Terkel… February 23, 2013


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On the third day I decided to stop.

Sprawled on the gravel near the dumpster behind the convenience store, sitting out in front of my motel, was a man who certainly conveyed that he had lots of time on his hands and not too many places to go. I guess that’s a quaint way of saying–homeless.

I passed by him in my van the first two days, waving and smiling. On my first passage, he seemed a bit bewildered by my friendliness but on the second day he returned my greeting with the vigor of a long-lost friend watching his confidante fly off to Siberia on a secret mission.

But on the third day I decided to stop. I rolled up, eased my window down and said, “How ya’ doin’?”

Stumbling to his feet, staring into the distance and refusing eye contact, he replied, “Zeus has given me the light.”

I paused, recollecting my Greek mythology. Zeus was the top-dog god on Mount Olympus. I continued. “Zeus, huh? How’d you get an appointment with him?”

The question obviously baffled him so he continued his runaway train of thought. “Mercury gave me wings,” he proclaimed, still staring off into the distance.

It seemed we were going to run the entire roster of Hellenistic deities.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

There was a long pause. I decided not to repeat my question. I felt it would seem as if I were insensitive or impertinent. I just waited. At length, he responded.

“Terkel. T-e-r-k-e-l.” Each letter grew in pitch of volume and intensity.

“I would have guessed Brian or Kenneth based on your age,” I replied.

For the first time the trance was broken and he glanced at me with a crinkled brow. Noting his coherency, I asked, “So what are you doing out here behind the convenience store?”

He yelled, ‘The policeman said I could be here as long as I didn’t lean against the building and sat on the gravel. It’s public property.”

I obviously had struck a nerve.

“You misunderstood my question,” I explained. “What I’m asking you is, what’s your story?”

“Zeus gave me…” he began.

I interrupted. “Listen, Terkel. I don’t know whether you believe in Zeus or not, but let’s just pretend for a second that you don’t. If you’d like me to stop bothering you, I get it. But really, it’s quite simple. I have passed by you for two days and waved, and I thought i would stop this time–just to see if there was anything human that could happen between us.”

This time he paused, recollecting human manners. “Do you have any money?” he asked.

“You know I do,” I replied. “You see, they don’t let you leave the back end of the convenience store and roam around if you don’t have it.”

I think he smiled, which led me to believe there was a little bit more inside of him than just a supernal messenger from Zeus.

“Do you have any money you can give me?” he asked more pointedly.

I reached for my wallet, pulled out two one dollar bills, and as I was beginning to hand them to him he added, eyeing the cash, “Breakfast tacos are three dollars.”

“You  mean Zeus left you out here without breakfast?” I probed with a smile.

He smiled back, as if mirroring my image. I reached into my wallet and added an additional one to my offering. “Breakfast tacos it is, then.”

He took the money and inquired, “What’s your name?”

“This is gonna be weird,” I said. “My name is also Terkel. T-e-r-k-e-l.” I mimicked his previous bravado.

He chuckled in spite of himself. “You’re not Terkel,” he said.

“Neither are you.”

He chuckled again.

“You see, this wasn’t so bad. We talked for a minute, we got past the lineage of the Greek gods and you ended up with money for breakfast tacos.”

I reached down to close my window, finishing up the conversation. He stepped forward, and for the first time, looked me in the eyes.

“Thank you, Terkel,” he said. Then he stepped back and stared in the distance as if perched on the deck of the Santa Maria, peering for the north star. He mumbled something about Zeuss and collapsed onto the gravel in a giant heap.

I drove away. I do not know if I did a good thing or a bad thing. Such determinations, in my mind, are deliberated by foolish souls who pursue levels of divinity instead of acquiring the true depths of their humanity.

What I did was something different. And without difference, we are stuck with what and who we are … believing that nothing can change.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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Overreaction … January 18, 2013


(1,764)

BushmasterSlight traces of mercury are found in apple juice in containers from Upper State New York. As a precaution, a nationwide recall is made of all apple juice, not only from that particular company, but also from all distributors for a season, to ensure the public safety.

An overreaction.

A report is made that a razor blade is found in apples given out at Halloween to children near Cleveland, Ohio. A warning is broadcast across the nation via the media, informing parents of this danger. So many of these loving individuals take their children’s candy to the local hospital, where free inspections and X-rays of the treats are made available. Other parents (including yours truly) make sure they comb through every piece of sweet so that their children will not be damaged. It ends up being an isolated incident, in one case in one community.

So all the concern was certainly an overreaction.

Arsenic is discovered in several capsules of Tylenol near Chicago, Illinois. Within hours, all Tylenol products are pulled off the shelves, quarantined and put to the test, to make sure the public is protected from this poisonous outbreak. Once again, it was limited to that single store.

One might consider this an overreaction.

In the Pacific Northwest, ecoli turns up in some fresh spinach, making several people ill and causing the death of one. Within twenty-four hours, all fresh spinach is removed from the produce aisles, to shield us all from what turns out to be a very narrow spectrum of danger.

Likewise, toys that came from China had tiny particles of lead in the paint, forcing concerned parties to cease accepting shipments and to physically take all such products off the shelves.

An overreaction?

And now, twelve years later, we are still removing our shoes, having all of our possessions radiated and even being frisked at airports because of what happened on September 11th, 2001. Simultaneously, due to that tragedy, a Patriot Act was quickly voted into place, which limited freedoms and allowed for personal intrusions into our lives when it was deemed necessary to guard the common good.

An overreaction?

The truth of the matter is, if tomorrow’s news cycle generated a story in which a young man in Atlanta, Georgia, threw a coconut cream pie at one of his fellow-students in the cafeteria at Oglethorpe High School, in a matter of just a few hours, coconut cream pies would be removed from all cafeterias in our schools, deemed a recent danger. An investigation would be set into motion to determine when and how the treat could be returned to the menu.

Certainly an overreaction.

Yet when the Newtown Twenty-six were lying in their own blood in an elementary school, the American public, rather than producing a righteous overreaction by ceasing further commerce in the matter of weapons, ammunition and insisting on a full investigation of the kind of mental illness that produces such a macabre fiasco–yes, instead of this NORMAL overreaction that Americans would grant to a bunch of suspected spinach, the public instead went out and bought more guns than they ever have before–especially interested in the assault rifle used by the assailant who murdered our children.

No overreaction. Really no debate.

We are settling for a contentious conversation about how we can continue to be mediocrely prepared for such mayhem, while continuing to put an amendment in first place, which should be secondary to human lives.

Do I have this right? Spinach and Tylenol can be blamed in entirety for delivering ecoli and arsenic, which is not in the original makeup. But guns get a free pass simply because normally they sit on a shelf, waiting to be used. If spinach and Tylenol are blamed for producing a few deaths when they are completely innocent, guns must take their turn.

The only way for us to prove that we are serious about stopping violence in this country is to generate an overreaction, demanding a thirty-day moratorium on the sale of any weapons. It would speed up the process of our debate–because certainly the gun sellers would want to expedite a conclusion–and it would show that we have as much concern for our children’s safety from bullets as we do from ecoli.

The absence of this is the presence of a nationwide insanity, riddled with hypocrisy, which renders us at the mercy of an instrument that has a trigger on it, which can be pulled by anyone at anytime.

I am not against guns. I am against guns until we find out how we can keep them in the possession of the common citizen without putting the general citizenry in jeopardy.

And please do not quote the Second Amendment to me unless you’ve taken a moment to read it. The Second Amendment allows for a militia, which, if you move ahead to current time, would be the police force. I have no problem with policemen having automatic weapons. And by the way, the Second Amendment has already been infringed upon–because it allows citizens to BEAR arms. Most states have laws against walking around toting a pistol. You have to have a carrying permit, which after all, is the government infringing on your rights.

This is not a states’ rights issue. This is not about personal freedom. It is about the necessity we have as intelligent people to overreact when we realize … that a bit of hell is threatening our heaven.

It is time for an overreaction to violence. It is our responsibility to give the Newtown Twenty-six a decent burial and memory by taking more than five minutes to commemorate the loss, but instead, honoring these casualties by making sure that they … are the last ones.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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