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Kinda moving on, join me?
Serpent's Egg - Prologue
Soluble Words
A Ghost Between Us
Jane Meyers One
50 Things I've Done
The Real One (Part 5) The Real Story of Santa Clau...
The Real One (Part 4) The Real Story of Santa Clau...
The Real One (Part 3) The Real Story of Santa Clau...
The Real One (Part 2) The Real Story of Santa Clau...

Click to go to the most current Cliff Between the Lines
Life, viewed sideways. Emotions, amplified. Answers, questioned. Me, between the lines.




- A Wounded Heart, Who Can Bear?
- Drowning Under a Tidal Wave
- Clawing My Way to the Sunlight
- Yes, Santa Claus, There Is a Virginia
- Fugu
- Touching the Spirit
- A Hole in the Universe
- Riding on the Dreams of Others
- Turning Into a Shark
 - A Heart, Ripped Asunder
- Surrendering to the Roller Coaster
- Hunting in the Jade Forest
- Dodging the Shark
- Dancing With Invisible Partners
- The Captain and the Harliquin
- Courting the Devils
- The Captain Makes His Mark
- Mad Dog to the Rescue
- Innocent in the Big City
- Dropping the Ball Briefcase
- Scrambling Brains
- Cheating the Reaper, Again
- What If the Man Behind the Curtain Is No Wizard After All?
- All of Us Have a Soundtrack
- Working With Broken Machines
- Happy Anniversary, Baby
- Standing on Stars
- Running the Film Backwards
- Identity Crisis ("Who am I?")
- Can We Ever Really Admit the Desires of Our Heart?
- Forgiveness is a Rare Thing
- Having Your Heart Caressed By the Creator
- Working With Broken Machines
- A New Leg to Stand On
- The Real Spirit of Christmas
- Chatting With Infinity
- Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
- We All Have a Great Capacity for Loss
- Brushed Lightly By Might Have Beens
- We See the World Through Our Own Looking Glass
- Every Storm Passes Eventually
- Accidents Can Introduce Destiny Into Our Lives
- Freedom Depends on the Walls Around Us
- Pulling Aside the Velvet Curtain
- Riding the Razor's Edge
- Dying With Strangers
- In Your Face
- Between the Lines
- The Bobcat
- Angel With a Coffeecup
- Innocent in the Big City
- Chains of Gossamer
- Playing With Knives
- Stumbling Through Memories (Ooops)
- Picture This
- Running the Film Backwards
- Playing the Score, Tasting the Music
- Coins and Corals and Carved Coconuts
- My God, I Confess
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 1, Speechless)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 2, Taxi)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 3, The Pan American)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 4, Guano)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 5, The Andes Express)



 
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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

Walt Whitman (1819-92)




"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."

Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)











And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:

The WeatherPixie








Saturday, May 08, 2004
 

Tweet

ar-bo-re-tum
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -retums or ar·bo·re·ta /-'rE-t&/
Etymology: New Latin, from Latin, plantation of trees, from arbor
1 : a place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes
2 : what most people don't have in their homes


I can hear them, right now, as I type this, fussing at each other in their high pitched way of fussing.

But, I get ahead of myself. Let me explain.

A few years ago, my wife and I (well, my wife, anyway) thought about building a new home. As a lot of people do, we went out and bought several of those "Home Plans" magazines.

I flipped through them. And I found them unbearably boring. I would look at the plans, and place myself in the structure with my minds eye, and think...

"Well, it's a house."

Maybe the kitchen was a different shape, or the stairs placed on the other side, or maybe there was one extra bedroom or so, but they all were, to me, just houses.

Until I came across one house plan that was awesome. I have no idea how the thing got into such a mundane collection.

This house was designed pretty much in a circle. Most of the rooms were open to each other. You entered in the front, then to the left winding around were the study, family room, dining area, kitchen. To the right was the master bedroom and bath, and I think there were some bedrooms on the second story as well.

But what made this house stand out was what was in the center of the structure. Right in the very middle of the circle was a round glassed in room with a glass skylight. The room was designed to hold trees and plants, and every room in the main areas of the house had a full view of it.

Now this was a house!

I sat there and thought how neat that would be. Maybe I would put in some fruit trees. Maybe tomato plants. Maybe all kinds of flowers.

Oh, and birds! I would have finches and parakeets and they would happily chirp all day long, flying around with their bright colors, and maybe even lay eggs and have young.

We never built that house. At least not yet. The boss wasn't real crazy about it anyway.

However, God has a funny way of making things work. He really does.

One of the previous owners of the house we are in right now was, well, destructive to a lot of stuff. One of the things he did was somehow lose the chimney cover.

We had been here two years when I realized that. Not much I could do though, in order to replace it you had to have about a 30' ladder. I don't.

So, I kicked around the idea of hiring a contractor to do it (and spend megabucks) and I guess that was when they first arrived, fussing and generally moving in like they owned the place.

Swifts, I think they are.

During the warm months, soon after sunset, they drop right into the top of the chimney. For a few hours, I can hear them fussing and chatting with each other, telling the other swifts swifty things that they did that day or might do tomorrow, where the best bugs were, and all kinds of good stuff.

When morning comes they clear out until the next evening.

After the first season was over and I felt they had left, I opened the flue expecting to find some foul smelling mess to clean up. Incredibly, there was no trace they had ever been there. How they do that I have no idea.

Heck, they keep better house than I do.

They have visited us for four years now. I still have not capped the chimney, and I might never do it.

No, I never got my arboretum.

But I got my birds, and they sing to me every night.


I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.
Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719), 'The Spectator'


Permalink: 5/08/2004 09:50:00 PM |
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Disconnect

fil-ter
Function: verb
1 : to subject to the action of a filter
2 : to remove by means of a filter
3 : to see life colored by your own perception


I could not comprehend that she could do that, right there by the side of the road, with that expression on her face.

My wife and I were driving to dinner yesterday evening, and we were passing a jogger who was coming down the sidewalk next to the road. And I was jarred. I mean, there she was running like the world was all well and good, like exercise made a difference, like...well...like nothing was wrong at all!

How could she do that??!? I looked at her face, and could see that I was quite right, she was in harmony with her world, all that concerned her now was placing one step in front of the other.

Instantly I felt that she must be disconnected, she must not be paying attention.

But then I realized, perhaps for the first time really, that I was the one who was disconnected.

My reality has become skewed, not hers.

With the screaming stress at work combined with my daily struggles with several illnesses, just the act of going from day to day has turned into something dire and bleak. And its not supposed to be that way, it really isn't.

I can remember when it wasn't. I can.

The weather outside is absolutely beautiful today. It's about 70 degrees (that's about 20 for you Celsius folks) and the sunshine is blazing away. It's early spring and the flowers are blooming. Birds are singing. The mosquitoes aren't too bad yet either.

Just a few years ago, a very few, I would have been itching to get out in this wonderful weather. Yet now, I find myself sleeping in (it's the weekend) and without any desire to even go to my mailbox.

I'm just exhausted, that's the plain and simple of it.

My filter is out of whack.

Instead of saying "Wow, what a day! Let's go play!" I'm thinking "If I just sit here quiet enough, maybe nothing will notice me..."

These are alien thought patterns to me. I just don't tick this way.

I want to be carefree again, to know that tomorrow won't bring a catastrophe, to be able to enjoy something as simple as running down a sidewalk or walking in the woods. And deep deep inside of me, I know that these things are not too much to ask, that in some way I do have a right to them, that the way things are is not the way things should be.

If intensity of desire itself can bring me to the place where I want to be, then I will get there.

God, if you ever read blogs, and I'll bet you do...

Well, I was going to ask for a break. But then I remembered why all this is happening.

It's a crucible.

And as much as I hate it, as much as it hurts, as hard as it is...

I want nothing more than to be what you want me to be. If that involves this ever increasing tension to get me there, then so be it.

But if not, well, you know what I want.

Here's the keys.


The gem cannot be polished without friction, not a man perfected without trials.
Chinese Proverb



Permalink: 5/08/2004 02:46:00 PM |
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Friday, May 07, 2004
 

Messenger

pur-port
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, content, tenor, from purporter to contain, from Old French porporter to convey, from por- forward + porter to carry -- more at PURCHASE, PORT
1 : meaning conveyed, professed, or implied
2 : a quality sometimes given to dreams

I was at my wits end, literally. In three days I would be in a psychiatric ward in the hospital.

But for the moment, unaware that I was ill, I was sitting staring at my computer screen, home from work because I kept almost passing out.

I thought it was sugar crashes from diabetes. It wasn't. It was little dips into catatonia. If you don't know what that is, trust me, its a room you never want to go into.

I stared at the screen, not really seeing what was there, just seething inside.

Work was horrible. And the atmosphere that was being forced down my throat was eating me from the inside out.

Bear trap. Bear trap. Bear trap. That's all I could think of. I was trapped, and saw no way out at all.

I rocked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

My wife sat on the couch looking at me, trying her hardest to come up with something, anything, that would help me. But we had no idea of the underlying problem, so we couldn't fix anything. Not today.

"You know, I had a dream last night," she said.

Now this was odd. She hardly ever dreamed, and to mention one was, well, I couldn't tell you when that had happened last. And something clicked inside, something that perked my ears up and said this is important.

"I think it is for me," I replied, turning towards her.

"I dreamed about daddy," she said, referring to her late father, a rugged fellow that had passed away maybe ten years earlier on his 14th or 15th heart attack in one day.

And I knew as surely as I knew my name, that "Daddy" was God.

"Daddy was digging a ditch, sort of. Actually, it was for a new sidewalk, in our front yard, beside the one already there. And he was angry."

"Angry?" I asked.

"Yes, he was so furious, he was just clenching his fists. Someone had done something bad to one of us, and He was really, really mad about it."

"Really?"

"Yes. And as soon as He finished digging, he was going to go handle this person who had done this thing."

In my mind, all the pieces fit together. Sidewalks are paths to follow, but a foundation needs to be prepared in order to build the path. You usually do that by digging. Digging tears up the ground, destroys what was there, but makes way for the new and better. That's what the digging meant. Our (my) trials were for a purpose.

Which left the anger thing. In the last twenty years, I can only think of one person who has intentionally tried to harm me. I mentioned that person in my previous posting.

But, vengeance does not belong to me, does it? No. Vengeance belongs to God and God only.

My job is forgiveness. And that's tough, because I really want to see the bad guy get it at the end of the movie, and the good guy sail off into the sunset.

If forgiveness is easy, it ain't forgiveness. It's when it's tough, it's when you are forgiving someone for something that was almost lethal, that's when it is real, true forgiveness.

And in that, God gets glory.

I wonder how the Israelites felt about Pharoah's army when they drowned in the Red Sea?

Maybe that's not a good example. Maybe the example is how Stephen felt when they stoned him.

Man, what a hard act to follow.


Forgiveness is the healing of wounds caused by another. You choose to let go of a past wrong and no longer be hurt by it. Forgiveness is a strong move to make, like turning your shoulders sideways to walk quickly on a crowded sidewalk. It's your move.
Real Live Preacher, RealLivePreacher.com Weblog, July 7, 2003


Permalink: 5/07/2004 11:03:00 PM |
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Mind If I Rage?

ha-tred
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from hate + Old English r[AE]den condition -- more at KINDRED
1 : HATE
2 : prejudiced hostility or animosity
3 : something I'd rather not have ever learned.


"I have never hated someone before in my life. And now, I do. I was praying today that God would just give him a heart attack and take him from my life right then and right there, and I would be completely fine with that."

I think that stunned my mother a bit. She had never heard me talk like that before.

"You know, we didn't raise you to think that way."

"Yeah, I know. It's not like I'm gonna go hunting for him with a knife or anything, but if someone showed up with one I wouldn't stop them."

I was a bit riled, to say the least.

I was talking about Gary, our plant manager and self proclaimed king. When we moved the corporate office to this location, Gary changed almost overnight. All of a sudden, he became lazy, boorish, angry, confrontational and foul mouthed.

He was the largest factor in my hospitalization and almost self termination a year and a half ago, and a continued hindrance and obstacle to my recovery. For some reason, I guess he felt unfairly overwhelmed by the new responsibility, and he blamed me for it and put a big mental target on my head. I can't think of a single opportunity he missed to attack me, backstab me, or twist a knife once it was in.

Sheesh, the guy makes trips to my office just to cuss at me.

Regularly.

Under his "kingship" (I use that word because he declared that's how he looked at it to the VP one day when I was in there, and the VP as usual didn't have the backbone to disavow him of that notion) our plant has suffered. It is in worse shape than ever, and may likely be forced to close its doors as early as next week. This is primarily because of work schedules that did not make maximum use of our machinery, which caused our company to operate in the red.

Way ta go, champ. It ain't like I didn't tell everyone.

So, yesterday he comes to the plant for the third time in four weeks (Did I mention he was lazy?) and walks into my office with a minor report we had prepared for the State.

"What the F*** are these figures??!?" he shouts.

"Well, let me see the report," I say. He jerks it back like its some sort of secret dossier.

"F*** see the report! What the F*** are these F***ing figures??!?" After I just sit there a moment, he realizes that I can't very well answer his question without actually seeing the report in question.

Turns out that the state form had been vague on one number, which I quickly recalculated.

And I was now on the way home, fuming on my cell phone.

"You know that isn't right to feel that way," my mother said.

And part of me was thinking, no, I am perfectly justified to feel this way. No one should ever have to put up with this sort of thing.

But the other part of me was calmly asserting, wait, your mother's right.

Galations 5:19-23
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.


Well, as I looked through my Bible, I saw a lot of times where anger was mentioned. But it was GOD'S anger. Otherwise, it was cautioned against.

Self control, Cliff.

Self control.

You know, being shoved into the "hate" mode almost physically hurts me. I am so attuned to not being that way, that one episode of it can haunt me for days. I'm just not wired that way.

I'm wired quite the opposite.

Which, sadly, doesn't work in "real life." Not only will you be a stepping stone to some, and a punching bag to others, and a patsy to even others, even people that like what you are will tell you not to be that way, that all these things will happen to you.

Well, maybe they will.

That's the deal, isn't it?

I'm good with that.

Except with Gary.


Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.
Cherie Carter-Scott, "If Love Is a Game, These Are the Rules"



Permalink: 5/07/2004 01:17:00 PM |
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Thursday, May 06, 2004
 

Why I Do

pol-i-tics
Function: noun plural but singular or plural in construction
Etymology: Greek politika, from neuter plural of politikos political
1 a : the art or science of government b : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
2 : political actions, practices, or policies
3 a : political affairs or business; especially : competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government) b : political life especially as a principal activity or profession c : political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices
4 : the political opinions or sympathies of a person
5 : what I'm about to address (yeah, I know that definition was too long.)


OK, I'll confess it here and now. I like George W. Bush.

There, its said. And I'm not saying that I "dislike him less than John Kerry" or that "He's just not quite as bad as Al Gore," I'm saying that I honestly like the guy.

For a man who is president of the most powerful nation on Earth, and that makes him probably the most powerful man on the planet, he is remarkably misunderstood by just about everyone.

When he was elected, he promised to unite our divided country, and I think he's tried to do that. But the net result is that he is so middle of the road that everybody thinks he's on the other side of the issue from whatever they believe.

And don't get me started talking about beliefs! I've had people try to convince me that our president was a Moslem! Like, hello world? Earth to stupid?

People will believe anything.

Then there's the Iraq war. No, I don't think the war was a bad idea. I think it had to happen. Saddam was funding millions of dollars to terrorists and suicide bombers. Did you know that his government had a standing policy of giving large sums of money to the families of suicide bombers in Israel, the more civilian casualties the better?

No, the mistake in Iraq is not the war. The mistake is in letting it be defined wrong. Was the war about weapons of mass destruction? In some ways, yes, but it wasn't the primary factor. Allowing the press to report it like it was will go down as one of the greatest political blunders in history. As it stands now, short of finding biological missles lined up all in a row somewhere, the wmd thing plays in the press as a "lie" when it was nothing of the sort.

So what was the war about? Terrorism? Yes, partly. Iraq was a training ground for them, just like Afghanistan was. Oil? Yes, partly. Iraq sits on some of the world's richest oil reserves.

Was it about revenge? Vendetta?

As much as it may be denied, I think that had something to do with it. It had to cross his mind. And you know what? I'm OK with that. There's a man defending his honor, and his families honor. To belabor a point, that's because he's an honorable man.

And I kinda like that in a president.

There are some that say that George W. Bush is a dummy. I say poppycock.

Actually, it behooves a man in a position of authority not to appear to be smarter than average. If we had a brilliant president, one that could discuss nuclear physics and poetry in the same breath, we would feel like he was somehow above us, and we don't like that in our leaders.

Instead we have a president that says "nukelar." That brings him down to our level. We ridicule it, but as much as we hate to admit it, that makes him one of us.

I met George Bush Sr. once, before he was too famous. I went to a speech he gave before he was president. I shook his hand afterwards. So maybe I'm prejudiced.

No, now that I think about it, I don't think so.

Yeah, I just like the man.

(Feel free to rant in the comments, if you like.)


One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared'.
Dan Quayle (1947 - ), 12/6/89


Permalink: 5/06/2004 11:44:00 PM |
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Wednesday, May 05, 2004
 

Days of Thunder, Nights of Just Plain Wierd

NASCAR
Function: abbreviation
1 : National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing
2 : What I came to dread in the hotel business

I was raised on stock car racing, since I lived only a few miles from the Darlington, SC stock car track.

Heck, I even had an aunt and uncle who had property within sight of the thing. You could sit in their backyard next to the lake, and watch the very tip tops of the cars as they rounded turn number one. You couldn't tell whose tip top was racing past, but you could still see it.

I went to the track several times as a child. Mostly, I remember how loud it was. We would take ear plugs or cotton to put in our ears so we could stand it. The covered stands were a lot worse noisewise, but you could get some serious sunburn in the uncovered stands. And if it rained, well, there ya were.

The infield was where the serious partying went on. Those folks would arrive sometimes days in advance of the race, and my money would bet that 80% never even saw the race at all. Not like they cared.

Long as there was another beer, they were happy campers.

So, living so close to one of the major race tracks, there were names that were major, major celebrities to us. Darn right heroes. People like Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, and Junior Johnson. Nowadays the biggest NASCAR drivers are internationally known, but back then they were the sole property of the United States Southern Redneck, and on two weekends out of the year everybody within a hundred miles of Darlington, SC got to be one. Of course, most people in that area already had a lifetime membership.

Which brings me to, I think, 1983 or so. I had taken a job as a night auditor in a hotel after having lost my job selling radio ads (long story, I'll tell that one later.) After one month, they put me in charge of all of the audit departments in all of their hotels (Another long story. Sheesh, I'm stacking these things up here.)

Race weekends were a zoo.

Always.

Every hotel within a four hour drive would be booked solid for weeks before the race. If a hotel did happen to luck up on some space at the last minute, it would sell for two or three times the regular price, and people would happily buy it.

Needless to say, our normal quiet little hotels would be hubs of activity of all sorts, well into the night. As the audit was best performed at night, those were my hours. Eleven to seven.

This, for race weekend, put me at the crux of the action.

The first one of those weekends I worked, I came in on the Friday night right before the race, and the desk clerk had some news for me. "It seems Kyle Petty tore his car all to shreds today in the time trials. His dad Richard came by and said to clean his room and rent it out if he wasn't back by eleven, so we did."

Oh, ok. I had this little pang of "uh oh" but what was done was done.

We spent the next four hours trying to do the audit. At first, we would be interrupted every minute or so by a new person thinking that maybe, just maybe, we might either have a room or know of one. "Are you sure?" they would beg. "Just one? We only need one room?"

Yeah buddy, we sit on rooms just for folks like you. No, I didn't really ever say that, but I sure thought it.

I would tell them that there were not any rooms within a hundred miles or more any direction, which was true since we had checked. The cheap hole in the wall hotels had even rented out the lofts over the offices. They would leave disappointed, but pointing south where their best chance was.

Finally we stuck a note to the door: "No Vacancy" which didn't really work well, and then added "and don't know of any" which seemed to work better, and we dove into the audit.

I would make periodic rounds of the hotels to make sure no one was tearing things up too bad. We only lost one drink machine that night.

There were some folks by the pool with a cooler, young guys that were definitely members of the United States Southern Redneck club, and not just weekend members either. About my second or third round I noticed that one of them had gotten himself what I call "hollerin' drunk."

He was standing in the pool, in the shallow end, in his clothes, and swinging at the water and shouting.

"Yuuuh thksh blirsh!" Splash. Glare for emphasis. "Fuuuuush yush aaaaweeh!" Splash, wild swing, missing the water.

Well hey, give him a break, it was a moving target.

He weaved back and forth like a palm tree in a storm. His friends, not in quite as bad a shape but not too far from it, looked at me helplessly.

"You guys are gonna have to pack it up and get him out of there," I said.

"We tried, he won't listen."

"BLRRRUUUUUAAAAH!" Splash. Even though he was facing away from me, it hit me square on.

I looked at my pants, now soggy wet.

"YOU!" I shouted.

Nothing. "Heeaaaw!" Splash.

"What's his name?"

"Ken"

"KEN!" I shouted right at his head. Now, this had an effect. He turned around.

"OUT! NOW!"

He stared at me, bleary eyed.

"NOW!"

Somehow my yelling forced its way through his stupor, and he climbed out.

And climbed.

And climbed.

My goodness, he was big.

He looked down at me, eyebrows furrowed. "Whaaaa?" he growled.

His friends quickly grabbed his arms, and their cooler, and took off to their room. He struggled the whole way with the occasional "Whaaapthpthpth" but they just kept dragging him, even though one of his legs now seemed to have stopped working.

Well, there's my race weekend story, I figured. I went back to the office.

I guess it was about three in the morning when a slim guy with a goatee (I think) walked in. You could tell by his expression that he was not in a good mood. Fortunately for me, the audit clerk waited on him first.

"Can I help you sir?"

"I need my room key."

"What would be your name, sir?"

"Kyle Petty."

"Uh... uh sir... We were told by your father Richard to clean and rent your room if you were not back by eleven."

I do not think I have ever seen someone quite so intensely angry.

"You what??!? You rented my room?"

Well, I couldn't blame him. Here was a guy who had started out his day with a car wreck, had gone to another state to get a new one, and now he didn't have a bed to sleep in before he had to get up in four hours to drive in a 500 mile stock car race.

Yeah, he was upset.

By that time I was up at the counter too, apologizing for our "miscommunication." The best we could do for him was that he called one of his pit crew and went to his room to sleep. He glared at us on the way out, and I'm sure he blamed us for losing the race the next day.

And maybe the next several races too.

About four months later, the other race weekend rolled up. This time I was ready. I was stoked. I dared anyone to sell any rooms out from under anybody.

For a couple of hours, things ran smoothly. We put the sign up early, so the only people that interrupted us were the ones buying gas and the ones that figured the sign didn't apply to them.

On my rounds, I had noticed the members of one of the pit crews out by the pool. They seemed to be behaving OK so I didn't bother them.

About one in the morning, one of the people from the pool came running in. Or, at least he was trying to run, he was rather drunk and it was more of a point-and-work-your-legs-fast-until-you-hit-something kind of thing. "We got, uh, our buddy, uh, he jumped in the pool, uh, he dove in, and, and, uh, uh, he's at the bottom and won't come up."

I immediately told the auditor to call an ambulance, and vaulted the counter. A lady who was paying for gas said "I'm a doctor" and I replied "Follow me!"

When we got to the pool we both jumped the fence to get in rather than go all the way around to the gate. A few of the guys from the pit crew had managed to fish their friend out, and he was laying motionless on his back, not breathing.

The lady doctor immediately started CPR, and within just a few seconds he sputtered and gagged and began spitting water out. She turned him on his side so the water could run out of him.

"Hey, lady, you got some huge bazoombas, you know that?" Said one of the pit crew guys.

Well, not actually. He didn't say "bazoombas" but I want to keep this blog relatively family friendly, so its "bazoombas."

I could not believe my ears.

"Hey, whoo hoo! Kiss him again!" Whistle catcall.

If she had tossed him back into the pool, I would not have blamed her. Sploosh, more water gushed from his mouth.

"Man, what do you think you are doing?!?" I said to the drunks who were making these remarks. "This lady just saved your friends life!"

You could see, somewhere in their beer fogged minds, a little spark of "You know, he might have a point there." But it was then quickly overrun by the bazoomba brigade, and they said "Hey lady, you got some bazoombas there, you know that?"

Meanwhile, she is still attending to their friend, who is gradually managing to win his fight back to the land of the living. She ignored the hecklers. Sploosh.

And I'm thinking two thoughts. One is that these guys are the lowest of the low. The other is that this lady has some real class.

"Hey lady, you got some bazoombas there, you know that?"

"Whoo Hoo!" "Yeah, whoo hoo!" Beer in the air, to show what a high complement this was. "Whoooo!"

Sploosh.

The police arrived with the ambulance a moment later, and we let them take charge. I walked the doctor back to her car and thanked her over and over, and apologized for the idiots at the pool.

She said she understood. I think we both did.

She drove off to wherever she was headed (lucky them, they got one good doc!) and the hotel passed a policy that no more pit crews would stay there on race weekend.

Now, here in Richmond, I can hear the races at the local NASCAR track twice a year from my own front yard, even though they are miles and miles away. But I never go. As far as I am concerned, I gave up my membership years ago, in a dark parking lot, watching a doctor's car get on I-95.



Cowards are cruel, but the brave
Love mercy, and delight to save.
John Gay (1685 - 1732)


Permalink: 5/05/2004 03:31:00 PM |
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Fallen

weep
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): wept /'wept/; weep?ing
Etymology: Middle English wepen, from Old English wEpan; akin to Old High German wuoffan to weep, Old Church Slavonic vabiti to call to
transitive senses
1 : to express deep sorrow for usually by shedding tears : BEWAIL
2 : to pour forth (tears) from the eyes
3 : what the world makes my Spirit do


[First person narration]

Sometimes, all I can feel is tears.

Not tears for me, understand. Tears for you, for all of us.

There are so many people who are hurting so badly, in so many places and in so many ways. Each of us with our own personal wounds that we think no one else could possibly understand.

[Music rises in background, George Harrison singing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."]

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and i see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don't know why nobody told you how to unfold your love
I don't know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you.


[Volume down, back to narration]

Inside I weep.

I weep from empathy, from knowing how badly it can hurt.

I weep because I know that all of this suffering is needless.

I weep in my helplessness, unable to come to the rescue, powerless in the face of a fallen world.

[music rises again, resuming with second verse]

I look at the world and i notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps

[Again, music fades, narration resumes]


Some Biblical scholars say we have been here 6,000 years. Secular archeologists place that number far higher. But, in all this time, have we learned to stop the pain?

No, and we never will, not as humans.

And I weep for that, I weep at our fallen destiny. We jump and we jump and we jump, and even the best of us will never reach the sky, never get more than a few feet from the ground.

Our fall is our curse, and without God we will live with that curse forever.

[music resumes]

I dont know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I dont know how you were inverted
No one alerted you.

[music fades yet again, narration takes over]


Our problem is evil itself.

That is where our fall has taken us, and that is where we now live, as humans. We are fallen creatures without any hope at all of standing on our own.

Around me, so many people, so many, struggling for all they are worth to stand on their own, to cast off the shackles of evil that are upon them. And all of them finally collapse under the weight. No matter how valiant, no matter how charged with purpose, each one will inevitably fall. Even, and especially, those who cry "Look at me, God! I'm trying to stand for you!" And they fall also, since their efforts are under their own power, and fall they must.

I weep for them, for I have felt that unwilling surrender myself, many times.

Our sense of justice is offended at what surrounds us, and it should be because there is no justice in it at all.

We are turned inside out from what we were created to be, and we suffer. "Why?" we cry, yet the answer is as close as our heart.

And in the darkness, a light.

Rescue.

God.

[music rises one last time]

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all . . .
Still my guitar gently weeps.

[Music fades to silence.]


Yet, until that which is imperfect is made perfect, until God's plan is complete and all is new again, until humanity stops worshipping the most evil one there is, until then...

I will be a lantern. I will help whoever I may.

And I will weep.


Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.
William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830)


Permalink: 5/05/2004 01:47:00 PM |
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Tuesday, May 04, 2004
 

More on Haloscan.com

Apparently it was a DNS problem. What this means in English is that the router that hooks me to the Internet forgot who Haloscan.com was. Now it knows again.

BTW, for commenting, Haloscan.com is the best and easiest out there. I highly recommend it.

Permalink: 5/04/2004 10:08:00 PM |
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What the Heck Happened to Haloscan.com?

As of Saturday sometime, I think, the Haloscan.com site that hosts the commenting on this blog went dark. If anyone knows what's up, please click on the email link to the left and drop me a line. If you know of another, better free commenting solution, I would love to hear about that too.

Also, if you wish to comment about any blog entry, at present feel free to use the email link instead.

Thanks!

Permalink: 5/04/2004 03:36:00 PM |
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Monday, May 03, 2004
 

Secrets

blogger_idol-1.gif
This week's Blogger Idol topic is "Secrets."

Le Tresor

rel-ic
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English relik, from Old French relique, from Medieval Latin reliquia, from Late Latin reliquiae, plural, remains of a martyr, from Latin, remains, from relinquere to leave behind -- more at RELINQUISH
1 a : an object esteemed and venerated because of association with a saint or martyr b : SOUVENIR, MEMENTO
2 : something that can leave you speechless in awe just because you are in its presence.

Somebody had told me ahead of time how to find it, and none of the other people on the bus had a clue.

We pulled up to the cathedral at Chartres, France in the early afternoon on a bright spring day. The courtyard was packed with groups of tourists wandering to and fro, following people with funny hats and sometimes umbrellas. We had our own guide, who had his own funny hat, and he took us on our own meander around the courtyard and the cathedral.

"Notice the statuary on the cathedral," he said. "The faces are more lifelike here than anywhere else in France, because the sculptors used the townspeople here as models." They really did look more lifelike, and before we would leave I would see a lot of faces that bore some striking resemblance to their ancestors who posed as saints.

"The steeples are different heights, because one was built far later than the other one and the architectural styles had changed." Well that was obvious. We went inside. "Here you can see the full view of the stained glass windows featuring the unique Chartres blue, a color that has never been duplicated. During the second world war, these windows were removed and hidden in the catacombs to keep them safe from bombing..."

The guide and my group wandered off, ostensibly to have a look at the catacombs. I hung back. I had more important things to do, secret things.

As I had been instructed, I made my way into a little used area off of the beaten track tucked into the left side of the vast space inside the cathedral. As I had been told, there was an old man sitting there on a chair beside an unmarked door.

I walked up to him, heart in my throat.

"Ou est le tresor?" Where is the treasure?

"Par cette porte et levez les escaliers." Through this door and up the stairs.

I opened the door and climbed a narrow wooden staircase, the only way you could go. At the top, one room off to the right, and I entered.

The walls of the room were covered with glass cases. I went through them one by one. Here was a uniform worn by Charlemagne. Here was another from Napoleon. And more, and more. But none of this was what I was seeking.

Then, I saw it. Way up above the rest of the cases, up near the ceiling out of my normal field of vision, was a glass case.

Inside the case was a piece of cloth, dirty and old. Ancient.

The veil of the Virgin Mary.

I had been told it was the veil she wore at the crucifixion. I have since seen where it has been referred to as the veil she wore when Jesus was born.

Whichever, it was supposed to be hers.

I stood there in complete awe.

It was one of those moments where you feel breathless and tingly all over, like icewater is being poured down your back a drop at a time. You hardly want to breathe. Your eyes won't even blink.

I just stood there and stared. Compared to everything else in the room, it was unspeakably plain. No ornamentation at all, just a dirty cloth. I think that that, more than anything, convinced me that it was real.

I knew that this was a moment that I would carry to my grave with me.

Now, I know that there would be a good possibility that I was really just looking at an old dirty cloth that had never been within a hundred miles of Mary. But hundreds of thousands believed that it was.

And so did I.

So now you know the secret. If you are ever in Chartres Cathedral, take off from your tour group. Walk into the left vestibule, and look for a guy in a chair next to a door.

And ask him, "Ou est le tresor?"


We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.
Stephen Covey



Permalink: 5/03/2004 03:50:00 PM |
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The Crimson Cape

re-nowned
Function: adjective
1 : having renown : CELEBRATED
2 : Count Desmond

I remember the first time I saw him, he was pulling a wet pool stick from his throat.

Count Desmond was one of those persons you come across maybe three or four times in a lifetime, a person who is far larger in some way than you ever thought possible. Someone who could be a cartoon drawing or a character in a novel brought to life to live amongst us "regular people."

The Count's real name was Edward Benjamin, a name no one ever, ever used...but then again he knew me by my stage name "Captain Cliff" so we were even. He was a featured act in the summer of 1979 at the Myrtle Beach Guinness Hall of World Records. He was featured right alongside the world's fattest twins, who resided on their sturdy thrones outside of Ripley's Believe It or Not next door.

Count Desmond was a world record sword swallower.


When I first saw him, he made an impression like no one I had ever met. He was a rather skinny guy, regular height, and had a huge red afro style hair style as big as a beach ball, and a red goatee. He wore crimson, complete with a crimson cape. (NOTE: When viewing his updated record at Swordswallow.com, I was reminded of his unique flashing medallion with a spider in it, which also reportedly held some of his own blood.)

I never saw him in street clothes. I don't think anyone else did either. He would always wear his stage outfit. For him, that was part of his identity. The persona he was on stage was who he was in real life as well.

He had trained himself to swallow swords by starting with coat hangers in his bedroom, working them down his throat again and again until he could control his muscles. Then he worked up to larger items, and finally swords.

Count Desmond was the best drinking buddy you could ever wish for. He was not only a great person to talk to, having some of the best stories you ever heard, but as soon as he swept into a bar, cape flying, he would bet either a bartender or a customer that he could swallow a pool stick or cane or rat tail file or whatever was handy. Once he did this, and he always did do it, the table would fill up with frosty mugs and he would be the center of attention until he walked out. The rest of us would find outselves in the middle of an endless supply of beer.

He loved being the bomb. I loved being hit by the shrapnel.


The act he did was dangerous. He did a fire breathing act with jet fuel, and had been in the hospital at least once from that when it had gone down his throat. I think I remember him doing a bed of nails act too, but then again that act is not what it seems and I am not totally clear whether he did it anyway. But, the sword swallowing part, that was as real as it gets.

And the Count was the best of the best. He would start simply, with one sword. Then two. And he would keep adding.

I know that he would get to eleven. I think maybe he went higher, maybe 12 or more. In any event, he could swallow more simultaneously than anyone in the world, and he held the world record for it. It would look like a bouquet of sword handles sticking out of his face. (Note: according to Swordswallow.com, he set the world record on July 6th, 1980 for swallowing 13 swords at one time. When he subsequently pulled out the swords with blood on them, Guinness closed the catagory.)

Then he would perform the real dangerous part of his act. He would select a heckler or a disbeliever from the crowd, a real one not a planted patsy, and ask them to come on the stage. Then the Count would let the heckler stick a sword down the Count's throat.

Dangerous? You bet. He had been stabbed during this portion of his act more than once, and in one incident he had had the sword brush his heart. This act was so dangerous that Evel Knievel agreed to let the Count bill himself as the "Evel Knievel of Sword Swallowing," the only person at that time who was allowed to use that name other than Evel Knievel himself.

The Count was a risk taker. He was addicted to the crowd, to the uniqueness of who he was and what he did. He was so much bigger than life, you could barely see him at all. Every show he faced something that had already tried to take his life more than one, and he defeated it. And he did maybe six or more shows every day of the week.

Was this foolishness? It would be easy to say that it was, but you never saw the look in his eyes. This was a man who had truly found himself.


I lost touch with him soon after that. He was not back the next summer, I don't think. There is no information on the web for him more recent than what I have just posted, at least that I could find.

There are now less than fifty individuals doing sword swallowing in the entire world.

His name was not on the list.

Wherever he is, I wish him well. Crimson cape and all. Count, if you're out there, I owe ya a few beers.

Since writing this article, I have been in contact with Swordswallow.com and also with several other people who are quite familiar with Count Desmond. They have managed to fill in most of his history, and even feature a picture of him just as I described. Count Desmond was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sword Swallowers Association International in September, 2005. For more information on sword swallowing, Swordswallow.com is undoubtably the best source on the web.



The highest courage is to dare to appear to be what one is.
John Lancaster Spalding


Permalink: 5/03/2004 01:52:00 PM |
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