I know. I know. Its been a month since my last blog so just calm down, grab a refreshing drink of your choice and hunker down for these five tidbits. Odds and ends from this end of Iowa.
- It’s springtime here at the Palatial Estates and Worldwide Headquarters of Ripley Industries and I have a couplea days off. I’m cooking this evening which means that Ol’ Sparky (our grill) is going to be fired up, thick juicy hamburgers will be charbroiled, topped with cheddar cheese and strips of bacon. That alone is reason to celebrate but I’ve kicked it up a notch with potato salad and baked beans as quality side dishes. A funny story about my baked beans goes something like this: I’d volunteer to make some baked beans for reunions, parties etc. and literally everyone would tell me how great they were (this is a true story). I was known in my family as “the guy who makes the BEST baked beans.” My wife, the honorable and trustworthy Mrs. Richard Ripley, would make baked beans for us following the same recipe in the cook book but they weren’t as good. She’d ask me if I did anything differently from the recipe and, in response, I’d cock my eyebrows, turn my head at an angle and reply “…like what?” This went on for several years until one night she got all sexy-upped (more than usual is all I’m sayin’) lipstick, perfume…plying me with alcohol and her womanly ways and purred into my ear…”…are you sure that there’s nothing else that you put into your baked beans honey-bunny?” Now normally I’m like a mountain…devoid of any emotions and cannot be swayed to betray secrets to even the prettiest girl but as Mrs. Ripley ran her fingers through my hair and told me how much she liked all of my jokes (even the knock-knock ones) and said that she was thinking pretty strongly of baking a cake later in the night (chocolate with lots of chocolate frosting) I casually replied “well….you know, about that baked bean recipe…I’ll usually use twice the amount of brown sugar in it than the recipe says to use…but I don’t really add anything to it and about that cake…when do you think it’ll be? “ “YOU USE THREE CUPS OF BROWN SUGAR IN ONE CASSEROLE DISH OF BAKED BEANS?!?!” Mrs. Ripley belted out at the top of her lungs. “Yep…been doin’ it for years…so about the cake…” Mrs. Ripley suddenly remembered that her favorite TV show was about to start, shot me the stink-eye and left the room. I’m still waiting for that cake to show up and coincidently….her baked beans are now the equal to mine. Just wait until she finds out what I’ve been adding to her wine!
- I used to work a part time job at a home for adult men who were mentally handicapped. As part of my job I’d cook for them, help them with their laundry and for the guys who needed more help…give them baths. At first…it was extremely awkward to do some of the things that I did as part of that job (imagine giving a person your own age a shower…washing them) The guys, eight of them, had different levels of independence and communication skills. A couplea of the guys couldn’t talk at all but they could do basic things. I came to love those guys for who they were, not for who they weren’t, their love for people and excitement for life was uninhibited. If they liked you, they loved you. This past weekend I worked the Special Olympics as a basketball referee and had a blast. Two particular moments pretty much sums up the whole day for me. I was working one game of adult men. It was a pretty up tempo game when I called a foul on one of the players. He jogged over to me and I thought that he was going to argue the call but instead said “Yep…it was me!! As soon as I heard your whistle I thought to myself ‘I’ll bet that’s on me!” My number is 58. Sorry about that!!” and then jogged away. I’ve worked in the neighborhood of 400+ games in the past three years and can honestly say that no player has ever said that to me!! Priceless. Earlier on, two different teams, one from a hearing impaired school and another from a community of kids who would commonly be referred to as “special-ed”, without physical handicaps, played each other. It was hard, if only because the deaf team didn’t understand the game nor its rules. We didn’t call any violations on them…they were simply that bad at the game. We didn’t call anything on the other team either since it wouldn’t have been fair. The deaf team was being beaten soundly, at the end of the first quarter it was 16-0. The winning teams coach then had her team do something that I’ve never seen before….when her team got the ball they walked it up the floor and then waited for the deaf team’s players to catch up, take their defensive positions and then they would start their offense. The better team let the deaf team shoot the ball unguarded, over and over again, getting rebound after rebound. With just a few seconds left the deaf teams point guard, who for the previous three-quarters had just dribbled and dribbled and dribbled without ever making any attempt to dribble it towards the basket took her dribble from the half court line, to the far sideline to the baseline into the lane and tossed up a shot as time expired. The ball kissed the backboard and swished through the net as the horn ended the game. I hammered down the “count the basket” signal and both benches erupted, jumping up and down, high-fiving each other and congratulating one another. It. Was. BEAUTIFUL. The final score was something like 34-6, though my officiating partner for the day summed it up best. “I always finish my year working this tournament. I’m worn out. The season is long. The coaches, fans and players and all of their complaining and stupid stuff makes me want to quit….but then I come here and see these kids and adults having so much fun, playing, sharing and laughing….it rejuvenates me.” Well said brother. Well said. I hope that they ask me back next year.
- If you’re old enough you remember the days that if you liked a particular song your choices were: buy the album, buy the 45 OR hope that you could record it off of the radio onto a cassette (which I had the rare and unique ability to do though the stupid DJ would still be giving you the weather report right up to and sometimes over the first few words of the song). It kinda sucked. You might only like a song or two off of a particular album but you’d have to buy the WHOLE album to get the two or three songs that you liked. That’s why I liked K-Tel records so much, you’d get five or six really good songs mixed in with a few less crappy songs. I owned several K-Tel albums as a kid and that’s probably the reason I’m a HUGE fan of ITunes. This afternoon I downloaded around a dozen songs from the likes of Donna Summer, Neil Young, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Cosby Stills and Nash for about the same amount of money that an album would’ve cost me.
- As avid readers of Rich Ripley already know….I’ve helped out at a Christian Men’s retreat entitled “A Walk to Emmaus” on several occasions. The good folks who oversee this area of our state either lost their minds or lost a bet and decided to ask me if I’d be the Lay Director on this fall’s retreat. I’ve accepted and am excited to see how this all works out. I’m in charge of lining up a team of around thirty guys to help other guys over the course of a three day retreat. Its a huge responsibility (God’s involved…you know…so I’ll have to behave as much as I can…which isn’t long) so my spiritual juices are flowing. I’ve never made any secret about the fact that I’m probably the least holy person in the room, though I’ve been blessed with the ability to speak in front of groups…usually with a fair amount of humor involved….about my faith walk. (keep us all in your prayers is all I’m sayin’)
- Baseball season is just around the corner. I’ve been reading the rule book and reviewing what I think that I’ll need to know. Meetings and clinics are planned. I’ve got varsity games already booked and my equipment bag opened up and gone through. Probably the neatest thing going right now is that my umpire mask is being used by an eight year old for a play that he’s in at school. I should’ve warned the little whipper-snapper that us umpires are regular “babe-magnets” and those third grader girls will be chasing him endlessly during recess. Poor little fella….I hope that he gets caught just as soon as he wants to be…which may be ten or fifteen years too early for his mother. (Melanie…tell Gabe to wipe all of that lipstick off of my mask before returning it….Mrs. Ripley insists.)
Have a great week and God Bless!! Your humble and capable leader…. R