Digressions of a Dilettante

Digressions of a Dilettante
Vignettes of Inanity by Bud Hearn

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Loan is Due

Years are loans. Time, that shyster among us all, is the banker, ever loaning, never giving. Its credit is conditional.


Today, December 31st, our loan for the past 365 days comes due. Payment is demanded, like it or not. Such is the way of all loans…they mature.

We dance around due dates. So soon, we lament. We squander the year’s remaining resources in profligate carousals and the pagan idea of buy now, pay later. We choose to spend the last pennies of our credit line on wanton celebrations and manic revelry.

Who can blame us? Living on somebody else’s largess is easy. But all bankers keep ledgers. Debt is hard as iron on our balance sheets. Our assets are soft as marshmallows. We run, we pretend, we rationalize, but the deadline always looms. Time’s bill collector is a relentless pursuer.

Loans are not earned income; hence the cliché, ‘easy come, easy go.’ We’ll pledge our first born to get Time’s easy cash in our palms. We’ve had 365 days of reprieve to plunder the treasury, to pilfer the vault that overflows with Time’s specie. Now it’s due. What’s to show for it?

We check our diaries, our calendars. They’re filled less with thoughts than packed with action. But just sand nevertheless, ever flowing through our hour glass. Nothing retained. Palms empty. Where did the time go, we ask?

What if banker Time, as a condition of loan renewal, required evidence of how we spent our days? Would it discover how we squandered the use of our allocated assets of time? How we wiled away gold talents in wild schemes and mad pursuits?

Most loans contain a clause that in the event of default the loan is due ‘on demand.’ That was a foreign concept to me until I signed loan documents. The day remains a black spot on an otherwise lackluster career of credit.

We were assembled around a large conference table. The banker, his lawyer (where there’s money, there are lawyers!) and me. Lying in neat windrows around that colossal table were stacks of forms written in letters so minute they would qualify for a used car contract.

Leo, the lawyer, asked, “Do you have any questions, son?”

Uh, well, only one, sir. What exactly is in these documents?” I asked.

Leo grinned at the banker. “Nothing that’s good for you, my boy. Sign here.”

Like dogs, loans appear harmless. They mostly sleep until they’re hungry. Like excessive loan interest, they’re voracious eaters. It was the ‘on demand’ provision that bit me!

Time has an ‘on demand’ clause. We remain here at the forbearance of the Banker. The loan can be called due at any time. Fortunately, tomorrow, for most of us, the loan will automatically renew. Fear is the vigorish we pay.

Last Sunday on the coast we had an early spring. I sat on the steps leading to the beach. The well-trod pathway of summer, a white sandy trail, lay in front of me. Close to the water grew a desiccated clump of sea oats, a barrier to the trail’s straight-line continuation.

The trail diverged into a ‘Y’ to circumvent it. A dilemma was created. Which route to choose? Right or left? I weighed the options. It really didn’t matter. Both trails led to the same swirling sea. Maybe Darwin was right all along.

As I mulled over the alternatives, a lone butterfly, obviously a leftover from the fall migration, flittered by. I watched it float effortlessly over the granite riprap. It seemed to be in contemplation also.

It landed on a wilted, yellowed flower whose loan from the Banker had come due. Disappointed, the butterfly then lit on the sand at my feet, apparently considering its preferences. It chose the rocks as a refuge. We all choose something.


The poet, Louise Gluck, chose a fortune teller, and writes:

Great things, she said, are ahead of you, or perhaps behind you; it is difficult to be sure. And yet, she added, what is the difference? Right now you are a child holding hands with a fortune-teller. All the rest is hypothesis and dream.”

So, is this what we’re left with as we face 2015…a memory of yesterday and a dream of tomorrow?

Friends, just renew the loan, buy the ticket and take the ride. Happy New Year!

Bud Hearn
December 31, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Frantic Shopper

Bob’s a procrastinator. Loves the last minute. He’s a microcosm for men at Christmas.


It’s 3:00.Christmas Eve. Bob sits at his desk. The office party’s over.
Holiday cheer has evaporated. Scents of stale wine still linger.
Everyone’s gone. His computer hums a mournful lament.
He checks his shopping list. The white sheet’s filled with names.
So many names. No gifts. He taps it with his pen, chews his nails.

His watch reads 3:05. Time for action. 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.
Traffic is a Gordian Knot. The mall closes at 6:00. Anxiety sets in.

Nothing moves. He utters expletives, blows his horn. 3:18. The clock ticks.
He fidgets, curses. He pounds the steering wheel, sweat soaks his collar.
One lane moves, not his. Cars cruise by. Drivers yack on cells, celebrating.
He inches forward, cuts off a grandmother. She wrecks. He’s oblivious.
He finally arrives. The lot’s almost empty. He’s confused. 3:27. Tick, tick.

He sprints inside. Vacuous-eyed men roam clueless. Time gets shorter.
He checks his list, plans his route. Bare shelves in Brookstone stare back.
He searches Macy’s. Not much. Moves to Brooks Bros. Nothing.
Neiman’s, over-priced and picked over. He stops at Starbucks.
A coffee. The barista 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 loathes them.
He inspects shoes, Jimmy Choo, then Blahnik. So many styles.
The prices stab him, surpass his comprehension. He moves to cosmetics.
He dawdles with perfume testers. The air smells sweet. He can’t choose.

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

Time’s tick taunts him. He runs into the corridor. Shops close early.
He checks out Belk’s. Doors are slamming fast. He scores at Sears.
He stops at Victoria Secret. A mob of men assemble there. They gawk.
Young models in black lace drape the manikins. The men drool, dream.
Bob guesses their list to Santa. Disappointment will fill their stockings.

His watch frightens him, 4:58. The pressure builds. 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 empty corridors.
His cell rings. His wife calls. A party? Our home? 6:30? Expletives flow.
He now hates his watch. 5:24. Doors are closing fast. No gift for his wife.

He becomes a feral savage, delirious. His bags bulge, his wallet wilts.
He’s punished by time, assaulted by the tick, tick, tick. It’s 5:48.
Most shops are closed. A dim light shines in the distance. He’s hopeful.
He remembers his wife. No toaster, blender or picture frame. Last year’s failure.
She cried. His children despised him. She quit cooking, took up yoga.

He bursts into the store, grabs the clerk, shakes him violently.
My wife, my wife, something 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?” Clerk says, “An Oreck vac. 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 kick him out.6:15. Tick, tick, tick.
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, confused. Asks her why. She grins, points to the garage.
I saved you the trouble she says. I bought my own with your Amex. Go see.”
He does. A shiny black Benz convertible occupies the garage.
He stares in stark horror. Terror overwhelms him. Images of bankruptcy flash.
The doorbell rings. Guests arrive. The clock chimes. 6:30. He faints.


Men, don’t panic…Time and Amazon are still on your side. Merry Christmas!

Bud Hearn
December 19, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

This Time of Year

Christmas begins earlier each year. It now kicks off around Labor Day.


Somebody resurrected Burl Ives who woke singing in CVS about a Holly Jolly season. Legions of chocolate marshmallow Santas populate the aisles at Walmart. They keep company next with last year’s Easter bunnies. Walmart squeezes pennies.

Our household stoically refuses to buy into the early frenzy. We don’t budge until December bumps up on the refrig calendar and pictures of poinsettias and dollar-down mattresses dominate the newspaper inserts. Everybody’s selling something.

Last Sunday on the coast was bleak, cold, rainy and windy. A perfect day to begin the tradition of Christmas preparation. Maybe it was the Advent sermon, the one about light coming into the world and how men loved darkness because their deeds were evil.

People react to sermons differently. Some people listen and are inspired. As for me, I tend to doze off and miss the punch line, but always wake up refreshed. Listen, women love darkness, too. It covers a multitude of evils, not to mention wrinkles and blemishes. Chew on that candy cane.

Anyway, a lady of antiquity in the pew in front kept humming Deck the Halls. It energized my Christmas spirit. She had a wicked smile and a heavy emphasis on Falalalalalalalala. It led me to believe she was remembering a time long ago. Maybe the Christmas when Santa slid down the chimney with his bag of gifts, anticipating more than milk and cookies. Whatever. Church is a safe place to air such memories.

On the way home we stopped into the vacant lot and bought a nice 8 foot Balsam fir tree. Two high school boys did the heavy lifting. One attempted to master the chain saw to square off the end. Unfortunately, the saw got away from him. The mechanical monster spun round and round on the ground in a bizarre rampage. It chewed up dirt as well as my tree before it headed on its own down the row of trees. The scene was surreal. We bought another tree.

We tied the Balsam on the roof of the car and headed home. I felt like a member of the Joad clan en route from Oklahoma to California with a mattress strapped on top of the jalopy. Chevy Chase adopted this scene.

We dusted off the decorations boxes and unpacked elves, the candles and the lights. I unwrapped the manger scene, which after almost 50 years looks about as ragged as I suspect Joseph felt. The ninety and nine manger animals were out to pasture, lost sheep forever. Mary was missing four fingers, Joseph’s staff was broken and the angel’s feathers were falling out. Even the baby Jesus looked disgusted. Shelf lives are getting shorter.

The tree occupied a nice corner spot over the heat register, a hospice of sorts. It was the least we could do to insure its comfort, seeing as it was already on its last leg. I felt sorry for it, so my daughter and I clothed its nakedness with about five thousand tiny lights, remembering the sermon.

I like to name our Christmas trees after biblical characters. This year its name is Amos. The name is translated from Hebrew, of course, which means literally ‘fire tower.’ It didn’t improve Amos’ disposition that Mac, our male Westie, found its vertical stature intimidating. While the challenge was enormous for him, he never failed to give it his best squirts. Amos is well-watered.

In a few hours the house looked festive, ready for whoever might be coming down the chimney in a couple of weeks. As the day closed, we turned down the lights and admired our handiwork. We poured ourselves some eggnog, spiked with a skosh of brandy. The gathering gloom began to close in. Our eyes got heavy.

Conversation in these reflective moments is sparse, lacking all evidence of intellectual profundity.

I say, “Beautiful, huh?” Silence.

Yes, beautiful,” she answers. More silence.

Our best tree ever,” I say.

Yes, it is,” she replies.

Lots of space for presents, huh?” I’m ever hopeful.

Yes, seems so,” the reply.

And on and on with longer gaps in silence as conversation transcends into sleep, allowing visions of sugar plums to dance in our heads. Through the darkness Amos shone brightly.


“….(And) The Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness overcommeth it not.” Amen!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Soul of Thanksgiving

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? “ Mark 8:35-36

The year was 1863. Abraham Lincoln was President. Strife ruled. The nation was at war with itself. The landscape by any visionary’s account was bleak and dreary. The nation seemed to have lost its bearings and its very soul. Being thankful under these conditions was seemingly impossible. The nation urgently needed to mend its fraying fabric.

Under these dire conditions Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday in November as a national holiday. His intent was to coalesce a nation of diverse cultures and individuals into a cohesive whole by remembering the origin of its birth. This year Americans will celebrate the 151st anniversary of Thanksgiving.

In 1620 pilgrims departed from Defts-Haven, searching for a new land with an ephemeral idea of freedom. They had no idea what they would face in the quest. As if the hardships of the voyage were not enough to deter them, what they saw at landfall must have made them question their sanity altogether.

There, looming before them in the harsh winter stood a land with a weather-beaten face. It appeared to them a country full of woods and thickets, a place full of multitudes of untamed beasts and wild men. It had an ominous and savage hew. Such is the nature of the unknown…wild, fearful but full of promise.

It was up to these pilgrims to carve out their dreams and visions. They neither expected nor received the benefits of ease in the process. For having left their homes, having said goodbye to their families and friends, they said goodbye to the old life and searched for a better home.

We who read this today are benefitting from the sacrifices of these visionaries. We can ask ourselves these questions: Under what tyranny would we now be living if not for the perseverance of these intrepid travelers? How would our destiny have unfolded? Fortunately, we have the answers. Living in America is a blessing of untold and incalculable dimensions. Read the news if you don’t believe this!

Yesterday we sat in a Methodist Church in the small town of my youth. We gathered there to say a final goodbye to a family member. My nephew, Preston, recalled the influence she had upon his life. He synthesized it based on his annual visits for Thanksgiving. He recalled pulling into the driveway of his grandmother’s home. The first thing he saw was her face in the kitchen window, welcoming him with a smile.

The soul of an American Thanksgiving has a face. It’s seen in the Rockwell-blended faces of families, merged together into a national tapestry. Each face represents a precious memory, of a home and a secure place where families can thrive.

The blessings of national unity are too broad to enumerate. But the collective voice of Thanksgiving blends them together at every table where food is served, laughter is heard and love is shared. The soul of being American is once again revived on this memorable day.

Today, the world is a dangerous place. It’s fractious, filled with secular pursuits, religious divisions and seethes with national rivalries. Our country has its own fractured diversity, revealed by recent events in Missouri that have prompted protests nationwide.

Yet in spite of this, America continues to stand, strong in the collective unity under which it was founded…established by a beneficent God for the purpose of freedom. A continuous remembrance of this fact is what Thanksgiving is all about.


Today here began bleak and dreary, consequences of the passing storms. In the front yard a squirrel sat on its hind quarters, gnawing on acorns. It seemed to smile as it feasted on the prodigious crop furnished by the oak trees.

America has endured many storms. It will weather more. But, like the squirrel, we can take comfort in the fact that a gracious Almighty God desires to furnish us with untold blessings. Our collective soul will continue to flourish as long as we remember the Source of these blessings.

Thank you, Abraham Lincoln, for the gift of this holiday. Thank you, God, for blessing the soul of America. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Bud Hearn
November 26, 2014

Sketch courtesy of Leslie Hearn

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Kitchen Insurrection

Women are mad. They’ve revolted. Legions of liberated feminists are abandoning kitchens across the land. Men are starving.

Husbands stagger in, exhausted, ravenous with hunger. “Honey, I’m home. What’s for dinner?”

A voice answers, “Whatever you’re fixing. It’s girls’ night out.” A mournful wail echoes, “What about me?” Silence. Men know. Takeout again.

Women are fed up with cooking. Men, get a grip. It’s not fair, but factual. They’re sick of asking, “What do you want for dinner?” Always hearing the same soppy reply, “Whatever you want, Sweetie.” Women murder for less. Kitchens and cupboards are now as vacuous as men’s bellies and brains. The famine is finally hitting home.

Men ask, why? Simple. Women have spent their finest hours in kitchens, toiling like slaves in sweatshops. Kitchens are where men breeze in, eat and exit. “Thanks, Hon, real good, gotta go now.” Women sit alone at the table, smoldering, staring at the disaster left behind.

Face it. Men aren’t cut out for kitchens. Take cooking, for example. Can men read recipes longer than three words? No. They throw whatever’s handy into the mix, boil it or fry it. Result? More Pepto! Neither can men locate things in the pantry. They stare right at it, and yell, “Honey, you’re out of mayo.” Note the blame: ‘you,’ not ‘we.’

A man’s idea of a kitchen is his grill, an unsightly outside fire pit. It’s a blackened steel drum, rusted and coated with fat and gunk from past fires. The Health Department would declare it a bacillus-breeding contagion. It’s where hapless animals have offered their flesh as backyard-sacrifices, charred, polluting the neighborhood with smoke.

An episode occurred once when my wife was out of town. She called, asking what I’d done for dinner. I answer, “Why, what men have done from time immemorial. I lit a fire, tossed on it a slab of red meat and opened a beer.”

She recoiled in horror, “No salad?” Women have strange ideas of balanced meals. Everyone knows meat and beer are nutritionally perfect.

Men make good use of nature when cooking. Young boys cut down entire trees for fires. Big fires are good. They trim branches and whittle the ends sharp. They thrust the branch through the middle of a wiener, or marshmallow, torching both like brilliant flambeaus and eating the charred residue. Boys can go in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights.

Another reason women have left the kitchen is clean-up duty. Personally, I never minded cleaning up. Except things never really got clean. My wife would inspect the job, usually resulting in numerous re-washes. Cleanliness, you know, is a relative term; men and women interpret it differently.

Creek-bank campouts provide adequate opportunity in the art of cooking. Cooked over open flames, fried fish, potatoes, bacon and eggs were tasty staples. Grease was the imperative ingredient. Hot grease is like gas, mixes great with fire. Boys love fires. With paper towels they wipe the pans ‘clean,’ ready for the next meal. Somehow boys survive. They’re indestructible. They can drink Drano for breakfast.

Would you like to see a woman explode? Let a man collate her cookware in his idea of an orderly arrangement. Washing cats is safer. All men need is one large walk-in closet where everything can be tossed. Perfect male order. A sick thought.

Setting the table drives women berserk. For men, forks, spoons and knives are grouped for convenience, not convention, depending on whether they were right or left-handed. Logical, right? And place mats? Oh, don’t bother. Stacks of table clutter abound… newspapers, coupon inserts and magazines. Napkins? Who needs ‘em. Paper towels are cheap.

Of course there’s more. Try ‘fear of dishwasher.’ Nothing good can come from men learning to operate such equipment. And don’t even mention cleaning kitchen counters. Germs? No way. What’s out of sight is out of mind. The list is inexhaustible.

And so are men’s appetites. Except things are different now. The Kitchen Rebellion has gained traction. She’s out, we’re in. What can be done? Watch Paula, Rachel or Emeril on TV? Not happening.

As for me, I’m posting a “Cook Wanted” ad at Waffle House. And guess what? Grease is making a comeback. It has longer shelf life than kale. And much more tasty.

Bud Hearn
November 14, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ebola…Coming soon to a Place near You

The market’s up. Unemployment is down. Banks are lending. Oil is cheap. The party’s getting better. But then you hear a disturbance outside. Suddenly, Wham! The door explodes. And there it stands, looking straight at you: Ebola, grinning like death. The music stops.


Another viral intruder has invaded our borders, revealing the underbelly of indecision on the issue of illegal immigration. Too late for isolation and quarantine. The enemy is now among us.

Yes, it’s been a frightening year, 2014. The world’s flirting with disaster. The Russians and the Chinese are squeezing us like a fat piece of fried bologna layered between slices of white bread. Burkas and keffiyehs are now fashion statements. Confusion reigns. The only thing we can really count on is Jimmy Carter’s immortality.

The Ebola contagion creeps through the cracks of our porous shores. It rides on the breath of Sierra Leone refugees. It oozes from the lips of Liberian escapees. Nobody’s safe. French kissing is deadly.

Newscasts report people wailing and fleeing their homes, running wildly into the streets in mass hysteria. Hyperbole is a media extravaganza. Even the ACLU, not to be outdone, is digging up litigants for a class action law suit against the Washington Management Team. After all, quarantine in Ebola tent colonies in the parking lots of Walmart is cruel and unusual punishment. Not to mention shopping there.

There is a bright side. The Ebola epidemic, unlike Duck Dynasty, has so far only affected a few. New Jersey has been quick to respond. They’ve given up waiting on the CDC to remove its head from the proverbial bureaucratic morass.

New Jersey is a magnet for disasters ever since Tony Soprano arrived, RIP. God has been trying for years without success to reduce Atlantic City to the ocean floor. Sandy didn’t do the job. Trump tried, but soon abandoned his avaricious icon and slinked back to Manhattan. Now Ebola is taking a shot at it. It may parallel Bruce Springsteen’s music for nuclear fallout.

New Jersey’s problems began with the Grover’s Mill township incident on Halloween, October 30, 1938. Remember when the Martians landed their spaceship there? Orson Welles narrated the invasion live on the radio…War of the Worlds. Some aliens intermarried and still reside there. Prominent among them are the New Jersey Housewives. Most have been banished and live on Miami Beach. The remaining Martians fled, unable to perfect the phonetic Jersey nasal dialect.

Gov. Chris wasted no time in doling out confinements for persons suspected of being contaminated. Unfortunately, the size of the dilemma was of greater girth than the Governor. Most everyone in the state is suspected of being toxic to some degree. It offers a clue as to why nobody admits being from Newark.

Some pestilences leave stigmas. Ebola is fast surpassing measles for social isolation. Who hasn’t had measles? Remember the ridicule of classmates when, at about age twelve, you showed up with red bumps on your face? Ostracism from PE class lives in infamy to this day.

Isolation follows young children around like a bad odor. After measles, the mumps attack. Mumps, as you know, can cause sterility among males. The horror of such a stigma is the leading cause of ADHD in young boys.

Schools, like politics, breed germs. The contagion of Pediculushumanuscapitis, commonly known as head lice, is a disgusting malady. Stabbing the crawly creatures with sharp toothpicks is neither fun nor an effective remedy. Shampoo laced with kerosene does the job efficiently. Social suspicion lingers long after the quarantine is lifted.

While poison ivy is not terminal, it ranks right up there with athlete’s foot for public itching and social ostracism. Walking around with a plaster of calamine lotion does little to elevate one’s standing in the community.

My brother coveted his athlete’s foot. His pastime was to put a sock between his toes and rub it viciously back and forth until his toes became flames of fire. His grin of relief remains a fungus on the family name.


Humor aside, Ebola, like any terminal disease, is not a laughing matter. Hope for cure abides. Longfellow wrote: “…Defeat may be victory in disguise. The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.”

Ebola is now among us…let’s hope this week’s election returns won’t portend another landing of the Martians!

Bud Hearn
November 7, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Say It to My Face

There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” W. C. Fields


Farley was once a friend. His nickname was Sugar Boy. I once had a friend named Sugar Boy. I say once, because nobody knows what happened to him. Last we heard some state boys showed up in his back yard in a black SUV, strapped a straight jacket on him and hauled him off for ‘examination.’ He’s been missing ever since.

It was bound to happen…Farley had too many friends and a volatile temper. He was that kind of guy. He made friends with everybody. At last count he had assembled over 10 million ‘friends,’ mostly women, which offer a clue to his cognomen. He broke all friendship records on Facebook. His mental wiring finally overloaded, frying the circuitry. It’s an ugly sight to see a man come unhinged and reduced to a deranged imbecile. Memories like this are always fresh wounds.

We warned him of the dangers of obsessive behavior, telling him that ‘No’ is still a word. But he was badly dyslexic, always inverting ‘No’ to ‘On.’ He was strange that way.

He finally went nuclear in his backyard. A group of us were playing cards one afternoon in his garage. Sugar Boy went inside. In a few minutes he shambled out of the house, lugging his computer and its peripherals. Two black pistols, both 12-round, 9 mm Glocks, were tucked into his belt. We abandoned the cards and walked out to see what he was up to. Guns will always draw a crowd.

He slammed the computer to the ground and began kicking it viciously. He cursed both it and Facebook. He screamed invectives while jerking the pistols from his belt. We knew he’d lost control when he shot the helpless hardware full of holes. It lay there, belching smoke and emitting an eerie screeching sound, the computer’s last breath. Nothing moved. We stood in stunned silence, staring at the surreal spectacle.

Life goes on. The event lay dormant in my mind until I read a recent article by Joe Queenan. He allowed as how cowardly our culture has become in ‘defriending’ acquaintances. He cited a pseudo-scientific study by some obscure British philosopher who theorized a human’s neocortex had insufficient storage capacity. It can’t handle more than 150 friends at once. He concluded that for every one added, one had to be eliminated.

The Queenan hypothesis is worth contemplating. My Blackberry has accumulated over 3,000 friends in its data base. Sugar Boy’s episode flashed into mind. Why can’t we revert to the ‘old days’ when getting rid of friends was easier? The answer is obvious…our culture has taken the concept of political correctness to extremes. Our lives have become sterile, wrapped in a thick coating of Saran. Our body language cries, “Hey, look at me, but don’t touch.”

In the South Georgia of my youth, if one had a problem with his neighbor, he didn’t call a lawyer, write a letter or circulate rumors. No, he made a house call, invited the neighbor outside to discuss the issue. Most controversy was resolved without bloodshed.

But not today. We are a craven culture when it comes to concluding things. We write letters, e-mails, texts and use caller-ID to do the defriending. Personal confrontation is not decorous behavior.

I once had a business partner whose mantra was: “If it’s important enough to say, say it to my face.” He spent a lot of time in the back seat of police cars. But what’s the problem with a more direct, in-your-face method now? Nothing! Except we’re too lily-livered to do it. We are afraid of violating people’s space with frank discussions or being shot.

It’s not easy to ‘defriend’ people. We are, after all, a genteel culture. While there are many options, we seem to prefer avoidance and attrition over confrontation. Emerson once wrote, “Do the thing and you will have the power.” We should consider this advice.

Lately, I have given much thought to more direct methods of resolution. While Sugar Boy’s adventure of defriending his contact base was extreme, it did make a point. There are options, after all.

So, if you’d like to defriend me, then forget deleting my email, phone number and address and man up….say it to my face!

Bud Hearn
October 31, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Ideas

A new idea is a stick of dynamite. It can get you killed, especially in small towns. Little-town memories of my youth include this oft-recited axiom: “A new idea and a cold drink of water, taken together, can kill you.”


Ideas swirl in the Georgia red-clay dust devils that transplant the topsoil. They shimmer in the heat monkeys that rise from asphalt roads that turn liquid in the stifling summer meltdowns. It’s preached on every corner and in every church. Not so much in words, but in the winks, the nods, the habits and thought patterns inbred into generation after incestuous generation.

Ideas are dangerous. Why? Because new ideas step on toes. They change things and tend to upset the status quo, the perceived, predictable and traditional ways of doing things. If anyone is foolish enough to attempt to upset a small-town status quo or the existing power structure, fresh rope suddenly appears. The hapless innovator receives swift recompense administered by local vigilantes.

A hot air balloon rises from a field in France. It’s observed by Alexander Graham Bell and a friend. It floats over some trees, coming to rest in a field tended by peasants with pitchforks. Immediately it’s violently assaulted, collapsing lifelessly in the loess.

The friend asks, “Dr. Bell, now what good came from that hot air balloon experiment?”

Dr. Bell replies, “What good is any new-born baby?”

My mother was always trying new ideas. Like tricking me to eat liver. She pleaded in her best logic, “But son, it’s good for you”. She soon learned that logic is not the best motivator of stupid kids.

Her last attempt to trick me into eating that foul meat went sideways. Its malodorous stench hung in the humid air for blocks in our neighborhood. People fled their homes, gasping for breath. Those horrendous episodes finally broke her will. She abandoned all further ideas and efforts of trickery.

My grandmother had better luck with squash. She baked it in lemon skins, and it was terrific, to which I said, “Jewel (her name, and she was one!), this is the best baked lemon I ever ate.” Like I said, kids may be stupid, but good food overcomes logic every time!

One Sunday, with my mother in tow, I revisited the little Methodist Church of my youth after some 20 year’s absence. We sat in the second row left, near the altar. After the service, two elderly ladies rushed up to me, saying, “We barely recognized you…you were not in your usual place.”

I remember saying, “Uh, where is my usual place?”

Why, your regular place was always in the back right, not the front left.” There you have it…the status quo, alive and well. I’d now become a revolutionary iconoclast!

Maybe it would have been good to have told them that during my absence I had swallowed a new idea that seems to be working. Repentance is one of those ‘new ideas,’ you know. It always has an Audience. It sometimes takes hard knocks to change one’s mind. Now I sit up front, lower left, as close to the fire as I’m willing to get.

Thomas Edison experimented with over 1,000 gas combinations to find one that worked in the electric light bulb. Before success arrived, he was asked, “Dr. Edison, have you failed?”

He replied, “No, I have succeeded in finding 1,000 combinations that won’t work.” You’re reading this now because his new idea continues to explode in the face of the darkness of status quo.

Historical events often don’t create new paradigms as much as they reveal new eras, pregnant with possibilities. It begs question of what might happen if we swallow some new ideas. History is waiting for our actions, not our words.


The choice is ever before us: nurture the new, or rot in the ruins of a crumbling status quo. We can’t do both. Do you have a new idea? Light the fuse…change history!

Bud Hearn
October 17, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Angola State Prison Rodeo …. A Retrospective

It’s Sunday, October 14th, 2008 when we arrive at Angola State Prison, Angola, Louisiana. The Warning reads: “You are about to enter a penal institution…” The air turns cold.


In George’s jet eight of us fly to Baton Rouge. From there we drive in a white van across 51 miles of desolate Delta landscape littered with dilapidated mobile homes and hulks of rusted-out cars. Two hours later we enter gates guarded by razor-sharp concertina wire. It’s Angola State Prison, where the rodeo theme is “Guts and Glory.”

A massive black sign with the smiling face of Warden Burl Cain welcomes us. A stark warning comes with it: “If you wish to leave the premises, all guns, knives, alcohol and contraband should be surrendered at once.” We donate our knives and hand over the bucket of KFC, bones and all.

The stark prison stands stoically, nestled silently amid the lush green Delta pastures. Livestock grazes peacefully, framed by miles of white rail fences. Small lakes filled with white pond birds break the tranquil symmetry of the fields. But the serenity disguises the reality of the treacherous institution where death-row and hopelessness co-exist. Surreal and unnatural, like an intruder in the distorted reality of a Salvatore Dali landscape.

The scene inside is chaotic. Multitudes of hefty flesh press together alongside rows of low tables filled with fried swine delicacies: chittlins, cracklins and pigtails. The cooking caldrons crackle and spit as pig fat hits the boiling grease. As each hot batch is dumped onto the tables, a new crowd shoves its bodily mass into the fray. Gnats and flies swarm and buzz in the wild ecstasy of the feeding frenzy.

Beyond, throngs of frenetic shoppers mingle among the cramped booths of itinerant vendors and petty hustlers hawking cheap trinkets and prison memorabilia. It is a monument to human ugliness!

Inside the arena the air swirls with excitement. About 10,000 ‘locals’ roar and cheer. Groups of brawny men and Harley has-beens huddle in tight circles, speaking in guttural utterances. The crowd bares a remarkable atavistic resemblance to the inmates….unnerving.

But here things can turn violent in a hurry. A thick air of tension permeates the tight enclosure. The arena’s plowed dirt is infused with the rancid odor of excrement, urine and fear. Only a 9-foot fence separates prisoners, bulls and spectators.

The inmates, now ‘cowboys,’ are corralled in a wire cage beneath the hospitality suite. From there Warden Cain’s prominent invitees can make sport of this absurdity. When things get boring they can poke the prisoners with sharp sticks to keep them attentive. One wonders what the incentive for volunteerism is!

Such lurid events originated with Caligula. Death is the only win for the participants… a hellish, psychological price to pay. But, this is Louisiana, where a hole in the wall of the State Capital, created by the bullet that killed Huey P. Long, is still enshrined. Carloads of Cajuns worship it.

In one event four ‘cowboys’ play cards at a red table. An 1,800 pound bull charges the table. Bodies fly through the air, landing with sickening thuds in the soft moist dirt. They leave on stretchers. Two remain. The bull charges again, narrowly missing the two who are frozen by fear. The 20-second buzzer sounds. Time’s up. These two share the $200 purse. Meanwhile, the music plays on: “Dum, dum, dum, another one bites the dust…dum, dum, dum….”

Despite this brutish display, the crowd shows a felicitous empathy for the ‘cowboys.’ The only break in the tense drama occurs when a clown in a shiny red Elvis outfit brings out 3 sheep dogs. Tiny monkeys ride on their backs, chasing a pack of wild goats. The laughter is almost too much to bear. Some become incontinent in the constrained effort of containment.

The spectacle finally concludes. The crowd makes its slow retreat into the humid dusk of a declining Delta day. Joining the exodus, we wonder: “What was this all about?”

We conclude everyone has at least one thing in common: A longing to grab excitement in this short life. So, for a few hours our lives and voices fuse into one, as we participate in this wild, unpredictable Spectacle of Life called a prison rodeo.

As we leave I glance backwards. There, inside the barbed wire, the cowboys are prisoners again, shuffling in slow motion in a single file line. They board buses for a short trip to lock-up, their ‘home.’

Suddenly the sky explodes with hundreds of white pond birds. In the gathering gloom of a Delta sunset they begin a slow flight south to their home. As darkness falls, the wind stirs the leaves of the changing season. Veiled yellowed windows of dimly-lit houses pop out of the dark woods. Ghostly shapes move slowly about inside, casting eerie shadows. Our white van lurches forward, roaring through the night with the singular purpose of going home.


The day’s events distill in sleep. In dreams I see flocks of white pond birds floating silently overhead, heading homeward, seeking the allusive and ephemeral sense of freedom.

Bud Hearn
October 10, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Reductio ad Absurdum

Words are molecules. They expound, confound and often explode. Ever since Einstein, man has been splitting the atom and splitting the hairs of words to the limits of the absurd.


The other night my friend Bill, a hair-splitting articulate attorney, and I sit together at the season’s opening performance of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia. We whisper during the last movement of Les Preludes by Franz Liszt, attempting to comprehend the profundity of his music.

The program description of the piece reads: “Liszt is considered to be the virtual inventor of the symphonic poem where a nonmusical source provides a narrative foundation for a single-movement orchestral work.” Say what? Dilbert is more concise than this.

We have our several opinions. He argues that the word, ‘nonmusical’ is a misprint. It should be ‘nonsensical.’ Says it makes the sentence intelligible.

He asks my thoughts. I hesitate, then tell him I think it’s some sort of a secret code, perhaps meaning that no one in the orchestra uses deodorant. Both arguments, reductio ad absurdum. Neither can be disproved.

At home I sit. I read. I think. Not always a good thing to think too much. It might form a hypothesis, which might lead to a conclusion. And that’s the beginning of woes.

Conclusions beg for expression. Words attempt to do this. You might be tempted to express your current brain flash to someone, like a spouse. Mistake. They will take the germ of your thought and split its atom into shreds of differing opinion. Whereupon you may appear more stupid than you really are by having expressed the half-baked, caffeine-induced mental flush.

Show me the evidence,” they will say. You suddenly find yourself leaning on a weak reed. You’ll be caught flat-footed, your argument becoming a house of cards. You’ll teeter on a “narrative foundation” just like Liszt. Without empirical evidence, you will instantly become a “single-movement orchestral work.” You will slink away in shame, licking your wounds from the lashes of refutation.

Contrary to common opinion, hard evidence is not found from the theses of scientists, many of whom have bad hair and don’t use deodorant. Like Liszt, they claim to be “the virtual inventor” of incomprehensible things. They make up words, like quarks, and assign them meanings. Imagine a romantic evening with a scientist discussing genomic theory. Horrors! More entertaining evidence can be exhumed from the utterances of preachers, politicians and lawyers.

Preachers, unlike lawyers, tend to pontificate in generalities. They attempt to prove their theories by mental suggestion, word pictures and fantastic recitals of oral historical references. You can walk on water, they say, and turn stones to bread if only you believe. Incomprehensible. But then, seeing is not believing…believing is seeing. Get it?

They will strive to convince you that the world’s gonna soon collapse, roll up like a scroll and melt in a fervent heat. But that dog won’t hunt because it’s too phantasmagoric to comprehend. You might relate to certain aspects of collapse, like the meltdown of your stock portfolio or when the foreclosure writ was nailed to your front door. Who can rebut experiential evidence?

Politicians are master truth twisters and inveterate prevaricators. Verity is not in their vocabulary. They’re blowhards, hurling great swelling words into the universe…words full of sound and fury, words signifying nothing, words that beguile the simple-minded, words that sow promises in the wind that reap the whirlwind.

Lawyers are demonically skillful in weaving words down to senseless nuance, especially with matters of money. Recently a slick one attacked the manufacturer of basketball goals who had advertised, ‘Made in America.’

The product was actually constructed in America, except for several rivets that came from China. Gotcha. False advertising. A miniscule technicality. A magnanimous verdict. The reward? Legal fees in millions. Face it, obesity is the only actual product ‘Made in America.’ Incontrovertible!

As the slickest of all lawyers has instructed us, the word ‘is’ has at least two definitions. It can mean in the ‘present moment,’ or, if it suits the ruse, something occurring but not necessarily in the present moment. It is what it is. Both are irrefutable. Reductio ad absurdum.


Satis verborum…enough is enough. Stanley slings the euphemistic cow chip straight out: “Sometimes mud gives the illusion of depth.” Indisputable!

Bud Hearn
October 3, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Banned from the Junior League

In the South, nothing scores higher on the social register for women than the Association of Junior Leagues International, or AJLI. Banishment from its ranks is unthinkable. But there are options…


This year marks the anniversary debut of Margaret Mitchell’s acclaimed book, Gone with the Wind. Its enduring contribution to the South lies in the fact that Southerners no longer name their children Ulysses and Sherman.

The year was 1936. The GWTW novel made its way into a movie, grossing more revenue than any other flick after adjusting for inflation. This acronym should not be confused with LGBT, another novel way to gross big dollars from the public treasury.

Everything is adjusted for inflation now. For example, my brand new red Pontiac Coupe cost $2,400 in 1962, a small fortune then. Today it won’t even buy a weekend trip to Panama City. The dollar’s value has GWTW also.

Margaret Mitchell was a wild and unrestrained member of the Atlanta Junior League. A hoity-toity charity ball was held at the PDC, a swanky private country club living on the fumes of the final days of finger bowls. She and a drunken Frenchman with a thin mustache shocked the starchy crowd with a erotic dance imported straight from the streets of Paris. The JL went ballistic and booted her.

Some years later she was run down by a car while crossing Peachtree Street. It’s rumored that a hit man was employed to salvage the reputation of the JL suffered by Mitchell’s disgusting display of social impropriety. The AJLI is a savage and vicious crowd. Don’t mess with it.

The tragic event remains unsolved. Some allege that a money trail led to the local chapter of AAONYMS, an august group of the Ancient Arabic of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, aka Shriners. Anything’s possible. Aside from being notoriously bad drivers, and some say big boozers, they create spectacles by wearing comical red fezzes and driving midget cars madly down Main Streets.

But women don’t have a lock on the elegant social organizations. Men have their own. Many are not eleemosynary. Some exist for delusionary purposes, like celebrating the primacy of male ego. Rotarians were once a venerable group. Alas, due to its revised by-laws, probation of crude jokes and gender slurs has rendered it impotent. Co-ed crowds are not totally integrated.

Men begin their concept of social order in college fraternities, a legacy of debauchery left behind by the Greeks. This self-elevated concept of immutable brotherhood still consists principally of beer orgies, tailgate parties and black marbles. Hazing is encouraged. Survival is iffy. Expulsion is possible only by revealing the secret handshake.

My fraternity’s handshake was envisioned by R.E. “Hand Jive” Lee. It involved a bone-crushing grip (a vestige of declining manhood), a twist of the palms, a locking of index fingers and ending with a fist bump. A certain effete frat house also used a handshake. Brothers shake and simultaneously tickle the palm of the other with an index finger. It’s reputed to have carnal implications.

After college, little changed. Daughters ransacked their fathers’ pension funds and became debutants, the feeder system for membership in the JL. Frat boys continued unabatedly their post-graduate antics.

One pompous fraternity formed a society known as ‘The Nooners.’ My post-grad brothers, not to be outdone, assembled a motley group known as ‘The Loose Screws.’ These secret societies were organized for continuation of leftover adolescent expressions and hyperbolic fabrications.

Unfortunately, neither group grasped the meaning of the French term, double entendre, a word grouping that ascribes double meanings to things. In the ‘60’s the French language wasn’t popular. Box wine didn’t score high marks. French was thought to be a variant of Pig Latin that originated at the University of Alabama after the Civil War.

The double entendre had dyslexic tendencies and soon became the name of a powerful libation, the Double Intender. It’s concocted with Wild Turkey bourbon, root beer and Red Bull. In sufficient quantities it trashes inhibitions, but guarantees the reward of seeing double and thinking single. Regrettably, the ‘Nooners’ and the ‘Loose Screws’ remain banned from debutant balls but well received in tattoo parlors.


Things keep changing. Margaret has joined her manuscript, GWTW. Social mores are defined by airline passengers. Banishment from the Junior League is no longer a stigma, but is a shoe-in for women for membership in the AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary.

Separate but equal covers a wide landscape…

Friday, September 19, 2014

Of Brains and Sponges

Brains and sponges have something in common: they require squeezing on a regular basis to eliminate the grease and grime of life. The preacher gave mine a big squeeze… what oozed out was ugly!


Sponges are simple, utilitarian tools. Our household has lots of them. Blue ones mostly. They’re used for cleaning dirty dishes, a simple task requiring little brain function, which explains why I’m assigned the nightly task. Such cognitive functions rank on the level of crunching cockroaches.

She cooks, I clean, a workable division of labor. She once suggested I consider a more creative role, like reading a recipe and following directions. It was an ill-conceived experiment. Marital bliss is higher priority. Besides, meat cleavers are simply overkill for mincing garlic cloves.

Cleaning the kitchen relieves my mind of the day’s accumulation of crap…personal insults, injustices and outright rejections that flesh is heir to. My weapon of choice is the long-handled scrub brush, not a soggy sponge.

A bloated blue sponge floating around arrogantly in a sudsy sink of dull dishwater is repugnant. In minutes my hands age years by dipping them in foul, chemically-laced water. Manly attire does not consist in wearing aprons and elbow-length yellow rubber gloves.

There’s a protocol to proper dishwashing. Women write the instruction manual. What’s it to a man if an occasional dried rice kernel or two remains stuck to the wall of a supposedly washed pot. No big deal.

Creek banks and back seats are where young boys learn many of life’s lessons. The brains of young boys are like sponges, absorbent and adaptive. The idea of acceptable cleanliness of cooking utensils was formed on camp-outs and fishing expeditions.

Grease germs that dared to dangle in a pan after frying fish or bacon were exterminated by multiple tortures. Baptism by fire was the preferred method. After that, a wad of swamp mud rubbed off the remainder, followed by a refreshing dip in whatever water was handy.

Alas, we have progressed beyond mud and fire. Now we support the detergent industry. It’s more refined says the Kitchen Queen, who inspects everything under the glare of a harsh halogen spotlight. Re-washing is frequent.

After washing, my tendency is to pick up the sodden sponge with tongs and fling it into the dishwasher to decompose along with the other germs. But Madame Decorum demands it be rinsed and squeezed, rinsed and squeezed, until all soaked-up grime and remnants of its day be removed. It’s a timely and laborious process.

After hours of rinsing and squeezing, the poor sponge is again healthy. Being now an empty receptacle, it’s ready to receive some more dirt from tomorrow’s duty. That’s when my brain spoke.

Hey, dummy, give me a big squeeze. Learn the parable of the sponge.”

Does your brain speak to you? It’s the first time I’ve heard mine speak. It’s important to answer your brain. I did.

I didn’t know you needed a squeeze. Have you been washing dirty dishes lately?” I laughed.

What’s so funny, wise guy? I wash your dirty dishes every second of the day, you ingrate. I’m bursting with your debris. Squeeze some of it out, you glutton.” Brain-talk is serious business.

No way. I relish the rubbish of my past. It defines me. I carry it everywhere. Thanks for taking good care of it. It’s my security blanket. To squeeze it out would make me an empty vessel. More demons might move in and occupy your empty cerebral gray matter.”

Listen up, you idiot. When you were a kid you craved apple sauce. Remember how you sponged off your brother’s plate and ate his? And your daddy force fed you the whole jar? How did you feel?” Brains might seem like sieves, but they forget nothing.

I remember. I gagged. It ran out of my nose and ears. I hate apples to this day. I get it. You’re a sponge. No more room to absorb anything. Right?”

You’re a slow learner, Einstein. Call preacher Steve. Tell him you’ve decided to repent and need a big washing in the baptismal font. That’ll do the job. I’ll be good as new, and so will you.”


As for brains and sponges, dishwashing will never be the same….

Bud Hearn
September 19, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014


If inspiration comes in spurts, mine has sputtered out. The dreaded ‘writer’s block’ has filled the vacuum. Ideas are harder to find than hen’s teeth.


I blame it on Labor Day, that self-indulgent holiday, inappropriately named, but a novel concept for the vices of eating, entertainment and evasion. Complicity with the trio was cause for the downfall.

My daughter is an artist. She’s familiar with the illusionary Inspiration Muse, that fickle Siren who’s here today, gone tomorrow, taking all creativity with her. I call her for advice.

“Honey, can you arrange for an essence-stick séance? My Muse has abandoned me. How can I get her to return?"

What’s the problem, dad?” she asks.

I need inspiration. My ideas have dried up, the concepts are boring claptrap, and the news is senseless fodder. I’m desperate for content. Any thoughts?”

Have you tried pound cake and ice cream?” She’s serious.

Will that work?” I ask.

Yes, definitely. Spike it with a hardy shot of brandy and drizzle a lot of extra sugar on top. Then follow Thomas Wolfe’s lead and write naked on top of the refrigerator. Give it a shot.” She laughs.

Get serious. I’m on the edge of a deadline abyss.”

Pop, use your imagination. Works every time. Concentrate on love, on romance, assuming you can remember that far back. Besides, there’s a full moon tonight. Go take a walk on the beach, meditate on some well-marinated romantic memories. That’ll resurrect your mercurial Muse.”

Meditate on love and romance? Interesting. Why not? Nothing else is working.

The shore is as dark and empty as my inspiration. Apparently no one else concentrates on love and romance at this hour. The tide is low, the sea is calm. A slight breeze tickles the tiny waves as they slide ashore. The moon’s reflection makes the water alive. It moves with an eerie cadence. I focus on love.

A vision materializes. A fraternity party, 1963. A summer night, same moon, another beach. Large secluded dunes beckon. A blonde, a blanket. Innocence is screaming to become experience for two naïve college kids. Imagine it’s you.

You hold hands, talk of love. At nineteen, your knowledge of romance is shallow. But not the feelings. Your hearts beat fast. You gaze at the moonlit waters, feel the tender breeze. A brief silence full of possibilities descends. You whisper to her, “Do you have the same feeling I do?”

She squirms restlessly. Without hesitation she answers excitedly, “Yes! Yes!! Yes!!! I think ants are crawling on me.” The sacred moment vanishes.

You shake the blanket and retreat to the car. Innocence goes home alone that night, frustrated but hopeful for another opportunity.

Perhaps you remember a certain night in the mountains. Frosty air. Log cabin. Late fall. Leaves falling. No children. Inside candle flames dance on the walls. The fire is a pile of glowing orange embers. You both nuzzle closely on the sofa, mesmerized by the ambience and possibilities in this romantic moment.

You gaze into each other’s eyes. They reflect the flickering flames. You speak softly into her ear, “Are you thinking the same thing I am?” She sighs, and answers, “I was thinking that I forgot to change the cat litter.”

So much for fires, you think. You go outside, fire up the limp, half-smoked cigar you left lying on the rocking chair and ponder your golf game.

Weddings produce sacred moments. Perhaps you recall the one when you and she, both warm with champagne, dance until midnight? The band is playing “Fly Me to the Moon.” You hold each other closely. Her hand gently caresses your neck. Your arm hugs her waist tightly. You tingle with excitement.

In this rapturous moment you whisper with an impish grin, “Honey, I’m having thoughts of romance. What are you thinking?”

She kisses you on the cheek and replies, “I was thinking how many thank you notes this bride will have to write.” Your moon flight is delayed again. You retreat to the bar with the other guys who have similar stories to tell.


If there is a connection between inspiration and romance, perhaps it’s more like the triumph of hope over the reality of expectation. Keep looking!

Bud Hearn
September 5, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lipstick and Other Superfluous Secrets

Nothing is more stimulating, or revealing than things that are off-limits, out of bounds, like snooping in someone’s mail, or eavesdropping on gossip or, God forbid, violating the sanctity of someone’s diary. Same thing applies to women’s handbags. I made that mistake once.


I’d like to say the incursion was unintentional, but truth won’t stretch. It was instigated by an inner compulsion, like the nights you promise yourself to lay off the chocolate before bedtime, only to find you have gnawed your nails to the nub in the futile attempt. The chocolate bar melts as you squeeze it with lusty palms.

My wife and I are sitting around talking. She says, “Would you please hand me my handbag?” Bright men oblige all spousal requests. I am a bright man by training. I do this routinely. It’s an understatement to say her bag is heavy. A bellman wouldn’t touch it for a $100 bucks.

Expletive. “What’s in here?” I ask. The mistake!

Things. Things I might need. Anyway, it’s none of your business,” she answers.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when something’s ‘none of my business,’ I’m simply powerless not to make it my business. She eyes me with suspicion. I simply shrug my shoulders, do my best pretense to convey, “Who cares.” But it falls flat. Women can see through men in an instant.

For a few days she kept a tight grip on her handbag. But it would soon be left unguarded, not if but when. I waited, slumbering through several sleepless nights, dreaming of the secrets housed in the Veneta bag.

As it happens, I suffer a late-night gastric assault by a Ben and Jerry’s addiction. It drives me into the kitchen for relief. And what do you know, there it is, her handbag, the very object of my preoccupation. Serendipity has its moments. It lay on the table, unguarded, vulnerable. My exuberance boils over.

My trembling fingers touch it tenderly. They caress the exquisitely crafted leather, feel its sensuous curves, trace the silky skin of its texture. My nerves tingle with excitement at the forbidden pleasures the moment holds. A torrent of adrenaline tears through my veins at the intoxicating risk of peering into the inscrutable mysteries hiding inside.

Sanity leaves me stranded. I become powerless and can’t refrain from the compulsive craving to clutch the bag with a passion inexplicable. So intense is my fetish that it devours all better judgment. Like a grubby grave robber, my manic curiosity digs in, exposing the bag’s enigmatic skeletons.

I unceremoniously empty the voluminous treasures on the table. There, scattered before me are the ‘things’ she needed, the ‘things’ that were indispensable, the ‘things’ that were none of my business. In that microcosmic moment Dr. Gray’s eponymous metaphor made perfect sense: “Men are from Mars, and women are from Venus.”

There, in plain sight of my eyes and those of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, the typical American woman lies bare, stripped of all essentials, disrobed, defenseless and strewn atop the table. Wow! An epiphanic and seminal moment occurs.

I pick at the pieces, attempting to make sense of the absurd tableau. Such dichotomy of disarray is unintelligible to human logic. A thermometer appears. I recall my daughter telling me that her mom used this when shopping at Neiman’s. Apparently it registers the heat of her intensity in the jewelry department.

In the mix is a pistol. Loaded. It lies next to a ring of unfamiliar keys and a large padlock. Go figure. What’s with the wad of scratch-off lottery tickets? I get the pharmaceutical palliatives and emollients…. Age does have its downside! The colossal wreckage reminds me of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, crafted by an unhinged mind for no apparent purpose.

Reconstructing the chaos into a coherent whole is impossible. The incongruity lying before me is incomprehensible. The challenge at hand is now the repacking of this monstrous assemblage of female paraphernalia. My effort is a miserable failure. The bulging bag refuses to zip. So much for explorations into things that are ‘none of my business.’

The next day she immediately recognizes that her bag has been plundered. Her eyes accuse, her voice is inaudible. I’m trapped, a monkey with his hand in the cookie jar. She removes the thermometer. The air heats up.


Dr. Gray’s theorem of the planetary distinction between the sexes remains inviolate, proven once again by the simple fact that men can survive with only a fat wallet and a Swiss army knife….

Bud Hearn
August 22, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Leaving in Pieces

Humpty dumpty sat on a wall;
Humpty dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty back together again
.” English Nursery Rhyme


Albert Gooney discovers that somewhere along the way he had become like Jimmy Hoffa…invisible. Only his name remains, evidenced by recurring American Express bills and occasional snippets of gossip at dinner parties.

He wasn’t surprised. In fact, it had been happening for years. Slowly but surely, he was breaking up, coming apart. Life was diminishing him, inch by inch. Bits and pieces were breaking off like fragments of a burned-out asteroid, flying off at the seams, scattered indiscriminately in the vast darkness of space.

He had once considered the alternative…exploding himself. One quick second, bang! All over. A suicide bomber, go out in style. One second of fame, lots of news press. No more attrition, the drip, drip, drip torture, the wasting away into irrelevance in miniscule pieces.

He meditates on the post-explosion idea. He imagines the scene. He would scarcely recognize the colossal wreckage and scattered scraps of himself. They would lie strewn in careless, disorderly disarray. He thought of his poor wife. She obsessed on perfect order. She would never approve of the body placements. He would never be able to explain this unthinkable legacy.

Still, the idea intrigued him. He remembers lines from an obscure poem, “We leave in pieces.” They circumambulate in his brain like a stupid song, one that’s stuck on a 45 rpm record, spinning round and round on a ‘50’s turnstile.

He spots a couple of finger digits embedded in the wall. One wears his wedding ring. It whispers, “I’m a metaphor.” He assesses the situation as if it were symbolic of his marriage, remembering how the silent spaces slowly sapped the substance of relationship. It seeped out little by little until saying ‘goodbye’ was all that was left.

Across the room he recognizes his once-enormous mental data base, a memory repository brimming over with the sum total of his life’s events. Including every golf shot he ever made. It now resembles a wad of wet spaghetti that’s been slung against the wall. Its empty essence slowly trickles down the wall in tiny crimson rivulets into a pool of oblivion.

He considered that ‘one and done’ is not nature’s way. It thrives on comedy, and the joke is always on us. It laughs hideously when the numbered hairs of our heads retire slowly south, one at a time, until they number zero.

He also knew that most things didn’t just pack up and leave all at once. Like visits from Flake, his third cousin twice removed. He wished family were more like money…here today, gone tomorrow. But no, Flake was like inflation, a voracious parasite that eats one out of house and home.

Just recently he had kissed goodbye to his wisdom teeth and his wallet. The dentist said hello to a new BMW. Even the Tooth Fairy shafted him, leaving only a prescription for amoxicillin under his pillow. One man’s loss is another’s gain. Some even say it refers to divorcees.

He’d heard about Age and Gravity, formerly wastrel angels. Cast out from their first estate, they set up a shop in Hollywood, posing as artists. The diabolical duo specialized in re-crafting faces and bodies into caricatures and grotesque remnants of the former tenants. Albert cursed every time he looked at his sagging skin, his widening wrinkles. Somewhere in the distance he heard the demons laughing at their masterpieces.

Albert remembers skipping out on his college girlfriend. The torrid affair was too much. In retrospect, leaving her early was good insurance against getting left. Fortunately for Albert, he dodged getting left holding the bag or the baby…all leaving is not necessarily a bad thing (but some puns are!).


He lingered long amid that horrific scene of the former Albert Gooney. The only solution to his dilemma was reinvention of himself with whatever parts he could scrape up. It would dawn on him soon.

This is the land of new beginnings, the international capital of reincarnation…all that’s needed to start again is a name, real or fictional. Is America great, or what?

Bud Hearn
August 15, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Night Frenzy

Nothing unglues the fabric of small towns faster than Friday night high school football. The blood of this gladiatorial sport flows hot and red. Every father relives his own glory days. Bragging rights are on the line.

I know these things. My name is Harold. I survived it.


I was a reluctant warrior. My father begged me, “Son, don’t cast shame on the family by playing trumpet in the marching band.” I hated to see him cry. I was in the tenth grade. Weight, soaking wet, 145 pounds. I sacrificed myself on the altar of the gridiron.

One day Coach Roy knocked on the back screen door. “I want Harold!” he said. He was bigger than life. Small children begged for autographs. Grown men shrank and women swooned when he showed up. The word ‘No’ was not in his vocabulary. My father offered me up as the family’s token football sacrificial lamb without conditions.

Practice started on a scorching August afternoon. The sun and sweat melted us. The grass was seared, brown, limp and lifeless. Heat devils danced on the sagging goal posts. An apparition appeared under the bleachers. It resembled the bones of former players.

Coach Roy sized me up and shook his head. “Did you leave your legs at home, son?” he asked, laughing. I glanced down to find two knees, knocking together. “Boy, you’re at a disadvantage. You were born with a neck.” The analogy escaped me at the time.

He put his arm around me. “Son, you’re gonna be a ‘tight end.’” Later, I told my father. He looked despondent, muttered something about a quarterback. I wasn’t quite sure what position a tight end played…until the Homecoming game. Some things can only be discovered experientially.

Playing football can be a spectacle for embarrassment, like the night I recovered a fumble and ran…the wrong way. The crowd screamed, “No! No! No!” My thoughts of fame overruled. Fortunately, my teammates nailed me on our own goal’s one-foot line. Coach Roy swallowed his Skoal. “Kid, next time you pull that stunt you’re gonna know where this football’s going.” The visceral image remains vivid.

My girlfriend was a majorette. She twirled fire with her baton. One night the flambeau found her blonde curls. Her hair was never the same afterwards. That’s another story. Anyway, we ‘liked’ one another.

‘Liking’ someone is the first stage of romance. It happens when a boy works up his nerve to hold a girl’s hand. I had scored twice and was convinced she ‘liked’ me. ‘Liking’ is the precursor to ‘going steady,’ which is a doubled-edged sword. ‘Breaking up’ also follows… good training ground for the future divorce.

Skinny guys have no business playing football. On the field they resemble skeletons with colorful helmets bobbing up and down. They’re best used as practice dummies. Coach Roy devised this torture routine to insure discipline.

Here’s how it works. The dummy lines up across from Mean, Dumb and Nasty, three meathead goons. The coach pitches him the football and shouts to the hit men, “Get him!” There’s no escape. The ensuing carnage is a ghastly scene.

Homecoming games are sacrosanct. They’re must-wins at all cost. Honor hangs in the balance. Coach Roy found me hiding behind the water bucket. “Harold,” he said, jabbing his index finger into my chest, “You’re starting as tight end tonight. Make me proud.” It was my first start after the unfortunate fumble incident.

See that boy? He’s your man. Take him out.” An audible groan erupted from the spectators as I tiptoed onto the field. Nobody applauded. We lined up for the kickoff. I looked at my assigned enemy. Goliath stood there grinning, 390 pounds of testosterone. My eyes rolled back in my head. It gave new meaning to the term ‘tight end.’

He pointed his finger at me. His lips moved, “You’re dead meat.” The National Anthem played like a dirge. My heart throbbed. Something warm and wet trickled down my pants leg. I inched toward the sidelines. Coach Roy growled. I fainted.

That was my last football game. My mother sobbed inconsolably. My father dodged the shame by hiding behind the hot dog shack. The next week I took up the violin. Life goes on.


In retrospect, I felt sorry for Coach Roy that night. The loss was devastating. I recall his last words, “Boys, the bus leaves in fifteen minutes. Be under it!”

Bud Hearn
August 8, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

An Average August Evening

It’s August, 2009. Strange how some small events remain relevant.


It’s sunset. I sit at a sidewalk table at Marcello’s Pizza and Subs, a neighborhood establishment best called a ‘joint.’ Twenty-six years qualifies it for that distinction. It’s where Miller Lite drafts go down in rapid succession. No one keeps score.

Marcello, the proprietor and the Emperor of Pizzas, joins me. We discuss the planet’s conditions. Between spurts of genius, we comment on the orange ball descending over the distant oak trees. The sky burns into a flaming sunset while music from The Godfather plays softly.

Marcello,” I say, “things are moving too fast… life is like a roll of toilet tissue—the closer to the end it gets, the faster it goes.”
He comments that the sunset didn’t appear to be in a rush, that every second has its own beauty with no wasted motion.

In the back corner of the deserted parking lot something stirs. It’s Bobby, a burly 30-something brute. He sits in his black Chevy Blazer, hiding within the silent shadows, waiting. He appears to be a viperous reptile. He boots cars for a living.

The sign at the parking lot clearly warns, “No Parking, Cars Will Be Booted or Towed.” Non-believers in the posted word continue to park there, hoping to get lucky. They look around innocently and stroll next door to Hal’s, where they indulge in expensive food and drink. They have no idea how expensive their evening will soon become.

Many return to find a yellow boot, clamped securely to their front tire. The cost to remove? About $75 bucks. Bobby is making a killing from this cottage industry. Life is getting better for him by the minute.

Next door is a yogurt shop. Teenagers come and go, but not before standing at the ATM and extracting some of daddy’s remaining dollars. Often it takes two or three of them pooling their money to have enough to buy that ‘low-fat’ yogurt. Clearly, some don’t restrict their diet to just fat-free yogurt. But who can tell teenagers anything?

A yellow Hummer cruises in as twilight falls. It stops within inches of my table. It intrudes like a bully on the block. I’m about to say something until the driver gets out. Hasty confrontations are always ill-advised. Tonight this advice pays dividends.

He’s about 40, bald, tattooed, wearing an all-black tank top with a black karate belt around his waist. His body-fat content is less than steel. It’s clear that he doesn’t subscribe for sissy food, like yogurt.

People of this sort are better as friends. Come to find out, he’s the guru of Craig’s Xtreme Training Camp. His business card sports a red skull and crossbones motif ~ he looks like the icon.

“How extreme is your training camp?”
I ask. He’s friendly and proceeds to tell me he makes men out of boys, Terminators out of women. He has assembled a field of old truck tires, ropes, chains, sledge hammers and other assorted torture devices and uses them for whipping folks into shape. I don’t inquire what shape they’re in when they graduate. I tell him that my peers are flabby. He drools at the image.

His last name isn’t American. He’s probably from the Czech Republic, Serbia or another of the extreme Eastern Europe bloc countries where torture without constraint is still condoned. I make a friend and plan to use him on the next contentious inquisition with a banker or lawyer.

Marcello soon leaves me with Jacque, a Greek immigrant. Maria, a waitress, keeps our table supplied with abundant sausage ziti. Lavish tips insure this treatment. The sunset has now faded, replaced by a winking red, blue, and yellow neon beer sign. It continues to incite my thirst and I see no reason to cease the support of such a venerable American institution.

At dark a younger crowd begins to assemble. Since age and youth have few mutual interests, I leave. There’s nothing like a quiet, neighborhood pub to reinvigorate the spirits.


As I stroll out, The Eagles are singing, “Take it Easy.” On this average August evening, I promise myself to do just that.

Bud Hearn
August 1, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Take Another Bite

Clouds swirl, thick and dark. Lightning flashes, thunder rumbles, rocks split. Stars fall, the moon melts, the sun sets. The Voice roars, “Enough is enough.” Holy Wrath fills the universe.


Moses is jolted from sleep, traumatized by recurring dreams of frog plagues. The Voice shouts, “Moses, get over here…you’re going back!”

He wants to argue, “Hey, I’m old now. I did my time down there. Besides…” His words freeze in mid-air. Mt. Sinai comes to mind. He trembles. Nobody argues with The Voice.

He shambles over to the Big House with his Giant Gulp coffee cup, a relic from the Bloomberg era, now legal again by writ of the celestial jury.

What’s up, Boss?” he asks.

It’s Babel redux. They’re never satisfied. They cracked the digital code and discovered the GPS mystery. Demons are pouring out of hell’s gates. The ‘smart phone’ is usurping my authority. Prayer requests have stopped; tithes are down; fewer recruits for the Zion choir. Computers are making a mockery of my authority.” The Divine Utterance breathes fire.

Chief, who am I? Just an old man. I’ll be ridiculed. Send those reprobate twins, Manny and Levi. They need a genuine dose of repentance,” Moses pleads.

The Voice replies, “Those uncircumcised infidels? The ones who substituted bacon for kosher franks on Passover? Those backsliders will skin snakes until contrition sets in. No, you’re the man. Take your brother, Stanley. He likes to talk. Find out what’s going on.”

(A few days later)

Stanley, hey, the Meat Packing District has changed! No more bootleg bacon from Jersey, just condos, restaurants and people walking around looking at gadgets held in their palms.”

Stanley replies, “Weird, man. Not like the old days. Say, look at this store. Sign says ‘Apples.’ I thought that issue was settled a long time ago. The bite is still missing.”

Careful,” says Moses. “The Trickster is listening. Remember what happened with Adam? He got foreclosed, lost his garden paradise. Let’s go in and check it out.”

A clerk with gold chains and an ear phone grabs Moses, shakes him. “Want to buy a smart phone, pal? On sale, half off.” He pulls out a slick new model.

What’s a smart phone?” Stanley asks.

Moses hovers behind him, whispers in Yiddish, “Watch out, Stanley, he may be a Samaritan.”

“Say, you dudes are not from around here, huh? I can tell by your clothes. They went out of style about the 13th Century BC, right? Y’all with the carnival?” the clerk asks.

Sack cloth,” Stanley reminds him. “Best made. Hand sown. Got it before the Garment District went upscale. We’re here on a secret mission for the Most High.”

Well, you’re in the right store, gents. Best smart phones in town. Apples. All the latest apps.”

Apples? Apps?” Moses cringes.

Our ancestors had a bad experience with apples,” Stanley says. “It’s a curse.”

Well, these have a money-back warranty, fellows. No risk, no curse. Everything at your fingertips. You want it, you get it now. No waiting.” The clerk is empowered; fist-pumps the air.

See this? It’s Amazon. You can buy anything, easy, quick, all with a credit card. Send it to you overnight, get it tomorrow. No wait.” The clerk becomes animated.

You mean we don’t have to pray and wait for an answer?” Stanley asks.

Pray? Are you kidding? Why pray? Get everything now. Praying? That’s so yesterday. This is the new age, guys. Are you on Facebook?”

Moses and Stanley look at one another, puzzled.

Facebook connects you to everybody in the universe,” the clerk says, grinning.

Here’s Google, men. Tells you anything you want to know, instantly. Just ask it. Where are you from?” the clerk asks.

Heaven,” Stanley replies.

Whatever. Check this out.” Google Earth pops up. Heaven appears. Moses gasps. “Cool, huh?” Stanley’s speechless.

Everything’s possible with Apples. Book a hotel, order a meal, Instagram pictures, count calories, get the news, check your stocks. You itch, it scratches.”

Stanley and Moses huddle, discuss things.

They look at the smart phone. Stanley says, “New age? Smart phone? Is Baal back? Imagine the chaos if the Boss scrambles the digital grid. Let’s keep this gizmo for a souvenir, just in case.”


They sit outside, play with the new purchase. “Stanley, let’s postpone our return.”

“Absolutely,” Stanley says. “You check out Match.com while I see if Domino’s really delivers. Pepperoni okay?" Moses nods yes.

They both take another byte of the apple. Thunder explodes…..

Bud Hearn
July 25, 2014

Friday, July 11, 2014

Life in the Middle

Middle Ground…a sterile no-mans-land littered with skeletons of past inadvisable skirmishes, a seething DMZ that exists between genders, both sides bulging with WMD’s. Eyeballs of suspicion peer cautiously across the uncompromised wasteland, that silent safe haven between outright war and tentative peace. Nothing moves.


Spouses occupy opposite sides of this vast divide. These reluctant combatants, co-joined forever by the immutable pledge of nuptials, occupy the opposing precepts. They cannot escape the golden chain that’s linked by the impetuous vows of ‘I Do!’ They gaze across this immense chasm of disconnect, waiting for the other to blink. Neither does. Nothing happens. They wait.

Observers ask, “What hath provoked this hostile cleavage, this bad-blood animus?” Why, the unresolved Concept of Cleanliness, an abstraction that ignites smoldering fires of critique rather than edifying entrenched opinions. This insufferable gulf of discord is a battleground of personal preferences. Agreement is impossible.

The opposing warriors stationed here have come as close to the middle as they dare…a Cold War of nerves hangs on a hair over their heads like the sword of Damocles. Anything can happen. Sooner or later it will.

‘Cleanliness’ is a relative term, proportionate to the mind’s perception or in the eye of the beholder. It’s subjectivity on steroids, an aberrant gene, passed down through the ages. The genesis of it remains undocumented.

The first recorded words of the last troglodyte were, “Get out, you dirt bag, take your left-over bones with you.” Perhaps this forms the basis for the standoff. This utterance still reverberates through the heavens. Aliens avoid colonizing the earth for this reason. Cleanliness rules with an iron fist. Who can exist under its domination?

The concept of cleanliness has gone global. Germs lurk everywhere. Bottles of hand sanitizers are ubiquitous: elevators, gyms, grocery stores, offices, automobiles, even in holy places, like Methodist churches. (Yes, despite denominational differences, cleanliness is still akin to Godliness.) Before offering the sacraments of bread and wine, ushers first sanitize their hands. The story of the Last Supper does not reflect this nuance.

Barbeque is a national tradition. It’s a man’s opportunity to show his skill in something other than washing a pickup truck. Grills are as sacrosanct as a woman’s lingerie hanging on a clothesline in the sun. These middle grounds are hands-off for everyone.

A man’s grill is a nasty appliance. If inspected by the Health Department, the entire household would be quarantined. They should be avoided by anyone with a squeamish stomach. Even a casual glance has been known to cause PTSD, traumatize viewers and cause severe mental impairment in tiny children. It’s the principal cause of insanity among women.

Discussions about the cleanliness of a man’s grill are irrelevant, if not downright irreverent. Discerning chefs know the necessity of layered grease buildup. It deserves the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

A backsplash oozing with recycled oil drippings from last week’s rib roast does wonders for taste. A clean grill would destroy the balance of nature in most backyard cookouts.

My wife asked me to cook some BBQ chicken for July 4th, said friends were coming. A man appreciates respect and being useful to his wife, seeing he has little utility otherwise. I fired up the cooker.

Men are enamored with fire. It’s a man’s idea of cleanliness. Even God uses fire to refine men, one way or another. Flaming grates soon produce white ash, clearly a symbol of the charred carcasses of all germs past. Cremation destroys all evidence.

Soon smoke billowed from the cooker. Tensions loosened, a cease fire was called. Doors opened, windows, too. Fresh air came in, a table with blooming flowers was set in the midst of the DMZ, enemies became friends, enmity ceased, wine made merry. John Philip Sousa played, a party ensued.

Firecracker explosions lit up the night. They reminded us that reunion is possible even in the midst of war. Even the most ardent adherents of any respective orthodoxy can achieve peace, even if only for a moment.

Everyone soon drifted off and we cleaned up the mess. The encyclopedia of good cleanliness was retrieved. I followed the directions with minute detail. Spotless. I received praise, which gave promise that perhaps more fireworks might explode later. Delusions die a hard death.


Then she asked, “Did you clean your grill?” Instantly the middle ground reverted to a scorched and barren strip of earth. Windows closed, doors slammed shut, shades were drawn. The primal conflict continued unabated.

Oh, the reconciling power of BBQ chicken….

Bud Hearn
July 11, 2014

Illustration courtesy of Leslie Hearn

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Spirit of Rebellion

The War of Independence was an unfair matchup. England, population 6.4 million, versus The Colonies, about 2.5 million farmers and colonists. No Las Vegas bookie would have taken that bet. But God did.

There’s a rebellious streak in youth. It’s a natural tendency. They’re born to despise authority, to abhor rules, to kick back at every provocation that seeks to restrict their sense of freedom. If you don’t believe this, adopt a teenager.

The young are revolutionists, seditionists. Innovation is their magic carpet. They detest normalcy. Their minds have not yet crossed the threshold of Concession or Impossibility. Things are black or white, no gray. It’s blood and guts, not cookies and tea.

Youth has something to prove, and they’re restless until they do. They’re impervious to danger, eat it like nail soup. They spit in the face of death and dare it to complain. Change is a quick snack they have for breakfast.

Old men don’t dig trenches. They don’t wage wars in the dust, the heat, the cold, the mud and the blood. It’s viewed at safe distances with smarmy handlers, catered meals and corporate sponsors. Their empty platitudes are masks of insincerity at the gravesites of patriotism.

Strategy and political maneuvering are their amusements. Their spirit of conflict is overcome by their pacifistic urge to compromise with status quo. They conduct closed-door conferences and schemes of international intrigue. The globe is their chess board. Youth are their pawns. Don’t rock their boats.

Is America becoming soft by compromise, anesthetized by wealth, obese by inaction? Is it content with the noose of unearned entitlements? Or acquiesce of personal independence squeezed out by a greedy central government? Is it happy with the constraints imposed by a bloated bureaucracy? Where’s the spirit of rebellion today? Where are the protesters?

America was conceived as a nation of rebels. Like youth itself, it was a wild, unexplored country, full of promise, privation and possibility. Its future was unknown, untapped and untried.

The bones of its skeleton are nationalistic, its flesh the principal of charity, its breath the soul of freedom. God spoke the words once again unto its chaos, “Son of man, can these bones live?” They did, and in 1776 America was born. It has remained a mighty nation for 238 years.

America thrives on a cult of perpetual youth. The quest for the Fountain of Youth ended in 1513 in what’s now St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in America. Ponce de Leon had a vision, but it was 263 years early. Today the spirit of that vision is alive and well.

America’s is not planted in concrete. It’s sleepless, ever inventive, always transformative. It runs, not walks. Enough is never enough. Perfection is just another milestone to something better. The culture of constant rebirth boils in the national spirit. Caste finds no home here.

How is this possible? America’s freedom was not born of a religious fanaticism. Nor by slick, sugar-coated words of doctrine that rolled off the tongues of politicians. Freedom comes at the expense of blood, not vowels. The blood of Colonial Patriots still cries from the earth, “Remember, remember, remember!” This is what we celebrate on Independence Day.

America was a dream. Dreams are ephemeral. They vanish easily at daylight. Dreams need nurture. The visions are gifts that need to be stirred up regularly. Like the grit of discontent, it impels us to action.

Tomorrow we will again celebrate Independence Day with parades and egalitarian events nationwide. We will for a day reignite the Spirit of Freedom that thrives in our nation. We will eat 150 million hot dogs and the words ‘lily-livered’ and ‘yellow belly’ will not be uttered.

Overhead fireworks will burst everywhere. Like the bursts of muskets and cannons, may each one remind us of the sacrifices that were made by the Patriots.

America’s future of freedom will continue to be earned by the sacrifice of patriots who possess faith in the heart, freedom in the soul and fire in the belly. May our Spirit of Rebellion always remain alive, ready, willing and able.

Bud Hearn
July 3, 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

Chasing the High

Gettin’ high…nothing like it. Soaring in the ethereal, goodbye gravity. We all do it. Thin air or thin ice, both are rarified. Does a tick on the back of an elephant think it’s an Emperor?


Face it; we’re but creatures of the earth. Dust born, dust bound. Born with feet of clay. Restless feet, running to and fro, stirring up the common dust of the ground. Feet chase things. They flee things. Gravity magnetizes them. Permanent escape is impossible.

A Delta flight to China from Atlanta is about eighteen hours. Mostly daylight. At 35,000 feet, it’s easy to feel ‘above it all.’ An illusion, of course. Below, an interminable horizon vanishes in a mirage of distant blue haze. Life creeps by on a silent stage.

Miniature specks are buildings that dot the landscape. Vehicles are snails, crawling in slow motion. Humans are not visible. The planet appears peaceful and uninhabited, delusionary, deceptive.

Roads appear as tiny lines scrawled on the landscape by a maniacal artist. They wander aimlessly across an expansive vista. Their purpose at this height is irrelevant. They meander, crisscross haphazardly. Like many of life’s dreams, they often bleed off into dead ends. Philosophy comes easy at high altitudes.

Green circles, the size of quarters, appear as pop art. They affirm the fact that man’s assignment is earthly toil. Life in the sky is a temporary stay of execution. Wisdom from the Farmer’s Almanac is that a man should never stand taller than a corn stalk. Ambition will not take this advice. Farm populations continue to diminish. Humility is not in the nature of humans.

Long hours pass. The ‘high’ becomes mellow. The silver bird casts a slow shadow as it crosses a placid sea. Eight miles per minute confers no sense of speed. Martinis and inflight movies make up the sensation. It’s easy to ponder great thoughts while paying lip service to the world’s unsolved problems.

But beneath lays a vast wet world of chaos. Only the giant jet engines spare the horror of being plunged into the darkness below. In the sea, humans are not at the top of the food chain.

We seek thrills. The chemically-infused frenzy accompanying World Cup 2014 has elevated nationalism to astronomical highs. Even my hometown newspaper joined in, galvanizing the locals. It reported that Colquitt, Georgia was recognized on TV for having the tallest corn silo mural in the world. Lofty intoxications come in many ways.

Business careers sometimes begin small. Mine began in an office the size of a closet. One desk, one phone, two chairs and three partners. In this chummy atmosphere, we learned compromise by the things we suffered. But we moved on...bigger things, higher palaces, wider nets. O, the dreams of youth. Self-induced prestige is a slippery siren.

One of my dreams spent three years occupying a suite near the pinnacle of a high rise office building. It was a short stint. Life’s different at that height. Elevators sped me higher. I shook the dust off my feet.

Visions of grandeur were my companions. But when the giant engines failed, the closet office returned. Easy money is not good fuel. It’s a short walk from the penthouse to the outhouse. Such are the fantasies of youth! Humility is a hard pill to swallow, and morning-after hangovers are brutal.

Ways and means for getting high are many. What are our chemicals of choice? Power, Politics, Cash? Maybe Mansions, Education, Career? How about Sports, Alcohol, Opiates? Red Bull, Golf, Travel? It’s all there, even the ‘reflected glory’ produced by mirrors and rubbing elbows with politicians. A veritable buffet of choices, ripe for picking.

My high of choice was running. One mile wasn’t enough, so two, then four, then eight. It kept doubling until it reached fifty. The two titanium hip replacements ended that madness.

My son is a rock climber. I tried it once. Once. Without a rope I climbed a forty-foot boulder in North Georgia. Easy ascent, defying death or maiming. The summit was exhilarating, for about one minute. Getting down, well, good thing a pine tree was within reach…ever tried sliding down a skinny pine?


History will write our life story. Perhaps it’ll include a footnote describing our summits or the means of reaching them. But it’s certain to record the footsteps we’re leaving on the ground.

Emerson once wrote, “On thin ice, speed is our best friend.” I hope our jet engines don’t fail…. Hypoxia is no respecter of persons.

Bud Hearn
June 30, 2014