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By Will Cantrell:
Meteors mostly never hit.
Those big, bad, deadly ones — those ‘hell bent for leather, bound and determined to destroy us all’ space rocks — those mostly glance off the Earth’s atmosphere and hurtle harmlessly into the great, dark void.
They really never even get close.
So it is with news. Tragic stories … real stories hardly ever collide with us. …
This past Tuesday morning, the delicate knitting that keeps the ‘No Collision Rule’ in check unravels. I awaken to head numbing, impossible news on TV. My friend, Derek Moses is dead. Murdered! His lifeless body was found on Monday morning, shot execution style in his office.
You try to warn them.
“This stuff has a lot to answer for …
…like fast women, hot cars, liquor and Satan,” you say. “Don’t make the same mistake as me … the same mistake a lot of us made. It puts the whole society on a slippery slope down the road to ruin. Find another way, kid … or you’ll end up like me.”
But kids often don’t listen. (I didn’t.) And the opposition is more organized … has more money …
I call your attention to a recent dustup in the schools. Along with proposed closings, reduced budgets and what’s really in the mystery meat served in the cafeteria, an ongoing issue is “should we still teach cursive handwriting?”
Confidentially, this situation with my hair is not good.
My hair constantly tries to defy and spite me. It’s lazy, uncooperative and has what is commonly referred to as ‘an attitude.’ Lately its been impossible…lies down and rests when it should be doing something else, standing up when it ought to be laying down…you get the idea. It plays these insufferable pranks too…like sprouting from places that it never has grown from before and hiding in completely unexpected venues — like my ears. Finding hair suddenly growing out of my nostrils is frightening.
You think I’m kidding about all of this? I assure you that I’m not.
“Gawd, am I glad to be home.”
“You look stressed. Was the drive back that bad?”
“I’m not really tired. It just looks that way. Booger drove like a madman. Something smells good in here. We havin’ pork chops?”
I thought that you said that Booger drives like an old lady. By the way, the people at the golf course called. They’ve found your lost six-iron. ”
“Yippeee. Oh! Man! Wow! That’s the club that I hit the hole-in-one with. Man, am I glad to find it. Anyway, Booger does drive like a little old woman… most of the time. But he was anxious to get home. His grandson, Brian is coming for a visit.”
It’s funny how we come to learn certain things. Sometimes revelation steals into your brain in the wee hours, while you’re deep in REM sleep. ‘The solution’ just slams into your brain, causing you to pitch straight up and shout”By golly I’ve got it!” (or some such). With self assurance, you slink back under the covers… wondering why you hadn’t dit all out long before now, but confident… knowing that you’ll still remember”the answer” in the morning.
At other times, epiphany comes during the daylight hours, when you are thinking about or doing something else entirely. Knowledge just surreptitiously seeps into your brain like some kind of osmosis. You don’t know how you learned what you now know and you sure as hell ‘can’t show your work’, but all of a sudden know: ”x equals 2y,” “the butler did it”… or that… well… you’re fat!
The announcement comes a few days ago.
The Queen of Soul is ailing. Aretha Franklin has pancreatic cancer. Damn!
The mind quickly rifles through frame images of Michael Landon and Patrick Swayze, as well as a few other ‘real’ people…flesh and blood folks that I’ve known….fellas with whom I’ve watched a ball game or shared a beer. Once anyway… before the dreaded diagnosis. No, pancreatic cancer is not a guillotine, but the odds are impossibly long. Mostly they are out of sight. A replay of the announcement runs through my head. It is no hoax, no cruel prank. Lyrics from a signature Aretha Franklin song now ring out in my head. “Hey Mister, don’t play that song for me… I don’t want to hear it.”
I’ve hunkered down for the holidays.
Just put my arms over my head and taken cover.
It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s and I am just doing my best to keep my head down in order to get out alive and in one piece.
There’s just no stopping it. Just as I get through paying for the last Christmas, another Christmas rolls around. The whole thing is relentless…like an asteroid on a collision path with the Earth.
Temporary Employment Agency Guy: You’re going to work as a ‘pundit’. You know, one of those talking head guys that sit around a table with other pundits and pretend to know everything about what’s going on in the world of politics and in Washington D.C. Then after they tell everybody how smart they are they tell all of the TV viewers what they should be thinking. You’ve seen ‘em a million times, Cantrell. This will be the perfect job for you. It’s a temp-to-perm position but if you do well, ya never know what could happen. The pay is good…$17.00 per hour plus your deal will be just like the guys who are already on. A couple of those TV pundit guys make more money selling T- shirts and baseball caps over the web than they ever make from their network salaries.
Halloween is bust’in out all over!
Lately, one has to watch their step. This whole place has turned into a quicksand of orange and black. Ghosts, goblins, jack-o-lanterns and people in masks and costumes have taken over… everywhere it seems.
As you know diary, I am an aging Baby Boomer, who embraces his God-given and Constitutional right not to ever grow up, my inner child is always lurking in close proximity. As such, I love Halloween. I relish both the occasion and the opportunity of ‘dressing up’…and if one doesn’t dwell too long on the inherent psychological implications of wanting to look like or even be someone else, the idea of ‘dressing up’ is quite fun.
Hardly ever does any good news come out of a study… at least nothing to your advantage. The odds are stacked. And mostly against you too.
It can be hazardous to even be informed of the results of a study. Now you become privy to information that you did not want or need to know—changing forever, life and the universe as you knew it. Take a most recent episode… A few days ago, someone got the bright idea to study men’s pants.
The most terrifying and heartless aspect of cancer is that you can make all the right moves – eat the right foods, exercise ‘right’, get regular checkups and even have the good sense to come from good stock. You may even possess a surplus of good karma-goodwill built up from a lifetime of selfless pursuit. Cancer cares about none of this.
Cancer comes swiftly, urgently, and silently in the wee dark hours – threatening… taunting… and stealing dreams.
Change is hardly ever easy. The University of Mississippi adopted a new football mascot last week. Just like the folks at Georgia have the Bulldog; Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jacket; and Clemson, the Tiger; Ole Miss now has “the Bear.” (The new Ole Miss Rebel Bear is vaguely reminiscent of Smokey Bear of forest fire prevention fame.)
In choosing a new on-field mascot, Ole Miss douses a smoldering flame of another kind.
I watch, with great interest, as 33 Chilean miners emerge from their underground prison of 72 days. Bravo! What a great event …and one applauds all of the efforts by several countries including the Chileans and the U.S. to pull off the great rescue.
That said, maybe it’s just me, but I was thinking “…that the rescue device does go both ways”. Now that we’ve gotten the original miners out, maybe there ought to be some kind of ‘exchange program’ with Mother Earth, as it were.
“What goes around comes around…” I consider the issue as I read further.
USA Today reports that Hawaii Five-0 is the No.1 rated show on the Fall TV schedule. This information is provided by Nielsen. We’re told that the Nielsens are a perfect demographic cross section of America and the perfect arbiters of what the rest of us “like” on TV… and of other things as well. As it turns out, The Nielsens figure out first—and then tell everyone else — “what’s hot” and “what’s not.” (With all of this influence, you’d think that Neilsens would have to have been elected.)
Yeah. Yeah I know. I know. You’re sayin’ to yourself, “Just switch the channel, Cantrell. Just switch the channel!”
Believe me, I hear you. And you’d be right too. You absolutely would be… except that they’ve taken over. They’re on every channel. On every one of ‘em and everywhere else too… at the same time… and in Biblical proportions… like locusts… or kudzu… or TV evangelists.
He’s never picked up a lariat, roped any steers, or driven any cattle over the open range. Cowboy Dan is not that kind of ‘cowboy’. ‘Course, you’d think that ‘Cowboy Dan’ would be all ‘worn out’ by now.
Over his first twenty-five years, Ol’ Dan has written and recorded a gaggle of country western songs, managed to graduate from UGA’s College of Agriculture, did a stint with the Braves (as a groundskeeper), been a successful door-to-door salesman, written and starred in a bunch of music videos. Oh, and he’s also had six open heart surgeries.
Is this old woman trying to start a fight with me?
Our confrontation takes place in the ‘Beer and Wine’ Section at Serengeti’s Market.
By virtue of missing a six-foot putt on the Eighteenth hole, me and my best friend since the third grade, Booger Wadsworth, have lost the two-man scramble to those two communists from the Xanadu Golf Club. Afterwards, Wadsworth says to me. “Well, since you couldn’t save the world for democracy at least you could run over to Serengeti’s and buy the beer”.
I’m a little distracted by Aretha singing her version of Smokey Robinson’s The Tracks of My Tears, played over the sound system As a result I’ve spent a couple of minutes of trying to figure out what to take back to me and Booger’s version of detente with ‘the communists’. I’ve spent a couple of minutes of trying to choose. Beer or ale, foreign or domestic, premium blend or cheap ‘brewski’? It’s all mind boggling. Just as I reach for the brightly packaged carton of Red Stripe, my hand is slapped away—rejected by another hand that is smaller and wrinkled but whose motion is swift and sure as Shaquille O’Neil’s rejecting a twelve-foot jumper.
It’s Pam Anderson-hot on the outside. Maybe it’s even Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball hot and by now, I’m doing a slow burn. I’ve just passed the Big Chicken, inexorably moving south through grudging traffic. My ‘burn’ is not due to the sweltering heat or even the rush hour traffic, although neither is helping matters. Rather, I’ve just been told by Placemat that the guy whose screen name is “Bestsellingauthor” already has 5,000 friends.
The bald-headed, naked truth is that I am about to lose it.
I am really good—maybe even extraordinary — at what one might term “the art of loss.” Coats, gloves, hats, golf clubs, car keys, eyeglasses, and wallets have slipped through my watery grip and ‘butter’ fingers with more regularity than I care to admit. ‘Bumbershoots’ are a particular specialty. I have misplaced enough of these to keep a small town bone dry during a monsoon, especially if that small town was, say, the size of Chicago. (That umbrella that you found in your office recently, was more likely than not, lost by Cantrell.) At one time or another, I have forgotten the location of my car, once lost a sofa from the bed of a pick-up truck and once, for eighteen hellish minutes, lost my eight-year-old nephew at the mall!
The “it”—i.e. the item ‘most likely’ to be lost this time — is my new cell phone …
Isha Sesay is hot. Maybe she’s dammed hot.
Ms. Sesay is the very attractive, very knowledgeable, British-born, Sierra Leone-raised journalist who is reporting World Cup 2010 events from South Africa for CNN. Over the past month or so, largely because of Ms. Sesay, I suspect that I’ve learned more about soccer than I ever cared to know. Hot women can have that kind of effect on you.
I awake to BREAKING NEWS. The TV news anchor announces that “…they’re changing the recipe for ketchup. It’s set to happen gradually over the summer. “
“Wha…! Nah… no way,” I say in disbelief. But before I allow fear and panic to take over, I dismiss the whole thing to the fact that I just woke up. I was still in that semi – conscious, altered state that lies between REM sleep and my full acquisition of “walking around sense”. It’s a brief but ‘crazy’ time each morning just after I awake when my brain tends to have a mind of its own. Anything can happen. Apparitions of long dead relatives, monsters, ghosts and goats are not uncommon. A couple of months ago, I was abducted, albeit briefly, by aliens. On another occasion, I was visited by Elvis.
Bad news comes too often these days. Much too often it comes in the early light already spoiling for a fight.
I awoke Monday to the news that Ali-Ollie Woodson had passed away. The report said that he ‘d died Sunday from complications of leukemia.
You can’t quite place the name, right? Unless you’re an avid fan, you’d hardly remember that Ali-Ollie Woodson was…
As if they didn’t have enough problems already, those people over at CNN announced this morning that the 2010 Hurricane Season starts tomorrow, June 1. At the same time, they also said that this year’s hurricane season is likely to be notably worse than last year …
The CNN guy looked right at me through the TV screen and said that we all needed to ‘be prepared’ for a bad hurricane season, especially those of us who lived in states affected the most by hurricanes (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina). He said that we all needed to develop a personal evacuation plan.
You can hardly turn around lately without bumping into somebody from out of town, who has scurried in town to give a commencement speech.
Last Sunday, Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense congratulated and challenged the new graduates of Morehouse College. At the same time Gates was speaking, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice did the same at Spelman. A week earlier, Stephen Chu, U.S. Energy Secretary was at Georgia Tech and Arnold Schwarzenegger was at Emory to toast their newly minted grads. It seems as if much of Washington, D.C.  has been dispatched to graduations all over the country. President Obama delivered commencement
Mother’s Day sneaked up on me this year. It caught me completely ‘off guard’. To be honest, I thought that it was next weekend. ‘Course, I guess it is kind of appropriate, because in my ‘growing up’ years, my Mother used to sneak up on me with some degree of regularity. Sometimes it was to steal a kiss on the cheek. Sometimes it was to play a joke (my mother was the prankster in our house). At still other times, she practiced her ‘below the radar’ techniques when I was ‘up to something’… “William Rogers Cantrell Junior! Just, what do you think you’re doing young man? I never saw her coming.
Dear Stephen Hawking:
Over the past couple of days, you’ve gotten everybody over here in North America all exorcised about extraterrestrial visitors, alien invasions and … well, “stuff.” As you no doubt remember, this past weekend, you said that aliens probably existed and that it might be dangerous to contact them. What’s more you said that “I imagine they exist in massive ships … having used up all the resources of their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”
“What are you doin’?” “I am just here looking at the volcano. Watching it live on the Internet. It’s quite beautiful.” “Beautiful! Are you crazy? It’s got air traffic all screwed up. Don’t you know that people all over the world are stranded?” “Might as well enjoy the show, Booger. Look at all that smoke and lava and ash coming out. It’s throwing out rocks and boulders and sh-sh-shards of glass, too. It’s kinda neat from a geological perspective. I am trying to see if anything useful gets thrown out of there, like
Yesterday, on the eve of The 2010 Masters, five months after all of that tawdriness and unpleasantness with fire hydrants, car crashes, and cocktail waitresses, Billy Payne mounted a podium in Augusta, Georgia and publicly chastised Tiger Woods.
“…it is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children,” Payne said
“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. Out of the hard and unusual struggle through which he is compelled to pass, he gets strength, a confidence, that one misses whose pathway is comparatively smooth by reason of birth and race.” – Booker T. Washington
So begins the Prologue of John D. Hollis’ new book, Life in the Paint: A Black Man Fighting for His Identity (Eloquent Books, 2009).
This Week’s Things to Do
1. Buy eggs.
2. Clean gutters.
3. Re-invent self
4. Thank you note to Aunt Vera for the Obama Chia Pet.
Of late, there’d been a few suggestions that I “re-invent” myself. The latest had come from Brittany, a twelve-year-old who lives next door.
Never Google ‘Willie Mays’!
Just don’t. It ain’t right.
First of all, Willie Mays was a god and gods are … well dammit, they’re gods! They shouldn’t have to be Googled.
This morning, Travis, my mailman, delivered the news to me.
“… it’s because of the economy, Mr. C. It’s all over CNN, ” he said.
“Travis, you guys have threatened to do this many times before. ”
“Well this time we mean it. We really do. We just can’t afford to do Saturday deliveries anymore.”
“What do you mean ’can’t afford ’? How much are stamps these days? About $8 apiece? Seems like you guys should be able to afford to deliver the mail on Saturdays and Sundays too. I remember when stamps were a dime.”
“What are you doing?
“Er, uh … nothing, just looking through the window. Looks like it’s stopped snowing. Pretty while it lasted, though.”
“I know that look on your face. I’ve seen it before. Plenty of times. You’re up to something, aren’t you? ‘Fess up. Aren’t you?”
You go your whole life — your whole long life — knowing that the world operates in a certain way. You’ve definitely figured out a few things. Maybe you still don’t know how your ex-spouse’s mind works or even how to reset the car radio at “Spring Back/Fall Down” or whatever. Still, you know a thing or two about a thing or two. Or so you think.
Then, as always happens, someone comes along and messes up everything.
Until his press agent announced his death a few days ago, I‘d thought little about J.D. Salinger these last years. I suspect you hadn’t either. He’d slipped to a distant corner of my memory. I doubt though that the notoriously reclusive Salinger — if a “successful” recluse can also at the same time be notorious — would be offended by our lapses. I am sure that’s the way he would have things be. (I must confess that I have this penchant for deeming the once famous but also very much “still with us” to be long in the grave. It’s nothing personal or even intentional.
America, it’s time to abolish the field goal!
A few days ago, I was an eyewitness to an event that was shameful, reprehensible, and quite frankly, unholy. I am sure that it might even be an unnatural act and illegal in many of the lower 48 states. After the incident — and even after a long hot shower — I felt used, cheap and quite frankly, dirty. After I calmed down, I thought of calling “the authorities” and filing some sort of complaint but then thought better of the matter. I did vow to myself to call my attorney in the morning and report the incident, however.
“Your money’s no good here, son,” he said, looking down at the folded twenty dollar bill that I’d just slipped him. “One of your cousins just tried the same thing — with a fifty! It didn’t work for him either.”
“You guys know the rules. You gotta wait your turn just like everybody else.”
They’re dropping like flies. The formerly famous among us are dying. Lately, it’s been epidemic.
One morning a few weeks ago, my radio announced that yet another “use to be famous” person had just died.
“Jeez,” I said to myself, “that was the third one this week!” (I have it on good authority that death always “comes in threes.”) Every day it seems that it’s another one — i.e. some formerly famous person — who’s gone.
Halloween is upon us. It’s time, yet again, for us to unleash our ‘inner child’, don some appropriate disguise and then go about the business of scaring the bejesus out of the next unsuspecting human being who happens to pass by. This year, my own inner child has narrowed his Halloween costume choices to a Wall Street banker, an officer manager armed with pink slips or one of the Real Atlanta Housewives. (The latter is mean-spirited perhaps … but definitely scary.) The notion that so many of us get caught up in the idea of being someone else is troubling. On any other day, posing as somebody else will get you arrested for identity theft. On Halloween, it’s perfectly legal. Of course, recent pre-occupation with Halloween may be because of the ongoing recession. Many folks are hiding from bill collectors and repo-men. A Halloween mask is much cheaper than plastic […]