When # meets # anything goes

So my self-appointed #oldwhiteguytryingtobepolite had a sort-of run-in the other day with #metoo and #blacklivesmatter and I ended up walking out of a store with my tail between my legs and a confused look on my face. And a cashier who was still shaking his head as I left.

Bear with me for a couple of minutes while I tell you the backstory.

My No 1 year-round retirement hobby is sending out and (hopefully) collecting autographs of athletes on trading cards, preferably baseball players or former players. I have found a cheap and convenient way of procuring unsigned cards is through 30-card “Jumbo Packs,” a staple of the Dollar Tree stores that are located all over the place. Over the course of the past several months, partly because of me, the Dollar Tree stores in my neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods have run out of these items. When I’ve asked for more, I get the same story: Store employees don’t fill out stock orders; those come through corporate based on sales rung up on the cash registers.

OK, I can handle that. But when ALL the stores that carry the Jumbo Packs run out and don’t get more, what do I do? I search out other stores. I found some on the other side of town the other day, but only because I happened to be there. And, because a lot of these former players are hard to get through the mail, I sometimes end up with only eight or ten cards out of 30 going into the mailbox. Which means I have to replenish every couple of weeks.

Well, since I had to pick up some books that my wife bought from a lady through a facebook “garage sale” in a part of town that was sort-of on my way home from work, I decided to stake out one more Dollar Tree I had not yet visited. That just happened to be on South Division Avenue in Grand Rapids, just north of Hall Street. For those familiar with GR, that neighborhood is a bit inside the outside edge of what many would call the “inner city.” I’ll leave it up to you to interpret that whichever way your mind chooses.

As I exit my car across the parking lot from the entrance to this Dollar Tree — all the spaces next to the building are handicap parking spaces — I noticed that this 40-ish/50-ish black woman was just approaching the door. I have no clue as to her economic status or her living conditions, but she was dressed in layers because it was cold outside. And she was clean and polite, holding the door for me. So I thanked her, and thanked her again when she held open the inner door for me.

I found some Jumbo Packs — five, in fact, all they had — so I bought them. And I got to the checkout before my fellow shopper, who had three or four bags of snacks and was looking at some of the smaller items while the cashier was ringing up my order. It was early Friday afternoon and I was finished working and I was in a good mood because I got paid and I found baseball cards I was seeking, so I discreetly told the cashier, another white guy, probably mid- to late-20s, that I would pay for her stuff. That’s the kind of guy I am. Ask anyone.

As the cashier — Todd was his name, I think — was separately bagging her things, she blurted out, “Uh-uh, those are mine.” I told her because I was in a good mood and she held the door open for me, I was repaying the favor by paying for her things. She would have absolutely none of that.

“Uh-uh,” she repeated, looking directly at Todd. “I can pay for my own stuff. I don’t want to have to do any favors for anybody. Next thing you know, he’s gonna ask me out for a date. Nope, I’m paying for my own stuff.”

I tried to explain my motives, which had nothing to do with dating her. I explained that “I’m 67 years old, I’ve been married over 44 years and I’ll probably never come to this store again anyway.”

No dice.

So Todd, bless his heart, unbagged her stuff, most of which had already been rung up, clearer her amounts from the register, then finished my order. He shrugged his shoulders and got red-faced and thanked me. The guy behind her, a black guy, simply looked at her and said, “Geez, lady.” And, as I walked away, she simply said: “Have a nice day.” No “thank you” or anything.

I pride myself on doing small favors for people. That’s the way I was raised. But if y’all in the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements are going to take offense at the kind actions of #oldwhiteguytryingtobepolite, I guess the money will go into my savings account instead.


Something about “Manifest” is troubling me the day after

For those of you who watch “Manifest” on Monday night, this post may be of interest. If you know nothing of the show, well, you might find something here to pique your interest anyway.
While watching the latest episode of “Manifest” with my wife, I hit the pause button about halfway through when I heard some dialogue that troubled me a bit. So as not to bore you with the long backstory of the airplane that went missing for five years (though you can catch up streaming on the NBC web page), estranged couple Ben and Grace are looking for their son, Cal, who took off to a small town in upstate New York. As they had to borrow Grace’s new boyfriend’s truck (because Ben was on that missing aircraft but Grace was not) to avoid government snoops, Ben and Grace had a brief discussion about trust even though their marriage currently is shaky.
Grace: “I just can’t help but thinking that if we were living under the same roof, Cal wouldn’t be missing right now.”
Ben: “You’re right, but that doesn’t mean you should start blaming yourself.”
Grace: “I said I wasn’t but it kind of sounds like you’re blaming me.”
Ben: “No, no. I’m agreeing with you. I’m blaming us.”
Grace: “Do you think that I WANT to be separated?”
Ben: “Grace, you kicked me out.”
Grace: “And you went, with zero objection.”
And that’s went I hit “PAUSE.” I looked at Illy and said, “It always happens. The man is trying to get to the root of their problems and the woman always finds a way to make HIM the guilty one.
After that “Manifest” conversation, I was convinced that episode was written by one or more women, but when I checked, the principle writers were both men.
To quote Charlie Brown: “Oh, good grief.’

Getting an autograph in person, you know not what to expect

Yesterday (Saturday, January 12), I went to a baseball card and memorabilia show hosted by Legends Sports and Games at their spare building near CenterPoint Mall next to what once was the Orbit Room. I was looking specifically for cards from 1960 of players who were still alive to sign autographs TTM (through the mail). While there, I was reminded of the last show I attended there last spring when they had a special autographing guest.

Here is how I chronicled that visit in my written but unpublished journaling.

At today’s card show, the special guest was Corey Davis, a former player at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 45 minutes south of here, who graduated and was drafted and signed by the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, a team that my son Corey in Georgia can watch in regional television coverage on NFL weekends.

A few weeks earlier, I got a text with a simple demand: “Get me Corey Davis’ autograph.” I replied: “Send me the $35 for the auto.” He wrote back: “That will be my birthday present.” His birthday is coming up in late March so I said OK and went and bought the ticket in advance so I wouldn’t spend that money on something less worthwhile. Come showtime, I ended up spending another $12 for an 11 x 14 action photo of Corey Davis when he played at WMU, then another $10 for an inscription: You know, something like “To Corey,” or “Best Wishes” or whatever.

I got the “whatever.”

That’s where the fun began. I explained to Corey Davis, whose charming blonde girlfriend was sitting next to him, that I wanted him to write something encouraging to my son, a firefighter with the United States Air Force who lives in Georgia and can actually watch the Tennessee Titans when they’re on TV in that part of the country. And that his birthday was coming up in a couple of weeks.

So, Corey Davis writes “To: Corey” and signs his name and starts sliding the picture back to me. And I’m dumbfounded. So his girlfriend puts her hand on his hand and says, “write something more, like ‘Happy Birthday’ or something.” So he did. He wrote “Happy Birthday” and looked for the next item to sign.

I never did find out Corey Davis’ girlfriend’s name (my bad), but she asked me a couple of questions about where, specifically, my son was stationed and how long he’s been there and a couple of other things, then told me to tell him “thank you” for his service.

In retrospect, I should have asked HER to sign something. It would have had more meaning, at least for me.

Getting to know (me) better?

Those close to me are very aware of the fact that conversations with me and my A.D.D. often evolve into movie quotes and/or song lyrics. I don’t know how many of the other drivers I work with at a local auto auction company know that, but sitting next to one of the driver in van some time ago, I commented when we crossed Winchester Avenue whether or not there might be a Catholic church somewhere on that road.

Much to my surprise, he started singing the opening lines to a 1966 song by The New Vaudeville Band. “Winchester Cathedral, you’re bringing me down. You stood and you watched as my baby left town.”

As I was sitting next to him in one of the three-person bench seats, I turned completely sideways, looked at him and smiled and said: “Damn, son. I’m impressed. You’ve gone up several notches in my impression of you.”

We both laughed. And now I have someone else who understands me.

In death, we talk about our lives, but is it enough?

A few years when I was sitting in an airport waiting for my wife to return from a mission trip. While I was sharing a table with a couple in the terminal, my insurance lady called to tell me that when I turned 70, my term-life policy would expire and I should give serious thought to signing up for a lesser policy or, maybe, getting a whole life policy since, at the age of 70, pretty much the only reason you need insurance is to pay for your funeral.

The guy sitting at “my” table overheard part of the conversation and after I disconnected, he told me he had worked in the funeral business for some 40 years and “if you have a mortician you know and trust, you should contact them and make your own funeral arrangements and pay for them ahead of time instead of giving your money to the insurance company.”

So I did.

I spent a couple of hours with the lady at “my” funeral home who handles those arrangements and, during a second visit, we almost completed my funeral plans … except, of course, for the date of death. And, she suggested, since I was a writer, “why not write your own obituary.” So I did that, too.

When I was young, I would frequently scan the classified section of our Sunday paper, looking in vain for our house in those pages, not realizing, back then, that only homes For Sale were pictured in the paper. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun reading the obits on a weekly basis since our local paper piles them all into one section in the Sunday paper.

Obituaries, at least in West Michigan, are pretty routine. And mundane, often using the same phrasing. “(Person) went to be with his heavenly Father. (Person) passed away peacefully with her family at her side. (Person) went to be with Jesus. (Person) was called home.” Or, even more boring, “(Person) died.” Period.

Then there was this guy: “(Person) finally dropped off the grid on January 2, 2019, after having enjoyed so very many years of the good life. His enjoyment of computers, aviation, football, model airplanes, and Early Time bourbon is exceeded only by his profound love and admiration for his his wife of many years, Mattie, who left us way too soon.”

It gets better. “Mike is survived by two wonderful, caring daughters, Linda and Lisa (biology be damned).”

There’s more, but it’s all about his other family members and where he worked and what he did when he retired. But based on what you read above, it’s pretty apparent that he either wrote that himself or his children had a real good idea of how to convey his personality.

And that’s why I wrote mine. By myself.

It begins:

“It is with great disappointment that I am announcing my departure from this life: I’m disappointed because I won’t be around anymore to enjoy time with all of you guys; and my family and friends may be disappointed because y’all will have to drop what you’re doing to attend my funeral.

“I hope.”

There’s a lot more, but I think you get the idea. So, how do you want to be remembered in death? As someone who just “passed away peacefully” or someone who “enjoyed … his Early Time bourbon?”

There’s still time to do it your way. Why not?

Did defiance begin at an early age?

Even though I began listening to rock-and-roll music in the late 1960s and even though I believe to this day that my parents destroyed my first Beatles record after John Lennon said that, at the time, his band was more popular than Jesus (and, at the time, they probably were), I think, my first conscious act of defiance, if you could call it that, occurred in the late summer of 1969 when the South Christian High School Class of 1970 gathered on campus for senior pictures.

While all the girls wore their nicest dresses and most of the boys looked good in their button-down shirts and three-piece suits, I had on the requisite jacket-and-tie combo above the waist, but had nothing but a pair of cutoffs and sandals covering the rest of my body. Perhaps that’s also when I discovered I had an eye for photography, knowing that the only part of me that would be showing up on the pages of the yearbook was the part of my body above the waist. So, while everyone else had to go home and change into their going-to-the-beach attire, I was already on my way to a nearby state park after walking to my car, peeling off my coat and tie and button-down shirt and replacing that part of my wardrobe with my favorite T-shirt.

A message for Sunday morning

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been told by more and more people that having faith and going to church is not supposed to be easy. That’s not the way it was when I was growing up. I was the youngest of six children (two girls and four boys, in that order) and we went to a predominantly white (except for adoptions and missionaries) Protestant church on Sundays while attending a predominantly white (except for adoptions and exchange students) parochial school.

The messages were always the same. We’re sinners because of Adam and Eve, but because Jesus died for us on the cross, we are saved, regardless of some of the shit we do on a day-to-day basis. Now, I’m not sure about my redemption if I were to murder one of my siblings, but I’ve always been told that God is a forgiving God.

Going through adulthood and raising children of my own, I learned that it just was not that simple. There are a lot of temptations out there with which we must deal. Satan is attacking us every day; and the stronger your faith is, the harder the attacks.

Just be ready. And be faithful. And pray.