Friday, April 27, 2012

Why were the police chasing that tree?

During the past two weeks, I have been closely watching the news. Not because there has been any particularly big story that caught my eye, I was simply watching because I saw a few little things that grabbed my attention. The first was a headline from the local ABC affiliate, 13 WHAM, stating, “Driver Crashes into Tree Fleeing Police.” Immediately my thoughts ran wild with images of a dogwood running away from the police after biting a maple. Or a Cherry tree punching an elm in the pie hole after the elm called the Cherry a girl (which would be the pits.)

I was deeply troubled over what crime this tree could possibly have committed, as my experiences with trees have always been positive. I have a few that hang around the house and they have never caused any trouble, in fact, I have become fond of them, as I hope they have of me. I enjoy basking in their shade on hot summer days and enjoy the pine trees shelter from wind on biting winter mornings. When I was a child, I enjoyed climbing in trees, imagining them to be anything from ships, to castles, to forts. The only negative experience I have had with a tree is falling out of one. The real disappointing part of that fall was not the fall from the tree, but rather the pain inflicted by the ground when it caught me.

I quickly clicked the link to read about the kind of hooliganism in which these Hickories were engaging. Much to my relief, we were not being faced with criminal Cottonwoods. Rather, a headline writer simply put the clause too far from what it was modifying. Greece police were not chasing the tree. They were chasing the driver, who, while fleeing the police, crashed into a tree.

Consider this story with the recent announcement that Greece received an award by the Arbor Day Foundation naming it Tree City USA. Apparently, one of the requirements of being named Tree City, is that the trees must have a strong sense of civic duty.

Please do not assume that I think less of the person who wrote that misleading headline; I do not. I am well aware that the pressure to get information posted, with a headline that captures attention, fosters a hectic, frenetic environment where mistakes are inevitable.  I have a three-person teenage girl focus group, which also proof reads these blogs and one person who is primarily responsible for proof reading. In spite of this, I still have miss takes that slip through the cracks. Therefore, I say, dear headline writer, thank you for the inspiration for the first part of this post, and if you would not mind making a few more mistakes, I will humbly be grateful for more inspiration.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Noah built an arkey arkey. And so did his brother Mal.

The other day youngest, who is on the cusp of entering high school, broke out with a favorite children’s Sunday school and camp song, “Rise and Shine.” There is a stanza in that song that goes “The Lord told Noah to build him an arkey arkey.” The catchy tune reminds us that the Biblical story of Noah still resonates with us, even in the 21st century. If it is raining hard, we talk about building a big boat and flooding of “Biblical proportions”, if our co-workers are a bit wild, it is like working on the ark.

With all of the attention focused on Noah, time has left his younger and more inept brother, Mal, in the dust-bin of history. Not only was he inept, but he was also a bit scatterbrained and inattentive. He was, as they said in that time, “a few goats short of a herd." Today, if he were in elementary school, he might receive the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

When God spoke to Noah because Noah was a righteous man, I think he included Mal in the conversation because he felt compassion on the poor man. Noah asked what materials to build the ark from and God replied, “Gopher wood.” So, Noah went and began to gather gopher wood.

Mal on the other hand went out thinking to himself, “I gotta go fer wood.” Then, as he walked and thought, he had more ideas. He gathered a little wood, but he also gathered a bunch of grape vines, and some olive branches, some bed linens hanging on a clothesline to dry, a ball of string, and a few plastic five gallon buckets from the local “Hut Depot”. All the while trying to master the tongue twister, “How much wood could a wood chuck, chuck, if a wood chuck could chuck wood.”

After gathering his supplies, Noah inquired of God as to the construction details. As God gave instructions, Noah pulled out large scrolls of paper, taking copious notes and making detailed drawings, using ruler, compass, triangle, and an assortment of other drafting tools. Mal snorted at the pains Noah was taking and pulled the stub of a pencil from one pocket and an old envelope from another pocket, both of which had just been collected while he was out doing “go-fer wood”.

God spoke about the ark being so many cubits high and wide and long. Noah took his notes carefully and Mal licked the tip of his pencil and labeled the top of his envelope cubits.Then scrawled a few of the numbers he heard God talking about down the length.

When instructions were finished, Noah set to building, which was a long, long process. Mal, on the other hand, went directly to the neighborhood pool hall, where he played multiple games, forgetting why he had even started to play pool at all. After a few hours, as he was reaching into his pocket, he felt the envelope with his notes. He quickly bought a pool stick and ran out of the door. Immediately, he smashed the stick to smithereens against the side of the building. He picked up one piece he thought was perfect and muttered to himself, “There is a perfect ‘cue bit’.”

Over the course of the next few months, Noah and his sons labored diligently on the ark. Whereas Mal tinkered a bit with his boat, watched old pirate movies on Betamax, and fashioned a pirate’s costume for himself. He had grand visions of himself marauding the high seas in his pirate schooner.

At the appointed time, when all the animals were in Noah’s Arkey, the rains began. Noah’s boat floated safely away and Mal’s arkey did not. It sank like a rock. In fact the Latvian’s, who invented the mother of all languages, Latin, used Mal as their word for bad, because his boat was so bad. You, gentle reader, on the other hand, may simply say my tale is full of malarkey. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mow the lawn or clear the driveway of snow?

My father used to tell a story from the days when he owned a service station. A customer was having his car filled with gas. This was in the olden days when a motorist would pull up to the pump and tell an attendant how much gas to pump and the attendant would pump it. Not only would he pump gas, but he would wash windows while the gas was pumping. The customer got out of his car to buy a bottle of pop. This was in the olden days when bottles were glass and tops were metal and pop was way better than it is now.

While the attendant was washing the windows, the gas tank filled, and before the pump could shut off gas spilled on the ground. A stray dog quickly ran up and lapped up the gas before anyone could stop him. The dog began to ran wildly around the pumps and then around the block. The attendant and customer stared in terror at the dog’s apparent distress. My father joined them, just as the dog stopped at the pumps and collapsed. The customer looked at the attendant and asked fearfully, “Is he dead?” The attendant replied eruditely, “I dunno.” My dad observed, “He isn’t dead, he just ran out of gas.”

For a while I have had some doubts as to how true his story was, but since he has passed I cannot ask him. So I will let the story stand as it is, and since my father was an honest man of integrity, I will accept it as the truth.

I thought of this story this week as I was preparing to mow the lawn. I had to get the mower out and see if it would start after a long winter in storage. I should have mowed the lawn sooner, but being a tried and true western New Yorker I chafed at the idea of mowing the lawn in March. In fact, I would like to let the lawn return to its natural habitat, making me a green kind of guy, environmentally friendly, and on the cutting edge of not being on the cutting edge. Beloved does not like that idea and insists the lawn be kept neat, leaving me environmentally unfriendly and definitely not green.

Since I was getting the lawn mower out, I thought it might be a good idea to put the snow blower away. When I posted about this activity on Facebook two fellow western New Yorkers reminded my of the folly of putting away the snow blower so early in the season. We usually shovel snow in March. Sometimes we shovel in April. In fact, I remember a few mother’s days when there was snow on the ground.

Being a huge risk taker, I decided to live life on the edge and put the snow blower away. Since most of the gas I put in the tank at the beginning of the winter was still in the tank, I decided to siphon it out. After a few tries, I was able to drain the tank dry, but not before swallowing a little gas.

Be not alarmed dear reader, I did not take off in a mad dash around the house, the yard, or the neighborhood. Apparently gas only has that effect on canines. However, I was gassy for the rest of the day.

Friday, April 6, 2012

How my young friend met Jesus.

With every disability, there seems to be skills and strengths that grow to compensate. I know one young fellow, who despite an inability to score high on IQ tests, had a deep appreciation for music and a passion for drama. With those strengths in mind, it seemed natural to bring this young man to a musical. Being Easter time, we brought him to an Easter musical, there were four of us that went to an evening performance; two staff and two young men from the house where we worked.

We decided to sit in the balcony, near an exit, since my young friend had never been to a live performance and we were unsure how he would respond. After he chatted with a few people sitting around us, the play began. My young friend was enraptured as he silently watched the story unfold. He was particularly impressed with the actors dressed up as Roman soldiers. He whispered a few polite comments about how awesome they were, as he sat between the other staff person and me.

All went well, that is until the story reached the Garden of Gethsemane and those same soldiers came to arrest Jesus. This young man was indignant, outraged, and wanted to make sure that everyone knew it. He spoke loudly, “They can’t do that. Don’t they know who that is? That is Jesus, they can’t arrest him!” The longer the scene went, the more agitated he became, until he stood up and tried to leave, “I have to go stop this! They can’t arrest Him!”

The other staff person and I kept the young man from leaving his seat and repeatedly tried to calm him down, telling him to relax and wait. There was more to the story. He seemed to buy that…at least until the crucifixion scene. At this point, I was concerned we might have to make use of that nearby exit. Thankfully, intermission came and we were able to spend that time easing his agitation—mostly with multiple trips to a nearby drinking fountain.

The second act started bleakly, but quickly moved to the resurrection. With spotlights, angels, theatrical smoke, and inspirational soaring music from the pit orchestra, Jesus arose from the tomb. My young friend was delighted. He stood up with his arms in the air, and with an urban, hip-hop cadence began to chant, “You go Jesus. You go Jesus.”

The musical finished, the actors took their bows and all filed to the foyer, lining up to greet the audience. At the appropriate time, we, too, slipped out and down a back staircase to avoid the crowds. I went to the lobby with one of the young men while the other staff person walked with our animated young friend. I looked back and realized I could not see the other staff person, so we stood to the side and watched for them.

After a while, I saw the duo approaching. The young gentleman was talking non-stop and gesturing wildly. When he saw me he blurted out, “Rob, Rob, guess what, guess what?!  I saw Jesus. He shook my hand, and he said hello, and he was nice and guess what, guess what? I. Met. Jesus!!”