Mr. Jones and Me

“As we express our gratitude, let us not forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”   – John F. Kennedy

Ok. Perhaps this is not JFK’s most important, nor most eloquent, nor most profound quote. Still, on the 48th anniversary of his death and the cusp of the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s pretty timely and relevant.

There are many people, both famous and ordinary, whom I admire. As I get older, I am more inclined to admire people who try to be good. Being good is not as easy as it sounds. Things (pettiness, jealousy, inhibitions, confusion, apathy, ignorance, blame, fear, insecurity, and lust for revenge, power, acceptance and wealth, to name just a few) get in the way.

Not too long ago, I wrote a post on being engaged. I feel that if you notice what’s going on around you, if you make connections and seek ways to be a part of the great big dynamo hum that is the universal beat, or the oversoul, or the what-lays-underneath of all life, then you will be happier, and you will make others happier in the process, and really, that’s what it’s all about. I’ve never really thought about this in terms of actual words, but yes, this is what I believe.

Anyway, I used to go to Starbucks a lot, and then less, and then not too much at all. Eventually I only went there when I didn’t have time to make my morning vat o’java before work, and had to rush in or spend the entire day decaffeinated, which is a misery on par with hearing Garrison Keillor sing a seemingly endless cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple”, which is heinous on too many levels to adequately discuss at this juncture, but which actually happened on Sunday, and, let me tell you, was traumatic. I’m still getting flashbacks. But I digress.

So, I’d get to Starbucks all in a hurry, with my hair wet and more often than not with my shirt on backwards, and I’d be pissed because it’s morning, and angry because my job sucks, and also already late. And I’d go to get my coffee, and there was this bum, sitting in a wheelchair, like a one-legged lion in wait, ready to pounce on cranky, morning-weak, bedraggled prey. I knew what he wanted. They all want the same thing. And just because I looked like someone who can’t manage to set a damned alarm clock to wake up and get my ass in gear at the same time I’ve been supposed to be getting up for 15 years doesn’t mean I am a pushover.

“Good morning!” he’d say, chipper as hell.

“Mornin’,”  I grunted, eyes down, fists jammed in my pocket.

“Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day!” he’d croon, and I knew what was coming next.

“Sure am glad I’m here and not in Washington, DC,” he’d say. “They have a real mess on their hands there. I’m just happy to be here now, takin’ in the day. Hey! I hear they’re introducing a special Pumpkin Latte Soy Macchiotta! You ought to go in and try yourself one! Have a nice day, pretty lady!”

That dude was smooth.  I said goodbye and went in and bought my coffee and left. He didn’t panhandle me. He smiled and waved goodbye.

All day it stuck with me. I felt guilty and small. He was a nice man, and if he needed a dollar, for whatever reason, well, hell, I have a dollar. Maybe I am a pushover. Still, I felt like I missed an opportunity.

I went back the next week, and the next, and he was always there, and always so nice to me. “Hey, Miss Blue Car! How you doin’ today? Think it’s goin’ ta rain? We could use a soakin’ right? I tell you what, you look like sunshine on a cloudy day! You know that song? I got sunshiiine, on a cloudy dayeeyay!”

It got to where I looked forward to see him.

One day, I asked inside if I could buy him a sandwich and a coffee, or leave a gift card for him. The Starboy said, “Sure, if you want. But he has enough gift cards and sandwiches to last him all winter. People love Mr. Jones. Go sit with him awhile. He likes that.”

Mr. Jones. I would sit with him. Some day. When I had time. What a nice man was Mr. Jones.

Winter came and I set the automatic timer on the coffee pot and slept in. I was still late, but the coffee was hot when I got up. Hot and cheap. Like I like my men. But I digress.

One day in the summer, I made it back. On the little table where Mr. Jones sat, there were a bunch of papers. A shrine. There were letters like this:and ones like this: 

The one on the right is hard to see, but it’s from a girl named Vanessa who got angry at Mr. Jones when he refused to give her money for heroin, so she robbed him. The letter was so poignant and personal that at the time, I didn’t have the heart to photograph the whole thing, but now I wish I had.

Medford Jones was a man who gave kindness to people whether they wanted it or not. He was paid for this service, not because people felt obligated, but because with connection comes kindness, understanding, and the desire to make things better. He was engaged, and the simple act of reaching out and connecting to others made him respected and admired. I am so grateful for my life, and the people who drift into it to teach me things, and to love me, and to grant me gifts and wishes. I am so lucky. I must remember to show my gratitude not just in words, but in action.

Rest In Peace, Mr. John F. Kennedy.

Rest In Peace,  Mr. Medford Jones.

Thanks for the inspiration.


I Live In The Present, No Matter What You Think!

Upon rereading my last post, it occurs to me that some of my followers- that’s right, I have followers– might have studied American history, and might, therefore, have prior awareness of certain factual information, like, for instance, the douchebaggery of George Armstrong Custer. Perhaps, though I find it difficult to fathom, you don’t find my take on certain important events, like the lead up to the Battle of Little Bighorn, what one would term “breaking news.” I understand that just because something happened over 130 years ago and you learned about it when you were twelve, some of you might not think that a rehashing, no matter how vibrantly told, is really relevant to today’s complex and turbulent times. Really, I get that. Misguided as it is, I feel your boredom with my historical fascination.

Alas, as a graduate of the BSISD, I have almost no knowledge of my country’s past, nor do I have any sense at all of basic geography, chemistry, physics, or algebra of any kind. Sometimes I get confused about what it means when the big hand is on or near the nine, and if you use obscure directional terms like “north” and “south”, I am bound to end up near Oklahoma, a place nobody really goes by choice.
I think back over my education and wonder why I never learned about things that others seem to know.
In the BSISD high schools, many history and government classes are taught by coaches, often of the ignorant, foaming, Republican nature. I went to a school that had no athletics, so the powers that be had to import a survivalist, child-loving redneck to fill in for a football dude. Mr. McCartwright, as I will call him, spoke as if he always had a hunka chaw under his lip. “I hate to tell yew yer wrong, cowboy…. but yew shure ain’t right,” he’d say when we’d question the ethical nature of the Confederacy, or mention the hypocrisy of the Puritans. I particularly remember his enthusiastic portrayal, in a series of seemingly interminable lectures – no print-rich, stimulating word walls for this guy, I tell you what!- on “The Plight of the American Injun.”
“What happened with yer injuns,” he said, with a sad and knowing smile, “wuz that they re-lied on the buffaloes, for evrythang…evrythang you could pawsibly imajun!”
While I imagined the Indians relying on the buffalo for electricity, rock concerts, snow days, weed, Flashdance t-shirts, and blowdryers – I had a pretty vivid, if not juvenile, imagination at that time – Mr.McCartwright would suck at his teeth and shake his head in the mock pity of those who know better.
“Sad to say,” he went on, “but them buffaloes got sum disease, sumpin’ real bad, like a buffalo flu. They got to gettin’ real sick, and then hell! They all up and died!”
He proceeded to explain, with charts and graphs that he drew on the blackboard – back in the day, we used a substance called ‘chalk’, that left a thick, white dust on a black board- that the Indian was totally unable to adapt to the loss of the buffalo, and therefore succumbed to a quick and relatively painless death on paradises called ‘reservations’ that the United States government set up for their final days.
Is it any wonder that until recently, I thought that George Custer was a great American hero?
Anyhoo, I could tell you many more stories about Mr. McCartwright, who ended up being reprimanded for attempting to force me into writing a major paper about a book called The Great Hoax, which was about how the Holocaust never happened; this, even though he was made aware that my grandmother wore an unwanted tattoo from her long years at Bergen Belsen, and my grandfather spent WWII in a Prisoner of War camp; or about how he married a student (her parents were happy about it, even though she was shy of 17), named Betsy McSlutterson (okay, okay, not her real name!); but that’s not really what I want to talk about here, at this point, today.
Today, I’d like to be relevant.
So…the Superbowl, right? I hear they’re playing it in DALLAS, this year! Dallas, Texas! Yeah, that’s right! Dallas: it’s not just for presidential assassinations anymore, right?! Hellz, no, dawg! Hope those teams from those places win, right? Can I get a what-what? By the way, happy fidddieth anniversary, JFK’s Inaugural address! Address that changed America, right? Sorry Dallas killed you, JFK! Possibility and promise…shoot that bitch right in the head, what?! Hellz to the yeah! That was some old style shit; hope and change, no lie, GI! Do ya feel me?
So, speaking of fitness- oh, hell no! Segue much, Ex-Lax? How about that Jack Lalanne, right?He’s dead! Dead as Kennedy! Guess all that fitness and shizz only paid off only for ninety-four years! Fo-nitey-fo! Guess he feels like a fool, what? Let’s all go to Mickey D’s and celebrate, right! That shit’s on me, fo’ sho! It’s cheap, so I should buy it!
I heard that Camden, New Jersey, which has a crazy high crime rate, decided that the police department was not a top priority and laid off 44% of it’s force and a good chunk of firefighters…has anyone been following what’s going on south of the border, about what’s up down Mexico way? Drug cartels and death, that’s what’s up! Lawless chaos and scared citizens, wondering how it can get any worse! Maybe instead of making sure we get rid of ‘sanctuary states’ and making sure registered voters have picture ID, we might look at finding ways to fund basic safety and security essentials…other than just firing a bunch of people. Do I smell administrative mismanagement and overspending? Ah, yes, I always do!
And talkin’ ’bout relevance…how ’bout that news I watched today on the teevee? Now that’s some relevant shit, right? Less see…Oprah’s got a sister! OMG! Who knew? I did not know that! Thank you, news on teevee! And that’s not all! Gabby Giffords is continuing to slowly improve! Since all signs have pointed towards her very fortunate betterment, and I have been continuously bombarded by information regarding her every progressive twitch, I must say, I am shocked by her…predicted progress! The other day, the TV news preempted regularly scheduled programming to show an ambulance moving her from one hospital to another – LIVE! Oooooeeee! That’s riveting!
And speaking of predictions…it’s going to be cold this winter, with snow, and ice! BRRRR! Let’s talk about it some more, shall we? Get this! On the news the other day, I learned that the Octamom, a misnomer fo’ sho’, since she actually has 14 kids….is broke! I did not see that coming! Also, if you deep fry healthy foods in lard and fat… they lose their health benefits and actually cause you to increase calories, and therefore gain weight! So that’s what’s up with your unforeseen obesity, lard ass! Thanks, teevee! I did not realize that! And it’s flu season! I forgot, even though it happens at this same time every year! I wondered why all around me kids at school were turning pale and puking on their desks! Whoopsie! Wash those hands, boys and girls, and quit coughing with your dirty mouth aimed right at me, biyotch! Sneeze in my eye again and I Will Cut You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, did I tell you I went on vacation? I did, and it was so relaxing…
P.S. Here’s something else I know: yellow fever causes black vomiting. It’s not the scarlet death, but still, what exciting color combinations!
P.P.S. In case you were wondering, I don’t have TB. Whew! Close one! Now about the syph…
Just kidding! All clear!