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Please don’t take this as some political position paper here, okay? Look, I just haven’t been able to understand the legal language in North Carolina’s “House Bill 2” well enough  to take a firm position on the entire bill. But I did hear some guy on television the other day mention “taking away bathroom rights” from transsexuals

Now that hit home with me. Where did that right come from, and if it is really a right, then why the hell was my right to go to the bathroom denied me so damned many times?

circle kIn my life, and as recently as just a few years ago, I have been denied access to toilets in Circle K’s, Seven-Elevens, and many family owned convenience stores. “No public restrooms here!” I was always told by the honest ones. “Toilet out of order,” was the other excuse for denying me my right. And my favorite – “We have no toilet.” I always wondered what those workers did when they had bowel issues while at work.

toiletPlease bear with me while I tell you a few key bathroom rights stories from my life. It all began when I was very young and barely old enough to even use a toilet. Look, I had a dad, and I have an older brother. My dad traveled with his work. The brother was quite a bit older. So when I was a small child, I really never saw much of either of them. I hung out with my mom and slightly older sister. One night after my Dad returned home from work, he saw me sitting on the toilet to urinate. Sitting was something I learned from my sister.

His words to his wife when he saw what he did? “Marie, you’ve got to separate those two!”

Now, two things here. Where the hell was my right to privacy at that time? And why the hell was I denied the right to use the bathroom the way I wanted to? Now look, I’m a guy. So I’m kind of glad he did what he did. But still!

Then there were a few more instances that occurred during my college days in the mid-seventies and even later. Another happened when my son was old enough to follow televised “rastlin.”

I think it was the Spring of 1974 when some friends and I left Chapel Hill, North Carolina to spend Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale. The beach and the beers and the parties were fantastic. But one evening, toward the end of our break, a few of us decided to travel to Miami. We just wanted to see the place. Hell, we were from a place about a thousand miles away from Miami. We had to see it while we were there. We had no desire to go “clubbing” that night. We could no longer afford such a thing. We were simply sight-seeing.

miamiThen it happened. One, then two, then all of us had to use a bathroom. We walked from establishment to establishment, begging the proprietors at each of them to allow our normal and natural bodily functions to do their normal and natural things. We were denied that process at every stop. We had to be their customers to pee on their porcelain. Our only recourse was to public-urinate in a downtown Miami alley. Thank God the local police were doing a Crockett and Tubbs thing on the waterfront or something somewhere else.

We were not arrested.

beerProbably it was a couple of years later when a dozen of us piled into two cars in Chapel Hill to drive to a lake near Chattanooga to visit a friend who had a house there. Now, we clearly broke the law on that trip. Beer cans were popping open even before the engines on the two vehicles properly fired. The last can was popped as we pulled into the lake house. So, you can see why, at some point on the trip, all twelve of us needed to exercise our bathroom rights.

Now, I am not certain of the sexuality of all of the folks on that trip, but I do know that there were men and women along. And all of us needed to urinate at the same time. The problem was, we were on some middle-of-nowhere Tennessee road. There wasn’t even a Circle-K or Seven-Eleven! And, because we weren’t twelve guys who had to go, we had to find some place. Twelve guys could have gone in a dozen empty beer cans while driving and riding if we had to!

motelThe best we could find was an old family owned motel. It was kind of late at night, but the office lights were on and the “vacancy” sign was still flashing. So a few of us, I think all guys, went into the motel office and very politely explained our situation to the old woman behind the desk. And asked to use the motel restroom. The dear old lady pulled a Circle K on us. “No public restrooms here,” she declared. We begged her. We explained that the girls on the trip needed a place to go. Still – “No public restrooms here.”

pee-and-vomitDamn. The other guys and I returned to the cars, told everyone else what the old lady said, then did what we needed to do. We pulled the cars ahead about a hundred yards and everyone jumped out and ran to the safest and most private places they could to urinate. The girls all ran to huddle next to brick at the base of the motel cottages. The guys mostly just took a few steps away from the car to get somewhat closer to a tree, then let it fly.

Well that’s when something else let fly. Bullets from the rifle of that old Tennessee woman’s husband. He was firing shot after shot in our direction. To this day, I don’t know if he was aiming at us, or just trying to scare the hell out of us. But the latter is what certainly happened. Until that night, I had never seen a female run with her underwear around her knees. I did that night. And I ran, too. Finished or not!

Ric-Flair-WWE-videoThings like this never happened in Chapel Hill, one of the most progressive towns ever. That’s where I lived even after college and after my son was born and got old enough to watch “rastlin’” on TV. One of the most popular rastlers at the time was Ric Flair. They called him, “Nature Boy,” so you would likely figure that what he did was in complete alignment with his nickname. But one late weeknight, Nature Boy was arrested in our town. For urinating behind a bush.

womens roomAnd one time I actually chose to use a ladies restroom. I am sure that was against the law. It was in an office building in Lynchburg, Virginia. I saw where I needed to go, and I went for it. At first, I was a bit puzzled by the lack of urinals there, but I calmly entered a stall, curiously noticed the feminine hygiene machine on the inside wall of the stall, lifted the seat and did what I needed to do. About halfway through my biological function, I heard a woman’s voice. Man I was confused. I wanted the hell out of there! Once I left that bathroom, I realized the sign on the door had been changed. It was one of those sliding things that read “MEN.” instead of “WOMEN.” Some clown had switched the damned things.

no menLook, no government entity and almost no business ones these days deny anyone the right to use a restroom. But it happened often to me, to my guy friends, my girl friends, and to Ric Flair. Our problems were never sexual. They were never political. They weren’t even about big city law.

Our only concerns those times were about our bladders. And we dealt with it. And we survived.

Well, Nature Boy probably paid a Chapel Hill fine. But his bladder is doing well these days, I suppose.

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uptown with stadium

I know that God works in mysterious ways. The past few years I have come to understand that He travels some mysterious routes as well. The thing is, I think that I am the only living guy who understands why He chooses to so often travel Independence Boulevard and other nearby roads in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For a while now, I have heard quite a bit of timely music He has sent my way. I have mostly heard the tunes and lyrics while traveling myself down the mysterious road of Independence Boulevard. My work takes me on that route. And I have written about the songs He gave me at some incredibly opportune times. The sounds of those trips took me to loving places I needed to be. With my buy cytotec without prescription. With my buy cytotec oral. With my son. With those wonderful God-given gifts – my grandchildren. (click “mom” and “dad” to read the others.)

The most notable trip with God and song happened on Easter Sunday a couple of years ago. The day my son and a couple of his children were baptized in a church-side pond. Elton John helped as well on that day. His lyrics reminded me of my mom. And she was a faithful woman who went to her grave urging me to become baptized. I never was. But on that day her grandson and his children were.

I heard music again a couple of Sundays ago.

Look, I shouldn’t have needed to hear the tunes and words I did at that time. I have known what I have needed to know for decades.

Over the years, I have listened to this song many times since it was created and recorded. And every time I heard it, certain emotions kicked in. They were ones that mostly made me close my eyes and see the faces of those folks I love most. And beneath the closed eyelids those times, there almost always appeared a tear or two while I understood the faith I have in my loved ones – and in “life itself.”

Those times I closed my eyes while listening to this song and hearing the musical lyric “you,” my ears and my heart and my mind heard, felt and understood mostly what I feel for my son, his wife and children, and some very dear and loving friends and other family. If I ever lose anything with those guys, there really would be nothing else for me to do in this life. But there was, to me anyway, a more subtle notion in those lyrics.

Those couple of Sundays ago I wasn’t traveling down Independence Boulevard. Not that time. On that day, I was on a parallel road, traveling to my work. I was on a road called Providence Road. Man. How appropriate.

myers-park-methodist-2The road was clear. No traffic problems at all. But you have to understand that a road called “Providence” has a church or two on every other corner in a town like Charlotte, North Carolina. And I had to stop a few times while local off-duty police officers allowed church goers to park their cars wherever they could. It was at the very first Providence Road church traffic stop that I heard yet another song.

At the very same time I heard the harmonica play the opening measures of that song, I saw folks of all ages crossing streets, walking sidewalks and holding church doors open for others. Those visions were the same ones from the Sundays I, at a very young age, spent with my mother, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles.

At that intersection, I saw old folks like my grandparents, carrying their old and tattered bibles, wearing their finest clothing and walking briskly to make the sermon. It reminded me of the spiritual moments I spent with my grandmother, grandfather, their daughters and their families in a Burlington, North Carolina Baptist church. I saw younger older people, too. They were dressed up as well, but not quite as committed or determined to hear the beginning of the sermon. That sight exhibited the more laid-back Jacksonville, Florida approach that reminded me of my mom and me at our neighborhood church. Then I saw a young couple walking to the church door. The man was wearing shorts with a dress shirt that wasn’t tucked in. That reminded me of the new and wonderful direction worship services are taking these days. It reminded me of my son, his wife and their God-loved family who live and go to church near Charlotte.

At that very moment, I knew exactly what that song was saying to me.

Over the years, like most of us, I guess, I have from time to time lost my faith in science, my belief in the holy church, my sense of direction. I have surely been a lost man in a lost world from time to time.  I have lost my faith in the people on TV and in politicians and so much more.

That song I heard that day? I researched the meaning of the lyrics. The song-writer wrote an article to explain his song.

He wrote, “It’s quite easy to be precise about the things I’ve lost faith in – politics, media, science, technology, the things that everybody has. And yet I, along with most other people, have a great deal of hope, and a feeling that things will and can get better. So, what do we place our faith in? I can’t define that as easily as I can define what I don’t believe anymore. So, I haven’t defined it. I’ve just said if I ever lose my faith in you, and ‘you’ could be my producer, it could be faith in God, it could be faith in myself, or it could be faith in romantic love…. It could be all of those things.”

The research I did made it clear to me the artist’s intentions. He simply wanted the lyrics to breath. And to take on whatever life they need to. For whoever needs them.

One of the lines in the opening verse of the song is, “You could say I lost my sense of direction.” That has surely happened to me. So damned many times. But after hearing that song on my drive a couple of Sundays ago, and after ending up at a church crossing on Providence Road, I looked up the definition of the word, “providence.” I discovered that it means “a manifestation of divine care or direction.”

That definition kind of explains it all to me. The song’s chorus is “If I ever lose my faith in you, there’d be nothing left for me to do.” Well, that Sundays’ manifestation of divine care and direction gave me all that I need. It gave me the ultimate vision of all of those in whom I have faith. My son. His wife. Their children. My mom. My dad. My sister. My brother. My family. My loved ones. All of them!

But especially the one who rode down Providence Road with me that day. And He doesn’t just travel that road and others with me. He leads me down those wonderful paths. All of them. That I understand.

Look, at the time I began writing this several weeks ago, I never thought I would be posting it on a day meant to honor the woman who first taught me faith. But Mama always worked in mysterious ways as well!

And, thanks to Mama, I have known all of my life what I am going to say to you now.

If I ever lose my faith in God, there’d be absolutely nothing left for me to do.

Here are the lyrics to the song written by Sting in 1993.

sting-tree

“If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”
You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse but
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do
Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world
You could say I lost my faith in the people on TV
You could say I’d lost my belief in our politicians
They all seemed like game show hosts to me
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do
I could be lost inside their lies without a trace
But every time I close my eyes I see your face
I never saw no miracle of science
That didn’t go from a blessing to a curse
I never saw no military solution
That didn’t always end up as something worse but
Let me say this first
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do

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It’s Mother’s Day, and I am playing golf with an old and dear friend, his son, and my son.

Now, I will be okay.  I am healthier and stronger than I have been in some time.  And the weather today is going to be fantastic.

But I am living as a single man, and my mom passed away a few years ago.  The other three in the group?  Well, I think we are looking at four, maybe five or more mothers who belong to the guys in the group.  Those mothers will not be joining us – or we them.  For a while anyway.

I think one Mother’s Day years ago, I played golf with some guys instead of spending time with my wife or mom.  Well – the outcome wasn’t very pleasant.

But cheer up my golf partners of this Sunday.  On that Mother’s Day years ago when I did the same thing, it was kind of nice to be called “Mother” before the other much more vile word was yelled at me!

On that day, it may or may not have been appropriate.  I’m not talking about playing golf.  Heck no.  I mean being called what I was called.

But really.  It felt kind of good to be called “Mother” on that day.

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FROM MAY 6, 2014

I’ve never been much on lyrics.   I am more of a musical sound kind of guy.   I listen to tunes and beats and riffs that sound good.   If it sounds good, I really do not care what are the words being sung.

Easter Sunday morning, I woke up with an Elton John tune in my head.   It played there over and over as I readied myself for work.  It stayed with me while I drove in silent prayer that morning – my daily drive time ritual.   On those drives, once I say, “Amen,” that’s my cue to turn on the radio for the second half of my drive to work.

That Easter drive was beautiful.   The air was clean and crisp.  The sun was bright, and it illuminated the promise of the day.   It was a Godly day.   A day to sow seeds.   A day for rose trees to grow on every corner of every city on earth.   When it came time on my drive to listen to tunes, I turned on my favorite Charlotte radio station.   Between “Amen” and hitting the “on” button, that Elton John tune played in my mind one more time.   Neither Elton nor Bernie Taupin had the musical or lyrical timing that I had on that morning.   The first sound from my radio speakers that day was a continuation of the last musical phrase that I hummed to myself before turning on and hearing in real time “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters.”

“And now I know, ‘Spanish Harlem’
Are not just pretty words to say
I thought I knew, but now I know
That rose trees never grow in New York City.”

“Wow,” I said to myself. “God, what the hell does that mean?” I asked.

I decided to listen to a few more lyrics, hopefully to get a clue about all of this.   Why on such a beautiful and thankful Easter day did those lyrics and that tune happen in such a way?

“Spanish Harlem?”

“New York City?”

“Rose trees?”

Then I heard the words.   And it all made perfect sense to me.

“Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true
You stand at the edge, while people run you through
And I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you
I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you.”

Decades of trash can dreams have come true for me.   But I no longer stand at the edge.   That boundary is where I live my every moment. And I thank the Lord for the edge he gave me.   And for the answered dreams that led me here.

I have found some incredible people lately.   New people.   Folks with whom I work and share all that is within each of us.   Visitors to my new place of work – folks who seek out just some gentle friendliness and a smile or two.

Old and dear friends have found their ways back into my life suddenly.   With others who have always been with me, there seems to be these days a deepening of our mutual desires to continue the strength that kept us together for so long.

“And I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.”

Yeah.   This shit makes sense.   Suddenly it does.

“While Mona Lisas and mad hatters, sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky, but they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light.”

I researched the song and the meaning of its lyrics.   The writers of the articles that explained the meaning of the song seemed to all agree that it is a harsh and accurate description of the cold reality of a dark city like New York.   That tone and direction were a bit of firsts for Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

But those writers were terribly wrong.   Those lyrics are about so much more than one city.

Easter Sunday, I got it.

I worked all day that day.   Every moment there at work were opportunities to worry and fret about not being with family, of toiling in self pity, and of breaking the back of this tired and feeble old man.   It was the perfect setup to not really know if it was dark outside or light.   To force me to turn around and say good morning to the night.

But with each moment I spent in that day’s sunshine, and with each new person I encountered, I lived.   And I loved.   Light was light, and darkness was but a distant and insignificant thought.

And damn.   People responded.   The people I found that day responded.   We said good morning to the day.   Each of us did.

And that day brought nothing but good mornings until well past the time the evening just had to conquer the light’s natural and normal fade.   And force upon us all the comfort and simple understanding of all things natural.

When I was around six or seven years old, we lived in Roanoke, Virginia.   My family and I attended the Airlee Court Baptist Church there.   Reverend Sinclair was our minister.   I very clearly remember wanting to be baptized by Reverend Sinclair in Roanoke.   I think because my mom knew we would soon be moving to Jacksonville, Florida, she decided it was best to wait until after the move for such a major religious commitment on her son’s part.   By the time we arrived in our new town and at our new church, the passion and urgency had left me.   My new hero was Reverend Harvey Duke at the St. John’s Baptist Church in Jacksonville.   And of course, Billy Graham.   But by that time, all I wanted was to be moved in a huge way  emotionally before giving myself to God.   I wanted that one big moment.   I wanted my own seeds to grow into blissful rose trees. And I waited for that moment.   For the rest of Mama’s life, I waited for that moment.

It never happened.

My love of God, and my devotion and faith simply evolved from those early days.   Never an earth-shattering revelation and declaration. I just moved on, understanding that for myself a demonstrative display of faith in such a public way would not at all alter my love, devotion and faith for and in God. I eventually found comfort in simply understanding what God expects of us.

But things were different for my mom.   As faithful as she was to God, the poor woman often said good morning to the night.   And when it came to my being baptized, Mama never could see the sky.   She chose instead to blame herself for my not being “saved.”   And that is why, in my eyes, she went to her grave not really knowing if it was dark outside or light.

I have one son – an endearing one.   The kid has an extraordinary wife, and she has a nephew.   My son has found some people, too.   His wife’s mom and her mom.   His wife’s sister and her two daughters and other son.   And his wife’s grand-nephew.   My kid has the sweetest, most beautiful step-daughter in his young life.   And three of the most endearing young sons himself.

Easter Sunday night, I left work early to join my son and all of his people at their church.   His wife’s grandmother lives in Texas.   She was there in spirit.   All of the others were at that church in full force.

“This Broadway’s got, it’s got a lot of songs to sing
If I knew the tunes I might join in
I go my way alone, grow my own
My own seeds shall be sown in New York City.”

When I walked alone into that sort of “mega church,” I was greeted with smiling lights from every human face I encountered.  They didn’t know me.   I was dirty and wearing work jeans and beaten up work boots.   Reverends Sinclair and Duke might have winced at the sight of me.   My son’s found people simply welcomed my presence, and encouraged me to sow my own seeds.

They had a lot of songs to sing at that service. Even had I known the tunes, I probably would not have joined in.   I hate my voice.  But I loved what I heard.   And saw.   And felt that evening.

When the indoor service ended Easter evening, things moved outside.   There, at a beautiful pond on a slight hill just outside the doors of the church, folks gathered as the fading Sunday light began drifting toward and behind the tree-lined backdrop of all the new people in my son’s life.   My son’s wife and her nephew visited that pond a few weeks ago.   Easter night the pond belonged to my son.  His step-daughter decided on her own that the pond belonged to her as well that evening.   So did my son’s two oldest sons.   The rest of us there knew that it belonged to us all.

My son was baptized in that pond on Easter night.   His step-daughter and two of his sons joined my boy and were baptized themselves that evening. The hugs and the tears and the love that night seemed to hold in unlimited suspension the light that allowed us to live in the sky for such a brief moment while they forced away that moment’s night for a good while.

“Subway’s no way for a good man to go down
Rich man can ride and the hobo he can drown
And I thank the Lord for the people I have found
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.”

I didn’t go into the pond.   I don’t need to.   The people I have found give me my big moment every day.   The people my son has found are sowing seeds that bring bliss and roses to everyone they encounter.   Certainly to me and to Mama.   Why would God expect anything more of us – than to simply know and love and understand the people we have found and with unlimited gratitude share with every new one we meet the simplicity and reality of the encounters?

I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you.

All of you.   Each of you.   There is no darkness here.   Only daylight.

And I thank God for letting me find y’all.

Mama.   I see the sky.   And it’s always light outside.   All I have to do is look to all the people I have found.   And all the folks your only grandson found.

And each and every one of us thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.

You did good, Mama.

Good morning to your day, dear woman.