plastic type that concealed nicely into the back pocket of the blue jeans they were sporting.

I watched my dad and uncles, after a hard day of work or what they referred to as “roughhousing”, reach back and fish that comb from their back pocket and quickly comb back their hair. Four quick strokes, two on each side, then slip the comb back into their pocket like a gunslinger holstering his pistol.

They had no need of a mirror. The only time they spent any significant time in front of a mirror was when they were making sure they got every last whisker, usually took a few chunks of skin too.

While it may have been disrespectful to leave some miscellaneous face or neck hair hanging around, the small scraps of toilet paper, with the blood spots for glue, sprinkling their face was ‘A’- okay by societies standards.

That generation, for the most part, didn’t spend a great deal of time in front of the looking glass. They struggled to grasp the men that did.

It wasn’t a particularly important day, just another one that included a fishin’ excursion. A good day. My uncle Bernie and oldest brother were planning to lower the bass and or catfish population under the water of Lake Havasu.

The kid working at the convenience store where they stopped for essentials, snacks, night crawlers or waterdogs, ice and beer, was what they used to call a “pretty boy”.

“D’-you see that guy?” my brother asked as they walked out to the truck.

My uncle Bernie just nodded, “Yep, looks like he’s gotta a little sugar in ’em,” he said as a matter of fact.

“Sugar and spice and everything nice,” was meant for girls. Or at least not for darn sure us.

It wasn’t too many seasons after that when society’s subtle style began to evolve. Like a snowball rolling down a steep hill with plenty of snow and no obstacles… headed for you know where.

image courtesy of net-a-porter.com

You started seeing guys with combs, colored ones, with obnoxious long plastic handles sticking up out of their back pockets on pants that had changed too.

Blue jeans were still in, but so were colored pants for guys. And if that wasn’t enough to trouble the generation before us, they made the “hip hugger” style of pants for guys too.

Tight, bright colored hip hugger pants with vibrant colored long-handled combs peeking out the back pocket… mine were sky blue…

NARCISSISM

This is the intro from a shelved manuscript.

Kids do a lot of swearin’. Especially when the area just behind their ears is still sopping wet. I don’t mean just the cussin’ type of swearing, I mean the inadvertent lies they tell themselves or anybody within earshot. The brand of ridiculous declarations that make older folks shake their heads in despair or disgust.

I was no different. I swore to lots of things – lied about every one of em’, as near as I can recollect. One of the things I swore to had to do with food – meat to be exact.

Being reared in a blue collar world had its advantages, namely a whole lot of freedom not long after the age of learning how to ride a bike, even if I didn’t own one.

Another advantage, though stretched hair thin, we had food. It wasn’t always what we’d have picked for ourselves, but it was filler. We had our fair share of rock sorted beans and saved grease-based-gravy was the norm.

But when it came to lunch it was nearly always the same; bologna. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t always hate bologna. In fact, like my dad, when it was fried, and as long as there was mustard, I was more than content. But like all things in this life, after a steady diet of something, it begins to wear on you… and bologna wore on me like a bearing with no grease.

narcissism

image courtesy of 3glol.net

It wore on me so much that I decided that when I got older, I’d do whatever it took to not ever eat bologna again. I even swore to it. I swore that when I was finally the boss-uh-me, not only would I not eat bologna, but I’d eat steak every day… although I hadn’t had a lot of experience with the rich folk’s meat.

Swearing off bologna wasn’t the worst lie I’ve ever told. In fact, bologna goes down with ease compared to all the pride and crow I’ve had to gulp hard to swallow in this life.

Sometimes I take a wise reminder or cue from my dog Larry. It doesn’t matter if it’s chicken, fish, bologna, or steak, he appreciates all of it.

It’s ironic. When I have Larry “sit” or “shake” and hand him a piece of steak that’s been in the fridge, a piece of the stuff I swore I’d eat every day and can’t bring myself to eat more than about once a month, I shake my head with a tad more wisdom.

Not many of us were too interested in things we couldn’t touch, see, smell, or taste. The things they talked about at church. Stuff like pride and humility were only verses to be memorized, twisted, then used out of context to justify our actions, attitudes. and desires… and to hide behind.

Lying or loathing a certain type of lunch meat seems innocent enough, but it’s the subtleties behind all of our perspectives that can’t always be seen at a glance. In fact, if someone doesn’t spout their opinions, we wouldn’t be able to spot their selfish desires, ungratefulness, jealousy, and pride.

The funny thing about pride is that it’s like Savoir Faire – it’s everywhere. Pride isn’t prejudice. It doesn’t care if a person has wealth, or is stone cold busted. It’s made to fit all shapes and sizes of souls.

The world and God’s Word are at odds when it comes to selfishness, or the popular term now used to describe it; narcissism.

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW”

I’ve heard more than a few people say it, “You don’t know what you don’t know”. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who heard the adage and furrowed their brow and squinted their eyes and pondered the point of making such an obvious statement.

It does seem pretty clear that if a person doesn’t know something… then yeah, a person doesn’t know something.

I was on what Johnny Rivers referred to as “The Poor Side of Town”, which coincided with a stomach that was growling like an angry grizzly.

you don't know what you don't know

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

“Lemme take your order. I get off in seven minutes,” the slightly put off waitress told me. She was ready to hit the door when the long arm on the greasy filmed old clock on the wall struck twelve. I assumed her less than friendly demeanor was because she assumed the tip would be landing in someone else’s pocket.

The already mentally checked out mid-thirties girl snatched a napkin from the beat up and bent old dispenser, “Can I borrow your pen?” she demanded.

I reached toward her with the pen already in my hand. She grabbed it and froze. Her sense of urgency to get out of the old grease trap momentarily forgotten.

“Wow… that’s a really nice pen,” she was talking to herself more than she was me.

“It is,” I agreed.

She studied the writing utensil, twirling it in her hand. She was transfixed by polished chrome and contrasting shiny black onyx parallel inlays on the pen, a gift from my daughter.

The waitress, who did finally get around to taking my order, didn’t know my affinity to fine pens. She didn’t know pens like mine even existed, but neither did I when I was her age.

You don’t know what you don’t know, I guess. Which is a lot like, “Hindsight is twenty/twenty”. The quotes point to inexperience, innocence, and ignorance.

Back in the day, one of the more “in” ways of saying the same thing, or close, was, “You don’t know what you’re missing”, but “not everything that glitters is gold”.

I like pens, so does the waitress, but just because my pen looks good doesn’t mean the words the ink leaks from its tip are worthy or honorable. And just because I have the nice pen, doesn’t mean I’m smarter or better than the girl.

I’m certain that even though I’m much older, there are things the waitress knows that I don’t, and might not ever. Especially about the restaurant business.

What a person knows about the fine things in this world means nothing compared to knowing about the One who created it. In the end, the only thing that truly matters is that we know where we came from and where we’re going when our hearts take their last beat.

Nice things of this world will mean zero. And that’s not the time to contemplate hindsight. And the adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know”, won’t seem so clever.

COOL BISCUIT FEATHER TOOTH

He was ugly, and I mean instinctual eye squint and grimace ugly, but that was half the fun of it. He was tall and lanky with really bad posture, a sunken chest with narrow and drooping shoulders.

Come to think of it, he looked like the skinny guy in the “before” frames in the old Charles Atlas cartoon strips in the back of comic books. You know, the pathetic looking kid who gets sand kicked in his face by the beach bully – in front of the girls to add insult to injury. Kinda like that… minus the feet, face, ears, and skin.

His teeth were enormous, too big for his face, too wide and too long. He made Bugs Bunny look like Charlton Heston. The same could be said about his ears in relation to Bugs Bunny, not to mention his feet that were so long that he’d have to lift them half way to his chest to clear the ground when he walked.

It’s hard to make a truly ugly cartoon character, but we were determined. They gave us every possible shape and size of everything from heads to body types – noses, ears, and even their gait.

Along with the options to create our own custom looking cartoon animal for the Disney interactive computer game for kids called, “Toon Town”, they gave us a massive list of words and names to come up with a personalized name for our character.

cool biscuit feather tooth

a few years before Cool Biscuit Feather Tooth

My youngest’s computer cartoon character’s name was, “Cool Biscuit Feather Tooth”, the ugliest critter in Toon Town.

My daughter was around six when one ordinary weekend day we created something extraordinary. Not because Cool Biscuit Feather Tooth was exceptional, that’s the point, he wasn’t, but the time spent being fully engaged with others, family or otherwise, creates gratification and a life full of wonderful memories.

A few months back my wife asked, “Do you remember… what was his name?” she looked at me, then off into space, sifting through old files in her memory banks.

“Huh?” I asked with zero clue about where she was going with the line of questioning, which is pretty common.

“Cool Biscuit Feather Tooth”, she smiled.

“Oh yeah,” I laughed, “I’ll never forget that goofy name.”

Our youngest had more fun making that goofy Toon Town character and us naming him that she ever did playing the interactive game.

Cool Biscuit Feather Tooth disappeared shortly thereafter along with the computer crash of 2004. What didn’t disappear is the memory of the gangly cartoon rabbit as well as a chapter in life that can’t be relived but can be cherished.

I know it’s easy to spend time with loved ones. Like Christ said, that’s the easiest thing for us to do, but I think it helps to serve as a reminder, that time invested in others, including family, friends, and others, returns dividends that last for an eternity… just like Cool Biscuit Feather Tooth.