Mike Cox – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Sun, 21 Jan 2018 19:46:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Mike Cox – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dew3_mh4feed.png http://likethedew.com 88 31 A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics 110899633 Walking Tall http://likethedew.com/2018/01/06/walking-tall/ http://likethedew.com/2018/01/06/walking-tall/#respond Sat, 06 Jan 2018 19:22:48 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=68551 Walking Tall was on television while I was trapped inside during the initial days of 2018. Not the lame PG version starring The Rock but the original gritty 1973 offering with Joe Don Baker in the title role. That movie was loosely based on former Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser. A big stick and some locals claim, a glossing over of the truth, permeated the Hollywood version. America was just coming to grips with horrible liberal ideas like racial equality, respect for working women, and fair treatment to accused perpetrators...]]>

Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser in Walking Tall 1973.jpg

Walking Tall was on television while I was trapped inside during the initial days of 2018. Not the lame PG version starring The Rock but the original gritty 1973 offering with Joe Don Baker in the title role.

That movie was loosely based on former Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser. A big stick and some locals claim, a glossing over of the truth, permeated the Hollywood version. America was just coming to grips with horrible liberal ideas like racial equality, respect for working women, and fair treatment to accused perpetrators. Miranda Rights were more likely a movie sub plot than an actual practice, especially in the South.

Death Wish, the Dirty Harry series, The Choirboys were all cop movies taking a political stance. Police Brutality was a new concept and America was still terribly divided by the Viet Nam War.

Movies about heroic law officers valiantly fighting mafia connected criminals while liberal courts, the media, and pantywaist citizens restricted their efforts were as popular as father/son movies where neither understood the other.

Right in the midst of this came Walking Tall, the inspirational story of a Tennessee sheriff that gained fame for cleaning up McNairy County Tennessee. Joe Don Baker was perfect as Pusser and the movie was typical of Seventies grit, a newfound relish for violence, and political messaging.

I never saw the whole movie. Saw bits and pieces in later years as it entered rerun status. I decided against donating my money to the cause after I figured out what the message would be, especially after a series of ads ran on local am radio just before the movie premiered in Tuscaloosa.

The spot featured the local owner of the theater chain enthusiastically endorsing this movie. He said Walking Tall represented what was right with America in those fractured times, and urged parents to take the kids, even though it featured an “R” rating. But the rating was for violence, not sex.

I’ll never forget that last line. It remains the most memorable thing about Walking Tall for me. Walking Tall offered the kids a lengthy ambush of Pusser and his wife that rivaled the ending of Bonnie and Clyde. It featured the local sheriff enforcing his rules with a giant stick capable of splitting heads open with one swing. And all this was deemed okay because the future of America was at stake.

Sam Peckinpaugh was credited with ushering graphic violence into American theaters with The Wild Bunch. Slow motion gore with blood and flesh flying became a mainstay in movies. So did the obligatory sex scene, or at least a shot of a naked woman about an hour in.

True to our Puritan roots, we Americans had much more of an issue with the nudity and promiscuous sex than we did the extreme violence. To this day we are unchanged. I’m not enough of an expert to claim this has some influence on our society. But we do live in a time where violence, real and make believe, is mostly ignored, while we treat sex like a bunch of junior high kids.

Someone more educated than me must read the signs and decide if this is significant.

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Magnificent Job. Now Get Back to Work http://likethedew.com/2017/12/16/magnificent-job-now-get-back-to-work/ http://likethedew.com/2017/12/16/magnificent-job-now-get-back-to-work/#comments Sat, 16 Dec 2017 16:44:12 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=68419

Roy Jones election watch party by Jamelle Bouie

While playing his first round of golf during the 1925 US Open, amateur golfer Bobby Jones, thought his ball moved after he addressed it and assessed himself a one stroke penalty. Jones ended up losing the tournament by one stroke.

The great golfer was praised universally for his honesty. He was irritated by the uproar, stating that honesty was a bedrock of golf and every true golfer would have done the same thing. His quote is still recalled:

“You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”

Many people are celebrating the voters of Alabama for fashioning Doug Jones’ upset win over Roy Moore, especially black women who visited the polls in droves and voted overwhelmingly for Jones. The national press is calling this result everything from a monumental upset to a sign of things to come for Republicans around the country.

I am also very proud of what happened last Tuesday but let’s remember the basic facts. A Republican politician who had twice been kicked out of office for violating the U.S. Constitution, made outrageous or demeaning comments about nearly every minority possible, and had been accused by at least eight women of sexual assault, including several under age eighteen, lost this election to a man who finally, bravely prosecuted KKK members for the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham that killed four young girls. And the margin of victory was so small that write-in votes for Alabama football coach Nick Saban might have been what turned the election.

I’m extremely proud of my home state for not doing what I, and many others, expected them to. The fact Alabama did the right thing is great; for the state, and hopefully for the country, but no one should be celebrating just yet.

A racist strain of religious zealotry has taken hold in the Republican Party and, in the words of fellow LTD writer Jeffry Scott: “They are motivated by hate and resentment of anyone who points it out. The only real cure is to outnumber them.”

Our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they focused much of the Second Amendment’s attention on religious liberty. There were hundreds of religious groups in the British American colonies, and most of them were afflicted with zealotry.

The framers of the Constitution reasoned that when politicians figured out how to harness the unquestioned belief of a religious group with things they could sell as holy, complete power would result.

The Republican Party is currently there. Offering hysterical diatribes of the ruination of our great country by Liberals and focusing on alcohol, abortion, and the War on Christmas, none of which are discussed much in the Bible, conservative politicians have convinced nearly half the country that God will strike us all down unless we vote Republican; no matter the person representing the “R.”

Ironically, lying, mixing religion with politics, and worshiping rich people, are all things the Holy Book either frowns on or ignores. But rational people will never convince these converts of their mistake. It would be easier to pass a camel through a needle’s eye than talk sense to a zealot.

Our only hope is to outnumber them. Over and over.

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Singing Second http://likethedew.com/2017/12/12/singing-second/ http://likethedew.com/2017/12/12/singing-second/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 10:36:54 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=68386

The 118th Army vs. Navy Game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Dec. 9, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart

The first college football game I ever watched was the 1960 Army Navy contest. A running back named Joe Bellino caught my attention and I cheered enthusiastically for Navy during that contest. A few days later Bellino would also win the Heisman Trophy.

My father watched the game with me and rooted for the opposing team. He served in World War II as a gunnery sergeant and was Army through and through. This was likely the first of many disagreements he and I would have over the years. Most, like the Army Navy rivalry, were minor obstacles we could overcome. A few we never got past.

By the time I started driving, the Army Navy rivalry had lost much of its national importance. The Viet Nam War didn’t help, as thousands of American sons were killed in a meaningless fight. With the draft still in effect, nearly every family was touched by the casualty list. The nation became deeply divided as every conceivable political position was fractured. That wound hasn’t healed yet.

The power of television ushered in an era where college and professional football became identifiable distinctions of a person’s allegiance; another way to distance oneself from those different in some way. A species programmed to separate themselves from each other found one more category. In addition to race, religion, sex, national origin, we now had team preference.

As the decades passed, Americans have become not only more divided but less willing to have real discussions about differences. No one is willing to listen to an opposing view point much less consider it valid.

Our politicians scare us instead of telling us the truth, forcing us into more concrete positions. We think the very future of our species is dependent on voting a certain way.

We no longer even bother to talk; we just scream slogans at each other. The idea of settling disputes has become almost quaint. We consider damaging the opponent to be more important than fighting with honor, respecting others’ views and telling the truth. Watching the other side wail is better than winning the day fairly. This attitude permeates every facet of our lives and has taken over our workday, leisure time, and sports allegiances. Almost.

About five years ago I stumbled on the telecast of the Army Navy game once again and discovered this battle hasn’t degraded. These two football teams, representing the best America has to offer, fought harder against each other than any group I’d recently seen. For the sake of team, honor, and right, they battled fiercely.

After each contest the teams gather and reverently sing each others’ Alma Mater and loudly, enthusiastically salute their opponent. The loser sings first, sadly, and with trembling lips, but still classy and proud of their effort.

Then the winners sing. No excuses, no trash talking, no crotch grabbing or flag planting or twitter gotcha. Just what seems like a million voices, as one, singly badly but happily.

Two teams of opposing people, fighting with maximum effort to vanquish the other. At the end, a show of total respect for the other team. After all we are all really the same and are after the identical prize. All that effort just to sing second.

Seems so simple. Why is it so hard?

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Valhalla http://likethedew.com/2017/10/25/valhalla/ http://likethedew.com/2017/10/25/valhalla/#respond Wed, 25 Oct 2017 18:14:41 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=68086 Without fanfare the bass player, Bob Keller, stepped to a microphone and introduced the first song.

Here’s something by Bob Dylan.”

The wall of sound unleashed from those speakers was unlike anything we’d ever heard. Maybe like a two by four upside the head. I swear the wind from their opening notes blew my hair.

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Gregg Allman by Mike Wren (flickr/CC)

Without fanfare the bass player, Bob Keller, stepped to a microphone and introduced the first song.

Here’s something by Bob Dylan.”

The wall of sound unleashed from those speakers was unlike anything we’d ever heard. Maybe like a two by four upside the head. I swear the wind from their opening notes blew my hair.

Keller was the best bass player we’d yet heard live and Bill Connell, a local Tuscaloosa boy, was as good a drummer as anyone around. Neither of these two would last long with the two blonde brothers named Allman.

The guitar player worked effortlessly on an old Telecaster. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes and let his fingers work independently of any semblance of process or defined guitar rules. But my attention was on the younger of the two; the singer.

I’d never heard a voice like this before. The sound rose from the source effortlessly with a soulful depth I couldn’t imagine coming from a white throat. The chills rose on my neck and arms and I realized I needed to find another life’s work. If this was what a Rock Star sounded like, I was way over matched. This was like watching Mickey Mantle play baseball; Sophia Loren look beautiful.

For fifty years I’ve been haunted by that voice. As the Allman Joys became Hourglass and finally the Allman Brothers Band and invented Southern Rock, as Duane and Berry died, and others morphed into different versions of the same people, one thing never changed.

That voice remained as stunning as the first time I heard it. The last time I heard him live was in Birmingham at a Five Points Blues venue, at the turn of the century. We were likely the oldest two guys there. The chills rose instantly as always.

On a Saturday morning during Memorial Day Weekend, that voice was silenced forever. Quietly Gregg Allman’s gift to the world slipped away as he slept. I had no warning, no sense of what was coming; just like the first time I heard it.

I mourned quietly but earnestly, deeply affected by his passing. Rock and rollers have been dropping like flies lately and most pass without any emotional reaction from me. A few, David Ruffin, Leon Russell, and Gregg Allman, filled me with deep sadness that lasted all summer.

Then I heard about the record. Southern Blood an album by Allman just released in September. The primary work was likely done with the knowledge he wasn’t long for this world. I loaded it on my phone as soon as it was available.

This collection of songs chosen by Allman for their link to his life isn’t his strongest work. His voice is not the same as it once was. Still, it is obviously Gregg Allman. I thought of the final Warren Zevon album where he spent his last heartbeats crafting a goodbye note.

This was different. The songs are emotional but not sad; moving but not melancholy. A movie from my youth called The Vikings came to mind. Earnest Borgnine as Ragnar, the captured Viking leader. He was doomed to die in a wolf pit but talked the executioner into giving him a sword. He jumped into the pit laughing but destined for Valhalla because of the sword in his hand as he breathed his last.

After hearing Southern Blood a couple of times, this was the way I took the songs enclosed there. Still leaving but going down fighting. A warrior still wielding his sword.

That great white Blues voice heading for Valhalla.

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Respecting the Constitution http://likethedew.com/2017/09/25/respecting-the-constitution/ http://likethedew.com/2017/09/25/respecting-the-constitution/#comments Mon, 25 Sep 2017 21:31:23 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=67935

Washington Redskins National Anthem Kneeling by Keith Allison

So let me get this straight; the primary way for Americans to properly respect our country, flag and all those soldiers who died for our right to say what we want, act the way we want, and worship in the manner we see fit is to attend a sporting event and reverently stand while an ode to a night of bombardment during a war we didn’t win, set to the tune of a British drinking song, is sung by some diva trying to sing it completely apart from what it was intended.

What if we don’t attend live sports? Do the people watching at home or at a sports bar have to stand and show respect? How many do? How many of those complaining about spoiled, millionaire players not showing proper respect actually listen to the anthem if they don’t attend games? How many will tune in just to hear the anthem and show respect for our brave soldiers’ spilled blood?

How many of those same people are registered to vote and pick a candidate that exemplifies the true Freedom we Americans are so privileged to enjoy rather than one that spews the rhetoric that will gain support from those angry, one issue voters?

Why don’t we do something more substantial to actually show proper respect for our military dead? How many people do more than place a bumper sticker when trying to show how they feel about patriotism? Most of those bumper ornaments these days are magnetic. Easy on, easy off. Perfect for changing political attitudes.

How many of us light candles during Memorial Day, or visit military cemeteries during Veteran’s Day and clean up the grave sites? How many of us organize Readings of the First Amendment or the Declaration of Independence on holidays to honor our Freedom, rather than just our flag?

Why didn’t Richard Petty, Richard Childress, Joe Freakin’ Walsh, and countless others get riled up when the Tiki Torch protesters in Charlottesville wore the same emblem hundreds of thousands of American soldiers died to defeat? Why wasn’t that disrespecting the memory of our soldiers’ blood?

When someone calls in to a political, or these days, sports talk show, and claims that demonstrating but not standing during the anthem shows disrespect for the soldiers that died for our freedoms, I get whiplash. If folks can’t demonstrate as they wish then there are no freedoms to disrespect.

First Amendment – Religion and Expression. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This seems simple and easy enough; although very radical when first considered. In a truly free country, every citizen has the right to speak, worship, and demonstrate as he pleases, and Congress has no authority to make laws limiting those rights. Every person has the right to believe and act as he thinks proper; and the responsibility to respect the opinion of every other citizen, especially if it is different.

Why are there so many questions?

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Understanding Racism http://likethedew.com/2017/08/29/understanding-racism/ http://likethedew.com/2017/08/29/understanding-racism/#comments Tue, 29 Aug 2017 11:06:05 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=67817 I can’t really help myself. It just happens. Whenever I see images of Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, or reasonable facsimiles, I think of Groucho Marx. The comedian from my dad’s generation famously stated that he would never want to join an exclusive club that was willing to accept him as a member.

While viewing photos from KKK members, Confederate sympathizers’ mug shots, or watching the footage from places like Charlottesville, I can’t help but think: This is supposed to be an example of a superior race? Really?

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Trump Rally Asheville by Will Thomas

I can’t really help myself. It just happens. Whenever I see images of Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, or reasonable facsimiles, I think of Groucho Marx. The comedian from my dad’s generation famously stated that he would never want to join an exclusive club that was willing to accept him as a member.

While viewing photos from KKK members, Confederate sympathizers’ mug shots, or watching the footage from places like Charlottesville, I can’t help but think: This is supposed to be an example of a superior race? Really?

I find it puzzling that for all White Superiority factions, the two organizations most admired are Nazi Germany and the Confederate South; both groups that got their asses kicked in wars trying to prove how superior they were.

Rome ruled over an empire for fourteen hundred years under many different circumstances. The Greeks invented nearly every aspect of modern government and artistic endeavor. The Egyptians built the pyramids. Of course, these groups were infiltrated by impure types of people. Not that common sense enters into the thought process when trying to establish a master race.

The Moors introduced hygiene, hospitals, public education, and the Arabic numbering system to Spain after conquering that country. China invented gunpowder, paper, and the written word. Agriculture began in the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, but also concurrently in South America. Most of this came about while Caucasians were still worshiping trees and eating the hearts of their enemies for good luck. And fighting naked. Glad that custom’s no longer popular.

The idea of separation by whatever means necessary isn’t a new one. Humans likely divided into segments based on stupid divisions before fire was invented. But considering everything else, race may be the most ridiculous reason for separating Us from Them.

Skin color is triggered by melanin; DNA changes to regulate how much sun a person is exposed to based on the climate where he lives. Taking that detail and finding superiority is hard enough to do. Defending the concept must be a real strain.

Not that defending the idea of being part of a Master Race is a problem. Bullies, malcontents, and general fuck ups aren’t looking for solid, scientific reasons to do anything. They are searching for someone inferior to them on the food chain.

For several centuries, the KKK has terrorized minorities and people without power, with the help of, and sometimes assistance of those in control. As the Trump era brought a resurgence of this idiocy, those folks’ prodigy decided to do the same. A simple case of bullies looking for validation for their bullying.

But someone violated the established rules. No one expected the oppressed to actually fight back. The result has been an outcry from Fox News and memes galore of crying Nazis sounding like movie stars whining about their tough life. Talk about snowflakes.

I’ve read several expert opinions in recent months about how racists are basically bullies and the best way to combat them is to ignore their tantrums. I disagree. The best way is to fight them at every turn, expose their true motives and idiotic justifications, and vilify and ridicule their actions and beliefs.

We’re off to a good start.

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The Honorable Senator from Alabama http://likethedew.com/2017/08/16/the-honorable-senator-from-alabama/ http://likethedew.com/2017/08/16/the-honorable-senator-from-alabama/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 19:59:21 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=67742 ...

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AG Jeff Sessions, Republican Candidates Roy Moor and Luther Strong

Republicans: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Candidate Roy Moore, Candidate Luther Strong

The good folks in my home state of Alabama aren’t too sophisticated when it comes to voting excellent people into office. Consider that Jeff Sessions has been our senator for a long time, mostly running unopposed, or infrequently against some poor Democrat with no idea what he’s about to get involved in.

Sessions perfected the religious fervor that doesn’t quite slip over into craziness. This allows a candidate to gain support of small town church ladies but still gather the Good Ole’ Boys that don’t make Sunday services on a regular basis. Combine this with a slight undercurrent of racism without any connections to racist groups and we have a winner.

But when Jeff decided to hitch his wagon to the rising star that became Donald Trump, he gave notice he was interested in a higher calling. Everything worked perfectly until he recused himself over the Russia Fake News stuff and drew the president’s Twitter ire.

But all that is past history. Right now we are all breathlessly awaiting the election of the successor to Sessions’ Senate seat. Almost as soon as Jeff was proclaimed Attorney General, candidates began working on their Donald Trump impressions.

Democratic Candidate for Senate Doug Jones

Doug Jones, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, won the Democratic primary.

Everyone involved began making Trump-like proclamations about each and every political issue; whether it involved the Yellowhammer state or not. The lead up to the actual primary election has been entertaining, almost to an SNL level.

Before he had laundered his underwear from the Congressional baseball shooting in June, Congressman Mo Brooks had a commercial ready for the campaign including gunshots from the event. What little karma he acquired from administering first aid during this horrible time was wasted when he decided to use this tragedy to try to get a move to the Senate.

Odds on Favorite Roy Moore kept thumping his King James; a strategy that has worked well in Alabama in the past. Most Alabamians claim to be familiar with the Good Book but really aren’t. They just support anyone with the audacity to claim to have God’s cell number.

Trump pick Luther Strange did things by the book. As State Attorney General, he helped ease the embarrassment of the Luv Guv debacle, and was rewarded with the interim tittle to Sessions’ seat until an election could take place. This showed he was a team player to Republicans, and also allowed him to get face time with the President, who is way too busy tweeting and watching Fox News to actually assess potential politicians’ real qualifications. Trump endorsed Strange in two Tweets a couple of days apart. This shows he means business.

With the primary upon us and so many candidates working on their best Donald Trump impressions, a runoff seemed likely. I was betting Roy Moore would get the most votes, especially after 50 Alabama ministers endorsed him last weekend. Like many others, I was correct.

Luther Strange, with Trump’s blessing, came in second. Mo Brooks garnered a lot of sympathy votes but fell short. Shredding common decency shows a will to win if nothing else. Now the real fun begins. A steel cage death match.

Moore, who has convinced most Alabamians he’s as close to Jesus as they will get and Strange, who got the endorsement of someone that thinks he’s on equal footing with the Lord.

Heaven help us.

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Football Sex and Old Time Religion http://likethedew.com/2017/07/27/football-sex-and-old-time-religion/ http://likethedew.com/2017/07/27/football-sex-and-old-time-religion/#comments Thu, 27 Jul 2017 12:46:22 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=67617

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at Ole Miss by photoreb

The recent stunning downfall of the Ole Miss football coach has all the elements of a Southern Gothic tale. I’m surprised this wasn’t based on a Faulkner novel. Hugh Freeze resigned abruptly after being caught with incriminating evidence of sexual hanky-panky. The story had all the true elements of a southern tragedy; sex, religion, and football. What better way to spend an Autumn Saturday afternoon.

The University of Mississippi has been under investigation almost since the day Freeze signed his initial contract. Posting Bible verses on Twitter and perfecting the clear-eyed steely stare of the morally persecuted, Freeze insisted to fans, administrators, and new recruits that he was innocent and God would help him prevail. He blamed his troubles on predecessors, competitors, the press, and sinful forces trying to destroy him.

This strategy has become very popular since the third week in January, but Freeze has been going at it for several years. The fact he was able to twice beat Alabama in the process, something no one else seems able to accomplish, added to his validity, and probably convinced several Rebel fans that God was indeed on their side.

His scheme to pin his troubles on former coach Houston Nutt doomed him. When his strategy involved doubling down rather than fessing up, Freeze was set upon by Nutt’s lawyer, which led to the discovery of a call to an escort service from a university phone while searching for incriminating calls between Ole Miss officials and members of the sporting press.

Freeze had an opportunity to explain that call away but stuck with his strategy. He either thought the Lord, or his supporters’ naïveté would save him. Anything but sex and he might have survived. His arrogance didn’t help. Most guys from these parts understand getting overpowered by sex but wonder why he didn’t either fess up earlier or act more humble.

There is an abundance of men in the South who are addicted to football and sex. Football simulates the age old process of fighting for the right to mate. Sex itself, well, no reason to explain that.

Not so many women are similarly afflicted, although there have been a few. I’m sure most men, in an honest moment, will agree that those women who loved sex and football as much as men have all been fondly remembered.

Women are more likely addicted to religion, what with their penchant for long term planning and making sure their offspring are well taken care of. Heaven appears to be a lot better place than College Station or Starkville.

We humans are bad to deny our urges. We are also bad to succumb to them when we think no one is watching. This started when we got civilized. The folks that study humans once considered the discovery of farming as the point civilization began.

More recent paleontologists believe we got civilized when we first came to accept myth as a bonding agent. This led to the ability of us to gather in large groups and share information and new ideas, rather than staying static like our hairy cousins. Among the most prevalent myths are religion, regional pride, and tribal superiority. Maybe we were better off as Hunter-Gatherers.

I’m sure Hugh Freeze currently thinks so.

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Lafitte’s and Ali http://likethedew.com/2017/04/20/lafittes-and-ali/ http://likethedew.com/2017/04/20/lafittes-and-ali/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 19:43:17 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=66911 "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...]]>

Cafe Lafitte in Exile on Bourbon Street in New Orleans

“A man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali

 Cafe Lafitte in Exile's overstuffed Bloody Mary

Cafe Lafitte in Exile’s overstuffed Bloody Mary

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. A drunk proclaimed their Bloody Mary to be the “best in the whole world.” We tried a couple and were impressed. So impressed we conducted an impromptu test at other better known French Quarter places – Old Absinthe House, Galatoire’s, and Royal Sonesta come to mind. We now stop by anytime we visit New Orleans.

My previous visit to this same bar happened in 1989. The mother of my children and her sister needed restroom facilities. We were further down Bourbon than usual but did notice a bar nearby. The place was named Cafe Lafitte’s in Exile and yes they did have a ladies room.

I waited patiently in the doorway while absorbing my surroundings. We were between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the prime football playoff season, yet all the televisions were tuned to the same music loop; nary a sports station was being broadcast in this place.

The music onscreen was of the show tune variety, and gyrating men danced to the infectious beat. As my heart beat quickened, I realized my wife and her sister were the only females in the place.

Stumbling into a gay bar in 1989 was a traumatic experience for a Baptist born boy from West Alabama who had spent almost four decades with his head buried in the sand. I thought I was progressive because I had coffee breaks with black guys at work and trained women to climb telephone poles. But this was different.

I recoiled in horror and stepped outside the bar to wait. Sweating and shaky, I hoped I could survive until the ladies reappeared. What would I do if some same-sex Lothario actually propositioned me? How would I live with myself?

My current self is embarrassed by tales of such idiotic overreactions. And there have been many, involving everything from bouncing my head against bigoted behavior to being really stupid while considering myself the smartest guy in the room.

The story of Lafitte’s in Exile is filled with the same stuff. Once housed in the historically significant Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the bar was forced to move when Louisiana politicians discovered the oldest bar in the state with the best bar culture was a gay bar. Lafitte’s was forced to move up the street. Pretty ironic considering this is the City that Care Forgot.

Several regulars looked warily at three old people sitting comfortably in their private domain, perhaps awaiting the storm when we discovered the truth. Harvey offered no such vibe. He was friendly and talkative, exchanging pleasantries with an old man; just two members of the same race, the human race, enjoying each others’ company for a spell.

I watched my father adjust to life’s changes as he matured but also know people who still hold the same concrete principles they did when they needed assistance to buy Rebel Yell and carried a condom in their wallet.

I’m lucky I’ve been paying attention.

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Singing With Chuck http://likethedew.com/2017/03/20/singing-with-chuck/ http://likethedew.com/2017/03/20/singing-with-chuck/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 11:07:08 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=66699 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...

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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. Talk about happenstance.

Chuck Berry by Dena FlowsThe headliner would be the King of Rock and Roll, Chuck Berry. I wasn’t sure the schedules would mesh; we were visiting Chicago for baseball. The prime time performers would be playing while we were watching either the Cubs or the White Sox. Oh well.

On game day, during pregame festivities, an old dude with Jheri curls dick walked out to the mound. It was Berry, throwing out the first pitch. Later, during the Seventh Inning Stretch, Chuck led an enthusiastic rendition of “Take Me out to the Ballgame” – a version that included three generations of Cox Boys doing there everlovin’ best.

I’m going back to Chicago this summer. Terry has never seen Wrigley and I haven’t seen it enough. Our tickets are bought. Other final plans are still to be made. I’m pretty sure we’ll be too late in the summer for the Blues Festival. Anyway, I just found out Chuck Berry definitely won’t be there; at least not in the flesh.

The King of Rock and Roll passed away early this morning, ninety years of age, good health to the end, unlike so many of his contemporaries. Berry joins Guy Clark, Glenn Frey, David Ruffin, and Leon Russell; people I genuinely grieved for when I heard the news.

Famous people pass away every day. Those that leave a big, gaping hole in the remaining planet can’t be replaced. And while the list is subjective for us all I’m pretty sure Chuck Berry’s passing is painful for many, many people.

If he didn’t invent Rock and Roll, he at least had an assist. He played everywhere and with almost everybody. The list of performers he encouraged is longer than anyone else in the industry. I can’t imagine the television synopsis done by modern day musicologists can do the man justice.

The Beatles recorded “Roll Over Beethoven” on an early album. Several other budding British bands paid audio homage to their musical heroes. The British invasion of the early Sixties might not have happened if not for the influence of Chuck Berry, and other nearly forgotten Rock and Roll pioneers.

The Loose Ends played “Johnny B. Goode” at Friday night Elks Club dances, frat parties, and swimming pool publicity gigs, fronted by a skinny singer with ordinary talent, scant range, and lots of guts. I still get chills when I hear the opening riff.

Seeing Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Albert Pujols and many other major league stars was a lifetime thrill for me. Seeing them with my son and grandson at Wrigley Field was monumental.

But singing a duet with Chuck, now that was a lifetime achievement.

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We are the Champions http://likethedew.com/2017/02/27/we-are-the-champions/ http://likethedew.com/2017/02/27/we-are-the-champions/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 13:43:00 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=66429 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.]]>

Number one by Ron Bennetts via flickr

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.

In reality, anyone who makes a driving mistake and immediately realizes it will signal regret in some manner. Those involved with their phone, radio, sandwich, makeup, or just preoccupied don’t realize they acted carelessly and will resent any retribution.

I gave my bright lights two quick flashes, just to let the van operator know he had done something questionable, hoping he would pay more attention, at least until I was safely home in the Man Room.

Very quickly an arm appeared from the driver’s window extending as far into the heavens as possible. At the end of that arm was a solitary middle finger. I was shocked that someone could react so quickly and yet be blind to his own actions.

As I passed the van, I looked over. He was white, around forty with a cheesy mustache. His fat face was pressed against the driver’s side glass and a meaty hand again displayed his one-fingered salute. There was a look on his face that puzzled me.

Until recently, most middle-aged white guys driving junky vans were benign in expression, perhaps resigned to their fading place in the working world. This guy looked defiant, as if he’d just been part of a thrilling victory.

Since the first Tuesday last November, I’ve noticed more examples of this behavior; something previously only displayed on Rivalry Weekend in the Fall, or just after the Super Bowl. But we began treating politics like a sports rivalry several years ago and it keeps getting worse.

And in what many hope is as bad as it gets, those folks routinely told to shut up, stop whining, change their actions, and evolve, now feel vindicated. The Angry White Man has returned with a vengeance; vandalizing cemeteries, torching churches, screaming at minorities, and letting everyone else know who won the damn election and things are going to By God be different now.

Not sure how long this continues; what damage will be done to civility, or the planet, or if the trend can be easily reversed. I do know this isn’t just Trump. Republicans have been moving toward this for decades, waiting for someone to lead them they can blame everything on if America revolts at the voting booth.

Our future is uncertain. Clinton lost the election, not because Trump was popular but because she was unpopular. The number of people that stayed home or voted third party easily outdistanced Trump voters in most battleground states.

Liberals have long been good at demonstrations and bad at registering and voting their desires. Conservative politicians know this and have campaigned for fifty years on fear and racism because it is effective.

Sensible people must regain control of America and I’m not sure that can happen. Trump supporters and Republican lifers think we are heading in the right direction. No matter how bad things get, the loyalists are okay.

Until Progressives consider the current situation to be untenable and revolt, this will continue. Was the guy in the van a sign of the future or just some random asshole?

Time will tell.

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Remembering Animal Farm http://likethedew.com/2017/02/03/remembering-animal-farm/ http://likethedew.com/2017/02/03/remembering-animal-farm/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2017 13:05:56 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=66291 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...

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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 I’m thinking of a different Orwell novel –  Animal Farm.

Most of us read it in high school, many were forced to. Unlike many other designated classics, Animal Farm was short, easy to read, and simple to get, at least on the surface. But this book is one of the great satires in history, ranking with Catch-22, Letters From Earth, and South Park, at least in style.

I began thinking about Orwell’s other masterpiece the second or third time I heard Kellyanne Conway speak on television. Not answering questions while giving a string of words that sounded like an answer is hard to do. Accomplishing that feat with a straight face requires great talent or complete lack of conscience. I thought of Squealer, the persuasive pig in Animal Farm who explains ever changing events to the other animals.

Of course, Trump has to be Napoleon, the traitor who takes over the farm. He would probably consider that a compliment. The Alt Right guys are his pack of wild dogs ready to attack anyone not toeing the Animalism line. The other parroting animals that support the lies spouted by Squealer and Napoleon would be the base Trump supporters; the Basket of Deplorables.

I’m not sure who plays Snowball, the initial leader of Animalism who is betrayed by Napoleon. There don’t seem to be any Republicans that fall into that category. Maybe Snowball is American Democracy.

I realize the inauguration is only two weeks passed but things are getting scary. Trump established a record for lying during the campaign according to Politifact and set a stunning precedent in his first few days in charge.

Vaguely worded Executive Orders designed to placate the loyal supporters expecting quick action reigned down on America. Mixed in among the things that aren’t good policy were decisions that might hurt in the long run and other steps that appear to be circumventing the very freedoms America is based on.

Limits on press conferences and attacks on reporters were already part of the game plan before the small amounts of confetti were swept away. The EPS website and the biography of Jeff Sessions were swept clean within days of the transition without explanation. A military convoy flying the Trump flag was seen in Virginia this week. No explanation was given. Any uproar is being explained away with more lies camouflaged as simple truths.

We are being introduced to new language; phrases like alternate facts, patriotic devotion, and American carnage are being bandied about. The only people happy about the first days of Trump’s rule are the true believers who support him 100%. Check some of their opinions if you want to get chills.

Any day now I expect to hear reports of a pig lying at the bottom of a ladder covered in paint.

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Dealing with Defeat http://likethedew.com/2017/01/06/dealing-with-defeat/ http://likethedew.com/2017/01/06/dealing-with-defeat/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 23:22:56 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=66049

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.

Benjamin West’s painting of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse entitled “Death on a Pale Horse” (1796), Detroit Institute of Arts

Benjamin West’s painting of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse entitled “Death on a Pale Horse” (1796), Detroit Institute of Arts

I recalled that story when the November election debacle unfolded; with student protests, uncontrolled tears, and thousands of words written about who really cost the Democrats this election, and unleashed Donald Trump on the universe.

Analysts have blamed everyone from Conservative women to Third Party voters to conspiracy theorists. The focus has been on those who voted for Trump rather than the thousands who didn’t vote for Clinton.

Many have lamented that this isn’t the America they knew. Someone hasn’t been paying attention. America has always been evenly divided. Voters historically are swayed rather easily, with little regard for the consequences to our precious documents of freedom. The Electoral College was a compromise to slave states but justified by Alexander Hamilton as a way to keep foreign powers from influencing American elections. How’s that working for you?

With the New Year comes the realization that many of the positive trends of the last eight years are likely toast. Climate Change initiatives will quickly disappear, and the only people guaranteed freedom will be gun owners, unborn babies, and multi-zillionaires.

As more presidential appointees are announced, anyone who had settled in for a few decades of climate responsibility, and income equality, wake each morning almost in shock. Hardees consumers, banks too big to fail, and wraslin’ aficionados are in Hog Heaven.

Speaking of Heaven, although the line between Jesus and modern Evangelicals was already contorted, I can’t imagine anyone trying, with a straight face, to justify the large number of Born Again Christians voting for Trump. I guess we will soon see photos in living rooms of Trump and Jesus side by side, illuminated by Holy Light.

So, what happens now? More than forty percent of Americans don’t think democracy is important enough to even vote. And half of the rest, another thirty percent of the population, are firmly behind the hateful, dishonest, Republican policies of the last fifty years. Lie, divide, scare.

Modern day Republican voters aren’t all the Basket of Deplorables we all assume they are. Most of us socialize, or at least know, several people who think the Democrats are raising taxes and wasting money by giving it to poor, undeserving minorities.

They think Republicans are better at business practices, protecting the country, and balancing the budget than Democrats. And no one is going to convince them otherwise by insulting their intelligence.

So what now? Does the whole process become a mudslinging free-for-all? Does the Democratic Party start a slash and burn wing like the Tea Party or work diligently to educate the public to what is really going on.

Do Liberals find a way to get their point across, even start their own biased TV network. Or maybe just sit home and drink good whiskey while the Republicans turn everything into shit like they always do when left in charge.

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Almost http://likethedew.com/2016/09/07/almost/ http://likethedew.com/2016/09/07/almost/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 16:54:50 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=64928

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.

The Defense budget had finally been reigned in. From now on, those bureaucrats representing contractors and anyone else in the periphery of military spending would be held to a standard similar to every other government agency. They would have a budget and be held accountable. No more $300 hammers or $500 toilet seats.

Best of all, America was on its way to energy independence. Another oil crisis and a coal strike were adding fuel to the fire in the discussion over alternate fuel sources. Reliance on foreign oil and smoky mornings because of coal burning power plants would soon be ancient history. The president even established a Department of Energy.

President Jimmy Carter relaxed at his desk in the Oval Office in April 1978Cars were becoming more efficient and alternate sources of power were being investigated. There were even solar panels in the White House. America was poised to lead the world into a future filled with new ideas. It was 1978.

Then things changed, almost overnight. The Iranians overthrew their Shah, gave the country back to militant Muslims, and captured 52 Americans who were housed at the American embassy in Tehran. Seemingly within days, the attitude of the US began to change.

Republicans saw an opportunity to take control. The current administration was branded as incapable of handling the situation. We needed strong leadership and veteran crisis management teams. Ronald Reagan began to talk about “strapping young bucks” getting welfare checks for nothing. Jimmy Carter was an amateur. We needed strong, Republican leadership featuring good old American values, not some Liberal fantasy.

When a sandstorm prevented a mission to save the Hostages from being successful, the final nail was driven. Carter was defeated and the new president hit rewind on many of the initiatives from the previous four years.

By 1984, the military once again had a blank check; foreign policy consisted of telling the rest of the world what to do, alternate fuel sources disappeared. The federal deficit tripled when corporate America’s tax burden was reduced from 30% to 10%. We were once again America, God’s favorite country; able to impose our will on the rest of the world and mold the future into the religion of our true master; Capitalism.

A bit simplified perhaps, and maybe naive. Cause and effect have a mind of their own and the world is a complex place where things happen quickly and everyone else reacts to that new reality. Political momentum in America has long resembled a pendulum; swinging from side to side as the country tires of existing policy.

But if the Iranian Hostage crisis hadn’t happened, or if the rescue had been successful, Carter would have likely been re-elected. With four more years of a kinder, gentler USA leading the way, who knows what permanent changes may have occurred around the planet during the Eighties.

How different would the world be today?

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An Act of Terrorism http://likethedew.com/2016/08/19/an-act-of-terrorism/ http://likethedew.com/2016/08/19/an-act-of-terrorism/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 19:15:00 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=64742

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.

1996 olympic bombing atlanta cnn

Terrorist bombing at Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympic games

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. The last one provided a clue to his identity and he was placed on the FBI Most Wanted list.

People who supported his political leanings and members of his faith never denounced his actions and evidence suggests he was hidden, fed, and well taken care of during the five year period from his identification to his eventual capture. His name was Eric Rudolph.

The Atlanta Olympic Park Bombing hit close to home. I retired early the night the dynamite propelled nails and other metal shards through the immediate area. I had a date in Atlanta and the alarm was set for 2:30am.

My brother was coming from the other direction and we were meeting to attend the 1996 Olympics. Seeing the Games had been high on our sports bucket list for some time and we both knew this might be our only chance.

When I awakened and turned on the television for weather and results, I heard the news. I sat stunned until word was given the Games would continue; then I got ready and headed west. I knew Rick would meet me there.

At least once along my trip from Columbia, I broke into tears. I wasn’t scared or sad; I was pissed off. My biggest fear was having some fanatical zealot intrude in my life, and the life of the people I knew and respected. I felt, as many other Americans did, that we were better than that. Those people weren’t going to change how we live. They were not going to scare us.

Security was much tighter than anything I’d seen before and there were a lot of nervous people walking around. Anyone with a backpack, carrying a bundle, or holding a crumpled bag was suspect. A rumor temporarily shut down the MARTA train we were taking to the brand new baseball field. No bomb was found. I don’t remember seeing any Muslims or thinking foreign subversives were necessarily responsible.

We were two years removed from Oklahoma City and the Unabomber had been arrested that same spring. America was still five years from 9-11 and didn’t equate terrorism with one single foreign religion. We still believed that anyone could become a terrorist, not just one of Them.

There were no further incidents at the Atlanta Olympics and everyone seemed to enjoy the spectacle. My brother and I watched several events and reveled in the spirit of the Olympic Games.

Twenty years down the road the Olympics have changed but not drastically. There is much more inclusion. American women athletes have won more medals so far than their superior male counterparts. There is even a mixed-sex athlete running track.

The bureaucracy is more layered; the corruption and greed more obvious than before. At least they used to hide that aspect of the Games. There’s more of the stink the non-athletes always bring with them.

Terrorism has changed a lot, I’m afraid. Like so many other things, it has become politicized. Although fewer people die from terrorism than from cow accidents, terrorist attacks draw a lot of attention in our country. Politicians are running for office by scaring the bejeesus out of uninformed possible voters and we’ve almost succeeded in ostracizing an entire religion of peaceful people out of fear.

The one thing I was confident of that morning as I drove east on I-20 was that America wouldn’t succumb to fear, wouldn’t let a bunch of ignorant bullies alter how we lived and how we believed.

Boy, was I wrong.

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