Perfect Day

A narrow band of sunshine pushed its way between the two curtain halves and into the small one room flat. It was enough to cause James to blink slightly then wake up.

He looked around the room for a moment, puzzled by his surroundings then remembered he was now a civilian, living in the civilian world. He rolled over slightly and picked up the half full pack of Marlboros and his lighter.

As he worked to light one of the cigarettes, he slipped his legs over the edge of his bed and drew in on the cigarette. He blew out the smoke and thought, “I need to quit these things.”

James recalled that he started smoking as a response to the stress he felt out in the arid desert of Iraq. He needed something to do with his hands after that first fire-fight and one of his buddies offered him a smoke.

“That’s been a long time ago,” he thought. James realized that he’d no longer need them as he wasn’t in a place where 10 to a 100 people got killed everyday by snipers or car bombs.

He smiled, knowing he had survived all that. ”Today’s a perfect day,” he James thought.

Now that James realized that he was back in the World, he relaxed a little and snuffed out the cigarette between his fingers. He resolved that this cigarette would be his last one.

He looked around his room and reached for his jeans.

After getting dressed, James walked to the window and peered outside. He still felt a small reservation about standing directly in front of the large piece of glass. His combat instinct always came on strong as he approached the window.

“After three weeks,” he thought, “You’d think I’d shake that whole idea.”

The street was busy; cars, truck and buses driving by. He could see the corner market from his place and a he decided to go over and buy a cup of coffee.

James had come to enjoy the sweet taste of a French-vanilla cappuccino. He had drunk the stuff the Army tries to pass off as coffee for much too long. The cappuccino was a benefit of being a civilian once again.

He grabbed up his camera, draped it over his shoulder and stepped out of his room and into the hallway.

Down stairs he stood on the sidewalk watching as people walked by completely unconcerned with the activities going on around them. It was something he had never paid much attention to when he was younger.

He was just 18 years old when he joined and after three tours in Iraq, he was the old man of the outfitted when he mustered out four years later. He saw that a number of things in the World had changed since he had been away or perhaps it was he who had changed.

Either way James was now a free man to pursue his dream of being a photographer. That’s why he was living in New York City rather than returning home to the farm in Nebraska.

The decision had been met as a scandal by his folks and friends back home. However James knew that he couldn’t return directly to a quiet life of farming after the three and a half years he had spent in the Middle East. He needed the excitement of a large city like New York, besides that is where his school was located.

He waited for the little green man to appear on the crosswalk light across the street. When it did, he moved with the mob of humanity from one corner to the next. He repeated the action again to get to the market.

James poured his coffee and paid the clerk for the hot brew. He stepped outside and wondered what he would do with the remainder of his day.

“I think I’ll just walk around and snap some photos for the hell of it,” James thought.

It was about that time that a young white man walked up to him and asked, “Hey buddy, you got a light?

James placed his cup of coffee on a yellow pole that was employed by the market to prevent vehicles from driving through the large glass doors and windows and reached into his shirt pocket, searching for the book of matches only to realize he had left them on his nightstand in his room.

Then he awful realization came to him; he was about to be mugged by the white man asking for a match. This realization was too late.

Without warning, he was facing a pistol and the man was yanking his camera from his shoulder. James grabbed the strap, hoping to hold onto his prized-possession.

James saw the flash of the gun barrel but never heard the report. He felt a heavy punch to his chest and that the punch had knocked him down. James was surprised by the lack of pain.

When he awoke, he was looking down on an ashen-colored black man. It was his body, laying flat across the sidewalk as a small crowd had formed around him.

James recognized himself. He was confused by the sight of his lifeless body. He saw a small wisp of steam rising from his cup of coffee as it was still resting on the top of the yellow pole. In the distance was the sound of sirens.

James felt a warm sensation envelope him as he floated ever higher. Then suddenly his view went dark and knew he was dead.

It was the ending of a perfect day.

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Bill Stamps, 1924-2005

A friend of mine let me know that a former employer of ours died a couple of days ago. His name is Bill Stamps.

He worked at radio station KPOD in Crescent City, California. I don’t like to speak ill of the dead but his dying has opened a nasty wound in me that I need to let heal now.

Here’s the back story…

In 1984, I was in between gigs and hoping that Stamps was going to hire me back. He had sold KPOD and when the guy who bought it went bankrupt Bill got it back.

Cathy was hired right away. In the meantime I did whatever BS jobs came around for KPOD like setting up remote equipment and announcing parades over PA systems, etc.

Anyway, I had also worked as a stunt double and stand in on the movie “Return of the Jedi” in the Smith River location and I got to know a guy by the name of Toomey. It would later turn out that Toomey would end up working at KCRE the cross town rival to KPOD.

As it is I never had much use for Toomey as a jock or as a person. I had found out early on that he had a thing for ‘younger men’ and was very forceful and direct about it.

Terry and I had words when he made a pass at me. Then while getting a haircut, I spoke of the incident to the sister-in-law of the morning show host of KCRE.

Crescent City is a small town. Word travels fast.

Before I realized it Cathy called me and chewed me a new one. Come to find out she was called on the carpet by Bill Stamps and told, “If Tom doesn’t go over there and apologize, you’re fired!”

Needless to say, I marched my butt over to KCRE and apologized to that man. And I hated Bill Stamps for it ever since.

Now the front story…

In 2002, Toomey was sentenced to prison for having had sex with a 12-year young boy. Bill Stamps forced me to apologize to a pedophile!

Toomey used radio to lure his youthful victims to his side. And he was given a pass to do it.

Meanwhile hard working and decent people like Cathy had to feel fear for their jobs because guys like me couldn’t leave the small town truths alone or keep their big mouths shut. I’m sorry about the hell you had to go through for that Cathy.

Now I hear the town of Crescent City is giving Bill Stamps a parade to honor his passing. They are calling him “a great and caring man.”

I have a much different memory of him.

My wife says “Let it be buried with him.” That means I would have to learn to operate a backhoe.

Perhaps I’m just too hard on Bill Stamps and the fact that he forced me to apologize to a pedophile to save a girlfriends job. But I just am not sure how else I was supposed to feel at the time.

When I look back on that entire time period it was a real confusing time. I was finishing up my military service time and working in radio and not getting along with my family and I had been working as a volunteer in law enforcement until I got in trouble with the law.

Need I go any farther?

My ultimate goal was to get back on the air at one of the two radio stations there in Crescent City or get a job writing for the newspaper. None of these things ever seemed to happen and I found myself for ever frustrated.

I blame it on my stupidity.

Looking back I see that it was small town politics. A game of likes and dislikes and I was on the list of dislikes.

In the long run I can see now that their ‘politics’ benefited me because it forced me to move away, first to Arcata then Reno, Nevada. I have been here in the Silver State for over 20-years and I’ve never regretted it.

In fact I spent eighteen years in radio because of it and that probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d stayed on the Northcoast. Now I’m hoping to parlay my radio career into a writing career.

As of yet that hasn’t happened because I seem to be too conservative for the likes of the publications in our area. But then again I could be reading between the lines.

The Chicken or the Egg

Sitting at my computer, I find myself mulling over some of the more recent words I have heard preached via the radio. I enjoy listening to the preachers as I drive around town.

It tends to cause me to slow down and think. While I am listening and driving and thinking, I am also examining my inner self and responses to the message as a Christian.

Being a Christian is not easy. Jesus never promised me an easy life.

He did give me the Bible to study and preachers to listen too as I drive. What the preachers say, I sometimes will take or leave.

It depends on how much Biblical truth I find in their words. I realize that this is a judgment call.

We are all prone to judgment calls. This is what I believe is having a discerning spirit.

One broadcast had a speaker who talked about how secular music was filled with satanic messages. I have no doubt that this does exist as I spent a quarter of a century in the music industry.

It is filled with persons trying to live up to that type of life style. One of his statements was that secular music could lead to premarital and extramarital sex, which leads to abortion.

It has long been agreed upon that abortion is not a Christian act. This is something that I do not wish to argue about.

However it has caused me to think about a Biblical truth that I have discovered and wish to explore further. How many times have you heard the standard science question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

God’s word is the undisputed truth. Then the answer is given to us in Genesis 1:20, which reads in part, “…and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the Sky.”

There is not one mention on an egg.

Here is another Biblical truth. It deals directly with answering when life begins, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

Fetuses do not breathe air, but rather absorb oxygen through the mother’s placenta. Therefore, I humbly submit to you that life does not start until breath is formed in the nostrils of the baby.

There is not one mention of a fetus.

And no — I am not for abortion. Rather I want to shift the argument to the heart of the matter.

Our true responsibility is to be open to the woman whatever her decision maybe, because as Jesus said in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

A Lesson in Leather

Shortly after moving into our new home, I decided to take up the art of leather crafting. It is something that I had been accustomed to doing as a younger man when I worked for my Grandfather-rancher.

Seems as if we were always tearing up a saddle fender or a pair of chaps, so learning to mend these items was of some importance especially when we were miles away from the main house and town.

My first order of business was to go out and search the leather shops around the county for the ‘perfect’ piece of hide. I wanted to cover my personal journal in bull-hide.

Rough, strong, manly.

While I searched I also purchased the needed tools and supplies. This did not take me very long. I opted not to use one of those ‘cookie-cutter’ kits that a person can buy.

Instead I vowed to measure, mark, and cut and stitch my rawhide journal cover from scratch. The entire process took me two evenings after work to complete. I even managed to eat dinner and watch television and still accomplish my goal. I was very proud of myself. I showed it to my wife. She was properly impressed by my skill.

My son liked it so much that he wanted the cover for himself.

Needless to say I would not surrender my craftsmanship to him no matter how much I love him. The true test came when I placed it on my journal. I like to use the composition books that can be purchased for a little bit of nothing come the start of the school year.

It was a snug fit, but I told myself that it would stretch out with a little more time and use. The following morning I sat down at my desk to start my first entry and I discovered a serious flaw in my new cover.

The leather edge inside the journal created a noticeable bump that was difficult to write over. It gradually went away as I filled the pages.

That was at the front of the journal. The same problem made itself known as I came to the end of the journal.

I was dismayed at my lack of planning for such an occurrence.

Within days I had run out of ideas on how to alleviate the situation. I used a piece of discarded leather as a backstop, but lost it to the dog that found it to be a rather enjoyable chew toy.

I used a piece of cardboard stripped from a box. This simply looked cheesy and would not do.

Eventually, I stopped using my leather journal cover. I placed in a box and marked it for storage. Then I simply forgot about it.

Just after the attack on the World Trade Center Towers, I concluded that I should return to church. My faith in life seemed shaken. I watched in horror as those buildings crumbled into dense clouds of dust with the knowledge that very few people would survive the carnage.

My life seemed to parallel this event. I had turned my life into a garbage dump, wreaking havoc with my family and friends. I searched for my long forgotten bible. I discovered that it was gone, lost and I had to purchase a new one.

Every Sunday, I sit in church and listened for new meaning. Slowly I have reemerged and discovered that under the rubble I had created was a brand new man. I started sitting down and reading my bible on a daily basis.

It is enjoyable.

However my new bible’s cover was getting thrashed. So I decided I would see about buying one of those fancy canvass covers. But as life would have it, I did not get around to it as quickly as I could have.

Instead I found my time better used at getting rid of all the junk I have saved up like treasure in my garage. That meant going through box after box of stuff. That’s when I found my old hand-made, good for nothing leather journal cover.

I looked at it and decided to toss it in the ‘too go’ box.

Later that night my son came to me and said he wanted to show me something. I followed him to his room.

There on the computer table was a handsomely bound bible. I open it up and discover that it was my bible.

Curious to where he came up with the cover, I asked him. He told me that it was in one of the many boxes I had set out to be carried away to the Sally Ann Store.

Right then and there I realized that there is always new life even amid the garbage of living. God had to teach me that with an old piece of leather.