Friday, December 23, 2011

Life Lessons from Uncle Zack

It ain’t bragging if you can do it- Mohammed Ali

          I can do a number of things most people can’t.  This is only an observation and nothing I feel arrogant or smug about.  I was born with a bunch of talents. That’s it. I did nothing to earn them.  I didn’t undergo the twelve trials of Hercules, endure the Perils of Pauline or defeat lord Voldemort. Basically, they were dropped into my lap.

         What I learned next was that these abilities came with a price. And it was in the paying for these talents that I got to know God. Now hold on!  Before you go charging off, fearing that I am about to descend into religious nutitude, please note that I am using the word ‘know’ as in you  ‘know’ how you’re old man gets when he has a couple of beers in him. Or you ‘know’ how your mother reacts when she hears grandma’s coming for a visit.

         Now here’s the deal. I believe that in the morning, God has HIS coffee, reads the paper, check HIS e-mail, then goes down into the gym, slaps on the gloves, gets into the ring and proceeds to beat the living shit out of me!

        To say I’m not fond of this routine would be an incredible understatement but, I have learned a couple of thing you might find useful.
        Number 1. Should you ever encounter someone God is presently beating the living shit out of, WHATEVER you do, DON’T assume it’s a pile-on and throw some punches at the poor bastard. Why? because if you do, God will smile, turn and start beating the shit out of you.

         How do I know this? Well, gather round kids and I’ll tell you a little story.
         When I was 12 or so, there was a bully up the block known only as ‘Red’ because he had dark red hair. Now this guy was older, taller, heavier and seemed to delight in making my life a living hell. No matter how much I tried to avoid this bastard, he always found me and I’d wind up with a bloody nose or fat lip.

        Well I wasn’t a scrawny twelve-year-old forever and having gone through puberty, and having taken a job after school lugging machinery around, I was suddenly in top shape and hoping to run into ‘Red’ because we had a score to settle.

The trouble was, the guy was nowhere to be found. I figured he moved and was making someone else’s life miserable.
And so it goes.
A couple of years pass. I’m coming home late one night and this guy comes up to me. I smelled him before I saw him, a real gutter bum. His hair was matted, as was his scraggly beard, he had no teeth and probably hadn’t had a bath in months. He shuffles up with his hand stuck out and says, “Hey brother, can I hold a quarter?”
Back in the late seventies you’d run into these guys a couple of times a day and I’d usually reply, “It ain’t heavy, I can hold it myself” and breeze by.
Only this time I slowed, there was something telling me to stop, telling me this time was different. He had followed me a few feet and when I turned and saw him under the light of the streetlamp, I knew exactly who he was. I hadn’t realized it at first because so much time had passed and even though he’d lost weight, was obviously on heroin, and now had long hair and a beard…
It was Red! There was no mistake in my mind.
“I’ve been having hard times,” he rasps, with his hand still extended.
I eye him and my anger almost overwhelms me. My hands close into fists.
Pally, they’re about to get a lot worse. A whole lot worse!
Just a quarter…”
Now let me back-up, just a little bit.
Remember me telling you that stepping into the ring while God is beating the shit out of someone is about the biggest mistake a person can make?  You’re probably wondering how I know this. Well, when you get a beating on a regular basis, you pay close attention to what’s going on around you, and what I noticed was whenever my life was spiraling downward and some vindictive bastard would try to add to the misery, shortly afterward, my fortunes would improve and his would life become a horror show.
Literally, a horror show.
And looking at Red I suddenly realized what was happening. I was being permitted to see what became of the miserable prick who plagued my youth.  I also realized that this wreck of a human being had endured a far worse beating than I ever could have inflicted and finally, it was crystal clear the next move was mine.

You’re damn right I gave him the quarter and got out of there as quick as possible.
I never saw him again.
True story.