Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Heroes of Heroes

Years ago, I came to know blues legend, Taj Mahal, through some business dealings. I was working for a software company that helped pioneer digital content distribution. We thought we’d try distributing MP3s. I asked myself which artist I’d most enjoy working with. Taj Mahal was my answer, so I wrote him an email. A couple days later he called me from his hotel in Chicago. We really hit it off.

He sent me a box full of every album he’d ever recorded. We arranged to meet when he visited Oregon for a concert. I showed up backstage before his show. He asked me about the package he’d sent — if I’d heard anything new. I mentioned a song I especially liked, but I didn’t remember the title. Taj said, “sing it to me.”
Singing is the last thing in the world I want to do — especially to a Grammy winner in front of professional musicians. But fuck it. I sang:
“Flying across the desert in a TWA,
I saw a woman walking across the sand
She been a-walkin' thirty miles en route to Bombay.
To get a brown eyed handsome man
Her destination was a brown eyed handsome man.”

Taj smiled. He leaned back in his chair and pulled his Epiphone across his lap. He started to play. A couple bandmates joined in for a few bars.
In his gravely voice, he said “Ah, man, I didn’t write that one. Chuck Berry wrote that song!” And he said the name “Chuck Berry” as though he was talking about his own father. I understood who his musical hero was.

Shared by John Willis.

Friday, November 25, 2016

12 Flash Stories for Thanksgiving

I received these via email on Thanksgiving Day. I don't know the authors.  They are too good not to share.

Today, I interviewed my grandmother for part of a research paper I'm working on for my Psychology class. When I asked her to define success in her own words, she said, "Success is when you look back at your life
and the memories make you smile."

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Today, I asked my mentor - a very successful business man in his 70s-what his top 3 tips are for success.  He smiled and said, "Read something no one else is reading, think something no one else is thinking, and do something no one else is doing."

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Today, after a 72 hour shift at the fire station, a woman ran up to me at the grocery store and gave me a hug. 
When I tensed up, she realized I didn't recognize her. She let go with tears of joy in her eyes and the most sincere smile and said, "On 9-11-2001, you carried me out of the World Trade Center."

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Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying. And just before he died, he licked the tears off my face.

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Today at 7AM, I woke up feeling ill, but decided I needed the money, so I went into work.  At 3PM I got laid off. On my drive home I got a flat tire. When I went into the trunk for the spare, it was flat too. A man in a BMW pulled over, gave me a ride, we chatted, and then he offered me a job - I start tomorrow.

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Today, as my father, three brothers, and two sisters stood around my mother's hospital bed, my mother uttered her last coherent words before she died. She simply said, "I feel so loved right now. We should have gotten together like this more often."

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Today, I kissed my dad on the forehead as he passed away in a small hospital bed.  About 5 seconds after he passed, I realized it was the first time I had given him a kiss since I was a little boy.

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Today, in the cutest voice, my 8-year-old daughter asked me to start recycling.  I chuckled and asked, "Why?" She replied, "So you can help me save the planet." I chuckled again and asked, "And why do you want to save the planet?" Because that's where I keep all my stuff," she said.

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Today, when I witnessed a 27-year-old breast cancer patient laughing hysterically at her 2-year-old daughter's antics,  I suddenly realized that I need to stop complaining about my life and start celebrating it again.

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Today, a boy in a wheelchair  saw me desperately struggling on crutches with my broken leg and offered to carry my backpack and books for me. He helped me all the  way across campus to my class and as he was leaving he said, "I hope you feel better soon."

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Today, I was feeling down because the results of a biopsy came back malignant.  When I got home, I opened an e-mail that said, "Thinking of you today.  If you need me, I'm a phone call away." It was from a high school friend I hadn't seen in 10 years.

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Today, I was traveling in Kenya and I met a refugee from Zimbabwe. He said he hadn't eaten anything in over 3 days and looked extremely skinny and unhealthy. Then my friend offered him the rest of the sandwich he was eating. The first thing the man said was, "We can share eating it.

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The best sermons are lived, not preached.

Friday, October 21, 2016

What's Goin' On?

I've heard that a picture's worth a thousand words. This video must be worth a million. The love just oozes out of every note, and the smile of each person in the background.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Carrot or Stick?

Yesterday the plumber confirmed we had a broken sewer pipe from when the gas company put in the new gas lines.. He told me I needed to try and get the city to fix it.. He warned me this would be a long process, and said I should have our lawyer contact them. The "committee of old dudes" who live on our street popped over to see what the hell was going on.. they too warned me about dealing with the city. They told me to raise hell and demand the city earn the taxes we pay. I chose not to do this. I called the city. Due to a bad connection I had to go down there. One of the public works guys came out and told me I needed to contact the gas company. He gave me two names. So I did, I called, and they said they'd look into it. I figured that was their way of giving me the runaround.

Today, Fred from the gas company came out to investigate. "Guilty as charged", he said. "We did work here. If it's broke it's on us." He left to notify the contractors who did the work. Within an hour he called and said they'd be out today to fix it... within an hour of that call he was here waiting for the backhoe to arrive. I was shocked, thanked him for being "johnny on the spot". He replied, "well, you were civil. If you would have yelled at me about it I probably wouldn't have worked with you. You can get a lot done if you're decent." From there he told me stories of people who were jerks to city workers and inspectors and were treated poorly because of it.. One guy was fined over 15,000 bucks for not filling out proper paperwork before tearing down his house. When the code enforcer showed up to tell him he needed to stop work immediately, the guy said, "who the fuck are you to tell me what to do on my property." That line cost the guy over 15,000 bucks, the code enforcer was just going to make him stop and get the proper permits, but after that he decided to fine him.

Our sewer line has been has been fixed. The contractors came out at lunch time and did it. In less than 24 hours of reporting it, the problem was solved. I never once had to raise my voice, or demand anything. They also have assured me any bills or costs from this will be reimbursed in full.. just goes to show you can get a lot further by not being a douchebag.. it's taken me 30 some years to get here, if only I'd learned this lesson a bit earlier in life...

You Can Earn Respect or Disrespect.

Being nine years old was no excuse for what I'd done.
It all happened at a grade school carnival. I'd left a booth, opened a paper sack, and saw my prize--a green toy with a yellow propeller. Not much, but it was mine.
A security guard stood by a hallway pole. His gut hung over his gun belt.
As I passed, he snatched my prize. He smiled. "What have we here?"
I stopped. "Give it back."
"Just a minute now."
"Give it."
He raised my prize higher, higher, and higher. I tried to reach it by standing on my toes. Once I jumped. Then I looked at his holster.
While he laughed, I took his gun.
He dropped my toy. "That's not funny, kid."
"You took my toy."
"That's different. I was just playing. Now hand over my gun."
I stepped back. "No." But after he frowned and held out his hand, I returned his weapon.
He wasn't through with me. "Don't ever do anything stupid like that again."
The guard never apologized for taking my prize, and I never apologized for taking his gun. I knew what I'd done was wrong but felt no shame.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

High School Flashback

There was an unusual kid in algebra. One day a couple kids were harassing him. I told them to knock it off. Then I started sitting by that kid in class. I don’t remember his name, but I remember this:
You know those afternoons when you couldn’t keep your eyes open? When you had to lay your head on your desk? He was having one of those. Eyes drooping. Head nodding. He put his head down in the center of his algebra text. And then . . . and then . . . a string of drool emerged from his mouth like a snake. It stretched, down, down, until it made landfall on his book. I looked around. His arm encircled his head, shielding the view. The slobber began to flow. It formed a viscous puddle, pouring into the binding. For forty minutes it flowed.
Nearing the end of class his eyes opened. Half-mast at first. Then they burst open WIDE, I presume from the wetness. But he did not move. He had to plan his escape. He had to extricate his face from the the spit-lake without drawing the attention of a single student. Still feigning sleep he looked down. He brought his fingertips to investigate. It was worse than he imagined. The size of a pancake.
After a moment of planning, in a single elegant move, he raised his head, swiped his face with his jean jacket sleeve, then folded the book halves together, gently. Drool squeezed out the top and bottom. He cleaned it with a surreptitious waxing motion of his forearm. His face — reconciling terror and resolve — panned the room. Three of us had seen it, I’d say. He could see that we had. But that it could have been us, well, it could have been. And we didn’t say a word.

Written by John Willis 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Land of the Free and other Lies

You took civics in high school.  Well, because they made you take civics in high school, but hey.  You know that you live in a democracy where everyone has a vote, the majority rule, and even if you’re born poor in a log cabin with a dirt floor, you can become the President of the United States some day.  And of course you believe this because your teachers, parents and probably even your pastor told you this.  But it’s a lie.

The truth is you are ruled and regulated by a slim minority who decide what they want you to do, and what they don’t want you to do.  This same minority decides things like how much you’ll pay in all kinds of taxes, what you can and can’t say, or hear, even if you can marry the person you love. 

And guess what?  That’s all your fault.  Yup.  Because it is a democracy, and you let the minority do this to you.  How, you ask?  By not voting. 

There are 10 million people in my state of Michigan.  About 75% are registered voters.  That’s pretty much 100% of the people who are eligible to vote.  But it is forecast that next Tuesday, the 5th of August, only 20% of registered voters will show up for the State’s primary election.  So if 51% of the people who vote that day decide something, it would be a little less than eight hundred thousand voters telling ten million residents what they’re going to do.  And that, my friend, is called majority rule. 

Bullshit, you say?  Well, try smoking in a bar in Michigan.  That right was taken away by this exact kind of majority rule a few years ago.  Land of the free.  Uh huh.

Before you toss that off with “It’s only the primary” you should know that a lot of the people who win their primary will be unopposed in the November election.  Also, ballot issues will be given a thumbs up or down next Tuesday.

What?  You say you didn’t even know there was an election next Tuesday?

Thank you very much.