Monday, December 31, 2012

A thank you note....

     I hate to wax poetic...oh, no I don't.  It's my silliest habit.  So here goes....

     Lord knows, there's a lot of irritation in this world.  At any given time, just by walking out your front door, one can encounter a thousand reasons to lose complete faith in humanity.  So it's of great comfort to have occasion to find some sanity in one's life, simply by walking into an old friend's house.
"Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read...."  Francis Bacon.

     A grin and a wink accompanies "whatchu' drinking?"  Grinning and winking, you see, because they know very well what I'm drinking and they've gone to the trouble to have a full bottle of it sitting there on their bar.  Hugs and handshakes are exchanged, coats are put away and a fire in the fireplace and a house decorated impeccably for the holidays becomes quite the shelter from the crapstorm that rains on us most everywhere else.  That same "everywhere else" on planet earth where we monitor manners and political correctness and our behavior in general. Here folks relish in your stupidity and laugh it off because they already know you're an idiot..and the love that side of you.   
"It's one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."  (Ralph Waldo Emerson.)
      To sit over a dinner that would make any chef on television blush with envy yet realize that - because you're sitting there with people you love so dearly - you could be having "warm beer and bread" and the evening would still be as grand as some champagne and roses moment from an old Glen Miller song.  They're the rare moments when one can sit and not be concerned with a receding hairline, an expanding waistline or crow's feet.  That's because when an old friend looks across a table at you they're not seeing the toll that the passing of time is exacting on the outside of the package.  They're just seeing the soul that used to sport a really bitchin' mullet and yell fairly inappropriate things at other cars on the way to a Buffett concert.  Or the one that called you at some really strange hours and asked if you could provide taxi service.  The one  that yelled "Free Bird!!!!!!"  at a very artsy, outdoor picnic/concert thing - and no one was horrified because, well, it was fully expected!  The one with whom you cried when a parent was lost.  Or the one person not related to you by blood but that you really needed to talk to when it felt like the world was ending.  These are all straight-out gifts from God.  No longer are you afraid of the fact that we're all getting older.  You see, we're not becoming "old people."  We're not becoming our parents.  We're still "US."  And although our modes of transportation have changed (and need more frequent tune-ups!) we're still just trying to enjoy the ride, however long it may last. 
"Though the ocean roar around me,
  Yet it still shall bear me on;       
Though a desert should surround me,
  It hath springs that may be won.
Were ’t the last drop in the well,
  As I gasped upon the brink,
Ere my fainting spirit fell,       
  ’Tis to thee that I would drink." (From Lord Byron's "To Thomas Moore")
     I've said an awful lot to say this - thanks for dinner and thanks for being y'all.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday stuff.......

And not just any's the last Friday of 2012.  Seriously, 2013 sounds like Star Trek territory.  Shouldn't we be flying around with rocket packs on our back or visiting our condos on the moon by now?  What am I saying?  Hell, I have to take a Valium to fly Delta....I'd have to be fully sedated to fly NASA.  So I probably wouldn't have a condo on the moon (I've heard the beaches there suck, anyway.)

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles.....
Well this a bit scary......
Not one but TWO rocket launchers (ROCKET LAUNCHERS??)  turned in when during a Los Angeles police department gun buyback.  I know the premise of these gun buybacks is that - with complete anonymity - people turn in weapons.  But I'm thinking we might need to find out who had these in their possession.  One doesn't rob a liquor store with a rocket launcher.  One doesn't jack someone's Honda Civic with a rocket launcher.  People do things like shoot airplanes out of the sky or shoot at government buildings with rocket launchers. 

My mama would say "the devil's getting her room ready...."
Some things just speak for themselves and don't require discussion.  Was the first thing in YOUR mind when you heard about the horror in Connecticut "how can I profit from that?" 

I say let them drop a live possum....
USA Today link.....
Possums are proof that Satan exists.  They are, you see, his spawn.  Only the devil himself could create a creature so foul, so ugly and so useless.   Not sure which bothers me more - their blank, black doll eyes or their filthiness.   Some people's childhood are haunted by visions of ghosts, the boogeyman and other things that go bump in the night.  My childhood was haunted by walking through the kitchen on the way to bed and those black, lifeless eyes peering at me through the screen door while a fat hairy good for nothing possum finished off our cat's food on the back porch.  So I say let the fine folks of Brasstown, North Carolina drop a live possum.  Any possum now alive - I figure - is related to those that haunted my childhood and they all deserve any unpleasantness we can heap upon them.  Satan's spawn, I tell you....

Now that's funny.....
Newt, Newt, Newt..........the never ending source of hilarity....
The former speaker of the house has "Dancing Queen" has his ringtone.  Sometimes you can't think of what to say because there's just too much to say.   I can't quit laughing......

This link may be disturbing to those born in God's country...
Just doing a random search on collard greens and black-eyed peas led me to this travesty.  The article was written in 2009 so I can only hope the creator of this recipe has since found Jesus.  "Inspired by a greek dish..."    Let's just paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa, record a hip-hop version of Handel's "Messiah" and quit singing "Star Spangled Banner" at baseball games.

Still love these guys....

If you're an old Zeppelin fan (and, let's face it, if you're a Zeppelin fan, you're probably me)  do yourself a favor and watch this interview.  In conjuction with their Kennedy Center honors, CBS' "Sunday Morning" show did an interview with Zeppelin.  My favorite quote from the interview was when Anthony Mason asked "You weren't getting any White House invitations then?"  and Robert Plant answered "No...we were being questioned quite often.."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday stuff.....

     Top Chef is fun to watch.  But the lady of the house is going to be upset when I tell her that  I now want some elk with a cherry/beer sauce for supper (as opposed to the planned grilled cheese and tomato soup)   Speaking of Top Chef, I'm sick of folks calling themselves "foodies."  Holy crap, why do we have to give a name to everything enjoyable so that it sounds like a very exclusive club that you're just not quite cool enough to be a part of??   Everytime someone says "we're real foodies!"  I want to say "You think YOU'RE a foodie!?  I used to weigh 547 pounds!  WINNING!"  

     Shocked that I joke about how unhealthy and huge I got at one time in my life?  Don't be - that's been my modus operandi most of my life - laugh and (more importantly) make other people laugh about anything that scares, embarrasses or hurts me.   Since childhood, if you keep 'em laughing, they won't notice that you're the fat kid on the block.  (and, yes - I had to Google modus operandi to make sure I spelled and was using it correctly.  I ain't real bright.)   I joke, but I do keep a picture of myself that was taken when I wasn't even at my heaviest..but close enough to still disgust and scare me.  When I go to bed at night and feel like sleep isn't anywhere close because of the clutter in my brain, I pull out that picture and realize how far I've come and how much better RIGHT NOW really is....and sweet dreams soon follow.

     I don't understand birds.  I've lived my life thinking that birds go south in the winter.  Given that I'm sitting here in north Georgia, shouldn't my backyard be full of birds escaping snow and ice?  However, in the winter, the bird feeder in the backyard sits empty most of the time (as opposed to summer when it's covered.)  Perhaps they go further south because it's still too cold here.  I surely find it so.  Given my druthers I'd be celebrating Christmas with my toes in the sand and a cold beer in my hand, debating oysters or scallops for lunch.  Apparently, what I'm observing is normal....from the "" website:
"Bird feeding was once considered primarily a winter activity. Today bird enthusiasts feed birds throughout the year. In fact, some homeowners attract more birds to feeders in summer than winter."
     When I was a small child, there was an old lady that sang "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" at our church every Christmas, usually at the candlelight service on Christmas Eve (if I remember correctly)   It was really bad and we all found humor at her expense.  I remember, though, that the older she got and the more she leaned on a cane while trying to sing it, the less we laughed.  I think about that every Christmas but, for the first time, I did a little digging on the song.  It was written in 1934 by Robert MacGimsey.  Robert is, himself, an interesting story.  Listening to this Christmas memory and "Shadrack"   (which I'd heard Louis Armstrong sing but didn't know it was written by the same guy that wrote  "Sweet Little Jesus  Boy") one would be almost certain that he was African-American...and you'd be wrong.  I learned this morning that he was a white guy, born in Pineville, Louisiana.  However, most of the folks he grew up with were African-American...and he wrote music in the style that he liked best.  With much respect to the little,old lady at church, I think Natalie Cole nails it:

 To be safe - click this in case I screwed up the video

     I owe Celestine Sibley an apology.  Growing up I never, ever understood my mother's fascination with the woman's writing.  Even as a child I was interested in writing, dabbled in it and read everything I on which I could get my paws.   But, being the baby, most of the written word lying around the house I grew up in was beyond my years.  The same thing happened with music - consequently you're now as likely to find Glen Miller in my collection as you are Ten Years After or Blind Faith.  But I never, ever understood Celestine Sibley.  My mother - probably trying to encourage writing and reading - one time shoved a paper under my nose at the breakfast table and said "Read Celestine Sibley this morning.  It's amazing."  I moved my cereal bowl out of the way and proceeded to read (what I thought was) a mind-numbing column about the joys of MAKING A POT OF VEGETABLE SOUP on a cold winter's day.  Seriously? The Atlanta Constitution wastes that much column space on soup?  I tried very, very hard to not say anything rude about a writer that she loved so much.  I looked up at her after (mercifully) finishing the piece and said "uh, it's about soup...."   She rolled her eyes "no, it's NOT.  One day you'll understand how important very simple things can be."   In retrospect, I guess I owe Mama and Celestine Sibly an apology.  Now I'm nearly 50 years old and fascinated with the woman's writing....on so many levels.  She COULD write about the simple and make it riveting and comforting.   She could also take on the less simple - urban sprawl, civil rights - and make you think.....hard.   "Southern Spaces" says it much, much better than I'm saying it:
 One of the hardest parts of getting old is realizing how much quality you were surrounded with in younger years and ignored.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

"A cry is heard...."

     If you felt the earth tremble this morning it's because I darkened the doors of a church.  Almost completely unplanned.  We'd gone to ride around and look at Christmas lights last night and decided to stopy by a live nativity we saw while out...because, as I've said, it's not her fault she married a neanderthal.  I'm determined to make this Christmas infinitely more special for her because she enjoys Christmas and spent most of the last holiday season mourning the sudden loss of her best friend (on December 14, 2011.)   We learned the church having the live nativity had, coincidentally, a woman serving as minister that I'd known since she served as associate pastor for the church I grew up in (seemingly 100 years ago!)   So we made an off the cuff decision to go see what the Rev DeDe Leetch had to say this morning.  When she stood up to pray she read from the book of Jeremiah.  I had to do a little online searching to find the verse, but it was Jeremiah 31:15:

"A cry is heard in Ramah--deep anguish and bitter weeping. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted--for her children are gone."  
  You could immediately hear the sound of people sniffing and people reaching in pockets for handkerchiefs and tissues.  We were in Lawrenceville, Georgia  - a long way from Connecticut.   But the immediate reaction of many showed the dagger that's been sent to the heart of this entire country.

     Back in 1990-something, I had jury duty in DeKalb County and was frustrated to find myself selected for a jury pool.   I didn't want to be there and knew that during (that part of the trial process where they question potential jurors that has some Latin name I'm too lazy to look up right now)  I had to come up with some crazy-ass answers so that I could get back to work and making money.  it was a concealed weapons case so when the defense attorney came to me and said "Mr. Freeman, how do you feel about gun control?"  I said "well, I have friends that hunt and have respect for their right to own hunting firearms.  But handguns are made for one thing - to kill people with.  If you've got one in your pocket, you're probably on your way to kill somebody with it."  I was back at work that afternoon.

     Today, I repeat that same theory but believing it more than I did back then.  Gun control ain't got a thing to do with the 2nd amendment.  Gun control has to do with the type of guns that are legal.  Someone that's out putting some venison in the freezer has no need for something that will fire a zillion rounds a minute.  A true sportsman wants one shot.  If you want a pistol to keep your loved ones safe at night, I also find little need for it to have capacity for large magazines.   You might say the intruder will have the large magazine and he might...and that takes us back to the issue of true gun control.  I'll grant you - I'm speaking about something I know little about.  But I know enough to know that something's broken....or as the article I've linked above more aptly puts it:

"We need to reckon with the kind of country we actually are—one in which semi-automatic weapons are used far more often for harm than for self-defense—and act accordingly."


Saturday, December 15, 2012

We're a long way from a manger.......

     It's not her fault she married a neanderthal.  Every woman deserves an evening out.  So we put on our Sunday clothes, a little dinner and a little Irving Berlin.  A little culture never killed anybody.

      A huge pipe organ rose out of the stage floor and a gentleman started playing carols.  The little theatre on the square was a time machine and we were suddenly celebrating Christmas in 1950-something.  Even this heathen/Grinch/Scrooge was feeling right Christmasy.  I'd managed to put the news of the day out of my head until the carol of choice was "Away In A Manger."   I felt my chest start to ache and tears well up in my eyes.  I thought I'd gone and "taken a turn" until I realized I'd surpressed the day's heartache as long as I could.

     The picture that song puts in your brain is not just one of a manger and cattle's a picture of a children's choir  in white robes holding candles.  A gaggle of scraped knees, ponytails and cowlicks become little windows into heaven, everything beautiful, everything angelic...perfect innocence.  I sat there in that theatre, suddenly wanting to cry, and whispered to myself  "we're a long way from a manger."  

     It wasn't just that children died yesterday.  Innocence died.  And not just for children that watched their friends and teachers get gunned down.  Each instance of horror eats away a little part of us old folks,too.  The part that believes that people are basically good and that there's someone staying by OUR cradle "til morning is nigh." 

    I've said it a zillion times - if there is a heaven and if I get there, I've got questions.........

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Obligatory Christmas Blog

And how, in fact, do we prepare
The great day that waits us there -
For the twenty-fifth day of December,
The birth of Christ? For some it means
An interchange of hunting scenes
On coloured cards, And I remember
Last year I sent out twenty yards,
Laid end to end, of Christmas cards
To people that I scarcely know -
They'd sent a card to me, and so
I had to send one back. Oh dear!
Is this a form of Christmas cheer?
Or is it, which is less surprising,
My pride gone in for advertising?
The only cards that really count
Are that extremely small amount
From real friends who keep in touch
And are not rich but love us much
Some ways indeed are very odd
By which we hail the birth of God.
From "Advent, 1955" by John Betjeman

     One of the many battles I fight daily is the battle to live in "the now." I waste far too much time (if I let myself) regretting yesterday and worrying about tomorrow. "Yesterdays are over my shoulder" and I can't do a thing about tomorrow. Still I have to make the conscious effort to worry about what I can squeeze out of this moment because, too soon, it will be part of what's behind me. I'm getting better at it...until the calendar turns to December.

     Christmas almost always sends my mind looking backwards. I don't so much miss the "physical" aspects of the holiday. I don't want to be 6 years old and spend Christmas Eve sharing a bed with my two youngest sisters and damn near getting crushed by curlers the size of beer cans. I don't wish I could go downtown and ride the Pink Pig (hell, I almost didn't fit in that thing when I was a child...I'd have to get greased up like a pig to fit into it these days.) I don't even need the bounty of presents to open on Christmas morning (though, by the Grace of God and generosity of family there still is one.) It's not those type of things I'm longing for - I'm missing the excitement.
     Remember the palpable excitement you could feel in the air at Christmas?   And that probably stemmed from the physical traditions of the holiday.   We probably got giddy because there was going to be a new bike under the tree or a new "regulation!" Joe Namath New York Jets uniform to put on over your pajamas (somewhere, there exists photographic evidence...I hope to God that no one knows where it is.)   But I want to think we got excited about something more than presents.  For me, being the youngest of four children, Christmas was usually the only occasion our family was in the same place at the same time,  even after college, graduate school, having children and indepdence had all begun to relocate my sisters.  And that, in itself, can keep you feeling like the kid brother (in a good way!  Sometimes it wasn't fun being the baby!)

     I lost my father when I was a fairly young man.  As a result, I never got to know him person to person.  But my memories of him are that he was rather unapproachable and rather aloof.  But even he, on Christmas morning, seemed a bit more human.  He seemed to be interested in watching people open gifts.  "Now if that doesn't work let me know - the guy at Sears said it would."   "That television's small, but they said it would pick up Atlanta stations (way out!) in Carollton.....let me know if it doesn't."  I lacked for nothing as a child, don't get me wrong.  But I remember Christmas sometimes seeming like the one day my dad paid attention. 

     I keep hoping that the passing of time will make my mother's absence less noticeable.  But it doesn't.  And it certainly doesn't at Christmas.  From every Christmas card we received being hung around the chest in the living room to every Christmas project me or my sisters had ever done at school adorning some wall or shelf or chest (and some of them were, uh, a bit yellowed and torn!)  From her potato candy to her Japanese fruitcake.  And that Bing Crosby "White Christmas" album....oh, how the woman loved Christmas.  It was tacky as hell, but I still even have fond memories of the fake, cardboard fireplace that she always put on display (since we had no real fireplace in the house)   There was a constant twinkle in her eye this time of the year..and I miss it.  I'd give a lot to sit next to her in church one more time and feel that elbow in the ribs when someone starts singing "Hark The Herald"  "Now THAT'S a Methodist hymn!"  she said a thousand times.  Whenever we're anywhere and the old Charles Wesley carol starts up, I can feel my bride staring at me out of the corner of her eye to see if I'm getting emotional for she knows that memory of my mother is one of my fondest.  And there usually is a tear starting down my cheek.  As a child, a "mama's boy" label is a bad thing to wear.  As an adult, I don't give a damn if people see me missing my Mama.

     So it's not that I don't like Christmas (as I'm often accused of by those that know me.)  It's just that I want it to tug at my heart strings like it used to.  That's hard to accomplish when work, bills, traffic and all the adult things keep nipping at your heels whether it's December or June.   For now, though, I thank God for the woman that I share my life with and consider THAT my Christmas miracle - that there was someone on this earth willing to put up with this loose cannon.  So perhaps that should be my goal now - to make every Christmas with her going forward as magical as those gone by.  She deserves that. 

Friday stuff....
     There hasn't been this many Catholics running for their lives since the end of the Crusades.  I fear it's just a repeat of an age-old story - something flashy, something hot, something trendy (college football) tempts what is grounded, what is solid, what is proven (something like Big East college basketball) into changing its landscape.  Pretty soon that landscape is left barren with a bunch of guys in suits standing around staring at each other and asking "what in the hell just happened here?"   Mike Lopresti of the USA Today (awesome college basketball writer who has covered 33 Final Fours...look him up sometime)  says it this way:
Here lies the saddest victim of all in the realignment epidemic of Pigskinitis.
The Big East, RIP.
Football is a fine game, but it shouldn't be claiming such casualties.
The true Big East will soon be the Roman Empire of college sport. Once majestic and all-powerful, now history and dust. Seven survivors – Catholic schools all -- huddle together against the cold, trying to find a future.
Here's the whole column

     I heard a blurb on the radio yesterday about traffic being particularly bad around the outlets up in Dawsonville.  I spent a large chunk of my childhood summers in Dawson County, running and romping on my Uncle's property, fishing in Lake Lanier and picking okra for my aunt to fry for supper ("You want okra for supper??  Well there's a 5 gallon bucket on the porch....")   And in those days there wasn't a thing in Dawson County.  Bill Elliott was still wet behind the ears, my uncle was having to drive all the way to Cumming to pay his light bill and Ga 400 stopped at Pilgrim Mill Rd.   Now there's traffic alerts on Atlanta radio stations for Dawsonville?  Another town in rural Georgia has been swallowed by Atlanta sprawl.  Remember the pot plane that crashed?  I had to go digging to remember the details.  I remember it being big talk.,748368
     Speaking of changing southern cities, I read a piece last night in Atlanta magazine reminding me that, back in February, Bon Apetit deemed Nashville, Tennessee "the coolest, tastiest city in the South."  Then, in June, the New York Times ran a feature on Nashville, apparently using the word "hipster" a great deal.  I used to work with a fellow that was born and raised in Nashville.  He said that, as a teenager, their fun on friday nights consisted of trying to make a stop at every single Shoney's restaurant in the Nashville area before midnight.  The times they are a' changin'.  (and now I want to travel to Nashville...again.  Been there before but apparently need to go back)

     I'm going to hate myself for doing this.  Political discourse on my part usually never goes further than my living room when I point at a television and shout at my bride "Can you believe this idiot??"  I was raised to keep politics a private "within the family" issue.  But sometimes there is an elephant in the room that bears mentioning.  Since the end of the 2012 election, I've read a lot about Republicans changing their game plan, admitting to changing demographics, landscapes and voter bases.  "We're going to do things differently!!!"  So for their first collective fight post-election  ("fiscal cliff" not withstanding) they bust their posteriors to make sure a woman of color isn't the next secretary of state?  I don't know - it seems like they've run another off-tackle dive for another three yards and another cloud of dust to me.  I thought maybe I was over-thinking that until I read Andrea Mitchell expressing similar sentiment (it's good to sometimes have those "maybe I'm NOT an idiot" moments when you hear someone being paid for ideas having similar idea to your own)
       I'm not smart enough to know if she should be secretary of state.  Were there mistakes made in the immediate reaction to the embassy attack in Benghazi?  I'm fairly certain there were.  In those days after the attack she was following administration talking points that characterized the attack as "spontaneous" rather than planned.  Mistake.  And a mistake that lead the president to imply that she was just doing her job and if anyone wanted to go after her they should go after Obama instead.  Rice later admitted the misstep.
     The biggest thing I'm taking away from the entire Susan Rice episode is my growing disappointment in John McCain.  Leading up the 2008 election I read his book, liked his policies and the way he carried himself and decided I'd vote for him.  I thought he would return the office of president to days when true statesmen - not politicians - ran this country.  Alas, my disillusionment started when he selected Barbie as a running mate in that 2008 election, starting a dive into (with apologies to Dante) the spiraling rungs of hell that American politics has become.  Keeping Susan Rice away from the secretary of state title became an obsession for him and continues him in that free fall of becoming just another politician.  Me thinks that McCain should remember his own missteps when he was one of  the cheerleaders for invading a country based on (faulty) evidence that they were stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.  Remember that?  He, himself, was following that administration's talking points and ended up part of that mistake.  Glass houses and all Senator,,,glass houses.
God, I hate politics..and yet I can't quit looking at the train wreck.  "Just when I thought I was out, they pullllllllll me back in...."
       (Ok, one more mention of policitics - I really think that if the president and John Boehner were not the most visible players in a drama being played out on the biggest stage, they'd be two guys who would like hanging out together, drinking beer and watching ballgames.  I get the feeling that they like each other and really wish that someone else was in the other corner.  I also get the feeling that Boehner's telling him "look, I agree in principle, but I'm gonna get killed if I don't kick and scream a little." )

     Now even the Pope has a Twitter account.  I'm officially the last person on earth not keeping tabs on what's trending on Twitter.  Truth be told, I'm really not even sure what that means.  I tried about a year ago because there's several writers and broadcasters (mostly from the world of sports) doing the Twitter thing heavy.  I was immediately intimidated by talk of hash tags and found it impossible to navigate.  You're laughing at me aren't you?  I've grown fairly weary of social media anyway.  The kicker may have been last week when I posted a video and my opinion of its content on my facebook page.  Someone on my "friends" list (loosest use of the word EVER) disagreed with my sentiment and attacked me and other folks on my facebook page that he didn't even know.  I deleted all of his comments.  He said "I guess when you speak the truth no one wants to hear it!"   and de-friended me.  OMG! I was so totally bummed!  WTF?  LOL! DUDE - WE NEED TO TALK!  Uh no...I laughed, realized that there are some folks that I didn't want to associate with in 1981 I STILL don't want to associate with and wonder why they now want to be "Friends?"    Does Facebook have a "you're still a jackass" list? 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My (not so) Clever Retort to a Supreme Court Judge

article that started it all

     It might be a tad presumptuous to say  that I'm opening a can of worms.  That infers that my written words make anyone think about anything.  When you live most of your life as the clown, you can't really expect folks to give take much notice when you're not being a clown.  Let's just say that I find when my brain is  expending great energy wrestling with anything more serious than chicken wings, beer and football I find it necessary to take it out for a jog so that it will settle down and let me sleep. 

     In my seventh grade Social Studies class at Rockbridge Elementary School in Stone Mountain, Mrs. Crowe told us that "freedom means the opportunity to do anything you long as it doesn't hurt anyone else."  It's an elementary definition of freedom and one that doesn't come near approaching all the implications of what it means to be free.  But it might be one that comes close to addressing Judge Antonin Scalia's question "If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against other things?"  This was in response to a question from a gay student on why the judge equates laws banning sodomy with laws against murder.  I'm not real bright and I may be reading this wrong (which I often do in matters of "legalese."  The service contract I sign when getting an oil change baffles the hell out of me.)  But a discussion of governing sodomy and a discussion on governing murder are discussions that go back to the "as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else" clause of the freedom definition.  One is a matter of how you live your is a matter of someone making a decision to end my life.  What am I missing?   We NEED legislation to deter someone from putting a piece of lead behind my ear.  But do we need legislation to legislate sexual preferences? The judge can have his own moral feelings regarding homosexuality but just don't bring them to work please. (and I'm not even getting  into a discussion of how short-sighted it is that someone in 2012 still feels the word "sodomy" is synonymous with homosexuality..puhleeeeeeeeeze.) 

     Perhaps it was when Farrah Fawcett ran across that television screen with a gun in her hand chasing down bad guys with lots of blonde hair and lots of jiggling.  Maybe that's when I realized that I was a flaming heterosexual and really appreciated the femine form (especially if they were carrying a gun and yelling "FREEZE!" to a dastardly no-gooder.)  Maybe before that - maybe when Elizabeth Montgomery crinkled up that cute little nose to throw a spell down on someone.  Maybe then I realized that I really, really liked girls!   And I COULD like them without having to keep thoughts of pretty hair and feminine jiggling to myself.  I didn't have to wander through my formative years acting like something I wasn't, mostly in attempt to avoid the brutality that scorn from other children can bring.  I don't envy someone that lived through that type of youthful existence.  Surely now that we're adults we can be who we are and celebrate personal freedom without the scorn of others.  Judge Scalia says " need ME and others like me to make sure we tell that blind chick wearing the blindfold and holding the scales  that you live a life that's just not normal!!"

     I generally detest someone who takes up causes that have absolutely no bearing on them.  I usually let folks fight their own fights.  But there's some folks on this earth that I care about who have to fight this fight.  I might even know others who - still in adulthood - are living something they aren't to avoid blatent discrimination.  And, who knows, one day this could be MY fight.  One day, someone could decide that prohibition was a good idea and base it solely on their own moral principles.  Suddenly, my dry martini on the patio makes me a filthy sinner.  Books have been burned and music has been banned before.  I think we might be kidding ourselves if we think there's not a contingent of very powerful folks who think God has given them dominion over what I do, say and think.  And I KNOW that somewhere, somebody is reading this and I've just been given some label that has to do with bleeding hearts.  They would, however,  be surprised to hear how conservative my rants on other issues might sound.  I'm all over the map, I know.  But I thought that's what being American afforded me - the opportunity to be  a collage.
( dearly departed mother would say I've quit preaching and gone to meddlin' ) 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Me, The Hunter?

The very nice gentleman at Dunkin Donuts (whose english is getting better but still hard to follow at 6:15 in the morning) is miffed by two things when I stop by there for a dose of caffeine; that I don't ever order anything but coffee ("why no eat my friend?") and that I no longer take "4 splenda and whole milk" in my coffee ("why you change my friend?") I've explained to him several hundred times that I have to be awake for a while before I can eat and that he has me mixed up with someone else - I've never, ever had anything with coffee besides a cup to hold it. Still, though, the conversation repeats itself any morning that I hit his drive-thru. And I have no idea why I decided to include that scenario in my thoughts this morning, except to say that if my extra large black hadn't woken me up yet then the first article I saw upon turning on the laptop certainly did..the one for which I've tried to provide a link may have to copy and paste into your browser.

Taking up hunting has been something I've long considered. In years past, though, I had reason (bad health caused by excess weight)to keep the carnivore in me and the animal lover in me from fighting it out. Hunting would've been way too labor-intensive for me back then. Now, minus considerable weight, I'm still not a world class athlete but I am in good enough shape to wander the woods. In short, the ability to hunt is no longer the issue but the pre-emptive case of buck fever is - COULD I pull the trigger on an animal?

I am, as mentioned, a carnivore. If someone said that I could no longer have desserts in my time here on planet earth I wouldn't blink. If I had to quit meat, I'd cry. I love eating meat. I love cooking meat. I'm usually at my most content manning animal flesh on a grill, grilling implement in one hand, cold cocktail in the other. But I have become greatly concerned about the source of the meat I consume. What type of chemicals has this animal been forced to ingest? Does the chicken in the oven have so many steroids in it that Lyle Alzado would've been frightened of it? Was it thrown around and slammed and slapped in its last moment of life by a poultry processing plant worker that is paid by the chicken rather than the hour? I LOVE fois gras, but don't eat it because I think the means by which it's created is sinful. Conversely, I love lamb and veal so much that I put ethical issues out of my head and just enjoy the rare opportunities I have to dine on them.

I grew up in the suburbs, but had enough relatives in rural Georgia and witnessed enough slaughtering and processing to know that meat wasn't born at the grocery store. Even as a kid, it didn't bother me and I was well aware that sustenance was the motivation. But, as I got older, part of my reservations about shooting wild animals stemmed from the fact that it was sport vs. sustenance. I COULD go to the store and buy meat. But now, whether rationalization or fact, ethical issues (animal treatment, genetic alteration, chemicals) point me back to knowing my meat before it hits my table. And that's an issue whether we're talking about paying more and buying meat with words like "organic" and "free range" on the label or going out with a gun and putting meat in my freezer.

Bird hunting is something I find myself really keen to try. I have a couple of motivations - first, the fact that whether it's quail, pheasant, dove, duck or a goose I LOVE the taste of game birds. But also someone that loves dogs as much as I do has much enjoyment to gain from watching them work in the field. I can watch these shows for hours where duck hunters train these gorgeous creatures to retrieve. The dogs always look like they're having the time of their lives. And I think I could shoot a bird - that's not much of a step up from yanking a fish out of the water and showing it the way to a frying pan is it? (and God knows, I've done plenty of that.) I mean birds and fish occupy the same rung of the food chain ladder, right? RIGHT?

Ok, so I start feeling confident that I could shoot a bird. But what about a four-legged creature? What about a deer? What about a wild hog? The more I hear about over-population and the ravaged crops and car accidents that it causes the more I realize there's a need for the population control that hunters provide. And - after riding with my wife when a deer decided to occupy the same space as her Tahoe and realizing that if we'd been driving a smaller vehicle it could've been a tragic situation - I definitely see the need to cull the herd. And, again, I love me some venison. Shouldn't I be the one to faciliate its trip to my table?

So far, the only step in my endeavor to kill what I eat was a squirrel hunting trip with two of my nephews. Unfortunately, the squirrels had the weekend off and it was mostly a chance to visit, build a big fire, grill us some store bought meat and drink beer in the woods...and that wasn't a bad thing in itself.

So this article hit home with me. I felt a bit less odd having this debate with myself because, apparently, a lot of other folks are as well. I'm not real sure, though, if I'm a "hipster" because I'm not real sure what a "hipster" is. Chances are I'm not. But I'm a southern-born, cacucasian, middle-aged guy who drives a pick up truck and has a labrador retriever...and SURELY that predisposes me to channel my inner Daniel Boone!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Pirate looks at Forty-Nine.....

I've joked many times in the last couple of days that this is the last birthday I'll officially recognize. After this, I'll be "49 and holding...." I'm quite sure I'll have a better attitude come this time next year, but right now I can't even say the word "fifty." I surely can't say it when followed by the words "years old."

Being the victim of an overly-active imagination (the one that leads me to tell stories, write songs, live for the next good joke and basically still go through life as the class clown) causes me to over-think everything. Even the simple birthdays. They used to be fun. The only time we got a steak when I was a kid was on our birthday. Somewhere there's a picture of me sitting at the dining room table on Fayetteville Road, wearing a Georgia Tech sweatshirt (shocker, right?) and about to dive into a steak as big as I am with a birthday cake on that long buffet in front of the window behind me. No doubt all three sisters were home for dinner that night (instead of flitting around being cool somewhere with their cool friends) and I got SOME presents.....I say SOME because one of the negatives to being a child with a December birthday is hearing the words "You'll get more at Christmas!"

By contrast, over the last few days and today, I've celebrated my birth by waiting in line for my birth certificate at the State of Georgia Vital Records Office. This was so that I could go wait in another line at the Department of Driver Services to renew my driver's license. THEN, today I got to go wait in another line to renew my truck tag. (amazing what Gwinnett County thinks a postage stamp-sized piece of paper that says "December 2013" is worth.)

I bitch and moan for the sake of comedy. In actuality, I've had an awesome day. Nieces, nephews, sisters (adopted and biological) old friends, new friends, a former teacher (who asked if I was 11 or 12 now...I hated breaking the news to her on my actual age) all checked in to wish me happy birthday. I make fun of social networking...until it serves to remind me how many damn fine people there are in the world and how many of them are on my side.

The lady of the house is working her late night and won't be around 'til later (I knew when I married a nurse that some days it would be all about the sick folks!) But I fully expect the best present I get today will be falling asleep next to her on the couch, trying to watch some television, listening to her snore and thanking The Almighty that there's one person on earth who can put up with my stupidity and take care of me. I might just be "the richest man in town." (something one sister is always trying to make me pains me to admit she might be right.)