God Is Not a Monster

There is something that has been bothering me for quite a while now. It is when people claim to be religious and then suggest or imply that God is some kind of monster in order to justify their deeply immoral beliefs. Unfortunately, it is a common phenomenon throughout history. One of the most obvious examples is the Salem Witch Trials. A more modern example is any of the jihadist terrorist attacks. If God is good, he doesn’t sanction such behavior. If he did sanction such behavior, as the perpetrators claim, then God would be a monster.

I first had this basic thought when I read Dante’s Divine Comedy many years ago. In the fourth Canto, as Dante and Virgil enter the first circle of Hell, I ran across this passage:

There, as it seemed from listening,

Were lamentations none, but only sighs,

That tremble made the everlasting air.

And this arose from sorrow without torment,

Which the crowds had, that many were great,

Of infants and of women and of men.

It was the word infants that caught me. This, of course, is Limbo. It is the place in Hell where people who were never baptized, but were otherwise blameless, are sent. Think about that for a minute. According to Dante, there is literally a special place in Hell reserved for stillborn babies. While it is true that they are not tormented, Dante says that they are, “. . .punished,/That without hope [they] live on in desire.” I couldn’t help but ask myself what kind of God would allow innocent babies to spend eternity in “sorrow” and “without hope.” The only answer I could come up with was a monstrous, immoral God. Dante implied that God was a monster. I was forced to reject Dante’s view.

One of the most prominent current examples of people depicting God as a monster is people who claim that God hates LGBTQ+ people. The Westboro Baptist Church is probably the most obvious example of this view. They are a hate group whose slogan is, “God hates ____,” where that space is filled with a slur that I’m not willing to use, but it means that God hates LGBTQ+ people. They got famous some years ago for picketing military funerals and claiming that the soldiers’ deaths are God’s punishment for the U.S. advancing a gay agenda. Normally I would link to websites and news articles for support, but this group is so disgusting that I don’t want to encourage any spread of their message. You can do a simple internet search if you need confirmation.

Unfortunately, this view is not confined to the fringes. The sitting Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, as well as many in the Republican party are proud homophobes. They don’t typically use the extreme language of the Westboro Baptist Church, they are too political to use slurs in public, but they don’t believe that LGBTQ+ people deserve the same rights as other people. This hatred of the LGBTQ+ community is virtually always rooted in the homophobe’s faith. In other words, the homophobes claim that homophobia is what God wants.

Homophobia, however, cannot be God’s will because that would make God a monster. There is no other way to look at the idea that God makes a group of people just so he can hate that group of people. The homophobes may counter that it is a function of free will, God does not make anyone LGBTQ+. That goes against the testimony of all the LGBTQ+ people who say that it is not a choice like what to have for breakfast, but rather it is at the core of who they are as people. But that can be set aside. God would still be a monster for hating LGBTQ+ people even if it is a completely free choice on their part.

It is a simple bit of reasoning to get to the idea that God does not hate LGBTQ+ people. Start with the fact that a person being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual does not cause any harm. It is simply a fact about a person, like having brown hair or being taller than average. It could not possibly cause harm. Next is the fact that God would not brand something that is harmless as a sin. It would be obvious that something was wrong if having brown hair were considered sinful. Having brown hair causes no harm. It doesn’t even matter if a person’s hair is brown naturally or if it is dyed. It doesn’t affect anyone else in any way. The same is true for being LGBTQ+. It doesn’t affect anyone else. If God were offended by harmless traits in people, that would make God a bigot which is a pretty monstrous thing to be.

Throughout this piece, I have been simply asserting that God is not a monster. I’m working under the assumption that God is good since that is the thing everyone says about him. I do have to recognize the fact that I could be wrong. I’m not a prophet, I have no special insight into the nature of God. Maybe God is a monster. Maybe he is bigoted, mean, selfish, and cruel. It does not change my main point. If God really is a monster, it would still be wrong for people to use God as an excuse for holding immoral beliefs or doing immoral actions. God’s opinion has no bearing on whether something is good or bad, right or wrong. If the Westboro Baptist Church is accurate in their picture of God, all it means is that God is bad. That’s no excuse for the rest of us to be bad as well.

Another way to think of it is that if God is not good, God is pointless. I know that people tend to be wary of a pragmatic view of truth. However, the best defense of religion I’ve ever read is by William James, a pragmatist, and when there is no direct evidence to consult (which there isn’t when it comes to God), pragmatism is used by everyone, including scientists, to arrive at reasoned conclusions. God’s only real reason for being is his goodness. He can serve as an example of how we should live our lives. He can be a beacon of justice in the world. Everything else attributed to him, whether ultimately true or not, is a waste as it doesn’t impact us in any way.

I will stick to my belief that God is good. None of us have any control over God, but we do control ourselves. We can, and should, choose to be good regardless of God’s opinions or wishes. The world is a better place if God is good. I wish Mike Pence and his ilk would stop suggesting otherwise. It is also nice to think that the immoral people who justify their immorality with God will learn their error and feel some remorse. I don’t believe that they will, or should, be tortured for their beliefs, though. Because God is not a monster.

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The Fourth First Day of School

My daughter started third grade today. I have a tradition here of writing a post about the first day of school each year. I don’t want to break tradition, so here goes.

The first thing I’d like to report is that I’m getting a little better at this first day of school thing. I actually took a picture of my daughter in her back-to-school outfit before we left this morning. It’s the first time in four years I’ve done anything to mark the occasion. Of course, the only reason I took the picture is because my mom texted me and asked for a picture this year. But, it’s still an improvement.

The only thing that really struck me this morning is how normal the morning felt. My daughter was in camps all summer. So, we’ve been waking up at the same time and I’ve been making lunches all summer. It almost felt like last school year never ended. That’s really sad if you stop and think about it, so I tried my best not to think about it.

Otherwise, there’s really nothing to report. I guess that’s also an improvement. She handles it every year like a champ, and it’s become part of my routine.

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I’m Looking For Someone

I need the internet’s help. I was on vacation in Vermont last week with my family. On Sunday, 8/18/19 (Unless it was Saturday, 8/17. The days run together when you’re on vacation. But, I’m pretty sure it was Sunday.), we went to the Creemee Stand in Wilmington for ice cream. There’s nothing unusual about that. Our family vacations kind of revolve around ice cream. But it was raining really hard that night. There was thunder and lightning and just buckets of rain. The Creemee Stand isn’t a sit down ice cream parlor. It’s more like a stationary food truck with a few picnic tables nearby. Any sane family would have said, “We probably don’t need ice cream tonight. Let’s go back to the house where it’s warm and dry.” But, we firmly believe it’s not a vacation if you don’t get ice cream every day, so we braved the torrents and stood outside to get ice cream.

Surprisingly, we weren’t the only people getting ice cream. There was a woman who got in line behind us. Someone else was crazy enough to wait out in the crazy thunderstorm for ice cream. I wasn’t able to talk to her what with the storm and being on umbrella duty trying to keep my family as dry as possible. But, I’m completely intrigued by her. I want to know who she is and why she was willing to get completely soaked at an ice cream stand.

I’m not saying I’m going to marry her or anything. This isn’t Cinderella. Mostly because I’m assuming she’s an autonomous person for whom I cannot make decisions. But also because I really don’t know anything about her. All I know for sure is that she has dark hair, is quite a bit shorter than I, and that she was out getting ice cream in the pouring rain.

In my perfect world, she was getting ice cream because she also believes that a vacation is not a vacation without getting ice cream every day. And that she was vacationing in Vermont from the Hartford area. And, while we’re at it, that she knows that the proper response to the title of this piece is, “Looking? Found someone you have I would say.” And that she thinks it’s cool that I brought a Toni Morrison novel for my vacation read. And that she’s single and thought I was cute standing out in the rain at the Creemee Stand.

None of that is very likely, though. So, I’ll just be content to find out who she is and why she was at the Creemee Stand in the rain that night. Or, at least content to know that I tried.

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Phones

I got a new phone today. I have officially joined the iPhone/Android duopoly. My old phone was a Windows phone. I really liked it. I would have happily bought a new one, but they don’t make it anymore. That’s actually why I had to get a new phone. Since they don’t make it anymore, it had been months since my phone got an update and the apps were no longer supported, so they were dying off.

Aside from the fact that my Windows phone could do everything an iPhone or an Android can do (and could actually do it before the other phones caught up), the thing I probably liked best about it was that it wasn’t an iPhone or an Android. Having only two companies control the entire phone market is a bad thing for us all. It’s a shame that so few of us seem to realize that anymore.

Picking a new phone was actually kind of tricky since I only had two options, but I really wanted a third or fourth or fifth. I wound up with an iPhone. On balance, Apple seems to be a little less evil than Google. That doesn’t seem like a stellar way to have to pick, but it’s all I had. I just hope the new phone is shiny enough and fancy enough to distract me from feeling like a complete sellout.

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Air Conditioning

I don’t use air conditioning in my house. The only time in my life I air conditioned my home was while I was married. It wasn’t really my choice. I didn’t have air conditioning as a kid, in college, or when I moved out on my own. And since my divorce, I have not used air conditioning.

I wish I could say that it was just because I like the heat, but I cannot. I hate the heat. Summer is the worst. But, as much as I hate it, and I really, really hate it, it doesn’t get me to use air conditioning.

When people ask why, I kind of reflexively say that it’s too expensive. That was probably true when I was a kid. It was certainly true during college and for the decade after college. But I can afford it now. It’s not because I’m cheap that I don’t have air conditioning.

It is true that I’m not a fan of air conditioning, at least the window units that I would have to use. They’re loud. I prefer fresh air. And did I mention that they’re loud? But my dislike of the air conditioners isn’t nearly as strong as my hatred for the heat. So, that’s not the real reason.

I could say that I don’t use it because of environmental concerns, but that would only be partly true. I am environmentally conscious. I’m a stickler for turning off lights; maximizing mileage; and reducing, reusing, and recycling. I walk when I can. According to the power company, I consume significantly less energy than my efficient neighbors. But I’m not a fanatic. I live a normal life. If my lack of air conditioning were simply due to environmental concerns, I’d have to give up TV, my car, and a bunch of other things I’m not willing to give up.

I think the real reason I don’t have air conditioning is the knowledge that air conditioning contributes a great deal to making the world warmer. I know that sounds like environmentalism, but it isn’t. Something that is designed to make my house cooler and more comfortable makes the world warmer and more uncomfortable. That’s too much irony for me. I can’t live that way. I’m not an ironic person. It makes me uncomfortable.

I can drive my car even though I know it contributes to the warming of the planet. There’s no irony there. The point of a car is to get me from place to place, not to cool me off. It’s not that I don’t worry or feel guilty about driving. I sometimes do. But when it’s a choice between keeping my job or quitting driving, I can get myself to drive. I can’t do the same with air conditioning. As long as I know that the thing whose purpose is to cool me is making me hotter, I can’t do it. Looks like I’ll have to live without it until I can afford a geothermal system or my electricity is 100% renewable. For now, I’ll just keep being hot and hating it.

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A Negotiation

Time for my seventh entry in the 12 stories in 12 months writing challenge. This month the prompt was “Men and Women.” That’s an easy one. Probably more than 95% of all the stories ever written are about men and women. But the word count was 300. That’s hard. I’m a fan of short, the shorter the better, but 300 words is really short. I wanted to avoid any kind of love story because it seemed too obvious for the prompt. I decided to go with a big theme so I wouldn’t have to waste any space with setup. The original draft was still quite a bit too long. I cut a lot to get it to 300. Let me know what you think.

                Women said, “OK, enough is enough. We’ve been going like this forever. We need a change.”

                “Don’t be silly,” men replied.

                “We’ll strike without change.”

                “Perhaps we can negotiate. What are your demands?”

“We demand the opportunity to work in the same jobs as men,” women answered.

                “We can arrange that. At least for most jobs,” replied Men.

                “All jobs.”

                “Not right away,” Men protested. “You have to prove you can do all the jobs.”

                “Good. We will. We also demand that women’s work be respected and done by men as well.”

                “Wait a minute. We can’t force anyone to respect something. That’s not how respect works. Nor can we force people to take jobs they don’t want.”

                “But it’s only fair. . .”

                Men interrupted, “Life isn’t fair. If any men want to be nurses or secretaries or do housework, we won’t stop them, but that’s the best we can do.”

                Women asked, “Who will do all of the women’s work?”

                “Women will. You can’t just stop doing the work you’ve always done. It will take time to transition. Society will break down otherwise.”

                “But how can we do men’s jobs if we keep doing women’s jobs?”

                “You’re the ones who wanted to do our jobs,” Men answered. “You’ll have to figure that out.”

                “Then you’ll have to compensate us if we’re doing both.”

                “That’s just absurd. Teachers and nurses already get paid. We can’t pay you for housework or child rearing, they don’t generate any revenue.”

                Women said, “So, you’ll allow us to work in men’s jobs, if we can prove we’re qualified. But you won’t do women’s work, or respect it, or compensate it. Is that the best we can get?”

                “It is.”

                “I guess we’ll have to take it,” Women said.

                “We think that went well.”

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A Lethal Prompt

Well, here we are with story number six for my twelve stories in twelve months challenge. The prompt was “lethal” and the word count was 1,800. This is essentially a cop out. I couldn’t think of anything for lethal for the longest time, and when I finally did, it was way too short. So, I turned it into a story about a writer struggling with a prompt. Like I said, a cop out.

OK, lethal. What’ve we got for lethal? How about. . .

                “We are going to binge watch ‘Lethal Weapon!’”

                “What?”

                “You heard me. We’re going to binge watch ‘Lethal Weapon.’ You wanted a big weekend on the couch.”

                “The movies or the TV show?”

                “I was thinking the movies.”

                “I don’t know. Mel Gibson makes me uncomfortable ever since we learned what a freak he is.”

                “Come on, that’s Mel Gibson, not Martin Riggs.”

                “Sorry, but he’s not that good an actor.”

                That’s not gonna work. There’s no story there. Hmm. How else do we use lethal? Lethal dose? A mystery. . .

                They surveyed the scene. No signs of a struggle. No forced entry. Just a body in a perfectly ordinary apartment in a perfectly ordinary neighborhood. It was almost peaceful.

                “Why are we here? Was there even a crime?” Brady asked.

                “There was a body,” replied the super.

                “People die all the time. It doesn’t mean a crime was committed.”

                “I found a body, so I called the police. What do you expect me to do?”

                “You did the right thing, sir,” Jake said as he glared at Brady. Then he turned to a tech and said, “It doesn’t look like there’s much in the way of evidence but collect whatever you can. We’re going to see the medical examiner.”

                “And find out if there was a crime or not,” Brady added.

***

                “It was definitely a murder,” said the medical examiner.

                “How did he die?” Jake asked.

                “Poison. He was given a lethal dose of . . .

                Of what? Cyanide? Arsenic? Those seem too old timey. Old lace? Ha.

                . . .old lace.”

                “Did you say he was given a lethal dose of old lace?” Brady asked. “What does that even mean?”

                “Old lace is a new designer poison,” the medical examiner explained. “All the top hitmen are using it.”

                Jake laughed. “Top hitmen? How many contract killers do you know?”

                “What do the second rate hitmen use?” Brady asked.

                “I try to keep up with the literature. In the last six months. . .”

                “Are they all men?” Jake wondered aloud.

                “Who?”

                “The hitmen? Are there any hitwomen? How about a nonbinary contract killer?”

                “Uh oh. It’s a crisis worse than no women in STEM. We need diversity.”

                “Guys, we probably shouldn’t be talking about this. There’s nothing but dudes in our own story. . .”

                OK, that’s not happening. Probably not a good idea to write a mystery since I never read mystery. What else? What else? Maybe lethal injection. . .

                It was ten minutes to midnight. All the appeals were denied and it was unlikely there would be a pardon. She laughed to herself. They make such a big deal about the last meal, but she wasn’t even a little bit hungry. This was going to hurt. She wasn’t worried about dying, it was getting there. Lethal injection. It was going to hurt bad.

                Who’m I kidding? It’s too dark and I don’t know the first thing about it. No one’ll want to read that. Maybe the ethics of capital punishment? At least I know my way around ethics. . .

                “The method of killing is irrelevant. Even the most humane lethal injection is still unjustified. . .

                That’s not a story. It’s a lecture. It’s more likely to bore or annoy than entertain. Come on. There’s gotta be something. Anything. . .

                “That pitch was lethal.”

                “Lethal?”

                “Yeah. Isn’t that right?”

                “Do you mean like filthy or nasty?”

                “I mean like it was a good pitch.”

                “Right, filthy or nasty. I’ve never heard lethal before in that context.”

                “It’s not a baseball word?”

                “It’s not even a sports word that I’m aware of.”

                “It sounds like one, though.”

                “I guess. But why use it if it just means filthy?”

                “Maybe it doesn’t just mean filthy or nasty. Maybe it’s better than they are.”

                “Better?”

                “Yeah. Filthy and nasty are fine, but lethal is actually deadly, so it’s a step up.”

                “OK. It’s got to be an out pitch, then.”

                “So, if a really nasty pitch is thrown for the third strike, we can say it’s lethal?”

                “Works for me.”

                “Cool.”

                “Cool.”

                Ugh. That’s not a story either. It’d be cool if it catches on, though. Think. How else do we use lethal? I guess there could be lethal force. . .

                They needed to send in a strike force, and it had to be lethal. Any survivors would compromise the mission. Alan surveyed the area. If they entered from the loading dock, they could get in without being detected. It would be easier to work from the inside out. . .

                This is crazy. Is Alan the bad guy or the hero? If it’s from his point of view, he’ll feel like the hero. But why is he going to kill those people? What’s their mission?

                Alan didn’t like their mission. Why all the killing? This wasn’t a military target, and they weren’t at war. Lethal force wasn’t necessary. It felt like a setup or a test. He didn’t want to be anyone’s fall guy. And if it was a test, he didn’t know which decision would get a passing mark. . .

                Nope. Can’t do it. It’s not something I’d want to read. But, it is a story. How desperate am I? Think. Think. Maybe a different tack. I’m no good at death and destruction. What else can lethal mean? Nothing that I can think of. . .

                “You need to capture me a black phoenix.”

                “But they’re as lethal as they are beautiful.”

                “I know, but I can’t complete the spell without a tail feather plucked from a living specimen. Without that feather, your son will certainly die.”

                She asked, “How do I find one?”

                “There used to be a colony on the cliff face where the river spills from the forest. That will likely be your best starting point.”

                She had to get ready. Its touch was lethal. She would need tools. . .

Well, it is another story. But it’s terrible. Should I plow through? I’ll hate myself if I do. Come on. Lethal. Lethal. Bethal? Pethal? Zethal? Is it possible than nothing rhymes with lethal? Aethal, bethal, chethal, dethal, ethal, fethal, gethal, hethal, iethal, jethal, kethal, lethal, but that’s not a rhyme. That’s the word. Methal, nethal, oethal, pethal, quethal, rethal, sethal, tethal, uethal, vethal, wethal, xethal, yethal, zethal. Wow. Nothing. Shethal? Thethal? That’s crazy. Is there a story in that?

                Orange, Purple, and Lethal walked into a bar. It was early afternoon and the bar was virtually empty. They sat down and ordered a drink each.

                “Why the long faces?” the bartender asked.

                Lethal replied, “Nothing rhymes with us.”

                “So?”

                Purple snorted. Orange muttered, “Typical.” Lethal looked the bartender in the eye and said wearily, “There’s not even a good slant rhyme for us. No one will remember us in poems or songs. We have no legacy.”

                “Legacy?” the bartender repeated. “Who gets a legacy?”

                “Almost everyone,” Purple snapped back.

                “Easy there. I’m just asking a question. Tryin’ to help.”

                “Sorry,” Orange said. “Purple had an audition and just got rejected for a new song. That’s why we came out.”

                Purple jumped in, “It’s crazy. Glove, Shove, and Dove all get accepted because they rhyme with Love. We’re better than them. It’s not about talent at all.”

                “Amen,” said Orange.

                “Maybe’s been riding Baby’s coattails for ages,” Lethal added. “So wishy-washy.” The three of them nodded together.

                “It can’t be that bad,” the bartender said. “You all get used plenty. I mean you, Orange, have a fruit and a juice named after you. And you get to be in the rainbow.”

                “I guess.”

                “And Purple, you’re a bunch of kids’ favorite color. That’s a legacy you can be proud of.”

                “Yeah, but it’s just kids. And Pink is more popular anyway. By the time they grow up, they’ve moved on to Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow.”

                “Lethal, you must be in a ton of mystery novels. That’s literature.”

                “I’m barely in them. I’m no more than a plot device, a glorified extra.”

                The bartender paused, then said, “You’re tough on yourselves.” There was another pause. “Wait a minute. Purple, you are in songs. ‘Purple People Eater.’”

                “Uh, a novelty song. Not a great legacy.”

                “Well, then, ‘Purple Rain.’”

                Purple smiled. “Those were the days. I miss Prince every day.”

                “That’s your legacy,” the bartender continued. “Wasn’t Prince’s whole thing purple?”

                Purple continued to smile. “That’s a good point,” Orange said. Lethal nodded.

                “I can live with that,” Purple said. “It’s a better legacy than most get. What about my friends here, though? They deserve better.”

                “Hmm,” the bartender thought. “Orange, you’re in pretty good shape. I still think the rainbow’s a pretty big deal. And you’re in that joke, ‘Orange ya glad I didn’t say banana?’”

                Orange laughed, “It makes me chuckle every time.”

                The bartender continued, “Come to think of it, you’ve got songs, too. ‘Orange Blossom Special’ and ‘Orange Crush.’” Johnny Cash and R.E.M. aren’t too shabby.”

                “You’re right,” said Orange. “My legacy isn’t about my last audition. It’s my whole body of work. Thank you.”

                Lethal looked at the ground. “Got anything for me?” he asked feebly.

                “I have to admit, you’re a bit tougher.”

                “It’s not just because I have no rhyme. I’m pretty negative. No one wants to work with Lethal.”

                “I’m sure that’s not true. You seem perfectly nice. And you have these two friends here.”

                “Yeah, but it’s not much of a legacy.”

                “Maybe you could make something,” the bartender suggested. “Make your own song or poem.”

                “It would have to be about death or dying. I’m not really versatile. I don’t have a lot of range.”

                “That’s nonsense. You know yourself better than anyone. There must be a positive way to present yourself.”

                Lethal thought for a moment. “I’ve always liked the idea of death as a gift.”

                “Go with it,” said Orange. Purple and the bartender nodded.

                “Maybe I can. I can create my own legacy. Would anyone really take Lethal as a positive?”

                “Of course,” answered the bartender. “Go with the Gift thing. You’ve got Shift and Lift for rhymes.”

                Orange and Purple chimed in, “We’ll help.”

                “It would be cool if the afterlife were Orange and Purple. OK. I’ll try it. I’ll write it so well, they’ll be trying to cast me in everything.” Lethal added to the bartender, “Thank you.”

                Purple and Orange added their thanks as well. The three of them paid for their drinks and left the bar, talking excitedly to each other.

The End

Well, it’s a story and it’s about lethal. I can live with that. Now how on Earth am I going to stretch it to eighteen-hundred words?

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Dr. John aka Mac Rebennack

Mac Rebennack, whose alter ego was the much more famous Dr. John, died today. I am a big fan of his music. True to form for me, I know virtually nothing about his life. Apparently he was 77 years old. That’s a little older than I would have guessed. So, I can’t say much about him, but the music he left us is incredible.

I first discovered Dr. John when I was in high school. His new album at the time was “In A Sentimental Mood.” It’s certainly not typical Dr. John. The title is apt. But it caught my teenage attention. There’s just something about him, I just knew he was the real deal. I suppose I had probably heard “Right Place, Wrong Time” before “In A Sentimental Mood,” it must have been his biggest hit, but “In A Sentimental Mood” was the first one I really listened to.

Not that there’s really any such thing as typical Dr. John. He played everything from blues to funk to jazz to big band to rock to R&B. Basically, if a music came out of New Orleans, Dr. John played it and played it better than most.

The album that solidified my love of Dr. John has to be “Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack.” It’s a solo piano album, and it’s incredible. He only sings on two of the tunes, but you don’t miss anything. It sounds as full as a big band. It was on “Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack” where I really discovered Dr. John’s left hand. I could listen to just his left hand all day. Whether the song was fast or slow, the boogie never quit.

I don’t have much more to say. He kept making beautiful new music into the current decade. I’m just sad that he’s gone. I’m going to spend the next few days listening and appreciating. And I’ll be thankful for every note he plays.

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A Conversation

Here is story number five in my 12 stories in 12 months challenge. For this one, the prompt was Rome and the word count was 1,200. To say the prompt left me cold is an understatement. I’ve never been to Rome and I only know the basics of its history and culture. So, I decided to challenge myself a little and just write a 1,200 word conversation, nothing but dialogue. You’ll have to decide how successful I was, and let me know (if you want).

“If you could go anywhere, where would you go?”

“Rome.”

“Why Rome?”

“Ever since I first took art history in college, I’ve wanted to see Italy.”

“So, go then.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“What do you mean I ‘have to’?”

“When was the last time you did anything for yourself that you actually wanted to do?”

“I do stuff all the time.”

“Yeah, you work. You come out for drinks with me because it’s what I want to do. You take care of all of us. It’s never about you.”

“I really can’t go, though.”

“Why not?”

“For starters, I don’t have a passport. Or money. Or time.”

“Screw that.”

“Easier said than done.”

“You can get a passport. Just go to the post office. You make money, and you never spend it on anything.”

“Yes I do. I pay rent and buy food and go out for drinks with you. Not to mention electricity, gas, my cell phone, and internet.”

“And you get vacation time.”

“You know I like to use that around the holidays.”

“Ugh. There’s always excuses. Just do it.”

“Why is it so important to you?”

“Why isn’t it important to you?”

“I’m fine. I don’t need an expensive vacation. And that’s not an answer.”

“It’s important to me because it should be important to you. College was twenty years ago. You’ve been wanting to take this trip for twenty years. You need to do it.”

“You’re exaggerating. I’ve barely thought about it in the last twenty years.”

“That’s because you never think about yourself.”

“But I don’t speak any Italian.”

“So?”

“I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone.”

“Screw that. Everyone speaks English.”

“That is kinda true.”

“It’s not ‘kinda’ true, it is true. You can go anywhere in the world and find people who speak English.”

“There’s something wrong with the world if everyone speaks English.”

“Blame the Brits. They conquered everything.”

“Not just them. Americans have done plenty, too.”

“It’s good for us, though. Don’t worry about it.”

“But isn’t traveling about immersing yourself in another culture?”

“That’s not how most people travel. Most people just want to see things and say they’ve been places.”

“That’s not how I like to travel. Not that I’ve ever traveled.”

 “Never?”

“Nope. I grew up here and never left. I’ve never even been to New York and that’s just a couple hours down fifteen.”

“You’ve never been to New York? Literally? Never?”

“Never.”

“Pay the check. We’re going now.”

“No, we’re not.”

“Like you said, it’s just a couple hours away.”

“I have to work in the morning. So do you. We’re not going.”

“You’re probably right.”

“I’m certainly right.”

“I guess. But we’re going to New York soon. Like this weekend.”

“We’ll see.”

“How have you never been to New York?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never had a reason to go.”

“You don’t need a reason.”

“I know. It just seems like such a hassle. And haven’t you ever met a New Yorker?”

“I can’t argue with that, but it’s not much of a hassle.”

“I hate driving.”

“So take the train.”

“It’s still a hassle. All traveling is. I don’t understand why everyone says they like traveling so much.”

“Because they like traveling?”

“I can’t believe everyone likes traveling. It’s a hassle and it’s expensive. I like home.”

“Don’t you want to see the world?”

“Eh. I wouldn’t complain, I guess. But I don’t have any real desire.”

“You said you want to see Rome.”

“It’s not Rome, exactly. I’d love to see the artwork and the architecture, but I don’t like cities.”

“How on Earth do you know that? You’ve never been to New York. Have you been to other cities?”

“Hartford.”

“That doesn’t count. Hartford isn’t Rome or New York.”

“It’s not like you’re a world traveler.”

“I’m better than you. I went to Hawaii on my honeymoon. I’ve been to New York and Boston tons of times. I even went to Montreal in high school.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You didn’t need a passport back then.”

“What did you get out of all these travel experiences?”

“What do you mean?”

“What made them so great?”

“They were fun. I got to see things I don’t normally see. I got to talk to people I don’t normally talk to.”

“That’s it?”

“What more do you want?”

“I don’t know. Something deep. Did it change the way you see the world?”

“Nah. People are people.”

“If that’s true, I should be fine staying here. These people are as good as any other people.”

“Do you act this way all the time or just with me?”

“I think a little of both.”

“It can’t be both.”

“It’s not like I’m lying or anything, but I do like to give you a hard time.”

“Nice.”

“What? You’ve been giving me a hard time all night.”

“But that’s my thing. You can’t take my thing.”

“I do what I want.”

“No you don’t.”

“That’s why we’re besties. I can with you.”

“Awww.”

“Can you believe it’s been twenty years?”

“We’re not old enough for it to have been twenty years.”

“We are. We’re both still on our first drink.”

“You’re right. There may not even be a second one. I don’t want to wake up with a headache tomorrow. We are old.”

“We’re not that old. I actually like this age. Everything still works, but there’s a lot less pressure.”

“Less pressure? I work so hard to keep up with everything.”

“I no longer care about keeping up. It’s freeing.”

“I see where it would be.”

“Mmmm.”

“I can’t believe you’ve never gone anywhere. What’s the furthest you’ve been?”

“I’ve been to Mystic. Or maybe Sturbridge. I don’t know which is farther.”

“Not even Boston or Newport?”

“Nope.”

“That’s crazy. I’ll bet you could become a viral sensation with that. ‘The girl who’s never been anywhere.’”

“I can’t imagine that’s the kind of thing that would go viral.”

“You have to play it up. It could just be videos of you asking silly questions about famous places because you’ve never been to them.”

“I don’t know. Wikipedia is a thing, you know.”

“Then act like you never left here because it’s so amazing here. ‘Our pizza is better than New York’s. Our beignets are better that New Orleans’.’”

“Our pizza probably is. The pizza’s amazing around here. I’ve never had a beignet.”

“How is that possible?”

“I’ve never been to New Orleans.”

“Neither have I. You can get them outside of the city limits.”

“They’re basically donuts, aren’t they?”

“Well, yeah, but fancier and Frenchier.”

“I’m not a big fan of. . .”

“Don’t even say it.”

“Frenchie things.”

“I told you not to say it. Seriously, though, what are you doing this weekend.”

“No real plans. If the weather’s nice, some gardening and taking the dogs out.”

“No you’re not. I’m taking you to New York this weekend.”

“I can’t leave the dogs for a whole weekend.”

“Saturday, then.”

“Will I have fun?”

“I guarantee it.”

“What the heck. Let’s do it.”

“And do you know what we’re going to do on Sunday?”

“What?”

“We’re finding a travel site and booking your trip to Rome.”

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A Dance-tastic Weekend

My daughter and I had a super busy weekend, and it was all about dance. On Friday night, we went to see the Connecticut Ballet at the Bushnell. Pretty much all of Saturday was spent in dress rehearsal for Sunday’s big dance recital. My daughter was in four dances, plus the finale. And I made my dancing debut doing a father/daughter tap dance.

The ballet was excellent Friday night. They performed four pieces. One was a classic, “La Ventana Pas de Trois,” from 1854 by August Bournonville with music by Hans Christian Lumbye. In a lot of ways it was what you think of when you think of ballet, graceful and beautiful. The other three pieces were all world premiers (I guess technically they premiered a week earlier at the run’s first show, but you get it.). There was “In the Shadow of Women” by Marden Ramos with music by Kodomo, and “Trust Me If I Lie” by Aguibou Bougobali Sanou with music by Moussa Sanou, and “Now & Then” by Joseph Locarro and music by Bonnie Raitt. “In the Shadow of Women” was very modern, even futuristic. “Trust Me If I Lie” was very rhythmic. And “Now & Then” was just plain fun.

My daughter couldn’t decide if her favorite was “In the Shadow of Women” or “Now & Then.” She was totally blown away by the dancing in “In the Shadow of Women,” but she thought “Now & Then” was really funny. I was torn between the other two. We couldn’t have asked for a better night.

Our only complaint about the performance was that the audience was really small. I can’t figure out why. It is a bit pricey for a night out, but it’s only once a year. I’m surprised every parent of the hundreds of little girls taking ballet in the greater Hartford area didn’t want to go. If you’ve never been to the ballet before, it’s kind of like Cirque du Solei, except much more entertaining. The good news is that the Connecticut Ballet will be back in the Hartford area doing a free show in Elizabeth Park in the middle of July. I’d like to see a big crowd there.

Saturday was a long, but satisfying day. I only had one number to rehearse, but I volunteered to help set up. It started at 9:00 in the morning. The recital happens at a local high school, but the school’s facilities aren’t nearly big enough to accommodate the number of kids and their costume changes. So we converted the cafeteria into a giant dressing room. We hung paper over all the windows to give the kids some privacy, put a bunch of signs up, then worked on the stage from sweeping to taping. I ran home for a quick lunch, then came back for the rehearsal itself.

I was a little worried at the rehearsal. It was the first time the dads would be dancing outside of the studio. I was afraid without all of my usual visual cues, I would forget the dance. But my fears were unfounded and we got through our routine. I also got to watch the whole show, which was great because I missed most of the first act on the actual performance day.

Sunday was the big day. I was anxious all morning. My daughter was just excited. The dads all helped with taking tickets and handing out programs and things like that. That’s when I started to get really nervous. I’ve performed in front of people plenty of times, but up until now, it had always been playing a musical instrument. I always had a certain amount of confidence that I knew the instrument and I knew the music, so I never got very nervous. Sunday was dancing though. I’d never danced before in my life prior to the six months of lessons leading up to this. I was terrified. Dancing is way harder than music. As I got into my costume, all I could think about was all the ways it could go wrong. I was sweating like crazy. But, we went out there and we all remembered the routine. We mostly stayed with the music. No one fell down. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I don’t think we embarrassed ourselves or, more importantly, our daughters. The biggest mishap was that the dad next to me had his flower fall off during the dance. There was a nice sense of relief after it was over. All the dads agreed that if our daughters will have us, we’ll do it again next year.

I was able to watch the rest of the show. My daughter did great in all of her dances. Actually all of the kids did a great job. The audience was good and supportive. All in all, it was a success.

Before I had a daughter, I never dreamed that I would have a weekend full of dancing. If you asked me then about a weekend full of dancing, I would have thought you were describing some sort of nightmare. But it was a really good weekend. I’m already looking forward to next year.

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