Category Archives: Humor

Daddy Issues!

Too often we hear about the sadness that results from dads falling short on their responsibilities. We blame absenteeism on dads. We blame inadequacies on unpaid child support. We blame dads (who’ve moved on and started new families) for those ill-feelings that the oldest kids experience. These are amongst the many things that cause their sons and specifically their daughters to have “daddy issues.”

Pardon me for a moment as I stand up for myself and the many fathers who have been upholding their responsibilities. It goes without saying that there are moms who will disagree. They may claim that these dads do not match the narratives that the moms have been feeding their kids. Well so be it!

The most important lesson that I’ve tried to teach my kids is that there are three sides to every story. There’s her side. There’s his side. And there’s the truth!

My kids got her side every time their mom was angry with me. Every time she observed that I was living my best life, my kids heard her side. Every time my kids told me why their mom was upset, they got to hear my side. And although I believed that I was going damage control, I was contributing to their confusion. I created a situation that forced them to decide for themselves what the truth was. And to be completely honest, they may never be built tough enough to handle the truths that either of their parents are capable of telling.

It’s story time! And the best stories are told about someone else’s drama. When it’s personal, it’s not drama. It’s trauma!

Comedian Chris Rock reminds dads that they have but one job. “Keep your daughters off the pole!” He goes on to joke that a daughter that didn’t get enough love may find herself getting even with dad by becoming an exotic dancer. It’s cringe worthy, and no less than horrifying. “Daddy issues,” he calls it.

The reality is that children who have had great dads develop daddy issues too. Kids who don’t get their way, kids who have alternatives to a caring dad, and kids who cling to moms who disparage their dad all risk developing “daddy issues.”

It’s sad that dads may be blamed for their children’s disappointments. As a dad who has fulfilled his responsibilities, I can point out that responsibility falls on parents AND children. Adulthood spans beyond blaming someone else. Raising children properly is not about giving them what they want. It’s about developing the tools necessary for our kids to get what they need.

Kids who have developed a sense of integrity are fully aware of their ability to choose their path. Our job as parents is to identify the obstacles and encourage our children to overcome them.

I want my children to achieve success with dignity. But sometimes it’s easier to blame dear ol’ dad. I suppose I could have fallen short in some ways, but I am not sure who gets to decide what the standards are (or whether a shortfall has occurred). Not mom. Not dad. And certainly not the kids. Who can be objective enough?

Daddy issues are unlike any other condition. Assigning accountability to anyone else doesn’t ring true quite the same way. One thing is certain. Thanksgiving dinners that don’t yield the biggest piece of meat for dad are very revealing.

We Are What We Eat

Last night before bed, I ate a piece of string cheese. I hadn’t eaten much all day, so I figured a little treat might do me good. I shun proper nutrition habits because (like most things) I think they are simply fads. Without knowing the facts, I have decided to make my dietary decisions based solely on emotion. I am not alone.

I’d like to think that my added weight was a result of 15 months of COVID lifestyle changes. This has proven false by photos of me from 5 years ago which convey my robust shape. I’ve been eating what I want for years! I’m reduced to the choices in my cabinets. And since I shop based on emotion too, it’s a wonder that I’m not a walking, talking mound of sugar and carbs. I don’t have many mirrors in the house. I also don’t own a scale. My last visit to the doctor revealed that a lot more weight was needed on the counter-balance. But I’m ok with it.

So string cheese before bed, seemed like a better choice. But if we are what we eat, and I’ve eaten very little, why aren’t I…very little? Something about the body storing up fat or having an irregular routine is a warning that my choices are not good for me.

String cheese is compact. It can be eaten in various ways. I usually just chomp on it. This time I decided to peel it. Each piece was smaller and “stringier.” I savored it. It tasted nice. So nice, that I had to savor another. I refrained from having a third though.

The thinner the serving, the easier it went down in to my tummy. I wasn’t as heavy as that bag of gummy bears that I had yesterday. But that was then, and this is…well…this is then too. BUT, anyone can feast on a bag of goodies. But sting cheese isn’t designed to be shared. It’s a serving for ONE, and sometimes I have another ONE. Who would judge me for a healthier snack choice.

My bedtime snack will surely inspire pleasant dreams. Visions of cows jumping over moons, or wooly sheep leaping farmer’s fences. Sunflowers swaying in the breeze and fireflies brightening up the night, eyes getting heavy and the num num whispering of string cheese.

Drive Down Memory Lane

It might make more sense to scroll all the way to the bottom, and read backwards until you come back to the beginning. After all, it’s not the destination, but the journey, that is the most important. 🧐

2021 Chevrolet Malibu

And lastly, is the first real new car purchase that will likely be my last. Purchased pre-pandemic, it didn’t track as many miles. My hopes are that my pleasure driving will replace my business driving; my desire to rest will usurp my need to capitalize; and love of cars will only fade amidst my desire to keep ONE.

2011 Chevy Suburban 2500HD

By far the most fun of all of my adult run-abouts! It was a recreation vehicle, a money-maker, a friend transporter, a mobile office, and a school bus. It facilitated advocacy, demonstrated efficiency, and inspired creativity.

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

By far the prettiest. It was enjoyed as an accessory, a fixture, and commodity. Like plenty of luxuries, it didn’t last as long as I would have liked. Depreciation, high-priced maintenance, low reliability resulted in a premature curbing.

1992 Lexus SC400

And then came the current project car. The first challenge was to give it an identity if it own. When, in fact, it’s become symbolic of passion that is lost and excess that is not consumed.

2008 Honda Accord Coupe

It was a classroom of sorts…
It was spotted in many places…
It served as a back drop to be more…
It served as inspiration to do more…
Memories were made…
After a round trip to Florida and becoming a hashtag king, it turned many heads. It was the one that mini-me learned to drive in, took her test in, and hoped would be hers.
This one was the hope and the promise that was never made. It’s the one that was almost paid off, but fate had other plans.

2003 Oldsmobile Bravada

When I asked either of my kids if they were interested in this one as a first car. They both replied, “ewwww!” So they both ended up with nothing.
First foray into municipal auto auctions yielded a $900 profit! It created a false sense of confidence. I registered this one to conceal the purchase price. I blew the profit on the next stratagem that never got registered. Irony?

2005 Dodge Charger POV

Elwood: “It’s an old Mount Prospect police car.” Jake: “The day I get out of prison, my own brother picks me up in a police car.”
Purchased sight-unseen, it took nearly 7 months to find a new owner who was even less profound.
And so the quest to find a project car began. This was Daddy’s failed attempt to either flip a municipal police car for profit or pickle a project car.

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring

This could not be the car that the kids learned to drive. Dad’s classiness would soon be traded for a practical trainer. Something cute and nimble perhaps?
As Dad took photos, he realized that he chronicled more than a love for automobiles. Soon the children would be driving too.
And Daddy’s princess was developing character of her own. As her character developed, daddy matured. There was reason to be more responsible. And few cars are more responsible than a Toyota.

2005 Dodge Ram SRT-10

Daddy needed a more family-friendly transport. Perhaps a peppy luxury sedan?
It had character, but remained in the driveway most of the time.
It was the fastest production truck ever made. It’s fuel economy was nearly the worst for any passenger vehicle at the time (second only to the Hummer H2) It could pass anything on the road except for a gas station!
Alas it was time to remove the old rescue squad truck from the back yard. What better way to commemorate Dad’s love of Dodges than to buy my own dream truck and name it after his old wooden sailboat Exta Sea?

2001 Lincoln Navigator

Three years later, two restless parents could not agree on one compromise. The compact car was sold to cover the retainer, but this SUV was a consolation prize for a dad who couldn’t get enough time with his kids.

1998 Honda Accord (white sedan)

But a week before my son was born, our previous Honda was pushed through an intersection and into a utility pole. Deployed airbags saved us all. The uninjured driver who disregarded the stop sign watched us take an precautionary ambulance ride. Our newborn son came home from the hospital in daddy’s newest ride.

1998 Honda Accord (blue sedan)

But it wasn’t long before my family grew and a need for another family-responsible auto. 4 cylinders for four family members only made sense when rising gas prices might prevent date nights and family outings.

2003 Suzuki Katana

Purchased with only a rider’s permit, I rode it for 7 days before my first accident. But as any dedicated rider would, I was back up and riding soon after…

1979 Honda CB650

Purchased from a fellow teacher, I was quickly schooled on motorcycle ownership. It wouldn’t be long before I stepped up to something faster.

1998 Dodge Ram SS/T

After 36k miles of spirited driving had prematurely ended the lease on the Audi, we needed a replacement. We returned the 180hp sport coupe 2+2 for a 3 seater with a lot more pep.

2001 Audi TT (180hp)

Shortly after my daughter arrived, her Daddy wanted something to develop her own enthusiasm for automobiles, or so it would seem. Rally racing and car shows were not uncommon.

1995 Ford Contour SE

The day that our baby shower was planned, I was given ONE JOB. I only had to distract my new bride while our friends and family planned the surprise. A trip to the car dealer fit the bill nicely. But when asked what my gift to the baby and mom-to-be would be, I gulped and offered this car that we were test-driving.

1940 Dodge Power Wagon Rescue Squad

Not long after I negotiated my first auto loan, I began to plan my family. I transplanted this old rescue squad truck from Salem, where my father had parked it nearly 25 years earlier.
It’s cruising days had long-since ended. But my new home became its new home, and it watched my family grow.

1995 Pontiac Bonneville SSE

My mileage checks added up to provide a down payment. Trading my stripped-down convertible covered the expense of the taxes and registration. This was the first and last time that I exploited a “push, pull, or drag your trade…”

1989 Toyota Tercel DX (5spd)

My first full time job after college graduation required me to commute 100 miles daily to Cape May. The mileage allowance alone paid for this tin can. With no radio nor carpet, the only luxury was a full-size spare. My shifting skills got some practice and I sold it six months later before the clutch revealed its ware.

1979 Dodge Ramcharger 4×4 Convertible

After an uninsured driver rear-ended my 83, my quest for a convertible Ramcharger yielded this beast! With a 2 inch body lift and a 2 inch suspension lift, the 35 inch tires fit beneath those wheel wells nicely. It too got terrible gas mileage and became more affordable to ride the bus to class.

1973 Dodge Challenger SE

I thought that every Motor-head should own a classic. In anticipation, I purchased this hot rod a few years before it became a classic. A cash advance on a college credit card was not the biggest mistake, but I think I may STILL be paying for this one.

1983 Dodge Shelby Charger (rare automatic)

My love of Dodges did not transfer into my other relationships well. This beauty was the first I bought for cash from a used car dealership. Although I bought it for my college sweetheart, her appreciation never manifested. Neither relationship lasted long enough.

1979 Ford Bronco

My best buddy nurtured a love of Fords. Despite my fondness of Dodges, I decided that if I ever had the opportunity, I’d acquisition a Bronco. I traded the pick-up for this beauty, but it needed more than I could offer. They joke that F O R D stands for something. But “on the road” it could not stay.

1984 Saab 900 Sedan

My freshman year in college, I met the Vice President Provost of the college. He became my mentor. He recognized my love of automobiles and made me a proposition: mow his lawn for the summer and this beauty would be mine. I fulfilled my end of the deal, but was never able to get it running. It sat in my yard until I graduated.

1979 Dodge Pick-Up 4×4 shortbed (5spd)

My uncle once warned me to never buy a used vehicle from a mechanic. But there were no rules about buying a vehicle for sale across the street from a mechanic. And so this beauty was my #2. A sunroof was cut into the roof and then resealed with caulking. The seats were always wet! It got 9 mpg because it was engineered with full time locking hubs for the four wheel drive.

1983 Dodge Ramcharger 2wd

My first car. I got it when I was 15 years old. My father challenged me to work hard in order to keep it. I did a landscaping job for the church for two years to earn enough money to put it on the road by my 17th birthday.
Twenty years later, my efforts to preserve it failed. The necessary disassembly never gave way to the goal of restoration.
In the end, the replaced engine got waterlogged, the rodents made their nests, and the wheels were stolen. Inevitable the junk man took what was left.

The plan is to sift through old registrations and bind all of my records (because I’ve saved them all) for each of these vehicles. Each insurance card, traffic ticket, and accident report is a story. Automobiles have lives. They are also apart of our lives.

I’ve always kept at least one key from each automobile that I’ve ever owned. I’ve created a makeshift shrine. Not long from now, a new project will begin. These autos will be exhumed. They will rise again from the ashes. They will be located and brought together, not just in spirit.

The ultimate hobby will soon begin. Their Vehicle Identification Numbers will live again. Not as zombies, but as wheeled angels. And those keys will be used not only to verify their identity, but to start their engines again.

Sliding In the DMs

Who has been sliding into your DMs? Most likely someone (who hasn’t been invited) thought they could be clever. Rather than offering a witty pickup line face to face, they may have decided to sneak a note into your “inbox.”

For decades now, clever communication has existed. At the dawn of the internet, AOL and MSN were offering the messenger and hotmail to rival traditional methods of reaching out and touching someone. Before then, anyone interested in speaking with you would have to ask you for your number. How archaic?

For a clearer picture as to what this means, let’s take a closer look at what “howtogeek.com” has to say about this.

“Sliding into DMs” means sending someone (who you might not know personally) a direct message on social media, often on Instagram or Twitter. It is commonly known as a flirtatious, romantic gesture to initiate a conversation or to ask someone out on a date. Therefore, if you message a person you’re attracted to on social media, you’re very likely “sliding into their DMs.”

Has this happened to you? Or more curiously, have you done this? Plausible deniability prevents you from incriminating yourself. But knowing that it occurs frequently is another story.

A number of my female friends have admitted that this happens often enough that they employ what we like to call the trifecta: ignore, screenshot, and block. And with editing capabilities on most phones, the names can be omitted to protect the culprits when posting the humorous flirtations on social media. It is trifling enough to keep a shy guy at bey.

My guy friends are not so quick to admit. Rejection is painful, but embarrassment is brutal. For those few guys who successfully employed this technique, they’re not going to reveal precisely how…

A “like” on social media is a seemingly innocent way to show interest. But for every ONE person who likes a post, there are dozens who saw it, but were not inclined to react. Everyone else can see when we make a move. No one wants to get caught “out there.” Sending a DM is supposed to be private. It doesn’t always end that way.

It’s the digital form of sending a note in class. But in this case, school is out…permanently.

Gals claim to receive DMs, but don’t admit to sending them. Guys send them, but don’t admit to receiving them. It takes a lot of confidence to send a message to someone you don’t know. But I bet it’s got to be strange to receive a message from someone you don’t know. In the end, I suppose if a connection is made, it’s worth the effort.

But an often overlooked concern in sending a DM is not having enough information. Sending a message to someone who is not interested or is involved with someone else could be disastrous.

Blind confidence can be a winning characteristic. But then again, it could be overwhelming burden. How do you know who you are dealing with if you only know their name (or worse their online handle)? How can you be certain to not cross an imaginary line or offend an otherwise unsuspecting suitor? In short, you can’t. All you know for certain is that a sent message will be received. It might not get a response. It might not have a happy ending.

A DM is a seed. Guys are planting seeds all of the time. So often, we may as well consider them farmers. But a seed alone is not fruitful without nurturing and care. Seeds planted in infertile soil will perish.

This is not a how-to. It’s merely something to ponder. DMs are but one way to get the ball rolling. Just because it’s private doesn’t mean that it has to be weird. Life is short. Act accordingly.

Raised Eyebrows

What does the term bamboozled mean to you? How much do you believe when you watch (or read) the news? How long will you ingest information before you become skeptical?

For someone to present something completely ludicrous as a benefit to a broken system raises eyebrows. It’s ludicrous when the solution to a problem is extreme—either far too easy or incredibly difficult. Here’s what happened.

For the first time in 18 months, I attended a training. This annual training was for one of the many volunteer boards I’ve been asked to sit on. In my community, non-profit boards are not as diverse as they could be. My role is not so much to represent the needs of the community, but to fulfill a commitment these non-profits are attempting to make to our community. In many cases, I sit and listen. The other veteran members of these boards don’t pay much attention to me as long as I don’t disrupt the flow of their procedures.

I can’t be certain of how they view me. They don’t ask me questions. As far as I know, they don’t much care about me. They might think that I have no idea of what’s going on. Occasionally, I remove the doubt. I’ll ask a question. They’ll politely engage me. My questions are rarely answered with commitment. Instead the responses are rushed. I feel stifled. I resist the urge to feel slighted, and I never walk away until the meeting is done.

On this day, something was different. A man who has nothing in common with me pulled me aside. He asked me discretely if I wanted to know how all this works. I raised an eyebrow. I looked at my wrist where I used to wear a watch (a bad habit of mine) and sighed.

He pulled me closer. He said, “spending.”

He gestured to his fingers that he rubbed together. “Money, my boy!”

As if he were crisping invisible dollar bills in one hand, he declared that he spends money on paper, but rarely has cash in hand.

“I buy cars. I’ve always loved cars. When I was in college, I took out student loans to buy project cars that I couldn’t afford. Even though I lived at home with my parents, I had a half dozen “oldies” scattered around town. Two on campus, one at my girlfriend’s apartment, one at a buddies house, and one that I drove. My parents resented that I had access to loan money as a student they they could not access as homeowners. I had no credit, no collateral, and a minimum wage job. But my earnings were enough to pay for my college classes. To this day, I still owe on student loans that I used as walk around money thirty years ago. It wasn’t smart, but it will never be repaid.”

“That’s interesting,” I whispered, pulling away from this man.

He asserted, “there’s more! Before I graduated from college, I volunteered as an intern for a non-profit community action agency. I witnessed the CEO live lavishly while his staff earned salaries below the poverty level. He bragged that the services that the agency provided were heavily relied upon by his staff. ‘As long as there is a need, the agency will remain in business.’”

“Spending, my boy! But that’s not all. When I graduated, that man gave me a job and paid me a little bit more. I stayed for a year. I noticed how discontent his staff was. Sadly, their discontent was not enough to motivate them to do much about their own circumstance. Instead, they processed the aid applications that will financially support others in their community. This agency was run by the people FOR the people. I left after a year for a better job.

“My subsequent jobs evolved into careers. Each one serving marginal populations. The managers lived well, but the workers managed a life barely above their means.

“Everyone either had high rent or a higher mortgage. They drove expensive cars that they leased or second-hand luxury cars that they owned. So I mimicked what I witnessed and I fit in just fine.”

“What’s this got to do with me?” I said.

“High overhead!” he mumbled

“Spend money that’s not yours! Run deficits. Live beyond your means.

“Here’s what I do: I apply for high interest loans and pay every month on time. I default on the low balance loans to keep my credit score low enough that no one will benefit. This way no one will steal my identity. Because my default judgements will never be more than 10% over my gross, and my salary rarely competes with the cost-of-living, my income is never fixed. I occasionally work a job on the side (that is off the books), so my head is above water. But I drive a nice car, I eat out on credit, and no one can see my empty pockets.

“I tip well and treat my friends better than they treat me. I keep their secrets but I don’t share my own. I give to charity, as long as it’s a charity that I’m fond of. You never know when things will go sour. Only burn the bridges where adversaries antagonize you. Forget about keeping your enemies close, because your life will be too boring for them to hang around.”

“Are you done?” I asked

He said, “No. I’m just getting started…”

Unsolicited Advice

There are few things more uncomfortable than advice that you didn’t ask for. It has no value until you’ve experienced something so uncomfortable that you wished you had actually considered that unsolicited advice.

So instead of listing a bunch of “do’s & don’ts” let’s instead list a few things to consider. It’s less intrusive and more…considerate.

Value other people’s time. This should be a “no-brainer” and yet…. This lends itself to the next piece of unsolicited advice:

The Golden Rule, yes… BUT even though you may not be moved by how others treat you, you must recognize that treating others with respect spans farther than “self”. Consider Karma. The universe is paying close attention. The good that we exercise today will find its way back into our lives later and expand into the lives of people that we may never meet. Proceed accordingly.

Consider timeliness. Prepare in advance to arrive on time. Running late this time is merely setting a precedent for next time. Like anything else, if it works out this time, you’ll make it a habit. Successes are habit-forming and contagious. When you’re successful being late, others will mimic that behavior.

The next morsel of unsolicited advice is…BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Because we can only predict (and not foresee) the future, cautiously maintain current relationships. Be willing to develop new relationships, and recognize that people are in your life for either a reason or a season. We can’t control these seasons, but we can draw from our wardrobe in case of a chilly day.

Dress appropriately and ADDress your adversaries with full consideration. When we underestimate others, we make fools of ourselves. There are plenty of proverbs we could apply, but your own experiences should drive you and not inhibit you. Confidence is attractive, but arrogance can be a repellant. No one can take your education from you, so learn as much as you can. Intelligence looks good on you.

Humility looks good too, but wear it like an accessory rather than a suit. When you look good, you feel good. Consider how you look when you step outside of your comfort zones. Consider how you look at the end of the day. A successful experience is as informative as a defeat. Both develop growth.

Grow! “Either get busy living or get busy dying” This Shawshank Redemption quote suggests that we can extract advice from books, films, or even your favorite childhood cartoon. Bugs Bunny taught us to be clever, but Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam exposed us the dangers of guns in the wrong hands.

“Know when to hold ‘Em, know when to fold ‘Em; know when to walk away…know when to run!” Kenny Rogers sang it best. The world is our classroom. Any good teacher would glean real-world experiences to use in a lesson. You can do the same. There are clues in every song, every commercial, and nuisances abound.

So take this unsolicited advice or discard it entirely. After all, you’ve read nothing new. But now you have something to consider.

Eggs on First

I’m talking to myself, but my son is listening. I’m conflicted, but I can find no resolve. My son is shaking his head, but offering minimal input. The issue? Food!

Me: When I was a kid, there were 4 good groups.

Dylan: there are 5

Me: right! There are 5 food groups! I knew that…. Ok, like I was saying… meat, dairy, veggies, fruit, and grains. Five!

Dylan: Fish

Me: Fish is meat. Seafood is meat.

Dylan: sushi is seaweed. Seafood or vegetable?

Me: seafood is seafood; meat!

Dylan: corn?

Me: Vegetable. It grows from the ground. Wait! Grain, right? But vegetables grow from the ground like beans, peas, and other legumes.

Pumpkins are legumes. Wait. Pumpkins are fruit! Like watermelon and cantaloupe. They grow above ground. Like tomatoes! Tomatoes are a fruit. Wait. No. Tomatoes are a vegetable! They go in salads like lettuce (which also grows above ground). Salad? There’s nuts in a salad. Legumes! Grapes can be in a salad. Fruit! Wait…lots of things can be in a salad. Like croutons (grain) and chicken (chefs salad). Salad should not be the qualifier. Chicken is meat! It’s white meat like fish…

Dylan: seafood!

Me: As I was saying…white meat…

Dylan: Racist…

Me: huh? What? Stop it! Pork…

Dylan: Pig! 😳

Me: Is rabbit meat, white meat?

Dylan: Why? Because a rabbit has white fur 🐇? Ummm. No.

Me: I think it’s the texture. Chicken, duck, turkey, etc.

Dylan: Turkeys have dark meat.

Me: yeah, but it’s not red meat.

Dylan: isn’t all meat red meat because of the blood?

Me: 🧐

Also me: Fish bleed.

Dylan: vegetarian? Vegan?

Me: Pescatarian!

Dylan: Isn’t that a religion?

Me: Only if you worship fish. But if you did, you probably wouldn’t eat them. Alright. Enough! Let’s sum this up:

Five food groups! Some foods are questionable. Vegetables and fruits are interchangeable. Potatoes grow UNDER the ground. Vegetable…

Dylan: Starch

Me: huh, wait! No! Vegetable. Eggs are dairy.

Dylan: Protein. Shouldn’t eggs be meat? They come from chickens.

Me: Eggs are not to be eaten with chicken, but fine with pork.

Dylan: White meat!

Me: Grrr. Bacon is in the dairy isle with the milk and eggs and cheese and…

Dylan: …and orange juice! But oranges are fruit. Grapefruits are fruit. Apples are fruit. But Apple Jacks do NOT taste like apples and are not in the fruit aisle.

Me: well that’s because that’s a cereal to which we add milk.

Both of us: DAIRY!

Me: But milk comes from a cow, and a cow is meat. It’s in a different isle, is a different texture, and is MEAT!!

Dylan: Protein! Red meat! Not worshiped (by all), but tastes great with A1 steak sauce.

Formidable Film

When I was nine years old, my mother sent me away for the summer. I stayed with my aunt and cousins who lived in South Carolina. All I knew then was that they had something called air conditioning and that their snakes were called water moccasins. I have long since lost contact with my three girl cousins, but my one little boy cousin is a friend on Facebook.

The more I think back, it was like I was spending the summer with the Huxtables accept their was no Cliff. I mean, their was a man in the house, but he was my aunts second (or third) husband. In my later years, my mom explained that every time my aunt divorced, she made enough money to earn another college degree. When she passed away, she had long-since earned her PhD.

My littlest boy cousin was about five years old that summer. He was named after my aunts second husband who was no longer around. My mom once showed me a photograph of the family posing in front his dad’s brand new black 78 Ford F-150 step side (with a camper top) that they’d driven all the way from Charleston to Atlantic City. Four kids in the back with no seatbelts—heck, no seats!—and no cares in the world. After all, that was in the 70’s!

My four girl cousins were full of character; and each one very different. My oldest cousin had already gone off to college that sumner and later in life would become the first openly gay council woman in suburban Atlanta. She left behind her younger sisters who had yet to develop their identities.

The second oldest was an adolescent princess who hadn’t yet discovered boys, but remained especially shy around her step father. I didn’t understand why she behaved the way she did that Summer. That was our first and last summer together. There were so many questions I wanted to ask her. We grew up and apart. I had heard that she barely survived 9/11. As fate would have it, she called out sick from her job in one of the towers the day they came crashing down. Fate, she is a strange mistress.

The third oldest was a little older than me. She was a little sassy and often the victim of her mother’s wrath. She wasn’t as pretty as the others and was reminded of it frequently. I was an outsider and unfamiliar with the family dynamic. So when I arrived, I was kind to each of my hosts. I was especially empathetic to this cousin. As a result, we got along well.

And then there was the fourth youngest. She was a little younger than me. Only older than her younger brother, the only authority she had was over him. She teased him relentlessly. She would find disgusting ways to upset him. Most memorable was when she took his anatomically-correct cabbage patch doll and threatened to perform perverted acts on it. My aunt was horrified and embarrassed by these accusations, and the beatings would be horrendous.

My aunt would yell, “where did you learn that?!” as she beat her within inches of her life. But at night, when the rest of us were supposed to be sleep, all of the preadolescents in that Carolina home in the caul de sac got quite an education.

The days were filled by either playing with the many Barbie Dream Homes in the sweltering attic or drinking Kool aid in the finished basement watching Home Box Office, Cinemax, and Showtime. We had no supervision while my aunt and her husband were off at work. She never asked how our day was when she got home. She never asked what we had for lunch or whether we went outside to get fresh air.

Only once did she ask what new movies had we seen. One of my cousins told her that we’d watched Risky Business. She was unmoved. My other cousin exclaimed that we watched Purple Rain. Still no reaction. My littlest cousin yelled out, “…and Octopussy too!” To this, my aunts scolded all five of us!

“We don’t say THAT word!” She exclaimed. Based on what I had previously witnessed, one of them was sure to catch a beating. I had just hoped it wasn’t me. I didn’t know any better. I mean, I’d been whipped by my mom for repeating “adult words” at home, but my aunties usually spoiled me with peppermints at church. I didn’t know what to expect here.

She restrained herself as she gazed over to me. She politely explained that she’d not heard of these movies, but from now on we shall pronounce the title “Octopi.” As I recall, it was right about then that her husband smacked her on the behind and said, “what’s for dinner?”

I was NINE years old! I didn’t understand what was happening in that household. I barely understand now! My memories fade. There’s only a few formidable things that I remember.

I remember my mom sending me a harmonica for my birthday that summer. I remember my aunt giving me a five dollar bill that I immediately spend at the Woolworth 5 & 10 which was situated at the end of the mall. I remember silhouettes in the early morning hours. And I remember the HBO theme music each time a new movie was about to come on.

I remember the warning at the beginning of each film. The PG, PG-13 (which was a relatively new distinction) and the illustrious R rating. There was nothing rated G in that house that summer. Interestingly enough, our beloved “Octopi” was only rated PG.

With no real supervision we watched Risky Business repeatedly. I was too young to understand the nuisances of Tom Cruise loosing his virginity on screen to Rebecca De Mornay. I didn’t realize what it meant to convert a suburban home into a brothel. Nor did I know the significance of college-bound teens cashing in their savings bonds to jump-start their “right-of-passage.” All I knew was that I wanted a Porsche 928 when I grew up. All I recalled was the slogan, “Porsche, there is no substitute.”

It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized that this ground-breaking film was a perverse reckoning of teenage angst at the hands of a female molester. I was recently reminded that cancel culture would have had a field-day with this film. If for no other reason, the killer pimp Guido played by Joe Pantoliano, exploited young Tom Cruise. But it was ok because the teenager solved his own predicament before his parents got home from vacation. And his victory provided the kindling for a lifetime of success. Lessons were learned—not just by the characters in the film—but by the youngsters watching those characters. In that poorly-lit basement, lessons were learned. We knew this film was taboo, but we watched anyway. As long as we didn’t mention Octopussy, no harm would befall us.

Don’t even get me started on Purple Rain! As soon as my cousins saw that it was listed in the coming attractions, all other planned activities lost their importance. I suppose Tom Cruise in his tighty whities had nothing on Prince in his purple pleather pants. For me, it was Apollonia baptizing herself in what she thought was Lake Minnetonka. Even my littlest cousin knew not to let my aunt know that he saw boobies.

We didn’t know Purple Rain was about domestic violence and spousal abuse. We were unmoved by the blatant mental health symbolism. We overlooked similarities to what may have been occurring in that very home. Or maybe for my cousins, these films brought about a semblance of familiarity or normalcy. For my preadolescent cousins, it was the music and the performance that was enchanting. It was the purple motorcycle that could mysteriously transverse both bridges and the muddy meadows below that captured my attention. It was the sex appeal for my oldest cousins.

In that basement, that sumner, I learned too much. I was exposed to things that, to this day, bring me joy. The soundtracks and the vividness, the dialogue and the cliches all bring me a childhood familiarity that most likely explains my adult perverted mind. There were other things going on in that house that I was probably sheltered from. If not for the cinematic distractions, I too could have fallen victim to the perversions playing out upstairs.

Hearts Don’t Lie

The heart is the organ that gets all of the honor and glory for keeping the body alive. Despite the brain operating in concert with the heart and the lungs, the heart owns our feelings, drives our will, and is held accountable when the brain makes rational decisions. It’s a travesty if you think about it.

Lungs are impacted by both the heart and the brain. Even though the lungs are paired, they are impacted by the conditions that they have no control over. And yet, poor breathing conditions impair the lungs, the heart, AND the brain. Over time, the decision to live in polluted communities or even smoke, vape, or breathe fire will wreak havoc on our quality of life.

Alas, our bodies are no circus attraction! Tattoos, piercings, dyed hair enhance our appearance, but they don’t make our heart beat any better. Skin is an organ too! But it also falls victim to the brain.

Come to think of it, the brain and heart work together AND against each other from time to time—mostly on matters of Love.

“The Heart Wants what the Heart wants…” is a ridiculous excuse to make bad decisions. This may merely be a euphemism for other organs that we won’t discuss here (except to say that they cause the most life-altering circumstances).

Darn it! The heart isn’t even the same shape as what we traditionally market on cards, candy boxes, and plush gifts. Those bulbous hearts actually represent other explicit body parts (that we also will not discuss)!

It’s so easy to get distracted while pondering the importance of the heart…and more specifically that the heart LIES. Yes, yes! It lies, it’s lied to, and it is manipulated by the other organs in what can only be described as a coup d’etas!

Alright, alright! Maybe that’s a little too enthusiastic. Charge it to my heart, and not to my head. (Do you see what just happened there?)

Please consider this matter when emphasizing how important your heart is to making day-to-day decisions. It can be stressful. And THAT is not good for the heart either.