Untotaled: Stepping 22 (May 14th, 1965) Jack Smack … July 12, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

School was nearly out. I cannot tell you the relief I felt to finish out the year.

Having survived my infatuation with Jennifer, I had disguised my feelings by using revenge or attempts at ridicule, to make it seem that I no longer cared about her.

We were two days prior to summer vacation, in the midst of a school-wide festival, which had loosened the reigns on the tight restrictions usually imposed on us by teachers and principals.

I was feeling so darned good that I felt like I could say “damn.”

I was in the hallway with my friend, Craig, when we both noticed that Jennifer was standing next to the boy’s locker room door, absent-mindedly staring out the window into the school parking lot.

I had an idea–another way to embarrass Jennifer and therefore appease my male ego from her rejection. I whispered my inclination to Craig and he giggled.

So we ran forward, grabbed Jennifer, opened the boy’s locker room door, and pushed her in. It seemed hilarious in the moment. We lodged our bodies against the door as she pounded and screamed to escape. Her pleas sounded a bit comical to us, so we were in no hurry to set her free.

Suddenly she stopped crying out and the pushing on the door ceased.

So both Craig and I ran back into the festivities, hoping to blend into the crowd so that our misdeed would go unnoticed. Little did we know that in the boy’s locker room was Coach Swartz–and that he had walked out of the shower to discover that Jennifer was there, peering at him, creating what could only be the personification of an awkward moment.

He quickly covered himself, ran around to the other door, to peek and see who was keeping her from escaping.

Now for a moment let me talk about Coach Swartz. He was a collision of cool, crazy and confusion. He was cool because he was very handsome and all the girls in the school thought he was dreamy. Crazy, because he taught health class, and thinking that he was a doctor, passed out some erroneous advice. And confusing because he once told us at football practice that black people couldn’t play quarterback because there was extra oil on their hands, and they couldn’t hold onto the ball.

We also knew his first name was Jack because he had a paddling board which he used to punish students, which he had surnamed “Jack Smack.”

Returning to my story, Coach Swartz, with his hair still wet from the shower, ran into the festivities, found Craig and me, took us into his office and explained his overexposure to dear Jennifer.

He wasn’t mad, but said we would have to be punished. He wasn’t even mad as he took the Jack Smack board from its perch on the wall and hammered us both on the ass, seven times apiece.

Matter of fact, from that moment on, I think he liked us more, winking at us in the hallway as he reflected back to his one-man Chippendale show for Jennifer.

Even Jennifer never complained about our prank.

So you see, even though I got my butt whipped, I didn’t learn anything about being a better person through this experience … whatsoever.

 

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When I Grow Up … January 25, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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IsabellaAs a teenager, one of the greatest horrors was having relatives visit, and feeling the need to communicate with me, they landed on one of two awkward questions:

  1. How’s school?
  2. What do you want to do when you grow up?

Concerning the first question, how’s school?–it’s similar to asking an inmate about his progress in the prison.

And the second question is a bear trap lest you answer incorrectly, with an occupation they deem unacceptable … well, you may end up becoming part of a beheading.

I finally got fed up with the inquiry and told my stuffy Presbyterian aunt that I had aspirations of becoming a Buddhist monk. Gasping, barely able to catch her breath, she turned to my parents in alarm and said, “Did you know about this?”

I quickly retracted my statement, explaining that although I had the waistline of the Buddha, I did not share his politics.

Now, I have a granddaughter who will become fifteen years old on Monday. A recent survey of fifteen-year-olds asked the question: what do you want to be when you grow up?  The top five answers: (1) Rich (2) Famous (3) Powerful (4) Beautiful (5) Sexy

So to my fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Isabella, let me say that when I grow up, I do want to be rich–possessing one more dollar than I need.

Certainly famous, in the sense of dazzling the handful sent my way.

Powerful? Yes. I fully intend to bring energy to wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, to make it more productive and joyful.

Now we come to beautiful. I guess  my definition of that would be to bring along a complete package of myself that makes people want to be with me.

And finally, sexy. Yes, it is truly sexy to find one person who continues to yearn for your touch.

I do not know whether it is possible for someone in their teen years to grasp all these concepts. Shoot, I don’t know whether I do.

  • But there are riches available–and they are more pleasurable with contentment.
  • And fame is not everybody knowing your name, but rather, in having your name bring something of integrity to those who know it.
  • Power is something we possess, not somewhere we are.
  • Beauty changes with time, but as long as it’s radiating from within, it maintains a certain consistency.
  • And I don’t know if there is anything sexier than someone who can carry on a good conversation, while inserting humor.

So there you go. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

You can see why I decided not to be a Buddhist monk.

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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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Crossroads … May 28, 2012

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I was looking for a space

Within this earthly place

To wisely put my face

And gently make my case

To the surrounding human race.

Who isn’t?

But where does one begin?

Well, for me, it was school—more out of legality than desire. I showed up, did my mediocre best, and found after time that they did offer answers—but rarely to MY burning questions.

Graduating from that experience, I decided to take my little dab of talent and portfolio of songs and go to the bar to perform. Seemed right. They always needed music. They always wanted some troubadour to perform while the patrons enjoyed the fellowship of the dimly lit room. But every time I tried to sing one of my songs—or worse, speak between selections with a thought or two—I  was told by the management that the patrons wanted to hear Proud Mary and Mustang Sally—not one of my made-up ditties.  I was also informed that this was a drinking establishment, and people came here to escape their daily concerns, not rehash them. It became obvious that the bar was not for me. It was a venue to drink, not think.

It may sound unlikely, but for a brief season I thought maybe politics and public service was an opportunity for me to share my ideals and talents. But I soon discovered that supporting the party and making sure it was provided with adequate favors was the goal rather than the pursuit of truth. I was not discouraged.

There were still many possibilities dancing in the distance—such as the corporate world. I scoured the countryside for an organization that would have a product beneficial for the common good, and then I joined up with great enthusiasm, to change the world around me, one product at a time. But alas, I discovered that the business world was not about constantly improving the quality and increasing the value of the products, but rather, getting rid of the present inventory, even if it wasn’t as good as what we could do. Yes, the business world was tell and sell—and I was quickly unable to maintain the top of my game for its bottom line.

Then I thought maybe I could find a market for my music if I scheduled events in concert halls, where the audience would gather for the sole purpose of hearing my material. A brilliant thought. But always remember, there are two things that stand in the way of great ideas—weariness and apathy. They resemble each other in body language, but weariness usually comes after someone who is overly zealous encounters the indifference of the world around him. Concerts were scheduled, but no one came because no one knew my name. And those who did come always preferred that I play, not say.

First fruits of discouragement were beginning to etch across my features. I did have the wisdom to know that the greatest enemy of creativity was cynicism, so refusing to be jaded, I went to my local Chamber of Commerce and decided to get behind its efforts, to instill pride in its citizens. At first it was great fun. I felt a part of something. And then, as life does, the obvious need for change within our little burg became evident, and as people often do, the fear of such a maneuver is avoided at all costs. The Chamber of Commerce is a wonderful place to visit as long as you’re willing to repeat the mantra: “Our city is pretty.” But if you see where energy could be used to produce greater results, you could quickly become an annoyance to anyone who is determined to chant.

I will not lie to you. By this time I was so disappointed that I was flirting with giving up. I escaped into my own home and family. There was nobility to it—a sense that I was establishing my own personal Garden of Eden, with my own off-spring, giving something of quality to the world around me as I boldly proclaimed, in the spirit of Joshua: “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” Although I experienced many beautiful moments and was able to nurture fine souls, the world around me continued to age and wrinkle in its own boredom and I realized that our little personal utopia, built on top of a hill, was more or less just a “fuss about us.”

But infused from the success and the jubilance of being with my family, and having launched little ships onto the sea of possibility, I packed up my belongings and I headed off to find the last great possibility. I arrived there yesterday, in Grand Junction, Colorado—at Crossroads.

It’s a church. People there don’t drink, so there’s nothing to inebriate them, to keep them from thinking. They have a school that they hold on Sunday, but you’re still allowed to ask questions if the right answers have not been provided. Politics are discouraged, although, because they do have a board, there is an ongoing danger of too many votes. It’s not a concert hall, so you are allowed to play your music and still explain why it’s important to you. It’s not a business, even though they do collect money. It’s not exactly a Chamber of Commerce, where they insist that their particular conclave of believers is always the prettiest in town. And it is certainly not a home, because everybody who attends already has one of those.

It’s not perfect. Honestly, it’s not even close. But what it is, is a place that is so ill-defined by human terms that God still has a chance to offer an opinion. It is a building where people sit as far to the rear as possible but still have arrived with an opening in their hearts that proclaims, “We want more.”

What an apt name for that church I visited yesterday—Crossroads. Because that’s exactly what the church should be—a place where people gather without fear, without too much agenda, without a drink in their hands, without needing to vote, without requiring a certain level of beauty, without believing they have all the answers, and without making too much of a fuss about themselves—just allowing an hour to refresh the brain cells which have been bombarded by repetition.

I have tried all the doors into the household of humanity. Many are locked.  Some are doggedly guarded. Others, quite frankly, are rusted shut. Yet I found a stained-glass window in the back of the house that was left open and I’ve wiggled through it.

It’s called the church. It is a crossroads. And what is a crossroads, you might ask? It is a place to sit in the middle of an overly positive and terribly negative world and start believing, thinking and working … for something better.

 

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Lolly Dee … April 25, 2012

Question 1: Do I understand where I am?

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Lolly Dee Sanders.

That was her name. I do not know if it was her Christian name (mainly because I’m not really certain what “Christian name” actually means.) But it is how we high schoolers of the junior class knew her–our English teacher, speech teacher, junior class advisor and also director, producer and promoter of the class play. She had the energy level and the frenetic presence of a monkey who had been away from bananas for weeks. She was well-liked by the students, appreciated by her fellow-teachers and tolerated by the administration. They were not so sure they actually liked her because she allowed the students to refer to her as Lolly Dee (unless grown-ups were around, when we reverted to “Mrs. Sanders.”) It was amazing how mature it made us feel–just being able to call our teacher Lolly Dee–almost the same sensation you feel as a young child when you goes into your back yard, hide behind a pine tree and scream, Goddammit!” You know you shouldn’t be doing it–and you don’t feel any irreverence toward the Almighty. It just takes you out of the chicken-noodle-soup-and-tuna-salad-sandwich brigade and into the realm of black coffee and glazed doughnuts.

That’s what Lolly Dee did. She understood.

For instance, when I tried out for the junior class play, she came to me privately and said, “Listen, you’re really good. You can have whatever part you want.” Now, honestly, I probably wasn’t very good. I was possibly just the only male who auditioned who could make sentences without leaving the punctuation in doubt at the end. But it empowered me. Even as I write this to you, I still feel bolstered by that moment–when this really intelligent, cool and energetic woman gave me carte blanche over my choice.

Later, when my father died just before premiere, she called me into her office. She didn’t ask me anything, just sat there not saying a word, waiting for me to decide what I wanted to do. She was as silent as an Episcopalian watching the offering plate pass. I was moved by such freedom–I decided to go ahead and be in the production.

Likewise, she was magnificent in the meetings of the class officers (where I was president of the class, although candidly, I never did anything, viewing it more as an honorary title).

She taught me something very important, though. Because one day I saw her at the Presbyterian Church sitting around with a bunch of older women who were working on a quilt. Lolly Dee was not energetic; she was not bouncing around the room. She just sat there with those old chickens and clucked out conversation, sewing away. I didn’t even recognize her. She blended in, looking just like one of the older women. Yet that night, as we rehearsed the play at the school, she was supercharged with energy–hugging everyone and encouraging us to do our mediocre best.

She was remarkable. She taught me that the first and most important thing to do in life is to understand where I am.

Yes. Do I understand where I am?

Instead of walking into situations with an agenda, touting my resume or making it clear to everybody how young or old I am by my speech patterns, Lolly Dee taught me to eyeball a situation, find out where I fit in and bring everything I’ve got.

Let me give you an example. Yesterday a minister asked me if I could offer any thoughts in a service in his church–which was very, very traditional, the people steeped in preferences. I said, “Of course.” And the reason I could say “of course” is because I met Lolly Dee. Her life told me how to react to what was already going on instead of insisting on placing my imprint on every situation and my doctrine into every theology.

By the way, I returned to the school the year after I graduated, just to walk the halls, see the teachers and–I don’t know–maybe boast a little bit about how well I thought I was doing. I saw Lolly Dee. She was kind and courteous to me, but then she was off and away to tutor her present crop of chickadees. I smiled. Lolly Dee wasn’t mine anymore. She was intelligent enough to know when I needed her and brilliant in recognizing when to bow out and exit, stage right.

I will never forget her. I don’t know whether she is still alive or has passed on. But she taught me to always understand where I am instead of stomping my feet and demanding place. Because of that, I don’t need special circumstances to do special things.

I just need to be ready.

**************

Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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