Newspapers and Talking Birds

My Real Memoir

Dad was ambitious to a fault. Acquiring a newspaper dealership in a brand-spanking-new suburb was great (honestly, I don’t recall any more than the usual amount of spanking). But it would be some time before enough customers lived there to put gas in our two cars and tuna in our three cats. Newspaper dealers were expected to not only hire paper boys and collect subscriptions, but continuously build up their territory.

So, along with sending “Welcome” letters and knocking on doors (I write about that here), Dad sought other ways of expanding his business in brand-spanking (or at least stern-talking-to) new La Mirada.

Result? He took on the local “rack route.” This consisted of placing newspaper racks at outlets like drug stores and coffee shops. Every day, Dad would stock the racks with papers, put new headline cards in them (“Space Race Heats Up!”), and empty their cash slots of shiny new dimes and nickels!

For a while, I snagged rare me-and-Dad time by riding along on this rack route. We’d talk, sing “My Friend the Witch Doctor” along with the radio, and shout “Tequila!” each time the sax solo stopped. And then I’d help Dad restock the racks, and get a cold Dr. Pepper (my drug of choice) as a reward.

But my absolute favorite stop was “Gus’s liquor store.” Dad would greet the owner while I talked to Pretty Boy the mynah bird, who blithely greeted customers as they entered. But the titular event would come when anyone asked Pretty Boy, “Where’s Gus?” and initiate the greatest recurring comedy bit in cross-species history!

Pretty Boy would screech, “Here, Gus!” in his best mock-human voice. And a moment later, Gus the hound dog, dubious protector of all things hooch, would come loping in, and look groggily up at the owner. The owner would say, “Don’t look at me, Gus, I didn’t call you.” And then Gus, who to his dying day never dreamed that birds could talk, would–after a sympathetic head pat or two–lope lazily back into the storage room. At which point, Pretty Boy would guffaw “Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah!” till the cows (and other gullible species) came home.

No one will ever convince me that bird didn’t know exactly what he was doing. And so did I when I spent time with Dad, Pretty Boy…

And Gus.

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“Wisdom Begins in Wonder” ~Socrates


Thought for the Week

A child’s sense of wonder is a priceless commodity. Perhaps the only thing of equal value is the retention of that commodity into adulthood.

“Kids think with their brains cracked wide open. Becoming an adult, I’ve decided, is only a slow sewing shut.” ~Jodi Picoult

“The waitstaff at Yellowstone, even when they have finished their chores, don’t look up and marvel at the geyser going off. After all, they see it so often.” ~Philip Yancey

      “We are perishing not for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“There is a voice of wonder and amazement inside all of us, but we grow to realize we can no longer hear it, and we live in silence. It isn’t that God stopped speaking; it is that our lives became louder.” ~Mike Yaconelli

“You cannot wait for an untroubled world to have an untroubled moment. The terrible phone call, the rainstorm, the sinister knock on the door—they will all come. In the meantime, it is best to grab what wonderful moments you find lying around.” ~Lemony Snicket

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” ~Betty Smith

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.” ~Albert Einstein

“There’s magic in the world—and it’s waiting to be found.”

~The Wishing Map

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A Peaceful Heart

Perfect PeacePhoto by Marko Blažević

“Peace is simplicity of heart,  serenity of mind,  tranquility of the soul,  the bond of love.  Peace means order,  harmony in our whole being…  It is the holy joy of a heart in which God reigns.” ~St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


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If It Can’t be Explained, It Didn’t Happen

'Floating Castle' by AnAngryScottsman ( by AnAngryScottsman

The Wishing Map is a full-length fantasy that is being posted episodically at this site. To read the previous episode, click here. To read the entire novel, begin here. Wishing Title (logo only)

Chapter One

Zack Dore lived for the fantastic, for adventure, for the impossible. Which is why it was particularly ironic that he, of all people, should fail to notice when Mike’s Bikes, Sales and Service did the impossible.

It had risen six feet off the ground, and was now sucking in everything around it: manicured boxwoods, sleek Euro bike racks, a passing cat. Its entrance awning flailed like a blue and yellow striped tongue, its tinted doors gnashed like big glass bicuspids. It was clearly furious—furious because something had escaped its jaws.

That something was a startlingly large, alarmingly red-headed woman who’d passed under the awning just a moment before. She was tightly clutching what looked like a worn, rolled up carpet, and seemed intent upon preserving it at all costs. “Hah! Missed me!” she shouted as she hurried on.

At first the three other passersby simply stared, then one screamed, another walked into a juniper bush, and the third, an elderly lady from South Carolina, managed to faint. A passing driver in a pink Maxwell Florists van swerved, but then adjusted his mirror, cursed its “&#!?>!*%! wobbly bolts,” and drove on.

The startlingly large, alarmingly red-headed woman, now a building away, turned to chiropractor Marc Neitterbaum as he entered his office and said, “Sorry.” Dr. Neitterbaum blinked and mumbled, “Mmm-hmm.” He hadn’t seen a thing.

The entire incident lasted less than a minute. As quickly as it happened, it simply un-happened. Mike’s Bikes shuddered as if awakening from a nightmare, wafted listlessly down onto its foundation, and went back to sleep. The building’s human contents, Stu-the-Bike-Repairman and two wiry guys in tight checkered shorts, like travelers in a large passenger jet, had only felt a minor rumbling.

Doors, shrubs, bike racks and cat were all returned to their rightful places, and none seemed worse for the wear, although the cat hissed at anything that came near it for the next several days.

Of the three passersby, the man who’d screamed swore off coffee forever, the woman who’d walked into the juniper bush started regularly wearing her glasses again, and the old lady from South Carolina made an immediate appointment with Dr. Neitterbaum for a chiropractic adjustment. Within the hour, all were convinced that nothing had happened. Because, if there was anything the citizens of Middleton knew for certain, it was that…

If you can’t explain a thing—it didn’t happen.

The red-headed woman, whom no one recalled having ever seen before, hurried quickly on. And Zack Dore, who by now was five blocks south, had missed it all. Still, he felt more certain than ever that Middleton would never again be…

An eight-minute-long town.


Thoughts: Believing only in what is possible is naïve. Unless you keep in mind the fact that all things are possible.

Wishing pix-Map

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Animals: What’s Not to Love?

I’m on record as a card-carrying animal-lover. But, I mean, what’s not love? Enjoy your weekend!

Click on any image to enlarge it, to read caption, or to begin slide show.

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Fall Has Fell!

'In due season' - The Creator's Canvas ( by The Creators Canvas

Wishing all of my fellow-Northern-Hemispherians a

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

(And a Happy Spring Equinox to all of my Southern-Hemispherian friends!) 

Of course, technically the equinox (“equal night”) was yesterday–or the day before that for those in the eastern half of the world (this is confusing, isn’t it?). But today, the first day of ever-so-slightly longer nights, seems like the real first day of fall (or spring, if you’re–oh, never mind, you get it). So, um, let’s try this:

Happy Change of Seasons!

yesterday, today, and on all future dates to all of my fellow homosapiens…and other species too, come to think of it, except maybe mosquitos (hah-hah, you’re dead!) on this “swiftly tilting planet.” (No slight intended toward any space aliens or angelic beings who might be reading this.)


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Unarmed Hungers 

Featured Image -- 63819

blogportraitcroppedMy Featured Blogger this week is Sheila of Hidden Treasure. This “retired librarian and emeriti” (look it up) from Western Michigan University is a mother and grandmother who loves “digging for treasure in the Word.” Good news: As evidenced below, Sheila finds it…

And she shares it with us!

Hidden Treasure

This is the place
where unnamed hungers
are fed, the place
of clear water,

A fellow blogger, Deep calls to deep, recently posted a poem, a redux of, or leading back to, the 23rd Psalm (full poem below). As I read the portion above, instead of “unnamed hungers,” at first I saw “unarmed hungers.” I started to laugh at myself, but then I thought, no, our hungers often are armed and need to be disarmed.

Even unnamed hungers can be armed. They may be unnamed because they are unconscious or subconscious. Pushed down, walled off. We may not know what is fully going on down there, sometimes screaming for relief, sometimes huddled in a ball. Only God knows our hearts. But there is sure to be included unnamed hungers for love, acceptance, respect, recognition, approval, belonging, family. A hunger to be known. To be heard.

Naming our…

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The Day My World Got Bigger

My Real Memoir

Learn how to sign your name! Seriously! Sometime near the end of 2nd grade, I signed my first work of art using an ancient form of chirography called “cursive.” It depicts a rather short Native American boy named ‘Hiawatha,’ as described by a rather tall white man named Longfellow (see what I did there?). Since all of my previous artworks were signed in print, rather than cursive, this makes my ‘Hiawatha’ picture extremely valuable (it’s now a closely-guarded artifact at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.).

Signatures were a valued security device back before fingerprint scanners were invented. But even more importantly, being able to sign my name meant I could acquire a library card at the public library.

And having a library card meant that, for the first time in my life, I was allowed to leave our neighborhood alone (i.e. without a security device called an “adult”), and cross one of the two biggest and busiest streets in the city, Rosecrans (curiously, there’s no crossroad called Guildenstern–see what I did there?). Why did that matter? Because the library was located in the “Fabulous La Mirada Shopping Center,” the virtual center of my little suburban universe!

My world instantly got bigger! Now I could not only check out books, but I could visit:

  • Thrifty Drugs, where I would use my hard-earned allowance to buy a “hand-packed” scoop of Rocky Road, ride the coin-operated rocking horse, and eventually make goofy recordings in the “Make Your Own 45!” booth with my buddy Jeff!
  • J.J. Newberry’s, where I’d bought my “first girlfriend” her going-steady ring!
  • La Mirada Music, where I would eventually buy my first 45s, classics like “The Monster Mash,” and anything by the Beatles.
  • Hiram’s Supermarket, via which my other BFF Rory and I would enter forbidden realms!
  • Burgermaster, where I would try my first awful pre-fab pizza, sell my first hand-painted Open/Closed sign, a picture of a ghoul both in and out of his coffin (which for some reason they never used).
  • And the fabric store where I would pick-up the Singer Sewing Machine-sponsored music contest form that led to my band’s first (and only) national primetime television special!

In other words, so many milestones were passed, simply because I learned…

How to sign my name!

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

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Don’t Pass it On

'Fern' by Gaimard ( by GAIMARD

Thought for the Week

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” ~Romans 12:2

796509-d071d656-e552-11e3-aae6-8a781d1cd673A high percentage of abusers were themselves abused as children–physically, verbally, sexually. Other people may have more subtly broken models of adulthood, yet they too pass on their brokenness.

No one is a perfect model.

We once had two sweet but morbidly obese neighbors, who asked us to housesit for them. Their home looked like them, unscrubbed and unkempt, with nothing but sugary snacks and fat-laden junk foods in its cupboards, not a hint of protein or fresh produce in sight. They were likeable people, and yet, at the same time we feared for their son. He was wiry and active at age five. But within just a few short years, he’d grown lethargic and grossly overweight. Just like his parents. They loved their son, yes, and would never have dreamed of abusing him.

And yet they did.

How? By abusing themselves, and by modeling that abuse to their child. We all inherit legacies of brokenness, even those of us who are from “the best of families.”

Every one one of us is challenged, by sheer virtue of being born, to do better than our parents. To keep what’s good…and replace what’s broken. For our children and for our hurting world’s sake, we’re called to model better, not broken. So, don’t pass it on. Difficult? Oh, yes–perhaps the most difficult thing you’ll ever do.

But infinitely worth it.


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Stop Squirming!

Inspired Art

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Therefore, do all things without grumbling and disputation.”  ~Philippians 2:13-14

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments