Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What I learned this Thanksgiving

Over the last week, Annie and I traveled hundreds of miles to celebrate the holiday of food, football, and family multiple times over.

As we gorged ourselves again and again with turkey, cranberries, potatoes, and stuffing, I took some time to reflect on the season and observe some peculiarities of this national holiday. 

When it hurts, stop eating

Our Cajun masterpiece
At every meal, I thoroughly enjoyed the food that was prepared. At Annie's mothers house, we started the meal with a delicious crab bisque. At my Aunt's, we had an apple stuffing that was out of this world. At our own apartment, Annie and I made a Cajun spiced turkey that was a huge success at our “Friendsgiving”. I had corn casserole and potatoes of every make, model, and variety. I drank champagne, mulled wine, and an amazing elderberry wine that is made near my hometown. Every place we went, they pulled out all the stops to offer the most impressive cornucopia of Thanksgiving splendor.

I tried everything. I ate more in the past week than I'd eaten the entire month prior. I shoveled in carbs like a Labrador, not realizing I was full until pangs of pain radiated through my stomach, into my chest and up through my arm. It wasn't a heart attack. It was a stomach attack.

This is where the Taoist's have it figured out. The Tao Te Ching explains a principle known as the middle way, which has a very practical application here. 

I enjoyed the food immensely. But, just as I experienced extreme pleasure by overeating, I also multiplied the discomfort that came later. If I'd practiced moderation from the beginning, my initial joy may not have been as extreme, but neither would my anguish. Everything is good in moderation. Well, maybe not everything – Meth, for example. And terrorists. But most everything else.

Even the most well trained dogs don't do what they're told every time

Annie's parents have a German Shepherd named Stella. She is incredibly well trained and mild mannered, even when the excitement of a family gathering is afoot.

Annie and I have Ellie, a Basset Hound who knows how to do the basic commands...when she feels so inclined. But in front of Annie's family, many of whom think that Ellie is a trouble maker and spoiled, she is almost always obstinate. We try so hard to show them that Ellie is a good dog, capable of taking orders and being peaceful, but when this miniature hound gets in front of people, she goes from over-sized wiener dog to giant ham.

The instigator
On Thursday night, Annie's grandmother warmed up a bit of left over turkey for a late night snack. She took her plate of poultry to the living room, sitting it on the coffee table before turning to retrieve her brandy from the kitchen. With grandma less than two steps away from the meaty morsels, Ellie sprang into action. She revved her stumpy legs into a gallop and, in one fluid motion, slid her lower jaw across the plate, raking up half of grandma's turkey. As a fish slides down the gullet of a Pelican, that turkey vanished into her canine maw in one gulp.

I wish I could've reprimanded my pooch for the bird-napping, but I was rolling on the floor at that point. Grandma didn't think it was so funny.

People, like dogs, also fail to be on their best behavior. I am notorious for letting my Iowa charm get the best of me, especially when I'm supposed to be making a good example for Annie's family. Using a ham fisted fork to stab my meat like a Neanderthal, spilling my beverage all over the table linens, or chewing ostensibly loud, pausing only to add a cud filled remark into the conversation - these are but a few of the faux pas of which I've been guilty.

I try. I really do, but like any son-in-law, mishap finds its way to me, every time.

Root for your team, even if your in-laws are against them

I am not a huge football fan. It is my theory that in elementary school, you are either forced into a favorite team by your family, or you arbitrarily select a team based on a mascot, affinity towards a city, or a trading card you got from a box of Raisin Bran.

My team has always been the New England Patriots. Since I was in about second grade – before they achieved infamy as one of the most successful teams in the NFL – I've loved the Patriots. I do not know why exactly, but I think it may have been my love for American revolutionary history.

The Patriots played the Detroit Lions on Thursday. Most of the rest of the men in the house were anti-Patriots, on principle. We watched the game in gross fixation on the television, yelling out things that only some of us understood. I'd add in comments like

“Good yardage!”

“Come on! Break through that line!”

I'm not sure I knew specifically what I was talking about when I said those things, but it fit nicely with the general chatter of the room. The Patriots won the game, and in the end, I had the pride of knowing that not only did my team withstand the jeers of it's opponents, I too withstood the ribbing of my in-laws about my team selection. I may receive even more heckling in years to come, but at least I will stand by my team.

Family may not always be fun, but it's better to tolerate them than to not have them around at all

Sometimes family can be aggravating. Sometime you'd rather they never come back. Some are never satisfied, no matter the hospitality you lay out before them. Others cannot overcome a grudge that has been held for far too long. Others still spin such tales of self indulgent boastfulness that you'd like to slap them back to last Tuesday.

But in the end, it wouldn't be a holiday without them. You'd miss the whine of the irritating children. The passive aggressive comments of one who is never satisfied with your accomplishments or aspirations. The cousin who is always competing with you for superiority.

All of that filial drudgery is worth it, when you are allowed one moment of true joy. Like when you see your two month old niece for the first time – even though you and her mother, your sister, haven't seen each other in almost a year.

That is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Junior McGinniss

I've always thought of myself as German. The name Walljasper comes from a region in Western Germany known as Westphalia. The story that has been told to me is that the Walljaspers came to America in the mid 1800's by way of the port of New Orleans, traveled up the Mississippi and finally landed on what is current day Southeast Iowa. A family of five - mother, father, and three brothers, from which the three clusters of Walljasper that currently reside in the various regions of Eastern Iowa hail.

But this weekend I heard a story of a less prevalent, if not just as spirited ethnicity that flows through my blood. The Irish.

My grandfather, Leroy Joseph Walljasper is the source for our families' Irish lineage. His mother, Maiden name McGinniss, was 100% emerald Isle. While visiting my own homeland (Donnellson, IA), Grandpa, sipping his whiskey, told me a story that reveals an interesting aspect of our family tree. This is a story about Junior McGinniss.

Junior, as my grandfather remembers it, was a man of considerable size. He was a farmer, as most of our family has been, so had a leathery toughness that one gets from long hours and extreme conditions. Junior worked hard, but like his work ethic, Junior knew how to have fun as well.

One of his favorite means of entertainment would be to play guitar at a family owned bar in New London, Iowa – The Farmers Tap. He and a pal named Buddy Jones would play almost every weekend at The Tap, which meant, as a boy in the 1940's, Leroy would be allowed to accompany his parents into town for the evening. The Alamo, a movie theater sat across the street from the tavern, so all the kids would dart across the two lane thoroughfare, pay their 25 cents, and be content for a few hours as they escaped the realities of their prepubescent lives. After the films, they'd return to the The Farmers Tap.

The band would still be rocking when they returned, but the owner let them sit along the wall and watch until the night was over. As grandpa recounts, this could be more entertaining than the features they watched at The Alamo.

They'd watch the people dancing, flirting, and drinking. They'd see their parents, affectionately carousing. And sometimes, they'd see a few folks get a little too lit, get into a disagreement, and then they'd watch as the whole thing dissolved into fisticuffs.

When fights broke out, Junior and Buddy stepped in. They served not only as the entertainment, but also as the security muscle. Grandpa remembers six concrete steps that led up to the front door of The Farmers Tap, and when Junior McGinniss and Buddy got a hold of you, you missed everyone of them as you sailed out the front door and landed squarely on your keister.

By midnight, most of the domestic types had indulged their fill. They paid their tabs, collected their coats and children, and made their way home. For Junior and Buddy however, the night was still young. They'd proceeded an additional twenty five miles through back country roads to Burlington, then across the bridge, into Gulfport, Illinois. Gulfport, to this day, is synonymous with one thing in Southeast Iowa. Strip clubs.

That is where my Grandfathers story ends, but I'm sure that there are many more anecdotes about Junior, Buddy, and all the rest of my Irish forebears.

As I listened to his story unfold, I couldn't help but be drawn into his tale. My grandfather, farmer by trade, has a way of telling a story that catches your attention, makes you lean in close to catch every detail, and lands the punchline at just the right moment, every time. It's something about the cadence of his voice, the word play that is a part of the rural vernacular of Southeast Iowa, or the pure joy that comes from Grandpa as he tells these stories, but I could listen to them for hours. Maybe they're not near as interesting to people who don't know Leroy Walljasper, but I find them as enthralling as any I've ever heard.

My friend Brian Wilcoxon, upon hearing this story, was so inspired that he wrote a song about old Junior McGinniss. In my opinion, it perfectly captures the essence of the story.

Junior McGinniss

Now sit ye' right down
And I’ll tell ye' a tale 
Of young Junior McGinniss 
That I knew so well 
Young men came to hear  
From miles around 
The boy’s sweet guitar 
and its curious sound 

He’d play for the lads
And he’d play for the lasses
At every song’s end 
He’d drink down two glasses 
And toast to the dancers 
Who’d cheer him by name 
And say “Junior McGinniss 
So glad that you came!” 

He’d sing about future
He’d sing about past 
And he’d play on til dawn and the 
Sunday’s first mass 
And the priest during prayer
Would give quite a yawn 
From drinking the dear blood  
Of Christ all night long 

Young Junior he really  
Could be quite a cuss 
A pain in the arse 
He could be when he must 
All the rounders who came in
To spoil his fun  
He’d throw down seven steps 
without touching a-one
When the dancin’ wore down
He’d pull out a jug
Of the good ole white gin
That he made in his tub
And we’d sing him a song
And young Junior’d get down
And go dancin’ and dancin
All over the town
Young Junior McGinniss
Is “young Junior” no more
He’s old and he’s grown
And moved on past the shore
But i know that no days
Will no happier be
Than with Junior McGinniss’
Time here with me

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Holiday Buffet

I've recently discovered an amazing new restaurant in the Quad Cities' – Capriotti's. The one singular item that makes this sandwich shop stand out above the half dozen other sandwich shops in the metro area is a delicatessen treat known as “The Bobbie”.

“The Bobbie” is the general equivalent to the sandwich one might make on the day after thanksgiving. The start with a supple, sweet, hoagie bun. Adding in a generous helping of shredded cold turkey, they dollop on a succulent cranberry sauce, followed by just the right blend of stuffing, and top it all off with a generous slathering of mayonnaise. It is one of the most enjoyable sandwiches known to this man.

I was conveying the awesomeness of Capriotti's to my friend Dan one evening, when we stumbled upon a brilliant idea for a restaurant – The Holiday Buffet.

It would be rows upon rows of buffets, each with a festive holiday theme. At each bar our beaming patrons would find their favorite foods from that corresponding day of celebration.

There would be watermelon and fried chicken at the Independence day buffet. At the Easter buffet you'd find ham and colored eggs. Thanksgiving would have the obligatory turkey, with all the stuffing, cranberries, potatoes, yams, and the like. We might have a Presidents day buffet, with some of the past oval office food favorites. Memorial day deviled eggs and marshmallow fluff. You get the picture.

We wouldn't be selectively American and Christian in our holiday selection. We'd have matzoh balls for passover, baba ghanoush and hummus for Ramadan (this buffet would only be open between sundown and sun rise).

From this conversation grew the spark for a song.

A long distance truck driver, stuck far away from his family on the night before Thanksgiving. He stops at a mysterious restaurant to clear his head and recharge – The Holiday Buffet. There he finds an impressive array of foods from every holiday of his past. The emotional connection to this food is magical – the reminiscence makes this hard old truck driver want to stay and eat forever, safe from the cold, lonely road.

But the Holiday Buffet isn't the real thing – the food we eat on these special days is not what makes the festivities memorable. It's the people we're with. It's the stories we share. It's the love of family that makes the food such a powerful force.

So the trucker tears himself away from the buffet and trucks on, drawing ever closer to his family, his real holiday experience.

Call it a Christmas take on The Eagles' “Hotel California”.

Listen, enjoy, and comment.

Holiday Buffet
I'm out on the road again
This cold November wind, sure ain't no ones friend
Haulin' 30 tons down the line
Tryin' to get home this holiday to be with mine

My eyes are bleary, head is groggy - way up there
I see a shining light I see an answer to my prayer
The neon warms my soul tells me everything's OK
As I break these 16 wheels at the Holiday Buffet

Oh my soul
I don't know
I ain't never heard of
No Holiday Buffet

Oh my soul
As I slow
I think I like the looks
Of this Holiday Buffet

I strolled down the aisles
I could hardly believe my eyes
I saw festive treats
All color shape and size

Began to fill my plates
Those memories return
Pullin' at my heart strings
Makin' my stomach yearn

Oh my soul
Where'd you go
Those memories come floodin' back
At the Holiday Buffet

Oh my soul
Row by row
This food it takes me back
At the Holiday Buffet

Independence watermelon
A slab of sweet Easter ham
President's day cherry pie
Thanksgiving yams

Tacos for Cinco de Mayo, corn beef & cabbage for Patty's day.
I keep fillin' plates
Tryin' to eat my blues away

All this food around me
Sure is good but it ain't right
Fillin' up my belly
on this lonely winter night

This feast ain't what I need,
Gotta get away
Gotta drive all night
from this Holiday Buffet.

Oh my soul
Where'd you go
You cannot fill that hole
with a Holiday Buffet

Oh my soul
Row by Row
Flyin' through the snow
From the Holiday Buffet

Every now and then
Haulin' through the east
I think I see a neon sign
I think I smell a feast

Although I wish I could
Sometimes I think I might
Can't find that Holiday Buffet
From that cold winter night

What do I want for Christmas? For you to get on Twitter and Facebook and tell your friends about Musings of a Renaissance Man in Training. 

Oh! look here - a button for you to do that right now!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dearest Annabelle

Christmas music is in full force. On the radio, in department stores, and in my head. I have a confession to make.

I love Christmas music.

I know I may come across sometimes as a curmudgeon who hates all things beautiful - Top 40 Radio, Reality TV, Justin Bieber. And while I will rail against the commercialism of this season, I do love Christmas music.

So here is a Christmas song. No it's not your traditional fa la la la la, but it has some nods to a few of my favorite carols.

Football on Christmas, 1914
The impetus behind Dearest Annabelle came to me when I heard someone talking about the unofficial truce's that happened during World War I between the British and German soldiers on and around Christmas. The details vary by incident, but the gist is that the soldiers stopped fighting, exchanged gifts, sang carols, and in at least one case, played a pickup football game. This ability to step outside of themselves and find some human decency amidst such a horrific conflict is something from which we can all take some pointers.

Dearest Annabelle

Oh my dearest Annabelle
with frozen fingers fingers and a heart that's true
I write to you.

How I wish for sunny days
when warmth above would cast its rays on you
all dressed in blue

Its Christmas eve tonight on the battlefield
My rifle I will rest, my pen I'll wield

Though so many men have died 
in brutal bloodshed from the other side
I live for you

Strip away this uniform
and I will stand here unadorned, the man
that you once knew

This Christmas night is shining, bright and blue
Star of wonder and might bring me home to you

Through the crispness of this 
bitter night we hear O Tannenbaum and Yule
ring clear and true

Candle clad and arm in arm
they march across the death fields bearing truce
a peace filled fruit

Stille nacht, Heilige nacht
Alles schlaft, Einsam wacht

As I pen these words
with frostbit hand I hear the Christmas bells ring through
the dawn is new

Close my eyes I'm taken back
to Sunday morning snowflakes landing on 
turn into dew

Peace on earth, good will towards man
Father son and ghost have mercy on this land

Stille nacht

Heilige nacht

Tell your friends! Tweet it, Facebook it, spread it around like the flu virus!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Exodus of Brian

Some friendships are born from elementary school playgrounds . Others, from pen pals, E-Harmony, or Facebook.

Some friendships are born out of a covert operation to liberate someone from an oppressive roommate. This is one such tale.

My friend Brian and I met in college. He had a roommate who, affectionately, asked to be called by a self imposed nickname - “KILLER”. While Brian was fairly quiet and kept to himself that freshman year at Monmouth College, Killer was somewhat more abrasive. He rarely went to class. When he did, he was comatose at best. Killer didn't bring much to college with him...a few changes of underwear, loose leaf paper, and a case of beer. What he didn't bring to old MC was his work ethic, pants, or a computer. So instead, he borrowed Brian's. His computer, not his pants.

This would not have been a problem, except that Killer also had an affinity for pornography, which he exercised liberally on Brian's PC. Brian did not share that love of ogling women on the interwebs. So in order to rid his hard drive of the hard core, he devised a scheme that would stop the boob browsing once and for all. One afternoon, killer came back to the dorm, with the intent of surfing the smut. Much to his chagrin, he found no computer on Brian's desk. Instead, he found a post-it-note, with the following words scrawled in a hurried inscription:

Dear Killer,

I sold my computer so that I could move to Mexico and sell tacos.


At the time, Brian was a Spanish Education Major, and had devised a plan to visit our neighbors south of the border over the following summer, so this note was not completely out of the realm of reality. Unfortunately, Brian's disdain for statistics drove him from the education department. This was all for the best, as he landed in the music department, where he excelled beyond any other student at Monmouth.

The computer actually landed in the room of our friends Adam and Sergio. For the rest of the semester, Brian joined his PC, taking up residence on their couch. The accommodations of this refugee camp were not ideal, so when my roommate moved out a few weeks before winter break, we sprang to action. The move to my room had to be quick and clean.

Brian still had all of his belongings in Killers room. But he hadn't had any communication with the old roommate for weeks. Any time he needed something, he'd sneak up, remove his razor, text book, or guitar, then return to his cramped quarters without addressing why he hadn't been eating, sleeping, or studying in his room. In order to reclaim his possessions, we snuck up to his room, threw all of his belongings onto his twin bed, tied up the corners of the sheets, and ran like hobos from a train conductor. By the time Killer got back, all he found was an empty bed and a change of room form from the office of Student Affairs.

By the time we'd left for winter break, we'd created our man cave, resplendent with burnt orange deep shag carpet, a record player, and the most amazing loft system ever to be instituted in a college dorm. From that roommate arrangement sprung many amazing collaborations, including a stellar late night radio show on WMCR, a college band known as ALEX that put together some great original music, several pranks and hijinks that I'm not at liberty to discuss here, and an entire house full of musicians and creative inspiration.

Since our freshman year, Brian and I have moved to different parts of the country, started careers, and found the women of our respective dreams. Even though we are time zones apart, our friendship has remained stalwart.

What is it that makes a friendship last? What makes a relationship worth working? I believe that any good friendship requires investment from both parties. You could say that the two members of must 'need' each other in order for the relationship to perpetuate. If one party stops investing in the friendship, there is nothing left. Just one person leaving unanswered voice mails for the other.

I need Brian to act as a sounding board for my creative endeavors. I need Brian to accompany me on road trips to Kentucky bourbon country. Brian needs me to drink his amazing home brewed beer. It's really a symbiotic relationship.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Traffic Patterns & Non Conformists

Standing outside the Harrison Hilltop Theatre tonight, I saw as entertaining a performance from the traffic that passed by on the busy one way street as I did at the production of which I'd just walked out.

We were milling about after the show, discussing politics as they related to the farce on the evenings playbill, The Complete History of America, Abridged. During our conversation a car cruised down the street, pulled out into the intersection, and realizing that he was halfway through the red light, froze, not sure whether to back up into oncoming traffic, or run the light.

I attempted to help him with that decision by beckoning him to simply drive on. At that point, he'd already violated the cease and desist order that the overhead signal had commanded. He shrugged and took my advice. We chuckled and then went back to our conversation.

A few moments later, a peculiar looking car came by. It was bedecked in what appeared to be Post-it-notes. As the car fluttered by, we all did a double take, then agreed that, yes, it must have been Post-its. It should be noted that we cannot verify that they were Post-it-notes, but if they were, that man will never forget where he's going.

We resumed our conversation.

Three minutes later, at the same stoplight, another car pulled into the intersection, then suffered an attack of indecision. Again, I waved the befuddled driver on, and they slowly rolled through the intersection, relieved to make it through unscathed and unarrested. We comment on how odd the traffic has been. Little did we know, it was about to get worse.

Not five minutes later, a woman turns onto Harrison from a side street, and commences to careen up the four lanes of the one way street, against the impending traffic. She must have reached 30 M.P.H before realizing that the massive flood of headlights bearing down on her was an indicator of the grave mistake she'd made. She veered off the by-way, but having no side street to relieve her, she instead opted for the grassy lawn of an elementary school. She sat there for a while, waiting for traffic to slow so she could integrate herself into the proper flow of cars and trucks. A few moments later, a police car pulled up along side her vehicle and blocked traffic, allowing her to sheepishly crawl back into traffic – this time traveling downstream.

This is where the story could have ended, if these two characters hadn't gotten stuck at the now infamous traffic signal directly north of our vantage point. As the woman and the police officer sat at the red light, we stood there and blatantly stared at the two parties. Was the officer going to pull her over for her inability to determine the flow of traffic? Was he going to let her off with the shame of her own malfeasance? The red light stretched on for hours as we discussed the possibilities, not trying to hide our vicarious engagement in this precarious event.

Finally the light changed and the woman timidly wheeled past us and attempted to turn off the main thoroughfare. Her eyes were locked on the road, arguably to avoid eye contact with the group of gawking on-lookers. She crawled onto the side street, careful not to make even the tiniest of mistakes.

Two seconds after she had passed, the officer meandered through the intersection in lukewarm pursuit. He glanced as us and, with a nod and a grin, flipped his lights on and rounded the corner, stopping the woman dead in her tracks.

The roar of laughter from our small contingency rivaled the guffaws of the show, but were so much heartier because the source of the humor was so real. It was so asinine, you can't make this stuff up.

So if you're ever on the corner of 16th street and Harrison street, and are looking for something to do, just look at the traffic. Countless hours of entertainment, and you'll never want to drive down Harrison Street again.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Put Your Patience in the Corner

In high school I bought an old fixer upper pickup truck at an auction. I have fond memories of the old beater, despite the fact that it sat defunct more often than it ran. When it did run, the heater worked in fits and starts, the acceleration was horrible, due in part to the fact that the carburetor was on it's last leg, and the radio was stuck on the same talk radio station.

Over the five years I had the old red Mazda, I replaced the entire fuel system, planed the head and replaced the head gasket, and finally removed the entire engine in an attempt to fix a damaged crankshaft. I learned a great deal about automotive repair over the course of that truck's life. I also lost my cool a number of times. One afternoon in particular, I was replacing the fuel tank in the old clunker which, on paper, should have been a fairly quick process. I was in my grandfather's tool shed, squirming around on the dirt floor while manhandling the 50 pound tank around struts, fuel lines, and electrical conduit. From the colorful language spewing out of my gritted teeth, an onlooker would have though I was wrestling a cougar underneath the bed of the truck. Reaching an impasse, I shimmied out from under the chassis, threw down my pliers, kicked the truck, and stormed towards the door. My grandfather, who'd been observing the entire display of frustration, stopped me with a wise hand,
My Patience out of the Corner

“Now Chris. Put your patience in the corner.”

I spun around, still in a pestilent fury. My emotions were still enraged at the obstinate vehicle, but my mind reeled as it tried to wrap itself around this bizarre phrase.

“What the hell does that mean, grandpa?!?”

As it turned out, the phrase was something my great grandfather, Lawrence, would say to grandpa when he was in a tempestuous fervor. When stopping and thinking about the incipience of the word, grandpa was as taken aback as I was.

“I don't know what it means, It's just something he always said to me. Put your patience in the corner.”

Whatever its history, the phrase served its purpose. It got me out of the emotional, illogical state I was in and got me back into that cerebral, analytical frame of mind in which I needed to be. I was still pissed at the truck, but at least now I could look at the problem objectively. I got back to work and soon had the tank installed.

The phrase has come back a number of times as I've worked on projects with my grandfather, though now it is as much a running joke as it is a true quip of wisdom. I still don't know where the term originated. Neither does the internet, or at least not Google. Whatever the reference, it is a phrase that will surely live with me, and probably be imparted onto my children in times of anxiety and vitriol.

I've long thought that the phrase would work well in a song, but I've never been sure of how to work it into the music. Then this came to me a few weeks ago. Call this song an homage to my Grandfather – Leonard Bernard Stephen Overberg - a man who's by all means fallible, but works hard and does his best with the life that's been given to him. One hell of a man.

Put your Patience in the Corner

Lennie Stevens is a friend of mine
Imparts his wisdom over dandelion wine
Hands like tree roots and a farmers tan
Lennie works hard. Lennie is a hell of a man

Born in the heartland, Midwestern drive
Lennie's spent his whole life working to survive
He trades his dollars for tractors and grain
When I ask him why, he just smiles
then he explains

Wherever you're going, wherever you've been
You've always gotta try your best but your always gonna sin
So when you stumble, when you lose your cool
Put your patience in the corner and it'll see you through

Lennie Stevens is a God fearing soul
puts on his suit coat and he sits in the front row
Folds up his hands as he pleads with the sky
If you ask him why he prays this will be his reply

Wherever you're going, wherever you've been
You might get dealt a hell of a hand, that you just cant win
So when you hate the world, you don't know what to do
Put your patience in the corner and it'll see you through

Wherever you're going, wherever you've been
You've always gotta try your best but your always gonna sin
So when you stumble, when you lose your cool
Put your patience in the corner and it'll see you through

What do you think Put your patience in the corner means? Share your explanation, and maybe together we'll figure it out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pee my Pants at Central Lee

If peeing in your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis.”

Everyone's peed their pants before right? I'm not talking about diaper clad pant wetting – that's understood. I'm referring to 'old enough to know better', urination in the Levi's, public embarrassment grade leakage. I've had my fair share of societal faux pas, some of which have included public urination, and one in particular has left an indelible mark on my psyche.

In first grade, I was in Mrs. Ekle's class. I remember a few distinct features of that year of my elementary career – Reading A year with Frog and Toad, Andy Peck and I playing with Transformers action figures at recess (that's the original Transformers – none of this Shia Labeouf business), Matt Hobbs contorting himself into yoga positions during our comprehension worksheets, and the beloved afternoon milk breaks.

The milk break was more than just a reprise from academia or a benefit of USDA subsidies to the dairy industry. It was an exercise in civility and control. We lined up, alphabetically, cruelly leaving me to the portion of the line that I'd command for the majority of my career in the Central Lee School system. It seems they were ardent supporters of alphabetic organization, at least in the 90's. This left me taking up the rear my whole stint in Central Lee academia.

On the day which stands out among every other in my first grade experiences, we lined up at the door and, upon reaching relative silence, began our single file trek to the lunch room, where we'd brandish our blue card stock lunch tickets for punching, proceed past the brushed steel coolers until we found the rectangle box of chocolate or white dairy that suited our fancy. Then we'd circle back into the hallway and sit against the wall while we consumes our beverages.

The wall was a free for all. No rules of seating based on last names. No mandates banning free speech, or any speech. It was one of our brief respites from the uber-order that is elementary school life. So we clamored to the mustard yellow wall that stood opposite the cafeteria and attempted to find an open space next to our friends. Fifteen minutes later, as we prepared to deposit our empty cartons in the appropriate waste receptacle, Mrs. Ekle marched before us, obviously furious. In tow was a girl whose full name I honestly cannot recall, but her first name was Mary. She was in tears.

In an egregiously furious tone, Mrs. Ekle brought down the wrath of a mother rhino onto the students before her. As we soon learned, Mary had been ostracized, turned away from the wall by every student she approached. All she wanted was to sit and drink her milk, maybe some small talk. But this had not been afforded her.

I can recall Mary's appearance – ashamedly all to well. Bear in mind the fact that I was not in any way fashionable, popular, or even couth in my elementary days. I do not recount the following memory from the ivory tower of any chic appearance of my own.

Mary was not always the most kempt. She generally had mysterious stains on her obviously second, third, or fourth hand clothing. The odors that exuded her being were not always identifiable, and rarely were they pleasant. Mix this with awkward social conduct and it's clear to see that her classmates, myself included, were not always the most welcoming. I am not at all condoning the behaviors of my first grade self. Kids are mean, and we were probably mean to that girl. I will say that, on this particular day, I was not party to the injustice that befell Mary. I don't know that I would have treated her any differently, but I did not malign her on that occasion.

Upon receiving the brimstone of Mrs. Ekle's disappointment, we all sheepishly stood, resumed our alphabetic chain gang, and shuffled back to the classroom in silence. Our judge, jury, and executioner stood before us and delivered our sentence.

“For the rest of the day, we are all going to work in silence. No one is to utter a word. Take this time to think about the way you treated Mary. Would you like to be left out that way?”

We had about an hour to ruminate on our misdeeds. We pulled out workbooks, drawing paper, and activity pads and commenced the restitution process. About a third of the way through our noiseless trial, the chocolate milk began to make its way through my system and into my underdeveloped bladder.

I raised my hand. Mrs. Ekle, from across the room, shook her head, a somber, silent


I sat their for a few more moments, trying to focus on the workbook. Which image was not like the others? I couldn't tell. All I could focus on was the ever growing urge to let loose the torrent of urine that was building. I stood and began to approach the teachers desk. I was stopped in my tracks by the steely glare of a tempestuous tutor. She pointed at my desk, and I returned, growing ever more desperate. I began to dance in my chair. I crossed my legs. That just made it worse. I looked around to see if anyone else could see my panic. I squirmed, vainly attempting to coax the fluid back up into my digestive system. Finally, I could hold it back no longer. The dark stain began to eek through my Ninja Turtles Underoos and make itself evident on my pants. I shrunk into my seat. The other students at the table began to smell that something was amiss. It didn't take long for the entire class to draw the conclusion that I had peed my pants.

As titters and murmurs began to break out across the silent classroom, Mrs. Ekle stood up to reprimand the cacophonous children. As she strolled about the room, she too caught the acrimonious scent of urine on her palate. She found me doggedly close to the underside of my work table, and sent me to the nurses office to get cleaned up.

Leaping from my chair, I walked with such a hurried pace that it bordered running. With the chance of being stopped for excessive sprinting, I slowed down to a loping walk. I reached the nurses office, explained my accident, and was told to STAND where I was while the nurse found some replacement garments. She disappeared into the bathroom and returned with two items. Handing them to me, she callously said,

'These are the smallest ones I got. They'll have to do. Use the towels in the bathroom to pat yourself dry.”

As I locked the bathroom door, my eyes fell on the brown sandpaper that hung from a dispenser beside the sink. It wasn't inviting in the slightest, but compared to the clammy feeling I was currently experiencing, it was a step up. I disrobed from the navel down, cleaned up as best I could, and slid the oversized, dingy pair of white underoos onto my tiny frame. I then hoisted up a pair of stonewashed jeans that had to be made for a 5th grade girl. Clutching the baggy waistband to my nipples, I poked my head out of the bathroom,

“What do you want me to do with my...old clothes?”

I was handed a paper grocery sack and with an ill fitting belt strapping the gigantic pants to my torso, I soon was on my way back to my first grade classroom, pee pants in tow. I rebuffed the piteous looks and sneers as best as possible, sighed a monumental sigh of relief upon hearing the final bell, and raced to the bus.

The walk home from the bus stop was one of both dejection and relief. The paper sack hung at my side like a bag of cement, the weight of my shameful urine pulling my arm down and causing my chin to rest on my chest. I dared not make eye contact with the cars that drove by – everyone surely knew what that bag signified. I reached our back door, collapsed into the house and tore away any reminders of that awful incident.

In retrospect, this catastrophic event of my elementary school tenure seems comedic. But somewhere in my soul, the events of that day still shame me. I doubt that anyone else remembers the day I peed my pants in Mrs. Ekle's first grade class, but if they do, I hope they don't hold it against me.

The trials we face as children shape who we are today. How we react to those trials shape how we view the rest of the world.

All names used in this essay are used for comedic purposes only. I mean no defamation and harbor no ill feelings to anyone for the events that occurred. I hope you enjoy my self deprecation as much as I enjoy sharing it!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bureaucrasong - A Political Sing Along

If you haven't noticed, we are in the thick of a mid-term election in these great United States of America. If you haven't noticed, you must be in a coma. I apologize.

I've recently become much more aware of my political environment, due to a number of professional connections in the last six months or so. As I become more interested in who is running things around this country, the more it drives me crazy. As a person who loves communication, discourse, and the free exchange of ideas, the vitriolic hate speech that spews out of the mouths of our representatives makes me want to forget about the whole thing. There is no communication, only shouting at one another until one side passes out from a stress induced heart attack. The funny thing is, both sides don't realize that they are trying to achieve the same thing. And then you add in another group of people who want to bring up alternative ideas to the dichotomy we've been forced to listen to for decades, and it becomes a legitimate three ring circus, with tales of moose hunting Alaskan governors, witches in Delaware, and senatorial candidates worshiping something called the Aqua Buddha. It's maddening. And we, the average Americans, are supposed to make sense of it all and cast an informed vote! Forget about it.

So I wrote a song about all the hornswaggling and buffoonery that's been taking place. I've tried to sift out the real issues in this song, so let me know what you think.

I'd like to remind all of my politically active friends out there that this is a satirical piece. If you can't laugh at yourself, get the Hell out of politics.


Every other year or so
The leaves they start changing and signs begin to grow
Boasting promises committing words
Slinging mud at the other side like its dog turds

Them signs look like burmashave, only it don't make no sense!

You've got the Republicans, they hate the tax
All the while they love to spend our hard earned greenback
Death penalty A-OK. gay marriage aint.
Smoking reefers outa line on thier end o' the debate
They're pro life. They love the babes
But they keep funding wars sending soldiers to their graves

That takes care of the reds. Now what about them folks on the other side of the aisle?

If you see a democrat, ask em for a dime

They love to spend our cash, so they'll give you one of mine
They're a bunch o' bleeding hearts, commie socialists
Marry anyone you want woman, man, or fish
Spend a million dollars just to save a tree

Them blue dogs can't remember that freedom isn't free

Them liberals...can't take a joke. Now any a you hearda these Tea party folk?

Theres a new group a folks out there, vying for my vote
Peddling their policies, shovin' em down your throat

Tea party is American, right down to there guns
Take away their freedom and boy you better run
Take the christian right, give 'em a little dope
Don't you dare a tax em, and sure don't mention hope

Yes we can. Three's a crowd in politics. Hell, two's a crowd in politics. bunch o' talkin heads.

Ask me who I'm voting for and I don't have a clue
They all say the same damn thing, and what do they really do?
Bitch about each other, piss on the other side

Maybe I'll move to Chicago, My vote'll count once I've died.

Happy Voting!