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Saving The World

The world needs saving, and not by a conglomerate of handsome and beautiful super heroes as appealing as they are to behold. Have you ever noticed how much destruction goes into saving the planet whenever the super heroes marshal their powers to vanquish evil? Could this be the meaning of the phrase, “Omelets are not made without breaking eggs?” This quote is not original to your grandmother or some celebrity chef touting the casualties of broken eggs in the making of an omelet supreme, but to a French general, Francois de Charette, when put on trial for his war crimes
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Sticks and Stones

One day when I was in high school I saw a truck pull into our driveway. The body of the truck was well used: coating of dirt, rust spots, some dings and dents. A guy got out and started ambling up the brick walkway to the front door. I recognized him as a fellow student though we did not run in the same circles at school. He was quiet, did not attract attention, and thus, kept a low profile. When the doorbell rang, I opened it and stepped out. “You and the others at school have been calling me ‘farmer,’”
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The Great Bicycle Crash of 2001

I love it when I make Kay laugh. When she laughs, all’s right with the world. Kay has what I call the pratfall sense of humor. She can watch a collection of videos on AFV where people are engaged in all sorts of shenanigans and end up falling on their bums, and her amusement will ascend with each humorous consequence. The sound of her laughter is much like that of the old cartoon character Muttley the Dog with her face turning red, the tears rolling down her cheeks, building and building until at any second one expects a lung to
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Mob Rule

The piñata and the unicorn have something in common for our family. It is an unusual union. Back in the day, I took a swing or two at a piñata, most likely after a couple of beers and the encouragement of the crowd; certainly with no malice to destroy a papier-mâché object or with a craving to have the candied guts shower over my head. It has been a long time since that incident. But this year, I did attend a birthday where a mob was gathered around a piñata and each participant got to take their club-wielding turn at
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Making a Monster

Find some discarded body parts; grab a tool box: hack-hack, saw-saw, cut-cut, stitch-stitch, read up on your ancient alchemy (copies at every local library, I’m sure), add a jolt of electrical energy, a splash of elixir, and voila, you have a creature. The creator might call it his “baby.” Some might call it an oddity. Others might call it an aberration. And still others (the less imaginative among us), a monster. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley called it “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus.” We all know what happened to poor Prometheus who thought he could steal fire from the gods and
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Highways of Death

My lovely wife Kay has never met a stretch of highway that intimidated her. Regardless of which side of the public thoroughfare a country has chosen to dictate its traffic flow, she has never been concerned with the directional markings painted on the road. Staying inside designated lanes is not a priority: “Too confining,” she argues. This must be her creative nature and outside-of-the-box thinking. Yes, there is a beautiful little rebel inside the heart of my bride. Past Highways of Death include, but are not limited to, the length and breadth of the Amalfi coast. To clarify, the measurement
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Proof of Belonging

The first time I questioned my sense of belonging came a few seconds before a near-death experience; nothing like your own personal NDE to make you sit up and take stock of your life, the world, and the universe at large. At the age of twelve I got my first job as a paperboy. For the next four years, morning and afternoon, I peddled just over seven miles through the neighborhoods near where I lived slinging The Tennessean and The Banner into the driveways of my subscribers. The tubular newspapers secured with a thick rubber band were stuffed into a large metal
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Music Made in Hell

It is a wondrous thing what self-discoveries are made within the human heart when a layer of innocence is lost. A dramatic experience may destroy a belief system but make way for new wisdom. From 1959-1961 we lived in Bloomington, Indiana while Dad was completing his doctoral course work in choral music at Indiana University. Until that year, I had been in a private school environment (K-third grade), and was suddenly thrust into the culturally broader world of public education and living in diverse, multi-dwelling housing complexes instead of a single family home. In an earlier post, I have written
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A Good Scrap

I had my share of scraps growing up; landed a few punches; took several more. I’ve always heard that it was a rite of passage for young boys to fight. If so, I performed that rite many times in the days of my youth. And not to besmirch the ladies, my two young daughters enjoyed “rough fighting” with their old man when I was still able to get down on the living room floor and be their wrestling opponent. Funny thing was I always lost these battles. In my defense, it was two against one, and the girls were brutal.
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To Think Or Not To Think

I love it when I have the opportunity to do a play because I get to go around using my Outside Voice without fear of Kay’s disapproval or a similar negative reaction from a host of others who might consider my volume level an infringement on their personal auditory space. During those weeks of rehearsals and performances I go about the house or tramp over the back field, my mind and body absorbed in my character, my voice modulating in tone and quality, as I search out just the right physical and vocal nuances that will lend truth to the
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The Great Bicycle Crash of 1962

Most of us remember how old we were when we learned to ride a bicycle. My folks did not have the disposable income to purchase training wheels or helmets, so my first efforts to ride produced several injuries; nothing too serious, just the kind whose healing agent was an application of dirt. My “training wheels” was a patient father offering instruction and encouragement as he ran beside me eventually releasing his hold on the seat to allow free flight. Once I gained the dexterity of balance and motion, I felt a freedom and joy that was indiscernible. Mark Twain got
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Confessions of an Ex-Smoker

When my doctor of thirty years retired (how dare he), I recently was breaking-in a new doctor and suffering through the process of filling out multiple forms as if I were applying for some high-powered job. I was asked by a perky med-tech if I had ever smoked. The tech could have read my written answer on page three of the six-page form, but no, a verbal response was required. “How long did you smoke, and when did you quit?” was the question. “Started in earnest in 1967 and quit in earnest in 1974.” Then I sighed and lamented, “But
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The Surly Santa

If you have lived on the planet for any length of time and were born in a country that recognizes the Christmas season and its official delegate Santa Claus, you have had at least one traumatic experience around the holiday season that possibly scarred you for life. Of course, the revelation that the man in the red suit with sleigh and reindeer and a big sack of toys is one big hoax is traumatic enough. The curse of the Age of Enlightenment, I suppose. (Anyone reading this who might still be a believer STOP READING NOW!) Once we move beyond
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Blood Brothers

I was born into a world of whiteness: neighborhood, private school, and church; shuttled through that triplicate of colorless environs without wondering or questioning what other members of the human race might exist beyond those confines. At that time in my childhood my only exposure to other ethnic groups was when missionaries came to our church and gave slide-show presentations of their adventures in “seeking and saving the lost” in exotic places like Africa and Asia. It was the only time I ever heard my mother complain of our required attendance at church. “Lord, spare me from seeing another picture
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Solvitur Ambulando

I was sitting in the middle of church one recent Sunday, minding my own business, drifting in and out wakefulness, but at least I was in church. Mom and Dad would be proud and relieved. It must have been a moment in the sermon when I had drifted out because my ears suddenly pricked up when the preacher said, “Solvitur ambulando.” I thought the preacher had gone to swearing in Latin, but after he offered a quick explanation of the phrase (it is solved by walking), I was now awake. I don’t remember the sermon or the point the Latin
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Not a Huntsman

After decades of living with Kay, I still want to impress and surprise her. Sometimes my efforts are rewarded with laughter and appreciation; other times, bewilderment, and still other times, the look if not the words of “I can’t believe you just did/said that.” Those are the times when honest effort becomes lame antics, and we males can be so good at lame antics. We are, if nothing else, consistent, and recently I tried to impress my wife with a skill that is not at the top of my bag of tricks. For the second summer in a row we
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Aging Rocker

No, this story is not about an old-fashioned rocking chair Kay and I found in some small town antique shop. It is about my short-lived career as a rock ‘n roll star that began in a literal cave and ended when I found myself sitting on a picnic table between Robert Plant and Jimmy Page backstage of Municipal Auditorium during John Bonham’s drum solo. Have I gotten your attention? Coming of age in the 1960’s, I had fantasies of being a rock star. I would bounce around in my bedroom in front of the mirror to The Who, or Jimi
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The Nymphs of Plenty

My sister, Nan Gurley, met the man-of-her-dreams when they were attending Abilene University back in the mid-1970’s. In the spring of her senior year, Nan starred in a production of “Man of La Mancha” in the role of Aldonza. The man-of-her-dreams played Quixote. Several in the family went down to the university to see the production. I was properly impressed with the man-of-her-dreams. He held his own opposite a formidable costar. In the course of my brief trip, Nan told me that she thought she might be in love with this guy. I reported this to our younger brothers when
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Son of a Teenage Runaway

How does a father teach a son to be a man? What is it to even be a man…to be a father…to be a son? In 1944, Dad ran away from home at the age of seventeen, hitchhiked from Richmond, Virginia all the way to Ft. Lauderdale, spent a few nights on a park bench, lied about his age to the Army recruiting officer, worked as a bellhop in a swanky hotel until he was inducted into the Army. Somewhere in that time-frame between bellhop and paratrooper, Dad called his parents and told them what he had done. In part,
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Mr. Washington Goes to the Theater

I came across an article in The New Yorker recently by Adam Gopnik in which he reviews some new historical works that rethink the American Revolution. While the article was illuminating, it was his last two paragraphs that caught my attention. He recounts an action taken by George Washington to stay the execution of Charles Asgill (an execution Washington had ordered) in November of 1782. The nineteen-year-old Asgill was a captain in the British army and had been captured and held in a prisoner of war camp in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Some months before British Loyalists had executed a captain in
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A Mother’s Crown Jewels

The Arnold kids were never given financial allowances growing up. My parents did not have that kind of disposable income. If we wanted to have spending money we needed to make it. So at the age of ten how I came by the exorbitant sum of a few dollars to purchase the blue-beaded necklace for my mother on Mother’s Day was probably from scouring parking lots and playgrounds for lost change. Our family had relocated to Bloomington, Indiana so Dad could get his doctorate in choral music at Indiana University. We lived in old Army barracks converted into housing for
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Maniac on Duty

Back in the day when gas stations were “service” stations, when the attendants wore uniforms tricked out with caps and bow ties ambling out of their small office areas, which sold everything from auto parts to cigarettes and beverages to cholesterol-clogging snacks, usually wearing a smile, and if the driver were a patron, offering a congenial greeting to the Mr. or Mrs., you were confident that you and your automobile was in good hands. If the attendant was above average, he might even remember the names of the patron’s kids. After inserting the nozzle into the tank and turning on
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The Dark Side of Inspector Clouseau

If you are squinting at this split-screen, poster image of a man with a weapon bearing expressions from quizzical to surprise to menacing and wondering “could that be?” then let me confirm either your weak eyesight or questioning mind or both. It is I, a gun in my black-gloved hand. And so let the Jimi Hendrix tune “Hey Joe” play in your mind, “Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?” Now I do not find myself wielding a weapon very often. We live on the property that has been in Kay’s family for over one hundred
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Know Your Limitations

In the days of my youth I had numerous unpleasant experiences of being part of a large group only to have it split like an amoeba in order to engage in a competitive activity. I so desperately wanted to fit in; and please dear God, don’t let me be picked last as the teams are chosen because it would only confirm that my talent (usually an athletic competition), is considered well below average by my peers. Consumed by anxiety in those days, I dreaded the athletic events where high achievers in the sport—dodge ball, basketball, flag football, etc.—were designated leaders
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Posterity

Many years ago I had to suffer through a procedure with a doctor. No, it was not an operation I had to endure, but an exposure to insufferable ignorance. The doctor had been asked if he would consider becoming a board member for a non-profit theatre of which I was associated. He said, “Actors are such phony people; they just turn their emotions on and off at will.” Following that logic, I almost turned on my “fury” emotion and cold-cocked him, but then after he had come to, the good doctor would have likely said I had just proven his
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A Transformed Life

When Kay and I traveled to Italy a few years ago one of our favorite experiences was in Assisi. We had come from a couple of days in Sienna and had booked a hotel online the day before we arrived only to find out when we got to the location that the hotel was closed for renovation. In profuse, broken English the manager apologized for the website’s misinformation, and helped book another hotel. Assisi is a walled city built on a hill overlooking the valley. The city center is restricted to only pedestrians. We could drive to our hotel about