The 9 1/2 Most Profound Thoughts Anyone Ever Had

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The 9 1/2 Most Profound Thoughts Anyone Ever Had

1.  When eating a doughnut, meditate upon the significance of the hole, for without it, you’re merely munching on a patty of cooked dough.

2.  Always begin the day by awakening—otherwise the night will just keep extending itself.

3.  When applauding, you get a better sound by using both hands.

4.  You can stand alone in a forest and tell a joke, but you’ll never know whether it’s funny.

5.  It is better to pay the power bill than to curse the darkness.

6.  Tomorrow is the day after the first day of the rest of your life.

7.  Most things work fine till they break down.

8.  If you misplace your comparative analysis skills, you will become disallusioned.

9.  Try never to be more than one place at once.

10. The secret of life is like an ice floe. You never—wait, I don’t have that one ready yet


The Roar of the Motor, the Thrill of the Hills

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I’m off my rocker today, and I’d like to stay off it as long as I can. The ol’ rocking chair don’t got me yet, but sometimes I can feel it beckoning.

Looking in the mirror is kind of awkward to a geezer my age, since how I feel deep down inside doesn’t in any way match up with the image I see reflected back at me.

In memory ever re-booted, I’m still a teenager back in the village of Tuscaloosa, way back before you were even thought of.

Back then, the roads are two-lane blacktops, the terms fast food and convenience store don’t exist, a screened-in porch is the only air conditioning in most homes, movie theatres pour real butter on their popcorn, and any kind of wheels you can conjure up provide the best and cheapest thrills imaginable. My elders weave tales of their teen years—all about how the only way to get a reluctant date to put  her arms around you is to take her for a spin over Thrill Hills.

That gets my attention: How to get a pretty girl to hug you.

Back Then, Thrill Hills is the stretch of winding road between my home on 15th Street and the east side of town, near the veterans’ hospital. The hills are closely packed, and if you speed up while cresting one of them, you’ll begin a descent so fast that a near-weightless state occurs. The stomach turns, the roller coaster you momentarily pilot almost leaves the asphalt, and your companion screams, grabs hold of you and hangs on for dear life, whether or not she feels so inclined.

I think about Thrill Hills for years until, one day, I get a chance to propel myself and a date along the route. It works. If lucky, it might occasionally lead to some smooching, but that mostly is just in my mind, not hers.

Many decades later, I drive to Tuscaloosa to find the Thrill Hills stretch. It exists no more. The hills have been “developed” and smoothed down and multi-paved, so that there is no real leap of death. The Thrill is gone. What do teenagers do for cheap thrills nowadays? I don’t want to know, thank you.

One other hill in Tuscaloosa has disappeared, too. Let me describe it to you.

Back then, Downtown Tuscaloosa and the City of Northport are connected by a giant Erector Set of a metal bridge spanning the meandering Black Warrior River. Going over that bridge from T Town to Northport, you get ready to descend a long hill. These days, it, too, has been smoothed down, the bridge demolished, and a streamlined multi-laned overpass replaces it. But back then, making the return trek from river-level Northport back into the City is a real challenge.

Late at night, having finished my midnight shift as a teenaged announcer at WNPT radio on the north bank of the Black Warrior, I board my Cushman motor scooter and prepare to ascend that long, long hill. The Cushman is friction-taped together, and the motor barely runs. But, as my sole source of transportation, it is a thing of beauty. Only problem is, it takes about a mile to work up enough speed to get to the top of that hill. Luckily, it being the wee hours of the morning, there is little traffic, so I head north for a stretch, u-turn toward the bridge, and accelerate to the limits of the motor. I usually make it on the first try, but now and then, if forced to stop or slow down, the process has to be repeated.

So, most of my teenage thrills are free…the thrill of soaring over hills with a girl my age, the thrill of conquering the Northport hill several times a week, and the additional motor scooter thrill that only motorscooterists know about. Asking someone you just met to take a ride with you cuts through weeks of excruciation dating. Do you know a quicker way to get a girl to wrap herself around you, squeeze tight, and yell, “Faster! Faster!” ?


Nor do I



Far ago and long away…

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Far ago and long away, I dreamed a dream one day.

The time is far, far ago, but it is ever fresh in memory. Some of the best times of my life were spent in Peterson, a village between Tuscaloosa and Brookwood, a stripped-out mining town. In Peterson resided my maternal grandparents, as well as various aunts and uncles and cousins, and back then, some sixty years ago, all us kinfolk liked nothing better than to converge and reunite and party together on a Sunday afternoon.

Now this may not be you young’uns’ idea of partying, but it was everything we knew to do, in order to have a good time. The time is long away, but here’s what a McGee reunion felt like:

Dried butterbeans under a tree in Uncle Pat and Aunt Elizabeth McGee’s sideyard. No, we didn’t eat the butterbeans except one time, and once was enough. What my uncles did with the butterbeans was use them instead of chips, to sit on the ground and play poker. The summertime buggy and humid heat was barely noticed, because the Games and the Slow Roast were the thing. Two games went on simultaneously. The poker game—in which all the winner got was a bunch of dried beans—and the baseball game on the radio. You see, back then, nobody had portable radios, so the Big Game emanated from one of the old cars in the family. One uncle would pull his car near the Game and leave the door open so we could all hear the big plays, the excited crowd, the crisp snap of wood against hide, the terse shouts of the umpire.

The Slow Roast was right next to the game—big hunks of pork turning over an open-pit fire, smoking up the woods and forcing all humans who care about eating to salivate involuntarily. Cousin Patricia reports six decades later that, after we’ve eaten, Uncle Buddy reveals that it is goat meat—not pork.

This was Division of Labor stuff back then. The men were in charge of staying up all night, tending the cooking, biding their time with poker and baseball, and trying their best to set sedentary examples of good behavior for dozens of run-amok kids. The women did everything else.

Mind you, this was the post-economic-depression era when all men worked hard at hard-time jobs, when Sundays with family were their only respite, when for a few hours they could pretend to be hotshot gamblers and master chefs and wizened tribal chiefs.

Meanwhile, cousins and their playmates were free to roam wild in Uncle Pat’s woods, chase after and be chased by spiders and snakes, attract redbugs and ticks, laugh out loud and wrestle, play their own baseball game in the nearby cornfield, pretend to be feral Tarzans and Noble Savages and in general let out all that energy that had been pent up during the week.

The women would cook and wrangle kids and socialize and gossip and knit and darn and set tables and wash dishes and collect detritus that the men would later dispose of. Both men and women would share in the arduous task of making gallons of ice cream on the spot, emptying ice and salt into buckets while older kids took turns cranking and cranking and cranking, their only motivation being the sweet taste of fresh peaches absorbed into the creamiest ice cream you could ever imagine.

Everybody knew their responsibilities in those days, nobody hid from helping out, everyone came to each other’s rescue when a bruise appeared, all accidents were tended to in gentle good humor, all conflicts were mediated and peacefully settled, all passions channeled for the good of the one-day commune.

At the end of the long day, each family would sit wearily and happily in automobiles waiting while relatives leaned and said 45-minute lingering goodbyes to each other. Nobody wanted to leave the scene, everybody had to, and, regardless of how tired and spent and scraped and bloated and bugbit each of us was, we couldn’t help but think about the next reunion when we’d do it all again.

Yep, far ago and long away, I dreamed a dream, a dream that still seems true when I look at the results of those strong and handsome adult relatives who set such powerful examples for us kids. The truth is in watching those kids today, now elderly kinfolk with their own kids and kids of kids, each year once more holding a reunion and passing down the generations a rich appreciation of tribe and family and genetics and mutual support.

It’s all still there, and the next reunion is next year, and I’m salivating already



Having an Epitome on the Way to Damascus

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What it is, is words.

The old saw that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is merely an ironic way of saying the opposite of the truth.

You and I know that words can hurt, maim, destroy, brand, make reality turn on a dime.

A broken bone is nothing compared to a destructive or uncaring word. The bone may heal, but we humans have trouble disremembering what people say to us or about us.

The good news is, healing words have an even more powerful effect—it’s just that we don’t use them enough, we don’t allow them access to our better judgement.

A kindly word, a gentle word, a caring word, an uplifting word—each can change the rotation of the earth when sincerely applied.

Every day, the battle of words goes on around us. It’s important to note the nutty and incorrect usages, too, since this helps us cover over and dismiss those nasty and unkind words swirling about. For instance, a television network interviewer didn’t even notice when his interviewee said, “My life changed back then. I had an epitome.” See what I mean?
It’s been so long since I’ve had an epitome that I’m tempted to travel to Damascus just to see if one jumps out at me. Wonder how the roads are holding up there?
If you hear enough colorful usages, enough disturbing misuses, you’ll just about give up obsessing over the painful words tossed at you. Look for the pony. Indeed, look for the purple five-legged pony—he’ll be much more entertaining and distracting.
Styx and scones may break my attention span, but curds will never hurt me.
In my little home and at my shop, there are dictionaries everywhere—unabridged, collegiate, condensed, enormous, pocket-sized, leatherbound, paperbacked, frazzled, pristine…and the remarkable thing about them is that they all provide different definitions of the same words. If you don’t like a definition, just toss that one aside and look for one that suits you. It’s your life. You’re in charge–even if you would rather not be