Thursday, November 1, 2018

Love Conquers All.

I'm reposting this one from 2013 because it reflects a lot of the thoughts that have been going through my head for a while now.  I'll be posting more stuff again in the coming weeks dealing with many of the topics that figure prominently in the news today - because I believe that almost everything that comes up in almost every discussion in our society today is tainted by a lack of the one thing we need the most: Love.

"Love Conquers All"
I’ve heard that phrase for most of my life at one time or another, and I’m not sure I ever really understood it until now. I have no idea why it took so long.
It portrays love in the sense of the conquering hero.
The one whom no enemy can stand against.
The difference for me now is that I understand that the battlefield on which all this conflict takes place is in my own heart.
When I examine it realistically I have to admit that I always thought of it in terms of conquering someone else. I wanted love to conform others to my own expectations of what they should be. I wanted love to be at my command.
Imagine my surprise then, when the blade turned upon me instead.
Love will, if I let it, overcome my pain to grant forgiveness, or ask for it.
It will overcome my pride to extend my hand in friendship to my enemy.
It will overcome my anger to allow my faithfulness.
It will overcome me.
Love conquers all, but first, love conquers me. My walls must be overcome from within.
It is sometimes hard to love, but worth your whole life to reach just one moment of being completely known by another, and to know the other in turn. To reach out your hand unseen in the dark knowing the hand of another is already there in expectation to take it.
It is worth everything for just one moment of this. To be known, and not forgotten.
Living your life in pursuit of that first, and maybe only, all encompassing instant of perfection.
Because God is Love, He created us as an expression of Himself, hence we are created in His image. As an expression of God Himself we are inherently worthy of His sacrifice for us, and yet God on a cross seems so incongruous to our concept of love. That’s the problem with our interpretation of love.   It’s so watered down we have no concept of what real love is. It’s as though in so many ways we have sanitized the true expression of love to be bloodless. It’s all butterflies and sunny days to our general way of thinking.
We seem to forget that love "endures all things"(1Cor 13:7), and the need for endurance implies conflict, distraction, and sometimes pain. We should love fiercely letting nothing come between us.
Love, when practiced honestly, becomes beauty incarnate.
Love influences the practice of my life. It gives everything I do different meaning.
Love truly is an action, and yet it is more. It becomes what we do, where we go, who we know and how we know them. Love cannot reach its full potential in our lives if we do not allow ourselves to live in complete surrender to it. If I am only capable of loving someone when things are all good, then I don’t really love at all.
Each of the qualities of love (1Cor 13) implies that there is a need for that quality because its opposite exists in the world. Patience is needed because the lack of it causes bitterness. Kindness is needed because cruelty exists. The difficult part of this is that we all know that we are capable of dealing out all the opposing forces of love. We focus on the positive aspects because we feel better when we actively pursue them as a lifestyle. There is healing in the practice of love.
“Love your enemies” (Lk 6:35), is the most difficult aspect of love, but Jesus gave us examples of it throughout His life. Judas was the most difficult enemy to deal with because he was already loved. His ability to cause pain was increased by the measure of love Christ gave him. There are times when the evidence of the love of God seems so profound to me that I actually understand why some people fear it rather than readily accept it.
Even the one who betrayed Christ was allowed at His table. Christ knew that Judas was His betrayer, and yet His love for him was such that He still desired Judas’ presence in the Passover meal; one of the most intimate of settings.
Judas didn’t deserve that and he knew it. Jesus knew this as well, and gave it to him anyway. All this made Judas’ betrayal that much more profound to Judas, for the greater the love we give when betrayed causes that much more pain for the betrayer.
And is it not one of the most important aspects of love that we should find the ability to love our enemies for the simple fact that when we sin we ourselves act as the most intimate of enemies to God, and He loves us still? Is He not the greatest example of loving one’s enemy simply by loving us for, “He loved us while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8), let alone the ones we condemn without authority?
It is the ability of love to not only conquer all things, but to remain after everything is done and over with. After all the blood has been shed, the ground churned, and with the vultures circling overhead to pick at the corpses of our discontent, Love walks among us to restore us after all the pain to a healed state ready to love again. It is self perpetuating by nature so that when we learn to love ourselves, as God loves us, we understand that we must do something to maintain it in ourselves in order to stay alive to share it with others.
His love makes us matter.
And so we are filled with possibilities.
Because of His love Jesus not only died, but He came back for us!
He. Came. Back.
It is this single, overwhelming act of love that inspires every other expression of true love that we can ever submit to or practice in the human experience.
Through His redemption we are alive with the potential to discover the worth of our very souls.
Live in love,
Do battle in love,
Rest in love,
Die in love,
Return in love.
God did.
It’s called Easter.
©Dan Bode 2010

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Day After

It was Christmas in 1914 during World War I.  

The British and Germans had fought to something of a stalemate.  It was bitterly cold on the front in Belgium where both sides were holding the line in fortified trenches in the early part of one of the worst wars in history.

And it was Christmas.

With no light to see the target the shooting stopped at night, and in the silence German voices were heard yelling across the “no man’s land” separating the lines, “Merry Christmas, Englishmen!”  The British returned their greetings, yelling into the frigid night.  Someone started singing Christmas carols which were joined by the opposite side.

Eventually, soldiers on both sides ventured out of their trenches – unarmed – to greet each other and exchange gifts of chocolate, cigarettes and other small extravagances that mean so much to a soldier in the field.  A truce of sorts was declared, and no shots were fired during Christmas Day on this part of the line.

For that one day they were able to put aside their human-ness, and take up the image of Christ to celebrate His birth. Yet they knew as well that they would soon be obligated to try to kill each other even as they celebrated the anniversary of new life come to save us all from death.All because of Christmas.  

I suppose Jesus wasn’t called “The Prince of Peace” for nothing.

The day after Christmas has always puzzled me. 
We spend weeks, if not months, leading up to Christmas Day, touting it as the “happiest time of the year”.  There are lights everywhere, and everyone is happy, and generous, and caring.
But then it’s over, and they aren’t anymore.  The lights go out, and, seemingly, so does our joy.
The days after Christmas are a period of undefined silence in which anything can happen.  We come down from that period of frenzied activity leading up to that one day with no idea what to do with our lives, but take down the decorations and throw the wrapping paper in the trash.

It’s in this period where Christ can strip us bare.  We have the opportunity to acknowledge His love and beauty, or we can pick up again the mantle of our humanity and return to the savagery we seek to leave behind.  This is not new; I do it every day. I give up the gifts He’s given me and return to being simply human.  
I give up the better part to become the least.

I give up being more than human, and become even less. 

Then He speaks, “Yesterday was my birthday, but I’m still here.  Why do you celebrate only one day of my life?  I am always present!  I still Love you!  Remember!  Remember! ”

So I wish you a Merry Day After Christmas!
And a Merry Day After the Day After Christmas!
He is still here….

©Dan Bode 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Boulevard Series - Final - At the end of the Boulevard

Boulevard Coffee is closed.

As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.”
Why that is true I don’t really understand, but there it is.  And now we come to the end of something that has been here for 35 years, give or take.  Three generations of my family, and countless friends, have had the opportunity to experience it directly or indirectly.  Some of you who have read my blog in the past will have read about episodes of my life that have happened there.
It’s reasonable to assume that, after this many years, roasting beans in a plant that reaches temperatures over 100 F in the summer, and working behind the counter serving customers of every disposition and persuasion, the owner might feel he has a right to retire.  And he does, so he is.  Retiring I mean.
Cliff has been watching people darken the door at Boulevard Coffee for a long time.  He started off originally at a little spot further up Fair Oaks Boulevard that was more like someone’s living room.  It had a fireplace, and couches everywhere, and it felt very “homey”.  Eventually he expanded to a second store and a separate roasting plant.  After several years he closed the original shop and stayed at the second store. 
I started going to the original store and then switched to the second one when he closed the first one.  I was there at least once a week, but usually more if I could find a way to work it into my schedule.  I started going there because the coffee was the best I ever had, and I have yet to find better.  I continued to go there because it became a refuge for me.  The events of my life led me to find someplace where I could find a few hours of peace, and so I found myself a spot at a table there and received an education in coffee at the feet of the master.
There were times when few seats were available.  I walked in one day and the place was as crowded as I’d ever seen it.  I looked around and told Cliff, “I guess I better get it to go today!”
Cliff looked around and said, “Hang on a minute.”
He went to the back through a door and stuck his head back out and waved me back.  He pulled up a chair to the supply room counter and said, “Is this ok?  I don’t want you to have to leave.”
“Really? That’s really cool!  Thanks!”
“What do you want?”
I told him what I wanted and he brought it back to me.  I felt like I had the keys to the kingdom.  It was one of those moments where I felt like I could say, “Yeah I know somebody who can help you…”, you know?  That’s been our relationship for 20 years. 
Cliff was roasting coffee in the Sacramento area long before anyone else.  A “coffee community” has sprung up over the last 10 years or so, but I have to say they are some of the most pretentious people I’ve ever met.  They think a good cup of coffee is rated by the design the person pouring it draws in the cream.  And the coffee isn’t that great.
I am biased for sure, but I’m also right on this point.  So there.
As I have contemplated my last day here at Boulevard I think back to when I first started coming here.  It was a place to go to separate myself from all the pressures of my normal environment.  As life moved on over the years it was a place where I knew I always had a space.  I was always comfortable here with both the staff and the regulars.  It was safe.  Boulevard was the first place I thought of to meet my family and friends, the place I went to read or write, the place to simply sit, and in essence quite simply my refuge.  I knew all the employees, and they knew me.  If you walked in and asked them to make your coffee the way Dan Bode drinks it they would know what to give you.  I used to bring in breakfast burritos to the employees on Sunday mornings just to make sure they had breakfast since they started so early.  I felt a little bad when I brought them in and discovered Jeff was trying to go vegetarian.  He decided to put it off for a while since there was bacon in it, which I thought was a very intelligent choice because, well – bacon!  Most coffee places know who you are by the drink you order, but there they actually knew your name.  Boulevard was the Cheers of coffee.
When I started dating Brenda this was one of the first places I brought her, and of course everyone loved her as much as they loved me. 
In light of all this I understand that as much as it is the right time for Cliff to close these doors for himself, it is also the right time for me.  My life is filled with joy now, and I no longer need the refuge.  At the same time without all the experiences and people from this place I would not have the degree of joy I have come to know.  This place, and the people there, have helped to shape me into the person who was right for my wife.  I had countless cups with my daughters, and grandkids (hot chocolate for them), extended family and friends.  Knowing everyone who has worked there over the years has been a great blessing. 
Today was the last official open day.  I sat in the shop today for a good portion of it.  I got to see old friends and regulars, and of course, Fred.  It wouldn’t have been right if I didn’t get to end it with him there since it pretty much started with him too.  It was funny that I had just finished telling the Fred story to one of the other regulars when he walked up.  Perfect.
I drank more coffee than I ever have before in one day.
It occurred to me today as I was driving in that I had expected to be going to Boulevard after I retired, but Cliff beat me to it.  Twenty years of Saturdays, and then some, have passed by in this place, so now I have to find something else to fill my time.  It’s not like there’s not plenty to do – I just need to get used to the idea of doing something different.  Driving a different direction.  Setting a different path. 
This whole experience has been a lot like reading a good book.  When it’s well written you get caught up in the story and the lives of the characters.  You get to know them very well, but then the story always ends.  You miss the characters and their world that you were a part of for a while.  You miss the story and wish it hadn’t ended.
So, today as I walked out the door of Boulevard for the last time, I read the last page and closed the cover. 
Time to find a new story.
©Dan Bode 2017


Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Boulevard Series Part 3 - When Your Art Finds You

It is a great thing when your art finds you.
We each have an art of our own.  We don’t always know what it is yet.  It is something we seek and usually feel less than complete without.  We also call them our gifts.  It is something given to us in order to be given to others in one form or another.
There are different kinds of artists as well.
Some “artists” have to tell you that they are in fact “artists”.  They do everything they can to “offend your sensibilities” in order to “make a statement”.  I must say that if someone has to tell you they are an artist I think it’s probably safe to say they really aren’t one at all.
Some artists have found something that truly gives them joy and satisfaction in the finished product.  Whether it has any lasting effect on anyone else is secondary to them and, in most cases, mostly irrelevant to them.  It is what they like.
Still other artists have developed to the point where their art has reached a pinnacle where the rest of us can understand and appreciate the message expressed in their work.  Some of us even discover that we actually like it.
Then there is the artist who, instead of finding his or her art, is instead captured by the art that seeks expression through them.  The medium in which they exercise this gift is irrelevant.  The effect of the end result of the process is the important part.  I am not sure what to call these individuals; any title I gave would be superfluous anyway.
I was privileged to spend a few hours yesterday with a friend who falls into the last category.
His name is Cliff Miller.  He owns Boulevard Coffee.  Now I know I have mentioned Cliff before, and he has become a very good friend to me.  Cliff makes coffee.  Now to those of you who don’t drink coffee this will seem silly to you.  But to those of us who do drink the stuff, and in many instances live by it, this is a Great Thing. 
You see, the thing is, Boulevard Coffee is more than just a coffee house.  It’s not just a business, it’s a gathering place.  If, once you’ve darkened the doorway, you choose to drink a cup of coffee you will find that it is indeed an experience unique to this place, because Cliff is an “artist” whose art found him.
Most coffee places buy their coffee from a supplier and brew it in the shop.  This is fine, but it can take some time to find a roaster who adequately reflects the atmosphere the proprietor wishes to reflect.
Cliff roasts his own coffee, and it is unique to him, and because of Cliff’s devotion to his art you will experience some of the best coffee you have ever tasted.
In the course of our last weekly conversation, he invited me to come by his roasting plant to show me how it’s done.  I took him up on that invitation yesterday, and he did indeed show me. 
I watched as he selected the blend of green beans he wanted for the first batch he would do that day.  He never formally measured anything: he just knew what was supposed to be in it.  He weighed it out and it was exactly what he wanted it to be.  He then took the beans over to the roaster and put them in.  He showed me how the temperature is set in the roaster and how just a few degrees difference in temperature can be the difference in what kind of roast you get.  I looked through the window built into the side of the roasting chamber and watched as the beans changed color.  As we waited for them to finish I watched Cliff.  He looked around the shop to make sure everything was operating as it should.
“I have this equipment all set up in the center of the shop because it’s the center of everything that happens here.  I can step back from this spot and see everything else that’s going on here, and I’ve got God looking over my shoulder there so everything’s good.” He yelled over the roar of the machine as he pointed over his shoulder at a picture of Jesus teaching a crowd on a hillside tacked to the wall.
As the beans finished roasting he transferred them to a cooling bin where a large fan sucks air down through the beans as they are stirred and quickly cooled.  They were a rich, dark brown color now.
The smell of coffee, even to the uninitiated, is almost universally liked.  It’s even better when you first open the bag to put it in the coffee maker.  But even that will not prepare you for the aroma that these beans hold immediately after they are roasted.  It’s truly amazing. 
As I watched the beans being stirred in the bin I realized that this was a new experience for me and that it was something that I would not see often enough to get tired of.  On the other hand, if I had to see it every day and my living was dependent on this I might get to the point where I wouldn’t want to see another coffee bean again.  Then I thought about Cliff, and I looked over at him and realized that this was truly what he wanted to do.  This was not a job to him.  This was joy for him even though it was his chosen profession as well.
“Even after you retire you won’t be able to quit doing this will you?” I asked.
He smiled and shook his head, “No.  That’s why I have that little roaster over there.  I’ll just go out to the shop I’ll set up at home and roast what I want to for a few hours and then I’ll just do whatever else I need to do that day.  I like it too much to stop.”
I asked him one day how he got started in the coffee business, and he told me his job history that took him across the country from New York to Seattle, and eventually to Carmichael, California
“Then”, he said “one fateful day I ran out of coffee.  I went out to get more and found that there was no coffee in Carmichael.”  (I take that to mean there was no real coffee in Carmichael) “So I went home to my wife and I said, ‘There’s no coffee in Carmichael.  I think we should open our own coffee place.’ ”
I suspect the ensuing discussion was somewhat spirited since at the time his lovely wife Karen was caring for a new baby, and there were many factors involved in an undertaking like this, but the rest is, as they say, history.
Over the years it has all evolved into what it is, and it has done so because Cliff is who he is.  When Cliff’s art found him it sought expression through him by way of coffee, but it has not been confined to just that medium.  It has found expression in the shops that he has owned, in the employees that choose to work for him (which list contains the names of some artists of no small talent in their own right as well like Jeff and Kristen), and in the people that come to his shop, and in the band that he plays in.  It is in the look on a customer’s face when they light up with the realization that, “So this is how it’s supposed to taste!”  It is the quality of something not just done right, but done The Way It Is Meant To Be Done.
Some artists work with wood, some with words, some with music, some with paint and canvass, or stone, or clay, or even coffee.  But no matter the medium, The Grand Artist has chosen to express His art through broken and flawed vessels.  Regardless of how useless we may feel at times, His eyes see us as precious and useful.  Those things in me which I often see as flaws are often meant to be things that cause His gift in me to flow more freely.  For the place in this vessel from which my art, or gift, is poured out causes it to flow to a particular spot exactly where He needs it to be, and so I become an extension of Him, if I choose to let Him use me.  It is when His Art finds expression through me that I finally realize my purpose in this life, and it is in those moments that I find my greatest happiness.

©Dan Bode 2004

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Boulevard Series - Part 2 "Fred - The Rest of the Story"

About a year ago I wrote a story about a man named Fred, whom I had never met, but for whom I was being mistaken on a semi regular basis.  This whole thing came to a head when several regulars in the coffee shop mistook me for Fred.  Well now I have reason to write, as Paul Harvey would say, “The Rest of the Story”.
I met Fred!
A few days ago I gave a copy of Fred (Part One) to Cliff, the owner of Boulevard Coffee where the original story took place.  When I came in today he walked up to me and pointing to guy sitting at the table right next to me he said, “Dan, meet Fred!  Fred meet Dan!” and then he just laughed out loud.
“Are you serious?  Is this really Fred?” I asked.
“Yes it is!”
Fred meanwhile was looking at us with a look of complete confusion.
Cliff handed his copy of the Fred story to Fred and said,
“You need to read this.  Dan gave this to me a couple of days ago, and when I read it I laughed my face off!  Then I brought this in for the rest of the staff to read and I see you two sitting right next to each other!  When I read this I knew I was going to have to do something about this, because I knew all the players!  Now here you are and the mystery is solved!  Fred read this story and you will understand everything.”
So Fred, having said nothing up to this point said, “Ok.” With a somewhat bemused smile on his face and started reading.  He chuckled as he read it, for which I am infinitely glad.  There is nothing like the suspense a writer feels when he is sitting right next to someone who is reading one of his stories.  It’s even worse when the subject of the story is the one reading it.
He looked up at me when he was done, “That was funny!  That really happened?”
“Yes it did.”
I looked at him a little closer, trying to be objective about it, and honestly, while he is a nice looking guy, I don’t think we really look that much alike.  We could maybe be mistaken for brothers though.  He is bald too, although as he himself stated, “You have more hair than I do.” Which in reality isn’t saying much.
“Well you know when you’re in your seventies with bad eyes and on meds anybody can look alike!” said Cliff.  This is what I consider to be a Deep Truth. 
The only disadvantage to this whole thing is that now I won’t be able to blame anything on Fred.
After giving it a little more thought I should have expected that Cliff would have known everyone involved in the story.  He tells me that they have been coming to the shop for 10 years.  He says, “This is why I do this.  I love this stuff that happens with all these people!”
Fred and I talked for a little bit.  He told me more about the guys in the story.  One of them had introduced him to his girlfriend, Page, a very pretty woman who was at the table with him and also read the story.  The guys apparently don’t get out too much anymore, for health reasons.  One of them has a serious illness that prevents him from doing too much.  Now that we all know each other I will need to find out more about them and get to know them better vicariously if nothing else.  By virtue of who they are they have been profound influences on the lives of others.  I hope that I can say the same as I grow older.
I have decided that I really love this place.  I mean, I knew I liked it before, but I never really gave it much more thought.  As I sit here at this table in the midst of a small crowd of humanity I realize as I watch everyone behind the counter that people are here, like me, because they really just simply enjoy being here.  I am sure the caffeine is at least partially responsible for this feeling, simply by virtue of the fact that it is rather difficult to maintain a depressed demeanor when your whole body is shaking from the extra jolt from that second cup.
But the bottom line is this: this is a great place to be, and I will come as often as I am able.  I will sit at my table and read, or write, or stare out the window.  I will watch people coming and going some of whom I know some of whom I don’t know, and some of whom I will know.  There’s a certain camaraderie that exists simply because we know that we are all there because of a common denominator: we all like this place.  There is a warmth that comes from the people that work here, the physical design of the place, and even the shelves that are packed with all the tea and coffee paraphernalia that you could ever possibly think of.  When you come in you get that nod of familiarity even if they don’t know your name yet.  They remember what you ordered in the past when you’ve been coming there for a little while too.  Whenever one of my friends wants to get together for coffee I do everything I can to arrange a meeting there.  I know they will like it, but I have to admit that the main reason is selfish: it gives me another excuse to go there.  And if they decide to buy my coffee for me I feel particularly blessed.
Cliff used to have two shops, but he sold the one that was my original haunt to someone else.  I went there a few times afterward just because it had become more of a habit and it was a little closer to my home.  But I have to tell you that it simply wasn’t the same place.  I couldn’t deal with it.  Perhaps I am simply too much a creature of habit.  There were different people there now who came for different reasons so I started driving down Fair Oaks Boulevard a few miles further to Cliff’s place.  It feels much better here.  The coffee’s better too.  He roasts his own beans, and you can tell the difference between his and others.  It’s that good.  And that Pecan Streusel CoffeeCake is to die for.  Whenever I come home from there my wife almost always says, “You smell like coffee”.  Which is much better than smelling like a lot of other things.  She likes the smell of coffee by the way, so that’s just another plus for Boulevard although I’m not sure it could take the place of a good cologne. 
So if you’re looking for me, and you haven’t been able to catch up to me at home, then start hanging around Boulevard Coffee and sooner or later you’ll catch up to me.  Or Fred.

©Dan Bode 2004

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Boulevard Series - In honor of the closing of Boulevard Coffee, my refuge of the last 20 years, I am posting some pieces that I wrote about things that occurred there over the years. So it is with both fondness and sorrow that I give you the first of the series.

This event ocurred around the year 2000 I think.  I've told the story many times....

Fred - Part One

There’s someone out there who looks like me.  Apparently he is a nice guy.  Until just recently I didn’t know his name, but I have been aware of his presence for over 20 years.  His name is Fred.  I have never met Fred, but I can see some potential for him to complicate my life.

When my wife and I were in our “pre-dating” phase of our dating relationship, (ya know when you’re not officially dating, but you “run into” each other all the time), my future mother-in-law, whom I love dearly, told my wife-to-be that she had seen me at the state fair with ANOTHER WOMAN. 
Now at any time in a relationship the words “another woman” are never said in a positive context.  At least I have yet to hear the phrase used in a good way.  Fortunately for me my wife-to-be had called me at work the night that I was supposedly with this other woman, and I had called her when I got back to my place after work, so she knew that I wasn’t at the fair.  I am very fortunate to be able to look back on this and laugh.  Ever since then I have wondered if I would ever meet whoever it was that looked enough like me to get me into trouble, and if I would ever have to deal with something like this again.
I mean, think about it.  All this guy has to do is walk around town with his arm around his wife, and anyone who thinks he’s me is gonna walk up and slap him.  Although I suppose the same is true for him as well.  Some if his friends might see me with my wife and come up and slap me.  I wonder if I have gotten him in trouble?  Never thought about that one before.
Anyway, jump ahead to just a few months ago.
I am sitting at a table in my favorite coffee house.  It’s called Boulevard Coffee on Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael.  (No they didn’t pay me for that I just wanted to give them credit.)  They serve what, in my opinion, is some of the best coffee in town.  Every Tuesday morning around 8AM I go there to have some time to myself.  I read or write or just stare out the window.  It’s a good place for that.  It’s set up so you feel like you’re in somebody’s den or library.  Sometimes they have a fire going in the fireplace and it gets even more comfortable.  And if you stay there for a long time they don’t bother you.  They seem to like having you around.  I have been going there regularly for a while, and as is usually the case, you start to get to know the other regulars enough to say hi, or even have a regular conversation with them.
Now since I am a “weekly” regular as opposed to a “daily” regular I don’t know them all as well as I would like.  There is one group that usually starts to gather around the time that I am getting ready to leave.  There’re three men in the group, and they’re all really nice guys.  They are all in their late 60’s to early 70’s, and while I don’t know their names I’ve talked to them enough to know that they are the kind of guys I’d like to hang around with.  You can just sit and talk about whatever you want, and soak in the wisdom they have to give.
One day a few months ago, before I had started talking to these men, I found myself confused (which some will say is my usual condition).
I was sitting in my usual spot when the first of these three gentlemen came in to the shop.  He walked over to me and laid a friendly hand on my shoulder and said,
“Hey Fred, can I get you a refill?”
Now normally anyone offering to buy me a cup of coffee is a friend of mine, but normally by the time anyone offers to buy me a cup of coffee I have usually met them before.  I had never seen this guy before this moment.
In confusion (like I said) I looked up at him and said with my usual eloquence,
“Uhhhh, …my name’s not Fr-”
“Oh, you’re not Fred!” he interrupted.
“Uh-uh.” I am such a master of the spoken language.
“Sorry, you look just like Fred!”
I hope that’s a good thing.
“No problem.”  Bummer about missing the refill.  Oh well.
He went to sit at his usual table, and waited for his friends, and I went back to my book.
A few minutes went by and the next man in the group came into the shop.  As he walked by my table he paused and said,
“Hey Fred!  How are you?”
“Hi, I’m not Fre-”
“He’s not Fred!” called the first guy from their table.
“Wow, you really look like Fred.”
“Yeah, that’s what I gather.”  I said.  At least I was getting a little more verbal.
“Well it was nice to meet you either way.”
“Thanks, you too.” I replied.
He made his way to the counter to get his coffee, and I went back to my book.
After a few more minutes the third gentleman in the group walked in.  He went to the counter to get his coffee and on his way to their table he looked at me and paused.  He squinted his eyes as he looked at me and said,
“Fred?  Is that you?”
“That’s not Fred!” said the first two guys from their table.  I didn’t even have time to open my mouth that time.  I think everyone in the shop was pretty clear on the fact that my name wasn’t Fred by now.
“Oh!  Sorry.  You look just like Fred.  My eyes aren’t very good these days.”
“Nope, my name’s not Fred.  But my name is Dan, and I’m thinking Fred must be a nice guy to be on such good terms with all of you.” I said, and then I held out my hand and shook his, and went over to their table and shook hands with the other two gentlemen.  They invited me to sit with them, and I would have but it was already time for me to leave so I declined.
Now at last I had a name to put to the man who was not making any attempt to imitate me, but was doing so anyway.
One of these days I am going to actually meet Fred.  I am going to tell him all the cases of mistaken identity that I have experienced over the last 20 years.  And I’d be willing to bet that when I actually see him, I probably won’t recognize him.  I probably won’t be able to see any resemblance between us at all, but everyone else will.  That’s the way it usually is; when we look at ourselves we rarely see what is plain as day to everyone else. Now that I think of it, if someone tries to blame me for something I don’t want to take credit for, I could just say, “Fred did it!”  I’ll probably be safe too, ‘cuz I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know my name.

Well, I suppose I can live with Fred as my alter ego, at least as long as he doesn’t really screw anything up.  If he does something really bad then I’m gonna have to go hunt him down, but if he’s been good for the last 20 years we’re probably safe.  I should probably offer to buy him his next cup of coffee though. 

©Dan Bode 2003