Richard, You Have Ever Heard of This Stuff Called Ben-Gay?

IMG_5247I’m used to hearing the news at 3:15 pm. What’s so special about quarter past three each day? Does the BBC issue a special bulletin? Perhaps NPR updates its affiliates with new presidential polling data? Nope, neither is the case. It is something far important. Typically, this is about the time our daughters arrive home or tumble into the car and tell me what went down at school.

The challenge, as I’ve mentioned before, is for the girls to tell their stories individually. I end up moderating the afternoon news like Wolf Blitzer at a Democratic Debate. Each of them wants to be heard. All of the girls have different versions of the same events. (This is inevitable in such a small school.) Much like the Dallas Police discovered on the afternoon of November 22nd, 1963, everyone on Dealey Plaza thought they knew what happened when shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade. They didn’t. Our youngest thought she knew who liked who and which Kanye West song was sampled for a video they watched in history class. This was so disturbing. On most days, her sisters find her reports patently obvious and completely irrelevant to “high school”. The cross examination soon follows: Didn’t she know this? How is she not keeping up with what’s going on?

With little time to prepare, I become the Warren Commission; sorting evidence and hearing the witnesses on the short drive home. This is the typical 3:15 pm broadcast. Sometimes, however, there are emergency bulletins.

“Richard, have you heard of this stuff called Ben-Gay?” Jordan asked. She was almost out breath. I turned to my right, wanting to make sure I had heard her correctly (and that someone else hadn’t entered the car) and said, “What?”il_570xN.249889646

“Have you heard of Ben-Gay?” she said again. “It smells awesome; it’s the best smelling stuff ever. One of the coaches had it. He said he used it for muscle aches and cramps. Will you buy me some so I can just wear it?”

My brain is finally starting to catch up. After seventy or so years on the market she’s only today met “Ben-Gay” and wants to wear it like a perfume?

“Jordan, you know that’s what old people like me wear when they’re sore. It’s not really a cosmetic deal.” (I’m not that old.  I’ve been 39 for three years now.)

“But it smells so good,” she said. “I’d wear that stuff. You got to get me some of that.”

If Ben Gay will make her happy, I will buy and give my daughter some Ben-Gay. I tell you this; our family will be one limber sweet smelling bunch.


Food for Thought-The News from Ocracoke


It’s been a quiet week on Ocracoke. The birds who normally rent the church chimney adjacent to my office were a bit late arriving on Saturday afternoon. Apparently, the Department of Unknown Migratory Birds (DUMB) delayed their transit for over three hours due to a misidentification of their beaks. Who knew there was a no fly list in the avian community? After a phone call to the Department of Homeland Security and a less than reputable avian veterinarian I knew “up the beach”, the situation was resolved. Now Sebastian and the Countess von Sponheim may vacation in peace.

Of the many good things about my idyllic home, I am often struck by the quality of hash browns available on this island. For an isolated community, adrift in waters of the Atlantic Ocean, totally dependent on imported potatoes, our chefs work miracles to produce divinely inspired dishes to be consumed at breakfast. Diced, sliced, browned, chunked, or tater-toted, the culinary varieties possible when applied to the template of the simple potato makes breakfast one of most interesting meals on Ocracoke.

Somehow, I seem to find myself wrapped up in the midst of and choosing among Ocracoke’s many breakfast experiences. I was in the deli, café, restaurant place; you know the one, near the paved road easing its way through the center of town. Entering the café, place, restaurant, and deli has become, in many respects, an extension of my own home. There is one major difference; this room is better stocked with junk food, on demand ice tea, and is separated from my actual house by the formality of a “road”. Despite the fact I don’t technically live there and I have to go by motor vehicle to get there, I feel at home.

Perhaps it is this degree of comfort which led me last Tuesday to walk in and exclaim in my best broken Spanish, (which makes Forrest Gump sound like a Nobel Prize winner), “Bienvenidos, Yo soy aqui ahora”. In reply, I was told, “Senor, your fly is unzipped.” It’s good to be at home. It’s good to have friends who look out for you; especially in your home away from home. Because there’s no better place to look stupid than with people who love you.

Food for Thought-You Give People with Beards a Bad Name (A Poem of Peace)


You give people with beards a bad name,
People think with all this hair,
We must be the same,
You’ve tried to ruin the look,
For Methodists and Moderates,
We’re all people of the book,
One God,
Where did you read the part,
“Thou shalt kill”?
What if Mohammed meant,
“Careful not to spill,
Your enemies blood”,
For they are your sisters and brothers,
Made from the same mud,
People from the Earth,
We are deemed to inhabit,
You make a beautiful religion,
Seem like a dud,
Cut off the anger’s head,
Let the negativity,
Roll out of town,
Turn those frowns,
Into smiles,
And we will all calm down,
As remember this weekend,
By not uttering a sound,
About each other,
In your pulpits
Or mine,
And all of us,
Will be just fine.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Understanding the Newspaper (A Poem)


Understanding the Newspaper

I am in need uptmost

to understand my way.

I’m forever lost

on most days.

I thought I spoke

the same tongue

as those who joked

around me sung.

I had no doubt

what things meant

in matters about

when I went

to the store

or read the paper.

Not any more.

For I’m confused.

About the language

I thought I knew.

Everyone’s shocked,

we’re appalled,

monster’s walk,

among us all.

Any wrong

can be a horror.

Any song

may win

Eurovision tomorrow.

Help me please.

Might one discern

the grammar and learn


–Richard Bryant