Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Life”

Throwback Thursday From October 2016 – “Trick Or Treat!”

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HALLOWEEN IS HARD UPON US and five times a day people are asking me what I’m doing for Halloween. They don’t like it when I tell them.

If I was nine years old today I would do what I did then in 1955. I’d rub some burnt cork on my face for a beard, make an eyepatch from a piece of fabric from my mother’s sewing supplies, and tie a red bandana around my hear – Instant Pirate!, and then I’d go annoy everyone in the neighborhood for some candy.

But I’m not nine years old, so my plans are different.

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Such A Question

 

SUCH A QUESTION TO ASK SOMEONE.

“How do you think you will die?”

Unless you make your living as the ever so attractive target in a Las Vegas knife throwing act the answer to that question is strictly speculative.

Who knows?

I don’t know.

There are seven billion people on Earth and there are likely to be seven billion different answers.

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I’m Not Dead

 

TODAY IS A SPECIAL DAY FOR ME. It is yet another birthday. This one marks the end of my 73rd year on this earth.

Each of those years has had things worth remembering – and things that have merited forgetting. I’m sure that holds true for everyone. It’s part of the ongoing flow of life.

This past year has been much like many of my recent years. It held joys and sorrows, hopes fulfilled and hopes filled with disappointment. Dreams and nightmares, laughs and tears.

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Keep The Dog Out Of The Tub

EVERY DAY I AM INUNDATED with dozens of articles on my computer/phone. They come from all kinds of sources. Some are familiar, but others are completely unknown to me.

There was one last week sitting in my inbox that got my attention. It had the title “Fifty Things That Make Life Worth Living.” That’s not too pretentious now, isn’t it? Fifty things? Are you sure it’s not 52? Or maybe it’s 48 things. Maybe I’m too simple, but I don’t think I need fifty things to make my life worth living. As a matter of fact I’m sure of it.

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Throwback Thursday from March 2017 – “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”

Throwback Thursday from March 2017 – “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”

The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be

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I WAS SCANNING THROUGH THE PAGES OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL the other day. That’s not something I do all that often. If I want financial information anything in The Journal is at least a week old. That would be like wondering if your tub is overflowing, but waiting a week to check on it. By that time your ceiling may be collapsed and the parakeet drowned in its cage.

What I did see that tickled my interest was an article about how the future was going to be different than today. Really? I didn’t know that Carnak The Magnificent worked for The Journal.

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Obviously the article was written by someone right out of college who has been living in a Reality Bubble until last week.

Of course the future will be different than today. Otherwise Time would be one long Today. I suppose that it would eliminate the need for things like the TV Guide and the expiration date on my milk carton.

As yesterday moves into today so will today trickle into tomorrow. Things change as New Ideas coalesce in fertile brains. Technology will continue to make “The way it has always been done” into a memory, and I will throw away that leftover Mac & Cheese that has suddenly turned blue.

When Daimler had coffee with Benz, and Ford and the Duryea brothers made their first automobiles the Buggy Whip makers of the world got nervous. They could see the future

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staring them in the face. The Future did them in and someday, maybe tomorrow, it will be the same for the car makers of today. Some bright and curious person will come up with a way to make, “Beam me up, Scotty,” a reality. “And while you’re at it, bring the dog in too.”

It will happen. Of that there is no doubt. It may not be “Beaming.” It might be something simpler, like faster cars unusable by drunks, teen drivers, or pizza delivery guys.

Personally, I’m looking forward to tomorrow and I’m hoping that it is different that today. Today? Been there, done that. Tomorrow offers an unlimited range of opportunities, amazement, and giggles.

I guess that some people might be afraid of tomorrow, any tomorrow. Well, I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but there is no way you can avoid it without permanent repercussions and probably ruining your clothes

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It is vital that the Future be different from Today. Without that difference there would be no progress of any kind. Of course, the Future being different doesn’t mean that it will always be an improvement over Today. We hope it will be better, but History has shown that there are no guarantees. You win some, you lose some, and some – you break even. For every “I Love Lucy” there is a “My Mother the Car,” lurking in the shadows.

I guess that the writer for The Wall Street Journal has not yet experienced a sufficient number of tomorrows to notice that the future is always different. He seemed so surprised in his writing, as if no one had ever told him about it before. He’ll learn and I’ll find something else to read.

If the Future wasn’t different then every weekend would be just as unpleasant as Mondays and that is not acceptable.

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Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “Am I Religious?”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

Am I Religious?

WHAT KIND OF A QUESTION IS THAT TO ASK? Before I’ve had my coffee even? After all, what makes a person “religious?”

If there was to be a survey taken I couldn’t accurately predict the outcome. Yeah, well, maybe I could, but it wouldn’t really matter.

You see – God and I have this arrangement. Actually, it’s the same arrangement He’s made with all of us. All that God asks of me is that I give Him a respectful nod for who He is and what He has accomplished and that I try to get along with the guy who lives next door. I mean, is that too much to ask? I think not. It is simply worded without any “whereases,” “wherefores,” and “party of the first part” stuff to gum up the works. Neat. Clean. To the point. No trap doors. I think it all boils down to, “Don’t be a jackass.”

I do go to church on Sunday, although that is really just a one day a week expression of an everyday thing – but with music and lunch afterward.

Another thing that is part of my “Arrangement” is that I try not to make too many demands on God. After all, I am not the only person who has His personal number.

There have been times when I have said, “God, please let that guy score from third base. It is really important.” It is at times like that when I am reminded of the meaning of the word “Important.” It will be three days later when that guy on third base finally scores, when the score is already 17 – 0.

It is then that I look up and say quietly, “God, I don’t want to complain, but why couldn’t you have helped out three days ago when I asked?” And God says to me, “Three days ago? I was busy, and besides, your batter can’t hit a slider to save his life. Some things are beyond even Me.”

So much for that.

The world being what it is, I’m sure that there are some people out there who will complain that I refer to God as “Him” or “He.” Why do I do that? Because that is what I have done all my life and God has not told me to change it. Also, it is less cumbersome that saying, “He, She, It,” each time I refer to Him. See? There, I did it again. If you are offended, outraged, or miffed that I do that – all I can say is, “Is that the biggest fish frying in your pan? Get over it. If you want to call God, “She” or “It,” – go right ahead. It’s no big thing to me. Take your complaint upstairs.

Marvin the Martian

If there are beings living on some other planet I’m sure that God has made His presence known in one form or another. He may have even helped that guy score from third on their world.

So, am I religious? I think so, sort of. There are a lot of people who would disagree, but that is their problem, not mine. Some of them I would not want living next door. I have my arrangement with God, and, so far, He seems to be OK with it too. I try to give Him that nod of appreciation and recognition, and I try to get along with my fellow humans. It’s not always easy. Can we agree on that?

All in all, I think my biggest challenge in keeping up my end of the Arrangement is this: “Don’t be a jackass.” God help me.

Coming Of (Middle) Age

WHILE I DID MISS OUT ON SEEING THE NEW MARY POPPINS MOVIE while down in Texas recently I did manage to catch one of my all-time favorite films just the other night. Some people classify it as a “Chick Flick,” but I think that it is better thought of as a “Human Flick.”

“Shirley Valentine” was released in 1989 to less than raving reviews. Well, you can’t please everyone. The reviews may have been rather tepid, but Pauline Collins got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, along with a number of other awards. I guess that it was liked only by the people who saw it without any preconceived ideas.

Shirley (Played by Pauline Collins) is a British housewife mired in middle-age, and wondering where everything she hoped for has gone.

“I’ve led a very little life.”

— Shirley Valentine

Shirley feels that she has disappeared into a mind and soul numbing routine. Her husband is caught in

his own rut that has isolated them from each other. They share their house, but are living separate and unsatisfying lives.

Shirley’s life takes a remarkable twist when one of her “lady friends” wins a contest that offer a two week vacation trip to Greece and she asks Shirley to accompany her.

And now you need to download the movie.

Every year there are countless movies made that are “Coming of Age” films about the difficult and awkward transition from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. There is a big market for those. Less frequently does one find a different kind of “Coming of Age “ film – one about the transition from our prime adult years into “Middle-Age” when we begin to look back on our lives. We look at where we have been and where we are now, and what do we have ahead of us. And what are we going to do about it?

While the basic story is light and entertaining with other characters adding to Shirley’s mountain of things to think about there is an undertone that hits home easily. Life is a serious business.

I don’t often recommend movies – mainly because I don’t think most of them warrant any kind of recommendation. “Shirley Valentine” is thirty years old now, but it doesn’t look it or feel it. It has a freshness that makes it as pertinent as today.

That’s it. Short. Sweet and to the point today. Go get a snack.

At Least You’re Getting Paid

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN START YOUR ENGINES!”

Today is that day when we really start the New Year. It is time to put away the Aspirin bottle and the Ice Pack. Get dressed in something other than your Snuggie and Hospital Footies. It’s time to get back to work – like it or not.

For me today is just a Wednesday. The only thing that could be considered “work” for me today is that I will have to take the trash down to the curb tonight. Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about that. For just two people we sure do generate a lot of trash.

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I Refuse To Accept Just Any Old Reality

THERE IS ONLY ONE THING THAT I DON’T LIKE about this time of year: The Cold; The Snow; The Icy Roads; The Crowded stores; The Nonstop Ads on TV; The Crowds at the Airport; and The Cold again.

Not that I’m complaining mind you.

I stepped out of the back door this morning and was greeted by a blast of cold air and sixty-two million snowflakes coming by at a 90° angle. That was not in my plans for the day. I was all set for it to be 85° and sunny. The fact that it was Mid-December in Indiana notwithstanding.

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Reblog – From David Kanigan Live and Learn – “Flight AA2632 to DFA”

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

 

 

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

Photo: Alex maclean – on roll (via The Cosmic Inspiro-Cloud)

5:15 A.M. Monday Morning.

Terminal B LaGuardia Airport. Not America’s finest example of its greatness or its Might. Dark. Dingy. Beyond Stale. Earning its status as the Worst Airport in the Country. Dead last in surveys. Sad, really.

Lines are backing up at Security, including TSA pre-check.

One hour and 5 minutes to boarding: Flight AA2632 to DFW.

I clear security.

And I walk.

  • AA2126. Boston. 6:00 a.m. Sit in the stands at a Red Sox game.
  • AA4752. Washington. 6:00 a.m. Sit on the steps at Lincoln Memorial.
  • AA4527. Atlanta. 6:05 a.m. Lounge in the Georgia Aquarium.

What if. Just what if. Just one time. You call it in sick. A Sick Day. What’s that? You walk back out of the terminal, stroll up to the American Airlines ticket counter, pull out your credit card, pay full price for a ticket and…take off…to…anywhere else. Like take a day trip. By yourself. To anywhere else. Turn off your cellphone(s). And disappear, for one day. Off Grid. Just one time.

  • AA3803. Raleigh Durham. 6:29 a.m. Sit in a diner and read Murakami’s new book, uninterrupted.
  • AA3549. Portland, Maine. 6:29 a.m. Sit on a bench and watch the leaves turn.
  • AA349. Chicago. 6:29 a.m. Walk Michigan Avenue. 
  • AA2510. Miami. 6:50 a.m. I pause here. South Beach. Beach chair. Cool drink delivered. Long Nap.

I approach my gate.

  • AA2632. Dallas. 6:59 a.m.

And here it comes.

To Do’s. Commitments. Responsibilities.

I walk up to the Gate attendant. “Good morning Mr. Kanigan. You are seated in an Exit row. Are you willing and able to assist in an Emergency?”

Exit. Now. Do it. This is your last chance.

I smile. “Yes. Yes I am.”

I walk down the jet bridge. And I note that the heaviness lifts. Peace.

I get comfortable in my seat, 24E Exit.

You Need This. Murakami’s ’emotional morphine.’ 

You just couldn’t have it any other way.

All You Really Have…

 

“All you really have, in the end, are your stories.”

– – Burt Reynolds on the TV drama “Burn Notice” 2010

We are born; we live our lives, and as we see the final curtain beginning to come down our material things become meaningless. Most of the people we have in our life become exasperating as they can’t understand where we are and where we are going.

What is left?

We have our memories and even those begin to fade away. What can we do? We take our memories and we speak them aloud or write them down. We tell our stories. We move them from the fragile causeways of our brain to a place outside ourselves.

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Watching On An Afternoon

AH, YOUNG LOVE, WELL, MAYBE CLOSER TO MIDDLEAGE LOVE. The two people had to be in their forties, maybe a bit more. But looking at their eyes and body language they could have been teenagers

If there is one thing St. Arbucks is good for, other than filling up that empty lot on the corner, and the odd cup of coffee, it is that it is a good spot for People Watching. And that’s what I did yesterday afternoon.

I was out and about taking care of some errands and I stopped in at the Chapel on 25th Street for a nice iced tea. I sat over in my usual corner, the better to watch the world.

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Throwback Thursday from October 2015 – “What Am I Looking At?”

Throwback Thursday from October 2015 – “What Am I Looking At?”

What Am I Looking At?

eyechartSOME DAYS YOU HAVE TO GO OUT HUNTING for something to write about. Some other days it walks up and sits down in front of you. Today was one of the latter.

Let me preface this by saying that I have the utmost respect for and hold in high esteem the members of our Armed Forces, both present and past.

But this morning I witnessed something that just flat out bothered me.

I was finishing up my coffee down at St. Arbucks, chatting with a couple of the Usual Suspects when I noticed a tall fellow in Army garb crossing the parking lot. Trailing him by a few steps was a rather scruffy looking young man, arms dangling by his sides and his eyes cast downward.

I said out loud, “Here comes the Sergeant with a new recruit in tow.” I was joking, I didn’t even know if they were together, but – they were.

When they came through the door the Army guy led the younger man to a table near us, sat him down, and handed him a small bundle of papers and a pen.

“Here, fill these out. What are you drinking?”

I watched the young man look over the papers then take out a pair of glasses. When he put them on I could see that they were what we used to call, “Coke Bottle Glasses,” thick, heavy lenses in black frames.

Even with the glasses on he still had to bend over the papers until his nose almost brushed on the table. This did not bode well for his time on the firing range.

The kid (Anybody under forty is a kid to me) worked diligently filling in the blanks. His tongue stuck out periodically to help with the tough parts.

After a couple of very long minutes The Recruiter came back to the table carrying one short cup of hot coffee and one huge Frappuccino topped with whipped cream. As he passed by our corner he glanced at us and smiled. His smile spoke volumes. It said –

“Yes, this just what you think it is and I know that you know.”

He set the whipped cream drink in front of the young man, still busy with the paperwork. Then The Recruiter sat back and began to text away on his phone, smiling all the while.

I turned to my Partner Suspect and said, “This sucks. Would you want to be in a foxhole with that kid? He can’t see worth a darn.”

“Nope. Yup.”

When the new and unshaven Guardian of Freedom reached page three he paused. He lifted his head from the table and located the man sitting across the table from him.

“What does this mean?”

Not to let anything foul up his “Catch of the Day,” The Recruiter got up and, looking over the kid’s shoulder, took the pen and said, “Here, let me help you with that.”

Not surprisingly, the rest of the paperwork went quite quickly.

It took no more than two minutes for every blank to be filled in and every dotted line signed and dated before the two of them were heading out the door. The kid clutched his Frappuccino, but the small hot coffee sat where it was from the start. He had never touched it. It was strictly a prop.

I can’t see how this kid could ever pass the Army induction physical with eyesight like his. I doubt that he could read the big E on the top line of the eye chart.

I understand that the recruiters have quotas to fill, but really now – taking this kid into the Army isn’t doing anybody a favor – except Starbucks, if he keeps bringing his enlistees in to fill out the papers and slurp up the whipped cream.

Reblog: From FIERCEFABULOUSFUNNY – Velma Dunkin

Reblog from – https://fiercefabulousfunny.com/2018/08/24/george-carlin-8-23-18/

VELMA DUNKIN

http://gravatar.com/velmadunkin

FIERCEFABULOUSFUNNY

She’s Fierce, Fabulous, Funny

GEORGE CARLIN 8-23-18

George Carlin’s wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic George Carlin – comedian of the 70’s and 80’s – could write something so very eloquent and so very appropriate.

An observation by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, ‘I love you’ to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Conclusion

Conclusion

“Some Monks pray while farming, some while cooking, or writing. I walk. I walk without a physical destination. Today I am here. I think I am here to talk with you.”

“And with the fish?”

“Yes – And with the fish. Walking is my way of praying. Each step is a prayer – a prayer for understanding and for thanks.”

I was getting confused with all of this.

“’Thanks? For what?” The Monk smiled at me and I relaxed.

“I give thanks for each step because I know that a time will come when I can no longer walk and the steps will have to be taken by someone else. Aren’t you thankful for something – your life? For your mother and father, for your home, your friends, and for this lovely spot by the river?”

“I guess so. I never thought about it before. Now that you put it all that way though I guess I do have a bunch of stuff to be thankful for.”

“Good. Now let’s be quiet so this fish and I can talk things out.”

The Monk and the fish might have been talking, but I didn’t hear anything. I stayed quiet because I know that you are supposed to be quiet while fishing and I didn’t want to scare the Monk’s fish.

It seemed to me like we were going to be there all day when the Monk broke the silence.

“That fish,” he said, “Makes a very good case for himself. Much better than me. Tonight I go hungry. My young friend I might as well be on my way.”

“You’re leaving? Where are you going to go?”

“Like I said earlier, I m going nowhere and everywhere as well, but I think I will start by going through your village. How far is it from here?

“The village is around that bend in the path and then an hour – less for you – you take bigger steps than me.” While I spoke he gathered together his things. He pulled his empty hook from the river, dried it and the twine on his red sash before carefully folding it and wrapping it around his body and over his shoulder. I wondered how many times he had done this before when a fish out talked him. When everything was in its place he stood up and bowed to me.

“It has been a pleasure to have spent this time with you and I wish you wisdom and happiness as you grow.”

He started across the grass toward the path. I hurried after him.

“Mr. Monk, can I walk with you awhile? My house is that way too, around the bend.”

“Of course, my friend. Let us both pray with each step we take.”

He was taller than me and I had to take more steps to keep up with him. He saw me trying to keep up and he slowed down to make it easier for me.

“What will you do when you get to the village?”

“I will beg. I am sure that some kind person will feed me and give me a place to sleep tonight. There is almost always someone in each village I visit. People are good.”

We walked on.

“This path goes on all the way to The Great Ocean they say. What will you do when you get to the end of the path?”

“I will turn around and walk back to the Monastery high up in the mountains. It is my home.”

“How long have you been walking?” He looked down at me.

“I began my prayer when I was no bigger than you. It is my entire life, my prayer.”

I was amazed. I could not imagine leaving everything behind and walking for such a long time. He was an old man compared to me – older than my father.

“I’m sorry that I ask you so many questions, but I’ve never really talked with a Monk before.”

“There is no need to apologize. How else can you learn? I ask questions all the time.”

We rounded the bend in the path and up ahead I could see where the path split. One part went on to the village. The other led to our farm.

“This looks like where we part ways. I go on to the village and you to your home. Again, I thank you for our time together.”

I had an idea. I had one more question.

“Do you have to go to the village tonight, a rule or something? I’m asking because my mother and father are kind people and I’m sure that they would be happy to give you something to eat and a warm and dry place to sleep. Would you come with me? I’m sure they won’t be upset.”

“Even your father who thinks we Monks are all wealthy?”

“Yes, I’m sure. He likes to go fishing too. You two could talk about that. But I don’t think he talks with the fish. He uses bits of bread as bait. Please come there with me.” The Monk paused. He looked at me and at the path into the village.

“Young man, every road that I walk splits, and I have often wondered where my life would be if I chose to take that other pathway. My prayer is in my step, not in the road beneath my feet. All roads go somewhere. This road,” he said, pointing off down the path, “It goes to your village and eventually to The Great Ocean. But this other path would take us to your farm and your family. The village and the ocean will be there tomorrow, but if I go that way today I will miss the gift of seeing your family. That chance is only mine for today, never to return.”

He sat down in the dust and looked at both paths.

“I need to think and pray. Give me a moment.”

I watched him close his eyes. He folded his legs like I had seen him do when he first came and sat by the riverbank. I said a prayer of my own that he would come with me.

After a couple of minutes the Monk opened his eyes. He smiled at me.

“My young friend, you prayed. I could feel it. It was a very good prayer. You prayed and I listened for the Wisdom to tell me what to do.”

“What did you hear?” I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

I heard that you are an honest and truthful boy and that I am blessed by having this time with you today. Today is not done and there is more time to share.”

“Does that mean you’ll come back to my home with me?”

The Monk held out his hand to me.

“It does. Now help me up and let me get this dust off my robe. I don’t want your father to think that I am there to beg.”

And so we walked together to my home and with each step I learned more of the power of prayer.

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “She Just “Sort of” Robbed The Bank”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “She Just “Sort of” Robbed The Bank”

I WAS CHATTING WITH THE USUAL SUSPECTS the other day when the topic of bank robbery came up. Sometimes they scare me. This bunch of Geezers couldn’t rob the Food Bank, let alone an actual – “Money in the vault, Can I see some ID, please,” type of bank. This group would be called the “Don’t forget to take your meds gang.” Even so, they would be a bigger threat than a person I once knew who really did try to rob a bank.

About ten years ago B.R. (Before Retirement) a female coworker whom I knew and liked working with, called in to her Supervisor one sunny morning. She said that she was going to be in a little late because she “Had some business to take care of.” Little did we all know that her “business” was knocking off a bank.

While I and everyone else at work were getting ready for another day on the job, she was out pulling into the parking lot at a local bank.

From later reports it went down something like this –

My coworker drove to the bank, checked her .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun to be sure it was loaded (it was), got out of the car and walked up to the front door of the bank. At this point things began to fall apart for her.

She pulled the handle to open the door – nothing. It wouldn’t budge. The door was locked. It was locked because, in an effort to rob the bank and still get to work, she got an early start to her day and arrived, fully loaded, before banking hours. The bank wouldn’t be open for another half hour.

There is an old adage that says, “Plan your work and work your plan.” My friend, the would-be bank robber, skimped on the first part of that. If this plan was to be as easy as 1 – 2 – 3 you can’t skip the 2 and go straight to 3.

So, there she is – standing at the front door of the bank, holding her shooting iron, and she can’t get the door to open. It was then that she made the decision to try again another day. Perhaps it was best to just go on to work like nothing had happened. No harm – No foul.

No way.

While she was standing there contemplating her “Plan B” the people who worked in the other bank, just across the street, witnessed this entire fiasco and had already called the Terre Haute Police Department. Terre Haute – that’s French for, “Mama don’t ‘low no bank robbin’ round here.”

Before she could get back to her car and go off to work, she found herself surrounded. It was not even 8 AM and her day was not going to get any better.

Since she never really robbed the bank, they couldn’t charge her with that crime, but they had a list of others to present her with.

It turned out, upon further investigation, that she had lied on her job application – in that part about “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” She had done some hard time a few years back for some other failed misadventure. This, of course, made her possession of the .45 caliber semiautomatic weapon a serious “No – No.” Added to that – she had no Concealed Carry permit for the gun – which was not registered anywhere. At least she did have a valid driver’s license – but the car wasn’t hers.

Fast Forward about three years –

I was tooling up and down the aisles of a store in town when I hear a voice behind me call out, “Hey, John!” This happens a lot to me. It is usually a former client or parent thereof – not this time. I turned around and there was our own local Bonnie Parker Wannabe.

“Hi, John. Remember me? We used to work together.”

Now this was one of those moments when you really don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, of course, the first words out of my mouth were,

“Sure, I remember you. Where you been keeping yourself?”

“Oh, I’ve been out of town for a while.”

Courtesy of the State of Indiana.

I really don’t remember the rest of the conversation.

I always enjoyed working with her. She was friendly, confident, and easy to get along with. Lucky for me she never needed an accomplice.

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two

Staying up in the tree once he knew that I was up there seemed silly to me. I climbed down. The Monk had moved back to his spot – my spot – by the riverbank. He didn’t pay any attention to me. I stayed by the tree trunk not knowing what to do next. He told me.

“Come and sit down. It’s a beautiful riverbank you have here.”

I went and sat down next to him by the water’s edge. He ignored me.

“You’re a Monk aren’t you?” As soon as I said that I knew it was a silly question.

“Yes, I am. Are you a farm boy?”

“Yes, I am,” I said, but being here in the middle of all the farms around here and with me looking like I do, his was a silly question too.

“What does a Monk do, Sir?”

“There is no need to call me ‘Sir.’ And as to what a Monk does it is really very simple – we pray.”

“What do you pray for?” I thought that was a reasonable question.

“We pray to understand.”

“To understand what?”

“To understand why we are here and what we should do to be worthy of this life, this river, this conversation we are having.”

“You must pray a lot,” I said to him.

He began to fiddle with his red sash. He took out the twine and the fishing hook.

“Yes, I pray all the time.”

“You don’t look like you’re praying now. You look like you’re going to try to catch a fish.”

He tied the hook to the frayed end of the twine.

“Fishing calls for a lot of praying, my young friend.”

He dipped the hook into the water and sat quietly. At least he got that part right. After a few minutes I had to say something.

“You really are going to need to pray. You don’t have any bait on that hook. You won’t catch any fish that way.” For a man who looked so smart he seemed pretty dumb when it came to fishing.

He looked at me and smiled.

“I’m not trying to catch a fish. I am waiting for the fish to put himself on my hook. It has to be his decision. It is his life and I cannot take it. He must offer it up.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“That’s asking a lot of a fish, Mr. Monk.”

“Very true. I have a life and so does the fish. Our lives are of equal value. They both came from the same place – from The Creator. I want to eat to stay alive and so does the fish. My hook has no bait because that would be cheating, tricking the fish.

“The fish and I must negotiate and debate about whose need is more important today. If we agree that the fish is more important today – who knows what lies just downstream for him, then I will go hungry today. If what lies down this path is more important for me, then the fish will take the hook and I will eat. Do you understand?”

He turned back to focus on his empty fish hook and I looked at him and then down into the water. There was a fish looking at the hook, but he didn’t look convinced.

“That must be why my father says you Monks are always begging for food. You can’t talk a fish into biting on an empty hook.”

“Your father is a wise man,”

We sat there, silently, for quite awhile. It was a nice day and I was enjoying my time with the Monk even though I really didn’t understand him a lot. Before he came down the path I was just sitting here daydreaming. Now I am, thinking. I’m not used to that. He had me thinking and climbing a tree.

“I saw you coming down the path for a long time. Where are you going?

“Nowhere. Here.”

“What does that mean?”

To Be Continued…

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part One

A Conversation By The River

The banks of the river are my favorite places in the whole world. In the afternoon after my chores have been done and I’ve finished my studies too I go to the river.

The river is not very big, but it has come a long way. From high in the mountains the river has wandered down through forests and the hill country, by the city where the Emperor lives, and then to us and our farms. I have been told that, eventually, the river ends as it flows into the Great Ocean. Someday, when I am grown, I would like to make a boat and sail it down the river all the way to the sea. But now I just go to the river and sit by the water and dream.

Yesterday I was sitting on the grass by the river. I was watching the fish swim around in the water. The sun was still hot and I had found a spot underneath one of the big trees. Its leafy branches kept me from the heat of the sun and made it the perfect place to be.

From my place under the tree I could see down the dusty path from our village and, in the other direction, I could almost see the hazy shape of the mountains to the west.

As I looked up the path I could see someone, a man, walking slowly in my direction. As he got closer I could see the little clouds of dust that his sandals kicked up with each step he took. In the bright sunlight it looked like he was dressed in a golden robe. When he got closer I could tell that he was dressed in yellow with a red sash around his waist and over one shoulder.

I have seen men dressed like him before. My parents said that men dressed like that were Monks, holy men, who travel throughout the country. My mother said that they bring good luck. My father said that they were pests, always begging and wanting food for free.

The Monk was coming toward me down the dusty path. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t have anything to give him, so I decided that the best thing for me to do was to hide. I climbed the tree and hid myself in the branches.

I could see the Monk clearly as he got close and, instead of passing by and going toward the village, he stopped and sat down under my tree in the very same spot where I had been. I watched him. He didn’t make a sound. He sat there with his eyes closed.

The Monk was bald. There was not one hair on his head and he was clean shaven like my father. He sat with his legs folded up underneath him and his hands rested in his lap/ I didn’t move either. I didn’t want to make any noise that would tell him where I was hiding.

After a few minutes the Monk opened his eyes and stretched out his legs. He took off his sandals and dipped his dusty feet into the water of the river. He sighed and smiled. He had a kind face.

He undid his red sash and unfolded it on the grass next to him. He had several things, but not a lot, that he carried with him.

I saw a spool of twine and a fishing hook, a small knife – not big enough to scare anyone, a book not much bigger than my hand, a flint, and a cup. That was all he had. He was not a rich Monk like my father said that they all were.

He took his cup and bent over to get himself a drink of water. Even though it was a hot day the water in the river was always cool having come down from the mountains.

He drank his cupful of water and then he did something most strange. He bent over again very close to the water. It looked like he was talking to the water, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. When he finished talking he put his hand onto the surface of the water, like he was petting an obedient dog. That made no sense to me. It was like he was thanking the river for the water he had taken,

The Monk sat quietly by the water for a few minutes and then dried his feet, put his sandals back on, and stood up. I thought that he was going to leave and continue walking down the path. Instead he walked over to the trunk of the tree and, without looking up, he spoke.

“Why don’t you come down? I won’t bite.”

That startled me and I almost fell from my place in the branches.

“Come down and we can talk.”

To Be Continued…

Reblog From The Koolkosherkitchen “Immersion Pie”

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s blog is originally from the Koolkosherkitchen: A blog that is about both Food and Life. I am sure that you will enjoy it – even if you don’t take the recipe into your kitchen.

Enjoy!

https://koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com/

Immersion Pie Featuring Freud, Elephants, Polar Bears, and Noah’s Ark

This story was shared by Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, a fantastic public speaker with a great sense of humor. A renowned psychologist was giving a lecture on his theory of the flood. According to him, a myth about the flood of catastrophic magnitude has been present in every culture and religion in the world. He postulated that it was primitive people’s way of expressing their insecurities and fears for the future. He unequivocally stated that there has never been an actual flood. One of his listeners asked permission to comment.

“And what if there really was a flood? What if it isn’t a myth?” he asked.

A stunned silence enshrined the audience of professional, highly educated men. After a prolonged pause, the lecturer replied, “My teacher Zigmund Freud would ask who is stronger, elephants or polar bears. He would then answer that it is impossible to judge as they never meet; they exist in different climates. You and I, sir, are an elephant and a polar bear; we exist in different climates: you allow that the flood might have happened, and I don’t. We will never meet.”

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There are several different locations where Noah, a righteous man in his time, supposedly parked the Ark when flood waters receded. Amateur archaeologist Ron Wyatt, among others, claimed that he found the remains of the Ark and some artifacts to prove the veracity of his findings. His discovery has been highly disputed, but the location is spot on: Mount Ararat, as it is identified in ParshasNoah (the view is from Armenian capital Yerevan). The following video is shot by a drone flying over Wyatt’s discovery.

Take it with a grain of salt, if you will, but today hardly anybody disputes the flood itself. “Now the earth was corrupt in G-d’s sight and was full of violence” (Genesis 6:11), He got outraged, and set out to obliterate everything. It was a total immersion: “The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth… and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered” (Genesis 7:18 and 7:19). We can’t help but reflect upon the Biblical flood as thousands of people in (sic) Huston are trying to cope with a disaster of the same nature, torrential rain that flooded the city, leaving its inhabitants, human and animal alike, homeless and in need of help.

 

 

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Among many photographs of immersed buildings and drowned cars, there are quite a few of “modern Noahs,” righteous among the people of our times, boating four-legged friends to safety. As the waters are receding now in Huston, and relief is pouring in, this Immersion Pie might serve as a reminder to love and care for each other and all His creatures.

Blu Imm Pie 1.jpg

The idea is to imitate earth boiling under torrential water, so there is no crust. You mix spelt or gluten free flour with soy or almond milk,  add some brown sugar and cinnamon, a little baking powder, and a pinch of salt.

Blu Imm Pie 2.jpg

You can immerse any berries or diced fruit, but blueberries are still in season, huge and juicy, so first I immersed them into a mix of vanilla extract and brown sugar. They should sit and contemplate their fate, while you are mixing the rest of the stuff. After all, Noah spent 120 years building the Ark, to give people a chance to abandon their corrupt ways and make corrections, so give your blueberries a chance for 10 – 15 minutes.

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Since my first rule of dessert clearly states that it’s not a dessert if it doesn’t have chocolate, I also mix in unsweetened cocoa powder. It looks like mud already!

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The process of immersion is about to start! Melt Smart Balance or any butter substitute of your choice and pour it into a pie baking form. Pour your mud – batter, that is! – into it and spread it evenly. Empty your blueberries, juice and all, on top of batter and also spread them evenly.

Blu Imm Pie 5.jpg

Let it bake at 350 F for an hour or so, and the immersion will occur naturally while you are not even looking – the batter will rise and cover most of the berries. There is another, much more positive meaning of the term total immersion. It is one of the most effective methods of language acquisition: drop a person into target language environment where nobody speaks his native language or any other language he knows, and, according to S. Krashen’s Natural Language Acquisition theory, he’ll start communicating in target language. It’s a sink-or-swim method, and Krashen is right: in about three months, give or take, they start swimming, i,e, talking. By the same token, I choose to believe that dropping a person into a loving environment full of kindness will force him to acquire the same behaviors. From there – Existence Precedes Essence! – is only one step from behaviors to attitudes, and from attitudes to values!

Blu Imm Pie 6

So sprinkle some more cocoa powder on top – the more chocolate, the better! – add some crushed walnuts, if you like, and cut yourself a nice juicy piece of the Immersion Pie – total immersion in love and kindness!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup fresh berries or any fruit cut into small chunks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup spelt or gluten free flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • ½ cup soy or almond milk
  • ¼ cup Smart Balance or other butter substitute
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder plus more to sprinkle
  • Optional crushed walnuts

PROCEDURE

  • Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  • Mix berries with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and vanilla extract, put aside for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon,  add soy or almond milk. Do not over-mix.
  • Melt Smart Balance, pour into the bottom of baking pie form. Pour batter over melted Smart Balance, spread evenly. Spread berries, including juice, on top of batter, spread evenly.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and crisp around the edge.
  • Remove, sprinkle with cocoa powder and crushed walnuts. May be served warm or cold.

Enjoy!

 

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Eight

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Eight

At least the sun was shining and the winds were warm, out of the East, down from the Sierras. The fog was pushed out to sea hiding the offshore Farralon Islands from view. It made San Francisco seem like it was a part of the popular image of a Sunny California.

Luco wasn’t scheduled for release from the hospital for another three days, but he was raising such Holy Hell and threatening to crawl out of the place on his hands and knees that the medical staff voted to give him an early trip home.

“Mr. Reyes, as your doctor I must advise you to give us a couple more days to make sure that your internal injuries are on a healing track. But… as a member of the human race and someone who has to be around you all day I’d just as soon kick you down the stairs. Of course, I’d have to take a number and wait in line for the privilege.”

“Doc, I don’t mean to be trouble, but I hate it here. I’m feeling OK and I want to go home.”

The young doctor, who looked like he was there earning a merit badge, drummed his fingers on the side rail of Luco’s bed.

“Mr. Reyes, you may feel alright, but you’re not. Frankly, you’re lucky to be alive. If I sent you home alone you might end up dead on your bathroom floor before sundown. Of course, if I don’t let you leave, you might succumb to the night nursing staff.”

“I’ve been that much of a pain?” said Luco. He winced as he shifted his weight trying to get comfortable. Looking in the doctor’s eyes, Luco saw a mixture of professional concern and a weighing of the odds with a jury of his peers.

“Pain?”said the young man in the white lab coat. “Mr. Reyes, there was talk of starting a pool to predict which shift would report your sudden and unfortunate death. I’ve been here six years and I’ve never seen a grown man behave in such an immature and irritating manner.”

Luco blushed. He had never been a “good patient.” Even as a child being home sick from school could drive his mother to tears.

“Doc, I’m really sorry if I’ve been difficult. Do you think I should go and apologize to everyone?”

“No, Mr. Reyes, I couldn’t guarantee your safety. I think it best if I just sign your release and get you out of here. Who can tend to you when you get home?”

“I’ll take care of him, Doctor.”

Both men turned their gaze toward the doorway. There stood Marlee, dressed in tan shorts and a striped tank top. A large straw hat and matching bag completed the look.

***

“Oh, Jesus God, why didn’t you just leave me there to die?”

“I told you those steps would be rough, Luco.”

Marlee helped Luco ease himself down onto the sofa.

“Rough I could handle, but those last few steps…. I thought I was going to split open like a ripe watermelon.”

That’s why the doctors wanted to keep you a few more days.” Marlee spread a light throw over his legs. He had his head back, with his arm crossed over his eyes. “Inside, you’re still hamburger according to one of the Interns.”

“I feel like hamburger.” His eyes were closed.

The short ride home and the climb up the 18 steps from Stanyan Street had exhausted Luco’s body and drained his reserve of mental toughness. He fell asleep within seconds.

Luco had maintained that the vehicle that cracked and crushed his body had been steered with malicious intent. There had been no eyewitnesses. The people in the coffeehouse had nothing helpful to add.

The official police report concluded that it could come to no conclusion. There were no unusual skidmarks on the pavement. The intersection of Cole and Waller was busy during the day with diesel buses and tourist’s rental cars. Collisions and skidmarks were not uncommon. When the investigators looked at the scene they just shook their heads. The intersection looked like every other intersection in the city, except for the broken glass and the blood.

Marlee sat down at Luco’s desk and stared out the window. The grassy slopes of Golden Gate Park were still damp from the morning fog as it retreated offshore. The sunlight sparkled off the grass and made the world look clean and inviting.

She turned away from the window and looked at Luco’s sleeping form on the old hotel sofa. With his short hair and relaxed features he looked like a small boy napping. One part of her wanted to take him in her arms and rock him, nurturing, caring, protecting. Another part was coming to accept that she wanted to be held in his arms.

***

Marlee walked down Haight Street after getting Luco settled in and safe. The bright morning sun was shadowed by conflicting emotions. She and Pete from the cafe had arranged for a home healthcare staff to tend to Luco until he was farther along in his recovery.

She was comforted just knowing that he was alive and going to survive his injuries, but she was still scared for him. Luco was so sure that the driver of the van had hit him intentionally. The blend of relief and fear was exhausting. She hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. It was catching up with her now. A good solid week’s worth of deep, comforting, sleep would be good, but she needed to be back at Luco’s apartment. Five hours would have to do.

She made a short detour into the Haight-Central Market to get a couple of onions, some canned tomatoes and a green pepper. Tonight Luco was going to eat her Swiss Steak, whether he was hungry or not. He needed some red meat.

Standing at the counter, Mike, the young Lebanese owner rang up her purchases. He liked Marlee. She never gave him any grief and she never asked for credit.

“Hi, Marlee. How you doing? Don’t take this wrong, but you look terrible. Can’t sleep? Haight Street can get noisy at night.”

“It’s not the noise, Mike. I just haven’t had the chance to get any rest. Hopefully I can grab some this morning.”

As he listened, Mike let his eyes dart up to the large parabolic mirror in the corner. Shoplifting was an ongoing problem on the street and the mirror let him see clearly down both aisles of his small market.

Anyone who tried shoplifting from Mike had to be incredibly stupid. There was only one way out of the store and that was right past Mike and the 9mm pistol he kept tucked in his waistband. It was usually covered by his shirt, but not always. His eyes quickly scanned the store.

“I heard about Luco. Too bad.”

“It was horrible, Mike. He is a very lucky man, just to be alive.”

“A real shame. My brother got killed crossing Stanyan Street a few years ago. They never caught the guy who hit him. My Mother still cries about that.”

“My sympathies, Mike. At least Luco will survive.” She saw Mike’s eyes move up to the mirror. “He was released from the hospital yesterday afternoon. He’s not getting around too well yet. He needs time to recuperate.”

“Good thing he has a friend like you to help him out.” His gaze was fixed on the mirror. “Son of a bitch.”

“What?” Marlee turned and looked up at the mirror.

Crouched down in front of the beer cooler was Dennis Thayer. Marlee and Mike watched him slipping cans of beer into the pockets of his coat.

“Look at that. I finally let him back in here and the first thing he does is try to rip me off again. Marlee, here, take your groceries and get home. Me and this clown are going to have a talk and I don’t want you to be in the middle.”

“Oh, good Lord, Mike, be careful. Do you want me to call the police?”

“No. You go home and get some rest.” He smiled at Marlee, but his eyes stayed glued on the image of Dennis in the mirror. “It’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

He unfastened the bottom two buttons of his shirt. Marlee could see the textured black grip on the pistol and the polished chrome of the barrel as Mike shifted it and flipped the safety to “off.”

“Marlee, please leave. Now.”

She picked up her plastic carrier bag and, taking one last peek at the mirror, left the store.

“Please be careful, Mike.”

Mike could see that Dennis was heading toward the front of the store.

Marlee hurried across the intersection, her keys out. Opening the front gate to the building, she glanced back and saw the front door at the market swinging shut.

There was little doubt that Mike could take care of himself, but it still made her uneasy. She knew, all too well, how quickly things could go sour and become deadly. Heartbeats are fragile.

“Sleep, girl. Get some rest,” she said out loud as she opened her front door.

Within three minutes the groceries were on the kitchen counter, the blinds were closed, alarm set and Marlee was underneath the soft blankets. Her breathing was slowing and sleep was only seconds in coming. Fives hours would come soon.

“Just a loaf of bread today, Mike.”

“Sure, Dennis. That’ll be $8.87.”

“$8.87? For a loaf of bread?”

“For the bread and for the three beers you have in your pockets.”

“What beer?”

Dennis smiled. He knew that Mike had seen him hide the cans. This was the fun part, the sport of it all. He saw that the front door was closed. It was just the two of them, alone in the store.

“Mike, I’m not trying to rip you off.”

“Thayer, I’ve had it with you. I take pity on you and let you back in my store and you thank me by trying to steal from me again.” He let his hand rest on the butt of the pistol so Dennis would get the message. “Either put the beers on the counter or pay for them. Either way, I don’t want you in here anymore.”

Dennis grinned and fondled the butterfly knife in his left pants pocket. He was enjoying this. The sight of Mike’s 9mm was an added treat.

“Are you threatening me, Mike?”

“Yes, I am you stupid junkie. You think this is a game show we’re playing here?”

Dennis’ smile vanished. Name-calling was out of line. This was just a game. There was no need to get personally nasty.

He pulled the cans of beer from his pockets and, one by one, slammed them down on the counter. They would be undrinkable for hours.

“Don’t call me names, Mike…ever. I don’t like being insulted. You understand me, you stinking camel jockey? There’s your beer. Why don’t you pop one open, Osama?”

“Get out of my store. Don’t come back. No more games with you. Go!”

Dennis pushed open the door. A bright orange Municipal Railway bus was stopped at the corner. He looked back at Mike.

“You’re right about one thing, Mike. No more games.”

Dennis quickly crossed Haight Street and headed down Central toward the Panhandle. He looked up at the 1298 Haight building. He saw the blinds snap shut in the windows of apartment number six.

“So, Miss Marlee, your macho stud is still alive. Don’t get too into playing nursemaid for him. It’s going to be a temporary job.”

It was a dry cleaner, working off $750 in traffic fines by picking up trash in the Park, who found the body of the sixteen-year-old runaway, stuffed into the trash bin behind the playground in the Panhandle.

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