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By Mike Cox:
Robert Earl Keen is a Texas songwriter who has toiled in relative obscurity, struggling for success in this American Idol world we live in. He writes wonderful songs about people and events he’s encountered over the decades and occasionally sells something to someone more famous. Keen is also capable of writing tunes with a humorous take on life its ownself. Check out Christmas with the Family for an excellent example.
Last year’s Rose Hotel CD had a number pondering whether Jesus is electronically connected. “Is there wireless in Heaven or do I go to Hell?” he asks to no one in particular from a Starbucks serving line. A bit of benign fun for scamps everywhere and something to ponder for the more serious among us.
Franklin Graham, son of Billy, is one of the more serious among us who ponders such issues without putting his tongue in cheek.
Dionne Warwick, the legendary singer and classy lady, was on the future president’s TV show last week. Wouldn’t Donald Trump be great as our Chief Executive? The current disparity between the very rich and the poor mirrors that of most third world countries. All we need is an insane, power crazy dictator. The Donald would be perfect.
Based on the previews from The Apprentice, Ms. Warwick has become a spoiled diva. I find that hard to believe; Ms. Warwick has always projected and aura of stately elegance, refined beyond belief. Even when her niece Whitney Houston made some poor choices, Dionne seemed to rise above the trashiness. I am more amazed that she would submit to such degradation as trying to be rational with Gary Busey. Maybe Meat Loaf talked her into it.
One of the few advantageous things about aging is being able to make a stand concerning life as you perceive it without catching grief. Older humans are too fragile to pop upside the head over a controversial opinion, and are considered to be cantankerous and irrational anyway. It is also much easier to proclaim, disavow, and boycott when no one you know will recall what you originally said. Being old has few benefits so we must take advantage of every one.
I got perturbed with Exxon three decades ago and have steadfastly refused to patronize them since. While this hasn’t crippled the oil giant, ignoring them still gives me a little tingle. At this point in life, tingles are still important and I’ll take ‘em when I can get ‘em.
Last week, I visited Barnes and Noble to find some Barry Hannah for a friend. To my surprise, I found no Barry Hannah on the shelves of America’s premier bookstore. Not Airships, not Long, Last, Happy, not nothing.
Last Monday, the day all true romantics look forward to each year finally dawned. New beginnings, fresh hopes, and celestial expectations were as vivid as life itself. No other new day is so filled with dreamy memories and positive vibes.
Pitchers and catchers report. This day starts the long awaited baseball season for those of us who will never lose our love for the sport. America has passed the National Pastime by as we have increased our need for screaming violence and reduced our attention spans. Baseball is quaint and slow; boring and tedious, no longer relevant.
Maybe for you, but for people who remember the feeling when our dad first trusted our young hands and eyes to handle the heater, and still get chills when we smell a brand new Rawlings, there is nothing else even close. Like comparing Sophia Loren to Lady Gaga.
I don’t enjoy halftime shows anyway. Never have. Not marching bands and high stepping majorettes; not fireworks displays and Up with People; not parachuting mascots and washed up rock and roll legends. I would prefer to watch someone throw a Frisbee to his dog while people leisurely stroll from one side to the other, just to see who is over there.
I especially dislike overblown, massively choreographed, vulgar halftime extravaganzas, designed by someone who likely never held a brand new football on Christmas morning, inhaling the scent of fresh leather, waiting for the sun to rise so you could pass to your dad.
The product we have today, whether the Orange Bowl Celebration of Excess, or the latest Roman Numeral NFL Championship, seems to be a result of either anti-football forces trying to wrest attention from the game itself or a Dan Jenkins parody.
A New York City crowd watches as a woman hangs on for dear life, dangling from a crashed helicopter on the roof of a skyscraper. Mild mannered reporter Clark Kent searches frantically and unsuccessfully for a phone booth to change his clothes. He eventually morphs into Superman while spinning in a revolving door.
When Superman was introduced to the world via comic books, pay telephones were so widespread the author depicted Clark Kent becoming the Man of Steel in a phone booth. By the time the movie version was released in 1983, those little fortresses of privacy were disappearing. The telephones inside soon followed, hastened to their demise by cellular service.
Probably half of all Americans have never used a pay phone; many have no idea what one is. If you’ve actually made a call by depositing quarters into a coin operated apparatus, you are getting old. If you remember when they required a dime, adults address you as “Sir”. If you can recall paying a nickel for a conversation, you probably shouldn’t plan too far into the future. Don’t even buy green bananas.
The snow began falling on Sunday evening. Four to six inches of white stuff below the Mason-Dixon Line can be a nightmare. On one hand everything is okay; we made it to Food Lion before the panicked hordes arrived to clean all the bread and milk from the shelves. On the other, there is a feeling that we are being restrained. Our choices are somewhat limited, which makes us feel trapped. Even the dogs are unsettled.
I haven’t slept very well the last three nights. I’ve been dozing with one eye open waiting for that click and then the deep silence that signals the end of electricity until the linemen make it to our spot on the waiting list. Being without electricity is considered a major catastrophe in America. No TV, no microwave, and no drip coffee that comes on automatically three minutes before you wake up.
I was relaxing for a quiet evening in the Man Room. Reclining in the Lazy Boy, enjoying the feel of the soft leather of the chair against the satin of my smoking jacket, I was remotely perusing the Direct TV offerings for the night.
Maybe I would watch Band of Brothers, or The Pacific, both of which make me cry. One of the great things about a private man room is not having to worry about being discovered sniffling over a TV program. The Science Channel was replaying a feature on asteroids; how dangerous they might be and how good old American know how and explosions might save the day. I think Spartacus was even listed. Not that lame soap opera with nekkid girls; the real, manly one with Kirk Douglas and Woody Strode.
Suddenly I began to sweat and struggle for breath. A lump the size of Charles Bronson’s fist materialized in my dry throat. Through blurred vision I was able to make out the cause of my consternation right on my Hi Def screen. O W N. Right there on my television in my own, private Man Room, were the words that strike fear in every real man on Earth. Oprah. Winfrey…
The signs were small at first. I didn’t really realize what was going on. I started enunciating the ending R on words like summer and dinner. I would ask people from deep in the Confederacy to repeat phrases to me. Hollywood southern accents began to sound authentic.
Even when the problem became obvious, I denied it. There was no way this could happen to someone like me. I was a smart man aware of his surroundings. It just wasn’t possible.
I wonder if this was how it all ended on Easter Island. Some of the people raising the alarm while the leaders denied the obvious, exhorted the faithful, and frightened the fearful until complaining voices fell silent.
Maybe after the island was stripped bare those in charge refused to accept responsibility; blamed political opponents for the disaster, or just wrote the whole thing off to an angry god. Divided citizens formed warring groups and commenced fighting among themselves about who caused the problem.
Last week, I read where some national economist said the American employment rate hasn’t been adversely affected by illegal aliens. Earlier reports tell us that Phoenix and El Paso, two of the cities on the Mexican border where politicians are screaming about crime, are among the five safest places in the country.
I swear, the Liberal elitists have no shame when trying to force their beliefs on the rest of us. If illegal aliens weren’t a real problem, our fine legislative hopefuls wouldn’t be talking about them so much and neither would Sean Hannity. He’s a newsman for God’s sakes, he wouldn’t say anything that isn’t true.
What if we all woke up tomorrow and decided we would no longer drive a vehicle that gets less than 30 miles per gallon. Every one of us. There are about 250,000,000 vehicles in this country classified as cars or light trucks. The average MPG is 20 when the auto and truck numbers are combined. American drivers average about 15,000 miles each year. These numbers might be a couple of years old, but we are just pretending anyway.
That would amount to a one third increase in fuel efficiency overnight.
The scene looked liked something out of Monday Night Raw. In one corner the outraged and enraged members of Congress. Opposite them were the angel faced executives denying any wrongdoing. It was so orchestrated and fake; something I had seen hundreds of times before. I didn’t know why it pissed me off so. Then it dawned on me.
I was raised in the “starving kids in China” era. We were required to eat what was on our plates no matter how vile. For the most part it wasn’t too bad. My mother would
I could be blindfolded and dropped into the middle of the event and know instantly where I was. You could even plug my larger than normal ears and not be able to stump me. The same would be true for anyone who grew up regularly attending the county fair.
The aromas give the whole thing away. Grilling onions and peppers mixed together with a sweet greasy bouquet hits you upside the head like a slap from your momma when you’re misbehaving in church. There is a subtle undercurrent of human sweat as the carnies’ distinctive funk blends with the scent of a large number of corn fed country girls and good ole boys trying to impress them.
Last week at a fast food restaurant, I overheard a helicopter mom declaring that she would only allow her child to swim in a swimming pool. She felt it was extremely dangerous for children to get into water where they couldn’t see the bottom and irresponsible for a parent to even entertain such ideas. Then she gave Little Precious more French fries.
I learned to swim in a magical place in Alabama.
James Gregory is the self proclaimed Funniest Man in America. He gets credit for the observation, “Americans will do anything to lose weight except stop eating.”
We are like that about a lot of things. The simple, obvious answer to a problem is overshadowed by complications; old habits, religious beliefs, ancient customs, prejudice, and rhetoric. We will overlook the facts, try something idiotic forever, and refuse to consider changes that we believe won‘t work.
Our war on drugs is maybe the best example. Marijuana
The most versatile word in the English language starts and ends just like fire truck. It just doesn’t include all those unnecessary consonants, spaces, and vowels in the middle. This versatile word can be a noun, a verb, an adverb, adjective, and probably a dangling participle. It can be used in a sentence without any other words and is also an exclamation, a really good one.
That same word is also considered to be the most vulgar of all the vulgar words we recognize … Vice President Joe Biden used it in a whisper to President Barack Obama … He got called “potty mouth” on CNN.
I was sitting in the mall, innocently finishing lunch and reading Cormac McCarthy when I noticed someone walking by. Glancing toward the movement, I was hypnotized. She wore a pair of jeans that were under extreme stress and walked with a motion that was either practiced in a mirror for years or Heaven sent.
I felt a tingle inside and my time clock began spinning in reverse, like the altimeter in a diving WWII airplane. My first thought was Dottie Jean, the one inescapable fantasy girl in my life.
I was nine, maybe ten. My heart was pounding like a sub-woofer and I could barely hold the wheel with my tiny, sweaty, trembling hands. I was driving the family car down Highway 5 outside Centreville, Alabama.
I couldn’t reach the pedals so my dad was helping with those, but I was driving the car. Sitting in his lap, I could smell cigarette smoke and Old Spice, and feel my own excitement. He also had control of the wheel with his right index finger …
Earlier this week, a New York air traffic controller got in trouble for doing virtually the same thing with two of his kids on successive nights.
Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while but I have sluggish cognitive tempo disorder. My dad used to chastise me for being lazy and he nearly destroyed my self esteem before I found help. All it takes is a few sessions on the couch at $300 per and I’m good as new. At least until I have to fight through another outbreak.
The latest edition of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrists’ “bible” is now being publicized. It is the perfect remedy for folks in our current
Satisfaction isn’t my favorite Rolling Stones song. I liked Last Time and Brown Sugar much better. But Satisfaction may be the most popular song by the greatest rock band of all time. It continues to receive more air play and is probably better known than any other tune by the scruffy British band.
As teenagers, we loved the Stones. They were edgy and irreverent, much more dangerous than their more popular counterpart, the Beatles, and grittier than other British bands like Herman’s Hermits and the Dave Clark Five.
There has been a lot of conversation about soul food lately. A school system in Denver is in trouble for trying to honor Dr. Martin Luther King by serving fried chicken and collards. I guess if they had offered watermelon the whole staff would have been shot.
The Dew has featured a few tasty stories about grits and other southern delicacies, most of them waxing poetic about not forgotten old times when the living was easy and cooking took all day. Much of what is defined today as soul food was originally just food for those of us who grew up poor in the South. I would like to weigh in.
I noticed the shoes first. They were fluorescent white, just out of a shoebox, just out of Wal-Mart. The old man wore khaki pants and a plaid shirt under a light jacket. A faded red Farm Supply baseball cap sat on his head.
He could have been anywhere between 65 and 85, depending on how hard his life had been. The old survivor walked slowly toward the entrance of the convenience store, aided by a spiral walking stick.
Just after the door closed behind him, I noticed the dog.
There are few things in modern life as simple and thrilling as a two seat sports car on a winding faded highway. Guys of all ages love this stuff. Women think it is a sign of a mid-life crisis. I remember such a trip that also involved some youthful stupidity.
The car was an MGA, worn out even in 1966. The trip took us from Tuscaloosa to Guin, fifty miles of meandering, mostly forgotten blacktop. The reason was the same as it always was at sixteen.
The phone rang in the late afternoon of October 18, 2003. Alabama had just lost to Ole Miss, 43-28. Dad and I talked about what the team needed to do and how much things had changed since Bear died. Then he told me he thought he had cancer. He brushed it off as something unworthy of concern but said he was ready to die if it came to that.
Fort Brandon Armory was the National Guard facility in Tuscaloosa. One weekend a month the place was filled with guys playing soldier. The rest of the time it sat empty. A local entrepreneur worked out a deal to bring bands to the Fort on those empty weekend nights. The music was top notch and the place was big and roomy; a perfect concert venue.
One day in 1966 we heard about a new band that was scheduled to play. They were named after a candy bar…
My maternal grandmother forbade the use of that word in her presence. She was known to her children’s children by her given name, Estelle. My siblings and I thought she was the coolest person we’d ever met. Kids are not usually insightful about cool people, but in this case we were spot on.
Estelle Gentry lost her husband when her only daughter was eleven. She raised Jean and her four brothers to be strong and positive but not take the world too seriously. I don’t know nearly enough about her early life but the evidence of her strength and will was permanently etched in her children. The three survivors are over eighty and their eyes still sparkle with a tiny bit of the devil.
During my mother’s last year she called to tell me she was worried about my eternal soul. I’m not sure what triggered her concern, but she was concerned. She didn’t want me to miss the family reunion in Heaven. It is hard to have a frank conversation with your mother under any circumstances. If the subject is religion and you are from the South the difficulty increases significantly. Personal faith, along with race, defines most everything below the Mason Dixon Line. I had no intention of telling my mother anything that might bother her. She wasn’t healthy enough to have to worry about my spiritual well being. At the same time I didn’t want to lie to the person who delivered me into the world. I tried to be vague and hoped she would find something else to worry about. That didn’t help. I finally promised to read some material […]
The South Carolina highway between Conway and Marion, like many roads left for dead by interstates in the south, seems lonely and ignored. Few cars travel the faded asphalt anymore, and the shoulders are loose with gravel and overgrown with weeds. The tar filling the cracks in the pavement looks like varicose veins.
I noticed the beat up Buick pulled off the highway from a half mile away and slowed to look for signs of trouble. Instead, something I haven’t seen in a long time slowly materialized.
Three women dressed in bright print dresses were fishing from the bridge. Each of them wore a straw hat; their dark skin glistened in the summer humidity. Simple cane poles baited with night crawlers were resting on the bridge railing.
His name was Roger but we all called him Bubba. Short and stocky, strong as a bull on steroids, and armed with more street smarts than anyone I ever met, Bubba knew how to do everything. He handled himself well in each crisis we found ourselves in and was our unquestioned leader when a battle loomed, whether literal or figurative. He was our alpha warrior, our Achilles. A year after high school I discovered he believed professional wrestling was real. When the rumor was confirmed I lost all respect for him. We still hunted and fished together and would play cards and drink beer on Friday nights. But I never saw him in the same shining light ever again. Today’s equivalents to Bubba are friends who exclusively watch Fox News. They are easily identified. After seeing the deficit climb for eight years they are suddenly worried about the country’s economic […]
Harper Valley PTA accomplished several things when it hit the radio waves in 1968. The catchy tune made a star out of Jeannie C. Riley and was the first song simultaneously at the top of both the country and pop charts. It would take thirteen years and Dolly Parton to replicate that feat. The song also introduced the world to an unknown songwriter named Tom T. Hall. Maybe the royalties kept him from starving until he was able to create The Year That Clayton Delaney Died. If so it was worth it. I hated Harper Valley PTA the first time I heard it and every time after. It was a gimmick song about southern white trash. At eighteen, I wanted my songs to mean something. They had to be pretty, tell a story, or at least have a dance worthy beat. This one had no redeeming qualities. But I was […]
It’s Ralph Nader’s fault. It really is. A classic example of cause and effect. From the cave men up to the mid-Sixties we had a nice little system working. As the human population grew and improved, we always seemed to keep the really stupid people at a minimum.
Since the beginnings of our time on Earth, people have proliferated by a couple of simple principles: We like having sex more than anything else, so we have been constantly reproducing. With smart people running the show civilization kept heading in the right direction. Simultaneously, many idiots did stupid things that killed them and kept their numbers proportionally low. Whether someone pissed off a mastodon or bought a Corvair, nature had a way of weeding out really dumb people.
Recently, I received an email with a link where I could go and find out how Southern I am by how I pronounce certain words. The contestant picks between sack and bag, soda and coke, creek and crick. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I scored 92% Southern. I feel the other 8% is due to computer error or the survey’s lack of true Deep South credentials. I’m from the Heart of Dixie and can’t hep it. I’m proud of the region of the country I was born in, proud of my heritage. I don’t wave a Confederate flag, but do consider myself a true son of the South. And there aren’t many of us left. Snaggle-toothed racists and politically correct imbeciles have spent the last quarter century trying to make those of us from south of the Mason Dixon line feel ashamed of our birth place, and […]
His name was Ovette. During initial introductions at work he nervously added a syllable. Before meeting most of us he was already known as Overhead Jones. Add a bad eye and what my father called jive and we had a comical, non-threatening caricature that didn’t have a chance.Ovette Jones was stereotyped. In truth, his skin color provided all necessary ammunition for his designated place.
Being black in the South guarantees pigeonholing. Like most humans, we Southerners like things simple.
For people born in the rural South during the first half of the previous century, smoke is the ribbon that ties memories together and the spark that regenerates those memories and makes them vivid again.
Weekly visits to the old home place on Sunday after preaching to visit my grandmother are among my first recollections. The house was a dogtrot structure; separate boxes divided by an open breezeway through the middle. The two front rooms had fireplaces. The kitchen was powered by a wood burning stove with a vent pipe through the roof.
The smoke from the fireplaces smelled different from the stove even though both were fueled by the same woodpile.