Archive for January, 2010

Three Three-Minute Stories

January 27, 2010

  The folks at Kansas City Bike Club were kind enough to ask me to speak at the winter banquet last Saturday evening. I told the three-minute stories shown below.

Three Three-Minute Stories

for the Kansas City Bike Club   

            816-803-8371 bike phone

by Ed Chasteen

January 16, 2010

“How’s school?” I asked my grand daughter. “Boring,” she said. “What makes it boring?” I asked. “Teachers talk,” she said. Mitchell said I should talk 20 minutes tonight.

But all is not lost! Popular songs are about three minutes long. Abraham Lincoln spoke for three minutes at Gettysburg. These songs and this speech are my models. I have three three-minute stories to tell you. Leaving 10 minutes for you to talk to me. So be ready.

1st story:                 Greater Liberty.

I live in a town called Liberty. I can ride about 125 miles on a good day. So I drew a 125-mile circle around my town. I call this place Greater Liberty. Up north to Creston, Iowa, south to Carthage; west to Manhattan, east to Columbia: 104 counties in parts of four states. Over the next year or two I want to drive my HateBuster Mobile to every county seat town. Park on the town square. Take my bike out and ride a short distance out from town in all directions. Then back in town ask someone for the hometown place folks like to eat. Over biscuits and gravy and sweet ice tea, I’ll listen to folks tell me about their town. Then I hope someone will invite me to come to their school, their civic club or their business to tell my stories.

Greater Liberty is not just a place. Not even primarily a place. It’s a principle. We all have greater liberty than we know. I want to help us all understand how to live with greater liberty.


2nd story:                 Bigots Came with Their Signs.

                Martin Luther King’s wife was coming to my campus to speak. Some local bigots came with their hate signs. They had every right to walk in the street with their signs. But so did I. I ran to my office and made a sign. I ran to join them. My sign said, “These guys are nuts.” Five minutes passed. These guys got in their cars and left. You know why they left? Everybody started to laugh. They had not come to entertain us; they had come to intimidate us. And when they couldn’t, they had no power.

            The only power hate has is the power to strike fear in hearts. In the absence of fear, those who hate stand exposed as the cowards they are. They may sometimes kill the person. But never the principle. We all one day die. Over that we have no control. But for what we live and how we die, we do. “Give me liberty or give me death.” Patrick Henry expressed a sentiment that is the essence of those who would live the timeless life.

3rd story:     Hey, Bicycle Rider, Don’t Worry About That Dumb Dog 

            From Clem’s when the weather is bad, I usually turn toward home. But with a whole day of sunshine before me, I wasn’t ready for home. My muscles were crying to be used. So I headed for Lawson and the Penn Street Cafe. On MM Highway just above Watkins Mill I spied three small children off to my left behind a split rail fence. A full grown and belligerent boxer emerged on my right. He growled and barked and ran along beside me, darting at my legs. I was flying down the hill; if I should hit that dog, I would lose control of the bicycle and splatter myself on the road.

            That’s when I heard the voice. It was the little blond haired girl now on the fence. No more than five or six, but the oldest of the three, she yelled in her little voice, “Hey, bicycle rider, don’t worry about that dumb dog.”

            “Hey, Bicycle Rider, don’t worry about that dumb dog.” For months now I had been worrying about a situation with my job, a situation that threatened everything I hold dear. I couldn’t concentrate. Things I needed to do I couldn’t find the energy or motivation to attempt.

            “Hey, Bicycle Rider, don’t worry about that dumb dog.” Here were the 23rd and 37th Psalm condensed by a five year old and delivered in code. Ostensibly advice about a dog, this was in reality a lesson in living. It was the answer to my prayer. Suddenly it didn’t matter what those with power over me should decide about my job.


101 Bicycle Stories

January 27, 2010

copyright 2010 by Ed Chasteen

Prelude to the Stories

            For Christmas when I was ten, Mother bought me a used bicycle and taught me to ride. She would hold me up and run along beside me until I was going fast enough to remain upright. The sidewalk that ran past our house ended abruptly a few blocks later, and more than once I lost my balance and fell where the sidewalk ended. I began to fear arriving at that place.

                Then one day as I got there, I noticed that where the sidewalk ended, there was now a paved path sweeping gently and upward to the right. The bicycle seemed to turn itself in that direction. A short time later the path became a country road leading soon to a town I had never seen before.

                “I’d better get home,” I said to himself. “Mother will have supper ready.” But when I turned my bike around, the road was gone. Before I could cry or be afraid, someone appeared at my side. I looked quickly around. An old man stood in front of me and around me stood four beautiful children about my own age. Something about them all soon let me know that I had nothing to dread. I didn’t ask who they were, how they got there or even how I chanced to be in a place I had never seen before even though I had traveled only a short distance from my home.

                “Hello, Arthur,“ the old man said.

                Before I could tell the old man my name was Edgar, he continued. “I knew that bicycle would one day bring you back. Don’t you recognize it? It was yours when you were 10,” the old man said. And you had to be 10 for it to bring you back.”

                “Merlin?” I didn’t understand how I knew the old man or why the old man called me Arthur or why I asked the old man, “What happened to us? Where have you been?”

                “I’m sorry, Arthur. I forgot to warn you about Mordred. Now Camelot’s gone. But I’ve found you again, and this is the City of Nevaeh.”

                I thought I should cry and be afraid. Mother had taught me not to talk to strangers. And I understood that I was lost. But I was happy. And glad to be here. I didn’t know why. I just was.

                “You can’t go home again, Arthur,” Merlin said gently to me. With my magic, however, I will bring your home to Nevaeh. Your house, your street, your mother and dad and your school and church and all your friends will be here. You won’t know it from where you were before. You will go to sleep tonight and when you wake up in the morning you will think this has all been a dream. But you will live the rest of your life here in Nevaeh. Peace and Power and Purpose and Joy will be with you always. You won’t see them again with your eyes, but you will feel them in your heart. And you won’t see me again, Arthur. But as I have spoken, so shall it be.

                “Now, Arthur, ride into Nevaeh. Your mother has supper ready.”

            “Edgar Ray, you better wake up. It’s Saturday morning and Let’s Pretend is coming on. It’s the story of King Arthur today.” Mother called me “Edgar Ray” when she wanted to be sure she got my attention.

What I Would Do

January 15, 2010

            Last evening at our weekly church gathering, our minister asked each of us to respond in writing to this question: If you knew you could not fail, what would you attempt for God?

            My answer? I would negotiate a peace treaty between the world’s religions. I would end the killing of people of faith by people of other faiths. No one would ever again take the life of another person in the name of religion. Anyone doing so would be disowned by that faith.

#101 Amazing Grace

January 15, 2010

All across the country, under my breath and off-key, I have been singing “Amazing Grace,” a habit I got into a couple of years ago when my car radio quit. It’s still not fixed, and now it’s almost automatic that I break into song as I slide behind the wheel of my little Rabbit diesel that no one but me will ride in because of the noise and vibration. I think of this as the young man begins his rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

                It’s not the version I sing. But of all the songs, why this one? Is it simply coincidence? Dorothy wouldn’t think so. If not, though, what am I to make of it. Back in Nashville when I had asked for help in understanding why I was making this ride, Lloyd had sung his answer: “Cheer up my brother, walk in the sunshine, farther along we’ll understand why.” Were all these coincidences part of the answer? Am I so dense that I’m destined never to know?

                John and Barbara Lim arrive about seven in the evening. Bobbie and I haven’t seen them in years, only once or twice since John graduated from Jewell. They have been in California since John came here to minister to the spiritual needs of Malaysian people. He had been a pastor back in Malaysia for years before he came to the States to finish his college and then to study at the seminary.

                Barbara, Grace, and Paul had stayed behind, intending to see John at the end of his studies when he came home. John had been here better than a year when people in the church brought his family over. They had endeared themselves by their gracious manner and their unsurpassed skills in the kitchen. To be invited to the Lim’s for dinner came to be the most coveted invitation in town among those who knew them, a number that was increasing rapidly.

                The outdoor service begins as the sun is setting. It’s conducted entirely by women and tells the story of Moses’ mother, sister and Pharaoh’s daughter, helping us all to glimpse the character of God apart from the usual male imagery. John and Barbara sit with us for the service.

                Early the next morning John is back with one of his parishioners to drive us to Anaheim for our day at Disneyland. A bus has wrecked on the freeway and we are just a few minutes late when we get to Milt’s office a little after eleven. I like Milt immediately. In his 70’s, with a full head of shining silver hair, ruddy complexion, booming voice, ready smile, pearly teeth, eyes that twinkle, and a firm handshake, I know in an instant that he loves his job and has fun doing it.

                If cast by Hollywood, the Disney persona could not be better captured. Milt has been with Disney since the beginning and knew Walt personally. Milt walks me from his office to the parking lot and locks my bike in the van where it will stay until tomorrow. As we walk, Milt maintains a running commentary on this place he knows so well. Main Street is modeled after Marceline, Missouri, he tells me, where Walt’s parents moved when he was five years old, but it had to be scaled down to accommodate the space available. Disneyland covers only 40 acres, a Magic Kingdom surrounded by freeways. Main Street is designed so that to arriving guests it looks longer than it really is, giving the illusion of more space than actually exists. To the guest walking out Main Street at the end of an exhausting day, the street appears shorter, less an obstacle back to their waiting car.

                I get the feeling that more is afoot for tomorrow than I expect. To be in the parade Disneyland has each afternoon and to meet Mickey: that’s what I asked Milt if I could do. When he said yes, I was in Heaven. Milt had said it would be good if I could be here in September for the State Fair Day they are planning, but I had to be back home to start a new school year on September 1. Milt expected 80,000 people in the park on August 27 and my arrival would not be as big an event as it would later. “But you come ahead. We’ll make it nice,” he said.

                As I called Milt every week or so from the road, I could feel his excitement growing. Milt had called the college about a week ago to say that he would need for Bobbie and me to stay in the Disneyland Hotel so we would be close enough to coordinate the activities Disney had planned. I didn’t know about this development until yesterday when Bobbie told me. Since Seattle I had been planning to spend our nights in Anaheim at the Lutheran Seminary here. Jack Eichorst had called his fellow president here and arranged our lodging.

                And last night on the phone to Bobbie, Milt had told her he needed a private meeting with her when we got to Disneyland. After Milt takes me to lock up my bike, he and Bobbie and several Disney people disappear up the stairs for about an hour. Bobbie then floats down the stairs, glowing as if what she has seen and heard has transformed her. “You won’t believe what they have planned for you,” she says. Then she falls silent. I see in her eyes what I saw when she was seventeen and stole my heart.

                Milt is bubbling as he tells me about it, though he gives me none of the details. But if he aims to get me excited, he could do no better than one thing he does say; “I’ll pick you up in the morning at 5:45. We have rehearsal at six.”

                Rehearsal! Rehearsal? Me? Robert Redford, eat your heart out. When I was a boy a Saturday morning radio program called Let’s Pretend would transport me to a land of castles and kings and beautiful ladies and noble deeds. Now in real life as an adult I have been transported here at Disneyland for an adventure bigger than I ever imagined.

                The woman at the hotel desk makes me feel like King Arthur as she asks about my ride and says she is proud of me. She hopes the Human Family Reunion fires the imagination of all the world’s people. Then she sends us up to the twelfth floor suite. A living room bigger than our apartment when we got married. And more furniture. A two-room bathroom. Closets big enough to sleep in. From the bedroom we can see a waterfall, a swimming pool and a paddle-boat lagoon, some shops, another hotel, and Disneyland.

                While we sat in the hotel lobby waiting for our room, Milt showed me the script for tomorrow’s TV filming. They are having a parade just for me, and all the Disney characters will be there to welcome me. Milt said Disney is spending a lot of money and time on this. “We want to do it for you,” he said, “but of course there’s something in it for us. If that film’s as good as we hope, it’ll be seen all over this country.”

                When I meet Milt outside the hotel a little before six the next morning, the sun is coming up into a cloudless sky; the air is cool and clear. Just inside the front gate, half-a-dozen people are busily arranging the stage. Following introductions all around, Milt drives me back into the parking lot, explaining as we go the route and the speed I am to ride at ten o’clock when the ceremony in front of the train station is to take place.

                And now they tell me that I am the only one in the parade. It’s all for me! I will ride my bike in the main gate. Chip and Dale and Goofy will entertain the crowd as I ride through the parking lot, commenting on how long it will take me to arrive. As I approach the train station, I will ride onto a red carpet, lined to either side by cheering spectators waving American flags. And when I make it the length of the carpet, I am to dismount. Someone will take my bike and I will grab Bobbie and give her a big kiss. Mickey will shake my hand and usher me onto the stage where I will be officially welcomed and presented a trophy from the Orange County M.S. Society and one from Disneyland, a statue of Mickey Mouse, appropriately inscribed and handed to me by Mickey himself.

                Then I’ll make a short speech and be interviewed by the media. Everything will be filmed and put on TV for all the country to see. Then we’ll go to lunch in Walt’s private club, followed by an escorted tour of the park with the Disneyland Ambassador.

                For two hours we rehearse, and as I hear the Disney characters talk about me in their irreverent way, I am one of them as they have all of my life been one of me. And when Milt drives me out to the marquee in front of Disneyland and shows me my name up there for all to see, when he tells me that this is something they just never do, that the last time they did it was for Richard Nixon more than 20 years ago; then, at that moment, I am in a dimension of life I have never known and cannot describe.

                Ten o’clock comes. Everything proceeds as planned. This can’t be real. All these people cheering for me, with their eyes embracing the day and each other and me. People of different colors and cultures and creeds standing to welcome and to listen to me. Gazing into that sea of salt, pepper and ginger faces as I talk, seeing the smiles and the endorsing body language, feeling the energy and the good will that has us caught in its spell, believing for one brief shining moment that the whole world is the mirror image of this place: The Magic Kingdom come alive.

            And now I do understand, Lloyd. Farther along, I have found the answer. Peace, power, purpose and joy are meant to be our constant companions. Life is supposed to be a glorious adventure. To become a World Class Person, able to go anywhere at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe: This is our destiny. Each of us intuitively knows all of this. If we can find the courage to talk to people about our mutual dreams of becoming World Class, then we shall together be swept upward in a benevolent commingling of beautiful thoughts and noble deeds, elevating us and all of life to the heroic dimension we long for.

#100 Little Aubrey

January 14, 2010

I haven’t looked at the map. I haven’t carried one except now and then when those who helped me thought I should take one. Somehow, though, I didn’t keep them long. So I don’t know how far from where I am Rob and Cindy Caulfield live. But when we had met back at that rest stop on I-90 a month ago, Rob told me to call when I came to Ventura. I figure I’m closer now than I will be tomorrow night. And I need help. I’m too tired to look any further. So I call.

            Cindy answers. Rob is in the yard. Cindy doesn’t know how far Carpenteria is from them. I tell her I’ll be okay. And we hang up. Now what do I do? And I think of a map I think I remember at the bottom of one of my panniers, buried under a bunch of stuff and all wadded up. Some searching and I find it.

                Talking to Cindy, I learned that they don’t actually live in Ventura, but in Santa Paula. And looking at the map, I see that Carpenteria is about 15 miles from Ventura. I think maybe I could make it to Ventura if Rob could drive there to get me. So I call back. Cindy answers again. Before I can explain my plan, Cindy says, “I’m so glad you called back. Rob said he would come get you. It’s only 30 miles.”

                I’m talking to Rob from a phone booth in front of Super Taco. He isn’t sure how to get to me, so I run inside and ask the man behind the counter to come outside and give Rob directions. Half an hour later, Rob drives into the parking lot in his white pickup, and we load the bike in the back. Before we drive away, I dash back inside to thank Hector for his help.

                Five-year old Ryan has come with his dad, and he sits between us on the drive back to his house. He is too shy to say much, but I saw how big his eyes got as he watched us load the bike. I heard him ask his dad, “What’re those?” as we took the panniers loose and swung them up onto the bed of the pickup. And he eyes my helmet as it lies between my feet as we drive.

                And what a drive. Along the ocean for much of the way just as the sun is going down. Gazing into the ocean at sunset conjures hosts of poetic images, and I think because I have satisfied my muscle’s needs this day for stretching and bending and work, my mind is able to feast on the aesthetic abundance around me.

                When we get to their house at eight, Cindy has chicken enchiladas and other good things waiting. Cindy asks me to take the seat at the head of the table that’s perfect size for five to pass food and to talk. Just to my right sits Rob, and to his right is Ryan. Across from Ryan in her highchair sits Aubrey, a little blond angel with the light of a thousand fireflies in her blue eyes and the radiance of moonglow in her presence. On my left, between Aubrey and me, sits Cindy, who divides her time four ways during dinner. She negotiates with Aubrey what and how much to put on her plate; she jumps up for the three steps into the kitchen as the table runs low; she eats her dinner; and she takes an active part in the conversation.

                During dinner, Ryan’s mother comes over: She lives nearby. Rob and Cindy have been married less than five years, and Ryan is Rob’s son from his first marriage. Aubrey is almost three, and Rob and Cindy’s daughter. Ryan calls his real mother “Mom”, and calls Cindy by her name. Aubrey copies everything she sees or hears; so she calls her mother “Cindy”.

                Rob works for Sunkist, designing and maintaining the equipment that sizes, grades and packs the millions of oranges grown in Southern California and elsewhere in the world. Rob has made two trips to Israel as a consultant to their citrus industry, and he talks about the Spanish and his interest in the equipment they use.

                And I learn about oranges more than I ever knew there was to know: that Florida oranges are more for juice, while California oranges are grown to eat; that Sunkist is a cooperative agreement between growers and marketers; that Sunkist does not own trees or land; that oranges are cleaned and waxed so they appeal to the eye; that to bring top dollar, oranges must pass taste tests, be of the most desirable size, and without brown spots; that Sunkist stands ready to advise and council its client growers; that competition to sign up and keep the top growers is fierce.

                This morning I’m sitting at the desk in the kitchen making phone calls. Aubrey is right beside me with her toy phone. She dials as I do and carries on a parallel conversation. After a while I notice that Aubrey has a pencil in hand and is gently tapping on the desk. Odd! Then I catch sight of my own right hand beating out a staccato rhythm with my pen.

                I haven’t been up long and I’m barefoot. A while later, I go to the bedroom. Aubrey pads after me. “What’cha doin’?” She asks. “Puttin’ on my shoes,” I answer. She wiggles her toes and holds up her small foot for me to see. Then she disappears. I’m at the desk again making phone calls when Aubrey reappears to ask her mother to tie her shoes.

                Dare I hope that people across the country have been responding to the Human Family Reunion the way little Aubrey has picked up my unconscious behavior and off-hand remarks? Aubrey notices everything and immediately plays it back. She is not yet sophisticated enough to provide variations on a theme. What she sees is what she does, and one’s influence is immediately obvious.