Friday, July 17, 2009

The Naked Truth

I don’t think I have ever experienced writer’s block to the extent that I am having tonight. There’s no good reason for it. I have just read the craziest thing in the news and just don’t even know where to start. I guess that’s what’s keeping me from being able to put this into words. It’s after 3:00am so the house is quiet; I was going to say as quiet as a tomb, but therein lies the problem.

I just finished reading a story about an off-duty police officer in Elkhart, IN who happened out for a jog on his day off. That’s not crazy. Law enforcement officers have to try to stay in shape. In this case, the officer’s morning constitutional took him by what the article referred to as “a crowded cemetery.” He noticed a parked pickup truck, next to which stood a naked man.

Thus far, I was reading in disbelief. There were just NO WORDS for a situation like this. I continued reading and it went to hell from there. The naked guy, Rudy Nudie, saw the jogger, jumped into his truck, still naked, and fled the scene. The cop jogged to his car, followed Rudy Nudie, and got his tag number, which he then tracked down back at police headquarters. The article went on to say that Rudy Nudie was called in for questioning, and, dressed for the occasion, he complied. Here’s where it gets really strange.

Mr. Nudie told the police officers that he had been out playing golf and his underwear got wet. He stopped by the cemetery on his way home to check on his in-laws, and since his skivvies were wet, he stripped down before getting out. Then, because he forgot his glasses, he just hopped out of the truck for a minute to look at the flowers on their graves.

Suddenly, I had words for this story. Words like ‘what’, and ‘the’ and ….

Let me lay this out for you and put to rest any questions that you might have as to the veracity of his tail, er, tale. He said he was out playing golf. Did he strip down and wade into the lake after a golf ball? That would explain how his underoos got wet but not the rest of his clothes. Then, he went to the cemetery to check on his in-laws. What the hell for? Was he afraid they were going to go somewhere? He forgot his glasses, which is easy enough to do, but then how the hell was he playing golf? How was he even sure that he made it to his in-laws final resting place and not someone else’s? He wanted to look at the flowers? Without glasses? Naked? Are you kidding me?

In addition to being some kind of freaky-ass, stream-wading, flower-sniffin’, butt-nekkid weirdo, he’s a terrible liar! Puh-leeze, those cops were probably laughing so hard they had Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts bits shooting out of their noses. This guy is a MOE-RON! He made it home from the cemetery and drove to the police station. He had plenty of time to come up with a better alibi that, while still demented and perverse, would have been slightly more believable.

For example…

“Yeah, Officer. I was out there naked at my in-laws graves because they left me out of their wills. I feel like THEY SHIT ALL OVER ME and I was returning the favor.”

Maybe that’s a bit harsh. How’s this one….

“I’m sorry Officer. I forgot my glasses and I thought I was home. That hard, cold statue sure reminded me of my wife, Mildred.”

Okay. The first one IS better, but either one is better than the crap he invented. For the rest of his life, no one will ever believe a word he says. I don’t care if he tells people that the sky is blue, grass is green, and fire is hot. His credibility might as well be in that crypt with his in-laws. Who knows, maybe that’s what he was looking for. The good news is that he will achieve a certain notoriety with this, some lasting fame that will cement his place in Elkhart history. Little children won’t give the Boogeyman a second thought. It’ll be Rudy Nudie haunting their dreams….

‘Lurking in the graveyard with his privates hanging out,
The Naked Man’ll getcha if you don’t watch out!’

Whatever may happen, Rudy Nudie has brought me boundless entertainment, not to mention weeks of playing armchair therapist trying to figure out what his problem is. Maybe he had some freaky-deaky feelings for his in-laws. Maybe he just loves the cool caress of marble next to his bare skin.

Of course, I could be over analyzing this. He could just be a huge fan of Norman Mailer’s, “The Naked and the Dead.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Families, Furniture, and Friendship

There’s an old saying that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” and I suppose that’s true. Whatever you eat, someone paid for it, or in my case, I usually pay for it by having it remain on my hips for life. Whatever the case may be, I have come to the realization that NOTHING is free. Whatever it is, you are gonna pay for it somehow, someway, someday. And because I tend to forget things, sometimes I need a reminder.

So I don’t give much thought to free stuff. I have Jenda to look after, and work to think about, and a household to run, and none of that is free. In the mornings, I drive on the interstate to get to work since I can get there quickly. In the evenings, I need to decompress from work so I drive down backroads so that I have time to process everything from the day and calm down enough to get home. Part of that homecoming takes me through a small town that really makes for a pleasant drive. That is, until I have to drive past the dumpy, nasty redneck biker bar. Usually, I embrace the entertainment value of rednecks, but this place is just too scary on too many levels, so I always speed up going past this joint and head safely home. The other night, I abandoned all reason and logic and did something really stupid. While this is not the first time, it was one of the craziest.

As I drove through Colfax like a bat out of Hell, I happened to glance over to my left because something strange caught my eye. In fact, it was so incongruent for a nasty biker bar with half of a race car protruding from the roof that I almost came to a complete stop. Looking back on the situation, I should have probably stopped and made a run for it, but I just wasn’t thinking clearly.

In the parking lot stood a beautiful maple console table, two nice reproduction Louis XVI armchairs, and a whole pile of other stuff. Next to this absurd accumulation of trash and treasure was a large cardboard sign which read, ‘FREE, TAKE IT, GRATIS.’

I was now at a crawl and considered stopping to grab the chairs and the table and who knows what else. It occurred to me that the place couldn’t be ALL bad since someone there had good taste in furniture and some familiarity with Latin. But I decided that the thing to do would be to go home and enlist Jerry’s help in loading the stuff into my car, and perhaps his car too if there was enough good stuff for the taking. I sped home, dashed into the house and told Jerry that we had to go pick up some great free furniture.

“Is one of your friends moving or something?”

No. Not exactly. You know that little bar in Colfax?

“The one with the car sticking out of the roof?” he asked with narrowed eyes.

Yes, well, there’s a bunch of furniture out front with a sign and I need your help and….

“Hell no! I would never go to that place. I don’t care if they’re giving away free Ethan Allen living room sets. And you don’t need to be hanging out up there either!”

Well damned if I’m not going back for the free furniture. I huffed upstairs, changed out of my work clothes into the first t-shirt and pair of shorts I could find. Armed with my sneakers and fierce determination, I grandly announced to Jerry that I would get the furniture without his help, thank-you-very-much!

“Sure thing. Oh, by the way, did you mean to wear your Barack Obama campaign t-shirt to the redneck biker bar or are you just really trying to stir things up?”

I burned rubber backing out of the garage, still haunted by the sound of Jerry’s laughter. It’s not every day that there’s nice, decent looking FREE furniture on the side of the road outside of a redneck biker bar for shit’s sake. I knew that Barack and I could handle it. Of course, all that changed when I got back to the bar.

I hadn’t driven past more than 45 minutes earlier. But now, the table, the chairs, and the sign were gone. Of course there was still something there covered with a filthy, ratty looking green tarp. With my luck, it was probably two day-shift hookers hiding out from the cops. Nonetheless, I decided to investigate. I pulled my little purple mommy Honda into the parking lot, went over, and started nosing around under the tarp. Actually, I would have been happier to see the hookers. The junk under the tarp was filthy and the smell under the tarp could’ve knocked the buzzards off a shitpile from 50 paces. So there I was, bent over with my big ass in the air when a deep voice behind me asked, “Whatter you doin’?”

Straightening up, I was confronted with the sight of an enormous man, at least six feet tall, with long grey hair and a flowing grey beard, covered with tattoos, wearing biker regalia and striding purposefully towards me.

Holy crap! It’s Harley Manson!

I immediately folded my arms across my chest to protect the president, of course. Then I began stammering and stuttering about not wanting to disturb anything, I was just looking, there was a sign….

“That’s John’s stuff,” barked Harley.

I began apologizing, assuming that John was one of the Harley Manson family.

“John’s back here. Come with me.”

The general direction of ‘with me’ was behind a privacy fence that ran along the side of the bar. There was only one opening in the fence which presumably led to where John and perhaps the rest of the family were waiting. It occurred to me that loading furniture into my car was not going to be a problem since I was probably going to be murdered and disposed of behind this seedy little bar!

I know it seems strange that I would just follow along behind Harley, since any idiot knows that you should scream bloody murder and run like hell in that kind of situation, but I’m not just any idiot. It also crossed my mind that his big-ass motorcycle would outrun the mommy Honda with no problem and just as I was making my escape down the highway, I’d look out the driver’s window and there he’d be, so I figured, what the hell? Why not?

Harley led me behind the fence and went to summon John. The back of the bar was just as horrible as the front. There was a small patio area and the back yard of the place was strewn with old vacuum cleaners and air-conditioning units. I stood as close to the fence opening as possible as Harley brought John over to meet me. I prayed for forgiveness and something quick and painless. Then Harley said, “John, this lady was lookin’ at your stuff. Is the stuff out front still for sale?”

WHAT?! Sale? You have got to be kidding me. The sign said FREE, not CRAP FOR SALE! Harley wandered off and left John to handle my indignant outburst, sell me some ratty furniture, and then kill me.

John was actually a rather affable sort. He was filthy, had no teeth, and was puffing away on some powerful Panama Red, ready to sell me some nasty furniture. And no, I do NOT use drugs, but I could tell that the smell of that little ciggie sure as hell wasn’t Marlboro. Now that Harley was gone, I wasn’t too fearful of this stoner hippie, but I was ready to make my escape. I remembered the book, The Secret, and knew that I had to think positive thoughts and visualize my freedom. It came in the form of an old rug hanging over the fence. Wow, what a groovy rug. Is this yours? I asked, positioning myself in the opening of the fence, and thus, closer to my car. John began telling me about this rug, for the low price of $20.00. Then he directed me to his van where he said he had one he’d sell me for $10.00. Just as I was going to make the break for my car, I noticed it on his dashboard…a copy of The Secret.

Flooded with relief that no one was going to kill me, I stood and chatted with John. Turns out he is selling all of his stuff to move to a hippie commune in California where it's legal to smoke cheeb. (There’s a shock!) He told me about some local bands in the area that he liked and we parted friends. I haven’t stopped back at the bar, and barring that Ethan Allen giveaway, I never will. I’ve learned my lesson. Lessons, actually…. Furniture is expensive, but friendship is free. And wherever John is, I hope he’s high as a kite and happy as a clam.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Body Politic Could Use a Workout

Today is Independence Day and I have been giving much thought to independence and all that it entails. I have spent most of the day with a hacking, nasty cough and as such have been dependent on very strong prescription cough syrup. I must say it works like a charm, and I could easily become dependent on it. Really. I’m not coughing anymore, but will need to depend on someone else to help me walk straight until it wears off. Of course, I am in no hurry.

So I have been pondering the meaning of independence. It means liberty, freedom. For Janis Joplin, it was just another word for nothing left to lose. For Aretha Franklin, it meant letting your mind go. Freedom was an admonishment to think. They’re both right, of course. All the hot dogs and fireworks (and narcotic cough syrup) aside, I love the inherent dichotomy of a concept like freedom. Today more than any other day, we repeat platitudes, such as ‘freedom isn’t free’ and my favorite, by Abe Lincoln, ‘Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.’

This day embodies the genesis of our nation. It is a reminder to us as a body politic that our greatest freedoms and liberties are extremely costly. And sadly, this feeling of elation for the nation is fleeting. Our thoughts turn from ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ to ‘the Lancome free gift with purchase and the Braves vs. the Mets.’ We’re so filled with pride today, but then we have to get back to reality because we have to be back at work on Monday and the light bill is due and the kids will be starting back to school soon and Little Suzy starts soccer this week and on and on. So that nascent nationalism begins to recede, and the puffed up pride becomes a mere bloat, and we go on with the really important stuff. It’s rather like Christmas. We get into this joyous feeling of giving, and then the day after Christmas, we start bitching about how we’re going to pay for all this and why does Aunt Mildred always send me an outfit in a size two petite when she KNOWS I haven’t been that size since first grade! The joy of giving turns back into the day to day effort of living, and paycheck to paycheck at that.

There are those among us who do fight for freedom every day. Men and women across the country are fighting against Prop 8. Americans of Middle Eastern descent are fighting for fair elections in Iran, and a young woman named Neda has become the voice of a nation who yearns to be free. American men and women serve across the globe, not because they agree or disagree with the preferences of their fellow Americans but because they are willing to die to safeguard our ability to have those preferences, to speak freely, and to execute free will.

Regrettably, it often takes a calamitous event to re-engage our allegiance; a September 11, a terrorist act, or a war. There is nothing so heartbreaking, yet poignant, as a fellow American laying down his or her life to guarantee our rights, and those of our children, and their children. Imagine the cost to the parents and spouses and children that they leave behind. There is no conceivable amount that can convey the cost of that sacrifice, for no one person bears that cost. No one person suffers the loss. So independence is more a network, no, a brotherhood, of inter-dependence.

Freedom is expensive, and our most precious civil rights are extraordinarily costly. Inclusion and freedom aren’t cheap, and they certainly aren’t free. So while we’re gobbling up picnic fare and watching fireworks, drinking beer and singing the fervid songs that we too rarely trill, let’s hang onto this feeling. Freedom isn’t free. Let’s be worth the cost.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Poem for Jenda, From Toys Outgrown

The Bear and the Duck and the Ladybug lived in a meadow green,
near a river long and a castle strong, where there lived a king and queen.

The young prince and princess loved to play, along the flowering hedge,
they sailed a toy boat in the wide deep moat as they stood at the water’s edge.

And the Bear and the Duck and the Ladybug would come to watch them play
so they’d sit very still on the grassy hill, ‘til dusk would end the day.

The Bear and the Duck and the Ladybug spent their days near the royal court.
And so it went on, ‘til the summer was gone and the days grew cool and short.

Thus the Bear and the Duck and the Ladybug watched the leaves turn brown,
And the wind in the eaves whistled fast through the leaves and blew them onto the ground.

But they missed the young prince and princess and longed to see them again,
Then one winter day, the two came to play, in spite of the fierce winter wind.

The Bear and the Duck and the Ladybug smiled as they played with their boat,
Then the queen’s lovely daughter fell into the water and sank in the cold deep moat!

Well the Bear and the Duck and the Ladybug knew that they must jump in!
They saved her from the moat (and they pulled out the boat) and they started for home again.

The prince and princess were grateful, and they told the King and Queen
And their joy knew no bounds with the friends they had found and the bravery they had seen.

The King declared a holiday, and the Queen made her decree
And the princes and lords, they all raised their swords, to honor the fearless three.

So the Bear and the Duck and the Ladybug were each given a home in the towers,
Where a gentle spring breeze blew soft through the trees and scented the castle with flowers.

As the days turned to years, grandchildren’s cheers still filled the meadow with laughter,
and the Bear and the Duck and the Ladybug still live happily ever after.