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Archive for August, 2010

“Sunsets. Look for me in a sunset, not in a book” – God

Me: God. Are you on there?
God: Where’d you expect me to be? When you’re omnipresent it’s hard not to be somewhere. Let me tell you, it gets old.
Me: Sorry.
God: There you go again with the sorry business. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got a lot to be sorry about, but my omnipresence is not one of them. You’ll never guess who I was talking to before you called?
Me: I give up.
God: You’re no fun to play with. But I’ll tell you. I was chatting with Lindsay Lohan.
Me: The actress?
God: No, Lindsay Lohan the nuclear physicist.
Me: What did she have to say?
God: That’s for me to know and you to never find out. So where were we?
Me: You were saying how you talk differently to people of different faiths. But how can that be if we all believe in the same God?
God: Did I create you? If I did, I’m the one who has to say he’s sorry.  If you think all people believe in the same God you’re probably someone who thinks he’ll win the Publishers’ Clearing House Sweepstakes. I’m the same me (always was, always is, and always will be. Amen), but I’m not the same me to you people.
Me: Explain.
God: When a Jew talks to me they think I’m Murray Cohen, a haberdasher.  We converse like old friends. We even kibitz a bit. Talking to a Christian is a little more complicated.  When they’re talking to me directly…which doesn’t happen all that much, it’s very serious and academic.
Me: Why don’t Christians talk directly to you?
God: Because they pray to my son. But I understand. It’s the other guy who has a problem with it.
Me: What other guy?
God: He goes by a number of different names: Third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit and the Paraclete. The Ghost name was deemed politically incorrect, and he hates being called the Paraclete because too many people call him the Parakeet. Whatever name he goes by, he seems to get the short end of the divine stick. I mean, how often do you think about him? You probably think more about North Dakota than you do about the Holy Spirit.
Me: You might be right.
God: Might be? Have you forgotten who you’re talking to? I’m always right. The Holy Spirit could benefit from a re-branding effort. New name. New look. Maybe even a catchy tagline. But I digress. Where were we.
Me: We were talking about how different people speak to you differently.
God: I knew what we were talking about. I was just testing you. Bottom line, Jews think of me in Old testament terms, Christians think of me from a Gospel perspective and Muslims see me through the eyes of the Koran. Then you have Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, etc., etc., etc. And if you go way back in time, I answered to hundreds of different names.
Me: What name do you prefer to go by?
God: I am the nameless one. Once you attach a name to me. Once you create me in your own image and likeness, I become something that I’m  not. You people have limited my identity and in doing so you’ve built walls around yourself. It’s not what I had in mind when I set everything in motion.
Me: You mean creation.
God: Don’t get me started on that. All of you took everything I did and twisted it to suit your needs. It hasn’t made me a happy camper. I sometimes think I made a big mistake, not a big bang. But it’s just a theory.
Me: Everything was a mistake?
God: Not everything. Gravity. That wasn’t a mistake. I think that was one of my best ideas ever. Before I came up with gravity it was all chaos. I’d put something down and a second later it was gone. I couldn’t find anything. Planets were bumping into each other.  Moons were literally moon struck. It was a universal mess. But worse than that mess is the way relationships have turned out between you people. You flood me with your petitions. One group wants me to side with them and ‘smote’ their enemies. And with another group it’s the same, but only the ‘smotting’ is different. So you go to war against each other and you invoke my name.  Let me tell you. I don’t play favorites no matter what you thinks was written. Enough of this ‘our holy book is better than your holy book.’ Your books are not set in stone.
Me: What about the sacredness of the text? Didn’t you give us laws to live by?
God: You turned my suggestions into laws. Do you think it really matters to me if you ate a ham sandwich?  Or if you were a Catholic, you ate it on a Friday? You’re killing me.  And right now I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Later.

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What God looks like Monday morning.

A wise man once said (did you ever notice how many wise men said something?): When you talk to God, you’re praying. When God talks to you, you’re crazy.

Well, be that as it may (cliché #1), if most of us were honest we’d have to admit that there have been times when we’ve found ourselves talking to God on the YBR.  I don’t know how many of us would be willing to admit whether or not God has chatted with us on the road to the Emerald City.

So, rather than beat around the bush (cliché #2) I want to place the following conversation with God as evidence in my sanity hearing.  (Our conversation was by cell phone. He’s got a Godberry.)

God: Can you hear me now?
Me; I can hear you. Can you hear me?
God: Sounds like you’re talking from the inside of Joan Rivers’ stomach. So, what’s on your mind?
Me: I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time?
God: Is there ever a good time? If it’s not a plague or natural disaster, it’s the economy and Jay Leno’s sagging ratings.
Me: People have been bringing your name up a lot lately, what with the building of a Mosque at Ground Zero. It’s made me question a few things.
God: Doubt is very good. It keeps you on your toes. But before we get to the issue about the Mosque, let me bring up your file. HT (heaven technology) just installed fibber optics up here in Paradise.
Me: Don’t you mean ‘fiber optics?’
God: If I meant fiber optics, I would have said fiber optics. It’s like when I say further and farther. Unlike you people down there who always screw it up and use further when you mean farther, I don’t make mistakes. Fibber optics is fiber optics to the next level. Now back to your facebook profile…
Me: You use facebook?
God: Is there anything else? I used to use MySpace, but I like the functions of facebook much better. Anyway, your profile is about exciting as a Tums. Hmmmm. It says here you were born in Guly.
Me: I was born in July.
God: Then you got a typo on your page. I didn’t think Guly was a month. Your profile says you’re a Catholic.
Me: Does it matter?
God: Does it matter? Of course it matters. If I’m talking to a Catholic…and Oh my, Me…you’re an Irish Catholic. Now I have to watch everything I say.
Me: Are you telling me you talk to people of different faiths differently?
God: If I had it my way I wouldn’t talk to any of you the way you’ve screwed up everything down there. But a deal is a deal.
Me: What deal are you talking about?
God: Once upon a time I said “I will always be with you.” My bad.
Me: Is being an Irish-Catholic a bad thing?
God: If I have to talk to a Catholic I’d much rather talk to an Italian-Catholic. At least they’re loud and have personality. You people are dull and not much fun to hang around with.
Me: How can you make such a generalization?
God: Does the name James Joyce mean anything to you?
Me: Of course. He was one of the greatest 20th century writers.
God: Two pages into “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man” and I wanted to stick a pitchfork in my eye.
Me: I’m sorry.
God: Of course you’re sorry. You’re an Irish-Catholic and Irish-Catholics are always sorry about everything.
Me: Do you think we can continue our conversation tomorrow or the next day because I’m posting it on my blog and I’ve gone over the optimum word count.
God: If I had worried about word count, the Pentateuch would have been two books instead of five.
Me: Which two books?
God: The first two, but I wouldn’t have called them “Genesis” and “Exodus.” I would have called them “Here Today” and “Gone Tomorrow.” TTYL.

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Sullivan County Community College, where I’m now employed, has a number of different…and unique… roads leading in and out of the college. Because I’m trying to walk two to three miles a day, I’ve experimented with a number of different routes, but until one day last week, I actually never ventured off campus.

Christopher Columbus I’m not. I can get lost in my own backyard, but I had walked the roadways leading out of the college a number of times, so I thought if I followed one exit out to the main road and just walked it until I came to the next entrance to the college, I wouldn’t need a GPS.

So there I am walking and walking and walking…like a stranger in a strange land, when all of a sudden I get this minor panic attack. I had no idea where the hell I was. Unless the college road crew had come and dug up the other entrance to the college, I should have found it.

I decided to stop walking. I turned around and retraced my steps. I had no idea what happened to the other entrance to the college, until…

Until the next day when I decided to exit the college from the road I couldn’t find. Once on the main road I began walking and would you believe after walking for no more than two minutes I began to recognize the area as the spot where I had stopped the day before and turned around.

What a dolt. If I had only walked a little farther the day before, I would have completed my journey.

How often do we do that on the YBR? How many times do we start out with the greatest of intentions hoping to complete something when we panic because we reach what we think it the point of no return. Instead of having faith and instead of walking forward we turn around. We give up.

I think we have to believe in our ability to remain faithful to our intentions. We have to have the courage to go on. We also have to be smart about our journey and listen to our gut and only turn around when our gut tells us to…and even then we have to listen carefully or we might never complete a journey if we give up.

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Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Subway sandwiches or the Subway organization. I’ve been known to frequent Subway, but I can tell you, I never…ever…had a Subway sandwich that looked like the official Subway sandwich pictured above. To be fair, I never had a McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s that came close to looking like the ones you see in their razzamataz television commercials. In truth, most of the fast-food burgers I’ve had looked like they had been run over by a steam roller.

My point? Actually I have two points.

Point one: Why are we so willing to accept fiction for fact? While we all know the burger that’s advertised, the bowl of cereal pictured in a magazine or the Thanksgiving turkey that’s paraded before us in a HD commercial, aren’t the real deal, we shrug our shoulders and say, “what’s the big deal?”  I’ll tell you what the big deal is. It says something about our lives on the YBR. We’re all in on the shenanigans but we say ‘don’t get your knickers in a knot’ or something like that. We can’t see the difference between fact and fiction.

As a result, we use that mindset when it comes to far more important things in life. For example: A leader, be he or she a local one or on the national level, parades around like the fast-food hamburger we see on television, but in reality, is that flattened piece of processed beef on an equally flat bun. And we shrug our shoulders and say ‘what’s the big deal.’

We listen to a politician speak like a professionally photographed burger when in truth what the politician is saying is nothing more than  a mass-produced, run-of-the mill burger. But we still say ‘what’s the big deal.’

The people of Oz were not immune to our modern-day inability to see fiction as fiction and fact as fact. Remember, they wore emerald glasses and paid homage to a Wizard who was a humbug.

Point two: The subwaying of America. What I don’t like about ‘subway’ type sandwiches has to do with the standardization of them. They are all so perfectly measured out. (We call it portion control.) They might be made of quality ingredients, but the lifeblood of them has been removed all in the name of economy.

Our lives are fast becoming subwayized. We are living lives that are portion controlled. We believe that our lives have to be so ordered and measured out, that spontaneity and joy are fast becoming lost aspects of life.

Our schools, with such rigid programs and standardized testing are turning out ‘subway’ sandwiches instead of young people who are awestruck. Our companies are enumerating ‘subway’ job descriptions that are so delineated as to wonder if a real person fits the job description. (I say, bring back the Renaissance man/woman.)

Our corporations are living up to their word origin. Corpus is the Latin word for ‘body’ and that’s all that most corporations are. Bodies. Bodies without souls.

“What’s the big deal?” I fear the current generation of young people are not being encouraged to be inventive, creative and spirit-filled. They’re becoming Subway sandwiches.

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August 17, 1974

Although Dorothy did have her traveling companions (and Toto, too) on the YBR, she traveled the road alone. And while we do have to travel our YBR ‘alone,’ we don’t have to do it all alone.

I have made my share…and then some…of mistakes, but one of the best things I ever did, took place 36 years ago today when I married my best friend, Patty.

I didn’t need to go to see the Wizard for brains, courage or a heart. I found them all at the small chapel at C.W. Post on a very hot August afternoon in 1974.

In the course of our journey on the YBR we have had to deal with Wicked Witches and such, but we never let the hard times get us down.

We might not have amassed a fortune, live in a palatial house, drive expensive cars or jet around the world to exotic locations, but we have great treasures in our children, Jennifer (and husband Bryan); Jeremy (and wife Sarah); Nick (and wife Courtney); and Kieran.

And the treasures continued with Jillian, Brielle and Andrew.

My YBR has been everything and then some because I made the right decision in 1974.

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Elephants never forget, and that’s why this blog is posted
in memory of the birthdays of:
Margaret Catherine Begley (Aug 12, 1915);Charles Francis Luzon (Aug 15, 1916);Vincent Joesph Begley (Aug 16, 1911)

I know. There were no elephants in Oz.  There were lions and tigers and bears….but no elephants. I think there should have been at least one elephant. In fact, if I had been L. Frank Baum, I would have had Dorothy meet up with an elephant on her way to see the Wizard. In my version, he would have been an elephant who couldn’t remember anything and he would have asked the Wizard for a memory.

Speaking about elephants, I have an elephant story told in honor of my late father on his birthday.

My father never liked to follow orders. If he were driving on a road and saw a sign that said ‘keep out,’ he would ignore the sign and go down the road to find out why he was supposed to keep out.  My father also hated to wait for anything, especially if it had anything to do with waiting to get out of a parking lot. (Right now my kids are saying the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.)

My father took me to a real, old-time circus under an authentic big top.  Not being one to spend a lot of money on the price of admission, he bought tickets for the last possible row. And even though the seats were in the nose-bleed section, the circus was exhilarating. (For those few of you who might have read my “Dorothy” book, you’ll understand why I included a trip to the circus in the storyline.)

Then it was time to leave. Once my father saw the long line of people making their way from the stands to the circus floor and out the two exits, he said to me: “Hold it, hold it, hold it.” (That was one of his favorite things to say.)

I could see the wheels moving inside his head. “We’re not going out that way,” he said pointing to the nearest exit, “we’re going that way.” He was now pointing down to the ground directly below us.

We climbed down the grandstand, rung by rung until we made it to the ground. My father picked up the tent flap and we escaped across a field…the very same field where they had kept the elephants while they waited to make their grand entrance.

But we didn’t know this until we were in the middle of the straw-covered field. By the time we made it to the parking lot we had walked through so much elephant shit that both my father’s and my shoes were covered in it. Our shoes were the size of manhole covers.

We had to take off our shoes and throw them in the trunk…of the car (nothing to do with the anatomy of an elephant).

Who do you think had to take the shoes out of the trunk the next day and clean them?

Not my father. God bless him.

That’s my elephant memory on the YBR.

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Me with Patti, my sister. Real time: 1952 Memory time: Only yesterday Real place: A cottage in Connecticut Memory place: Oz

Just got back from a great family vacation (Patty, Jenn and Bryan and grandchildren, Jillian and Brielle; and Nick and Court. Hopefully in the summer of 2012 Jeremy and Sarah and Andrew; and Kieran, will be there with us.)

Early on in this year’s vacation, my son, Nick said, after I made a number of references to past events from my childhood, that I was taking a vacation down memory lane. And he was right. I was guilty as charged. But you want to know something? Taking a trip down memory lane is one of the privileges you earn when the YBR behind you stretches way back.

There are a number of advantages to taking a trip down memory lane: You don’t have to arrive three hours prior to departure; you don’t have to bring any luggage so there are no surcharges; you always leave and arrive on time; you don’t have to stand on-line to check in at your hotel; and best of all, you can travel all over in the blink of an eye and never have to get one of those damn Disney Park fast-track tickets.

(l) Why did my parents put me in the outfit? (c) Waiting for high tide in Conn. (r) Some vacations take ‘fort’itude.

I have been blessed with a wonderful memory. An honest one at that, meaning I

don’t engage in revisionist memory-making. That doesn’t mean my memories are ‘swear to God and tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ accounts. No. I remember things the way they were as I remember them at the age I was when they happened.

My father was big on vacations. I can’t recall a summer growing up that we didn’t go somewhere during his two-week summer vacation. Living on Long Island, some summers stayed close to home and only have gone to Sag Harbor or somewhere on the Connecticut shore; most times, however, we’d get into our 1948 blue Chevy (tank) and follow the YBR through New England, upstate New York, or around Pennsylvania stopping at every historic site imaginable and at every farm stand my father saw. (My father was also big on taking tours of maple sugar factories or where they made fresh apple cider.)

There were a few years when my father would take advantage of his railroad privileges and we’d either take the train down to Miami or out west where one summer we went to every canyon there was in the southwest. (Nothing compares to a long-distance ride on the rails. Eating in a real dining car and watching the countryside roll by and  sitting in the observation car looking out at the wide expanses of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona are priceless.)

As far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter where we went or how we went. I just wanted to “went.”

Place: Down memory lane

My vacation memory bank continues to compound with interest on a yearly basis. The smell of maple sugar, the feel of sand on my feet, the majesty of the Grand Canyon and the thrill of traveling the YBR to Oz when I was a kid all add up to a scrapbook of vacation memories I want to share.

I only hope my children…and grandchildren…will one day take a trip down memory lane. It’s a beautiful trip.

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