Untotaled: Stepping 2 (December 22nd, 1963) … February 15, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

It had been exactly one month since the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

I didn’t care.

The reason for my indifference was that my parents were antagonistic against the now-deceased President. Mom and Dad were staunch Republicans, always voting “a straight Party ticket.” Perhaps worse, their political leanings often came with a nasty side order of insults and insinuations.

Two of their favorite words when referring to “that other Party” were queer and Communist.

I was twelve years old–I didn’t know what either word meant. But I surmised that “Communist” meant attempting to overthrow all the good things in our society, including candy and ice cream, and “queer” had something to do with Hollywood stars hanging around the JFK/Camelot White House.

So when the announcer from CBS came on to give a report about what had transpired since the Dallas shooting, I realized that my parents were in the room and it was a great opportunity for me to make some brownie points with them. Christmas was coming up and I had asked for a transistor radio. I was at that awkward age when I wasn’t sure if Christmas gifts came from Father Christmas or Father Cring. I thought I might please Mom and Dad by making a derogatory comment about the late President when the report commemorating his death took a commercial break.

So when the announcer said that the President was killed just a month ago, I clapped my hands in glee and shouted, “Nice shot!”

I turned, smiling, expecting approval from my overseers. But instead, for some reason they frowned, gasped–and my dad walked over, slapped me in the head and ordered me to my room. I lodged a few half-sentence objections, but he was trailing behind me, literally pushing me toward my destination.

Once imprisoned in my bedroom, I sat in a chair, confused.

What had happened? Wasn’t I just repeating what they had said all the previous weeks? Didn’t I hear them point out that he had brought this on himself? That he was the cause of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs and the rising cost of hamburger? What did I do wrong?

You see, what I was not privy to was the fact that my parents, over that thirty-day period, had repented of their narrow-mindedness and realized that a very interesting but flawed man had been brutally murdered in a country where such foolishness should be forbidden.

They had changed their minds about some things without telling me.

So when my dad struck out at me, he was really attacking his own prejudices, which were now speaking back at him, taunting him for his nasty opinions.

I was the victim of his own repentance.

But what really bothered me was whether this would jeopardize my transistor radio at Christmas. I was so relieved three days later when it was under the tree and I was given access to the rest of the world that existed beyond Letts Avenue.

Yes, my tiny radio became my “ear to the queer.” All the things I had not been allowed to listen to, consider or wonder about were suddenly being piped to me through a little speaker.

As I look back at it I feel shame–not because I was a stupid kid saying something ridiculous, but because it took me too many years after that irresponsible day to finally learn how to think for myself.

It was too long before I comprehended what really happened in Dallas on that horrible afternoon. It had nothing to do with politics. It was stupidity, arrogance and prejudice … given a gun.

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

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Missing Ingredient … July 24, 2012

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It was named Chicken Groovy.

Many years ago, Ben and Josey invited Dollie and me over to partake in a new delicacy they had come up with from their own imaginations.  Chicken Groovy.(For those of you born after the invasion of the bell bottom, groovy means something really fine or absolutely sublime.) Continuing my story, Ben and Josey

English: Logo of the Groovy project

English: Logo of the Groovy project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

requested that we bring three pounds of fresh boneless and skinless chicken breasts to the party–and they would do the rest. So I went to the store, picked up the meat and we headed over to their house with our recently deceased, disassembled birds.The evening started out terrific. Music was playing, giddiness was in the air, conversation was rich … when suddenly Ben came out of the kitchen, horror written all over his face, asking Josey where… Well, I forget what was missing. Some sort of spice. It could have been parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme. It became obvious that Josey had forgotten to pick up this particular ingredient at the store. Ben was devastated and informed everyone that the evening was ruined because the meal couldn’t be completed due to the absence of this mystery spice from the East.

That in itself would have been enough “over-wrought” for me, but the failure to acquire the purchase from the grocery store led Ben and Josey into a deep discussion–in front of us–about many of their internal problems. I was fine when they were discussing the poor choice of a couch in the living room. I remained silent when she expressed her displeasure over him leaving the toilet seat up. But when the conversation moved into frustrations about bedroom technique, I decided it was time for me to get to my feet and do something.

So I grabbed the chicken, a salt shaker and headed off to the kitchen, acquired a frying pan and started to make my own evolution of Chicken Groovy. (By this time, honestly, any chicken or food whatsoever would have been groovy.) Ben and Josey were a bit shocked by my presumption but didn’t sense that they would be able to stop my progress, so I cooked up the chicken and we ate it. They were a bit disgruntled because it wasn’t REALLY Chicken Groovy, but we finished the food and left.

I never forgot that night. It amazed me how quickly we went from being contented individuals to completely enraged and argumentative, simply because there was a missing ingredient. There wasn’t even a discussion on how we could improvise with something else. After all, catsup covers a multitude of inadequacies.

The trouble is, when people want things to be perfect, they convince themselves that the key to that perfection is in surrounding themselves with the elements. Big mistake.

In like manner, I was born a twelve-and-a-half pound glob of pink, hairless “homely.” Since then, I have only added poundage to that perplexity. Somewhere along the way, though, I received a calling in my heart to use my talent to try to enrich my own life and touch the borders of the human beings around me. Honestly, I wasn’t visually suited for that, for human beings are notorious for looking on the outward appearance instead of the heart. I had a missing ingredient. But I chose to ignore it. I placed myself in the vulnerable position of being criticized initially for the possibility of being a blessing later.

About ten years ago, my knees and legs started wishing to retire. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) my mind, heart and spirit were not ready to play shuffleboard. So I find myself touring around the country, daily convincing my lower extremities to participate as they reluctantly joined the quest like a grumpy old man complaining about the available choices at a Tex-Mex restaurant.

I have a missing ingredient to being a traveler–my legs don’t work very well. I suppose there are folks who would use that as an excuse, or even as a sign from God, to cease peddaling. I just find it a humorous diversion to a necessary mission. This is why I am of a firm belief that life really boils down to one of two choices:

1. Am I going to wait for all the ingredients to arrive so I can pursue the recipe of my desire and complete it to my own satisfaction?

2. Am I going to ignore the lack of possibilities available to me and try to piece together something that resembles my desires with what has been provided?

Isn’t that it? The first group spends most of their time explaining why they don’t do things; the second group never offers an explanation, even though you might wonder how they have achieved as much as they have, considering the lack.

I guess the question I should have asked Ben and Josey that fateful night was, Which came first–the chicken or the groovy?” Is the chicken made groovy because you have found a particular gravy to make chicken palatable? Or is the groovy made possible because the chicken, itself, is hard to screw up?

It’s a big question, folks–one we all must answer. Otherwise, we will spend most of our lives on the sidelines with a very good discourse to share about why we never did what we really wanted to do. We can cite family responsibility, minimal funding, health issues, a dearth of breaks, and even insist that perhaps it was never the will of God. But the truth of the matter is, there was some missing ingredient we thought was necessary in order to make our particular goal a reality, and we chose to sit out the contest instead of using what was available.

Here’s my philosophy–I’m going to go ahead and plant, hoping that somebody else comes along and waters, believing in my heart that God will actually get off of His throne and give us some increase.

I will continue to pursue my vision out of stubbornness, willingness, humility and a bit of silliness, if you don’t mind. You more mature folks may wish to wait for the next bus, the next opportunity, the next splitting of the sky or Halley’s Comet, for that matter. But no one lies on his death-bed and says, “Gee whiz, I shouldn’t have tried that …”

Do yourself a favor–once you resolve who you are and who God is and how the two of you are going to get along, go ahead and solve two other questions:

1. What am I going to do today that resembles my dream?

2. How much good cheer am I willing to use when things just refuse to work out the way I planned?

This is the key. It is the way to keep things groovy. Otherwise, you end up just being chicken.

   

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