King of Syrups, All Hail King

 

I have a sweet tooth I must guard as tenaciously as we should be guarding our nuclear launch codes…not a good analogy because I slip up and let my guard down.  While letting my sweet tooth guard down might equate to an increase of a pound or five on my bathroom scales, letting your guard down concerning the launch codes could equate to increases in radiation levels and nuclear ash swirling about.  I’ve seen too many end of the world movies.  This morning my end of the world scenario involves my sugar and fat cravings.

I awoke with a hankering.  I flat out fancy something sweet.  To avoid such scenarios, I have made my fridge and pantry a post-apocalyptic, barren wasteland of sweet treats.  If not, I would be chin deep licking the container from a former half-gallon of Breyer’s Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream or reaching into the bottom of a bag of Hersey’s Dark Chocolate minis I had just opened.

Absolutely…No…Willpower.  Twice I’ve walked over to the freezer to see if there was something sweet hiding behind those frozen Lean Cuisines.  This is despite knowing, “There ain’t nothing there!”  Wait…I wonder if Linda has something stashed in her purse…“F@#$ Me!”

My cravings have taken me down one of Alice’s rabbit holes.  Instead of enjoying a cup of tea with the Mad Hatter I’m thinking about thick, lard infused, buttermilk biscuits, “runnin’” in butter, topped with King Brand Golden Syrup.  Even those cravins’ are for naught.  No lard, no freshly churned butter, and no King Syrup.

As I mentally toast the Mad Hatter’s similar insanity, I regale him with stories of peanut butter and Missouri cookies served by my grandmother.  They too are favorites from my youth, but for some reason, this morning it’s biscuits and King Brand Golden Syrup.

Biscuits and honey, you say Mad Hatter?  I would not turn it down…it’s just that in the memories of my youth it wasn’t honey, it was Golden Syrup…or maybe molasses…”Wait! I have molasses…a little toast drizzled in blackstrap molasses!”  Nope!  It ain’t what I want.

Growing up in a Southern rural area one might think I would crave honey…or sorghum.  One would be wrong.  I found sticky, sweet heaven in a large, red labeled metal can featuring a lion’s head and a pry-off lid.  Made in Maryland, somehow the syrupy ambrosia found its way South to the shelves of Pettus’s Store.  From there the contents had found their way onto the cathead biscuits my grandmother had made and placed before me.   A dessert fit for a King…or made by a King…All Hail!

Some people don’t consider biscuits and sawmill gravy a meal.  My guess…those same people would not consider butter covered biscuits drowning in a King Syrup a dessert.  Their loss…and mine cuz I ain’t got none.

Well, Mad Hatter…I’ve no biscuits and no King Syrup.  All I have are the memories of a small kitchen and the narrow dining area that went with it.  The warm biscuits on a chipped china plate with freshly churned butter. and the red labeled tin waiting at the ready.

My heart is thankful for the memories and much “heart” healthier because the memories are all I have…until I get myself to a grocery store.

For further trips down a rabbit hole, Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Advertisements

Bookmarks From My Book of Life

 

I’ve sung, played and danced badly all my life.  Some of my earliest memories include the old upright in my grandmother’s hallway, my uncle’s mandolin and the whiny bluegrass he sang…”Blue moon of Kentucky….”  Singing, first in the youth choir at church, then in the adult choir, the high school chorus and playing in the concert band, the college band and a brief stint as a discordant sax playing rock star.

Participating in a men’s quartet singing “Just Have a Little Talk With Jesus,” my thin baritone joining in at the Fifth Sunday Night Sing.  My Uncle James making a not so joyful noise unto the Lord, my cousins and I trapped in the cab of the old flatbed truck as we moved hay bales or corn to the songs he sang.  I’ll say this, he sang praise tunes with great gusto and vigor, but if notes were water molecules, he couldn’t have found one while standing in the ocean.  It didn’t stop him from trying.

I guess what I’m trying to say, on this fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock and the death of Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda, music has played prominently in my life…if not a backdrop for my life, a bookmark.  “Don Miller, A Rock Opera.”

Dancing in the privacy of my room to the songs played on WLS, Chicago.  Beach Music at The Cellar as a young adult.  A cute redhead, and Eddie Floyd singing “Knock on Wood” as I danced badly with her at a rural jook joint outside Newberry.  We danced badly around a divorce later.  Not all bookmarks lead to soothing anodynes.  Some are like sleeping in a patch of prickly pear cactus.

Doing the horizontal rumba for the first time in the backseat of an old Ford while Lou Christy sang “Rhapsody in the Rain”.  Humm.  That earlier relationship didn’t end well either, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with the music.

The movie Easy Rider was an eye-opener and for me heralded a change…although it might have taken forty years for the change to occur.  I’ve only recently embraced my hippie self.  I was a rhythm and blues, beach music, soul music kind of guy…probably still am but sitting at a drive-in with the cute redhead who became ex-wife number one, I became mesmerized, not by the film but by the soundtrack.  Later, I would add the complete Woodstock to my album collection…wonder what happened to those bookmarks, the albums not the ex-wife.

I walked today as I do nearly every day, my playlist playing in my earbuds, just like every day.  Today there was a little dance step to my walk as I thought about Peter Fonda.  I decided to dial up my Easy Rider playlist that includes three different versions of “The Weight”.  One can never get too much of a good song.  

I think I scared a local woman smoking an early morning cigarette on her front porch as I belted out “Born to be Wild”.  I flushed a pair of mourning doves, mourning my off keyed version of “A Little Help From My Friends” while doing my best Joe Cocker impersonation on the double lane. “Don’t Bogart that joint my friend….”  Fun memories bookmarked in my mind.

Some of the bookmarks haunt me but even those trigger warm memories. Ghost stories of friends now gone.  My coconspirators in crime the summers of ’68 and ’69 are both gone to the great cosmic rock concert that is the afterlife.  I miss them almost as much as my lost youth of the same time period.

I wrote about a haunted pink iPod in an earlier blog from a couple of years ago.  A former love now dead gave me the Crosby, Stills and Nash album that featured the song “Southern Cross.”  It’s a song about a long boat trip taken by a man trying to heal his wounds after a bad divorce…what is a good divorce?

We were both wounded, and the song spoke to us as we tried to console each other in ways men and women have been consoling each other for all recorded time, I guess.  After she died, I put the song on my playlist and for some reason, no matter how many times I changed the playlists, the lament was always there…haunting me along with her.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time

You understand now why you came this way

‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small

But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day”

 

We were never truly in love, more like friends with benefits, but she is still one of the bookmarks that haunts me.  The old iPod is long since been retired but she is a bookmark, like Easy Rider soundtrack or an old Gospel tune that triggers warm memories in my book of life.

“So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin’

And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain

I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’

She is all I have left and music is her name”

Music is her name and I call to it often.  For the complete song…

 

 

Quotes and video are from the song “Southern Cross” and the album Daylight Again by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Don Miller writes badly about many subjects, both fictional and only somewhat embellished.  For more, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image is of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper.  It is from a movie review https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/easy-rider-review-movie-1969-1221117

Dark Tempest

Excerpt from alter ego Lena Christenson’s new romantic thriller, Dark Tempest.  All tempests are not storms.

storm-426787_1920 (1) (1)

***

Belle was blind, trying to keep up with turns and the time between them by counting in her head.  She feared it was a failed enterprise.  It had been so easy on the television program she had seen.

They had been forced into a nondescript, white panel van before dawn broke.  “Why do all abductors use white panel vans…if I were the police, I would ban them.”  Hands ziplocked together in front, gagged and a cloth bag pulled over their heads, she had been unceremoniously dumped on her ass before having her feet roughly zip-tied by the gorilla named Teddy.

She felt changes in surfaces contacting the tires and tried not to think about what might await them at the end of their journey but couldn’t keep her fears at bay.  “Damn I lost count.”

“Could this be my last day on earth?”  Belle didn’t consider herself a religious person, a non-practicing Roman Catholic, but was spiritual, believing death was a pathway to something else.  She didn’t fear death…just dying hard.  Belle also knew that if things went from bad to worse, she would pray to Mother Mary to intercede on her behalf.  She could never understand why a loving God would allow the evil these three animals brought with them to exist.

“If they think I’m going down without a fight….” Belle considered her options…there weren’t many.  One woman with her hands tied against two armed men.  Poor odds at best but they weren’t going to get better.  “What about Phillipe’ and Erica?”  She had little hope for their help and believed the only way to save herself was to act alone if necessary…and act decisively.

The van slowed causing her to slide on the uncovered metal floor.  She noted the change in sound and heard the gravel as it was kicked up by the tires.  After a jolting ten minutes, a right turn was followed by slushing sounds of wet dirt and the bouncing associated with washboard rutted dirt roads.

She was suddenly thrown forward as the van came to a sliding stop.  A door opened and slammed; the side door rolled open.

“Be ready Belle.  You’ll never know when a chance will present itself.”

An opening presented itself almost immediately.  Violently pulled to the door, she felt her legs being released and immediately kicked out.  There was a solid jolt and the sound of someone’s breath exploding from their lungs followed by a loud splash.  Pulling the hood from her head she saw Teddy scrambling out of a blackwater canal.  Jumping down from the van she ran.  She didn’t know where she was going but there was a dirt road behind the van and that was where she was headed…until she ran headlong into the skinny man called Felix.  They went down in a tangle of arms and legs giving Teddy time to recover.

Trying to untangle herself from Felix with hands tied in front of her was a fruitless effort.  She felt wet fingers grabbing the back of her blouse and was pulled off the struggling man.

With swamp water cascading from his body, Teddy threw her on her back and straddled her.  His eyes were sharp points and the automatic in his hand huge, “You bitch I’m going to put a bullet tween your eyes just so you can see it comin’.”

Belle screamed in his face, “Well do it before your breath kills me.  Mouthwash, you freaks ever heard of it?”

Teddy slapped her hard across the mouth momentarily stunning her and bringing the coppery taste of blood.  Pulling back her feet, the attempt at kicking him was batted away as if she was a gnat.  Kneeling, Teddy grabbed the front of her blouse, ripping it to her waist.

Drawing back his fist to hit her again, Teddy felt a gun barrel behind his ear, “Get off her.  We need her.  I’m not going to tell you again.  I’ll shoot you before I have to face Moïse because you got dumped in the water and killed her.”

***

Felix thought, “Just drop the hammer and end this thing.  Call the cops, my boss, and set a trap for Moïse.  Everyone saved and Moïse in the bag…the problem was there was no phone service,” Felix had just looked.

Removing the gun Felix said, “Get off of her and let’s get them inside.”

Pointing it at Belle he added, “No more of your tomfoolery girl.  Teddy, get the other two and let’s get inside before some fool fisherman sees us.”

Teddy stood and brought his gun to bear on Felix, “If you ever point a gun at me you better pull the trigger.”  Slowly he lowered the gun, “Now get them inside and this time make sure her hands are tied behind her back.”

***

Belle saw the sun was barely above the eastern horizon.  “They had been on the road for an hour or so…maybe, who knew?”  A warped, silver-gray boardwalk connected the landing to a stilted house twenty-five to thirty yards on an island in the channel.  The house seemed to be equally ramshackle.

Pushing her between the shoulder blades Teddy snickered, “Pay attention, I’d hate for you to fall in.  Gator feedin’ time ain’t till this evenin’.”

Dark Tempest may be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

dark-tempestjpeg

 

Signs, Signs, Everywhere….

I see signs, not those signs.  I see and hear true believers espousing the nearness of the apocalypse; wars, and rumors of wars, national disasters, the anti-Christ, prayers for the rapture.  Those are not the signs of which I speak…mainly because doomsayers have been warning us since the book of Revelations was written, I guess.  The doomsaying is probably warranted but I have hope and believe humanity will come to its senses before we self-destruct.  Regardless, the Earth will continue to make its trips around the Sun whether we are around to enjoy the change in seasons or not.

No, not those signs but signs of changes none-the-less.  Here in the South, it is hotter than forty hells even in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Not the pressure cooker heat of the lower Southern states but plenty hot for me.  The heat will continue for the foreseeable future if the weather gurus are to be believed.

Image result for melting in South Carolina

Still, the signs of fall are upon me.  Years ago, I promised I would never protest the heat due to a particularly cold baseball season and my depression which intensifies as the days shorten.  This summer is taxing my promise, but I realized yesterday, the signs are everywhere.  The days are shortening, and dark days of winter will be too soon be upon me.

First, there will be Autumn, maybe a whole two hours of it…but there will be Autumn.

Many years ago, I noted the change when football practice and school began.  Since my retirement, I monitor the changes in more subtle ways.  The writing spiders spinning their webs, vees of geese flying south, a pair of wood ducks I haven’t seen since spring, bees and butterflies working the remaining blooms as if their very lives depend on it…or upcoming generations lives.  Damn the yellow jackets, the little bastards are working too.

animal-beautiful-bee-266731 (1).jpg

My wild birds have returned to the feeders from the mid-summer break as they fed their young juicy bugs and worms instead of my sunflower seeds.  New birds, small and quick, are flitting hither and yon.  There seems to be a bumper crop of gold and purple finches.  A new generation to enjoy our symbiotic relationship…my viewing enjoyment for their food.  Despite the cost of sunflower seed, it seems to be a fair trade.

Image result for yellow finch sunflowers

The turkeys are on the move too.  Hens followed by Jakes and Jennies and even smaller poults are passing through my backyard.  I didn’t see a Tom but there must be one somewhere…although I didn’t get much of a chance to see.  Despite Mr. Carlson thoughts on WKRP, “Turkeys can fly”…at least wild ones.

Image result for wild turkeys on the move

I stepped outside last night to partake of one last puff on my cigar…the one I have been nursing all day.  The air was filled with the smell of citronella from the torches I burn to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  I watched the smoke dissipate into the freshening breeze…a breeze that seemed different than the humidity filled breezes from earlier in the day.  There was a hint of fall in it, just an underlying current of cool.  The best sign of all despite my wish not to wish my life away.    Pumpkin pie and ripening persimmons are just around the corner.

bright-cake-cinnamon-sticks-248469

If interested, more of Don Miller’s wanderings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image of geese at sunset is from https://blog.theclymb.com/tips/signs-autumn-northwest-enjoy/

All photographs were legally lifted from Pexels.com.

 

DONALD TRUMP RACIST? STILL NOT THE PROBLEM

Normally I don’t reblog…maybe, but with the recent events if the past two weeks, I find myself reblogging it again.

Ravings of a Mad Southerner

I wrote this piece eight months ago, well before the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I did update the post and believe my words rang true eight months ago and ring true today.

Countless people are pointing a finger, no not that finger…ok, maybe that finger…. Starting over, countless people are pointing out the racism seemingly enabled by President Donald Trump. Over a thousand documented examples of hate crimes have occurred since his election. Some people seem to believe somehow, this one man is responsible for it all. I also heard a similar argument regarding our previous executive, President Obama. “We are more racist now than ever” resounded through my social media accounts. Remember the old quote, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?” I’m sure you do.

I believe both arguments are misplaced. I don’t know when the concepts of racism…

View original post 414 more words

Aging Gracelessly Redux…. 

 

Oh,  I’m feelin’ it this mornin’, the morning after my weekly visit with Hawk.  Five miles on the Swamp Rabbit, solving all the world’s problems before enjoying an after-walk cup of coffee at the Tree House.  That’s just in case it’s been a problematic week and we need more time to solve those problems.  Lately, they’ve all been problematic, and no one listens to us anyway…well, they listen to us at the Tree House and that’s one of the reasons we keep going.  They think we are the bee’s knees.

Yeah, I’m feelin’ it as in feeling old, very old.

I do about twenty-five miles of walking during the week hoping to put distance between myself and the ominous figure caring the old-fashioned scythe.  Despite my best efforts, the distance between us is shortening.  As Hawk continues to tell me, “We ain’t gettin’ out of this alive.”  No, but I’m going out kicking and screaming…just like he is.  I want to be a burden on my child and grandchildren for a long time.

Hawkday Friday is the only day of the week I set an alarm and it throws my whole system out of whack.  Aging creates creatures of habit, I guess.  I am so out of sorts waiting for the Big Ben to go off.  “Did I remember to wind it?” Am I the only guy who must get up two hours ahead of time to make sure all systems “are a go?”  Friday mornings my “systems” always send out messages.  “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” 

I take my wife a cup of coffee at five-thirty because she is as crazy as I am and invariably, she mutters, “I don’t know why in the “firetruck” y’all can’t walk at a decent hour.”  I don’t know either except that it is easier to deal with my own disfunction than Hawk’s.  “And besides, you went to high school with him and learned similar dysfunctions.” He wants to walk at six to keep away from the sun and just because. I want to walk at seven-thirty to get into the sun and just because.  Opposites do attract.

So, I’m up at three-thirty and feeling like a dead man.  I had trouble falling asleep.  Late at one end of the day, early at the other makes for a grumbly old guy.  I could blame Hawk’s goofiness but to be honest, it’s just as much mine.  “How long before the alarm goes off?”

Who lays awake worrying about lying awake?  I do, that’s who.  When my bladder drives me out of bed in the middle of the night I worry about when the alarm is going off.  “Don’t look at your watch, you’ll only worry about going back to sleep.  Don’t look I said.  You’re a dumbass, you looked.  Jeez, I gotta get up in an hour.”  I might as well get up now, all I’m going to do is worry about having to get up.  Jeez, forty-five minutes, thirty minutes, etc. and finally I fall back to sleep…thirty seconds before the alarm goes off.

I feel as though I have been beaten.  My aging body has become an alien thing…as alien as Ripley’s Alien Queen and just as nasty at times.  An ever-changing sack of tiny aches and pains, a “thousand little paper cuts” kind of agony.  Nothing major, just my sagging bag of bones letting me know what I did yesterday, maybe the day before, maybe the hit I took in a football game fifty years ago.

Once I jumped out of bed in anticipation of the day to come, now I ease-out, one toe at a time, hoping I don’t pull something before my feet hit the floor.

Sagging bag of bones…. Did you know besides your hair and nails, your nose and ears are the only body parts that continue to grow as you age?  I don’t mean stretch as in sag…that’s kind of funny looking.  It would be funnier if it was someone else. Damn you gravity.

I mean body parts that actually continue to increase in size.  God must have a twisted sense of humor.  If I live long enough, I’m gonna look like a caricature of Ross Perot…according to the mirror, I already do.  A truly loving God would have given me hope in another area and a reason to get rid of my big ole four by four.

Every morning I wake up as the dark-headed, dark bearded young man of forty years ago.  I walk into the bathroom and yell in my head, “Don’t look in the mirror.  Don’t do it!  Boo, you looked.”  The vision in my head is a mirage, replaced by the image in the harsh light of the mirror.  An old guy with a bigger nose and ears than last night, with less hair and more wrinkles turning into crevasses.

Still, as Hawk and I discussed, we are better off than a lot of our peers.  We’re still mobile, hostile, agile…and delusional.  Youth is a state of mind and we are still in diapers…or are heading back to diapers?  We still have a childlike wonder about the world.  We still wonder what we are going to do when we grow up.

I’m a gluten for punishment and out of habit I walk again this morning.  I walk alone with my earbuds until I meet a pretty blond runner, her long ponytail bouncing, blue eyes twinkling.  For a moment I remember being thirty.  As I continue my walk, we pass each other three more times.

Finally, I ask, “How far are you going today?”

A big smile followed, “I’m doing eleven.”

I shook my head and returned her smile, “I remember those days, long runs on Saturdays.”

“How far are you walking?”

“Near five.”  She smiled, gave me a thumbs up and shouted “Great job” before continuing on her way.

My heart melted a bit and I thought, “You know your knees feel pretty good.  Maybe a little running next week. Maybe if I’m careful I can do a marathon by the time I grow up.”  I don’t know, I’m sure a nap will cure those thoughts.

For the clarification of those who don’t live in the area:

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is a fitness trail that runs from above Travelers Rest, SC through Greenville, SC.  It was named after and follows the route of a short spur railway once called The Swamp Rabbit.

The Tree House is the Tree House Cafe and Studio, which sits next to the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest.  Great coffee, sandwiches, great service, and great company.

Don Miller writes on various subjects, non-fictional and fictional, and can be found at  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

Lena Christenson, Don Miller’s feminine pen, has released a new book, Dark Tempest, a suspenseful romance with a hint of the erotic.  Lena can found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

The image, Old Man Loves Smoking Cigars, is by Greg Cartmell and may be purchased at https://gregcartmell.com/product/old-man-loves-smoking-cigars/

Distant Origins

 

And a pig trail beckoned to me and I followed it right down Alice’s rabbit hole.  Hello Mad Hatter.

I just watched a rerun of Star Trek Voyager and found myself sitting quietly…pondering.  I like that word…pondering.  Sounds as if I might be intelligent…many times I’ve proven differently.

The episode triggering my pondering was ”Distant Origin” about a lizard resembling alien race, the Voth, and a scientist who believes his species originated from a distant planet.  Long story short, he involves a crew member of Voyager in his attempt to prove his origins theory and ends up standing trial for heresy, accused by his religious elders…led by the menacing, Minister Odala.  Shades of Fred Phelps, Sr.

This most respected scientist is forced to recant his findings in order to save Voyager from being destroyed and the crew and himself put into prison.  A choice between truth or evil masquerading as truth.  That is where my pig trail became a rabbit hole.  The scientist chooses evil masquerading as the truth to save his new friend, loses his position and is forced into a job equivalent of counting paper clips.

As the program closes, his partner in crime, the Voyager character Chakotay, gives the scientist, Gegen, an Earth globe as a gift before he transports up and Voyager leaves. All is well in the Delta Quadrant except for the Voth who don’t know, save the scientist, they are really descendants of dinosaurs from the Planet Earth.  Nice yarn…sounded familiar.

The episode is an allegory and drew heavily from the relationship between Galileo Galilee of telescope fame, the Catholic Church in general and Pope Urban VIII specifically.  The story leading to Galileo’s trial for heresy before The Inquisition is much more involved than the Star Trek episode or for me to write about.  Is that applause I hear?

In the condensed version, Galileo made the mistake of agreeing with Copernicus that the Earth orbited the Sun rather than the Church’s belief of an Earth-centered universe…everything in the universe orbiting the earth.

Galileo further complicated his life by publishing his studies in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a work which seemed to poke fun at the Pope as it laid out Galileo’s findings using a protagonist named “Simplicio”, which connotes simpleton in Italian.  Unjustly, some folks drew the conclusion Simplicio might be a metaphor for Pope Urban VIII.  Unintended consequences? One person drawing the conclusion was Pope Urban himself.

Again, long story short, Galileo was put on trial before The Inquisition for voicing opinions contrary to the Holy Scriptures and forced to recant under threat of excommunication although he was never formally charged. According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly muttered the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves.”

He spent the rest of his life under virtual house arrest which was better than being slowly roasted at a stake like a Boston butt.  He was still quite prolific with his writings and despite being banned to do so, published many scientific works. Galileo is considered the father of classical physics.

I’m a bit of a “quare” duck for myriads of reasons but a couple of the more benign ones are that I hold degrees in both history and science education and at one time considered the ministry as a calling.  Boy, I fell off that wagon.  Between having to learn Greek and an overzealous youth minister who told me my mother would survive ALS if she believed hard enough, I turned to a life of cussin’, women and drink…well up to a point.  I still cuss too much and honestly, it was more drink than women.

When I said I had two degrees I wasn’t bragging…well, maybe a little but rather was giving an example of why I get confused sometimes about the religious acceptance of science and historical perspective.  Modern folk might not understand why the Catholic Church held so much power and desired to keep scientific discoveries secret.  It was about maintained power, some of which the Church had lost having battled with Martin Luther’s protestants during the previous century.  Excommunication was and is a powerful deterrent for a Catholic.  Without the sacraments, one can’t get to heaven.  Power over the masses.

Some folk still discount science when it disagrees with the Holy Scriptures.  Considering ninety-seven percent of climatologist believing climate change is real and man fueled, I don’t understand why SOME, I said some, not all, not even most…maybe.  I don’t understand why some Bible believers have a problem with science as it relates to climate change.  I have heard said it doesn’t matter, God won’t allow climate, or anything else, to destroy the Earth.  I have a very good friend and a true man of God tell me that.  Maybe he is correct but I wager we can destroy all humanity and the Earth will continue its annual trip around the Sun until the sun expands into a red giant before collapsing into itself as a white dwarf…if you believe Galileo and Copernicus and other astronomers.

I try to follow the teachings of Jesus and for some reason don’t have a problem believing that climate change is real, and that man is the primary culprit.  What I have trouble with is believing a pair of  Platypus Duckbills trekked from Mt. Ararat in Turkey to Australia, multiplying as they went but yet we find no Platypus Duckbills anywhere else…alive or fossil remains.  I know.  God works in mysterious ways…so does science but the mysteries of science can be explained.

There are many Bible verses commanding good stewardship of our earth, in fact, a moral obligation to preserve and sustain our earth.  One comes quite early in the Bible, Genesis 1:26-31.  I’ll let you look it up.  The KJV version uses the words “dominion over”.  Other translations use the word stewardship.  Dominion does not mean free to use as we wish, dominion means stewardship…to maintain…to control…not to destroy if we so desire.

Many of our leaders, many who profess their religious beliefs quite loudly, or have their minions profess them, seem to be worried that trying to solve the problem of, or even uttering the words, climate change, might slow our economy.  We certainly don’t want to hurt our GDP for something as unimportant as sustaining our planet…or worse having it interfere with their potential candidacy for higher office.  I honestly believe their distant origin might be somewhere south of heaven.

Other’s believe until the “whole world” gets involved, for instance, the Indians and Chinese, we are pissing up a rope.  Folks…someone’s got to lead and there was a time when the United States led in categories other than bombs dropped, civilians killed and mass murders.  Realizing this is not Biblical, but maybe it should be, “God helps those who help themselves.”

We are not helping ourselves and before I “throw stones”, I admit I am not without the sin of not doing enough…but I am trying…if I could just get rid of that gas-guzzling, carbon dioxide spewing truck.  Maybe I can trade it for a horse and wagon.

Well, it is time to bid the Mad Hatter adieu and crawl back out of Alice’s rabbit hole.  It is the day I walk with my best friend.  We usually cure all the world’s ills while we walk or if not, over the cup of coffee we consume at the local coffee shop and art café afterward.  Hmm, maybe that’s the distant origins of my leftist ideas…nope, Hawk still has rightist ideas and that helps balance me.

The image is from The M0vie Blog at https://them0vieblog.com/2016/12/14/star-trek-voyager-distant-origin-review/  To quote:  “With its dinosaur characters, its fixation upon evolution, and its doctrine of “origin”, Distant Origin seems very specifically tailored to the heated debates around science and creationism in American culture. However, the allegory is powerful enough that it maintains a potency even beyond that. Distant Origin has aged remarkably well, working effectively as a metaphor for climate change denial or even for historical revisionism in favor of the national myth. Distant Origin is both a season and a series highlight.”

The quote proves once again I have not had an original thought.

Don Miller has released a new book under the pen, Lena Christenson.  Dark Tempest and others may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM or at Lena’s site https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Dark Tempest

All tempests are not caused by climate.  Belle Beaudoin’s chance encounter with a man she hasn’t seen in fourteen years leads to a passionate romance.  She and Sawyer Ramsey’s second chance at love becomes complicated and perilous due to her ex-husband’s and his replacement wife’s involvement with a Gulf shore crime lord and his menacing lieutenant.  Their budding romance may not be allowed to bloom but may instead die in the dark waters around Bayou Adelaide.  The following excerpt is from Dark Tempest.

“Virgile Lagasse dressed like a dandy from an earlier era.  A light-colored, linen, three-piece suit was worn over a frilly silk shirt.  The matching vest was embossed with scenes of antelope at play.  A dark, string, bow tie, gold studs, and cufflinks completed his outfit.  His matching gambler’s hat and cane lay on the desktop.  Virgile could have been Big Daddy Pollitt from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Yancy Derringer of Fifty’s TV fame…except he was grossly overweight…more so than Burl Ives, the actor who played Big Daddy in the film, at his heaviest.  Three hundred and fifty pounds if an ounce, carried on a five-six frame.  He resembled a miniature Jabba the Hutt dressed for a cotillion.  Even his skin coloration was a bit green.

No one dared comment on his toad-like looks. As Big Daddy, Virgile Lagasse was one of the most powerful and feared men on the Gulf Coast …one of the most violent.  Unlike Big Daddy, he hadn’t acquired his power from the buying and selling of cotton, he had grown wealthy from the buying and selling of men’s vices.  Women and gambling were the bait, meant to capture men’s souls and he had hooked a big one, Phillipe’ Marcel Beaudoin.  All he had to do was land him and from his phone taps, it appeared Phillipe’ might jump into the boat on his own.

The Beaudoin family had been a thorn in Virgile’s side for years.  Not a big thorn but it didn’t matter.  Virgile hated any competition even if it was from an old-time moonshiner’s family.  He had purchased Phillipe’s gambling debt from the local loan shark, Fat Cherry LeBlanc.  Virgile wanted a monopoly on vice along the delta.  The weed and moonshine the Beaudoin family ran went hand in hand with gambling, women and heavier drugs.  Virgile would have the monopoly…along with the gambling debts Phillipe’ owed or Phillipe’ would have trouble walking without crutches…if at all.”

Don Miller’s nom de plume Lena Christenson creates a tale of romance and suspense with a touch of the erotic.  A second chance at love turns in to a fight for survival.  Dark Tempest may be purchased in paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1081900407?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860 or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VL9S7CB

dark-tempestjpeg

Hope Shines From Far Away….

It was the awful summer of 1969.  A continuation of the previous bad year, a protraction of bad times that would continue well into the Seventies.  As a country, we were reeling from assassinations of revered figures, a war we could not win but were hell-bent on continuing.  Later a President would use his version of the “Southern Strategy” to help win an election and later give permission for criminal activity to hold on to his office.  In amongst, there were protests and all types of lies and deceit.  I seemed to be watching our American Exceptionalism crumble before my eyes.

We staggered when the “most trusted man in America” stated that the Vietnam War was at best a stalemate and unwinnable.  Watched in sorrow and wept as news of King’s and Kennedy’s assassinations and the civil unrest that followed hit the presses.  Protestors at the Democratic Convention shot birds and thumbed their noses at the police in Chicago before being beaten by those same policemen.

On a lighter note, the Yippies nominated Pigesus, a live pig, for President.  It was lighter until they were arrested, even Pigesus.  I wonder if there was a BBQ.

In the later part of ’69, after having been covered up for over a year, we asked how My Lai could happen, weren’t we better than this? The Pentagon Papers proved we weren’t.

We cheered and shed tears watching the POW’s coming home before listening to a President shout to the cameras, “I am not a crook.”  We found out over several tortuous months that he was just that.

On the home front I had lost my mother on January 1, 1969, and later in the spring when my “fancy (should have) lightly turn(ed) to thoughts of love”, my “one and forever” true love fell under the spell of another…smashing my heart flatter than a toad on a four-lane highway.

My second-semester grades had suffered as I used alcohol and chased co-eds to ease the pain of both loses…chased but rarely caught.  I had barely hung on by my knawed down fingernails.

My wise father decided the best life-lesson would be a summer job with a local construction company charged with building bridges over Interstate Seventy-Seven in Charlotte.  I remember the summer as being one of the more brutal of my life and can’t drive I-77 without worrying a bridge might collapse.

For a few days in July 1969, I put my personal trials away and our country, its woes.  The world gazed skyward and at black and white TVs for news of hope.  Apollo Eleven had lifted off and was headed to the moon.  I and billions of others followed their trek with every newscast and special report.

I watched in awe and fear as the lunar module separated from the orbiter and touched down.  It was late Sunday afternoon on the 20th when I heard “The Eagle Has Landed.”

Neil Armstrong wasn’t scheduled to step onto the lunar surface until well after midnight.  I decided I had plenty of time to partake of an evening I usually dedicated to one last grasp at the weekend.

The Catalinas were playing at The Cellar and I’d be damned if I would let a little thing like the moon landing persuade me to stay home.  All I had to look forward to were five days of ten-hour hells awaiting me in the morning.  Maybe I could catch the “giant leap” on tomorrow’s late news.

I didn’t have much money but then you didn’t need much at The Cellar, a live music venue catering to college-age kids and featuring Beach Music bands.  Dollar cover and twenty-five cent drafts meant I had enough to ask if my latest companion in crime wanted to go…a pretty brunette I had known for most of my life and who, despite being unwilling to be a soothing anodyne for my broken heart, would be a good time “Charlene” on the dance floor.

The crowd was raucous, the band mellow, and the beer…well, it was cheap and cold.  We shagged, twisted and shouted and gave everyone the soul finger to the songs of summer and the Carolina shores.  We sweated like day laborers on the unairconditioned dance floor and cooled off with a draft beer in paper cups out in the parking lot.

The one TV set located over the bar was tuned to the local CBS affiliate with a fuzzy and grainy Walter Cronkite keeping us updated.  As we started to leave for home, the word spread; they were stepping out early.  As if controlled by one mind, we moved to the bar, the band quit playing and the crowd became quiet.  I remember putting an arm around the pretty brunette and she reciprocated with an arm around my waist.  It may have been as close as we would ever come…physically or metaphorically.

We waited, speaking in whispers as Walter kept us abreast of the schedule.  Finally, a little before eleven Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Neil Armstrong’s foot became visible on the lunar module’s ladder and we held our collective breaths until he had both feet planted on the lunar surface.  We cheered, we jumped up and down, we kissed and hugged people we didn’t know.  Hope had turned into a reality and we were so proud.

It’s funny the things I conjure in my aging brain.  The sticky dance floor from too many spilled beers.  The huge oak tree that sat just outside the entryway, a root sticking out of the ground that you had to navigate in order to prove you were sober enough to go inside.  The press of the brunette’s hip against mine as the crowd pressed in under the one TV set.  Walter Cronkite wiping tears from his eyes.

I remember feeling proud…and hopeful.  I’m thankful for having been there with people I didn’t know.  People celebrating the same accomplishment.  The good feelings didn’t last and we as a country would continue to tailspin into Watergate.  Still, it makes me hopeful today.

Despite what my former students might have thought, I’m too young to have lived through the Civil War but the Civil Rights Era and the years of ’68 and ’69, followed by Watergate were as bad as I want to remember…until now.  Our present situation may be worse, or it may be because I have some wear and tear on me…no it is bad.

We need some hope from far away…or next door.  We need something positive to focus on.  We need something positive to pull us together, NOT another war or some catastrophe.

We need to be a POSITIVE leader in the world with positive leadership.  Whether it is ending bigotry and hate or Global Warming, committing to alternative energy, or landing a man on Mars.  We need to be that “city on the hill” that people want to emulate instead of the “Angry American”.  We need to be the “light” that reflects off the good found in others instead of attempting to absorb their light.

The fiftieth anniversary is on Saturday.  It can’t be…but it is.  If The Cellar of my youth was The Cellar of today, I’d take another cute brunette and hoist one in celebration.  Instead, weather permitting I’ll be outside to watch the moon rise.  I’ll remember the hope I felt from far away and hoist one for the many heroes who made it all possible.

 

A modern rendering of the entrance to The Cellar, Charlotte, NC.  Origin unknown.

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who writes for his own amusement.  Having said that, and since I can’t live off amusement, should anyone like to purchase a book they can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Featured Image by Steve Penley, Moon Landing http://www.matregallery.com/penleyprints/icons

Apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s for cannibalizing his quote, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” From the poem Locksley Hall

.

The Toad in the Corner Revisited

I first wrote about the toad in the corner a year or so ago.  I find it somewhat interesting that I gauge the passing of time by certain events.  When the wild turkeys and Red-tailed Hawks show up, the fireflies, the figs ripening on the tree, my first ‘mater’ sandwich, the change of leaves in the fall. I guess our forefathers gauged it the same way. I know my grandmother fished and planted her garden by the phases of the moon. 

I find it interesting the happiness I feel when old friends show up after an extended absence, even if the old friend is Toady the Toad or Herbert the Rat Snake.  Not so happy when the little bastards, the yellow jackets, first explode for the ground.  Herbert has been around since spring, but Toady just showed up…still sitting in the corner between my rock wall and foundation.

I am bad.  I continue to smoke my one cigar a day…unless it turns into two…never more than two.  I just executed a mental eye roll.  Normally I sit under the massive tulip poplar in my backyard and enjoy an adult beverage while I feed my addiction.  Do I enjoy the cigar due to my addiction or because of the joy it brings me? That is a discussion for a later date.

It’s been hot and humid, and I’ve taken to sitting on my back stoop instead of taking the long, sweaty twenty-five-yard walk to the tree and the chair sitting under it.  My picture should go beside the definition of lazy in the latest dictionary.  It is more about the mosquitoes infesting the shrubbery around my normal imbibing location.  There doesn’t seem to be as many bloodsuckers at my stoop and I may know one of the reasons why.

I sat watching the smoke curl from the smoldering end of my stogie, contemplating nothing more than my navel when I saw her.  In the corner where the rock wall and foundation meet, where the leaves have built up due to my earlier admission of laziness.  A large toad has backed herself into the corner and is also watching the smoke curl from the cigar.

She is an American Toad…I think.  Might be a Southern Toad.  Could be a Fowler’s but I am not an authority on amphibians…and don’t want to be but I am better versed in toad activities than I once was.  Thank you, Google.

Despite my research, I don’t even know if she is really a she but shes are usually larger than hes and she is one of the largest toads I’ve seen.  There is also a smaller toad that seems to want to be around her.  “Oh la saison de l’amour.”  Do toads speak French or mate on dry land?

Toady has been in the corner for two weeks now.  She sits patiently waiting for the darkness and the relative cool of the evening.  I see her often sitting under the flood light, bathing in its glow or waiting for a juicy morsel to fly by?  In the dark I see her sitting on the flat stones or in one instance crawling out of my overturned boot.  In the morning she is right back in the corner.

I check on her often…not just when I feed my addiction.  I don’t know why I check.  I guess to reassure myself that all is right in the world.  I have seen her around for years…maybe it was her, all American toads seem to look alike.  Well, she was still there five minutes ago at least.  Looking fat and sassy from a night of eating mosquitoes.

I didn’t name her at first because Herbert the Rat Snake and his kin are skulking around waiting for a meal.  As I understand it, from the extensive research on toads I tried to reframe from doing.  I probably could name her.   Seems she is not too tasty…does Mr. No Shoulders have taste buds or does Toady just give him gas?  More research to come and I guess I have named her.

For more musings go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in sexy, romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Featured image is from Remember the Hamilton http://joenolan.com/blog/?p=6739