Saturday, May 29, 2010

String Theory

What is it with hair? Mine drives me crazy.


Tiny little strings growing out of our heads. Sure, they grow in other places too, which is usually even more weird. But, these strings just squish out of our heads. Strings that, for many people, are wildly unpredictable. Who knows what they are doing at any given moment. How many times have you looked at an old photo of yourself and wondered what in the world was going on with those strings on your head?

And yet we use these strings to define ourselves in so many ways. We make jokes about people because they have odd strings or no strings or because of the color of their strings. So you get things like this Dolly Parton quote:

“I'm not offended by all the dumb-blonde jokes because I know that I'm not dumb. I also know I'm not blonde.”

My wife is a blonde, so I have very little room to work here. But what I do know is that when we have straight strings we want curly ones and when we have curly ones we want straight ones. People with dark strings dye them light and vice versa. People without head strings wish they had it and people with head strings shave it off because they don’t want to mess with it or they want to look like their favorite basketball player?

As I get older, these annoying little strings are spreading. They find new places to grow, like weeds. Even those people whose heads will not sprout the stuff find it cropping up in other odd places, not least of which: the nose and the ears.

I’m sorry but, for me, ear strings are just downright creepy. I don’t want ‘em. I worry sometimes that I’ll have a stroke and lay there for years with strings growing out of my ears.

Please God, no.

Who knows what to make of it all? It’s just another thing we want to control that we can’t. I do know that we spend a lot of valuable energy on these goofy strings. Perhaps, the dystopians of George Lucas’s THX 1138 had it right. Maybe the future needs bald heads.

Luke 12:6-7
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mr. Blue Eyes

Once, in my high school years, I was at a friend's house to work on some music. While I was there, another guy came in with some other people I didn’t know. With them came a bag of cocaine. They cleared the table and laid out some lines and they all started snorting. I was invited to share. I refused. It wasn’t my style.

The guy with the cocaine was like a sun and the other people were like planets, circling around him, pulled in by his gravity. He was all smiles. He was a good looking guy with deep blue eyes that kind of glowed in a way, and the girls liked him. He had on expensive clothes. He was a very likable person. A bright personality. He laughed easy and he seemed happy.

He tried again to talk me into having a hit, but I wasn’t going to do it. I can’t say I wasn’t curious but, for me, it was over the line. In my heart of hearts it seemed idiotic. It still does. And fake. Happy happy smile smile, all while dying inside.

I asked my friend how Mr. Blue Eyes had the money to buy the stuff and give it out to people like that. He said the guy was dealing the drugs so he was able to get it wholesale. They were all very impressed with this. One of the other guys who was there was talking to him about how he could get into dealing. I went into the living room to watch MTV, waiting for them all to clear out, and they did before too long. Places to go, people to see.

Fast forward around 15 years.

I was driving down the road in an area where there were no houses, just businesses and warehouses. As I was driving, I passed a guy walking on the side of the road. It was a little odd to see someone walking in that area because there were no houses or retail stores. I looked at him as I passed, curious but not, seeing his face. It happened really fast, but as I passed, I thought I knew the guy. Maybe. Not for sure. And I just kept driving. It didn’t seem important. But his face was stuck in my minds eye and, as the day went on, I kept trying to remember who he was until, finally, it dawned on me: it was the guy with the cocaine, Mr. Blue Eyes.

He’d been hard to recognize because he looked like an old man. He was, I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but he was kind of disheveled. From head to toe. His clothes were filthy, his face was covered with dirt, but out of that dirty face, those blue eyes stared at the ground while he shambled forward. I think that’s what made me remember. You couldn’t miss those eyes. It made me wish I had stopped, but it didn’t cross my mind in the moment. It was just a guy walking down the road. No big deal.

I’m guessing he’s dead now. I hope not. But that’s how it goes.

Proverbs 14:12
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Are You . . . Talkin' To Me?

I was going through some of my photos and found this picture of a flower that was growing in the yard of a woman who lives a few doors down from me. And, well, uh . . . is it just me or, does this flower seem to have an attitude or what?

I can’t decide if it’s trying to get in my face or if it’s just curious. Maybe it just wants to know whus up? But it does seem clear to me that the little uptight guy to the upper right is definitely angry about something, don’t you think?

Anyway. Enough anthropomorphisms. I’m glad I caught this. This flower has flaws, but it still has beauty. Character. That’s why you won’t see one like it on a print at the mall. But I like how the sun found part of it and left the rest in shadow.

So much of creation comes and goes. You wonder if God will have it all recorded when people get to heaven so we can rewind and see some of it again? I feel, sometimes, like I could stare at a single flower for about a hundred billion years and still not fully grasp the creativity and complexity and beauty of the thing.

I might just do that.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


"I'll be back in three minutes and twenty seconds." - Batman (Adam West) to Robin (Burt Ward)

I’ve learned with my kids that they don’t like for me to be vague about things.

Words like “pretty soon” are always a disaster. But I just don’t like the business of letting them in on all the business. Why do they need all the details? They’re just kids! Life should be, mostly, a surprise for them. That’s my thinking. And if you tell them what you’re planning, it’s like law. They don’t get the reality that life gets in the way sometimes. If you say you’re going to do something and you don’t, it’s like you lied. So I purposefully lack specificity much of the time when communicating our plans with them, and I think this may be warping them a bit. We get conversations like this:

Me: Get in the car.
Kid: Where we going?
Me: You’ll find out. Get in the car.
Kid: Are we going to the zoo?
Me: Just get in the car.
Kid: Are we going to the store?
Me: I’ve told you to get in the car three times and you’re still not in the car. Is something wrong with the ears today?
Kid: Are we going to the zoo?
Me: We’re not going anywhere if you don’t get in the car.

You can see how hard it is to actually get anywhere without the details. But if you tell them, it’s worse. If they know where we’re going they have to bring 500 things with them. Getting out the door is like getting through a field of quicksand pits. I’m not sure, but my wife says this is a girl thing. They “need” hair brushes. They “need” purses. They “need” pillows for the car if the drive is longer than 3½ minutes.

I’m starting to believe there’s something to all this: that they’re in on this together, on some emotional level, using the fact that they’re female to take advantage. I’m not saying there’s conscious intent. I can accept the idea that they may be doing it without knowing they are doing it. Like a bird taking a dump on my head while it flies over my yard, blissfully unaware of my existence.

But I can get exact about things if I have to.

Me: Get in the car now or I’m going to blow up the house and leave you all wandering around in a theme park in Missouri on my way to go live in Florida with a retired couple who are too senile to realize I’m not their real son.

This they take seriously and get in the car.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Sure. You’ve heard of Superman and Batman and Aquaman. But my personal hero is Garbageman.

It went down like this:

I was three years old, playing in the upstairs of our house. This house no longer exists – it is now a parking lot – but it still exists in my mind, and I remember this upstairs bedroom where a window overlooked a small store next to our house. I liked to look out this window at the people getting in and out of their cars, unaware of my presence. It was interesting.

Then, one day, I heard a loud noise out that window and I looked to see a garbage truck loading the refuse from the store's dumpster. Now THAT was interesting! But it was a little hard to see from that angle, so I pushed against the screen that had been put in the window. It popped out and fell to the ground, and that screen had been holding up the window, which promptly fell down on my shoulders, completely pinning me in place. I could not get out. And my line of sight made me feel like I was going to fall.

I was terrified.

So I began to scream like a terrified three year old. Makes sense, right? And I remember Garbageman looking up at me, jumping slightly as he realized what was going on. I imagine he thought I was going to fall from the window, so he ran to the front door of our house and ran with my mom up the stairs and rescued me from the hungry mouth of the foul window. He lifted the window so mom could pull me out.

Garbageman had very dark african skin. He was massively tall and bony, his head seemed to hover near the ceiling, and he had a deep voice, like a great blues singer. He brushed me off and my mom gave me a hug. Then he said one of the nicest things that’s ever been said about me. Garbageman said, “That’s the nearest thing to an angel I will ever see.”

Garbageman went to the store and bought me an ice cream. He came back to the house and gave it to me, patting me on the head and smiling at me. He was nothing but kindness. And I remember going out of my way to wave to Garbageman whenever he would show up for the dumpster at the store. He always smiled and waved. We had a connection.

Here’s what I think: I think he was the angel.

Hebrews 1:14
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Feeding the Nerdish Soul

Hark. It is on the horizon. The time has come again for the feeding of my nerdish soul.

So comes the advent of the Motor City Comic Con with the sweet smell of spring, and with it comes the sweet smell of ancient papers covered with ink so fair. But must I convince you of the joys of this occasion? Is your heart far from it?

O, hear ye, faint of heart: The millions of expressions of cultural joys, innocence, angst and confusion that have been manifested through the arts with simple line drawings, colors and captions.

Will Chewbacca be there?

We knowest not. But the man beneath the fur is a fine gentleman we do hope to meet again.

Will Mary-Ann be there?

Yea, verily, she shall. But Ginger abstains. (Would you believe that Ginger’s real name was not Tina Louis? It was actually Tatiana Josivovna Chernova Blacker. Seriously.)

Will the most unique of the Batmans be there?

Yea. Adam West will grace us with his presence and humor. And yet of Robin we knoweth not.

In days of yore we have met with Lou Ferrigno, Louis Gossett Jr., the Ghoul (who is, in truth, a kind and gentle soul), the mysterious, yet kind, Doug Jones, as well as those who have trekked the stars and fought the wars of the star. We have met with great artists such as Bernie Wrightson and lived to tell the tale. Humbled. We have seen on display first editions of our popular cultural history – men of superness, spiderness, hulkiness, and women of wonder and catishness – worth much gold and silver. I myself have gathered the withered pages of famous monsters and enjoyed them forthwith.

If you do not understand the attraction of these sundry pleasantries, you will not be judged by me. I will only hold out hope that someday you will understand this language of the heart which is driven by imagination.

Until that day, I weep for you. With pity.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ode to Motherings

Signify offers the following, unearthed from subterranean vaults found in the hills of Ireland, just north of Dublin, during an excavation in search of meaning, translated from the Gaelic, and presented here without revision for your perusal and disregard. Hence...

Great motherings
I do declare
Have helped me through
Such great despair

So though I’ve never
Given birth
I know a mom
Is of great worth

I love my wife
She is a mother
No, not mine
I have another

But whatever
Mother mothers
The mothered know
They want no others

And so this day
Comes once a year
To give our thanks
To mother dear

With poems dismal
Verse abysmal
Flowers, cards
And such regards

I know you know
We love you mom
But, still, I say
Have a wonderful day


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Green Army Men

When I was little, the Avon lady called, which means she came by our house to sell my mom some Avon products. My mom seemed to like the Avon lady, and I’m sure she would have loved to order all kinds of things, but it was relatively expensive. So she’d usually have a nice chat with the Avon lady and buy something small.

One time when the Avon lady was over, I became interested in the little catalogue they used. I have no idea why. But I somehow ended up standing at the table looking through the little catalogue while they talked and, low and behold, there were toys in there. What were toys doing in there?! They weren’t fancy, but it opened up a whole new world. Avon selling toys. It meant that anything is possible!

Not really.

But there were some green army men in there. If I remember right, they also had little farm animals and cowboys and such. They were in sets and they had lots of pieces. I was amazed to find them in there so I showed my mom. Can you believe it mom! Toys in the Avon book! She looked at it and then she looked at me and said something I’ll never forget. She said...

“I can see how a little boy would like to have that.”

I remember feeling kind of warm when she said it. How could she see? How could she know? It was a mystery. But I trusted her. After all, she bought a set for me. And I got to wait in wonderful anticipation for it to arrive. It seemed to take forever. But I vaguely remember playing with it in the back yard, in the dirt. And I did NOT use antibacterial soap when I was finished. Regular soap worked just fine.

Thing is, memories of the toy itself are gone. Lost in the haze. But my mom’s simple moment of empathy will never be lost to me. And now I’d like to have empathy with my kids. I want to understand them. So I try to remember what it’s like to be a kid. To struggle as a child. To want and not be able to reach. To have to rely on someone else for things whether I like it or not. Sometimes I get down on my knees and look around the house to see it from my youngest daughter’s perspective. I find that praying from that position is helpful too.

I think part of this is that I don’t want my kids to lose their trust in me. I know they’ll lose some of it as they become more and more aware of my limitations. But I hope that by remembering what it was like, by remembering how it feels, I can find a way to relate to them, to be honest with them and, hopefully, understand them a little. That way I can help them try to get through the madness of youth without becoming completely overwhelmed by pain or sorrow or loss.

I can dream, can’t I?

Matthew 18:2-4
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Nothing's On

“The radio makes hideous sounds.”

They say Bob Dylan said that. And I can relate. Though some would accuse Dylan of hypocrisy because they don’t like his voice.

Finding a radio station playing music that is interesting is hard. And I do mean interesting. There’s lots of stuff on the radio that sounds okay – good even – from a sonic standpoint. Some of it’s pretty catchy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s all become so predictable and people seem to want it that way. Nothing new about that either. And I’m not saying I could do any better – probably not – but, still, sometimes you hunger for something a little more . . . interesting.

There is even a predictability in the unpredictable. You kind of know where some off beat band is going to take the music because you know where they aren’t going to go. They’re just too hip to move in certain directions, which limits how they might surprise you.

When it comes to music, I like predictable too sometimes. I like a good pop song. And when someone does something retro effectively it can be great as well. But it’s all a bit done already and it wears thin fast.

I can just see record industry producers scratching their heads, saying, “Where do we go from here?” Is Justin Bieber the future of pop music? What if he is?

Thing is, when was the last time you were really pleasantly surprised by some music? When was the last time you heard something that sounded truly special in some way, like you just knew it was going to be a classic? Or unique, but not for the sake of being unique? Or just good because it was creative and well done and had something thoughtful to say without being overly pretentious or cryptic?

The music world is becoming like cable TV. A million channels and nothing’s on.

Psalm 33:3
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010