The following is something I have not shared with very many people. But it has been on my mind of late and I just want to put it down on paper, so to speak.
Lately, as I spend more and more time with African-Americans, I have come to see that everyone hates them. With Denver having a booming African population, it has become clear that even, and sometimes especially, Africans hate them. Naturally, this triggers my desire to defend them. But why?
Why do I love African-Americans so much? They aren’t my culture. We have very different lifestyles. There are some similarities in worldview, but once we leave the Gospel and Word of God, there is often a terrific break. My daughter loves the church and her friends there, but as she gets older, it’s going to be more and more difficult for her to live in both the white and black worlds. Yet I persist. Why? Why? Why? Why?
I’ll tell you.
So there I was. Balad, Iraq, ca. 2008 AD. It was my third of three deployments. My squadron–the aircrew at least–was exclusively male. The lone life support troop was often female. Can you imagine it? She’s half-way around the world, all by herself. Not all by herself, of course. She’s surrounded by men in their most primal environment. At this point in my story, you can probably guess that she was African-American. And she was Christian. I noticed this right away. The LORD was her rock.
One evening, she was with us at our dinner table. She ate quietly. The conversation was loose and the jokes were filthy. One of the more senior officers couldn’t seem to avoid vulgarities. Some might say he was in rare form with this woman present. It was like he was a fly and dick jokes were the light. He’d tell a story, and then the next would be worse. I kept looking towards her and I could tell she was not happy. I just wanted him to give it a rest. He didn’t.
When we returned from dinner, this woman went back to where she worked. There, for at least ninety nights, with no days off, she diligently cleaned and prepared all of our helmets, survival radios, vests, and most importantly the night vision goggles. She was the definition of mission-essential. She did this all by herself–save for when one of us would grace her with some attempted pleasantry.
Something inside me would not let the dinner scene go unaddressed. So I got off the couch and took a moment to walk over to where she worked and struck up a conversation. I said, fully expecting an explosion of gratitude, “If I was more of a man, I would have put a stop to the conversation you just had to listen to at dinner.”
I remember her stony eyes more vividly than her words, but I do remember that with great resolve, she said, “Would you have?” Then she repeated it, “Would you have?”
What about you, reader? Do you possess enough penetration to see my mistake?
She didn’t want some empathetic friend. She didn’t want some “we’re all in this together” moment. She wanted righteousness. And the fact that I admitted that I knew it was wrong, made me more guilty, more unrighteous, than my boss.
This young woman had something most of us don’t recognize and are unable to do anything more than talk about if we do see. It’s something only got by experience. It’s something that’s forgettable–but that would be a tragedy.
The more you hate on her, the more you kill it. And for what?
I don’t know. Maybe that might help you understand why I love African-Americans and think you should too.
“Yes,” I am aware that I am a hypocrite. But “no,” that is not going to deter me from changing my wicked ways and speaking truth to power (that’s right, ladies, you are powerful).
I cannot remember precisely when it began for me, but if I give it a thought, it was probably when I first headed from little pink house-Lenexa to the Rocky Mountains to ski as a teenager. It may have been the drastic difference in how you appeared on the mountain versus how you appeared in the restaurants, that is, the change from puffy snow-pants to form-fitting leggings.
Or maybe it was the cheerleaders’ underskirt attire during cold-weather events. Aren’t cheerleaders the rightful leaders when it comes to fashion?
Whatever it was, as a young man I wasn’t going to say “no”–if you weren’t. More form-fitting clothing, more of the time, I said!
But now, after two or so years of all y’all–no matter how short, tall, fat, or thin–wearing nothing except leggings, I’m telling you it is time to put your pants back on.
Oh, and here’s a tip for the next time this trend surfaces: I maybe could have lasted for a few more months if you wouldn’t have started wearing leggings that have massive patches of fabric missing around your not-naughty bits.
Here’s the tru tru. I have a daughter. As you know, I cannot fight every battle and win the war. So help a brother out! She deserves better from you.
“I’m so excited about St. Patrick’s Day because I get to wear green and my mom’s favorite color is green!”
“Ha. That’s true. When is it?”
“I think it’s Thursday next week.”
“Are you going to wear green?”
“Now H-, when have you ever seen me dress up for a holiday?”
“Do you want to get pinched?”
When attempting to describe my sense of humor to people who are new to it, I’ve used the label “cosmic humor”. When I’ve said that, I intended to convey that even if it seems like I am laughing at rather than with a person, I’m not laughing at the person at all. I’m laughing at the cosmic situation. Sometimes people get it, other times people do not. Recently a blogger friend asserted that she didn’t think my icebreaking attempts at the gym were funny. Upon reading that, I felt bad and have wanted to try to explain why they were funny, moreover I wanted to explain how I can laugh at someone without actually making fun of them. Two days ago my brother gave me just what I needed.
I got this text from him in which he shared that he had the amusing thought of trying to deduce the origin of the “he who smelt it dealt it” phrase. After giving that problem more than a passing moment’s thought, I couldn’t help but laugh. And then it hit me that besides this unexpectedly pleasant laugh, Sam also unintentionally gave me a perfect way with which I can describe my sense of humor and offer its brilliance to you for your own application in this crazy, crazy world.
Picture with me the first time a couple of human boys heard a fart. Picture the very first time–caveboy style. I’m not talking about the purposeful farting that happens around puberty or so, but when the lads were probably four or five years old and off a ways from the tribe, just screwing around in the woods. It’d have to have been an otherwise quiet moment when all of a sudden this silly noise emanates from one of the boys. Surprising even himself, the perpetrator turns to the other boy and smiles. The other boy responds in kind with a innocent chuckle and a, “What the heck was that?” expression on his face. And then I picture the boy that didn’t fart to playfully laugh with an attitude of, “That was a really funny sound your body just made,” which would likely be followed by the hopeful command: “Do it again!”
See how the non-farter is laughing at the farter, but not really? He’s more laughing at the fact that farting occurs. It’s the slightest of distinctions, but I promise it’s there. And that’s my humor. That’s how I laugh at everything. We’re all on this human journey and these bodies we have utter words and make faces and take things serious and believe they’re important or right etc. etc. And so I laugh. I see stuff happen, especially things I do, like walking up to random women and pointing out how they can do life better, and then I laugh. I laugh with an attitude of, “What the heck was that?” and “Can you believe my body (brain included), in all its glorious wonder, just made that noise?”
And sometimes, just sometimes, the stranger laughs at the sound with me. And in that moment–that rare moment–a great friendship forms.
So lighten up, because I could use more friends. And after all, we’re all just a bunch of farters.
Not to argue with Shakespeare, but from my humble experience all the world’s not a stage–it’s a runway. I don’t mean Top Gun runway, I mean runway like Zoolander–the place where fashion is king.
Topping a long list of very surprising situations in which I have discovered, post Air Force, that appearance reigns is last Saturday’s episode. I found myself wearing a black suit with a black open-collar button-down underneath it. A gold chain around my neck suspended a gold security officer badge. I was stationed at the front of a bar while the St. Patrick’s Day parade was passing by just outside. My mission: prevent liquid from passing by me in either direction.
At least I had a stool to sit on.
The guy who arranged the gig freely told me he wanted me specifically (out of three others) to man this highly visible post at the fairly nice bar because I had “the look.” It didn’t take long for a few of the older women from the group nearest me to come over.
“What are you? Off-duty cop?”
“Right. You’re the best dressed off-duty cop I’ve ever seen. What’s that badge say?”
“It’s just for show.”
“Sure it is. I like your glasses.”
“Can we get a picture with you?” Turning to a friend, she says, “Hey. Use my phone, I want to get a picture with this guy. Isn’t he the best-dressed cop you’ve seen?”
One of the older guys with them then says to me with a knowing nod, “It’s pays to be good-looking, no?”
That proved the day’s only photo-op (luckily–it was exhausting) but about three more times before the end of the shift I found myself unable to convince talkative admirers that I was not an off-duty policeman and that the badge was just a psychological aide to calmness and security for the less talkative. Can you imagine my consternation? I’d suggest envisioning an ironic, unbelieving smile for starters.
A new portrait of the world is slowly forming in my head. One that includes me dressing like a millionaire and parking my Elantra several brisk-paced blocks away.
After passing through the doors at 9am, he walks up to the nearest manned register.
Perturbed that she didn’t immediately speak up upon his approach, he clears his throat and asks, “Excuse me. I was wondering if there is perhaps a sales associate who can take my measurements for a suit? I have to order a tux online for my brother’s wedding, but I don’t know my measurements for the shirt and coat.”
She looks mildly confused but after a moment’s consideration replies, “You’ll have to go back to customer service for that.”
The line at customer service is short. The problems are not. Finally, it is his turn.
“Um, yes. I just need some help with finding my measurements for a suit. My brother is getting married and I have to reserve it online, but I don’t know my measurements. Do you have someone, maybe in the men’s department, who can help me with that?”
The bewildered woman silently stares at him when she suddenly remembers something. Pressing her radio button, she says, “Jewelry: I have a customer here who needs you to take his measurements.” Then she turns to the man and says, “Just head on back to the front to the-”
“Yes, I heard. Jewelry department,” he concludes for her, seriously considering skipping the wedding.
Before he is able to leave the area, an associate more experienced in customer service stops him.
“Excuse me, sir. What did you need help with?”
Annoyed at this extra and unwanted attention, he only slows his walk as he explains, “Oh, I just need some measurements for-”
“Well what size shirt do you wear?” she interrupts.
He freezes mid-stride and wishes he would’ve said, “Perhaps you couldn’t tell, but I don’t know my size. That’s why I’m here. I don’t know my size because I’m an idiot. What’s worse is you should have recognized me for what I am and ignored me. But you didn’t. It seems I may be contagious–all the more reason to let me by unmolested. But, again, you didn’t, so now you get to listen. The clue you missed was that you were talking to a man standing in a Kohl’s because he believed that someone employed here would have the dexterity to use a tape measure to help a brother out. In any case, please stop talking to me now. Mind you, I don’t point the finger your way for causing this situation. I accept the blame readily. You see, just like you, I should have recognized I’m an idiot because only idiots would shop at a store where everything is always 70% off. By definition that’s not possible. And now I have a question for you. What’s it like to work for a company whose destruction would improve the world?”
All below units are U.S. Customary
Neck – 16 1/2″
Chest – 42″
Sleeve – 36″
Brain – Pea-sized with little room for growth
Have I told you much about Greeny? The following paints as accurate a picture of this war hero as any, I suppose.
Taking off his skis Saturday afternoon, he stops and says, “I just learned something about myself. See that woman over there? I watched her come down the mountain on tele’s and thought, ‘You know. I could marry her.'”
“Wow, man. Pretty deep,” my brother and I’s wide-eyed response.
“No, you don’t understand. You know what my girlfriend said to me the other day? She said, ‘It’s cold out here.’ I couldn’t believe it. It was like 60 degrees. I told her, ‘You can say, ‘I’m cold.’ But you can’t say ‘It’s cold.’ You can’t say it because it is not true.”
He always has been a stickler for the truth.
What I really want to share though is what happened at the club Saturday night. The seven of us in the bachelor party play pool for a few hours until most are losing interest and ready to head back to the condo. I convince Greeny to hang out a bit longer, because, well, we’re good friends and you never know when some new war will break out etc, etc. It was about midnight, and we had had enough to drink that I finally suggest we tempt fate on the dance floor where there are probably eight ladies and only one dude. (Focus on the decent odds, not the lame club.)
The entire floor cleared when we walked onto it.
I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt my body move more from laughter fits than any attempt to bust a move. Greeny was more still. He gets this look. The wheels are clearly turning behind his thousand yard stare, but from experience I assure you not necessarily very fast. He scans the room one last time and then reports, “Pete. If you and I are in any other country in the world and walk onto a dance floor, the women would leave their seats to join us. Here, they return to them.”
Now, ladies, I know what you’re thinking.
Wait. No, no I don’t. Never have. Same for Greeny.
Men fall into one of two categories. There are those who-can-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively–and those who cannot. Those who-cannot-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively can be subdivided further into two groups: those who-cannot-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively because they are weak and those who-cannot-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively because they over-think it; whereas those who-can-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively remain united. Being fairly strong, Pete found himself in the category of unable-to-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively because of over-thinking it. Roughnecks nicknamed some variation of Thor seem to limit their thoughts about the task at hand to “object needs to be struck; strike object.” To his detriment, Pete, on the other hand, took a more studied approach. To him, the task included thoughts such as, “Is this really the only way to accomplish the task? How many people are watching? I hope they’re standing far away, because once I begin there is no telling how this will end.” And, “While I realize that I am supposed to be swinging this 12-pound piece of metal as hard as I possibly can at this other piece of metal, is it possible to unintentionally break anything? Follow-up: If so, will someone be mad at me for breaking it?”
There is another nuance of sledge-hammer use that rarely surfaces in white papers. Men like Pete have full awareness of what happens at that moment–the moment the back-swing ends and the forward-swing begins. Despite increasing his effective swinging average from .500 to .734 in seven months time, Pete couldn’t forget about the remaining .266 that was unpredictably divided between missing completely and striking the object in such a way as to cause his muscles to have to transition from “HIT THAT MOTHERFUCKER!” to “PROTECT THE MASTER!” in an instant. Lucky for his face and feet, an instant was plenty of time.
“Want a break?” one of them asked him.
It was night. It was always night. They were in the middle of rig move and in the process of hammering up one of the mud-line’s hammer unions. A hammer union is a particularly fiendish way of connecting two pieces of pipe–several inches in diameter themselves–which must not leak under pressure. A thick metal ring with three or four gear-type knobs protruding at even intervals, the hammer union (permanently affixed around the male end of the connection) is first twisted onto the female end’s threads by hand. Upon reaching the limitation of its human’s tool-less ability, a hammer is then lifted by a gloved hand and proceeds to strike the knobs in an effort to seamlessly seal the union.
“Na, I’m good,” he answered in the middle of his quick breather.
After a few more solid swings, the tone of the metal-on-metal contact lowered several octaves until the four men heard the deep sound of the hammer hitting the entire mud-line that signals the job is complete, rather than the high-pitched sound that informs all that more swings are necessary.
“Peter, I bet you one hundred dollars I can get one more full turn out of it,” Becki volunteered.
Breathing hard, Pete peered into Becki’s soul, saw innocence, and said, “Whatever man. There is no way. No way. That one is not moving anymore. It’s good.”
“If you think so, then bet me,” Becki rejoined.
“You bet me one hundred dollars that you can get a full turn on that union?” Pete asked, his winnings already spent.
“Okay. That’s a bet,” said Pete, offering his hand.
Glee filled the other two men’s eyes as they each claimed witness to the bet and excitedly awaited the outcome. But not as much glee as filled Becki’s eyes.
“That’s the wrong way Becki,” Pete said, shaking his head that even the fastest roughneck messes up righty-tighty lefty-loosey sometimes.
“Wrong way!” yelled an onlooker to the unceasing Becki.
The twinkle in Becki’s eyes could be seen for miles. It spoke so loud that he needn’t put his voice to use until the loosening turn was completed at which point he asserted, “Like I said, one full turn. Pay up.”
A very sad Pete put up one volley in a futile argument concerning unstated betting assumptions.
At the young age of twenty-two, Becki had waited a full tenth of his life to put to use one of the oldest oil-field bets on an unsuspecting worm. Suffice it to say, Becki got more than one hundred dollars. He made a friend.
“H-. I just put your clothes out on the bed and so go upstairs and change while I put your cereal in a bag. I remembered we need to get going fast this morning,” he ordered as he jogged down the flight of stairs, himself still needing a change of clothes before stepping outside.
“Okay daddy,” said H-. She was nearly off the chair before she must’ve felt discipline’s heat and asked, “Please may I be excused?”
“Ha. Of course, H-. Get going.”
Dawdling as only a little girl can, H-‘s footpath revealed that she nearly forgot that her mission was to climb up the stairs and change into the clothes her father had put out. One glimpse of her father’s unmoving face refocused her promptly. The creaky stairs and second floor told him that she made it into the room.
“Oh. My. Goodness,” he heard her deliver with stunning maturity.
Interested in what could possibly be the reason for the disbelief she felt, he listened intently for the coming explanation.
“There’s no tag on my underwear!” she said.
He rounded the front hallway arriving at the bottom of the stairs only to look up and see two four-year-old arms holding out a pair of underwear at the top of the stairs. These arms were attached to a face whose eyes and smile sought confirmation that, more than unbelievable, this unprecedented silly situation required adult intervention. With no small amount of labor he climbed towards her, laughing.
“Can’t tell which is the back, eh?” he asked.
“No, I cannot,” she said definitively.
As he gave her a few tips for putting tag-less underwear on correctly, his mind couldn’t help but wander. A solitary sadness always led its journey, the sadness of knowing that her innocence is going to end some day. But this sadness was quickly washed away with the realization that it wasn’t going to end today. Not today. Not yet.
Chicago. In an unexpected–and unprecedented–move this past weekend, Oprah endorsed every product. The only African-American Billionaire, Miss Winfrey is making headlines around the world after her weekend decision, and doing so in every news category.
Simply put, people do not know what to do.
Since her rise to stardom, which began in 1984, Americans, and subsequently all humans, have looked to Oprah for guidance when undecided about how to spend their money. From books, to clothing, to boots, to coffee, to perfume, popcorn and more, consumers grew to love this new found ease of shopping in which they didn’t have to weigh the options themselves.
But now, in only the three hours since Captain’s Log learned of the story, virtual chaos has engulfed the world’s major cities. Every stock market has plunged, and some analysts are already predicting it will take more than twenty years to recover from this new great depression–if recovery is possible at all.
The Obama administration is the leading voice in the world’s governments call for people to remain calm. More difficult, however, has been these government’s task of asking their citizens to essentially think for themselves.
As for this American writer, the only hope is that Oprah’s thoughtless action has the unintended consequence of being the first cut in America’s citizens much needed Cesarean section. Stay tuned to Captain’s Log for further updates as this story develops.