Tag Archives: tragedy

Poor Ol’ Wooden Head

“Kaw-Liga”
KAW-LIGA, was a wooden Indian standing by the door
He fell in love with an Indian maid over in the antique store
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

He always wore his Sunday feathers and held a tomahawk
The maiden wore her beads and braids and hoped someday he’d talk
KAW-LIGA – A, too stubborn to ever show a sign
Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

[Chorus:]
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he never got a kiss
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he don’t know what he missed
Is it any wonder that his face is red
KAW-LIGA, that poor ol’ wooden head.

KAW-LIGA, was a lonely Indian never went nowhere
His heart was set on the Indian maiden with the coal black hair
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

Then one day a wealthy customer bought the Indian maid
And took her, oh, so far away, but ol’ KAW-LIGA stayed
KAW-LIGA – A, just stands there as lonely as can be
And wishes he was still an old pine tree.

“The Complete Hank Williams” (1998)

Magicman 3

The quirky movie I reviewed, Moonrise Kingdom, reconnected me with a song I loved as a child.  It was on an old 45 record that belonged to my mother’s best friend from high school.  When the Retleffs sold their farm and tore down their house and barn, they had a huge estate sale.  My mother bought the old record player and all the collected records that Aunt Jenny still had.  They were the same ones my mother and her friend Edna had listened to over and over.  There were two records of singles about Indian love.  Running Bear was about an Indian boy who fell in love with little White Dove.  They lived on opposite sides of a river.  Overcome with love, they both jump into the river, swim to the middle, lock lips, and both drown.  Together forever.  That song, it turns out, was written by the Big Bopper, and given to Johnny Preston to sing, and released the year after the Big Bopper died in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.

Kaw-liga, by Hank Williams, was a wooden Indian sitting in front of a cigar store.  His love story is even worse.  As you can see from the lyrics above, he never even gets the girl.  Dang, Indian love must be heck!

But I have come to realize that these aren’t merely racist songs from a bygone era.  They hold within them a plea for something essential.  They are a reminder that we need love to be alive.

When I was young and deeply depressed… though also insufferably creative and unable to control the powers of my danged big brain, I knew that I wanted love.  There was one girl who went to school with me, lovely Alicia Stewart (I am not brave enough to use her real name), that filled my dreams.  We were classmates, and alphabetical seating charts routinely put us near each other.  She had a hypnotic sparkle in her eyes whenever she laughed at my jokes.  She was so sweet to me… sweet to everyone… that she probably caused my diabetes.  I longed to carry her books or hold her hand.  I cherished every time she spoke to me, and collected the memories like stamps in a stamp album.  But like the stupid cigar store Indian, I never spoke up for myself.  I never told her how I felt.  I was endlessly like Charlie Brown with the Little Red-Haired Girl.  Sometimes you have to screw up your courage and leap into the river, even if it means your undoing.  Because love is worth it.  Love is necessary.  And it comes to everybody in one way or another over time.  I look at pictures of her grandchildren posted on Facebook now, and wonder what might have been, if only… if only I had jumped in that stupid river.  I did find love.  And I probably would’ve drowned had I done it back then.  Life has a way of working things out eventually.  But there has to be some reason that in the 50’s, when I was born, they just kept singing about Indian love.

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Filed under autobiography, finding love, humor, Paffooney

Poor Ol’ Wooden Head

“Kaw-Liga”
KAW-LIGA, was a wooden Indian standing by the door
He fell in love with an Indian maid over in the antique store
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

He always wore his Sunday feathers and held a tomahawk
The maiden wore her beads and braids and hoped someday he’d talk
KAW-LIGA – A, too stubborn to ever show a sign
Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

[Chorus:]
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he never got a kiss
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he don’t know what he missed
Is it any wonder that his face is red
KAW-LIGA, that poor ol’ wooden head.

KAW-LIGA, was a lonely Indian never went nowhere
His heart was set on the Indian maiden with the coal black hair
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

Then one day a wealthy customer bought the Indian maid
And took her, oh, so far away, but ol’ KAW-LIGA stayed
KAW-LIGA – A, just stands there as lonely as can be
And wishes he was still an old pine tree.

“The Complete Hank Williams” (1998)

Magicman 3

The quirky movie I reviewed, Moonrise Kingdom, reconnected me with a song I loved as a child.  It was on an old 45 record that belonged to my mother’s best friend from high school.  When the Retleffs sold their farm and tore down their house and barn, they had a huge estate sale.  My mother bought the old record player and all the collected records that Aunt Jenny still had.  They were the same ones my mother and her friend Edna had listened to over and over.  There were two records of singles about Indian love.  Running Bear was about an Indian boy who fell in love with little White Dove.  They lived on opposite sides of a river.  Overcome with love, they both jump into the river, swim to the middle, lock lips, and both drown.  Together forever.  That song, it turns out, was written by the Big Bopper, and given to Johnny Preston to sing, and released the year after the Big Bopper died in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.

Kaw-liga, by Hank Williams, was a wooden Indian sitting in front of a cigar store.  His love story is even worse.  As you can see from the lyrics above, he never even gets the girl.  Dang, Indian love must be heck!

But I have come to realize that these aren’t merely racist songs from a bygone era.  They hold withing them a plea for something essential.  They are a reminder that we need love to be alive.

When I was young and deeply depressed… though also insufferably creative and unable to control the powers of my danged big brain, I knew that I wanted love.  There was one girl who went to school with me, lovely Alicia Stewart (I am not brave enough to use her real name), that filled my dreams.  We were classmates, and alphabetical seating charts routinely put us near each other.  She had a hypnotic sparkle in her eyes whenever she laughed at my jokes.  She was so sweet to me… sweet to everyone… that she probably caused my diabetes.  I longed to carry her books or hold her hand.  I cherished every time she spoke to me, and collected the memories like stamps in a stamp album.  But like the stupid cigar store Indian, I never spoke up for myself.  I never told her how I felt.  I was endlessly like Charlie Brown with the Little Red-Haired Girl.  Sometimes you have to screw up your courage and leap into the river, even if it means your undoing.  Because love is worth it.  Love is necessary.  And it comes to everybody in one way or another over time.  I look at pictures of her grandchildren posted on Facebook now, and wonder what might have been, if only… if only I had jumped in that stupid river.  I did find love.  And I probably would’ve drowned had I done it back then.  Life has a way of working things out eventually.  But there has to be some reason that in the 50’s, when I was born, they just kept singing about Indian love.

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Filed under autobiography, finding love, humor, Paffooney

Crying All The Time

Ima mickey

The horrible truth is, life would not be very funny and filled with laughter if no one ever cried.  And I am not just saying that because saying something is its own opposite is a cheap way of sounding wise.  You honestly can’t be happy if you have never been sad.  Nothing makes you appreciate what you have more than the experience of pain and loss.  I call everything I write “humor” because I defend myself against the darkness with a wacky wit and an ability to laugh when I am in pain.  Some of the funniest men who ever lived were creatures of great sadness.  Robin Williams may have died of it.

robin_williams_tribute_by_emilystepp-d7ut3q0

A beautiful portrait by artist Emily Stepp

And isn’t it true that the funniest movies are the ones that have at least one part of the story that makes you tear up?  I have been avoiding Downton Abbey even though my wife loves it, because I knew it was good enough to make me cry… a lot.  My wife makes fun of me when movies make me cry… or TV shows… or television commercials during the Superbowl.  She grins at me while tears are gushing.  And therein lies a connection between laughing and crying.  At least somebody gets a laugh out of the pain from a sensitive heart.

Downton_Abbey_season_1

So, you may have noticed that I confessed to avoiding Downton Abbey.  But I must also confess that I gave in.  She is watching every episode from the beginning in preparation for the final season coming up.  She made me watch it with her.  That goofy British soap opera set a hundred years ago is most definitely a comedy.  It is a comedy of manners.  Servants versus the upper class.  Scheming footmen like Thomas Barrows are almost cartoon villains as they plot their nearly infinite schemes of advantage and subterfuge.  You laugh when karma catches up to them, and they take a beating or lose their job.  And yet, like soap opera villains of the past, they never stay defeated.  Thomas found a coward’s way out of World War One and made his way back into the good graces of the Crawley family, achieving a higher rank in the staff than he had before.  And Dame Maggie Smith as Dowager Lady Grantham is the scathing-est of wits, surprising us with her shallow upper-class prejudices one moment, and showing a depth of humanity and compassion the next.  It is a comedy in that it plays off the soap opera form with exquisite self awareness.  But it drops the bottom out from under your feet constantly.  You fall directly into the tiger-traps of tragedy.  I cried when favorite characters died, like when Lady Sybil unexpectedly dies in childbirth, and when Matthew Crawley is killed in a car accident immediately after the birth of his long-awaited son.  When Valet John Bates goes to prison for murder though his first wife actually committed suicide, I became a fountain of gushing tears.  I cried again when he got out of prison.  I cried when his wife Anna was raped by a visiting lord’s valet.  And as that part of the plot works itself out in the next few episodes, I’m sure I’ll cry again.  My wife has been having a barrel full of belly laughs at my expense.  But because I have struggled through the depths of personal pain with these characters, and love them like they were real people, I laugh all the harder at their wit and ready comebacks and ultimate victories.  The only difference between a comedy and a tragedy is the comedy’s happy ending.

So I will continue to laugh and cry and call everything I write humor.  Forgive me when I’m not so funny.  And laugh with me sometimes, too.  Even laugh at me… because that’s laughter too.

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Filed under humor, Mickey, Paffooney, review of television, Uncategorized

Fragile People (Revisited)

faerytales

As a school teacher, if you do the job for long enough, you become aware of a great multitude of human problems that can break a child, crumble their emerging personality, and dump them into the most dangerous depths of the human experience.  I have taught bipolar children, ADHD children, transgender children, autistic children, and children with anger-management issues.  I can remember times in my own life when I was the boy made of glass.  I was cracked and crumbled when I was ten years old because a fifteen-year-old neighbor boy sexually abused me.  I was ground into shards again when the Wicked Witch of Creek Valley Middle School refused to see any redeeming qualities in my teaching ability, and zeroed me out on an evaluation so badly that it took two long years to find another opportunity to do the one thing in life I’ve been trained for and believe that I am good at.  The depression from each of those crackings was very nearly fatal.

The Fallen Ace

Don’t despair for me, though.  I have always only been made of glass for brief periods in my life.  The rest of the time I am mostly made of spoof and rubber.  Stuff mostly bounces off me, and I learned from my grandfather (the one I always believed was secretly God in human form) how to laugh at everything, especially my troubles.  Those of us who know the loving God Jehovah (no matter what name we are willing to call Him by) are harder to break than most people.  That belief, especially that part that galvanizes and changes the very stuff we are made of, helps life’s barbs and darts and plain ol’ rocks to bounce off like we are Superman’s sillier clone with very little harm actually done.

Not all people are made like that, however.  I taught for two years without an actual teaching job (in spite of the Wicked Witch of Creek Valley), doing substitute work in Reading, Science, Special Ed, and even as a test administrator for the Texas state academic exams, at the time they were the TAKS Tests (the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, though the name is perfect because they are really more like sitting on TACKS while paying your income TAX).  In fact, I was a substitute Science teacher as I originally wrote these very words (on paper, you know, because subs are not generally smart enough to be trusted with computers).  As a substitute I encountered more fragile kids in one year than I ever knew existed when I was a regular classroom teacher.  There are more breakable people in schools than you can count on Robert Malthus’ abacus.

At the TAKS-celebration teacher-student basketball game, I was called on to sit in a quiet room with two unique specials who couldn’t stand to be around crowds or noise (a constant condition in schools that one can only rarely get away from).  The girl, who throws fits if she thinks you are looking at her too much, sat quietly with the computer, looking up Pokemon episodes and repeating dialogue aloud from each in funny voices meant only to entertain herself.  The boy, who goes into the fetal curl and weeps, sat at a table with a book on origami, happily folding up an army of alien space cruisers to stuff into his notebooks and leave a trail of space ships wherever he was soon to go.  Neither one of them will ever damage anyone but themselves if they get broken by life, yet each is so fragile that mere noise can scatter their flower petals.  Hothouse violets with no tolerance for much of anything in the great wide world.  I suppose I should feel honored that the school felt confident enough in my abilities at classroom management that I could handle these two delicate blossoms at the same time while everyone else was off having fun of a different kind.

I’ve seen violent and angry broken people too.   I once referred a boy to the school counselor because he was fantasizing about blowing people’s heads off with a shotgun in the pages of his class journal assignment.  The counselor back then, in a pre-9-11 world, said there was really nothing that could be done about something that was in a boy’s private journal.  Three years later that boy went to jail for beating his girlfriend’s youngest daughter almost to death.  The child was only two years old.  It put a few cracks in my armor to learn about that, knowing what I thought I knew about that boy.  Sometimes we are not Superman and the bullets don’t bounce off.

Player3

One of the most dangerous sorts of glass people are the girls made of glass (at least in the opinion of one male teacher).  Three times girls fell in love with me during the course of the school year.  All three reached a point in their fantasy lives where they believed they required love and sex back from me.   I wondered to myself if they had severe vision problems or were just plain crazy, but all three were lovely girls, and smart, a joy to teach… at least until that love bug bit ’em.  The first two ended up hating me and becoming discipline problems for the remainder of the year.  The third, well… she was just too perfect.  She listened to the “you are more like a daughter to me, and I’m marrying someone else” speech and only put her sweet head against my shoulder and said to me with tears in her big, brown eyes, “You are the teacher I am going to miss the most when I’m in High School.”  You know, twenty-one years later, I still tear up thinking about that one.  Those three girls were all breakable people too, and I had the hammer in my hand on those three occasions.  They are not the type to hurt others either, but I mourn for them, because they all three grew up into beautiful women and are so much smarter now than they were then that they would never again fall in love with a goofy gink like me.

I took this old journal piece out of cold storage and re-wrote a bit and added a bit and revisited old sorrows and jokes because I am still dealing with breakable people despite being retired from teaching.  This morning I had to quell another panic attack in a child who had no reason to have one.  Waking up to eat sausages cooked by goofy old dad should not cause someone to curl up in a ball and be afraid to get out of bed… to the point of tears.  (Or maybe there is more wrong with my cooking than I realize.)  The health insurance still doesn’t want to pay for psychiatric services, and I am a loss for how to cure things that could so easily turn into paranoia and schizophrenia.  I am dancing with bare feet on a thistle patch at present and hope to come out of it all with enough money left to live on and enough life left to be worth living.

So, what is the main idea out of all this mooning, fluff, and drivel?  Well, I guess that people are all made out glass sometimes, all delicate and easy to destroy.  And you know what?  There are too many angry bulls in this China shop we call our lives.  Too much gets cracked, wrecked, or broken.  If only people could walk through our lives with a bit lighter step… and maybe at least try to be careful!

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, teaching