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Number of posts: 39
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By Robert Lamb:
- What happened to the United Nations’ peacekeeping role around the globe? How did the United States of America get saddled with the job – and enormous expense – of global policeman? Only a few years ago, an international crisis called for a peacekeeping force composed of member nations of the UN. Now nobody mentions it. Why?
heaven help me
Two thousand seventeen has not gotten off to a good start for Yours Truly.
First, there was the dress. No. make that The Dress. It was “The Dress” instead of simply “the dress” because it is for the upcoming wedding of our youngest son, Carson, a brilliant new lawyer (takes after his father) who now calls Des Moines, Iowa, home. Carson will wed Claire Roth in Athens in April. You might recall my column on his unusual Pepperoni Proposal…
Who would have thought that a bone scan could be such a pleasant experience?
I didn’t. I figured I’d show up at Tidelands Health Waccamaw Hospital in Murrells Inlet, S.C., at the appointed hour, go downstairs to Nuclear Medicine, get an injection, lie on a table and listen to machinery whir around me, then get up and go home.
But two musicians whose day job is in nuclear medicine at the hospital made the scan a truly harmonious (no pun) event.
Whatever happened to simple weddings?
My wife Margaret and I got married 34 years ago in her parents’ living room, in Columbia, with maybe 10 people, tops, in attendance.
This past Thursday, Aug. 25, we drove to Athens, Ga., to make arrangements relating to our youngest son’s upcoming wedding featuring (at last count) 300 guests!
I know you’ve heard that love will find a way. Me, too, but who knew that a pepperoni pizza could be part of Cupid’s plan? You listening?
He was a boy, 26, from Columbia, South Carolina. She was a girl, 23, from Albany, Georgia. He graduated (English) from the University of South Carolina (Go, Gamecocks!). She graduated (social work) from the University of Alabama (Roll, Tide!). This Southern boy and this Southern girl first met in Charleston, South Carolina, that Holy City of the American South. This Southern twosome fell in love in Charleston…
Okay, get the handcuffs ready. I’m about to confess:
By day, I am Robert Lamb, famous author of great novels. No, wait! Make that “relatively unknown author whose books were best-sellers in certain quarters,” namely my mother’s bridge club.
But by night I am, by design, mind you, the equally unknown author whose nom de plume is (drum roll, please) Cooper Riverbridge …
The biggest problem with Josefine Klougart’s One of Us Is Sleeping is that the one asleep is probably the reader.
Even a stream of consciousness novel, which is what this is supposed to be, is supposed to go somewhere – and leave the reader with the impression that he has been there and that the journey, however long, was worthwhile.
risks being understood
Matt Hamilton has packed more life into his 41 years than most of us could in twice that.
Of the many roads he has traveled – soldier, congressional aide, Benedictine monk, Peace Corps – one he likes best is the road that brought him to North Litchfield, S.C., where he vacationed last week and sat down in a Litchfield coffee shop long enough to be interviewed.
“My whole family has vacationed here for years,” he said. “We love it. The younger ones can go north to Myrtle, and the rest of us have Litchfield, Pawleys and Georgetown.”
delicious summer weather
I’m a South Carolina native who grew up in Georgia, and I have lived in one of these two states most of my life except for two years in the Navy (during which I never saw a ship — a story for another time) and a misguided six months in California, land of fruits and nuts.
How bad was the golden state? Well, when I got back home I kissed the ground and vowed never again to leave the South except for visits, and only then with a copy of my birth certificate in hand to prove where I was from so I could be sure to get back in.
But I might have been a bit hasty in making that pledge. Two reasons: Iowa and Maine.
Sometimes, in the still of the night, I think I hear the American culture coming apart at the seams. Sometimes it’s the popping of a stitch. Other times it’s an alarming rip. But the culture is definitely showing signs of strain. I don’t think this is normal wear and tear. I think the culprit is zeal connected to bad ideology, zeal fueled by ignorance often masquerading as enlightenment.
A moment’s thought, for instance, reveals that Political Correctness undermines the most precious provision of the Bill of Rights: free speech.
Though I am a native of South Carolina (Aiken), I grew up in Augusta, Ga., and I think of it as my hometown. I haven’t lived there in years, and even if I wanted to move back there, I know that you can’t go home again.
That is particularly true in my case, but, no, it’s not because the Statute of Limitations has yet to run out on the antics of my misspent youth. In fact, I was nearly an altar boy. (May it please the court: let the record show that I said “nearly.”)
side effects of life
Have you noticed the long string of warnings in TV commercials for prescription drugs?
How could you miss it? It’s downright scary. Takes up half of the evening news. The drug companies know their audience, don’t they? Only geezers watch TV news. News has not yet become relevant to the young. (But just wait, young people!)
I’m afraid to go see a doctor anymore. I might wind up with one of those prescriptions. Their side effects sound riskier than the ailment.
farewell, old fellow
What is it about dogs that is so affecting? Why do we love them so? And why do we grieve so when they die?
By now, half the people from Georgetown to Murrells Inlet know that MY DOG DIED!
I can’t help myself. I’m worse than the Ancient Mariner. I stop perfect strangers to tell them MY DOG DIED!
Yes, my sweet Dro-Dro, a red-nose pit bull, is gone. Dead at age 11…
What a shame that the era of the Western movie headed long ago for the last roundup. The Gambler’s Apprentice, a novel by H. Lee Barnes, is perfect for adaptation to that great American genre – and, given the chance, just might revive it. It’s that good.
You listening, Hollywood? Long story short, it is 1917, and a farm family in drought-stricken Texas is fending off destitution, albeit just barely, by rustling Mexican cattle across the Rio Grande…
So you’d like to write a novel. Then here’s Dr. Lamb’s prescription: take two aspirin and lie down till the desire goes away.
Just kidding. Truth is, if you’re really a writer, you will write, no matter what. And if you’re not, well, I hope you’re at least a reader. Writers need readers and readers need writers, n’est-ce pas?
But I brought up the subject because an aspiring writer, a young girl, teenager, asked me the other day how to go about writing a novel.
When George W. Coggin of Greensboro, N.C., and Pawleys Island, S.C., set out to trace his relatives’ military service in the Confederate Army, he little dreamed the trail would lead to finding black kinfolk. Coggin is white.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the book that grew out of this journey into the past is Abraham & Jeremiah Coggin & The Montgomery Volunteers, published recently after years of research by Coggin, a retired lawyer, who with his wife Carol have a home in Litchfield Beach at Pawleys Island. We all met one day when I was out walking my dog, the late Dro Lamb, canine extraordinaire and companion supreme.
For this new year, I have decided to skip making resolutions and pose some nagging questions instead. These long-unanswered questions demonstrate more staying power than resolutions do anyhow, so here goes:
File this under the heading of Best Laid Plans, the kind that “gang aft agley,” as Scottish poet Robert Burns warned in his philosophical poem “To A Mouse.”
My wife usually shops for a Christmas tree with a scrutiny normally reserved for my shortcomings as a spouse. She also insists that I proffer an opinion on each candidate, after which she makes up my mind which tree to get.
This year it was going to be different. To help a charitable cause, she bought a Christmas tree online. That means she bought a tree sight unseen.
I’m sorry to say that thievery has plagued my neighborhood of late, and wouldn’t you know it would begin just as I was preparing to go away for a few days?
I don’t keep much of value in my house, but neither did my mother, who once fell victim to a home break-in. Nevertheless she felt angry and helpless. I felt the same sense of violation that she did, and it wasn’t even my house.
Basically, the pillager tore up the house in looking for items of value…
I was still in mourning for Bobby “Blue” Bland, who passed in 2013, when a short while ago the house lights went down for the last time on B.B. King, too. What to do, what to do? So many of our great blues singers have made their Last Road Trip, have gone on to that Great Jam Session in the Sky: Bland, King, the two Jimmys (Reed and Witherspoon), Ray Charles, Lou Rawls, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Little Milton, to name but an octet of the very best.
Talk about coincidence, I was thinking just the other day how popular song lyrics have changed over the years – and not for the better, I fear – when I stumbled into an odd kind of research online that supported my suspicion and set me to thinking about language in general. The research. Believe it or not, somebody has gone to the trouble – brace yourself – to count the words that have shown up most often in popular songs in every decade since the 1890s!
Like her husband Lehman, who could talk warts off, Mary Grace never revealed the secrets of her magic. She would lose her powers, she said, if she revealed them to anyone except a male child of her own. The legatee was my cousin Buddy, who figures prominently in this story.
In writing all of this, I have hesitated to call any of it magic, for that might imply my belief in the inexplicable feats I’m telling you about. But I looked up the word “magic” not two minutes ago, and it is indeed the right word for what I’m describing. For, in part, the definition says: “any mysterious, seemingly inexplicable, or extraordinary power or influence.”
I think of myself as a realist. A diehard realist. I believe I am truly a child of the Age of Reason. But can reason explain all things, unlock all mysteries?
Don’t think so. My Uncle Lehman, for instance, my Aunt Mary Grace’s husband, could talk warts off.
As I write this, I can see you shaking your skeptical head. Well, I didn’t believe it, either.
Used your debit card lately to buy something in a store? I tried yesterday, but the store began closing before I could answer all the questions that pop up after you swipe your card. I had started at noon The first dozen or so were child’s play, questions like:
“Do you want cash back?” Yes, but only if you’re giving it away.
“Is $3,590.23 the correct amount?” Only if the clerk is holding a gun on me…
In case you’re emerging from a coma over the last couple of months and somehow missed the change, it’s the tourist season again. The signs are everywhere – but, alas, mostly here at the beach. Gone are the days, for a while at least, when I could walk on the beach with my dog ’Dro (short for Pedro) and meet up with no one but myself. Good place for doing that. The late, great Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard wrote memorably that on a back road in Georgia at night, you could ask yourself a question and get an honest answer.
You might want to sit down for this.
Here goes: I have concluded that we human beings are alone in the universe.
Sorry. I thought you were ready. The smelling salts are on the table beside you.
As I was saying: I believe that we Earthlings are by our lonesome in the big, wide universe.
My wife and I attended An Evening of Prayer Tuesday at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Pawleys Island. The special event was an ecumenical vigil for the victims of the Charleston massacre on June 17 at Emanuel AME Church at the hands of a moral idiot.
For some reason, the vigil brought to mind the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, one of the most famous openings in all of literature: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” …
How much more slovenly can broadcast speech become? I can’t be the only one who wonders, and I’m surprised at how often the slovenly speech comes from the lips of top-of-the-line communications professionals. Hardly a day goes by that some network news announcer somewhere doesn’t talk about “Present Obama.” He (or she) is referring to the “Present” of the United States, of course. And if I’ve heard “opportunies” once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.
who wrote that?
I’m convinced that songwriters are the Rodney Dangerfields of popular music. Name any popular hit song of the last 50 years and ask your friends who wrote it. The most likely response will be, “Duh?” Like Dangerfield, the late king of one-liners (“I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out”), songwriters get no respect.
Why? Beats me. People just seem to pay no attention to who wrote something, no matter what it is.
I walk my pit bull ‘Dro (short for Pedro), on or near the beach nearly every morning. We usually access the beach at an inn whose parking lot, full these days, is to me something of an amusement park, what with all the bumper/window stickers and out-of-state license plates to be seen there: New York, Tennessee, Maryland, Ontario, Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina.
One Maryland license plate was especially evocative; it said simply RIPTREV. Love to know the story behind that one.
Prosecute the Malefactors
I have come both reluctantly and late to the belief that President Obama will lose re-election unless he moves, and moves quickly, to prosecute the main Wall Street malefactors of the 2008 economic collapse.
Last Sunday’s segment on “60 Minutes” about the activities by Lehman Brothers executives (and their accountants) to fool investors, regulators, and customers was one of the most damning pieces of journalism I’ve seen on what happened and who was responsible. Reporter Steve Kroft deserves a Pulitizer for his reporting on this colossal, cynical, and arrogant bamboozle of the American people.
1. Have you published a book yet?
Yes, three novels and a book of stories and poems. The first novel, Striking Out, a coming-of-age novel, was published in 1991 by The Permanent Press and was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. The second, Atlanta Blues, is about the search for a missing college girl by a newspaper reporter and two cops. Published by Harbor House Books, it was a Southern Critics Circle Selection and was named in a year-end round-up as “one of the best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer.” The third novel, A Majority of One, was published in September 2011, by Red Letter Press. The fourth book, due out soon, is also from Red Letter Press. It’s title is Six of One, Half Dozen of Another (Stories & Poems).
In 1991, when my first novel, Striking Out, was published, I had been gone from The Atlanta Constitution newsroom for nearly a decade. Nevertheless, the book editor then, a man whose name I do not know, recruited author Terry Kay to review my novel. Kay wrote a very perceptive review and the Sunday paper gave it prominent play. In those days, any self-respecting newspaper would have done the same for one of their own. It was sound journalism: Local boy makes good.
Move ahead to 2004, when Atlanta Blues was published. Boy, had times changed! The book editor at that time, a woman, told me she wasn’t going to review my novel. “We get 200 books a week and we simply can’t review them all,” she told me on the phone.
I asked, “How many of that 200 are set in Atlanta, are about Atlanta, have Atlanta’s name in the title, and were written by a former Atlanta resident who used to work for the Atlanta papers?”
The South is known for its unusual characters, right? They populate the novels of Southern writers like Erskine Caldwell, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers. But we Southerners know, don’t we, that you don’t have to crack one of their books to find such a character’s prototype? Often they live right next door, or just down the street, or they show up at the other end of a conversation. To wit:
In sending email, I routinely include a favorite saying or famous quotation in the message’s personal signature section, at the bottom of the page. Recipients often comment on the quotations, which I change from time to time, albeit irregularly because I tend to forget they need refreshing.
When I tell people that I served in the Navy, their eyebrows go up when they hear that I was stationed in Oklahoma. For the geography-challenged, Oklahoma is landlocked. For the vocabulary challenged, “landlocked” means “cut off from the sea.” For the connections challenged, think “sailors,” then “ships,” then “oceans,” and then “Oklahoma.”
It did to me, too.
And I grew even more suspicious when my next duty station was in Jacksonville, Florida – and I still hadn’t seen a ship.
Long story short, I was in the Navy for two years – and never saw a ship!
“It was a ghost, I tell you. I seen it with my own eyes.” Glenn crossed his heart and looked from face to face around the kitchen table as Gerry shuffled the cards for the next hand.
“Saw,” Gerry said. “You saw it with your own eyes.” To the rest of us, he said, still shuffling, “Honor-roll student and can’t speak good English.” He shook his head.