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By Mike Cox:
“A man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali
Sitting in Cafe Lafitte’s in Exile on a recent March morning, enjoying the best Bloody Mary in that foodie town, I wasn’t thinking about Ali. I was talking to Harvey, the guy on the next stool. But the words of The Greatest were appropriate.
Two years prior, Suzy and I had stumbled into Lafitte’s asking for directions to a voodoo shop…
remembering the king
During the spring of 2001, a few months before America changed for the worse, Shane and I were working on a dream trip. We were going to Wrigley, and taking my grandson with us. The feeling reminded me of Christmas the year I got my first 26” bicycle.
The plans had been made; tickets for game and plane confirmed; hotel rooms reserved. About to bust from anticipation, I looked up activities for that weekend just to occupy my time. The Chicago Blues Festival, long on my bucket list, was happening the same weekend we’d be there…
not a sport
As I made my way down I-26, a white van jerked into my lane. He not only failed to use a turn signal, his lights were off. Both are laws in South Carolina although many drivers treat them as tepid suggestions. The maneuver left so little room I almost scraped the Trump sticker off his bumper. At a younger age I might have opted for an extended horn blast or flashed my lights repeatedly.
covered in paint
Thirty three years ago, George Orwell became extra popular across the world. His Facebook page went viral and he multiplied his Twitter followers a hundredfold, or he would have if those things had been operable in 1984.
It appears he may be in the process of making a comeback. Based on the first few days of the Trump presidency, 1984 has vaulted to the top of the bestseller’s list. I’m down with dystopian novels being appropriate right now, but…
how’s that working 4u?
On his Sunday TV show after the previous day’s football game, former Alabama coach Bear Bryant was once asked by sidekick Charley Thornton about his players crying after a particularly devastating loss.
Bryant replied that the time for crying was the previous Tuesday when they practiced halfheartedly, or during film study, when the players showed little regard for that week’s opponent. That was when the upcoming game was lost.
The country was at peace; internally and around the world. We had issues; Russia was being aggressive, Central America was volatile, Israel and Egypt, of course. But America didn’t have a standing army fighting for some trumped up reason against people defending a place most of us couldn’t locate on a globe. In fact, Egypt and Israel would sign an historic accord to establish peace between the two countries during this year.
The Son of Sam had been convicted and John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy had been arrested. The first mobile phone was introduced and Carl Sagan won a Nobel Prize. While inflation was still persistent, things were looking up …
Twenty years ago this summer, America was rocked by a terrorist attack. A religious fanatic radicalized by fundamentalist ideas planted a bomb at a crowded location during a major sporting event. The device he built killed one person and injured 120 more. The death toll could easily have been in the hundreds.
That same terrorist planted three more bombs that injured and killed over the next two years; bombs targeting places he arrogantly linked to the causes he felt were worth murdering innocents for…
bigotry still king
I’m planning a road trip to see America with two of my sons. We are mapping out an itinerary circling the country and finding well-known, quirky, and interesting destinations. The hardest thing so far has been planning the trip without passing through states that have jumped on the deny people’s rights to get elected bandwagon.
I know Tennessee recently passed legislation making the Bible the state book, but the governor vetoed it. Georgia is waffling on their version of discrimination in the name of religious liberty and safe restrooms after several major businesses in the Peach State protested.
When my cellphone rings, the opening notes of The Thrill is Gone signal me. I will have to consider changing that now. The author and singer of that song has moved on to Rock and Roll Heaven. B. B. King died in his sleep Thursday after nearly a year in hospice. I can’t imagine anyone was surprised; death happens to us all and this one has been imminent for quite some time. But hearing him tell me the thrill is indeed gone might be more than I want to hear every time my phone rings.
The guitar symbolized the entire day. A four string Fender electric bass resembling those currently popular among rock star wannabees and Hipsters. You pay a few hundred extra and the manufacturers ‘distress’ it. Makes the instrument appear well-worn, as if the owner has played every day for decades. Like Willie Nelson’s old acoustic, minus the bungee strap.
I asked Owen if that was how it happened. He smiled a little then got a wistful look in his ancient eyes. “Yeah, it’s been distressed. The first bass I ever got.”
An email from my brother with only a name in the subject box means one thing; someone died. I knew who it was without opening the link. For those of us growing up together, there was only one Bubba. He wasn’t the stereotypical bubba of redneck lore. Roger Banks was built like a gun safe. Short and stocky, with calves like most guys’ thighs, Bubba appeared strong and solid at first glance. He exceeded expectations. Few of the folks who attended classes with him knew he once took violin lessons or wore two tone loafers with white uppers for a time. Likely everyone who passed him in the halls knew he was a bad ass.
sins of the flesh
The 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition came last week to the usual uproar. The magazine ran reminders for a month reminding anyone who didn’t want nearly nekkid swimsuit girls sent to their home to let them know. Simultaneously, the parent company ran endless ads on television making sure everyone else could get a copy.
I saw my first naked lady picture when I was ten, in a man’s magazine in the Rexall Drug Store in Demopolis, Alabama. The front cover mentioned uncovered cover girls. I honestly had no idea what that was until I turned to that page.
one upgrade at a time
Hello, my name is Mike and I stand here today and admit to being an addict. Not sure why this happened. I’ve never had issues like this before. My Life Coach Desmond suggested this support group. He said Twitter or Instagram or something recommended you.
I don’t smoke. Never been a drug user. Drink casually but not obsessively. I think claiming sex addition is BS. We’re all addicted to that. My problem is a little unusual and I hope you folks can help me. I’m addicted to apps.
two name songwriters
My friend Tom says most, if not all, great writers are fractured individuals. I hope he’s wrong about that; I’ve always been a happy, well-adjusted guy. I plan to achieve Great Writer status one day and would hate to think lack of a tortured soul, along with precious little talent, will prevent such dreams. The only thing even remotely dark about me is my middle name.
If I had been a girl, none of this would have happened. I would have been Betty Louise. At least that’s what my mother said. The Mike part of my name originated with an old Army buddy of my dad’s from WWII. I have no idea where my middle name came from and there’s no one left to ask.
Terry and I were enjoying an unabridged, non-scripted evening together; our first in many months. Suzy has known him longer than me and likes to accompany me when I meet him for drinks. That isn’t true where my other friends are involved. Tom and Rick she could give a rat’s ass about seeing. My partner bristles at the idea that the “dynamics change” when she is present, but it’s true. With Suzy in attendance the conversation is driven by her interests. Terry and I, on our own, drift among subjects like a rudderless sailboat. No direction, no fact finding, no censors.
says it all
Each December, about a week before Christmas Day, I rummage through my electronic junk box and find my Christmas CD. I’m fussy about Christmas music. Don’t like anything too corny or elevator music-ish, nothing from Russian winter tales or other “traditional” Christmas events, and I don’t like to start more than a week before the actual day we celebrate. I’ll take my homemade Christmas CD of rock and roll Christmas songs from the Sixties until Christmas music started sucking and play it while I’m driving through the minefield of harried, distracted moms and elderly grandparents who only venture out this time of year…
rising from the muck
I’m reasonably sure that I was sitting in front of a television set in Mrs. Reed’s fifth grade class on Friday May 5, 1961, watching Alan Shepard blast into outer space to defend America’s honor and innovative ability, and show the Ruskies who was boss. I can’t be 100% sure; we watched several of those early space flights in the classroom during the early Sixties but also missed a couple. One of the reasons I have a hard time distinguishing the flights is because the telecasts were remarkably similar. All three TV networks pre-empted regular programming for the events and flew the lead network newsman to Cape Canaveral.
The project involved dropping a few yards of crush and run into the holes in our driveway and using rakes, shovels and old peoples’ sweat to spread it smooth. The final step was cranking my ancient Highlander and slowly packing the gravel. I rolled the windows down and energized the newly installed Alpine replacement radio. I am now using advanced technology and had filled a thumb drive with stuff from my youth. Up and down the driveway I slowly drove, trying to hit each spot of spread gravel. By random serendipity, the first tune was by an old group called the Hour Glass formed long ago by two brothers.
August 13th is National Left-handers’ Day. I will celebrate quietly. I’m not sure about my sister; she is also a southpaw. That means our parents created two left-handed children, well above the national average of 10 to 13 percent. If you believe human traits are the result of parenting and choices from our youth, my parents did something radical to create this high percentage of southpaw children, something I wasn’t aware of. If you accept science, and think we are preprogrammed with certain traits then it was a matter of chance.
As the US futbol team moved from regulation into that mysterious realm known as extra time during the elimination World Cup match against Belgium, I was attending the Richland (SC) County Council meeting. Minutes before the meeting kicked off, one of the council members found the streaming broadcast on his county provided laptop. Belgium scored and he was confused as to why the madness continued. In American sports, sudden death means sudden victory.
The text message was simple and in code; I was visiting Daryl’s house the other day and Billy Gibbons dropped by. We had fun. Billy has a killer guacamole recipe. My son’s one word reply: Nice.
Shane and I are suckers for Live From Daryl’s House, a television music show hosted by legendary Eighties schlock performer Daryl Hall. John Oates is yet to appear, although the duo has showed up at a couple of concerts in the recent past.
useless on ice
A dozen years ago, during the early spring, I was visiting my son in Pennsylvania. Among the scheduled activities was an opportunity to see my ten year old grandson play basketball that Saturday at the local YMCA. Upon rising that morning and peering out the bedroom window, I felt a tinge of disappointment. A dusting of snow had come during the night. I walked down to get coffee and expressed my regret to my son. He looked at me with surprise and confusion until he realized what I meant.
With his Christmas email to me, my friend Richard attached a Cox family Christmas morning picture from the mid Fifties. I have an electronic copy somewhere, as does my brother Rick, who posted it on Facebook. That’s where Richard saw it. He knew my brother and I had lost touch since Obama turned the country into a Socialist haven, so he included a copy in his Christmas greeting.
right to be stupid
I sincerely hope Tommy Jefferson and John Adams and Jim Madison didn’t mean for this to be the end result. A second rate character in a two-bit television show has temporarily become the nation’s moral compass; the linchpin that holds equality together for ourselves and our posterity. Sonofabitch!
First of all, let me emphasize that any TV network that calls itself the “Arts and Entertainment Network” and then runs “Duck Dynasty” marathons weekly needs to reassess direction.
love them once again
We were enjoying bar food and cold drinks at an East Columbia establishment. College football was on every hi-def TV and the place was buzzing with good vibes. The lady sitting across from me, one of my favorite people; was trying to keep the night from becoming a bummer while attempting to come to grips with the recent death of a young friend.
Her partner’s favorite nephew had lost his best friend to suicide. It was a bad combination of alcohol, overreaction, PTSD, and having a pistol handy.
During the Mid-sixties, a regional band called the James Gang had one local hit that everyone I knew loved beyond reason. The song was called “Georgia Pines.” It was a ballad about regret and the South. Every boy in my orbit could handle sensitivities like that without being called inappropriate slurs. A few years later while browsing in a record store (remember those?) I found an album by the James Gang and my heart pounded like the pile drivers just starting to proliferate on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
grace of god
Religious experiences came few and far between after my little brother saved his mortal soul from Hell at the age of eight. Most of the truly moving experiences in my life since have either involved my family, sports, or music; maybe a combination of all those.
feelin' 45, goin' on 15
By today’s standards of electronic innovation, the old radio would be an embarrassment; an eight track player sitting in a shiny new Lexus. There was no screen, no camera, no MP3 player; the device didn’t have remote speakers or digital capability. You couldn’t access Twitter, or even talk on the damn thing.
work to be done
The running lights from the boats scattered across the lake looked like a lightning bug invasion. There were dueling fireworks shows; the official Lake Murray display from Bomb Island and the Dreher Island effort several miles to the West.
This was the celebration of our nation’s birthday, Columbia boat people style. Blessing the fleets, dinner at the sailing club, and watching the fireworks, or relaxing on a sandbar with a blonde and some Budweiser, take your pick.
black top musing
Driving on back roads and through small towns stir up more than just memories for those who grew up on those back roads and main streets. Questions about where we’ve been and where we’re going nearly always come up … and the answers may be further on down those roads.
The Fire Next Time
In this day of anonymous email trashings, un-informed blog posts, and you tube mistakes that last forever, we rarely see political second chances. But last week a disgraced public servant rose like a Phoenix from the ashes to reclaim former glory in the political arena.
Mark Sanford has been elected to represent Charleston, and South Carolina, in the United States Congress. In a room where everyone is addressed as “honorable” Sanford will have an opportunity to regain the revered glow…
If you’ve been watching the local news in the last month, you have seen footage of soldiers leaving for the Middle East. There are several military bases in South Carolina and the flow of soldiers oversees has been constant. Every time I see such a story, I think of a high school friend.
His name was Allan Gaines, but we called him Yank. His family moved south during his early teens and he never lost his accent. When he graduated from high school in 1967, he joined the Marines and left for Parris Island.
Joy of Life
There are few things in life as fine as sitting in a southern place, drinking something cold, and watching a spring breeze tousle the tree limbs in a location where no other sights are visible and no other sounds are audible. I am lucky enough to live in such a place so when the weather turns this way I can walk out the back door into paradise.
The third Saturday in March was such a magnificent afternoon. The Landlord and I sat at a weathered teak table with numerous dogs paying rapt attention in case a Cheezit might hit the deck. Beer from the man-fridge tasted like honeydew vine water.
Where's the Heart Key?
Each year I get giddy just thinking about February Fourteenth, my favorite perverse holiday: A celebration of love invented by card companies to increase revenue between Christmas and Mother’s Day. Love itself was invented by humans to justify the unspeakable things we do to each other while under the influence of our primal instincts.
Valentine’s Day has become a national obsession. Americans will spend over $16 billion on the day’s festivities in 2013 with men outspending women by a two to one margin. The most surprising thing is the amount women will fork over. The most preferred gift the ladies can offer doesn’t actually cost anything.
I gravitated toward the giggling coming from a small group of female co-workers, all north of the middle age demographic. They were passing around 8X10 glossies and smiling as if back in high school. Stan, the resident work place geek, was beaming like he just discovered 3 gigs of RAM.
The pictures were glam shots of Bobby Sherman, the Sixties pop star. He was either using really old photos left over when his fame sailed out of the harbor, or had filtered current shots with industrial strength Photoshop.