why is it so hard?
The first college football game I ever watched was the 1960 Army Navy contest. A running back named Joe Bellino caught my attention and I cheered enthusiastically for Navy during that contest. A few days later Bellino would also win the Heisman Trophy.
My father watched the game with me and rooted for the opposing team. He served in World War II as a gunnery sergeant and was Army through and through. This was likely the first of many disagreements he and I would have over the years..
moore v jesus
Make no mistake, the Alabama U.S. Senate election is about hate.
Republican Candidate Roy Moore, the twice-elected and twice-removed Alabama Supreme Court Justice, says the race is about an attack on our Christian heritage and beliefs. An assault on the very foundations of our country. Moore says he is being persecuted by “forces of evil” and thus all of our beliefs are at risk.
Inspired by Tom Poland’s great stories about his travels on the back roads I decided to drive some country roads in search of a little piece of history. I didn’t want to go too far from the small inland cities and towns because I needed a little comfort at the end of the day. Camping out and cooking on an open fire no longer interested me, especially when alone.
Unable to find someone to share the experience I left home early on Sunday morning to navigate the freeways and toll roads out of the city.
Like all good books, Paul Theroux’s Deep South got me thinking about things beyond the book’s covers. As the service wrapped up at an African American church Theroux visited (the congregants called him “Mr. Paul”), he picked up a Bible and turned to a passage in Proverbs he remembered. It read, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief. A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
kill to kill trump's tax scam
The Senate test vote (aka: motion to proceed or pre-vote vote) could be next Monday, November 27. They could bring it to the floor as early as Thursday, November 30th. We need to make some noise until we defeat this bill that even Forbes called “The End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington.” Calling your senators is a good thing (capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121). Do it. But that isn’t enough.
This fight will come down to just a couple of Senators and the time to take action is now.
The canteen hung from a nail in my parent’s attic for decades. My father brought it home from Hiroshima. He brought back, too, Earth Superior binoculars and a Japanese rifle and bayonet. The rifle is missing. Its bayonet remains. War relics.
Look closely. You’ll see the designation U.S. A.G. M. Co. 1942 on this World War II canteen. A.G. M. stood for the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company. Check eBay. Folks are selling history, war relics.
fantastic meal #89
I’ve often wondered if other countries have a national holiday like we do—Thanksgiving—an entire day dedicated to eating, followed by National Leftover Day, a holy day almost as big a hit as T-Day, itself. Is there a Sardine Day in Norway? A Fish & Chips Day in Great Britain? I really don’t know, although I’m sure I could Google it if I could figure out how to ask the right question.
the decades astonish and steal
A notice on the front door warns that you look at the church at your own risk. The church stands empty. Closed. Nothing new. Trinity Episcopal closed during the Great Depression. “When my mother and aunt came back here to live in retirement, they tried other churches and it just didn’t work,” said May. “So, they got some friends who had grown up in the church with them and reopened the church. The first service was on November 1, 1948.”
candidate ga psc
Republican victories in Georgia Public Service Commission races have been so predictable in recent years that Democrats haven’t bothered to field a candidate in three of the past five elections. Next year is shaping up to be quite different for the state’s asleep-at-the-wheel all GOP regulatory agency, however.
Nov. 6, 2017. My name is Stephen Wingeier. Wouldn’t it be great if all Georgia citizens had the day off to participate in their democracy today? Luckily for me, Monday is my day off. But by holding this so-called “public hearing” during the workday, you are excluding the vast majority of Georgians.
Long after Monsanto Corporations’s own secret studies revealed the toxicity of DDT, they kept right on selling it. Long after the tobacco industry did secret studies proving that cigarettes are carcinogenic, it kept on pretending cigarettes were safe. And long after the plastics industry secretly knew it was poisoning its workers, it kept right on poisoning them. None of these corporate crimes was halted until government regulators stepped in.
the decades astonish and steal
Owing to the need to save money for their daughters’ college tuition, it took May and her husband fifteen years to move to Abbeville After her mother died. That was in 1977. “We came and never looked back,” she said. Her husband took early retirement and she quit teaching first grade. “No more,” she said, but more was in store. A school in the country urgently needed a teacher. “I pitched in and ended up teaching four more years, but that gave me four more years of retirement money.”
I built my first coffin as an eight-year-old in 1952, a time when dogs still trotted freely in the street in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. They had full reign of the neighborhood. Sawdust and Timber, my two young beagles, slept in my bed with me. We had to jockey for space. At that age, I didn’t mind rolling over on a wet and slimy shard of chewed bone. One summer afternoon Sawdust ran under a speeding Buick Roadmaster. Trailing a few steps behind, Timber only heard the thump.
think, remember, reflect
I grew up in the segregated South. In my seven years of elementary school, four years of high school, and four years of college, there was never a black student in my school.
I was there on the Sunday morning in 1960 when the leaders of my Methodist church gathered nervously on the front steps fearful that a black family was going to come to worship. When I asked my Dad what everybody was afraid of, he said, “you don’t understand.”
the decades astonish and steal
August 31. Rain from Harvey’s remnants made the driving tough along Highway 34. The wipers met out a metronome-like beat as log truck after log truck slung sheets of water across my windshield, a clattering collision of water against glass. My destination? Abbeville, South Carolina to meet photographer-writer-historian Bill “Big Sky” Fitzpatrick. A gusty, gray rain seemed fitting for a mission to see who and what might halt the crumbling of historic Trinity Episcopal Church.
hiking the at
Since my early teens, I have loved the out-of-doors and spent many a good moment there, sometimes in the company of others, often in blissful solitude.
At the age of forty, beset by an unexpected urge to solo trek, I strapped on a JanSport backpack large enough for a bathtub, filled it with fifty-four pounds of gear and sustenance, and hiked north on the Appalachian Trail (AT) out of Damascus, Virginia, bound for the high country of Mt. Rogers and Grayson Highlands. After a schlep of nine miles on day one, mostly uphill, I collapsed and camped right beside the trail, too exhausted to search for a better spot. Each day thereafter, however, I grew stronger…
there is a bigger deal out there
It has been hard to ignore the buzz created by the chase for Amazon’s second headquarters. Five billion dollars in construction costs and 50,000 “high-paying” jobs. 238 proposals have been submitted to Amazon from all across North America. Of course there were.
While all the proposals were made in secret, it is safe to assume that no incentive was left out.
Without fanfare the bass player, Bob Keller, stepped to a microphone and introduced the first song.
“Here’s something by Bob Dylan.”
The wall of sound unleashed from those speakers was unlike anything we’d ever heard. Maybe like a two by four upside the head. I swear the wind from their opening notes blew my hair.
that the best he's got
Randy Newman caused an uproar years ago when he released a catchy pop ditty in which he declared that “short people got no reason to live.” The singer-songwriter insisted “Short People”was a metaphorical, anti-bigotry joke, as was his bent, but that didn’t stop a lot of short people and their families and friends from wanting to cut him off at the knees. I wonder why we haven’t heard a similar outcry over Donald Trump’s fondness for belittling “liddle” people. He’s not joking, much less engaging in metaphor.
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 …