My Dinner Party

I have a friend named Kathleen. She used to live nearby but now lives in Detroit with her husband and son. I miss seeing her and talking with her. I do realize technology enables conversations between people seperated by distances. But, it’s not the same.

 Molly, me & Kathleen. Someone said, “duck lips” and I had no idea what they were talking about

Molly, me & Kathleen. Someone said, “duck lips” and I had no idea what they were talking about

Kathleen always challenged me to think bigger and beyond. She asks great questions and she plays these little games. She has one where she asks people to imagine a dinner party where they can invite anyone they want. Then she asks, “Who would you invite?”

I wrote a post about this a few years back. It’s called “Keeping Company”. You can read it here. Or save yourself the time. Here’s my list from that post. I don’t think I would make any changes.

David Letterman (he would ask really good questions, keeping the discussion going)

Flannery O’Connor (because she scares me and it’s good to be scared sometimes)

Paul McCartney & John Lennon (I know, I know)

Tina Fey & Amy Poehler (They will split an entree)

Yo Yo Ma (hopefully he and John would play “Imagine” together)

Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck)

Flannery O’Connor may be the least familiar of these. Wikipedia has this to say about her: “She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a sardonic Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and supposedly grotesque characters, often in violent situations. The unsentimental acceptance or rejection of the limitations or imperfection or difference of these characters (whether attributed to disability, race, criminality, religion or sanity) typically underpins the drama.”

Her book, “The Violent Bear It Away” still gives me nightmares. All of the people at my dinner party, I believe would not be afraid to ask hard, intriguing questions. I probably would have to ask them to clarify and I still might not understand, but I believe they would accept me anyway.

When Kathleen plays this game, she’s not happy to just let you name who you would invite. You must talk about the conversation you imagine might take place. It goes like this: if you ask Kathleen a question, she might say what would the people at your dinner party have to say about it?

For example, (and by the way, I’m using the actual words from my dinner guests in this make-believe scenario) maybe I would acknowledge the despair I sometimes feel these days regarding the state of our Union. Maybe John Lennon would say:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the wo
rld will be as one

To which Flannery O’Conner would surely reply, “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”

Then Paul McCartney might suggest:

When all the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Wow, this is getting deep. So we retire to the living room. Now we’re enjoying coffee and pecan pie.

David Letterman says, “If it wasn't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsover.”

The conversation pauses and we listen reverently as Yo Yo plays “Thaïs Méditation” on his cello he just happened to bring to a dinner party at my house.

Then I say something like: Thank God for beauty; for art; for music, and for humor! Tina, you must have grown up in a funny family.

And Tina says, “I grew up in a family of Republicans. And when I was 18 and registering to vote, my mom's only instruction was 'You just go in and pull the big Republican lever.' That's my welcome to adulthood. She's like, 'No, don't even read it. Just pull the Republican lever.’”

The laughter feels good.

Ms. O’Conner says, “At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.”

Lennon and McCartney:

I’m so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone
I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?

To which Amy Poehler advises, “Don't treat your heart like an action figure wrapped in plastic and never used. And don't try to give me that nerd argument that your heart is a 'Batman' with a limited-edition silver bat-erang and therefore if it stays in its original packing it increases in value.”

Then Atticus takes his watch from the pocket of his vest. I’m not sure if he’s really checking the time or if it’s just a habit—pulling that watch from his vest pocket. He has the full attention of the dinner party and he says, “You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change.”

And Yo Yo plays, “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms”.

A few days later I see Kathleen to tell her thank you for the Dinner Party game. She’s wearing a shirt that says, “Dare to Dream”. So I do.

 my friend Kathleen

my friend Kathleen

A Blue Jay & The Next Governor

I'M RELUCTANT TO DO THIS because my track record isn’t good, but  I’m so strongly convinced that this is the best thing.

joe-carter-signed-baseball-6981.jpg

My late 1960s psuedo-hippyness had an element of political activism, so I campaigned for George McGovern in the 1972 presidential race. He was soundly defeated by Nixon of all people. And thus began my path to cynicism.

A couple of years later, I campaigned for David Boren for governor of Oklahoma. I had known him at OBU where I was a student and he was a professor. He won!

Standing on that success in Oklahoma gubernatorial elections (although my recent efforts to elect anyone other than Mary Fallin failed), I am making this official announcement:

I am willing and happy to meddle, collude, or whatever it takes to get out the word that MICK Cornett is the best choice for our next governor.

The Republican primary is June 26. Here is the lineup:

Christopher Barnett
Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City
Dan Fisher, former state representative
Eric Foutch
Barry Gowdy
Gary Jones, state auditor
Todd Lamb, lieutenant governor
Gary Richardson
Blake Cowboy Stephens
Kevin Stitt

I don't know any of these guys personally, but I'm sure they are fine persons of conviction. Best I can tell they all exude conservatism, espouse “family values”, exalt religion, want to expunge state government of excrement, and hold the keys to making Oklahoma great again.

You know how, from time to time, there doesn't seem to be a candidate to be excited about, how sometimes it comes down to a choice between the lesser of two evils? This time around, we Okies are so fortunate to have a proven leader to vote for. How cool would it be to have the best governor in the land rather than the... well... not best?! Check this out:

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett is the nation’s most successful Republican Mayor.  He recently completed his one-year term as President of the United States Conference of Mayors and is the longest-serving mayor among the nation’s 50 largest cities. A thoughtful leader in American politics, Cornett was named Governing Magazine’s “Public Official of the Year,” one of Newsweek’s “five most innovative mayors,” and one of Politico’s 50 “thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics”. He was recently named one of Fortune Magazine’s “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.” — www.mick2018.com

I encourage you to watch Mick’s Ted Talk to get an idea of his heart, his innovative genius, his vision as a leader.

Let me tell you what I really like about him. He’s smart, he’s humble, he’s real and unlike most politicians, he actually makes good things happen. But the thing I like most is: he is genuine. 

Years ago, I took our oldest son who was ten at the time to Arlington, Texas for an afternoon game. The Rangers were playing the Toronto Blue Jays. We got to the stadium as soon as they opened the gates because Corey was hoping to get his baseball autographed by Nolan Ryan who was pitching that day. The game had the potential to be momentous. Ryan was one no-hitter away from the record of most no-hitters. 

Corey and I were standing near the Rangers dug out with other autograph seekers, most of whom were very aggressive in seeking autographs. The Rangers players were staying away like we had the plague. An Oklahoma City TV station was on hand to record the no-hitter if it happened. The sportscaster on duty was a young Mick Cornett. Mick came over to Corey and asked him if he would be okay with a Joe Carter autograph. Corey said, “SURE!!!” 

In a few minutes here came Mick with Toronto Blue Jays’ Joe Carter (who is from Oklahoma by the way). Joe smiled at Corey and autographed his ball and made his day. I was a grateful dad to Mick and Joe.

By the way, in the top of the first inning, Ryan struck out the first two batters. The crowd was chanting “no-hitter, no-hitter” as Joe Carter stepped to the plate. Swinging on the first pitch, he hit the ball over the left-center field fence for a home run. The crowd moaned. Corey looked at his ball with Joe’s autograph and smiled. Thank you Mick Cornett.

I have a conundrum. I can’t vote for Mick in the upcoming primary. While I am a lifetime Okie and a registered voter, I have a “D” on my voter registration card, and one must have an “R” to vote. If you have an R, I would appreciate it if you’ll help me out and vote for Mick in the primary, I promise to vote for him in the general election instead of whichever “D” happens to be on the ballot.

It is so rare these days to have a candidate who has proven they can lead above the political fray and serve so well. Please vote for Mick!

 mick2018  (used without permission)

mick2018  (used without permission)

Take The Fork

One of my favorite quotes and a guiding principle of my life is this: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” — Yogi Berra

 from a muppets movie. used without permission

from a muppets movie. used without permission

First: for all my young friends, Yogi Berra is not a yoga practitioner named Berra. This Yogi, number 8 in pinstripes, was a catcher for the New York Yankees. He also was a dispenser of weird wisdom. Here, sample a few morsels:

It's like déjà vu all over again.
You can observe a lot by watching.
It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

As for that fork in the road, wouldn’t it be nice if it was as simple as just “take it”? Maybe I’m an indecisive person, I know that I like to make decisions intuitively, but maybe I don’t trust my own intuition. Some might say I lack faith. Maybe I’ve just grown weary of people blaming God—as in, “I prayed about it and this is the way God lead.”

Some time back I read the memoir of Cheryl Strayed called “Wild”. Recently I watched the movie based on the book. A line in the movie caught my attention.

“There’s never been a fork in my road.”

At first a forkless road sounds pretty good. Not to oversimplify, but that sort of seems to be the theology of my Calvinist friends—the predetermined road would have to be a forkless one, right?

Even though a fork-full road, has questions, and quandaries, and chances for choosing wrong or right, I still prefer that road. It just seems sweeter somehow. Take my marriage: many years ago I asked my Amazing-Missus to marry me. It was like I put a fork in her road. Now in my strange theology, I do believe that some things are just meant to be, like our marriage. But still, she had a choice and she chose US!

See isn’t that a more beautiful story than the one that says our lives are mapped from beginning to end without forks?

These days, as the road stretches closer to a horizon, the forks seem to come up less often, but seem more daunting when they do. But I’ll keep praying, keep trusting, and keep truckin’, because as the great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain't over till it's over.”

 

 

 

Another New Year

I LIKE TO JOKE that I view this stage of life, the 60-somethings, as a kind of second-coming-of-age. In the first coming of age (moving into and through adolescence), some faith traditions talk about an “age of accountability”. The age of accountability begins when a child matures to the point of being able to think abstractly and to understand right from wrong. The thought being that now they are at the point of becoming accountable for their own thoughts, deeds, decisions, etc.

WHAT IF, in the second-coming-of-age, we entered an age of non-accountabilty? Oh wait. Maybe we do. We can pretty much eat what we want when we want. We go to bed when we want, and get up when we want (with the exception of those mandatory times in the middle of the night.)

So, for those of us living in the age of non-accountability, can we forget about the annual New Years Resolutions charade or at least call it something else?

Exactly one week after New Years Day, on January 8th, I will turn 60-something-else, and Elvis, with whom I share this birth-day, will still no longer be with us. While I don’t claim to speak for all 60-somethings, I can say that for me, significant life change predicated on personal effort is unlikely. Not that I’ve completely quit growing as a human, spiritually and emotionally (well, maybe emotionally. I probably quit growing emotionally at age 14 or so), it’s just that there is a lot of evidence to support the case for my inability to sustain resolve-driven behavior.

Regardless of how hard I resolve; I’m probably not going to eat better, exercise more diligently, behave better, floss daily, or watch less TV. So why set myself up for another dose of annual disappointment and dashing the hopes of my loved ones and dentist by pretending I might.

HERE’S AN IDEA: A LIFE THEME
I have a dear friend who told me of a psychiatrist friend of his who doesn’t make resolutions, but he has an annual “life theme”. One year, for example, his theme was, “I’m not going to give a s#%t this year.” The next year his theme was, “I’m going to give a s#%t, I’m just not going to do anything about it.” He even looked to the next year when he planned to “Celebrate his apathy, if he ever got around to it.”

MAYBE A LIFE PLAN WOULD HELP
I used to give a little sermonette to young teens who sat and stared at me with glazed over eyes, and mouths hanging half open. I would explain that when it comes to being an adolescent the Bible leaves us in the dark a bit about answering the important question “WWJD?” (What Would Jesus Do?). Scripture pretty much skips Jesus life from 12 to 30. It would have been really cool (and helpful) to know what he did do as a teen and young adult. But, no. Luke, in his gospel gives us a hint (Luke 2:52), writing of the tween-age Jesus: “And He grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” That’s all we get.

Then I would explain this to them: taking our cues from this small verse our ambition should be to grow: A.) mentally, B.) physically, C.) spiritually and D.) socially.

Using that outline for looking back and looking forward to a new day, a new year, I can see myself:
A.) Reading more and deeper, journaling more, not watching Fox News, CNN or MSNBC.
B.) Taking advantage of our travel to walk more, hike challenging trails, eat smarter.
C.) Read again the likes of Chesterton, Lewis, Rohr, etc. Take advantage of the solitude that age affords to meditate and pray more.
D.) Quit using my introversion as an excuse, meet people as we travel, party more, be bolder.

All of these sound practical and mostly enjoyable to me—like things I should be able to do without the hard work that discipline implies. But I still can’t bear to call them resolutions knowing that to do so would mean the main motivation for doing them would be the heavy cloud of guilt that would come from breaking the resolve.

I have the answer and a decree! They shall not be called “resolutions”. This will be The Grand Experiment of 2017. As one of my very favorite authors says:

“Calling it an experiment gives you permission to fail.” —A.J. Jacobs

Anyone up for an experiment?

 from the internet. used w/o permission.

from the internet. used w/o permission.

P.S.: If 2016 has seemed longer for “some reason” than other years, that may be because it is; longer by one second.

“On December 31, the world’s timekeepers will add in a “leap second” to keep all our clocks in sync with the Earth’s rotation. They do this because the Earth technically takes a bit longer than 24 hours to complete a full rotation (86,400.002 seconds, to be exact). So a “leap second” gets added every few years.” Read more from VOX here.

WHAT WILL YOU DO with your extra second? I might suggest using it to get a head start on your 2017 Resolutions, or your 2017 Life Theme, or your 2017 Life Plan, or your 2017 Grand Experiment. Whichever you choose—Cheers and best wishes to you and yours from Pops, his Amazing-Missus, and the Grand-Girls (and their parents).