Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day, Bear-Huntin' Buddy

"Oh, Mister Mister Johnny Rebek
how could you be so mean?
I told you you'd be sorry for inventing that machine.
Now all the neighbor's cats and dogs will
nevermore be seen -
They'll all be ground to sausages in
Johnny Rebek's machine."

That was the chorus from just one of the songs my dad would often sing while driving, camping, or whenever.
There were a few others - I don't really know if these are the titles or just the first lines:

"The Bear Went Over the Mountain"
"The Dummy Line"
"Two Little Fishes" (who "swam and swam all over the dam")
"Beautiful, Beautiful Texas"
"Abilene, Oh Abilene"
"We're All Goin' Down to Santa Fe Town"
"I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts"
And, believe it or not, more than once I remember him singing "We're Off to See the Wizard"

My Dad and I had many categories of buddyship:

Bear-Huntin' Buddy
Priesthood Buddy
Swimming Buddy
Camping Buddy
et al

"Bear-Hunting Buddy" was more of a fanciful yarn he often spun than a label for an activity in which we often engaged. It was quite an entertaining tale. The plan as he described it was to get ourselves outfitted and go up into "the mountains" with some "friendly Indians" as guides. I remember being highly excited, fascinated, and maybe a little frightened at the thought of traveling with Indians, friendly though they be. I kept thinking of those mesmerising, stoic portaits of Geronimo. We never did go bear hunting, or so I thought. Dad later pointed out that we had actually hunted bear on the previous outing to Malouf Lake. Yes, we had been, in fact, walking the shores and hills with our 22s. We just hadn't actually seen or killed a bear. I'd have to say that that was when I first learned about loopholes.

Dad and Humor:

Ask me sometime about Ernie Dawson's "trick knee," or Mom about "Binckley."
Dad would often rib me about the Star Wars movies and characters.
"What's that Star Wars movie called - The Lost Ark Fights Back?"
He used to teasingly call R2-D2 "WD40," and referred to Yoda as "Yuck."
Another thing he used to tell me was that on the old Batman tv series, the character of Robin was played by a girl.
"No he's NOOOOOOT!" was my counter-argument. I didn't have a problem with girl tv characters - I found Batgirl to be quite fetching. Messing with Robin was more than I could handle, though.

Sometime in the 80's I began to wonder how long my Dad would be around. It was several years later, however, before I'd be confronted directly with the concept of Dad's mortality. It was when we went to meet Mom and Dad at the airport upon their homecoming from Panama. Dad was not doing well.
His moment of passing was as peaceful as could be. The thing which I had wondered and worried about back in the 80's had come and gone. But, the really hard thing had been seeing him in the state he was in at the airport back in '97, and the feeling that he had at that moment begun to leave us.

Dad and Mom spent his last few years shuttling back and forth between Texas and AZ.
During their visits here, despite failing health and being unable to partake of many of the simple pleasures which he had once enjoyed, there were times when the old self would re-surface. I remember one day He and Mom and I drove over to Trader Joe's - a market in Tempe which has lots of interesting, unusual foods. We each made one or two selections and then on the way home we enjoyed ourselves sampling them and commenting on them.
Summer of '2001 Mom, Dad and I went to the Cedar City Shakespeare festival. We saw several productions including one of Dad's favorites - "Pirates of Penzance." Dad laughed and cheered at General Stanley, The Pirate King, and a surprise cameo by Queen Victoria herself. On another AZ visit we (again Mom, Dad and I) went to the movies and saw "O' Brother, Where Art Thou." Dad really got a kick out of it. He was particularly tickled by the character "Delmar," and chuckled all the way home.

Whenever I think of Dad in the Spirit World - I envision him with Mama & Daddy T, Bessie & Art, Jessie & Gack, Sadie & Odie, Bud, Babe, Granny & Gramps, Eblen Malouf, Ted, and every dog he ever knew.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Prince the Philosopher, Love, and Tolerance

I got an email a few days ago from Prince Rahman, a friend back in Texas. He and I met through a mutual friend named Daniel Devereaux (another Texas bud) when we were trying to "start a band" back in high school. But that's for another blog. When I can dig up a photo of us, then I'll talk about it.
Was it Will Rogers who said, "I never met a person I didn't like"? Well, whoever said it first, Prince is saying it now. He likes everybody and is an all around happy dude. I recall before one of our band's performances (at a church dance, btw) there was a pretty good spread layed out. Well, while Daniel and I were ashen-faced and on the verge of vomiting from nerves, Prince was surveying the snack table and saying, "Oooh, Nachos!" He dug right in, taking joy from the moment -and not a bit nervous. Prince is a philosopher who practices brotherly kindness and acceptance.

The email from Prince contained a great quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Life and Love

A life has meaning and value only in so far as love is in it. Furthermore, life is nothing, nothing at all, and has not meaning and value if love is not in it. The worth of a life is measured by how much love it has. Everything else is nothing, nothing at all, totally indifferent, totally unimportant. All the bad things and all the good things about life are unimportant. We are only asked about one thing - whether we have love or not....Life is really not worth living at all without love. However, the whole meaning of life is fulfilled where there is love. In comparison to this love everything else pales into insignificance. What do happiness and unhappiness mean, what do wealth and poverty mean, what does life and death mean where people live in love? They do not know. They do not differentiate. They only know that the sole purpose of happiness as well as unhappiness, poverty as well as wealth, honor as well as disgrace, living at home or abroad, living and dying is to love all the more strongly, purely, fully. It is the one thing beyond all distinctions, before all distinctions, in all distinctions. "Love is as strong as death" (Song of Songs 8:6).

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer - A Testament to Freedom 241

I replied to Prince's email by sharing some thought's I've had for awhile about:

Love vs. Tolerance

I recall thinking about the word "tolerance" when it became widely described as an attitude we should all endeavor to achieve. And don't get me wrong, 'cause I'm not knocking it - it's important and most definitely preferable to "intolerance." It just ends up at the end of the day sounding...well, inadequate. It's not going to be enough. I "tolerate" yappy little dogs. I "tolerate" Packer fans and people who like Celine Dion. Tolerating someone really doesn't sound like you're ready to have your soul moved with charity towards them, and sincerely appreciate them. It just sounds like you're prepared to be in the same room without punching them.
It's like being in a car halfway up a hill. The parking brake is on, and that's good because you're not rolling back down the hill, but neither are you progressing towards the peak. Love is what will help get us there.

To illustrate my point, here are some altered song titles/quotes:

"She Tolerates You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah"
"All You Need is Tolerance."
"Tolerate thy neighbor as thyself"
"Tolerate Me Tender"
"Addicted to Tolerance"

Ok, you get the idea. I know that love and tolerance are not at cross-purposes. Tolerance is the first step, and a good one. But take another. And another.

Love is something we all need, and something we all need to give. And yes, sometimes it isn't easy - which is why we humans need to practice it.

On a trivial note, I learned how to play 'Don't Stop Believin' by Journey on my guitar a few days ago. You might ask yourself what that has to do with my previous comments. I really love that song, that's what.

Best wishes to all, and to all a good night