Saturday, June 9, 2018

Kindness in the Countryside

Exerpt from Address book for
the Royal Prussian Principality of
Ansbach and Bayreuth
Suppose for a moment you are wandering through Bavaria in the early 1600s, poor, tired and hungry.  Then by happenstance, you stumble across a book lying in the trail as if placed there by providence, or the good Lord in Heaven.  Just as you reach for this leather-bound treasure, the wind whips the pages and presents you with page 348.

Of course, 348 has always been your lucky number anyway, so imagine your excitement as you realize the town just a few kilometers up the trail is Wettelsheim, listed right there on 348. 

Being a smarter than average Bavarian, you know how to read, so you know that the header on page 348 - Geiftlichfeit auf  dem Lande - reads Kindness in the Countryside.   Now, if you can just find the home or place of business of this Pfr. Hr. Georg Ulbecht Kepner, you know you shall have bread, wine and shelter this evening.

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into fantasy-land.  I certainly did.  See, Georg Ulbecht Kepner is my 10th great grandfather.  But, as an enthusiast of my heritage, today I learned something new.  Grandfather Georg from the old country, Herr. Georg Ulbecht Kepner, was actually Pfr. Hr. Kepler; Reverend Herr Kepler!

My father was a man who loved God and eschewed evil, as was his father and his father… and most assuredly his father also!  I have always known I came from a long line of Godly men, pillars of the community and servants of the church.  But little did I know how deep that heritage runs.  My 10th great grandfather was known throughout Bavaria as the man to seek out for a kindness.  Of course, you probably wouldn’t find him at his house.  He was more likely out doing his Father’s business.

So must I.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Blooming Conundrum

It has been said there are two kinds of people; those who divide people into two kinds of people and those who don’t.  The guy that said that was obviously the first kind.  I’m probably more the second, as you will soon see.

It was actually two cardiologists who developed the theory that there are two types of personalities; Types A and B.   They observed that folks who are more competitive, outgoing, ambitious, impatient or aggressive are Type A.  Of course, the more mellow of the species are Type B.  They surmised that Type A’s have a greater chance of developing coronary heart disease, while B’s are generally more satisfied with life. 

Personally, I find the theory particularly humorous that the inhabitants of this entire planet could be summed up by only two types.  At the time I write this, the current world population is a bit over seven billion five hundred thirty-three million, and counting.  I would submit to you that indeed there are a bit over seven billion five hundred thirty-three million types of people!

I suppose, technically speaking, we can create categories; be it home town, hair color or handedness.   But, my point is this – Don’t lose who you are, trying to be what “they” think you should be!  You are one of a kind – uniquely designed and with a path all your own.  So, discover the exceptional gifts you have been graced with, and strive to develop those.  Grow into who you are meant to be, and see if you aren’t a bit more satisfied with life.  And I’m betting you’ll live longer too!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nicknames

Got any interesting nicknames?  I’ve been called Red. I’ve been called Lefty.  A whole group of folks used to refer to me as Cam.  Back when I was 16 I was even called Truck for one evening.  But that’s a different story for a different day.

I’ve always wanted to share with you my most endearing nickname.  But until recently I could not, because I couldn’t figure out how to spell it.   Let me explain.

When I was three years old my family moved to Perryton, Texas for dad’s work.  Dad worked with a group of Hispanic men, and they all fondly called him by a nickname.  Dad liked the name, and passed it down to me.  I’ve always wanted to use it as a screen name, or have it stamped on the back of a belt, or something to honor dad.  But I just didn’t know how it was spelled.  The name was pronounced KAW – ROWL. 

I loved to hear dad walk in the house after work and yell, “Where’s KAW-ROWL?”  But what did that mean?  And how was it spelled?  Dad said they told him it meant Red in Spanish.  But I took Spanish in 5th grade, and I knew the Spanish word for Red is Rojo.  So, the mystery lingered.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was visiting with a relative of a relative who is Hispanic.  I asked him if he knew what KAW-ROWL meant.  He gave me a puzzled look, so I told him the back story.  “OH”, he exclaimed.  “You mean Colorado!”

Colorado?  Isn’t that a state?  Well, yes.  But it is also another word for red, in Spanish.  Of course, you have to put a heavy roll on the R (and apparently, the D is silent?)  After half a century, Mystery Solved!


So, if you like, you have my permission to call me Colorado.  But if you do, please pronounce it KAW-ROWL, with a heavy roll on the R.  And up in Heaven, Dad will be grinning!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Election 2016 - An Exercise in Faith?

Wasn’t it Al Capone who said, “Vote early, and often”?  That’s the Chicago way!  And we’ve all heard reports of people voting from their graves in Colorado and California.  

Then there’s the famous quote ascribed to Communist leader Joseph Stalin that goes something like this; “Those who cast the votes decide nothing.  Those who count the votes decide everything.”   It’s enough to make a soul cynical on the whole idea of democracy.  To echo that age-old sentiment, “Does my vote really count?” 

The answer to that question may very well rest with how the votes are counted.  In days of old people marked their choice on a piece of paper and stuffed it in a ballet box (perhaps early and often).  And we stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to learn the results.  

However, in the Information Age that is the 21st century we have optical scan devices and direct recording electronic (DRE) systems with touch screens.  These methods were designed to count the ever growing number of voters in a quick and organized fashion.  Thank goodness for technology!

But then Princeton professor Andrew Appel showed us how he can hack an electronic voting machine in 7 minutes, skewing the results at his whim.  His message was simple – the machines we use to vote are less secure than the smartphones we carry in our pockets.  And our angst grew deeper.  So now we swallow hard and head to the polls, trusting the powers that be to count the votes as closely as possible, and perhaps with the help of divine providence get the candidate we actually chose.  At least that’s what I’m doing.

So, remember to vote on Tuesday, November 8th.  Hey, it’s a civic responsibility, but also a privilege to have your say!  Just watch out for hanging chads!

Graphic designed by Freepik

Friday, February 26, 2016

BEST LOSERS

Its Oscar season, and everywhere you turn someone is listing their top 10 movies of all time.  Of course, most of those lists contain the obvious; The Godfather, Braveheart, Forrest Gump, Rocky, Sound of Music – Oscar winners, one and all.

So I decided to list my top ten favorite movies that did NOT win Best Picture.  And here they are, in chronological order:



TOP TEN LOSERS

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939 – lost to Gone With the Wind)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940 – lost to Rebecca)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946 – Lost to The Best Years of Our Lives)

High Noon (1952 – Lost to The Greatest Show on Earth)

The Ten Commandments (1956 – Lost to Around the World in 80 Days)

12 Angry Men (1957 – Lost to The Bridge on the River Kwai)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969 – Lost to Midnight Cowboy)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994 – Lost to Forrest Gump)

Saving Private Ryan (1998 – Lost to Shakespeare in Love)

The Green Mile (1999 – Lost to American Beauty)



As a closing thought, here are (in my opinion) the worst travesties in Academy history:

WORST TRAVESTIES

That Wizard of Oz had to compete with Gone With the Wind;

That Mr. Smith goes to Washington had to compete with Gone With the Wind;

That Star Wars (or anything else) was beaten by Annie Hall;

That a western hasn’t won Best Picture since Unforgiven, in 1992 (although Braveheart and Gladiator might be considered westerns);

That politics is so prevalent in the movie industry;

That they just don’t make ‘em like they used to!


Shhhhhhh – and pass the popcorn.


 Logo vector designed by Freepik

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

COUNTDOWN

TEN…  
At least that’s what the muffled voice appeared to say.   But through three sets of walls it was hard to even hear – much less understand – the announcement made over the loudspeaker.  And although he had already pressed every button on the control panel, that announcement caused Dave to again punch the button labeled “Alarm”, hoping against hope that someone would answer his plea, or at least recognize his presence in the building.  “I can’t afford to panic,” Dave thought to himself.
Dave never really liked elevators anyway.  Like many people he had a slight touch of claustrophobia.   And although his wasn’t strong enough to keep him out of elevators altogether, it was enough to give him a healthy respect for stairways.  Dave would always claim he took the stairs for health reasons.  He just didn’t clarify that it was for mental health reasons!
NINE…  
Dave knew this structure was slated for demolition.  He knew the date.  He knew the time.  He even knew how many pounds of C-4 would be needed and, ironically, which direction the elevator shaft would fall.  Such knowledge was integral to the man whose job it was to supervise the crew tasked with bringing down this once stately – now foul and crumbling 9 story monstrosity.  But for all the things Dave did know, what he could not comprehend was how he came be trapped inside this elevator… so close to zero hour.
Even when he was a child Dave loved explosives.  On the fourth of July Dave didn’t play with mere firecrackers.  He was an M-80 man!  An M-80, officially described as a pyrotechnic device, is essentially a firecracker on steroids, or at least it was – before it was banned for sale to the general public in 1966.  It contained 50 to 60 times more flash powder than a regular firecracker; enough to take a finger… or a hand.  But Dave lost nary a finger, and he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
EIGHT…  
The fog inside Dave’s brain oddly resembled the cloud of dust he had seen so many times before; moments after he set off the chain of events with the index finger of his right hand.   “Why did I come back into the building?” Dave asked himself, struggling to concentrate.  “I had everything ready; every charge wired and set, every man in his place.  I remember having my finger on the button.  But this isn’t the right button…”
SEVEN…
“This can’t be happening,” Dave whispered.  “Not on one of my jobs.”  Dave prided himself in being known as Mister Blast, the best in the business at his chosen profession of explosion demolition.  But Dave didn’t bestow that moniker upon himself.  For three years running that distinction was made by Demolition Monthly, the trade periodical for those who get to play with explosives for a living.  The most recent award was announced in an article that focused on Dave’s safety record.  That month’s cover graphic was a bandage covered by a big red circle and slash, for in 136 jobs engineered by Dave, there had never been the need for as much as a band-Aid. 
SIX…  
Dave fought to recall why he was where he was.  What could have compelled him to walk back inside this doomed structure?  Was something wrong with one of his charges?  Or perhaps someone spotted something that wasn’t right.  Dave was familiar with the urban legends about homeless people who refused to leave and went down with the ship; so to speak.  To this day folks in Oklahoma City speak of October ’77 and that mysterious outline of a man seen staring out a window of the old Biltmore Hotel – at the very moment of the blast.  Of course, a body was never found.  Those are just made-up stories.  Or are they?
FIVE…
“And why are the lights even on?” Dave wondered.  Cutting the electricity to a structure is one of the first things dealt with by his crew.  We can’t have live wires hanging around, causing sparks and fires – and electrocuting innocent bystanders.  Yet not only are the lights on, but apparently the elevators are working.  Or at least they were a few moments ago.  “But this just can’t be so!” Dave thought to himself.  “Yet here I am…”  
FOUR…  
Realizing his life was now measured in milliseconds; Dave turned and began to claw at the door.  “Must run… No time left…” Dave struggled to concentrate – to execute an escape from this prison of circumstance.  But the door would not budge.  And, even if he had possessed a step-ladder, his fruitless efforts with the door had left him too exhausted to search for a trap door in the ceiling.   “Trap doors should be located in the floor,” he foolishly thought to himself.
But Dave was not willing to give up.  He was no quitter.  He simply had no idea what to try next. And so, totally overwhelmed for the moment, he collapsed to the floor.  And sitting there realizing he was living the last seconds of his life, Dave’s thoughts turned to a different explosion that took place in Oklahoma City.
THREE…
Dave’s job was to blow buildings.  But the buildings he brought down were timeworn; no longer functional, or at least no longer profitable.  And his blasts ultimately resulted in useless eyesores being replaced with beautiful things.  The building Tim McVeigh blew up in Oklahoma City was all-together a different matter.   McVeigh’s bomb was built with the purpose of causing pain and suffering; death and destruction.  And the building it brought down was not nearly ready to give up the ghost. 
In the midst of the suffering and loss of life, everyone in Oklahoma – yea, everyone in America took personal offense.  If life had left us any semblance of security, the events of April 17, 1995 dealt a death blow to that naivety.  And we were angry!  Yet Dave’s anger ran even deeper, if that is possible.  See, he considered it a personal affront; as if the man was purposely mocking his chosen profession.  “We are not killers!” Dave screamed back at his thoughts.
TWO…  
Dave’s recollection of the Oklahoma City attack, if not as clear, was more personal than most.   See, at 9:01 AM on that fateful morning Dave was walking down the sidewalk just one block from the front door of the Murrah Building when McVeigh pulled up and parked the Ryder Truck.  And Dave’s life was changed forever.
ONE…   
Dave’s injuries from the explosion on that April morning were not life threatening, but they were life changing.  He would lose the use of his left arm, and his right eye.  And that impish grin he used to try so hard to hide no longer needed to be disguised, as the disfigurement of his face permanently stole away his smile. 
CONTACT!  
And then Dave heard that word he had dreaded for the last ten agonizing seconds.  And while he grimaced in fear and anguish with what would surely be his last breath, viewers all across America watched the historic and fateful blast on their televisions. 
“Dave, are you OK?” he heard the voice asking.  Dave recognized the voice as that of Roger Taliaferro, his second in command and right-hand man.  At the sound of Roger’s voice Dave realized two things; first, that he was not dead – or else that was really the voice of an angel.  But Dave had been friends with him long enough to know Roger was definitely no angel!  
The second thing he realized was that he needed to respond, lest his inquisitor believe him dead and walk away.  “What happened?” Dave asked.
“Geez Dave, we all thought you weren’t gonna make it,” Roger responded.  “You were injured in an explosion.”
“I know, Roger.  I heard the countdown over the loudspeaker. I was trapped in an elevator,” Dave answered.  “Who gave the command?  Who pushed the button?”
“Countdown?  What Countdown?  What loudspeaker?” Roger asked with a look of concern and confusion.  “And what elevator?   You weren’t in an elevator.  You were walking down the sidewalk.”
But Dave did hear a countdown.  “I know I heard a countdown,” Dave demanded.  “It was muffled but I know it was a countdown to an explosion, because I heard the explosion.”
Right then Roger noticed what was playing on the television.  The date was May 23rd, 1995, just over a month since 168 lives were taken and over 680, including Dave, had been injured by the Murrah Building bombing.  And today was the day the remains of the building were to be leveled – by explosion; a job neither Dave nor Roger would have relished.    
The human mind is a complex organism.  It thinks and schemes.  It reckons and dreams.  And sometimes those dreams interweave themselves with reality.  Slowly the realization came upon Dave that he had not been trapped in the elevator of a doomed building, but was resting in his hospital bed; the bed he had occupied for over a month now. 
Dave prayed a prayer of thanks that day in May.  He thanked God it was just a dream.  He thanked God the bombing of 1995 would teach mankind that violence holds no answer to the troubles that plague us.   And he thanked God he survived the bombing to end all bombings, for surely never again would anyone ever hate deeply enough to destroy a whole building!

Surely!


Photo of the Murrah Building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - in the public domain.