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Revised 23 December, 2010
THE PHILOSOPHER SPEAKS
It is not the absolutes that are the driving force of my life, but the absurdities that peak behind the curtains of our despair. So often, people go out of the way to become the authors of their own despair. There are also those who's sense of power and authority go so far beyond that which any human being can consider holding any form of reason at all that pushes us to fight back with equal absurdity as our means of dealing with the nonsense that they need to purvey.
I believe I received this gift of seeing the giggle behind the clouds from my Grandpa Lutes. He had a gift for dealing with the blows of life by finding the silliness and fighting back against it. He used to tell of a man in his little home town of Central City who could not abide barbershop quartets. This man was a person in authority and one who used and abused that authority to the point of the ridiculous. This man simply took it upon himself to ban all barbershop singing within the precincts of "his" town. Of course, the only way to deal with someone like this is exactly what my grandfather did. He and three of his friends immediately formed a barbershop quartet and would break into song whenever the man showed his face in their neighborhood. The culmination of that silly battle finally took place at the local train depot. The boys knew this man had a habit of patrolling the local train depot right around the time the local train went through, and so they assembled on the incoming corner of the station and broke into song. The politician immediately came over the ordered them to cease and desist and move on. As soon as the man would walk away, they would "move on", but only a few feet further down the platform, at which point, they would break into song again. This continued all the way around the perimeter of the station until the politician finally threw up his hands in disgust and stomped away. Absurd? Of course it was. But the man never again attempted to tell people they could not sing in public.....although I have heard a person or two who's ability to carry a tune suggests they should think carefully before attempting to do so.
During the Depression, my grandparents lived in a little flat in Omaha.....again, not far from the railroad tracks. He used to tell how their friends would gather at the house to play cards and chew the fat. Most of these little flats had those pull down shades that operate on a spring and which had a tendency to occasionally involuntarily roll themselves back up when least expected, startling their unsuspecting hosts half to death. On one occasion, there was known to be a mass murderer on the loose. The man was said to follow the railroad tracks looking for his next victim. Now, men being men, the gentlemen at this gathering were all boasting what they would do to this man should he dare to venture into their path and attempt any mayhem in their presence. The bravado became wilder and windier as the evening went on. All of a sudden, apparently one little shade had heard quite enough and wrapped itself up with a swift and rolling snap, flapping several times around its end in the process. To a man, all of these brave fools dived under the kitchen table, leaving their women to fend for themselves-----which women were shortly thereafter seen bent over double in paroxysms of laughter.
Again, during the Depression, there were a great many hobos living along the railroad tracks. They would frequently trek through the neighborhoods at night looking for food cooling off in the windows and many an unsuspecting cook would turn around to discover her dinner pie had magically disappeared behind her back. My great grandmother had a soft heart for these misfortunate men and would frequently make an extra pie and put it in the window for the hobos. On one occasion, however, grandma must have been distracted while she was baking because she accidently grabbed the wrong spice when she was baking the pumpkin pie. The pie was put into the window to cool, as usual. It disappeared before she realized what she had done. Five minutes later, the pie came flying back to the house as quickly as it had disppeared and landed with a resounding splat against the side of the house. That was the last time her pies disappeared. Apparently the flavor was really nasty and the hobos thought she had done it on purpose.
I would then fast-forward to a trip to Denver. We were staying with a cousin in a small suburb of Denver back in the mid 40's. I remember that mother, my sister and I were tucked into the rollaway bed and my cousin had just gone into the bathroom to take her evening shower and get ready for bed. The next thing we heard was a loud shout from the bathroom...."You dirty man you!" and my cousin came flying out of the bathroom, her bathrobe trailing in the wind, and her hairbrush in her hand. She went running out the door and chased the peeping Tom down the block smacking him with her hairbrush every chance she got. I suspect it was a long time before that man plied his perversions in her neighborhood again.
As a child, I had one neighbor boy who took great delight in chasing me and pushing me around because he was bigger than I and thought he could get away with it. On one occasion, he made the mistake of doing this where my sister could see him. Now, those who knew my sister, would remember her as being overweight to the point of obesity. We were, in fact, also known as the battling Pickrel sisters. We could not be left in the same room together without breaking out in a knock-down, drag-out fight. So infamous were we in this regard that the teachers would station themselves at the doors at departure and recess times. One teacher would grab one of us as we walked out the door and another would grab the other and pull us off in opposite directions to prevent the donnybrook that was sure to follow should we get the opportunity to try to knock each other silly. Of course, we were already silly, but our battles were ferocious nonetheless. On the other hand, nobody messed with our sister and got away with it. On this occasion, the bully kept getting behind me as I tried to play on the playground slide and would push me up the stairs of the slide then jump on after me as I tried to slide down, to push me off onto the ground at the end so I would get hurt. My sister witnessed this and saw red. She ran over to this boy the next time he followed me off the slide and pulled him off by the hair, proceeded to shove his skinny, bullish little body down to the ground and sat on him. At which point she began screaming at him about how dare he pick on her little sister and that she was going to teach him how it felt to be bullied....as she said this, she began to sit on his chest and jumped up and down on him, screaming each time...."how do you like this....and how do you like this?" until the poor, deflated little man finally started crying and a teacher, who had been witnessing this scene, finally came over and broke it up......but not before the bully had received several thumpings of her overweight behind on his chest, by now, quite queasy stomach. If you can picture a 120 pound 12 year old ball of fury pummeling a 60 pound full-of-himself bully into submission, then I need draw no further picture. the lesson was learned and from that point forward, this bully became the most docile boy in school and any time he saw me coming, he made a hasty retreat to anywhere but there as fast as his little legs could carry him.
I personally, never much liked having people order me about or being chased by silly little boys and I especially detest bullies. No names will be mentioned, but I also tend to treat the ridiculous with ridiculous solutions. It works a lot better than anger and it tends to reveal the recipient as the fool they really are. I recall one gentleman who actually had the nerve to tell me that wearing my long hair down in church was a sin and that only a loose woman would do so in public. Naturally, I went out of my way to find hair styles that allowed my hair to fall loosely around my shoulders for months to follow. A certain minister, who also shall remain unnamed, decided he was going to lock the old members out of the church and proceeded to do so. The only logical solution was to stand with my best friend and wave at him from the "supposedly" locked rear balcony. The look on his face as he opened his mouth to begin his sermon was priceless. He preached the entire rest of his sermon staring down at the pulpit. He was indeed embarassed and so he should have been.
You see, you just can't let yourself be bullied by life or the people in it. You have to look at the bigger picture and deal with people like that with the same respect or disrespect they deserve. Besides, its much more fun to laugh at their absurdity then it is to cry at your dismay.