Things I Learned from R. B. (June 28th, 2020)

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Episode 21

I was invited to have a cup of coffee at O’Charleys by Henry.

I only knew the name because R. B. had mentioned it several months earlier when he got a job and told me who his boss was.

Henry Clevenger. I don’t know why I remember that so well—but for your sake and his sake, I’m glad I do.

Yes, oh, yes—after two solid years of unemployment, R. B. found a job in downtown Nashville, with a company that was large enough that they actually still worked on old machines that were worthy of repair instead of scrapping

R. B. was thrilled. He came to our house and told us in person. You would have thought he had a hand in inventing the world.

We shared chicken wings and pizza that night, and hadn’t seen him since. That was about four months before the invitation from Henry.

I heard through the passing conversations that he was faring pretty well, even though he had returned to some of his Dallas drinking ways.

I also picked up that he’d gone to a local writer’s night, held in the basement of an inner-city church, and sang his songs in front of strangers. Well, worse than strangers. Songwriters. The rumor was, he didn’t fare very well and objected to the criticism.

(Once again, I classify that one as a storyline without a follow-up.)

So after several months of no contact and erroneous information, I was very surprised to get a phone call from Mr. Clevenger—and even more curious about how he got my telephone number.

Upon arriving at O’Charley’s I discovered that he had already procured a booth, not knowing that a man of my size has no affection for a booth (including John Wilkes).

But somehow, I squeezed in (as big fat boys have learned to do).

He was a small man, bespectacled, in his late forties, unassuming but certainly oozing the juices of prosperity.

I picked a profile. It’s one I should have used more in my life: Sit, wait and let somebody else get the ball rolling instead of running up to kick it yourself.

After Henry was sure the waitress had brought all the coffee and he discouraged her from further interruptions, he turned to me and stated the obvious: “I’m here to talk about R. B.”

And talk he did. For the next fifteen minutes, he delivered a testimonial about their initial meeting, the first day of employment and events that had followed.

He punctuated by assuring me that R. B. did know how to repair a computer—but it took an excessive amount of time, leaving Henry to explain to affluent customers why they were being delayed.

But at length, Henry arrived at the main subject—his purpose for coming.

R. B. was always late.

And not just late, but belligerent about being challenged to arrive at a definitive time. Henry explained that R. B. saw no difference between 9:00 A. M. and 9:52. R. B. insisted that as long as he got the work done, what difference did it make if he was a few minutes late?

Henry added that he probably wouldn’t even care—but the disagreements were spilling out in front of other employees, who had already decided they didn’t particularly favor the new computer fixer. They challenged Boss Henry to be more assertive.

So Henry had decided to talk to me, since R. B. had explained that I was a long-time friend.

After thoroughly covering the subject and presenting a case that would impress the Supreme Court, Henry paused and looked hopefully into my eyes. He posed a question. “What do you think I should do?”

The truth of the matter was, I actually was expert enough on the subject of R. B. that I could honestly attest to the fact that I had no idea what to offer.

I chose not to go into my history with our common acquaintance.

The conversation seemed to be stalled when a crazy idea popped into my mind. I said, “It’s obvious to me that you do not want to fire R. B. For that, I salute you for having a heart of gold. But if you’re gonna keep him on the job so that your conscience won’t gnaw at you about firing a man who possibly won’t be employable outside of your present circumstances…”

After I said this, I looked deeply into Henry’s eyes.

He knew.

Henry knew that the business was passing R. B. by, and that nobody else in Music City would find his resume tuneful for their needs.

So I continued, confident that we were on the same wavelength. “Let me ask you a question. Is there a back entrance to your company, near to R. B.’s station, where he wouldn’t have to pop in the front door and expose his tardiness to all your carefully observing employees?”

Henry nodded his head and smiled, realizing where I was going. He put it together himself. He would make an R. B. entrance which only R. B. used, which went only to R. B.’s station. So if R. B. was late, he was late—and as long as the work was done, Henry could leave him alone.

The other employees should keep their noses out of the situation, and if they didn’t, he could call them down for good reason.

Henry was elated.

He had an idea.

He was the kind of man who always wanted to be generous but knew that forsaking common sense steals that privilege from you.

He stood to his feet to leave, then turned and said in a whisper, “Can I help you out with some money? R. B. says you’re always struggling with finance.”

I was infuriated. We were fine. We were always fine. R. B. just felt the need to feel superior and had placed us in a garbage bag of poverty in his brain, which calmed his feelings of inadequacy.

But I chose not to bark back at Henry, or even be catty. I reached up, shook his hand and said, “Doin’ fine, my friend.”

He legitimately seemed glad.

He headed for the door, only stopping to pay for the drinks, and was on his way.

I never saw Henry again.

About four months later, R. B. called, cursing the air about losing his job. I set up a time to talk with him.

As soon as I hung up the phone, it rang again. This time it was Henry. In the most gracious of terms, Henry explained to me, in less than one minute, that the idea to segregate R. B. with a private entrance worked for a month or so, until R. B. realized that nobody was watching—and began coming in after lunch.

Henry was so upset.

Henry was so disappointed.

Henry wanted to do the right thing.

R. B. wouldn’t let him.

Henry wept.

Things I Learned from R. B. (March 22nd, 2020)


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 8

The tour ended in a rather joyous splash.

Of the ten thousand original dollars offered by the investors, we were able to complete the entire project, travel all across the country and still return five thousand dollars to them.  It wasn’t great—but considering the industry of music and theater, not too bad at all.

The cast gave hugs, promised to write, took addresses, and in a matter of two hours, what began as a dream ended—leaving me with a deep sense of loneliness.

For me, it was not just the end of a tour. It was also the demise of the music group I had been traveling with for eight years. My partner from the inception had grown weary of pulling her makeup out of a suitcase and was going back to Ohio to begin the next chapter of her life. I didn’t have the heart to go on without her. Singing voices can be replaced, but memories and passion are rare and come at a premium.

On top of that, I was reunited with my two older sons, who were rather pissed because they had spent two months with their grandma—especially since the littlest one rattled on about stories from the road.

The rent was due, and the refrigerator needed to be filled. I had no money. Worse—I had no plan.

About five days after the tour disbanded, I was sitting in my small apartment in Nashville, musing my fate, when the phone rang.

It was R. B.

I had completely forgotten that he also lived in Nashville. He was calling to ask my advice on where to find a reasonably priced place to record some of the music he had written. This was back in the time when “reasonable” and “recording” were two words that couldn’t be used in the same sentence.

I was also a little needy to be needed.

So I offered to use my gear at church nearby, where the pastor and I were friends.  When we arrived, I asked R. B. to sing me his songs. There were six in all.

The problem with sitting and listening to a singer-songwriter is that he or she often feels the need to take ten minutes to explain the origin of their three-minute song. After about an hour-and-a-half, we finished, and R. B. asked me my opinion.

“There’s only one way you can tell if a song is any good,” I said. “Without hyping it, telling its story or sharing a tearful story, just play and sing it and see if people dig it—just for its own worth.”

R. B. frowned at me. Part of the frown was due to the fact that he didn’t know exactly what I meant, but most of it was caused by R. B. being very unfamiliar with criticism.

I listened to the songs individually one more time, and told him that of the six, there were two that people would enjoy hearing and other artists might like to sing.

That afternoon we recorded those two songs. I overlaid some piano, organ and vocals and did a quick mix on it over to cassette tape, so he could take it home and listen.

He was thrilled.

I must have gotten about seven calls in the next two days—R. B. pointing out things he had just discovered and expressing how grateful he was that I took the time to help him.

Meanwhile, I made a contact with a minister in Mobile, Alabama, who was just beside himself—overjoyed to have my wife, kids and myself come down and join the staff.

I had never done anything “churchy” before, but the opportunity came with a house, free utilities and a small salary. So I looked past my apprehensions.  I buried my dreams and made plans to move my entire entourage to Mobile, Alabama.

Shortly before we left, R. B. came to dinner and told us that he had just hired on with an electronics firm in Minnesota. We shook hands. I think he even mustered a hug.

As R. B. left, I remember thinking, “I’ll probably never see him again.”

 

The I Word … April 2nd, 2019

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THE

Image result for gif for the letter I

 

WORD


The I Word is Ignorance

I am reminded of the passage in “A Christmas Carol,” where the second of the Three Spirits warns Ebenezer Scrooge, when unveiling the two children of humankind beneath his robes.

He says, “Beware them both in all of their degree, but most of all, beware this boy—for on his brow I see that which is written, which is Doom, unless the writing be ceased.”

And the boy’s name was Ignorance.

Ignorance may be one of the few words in the English language which is used both as a taunt of criticism and a badge of pride. It evokes a situation in which we choose to ignore that which is obvious, that which is blessed, that which is praise-worthy and that which is true, in favor of a mythical tale often of our own making.

It is dangerous—especially when flaunted by those who seem to be totally content with their lack of knowledge and education and have begun to wear their misinterpretation as proof of simplicity instead of simply lacking proof.

Ignorance says, “I will ignore any opinion that differs from mine.”

Ignorance also proclaims, “I will call those who disagree with me ignorant.”

And most notorious of all, Ignorance closes out its rampage with, “I will lie to maintain my ignorance.”

It is a word we must cease using, because it has no power as an excuse and becomes a vicious attack when pointing the finger at another, rendering the accuser the villain.

 

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1 Thing You Can Do This Week to Make the World a More Flowing Place


Start with agreement

One of the more nasty vices that has slipped into our society is the attitude that we must establish how we disagree with one another in order to keep our ideas, our politics and our faith pure.

We lead with it.

We watch a movie and criticize it instead of first offering the things we enjoyed.

We read a book and tear into it before we share the parts that were enlightening.

We listen to music and complain that it’s derivative or doesn’t have the right beat or lyrics, instead of isolating off the portion that was enriching.

I do believe if you came to Almighty God and asked Him to say one nice thing about Satan, He would reply, “You know, he used to work here—as an angel.”

It won’t kill us to do this

And doing so will set in motion a completely different mindset and manifestation of emotion in the room.

Start with agreement

Then if you feel a need for further comment, enter at your own risk.

It’s a wonderful way to cut down on the animosity that has cropped up in the “Mean Streets.”

Just remember it this way:

First, agree.

Then suggest.

And if you must…

Share the rest.


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3 Things … November 8th, 2018

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That Let You Know Things Are Changing

1. You spend most of your time working on improving yourself.

 

2. People look better to you than cats and dogs.

 

3. You pass up an obvious chance to be critical.


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Sit Down Comedy … November 2nd, 2018

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So Close

(tap the picture to see the video)

 

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1 Thing You Can Do This Week (To See Things Done)

1 Thing You Can Do This Week …

(To See Things Done)

How much preparation is necessary to begin a task and how much energy is required to complete it?

Most aspirations, goals, projects and dreams find their graveyard in that cemetery of contemplation.

Because we are frightened of beginning something and looking foolish, or running out of money, or failing to complete it, we decide that hesitating, delaying and avoiding is often the more mature choice.

I am not sure that the airplane could ever have been invented if there were not thousands of legitimate attempts to make one which failed–but in the process, gave a valued piece of information for going forward.

So the one thing you can do this week is:

Find what needs to be done and learn how to do it.

In the process of that education, you may well discover that the conclusion is far beyond your ability, or maybe even grasp.

But you will become informed. Therefore, you will progress the cause and you will possess greater understanding of yourself and your world with this noble attempt.

There are two great responsibilities given to the human race

1. Tell the truth

Nothing goes forward when we’re constantly trying to do damage control and lying.

2. Try something

Stop discussing, plotting, criticizing or undermining the efforts you see around you and get behind an idea, having first prepared yourself by learning how to be a good contributor.

That is your goal for this week–the one thing.

When you find what needs to be done, sit down and learn if there’s any way that you can lend a helping hand.

P. S. (This is actually a double P. S.):

My heart and soul are crushed this morning over the loss of Gilda York, a friend of mine who followed today’s principle as a champion. She took the young people around her and gave them direction, purpose and a little bit of beauty that they wouldn’t otherwise have experienced. She was killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver

And also, today is my anniversary. The secret to marriage is actually to have the stamina and intelligence not to keep too many secrets.

 

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