A SOFT SPOT

There was a time when the automobile manufacturers in Detroit weren’t known as the “Big Three” – It was the “Big Four”, back before American Motors went belly up. I have a soft spot for American Motors products. Not so much for the Pacer or Gremlin, although I didn’t mind cruising my big brother’s Gremlin when I was fifteen. My soft spot is due to the metallic green ’72 Javelin. It was my mom’s car. My parents picked it up second or third hand in 1975.

I was in middle school, so it was an impressionable time in my life. Once that old American Motors car’s title got transferred into my parent’s name, its days on easy street were over with.

My dad piled the miles on the Javelin when he was working out of town for a couple of years. When he was in town on the weekends my brothers piled more hard miles on the V-8 powered Javelin.

One fine evening my brother Bobby was pushing the Javelin when he happened upon a city cop. When the flashing lights came on, since he already had max points on his driver’s license, he fled. The cops didn’t want to wreck their squad car jumping dips in the little lake town. Bobby got away, but so did the front shocks, right through the top of the Javelin’s front fenders.

A short time later after some repairs, he got in a wreck with another vehicle. With only liability insurance to cover the other people, the Javelin got a long rare break while my parents saved enough money to get the Javelin fixed, again.

Once the mended Javelin was back on the road, it made the move to Phoenix, but not too many miles more. The hard miles caught up with the Javelin’s engine and it gave up the ghost. My brother rebuilt the engine in ’77, but one of the rings never did seat properly.

About a year later my dad surprised my mom with a new Buick and we sold the old Javelin to one of my best friends that lived next door to us. By then, I had already bought my own first car.

My buddy was following me in my mom’s old Javelin around a ninety-degree corner at sixty miles an hour. I made it in my Mercury Cyclone. He didn’t. He stacked up the Javelin again.

Soft Spot

The Javelin after paint and skin tight 501’s and a winter flannel

Sometime later, I bought the old Javelin back from him. I slapped more Bondo and another junkyard fender on it. Painted it and bolted some Cragar Super Sport rims with fat tires on the back.

Not long after I got rear ended sitting at a traffic light and sold the beat up Javelin.

I have a lot of memories with that old car, but when I see a Javelin I don’t think about the wrecks or mishaps. The first thing that comes to mind is my mom… then Neil Diamond… then her driving me before I could drive as we listened to her eight track.

I wonder what things you and I were a part of that born a soft spot in others.

I loved that car because my mom did.

PUNCHLINE

“Knock, knock,” I said.
“Who’s there?” my buddy Duane asked reluctantly.
“Duane,” my smile was swallowing my face.
“Duane who?” he frowned.
“Duane the bathtub I’m drowning!” I barely got the punchline out before I burst into a belly laugh.

Duane squinted, cocked his head sideways and nodded a couple of times quickly, “Very funny,” he said, but he wasn’t anywhere near laughing. A few people within earshot did though.

“Duane the bathtub I’m Drowning,” I repeated the punchline to milk the last few laughs out of myself and the audience. Duane didn’t laugh. My guess, is that if someone told him that knock knock joke now, he’d laugh. But that was a long time ago.

I still love to laugh, I think it’s good for the body and mind, but I shy away from the laughing at other’s expense nowadays.
* * *

punchline

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

I say I don’t know when it happened, half-joking, half-lying to myself, but I know dancing went from an obligation to my girlfriend, to looking for one. It wasn’t the King David type of dancing though. It was after the days of innocence disappeared like an honest politician. Those were the days, or nights really, spent on the dark side. Dancing In The Dark while Springsteen sang about it.
* * *

There are plenty of things to mourn in this life. The common denominator seems to be loss. Of course, some losses are greater than others – even if they’re temporary. At the climax of mourning there are tears. Those are the times when mourning is too much to be contained within us, inside our souls. The unseen pain is manifested outside of us, in weeping.
* * *

I penned a tribute to my dad, to his character and strength, across his good days and the plenty of bad ones, that made up his life. My dad was a man of few words and no tears. Sometime after I’d penned the tribute my parents were in town for a visit. I read it to him. That was the first time I ever saw tears in my dad’s eyes. Those are the rare type of tears that don’t come from mourning.

Several years later when the preacher read those words of tribute at my dad’s funeral, tears of mourning rolled down my face.

It is a wise person that considers the punchline of their life. A person that ponders a life, counts the cost of actions and the value of forgiveness and God’s grace. “There’s a time to weep, a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance.” But… rarely in that order.

FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY

Sometimes I like to “forsake the assembly”. Sure some of it is laziness, but there’s a part of it that knows I’m going to have my senses tested, and not just the ears from the sermon.

The newly remodeled sanctuary at church has folks jammed so close together we can tell the brand of each other’s chewing gum.

There’s also a new lady, an older gal, sweet enough, that shows up even earlier than us and snagged our aisle seats, the fourth row back on the north side of the church. Not a big deal, we just grabbed the seats behind her… for a few weeks.

I’m not much on cologne or perfume, but then my sense of smell is pretty keen. I can smell cigarette smoke a mile away.

The seat-snatching-early-arriver loves perfume. She smells like she does the backstroke through a pool of it before church. It’s so pungent it makes my eyes water, gives me a headache, and I sneeze like an allergic reaction, my wife too. After a couple of services behind the perfume-soaked lady, my wife informed me that she couldn’t sit behind her anymore.

forsake the assembly

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Not too many folks wanna be close enough to the preacher to see if his eye twitches, but I’m too old fashioned to sit so far away that you have to watch him on the big screen. So we took the seats in front of the perfume lady last week so the perfume scent would waft into someone else’s nostrils.

We risked catching the preacher’s all seeing eye, but it was a risk we had to take.

The petticoat perfumed lady had a friend, a chatty one, but that was bearable, relative to the perfume poisoning… till the singing started. She was a kind soul, a genuine heart. Her singing wasn’t just singing, she was worshipping, shouting out to the Lord, making a joyful noise.

Her singing was the kind of singing that has an impact on your senses too and not just the ears. When she started belting out the high notes my ears began to ring – even my eyes squinted and watered in pain. Her voice sounded like a shrill crow trying to hold a four count note.

I’m sure many people struggle with forsaking the assembly, maybe for different reasons. I might be one of them. It might not be my scent since I only use Sure deodorant. Or my singing, since my bass voice is just a fuzz above lip syncing, but none of us are perfect.

Maybe I don’t clap enough, raise my hands enough, have long hair, never wear socks with my dress shoes etc. Everyone can find a reason to forsake the assembly… but The Father doesn’t. If He can accept our quirks and shortcomings, we should be able to get past everyone else’s. If we did, the Church would be so full we’d be sitting on each other’s laps…

THE VOICE OF A GENERATION

It’s hard to say who the voice of a generation is. If you grew up in the fifties, you might lean toward Elvis Presley. The grittier folks might give a shout out for Hank Williams. I can’t say. I wasn’t there.

While I was alive in the sixties, I don’t really get a vote in who the voice of that generation was. A lot of people will point to Bob Dylan. Another crowd will swear by the Beach Boys or the Beatles, others the Rolling Stones. The Who will draw some votes just because of their song, “My Generation”. Oh, and one preacher from Indiana will cast his die hard vote for Tommy James.

Whomever the voice of that generation, it’s clear that it was a generation that bucked the establishment. The kids of that generation were the first ones to rebel and insist their voice be heard. Even if they lacked the wisdom they accused their parents of not having.

The voice of the seventies is harder to pinpoint. Led Zeppelin would haul in a ton of votes for the voice of that generation. Abba is sure to grab its fair share of supporters. There will be the Pink Floyd diehards – tough to beat a name like that…

The people with the clubs and pitchforks that killed disco have gotten too old to carry their torches, so I’m certain a few polyester diehards will pump a fist for the Bee Gees. Sure, most of us think it’s just “Jive Talkin'”, but everyone gets a vote.

There will be some Eagles, Van Halen, Kiss, Elton John, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, The Cars, and Boston fans, maybe even some Lynyrd Skynyrd. Peter Frampton, toss in Elvis Costello lovers casting their votes and we’re getting a glimpse of that generation’s voice.

The eighties had a voice – a weird one. The hairstyles said as much about the voice of that generation as the music did. Michael Jackson dominated the airwaves as well as MTV. Prince had an even bigger voice through not just his songs, but all the people he wrote songs for and produced.

Some Bruce Springsteen purists would point to his domination in the seventies and eighties to claim his was the voice. They’d be countered by the Aerosmith, Queen, and ACDC lovers.

A fair amount of votes would be cast for Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, Journey, or U2 and this abbreviated list from the eighties gives an insight into the voice and heart of that generation. (My sincere apologies to any Flock of Seagull lovers that they didn’t make the list)

For time and space sake, I’ll forgo the foray into the next couple of generations. Grunge and Hip Hop didn’t get any better or become the voice of reason in those generations either.

The taste of a society and generation is reflected in the music that sells. Not all the music from those generations was bad, some of it pointed to honorable things, but not the majority of it.

There’s always more than one voice in a generation. The younger we are the more the voices tend to speak to our flesh.

I still love the music, but God given sense lets me know that we’re no longer the kids from our generation. Like Kim Wilde was to mine. Plus, living Iggy Pop’s “Wild One” like a personal anthem has left me no longer to able to “Run Through The Jungle” to Creedence.

And you thought I’d forgot them…

Who would be your vote?

A VERY SHORT TIME

I’ve misplaced and lost things along the way. Some I’ve found, others just a memory now. I used to think the most important things I lost were things I could put a dollar value on. Life has a way of teaching us that the things that have the most value can’t be bought or replaced.

When dusk settled on that fall evening and I heard my mom calling me, I knew the best part of my day was over. I grabbed my homemade flag; an old garage towel duct taped to a seven-foot crooked tree branch by my eight-year-old hands and headed home.

I shot a wary glance around our neighborhood to make sure no one was watching when I nestled my flag into the snail laden and unmaintained flower bed in front of our house.

The next day I found the kid that stole it. I beat him up and took my flag back. I discovered that a flag isn’t near as fun when you’re all alone.

I wasn’t as lucky with my Christmas bike. Once it was gone it was gone forever. Same with some guns and trucks later on in life.

Some things you lose and don’t even realize it… at first. That happened with my wallet once. Same with my innocence. I didn’t even know it was gone or missing until it was too late. It’s the inevitable taste of regret that you can’t spit out. You have to swallow it whole. Not knowing it’ll take a lifetime to digest.

A few months back I came up missing something else, not realizing the underlying cause. It was like when you go looking for your favorite book. You search high and low to no avail.

Over the last few months, I periodically posted portions of an old unfinished manuscript. It was sorta like the MC tap dancing to fill time till the main act shows up. Problem is, I lost my muse.

a very short time

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

I don’t know if my muse is male or female or something else. All I know for sure is that he or she or it is gone.

Sometimes it’s not the desire or passion that keeps us going. Now and then we have to rely on perseverance… because there is nothing else.

In the down times were forced to reflect. It is in the rough patches we tend to ponder, to reflect, to count the cost, consider the reasons for our droughts.

Seven years ago this month was another time of loss. The worst kind of loss – that of a loved one. It was May 7th, 2010. My dad was taken not only to a “better place”, but the Best place. That doesn’t mean there is no sadness.

There is grieving in this life. It’s God’s way of reminding us that no one gets out alive. It’s our sad understanding that there is no perfection in this flesh. That comes after this is past.

In times like these we remind ourselves, as Believers, that the things of the greatest value can’t be lost, only Divinely separated for a very short time.