Will Cantrell – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Tue, 15 May 2018 20:16:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Will Cantrell – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 Goosing Adrenaline http://likethedew.com/2017/07/17/goosing-adrenaline/ http://likethedew.com/2017/07/17/goosing-adrenaline/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:49:24 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=67575 seriously gored – by a bull last weekend as he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.]]>

Running of the bulls in Pamplona NavarreI swear, I don’t know what gets into people.

This latest head scratcher starts when the morning’s news feed flashes a headline about an American from Virginia Beach, Virginia who gets “run through” – i.e.: seriously gored – by a bull last weekend as he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Now the intuitive thing to do — or at least my intuitive thing to do – when I read a headline touting such events is to dismiss them as “hoax” or the proverbial “fake news.” No, seriously, the idea of purposely allowing oneself to be chased by a bunch of bulls is just “crazy talk.” It’s the stuff of barber shop lies and nights out with the boys when the raconteur has knocked back a few too many Miller High Life’sAnother reason I’m thinking maybe it’s fake news is the headline or copy doesn’t include the words Trump,” “Kardashian” or Jay-Z!”

But despite my initial suspicions, I am nonetheless still intrigued and I read on. It turns out that running with the bulls has become increasingly popular since Ernest Hemingway first wrote about the event in a nearly hundred years old novel, The Sun Also Rises. Each summer since Papa Hemingway helped to lionize the event, people with questionable judgment, not just from Virginia Beach but from all over the planet, actually part ways with hard earned money — cold cash – to fly to Spain to voluntarily be chased through the narrow, winding streets of Pamplona by numerous 2500 pound, raging bulls – all with sharp horns – during Spain’s Annual Running of the Bulls Festival.

Taunting an angry bovine such that one is soon running for his very life would seem rank near the top of the list in the pantheon of remarkably bad ideas along with the proverbial “tuggin’ on Superman’s cape,” “pissin’ into the wind” – or maybe telling one’s spouse you’re leaving them immediately because you’re in love with another and you and “another” are several months preggers. Of course, it beats me as to why anyone would want to run with the bulls in the first place, though it seems like it would be a good idea to run like hell away from said bull once you’ve gotten his attention, once he’s locked his bull radar on you or whatever internal mechanism it is angry bovine use to keep a tormentor – and soon (very) likely victim – in focus.

The news feed article goes on to explain that the human beings in these running with the bulls proceedings are thrill seekers, who do it for the adrenaline rush. They say they do it because coming through the experience unscathed is “life affirming” – like nothing else they’ve tried before. Some even say they do it as some kind of rite of passage though if you ask me, they do it as a rite of passing away – from Earth.

I have no idea why the angry bovine participates but one speculates it certainly has something to do with revenge, mayhem and the fact that the human participants probably taunted something about the bull’s mother, which gets almost anyone upset and causes them to want to take matters into their own hands – or in this case – their own horns.

 

***

As I ponder all of this, it occurs to me that maybe running with the bulls is educational. “Could be your garden-variety adrenaline rush can be down-right instructive.” Truth is I’ve had my own adrenaline goosed a few times. I’ve had a few of those ticks of time in which my life flashed before me at warp speed, adrenaline coursed through my veins and I couldn’t help but think inwardly and longingly “so it all comes down to this!”  I’ve always learned from such experiences too – mainly, I learned not to get my ass in that sling again.  Take the time my adrenaline was rushed during a carjacking. In 1987, I was jacked right out of the driver’s seat of a 1985 Buick Skylark late one weeknight.  Nothing will get your blood flowing like having a gun pointed at you. Nothing makes you learn faster either. For example, I learned VERY QUICKLY the carjacker obviously needed that Skylark more than I did and I got the hell out of the car, keys still in the ignition – and walked home. What I also learned from that experience was to take the long route home from now on and to never drive through that neighborhood again!

When I was growing up, I got my adrenaline rushed as I was chased a few times by Sylvester, this mean-ass, stubby-legged bulldog, who lived along my paper route. Believe me it’s hard to throw newspapers or even pedal a bicycle very fast when a bulldog has locked his jaws onto your pant leg. In that instance, I learned I could pedal, for a few yards anyway, with only one foot. I also learned that Sylvester could be distracted long enough for me to escape his jaws by throwing a couple of Milkbone Dog Biscuits directly in his path. Lastly, I learned that Sylvester’s owner was going to like reading the Atlanta Journal that he bought – from now on – at the local drugstore just as well as the one that I had been delivering!

A few years later, in high school, there was the time that Ramona Starkwell’s father rushed my adrenaline as he chased me home because I’d brought Ramona home a half-hour after her curfew. While I was never able to take Ramona out again. I learned that it was entirely possible for fifty-year old, balding, tire iron-toting, raging, ex-college linebackers with gorgeous teenage daughters to run exceedingly fast no matter how fat and out of shape they might appear.

I was usually able to talk my way out of trouble or in my young, skinny days I had enough fast twitch muscle to outrun my would-be assailant, Mr. Starkwell, Sylvester, etc.

Still, despite these “heart in my throat” moments, I was still unlike the Pamplona folks.  I never went looking for trouble, I never had a death wish.

***

All these years later and even at the end of the news feed article about the gouging of the “Virginia Beach-running-with-the-bulls-in-Pamplona” guy  I still don’t know what gets into people. I’m still scratching my head, flummoxed about such guys that run with the bulls and wondering if they even have ‘walking-around’ sense. I think not (although the ones that gored by the bull “have it coming.”)

Then again, maybe, at the end of the day as it were, running with the bulls is a younger (and quite possibly drunk) person’s game. I know my own adrenaline is not goosed or rushed by the same things as it once was:hot cars, fast women, paper-boy chasing bulldogs or even Mr. Starkwell running after me with a tire iron. It’s one of the benefits of achieving seniority, I guess.  Thank God too, because I don’t know how much adrenaline goosing my heart can stand anymore. As I’m older now and adrenaline rushes are easier and cheaper to come by. I don’t have to spend money on airfare to Pamplona or lose sleep in the hospital like that guy in Virginia Beach wondering whether say, being gored by a bull is covered by Obamacare.

 

***

I hope Ol’ Virginia Beach has learned his lesson and I hope he recovers. In the meantime, I’m rooting for the bulls.

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Love, Siri and the Jump Forward http://likethedew.com/2017/03/12/love-siri-and-the-jump-forward/ http://likethedew.com/2017/03/12/love-siri-and-the-jump-forward/#comments Sun, 12 Mar 2017 12:50:19 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=66631

Daylight Savings aka Jaws by daniellivengood

It occurs to me that the other people who live at my house have an absolute unholy fascination with clocks. These people HAVE to know EXACTLY what time it is – at all times. It”s an obsession. Sometimes I think the rest of them were related to Galileo, Pope Gregory or that our last name was not “Cantrell” but rather, Bulova.

There is a clock of some kind in every room of our house. In a couple of rooms there’s more than one. Once, I counted sixteen of all types and persuasions at my place, analog clocks, digital clocks, computer clocks, radio clocks, TV clocks and a decorative clock bought an eon ago whose face not only tells you what time it is but also implores you to “SEE ROCK CITY.”

Another is a black box, stern looking affair that I’ve really never liked. The darn thing ticks in a loud, kind of ominous manner like it might be counting down to Armageddon or the end of time. Anyway there’s just no way I’m ever going to take it upon myself to experiment and see what happens if I set its alarm and let it go off. No way.

There are just some things I don’t need to find out. I figure it might be one of those atomic clocks like they have in Greenwich, Switzerland, where they keep Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) which, I think, is whatever time it is on the Sun or maybe Pluto.

As you might surmise, transitioning to and from Daylight Saving Time can be a little problematical with all these clocks. And while I don’t necessarily hate DST, but you might say that me and Daylight Savings Time definitely have an arms-length relationship. If, in fact, you did say it, you’d be right too. The bald-headed, butt-naked truth is I haven’t suddenly developed 20/20 vision in my seniority. I find myself holding newspapers, books and sometimes even eyeglasses at arm’s length these days.

Nevertheless, Spring Forward/Fall Back Days can be dicey. They are not always pain-free even occasions at my house, not even for a college graduate, or even for a “McGyver”, a “Stephen Hawking” or for an even the Siri, that relentlessly cheery and correct-about-everything white woman, who lives inside my iPad.

For one thing, there is a concerted world-wide technological conspiracy afoot these days that makes everything much harder than it has to be. Take what happened on this day last year, as I was trying to re-set the clock on my so-called “smart” TV. Immediately after I get started, it produces a picture on-screen that tells me in order to re-set for DST, I have to log onto the manufacturer’s website and read it “FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.” Now, you’d think a smart TV (or even a dumb one) would do better by it’s owner. At 2:00 in the morning – or whatever time it is in Seoul – you hope the company that originally manufactured the TV and owns the website – is still in business and that their computer is “up.”

A LOT has happened in the world in this last year, you know. You also have to hope that your WI-FI provider doesn’t pick this exact time to mess things up by deciding that 2:00 a.m. Sunday, when nothing else is going on, is the PERFECT time to do system maintenance – or as I’m sure they call it inside the company, “Screw with our customers, especially Will Cantrell.” Nothing’s easy these days.

Once I’m able to find the site, in order to get FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS, I find I need to climb, twist and contort my body underneath the entertainment center that houses the TV, get it’s serial number, model number and enter it to the website. Of course, these numbers are microscopically printed in near-invisible ink on a rear on the inside of the TV in a place where you have to stand on your head to get even a glimpse of it and where the TV’s designers never had any intention of the owner ever being able to see in the first place.

After this affront, once you’ve found the FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS one comes to find that in order to get the FINAL DST RE-SET INSTRUCTIONS, you need the personal pin number and the password set up this time LAST YEAR on the same website. Hell, how would I possibly know what is the damn password I set up exactly a year ago? Don’t these people understand, as with everything else in life, it’s either use it or lose it? Anyway, me and the company’s computer go back and forth – between my place and Seoul, South Korea – with them sending me special codes to reset my computer I.D. and my password all so that I can “spring forward” their dumb clock on my TV.

By the time all this transpires, and I reset the clock, it’s six o’clock in the morning (I started at 2 a.m.)the sun is peeking over the horizon and I’ve lost THREE hours (or is it FOUR?) to DST, my Circadian sleep rhythms are shot to hell and I’ve gotten exactly 0 hours of REM sleep.

Triumphantly, after all of this has transpired and I have reset the TV clock to Daylight Savings Time and I’m feeling pretty good about myself. I, an average man, have claimed victory over time and technology and have by now re-set all the clocks inside the house to Day Light Saving Time. All the clocks even read the EXACT same time and I’ve even managed to avoid setting of Armageddon by accidentally pushing the wrong button on that stupid, ominous, “atomic” clock.

Then I hear Siri say something like, “You forgot the clock in the car, blockhead.”

But since no one in the history of mankind – not even Stephen Hawking or McGyver or Neil DeGrasse-Tyson has ever been able to adjust the time on an automobile dash clock, I yell an epithet at Siri and tell her to “Fix it your damn self, Siri. I head to the comfort of bed, bleary-eyed, confident in man’s supremacy over technology and ready sleep all the way to the crack of noon. (Or will it really be 11:00?)

Save

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Fair Warning to the Rest of the Country http://likethedew.com/2017/02/06/fair-warning-to-the-rest-of-the-country/ http://likethedew.com/2017/02/06/fair-warning-to-the-rest-of-the-country/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 09:56:45 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=66315

Super Bowl LIAtlanta, Georgia will be closed on Monday, February 6th. I would suggest any plans you may have for doing business with anyone in Atlanta on February 6 be postponed until later in the week – or maybe until the following week. All regular human activity will come to a standstill, no business will get done and hardly anybody will even be at work on Monday. You’d think that Atlanta had a full inch of snow on the ground.

No, Monday is not an official Federal holiday – it’s better; it’s the day after the Super Bowl in which the Atlanta Falcons play some dumb NFL team from New England…and as long as we’re playing, we plan on winning the thing.  An Atlanta victory on Sunday will put us in a very …er, huh, ‘festive’ mood and if there is one thing we know how to do in this town, it is be ‘festive’ – i.e. PARTY (‘party’ being a verb). We long-suffering Atlanta fans have been ‘itchin’ to throw a Super Bowl Victory Party for 51 years now and we are NOT to be denied.

Atlantans love football – especially pro football. We LOVE IT. And while from time to time Atlantans may argue and fight among ourselves over matters of race, rush hour traffic, whether or not to ‘Save the Fox’ (Theatre) and why we even need Daylight Savings Time in the first place, nothing unites Atlantans more than our collective hatred for the New Orleans Aints or our love for the Atlanta Falcons…as long as the Falcons are winning.

This year they’re winning – BIGLY.

Some folks have been preparing for this blessed event as if it were New Year’s Eve Eve. For example, on Saturday, the lines at one local liquor store were so long they stretched to the horizon. Almost everyone I know has got ribs marinating in beer and beer marinating on ice for the obligatory drunken victory tailgate party which will start Sunday night and likely go on for days. (For you non-Atlantans, there is actually a long-standing local legal statute that even REQUIRES us, in the event of Super Bowl victory to party like there’s no tomorrow.) I have it on good authority that the local gun shops have had a run on bullets to be used for ‘spontaneous’ celebratory gunfire after the game. The Police Department has already warned people about driving drunk though they’ve said little to nothing about walking drunk or even crawling drunk which I’m sure there will be a lot of Atlantans doing after Sunday’s victory, taking advantage of that that legal loophole. There was also a rumor going around this morning that there had been a few Delta pilots who’d been seen practicing barrel rolls, Immelmans and Figure 8’s with 747’s in anticipation of a Falcon win. (Admittedly this could have been fake news, but then again the Championship drought has been so long around here that folks are liable to do anything in celebration.) One thing you can definitely count on is a plethora of babies born exactly nine-months from Sunday night, all of whom have the first name ‘Julio’ or “Matt” – even the girl babies. Yep, we know how to party-hearty in this burg, and since a Super Bowl Victory has been long time coming, if you watch the festivities on the inevitable nightly national news report we will be ‘gettin’ down., as they say. You might think either Jesus has come back to take over the Earth or Obama has come back to take over the White House.

So the bottom-line is this: any business that you have in Atlanta that didn’t get done this past Friday, definitely won’t get done on Monday. Say, if you call an Atlanta-based customer service call center on Monday, be prepared to be on hold a rather loooooong time. If you are planning on making a connecting flight in Atlanta on Monday, you might want to have a back-up plan.

Lastly, on the off-chance we might lose the Super Bowl, don’t even think about calling one of us. WE WILL NOT be in good mood to talk, work, or do anything besides drink. In the event of a loss on Sunday, if you call one of us on the phone, you will be hung up on. More than likely you will get cussed out. So, in the words of a Greek philosopher, whose name I can’t currently recall; “Don’t you be calling over here to Atlanta on Monday and expecting to get anybody or anything done. IT AIN’T HAPPENING!

Don’t hold it against us. We’re nice folks. We just take our football very seriously. Win or lose we will ultimately be ok. It’s just going to take us a few days.

You’ve been warned. GO FALCONS!

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Click here to watch a replay of

 

 

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Are You Sure ‘Hef’ Knows About This? http://likethedew.com/2015/10/17/are-you-sure-hef-knows-about-this/ http://likethedew.com/2015/10/17/are-you-sure-hef-knows-about-this/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 12:50:45 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61830 PLAYBOY, it could only be that some digital-age scamps – some knuckle-brains -- were screwing around on the Internet...]]>

As it turns out, you haven’t really ‘arrived’ in today’s world unless the Internet has declared you dead, defunct or ‘discontinued’ at least once. The reportage of death – or some other rite of passage – on the ‘Net is mostly unreliable. Often an Internet obit is a hoax.

So when I first hear the latest rumor about PLAYBOY, it could only be that some digital-age scamps – some knuckle-brains — were screwing around on the Internet. You will remember the times ‘they’ killed off Willie Nelson and Betty White.  I don’t know what gets into people sometimes.

A few years back, the Internet killed off Jerry Mathers, the child star of Leave It to Beaver though I swear to God, the Beaver had it coming just on ‘G.P.’ – General Principles. (Beaver Cleaver was the most galactically gullible kid in the history of  TV humankind.)

Playboy Wrapped in Brown PaperNevertheless, the people behind this latest obvious, hideous PLAYBOY hoax sweeping the Internet and Twitter were just wrong. It was another obvious hoax.  Except that it was true: PLAYBOY is removing nude women from the magazine, effective March, 2016.

 No more completely nude women in PLAYBOY can only mean one thing: the terrorists have won!

It also means the world as I knew it has changed forever. And while “questioning” is not one of the Official Five Stages of Grief[1], dammit, it’s one of mine. So I beg the question (in fact, several of them):  (1) Just what the hell IS the problem over at PLAYBOY? (2) Have we depleted the Amazon rain forests so badly the folks at PLAYBOY  can’t afford the plain brown mailing wrappers anymore?  (If this is the case, then f*ck Al Gore! I’m as much a believer in climate change and preserving the rain forests as any tree-hugging liberal, but if it means no more plain brown wrappers to hide stuff, then maybe we need to rethink this whole thing! (3) What is Obama going to do about this crisis? This is a REAL red line — one that matters.  (I am SURE Obama read PLAYBOY even when he was a boy living in Indonesia. Maybe he had even read it when he was a boy growing up in Kenya.) (4) Does Hef (the ninety-year old founder of PLAYBOY) know about this? Sure doesn’t sound like something ol’ Hef would do, but then his kids are minding the store these days.

***

(As a result of asking these questions, some switch in my brain trips and ‘prodigal memories’ come straggling in. Prodigal memories are ones you haven’t seen in years. You don’t know where they have been or what they have been doing because they sure as hell haven’t been with you. Their clothes are wrinkled and disheveled and they are in need of a good delousing. Nevertheless, you’re glad to see them. Well, mostly…)

Anyway, at the time I see my first PLAYBOY, ENTERTAINMENT FOR MEN, I am couple of months north of twelve. This is in the late 1950’s and in these days, a twelve year old boy is TOTALLY out of the loop when it comes to matters of sex, the opposite sex,  and what people called matters of the heart. Some of us twelve year olds had heard ‘things’ – rumors — about what a full-grown-naked-anatomically-correct-female body looked like … but few of us knew for sure. Few of us had any real answers. PLAYBOY magazine did though.

Thing was, in those prudish days, you couldn’t just waltz into a store and plop down a sawbuck and walk out with change and the latest edition of PLAYBOY.  The magazine was kept under cashier’s counter where it was sold.  It was more or less kind of a controlled substance, definitely contraband in the hands of a tween. Getting a hold of one was always a bit of a caper.

One of the Yarborough twins —Ronald or Donald— smuggles the January, 1960 PLAYBOY into a Boy Scout meeting of Troop 999 on a cold winter Saturday afternoon.  (Say one thing about those Yarborough twins, they might be idiots in school, but they were resourceful idiots.) Quickly, me and the other seven members of the Screaming Eagles Patrol huddle together and stare in stupefied awe as one of the Yarboroughs unfurls Miss January 1960, Stella Stevens. Lord-love-a duck! We were transfixed. In one fell swoop, we got answers to questions we had and a few we hadn’t even fathomed.

In a scene that could have been straight out of Leave It to Beaver if the Beaver had gotten hold of the contraband magazine, Donald Yarborough reads in hushed tones:

“Miss December says her Turn-ons are men who are comical. Miss December’s Turn-off’s are men who are bad in bed.”

“I heard my Mom yelling at my Dad that he was bad in bed. What does that mean? Does Dad still wet the bed,” asks another Boy Scout

“It means he steals the covers, you dolt” says still another Screaming Eagle in a most confident manner

“Oh.”

***

After that initial Stella Stevens sighting, ogling the latest, current Playmate of the Month was a rite of boyhood, adolescence and even into my twenty-somethings. From that time on through the rest of Junior and Senior High, like some guys collected baseball statistics I collected the magazines, centerfolds and could even recite the Turn-Ons and Turn-Off’s of my favorite Playmates.

I also collected magazines, trading the Yarborough twins Superman comics for PLAYBOYs. By age fourteen, I had a stash of 7 issues of PLAYBOY and 50 issues of DC Superman comics hidden in plain sight, camouflaged in the perpetual –and purposeful– clutter of my room.  For the last two and a half years of high school, you couldn’t have found a herd of wildebeest in the jungle of my room.  There were a couple of times when Mom came close, so I reconnoitered my library of PLAYBOYs under my bed, where no one’s angel, fool or Mom feared to tread – not even mine. They remained under my bed until I went off to college.

***

There was one great rumor surrounding PLAYBOY that can now be dispelled —the one which said the articles and interviews with celebrities were excellent. The truth is that no one knows what – if anything — was in those articles, certainly no male Baby Boomer knows. Any Boomer male who says he does is either a liar –or just gotten caught by his wife ogling Miss October. I can’t be persuaded otherwise. You trying to do so would be as futile as trying to convince anyone on Facebook to change their minds about anything!)

One can hope that the people at PLAYBOY will come to their goddamn senses and change their collective mind. I still wonder Hef knows about all this? Sadly, he probably does, which means, I guess,  that the emperor does have clothes. Sadly, Miss April does too.

I also suspect that at least part of my dismay is that I too have reached that stage in life where almost all of us look better with our clothes on.

***

[1] Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance

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Dealing with Goliath http://likethedew.com/2015/10/08/dealing-with-goliath/ http://likethedew.com/2015/10/08/dealing-with-goliath/#comments Thu, 08 Oct 2015 21:32:54 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61753

pull-up-the-covers-and-stay-in-bed-crop

“You have to face your fears,” we’re told.

Sooner or later, you have to confront Goliath,’ the thing that’s always loomed large over your existence: pitch-black dead of night dark, soaring heights, closed-in space,  flying way above ground. Or maybe circus clowns. Goliaths bully you, taunt you and then talk about your Mama. Mainly Goliath means to have his way with you, beat you up, take your lunch money — and whatever esteem you have left.

The idea of ‘dealing with’ Goliath, of course, is that you’re supposed to summon all your courage, tap this deep, hidden well-spring of testosterone that allows your ‘inner- Casper Milquetoast’ to rise up and –before God and everybody — thrash the bully within an inch of his life and then dispatch hooligan Goliath from town forever!

Of course, facing your fears has long been a rite of passage. It is an ordeal to be endured – and won  — in order to finally win your manhood (or your womanhood) and to prove once and for all that you and no one else is the boss of you. The ultimate face-off  is an unwritten law — most likely promulgated by the Self-Help Book author’s lobby as well as companies that market Band-Aids, First Aid kits and analgesics for people who’ve just suffered bloody, open wounds, broken bones and serious bodily harm (even if it is only to one’s ego.)

***

Me? I’ve never been particularly excited about High Noon-ing my Goliaths.  There seems to be little percentage in it. I’ve looked into it and found that in the long, sordid history of these kinds of things, the little guy mostly gets his ass kicked and sometimes loses consciousness. Who needs that!?

The truth is David beat Goliath — but only once, which is the reason they made a movie of the whole thing in the first place. A higher truth is in the rematch, the one nobody tells you about — the one you can only find out about on the Deep Internet–Goliath tore off David’s right leg and then nearly beat David ‘half to death with his own lower limb.

So when it comes to grappling with my own Goliaths, I’ve learned to listen to the advice of ‘Las Vegas’ and go with the odds, which are usually weighted heavily against the ‘little guy’ — or anyone named David.

***

When it comes to my specific phobia, I’ll say this about them: they have not been your run-of the mill, garden variety types such as fear of flying, fear of heights, claustrophobia or say, fear of the dark. My fears have been an eclectic bunch.

The first one I remember was my abject fear of nuns, particularly Sister Mary Katherine in Fourth Grade.  It actually worked to my benefit in that it caused me to not REPEAT the Fourth Grade although I generally enjoyed the view out of the side window of her classroom. I could only surmise Sister Katherine nee ‘Sister Goliath’ disagreed about the outside scenery as well with the rest of my approach to the Fourth Grade curriculum. I inferred as much as she, using me as a rag-doll prop, invented ‘waterboarding’ on October 15, 1960. I remember the whole thing well. As a result of me getting pummeled by this Goliath, I vowed not to peruse the window view anymore. At that same time,  I, exhausted, waterlogged and under serious duress, confessed to the Lincoln Assassination (thus proving for the very first time that waterboarding was an unreliable method of discipline and interrogation.)

Another one of my Goliaths is an insane fear not ‘of flying’ — nor even ‘of airplanes’ — but of airports themselves and the TSA gauntlet one must brave before even boarding a plane.

Then there’s my irrational fear of making campaign contributions for fear the politicians’ PAC will relentlessly and endlessly hound me with robo-calls and spam e-mail to contribute even more money – no matter who ultimately won the election.

I have a fear of mail men. No mail man has ever brought me a cashier’s check, an IRS refund or a scintilla of good news. It is a suspense thriller every time I go to the mail box. It’s either a bill, junk mail and/or a summons to jury duty.

My fear of cable caused me to dispatch Comcast and avoid bills and monthly statements that were five metric pounds by weight –a stack of pages themselves thick enough to make Seabiscuit gag. I am alive today because my phobia of being bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat caused me not to then subsequently steal my neighbor’s cable-feed.[1]

As I have reached ‘seniority’ –and am not as lithe –as I once was, a huge fear is having to bend over and look for anything I may have dropped on the floor …especially if the object has run itself under the bed or the living room sofa.

***

My biggest fear though — my huge, big hairy, ugly Goliath — these days is the same one that sends a dagger in the heart of most men: Doctors.

Most men would rather discuss their emotions and feelings’ or  –God-forbid — female gynecological matters than go to the doctor, although we would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t call our bluff on any of it.

As it turns out, we men are a stubborn lot, putting off going to the doctor as long as possible –until we’re pissing blood or having chest pains strong enough to bring a Clydesdale to its knees. Government statistics show 54% of all men are afraid of doctors. Those of us in the 54% know that the men in the other 46% are either doctors themselves—or liars.

The bald-headed naked truth is I’ve always been a wuss when it comes to doctors’ visits. I liken the experience to being pulled over on the expressway of life and being given the once over by a State Trooper. At best you’re going to get a stern warning to change your fast living, hard driving ways. Or, at worst, you’re going to be identified as a ‘person of interest’, arrested and taken in for further questioning — and no one is ever going to hear from you again.

Over the years, I’ve done enough self-analysis to figure out that my doctor-phobia is wrapped up in the ultimate disappointment of death. So far, death is something that has always happened only to other people — and I’m bound and determined to keep it that way. To be sure, the jig is going to be up someday, but my attitude while in the doc’s office is ‘I just don’t want to be jigged up today!’ For one thing, I’ve got Field Level Tickets on Aisle 123 for this afternoon’s game versus the Cubs. Or there’s a 12 –ounce ribeye at home marinating in cooking sherry and beer. If I hear from this new doctor that I have a terminal condition, knowing myself like I do, I’m going to want an immediate Second Opinion which is going to mess up my afternoon plans for the steak and the ballgame. Of course, even if I don’t get a terminal diagnosis there are two ancillary worries.  The first is that on my way out the door says “Not so fast” and then hands me this long list of comfort foods I can no longer eat.  Or the doc tells me I need to get more exercise. “Maybe you could do some bend-overs, Cantrell. Attack that waistline a little!” Both of these outcomes are fates worse than death to a person like me.

      ***

Some would say a person with all my fears ‘has issues’ and needs help. I’m sure there is some doctor somewhere who has pioneered some expensive 12-Step Program that is hustled over TV during late night infomercials and during Pledge Weeks on PBS that addresses  my fear of doctors or say, my fear of airports. To be honest about the thing, I don’t relish the idea of someone taking me and a group of other TSA fearful people on a field trip to Hartsfield International to show us just how easy it is to board a plane. I’ll drive. I like road trips anyway.

I’ll also pass on therapy for the doctor-phobia thing too. Going to one doctor for therapy because you’re afraid to go to visit a physician seems oddly circular to me — dizzying even. It’s  a classic “what comes first, the doctor or the doctor” questions.  My life is complicated and dizzying enough already.

***

Who knows if I will ever overcome all my trepidations, face down and deal with all my Goliaths? I’ve lived a long time with them already and they have actually become kind of ‘interesting’. Also,  quite frankly there are better ways of spending my time than jousting with fears. Besides I’ve learned that sometimes if you’re ‘a David’ and you procrastinate long enough, Goliath will find a better job elsewhere and leave town forever. Until then maybe I’ll just stay the hell out of Goliath’s way. “Don’t SAY nothing, won’t BE nothing,” I’ll tell Goliath. Of course, none of this is the most grown-up way of looking at things, but then I’ve never been accused of growing up.

Nobody’s perfect.

 

###

 

[1] The editor of the site is convinced I have a ‘pronounced fear of punctuation.’  I counter by reminding him of his own apparent fear of remuneration.

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John Boehner and Zippity-Do-Da Days http://likethedew.com/2015/09/28/john-boehner-and-zippity-do-da-days/ http://likethedew.com/2015/09/28/john-boehner-and-zippity-do-da-days/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 14:35:13 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61679

I once worked for an abusive boss, a man who proved impossible to please.   Congenitally mean, and though he wore no eye-patch, he had all of the charm, charisma and management style of your average, garden-variety Bond villain.

After three days on the new job, I knew I’d made a mistake. A year on the job, my misery factor was so high, I prayed (I was a church-goer in those days) one of us would either get a better job and move on — or that one of us would die, though preferably not me!

About two years in, when nothing developed either way, I woke up one morning and decided to take matters into my own hands. I went to the office and quit. On the spot. Like Boehner on last Friday, on my way out I sang a joyful tune (“Happy Days Are Here Again”) and skipped all the way to my car parked in the employee lot. Sweet, blessed, euphoric relief!

                          ***

What was the Republican House leadership, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise by DonkeyHotey via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.
What was the Republican House leadership, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise

The memory of that untenable situation rushes into my head the other day as I watch John Boehner explain his reasons for resigning from Congress last Friday… and then sing ‘Zippity-Do-Da’ on his way out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very proud liberal and no fan of Speaker Boehner. He and I are on opposite sides of the politic spectrum.  That said, I couldn’t help but feel a little empathy for him a few days ago.

The truth is that Boehner did not leave completely on his own terms. He’d been in over his head from the start. Unreasonable crazies have taken enough control of the House of Representatives to block both reason and compromise. John Boehner was a hostage in his own party. (I suspect that was a contributing reason to the fact ol’ Boehner is always ‘bawlin’ his eyes out.)

Even so, but I can’t help but sympathize with him just a wee bit, despite his obviously misguided politics.  He is finally out of the fray, at least from the idiocy that goes on in Congress.  If you’ve ever worked in a miserable job or worked for a boss from Hell, your life overlapped with Boehner’s if by only a smidgen. A fistful of studies suggest a majority of Americans work in jobs they don’t enjoy. I guess the only thing worse than unemployment is having a job that you hate or working for an aspiring Bond villain — though I sometimes wonder if unemployment really is worse.

I must confess that all these years later, I also wonder if my ogre is still alive. If so, maybe it gives credence to the old saw that that only the good die young.

The only other thing I wonder about is whether or not ol’ Boehner skipped home, singing ‘Zippity-Do-Da’ all the way?

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It gets worse… http://likethedew.com/2015/09/17/it-gets-worse/ http://likethedew.com/2015/09/17/it-gets-worse/#comments Thu, 17 Sep 2015 09:51:22 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61591 ." It’s one of the latest media fads no doubt designed to garner higher ratings. If it’s not Oprah[1] or Colin, it’s Tom Brady or Tyler Perry or Chrissy Teigen or some other obnoxiously rich, supernaturally attractive or disgustingly successful celebrity smoochin’ on themselves...]]>

Pregnant belly in black and white — Photo by Dudaeva licensed by LikeTheDew.com at DepositPhotos.com - composite image created for LikeTheDew.comDear Young Self:

Lately, you can hardly turn on morning TV without seeing someone from Oprah Winfrey to Colin Powell to Miss America reading “A Letter to My Younger Self.” It’s the latest media fad, a self-congratulatory exercise no doubt designed to garner higher network ratings. If it’s not Oprah[1] or Colin, it’s Tom Brady or Tyler Perry or Chrissy Teigen or some other obnoxiously rich, supernaturally attractive or disgustingly successful celebrity smoochin’ on themselves …and bragging about their own accomplishments on the sneak. It’s a little narcissistic if you ask me.

Interestingly enough, never is one of these self-letter-writers someone who’s fallen off a Mount Everest of grace and good-will. It’s never someone whose hurled themselves headlong into the bottom-less abyss of public condemnation like ‘a Bill Cosby’ or ‘a Pete Rose’. Never is it someone biding their time on Death Row or even someone who’s just done a ‘perp’ walk telling their younger self where things went horribly cock-eyed. And never is one of these self-letter readers an ordinary, below-the-radar, just-plain-folks person. Never!

Mulling all of this over, naturally I think about us, Young Will.  I’ve pondered whether I should write you such a letter from the future, telling you ‘what’s up’ and ‘what’s what.’At first, I am conflicted about the thing, as any sane person would be. Logically, it seems pointless to write “A Letter to My Younger Self.” Neither me nor the Post Office has a time machine to actually deliver said letter to you and besides, from what I remember, Young Will, you’re forgetful as hell. (It drives our Mom crazy.) Just like all those jackets, hats, umbrellas, pencils and damn near everything else you managed to misplace, you’d probably only find way to lose the damn thing. Then you’d only be ‘bumfuzzled’ and confused about what to do about anything which is pretty much what happened anyway.

Nevertheless, since it’s you, Younger Will, and since you never know what Google, Apple or Elon Musk is going to come up with next — and since the next thing COULD be one of those time machines (you never know with Elon) — I figure ‘what the hell,’ I’ll drop you a line. I’ll tell you about the ‘real deal’, about what’s going to happen and the stuff your young ass had damn well better watch out for.

Who better to give you advice than me, I say… because some of the folks doling out free advice in your future are just ridiculous. Hell, some of them ought to be in jail for malpractice.  Take the Prada wearing, Jimmy Choo shod  TV Advice-giving So-And-So who’s always chirping about the best way to have peace of mind. According to her, you can achieve nirvana by having saved six months’ salary for a rainy day.  The way she goes on and on about it, six month’s savings is the fucking Holy Grail, the panacea for every problem and ailment in life from unemployment to prostate enlargement to identity theft to toe nail fungus.

Ha!

Production still from “The Time Machine,” a 1960 file from the book by H.G. Wells produced by George Pal and starring Rod TaylorThe truth, my boy, is that from here –from where I sit — there are only three things that even remotely look like a magic elixir for every problem known to mankind. One is the 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. Another is the 3-D printer and the last is the Pilates chair ( that one can buy for six easy payments of $19.95 ) that is advertised on late night TV infomercials.

A higher truth is the six months savings meme is an especially cruel con because there will peace in the Middle East long before the average guy will be able to save two nickels, let alone six months’ salary. The shelf life of the average paycheck is about twenty minutes these days, Young Self. Always has been. No doubt some banking lobby started that ridiculous six months savings idea so they could simultaneously put people on a hamster savings wheel as well as make those same ‘hamster-people’ feel guilty about spending their own hard earned cash.

***

Before we get down to cases, note this place –-i.e. the future — is really different. It’s not a dystopian world, like in Mad Max, but it is certainly different from your ‘planet.’

For one thing we have a black POTUS! No shit, Young Will!  Future Will is not kidding about this. You’d think this was a mark of progress for our people since it shows (finally!) you really can, young black Will, grow up to be President. Of course, I don’t know why you’d ever want to be President since it turns out that half the population of the country turns on the new POTUS immediately after Inauguration. This includes a bunch of mofos, who swear they voted for him. It also has become the latest fad (especially among Republicans) to blame the current POTUS for the Lincoln Assassination, El Nino, Peyton Manning’s inconsistent play and everything else that has ever gone awry in America since before the black POTUS was even born.

Since your time, young self, the Beatles have broken up, Elvis has left the landscape and man has walked on the Moon — although Elon Musk has pretty much replaced NASA. None of that flying car stuff they predicted in the Weekly Reader or on The Jetsons ever came true. No one has yet cured the common cold, not even those people who make Vick’s Vapo-Rub and Bruce Jenner, the guy who once won the Olympic Decathlon, is wearing dresses and now answering to the name Caitlyn!

Maybe the most mind boggling development is this: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Willie Nelson are still alive.  Who’d a ‘thunk ‘it?! I’m beginning to think people who smoke weed everyday must know something a lot of the people who died young never figured out. Of course, Betty White, Henry Kissinger and Sister Mary Katherine, your Fifth Grade nun, are also still living. All of them must be 157 years old by now which makes one wonder what the hell they were smoking back where you are now.

***

Anyway, here’s my key advice to you …the essential things you need to know.

  1. If you think something is a good or fun idea — do it right away. Better do it now because whatever it is, it’s going to cost A LOT more to do in the future. Take that 35 cents a gallon gas that Mom buys. It is ten times more expensive by the time you get here.
  2. Don’t be bashful about inventing and promoting something that seems utterly ridiculous. People have gotten fabulously wealthy by inventing and marketing The Pet Rock, the Mood Ring and — get this — bottled tap water!
  3. Don’t get too comfortable with anything you think you know. One of the most infuriating and mind-bending phenomena is that almost every piece of knowledge that you now take for granted, will at one time or another, be turned on its head by scientists, the government or Martha Stewart. For example, everybody’s pissed off because we all thought Pluto was the cutest of the nine planets,  but now there’s only eight of ’em. Eight! Also the government has reversed itself about the desirability of E-Z credit loans, diet soda, vitamin supplements and relations with Cuba.
  4. Forget that Boy Scout stuff you’re so involved with such as camping out and learning to start fires by rubbing two sticks together. You’ll be better served in the future by learning how to find free WI-FI and the dead spots for WI-FI in your house. (No, WI-FI is not a breakfast cereal, but trust me, it is the essence of life in my world.)
  5. You must finish your education — for two reasons. First, if you’re well educated you can pick up hot chicks by being able to help them with their trigonometry homework. Second, you’ve only got so many more years to basically goof off before everyone (i.e. Mom) expects you to grow up and be a ‘responsible’ adult which really means moving out of Mom’s house so she can start partying in her old age. It’s also only fair warning to tell you the main thing you get with your education is massive and eternal student loan debt. When the aforementioned Mick Jagger sings ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’, it’s really a paen to his student loan balance at the London School of Economics.
  6. For god sakes Young Will, when the time comes, DO NOT  choose Eight-Track Stereo Tapes, the Betamax format, New Coke or Barry Goldwater. You haven’t heard of these things yet, but you will and when the shouting is all over each one of these things turns out to be massive failure and pretty damn worthless.
  7. You being a black kid, Don’t Fuck With The Cops. Too many of them shoot first and don’t ask questions at all.  If you see the serious blue lights in the rearview mirror, pullover, put your hands up, be relentlessly cooperative, and make a note of the guy’s badge number. All of your countless aunts will go down and picket the police department later. Nobody can put a police official in their place like ANY and all of your countless aunts …but it won’t do any good if you’re dead. Enough said!
  8. Eat up and eat well while you still can. By the time you get here nothing that tastes good will be good for you. Nothing. The sad list includes steak, pork chops, bar-be-que, seafood, gluten, high fructose-corn syrup, trans-fats, sugar or airline food in general. (It also turns out that bacon is no good for you either, but most of us have put our foot down about never eating pig strips.)
  9. To answer the question that I KNOW is burning in your ‘Young Will’ soul: “YES”, you will get laid —eventually– but not for an embarrassingly long time and at an age that is almost indecent given the post-Pill, liberal era you will soon live in.
  10. While we’re on the subject of indecency, there is very little you can hide anymore. Hell, there’s hardly even any brown paper bags or plain brown wrappers in the timein which I live so that you can hide even a liquor bottle or mail order sex toys. Better get used to NO PRIVACY. This is not just because of goddamn hackers, but also because this mofo called ‘Big Brother’ and the NSA. It’s also because of Google which basically knows everything often including what you’re thinking before YOU even think it.
  11. Mainly, there’s all kind of stuff waiting to trip you up: high prices, red tape, disease, pestilence, manufacturer’s recalls, terrorists, hackers, social media trolls, Internet hoaxers, pop-up ads on the world-wide web and the Republican Party. Hackers are the worst of these because it turns out that everything from computers to phones to televisions to airplanes to trees can be hacked much easier than anybody ever thought.
  12. In a nutshell,Young Will:  It gets worse!

I hope this all helps. It represents the ultimate case of “If I knew then what I know now.” Lastly, one of the best things you could do is to go and make friends with Young Billy Gates and Young Oprah. See you when you get here. Can’t wait to pop a few beers with you. Bring money (or bit coins). The tab will be on you.

All my best (you’re going to need it),

Future Will

###

 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8HVoN1uTtM

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Hawthorne and ‘The Donald’ http://likethedew.com/2015/09/13/hawthorne-and-the-donald/ http://likethedew.com/2015/09/13/hawthorne-and-the-donald/#comments Sun, 13 Sep 2015 12:07:34 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61554

Some things boggle the mind…and then they don’t.

Been watching how Trump keeps rising in the polls no matter how outlandish his behavior is, no matter what he says or how boorish, childish and mean-spirited he behaves.

***

Production line at Hawthorne Electric
Production line at Hawthorne Electric

Almost a hundred years ago, the people over at Hawthorne Electric Company (Cicero, Illinois) conducted an in-house experiment. The purpose was to see how employee productivity improved with enhanced lighting in the work area. I wasn’t there to see it of course, but reportedly they made the workroom brighter by installing bigger and brighter bulbs in the ceiling lights (or something to that effect).

The experimenters quickly determined –empirically — that productivity increased as a result.

Now, in order to determine if there was a direct correlation between the relationships of lighting quality and productivity, industrial engineers conducted a follow-up study. It was their conjecture that productivity and lighting quality moved in the same direction: –i.e. “if lighting improves, productivity will also; if lighting deteriorates, productivity will also.” Thus, in the subsequent test, they reduced the lighting (I guess they went from a 75 watt bulb to 60 watt bulb.)

Surprise, surprise, surprise (think of Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle here) …productivity went UP even though lighting quality decreased.

The Industrial Engineers conducting the proceedings scratched their heads and lowered the lights even more. Productivity went UP AGAIN!The efficiency experts likely cursed under their breaths.  “#$%^&$#@&^%$,” they said, as engineering types don’t like it when they don’t get expected results.

Incredulous, they tweaked the lighting yet again. But no matter how they screwed around with the lighting, employee productivity increased, at least temporarily.

Now none of these productivity changes lasted for a long time but every time management adjusted working conditions — by paying attention to its worker class — they got improved results. The phenomena known as the Hawthorne Effect has gone down in the annals of Industrial Engineering and has been included in Management Studies 101 texts for every generation of management students since it was first observed.

***

In my first few years out of college, I worked as an efficiency expert and I observed similar behavior in the various work settings at a major bank in the Southeast. I learned it was true that if workers knew they were being observed their results got better or worse but always in the same direction no matter what we ‘guys in the lab’ did to the work environment.

I recently got to thinking about the Hawthorne Effect and all as I watched Trump continue go up, up, up in the Presidential polls no matter how foolishly and embarrassingly he acted. It boggles my mind really.  Then I remember the main variable in the Hawthorne Electric Company experiment was ‘attention’ — the workers knew they were being paid attention. Maybe just like Ol’ Trump himself.

I then decide that I shall not.

For the duration.

 

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Literacy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly http://likethedew.com/2015/09/09/literacy-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/ http://likethedew.com/2015/09/09/literacy-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#comments Wed, 09 Sep 2015 15:58:12 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61471 Like the Dew is highly dependent upon literacy for its continued success, it celebrates the month by having one of its intrepid writers (one of them who can also read) spin a few words on the subject.]]>

Stack of BooksWe’re always celebrating one thing or another in this country — some industry, product, cause, or way of life — whereby Congress and the Chamber of Commerce encourages the rest of us to show our love by wearing a colored ribbon and opening our wallets.

September is National Literacy Month.

Since Like the Dew is highly dependent upon literacy for its continued success, it celebrates the month by having one of its intrepid writers (one of them who can also read) spin a few words on the subject.

Now be forewarned, this is not one of those boring-ass online essays about literacy where all of the bandwidth is spent extolling its virtues. If that’s your bag, you can read any of those high priced authors on Slate, Salon, The New Yorker or some other rag where they actually charge money. There’s a little of that herein to be sure, but I’m not going to go off the deep end about it. What follows then is The Good, the Bad and the Utterly Dark Side of the Art of Reading. It is intended as an expose’ (more or less) as well some words of accumulated wisdom for the novice page turner.

 ***

Reading is simultaneously informative, educational, serendipitous and cheap entertainment especially in these days of outrageously priced cable-TV. Catching up on one’s reading ranks high on the list — along with sex, eating, drinking and smoking weed – as one of the most fun things one can do with or without pants. (Or maybe even while entirely naked.)  Also consider that with reading, one doesn’t have to pony up for dinner, buy flowers, tip the maître d’ or risk contact with the undercover vice squad. The clean-up afterwards is also easier –by light years – than with sex, eating, getting drunk or smoking weed[1]

What other activity besides reading can ‘the operator’ experience the full gamut of human emotions from near-orgasmic delight to boundless optimism to being scared witless to even being depressed as hell?!

To me, reading is as critical to life itself as oxygen, H2O or bacon. Reading books can take you places you’ve never been, introduce you to people you’ve never met and teach you things you’ve never fathomed (many of them legal) and believe me, there are a million worse ways to kill time, most of them involving cash.

Nevertheless, despite all of its existential joys, the fraternity of avid, no-holds-barred readers — i.e. librarians, as well those types that read everything that’s not nailed down to the page — can be overly effusive. Just as some converts do in their new found enthusiasm for tantric sex, tantric eating, a new found lover or a new found religion, we two-fisted readers are prone to gloss-over vital facts.  Of course, this kind of thing has been going on since the invention of the alphabet. Certainly it’s been a problem since Guttenberg. It’s scandalous, really…and I’m am going to come clean. The bald-headed, naked truth is this:  reading, like hot cars, fast women and cheap liquor can cause one no small amount of anxiety. Consider the following:

Fine Print

Sometimes, one of the biggest problems with reading is just seeing the material. In achieving my recent seniority, my eyesight is now such that ‘fine print’ really means FIND print. My once mighty nearsightedness has deteriorated so much that when it comes to fine print, Stevie Wonder sees better than me.

mattress tag 2Another ages old problem with fine print, I’ve found in all these years I’ve been literate is this:  apparently it is not always in the financial best interest of the writer of the ‘fine print’ to have the reader of the fine print to know what the fine print really intends. This is especially true when there is some kind of a bamboozle going on — which there almost always is. Now the bamboozler can be almost anyone but he/she usually emerges from a group consisting of (but not limited to) bankers, car dealers, lawyers, tele-marketers, politicians, medical bill administrators, government bureaucrats, Internet providers, those mofos known as student loan counselors and anyone who has a hyphenated job title ending in the word ‘-agent.’

Merely finding or locating the print and then having the patience to read fine print does not always solve the problem. Often it is where the problem mushrooms. Sometimes the fine print you read — the information you glean — turns out to be so onerous, so troublesome you wish you hadn’t found it in the first place. Take this stuff I once read on the back of a Major League Baseball Game Ticket. The print was woefully small — some microscopic font — which in and of itself spoke volumes’ about where the heart of team management was. The upshot of the fine print, the legal gobble-gook was:

“If you get hit by a thrown ball, a batted ball, a broken bat or even a bag of peanuts hurled by one of our vendors— tough shit! You’re on your own. In fact, if anything goes wrong while you are in our establishment, say, a jet engine falls out of the sky and lands on your head, it’s your fault. Don’t blame us. Don’t bother suing us, either. In fact if you complain at all, we will sue YOU!

I’d made the mistake of reading this while I was at the ballpark watching the Cubs vs  the old Montreal Expos. Needless to say, I fretted the rest of the game and kept one eye fixated on the field on the lookout for flying bats and thrown balls coming. The other eye I kept trained on the sky for falling space junk and whatnot re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Reading the fine print caused me to worry for the entire nine innings and miss most for the action on the field. Thanks fine print.

The Stuff that’s in Stuff

Sometimes, when I am feeling especially conscientious about reforming myself and eating in a healthy manner, I will read the contents of stuff I’m about to nuke in the microwave. Big Mistake! Reading the contents of most any processed food, say the ubiquitous ‘Microwaveable’ Shot Pocket,  is terrifying if you are on a health kick –or not. Turns out the contents of most everything contains the names of impossible to pronounce chemicals and additives of more than five syllables, say ‘hydocholotrathoraxminaturecbutilhydratepolymore’ that can’t possibly have been meant for human consumption.

Upon reading ‘the stuff that’s in the stuff’, all of the mouth-watering anticipation I’d gotten my mouth set for immediately disappears into the ether and I throw the Shot Pocket into the garbage. I stalk off in disgust remaining hungry or I eat a rice cake which is the same thing.

Legalese

The ugliest case of Reader’s Angst occurs when I’m seven years old. Curiosity and reverse psychology finally get the best of my seven-year old self and I yank a dangling mattress tag off the bottom of my bed. The tag commands in bold:

 DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW

I had been reading for a few years and I knew exactly what the tag said. Its bold print was clear…and ominous. This was on par with those Ten Commandments that I’d just begun to hear so much about in First Grade at Catholic School. Now that I had defied the law, what would happen to me?  How badly had I messed up? Did the tag itself keep the bed –or maybe the whole house — from falling down? Would removing it cause some cosmic disaster to occur like tearing a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum?   What exactly was this penalty of law stuff?  How long would it take for the authorities to come after me? When my Mom, the most law abiding citizen in the whole history of mankind, found out, how much time would I spend in ‘kid chain gang’? (The year I was six years old, my mother once recalled,  I spent an awful lot time being grounded for one thing or another. This was the same year as the mattress tag incident, a year she later recalled that I “…spent more time being grounded than a blind Delta Pilot… more time in ‘(kid) chain gang than Al Capone.”)

I now knew what it was like to be a criminal on the lam.

I am now terrified, I have broken the law and the even though there are no surveillance cameras in those days, I just know that the authorities know about the torn mattress tag.  I don’t know where to destroy the evidence.

I ended up burying the tag, the evidence, in a shallow grave in our back yard, praying the whole time that feeding birds weren’t attracted to just-buried mattress tags ensconced in shallow backyard graves.

The good news is that Mom never found out about the mattress tag, but for two years, until I was almost nine, I sweated bullets every time she went outside to weed the garden she’d planted on the exact spot where I buried the mattress tag.  The anxiety about the mattress tag was almost too much to bear.

***

rolaidsThe bottom line axioms on reading and literacy are these:

  1. If reading begets knowledge and knowledge begets power, it can also beget angst…and regret.
  2. Enjoy your literary skills whether they are newly acquired or not. Just watch what you lay your eyes on. It is impossible to un-read something.
  3. The reading experience is definitely enhanced by a comfortable chair, proper light, but also a roll of antacids. Being a two fisted, read everything that’s in print reader has its pleasures…

but also its hazards. Better lay in a supply of Rolaids.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

[1] The writer has been known to get a ‘contact high’ from just reading a few pages of well-written prose. (Ok, Smarty-Pants, if you believe this is impossible, then why do I sometimes get the munchies after reading folks like Doctorow, Twain, TC Boyle, Junot Diaz and a host of others?)

 

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No Happy Campers http://likethedew.com/2015/08/29/no-happy-campers/ http://likethedew.com/2015/08/29/no-happy-campers/#comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 12:59:56 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61345 What I Learned This Summer,” I’m stumped. Fully…totally …and absolutely!]]>

camping-is-fun

At eleven years-old, the most infuriating thing about trying to “apply yourself” is the universe doesn’t always cooperate.

Take this situation in which I’m smack in the middle of the evening of Tuesday, September 10, 1962. Blindsided by Sister Jean, Sixth Grade teacher at Our Lady of the Pines Catholic School with a very first day assignment to write 500 words all about “What I Learned This Summer,” I’m stumped. Fully…totally …and absolutely!

I don’t think I’ve written 500 words TOTAL since First Grade. And as if I don’t have problems enough already, the &%$#& thing is due Friday!

I can’t think of one thing I’ve learned in the last 90 days. Not one. Having fully basked in the glow of the “school is out” atmosphere, if — and that’s one of those great BIG ‘ifs’ — I have learned one thing this summer, it sure isn’t my fault. Any learning on my part has been when I was totally unawares — and also by accident. Fully…totally …and absolutely!

Nevertheless, I am trying hard to mine the data bank of my Sixth Grade mind. I am even employing previously unexplored tactics of (1) really applying myself and (2) discarding my normal shtick (and a common strategy employed by school kids the world over )–i.e. waiting until the last minute.

Of course, I might as well get started early. I have nothing else to do but apply myself in the evenings (and on weekends too). Just yesterday, I got my wings clipped again. Back in July, my two best friends, Booger and Pee Wee, and I sneak into the backdoor of the Ashby Theatre along with some Washington High kids we don’t even know and  we finally get to watch Angie Dickinson in The Sins of Rachel Cade  — in Cinemascope and Technicolor!  Mom found out yesterday from Booger’s mom and was not at all happy about it. It will probably be awhile before I see another movie —or maybe even the light of day — on a weekend. If you put my cumulative groundings together, I’m now grounded deep into the 1990s.

 

***
 One solution to  my problem is to scoop what Angie Dickinson and Peter Finch were doing on their knees in that jungle, which I learn during me and Booger and Pee Wee’s Ashby Theatre caper. Problem is, this is 1962 — simple times. Television is black and white and automobiles have tail fins, for example. These are also prudish times. For example, adults regularly tell their children  that babies are delivered by the stork. Also, Ken and Barbie dolls are anatomically ambiguous in 1962. Lastly, people—adult people—lose their minds over the zaniest things. For instance, about the only people on 1962 Earth allowed to utter the word “pregnant” are doctors and nurses….and then only if they whisper or maybe spell it out: “Psst. Rachel Cade is p-r-e-g-n-a-n-t and u-n-w-e-d”.

Of course, if I were to write about Peter Finch and Angie Dickinson, Sister Jean’s 1962 nun’s head — or maybe that medieval outfit she and her sisters insist on wearing — might explode …and like I said, I’m trying to do “the right thing.” So as much as I love “Hot Mama’ Angie Dickinson, I pass on that topic. Sister Jean would read it, have a conniption and then call Mom. I’d be grounded into the Millennium.

 

***
 

In the midst of the dilemma, Mom comes in to my room, probably to see if I’m applying myself — and to see what her son applying himself actually looks like. She immediately sees blank pages on the desk and me staring into space.

“Problems, Kiddo?”

“Applying yourself ain’t easy, Mom. I’m wringing my brain out, but I can’t think of a thing I learned this summer.”

“Well, Kiddo, you shoulda’ learned plenty.” Mom is a teacher herself, so maybe she might have some clues for me.

“I don’t think so.”

“You know, Kiddo, I love you to pieces, I really do. But sometimes I wonder about you. You mean you’ve forgotten about The Great Campout already? How could you ever forget how you and those other two stooges and Harlow…”

That’s the thing about my Mom, the woman doesn’t hold a grudge even after she’s recently grounded me. In a crisis, she has some really neat ideas –although I am not about to tell her how good some of the stuff she comes up with really is. (Doing so would violate the Universal Kid Code.)

“I’d been doing my best to wipe it out of my brain. Writing about it would only be rubbing it in…”

 

***
 

Booger, Pee Wee and I get the idea for The Great Campout by watching Clint Eastwood on Rawhide on Friday night television. The show is all about this big-ass herd of longhorns Clint and his crew drive aimlessly throughout the West for years. They never get the cattle to any kind of destination. Never! But every week on Rawhide, they camp out, sleep under the stars, cook over a campfire and have gun fights with cattle rustlers. Clint and his boys also never set foot inside of grade school classroom either unless one of the longhorns happens to get lose and wander into a schoolhouse that happens to be in the way out on the prairie. The outdoor life seems great and glorious. We want ‘in’, if only for a few days.

Building a campfire. Foraging for food. Cooking over an open fire. Sleeping under the stars. The three of us dream–-and day-dream—about living in the great outdoors FOREVER — or for at least six months, which to any kid is an eternity. Actually, we do all of this dreaming about The Great Campout through much of Fifth Grade, which is also the main reason Sister Katherine calls Mom last year –i.e. to complain about me not applying myself. Of course the real truth is that Pee Wee, Booger and I are city kids. We have no inkling about outdoor living…no natural outdoor skills…no talent for it at all. None of us has really seen any real wildlife except for a few free-range squirrels, several boorish chipmunks and a bunch of blue jays, who fly around like they own the air rights to the neighborhood. It all makes for a hair-raising –and blood curdling –campout, as well as something to write hopefully 500 words about.

 

***
 

So now that I have a topic I also remember a couple of tactics that might show Sister Jean that I have applied myself to this task. First, I recall that in addition to The List of Things We Nuns Hate, the sisters have turn-ons besides calling kids parents. Two things in particular that get nuns all hot and bothered are good penmanship and Roman Numerals, both of which turn out to be not all that necessary in real life unless you grow up to be that “John Hancock guy” or unless you’re trying to figure out which Super Bowl is coming up. On the other hand, you can be dumb as a bag of hammers but if you have good penmanship and find a way to sneak Roman Numerals into your homework, nuns will often let you get away with murder. (Or maybe even making thermonuclear devices at your desk.)

Keeping all of this I mind, I write and hand in, the paper below:

 

 

The Great Campout

(or What I Learned This Summer)

By

William Cantrell, Sixth Grade (Sister Jean’s Class)

 

This summer, my two best friends, Booger Wadsworth and Pee Wee Higgins, and I went on The Great Campout, sleeping and living in the Great Outdoors for the first time ever. We went camping in a farmer’s pasture on the outskirts of Atlanta, at a place owned by a friend of my Aunt Vera’s.

I. The first thing I learned is that no matter what it says in the Boy Scout Manual, it is not humanly possible to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together. If you’re going to attempt to start a fire using this stupid method, one stick better be a match…and the other stick better be soaked in “Regular Unleaded.” Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time, which in our case turned out to be eight hours after we first pitched the tent. We didn’t get the camp fire started until way after dark.

II. On account of us taking so long just to light the campfire, Booger’s Uncle Harlow, who Booger’s Mom made come along in order to keep an eye on us, said we could forget foraging for food in the woods when it was pitch black dark. Besides, he said, you never could tell what we might run up on in all those woods in the dark. So then Harlow and Booger drove to Butch’s Drive–In to forage for hamburgers and fries, but only after we swore Harlow to secrecy about it because what would people think if they knew we were eating burgers and milkshakes from Butch’s when we were supposed to be eating off the land the way Clint Eastwood would do on Rawhide? (I wouldn’t even write about it now, but I need the words in order to get to 500.)

III. By the way, while we tried to light the fire, we also learned a lot of new cuss words from Harlow, but you probably don’t want to hear these new cuss words, you being a nun and all.

IV. Another thing me and Booger and Pee Wee figured out is that bigger is not always better. By the time Booger and Harlow got back with the burgers and fries and shakes, we’d found some railroad ties on the nearby Southern Railway overpass. We threw a bunch of them on the fire and in no time flat we’d built this big honking bonfire you could probably see from outer space, which is the reason the Atlanta Fire Department showed up. We learned that the Atlanta Firemen knew a lot of the same cuss words that Harlow knew, so maybe Harlow wasn’t all that original anyway. Despite the fact the firemen cussed at us, we offered them some of the Butch’s Drive-in burgers and fries. Luckily, they said they’d already eaten because after all of that we were hungry enough to eat one of the farmer’s cows that was walking around the pasture like he owned the place. We didn’t eat the cow though.

V. How to know something is done when cooking over a campfire is something my friends and I figured out too. The first thing to do is to stab the potato or hunk of meat you’re cooking with a sharp stick. Holding the stick in such a way the meat or potato hangs out over the fire, the raw food is done when the stick burns through and the food falls into the fire and ashes. Of course, you probably should invite Harlow along as he knows the way to Butch’s Drive-in, which is where you’ll now need to go again and get food that’s not burnt-up or have ashes on it.

VI. On the last night of our campout, we learned pine wood is a lousy fuel for a camp fire. During the day we’d cut down a couple of big pine trees and throw them on the fire. What we didn’t know before is that pine bark pops right off the tree whenever it gets burning hot. It pops a long way too, like maybe twelve or fifteen feet right on to our tent. Tent material, we learned, burns lightning fast and really bright, which makes you think maybe that tent material is what the two sticks people rub together to make fire should be made of. Anyway, when the tent caught fire, it was really bright but not so bright that you could see it from space, though you could probably “see it from France” which is what the Atlanta Fire Department said when they came back the second time.

VII. We also learned those firemen could be real wisecares when they weren’t putting out fires and cussing out little kids. Pee Wee and me had been in the tent when the thing went up in big flames. I got singed hair and Pee Wee got a face full of smoke. One of the firemen takes a quick look at Pee Wee’s face blackened by smoke and says “Nice soot you got on, kid.” Everyone laughed but Pee Wee.

VIII. We even learned things after the trip was mercifully over. One of the things Mom said she HOPED I’d learned was “…my lesson” which was “…to never go camping –or maybe anywhere else — with Pee Wee and Booger as sidekicks. The reason, she said was Pee Wee and Booger were “…the only two people on the planet who know even less about the outdoors than you do.”

 

***

Cowboy With A LassoI turn the paper in and receive a grade of “B” although since I used Roman Numerals, I figure it should have definitely be an “A.” Mom told me that maybe, like The Great Camp Out itself, the ‘B’ grade might be a lesson in lowered expectations.

She also tells me that both she (and the Atlanta Fire Department) fervently pray “the camping out thing” — as well as my infatuation with Angie Dickinson — are phases I’m going through and that hopefully I’ll grow out of both rapidly like when I went through the bed wetting phase when I was five and six.

It was then that I announce to her that in fact I’ll probably have a lot more adventures in the great outdoors in the future. Pee Wee, Booger and I have already started thinking about doing other things we saw Clint Eastwood do on Rawhide. Next summer, the three of us are planning The Great Cattle Drive!

As my Mom is increasingly wont to do, she throws her hands towards the sky and shakes her head in what I’m pretty sure was frustration. Then she rolls her eyes at me and leaves my room. On her way out, she stops and re-considers what I’d just said about The Great Cattle Drive. “No worries, Kiddo,” she says. “There’s a pretty decent chance that you’ll do something to get yourself grounded by then anyway.”

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Telling Tales Out of School http://likethedew.com/2015/08/23/telling-tales-out-of-school/ http://likethedew.com/2015/08/23/telling-tales-out-of-school/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 00:06:18 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61270 anything remotely enlightening...]]>

The Last Day of School by Louise Borden It is a fact that if you’re a kid growing up in America in the Fifties and Sixties, the last day of school is better than Christmas!

You’re free, unfettered and unchained. Nothing but blue skies ahead …at least for three months, which is ‘till eternity’ in Kid Standard Time.

For the next three glorious months, you’re not required to study, sit still, do homework, do book reports, memorize, read, recite, remember or do anything remotely enlightening. No worries about spelling tests, essays, reading exams, arithmetic quizzes, IQ tests or the Mother Magilla of all tests, the Iowa Basic Skills Test which supposedly predicts whether or not you’re ever going to amount to much of anything. (Thank God those know-it-all Iowa school kids are out for the summer too. They’re the little so and so’s, whose ‘basic skills’ are so good the test was named after them. The truth is rest of us American kids can’t stand those damn Iowa kids with their apparently so superior basic skills.)

Anyway, in summer, a kid be can pretty much be an illiterate bum and grownups aren’t officially supposed to say anything about your apparent lack of ambition. You don’t even have to play with educational toys (which my Mom has developed the god-awful habit of buying for me.) No teacher calls your parents and reports “William is a smart kid, but he’s certainly not working up to his potential. He’s not applying himself.”

A kid can be totally witless and ignorant all summer long and not feel the least built guilty about it. That’s the theory anyway — as espoused by every other sprog I know.

Needless to say, during summer, I did what any other self-respecting Baby Boom kid would do: I really ENJOYED myself.

It follows then that when I saunter into the Sixth Grade classroom on the inevitable first day of the new school year, when it comes to recently acquired knowledge, my mind is a definite and completely clean slate.

Thus, it is “bridge too far” when my Sixth Grade teacher springs a 500 word essay — “What I Learned This Summer” — on us as homework, three months after Fifth Grade is over and on very first day of Sixth Grade, Monday, September 10, 1962.

“It’s due Friday, students.”

“Wha…wha…wha…what!? Uh…uh…uh. What did she say!?”

“Foul…foul…foul!”

Nun teaching African American children by Aleander Alland from the Collections of the Museum of the City of New Yor

Now while no new Sixth Grader actually says ‘foul …foul…foul,’ that’s the sentiment, as my skeptical classmates look at each other, dumbfounded. Having to write 500 words about what you learned in the summer just feels wrong. And if this homework business on the first day of the new school year isn’t directly violating the spirit of the Summer Season Learning Free environment, it comes dangerously close to crossing some kind of a line. It ruins your whole summer vibe. Doesn’t allow you to EASE into the new school year. Rather, you’ve run into a wall. “Boom. Get back to school work. Now!”

The way we see it, this is some kind of Revenge of the Grown Ups for any summer fun a kid may have had. It’s the authorities saying “… dammit, you little Sixth Graders, you must have learned SOMETHING over the summer and by God we’re gonna find out what it is. You’re gonna tell us or else!”

But even if I haven’t actively chased ignorance all summer, I’ve managed to catch it anyway, just as sure as you can catch pneumonia by walking around naked outside in the dead of winter.

***

Note that the world is a different place in September, 1962. Fall is officially only a few days away, but the weather is still hot as ‘all blazes’ outside. The most popular song played on the radio in Atlanta, Georgia is Beechwood 4-5789 by the Marvelettes. John F. Kennedy is President. His wife –Mrs. Kennedy– is the wildly popular First Lady of the United States and in fact, Washington D.C. itself is crawling with Kennedy’s of one kind or another in one kind of government job or another. Hank Aaron plays right-field for the Milwaukee Braves and The Jetsons just premiered on Friday night television. No one has yet developed anything gluten-free. Most importantly, no one has thought about inventing the Internet, the Ford Mustang, the Nehru jacket or the Chick-fil-a sandwich.

***

Now, by Sixth Grade, despite my perennial efforts to get my mother to examine the public school alternative, I’ve been going to Catholic schools since First Grade. I know from experience, nuns, the main teaching staff at Our Lady of the Pines, can be touchy about a list things, a list which seems to be like kudzu in the South. It grows fast and covers everything.

The Sins of Rachel CadeItems on The List of Things We Nuns Hate are matters they rail about almost daily. Sin, Satan, and ‘…that Jezebel, Elizabeth Taylor’ are all threats to world peace according to the nuns, but also ‘Godless communism’, bad penmanship, non-Catholics, as well as “…those other sexpots Marilyn Monroe — and Angie Dickinson.” (In addition to the primary List of Things We Nuns Hate, they have a very long but unwritten secondary Useful List of Sins they keep in their heads. As near as I can tell almost anything fun is a sin, especially if it involves what the nuns refer to as any non-prayer activity involving ‘two consenting adults’ on their knees!)

(Between Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Angie Dickinson, the one the nuns hate the most is Angie Dickinson. Even a Fifth Grader, which is what I was last year, knew that Angie was one ‘Hot Mama.’ I figure the nuns hate Angie because of how much they hate sin. But mainly I figure the nuns hate Angie because last year, she has this starring role in a movie called ‘The Sins of Rachel Cade and all of us Fifth Graders were just dying to know what it was that Angie and that guy, Peter Finch were doing on their knees, because they sure as hell weren’t praying.)

Anyway, near the top of The List of Things We Nuns Hate – ranked higher than even Liz Taylor is missed homework assignments —and the kids who miss them. But their biggest pet-peeve is a kid who doesn’t live up to his potential — a kid who didn’t apply himself, although you get the impression from the nuns that outside of the Pope, the only persons in the history of mankind who have really ever amounted to much (i.e. who ever lived up to their potential) were Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein, neither of which was even a Catholic. I figure both of them must have done awfully well on that goddamn Iowa Basic Skills Test.

Missed homework is a red-flag, surefire way to trigger a call from a nun to your mom to talk about you not applying yourself and not living up to your potential. Thing is, Baby Boomer mothers could be quite touchy themselves about getting a teacher’s phone call. In the Fifties and Sixties, parents did not easily –or maybe ever — come to their kids’ defense. There was no habeas corpus, no plea bargaining. If a teacher accuses you of practically anything, parents automatically assume that YOU’RE ‘Guilty As Charged’, no matter how outrageous, out of character or even-impossible-for-you-to-do the ‘anything you were accused of’ might be:

“Mrs. Cantrell, I caught William assembling a thermonuclear bomb at his desk. Also, the boy is not applying himself, not living up to his potential.”

“Sister Jean, thank you for calling me. I apologize on behalf of Billy…uh, er I mean William and on behalf of all our family and ancestors. If I’ve told that boy once, I’ve told him a million times about making those thermonuclear devices. Wait till I get my hands on him. I promise you that you won’t have any more problems with William making any more thermonuclear devices ever again. And he’s going to start living up to his potential — even if it kills him!”

After Sister Jean hangs up, probably to harass some other kids’ parents, Mom immediately grounds me — “until such time that I start applying myself…” which potentially is for the rest of my life especially since even when you’re doing great, nuns aren’t nearly as eager to call a mother and say “Bravo for William, he’s really been applying himself lately.”

Then Mom gives me this big lecture about how expensive it is to send me to Catholic school and how the Pope isn’t giving out any coupons or discounts on tuition just because we’re mackerel-eaters. Then she goes on some more reminding me for the billionth time that money doesn’t grow on trees and that “…we’re not the Rockefellers, you know. ”

I hate it when my mother gets one of those calls. I have little leverage in the situation. I also hate getting grounded for another lifetime. (For one transgression or another, I’ve been grounded for so many lives, sometimes I think Mom must get me confused with our cat, Mrs. Callabash.) Mostly though I hate those calls to Mom because I hate hearing about those goddamn Rockefeller’s and those $#@&^%$ kids in Iowa and how well they do so well on the $%^&%%$# standardized tests.

So on the night of Tuesday, September 10, 1962, I sit down at my desk at home, turn on the desk lamp and under the watchful eye of my autographed picture of Angie Dickinson, start applying myself to the evil task of writing about ‘What I Learned This Summer’ assignment. Five hundred words. Due Friday!

And I swear, if I didn’t know better, I think Angie has just winked at me.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

See Upcoming: No Happy Campers

 

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The Clean Restroom Gospel of Salvation http://likethedew.com/2015/08/09/the-clean-restroom-gospel-of-salvation/ http://likethedew.com/2015/08/09/the-clean-restroom-gospel-of-salvation/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 02:42:00 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=61107 still listen with my naked ears--and with NSA-like aplomb too. It is ‘sport’ I can still do as well as ever and without getting caught.]]>

Author’s Note: Everything herein is true. Well, more or less true. ‘More’ because the writing is inspired by true incidents, because truth is stranger than fiction and because frankly, my imagination just ain’t good enough to make it all up. ‘Less’ because I have changed the names of the people involved and because I don’t relish getting yelled at by friends and relatives, who say “We read that crap you write on ‘The Dew’ and you better not be using my real name, jerk!” 

***

Clean Blue Bathroom “Sorry for the delay,” the Delta representative says. “Flight 2270 is in a stack pattern, circling north Georgia with a dozen or so other incoming. Can’t get clearance to land because of the storms. Weather folks say give it another 25 minutes.”

I’m no good at waiting. Problem is today, I am without my ever changing ‘just-in-case-there-is-a-delay’ book I always keep handy. “Drat!” However, while I have no talent for standing-in-line or just plain ‘waiting’, as a writer, I can still listen with my naked ears–and with NSA-like aplomb too. It is ‘sport’ I can still do as well as ever and without getting caught.

A few days ago, I go over to the airport to meet my cousin, Dennis, who’s flying up from Orlando. The airport terminal is cavernous and as wide as the Southern plains. I bet you could park one of those Boeing 787 Dreamliners inside the place. Outside, it’s pouring rain, one of those notorious Dog-Days of Summer storms that pop in late afternoon just when you think you’ve escaped scary weather for day. Ha! No such luck.

On the inside, you can hear the rat-tat-tat of raindrops against the roof as well as the din coming from an airport atrium awash with people coming and going — and waiting. The conversation I’m attuned to is barely within earshot. It is between a twenty-something-ish woman and another female, who looks to be a few years older. They look so much alike that surely they must be sisters. Both are tastefully dressed, both wearing apparel quality that’s between Target and Talbot. Like me, the two women are waiting . Maybe they’re even waiting for Flight 2270.

While I never got her real name, in my own head I refer to the younger woman as ‘Nellie.’ Through my peripheral vision, I can see Nellie shift her body weight back and forth — from one foot to the other. She does this a dozen times, like someone in a ‘tight’ to find an unoccupied stall in a crowded restroom.

The older sister I’ve named ‘Allie’ for that surely — as it turns out — it is what young Nellie is seeking right now.

“Baby girl, it’s going to work out fine…,” says Allie.

“GURRL, I wish you coulda seen it. It was like the cesspool from Hell,” says Nellie, anxious and nearly breathless.

“Hunh!?” “The rest of the place, they kept kinda halfway ok, but that bathroom … whooooo …if I didn’t know better I’d have thought Jeremy and his brother were raised by wolves… maybe pigs!”

“Un hunh, I see. But they’re boys, remember… I mean they’re men. Men are slobs.”

“Jeremy and Jerome’s sister say ol’ girl is a clean freak. Say she a snoop, too. So, I made him clean out the medicine cabinet fo she be up all in everybody’s bidness,” Nellie says, nervously looking at the big computer board keeping track of flight arrivals and departures.

“But it’s their apartment. You moved in with them. I know it’s temporary, until after the wedding. But you just can’t go in and takeover…,”

“Don’t matter. I tole Jeremy and Jerome if they was gonna live with me, the bathroom had to be kept tip top. His momma already don’t like the idea of me movin’ in for this few months before the wedding. So I sure don’ want his aunt judging me and reportin’ to their mama about me not being a good housekeeper… just because her twin boys don’t know how to keep no bathroom.”

“I think their sister was just trying to scare you.” Allie says. “Damn heifer!”

“I spent three hours cleaning that bathroom up last night. Swabbed it up and down. Twice. With Pine-sol. Did the mirror and chrome with Windex. Got the grout with a toothbrush. Smells like…like… cookies in there now.’

“Cookies?”

“Smell and look like Jeremy and Jerome never lived there. Queen a’ England be proud to use that bathroom now,” Nellie says with a self-satisfied look.

“Wow! Well you know what Momma and Daddy always laughed about…” “…that clean restrooms was the key to marital bliss and eternal salvation; the main reason they stayed married for thirty years. Separate checking accounts and…”

“…SEPARATE BATHROOMS,” they both finish the sentence in unison, tittering and laughing to themselves over the airport’s din.

“Separate but equal,’ Nellie laughs.

“No, baby”, Allie laughs. “In Momma and Daddy’s case, it was SEPARATE BUT SEPARATE!   Once, before you were born, a pipe broke in the downstairs bathroom that Daddy used all the time. It happened on a weekend and you know our Daddy wasn’t gonna pay no weekend plumber’s rates. They had to wait a few days. Daddy swore Momma made him use the restroom at the Exxon station around the corner before she let him use hers!”

***

I first came across ‘The Clean Restroom Gospel of Salvation’ when I was a small boy, in the Fifties. Now one of my truths is that I was largely raised by women. As a result of my Dad’s death in a Korean War P.O.W. camp, my mother became a widow shortly after my birth. Mom had four sisters and countless female friends, all of whom had been awarded the title of ‘aunt’. Accordingly, there was almost always a ‘klatch of aunts’ hovering around our house. All my aunts were talented, opinionated, strong-willed –and good for spare change whenever I found myself a little short. One of them, Aunt Vera was a woman of manners and breeding, who bore a striking resemblance to TV Andy Griffith’s ‘Aunt Bee’, if ‘Bee Taylor’ had been a light-skinned African-American woman. For as long as I ever knew her, Vera, who was really Mom’s older first cousin, knew two things with ‘all the certainty of gravity’: professional wrestling was real and cleanliness was next to Godliness.

If cleanliness was next to Godliness, then Vera was the meme’s patron saint, its poster-girl. She also had a pet theory that God was a female and as such was “…right partial to clean restrooms.” Furthermore, on Judgment Day, Vera theorized that  you would not only be evaluated by what you did in your allotted time on Earth but also by the condition in which you left the bathroom on the day you died. So according to Aunt Vera, since you never had any idea when you were going to ‘buy the farm,’ it was in your best interests to keep the restroom facilities clean at all times.

In those young days, I was a true believer and didn’t question Aunt Vera on any of her dodgy theories, though White Glove TestI was more than a little skeptical about them all. I remained quiet though, one reason being that I’d witnessed her wrath when Uncle Roosevelt said he’d ‘had enough’ of Vera’s delusions and insisted, against the better judgment of other family members, on telling Vera that ‘Mr. Wrestling’, Freddie Blassie, and ‘Gorgeous George’ were just well trained, athletic actors and stunt-men. Another reason I said nothing was because I kinda enjoyed Aunt Vera taking me to the live wrestling matches in downtown Atlanta on Friday nights. There I could see Mr. Wrestling jump off the top rope and put The Assassin or some other scoundrel to sleep in the middle of the ring by using his patented Sleeper Hold. A higher truth is I didn’t question Aunt Vera on her theories was because I loved her —and also because of the cash she was mostly always good for.

While Vera practiced The Clean Restrooms Gospel of Salvation every day,  she really went through her paces on the second and fourth Sundays when she cooked dinner and entertained a dozen or more folks associated with the Greater Gibraltar Missionary Baptist Church, where she’d been a founding member for years. The dozen included four people from our family, her pastor, his wife and a rotating group of other charter members of Greater Gibraltar. The Sunday clique also included long-time friends but also occasionally a few folks Vera confessed were highly judgmental busybodies from the church, who fit into a class of people later to become known in the American cultural milieu  as ‘frenemies.’

To be sure, churches were political institutions even then and Greater Gibraltar was reputed to be more political than most. There was always some infighting going on at Gibraltar and to let Vera tell it, judgments were always being made. In Vera’s opinion, one of the “…the number one places them heifers judge you on…” was the condition of the bathroom and the contents of the medicine cabinet.

Now while the bathroom at Aunt Vera’s was always spotless, on the second and fourth Saturdays Vera spent hours cleaning, mopping, scraping, polishing, perfuming, painting and sometimes replacing various parts in the one bathroom in the house. At the end of these Saturday sessions, the bathroom would not only be clean, but dazzlingly so. It also smelled of the greatest and most persuasive odor known to humankind — ‘New Car'(on a dealer showroom floor). This particular Saturday cleaning chore was handled  by Vera herself. She was not about to entrust her reputation to the whims and vagaries of a small boy (myself) or any other male that happened to be hanging around the house (Uncle Roosevelt). According to Vera, males had no earthly idea of what a really clean bathroom looked like — even if a clean bathroom dropped from the heavens and crashed on their heads.

Now on one of those second or fourth Saturdays, she had Uncle Roosevelt drill a hole in the top of the bathroom’s medicine chest. Afterwards, she loaded the medicine cabinet with about a hundred marbles that I’d had won on the school’s playground. I had no idea of what she was up to, but it was a clever old trick designed to get ‘sweet revenge’ on one of the Sunday busybodies. on of her frenemies. The marbles would let her know who was snooping around — and also who was judging her.  Sometime during dinner, when the suspected busybody from Gibraltar snooped and opened the medicine cabinet, there was a resultant loud and long clatter of marbles against the tile floor that you ‘…could hear all over the house’. The church sister, embarrassed, never came back to the dinner table or to Greater Gibraltar. The other part of the story that became family legend was that the snoop not only changed churches –but also changed religions!

  ***

 New-BidetOnce, decades after the marbles caper, when Uncle Roosevelt finally(!)  hit the number (472), Vera used the proceeds to remodel the bathroom and pay for my first two years at Georgia Tech. In remodeling the bath, she even installed one of those bidets like they use in France. Roosevelt loudly protested, insisting that not one of us Cantrell’s were French, that none of the folks from Greater Gibraltar were French and that he could never get used to using such ‘a damn fool contraption.’  “It ain’t manly, Vera,” he told her. But Vera installed the bidet anyway, saying it was  the classy, European type of thing she always wanted. She threatened that if he didn’t let her do it, she’d install a coin operated toilet in the basement and make Roosevelt use that one. Lest he thought she was kidding during their brief disagreement, Vera — a strong-willed woman of many talents — magically produced a roll of quarters out of the thin ether and gave it to him to show she meant business. Uncle Roosevelt finally learned how to use get comfortable with the bidet years later about a year before he passed on, but if you ask me, the very idea of him using a bidet was the thing that ultimately killed the man. Of course, I wasn’t going to be the one to mention this notion to Aunt Vera.

***

In the airport’s atrium, suddenly, the big Delta board flashes that flight 2270 has arrived at Gate B12. My cousin, Dennis would be arriving at Baggage Claim soon.

As I walked toward Baggage Claim Area #2, I noticed the sisters, ‘Nellie and Allie’ were already there. For about three nanoseconds, I considered walking up, introducing myself and mentioning the ‘marbles in the medicine cabinet trick’ as a way of thwarting a prospective busybody future ‘aunt-in-law’. Then I thought better of it since absolutely nothing good could come of it… and besides the sisters would probably recoil and just consider me to be some crazy old coot who’d lost his own marbles.

Nevertheless, by the time I arrived at Baggage Claim and greeted ol’ Dennis, I had learned something: a sparkling bathroom is still universally coveted by women and maybe, if you are a man living with a female, it’s also one of the keys to living happily ever after. (Well, that along with money.) Truth was I was  comforted a little by the fact that in a world of Facebook walls, text messaging, neck tattoos, Apple watches, and other new-fangled things I don’t pretend to fully understand, some small things including The Clean Restroom Gospel of Salvation has survived from the way I knew things to be when I was growing up…and before life and other things got complicated.  

 

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Chitlins’ Last Stand http://likethedew.com/2015/07/28/chitlins-last-stand/ http://likethedew.com/2015/07/28/chitlins-last-stand/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:56:09 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=60961 Mission Impossible. Just within the mall, but outside the cinema, the conditioned air smells of popcorn and pastry. ‘Hot buttered’ emanates from the theatre; ‘Eau de Cinnabon’ oozes from the adjacent food court...]]>

“Kid does not have appetite to eat his mea” - Stock photo © Marko NOVKOV licensed by LikeTheDew.com

No one in his right damn mind pays “you’ve gotta be kiddin’ me” prices to see a movie — even if it is an advance showing of a major motion picture. I’m willing today because this little excursion is part of my scheme to throw some serious ‘shade’ –- and some serious ‘cool’ –on a despicably hot summer day. I’ve come to the mall multiplex to match wits with Tom Cruise, to see if I can keep up with the on-screen goings-on in the latest installment of Mission Impossible.

Just within the mall, but outside the cinema, the conditioned air smells of popcorn and pastry. ‘Hot buttered’ emanates from the theatre; ‘Eau de Cinnabon’ oozes from the adjacent food court. Inside the food court itself – and definitely within earshot – two combative lunch mates are seated at one of those ubiquitous mall cocktail-type tables scarcely big enough to oblige a large slice of mall pizza. The two are providing bonus entertainment for the movie goers waiting to buy tickets.

Having just arrived, I am the last of several dozen waiting in line for the special matinee showing. The man who had been last-in-line me saw the bonus side show from the beginning. “The kid definitely believes in his First Amendment rights; he’s gotten in a couple of real zingers,” the guy says. “But then so has his mother…”

“…It’s gross!”

“Benji, it’s not gross. Now pul-leeze eat for Mummy. I know you’ve never eaten Egg Foo Yung before, but I want you to …”

“No. You eat it! I wanted a Happy Meal,” the boy pouts.

“Well, Mummy thinks you’ll be happy with this meal. It’s yummy, “she says, eating a bite herself. “You can’t just live on cheeseburgers and Spaghetti-o’s all your life…”

“Why not?” the small tow-headed boy, who has his mother’s facial features, retorts. For emphasis, he frantically shakes his head, “No!”

‘Mummy’, an attractive blonde in her late twenties, looks to have had an expensive but also exhausting morning, lugging the boy and a jumble of bags around the mall. Costco. The Gap. BB&B. Toys R’ Us. Old Navy. The bags and merchandise are now scattered about three sides of her chair and on both sides of her sandaled feet. And while she’s now ‘taken a load off’ –laid her burdens down, as it were, she still has her hands full. As if all the walking and shopping and (probably the) overpaying wasn’t morning enough, she’s suddenly burdened with her own impossible mission: feeding Benji. For whatever reason, the young boy has decided some morsels on his paper plate –morsels for which she’s left most of a ten dollar bill at the mall’s Asian eatery — just ain’t worth it.

Benji’s truth is the Egg Foo Yung doesn’t look good, feel good, or smell good. To him, maybe it doesn’t even sound good. Dirt –or maybe even boogers –tastes better than the inedible ick laying before him. And he’s decided it’s not going down his gullet…at least not today!

Maddeningly, especially for a bumfuzzled Mummy, no expert — not NASA, not Google, not Martha Stewart, not even those women on ‘The View’ –has ever figured out why kids suddenly become picky eaters, or why they do the other goofy things they do. Me? I’ve always figured it was voices, maybe small ones on the ‘small fry frequency’ only kids can hear, but voices nonetheless. At least that’s the way I remember it. “Stick your tongue in that electric socket, Jimmy.” “Go ahead, play with the butcher knife, Davey. It’ll be fun,” the voices have been known to say. “Don’t eat the Egg Foo Yung, Benji. It’s icky.”

“OK young man, you’re working my nerves — AND you’re making a scene. Now be Mummy’s big boy and eat.” Then she invokes the ages old mother-to-child admonition: “There are plenty of starving kids in Africa, who would love to have Egg Foo Yung. Now eat!”

“NO!”

Watching all of this unfold as the movie ticket line inches forward, I feel bad for Mummy and Benji. I especially feel bad for the kid. I don’t know for sure why I root for him, but maybe it’s because of the small boy, who still lurks inside me – the same kid who used to get himself in the same kind of jams.

***

Why can't you just eat your food?
Why can’t you just eat your food?
(Screenshot from SuperstarMagazine.com video)

Ages ago, when I am in my runt stage, around the height of the Baby Boom, I found myself fully involved in a mother–kid skirmish, though my hurdle was chitlins rather than Chinese. (Just like the meme about ‘trash versus treasure’, one kid’s Egg Foo Yung is another kid’s chitlins.)

From everything I could conclude through my several years of life experience, mothers had numerous sacred parenting beliefs. The first primary principle of the Mother’s Apparent Belief System was that no kid of hers was going to leave home without being duly admonished to have on clean underwear! This was in case Junior got plowed under by a car, bus, or train enroute to wherever. Thus, Baby Boomer Mom was NOT going to be embarrassed when Junior, clinging to life — splayed out on the Emergency Room Operating table — and the doctors made the appalling discovery he had on dirty drawers.

Another cornerstone of the Mother’s Apparent Belief System was there were starving kids—hordes of ‘em– running around far-flung reaches of the globe such as Europe, Upper Mongolia or Decatur, Georgia.

According to the Mother’s Apparent Belief System, while neither she nor any of hers directly CAUSED the starving hordes of kids to be hungry, Junior not cleaning his plate at mealtime definitely exacerbated the situation. It may have sounded like a specious argument to anyone who wasn’t a mother and while Walter Cronkite didn’t regularly talk about it on the Evening News, it was certainly true. This was the doctrine her mother had explained to her as a child and her mother before her and on and on for thousands of years. The nexus was “God forbid the plight of hungry kids’ in Europe, Mongolia or Decatur, Georgia were ever traced to her Junior not cleaning his plate. Baby Boomer Mom would be duly mortified. It would be as embarrassing as if Junior got plowed under by a car and it was then discovered during his life renewing emergency surgery to be wearing filthy Fruit of the Looms!

***

 The site of my stand-off is a small family fete, a pot-luck thing at my Aunt Vera’s house, itself located in southwest Atlanta, Georgia. It follows my own luck turned bad when during the dinner portion of the event some wiseacre puts chitlins on my dinner plate.

Now the reader will note, there is no food more problematical than the chitlin, the colloquial name for the lower intestine of a pig. The mere mention of the word[1] has been known to strike fear and cause shallow breathing in adults. There is no middle ground. People either love chitlins or hate them– similar to their feelings about Ayn Rand, rap music or Obamacare.

I first learn about chitlins from my older cousin, Calvin Cantrell, my first object of hero worship. Calvin  was smart, clever, and worldly — everything I hoped to be some day. At twelve, he was practically a grown man. Cal owned his own bike, a 28” red Western Flyer, a wonderful baseball card collection and a bullfrog he’d fished out of Mosley Pond. And if being a property owner wasn’t impressive enough, Cal could actually tie his own shoes.

Cal had things figured out! …and the things he’d figured were breathtaking. For example, he volunteered the best way of dealing with a mom’s constant harangue about wearing clean underwear was not to wear drawers at all. To my knowledge, Cal Cantrell invented the notion of ‘going Commando.’ Cal also discovered that when a mom carped about you always forgetting to wash “…the backs of your hands, too, young man,” a quick solution was having the family dog lick your hands all over, lest you have to re-climb the stairs to the second floor bathroom. Sheer genius!

***

Somehow, twelve year old Cal knew all about chitlins and at last Thanksgiving, sitting with several of us younger cousins at the Children’s Table, he’d scared the livin’ bejesus of us when he told us all about them. The stuff he told us and the way he told us made you think chitlins could be the object of an Alfred Hitchcock or Stephen King movie.

First, Cal shared that while everybody, maybe even most people, did not like chitlins, they had a cult-like following (not unlike the Grateful Dead, one guesses). They also had certain ‘cache, he said’ (whatever the hell ‘cache’ was). For example, they weren’t sold everywhere. You couldn’t just waltz into Kroger or the A&P and buy chitlins out of a vending machine or off the shelf as if they were a loaf of Wonder Bread. You had to learn by word of mouth where to get them – i.e. ‘you had to know a guy’ (a specialty butcher), all of which put chitlins in the same class of contraband as weed, moonshine, or hookers.

Since ‘fresh’ chitlins were filthier than week old underwear, before they were even cooked, Cal said, they had to be ‘detoxed’ – washed, scrubbed, and more or less sterilized. This was quite an operation in itself and took hours and hours and typically done by a courageous, volunteer older grandmother-type, a woman who’d already lived a full-life (in case something went horribly wrong). Note: men were mostly afraid to go near a raw chitlin. If chitlins were eaten after not being properly cleaned, you could just as easily die, according to Calvin.

Chitlins could be cooked by one of several methods: boiling, broiling, deep-frying, stewing or sautéing.[2] But no matter which method was used the real problem with chitlins was the application of heat released a putrid odor known to bring the cook, other household inhabitants, neighbors and even small island nations to their knees. (And hell, even if you didn’t die from eating an unclean chitlin, you could just as easily keel over from the smell!)

But even after all of the careful preparation, most people were still afraid of chitlins. They hated ‘em — the taste of chitlins, the look of chitlins, the smell of chitlins, even the thought of chitlins. And it wasn’t only kids that hated chitlins, there were even adults – starving, homeless adults who’d refused to eat ‘em.

Cal’s recommendation was to stay as far away from chitlins as possible.

***

At Aunt Vera’s, when I first got a glimpse of the chitlins on my plate I immediately heard the voices: “DON’T EAT’EM KID. YOU’LL REGRET IT.”

I recoiled from the plate of chitlins and said to no one in particular. “No thanks.”

Mama, who for some inexplicable reason was always around, intervened and said since someone was ‘nice enough’ to go to all the trouble to make chitlins I should try to eat just one, small chitlin for the sake of politeness and learning to try new things.

“No thanks,” I insisted. “Not today.”

Then in that motherly of hers, she reminds me I’d felt the same way about pancakes. It was at this time I heard more voices from nowhere shouting “DON’T EAT IT”, the voices sounding remarkably like Calvin’s, who, remarkably, was nowhere to be found (as came to be his modus operandi whenever I really needed him).

Of course, Mama did not hear the same warning voices as me and when I balked again, she dealt the the ‘starving hordes of kids’ card from the Mother’s Apparent Belief System Deck of cards. She explained my refusal to eat everything on my plate wasn’t fair to the starving hordes  in Europe, who would love to have everything on my plate –including the chitlins.

Those small fry voices grew even louder and still I recoiled again from the chitlins on my plate.

“I’m not eatin’ that,” pointing to the morsel.

It was then she revealed the other part of the Mother’s Apparent Belief System and sentenced me to remain at the table until I had eaten the one small chitlin on my plate. Such was her resolve that I learn my lesson, she sat at the table across from me to make sure. Lest I think she was kidding around, she brought out — seemingly from thin air — the emergency book she kept on hand for long waits and began to read War and Peace.

***

So there I sat, in ‘kid chain gang’ as it were, for a couple of hours under the watchful eye of my mother, who sat opposite me at the table reading Leo Tolstoy. As for me, I was committed  to sit there for eternity if necessary — until cobwebs connected her skeleton to the dog-eared Russian tome and the same cobwebs connected my bones to the still uneaten chitlin. (Still, no Calvin!)

Fortunately nature eventually called and Mom had to answer. In her absence, I summoned my dog, Alibi, who had been lurking about and whimpering in that way of his, suggesting he was ready for me to play ‘fetch with him. Ever since I’d known him as a puppy, Alibi always thought himself to be a real person and immediately sensed what I needed. At first, he looked at me hesitantly as if there was no way he was going to eat a chitlin. But when I pleaded with him and he remembered how much he enjoyed having me fetch things for him, he licked the morsel from my hand. He wolfed it down, leaving the room in the bare nick of time before the woman came back. But before he left he rolled those big dog eyes of his at me as if to say ‘I love you Billy, but don’t ever ask me to eat another chitlin.”

To the present day, I have never been brave enough, tough enough or maybe crazy enough to eat a single chitlin — though Virginia Cantrell, decades later, went to her grave believing I had eaten at least one. (Now between you and me, reader, I have this sneaking suspicion that deep fried chitlins MIGHT have a taste righteously close to that of bacon, but I am never going to be brave enough to know for sure.)

***

As I walked toward the theatre box office, past the boy and his Mummy, I felt Benji’s eyes, imploring me –or somebody — for help. I felt bad for the kid. I did. I swear I did. I would’ve helped him too — if I could’ve. After all, I had once been in the same kind of jam. We were kindred spirits. He was my own kind.

But, alas, the truth is a small child and an old stranger on the glide path to his own dotage are no match for a determined mother. The only thing I can do is watch from afar and hope the kid figures it all out before the mall closes. As I entered the theatre and left the two of them behind, I could only try hard to catch his eye and communicate telepathically in the same way we all do when we try to help TV game show contestants, who are flummoxed for the answer to win whatever is behind Door #3.

“Better get a dog, Benji.” I whispered to him telepathically. “Better get a dog.”

***

A couple of hours later, when I emerge from the theatre, I notice Benji and Mummy no longer in the mall food court. Perhaps Benji figured out the Egg Foo Yung. Maybe he had an epiphany. Or, who knows? Maybe Mummy just got tired, threw up her hands and stalked off towards home, the tow headed kid in tow, muttering under her breath, “Fuck those starving kids wherever they are in Africa, Europe, or Decatur, Georgia . Let one of them deal with Benji!”

The truth is I’d still had a hard time keeping up the latest Mission Impossible. Some things never change… like my inability to instantly figure out ridiculous special effects movies, my inability to adjust to the arrogant Southern summer sun, the need to wear clean Fruit of the Looms before leaving the house…and my fear of chitlins.

In musing about all of this, I also vow to bring Calvin over to the multiplex next week. I bet he’ll figure out Mission Impossible. Cal still has a solution for everything. I just hope he tells me.

***

[1] Note: Occasionally the word is spelled out ‘chitterling’ and pronounced ‘chit-ter-ling’ though only by anthropologists, elitists and hoity-toits, who weren’t raised right. Almost no one refers to them as ’hog guts’ although it’s most assuredly what they are.

[2] Remarkably, some wierdos even bar-be-qued them which seemed to be a complete waste of good BBQ sauce.

]]> http://likethedew.com/2015/07/28/chitlins-last-stand/feed/ 5 Ham n’ Angry http://likethedew.com/2015/06/29/ham-n-angry/ http://likethedew.com/2015/06/29/ham-n-angry/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 23:10:19 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=60666

Potus pinckney eulogy whgov“Ol’ Obama knocked it outta the park yestiddy didn’t he?”

“Sumbitch always does. He always does.”

“Big O was fuckin’ magnificent in Charleston. I can’t believe he actually sang ‘Amazing Grace.’ I think he knew Clementha Pinckney…”

The conversation was on-going at a table across from where I’m taking refuge from ominous weather. As near as I can tell, their names are Stan, Roy and Tommy. All three are African-American. They are gray-beards, firmly ensconced in the demographic labeled ‘active seniors.’ One of them, ‘Stan’, wears a yellow and black baseball cap that shouts ‘STEELERS’.

It’s mid-afternoon last Saturday in one of those places on the outskirts of town that serves breakfast anytime. In the air, there’s the faint smell of ham n’ eggs — and maybe a little grease. Up North, they’d call a place like this a “ham and eggery.” Truth is I’m not really in a breakfast way, but inside A/C is an oasis in otherwise thick, humid outside air and besides, thunderclouds are bearing down fast. Lightning flashes to the west; a split-second later, there’s a Biblical thunder clap. Storm is close. Hard rain in just a few.

***

The building permit posted near the cashier’s stand at the ‘Entrance/Exit’ says ‘Maximum Occupancy, 35′. I SWAG around twenty scattered among a dozen booths and tables. The clientele is mostly black, mostly men. The back and forth diagonally across from me continues.

“I still can’t believe it. I just can’t,” says the one who turns out to be Tommy.

“These funerals are so sad. Now we all gotta go through this shit nine times… in the next week! Nine times!”

“Lil’mothafucka with that terrible haircut went in and sat down with ’em… for an hour… in a church… in Bible Study,” says Tommy.

“…welcomed him in.”

Charleson Massacre“…then he pulls out a gun and starts blastin’.”

“I can’t believe it either. Ya know, we were all young boys, real young boys when the four little girls were killed in Birmingham.”

“I thought we were all through with this kinda shit…,” the Steelers fan says.

“Me too… guess not,” his voice trails off.

“This is bad… real bad. Can’t remember when I been so angry ’bout…”

“And to make things worse, them damn cops in North Carolina, the ones that caught him, took his sorry ass to Burger King because he said he was hungry. Fuckin’ BURGER KING. Can you believe that shit?!?”

“Un-BELEIVEABLE!”

“If he had been black kid killin’ up a white church, they wouldn’t have taken his ass to no Burger King. He’d a been lucky to not get shot dead on site.”

“Got that right.”

“I remember my Momma cryin’ that Sunday the little girls were killed.”

“Mine too. There were a lot of tears. There have been too many damn tears then and now.”

“Those people in Charleston were too damn quick to forgive that fuckin’ coward.”

“Ya can’t say that. I mean isn’t that what they teach in church, you know, forgiveness…”

“Fuck that. I mean why did they have to ‘forgive’ the little motherfucker so soon… and on TV? Hell he didn’t even ask for forgiveness…maybe the little bastard doesn’t even want fuckin’ forgiveness…”

“I ain’t forgiving shit. Let somebody do sumthin’ to me or mine, let someone harm one of my grands …or anybody of mines. I ain’t forgivin’ his ass.”

“Listen Roy”, says Tommy “you’re my best dam friend in da whole world. If I die before you and it’s because someone killed me, you better not forgive them. You better not. I mean it. I want you to tell them to kiss yo ass…that you don’t forgive them …and that you hope they…”

“…ROT IN HELL”, the three men exclaim in unison.”

***

“You see where the lil’ sista took down that Confederate flag in front of the state capital,” Roy says.

“…just shinnied her lil’ skinny ass up the flagpole and took the sumbitch down.”

“Good. If I was a younger man, I’d a climbed up that pole and done it myself…”

“Fool, you can hardly climb up in a bed,” Stan gently laughs.

“They arrested her, ya know.”

“Shit, I’ll help bail her out.”

“Betcha they didn’t take her to Burger King.”

“Son-of-a-bitches!”

The three men, who’ve obviously known each other a long time, rise from their seats, leave what appears to be a generous tip, and start for the door. The man in the Steelers cap shook his head from side to side and quietly but angrily said “Black lives matter.”

“They sure do,” I whisper to myself. I finish my ham n’ grits and prepare to enter the storm outside.

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Keep your prayers, Nikki… http://likethedew.com/2015/06/22/keep-your-prayers-nikki/ http://likethedew.com/2015/06/22/keep-your-prayers-nikki/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 20:08:40 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=60537 racist act of terror.]]>
Dismantle Hate, Black Lives Matter (Candlelight Vigil for Victims of Charleston Mother Emanuel AME Church Shooting) - by Light Brigading
Candlelight Vigil for Victims of Charleston Mother Emanuel AME Church Shooting

These past few days I have been frantically trying to wrap my brain around the slaughter of nine African-American men and women at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston S.C last Wednesday night.

The crime was heinous, profane and an extreme act of cowardice. It was pre-meditated, mindful and calculated. Above all — it was a racist act of terror.

****

Mother Emanuel AME Church by Howard Arnoff
Mother Emanuel AME Church

To the credit of law enforcement, the perpetrator, Dylann Storm Roof, was apprehended within 18 hours, over 200 miles away in North Carolina and flown back to Charleston, where he was jailed.

At Roof’s subsequent bond hearing on Friday, one by one, each of the flesh and blood survivors of the victims tearfully expressed their hurt, their agony, their sorrow and their loss of all that Dylann Roof had taken away from them –and the rest of us. Then, in what must have been nine of the more extraordinarily charitable moments in human history, each of the nine survivors said to Roof, “I forgive you.”

I do not possess the amazing and extraordinary grace of the victims’ survivors. I’m mad as hell at Dylann Roof and the carnage he has wrought. The truth is I am not nearly as quick to forgive him as are some others. A higher truth is maybe I can never forgive him. Maybe. If that ruffles Christian sensibilities, I’m sorry. (Not really!)

****

 

Besides Roof, another focus of my ire is a number of public actors – artful dodgers, we might call them—and their initial reactions to Roof’s heinous deed:

U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says Roof was “…looking for Christians to kill.” Come on Lindsey, you are not that dumb. Roof was looking to kill African-Americans. Period. He expressly said as much and unless one is blind, it’s imminently easier to tell if someone is black than it is to tell if they are a Christian.

Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, initially said the Charleston killings were “an accident.” Later he said he meant  “an incident.” Apparently, Rick, you ARE that dumb!

In perhaps the most callously stupid thing ever uttered by a human being, NRA Board Member Charles Cotton blamed one of Roof’s victims, State Sen. Rev. Clementha Pinckney for the killings! Pinckney, who was also the Pastor at Mother Emmanuel, had opposed and voted against an Open Gun Carry measure in a recent session of the South Carolina Legislature. “Eight of his church members, who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church, are dead,” Cotton said. “Innocent people died because of his political position on the issue.”

Charles, Clementha Pinckney was a Man of the Cloth. It is not unreasonable to expect that he would oppose Open Carry. And while I am no Bible scholar, the last time I checked, Jesus Himself did not carry a Glock. Pssst! Based upon this comment, sounds like you,Charles Cotton, are now qualified to be a 2016 Republican candidate for President.

****

SC Gov. Nikki Haley
SC Gov. Nikki Haley by Mary Austin

Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s governor, on the morning after the killings issues a statement:

“Michael, Rena, Nalin and I are praying for the victims and families touched by tonight’s senseless tragedy at Emanuel AME Church. While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”

Excuse me, Nikki. Really!? Unless one happens to be as dumb as a box of hammers, when a group of African-Americans is annihilated by a white guy, one who says at the time that his purpose is to kill black folks, it’s pretty obvious that racism is the root-cause of the crime.

Nikki goes on to say “Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayer.”

Keep your prayers, Nikki. Just keep ‘em. Too many times when there is yet another mass killing, public figures respond not by saying what can they do to possibly prevent another one. Rather they say “We’re gonna lift the victims up in prayer…to give the victims the strength to get through this…”

The sentiment is a polite ‘dismissive’, a substitute for doing something practical, something tangible. Too often it’s a platitude, a polite substitute for doing anything at all. Rather, Nikki, if you really want to help, DO SOMETHING …something that people can see, feel, hear, touch, and smell. To many citizens, both inside and outside of South Carolina, the Stars and Bars is a symbol of racism and hatred. It is a symbol of painful times–a  poke in the eye from the past. One will recall, that it’s not even the South Carolina state flag. And while striking down the Confederate flag from the entrance to the state capital won’t in and of itself cure a toxic racial atmosphere, it’s a good start.

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Dylann Roof committed one of the most cowardly terrorist acts of the New Millennium. But his crime is abetted by the artful dodgers referenced above. Too many of those folks, who are political leaders, folks who have offered themselves to us as candidates for the Presidency have failed to even acknowledge the existence of racism in this crime. How sad. How intellectually dishonest. No one expects a single leader to solve a problem that has existed forever. But not to acknowledge the problem exists is cowardice plain and simple. I hope Governor Haley and the would-be-Presidents –artful political dodgers– are proud of themselves. They shouldn’t be.

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