Another comic book movie, another possible controversy.

Barbara Gordon has been the Batgirl of comics for quite some time.  (When she was not busy being Oracle.  That is a whole other story.  She is established in DC Comics.  We can leave it at that for now.)  She is one of the smartest characters around.  She is capable, a gymnast, a librarian, gutsy, and dedicated to her dad and her city.  The third cat I had was named Babs.  My teenage crush was on a fictional character. 

Up to this point, Barbara Gordon had also been a white and a redhead.  It is a bit striking to fans that this is the actress Warner Bros. cast as Batgirl.

I liked In the Heights.  The woman is obviously attractive.  She is in shape.  That blue top is basically superhero spandex. Yet she also has that quiet confidence about her.  When the protagonist falls for her, it is easy to understand.  And when she is responding to his attraction, she does it in a Barbara-like fashion.  She approaches him, defines matters, and offers a plan for further encounters.  At first glance, though, she does not look like Barbara Gordon.

How much casting flexibility should be allowed?  Ah, the age-old question.  Shakespearean actors were all male.  Female roles were portrayed by men and audiences packed the stands. 

When folks want to win an award, they depict someone who is mentally challenged.  Billy Bob Thornton, Edward Norton, Dustin Hoffman, Adrian Brody; they have all taken on the role of someone whose intelligence is different than theirs.  In a recent interview with Conan O’Brien (a very different redhead) Sean Penn discussed what opportunities there currently were to take parts that were not specifically set to the actor’s background.  He felt that if he was cast as Harvey Milk today, it would cause controversy because Penn himself is not gay.

Nerds in particular tend to get upset over such matters. 

-When Battlestar Galactica started up in the 2000s, much was made of Starbuck, a formerly male character, being played by a woman.  She turned out to be one of the fan favorites of the show. 

-Plenty of people were upset at Rogue One featuring a female lead.  (This continues to baffle me.  She was not replacing a male character?  Why did they care?)

-When casting Daredevil, the crew had a hard time finding an actor that had the proper mass and menacing presence to play the enormous villain, The Kingpin.  The choice was made to cast Michael Clarke Duncan, a black man, to play a character who was white.  I do not remember what the nerd consensus was, but I thought he did fine.  He was the only guy big enough that had the acting chops to match. 

-Wonder Woman lore suggests that Themyscira is somewhere close to Greece in ethnicity and locale.  Yet, when they cast Gal Gadot and her speech patterns were different, the Amazon women suddenly changed their vocalizations to match hers.

The most glaring set of changes to established characters came with Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Every supporting character was changed.  Ned was no longer white and had gained weight.  Aunt May, one who was always depicted as elderly and grandmotherly was suddenly an attractive older gal that Tony Stark flirted with.  Mary Jane underwent a still-confusing name change and was played by someone of a different race.  Flash Thomspon was played by an actor from a different race.  Flipping through the original comics, one sees a very pasty-white ensemble.  Watching the movie, many different races, cultures, and skin tones are depicted.

Then there is Batgirl.  She is pretty darned white.  Barbara can barely even keep a tan going.  (Spending all your time in libraries, Batcaves, and fighting crime all night will do that to a gal.)  The casting is interesting.  Jim Gordon has always been shown as white.  Though the newest Batman movie appears to be changing that as well.

Going back to Penn’s question:  who gets to play what roles?  Do we force only those that fit the narrowly defined traits of a character to play that person?  Tom Cruise was not the intimidating giant that Jack Reacher was supposed to be.  Where do we start caring?  Oops, Barry Allen is supposed to be blonde.  You have black hair.  No dice.  I do not want to be the guy who goes back and time and tells Hugh Jackman that he cannot play Wolverine because he is almost a foot too tall. 

My preference is that characters stay as close to those on the comic page as possible.  I like it when I can look at the screen and immediately recognize heroes that I have been following for decades.  I understand that all-white is not the way the world is, but it throws me when it feels like ethnicities were changed to appeal to a broader audience.  I understand that everyone wants to see themselves on screen, not just myself.  Yet, I prefer a direct comic to movie transference. 

If folks want to see a certain type of character, they should go ahead an create that character.  Miles Morales, one of the Spider-folks, is half Puerto Rican, half black.  Sam Wilson is a strong black man.  John Ridley, the writer of 12 Years a Slave is currently writing a run of Batman stories where his Batman is black.  Companies have tried to create brand new characters, with diverse backgrounds, but unless they can tie them to an established character, they tend to not sell.

The problem with non-whites taking up the mantle of established heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America is that eventually there is going to be a group that demands that the original character, the one they have grown to know and love, return to the mantle that they started.  Then what happens to the Morales and Wilsons?  Ms. Marvel, currently a middle eastern teenager, is going to share the next Captain Marvel movie with the Carol Danvers white-version.  Can we all work together that nicely?

While I have my preferences, what is most important to me is the character.  Superman films frustrate me.  I do not like Superman as a killer.  Lex Luthor should not be a cowering psychotic.  The Batmobile should not be firing rounds of bullets into a crowd.  Things like that make me shirk the movies.  Movie-Thor is much goofier than comic-Thor and I know a fan that cannot come around to the sillier version.

It comes down to this:  does the actor portray the heart of the character?  I think Zachary Levi has the charm of Shazam, even if he lacks the physicality.  Robert Downey, Jr. made the perfect Tony Stark, even though he was a little short.  Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Nebula, Thanos; none of these characters were played by actors with purple blue, or green skin.  Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel did great work.  They have never actually been a raccoon or tree-creature

Fleshing out a character is about more than skin tone.  If the acting matches the part, then they should get the job.  High school productions and community theatre constantly tweak roles to fit the actors they have available.  The best actor gets the gig.  Does the actor make me believe in the character?  Do they succeed in bringing the character to life and presenting their traits to an audience?  Okay.  Then it is all yours. 

The stories that I love still exist.  They sit on my bookshelves.  I flip through their pages constantly.  Sometimes, to adapt material, one has to blow the dust off of the books.  The studios bring a different take.  I can reread my books, my versions, whenever I please.  No one is stopping me.  Maybe the movie version will win me over.  Maybe the new version will work out.  They could bring in new fans. 

I will show up when Batgirl arrives in theaters.  When I am in my seat, ready to be entertained, I care much more about seeing a character’s heart than I do about what their race is “supposed to be.”        

Update 3:10 p.m. Then, the same day, more super news changed things. Take everything I just said and cut and paste it. Oh comic movies.

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What Do You Want?

I am still working on being grateful.  The problem as I see it is that there is always more to crave.  The trick for me is realizing what parts of that “more” I actually want.

My life works pretty well for me.  It may not for others, but I have no severe reasons for complaints.  And I do not need all the luxuries that are offered.  The healthy choice would lie in acknowledging what I have, recognizing some goals, and discarding that which I have no use for. 

(Your results may vary.  Here is my situation.)


What I have

My cat is reasonably cute.  She is healthy.  She loves to play.  She is quick to purr.  She cuddles (on her terms).

What I want

I could do with less scratches.  If I never got hissed at again, that would be nice.  Oh, and if we could get a pet and I to agree on a feeding schedule and amount, I would be thrilled.

What I am supposed to want

I am not a dog person.  If someone I love has a dog, I will walk said dog.  But I have yet to see a dog that does not salivate all over or poop massive amounts of crap.  The commercials show dogs bounding about with tails wagging and tongues happily flapping.  Pass.  Indoor pets are for me.


What I have

My job is fine.  I always have something to do.  I have no phone extension, no desk, no fancy title.  I have started hugging coworkers again.  Coworkers say that everybody loves me.  I get home on time.  All my bills are paid.  I have a free bus pass.

What I want

It is hard to save.  It feels like every year my bank account is exactly the same as it was in January.  Everybody could use a little more salary.  I would love it if I could get a job involving books again.

What I am supposed to want

I do not need the title.  I will never be a high-powered CEO with a seven-digit salary.  (I will also never pull my hair out or start smoking because of a job.)  I refuse to travel for work.  I do not need a corner office.  I certainly do not need my career decisions to make the news.  Nope. 


What I have

Whenever I want, I can take a day or two off and relax.  If I want to go hiking, I am healthy enough and I have a car.  More often, I spend the day at home reading.  My vacation plans are very simple and very achievable.

What I want

Honestly, I do pretty well with vacations.  I could always go on more hikes.  For the most part, I have enough time to do as I please.

What I am supposed to want

I have never had a passport.  I have no great urge to visit every continent.  If I go through life and never set foot in Europe, I will be okay.  I might enjoy a trip to Ireland.  In general, travel does not entice me.


What I have

I have people that love me.  My family and I all get along.  I get hugged at church and work.  I am reasonably lovable.  Yet this is my biggest struggle.  This is what I am most dissatisfied with.

What I want

Marriage sounds delightful.  I will sign up if given the right teammate.  I always hope for an attractive gal to like the fact that I go to church, and then challenge me to a game of Scrabble. 

What I am supposed to want

I can do without the Instagram models.  I do not need a Hollywood actress.  I know all the ads demand slinky black dresses draped with jewelry and legs that just do not quit.  (Toss a ponytail through a cap and wear some jeans.  That is more my style.)  I do not need exemplary beauty or exotic sex appeal.


What I have

My 2011 four-door works fine.  I buy gas for it once every two months.  I have yet to hit 35,000 miles.  I am loyal to walking and buses.

What I want

The tree-hugger would be happy with an electric car.  (Though I still think all those cadmium/lithium batteries are bad for the planet.  Which is worse; fossil fuels spewed through tailpipes or contamination through chemical leaks?)  Less pollution, that is what I want.

What I am supposed to want

Ugh. GPS, how I loathe you.  I do not want a car with Wi-Fi or Blu-ray.  I like as few electronics in a car as possible.  No Bluetooth.  No multiple-screen displays.  Let the car be simple.  Do I like the electric part of a Tesla?  Yep.  Do I like the luxury part of it?  Not at all.  Nor do I need a car that is the size (and as bad for the Earth) of a small asteroid.  If a car cannot fit into a moderately sized parking spot than I have no use for it. 


What I have

Blissfully, my house is a few blocks uphill of a river.  It also is on the ground floor of an apartment complex.  That makes for a nifty convergence zone where my place is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  I have space for everything.  I have a washer, drier, and dishwasher.  My bookshelves fit and my modest tv fills the living room.  No mice, no roaches, no spongy walls.

What I want

Oh, what I would not give for a soundproof apartment.  And if neighbors would obey posted signs banning smoking, that would be bliss.  Also, why I am paying a percentage of the water bill?  I want to pay for what I actually use.    

What I am supposed to want

This is one of my biggest struggles.  The American Dream demands that I buy a house.  I do not know if I will every be able to do that.  In the city where I live and at the rate I am paid, it would take me seventeen years of paychecks to buy a place.  (Tragically, I need to pay for things like food, rent, and tithe.)  Also, I would have to pay property tax or condo dues.  And houses need new roofs, new carpets, and lawn mowers.  (All of which I currently get for free as a renter.)  My friends want me to celebrate with them when they get a house.  It is one of those life goals I am told I should work for.  I know full well that if I struggle to keep an apartment clean that a house would be too much.  Yet I am constantly tempted by this lofty goal that I may never achieve.  I do not need a house.  I cannot afford a house.  And yet…


What I have

I spend less than a hundred dollars a year on medicine, including toothpaste.  When I tweaked my back, I was back to normal within a week.  I can run long distances, hike whatever I please, and eat whatever I like.  My metabolism has never slowed.  My joints, especially my knees and wrists, crack quite a bit.  Yet everything works.  I can do anything I darn well please.

What I want

I think asking for a new pair of knees is a reasonable request.  No surgery, though.  Nope, I would like my knees to simply fix themselves.  And if I could stay in shape all my life and never have to worry about calcium deposits or deterioration, that would be great.  (Despite my robust lung capacity, I do not think I should hold my breath.)

What I am supposed to want

I cannot swim.  It does not bug me.  But I should learn.  Getting water in eyes freaks me out.  And I do not know how to ride a bike.  I prefer jogging.  But I should learn.  I have never run a marathon.  It sounds painful.  Life will not miraculously improve if I run 26 miles.  Yet I am told that I should.  I am not getting Botox to keep my skin tight.  I like having muscles, but not enough to sign up for any Marvel Action Hero/ Be a Movie Star work out regimes.  I like being able to walk through a door without turning sideways, thankyouverymuch.


My life is pretty darned grand.  Some folks have wars going on in their backyards.  Some folks have rivers of sewage cascading into their homes whenever there is a flood.  Some folks do not have a home, a pet, or a constant source of food.  My life is blessed.

I try to remind myself that I have things pretty great.  The cat, nature, time for reading; most of my wants are met.  When I get frustrated about my one or two wish-list items not being met, I keep trying to focus on all the things I do have. 

Those two items though; they take up a lot of my mindscape.  Everything else comes easily.  Why not one more thing?  And another?  And another?  Therein lies the slippery slope.

If I had everything I was supposed to want, I would be miserable.  With what I have currently, I can usually be content.  I do not think there is anything wrong with wanting more in life.  It pushes us to try new things, to work hard, and to have adventures.  Having goals is reasonable.  Yet, I think we should keep ourselves in check.  Personally, I have to keep reminding myself of the hundreds of things that have gone well for me as I strive to fix the few things that I would like to have different.  

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Intermission- Site Updates


Just a few things. I tweaked the page to give you more options.

Want to subscribe? Voila, e-mail link has been added.

Like pictures of cats or silly doodles that I draw in Paint? Okay, you can see my Instagram.

And I’m a media guy. I’m always reading something. So you can judge my Goodreads account if you like.

That’s all. Nobody’s engaged or pregnant or walking on lava.

So, as an added bonus? Something to make it worth your while?


‘k, bye.

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Split Decision

I find that I tend to succeed pretty regularly.  I run at a decent pace.  My bills are paid.  My cat tolerates me.  I only have to cheat a little bit to solve a crossword puzzle.  And yet, I am only human.

Turn back the clock three months and you would find a guy ready for a new challenge.  I was turning 41.  I had a rather tame Covid-induced existence.  When I downloaded an application for mental health, the suggested programs section offered something about doing the splits in 30 days.  I thought to myself, “Why not?”  If I can touch my toes, surely this new skill was not a great stretch.

The program was inviting enough.  As the screen loaded, I was met by a high-resolution picture of a toned woman in fancy colored lighting stretching out with her legs at her sides in a 180-degree angle.  Next up was a little on-screen character.  She had a pink sports bra, pink scrunchie holding her brown hair back, and pink shoes.  Surely, I could achieve this goal in all my manliness if this two-toned chippie could do it without sweating.  (All she had to do was cycle back and forth between resting-image and stretching-image.  Slacker!)  I bet I could do it between scratching myself and bumping chests with my closest dude-bro as we watched NASCAR.

Day 1.  Too easy.  I barely broke a sweat.  There were three difficulty settings and I had chosen to start with Beginner.  Never again.  If I was going to roll out of bed at 4 in the morning, I would need something more than this to wake me up.

I was introduced to the first of the absurd poses that I would be asked to perform to prepare for the splits.  Dynamic Frog Pose?  Was this really a thing?  I felt like I was reenacting a controversial comic book cover.  But if the pixelated heroine could pull it off, I had to follow suit.

Day 2.  Intermediate, I came to party with you.  As I tapped the instructions, I found that I was supposed to hug the ground more with the Frog Pose.  Okay.  (Shrug)  Why not?  Really open up that pelvis…

Day 3.  Runner’s Pose.  The newest in the line of, “What the ???”  Do a plank and then bring a leg up to your knee?  Madness.  I did my best impression of a Transformer caught halfway between Autobot and vehicle.  An hour later I lifted weights.  Grrr.

Day 5.  A Sunday.  I go for runs on Sundays.  After 24 minutes of stretching unused muscles, I spent an hour or so doing what was familiar to me.  Except that morning my legs were extra talkative.  “We want to hurt!”  “Us too!”  “Hey, how come it takes more work for you to move this body part today?  Get it together.”

Day 6.  I could not –ow– believe –ow– that I had not –ow– worked out –ow– at all –ow– that day.  Ow.

Day 7.  My skepticism kicked in.  My understanding was that this was a 30-day program.  I was 1/5th of the way there and my body was quite resistant.  I decided to trust the pony-tailed construct and do as I was told.

The effort continued.  I continued my stretches at the end of the month when I visited my parents for the first time in two years.  While they slept blissfully upstairs, I was on the ground floor trying to kick my foot out to my side.  I stuck to the schedule.  Five days of this and that, a day of rest, and then five more days of that and this.

This was me on day 24.  As you can see, the splits were far from achieved.  I was going to finish the schedule in five days.  Were my hips supposed to dislodge themselves miraculously?  However, as Nala the Annihilator will attest to, the whole thing was becoming routine.

I did see some improvement in flexibility.  Instead of reaching for my toes, I was reaching for the bottom of my feet.  As far as the splits were going, I was taking baby steps.  I was getting there.  But.  Oh.  So.  Slowly.

30 days went by.  I started the cycle again as I cranked the effort up to Difficult.  Day 45 came along.  I tweaked my back lifting at work and spent seven or so days recovering.  Then I returned to the fray.  Day 60.  I started the cycle a third time.  Day 75. 

I started this endeavor on April 1st.  Yesterday was July 5th.  Surely, after 90+ days of stretching, I should have been at splits-level.      


Perhaps I am too long in the limb.  Maybe my bones are firmly set, what with me being a middle-aged man and all.  It could be that I was never meant for the ballerina life.  (As my former jogging partner claimed, “Oh, I bet I could do it in a month.  I did it in ballet.”)  Yes, I made progress.  I will agree that I got better.  But success?  I think that benchmark remains out of reach.

The application claims that most anyone can do the splits.  They simply have to keep at it.  My ego agrees, adding that giving up is unacceptable.  “C’mon!  You can’t give up!  We had a goal!  We can do this!  If you give up now, all your progress will be lost!  How are you going to hang with your boys, chug beers with them, and burp in their faces if you know that you are a loser!”

Happily, I am not a tank-top wearing member of the Fast and Furious crew.  I am okay failing at a thing or two.  Time is the key factor in my decision.  I only have so many hours before I have to get myself to work in the morning.  If I am going to stretch that much, it has to be around dawn when I have the most energy.  However, I also do my best writing in the morning.  Before the world gets noisy, before the distractions start, and before life starts calling; I write. 

It comes down to priorities.  When I shuffle off, would I rather be known as someone who spent time writing, or as a guy whose legs hugged the carpet flawlessly?  I choose writing. 

I will still stretch.  Maybe I will use the program once or twice a week and get there one day.  I dunno.  I can live without the splits.  I still feel healthy.  When it comes to failing at one exercise, I can be flexible.

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Help when Pawsible

There are only so many quirks one can ignore about their cat.

I do not want to pretend that my cat can ever be perfect.  Sure, she has scratched much less in present days than she did when we first paired up.  Her tendency to eat and eat and eat persists.  She has successfully claimed the sides of the couch with her claws.  She is less ferocious, but her attitude remains. 

No, I am referring to those little medical dramas that we try to ignore and put off until it all comes to a head.  She looks like a content cat, right?  You would never believe that she just had a large incision into her belly to remove an umbilical ulcer.  (Giving birth messes up your body.  Right, moms?)  Or that she had her teeth cleaned.  Or that she now has two less teeth. 

At the risk of making my cat sound like a car, I was trying to repair all the damages while she was in the shop.  “Need to remove that blockage?  Go ahead and fix her grill while you’re at it.  I’ll leave the ol’ girl with you and pick ‘er up after work.  When I come back, I want that baby purring as good as new!”

This is what the mighty Nala the Annihilator looks like when she is on pain meds, has a row of staples running between her legs, and has all her movements inhibited by a plastic barrier.  Whee!

Kinda sad, kinda hilarious.

I have never been on post-op duty before.  Mylar, my previous cat, had a dehydration problem.  She would not drink enough.  Three times a week I would give her an IV of fluids.  She’d sit on my lap, the liquid would drip, and we would be back to our routine. 

A different commitment is required here.  Nala now needs twice as much clearance to get her head through a door.  It irks and confounds her.  “I’m walking straight ahead! Why is my movement hindered! That wall’s way over there!” And yes, if I had a half-scale construction cone jammed over my head, I would try to rip, tear, or kick it off until I succeeded.  Because I pay the bills, I get to be in charge.  Yay? 

Nala is a cleaner.  She will lick herself all the live long day.  Arms are her favorite, but her second love is between her legs.  She likes to be clean.  I cannot imagine the pain of trying to lick metal staples, let alone pulling them out.  Hence my refusal to relent.  The cone stays, furball!

This makes it harder for her to eat, pee, and curl up into a cute little ball that sleeps 22 hours a day.  I do what I can.  I leave extra water bowls around.  I lift her into the litter box.  I created three piles of blankets with extra cushioning so that she could lie comfortably. 

Mostly, like any parent, I worry and fret.  I do not call my pet my child.  I am not saving up for cat college.  I do not (normally) dress my cat in clothes.  I know that she would eat me if it came down to it.  Yet there is an emotional attachment and a responsibility.  If I slack off, this creature will suffer.  If I treat her kindly, she will have a better life.  If she is in pain, I should do my best to ease it.  I hope that her healing comes quickly. 

I understand better what my mom went through when her kids were sick.  I get a teensy-weensy glimpse into what parents worry about when their kids get rushed to the hospital.  You can only control life this much or that much.  You can only take away a certain number of injuries. 

What I can do is what cats do for me.  I watch over her while she is ill.  I sit by her on the couch just like how she sits next to me when I am not feeling well.  (Okay, so she sits on me, not beside.)  I rub my nose against hers.  I scratch under her chin and her brow.  I keep her company.  She does the same for me.

I cannot fix the quirks that my cat has.  When one of those quirks is loyalty, I see no reason to.

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Feeling Campy

I have been thinking about campfires lately.  Maybe it is because summer is calling and we all want to be outside.  Or it could be that I have been watching, “A Week Away”, on Netflix too much. 

Whatever the reason, the draw of a campfire is undeniable.

From the start, I want to set apart campfires from bonfires.  Bonfires are campfires that are misbehaving.  Bonfires know no boundaries.  The campfire is a responsible student that will get its homework done without being reminded. Bonfires will take the car without permission, stay out past curfew, leave fast food trash in the back seat, and not feel the least pang of guilt about returning the car with the gas tank empty as they walk past their unopened textbooks. Bonfires are Goofus, campfires are Gallant.

A bonfire has many purposes.  It can be used for burning trash, making signals, or entertaining.  Bonfires can be defined as any fire built in the open. 

A campfire on the other hand is an outdoor fire for warmth or cooking.  It is also defined as the gathering around the fire.  And gatherings are what we could use right about now. 

I grew up enjoying the outdoors but was always a coward about attending camps.  Church retreats were safer. They involved groups of people that you already knew, with the opportunity to get to know them better.  I have performed at many talent shows at my church’s getaways.  Folks of all ages seek serenity in summertime.

My guess is that after the end of a long day of trying to survive, our ancestors sat around the campfire.  There was no daylight left, so their activities were limited.  They had to slow down.  Food would be cooked over a shared fire.  They would gather together to warm themselves and protect each other from wild animals.  There is much talk about going back to sitting around the dinner table as a family.  What we forget is the even older-fashioned idea of circling as a community around a campfire.

There is a forced intimacy to campfires.  Much like theatre in the round, one is more or less forced to take in the person sitting across from them.  The height and brightness of the campfire may limit one’s view of others.  Yet all share the feeling of being exposed to those nearby who are, just like them, sitting on the logs or flattened stones. 

In the movies it plays out much the same.  True Grit and Seabiscuit feature cowboys sitting around talking business, plans, and horses.  Pitch Perfect 2 and A Week Away show people sharing what is on their hearts and spontaneously singing heartfelt songs in breathtakingly simple arrangements. 

(Bonfires do not end as well.  College movies feature bonfires.  Horror movies feature bonfires.  Are you a cute little coed about to be seduced by a sketchy frat guy?  Bonfire.  Trying to get warm before an axe murderer comes out of the woods and attacks?  Bonfire.  “Hey, let’s dance in scanty clothing and hope the police don’t show up.”  Bonfires; not for the faint of heart.)

Campfires are the great equalizer.  No one can get too close to the fire without getting burned.  Everyone’s skin turns some shade of orange.  We are all at nature’s mercy.

One cannot talk about campfires without talking about camps.  I really should have gone more.  I think I signed up for one camp and had my parents turn around and take me home within hours of being dropped off.  I was too scared to face a week without family members.  I was a wimpy kid.

Now though, it sounds intriguing.  Especially when thinking of teenage camps.  Ah, the possibilities.  At one camp a cabin full of teenage guys attempted to surprise the girls’ cabin. (I qualify it as an “attempt” because it is almost impossible to get a group of boys to keep quiet when plotting an incursion.  Also, come now.  These are teenage girls.  They had to know the boys would make at least one mighty effort.)  I was never caught because I went back to my cabin while they stayed out having a grand time.  I did not become a camp fan overnight.

Camp is often high school in fast forward.  The lovers only have a week to fall for each other.  If they come from the same area, shared school, or shared church, they have to spend a day or two getting over their preconceived notions of the other and then try to hide their new affection for the other party from their common friends.  If they are strangers, they have to find ways to engage the other person while being constantly distracted by new friends, a barrage of activities; all while plotting one on one time in a canoe with that beguiling person. 

Arrive at camp on a Monday.  Get settled in.  Take in your surroundings.  By Tuesday, you cannot take your eyes off that person across the mess hall.  Tuesday afternoon you might actually strike up a conversation.  Wednesday you do your best to get them alone so you two can talk by the side of the lake as your friends distract the other’s friends.  (Which is fine, because they should be quite happy to flirt with the other’s friends too.  Understand if your pals prefer to throw water balloons at them or teepee their cabin instead.  Be flexible.)

Thursday consists of swooning and trying to kiss whenever possible.  You sit next to them at the farewell campfire and dread what Friday will bring.  Then you say your goodbyes. 

In the heartwarming ending, it turns out that both campers live next to each other and they can delight in the life of intertwined fingers, dramatic gazes in the hallways, and constant ribbing from respective groups of friends and peers that, “can’t believe how much you’ve changed, man!”

For the more Shakespeare-inclined, there is the tragedy ending as well.  Where he admits that he has a girlfriend back home and if things were different…  Where she wants to see him, but knows her lack of driver’s license will make the fifteen miles between them a devastating dead end. 

Let us not forget the dangers as well.   The added thrill of possibly drowning from a faulty flotation device.  (We have all seen how sketchy those things look after a few summers, right?)  Or getting struck by an arrow not of Cupid’s sending.  (Assuming one comes across that rare camp kid that can learn how to fire said arrow past the target.)  Then there are the camp counselors that have decided there will be no shenanigans on their watch.  (Bringing down those stodgy supervisors is half the fun.  What is love without an obstacle to overcome?)

Yet, generation after generation, we keep trying.  How can you resist when that certain someone is basked in the softening glow of firelight?  The swimsuits, the shorts; the opportunity to see how they react to persistent spiderwebs?  It is almost worth enduring the sketchy restrooms.  (Speaking of spiders…)

Yes, I am a fan of campfires.  In my experience, campfires burn away the everyday nonsense.  In the morning the thoughts that struck a chord still remain. 

We go home to our microwaves, our computers, and our fireplaces that serve purely decorative functions.  Hopefully we leave with fantastic memories. Not only of critters that we had never before seen in real life, but also the insights obtained from those around us. 

When we sit around the campfire, things makes sense.  The busy life we get so caught up in slows down.  Fire crackles louder than phones chime.  (And God bless any campsite that has no reception.)  Logs slowly dissolve and break down like the barriers we have put up around us. 

We have small conversations as we ask someone to walk back to the cabins with us because we forgot our flashlight.  We do not want to sit downwind of the smoke, so we share a log with a stranger and chat between s’mores.  We learn that for all the warmth we feel from people sharing and partaking in old traditions, we still need a jacket over our tank top when the sun goes down.

Camp romances are fun to watch and engage in.  Many relish more time on the beach or in the sun.  Canoeing, arts and crafts; those are all dandy. Yet for me, it is the campfire moments that smolder for years after.

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The Whole Package

I am just civic minded enough to pick up some trash now and then.  Not so often that I should get a citation or public recognition.  However, I will return a grocery cart or grab a discarded cup with me when the whim strikes.

In part I want to be a helpful citizen.  “Leave the place better than when you found it”, and all that.  In addition, sometimes I get a glimpse into someone else’s life.  For example, the last receipt that I picked up was from a grocery store.  The only thing that the person bought was a bunch of flowers.  They only cost $13.99.  Yet that consumer clearly went out of their way to make things prettier for someone they cared about.  I like to believe that a husband was fulfilling his thoughtfulness quota for the week.  Who is going to tell me I am wrong?

Do not go rifling through someone else’s garbage.  Let us not be creepy.  But if you see something lying on the side of the road with the intent of cleaning up the world?  Well then that is fair game. 

After I picked up this card, I found the envelope.  And a little farther along was a cardboard box addressed to the same person.  Three pieces of garbage sat alone on the side of the road.  It was a glimpse into another’s life in triplicate form.

The box contained a gift and a card addressed to Alina.  Between Alina and her last name is the note, “gorgeous made of honor”.  Mohammed “I am the Greatest” Ali.  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  Now Alina can join their ranks.

The envelope is not reflective, but it has a shiny surface to it.  And we can easily picture this torn up, thick paper-stock containing the white card which contains the simple phrase, “Will you be my maid of honor?”

If you ever see a card lying on the ground, I do not see how you could resist reading it.  Cards are an overpriced way to say we care.  There is a reason why entire sections of grocery and drug stores are set aside for these things.  They know that we will spend time agonizing over which high-gloss piece of cardboard will perfectly state that which we cannot express ourselves.  Some are over-sized and goofy.  Some contain more flowers than a florist and far too much calligraphy.  But the purpose is unchanging.  Spend $5 and sign your name.  Then the recipient will know that you are sincere.

Now comes everyone’s favorite part.  The portion of the blog where we take a complete stranger’s scribblings and make up our own version of reality.  Yay!

First off, the sender lives a state away.  I choose to believe that the recipient was the one who stayed put.  They were friends here.  I reckon that the sender moved to the neighboring state.  That is where they met their person and fell in love and decided to marry.  The only real evidence I have to support that theory is that this Alina gal lives in a house.  There is a permanence to that.  Besides, I keep hearing that people are leaving my state in droves.  Someone had to start the trend; why not her?

The sender.  Hmm.  Well, she is female.  Also, she has a hyphenated last name.  Poor thing.  Can you imagine if she decides to incorporate her soon-to-be spouse’s last name into hers?  Are you allowed to have a three-part hyphenated name?  Is she going to end up with a first name, two middle names, and then a hyphenated last name?  I am not sure there are forms big enough for that entry field.

Add to that, the purple pen that was used to write the shipping label.  I once had a boss who wrote only in purple pen.  She liked to have things done a certain way.  It was not that your way was inferior; it was merely that her way was her way.  The writing is not dotted with hearts over the eyes or bubbly letters.  The address is clearly legible.  There is subtle a hint of softness.  You know the type.  The numbers have a touch of playfulness and openness about them.  The straight lines are slanted a touch. 

Her intent is to be considerate.  But this gal has a list of things to do.  First off, it was all mailed in an Amazon box.  But the address was handwritten.  She did not simply buy it online and put in her maid of honor’s address.  Nope.  She bought something, gave it the classy touch of a note, then mailed it herself.  Yet she did not remove the old mailing stickers from Amazon.  There was no attempt to Sharpie-out the old barcodes.  It had tracking on it, but it was not Priority Mail.  She wanted this to get to Alina.  She wanted to show her appreciation.  But she has other stuff going on, darn it.

The return address, that which she had written plenty of times, was perfect and straight.  She knew how much space it took up and she did not have to pause to double-check.  Alina’s address is more hectic.  For one thing, it slanted quite a bit.  And one of the letters was inked over twice to correct a mistake. 

The note itself shows more of the same.  We all do it.  We think we have all the space in the world.  Then we have to start squishing things closer as we run out of room.  We hunch over the note and start to notice that the right sided writing is higher up on the paper than the left side.  By the time we get everything in, there is no room for a signature at the bottom.  Hopefully they’ll know we love them without having to sign it.

Then there is the recipient.  Oh, Alina.  The two are close enough that the sender calls them sisters.  A move has not kept them from being friends.  She agreed to support her friend in her engagement.  They care for each other. 

But I think Alina is going to get a little stressed out.

“The next few months are going to be hectic fitting my special days into your schedule”

Eep.  I get nervous whenever I see, “my special day”.  And this gal wants more than one! Plural! Ahh! The sender has a timeline in mind.  “Few” sounds to me like three.  Which leaves a lot to be accomplished.  Hey, no pressure.  It is only, “one of the biggest days of my life”.  Eep.

 Knowing how much houses cost these days, we can go ahead and assume that Alina is working full time, if not more.  And folks are starting to gather.  And summer is a time for vacation.  And Alina has a house and yard to maintain.  And one has to assume that at least some of the wedding activities will need to be done in person. 

You gotta be there for the dress fittings.  You gotta be there to look over color schemes and find flower shops.  Those bridal showers don’t host themselves…  Alina’s schedule is going to be pretty hopping this summer.

I think the sender might set a foot into bridezilla territory.  She has her version of how life should be.  Whether it is sending parcels to say thanks or using fancy pens to add color, I suspect she has visions, goals, and certain way of doing things “just so”.  And after having a year with no barbecues, graduations, or weddings, one can assume that there might be some added pressure to impress.  Here’s hoping that the quick pace and the arrangements do not get to her.  Or Alina.

If I were to a gambler, I would put my money on Alina to make it.  She has a quickness to her.  This box was sliced open.  Efficiency won out over elegance.  The box was not cut down and folded flat.  No, even after cars had driven over it, this battered box still was trying to maintain its shape. Hang in there, last shred of packing tape! You can do it! 

The envelope?  That sucker was torn open.  The flap was nowhere to be found.  Alina wanted in and she got in, darn it.  Alina makes things happen when she needs to.  She may not be sentimental enough to cling to every card she has ever been sent.  Yet she invests in relationships that matter to her.

I believe they will be fine.  They care about each other over state lines.  They keep in touch.  They can weather the distance and the possible high-maintenance demand here or there.  We have all been cocooning for the last year.  We are rested up.  Now we can start to roll our sleeves up and use all that potential energy we have been sitting on.  Time for two girls to throw a party.  Here’s hoping they remember to invite the spouse-to-be.

Sooner than they know it, the sender will be married off.  She will be starting her married life.  Alina will be ready to get back to her own little world.  And I have no doubt that a thank you note will be sent to her house again.  I wonder what will happen to that card?

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Blame the Antarcticans

You all have been picking on the wrong people.

We have made our way through the list.  We have been against women getting the vote, against communists, against black people getting fair treatment, against LGBQT+ folks, and we locked up some folks that we should not have in World War II.  And hey, we all need our stereotype groups to gang up against in action movies.  We do not understand them so they must be the enemy. 

Now we are told that we have to consider the feelings of alien invaders as well.  We cannot blow their spaceships into smithereens anymore.  We should instead talk it out with those that have antenna coming out of their foreheads and green skin. 

Somebody has to take the blame, darn it!  It cannot be our fault.  So who is it that is making our life miserable?

I will tell you.  The answer has been under our nose the whole time.  Literally, figuratively, and geographically.

Yes, my brethren, those that do not deserve our respect?  Darn Antarcticans.  (Boy, I wish I swore.)

Even now, my spellcheck is telling me that Antarcticans do not deserve our recognition.  These lowlifes do not even have a proper name.  More than that, they do not have a government!  Their land is ruled by treaty!  Allow me to show you just how vile these people truly are.

First off, they refuse fidelity to their homeland.  They want you to believe that there are no indigenous people living in Antarctica.  Now, the icy terrain of doom is a sometimes-home to tourists and scientists.  Have no hatred for those folks; they are just like us. 

It is the Antarcticans, those that are so ashamed that they cannot even admit that they exist; they are the real enemy.  They are the cause of all things nefarious. 

You want proof?  Okay.  The Ozone Layer.  Yeah, that big hole in the sky.  The gap in our protective buffer from the sun.  Where is it located?  Right above Antarctica.  And how big is it?  About the size of a certain continent.  You know the one.  Antarctica.  Guilty.

Do you know how evil Antarcticans are?  They hate pets.  They want to keep you away from your favorite puppy or kitten.  That is right, non-native animals are not allowed.  Why they got to hate so much?

They loathe fun too.  Want to go fishing?  Maybe in Vostok Lake?  Too bad!  It is stuck under piles of ice.  And if you can get past all that?  Drill through all that ice?  The only life there is microscopic.  How are you supposed to clean and gut a microbe and grill it for you friends?  You think I want to mount a microbe onto a fine piece of stained oak and hang it over my fireplace?  No! 

Of course, you cannot expect Antarcticans to cherish life when they live in a desert.  Some say they get .8 inches of precipitation a year.  Others will go as high as 2 inches a year.  Whatever numbers you like, the Sahara still gets twice as much.  Screw you, Antarcticans!  You skinflints!

Oh, and do not get me started on the cold.  -128 degrees Fahrenheit?  I do not think so!  Winters with no sunlight?  Sunburns while you are freezing to death?  Look, it would be rude to claim that Antarcticans suck.  But I will say that they exert a greater force on the interior of a container than the exterior.  Jerks.

Oh, and Dry Valleys?  Yeah, the driest place on earth.  Those folks have not seen rain in about 2 million years.  Talk about inhospitable.  I would offer you a glass of water.  What is your deal, Antarcticans?  They must do loads of crunches, because they are putting the ab in abnormal.

Maybe that is why we work so hard to ignore them.  They deserve to be eschewed and we all know it.  They have, what, 5,500,000 square miles to share?  They are the fifth largest continent.  But in the winter, they have maybe 1,000 people around.  C’mon, Antarcticans.  My high school was bigger than that.  You are a bunch of losers and we all know it.

Shoot, nobody had even seen their land until 1820.  Not even them.  You know what Antarctica’s name was supposed to be?  Terra Australis.  But people decided that land could not exist further south than Australia.  Australia got a respectable name, as well they should.  (Australia is great.  Kangaroos, platypuses, and Hugh Jackman.  ‘nuff said.)   

Antarcticans went about eighty years without a proper name for their home.  They were almost called Ultima or Antipodea.  The world was in no hurry.  Eventually, we saddled them with Antarctica.  We will give you vowels, Antarcticans.  But never our respect.

You know what Ernest Shackleton’s great achievement was when he spent three and a half years boating around Antarctica?  That none of his crew died.  That was it.  Just living is considered a success when you deal with those murderous Antarcticans.  Even the fish have anti-freeze proteins in their blood. 

A place is considered nifty if a dinosaur is found there.  You know how many kinds of dinosaurs the Antarcticans have given us?  A pathetic three over their entire landmass.  Lame, Antarcticans.  Do better.

If a human dies in the winter?  Then they are abandoned.  A man died there on May 12, 2000.  It was too cold for planes to fly.  His body stayed there until October.  Wow, Antarcticans.  Way to respect the grieving process.  Try not to be insensitive clods next time.

Do you know how much Antarcticans hate you?  How little regard they have for your schedule?  Are you ready for this?  There is no Antarctic time zone!  If you ask an Antarctican what time it is, they will laugh at you.  You have to decide what time zone you want to set your watch to.  How barbaric can they be? 

They are also against progress.  Antarcticans will not let anyone use their oil or coal reserves until at least 2048.  And there is no military allowed either.  Oh sure, they let scientists on.  They have something like twenty-eight countries running things in seventy or so labs.  Yet we are wise to them.  We all know the Antarcticans are putting on a show. 

“If we let them look at the stars in the sky during our freakishly dark winters, the world will like us!”  No Antarcticans.  We will not. 

Here is what a psychologist from the University of British Columbia said about Antarctica.

“Because of the environment, people do get irritable, sensitive, maybe quicker to take offense at something that wasn’t meant to be offensive.

I think it’s fascinating that there hasn’t been more violence in Antarctica.”

In yer face, Antarcticans! 

“We are not so bad!  Come see our active volcanoes!”  Yeah, one of which is under the surface?  Pass. 

“But, but… we have a canyon that runs for 62 miles and is 1.5 times deeper than the Grand Canyon!  You should come explore!”  So… what you are saying is that life there really is the pits?

Less than a dozen people have been recorded as born on Antarctica.  (No one before the twentieth century.)  The climate is designed to kill.  However, if that does not scare you away?  If you are still not convinced that these lowdown, no good, bottom of the deck dealing, spit in your face, rooting to see your destruction, dirtbags are worthy of your derision and contempt?

Then know this.  As of 2015, there were two ATMs on Antarctica.  Two.  And God help you if one of them breaks during tourist season.

The simple truth is that mingling with Antarcticans should leave you cold.  I would say they provide a chilly reception, but they offer no welcome at all.  They pretend that there are no native Antarcticans.  That I am making up a group of people to point fingers at so we can all have a focal point for our frustrations.

What, they think we should stop looking for people to blame?  That we should accept that people come from different backgrounds and varied experiences?  They expect us to get along with everyone no matter what and extend love to all?

Pfft.  Those Antarcticans.  Always talking crazy.

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Coming Across a Stranger

I can be too quick to judge.  I see a person and am prone to making assumptions.

Much of it comes from decades of working in downtown.  I have seen people injecting at bus stops. I have watched folks try to act like a regular person would, then suddenly switch to angry and threatening.  The averting eyes, the gaunt figures, the overall vibe of sketchiness; the warning signs quickly jump out at me.

Admittedly, it helps to create a safer environment.  Within seconds, I can decide to treat said person with a greater degree of caution.  On the downside, I tend to emphasize the threat that they might pose over the fact that they, just like me, are a human being.

Such was the case when I went shopping this afternoon.  I had just fueled up my car and wanted to do the same with my belly.  I parked my car and started to walk to the sandwich shop.  After I glanced at the car next to me, I made the effort to go back to my car, lock the doors, and then return to the sandwich shop.

The car next to me was showing the early signs of being sketchy.  There was the large crack in the front windshield.  It had gone far beyond the small hole and lightning bolt stages and was now into full-blown spider-web territory.  The car itself was a ‘90’s, four-door sedan that has long been retired by most.  Clearest among the warning signs was someone in the back seat of the car, pointing a large needle at their arm.  As I said; I have seen a few injections in my time.

We will call the person, “Dodge”.  Dodge had his car parked in a grocery store lot.  Not near the front in an, “I’m clearly shopping” sort of way.  No, Dodge was parked at the far end.  Those spots that staff might use if they wanted to clear up spots for customers.  The spots that bus riders park their cars in and hope they will not get towed.  Or, as I was keen to suspect, a spot where no one would notice or pay any attention if you were up to something or wanted to be left alone for a few hours.

I exited the shop at about the same time that Dodge was getting into the front seat of their car.  Dodge had on an unusual hat with a comically large brim.  A hat that spoke of an off-center personality.  A hat that said, “I belong to a bygone era”.  Dodge started up their maroon car and drove off. 

For some reason, I decided to exit the same way that Dodge had.  I wanted to see where they would go.

I think I wanted to prove myself right.  Perhaps Dodge would drive up to a small store with a glowing neon sign that read, “Drugs R Here”.  Maybe I would see Dodge get pulled over for the visual impairment that was their windshield.  I am sure part of it was curiosity, though I am afraid some of it was also an act of judgement.  I could not fix Dodge’s life, but I could go home content in the fact that I was right.

I watched from two cars behind as Dodge drove into the nearby park and ride.  The parking lot is so large that if one parked in the back corner, they could go for hours without being noticed.  I more or less decided that I had been right about Dodge.  However, what if I was wrong?

One of my favorite people in The Bible is the criminal from Luke 23:39-43.  I went through five different Bibles.  (The by-product of having Christian grandparents is being gifted a Bible.  Or three.)  This version called him a robber or a thief, that called him a rebel; the consensus seemed to be that he was a criminal. 

He shows up earlier in Matthew 27.  Specifically, verse 44 claims, “In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”  The notes in one of The Bible versions claims that one of the robbers taunted Jesus, then changed his tune. 

There he is, defending Jesus in Luke.  One robber turns to Jesus and taunts, “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  The other criminal, our hero, if you will, jumps in.  “You should fear God!  You are getting the same punishment as he is.  We are punished justly; we should die.  But this man has done nothing wrong!”  Turning to Jesus, he says, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom!”  Jesus, still being graceful as he is slowly dying, grants his request.  “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

We will get back to Dodge, but let us talk about the robbers.  The Picture Bible shows the jeering robber as being on Jesus’ left and the repentant/ our hero-robber being on Jesus’ right.  (Granted, The Picture Bible also portrays citizens of Jerusalem, Babylon, Persia, and the rest as being white.  Yeah, I know.  They were clearly going for more of an “interpretation” than “factual”.)  So, just for fun, let us call the jeerer Lefty and the hero Righty. 

First off, I want to know what sort of crime Lefty and Righty committed.  Righty claims that what they did deserves crucifixion.  Were they more than just robbers?  I am not a fan of having my phone stolen, but I am hardly about to murder someone over it.  Was Righty prone to exaggeration?  Or was he simply taking the argument up a notch to shut up Lefty?  Some claim that they were rebels that would violently ambush people.  There are suggestions that Romans used crucifixion to remove threats to their empire.  We will never know specifics, but I guess the cross really is for everyone.

Secondly, you have to admire Righty’s faith.  It is what makes him one of my favorites.  The disciples followed Jesus because of the miracles he performed and the lessons he taught.  Righty took it all on pure faith.  My guess is that he had never met Jesus or heard him speak; he probably heard of him through word of mouth.  (Or maybe he was picking pockets of the thousands that gathered to hear Jesus speak.  I will never know.) 

Regardless, all indications were that Jesus was defeated.  You know how a team may start off a season strong but as they start to lose, more and more fans fall away?  By the season’s end, when all hopes of a championship are gone, only the most hardcore fans are left and they can easily buy tickets at the last minute.

Righty puts even the most earnest sports fan to shame.  You cannot get more defeated than Jesus was.  His followers had deserted him and run off to hide.  He had been found guilty by the governing body.  There was no pardon from the commissioner coming.  He was whipped, beaten, and slowly dying.  This was not the time to take up Jesus’ cause.  The mission was over.  Death was a’knockin’. 

Yet he cannot deny what he knows is true.  He yells at Lefty the tormentor.  He gives his allegiance to a visibly defeated king.  This is the ultimate champion of the underdog.  He admits that he was not perfect, that he screwed up, and that he should get what is coming to him.  While he is at it, he asks for grace and mercy.

My kind of guy.

Let us return to Dodge.  It could very well be that everything I assumed is completely wrong.  Perhaps here is a person, injecting themself with insulin in the backseat of a car so that their daughter will not have to see any weakness.  Perhaps Dodge was going to the park and ride to take a bus because they did not want to operate a vehicle that was unsafe.  Maybe Dodge is trying to start a hat trend.

Or I could be right about Dodge.  Dodge could be mixed up in some unwise behavior and breaking a law or two.  Dodge’s behavior could be, well, dodgy.

If Dodge is the Jesus of our story, then they are misunderstood by me.  I think I know how the story will end.  I craft my theories and adhere to them.  Like the Pharisees, I believe what I see.  I create a villain, assume I know what is going on, and am ready to punish them.  I am quick to judge Dodge and quick to crucify them.

If Dodge is the Righty of our story, then Dodge could use some love.  Some kindness.  Some mercy.  This week should be a reminder to us that it is never too late.  The end has not yet been written.  People can still improve.  (Even judgmental ones like me.)  Spring is coming and resurrection might just be a few days away.  Happy Easter to everyone.

All that is needed is for a person to realize they should do better and act on that.  It worked out for Righty.  If I feel the need to meddle in those affairs, I could spend my energy praying that we all find more peace.

Once again, I have to relearn the same lesson.  My mission is not to judge Dodge.  It is to dodge judging. 

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When They Get You

The argument has been made that we all feel like outcasts sometimes.  I am quite used to people not “getting” me.  I am the quiet guy surrounded by music lovers.  The old soul who works with twenty-somethings.  The comic book reader who knows lots of gamers. 

When people do resonate with what I am doing, it tends to be in my writing.  If I can communicate what I am thinking in a way that clicks with others, then I am a happy camper.  What better feeling is there than being understood? 

When the notion strikes me, I try to write up nice and true things about the people in my life.  One time I wrote about my boss, who had to close up his two comic shops and lost his father all to Covid.  After I posted my praise on his wall, the note from his mom hit me the hardest.

When I wrote my article about George Floyd last year, it apparently resonated with others.  I did not post it to Facebook, but others in my family did.  The comments passed on to me were encouraging to say the least.

“Very moving piece and so thoughtful.”

“Please, thank him for me for his: observations, poignant sharing of his thoughts and feelings with ability to communicate those while giving visuals for the rest of us as well.”

“Beautiful… and so true.”

“Oh my!  It gave me chills.  Your son expresses himself very well.”

I like to be humble.  Yet I also like it when people say nice things about my hobby that I care about.  Which is not to say that my attempts always succeed.

I was trying to express my gratitude and appreciation for a company and their efforts to vaccinate people.  I saw hundreds of people moved efficiently and pleasantly through the grounds and saw them all get their Covid vaccine in an impressive show of the community coming together.  I wrote up a page of heartfelt compliments.  In return, I was told, “Thanks.  We appreciate your hard work.”

Granted, they did not owe me anything.  There was no obligation for them even to reply.  And it was a valid reply.  But it read as perfunctory; like a form letter was jotted off.  Our two writings did not click with each other.

Happily, the next day, I received a note that offset the seesaw.  I like Tillamook.  Their cheese is tasty.  I decided to tell them so.  I wanted to have a little fun.  They received the following note.  (Edited for length.)

“Dear Tillamook,

Look, we have a problem here.

As a child I was raised on Tillamook cheese.  Oh sure, we would get a Kraft cheese slice pulled out of suspicious cellophane envelopes and put on our bologna sandwiches every now and then.  But we hardly bragged about it.  We spent as much time folding the cheese into thick books, watching as the dairy product wobbled and folded a little too easily.  In our hearts though, we always knew we were Tillamook people.

Making a casserole with chicken and broccoli?  Then make sure it is covered in a layer of medium sharp cheddar from Tillamook.  Going the grilled cheese route?  I think you can guess the crucial ingredient.

The problem, and the reason I address you today, is you need to stop causing problems in my kitchen. 

My cat has caught on.  We all know sharing is caring.  I am not about to deprive my cat of a nibble of Tillamook here and there.  But hopping up on the oven while I am still grating the cheese?  She presumes too much.  Gobbling at the shredded cheese as I try to spread it on the casserole dish?  Rude.

Normally I can sit down and eat about two-thirds of my dinner before being accosted.  This is not the case when I have cheese for dinner.  The battle starts even before I can set down the plate.  The meowing.  The standing on hind legs.  The, let us be honest here, rather pathetic pleading of a cat who desperately wants an upgrade from the dried cat food she is supposed to be devouring.  No, when medium sharp cheddar is on the menu, she is quite adamant about getting her share.

I push her off.  I flick water at her forehead.  I lift her by that spot in between her shoulder blades.  To no avail.  We fall just short of hissing and overtures of claws.  Included is a picture of her attempting to lick up trace amounts that might have been cheese-adjacent off of the plate.  She is out of control.   

I leave it up to you.  You folks know your product.  You know what you have wrought.  You are the ones straining the patience I have with my furry roommate.  I leave it to you.  Either you start cutting corners with your delicious Tillamook cheese, or you start offering suggestions on how to get my cat to back off.

What have you got to say for yourself?”

The reply I read went as follows.

Did they get overly creative and think of a story that involved government organizations using their product to cure humanity as I had hope they would?  No.  Did they understand that I was trying to make their inbox a little less bland?  Yep.  They played along with me in the sandbox.

As my manager went off to a new job, I wrote her a note full of rhymes and mirth.  She replied with tears and stating that I had touched her heart.  The new manager came in and asked that all staff make note of her phone number.  That left me no choice but to initiate the following exchange with her.

I heard her laugh and listened across the room as she shared the message with others.  I found out that my new boss gets me.  She is willing to play along. I like it when others get me

Like anyone else, I like my efforts to be successful.  Sometimes they are.  Sometimes my friends will send me notes like this. 

I cannot change who I am.  Which only makes it all the more rewarding when people respond to what I have to offer.

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