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A Prince Amongst Savages


pat conte editTen years ago yesterday, a good friend and stand-up guy went home to be with the Lord.

Pat was the AFSCME Union Steward on day shift at the City of Warren’s Wastewater Treatment Facility, often times a thankless job. The guy was humble, quiet, intelligent, and endowed with a pair of union balls most scabs secretly covet.

We became soul brothers during an attempt by an outside company of hired guns to implement “best practices” at the WWTP. Among many “recommendations”, it meant “relaxed” job descriptions and the loss of  overtime required to run and maintain a facility designed to operate on a 24/7 basis. Briliant.  The citizens of Warren won’t restrict the elimination of body waste to just day shift.  As that penny-wise, pound-foolish notion became our reality, two shift supervisors decided they would exploit the new directive on eliminating overtime by grabbing it up for themselves.  Their combined abuse of OT was nothing less than staggering. In no time, they were raking in more than their base salary. When operations & maintenance began to question the fairness of this new “best practice,” upper management  ignored and chose to silver-tongue their subordinates. After a year of this bullshit, some of us met in the locker room one day, deciding our next move. Concluding the only option left was going outside the department, we wrote and distributed a petition everyone signed (except three guys bereft of a spine on the midnight shift) exposing the overtime abuse by two specific shift supervisors who were making more than the mayor.

Pat hand-delivered copies of the petition to every council person. After doing so, He made sure his last stop would be the mayor’s office. It had such an impact, a council vote on the Water Board budget was held up while they researched the  merit and allegations of the petition.

The retaliatory fall-out was immediate and very direct. Because I wrote the petition and Pat delivered it, we were in the cross-hairs of the two supervisors who’d been exposed for their greed, hypocrisy and malfeasance. Neither of us had ever experienced the kind of explosive rage those two guys unleashed.  Looking back, I’ll admit to using some fairly inflammatory language in the petition that was read at a meeting of the Warren City Council and broadcast via cable to residents of the City.

This statement didn’t go over real well.

“While operations & maintenance rank & file bust their asses in their part to facilitate a more efficient workplace for the benefit of taxpayers, two shift supervisors continued engorging themselves like feral swine at the trough of the rate-payers. Their unfettered abuse of overtime is so egregious, every resident should rise up and inundate the Mayor’s Office with calls of protest, demanding these two pigs be stopped in the repugnant swill they revel in”

On the basis of said petition, we were both called into Chief Engineers office the next day and  chastised for lacking “loyalty” and losing the “vision.”  Proper etiquette (never a strong-suit) flew out the window. My immediate response was to inform management to be grateful two of their darlings were exposed. They didn’t quite see it that way.

At any rate, it was  now time to cue up Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns & Money” because the shit had hit the fan.

Dad…get me out of this indeed.

Ponch & Nick went about the business of creating a textbook  hostile work-place. Of the two, Ponch wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Barely functioning on a “challenged” level in an effort to extract a public retraction, he wrote up and/or suspended me a total of 14 times over the next 8 month period. Things got pretty damn intense around the plant as an unholy jihad revved up.  One day, a scream above the roar of machinery could be heard.  “Hurley! Get your miserable ass over here and fill in this big hole now!  A cursory examination of the task at hand  revealed a broken 4″ PVC Line in the deepest part of the excavation.  After preparing for the arduous task at hand, I called my steward to inquiring about being been taken off of operating equipment to do a maintenance gig.  At the job site. Pat smiled and observed;

“Hey Tim…does that line look repaired to you?”

Again, Pat smiled and said with a wink;

“Use your best judgment”

After filling in the hole with cement over the broken line, the plant email internet went crazy with messages flying around questioning Ponch’s sanity.  He arrived back at the job site just as the last shovel full of dirt was tossed awaiting maintenance to cement it over. Bloviating about my judgement, we feared for his health. When stopping to catch his breath,  my response was measured and calm while feigning ignorance, while underscoring the importance of following orders.

Stuff like that went on for quite some time. His frustration and rage only grew in his effort to retaliate. He never really made any progress as Pat, and I continued to take the brunt of his futile assaults.

Patrick was The Rock to lean on and would always  would say;

“Don’t give him any bullets to shoot you with. Never be insubordinate, do what he tells you, ‘cuz  I got your back brother Hurley.”

True to his word, Pat beat, reversed and over-turned all 14 of the write-ups and suspensions.

Some of you anti-union folks out there might sing a different tune if you worked for those two geniuses. Terms like Maximized Efficiency; Downsizing; Multi-Tasking and Flexibility became plant buzzwords on cultish emails emanating like sludge from management. We knew they were trite euphemisms for getting rid of employees.

Truth be told, Budgets were tight everywhere. The Plant had to adapt to changing times. The only problem with the kind of “progress” they were selling (at an exorbitant rate) was this: Over the next few years, management began replacing senior $31.00/hr state-certified professionals with $10.00 grunts.  That was our  reward for loyalty and trust. Guess who never went with the program? Nick & Ponch. As operations and maintenance became flexible with job descriptions (ostensibly to save jobs), those two did everything to sabotage anything they perceived to threaten their rather opulent existence.

Their attacks drew Pat and I into a very tight friendship. In fact, we became “blood brothers in a stormy night with a vow to defend…no retreat baby, no surrender.” As the hostility morphed into  personal threats, conflicting work-orders, assignment of the dirtiest jobs and so forth, their deleterious effect on the operation of the plant became obvious.

For instance, one day, Ponch ordered us to abandon the operation of the plant to weed-whack a hill of grass in 98 degree heat.

After a year of this crap, I was getting pretty pissed. However, Pat always kept his cool and never would give management the pleasure of blowing his lid, er…hard-hat.  The issuance of AVOs (Avoid Verbal Orders) job assignments only applied to us.

So there we stood in the blazing heat with two gas-powered, industrial weed whackers strapped on our backs like rented mules. As sweat poured down our mugs like a leaky effluent discharge line, Pat calmly adopted his inimitable, shit-eating, handsome Italian smile while reading the AVO and said;

“Hey Tim…listen up. This work assignment doesn’t specify how high or low to cut the grass, so just use your best judgement. Amen?”

In the twinkling of an eye, great joy replaced the tension & anxiety as grace replaced a desire to mace Ponch’s face. Firing  up the weed-whackers, our laughing could be heard above the roar of the machines. It took all shift, but we did manage to butcher the hell out of that hill of grass. Two brother operators in a maniacal state had lots of fun decimating the big hill of grass to a state it would take a year to recover from.

The hill  was the first thing visitors saw when driving onto plant grounds. Management didn’t think it was so great. Upon inspection at the end of our shift, Ponch was livid. Pat calmly informed him it would be in his best interest to act in a more professional manner, or we’d be filing a grievance against him. As he sputtered in frustration, Pat waited patiently for his wrath to wear out and with perfect timing, asked him about the wisdom of abandoning the jobs we were hired to do.

“Why sacrifice the operation of the plant? So you could get your little rocks off retaliating because of the petition?  What you’re doing is illegal, but you’re too blinded by an exaggerated sense of importance to see it. O’ by the way, we had a lots of fun manicuring that hill while getting in a work-out.  In fact, we’d respectfully request weed whacking every blade of grass for the rest of the summer, providing you approve the overtime.”

Pat just stood there and smiled, while Ponch looked like he might cry. In the end, there wasn’t a thing he could do.

Though quite the passionate man, Pat knew to hold back until alone without witnesses to really lay into those pricks. He taught me about grace under pressure. He also did his job without the backing the AFSCME hierarchy, including the local president who was a buddy of Ponch. That meant Pat took shots from all directions with both barrels, but NEVER flinched. The irony was he wasn’t a troublemaker and never instigated a thing. Pat had a heart for the underdog. He’d think and pray about a matter and then proceed with a response while avoiding ill-conceived reactions. He had a particular distaste for any kind of bully.

Today, ten years later, I miss my friend and brother. He was a guy who understood how a work-place should function and fought hard for everyone he represented. But it went way beyond that with Pat. He was a man who walked out the courage of his convictions with an ability to see the Big Picture. He thought ahead and played those two fools the chess-game of their lives. His Cheshire Cat smile was something that never failed to lift our spirits. He was a steward’s steward.

Guys like Pat come into our orbit, but a few times in life.

Many lives were blessed & enriched by our having crossed paths with Patrick.

Speak to me
Speak to me heart
I feel a needing
to bridge the clouds
Softly go
A way I wish to know
A way I wish to know

Oh you’ll ride
Surely dance
In a ring
Backwards and forwards
Those who seek
feel the glow
A glow we will all know
A glow we will all know

On that day
Filled with grace
And the heart’s communion
Steps we take
Steps we trace
Into the light of reunion

Paths that cross
will cross again
Paths that cross
will cross again

Speak to me
Speak to me shadow
I spin from the wheel
nothing at all
Save the need
the need to weave
A silk of souls
that whisper whisper
A silk of souls
that whispers to me

Speak to me heart
all things renew
hearts will mend
round the bend
Paths that cross
cross again
Paths that cross
will cross again

Rise up hold the reins
We’ll meet again I don’t know when
Hold tight bye bye
Paths that cross
will cross again
Paths that cross
Will cross again

RIP brother Pat.

I’ll see you further on up the road in our Father’s house

Waiting On A Friend


“The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you see one more card.  You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, The waiting is the hardest part”

Thomas Petty & his Heartbreaking band of soul brother minstrels

I tried to capture Kevin’s heart in this video so the reader could experience what a precious man he is.

The clock ticks slowly when in prison.  The clock seems to tick even slower while waiting on God to divinely intercede for a friend or family member.

Aside from fervent prayer, this seemed like a good time to get my blog on.

Rising from a 14 hour sleep, physically & emotionally drained, the clock indeed is ticking slowly @ 1:53am, July 31, 2013, in the year of our Lord.  Some have said fear is the opposite of faith.  I’m not sure there’s any specific Scriptural basis for that statement. While Kevin waits for a life-changing operation in Beaumont Hospital’s ICU, this is one guy waiting with bated breath.  C’mon gang!  Let’s keep it real.  Anyone blessed to have been drawn into Kevin’s love orbit must be experiencing some modicum of fear & trepidation right now.  It seems fairly inhuman to think one could be a spiritual paragon of strength, immune from the adversity of a loved one battling for their life.   I’m not really in the mood for some hyper-faith, charismaniac to tell me anything different right now.  If that’s your opinion, please keep it to yourself and get in touch with your detached soul.

The kid is a real fighter with more balls, class & Irish chutzpah than most men will ever know.  He’s loved by many because (in part) he lives a life free from guile with an infectious smile.  No matter the situation, Kevin has never been known to whine like a little bitch.

timmy & KevBorn the sixth of seven Hurley kids, life has not been easy for Kev.  At three years old, he was struck and nearly killed by a car in front of the Hurley Compound at 29404 Mark Blvd. in Madison Heights Michigan.  Tonight, vivid memories of squealing rubber, followed by a few seconds of uncertainty, flood the synaptic gaps in what is left of a brain.  Dad instinctively rushed out to his young son prostrated motionless on the pavement.  More than a few teeth were knocked out from the impact of metal on flesh as Kevin was slammed to the street. With every protective & paternalistic molecule rising up, Dad reflexively knelt down to grab Kevin in a bear-like hug while screaming; “My baby! Oh God! My baby!”  Fortunately, another neighborhood father (maybe it was Mr. Moy) stopped Dad and told him not to move Kevin because of the further harm it might cause.  Howard restrained Dad and said; “See Tom? He’s starting to cry. Wait for the ambulance.” 

Though touch & go at first, Kevin did recover. However, it wasn’t an easy process.  He had to wear a brace for a long time, kids in school called him “Gimp”  How uncool is that?  Not exactly an esteem builder.  Nonetheless, Kev never lost his smile.  A beautiful smile that would grow to enchant a bevy of babes over a lifetime of mix-tapes to woo them, was a source of brotherly jealousy…in a good way.

The girls just love Kevin

lilo kevAs a young guy with more than his fair share of maniacal big brothers, Kevin’s energy and approach to life has always been  infectious.  He’s never been one to enable the “Debbie Downers” of the world.  There’s no room for that in his world.  He loves to dance, so either get with the program, or get off the dance floor.

kev kickin em outLike many of you reading this and other members of our family, Kev has had his share of battles.  Never one to quit or punk-out, he’s clawed and scratched his way to personal freedom while treating every day as a miraculous gift.

He remains The Favorite Uncle to a plethora of nieces & nephews.

kev and nephsAnyone blessed to have crossed paths with Kevin became better people for it. His ability to connect on a soul level is the stuff of legends…right up there with brother Joe.  No, I’m not putting my brothers on any kind of pedestal.  With a core of Christ, that kind of love effluent is a natural expression of grace.

Kevin's love

On that note, please believe with the Hurley Family for his full and complete recovery. Our God is an awesome God who reigns high and above any illness or disease.  Father is all about solution & resolution, as opposed to living in the problem.  Yeah…I’m down with the 11th Step.  It  suggests we pray for the knowledge of God’s will in matters like this and His power to carry it out with enough grace to accept whatever goes down.

I’m quite certain the love of God trumps any human weakness or propensity to invoke our will when it comes to someone we love.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.  Please forgive this brother where words have failed.  At only 913 words, an effort is being made by economizing the King’s language to say more with less.  More than a few of you just shouted “Hallelujah!”

To all his friends & road dawgs…thanks so much for being in Kevin’s life as you continue to intercede and stand in the gap for his restoration to health. May our prayers for Kev be that he continues on a path of grace to comfort others with the comfort he’s received.

May God bless your hearts.

EPILOGUE

Kevin received a liver transplant on August 7, 2013 

By the grace of God, He’s expected to make a full recovery

A Prince Amongst Savages


HURLCO:

There’s always some day after editing. Grrr
Plus, a new story about Pat has been added. Enjoy and Pass It On. Thanks for reading this.

Originally posted on HURLCO:

pat conte editTen years ago yesterday, a good friend and stand-up guy went home to be with the Lord.

Pat was the AFSCME Union Steward on day shift at the City of Warren’s Wastewater Treatment Facility, often times a thankless job. The guy was humble, quiet, intelligent, and endowed with a pair of union balls most scabs secretly covet.

We became soul brothers during an attempt by an outside company of hired guns to implement “best practices” at the WWTP. Among many “recommendations”, it meant “relaxed” job descriptions and the loss of  overtime required to run and maintain a facility designed to operate on a 24/7 basis. Briliant.  The citizens of Warren won’t restrict the elimination of body waste to just day shift.  As that penny-wise, pound-foolish notion became our reality, two shift supervisors decided they would exploit the new directive on eliminating overtime by grabbing it up for themselves.  Their…

View original 1,782 more words

One Year Later…After The Deluge


HURLCO:

After a little editing….this one better describes Bill.
Enjoy and feel free to share your thoughts of him in the “comments” section. God bless your hearts.

Originally posted on HURLCO:


RIP Billy

With swirling cold winds of an autumn night blowing leaves from the trees, failing to impact the warmth in my soul one enjoys in the afterglow of  genuine fellowship, a satiated sense of accomplishment engendered gratitude.  Leaving the Monday Night Alcoholics for Christ meeting in Ferndale Michigan one year ago…that had been a good one.  Any meeting where men and women are honest and transparent constitutes lining up with the intended spirit Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob had in mind when giving birth to The Fellowship.  The literature, coffee, key-tags, cookies, steps, principles and music are all important parts of the engine.  God provides the gas to make it run and arrive at the intended destination.

Bill taught me that.

So…the only thing missing from that particular meeting one year ago tonight, was Bill Keaton, my sponsor of 32 years.  Having just moved out of the Bloomfield Hills shithole masquerading…

View original 894 more words

One Year Later…After The Deluge



RIP Billy

With swirling cold winds of an autumn night blowing leaves from the trees, failing to impact the warmth in my soul one enjoys in the afterglow of  genuine fellowship, a satiated sense of accomplishment engendered gratitude.  Leaving the Monday Night Alcoholics for Christ meeting in Ferndale Michigan one year ago…that had been a good one.  Any meeting where men and women are honest and transparent constitutes lining up with the intended spirit Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob had in mind when giving birth to The Fellowship.  The literature, coffee, key-tags, cookies, steps, principles and music are all important parts of the engine.  God provides the gas to make it run and arrive at the intended destination.

Bill taught me that.

So…the only thing missing from that particular meeting one year ago tonight, was Bill Keaton, my sponsor of 32 years.  Having just moved out of the Bloomfield Hills shithole masquerading as some form of “assisted living” quarters he’d been sent to, the Keaton Girls worked very hard to find a better place for their poppa.  Successful in their mission, Bill was the very first resident in a brand new facility, north of Clarkston.  The staff there lavished Billy with a tsunami of attention.  He lapped it up like a big kitty at the water bowl…while connecting with each employee in his inimitable way.  They adored the guy, catering to his every whim…especially multiple glasses of orange juice and specific instructions on how to make his hot chocolate.  “Make sure it’s in a good mug with a saucer and napkin…whipped cream on top and then drip some Hershey’s Syrup over it as the last touch of flourish bahrutha. Praise God!’” 

Warm thoughts of that ilk filled my head while warming the car up in the circular drive outside the AC Meeting.  Warm is good. Another kind of warmth ensued as I lit up an anointed Marlboro that my fellow disciples approve of.  Inhaling deeply for a rush of nicotine, the phone suddenly rang, rousing me to attention.   Bill’s oldest daughter was on the other end.  She was crying and clearly despondent as she told me Bill had just died.

The kind of; “This is bullshit God!  You just opened the doors to a new place….shit, he’s only been there a few days…he was happy…eating well…smiling…at peace with a ton of joy…what the hell are you doing Dad?”denial slammed my heart as I struggled for composure in the car.  Karen asked if I could shoot north on I-75 to hook up with her sister Pam for support and whatever needed to be done.  Looking back, breaking every speed limit known to man seems kinda’ silly…but that’s just what I did.  Arriving at the facility, memories of my friend swirled around like the flow of the Manistee River.  Seeing him lying lifeless in his room seemed surrealistic.  He had such a great sense of humor, an infectious laugh, and a lust for life.

Bill

The director of the facility met me just prior to entering his room.  Called in from home, she had obviously started in a bottle of wine to wind down her evening.  I didn’t care.  At that point in time, nothing else mattered.  Bill had gone home, but the reality of that fact had not yet registered.  As we talked in Billy’s room where the EMS Crew was busy doing what they do, one of his nurses came in to give a tear-soaked hug.  Blurting out how she had found Bill un-responsive…

“I did everything possible to revive him Mr. Hurley!”

“Well it’s a good thing you weren’t successful”

“Why?”

“Because Bill was more than ready to go home.  Had you been successful in reviving him, I assure you that he would not be a happy camper.  You did OK.  In his short time here, Bill made an impact and you fine folks took real good care of my friend and I thank you for that.”

Through a tear-streaked countenance, she seemed to get it.

The rest of the night (for that matter…the majority of this year) was a roller-coaster ride of emotional ups and downs.  God was/is big enough to handle my petulant rant of spiritual immaturity.  Back at the crib, I spent some time looking through old emails and pictures.  I found one that embodies the kind of relationship we had and how we communicated.  Responding to news of an impending move from Holland to Oakland County, Bill wrote this back in 2007;

Good Morning Brother!

 What an exciting (and scary) time this has got to be for you.  It’s almost like being pushed out of the nest.  But one thing we know is that Father loves you with an everlasting love and He didn’t bring you out this far to let you go back again.  Read the RED BOOK this morning if you haven’t already, It sure is a word for today .  Everybody down in this neck of the woods will be praying for you and your family that this will be a time of continued healing, not only for you, but for the whole Hurley tribe. 

 Let me know when you get a phone because writing is your thing, but as you know it’s not mine.  I love you brother, you are in my heart!

 GOD BLESS YOUR HEART

 Bill

bill & tim fuzzy

Gosh…I miss him so.  To not get an email or pick up the phone sucks.  I’d give anything to be interrupted right now at 2:06AM with a call from Billy because he couldn’t get his remote control to work.  O’ Lord, forgive the times when patience was stretched thin.  Thank you for  the moment shared…captured in this picture.  This was the last photo of us.  One of the nurses shot it at just the right time.  Bill had asked me to break out the Taylor and sing a few tunes.  We had segued into a Keith Green song’ “O’ Lord Your Beautiful” when this was snapped.

O’ Lord Your Beautiful

Playing for Bill

God bless your hearts. Be kind and gentle with each other.  Our time here together is but a nanosecond in eternity.

Burial Blanket

The ensuing year since Bill died has been the best and worst of times.

Sometimes I feel like a rudderless ship without my brother and it hurts like a mofo.

Like tonight…..

Kevin


Kevin

This pic pretty much captures everything about brother Kev at the top of his game.

PLACE OF THE SKULL


crucifixion_of_jesus_christ_with_dramatic_sky_and_lightning-1024x768

at the end of this day
established a pact 
made for all nations

changed the fact
how grace and salvation
made possible with pain

the Lamb’s shed blood
poured and rained
down that hill of mud

gave all He had
on Golgotha’s hill
the place of the skull

that we could soar
empty lives made full
cries & roar

just a few years back
locked in a cage
choking on rage

today a visit
a bro in a hospital bed
neither one dead

playing guitar for the King
mixing sound…singing
liberation ringing

at the Vineyard tonight
everything’s alright
thank you Jesus

for dying on that rock
opening the lock
silencing our wail

renting the veil
all doubt diminished
gasping…”it is finished”

t. hurley 2013

 

friday

t. hurley 2013

PEARLS OF EARL


a warm greeting…our first meeting

the pearl bore witnessa man polished & stoned

sautéed & seasoned…no longer free

bereft of all reason…locked on tier three

in the jackson cage

gallery three

flopping like a fish…on a dry river bank

a desperate wish…earl took pity

a place so oppressive…mayor of jack-town city

unlikely neighbors…earl “the pearl” cross

dug this sailor…the cross a rock-boss

no, more like a tailor…sewing up failures

in a small, safe ‘hood…where no one dared

to cross Cross…or mess with hurls

earl looked out…when good lookin’ was needed

down twenty-five to life…after reluctantly pleading

called out for his wife…coming home early

it was way too much…drove pearl squirrely

some punk biblically knowing…everything showing

the bride of his youth…in their wedding bed

earl whipped out a heater….shot him in his ass

he didn’t beat her…gave her a pass

rage exploding…wrong or right

snuffed out a life…leaving behind

two wounded sons…and a horny wife

the hurls could relate

we had that in common…surviving as clowns

for a life mostly down…devoid of dignity

no freedom or semblance…of any respect

a fight for survival…he knew the drill

taught by earl with style…put the “ch” in chill

i was pearl’s nigga’…his words not mines

so try to relax…with your PC crimes

that never can see…past the nose of your face

or a condescending finger…that has no place

devoid of grace…in the jackson cage

Praying Knees

under his wing…with much love & respect

ain’t no thang…but a chicken wang

black & white no barrier…what a team we made

we banged hard…confounding the guards

earl would smile and say

fuck those bitches today”

riffing off…my twelve steppin’ ways

earl got high…it made no sense

iron sharpening iron…cutting down a fence

that otherwise kept…two men from knowing

how precious it is…when brethren dwell together

in unity

meetings a source of force…earl had no time for

as a matter of course…would gladly trade

a carton of squares….for a tab of morphine

offering pills of nirvana

In the jackson cage

laughing so hard…gosh was he funny

earl schemed hard….playing a card

a 40 gallon rubber can…gettin’ over on the man

cooking in his cell…belching putrid smells

defiant when busted…sent to the hole

for a 90 day season…released but not trusted

for very good reason

pruno1

did it again…second time’s a charm

mason jars filled with scars

souls laid bare…8 ounce drinks

for a pack of squares…to stop the thinks

and ease the pain…that living brings

while grace was present…for hurls to refrain

saving the brain…it sure was tempting

every cell screaming…for chemical salvation

saturday night dreamin’…cell-block one north

on gallery three…in the jackson cage

earl ran numbers…the hurls would type

way before learning…rejecting all hype

big-time burning…by a major ticket

had to quit it

resignation tendered…for services rendered

pearl just smiled…in a place so vile

invoking yellow bile…toxic shame and remorse

stacked in piles…against cold tiles

where all we could do…at the end of a day

finding solace in the word…on knees we prayed

tough guys calling…that’s how we rolled

God funneled grace…to the face of our souls

on cold cement bawling…we cried for a touch

from the king of kings…in that jackson cage

Prisoner_Praying_shadows

heard earl scream once…a letter from home

hit like a punch…a black face drenched

tears of remorse…for sons never seen

dad’s tortured soul…contenders now pretenders

on the brink of abyss…smelling like piss

this ain’t no way to live! your boys need you! get out and stay out!”

more to give…word on that one

took up earl…a cage is no fun

grabbing bars

a promise kept…fifteen years

then sobriety lost priority

tsunamis of addiction…building off coast

smashing the shores…the weight of sin

on those who love most…did it again

during the hit…of a second bit

earl wouldn’t be pleased…thought of him often

he once was my POTUS…found out through OTIS

life came to an end…in the jackson cage

a crushed heart in pieces…hep c releases

to life eternal…no burning infernal

he was my brother…with more faith, balls & class

than most guys I’ve known…in any church service or mass

a visual remains…a big drum of spud

like a bear with her cubs…protecting the suds

from scandalous buds…gurgling crud

to break chains and annihilate brains

with societal misdeeds…in spite of the losses

earl lived by a creed…old-school to most

with a faith so deep…it could keep

spirits revived…souls psychedelisized

pearl oft would say…as a greeting of sorts

Youse a crazy muthafucka hurls

well, for my two cents…earl was a saint

most wouldn’t dissent…meeting this guy

the epitome’ of sorry…on a god awful safari

earl’s pot calling

this white boy black

once prostrated on altars

of smack, jack & crack

stopped from free-falling

sprung from unholy hells

it hardly seems true

these skies of blue

but I’ll take it

 any day

 over being locked up

in rooms with chipped paint

staying busy with brooms

we made it through

human auctions of flesh

redeemed from death

turning back no option

by God’s love & grace

takes every breath

to avoid anything like

the jackson cage

rip my brother

ART OF KISS


As hard as Apple i-everythings want us to believe otherwise, there’s no digital substitute for the charge that came from passing a note.

old-school texting

On that score, society is bored and desperate for a counterfeit. 

Old school flirting & texting had a much higher heat index.

I’ll never forget Sr. Josephine busting me in 8th grade passing a rather randy for-the-time note to a girl. She’d (not Sr. Josephinebeen  in the cross-hairs of my virgin, libidinous, adolescent love-radar all year. So nervous as to actually do anything about it, she lived only in the guilty-pleasure recesses of an altar boy brain formed in molds of shame and guilt.

After a recess game of dodge-ball on a warm spring day in 1968, I finally took a shot. 

Still learning about predicate adjectives modifying the noun subject, so please bear with me.

Where was I? O’ yeah…girls.

Catholic grrls have their own style and method. She (who shall remain unnamed) blushed and smiled demurely when handing her the note. Unceremonially busted by the evil nun in a quest to connect was no cause to abort the mission at hand. Chivalrous points were scored by not outing her as the recipient. Today, chivalry is not dead…only smothered by the oppressive Antichrist of political correctness. 

It was well worth falling on the sword. Two months later, the maiden of my affections reciprocated. She stalked me in the hallway with brown squares to line up on. With perfect timing, she pounced like a female leopard, and pushed me into the open locker in the hallway.  Being pinned in the locker for a kiss on the last day of school made it worth the first felonious charge of being  busted for passing a desperate note of longing.

kiss 4 editHer furtive kiss shocked my young eighth-grade sense of propriety inflicted by frustrated nuns.  Holy Guacamole Batman. That kiss provided a serious charge shooting from the soles of my feet through the top of an Irish melon that’s never forgotten it.

Her sweet, not-so-innocent kiss fired every brain synapse in a fractal cacophony of impact. As she withdrew from the strike and smiled, I could only slump in that locker and drool. With knees of jello later bent in a prayer of gratitude, it was a holy event.

Fractal_Brain

She went on to Bishop Foley while I went on to moral bankruptcy and debauchery in the public system of More Fun. Truth be told, those Foley Girls could party like rock stars. 

But I digress…again 

Today, the PC Police might call that 45-year-old memory a source of trauma. Imagine being harassed, bullied & man-handled into a dark locker for a kiss. 
The horror, the horror…not. It was righteous, real and fun. Can’t do that with a smart phone. 

Seeing her happily married at the last Bishop Foley reunion, nothing needed to be said. For a millisecond with eyes locked, we smiled and connected. She may have even blushed.

Either that, or Hurley is just getting delusional in his old age. 

The art of kissing ought not ever diminish, fade or become boring. I was forty years old before learning how a well placed kiss and lip-lock of connection beats getting laid any day of the week.
The wisdom of that concept gets better with age.

old-school kiss

The options some fall for aren’t worth even considering.

Porn sucks. Being a promiscuous idiot is even worse.

Flirting is fun. If it leads to a kiss or brush of the tongue, that’s cool too.

Now either go rip-off your partner or take a cold shower.

GRACE LIKE RAIN


The Greek word for Grace is “charis” and is used about 150 times in the New Testament of the Bible. The word refers to favor that God gives freely without expecting something in return. God provides his grace to us not because of anything we have done to earn it and not because of anything God desires to get from us. In fact, grace is dispensed in spite of the low-life scumbags we can be. God’s grace is free of charge…but it ain’t cheap.

The apostle Paul referred to the gospel of grace as a “mystery.” The inability to wrap our puny minds around something as awesome as grace doesn’t negate its profound reality. Like Paul, I sure don’t get it, but recognize grace when it presents itself.

Here’s an example.

An old friend called me fourteen months ago. Knowing I was struggling to get back on my feet after a sabbatical with the Michigan Department of Corrections, he wanted to help. He also sensed some kind of value in my writing and encouraged it. Without having to ask, this brother provided a flight to Florida to gift me with a 1997 Honda Accord and drive it back. He paid for everything, even the gas for the return trip. No strings attached. The only caveat was a commitment he wanted to pursue writing.

That’s a pretty good deal. We’re not talking the prison kind of Ramen Noodle grace. This was Radical Grace.

97 honda

The Honda has faithfully served this Irishman. I knew when receiving the car that it wasn’t just about my needs. Bill Keaton who was a brother, mentor and sponsor, spent the last year of his life rollin’ all over southeast Michigan in the Accord. It was an honor and privilege to be his chauffeur.  Now at 234,894 miles, my brother Joe would have quipped, “Hey! It’s just breaking in.” Alas, the reality is El’ Hondel started running a little rough.

Hoping to get by with a tune-up and the elimination of a “small leak” coming from “somewhere” (my words), I took the trusty Accord to a shop in Berkeley, Michigan my sister had recommended. The mechanic tried to break the news gently. Discerning he was a pro, Nick called me into the service bay to watch as he performed electronic diagnostic testing. Codes began flashing and numbers started jumping like my poor car was on meth. It wasn’t good. Then hoisting the car up on the lift, he grabbed a flashlight and invited me to join in for a further inspection.

The “small leaks” turned out to be rivers of un-living waters. An Unholy Mix of coolant, oil, power steering fluid and sludge coated the under-carriage of the motor compartment. At this point, I wasn’t exactly over-flowing with the joy of Jesus. The $1,100.00 estimate for a new distributor, crankshaft sensor, timing belt, water pump, axle boot, head gasket and a few other items did nothing to warm this soul on a cold Michigan morning.

After meditating on the situation, it became clear that getting a comparable runner for the cost of repairs would have been an exercise in futility. I told Nick to pull the trigger. Living in the “D”, you gots to have wheels.

That’s not the real point of this blog. We all go through this stuff. It’s called life on life’s terms. No biggie. In twelve step programs we call these “gold-plated problems” because we could be dead. Amen?

The higher struggle was this.

How could I afford the repairs, rent, bills and tithe at the same time? Having my butt planted at the Renaissance Vineyard Church in Ferndale, Michigan since being released from the Jackson Cage has been an awesome experience. They opened their doors and hearts to provide this prodigal with a place of restoration.  Now slammed with a demonic bill, what was a disciple to do? Because my faith & trust are still in the developmental stages, a short period of vacillation ensued.  After ten minutes of worthless bartering, the next right thing became clear as crystal . Tithing when everything is going great with money in the bank is one thing. To stop when things get tight is kinda’ lame. In spite of the present financial crisis, I’d feel like a punk for folding under pressure. We’re not called to give a tenth so we can barter with God or get something in return  It’s not about that. Father wants to know if we’re gonna’ be faithful stewards of the stuff  He’s provided. As I hit the “enter” button to tithe through PayPal, a sense of obedient joy supplanted anxious thoughts of the present moment. In fact, I started chuckling at the thought of how easily I can resort to being a dick. Then I started laughing at the thought of Jesus laughing with me. It made no sense, but it was sovereign and cool.

Within 24 hours, provision for paying for the car repair came from a couple moved by grace.

Tickets for a Chris Tomlin concert this month that came right after, serve as icing on the cake. Please hear my heart on this kids. I’m no spiritual giant. In fact, I really didn’t want to bake that cake. God knows the desires of our heart and will move heaven & earth to drive home lessons we resist.

Tomlin Toledo Tickets

None of this is written as any kind of boast.  There have been countless financial crisis’ where I blew off tithing in lieu of trying to figure things out on my own.  I’m ashamed to admit being such a petty jerk. At the end of the month, it never worked. Not once did I get ahead of the game by being a putz. When withholding from Father, I’m basically telling God with my actions;

“I don’t trust you.”

My sense is God doesn’t give one hoot about our money. He’s not bankrupt. He wants our abandoned trust. He knows how selfish I can be and only uses bucks to further His Kingdom. The choice is clear. Either we can remain bankrupt souls, enslaved to a world economy going south, or we can strap on a pair and trust God. Dad never gives up on His kids.

Just For Today, I thank God for his patient chastening, His long-suffering love & radical grace.

Mad props to Mat for the ride. Know that I’m writing up a storm my brother.

A very special thanks to Jeff & Karen. You guys are the bomb.

The Tomlin gig in Toledo is gonna’ be dope.

Check this out.

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