Having written and published a book about public transportation that is a novel wrapped in political satire, I have been lately asking myself, “What possessed you to embark on this journey in the first place?
Coincidentally, I need look no further than a piece I wrote called “Book Spotting,” that appeared in Like the Dew in 2011. The article mentions a fictitious book club on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) whose basic membership requirement was to read something while riding public transportation…
Fear. Of all the four-letter words in the English language, “fear” might be the worst. It’s certainly the most terrifying. Everyone knows fear and no one escapes it. There’s a special kind of fear that youngsters confront though. Fear of yourself. Fear of discovering who you might be and what you might be able to do. It’s the great unknown that young kids face every day. Some conquer that fear spectacularly. Some find different ways of coping with it. And some get crushed by it.
Hitler and drugs are such an obvious formula for successful popular history that it is a wunder someone hadn’t already published something similar to Norman Ohler’s 2016 Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany. Likely to please readers interested in social history and drug policy, the book is certain to perturb serious political and military historians with what appear almost uni-causal explanations for phenomena such as Adolf Hitler’s erratic decision making and the success of the blitzkrieg as a strategy…
remembering the king
During the spring of 2001, a few months before America changed for the worse, Shane and I were working on a dream trip. We were going to Wrigley, and taking my grandson with us. The feeling reminded me of Christmas the year I got my first 26” bicycle.
The plans had been made; tickets for game and plane confirmed; hotel rooms reserved. About to bust from anticipation, I looked up activities for that weekend just to occupy my time. The Chicago Blues Festival, long on my bucket list, was happening the same weekend we’d be there…
injustices – a book review
If you’ve ever wondered how the Supreme Court, in its great wisdom, came to the proposition that corporations are persons with all the rights thereof, I suggest you read Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted by Ian Millhiser.
There is plenty of precedent for that body making law out of whole cloth. Basically two forces are at work in the court, as in our great land, sometimes in the same justice, one dissenting, one dominating…
making america worse
The White House’s budget proposal includes a $54 billion increase in military spending that ostensibly will be offset by cuts to a variety of cabinet-level departments and lesser agencies, among the the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding that helps fuel the Public Broadcasting Service, National Public Radio, some170 public-TV stations, and 900-plus public radio stations.
for our ultimate audience
Talk about writer’s block: What about having to write an epitaph for your mother’s gravestone? The idea of an epitaph, of course, is that it’s written for the ages, even those short simple annals of the poor on weed-lost tombstones.
I write, and teach writing. I teach that it starts with your audience. If you’ve been writing only for your teacher, you haven’t really started to learn writing. Writing well for a mass of strangers – that’s more like it.
I am looking for new friends to replace those who have fallen off the perch already and to increase my personal wealth. The new friends will need to share my values of honest hard work, democracy, freedom of speech, equality, love of the great outdoors, baseball, football and a passion for fine red wine.
For a long time I thought great wealth was the secret to friendship because the few millionaires I met had a lot of friends…
A fine Southern mansion complete with its own bowling alley? ’Tis true. A glimpse of the wealth and majesty that came with the era of Carolina Gold rice? True. Sumptuous grounds and landscaping directed by a man from my hometown? Lincolnton, Georgia. True, indeed.
“Stately, gorgeous and unspoiled, Arcadia is set between Pawley’s Island and Georgetown, encompassing all the property on both sides of the highway with the exception of DeBordieu Colony, Prince George and Hobcaw Barony.”
harder than it has to be
It occurs to me that the other people who live at my house have an absolute unholy fascination with time. These people HAVE to know EXACTLY what time it is – at all times. It’s an obsession. Sometimes I think the rest of them were related to Galileo, Pope Gregory or that our last name was not ‘Cantrell’ but rather, Bulova.
There is a clock of some kind in every room of our house. In a couple of rooms there’s more than one…
author, friend, family man
Not quite a year ago thunderstorms shook the South Carolina Midlands. For those who mark calendars, they rumbled through April Fool’s Day around 4 a.m. Later that morning my friend, Dianne, sent me a text. “We lost Sam last night.” Rains had come to wash away a man’s last earthly footprints. Said his loving wife, Myra, “a renaissance man left us.” I knew what she meant. Samuel Steven Morton and I traveled a bit of road. I first met Sam …
There Is a Season
To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die.
We never thought Sophie would be our last cat standing. Our almost eighteen-year-old aging feline, still a debutante in her own mind, has now bid us farewell…
on lewis grizzard
My wife and I drove last week to Marietta, Ga., for a wedding party. Imagine my surprise when on a stretch of I-85 in Coweta County, about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta, I saw a sign that read: Lewis Grizzard Memorial Highway.
It warmed my heart, for I knew the late Lewis Grizzard when years ago I was a writer/editor for The Atlanta Constitution, where his incredible rise to fame began.
caines family, genuine folk artists
As I turned off Highway 17 onto West Virginia Road, snowy mountains and the blue-green Kanawha River came to mind, but neither snow nor mountains waited in Carolina Rice Country. Legendary folk artists waited—The Caines Boys. Now right here let’s get clear on names. The Caines Brothers are dead and gone. The Caines Boys, Jerry and Roy, live on. The first time I heard of Caines decoys, it was a reference to the Caines Brothers who came to fame in Georgetown in the first half of the last century…
no ice, no skates, no puck
“I’m open,” I realized as I sped down the cold gray parking lot surface. “But does he see it?”
Growing up a boy on the Jersey Shore in the early 1970’s, baseball was our summer passion. We’d play all day long on a sandlot and then go home and put our uniforms on for that night’s Little League game. In the fall, it was football, of course. No helmets, no pads, barely any rules. However, in the winter, we played street hockey.
how to ban muslims: ask mississippi
In The Promise of the New South, Edward Ayers tells of James Z. George, a U.S. senator from Mississippi who predicted that, in 1890 (just a year away), the number of African American in the state would exceed that of whites by half a million. George was worried about what this meant for the state’s political future. Democrats had controlled Mississippi since the end of Reconstruction, but now, the black population was growing so ominously and Republicans …
essentials of life
“Gee, Brain, what are we going to do tonight?”
“The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”
With apologies to the creators of Pinky and the Brain, the wickedly witty cartoon series about a super-smart laboratory mouse and his decidedly less cerebral sidekick, I imagine an exchange like that recurring nightly at the White House between President Donald Trump and senior adviser Steve Bannon – except…
wouldn’t be and never was
We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there’s a better life for me and you
Somewhere baby, somehow I know it
My Aunt Dolly seldom went to the movies, but my sisters and I sat down with her in 1978 to watch the TV mini-series “The Awakening Land,” a fictionalized account of a family who moved into the Ohio wilderness toward the end of the eighteenth century …
stay vigilant but
We’re all exercised by recent events in America, even to the extent of disturbed sleep. I dreamed of America being violated, helpless to resist. This is not just America’s problem; it has the capacity to rock the world. Facebook is crammed with shared misgivings. My American friends, all Democrats, exchange tens of emails daily. Several attended the Women’s March in Washington. We are all in danger of burn-out, so I seek to restore peace of mind.
Atlantans are preparing for what many believe is an impossibility: ascending I-75 during rush hour in time to make it to a Braves’ game in Cobb County.
For weeks fans have been stockpiling food and fuel and consulting guides – one Buckhead man has hired six Sherpas – for the treacherous trek to the top of the city’s peak traffic nightmare where breathing can require oxygen and one slip can be fatal.
“My wife doesn’t want me to go,” said Billy Waldrop. “You know, we’ve got three kids, and if I don’t make it…”
slow death roll shot
“Go find Lester.”
We were typical college kids in the late 70’s. Brief moments of intense studying, staying up way too late, eating the wrong foods, smoking and drinking too much, partying like there was no tomorrow, falling in and out of lust disguised as love, rooting for our school and wasting time. Wasting lots of time.
will it stay airborne?
“Allowing a monkey to drive a race car sounds like an amusing idea, but only to those who have never tried it.” – The Bard of Affliction
The great Airship of State had been flying for 241 years now. It wasn’t always an airliner, of course. Back when it began to function, a hot-air balloon was sufficient to hoist its machinery. As the years flew by, however, and new technologies became available, it eventually transferred itself into ever more efficient aerial transports, the better to float high above the hostile environment below …
not a sport
As I made my way down I-26, a white van jerked into my lane. He not only failed to use a turn signal, his lights were off. Both are laws in South Carolina although many drivers treat them as tepid suggestions. The maneuver left so little room I almost scraped the Trump sticker off his bumper. At a younger age I might have opted for an extended horn blast or flashed my lights repeatedly.
whatever it takes
There are many ways that young kids grow with their college experience. If you go away to school, when you’re a freshman, you can’t wait to get back home. Fall break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, summer vacation … They all mean the same thing. Home. If you don’t have a car, you try to arrange a ride or you check the bus and train schedules. Whatever it takes …
hurts our hearts
I imagine what happens next to that march from protozoa to ape to man – just a poof of dust from the increasing implosion of facts-to-lies-to-violence based on nothing but a madman’s brain, and his cunning associate (perhaps with an “s” – just in case there’s somebody else in the room with Bannon?). I wonder, daily, about how much of the planet will still be here …
right to bear cars
Running down pedestrians with your car is wrong. Whether the act is intentional or negligent, running down pedestrians is absolutely wrong. That ethical absolute extends to encouraging others to commit such an act. Unfortunately a couple of Republican lawmakers in Tennessee want their state courts to take a much more permissive approach to vehicular murder and assault. Tennessee State Representative Matthew Hill and State Senator Bill Ketron have introduced…
In 1998 my husband Wilton and I decided to take a trip to Kenya, which fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams of being able to see wild animals in their natural habitats. I had read so many books about life in the jungle and loved Isak Dinesen’s book and the movie Out of Africa. I enjoyed trips to the zoo to see elephants, lions, and giraffes, but always longed to see them in Africa as they were in Born Free.
Remember how Donald Trump spent much of the 2016 election campaign touting his ability to negotiate better deals for the United States? For all the bombast about trade with China and nukes in Iran, and cheering from supporters who probably couldn’t find either country on a world map, it turns out that the international agreements he intended to renegotiate and perhaps junk altogether were with our allies and not our rivals. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence was …
Southerners are said to be obsessed with their own history. It’s true, belying that old dictum that history is always written by the winners. Even now, well into the 21st century, I find myself wading into the murky waters of that Southern obsession with the past, which invariably goes back to slavery and the War.
This obsession animates the 2016 book I have just finished reading, The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade, by historian Charles B. Dew …
awakening hearts & minds:
A conference on February 4th in Decatur, GA featured “rock star” panelists, knowledgeable, articulate, even entertaining on a subject that doesn’t readily lend itself to such. This is not a thorough review of the conference but more a collection of impressions.
A talk on Syria by jounalist Reese Erlich, a week later added further to my notes. My attendance at these events was motivated by a lack of knowledge about the situation in Syria…
commander in tweet
I admit to retreating often from the evening news, but the acts reported find me through their effects on my friends.
The physician of a friend is also my physician: he has done grafts for lymphedema on both of us. For us he is a miracle worker. Last week he told my friend that new government regulations just put in place will limit anyone to three grafts to be covered; thereafter, amputation will be covered for those who can’t pay for additional grafts on their own.
heaven help me
Two thousand seventeen has not gotten off to a good start for Yours Truly.
First, there was the dress. No. make that The Dress. It was “The Dress” instead of simply “the dress” because it is for the upcoming wedding of our youngest son, Carson, a brilliant new lawyer (takes after his father) who now calls Des Moines, Iowa, home. Carson will wed Claire Roth in Athens in April. You might recall my column on his unusual Pepperoni Proposal…
black shirts or brown?
“— mind you, the corridors of power are littered with Fascist leanings; anything to save the upper classes through disenfranchisement of the common man while allowing the common man to think you are on his side.” — Dr. Trevor Petit, a character in Jaqueline Winspear’s mystery A Lesson in Secrets
Recently, I’ve stumbled upon two articles on fascism that are chillingly relevant as political darkness envelopes the nation.
crackdown on continues
In a series of tweets and Fox News interviews, President Donald Trump on Thursday vowed to deport Area 51 aliens and answer scores of questions that have plagued the minds of millions who voted for him.
“The people have a right to know, and I’m going to tell them,” Trump tweeted. “I’ve ordered the FBI to send me all of their X-Files.”
At an afternoon press conference in Roswell, New Mexico, before a crowd estimated by the White House to exceed fourteen million …
Yesterday I attended a wondrous event: democracy in full-throated action.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte chairs the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives. It’s a position of considerable power, for good or ill. Congressman Goodlatte also represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, which just happens to include Harrisonburg, Virginia, where I live, the home of the national Welcome Your Neighbors movement.
Atlanta, Georgia will be closed on Monday, February 6th. I would suggest any plans you may have for doing business with anyone in Atlanta on February 6 be postponed until later in the week – or maybe until the following week. All regular human activity will come to a standstill, no business will get done and hardly anybody will even be at work on Monday. You’d think that Atlanta had a full inch of snow on the ground.
covered in paint
Thirty three years ago, George Orwell became extra popular across the world. His Facebook page went viral and he multiplied his Twitter followers a hundredfold, or he would have if those things had been operable in 1984.
It appears he may be in the process of making a comeback. Based on the first few days of the Trump presidency, 1984 has vaulted to the top of the bestseller’s list. I’m down with dystopian novels being appropriate right now, but…
Supporters of President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking admission of Syrian refugees and suspending immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations don’t just argue his right to do so. They consider it his sworn duty. “We need to deal with reality and protect the American people,” wrote a friend on social media. “This is the number one job of the President of the United States.”
But, is it?
searched then hugged
Yesterday I mentioned to a British friend my concern (in the light of Trump’s edict banning arrivals from certain countries), that all our political views are frankly on record on social media outlets.
I said ‘It only takes a few minutes to judge a person’s political stance by checking their Facebook or Twitter accounts.’ He thought I was absurd to be concerned. He hasn’t lived in the States or used Facebook so perhaps is not aware of the extent to which people express their views, or that Big Brother is likely reading their mail.
In the 1970s Tehran was one of the few cities in the Middle East where alcohol was available for the local population and tired travelers. The city was cosmopolitan, the Persian people were friendly and the fashions were right out of Paris. Other parts of the country were different, more traditionally Persian and some opposed to the Shah.
Arriving at and departing from Mehrabad Airport on commercial flights was always interesting. The Iranian Air Force…
to the abyss
I found this in my muse-folder one recent morning:
beneath the polarized & poisonous air
lies the breath of life
the state of being
the realm of beauty, joy & creativity
Seems like my meandering thoughts tend to channel toward composing blogposts or Facebook replies these days…
twisting ideological knots
Donald J. Trump’s lies, especially about numbers, and that presents a puzzle. His claims about fraudulent votes cast against him in the general election and the size of his inauguration crowd make him appear not just obsessive and puerile, but also remind audiences of his illegitimacy. Conservative populists claim to speak for “the people.” References to numbers remind us that he is only the leader of an angry minority and not the majority of Americans …
“Late in 1788, just after Virginia voted to ratify the Constitution and join the union, former Governor Patrick Henry persuaded the state legislature to remake the Fifth Congressional District, forcing Henry’s political enemy James Madison to run against the formidable James Monroe. The ploy failed and Madison won anyway, eventually becoming the nation’s fourth president. Monroe’s career wasn’t over, though: He succeeded Madison as president.” (Library of Congress.)
just the facts
This story is moving so quickly I’m not sure I can keep up with it. By the time you read this we could be in a war with Korea and Putin will be dancing in the West Wing. The American press has been shamed for reporting reality and disseminating verifiable information. I called KellyAnn ConJob to ask her about this and the she-beast of propaganda, hissed … “It’s not the press’s job to report reality, their job is to report what I say reality is.”
destruction of american values
President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that he’s done more in his first seven days than God did.
“He did a lot,” Trump tweeted. “I’d be the first to admit that. I’m a devout man. But this week, Lordy, kind of hard to trump Trump!”
According to the Biblical account, God created the entire universe in seven days. Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway conceded Friday “that was a remarkable achievement, in its own right.
fable of buyer’s remorse
Years later, if you had asked Robbie exactly when it was that he decided to eat the elephant, he would have had trouble coming up with the answer. Perhaps the seeds had been planted in his early childhood. All those elephant jokes…
Q: What’s red and white on the outside, and grey and white on the inside?
A: Campbell’s Cream of Elephant Soup.
reasonable or rational
It’s playing endlessly in my head, and I’ve resisted the urge to share. But, it’s not going away until I do. Why the reluctance? Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking or not wanting to be yet another frantic voice sounding the alarm. I’m a grace under pressure kind of guy. Between trade wars and the war on terror, border walls and Muslim bans, executive orders and Twitter tirades, alternative facts and information blackouts, authoritarian strongman bromances, and infuriating cabinet selections, hurried deregulation and environmental suicide it’s hard not to see this ending badly. Bigly. So…
fake opinion next?
Fake News sites are laying off thousands of workers in the wake of Donald Trump’s first days in office when he rattled off so many lies publishers of the sites said there’s no more complete horsecrap left to make up.
“He’s ruining our business model,” said Ted Klepper, an out-of-work auto worker who publishes TruthGodFacks.com from a shed in the back of his home in Blanchard, Michigan.
still the mind – enjoy being
What is happening? I’m watching a movie, a little disturbed by the violence, take a break to pee when suddenly I’m aware … a pang of fear… the conceptual reality-bubble I create to walk around in is burst… I feel vulnerable. I’m standing at the toilet, but the greater world just beyond these walls with its terrible indifference, its marauding criminals, Doppler sirens, terrorists, and accidents roaming the streets … major hostility … and cancer … and it’s true “I” am vulnerable.
we are a hostage audience
Revenge is one of the powerful unspoken temptations of public office. For incoming presidents, the urge to punish often involves diminishing the historical legacies of their predecessors. Ronald Reagan took revenge on Jimmy Carter by gutting renewable and clean energy policies. Fuel efficiency standards were rolled back, renewable energy research and development funding was slashed and the wind power investment tax credit was eliminated. Reagan even had the solar panels on the roof of the White House taken down.
they deserve each other
On Friday, we Americans will witness the inauguration of our 45th President, Rush Limbaugh. OK, not really Rush. Instead, what Hollywood casting agents would refer to as “a Rush Limbaugh type,” one Donald J. Trump. Limbaugh — the Big Daddy, the Jabba the Hut of right-wing radio talk — is not the inescapable presence he once was. He’s not quoted so much, and his name is not invoked as often. Though his audience is still the envy of the radio industry, he doesn’t have the influence he did at his peak in the 1990s….
It was an interesting year. OPEC was beginning to exert its influence over world oil prices for the first time and generate considerable wealth for its member countries to invest in new industries. My company decided to expand its exports of minerals to the Middle East. I had some business experience in Asia but knew nothing about the Middle East. I was soon to learn. The first challenge was managing the use of two passports and not presenting the wrong one when I entered or departed certain countries…
appealing to baser instincts
I’m no historian, but from the perspective of advancing age, I find fascinating that certain societies produce just the right leaders at just the right time. Think Abraham Lincoln, for example, who evolved during his presidency from defender of the Union to emancipator of the oppressed, a transition marked by the Gettysburg Address, perhaps the greatest oration in American history. Think FDR, who, despite his infirmities, shepherded the U.S. through back-to-back crises: the Great Depression and the Second World War…
who makes such evil profitable?
think the psyche of the South for a man my age carries with it a fading memory of the shame and bitterness of being a son of a conquered nation. My father’s elementary school classes had annual field trips to the Confederate Memorial — a marble double arch inside a small chain-link fence — in Robinson Springs, AL. The names of the dead remain on the aging marker under the damp shade of broad oaks, but the field trips have ended. There is so much more to Southerners than the civil rights struggle…
The kompromat story becomes more plausible with each passing day.
The important information for much of the news audience is that Donald Trump allowed himself to be caught in a classic honey trap, one made all the more embarrassing because it involved a peculiar paraphilia. The accusation is that the president elect paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on him.
Thinking back politically into the middle of 2016, I must admit that I began to wonder if the GOP challenger Donald Trump might be moving the United States toward a seminal and decisive change.
The question came into my mind, “Will Trump be a person who will have a transformative moment to the political system similar to the way Ronald Reagan changed the Republican Party?”
rule of the thug
As America enters the Age of Trump, it is important to recognize that what’s happening is not just about Trump, and not just about America. Forces kindred to Trump have lately been ascendant around the world.
We see different manifestations of this same ascendant force that has borne Trump into the presidency in Putin’s Russia, in Erdogan’s Turkey, in Britain’s Brexit movement, in right-wing ethno-nationalist parties across Europe (France, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, etc.), in Netanyahu’s Israel, and in Duterte’s Philippines.
make america ache again
Amid rising concerns among millions of jobless, destitute and desperately angry white males that he is about to cave to political pressure, President-elect Donald Trump reassured his supporters Monday that he still plans to destroy every last vestige of their health care.
“Everybody who voted for me is not going to have to mess with going to the doctor, I guarantee you!” Trump tweeted …
snake oil salesmen
HSA stands for Health Savings Account, which is what Congress wants to substitute for the ACA to get them off the hook doing what they don’t want to do anyway — provide for the general welfare. The “general welfare” is such a plebeian assignment and never done! Privatization, here we come!
The problem is that bankers …
how’s that working 4u?
On his Sunday TV show after the previous day’s football game, former Alabama coach Bear Bryant was once asked by sidekick Charley Thornton about his players crying after a particularly devastating loss.
Bryant replied that the time for crying was the previous Tuesday when they practiced halfheartedly, or during film study, when the players showed little regard for that week’s opponent. That was when the upcoming game was lost.
an education is earned
There is no higher calling than helping young people find their way because you care about them and their futures. There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the good of young people is the highest creed. Reward follows service.
Kathleen Cleaveland gave most of her adult life to her students at Hendersonville High School and she served them extremely well.
greetings from ireland
A year ago, spending Christmas with my son’s family in Ireland, I finally decided to make the move. I’d been living eleven years in Harrisonburg, Virginia, near my youngest son. I was happy in America, comfortable, well established with good friends and plenty of activities. But my son had moved to Kansas in 2014 and I was long flights away from him and his brothers in UK, Ireland, Kansas, Arizona and Australia, all urging me to move …