Wednesday, November 27, 2013


     Since the day they closed the doors of the Mountain Pharmacy in Stone Mountain I never, ever order a milkshake anywhere.  I haven't watched The Tonight Show in a hundred years.  Nothing Jay Leno has to say (or anyone he has to interview) can hold candles to Carson interviewing Don Rickles while Ed sits there trying to remember what planet he's on.   There's no need for anyone to try and make a living calling college football games on television or radio since Keith Jackson retired.  ("And BOY HOWWWWWWDY Nebraska is HUGE along that offensive line!")  And since Furman Bisher spent 94 years writing and living on this planet  (two things that for most of those 94 years happened simultaneously, by the way) no one need try and write a word about Thanksgiving.  His Thanksgiving columns represented all that was good about  the days when the written word was sometimes folded  and lying at the end of the driveway first thing in the morning.   His list of things for which he found himself thankful in those columns were both obvious and subtle.  Good health and the sound of his son's car door in the driveway late at night.  Breath to breathe and  a good cup of coffee.  His wife's smile or the next great racehorse being stretched on a chilly morning in Kentucky.  He was thankful for things we wish we could've experienced and thankful for things for which we, too, should be thankful...we just didn't know it 'til he told us so.  

     I remember a host from a local sports talk show that made a habit of mocking him, sometimes after Furman had made an appearance on his show.  He tried to do an imitation of the sound of Furman's voice, always making  him sound backwoods and senile.  He wasn't from around here and was the same guy that ridiculed people in Atlanta because we were sad when some gorilla named Willie died at Zoo Atlanta.  Had he listened to Furman instead of mocking him he might still have a show to host.  See, people listened to Furman because, even when he was saying something we didn't want to hear, he knew how to say it so that we'd listen.  And listen we did for 59 years.    We got tired of listening to that talk show host much sooner than that.  He's unemployed because he talked to hear himself talk  He's unemployed because he made fun of a world class athlete suffering from a life-sucking disease that has no cure. I think mostly he's unemployed because he  broke rule #1, knowing your audience.  Dumb move to pollute the airwaves of a city making fun of things we hold sacred.  He wasn't just a gorilla.  He  was as much a part of our innocence and childhood as Officer Don or milking Rosebud or the Rich's Christmas tree.  And Furman wasn't just a sportswriter -  he was an artist that had to paint pictures with his words because he didn't live in a social media world where everyone is a photographer.  And we listened whether he was talking about having lunch with Jack Nicklaus or how thankful we should be for a glass of sweet tea.  

     So, as I say, I'm inclined to not say much about this holiday.  I do think it's sad that Thanksgiving is being reduced to Christmas' little brother and we're forgetting why it's here.  And the fact that I use this occasion to write about an old sportswriter probably shows that I'm now full of attitude that used to exasperate me as a youngster.  That is the attitude that ain't much of nothing folks call contemporary is worth a damn, be it music or writing or food or cars or t.v. shows.  Those were the days, indeed...and I'm thankful I was able to live them. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

"A man may die..."

     I could tell you where I was on November 22, 1963 but I wouldn't  have much detail to share.  I was safely in my mother's womb, 11 days away from becoming a citizen of planet earth.  Thus, the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination has mostly served to remind me that I'm very close to celebrating my own milestone.  The avalanche of documentaries, reenactments and docudramas in the last week or so have brought that day back to life for all of us.  I guess it's a day by which one could mark time, much like September 11, 2001 is for my generation.  There's life before that day and life since that day...two separate realities.

     A few weeks ago I was in Washington, D.C. standing and staring in awe at the Lincoln Memorial.  It was a freezing day and a wind that could cut you whipped through there, causing most to make it a very abbreviated visit.  But I couldn't walk away. Not just because it was my first trip to D.C. but because I couldn't quit reading.   If you've been there you've seen the inscriptions on the two opposite walls - one side the Gettysburg Address, the other side his second inaugural address.  I read each one twice.  I got tears in my eyes and not just from that wind.  I told my bride  "My God, leaders used to sound like leaders."

"Ask not what your country can do for you..."

"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer."

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

"The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.  And one path we shall never choose and that is the path of surrender..."

     So there is a tragedy that I take away from, not just that day in Dallas, but from each and every day that I watch those who are in power sound less and less powerful.  That is that today we are mourning not just the loss of a great man, but also of a great mindset.  The mindset that we are, by the grace of God, Americans and all that encompasses is something that should be respected, even revered.   I've not seen much to hold in reverence coming from the marbled halls of government lately.  Not here in a year when we saw those halls collectively become a zoo with finger pointing, Dr. Seuss recitals and sophomoric, self-centered gesturing that eventually shut them down.  I hope that sometime before I leave this planet I'll witness individuals leading us by word and example so great that we're once again compelled to start building memorials.

"A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on." 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lunch With Eudora

Catfish and Collard Greens

     On a hot Sunday in the summer of 1969 (or so?)  Uncle Hank and Aunt Jean were going to pick up me and my mother at the corner of Moreland and Metropolitan at noon, right after church had let out.  I remember that her brother and sister had wanted to leave earlier but Mother wasn't going anywhere until after she'd taught third grade Sunday School and gone to 11:00 church at Martha Brown Methodist there in East Atlanta.  We were going to Thomaston, Georgia.  I had no idea where it was.  I was too young to know if it was a 100 miles or a 1,000 miles away.  I really didn't know who Aunt Clifford and Uncle Ney were - only that they were names often brought up in conversation around our house.   As the baby of the family I'd been required to make many of these visits to folks I didn't know.  I wasn't old enough, you see,  to have other things to do like my sisters.  They always said they were doing homework. And Daddy didn't have to go because I reckon somebody had to take the girls home to work on their homework.  Well, at least this time I was going to get to ride to this Thomaston place in Uncle Hank's big, white, shiny car that had AIR CONDITIONING!  In 1969 we didn't have air conditioning in our house, much less any of our vehicles. This might be a boring trip with the old folks but it was going to be fancy.
     Thomaston wasn't that long of a ride.  I don't remember much about the view from the backseat until we got to Thomaston and went over a little bridge that crossed Potato Creek.  Mother looked at me and said "That's where Uncle Ney caught those catfish I was telling you about..."  I'd heard many stories about the catfish that Uncle Ney caught in Potato Creek.  He'd catch but not kill and clean them right away.  No, he took them home and kept them alive in their bathtub until he was ready to clean and cook them.  Until I laid eyes on Potato Creek it was just another tale of the way things were when the old folks weren't old and endured hardships and ways of life us spoiled young 'uns could only imagine.  But seeing Potato Creek I was, admittedly, intrigued by the whiskered creatures that lived deep in that muddy water.  It would be a sight, I realized, to go take a bath and have them flopping around in the tub.  "Did you have to take a bath while they were in there?" I once asked.  No, I was told, you waited 'til whatever day the fish were dinner and took your bath then.  Seemed to me folks used to bathe less.
     This many years later I can't begin to tell you what Aunt Clifford and Uncle Ney looked like the first time I laid eyes on them.  I seem to remember Uncle Ney being wheelchair bound by that point in his life but I could be wrong.  And I remembering thinking that Aunt Clifford was a loud person.  Those are the only things I can tell you about them.  Details of the way they looked and the things we talked about have long since been swept away.  But there does live in my mind a vivid recollection of one part of our visit  - lunch.
     We'd left Atlanta without lunch but Mother and Aunt Jean said they weren't hungry when Aunt Clifford asked about lunch. She said some one's name and said she was back in the kitchen cooking if we needed to eat.   I didn't really answer but Uncle Hank said he could eat and he took me by the hand and led me into the kitchen in the back of the house. "Come on, this will be good for you."  WHAT WILL BE GOOD FOR ME???? 
     The kitchen seemed like an afterthought, obviously added on to the house some time after the place was built.  It was hot and there was a very large black woman with a fly swatter in one hand and a spatula in the other.  "Well ain't you a handsome one" she said looking down at me.  She had sweet eyes and she was sweating profusely.   God knows how many hours she'd been standing over that hot stove in that hot kitchen. She ordered us to sit on some wooden stools at that kitchen table and said "Sweetie, you want one piece or two?"  I didn't even know what I was being offered much less how many of them I wanted.  Uncle Hank answered for me "Give him two, he's a growing boy...and give me two."  TWO OF WHAT????
     She sat down two tall, cold glasses of sweet tea and a steaming bowl of greens.  "Do you like collard greens baby?"  "Oh yes ma'am," I answered and I wasn't just being polite.  I loved the days when I'd go into my mother's kitchen and the sweet stink of collards had taken over the house.  I don't know if it made me an odd child, but I loved collards and cornbread as much as any candy you could give me.  And the pan of cornbread this black woman with the sweet eyes had just sat out to go with our greens was big enough to feed twelve folks.  "This is the way you do it,"  Uncle Hank said.  He got a bowl from the shelf next to the table, crumbled up his cornbread and spooned collards and pot liquor all over them.  He handed me a bowl and I followed his lead, making extra sure all of my cornbread got wet with the elixir that collards give off when they're cooking.  There was huge chunks of ham hock in the greens and I was in heaven.  I'd completely forgotten there was more coming, the part of the meal Uncle Hank had just said I'd need two of....
     "There ain't no bones in 'em so just eat 'em up!" she said.  And there on my plate were two of the biggest pieces of fish I'd ever seen.  I just stared at them and, again, sort of waited to follow Uncle Hank's lead.  "It's catfish," he said.   I loved fish so I grabbed my fork to dig into these 2 and their perfectly browned cornmeal crust.  But then I slammed on the brakes.  I was suddenly overcome with the image of these creatures swimming in the same tub that the old folks in the living room sat in  and washed their old people body parts.  "What's wrong?"  Uncle Hank asked.  I didn't want to be rude and let the black woman hear my concerns.  So I leaned over and whispered to him "Did these come out of the bathtub?"  He reared back on his stool and let out a loud laugh.  "No, son...I reckon these probably came from the Piggly Wiggly. Uncle Ney hasn't been well enough to fish in a long time."  Relieved, I dug into them.  And, boy, were they perfect.  Sweet, not greasy and perfectly crusted.  I don't remember a thing about the branch of my family tree I met that day but I remember that catfish and those collard greens. 
     A full stomach and a long ride home and soon I was flirting with falling asleep in the back of Uncle Hank's shiny white car.  "You know why you liked that food so much?"   I realized he was talking to me.  "Why?"  "Because you're a good southern boy.  Folks in other parts of the world don't get to eat like're lucky."   And there it was.  For the very first time in my life I realized I had an identity that until that day wasn't anything that set me apart - it was just my life.  I was a southern boy.  So the spot on the earth where my roots are planted determines such things?  Everyone I knew ate like me, talked like me and lived like me.  I reckon I figured the whole planet did.  But now I learn they don't and now I learn I need to be glad of it.   The notion stayed with me - to this day a pot of greens and a pan of cornbread goes beyond sustenance.  I feel the connection to the aforementioned roots and how deep they run.  And I always think that my greens fall well shy of the perfection the black woman with sweet eyes was able to produce that Sunday afternoon so long ago. 
     I say all of that to say this - I had that very same sense of connection the first time I read words that Eudora Welty had put on a piece of paper.  THIS was southern literature.  THIS was a southern writer.  You probably don't need to be from this part of the world to realize the mastery she had over her craft (she had a Pulitzer on the shelf, after all.)   But I bet it helps.  I bet you hear voices that someone from someplace like New York or Illinois or California wouldn't hear - not the way you hear them anyway.  And being of similar background convinces you that you're hearing those voices just the way she wanted you to hear them. 
     It was actually Mary Chapin Carpenter that got me started reading Eudora Welty.  I heard her explaining that "When Haley Came To Jackson" was inspired by Welty's "One Writer's Beginnings."  Seems Eudora's father had held her in his arms when Haley flew by our planet in 1910 and prayed that she'd be alive and well when the comet made it's next visit.  I quickly purchased "One Writer's Beginnings" and was hooked in just a few pages.  I'd never heard her speak at that time but I could certainly hear her voice.  I knew why she wrote the way she did.  Without reading them I knew that any of her other works would feel as much a part of who I am as a plate of catfish and sweet tea.  I quickly got a hold of "The Collected Short Stories of Eudora Welty" and began a daily regimen of reading a story a day, usually while I ate my lunch. I found that I kept a notebook and scribbled ideas about each story.  I usually read the stories two or three times, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything.  I felt more a part of someone else's words than I ever had.  And I was strongly compelled to make the notes I scribbled in that notebook into something I could share with others. 
     So, going forward, this blog will occasionally be interrupted with a "Lunch With Eudora" post.  Perhaps boring for others but something I selfishly feel the need to do.  Agatha Christie once said the only way to write is to read...and read and read and then read some more.  There's an ocean of stories living in my head.  Maybe Eudora's stories will push my own out of my head, out of my soul and onto pages.  I have no illusions that my words will live up to hers but, in whatever voice I have, I need to get 'em out. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

more from the doofus looking at 50...

     "It's just a number."  That's what a lot of folks who will watch me turn 50 in a month or so are telling me.   "It's just a number."   And they're right - a number, by itself, doesn't make you old.  There's plenty of other symptoms  Consider:

     You hear "the guys"  (and "the guys" includes younger neanderthals on sports radio shows, the office, the other end of the bar, the gym etc...) talking up the attributes and assets of a female celebrity.  Because you've become illiterate in pop culture you have no idea who they're talking about.  Later, though,  you're glued to a documentary on the news channel ("Malaria or seasonal allergies?  How knowing the difference could save your life!")   During a commercial they tease their version of "Entertainment Tonight" and - after wondering if Mary Hart is still alive - you hear that they're going to run a story about the actor or singer or model "the guys" were discussing earlier.   You look up from the obituary page and instead of being taken with her attributes and assets you scream at the t.v. "HOLY CRAP!  EAT SOME CHEESECAKE!!"  Then you begin a rant that begins with "In my day..." and references such bastions of feminine pulchritude as Cheryl Tiegs, Lynda Carter and Angie Dickinson.  REAL women that, you know, ATE.  

     You now find it essential to check the weather channel before going to bed.  It's not safe to go to sleep without knowing whether or not a typhoon is going to hit Sugar Hill in the middle of the night.  When asked what your favorite television show is you often respond "Your Local On The 8's"

     "Sleeping late" on the weekends now means 7:00.  You can't lay in bed all day and let somebody else get all the good bales of pine straw at Home Depot!  Besides, the news is coming need to see if there was a typhoon during the night.

     Sometimes you wake up your spouse with a loud grunt or a scream.  She panics "What did you do??"   "Uh, turned over..."   Then when the alarm goes off  her first words from under the covers - "Is it thundering?"  Sadly, what she actually heard was your knees taking their first few steps of the day (OR something far more serious related to the Mexican you had for dinner the night before.)  You lie and say "yeah, I think it's fixing to storm..." 

      Often when leaving the house she tells you your clothes look fine but suggests you get the weedeater out of the garage and do something about hair that's taking over someplace it shouldn't be.  You're not surprised.  While shaving in the morning, you've taken note of the forestation growing from your eyebrows and ears and felt compelled to call Abe Vigoda and apologize for all the jokes you made at his expense.

     Sitting at a red light, you're confused as to why you so want to drag the punk next to you out of his car and throat-punch him.  Is it because he's playing his music so loud?  Is it because his sunglasses probably cost more than your first car (which was held together by duct tape and bondo?)  You're reminded that you were well known for rolling your windows down and blasting the neighborhood with music.  There's a huge difference - the music you blasted was good music, by God!

     You hate it when a show you want to watch doesn't come on 'til 10:00.  You despise all politicians.  You subscribe to an email that lists all the people in your zip code that were booked into the county lockup during the night (in case one of your neighbors is on there and you need to keep an eye on their sorry selves!!)  You can waste 15 minutes of someone's life explaining to them how much better Orange Crush tasted in a brown bottle.  You think video games are going to be death of America.  You watch commercials and wonder "what in the hell were they just advertising?"  The point is I guess they're right - a number, by itself, can't make you old.  There's plenty of whims, quirks and goofiness to advertise that it's been happening for some it's just going to be official because it'll be on your driver's license.


Monday, October 14, 2013

"A doofus looks at 50"

     "It feels like a finish line."  That's what I told her.  I'm not ashamed to say that I told her that with tears in my eyes.  I told her because she'd begun asking questions about what I wanted to do to celebrate my 50th birthday, about to rear its ugly head in December.  I knew she'd want to have this conversation and I'd been dreading it.   Dreading it, you see, because thinking about it had caused me more than one sleepless night and when she finds out something is troubling my already addle brain she gets nervous.  

     One loving glance from the sweetest eyes God ever put on this earth and I knew that - just like always - she knew why I was thinking what I'd been thinking before I even told her .  "Tomorrow's Monday," she said.  "A week from today is Sunday.   Those are just days.  Your 50th birthday is just another day that you've been given to live."  Still, she knows why I said it.  She knows that there's a world of things I want to accomplish.  An even bigger world of things I want to be for people I love.  She knows the way I see myself and what an ugly picture that is. 

     "All those things in your mind - those are things that should keep you going.  NOT things you've failed at!"   She's talking about all sorts of things.  She's talking about places I want to see.  She's talking about skills I want to perfect.  She's talking about all the pictures that I want to show the world.  Pictures I've painted  with words instead of a brush.  She knows that sometimes I think these pictures are going to cause my brain to explode if I don't give them a canvas other than my imagination.  "You've got stories you want to tell and you're the only one keeping them from being told."  She tells me that all the time.  I wonder if she ever gets tired of being right.

     She says things like "If you could see yourself the way the rest of the world sees you!"  I tell her that's something that wives are supposed to say to husbands when they're down.  She says "You've accomplished so much and I'm so proud of you."  She tells me that because she knows my mind only keeps tabs on what I've not yet done and won't celebrate anything that I have done.  Check that - my mind won't let (what she views as) accomplishments be put in the positive ledger because the aforementioned addle brain spends way too much time comparing them to what other folks have accomplished.  "But the people that love you don't want you to be those people...they want you to keep being you..."  

     Seems like that someone damn near 50 years old ought to have a better idea of who this person is folks want me to keep on being.  In my mind, I'm a room full of furniture that doesn't match.  Maybe that's ok.  Maybe we don't ever quit finding out who we are while we walk through life on this planet.  I seem to remember the "old folks" that surrounded me in my youth all knew who they were.  Maybe they were just really good actors and wanted to jump the fence and play in as many yards as I want to romp in before the game clock reads all zero's.  Thankfully, if there's more game to be played, I've got a really good coach.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ain't nothing good about any of this...

     I'm generally not prone to discuss those things of a political, social or, well, important nature.  I live to wax poetic and stupid and make folks reminisce and laugh.  But sometimes something crawls in your brain like a fox into a chicken house and you can't get rid of it unless you put pen to paper...or fingers to keyboard.  See, there really is no good side to any of this.  A kid is dead.  A Barney Fife-wanna be that shouldn't have been out playing cop with a loaded gun - the one that rendered the kid dead -  walks free.  I'm not smart enough to dig into the nuances of legalese and it's lexicon of words like  manslaughter, murder 2 and statutes and standing one's ground.  I am smart enough to know that someone's dead implying that something happened.  For the guy with the gun to go free implies that nothing happened and I reckon therein lies the quandary of putting reality and our justice system on the same page.  That's why we have lawyers and there sometimes comes a day when they're not able to put reality and justice on the same page.  Such is the case with this debacle. 

     For all I don't know about this there are a couple of things I do know.  One is that the divide in our country between those of different colors now grows further.  Our founding fathers envisioned a country that could become a melting pot where human beings weren't divided by class and color.   That was a long time ago, though.  And too many instances of human stupidity since then put great distance between that ideal and our reality.   Slavery and the trail of nastiness it created, from battles in a civil war to battles for civil rights.  Then there was the little matter of the people that were already living on the real estate we needed to create this Utopia of freedom.  They had to be dealt with and not always in ways that were fair or kind (Manifest Destiny and all that...)   We've had many, many opportunities to narrow the gap between "me and you"  and we just can't seem to do it.  Reason being, it seems, that same stupidity - it  keeps getting in the way.  I reckon it's time to admit that human beings are, basically, stupid.  Seems the Good Lord would've seen that one coming and knew we couldn't handle free will well at all.

     The other thing I know about this is that people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton aren't going to help the situation.  There's that whole matter of hollerin' "WOLF!!"   You've done it so many times and made countless situations about race that, in fact, weren't.  So now we have a tragedy that probably is ALL about things like race and profiling.  But no one is going to listen to either of you - you killed your message a long time ago.  Especially Mr. Sharpton (I can't bring myself to insult some of my favorite preachers in the world by calling him "Reverend.")  Tawana Brawley ring a bell, anyone?  Someone during that debacle caught him on tape saying "If we can pull this off, we're gonna be the biggest (word that got Paula Deen in trouble)s in New York City."  His goals are all clear and none of them have anything to do with justice for anyone.  And NBC gave him a job?  I've got to admit, when that marathon in Boston was marred by the tragedy of a bomb (and more human stupidity) and I turned on MSNBC and they had him reporting the breaking news, I changed the channel to see if a bomb had actually gone off  in Boston. 

     So there's nothing good going to come of this.  It becomes just another strand in a complicated web.  It makes me sad.  Someone may tell me to keep my trap shut because being a middle-aged white guy affords me "fairness" in all situations.  I'm confused though - a considerable chunk of Cherokee Indian DNA flows in my bloodstream (thanks to my maternal grandmother's side of the family.)  So where does that put me in this melting pot?  I mean I really need to know where I fit in the ongoing battle?!    "I SCREAM JUSTICE FOR.........WHATEVER THE HELL I AM!!!"  Or I could just deem myself a human that needs to love and support my fellow human beings regardless of their appearance, their language, what God they follow, what meats they consider unclean  and on which side of the railroad tracks they live. That's an ideal we've worked on for over two hundred years now.  We sure ain't there yet...and we just took a step backwards.        

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sir Charles

     I reckon the Good Lord knew I was going to be a pill so he found fit to weave 3 fathers into the fabric of my life.  My biological father, my Uncle Ralph and my father-in-law Charles.  My own father left before I had the chance to know him adult to adult - he was the parent and I was the kid and that kind of relationship has its parameters.  I knew my Uncle Ralph a lot better than I did my own dad.  Perhaps because he was the kind of person who would let you get to know him.  He was always there when I needed him and taught me that work ethic, honesty and laughter could take you a long way in this world.  It was the year after I'd married Charles Fowler's daughter that my Uncle Ralph left us.  I didn't think I'd have the kind of relationship  I had with Uncle Ralph with any other man.  I was wrong.

     From the day I stood in a towel outlet (yes, a towel outlet) in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and asked permission to marry his only child Charles has been, himself, teaching me...and teaching me and teaching me. It's what he did for a living you see.  First in a classroom and then as a principal who worried a lot more about his students than any of the principals I had in grade school.  I know this because I run into many of the students that walked the halls he guarded and each of them has a story about the impression he made on their life - and not just as the disciplinarian who occupied the office that haunts children's dreams.  Rather, as a constant teacher always giving them the "thumbs up."  He gave me the "thumbs up"  in that towel outlet, but only after he'd taken the time to remind me that he wanted the best for, not just his daughter, but also for me.  And if I thought marrying his daughter was the best thing for the both of us then he had my long as I realized that marriage was a very permanent situation.  "Don't go into this thinking 'well, if it doesn't work out we can always get a divorce' because then you've already lost."  I assured him this wasn't the case and that I'd never been more sure of anything in my life.  He said "go ahead, then...I'm happy for you."  I told him that I wasn't sure people did that sort of thing anymore, asking daddies for their daughters hands in marriage.  He said "it shows that you were taught character by someone...don't ever be afraid of having CHARACTER."  I took it as his approving nod to the other two souls who had served the role of father in my life - they'd done their job well.

     The whole "Sir Charles" title came around as a joke.  Charles went to graduate school, you see, at Auburn University, the same institution that gave Charles Barkley to the world (the original "Sir Charles")  I tried many times to tell him that if the OTHER Sir Charles had played basketball for any other school he'd see him as 98% mouth like the rest of us do.  Apparently, though, even the devil himself would get a pass if he'd attended Auburn.   But I like calling him Sir Charles because it's one of the first things we had between me and him (I mean, you know, other than the time I put a ring on his only child's finger!)   It was our first running joke and I smile anytime I get the opportunity to use it.  I heard someone else calling him that one time and I thought "whoa, whoa, whoa...that's OUR thing!"  I realized I was being a bit selfish, per chance.  Everyone that knows him has immediate respect that would warrant calling him "Sir."

     Since the day in February, 1997 when we exchanged our vows there at the Methodist Church in Stone Mountain he's gone to great lengths so that I'd never, ever forget that I'm family.  There have been bad times that were beyond our control, as there always are.  I was having a heart to heart discussion with him about one of these hard times and I got quite emotional, even started crying.  He said "what's wrong????"  I said "I don't want you to ever be disappointed that your daughter married me..."    He WHIPPED off his glasses and looked me dead in the eye and said (in elevated tone)  "SON!  What in the world are you talking about??????  Bad things happen!  I'm glad you felt like you could talk to me and I don't want you to ever, EVER be afraid to talk to me!  You're mine now and I'm glad to have you!!  Put those thoughts out of your head NOW."   I felt at once scolded and loved and it was pretty perfect.  I realized, then, I still had a daddy.

     So on this occasion of another Father's Day, I'll consider myself grateful that at every important stage of my life there's been someone filling that role for me.  And were he not a tee-totaling Southern Baptist (there's been occasion to celebrate holidays with my family when he asked "which one is the Methodist punch bowl and which one is the Baptist punch bowl?")   I'd raise a glass to Sir Charles and thank him.  But since he does refrain from consumption I'll simply give him a "thumbs up."   Were his predecessors here, they'd do the same and thank him profusely for keeping this knucklehead in line.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Open windows and gardenia bushes...

     In conversation the other day, someone brought up my mother's gardenia bushes that grew by the side of my childhood home.  Even though this person didn't live in that house, she said that anytime she smells a gardenia bush in full bloom she thinks about those bushes growing on Pine Shadows Lane back many years ago.  Funny she should mention them because every year when the weather turns warm I think about those gardenia bushes and their heavenly fragrance filling my bedroom every night.  It did that, you see, because my bedroom window was open and an attic fan was drawing in the night air.   Summertime sure did smell good.  Whether it was the gardenia bushes, the neighbor's freshly cut grass, honeysuckle on the fence or a still-smoldering grill where someone had cooked that night's supper it was hard for a child to dread whatever our imagination convinced us lived out there in the dark night.  You know you're not alone in the world if you can hear the neighbors chatting on their porch swing or smell the cigar you're father's smoking  in the driveway (because Mama won't let him smoke it in the house.)   If one of those summer thunderstorms blew in, the rolling thunder and the fresh wet smell of rain would rock you on to sleep where you'd dream of yet another of those endless summer days waiting on you in the morning, with its creeks to navigate and salamanders to catch and bikes to ride.

     During the summer, if I wasn't sleeping in my own bed I was more than likely sleeping in one of the two beds in my cousin Alan's bedroom.  I spent many weeks at Uncle Ralph and Aunt Nell's house during the summer you see.  They lived "wayyyyyyyyyyy off" in the country in Dawson County (Dawson County has now become another suburb having been swallowed by Atlanta's growth.)   In those dark, country nights, there was a whole 'nother world of sounds and smells wafting in those open windows.  Critters and crickets we didn't have at home had their own concert and I was mesmerized by life in what I thought then was the middle of nowhere.  Even the stink of a cat dining on a fish head  (from the catch we'd just cleaned) up on the porch wasn't a bad thing because well, it just smelled like summer.  Alan and I would lie there on those nights and listen to the radio station out of Gainesville  and argue about which song was the best.  If the Braves were playing on the west coast, we'd sit and listen to a baseball game 'til the wee hours and it would inspire us to dig out his old baseball gloves when we got up in the morning and play some catch.  Even some mysterious growling and wailing and gnashing of teeth out in those dark nights would be explained away at breakfast the next morning when Uncle Ralph bellowed - "Did y'all hear that damn dog get mixed up with another beaver down the hill?  I'm gonna have to take him to get MORE stitches in his face!"

     I fear we live in a really stuffy world these days.  Every place we go is sealed up tight as a drum lest we get the least bit uncomfortable.  I often find myself in a climate-controlled room still feeling like I need to go outside (even in the heat) just so I can feel air moving around.  I really do miss open windows, especially on summer evenings.  I reckon that's why my bride and I spend so much time on the patio at night, trying to literally and figuratively breathe.  The sounds and smells of summer are now cleansing us of the adult crap endured during the day and giving us something to put our minds on rather than the next day's ration of the same. Just for kicks I Googled "open windows" and the very first and most popular link tells me that "open windows is a desktop environment for Sun Microsystems workstations."   Well dang.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Stories was everything and everything was stories..."

    " No More Stories Are Told Today, I'm Sorry They Washed Away // No More Stories, The World Is Grey, I'm Tired, Let's Wash Away."   (the complete title of an album by the Danish band "Mew") 

     God knows I love stories.  I love stories spoken  in song, in film in writing..doesn't matter.  But I worry a lot about whether it's a dearth of creativity or an abundance of laziness and greed that's causing the re-re-re-retelling of a lot of familiar stories.  Sometimes it's easier to put a spin on an old one rather than telling a new one.  Maybe there's more money to be made in putting your touch on a story already told than there is putting originality out there and hoping someone bites.  I make mention of this to the lady of the house whenever we see advertising for a "new" something that's really an "old" something.  I tell her it bothers me.  She says "well then, I guess you just need to get busy telling your stories."
     I grew up with a lot of people that if asked what they do well, none of them would've answered "well, I'm a really good story-teller."  But they were.  Uncle Hank was a prisoner of war and had scores of terrifying, heartbreaking tales to tell.  But the stories he loved telling were of a much, MUCH  less serious nature.  He told us at dinner one night he'd sent away for a license to be a preacher.  Apparently the opportunity to do so was found in the back of a magazine.  He said he was going to call his congregation "The Church of The Militant Saints." (he was an attorney and, to my knowledge, never got this flock of believers off the ground.)  

     Uncle Ralph used to take me to visit an old man named Harry.  Harry lived way off in the woods, couldn't read a word and grew or killed every bite of food that hit his mouth.  And he could keep this child wide-eyed for an entire evening telling me story after story (most of which needed to be taken with a grain of salt, as my uncle would later explain.)  Here I am this many years later still mesmerized by the cow that lost her long tongue when Harry cut it slap off.  Seems the cow had stuck that long tongue through an overgrowth of honeysuckle and it found Harry's posterior standing on the other side.  He said he thought it was a snake and took out his knife and rendered the poor bovine mute.

     Speaking of Uncle Ralph some of the most memorable hours of my childhood were spent in his truck.  He never turned on a radio in his truck. If he was alone he'd light a Winston and roll down his window and see what folks all over Dawson County were growing in their gardens, parking in their yard or building a fence around. If he had someone riding with him he'd tell the rider all about the crazy person in that house, the fish someone caught in that cove over there or the chicken truck that wrecked coming down that hill.  Simple recounting of very simple things came across more like folklore than just talk.  

     And Daddy, well he  rarely talked around the house, but when he did it was about things that fascinated us...things like the Winecoff Hotel fire or Lucky Teter busting up cars at the old Lakewood Speedway.  His first job was at a funeral home and in those days funeral homes picked up bodies from disasters like the Winecoff fire, not a medical examiner or such.  There was usually a humorous slant to his recounting of that cold night in December, 1946. Maybe that's the way he dealt with some of the awful things he saw and heard.  When telling us about Lucky Teter he would always do a perfect imitation of the grandstand announcer at the Lakewood Speedway describing the antics of Lucky (one of the original "hell drivers." read more about him in this blog    )    

     My very first paying job was doing yard work on Saturday mornings at the Methodist church in East Atlanta they had named after Martha Brown.  They now call East Atlanta "East Atlanta Village" and it's a real bohemian kind of place with trendy restaurants and shops and people a lot cooler and younger than myself hang out there.  But for us it was home and a small town in a big town. And Charlie Smith had his finger on its pulse.  When I was cutting that grass or raking those leaves Charlie Smith would always stop by on his morning strolls and chat.  Before he retired Charlie ran a burger joint called "Charlie's Place" on Glenwood Avenue (I THINK it was on Glenwood?)   One of the earliest recollections of my childhood is of those burgers and wondering why anybody was eating burgers from underneath those arches - no matter how many millions they served - when they could get one from Charlie (actually, it was probably "thousands served daily" when I was a child....maybe even "hundreds.")    Anyway,  during those Saturday morning visits Charlie would tell me stories that found a permanent home in my brain.  Pick out an intersection, a house, a business - hell,  a TREE -  there in East Atlanta and he could tell you something fascinating about it.   If it was football season we always talked about who Georgia Tech was playing that day.  On one chilly morning in November, 1978 I remember telling him that I was worried because the morning paper had said that  Eddie Lee Ivery was sick with the flu and Tech was about to play Air Force in the snow in Colorado.  Charlie grinned and said "don't fret.  Sometimes when you're hurtin' or sickly is when you do your best because you're trying harder."   Daddy drove me home after finishing my chores that morning and we listened  along on the radio while Eddie Lee ran for 356 yards on those poor Air Force boys.  Charlie could tell a good story AND handicap a football game.

     There were always stories.  We latched on to them because we didn't have a device in our pocket that connected us to the world and spoon fed us our favorite t.v. shows, or let the world know we're having a totally awesome tuna salad for lunch or show us videos of cats doing funny things.  We actually talked to other human beings and told them about our day, the characters we knew or something strange we'd seen that morning.  Harry Crews - in "Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus" said it better than I can (what a shock....Harry Crews said most things better than I can, that's why he's a legend)  Hang on through the rather macabre banjo picking and listen to everything he has to say.

     God knows we still live in a world full of characters.  And we're definitely living in interesting, scary and exciting times.  So why are we "covering" old songs,  publishing new releases of old novels with different endings and making the same movie over and over and over?? (seriously, there's only so many angles from which we can approach Batman, Superman, Robin Hood and the crew of The Enterprise.) A friend from my high school days (who has done a lot of writing) and I had a similar discussion recently, about the written word in our world.  She told me she's certain there's lots of good writers out there but "they write for the heart and not for the market and sometimes those two are diametrically opposed."  That's too bad.  We're probably missing some classics.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Wednesday rant...

     A gaggle of children singing the national anthem at a minor league baseball game on a hot summer night.  Old men wearing their VFW hats and carrying flags and leading the Fourth of July parade on Main Street, Somewhere.  A man with the lines of hard, honest work cut deep into his face and hands, standing up in the town hall meeting of a Rockwell painting exercising freedom of speech.  Sunday dinner.  Law enforcement folks pulled to the side of the road and saluting a passing funeral procession.  Boy Scouts putting flags on military graves, Memorial Day weekend.  Grainy, dark photographs of souls taking their first steps on Ellis Island.  Fireworks and cold watermelon on the Fourth of July.  "Blue Suede Shoes."  Nashville.  Motown. America and Americana used to be quite a tapestry.  It took many different forms, but we knew it when we saw it, heard it or tasted it.    But I fear what used to be a tapestry is now becoming  a  Picasso with three ears.  We now work way too hard at turning our pieces of the puzzle into islands.

     When the need arose we used to be able to put differences aside and bow up and fight a good fight.  Now good fights seem to serve only to divide us further.  "WE" are no longer an "US."   There's no need to draw battle lines with other countries - we're too damn busy drawing them amongst ourselves.  You're a liberal or conservative, a republican or a democrat or a tea-partier.  You're white or black, your Hispanic, you're Asian.  In short, you're ME or you're everyone else!  We can't help ourselves, though.  We're only following the example set by our leaders, the ones WE elected.  They're no longer problem-solving.  They're no longer governing.  They're no longer engaged in our best interests.  They're only working on re-election.  "YOUR guy got elected?  Well then it's time for THIS side of the aisle to denigrate, destroy and belittle.   There's GOT to be a scandal somewhere and, by God, we'll find it!"   One day we (or our children or our grandchildren) will wish that we had approached issues like global warming, the economy and human rights from something other than a political perspective.

     I asked a good friend who is not American and lives in another country to be truthful with me and describe the reputation we have among folks in her part of the world.  I wasn't surprised to hear her say that she loves Americans but that we can be (in her words) "cold."  I'm quite sure that the "cold" she hears when doing her job (which brings her into contact with co-workers in the States) was born in the mindset that the rest of planet earth should busy themselves stepping and fetching for us.  I wasn't surprised because we certainly allow this same sense of entitlement to affect interaction with each other.  In things as simple driving habits (I'M GOING TO CUT YOU OFF BECAUSE MY TIME IS MORE VALUABLE THAN YOURS!")  to the more complex issues of equality and freedoms and rights.  Along those lines, I've decided to put any and all other career aspirations aside and become a "community activist."  There seems to be great money in protecting the interests of those like yourself.  Only the key is to make sure that every single circumstance that befalls those just like you is an injustice intentionally perpetrated by everyone that's not just like you...NOT random happenstance!  So get ready fat middle-aged white guys who like beer and football - you're about to have a spokesman!!

     There's strength in numbers AND diversity.  Only we're no longer diversity working for a common good.  Now we're a bunch of spoiled children crammed into the same playground fighting over time on the monkey bars.  It's sad.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

self-indulgent rant, take 27........

     I've lived for years thinking that the heartbreak of not having our own children caused me to be short of patience with some folks I encounter that have been blessed with offspring.  Whether in the grocery store ("I can take up the whole aisle because I HAVE CHILDREN!!!")   the line at the bank ("I'm so sorry to hold up a line of 14 people so that the cutest child on earth can choose between a red and a green lollipop!!  I HAVE CHILDREN AFTER ALL!!!!!")  the line at the drug store ("I know there's people waiting but can you see if any of the other pharmacists want to buy girl scout cookies from MY CHILDREN!!??")   I wish I could say I was making up those examples but they're honest to God situations I've been in where the fact that someone has children in tow convinced them of an entitlement to adoration, honor and leeway usually only afforded to the queen of England.  How many times have I had it implied to me that my life really isn't all that difficult because I don't have children?   Or that I have no real concept of "tired" or "stress" because I don't have children?  Or been confronted with the presumption that - again, because I don't have children - my schedule is wide open and my life should easily fit into the lives of others?  Am I a jerk?
     Apparently I'm not alone.  I have a new favorite blog:
"STFU Parents"
     The blog has even become a book, discussed in this article from Slate magazine:

     Check out the different categories on the left side of the page.  "Woe is Mom" and "Bathroom Behavior" are my personal favorites.  A woman is shocked that people were pissed because she was washing up her infant after exploding diarrhea IN THE SAME SINK WHERE PEOPLE WASH THEIR HANDS???   It's not just the "gross out factor" (another category) I find in social media posts about poop and other bodily functions.  It's the presumption (there's that word again) that there are souls on this planet who are convinced that hearing about them will either make our day (because your creatures are so charming that we're all dying to hear about what flies out of their various orifices!) or show us that you really are some type of super-human creature because you change diapers and wipe noses.
     Don't get me wrong, I love children.  I've been an uncle since I was 9 years old.  I've changed several diapers and wiped a lot of noses and had vomit spewed upon me on more than one occasion.  In fact, my nieces and nephews have probably suffered the most from the fact that we've had no children of our own (I was always a pushy uncle - but now the longer I go without children of my own I probably absolutely suffocate them!)  My dearly-departed  mother detested hearing women complain about the aches and pains of pregnancy  or the headaches caused by rearing children.  "Children are a blessing - it's a sin to complain about them."  Bless her ignorant heart....she had no idea how much "mama-drama" she was missing out on....

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

She sees the face of Jesus........

     I've explained the rules before.  If you write and you don't occasionally write about your spouse you will go to hell when you die.  The rules don't much matter, though.  In my case, I find the woman brave enough to live and put up with me inspiration enough to write any day of the week.  The inspiration hit hard, though, recently when I was not feeling great and in need of a little spoiling.  In my recliner with my stupid, hurting knee elevated and being iced I was reminded of just how sweet a soul it is that God found fit to take care of this knucklehead  (some might say she's actually being punished for something.)
     She's a registered nurse for a living.  And it's easy to see why she got into that line of work.  She has deep compassion for living things in need....and not just human things.  She mentioned to me not long after we married that she'd given serious thought to some day going back to school to study veterinary medicine.  She said "Don't you think I'd be good at that??"  I told her she most certainly would be but reminded her that - in her current line of work - she does everything possible to make the sickly feel a hell of a lot better.  But sometimes, in THAT line of work you realize there's nothing you can do so you have to make a tough decision for a lot of people that love their animals.  It didn't take her long - she said "you're right...the first day I had to put down a kitty or a dog I'd be done."   Her heart, you see, is just way too big.
     When the moon is full, she tells me you can see the face of Jesus in the moon's shadows and dark spots.  She always sees it when we're on our patio at night, watching stars and thunderstorms and a spoiled rotten yellow lab with her nose in the air, sniffing everything that's happening out in the dark night.  Her grandmother showed her how to find Jesus' face in that moon when it was shining over rural Alabama and those summertime visits with her grandparents ...the ones that seem to be the best parts of her childhood.  I reckon now, when she's gazing at the moon, she's not looking for the face of Christ.  She's reliving time with a special woman I never got to meet.
      She was living in a nursing home by the time we'd started dating, you see.  And we talked about going to visit but hectic work schedules never permitted.  She sent her grandmother one of the very first pictures of us together and told her this is who she was dating.  During another family member's visit to the nursing home, I'm told that Ma Ma pointed to that picture and told the visitor to take note of her "teddy bear" apparently referring to me.   She was confused by this time, but I like to think it was her way of expressing contentment that one of the grandchildren  she cherished so much was in good hands.  That's the way I like to interpret it, anyway. (Thank GOD she didn't know that this cherished grandchild was in the early stages of domesticating someone whose loved ones really never thought COULD be domesticated!!)
     I was standing next to her when she got the call that Ma Ma had died.  I did all the right things and hugged her and told her I was sorry and told her we'd drive to Alabama as soon as the ice melted and do whatever we needed to do (we were in the middle of an ice storm when it all happened.)   I was quite honored to be asked to serve as a pall bearer at the funeral.  The night before the funeral we drove to south Alabama  after we both got off work.  We went straight to the funeral home.  When she walked into the funeral home and saw her grandmother lying there I actually saw her heart break.  I was overcome with emotion.  Why was I upset??  I had to step outside.  "You don't even know this woman!  Man-up you little girl!!"  I then realized why I was upset...I loved her and - in that instant - knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with her and would not EVER let her hurt alone again.  Even in death, Ma Ma was taking care of folks.
     It's no wonder she can see the face of Jesus and I can't.  She's a lot sweeter soul than I'll ever be. That's why she sees the good in everything...even me.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The more things change...

     Admittedly, I'm hyper-sensitive where women are concerned.  I fret over everything from their safety to equality to manners where the fairer sex is concerned.  That's what happens when your formative years are spent in a house full of sisters and your adult life is a wife, a mother-in-law, nieces and, still, those sisters (all of whom probably sometimes feel smothered by my over-protection.)  I cringe at the way some men still talk around women.  I change the channel or leave the theater when a screen depicts violence against women (in any form.)  And, I'll admit, I'm often offended by gratuitous nudity in entertainment.  But don't revoke my man card just yet - I'm still pretty much the proud neanderthal I profess to be...but I'm also a gentleman.
     My chivalrous nature (I hear "Indiana Jones" music playing in the background when I refer to myself as  "chivalrous") is probably the reason two stories caught my eye this morning.  First, from a Fox affiliate somewhere in Connecticut.  On Wednesday a technician, a producer - maybe even some intern - made a very poor decision when choosing file footage to accompany a story about the celebration of National Women's Day being held at the state capitol.
     "....discussing women's accomplishments here in Connecticut..." but the video seems to have less to do with accomplishments and more to do with what the good Lord (or some surgeon) hath given.  To their credit, they tweeted out an apology, promising that they would "continue to recognize the great contributions of women in CT and around the world."   I'll give them a pass but I still have to ask - they had this file footage why?  What was the subject matter of the story for which this footage was gathered??

     "are we destined to be ruled, by a bunch of old white men..."

     I'll give the folks @ Fox in CT a pass....the "breast video" seems to be more about poor judgement and less about insulting women.  However, a nameless goober at a CPAC  event yesterday gets no pass.
Read the story here...
     I think the headline writer at the Huffington Post blew it.  Begala's comeback hardly qualifies as "epic." ("know you are!  what am I??")  I can think of many more clever retorts.  And I'm not going to blame everyone in the room for the comments made by one jackass.  Immature.  Sexist. Stupid.  In 2013 we're still equating a woman's appearance with her ability to do a job?   If I'm remembering correctly, didn't Mitch McConnell speak at these CPAC proceedings?  Did this infidel suggest a face-lift for Mitch? (after all, his neck is still moving 20 minutes after he's finished talking.)  How about John McCain - I bet he would've won in 2008 were it not for all those Vietnam scars!  
     Don't get me wrong - I'm NO Paul Begala fan.  As I said, his response wasn't exactly of the "ooooooooh,,,that's gonna leave a mark!" variety.  At first I thought he should've let the heckling be - you can't hear it on the video after all so we wouldn't be aware of it had it not been repeated.  Then this thought crossed my mind - was he just shrewd enough in the repeating of it so that those watching would know that this group of folks who declared (after getting their posteriors kicked last November) they would overhaul their image, lose their "old white guy" vision of America and be more sensitive to minorities, women and immigrants really hasn't crawled one progressive inch?  Is Paul Begala that smart?  (he is a politician after all, and even the stupid ones are pretty sly.)
     Here's what would really piss off the "old white guys" - A 2016 presidential ballot that has Condoleeza Rice on one side and Hillary Clinton on the other.  For me, THAT would be the first ballot I've seen in several elections that included two viable options   I'd be happy as punch (and I'm an old white guy!!!!!!!!)

Thursday, March 14, 2013


     Sometimes there really are no words.  Epic? Classic?  How about just "hilarious" ???    I read an interview  recently with the folk duo Brewer & Shipley.  If you think you've not heard of them you're wrong -  you'll recognize their greatest commercial success in just a minute.  In this interview, they mentioned that "Gail and Dale" from the Lawrence Welk Show had performed this song, declaring it a "modern spiritual."    Obviously, I had to find evidence.  Thank God for YouTube.  Make sure you're sitting down.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


"....Praise Father, Son and whole wheat toast..."
     Confession time - The "chimney cam" that CNN had in the lower corner of the screen during the news this morning made me chuckle.  ("forgive me father for I've sinned....It's been, well, NEVER since my last confession...see, I'm Methodist and we don't have fact, we really don't like to discuss what sinners we are with folks that ain't even family")   News folks love to make the day to day here on planet earth "breaking news" don't they? Though I don't darken the doors of a church like I should in my old age, I did grow up a fairly active United Methodist.  But I don't remember what happens when the North Georgia Conference chooses a new bishop. I'm pretty sure there's no smoke involved... unless someone brings some barbecue to the proceedings.  
     I jest - I'm not trying to make light of the sanctity of this selection for those of the Roman Catholic Church, I promise.  In fact, there lives in me a tinge of jealousy towards those who can lay claim to such antiquity in things of importance - whether it's your faith, your home, your city or your church.  I'm jealous of folks in other parts of the world that say things like "someone in my family's farmed this land for the last 500 years"  or "our offices are in a structure that was built in 1625..."   In our young nation, only Native Americans are afforded such legacy. 
     Speaking of Methodism, I've always been fascinated with its founder, John Wesley.  Any reading you can do on the person John Wesley (as opposed to the founder of a religious movement John Wesley) is time well spent.  He was the 15th born in a family of 19 children (yes, I said 19....fertility ran in the family - his mother Susannah was the youngest of 25 children born to a Puritan minister.)   The young John survived a fire in the family rectory in 1709, giving birth to the conviction in Susannah's heart that her son was destined for greatness.  She schooled all her children at home, insisting that they were able to read by age four.  But when he was 11, she sent John off to Charterhouse School in Godalming, Surrey (which - speaking of living artifacts  - is still in operation as an independent boarding school.)  The other day, while reading about his life as an 11 year old away at boarding school, I noticed that each day began with a breakfast of "bread, cheese and beer."  This probably kept any homesickness at bay as he was accustomed to beer with meals at home.  Susannah, you see, was quite the brewer and always kept her family supplied with beer.  Consequently, in addition to accidentally founding Methodism, in adulthood he also became quite a brew master himself.  He considered hard ("distilled") liquor the doorstep to hellfire and only to be used for medicinal purposes.  But beer was dang near a food group!      
     JUST DON'T POUR HIM A GLASS OF ALE THAT'S BEEN BREWED WITH HOPS!  In 1789, so distressed by brewers' tendency to reintroduce this "poisonous herb" back into their wort, he wrote a letter published in the Bristol Gazette that's every bit as much fire and brimstone as his sermons on "salvation by faith" (1738) or "Free Grace" (1739.)  From that letter to the Gazette:
Brew any quantity of malt, add hops to one half of this, and none to the other half. Keep them in the same cellar three or six months, and the ale without hops will keep just as well as the other. I have made the experiment at London. One barrel had no hops, the other had. Both were brewed with the same malt, and exactly in the same manner. And after six months that without hops had kept just as well as the other. "But what bitter did you infuse in the room of it?" No bitter at all. No bitter is necessary to preserve ale, any more than to preserve cider or wine. I look upon the matter of hops to be a mere humbug upon the-good people of England; indeed, as eminent an one on the whole nation as "the man’s getting into a quart bottle" was on the people of London.
      I'll probably not share this bit of history with my father-in-law.  A good southern Baptist, he takes great delight in ribbing me about us Methodists and our tendencies to have a sip now and again.  At family gatherings held at any home on my side of the family you can hear him  "Now which of these punch bowls is the Methodist punch bowl and which one is for Baptists?"  I'll not add any fuel to that fire!  I'm quite certain there's as many Baptists who imbibe, they just don't admit it.  I gather this from some wisdom my father once shared with me when explaining the difference between denominations - "Presbyterians are Baptists who will speak to you at the liquor store."  

"I am man, hear me roar..."
     Were I not such a loyal driver of Ford products (mostly large ones - I'm on my fourth F150) I just might go out and buy me a Subaru.  Have you seen their commercial depicting a father waiting with his little girl at the bus stop?  On what is presumably her first day of school he discusses his overly-protective nature as the reason he drives a Subaru.  He then gets in his very dependable Subaru and follows the bus to school to make sure she gets there ok.  What a treat!  A commercial where a man is depicted as something besides an all-thumbs, "Neanderthalish"  goober that only understands chicken wings, sports and naps on the couch!  You've seen these commercials - the ones where the cold medicine really needs to hurry up and work because Mom needs to save her family from the idiot she married that damn near burned down the house trying to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Or the one for some cleaner so tough on stains it can even get the mud off the kitchen floor when jackass drags a hose in the house and tries to bathe a 700 pound St. Bernard in the kitchen.
     I'm going to channel my inner ad-executive and ask you to consider these: 
 -A beer that advertises itself as something that can help a married man get through THAT week every month ("When she reaches for Pamprin, you reach for a cold Bud.")  
-A pain reliever "so effective even headaches caused by a weekend with your mother-in-law are gone in just one dose!"
-Car insurance with an accident forgiveness clause anytime you drive your vehicle into a tree because she just wouldn't shut the hell up!!
-"When you tell her to get in the kitchen where she belongs and fix you a sandwich, make sure it's Boar's Head meat..."
     Those "The View" chicks' craniums would simultaneously explode.   Everyone from Gloria Steinem to Oprah to the ACLU would call for boycotts and lawsuits.  I use extremes for the sake of a joke, obviously. But still, my extremes aren't that much more overtly insulting than some of the stereotypes I see suggested by real commercials.  It's no longer an "Ozzie and Harriett" world.  Men are doing as much housework and shopping as their spouses.  My thanks to Subaru for recognizing this.  We're neanderthals but we have feelings for God's sake!  Can't someone just hug me?
(Full disclosure - none of the jokes I've made here apply to life in my house.  My bride is a better driver than I am and I worship the ground my mother-in-law walks on.)


Friday, March 8, 2013


    "I don't get no R-S-P-E-C-T around this joint..."

     Did you ever watch a game (any game/any sport) and despised both teams so much that you wished for a way they could both lose?   For me, it'd be  Notre Dame playing the University of Georgia...if anyone asked who I was pulling for I'd say "the meteor."   The same with the Phillies and the Dodgers.  Saints and the Cowboys.  You get the picture. I had similar emotions watching a video of  Skip Bayless and Richard Sherman go at it on ESPN's "First Take" on Thursday.   "Those that can't, talk about it"  vs. those that can generally makes for pretty good exchanges.  And, usually, I'm  able to differentiate between protagonist and antagonist in the drama that ensues.  Not this time - I was praying for spontaneous combustion in both chairs.  Bayless may, in fact, get paid just to play the jerk role...if so he does it well.  "Judge not..." and all that not withstanding I get the sense he's of the ilk that's quite certain the reason we have sporting events is so that they (the ones who consider themselves artists and paint with keystrokes and microphones)  can hone their craft.  "Aren't you just the cutest thing Joe Sports Fan...sitting their in your recliner pounding beer and chicken wings and thinking you know what's happening here!  No, there's a reason I'M the one with the press pass."  Richard Sherman, on the other hand, is everything we try not to like about professional athletes.  Ego and a mouth that's been known to write checks his body can't cash.  Not quite "money for nothing and chicks for free" but almost.  Remember his "golf clap" for Roddy White in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs?  AFTER he'd been smoked for 47 yards and 6 points?   He's the reason I'm president of the Trent Williams fan club.

     In case you missed this clash of egos...


     Hey, I've seen Jimmy Stewart pull off a filibuster....and you, Rand Paul, are no Jimmy Stewart.  I admire the stamina - physical and mental - required to pull of a filibuster - the only thing that could shut up Paul was his own bladder.  But  I'm not really buying what he's selling...because,see, I've seen it before.   It wasn't that long ago that folks on one side of the aisle were telling me to be wary of someone who's middle initial was "W."  They warned me that his "warrantless wiretapping" was going to infringe on all my civil liberties and ALL my inalienable rights!  The government would know everything from my favorite curse word to what's on my grocery list!!!!!!  Now, the other side of the aisle is working hard to push the same panic button for all us ignorant masses.   Drones are going to be doing everything from flying by my window to see what I'm reading and what I'm watching on television (there are certain times of the day that a passing drone looking in my window is going to get a view that will cause it to crash itself into the nearest mountain so as to remove the image from memory banks.)   Dear GOD, make it all stop!  Those that take the floors of our statehouses, chambers and rotundas and use such delusional paranoia to do nothing but push POLITICS (you CAN'T call it "governing," for God's sake)  are no better than the mental giants who jump on the pages of our social networking sites, sounding the daily alarm!  My Facebook page stays filled with these modern-day Paul Reveres.  They quote everyone from Nostradamus to Thomas Paine to tell me that our current president is in secret talks with the Canadians to buy up all of our libraries and churches and turn them all into hockey rinks!  "Please share if you don't want the world to end!!"
click here - David Weigel, Slate magazine says it better than I'm able to... 

"...tell me where is sanity..."

     If someone from another planet asked me "what is rock & roll?"  I'd tell them to listen to Alvin Lee and Ten Years After peel off "Going Back To Birmingham."  Alvin unexpectedly died Wednesday after some "routine" surgery.  Few things make you feel the passing of years as quickly as losing people and their craft (be it singing, acting, writing etc...) who became a part of you, especially in your formative years.  I stuck my foot squarely in my mouth when I came home one day many years ago and found my mother sitting on the couch crying.  I thought something horrific had befallen our family.  She looked at me and said "Bing Crosby died."  I said "SO??   You didn't even KNOW Bing Crosby??  Why are you crying?"  She gritted her teeth and said "it's not just that some singer died...something I've loved for a lot of years isn't around anymore.  One day you'll understand."   Damn, if she wasn't right.

"So I'm sitting on Jekyll Island, 
when I hear that Jerry Garcia died.
I take my cold beer and my coozie,
I look up and I toast the sky.
Seems everytime I turn around, 
something that always was is gone...
without a sound."

     I wrote that song in 1995, coincdentally 4 days after my first date with the woman that now shares my name (August 9, 1995.)  After our first meeting I went to the beach with my friends and she went to the mountains with her friends.  And, after only one date, I remember sitting on that beach and talking to The Almighty "God, please let this be her....I'm tired of wandering around.  Then when I heard that Garcia had died -  "see? I'm not getting any younger!"  
Take a listen...if you can't get into this forget it, 'cause you can't get into nothing at all....




Thursday, March 7, 2013


     "Hey, I'm came here to drink iced tea and kick butt....." 

     Proof that if there's something to talk about, there's someone talking about it.   Meet the "BBQ Jew."
"What happens when the chosen people choose pork"

     I found this blog linked on the Charlotte Observer website.     The keeper of this trove of information and entertainment tells us he has found either his "new best friend, or perhaps arch-enemy" working as editor of Texas Monthly Magazine.  This editor  is "one Jake Silverstein (a Jewish name if there ever was one.)"    Based on the fact that he allowed one of the latest issuesof Texas Monthly to be all about Texas barbecue, he's contemplating the notion that he's not the only "BBQ Jew." (that's really fun to say out loud...try it.)  I'm not sure if Jake was coming out of the closet as a "BBQ lovin' Jew" or simply catering to the masses there in Texas who are quite passionate about their BBQ (as any God-fearing American who knows how to make a killer rub should be.)   But I'm reminded of the wisdom of the late/great Ludlow Porch who, after a trip to Texas, said "Texans are very proud of their barbecue.  It's ok, but we have the same thing right here in Georgia...only we call it steak!  Everyone knows when you're talking 'barbecue' it's time to get a board and hit a pig between the eyes and dig a pit."  Hence, I'm thinking one can enjoy good 'cue in Texas, even if you're one of the chosen ones.  I laugh because I'm bitter - if I could cook a good brisket I'd be more willing to allow the fine folks in Texas to thump their chest and call whatever it is they're doing barbecue.  But chewing through my only attempt at brisket was like chewing through the backseat of a '69 Volkswagen I used to drive.  The fat in a pork shoulder is very forgiving and will give an over-done piece of meat some moisture.  Plus pig fat just tastes better...does anyone eat "beef rinds" while drinking beer and watching 'rassling? 
     Make sure to check out the "Why Jews shouldn't eat pork"'ll find it when you click on the "Jew-B-Q" tab.  I was aware of the "cloven hoof" and "cud-chewing" criteria -  but the rock badger was a new one on me. Shame on me for not being up on my Leviticus.

Leviticus 11:5 "And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you."
     I found the lovely portrait above at ""  the website for the Hosanna Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas. Pretty sure they were educating their folks on a bit of Judaic history, not broadcasting a warning on the evils of rock badger consumption (or swapping recipes.)  The fact that the good Lord felt the need to add this creature to the list of forbidden foods tells me they were being dined upon somewhere and He had to blow the whistle.  Hmmmm....being southern, I have, of course, a propensity for exploring exciting new sources of protein.  
     The verse I've quoted above is from the English Standard Version of the Bible, 2001.   Because inquiring (dysfunctional) minds want to know, I went out found that the King James version of the same verse reads:
"And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you."
At first I figured I'd happened upon the history behind the naming of that island in New York where they eat a lot of hot dogs (thus bringing my kosher food discussion full circle.)  Alas, "coney" is the old english name for a rabbit.  I can hear the King now, telling his scribes "what in the hell is a rock badger?  Just say it's a rabbit, nobody will know the difference."   Reckon why they don't have rabbit eating contests at Coney Island on the fourth of July?  I think they taste a lot better than greasy hot dogs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday stuff....

     Further evidence that I'm a dichotomy of epic proportions,  The fact that I'm in a tizzy today because the season premier of Duck Dynasty is on at the same time as the finale of Top Chef illustrates the oddness that is me.  Camouflage vs. Camembert.   Sweet tea vs. Sweetbreads.    I'd be as happy sitting in the woods talking trash with these characters and their beards as I would be putting on my suit and picking out a wine to go with our first course.  I'm odd, I tell ya.

     Seeing the headline on the story above I just knew I'd have much to say about the article...but I couldn't really figure out what in the hell the writer was saying.  I think that the remark regarding "human welfare" is a bit overstated...but being one who grew up on vinyl, I do miss a lot in the digital downloading of music.  Remember the magic of album covers?   Remember reading liner notes?  I've read similar discussions from folks who miss the physical comfort of holding a book when using an electronic gadget to enjoy the written word.   I'm not saying that art must now stand on its own without the packaging to help carry it  - album art never hid any bad music.  Album art did sometimes, though, enhance one's enjoyment of the music. 
someone agrees with me!
(by the way, yesterday would've been The Man in Black's 81st birthday)

      "Comfort food" rivals "literally" as the MOST overused descriptive in our dialect today.  So I won't use it-but a bowl of collard greens makes this child feel really good on a cold day.  It's a bite of tradition and a bite of culture.  It's the smell of your mother's kitchen in the morning, all coffee and bacon and biscuits.  It's the bed you slept in as a child where you knew a daddy was lying close by lest the devil (or a cat!) was to sneak in and try to suck the breath out of you while you slept.  It's someone you love at the end of a really crappy day, that someone who doesn't need details of why it was a crappy day ( but they know by the look on your face that it was.)   Ok, so it LITERALLY IS COMFORT FOOD dammit!   I honestly think collards may be one of the things on this earth I could eat every single day and never grow tired of (oysters is one of the others.)