Old Tunes

21 Aug

 

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By L. Stewart Marsden

It’s Sunday, and raining once more in the mountains. I was working on “Girl from Ipanema” on a baritone ukulele, the instrument I leaned how to play before the guitar. It suits the song.

Then I began to mess around with chords, and struck on an old tune I used to sing years ago. It’s in A Minor.

We are one in the Spirit,
We are one in the Lord …

A very simple Jesus Freak song many of us sang — around a campfire with hands locked; at some churches.

Many of you are familiar with it. Now an old, vanishing tune and lyric, and probably rarely sung — certainly not in the highly polished Christian services of today. But then, we weren’t highly polished in our theology back then.

Smile! God loves you! was the mantra of the day.

“Good News for Modern Man” was the well-worn pocket New Testament translation then (even though the Baptists didn’t seem to like it because references of blood were not in it).

We are one in the Spirit,
We are one in the Lord …

No theology of politics. You weren’t more Christian if you were Republican or Democrat. Male or female. Black or white. American or Hispanic. Northerner or Southerner. Rich or poor. Well-educated or not. Spoke in tongues or — well, maybe you were.

And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored …

Like I said, it’s an OLD song with an OLD message …

And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love …

Not by our might.
Not by our vote.
Not by our stand.

More like Stephen, who preached and was stoned to death by angry and righteous Pharisees and Sadducees.

In the movie “The Mission,” the priest is horrified by how his flock take up arms to protect themselves. He and several others take up — metaphorically — banners of love and march into the fray. Powerful.

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love.

Gandhi is purported to have commented, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. You Christians are so unlike Christ.”

Well, we say, Christ died for sinners, as if to exonerate us.

True. And also true is we would prefer mercy over justice for our transgressions. I certainly would.

But, like the Pharisees and Sadducees who ended Stephen’s sermon and life, justice is something we would hand out to others readily. At least I would. If I’m honest. Can’t let those sinners get away! I suppose I’m not that different from the folks who attend Westboro Baptist Church. If I’m honest.

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

This isn’t an indictment of the Christian religion, rather the hearts of most Christians. I always heard going into McDonald’s doesn’t make you a hamburger.

It’s an indictment of me. Have mercy!

Tall and tan and lovely and handsome
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes you by
She passes go “Ah!”

Easier to sing than the other song. No indictments.

Free Loveseat

14 Aug

 

Free loveseat for the taking. U-pick-up. Some assembly required.

 

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Battle Bots & Politics

7 Aug

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Battle Bots & Politics

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

If I told you my favorite television shows, you would label me a “nerd.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, being a nerd is in.

Think about it: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg …. the nerds have definitely outdone the jocks! Chic city! We’re not talking millions, but gazillions!

Okay. Made my point. Jocks get eaten by the Zombies, nerds survive.

My favorite TV shows are The Big Bang Theory AND Battle Bots!

I have seen the error of my ways. I did NOT listen to Mr. Zirkle and love physics. I reached for the brass balls of FOOTBALL and LACROSSE and BASKETBALL!

What a CHUMP!

Enough background.

Here we are: Hillary vs. Donald. Forget the other candidates — they’re NERDS! We have the penultimate political warriors. Hillary — seasoned and re-seasoned until there is NO reason whatsoever to doubt her resolution and dedication to doing WHATEVER IT TAKES to reach that glorious residence!

The DONALD …. armed with years of slight-of-hand negotiation skills (so he says) in order to SET THE WORLD ARIGHT! Amen and amen, says the evangelical community.

Poised and positioned; prepared and abandoned to their fate, the two combatants enter the caged arena, fenced in by delirious and derelict supporters who are dedicated to the final end!

DOWN WITH THE ENEMY! The two deluded sides retort. DEATH AND DESTRUCTION!!! they chant.

10 … 9 … 8… 7… 6…

The clock and the frenzied spectators chant with fervor and hate for the enemy …

Hammer down!

So we wait. Like the millions of spectators throughout the milllenia who strained vocal cords and emotions rooting for their chosen victor. Thumbs up … thumbs down. Life,or death. Love, or hate.

Let the metal explode.

Why NOT me?

7 Aug
Photo by L. Stewart Marsden

Photo by L. Stewart Marsden

Why not me?

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

One of the dubious advantages of being my age is you have a much longer perspective from which to draw conclusions.

Examples:

  • If you don’t die, you get older.
  • If it’s too good to be true, yep — it is not true.
  • How to tell if a politician is lying? (You know the answer.)
  • And these and more observations become truer and truer.

You respond with an affirming nod at certain things, like when the priest in the movie Rudy says, “Two things I have learned in life. There is a god, and I’m not Him.”

At my age, you appreciate that kind of wisdom.

I think nobody is looking to be singled out for something bad. Am I right? Do I get an “Amen, Brother?”

But life is pretty arbitrary about how it deals the cards. I mean, while there may seem to be Jonahs and Sad Sacks, pretty much everyone gets dealt a card that makes them respond, “Why me?”

Other responses include but are not limited to:

  • “Why now?”
  • “WTF?”
  • “What did I do?”
  • “Why do you have my number?”
  • Inherent in the responses is the inference that someone is doing some thing to somebody, and that somebody doesn’t know why.

You ever been there?

I’m moving to the mountains. I’ve been in the process now for about 4 weeks, if not mentally longer. EVERYTHING has been moving like a precision-built BMW so far.

Then, out of the blue:

  • My dog gets bit by ants, reacts to the ensuing itching and nearly eats his hind rump off;
  • Someone steals my iPhone at a Lowes Hardware Store, and we (my daughters and I) watch the culprit abscond with my lifeline on Find My Friend app using GPS. EVERYTHING of informative value is on that phone!

Hoody-doody! WTF is going on? Why me? Why now?

And to top it off, my Panasonic wall-mounted flat-screen doodley-obeldy television set has given up the ghost!

DAMN! (And other appropriate seaman epithets).

Again I say unto these hills: WHY ME?

Did I tell you I can see Grandfather Mountain from my upper deck where I live?

Did I tell you that an intermittent rain has been dampening sound and fury the day long?

Did I tell you that over the years I have weathered far worse times in my life?

My infant daughter choking on an onion skin she picked up off the kitchen floor?

My first-born son, diagnosed with childhood Leukemia just months before his third birthday?

The dissolution of two marriages?

WHY ME?

Nearly at every turn.

So, Grandfather, in his infinite wisdom, gleaned from tens of thousands of years staring upward at the sky, says,

“Why NOT you?”

Wait! What?

“Why NOT you?”

The true answer is that I always thought I was special. That I deserved better.

“Why?”

I don’t have an answer for that. Why have I always thought I was special and that I deserved better?

Let me think.

Ah, because my dad told me so!

“But most dads tell their sons and daughters so. But does it make it so? Does it protect you and barricade you from the sting of life. Or worse, the sting of death?”

I know everyone dies. I know that, but I want to believe otherwise. Especially at my age.

WHERE WILL YOU SPEND ETERNITY? shout the evangelists.

So, I listen to the mountain. He stares upward at the darkening sky as I sip my gin.

“Why NOT you?”

I can’t give an answer. If I knew my Bible better, maybe I could mumble something spiritual, and thereby feel better. But I don’t and I can’t. I don’t have an answer.

So that thief who stole my iPhone is off counting his money, and preparing to waste it on his drug of choice.

And that ant that bit my dog has probably cycled through his meagre life cycle existence.

And my onionskin-eating daughter is married, with three kids of her own.

And my son, who survived nearly five years of chemo, is married and working on his bucket list, somewhat fatalistic.

And those two previous wives are now in pursuits of their own that don’t include me anymore.

And I sit on my deck and cannot see Grandfather, yet I know he is there.

Why not me?

Ignorant People

20 Jul

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Ignorant People

By L. Stewart Marsden

With acknowledgement to The Beatles

Ignorant people
Stumbling about while they shout in the wind all the day
What do they say?

Ignorant people
Pointing a finger while lingering close to the pit
Just full of sh*t

All the ignorant people
Where do they all come from?
All the ignorant people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the ignorant people …
Ah, look at all the ignorant people!

 

“Stupid is as stupid does.” — Forrest Gump

Checking in/Checking out

16 Jul

Checking in/Checking out

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Checking in:
The remote.
CNN, MSNBC, Fox and the like.
SOS*.
Ranting. Raving.
Can’t cave, but craving.
The line.
The stance.
The visceral futility.
Animal hostility.

Checking out:
Cellphone, laptop, PC.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more.
SOS*.
Ranting. Raving.
Can’t cave, but craving.
The line.
The stance.
The visceral futility.
Animal hostility.

 

*Same Old Shit

When I drool

14 Jul

When I drool

By L. Stewart Marsden

When I drool,
When I foul the air with curse and more
Will you turn headlong towards the door?

When I fail,
Will you roll your eyes and deeply sigh
And flee without a last good-bye?

When my youth and heart and lively soul
Have all but vaporized —

Will you

Avert your eyes from mine?
Withhold your smile?
Lie alone in another bed and think of anyone, anything else but me?

Will you wonder how we came to be
And why you’ve grown to such a fool?

When I drool?

 

Love … endures all things …

1 Corinthians 13: 7

 

From Extreme to Extreme: the search for sanity

13 Jul

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Photo by L. Stewart Marsden

 

From Extreme to Extreme

The search for sanity

By L. Stewart Marsden

My last two weeks have been spent at two “opposite” locations. One along the coast of North Carolina, with a broad view of the shore and the thin horizon line separating water from air. The other, in the mountains of the same state, with a view of Grandfather Mountain from my top deck. There is no horizon line. Simply the jagged outline of rocky contour against a sky steeped with thick clouds.

In both locations two similarities exist: the impact of weather, with coastal storms raging from the land to the ocean late in the afternoon and into the night; and the cool, quiet build of cloud shapes and substance above the mountain range; and the quietude.

These two weeks those intrusive electronic devices — flat screened TVs — have not infringed so much on the sounds of silence. I suppose that may be the result of necks bent reverently over tiny cellphone screens. Though irksome in itself, it still allows for others to wallow in the peace, while having the deeper and perhaps more onerous effect of estranging family and friends from conversation.

For me, the separation from the world into these idyllic sanctuaries comes at a time when I feel pounded by things I cannot change. The bile and sputum that fills the airways of social media has become so corrosive one wonders what has happened to civility and the exchange of ideas within the forums of debate? It has become a smack-down, no-holds-barred UFC-style free-for-all.

While not a very religious person anymore, there is a verse in the Old Testament that begs repeating. I apologize in advance for the number of readers this may offend:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

It comes from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter I, verse 18. It is the King James Version, which we all know was the version Jesus used.

Here’s the point — I wonder if large pockets of people have lost the ability to sit down and reason. When you spend a week at the beach followed by a week in the mountains, and the air is filled with the sounds of surf and wind and thunder and goldfinches, all the stuff we see, read and hear from our various sources fades. I know it’s still out there somewhere. But I’d have to want to see, read and hear it.

Pie in the sky, I know. Everyone can’t spend time in seclusion. People gotta earn a living, take care of families, prepare for the future.

When I was a small boy, my bedroom window opened out onto a roof. Sometimes, when I heard the beckoning call of a distant train, or the low rumble of heat lightening, I’d climb out onto the roof and sit for what seemed hours. The sky above was amazing! Lit up with the Milky Way. Periodic falling stars zipped across the expanse. Where were they from? Where were they going?

I don’t believe you need to go to the shore or the mountains to find a place to think and ponder and meditate. It’s a conscious decision and can be accessed nearly everywhere and in nearly every situation.

I will invariably turn on the TV, and I haven’t yet weaned myself from my social media fixes. This eureka is not anything new — the sounds of silence are hallowed halls I’ve always known about, yet seldom used. Poets and philosophers alike have pointed the way throughout time. As did the writer of Isaiah.

If there’s anything good to come out of the stuff going on, it’s the fact I need to have that silence. I need the time to think and ponder and meditate. It is the antitoxin to what’s going on, and will help me maintain a semblance of sanity.

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Photo by Graham R. Marsden

 

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Photo by L. Stewart Marsden

WTF: Is there NO ONE out there?

20 Jun

WTF: Is there NO ONE out there?

By L. Stewart Marsden

So I’m sixty-six. A 1968 high school graduate. A private school, to boot. Plus college.

Sure, I’ve been married twice before, but you’re not perfect either.

And I’ve got five kids and three grandkids.

And they span the generations. The oldest is Forty-something and the youngest will be 13 at the end of August 2016.

Am I perfect?

No.

I’ve been married most of my adult life, but not to the same woman. Two Mrs. Exes.

Glad to tell you about both. But remember, it’s from my perspective.

I have a lot of incredible stories to tell. You won’t believe them. That’s why I’m a writer. I can write about them and you will then give them credence.

At the same time, I recognize there is a diminishing amount of time I have left on this earth, and wouldn’t it be nice it I could spend them with someone I liked?

I’m not an orgre.

People tell me I’m actually a quite likable fellow. Like Professor Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” for example. Although I’m not British, and not a professor.

I kind of wish I had more to recommend me. But I don’t.

I’m a writer.

That, in and of itself, is a negative I think.

And, I write about weird stuff.

Oh, God!

Plus, I’m overweight.

Seems that’s okay if you’re a woman. But not if a man.

Does it bother me?

Sure it does.

I was once a lithe and agile young youth. Had ribs stretching my skin.

Not now. Now I struggle. Like Oprah.

In my mind I am youth and virility and all things good.

In actuality? Not so much.

But is there credit for good intentions?

You there.

You’re looking for someone intelligent, yes?

I fit the bill.

You want a challenge?

Again, me.

You want someone to bump hips when the music’s hot, and to roll and laugh!

Right?

That’s me.

But I don’t want to be changed.

I don’t want somebody that wants to make me into something I’m not.

That’s a deal-breaker for most. And especially for me.

So I will resign myself to the fact that there is probably no one out there who I can match up with.

I’m just not there.

I’m a moment away.

I wish you could see what I see.

From where I’m sitting, it is a spectacular view!

I wish I could play a song for you on my guitar. Let the view and the music carry you away.

I wish I could hum on my harmonica, and let the tune play in the wind.

It would be only for you.

But I think, sad to say, that you are not listening, and do not have eyes to see, and you will miss me.

And I will miss you.

C’est la vive!

Say it ain’t so! The conspiracy between Donald and Hillary to elevate Lebron to Victory AND to undercut America!

20 Jun

 

Say it ain’t so!
The conspiracy between Donald and Hillary to elevate Lebron to Victory
AND to undercut America!

By L. Stewart Marsden

A close-up on Stephan Curry in the final game last night.

“He doesn’t look like he feels well,” thought I. And pondered it as the unanimous 2015-2016 MVP proceeded to miss shot after shot, and throw incredibly bad passes which resulted in turnovers.

“What is wrong?” my heart cried out.

Then I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, together, sneaking out of the Golden State locker room.

Quickly I called in the troops — a band of Millennial hackers I had befriended during Y2K.

“Check the locker room video tapes … And do it quickly!”

Within nanoseconds the reports came back, and it was bone-chilling!

BOTH Donald Trump AND Hillary Clinton switched out the peanut butter that was used to make Curry’s traditional pre-game peanut butter sandwiches from ALL-NATURAL non GMO spread to Skippy Peanut Butter! Skippy! My NAMESAKE, for God’s sake!

The nefarious union of Trump and Clinton to undermine what America KNEW was a foregone conclusion (in spite of Yogi Berra’s wisdom) was SHOCKING!

Could it be that the duo was going to claim that their politics was the reason Lebron finally got the monkey (can you really say that?) off his back? As did Charleton Heston! Cleveland had overcome the odds and defeated the most prolific basketball team as far as season victories goes!

Goliath had squashed David! Finally, the BAD guys win!

But wait! Does this nefarious alliance — this unholy coupling of unruly hair and straight calfs — could this possibly point to some OTHER dastardly deed?

Why, yes!

And this is it: Donald has sucked in all of Conservative America into his camp, as agreed previously on an un-aired segment of The Apprentice, where he and HRC agreed he would be the Fall Guy and take the Republican Party down so that she, Hillary, could — like Lebron — FINALLY win! Trump will humbly accept the post of Secretary of Finance in the Hillary cabinet. She didn’t really ever intend to give Bill power over the purse.

You heard it here, folks. CNN, Fox, MSNBC got nothing on this breaking news.

And you KNOW you can trust this insider information. Why? IT’S ON THE INTERNET!

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