Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Angels and the Circumstances of Life

Over the past seven years or so, it has become evident to me that angels walk among us. I have learned that it is up to us to recognize them as they interract with us in our day-to-day lives.

One such example of this phenomenon in my life exists by the name of Cherry. My wife, Cindy, and I met Cherry some years ago in our Sunday school class.

As the weeks went by, and we got to know her better and better, it became clear that Cherry was a class act. She was the kind of person we wanted as a friend. One day, after Cindy and I had had a particularly rough few days with work and other stresses, a note came in the mail. It was a greeting card from Cherry. It urged us to stay focused---that God was working on our behalf.

Now, this note was completely unsolicited and totally "out of the blue". How did she know we needed cheering up? We never found out how she knew that; but, about a year later, another card came in the mail, right at a time when I was having a tough time spiritually. It was from Cherry, urging me to keep a good attitude.

Well, after several of these occasions where she seemed to appear from nowhere to bolster our attitudes, I began to call her "my angel"---someone who inexplicably was there when I needed a word of encouragement. I can't explain any of this, but the bible does tell us that there are angels among us, and that we may often be unaware of their presence.

I mention all of this because Cherry's husband, Mark, passed away a few days ago. She called me last night and asked me if I would bring my guitar to the memorial service on Friday and sing the great gospel song, "I'll Fly Away". She said she wanted something uplifting.

I told her that of course I would do that. I will do it to honor Mark's life, to bring some cheer to her and to glorify God.

"Just a few more weary days and then I'll fly away
To a land where joys will never end, I'll fly away
I'll fly away O glory, I'll fly away!
When I die, Hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away!"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Vast Texas Plains....

Here in north Texas, we have an abundance of wildlife. Our neighborhood teems with all manner of native critters. We even see bobcats a couple of times a year, along with coyotes, rabbits (we counted 19 on one of our morning walks), squirrels, racoons, and birds of every description.

I wrote the following poem as a tribute to the native coyotes, longhorn steers and, of course, our cowboys, who maintain order on the wild and wooly plains. Read the poem slowly, out loud. I had particular fun with the way the words roll and rhyme. I hope you like it.

The Vast Texas Plains

On the vast Texas plains the coyote reigns
And the longhorns bellow and bawl.
As the wind's wild refrains howl a hymn 'cross the plains,
On the vast Texas plains the coyote reigns,
And the cowboy maintains with his brawn and his brains
A semblance of order for all.
On the vast Texas plains the coyote reigns,
And the longhorns bellow and bawl.
(C) 2006 Clint Ellison

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dirty Dishes

We always try to have our dinner dishes washed and put away before we retire for the evening. Sometimes, however, this is just not do-able. Last night was such an occasion. We both had a long, hard day and were just barely able to crawl into bed after our late dinner.

What this meant, of course, was that we were greeted this morning with a load of dirty dishes to wash.....not really what I wanted to see first thing outta' the chute.

Rather than procrastinate, which is my usual first instinct, I decided to just get it done. Clear the sink. Put dish detergent in the sink. Fill the sink with hot water, creating a soapy, bubbly solution for the soiled plates, dishes, knives, forks, spoons, glasses, etc.

Now, let me pause here to answer my critics who would suggest that I could save myself a lot of trouble by simply loading the stuff into the dishwasher. I don't really see it that way. If you are gonna employ the dishwasher, you first have to wash off the dishes to remove the caked-on grime. Then, the appliance has to be loaded properly. Then, you have to wait while the thingy goes through the soap, wash, rinse and dry cycles. Then, you have to dry off the dishes because I've never yet seen one of the contraptions that actually got everything dry.

Therefore, I find it easier to just wash the darn dishes "a mano", as we say in Texas, dry them, and put them away and be done with it.

But I digress. I start picking up plates to put in the sudsy water and I find that someone who shares a bed with me is not in the habit of rinsing off her dirty dishes when she returns them to the sink after eating. So---her dirty dishes sit on the sink all night, the leftover food bits become dried as we sleep, and by morning her plates and silverware are caked with dried gunk.

Well, I don't want to put that in the dishwater because it will simply begin to make the clean dishwater dirty and unfit for use. So.....I have to take the time to wash her dishes off before submerging them in the soapy water. Of course, I say nothing to her about this, but why can't people just rinse off their plates and bowls and glasses when the stuff will come off easily? Sigh.

Actually, I will admit that the sound of running tap water and the swishing of dishwater tend to calm my senses. Sorta' like a trip to the beach...OK, maybe not quite like that, but you get the idea. It's almost like I'm playing in the water. I catch myself daydreaming as I wash and dry the load. I think about friends and loved ones who have gone on to Glory; good times we've had with friends; funny things that seem to happen to us on a daily basis, etc.

Hey, I guess maybe doin' the dishes isn't such a bad thing after all......

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Picnic....

We had a Sunday school picnic. They said, "Be at the park at 4:30 Saturday. Bring your supper and we'll furnish the tea."

Well, I came home at the last minute, and when I got ready to pack my lunch, all I could find in the refrigerator was one dried up piece of bologna and just enough mustard in the bottom of the jar so that I got it all over my knuckles when I tried to get it out.

And there were just two stale pieces of bread. So.......I made my bologna sandwich and wrapped it in a brown paper bag and took off for the picnic.

When it came time to eat, I sat at the end of the table and took out my sandwich. But the people next to me, well---the lady was a good cook. And she had cooked all day and she had fried chicken and potato salad and baked beans and home made rolls and sliced tomatoes and stuffed celery and deviled eggs and pickles and olives---and to top it off, two great big homemade chocolate pies.

And they spread it all out beside me, and there I was---with my bologna sandwich.

But they said to me, "Why don't we just put it all together?"

"Oh, no---I couldn't do that---I couldn't even think of it"---and I was embarrassed.

"Oh, come on.......there's plenty of chicken and pie---plenty of everything---and we just LOVE bologna sandwiches. Let's just put it all together."

So I did. And there I sat. Eating like a king when I came like a pauper.

And I get to thinking. I think of ME---sharing in the very being of God. When I think of how little I bring, and how much He brings---and that He invites me to share.

I know I should be shouting from the house tops, but I'm so filled with awe and wonder that I can hardly be heard.

I know I don't have enough love or faith or grace or mercy or wisdom---but He has.

He has all those things in abundance, and He says, "Let's just put it all together. Everything that I possess is available to you. Everything that I am and can be to a person, I will be to you."

And, when I think about it like that, it really amuses me---to see somebody running around through life hanging on to their dumb bag and their stale bologna sandwich---saying "God's not gonna get MY sandwich, no siree---not mine!"

Did you ever see anybody like that? Just so needy and about half starved to death, hanging on for dear life?

It's not that He needs your sandwich.

You need His chicken.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Streams in the Desert...

The inspirational book, "Streams in the Desert", was given to me a few years ago as a gift. Since then, I have developed a routine in my early mornings to help prepare me for each day's spiritual journey. I read the corresponding day's entry in the book, along with the referenced biblical passage.

This twenty minute exercise each day, along with my morning prayer, sets the tone for the next 24 hours.

These readings help me focus on what is really important in my life. They help calm any anxieties I may have. They remind me of the many ways that God is working in my behalf, and that simply focusing on Him and allowing Him to guide me is the true way to fulfillment and happiness.

This wonderful book was first released in 1925. Compiled by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, who was a Christian missionary in Japan and China, "Streams in the Desert" now has more than two million copies in print.

If you feel the need for daily spiritual assurance and refreshment, pick up a copy of this book! I know you'll find renewed peace and inspiration on a daily basis as I have.

Partial reading for Sept 25 (Ref Psalm 42:9):

Knowest thou not that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! For God fails thee not. (Charles Spurgeon)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Clint's Dynamic Mushrooms

Ahhhh.......Just a really nice, light repast. Tender medium-sized mushrooms, grated onion, Monterrey Jack cheese, and liberal shots of Louisiana hot sauce and worcestershire sauce. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with your choice of wine and a light salad.

Nutritious and delicious. Easy to prepare. Light and healthy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


One of the more existential experiences we human creatures face on a semi regular basis is the clipping of the toenails. Ahhh, yes...such a necessary and completely unavoidable event for all of us. Oh, I suppose there are a few people in this world who do simply refuse to trim them. I have seen pictures of lengthy, moldy toenails, and I can testify that they are not a pretty sight.

We are fortunate that toenails seem to grow more slowly than their fingernail cousins. I can get by with not clipping my toenails for about two weeks, while my fingernails need trimming every week.

The big problem with toenails, of course, is the fact that they are hard to get to. Especially when you get a little older. You gotta scrunch down, back hurting, and contort yourself to where you are in a good position to attack the nails. It doesn't take long to do, but it is uncomfortable.

I was reminded of this today while I was sitting at poolside. My feet were dangling over the water, and I saw that it was toenail time again. How are YOUR toenails today? Don't procrastinate!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's My Dad's Fault....

Cindy was repainting the front door of our home when she asked me to bring her a piece of cardboard to use as a straightedge to help her in her painting of the corners. I was quite proud of my ability to engineer a solution: I got an old cereal box out of the trash. Using scisoors, I cut one side of the box off and presented it to her. Voila! Another satisfied customer!---NOT!!!

It seems I didn't cut the edges straight enough and my solution actually caused her paint lines to be wobbly. So she had to get down off the ladder she was on and come inside the house and find herself a straight piece of cardboard.

This incident got us both to thinking about what a KLUTZ I am when it comes to accomplishing almost anything around the house.
I am not allowed inside the house---or outside, for that matter---with paint, paintbrush, tools of any kind (the one thing I am good with is a hammer. If something needs fixin', and it can be done with a hammer, I'm your guy), etc.

My banishment from trying to fix things in the house was initiated a number of years ago when I was painting the interior of our home. I was dipping my paintbrush into the full can of paint and then applying it to the walls. The gallon can of paint was sitting on the carpeted floor. My wife told me I should put the paint I was going to use into a smaller container and remove the big gallon can from the carpet---she was afraid I was going to spill paint on the carpeting. I brushed her off. Well, you guessed it---I accidentally tripped on the paint can and flooded the carpet with Sherwin Williams' best latex. I was then told in no uncertain terms that I would not be painting any more in my lifetime.

Of course, I am equally inept at using screwdrivers, plyers, saws, etc..... After literally hundreds of disastrous attempts at repairing stuff in the home and car, I have been forbidden from even thinking about it. I guess my crowning ineptitudes in my home-wrecking career have been in the plumbing and electrical repair fields. I flooded a bathroom and two bedrooms a few years back when I couldn't find the cut-off valve. Someone later suggested that maybe I should've looked for that BEFORE I started to work. Hmmm. And, of course, there was the time I blew out the circuit box when I shorted some wiring. That can be non habit forming.

I blame all of this on my dad. He couldn't fix anything, either. Guess you could say it's a genetic thing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Adventures with Cindy

I thought Cindy was somewhere in the garage; but, since I could not hear her making noise, I arose from my desk to check on her. Indeed, she was in the garage, looking for the large sponge she uses for big cleaning jobs---like the walls and such. "I've looked and looked," she complained, "and I can't find that sponge anywhere. I know it didn't just get up and leave. It HAS to be here somewhere."

So, of course I pitched in to help her locate the lost cleaning implement. We looked in the storage room, under the sink, in the laundry room. No sponge. Finally, I gave up and went back to my desk. An hour later, exhausted, she announced that she had found the object of her search.

"Where was it?", I asked. "It had fallen behind the washing machine". "Oh", I thought. "Why didn't I look there?"

An hour later I went looking for Cindy again. I found her back in the garage. She appeared to be looking for something. This time it was a new can of paint she had bought three days ago. "I know I had it when I left the store", she said, disgustedly. "It HAS TO BE HERE SOMEWHERE!"

Of course, I helped her look for it. I looked under the seats in the cars, in the cabinets in the storage room, on the shelves in the laundry room, in the pantry, in the cabinets in the living room. I looked in all these places not once, but twice. No can of paint.

Desperate, and on the verge of giving up, I looked a third time in the laundry room. And there it was---where it was supposed to be all along. How could we have looked there over and over and not have found it?

I started to tease her. "You must be losing your mind---it was right where it was supposed to be."

It was then she reminded me of the time I couldn't find my eyeglasses. I swear I looked for them for thirty minutes. Where do you think I found them? On my face.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I just don't know what it is about refridgerators. I mean, they come from the manufacturer all nice and clean and shiny, and within 3 weeks I turn it into a giant, cold, botannical greenhouse; growing all kinds of stuff not yet discovered by scientists. Fridges require cleaning on a regular basis. Aye, there's the rub...I DON'T WANNA CLEAN IT!

Cleaning requires my time and patience. I've got plenty of the former but damn little of the latter.

So, day after day, week after week, the ole ice box accumulates stuff---like that brown thingy growing on the celery I bought two months ago. It doesn't spoil that quickly, does it? And what the devil is that white mold stuff on the three week old grapes? Oh my God---it's also on the side of the fridge! Guess I'll HAVE to clean it now...hey wait---maybe I can hire someone to do it? Hmmm.

And the other thing about fridges is the fact that they acquire additional bottles, cartons, cans, etc every day without my knowledge. I swear I didn't buy half the stuff stuck in there. There is something very sinister going on. Could it be a neighbor is playing a joke on me---sneaking in my house every day to plant stuff in there? The inside doors have so much stuff stuck in there you can't find anything.

I took pics of the doors and then took everything out of the doors to illustrate just how much crap is in there. Why are there four bottles of soy sauce? Who the hell bought three bottles of teryaki sauce? How did two jars of marmalade get in there? Does this stuff reproduce itself? Does anyone have any answers? Please? HELP!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Favorite Movies

Operating on the theory that one can really get to know another individual by the kind of movies he/she likes, I have compiled a list of my favorites over the years. I actually shocked myself by coming up with 33 movies that I really love. This was a shocker because when I started this project I thought I would end up with a list of ten or so.
My all time favorite film is "The Wizard of Oz". That one is a "ten" in every regard---theme, characters, acting, humor, good vs evil, happy ending. But most of all it is timeless. I believe it is the greatest motion picture ever made.

I make no attempt to list these favorites in any particular order. Look these over---they make up an eclectic blend. What are your favorites?

1 The Wizard of Oz---Pure genius in every way
2 When Harry Met Sally
3 The Beguiled---A Clint Eastwood sleeper that is somehow overlooked
4 Platoon---Best Vietnam movie ever made---pretty much the way it was
5 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance---Along with "Shane",best western ever made
6 Gone With the Wind
7 Saving Private Ryan---Most realistic battle scenes ever filmed
8 Shane
9 Pulp Fiction---All men love it and all women hate it. "Too violent", they say. IT's FICTION!
10 Ray (Charles)---One of the greatest acting jobs ever by Jamie Foxx
11 The Cincinnati Kid
12 High Plains Drifter---This one grows on you. Yes, there is a deeper meaning
13 O Brother, Where Art Thou?
14 American Beauty
15 Black Snake Moan---You probably haven't seen this, but the acting is incredible and the music and storyline are over the top. Don't see it if you're a prude
16 Forrest Gump---"Wun, Fawwest, WUN!"
17 A Christmas Story---"You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"
18 Chicago---a song and dance movie that real men can love
19 Bridge on the River Kwai
20 The Godfather---The one movie that can claim to live up to the quality of the book
21 Cool Hand Luke
22 Scent of a Woman---Al Pacino's speech at the end is a classic
23 Star Wars
24 The Apostle---Has there ever been a better actor than Robert Duval?
25 Deliverance
26 The French Connection
27 The Graduate---Here's to you, Mrs Robinson
28 Midnight Cowboy
29 To Kill a Mockingbird---The world will always need more Atticus Finchs & Boos
30 An Officer and a Gentleman
31 The Goodbye Girl
32 My Fair Lady
33 Sling Blade----"Some call it a Kaiser Blade; I call it a sling-blade"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Timeless Sands...

Timeless Sands....

Small children sit upon the shore,
Carelessly sifting timeless sands;
Never thinking that through their hands
Fall wondrous grains of Nature's lore.

In each small granule is a tale
Of wealth and ruthlessness untold;
Of serpents, shipwrecks, Spanish gold...
Of boys and girls with spade and pail.

Throughout the ages deep at sea,
Secure away within the deep,
Are lodged her secrets safe to keep
Of mesmerizing history.

Of pirate ships on bounding main
That ravished oro laden holds;
And preyed amain on treasured golds
While plank and dirk dispatched the slain.

Of ocean liners sleek and lean
That sunk with thousands to their deaths;
Of warships gasping their last breaths,
Torpedoed by the submarine.

Of mighty storms that ravaged coasts;
Of currents deep and strong and true...
Of teeming life within its blue;
And derelicts that harbor ghosts.

Of fascinating serpents great
That ruled the early days at sea;
And brought a mystic mystery
To unsolved puzzles and of fate.

So children sit upon the shore,
Carelessly sifting timeless sands;
Never thinking that through their hands
Fall wondrous grains of Nature's lore.

For each small granule holds a tale
Of wealth and ruthlessness untold;
Of serpents, shipwrecks, Spanish gold...
Of boys and girls with spade and pail.

(C)2001 Clint Ellison

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bonnie & Clyde

On my frequent business trips from Dallas, headed east on I-20 through Lousisana, I would see a small marker on the interstate marking the exit to the Bonnie & Clyde ambush scene. On one such trip, accompanied by Cindy, we decided to stop and view the actual death site.

Near Gibsland, Lousisana, thirty miles or so east of Shreveport, we exited the superhighway and drove about six miles through the countryside. The ambush site is on a rural---almost deserted--- road. We stopped and took some pictures. We noticed how the marker was chipped from all the souvenir hunters.

About a year later, we were driving north into Oklahoma. At Stringtown, OK, I noticed a historic marker beside the road. We stopped to investigate, and were amazed to find that Clyde Barrow had killed a police officer at that site in 1932. The guy obviously got around.

To refresh your memory, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were the cause of a severe crime wave in the central U.S. between 1931 and 1934. At the time of their death, Bonnie was 23 years old and Clyde was 24. They were responsible for over 100 felonies and the murders of 9 police officers and several civilians.

Their exploits were sensationalized in the press, and the American public, reeling from the depression, ate it up.

The law enforcement community was enraged, and they laid a deadly trap for the two young killers. With Clyde at the wheel, the pair approached the ambush site. Lawmen were waiting, their weapons ready. The barrage of lead from rifles and shotguns made a sieve of the cruiser they drove.

Although they had previously expressed a desire to be buried together, this was not permitted. They are buried in Dallas, Texas, in separate cemeteries.

In 1967, the movie, "Bonnie & Clyde" was released starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Miss Ellie, God's Little Angel

She was given to me as a present. I had gone through a short period in my life when I was "dogless"; and, having had various pooches as pets all my life, the gift was much appreciated.

I had never had a German Shepherd before. Looking at her for the first time, sitting on the kitchen floor and peering around at her new surroundings for the first time as a 6-week old, she was so very cute.

I decided to name her "Miss Ellie".

Through the years, she became my constant companion. Several times, I took her on the road with me as I worked my job in sales. Overnight, we would stay at dog-friendly inns such as Red Roof. On one such occasion, I was in Jacksonville, Florida when I went to the airport to pick up my boss, who had flown in to work with me for the day.

When he entered the car as the front seat passenger, with a full grown Miss Ellie sitting immediately behind him in the back seat, he said "You know,'s against company policy to travel with a pet on company business". Miss Ellie replied with a low "grrrrrrr...", not more than 8 inches behind his head. After a minute of silence, my boss asked, "Does your dog bite?" "Yes", I calmly replied. Now that the three of us understood each other, we had a nice, quiet day together. Of course, she never bit anyone and was the kindest of souls.

Miss Ellie was perhaps the smartest dog I've ever known, and I've known lots of them. In fact, she was smarter than most people. And she also had that wonderful, inexplicable ability to sense mood and meaning in human events.

When Miss Ellie was three years old, she went into heat, and every male dog in the neighborhood that wasn't chained down came a'callin'. Miss Ellie split time between my fenced back yard and inside the home itself. Long story short---Miss Ellie eloped, disappeared early one Sunday morning. A day that in Ellison family lore came to be known as "Black Sunday". I was frantic. Our family scoured the neighborhood all day. No dog.

Heartsick at the thought of losing my best friend and confidant, I went outside the house at midnight. And there she was!---coming up the driveway with three hot males in tow. I've never been so relieved and thankful in my life.

Of course, she became a proud momma, and we found good homes for her puppies.

As the years rolled, our bond deepened. And, when the day finally arrived that she was no longer a part of this world, I grieved.

But I know that I will see that angel again some day. And I can't wait.

Now, I know there are a lot of big-time preachers who know more than I do who say dogs don't go to heaven. But I will guarantee you dogs DO go to heaven. God loves dogs.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Cornerstone Disciples

A remarkable occurrence takes place in Plano, Texas every Tuesday morning at 7:00. A group of six men, between the ages of 40 and 66, meet for fellowship, prayer and uplifting discussion. This group of dedicated Christians is known as the Cornerstone Disciples.

The Cornerstone Disciples share several things in common:
1. They are all Christians
2. They have all experienced the Walk to Emmaus, a wonderful three day event that highlights the tenets of the faith and renews the soul for the remainder of the spiritual journey
3. They all enjoy poking fun at each other
4. They all have individual egos that are firmly under control. Any ego that begins to swell is immediately attacked by the rest of the group and deflated without fanfare.

Recent studies by the group include books by Rev Robert J Morgan ("The Promise", "Red Sea Rules", and "Simple"), assorted books of the Bible, and reviews of various other Christian publications.

A collection of $1 per week is exacted from each member. This money is collected by Paul, our treasurer, who keeps this money in a sock at home. At least, that's what he says. Since we have never actually spent any of this money, it is widely suspected that Paul has created a Ponzi scheme with the funds. We do intend to spend the money, but we cannot agree on which good cause to support. Hence, the money just sits in Paul's sock (or so he says).

Chuck and Bill are the two guys in the group who know everything. Bill knows everything important, and Chuck knows everything else.

Terry and Michael are the youth of the Cornerstone Disciples. They provide the energy that the older fuddieduddies lack. Terry is known for his motto, "Keep Smiling!" None of us has yet figured out why we are supposed to be happy all the time. Michael continually provides insights to issues that the rest of the group would never have if not for his ability to think deeply.

Me? I used to call myself the "conscience" of the group, but it turned out that nobody wanted to hear my pronouncements. So now, I just sit back and quietly enjoy my coffee while the other five guys dance on the head of a pin. Ha.

Seriously, a finer bunch of guys and Christians I have never known. I'm so proud to call these guys friends.
Pictured, From top: Bill, Terry, Chuck, Paul, Michael

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coffee, Java, Joe, Mud, Mocha, Espresso, Cafe....

It all started when I was a little kid. My mom and dad drank coffee in the mornings before their day started. And, they often drank it in the evenings after dinner. They took their joe in pure black form, never polluting it with cream and sugar like most other folks. They drank their "mud", as dad called it, accompanied by several cigarettes. I guess the combination of caffeine and nicotine got 'em started in a big way.

But, I digress. Even at an early age I asked why I, too, could not partake of coffee along with them. My dad's standard answer to this query was always "It'll stunt your growth". He also utilized this same response when I asked about cigarettes and beer. But, I digress again.

So I muddied (pun intended) through life without coffee until I was sent packing to college. There, at dear old Furman University, I was initiated into manhood on my first trip to the dining hall for breakfast.

Full of trepidation and uncertainty over the prospects of my classes, I entered the dining hall early on my first day of studies. The beckoning appeal of brewing coffee was strong. I got my first mug of the stuff and sat down with my bacon and eggs. I washed the protein down with the java, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Over the years I have always taken my mud pure. Let others screw around with sugar and honey and whipped cream and God knows what all---I'm a man and I drink like one.

I went through about a 20 year period in my life when I chain-drank the stuff---all day long---until I came home from work at the end of the day wired higher than a high-tension line.

I finally settled into my current habit of about two mugs in the morning and that's it for the day.

In Germany a few years ago, I observed the European method of downing the stuff and I adopted it as my own...strong, baby, and black. I love the way they make their coffee---the strong smell and the strong flavor of the roasted bean. That's the way, uh huh uh huh I like it now.

Americans in general have lots to learn about coffee. Most coffee made in homes in this country has no flavor. It is merely black, hot water. I can't stand to look at it, much less drink it.

Went to Starbucks the other day --- haven't been there in a couple of years --- and I saw a long line of folks waiting to order. Most of them ordered some kind of a latte or other bastardized version of the good drink. I suppose this is considered an indulgence worth $4.00 a pop, but I call it a waste of perfectly good caffeine. Hells bells, why don't they just go down to Baskin Robbins and get what they really want---an ice cream sundae?

I notice there are lots and lots of different kinds of legitimate coffees to choose from. I counted about fifty of them at our local import market. When I go to The Corner Bakery for my morning mud, I always order the "Europa Blend". It is advertised as "Rich & Sophisticated". Yep, thass me!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Antiquarian Books & Love

The love of books and the love of poetry begin at an early age. My mom and dad always had lots of books around the house---everything from dictionaries to novels to poetry to the classics. There was never a shortage of things to read. In their spare time they would read, read, read.

Over the years I, too developed a love of reading. For me, my favorites are history/biography and poetry.

About 15 years ago, my love of books consumed me and I became a familiar figure around the country at antiquarian book fairs. These fairs are where collectors buy and sell old books of every kind. My passion was---and still is---old poetry books in good condition.

Some of my favorites in my collection are pictured here. The two sets pictured are a sixteen volume original author's set by the great American poet, James Whitcomb Riley and a five volume original set by my personal favorite poet, Madison Cawein of Kentucky.

Riley's set was originally owned by the mother of Eugene Field. The Cawein set is a rare collection of his best works.

The next picture shows first edition volumes by the black American dialect poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar with photograhic illustrations of early American black life; and the other volume is a Riley original edition with wonderful woodcut illustrations. Let's just say they don't make 'em like that any more.

Nevah Min', Miss Lucy
Paul Laurence Dunbar

Seen you down at chu'ch las' night,
Nevah min', Miss Lucy
What I mean? Oh, dat's all right,
Nevah min', Miss Lucy.
You was sma't ez sma't could be,
But you couldn't hide f'om me,
Ain't I got two eyes to see!
Nevah min', Miss Lucy.

Guess you thought you's awful keen;
Nevah min', Miss Lucy.
Evahthing you done, I seen;
Nevah min', Miss Lucy.
Seen him tek yo' ahm jes' so,
When he got outside de do'---
Oh, I know dat man's yo' beau!
Nevah min', Miss Lucy.

Say now, honey, wha'd he say?---
Nevah Min', Miss Lucy!
Keep yo' secrets---dat's yo' way---
Nevah min', Miss Lucy.
Won't tell me an' I'm yo pal---
I'm gwine tell his othah gal,---
Know huh, too, huh name is Sal;
Nevah min', Miss Lucy!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One of My Most Important Lessons...

I remember it like it was yesterday. And, even though the year was 1956, and I was 12 years old at the time, every detail is etched into my brain. That's how it is with important lessons in life---when you really learn them, they stay with you.

My dad decided that since I was now 12 and well on my way to "becoming a man", as he put it, it was time I began to take some responsibility around the house. How would I like to help a little with the yard work?

Yes, my heart leapt at the thought. I pictured myself pushing the lawn mower. That would certainly announce to the neighborhood that I had arrived as a man. "Well, no", he said---he thought I should start out with the hand clippers and learn how to trim the grass growing beside the fence and around the sides of the house. Once I showed him I could do that job, he would see to it that I got my chance with the mighty lawn mower.

This, of course, was not what I had in mind, but it was a beginning, so I agreed to take the unglamorous responsibility of trimming the unsightly grass by the fence and the house. My dad told me I was responsible for completing the chore each week before Sunday.

Well, it rankled me to know that this task was beneath my considerable abilities. I really should have been given the job of directing the all-important lawn mower. I began to procrastinate. On Thursday, the weather was good and it was a perfect time to do my trimming chore, but I thought it best to put it off until Friday.

On Friday, it was a great time to accomplish the one-hour job, but I reasoned that Saturday would also be a good day for it. Saturday was a glorious day, but my friends were calling me to play baseball with them. In short, I procrastinated my way through the time I was supposed to have the task finished.

On Sunday after church, my dad inquired if I had done the job I had agreed to do.

"No sir", I said.

"Why not?" he calmly asked.

"I guess I forgot", I lied, not wanting to admit that I had simply put it off indefinitely.

"Son", he said, "I want you to remember this all your life---don't ever agree to do something and then not do it". Then, in a stern voice, he continued, "Now get out there and do the work you were supposed to already have done."

"But dad", I responded, "I can't do it now---it's raining".

"I'm only going to tell you this once more," he replied. "Get out there and do your work."

So, there I was, on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Houston, soaking wet, sitting on soggy ground, clipping grass beside the fence, silently cursing my father's harshness and my mother's lack of intervention.

I finished the job in about an hour, and I came inside to change clothes. My mom said the neighbors had called and wanted to know if she was aware of the fact that Clinton was outside doing yard work in the rain. She said she told them, "Yes, we are aware of that. Clinton is being taught an important lesson in life."

It is a lesson that has stayed with me. I sure glad I had great parents. And, now that I'm much older, I can report that the lawn mower is much more appealing when you are 12 than when you are 62.