Do Not Pass Go Part II

Do Not Pass Go  Part II

Several years ago there was a man in town with

my name.

Mr. Same Name was the director of a very good nursing home system.

We would get calls for the other name.

He would get late night calls for my son who was a student at a local college.

They were from co-eds, many many calls from many many co-eds.

He listened patiently and then with the soft, soothing voice you would expect from the director of a nursing home system, he would say that

they were looking for the residence of the Rev. Dr. Same Name.

I would get calls for Mr. Same Name from anxious adult children of elderly parents wondering if there was room, anywhere, immediately, as in NOW, for dad.

“We can’t take it anymore.  He’s driving us NUTS. Pull-ease,” they pleaded.

I would muster the most soothing, nursing home director’s voice I could, maybe just shy of a funeral director’s and say,

“Of course we will help you with your dearly beloved dad.

Might I suggest one more thing?  We never know when that day or that inevitable day for all of us will come (remorseful sobbing on the other end of the line),

but may I suggest, only if you do not already have benefit of clergy, the name of a really wonderful minister who happens to have the same name as mine as someone who could and would do a really meaningful funeral for your dear dad,

at a very reasonable price, I might add?”

“Do not pass go, Rev. Dr. Same Name.  Do not collect those two hundred dollars. Go directly to purgatory, when your inevitable day comes.”  The voice had a deep, soothing tone not unlike the director of a respected nursing home system or perhaps a funeral director.

It was a bit more sonorous and stentorian and the Rev. Dr. Same Name wasn’t sure just where it was coming from.

How would he know that voice?  It had been awhile since he had prayed.

Veterinarians Go Directly to Heaven; Ministers Do Not Pass Go; Do Not Collect Two Hundred Dollars; Go Directly to Purgatory And Be Happy About It


Veterinarians Go Directly to Heaven; Ministers Do Not Pass Go; Do Not Collect Two Hundred Dollars; Go Directly to Purgatory And Be Happy About It

My other friend with the same name as my late veterinary friend who died like what  seems was just a few days ago and was,

Came in the coffee shop today.  I said he looked good since I read his obituary.

He said someone had handed him his obituary between the early service and the regular service on Sunday.

Ushers who were assigned to both services, remarked on how much better the sermon was at the early service.

They are both doctors.  One was a DVM and the other is a ministerial Ed.D.

They got each other’s mail and phone calls.  The vet got church school curricula and the

minister got late night calls about sick gerbils.

The minister, a bit put off by the timing of the calls, never identified himself as the Ed.D and not the DVM and told the people he would do a laying of hands on the phone for healing of the gerbils.

I think the vet might have lost some business without knowing why.

The vet read the Church school material and became more religious.

The minister was divinely sentenced to a few more millennia in purgatory when he goes for bad religious humor and insensitivity to the feelings of gerbil owners and possibly harming the business of a sole proprietor.

My ex-mafia member, ex-brother-in-law, a lapsed, un-lapsed (repeat that several times) Roman Catholic tells me he prays a thousand people out of purgatory every day.  It’s his penance for things best left unnamed.

If my minister friend who has the same name as my friend the vet, dies before I do, and if I’m not in an Alzheimer’s wing of some nursing home

and if my ex-brother-in-law is still alive and not in purgatory or maybe even hell himself for things best left unnamed,

I’m going to call him and give him the name of my friend who has the same name as my friend, the late great vet.

I’ll be sure to tell him to pray for the minister.  I’m sure the vet’s in heaven.

And then, when I meet my colleague in purgatory, I’ll hope my ex-mafia ex-relative prays for me, too.

You Need to Help the Humans


You Need to Help the Humans

The animal purists say don’t anthropomorphize,

And I say I’m not dressing him up to tap dance or go on point and do a pirouette.  There’s no tutu for this big Chocolate Lab.

I’m only trying to translate “Rahr, rahr, rahr…rahry, rahr, rahr.”

The authorities tell me to get into the dog’s world, mind, become a dog.

I never learned “Rahr, rahr, rahr” talk.

I’m trying to understand.  “Speak to me, Oh Descendant of the Great White/Brown/Black Wolf.”

He tilts his head; I hear a “Hum?”

Looking at me quizzically, he speaks as if he is the Oracle of Delphi: “Rahr, rahr, rahr.”

“Oh, great, Oh, Great One. What the hell does that mean?

Let’s try this.

“Show me, Boomer.  Show me.  Come on, boy. Show me. What do you want? What do you want? What do you want?”  Three times a charm.

“Rahr, rahr, rahr.”  He heads to his food bowl.  Stands and points his majestic, long and straight snout toward the empty bowl.

Damn. I don’t get “Rahr, rahr, rahr,” but he gets English.

Did someone tell him he needed to help the humans

And learn their language?

From Here to the Grand Canyon and Back in Thirty Minutes

From Here to the Grand Canyon and Back in Thirty Minutes.

The family that jogs together travels to more places than just the Riley trails.

It is an off-road family affair and tour for Bob, Chris and Boomer, the Chocolate Lab.

Three times a week, sometimes more, more often less, they drag their butts out of bed,

(Boomer, too, because sometimes more and not often less he is in bed with them.  “Boomer, Move over will you PLEASE and give us some room?)

and put on their jogging clothes.

Boomer, the unintentional exhibitionist, watches very carefully. Lying down by the two closets his head goes back and forth from one to the other like he’s watching a tennis match.

He knows them by their clothes.

Bob thinks of the Kingston Trio version of “The Streets of Laredo”: “Get yourself an outfit and be a cowboy, too.”  He sings it to Boomer who ignores the singing and watches for the outfit.

Shorts. Tail wags. Top. Tail wags harder. Bright, chartreuse compression sleeves. “What the heck are those, Bob?” Boomer asks momentarily halting the wag and shielding his eyes.

Athletic socks. Boomer turns in circles. Running shoes. He charges to find something to put in his mouth. Comes back; chews his rubber toy hard. “Okay, guys. I’ve brushed my teeth. Can we go now?”

“I’m  Beggin’ Beggin’ Beggin’ to go Runnin’ Runnin’ Runnin’.”

Bob and Chris floss, brush, gargle.  “Come on, you guys,” his eyes pleading.

In the car, out the drive, down the road to the trails.  Howling blares from the back seat. They turn the corner at Riley and he knows for sure:  “Bark, Bark, Bark, please, please, please, yes, yes, yes!”

Out of the car. Runners to your mark. Set your stopwatches. Go.

They start out slowly and then settle into a really slow pace.  Two minutes in and Boomer hears nature’s call. He makes a run for the woods. He’s so considerate.  No poop on the trail for the Boomer.

They stop the watches. For elite athletes, every step counts.

He’s back; they go.  Chris in front, Boomer along-side and Bob bringing up the rear.

In his prime, Bob still ran in the back of the pack.  It was always a great view.  Still is.

Boomer starts to cough, wheeze and generally sound asthmatic.

He has a prolapsed bone in his throat.  Not too bad for a ninety-five year old.

The sixty-six year old starts to cough, wheeze and generally sound asthmatic, because he is.

This is where the jogging to distant places begins.

It’s West Michigan, but Ferde Grofe appears and jogs along.

They are now in the Grand Canyon, making their way down the narrow trail:  Hee Haw, Hee Haw, Hee Haw.

It’s the Donkey Serenade after daybreak.  It sounds so suite except to Chris or anyone else in hearing range.

Bob grabs his inhaler and breathes deeply and exhales.

“Want some, Boom?”  Not so funny, Bob.

They are transported back to West Michigan.  Time’s up. Stop the watches. Thirty minutes.

“Yes, We won!”

Boomer lusts over the evaporating man-made pond.

“Okay, Boom. You can jump in that big, beautiful lake.”

It is still morning, awhile since sunrise, but Bob begins to hum “Canadian Sunset.”

“Everyone back in the car.”

“Okay. But wasn’t that a great trip? I can’t wait till tomorrow. Can it be today again? I only know now.”

“Oh, Boomer. Jump in the car.”

Watching a Spider and Running a Race

Watching a Spider and Running a Race

She watched the spider spin her winter’s web;

A runner ran against the wind that day.

The arachnoid swung back and forth in bed;

The woman watched the runner making hay.


It’s time to leave the spider to its task;

It’s time to run the race; he set the pace.

She flexed her toes and knew she could run fast,

And smiled as she blew by to end the race.

One of the Good Guys Died

One of the Good Guys Died, 09/27/2011

We saw him in the flesh on Wednesday. We saw him in the paper on Monday.

In between, he died.

She opened the morning paper and was flipping pages and there he was,

And I mean was. Not to be trite, but what a shock!

Our family veterinarian died in his sleep, peacefully the obit stated.

I guess peaceful is good, but he was only sixty-seven.

We had just bantered back and forth about the local power structure.  He and I were bosom buddies when it came to politics, putting us in a distinct minority.

He had the credentials, though; he was Dutch royalty and he could have played the game.

One of his ancestors came over on da first boat of settlers with his hona da future and first mayor and I don’t mean the Mayflower, though the ships sailed from the same country at different times.

He was big and bawdy and obscene and he tried to scandalize and I really liked him.

Boomer didn’t.  He frightened Boomer.  Every time we took Boomer to see him, Boomer would hide behind us and pull us toward the exit, which had just been the entrance.

He wanted out and away from the big guy in the white coat.

I can’t blame him.  My blood pressure would go up, too, if all the vet meant to me was thermometers up my butt, shots in my rear, scent gland squeezed, nails cut into the quick. Ouch!

What do I know?  I only get a physician’s digit up my rectum once a year and my blood pressure goes up just thinking about it.

I read part of the obit to Boomer, but my voice had to have had a tone of anxiety.  I was upset.  Boomer didn’t understand the obit, but he thought I was mad at him.  He lowered his ears and turned his eyes away.

It is all about tone with the dog.  Kids, too.  They used to say, “Dad, you have THE tone again.”  You don’t ever have to hit a dog; you should never hit a kid.  Just use THE tone.

Except this time.

I didn’t mean to have the tone.

“Oh, Boom, I’m not mad.  I’m just sad.  One of the really good guys died and Lord knows there is a shortage around here.”

Boomer looked at me and wagged his tail.  See, it’s all about the tone.

On Stopping by the Study

On Stopping by the Study, 09/26/2011


John stopped by the pastor’s study to welcome Phil to the neighborhood.


“Got time for a cup of coffee in town?”


There would be many coffees and lunches over the next eighteen months. Then Phil would be done with the interim.


John was ebullient, sort of hyper, always excited about something going on at his inner city congregation. And his boys, always something about the boys: “Phil, you can’t believe Jim’s slider. It breaks this far.” He holds his hands three feet apart.


“A slider drops. A curve breaks.” John’s hands went from horizontal to perpendicular.




Phil thought of the Dutchism, “How big is baby?  Sooo big.”


Hands three feet apart, horizontal or perpendicular; it was still a big baby.


In particular, he loved his Saturday morning men’s breakfast/bible study.  That one puzzled Phil. A progressive fellow in all things theological, John loved delivering the message through traditional forms.  Ah, the saving grace of the familiar.


University of Michigan Law grad, leader of one hundred lawyers at a well known firm, John searched for more than torts.


Following bliss, he said, he started seminary, a local denominational seminary, because it was close.


Quitting work, he enrolled full-time and became a Lutheran pastor.


His parents and sister wondered if he would ever grow up.  Then his wife wondered the same thing not to mention the drop in salary.  The three boys loved being with their dad; he was kind of a kid and was always there for them.


John often wondered what he would be if and when he grew up.


Two years after the initial coffee, John and Phil had breakfast.  He asked Phil if he was familiar with Georges Gurdjieff and  P. D. Ouspensky.  Phil asked if they were linebackers for the Bears.


Stiffening his back and holding his big, black wavy mop high, he summoned his best Russian accent: “You vould never understand de Rrrrussian meestics.”


“Oh, I’ve read Leo Stoletoy. He robbed me of my innocence.”




John then spoke of “polar points” and finding his polar point right there in the church on the staff of all things. Imagine that!


“Now you are crediting the Russian mystics for it,” Phil said, “And it still sounds like adultery.”


John knew he wouldn’t understand.  Ouspensky was just too deep for Phil not to mention Gurdjieff.


Russian mystics or not, John was out of ministry.


A year later, Phil heard that on a particularly cold March morning, fully clothed, John walked into Lake Michigan and didn’t walk out. Phil wondered if John sang, “He Waded in the Water” as he walked in.


His wife was divorcing him; his three sons just shook their heads and cried, ever so hard.


Phil sat in his study. “Damn you, John.  Damn your soul to hell.”


He thought of how much he loved John and then he thought of the three boys:


An outstanding pitcher in high school who chose scholarship over the diamond; a brilliant middle child who as a college sophomore tried to trump his dad on philosophy; the youngest who wanted to follow his dad into the peace corps.


He thought of a seventeen-year-old boy who sat on a squeaky, folding, wood chair in a God forsaken pastel parlor listening to the sonorous sounds which belied the pastor who had told his dad to pray more when his dad was prayed out and before his dad


walked into the water never to return, either.


He thought of the teacher who took the then eighteen-year-old under his academic wing and introduced him to the tragedies of Shakespeare and the comedies.  Thank God for Falstaff.


He looked around the study at the mementos, the certificates with lots of people behind them.  He closed his eyes and sighed.


“I’m sorry, John.  I’m so sorry.”

The Investigation

The Investigation, 09/25/2011


Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Deputy Superintendent Jane Tennison and Sherlock Holmes were all gathered by Fox News


to ask the candidates questions at the debate beginning immediately after the candidates made opening statements.


A bunch of big haired guys and a petite big haired gal each said something. The crowd roared its approval.


After the statements, the panel all turned to one another with quizzical, puzzled expressions.  Each mumbled, “It’s a mystery to me.”


Holmes spoke for the group, “Elementary, my dear Watson. They are all prime suspects.”


And with that they rose and headed for the exit.  Watson opened the door.


Morse and Lewis asked about a pub for a black and tan.


Miss Marple tucked the crochet needles into her purse.


Tennison reached into her jacket’s breast pocket and pulled out a cigarette.


Poirot turned, smiled at the audience, nodded, stroked his mustaches


and closed the door.


Shortly they would all hop on the Orient Express to leave this scene behind,


A saner place in mind.



I Became an Occupant

I Became an Occupant, 09/25/2011



The note came, terse, formal, cold: “Remove me from your…” and then there was some word indicating a professional e-mail service.  The word was capitalized. I didn’t know it; I don’t remember it.  I’m not a professional e-mail service.


I remember the formality, the distance, the anonymity of it.  But it was my anonymity.  My name was gone.


It was like getting an advertisement via snail mail addressed “To Occupant.”


I’ve known him for years through church, youth groups, camp, high school, junior college and as a room-mate for one year when we both left home for the first time as transfers.


He took my picture hitting a double for the jc baseball team.  He sent it to the local paper. I was famous for a day.  I think it was my only hit.


I was his best man at his wedding; he mine a couple of years later.


But that was that and then.


I went south; he never left.


We reconnected seventeen years later.  I had more in common with his wife.


He stayed, bought the whole rah, rah, sis, boom, bah.  He makes a great cheerleader for the status quo.


I had a problem with his boss kissing up to big donors. It was my school he was prostituting. I let the boss know three times with copies to my best man.


Fourth time, the e-mail came.


People drift apart. I became an Occupant.

The Landscaping Company is Coming Monday

The Landscaping Company is Coming Monday, 09/24/ 2011



The landscaping company is coming Monday to spread wood chips around our backyard, the pond, the waterfall,


among the Japanese Iris, the day lilies, tiger lilies, hibiscus, sedium, hosta, rhododendron, a butterfly bush, lilac, lily of the valley, and fading, browning, broken, branched ferns


among other things green.


The owner of the company said, “Well, you will want us to take out the weeds, won’t you, before we spread the chips?”


Judgment.  “Weeds? Oh, don’t bother. My wife and I will take care of that.”




We chopped, pulled, tugged.


I hiked the straight and narrow between the wall leading to the upper pond and waterfall and the pine grove where the dog relieves himself, but alas, not straight or narrow enough.


He goes out on his own.  Finds his spot.  Does his business, comes back to the back door and barks authoritatively, “Let me in, now.”


Could you ask for anything more?  A dog who goes out and comes right back in?


Well, maybe.  How about a little farther back in the yard?


I scooped up weed waste and headed for the wood walkway to the garage to the garbage.


I felt the bulge on the left side of the sole of my desert boots.  Why was I wearing my desert boots? Because we are going out after I pick up this yard waste.


Oh, no.  Boomer poop on my desert boot.


The map of the world was cut into the bottom of my sole.  Merrill was just being clever.  It is as if they were saying, “You are a world traveler.”  A Globe Trekker in the parlance.


Did they think about how long it would take to scrape the poop out of South America?