Poetic Recovery

I am atheist. I groan when I read, “as an atheist” before people make a statement. Well, guess what? I owe lots of apologies because….

As an atheist, I have been asked how we handle life when it sucks: sick kids (or grands), lost jobs, death of friends and loved ones, financial trouble, or any disaster. They rightfully ask, “How do you get through those tough times when even heavy-duty doubters pray for relief?” We do manage without god. Not only are there atheists in fox holes, some of us have died there.

I’m dealing with a cancer diagnoses and some of my doctors ask me how I feel about it. “Well, Doc, this is one time I wish you were wrong. Now, let’s do this.” I want action, science, and medicine; not prayers.

Here’s what I got for ya. Franky, baby! I love the song; both the music and lyrics of That’s Life, by Frank Sinatra. Some say, this too shall pass, but the song puts that theory on another emotional level, and I love it. I hope you do too.

Here are the lyrics. Below them, I also posted a youtube video with music, singing, and the words. Now, let’s get back up, brush ourselves off, and have a wonderful July.

That’s Life

That’s life (that’s life) that’s what people say
You’re riding high in April
Shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June

I said, that’s life (that’s life) and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks
Stompin’ on a dream
But I don’t let it, let it get me down
‘Cause this fine old world it keeps spinnin’ around

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race

That’s life (that’s life) I tell ya, I can’t deny it
I thought of quitting, baby
But my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try
I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face
I just pick myself up and get back in the race

That’s life (that’s life) that’s life
And I can’t deny it
Many times I thought of cuttin’ out but my heart won’t buy it
But if there’s nothing shakin’ come here this July
I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die

My, my

Songwriters: Vernon Duke / E. Y. Harburg

That’s Life lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Music Sales Corporation, Shapiro Bernstein & Co. Inc., BMG Rights Management

Look both ways for life’s ups and downs. Mind the gaps, as silly as it sounds.

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Poetry – Cold-war Crew-dogs

Crew sprints to B-52 on nuclear alert

thursday morning – day one

of alert. go underground.

called it changeover day.

drive to base. park. unload for the week.

stand in line – at the shack

process through a sally port.

see guns, security,

tension cut with humor,

line badges and id cards,

secret signals and voice passwords,

briefings, weather, announcements,

need to know games.

meet with leaving crew at jet.

open top-secret boxes,

review more secrets.

never be alone,

be two-man in

no-lone-zone,

always.

nukes not nonsense.

check the jet.

check the nukes.

squeeze tight

between

aerodynamic

plutonium

cylinders of death,

check dial settings

for proper

megatonnage yields.

be positive. no room for error.

more jokes. more pokes.

sign for everything.

responsibility now ours.

for each a new identity

part of crew, a sortie number.

become the job; pilot, navigator,

gunner, bombardier.

trained killers without names.

captains, lieutenants some majors.

then to a study vault. more t.s. bs.

tankers, targets, terrain.

threats.

not to think of war. insane.

crew dog. be the bomb.

refueling

recovery

repatriation

geneva rules bring

more sarcasm.

back at the shack, more

jokes, games, pool or pool,

gym, phone calls, write, study.

tv, coffee, cokes, bs,

testing, reacting, napping.

bored before noon.

no booze, no drugs, no sex.

seven days to go.

relax. no war this week,

bored is good.

always,

just

twelve

minutes

to gear-up.

hasn’t happened.

yet.

© Bill Reynolds, 7/16/2018

Look both ways to see all sides. Mind the boring gaps. Dystopia awaits.

Minimum interval takeoff as would be for nuclear war. Black smoke is result of water injection to engines for more thrust.

To watch a humorous little Youtube video about this, click here.

 

Perfect Perfection

 

“Perfect!”

Maybe you have heard this: Sets low standards. Achieves same. Or this: Good enough for government work. I find both phrases tediously trite and possibly insulting. But, I’ve cheerfully used both. How about, practice makes perfect? I later heard it as, perfect practice makes perfect.

As that quality assurance guy for government contracts, I was very busy, never bored, and often unloved by contractors. They did not have to be perfect, but they did have agreed to, measurable standards to meet. Nobody likes it when “shit don’t work like it’s supposed to.”

As I write this, I’m sitting in the Tap Room of my local microbrewery sipping an excellent porter. I shall have another. It’s good and reasonably priced, but it’s not perfect. Perfect beer cannot be improved upon.

Perfection, by definition, cannot be made better.

Rarely do I say the word or identify something as perfect. When I do, I’m lying. Perfect works best when it’s said sarcastically and implying the exact opposite: FUBAR (definition below).

My strained relationship with the word perfect started with software – Word Perfect. It was not. Later, the word and the connotation it held annoyed me. Years ago, I decided that perfection was not a realistic or achievable standard. I developed a skeptical dislike for the word. When I heard someone say progress, not perfection, I liked that. Who does not want things to improve?

As part of my prep to write about this, I watched a couple of TED talks that only served to piss me off. With apologies to all her fans, Elizabeth Gilbert has a talent for making me want to bang my head on the nearest wall. Her following is vastly larger than mine, but I still think she’s out there. I like and admire her, but I strongly disagree on many levels with her views on creativity and writing. She makes me feel guilty, and I’m not sure why.

The other TED talk was by a man named Jon Bowers. Jon was (I assume he is) the lead on UPS training. Indeed, he does good work and as a professional trainer myself, I can relate to the challenges his company faces. The title of his talk was, We should aim for perfection – and stop fearing failure.

I interpret that title as, Attempt the impossible and guarantee failure. While Bowers gave many truthful and accurate statistical examples where high standards are critical, he ruined it when he implied that for us to not accept his position equated to accepting lower standards. He is wrong. I agree that excessive fear of failure prevents much good from happening. But, it is also motivation to succeed.

I think we need to set high, achievable standards commensurate with risk. My training background was in aviation. Our stated standard was in the 80 to 85 percentage area. Yet, our trainees (pilots) normally performed in the high 90s, many at the 100% level. Aviation is one of many human, high-risk endeavors labeled inherently dangerous. Fly safe and thank training.

For years the response to many statements (esp. by Brits) was “brilliant.” Another word where sarcasm works better than reality while good or excellent would suffice. But, when I answer a question and the response is “perfect,” I want to ask, “how so?”; or to simply say, “No. It is not perfect. It simply is.” And, thank you, but it’s also not brilliant.

I was on the phone with an otherwise charming and competent millennial when she asked for my address and phone number as part of a business transaction. After I told her my address, she responded with “perfect.” Her reaction to my phone number was again, “perfect.” If my address was One Penny Lane, Liverpool, it would be cool or, in a stretch, excellent. Yet, still not perfect. Same for a phone number of three sixes followed by the digits one through seven. Yet, the young lady declared my responses to every one of her questions perfect.

A friend asked if I was available to meetup next Thursday. When I responded “for lunch at noon” she could have said okay, or see you then, or great. But she said, “perfect.” I assume all times before noon would have been satisfactory and later would have been acceptable. But noon was fucking perfection without peer.

My friend, Jack, once described wine to me as drinkable. If you have ever tasted undrinkable wine, you know exactly what he meant. Jack served mighty fine wine — not perfect, but perfectly drinkable.

When people ask me about something and I answer with good, fine, or (god forbid) okay, it’s common for them to follow by asking me what was wrong or what I didn’t like. Perfect.

Look both ways crossing streets.
The perfectly trained UPS driver may not be having a perfect day.
Mind the gap lest you fall and ruin an otherwise perfect trip.

Note: FUBAR is an acronym for fucked up beyond all reason.

 

Judge Judy – about to explain law

Poetry (or is it?)

Is This the Real Thing?

It’s everything what’s bad
You want me to believe
that man is god? Seriously?
Reality is human nature. Dark.
The only safe way to be is against,
against everybody and everything.

‘tis neither fit nor rot.

Is this the reality of real life?
Or is it all just a dream of
A dream within a fantasy?
Open your eyes.
Look to the skies.
Look around and see reality.

Truth is for all to see.

Every form of refuge has its price
Reality is our god. The only god,
The god of universe, birth, death
no tribute or prayer brings change.
We all have dues to pay, the rich,
the poor, the good, the bad.

We deem it reality.

Save the worthless praise. Just be.
Find the truth in this reality
without offer or any sacrifice.
See the light but thank the darkness.
Be the proof of true existence.
Seek out verity in what is.

Truth is Reality!

Bill Reynolds © 7/2/2018

Look both ways to see the light. Mind the darkness of the gaps.

“Does God Answer Prayers?”

Not the gap I had in mind.

Last Monday evening, I attended a community forum panel discussion about “does god answer prayers?” I wanted to hear what the atheist member of the panel said.

Panel members included:
1. A retired Presbyterian minister,
2. A female Jewish Rabbi (this lady),
3. A Messianic Jewish Rabbi/pastor (this guy), [Note: Messianic Jews are Jews for Jesus and are not recognized as Jewish.]
4. I didn’t hear the word atheist said all evening, even during the moderator’s intro of him. He authored this.

I would say the panel was a representation of the religious minorities in this community. Most people in this county are Nones in that they claim no specific religious group, but few are atheist. Other than that, most others are Christians: Evangelical Protestants, Catholics, and Baptists.

The atheist, retired minister, and moderator were all board members of the Community Forum which sponsored the event. That explains the atheist’s presence on the panel.

It would have been a better panel if it had included a Baptist or Evangelical Protestant, a Catholic, and no atheist or ‘Jews for Jesus’. I think that would have better represented the religious demographic of the overall community.

The three panel members who were religious ministers agreed that god answers prayers. If there were 100 of them, they would all have agreed.

However, having an atheist on the panel may have contributed to attendance. He was why I attended. People enjoy controversy, which was obviously avoided at the cost of quality.

The moderator said that this was the best-attended of the forums thus far. I counted slightly more than 100 attendees.

I felt disappointed with the atheist, an older PhD dude, who said, “God does not answer prayers.” Said like that left too much wiggle room for existence. Gods don’t answer prayers if gods don’t exist.

He offered empirical research evidence, which he said proved that god did not answer prayers. He did a good job of staying on topic and not offending anyone, but that should not have been his goal. The research evidence he mentioned proved nothing, much less the negative (not answer prayer) he proposed.

The Messianic Jewish Rabbi spoke in typical bible-belt, fundamentalist rhetoric. At one point he said that he would make a poor Southern Baptist because he occasionally enjoyed alcohol. I thought that if he removed his little cap and told me he was Baptist, I’d believe him.

His evidence of god answering prayers was that someone with stage IV cancer was cured with prayer. The pastor did not give a name or say if any medical intervention occurred. He also cited Chick-fil-A as further evidence. He said it was the top selling fast food business despite being closed on Sundays, but he was wrong.

The eat mor chickin business is currently reported as 7th in the fast food store sales behind Micky D’s (#1), Starbucks (#2) and four others. While Starbucks is a lightning rod for religious criticism of everything from their holiday coffee cup designs to the occasional idiot store manager, they are doing ok. Number 8 is currently Dunkin’ Donuts, another coffee empire.

The Presbyterian could cure insomnia. He said the amount of faith one has contributes to the likelihood of a prayer being answered. This idea of needing strong faith to be good enough for god translates to god plays favorites.

When the real Jewish Rabbi and Cantor stood up, she did the best of the four, despite (or maybe because of) frequently wandering off topic. Once she had to ask the moderator to repeat the question she was answering.

She wore a stiff, black, sequined, kippah or yarmulke that stood-out in her abundant bright blonde hair. Her floor length, straight, black dress with long sleeves was attractive, but in good taste and appropriate for a person of her position.

Bar none and by far, she was the most attractive Rabbi, or Cantor, I have ever seen. Her focus was more on style of, and reason for, prayer. She did not present arguments about whether god answers prayers, which she seemed to take for granted.

She favored chanting or singing of prayers in the original language (Hebrew in her case), a proposal I support over the random, impromptu wanderings of many long-winded lapses of reality proffered by Evangelicals and Baptists.

While there was potential for interest, the vanilla, shallow, and predictable comments of panel members were disappointing. Maybe the community forum should pray for enlightenment and better clerical participation in similar future endeavors.

I don’t know what he is praying for, but I want the answer to be Hell No.

Look both ways and reflect on what is real. Mind the gap.

The Key FOB Story

 

Mary’s — Colorado City, TX

 

After leaving Mary’s Country Café in Colorado City, I was feeling bloated and wondering how and why I packed away so much of their chicken-fried steak. I was driving down a depressingly hot and joyless west-Texas country road, 20 miles east of nowhere special.

 

Chicken Fried Steak, gravy & extra, fries, Texas toast, green stuff

 

The desperation of the settlers who first moved there is unimaginable for me. They didn’t even have a/c in movie houses, movies at all, or a/c for that matter. The middle of nowhere may be overused and trite, but this place is there.

My excuse for being here is that I married a native. Her family and what is now our tribe live around there. I reckon they don’t know any better, but I’m here cuz they are.

After a while, I spied one of them plug-in jobs on the roadside. Casually leaning against the car was a hot (in both senses of the word) little number lookin’ plumb distressed in her flipflops, cutoff jeans, and a sweaty, thin tanktop. She was on the highway side with her arms folded looking at her cell phone like she might get service. Not out there.

 

See the blue dot on curve, right side?

 

I forget which rule it is that says no honorable man shall pass such a sight without rendering aid, so I just pulled on over after slowly driving past. It was a hot dry day, too miserable to be stuck in a fix of any kind. But that sweet little pumpkin-head was dressed fer it.

“Howdy ma’am. I’m Billy Don Russel from o’r West Bumbfuch. Y’all doin’ a’right?

That little girl acted plumb excited to see me. “Oh-Em-Gee. Thank God!”

Did I mention she had long black hair pulled tight into a quarterhorse tail that was sitckin’ out the back of a ball cap, like they do? The cap said Daisy Riding Service.

I managed to keep my eyes on hers and my eyebrows down. Men in them parts follow a strict role or can’t be trusted. And women like that are usually packin’ small caliber. Texas, ya know. We got critters, some are human.

With a neighborly smile I asked her, “What seems to be the problem, young lady?”

She held up her key FOB and screeched through her bright white teeth for the world to hear, “My clicker thingy won’t unlock my effing door and I can’t get into my gee-dee car.”

“Would you like me to try, Ma’am?”

She handed me her keys. I quickly glanced around expecting to see if a candid cell phone was recording all this. First, I tried to open the door with the handle. Sure ‘nuff, locked. Pressing the unlock button changed nothing.

I looked closer at the metal portion of the key and then back at the distressed damsel. She gave me a “told ya’” expression and shrugged her hot, sweaty, bare shoulders.

I gently slid the metal portion of the key into the little hole near the door handle and twisted slightly to an audible click. Handing her the key, I suggested she drive off first to be sure everything else is ok. She got in her car and rolled down the window.

“Thanks, Grandpa. I’m so embarrassed.”

“You drive careful, young lady. It’s dangerous country out there.”

“Please don’t tell Mom or Dad. They already think I’m a brainless twit. Tell Gramma I said hi.”

I managed to get back into my pickup with a straight face. My wife asked, “What was that all about?”

I looked at her and smiled, “Jessica said to tell you howdy. I’ll tell ya the rest over dinner, but she was having some technological issues.”

“She didn’t know how to use it?”

“More like didn’t know how not to use it.”

 

Look both ways on them deserted roads.
Tumble weed and roadrunners will get cha if ya don’t mind the gaps.