canteen

A Man for All Seasoning

I like most seasonings, although I do not like pepper one bit. I’m all about hot and spicy flavors added to nearly anything. Zest, tang, gusto –  fun words to say AND qualities desirable to your taste buds. A dash of seasoning can add life to a bland dish. In the immortal words of Jerry Maguire, dish looks to seasoning and lovingly says, “You complete me.”

I discovered a different type of seasoning early in my Army days. It was then that I learned to appreciate coffee. A few 4 a.m. wakeups in a row will bring you face to face with the body’s need for caffeine. If the ancient gods used to drink ambrosia, it was only because coffee beans had yet to be ground.

Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri sometime in 1987: A young private yawns after emerging from his bivouac tent. Another soldier, already up and industrious poured his mate a cup and they share a not-so-Hallmark moment before a forced 20-mile march. The coffee stinks, made worse by a metal taste of the cup in his canteen set.

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Always with a twinge of tin, the coffee never got any better for the private. Until he reached his permanent duty station.

Ft. Sill, Oklahoma sometime later in 1987: Another bivouac site. Enter a major who happened to catch our private cleaning his cup after chow.

“What are you doing, Private?” the Major barked.

Jumping to attention, the nervous private replied, “Cleaning up, sir!”

“At ease. We don’t do that out here in the field.”

Still wondering why he was reprimanded, the private answered with a smart, “Yes, sir!”

“I was asking you why you were washing out your cup, son. You don’t wash ’em. You’ll never get rid of that terrible metal taste if you do that, Private. You need to let it develop ‘seasoning’. Here, take a look at mine.”

The officer proudly displayed his aged, filthy, stained tin cup. While the private was someone disgusted by the sight, he noted the old warhorse’s appearance wasn’t much better and yielded to his experience. After a few weeks, his cup had a slight brown discoloration to it and surprisingly, his coffee tasted much less like tin.

 

* * * * *

 

Flash forward to present. I still don’t wash coffee mugs out. At work, I like to use the same mug for months and develop something like this.

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Obviously, I’m no germaphobe. I like to think I add yet a third type of seasoning to the people I work with – the crazy variety. Some of my co-workers complain. They steal my mug to clean it and I act mad when it reappears all shiny on my desk. It is totally a mental thing now, or maybe it gives me a hint of nostalgia to remember the good old army days. Most likely, the little brother comes out and I keep my mug stained since it annoys others – once a little brother, always a little brother.

In the end, I like being That Guy in the office. And yes, I know ceramic mugs don’t need seasoning. But my eccentricity seems to benefit from it.

Bubba with a Bag

I sometimes like to run what I call Experiments In Stupidity. These EIS’s are harmless except to my ego and pride. They yield no scientific data whatsoever, but are often good for a laugh. At least, they make me laugh.

My latest EIS started thusly: I was in my truck after coming back from lunch when I spotted a man emerge from his car with a bag. It wasn’t a backpack, briefcase, or laptop bag. No, this gentleman put a strap over his shoulder and carried a purse as he trundled toward his office. A Man Purse. A Murse. I noticed nothing out of the ordinary that would label him odd or eccentric. He simply preferred his belongings encased in a finely crafted leather handbag rather than what I carry: a black, rugged nylon backpack with rip-stop webbing on which I can hang bandoliers and ammo if necessary.

I’m very comfortable with my masculinity. I’ve long given up on the boy-color/girl-color thing. I love the color pink and wear it often. When I do, people must look at me and think, “There goes a man’s man who is comfortable with his masculinity.” Either that or, “Wow, that’s a big bottle of Pepto-Bismol!”

But am I comfortable enough? Would I still carry myself with the same manly swagger if I were carrying a Murse?

I didn’t know the answer.

Since I couldn’t answer, I decided to test the hypothesis that my manliness wouldn’t take a hit if I carried a purse. It would be a copout to simply stand somewhere publicly and hold one. We’ve all had to do that from time to time for our lady folk. No, I had to model this purse in all its splendor from parking lot, through an entire store and back.

 

And so we go.

I found there is much more to purse selection than we guys put into picking a wallet. When I pick a wallet, I look for one with three credit card slits, a flap for my license, and copious room for the cash I intend to inherit from a long lost uncle someday. My criteria is only threefold.

It seems that women go through some seventeen decisions of size color, pattern, pocket, strap, buckle, and design before they can narrow the field to three hundred and forty-four potentials. To keep this exercise hidden from my family, I thought I might be able to pick one up on the internet for ten bucks. Think again. Did you know there are purses that wouldn’t hold my wallet but cost $300 and up? I’m done, not buying anything. I decided to scrounge around the house for an unused one. I searched some storage areas and found two: a blue lacy strappy thing and a dark brown leather one that had seen better days. I chose the old one and discretely smuggled it out of the house.

purse

My experiment went off without a hitch. I wish I could detail odd reactions and interactions, but no one seemed to notice. It was fairly anticlimactic. The only conclusion I reached from this EIS is that people are basically oblivious. I did see a funny sight, though – a young woman who must have been wearing high heels for the first time, staggering around like a drunk baby giraffe. I could never wear high heels…

or could I?

 

What Jesus Didn’t Do

Yesterday we attended a dedication of some benches at the local high school. Our freshman daughter wanted to support a friend whose brother died last year. I’m proud of her for asking to be woken up on a Saturday. I am equally proud of about a hundred kids who got up early to celebrate with this boy’s family. They even put their phones in their pockets for twenty minutes! It was heartwarming.

There are times when you think you are doing something for someone else and God has different plans. I thought I was going out of respect, but I was deeply moved by the event. We can uniquely and unfortunately sympathize with parents who have lost a child. While we have so many questions about Kylie’s death, as the parents of a child who took his own life, they have more. None will ever be answered, but we can navigate storms together.

A young man named Darren, who is a student pastor at North Point Church, opened and briefly discussed John 11:35. Brief is the right word for it. The shortest verse in the Bible and a favorite of young boys everywhere who are forced to memorize scripture.

Jesus Wept

(I would add a translation note, but I think it is all of them. In fact, this might be the only one that scholars agree on.)

People most often try to theorize why Jesus wept. Was it because he loved Lazarus? Did he weep for the mourning sisters? Or did he cry because Lazarus was experiencing the perfection of heaven and he was about to pull him back. There is no knowing the answer and I am frankly tired of unanswerable questions.

Darren didn’t make an attempt at an explanation. What he touched on wasn’t why he wept, he talked about what Jesus didn’t do. Brilliant! WWJD has become an iconic acronym, yet here we have an example of WJDD.

Even though he is the God of comfort, he did NOT give it.

Jesus Wept

Although he is the all-knowing God, he did NOT give an explanation of why it happened.

Jesus Wept

In that instant, he did NOT tell them what was going to happen.

Jesus Wept

He did NOT provide answers, even though he was the only one privy to them.

Jesus Wept

He participated in their sorrow and just cried. Before his God nature took over, Jesus allowed his human self to grieve with the sisters. Beautiful Tears.

 

jesus wept

 

Let that be a lesson to us. The next time someone in your life is going through heartache, loss, or sorrow, remember that words will almost always fail and there will be time for action later. Take a cue from what Jesus didn’t do and simply weep with them.

A Duel with Naked Cowboy

“Those are some mighty fine chords,” I said, obviously not referring to his non-existent pants.

He looked me up and down with disdain for my absolute lack of nakedness. In the cold, his skin reflected a certain bluish tint. I tried not to stare, because that’d be weird. Odd that a man dressed only in tidy-whitey’s somehow fits in here.

“You play?” he asked, lowering the brim of his hat to hide his eyes.

“I can pick a little.”

“Not from around here, are you?” he asked, stating the obvious. It’s one of those things a cowboy says in an attempt to intimidate his adversary. No way I was backing down. I stared at him to let him know I was unfazed… but I kept my eyes well above his elastic waistband.

“Nah, I’m just in town for the weekend,” I answered. “Ever let anyone else play that?”

“Nope, especially not some dirty hayseed from Mississippi.”

People were gathering in hushed anticipation, keeping their distance in case things got ugly.

“Georgia, and I’m clean. Showered before I got to this filthy place.”

I could see a trace of a smile from under his hat. It wasn’t much, but it was there. “What d’they call you?”

“They call me… Bubba,” I answered proudly. “You gonna let me play that thing or not?”640px-1_times_square_night_2013

“What are the stakes?”

“Stakes?”

“There have to be stakes. Like the song: The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Only you came here.”

I didn’t like the insinuation, but couldn’t quite figure out if he was calling me Satan or just mocking me. He talked too dang fast.

“How about $20?” I asked.

“Nope, that’s just money. Stakes mean humiliation.”

A man standing in Times Square in only underwear just threatened me with humiliation. Strange place, strange times.

“If I win, you strip down and have to play for an hour while I take a break,” he offered. “And I get the tips.”

“I’m a boxer man,” I warned. “You okay with that?”

“Sure man, tourists like variety,” he laughed.

“What if I win?”

“That’s for you to decide,” he replied. “What do you want?”

I scanned my surroundings. Lights, screens, shops, stores, foods of every kind. This was New York City! I could ask for the world. Anything. As I looked around, only one thing crossed my mind. Naked Cowboy watched me haughtily, wondering what I would suggest. I knew it in an instant… It was what we all needed.

“If I win, you cover up for the rest of the day.”

His face dropped and showed a reticence to take the offer. Naked is his thing, his schtick – it is nearly all he has besides his guitar. He looked sharply at my fingers, searching for callouses that would betray a guitar man. I deftly hid my fingers from his eyes.

“You’re on!” he snapped, deciding I was bluffing.

He played his best tune and the people loved it. This was going to be tough. When he strummed the final note, he arrogantly whipped the guitar over his head and handed it to me, which left him that much more naked and me leery of holding it too close. Undaunted, I played. I gave it my all. I played until I wore right through the strings. People gasped, then cheered at my finale. The cowboy? Oh, he knew he’d been beaten. He reached next to his case and pulled out an orange t-shirt and a pair of baggy jeans. Slowly the clothing came on and he was less “out”.

I like to think I made an impact. In a small way, I cleaned up a little piece of New York. There is a long ways to go! I mean, something has to do be done with the dirty Elmos who accost you if you get close.

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

Obviously this is mostly fictional. I did go to NYC and I did see Naked Cowboy. However I could never hang with him, nor would I want to.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: chensiyuan – times_square_night_2013.jpg via Wikimedia Commons

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Snuggle Mommy

Rob Petrie had it made.

He had the love and adoration of the beautiful Laura. He had a fine young son. He had a fulfilling job where he worked in a humorous family atmosphere and neighbors who were his closest friends. You know what else he had? A good night’s sleep! He got a good night’s sleep because he and Laura had separate beds. Can you imagine it? I can. You see, I’m not one for snuggling.

VanDyke

I blame the fact that I get too hot. But really, I just like to be on my own. I think I’ve always been that way. I don’t recall a time when I just felt an overwhelming urge to cuddle. Oh sure, we were honeymooners at one point, way back in the early 90’s… when I was young. I am sure I snuggled then. But like any guy, If I were honest I would admit to an ulterior motive.

All of my daughters are snugglers and when they were young, somewhere between one and four of them would appear in our king-sized bed during the night. When we had daughter 1, Mommy would bring her in to get some sleep after a late night feeding. Who was I to stop them? I was of no use at feeding time. Besides, I was comfortably asleep on my side of the bed. My desire to be separate was used against me because I didn’t notice the intrusion.

Daughter number 2 had a doll bed on wheels that stayed beside her. Whenever she woke up, she would push the loaded bed down the hall. Even the canopy was laden with dolls because evidently dolls are like soldiers – no doll gets left behind. Daughter number 3 didn’t have a bedroom when she until she was a year old, so she started the night in a cradle at the foot of our bed and always seemed to join our merry band.

And number 4, well Kylie was the chief of all snugglers. As the baby, she never lacked someone to snuggle. I even snuggled her sometimes because she just fit.

When she got sick, we all snuggled her any chance we got – no one more than mommy. As her caretaker, mommy snuggled her in the hospital and at home. They read together, knitted together, watched television together, and just sat together – most of the time arm in arm. The one time Kylie preferred someone other than mommy was when she wanted to play video games, because mommy stinks at those. We all encouraged gaming to steal an opportunity.

Pretty much the only way to get kicked out of bed with Kylie was to sniff her bald head. Although it smelled like heaven on earth, it ticked her off for someone to smell it.

I miss those snuggles.

* * * * * *

After she died, a friend with the same unfortunate experience told me I would hear her voice someday. It didn’t take long. I heard it soon after the funeral and it was as clear as a bell.

“Snuggle Mommy,” she told me.

“Huh?” I tried to argue, “I don’t like to snuggle! I miss you. Forget about snuggling, let’s talk a while.”

She had but one message. I could almost picture pursed lips and a cocked head as she repeated it slowly so it would sink into my thick skull, “Snuggle Mommy!”

I wanted more, but she was gone. Her image and voice faded away.

I knew she was right, though. Mommy needs snuggling. Since Kylie died, mommy had taken to snuggling Buttercup, Kylie’s big chemo bunny. Ten months of a constant companion leaves many unexpected voids. Mommy needs snuggling.

Kylie with Buttercup

Kylie with Buttercup

And so, in the past two months I have snuggled like I’ve never snuggled before. I’m trying. While I miss my aloneness, I have noticed that when you bunch together, the covers don’t get pulled off as much. It is weird not being on my side of the bed, but life is weird right now anyway so what’s a little more weirdness. Also strange is snuggling without that old ulterior motive.

Okay, I admit there will always be a glimmer of hope… I’m still a guy, after all. But hey, it isn’t the main reason.