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it wasn't me
About a quarter century ago, when Hercules Specialty Resins was still spewing its sulfurous emissions across the marshes of Glynn to be dissipated by mingling with the off-shore breezes, local wags dubbed the odiferous environment “the smell of money.” They may have been more right than they thought. For, within a decade, all profits had apparently gone up the chimney, even as every rain storm deposited more toxins to poison the marsh…
nice soot, kid
At eleven years-old, the most infuriating thing about trying to “apply yourself” is the universe doesn’t always cooperate.
Take the situation in which I’m in, 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 think of myself as a realist. A diehard realist. I believe I am truly a child of the Age of Reason. But can reason explain all things, unlock all mysteries?
Don’t think so. My Uncle Lehman, for instance, my Aunt Mary Grace’s husband, could talk warts off.
As I write this, I can see you shaking your skeptical head. Well, I didn’t believe it, either.
that or the rat shed
Grandpa was a quiet and gentle man. Grandma did most of the talking. He was over six feet tall and she was a little over five feet, feisty and independent. They obviously had agreed that he would make the big decisions and she would make all the small ones. All of the decisions were small.
I was four years old when my brother and I were sent to live with Grandma and Grandpa, whom I called Papa, during World War II.
Responding to criticism that its soft drinks contribute to epidemic obesity in America, and that it hooks kids on the sugary sodas like Bill Cosby giving away Quaalude Jell-O shots to kindergarteners, and that it has funded research to confuse Americans about how horrible soft drinks are for human health, the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. said it is thinking doing something – but probably not.
“Sure, we could recall all 600 billion soft drinks Americans drink on an average day, and you could make the case that these sugar-packed sodas contribute to the nation’s appalling weight gain, in the same way you could make the case that eating ANYTHING, including alfalfa sprouts, contributes to weight gain,” said a Coca-Cola spokesman…
pioneer of trash tv
Contrary to his fragmentation-grenade TV persona, the Morton Downey Jr. I knew was a pussycat. A pussycat o’ nine tails sometimes, but a pussycat all the same.
I got to know Mort – the subject of a new documentary called “Evocateur” — when he was just beginning to develop the obstreperous, outrageous on-air shtick that a few years later would make him briefly notorious. All you “loudmouths” and “pablum-puking liberals” out there know what I’m talking about…
southern (hemisphere) stories
Grandpa was not a storyteller. It was only later, when Grandma wasn’t around, that he told me a few stories about his life and parents. He never talked about the hard times during the Great Depression, but he said enough to encourage me in later life to research his family history. When he died all of Grandma’s and Grandpa’s personal things, letters and photographs were given to my older cousin because she was the only granddaughter.
revenge of the grown ups
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 the 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…
At age 5 I told anyone who asked, and lots who didn’t, “I want to be a doctor in the daytime and a preacher at night.”
Likely that was connected to the two people outside my family whom I most admired, our doctor who lived in the big house on the corner of our block, and our preacher who lived in the big house on the corner of the next block over. The preacher and my dad were classmates at college and in the vacant lots behind our house and in front of his they planted a Victory Garden together…
with heavy hearts
“Well, then, ask me your questions. I won’t be around forever.”
That’s what Floyd told me a few years ago when I said that just when we get old enough to ask the right questions of our parents and grandparents, they’re all gone. Floyd was true to his word and did not last forever. He is now gone, six months short of his one-hundredth birthday. I was assured he died without pain and without lingering more than just a few days.
loved to death
An acquaintance of mine, whom I will call Jasper, returning from a Florida fishing trip, after not catching a single fish and suffering a severe sunburn, once bought a used monkey at one of those back-roads’ tourist traps.
Jasper said the monkey was the most pitiful-looking critter he ever saw — skinny, its matted hair flecked with grey. Its sad eyes pleaded to him. Jasper and the unfortunate simian connected on a telepathic, spiritual level — one desperate guy to another.
easier than it looks
Americans anticipating a British driving vacation face two problems: driving on the “wrong” (left) side of the road… and British roundabouts. Britain has more roundabouts as a proportion of roads than any other country. Many get confused at negotiating the roundabout, while driving in a left-side steering car gets a little more comfortable after a while.
Americans vacationing in France face only the roundabout problem, as the French drive on the “right” side of the road. Yet there are more roundabouts in France (30,000 as of 2008) than in any other nation.
widening my american horizons
For ten years I’ve lived in the Shenandoah Valley, enjoying it so much that when my son whom I came from England to live near, moved to Kansas, I chose to stay here. I’m keenly aware of this vast beautiful country extending from Virginia to California (twice visited) in the west and Montana in the north and I’ve another son and family in Arizona, but there are so many places in America I yearn to explore. When I told Virginian friends “I’m going on holiday to Kansas,” they mostly said “Huh.” I think it’s something to do with the fact that Kansas hasn’t got mountains.
mostly white history
It is often said, “history is written by the victors.” I’ve found that not to be quite true in my research – at least not in the American South. Since the invention of the printing press, history has been based mostly on what the people who got themselves noticed by newspapers and had both the inclination and time to preserve their clippings in the archives historians are wont to peruse. In other words, historians ending up with a biased perspective is not entirely their fault. They work with what they’ve got.
let the free market decide
The Republican Party plans to auction off the bottom seven GOP presidential candidates on eBay. The party said the move will channel money to the low-polling stragglers and simplify the debate format.
“Look, we’ve got nothing against Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal, even if obviously voters do,” said a GOP spokesman. “This is threefold: it gives those boys a chance to raise money, it raises their visibility, and it gives the electoral process back to the average voter. Win. Win. Win.”
Used your debit card lately to buy something in a store? I tried yesterday, but the store began closing before I could answer all the questions that pop up after you swipe your card. I had started at noon The first dozen or so were child’s play, questions like:
“Do you want cash back?” Yes, but only if you’re giving it away.
“Is $3,590.23 the correct amount?” Only if the clerk is holding a gun on me…
Paul Simon wrote that line. It fits the paralyzing disequilibrium that took me over as I was handed a game-changing diagnosis of tonsil cancer. I wrote the following note on the subway home for the worst case scenario. Fortunately it has proved, like reports of Twain’s death, to be premature.
This is that maudlin letter you dread from someone who believes you would actually maybe like to have a farewell note: If you get this I have navigated a dark corridor descended slippery stairs to black water’s edge stepped into and pushed off waiting skiff into infinite night.
separate but separate
“Sorry for the delay,” the Delta rep says. “2270 is in a stack pattern, circling north Georgia with a dozen or so other incoming flights. 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 constantly keep nearby. Drat! However, while I have no talent for the waiting game, 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.
politics republican style
Trying to mend fences with Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, public employees’ unions sent condolences to Walker Friday afternoon after his performance in Thursday night’s GOP debate on Fox News.
The union’s ranks were decimated after it lost a bitter battle with Walker, who passed laws limiting collective bargaining rights in the state, costing many their jobs and livelihoods.
A long time ago in a place far away early explorers were sent to find a safe route through the mountains to a beautiful valley on the other side. As the explorers attempted to cross a flooded river on a wild and windy night their strongest horse drowned while trying to get the rider safely across the raging waters. When convict gangs were later sent to construct a bridge over the river they swore that on stormy nights they could see the ghost of the horse galloping across the countryside.
my write to reply
We’ve heard a lot about flags lately and I’d like to comment on the contrasting styles of American sentiment and British cynicism. This difference in style might also account for our nations’ different perceptions of each other’s sense of humor. We need a Special Relationship to reconcile our differences.
I followed with interest controversy over the Confederate flag, admiring those who, understanding its history, agreed to its lowering; repelled by those who knew its significance to those whose oppression it represented, and wanted to preserve it anyway. Flags are indeed symbolic.
Should marijuana be legalized? No, of course not. Why? Because of the drug’s downside. And because of its upside.
First the upside. Let’s face it: the weed is huge fun. But people, what are you thinking? That it’s okay to have a bag of fun just lying around the house? To be indulged in whenever? What’s happened to our puritan heritage? You remember when H. L. Mencken said that puritanism is the fear that somebody, somewhere, is having more fun than you are?
satire from the darkside
Walmart, swashbuckling privateer of American commerce, is casting its grappling hooks at the lucrative, always in demand, funeral industry. Is anybody surprised?
According to Wily Ebeneezer, Walmart Director of Roughshod Practices, the mercantile behemoth’s version of Area 51 in Rigor Mortis Springs, Arkansas, has developed discount funerals for their thrifty-minded customers. (And ain’t they all?)
We left the Tempelhof Airport in the American Sector late in the morning for a last look at West Berlin. The old Kombi van rattled along towards Potsdamer Platz and the British Sector. There was little traffic, only the occasional military patrol. While looking for a street that would take us to Potsdamer Platz, without entering the Soviet Zone, we saw the ruins of a large building surrounded by rubble overgrown with grass…
“Everywhere I go I see an American flag. I don’t understand that. You hardly ever see a British flag flying anyplace in the UK.”
That from a member of my writers group, a transplanted Brit, in this country now for ten years or so. Sorry to say, it took my aging brain a few hours to compose a response. But now I have and here it is: We Americans are proud of our flag…
a clark & poland special
Robert Clark and I were on the road running down a story, a story about land, a farmhouse, and tomatoes, a story of war, old ways, and survivors of sorts. On a hot, humid July morning we abandoned I-20 for Longs Pond Road and after a back road or two arrived at a farmhouse near the community of Boiling Springs. Two big blackjack oaks stood out front. Out back, a handsome, clapboard smokehouse looked lonely, its fellow outbuildings long-fallen comrades…
Long before the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments concerning The Affordable Health Care Act, many esteemed legal scholars were skeptical that such a hearing would ever come to pass. Indeed, Harvard law professor, Charles Fried, said if the High Court ever considered the legality of Obamacare, he would eat the kangaroo-skin hat that he had recently purchased in Australia.
Now, I’m not holding my breath waiting for Mr. Fried to eat his hat; it’s not even certain that his promise was legally binding, even though the good professor made his hat-eating offer on Fox News.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
Grandpa was not a storyteller. It was only later, when Grandma wasn’t around, that he told me a few stories about his life and parents. He never talked about the hard times during the Great Depression, but he said enough to encourage me in later life to research his family history. When he died all of Grandma’s and Grandpa’s personal things, letters and photographs were given to my older cousin because she was the only granddaughter. By the time I became interested in our family history everything had been thrown away except some old photographs. I started the long and frust Read on →
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 Read on →
Americans anticipating a British driving vacation face two problems: driving on the “wrong” (left) side of the road… and British roundabouts. Britain has more roundabouts as a proportion of roads than any other country. Many get confused at negotiating the roundabout, while driving in a left-side steering car gets a little more comfortable after a while. Americans vacationing in France face only the roundabout problem, as the French drive on the “right” side of the road. Yet there are more roundabouts in France (30,000 as of 2008) than in any other nation. After lunch one Sunday at the intersection of Brown’s Bridge Road and Ge Read on →
“Well, then, ask me your questions. I won’t be around forever.” That’s what Floyd told me a few years ago when I said that just when we get old enough to ask the right questions of our parents and grandparents, they’re all gone. Floyd was true to his word and did not last forever. He is now gone, six months short of his one-hundredth birthday. I was assured he died without pain and without lingering more than just a few days. As a rabbi friend told me once about the way my mother died instantly from a stroke ... she was taken wit Read on →