Humor abounds in all relationships

We have been watching several Rom-Com movies where relationship humor between the lead characters seasons what would be a dry movie plot. Just yesterday, in the movie “Sleeping with other people,” the main, opposite gender characters (played by Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie) became best friends. If they ever had romantic feelings for each other, they would say the word “mousetrap” to stop those thoughts. That is a neat ploy.

It got me thinking about humor in all kinds of relationships – partners, friends, relatives, etc. I won’t repeat several stories that I have written about a few times before, but here are a few I have not.

Make sure the door can lock – when I moved to a new city, I was in a temporary apartment before we sold our house. When my family was visiting, the kids slept on a sleeper sofa, while my wife and I were in the lone bedroom. During, shall we say a romantic interlude, in walks my oldest son who was about seven and he said an audible “ooh” and left the room. Note to self, make sure the bedroom door can actually lock.

Old dogs can be taught – having learned the above lesson, we went on vacation and stayed in an old lake house, whose bedroom door would not fully shut and lock. Part of our foreplay was made to include placing a chair in front of the door to keep it from opening.

Yes, your parents had sex after you were born – growing up, my parents’ bedroom was adjacent to my brother’s and mine. Since my bed was on the nearest wall to theirs, it enabled me to hear things a boy probably should not hear in the room next door. Yes, my parents had sex after I was born; I am sure they enjoyed it.

Speaking of discovery – some good friends were visiting her mother and father and were sleeping in the guest room downstairs. After one of those romantic interludes, in walks the husband’s mother-in-law. It should be noted my friend is in bed, sans clothing, with one leg positioned outside of the covers. His mother-in-law sits on the bed while they are talking and starts to pat his leg and pats it again. Then, it hits her what has just transpired and she gets wide-eyed and immediately leaves the room. See number one about locking bedroom doors.

Invariably, kids will walk through when the movie gets racy – with one adult-child staying with us since the pandemic staying upstairs when home, he will occasionally walk through our main TV area to go the kitchen. Often, if our movie has a racy scene come on the screen, that is when he walks through the room. My wife and I will say to each other “I thought this was PG-13.” That and the surprise “f-bombs” that are used in movies cause some parental cringing. He will say, “it is nothing I have not heard before.”

Yes, a squeaky bed can be heard downstairs – when we travel, we often stay in a bed and breakfast which is usually an old house. At one place, we learned, after the fact, our bedroom and another was above the downstairs parlor. The reason we know there was another bedroom is the guests were having one of those romantic interludes as we had done earlier. And, we heard the squeaky bed while sitting in the parlor below. Oops. Our bed was squeaky as well.

When it rains it pours – staying at another bed and breakfast, we arrived during a torrential rainstorm. Our room was in the back of the home with an elevated poster bed which needed a stepping stool to get into. It also was underneath a veranda with a partially covered roof accessible by the second-floor rooms. Since this story is about romantic interludes, when we were about to Christen the poster bed, we saw rain leaking down the wall. This was a few seconds before the ceiling caved in from the rain on top of us. After getting dressed and letting the owners know of our travails, we were moved to another room across the hall, but it had water running down the walls as well. So, we ended up in a third room.

So, the moral to this story is not to avoid having romantic interludes. The moral is lock or block the bedroom door, test the squeakiness of the beds, and watch out for B&B poster beds in rainstorms. And, yes your parents did these kinds of things as well and enjoyed them. As for those movies, don’t trust a PG-13 rating.

A first step in breaking down barriers

Many of us have written about how divided we are as a nation. We are more divided than ever, but what does not get written about enough are what brings us together. We do not hear or read as much about the good news stories or people just getting along. Our friend Jill does a weekly post on these kinds of good news stories, but her frequency of covering good news is greater than that of most news publications.

One of the things I have observed in my many years is people will set up we/ they groupings, even when they do not need to or it serves no purpose. I recall a true story from 1987, when a large housing development we moved into had a North side and a South side. At a party, I heard someone make reference to “those folks in the North side” not being good people like us. Really, I thought. This person made up an artificial group to fear and ridicule. Now that is inane.

So, the first step to breaking down barriers is not to create them. Try to avoid we/ they groupings. If we do that, there is no one to blame for our troubles but us. A good step down this path is do not identify yourself as a member of a group unless you actually have to in response to a question. I am guilty of taking pride in being an independent voter, but even that is a grouping. I do that to get my message heeded by members of political groups, but it is still a banner I am waving.

When I hear or see people put down someone for the way they look, worship or love or their heritage it builds off we/ they barriers that have been created. For a diverse country, we tend to complain about the most superficial of things. Just taking food as a counterexample, think of the rich diversity of choices we have as consumers to eat a variety of foods from around the world. We even have “fusion” restaurants that blend together tastes from Asia and Mexico or Italy and Greece, for example. A Hawaiian pizza did not originate in Italy and Fried Chicken and Waffles is alleged to have started in California not the south.

If we can eat these wonderful foods from diverse sources, I think we can break down a few barriers. Think of it as breaking bread with people with different backgrounds. If we did not eat a variety of foods, we would certainly live in a bland world. And, think of how more seasoned the conversation will be as we delve into histories and mutual interests.

So, test yourselves. Lessen the identification of groups. Don’t define yourself by where you go to church and especially not how you vote. An old line comes to mind that is less applied now, but don’t ever bring up religion or politics at a party, as it will start an argument. If you must, focus on an issue at hand, not the grouping. The one group that matters is the human race. Let’s be better human beings.

Tangled up in Blue – an encore for a great poet

While many of Bob Dylan’s songs resonate with me, my personal favorite is “Tangled up in Blue.” The poetic storytelling of this song keeps me fascinated from start to finish. Plus, the title means to me that we are all blue more than we care to admit and get tangled up in our sadness and melancholy.  Here are the lyrics to this poetic song.

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wond’ring if she’d changed it all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough
And I was standing on the side of the road
Rain falling on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues getting through
Tangled up in blue.

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split it up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walking away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
Tangled up in blue.

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the axe just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Working for a while on a fishing boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.

She was working in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept looking at her side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I was just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me “Don’t I know your name?”
I muttered something underneath my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe
Tangled up in blue.

She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello” she said
“You look like the silent type”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the fifteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the café at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue.

So now I’m going back again
I got to get her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter’s wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t what they’re doing with their lives
But me I’m still on the road
Heading for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in Blue. 

If you are like me, you will be saying these words in time with the music. I love the references and wordsmithing throughout. My favorite line which I use on occasion is “we will meet again someday on the avenue.” I just find that so profound. Dylan wrote and sang about many causes and some of his songs are anthems. Yet, I find this real kind of storytelling is what makes his words live beyond his eventual death. He will be viewed favorably centuries from now. Tangled up in blue.

Same-sex marriage protection passes a hurdle

In an article called “47 House Republicans vote to write same-sex marriage into law” by Anthony Adragna of Politico, the good news reverberated in the hall of the Congress. It still must pass muster with 60 Senate votes, but it is encouraging. Please contact your Senators and ask them to vote in favor of this bill.

The full article can be linked to below. Here are the opening few paragraphs:

“Democrats loudly cheered from their side of the chamber as the bill passed 267-157, with 47 Republicans backing it, including members of GOP leadership such as Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and National Republican Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.). Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) voted no.

‘This bill makes crystal clear that every couple and their children has the fundamental freedom to take pride in their marriage and have their marriage respected under the law,’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in floor remarks.

A 2015 Supreme Court decision required states to recognize same-sex marriages, but Democrats urged a codification of the policy in the wake of the court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last month. In a concurring decision, Justice Clarence Thomas voiced support for reconsidering the court’s earlier same-sex marriage ruling.

The short bill, which faces an uncertain path in the 50-50 Senate, would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It would also require states to recognize same-sex marriages, as long as it was valid in the state in which it occurred.”

Note, when the two more prolific attorneys who have pled cases before SCOTUS argued for same-sex marriage when California’s Prop 8 case was in question, they noted that other folks had no standing on the issue. Plus, they argued that these are folks want to be in a recognized relationship and want to start families. I agree.

Again, please reach out to your Senators and let them know where you stand on this.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/47-house-republicans-vote-to-write-same-sex-marriage-into-law/ar-AAZLcDb

A solicited prayer for all

I follow a young woman’s blog she calls the Christian Tech-Nerd. Recently, she offered several biblical based prayers for various events or challenges and invited readers to submit theirs. Here is one I submitted, which is less biblical and more on treating others like we want to be treated.

“Thanks for sharing. My prayer is our leaders, both religious and non-religious, can act and speak as if they are among our better angels and not our worst demons. To me, it is poor stewardship when they act and speak like we tell our kids not to. 

My prayer is we can civilly disagree with one another and not hold grudges if we cannot find agreement. My prayer is we can be the best version of ourselves and treat people like we want to be treated. We are an imperfect lot and we all sin. So, let’s not forget that and do our best to learn from our mistakes.

I recognize this is not a biblical prayer, I just feel we have lost our way and we need to act better than we are. Thanks for asking.”

This prayer seems to resonate with several folks. My thrust is on walking the talk. Words are easy. Actions are hard. As someone who has worked with religious volunteers to help people in need, those outreach people are where that Golden Rule lives. Those are the people we should be following, not a minister or elected official who is using their power to act like a bully to denigrate others.

Letter to the editor – concerns over attacks on others

I sent the following brief letter to my newspaper this weekend. It will likely go unprinted, but I want to share it with you in case you would like to modify and use. Maybe it will get printed somewhere.

Reading about the increase in verbal and physical attacks on LGBTQ+ citizens or the denigration of the rights of women or people of color concern me. This is especially troubling when it comes from people who espouse the teachings of Jesus. When he said treat others like you want to be treated, he offered no caveats. Full stop. If we would only follow that one rule, which is so important it is called “golden” and also appears in in other religious texts, we would be in a much better place with our civility. We have two ears and one mouth, we should use them in that proportion. We all deserve such treatment.

People died for our country to preserve the freedoms for all its citizens. That guy Jesus chose to spend most of his time speaking to and hanging out with the disenfranchised people in his time. We should remind ourselves why would they choose to do that. Our country has had fits and starts of trying to live up to our ideals. Yet, we should never stop trying to be the best version of ourselves.

Another Saturday night – and songs of loneliness

In deference to Cat Stevens, it was the legendary Sam Cooke who made this song soar. Here is the first stanza that sets the stage for being lonely on yet another Saturday night.

“Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody
I got some money ’cause i just got paid
How I wish I had someone to talk to
I’m in an awful way”

Loneliness is a common theme of ballads. I was watching an excellent documentary on Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys last night. The parts that stood out to me are when Elton John and Bruce Springsteen repeatedly sang his praises of musicality and wordmanship. His brothers Carl and Dennis sang praises of their tortured brother as well and it is apparent the love they had for each other.

Elton said something interesting that when Wilson expanded his horizons and wrote deeper and richer songs, it of course brought out more emotional and poignant lyrics. The instrumentation on “God only knows” which he asked his brother Carl to sing the lead is far more complex than the simple sound, to the extent the studio producer does not know how he did it. Both Elton and Bruce spoke of how they wore out “In my room” which Brian speaks of a safe haven.

Loneliness, love, spirituality, security, et al are emotions that are all over his later songs. Yet, he was indeed a tortured soul suffering from Schizoid Affective Disorder. Even in the documentary, riding in a car with a friend doing the interview, Wilson was anxious and scared. He did and does hear voices. He was depressed. He was also taken advantage by a controlling counselor for nine years who would not let him talk to his own family.

Yet, he was Mozart-like in his writing. The one thing that drove him beyond the love of music was competition. Competition with other song writers like Lennon and McCartney, but with himself as well.

Back to Sam Cooke and his song about a man with money to spend, but no one to spend it with. I think we all are lonely souls to some degree. The number of songs that speak to this are immense. Brian wrote “God only knows what I’d be without you.” We may not be able to find a “you” but we should not give up trying.

One of my favorite songs about loneliness is the story of “A Better Place to Be” by Harry Chapin. Here is the close to the song, a conversation between two lonely people:

“You know the waitress took her bar rag
And she wiped it across her eyes
And as she spoke her voice came out as something like a sigh
She said, “I wish that I was beautiful or that you were halfway blind
And I wish I weren’t so goddamned fat, I wish that you were mine
And I wish that you’d come with me when I leave for home
For we both know all about emptiness and livin’ all alone”

And the little man
Looked at the empty glass in his hand
And he smiled a crooked grin
He said, “I guess I’m out of gin
And I know we both have been so lonely

And if you want me to come with you that’s all right with me
‘Cause I know I’m goin’ nowhere and anywhere’s a better place to be”

So, when you speak to someone in a store or on the street, you may be speaking to someone who does not have many conversations. I wrote recently about The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Let’s try not to let people die alone. Reach out. I remember the story of a homeless man who started crying when a woman spoke to him – you see she was the first person to speak to him in over a month. Think about that.

Friday free form – recognizing those mistakes

Happy Friday all. I thought I would throw a few random musings down in free form on this Friday. In no particular order:

  • I watched a great movie whose title was uttered by a prescient boy with a debilitating immune disorder. He said you are “more beautiful having been broken.” He was sharing this with a new female friend who he sensed was sad. Its poignancy and pertinence to the plot was profound. Think about this line as it applies to all the screw-ups, errors or misstatements in your own lives. We learn more from failure than success.
  • This self-awareness is important for self-improvement. If we don’t acknowledge our mistakes, then we never learn from them. One of the best teachings by the former president is what we should not do – not recognize that we messed up and blame others for our transgressions. This is what a toddler would do. “I didn’t do it” is uttered with his hand in the cookie jar. It is not what a more mature person should do.
  • I don’t think I have enough toes and fingers to count all of my mess-ups. Thank goodness for erasers, backspace and delete keys. In fact, it would be great to have a life oriented “undo” button. Handling a break up poorly – undo. Saying something hurtful to a loved one – undo. Passing along a rumor that may be untrue – undo.
  • I wonder if ol’ Putin wishes he could press the undo button. For such a control freak, who used disinformation to build the impression that Russia is stronger than its adversaries, to make the horrible mistake of invading and failing to execute in Ukraine is telling. Russia’s economy is not large enough to support the military spending of its aspirations and the Ukraine president called the bully’s bluff and said “I am not going anywhere.” Russia has made some inroads but has also been fended off and is now viewed as a pariah.
  • Speaking of undo buttons, ol’ Boris got a vote of confidence, but the celebration is muted because of the closeness of the vote. He was fortunate to recognize he would benefit by calling Putin on the carpet for his invasion. Everyone needs a foil. Had he not been able to do so, Johnson may have been on his way out. He may still get there, but he should learn some lessons from this about lying, cover-ups and poor decisions. The question is will he?

That is all for now. Key lessons. Our mistakes make us better, not worse, unless we choose to ignore them. In that case, they can be an anchor.

Sunday mornin’ coming down

One of the best songs written by Kris Kristofferson is the title of this post – “Sunday mornin’ coming down.” The song is largely about the loneliness of Sunday morning after a night of drinking, smoking and partying. Here is the chorus:

“On the Sunday morning sidewalks
Wishing lord that I was stoned
‘Cause there is something in a sunday
That makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city side walks
Sunday mornin’ comin’ down”

I wanted to use this song to portray while we are alone, we crave being social with a group of people. The Greek language has a word for this called ‘thumos” which means a desire to belong and be recognized. When we don’t have those things, we can get awful lonely.

One of the saddest ballads happens to be one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, “Eleanor Rigby.” It tells a story of a lonely woman of that name dying and being buried by a lonely priest named Father McKenzie. Here are the final stanza and chorus to the song which tells you all you need to know:

“Eleanor Rigby
Died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie
Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?”

I use these two examples, as we humans will join groups that may be not the kind of groups we should belong to. We do that to just avoid being lonely. We do that because someone or group is paying attention to me. These groups of extremists actually prey on lonely people telling them “The Others” are the reason for their lot in life. They turn loneliness and disenfranchisement into fear. This groupthink is alluring as well as palliative.

It is hard to break through the shell that is created to protect its members. Bill Maher calls it the “bubble.” He said it is hard to get factual information inside the bubble, as the members of the group don’t want to hear contrary information. Once these folks have drunk the Kool-Aid, it is often too late.*

Now, I am not saying everyone who is lonely is among the more strident members of society. I am saying people who are lonely, disenfranchised, downtrodden, etc. are more susceptible to being wooed into a way of thinking which is inconsistent with their values.

With so many avenues for misinformation and disinformation, it takes an effort to stay truly informed. It takes an effort to know when smoke is being blown up a lower extremity. It takes an effort to say, I don’t believe you to someone who is paying attention to you in a day where not many do.

I was watching a movie where a lonely woman, defined as mousy in the plot summary, falls in love with a narcissistic jerk she works with. He pays attention to her and treats her nicely some of the time, but he makes you cringe with how he treats her most of the time. In the end, after she has had enough, long after a less lonely person would have, her one friend summed it up saying you fell in love with an a**hole.

We need to avoid the a**holes whenever we can. Sometimes it is hard to do, when the a**holes are giving you attention you don’t often get. Especially when it is a group of them.

*Note: I use this reference often but the term drinking the Kool-Aid references how Jim Jones, a famous cult leader, got his believers to kill themselves en masse – he poisoned their Kool-Aid. Many believed in his message so much, they knowingly drank the poison.

Wednesday wanderings on a spring day

It is certainly a great day to wander about, but I think I will mow the grass first. Mowing has always been a chore I don’t mind, as you can see your progress as you go. Plus, freshly cut grass has a fresh smell. Since I have a battery powered mower, I don’t have to worry about inhaling gas fumes.

As I mow or wander, I can do some good thinking. I find myself thinking about past events and friends, since some of the current day issues are puzzling at best. I read a post (it may have been Jill or Joy’s) that some celebrity said “act like a grown up” used to be an admonition to misbehaving children. Now, we have too many grown-ups that act like spoiled toddlers. Of course, when some stand firmly behind one of the biggest acting toddlers as a former and possible future presidential candidate, it truly shows how low we have fallen.

We have too many that forget there is a responsibility that comes with our liberties. When my freedom to do things could be harmful to your freedoms, then we must cease or reconsider those actions. The opposite should be true. It reminds me of the caution to the newly launched Spiderman, when his grandfather said “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our freedoms to do things that are not permissible in some countries is a great power. Yet, we must honor it, nurture it, protect it for all.

Some have taken reaction to actual or perceived offenses to an awful degree. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not entitle you to hurt, threaten or kill the other person. Full stop. Just because you cannot tolerate failure, does not entitle you to turn over the chess board, throw a tantrum, claim cheating or instigate an attack on a branch of government. Full stop. Just because you are in a position of authority does not entitle you to ignore the people you represent. A good leader listens to others. A foolish one does not. Full stop.

There are many old lessons that are getting ignored these days. A key one is if someone has to tell you how great he or she is, then maybe we should look a little deeper as to why he or she is having to tell us such. When a colleague was complaining about being removed from marketing to a prospective client, unsuccessfully over several years, he said “I have known John for twenty years.” The thought running through my head was “And, he has known you.”

Whether you are religious or not, in many religious texts is some variation of Jesus’ golden rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. Let’s be responsible to each other. Let’s be civil in our discourse. Let’s protect their freedoms like they were our own. Let’s try not to be blowhards and listen to each other. Spiderman’s grandpa has a good lesson for us all.