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Written By: F. John Surells

The past belongs to those who lived it. But if we of today wish to learn from its lessons, then we must become a part of all the truths God granted it at each and every juncture. And liberation is unquestionably important, yet is always only achieved for a price. And for the individual, that price is usually paid where the crowd wishes not to tread.
When I accepted Mayor George Jennifer’s challenge to write all three parts of “Backyard Nothingness,” I agreed to the guidelines which he said must be followed in those writings. But I issued one stipulation to him – which he accepted, i.e. although the separate pieces of the three part disclosure might be titled for certain individuals, it would not be solely those individuals to whom, or about whom those separate pieces would exclusively speak.
And in that manner then this last installment of “Backyard Nothingness” references a friend of many of us in this city. And, although he doesn’t live in our city, he does visit us here from time to time. And I can tell you that if anyone would ever graciously, and perhaps even thankfully admit that he doesn’t own the center part of any stage, it would be my friend R. F. Husnik. Therefore, what follows now are some observations engendered as a result of conversations with him, as well as some anecdotes told to me by him and others.
I’ve always wondered if those who look back upon the lives of others see first and foremost the good that could have been achieved there. And then, I’ve also wondered if they sometimes forget that but for a few spins of negativity’s wheel, any individual could have easily strayed into domains of sin and criminality, to be punished temporally by human courts, or far worse, eternally by the Triune Master.
Nonetheless, I know this: No congress can ever send out enough dollars to pay for a sunny day! But when mankind suffers a great plague, then it needs its prayers for itself, offered up in all humility – God please stop the coronavirus.
And, in conjunction with my personal prayer, I’m also wondering if my friend R. F. Husnik will be able to visit our city again this summer as he has now for the last three. Yes, he’s the man who acquainted me with the concept of “zones” being utilized to demonstrate one’s characteristics or aspects of being. And he said that within what might be termed the “mindset of common man” existed probably only two such zones, i.e. the good one, and the bad one. But, he also acknowledged that that interpretation would most likely speak only to the universality of all matters.
Yet, personally, I can’t help but think that there’s a lot more to life than simply deducing what’s good and what’s bad. After all, our lives consist of physical activities, and, surely it can be said that they all first begin in a zone of beginnings, but then ultimately end in a … well, end zone. Or, sadly, is there also sometimes a third zone which speaks to both universality and physicality? And is that a zone of nothingness in which all proceeds unobtrusively until someone says or does something which doesn’t “sit well” with someone or some group? That’s a question which no doubt generates many diverse answers. Yet, I’m thinking the most truthful of those answers is “Probably so.”
Still, who can deny that nondescriptly is how most mortals wish to live? And who can deny that in the final analysis, though what’s left behind by those now deceased will still matter to those still living, such assets and philosophies of life won’t sway the final decisions of eternity’s judges, although of course they’ll play a part in those decisions.
And what about the falsehoods which were added to, and acts of goodness which were subtracted from any mortal’s resume of earthly deeds by those who thought they knew all that needed to be known about any certain mortal? Maybe that’s a question which warrants serious consideration early on in the lives of all mortals, before the “status-quo” begins its earnest lifelong courting of them, and begins then to hammer its nails into what it wishes might be their earthly coffins, and asks of them then (when it can find the time to take leave of its primary pursuit, i.e. the dissemination of rumors, half-truths, and outright lies) “When are you ever going to grow up? Don’t you feel you’ve wasted a lifetime by featuring little else than the casting of stones against those who believe that basically ‘anything goes’ should be the mantra of modern day man?”
But oh, I’ll need to speak boastfully now! The “status-quo” has tried tirelessly to convert me. Yet, years ago I formulated my personal answers to the questions asked in the last paragraph. And I’ll summarize those answers by saying that I’ve never been a believer in “anything goes,” because when any, or everything has the possibility of going either down or away, a lot of evil then has the potential to surface, and a lot of possible goodness may then simply “fade away” as well. And as far as “growing up” is concerned, sometimes my thoughts do stray back to the days before I came to this city. In fact, just a few days ago I was looking at some old photographs from years ago when suddenly what appeared on them seemed so real – so real that I was almost transported back there – back to the actual moments portrayed on those pictures! And I suppose nostalgia and melancholy overwhelmed me then. And in my mind I said then “When we’re very young, most of us surmise that there’s so much we’ve not yet learned. But probably our greatest realization occurs when we fathom that all those who follow us will also experience what we’re experiencing at that current moment. And that’s how it will be forever down the line! And mom and dad, no, I never became what you and your friends thought I would. My lot in life was not to become the standardized mortal who daily goes about his or her business, slaying the dragons of the everyday as becomes necessary from moment to moment. My lot in life, for whatever reason, was to become part of an existential, and fairly conservative clique of artistic types who live along the north shore of a river which divides into two sections what probably is the only city upon planet Earth which truly can be designated as being ‘underground’ in the strictest figurative, but not literal interpretation of that term.”
And experience has taught me that I can make a good guess at the “status-quo’s response to what I’ve just said. Its answer: “To me, it seems you’re someone who’s simply living in the past; and particularly within two decades of it. Somehow I can picture you driving down the highways of America in a car from 1957 with large white ‘fins’ or ‘wings’ on its sides, and calling out ‘I like Ike’ to passersby along the roadway who may or may not have initially called that out to you. Yet, I can also visualize you on a warm summer day during a decade of roaring. And as you partake of a beverage that’s been recently prohibited, you wink at the picture of President Coolidge which hangs on your living room wall, and proceed outdoors to do some ‘work’ on your 1923 Dodge. But right next door there’s a party going on. And you can hear and see some flappers, and cigarette smokers, and hat and pinstripe wearers. And you know they’re having a good time over there – next door. They’re laughing, drinking, smoking, yelling, and causing quite a ruckus. And some are even dancing the Charleston. And a few well-dressed guys and gals stray on to your property and ask if they can help work on your Dodge, but you thank them and send them back to their party. And then your neighbor, who is sponsoring the festivities next door, also comes out to speak to you. And he’s carrying some sort of yard sign, and says to you ‘You don’t have to worry about the cops or anyone else coming over here and trying to end our celebration.’ And then he goes back on his own property and pounds the sign he’d been carrying into the lawn of his front yard. The sign says: AUTHORITIES – KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF THE ROARING TWENTIES.”
“But then you call back to your neighbor and say ‘I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a time traveler. And today I’ve come here to the middle of the 1920’s to see if I can find some means to aid those of us who’ve just entered the decade of the 2020’s.’”
‘“ So, you’re from a hundred years hence are you? Well, then you know my generation’s future don’t you?”’
“You nod in the affirmative. And then your neighbor says, ‘Don’t tell me what it is, but just answer this question for me please: These days of partying and wild living will end in a nasty fashion eventually, won’t they?”’
“Again you nod affirmatively.”
“But then suddenly there’s a focus shift, and then you’re gone from the days of post WWI, pre-depression, and pre WWII revelry. And then, back in the presence of 2020’s realism, you find yourself postulating about many mortals’ apparent need to live for today only. And that leads you to question the magnitude of any certain human’s probable past painfulness, as well as his or her inability to foresee or care about the future. And you’ve always surmised that hand in hand with one’s struggle to find a synthesis between one’s past, present, and future existed another significant enigma which affects all humans in varying degrees; and that phenomenon is the determination of at what point looking at the past objectively stops, and feeling sorry for oneself begins, and visa versa.”
But by this time I’d wearied of speaking to the disciple of the “status-quo.” I said “That’s enough” and walked away. And you know, sometimes all the political and philosophical posturing just becomes too much. And it’s at times like those that my thoughts often stray to a friend of our city who’s come to see us during the last three summers. And of course I’m speaking now of R. F. Husnik. So I decided to give R. F. a call that day. I didn’t really expect to reach him, but to my joy I was mistaken.
“Are you going to visit our city again next summer?” I asked him. “I heard your local football team did fairly well last year.”
“Yes it did!” he said. “But you know, before we make any decisions about this coming summer we’ll have to admit that most likely the coronavirus will make those decisions for us. Nevertheless, I was thinking that if we could meet up during any of the summer months, maybe this year for a change it would be nice if you and Renni, and some of the other people I’ve come to know from your city could come to my city for once. We could all go on a tour of the stadium. And I’d especially like it if Orlon and your new mayor could come out here. Oh, and bring those other famous couples (Rashon and Amber, Corzer and Valerie, and Joe and Sharon) along too! And I almost forgot something! I’d really like it if some of you people could go to some of those famous car shows with me next summer – like Iola and Symco – if indeed they’ll be held.”
“Well, I’ll mention it to Renni and the rest of the ‘guys’ and let you know what they say,” I answered. “But you’re right, it might all depend upon the coronavirus. And say, before I let you go, do you have one of your famous stories for me and my friends?” I asked.
“Should I just leave you with this anecdote which was told to me by a friend many years ago?” R. F. asked.
“Sure” I said.
“Well, it seems that a friend of mine was riding in the back seat of another friend’s car many years ago. Now the other guy was driving of course, and he and my friend were both in their late teens then, and were, as we say ‘joy riding’ with two girls of their same age. Suddenly the car radio began playing a song about a girl with brown eyes. And then the girl who was in the back seat of the car with the guy who told me this story said to him ‘You can kiss me now.’”
“But my friend apparently answered then, ‘We have two problems here. First, you should have said ‘You may kiss me now.’ And second, your eyes aren’t brown like the girl’s on the song now playing.’”
“Are you sure that guy in the back seat wasn’t really you?” I then asked of R. F.
“No, it wasn’t me,” he answered. “FJ disapproved of guys riding around with, and kissing girls in the back seats of cars back in those days.”

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