Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number

“Rikki don’t lose that number
You don’t want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don’t lose that number
It’s the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home”
– (1974) “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number” Recorded By: Steely Dan Composers: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen

On my Facebook page I decided to have a little fun with an age old question for old rock consumers. The question was: “Did Rikki ever lose that number?” Considering the song was recorded in 1973, along with the reveal that Rikki was an old college girlfriend of Donald Fagen from Steely Dan, it could be Rikki is in her early 70’s now. If Rikki has already experienced cognitive issues, maybe Rikki no longer has knowledge of where that number may be.

Rikki Don't Lose That Number - Steely Dan.jpg
Photo: Wikipedia

While counting down the hours to Thanksgiving this year, I watched a news feature on the growth of Dementia and Alzheimer’s in our country. Because Alzheimer’s runs through the maternal side of my family, I was glued to the report. Contrary to popular belief, Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not one and the same. The “plaque” which appears in the brain seems to be the main monkey wrench in the gears of the mind. Also, there can be shrinkage of the brain matter itself. Dementia is a general term for a slip in mental abilities which gets in the way of everyday life. Dementia is NOT a disease, but considered a brain disorder. There are various kinds of Dementia, as well. Trust me, it’s complicated and a bit over my lay-person’s head. However, if one has Dementia, the symptoms can mean troubles in connecting names of loved ones, or others. One can find it more difficult to follow driving directions, communication skills and focus, the spelling of words, and losing items like…(wait for it)…phone numbers. In the days of yesteryear, it often was referred to as “senior moments.”

Not long ago I mentioned on this platform the fact that my 76 year old mom is now wrestling with a minor form of Dementia. It does appear to be a fading of figuring out how to use her cell phone, remembering names and places on the fly, and losing train of thought in conversation. It’s difficult for me in that she has always been a sharp person with an incredible skill of trouble-shooting and memory. Before spellcheck software, she was my spellcheck. Now, she’s almost given up on texting words. And yes, she’s very much aware of the cognitive decline. It is very concerning.

Photo: My mom, Carolyn Atherton-Brown

It was a bittersweet privilege to watch her be a selfless 24/7 caregiver for my grandparents. My granddad had Dementia issues, and my grandmother had full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease. There was a great deal I learned from her just observing how she handled the frustration of seeing her parents traveling downhill with this issue. The main lesson i gleaned from her was how to speak to an Alzheimer’s victim. I learned to never correct the victim when they speak inaccuracies. Gently agree, or placate on a subject. Never show anger if the victim made a mess in the kitchen, or bathroom, or soiled their clothing. It’s best to approach them as you would a toddler. (In many cases, the victim almost “youthens” in their reasoning.) Most of all, we must treat them with compassion, and deliver the highest respect, even when at wits end. Remember, your Dementia or Alzheimer’s victim once was a doctor, a pastor, a teacher, a cop, or a quality control inspector, etc. Most of all, they were once loving parents in the majority of cases.

Remember, someday, it could be you needing the comfort of a champion caregiver.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

It would be a crime to suddenly think less of a loved one, suffering from this disorder or disease, who once knew how to care and love you without compromise. Certainly there are exceptions in every relationship. It could be you were a child of an abusive parent who now needs your love and care in the dark years of cognitive failure. It would be a treasure to know Jesus spoke about you…

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:7) KJV

An accurate Greek translation from the original text reads like this…

“Happy are the kind – – because they shall find kindness.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:7) YLT

So, Rikki, if you did lose that number, it’s okay. Maybe you ‘sent it off in a letter to yourself’. Come on, I’ll help you find it.

I am full, due to the fact God remembers the count of the hairs on my head. I found out while topping my tank with fuel for the race.

Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” – GOD From Isaiah 49:15 (NAS)

Thanks, TR 7…Wherever You Are

“I told a girl I can start right away
And she said, “listen, babe, I got something to say
I got no car and it’s breaking my heart
But I’ve found a driver and that’s a start…”
(1965) “Drive My Car” Recorded By: the Beatles Composers: Lennon-McCartney (Primarily Paul McCartney was the composer with lyrical contributions by John Lennon.)

“Remember, when the back wheels hit the street, the car is yours without a warranty.” Right then and there, I knew I should back out of the deal, but my eyes and fantasies guided my wallet.

When I was just a wee lad, my mom’s two brothers had hot rods. One had a little French sports car by Renault. The other brother had a nice Chevy Super Sport convertible sports car, which would be called a “muscle car” in today’s terms. I loved sitting in the back seat with my head resting against the radio speaker installed in the middle of the backrest. He is 79 now, and it remains in his garage to this very day. Before I could count, I fell in love with both of these roadsters.

Miss Cain was my first grade teacher in 1966. She was right out of college, and beautiful. But what caught my little eyes was her brand new Chevy Corvair. I lived across the street from the school, and walked and gawked right by her parked road-eater. Like the Volkswagen of that day, the engine was in the back. I fell in love with that set of wheels.

My best friend in high school had a super 1968 royal blue Chevy Camaro. When he slammed the accelerator to the floor, the G-force almost kept me from touching the dashboard. I fell in love with that one, too. (Okay, I’ll admit it. I was jealous.)

A high school girlfriend owned a hot 1976 Ford Mustang Mach 1. When she floored it, your hairstyle changed in under two seconds. A couple of times, when picking her up for a date in my mom’s car, I asked if we could take her car. I fell in love with that babe…not her. (Okay, I’ll admit it. I was jealous.)

In 1983, a co-worker of mine bought an old Triumph TR 6 convertible. It was a forest green color, walnut dashboard, 2-seat little jobber. We took the curves as if we were stunt drivers in a 007 movie. It was tiny, much like the old MG, but an eye-catcher. I was nuts over that foreign road monster. (Okay, I’ll admit it. I was jealous.) It looked something like this…

Photo: TR 6 from Classic Auto Trader

My beloved car, my first car, from 1978-1983ish, was a mint condition, 2-door, tan 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. My grandparents surprised me with it for high school graduation. My granddad was against sports cars simply because of the safety issue. The bigger the body, the better, in case of a crash. Ironically, my first wife totaled it on a busy Dallas freeway a few years later. It was a sad time, but a time of occasion.

With insurance cash in hand, I searched for a sports car to replace my Cutlass. This was MY time, I wasn’t going to miss it. There was a used car dealer advertising a mint condition, 1977 Triumph TR 7. Like the TR 6, it was manufactured by the well-known British Leyland Corp!!! The TR 7 had a nickname, “The Wedge” (See cover photo above title for a better profile view.) All the TR 7 car ads had a slogan, “The shape of things to come.” My TR 6 buddy and I went to check it out for a good solid look and test drive. Below is a picture of her.

When we arrived, there it sat, sticking out like a neon sign that read, “BUY ME NOW!” It was a sharp race-car mustard yellow with black pinstripe trim. Oh, my. I think my mouth was hanging open when we spotted it from the street. It was absolutely beautiful. The interior was perfect and the body didn’t have a scratch on it. The flip-up headlights dazzled me. It took all I had, but I smiled while signing the papers. The only thing that bothered me was when I heard the salesman ask one of the mechanics if it had started that morning. Then he brushed it off by saying a recent water puddle caused the ignition to fail the day before. My eyes were dreamy, interfering with my ears. The test drive went smoothly. It felt like a super-go-kart from one of those public racetracks. During the signing, he repeated the fact that the car came without a warranty. He went on to let me know, once I drove off the lot, I would be the proud owner, with no returns possible. It was cash on the barrel head. The two of us wanted to celebrate somewhere before we drove it to my house.

Did alarm bells go off in my young, 24 year old noggin? Yes, but I quickly dimmed the bells with self-made imaginary cotton balls.

If I were behind you at a signal light, this is what you would see in your rear-view mirror…

My friend followed me in his nice little TR 6 for the joy ride home. About 20 minutes into the drive, at a rainy busy intersection, it died on me without warning. The two of us couldn’t get it started. In fact, I had to have it towed to a local auto repair shop. There, I was told the staff didn’t work on European vehicles. After getting a tip from the garage owner, I had it pulled to a foreign auto repair shop. There, I was told they didn’t have a mechanic who was familiar with British Leyland engines. Once again, I had it towed to a specialty European auto garage who had “a guy” who could look into it. His pant cuffs were too high up and he scratched his belly a lot.

Keep in mind, I worked an inside sales marketing job at the time for an electronic manufacturer. I didn’t have lots to spend on Euro specialty mechanics. After about a week, “the guy” got it running and handed me a huge bill. My gut began to rumble and tumble at the prospect of what I might have gotten into.

Over the following weeks, I paid for a few towings, two or three Euro-garages, and lots of rapid loud words coming from my wife at the time. By then, I knew I had made an enormous mistake.

Yet, it drove like a dream. It hugged the corners like a motorcycle. The gas millage was wonderful, too. That four-banger could get to 60mph in about 9 seconds. It drove beautifully…for very short periods of time. Holding your breath at an intersection, while praying the engine would stay in idle, is never a peaceful ride. I held on to that TR 7 for about a year.

When I was conceived, God left out mechanics in my cellular makeup. I couldn’t work on my TR 7, nor could a majority of professional mechanics in my area. When I found one who could, some 70 minutes away from my house, he explained the issue with my TR 7. It had two carburetors, not just one. (I’ll pretend you know nothing.) A carburetor is in charge of meshing air flow and fuel together before sending the fuel/air to the pistons. Apparently, the two carburetors had to be in perfect sync with each other to perform their duty. In the case of my TR 7, the two carburetors squabbled like a set of twins on a bad double date. My TR 7 carburetors were way too sensitive during their duet of air/fuel volumes. It was a never-ending battle. My mechanic offered to put a new engine in it. (Ching-Ching) As it turns out, my TR 7 wasn’t racing mustard yellow, it had shades of lemon.

Thanks, TR 7, for teaching me a life-long lesson. Never get caught up in the beauty of something which is sour on the inside. Solomon could’ve taught me that, but I wasn’t reading the Bible deeply enough in those times.

2020 has been an awful year for most of us. I won’t spell out a list, I’m sure you have your own. But, yes, it’s been a lemon of a year in about a dozen ways. One has to wonder how to approach the American Thanksgiving on a good, grateful foot. In fact, because of COVID-19, many of us won’t have the traditional Thanksgiving plans with family and friends. If you do, you feel like you should go wrapped in cellophane with a little tube for eating.

It’s funny how the mind and heart work off each other. Scripture indicates they should sync well together. The spirit and the soul shape and move one another. Like my TR 7, if we jam too much of the world into our eyes and ears, without balancing, even filtering it all out with what the Author Of Peace plans for us, we will slow to a shutdown. How about too much news intake? How about sheltering with holy scriptures while living in a cave like a monk, unaware of how our world is doing down in the valley? I had a well intentioned, good hearted pastor once, who did just that. He shut himself off, cocooned himself in his office so much, surrounding himself with biblical commentaries, that he didn’t notice the hurting people in need who rang the church office doorbell. In fact, come Sunday, this man was almost oblivious to the outside world his parishioners contended with on a day-to-day basis. It didn’t take too many years until his personal ministry dwindled at the intersection of life. Soon after, the church closed its doors. The mix of “teach and reach” was out of sync.

Only you know the mix you inject into your system. Would our outlook be better if we evaluated our blend of “grace and truth”? What about the mixing balance of “strength and wisdom”, “awareness and contentment”, “courage and compassion”? Might our corner of the world light up if a synced mix of “prayer and action” were pumped into our cylinders? I can see where our traction on slippery curves might have a more reliable grip.

For Thanksgiving 2020, I will do my part in taking in a better balance of the stuff of life. We all need the richness of the mix which feeds our spirits, as well as, our souls. If not, we can grind to a lifelessness. Simple things like, a healthy intake of bad news and good news will keep those pistons pumping. In the end, we can find gratitude during tough, hard, and harsh times when our back tires hit the streets.

Come to think of it, maybe my twin carburetors were not the most important accessory. Maybe, just maybe, it was that little mirror on the backside of my sun visor.

As for my beautiful TR 7, another co-worker bought it from me. She had a brother who wanted to put a Volkswagen engine under the hood. From what I can recall, it worked out well.

Today, the auto experts say the old TR 7 is considered one of the worst sports cars ever made. It had problems.

When driving toward eternity, it’s always best to inject the carburetors with fuel for the race.

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” – Deuteronomy 6:5 (KJV)

Table Or Booth?

“…We’ll get a table near the street
In our old familiar place
You and I, face to face.”
(1977) “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” Composer and Recorded By: Billy Joel

When Tabitha, my oldest daughter, landed her very first job, it was at a Perkins Restaurant in Williamsville, New York. All of 16, she was ready to make some part-time cash. I was so proud of her. Holding menus each night in her arms, her first words were, “How many in your party? Table or booth?”

If life’s decisions were just that simple, wouldn’t that be nice?

Table or booth for you? Which way do you go? Better yet, what’s more interesting might be why you choose a table or booth.

From the time I was a toddler, I always preferred a booth. It never changed. One of my favorite places in Dallas, Texas was an Italian eatery called, “Caruso’s”. It was a cozy little place, filled with candlelight. Although it closed down long ago, it was well known for their singing waiters. I auditioned there myself back in those times. Caruso’s was a great place for a day job for opera performers and club singers. There was another thing I loved about the place, their booths with privacy doors. Not every booth was equipped with the saloon-style swinging doors, some were simple stall-style doors, but I always asked for it. My dates considered them wow factors. And if someone wanted to pop the question at Caruso’s over a plate of Chicken Alfredo with a glass of Blue Nun, the booth doors were the romantic choice.

For me, the booth was indeed more private. After all, you had a wall on one side, not another table of onlooker diners. Also, the back of the booth conceals who you are with, what you’re eating, and how you hold your fork and knife. As early as I can remember, I loved sitting next to the wall with another person sitting next to me by the isle. What’s worse, sitting on the stool at the counter. Thinking back, I know why I leaned this way.

One of my favorite diners, Rainbow Cafe, Carrollton, Texas.

If I count the first nine months prior to birth, I spent almost three years experiencing evil. My early days were laced with hearing, seeing, and feeling emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. My teenage father was a rapist, an adulterer, and a violent, mentally ill raging alcoholic. The violence not only targeted my mom, but also toward me in my infancy. His parents warned my mom’s parents that he might try to end my life in the crib. I could tell you much more, but I will leave it at that. By the time the divorce was finalized, I was a three year old, living with my mom’s parents in a peaceful, sheltering home. They always were a haven for this lad.

My beloved grandparents in the 1980’s, Martin and Opal Atherton.

So, whenever we went out for a meal, I felt so secure next to my mom, or my granddad with a wall next to me. My guess is, violence must have erupted a lot around the dinner table in our home. It’s funny how even to this day, deep inside, I want to be next to the wall in a booth.

So, yes, “A booth for two, please.”

My middle daughter’s old band, Dirty Smile.

Earlier in the autumn, September/October, the Jewish community celebrates, “Sukkot”, commonly called, “The Feast of (Huts) Booths”. It is also entitled, “The Feast of Tabernacles”. The festival commemorates the days of protection God gave the Jews in the desert after the historical escape from Egyptian slavery. You might say it’s a bit like a Thanksgiving holiday. It was God’s idea. You can find more about it in Leviticus 23, and a few other passages. One might see it today as camping out. They were to set aside a week to live in small makeshift, temporary three-sided shelters where the family lived, ate, and slept guarded from the brutal desert sun, cold nights, and scorching winds. In modern times, depending on what’s available, many build them in backyards, or apartment patios, or balconies, out of plywood, and/or lattice work, vine branches and/or palm leaves. It became known as a time when God sheltered intimately with the family, as He would “Tabernacle, or hut with them”.

It seems to me, after a long scathing, often times brutal election year, I need God to hut with me. I want to be soothed in my booth, with my body touching the wall while the Ancient Of Days, the One Who is always at the helm, sits next to me. On the other side is the isle of tabled onlookers. Until I’ve left this place to sit at His table, it’s what I need.

So let me say again, “Booth for two, please.”

When searching for a strong, and very permanent shelter, fill-up with fuel for the race.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me.” – Revelation 3:20 (World English Bible)

Why? Here’s Why…

Upon exiting the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

My precious niece, Rachael.

Rachael is a 7 year old doll of a little girl, who also happens to be my niece. We are the best of pals. She is always so kind, along with an all-round simple precious disposition. Her eyes have window dressing laced in wonderment. A few days ago, her parents came home from early voting in the small town in which they live in east Texas. When she asked where they had been, they briefly explained the voting process. Looking puzzled she told her parents she thought voting was where Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden stood at the front of a room while everybody got a good look at them. Then at some point the voter walks up to their chosen candidate, takes their hand and promptly takes him home with them. Oh, sweet Rachael, if it were just that easy.

For my friends outside the U.S.A., this is election week. The word “week” isn’t a mistake. Because millions have cast their votes via mail-in ballots, many votes will be counted as they arrive in the mail after Election day, November 3rd. The splashdown of the results will be drawn-out, and earth-shattering in many ways.

If you know me well, you must know I do not get into politics on this platform, and I won’t start now. However, many do ask why a person votes for he, or she. In this nation, many do not vote at all because they have the freedom to make that choice. It is sad, but true. This year, I find it serves to say just why I vote.

Let me first spew this out. Many false things, hateful things, have been flung on various candidates and the supporters of candidates. Many truths have come out about various candidates which have come into the light. An election year in the modern world obviously is not for the faint of heart. One such splatter comes in the title of “voter suppression” here and there. Does it exist? Sure, in rare cases, suppressing a voter’s right to vote happens, and has happened. Thank God it’s rare, and not widespread. There are terrific checks and balances by election officials to keep this fraud from American citizens. Yet, some make excuses to cause fear and panic. Recently I heard it said, of selective communities, where voter suppression was evident because of lengthy lines at the voting booths. That’s horse slobber! Most voting lines in hotly contested elections are lengthy. When you stand in line at the post office with a package to be mailed two weeks before Christmas, do you call that, “Christmas Suppression”? When you stand in line at Six Flags, or Disneyland for two hours to ride a two minute roller coaster, do you call it, “Rider Suppression”? When you stand in a lengthy line at the DMV or DPS, do you call it, “Driver’s Licences Suppression”? Better yet, While spending the night in a long line to purchase tickets to the next Rolling Stones concert, do you call that, “Stones Suppression”? Sometimes in a heated election year, the whiners squeal like toddlers after a pacifier. It appears there is a suppression of peace and emotional stability.

The fact remains, mail-in ballots, whether we prefer them or not, have forged a noticeable impact this year. Why? They say it’s the fear of COVID-19. Then, there were many days available for early voting at the physical polls. Most of us found an off-hour and day to stand in a shorter line, or sometimes, walk in and out over a 10-15 minute stay. In this country, voting has been made easier than ever before.

So why do I vote?

When I think back to the days, after the Desert Storm War, of the videos of Iraqis standing in huge lines at voting locations, after years of oppression in that country, over threat of suicide bombs, drive-by shooters, and mob violence, I find voting a privilege and sacred honor.

When I think of my granddad standing in a long line to enlist during WWII, leaving his three babies and wife to help to crush the threat against liberty, I find voting lines a welcome sight.

When I think of the oppressed pilgrims who risked their lives fleeing monarchs who made themselves the heads of the church, forcing worshipers to worship as dictated by a king or queen, I find the voting booth a blessed place.

When I think of our forefathers who toiled and fought, were severely injured and died in a war so that slavery might be banished from this nation, I want to run to get in a voting line.

When I think of the father of a friend of mine who fled the poverty and tyrannical oppression in Venezuela, I gladly put on my standing-in-line shoes.

When I think of some of the families of some of my closest friends who crossed the Atlantic due to ethnic cleansing of the Jewish community, I see the voting booth as a horn of an ancient alter, giving legal sanctuary.

When looking at the lootings, the rioters, the mob violence in our streets, where cops stand to shield innocent citizens, the voting booth looks like a place of peace and protection.

When I hear the shallowness of not voting for someone because they don’t like his walk, her make-up, his accent, her hair, without mentioning policies or service records which may, or may not change, or damage our lives, I see the voting lines worthwhile.

When I see flag-draped caskets of the long-forgotten remains of our MIA’s and POW’s from the 1950’s Korean War being unloaded on a tarmac, I know I can, and always will stand in any lengthy line to exercise my God-given right to vote. Those men, and other heroes like them, counted on it.

Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

Yes, our sweet Rachael, you are pretty close to what voting is all about. We DO own our vote. We, in essence, take our candidate home with us in our hearts and prayers. And when events occur where good, or bad decisions are made in Washington, we can say, “I own that decision”.

But most of all, dear Rachael, I vote for your future. I vote for your blessing from God to have the liberty handed down to you, so that long after I am gone, you can vote freely for the next leader of your choice. Mr. Franklin was right. It takes effort, strain, and even pain to keep it.

Whether or not your candidate holds office in this election cycle, knowing how God Himself made a way for this unique gift to be placed in your lap, it is worth it all.

The question remains…”If you can keep it”. The answer is written well in fuel for the race.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17