Digressions of a Dilettante

Digressions of a Dilettante
Vignettes of Inanity by Bud Hearn

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Defining Moments

One can resist the invasion of an army but not the invasion of ideas.” Victor Hugo

This year, 2011, is long in the tooth. It’s on life support. The ring-in-the-new-year crowd is queuing up its cortege. Fireworks and debauchery will accompany its demise. The wizened Father Time will deliver the eulogy. Inebriated chorales will sing incoherently the traditional requiem of Auld Lang Syne.

How will 2011 be boxed-up and laid to rest in the Elysian Fields of History?

The Sunday NY Times did a credible job of embalming with a variety of photographs. Everywhere disaster and discontent seem to rule…wildfires, floods, blizzards, bombs, earthquakes, tsunamis, Ponzi schemes, revolutions, unrest, foreclosures and general malaise worldwide. Muslim prayer rugs are hot sales items. Religious nutcases predict The End. We wring our hands and gnash our teeth in anguish. And worst, there have been no sightings of Elvis!

What causes dreadful events? Answers are elusive, except to those living on the Georgia coast. Change happens. Every day the tide of change washes worthless flotsam ashore. Winds blow, dunes appear, soon vanish. Sandbars accrete, then attrite. Nature marches relentlessly forward, flying its flag of change.

Some blame the recurring chaos on a reclusive crackpot, a self-anointed Prophet of Global Warming and Inventor of the Internet. The algorithms of the Apostles of Gore have attraction, but hey, the repeal of Prohibition and the implosion of the Republican Party could as easily contribute.

Today I’m tired of playing with my Christmas toys and have already worn the pair of socks Santa stuffed in my stocking. In a chocolate-induced stupor, my mind forms a plan on how to identify a personal ‘defining moment.’ I find it best represented by a picture of my red walking cane leaning against the white Chevy pickup. It speaks volumes.

In the ‘old days’ country boys leaned on pickups, chewed Redman tobacco and swapped lies about fishin’, football, women and male bravado. Today only my cane leans there. Social gatherings with finger food and sips of wine are the new pickup trucks where emasculated men now swap boring minutiae about joint replacements, age, aches and angst. No one listens, or cares!

Last week a friend made front page news. I think it was her defining moment. The subtitle was “Hovering as a Tradition.” It read, “Every year she hovers in self-denial over a hot stove and oven in a grease-spattered red apron, sweating profusely, while preparing a feast for her family.” It even included the squash casserole recipe. A martyr among us! Defining moments often lurk between the lines of newsprint and in casseroles.

When I walk the dogs on the beach I sometimes take the cane. Only for effect, mind you. The doctors say it makes me look “dapper.” I rebel, thinking of Fred Astaire. But it does seem to have appeal. Unfortunately, the impression the cane casts is not macho. Time changes everything!

A couple of summers ago an insidious shrub invaded the beaches. It dies each fall and sheds its hideous barbs. Millions of sandspurs lie scattered like tiny landmines. We wring our hands and lament. Some say, “An Enemy hath sown these tares.”

Finally, The Author of all change hears our pleas and sends two tiny tsunamis to rid the menace. The shrubs succumb to the salt and die. But look..…in their place yellow flowers blossom in profusion. The tides of change sweep away the Malevolent and replace it with Beauty. Isn’t that marvelous?

We fear change. It causes angst. The ‘what-if’s’ crawl out of their holes and creep in to our psyche. We’re baffled. We throw up our hands, overwhelmed. We forget that change is inherent in Nature. New fruit always grows on new branches.

Look closely at the pictures of the desiccated thorn bush and its replacement, the flowering shrub. See the shadow? It’s the outline of the dread Omniscience that hovers over all events.

Maybe these pictures present another perspective in summarizing the events of 2011, even as we look forward with hope to 2012.

Happy New Year.

Bud Hearn
December 29, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Trusting in Stars

“…and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.” Matthew 2:9

Over 2000 years ago some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. They inquired, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” So reads the second chapter of St. Matthew.

Herod was King then. He summoned these wise men to his palace to interrogate them about the star. A summons by him was not necessarily for a banquet. Word is he had gallows installed next to his throne for entertainment value. The story ends after these wise men follow the star to Jesus and depart to their homeland by the back door.

I walked into Ronne’s, a village gift shop, looking for a Christmas present. On a rack by the door small towels with epigrams and witticisms hung limply. One in particular caught my eye. It read, “Three wise men? Really?” Obviously someone of the gentler gender conjured up this wisecrack.

The Greek word for “wise men” is magoi. It’s derived from a Persian word for “men expert in the study of the stars.” (Ladies, I’m sorry, but there’s no mention of wise-women star experts.) The word is transliterated into the English word ‘magi, which means ‘a sorcerer.’ Its proximity to the word magic or magician is too close for comfort.

Yet we read that they followed a star to find Jesus. Can your imagination reach into the heavens? Then imagine an American President summoning some star-gazers to the White House to inquire where jobs can be found, or where all the money went? Oops, I recall that Nancy Reagan was a star-gazer. She found direction in astrological signs. Which might tend to support the idea of ‘wise men.’ Just saying…..

Stars cruise the heavens, shining like gold clusters. They create recognizable patterns called constellations. They’re named after their apparent forms or identified with mythological figures. In the black sky they change location but have provided guidance systems for centuries. Even Columbus used celestial navigation.

I have a friend in Atlanta who once lived in a high rise condo. He had a telescope and an intense interest in stars. Unfortunately, bright city lights blocked out most of the stars. Undeterred, he took to studying other heavenly bodies in the windows of neighboring condo towers. His study of celestial shapes came to an abrupt conclusion one evening by a knock on his door. It remains a low point in his study of stars.

We no longer need to circumnavigate the globe by dead reckoning or by celestial navigation. Airline pilots and mariners have faith in its accuracy. We’ve made our own stars, called satellites. They’re easily seen as the brightest lights in the nighttime sky. GPS is the star that now leads us to destinations.

Stars are ubiquitous. Hollywood, Nashville, New York, Washington, South Beach. Movie stars, music stars, rock stars, rising political stars, financial stars…you-name-it. We follow these stars to their places and worship them. We often follow them to their funerals. They shine briefly like beacons, then dim and finally fade into the blackness of night like burned-out supernovas.

Today’s WSJ had a picture of Kim Jong Il resting comfortably in a glass-entombed crypt. Behind him an armed guard stood beside the North Korean flag. The flag’s symbol? Why, a star, of course.

Former Chairman Mao Zedong lies in state in a similar glass crypt in Beijing. His lifeless corpse is transported to Moscow annually for re-cosmeticization. He never ages, but gets younger. In the room with him is also a flag. Its symbol? Why, a star, of course. He won’t rise. China may.

Today it would be lunacy to admit to anyone that we anticipate following a moving star to some undisclosed destination. Although many believe that their star leads them to the proverbial pot of gold promised by the Lottery. Some of these people are Dawg fans.

But let’s return to the Sages of Scripture. They had faith. They trusted a star. It led them to Jesus. Upon what or who is our faith centered in this period of history? Which stars are we following?

At night I sit looking at the lights and stars on our Christmas tree. An angel is perched on top. I join with the magi, as Scripture says: “When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”

Do stars still guide us to places where significant happenings are being born? I ponder this question, yet I already know….Jesus is just not that hard to find!

Merry Christmas

Bud Hearn
December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Shopper

It’s 3:00 on Christmas Eve. He sits alone at his desk. The empty office echoes.
The holiday cheer evaporates. The scent of wine lingers longer.
Everyone’s gone. The hum of his computer is the only sound he hears.
He looks at his shopping list, a white sheet filled with names.
So many names, no gifts. He taps it with his pen, chews his nails.

His watch reads 3:05. No more procrastination. Time to shop.
He gets up, grabs his coat, keys and walks briskly to the parking garage.
He remembers Christmases past. Always the same, last-minute shopping.
He heads to the mall, confident in his quest. The roads are clogged.
He sees the mall. It mocks him. It closes at 6:00. Traffic is a Gordian knot.

No vehicle moves. Damn it, he utters, blows his horn. The clock ticks 3:18.
He fidgets, curses. He pounds the steering wheel, sweat wets his collar.
One lane moves, not his. Cars cruise by. Drivers yack on cells, celebrating.
He inches into the flow. A grandmother pays the price. She wrecks.
He arrives at the mall to an empty lot. He wonders what’s going on. It’s 3:27.

He jogs in, no time to spare. Men roam clueless in the mall.
He checks his list, plans his route. Bare shelves greet him in Brookstone.
He searches Macy’s. Not much. Moves to Brooks Bros. Nothing.
Neimans…over-priced and picked over. He stops at Starbucks.
A coffee. The clerk moves like molasses. He paces, tick, tick, tick.

Saks is his savior, he smiles smugly. He saunters in, thinks of his wife.
Clerks lounge, yawn, lethargic. They shun him. He despises them.
He inspects the shoes, Jimmy Choo, then Monolo. He’s shocked.
The prices stab him, surpass his comprehension. He moves to cosmetics.
He dawdles with perfume testers. The air smells sweet. He makes no choice.

He moves to the handbag section. Three men linger there.
Choices are few. One Bottega Veneta. All want it.
Words erupt. Someone is shoved. Elbows fly, two men grapple on the floor.
He reaches for the bag. Too slow. A fist finds his face. The bag vanishes.
He shakes it off, looks at his list. Half complete. Tick, tick, tick. 4:29.

Time’s tick taunts him. He rushes into the corridor. Shops close early.
He checks out DeBeers. Their door slams shut. He gets lucky at J. Crew.
He leaves, passes Victoria Secret. A mob of men gather. They gawk.
The staff changes the manikins. The men point, discuss, drool, dream.
He knows their Santa list. Disappointment will fill their stockings.

His watch frightens him, 4:58. Time stalks him relentlessly. He becomes manic.
He shops the tawdry kiosks, grabs the garish junk, satisfied with the scraps.
He’s a pinball, bouncing shop to shop, running wildly down the corridors.
His cell rings. His wife calls. A party? Our home? 6:30? He emits an expletive.
He looks at his watch, 5:24. Doors are closing fast. No gift for his wife.

He is a feral savage, delirious. His bags bulge, his wallet wilts.
He’s punished by time, assaulted by the constant tick, tick, tick. 5:48.
Shops are closed. In the distance a dim light shines. Maybe, he hopes.
He remembers the toaster, the blender, the picture frame he gave her.
She cried. His children mocked him. She abandoned the kitchen forever.

He bursts into the store, grabs the clerk, shakes him violently.
My wife, my wife, what have you got for my wife? He’s hysterical now.
The best you have for her. What is it, man, what is it? Price no object.
The clerk recovers, shows him a shiny see-through model, the latest rave.
I’ll take it, I’ll take it. What is it? Why, sir, it’s an Oreck vacuum. The best.

Yes, he shouts, at last, at last. He’s ecstatic. It’s 6:05. He’s done.
He sprints to the exit. The doors are bolted shut. He’s trapped.
He rages, shakes them uncontrollably. Alarms sound. Security subdues him.
He pleads his dilemma. They release him, kick him out. Tick, tick, tick. 6:15.
He finds his car, drives madly, weaving wildly, a lunatic at the wheel.

He arrives home. His pulse pounds. He’s disheveled. His necktie is a noose.
He races in, kisses his wife, dumps his bags. His watch tortures him. 6:26.
She’s calm, smiles, says Merry Christmas, reminds him guests are arriving.
She sees his panic, pours him eggnog. Says to calm down, relax.
Don’t buy me a present this year, she says.

He’s stunned and confused, asks her why. She grins, points to the garage.
I saved you the trouble she says. I bought my own with your Visa. Go see.
He does. In the garage is a shiny new black Mercedes Benz convertible.
He stares in stark horror. Terror stalks him.
The doorbell rings. Guests arrive. The clock chimes 6:30. He faints.

Merry Christmas!

Bud Hearn
December 15, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Black Holes and Other Euphemistic Sidesteps

Definition of Euphemism: A figure of speech in which the severe asperity of truth is mitigated by the use of a softer expression than the facts would warrant…a verbal evasion. The Devil’s Dictionary

The Associated Press article read: “Scientists find monster black holes, biggest yet.” Each is 10 billion times the size of our sun. Black holes are so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape being drawn into the black abyss of their vortex. They continue to grow considerably since their formation.

We know about black holes. Some people are human vortexes of negative energy, dense, drawing the life out of everything and everybody in their orbit. But more about black holes later.

I have a friend. He’s a black hole. Still a friend. I tend to shy away from him (avoid at all costs). He’s a little over the edge (totally degenerate), but he’s rich compost (good material) for a story.

It happened just this way. The phone rings, the caller ID flashes his name. I know better, but answer anyway. Mistake.

He shouts, “Hey, you got any loose change (available cash)?” I answer, “Maybe, why?”

He says, “I’m tight for cash (he’s broke), and today she hit me up for a ton (blackmail).” I ask, “Which ‘she’ is it this time? You been slippin’ around again (committing adultery)?”

“It isn’t like that. I only wanted to help her. She’s a very sweet girl (a 1 on a 10 scale) and down on her luck (fired from Waffle House). Besides, it was in a weak moment (I was drunk). I think I stole more chain than I can swim with (she’s young). Sometimes my tongue overrides my good judgment” (a Shakespearean aphorism seems appropriate: “When the blood burns how prodigal the soul lends the tongue vows.”). My laugh is audible.

“Have you ‘fessed up (begged, groveled) for forgiveness from your wife?” I ask. “Are you nuts (insane)? I’ve already told her I quit foolin’ around (chasing skirts).”

I reply, “OK” (a catch-all acronym, meaning everything, and nothing). “What happened to all that money you squirreled away (invested). Tap into that (cash in). After all, it was a huge stash (big inheritance).”

“Long Story. A wealth manager (parasite) from GF Global hounded me. A real nice guy (a verbal flimflammer) over the phone. He had a hot tip (a scam) on gold futures. So, I leveraged the money. There was an equity retreat (a run on the bank) and he blamed the Euro for the problem (a margin call). It’s not my fault. They cooked the books on me (stole the money).”

“Well, how about all your real estate?” I ask.

“Bad news there. We’re in a period of deleveraging (a depression) and the market is just correcting itself (being sucked into the black hole). I had to monetize my assets (borrow heavily) and now the bank’s no longer inviting me to lunch (the loans have come due).” I heave a heavy sigh in sympathy.

I change the subject to health (artful dodge). I tell him I was recently diagnosed by five physicians and one voodoo doctor. They all agreed I suffer from supratentorial almondcashopathy (almonds and cashews). In other words, I’m a ‘nut case.’ He utters an obligatory grunt.

“How’s your mama these days,” I ask. “One foot in (comatose),” he says. “I’m afraid soon she’ll be pushing up daisies” (die, but the French apercu fits the best: manger les pissenlitspar la racin, literally translated, “eating dandelions by the root”).”

“Sorry to hear that (empty sympathy),” I say. “And the kids?”

“Well, except for school. They stay in hot water (failing grades), but it’ll all work out (state of denial). Forget them (it’s all about me). What about my money problem (shakedown)?”

“How much do you need to get out of hot water (bail you out)?” I ask.

“I’m really under budget constraints (tapped out). Can you spare $50 G’s (a New Jersey Mafia term)?” For that kind of money, I’m thinking she must have been a real sweet girl.

I can see this call is circling his black hole, so I tell him another call’s coming in (a lie). “I’ll have to get back to you (a coward’s escape).” I hang up. I never worry, he’ll call back.

Now about those black holes the scientists have discovered. Oh, did I forget to say where their telescopes were aimed? Why, at the black-hole galaxy named Congress.

Bud Hearn
December 8, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Had it made. Until that day…..

I write this, fresh from having Thanksgiving in my small home town with assorted kin whose unabated appetites have added to their ample girths.

Ah, the small towns of youth…freedom and innocence! We had it made. Until….

My wife and I shared a small room in the local Inn, a quaint Victorian retro, and a bed somewhat smaller than the front seat of my car. Country boys are familiar with car seats, especially back seats. But lo, after 45 years of marriage, well, you know, a good night’s sleep is preferable.

The town gets ghostly quiet at night. What’s there to do but sleep? After a quantity of barbiturates sufficient to sedate an elephant, we finally doze off. Until the sirens wail. Every night they whine. Grief, groans and lamentations follow them, along with a caravan of teenagers, curious for some ‘action.’ We bolt up in bed, take the Lord’s name in vain. It’s Dante’s third circle of Hell.

Sirens bring back youthful memories. They signaled something was happening. Nothing much happens in small towns, except at night. Teenage boredom is a terrible thing to waste. So we’d follow the sirens to fires and the hospital emergency room. Mayhem and blood excites teenagers.

Little has changed in my home town. The old stores are still there, occupied by others. My uncle, Ben Hill, had a haberdashery (a museum, really) on the corner of the square. It bulged with post-Civil War clothing, purchased from an itinerate goy from the Garment District, a fellow named M. Lipmann. It was a sordid tale of greed and sullied our family reputation for good business.

Uncle Hill lived next door. His wife was from somewhere near Milledgeville. She had a nephew named Baldwin who visited them. Now, who would name anybody Baldwin? Junior, Runt or Shorty, yes. But Baldwin? He had freckles, red hair and sweated profusely. Girls fled in disgust. Plus, he was full of mischief. I had gold stars for perfect Sunday School attendance, until he led me astray.

We climbed trees and dropped chinaberry bombs on cars. He promised we wouldn’t be caught. Beware of promises from kids named Baldwin from near Milledgeville. My father’s belt often had its pleasure with us in those days.

Uncle Hill had a cane patch in his back yard a little smaller than a football field. We made it into a fort. We had it made, until Baldwin stole his aunt’s cigarettes. Winstons, I recall. Once we each put a whole pack of cigarettes in our mouths and lit up. Smoke billowed, the sedge field next door caught fire, my brother told my mother, and soon the sirens wailed. And so did we when my daddy got home.

My brother was no saint either. Daddy had bought a new Chevy convertible. It was his idol. One day we crawled on top of it. Convertible tops don’t support stupid boys. It ripped apart and we reaped the whirlwind of daddy’s wrath.

The Brunswick paper reported the saga of a fellow who had it made.., until the Sheriff served him divorce papers. He went berserk and holed up in his house with an arsenal. The local SWAT team converged, an army somewhat smaller than Napoleon’s Russian contingent. The last action they had was the biscuit fight at the station which resulted in some ugly name calling.

Unconfirmed reports say his wife sued for divorce because of his nasty habit of leaving his tobacco-stained dentures in the refrigerator and the lid up. He was lit up by a taser and hauled off in a strait jacket for mental evaluation. The SWAT team retreated to clean up their biscuit mess.

My little town didn’t have a SWAT team. When times got slow we’d shoot rats at the city dump, or sneak into the city jail and taunt the drunks while the jailer slept. We were convinced that the jailer fed the inmates rat stew. Small boys can often be confused.

We did have one divorcee in town. Hushed whispers had it ‘another woman’ was involved. Small boys can be mistaken on certain kinds of details. But having matured, and made a study of politics, it now seems highly likely that might have been the case.

Bob’s liquor store, tattoo parlor and pool room were closed for Thanksgiving. The evils of gambling and alcohol were hotly debated at the local Baptist church. The Methodists quietly assented but secretly imbibed. No such debate raged at the AmVets Club, which was always open, if you knew the secret code. We did. We had it made.

You know, a wink and a nod from the local constable, and things worked smoothly.

Yes, we had it made. Until that day when we grew up!

Bud Hearn
December 1, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Recollections of Thanksgiving

"There’s nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor…that it was from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24

Thanksgiving…the very concept conjures up evocative nostalgia. A silent bell tolls in our hearts, reviving the infused pilgrim spirit inherited from the Plymouth Plantation. Tradition is dusted off and Norman Rockwell is resurrected in anticipation of another year of family togetherness.

The vast dispersion will soon begin, that obligatory migration for millions of extended families making their pilgrimage. Expressways and airports will be clogged, folks in a hurry, tempers short, children exhausted, courtesies abandoned. With luck they will arrive, this swarm of family locusts, descending on the old home place with one thought in mind: The Thanksgiving Dinner!

The year’s final harvest is in. Not that most have any sweat equity in it. Why toil? Now it’s too easy to purchase the fruits of another’s labor. In fact, harvests today bear little resemblance to harvests of a bygone era. Few remain who recall the days when mules were tractors, the days of smokehouse hams and sausages, hog-killings, of syrup-making, of pumpkin gathering and sweet potato banks…days when the air was crisp, the grass frosty…days before irrigation, genetic seed engineering and perennially imported harvests.

Former harvests were unpredictable, subject to the vicissitudes of nature and insects, and rife with the sweat of hard labor. In those days serious supplications were made for Divine favor, unlike the easy platitudes now uttered. Today the term “harvest” has lost its strength. Our hands, soft without blisters, give us away. Cash is our reaping scythe.

At the Plymouth Plantation, 1621, the harvest was hard-earned from the hardscrabble earth. The community pooled their resources and labor to eke out a living. “Thanksgiving” meant gratitude then! Plus, it was not secular like the multitude of pagan harvest festivals. It was a genuine thanksgiving to the Creator for the land’s bounty. Imagine yourself at this first Puritan Thanksgiving.

“Honey, get up, light the fire, get out of the kitchen and do your hunting thing... and don’t come back here without a turkey or smelling like beer,” the woman would say. “And on your way out shake the kids…I need more fire wood. Now!” Women ruled the roost then, as now, on Thanksgiving. Men fled from the kitchens.

Candles flickered in the homes of the small plantation as the day dawned and preparation was made for the harvest celebration. The community was alive with jubilation, and scents of cooking food wafted in the cold November air. Laughter echoed as men passed around jugs of cider by the village fires. Football had yet to be invented.

Even the indigenous savages arrived, bearing an abundance of turnips, corn and fish. By noon the village was assembled, thanks given to the Almighty for the bounty of another year, and the feast began. It lasted for days. Somehow feasts are more enjoyable with a crowd.

Yet most are indifferent to the idea of a communal Thanksgiving. Churches and charities do their best to feed the hungry, but it represents only the essence of the collective spirit. We’re a nation of individuals, gathering with friends and family in smaller assemblages. We remain segregated from the egalitarian life of our communities. As a consequence, we fail to reap their intrinsic strengths.

Notwithstanding, it remains a warm celebration of congeniality and reunion, and a time of remembrance. Yes, to remember the “old days,” to remember the ones who have passed on, those who have moved on and those who remain. And a remembrance of happy times, to laugh, and maybe even cry a little.

Thanksgiving would be incomplete without the often comedic dysfunctional aspects of family homecomings. After a few days of “catching up,” and with everyone sick of turkey and dressing, and often each other, the party breaks up and the crowd heads home.

With packed cars, abundant hugs and a few turkey sandwiches to go, the weary pilgrims depart and join the returning throngs, cursing the traffic and vowing never to do it again…until next year, that is.

Next year has now arrived, and the Tradition of Thanksgiving is revived in our hearts. We’ll celebrate another Thanksgiving Harvest in our Land of Freedom, a gift of Grace from the beneficent hand of God.

As you gather around your tables, remember to thank The Source of all blessings. And while you’re at it, remember to thank the turkey for giving its last, full measure of devotion!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Bud Hearn
November 23, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Reluctant Turkey

I am a turkey, born, or rather, hatched…a freak of nature. Not of choice, mind you, for who has a choice? These things happen. This is my story of Thanksgiving

I hatched in 28 days like the others. But I suspected something was wrong when I heard my family wailing and gnashing their beaks, “What went wrong, mama…have you been tom-turkeying around the barnyard? Is it a rara avis? Let’s name it R. T.

I soon figured out the problem. Turkey poults grow rapidly. I didn’t. All that grew was my neck and my snool, a sporty red beard. While my peers grew large in girth and chest, I grew long in neck, big in head.

I was an anorexic hatchling. Since someone is always to blame for everything, I accused my ancestry, a cross-breed of the Bourbon breed of New Orleans and the Royal Palm sophisticates of South Florida. I’m a living example of a gene gone wild.

Life deals the cards—our role is to play the hand dealt. I drew a bad hand and was a constant embarrassment. I was a nerd from the get-go with a keen sense for survival. Let’s just say nature shorted me on one hand but made up for it on the other.

Being scrawny and bow-legged, I was the playground piñata for every bully and insecure jerk tom who called me names, like “runt, pencil-neck and skinny.” I got no respect. Even the hens fled when I approached, giggling as they ran. My mama escorted me to turkey school, a daily embarrassment.

I wasn’t invited to play the barnyard turkey games. Those were reserved for the NFL wannabe’s. They were the big eaters who hung out in the jock dorm, bragging of their pumped-up pecs and heavy bench presses. The rest of us roosted on a fence.

Being a loner, I observed turkey nature and realized quickly that something was not right in this barnyard. I was always a picky eater, an herb and salad guy, despising the turkey chow. I grew little while the others swelled to prodigious proportions overnight.

Twice a day the feed wagon arrived. Hormone-infused turkey chow was emptied into feeding troughs by burly men with long beards. It put a South Georgia thanksgiving buffet to shame. The men would say, “Now, you birds eat up, ya hear? Thanksgiving’s getting close,” patting their bellies and laughing. I once tasted the cuisine, but it had the aroma of poison.

I was as skinny as a starving monk, but smart. I knew there’s no such thing as a “free lunch,” or free anything. I kept warning this ignorant and gluttonous brood, “Boys and girls, this food isn’t free…there’s a catch.” No one listened.

One fall day a white truck with wire cages entered the barnyard. The bib-overall boys bounded out and opened the gate. Me? I slinked to the back corner of the yard, knowing something evil was about to go down. A beautiful White-breed turkey emerged from a cage, and the jock-toms went stark raving mad. I knew what they had in mind. But it was a trick. This was not an ordinary turkey…this hen had experience, you could tell.

She pranced around the yard, enraging the hens and arousing the toms. Fights ensued, feathers flew in the frenzy as the toms assaulted one another for her attention. The hens bristled. The toms had only one hen in mind now. I crouched further into the shadows of the barn, watching this turmoil and thinking, “This ain’t natural.”

Soon one of the men began to cluck and yelp on a turkey call. The White hen sashayed seductively towards the truck, followed mindlessly in a collective swoon by the food-anesthetized toms. The hens could not tolerate losing their toms to this hussy, so they marched proudly behind them onto the truck with its open, waiting prisons.

I kept quiet, stayed low. I knew all along what she was…a Judas turkey, herding these ignorant birds off to where nothing good would happen. The free feed bag was over…the bill had come due. I felt sorrow for them.

Here I was, abandoned and alone in this big, deserted barnyard. I longed for companionship. There was none. I slept in the empty jock dorm, still smelling of turkey musk, wondering about tomorrow.

Tomorrow came. Feeling safe, I strutted, scratching up what few herbs remained. The white truck pulled up again. The burley men opened the door. Down the shoot came a fresh crop of young Narragansett hens. What’s this, I wondered, sitting on the fence post. They looked around the yard, then at me. What, were they were attracted to R. T.?

Observing the approaching tableau, Roy Orbison began to sing to me, “Pretty women, don’t you on walk on by, pretty women, don’t you make me cry, pretty women, you look lovely as can be, are you lonely just like me?”

Thanksgivings come in many ways. “Here I am, girls, R. T., the barnyard stud.” Now that’s my idea of Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you, and strut proudly in your own barnyard…gobble, gobble. R. T.

Bud Hearn
November 17, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hip Replacement…The Anatomy of Torture

I’m in the doctor’s office again. We review the X-rays. Bad news.
How do I stand, Doc?” I say. “Mystery to me,” he says.
I ask what the problem is. “Square peg in a round hole.”
I ask why. Says I’m old. That explains nothing, yet everything.
I ask if it’s serious. He says only if I have plans to walk.
He gives me a brochure. A sailboat, a couple in love, dancing, drinking.
I take the bait. Cha-ching. I’m his next year’s new BMW.

No rush, you’ll know when,” he says. I hobble home, curse my birth.
I renew church membership, begin tithing. God heals, right?
The condition worsens, demands a second opinion. I throw good money after bad.
Square peg in a round hole,” the Mayo pro says. “Cards you were dealt.”
“When?” I ask. “When you pound on my desk,” he says.
The bad-news bill beats me home. I pound on my chest. Then the desk.

I soon yield. New hip. I schedule it. I’m relieved. I marvel at my courage.
A week away I’m back in church. I give God another chance. He’s busy.
I toss $20 bucks in the plate for good measure. He answers with silence.
I take that as a No. God’s not impressed with $20’s. I keep the tip.
Two days remain. I’m anxious, call the stone mason.
White marble, I tell him, chisel 3-4-42---11-1-11. Rest in One Piece.

Finally, Showtime. Bad days arrive early. This one dawns at 7 AM.
Sign these papers, the nurse demands. “What’s in them?” I ask.
“Nothing that’s good for you.” She shoves the pen into my hand.
I sign away my life, my first born, deed to the house, get a number, 666.
They’ll call you by number, she snaps. I know that number. A bad sign.
I beg for another, mutter something about the anti-Christ. She hisses.

Next, 666.” I tiptoe in. A nurse appears, picks her teeth with large needles.
I lie on a gurney in an open-air gown. She peeks. Then laughs. I’m disgraced.
Never trust women with beards to administer narcotics. Never trust women.
A man in an Armani suit with a red silk tie slithers in, discusses insurance.
He reads me my rights, asks for a financial statement. Says Medicare is broke.
Says overruns are my nickel. I curse him. He grins, lights up a big Cuban.

Things move fast. Catheters hang, tubes drip, monitors beep. I pray.
An orderly straps me down, rolls me away. Lights dazzle overhead.
I see a tray. It has tools. Black & Decker chain saw. Skil drills. Ace hammer.
Another tray. My options…a bottle of cheap gin, a jigger glass.
A silver bullet, a blindfold. Handcuffs, a stapler, pliers, a used Gideon.
Spectral faces surround. Light blinds me. Someone sharpens a knife.

I smell gasoline, the saw roars to life. I hear the whirr of the drill.
Voices shout. My leg is severed, ripped from its socket. I ask for more gin.
A sponge wets my lips, last rites are given. I lose consciousness.
I dream. Butchers mutilate my body. My cup runneth out. I float in clouds.
Voices of horror shriek in pain, hollow eyes stare through dark windows.
Humans heave in the mosh pit of penury, bereft of medical benefits.

They seize my hip, lacerate and tear it from my body. It wails.
They fling it ingloriously onto a stainless tray. It quivers in agony.
A pathologist examines it, toe-tags and labels it DOA.
I had asked to have it. The doctor objected. It’s mine, I pleaded.
Why?” he asked. “Maybe a cane, or gear shift knob, or a necklace,” I say.
He shrugs. I hear the word ‘fool’ uttered under his breath.

I wake. Remember little. Feel for my leg. It’s re-attached. No pain. Yet!
Hands lift me, hand me a walker. I prowl the empty corridors.
I go to therapy. All women. I feign machismo. Fail miserably. They giggle.
The doctor visits, asks how I am. In agony, I squeal. He gives me an aspirin.
Will I recover?” He says, “Consult God.” Leaves his bill. I review it, pass out.
The hospital ejects me. I wonder if I’m better off now.

The jury remains out.

Bud Hearn
November 10, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"What's the Point?"

Wednesday, 9:50 PM

Last week I was lazy and sent to you a 2008 re-run, “The Fortune Cookie.” It got mixed reviews. In ‘08 the US financial system was collapsing. It’s still getting mixed reviews. I feel affirmed. A new beginning, a new direction, or at least a stiff drink was needed. I looked for my direction in a fortune cookie.

My pal, Sam, a brilliant lawyer, responded. Three words framed the terse interrogatory: “What’s the point?” He puts me on the witness stand, having to defend my thesis. Lawyers do this…entrap you with questions. My knee-jerk rebuttal was, “What’s the point of anything?” Let him chew on that for a while.

But, his comment gnawed by brain like a dog on a bone. The comment resurfaced as the news reported on the OWE crowds---Occupy Wall Street---hordes of leftist anarchists protesting for redistribution of wealth. The process was peaceful, the platform perplexing. It looked like an urban Woodstock, sans cannabis, while they blasted Obama’s Wall Street “fat cats.” Meanwhile, inside the granite citadels of finance, life went on as usual. Nobody was asking, “What’s the point.” They knew. Shoppers gawked, business boomed.

Life is full of pointless things. Like the recent monetary stimulus plans that were designed to solve unemployment, but found ways into the greased pockets of union bosses. Talk about redistribution of wealth! Government is good at creating jobs by bureaucracy, wars and meddling into the affairs and the pockets of citizens. It’s cannibalistic, consuming its own children. OWS should be picketing in DC.

To ask, “What’s the point?” is often like taking a journey down a dark, dead-end alley. Circumspect should be used before entering. Answers are illusionary. They lead down murky corridors into Job’s basement, where walls are plastered with placards of protests past, and where restless spirits wail, and echoes of vanity of vanities resonate throughout. Where’s the exit from this hell-hole of horror?

While in Venice we visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. On its walls were strange canvasses by the artist Jackson Pollock, the genius of “there’s-no-point-to-it” art. You’ve seen his work. The colored paint is slathered, scattered and slung incoherently with no seeming order. It’s chaos-on-a-canvas that clings to the walls. I doubt if he ever asked, “What’s the point.” He was too busy with the business of amusing himself, confusing his audience, smoozing benefactors, getting rich and dying early.

Americans are a demanding breed. We expect explanations. Things must have an answer, someone to blame, something responsible, understandable, something plausible, scientific. Lately we’ve been asking a lot of questions of our leaders (leaders...really?). Questions of Why, of Where, of When. We get no answers. So, what’s the point of asking? We know the answer.

Thursday, 11:26 AM.

I’m now sitting in the waiting room of my cardiologist, finishing this vignette. I have survived yet again another nuclear stress test, looking for answers. I glance around, shocked at my waiting-room companions. Bet they’re not asking, “What’s the point?” They, like me, are willing to endure four hours of nuclear injections to hopefully hear good news. I’m sure some will be disappointed. I hope I’m not one of them.

Oswald Chambers, the great Christian mystic, probably gave serious thought to the question of “what’s the point?” He penned, “We may not be given overcoming life, but we are given life as we overcome.” I believe he touched the edge of the answer to this conundrum.

For whatever else it may mean, “What’s the point” is about life…vibrant, passionate, creative, and grab-it-while-you-can overcoming life, the kind of life that’s found in the smallest of everyday things and shared with love and in community.

What’s your answer to this question, and how’s it working out for you? Just asking…..

Bud Hearn
October 20, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Luck and a Good Woman

The back door opens, closes. Whoosh. Stifling heat follows him.
“Whew! Damn, it’s hot!” He says. Words more wheezed than spoken.
His breath hisses like exhaust from a balloon let loose.
Sweat bubbles up, rolls from his face, falls to the floor and fractures.
I need a drink,” pushing his cap back, looking into the mirror.
He grabs a towel, mops his head and tosses it into the sink.

She hears him, fills a glass with chunks of ice, then water.
The ice explodes—pop, crack, pop. Frost enshrouds the glass.
Here. Sit down, cool off,” she says, handing it to him.
He takes it, shakes it and raises it to his lips. Then the phone rings.
Visa again?” He curses like the intrusion of another IRS agent.
He sets the water down, answers it.

“Hello,” he says. A faint voice is heard. Silence fills the room.
Then, “Really?” He listens, draws tiny circles on the frosted glass.
She stands, looks at the man. Now what, she thinks.
His shoulders suddenly slump, he leans against the kitchen counter.
What?” he says. “You kidding? When?” His demeanor visibly stiffens.
She moves closer, wipes sweat from his neck. “What?” she mimes.

He looks at her, then the water, picks it up and shuffles his stance.
The Voice continues to speak. He listens, shakes the ice cubes.
They clink. Condensation forms, beads up, then drops.
Could it be a mistake?” he says to The Voice on the phone.
She moves closer, asks who. “Charles,” he lip-syncs. She stands rigid.
He sets the glass down, picks up a pen, “Repeat that.”

He scribbles a number, an address, a date and a time.
What now?” he asks The Voice. The glass sits in a pool of water.
What if I can’t find it?” he says.
The Voice is agitated. “Ok, Ok, I’ll look now. Hold on,” he shouts.
He lays the phone on the counter. She hands him the glass of melting ice.
Here,” she says. “Not now,” as he brushes past her, his eyes flicker with fear.

She stands still, waits. He returns, picks up the phone and sits down.
Guess what?” he says. Then, “That’s right.” He listens some more.
An expression of pain appears from the wrinkles on his glistening forehead.
She brings him the water glass. The ice is melting. He sweats profusely.
He nods a thank-you, raises it to his lips, feels the cool edge of the glass.
Then, “Remember, I asked you what if….” The Voice interrupts, he listens.

His shirt is wet, stained, soaking into the chair’s fabric.
She grabs his arm, shifts him to a stool.
The water glass sits on the table, ignored, unused, pooling.
She takes it, wipes the table, refills with ice.
Did you keep a copy?” he says to The Voice. “What?”
You forgot? You forgot? You’re my lawyer, and you forgot?”

She asks what he’s looking for. He tells The Voice to hang on.
Hon, it’s a large brown envelope, has a paper I need,” he says.
“What paper?” she asks. “Our future, or our funeral,” he says.
I’ll look. You couldn’t even find a truck in your mess.”
She leaves. He says to The Voice, “She’s looking.” Then, “No, I never told her.”
He stares at the water glass, it glares back. Suddenly his thirst burns.

He and The Voice exchange blame. She returns, holding an envelope.
“This it?” she asks. He grabs it, rips it open, looks inside. “Yes!” he shouts.
“Found it,” he tells the Voice. “We still have time. On my way.”
He smiles, his first. He gets up, hugs her, pours the water in the sink.
What are you doing?” she says. “Thought you were thirsty.”
He says, “Baby, water’s cheap. Open the champagne. We just won the lottery.”

Ah, the value of Luck AND a Good Woman…what a combination!!

Bud Hearn
September 21, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

This morning I stagger from bed to bathroom, flick on the light and look in the mirror. Horrors! “Damn, you’re ugly,” I shout. “Takes one to know one,” it responds. So begins another day with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a life-long love/hate relationship with mirrors.

Oh, the furtive glances we make at our reflections, the inordinate time spent in front of mirrors, prepping to meet a world that does likewise. We’re strangers to ourselves, made-up manikins at the masquerade ball.

This morning I asked my mirror for a divorce. The flower of youth had faded and the mirror was treating me with contempt. It grinned and said, “You’ll be back.”

I can’t recall when I fell in love with mirrors. They seduced me, became addictive. Perhaps it started when acne assaulted my face, or, with razor in hand, my anticipation of finding facial hair sprouting from my chin.

With girls it’s different. They search for other signs of maturation---bulges here, curves there and early exploration with mama’s Mary Kay. Boys don’t have much anatomy worth looking at early on. Mirrors just mock them. Bikes rule. But when girls replace bikes, mirrors take on new meanings.

I know these things. My friend, Robert, had a sister named Judy, a voluptuous beauty who matured early. She was 16, we were 13. She sat nearly nude in front of a mirror ringed with lights. She thought herself an actress. Most girls do, I later learned.

Fortunately, a wide crack separated the French doors. We spent our time staring through that space into her Paradise. The mirror stared back with the image of its Starlet. One night it reflected our voyeurism. Screams and curses ensued. Life for us was never the same. We fled on bikes with only memories of the mirror’s reflection of Judy’s anatomical attributes. Ah, youth, sweet youth.

I soon grew facial hair and learned to drive. Our car’s rear view mirror took on great significance. I glamourized it with an enormous pair of white, fuzzy-foam dice. Nausea describes my father’s disgust. Fortunately, he had a sense of humor. I later learned just how he felt when my own son….well, you know, the fruit falls not far from the tree.

The rear view mirror revealed both a fading view of home and enthusiastic activities in the back seat on double-date nights at the drive-in movie. Ah, pity such education is absent from schoolroom curriculum these days. It’s rumored that the elimination of bench seats in cars caused the closure of all drive-in theaters.

But these are silly things. Age abolishes childish ways. Mirrors now rule. Count the mirrors in any home. Our home has just under 1,000, not counting picture frames. Some have good light. In the ‘right’ light, I look differently. You do, too. We avoid harsh reality mirrors.

Excessive preening at mirrors is not in itself a symptom of a serious psychotic state. Unless, of course, the image speaks. It’s the first thing we do in the morning, the last thing at night. We can’t escape ourselves, don’t want to. Face it, we’re in love with what we see.

LaRochefoucauld, an obscure French philosopher, postulated that we put on outward appearances to look how we want to be thought. He concluded that society is entirely made up of assumed personalities. The mirror is a co-conspirator. But then, what do the French know beyond food, wine and roundabouts anyway?

Women have torrid love affairs with mirrors. Men are less inclined, having little to conceal. And L’Oreal’s Mascara for Men cannot outsell Old Spice, some circles excluded. Men like gym magnifying mirrors, which enhance male egos. Egos are on steroids.

We live in a carnival House of Mirrors. Its reflection exaggerates and sometimes makes grotesque our forms and shapes. Why people pay money to be seen in such ways is a mystery. But carnivals often cast reflections of society. We behold ourselves, forgetting that we’re only exaggerated dusty vapors with short shelf lives.

Our home’s ‘back-door’ mirror is my last chance for a full-body scan before leaving. Today I recanted my request for a divorce. Apology accepted. We’re back on again. Who else would put up with my narcissistic notions?

I dredged up some compost today, but one memory is still missing…O, Judy, where are you?

Bud Hearn
September 15, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Knee Jerker...A Southern Trilogy Part I

Metter, GA, Sunday, heat index 112.

Henry promised to introduce me to Willie, his brother. Locals call him The Knee Jerker. He’s now a Prophet. We finish the fried chicken from Edenfield’s Buffet, grab a tooth pick and leave.

Willie lives where he works, in the annex behind the Tabernacle of The Absolute Rapture. The Tabernacle, painted a brilliant red, reminds me of a Twilight Zone movie.

I ask Henry about Willie’s knee jerking. He says a restless spirit lives in his legs. “Some say it’s the devil,” he says. “When his knees get to jerking, he speaks in tongues. People get raptured and fall flat on the floor.”

He adds, “The preacher and deacons laid hands on his legs to cast out this spirit. But his legs twitched and he got to talking in tongues. They anointed him a Prophet right there on the spot.” I’m incredulous.

Is this a hoax?” I ask. Henry says no. He says when Willie walks into the Tabernacle, it happens. My head shakes in disbelief. I tell Henry the world’s full of knee-jerkers. Some even have devils, I say. He asks me to explain.

Henry obviously knows the devil, so I figure he would understand. I tell him they were also born with deviant spirits, but they usually knee-jerk with their mouths, not their knees. He cocks his head and looks at me. His eyes are luminous and wild.

I try to make it simple. “It’s hard to explain, Henry,” I say. “You see, some people put their mouth in motion before they put their brain in gear. They have foot-in-mouth disease.” He says he never heard of that affliction. I let it drop.

The Tabernacle is enormous. Its vastness looms like a fiery apparition from a hilltop. It overlooks a desolate swamp at the dead end of a railroad track. A red caboose sits there, silent, waiting. For what? I’m afraid to ask. Just in case, I slide my wallet under the seat.

The parking lot is pregnant with Cadillacs and Lincolns. People stand in serpentine lines. They shuffle restlessly, waiting to enter the Tabernacle. They’re dressed in dazzling pastels, black and white. Some have luggage. “My God, Henry, what’s this?” I ask. He grins. Far out!

Two enormous men block the back door. Odd shapes bulge beneath their blazers. A Brinks truck waits in the distance. Henry high-fives. They eye me with suspicion and curiosity, then, let us enter.

Inside, a white-robed choir sways and sings, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Shouts of Hallelujah, Glory and Amen mingle with weeping and wailing. Strange tongues fill the cavernous sanctuary. I search for Dante.

Substantial white buckets swell with cash and fungible lucre, sacrifices considered sufficient to secure a ticket to heaven. Multitudes of acolytes throng the shining throne of Willie, The Knee Jerker. Only today, he’s Willie, The Prophet, clothed with a scarlet vestment trimmed with tiny mirrors.

Petitioners come, offer oblations and touch his knees. They jerk, or don’t, depending on the size of the alms. “Is this legal?” I ask. Silence answers. Soon Willie takes a break, joins us in a back room. Henry introduces me. My tongue is Velcro. It clings to the roof of my mouth.

Willie says, “We have a ‘Rapture Ministry’. People are hungry for heaven, afraid of the devil and ready for the Rapture. We offer hope.” He continues. “The devil’s favorite color is red, so we paint everything red and shove it in his face.”

My tongue finds its voice. “What’s with the red caboose?” I ask.

Willie answers. “Oh, that. It’s symbolic. It represents the last train out. It sits there as a reminder that it’s never too late, even if it is the last train out.”

He says, “It’s not a hoax. The money we collect feeds the hungry. We only pay expenses. We don’t even have a Cadillac or a jet…..yet!”

I ask, “Willie, I gotta know. Do your knees really jerk? Or just your mouth?”

He laughs. “Brother, all things are possible to them that believe.” We exchange benedictions, retreat to our worlds.

I ask Henry if I can get a last-minute ticket for the caboose. He winks. “Son, like the Good Book says, ‘Money answereth to all things.’”

And so it goes. Metter, GA, a Sunday in August, heat index 112.

Bud Hearn
September 8, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mule Blinders

Some things never die…they just change application. Mule blinders are one of those things.

I came by a much-used set last Saturday. They were hanging as a wall ornament in a beer and hamburger joint in Woodbine, Georgia. It’s a disgrace for a venerable, utilitarian device to be relegated to such a low-rent status. Age feels its pain of irrelevance. The owner gave them to me.

People with metaphorical minds are reckless. They can get excited by such silly things as mule blinders. They can run wild and exponentiate concepts into frightening heresies. They transcend tradition. They leap into the future, synthesizing new ideas. They explode entrenched enterprises and set on fire the course of predictability. They are perfect candidates for mule blinders.

But blinders began as a control feature for mules. The mule is a 1,000 pound brute with hot donkey blood. It’s impossible to handle if its mind gets distracted by the neighbor’s greener grass or a greater interest in the barn. It must plow its proper row, straight and narrow, no diversion, no independent thinking. Blinders keep its eyes focused on the dull duty of plowing.

Imagine if you were a mule, having to wear this medieval device. Before long you’d be in life’s proverbial rut. I know many such mules. They wear it everyday. It’s who they are, what they do, what they think. They’re Democrats or Republicans, Baptists or Lutherans, white or black, rich or poor. It keeps their eyes focused on staying in the row they’re plowing.

Once on, it’s difficult to have these blinders removed. Mules get used to them. They become like all other mules, members without distinction of the same pack. They feel good about themselves. The blinders keep them in their comfort zone. Boooooring!!

Old habits die hard. I wonder what the mule would do if, one day, a farmer led him to the field and said, “Ok, Mule, no blinders today. Plow a straight row.” Can you imagine the chaotic consequences? If not, think about what happened recently in Egypt, Syria and Libya. Or, when art moved from the rut of tradition to expansive impressionism, or analogue to digital, or smoke signals to cell phones. The list is long.

Ah, but I’m plowing in treacherous soil now. No telling what crop it’ll produce. Best put my blinders back on. Besides, Big Brother’s listening, watching. He has no blinders on and does his best to keep ours on. Orwell, where are you?

These mule blinders I found were dusty, with a rusted bit and weathered leather. They were perfect for my experiment. I intended to create the ultimate fashion statement that would make even Mr. Polo envious. They’ll be the gift of choice for all husbands whose wives have difficulty with unbridled shopping. A dumb idea, you say? Think about it.

Women in malls are highly distracted by bright lights, mirrors, colors and glitzy enchantments like jewelry. They’re a danger to themselves and a menace to others. Imagine the destruction and chaos resulting if two women happen to see the same handbag at the same time. Horrors!

Mule blinders, with some tweaking, would also be good gifts for men. Since men have rather hard heads, they could be fashioned from a used football helmet with a favorite team logo on the eye flaps, or, on the side of a baseball cap turned backwards. They’d be perfect for husbands who have eyes that wander into his neighbor’s ‘greener grass.’ It would totally eliminate the genus, Divorce Lawyers. Imagine the possibilities.

Finding the mule blinders was the best of days, and the worst of days. I showed them to Mama Gruber, our Hangar House Mother. She runs a tight operation. Seeing them, she lit up and plotted. (Maybe she’s a CIA infiltrator.) The next day she called me into her office. She fitted me with my very own pair, and shoved a rusty bit into my mouth.

I’m now back plowing my own row, eyes straight ahead and no danger to society. I dare you to remove your blinders for just one day and live dangerously.

If you do, it’s wise to keep your eyes off your neighbor’s greener grass.

Bud Hearn
September 1, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Grave Digger - A Southern Trilogy, Part II

Last week’s was about Henry, ‘The Tire Kicker’ (Part I of the Trilogy). We sit on a bench outside Edenfield’s Buffet, c. 1950’s, in Metter, GA, heat index 112. He used to dig graves. Reciting his travails is a grave undertaking.

I’d promised Henry the tailings of Edenfield’s Buffet if he’d tell me about grave diggin’. We grab a booth, get sweet tea and graze on the buffet remnants. We hustle, since all leftovers go to the jail. We’re lucky. The Saturday-night drunks aren’t.

We swoop down on the fried chicken, split the last slice of meatloaf and ration the rutabagas and remaining veggies. The lone surviving biscuit of gigantic proportions calls me by name. We flip for the last piece of apple pie.

Henry attacks the chicken like a condemned man eating his last meal. With a drumstick in each hand, he alternates a hand-to-mouth routine. He resembles the conductor of a poultry-house symphony. His lips gleam from the grease, and he swoons in some state of nirvana.

I ask Henry about grave diggin’. Ignoring the napkin, he slides the back side of his right hand across his lips and says, “Don’t take nothin’ but a strong back and a weak mind. I got both. Only problem if there’s lots of funerals, we gotta dig at night.”

“What’s it like diggin’ graves?” I ask.

He multi-tasks, sucks on a drumstick and thinks. He says, “Tedious, but scary at night. I seen shadows, hear moans and wails. One night a grave spoke to me. It called my name. Said it was the devil. Said I was botherin’ him. Me and Willie took off.” I often hear the same voice.

I tell him graves don’t talk. He says, “The dead ain’t dead in the cemetery. On my first night dig I seen two ghosts dancin’ on a tombstone. They seen me and hollered and chased me. I ain’t got over that yet.”

I laugh. “Henry, cemeteries are where teenage boys take girlfriends to scare their pants off.” He licks the drumstick and ponders the possibility.

I ask him why he lost his job. He says, “Nursing homes. Too many folks dyin’. We can’t dig holes fast enough to bury ‘em in. So the boss bought a back hoe. Me and Willie can’t keep up with no back hoe.” And we wonder why unemployment’s high.

I ask about his strangest experience.

He says, “Me and Willie’s diggin’ a grave and we hear this buzzin’ comin’ from the ground. We ‘fraid we done messed with the devil again, but it’s a hornet’s nest. They eat us alive. We knows the funeral’s in a few hours, so we had to do somethin’ fast. So we lit a stick of dynamite and run.” He pauses, contemplates the chicken bone.

What happens?” I ask.

He says, “We blowed up some tombstones and a hole big enough for a Mack truck. There wuz caskets flyin’ and body parts and bones scattered everywhere. We knowed we was in big trouble with the law. So we jus’ raked up the parts and dumped ‘em in the hole and covered it up. They ain’t found out yet, and we ain’t talkin’.” I tell him a lot of people would like to bury their past this easy.

I ask who Willie is. He says, “My brother. Some says he ain’t right, but he is. Folks calls him The Knee-Jerker, ‘cause he’s got a wigglin’ leg. Born like that.” How lucky can I get on a Sunday? I ask if I can meet Willie. He says, “Shore. Let’s go.”

We walk out of Edenfield’s as the Sheriff’s van pulls up for leftovers. Outside, a dry, vagabond breeze blows down the deserted street. Yellowed leaves, dead and dying, scurry in confusion at our feet. We pass a boarded up bank with paint peeling from its pillars. Weeds grow in crevices along a forsaken strip of sidewalk that ends at the edge of nowhere.

I pause and glance at the scene. Is this a metaphorical dream of today’s life in a small town bypassed by time? Who can make this stuff up? The Tire Kicker, The Grave Digger, and now, The Knee Jerker.

Life can’t be figured out…you just gotta show up and dig.

Bud Hearn
August 25, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Tire Kicker.. A Southern Trilogy Part III

An August Sunday in Metter, Georgia, heat index, 112.

I’m sitting on a bench under an ancient oak tree in front of Edenfield’s Buffet, waiting for my run at the lunch feedbag. It occupies a nondescript building mid-block on Main Street. It’s a 1950’s left-over. I watch the after-church crowd come and go. The screen door flaps and slaps as it closes, reminding me of biscuits and gravy.

Toothpicks wiggle in the mouths of men as they talk of heat and hurts. The smell of fried chicken hangs in sultry Sunday air. I wonder if they left any biscuits for me. The oak leaves overhead shiver as a scant breeze momentarily resurrects them. Nothing else moves in the lifeless streets. Life is predictable, even manageable, in small towns.

In the distance I see him, a gaunt, gray-haired figure. The black man moves methodically among the scattered cars and farm trucks. He kicks tires. He stoops, looks and kicks. The same thing, each vehicle, each tire. He places a small card on windshields. Then moves on. I’m intrigued.

Small towns are microcosms of America. They have one of every kind. Locked doors and darkened windows guard family secrets. Everybody knows but nobody’s talking, except in whispers. Secrets remain enigmatic to strangers. Who’s this Tire Kicker? What are his secrets? I soon find out.

He kicks the tires of a rusted Ford pickup parked in front of me. Satisfied for some reason, he moves on. I speak. “Hi ya doin?” I ask. “Hot enough?” He pauses, studies me, and answers, “Mighty hot, boss.” I ask, “How come you’re kickin’ these tires?” He sways side to side, scratches his head and answers, “It’s muh job, I reckon.” He stands there, fumbles with his fingers. He’s old, maybe 80.

How’d you come by this job?” I ask. He looks down, shuffles, and says, “My mama say it were a natural-born thing, say I be a born kicker. Say I kick her till I come out. Say it be in the Bible, something ‘bout kickin’ against goads. I figure tires be good as goads.” I say, “Well, can’t argue with mama or the Bible, huh?” He nods.

“What’s that you’re putting on the windshields?” I ask. “This here card,” he says. He hands me one. It reads, ‘Ralph’s Retreads, Bald Rubber Renewed. Cheap.’ I say, “Ralph your boss?” “Sho’ nuf, yessiree. Took me on when I lost muh job at the cemetery. They say my foot be too big to dig. Mistah Ralph say my foot jus’ right for this here job.”

I look at his kicking foot and breathe an expletive. “Man, you got one big foot. How big is it?” He replies, “The doctor say it be the biggest foot he ever seen, say it be about two foot long.” (Bet it can kick more than tires!)

“Let me see you kick one,” I say. He grins, turns and kicks the front tire of a red Cadillac. The car shakes, the tire explodes, rubber flies. “Wow!” I say. He grins, shows me it’s a tire with no treads. He says, “That tire gone kill somebody, hit needs recappin’.” He slaps Ralph’s card on the windshield.

Have a seat. What’s your name?” I say. “Henry,” he says. I tell him he’s not the only tire kicker around. “I ain’t seen none. Where they at?” he says. “Everywhere,” I say. “Where they work at?” he asks. “They don’t. They’re pretenders,” I say. “Huh?” he says. “They play make-believe, waste your time,” I say. He shakes his head, can’t grip the concept. He pulls an ice pick out of his pocket. I wonder if he’s suggesting…nah. I let it go.

Some folks also have foot-in-mouth disease.” I say. He looks at his two-footer, then at me. “You jokin’?” My explanation fails. I decide not to tell him about ‘pulling somebody’s leg.’

I ask about his cemetery job. “Grave digger,” he says. Yes! I almost shout. “Henry, how ‘bout we go have some fried chicken? You tell me about it.” I say. His smile says yes. We do.

You can’t believe the secrets a man will reveal with a drumstick in his hand. I’ll pass ‘em on to you next week. Today I got lucky. And, there was one biscuit left!

Bud Hearn
August 18, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Man Who Refused to Listen

Harvey is a friend of mine and his ears no longer work.
He made a choice some years ago and closed his ears to life.
It did no good to beg and plead, his friends could not prevail.
So now his ears are vestiges, their doors are bolted tight.

He didn’t from youth start out that way, it built as he moved along.
He heard the noise the world sent out and the torment caused him pain.
He feigned at first to remove himself from the tumult and the fray.
But bit by bit the din prevailed and pounded his brain at will.

We tried our best to talk him out of trying such a cure.
He argued that it made good sense to avoid the wicked curse.
He often shook his fist at God for making him like Job.
No answer did he ever hear but silence from The Throne.

He must have thought that silence was balm to sooth the searing pain.
For in some moment unbeknown it formed his guiding plan.
He’s often asked to tell the ‘why’ of that which he has done.
He answers with a vacuous smile, “I’ve had enough, no more.”

It starts out small as most things do, but becomes a ball and chain.
Is there an hour when ears go deaf and ignore the preacher’s plea?
Or the reading of a recent death, or the cry of a hungry child?
Or maybe it’s the neighbor, who needs a helping hand?

Our friend had always heard from life, just what he wanted to hear.
Indifferent to the cares of life he turned a muted ear.
And now his ears have set him free from trauma everywhere.
His love is turned to bitter scorn, and his heart to solid stone.

The ways and means are plentiful to flee the vicissitudes.
But when we separate ourselves we live in a lonely tomb.
Some choose to close their eyes to the intrusions of this life.
Others use their email to live in outer space.

It’s easy to remove ourselves from grief as Harvey’s done.
Turn off the tube, quit reading news and cower in our caves.
But what’s the use of doing that and missing all the fun?
For that’s what life’s all about and the bad comes with the good.

I asked our friend if he’ll open his ears and try the world again.
He said, “It’s irrevocable, and the thing I’ve done is done.”
But now he sees a paradox in the condition that he chose.
The less he hears, the more he yearns for the life he’s left behind.

I wrote my friend to give advice to those who would try the same.
Weeks went by but soon it came, the letter with a terse reply.
The stains of tears were hard to miss as I read the simple words:
“Unstop your ears, the noise you hear, is the music of the dance.”

The road goes on forever and the party never ends!

Bud Hearn
August 11, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gnat Brains

It’s been a long few weeks. I feel brutalized, tormented and disgusted as I watch our Congressional delegates wrangle endlessly on C-Span, Fox News and CNN. They should be banned and substituted with the Three Stooges. At least we could get a laugh.

With a dark perspective we can get laughs from this congressional circus. Take from context some of the ranting by California Crown Jewel, Nancy Pelosi. Waving her arms like a crazed lunatic, she bellows such leftish nonsense words as the left is trying “to save life on this planet as we know it.” Wasn’t this administration’s mantra all about “Change?” Life as we know it currently will not survive on this planet!

The right hand is fist-pumping the air. It’s cheering the fact that the conservative base, terrorized by the Tea Party, is “now on the offensive, we’re winning and the foundation of our economy is at risk.” This is the same crowd that cannot dredge from the party’s dregs a viable candidate for a Presidential challenge in 2012. Are we better off?

The debt debate continued unabated until this week. It provided some bete noire entertainment. A bloody truce has been called, each side declaring victory. Like the NFL and players union, they’ve given us a break from the mundane to the insane. They’ve halted the acrimony, at least publicly, that fuels that august but impotent body. The nation has been pulled from the edge of the fiscal abyss once again by the sacrifice of tomorrow’s revenue. Have you unloaded your gun, and do you feel a little better about the continued solvency of this country? That’s what I thought.

I often live vicariously in these crucial monetary debates. This time I tried to understand the inherent differences by reconciling my left-leaning hand with my right-leaning one. Somehow they can never get together to applaud the consensus.

What consensus? My wayward left hand is all about ‘now,’ living by the philosophy of “spend now, for tomorrow you may die.” For years it has had control of the other hand. The culture of its ecosystem has deep roots. Which portends that my children may go hungry soon and live in poverty and tattered rags.

My right hand is more circumspect, but a pretty dull dude. Its mantra is: “Interest is dead money.” It’s all about rainy days and delayed self-gratification. It claims that the budget dictates. It threatens to bludgeon us with discipline. But sometimes, in some dark, sleazy bar, I find the left and the right drinking together, often drunk, riotous, incoherent and spending lavishly. Each blames the other on the morning-after hangover. It’s an insidious nightmare. I’m old beyond my years.

My left and right hands have never agreed on anything publicly. I live in a private hell trying to reconcile their childish behavior, their pouting and penchant for publicity. Currently the right hand controls the pen, hence the checkbook. But until recently the left hand had pretty much decimated the checkbook balances with its profligate, spendthrift ways. For the time being it seems the prodigal son has ‘come to himself’ and is heading home. Corn husks didn’t suit him.

I’ve tried to distill the essence of this debt debate. How did we get here? We didn’t order corn husks…we ate ‘high on the hog’ for years. How do we get out? Tighten the belt. What are the consequences? Higher taxes. One only has to look at their personal profligate habits to see it plainly. Age has a way of abandoning the macro for the micro. The consequences are ugly indeed.

Which brings me to the subject of gnat brains. They have no brains! They have a nervous system, an instinct for survival, that’s all. Their main source of food is nectar. On the Georgia coast they live quite lavishly on the nectar of human blood. An abundant flock occupies Washington and Wall Street. They are the blood-suckers of human nectar…the green kind. In terms of living for the ‘now,’ they have no equal. Life cycles are short for them.

Gnats with no brains live in many places. Often we have opportunities to anesthetize ourselves from these creatures before there’s no blood left. One can only hope the chemical formula will work in 2012.

Enjoy it while you have it!

Bud Hearn
August 4, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dialogue on the Merits of Men

It’s her fault. Well, sorta. She calls. But I answer. She’s my editor.

How’s my favorite writer? Whatcha doin’?” She says. Honey drips from her voice. I sense a verbal flogging in the making.

I’m playing hide and seek in Winn Dixie, looking for a can of tomatoes,” I say. “Been here for hours.”

Are you lost again?” she snickers. I tell her it’s because my only clue was a vague description given by my wife. She said, “It has a white label with red tomatoes on it. Don’t come home without it, or else.” The “or else” troubles me.

Her voice suddenly changes. “Deadline’s tomorrow. Where’s your article?” she demands. “It’s showtime, the printer’s on hold and you’re late again, as usual. Why do you torture me?" A long silence ensues. “Well?” she says. Her voice is ice.

“Because I’m a man,” I say. “Men are born to torment women.” She’s not amused at my humor.

What’s the theme?” I ask.

It’s about men, my favorite subject,” she says. “Ah, you do have a heart after all,” I say. I feel her smile. I wonder if all women smile at the mention of ‘men.’ I know several who don’t!

Are you joking?” I ask. “Why? Men are boring subjects.” My voice resembles a sniveling whine.

Because I say so,” she says. Her voice becomes a whip. I feel the lashes. “You forget, most of our readers are women,” she says. I suggest an article with photos, entitled “The Folly of Women.” I add, “It’ll increase male readership.” Her mood is sullen. The silence stings.

Ok,” I say, taking the bait. “What about men?”

She says, “Oh, write something about patriotism, or honor, or valor or heroism. Something high-minded, moral, romantic. You know, something neat.”

Something neat? I gag. “Have you forgotten what happened in the Garden of Eden?” I ask. “What?” she says. I remind her of The Primordial Curse. “Look, that couple had no morals. They got foreclosed. They’re now politicians. Nothing’s changed.”

“Surely there’s something redemptive about men,” she says. “I’ll ask the boys at the poker game tonight,” I say. She groans.

She must not know much about men. I keep the thought to myself. I promise to get back to her after I find the tomatoes.

But she pushes it. “What about their feminine side?” she says. I hoot. “What? Oh, I get it. Like all those times when they write love notes and bring home dinner and put roses on your pillow at night?” She pauses, mutters, “Well, I guess we can scratch that thought.”

She’s quick, bounces back with, “How about their conversational skills?” Am I really hearing this? I knee-jerk a reply, “Oh sure, those times when they listen to everything you say and remember nothing. Is this what you mean?"

She reconsiders her position. “Yes, I guess there are times….” Her words trail off.

Wistfully, she says, “Don’t men always remember important dates, like anniversaries and birthdays?” Since she opens this can of worms, I can’t resist saying, “Of course, just like your husband does, right?” I hit a nerve. I think her husband will have a bad night.

You’re on a roll. What else?” I say. She hesitates, so I push my luck. “How about the fun you have when your husband goes shopping with you?” I hear her sharpening the knife.

I dig my hole a little deeper. “Here’s a ‘neat’ idea for you,” I say. “Let’s write about how men always compliment women on their clothes, shoes and coiffure?” The silence is eerie. I feel a noose tightening around my neck. Somewhere a crowd of women is cheering.

Got anymore ‘neat’ ideas?” I ask. Her response is vicious and unprintable.

You there?” I ask. Her weak voice responds, “Perhaps I really don’t know men after all.” I wanted to say, “I told you so,” but before I could she leaps back to life and shouts, “How about an article on flower arrangements?” I slam the phone down.

The store lights flicker, the store is closing. I panic. What color is the label on the tomato can, red or white? I forget, purchase both.

Merits of men? There’s nothing redeeming about a man who can’t even find a can of tomatoes…..

Bud Hearn
August 4, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Random Notes on a Pilgrimage to Provence

It seemed a reasonable trade: South Georgia for Provence in July. It was.

Provence is easy. A throng of tourists and a lot of lavender. A perfect place, until I reached the Hertz counter. I wanted a Hummer (don’t all Americans?). I rented a BMW.

The natives speak French. I got the guy with the big smile who “No parlez Inglis.” He spoke fast and figured numbers faster. I understood nothing, except that the rental would cost a little less than the purchase. I shrugged, picked a number. No clue what I obligated myself to. I later learned. I should have purchased!

French navigation systems employ English housewives. Ours was a charming lady with a calm voice. It’s good to have an authoritative intercessor dishing up directions. Many divorces begin when spouses drive in foreign lands. We often heard a pleasant, “Please make a U-turn immediately.” Unlike other female voices, she never prefaced it with “You idiot.”

‘Paradise in Provence’ is a restored six-house compound in the true French farm-house tradition. It’s in St. Remy. Our caravan of 26 pilgrims called it home base for two weeks. It’s not advisable to occupy close quarters with 26 friends. It’s a breeding ground for dissention. Worse, your wine disappears faster. It’s not a good thing to know too much about your friends.

St. Remy is better than Macon, but not by much. It has little to offer. Its notoriety comes from having once housed in the local asylum a long-deceased mad artist of posthumous renown by the name of Vincent Van Gogh. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. We visited his room in the stark hospital. Then we understood why he painted such things as black crows, meteorites and sunflowers. Shock treatments and other inhumane tortures tend to produce strange effects on people.

Provence highways are littered with roundabouts. Directional signs are small and come hurdling at you like the horn-blaring Renaults trailing behind. Decisions must be quick. We kept a well-stocked supply of wine, just in case. Wine dulls cognitive senses, so we learned the trick of going round and round until consensus could be reached as to the route. We did that a lot and were usually wrong. The English lady hung with us through it all. As far as we could tell, she didn’t drink wine.

In France one’s expected to eat well and drink wine. We did both, early and often. Menus are priced in Euros. The Euro is a common currency among bankrupt countries. We learned too late all menus are not alike: one for locals, another for tourists. Women are never given the ones with prices. Guess what happens?

The villages are lovely, if you like retro-antiquity, musty churches and steep slick stone walks. Parking is available in most, especially if you don’t mind walking several miles. We felt right at home because ‘Made in China’ is a common logo on merchandise in many shops. A Confederate flag flew in one. Go figure!

Cafes are crowded. Starving, we once found a secluded bistro willing to serve us. Later I understood why. The only item recognizable on the menu was mashed potatoes. Cost? 85 Euros. I followed the advice of Charlie, my gourmand friend, and ordered the cheapest thing…water. It was early morning when we finished washing the dishes!

I kept seeing signs for Huile D’ Olive. Strange name for a man. A franchise, I figured. I wondered who this fellow was. I later found out he’s the Col. Sanders of olive oil. I purchased some. He must be a very rich man with all those signs.

We ran out of money and came home. When we arrived in Orlando our old friend, Humidity, hounded us. It terrorized the women, whose hair hung from their heads like cords from a damp mop. Ah, the South!

That notwithstanding, the Custom Agent greeted us in a slow, southern drawl with the words, “Welcome Home.” I understood that!

We have other tidbits of travel in Provence. I’ll share these another time. But I feel it necessary to leave you with one caveat about travel in Provence: Take Visa or MasterCard. As for American Express, “Leave home without it!”

Bud Hearn
July 28, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dodging the Bullet

Charles is a childhood friend. He called recently, lamenting the drought. Said Spring Creek was almost bone dry. Said he was ‘dunked’ in it for baptism. I asked if it took. He said, “Yes…so far.” Strange comment for a pecan farmer.

I have another friend. His name is Charlie. He’s a lawyer. We call him ‘The Master of Equivocation.’ Perfectly normal for a lawyer. He should meet the pecan farmer. They’re artful dodgers of total commitment.

They’re both adept in the art of using ‘language qualifiers’, verbal escape hatches, to evade detection or avoid absolute commitments. They answer every, “How are you?” with the stock reply, “Well, so far, so good.” Can’t pin ‘em down.

Don’t laugh. We all do it. Take a simple “I love you.” Pretty straight-forward statement of commitment. Add a qualifier, “I love you (3 second pause) …today.” A slick side-step with the inclusion of one word. The door remains open to reverse direction tomorrow.

We use ‘qualifiers’ regularly. The Big Bubba of ‘em all is ‘But.’ Suppose someone asks you “How about a movie?” Say you really don’t want to go. How do you respond with decorum? “Great (pause)…but not tonight.” How simple…hedge your bets while at the same time remain agreeable. There’re others.

Following in the shadow of ‘But’ is ‘If.’ O, you know how that one works. It’s a cheap trick. Easy to master. ‘Only’ is its companion. Suppose a spouse asks, “Can we take a vacation?” An ambivalent escape could be, “Sure, if only….” Door wide open, anything could get in the way.

I had a friend once who had perfected only one equivocation, “Yeah, but….” It was his mantra for life. He responded to everything with the caveat, “Yeah, but….” He lived in a dark hole of indecision.

After ‘If’ comes ‘Unless.’ Maybe the question is, “How about we go out for dinner?” A getaway could be as simple as, “Well, maybe, unless…” Is it No, is it Yes? Who knows? Leaves opportunity for a multitude of excuses, real or manufactured.

I have some personal favorites. Silence is one. For example, suppose my wife asks the universal question, “What do you want for dinner?” Silence. More silence. She says, “Well?” Silence. Then I say, “I’m thinking.” It gives time to turn things around, “What do you want?” Zing, back into her court. I leave the room before things get violent!

Smiles are another favorite, especially when used with Silence. Smiles give the impression of agreement, but not the reality of it. You can add to that a head fake…cocking it to one side or another, kinda like a dog does when you talk to it. Or a shoulder shrug. Perhaps a palms-up expression. These indicate you’re earnestly considering matters. When used collectively, they constitute the ultimate in avoidance.

Why do we equivocate? Because we hate absolutes. Basically, we’re cowards. I always hated tests in school. Especially the Yes or No questions. Too black and white, no wiggle room. There’s safety in ambivalence!

Cowards avoid capture by dodging absolute assertions. Hem-hawing is their way of life. They live lives of ‘Maybe,’ not the dangerous lives of absolutes. Marriage vows come to mind. Did you have any idea of the consequences of having asserted, “Yes, I do?” What if the vow had been “Maybe, I do?” Equivocation rules!

The list of escape-hatch words is long…Perhaps, nevertheless, soon, yet, in a minute, and well, to name a few. You have your own list of preferences. But there’s one qualifier that reaches the summit of beating around the bush… ‘The Laugh.’

After we drop a qualifying-bomb, ‘The Laugh’ softens the blow. It leaves them hanging, wondering…is he joking, is she serious, is it yes, is it no? It’s the master-stroke of vacillation.

I’ve about had enough of writing this. I would like to further educate you on the arrogance of evasion, ‘but’…….

Bud Hearn
July 7, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Greetings on Independence Day, 1776-2011

***** Firecrackers & Freedom *****

And it shall come to pass afterward, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions…” Joel 2:28

The Spirit of Freedom will sparkle again on Monday. Our land will light up with firecrackers in celebration of a dream come true…Independence Day. It marks the 235th anniversary of the birth of America. But what exactly will we be celebrating?

Freedom, of course … fruit from the vision of courageous men, young and old. These pledged their lives and fortunes to fulfill the deepest dream of mankind…Liberty. The Declaration of Independence is the Word, the seed of that dream. Its words have become a living reality.

What is Freedom? A chimerical wish-list envisioned by idle daydreamers? Some romantic notion devised by Utopian idealists? Hardly. The poet, Gibran, writes, “(Vague) and nebulous is the beginning of all things, but not their end…that which seems most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined...and if you could hear the whispering of the dream, you would hear no other sound.” Thankfully, our ancestors heard that whisper.

From what compost pile is Freedom conceived? Often from the rotting detritus of oppression, enslavement, tyranny and brutality. It seethes in obscurity. It endures beneath the turf of tyrants, despots and dictators. When it can no longer be suppressed, its collective voice cries, “No more!” It then rises from darkness into a tsunami of unrestrained power.

All births are bloody messes. Travail precedes each. Ben Franklin and a friend once watched a hot air balloon exhibit. It rose from a field, floated over trees, and landed in a nearby field. Peasant farmers with pitchforks, ignorant and fearful, attacked it. The friend remarked, “What good was that experiment?” Franklin replied, “What good is any new-born baby?” Freedom begins as a baby. But it grows, changes, has dreams of its own destiny. America’s experiment with Freedom is now 235 years old. The baby’s growing up…and it’s changing.

How does Freedom consist, hold together? Is it by milquetoast methods of submission to the winds of fortune? Or is it by, as Churchill said in England’s dark hours of WW II, “…blood, toil, tears and sweat…?” All revolutions and preservations of Freedom are achieved not by slick rhetoric, but by the shedding of blood. America’s experiment with Freedom is no different.

Is our dream of Freedom in jeopardy? Has it become a faded billboard for rent, cheap? A fast-food court of entitlements, tawdry trinkets and handouts to appease the masses? A nation of ‘freeloaders’ and pilferers of the public treasury? Free everything…healthcare, food stamps, welfare checks mortgages, you-name-it? Are we like drunks, sucking the dregs of the Dream at the bottom of a bottle of debt, celebrity politics and self-gratification? Scary thoughts.

Again this year the fireworks extravaganzas will bring to remembrance Francis Scott Key’s words, “…and the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” And that’s what we need…a constant reminder that the horror of darkness has not extinguished our flag, the symbol of enduring Freedom.

On Monday the Spirit of Liberty will blow softly in the breezes. Firecrackers, both real and metaphorical, will beat back the night for a little while longer. After the parades, picnics, BBQ, hot dogs, beer, watermelons and heartburn, we’ll sleep soundly, nurtured in the comfort of Freedom. But not all of us.

Somewhere on a desolate plain a soldier with a weapon will keep a night watch. Somewhere a baby will be born. Their lives will merge with old men who still dream dreams, and with young men who still see visions.

Every generation has the power to retain or forfeit the Dream of Freedom. Which will we choose?

But for today, The Dream lives on…God Bless America!

Bud Hearn
June 30, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Waiting for Comcast

It’s early morning. I boot up the computer, click on Internet. Nothing.
A blank screen appears. What’s this? I ask my dog. He snores.
Then words appear, “This Page Cannot Be Displayed.”
The screen mocks me. I curse it, call Comcast.

A mechanical voice answers, “Listen up, moron, our options have changed.”
I select 1 for English, queue in a cyber-line. I listen. I wait. Hours pass.
Canned Comcast music keeps me company. Is Guy Lombardo resurrected?
I opt for option 89, ‘Tech Support.’ Silence ensues. Lombardo is re-tombed.

A new voice. I’m encouraged. It says wait, helping other customers. I do.
Waiting makes me hungry. I pocket the phone, cook breakfast.
The music plays on. I read three newspapers. Waiting for Comcast.
The day drones. Time for lunch. Still the music, incessant. Waiting.

I get bored. Sit by pool. Take a nap. Read a book. Wait some more.
The sun sets. Cocktail time. I imbibe, big stiff ones. More. Wait longer.
I have dinner, phone in lap. A click. Something. I become alert, hoping.
Patience pays dividends. A voice asks, “How can I help you?” It’s now 11 PM.

O, joy, a human voice. But wait…the accent. Strange English. A Robot?
I don’t care. I vent. Demand help. I vilify the Robot and his mother.
By 2 AM. I’m calm. I listen to repair instructions. Understand nothing.
Router? What’s that? I unplug wires. Computer crashes. Screen goes dark.

The Robot is calm. I’m manic. The Modem, you say? Black box? Where?
I find several.Green LED’s wink.What? Unplug all? I do. The house goes dark.
Alarms sound. I panic. Break time, the robot says. I slump in the chair.
The Robot returns. Says to call back, request a technician. It’s 4 AM.

At 6 AM. I call Comcast again, punch 0, listen to the litany. I wait in line.
By lunch a voice answers. New Jersey English. Calls me honey.
I’m cordial, repeat my problem, ask for a technician. She schedules one.
When? I ask. Sometime this month, she says. What time? Guess, she says.

I wait. Weeks pass. Nobody shows up. Internet DT’s set in. I need a fix.
I call Pierre. He knows computers, things with wires. He comes.
Sees the dilemma. I unload frustrations. He listens, checks my pulse.
He disassembles things. Wires, black boxes, hard drives. Nothing works.

My wife shows up, bereft of shopping, fit to be tied, demands connection.
She interrogates us. I feign ignorance. Pierre mumbles mumbo jumbo.
She’s off the grid. Neiman’s is worried. Saks is concerned. Am Ex anxious.
Commerce suffers. Factories close in China. Unions strike. She’s depressed.

Pierre vanishes. I’m alone, waiting for Comcast. No word. Life’s insufferable.
June comes. A white truck arrives. A Neanderthal shambles out. It’s Comcast.
I hug him, offer champagne. He obliges. A big man. Has a toothpick.
He’s hungry. We feed him. T-bones. Two. Demands wine. French Burgundy.

He swaggers, confident, surveying the destruction, the wires, black boxes.
Shakes his head, leaves. Be back, he says. He listens to the cable. Concerned.
Says he hears voices. I ask who? Government maybe, he says. I tremble.
He works. Connects wires. Replaces black boxes. Computer starts. He grins.

Internet pops up. News. Emails. Life returns. I ask how. Secret, he says.
I plead. He relents. Shows me. Loose cables, work of Comcast idiots, he says.
I tip him. He writes the bill. I pay it, call the bank, mortgage the house.
He packs up. Needs a vacation, he says. Overworked. Says he’s union. Leaves.

We fight for Internet. Form a queue. On-line shopping resumes.
Cash registers ring. Cha’ching. Unemployment drops. Credit cards max.
Factories reopen. UPS delivers. Air freight arrives. Boxes pile up.
Happy customers. Comcast smiles. Animosities forgotten.

But I worry, become uneasy. ‘What if’s’ invade. Comcast déjà vu nags.
Monopoly, unions, bargaining rights...we’re screwed, I conclude.
I think of God. Would He approve? He has the monopoly. Hates usurpers.
What if He calls? “Hold on,” I say. “On the line.” Would He understand?

I’m waiting on Comcast………..

Bud Hearn
June 23, 2011