Untotaled: Stepping 54 (May 7th, 1970) Prom Motion…February 14, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2503)

 

 

(Transcript)

It was early afternoon on Wednesday, May 4th, 1970, before the word spread through our high school that four students had been killed at Kent State.

The response was odd.

For you see, half of our teachers were nearly in tears over the unnecessary loss of human life, and the other half basically had the attitude that “the kids got what they deserved” for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So the school was split.

What made things even more difficult was that there had been riots all over the nation for weeks, and our senior prom was coming up on Saturday.

Having a myopic view of life at eighteen years of age, the shooting of the students at Kent State barely created a blip on my radar. I was thinking about the prom, romance, finally getting out of school and a big gospel concert I planned to attend with my date in the middle of the prom experience. Yes, we intended on leaving the prom for a few hours and going to the fairgrounds in Columbus to catch a musical show.

I was also excited because my girlfriend’s father told us we could use his Corvette for the prom. I would not say that her parents were in favor of our relationship–I think they were convinced it was merely a high school affair, and she would soon be in college and forget the hometown boy.

Prom night arrived. We went to the dinner, and then slipped off to the gospel concert, where we were confronted with a most bizarre situation.

Stationed at the fairgrounds were National Guard troops who were trying to keep order at Ohio State University. So as we walked around in our formal wear, there were soldiers not much older than us, carrying guns–dancing to the music with their rifles overhead.

After the concert we decided not to rejoin the prom activities but instead, went out, talked, made out, and ended up, just before dawn, on the long driveway leading to my girlfriend’s house.

We wanted it to be a memorable night so I took off my dress coat, placed it on the grass, and she laid down. I lifted her dress and she unbuckled my pants. We commenced to do things that we knew would be frowned on by anyone older than us.

Two weird things happened in the midst of this intimacy.

A horse my girlfriend owned came up to the nearby fence and stared at us. I couldn’t help thinking that he was critiquing my technique, And then, even more strange was that a nearby neighbor–a friend of my girlfriend’s father–pulled into the driveway with his pickup truck, sat for a minute and then backed out to depart.

We finished our fling and realized that it was unlikely that this intruding neighbor would keep his mouth shut. We were pretty confident that we had the horse’s silence.

So we drove the rest of the way up to the house and had breakfast–both of us realizing this was probably the last time there would be civility in her household over our relationship.

Not much happened after that.

Two weeks later, on graduation day, we both picked up our diplomas without much pomp and circumstance, with only one thing on our minds.

A time of the month had been missed–and we were afraid we were prematurely on our way to a grown-up world.

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Untotaled: Stepping 53 (October 27th, 1969) Drummond Park… February 7, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2496)

(Transcript)

Murray Gregory, a man with two first names,.

He was a deacon in our church, yet every once in a while he’d get himself an “alcohol rub” in his soul and go off two or three days binge-drinking and end up in the drunk tank in downtown Columbus.

Folks from the church would go bail him out and by Sunday morning he would be at the altar, crying his way back to Jesus. Everything would be fine until the next time he got the inclination to jump in the bottle.

My opinion was that he was a sloppy drunk and a mean deacon. I will tell you this–he didn’t like me at all.

I bring this up because the bikini friend I had begun dating the previous summer had become my girlfriend, and we were beginning to experiment with one another.

Neither one of us had learned the facts of life–I never told, and she confused by parents who were over-clinical. Health class in high school only served to stimulate our interest without truly explaining our “stimulators.”

The young lady and I were not sure of the depth of our commitment, but completely enthralled with the width of our passion.

So there were a bunch of little parks that speckled the Central Ohio area, which had nothing more than a few picnic tables, an outhouse, and of course, a place to park.

One Indian summer afternoon, my girlfriend’s father allowed us to use his Corvette, and we, feeling that we ruled the world, ended up at Drummond Park, and decided to probe one another’s private parts. We had no intention of “going all the way.” That was un-Christian. But eyeballing the “land of promise” did seem within Biblical proportions.

So we studied each other with a fervor we had not had for education since discovering the glories of construction paper and paste in kindergarten.

Meanwhile, back at Drummond Park, we had just finished up one of these sessions. She had returned to her seat and I had restarted the engine, when Deacon Gregory came walking by the Corvette. We both had no idea where he had come from; he did not speak to us, just headed to the outhouse to do his business.

I did not wait for him to come out to find out what he had seen–or heard, for that matter–but made my exit as quickly as possible. We drove home, trying to figure out what trouble we were in.

I always felt like he was following us. I had no proof. But it did give us plenty to think about.

But the juices that were squeezed that day in Drummond Park released a drug in our systems, of human sexuality. Once it has been injected, it is very difficult to stop being a user and very easy to become addicted.

And as far as I know … there is no rehab. 

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Untotaled: Stepping 42 (August 27th, 1967) Driven… November 29, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2428)

(Transcript)

I woke up in one of those adolescent grumpy moods, staring at the ceiling, disgusted with my life.

It was nearly time for school to start again and I felt like I had squandered my entire summer, worrying about how little summer I had left.

Even the things I had done which seemed enjoyable had passed too quickly, and now it was time to go back to school–to pretend to be a student and memorize a bunch of information which would give me a good grade on a test, knowing in my heart that I would soon forget the knowledge, yet knowing that somewhere in the future, I would be expected to remember it.

I had acquired three dollars yesterday by finally mowing the lawn, which had grown so high that one of the neighbors had complained to my parents, fearing that varmaints or snakes might dwell within. I reluctantly did the job and was rewarded with the remuneration.

So I woke up with a scratch I needed to itch. That’s the way it is when you’re a teenager–it’s not really an itch you need to scratch, but rather, an ongoing scratching sensation and needing an itch to justify it.

I got in my car and headed over to Katie’s house. She was the highlight of my summer. We had come together to search for pop bottles we could turn in for deposit to get gas money so we could drive around, talk and be silly.

There was nothing romantic involved, though candidly, I would have jumped her at the slightest invitation. She just thought I was funny.

When I picked her up that day, she had two dollars she had earned by picking blackberries on her grandma’s farm. Between us we had five dollars, three candy bars and some leftover tuna sandwiches her mother had foisted on her as she departed.

Katie explained that she needed to be home by three o’clock in the afternoon, and since it was already ten-thirty, our time would be shortened.

I told her that since we had enough money to buy fifteen gallons of gasoline, that we should drive three hours somewhere, talk, laugh and turn around to drive three hours back.

She was cool with it so we took off for Columbus.

Driving on I-71, we reached the south end of Columbus. Then that scratch that needed an itch suddenly raised its head. So I said, “Let’s keep going.”

She was nervous but agreed–and before too long we passed through Washington Court House, Wilmington and suddenly found ourselves on the outskirts of Cincinnati. It was deliciously naughty, filled with wild abandon and irresponsibility.

A sign read that the Ohio River was four miles ahead. I had never seen the Ohio River, and Katie had only passed over it in a car with her parents while being sound asleep in the back seat. So I said, let’s do it.

We crossed the river into Kentucky.

We felt like fugitives. It was similar to trying to make our way into the Soviet Union through the Iron Curtain (they had that back then).

Everything on the other side of the river, including a town named Covington, looked so different. We felt like Christopher Columbus eyeballing the New World.

Suddenly, Katie looked down at her watch and it was two o’clock in the afternoon, and she realized there was no way she would be able to get back in time. There also were no cell phones or texting, and pay phones were out of the question because we had used all of our money for petrol.

So knowing we were going to get in trouble, we turned the car around and headed back the way we came. It was the strangest combination of fear, jubilance, independence, anxiety and nervous bowel twinges that I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Strangely enough, when we arrived home, people really didn’t say much about us being late–just that we should never do it again.

Katie and I knew that was impossible.

Something changed that day.

I no longer felt bound to a small home on a tiny street in a little village. I realized there was a big world out there–and the only way I would ever get to it and be myself was to survive a couple more years of provincial schooling … to finally be able to point my life in my own direction.

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Morse Code… September 28, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2020)

sausageWhat an absolutely magical and simultaneously bizarre sensation it was last night as I turned onto Morse Road and headed to my gig at Ascension Lutheran. From the 3-C Highway to High Street is about a three or four mile stretch of pavement which explodes with memories from my childhood. I breathed them all in, smiled, heading off toward my evening’s activities.

Right on the corner was the location of Stan’s Restaurant, a place where, as a young boy, my parents would stop to eat dinner after their weekly excursion of puttering around at the Northern Lights Shopping Center. We children were always instructed to order the “chicken in a basket” while my dad had a T-bone steak. We didn’t care. It was eating out.

Right next door was the Lion’s Den Gentlemen’s Store. There was one church in town that didn’t think it was an establishment for gentlemen. They picketed against the pornography and made the newspaper for a season, but as the years have passed, the church is long-gone and the Lion’s Den, prosperous.

Just  down that road was the Northland Shopping Center, one of the first places I took my music group to perform in front of bustling patrons more interested in sales than in a rag-tag music group attempting to gain their attention. We were oblivious. The mall gave us fifty dollars for doing two shows, and we thought we had struck oil.

At that mall I also played the part of Santa Claus, which was suited both to my body type and my financial needs.

Just a few blocks down was a place called Schmidt’s Sausage House. The company still exists, though they long ago moved from the original location. Mr. Schmidt (or whoever the owner was) encountered our music group at a Catholic church, and he liked us so much he asked us to come in and perform on Monday nights, in the hopes of building his crowd by having live entertainment. (I’m not so sure we ever did that for him, but I do have great memories of a “Bahama Mama,” which, by the way, is a sausage, not an exotic dancer.)

And not too far down the road was a place called Lowe’s Theater. It was one of the closest movie-going places to my hometown. It was also the site of my first date with a girl at age sixteen. I can remember that I was so glad when the movie started, so we didn’t have to keep coming up with things to talk about. After much consternation, about three-quarters of the way through the film, I worked up the courage to reach over and hold her hand. I was surprised at how wet it was. I don’t know whether it was my perspiration or hers, but it was the first time I shared sweat with another human being.

And finally, down on the corner of High Street, there used to be a Frisch’s Restaurant. When I was twenty-four years old I sat in that restaurant with a friend and made one of the major decisions of my life. I decided to take my family, in our beat-up van, along with my music group, and move to Nashville, Tennessee and try to make a go of it. I was tired of being a local singer, pretty well-respected for my talent, but completely disdained and criticized for having no money.

That move to Nashville was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my young existence–and changed everything from a dream to a pathway of reality.

So when I went in concert last night at Ascension Lutheran and only fourteen people showed up for the “local boy who’s done good,” I had to laugh. It was another piece of my own personal Morse Code from Morse Road–another memory to add to the scrapbook.

And I guess I’ll just keep adding them–good, bad and ugly–until there are just no more pictures to be taken … because I’m gone.

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Ascension Attention… September 27, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2019)

Peter PanSome things certainly “captain my hook” while others never “tinker my bell.”

Thus is life in these United States.

So this morning when I looked at my calendar and realized I would be performing tonight at Ascension Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio, I got to thinking about the word “ascension.”

Obviously, it means “to ascend.” But in reference to the Good Book, it specifically puts a spotlight on a day when Jesus “lifted off” from the earth and headed back to heaven–right in front of the peepers of his best friends.

Now you see, the ascension doesn’t turn me on nearly as much as the resurrection–not because I believe giving new life to a broken, crucified body is more POSSIBLE than levitating into the ethos. It’s more that … I don’t really care.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of those who maintain their spirituality without question, I will tell you there are stories in the Good Book I really like and others I kind of ignore.

I am not alone here.

After all, the folks who get upset about abortion and gay people have certainly failed to peruse the rest of the texts that tell us “not to judge” and to “do unto others.”

But there is one part of that ascension story that I do find inspiring and entertaining. Shall I refer to it as “an angel with an attitude?”

Generally, when angels appear on earth to do the beckoning of the Father in heaven, they often show up with a bit of chip on the shoulder and some sardonic wit. These angelic visitors have been known to strike people blind and deaf due to human disbelief, satirically ask women who have come to a grave to add their spice to the burial “why they seek the living among the dead,” and at the ascension of Jesus into heaven, it is recorded that an angel, a bit peeved, asked the gawking disciples, “Men of Galilee, why are you staring at the heavens?”

The logical answer was that this was their first time to see somebody float skyward. Rather impressive. A guarantee of first place on America’s Got Talent (unless there was a country singer who lost his leg in Afghanistan and saved his dog’s life from a burning shack while supporting his mother by digging out horse crap from a stable…)

But it is a good question–one I suspect I will pose to the audience at Ascension tonight.

“Why are we staring at the heavens?”

After all, the other alternative–which most people select–is to stare at the ground.

But there is a lifestyle somewhere between the ethereal and depression. It’s the ability to live an honest and truthful existence, enabling you to look straight ahead, preferably right in the eyes of your brothers and sisters.

I have no intention of being downcast. But I also do not want to be upcast when there are people who need help, love, encouragement and challenge.

So why are we staring at the heavens? It’s because, deep in our hearts, we’ve given up on Earth and we think the solution must come from divine intervention.

Too bad.

So call me Peter Pan–but I still believe that we can do better…and fly higher.

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Too Many Gods and Not Enough… September 26, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2018)

ZeusA god: someone or something worshipped as supreme.

Yesterday as I drove in downtown Columbus, Ohio, there was a flashing arrow directing us that the lane was closing.

And then it began.

A few people got over immediately to serve the common need. But most people stayed in the lane which was closing as long as they possibly could–to get a little bit ahead of everyone else. I realized that these folks had no idea that they were screaming loud and proud their god choice.

The reason I have difficulty with religion is because it doesn’t make things better.

I do not understand why we extol the value of a worship system which allows human beings to act on their own whim.

Even if you’re an atheist, you have a god. Maybe it’s nature. Perhaps animals. Could it be morality? But each deity we consider to be supernal sets a style of behavior in motion which is often contrary to earth life.

That’s why, in the Christian faith, we pursue the presence of Christ while ignoring the essence of Jesus. After all, dangling a cross from the ceiling, drinking wine from a magic cup, baptizing and reciting prayers do not replace the Golden Rule. If you allow a convert to follow ritual without learning the “rights” of humanity, you do nothing to improve our planet, but instead, merely unleash another selfish person who is desperately trying to get to the front of the line.

So please allow me to complete the title of this essay: too many gods and not enough human beings.

For I will tell you–some of the most selfish, arrogant, uncaring, unfeeling and disconnected people I have ever met in my life have just emerged from the hallowed halls of a church house. Why? Because we give them a godhead to worship without teaching them how to get into the head of God.

There are only three standards that work. You can refer to them as spiritual, or if you seek no divinity whatsoever, you can acknowledge them as essential:

1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. No law, edict, philosophy or set of rules work if we don’t have an understanding and an empathy for the common traveler.

2. NoOne is better than anyone else. Whether you totally believe this statement to be true or not, to contend anything else is to set in motion the prejudice which leads to bigotry, which ultimately concludes with murder and war.

3. Don’t judge or you will be judged. Some people call it “karma.” Other people call it “even-steven.” Whatever you call it, how you evaluate other human beings is the way you will eventually be critiqued by others–with a little edge added on. This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions; it means that my opinions are trumped by my realization that even people who live in stained-glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

We have too many gods and not enough human beings.

  • Laws will not work without mercy.
  • Rules are broken without understanding.

Where can we start? We can start by honoring the essence instead of just bowing down in adulation to the presence. In so doing, we might be surprised that the presence of God will not need to be conjured, but instead … will dwell within us.

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Hurt, Heal, Praise … June 29, 2013

(1927)

dancersThe most difficult road to take to achieve humility is the highway of humiliation. Yet for some reason, it’s the most popular.

Many years ago, I wrote a musical called Mountain. Humbly I offer to you that the composition was really quite good. I had some friends in Columbus, Ohio, who let me use their studio very reasonably and we put together the music for the production. In the process of doing so, we stirred up a lot of interest in the community. So when it was announced that a two night premiere would be held,  tickets sold quickly and we realized we were going to have a hit.

Our job? To come up with a cast who could perform the piece and portray the material adequately. We selected our individual members but failed to consider that most of the young folk we had placed in the roles had grown up believing that dancing was “of the devil,” and the rest of them were just hellish dancers.

The musical required some choreography. Even though the music itself came off very well, and the acting was sufficient, the instructors we selected to teach our entourage how to do live stage movement were far too advanced and left our fledgling foot-flyers completely confounded.

So on opening night, the portion of the show that required choreography was an absolute disaster, leading one observer to refer to it as “collisionography.”

Unfortunately, the theater was nearly packed. I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. I was young, impetuous and unfortunately, too quick to want to give up.

But from somewhere down deep in the bottom of my socks, I found the faith to get up the next morning, realize we had another premiere to do, and instead of being angry or frustrated, took the cast and worked on simplifying the dance portion of the show.

We were all hurt.

Life is not a journey of avoiding hurt, but rather, a continual odyssey to be healed.

The only way my cast was going to be healed was by believing they could actually find something to do onstage that was within their grasp, and that they could have another opportunity to prove their ability.

The second night was fantastic–night and day difference. Unfortunately, the crowd had shrunk due to the bad reports about the faltering footwork. We didn’t care. We had been hurt the night before and it was time to heal. And heal we did.

Our confidence soared and we went out on a tour to twenty-five cities, getting better and better each night–because our healing turned into praise.

I will never forget that experience. It is a constant reminder that being hurt has absolutely zilch nobility or value unless you immediately set a process in motion to be healed. All healing is then confirmed by the presence of praise.

We have to learn this in our society:

  • Hurt people are determined to hurt. They don’t mean to–they just duplicate what’s inside themselves out to others.
  • Healed people seek healing.
  • And people of praise are always looking for reasons to praise.

So the next time you get in a  mood and think there’s nothing that’s any good anymore, take a moment and trace back in your life to find that unhealed hurt. You will be surprised at how much brighter the world looks when you have shed some light … on your own pain.

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