Posts Tagged ‘ Adversity ’




      As if controlled by a heavenly spigot, the rains abruptly ceased and the dense cloud cover cracked, allowing a stream of sunlight to filter across the asphalt where Clidell Gipson was standing beside his shoeshine stand.  

     Nothing supernatural. It happens all the time. Even in Gardena, California. It was a lousy afternoon until Clide, 60, a black man with a goatee, wearing a cap, Levis, a blue shirt and sweater, opened his mouth. The words flowed easily. His essay was hope. He was a beam of sunshine standing on the asphalt beside a carwash in a pair of unshined shoes.   The sixth eldest in a family of 22 brothers and sisters, he was born and raised on a cotton farm just outside Shreveport, Louisiana. At the age of seven, he began shining shoes with his brother, Willy. He had no formal education. But when he turned on his spigot, a torrent of love and street wisdom flowed out — almost like poetry.

     When I interviewed Clide a number of years ago, lived in a small apartment in Watts, had 17 grown children and 29 grandchildren. Ella, his wife and the mother of his entire brood, was dead.

     “My daddy used to tell us, ‘If you learn a business, you can live anywhere, stay honest and you don’t have to steal from nobody… Then, you can go to bed with your clothes off, not with your clothes on.’

     “First thing I teach my kids is… get a good education. Some of them have. Second thing: Be honest! One of my boys was killed a couple of years ago. Gang killing. I love them all. Since they all belong to me, I got no choice!

     “If I had it to do over again, I’d be a machinist. Yeah. You can’t make enough shining shoes for 65 cents a pair. I had to have two jobs to support my kids. I ran the machines in a laundry.”      Especially in Louisiana, Clide has seen his share of racial prejudice. “I don’t go for discrimination. Not at all. Life shouldn’t be troubled by prejudice. We got other problems…” He laughed.

     “I don’t care if you’re white, pink, yellow, green… We all was put here together and we should care about one another. That’s what’s wrong with the world today. We’re fighting amongst ourselves. I think we all need each other — to a certain extent.     

     “Why should I teach my kids to hate — to be prejudice? That’s no good. You carry hate around, it gets heavy after a while. Then you do something real bad. Maybe kill somebody. Bang! Since we’re here for such a short time, it don’t make sense.”

     For several years, Clide, had been fighting bone cancer. “Sometimes my legs cramp so bad, they won’t let me get up. I’ve gone through some tough times… No use complaining.

     “You never get ‘the religion’ until you start hurtin’,” he shrugged. “Soon as you quit hurtin’, then you stop talking to Jesus. That happens!

     “Whether I’m hurtin’ or not, I thank the Lord every day. I don’t go to church as often as I should. But I believe in God.

     “‘Course, I still can’t figure where I’m going… Up there!” he points to the sky. “Or down there!” he points to the asphalt. I pay no mind to dyin’.  

     “The President dies. Movie stars die. If you’re poor, you’re gonna die. If you’re rich, your gonna die. I don’t begrudge a rich person for what he has. If he treats me like a man and I treat him like a man, that’s fine! When our time comes, we’re gone. All the money in the world don’t buy you extra time.”

     Clide has accomplished some “goals” in his lifetime that he feels are of consequence. “Raisin’ a family, caring for people — those are important! Can’t think of anything more important in this short life than doing for your fellow man.

     “I’ve gone to the end of my road; did what I had to do. Had kids. Did the best I could raisin’ them. Had some good times and a whole lot of struggles.  

     “Sometimes you sit up nights wondering how you’re going to support them; you worry about them. Just trying to be a good father — that’s more important than shining shoes.

     “There was plenty of times I could have taken a strap to myself.” he said laughing. “I’ve made a bunch of mistakes. Some was funny; some I don’t even want to talk about.

       “When I was a kid, I didn’t get no spankings. But I got a lot of whippings. I’ve spanked my kids — every one of them. You spank them because you care for them, not because you want to hurt them.”

     With 17 children, how could you spank all of them?

     “Easy… One at a time!” he roared.

     Shining shoes, says Clide, “ain’t that important in the scheme of things. You’ve got to love it to do it. Funny thing about shoeshining. A shoeshine person, he don’t never shine his own shoes. I don’t know why. I used to come home and Ella would go, ‘You go out and get those shoes shined!’ It’s just like a mechanic, I guess. He’ll fix everybody else’s car but his own!”

     Clidell Gipson — a burst of sunlight on an asphalt parking lot.

                        — Boots LeBaron —

(Clyde Gipson was an eloquent man who preached

his view of life while shining shoes at a car wash)




If total peace of mind could be

obtainable, life would be boring.

Earth dwellers have no choice but

to endure the pangs of existence.

That’s how we learn things.

And that’s why I believe in the

significance of being insignificant.

There are those I’ve traded lip

service with who have plummeted into

that bottomless abyss we all

know so well. Yet, somehow many

of us manage to find an elevator to

bring us back to whatever surprise

fate has scheduled for our future.

Everybody knows that bitterness

tastes lousy, anguish stings and

triumph is sweeter than sour.

I don’t need extreme isolation on a

mountain top to find enlightenment.

My Himalayas are everywhere. On a

crowded street corner, on a pier

overlooking the Pacific, surviving

a dull sermon, watching cloths dry

at a laundromat, trapped in a cave,

making love to a babe, doing solitaire in

The Big House, eyeballing the lantern moon,

spilling profound secrets to a pet pooch,

facing death in combat, driving home

alone, flying solo above the clouds.

Here’s a thought about the human

condition that might impress even

Confucius: We’re all a little bonkers!

Think about it. Look into the mirror.

The significance of being

insignificant is where we’re at.

Live with it!


Boots LeBaron


(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is available on

Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. It contains

human interest stories, essays and light poetry

focusing on people just like you. Read it!)




     Have you ever been jostled by a vindictive lout who obviously doesn’t want to see you succeed?

     I have.

     There’s no English word to describe those kind of rancorous individuals. But the German language nails it with a noun: Schadenfreude (shahd-n-froi-duh). Translated: “Satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.”

     Have you ever: Dropped a game winning touchdown pass? Failed to sell a work-in-progress play you’re still laboring on? Suffered a broken heart? Experienced humiliation? Lacked a formal education? Owned an ancient jalopy rather than a new Mercedes? Married a poor girl rather than one from a filthy rich family? Been a person with a blue-collar attitude?

     Proudly, my answer is “yes” to all of the above.

     And during the process, I’ve locked horns with more than my share of men and women suffering from the Schadenfreude syndrome.

     There are an abundance of them scurrying around in the workplace, politics, showbiz, sports — even in the world of blue-collar workers.

     Take a good look at them. They are jealous, greedy, insensitive, vengeful, smug in their pretentiousness, mocking and fearful of their own faltering self-esteem.

     Give them a compassionate hug. For they are the pathetic ones.

                        — Boots LeBaron

(Read Boots’ current book, THE HUMAN RACE. Buy it

on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. The human

interest stories, essays and light poetry cover

     all aspects of life. Read all about it!)




     Having lived with dyslexia since childhood, I had no idea that my lack of reading skills, my inability to spell, work with numbers, or even my artwork, had anything to do with the circuitry between my ears.

     Neither did my parents, teachers or adult co-workers.

     That brain-based learning abnormality specifically impairs a person’s ability to read and comprehend. Dyslexia has clouded my existence from pre-school through decades of adulthood. Even at this stage in life, I continue to omit or add letters or words when writing. Yet as a reporter, a writer-publicist and freelancer, I’ve published thousands of stories throughout my adulthood.

     Whenever I sketch a human figure or draw a cartoon character, I must concentrate on what side of a foot or hand to place the big toe or thumb.

     Knowing what I now know about my conceptual malfunctions (Rudolf Berlin, the German ophthalmologist, coined the term dyslexia in 1887), I wouldn’t swap my impulse center for any other set of gray cells, no matter how brilliant, conniving or ingenious they might be.      

     When neurologists and other knowledgeable researchers began delving into the auditory, visual, mental-concentration factors and creative roots of dyslectics like me, I began to feel good about my brain disorder. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. But I’m convinced that such a biological mishap is an endowment, a phenomenon capable of reaching impressive heights and depressive lows.

     Like my fellow passengers who ride the same dyslexic train, we are a massive group of unique men, women and children. Like it or not, our “short-circuitry” enables us to board a streamlined express that’s creatively and intellectually on the fast track.

     For dyslexia does not affect the intellect; nor does it relate to I.Q. But it does have to be identified, then nurtured and harnessed.

     Back when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was U.S. President (1933-45), I was a rudderless kid, a child actor, growing up in Los Angeles sharing a tiny one-bedroom apartment with my single-parent mother and grandmother.

     Granted, I was confused and floundering, unconsciously searching for my humanity. Occasionally, even as an adult, I was a target of ridicule and verbal abuse.

     So I know the sting of humiliation. It must have hurt, but I didn’t bleed, I didn’t hide. My mother, grandmother and rogue Hollywood stuntman father gave me different kinds of love. Maybe that’s why I never felt stupid, naive, illiterate, incorrigible or any of those coarse descriptions.

     Even today, I might hesitate before confessing that I ain’t well educated. That kind of attitude erupts with a tinge of pride. I’m no ignoramus. Like a lot of my brothers and sisters, I come with a different set of smarts. Many years ago at a cocktail party, Ernest Hemingway told me that he flunked high school English and that F. Scott Fitzgerald “couldn’t spell for shit.”

     That brief encounter with the man I wanted to emulate lifted my spirits. Of course, my favorite writers were also J.D. Salinger (“The Catcher In the Rye”) and Mickey Spillain who introduced Mike Hammer, a private eye in such popular books as “The Big Kill” and “My Gun Is Quick.” To my way of thinking, they were all classics and easy reads. That included several of Hemingway’s novels.    

     Now that I’m running neck-and-neck with Methuselah, I want to emphasize that dyslexics aren’t all lost souls. They are scientists, actors, magicians, CEOs, exercise consultants, blue-collar workers, artists, doctors, lawyers, felons, politicians. You name it.

     Had it not been for George Roberts a journalism teacher at Los Angeles High School in the late 40’s who introduced me to writing, I might have wound up like a few of my friends doing the convict shuffle in The Big House.

     How do I know this? I ran “makes” on them when I was a police-beat reporter for The Los Angeles Times. My first Times’ job was separating postcards on weekends while I attended Los Angeles City College on the GI-Bill. Then I worked in the circulation department, and took a drop in salary to become a copy boy working in editorial. Eventually I wound up writing TV log listings, a weekly FM radio column and interviewing TV actors.

     I had no idea that I was dyslexic. Neither did a lot of people who helped me along the way. Smokey Hale, the night managing editor at The Times, told me: “You want a real job? Leave all this Hollywood crap and I’ll get you transferred to the police beat.” Best move I ever made.

     Times reporters Jerry Hulse and Jack Smith (both became well-known columnists with best-selling books) were very supportive. Jerry was like a mentor. When I was calling in stories from “the beat” he showed me how to boil down a juicy homicide into a one-sentence pitch to the city desk. He tried to teach me how to put a story together. That took patience laced with compassion.

     When I left The Times and joined Glenn Rose & Assoc. to publicize the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, one of my unwitting teachers, thanks to Glenn, was Alan Scott, a screen writer who was credited writing screenplays for many of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals.

     His office was a tiny room off Sunset Boulevard with barren walls, a cot, a desk, a typewriter and a few books. I’d drive him to a hotel near the cliffs overlooking the ocean in Santa Monica.

     During those drives we talked mostly about writing. Gems the screenwriter and playwright offered me ranged from comedy to dramas like “So Proudly We Hale,” a World War II story starring Claudette Colbert, Veronica Lake and Paulette Goddard as battle-weary nurses in the Pacific during World War II.

     Eventually, I went to work at Universal Studios. That’s when Willard Thompson, a Times editor, published my interview stories and gave me by-lines.

     Yet, my most fascinating adventure was working with a gang of hard-boiled police-beat journalists in the pressroom at LAPD’s Parker Center where I learned about life, death, human misery and crime reporting. There were no women “beat” reporters in those days. Yet I loved all those tough hombres.

     The L.A. Times was my MBA. I didn’t graduate magna cum laude but the adventure was irreplaceable. And I truly respected the news business and all the wonderful characters who covered the world.  

     Walter Lantz, an Oscar winning animator (Woody Woodpecker) and fine artist, taught me how to draw cartoons and paint with oils.

     For me, dyslexia was the ace I was dealt. It was a blessing in disguise. Because of my cerebrate wiring, I’ve performed my brand of creative sorcery that baffled well-educated others. Alone, I could come up with more substantial ideas than a conference table filled with smart asses.

     I can’t read a note of music, but I can fake it as a nightclub pianist with tips to prove it. I don’t read many novels or historic non-fiction. But I study humor, writing styles, and dabble seriously into any think piece that I can focus my eyeballs on.

     I’ve written hundreds of stories and poetic essays that have been published in newspapers and magazines. More than 800 of my free-lance columns appeared in The Daily Breeze and Los Angeles Copley newspapers. Some I illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings.     Parental love was my fortress in a silent storm where reading, writing and arithmetic were my bugaboos. I had lots of love, compliments of my mother, grandmother and actor-stuntman father who she shed twice in divorce courts. Although he never paid alimony or child support, I loved my deadbeat old man.

     Throughout life, I owe thanks to many people. That includes my wife JoAnne who not only gave me moral support for more than a half century, but somehow tolerated my idiosyncrasies. I have three grown kids, Beau, Brooke and Brandon. In different ways, they have learned to understand and even appreciate their father’s avant-garde thought-processing mechanism.

     So I have no regrets. Neither should any man, woman or child suffering from such a unique learning disability. As the years whiz by, I’ve concluded that dyslexia has been a rare gift that came in unorthodox wrappings.

     With pride, I will forever cherish my short circuitry.

— Boots LeBaron —

(THE HUMAN RACE by Boots LeBaron contains

 inspirational and humorous interviews, essays

and light poetry about life, courage, death,

women’s’ rights, business, romance & faith.

Buy it on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon)




Shouldn’t we wonder:

Must we bleed if  we blunder?

Absorbing  jabs of humiliation

Doesn’t come close to castration.

Young or old, meek or bold,

It takes time to get a foothold.

If we’ve blundered more than once,

Must we be barbecued at lunch?

Can’t we laugh at our woes

Rather than cynically oppose?

To debunk prejudicial brutality,

Use your wit and humorality.

To debunk society’s abusive parade,

The secret is not to be afraid.

If your weapon of choice is sarcasm,

Strike back with irrefutable  enthusiasm.

Belligerent  playmates, no matter who,

Deserve a kick in the ass by you!

When you counterpunch with caustic wit,

It’ll prove  your taunter’s the true nitwit.

Boots LeBaron

(Boots’  book, ‘THE HUMAN RACE,” shows you how

to counterpunch featuring inspirational and humorous

interviews, essays and light poetry.  Buy it! It’s available

on Kindle and on Amazon in paperback)


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Life is all about discovery.

 Discovering oneself in others.

 Searching for reason.

 Experimenting with compassion.

 Isolating the hypocrisy in you.

 Experiencing failure.

 Sampling humiliation.

 Monitoring your own ignorance.

 Grappling with bigotry.

 Witnessing death.

 Finding strength in heartbreak.

 And finally,

when your days are full,

basking in the knowledge

you’ve absorbed and dissected

over a lifetime.

     — Boots LeBaron —

(This is one of many poems, essays and

human interest stories featured in  Boots’ book,

“THE HUMAN RACE” available on Kindle

 and in paperback on Amazon)

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