Saturday, February 28, 2009

Food For Thought

“If GOD had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all HIS glory
What would you ask if you had just one question.”

Joan Osborne, One Of Us

It didn’t feel right taking a booth. It was lunchtime and I was by myself, and I was sure there would be parties of three or four who could make better use of a booth than I could. I tucked the newspaper I had bought from the machine outside tightly under my arm. There would be time to read it later, and certainly no room at the lunch counter to spread it out.

There were three places to eat in a 5 block radius and the Everything's Tip Top Diner was the best of the three. It was always crowded at lunch, but I managed to spot two empty stools at the lunch counter on the far end of the counter. I sat down and stretched my arms to get a better idea of what my elbow room would be if someone were to sit next to me. I decided there was adequate room and that I would be comfortable.

I pulled a bottle of aspirin out of my pocket, opened it, and spilled three out onto the counter. My temples were throbbing again.

I prayed no one would sit next to me.

A waitress with red hair took my order and smiled as she walked away. Her name tag said “Monica.” She seemed older than she probably really was and you could tell that at one time she had had a pretty figure and maybe a happier life. There was nothing to her smile, though, except for the hope of a good tip and a smear of red lipstick.

I listened to the din of the diner. There was a baby crying off to my left and a man with a thick and phlegmy cigarette laugh to my right. There were glasses rattling in dish racks and plates crashing around in bus tubs.

As I scanned the menu, a man sat next to me.
“Thanks,” I said to myself. I guess my sarcasm was directed at GOD for ignoring my prayer in regards to the empty seat next to me.

The man who sat himself on the stool next to me was tall but his demeanor and face were that of a smaller man. He was balding and had bright little eyes. He was wearing a blue track suit and white high top sneakers. A tape player was connected to his belt, and I could hear Springsteen’s Badlands through his head phones. He tried to swivel himself around on the round stool, but our knees met with a thud and his round the world stopped short.

Laughing, he apologized as he swung back around so that he was facing straight ahead. He caught me looking at him and smiled.

“Afternoon. Sorry for the music. I just hate turning off The Boss, you know?”

He turned the player off and appeared to be waiting for some sort of response from me.

“It’s cool, “ I reassured him. ‘It’s a great song. And you weren’t bothering me.”

“Well, good to hear. And always good to meet another Springsteen fan. July 7, 1981. The Meadowlands in Jersey. NOW that was a concert."

I smiled, but offered no opinion. I hadn't seen Springsteen live and I guess he picked up on that and asked, "Well, maybe one day, right? Would you mind passing me a menu?"

‘Not at all,” I said as I passed him a menu from the rack on my right.

“This place has GREAT French fries.”

“Is that so?” I said.

“Oh yeah. Well worth the travel?”

I popped the three aspirin into my mouth and washed them down with some Coke. “Come a long way, did you?"

“You can say that.”

I looked at his funny little warm up suit and asked, “Did you power walk all the way?” I imagined him doing that funny duck-walk-jog thing around the mall.

“Power walking? ME? You couldn’t get me anywhere near a shopping mall...a little too static for me. I mean, seriously, how many times can you walk past the Godiva chocolate store without caving I right?"

How weird, I thought to myself, that he would make that comment about shopping malls. But I guessed that where people his age did their power-walking laps. But still...

“No. I just took a little stroll. It’s a beautiful day.”

“It certainly is. Thank GOD for that, right?”

“Of course. And you’re welcome," he said sounding very full of himself.

“I’m sorry. What did you say?"

"I said they’ve got really good French fries here. You should try them.”

I turned and tried to act as if I had something better to do. Better to end this now before I had to look at faded family photos in his wallet or hear about his golf game.

“Am I bothering you?" he asked not bothering to look at me.

“Not at all. I’m just waiting on a burger. Guess I'm hungry and a little preoccupied.”

"And fries?” He continued talking as if I wasn't there, "You got the fries with your burger right?"

“No. I decided to be good and got a salad instead.”

“What a shame. You should have gotten the fries. They’re the cat's pajamas.”

“Maybe next time.”

I saw my waitress coming towards me with a plate.

“You don’t know what you’re missing. I love a salad as much as the next guy, but these fries. Oh Brother!”

The waitress sat my plate down in front of me and I was amazed to see my burger with a large side of fries.

“Excuse me,” I said, stopping my waitress from retreating into the back for a quick cigarette break. “I had ordered the side salad, not the French fries.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Sugar. I could have sworn there was a salad on the plate. I can get you a salad. It'll just take a minute or two.”

I looked over at Smiley next to me. He nodded towards the fries and then back at me.“No. No. That’s okay. I’ll go with the fries today. I heard they’re the...uh-.”

"The cat's pajamas," my curious friend finished.

“Okay, Sweetie. Whatever you want,” and with that she disappeared beyond the swinging doors into the kitchen.Smiley was still staring at me. All time seemed to have frozen. I reached down and picked up a rather long French fry, blew on it, and popped one end into my mouth.

“Is that not the best French fry you have ever had?”

It was hot and I huffed and puffed trying to put the fire out in my mouth. “It’s hot,” I choked.
“Well of course it is. That means they’re fresh. Good right?”

“No cat-ever-had-better-pj's good,” I said.

“Well, then, you’re welcome.”

You’re welcome? Why am I welcome?”

“You don’t think it’s weird that you ordered a salad and got French fries instead?”

“This is a diner. It’s an imperfect world. Mistakes happen. Wait. Are you trying to tell me that you had something to do with this?”

He just smiled at me like the Cheshire Cat.

“Did you flag the waitress down or signal her or something?’

"Let’s just say that I really wanted you to try the fries. Besides, you really didn't want the salad. It’s not a problem, really. And you are welcome. Now eat up before they get cold.”

I took a bite of my burger and grabbed another French fry.

“Ok. What did you mean by ‘you’re welcome?’” I asked.

“Forget about it. You wouldn’t believe me anyway. Just enjoy your burger and fries.”

Monica came back and placed a white plate in front of the perplexing man to my left. There was a delicious looking BLT buffered by a heaping side of French fries. Smiley hummed happily to himself and popped several fries right into his mouth.

“Who are you?” I asked quite matter-of-factedly.

“Just a guy," he said with a sly smile.'

“Bull. There’s something else. I feel like I know you. C’mon. Out with it. Who are you?”

Smiley put down one half of his BLT and turned to look at me. There was a glob of mayonnaise on his chin. “I’m GOD, Joe.”

“Excuse me. Did you just say you were GOD?”

“Yep. You asked and I told you.”

"Well, GOD, you've got some mayo...there..on your chin."

"Oh. Thank you," he said as he wiped his chin with a napkin.

GOD. THE GOD. As in GOD in Heaven? In GOD We Trust?”

HE interrupted and continued, GOD Bless Us Everyone. Thank ME It’s Friday. Yes. GOD. HIM," HE looked up towards Heaven and pointed.

“Sure. It figures.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Oh no. It's not you. It's me. It's always me. I’m a magnet. For people like-"

He stared at me blankly.

"Look. It's not you. Ok. Well. I guess it is. It's just that if I get on bus, I’m the guy the crazy guy who sees giant rabbits wants to sit next to and talk to. Not that there's anything wrong with it. I just seem to attract cr-”

“I’m not crazy. Joe.”

“Of course not. You’re HIM.”

“Yes I am.”

Well, imagine my embarrassment for having not said Grace before starting to eat.”

“Don’t be a wise guy.”

“Why not turn the other cheek?” As I said that I bit the inside of my cheek.

“Hurts likes a son-of-a-gun, doesn't it?"

“Am I supposed to believe you had something to do with that?”

“A little faith goes a long way, Joe. We could always test the theory and see if it happens again?”

I spat blood into my napkin, “No that’s okay GOD. I’ll take you on your word.”

HE turned and enjoyed a few more French fries, a bite of his sandwich, and a sip of coffee.

“So, GOD, how do I know you’re really GOD?”

“You wanna see my driver’s license?”

“No. I mean. Seriously, how do I know you’re really HIM?”

He muttered something to himself about people always wanting proof. And then he said something under his breath about burning bushes. He stopped eating and mumbling and asked “Whatever happened to faith. Why can’t you just believe that I am who I say I am?”

My inner voice answered, “Faith? You’re barking up the wrong tree, Mister.”

“I’m not barking, Joe, and you’re not in a tree. I’m asking the question. Whatever happened to Faith?”

For the first time since we had started our bizarre conversation, I was speechless.

HE continued on as is nothing had happened, if, that is, something had really happened, “So. You want proof?"

My brain kicked back into gear. “Sure. I guess. Wouldn’t you if someone sat down next to you at a diner lunch counter, ordered a BLT, asked to borrow the ketchup and then announced that he was GOD?”

“You have a point.” He took a sip of his coffee. “Ok. What do you want?”

“Ummm…I don’t know.”

“Too bad I don’t have any playing cards on me. I do the coolest thing where I make the Ace of Spades-"

“I don’t think card tricks are going to do it,” I snapped.

“Ok. A tough room. I can respect that.”

“Oh! I know," I said snapping my fingers. “How about a turning your coffee into wine?”

“No can do, Kemosabe.”“’Because you can’t? ‘Cause you’re not HIM?”“No. I can’t turn that coffee into wine for two reasons. One. This is a diner. It’s taken Gus over there a lifetime to build this business and I would hate for him to get in trouble because someone had brought wine into his establishment that doesn’t have an ABC license."

“And the second reason?”

“More pragmatic, really. I just got the perfect blend of sugar and cream in my coffee. I mean, this cup of coffee is perfect. Look at the color. Perfect. I don’t want to ruin that. You’re talking miracles and I’m saying to you. Here. Here is a miracle. I took a cup of Gus’ coffee and made it something perfect."

“Ok. Well, how about something a little more dramatic?” I thought for a second or two and then it came to me. “Make it rain.”

“Make it rain? On such a pretty day? You know how many people have been praying for a day like this? Do you know how many people took their bag lunches to the park today because of the gorgeous blue sky and white fluffy clouds? And you want me to ruin all that just to prove to you I am who I claim to be?”

“Well, if you can’t do it-"

There was a clap of thunder and the sky outside darkened. The diner grew silent as everyone watched the perfect day outside cloud over with shades of gray.Within a second or two, the rain began to fall. Large drops battered the aluminum siding of the diner. I looked at the man sitting next to me who seemed to be burning holes through me with his eyes. There was no expression on his face. There was no gloating and he didn’t say “Ta Da!”He simply turned away and took another bite of his BLT.

“Satisfied?” he said staring at his plate. “Can I stop now or would you like to see frogs falling from the sky?”

“Uh, “ I stammered. “Yeah. You can stop."

He continued eating as if nothing had happened.

"I don't know what to say. I'm....Sorry I doubted YOU.”

“It’s alright. It was such a pretty day though. What shame. No crying over spilled milk, though. And I guess a little rain never hurt anybody. Truth be known, I like a good rain. It washes everything clean. It wipes the slate.”

He took another bite of his sandwich.“Then of course there’s the whole rainbow thing.”

“Yeah, nice one there, with the whole rainbow thing.”

"Don’t kiss up, to me, Pal.”

“Sure. You got it.”

I hesitated and after a minute of silence and a sip of his perfect coffee, he asked, “You okay?"

“I’m not talking to myself, am I?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like in the movies. You aren’t invisible, are you? I’m not sitting here talking to myself, am I?”

“Of course not. I’m really here, sitting right next to you, having a conversation, and eating a pretty darn good BLT on wheat toast.”

I sighed and He laughed. “You’re not what I expected. That is to say, you don’t look the way I thought you would.”

“What did you expect me to look like? Jerry Garcia? "George Burns? Morgan Freeman?”

“I don’t know. When I went to Catholic school, I always drew you with a white beard, sitting on a cloud.”

"So, it’s Jerry Garcia then?” He laughed. “Is that who I look like?”

“Honestly? You look a little like John Malkovich.” HE didn’t say anything. “You know?” I pushed, “The guy from Of Mice and Men? In the Line of Fire with Clint Eastwood?”

“I know who John Malkovich, is.”

“Oh. Right. You’re GOD.”

“Well, yeah, but that wasn’t the point I was going to make. I was going to say that I like movies and that I know my actors. Con Air. Wow. Hard to believe that's the same John Malkovich who was in Places in the Heart.”

“Really. GOD is a movie buff? Who would have guessed?”

“Sure. I have to do something to unwind. What? You think I sit up there reading the Dead Sea scrolls all day? And for the sake of keeping things a little more normal, why dont you call me John from this point on?”

“Ok, John. I'm just having a hard time seeing you at Blockbuster, is all.”

“What can I say? I like movies. I watch television. In fact, I just finished watching all six seasons of The Sopranos. And between you and me and the napkin dispenser, I hated the ending. Even I didn’t see that one coming. I also like the This Old House Hour. Noah and I watch it on Sundays. Noah is a real Norm Abrams nut. Loves the guy! I mean, like a teen girl with Elvis. In fact he’s working on a hallway coat rack right now. I think he prefers the smaller projects to…well you know.”

‘Speaking of which….is he?”

Elvis? Dead? Yes. Elvis is dead. What a waste.” HE took a bite of his sandwich and a long sip of coffee. There was a small piece of toast on his lip.

“You’ve got a little piece of-”


“On your lip-there’s a piece of-”

HIS tongue darted in and out trying to find the crumb. It finally fell off and landed somewhere on his lap.I couldn’t help but laugh. “What’s so funny?”

“I’m just glad you didn’t decide to appear to me at the BBQ place down on Sommerset and 5th, John.”

HE laughed and when HE did the rain stopped and sunlight came pouring back into the diner. “So. Any questions you want to ask while you have me here?”

“No. I’m good.”

I shoved half of my burger into my mouth.“It’s okay, really. This is a working lunch for me.”

“You’re kinda putting me on the spot here. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the whole ‘I’m GOD-do-you-mind-if-I-borrow-the ketchup-thing.’ Questions? I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess I don't have any questons for you.”

“Sure you have. Just think for a second. Catch your breath. It's okay. I've got nowhere to be."

My mind was racing. After all, what would you ask GOD?

Finally, I blurted out, “Ok. How about The Loch Ness Monster. Fact or fiction?"

"That's the question? The Loch Ness Monster? Really?"

"I panicked. It was a stupid question."

"Well, that was it. Sorry. You only get one."

"What? Are you serious? I'm freaked out here. You can't expect me to-"

"Joe. I'm kidding. Ask me another question. Think a little harder than. I'm sure there is something a little more pressing than The Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot-"

Damn. That was my second question. How did he?

"You have a unique opportunity here, Joe. You're talking to GOD. You can ask anything and you want to know about Bigfoot? Why not ask me who is going to win Top Chef this season? Or if Heath Ledger is going to win the OSCAR for Best Supporting Actor this year? Or where the wallet you lost last year is?”

I stared down at my plate. I was never good under pressure. Damnit.

“What do you really want to know? And don’t give me anything you can find out on your own watching The Biography Channel. What do you want to know? I’m here. Take advantage of the moment.”

I grabbed the newspaper and showed him the headline. The front page story concerned a man who had gone on a rampage and killed 11 people. I tapped my finger on the grainy photographs of the mad man's victims, and then looked back at GOD.

“How could you let this happen?”

“What do you mean, Joe?”

“This tragedy. How you let something like this happen...John? This is an eight year old girl. Did she deserve to die so tragically?”

HE stopped and looked at me. There was a flash of something not quite anger in his eyes, “You're right, Joe. It is a tragedy. But terrible things happen. Tragic things happen. I can't control that.”

“YOU can't control it?! You're GOD!" I tried to lower my voice to a whisper, but it was getting harder,"You're HIm, John. Are you telling me 'Sorry, Bub, but shit happens? Deal with it?'”

“Of course not. Look Joe. I gave man many gifts. One of them was free will. You make choices and then you have to live with the consequences. It's very complicated.”

“No GOD. It's not. It's quite simple, really. See. Here is a little girl who is has dealt with the consequences from someone else acting on their free will and now she's paid the ultimate price. Not complicated at all.”

I was suddenly aware that there were no other sounds in the diner. Everything had come to a complete stand still as if someone had pressed the PAUSE button.

“Would it do your heart any good to know that the little girl there, Tanesha, is now with her grandmother and is happy and well.”

“Of course it would. It's just so sad. I don't understand how you-”

“Look at your hands Joe. Do you see any strings?”


“That's because you're not a puppet. And I am not a puppet master. You are in control of your destiny.”

“Than what good are prayers, John?”

“Prayers are good, Joe, and I hear them all. And I hear some better than others. Just because I do not intervene does not mean that I am not listening. It is a matter of faith. You have to believe that what is supposed to happen...will.”

I slid the newspaper in front of him, “Was this supposed to happen?”

“No. Of course not. But it did, Joe. It happened and those people are dead. And it is a tragedy. But what do you do now? Give up. Just say, “Ok. Check please! I'm done.”

“No. I mean-”

“You want to give up?”


“What does it say to you that I am sitting here next to you...right now?”

“That this place has great French fries and you had a craving.”

“I've always liked your sense of humor, Joe. No it says that there was no hope for the man who killed those people. There is hope for you, however. You still have faith. You still have hope. Whether you think so or not.”

“Speaking of that. Can I ask you something else?”

A French fry disappeared into his mouth and with his mouth full, he said, “Shoot.”

“What about me?,” I said meekly.

“What about you?”

“Who am I, John? What am I supposed to do?”

“Don’t you know?”

“No. I don’t. I guess I’m lost. I’ve been praying for-"

Then it hit me.“Is that why you’re here?”

“Sort of. Plus these fries are-”

“NO. Are you here because of me? To help me? Tell me."

He turned his stool until once again our knees were touching. “Joe. I’m here for lunch. A sandwich, a cup of coffee and," He popped another French fry into his mouth, "these great fries. There just happened to be an empty stool next to you.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Besides. I didn’t think you thought you needed me. I didn’t think you believed in me.” He seemed hurt but he didn’t seem angry or bitter.

I couldn’t find the words.

“It's all good, Joe. Everyone’s faith gets tested. Everyone’s. It’s not an easy thing. I understand.”

“I used to believe in you. I mean, I still do, I guess…”

“Used to? Did I do something wrong? Did I let you down somehow?"

My expression changed and HE picked up on it."What? Your life didn’t turn out the way you wanted and you’re gonna hold me responsible? You know how many people only talk to me when they’re taking a math test or when they get pulled by the police and there is an expired inspection sticker on their car?...”

“But if they-"

“I still love them. Despite their bad choices. I probably won’t be having lunch with them any time soon, because some of them just aren’t nice people.”

“You’re GOD.” I realized I was talking too loud when a woman stared at me from a booth by the windows. I whispered, ‘You’re GOD. You’re supposed to like everybody.”

Who says? Who made that rule, Joe? And besides, I didn’t say I didn’t love them, I said I didn’t like them. There’s a difference. They’re all my children, and I love them even though some of them are selfish and mean idiots.

“So you’re here for the French fries and because you like me just a little better than some of the jerks in the world. That does wonders for my self-esteem.”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself. You asked the question, Joe. Let me answer it. Who are you? You’re a guy. A nice guy for the most part, although sometimes I wish you had a little more patience with people and didn’t drive when you are angry. But for the most part, you’re a good man. But as to the question, “Who am I?” and “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” that’s for you to find out.”

“That’s a cop out and you know it.”

“This isn’t It’s A Wonderful Life, Joe. I’m not Clarence, I’m not going to show you how the world would have turned out if you had not been born and ZuZu’s petals aren’t in your pants pocket.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Just so you know I am here. And maybe, if that piece of the puzzle is in place, maybe you can focus on other things.”


“Like answering those questions you posed to me yourself.”

He could tell by the look on my face that none of this was what I wanted to hear.
“I’m always here, Joe. Remember that. I’m always here. But I’m not going to make it easy for you. You’re a smart guy. Figure it out. Work at it. In the end, is your life really that bad? You have people who love you. You have a sense of humor that has gotten you through some rough times. And you’re smart, Joe. At least about most things, but when it comes to you, you can be as thick as granite.”

“And that’s it?”

“What do want from me Joe? You want me to grant you three wishes? You want tonight’s winning lottery numbers? You want all the answers now. You want me to tell you how the rest of your life is going to be? How boring is that going to be? What would be the point of getting up every day if you know how it is going to go?”

“The point?” I seemed to disrupt the entire diner and lowered my voice. “Yeah. The point. Why are you here if you’re not going to help?”

“Joe. I can’t give you all the answers. Part of the deal is that you do the leg work. You help yourself.”

“And that’s that?”

“And that’s that, Buddy.”

“You can’t give me one thing? Like when am I going to die?”

“Can't tell you that. I mean, it's not like I have a date with October 16th circled in red magic marker.”

“Why would you say October 16th just like that?”

“Don't read anything into it? All I will say is don't ever go to Poland.”

Poland? What? Are you telling me that somehow I end up going to Poland and I die there?”

He laughed and everything in the diner started back up again as if the needle had been dropped back down on the cosmic turntable, “I'm messing with you, Joe. I have no idea where you are going to die. Or when. I don't have a big calendar with your death date on it circled in red magic marker. You might die in Poland. You might walk out into the street after lunch and get hit by a truck. I don't know. And if i did, I wouldn't tell you.”



“Oh sorry. Look. You can't give me just one thing?"

One thing?”

“Yeah. One thing-"

"One thing. What? Like, 'Well, Joe, you might want to go to the doctor and ask him about all of those headaches you've been having.”

"SEE! That's what I'm talking about. HOW did you know I was having headaches. THAT makes me think there is something going on. Do I have a tumor? Is that how I go?"

"Ok. First. I am pretty sure we covered this, but in case you forgot, let me say it again. Hi. I'm God. Second. You downed three Excederin migraine tablets when I first sat down. It was a big bottle and it sounded half empty. Doesn't take Columbo to figure out you've been having a lot of headaches lately. Thirdly, if you have a tumor or not is not something I can tell you. I will not interfere with your life Joe. It is yours to live and deal with. I can't very well give you free will and then tell you what's going to happen for the rest of your life."

"Just one thing? Please. Let's just say, as a matter of faith."

One thing that will affect your life? Let me think for a second. Okay. I've got something.”

I leaned forward and he leaned into me. I could hardly hear him over the clatter of the lunchtime crowd.

In a soft whisper, he spoke. “That load of white laundry you have soaking in the washer? There’s a red sock mixed in. You’re going to turn everything you own that is presently white a nice shade of pink.”

He pulled back and shoved the remaining half of his BLT into his smiling mouth.

THAT’S it?”

“Seems pretty important, to me. Unless, that is, you want to walk around looking pretty in pink.”

Well, thank you GOD, for saving me from a load of pink underwear and socks.”

“You’re welcome Joe, even though it doesn’t sound like you mean it."

I stared straight ahead. There were letters missing from the menu board and the daily special apparently was going to be "Meat Oaf."

He stared at me for a second and then he smiled. Leaning back towards me, he said, "Your wallet. The blue one with that annoying Velcro flap? It fell out of your pants at a movie theater, somebody found it, took the money, and threw it away. Case closed. Move on. And stay away from Velcro wallets. You're not 11 anymore. Heath Ledger will win the OSCAR for Best Supporting Actor. I had better not see you in Vegas placing any bets on that. And Hosea will win Top Chef. There are just some things I can not control.”

“Thank you for that, John. No Velcro. No Bets. Promise."

He stood up, stretched, and threw a five dollar bill on the counter. GOD was a good tipper. That was nice to see.

I tried to make up for my previous remark and shouted after Him, “Hey. Thanks for the fries. They really the cat's pajamas.”

“Now THAT I believe you mean. Tell a friend,” he said smiling as he put his headphones back on, paid the cashier, and walked out into the sunshine. I lost him in the brightness of the day and saw him no more.

I finished my lunch, thanked my waitress, tipped her five dollars, and headed for the cashier. I paid my tab and grabbed a handful of mints, shoving them into my pocket with my receipt.

I stepped outside and squinted. The air had that just rained smell and I breathed in deep. I didn’t know what had just happened or even if what had just happened had really happened. I wasn’t sure if I felt better about my current situation or not. I certainly didn’t know anything more. I didn’t have all the answers I had been looking for these last few years. I did know one thing however. I didn’t feel as alone as I had before my lunch at The Everything's Tip Top Diner.

I faced West and prepared to step off the curb when a truck turned the corner, blaring its horn, and scaring the Hell out of me. As it sped by I noticed the company name on the truck. Poland Springs Water. I decided against crossing the street.

As I continued down the sidewalk, I reached into my pocket for one of the mints I had taken from the fishbowl near the register. The mints I shoved into my pocket weren’t there, though. Neither was the receipt the cashier had given me.Instead I felt something that felt like the wings of a butterfly. There were several of them and they were soft. I squeezed my fingers tight to make sure I got all of whatever was in my pocket.When I pulled out my hand and unclenched my fingers, I saw something that brought a tear to my eyes. There, in my hand, clumped together from the pressure of my grip, were the petals of a flower. I stared at the yellow and white shapes and then I pushed them back into my pocket.

As I continued my walk, I looked up into the sky. The clouds had parted and the endless blue stretched out above me. A car drove by to my left. The windows were down and I could hear the strains of The Grateful Dead’s Big Boss Man. I laughed to myself.That was when I stepped into a huge puddle.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Say You, Horatio?

John Kinsella: “Is this Heaven?”
Ray Kinsella: “It's Iowa.”
JK: “Iowa? I could have sworn this was Heaven.”
RK: “Is there a Heaven?”
JK: “Oh yeah. It's the place where dreams come true.”
[Ray looks around, seeing his wife playing with their daughter on the porch] “Maybe this is Heaven.”

From the motion picture A Field of Dreams

Where do we go when we die?

Do we go anywhere? I have to believe we do.

I mean, if there is no Heaven, and we don't go anywhere after we have shaken off our mortal coils, that pretty much leaves two possible endings.

The first option, is there is no Heaven, consists of you lying in a wooden box wearing more make-up than the ladies at the Macy's cosmetics counter, wearing that tie you always hated, waiting for the worms.

The second option,if there is no Heaven, means you end up walking the Earth and being shot in the head as you zombie-walk around the shopping mall (Hey. All the other undead were doing it! You just wanted to be sociable) Or you might wind up on the television series Ghost Hunters where you will be nothing more than a blurry orb or a bad digital recording (Ghosthunters: "I think he said Chuck." Dead-You: "No you freaking idiots. I said “Fuck!” As in leave me the fuck alone. I'm trying to be dead here. Do you mind?”)

I'd like to think you go somewhere when you die.

And I believe the final destination is Heaven.

You might call it Nervanna or Moksha or Paradise or Valhalla or Elysium. And that is perfectly fine. Shit. If you believe the mother ship is going to beam you up and take you back to the Planet Xanadu, then who I am to say you're a delusional, psycho, nut job?

I know I'm going to Heaven when I die. I just want to know what to expect.

What is Heaven?

Belinda Carlisle said “Heaven is a place on Earth.” What? Like Vegas? The band Warrant sang that “Heaven isn't too far away” and Brian Adams was pretty sure that finding Heaven was as simple as looking into the eyes of the person you just had made love to. I think we all know that look and I'm not sure if that is Heaven because I don't think there is awkward cuddling in Heaven. Or cigarettes. (Yeah. That's right! I said it. I think Heaven is Smoke-Free.)

David Byrne of The Talking Heads sings that “Heaven plays my favorite song. Plays it all night long.” And, all though that sounds good, there is an underlying warning from Byrne that there is an absence of change in Heaven. I don't like the idea of a boring Heaven. It'll be like The Breakfast Club with clouds and harps and shit.

Eric Clapton wonders if loved ones who have gone on before him will remember his name. Johnny Cash is much more confident that he will remember his loved ones and they will remember him, and in Meet Me In Heaven, sings “Can't be sure of how it's going to be when we walk out into that light across the bar, but I'll know you and you'll know me out there beyond the stars.”

Patrick Swayse's Sam tells us in Ghost that “It's amazing” and that we take the love inside with us.”

The Los Lonely Boys aren't as concerned as to what Heaven is. They want to know how far Heaven actually is. I'll admit, men rarely ask for directions, so you know that Heaven must be pretty important to them if they are going to put aside their man-pride to get there.

In The Meaning of Life, The Pythons tell us that “it's Christmas every day in Heaven” and “there's great films on tv and Sony Walk-Man headphone sets and and the latest video games.”
I'm not opposed to it being Christmas every day in Heaven, and the thought of reliving an never-ending child-like innocence wrapped in a big warm blanket of Christmas morning memories is appealing.

If Heaven turns out to be the whole other Christmas day experience, though, with it's tinsle you can't vaccuum up and the disappointment of receiving that 3 pack of Fruit of the Loom underpants and not the GI Joe with Kung Fu grip you were hoping for, well, then, eternity is gonna feel just a little bit longer.

And would a Christmas Every-Day Heaven also include visits to those relatives whose houses smell of cat pee? Let's hope not.

Led Zeppelin said that “even if the stores are all closed, with only a word, you can get what you came for.” Shop-a-holics are gonna love that.

And the customer service has got to be better? Hasn't it? I mean. It's Heaven. If you can't get a friendly smile and a “thank you we appreciate your business” as you check out of the TARGET:HEAVEN, then, seriously, what's the point?

There seems to be a lot of theories on what Heaven is, based on, of course, what religion you are. And if you are not a religious person, well, then you know you're going into the ground, or you're gonna get sprinkled into the ocean (I can never hear that someone did that without the image of someone feeding their fish over the side of their fishtank in their den. Sorry. It's the truth. "Rest in Peace, Doug. Here feeshy-fesshy!") or shot into space and then all that remains of you are some family photos, unpaid parking tickets, shirts you forgot to pick up from the cleaners, and that girl you never called back even though you wanted to but now she thinks you're an asshole.

I was raised Catholic, so my idea of Heaven, up to the age of about 10, was big white clouds, somewhere up there (I'm pointing upwards, just in case you didn't know)

Sitting on his throne is GOD looking a little like Jerry Garcia, a little like Santa Claus, and a little like Gandalf from The Hobbit. There is a Pearly Gate and St. Peter decides on whether or not you can enter or not.

Ah. Catholic guilt. The gift that keeps on giving.

I'm not 10 anymore, and I am certainly not a practicing Catholic.

This is not about religion, though. I'm not going to argue about all the different ideas about what or who GOD is.

I'm here asking the question.

What is Heaven?

As a huge fan of movies, my image of Heaven has been influenced to a greater extent than my 5 years in Catholic private school.

The movies have certainly created many different images of the hereafter. A place thick with white clouds is a real popular of the hereafter in the movies and I always feel bad for the people who lived their lives in Los Angeles.

Greek and Roman architecture have been used quite often to create the setting of Heaven in movies. I'm not sure I like the idea of spending eternity in an empty version of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Heaven should be warm and light and marble can come off as cold and stern. If Heaven was a huge building with marble columns, I think I would always be afraid that some security guard-like figure would scold me for running and having fun and tell me to “shhhh” and to “mind the irreplaceable art.

I'm not sure I want to spend all of eternity in my Aunt Tillie's parlor where if you even go near that porcelain figurine collection “oh-you just wait and see, young man.”

Maybe Heaven is a personal thing.

Rose didn't go to Heaven at the end of Titanic, did she? Remember? She went back to the boat and to Leo/Jack. But maybe it wasn't really all of her? Maybe it was just that part of her which longed to be together again with her first real love? Maybe it was 34.5% percent of Rose who walks through the doors at the end of the movie and joins Jack on that grand staircase.

I like the idea (as presented in Titanic) that we can visit those certain moments of our life which brought us incredible happiness and love and warmth, and maybe Heaven allows us to do that. Maybe we can choose from a menu of memories and re-live (can you re-live something if you're dead?) that moment for a period of time?

Wouldn't it be great if Heaven, or some part of Heaven, was your 5th birthday party? What if there were balloons and a clown (unless you were traumatized by clowns or balloons when you were alive that is)...and a pony and a big cake and you had never been so happy in your whole little kid life?

Maybe Heaven is a family picnic and everyone is there and the sun is shining and the fried chicken is crisp and the potato salad has just enough mayonnaise in it. And there is soft ball and volleyball and a campfire and smores and kids laughing and fireworks and sleeping under the stars.

Maybe you get to experience that concert you performed in which you never sang better and the audience loved you and gave you a standing ovation. Perhaps it was the night you killed it on stage during open night and that guy with the tears in his eyes said you were the funniest person he had ever heard.

Maybe it will be your fishing trip with your grandfather or the birth of your daughter? Maybe it was the first time you made love to that person who wrapped their heart around yours and changed your life forever.

Will you get to choose what day or days to live over and over again? Is Heaven all about personal choice?

Haven't you earned it?

After a life-time of going to your job and paying your taxes and shaving and never saying anything to that jerk you worked with even though he always had food in his teeth and always smelled like poo...

Haven't you earned the right to define your eternity after a life of recycling and not eating that entire box of Pepperidge Farm cookies even though you really wanted to but knew it was just wrong and pretty gross and maybe someone else would want some...

..and renting P.S. I Love You
(even though Death Race 2000 had Jason Statham in it and the dvd box was infinetly cooler! C'mon! Not another chick film! Jeez!”) and eating those brussel sprouts that were on your plate because there were starving kids in China who weren't lucky enough to have brussel sprouts (and who cares that you said you would be more than happy to mail them your brussel sprouts?! you would even use your allowance money,for Pete's Sake!!)

You spent a life-time being a decent guy for the most part. Doesn't that rate having some say in how you want to spend eternity? Doesn't that merit being able to experience the first time you rode a bike all by yourself with no push off from your Dad and no horrible mishaps with sneaker laces in bike chains?

In the Heaven I imagine it will be okay to be different. In fact, the word different will never refer to people again...only weird tasting food your daughter-in-law makes (Oh my. Is that baloney and mushroom? Well, that's different.)

It won't matter that you are white or black or yellow or brown. It won't make a difference if you are gay or straight. It won't matter if you are fat or skinny. People won't care if your hair isn't perfect and if your wearing jeans from last year or sneakers that weren't endorsed by some athlete.

In Heaven, your dog who died when you were 12 is there and he is waiting to play ball.

There are no sick babies in Heaven and grandchildren visit (and hug and kiss and talk to) their grandparents even though they're old and smell like medicine.

Heaven doesn't concern itself with penis size, breast size, the type of car you drive or your income.

I think Heaven smells like a grandmother's kitchen when she was baking chocolate chip cookies. And I think Heaven is rainstorms went you want to smell rain and snow when you want to make snow-angels.

I have also always imagined that in Heaven all of your questions will be answered. My vision of Heaven includes a reference library in which I will be given my own laptop and allowed unlimited access to Heaven's versions of Google and Wikipedia.

Any question I have will be answered.

Who was behind 911? UFO's. What's the deal? Is there a Bigfoot? What really happened to Amelia Earhardt? Who killed Jon Benet Ramsey? Who shot Kennedy? The Sopranos series finale. What the fuck? David Hasselhoff-really talented or really lucky?

I'm hoping there will be answers and if not from a search engine, then maybe from a simple one-on-one with GOD over coffee at Starbuck's.
(C'mon. You KNOW there is going to be a STARBUCK's in Heaven. They're everywhere! And there are no long lines to wait in and the coffee is free. Your mouth is watering just a little, isnt it?)

Maybe it won't be GOD who answers my questions. And maybe it won't be a computer. Perhaps it will be someone I loved and who I have missed and after a hug and a kiss to the top of my head, they will sit with me and talk with me and answer all the questions I have.

BUT! Maybe it will be GOD who will sit with me, or walk with me, or take a long train ride with me (That would be cool. wouldn't it? A long train ride through a sunny and glorious European countryside with the guy who created waterfalls and giraffes and the taste of honey. Face to face with HIM. And on a TRAIN!)

A one-on-one with The ALMIGHTY? I know. Sounds like an episode of Inside the Actor's Studio with James Lipton. And you know me-I'm going to have a huge stack of blue index cards sitting on top of my little desk!

(Between you and me, I can't wait to hear GOD's answer to “What occupation other than the one you have now, would you like to have had?” and best yet, “GOD. What is your favorite curse-word?”)

I think I will have all of eternity to ask all sorts of people all sorts of questions.

My grandmother, my father's mother, will understand me and I will understand her. We will speak neither in German or English, but rather, in the universal language of love, and for the first time ever, and forever, we will laugh together and really, really talk.

I will talk to my mother's father who died before I was born and we will be joined by my grandmother and they will answer all my questions and let me sit between them and just be.

Maybe it will be Einstein? ( I know that if my girlfriend meets him she is going to try and do something with that hair. Just let her do it, Al. Don't try and fight it.) Maybe it will be Ghandi (Hey, Mohandas. Want some of my burger? It's delicious! Yummm... Only kidding. Maybe some...ONION RINGS?)

(I know. I know. Keep that up and I won't have to worry about what Heaven is like. I just better pack for a warm climate.)

Maybe I will chat with Elvis or Mozart or Socrates or an electrician from Ohio who died in 1952 and who loved his family and his friends and who was just a nice guy and who wouldn't mind shooting the breeze with the new guy.

I guess it doesn't matter really. I don't have control over the outcome.

Or do I?

As long as I have some answers and some peace afterwards.
I hope that's what Heaven is. PEACE.

PEACE on Earth. PEACE of mind. PEACE in my heart.


and that's jody with a “j”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Old Clouds, Time Travel and Fresh Ink

“Sooner or later, I'll get me off this track.
Gotta do what it is that I do and then I'm coming back.
Got sun in my face-sleeping rough on the road.
I'll tell you all about it, when I get home.
Gonna roll up the sidewalk, I'm gonna tear up the ground.
Comin' round to meet you, The long way 'round.”

From Long Way 'Round, The Stereophonics 2005

There are times in our lives, more so these days I would imagine, when we all wonder what it is we are supposed to be doing.

Why am I here?

I won't go as far as too ask “What is the meaning of life, because I think I would agree with Monty Python's answer to that question, as presented in The Meaning of Life.

The meaning of life, states The Python, is “not very special. Just try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

But WHY am I here?

I feel like the child who will forever be asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Shit. I don't know.

You can keep asking the question, GOD knows I do, but I'm not sure I can give you an honest answer. Not that it's any of your business, anyway, but I can understand the curiosity.

After all, I am 44 years old and I bet none of you really know what I do.

Join the club. It's a nice club, actually. We have a free-weight room, tennis and racket ball, a sauna (although I have to ask that if you are over 65, please don't do the “hey-look-at-me!-I'm-naked-and-parts-of-me-are-dragging-on-the-floor” thing. I'll be 65 one day. Believe me. I'm not excited about seeing myself naked-I wouldn't expect anyone else to either.) My club also has a killer brunch on Sundays (the ambrosia salad? yum yum!) and every Spring we go to Disney World.

Of course, there is all the angst, but with no monthly dues and All-The-Shrimp-Balls-You-Can-Eat Wednesday (you know hard it is to get enough of those together to feed 50 people?) I have to ask....where's the downside?

Maybe I am just having one of those weeks where everything seems to be going to shit. I'm frustrated. I'm a little angry. And as hard as I try to look on the positive and tell myself that it is all going to work out, I have a black cloud hanging over my head.

There is a silver lining inside that cloud. I do know that. I just have to weather the hail and lightning and I'll be able to get a better look. Because I am pretty, almost certain, 73.8% sure, there is a silver lining in that cloud.

But that's just me trying to be positive. When people ask me if I am "a glass half-filled kind of a guy" or "a glass half-empty kind of a guy," I tell them I am a "someone better get me the right sized glass kind of a guy."

There's a fine line between being realistic and being pessimistic and I think I have been staggering between those two lines like a drunk being tested on COPS. I have a shirt on, so I'm guessing the chances there will be a good outcome.

Prepare yourself for a little bit of a jump here. Ready? Okay.

I am pretty sure my next tattoo will be the phrase “LONG WAY ROUND.”

You okay? Didn't pull anything, did you?

Not just because I liked the reality tv mini-series starring actors Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman and which chronicled their trek across the world on motorcycles from London to New York taking the “long way round.”

(Side note here: Check out that series. It's on DVD.)

No, I'm thinking my next tattoo will be “LONG WAY ROUND” because that seems to be the route I am taking in my life. Plus, it's a lot better than getting a tattoo that says “CONFUSED SCHMUCK.”

I know what I have told a few of you about my tats. That my Monty Python Holy Grail on my left shoulder would be my last. Yeah. Well. I'm not talking a huge tattoo on my back. I'm saving that for when I get Mt. Rushmore with the cast of Seinfelfd. (rim-shot) No. The "LONG WAY 'ROUND" tattoo is gonna be a small, 3-word tattoo. On my right arm. You won't hardly notice it. Seriously. It's all I can afford.

With everything I am feeling right now, I do have my shit together enough to know that I don't do anything easy. It's always the hard way. I always take the long way 'round.” I don't know why.

Why does a smoker still crave a cigarette even after setting themself on fire in bed? Ok. The answer to that is nicotine.

Shit! Stupid example. Never mind.

The point I'm trying to make is this. It's what I do. Who I am. For better or worse.
And there are plenty of times when I sell myself on the idea that that's okay. Then there are today when I say, "There's got to be something better."

I don't know why I challenge myself the way I do sometimes. I'm pretty sure that if I was standing at a cross-roads and there was one sign that said “THE ROAD TO SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS AND ALL THE FREE ICE CREAM YOU CAN EAT” and there was another sign that read “A BUNCH OF AGGRAVATING SHIT AND SWEAT AND TEARS AND POSSIBLE HARD TIMES AND MAYBE EVEN GIANT KILLER HAMSTERS THAT WILL EAT YOUR FACE” I would probably choose the first road.

What? Wait a minute. Did you think I was going to say the second road? What are you fucking nuts?! I'm a little confused right now and feeling a little down. I'm not a freaking moron, for Christ's sake.

I mean...

Who doesn't love ice cream? It's ice cream! Cold and yummy. Hello?

C'mon! Giant face-eating hamsters or free all-u-can-eat ice cream. Hmmm....Oh. I dunno. It's so hard to choose...Are you kidding me?!

Here. Let me help you. That road? ICE CREAM!! THAT ROAD? NO FACE!!!

Where the Hell was I? Oh. The long way round. Yeah. Well. That's me. I'm okay with it. I guess. Regrets you ask? Sure. I have a Few. But if a man from the future appeared in front of me and said he could take me back in time so that I could have a second shot at things, I'm not sure I would take him up on it.

Oh. Sure. I might go back to my second night of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and answer “The Crimean War” just to find out what the $500,000 question would have been. Could you blame me? I have no interest in the money at all. (Yeah right)

And since we were riding through the highways and by-ways of time itself in our 1975 White AMC Pacer (A Dolorean? Please! Everyone knows the AMC Pacer is the perfect vehicle for time travel) I might warn my past-self about a few bad haircuts, all those lottery tickets I bought, and that speed trap on I-64 which resulted in a $100 ticket.

But as far as the BIG stuff is concerned? I'm not so sure I would change a thing.

And I say that because as tempting as it is to say “Why get married when you know it's just going to end in divorce?” or “Why work so hard for that jerk who is just going to use me and then toss me aside like so much garbage?” I'm afraid the consequences for my altering the past would be dire.

And I'm not talking about being worried about ending up in a planet ruled by talking apes.

And having said that, I would ask my time-traveling friend to make one more stop. I would ask him to take me back to the day I dropped $20 on tickets and refreshments to watch Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes)

It would be easy to wipe the slate clean and start anew, but I look at all that I would lose. They (men in white lab coats and Ashton Kutcher fans) refer to it as The Butterfly Effect. That is to say, who knows what the result might be were I to go back in time and change even the smallest event or action in my past.

Had my parents not divorced, I might not have ever left New Jersey. (Whoa. Huge cold chill just ran down my spine) I can't even begin to think what my life would be like if I had never moved to Virginia.

The point is, I might not be where I am right now, and more importantly, I might not have the people I have in my life at this moment.

There might not be a lot about my life right now that I understand-but I am smart enough to appreciate the people who are in my life. My friends. My family. My love, Fawn. Nothing would be worth taking a chance and losing those who are so precious to me

So I will play the hand that I have been dealt.

I was never that good at cards, and if this was a game of STRIP LIFE, I would be sitting here typing this as naked as a guy with no clothes on.

But I will see how this hand plays out. I will keep moving forward. One baby step at a time. I'm a little old for baby steps, I know, but I'm also too old for playing with my belly button when I'm bored, but you do what you enjoy and what you're good at.

There are a lot of unknowns staring me down right now.

Here are the knowns. I know I want to be happy. And maybe that is as simple as spending the rest of my life loving Fawn and seeing her laugh at my jokes and dancing with her in dance classes, making enough money to pay my bills and maybe taking a nice vacation every now and then. Those things would make me happy. They would.

I also know I'm never gonna be on American Idol (I'm too old) or COPS (my girlfriend would never tolerate a mullet) As much as I adore kids, I'm probably not going to have my own. I probably won't be President and I probably won't go into outer space. I'm not ever going to be pregnant and I am pretty freakin' sure Jim Carrey won't play me in a motion picture based on my life that Martin Scorcese will not direct...and that will be nominated for two OSCAR's but will not win.

Everything else is a crap shoot.

(Back to tattoos for a second)

If I was ever going to get a tattoo after my “LONG WAY 'ROUND” tattoo, it would probably be one that says “FIND YOUR GRAIL.”

“FIND YOUR GRAIL” is a line from Eric Idle's musical Spamalot. It's a song the Lady of the Lake sings to Arthur when he is at his lowest.

“If you trust in your song

Keep your eyes on the goal
Then the prize you won't fail
That's your grail
That's your grail

So be strong
Keep right on
To the end of your song
Do not fail
Find your grail.”

I guess, in a sense, we are all looking for our own “grail.”

And so, like Arthur, I will continue, and I will, as another Spamalot song tells us, “always (try) to look at the bright side of Life.” <insert happy whistle here>

I just hope that along the way I'm not killed by a rabbit with sharp, pointy teeth and a vicious streak a mile wide.

that's Jody with a “y”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Seeing RED

"When I heard the crash on the highway...
I knew what it was from the start.
I went to the scene of destruction...
A picture was stamped on my heart."

From the song Wreck on the Highway, Dorsey Dixon, Singer Roy Acuff

When I was in the first grade, I made a stop light from an old quart milk container. I remember fumbling with those awkward little scissors as I cut out the black construction paper which would cover the box before me. I remember it still smelled like milk and I remember using a popsicle stick to smear thick white paste on one side of the thick paper.

I also remember being scolded by the nuns for sneaking licks of my paste covered fingers. I can still remember that bitter sweet taste in my mouth and the sting of a yard stick on the back of my head.

Damn nuns. I'm sure GOD wouldn't have minded if we snuck some paste. I was sure he was more concerned about the kids who weren't eating their vegetables or worse...sitting under the monkey bars when the girls were up top in their little plaid skirts. Which I never did, by the way. That 8 cents my mother gave me was for my milk at lunch-not some cheap, pornographic peep-show performed on playground equipment by a 7 year old who was trying to earn enough coin to buy an EasyBake Oven.


After I covered my milk carton with black constuction paper, I carefully cut out three circles traced from a jelly jar lid. One circle was red, one was yellow, and one was green.

After dipping into my big jar of paste once more, and yes, dear reader, sneaking an occassional lick or two, I glued my circles onto my little back box. Red. Yellow. Green.

I was so proud of my little stop light. Red. Yellow. Green.

As the class worked furiously and dipped fingers into paste and ducked wide and outside swings of yard sticks and backhands, THE LESSON OF THE STOP LIGHT was taught.

And while we held our creations, our very own little stop lights in our paste-crusted hands, we learned that RED meant STOP and GREEN made GO.

I have no memory of an explanation of what the YELLOW light meant.

I don't even think the nuns knew the answer! Shit. Nuns didn't drive! Nuns taught school, hit you when you showed any sign of individuality, played guitar, and were married to GOD. Their closets were filled with penguin outfits and sensible black shoes. They all had little thin moustaches and they all smelled like candles.

That's what I knew of nuns. As far as I was concerned, nuns didn't drive cars. I don't remember asking what the YELLOW light meant and I don't remember them offering any information on the subject.

Let's face it. Nobody really knows what the Hell the YELLOW light means, although I think that most of us would agree that the most universal interpretation of the YELLOW light on a traffic light would be "Go a little faster, Idiot! Get your ass through the intersection before the light changes" RED.

And so, just like you, I carry those memories of childhood with me and remember those lessons imparted by parents and teachers and society as a whole.

Don't stick a fork in an electrical outlet. Don't roll around in the dirt to cover up the fact that you have wet your pants. (For the record, it really just makes the situation worse) Don't zip your pants up too fast without checking if anything is still hanging out or you'll spend the rest of your days playing hopscotch as a little girl named Courtney.

RED means STOP. GREEN means GO. YELLOW...whatever...

What happened?

And I'm not saying that I'm bemoaning my lost childhood. I'm asking the question.

What happened?

Seriously. What the fuck happened to RED means STOP? Was there some law passed that I am not aware of? Was a list of acceptable excuses for driving through a red light published somewhere that I am unaware of?

Then why do so many people do it?
If you ask me, there's only a few acceptable reasons for driving through a red light.

The Top 5 Accepted Excuses for Driving Through a Red Light

#5. "I'm sorry. There was a badger clawing my face and I didn't see that the light had changed..."

#4. "I'm sorry. My scrotum was on fire and I couldn't see the traffic light for all the smoke..."

#3. "Oops. I guess between putting on my eyeshadow, talking on my cell phone, drinking a cup of coffee and knitting a scarf, I just didn't realize I had done that..."

#2. "Well, there is this sale at MACY'S..."

And The Number 1 Accepted Excuse for Driving Through A Red Light is...


Unless you are a police official on official police business (and that does not mean rushing to meet your buddies for lunch at Capital Ale House and "last one there picks up the check!" so you'd better hurry and maybe turn the siren on to get you there a little faster) there is no excuse to go through a red light at an intersection.

None. Nada. Ambulances with their lights on can go through a red light. Funeral processions with a police escort can go through. The President of the United States can go through a red light. James Bond cannot go through a red light, but seriously, the guy can launch guided missiles with a touch of a button on his dashboard-YOU gonna tell him he can't go through the red light?

Everybody else? SORRY. If the light is red, you should have to stop.

Wait. Strike that. There is no question about it. You have to stop. It's the law.

If you race through a RED light, you're going to kill someone. And if you don't kill yourself, you're going to kill someone who didn't deserve to die in a horrible car accident because your copy of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was going to be late at Blockbuster.

I can't begin to tell you how many times a day I see people racing through red lights. It's at least 5 times a day now. And I'm not talking about the accidental "the-light-was-yellow-but-it-just-turned-red-oh-shit!-i'm-sorry" thing. I'm talking about the blatant act of driving through a light that had turned red two or three seconds before you decided to barrel through the intersection...before you decided that your life was more important than mine...when you decided that getting to KROGER and then back home before People's Court came on was more important than those two toddlers in their car seats in that mini-van you barely missed.

It's not just the 90-year old grandmother doing it, although I still maintain that if you are old enough to remember when there were no cars, you probably shouldn't be driving. It's young people, too. It's men, woman, White, Black, Chinese, the handi-capable, straight, gay, Hobbits, Gemini's, and whoever-the-Hell-is left.

We all do it. At some time or another, we all do it.

But you know who pisses me off more than those people who have their hands full and their heads in their's the assholes who know they're going through a red light and don't give a shit. They're the ones who keep going even though the light is red. They're the ones who take the corner on two wheels or barely miss the traffic who has the GREEN light.

They're the ones who should be fed to wild boars. These are the people I want to follow to their destination and ask as they get out of their car, "Did you see what you just did you inconsiderate piece of crap? Do you know that you went through a red light just then?"

And they're the ones who will stare blankly at me and say, "Oh. I didn't realize. Sorry." (even though they have that "Go Fuck Yourself!" look in their eyes) and then go about their day like nothing had happened.

That's when I set fire to their car and dance a little jig in the parking lot as security tries to wrestle me to the ground.

I often wonder if they have GPS and if the voice of the GPS is screaming, "Bob! It's a red light, Bob! Bob! Don't be a dick, Bob! You'll kill someone, Bob!"

The voice is correct Bob. You are going to kill someone...and you're being a dick.

When did RED stop meaning STOP?

When did it okay to break the blatantly...with so little regard for others (fuck you and your disregard! by the way) ...for other people on the frequently?

I see it every day and I know it's not just a regional thing. I know it happens all over the country and maybe even all over the world. And I am left wondering "Why?"

How could we forget such a basic rule? Red means STOP.

Is it the world we are living in? Have we just gotten so busy and distracted by our all-important lives that we have forgotten those things we learned in the first grade?

I don't think it's going to get any better. Sadly. And it's going to take some horrible accident in which school children or old people are killed because some jack-off was trying to eat a BigMac and talk on his cellphone and didn't see that the light had changed to red two seconds earlier.

We have to try though.

We have to pay attention. We have to be considerate.
We have to remember those things...those very basic things...we learned so many years ago.

We're all in this together, folks. And until the robots or monkeys take over, we have to try and look out for one another.

I don't care if you agree with anything I've said here. I really don't.
I do ask this, however.
If you remember anything from this, please remember...

Red means STOP.

and that's Jody with a "y"