Forks In My Drawer 2: Be a Fred

Having never been to Kansas, knowing any real spinning Dorothy, or nick-namingly connecting Dots in my life, I can say mid-western wind is nothing I’m all too familiar. It’s as strange as trying to properly place the word “with” in that last sentence. I have, however, been close to a fictitional Dorothy in my life.

I directed a local production of “Oz” a few years ago in an historically beautiful theater … on the musical side of the house. The cast was spectacular, talented, and quite charming.

Scarecrow scampered about, dripping brainless wit and sardonic straw on the audience of dreams. Our heartless, lovable Tin Man clanked and clampered. We had a fuzzy Lion in wait, as he humbly and without pride sat fearing the next moment of unexpected surprises.

Professor Marveled the audience evenings on end and Glinda glittered her way into their hearts. Em’s not all the cast and crew, to be sure. Our production team – including the pit orchestra – was spectacular. On and on I could go like a word twister twisting his words.

Alas, admittedly, I could not place even a brick in the wonderfully written word road L. Frank Baum wrote eighty-one years ago eventually going to the big screen losing in the best picture category to Gone With The Wind. Not a bad way to lose. Buckets of expressions behind my curtains of cute constructions here pale in comparison to his eventual cinematic creation.

Who, including me, writes of “Oz” without mentioning Margaret Hamilton? Nobody, I say…nobody. Her evilistic sneer chasing down a gulping shot of little children dread … with the pointy hat, black-hearted, now special adulting appreciation laughter she had is one role for the ages.

As wicked as the witch was, she was predictable – as always. Since the film debuted in 1939, and every flying monkey year since, eyes have been Toto-ally expecting her to melt her way into our hearts.

Just like Fred. A stretch? Allow me to explain.

Fred wasn’t in that production. I doubt he was ever in a stage play, although I do know he played the piano and drums. This from our brief encounters next to each other – I, the hot dawg, sausage dude, and he, the flatbread, pizza guy. We’ve had some “get to know one another chats” lately due to just meeting two weeks ago. Nice dough smasher and sauce spreader, he is. Just didn’t know how nice until this morning.

The evening before, house spinning winds wound through the lot where Fred, I, and others set up shop to sell our food-stuffs. I’ve been at this over fifteen years. Snow, wind, rain, lightening, hail, excessive heat and cold, .. whatever, I’ve been through it all. That said, I AM exaggerating by writing, “house spinning”. A little puppy breeze came through…(don’t judge me. It was a long week up to that point and I’m entitled to some big bloviating)…

…and since I neglected to tie down my “less than cheap almost brand new” canopy, this Kansas wind lifted up said tarp, threw it up against Fred’s truck, and finally allowed its final resting place to be ten yards behind my van, upside down, with a broken side bracket.

There aren’t enough words in “Oz” to describe the words I wanted to say out loud, but did utter in my pretty little dog head. Two customers, Fred, and I were obviously too late in holding down the hot-air balloon canopy lifting off for home as it gleefully, seemingly, gave me the Emerald City middle finger while flying by.

Enter professor Marvel Fred. A simple wardrobe switch of a pair of ruby red shoes for a tap welder and grinder. He came in a little early to repair my brain and canopy. Didn’t have to, but did. Took him all of about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes out of his busy prep morning to help me. Time I’m sure he could have spent with his new puppy at home, three kids, or wife.

Courage to help a friend … a heart to reach out … and the brains to know how. THAT’S Fred, a new friend on my personal yellow brick road.

Yesterday was another fork in drawer moment as I forgot to tie down my new, rather expensive, canopy. The wind was just enough to aargh the canopy, but more than enough to uplift my hope and faith in all the great possibilities living within people.

This is a weird time. We certainly need more Freds circling around our little towns. When the big scary winds stop, we can open our eyes and say in our own way: “Oh, Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke … you were there! … I knew you’d be! You helped me find the way forward. I knew the problem, but not the solution at the moment. Thank you.”

There truly is no place like home when you find someone who is willing to go out of their way to help you.

I like Fred. Maybe I can be more like Fred. Be a Fred for someone. Be Oz-some today even if for a moment. You never know whose life will be different when the winds suddenly change.

Fork In My Drawer

I sometimes live in a category titled, “Things I should think about before doing them”. In my mind, this could be akin to realizing I’m trying to eat tomato soup with a shiny fork …thinking this would be a good objective. Makes no sense at the moment of slurp, but would if the synapses were firing the ridiculously genius idea minutes earlier. Oh, what an imaginary delightful experience that would be … if ever true.

If verifiable by a witness, I’d need some counseling to be sure. Thankfully, I’m not there. Some may argue that point, but I’m quite sure the utensil drawer is safe from Campbell’s soup excursions into the drippy arena of runny-red tomato soup, fork encounters. For now.

However true, I am concerned about my lack of foresight when opportunities arise as one did the other day. This is a web-log and I am a blogger who wishes to log a Doug-does-a-didn’t-think-ahead moment on the web. So, here we go.

Enter two policemen, one rather inebriated young man, a car, one delightful afternoon at my cart, and me … an overly generous most of the time, kind person.

I didn’t hear any sirens. It was a quiet pull-over as the two police cars nestled the tan four-door vehicle over against the curb back to my left. A young man, approximately in his late-twenties, wearing a backwards white ball cap, nicely worn jeans and white shirt, slowly exited out of the car.

First glance at him, all seemed ok. A customer and I – curious spy seekers – kept a steady twenty paces away as to not arouse any suspicion. Two officers went through their usual routine checking registration and insurance, from what our innocent eyes could see. All was going well until the walk that should have been a straight line … that wasn’t … began.

“Oops, uhm, eeh, oooh”, we uttered intermittently as this young man made every valiant effort available to him. Upright he remained, his pride somewhat intact, but his shoes to the ground not so much. If “S” could qualify as a straight line, he passed.

Kudos to the officers, btw. Patience and calm were the qualities of the day. They moved to phase two, if this is a handbook guideline. Customer and I, again, waited patiently as I noticed no other customers waiting for my service. “Stand still, lift one leg and stay balanced.” We lip-read from the distance. As this was confirmed, you guessed it …. we tried it ourselves behind my van to avoid being seen. Just. In. Case.

We passed.

Well, the young man … didn’t. He was driving under the influence of something. It wasn’t under our jurisdiction to go over and ask, of course. That would be ridiculous. We did feel part of the whole process, though, like we were actually arresting the unfortunate young man ourselves. Sherriff Doug and his deputy Ken. Has a certain special sauce to it, huh?

Ken left soon after the Mr. Newly Arrested was placed in one of the shiny washed patrol cars. (Man, they are always clean.) I was alone. No customers. Only my thoughts as I looked over at two officers. One on his cell phone calling in for a tow to handle the, now, abandoned car on the street by my cart, and the other finishing up some odds and ends with paperwork. A fine job being done by our city’s finest.

My fork in the soup brain kicked in. They “must” be hungry. Never mind they’re in the middle of arresting an inebriated driver as I was under the influence of my over-active synapses. It’s an (air quotes) lunchtime arrest, afterall. Why not go over and offer them a free meal? Seems logical, right? They had nothing else going on at that moment.

Uhm, yes they did.

I sauntered over – proudly I may add.

“You guys hungry? May I (not “can I”. Always use proper grammar when speaking to an officer) offer you lunch? On me! … How about your partner? Looks like you’ve had your hands full here”

Ok. Once I spoke those words, a fog came over me. A dizziness-like amazement/what the f*ck did I just do moment. Why do I say that? Because the officer’s non-verbal response was a blank stare for a few seconds. An awkward silence. I had to say something KNOWING from my sales experience whoever speaks first loses. “I’m Doug. The dawg guy over there. Just thought maybe you guys could be hungry and would want something. A drink?”

Nothing. Then he said, “I’ll check with my partner.” He was kind, but otherwise distracted.

Meanwhile, officer #1 is still on his cell phone. Pacing still because, apparently, there is no contact with a tow company.

I remained calm and continued forward. It was close to the time to begin my closing procedure, so I headed past them to retrieve my street sign down a few yards from where they were. On the way back, of course I had to, once again ask, “You sure?”

After a deep breath in, he replied “Yes, I’m sure. If there’s time, we’ll stop back around.”

Now, I know this fine officer was being very generous with his treatment of me. They had no intentions to come back – unless to unstick me from my brain problem of wanting to help them. Why I had to go over and interfere with what was clearly two officers doing their job is a mystery to me.

Thinking ahead would have helped. I ended up with a fork in my soup and didn’t feel good about any of it. Only when I was driving home did I realize how unintended the outcome was.

More situation awareness? Maybe. I believe I simply like to help people where and when I can. Nothing more complicated than that. If I see a lonely fork in a drawer, the future soup is irrelevant at that moment. I want the fork to feel important. Cared for.

When I get to the soup, I like to be challenged. With the fork by my side, I’ll pick up the bowl and drink the soup. Everyone wins!

As for my police pals, I’ll eventually find a way to feed them for free. They did a wonderful and respectful job the other day. I think that’s all I wanted them to know by extending a meal to them. My way of telling them that was a bit unorthodox because I didn’t think ahead.

I’ll be ok. Like I wrote, some may be concerned about my mental facilities; however, where there’s a bowl of opportunity, there’s a way to be nice as long as there’s a fork in my drawer.

Best of Both Wor(l)ds

He walked up to my food cart wearing the coolest sunglasses I’ve seen in a long time. The noontime glare reflected off dark blue shades encased in a yellow hue, plasticky, seemingly bendable looking frame. Patrick is a twice-a-monther. A local guy who stops less frequently than others and is always pleasant during his off-peak visits … usually after the lunch rush is over. I like that he does, when he does. This allows us time to talk as we are “similars” in life: both musicians, lovers of life, and active conversationalists.

He listens more than talks, though, because I, the blabber, apparently talk more than listen. Go figure. We’ve come to an unspoken agreement on this fact. Unsurprisingly, most in my life have come to understand this (unbeknownst to me until recently). Covid beliefs flitter about from my unfiltered face and I’m really trying to contain my enthusiasm for my own biased opinion on the current state of things.

So, we … err … I chatted as the sun came through the clouds, reflected off his spectacular specs, and warmed the already pleasant air surrounding us on a rather nice Tuesday in August.

Patrick did have a few ideas on the status of his life. I was eager to hear them because I knew the sound of my continuing voice echoing over steam tables and a grill had to be quickly evaporating any interest he had in what I was saying.

He’s a local band director currently trying to march his kiddos through a tough summer of camp to prepare for a football season that will be different from any other. Significantly less crowds, of course. Distancing and social interaction guidelines for the students will be – and are – in place. District mandates, I’m sure … although not mentioned in our conversation… are being followed. He maintains a set of expected behavioral standards for his students and, by all accounts, they are respecting them. In this copious basket of Covid conditions, he’s controlling his environment extraordinary well, I’d say. And, by extension, ours too.

If all of us do our part with what we have within our control, then the bigger issues, hopefully, will work out. This is the best of both worlds, right?

…Or, as Patrick so eloquently mis-spoke yesterday, “The best of both words.”

I sure hope he doesn’t mind my use of his name in this short reflection today. Without noting his specific height, weight, hair color, or employment location, I believe I’m immune from his wrath. Besides, doubt can be cast upon his ability to sling wrath upon me because he’s a really cool guy. He HAS to be. I don’t hang with anyone who isn’t chill.

So, it really has been the difference of one letter. Word compared to World. I often ask myself, “What in the L is going on, lately?” to no avail.

The answers don’t come easily in a black and white only two sides world. Certainly, the encyclopedia of Facebook knowledge isn’t helping. The two volumes labeled “I’m Right” and “You’re Wrong” don’t get us anywhere when read cover to cover – if you can get through their/there/they’re usage errors.

Most likely, if you’re looking to the two-headed monster of Fox News and MSNBC for information, it’ll bite your head off. That dichotomous beast will eat you up quicker than you can say, “I’m only trying to get the facts. Just … the ..f..a..”.

Washington D.C.? Yeah. Ok. Let’s entertain this system we invited into our homes 250 years ago. The invitees are drunk with power, toga two-partying their way into our lives after we asked them to leave once their time was up. Oh, wait. They can’t. There’s no limit on how long they can stay. ‘Our bad.

Patrick, in misspeaking, was exactly right.

It is the best of both words, not worlds.

He didn’t mean for me to spatula him into a political/covid blog post. I flipped the narrative briefly here from a pleasant conversation about trombones, football halftime shows, and kiddos to politics. Perhaps, in my defense, to make a larger point. Sandwich in a slight attitude with a side of logic, the irony of his statement is in the statement itself.

“It IS the best of both words”

Those two being: words and world

Oh, the division and hatred these hard days in the world because of words … if one decides to focus on them which I did above. So easy to do. Drs. Birx and Fauci, President Trump vs. Speaker Pelosi, Bill Gates and his vaccine, masks, etc… All of us can take a seat in any courtroom and give testimony on any of these. We have strong feelings and beliefs about all of it – and words to back us up.

May I suggest we try … really try … to use positive words to help heal, and nurture, our wonderful world?

This is a simple, small space request. We focus so much on what is being said by national figures. Leadership by Governors, the President, presumptive Presidential nominee Biden, commentators, columnists, personalities … all their words seem to make an impact on how we act and what we say to each other. May I suggest we pay less attention to their words and more attention to our own?

We are beautiful on our own. Our individual lives stand apart from Facebook memes and so-called friendly mandates from unfriended, friendly social media sites. Two-dimensional opinions are significantly less important than one-on-one, heartfelt discussions with someone who disagrees with you but is willing to blow the steam off your coffee from six feet away.

Utopic worlds are unattainable, I get that. Perfection is something we have to quit trying to achieve. Perfect words, as well, probably don’t exist either. Absolutes, as much as we’d like them to be real, aren’t a thing either.

So, we’re left with doing the best we can in this world … with the words we have.

You don’t need to interject “ethereal”, “opulent”, “sanguine”, “panacea”, or “dulcet” into a conversation to brighten someone’s day. A simple, “beautiful” or “wow” could suffice.

Patrick left with a bounce in his step. This had nothing to do with our chat through the late mid-day sun. He’s, simply, a happy guy. Oh, and he was soon to eat food clasped firmly in one hand which probably had more to do with his optimism than anything else at the time.

A few minutes later, I had to text him a note to ask what the actual sentence was he spoke. My brain sprung a leak while a subsequent customer approached and I simply forgot to write “It is the best of both words” down anywhere. Glad he quickly obliged. That’s what kind folks do.

Zig Ziglar once opined, don’t be a SNIOP, one who is Susceptible to the Negative Influence of Other People. Well, I’ve never claimed to be happy all the time, but my happiness, or anger, is because of me – nobody else. Doesn’t always work and I do complain about other’s actions. Don’t all of us at times? Especially now? I can find a few juicy choice words to say a few times each day as opportunities arise…

…however, the world doesn’t deserve my harmful words. Our world is a beautiful orb, despite what volcanic spew of hate anyone decides to post online.

And by “the world”, I mean US. People. All of us. Notably NOW in the midst of a two-sided viral debate of words.

Thanks for stuttering a bit, Patrick, and for your business. Fourteen days between visits is fine and I hope your students march into the season with vim and vigor representing the school with pride. They have a great leader in you. I may not know what the “L” is going on in the world, but I’m glad you are staying positive.

Words mean things. The world of ours is special. Be safe.

Love Bok Choy, They Say

A short treatise on one major food group.

This winter, take your tomatoes tobogganing, or your carrots caroling. Lettuce likes to learn about life and squash scampers to sharpen its senses. Vegetables are simply the best ever, when considered among the food choices we have spattered on our plates day after day. So some say, I guess.

I have, within my inner circle of winner friends, a meatless consumer who swears by a diet of whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fruit, and … some veggies. Not quite sure, yet, what all she eats. Still working on figuring it out inside my McHead and flame-broiled britches. Nice, nice person, though, and a bit on the oddly-weird side, but so am I. That’s why we’re good nutty-buddy friends, I guess.

Writing “cow meat” will drive her hoofy-goofy, so I’ll alter it a bit. “Juicy steak meat”, dairy, bread, soda, cake, cookies, ice cream, and pizza are most excellent food groups as well. No denying that fact. However, veggies are the healthiest (they say), so a 2-3X daily intake of spinach, asparagus, or a slosh of canned peas and carrot mix should do the trick, right? Juuust a bit of sarcasm there … nix the canned smooshiness. No veggies in a can – evah!!

Ah, some freshly picked, slightly soiled, pre-washed greens would be just fine after rinsing and sauteing, perhaps. Maybe with a few spices, or rice? A tingling of turmeric, … a dash of dill seed? Whatever your pan desires is certainly fine by me. I have no preconceived ideas as to your nutritional notions when it comes to vegetables. Your onions, your choice.

Vegetable love can go a bit too far, though. The bag above hangs in our hallway. I’m not adverse to adoring inanimate objects at all. I have many a 2 1/2 × 3 1/2 pieces of cardboard with sports figures on them I’ve collected since my nose running, bike riding youth. These are collectibles, however, and – although not as valuable as once considered – still worth my time. This tote proclaims, “Love Your Vegetables!” not, “Eat Your Vegetables.”, “Try, Consider, or Ponder … Your Vegetables”. Love? … to what “end” … oh, that end. Never mind.

I do like broccoli and uncooked carrots. If you’re still with me, I thought I’d throw that little nugget in here to prove I’m not a complete anti-under soil fanatic. A nice leafy green salad with a few chunks of iceberg lettuce (yes, I said iceberg … dead ahead, I did) without a Titanic amount of dressing I can enjoy pre-meal, or as a dinner topped with chicken or steak bits. I’ll never Beatle it prior with the gotta have it words: “Love, Love, Love”, however.

Vegetables have their place. Among the annals of what has been written of love in the highest order? I think not. Amore, ascribed to a cucumber casually cuddled next to an agitated arugula isn’t my idea of romance. Cassava-Nova didn’t work as a leading man and Ginger left the island years ago.

Was this the message intended when an overly excited marketing executive decided to approve the imprint “Love Your Vegetables” on the side of this bag? Nope. I bet not. She/He probably wants customers to eat better … healthier. That was the depth of the mid-day convo over seltzer and danishes.

I know this. I want you to consume more veggies and less junk food, too. So should I as well. Just don’t love the idea of having to do it … and writing a somewhat sarcastic, short blog about an innocent little bag hanging in the hallway makes my small mind feel better.

… I’ll still never be seen toting around that bag unless I can stuff it with Oreos. Just sayin’.

Virtual Vibes Vibrate the Virus

Let’s consider the 22nd letter of our amazing alphabet … and sound, the incredible, instrumental item of bouncy benevolence. It’s one of many ways that allow us to enjoy each other’s ideas, music, and laughter. There’s another usage pushing itself to the fore these challenging belly months of 2020.

March through August, the six months between the bookends of each three fall and winter months here in Western-Central PA have been ugh-i-ness. I suspect the same for, well, the rest of America. Smooth sailing after the new year until Saint Patrick’s Day then …. whack!! The curve rounded up on charts, data sets, and every conceivable pie graphs known to man since cave people scratched skinny stick sketches on wet, Covid-free, drippy walls.

All indications are, I think … and it’s only a layman’s assumption … the medical experts, every day, are understanding more and more the virology tendencies of this slap-down disease we are dealing with behind our masks. Due to these come-to-whomever-you-worship (if anyone) moments, I’ll propose a slight downturn of the back-side belly line after six months.

Ideas, music, and laughter ride the waves quite well. We’ve relied on these three, and will continue to do so as waves of new information crash upon the beaches of our lives – as they will. We’re not on solid footing yet, that’s for darn sure! The sand underfoot is still moist with insecurity. As media ripples wash over, we are un-sucking our feet out of the constantly changing informational quicksand holes in which we find ourselves.

This is sound. And it’s good.

So is the alphabet we use to form words, to created sentences … to communicate effectively. Well, let’s say, to understand one another … somehow, right? I’ve witnessed grocery store line verbal connections between folks sometimes that challenge the notions of effective communication. (Maybe if I didn’t eavesdrop over my impulse reach for a pack of Orbit gum? … just a private moment here for self-evaluation)

Oh, and the 22nd letter in the series: “V” – which gets me to the title of my post today: “Virtual Vibes Vibrate the Virus”

Probably wasn’t necessary to copy and paste the title there. You folks are pretty smart. I had to, though, because I simply like the ring of it in my head. Also, “Vee” makes my lower lip rumble a bit against my upper chompers, too, giving this morning time an upper level excitment I need. One Clif-bar and a few meds don’t do much to jump start a day.

Sound and the four Vee words, together, can help my friends through this belly, and beyond. At least I hope so.

I like to give Doug hugs. Obviously, or the URL would be very different here. In the belly of the beast, these hugs are difficult to physically extend to friends and family. They are not around as much – fearing, rightfully so, the viral ramifications of close proximity. Now, humorously considering some of their positions on hugging, I could assume some of them are just staying away. That’ll be addressed during the post-apocolyptic, post-masking time.

My option at this time is to extend virtual vibes out into the world to, hopefully, not only have my friends and family feel the hugs but also take comfort that the virus may be vibrated away from them.

That’s all. Nothing to crack the theories of dark matter or change what anyone believes about alien life on Mars … or, if coconut should be banned as a candy choice (I vote yes, btw). My hope is our well-being can be shared. Sound good?

Just my idea on how to get through all this together. It’s why I write here. Not to be the next Rowlings, Patterson, King, or Steel. I’m merely one step above that cave man …

…. etching my story into a small piece of granite over here in a dimly lit corner in the vast cavern of public opinion. Sometimes the echoes are so loud, I can’t hear myself talk to myself. That’s ok. I can hug myself. It’s all good.

It’s all Vital in the Vastness of life. Be Valiant, my friends. I’m hugging for you.


During these early morning hours, when I’m awake and find my words a little more accessible than later in the day, strange – but comforting – things usually happen. Strange defined as “unexpected, unpredictable phenomena appearing before my eyes”, and “comforting” meaning, “I don’t jump out of my semi-wrinkled, now-blemished skin” when they happen.

These happenstances are really quite the cool factor in my life. Perhaps you have them in your life as well? Petite surprises jump-starting your day. I love them. My eyes – and by extension, my crazy brain juices – seem to thrive on finding miniature nuggets of fascinating frolics when opening for the first time in the morning.

This second day of August, 2020 is no exception … a pleasant, cool morning in the 8th month of what is turning out to be a ridiculously fascinating year. A year when everything seems to be going south. Now, seeds from China. Geesh.

Well, I saw a number on my clock and it was wonderful: 619

Why? Three digital digits on a clock face shouldn’t be that exciting. Am I plainly weird? Is my sanity compass pointing to a different magnetic pole? Are the rumors of my particular peculiarities among the populous really accurate? No. And, yes.

I must admit, as any person in his sound mind would, none of the above assertions are kinda true. Yes, I do have oddities, but that makes me, me. You are you as well … and we make the world go ’round which is why 619 is so wonderfully wacky. Take it for what it’s worth. I worked a long day yesterday, didn’t eat much until a Taco Bell Quesarito went marching down my gullet late last night, and I slept quasi-ok under a fuzzy blanket on the sofa. So, three numbers on a tv clock ARE going to be captivating. Glad to be participating in life as another fine dawn appears over the window air conditioner to my left. Aah, 21st century wonders.

619. Less absorbing are the three syllables used up saying it. Six-one-nine. Ten letters … s.i.x.o.n.e.n.i.n.e.? Not very interesting either, right? Additionally, adding them up gets us to a sweet 16 birthday party I’m not so sure any teenager even celebrates anymore, so we can cross that off the strange, but comfortable list I proposed at the beginning.

Let’s do a 180-degrees turn together and you’ll see why I find this number so appreciatively appropriate for us as we begin our trip into the last five months of 2020.

It is still 619.

So many people are throwing 619’s at us. Wanting us to change who we are … What we believe, … What we are to do with our lives, …Who we trust, … When we go where and do what.

They are asking us to do a “180”, in essence, without realizing when we do, we are simply returning back to what we already are. Nothing much will have changed except our disdain and resentment toward them for asking us to do something we didn’t want to do in the first place.

However, if on your own accord, you decide to rotate your 619 because you feel the process is for your benefit, by all means … go for it. THAT process can be life changing. You’ll still rotate back to the same position, but feel and act differently.

Point being, “You can’t push a rope” – one of my favorite expressions. This masking, Covid-19, mandated culture we are experiencing now is a brutal, opinionated, Fauci-fact-quasi, who knows world right now. For every yes there is a no, … every right a wrong, every wall an opening. We’re being pushed to rotate our 619 lives without the nudgers realizing we’re only going to end up back where we started.

“A person convinced against his will … is of the same opinion still” – accredited to Mary Wollstonecraft, but original source unknown

And, there’s the rub. Few, if any, are changing their minds about any of this. Politics, religion, now Covid …. the three no-gos in discussions around dinner tables that aren’t even happening anymore, anyway. It’s all arguing about numbers and stats, data points, and charts. A big rotating rotisserie of roasting grumpiness where opinions spatter outward toward patrons with upright forks in hand … waiting to chomp on the fat of misinformation and slanted media bias.

But, back to my early morning fare. The sun is higher in the sky now. I must begin my day. I’m not angry or beset by what’s going on in the world. Quite the opposite. My 619s are pretty good these days. Yours are as well, I’m sure.

Lollipops, unicorns, and pots of gold. Maybe tomorrow morning will present one of these instead of three innocent little numbers. Who knows. For sure, I’ll roll out from under a blanket, open my eyes, and begin a new day with whatever comforting and strange nicely nuggets appear before me.

Hopefully it isn’t a compass pointing due south. Now that would be just plain strange.

…and quite uncomfortable.

It’s Quiet Now

So quiet. This porch.

Save the distant barking of a distressed dog and an occasional tweet of the natural kind – not electronic twitching of opinions, this time brings me such peace. After a long and confusing week, I find sitting here … now … nicely nice. There are a few visually annoying sight lines avoided by simply closing my eyes. Even the smell of grass – cut earlier by a fine crew of hard working young men – still has that fresh smell of greenness attached to the air casually blowing under my nose.

Yes, this is really nice now. Now is a nice place to be. How wonderful is at the moment?

Here, now, is all we have. It is said too often, but not appreciated enough, that we have only moments to live our lives. The hours and days only exist on the canvas because the minutes prop them up on the easel. One stroke at a time, using beautiful blues, reds, and yellows of curiosity and grace, we paint what others see in us. And it renews – over and over again – when we value now.

Simple traffic noise in the near, distant space is far enough away to filter through the few trees between us. It is a mere swaddled sound as it reaches my ears.

The distressed barking has stopped for the moment. Something, or someone has calmed the canine concern. Birds continue their songs in the trees, however, as I expect they should. Nested little ones need to eat, husbands and wives must communicate, and predator warnings are necessary. These are neighborhood nows that continue forward without the recognition of self-reflection …as I sit in a recliner on this shady, comfortable porch. They move their miracles forward, regardless. I am simply another brush of color on their palate of life.

So many shapes and sizes around. I can close my eyes and see a variety of not only physical beings, but also ideas as well. From big and tall notions changing the world – like vaccines for pandemic viruses – to small proposals such as smiles, hugs, and handshakes. Both are connections to the world outside ourselves and so important to the now we are experiencing together.

I have little to taste now except for the Arby’s roast beef sitting casually by my side. In all likelihood, it is less fresh than it was a few minutes ago when I first entertained the idea of sliding it over my lips. Fortunately, one was already consumed prior, so this second sandwich is not a tragedy. The diet Pepsi is flat, unfortunately, so I am slightly disappointed in my beverage choice. Humidity is less drippy compared to days past and I get the impression folks around these parts are settling into a late summer / early-August routine.

This is now. Now is Covid-19, masking, the last day in July of a ridiculously crazy, little over three months from an election, out of one’s mind, take a deep breath, … 2020.

We have to keep our senses about us, right? I have mine. Today is all about what I see, hear, smell, taste, and … can say to you.

Enjoy the now. You are special. The now is here for you to have, hold, and cherish. Pull up a chair next to me on my porch.

It’s quiet.

What In Carnation!

We ain’t in River City and I certainly ain’t Harold, but we got trouble … right here. With a capital “T”. Granted, I don’t own the rights to the song or the musical itself (disclaimer out of the way), however, permission to use every synonym associated with the 18th century word tarnation is hereby assigned. Trouble, as well sung in the musical as it is, isn’t close to filling the lead role, although it is in the supporting cast of synonymous players.

Shall I begin with censure, criticism, or denunciation? Perhaps castigation is best? Maybe bewilderment or anger best describes your mood when tarnating someone – if that’s even a thing. Two centuries ago, damnation – the origin of this word under examination – meant an eternity of fire and misery. Today? Just two weeks in isolation with someone who won’t shut up about their position opposite yours on masking, politics, or salt on fruit.

I settled on “Oh, pfft … what the … dagnabit … What in carnation!” when I spied what I spied.

Walking out of a big box store the other morning, what do I see? …

One solitary stem-a-sight-a-licious on the hot pavement. Who in tarnation leaves one beautiful red flower behind and drives off? “Who?” I write. WHO? What in carnation is this world coming to?

Certainly … hopefully … this act of abandoning wasn’t intentional (for to leave such a beauty behind on purpose would be upsetting to even the least of the forbearing, floral gods). Imagined said customer in all likelihood possessed a bouquet of bounteous beauties and was in too much of a hurry to arrive at his/her next port of call. Out of hands this one dropped gently to the ground.

Perhaps even more romantic is the notion of one noticing my slightly greasy, flavorful white Ford van with cart in tow exhaustively exhaling next to gravel-stricken yellow painted lines on over-heated pavement. I being not the only one exiting my vehicle overheated at the notion of masking once again to enter another store once again … this time to momentarily pass an underpaid nice young security lady at the door handing out single-use masks and sanitizer wipes to those so inclined to receive these gifts of Covid-19 invisibility. I declined with whispers behind my cute cloth Dalmatian mask. Back to my fantasy…

One saw this scent-of-a-van and, upon my absence, placed one fine flower next to it as one would gently settle a rose on the casket of a lost loved lover. Thinking, “Oh, I must meet this person to whom this vehicle belongs. I see a sign on the cart, ‘Doug’s Dawgs’ … He must, must be inside. I shall not wait because I am in a hurry. Maybe some day … someday…”, my imaginary friend walked away leaving only a lonely stemmed memory behind.

There was space in my life for a 10 inches long gift to present itself at my feet. Where it came from is known: a big box store full of masked, slightly confused, doing the best-we-can, cart pushing, life-getting through extended neighbors of mine. How it arrived? This is a mystery I am entirely comfortable not knowing. For someone like me who needs to ask why? and have an answer all the freakin’ time, this is off my-OCD game a bit … however, knowing I’ll never be close to the truth, I can let it go.

We still have trouble my friends. Right here in (any) city, don’t we! Ugh. That very day, I ambled out of the store with a cart full of goods not knowing – until hours later – that the very item I went in to buy was missing. I simply forgot to buy it … and needed it for my business. The day before some of my product spoiled without any chance of replacing … and had a large order including that product I couldn’t fulfill. I’ve dropped customers orders on the ground this week, handed out wrong change/under-charged folks, made wrong sandwiches with incorrect toppings, and … my back hurts more than normal. It’s been a week.

What in Carnation is happening! We’ve been asking this since Mid-March, right? All of us.

This flower is currently on the dashboard of my overcrowded van. It rests in an overworked, reliable, friendly automobile as a reminder to those – including me – who don’t take enough time to do the same during these troubling times. At some settled time, this flower will fade out and lose color, but not its significance. The consequence of seeing it lay at my feet that day does not dim with the passage of time, however, as each opportunity to be happy in the midst of trouble is a flower in and of itself.

We’re going to be at this virus-thing for a while, it seems. I’m no doctor, although I could be, in some imaginary t.v. afternoon soap opera universe, be ascribed the moniker “Dr. Doug” (but, I digress …), so, try to find a small flower at your feet that a stranger leaves for you. A smile. Spare change for a free cup of coffee. A $5 lottery ticket. Time away for a few minutes you wouldn’t normally get. I don’t know what it’ll be. Only the perky little parking lots in life will be able to provide the answers for you. There’s something out there that will make perfect scents for you, I’m sure.

I am willing to keep looking myself. On stage with Harold Hill I’m not. Just a simple guy with simple ideas tripping over little flowers left behind by who-knows bodies. I am aware that I must continue forward living life the best I know how in the midst of this goofy time – as all of us must. Covid be damned … err … Darnation, anyway!

Specifically, I am looking forward to change – especially the correct amount in return to my customers as I hand over the proper sandwiches with the exact toppings ordered, not dropped on the ground (which I wouldn’t serve anyway, just to clarify), and all without grimacing and moaning quietly behind my face covering due to my achy-breaky back. That is, if I remembered to pick up what I needed in the first place.

Back to the store again sometime soon. Say, “Hi!” if you see me there. I’ll be the one handing out invisible carnations disguised as a smile behind my mask. We’re all on stage together. It certainly isn’t River City, but it’s home.

Find your flowers.

Log On It!

It was to be a nice late evening meal for a few smaller than small critters. A family of about seventy or so, by my imagination. What kind of critters? Who knows. For sure, they were tiny and resting up from a busy day of dirt-dalying among the various clumps and mini crags in the front yard. Mom, dad, Uncle Frater, the ten kids and various cousins … all around for dinner …

Then … WHAM!

Not to be a Dougie-downer, but critter catastrophes happen. These events are common because ants walk on a busy human byways and flies are swatted during lazy summer evenings. Just so happens, on this past Saturday’s eve, an odd, innocent insecta-sidal incident occurred which, unfortunately, caused the envisioned demise of seventy little non-human dinner guests. An aged tree branch fell on all of them. Unexpected. Sudden. I’m sure there was no pain.

Now I’m left to figure out what to do with all this.

Oh, not the family of imagined critters. They’re imaginary. I think I’m simply a guy awake enough to write a little, but just on the edge of goofy-groggy to dial up a “we had a massive log drop on us this past March”. Now what! Unexpected, sudden. Log on it, anyway!!

As for the log in my yard, I propped it up against the tree from whence it came. This feat of festive propping took me two days to accomplish after looking at it a few dozen times. You wooden 😁 think so, but I’m a guy and this is how we roll. Now I have a tree triangle the neighbors will have to enjoy all winter … and possibly impress my Junior High math teacher during a drive-by – provided he is still aware enough to pound an extra long chalkboard eraser or finger-flex a ten pound pocket calculator. At present, the hypotenuse being the log, earth as one leg, and the host tree the other: an example of triangulation configuration at its finest. At least I think so…

We couldn’t prop the Covid against a tree and then go about our lives, could we? When it landed on us, the virus crushed a lot of our ambitions for 2020. There we were … simply eating dinner one evening with friends and family then …. WHAM!!

Life hasn’t returned to normal. I know this. You know this. After over four months of living behind the new air we’ve been breathing, I fear we are having a difficult time remembering what normal used to be. As the grass under this immovable log continues to be denied the sunshine of a new day, we are losing the ability to know what fresh air and new ideas taste like.

The air is becoming old and stale with devisive, bitter arguments about masking and mold is growing around each crevasse of political divide. We are communicating, but in a strange way. There seems to be a quietness afoot. “Suspicious” is probably a better word … perhaps even “cautious”. Nobody knows what to say anymore … moreover, to whom, or when to say it. So, I fear we are becoming a collection of “what-to-do-or-say” people scurrying about under our huge log.

There are those outspoken among us, to be sure. Their voices ring and bounce between the bark. We hear them loudly proclaim their truth as they see themselves portrayed in the sliver of light peeking through the perceived darkness they see in others. It is an overly-opinion filled new normal nudge all of us are engaged in at an accelerated pace due to this Covid log we are under.

We don’t need to be all this and a heaping pile of mulch, though.

As much as this looks dire and can be sour to the sights, let it not bug you. There is a definite, determined upside to all the doom-inisticism I offered above. There is light at the end of my word-spitter, now heard, critter fancy.

…and that light is YOU. You, me, and everyone else.

The Covid log fell on all our dinners this past March. Those eating McDonald’s and friends snacking on caviar did not escape the wrath of wham from distances we’ve yet to determine. With all respect to our loved ones lost, most have survived thus far and we are pushing forward, right? Numbers, percentages, cases, etc ….all of these keep going regardless how we feel, individually, about all of it. We just keeping going forward doing what we believe is correct.

Here’s what we need to do. Together, we need to lift this log off of us. It’ll take a Herculean effort, I know, but we can do it. It means agreeing on a half-way point about masking, perhaps … or, not being so stubborn about our views on this doctor or that politician. We can’t all be right about everything we believe all the time. There needs to be some give and take here.

We need to stop being so judgemental towards others. Our four months social media immunology education isn’t enough to warrant an opinion about why Mary Doe isn’t wearing a mask, or why she is. Cloth, surgical, mosquitos through a chain link fence, droplets, drywall dust, N95, – all the masking arguments I’ve heard are getting pedantic and old. This sounds harsh … and it is directed as much towards me as anyone. I think and reflect upon what I see on Facebook. What is mandated? What isn’t? A law? Not a law? Again, it isn’t all that clear, but we can talk talk it out and try to find a middle ground here.

The gray areas are brutal now. Not just masking, but business requirements to remain open in PA are as clear as muck … oh, and testing for Covid. Geesh. False positives, delays, changing stats, ups/downs, percentages, comparative analysis … on and on.

Comfort groups on social media with fringe followers calling out marginal issues. Again, there needs to be a compromise somewhere. Hardliners taking a stand on masking and gloving where science and common sense have stalemated.

If we rely on the politicians, media, or any social construct to solve this for us, that’s not going to happen. They don’t have a crane large enough to lift this burden off of us and, ironically, they’re sitting on the log anyway, adding to weight we must lift.

So it’s up to us if we want to enjoy a normal, fun dinner in the future without the worry of another unpredictable log falling from the sky. We need to shed this current worrisome woodiness from our lives. When all has settled, we can then watch another family of Uncle Fraters enjoy their summer meal without worry themselves.

How nice it will be to talk among ourselves. Talk about what once was the Covid. All the battle-barking going on right now will be the old normal we will not miss. The log on it we will finally lift off ourselves together – unified as one voice.

Words of a Feather

More than one happily danced on the sidewalk the other morning when I went to work. Back home hours later, I saw this single feather look up at me without any hope of returning to normal. It seemed lost. Although detached from a gracious host hours – possibly days – earlier, familiarity among its peers that morning must have provided some hope. Now? Alone on a sidewalk.

Where did the other friends go? One can guess with the wind. This would be a logical assumption as much needed rain has been pushing through the area lately … and with it, breezy heat-relieving cooling sensations. Today, light rain continues. It is another early morning quiet and that beautiful feather has been tickling my imagination since I carefully stepped over it yesterday.

Words of a feather … stuck together in my mind since that chance meeting. Why now? Why this small, almost weightless object before my eyes on a semi-hot, light breezy day in July?

It is a symbol of things. What else could it be? A representation, a reflection, a return. A “What R we trying to get back to in the midst of all this confusion?” kind of thing.

This feather, alone, with very little guidance save the occasional kind puff of freshness passing by to urge it forward. A breath of fresh air that will, most assuredly, not return it to the very similar looking friends nestled around from its youth. That innocence is gone as are all the familiar long-looking gray, black, and white ideas holding hands with it.

I do not know why this feather detached from its host. Perhaps tragedy or a simple act of nature? What I can gather from my amateur detective senses, is … it looked like a crime scene. Maybe a larger preditor – perhaps a neighborhood cat – was involved? I simply don’t know.

This is our story as well in 2020. We, simply, don’t know.

We are simple feathers.

This is a time we represent a separation from what we knew as normal. Our ordinary lives shed us like yesterday’s news and replaced moments with masks, unknown futures, and closed minds. We reflect back to a time when our friends friended us on Facebook without bias or preconceptions about race, gender, or religious beliefs. A return to normals like feeling comfortable in our favorite cafe or caring for a stranger by a gentle, “I’m here for you” hand on his shoulder is desired by many.

We R the simple feather now, representing our individual lives the best way we know how. Replacing old normals with new ones while trying to reflect recently matured views about how society should be … as birds of one United feather, we need to stick together. Gray, black, white and all colors in between. On all the sidewalks in every neighborhood … in every city, town, and borough.

My words are simply those … words. Predatory forces are out there willing to separate us from our friends and family, beliefs, ideals, and fantastic individual strengths. Stand strong with more than words – together, 6-feet apart if necessary – and live the new normals with renewed energy.

The early morning rain hasn’t dampened my spirit as I will head out to see if that special feather is still there. If so, picking it up to eventually place it among the reminder/knick-knacks at my desk is so much a possibility.

Possibilities are all we have, right? Remind yourself of them frequently. “Tickle your fancy” with an imaginary feather once in a while. And, if you’re lucky enough to find one at your feet during an early morning walk, remember: words of a feather stick together.