Still Writing – Still Laughing!

1187164-Young-Man-sitting-in-a-tree-relaxing--Stock-PhotoIt’s difficult to believe it was 50 years ago that I roamed the hallowed halls of Mansfield High School and Wheaton College. No, I didn’t attend Wheaton. You see, back then Wheaton was an all-girls school. No men allowed, except in the library where my friends and I spent many an evening hunkered down behind a huge pile of textbooks, studying. Of course we were studying the young ladies, but studying is studying, right? Why the pile of books? We hid behind them and peeked out as the girls walked by; kind of passive-aggressive stalking, I guess. Yuh, I know. That’s pretty pathetic, but boys will be boys. At least that’s the only defense I can muster at the moment.

This Wheaton Library road trip is a long-standing tradition amongst the Mansfield boys; a rite of passage. Kind of like being hazed as a freshman on the football team, but without the Icy Hot in your jock strap.

The way it worked, was that several times a month a bunch of us would get together on a weeknight and make our hormone-induced pilgrimage to the Wheaton Library for the sole purpose of scoping out the college girls. That was a really big deal for us. There was a certain mystique to it. After all, these were older women; sophisticates. And we were pubescent bundles of raging testosterone in tight Levis, pretending we had a shot at even talking to one of these goddesses.

Some of the girls hung out in their pajamas. I mean to say, some of the girls wore pajamas while they were at the library; they were hanging out in their pajamas, not hanging out of their pajamas. But even though they weren’t hanging out of their pajamas just seeing them in their PJ’s was pretty exhilarating stuff for a 17-year old boy back in those days. Hey, a guy can fantasize can’t he?

All things considered, it was a fairly benign exercise. Looking back on it, I like to think of it as having been a way to develop my rather vivid imagination, something that has served me well as a writer. And when you really think about it, what better place to indulge ones love for fiction than in a library?

Of course, there was one guy in the group who just couldn’t help himself from taking our harmless little foray into the land of pseudo-voyeurism to another level altogether; a level few of us could ever imagine possible.

A bunch of us had gotten together at Frates Dairy one evening, something we did regularly before making the short drive to the Wheaton campus to check out the young ladies at the library. For those of you who are either too young to remember, or weren’t in the area back then, Frates was next to the Norton Reservoir where Tsang’s Chinese Restaurant is now located. They had great pizza, fried seafood and ice cream. You could take a date there and get a large pizza and two cokes for $1.50, so it was a very popular spot for teenagers with limited budgets.

It was also a great spot to ‘park’ or watch the ‘submarine races’ in the reservoir. I know that some of you have no clue what that means and for now, I’m going to leave it that way. Hunt down someone in their 50s or 60s and ask them about it. They’ll know!

So, as I had started to tell you, a bunch of us met at Frates, had a pizza and then, as was our custom, jumped into two cars to make the trip to Wheaton, leaving a couple of cars sitting in the parking lot, as taking just two cars made it much easier to find parking on campus.

On this particular night, our friend, Lenny (not his real name), told us he wanted to drive on his own because he had to get home early. So, our three car caravan pulled out of Frates’ parking lot and made its way down Route 140 toward our destination. A few minutes later, we swung into the parking area just outside the library, jumped out of our cars and went inside.

We had struck pay dirt! The library was crawling with chicks! After walking in and out of the long aisles of books for a while, we spread out and grabbed seats wherever we could find them.

It was a great night! It was the week of finals, just prior to summer break. So there were more girls at the library than usual, as they were all studying for their exams.

After about an hour or so, Lenny said he had to get going. We tried to get him to stay, telling him he was going to miss out on a great evening of girl-watching, but he insisted he had promised to be home early to keep an eye on his little brother. After taking his fair share of razzing, Lenny flipped us ‘the bird’ and disappeared through the exit doors that led to the parking lot.

The rest of us hung out for about another hour, ogling every young lady in sight before reluctantly making our way out to our cars. We headed back up Route 140 to Frates and grabbed a soda before heading back home to Mansfield, happily sharing our thoughts about the various girls we had checked out; another conquest completed.

The next morning as I was walking down the corridor at school, one of the guys who’d been with us at Wheaton the night before came running up behind me, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me over against the lockers that ran the length of the hallway.

“Did you hear about Lenny?” he gasped.

“No,” I replied, “What’s up?”

“The Wheaton cops found him up in a tree outside one of the girl’s dorms looking into the windows,” he snickered. “He got arrested!”

“No way!” I hollered, nearly unable to stand up because I was laughing so hard. “Is he in school?”

“Nope,” my friend replied, “He has to go back to the campus with his parents this afternoon. His dad is going to kill him!”

Lenny would never give us the details about what happened that day. He never talked about how he’d been busted or what the punishment was. I guess he was probably too embarrassed. I’m not sure if he had to go to court or if something was just worked out between Wheaton and his parents, but I know his dad, and I’m sure no matter what the police or the legal system had in store, it paled in comparison to the punishment his dad laid on him.

Lenny took a lot of teasing for the remainder of the school year. Fortunately for him, there were only a few weeks of school left before summer vacation, and by the time school started up again in the fall, most of the needling had tailed off.

To this day, whenever I think of Lenny, that story inevitably pops into my head. My friend Lenny, the Peeping Tom; the guy who didn’t know that in New England, in the month of May, the leaves are still pretty sparse on the trees.

Make it a great weekend!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

There’s A Killer On The Loose!

Kindaichi-Shonen_shadowy-figureThe enemy seeks to kill and destroy!

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Margaret Chittenden

I love that quote from novelist, Margaret Chittenden, and I’ve referred to it more than a few times in my writing. There aren’t too many things that can happen to a writer worse than the feeling of an impending deadline closing in as he or she sits helplessly in front of a computer staring off into the abyss of lost ideas.

Been there! Done that! Not fun!

Granted, there are many worse things that can happen in life, but for the moment I’m talking about things that are associated strictly with the world of writing, not life in general.

But let’s switch gears, shall we? As we all know only too well, life has many a raw deal in store for us. It’s all part of this amazing gig called living. I’m not being negative or defeatist here – just truthful.

If you’ve never experienced pain, heartbreak, suffering or any of the myriad of other little goodies on the shelves of life’s vast grocery store, you will. Life happens. Plain and simple.

In his acclaimed book, “The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield said, “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t and the secret is this: it’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

This statement holds true not only for writers, but for anyone in any field and from any walk of life. When we step out to do something, to accomplish something in our life, we will have obstacles placed in our way; some from sources within and some from without. But rest assured Resistance is bent on keeping us from accomplishing whatever it is we may have set out to do – from reaching our goal!

Again, this applies to everyone! That means you! Whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a laborer, a housewife, a mom or whatever; this is about you! No one is excluded.

I know there are those who are reading this and thinking, I know exactly what he’s talking about. That happens to me all the time. And there are those who think this is all a bunch of hocus pocus. For those on the hocus pocus side of the discussion, your unbelief is your obstacle; it’s Resistance; the thing that will keep you from personal growth; the thing that will keep you stuck in a rut of your own making.

Keep in mind that staying stuck in a rut is extremely counterproductive; in fact it’s downright suicidal. A rut is nothing more than a grave with the sides kicked out. Both the grave and the rut represent death; in the case of the rut it’s representative of the death of your life’s purpose.

There’s truth and wisdom in Friedrich Nietzsche’s oft-quoted assertion, That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Many who have weathered the wrath of life’s storms and the destruction that follows can attest to having come through their ordeal a stronger individual. That certainly doesn’t mean to say that there are no lingering scars or that the pain we endure doesn’t take a toll on us; but those things, as much as we’d like to avoid them, are the character builders of life; the things that mold us in our pain and our suffering; the things that ultimately make us who we are; the true us.

Just as a quick aside here, Nietzsche also said, “Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent,” but that’s a subject for another day and, more than likely, a topic I’ll leave to another columnist; someone braver and dumber than I. I have a fairly large female readership and I’m a lot of things, but self-destructive is not one of them.

That brief interlude was a way to let you off the hook for a second; to relieve the pressure of what many of us refuse to do – take a look at ourselves. But all good things must end so let’s jump back into the fire, shall we?

Psalm 23:4 says, in part, “….though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil….” Please note something here that is of great significance. We are to walk through the valley. Nowhere does it tell us to stop, pitch a tent and set up camp in the midst of the valley. Nowhere! It says very specifically that we are to go through; to get our rear ends out of the valley. No encampments, no pity parties, and definitely no Occupy the Valley!

But, of course, we think we know better. We find ourselves in a tough situation and decide we’re going to wallow in it. We dwell on it, feed it, take it to bed with us and spend our every waking moment nurturing it until it becomes the focal point of our existence. We’ve willingly crawled into the rut and now we’re trapped there waiting for the dirt to be thrown over us. Rather than controlling our circumstances, our circumstances are now controlling us. The &%#!@ has hit the proverbial fan and we all know what a mess that can be.

Any time we step out in faith to accomplish anything worthwhile, Resistance will rear its ugly head. Resistance may appear in the form of a spouse who isn’t supportive, a friend who continually reassures us that we will ultimately fail [we all know these people], or anything that will steer us away from our dreams or set up roadblocks between us and our goal.

Resistance may even come from within ourselves! As a matter of fact, we can more than likely count on the fact that will happen. We are our own worst enemies. As Walt Kelly’s memorable cartoon character, Pogo, said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Resistance most often manifests itself as the little voice inside our heads that graciously validates our vast, ever-growing list of excuses as to why we haven’t accomplished anything we’ve set out to do in our pathetic, mundane lives, and why we never will. It gives us every reason we would ever need to give up; to quit like we always do – because it’s too hard, or we don’t have the proper education, or we’re too tired, or whatever the excuse du jour may be. The list of excuses Resistance can conjure up are infinite – and deadly.

You’ll notice I’ve written Resistance with a capital R. That’s because Resistance is an entity, an unseen spiritual presence; a negative force bent on destroying our hopes and dreams.

If you’re a burgeoning author, Resistance may whisper, “You’ll never write a book! What makes you think you can write a book? Even if you write it, nobody will read it. Who would ever want to read your book?”

If you’re an artist, a teacher, a truck driver, a musician, or a mom or a dad doing your best to raise a family, Resistance will whisper its deadly lies in your ear when you’re at your weakest point; when there are problems at your job; when the kids are acting out and you’re at your breaking point.

Don’t believe it? That’s Resistance!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

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(This is a flashback column from about three years ago.)

Today, I put my own spin on Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s assertion that, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” by insisting that this is true only if your ‘love’ is the ‘love of fishing’.

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish. This one has a little star. This one has a little car. Say! What a lot of fish there are. Yes. Some are red. And some are blue. Some are old. And some are new. Some are sad. And some are glad. And some are very, very bad. Why are they sad and glad and bad? I do not know. Go ask your dad. Some are thin. And some are fat. The fat one has a yellow hat. From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere – Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss must have been watching me fish at Fulton’s Pond when I was a kid, or anywhere at any age for that matter. There are two very distinct differences in the terminology used for the sacrosanct act of sticking a fishing line in the water. There’s fishing and then there’s catching. I’ve done a lot of fishing. Catching, not so much.

I love to fish, even though I’ve been extremely frustrated by it in the past. Ask my kids. They’ve witnessed my fishing tirades first hand and they take every opportunity to remind me of the horror they were forced to endure when I took them fishing under the clever guise of ‘having fun’. Apparently, they didn’t enjoy it all that much. Go figure!

Maybe I should have been more observant. Maybe I should have noticed that while they had been joyful, nearly ecstatic, when I first mentioned the idea of a day of angling with ‘dear old dad’; their enthusiasm waned immediately following our first fishing trip.

They became rather reticent, squeamish at the mere mention of any family activity that involved the word fish. They even balked at the idea of eating at Fresh Catch, fearing it would stir up memories they had no interest in revisiting; things they had buried deep down inside; scary things; things meant only to be shared with one’s therapist.

I don’t understand. Did I not bait their hooks for them? Was I not the one who untangled their fishing line when they cast it out over the water only to have it snag in their reel and wrap around their pole fifty times? And who pulled all that line off their reels when it got tangled up in a bird’s nest?

Oh, sure, there might have been the occasional off-color rant after the third or fourth time I had to cut a line that was tangled in a tree limb and then painstakingly refill the spool only to have it get snagged on some underwater obstacle; an old discarded tire, a jagged rock or some type of marine foliage with leaves tougher than my wife’s pot roast. I’m kidding. That’s the only metaphor I could think of; my wife doesn’t even make pot roast.

I still can’t figure it out though. I don’t know why my kids had such an aversion to fishing with me. After all, there was only that one time that I got so enraged I threw my entire tackle box in to the water. And I can’t recall more than a handful of incidents where I snapped a rod in half and jumped up and down on it while my kids cowered behind a tree. And that one time I screamed, “I hate these damn fish,” at the top of my lungs isn’t such a big deal, is it?

Then, of course, there was the time I had to rush over to the Mansfield Health Center after my son, Chris, made a cast and embedded his hook in the back of my neck. I think that was the first time my kids heard the word, #@@!$!%. Hey, it’s not something I’m proud of, but that hook hurt like @#*$ &%£!

Did I mention the time my daughter, Erinn, hooked an eel over at Kingman Pond, pulled it up on shore, got scared and tried to shake it off her line and, well; have you ever been hit in the face with a live eel?

I’m deeply hurt by all this resentment aimed in my direction. I have feelings too you know! After all, if I’m cut, do I not bleed? Oh yeah, that happened a few times too. Those filleting knives sure are sharp!

So, in keeping with the storied family tradition; I bought my grandson, Logan, a Spiderman fishing pole. I had no idea Spiderman was a fisherman. And if he is a fisherman, one would think he would just cast one of his webs out in the water and bag a bunch of the dorsal-finned beauties all at once. Why bother using a fishing pole?

I’m psyched about taking Logan on his first fishing trip but, for some strange reason, my daughter, Kelly, is reluctant to let him go with me. She says the memories of her trips with me still haunt her. I have no idea what she’s talking about. We had some great times together, aside from the tangled fishing lines, the bird’s nests in their reels, the snags and the occasional swearing. Oh yeah, and the smashed rods and the jettisoned tackle boxes. And then there was the cowering behind the trees, the eels and the occasional trip to the emergency room, along with …………

Never mind! That’s all in the past. Things will be different this time. Logan and I will have a blast! Honestly! I’m older now, and much more patient.

I only hope those !@%$#%@ fish cooperate!

Make it a great week!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

Let U B U

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“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who do not have it.” – George Bernard Shaw

I love that quote. In fact, I’m so enamored with it that I once had it printed on the back of my business card. There it was – smack dab in the middle of the card – standing alone – screaming my mantra to the world. Be careful! I’m watching you! That’s not a popular stance. Thankfully, for most of my life; popularity has never held a position of much importance to me.

I don’t view myself a cynic, but more an observer of the human condition. I observe. I comment. That’s pretty much it. I call ’em as I see ’em. I am not a pessimist. I see good where there is good – evil where there is evil – and hypocrisy where there is hypocrisy. Good and evil reveal themselves to us rather candidly; but hypocrisy? That’s quite a different matter. Hypocrisy hides in the shadows – in deception – in a smile – a carefully coined phrase – within a good deed done for the wrong reason.

I examine everything – everyone. I seek out the reality beneath the façade – the mask of pretentiousness. I also examine myself – at times much too harshly. I am my toughest critic. As a former spiritual mentor of mine once told me, “Every time I point a finger at you, there are three pointing back at me.” This is not about you; nor is it about me. This is about us – all of us.

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and literary critic whom I quoted above, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925, and an Oscar in 1938. I’ve done neither. He was a Socialist. I am not. But Shaw and I have at least one thing in common. He was – and I am – outspoken. As it was with Shaw, that trait, ingrained deeply within my spirit, tantamount to that thing that makes me who I am – gets me into trouble on occasion; but that’s the only way I know how to be. I gotta be me.

Neale Donald Walsch, author of the series, Conversations With God, written as a dialogue in which Walsch asks questions and God answers, said, “As long as you are worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them. Only when you require no approval from outside yourself can you own yourself.”

Walsch’s writings are highly controversial and, although I’m somewhat familiar with his work; I have not read enough to critique his writings. I quote him merely to make a point. Be yourself! Find the person you were meant to be. Be the person you were put here to be.

As Pelonius told his son, Laertes in William Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

So many of us have spent so much of our lives running from who we are; playing at being someone we are not; bent on pleasing others – to fit in – to be accepted- to make others happy at the expense of our own personal growth. We cannot live the lives we were meant to live if we are preoccupied; playing the counterfeit character we have created for ourselves in this play called life.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my six plus decades on this planet is this: It is not your job to please everyone. It cannot be done. Be true to yourself. Find the real ‘you’ and be that person – at all costs!

There was a time when I didn’t understand that premise. It never occurred to me. Somehow, in my formative years, it was programmed into my psyche that the important thing in life; my life’s quest, was to be absolutely sure that I was liked by everyone –an unattainable, ignoble task. A task bent on the annihilation of the real me. Over the years, I have come to learn that being liked by everyone is an unattainable, hollow, self-destructive goal.

I’m an observer – a watcher. I think we learn a lot about ourselves by learning about others; how and why they do the things they do.

Well you could have been anything that you wanted to, and I can tell – the way you do the things you do

Sorry, I slipped off into a little Temptations tune there. It must have been that talk about my formative years; a little flashback of sorts.

I was a pastor for a couple of years. I know you probably find that difficult to believe; so do I. I wasn’t your typical pastor; the picture you may have in your mind as to what a pastor might look like. If you looked up pastor in your dictionary; my picture would not be there. I didn’t go to seminary. I went to Bible School. I guess I might have been what Mike Yaconelli called a K-Mart Pastor (he called himself that too). But I really enjoyed the people – the interaction – and we built relationship through being real with one another.

Our church was filled with those that many might have considered cast-offs – recovering addicts – single moms struggling to survive – those who had been neglected or abused as children – others with severe emotional or physical problems. And in that little church in Bourne, they found caring. They found hope. No pretentiousness – no haughtiness.

The greatest compliment I ever got was when a young man, probably in his mid-thirties, came up to me after service and shook my hand. “I really enjoyed your sermon,” he said. “I like you. You’re like a real person.”

“That’s great!” I responded enthusiastically. “Because being a real person is what I was shooting for.”

Think about that for a moment –a real person. It must be that this young man had similar experiences where he didn’t feel that realness – didn’t make that connection. I believe that’s what most of us are looking for – someone to be real with us – honest – sincere – even when the message is not what we want to hear.

Why not take some time for self-examination this week? Is the person on the inside the same person you are portraying on the outside, or are you hiding behind a mask of deception, concealing the real you – the person you were meant to be?

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

It’s Only Words….Or is it?

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“But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.” – George Gordon Byron

I fancy myself a word-smith of sorts. Words and language-usage are my tools. Through my words, I’m able to lead you, the reader, down one path; and then, without warning, lead you in a totally different direction, shocking and perhaps even disgusting you. I’m able to spin you on a carousel of carefully crafted words and phrases until you lose all sense of direction and then guide you, gently and methodically, back on the path where we began. That’s exactly what I’ve done here and you never saw it coming.

Words are powerful; often-times much more powerful than actions. The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” is patently false. Words may be used for good – or for evil. They can build-up – or destroy. We must choose our words carefully; lest we become purveyors of the latter.

Kind words build bridges and create an atmosphere where peace, love and understanding prevail. Our words – the way we speak to one another – create relationship. Relationship, in turn, creates community. Towns such as the one in which you live, were birthed through relationship; a few like-minded individuals sitting down together and speaking – planning – creating community; and it all started with the quality and choice of their words.

Everything begins with the spoken or written word. Chances are you’ve never looked at it that way before.

I grew up, or at least made a half-hearted attempt to do so, in Mansfield during the heyday of the 1950s and the turbulence and change of the mid-60s. Mansfield was a small town of approximately 8,000 when I was in high school. I knew nearly everyone in town and they knew me – knew my family. In those days we knew our neighbors. We had community. We weren’t afraid to speak to strangers or let our kids ride their bikes down the street. But things are different now.

Is the world a more dangerous place than it was back then; or is our perception skewed by the 24/7- barrage of bad news from the talking heads – the access to too much information – sometimes misinformation and propaganda? Are their words creating a community of fear and angst?

In a 1956 speech, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev had threatened to bury us. The Cold War was in full swing, but the threatening rhetoric; the words of the Soviet thugs couldn’t rattle us. We had one another – we had community – community impervious to his words of hate.

Words build relationships. Relationships build community. Community is love – and love (light) will triumph over evil (darkness) every time.

My family and I have lived in Easton for nearly 20 years now. Easton was home to my former high school football coach’s nemesis, the late great Val Muscato; Oliver Ames High School stadium’s namesake. I’d heard his name bandied about throughout my school days. He was a legend; always depicted as the enemy – the evil one.

Many years later, in 1990, my son, Chris, took the field at Memorial Park in Mansfield, to battle the same rival I had faced many times – Oliver Ames High School – the Tigers in their intimidating black and orange. But this time, Val Muscato stood stoically on the sidelines as a spectator.

It was a great game. Mansfield, a huge underdog that day, rallied late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. They had done it! They had defeated the dreaded Tigers.

I was ecstatic; an excitement difficult to understand unless you had grown up facing OA’s powerhouse teams of the 60’s. Val’s teams rarely went down to defeat – and it was always a gruesome battle.

I walked up to Val. I was a little cocky; a little prideful. “How’d ya like that one, Mr. Muscato?” I posed rather boastfully as I reached out and shook his hand.

“Well,” he responded thoughtfully, “I wasn’t crazy about the result, but it was a great game to watch. Those kids gave it all today. Congratulations.”

I was stunned. This was the dreaded Val Muscato; the man whose name had struck fear in the hearts of his opponents for decades. He was nothing like my coach had depicted him. He was a gentleman – a fierce competitor – but a truly nice man.

My high school coach’s words had painted a false picture in my mind that I had carried with me for nearly three decades, but with a few, thoughtful words Val Muscato was able to change that misconception.

Are you getting this?

If a few, well thought out words can change one man – one relationship, then it follows that this process repeated over and over again can change many relationships – can change a community – and that process repeated in community after community, can change the world.

Words are powerful. Choose them wisely.

And now I leave you back on the road where this journey began.

Words!

Pretty cool, huh?

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

The Untimely Death of Common Sense

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“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Please be gentle with me today. I’m a bit overburdened with the weight of my position as the great observer of the human condition.

Some people just don’t get it! Or, they just don’t care. It’s possible that I may be overstating the facts in my title. It may be that common sense isn’t really dead at all – but it’s definitely on life support, fighting for its life.

I’m worried. I’m starting to think I emit some sort of cosmic vibe that attracts strange people and bizarre situations. Or it could be that my powers of accurate observation have been honed so well over the years that I’m incapable of missing even the slightest, underlying nuance in the behavior of those with whom I come in contact.

Could it be that this skill that I had heretofore considered a gift is actually a curse? Am I destined to spend the rest of my life dissecting, examining and evaluating each encounter I have with another human being? Is that my fate?

Apparently so! Hey, it’s who I am, so let’s roll with it.

George Bernard Shaw, a fervent observer of the society of his day said, “The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people.” I’m hoping old George is correct, because if he is; I’m on a fast track to fame and fortune.

Do you think this is easy? Do you think I like it when the little voice in my head whispers, “Hey, this guy is a Looney Tune. He’ll make great copy for your column.”

It’s always about the column! Everything in my life has been reduced to whether someone or something is column-worthy. I’m obsessed! I can’t even have a conversation with my three-year old grandson without thinking of it as a possible source of new material.

I’m so ashamed! I never chose this. It was never my idea. Honest! But, since this seems to be my destiny; let’s take a look at my most recent journey to Bizzaro World.

My wife, Berta, and I were on our way home from dropping off our grandson, Ethan, in West Bridgewater last Friday night. Let me clarify. We didn’t just ‘drop him off’ in West Bridgewater. We didn’t ‘dump’ him there. He lives there. Honest!

Okay, good. I’m glad we cleared that up. As I started to tell you, Berta and I had eaten a late lunch at McMenamy’s Hamburgers so we weren’t very hungry, although I felt like I needed a little something. Come to think of it, I was kind of hungry; well, very hungry actually. Okay, I was starving! But Berta wasn’t very hungry. She just wanted some chili or something like that.

We decided we’d make a quick stop at a fast food restaurant that’s part of a chain whose name shall remain anonymous for reasons that will become painfully evident by the time I finish my story, and for other reasons that could land me in court. Seeing that I have no interest in being sued for libel; I’d say anonymity is the way to go.

Berta and I entered the restaurant and stood there for a few minutes examining the menu, letting a couple of other customers go ahead of us in line. The gentleman behind the register, who appeared to be the manager, was rather chunky. I guess you could say he was big-boned. He was a husky guy, you know. Okay, he was very large. Oh, let’s face it; this guy was huge!

Anyway, this guy was sweating profusely, which seemed strange because this was at about seven-thirty on Friday evening and it was very chilly outside, much like a mid-fall evening.

While we were standing there, this guy kept yelling something to one of the other workers, a young lady who was in the back making fries. She kept telling this guy that she couldn’t hear him until he suddenly became visibly irritated and screamed about as loud as a guy can scream, “I need you to cover the register because I have to go to the bathroom.”

I won’t attempt to speak for you, but where I come from this definitely comes under the heading of TMI – too much information! Berta and I looked at one another, turned and headed out the door as fast as our legs would carry us, though not nearly as fast as the manager ran to the bathroom.

“Who does that?” I asked as we walked to our car. “Who screams out, ‘I have to go to the bathroom,’ in the middle of a crowded restaurant while they’re waiting on a customer?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty disgusting,” Berta replied. “He must have really had to go. Maybe that’s why he was sweating so much.” I laughed so hard I thought I was going to get sick. Berta comes up with a winner every now and then.

We jumped in the car and pulled out of the parking lot. “Where do you want to go?” I asked.

“How about Maguire’s?” Berta suggested.

“Too crowded at this hour,” I replied. “And you said you weren’t that hungry.”

“True,” she said. “Frank’s in Brockton?”

“That sounds good,” I replied, and off we went toward Brockton. When we arrived at Frank’s there were no parking spaces and there was a long line going out the door. I’d never seen it so crowded.

I asked Berta if she wanted to try another fast food restaurant that was just around the corner and she agreed. This restaurant is part of the same fast food chain as the place we had stopped previously and, though we’d had issues with its sister restaurant earlier in the evening; I figured there was probably little chance we’d again encounter a large, incontinent guy sweating all over the register, so we decided we’d give it a shot.

We arrived at our destination, pulled in to the parking lot, jumped out of the car and walked across the lot to the restaurant’s entrance. I grabbed the door and opened it for Berta. Yes, some guys still do that, but that’s for another column. Actually, I believe I’ve already written that one.

Back to the story. The door was filthy! I’m not talking about ‘dirty’. It was filthy! Disgusting! Gross! The glass was so thick with crud I could barely see inside the restaurant. I won’t describe what I think was all over the glass, but let’s just say that, aside from a boatload of sticky fingerprints; it looked as though someone had either sneezed all over the door or had blown their nose on it. I’ll spare you any further detail. I’m sure that was graphic enough to give you a pretty clear picture.

I had let go of the door handle so I wouldn’t get any of the ‘mystery-muck’ on me, but for some reason, perhaps because by this time I was mentally frail from lack of nourishment; I risked life and limb and grabbed that nasty door handle and pulled the door open ever so gingerly. I have no idea what I was thinking. I can’t believe I touched that door again, but I did. Thankfully, to this point I haven’t had any symptoms of being infected by flesh eating bacteria.

Sadly, the interior of the restaurant made the doors look sparkling clean in comparison. The floors were covered with food, straw wrappers and various other unidentifiable bits and pieces of debris and the tables were sticky and littered with cups, food wrappers and the like. Nice!

As we had done just a half hour earlier, Berta and I looked at one another, turned and headed out the door. “I don’t believe this,” I said, climbing in to the car again, still hungry and feeling very dirty.

“How about Bickford’s?” Berta asked guardedly.

“Sure,” I replied. “Why not?” About five minutes and several ounces of Purell® Hand Sanitizer later; we arrived at Bickford’s. By this time I could have eaten the – Well, never mind what I could have eaten. I’m sure I’ve grossed you out enough already. Let’s just say I was very hungry.

You’re undoubtedly thinking there’s another horror story coming, aren’t you? Some sordid tale about tainted food, a grungy waitress, a hair of unknown origin in my sandwich or a decomposing rodent on the floor.

Nope! Nothing like that. The restaurant was spotless, the food was excellent and our waitress couldn’t have been more accommodating. She even laughed at my corny wisecracks. Berta kept rolling her eyes for some reason. I think the pollen may have been bothering her.

I ordered a turkey club with fries, Berta had a bowl of chili and we split an order of onion rings. Bickford’s onion rings are amazing! Everything was delicious.

We got home around nine forty-five, watched the end of the Red Sox game and went to bed shortly afterward. At about two-thirty the next morning, which happens to be today, the day I’m writing this; my gastrointestinal tract reminded me that I had eaten much too much, much too late, and had gone to bed much too soon afterward – and then there were the onion rings. Oh, those tasty, deep fried onion rings.

It’s now several hours since the onset of my gastrointestinal histrionics. I’m fairly certain those onion rings must be darn near fully digested by now, although I can still taste them a bit, and most of the burning from deep within the recesses of my stomach seems to have dissipated.

Well, I guess that’s about it. There’s really not much more to say and………

I really have to go to the bathroom.

Ha! Gotcha!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

What’s Your Sign?

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Political Affiliation and Free Thinking – Are They Mutually Exclusive?

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. 
(For What It’s Worth – Copyright© 1966 by Stephen Stills)

What’s your sign? A common idiom of the sixties and seventies; this phrase was frequently used as a way of introduction – a means by which to ‘break the ice’ – and as a cheesy pick-up line. There were, however, those who believed in Astrology; the belief that the relative positions of the heavenly bodies at the time of one’s birth had a direct effect on their personality.

I fall under the sign, Scorpio. Some of the traits associated with Scorpio’s are – Determined and forceful – Emotional and intuitive. Powerful and passionate – Exciting and magnetic. Ah, so true. Obviously, there’s a lot to be said for this astrology stuff.

A few of the other traits attributed to Scorpios are, Jealous and resentful – Compulsive and obsessive – Secretive and obstinate. Hmmm! Now that I think about it; there’s obviously nothing to this astrology stuff.

The issue I have with astrology is that much like our political system, it endeavors to place us in a predetermined category based upon a label – in the case of astrology an astrological sign, and in the case of politics, an affiliation with a particular political party or philosophy. The individual is totally discounted.

I’m pretty much apolitical. I have an aversion for politics in general and politicians more specifically. However, having said that, I will acquiesce to the fact that; until we find something better, politics is a necessary evil. Politicians I can do without. Harsh? Perhaps, but that’s the way I feel.

I’m constantly asked about my political persuasion. I’m not overly fond of being classified, categorized and put in a box so I’ve come up with the answer with which I feel the most comfortable; I’m a moderately conservative Hippie Libertarian with a half twist.

The reactions I get to this tongue-in-cheek response, which is actually more a reflection of my attitude toward those who would attempt to pigeon-hole me than it is my political leanings, are hilarious! Go figure!

I find the question of my political affiliation to be nothing more than a scurrilous attempt to position me in the interrogators personal sorting bin; a place where I have no desire to be. My rather inane response is more of a defense mechanism than a serious answer; fashioned to repel the pretentious probing of the would-be political pundit. I have not a single modicum of interest in playing the labeling game. In the words of the renowned philosopher, Homey D. Clown, “Homey don’t play that!”

Some have political leanings so far out on the fringe – so far to the left or right of center, that they’re darn near ready to topple over the edge and come around to the other side. They live on the periphery. Intelligent debate and the free exchange of information and ideas go out the window, replaced by one-sided, closed-minded rhetoric.

I don’t get it! Why would a seemingly rational individual submit to any one political viewpoint? It seems that in many, if not most cases regarding politics; sides are chosen, viewpoints are set in stone, lines are drawn and intelligent discussion is stifled in the name of political affiliation. Is this not divisive – prejudicial? Does one who gives up the ability to form their own thoughts not place themselves in the category of the mundane?

Those who read my writing regularly will notice a resounding theme in my writings. A recent offering spoke of examining the difference between how others may see us and who we truly are, as well as the importance of each of us finding our unique identity, while another addressed the fact that many of us are two different people, the person we are on the inside, and the person we are on the outside – and the fact that we sometimes hide our true selves behind a mask of deception.

Today’s piece, as well as the aforementioned two, cries out for the steadfast pursuit of individualism – independent thinking. I suppose that’s always been very important to me, most likely because I’ve always felt the pressure to conform – to give up my independence. My response to this pressure has always been dogged defiance toward any attempt to mold me; to make me part of the herd. I’ve always believed that we were born to be free – to be people, not sheeple; to be independent thinkers – not mindless, brainwashed dregs – Stepford wives or husbands.

Please understand, I’m not advocating the Timothy Leary mantra of the sixties, Turn on, tune in, drop out. Been there – done that – doesn’t work! There is room within any system for those who do not function well within that system – for those to whom conformity is blasphemous. Confused? Let me say it another way.

I once saw a t-shirt that said, I’m a free-thinking, intellectual, subversive non-conformist….and I vote. Our system allows for, even encourages participation from anyone choosing to do so. The system is not the problem. The abuse and manipulation of the system is the problem. The abuse of power is the problem. Greed is the problem. Self-serving political hacks are the problem. Need I go on?

During the political and social upheaval of the 1960’s, there were two distinct camps – the, America, love it or leave it crowd and the America, love it or change it faction; the former being totally sold out for whatever our country did, no matter what, while the latter embraced change where change was deemed necessary. I’m fairly certain you can guess which group I embraced.

It is possible to work within the system without being a part of, or being devoured by it. Sitting apathetically in a corner does nothing! Choose to do something, whatever course it may follow.

There are elections coming up in November. You’ll be asked to choose a new president to occupy the seat being vacated by Barack Obama; a choice that will have a direct impact on the policies that affect you and your family.

You’re probably thinking that I’m urging you to vote. I’m not. That’s your business. Most will tell you that it’s your responsibility to vote – an obligation; that men and women fought and died to protect that right. That’s nonsense! They fought and died to protect your right to be free – to make your own decisions – to be an individual.

Vote or don’t vote. The choice is yours.

Be free!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website athttp://www.bobhavey.net.