Monday, December 13, 2010

Pearl 33: Keep Your Motion Going Straight Ahead

Dearest Ruby B.,

Hello, little one.  Hope you are ready to celebrate your first Christmas.  Of course, this year your takeaway might only be some brightly colored lights, a few new smells like holly and sweetly scented candles, some new music which, even at your tender age, might elicit an emotional response, and your parents giving you just a few extra hugs.  In the years to come, it will have much deeper meaning.

When I was 11 years old I got my first steady paying job as a paperboy for the Los Angeles Mirror, the afternoon edition of the LA Times.  Published since 1881, the Times Mirror is the second largest newspaper in the country.  But back in the day, it was second fiddle to its much bigger afternoon competitor, the Herald Examiner.  The routes for the Mirror were pretty spread out.  Fewer customers meant you might have a subscriber on one block and the next would be blocks away.  Such was my route and I peddled my bike nearly six miles a day delivering my 101 newspapers.

I would start my route at the pick-up station, where I would count out the papers, fold them in a special way (there were no plastic bags to put them in back then), stuff them in my carrier bag, which had two large pouches that held fifty papers or so in each pouch.  Then I would sling the carrier over my head and shoulders, half in front and half in back of me and head out to my route.

There was one large boulevard on my route.  It was a two lane road, divided by a huge curbed median with sixty or seventy-year old maple trees down the middle.  It was a gorgeous thoroughfare; about two miles long and fairly steeply sloped with grand old homes lining each side of the street.  I had a customer at the top of the run and one at the bottom both on the left side.  So even though I was going against any potential traffic, I would throw my first paper and head my bike down the wrong lane, get it up to speed and let the grade zip me down to the bottom of the run at probably 25 miles per hour.

It was a peaceful and lightly traveled street so I felt pretty confident I would not run into anyone and I loved the sensation of racing along without peddling and feeling the wind in my hair and on my face.  Sometimes I would take my hands off the handlebar grips and stretch my arms out like I was flying.  I was counting on Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of gravity, which, paraphrased, says “An object in motion stays in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force”.  Outside forces include gravity, wind resistance and other physical factors.  Well, one day, all the outside forces went awry. 

I was half way down the boulevard when I decided, for whatever hair brained reason, to see if I could cross my hands and steer the bike with my left hand on the right handle grip and my right hand on the left handle grip.  So I reached down with my right hand and grasped the left grip.  BIG MISTAKE.  Before I could get my left hand secured, my right hand jerked the wheel sharply to the left, setting in motion a series of hapless actions.  The wheel locked crossways and pitched me violently forward over the handlebars.  My private parts got momentarily but forcefully hung up on the riser causing a pain which I can only associate, I am told, with childbirth.  I flew through the air for about 20 feet, newspapers flying in every direction, before making a perfect three point landing in the street, the three points being my two knees and my nose.  I skidded and tumbled for another few yards until I came to rest in a doubled over, crumpled mess in the middle of the street.

My pain was excruciating on several levels as the thought raced through my head that I might never be able to father your mother….or any other child for that matter.  Within less than a minute, a dozen housewives (women worked at home back in those days) were gathered around me asking if I was alright, all evidence to the contrary.  I could not even answer them as I continued to lay in a fetal position grasping my crotch with both hands and bleeding profusely through the two holes in my blue jeans and from my face.

Finally catching my breath, as it were, the moms lifted me up to my feet.  One had a wet towel and started bathing my wounds, others picked up my newspapers and another brought me my bike.  Amazingly, the tubular crossbar between the riser and the seat had split in two and the front wheel was bent over almost at a 90 degree angle.  The object in motion, me, would have stayed in motion in a straight line had I not been acted upon by an outside force.  In this case, the outside force was stupidity.  And that kind of brings me to my next pearl:

Thirty-Third Pearl:  “Keep Your Motion Going Straight Ahead”

To put it in Biblical terms, it was just the previous Sunday that the Gospel lesson for the day was Matthew 7:13-14 which says; “Enter ye in at the straight gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction; and many there be which go in thereat.  But small is the gate and narrow the way that leadeth to life; and only a few find it”.  (King James Version)

One of the mothers called my mom and she came to pick me up.  We delivered the rest of my papers and she drove me home, my broken and crumpled bicycle  hanging out of the trunk and my battered body and bruised ego aching in the passenger seat as I tried to explain to your great grandmother how in the world this could have happened.  It was difficult to hide the stupid behind it all.  Finally there was silence, but then the rest of the way home, the Bible text kept repeating in my mind.  If I had only stayed on the straight and narrow path, guiding my bike through the straight and narrow gate so to speak, I would not feel like someone had just run me through a wood chipper.  If only I had not tried to challenge the laws of nature my privates would not look like someone beat them blue with a hammer.  It was an important lesson learned the hard way.

So, my darling Ruby, if you ever have the notion to stray from the straight and narrow, no matter what the situation, don’t.  Save yourself from destruction, whether it be of a physical or spiritual nature.  Think of your old Grandpa Jud and remember straight is great, narrow is nice and wide has some wicked consequences.

I love you bunches and bunches,    

Grandpa Jud   xoxoxo

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pearl 32: Just Because You Have the Right to Do a Thing Doesn't Mean You Should

Dearest Gehrig and Eliana,

Hello, sweethearts!  It has been way too long since Granny and I have seen you, but from your photos it looks like you are still growing up so fast.  Christmas is almost upon us and even though we will not get to spend the holidays with you, please know we share the love of the season with you in our hearts.

I am sure you have visited with Santa (or will soon) and will be filling out your Christmas lists.  We hope you get everything you ask for, but, of course, if you did you would be all out of wishes and hopes.  Who can live like that?

Granny and I spent Thanksgiving down in Austin with all the family there, including your Aunt Brittany, Uncle Sae and your brand new cousin, Ruby.  Of course, Rudy is precious and we can’t wait for you to meet her.  On Thanksgiving Day a few of us went to the annual football game between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Aggies of Texas A&M.  I am sorry to say it was not the Longhorns year as we got hammered pretty badly.  But something occurred in that game I thought I would share with you.

It was bitter cold that night and with the strong gusts coming out of the north, the wind chill was 28 degrees at game time.  Most people were bundled up in their heaviest winter coats and ski caps with earmuffs.  They huddled against each other in their seats just trying to keep warm.  All except for this one young fellow a dozen seats to my left on Row 4 of the upper deck.  This maroon-clad Texas A&M fan, from the opening kickoff, stood through the entire game.  He and his friend, who was not standing, were the only Aggies in a sea of Longhorn fans covering the upper deck.  He was the only one standing.

At first the spectators behind him politely asked him to sit down.  Then, they got more vocal as the Aggie ignored their requests.  You could hear the shouts ring out every minute or so, “Hey, sit down”, or “Down in front!”  The Aggie continued to stand.  After about 10 minutes into the game an Event Staff person in a yellow vest came down and asked the Aggie to sit down as several fans had gone up and complained.  He refused to comply.  The ES person signaled for his supervisor and he came down, excused himself as he edged past a half dozen fans and spoke to the Aggie.  After a minute or two of discussion, the supervisor came back to the aisle and climbed up the stairs.  Five minutes later a uniformed police officer returned with the supervisor and he told the Aggie he would need to take a seat to avoid a potential unruly situation with other fans.  Again, he refused.  I found myself more than a little annoyed by this man’s total disregard for the other spectators around him and he wasn’t even blocking my view.

At this point the officer radioed for back up and two other officers came down and they physically removed the Aggie from his seat and escorted him away.  The Aggie did not resist but as he and his friend ascended the stairs, the crowd clapped and cheered the police action.  I briefly pondered the legality of the police action but I understood their desire to maintain the peace and prevent any possible altercations.

Unbelievably, after about five minutes, the Aggie and his friend came back to their seats, unattended by police but accompanied by the Event Staff supervisor.  He released the men to their seats and the friend sat down but the Aggie continued to defiantly stand, which kind of brings me to my next pearl:

Thirty-Second Pearl:  “Just Because You Have the Right to Do a Thing Doesn’t Mean You Should”

The crowd around and behind the Aggie was furious.  They could not understand how these two had not been thrown out of the stadium.  They did not say anything to the Aggie that I could hear but the buzz around the two was audible to our entire section and beyond.  The Event Staffer, as he walked back up the stairs, was telling people the Aggie had argued that he had a right as a ticket holder to stand or sit as he saw fit and had pleaded his case effectively.  The police finally agreed he was committing no crime and allowed them to return.

Just before halftime I just could resist no longer so I made my way over to where the Aggie and his friend were and stood in front of them on the row below which was vacant. I said, “Excuse me, but do you know where you are?”  The young man looked down at me and said, “Yeah, I’m in Austin”.  “That is right”, I said, “and do you know what stadium you are in?”  The A&M marching band was about to take the field for the halftime show and the Aggie was already becoming irritated with my questions.  “Yes, I am in Texas Memorial Stadium”, he responded with a hint of sarcasm.  “So you are aware”, I said, “that you are not in College Station and this is not Kyle Field where the practice of standing through every home game is a time honored tradition, but, instead, here in the middle of the Longhorn's house where standing in front of your fellow spectators for no reason is considered both rude and annoying?”

At this point, the fans around and behind the Aggie began to clap and cheer.  I was not aware my words were being heard by that many people but as I looked around I saw several fans, male and female, urging me on.  “I have a right to stand if I want to and I am just supporting my team”, the Aggie declared quietly but defiantly.  “I agree you have the right to stand and the right to support your team”, I retorted, “but if in doing so you inconvenience all of these people around you perhaps you might consider sitting until there is a reason for you to stand”.

Suddenly, the friend who had been silent up until then said, “Hey, he is just supporting his team, why don’t you leave him alone.  We are trying to watch the A&M band and you are in the way”.  I wanted to shout, “Bingo, pinhead!” but instead I replied calmly  “My point exactly”.  “By standing here in front of you I am blocking the view of something you want to see and that is exactly how all these folks around you feel”.  The Aggie just stared at me blankly.

“By standing the entire game you are being rude and inconsiderate and even though Texas A&M teaches honor and to uphold tradition, there is no honor, no badge of courage for what you are doing here today”, I continued, “If you missed that lesson in school at least didn’t your daddy teach you better than that?”  “My father has nothing to do with this”, the Aggie blurted out.  “I was pretty sure he hadn’t”, I responded in disgust, “Because if he had, he would have had you out behind the woodshed teaching you some manners”.

The Aggie just sneered so I turned and walked back to me seat but even the people clapping me on the back as I went didn’t still the anxiety I had in my heart over the confrontation and the entire situation. It was like I was talking to a tree stump. The Aggie stood the entire second half, people started to calm down or just moved out from behind him as the Longhorns stumbled to their fifth home loss in a row and the partisan crowd thinned, giving in to the frigid wind and increasingly sound defeat.

The Aggie was still standing as the game ended and we made our way up the stadium steps, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his mind.  Did he think that in addition to his team’s victory, he had won a victory that cold and windy night?  Did he think he had accomplished some brave deed, that some moral imperative had been valiantly defended? Did he miss that his behavior was considered totally inappropriate for his surroundings and that the image of all Aggies, in the minds of dozens, if not hundreds, of people was tarnished by his rudeness and lack of manners.  It is my hope, dear ones, that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have the right to do a thing that you think about the Aggie and exercise prudent judgment in exercising that right.

I love you, bunches and bunches,

Grandpa Jud