Digressions of a Dilettante

Digressions of a Dilettante
Vignettes of Inanity by Bud Hearn

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Last-Minute Shopper

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

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

Nothing moves. He curses, blows his horn. The clock ticks: 3:18.
He fidgets, pounds the steering wheel, sweat wets his collar.
One lane moves, not his. Cars cruise by, drivers yack on cells, celebrating.
He elbows a grandmother out of the way. She wrecks. He shrugs.
He arrives to an empty mall parking lot. He’s confused. Only 3:27.

He jogs in, time is crucial. Clueless men roam the cavernous mall.
He checks his list, plans his route. Bare shelves greet him in Brookstone.
He searches Macy’s. Not much. Moves to Brooks Bros. Nothing.
Neiman’s…over-priced, 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, shun him. He despises them.
He inspects the shoes. Jimmy Choo, Monolo. He’s shocked.
The prices stab him, surpass his comprehension. He tries cosmetics.
He dawdles with perfume testers. The air smells sweet. He can’t choose.

He moves to the handbags. Three men linger there.
Choices are few. One crocodile 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 finds his face. The bag vanishes.
He shakes it off, reviews his list. Half complete.

Time’s tick taunts him. He rushes into the corridor. Shops closing early.
He checks DeBeers. Their door slams shut. He gets lucky at J. Crew.
He leaves, passes Victoria Secret. A cluster of old men gather there, gawking.
The staff changes the mannequins. The men point, discuss, drool, dream.
He knows their secret Santa wish list. Disappointment will fill their stockings.

His watch frightens him: 4:58. Time stalks him. He becomes manic.
He shops tawdry kiosks, he grabs the garish junk. Satisfied with scraps.
He’s a pinball, bouncing shop to shop, running wildly through the hallways.
His cell rings. Wife calls. A party? Our home, 6:30? An expletive escapes.
It’s 5:24. Doors are closing fast. Still no gift for his wife.

He’s a feral savage, delirious. His bags bulge, his wallet wilts.
Time punishes him, assaulted by the incessant tick, tick, tick.
Shops are closed. In the distance a dim light shines. Maybe, he hopes.
He remembers the toaster, the tumblers, the tenderloin he’s given her.
She cried. His children ridiculed him. She abandoned the kitchen forever.

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

Yes, he shouts, at last, at last. He’s ecstatic. It’s 6:05. He’s done.
He sprints to the exit. Doors are bolted shut. He’s trapped.
He rages, shakes them uncontrollably. Alarms sound. Security subdues him.
He pleads his dilemma. They remove the cuffs, kick him out. Tick, tick. 6:15
He finds his car, drives madly, weaves 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 some eggnog. Says to calm down, relax.
Honey, don’t buy me a present this year,” she says. “OK?”

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 new black Mercedes Benz convertible smiles at him.
He stares in stark horror. His knees buckle as he estimates the cost.
The doorbell rings. Guests arrive. The clock chimes: 6:30. He faints.

Here’s hoping your shopping was a pleasure. Merry Christmas.

Bud Hearn
December 22, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Fired Up

There’s a story in every conversation in the South. We soak in these embellished recollections. They form the fabric of our culture. Subject matter is as ubiquitous as weeds, from discussions about nicknames to ne’er-do-wells. The story that follows occurred on a sweltering Saturday night in August several years ago.


Frankie drives a race car. He has one good eye. The other one is a marble. He sometimes removes it for shock value. Some say he’s hell on wheels, and on this particular Saturday night he passes through the prophetic fiery furnace and lives to tell about it. Here are the details.

Four of us pile into my car and head for a night at the Golden Isles Speedway, a respite from the boredom of dog days that descends on the island in August.

The parking lot is a dusty pasture. It’s jammed with pickups and motor homes, Harleys and race cars. Not sleek Indy cars, but backyard, home-built stock cars, sheet-metal alter-egos expressive of the drivers. Rear bumpers are emblazoned with the drivers’ messages: Eat My Dust, Never Satisfied, Kiss This and Back Off Dude.

We’re guests of Frankie’s father, the track owner. We get to view the racing spectacle from the enclosed VIP overlook suite. It preserves us from the red-clay dust that soon covers the general admission bleachers. It’s catered with Saturday night country cuisine: burgers, barbeque and beer.

Maybe you’ve never been to a half-mile oval, red-clay dirt track. It’s a counter-culture, parallel universe in many ways: the spectators, the drivers, the mechanics and the groupies who follow the circuit. We might refer to them today as the ‘alt-right’ crowd. Their life perspective bears about as much resemblance to an urban dweller’s perspective as kissing a woman bears to marrying her.

The 500 horsepower, souped-up rebuilt racing machines burn 112 Octane fuels. They stage up on the track, bumper to bumper, their raw engine power fills the sultry air with supercharged, unfiltered noise. The flag drops and it’s every man for himself. Around the clay-packed oval they run in a pack akin to a herd of demon-possessed swine, never far from the ultimate abyss.

Each race is called a ‘heat.’ Cars compete in their particular class. Somewhere around the fifth heat the crowd settles down and begins to fall into a trance of too much of the same-old-same-old. But then it happens.

On the second turn a car explodes into a fireball just as the herd reaches its top speeds of 125 mph. Car number 14, owned by The Swampers, erupts in flames. Frankie is ‘kissing his bumper,’ and his car is engulfed in flames as well.

The air becomes electric; the crowd leaps up in frenzied ecstasy, shouting wildly. The drivers are pulled out of the windows, their fire-retardant suits flaming but preserving them from certain death. The fire lights up passions and breaks up monotony.

We slip out of the suite down to the pit area to survey the damage to cars and drivers. Already the racing teams are recanting the near-death experience to an awed crowd of gawkers, clearly cooking up the ‘I-was-there’ near-death story for everyone to take home.

I find Frankie to get his take on the event. He seems undisturbed by it all. I ask him about his perspective of life where death is present at every turn. He shrugs and says that ‘here and now’ is all that matters to race drivers. There’s no past, no future, just the present moment.

He takes me over to his charred racing hulk and emphasizes his point of view.

Look, do you see a rear-view mirror in my car?” He asks.

I look. There’s not one. I ask why.

He laughs and says, “We’re race car drivers, we come to win. Out there, on the track, there’s no looking back. Victory is ahead, not behind.”

I consider there might be an advantage after all for a fellow with only one eye and no rear-view mirror. Such a philosophy might have application for a variety of life issues.

The spectacle drones on. About midnight we have our fill and call it quits. We drive back to quiet lives on the coast, each bringing a remembrance of the night’s events for the framework of our own story.

As for mine, it’s all about one eye and no rear-view mirror. I’ll supply my own fiery details.

Bud Hearn
December 5, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Recollections of Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Bud Hearn
November 23, 2016

Friday, November 11, 2016

Cleaning House

There comes a time in a man’s life when he must take the bull by the tail and face the consequences.” W. C. Fields


Seems like this is what Tuesday’s election results accomplished. So I decided to do likewise…clean out my office. I call the shredder.

My office has been a repository for paper for years. I’m a hoarder, can’t bear to pitch things. Might need it later. You know the disease.

Boxes of antique paper, yellowed with age and layered with dust, line the walls of the conference room. The history of my business life lies buried in those boxes. It’s hard for hoarders to cast themselves into a shredder.

True, the boxes may hold dark secrets, incriminating photographs or, as my attorney says, ‘evidence.’ Fortunately, whatever lies hidden in the boxes has either perished outright or succumbed to the statute of limitations.

Craig operates the shredder truck, a hulking, mobile metal contraption housing giant mechanical teeth that rip and tear paper to shreds. He finds me inside, sobbing, inconsolable at the thought of saying goodbye to my history.

Hey, man, what’s with the tears, the pitiful laments?” He’s a practical sort of fellow, clearly insensitive to my condition.

My life’s history is in these boxes, Craig. I’m having a wake in preparation for a funeral for myself.”

Man up, you’re not alone. I see it often. What’s bothering you?”

I point to some boxes in the corner. “See those boxes? My mama and daddy are inside. All that’s left of them, some papers. How can I recycle them?”

He laughs. “Look at the big picture. They’ll be resurrected into some more paper in a few months, maybe a book, or magazine, perhaps a box. They’ll join a host of other people you’re shredding in these boxes. Be of good cheer.”

The thought is a cheerless one, but I see his point.

He continues philosophizing. “You know why it troubles folks to clean house?”

Enlighten me, O sage,” I reply.

Because all their useless fodder is the dead past, but yet it still lives on inside of them. It defines them. They drag it around like a bag of garbage, or they store it in boxes like you have. They just can’t shed the past.”

That’s a strange way of looking at it, Craig. Were you once a hangman?”

He laughs. “Nah, but I think I know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.”

How about John Galt?” I ask.

Maybe him, too. Billboards ask who he is. Makes me wonder who I am. I figure my job in heaven might be that of ridding people of the past. I feel good grinding their useless history into powder. Reminds me of what ‘forgiveness’ is all about.”

’Heavenly shredders?’ Brother, that’s a real stretch.”

Absolutely,” he says. “Listen, we go through life toting all this excess baggage of the past. No wonder so many people are beat down and depressed. All they need to do is call the ‘shredder angel,’ he’ll lighten the load. That’s how I see my job, helping people unload. And now I’m gonna help you, my friend.”

He empties the boxes, one at a time into a trash bin and weighs it. Then he connects it to a vertical conveyor belt which lifts it to an opening on top of the truck and dumps the contents. A loud crunching noise erupts from the shredder. He repeats the process.

With each box dumped I feel an exhilarating sense of freedom. The past is disappearing, right into the bowels of the truck, soon to be recycled into something else more useful. So simple, so easy, I wonder why I waited so long.

Soon all 457 pounds of irrelevance has disappeared, like it never was. The office is empty again. Space for more boxes. The empty ones litter the floor, ready for the dumpster.

I pay him. He hands me a Certificate of Destruction and Recycling, evidence of my redemption. As he drives away he shouts, “Don’t forget, you can call the shredder angel anytime. See you around.”

Imagine. Cleaning house is just a call away. If only we could believe it.

Bud Hearn
November 11, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

too much talking

maybe it’s the age
or the stage
i’m in
but it seems strange
with so many words
our messages remain muddled.

much said,
volumes read,
little solved.
consensus cowers,
dangles like limp laundry
suspended on a back-yard clothesline.

constant chatter
signifying nothing.
talked to death.

even Lazarus opts out,
been here,
heard enough
prefers the silence
of a quiet space.

today I had a thought,
a fresh inspiration,
a flash of pure insight.
it needed a body.

words show up for the job,
laboring to define
the Nova,
my twinkling
streak of revelation.

sadly, the vision becomes indentured,
a slave to words
necessary for clarity.

soon, having been seduced
by too much talking,
the inspiration is shorn
of its power and
sliced into shreds
by the scissors of words.

one night last week
a mute lightening show
lit up the universe
over the Atlantic.

nature’s pure light
without sound.

can we tame our tongues,
rest our thumbs,
suppress the superfluous?

after all, how many words
are needed
for the Spirit to say,
“I love you anyway?”

Satis verborum—enough said.

Bud Hearn
October 28, 2016

Friday, September 30, 2016

On a Bench at Epworth

Today I’m sitting on a bench at Epworth. What am I doing? Nothing.


It’s not easy doing nothing. It doesn’t come natural. You have to work at it. First of all, you have to decide to do nothing. Try it, and you’ll find a civil war raging in your mind between ‘doing’ and ‘being.’

The brain must make a choice. It’s a hard threshold to cross. It’s easier for the body to say, “Let’s eat,” than the brain to say, “Do nothing.” Flesh often trumps (oops) cognitive thought, if you know what I mean.

The rub comes when you decide to ‘be’ while details of life scream ‘do.’ It’s the eternal conundrum, “…to be or not to be, that is the question.” Doing something subjects you to making the wrong decision. Consequences ensue.

Remember first grade? It’s when you learned to keep your head down, your mouth shut and to sit on your hands in the back row. Invisibility is your friend. So today I ‘be’ doing nothing on this bench at Epworth.

I do admit it took some doing to overcome the guilt of being non-productive. Benches are good for this purpose. Nobody expects you to be doing much as you sit there looking confused and lost in the haze of nothingness. Especially if you have white hair and a host of wrinkles.

Being a do-nothing slacker used to go against our grain. The old Puritan work ethic, you know. No more, gone with the wind. It reminds me of the ham sandwich I ordered at Hot Dawg Emporium the other day…a lot of filler and essence of ham. Culture is changing.

Have you encountered any Puritans lately? They faded out in Salem, Massachusetts after the spate of hangings which followed the witch sightings. This state has since become the Mecca for the do-nothing progressive minions. Clown sightings are the next new thing there.

For slackers, doing nothing is an art form. It finds its apotheosis in many places, not the least of which is in decisions made in the secret of voting booths. It’s disguised as amusement, or entertainment, a sub-category of entitlement.

Even if you’re successful in sitting on a bench doing nothing, your brain is doing something. It thinks, which is a rarity in modern culture. Today I observe the volume of traffic crossing yonder bridge. You can see it, but not hear it. I conclude that traffic is not necessarily a bad thing. It distracts people from thinking. Thinking by the masses is far more dangerous.

Being bored with traffic, I sit motionless and think about Epworth. It’s a Methodist Church retreat, a religious version of ‘penal reform’ school for children. Its purpose is to indoctrinate them to the ravages of sin while they co-exist among roaches that ransack their backpacks by night.

Epworth was named for the boyhood home of the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. A couple hundred years ago Gen. Jimmy Oglethorpe, aka Big Jim, set up the fledging Georgia Colony at Savannah. The Wesley boys followed him to proselytize and convert the Indians to Christianity. A worthy calling, but doomed to failure.

They succeeded in casting out a few evil spirits from the Indians, notably the Revenge Demon. It had enslaved the tribes with inordinate passions, like Drunkenness. Not having a herd of pigs, this demon was exorcized and cast into the next best thing—sand gnats, aka no-see-ums, which have since propagated exponentially along the coast and constantly remind inhabitants of the wages of this sin.

After an hour here I’m near to achieving Nirvana, known as a ‘bench high.’ It’s akin to the ecstasy experienced by runners after they have passed ‘the wall.’ Then a fellow in a green suit walks by.

How ya doing?” he asks.

I’m not, I’m being. What’s with you and the green suit?” I reply.

I’m being invisible, blending in with the hibiscus. It’s a lesson I learned in first grade,” he says as he slowly vanishes into the shrubs.


So much for benches and doing nothing. I’m exhausted. Like I said, it’s hard work.

I pack up and head to the beach for a nap. Judging by the scenery, it proves to be the best decision of the day.

Bud Hearn
September 30, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Two Over Medium

The other day I woke up hungry. Here’s the short version of what happened.


early mornings occur everywhere.
people do a lot of the same things.
like cook eggs.
the world’s frying pans
bubble with hot butter.

two eggs on standby,
today’s sacrifices,
to be offered
in the fires of affliction,
to the gods of hunger.

the cook chooses two, cracks the shells.
their protection fractures.
they tumble
their essence spreads.

they have no choice.
they hit the heat,
first one, then the other,
a strange thing happens.

they hook-up at the edges,
cling together,
like married couples,
companions in the fire,
infused in the sizzling skillet.

for a while they simmer together.
the chef cuts the heat,
studies the slight dilemma
of flipping them,
one at a time.

they must part paths,
go it on their own.
the cook’s spatula
performs the simple surgery.
once together, now their own egg,
for better or worse.
they took no vows.
they had no say.

time is short
for the life of eggs.
little time to waste
for creating memories.

like life itself.
ever joining,
ever separating.

in the
like it or not,
we all

Bud Hearn
September 23, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

dead wood

the hurricane blew through last Friday,
shook things up.
more hype than harm
it was your house
the oak tree chose.

Hermine, male or female?
its identity
with vain egalitarian edicts.

yesterday’s debris, once projectiles,
now harmless
fodder for compost,
saturday’s chore:
rake it

stems, sticks, straw, once significant,
lie lifeless in irrelevance,
litter the lawn, layer the Zoysia.
dead wood,
life’s last statement.

the Rake,
methodical and impersonal
like time,
slowly sweeps clean,
performs last rites,
no tears.

the Past, Yesterday’s life,
lies strewn about in random stacks,
still and silent.
i lean on the rake, wipe off the sweat,
and look up.

from lofty heights above,
the oaks and pines
observe with indifference
the wake below,
being burdened less
by extra weight.

the wind, wild and wanton,
blew through, will blow again,
not if, but when.
something will be lost
something will remain.


Bud Hearn
September 9, 2016

Friday, September 2, 2016

Too Many Lovers

Daddy warned me about love: “Son, don’t let your eyes take you on a trip your body can’t handle.” I should have listened. Instead, I fell in love with all five of them, even took ‘em home with me. Life has not been the same since.


Ah, love, yes. But too many lovers? Short-term euphoria, long-term endurance. No liberal, understanding spouse would approve of such folly. Besides, my five companions are wound tight, high strung clingers. Music is addictive.

My first fling with music was in 1954. With a piano. I was 12. It was sort of an ‘arranged marriage’ you might say. My mother and devious great aunt Kate hooked me up with the Chickering kid, a tall, upright beauty with a mahogany tan. Not a top-of-the line pedigree, but hey, all lovers start somewhere. Beginners can’t be picky.

It was not love at first sight. We eyed each other suspiciously. But electricity flowed through my body when my fingers tickled her ivories. Imagining the possibilities sent hot blood through my veins. Plus, Lady Chickering had class. She chilled all affection I had with my cute cousin, which made the family breathe a sigh of relief.

I always thought of myself as a lover, though I at the time had little experience in the intimacy of relationships. I had gleaned some pointers on love by occasionally sleeping with my dog. I was certain that being a lover often meant getting fleas. I hoped the piano affair would change this perception.

Our affair began slowly. Only fools test the waters with both feet, so I moved in cautiously. But a serious affair began, and we became passionate lovers.

Over the years recitals were made to multitudes of cheering fans, mostly stressed-out, sleep-deprived parents of other piano students. They were forced to endure the butchery of Rachmaninov’s Concerto in C# Minor and a fugue or two from Bach.

But we moved on from those small beginnings to the big leagues…the college band, The Shades. We rocked out in dark dens reeking of stale beer and cigarette carcinogens. Our one TV stint, Stars of Tomorrow, was brief, but we twinkled out.

Discipline comes in spurts, vices are habitual. I searched for more lovers. I had a brief romance with a trumpet when in ROTC. It was not a serious affair. I used the poor lover simply to get out of having to stand at parade rest for hours with a rifle. I didn’t even kiss it goodbye.

Lust gravitates to money. A guitar, the gold-brick road to fame and riches. The ultimate in self-expression, the scapegoat for lurid tattoos, long hair and all-night debauchery. What’s not to love? The Gibson and I joined Lady Chickering and the stringed harem began to grow.

Alas, eyes wander with age. The violin captured my heart. Illusions of importance pictured me in the first chair, strings of my violin melting the hearts of audiences to rapturous applause and encores. We fell in love immediately.

But heaven frowns on quickie, one-night delusions. The violin is a jealous and unforgiving lover, demanding perfection. Miss a note and reap the maestro’s whirlwind. A violin is like a beautiful woman: fun to play, impossible to master. Mine morphed into a fiddle. Bluegrass is not pretentious.

One day in the music store a banjo winked at me. I asked it, “Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?” We hit it off immediately and so began a tortuous but torrid affair. Five strings can entice a man down dark back alleys and destroy all inhibitions. I followed it everywhere, until I met the dobro.

How many times can a man fall in love? Head over heels this time, surely the be all, end all of affairs. The steel slide in my hand makes mournful, erogenous sounds in the darkness of my bedroom-converted conservatory. Heaven is close by.

Lovers are insanely jealous. Each craves my attention, all the time. Me, me, me I hear, day and night. It’s a hellish torture. Who tonight? I can’t decide. A curse. Lovers are easy to marry, difficult to divorce. Too late I learn this.


Today I’m praying for deliverance even while contemplating amour with a trombone. Music lovers are incorrigible.

Plato stressed: “Moderatio in omnibres,” Dad, please repeat your advice!

Bud Hearn
September 2, 2016

Friday, August 12, 2016

Fed Up

My mother was short on words and stature. But around our house, these two words meant, I’ve had enough! Further emphasis was unnecessary, rebuttal futile. I wonder if she gets away with that expression in heaven?


It’s Sunday. Lunch is a tomato sandwich, a juicy red, acid-rich Tennessee beauty, gobs of mayonnaise slathered on ‘light’ bread. It reminds me of my mother. She’d swear it was nature’s perfect food.

Tomato sandwiches take the sting out of life. Running close seconds are pineapple and pimento cheese sandwiches on white bread, the edges removed, of course. Eat these and you’ll be more than a conqueror with a belly full of this heavenly fare.

Sunday fried chicken is a hard act to follow, and tends to trump (oops) pork rinds as cultured cooking. Neither is kosher, of course, but Southern Methodists have no aversion to things fried or cloven-hoof smokehouse cuisine.

Lately an anonymous voice is leaving cell phone messages: “Hey, you’re a hack, write something about politics.” I want to say, “Man, who made me a judge over things?” But the thought eats on me. What do I think?

From somewhere in the past I exhume a sweaty preacher’s sermon. Poor fellow, he’s struggling for seminary words to flesh out the bones of sin. Not unlike politics, who can synthesize the situation we’re in with such poor choices? My mother’s words also surface.

Fed up!’ she’d say. Listen, these two words have nothing to do with hunger or being fed. The punctuation marks are the clue. They end, not with a question mark, but an exclamation point. Only idiots miss the point.

Etched in my memory is a picture of her in the kitchen, hands on her hips. Standing there are my brother and me, covered in dirt, probably fleas, too. Surely in that moment she cursed her decision for having offspring.

Her words were amplified, “You’re disgusting.” Big words are lost on small boys. I remember wondering if ‘disgusting’ had anything to do with her not making some more chocolate pudding. Isn’t that what mothers are for at that age?

Once I remember hearing her use those words on my father while he cleaned fish in the sink. He shriveled visibly and hauled the stinking fish heads outside. In retrospect, forgiveness came at the cost of a new car. Consequences follow these words closely.

It’s not hard to get fed up with life when it goes sideways. We feel like defendants in Judge Judy’s courtroom, stuttering a pitiful defense, caught in the horror of the justice system. Disgust is not descriptive enough.

Are we fed up with the never-ending political circus yet? It reminds me Archie MacLeish’s poem, ‘The End of the World.’ Vasserot, the armless ambidextrian attempts to light a match between his toes when the top of the circus tent blows off. Stunned spectators sit there, staring in the vacuous silence of a vast black void, seeing nothing and feeling nothing but emptiness.

The political sideshows passing for ‘news’ gags us with disgust at the spectacle. My mother avoided big newspapers like the plague, fearing contamination. She stuck with the local fish-wrapper, The Miller County Liberal. Listen, you have to stand and salute a newspaper with guts to call it like it is: “Pull for Colquitt or Pull Out.”

Politics in small towns tend to feuds. Winks and nods work just fine. Politics were never a hot topic in our home, not like food and fishing. Democrats ruled the south then. Churches and local charities delivered the dole, not the Beltway Bandits. My daddy questioned the sanity of anyone running for elective office, citing his experience on the church finance committee where budgets trumped baptisms.

Who can deny it, politics is a nasty trade. Fear and confusion are everywhere. It’s a seedy world of misfits, crazed with hubris; brainless nut cases running wild in the streets, the pestilence of despotism on all sides, walls everywhere, power-crazed cannibals feeding on themselves and the acrid air of anarchy filling the void. What a mess we’re in!


Our enormous childhood seems to be slipping away. Are we ‘Fed Up’ enough yet to pull out the stops and proclaim, “Pull for America, or Pull Out?”

Now trump that!

Bud Hearn
August 12, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

Talking to Strangers...a Brief Encounter

As a child my mother warned, “Son, avoid talking to strangers.” Today, her advice is a distant whisper in my ears.

It’s a typical September day. The sweltering summer lingers, and so does the island’s tourist hangover. Heat monkeys dance on the blistering asphalt streets. Nothing moves fast.

Me? I sit next to the AC in a village diner, staring at the insipid lunch of chicken salad. It’s just another ‘average’ day, like summer anywhere in the South. Average, that is, until they walk in.

The couple saunters in: elegant, confident, intriguing. Heads turn, conversation ceases. Forks drop audibly onto plates. Strangers, possibly French. Bon jour is more refined than “Hiya doin.”

They sit next to me at a small table. My curiosity asks, “Who are they?” Actors? Artists? He’s a sharp dresser, expensive threads, a little over the top. The double-breasted blue blazer, yellow ascot and beret are not standard island issue.

But oh his companion. She commands all the attention. She’s tall, tan and tempting. The sheen on her shoulder-length blond hair is angelic. It sparkles like her enormous diamond bracelet. She wears white, pencil-thin Dior jeans, spiked Pradas and a blazing red Versace tee. Its gold letters shout:

Women Who Behave Rarely Make History

The message mutes my mother’s warning.

I forget the chicken salad and quickly slide my chair over. “Hello, may I join you?”

Before “No” can be uttered, I introduce myself, with a big grin. Smiles work wonders. Faint heart never won fair lady.

They’re fluent in English with an aristocratic, French flair. They’re deficit in southern idioms, so we dispense with the customary discussion about the weather and football.

Being pushy, I ask, “What brings you to the island?” They exchange a short dialogue between themselves, apparently concluding I’m harmless, but ignoring the question.

Conversation stays light, laughing through lunch and swapping travel stories. Curious diners come and go. Women bristle with envy. Men fixate on the tee’s message, their eyeballs taking them on a trip their bodies can’t handle. Clearly, this couple can destroy marriages.

Feeling empowered, my inquisitiveness becomes more direct. Their responses seem genuine, spoken with measured, but furtive glances between themselves. I ask the question again.

Secret mission,” he answers. I ask for clues. She answers summarily, “Let’s just say a yacht, a beach and a movie.”

I push my luck, “Where?” She answers, “Cumberland Island. Why do you ask so many questions?” I tell her I’m a curious Georgia boy. “Are all Georgia boys curious?” she asks. I tell her we’re a shy breed, an obvious lie.

The Georgia boy comment must have spooked them. Suddenly but the ambient air turns chilly. I ask, “What’s the movie’s theme?” She hesitates, “Frankly, it’s really none of your business. Americans are all alike, brash.” He adds with formality, “The French are more circumspect with strangers.”

I answer, “Look, you’re in the south. We’re friendly people.” She says, “I think too friendly.” I ask if her mother warned about talking to strangers. She ignores me.

The chicken salad loses its appeal. I volunteer to be their tour guide. “Why you?” she asks. I remind them that the movie, Deliverance, was filmed in Georgia. He says, “I saw that movie. Are there really people like that in Georgia?” I tell him yes, but my fingers are crossed.

Then I turn the tables. “Are there really people like Humbert Humbert in France?” She answers, “Yes, but they’re mostly of Italian descent.” I tell her ours are probably transplants from Arkansas. We laugh at the hyperbole.

The dialogue is running thin. I ask to join them for the day. She replies, “Not a chance.” I pick up the check.

We walk out together. The humid sunlight melts the chill between us. We exchange hugs and au revoir. The brief encounter ends. They stroll off. I stand there dejected.

Then, in a backward glance, she turns, smiles and winks, again showing the message on the tee. “Dinner tonight aboard the Christina?” she asks. “Then we’ll tell you the rest of the story. Until then?”

I smile, “Until then.”

I go home, dial up my mother in heaven, reminding her that women who behave rarely make history. Talking to strangers is where a serendipitous world of possibilities exists.

Bud Hearn
July 25, 2016
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Playing GAmes

Everyone plays games. Some contests are zero-sum games…winner take all. Today you find yourself an unwilling participant in that one.


A nice morning. Quiet. You’re sitting alone at the table having coffee. Birds sing, paper arrives on time, no emails and the dogs sleep. A peaceful day. So it begins. But nothing ever ends like it begins.

Deep down inside a nagging feeling troubles you. You know the kind, when something is just not right. It’s that low-grade foreboding, confirmation that your stars are not in sync today. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s there.

Maybe it’s your wife’s upcoming shopping spree. Or last night’s pizza. Strange. Could be the news. You glance at the headlines. Just more election crapola. Candidates snarling, clawing and gnashing each other’s character to shreds, playing games with concepts and hiding under falsehoods. Nothing new here.

The omen remains. You consult your horoscope. Total gibberish, one concocted by an unhinged gypsy strung out on speed: “Go hide in a closet, pray and avoid all human contact.”

You shudder, recalling advice found in a fortune cookie from at the Great Wall Chinese Buffet, the one you followed on a whim. The message read: “See Rock City.” That was it. You vividly recollect the events that occurred while driving up I-75 to Chattanooga.

It was the day your heart’s soft spot overruled sound judgment. So you picked up the hitchhiker hauling six cats in his backpack. You can’t remember if you were feeling humane toward cats or humans. You glance back at today’s horoscope about avoiding humans. You consider it, being reminded of the cat scat in your car.

Then suddenly she’s standing there. Your wife. Dressed up, looking sharp, fit to kill. Her smile says something’s up. And then it begins. Game on. You have no choice.

Honey, do you notice anything different about me?”

A loaded question. Panic grips you. The premonition comes to life. You answer softly, “Sweetie, you look great. New dress?” It was a good swing, but you never touched the ball.

Look again, honey.” She gives you a pass on the first miss. But guess work cuts both ways. You’ve been here before.

Of course,” you say confidently, “So obvious. I love the new hair style.” You play the odds, because men rarely notice the slight changes in hair styles.

“No!” she says. Now in the proper context, ‘No’ is a harmless word. But it’s the exaggerated emphasis she places on it that troubles you. Strike two.

The portent becomes acute. You set the paper aside, attempt to change the subject. “Did you see the news today?” The feint falls lifeless to the floor. Her smile evaporates.

Look again,” she says, calling you by your given name. Her hands go to her hips. Such stances eviscerate the enormity of male egos.

You fidget, look at her with a studious but stupid and forlorn expression, hoping she’ll simply tell you what’s different. But no, this is a game, and you’re behind two strikes already.

“Ah,” you say, laughing, trying to lighten the load with some levity. You want to convince her that you’re just pretending not to know, when all the time you really know. The ruse refuses to work.

Baby, I’m just kidding you. Of course, the shoes, they look terrific. I love them.” Your voice cracks, your phony fortitude falls flat. Another pitch is coming.

“Are you blind?” she asks sharply. Her utterance is less a voice than a shrill expression of contempt. She crosses her arms at the chest. You know this sign. The noose tightens on your neck.

You have that sinking feeling that comes with being emasculated. You remember your horoscope, “…avoid all human contact.” Suddenly a closet sounds like a sound idea.

You’re out of options now. Nowhere to hide. You’re shrinking, becoming small, trying to crawl inside yourself and disappear. You want to curl up with the dog on the floor. He ignores you. The ball’s been pitched. You take the swing.

Give me a hint,” you beg meekly. Your voice is a baby’s whine, your spine is Jello. The game’s about over. The end is near. The horror of defeat descends.

"It’s sooooo obvious,” she says with a contempt that blows your hair back. “It’s the eye liner, you idiot.” Strike three. Game over. You lose.


On the days when you can’t win for losing, trust the gypsy…hide in the closet, pray and avoid all human contact.

Bud Hearn
June 14, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dusting Erasers....Back to the Future

Walker Percy, once wrote, "(in) spite of the great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing." It doesn’t take much living to figure this out.

It’s that time of year ~ Graduation ~ when our educational systems turn out their inmates to the general public. Beware – everything is in danger!

It was the last day of school, May, 1955. I remember it well. It was the day I escaped the dreaded wooden paddle. You remember that ‘corrective’ device, right? The board, the one with three holes bored into it for effect. Apparently I had no idea of who I was, and a reminder of that fact was about to be administered to a tender part of my anatomy. For ‘good measure,’ you understand.

I remember this because my daddy told the teacher, “Honey, the boy just ain’t right. That’s all I can say.” He always called women ‘Honey.’ Either he couldn’t remember their names, or there was something more going on. We lived in the town that coined the concept of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ She apparently bought the compliment and didn’t beat me within an inch of my life. Threats were always measured in inches in those days. Such reasoning remains obscure.

Looking back, I don’t think I ever thanked my father for this act of kindness. It must have been hard for him to admit that the imbecile gene ran in our family. But, I digress.

It’s a sultry South Georgia morning, hot and humid. A group of us sit outside on the back steps of the library, beating off boredom. We dust the felt erasers on the brick walls and on each other's heads. Imbeciles do this. Rectangular white remnants on the red bricks are our rebellious graffiti. The chalk marks are what remains of black-board wisdom the teachers had tried to cram into our granite-crusted brains. All dust. Metaphors are alien creatures to youth.

Students today don’t have to endure the chore of dusting erasers. It’s all digital now. The click of a keystroke, instantly, another year deleted, sent hurtling into cyber space. We threw erasers at one another…laptops are more valuable than erasers.

So here we are, waiting for the final bell to ring, signaling that school is over for the year. Summertime. Sweet freedom. I’m 13, graduating from the 8th grade, soon to be in the bottom class of high school. I wonder what the future holds.

Time marches on. On another hot May-day, our high school graduation occurs. It’s tough to figure who’s the happiest, teachers or students. My best friend and I drive the open-air jeep with no seat belts down to the creek to swim. It’s a bitter-sweet day. One thing’s over, another begins. Now we’re about to become college freshmen. The bottom again, the future still a mystery.

College graduation ends in May, too. Somehow I pop out of the Higher Ed pipeline and emerge in the ‘real world.’ I toast with beer, not a swim. The bright lights of the big city beckon. The diploma is my meal ticket to a fabulous future. So I think. Only I’m in the bottom of the next class---the Job Market. I keep wondering why the future is so amorphous.

In time the crisp diploma yellows. It’s relegated to a scrapbook. Nobody cares about it anymore. I move on without it. The realities of life assault me: job, marriage, children and mortgages. Summer vacations become occasional weekend escapes. The barefoot summers of youth vanish. I keep wondering what happened to the future I envisioned.

Years come and go. Age slows some things down, but life gains clarity. The fond memories of the Mays past make me kick back, savor some sweet tea and blow the brown gnats away. Even now the future remains a diffused mirror, uncertain of what’s looking back at you.

It’s funny, now that I think about it, that this one particular day remains fresh in my memory. The dust of those erasers held the essence of a whole school-year. With a few slaps on the wall, it’s gone. Poof. Vanished. Over. The whole year, wiped clean.

A lot of things have changed since that May in 1955. The red-brick school of my 8th grade has disappeared. Only memories remain.

It was a long time ago when we dusted erasers there. We wondered about the future, only to now discover that it ends in dust, just like residue of those erasers, and too soon. Much too soon.

Bud Hearn
May 26, 2016

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Voice of an Island

“But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand, and the sound of a voice that is still.” Tennyson

Stop! Put the magazine down. Walk outside. Stand still. Listen. Hear the sounds? It’s the voice of this island speaking.

Good. Now you can go back in and resume reading.

It’s summer, and the Island Choir is tuning up. It sings. Voices of an island, or any place, are everywhere. Night or day, the voices have a tongue all their own. The island is alive. It sings through a cacophony of sounds.

Life is everywhere. From Epworth to East Beach; Village Pier to Cannon’s Point; Light House to Tree Spirits; and Front lawn to Farmer’s Market. It mixes with morning walkers, cell-phone talkers and sidewalk bikers. The message is the same: “Get out, get out.”

Island voices are diverse. Sounds emanate from the wind, the ocean, the sands, the stars and the oak trees. The Pavarotti of them all is the still, quiet voice of the marshes. Its constant chorus is, “Welcome home.” With such a synthesis of voices, it’s difficult to hear them individually. They simply form the collective unity of a single choir.

Small-town churches know something about choirs. Faces from the choir loft gaze down from their perch above the pulpit. New singers mix with older, more seasoned ones, including the octogenarians who often sing a half-note off key. Their individual voices coalesce, forming a collective chorus even John Wesley would appreciate.

Today’s voices begin early for me. Mr. Coffee is awake and working. Teresa blows the horn, the signal she’s pitched the papers on the lawn. I shamble outside, leaving inside the fog of last night’s sleep.

I pause on the door stoop, observing the bird feeders. They teem with chatter and movement. A couple of squirrels scrounge beneath for left-overs or acorns left buried. Even small creatures need daily bread.

Bird feeders speak in their own way. With the exception of the jay birds, the others, seemingly irrespective of size, seem to co-exist on the seed portals. Jays are the feeder bullies, squawking incessantly their displeasure with interlopers.

Shards of sunlight streak through the magnolias. A slight breeze tickles the tops of the palm fronds. Nature is speaking to nature, “Wake up, wake up.” We who observe are only witnesses to this spectacle of life.

Those with screened porches know there’s no better place to sit and contemplate absolutely nothing. A porch rocking chair does wonders in helping to empty yesterday’s mental thoughts and prepare it to deal with today’s details.

Alas, there are other voices, ones that shatter the tenor of the island. Lawn mowers and leaf blowers, curses to endure, but necessary nonetheless. Everything has a voice.

The local farmers’ markets hold a daily symphony. Rows of boxes are filled with fresh produce. Alive and colorful, the fruit and vegetables sing of family dinners past and more to come.

Pat, the owner of one, is a friend. I asked her where the produce comes from. She said mostly small farms in South Georgia. She said under her shed the hands of many people join in a common connection…growers, harvesters, deliverers and purchasers. She affirms we’re all part of a larger community.

It’s easy to hear the multiple voices of an island on the beach. The unforced rhythm of a slow beach walk speaks to all of our physical senses. We can experience it, but we cannot hurry it. Anxiety has no place in nature’s pace.

Yesterday I sat outside at the local bakery savoring a cinnamon donut. Across the street, Fourteenth Street snakes down to Neptune Park. It’s still a short dirt street, one of those that meanders around the oak trees. A couple strolls down it, holding hands and looking at each other. Clearly, love was the subject of their voices.

What exactly is the voice of an island anyway? Is it not each of us who join to sing a part? Perhaps it’s only a small part, and maybe we often sing a half-note off key. Yet in the larger sense we’re members of an enormous choir. Our individual voices echo the voice of an island every moment.

New faces and voices regularly join the Island Choir and mingle with the old, familiar ones. But collectively we all sing the familiar tune of Amazing Grace, which is perhaps the reason we’re all here.

Bud Hearn
May 13, 2016
Copyrights 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Out of the Blue

Things happen. Events occur without explanation, often right ‘out of the blue.’


Three of us are having lunch at Sandy Bottoms, the local bagel restaurant. Strange name for a place where cream cheese multiplies itself while sitting on a stool. The subject of life’s inconsistencies comes up. We all have stories to tell.

Scott, our insurance agent, slathers his garlic bagel with cream cheese, takes a bite and begins to talk. (Garlic bagels are nature’s cure for loosening the tongue.)

He reflects on our first introduction. “It was a dark day when you called.”

“How so?” we ask.

Well, I needed desperately to rent my vacant office. The bank was breathing down my neck and I was tight for cash. Foreclosure was on the horizon.”

Go on, brother, unload that burden,” I say.

OK,” he says. “See, I had a business partner for ten years. We were friends, even neighbors. We made a lot of money, borrowed even more. What’s worse, my ‘friend’ knifed me in the back, took our biggest account and started his own business. I was left with only the bills.”

A descriptive expletive forms on his lips, but disappears with a bite of his garlic bagel. Garlic replaces anger with smiles. Especially with wine.

I consider lecturing him on the evils of debt, but why load more baggage to the poor, suffering soul? I zip my lips and bite into the salt bagel.

He continues. “I put an ad in the paper and nobody called. I was about to tell the bank to foreclose. Then you call, right out of the blue, just in the nick of time. I was about to be hung out to dry. You saved me by renting the office.” His nervous breakdown is averted.

I fight back the tears. Well, not really. Men rarely cry, except when George Jones sings, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Besides, I can’t recall ever having ‘saved’ anybody. It’s hard enough to salvage myself from wreckage.

Some events have no plausible explanation. It’s difficult to accept the reality of what cannot be rationally explained. The phone rings. A voice speaks. Like a rock dropping in a pond, ripples radiate out. Suddenly, things have inalterably changed. Think about it.

But don’t be surprised. Random rules the universe. Accept it. No algorithm, no formula to figure out. Just buy into the simple notion that if we show up, something’s going to happen. It’s a weird blueprint.

We dismiss the haphazard happenings as fortuitous, like a master lottery system in the blue. We define them as ‘good,’ or ‘bad.’ They’re both, a continuum of the zero-sum game of give and take until the end. And who can say what happens in the end, except that there is an ending, for sure.

Our faith in serendipity is fractured by the scientific-based mindset. We default our intuitive instincts to computer wizardry. No room in the guts of Google for ‘luck,’ or ‘fortune.’

We’re all Joe Friday, the detective in the TV series “Dragnet,” whose mantra was, “Just the facts, ma’am.” So boring, so black and white. It reduces the romance of life into a robotic soap opera displayed in colored pixels.

Life weaves its own way through our years, even if we deny the idea there is some ‘order’ in the universe. ‘Random’ often appears as a clown, or a magician, maybe even The Joker. And the ecclesiastical euphemism of “time and chance happens to all” is a thin disguise…the brutal truth is that sometimes life sucks.

But not today. For our friend, bad things turned out for good. His phone rang again one day. He got a new client and is back in the chips. It’s an inexplicable epilogue to the age-old conundrum.


When the days are bleak, when we’re confused, and nothing seems clear, Longfellow’s words help: “Defeat may be victory in disguise; the lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.”

Outside the sky is blue. The sun shines. I smile and wonder what will happen today.

Bud Hearn
May 6, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bill's Rebuttal...The Root Cause

Last week’s post, “The Magic of Wisteria,” sought to infuse some romantic qualities into the pernicious vine. It did for some, failed for others. If you didn’t read it, today’s post might not make a lot of sense. And if you did, the same might be true.


My friend, Bill, responded to the amorous epistle with emotional fervor, voicing his contrary opinion and vilifying this nefarious predator. His stark detail offers a shocking view of the underbelly of wisteria. I feel obliged to air his ghastly experiences with you.

So here, verbatim, are Bill’s lamentations on wisteria:

Our experience with wisteria is diametrically opposed to yours.”

“Fear and revulsion? Yes, these are the emotions we experience when we hear the word ‘wisteria.’”

“You see, the wisteria we know is an invasion ‘kudzu’ type vine that noses its way into every nook and cranny on the NC mountain property, strangling the trees, mutilating the shrubs snarling the Mountain Laurel, strangling the Rhododendron, choking out the grass, pushing tendrils into the basement and walls, claiming all within its reach, and all without regret. While we were away, wisteria has decided it will be our manager, overseer, dominant caretaker and eventually take complete and undeniable control of all within reach which is everything.”

“When we arrived our mountain home in May, there is no sign of the ‘fragrant ‘dangling lavender’ vine of immense beauty and fragrance.’ What we see is the feared wisteria invader, the aggressive choking snarl that has taken over our place. All we can foresee is work, work, work to as we attempt to retake the territory claimed by wisteria while we were not looking.”

“We man the clippers and the ‘Crossbow,’ We must catch up, so we launch into a cut and poison frenzy, pulling the flood of new seed pods and burning them, poisoning as much as we can reach until exhaustion claims us. Even then, the enemy is still at large waiting to take over before we rest. We scrape aside a little dirt to plant a spring flower, and behold just below the surface we discover a woven mat network of wisteria vines reaching in every direction, standing by to take over as quickly as we turn our backs.”

“Oh, if we could just find a real eradicator of wisteria. I don’t think such a defense mechanism has yet been formulated or invented. However, this is what has occurred while we slept. Wisteria, the aggressive, despised enemy of our beautiful garden has again staked its claim on the grounds. The war begins again.”

Signed, Bill.

Here you have it, the naked and exposed hypocrisy of wisteria in Bill’s own words. It’s benign and beastly, beautiful and abominable. Love and hate wrapped in one package, both springing from the same genetic root. Fruit never falls far from its tree.

A proper perspective requires unbiased clarity and common sense. It’s the nature of vines to climb: higher, higher, higher. Entropy occurs at its zenith. Chaos ensues. The vine, being burdened by its own weight and lack of nutriment, finally runs its course. It reverts to the root and begins again its insidious cycle of ascent.

Looking closely, it might even be said that wisteria is greedy, a vine with avarice flowing through its veins. If so, it’s a helpless addict. Greed, like hubristic pride, is one of the seven deadly sins. It’s said to be the root cause of most misery.

With wisteria, there’s no ‘end-point’ to its quest. It’s addicted to ‘not enough.’ It seeks ever higher ‘highs,’ and attempts to consume everything in its path to achieve them. With any addiction, pursuit of the ‘means’ is in itself the ‘end.’

Bill seems bewildered as to how to eradicate the menace from his garden. Unfortunately, the vine’s gene was born in a garden and, as a consequence, is part and parcel of the primordial curse. Vines cannot be eradicated, just managed.

How? Deflection is a good start. While it’s not advisable to redirect this creeping scourge towards one’s neighbor’s home, even though it is bigger than yours, it is a thought.


Wisteria…we loathe it or love it, revile it or revere it. Good and evil, love and hate. Sounds a lot like human nature, doesn’t it? The fruit doesn’t fall far from that tree, either.

Hang in there, Bill. Remember the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Bud Hearn
April 8, 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Magic of Wisteria

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old time is still a-flying; and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.” Robert Herrick, (1591-1674)

Poets have a way with words. Who cannot think of love when standing under a canopy of lavender wisteria in April?

An enormous heart-pine tree, maybe 60 years old, grows next to our sidewalk. Somehow the grizzled old tree has managed to attract wisteria vines of immense beauty and fragrance. The metaphor may be encouraging to grizzled old geezers. Hope springs eternal.

The gnarled vines, like nooses, cling to the tree like long-lost lovers. Twisted and contorted, they grip the sturdy tree with unyielding choke-holds. A friend says it reminds him of the wedding vows he took with his third wife. Purely coincidental.

Morning dew drips from the lavender bouquets of flowers. No artist’s canvas could recreate a scene more perfectly beautiful. Sidewalk strollers stop beneath the dangling displays of color. They inhale air perfumed with attar of wisteria, nectar of the gods.

Its indescribable sweetness floats freely, effortlessly, as it carelessly wafts its way among the shrubs. Tender breezes tease the bouquets into slight movements. They sway, side to side, swooning in a sensuous, romantic ritual of dance.

I pass this altar each morning when retrieving the newspapers. Time is arrested, infused by the pervading essence. Flowers dangle in small garlands, like locks of lavender braids adorning the hair of angels and young girls at May Pole picnics.

This morning a stranger approaches. She stops, captivated by the dangling array of purple, the color of royalty. We say hello.

Entranced by the display, she says it’s reminiscent of love. She whispers reverentially that wisteria, like love, defies description. She adds that words can’t convey the quintessential quality of the flower’s perfume, much less describe that of love.

Her monologue asserts that to understand either, one must remove the veil through experience. Strange conversation coming from a stranger. I offer no opinion, except to say, “It’s early. Who can discuss love without a cup of coffee first?” We laugh. She smiles, and strolls away.

It’s nice to linger, to savor the moment. Even before coffee, I know it’s impossible to seize the scent of wisteria. It’s a spirit, and like all spirits, it floats freely upon the breezes. We can only receive it, not restrain it, nor retain it. Like love, if it’s selfishly possessive, it withers in our palms.

It’s odd, standing beneath the vines, synthesizing the stranger’s similarities of wisteria and love. Neither asks, “Who’s worthy to receive?” They’re ‘free’ to all. Wisteria and love are magical wherever they blossom, both beautiful in their day. Perhaps there are more similarities, but the coffee, the coffee.

Suddenly the purple nursery appears to be alive. Bumble bees swarm in rapturous delight, flitting promiscuously from petal to petal in a paean of passionate frenzy. They know their time is short. Bees know a lot about wisteria, and perhaps love.

It’s a spectacle of nature at play. I’m mesmerized, wondering how it would be to be a bee. Coffee can wait.

Once we cut some wisteria for the house. Our daughter, a gardener extraordinaire, advised against it. “It will simply wilt and soon die.”

We ignored her warning. But she was right. Soon the gorgeous flowers died. They hung limply over the lip of the vase. Both its fragrance and beauty had faded. The vine is the source of its life. Separated, it becomes a dried flower, useless, except to press between book pages.

Sadly, wisteria is ephemeral. At best, its life cycle is a couple weeks. It gives all it has, while it has it. Then, as quickly as it blooms, it wilts. Its blossoms fade, let go and are scattered by the wind. They lie silently upon the lawn like a bluish-lilac carpet…as beautiful in death as in life.

Back in the house I pour that cup of coffee, recalling the mystic poet’s line: “Love gives, and while it gives it lives; and while it lives it gives.” Do you suppose angels could really appear as strangers?

Maybe there’s metaphor somewhere in this episode…a stranger, the spirit of wisteria, the spirit of love. You decide. But one thing’s for certain, the magic of wisteria and love waits for no one.

Bud Hearn
April 1, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

Mystery of the Empty Tomb

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, unto a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him…but some doubted.” Matthew 28:16

Not even Poe could have concocted a narrative to rival the mystery surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus. The enigma and significance of the empty tomb still baffles us today. Is it myth or fact?

Let’s take a little stroll through Christ’s Cemetery on St. Simons Island, Georgia. It’s early, the first day of the week, a cool, sunny day. Spring is abundant. Our spirits soar.

Bare limbs blossom in colors: green, red, pink, white. Daffodils decorate the grounds. The meditation garden is ablaze in watercolors of azaleas. Spring is making its resurgence after a comatose winter.

We come upon a crowd gathered around a fresh mound of red clay. The scene shocks us. There, in front of our eyes is an open grave. The heavy vault lid has been removed. Inside is an empty coffin.

The group murmurs in low, hushed tones. Someone asks, “Have you heard the rumor?” We reply, “What rumor?”

They repeat the story. “We arrived here early and saw two diaphanous apparitions in shining garments sitting on the edge of this vault. They seemed to speak, but no sounds emanated. We were afraid.”

“Yet we all recall hearing a voice say, ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.’”

They then disappeared. We’re still confused and a bit frightened. We were left here asking each other, What does this mean?”

How would we react to such an event?

As we approach Easter with its pageantry, its drama, its ideals, its passion, its emotion, it’s easy to become one of the crowd. There’s a lot to synthesize. As in year’s previous, it leaves us again with mixed emotions---hopeful, maybe confused, but often doubting and going along with the crowd.

Like nature, we yearn for renewal, too. Not just at Easter, but daily, to leave the tomb of self and experience the ‘more’ we know is out there but somehow seems just out of reach. Tennyson expressed our feelings with lines from In Memoriam, his epic poem: “That men may rise on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things.”

But how do we capture the essence of resurrection? How can we allow it to regenerate our own lives? Even with the mention of the word we sense the feeling of incredulity. It’s difficult to imagine the reality of God’s promise.

We have stood at the red-clay gravesites of too many friends and family members, not to mention witnessing the ravaged consequences of violence in our streets and the blood of countrymen that cries from the dust of other lands.

But for now we’re looking down into this empty coffin. Doubt takes control of our minds as it leaps to plausible conclusions to this conundrum. Grave robbers, somebody says. But who? Friends, family? But why? And what would they do with the body?

Slowly we all disperse, leaving this strange spectacle of an empty grave as we found it. No answers, only questions and speculations, off to repeat to others the details of this extraordinary event.

Now here we are this week, another Easter, another opportunity to vicariously re-live the drama of Jesus’ resurrection. Are we any closer to an explanation of the empty tomb today?

Oh, yes, we want to believe it’s real, not an elaborate myth like that portrayed in Coppola’s film, Viva Zapata. Hollywood contrived an interesting parallel when Brando’s character, Emiliano Zapata, a revolutionary, was murdered as a heretic by the ruling junta. His dead body was displayed, then it disappeared. He morphed into a myth, his resurrection a living fable. Only it was a movie.

Our minds struggle to grasp this ephemeral concept of life after death. Logical conclusions evade us. But then someone mentions a word…faith. Our ears perk up. Tell us more. Help us understand this evanescent miracle of resurrection.

We want to believe. Yet we find ourselves like the man who asked Jesus to heal his demon-possessed son. Jesus told him that if he could believe, all things were possible. This father’s words are our own: “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.”

Easter is our opportunity to allow faith to blossom again and join the Heavenly Choir in singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, “He is risen indeed.”

Bud Hearn
March 25, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Butterfly of the Moment

Name it and claim it. That’s the preacher’s promise. Alright. Here you go: ‘Free Time.’ Now, where is it? That’s the question. What’s the answer?


‘Free time,’ what’s that? I ponder the question while washing dishes, up to my elbows in suds. My free time has been mortgaged to the mundane.

My work product is subject to inspection. The accusation of being labeled a domestic Pharisee, one who washes only the outside of the pots, is a reputation hard to live down.

Such chores are best done in a dark laundry room where Munch’s painting, The Scream, sets the tone. Certainly not one with a view of the glistening, sunlit pool, a mirage that mocks my low estate. Free time is written all over the scene.

Some suggest that free time can be found anywhere, even washing dishes. Nonsense. I’m not convinced. Free time and labor cannot co-exist. Or can they? The Heavy Hand Judge pronounced this primordial curse on our progenitors when He sent them packing to the back alleys outside Eden.

Maintenance is real. Add up the hours, see for yourself. Life overwhelms us. Beating back the onslaught of nature and the ills that flesh is heir to is so daily. Not to mention trying to keep up with the Kardashians and enduring political campaigns.

So where’s free time? Thorstein Veblen attempted to consecrate the concept of leisure, railing on the Vatican to elevate it to sainthood. The perfecting of this idol has long since been an American art form.

Emerson and his Harvard elites enthroned the nebulous concept of transcendentalism as some sort of ‘be all, end all’ in the pursuit of free time. But what did all that heavy thinking get him? Poor health, that’s what.

Like most Yankees, he eventually migrated south. In Charleston he recovered. Seems the thick humidity dulled his senses. One evening on the Battery he experienced a transcendental epiphany while eating shrimp and grits, the absolute apotheosis in the use of free time. He abandoned meditation and lived happily ever after.

Epicurus had his own entourage of Greek groupies. He advocated pleasure as the highest good that should dominate all free time. But he got crossways with Aphrodite by admonishing the Greeks that the benefits of eating were preferable to the benefits of love. He would be a gilded shrine today had he realized one simple fact: a combination of the two is the epitome in the enjoyment of free time.

Yoga promises an out-of-body freedom from the ravages of time. Gurus with online degrees swear by the ‘down-dog’ pose. If held for ten minutes, they guarantee it will produce nirvana, an enlightened state of mind.

They’re correct. Try it. But remember, the Sanskrit meaning of nirvana is ‘blown out,’ which is what will happen to your shoulders. An aged Grand Cru and saucer of escargot is a superior and safer way to achieve the same enlightenment.

I suppose free time is possible in athletic obsessions. You hear a lot about the so-called ‘runner’s high.’ I’ve had the experience. It’s a mental delusion when your brain sees automobiles as phantoms, fogs that you can run right through. Following that advice will assure you of unlimited free time in the ER. Avoid it.

Athletic pursuits for free time have their benefits. They’ve spawned profitable career paths in prosthetic orthopedic medicine. Which is not medicine at all, but more like a patchwork repair job to arthritic bodies. The preferred training for this profession is a degree in auto mechanics at the community trade school. It’s more art than science. Beware.

Alas, free time comes with a string attached. It’s only a loan, a short-term one at that. Interest must be paid. Which usually comes in the form of cutting the nap short. Blame the Puritans for the hangover of the collective guilty conscience.

Boiled down, free time is less a sense of place than a state of being. It’s possible anywhere. It’s a yielding to the present moment in whatever condition it finds us. Even washing dishes.


As I head out to the pool to find my nirvana, I hear a voice call, “Honey, would you do me a favor when you have some free time.” Some things never change.

Free time is fleeting. Take a slow walk in the garden of your life, pick some flowers and let your net capture the ephemeral butterfly of the moment.

Bud Hearn
March 18, 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Leaves Let Go

March is the prologue to spring. It’s the month when the Great Silent Voice speaks, “Time’s up, release without remorse and make way for the new.”


Nature has a different set of rules for the live oaks that canopy the islands of coastal Georgia. They’re programmed to shed their leaves in March, not November. It disguises our winters. We like that.

But now, last year’s leaves have run their course. Their grip on the Great Mother oak relaxes. One by one, without complaint or coaxing, they begin their short but final journey ‘home.’ Mission accomplished, job completed. Now freed from their work, the transients collectively head south for their permanent retirement.

The enormous oak Titans suddenly stand naked and exposed. But only for a few days. Their spindly skeletons stretch skyward, communing with the winds. Redwing blackbirds give stark contrast to the sky as they bark orders from the barren branches.

Sunlight shines profusely on the warm ground below. The Great Silent Voice speaks again, “Make haste, my small children.” The vegetation undergrowth below immediately springs into life. Somehow it knows its hour in the sun will be short.

Nature is consistent, operating a tightly organized process of life. It makes all appointments on time. Hard on the heels of the leaves’ departure, small green hints of life, barely visible to the eye, begin incipient life. Almost overnight the oaks emerge fully clothed, bathed in a verdant wardrobe.

In a short time, the fallen leaf carpet becomes compost. The Voice speaks softly to these fallen workers, “Sleep on, you have served well. It’s time for another to bear the burden. For you to cling beyond your appointed time would render you a dull, lusterless relic of the past, an antique of a bygone season.”

Leaves listen, don’t argue. They instinctively know that new life requires them to move on. They’re innately schooled in photosynthesis, knowing that when their green morphs to brown, their ability to synthesize food is terminally impaired. They’ve become useless. Unlike some politicians, they know when to say, “Enough.”

Oak leaves don’t think. But if they could, would they have a self-esteem problem? Would they look around and see billions of other leaves and say, “O, of what value am I, just one among so many, and a little one at that?”

And if the Mother Tree could answer, it might say, “If not for each of you, I could not exist.” Is this answer sufficient to solve low self-esteem? One wonders. After all, there is a time and a season for everything.

Perhaps to assuage the hearts of the fallen leaves, the Titan might say, “Consider the acorns, my children. They also have to let go, to drop, to die. Somehow they’re programmed to know that there’s a squirrel waiting to bury them so they can again take root downward and bear fruit upward. Trust me, My ways are perfect.”

The March breezes carry the whisper of the Great Silent Voice as it speaks tender assurances to the leaves. “As you were not anxious in the day of your birth, be not anxious in the day of your demise. Well done, good and faithful leaves.”


Possessing even a small degree of mysticism, one might find a metaphor, maybe even a smile, in contemplation of a leaf’s final ‘let go.’ After all, it’s a one and done, its first and its last.

And if metaphors could be extrapolated, they might lead us to the conclusion that our very own final drop could be an exhilarating and incredible journey home. Personally, I look forward to my very own noble experience.

Bud Hearn
March 4, 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Intimations of Spring…an Odyssey

We’re driving on a sandy dirt road somewhere in Atkinson County, Georgia. No map, no GPS, no hurry.

The morning sun casts long shadows through the oaks. A sack of sausage and biscuits sits on the seat between us. Cups of steaming Starbucks are squeezed between our knees.

Without warning Wayne jams on the brakes of his old red pickup truck. It swerves and skids sideways in the soft sandy backroad. It stops just short of the ditch.

What the…?” I yell. Tiny drops of coffee slosh on my jeans.

Look,” he shouts. “There, between the oaks. See ‘em?”

Barely visible through the thick undergrowth a pair of black, accusatory eyes stares at us. We feel like grave robbers, violating the sanctity of a place occupied by ghosts.

“Let’s check it out,” Wayne says.

Wayne is Wayne Morgan, a noted photographer with a country boy’s eye for the unusual. Slightly off-center myself, we make a perfect pair. We slide out of the truck.

An eerie and windless silence of the timeless place greets us. It’s seems captured in suspended animation of a forgotten past. We walk cautiously up the overgrown driveway while shards of sunlight warm the forest floor. Steam rises, dissipates and slowly disappears.

A derelict structure emerges. Its boards are blanched from years of neglect and decomposition. Peering from it are two hollow and blackened holes, like empty eye sockets in a bleached skull. The vision adds surrealism to the marred relic.

Gray beards of Spanish moss descend like a mist from the gnarled limbs of the massive water oaks. The setting evokes a gothic sense of foreboding. We gaze in stunned silence at the scene. Nothing moves.

We’re here by chance. Life led the way. Country dirt roads always lead somewhere, even if to nowhere special. ‘Nowhere special’ is where the exceptional is found. Which is our mission…affirmations of Spring.

Atkinson County is basically nowhere. Little has happened here since Bill Atkinson was governor in 1894. It’s a perfect place to find genuine evidences of spring.

The artifact we see is a ruined vestige of the tenant farming era. A black, moldy velvet sofa sits on the rotting porch. Beer cans and broken glass surround it. The sofa seems to crawl with parasitic tenants, giving the illusion it’s alive. We walk inside by a sagging screen door hanging by its hinges.

Debris litters the floors. Splintered remnants of wooden furniture lie scattered throughout. Broken glass covers the discolored linoleum. The wall paper, long since faded and green with mildew, appears to melt from the walls. Nothing of value remains.

We sift through papers yellowed with age. One is a postcard with palm trees, postmarked Daytona Beach. It’s addressed to Waldo Winslow, Sandy Bottom, Georgia.

Terse and barely legible from water stains, it reads, “I’m not coming back, Waldo. I’m sick and tired of the cold and picking tobacco and cotton. You can take your 80 acres and…” Nothing more is legible. It’s signed, “Goodbye, your wife, Yolanda.”

“Can’t much blame her, you?” Wayne says. “Must have been a hard life here. Heck, those palm trees look inviting to me, too.”

“I guess,” I reply feeling a tinge of sorrow for old Waldo. “Wonder what happened to him?”

Through a shattered kitchen window we see a weathered marble tombstone. It’s half-covered by Carolina jasmine vines. He looks at me, “Waldo’s still here. See?”

We walk down the dark hallway and go outside. I pick up an old Prince Albert tobacco can. It’s closed tightly. I pry the top open, look at the contents.

“Wayne, here’s what we’re looking for, right inside this tobacco can,” I say.

In the sunlight we empty the can. Inside are dried daffodils, like the kind found pressed between pages of old books.

“What do you make of this?” Wayne asks. But he knows, even as I do.

Waldo had saved some daffodils from another time as a reminder that though winter slays, spring resurrects. They apparently nurtured his hope for better times, and that his fallow fields would soon burst with new life.

Guess Yolanda wasn’t convinced,” Wayne says, “They don’t compare to palm trees.”

Let’s give ‘em back to Waldo,” Wayne says. We scatter them on the sunken earth that held his dust beneath the headstone.

So long, Waldo,” Wayne says, uttering the shortest eulogy in history. He shoves the Prince Albert can into the back pocket of his jeans. We leave.

Wayne’s Nikon shudder clicks, capturing the moment, and we turn and walk back into today. “What did you see?” I ask.

Look,” he says. Around the base of that wretched skeleton of a house yellow blossoms of daffodils were bursting forth in the sunlight. “There’s evidence of Spring,” Wayne says.

Wayne grinds the gears and the truck lurches forward, speeding down the dirt road to somewhere. It’s a good day to be alive.

Bud Hearn
February 23, 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Message in the Wind

Confusion everywhere. So many questions, so few absolutes. Dylan tries to help, “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.”


It’s a typical early morning. I pace around silently, waiting impatiently for Mr. Coffee, our low-budget butler, to provide wake-up assistance. He seems unusually slow this morning, though he’s always predictable, more so than most of life.

Sooner or later the caffeine will jump-start things. While this marvelous chemical reaction activates brain cells, I doodle. A sample of this morning’s achievements yields no conclusive message.

Avoid attempts to comprehend mental flushes. There’s no Rosetta Stone to decipher the musings of sleep-deprived madmen. It taxes sanity and overloads cognitive settings.

Today’s flashes seem existentialistic, a convoluted collage of last night’s dreams, or the consequence of the yesterday’s chili. Such mish-mash gives credence to the theory that Eris, the goddess of Entropy, is pushing the boundaries of confusion.

Existentialism started with an espresso-induced epiphany of Jean-Paul Sartre, the Sorbonne sage, a fellow short in stature but long in sagacity. He obviously recognized that Risk is Fortune’s shadow. Testing the direction the wind’s blowing is advisable to identify pitfalls. Wind’s aberrant gene is prone to erratic and unpredictable behavior, more dangerous than a hot teenage romance.

Whether by Providential design or human manipulation, the iconoclastic winds of change are goads that prick the idol of bloated human ego. Many shudder to think that a golden “T” could soon appear on the White House or an avowed Socialist could collapse the gains of capitalism. Yet, time and chance still happen to all, like it or not.

How do we test the unseen? Simple. Lick your index finger, thrust it into the air. Unscientific? Yes, but reliable. It’s better than expensive polls, and besides, looking downcast accomplishes nothing.

Today’s newspapers lie scattered on our table. Take a random glance at any headline: seditious acts, investigations, manipulations, murder, mayhem, conspiracy and lately the absurd ‘white’ Oscars. Such diurnal rubbish is an ill wind that blows a chill in our hearts and is an insult to human intelligence.

Speedy computers can plot the breeze, but they can’t yet synthesize the news into anything cogent, except providing evidence that randomness remains more than a hair-brained theory. Are you still shocked to comprehend that you are not in control of anything?

Figuratively speaking, there are many forms of wind, much of which is self-generated. My mama expressed her distaste for some things with the idiom, “I’m fed up.” Wonder what she’d say about today’s politics?

Candidates utter preposterous promises behind podiums on garish stage-sets. Their lofty pontifications resemble a clanging cacophony of discordant wind chimes, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Hot breath turns cold when cash leaves the Party.

Wall Street’s windmill of windfall speculation is the proximate cause for the blow-hard breeze stirring from the land of the resurgent Left. The evil drum-beat of income inequity roars louder. Revolution is in the air.

Bernie’s boning up on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation techniques, attempting to blow life into the dried bones of Marx and roll his granite stone away. Exhumed Socialist failure will be a stinky experiment.

Speculation is a fact of life. High-stake horse bets with long odds coupled with a sufficient quantity of mint juleps will eradicate ennui and explode euphoria. We bet on the future daily. Nothing like the high from slapping down cash on a black jack table. We know it’s a rigged, zero-sum wager of winner-take-all. Still, it’s highly intoxicating, if not addictive.

But now speculation is an expletive. The deck is stacked, they say. The cards are marked. The game is rigged. Computers run it. Significant taxing will slay the beast. The entitlement crowd is giddy with anticipation.

But face it, most things are rigged. Taxing speculation will only drive it underground, into back-street bazaars where black-market cash vacations offshore. But alas, there’s no stopping the march of jack boots towards redistribution, the unveiled euphemism for ‘confiscation.’

Face it, all life is speculation, a gamble with incredible odds. If it were a bet, you wouldn’t take it. Now there’s a philosophy you can chew on.


The caffeine high finally hits and my doodles spring to life and speak:

“Go outside, lick your finger and look up. After all, that’s still where all the answers come from anyway.” Amen?

Bud Hearn
February 5, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Buttonholes and Other Trivia

It’s a dark day here on the island. Profundity is still asleep. So, here’s an exciting discourse on the importance of insignificant minutiae, a salute to the unremarkable that makes life work.


I’m reading a poem by Naomi Nye, “Famous.” She wants to be famous, like pulleys, boots and buttonholes. It’s an ode to things seemingly unimportant. Buttonholes are included.

It strikes me as curious that what seems so common never gets the proper praise it deserves. Instead, like many of us, it remains overlooked. Milton’s words, written in Sonnet 16, sum it up: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” My closet, and yours, is full of buttonholes, just waiting for their hour in the sun.

But unlike many of us, buttonholes and their buddies---belt loops and zippers, the closet trio---live lackluster lives in relative obscurity. They suffer indignity without complaint and function without fussing. Such a brotherhood of boring essentials gets little respect.

Take the tiny buttonholes that anchor shirt collars to achieve decorum. They’re the constant curse of every arthritic-gnarled finger that ever tried to conquer the task. They’re famous for the wrong reason.

Buttonholes are not created equal. Some are more equal than others. The top buttonholes, like politicians, have the rare privilege of occupying the spotlight. Unfortunately, it often leads to an arrogance of position. It prompts the African proverb, “Even a flea on the neck of a giraffe thinks it’s immortal.” Insolence won’t guarantee electability as she hopes.

Somewhere out there lurks the philosophy of the ‘gradation principal,’ or something like that. It conspires with Darwin to affirm the tenets of his Evolution Theory. It’s a sort of hierarchy chart like you’d find in a corporate organization that puts the janitor in the same closet with the mop.

Buttonholes and its pals suffer similar obscurity and are found at the bottom of everybody’s org chart. Sorta like being shoved into the same closet with mops, brooms and toilet brushes. But then again, this is life. And life is full of contradictions.

Moreover, life’s not fair, either. Suppose you were a buttonhole on a shirt sleeve that gets an Obama-style rollup. Would you be depressed because the frontal buttonholes got all the glory by accentuating vibrant-colored buttons? Basking in the light of another’s reflected glory is a coveted cultural event.

Listen, buttonholes didn’t crawl ashore with some amoeba. They originated in a cave. Paleontologists theorize that some Troglodyte’s wife concluded that buttonholes would augment his bear-hide jacket and showcase the dinosaur teeth buttons. Everything begins somewhere.

Buttonholes have come a long way since those days. They’ve survived attempts by Velcro strips to subvert grace they enjoy. True, Velcro has its place, but never on a runway in Milan. Even Italians are not that crude.

Belt loops get no respect either. Have you ever examined one closely? Right. Why would you? They have a simple job of just keeping the belt in its lane, so to speak. There’s a half-baked theory going around that belt loops were the original idea of stay-in-your-box political correctness.

Neither are zippers on anyone’s idea of a fashion statement. Little can be done with a zipper to elevate its position as the guardian of secrets. Instead, zippers should be revered by all for their ability to keep the secrets to themselves. After all, they can be exposed to a multitude of compromising situations. Zippers offer valuable lessons…do your job and keep your mouth shut.


So thanks, Naomi, for your insights on insignificance today. It’s a good reminder to acknowledge the unspectacular among us that makes life work.

Whatever else buttonholes, belt loops and zippers may be, at least they can be counted on to always do what they were designed for. I wonder if we could say the same about ourselves.

Bud Hearn
January 22, 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016

What’s Next?

It (Life) is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights illuminate, but you can make the whole trip that way.” D. L. Doctorow


According to the Gregorian calendar, we’ve entered into a new solar year. We cross that blindfolded into that threshold. What dark alley are we in? Something’s gonna happen. Not if, but when. But what? The buffet menu of possibilities is endless.

Fearful by nature, we distrust the Fates and often are fed up with prayer. We wonder about the world’s Garden of Evil. Any rational view of world conditions, not to mention the Universe of Self, would conclude this. We live with the constant question: “What’s next?”

We are hopeful to have a Jubilee Year, right? That special year when everything’s reset, debts forgiven, property is restored, scales of justice balanced, the national debt cancelled, feuding grievances are forgiven and brotherly love oozes from every pore.

Is this happening in your world? No. Old grievances remain, debt still stalks and the process of aging keeps on keeping on. Where are we going from here? We fling the question ‘up there.’ The Universal Voice is silent.

China on the east, Russia on the west. Us in the middle. Do you feel the vice? Pyongyang explodes. Obama cries. Congress fiddles. Putin pushes. Stalin’s words ring: “One death is a tragedy; 20 million is a statistic.” What brink are we on? What’s next?

Our President is quietly packing up to leave, trying to ease out the back door undisclosed. Tarot cards reveal his formation of a yogic ashram at Harvard where he sits in a loin cloth in lotus, chanting om’s and reciting Lao-Tsu poetry while painting his toe nails.

His library is loaded with TV screens flashing live images of himself, night and day. They remind him of his greatness. But he’s history now, forgotten. Trump has taken over the Oval and has banned all political correctness by executive fiat.

Meanwhile, the gender and identity politics movement has crawled from its cocoon, espousing ‘conversion therapy’ for children to help them discover their rightful gender. LGBT schools for K-12 for gender dysphoric children are on the horizon. It’s anybody’s guess what that will morph into. The New Rome, maybe. What’s next?

Oh, there’s plenty, but why go there? What we need are some miracles scattered about to rekindle our faith, to restore our equilibrium. Instead, we buy lotto tickets while waiting on the shores of the mythical Isle of Serendip for our ship to sail in.

Miracles are difficult to discover these days. Where’s the burning bush, the sea that parts, the ax that floats, the ladder from heaven? Such phenomena have been pretty scarce lately.

There’s a reason. The ambient air for miracles to appear is poisoned. Imagine walking down the street and there, right before your eyes, is a bush that burns. You stop, look. The bush flames up without being consumed. It speaks, “Hey, I am a miracle.” Fear grips you.

You grab your cell, dial 911 and declare an emergency. Your Instagrams, texts and emails go viral. The fire department rushes in, the police investigate. The press shows up. Meanwhile, millions see you on Facebook, YouTube, CNN. You’re famous now. Hollywood offers a movie deal.

But wait. There’ll be investigations. Someone’s to blame. You might be railroaded, hauled in, interrogated, made to confess. You will protest. A public defender will take your case. The trial will be speedy. You will lose. Who would want to discover a miracle? So you quit looking for it. Blending into the crowd of cynics is safer.

So what’s next? Do we stand silently at a distance and watch as history plays out its inexorable conclusion? Let’s hope not. Serendipity is still out there. Serendipity? Ah, even the sound of the word is soothing. It’s where miracles are conceived.


Our metaphoric car, filled with hopes and dreams, hurls through the darkness of the future. WE are that burning bush, that living miracle. What’s next is what we make it to be.

Irrespective of the numerical prefixes in front our years, we should strive to make things better with “What’s next?” So, forget the headlines, just buy the ticket, take the ride.

Bud Hearn
January 8, 2016