Who’s On First?

It started for real in Grade school. Loring In North Minneapolis. Nice neighborhood, now infested with the North Side Banger Boyz and their opponents, The Dowling DMZ’s A nicer group of fentanyl dealers that just want to protect their neighborhood. Counselors are always telling us to set boundaries, Dowling Avenue is one of them. There are several other roads and boulevards,but that one separates the two social clubs.

They all have user friendly 9mm semi automatic pistols and when sales are good, they even give each other boxes of target loads. A deterrent for bad business practices. The hollow points usually kill. The target loads are a more ‘forgiving’ round for a reminder to wind up at North Memorial. Don’t even think about walking around in Camden. You might wind up in the nearby Mississippi. Little Chicago. The Themadons are far away on Lake st.

So when Norm was living there, he began the isolation and rejection cycle. Loneliness. Playing in the forbidden bedroom with his sisters piano at lunchtime. It calmed and reassured him. Beatings, violence, sexual abuse, Norm’s precious cat killed for convenience by Grandpa. rejection of every kind. Norm figured it was the same for everyone (closer than we think) He has cataloged all the trauma in other columns, it’s actually boring and embarrassing to bring them up. You know the feeling. Turning away in your mind and believing you are damaged goods. There isn’t any insurance form to fill out for a refund either. However, sometimes his mind pays a visit. Prisoners appreciate those things.

Norm usually expects rejection. From everyone. (Lately it really hit close to home.) As you may surmise from the photo above, Norm played fiddle for a living. This photo was taken at Duluth for a fiddle contest decades ago. Look at the station wagon on the right. It’s a collector car now. Sort of. Charlie Jirousek is facing us. 12 string guitar player extaordinare. Long gone in Safety Harbor, Florida. Norm prays that is indeed where he is now. Safe and secure at fleet landing with the Lord there, arms wide open for his troubadour.

Norm was in bar bands, fiddle contest judging, square dance bands and as a folk singer traveling the east coast playing guitar. The music given by the Lord to him is strong and he still hears a tune and can hear it, audibly, three times after it has been played. His son’s alarm clock tune or the washer/dryer tunes stick that way too.

Always, always the applause excited Norm and filled that big track hoe hole in his spirit. For a while. He grew to expect the anti-trauma quietness and fulfilling peace in music. He also had a brief addiction to Heroin that sort of did the same thing. Another God story. A real bad substitute for trauma. It seems not to last and the need increases.

Lately Norm had been playing in a church band a few times now and then and worship holds a place all of it’s own in his repertoire. Fiddle, mandolin and guitar with vocals if needed. It was pretty good at filling that rejection hole. The best kind of ‘clean fill’ you can get. Within the last year the gigs became few and far between. An occasional men’s retreat or a worship set. Playing along with an Ihop ‘modeled’ set for two hours and allowing sung prayers to come forth works well. Prayer room stuff.

All of it has come to a halt. All the fancy equipment sits in their cases, unused. Norm has lost one of his last refuges of comfort and assuaging that rejection wound. Now the wound is bleeding and even his family has not asked Norm to play with them in worship. Trauma again. Loss of worth wounds, again.

The usual pity party to go along with it gives Norm isolation vibes for everyone. No one asks him to play with them which he has been doing for over 70 years. Too old? Overplaying? Who knows. Maybe just the hunger displayed again. Pick me please, Oh Pick me, I’ll be good and even practice at home! Pick me Pick me. The wounded cry of the steam locomotive of Norm’s childhood. I have mentioned. the Long drawn out last sound. He can still hear it 70 years later. Lonely at the distant crossing as he lay in bed with the window cracked open a bit. Music of sorrow. Two longs, one short and a long again, held and released slowly. Steam engine sounds Lonely.

Norm’s old bar band was eager to have him ‘sit in’ this week and we are thanking providence that it didn’t happen. The family could use the money if he was hired though. Jazz with trumpet, guitar and bass. Fun but not worship. Nothing wrong with fun coupled with music, but it tends to bring out applause which feeds Norm’s ego and sense of worth. How do you shout out JESUS in a chorus of ‘lady be good’? Boldly I suppose..?

The other day there appeared a way out of the sadness! Norm decided to put away those precious instruments and not look for anyone to ask him to play them. Not even his wife. It took away the anxiety and fear right away.

There is no word from the Lord about playing again either. Possibly when the addiction is gone? He can still play at home to the music he enjoys on the internet. Alone. Better than an old bandbox jukebox box for sure. It’s like being back in his sister’s room, all alone, and playing his heart out and cleaning the tears off of the keys before going back to elementary school. It will work for an unknown period of time. It’s worship. The Lord hears it all.

Jesus will let him know when it’s time to come out of isolation and just be available. Right now it feels good and right to dump the hunger for that first baseman’s position on the ‘play’ ground.

Jack Gator.

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