My right eye is doing the heavy lifting; my left, just along for the ride for now.
Six months ago, I had a detached and torn retina in my left eye. Thanks to micro- and laser-surgery techniques, they can fix that. Not that long ago, I would’ve lost the sight in the eye. The cause? Old age, my friend, old age. While detached and/or torn retinas can happen as the result of an injury, in folks my age, they’re caused by 1) a misshapen eye (mine are extremely myopic; I had worn glasses for distance since third grade until I had LASIK a decade ago) …
In my mom’s back yard stands a red and black birdhouse on a white pole. Its roof holds iconic words. “See Rock City.” If it had not been for Garnet Carter and Clark Byers, that birdhouse wouldn’t exist. Times were, you could drive along a back road and sooner or later you’d see a barn with its roof turned into an advertisement.
You’ll be hard pressed today to find a barn’s roof declaring “See 7 States from Rock City.” In case you’ve never heard of it, Rock City is a roadside attraction in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Gigantic rock formations, a Lovers Leap, and caverns with black lights I recall. I remember, too, Ruby Falls but that’s an attraction inside Lookout Mountain.
education by tv
Popular on British and American TV screens, the series ”Victoria” about the reign of Queen Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman, is a great way to become familiar with the history of England without reading books. Only a small percentage of the population reads history books, and even there, some issues are not fully covered. For many British viewers it was the first they had learned about the horrors of the 1840s Irish Famine…
protecting class privilege
Timely to have happened on the book, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden, at the library just as the Ken Burns’ Vietnam: A Television History began on PBS. I was curious to see what perspective was brought to both the book and documentary. The factoid that especially interested me: Vietnam was one country, temporarily divided by the Geneva Accords …
a deeper observation
It is obvious there is anger throughout the league from world renown athletes to the general managers of those professional teams. Professional athletes such as LeBron James, professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, have spoken out about racial injustices throughout our nation and have exemplified their frustration for our current president, Donald Trump. LeBron does not stand alone …
southern queer vs. yankee cop
I enjoy the diversity of the waiting room when I go for a routine checkup to my miracle worker, Dr. Lobiondo, Director of the Wound Center at Clara Maass Hospital in Newark, NJ. More than five years ago his rigorous routines completely cured a large open wound on my left leg, a result of lymphedema. For 2 years I had been sleeping in a chair with my legs elevated, but no noticeable improvement. Then I discovered Dr. Lobiondo…
in the past
Used to be customary for folks to take Sunday drives. I don’t think people today tend to do that as much as the older folks did but they should. It’s enjoyable and revealing. Of course we still use “Sunday driver” to describe a driver who dawdles, and dawdling is in order when the drive itself is the destination.
Sunday, September 17 my sister, Deb and family friend Teresa took me to an old cemetery I’d never seen. Across the Savannah …
just won't die
Yet again, over 150 years after Appomattox, we’re still at one another’s throats about the meaning of the horrendous bloodletting that ended with a half-page of surrender terms and a handshake. The proximate trigger for the recent mayhem in Charlottesville was the city’s plan to remove a monument to Robert E. Lee. Now the air is thick with denunciations of similar monuments for valorizing traitors …
fantastic meal #90
We were not big potato eaters when I was growing up. My mom was a stay-at-home housewife and did most of the cooking, and baked or mashed potatoes weren’t high on her list of dinnertime sides. Rice and black-eyed peas, however, were. And as much as my dad loved black-eyed peas and rice, he did not fail to let us all know that he sure missed an occasional side of mashed potatoes, rolls, and gravy. I think the sore point here was the gravy, but it could have been the rolls.
“Jimmy Joe, ground ball back to you, I got the throw at second.”
I joined a Greek fraternity at the University of Virginia in the fall of 1976. Like most large schools with dozens of different houses, an incoming freshman had a lot to choose from. There were old Southern houses that dated back to the Civil War. There were heavy drinking houses. Other houses preferred…
Labor Day I labored. I wrote the photo captions for my new book due out next spring about lesser-traveled road, a familiar refrain. By now you readers surely can tell what I’m working on by the columns I write. I’ve often written about my expeditions into the countryside. I drove over 10,000 miles deliberately avoiding interstates. I chose to take the long way home as Supertramp famously sang.
a sooty middle finger
I was stopped for a red light while on my way to the grocery store when it pulled up in the lane next to me. I heard its rumble and felt its shadow fall like a partial eclipse before I actually saw it. When I glanced left from the window of my medium-sized sedan, I was eye level with its underbelly – the pristine wheel wells, the giant tires, the gleaming chassis, a concentration of chrome like a buck-toothed teenager’s orthodontics. The reflections of my car and the car just ahead of me in its side panels didn’t even reach as high as its door handles…
climate change is real
Hurricane Harvey has brought death, unfathomable destruction, loss of homes and a deeply distraught community of caring people throughout the world. How can we help? What do we do now?
We will reach out, and offer whatever we can. I particularly love the #cajunnavy and all the out-of-state volunteers from California and New York rushing to our side.
fight them at every turn
I can’t really help myself. It just happens. Whenever I see images of Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, or reasonable facsimiles, I think of Groucho Marx. The comedian from my dad’s generation famously stated that he would never want to join an exclusive club that was willing to accept him as a member.
While viewing photos from KKK members, Confederate sympathizers’ mug shots, or watching the footage from places like Charlottesville, I can’t help but think: This is supposed to be an example of a superior race? Really?
staring at the sun
For one brief, shining moment, we gathered near strangers, didn’t fear for our lives, and watched the moon blot out the sun. The moon & sun were gliding all over fly-by land, giving us a quick peek at our natural selves; amazed, amused and/or otherwise distracted from the chaos of our own creation. We thought about our place in the universe, among the other animals making noises and clustering together.
context is not pc
Henry Kidd, who identified himself as a former national officer of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, objected to adding context. “Every tourist who comes to Richmond wants to see Monument Avenue; they don’t want to see a politically correct Monument Avenue,” Kidd said. – Richmond Times-Dispatch
I will give Levar Stoney’s credit for appointing the Monument Avenue Commission to determine the fate of Lost Cause monuments …
who will it be?
The good folks in my home state of Alabama aren’t too sophisticated when it comes to voting excellent people into office. Consider that Jeff Sessions has been our senator for a long time, mostly running unopposed, or infrequently against some poor Democrat with no idea what he’s about to get involved in.
Sessions perfected the religious fervor that doesn’t quite slip over into craziness …
“Promise me, son, not to do the things I’ve done
Walk away from trouble if you can
It won’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek
I hope you’re old enough to understand
Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man”
As we read our Sunday newspapers or listen to the news, we hear the same story over and over again, the violence in Charlottesville Virginia. I was afraid this was going to happen.
fantastic meal #91
When August drifts around every year, there is little to celebrate here in the Deep South. It’s hot and humid one day, hotter and more humid the next. A day or so ago he humidity was at 99%. I thought we had to be under water to get a 99% reading. There is one good thing about August in the South, however, and that’s the proliferation of summer vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, okra, squash, and cucumbers will grow like weeds if there’s enough rain…
so easy to steal here
Mobsters tend to evolve out of inner city poverty. The young look around and notice the people in the neighborhood with flashy lifestyles, who don’t go hungry, who lord it over ordinary citizens. They resemble the intimidating bullies in their own circles who ham-fistedly appropriate their lunch money and humiliate them in other ways. The limited options visible on their horizon tempt the young and some inevitably are drawn into criminal apprenticeship.
Down near Yemassee, South Carolina, is a country club like no other. Harold’s Country Club proclaims that it is “in the middle of nowhere but close to everywhere.” That’s true. You’ll find it off Highway 21 at 97 Highway, 17A. I did when I pulled up in front of a faded sign that’s seen its share of Lowcountry sunlight. Nonetheless it’s colorful. A grill full of ribs, chicken, and a huge steak fill one side, a frosty mug of beer …
fight like hell for the living
I stepped in an anthill at 4:17 yesterday morning, as I pounded a yellow “Union Yes” sign into the dewy ground outside the mile-long Nissan factory in Canton, Mississippi.
Later in the day, on my way to visit workers and discuss the upcoming vote, I saw someone removing the signs along the highway exit ramp, as a MDOT truck blinked idly nearby. Looking closer, I noticed that the man yanking up our morning’s work was wearing striped trousers beneath his neon vest.
more a direction
On July 17, 1936, five months before I was born, an area of 393 acres of wilderness in Alabama’s Talladega County was established as a U.S. National Forest. One of its many glories is Cheaha Mountain, Alabama highest point, visible from our front porch. Dad and I camped out at many different spots in the park throughout most summers while I was growing up, and often we encountered no other human being.
in the war on science
Earlier this month, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a damning report: Sidelining Science Since Day One—How the Trump Administration Has Harmed Public Health and Safety in Its First Six Months.
The value of science to policy making has been recognized in the United States at least since 1863, when President Lincoln, at the height of the Civil War, signed into law a bill establishing the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), charging it with the task of “providing independent, objective advice…
The recent stunning downfall of the Ole Miss football coach has all the elements of a Southern Gothic tale. I’m surprised this wasn’t based on a Faulkner novel. Hugh Freeze resigned abruptly after being caught with incriminating evidence of sexual hanky-panky. The story had all the true elements of a southern tragedy; sex, religion, and football. What better way to spend an Autumn Saturday afternoon.
The word “authentic” is being tossed around a lot these days … another empty-calorie, tasteless ingredient in today’s word salad. The kale of the word world.
The other day, a leaking pustule of a man, Anthony Scaramucci, took over the job of White House Communications Director from the former dripping abscess, Sean Spicer. During one of his attempts at deceiving the press and the public, Scaramucci, started rambling on about just how great Sarah Huckabee was, saying,
people need to know
Breaking Newz: A quickly unfolding scandal has revealed that Hillary Clinton colluded with millions of democrats nationwide to vote against Donald Trump during the 2016 elections.
In a statement today, Satan’s BedBug, Kellyanne Conway, said “We hope it is clear to America now how unfairly Donald Trump was treated. When Donald Trump ran for president, Hillary purposely tried to win. We see this as proof she colluded with American Democrats…
it all comes down to this
I 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.
shoe already dropped
For months, there has been smoke; thick, black smoke that cannot be seen through. It certainly seemed like the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, something seemed suspicious, but there was never any proof. But no smoking gun
For weeks, there has been a very warm gun. Meetings between Flynn, Sessions, Page, Kushner, etc…with Russian officials that had conveniently been forgotten. But no smoking gun.
we must dissent
Several friends found it difficult to celebrate the Fourth of July this year. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
I strive not to let these forces win the biggest gift I could give them, namely to shut up and wait out their dominion. Instead, we must wrestle; we must dissent.
She kept the old churn in the kitchen. I see it vividly, even now. I watched my Grandmother Poland churn butter, a memory that sure seems old-fashioned in this digital age. I have no idea who made that churn. It vanished with the years, nowhere to be found, but I can tell you this much: baseball bats and butter churns share a connection.
For me, this story begins in Apex, North Carolina where I was visiting my daughter and her family the weekend of June 10. The occasion was my grandson’s graduation from high school…
and then i knew
I worshipped the man.
Like a puppy, I waited expectantly his daily homecoming, ever eager to ask a child’s question: “What kind of day did you have?” “Oh, I had a good day,” he might say. Other times his face and his words told a different story: “It was a rough day.” If it had been a “rough day,” sometimes I’d ask why, but he never divulged much.
Late in the afternoon a strange noise came from the vegetable garden beside the house, it was the sound of a bird in distress. The bird was squeaking, flapping its injured wing and hopping frantically around to escape from two large black birds attacking it. The boy grabbed a straw broom and waved it at the black birds until they flew away.
The little bird continued to squeak and hop around as the boy tried to catch it…
throwback to another era
“The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handles,” wrote Bob Dylan as he closed out “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Vandals have yet to get the handle of the pump you see here, but I don’t know if it works. I didn’t try it. Wish I had. Let’s just say that it works and that’s why it didn’t end up in the scrap metal pile. Let’s add that if you work the handle enough, your reward will be gurgling, spurts of water.
like before fox news
Make America great again
Make America great again
Lift the torch of freedom all across the land
Step into the future joining hand in hand
And make America great again…
even uncle sam has bad days
On the Fourth of July, we naturally think of Uncle Sam, our nation’s favorite icon. While I try to keep a positive attitude about Uncle Sam in July, I can’t forget the day the old man hurt my feelings in October.
Let me explain: Back in the day, Fairfax (AL) Cotton Mill chartered a bus to take the mill-village Boy Scouts to the Southeastern Fair in Atlanta. As a proud member of Fairfax Troop 10, I was thrilled at the prospect of such a magical journey. Going to the Southeastern Fair was like a trip to Mars…
self-indulgent con man
Any additional reassurance that Donald Trump is not an American Adolf Hitler was provided by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) last Tuesday. That is the same North Korean government entity that previously announced that North Korea had invented not only the hamburger but also a drug that cures AIDS, Ebola and cancer. So if the KCNA likens POTUS 45 to Der Fuehrer, you know it is almost certainly untrue. What is interesting is that plenty of smart people outside the information bubble…
bona fide bbq
A bona fide barbecue joint should be way out in the country. It’s best if it isn’t open seven days a week. People need to wait on it. They need to anticipate the approaching banquet. Moreover, a bona fide barbecue joint needs to sit where you can see the smoke rising off hog drippings and coals as red as magma. It needs to have ample parking because patrons will pilgrimage to their preferred porcine shrine as faithfully as the rising sun.
may we be enlightened
This is going to be a long and rather convoluted essay. I will be long, because as a Southerner and a quasi-historian I can’t do with one word what twenty would do; it will be convoluted as my feelings on the issue I am writing about are convoluted.
While not a huge fan of William Faulkner, I have longed admired his ability to put the South and the past in perspective. So here is the obligatory Faulkner quote, which at the end of this essay you reader can judge whether I put it all in perspective.
The songs of birds, cicadas, and katydids really make Southern summers special. Quickly, can you tell me the difference between a cicada and a katydid? Which sings by day, and which sings by night … Ponder that.
Unlike past summers, this one brings rain. So far, at least. And with the rain comes life. Lawns are lush and for whatever reason I’ve noticed that fireflies seem more abundant. Come dusk, they float over and around my deck, something they’ve never done before.
keeping care affordable
While Congress dickers with health care, I am taking a close look at my own costs.
I retired on December 31, 2001. In the 15½ years since, my health costs have averaged $4,842.02 per year and have been more than $2,000 for all but one of those years.
In the 17 years before retirement, my medical costs never reached $2,000 a year.
Splitting the difference is sometimes the closest approximation to justice achievable when judges rule in contract and family disputes. When the liberty protections in the U.S. Constitution are involved, however, splitting the difference is an evasion of judicial responsibility. Consider the Supreme Court’s June 26th decision on the Muslim Ban in Donald J. Trump v. International Refugee Assistance and Donald J. Trump v. Hawaii.
name 12 people
Hand over my heart, this is a true story.
The South is known for its unusual characters, right? They populate the stories of Southern writers like Erskine Caldwell, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, etc. and et al.
But we Southerners know, don’t we, that you don’t have to crack one of these authors’ famous books to find such a fictional character’s prototype?
threat by the sinister trio
In his book Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, Robert Reich reviews features in our society that undermine democracy – particularly concentrated wealth. And the off-shoot, lobbyists in effect bribing representatives and senators, vulnerable because they must raise money for their ever more expensive campaigns. The successful ones, when they leave office, with very nice self-voted retirement benefits, often go to work for the lobbying firms or corporations …
don't be complacent
Spare me these embarrassing, condescending excuses for why a Democrat cannot win a closely contested special election. It’s been only a matter of hours since most major news outlets called the election for Karen Handel, but already I’ve grown tired of hearing “but it was close, which is a win in itself,” “Tom Price won by over 20 points in the last election, so the fact that it was even close surely says something,” or other meaningless variants of this infuriating phrase.
tit for tat
I was never exactly sure whether my father, Bill Strickland, was an amateur adult or a professional adolescent. Here is just one of the many incidents that led to my confusion.
The Pledgers, Bryant and Erma, a middle age childless couple, were our next door neighbors in Fairfax , an east Alabama mill village, when I was growing up. Mr. Bryant operated the Sinclair Service Station at the cotton-mill village crossroads, which also served as the bus station. Miss Erma ran the cash register and kept the books.
If you’ve driven South Carolina’s Ocean Highway (Hwy. 17), perhaps in hurrying from Georgetown to Myrtle Beach, you’ve probably noticed the ruins of old buildings on the east side of the road catercorner to the Fresh Market in Pawleys Island.
The mouldering, vine-tangled ruins look like the setting for a Tennessee Williams play or a novel by William Faulkner. The whole property, in fact, has the look of a long-ago Southern yesteryear, or as black poet Langston Hughes might have put it: the look of a dream deferred.
fight for justice and fairness
I have trouble listening to the news, especially when great nonsense is spoken in near perfect Suthun English.
I taught in a secondary modern school in the London in 1965-66 after which I returned to work on my doctorate at the University of Alabama and teach undergraduates. An honors student from one of those classes is coming to visit this afternoon, the first time we have seen each other in 50 years!
I was nine years old in the spring of 1967 when my father asked me if I wanted to tryout for Little League. I had no idea what Little League was but when he explained it was baseball, I quickly agreed. He had taken me to my first ballgame when I was six so any combination of my dad and baseball meant an instant yes. Back home a few hours later, he told me someone called to say I’d been picked to play for the Beachwood-Pine Beach (NJ) Little League Cardinals.
sucker for bugle calls
Have you noticed that if you listen to people, everybody has a story? Even people who don’t realize they have one.
I’m sure you have.
Recently, an older acquaintance and I were talking about my early teenage years when I was often called upon to put on my Boy Scout uniform and play the bugle call “Taps” for area military funerals. Somehow, the conversation drifted to the death of his favorite uncle…
the lessons I learned
While reading Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom years ago, I immediately thought of Mr. Randolph. He was my Morrie Schwartz—the most memorable teacher I ever had.
Grady Randolph frequently spoke about his rural, humble beginnings in Possum Trot, Alabama. Because of his intense love of learning, he read every book in the local library and started a journal in his early teens that he continued his entire life. This spirit led him to the University of Chicago, where he earned a law degree. He married, joined the Atlanta Bar in 1954, and practiced law in Atlanta with his wife. But he also taught history at Henry Grady High School.
Hardly anybody talks about Joey Miller anymore. His car was found three days after he had gone missing–in a vacant lot on some rural property he had planned to develop. The trunk was locked and his body was inside it. Somebody had shot him twice – in his upper back and in the back of his head.
The crime lab at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), sixty miles away in Tallahassee, even helped with some forensics…
I have a perennial burning urge to grow beans and lettuces, tomatoes and zucchini. I missed the season last year, moving house and garden, but I’m back on track. Although I garden on a modest scale, inadvertently I’ve embarked on a bid to grow the world’s most expensive vegetables.
A preference for growing vegetables over flowers is proof of my prosaic side, but also illustrates a romantic approach to harvesting and cooking produce straight from the soil…
Most Americans probably don’t realize how unique are their individual rights, compared to people living under other governments.
Our Founding Fathers, in all their inspired wisdom, gave early Americans more rights than previously had any government anywhere in the world. Those same rights, often multiplied in some ways, remain a cornerstone of living in the United States and go a long way in defining what it is to be an American.
They are easily identified in our Bill of Rights.
life was simple
Our house was only 10 yards from the railroad tracks and 50 yards from the end of the train station. It was a small rented cottage, one of five allocated to families of track workers. We had waited several years before the two bedroom cottage became available. The bedrooms were small and I was allocated a bed on the enclosed porch. There were no windows, only a wire screen to keep out the insects and a large canvas roller blind to keep out the light. It was cold and noisy.
God made the funny bone, but it atrophies with disuse. Those of us who closely follow the evening news are highly susceptible to morphing into a sourpuss.
An excellent remedy over the long haul is to give no more than 15 minutes a day to the headlines and redeem the rest of the day by reading good poetry aloud, fly-fishing alone in a huge state or federal park, changing diapers (of the very old or of the newborn), looking in a mirror while sticking out your tongue… Use your imagination. That’s why we have one.
a fairy tale
Nothing prepared me for the shock discovery after months in a writers’ group where I now live in Ireland, that several of our members firmly believe in fairies. Nobody dismissed them as figments of the imagination. I had to look into this.
Joining this group had opened a new window for me into a writer’s world. We meet weekly on Sunday afternoons in a village coffee and book shop serving excellent latte…
K.J. McElrath and Glen Greenwald appear disoriented. This is not the post 2016 election political struggle that they had anticipated. Or know how to fight. They were prepared to wage a virtuous virtual campaign against a President Hillary Clinton by continuing to expose the secrets of the military intelligence complex that spies on Americans and conducts a forever war to police the Middle East. Instead, the exposures of massive troves of mostly prosaic secrets via Wikileaks that they celebrated and propagated helped to shove history down a different path, leaving them stumbling and flailing.
Recent incidents involving forced removal of passengers from commercial flights have highlighted how far we have moved from the golden age of airline travel. I started flying in the 1950s and have experienced the significant changes in the airline business, not all for the benefit of travelers.
Flying home recently, on board a new Boeing 717 aircraft, I read an article (The History of Airline Classes and Cabins: The Travel Insider) about some of the changes in the airline industry over the years…
Despite the “never, ever, ever give up” language in Donald Trump’s recent disaster of a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy it takes little imagination to picture him suddenly resigning from office. Although a majority of Americans would like to see him depart for his golf courses permanently as quickly as possible, an excruciating slow motion departure from office would be more beneficial. Beyond the raw entertainment value of watching a ridiculous narcissist get his comeuppance…
Well, tie me to an ant hill and slap jelly in ma ears … Vladimir Putin, former KGB chief, thug and Dictator in Chief of Russia has offered to vouch for Donald’s Trumps innocence and honesty during a high stakes classified information swap-meet in the oval office. Vlad says he can prove that Donald is telling the truth.
Well! Jeesh, that is a relief! Show of hands, who, republican or democrat, with even a smidge of common sense feels more secure and that Donald is trustworthy? …
In December of last year the Camden County Planning Commission considered an application for a “hardship variance” to allow a group of Cumberland Island property-owners and family members to use 87 acres on the island to create a 10-lot subdivision. That area, zoned “conservation- preservation,” is less than a quarter-mile from the Sea Camp ferry dock, where nearly all visitors arrive from the mainland. Even though the applicants failed to meet all five variance requirements, their request was granted by the county planning commission.