A DIFFERENT TIME

a different time

CHEESE!! image courtesy of photobucket.com

A few nights ago I heard a song by Barry Manilow from the 70’s titled “Mandy.” It brought back some memories from my childhood and sent me just over the border into Melancholy Ville.

It didn’t last long because the next thought I had was of the movie Tommy Boy starring the late Chris Farley and David Spade. The specific scene I thought of was the one when they were in the character of Spade’s car driving across the midwest en route to making sales calls.

Farley’s character, Tommy Boy was spinning the radio dial in search of some decent music they could both agree on, but Tommy Boy stopped on a Carpenter’s song. For the younger readers, it was a brother and sister team that were considered even softer and cheesier than Barry Manilow.

Tommy Boy says something like, “Oh man, I hate this song”! trying to live up to the peer pressure thrust upon him from childhood, the “real men don’t listen to this kind of stuff” mantra. Spade agrees the songs horrible, both of them glancing nervously back and forth not wanting to admit they want to listen to it.

Tommy Boy finally says something like, “Well there’s really nothing else on”! –“I can stomach it if you can”! Spade smartly replies, “Suit Yourself”!

The movie cuts directly from that scene to the next with the both of them singing at the top of their lungs with tears in their eyes to that Carpenter’s song,

“Don’t you remember you told me you loved me babeeeh”

“Said you’d be comin’ back this way again babeeeh”

“Babeh, babeh, babeh, babeh oh babeh”

“I love you… I really do”

Complete mush… Not one self-respecting boy I ever knew admitted to liking the Carpenters or Barry Manilow. I’m not sure how the Bee Gees sold so many millions of records since no one liked or listened to them?

In truth, those songs didn’t have much appeal to young boys who were moving at light speed along with their favorite music. The appeal is nostalgic in many cases, being old enough to be able to sit back and reflect on our lives.

The funny part of Tommy Boy is the honesty portrayed that no one likes to admit. Even the things that were not considered “cool” are part of our past and therefore part of us. Time has a way of changing our perspectives doesn’t it?

Even some of the people we weren’t really friends with becomes part of a relatively small close knit group that shared a specific place and time along the way. We didn’t all have the same taste in music or believe the exact same way about many things, now in hindsight the things that were looked down on or avoided for the sake of being cool become part of what helps define a time in our life.

Since we understand our lives are special, many of those nostalgic things take on more meaning. I can’t say I’ve ever owned Barry Manilow or the Carpenter’s music, but I can now listen and be reminded of a special time.

A time when those type of songs played repeatedly on the radio.

A time when the AM radio stations were still playing music.

A time before cassettes or CD’s were the “in” thing.

A time before mp3 players and I-phones.

A time when pay phones were the only form of communication to parents at home who made sure we had a dime for a phone call.

A time when most of the music we listened to happened at home via albums or 8-tracks with other family members.

A time that in some ways though difficult were some of the best times…

When I hear a song that brings back the memories of those days long past, I cherish them.

I might even sing along to an old cheesy song.

I might sometimes even have a tear in my eye… It was a different time…

THE DREADED F

dreaded f

I sketched this about 5 years ago, a project that never got off the ground. Thanks Mr. Parker

If you’ve read my “ABOUT” section then you already know of my getting kicked out of journalism class my junior year in high school. If you had any doubt about my youthful ignorance from that year I’ll share another story that should remove any lingering doubt… The dreaded F.

Right across the hall from my journalism class was my art class. I’d taken art as an elective my freshman and sophomore years which qualified me to take commercial art my junior year.

We had an amazing teacher named Mr. Parker. The class was advanced and other advanced kids from within the school district were allowed to attend Mr. Parker’s classes and receive credits at their school.

There was an event called the World Of Wheels held at the Civic Center downtown, it was a pretty big deal in those days. The schools had a contest at the event in which a local car dealership brought new white vans to the event and the schools art classes would paint murals on the vans.

I wasn’t close to being the most talented kid participating from our class, in truth there were wildly talented kids who became even better under the tutelage of Mr. Parker, including my friend Beth who’s daughter Brooke is an avid reader of this blog! (hi Brooke!)

There was about six of us including Beth representing supposedly the best of the district since we were fortunate enough to be under the supervision of Mr. Parker. I guess we were considered the heavy favorites to walk off with 1st place.

We collaborated  in class as to what our mural would be, although not the most talented artist I must have been the pushiest. My concept was a dark cowboy pulling his two pistols as if drawing to shoot the person gazing at the mural.

The smooth canvas of a metal finish and the time limit had us struggling to finish the mural. Due to the talented classmates I was working with it was looking pretty good, the only thing we had to finish was the face. In retrospect, the most detailed part of the mural should have been started earlier.

As the clock was ticking down to zero Scott painted a cartoon face with a goofy smile and one big tooth accenting it. We were having fun and laughed to exhaustion over our failure.

Mr. Parker was humiliated and embarrassed… I don’t think any of us considered his perspective at that time. In my opinion, the problem with art class is the subjective grading system. That system cost me yet another credit… I was the only mural painting participant who Mr. Parker failed that semester.

It took me a while to get over being gotten even with. I was hurt, I didn’t share my feelings at the time, but everything else I’d done was dismissed as failing. Not a good feeling… Especially when it was my favorite class and I’d given genuine effort.

The gift God blessed me with, I used to convince my classmates to paint my mural. The responsibility that went along with that gift I shirked. Instead of showing regret for coming up short, I showed indifference to hide some insecurity. Although the face Scott painted was pretty funny, I suppose a good leader would not have allowed it.

There have been many times in my life when I used the gifts from God for my advantage then dismissed the responsibility that accompanies those gifts. God’s word says, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

If God were passing out grades on this lesson, I’d have failed more times than I care to admit.

I wonder how many more times I’m gonna have to learn this lesson?

LAUGHING

laughing

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It’s easy to get aggravated and short with younger people, sometimes when youngsters are being blatantly disrespectful our anger can have some merit, but when they’re just being their age and living youthful exuberance I think it’s another matter. Kids know how to laugh.

I could write endless editions sharing stories of my younger days being funny, silly, disrespectful, ignorant, and just plain stupid. Most adults can…especially men.

I’ve come to realize the people that can no longer interact with younger people without becoming negative usually are insecure and sometimes scared people who have forgotten how to laugh at themselves.

Let’s face it, all of us say and do dumb things sometimes, young people say and do dumb things more often than some of us who’ve been there and done that. The great thing about young people saying and doing dumb things is that sometimes they’re thinking, talking, getting reaction, learning, and laughing.

Many of the older generations have given up and are scared to push the envelope, scared of saying or doing something stupid and looking foolish.

A long time ago a bunch of the guys I was working with got “rained out” so we went to have breakfast and hopefully wait out the rain. Sure enough, the sun started winning the wrestling match with the clouds and we started to leave to head back to work.

The restaurant had things like crayons, paper, and masks to keep little kids occupied. It just so happened they occupied young men too… Well, the masks anyway. The waitresses were about our age so were more than willing to go along with some immature behavior.

There must have been at least 6 or 8 of us who walked out of the restaurant with “Cap’n Tug-Boat” masks on. You may have already figured out that we drove back to work disguised as Cap’n Tug-boat.

Yes… Of Course, we waved at people in adjacent cars at stop lights! Please stop asking obvious questions so I can get to the point!!!

Some of us who didn’t know when to say “enough” decided to work with our Cap’n Tug-Boat masks on. None of us expected our boss to show up on a rainy day, he didn’t seem to share our brand of humor…

“What the H- – L are you doing?!” he asked in an aggravated tone. I pushed my mask to the top of my head, smiled an awkward smile and embarrassingly admitted, “Pretending to be Cap’n Tug-Boat!” as I started to laugh realizing the moment.

He reluctantly smiled, shook his head and announced, “You goofy b- – – ard.” While a young man acting like a kid while doing his job isn’t earth shattering, the idea of having fun, listening to music, being happy, and producing more than other union crews at the time was.

I didn’t then, and I still don’t comprehend how people acting grim, solemn, mean, or serious makes anyone think they’re more of a professional or should somehow be taken more seriously.

Some people even carry that persona with them after work, trying to look mature and be accepted by others as such. There is plenty of time for being serious in this life and I’m not suggesting anyone should bury their head in the sand and ignore the serious side of life.

I can find something to be sad about every day, that’s easy. The challenge is to find joy, happiness, peace, and even laughter during good and bad times. Life is a gift, it should be opened and enjoyed like one. The gift is from God and no two people have the same one.

When the kids were little, I rode their skateboards, did my stint on the pogo-sticks, and more often than not hit the ground laughing.

Someday when I have grandkids, you can bet that I’ll be wearing their Cap’n Tug-Boat masks… laughing.

PLAYING THE LOTTERY

playing the lottery

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I don’t know about you, but many times in life I’ve felt I lived the old adage, “A day late and a dollar short.” Things don’t always seem to work out as I had hoped or often planned for. To be honest, some of the things I truly desired would have been disastrous in my life if attained.

These thoughts washed back over me a few days ago when my oldest brother called and reminded me of a few years back that he’d purchased some lottery tickets for us. He gave me a brotherly reminder and basically told me that with the jackpot up around 180 million, it was time for a payback.

Oh well, fair is fair. I pulled into the nearest convenience store and gave the government more money, they certainly do need it. I’d never purchased any lottery tickets before so I was a little clumsy as I traded my green paper with printing for their white paper with printing on it.

I mentioned to the girl behind the counter during the transaction what a waste of money I thought it was, she countered with, “You probably won’t be saying that if you win!” I immediately considered her comment and politely added, “I bet all that money would come with its own set of problems!” She responded laughing without hesitation, “Yeah, I’m sure it would, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a try!!!” I chuckled, “I hear ya!”–“Have a good day!” and out the door I went.

I must be getting more mature because in that brief moment of thought during that conversation with the convenience store worker, I really realized that God has given me everything I need. In that moment, I realized all the ugliness that could be possible to go along with that prize.

I’ve heard some real sad and pathetic stories about winning when playing the lottery and the percentage that end up broke and worse off than where they started.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having money, I just think until it’s earned and understood the chances of hanging onto it are pretty slim. From what I’ve seen in my life the old adage, “A fool and his money are soon parted,” is certainly true. I’ve worn that hat more times in my life than I like to admit.

The point is that sometimes winning isn’t winning and sometimes losing isn’t losing. The Bible speaks of being richly blessed which has significantly more meaning than just money.

I failed and lost many times at many different things in my life, in the end those losses and failures created the map in my life of perseverance and desire I follow with God’s guidance to live a blessed and fulfilled life.

Proof of that is the fact you’re reading this, not because I’m a great writer, but due to the fact that God directs us in ways that bring Him honor and us success. That success isn’t always measured in dollars.

I’ve known people, including ones from my own family that missed out on being rich and famous by what some people call a simple twist of fate. I see it a little different than most others would, I believe God spared them from things that would have directed them away from Him and ultimately ruin their lives, physically and spiritually.

I don’t need a winning lottery ticket to have all I need.

It’s a peaceful place with God to be able to say, “I have all I need.”

Sometimes in life… Less is More…

THE LAST WALKIN’ COTTON-PICKER

the last walkin' cotton-picker

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“You know son, I guess I’ve gotta be one of the last walkin’ cotton-pickers left.” He stated quietly as if the realization just crept up on him. “Really”? I answered, caught a little of guard.

My dad went on to explain the details of some of his childhood that I’d never heard from him my entire life. I knew my dad was born to a poor sharecropper family in Arkansas. One of the first times I got in trouble at school was for making fun of another kid, my dad used some of his childhood memories to teach me one of many life lessons.

I was used to teasing and being teased by my big brothers and friends, it was a pretty tough area we grew up in. It seemed kinda natural to make fun of the kid in my class that ate baby food. He must have had something wrong with his stomach or something, but  I didn’t bother to worry about that part of the equation.

I was only considering the laughing and having fun part, not the other people’s lives, feelings, and future impact I might have on one of them.

When word got back to my dad through the usual channels, he was not amused, to say the least, but he wasn’t angry. Even at a young age I could tell he was deeply disappointed. Enough time has passed for me to recognize that he was heartbroken by my actions. These kinds of acts were never part of my dad’s life, he was a champion of the weak or downtrodden.

It would take many of my dad’s stories about his life and experiences to teach a hard-headed son.

My dad didn’t even whip me for making fun of Ronald at school. You see I knew enough about my dad’s life from my brothers and uncles to know that my dad was a tough, strong man. He’d rescued his brothers on many occasions and I knew he’d boxed in the Air Force, to name a few of the stories I built the vision of my dad around.

That afternoon he took me into his room, this is where we’d sometimes get whipped for blatant disobedience. The lesson began–“Sit down son”… He began to tell me of his days in school as a kid about my age. My dad shared with me how there were many times in his school days that his family didn’t have enough money to buy him or some of his brothers shoes for school.

I was horrified. He shared with me how sad and heartbroken he’d been as a kid when the other kids would make fun of him for something he couldn’t do anything about at that age. My dad also told me how disappointed he was that one of his own children would make fun of another person the way the kids had made fun of him.

I was learning the other untold side of my dad and who he really was in heart and character. You gotta know by that point, as much as I hated getting whipped, it would have been way less painful than this lesson I was learning.

Whippings were a bit painful on the outside, this punishment was painful on the inside. I never cried as hard over punishment or groundings as I did that day. The next day when I apologized to Ronald I meant those words from the bottom of my heart.

I gotta give my dad credit, he taught me a good lesson. I never, ever made fun of anyone like that again. Oh, there were many more lessons for a kid like me to learn and it usually was the hard way, but not this lesson. This one I got.

I was proud to know and tell others that my dad was one of the last walking cotton-pickers. My dad and I talked about, and he carried that title of realization for about a year and a half after that… Now he’s gone…

I miss my hero, the last walking cotton picker… He taught me a lot…

I share his stories with my kids and friends to teach and inspire them and me to live a Godly and humble life like my dad did.

I’m honored to carry the title and share the memories of the last walking cotton-picker’s son…