He ain’t heavy. He’s my huevo.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side before the egg.

I might have gained a pound or two today but I made up for it in all the gravitas I lost talking to people.

Slightly more than a year before my friend Waldo died of cancer he had abruptly quit teaching high school. It was kind of strange. I don’t know whether it was a premonition of sorts or just somewhat of a mid-life crisis. He didn’t fly the traditional path through life so it can be kind of a poor description to say the man had a mid-life crisis. Given the fact his life ended a year later also kind of shoots that interpretation all to hell. Sorry. If I sound flippant it is because I feel that Waldo’s other close friends, myself certainly included, had a right to take some kind of light from what was definitely a dark time.

I think I only had a pager back then, this being the fall of 1997, and I received a page to call Waldo. I drove down to the Middle Eastern grocery on Seventh and Louisiana, and called him collect. What a concept all that is today. I should have taken a photo of that store with my camera phone for this post. The fall semester of school had just begun it  seemed like several weeks to maybe a month before, thus I was a little taken aback when he told me he had quit teaching or was about to do so.

Of course, the first question I asked was: “What’re you going to do?”

“Well,” he said, in his slow, deliberate East Texas drawl, “I don’t know if I’m going to get a Ph.D. or go coon hunting”

The fact that he was more than capable of doing both but didn’t get to do either, nor did he have time for either, is kind of what makes a story like this pretty much suck. I did have a strange encounter with a coon late one night while by myself at Camp Waldo. He was undergoing chemotherapy and wasn’t even up for a drive out from Jacksonville to Maydelle where his camp of some 200 acres was located.

I had cooked an old country-style Italian cacciatore that night — or so Father Orsini said in his book of recipes — in a big skillet out on the grill which sat at one side of the camp house front porch. It was hot and the camp house, more one of those “manufactured” buildings you see on the lots at the big home improvement stores, was not air conditioned. I ended up sleeping in a rocking chair on the front porch. At my feet was a picnic table Waldo had bought that was made by some FFA boys at the school where he taught. It was late, I put the empty but hunter’s-stew-crusted skillet on the picnic table for me to wash the next day.

In the middle of the night I woke to a “slurping” sound. Not four feet from my feet was a big ol’ coon, just going to town on the remains in that skillet. I guess if I hadn’t been half-asleep I would have put the skillet on the ground for the critter, but instead, I turned on the lights and told it to “get.”

I don’t know what time it was, but I awoke once again. And, just as before, big, Mr. Coon was licking away on that skillet. I shooed the coon away once again. That was the last time I woke before daylight, which is when I woke to see that the coon was not at all concerned about the guy on the porch in the rocking chair. The skillet was licked clean.

What does this all mean? Well, a coon’s got to eat. A man gets to live. And eventually he doesn’t anymore.

I can’t fault anyone’s personal philosophy or faith or their raison d’être, if you like don’t like Freedom Fries and want the terrorists to win. The way I figure it is that a person needs someone to talk with who knows more than you, and that you acknowledge that they know more. The fact that they think they know more is not a good indicator. Even if you have to pay this person, it might be worth one’s while to talk to someone who knows what they are talking about.

Diogenes was looking for an honest man, when he wasn’t … well doing whatever it was he did.

The chicken? It was just searching for the truth, perhaps. Or maybe it was trying to find what it did with the egg.

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