Mike Cox – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Sun, 21 Oct 2018 13:17:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Mike Cox – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 The Good Life http://likethedew.com/2018/10/08/the-good-life/ http://likethedew.com/2018/10/08/the-good-life/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 10:06:53 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69942

We were having an afternoon meal at a preferred local dive. Our favorite server had taken our order and was keeping the drinks coming. During visits the subject of dogs materialized, as it often does with us. Sadly, our server explained that she couldn’t afford a dog.

I realize that adult humans make questionable financial choices from time to time. Anyone spending morning rush hour at seven eleven stores as I have get a crash course on questionable financial decisions.

Customer after customer comes in, purchases a cup of overpriced, bad coffee, two packs of cigarettes, five dollars in gas, and uses the change for lottery tickets. This happens over and over. The customer usually offers some solid advice about what the government should be doing with our money. I get it. Habits are hard to break.

But you would think that the richest country in the history of the world could do a little better for its citizens. It would be easy to provide free health care and free education to any citizen desiring it. Everything depends on what one considers entitlements.

That evening I heard that Department of Education Head Betsy DeVos had lost a yacht. Someone had snuck in and cut it loose from the dock. She only has nine others. Does anyone really need ten yachts? Later that week I heard that Bill Gates’ home in Seattle has six kitchens and sixteen point five bathrooms. Wow.

In 1965, the income disparity between CEOs of companies and their employees was 20%. Today the figure sits at 271%. In 1973, after four decades of steady income growth, the nation’s middle class began to experience income stagnancy. The only growth was happening at the very top percentile of income. That remains true today although the gap is widening. Today the richest 20% of Americans account for more than 80% of the nation’s income.

In 1980, corporate America paid 30% of the country’s tax bill. Since then, Republican legislators have pushed three tax bills through Congress. Currently, the corporate tax responsibility is about 10%. None of the tax savings appears to have been passed to employees. Stock dividends and yachts are way too important.

For all of those former middle class employees, buying power has stagnated and the government’s safety net has been reduced. Health care is a mess and anyone going to college without help will have a lifetime debt to pay off.

During the last fifty years, Republican politicians have run almost exclusively on policies of fear and division. Proudly sporting American flag lapel pins and claiming the Bible as their favorite book, those legislators and their party have run entire campaigns in state, local, and federal races based on racist attitudes toward Blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims, and the idea that Liberals are turning America in a Socialist nightmare.

Unions and working Americans have been hamstrung in favor of the super wealthy, and issues like healthcare, opioid drug addiction, and infrastructure have been ignored. The current administration is no different; only more blatant.

One would think that eventually people would wise up and realize they are voting against their own self interest, or not bothering to vote at all. But after fifty years, very little has changed.

Fear and ignorance play well in America.

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Fighting Socialism http://likethedew.com/2018/09/08/fighting-socialism/ http://likethedew.com/2018/09/08/fighting-socialism/#respond Sat, 08 Sep 2018 12:35:34 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69842

We were having an afternoon meal at our preferred local dive. Our favorite server was taking our order and keeping the drinks coming. During our time there the subject of dogs materialized, as it often does with us. Sadly, our server explained that she couldn’t afford a dog.

I realize that adult humans make questionable financial choices from time to time. Anyone spending morning rush hour at seven eleven stores as I have get a crash course on questionable financial decisions.

Capitalism isnt working - protest bannerCustomer after customer comes in, purchases a cup of overpriced, bad coffee, two packs of cigarettes, five dollars in gas, and uses the change for lottery tickets. This happens over and over. The customer usually offers some solid advice about what the government should be doing with our money. I get it. Habits are hard to break.

But you would think that the richest country in the history of the world could do a little better for its citizens. It would be easy to provide free health care and free education to any citizen that requires it. Everything depends on what one considers entitlements.

That evening I heard that Department of Education Head Betsy DeVos had lost a yacht. Someone had snuck in and cut it loose from the dock. She only has nine others. Does anyone really need ten yachts? Later that week I heard that Bill Gates’ home in Seattle has six kitchens and sixteen point five bathrooms. Wow.

In 1965, the income disparity between CEOs of companies and their employees was 20%. Today the figure sits at 271%. In 1973, after four decades of steady income growth, the nation’s middle class began to experience income stagnancy. The only growth was happening at the very top percentile of income. That remains true today although the gap is widening. Today the richest 20% of Americans account for more than 80% of the nation’s income.

In 1980, corporate America paid 30% of the country’s tax bill. Since then, Republican legislators have pushed three tax bills through Congress. Currently, the corporate tax responsibility is about 10%. None of the tax savings appears to have been passed to employees. Stock dividends are way too important.

For all of those once middle class employees, their buying power has stagnated and the government’s safety net has been reduced. Health care is a mess and anyone going to college without help will have a lifetime debt to pay off.

During the last fifty years, Republican politicians have run almost exclusively on policies of fear and division. Proudly sporting American flag lapel pins and claiming the Bible as their favorite book, those legislators and their party have run entire campaigns in state, local, and federal races based on racist attitudes toward Blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims, and the idea that Liberals are turning America in a Socialist nightmare.

Unions and working Americans have been hamstrung in favor of the super wealthy, and issues like healthcare, opiod drug addiction, and infrastructure have been ignored. The current administration is no different.

One would think that eventually people would wise up and realize they are voting against their own self interest. But after fifty years, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

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Dealing with Censorship http://likethedew.com/2018/08/07/dealing-with-censorship/ http://likethedew.com/2018/08/07/dealing-with-censorship/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 10:16:05 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69551

Does anyone know the difference between nudity and brief nudity? Seriously, I’m stuck. Movie ratings are based on such things as how many naked body parts are accumulated in the entirety of a film, how many F-bombs are dropped during the dialogue, and whether sex is depicted as serious or frivolous. Why?

For as long as we have been able to watch a story on a screen of some sort, there have been people, usually power hungry hypocrites, defining what is acceptable for others to see. I’ve always wondered how this system originated.

This film has been passed by the national board of censorshipFor someone to determine what is harmful, he must view copious amounts of questionable material and then explain to the film makers what must be removed to avoid irreparable harm to the viewers. If he’s watching all this smut and gore, isn’t he being harmed? I also wonder how someone decides what to censor. We all see things that make us cringe but there is a wide disparity where individual tastes are concerned.

We identify certain things as unacceptable or questionable, and blindly determine an age, usually 18, when someone is mature enough to not be shattered by offending sights like extended views of quivering breasts. I’m zeroing in on my seventh decade and am still somewhat affected by quivering breasts. Besides, I can’t think of a single thing that magically changed for me emotionally when I turned 18.

Which brings up the other, more important question. Why naked breasts and butts? Since the big three monotheistic religions appeared about 5000 years ago, we have evolved into thinking that any view of female body parts entice menfolk into uncontrolled lust and dire behavior so terrible the world is at risk.

Before these now prominent religions were invented, many of the world’s beliefs were focused on women and fertility. Humans celebrated the very things most of the world now considers too controversial to even mention, much less treat sensibly.

We modern humans are also much more likely to censor sexual scenes and leave violence alone. One would think that exploding heads, slow-mo severed arms, and human bodies being torn into pieces by various evil creatures, would be much more harmful than watching a couple of pretty people commit a mortal sin in synchronized harmony with a peppy soundtrack.

Sex depicted in movies is as far away from actual sex as one can possibly be. The actors involved in a movie sex scene are much, much prettier than anyone most of us will ever have sex with. The vast majority of humans never see people that good looking, much less get intimate with them.

And the choreography; gee whiz. I’ve never experienced, or known anyone else that’s experienced, the slow motion dance moves involved in on-camera hanky-panky. I’m pretty sure that stuff is an actual crime against nature.

But I’m in the minority. Every ten years or so, we decide that pornography, nakedness, and prurient interests are going to destroy mankind as we know it. Greed, need for control, and stupidity have been with us since we first stood up and no one sees fit to place limits on those behaviors. Why aren’t we worried about repeated depictions of those behaviors harming our morality?

Has anyone watched Succession?

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Words to Live By http://likethedew.com/2018/06/17/words-to-live-by/ http://likethedew.com/2018/06/17/words-to-live-by/#respond Sun, 17 Jun 2018 17:30:24 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69331 The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” I’m a fan of Jefferson’s forethought, belief system, and writings. None of this seemed authentic to me. Looked more like Late Sixties Conservative rhetoric. So I fact checked it. Turns out to be a bogus quote attributed to our third president, designed to sell bumper stickers to those among us that believe the government is giving too much away to the poor in America, especially the dark skinned poor.]]>

During a visit to our favorite Chapin bar, the Tipsy Toad, I noticed a recent addition to the scenery. A bumper sticker attached to the cooler glass quoted Thomas Jefferson as saying;”The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

I’m a fan of Jefferson’s forethought, belief system, and writings. None of this seemed authentic to me. Looked more like Late Sixties Conservative rhetoric. So I fact checked it. Turns out to be a bogus quote attributed to our third president, designed to sell bumper stickers to those among us that believe the government is giving too much away to the poor in America, especially the dark skinned poor.

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." Not Thomas JeffersonOne would think that with the ability to verify everything so easily, we would be more careful about who we quote and what stands as words to live by for so many of us. One would be wrong. It is much easier to grab the idea we agree with and assume it belongs to someone of substance. Simpler to buy into supposedly validated suspect ideas than to search out the truth.

Words are important to me. Not sure if I’ve always felt this way or began to worship the freedom associated with speech when I started sweating over just the right word to improve an otherwise meaningless sentence. I’m big on words to live by and even bigger on verifying their authenticity.

So last week when Suzy pointed out a Facebook post with words shoe-polished onto the back of a pickup truck quoting the Bible and demanding that women shut the Hell up and do what their man says, I immediately checked out the quote. I couldn’t wait to prove this asshole wrong.

Problem is, I underestimated the Holy Bible. That’s the problem with ancient religious scriptures. There are lots of idiotic things written down from those times. Some were extreme to begin with. Others got altered during the thousands of translations through the centuries. That’s why we should rarely accept Biblical quotes as words to live by unless we are trying to confirm a bias and make it acceptable.

Old folks can likely remember devout Christians defending slavery, and later racism in America by quoting Genesis and claiming that the “Mark of Cain” and the “Curse of Ham” were both references to black skin color.

As religious leaders pontificate against LGBT people with claims of abomination from a Biblical quote, no one mentions killing anyone associated with sex outside marriage and stoning uncircumcised boys, divorced women, and children that don’t respect their parents.

Getting religion involved in politics, and being rich, are two of the most stringently opposed activities in the Holy Book. Yet politicians have embraced both those activities with relish. Ignoring many instances where God tells us to take in the poor, strangers, and those in need, current politicians and their followers, especially Conservative ones, not only worship the wealthy and heartless, they deify them.

And now our fine Attorney General is quoting Biblical scripture to justify ripping screaming immigrant children from their mothers’ breasts. And we’re doing it as a policy to deter people from coming to The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

Wonder if that stanza still applies to America.

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Southern Men http://likethedew.com/2018/04/14/southern-men/ http://likethedew.com/2018/04/14/southern-men/#respond Sat, 14 Apr 2018 16:25:40 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69163 Whiskey Myers. Chad recently told me about these guys and through the magic of Apple Music, I looked them up, sampled a few songs, and downloaded their latest album. Apple Music, like Amazon Prime, is about as close as one can get to having a crack dealer. Whiskey Myers is a Southern Rock band with good songs, an interesting singer, and enough variety to keep listening. I play them from time to time but have recently been flooded by other music and neglecting the guys.]]>

My middle child and I are having a disagreement about music. The dust up is over a band called Whiskey Myers. Chad recently told me about these guys and through the magic of Apple Music, I looked them up, sampled a few songs, and downloaded their latest album. Apple Music, like Amazon Prime, is about as close as one can get to having a crack dealer.

Whiskey Myers is a Southern Rock band with good songs, an interesting singer, and enough variety to keep listening. I play them from time to time but have recently been flooded by other music and neglecting the guys.

Nathaniel Rateliff has a new album. I’ve rediscovered legends John Prine and James McMurtry, and the death of Dolores O’Riordan reminded me of the genius of the Cranberries, which reminded me of intriguing girl singers, which brought new interest in the Pretenders. So I’ve been busy.

In a more recent phone conversation, Chad told me he wanted us to learn “Ballad of a Southern Man“, a Whiskey Myers song he likes. So I downloaded the song and the chords. The first verse perturbed me significantly.

In two stanzas and a chorus, “Ballad of a Southern Man” clicked every box of the Republican political strategy of the last fifty years; God, Guns, and White Supremacy. This has not only worked extremely well in American political races, it excels in the music world, especially Country Music. Charlie Daniels, Toby Keith, and Hank Jr, have made millions hitting those same hot points over and over. Many others have followed suit; artistically and financially.

I’ve never been a fan of such stuff. Those talking points are inflammatory, too simple, and untrue. The history of America is steeped in intriguing, complicated events and issues not easily explained in song verses or bumper stickers. But bumper stickers and song verses match our political philosophy and attention span. So they work.

Ballad immediately mentioned gun ownership, family loyalty, religion, and disdain for rich, establishment figures. In the second verse, they offer a stanza that reads: “We still pledge the original way and say ‘Merry Christmas’ not ‘Happy Holidays’.”

As we should know, the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance was geared toward schoolkids, dreamed up by two flag salesmen brothers, and made no mention of God. Most people this song is targeting think Franklin and Jefferson penned the Pledge in the original Constitution.

As far as Christmas is concerned, anyone that thinks saying Happy Holidays diminishes Christ, hasn’t been paying attention. Christmas is the most lucrative holiday of the year worldwide, lost any semblance of reverence decades ago, and was stolen from a pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice called Saturnalia. Happy Holidays indeed.

I’ve been conflicted about my southern-ness since I realized black people were just like I was and quit standing for “Dixie,” forty years ago. I’m proud of my heritage but am trying to reconcile my past while moving forward. Waving the Stars and Bars in one hand while brandishing my AR 15 doesn’t work for me. Besides, the Republicans have used this formula to slowly destroy the middle and working class of America under the very noses of those most damaged by it.

I like my Southern Boy songs with at least a little more thought. After cooling down from hearing “Ballad of a Southern Man,” I downloaded “Good Old Boys Like Me,” a classic by the honey voiced, incomparable Don Williams.

I’m better now.

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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

 

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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