Finding Floyd

I WENT TO THE MALL THE OTHER DAY

I went to the mall the other day. Things have changed. Almost as much as me. As a kid going to the brand-spankin’ new indoor mega-malls, I never envisioned being back in one as a grandpa.

I rode the escalators, ran down the “Up” and up the “Down”, in the mall in San Bernardino CA. I was mesmerized by them like I was a ride at Disneyland.

It was in ’73 or ’74 when I went with a friend’s family to Phoenix. Metro Center, what was then the northwest edge of town, was sparkling new. A few years later we wound up living just over two miles away from Metro Center.

Mega-malls were like magnets for kids. Metro not only had the state of the art theatres, it had an ice skating rink and an amusement park with a humongous arcade. Pinball heaven.

Add a couple more years and a driver’s license on top of a muscle car I wish I’d never sold, and Metro had become the place to cruise. The 300 plus acre site was jammed with teenagers and gas fumes on Friday and Saturday nights.

But time changes as do people. Toss several more years into the history of mall going, like Metro Center and its sister mega mall Paradise Valley Mall, on the northeast part of the valley, and I didn’t have the same priority and I was of age… but that’s a story for another time.

By that point in my life, I was a consumer. I was one of the young adults that frequented the hip shoe and clothing stores that blared obnoxious music. It was the eighties and thin leather ties that matched shoes were the rage… I’m glad I don’t have too many pictures to remind me of what a fool I was.

went to the mall

a tired parking lot that used to be wall to wall cars

The years that followed were the dark days of mall going. I avoided them at all costs. I went a few times to Paradise Valley Mall, necessitated by the kids mostly, a knife and cigar shop did lure me more than once.

By the time the kids were teenagers, they didn’t hang at the mega malls like we once did. Times had changed.

Mr. B, my grandson’s nickname, loves the mall like I did as a kid. He glares wide-eyed at the escalators and the enormity of the mega-mall space. When I set him down his little legs carry him faster than I can walk.

I’m still getting a kick out of mega malls, but for vastly different reasons.

Our grandkids won’t be passing down memories of the mega malls. The malls are just about extinct.

I looked around PV mall. Almost half of the stores are empty now. As we walked out, Mr. B cradled on my right forearm, my wife pointed out the Fortune Teller store by the exit. The rent’s cheap and the landlord is desperate.

It cost a hundred million to build Metro Center in 1970. It sold last in 2012 for twelve million… more than an 88% drop in value.

Trends change and people change, but the only truly valuable things we have in this life can’t be measured by a number or location.

I went to the mall the other day.

A DOWN RIGHT SHAME

It happened quite by accident I can assure you, which is a down right shame. It was one of those times when you’re reminded of something subtle, but something that has faded into history like a Hula hoop.

I’m not sure why it’s so easy to get distracted and betrayed by technology and creature comforts. Then again, most of us overestimate the strength of our fallen flesh.

When I was a boy in the sixties and seventies, life was different in a lot of ways, but just one of those differences in day to day life was automobiles.

Cruising was still en vogue. People were still smitten by the idea of a decent car that could take you from point A to point B. Sometimes it was like Chuck Berry said, “With no particular place to go.”

We get in our vehicles now-a-days and they fire right up with no special skills needed. That wasn’t the case back when most cars were half a block long and burned oil like gas and leaked it like a sieve.

Each car or truck was different. One you’d have to pump the gas peddle like you were keeping time to “Dueling Banjos”. If you pumped other ones more than twice the carburetor would flood and you’d be stuck.

I even learned from watching how to talk to a vehicle to entice it to start. My dad and brothers would turn the key, brows pinched, a stern look required. While they were pumping the peddle they’d talk to the vehicle, “C’mon – c’mon – c’mon!” With each repeated “C’mon”, their voice would raise an octave.

If and when that old engine would fire yet again it was a small victory. You could see the satisfaction on their faces.

down right shame

image courtesy of autoweek.com

The windows in those days, in majority, were hand cranks and air conditioning was rare. We had a/c in a Plymouth Fury once, but it worked for like a day. And when it did work any hill or warm day was more than the old Mopar could bear.

We had priorities then that most people don’t have to contemplate anymore. It was Arizona and no air conditioning. We drove with the windows down and we didn’t worry a whole lot about our hair getting messed up. If I was riding instead of hoofing, it was all good.

It’s cooling off in Arizona this time of year, especially at nights. It still heats up pretty good in the day yet.

Our garage was holding heat from the day before. I didn’t want my protein bar to melt before I got to it so I hit all the electrical switches in my truck and rolled down the front and back windows to cool the cab off. I was engulfed by a beautiful fall morning. The sounds and smell of the outside were all around me – just like when I was a kid.

Some of the greatest gifts we have we lock out of our lives because of the minor gifts we’ve come to define our lives by… and that’s a down right shame.

A DRY SPELL

If you create, in any way, shape, or form, for any good length of time, you’re bound to stumble into a dry spell. That’s where I find myself, yet again, as evidenced by the last few weeks of reposts.

If I didn’t know better, I’d be convinced that someone kidnapped my muse. That would take a pretty desperate individual. If there really was such a thing as a musenapper, mine wouldn’t fetch a lot in the way of a ransom.

It’s not that the world is lacking subjects to write about, it’s quite the opposite, it’s that nothing inspires the creative writing flame within. The last time I sat down to write I came up with zilch, mostly just silence with the occasional mental cricket chirping – real slow.

dry spell

image courtesy blogs.longwood.edu


Oh, I’ve been here before. I’m familiar with the territory. I know this road like the back of my hand. It’s a ghost town and there’s no way out of it until I can find the inspiration and gifts that are everywhere we are.

I’ve read quite a bit on the subject of writer’s block. A lot of famous, and some not so famous, are willing to push their two cents to the middle of the table.

The secular world has a different perspective when it comes to creativity – some of it is common sense, but for some of us, there’s a much different perspective.

Writing for gratification of the flesh can’t ever be fulfilled, at least from a Christian worldview. For us, we can write a lifetime library and if it doesn’t point to Truth it’s just chatter. Words that carry or point to Truth are eternal. They will last through eternity.

Coincidently, my writer’s block is almost always accompanied by my lack of study and striving toward God. But when we start spilling words out of our mind, even if we don’t know the direction and destination, like these, who we are and what we believe finds its way out.

I love to write. It’s a gift to share words, but only if they point to the Truth that will lift up others.

We’re here for a moment, then it’s gone. The moments spent breathing in this physical world are for the purpose of us choosing our eternity. Most of you know that like you know your name, but all of us need reminding and encouraging.

This is my reminder to myself, but the encouraging isn’t mine. It’s from the Maker of all things – the Sustainer of everything. I’m encouraged by His rescue of a wondering mind, pen, and keyboard.

If you’re in need of encouragement, you have it. Not because of these simple words, but because you know this Truth; it’s a promise from God; reach to Him and he’ll reach to us.

When we do that our ghost town is transformed into a spiritual Garden of Eden where we walk with our Father.

It’s the only place we find true peace on this earth and the only way to avoid stumbling into a dry spell.

GREEN EYES

Repost and edited from September 2011

They were green eyes… I realized with time his eyes really did most of the talking for him during his lifetime. It wasn’t as much the look or expression on his face as it was the focus or emotion in his eyes that could portray any sense of feeling he had.

They were his mom’s eyes. His dad was half Native American, or at least that’s what his dad told everyone. His dad most certainly looked half Indian. In fact, to say he looked full blood would be a bit more accurate. He had some of his dad’s attributes, but the eyes were from his mom’s side of the family.

Those eyes were strong first, they showed intent in everything he did, but they also carried in them peace and joy. Long after I first began to understand the strength in those eyes, I would slowly, with time, realize in those green eyes were comfort.

As I looked out over my guard, which was identical to his, due to his teaching, I saw joy. Those green eyes told me he was having fun. Despite his waining skills, my quickness would be a bit too much for the man behind those haunting green eyes… finally.

As we moved, sidestepped quickly, carefully positioning the members of our bodies to best the other, I saw something else in those eyes. I saw extreme joy mixed with intensity… I didn’t see a shred of doubt…

The confidence in his eyes caught me a bit off-guard. The man behind the green eyes was underestimating the skill behind mine. I knew I was physically superior. I had longer, quicker and stronger arms. My feet and legs were superior as well.

It was all in fun, we weren’t going to throw full punches, just a hard, stinging pulled punch or slap in order to prove who would be the best for that day.

green eyes

A hint of his eyes in mine

The confidence in his green eyes was backed up by, not a grin on his face, but a full blown smile. I was smiling as well. His boxing career in the Air Force and Elks Lodges for extra money when his kids were babies was twenty-five years in his rear view mirror. I wasn’t even born at the time.

“You have any idea how fast I am?” I chuckled as we were moving around each other.

“I bet you’re really fast,” he was almost laughing.

Then he said something like, “Why don’t you show me some of that speed,” still smiling big. Right before he could get the last syllable out, I launched a lightning left jab getting ready to “slap” his right cheek… It never got there…

He parried my jab with his right and landed two straight jabs to the side of my face while I thought I had my guard up. It went on for another 20 or 30 seconds as the kind eyes and smile pummeled me gently.

By that time, his eyes were pouring emotion. He laughed his high-pitched perfect laugh. I laughed too… He grabbed me and hugged me, laughing, “Son, your faster than I thought you were,” he was still laughing, but sincere in his assessment.

His green eyes were proud, not of himself, he didn’t matter to himself, he was proud of me for really nothing, just for belonging to him.

I was proud of who he was as a man. His eyes hid no intention other than the truth of God he lived his life by, and that could be clearly seen in his green eyes.

As time goes on and God reveals to and in me who I am in this world, it changes me from not only the inside but the outside as well.

On a rare occasion and the light and angle are just right, as I glance in the mirror, I can see them, faintly, deep inside I spot them, my father’s eyes. I remember the eyes looking back at me, reminding me of the man I can still be.

When God took my dad home to be with Him, He plucked a piece of my heart and took it with them. Through the sorrow, I’ve learned it was His way of preparing me for when it is my turn to be taken home.

I’m also left with the memory and the love I will always carry with me, captured in those green eyes…

A NO WIN SITUATION

REPOST from August 2011

At the age I am now, right or wrong, I generally figure I’ve pretty much seen it all. Things rarely happen in my life that take me by surprise. When the unexpected happens, I react without too much emotion. I’ve usually been there, done that, bought the hat…

No win situation

image courtesy wikipedia


Occasionally though, I get thrown the metaphorical curveball or changeup. Even then, with years of practical experience dealing with surprises, I’m rarely left struggling with what the right course of action to take might be.

That was not the rare case this particular Sunday. It was a no win situation. While out of town we found a friendly little church a few years back while on vacation. We try to make it a point to attend if we have time between travels even now.

We were sitting about four rows back on the south side of the church closest to the front door, which is typically my style. There were only a couple of rows behind us. Several minutes after the service started a very elderly man shuffled into the church, having a more legitimate use for a cane than anybody I’ve witnessed.

As the latecomer eyed the seat directly in front of me, he hobbled, lost a bit of balance and bumped into me, helping to keep him upright. The elderly gentleman settled into the seat directly in front of me.

I knew that my new neighbor wasn’t going to be doing any standing for praying or singing… The old guy knew everyone. When the worship leader invited everyone to greet one another, I think every single person in the church came by to greet him.

Though frail, I can’t remember a person singing with as much enthusiasm as the old timer. I’m not sure if the old guy knew he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket or not. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have mattered to him one way or the other. Just one of the gifts of being very elderly, I’ve heard.

The old fella had long, past his shoulders scraggly hair extending from the sides of his head with a worn, sun-spotted, round, bald spot on top. When I shook his hand during the greeting portion of the service I found he lacked no grip strength.

During the middle of the service, while glancing either down or up, to or from my Bible, something caught my eye on the old guy’s faded black windbreaker. I first thought it was a fly. It quickly crawled from under his collar, just above his left shoulder, and as I saw it- then did a double take, it moved quickly around the top of the old guy’s back and over his right shoulder, where it disappeared from my view.

After it was out of sight I realized what it was… It was black, about a size and a half bigger than a horse-fly with short, quick, legs. It was hard to spot immediately due to its color and my mind not expecting it… It was a black spider…

There I was, at a loss for what to do or how to react. It was a foreign feeling to me now. I knew the spider wasn’t a black widow, but I wasn’t completely positive it wasn’t poisonous.

In a church where no one knows me, I’m not sure how they would have reacted if I’d gotten up and announced something like, “OK – TIME OUT – I’ve spotted a black spider on the old guy in front of me! – I think you’ll find the culprit hiding under his collar!”

Their first thought would possibly have been that I was some kind of demon-possessed weirdo. What if they searched and the spider had got away? They certainly would have asked me to leave with my family…

I thought about using my bulletin as a spider swatter, but what if I slapped a little too hard and broke a bone on the old guy? No – That wouldn’t do. Even if I slapped at him to shoo the spider away it may have startled the old guy and caused him to have a heart attack!

This was a no-win proposition. What did I do? … I didn’t do anything except keep an eye out for the church going spider…

Then I prayed for the old man’s protection…

It’s all I could think of. Maybe that’s the problem with many of us…

We wait until there’s nothing else to do, but pray…