Frederick Palmer – A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Wed, 14 Nov 2018 14:35:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Frederick Palmer – 32 32 Sensible Gun Control… NOW! Sat, 15 Dec 2012 17:57:53 +0000

gun controlIf you have an argument for opposing sensible gun control that is more convincing than the broken bodies of twenty little kids who were counting the days until Christmas, then by all means, let’s hear it. Your precious second amendment, if you actually read it, gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of maintaining a ready militia. At the time this amendment was passed the only arms they knew and could foresee were muzzle loading, black powder, single shot, flint lock smooth bore muskets and pistols. You cannot pass legislation that will ever keep people from going crazy; but you can take the weapons of mass murder out of their hands.

So many times after one of these mass killings we hear opponents of gun control saying with much bravado, “if the victims had been armed they could have stopped the killer.” Are we now going to suggest kindergarten teachers carry weapons or maybe we arm the five year olds? Why is it ok to ban smoking to save lives, to require seat belts when driving and to outlaw drugs and not put some limitation on the kinds of guns people are allowed to have.

Are we now talking about the lives of little children as the price we are willing to pay for an arcane right to keep and bear arms? It’s no wonder the United States is now only the sixteenth most desirable country in which to live. Come on people, take your heads out of your asses and get real.

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Mrs. Sullivan’s Testicles Fri, 07 Dec 2012 21:45:53 +0000

Rachel wasn’t very old yet. She was very cute, but not very old. In fact, it was the first year she got to ride the school bus with her big sister Sarah and Sarah wasn’t very old either. She may have been in third grade. If I were to find out it was the fourth grade I’d be very surprised. Mrs. Sullivan was the bus driver for school bus number 64 that year and all the kids liked her. She always talked to the kids and teased with the older ones. She looked after the little ones too, making sure they looked happy, healthy and found a seat without any problem. None of the kids on Mrs. Sullivan’s bus ever caused any real problems for her; not even the boys, which was an enviable state of affairs among school bus drivers. No one ever cried on Mrs. Sullivan’s bus and no one had puked either. At least up to this point in the school year. The kids all felt safe with Mrs. Sullivan and that, of course, meant that thoughts about safety and safe school bus behavior never entered their little minds at all. They were as comfortable around Mrs. Sullivan as they would have been if their own mothers had been driving; but without the embarrassment older kids usually experience when one of their parents shows up at one of the places where kids get to be the kind of kids they most enjoy being when their mothers or fathers aren’t around. You remember, it was always fun showing off a bit like you couldn’t or wouldn’t dare do at home. So as long as Mrs. Sullivan drove bus number 64 to school every morning and back every afternoon, life was good and the world was the just the way it was supposed to be. It would have stayed that way too if Mrs. Fitzpatrick, a substitute driver, hadn’t shown up driving school bus number 64 on the Monday morning right after the Thanksgiving holiday.

That morning every kid who rode number 64 got on the bus looking at the strange woman sitting where Mrs. Sullivan was supposed to be. Because of their surprise at seeing that the world was not exactly as it supposed to be this morning, none of them said anything until after they got to a seat. Then, they immediately asked the kid they were sitting next to, in front of, behind and across from just what was going on and where in the world was Mrs. Sullivan this morning! No one actually had a clue; but everyone who was asked and even some of those who weren’t were willing to venture a guess.

“I don’t know,” said one boy. “Maybe she’s out sick.” That was the sensible, simple and most frequent response. Others were a little more imaginative.

“Maybe she’s still on Thanksgiving vacation,” offered another child. That idea held some real possibilities because every kid on that bus was wishing right now that they could have extended their Thanksgiving vacation; indefinitely.

“She could have had to do something, you know, like be somewhere for some kind of reason. I don’t know.” The discussion repeated itself at every stop. Many of the same kids offered the same guesses for the benefit of the newcomers but a few tried out different ideas, like Gordon Wheatley who tried to see if anyone would bite on his theory that Mrs. Sullivan had been abducted by space aliens and taken to a secret laboratory under the ocean. Nobody gave that theory too much credence at all. Roanoke was not even close to the Virginia coast so the idea of a secret laboratory under the sea just didn’t resonate very readily in anyone’s imagination. He did get a few condescending looks from some of the older girls, but that was about it. By the time the bus stopped in front of the school no one knew anything for sure, but there were a lot of interesting possibilities yet to be considered. This thing wasn’t even close to being over yet.

The rest of the day was a typically long and arduous first day back at school after a holiday vacation. There were lessons in spelling, reading, arithmetic and for some of the older kids, a little Virginia history and science had to be covered and homework assigned before it finally got to be three O’clock. The children all ran out to get on their respective buses and there, on bus number 64, was the sinister, suspicious, not to be trusted and oh so wrong looking Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Again! The situation was elevated to a higher level of reality, and not one single person had done anything about it. No sign anywhere of Mrs. Sullivan. This meant that there were still a lot of unanswered questions in a lot of fertile, imaginative young minds.

On the ride back home a few more possibilities were kicked around and Gordon Wheatley made an almost convincing argument for revisiting his alien abduction theory. Apparently he convinced one or two first graders that his idea had merit, but he still had no support among the bigger kids which is what really mattered any time a new theory about anything was being introduced on the school bus. There was one report, however, that started getting some attention. The only explanation that sounded at all like it might have come from someone who actually knew something about why the possibly evil Mrs. Fitzpatrick was driving number 64 instead of Mrs. Sullivan was the one little Rachel happened to hear. And she heard it from a third grader who claimed he heard two sixth grade girls talking about it in front of the principal’s office. Now in elementary school sixth grade was as high up the ladder as you could get before being graduated to middle school so whatever two sixth graders were talking about was probably true and had to be respected. Every kid knows that. And anything that took place in, around, or in front of the principal’s office was serious business and absolutely carried the full weight and authority of truth. Rachel also heard these two sixth grade girls had said something about Mrs. Sullivan getting a “history” and being put in the hospital. Although as a first grader Rachel hadn’t been introduced to historical studies yet, something like that sounded very serious indeed, particularly if Mrs. Sullivan got it and then had to be put in the hospital after she was already an grown up old lady! This was really getting really, really big.

For Rachel and Sarah, though, the conundrum almost ceased to exist the moment the bus came to their stop. They hardly even noticed the evil Mrs. Fitzpatrick as they jumped out of the bus and started for home. As soon as they got there, they were up the stairs to their rooms dumping their coats and back packs in the closet and heading back downstairs for the traditional after school snack. This was always a good time to forget about the cares of the day for a while and relax with crackers and peanut butter and milk. Even better, right after a holiday like Thanksgiving there were always some special delights leftover that could be turned into a wonderful snack. Cookies, maybe some pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce or banana pudding were all posibilities. They knew today’s snack would be great so they waited, quietly and happily at the table while Mom went to the refrigerator.

While they were waiting Rachel suddenly broke the silence and blurted out to Sarah that she knew why Mrs. Sullivan wasn’t driving the school bus today and why she probably wouldn’t be back for a long, long time until maybe even after Christmas and New Years. Well that was information Sarah hadn’t heard anything about yet and she wondered how her little sister could find out a thing like that before she did.  After all, Sarah was a lot higher up the ladder than the first grade babies.

“Where did you find that out,” Sarah demanded, knowing full well that the credibility of the information depended entirely upon the source.

“I heard Gordon Wheatley telling Bobby McAdam.” This was the same Gordon Wheatley with the space alien theory but that didn’t matter so much now that they were off the bus. At least Sarah wasn’t saying anything about it.

“Well they don’t know anything,” interrupted Sarah. “They’re only second graders!”

“Nuh uh,” Rachel shot back without hesitation, “Gordon Wheatley’s in the third grade.”

“But Bobby McAdam’s only in second grade,” Sarah was quick to point out, again missing her chance to question the credibility of Gordon Wheatley, the dubious abduction theorist.

“But Gordon’s in third and besides he told Bobby he heard it from Melissa Phipps and Susie Harris talking outside the principal’s office. And they’re both sixth graders!”

Bingo! That made things a little more difficult for Sarah to argue against. Two sixth grade girls, who everyone knows are the smartest kids in the school. And right in front of the principal’s office; the holy of holies in every school where no kid in any grade would dare to get caught running, making faces, giggling or saying anything that wasn’t the absolute god’s honest truth. Sarah knew that any information that came through channels like that had to be taken seriously. But, as a third grader herself, she had to make it clear to her little sister that it was her right as an upperclassman to make the final judgment on anything being reported by a first grader. “Well,” she said with attitude in her voice and uncertainty in her eyes as she looked across the table at Rachel. “What did he say then?”

Rachel stood her ground, took a deep breath, pursed her little lips then blurted out: “Mrs. Sullivan went to the hospital to have her testicles removed!” She had seen Gordon Wheatley pointing down around that general area when he was telling Bobby McAdam about that history problem thing and she could put two and two together by herself.  It was almost the end of her first semester already and besides, some first graders were smarter than some third graders thought.

Sarah didn’t see it that way at all. In fact, she was going to teach her baby sister a lesson about knowing what you’re talking about before you open your mouth and start telling people. “That just shows how much you know,” she snapped.  Her voice and body language expressed the kind of arrogance that only an eight year old girl can convey. “Because,” she said, ready for the coup de gras, “ladies don’t have testicles.” She was right and poor little Rachel hadn’t known that particular piece of anatomical fact  She stood silent, not sure what to make of the apparent conflict in the information she had just heard from Gordon Wheatley and what her big sister was saying now. It was her first real conundrum.  Sarah, of course, saw the conflict and doubt in Rachel’s eyes concerning the anatomy lesson she had just been given and decided to go the extra mile by adding one more fact that would demonstrate her superior intellect. “Everybody knows ladies don’t have testicles,” she said in brief review. “Only octopuses have testicles.”

Mrs. Sullivan returned to bus number 64 immediately following the Christmas through New Year’s holiday. Some of the kids thought her voice was maybe an octave or two higher than it had been before she had surgery, but no matter, she was back on the bus. The world was the way it was supposed to be again and everyone on the bus believed it would stay that way from now on.

Time passed as it always does.  Sarah is now a student at Virginia Tech.  She’s majoring in communications which comes as no surprise to anyone.  As for little Rachel, whose interest in anatomy and physiology was apparently aroused by the strange case of Mrs. Sullivan’s testicles, Rachel is also a student at Virginia Tech and is giving serious consideration to becoming a laparoscopic surgeon.  I hope I live long enough to see how it all turns out.

Reprinted from The Brown Duck at by the author.

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The Auto Trashing of Christmas Thu, 29 Nov 2012 22:01:45 +0000

On the occassion of Winter Solstice (or Summer Solstice for Southern Hemisphere-ers), Saturnalia, Yule, Jul, Jo’l, Sabbat, Dong Shi, Shabe Yalda, Lussinatten, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Natal, Blithe Yule, Nodig Mhaith Chugnat, Meri Kurisumasu, Frohe Weihnacht, Boze Narodzenie, Zalig Kerstfeest, Prieci’gus Ziemsve’tkus, Dia de los Tres Reyes, Les Posadas, Nikolaus Tag, etc., Hanukkah, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukah, Feast Of Lights, Feast Of Dedication, Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, Kwanzaa, Festival Of The Sun, The God Of The Sun, Wiracocha, Is Honored, Bodhi Day, Rohatsu, Soyal, Yalda, Omisoka, Fiesta Of Our Lady Of Guadalupe, Advent, Herbergsuche, Saint Lucia’s Day, Barbarazweig, Frauentragen, New Year’s, Kalends, etc., Midvinterblot, Lenaea (The Festival of Wild Women), Pearl Harbor Day, 21st Amendment Day, Bill Of Rights Day, Apollo 17 Day, Boston Tea Party Day, Wright Brothers Day, Rosa Parks Day, Abolition Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Aplastic Anemia Awareness Week, World Aids Day, Human Rights Day, International Disabled Persons Day, National Lemon Cupcake Day, National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, National Maple Syrup Day, National Bouillabaisse Day, National Roast Suckling Pig Day, Oatmeal Muffin Day, Hamburger Day, National Fritter Day, National Date Nut Bread Day, Cotton Candy Day, Ice Cream Day, Brownie Day, Pumpkin Pie Day, Eggnog Day, Overtip Your Wait Staff Week, Opposites Attract Day, Flake Appreciation Day, Underdog Day, Eat A Red Apple Day, Bathtub Fun Day, Boxing Day, Serpent Days, Be Really Mean To Cats Month, Bad Hair Day, To Be Born On Christmas Day Day, Look On The Bright Side Day, Wear Brown Shoes Day, Take It In Your Ear Day, National Roof Over Your Head Day, National Mood Ring Day, National Ding-A-Ling Day, Bonza Bottler Day, Pawnbrokers Day, Violins Day, Poinsettia Day, Stupid Toy Day, Wear A Plunger on Your Head Day, Maritime Day, Bowl Season, Cookie Cutter Week, Generic Religious Holiday, Generic Secular Holiday, Generic Commercially Sponsored Holiday, Generic Cause Related Awareness Holiday, Generic Anniversary Related Holiday, Birthday - celebrity or otherwise, Make Up Your Mind Day, International Calendar Awareness Month, The arrival of family, All of the above. In acknowledgement and/or honor and/or celebration of endorsement of said holidays, either in whole or in part or by way of omission conducting Yule rituals involving holly, pine, mistletoe, good friends, music, food, drink and dancing while: Conversing, Imbibing, Engorging, Ensconcing, Interacting, Entreating, Inuring, Invigorating, Engaging, Ingratiating, Enthralling, Enjoying, Reveling, Rejoicing, Revering, Remembering, Forgetting, Beseeching The Sun God’s Return, Giving Honor To The Intertwining Of God And Goddess , To Bring Forth Fertile Crops, Herds And Families, Aligning With The Rhythms Of The Earth And The Moon, Making Merry (Not To Be Confused With Mary). Waiting With Great Anticipation For: The Holly King, The Oak King, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Grandfather Frost, Julenisse, The Grinch, Scrooge, Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus, Bartl, Boozenickel, Rumpelklas, Pelznickel, A Presidential Recall, Zwarte Piet, Frey, Your ride home, or All of the above.Sitting on the front porch an hour or so before sundown, slipping out of your shoes and listening to fiddle and guitar isn’t such a bad way to finish up the day. If someone is willing to get off their rocker long enough to fetch libations, then so much the better. This is Old Virginny. You know, “back where the cotton, corn and taters used to grow.” Right here where the Appalachians meet the Blue Ridge Mountains you could say we’ve pretty much got it all. Only thing about having it all, though, is that all just naturally includes one or two things you could really do just as well without; like the particularly unsavory odor that sometimes blows up the hills and through the hollows polluting the crisp December air. It’s nothing less than the foul smell of mendacity, and while everybody says they despise it, some folks seem actually to be drawn to it like a pig to a mud hole. As misfortune would have it, that particular odor seems to be at its most pungent right about this time of time of year. In the past few seasons it’s become as much a part of the Christmas holiday as jingle bells and Santa Clause.

So, with Thanksgiving now come and gone here in Old Virginny it’s time to begin the annual hackle raising fight over which holiday greeting is appropriate, and which ones some of us are encouraged to find offensive. It now seems that some good people in these parts believe that saying anything other than “Merry Christmas” is a hostile act. “Happy Holidays” or “season’s Greetings” are verboten expressions used only as code between non believers whose secret goal is to do what the Grinch couldn’t do and steal Christmas. Now really, is there any good reason for being so sensitive that someone’s offer of good wishes for joy and peace are considered offensive if “Christmas” is not one of the words used in the salutation?  “OK, we know “Christmas” contains “Christ” and this is a Christian holiday; but taking offense at somebody or some merchant who offers you “season’s greetings” doesn’t seem a very “Christian” attitude. The Christians themselves have already transformed the holiday into a celebration of materialism and spending so how about coming off the high horse of self righteousness for a while and sharing a cup of hot mulled cider.

Most of us who can read or watch TV know this holiday originally belonged to Wicans and pagans. Saturnalia is the celebration of the winter solstice. It’s only “Christmas” today because Christians stole it. They stole it because after the very heart felt European over night mass conversion to Christianity, the people had no desire to abandon the revelry and good cheer that marked the winter solstice and replace it with another dreary high holy day marked by making offerings to Rome’s church.  Following the early failure of Christmas to take hold, the church figured the only way they were going to get people to abandon the pagan celebrations and replace the solstice with Christmas was to ram Christmas down their throats while the church and its henchmen repackaged every aspect of the holiday. All the pagan gifts of fuel or food, the big burning Yule log, revelry, licentiousness and general merry making were simply repackaged in Christian wrappings.

We have been told by biblical scholars that the actual birth of Jesus took place sometime in March. March, of course, is getting very close to the pagan celebration of the spring equinox. In light of what happened to Saturnalia it’s a bit suspicious how Easter came to be celebrated right around the same time isn’t it? But this is all history, not news. What is so interesting about the situation is the very militant attitude of some of our fine churchmen who take issue with folks and merchants who offer to everyone “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays” instead of ”Merry Christmas.” Their insistence on making this such a huge affront seems to be based on a nagging fear that non believers or pagans might be trying to steal the Christmas holiday away from them. Imagine that.

Come on people, can’t we do better? Oh. And a Merry Saturnalia, Happy Yuletide and a joyous solstice to all.

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Grandma’s Bloomers Tue, 20 Nov 2012 20:15:56 +0000 “Ultimately it is a matter of self defense, an attempt to condition male thinking. That is the reason women will say size does not matter. Tertiam Quidd, 1982 Back in 1967 Miss Debbie was just a cute little coed making the most of every blessing Mother Nature had given her. She was smart. It’s already been mentioned that she was cute and though I never saw her soaking wet, my guess is that even then she still would have smelled a whole lot better than a wet dog. Southern ladies are like that; they seem to have a naturally pleasing fragrance about them that a drop or two of rain or even a bit of the sparkle with which they glisten on particularly hot days only seems to enhance their delicate bouquet. They are delicious I assure you.]]>

“Ultimately it is a matter of self defense, an attempt to condition male thinking. That is the reason women will say size does not matter. Tertiam Quidd, 1982

Back in 1967 Miss Debbie was just a cute little coed making the most of every blessing Mother Nature had given her. She was smart. It’s already been mentioned that she was cute and though I never saw her soaking wet, my guess is that even then she still would have smelled a whole lot better than a wet dog. Southern ladies are like that; they seem to have a naturally pleasing fragrance about them that a drop or two of rain or even a bit of the sparkle with which they glisten on particularly hot days only seems to enhance their delicate bouquet. They are delicious I assure you.

Cute, smart and with a lovely natural fragrance, Miss Debbie graduated from college and then, in spite of her acclaimed intellect, went on and married Mr. Dave, a somewhat slovenly male whose origins were more than just rumored to be from somewhere a bit north of the Mason Dixon Line. I may as well come right out and say it, he was a Yankee! Most of the student body at the time had presumed Miss Debbie was just engaging him as a distraction to provide her with some necessary diversion from her more serious scholastic pursuits. After all, a lady must maintain a social life regardless of the sacrifices that may heap upon her. The consensus of opinion at that time was that Mr. Dave didn’t deserve so much cute, smart and aromatic a package all together in one of the most divine feminine creatures to grace the hallowed grounds of Roanoke College. Some guys, it would seem, are just damn lucky and no mistake. If one of those other northern gentlemen, Mr. Ducey ever got married to anyone at all you’d have to call him lucky. Mr. Robert Ducey once kept a live pancake in the trash can of his dormitory room and observed it over the weeks as the fuzzy green mold that grew upon it steadily took over the inside of that wastepaper basket. He named the green blob Hilda and occasionally threatened to toss an annoying freshman into her loathsome maw. For a while he spoke lovingly to the homely dear and even played for her the genres of music he thought she most preferred; but eventually even Mr. Ducey himself came to so fear the likes of Hilda that one day when she wasn’t looking he took her outside and lit her on fire. It was a horror beyond belief to be certain and I really don’t like to talk about it. To this day it gives me chills whenever I recall those desperate guttural sounds of Hilda’s dying agony, the putrefying stench and the curling black globules of god knows what that rose in the cloud of thick, greasy smoke pouring from that glowing metal waste basket. The cataclysm wasn’t caught on video because nothing digital had been invented at that time, but the horror of the flames and agonizing sounds reminded me very much of the old news reels that captured the Hindenburg disaster; including the radio reporter screaming “Oh the humanity, Oh the humanity” into his microphone. The entire event simply left me with an empty feeling, a gaping hole in my gut and a new appreciation for existentialist philosophy.

Happily ever after, though most inexplicably, Miss Debbie and Dave lived just like good people are supposed to live. They worked hard, were frugal and prudent with their money, had a son and a daughter, bought a nice house in a clean and charming neighborhood, went to church and, except for a somewhat perplexing friendship with Mr. Waggadorn, they became pedestals, if not true pillars of their community. The friendship with Mr. Waggadorn probably came about as a result of his fortunate marriage to another daughter of the South who had both the feminine wiles and a right jab – left uppercut combination that could readily reduce a good old boy like Waggadorn to little more than a quivering puddle of sideburns and Pabst Blue Ribbons.

For all accounts that history has left us with, Miss Debbie was a good mother. Her children grew up healthy and smart. Mr. Dave began losing his hair and putting on a few pounds like most men do after the age of fifty when they realize they no longer have what it takes to make much of an impression on women under fifty no matter what, so they start kind of falling apart. So do a lot of women you might be thinking, but not our Miss Debbie. She remained as smart, cute and pleasantly scented as ever. And if that weren’t enough, over the years she had become a world class cookie baker famous for her chocolate chip and sugar cookies and of course pralines. That may have had something to do with Mr. Dave putting on a pound or two; but the baldness was strictly his of own doing.

So when Miss Debbie and Mr. Dave became grandparents they were once again storybook perfect. By that time Dave was quite bald, old and in the habit of mumbling. By this time there were days when he might only wake up occasionally from his Lay-Z-Boy slumbers to find himself completely startled and in a state of total confusion between his most recent dream and the reality of the outside world. He would be so thoroughly disoriented that little children giggled and adults just shook their heads and offered him prune juice which he always took just to be polite. Miss Debbie, of course, had the little rug rats fawning all over her as the wonderful aroma of baking cookies filled the house with sweet promises of sticky fingers, cold milk and laughing at the crumbs that would inevitably tumble down the front of Grandpa’s cardigan.

The grand parenting role came easily to Miss Debbie. Whenever the grandchildren were over for a visit her policy was simple: Grandma rules. As he had for most of his life, Mr. Dave had only to do what he was told and as long as he did so promptly he could generally stay out of trouble. So he allowed the grandchildren play tricks on him for April Fool’s Day. He screamed in total surprise every time a spring snake jumped out of the bright yellow can of what he was told was a gift of peanut brittle. He shrieked like a girl. He seemed to find his full Grandpa stride in becoming the butt of many jokes because everyone seemed to enjoy laughing at him as he did one foolish thing after another. To be a great grandpa, he realized, all he had to do was be himself. He did so, over and over again.

Of course, everybody loved Grandma Debbie. She made cookies, gave presents, kissed boo-boos and helped anyone who was interested to play devious tricks on Grandpa. Sometimes the tricks got very elaborate. One turned out so well that old Grandpa had to take a shower immediately afterwards. More often, he just had to change his pants.

Grandma was not only nice and fun; she knew the answers to everything. No matter what they asked her Grandma could give them an answer that satisfied their curiosity. Like all kids, they asked some pretty tough questions too; such as “Where does a fire go when it goes out, where did I come from, why are there no cows in that field,” or “what’s a transvestite?” She could handle those with remarkable aplomb. Mr. Dave tried his hand too, but the kids seemed to prefer Grandma’s answers so he just gave them a referral to Grandma whenever their questions got too tough or too dicey for him.

On one such day of questions and answers a lovely little granddaughter asked Grandma Deb what made flowers smell so sweet. She got a marvelous answer about bees and honey and the work of the flower fairies. She asked about where she came from and was answered with a beautiful story about how children first begin as the special ideas of god in heaven who sends them down to earth riding in magic rain drops hidden among all the ordinary rain drops; but the magic rain drops only fall on the special ladies chosen to be mommies. She asked if puppies came the same way, she asked what makes cookies get bigger in the oven, why birds eat worms, why fish have to stay in water. The answers she got grew more fascinating, more colorful and wonderful to hear so she just kept asking questions and getting answers.

“Grandma, how do fires make smoke? What’s the moon made of? What makes rocks hard? Why is the sky blue? Do teachers poop too? Will dragon flies really sew your lips together if they land on you when you’re asleep?” Questions, answers, questions, answers; one leading to another, asked and answered without a moment’s hesitation. It went on: Could there be red grass if god wanted it? Answered. Are there any people living under the ocean? Answered. What makes some people gay? Answered. Was Grandpa ever gay? Answered. “Grandma, why are your underwear so big?” NOT ANSWERED. Major pause here.

Grandma had to think. Her eyes rolled up. The muscles in her neck tightened and facial muscles pulled her lips down and back. No sounds came out of her. Total silence there was. But Grandpa was sitting in his chair shaking, turning red, eyes getting bigger and bigger until he burst out laughing. He shook with laughter. He howled. He got on the floor and rolled with laughter. He laughed like he’d never laughed before. He couldn’t stop laughing. He didn’t want to stop. He wanted to tell it to the world. He was going to tell it to the world. Even on pain of death. Because for once in his life Grandpa was the only one who had the right answer and he was willing to share. And of all things, that son of a gun was a damn Yankee.

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Laughing Gas Thu, 15 Nov 2012 12:44:10 +0000

Hillbilly Rocket Scientist or Lighting a Fart‘Whoever heard of such a thing before?
To everyone alike, an equal share—
You tell me. It is impossible, it can’t be done!
The rumbling of a fart, like every sound,
Is a reverberation of the air,
No more, which little by little dies away.’

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: The Tale of the Melibees, circa1386-1395

We take ourselves way too seriously. My friend Q says she draws the line on silliness, however, at farting in public. I think most people around the whole world agree with her. You hardly ever hear the expulsion of intestinal gas during a public or social gathering and when you do it’s usually some old person who can’t help it. Like me. But we all know there’s plenty of it around. We’ve just been told that letting it escape in the presence of others isn’t nice. Maybe it isn’t. Q’s Rule, as we’ll call the socially accepted boundaries on flatulence, seems to be observed by nearly everyone. Hoodlums, children over the age of four, motorcyclists, terrorists, foreigners and atheists, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and men and women of all socioeconomic classes will, as a rule, avoid squeezing the cheese in public. Not everyone; but as a rule.

Yet while the Q Rule does model polite behavior that surely enhances the well being of any society, at the same time it cannot be denied that it also deprives us of an awful lot of free laughs? I believe this is equally true for both men and women in spite of the differences in their approach to adolescent shenanigans. Boys are pretty up front about their enjoyment and fascination with farts. They get into the variations of sound and aroma. They take pride in volume, duration and stench. Most of them, I believe, are beyond mustering the fortitude required to resist the temptation of executing, at least once in their lives, what is known as a Blue Whizzer; a remarkable feat accomplished by rolling onto their back, pulling their knees toward the chin and holding a lit match or lighter where a blue tongue of flame will leap towards the sky as they release methane under pressure. It really is awesome and very funny. This is best done through denim trousers as a precaution against dangerous back draft. There was a kid who nobody actually knew, but everybody had heard about, who wasn’t careful and blew up his anus.

I don’t think too many girls get that carried away. I think that’s because by the time their old enough and clever enough to get a hold of matches and lighters they’ve already begun to learn the importance of ladylike behavior and their responsibility to carry on the myth that ladies never fart. In the words of Minnesota Fats: “gimme a break.” But I will admit, executing a Blue Whizzer is most unladylike even in Southwest Virginia and Arkansas. In the Muslim world it’s would call for a stoning at the village gates.

At least as far back as 1386 we know that people found farts to be both amusing and funny. In The Miller’s Tale of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, we see a blindfolded Absalom seeking a kiss from his lady love when Nicolas, the miller plays a trick on him. Absalom says “Speak sweet bird, I know not where thou art.” And “At this Nicolas lets fly a fart as loud as it had been a thunder clap.” Chaucer had further fun with farts by having one divided into twelve equal parts. In Chaucer’s Tales of the Melibee this miraculous feat was unabashedly performed by twelve monks who each positioned themselves at the outer end of a spoke on a horizontally balanced wagon wheel. A well fed monk whose belly was tight with gas positioned himself under the wheel at its hub where he let one rip, thereby providing each of the twelve monks with “an equal portion of the savor and the sound.” Chaucer clearly enjoyed the multifaceted humorous possibilities of the fart and obviously believed his audience did as well. I think the old boy was right.

Closer to the modern days, in 1968 I had my own experience with the amusing side of farting. While a student at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia two friends and I went to hear then Republican vice presidential candidate Spiro T. Agnew deliver a speech in the college gym. In those days “liberal” was not a dirty word and Christianity was not synonymous with the politics of the extreme right. So, although as first time voters my friends and I were not inclined to support the Nixon – Agnew ticket, we wanted to listen to what the man had to say. It was a time when we could do that because we didn’t have Rush Limbaugh and a plethora of preachers encouraging people to despise those whose opinions and perspectives differed from their own. Those were strange days. Back then the very idea of an unmarried man and woman openly living together was considered to be quite controversial. And the only means of birth control were condoms and the rhythm method. They were interesting times, but different.

Although my friends and I found ourselves disappointed with the rapidly concluding Johnson administration, Spiro T. said nothing to swing us over to Nixon’s camp. So, with our seats conveniently near the back exit, we listened, then made our way to an expedient departure after the speech by coming out onto the back alley that would start us in the right direction for the walk back to our rooms. Following my uncomfortable though strict observance of the Q Rule during the entirety of Agnew’s lengthy speech, I had built up enough intestinal pressure to blast the chrome off a trailer hitch. To my great personal relief, I did just that just as soon as we were on that back alley. What I didn’t know, though my two friends saw it, was candidate Spiro T. Agnew’s simultaneous exit along with two secret servicemen not ten short feet behind me when I let go with my own Chaucerian “thunder clap.” There was no way that Republican vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew didn’t get an equal portion of the sound if not the savor. My two friends immediately doubled over laughing at the two secret servicemen and Spiro T. who turned in defensive posture in our direction. We were not arrested or detained for questioning. They evidently concluded there was no weapon present more threatening than my ass, which was probably damaged in the blast. Over the years, however, we’ve often wondered if the incident was ever discussed within the White House when Nixon, Agnew and the boys were getting sloppy reminiscing over old campaign trail stories.

Farts also possess the potential, in the succinctness of their usage, of a potent statement of critical disapproval or rejection. For that reason alone I think the Q Rule has at least the intent of providing some socially redeeming value. A well timed fart such as the one seen by some as a response to Spiro T. Agnew can be a pretty blunt rejection. But let’s be honest, fart sounds are almost always really funny; especially those long drawn out ones that change pitch three or four times while reaching a crescendo then trailing off in a sustained diminish. With a simple fart simulator cup I’ve seen the bubbling sound of a really wet one bring tears of hard laughter to the eyes of ladies who otherwise present themselves as models of respectful deportment. The Thunder Clap, the remarkable staccato of the Machine Gun fart or the reluctance of the Shy Debutant playfully trying to get past an unwilling sphincter; farts sounds make us laugh. And though the Q Rule might have us believe ladies never, ever, ever fart, we all know better.

Yet I would not discard the Q Rule though I see no need for redressing those who break it. We all slip at one time or another and we’ve all found creative ways around the rule when soft furniture or noisy environments come available during times we find ourselves under the pressure of urgent need. I think what I think is that because farts are so funny and so distracting, it is best we keep the Q Rule for its encouragement of polite behavior; but, just for one day a year every year we should all, each one of us, be encouraged to celebrate and enjoy Nature’s gift of the fart by letting them rip and squeezing them out with reckless abandon all day. Free farting everywhere around the world for one day a year. I think it might help us take ourselves a little less seriously. The following day would be quite soon enough to return to our stogy and distorted views of self importance.

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Family Secrets with a Side of Grits Mon, 12 Nov 2012 16:23:37 +0000 "With the loss of honor the depths to which we may sink are unfathomable." - Tertiam Quidd, 1972 In the Old South, ladies are prohibited by custom and by fashion from crawling under trucks and buses just to have a look around and assure themselves that everything down there is just the way God intended it to be. My lovely daughter in law, Ms. Trisha, was born in the South and born a lady. A genuine Southern Belle and native of Charleston, South Carolina is what she i]]>

“With the loss of honor the depths to which we may sink are unfathomable.” – Tertiam Quidd, 1972

In the Old South, ladies are prohibited by custom and by fashion from crawling under trucks and buses just to have a look around and assure themselves that everything down there is just the way God intended it to be. My lovely daughter in law, Ms. Trisha, was born in the South and born a lady. A genuine Southern Belle and native of Charleston, South Carolina is what she is, with two handsome sons and a truly gorgeous daughter who is also well along the pathway to becoming the family’s next example of refined Southern ladyship. Isabel Rose is her name and there is no doubt in my mind that she will be a lady of such grace and grandeur that by comparison the Queen of all England will appear no more genteel than just another Cockney redneck freshly fallen from one of those mechanical bulls that still draws bawdy crowds into the Dew Drop Inns back in the swamp waters of the Okeefenokee. You can count on it.

Now my heart, as many are aware, is no longer the model of masculine strength and endurance it once was. There has been a mechanical contraption implanted into my chest whose function is to save me from the jaws of death should some traumatic shock or stress prove too much for me to bear. Such things still happen and they are more likely to happen in the Old South where much of the animal nature of life, so familiar to the inhabitants of the northern states, is prevented, by century’s old traditions of fine Southern manners and brandy, from ever being seen, heard or talked about in the presence of a Southern lady. And I dare say I was never more grateful for having this contraption in my chest than I was just one day before Thanksgiving when I heard of the dreadful circumstances our dear Trisha was compelled to endure.

In a city like Charleston, the job of a tour guide is nothing more than an extension of the role of the Southern hostess which every Southern Belle has been schooled in and mastered by the age of sixteen. Isabel is only eleven; but with the exception of an occasional mischievous mimicking of a New York Jewish princess describing an aging Fran Dresher as still having skin “as smooth as buddah;” Isabel has already picked up, no doubt from her mother, the politeness, charm and deportment required of every proper hostess on the downhill side of the Mason Dixon Line. In fact, Miss Trisha has said that young Isabel is just like her except that “Isabel gets less food on herself when she eats,” than Trish does. That little piece of information is somewhat of a family secret. No one has actually ever seen or said they had seen Trisha spill food on herself because her husband, Charlie, has trained their two gallant sons to spare their mother any embarrassment by immediately rushing to her side, apologizing profusely and feigning that the spillage was entirely the result of their unforgivable teenage clumsiness. It always works. Like their Uncle Kevin of Virginia, young Luke and Jared will become the Sir Walter Raleigh’s of this modern new century.

That Trisha knows all about being a gracious hostess is as much of a given and as obvious as her perfect Charleston drawl. Becoming a Charleston tour guide seemed as natural to her as living on James Island. And the fact that her mother owned a tour company gave her no reason to even consider working in one of the ladies fine millenary shops. Trisha had learned her history, and passed her tour guide tests. That came as no surprise whatsoever, and my heart was safe and satisfied until she recited the dreadful ordeal she had been put through in order to receive the commercial driver’s license required for her to operate the tour bus.

To begin with, it would have made perfect sense to have a nice retired gentleman with at least a slight resemblance to Colonel Saunders in a white suite and white straw hat driving the bus. My daughter in law would have looked just perfect standing at the front of the bus in a nice long, flowing summery dress with a corsage and a ribbon in her hair welcoming the tourists aboard and immediately charming them with her sparkling eyes and big smile. As the tour began she could have kept her position at the front of the bus and, with the aid of a small microphone to broadcast her sweet, soft voice; purely fascinated her audience with her knowledge of history while delighting them with anecdotes that they could have heard nowhere else on the face of this earth. And when the tour was over they would certainly have tipped her generously as she saw them safely off the bus and wished them a most pleasant stay in her fair city of Charleston. That would have been fine.

But no! She was required to drive the big motor bus all by herself which meant wearing something so ordinary it would give the tourists nothing to envy or to talk about, and strapping a harness over her perfectly coiffed hair in order to hold the microphone up for her while she manhandled her rig through narrow streets and crowded highways where Yankee teamsters sometimes forget to use their inside voices and best manners. One could almost hear those tourist’s wallets and purses snapping shut at the startling lack of long bosomy dresses, wide flowered hats and a couple of hair tossing “fiddle-de-dees,” as she easily overcame any unforeseen obstacles to the enjoyment of their tour. Appalling, you may say; but the real heart stopping news which nearly put me in a prone position permanently and necessitated one of my grandsons to fetch me a reviving glass of cool water and a cold damp cloth to lay upon my forehead came when Trisha, our dear Trisha, detailed how she had been forced, at the point of a socket wrench I have no doubt, to crawl underneath that hot, greasy, smelly old monster of a diesel tour bus and identify its parts. She did this unescorted by her husband, father or any male relative who might defend her honor if need be. Shocking, yes, but consider next the question of what a belle might wear for such an occasion? A long man’s shirt or some ill fitting jump suit in an unflattering if not completely hideous color could not have distressed me more. How does someone who’s every move has been a perfect expression of feminine modesty and grace put herself onto her back on a dirty garage floor then find herself forced to do something as rude and indecent as, dare I say it, positioning herself under the coarseness of so many unseemly motorbus parts? It is no wonder that with a filthy, grimy steering box hanging only inches above her face, she frantically and desperately cried out wondering what horrible thing she could ever have done to make God want to punish her in such a manner. Every miserable moment must have been simply horrible for her. Identifying and touching things like shock absorbers, muffler, drive shaft and cotter pins may be fine for men whose very nature wants to make them rude and offensive; but it is highly indecorous to force such upon a lady. Oh, it might get overlooked from time to time in New Jersey or around Pittsburgh, but certainly not in the Carolina’s. It’s the kind of thing scandals and rumors are made from. And don’t kid yourself, no man can know or understand the agony and humiliation this sweet daughter of the South endured for the sake of that commercial driver’s license. It’s something that, within our family, we have made a solemn promise never to speak of openly again. Perhaps, with the passing of time and a few generations this blight, like many other family secrets in the Old South, will disappear forever beneath sun and salt marsh, and all our memories will be pure and innocent once again. We only hope and pray for such a blessing.

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I’m Frederick J. and I Approve This Message Fri, 09 Nov 2012 21:55:58 +0000

Regardless of the outcome of this 2012 national election, first and foremost I am so glad it has finally ended. On voting day, long before the polls had closed and the returns started to come in I felt once more like a ten year old boy on the last day of school at the beginning of summer vacation. I believe we have all just witnessed what can only be called national insanity. Lack of substance, ridiculous sums of money and the encouragement of divisiveness and disrespect are, for me, what characterized the elections of 2012.

The process of national elections in the United States has to be an abomination in the eyes of any possible heaven that might exist, and certainly ought to be the object of ridicule and disgust by the rest of the world. To begin with, there are people in need, people suffering in this country and around the world whose lives could be forever changed by a drop from the bucket of billions that our politicians see fit to spend on their campaigns. To a hungry child it must be like watching a rich fat man order squab only to use it for fish bait, then catching a fish only to have it mounted on the wall without anyone having a bite of anything. I know there aren’t many still alive who lived through the depression; but most of us have heard stories from our parents or grandparents. Can you for one moment imagine what they would have thought about using so much money to do nothing more substantive than to call an opponent and asshole? There is something to be ashamed of; and to borrow from the religious, there is a real sin. I do vote; but do not and will not donate one penny or one minute of my time to the service of politicians. After all, these are not the best of the people our society produces and if you know just one person who is not in prison for murder, rape, child molestation or robbery you know a person better than most of those we waste time listening to, electing and sending of to make up the rules we are supposed to live by. Basically, candidates are people applying for jobs. All of us may have bought a new pair of shoes (except the other Dana) a suit or dress to make a good impression when interviewing for a position; but come on, these guys don’t go out without war chests filled with more money than it would take to put an end to homelessness, hunger and find a cure for Lou Gehrig ‘s Disease. We don’t need the so called debates, we need interviews that candidates can’t take control of and have to answer the questions they’re asked if they want to have a chance a getting the job.

Since we don’t have interviews, however, we end up with six months of accusations, name calling, empty promises and down right pants on fire lies instead of substantive statements about why they should get the job and what they’ll do if they get it. In an interview the interviewers don’t have to be satisfied with a statement of what the candidate wants to do, but can actually require an explanation of how he or she expects to do it. I saw far too many TV ads that tried to use images, sound and voiceovers that tried to influence me to vote for candidate A because candidate B is an asshole. So, the logical conclusion I reached during this campaign was that we were being asked to choose a president from between the two biggest assholes the nation could find. That doesn’t make me particularly proud. If you got much more than that from their television campaigns it must be you’re getting confused with something you must have read somewhere.

Now I realize that negative advertising has been around a long time and that it’s stayed around because it works; but the consequences of so much of it, I do believe, is the bitter divide we now see in our congress and among ourselves. Negative ads do work to a large part because they imply fear. “This candidate is an asshole and you should fear what that asshole might do to you if he wins.” That’s exactly what they keep bombarding us with through the disguises of creative (at least some times) advertising and production. Believe me, the people who create those television ads know what they’re doing and they hope to do it skillfully enough that all of you won’t.

If you’re old enough you may recall when anything that came from the old Soviet Union was propaganda; while anything that came from our “free” press was the truth. Well, the truth is there’s always been plenty of American propaganda. It was just more skillfully delivered than the Soviet product. In fact, before Fox News and MSNBC it was so skillfully handled that most people didn’t even believe it existed. Propaganda, like negative advertising, works. Increase the frequency of exposure and the effective influence of the propaganda or negative advertising increases proportionately, at least to a point. The recent presidential campaign has effectively taught us to distrust and even dislike anyone who sides with the opposition. The recent campaign has deepened our divide and raised temperaments from disagreement to anger and even hatred. This, of course, is not a good thing; but unless we rise above ourselves to an unprecedented level of collective wisdom, it will be the vehicle that destroys us beyond reclamation. If this campaign revealed anything it unfortunately might be that our process of elections has become so petty, so expensive and so negative that regardless of who sits in the White House, we our bound to destroy all the good things we have had going for us. I wonder what the country will look like in 2050?

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