The piano tuner came over today—at my request. He doesn’t have as much personality as my last one, but he is taller by an inch or two.
Picture the scene with me—I open the door. Having only spoken on the phone, and lightly at that, we exchange cordialities and I invite him in. He knows to remove his shoes. But it’s what he did next that I latently long to see—not that I’d ever admit it to anyone. Usually I like to be in control. Usually I like to command the action. But every once in a while, I derive immense pleasure from watching. And today he didn’t disappoint.
He touched…the body of the piano. Mind you, he didn’t just reach out and raise and lower the fallboard. It wasn’t merely—and gently—sliding the music rack in and out. No. He rested his body against its body—nonchalantly. Like he couldn’t hurt her. Like he knew she didn’t mind.
He removed the music rack completely and laid it aside. Then he even rested a tool or two of his on the pins that he would soon twist and turn intelligently.
Understand me here. It’s as if he and my piano were old friends. Intimate friends. As if they had a history. In a sense, you could say that I became an unwitting voyeur. And I loved every minute of it.
You see, I could never do to my piano what he did, no sir. She means too much to me. I treat her perfectly. I only touch a few spots of her body, and delicately at that. I play on her keys ferociously, but that’s what they’re there for. Sometimes I open her lid, but usually I keep it closed. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do more, to go further. But it feels premature. And there’s a mutual respect that comes with waiting. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to watch when I get a chance on a Friday afternoon.
My step-son and I came up with the designation “black haired people” for what in America are generally regarded as “black people”. He’s an immigrant from Ethiopia and, believe it or not, Ethiopians don’t view themselves as “black”. Within the formerly so-called “dark continent”, not too different from the our own “paper bag test” South, our Yahoo brethren see shades, too.
But I digress. That the cashier was “black haired” is not the point. The point is that I’m funny.
I was making a last minute trip to HyVee to pick up snack foods (hence the cheese curd headline) for this holiday. I never, never let my step-son have soda, but today I was feeling an uncommon sensation—which I *think* you all would call “giving”—and so I picked up, not just any old soda, but a four-pack of some locally crafted grape soda. This detail matters because the four cans are packaged together with some sort of homespun, yellow plastic tops. Upon inspection, I noticed that these yellow tops were a bit dirty, but I figured that it just adds character or charm.
Next, keep in mind there’s a mask-mandating pandemic going on, I am checking out and the black-haired cashier advises, “You’re going to want to wash the lids before you drink them.”
Naturally, I become very curious and ask, “Why? Is there some sort of disease going around?”
Her body language leading the near-running retreat, she immediately reduces her initial warning to a casual comment, “Oh, no. They’re just dirty.”
“There’s no disease going around?!” I clarify, cautiously betraying that I believe this fact may be a little bit bigger news than at first glance. After taking a prefatory deep breath, “Hey everyone!” I fake yell, then dramatically pausing to scan for her name tag, I add, “Cindy here says it’s over! It’s over!! We can take off the masks!”
She laughed at the ridiculous life we were apart of. I laughed at the ridiculous life we were apart of.
I then assumed the lady behind me who had insisted I go first (I had fewer items) wondered, “Could this man be The Captain?” And then I went on my merry way.
Once home, I ate cheese curds while my wife fed the baby and my step-son recounted a funny part of a book he knew I had heard him laughing at last night while he read and I played the piano.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. Today we have a post from a guest blogger. Today, Captain “Is-There-Really-a-Difference-Between-Half-a-Teaspoon-and-a-Teaspoon?”, call sign, “I-Don’t-Care-If-the-Internet-Says-There-Is-a-Difference-Between-Baking-Soda-and-Powder-I-Can-Plainly-See-They’re-the-Same” will be taking controls.
That’s right, Pete. And I am excited! Let me tell you why!
First, I need to set the stage, as it were, for our readers. Picture this: a handsome devil, about 6 foot in height, adorned, from bottom to top as follows. Faux fur-lined, real Native-American-tribute moccasins connect him to the spiritual earth. (Cabelas.) Boot socks add enough insulation to his keep-warm feet. (Cabelas.) An odd type of heavy fleece sweatpants, nylon knee reinforcements and all–Gore Windstopper to boot (Cabelas–discontinued)–keeps two strong legs warm between innings. Up top, a baby blue, v-neck pajama shirt hangs out of a 1/4-zip desert green fleece (Cabelas) and together the core stays kindled.
Now, onto the main course. The recipe for mom’s Peanut Butter Blossoms Christmas cookies calls for mixing 1 3/4 cups flour with 1/2 t salt and 1 t baking soda as the first step. Then, separately, you’re to cream 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup peanut butter. After this, add a mix of 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar. And at some point an egg, 2 T milk, and 1 t vanilla come to the party. Four bowls for one cookie? No, thank you.
Breaking things into those clean cut groups might have worked in the 90s, sure. But this is 2020. And doing dishes is still a chore. Plus, I have my wife’s new, red, KitchenAid artisan mixer at my disposal.
Segue: Most husbands love this item because they love how their wives finally stop complaining. I mean, what part of life is hard after obtaining the Kitchen-Aid mixer? Not me. I love the item because I get to rebel while baking cookies.
I don’t doubt my mom. I don’t. I need to be clear about that. What I doubt is that she really intended to be so an-, I mean, particular as to limit in which order I add the ingredients. So, in the bowl (before attaching the proper tool), I began with a stick of butter (directly from the fridge) and the peanut butter. I just put them in the bowl, added the paddle-outline looking deal, and set-it-and-forget-it as they say.
Next, I, after only stopping the machine–no other adjustments–added an egg, the milk, and the vanilla. I just cracked the egg on the side of the mixing bowl and plop. Only slightly doubting whether I should have stirred the egg a bit before adding it, I figured introducing the liquid elements now might help cream up the chunks of butter that seemed resistant to my will.
Measure sugar, add. Measure other sugar, add.
Finally, I stopped the machine, and took off the paddle thing. I measured the first cup of flour, not packed, into one cup and then for the other 3/4 cup of flour–instead of using the 3/4 cup line on the same 1 cup cup, I used an entirely separate 3/4 cup cup. Did I tell you how refined I am? (You just have to rinse dry measuring cups to clean them, anyhow.)
Now, here’s where the salt and soda issue unfolded.
Finally, I pressed my luck, because, ‘Why the eff not? It’s Christmas!” and carefully prepared to visually note any detrimental changes to the consistency of the cookie dough as I by feel increased the speed from 2, to 4, and then 6–but only for a second!
In the end, what I am most happy with myself about is that while back in the prison of the index card recipe, as I rolled the dough into balls, I, through some sort of ESP, thought, “Shouldn’t I be rolling them in sugar before placing them in the over?” And, sure enough, I was right. Can you explain that?
Speaking of extra sensory perception, I’m using caramel Hershey kisses this year.
The only problem now is that I feel guilty. No–not for resisting my moms dictatorial recipe. But because my perfectionist personality is pretty positive that with all these changes to order and decor, I cannot claim to have baked my mom’s cookies after all.
What kind of son have I become!?
I’ve been following my own advice and spending quite a bit of time watching fantasy movies and reading fantasy books. I should clarify here that I mean romance more than fantasy. All the normal bounds of the time space universe apply. Most recently, I watched the new Costner entry, “Let Him Go.”
These films and books fulfill their purpose just fine. However, as I fancy myself a serious blogger/writer type who could compete with those who perform on the world stage—if only I had the ambition—I often challenge myself to come up with my own take on the genre. What is my fantasy? I don’t mean, “What do I think would sell?” Or, “What do I perceive other people dream about?” No, I mean that I challenge myself to add my own fuel to the warm “good guys win” feeling that I enjoy as I see evil mother-effers reap it and good men be rewarded with beautiful, virtuous women.
Here’s the gospel truth. My fantasy centers on the children I’ve been charged by god with raising to become good men and good women.
The fiction begins with an argument. My character espouses wisdom, in a much too passionate volume. There may even be a hint of what psychologists call “contempt”. My children consistently reply with overly self-righteous bull honkey. Soon after, I kick them out of my house for crossing the line. (I haven’t resolved in which manner they cross it, whether they mindlessly repeat the slander of George Washington, Jesus, me, or one of my military buddies. But I imagine that they say something absolutely retarded and untrue and so they’ve got to go.)
Next, I imagine I resign completely from life. I become a veritable hermit.
Then the world burns.
As for me, I nimbly and deftly survive and do so in style. Eventually, others hear of an older man (they say he was a pilot, back before the Green Skies law) always staying one step ahead of the new troubles brought about by stupid young people. The Captain is suddenly whispered as if the title itself means hope.
Did you hear the latest about The Captain?
I heard The Captain has been planning something big for some time now. He’s got to be getting close.
All the while, in the hands of my children, the world burns.
But then the careful reader and viewer begin to notice new expressions on the faces of The Captain’s, by now, adult children—themselves leaders of the supposed revolution. The faces betray, finally, a wise hesitation. One might almost say the progeny appear, for the first time in their life, uncertain.
Skip to the end, and readers all rejoice as I, The Captain, am unable to outpace my children who are on their way to warn me—themselves being only one-step ahead of their pals who are coming to kill me. The reunion, made all the more compelling by the contrast between painfully slow scenes of family reconciliation and scenes of unabated, furious chase by the enemies, is only long enough for one phrase to pass.
“Father, you were right.”
Having uttered these noble words, they turn to find our mutual enemies have caught up to us. Despite our unified slaying of a significant number of them, they kill us all, saying, “Remember, orders are to kill The Captain and all of his diseased blood!”
Yup. It’s not family happiness that I dream about—that seems utterly hopeless in our current world. Instead, I long for vindication from the mouths of my children before I die.
“…we ought rather to be proud of the fact that American literature can boast of at least one good, decent, Christian author who was cursed neither with self-consciousness not with false modesty, those banes of art.” — William Leigh Jr.
“SAY HIS NAME!!”
I found the bullhorn was more annoying than loud. Worse, for their cause, the mob’s response to the prompt felt forced. And I’d be lying if I described it as “loud”. Rather than lead you to believe that my tale centers on decibels, however, I want to say that what worried me now was the shortened breathing and seemingly even shorter attention span of the man who I just met.
And then it happened, I got slugged.
“Say it again,” he yelled at me. “Hey y’all, hold up! Look at what we got here,” he yelled to the mob.
For a moment, the mob pretended to possess enough self-control to be undeterred from their purpose.
But his second call of, “Hey y’all! Y’all ain’t gonna believe what this white boy just said,” proved as attractive to this crowd as a city block of recently renovated urban blight.
I’d straightened up at this point. And just as my composure returned, unexpectedly, I felt his knuckles against my ear again. I crouched low and stepped back for a second time. And down I stayed as I heard an angry, loud young women ask, “What’d he say?” And then what I could only describe as the voice of a future Southern Gospel preacher boomed, “We being peaceful tonight, brothers and sisters. Peaceful. Don’t hit the man. Someone help him.” In response to this great addition to the annals of stump speeches, some sort of lackey came my way, crouching to look over the extent of damage to my face.
Turning to me, the Reverend Doctor said, “Apologies for that. What’s on your mind?”
I collected my bearings, avoided shaking the battlefield surgeon’s hand, and found that I was newly surrounded by the mob.
“You’re not black,” I repeated.
With a squint that betrayed his true color, Pastor-man sharpened his eyes, hoping that his flock would disobey en masse just this once. Only the initial loudmouth proved himself deaf. And so, for the third time, something I can only describe as a mix between a slap and a wild right hook landed on the top of my skull. As I wrapped my arms around my now hunched over, asphalt-gazing head, I had to admit, my skill at recognizing the start of the contest was improving.
“Boy,” the man began, unable to withstand all temptation to civility, “I’m, ah,” he rubbed his chin and looked around as he measured the feeling of the mob. Somebody in the back shouted, “‘We!’” The future-Pastor took this correction in stride and rejoined, “Son, we,” and at this he drew a lazy circle around his head with a downward pointing finger for emphasis as he turned a circle himself, then continued, “we are gonna give you another chance to speak.” (“It’s only fair!” someone added.) “I’m praying,” he paused to let a knowing chuckle breathe, “that you use it wisely.”
Did I want to die? That’s the question I asked myself. I still don’t know the answer. I don’t think I did. But I was tired. I know I was tired. I couldn’t remember a time in my life when we weren’t forced to listen to this nonsensical bullshit, and tonight, I was simply out of energy.
“I said,” I began, “you ALL,” here I diligently added a minor clarification which I thought might help communicate my intention more clearly, “are not black.”
Not like the modern “Cirque du Soleil”-style circus, but quite like an atmosphere of the circuses of lore, or what I imagined to be how those big tops operated—always on the verge of chaos—a circus erupted.
At this, I definitely avoided what would have been the fourth blow by my initial conversant. The trouble was that my path backwards, as I mentioned, had been filled in by the mob, specifically by tightly—and remarkably scantily (considering the amount of fabric)—clothed heavyset women. Like always, these about-to-be-breaking-out rap-porn, IG Queens were, with one hand, pointing their phones at me and with the other, holding drive-thru cups out of which they sipped some sort of sugary delight through straws. All the while, their purses looked like they were enjoying the break from constant adjustments that naturally occurred while the mob wormed its way around low numbered street names.
In other words, I found my retreat blocked off by what amounted to angry, hi-tech pillows.
So his fifth punch did land. Oh well.
“You blind?! You sayin’ my skin ain’t black?”
He didn’t really leave me much time between punches 6, 7, and 8, but I continued our interview anyhow.
“No. I’m saying, ‘You are not,” I suddenly remembered the earlier point of clarity and so corrected myself, but not before number 9, “I’m saying, ‘You all are not black.’”
I stayed on my back for a moment, thinking to rest and recuperate, but was unpleasantly surprised to feel a kick to my left ear—what was up with this dude and ears?
“Let him up!” I heard a loud too-busy-for-choir-practice-but-too-good-to-not-be-in-the-church-choir-alto sing out.
Like a poor form deadlift, all back and no legs, I stood to the erect position again.
“Thank you,” I acknowledged.
No sooner than these words came out did I discover that she might have had a protein shake in her cup. Put bluntly, not ‘all fat’, as I had suspected, and I found myself pushed down, very directly, to the ground once again.
“Bitch, I don’t speak for no one but me, but I am black!” she announced.
So where are we? Right, a kick again from Don Lemon, this time to the kidney, and that makes 11.
I felt there would be another soon, so I hopped up quickly, covered the ear closest to my lately befriended investigator, and repeated, “You all are not black.”
“And that’s when we showed up?” Officer Jones asked.
“Yup. My own knights in shining armor. Don Quixote,” I said.
“Never mind. It’s a book. Good one, too. So what’s next?”
“I think we have everything we need to finish up the paperwork for tonight,” he said. Then he continued, “Can I tell you something?”
“You’re kinda a moron.”
“Will you do something for me?”
“Will you stop saying, ‘You’re not black’?”
“Because someone needs to tell them the truth.”
I do not know how Trump’s team chose “red” for their ballcaps.
I think I understand why red ballcaps became a symbol of all things evil.
I am very certain that I adore the recent and unfolding slight-of-hand in which red ballcaps have been replaced with the American flag.
And I am here today to say that the exchange was executed flawlessly.
You see, the American man can always spot the enemy. This ability is no mutant, divine, or alien superpower, but it does seem to reside in the rushing rivers of our blood. Likewise, the enemy always knows that deep down, in the empty recesses of their heart, that they are an enemy to America. The reason the American man and the enemy cannot coexist is found in this simple fact: the enemy lies. Consequently, rather than come outright and announce their disdain for all things star spangled, they strategically and deceitfully choose to disdain abstract, absurd, and obnoxious straw men. So be it.
But, but, I say! The American flag is now back in the mix.
Until today I never really considered what it must be like to view Old Glory through the eyes of an enemy. Did the Germans really ever hate it, back in the day? Doubtful. Could Osama Bin Laden look upon the American flag-blanketed bases in his homeland without envy? Yeah, right. Even now if I imagine my Trump-hating relatives (the BLMer up the street), I have to ask myself, when they see the Red, White, and Blue, does not the same awe and wonder that pulses through my body pulse through their body, leaving only goosebumps in their wake? Surely!
All this to say I’m thinking about a tattoo. And a vinyl wrap for my truck. And a flag pole for my truck. And a few T-shirts, starring you know which object of admiration.
Flawless execution. The American man has always known. Now all do.
You never hated Trump. It wasn’t the red ballcaps that disturbed your baser passions. From birth you had it out for Truth. Then you couldn’t stand to work hard and your lack of self-control was only outdone by your envy. Later you wouldn’t accept that you were born into a world which demanded, and did not apologize for its insistence, that you accept responsibility. Afterward, you furnished any and every argument, from weak to completely unfounded, against accountability. Finally, it has been revealed that your ignorance of history is only to be silenced by your cry to change it.
As I mentioned, I was recently in Judges. Then the last few days, I have been studying Thessalonians 1&2.
I don’t want to rename the Bible. Moreover, I wouldn’t be able to. The idea is ridiculous. But I would like to share what I would call it, that is, in an imaginary world.
I’d call it… Actually I can’t put it into words.
It’s something like a self-help book that teaches you how to accept happiness in your life.
“Accept Blessings”. That’s about as close as I can get. But that sounds like an military order, not a book title.
“How to Accept Blessings” might be more accurate, but now I don’t know if I would have ever picked up a book with that title.
All I’m really trying to say is that the more I read the Bible, the more I see that people around me do not know how to be happy, how to make two good decisions in a row (let alone how to add a third), and the more I see that even when life doesn’t appear to be unfolding in our favor, it is.
Put another way, the starring character, Jesus, is supposed to have said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in “Accept Blessings.”
See? That’s just not powerful.
And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in “How to Accept Blessings.”
Hmm. That’s definitely worse.
I guess we’re stuck with: And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in the Bible.
Obviously we watched Jack Reacher last night. I was struck by two parts. The first is when TC explains how, through training and repetition, someone not smart can be made to appear smart. It reminded me of what I was trying to say about illiterate children.
Secondly, my dad told me today that he did not buy the toilet paper that was seemingly destined for him to buy as it sat on the shelf at the store. I repeat: my dad did not buy available toilet paper. Hear me clearly: the toilet paper had his name, in cursive—at least if you look in the right light—on the packaging and he did NOT buy it. Bravo. That reminded me of TC’s answer to the blonde’s anxious query, “Should I be afraid?!” Cruise says, “Are you smart?” Blondie says, “Yes.” Tom then says, “Then don’t be afraid.”
First up was the oddity that as I looked to see if there was anything to note about the passengers or vehicle passing me, I was surprised to be the recipient of a smile and thumbs up.
For an unknown reason, anytime I suspect that an occupant of another car is communicating to me, my heart skips a beat. I must be on fire, I think.
But, no. That’s not what was happening here. This was some sort of encouragement. But for what?
Was this Iowan so sheltered that my Colorado plates being in Iowa were simply exciting? As in, “Good for you! You got out!!”??
No. That just didn’t make sense. Plenty of people pass through this state.
Hmm. Not on fire. (Confirmed by the fact that another car has passed me–sans attempt to warn me of fire.) Not my foreignness. What could he have seen?
A- was in the backseat reading.
No tablet. No phone. No movie. No video game. Just a boy and a book. Yup. That’s it.
A smile and thumbs up from a stranger passing me on the highway. Why? Because I’m raising a boy right.
Secondly, I saw a bald eagle. It was just lazily riding the waves of the wind. At first I couldn’t be sure that it really was a bald eagle. But as I returned my eyes to the road, I saw a new scene. A blanket of red, white, and blue–47, 48, 49, and, yes, 50 bright stars to boot–warmed the wintry landscape. And I could tell that, even when I wasn’t looking, men and women were constantly sewing and mending this mantle by dim, fading candlelight in one great period of darkness.
Then I was sure of it. It was a bald eagle if ever there was one.
The idea of evaluating my father seems odd to me at this point of my life (and his). Instead, I want to create a subtle distinction between evaluating my father and sharing with you characteristics of my dream dad. I want to do this today because of the feelings Ad Astra evoked.
Ad Astra is Mr. James Gray’s new, and remarkable, film starring Mr. Brad Pitt.
Ad Astra is also the perfect vehicle to bring my dream dad to life because it makes bold decisions–just like my dream dad would stare into the immensity that faces every man and boldly step forward, world watching.
Scenes in Ad Astra which are unbelievable at face value are presented with such force and gravity that the viewer can only be intrigued to see where all this is going–in the same way that my dream dad would behave in a manner that would continually intrigue me.
Indeed, the movie does go places, too. We travel with Mr. Pitt to Neptune in hopes of finding my father. Der, I mean, Pitt’s father. In fact, we’re looking for Pitt’s father because of his mysterious behavior, both generally in his having desired to antisocially voyage so far from terra firma, and particularly by his recent actions as leader of the “Lima Project”. Likewise, my dream dad is definitely a visionary and thereby a leader of unmatched proportions.
Most importantly, all along the epic and beautifully rendered space journey, the story is one of fatherly encouragement and belief in the son’s ability to do better than himself.
One flashback, near the film’s too-soon conclusion (much like my dream dad’s ‘conclusion’ will forever occur too soon), includes a four or five word sentence that can only carry its tremendous meaning in the gravity-less environment of our fantastic imaginations. But those few words are all my dream dad would need to say to let me know I was finally respected as a man.
And my dream dad would definitely let me know when I had achieved that high goal.