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Revisit: Ancient bridges in France . . .

I posted this classic presentation of classic French architecture some eight months ago in August of 2010. During that eight months the posting has garnered a total of zero comments. Less than one minute of online research reveals that in the United States there are approximately 120,000 professional architects, yet apparently not even one has seen this posting. Click here for demographic data on American architects.

I am bringing this posting up from and out of the Stygian darkness of prior efforts, exposing its prose and its images of classic architecture to the bright light of today. I find it difficult to believe that any architect could have seen the images and read the text, then failed to comment on the posting, no matter whether pro or con. In fact, I am related to a very successful architect that lives, loves and labors in his chosen profession in the great state of Mississippi and follows my feeble efforts to contribute in some small way to civilization’s accumulation of writings and even he, the nephew of his only extant maternal uncle, either has not seen the posting or else felt that it deserved no comment. Bummer!

Ancient bridges in France

There are many antique bridges in France, some dating back to the days of the Roman empire. This posting will show some of the best preserved structures in France, images that were sent to me several years ago by an online friend, and I felt that they were worth passing on to my viewers. I am posting the images as I received them, without any effort to change them in any way. I could easily have taken the first image into Photoshop and removed the drifts of wood against the bridge, but I chose to post the image exactly as I received it. I applied that same rationale to the second image also.

Judging by the driftwood piled up against the supports, there has been a lot of water under this bridge. If the driftwood is allowed to collect there the bridge could easily be damaged by the weight of the limbs—it deserves better care than it is receiving.

This bridge is a beautiful example of French construction. Note the gracefully rounded arches, masterfully designed and beautifully buttressed to support traffic. Note the clean graceful lines of the structure, all its components combined to form an outstanding example of French architecture. In this image as in the first image, I chose to not remove any material that might possibly block a viewer’s line of sight or detract from the study of this magnificent structure. This is a classical example of French architecture, construction at its pinnacle. I trust that this structure will be better cared for than the bridge shown in the first image.

A special note: The image can be enlarged with a click of the mouse, allowing a greater appreciation of this classic example of French architecture. The enlargement makes the image appear more three-dimensional and better reveals the graceful, even sinuous symmetry of the forms. Wikipedia defines the axis of symmetry of a two-dimensional figure as a line such that, if a perpendicular is constructed, any two points lying on the perpendicular at equal distances from the axis of symmetry are identical. Another way to think about it is that if the shape were to be folded in half over the axis, the two halves would be identical: the two halves are each other’s mirror image. If the scene could be viewed in true 3-D or even better, observed on-site, one can only imagine how spectacular that would be. Just think about it!

Vive la France!

FYI-This posting is in honor of a dear friend that recently died, a cheeky lady from England that lived and loved and birthed five children while living and loving in Great Britain with her US military husband, then lived and loved with her family in San Antonio for another 45 years or so. Knowing that I was an aficionado of ancient bridges, she e-mailed the lower image to me several years ago in a message titled Ancient Bridge in France, and I carefully filed it away with similar images of ancient bridges.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Postscript: In revisiting this posting I noticed something that I overlooked in the original. Six arches, each of 180 degrees can be seen in the second image, but only now I note at least five additional arches lending support to the crossing, the round dark holes between each pair of the arches extending down to the water, each consisting of a full 360 degrees. Each group of three arches seem to conjure up thoughts of giant birds in flight, or gargantuan spiders waiting to pounce, and without arduous strain on one’s imagination, even concupiscent images when combined with the flora and fauna visible in the foreground.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2011 in bridge, bridges, Family, friends, Humor, marriage

 

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Don’t leave me alone . . .

Special note to the reader: In this posting and in many others on my blog, you will find considerable details concerning disease and medical treatment over a period of many years, and considerable information on personal feelings. Please understand that my postings on WordPress form at least a semblance of an autobiography—they are written and presented primarily as a sort of history for my three daughters. WordPress offers an outlet for me to say those things that are very difficult for me to express, but as an autobiography I am able to achieve far more depth than in face-to-face interviews with my children. Everything I write has, at the very least, a nucleus of truth to hold it together, sometimes a bit embellished but always based on facts. I tend to ramble, but with care my readers should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This posting closes with a poem, poignant in its message but untitled by the author. Had I written the poem I would have given it the same title I used for this posting: Don’t leave me alone.

In late 1999 Janie—my wife, my love, my life—was diagnosed with Stage Two ovarian cancer. She was 68 years old at the time, and although the statistics for survival were not in her favor she refused to bow to the disease, but continued living and loving life for eleven more years. The photo at right was taken in the fall of 1983 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. We celebrated her 52nd birthday in December of that year.

Her life was dramatically changed following the diagnosis, of course. She embarked on an eleven year journey, a grueling period punctuated with several major invasive surgeries requiring lengthy hospital stays, several rounds of chemotherapy, numerous X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, blood draws, urine samples, frequent physical exams, trips to emergency rooms and brief hospital stays.

Throughout those years she held steadfast to her faith, enjoying life and considering each return of the disease comparable to the speed bumps found on city streets, each simply requiring a brief slow-down and then a return to normal speed, a return to living life and loving it. During periods of remission she frequently voiced her pleasure with life, saying “We have a good life.”

Seven years after the initial diagnosis of cancer and successfully holding the beast at bay, she was diagnosed with kidney disease, a complication probably caused mostly by the several series of chemotherapy she endured. The kidney disease progressed and she eventually required dialysis, a treatment that necessitated several more surgeries to place access ports for the dialysis needles, first in the chest while access in her arm was maturing.

My wife of 58 years, the mother of our three daughters, died at 9:15 PM on November 18, 2010 from complications of ovarian cancer and renal failure. We would have completed our fifty-eighth wedding anniversary just 25 days later on 13 December, and she would have celebrated her seventy-ninth birthday on the twenty-sixth day of December, one day after Christmas.

The eighteenth day of this month will mark the sixth month since she died, and the grief I feel—the loneliness, the heartache and the miserable feeling of being alone has flowed and ebbed with the tides of time. My daughters and friends have been stalwart pillars of support, even though rebuffed in those numerous instances in which my pity party was in full swing—and to my shame I admit that many times I have lashed out at them, desperately seeking someone or something on which to place the blame, or at least to share the blame with me.

I am constantly advised to remember all the good things I’ve done over the years, but I seem to be stuck in the ultimate low gear of self-blame. During my years of being gainfully employed I frequently spent long periods away from home, traveling all over the United States and other countries, and no matter how hard I tried I remembered all the things that I had done wrong and all the things that I should have done but failed to do. I’m reasonably certain that good things happened, but I had difficulty focusing on them, and now that I’m alone I’m still stuck in the same low gear.

I know, I know. There is a saying which tells us that one who represents one’s self in court has a fool for a lawyer. That same bromide can be applied to most attempts at self-analysis—in such situations one cannot see the forest for the trees, and ultimately help must come from someone looking in from outside the forest.

A hoary joke involves a drunk hurrying home late in the night, and in crossing his front yard he walks into a tree, the only one on the lot. He makes several attempts but runs into the tree each time. On the ground and stunned, he is heard to mumble, “Well, I may as well face it—I’m lost in a thick forest.”

In many ways I am like that drunk, although I am a teetotaler. I am lost in a thick forest of self-analysis and self-pity, frantically seeking someone to blame for anything and everything. Impractical and patently unfair, but it involves something psychiatrists term projection—we tend to project our faults into others, and then we criticize them rather than criticizing ourselves.

My neighbors to the west have been tremendously supportive during this transition period. The lady of the house recommended several online locations that she felt might help me in overcoming grief, or at the very least might help me learn to live with grief. All were helpful but one towered over the rest.

The following poem concludes a lengthy contribution to the Living With Loss magazine. I feel that in her poem the author gives sage advice that can apply to any grief situation, including mine.

From the introduction to the author’s essay: “. . . . although its subject matter is the loss of a child, it reveals commonality in grief such as the changes in the way survivors view the world and in the way the world views survivors, regardless of the loss.” Click here to read the complete essay and be warned—have a plentiful supply of tissues ready!

This is the author’s untitled poem:

Don’t tell me that you understand,
Don’t tell me that you know.
Don’t tell me that I will survive,
How I will surely grow.

Don’t tell me this is just a test,
That I am truly blessed,
That I am chosen for this task,
Apart from all the rest.

Don’t come at me with answers
That can only come from me,
Don’t tell me how my grief will pass
That I will soon be free.

Don’t stand in pious judgment
Of the bonds I must untie,
Don’t tell me how to suffer,
And don’t tell me how to cry.

My life is filled with selfishness,
My pain is all I see,
But I need you, I need your love,
Unconditionally.

Accept me in my ups and downs,
I need someone to share,
Just hold my hand and let me cry,
And say, “My friend, I care.”

Joanetta Hendel, author
Living With Loss Magazine
Bereavement Publications, Inc.
October 1988

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2011 in disease, Family, funeral

 

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Rain, irrigation systems & sacrificial children . . .

Apparently I have done something to irritate the ancient god Tlaloc, a high-ranking deity in the Aztec religion whose responsibilities included rain, fertility and water, turning such on or off as circumstances dictated—yeah, good luck on that fertility part!

I briefly thought of saying that I must have done something to piss off Tlaloc rather than irritating him, but I decided to use a more socially accepted term to avoid irritating my legions of visitors. I also have a lofty position to maintain among my minions, and I do have my standards.

Wikipedia gave me far more than I needed or wanted to know about Tlaloc. I’ll try to capsule the information pertinent to my belief that Tlaloc exercised his godly talents to rain on my parade. On this date, workers began their second day on the installation of a state-of-the art irrigation system for my kingly domicile, my palace. Yes, my palace. Must I remind you that I am the King of Texas, properly appointed and anointed?

In the unlikely probability that there may be one or more unlearned among you, my kingly suggestion is to click here to learn who, what, when, where and why I became the King of Texas and became saddled with the task of keeping this horde of 24,782,302 Texans effectively subjugated and at bay. However, I can honestly say with no trace of humility or modesty that I am fitted for the task. In fact, I am seriously overqualified.

The team of irrigation system workers include some that may have been dragged kicking and screaming across our southern border and then enslaved to perform tasks shunned by my native followers. My millions of minions are supposed to be devoted to serving their master and their King—that’s me—relentlessly but they far too often fall short, both of their devotion and also that relentlessly part.

Until today San Antonio was suffering a very serious drought, so severe that several of the surrounding ranchers are claiming their cows are giving powdered milk instead of the real thing—now that’s a serious drought! Since the first of March, San Antonio has received only 0.04 inches of rain, one of the driest springs on record—the average for that three-month period is 9.91 inches. I can only use sprinklers for a total of seven hours each week, from 3:00 AM until 8:00 AM on Thursday morning and from 8:00 PM until 10:00 PM on that same day. Hand-held watering is allowed at any time, as are soaker hoses and drip irrigation. The term hand-held watering refers to the use of hand-held garden hoses or hand-held containers.

At mid-morning today the wind arose, the sky grew dark and the thunder rolled, just as Garth Brooks said in his hit song, and the rains began and continued through mid-afternoon, more than sufficient enough to cause the work crew to batten down the hatches and leave the work site.

My back yard now resembles the Cambodian landscape during Khmer Rouge’s depredations during the late 1970s—rivers of mud dotted with shell holes and equipment—no bodies, of course, or at least none that I’ve come across. However, those trenches are rather deep—I may have overlooked someone.

Tlaloc is in control now, and he will decide whether to sacrifice more crying children to induce further downpours or be satisfied with those he has already dispatched and the rain that ensued.

I failed to mention the sacrifices, and that failure was simply an oversight on my part. When rain was needed, the Aztec high priests took beautifully adorned children to the tops of temples and sacrificed them to Tlaloc in the hope that he would bring rain for their crops.

If the children cried en route to the sacrificial site then rain was ensured, and if they did not cry the priests would tear off the children’s fingernails in order to achieve that effect. However, let’s not be too hard on the priests. After all, they had a job to do and besides, the children sacrificed were always either slaves or the second-born children of Aztec nobles—very thoughtful, those priests!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in death, Humor, race, religion

 

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Revisited: Long necks, fast food, good health & long life . . .

Once again on reviewing past postings I was so impressed with my writing that I am reposting a narrative from February of this year. The posting was apparently unread, or perhaps read and misunderstood by the readers. That posting was an effort on my part to assist Michelle Obama, our First Lady, in her drive to improve health in the United States, particularly in our school children. Oh, that’s the United States of America, a designation that is always voiced by Michelle’s husband in order for us to distinguish our nation from the United States of the Mid-east, of South America, of Central America, of Canadian America and of Lower Slobovia. I submit that the addition of America is not necessary, and its addition could perhaps cause confusion in his listeners, especially since a factual United States of America would include Canada, Central America, South America, and of course the United States of Mexico since it is geographically located in the chain of Americas. I grant you that the distinction is growing dim because of the continuing invasion of Mexican citizens sloughing off the chains of their native country.

Long necks, fast food, good health & long life . . .

A blogger in Virginia is posting photographs of people that lived a century or more in the past. Click here to see how folks looked and lived in those years. You’ll find your visit interesting and highly educational. As an added attraction, you will be exposed to some brilliant photography of the present, particularly of our planet’s flora and fauna.

However, there is something missing in the blogger’s photos of folks that lived far back in time, something to which neither the blogger nor any of her viewers have called attention, so that task obviously falls to me. I pondered long and strong on the subject, and this posting is the result of my research. See how many fat-necks you can find in these photos—possibly one, the man in the photo at top left—but certainly no more than one.


There is an obvious dearth of girth in the subjects being photographed—please forgive me for the pun, but I would appreciate a salute for my creation of the term dearth of girth, pun though it may be—I probably should have it copyrighted in the interests of gaining remuneration for my efforts. The photos above are a sample of photos showing the lack of girth in the photographer’s subjects.

These photos of people from the past show more long-necks than Texas’ Lone Star Brewery—other than the possible exception noted, there is not a fat-neck in the batch. Having noted that, I embarked on a seriously studious search for a cause-and-effect for the lack of fat-necks and the overall dearth of girth, and I documented that which most people already know in their hearts and minds, but their stomachs won’t let them admit it.

The cause is the plethora of ubiquitous fast-food outlets, and the effect is pure fat. We go into the front door of those so-called restaurants skinny, and come out the side door fat. We are labeled by others with terms ranging from ample or pleasantly plump to heavy, large, overweight, huge, obese, blimp, lard-butt, lard-ass, fat-ass, morbidly obese and myriad other terms, but they can all be summed up with a single three-letter word:

FAT!

Take a quick look at a list of fast-food restaurants provided by Wikipedia. Please note that these are international chains, and the list does not include local non-international fast-food outlets, nor does it include fast-casual restaurants, coffeehouses, ice cream parlors or pizzerias.

A&W Restaurants, Arby’s, Arctic Circle Restaurants, Au Bon Pain, Blimpie, Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits, Burger King, Hungry Jack’s (Australia), Camille’s Sidewalk Café, Captain D’s, Carl’s Jr., Charley’s Grilled Subs, Checkers, Chester’s International, Chicken Cottage, Chicken Delight, Chicken Licken, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Church’s Chicken, Chowking, Culver’s, Dairy Queen, Del Taco, Dixy Chicken, Duchess, Dunkin’ Donuts, Hardee’s, Hesburger, Jamba Juice, Jollibee, KFC, Krispy Kreme, Little Caesars, Vegetarian Moe’s, Southwest Grill, Mr. Hero, New York Fries, Noble Roman’s, Panda Express, Panera Bread, Pollo Tropical, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Pret A Manger, Quick, Quickly, Quiznos, RaisingCane’s Chicken, Fingers, Rally’s, Red Rooster, Sonic Drive-In, Subway, Taco Bell, Taco Bueno, Taco Cabana, Taco del Mar, Taco Tico, Taco Time, Tim Hortons, Vapiano, White Spot, Wendy’s, Wendy’s Supa Sundaes, Whataburger.

Hey, let’s be honest. Let’s be honest and admit that everyone of us in the United States—whether citizens, legal aliens, illegal aliens, vacationing foreigners or visitors from other planets—are up to our collective fat asses in fast-food outlets.

Such outlets should be outlawed. It can be done, and we have almost two years to persuade people to prepare the necessary documents for such action. Congress should write a 2,800-page law and push it through the House of Representatives—for that it may be necessary to reinstate Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker—then on through the Senate and over to the White House for President Michelle Obama’s signature. That lady is a shoo-in for the 2012 elections and she will sign it—trust me!

Let’s do it! Let’s eliminate fast-food outlets! We can do it! We can slim our population down to match the subjects in this blogger’s photos. We’ll all be slim, hale and hearty and live to the century mark and more.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Revisit: The day I lost my marbles . . .

I originally posted this story in July of 2010. I came across it while browsing today and enjoyed it so much that I decided to share it with the multitudes of people that overlooked it. I know they overlooked it because it garnered only one comment and that was from a lovely lady that lives in Montgomery, and she probably felt compelled to comment because she is my niece and I am the only surviving uncle from her mother’s side of the family. Actually, if I were a female I would be the only surviving aunt from her mother’s family—yep, of the original seven children I am the last one standing, and yes, I’m a bit lonely!

This is an intriguing—albeit rather sad—tale of one small boy’s attempt to establish and cement friendship and perhaps help to promote cordiality between races in the deep South at a time long before the marches between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama and long before civil rights legislation was passed by Congress. Well, alright, I confess that I was also trying to add to my collection of marbles and because of my politically incorrect older sister I failed miserably, and instead found my collection reduced by a significant number, including some of my favorite pieces. Bummer!

The day I lost my marbles

Many years ago in Columbus, Mississippi on the corner of Fourth Street South and Ninth Avenue South there was a large colonial style two-story house with stately columns and a balcony, a house converted into apartments during World War II to accommodate the influx of military personnel from Columbus Air Force Base, a pilot training center. I haven’t been in that section of town for many years—it may still be standing, or it may have been razed and a modern brick structure erected on that lot.

I lived there for several months with my mother, my youngest sister Dot—short for Doris—and my stepfather. Jessie, my oldest sister, also lived there in a one-room apartment that shared a bathroom with another tenant. That house holds many memories for me, several of which I have posted on my blog—some of those memories are pleasant and some are not so pleasant. Click here to read about The tomato tempest, a story that includes a visit to Alabama, a sharecropper family, a suicide, an Army-issue Colt .45 caliber automatic pistol, a recalcitrant young girl and a stepfather with a vicious temper.

The house was only two or three blocks from a section of the city that was called by many names, mostly names that are not used in polite society today. In these modern times of political correctness, certain words are voiced only by their first letter and the word word added, as in the N-word or the F-word or the R-word—the R stands for Republican, a word that some are reluctant to use in fear that they will looked upon as such.

I suppose that in today’s parlance, the neighborhood just beyond where I lived as a boy would be referred to as N-town, an area primarily comprised of black families—the term African-American was unknown then, unknown at least in the circles in which I moved. I’ve never understood the rationale for expressing something like that—if it is true that the thought is as bad as the deed, then saying the N-word instead of the actual word in nothing more than an attempt to cover up the real word, and it’s not covered up—try it—just say the N-word to yourself and check the mental image it creates, both in the speaker and the listener. Let’s face it—it’s a cop out—if you’re going to think it, you might as well say it.

I knew only one person that lived in N-town, a black lady that came to the house every weekday to care for my niece, Jessie’s young daughter, then just a toddler. Millie also cleaned, cooked and ironed for Jessie over a period of many years at several different locations in the city. I never knew Millie’s last name—we simply called her Millie, possibly the diminutive form of Millicent. An unmarried lady, she lived with her family just a short walk from our house. I vividly remember numerous Saturday nights when Dot and I walked with Jessie and our mother to Millie’s house. Jessie and our mother, along with Millie and her mother formed a quartet and sang church hymns, A Capella, all the old favorites and they sometimes belted out fast-paced tunes that contrasted sharply with the well-known songs—I suppose they were songs popular at the time—pop tunes, so to speak.

The group stayed in the house in inclement weather and neighbors came and sat and listened, and in fair weather they formed on the front porch and neighbors came and sat and listened. My sister and I stayed outside, both in inclement and fair weather, playing all the games children play in the evening—Kick the Can, Pussy in the Corner, Tag, Hide and Seek and others, and sometimes we sat on the porch and told stories, mostly ghost tales—and I’m here to say that those kids could spin some very scary stories!

Now that I’ve laid the scene, I’ll progress to the when, where, why and how I lost my marbles. I arrived home from school and Millie and my niece, Millie’s charge, were the only ones there. Left to my own devices, I swept an area of the front yard clean, drew a circle and began playing marbles. Soon after I began one of the kids from Millie’s neighborhood came by, watched my shooting for a few minutes and asked if he could play. I said yes, and the battle was joined—we played for keeps, meaning that when a shooter knocked one of the other shooter’s marbles out of the ring, that marble changed ownership—it now belonged to the one that caused it to go outside the ring. At first I seemed to be in control, but as the game progressed I realized that I had agreed to a play-for-keeps game with a kid that was a much better shooter than I.

So did I call off the game? Not on your life! I had a reputation to support and I worked very hard to reclaim some of my marbles that now resided in the black kid’s pockets. I was almost marbleless when Jessie came home from work. She briefly watched us at play and then entered the house, and a short time later Millie came out and headed for home. Then Jessie returned to the front yard—Jessie, my oldest sister and the sister that often gave orders that I was required to obey. She ordered me into the house, and I told my new friend—my adversary—that I had to go in, and he headed for home also, his pockets bulging with marbles that earlier had been in my pockets.

Jessie told me later that it was not seemly for me to be seen playing with a N-word child, that it would look odd to our neighbors. I pointed out to her that I had lost most of my marbles, and that I appeared to be on a winning streak at the time she stopped the game. Her response to that? You shouldn’t have been playing for keeps—that’s gambling, and gambling’s a sin. I didn’t bother to argue that I played with the black kids on Saturday evenings. I knew that the difference was the difference between day and night, between light and dark. I was in full view during daylight hours, subject to the stares of disapproving blacks as well as whites, and in the darkness of the evening I was not subjected to such stares.

That’s it—that’s how I lost my marbles, a loss that I was never to recoup. I never saw that kid again—sometimes I think that he may have been a ringer, a professional sent in from another area to pick up some easy loot in the form of marbles, similar to what Paul Newman did in his movie, The Hustler—bummer!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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A feral cat, a loaf of bread and an execution . . .

Cat in the Hat Barn

A couple of months ago I posted the story of my family’s brief attempt at living life on a farm in Mississippi in a three-room house with no bathrooms, no electricity and no running water. Winter was kept at bay by two fireplaces that heated the combination living room and bedroom and a separate bedroom. Added to those two rooms were the combination kitchen and dining area and a lean-to intended for storage, primarily for stove and fireplace wood and livestock feed. Click here to read the details—it’s well worth the read, featuring tales of cotton picking, sexual abuse of chickens, killing twin fox terriers and threatening runaway children with a shotgun.

This posting is about an incident on the farm that featured a feral tomcat. One evening at dusk my stepfather, knowing that I longed for a pet, came in from the barn and told me there was a wild cat in the barn and that if I could catch him I could keep him for a pet. Although I was exultant at the thought of having a pet, I approached the barn with more than a modicum of apprehension—I had learned earlier that his promises should not be taken literally, but with a grain of salt.

One Saturday soon after we moved to the farm he promised to bring me a present from town. I felt sure that it would be a bicycle, but it turned out to be a wheelbarrow, to be used to clean stables and other indelicate and backbreaking activities. I spent that Saturday afternoon shoveling you-know-what out of long-neglected barn stalls and hauling the loads to our garden and to what my stepfather called his horse pasture, although we didn’t have any horses. Also one year near Christmas time he promised to bring my sister and me dogs as Christmas presents—he gave her a collie and me a Pekingese—hers decorated an ashtray and mine was a leaded doorstop. Read the full story here.

I was surprised to find an actual wild feral cat in the barn, hiding out among the hay bales and equipment stored in the barn’s loft. Equipped—armed, actually—with nothing more than a flashlight with weak batteries, I finally cornered the cat, a multicolored tomcat with a ferocious temper. I caught him after many tries, each of which added to the plethora of scratches he inscribed on my hands and arms. I tried to stuff him in a burlap bag but finally just wrapped it around him and made a triumphant return to the house. The hardest part of that return was going down the ladder from the barn loft using only one hand, with the other holding firm to some fifteen pounds of wriggling screeching tomcat.

The farm included a skid-mounted store fronted by a single gas pump, a dinosaur mechanism operated by first pumping fuel from the underground tank with a hand pump into a glass reservoir with gallon marks and then using gravity to lower the required number of gallons into a vehicle’s tank.

The little store measured some 12 by thirty feet and was stocked by those items that country folks needed to replace between visits to markets in the city, items such as bread, cigarettes, cigars, snuff, candies, thread, needles, lard, sugar, flour and various canned goods. The store was infested with rats, and my stepfather told me to close the cat up in the store and it would take care of the rats. That sounded plausible to me as a temporary measure, and then I would begin a program to domesticate my new wild pet.

It was not to be. That cat ate an entire loaf of bread the first night, leaving only the plastic wrapper. Store-bought bakery bread came in one-pound loaves only in those days—today’s one and one-half pound loaves had not yet been developed.

My stepfather indicated that he understood the cat’s depredations, considering that he had been in the woods with only bugs and field mice for sustenance, and then only if he could catch them. He told me to catch the cat and cage him, then put him in the store again in the evening. Having filled up on a full loaf of bread, the cat’s movements were slowed down, and that feeling coupled with his belief that he had found a cat’s Shangri-La made him easy to corner and catch. That day happened to be a Saturday, and at dusk I locked him in the store.

The store was closed on Sundays, and my stepfather awakened to start his usual morning with a few snifters of bourbon before breakfast, a practice that continued following breakfast, and in mid-morning we opened the store’s door and the cat catapulted out—did you get that? He catapulted out and kept going, quickly disappearing under the house some one hundred feet or so from the store.

The evidence was spread all over the floor near the bread shelves. A full pound loaf was a bit too much for him this time, and several slices were scattered about, some whole and some shredded in various stages of having been eaten.

My stepfather voiced numerous epithets, loudly and earnestly and not one of them was anything similar to “That darn cat!” No, they were not gentle, and all contained words and threats not really suitable for my young ears—not that I hadn’t heard them before, of course—and all seemed to be centered on the likely untimely demise of the cat.

And so it came to pass. My stepfather raced—staggered, actually—to the house and retrieved his 16-gage shotgun from its stance against the wall in the corner nearest to his side of the bed he shared with my mother in the combination living room/bed room. The shotgun was kept fully loaded with a live shell in the chamber, as was the military .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol he kept on a bedside stand, again on his side of the bed.

The house was built on piers that provided a substantial crawl space underneath. The shooter kneeled, peered under the house and fired one shot from the shotgun. I soon learned that the cat had been outlined against the base of the brick fireplace when the buckshot took his life.

I learned that because I was tasked to bring out the remains and dispose of them properly. It was not an easy task because numerous particles had been splattered against the bricks, but I managed to clean up everything, to not leave anything that might cause unsavory odors on hot days.

There is a story about Abraham Lincoln that I would like to tell now. It seems that some unruly urchins had inserted dynamite into a certain orifice of a stray dog and then lighted the fuse. Abe was witness to the explosion and he commented at the time that, Well, that dog won’t ever amount to anything now—at least anyway not as a dog.

That story is probably apocryphal but it serves to showcase Lincoln’s sense of humor and perhaps his belief in an afterlife, perhaps even in reincarnation. Who knows? Could be!

I know that my erstwhile potential pet, that feral feline, that thief of baked goods and consumer of the same never amounted to anything else, at least not on earth and not as a cat. And as regards reincarnation, I and my family have had several cats over the years, and I cannot discount the possibility that one or more of them could have been reincarnations of that wild cat I rescued from a life in the woods and sentenced him to be executed, to die an untimely and undignified death for no other reason than his hunger and my drunken stepfather’s temper.

That was as close as I came to having a pet while I lived with my stepfather. I did come close another time when I saw a speeding car hit a black-and-tan hound dog on the road some distance from our house. I raced to him to see if he was alive, and finding him inert but breathing I carried him back to the house.

That was no easy task—that darn hound was full grown and weighed almost as much as I did. I stretched him out on the front porch and asked my mother if I could take care of him and keep him if he lived. She assented but only after considerable thought, saying that he was probably a working dog and that my stepfather would want to keep him for hunting. We scrounged around for something to use as a bed, and with an old quilt in my arms I returned to the front porch.

The dog was gone. I looked around the yard and then glanced up the graveled road where he had been hit, and there he was, going full-tilt in the same direction he had been going when the car hit him, going at full speed without a trace of a limp, kicking up gravel with every stride.

For a moment I felt anger, not for the driver that had hit him, but for the dog that fooled me and made me stagger a considerable distance to get him to the house, then forced me to convince my mother to let me nurse him and keep him. Yep, I really took it as a personal affront that he had recovered so nicely and thus denied me an opportunity to nurse him back to good health and keep him for a pet.

My anger was brief, however—I realized that had I kept him and returned him to good health and he turned out to not be a working dog, a dog that would not contribute in some way to the family larder, he would eventually suffer the same fate suffered by the two fox terriers and the wild cat—splattered, perhaps, all over the brick fireplace and at that thought I breathed a sigh of relief.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Ode to Janie & Ode to everyone else . . .

You, the reader, are about to be subjected to reading two odes, the results of my abject attempt at writing poetry. I apologize in advance to those that dislike doggerel masquerading as legitimate verse. And for the multitude that may not be familiar with the term doggerel, I tender the following doggerel attributes described by Wikipedia:

Doggerel might have any or all of the following failings: trite, cliché, or overly sentimental content, forced or imprecise rhymes, faulty meter, ordering of words to force correct meter, trivial subject, or inept handling of subject.

My poetry—and I use the term loosely—probably includes all those attributes, and poet laureates throughout history would probably wince if subjected to a reading of my efforts. However, if their wince meter measured humility, earnestness, love and forgivingness the indicator would go off scale in my favor.

Well, okay, I’ll back off a bit on the humility part. Hey, I’m a wannabe poet and let’s face it—even poet laureates had to start somewhere.

Ode to Janie

Your life has run its course
And now you have gone
To heaven as your just reward
And left me here alone.

I sail the seas without a mate
In weather foul and fair
But I fear the ship will founder
With my mate not being there.

And if the ship goes under
In life’s unruly sea
I’ll closely hold your loving words
That were I’ll wait for thee.

Ode to Janie and to everyone else

No one lives forever
At least not in this realm
And at best we’ll have a long life
With our Maker at the helm.

And when our life is over
And a new life has begun
Be it in that world of gladness
That waits for everyone.

But only if our time on earth
Is spent on doing good
Will we go to spend eternity
In that heavenly neighborhood.

That’s my Ode to Janie and my Ode to everyone else, and I’m sticking to both.

Postscript: When you, the reader, have recovered from exposure to this posting, click here to read my Ode to a Cheesecake, an excellent example of contemporary verse—oh, and it’s also an excellent example of doggerel. Hey, I do the best I can with what I have to work with.

Yes, I know, I ended that last sentence with a preposition—to paraphrase the words of Sir Winston Churchill, that is something with which you will have to up with put.

 

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Re: Jews: Bill O’Reilly vs Franklin Graham . . .

When I posted Does hell exist? I’ll report, you decide, it was with tongue pouched firmly in cheek. If you haven’t read it, or if you have read it and were so fascinated that you have been looking for it to reread but couldn’t find it, click here—it’s a shortcut for you!

I did not intend it to be a serious monologue on the existence or lack thereof, either of heaven or of hell. However—and this is an important however—on April 28, 2011, I watched and listened to a discussion on the subject between Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and Reverend Franklin Graham, the eldest son of Billy Graham.

O’ Reilly felt that non-Christians, particularly Jews, might be and should be accepted into the Christian heaven even though they do not accept Christ as the son of God and the savior of mankind. They consider Christ to be a great leader and an important prophet in history, but not the one that is foretold in the Holy Bible. Those of the Jewish persuasion still await the coming of the Messiah as foretold in the Bible.

O’Reilly strove mightily to share his belief with the reverend that the millions of Jews slaughtered without mercy by Adolph Hitler in the Holocaust, for no other reason than they were Jews, were in fact innocents and could be accepted into heaven, assuming that they were God-fearing people and had lived a good life and followed the tenents of the Holy Bible.

Franklin Graham danced around O’Reilly’s question, quoting the Bible by chapter and verse as proof that heaven can only be entered by those that believe in the Trinity, the Christian doctrine that God exists as a unity of three distinct identities—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those seeking heavenly immortality must believe and express their convictions that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of mankind, placed on earth to teach and ultimately to die for the sins of mankind that they might obtain heaven by believing in him and by following his teachings.

Instead of vocalizing his opinion of whether the Holocaust victims would be entitled to enter heaven, Franklin Graham remained hidden behind a wall of scripture. Bill O’Reilly, unable to extract a firm answer to the question and frustrated by that wall and the time limits placed on the interview finally caved without further comment or questions, and graciously expressed his thanks to the reverend for spending time in the No Spin Zone. The following video contains the O’Reilly’s discussion of religion with Franklin Graham:

And now back to my however in the second paragraph above. I intend to expand on my thesis that hell is not a place peopled by the souls of those that failed to follow any particular school of religion. It does not exist as a place or a location or a destination, neither a transit point nor a final destination. It is nothing more than nothingness, neither light nor dark, neither hot nor cold. It cannot be seen, felt, endured, enjoyed, deplored or described other than that it is nothing, because it does not exist.

In summary, the life that we live on earth will determine whether we transit to heaven when death overtakes us. Our immortal souls will be welcomed in heaven and exist for eternity, or will simply cease to exist at the moment of death.

We will know that we are in heaven, and if revelations as described in the scriptures is true, at the time of revelation our bodies will be raised, and become as incorruptible as our souls. The bodies of those denied the pleasure of heaven because they lived an un-Godly life while on earth will remain on earth, unknowing and unknown for eternity. I consider this a harsher punishment than the present concept of hell. The ultimate punishment is to be denied immortality in heaven, and that punishment is strengthened by the fact that those denied heaven are not even aware of that denial.

That’s a capsule of my interpretation of heaven and the absence of hell, my analysis of those that are heaven-bound for eternity and those that will be consigned to nothingness for eternity. That nothingness replaces the devil, so we will undoubtedly create societies similar to the present devil worshipers. It won’t be easy for them. How does one create a figure of nothingness? What symbols can be constructed to represent nothingness?

I earnestly solicit contributions in support of my transformed form of religion, my concept of heaven and no hell, just a whole lot of nothingness instead of a place ruled by a horned figure dressed in bright red long underwear, sporting a long tail and carrying a pitchfork.

Please make contributions of food, clothing and money to charitable organizations and devote significant hours of personal participation in charitable activities.

Do this, and you will be on the path toward heaven—you will encounter numerous forks in that path, and I suggest that you follow the poet Robert Frost’s advice and take the path less traveled. In this world of today, the well-worn paths taken by the multitudes lead straight to nothingness, the only alternative to heaven.

Of the two alternatives, heaven will always be less crowded.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Does hell exist? I’ll report, you decide . . .

Recently various television news outlets discussed the existence of hell, noting that if heaven exists but hell does not, then everyone that dies must go to heaven. I submit that if a person believes in heaven, then that person must believe in hell. One cannot exist without the other. Heaven exists in the minds and beliefs of people, and hell exists in their minds and beliefs just as surely as does heaven. I am pleased with the way heaven is presented but I really dislike the current description of hell, and I believe I have a more acceptable vision of hell—if it exists!

Everything in our universe and everything outside our universe has its opposite. One cannot exist without the other. Form an image of a mountain in your thoughts, and you’ll find that a valley is included in the image. No mountain can exist, either in reality or in our thoughts, without the existence of a valley. Mountains and valleys must coexist if either is to exist, and while their existence can be verified, it cannot be falsified, and it is at this point their existence diverges from the discussion of whether heaven or hell exists.

I submit that heaven and hell also must coexist or not exist at all. We can cling to our belief that one or the other or both exist, but we can never know—we can only believe. True knowledge is reserved to those for whom life as we know it has ended, and they now exist in another world, either in heaven or hell if either exists. Their existence can neither be verified nor falsified by anyone living. Their existence depends on our beliefs, whether those beliefs are derived from the Scriptures or from our lifetime of living and observing humanity.

Just for discussion, let’s suppose that heaven is exactly as described in the Scriptures and that hell is not as described. Perhaps hell does not exist. Perhaps those not entitled to spend eternity in heaven do not go to hell when they die. Let’s suppose that the wicked have already been judged when they die—prejudged, so to speak—and they simply do not go anywhere. Their spirits do not go to heaven when they die—their spirit, their souls, that which gave them life simply cease to exist, and perhaps that is the hell foretold in the scriptures.

Let’s suppose that the spirit that exists in those of us who have been judged unacceptable in heaven dies when the body dies and remains dead through eternity. Our being barred from heaven therefore is our punishment for living our lives in such a manner that we did not qualify for heaven. Of course those of us that do not make the grade will never know that we failed, but we will have been spared an eternity doing the devil’s bidding while enveloped in flames and forced to shovel coal to keep the fires burning. Bummer!

Thus we have postulated a heaven and its antithesis, hell, without the necessity of describing hell as fire and brimstone ruled by a red devil with horns and a pitchfork tail. If the truth be known, had it not been for volcanic eruptions the ancients would never have developed the idea of hell, then invented the devil and located his kingdom at the center of the earth.

In all of recorded history only one person has returned to the earth after death, and the truth of that record resides in us as individuals. We can neither verify nor falsify that story of life after death, and can never know the truth of that return until we draw our final breath—until then we can only believe and hold to that belief in the hopes that heaven does exist and that our beliefs and our actions in this life will qualify us to spend eternity in heaven—not an easy task, that! And the beauty of my hypothesis is that even if we are denied entry into heaven, we will never know that we were denied because we would spend eternity in the nothingness of hell.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: This final image is my self-portrait from some five months ago, but as time has passed my anger has faded to the point that I no longer try to place blame on anyone or anything. I no longer fault God for not giving her doctors the power to lengthen her life, and I no longer curse the devil for the disease that took my wife away from me—even after 58 years of marriage I wanted more—I wanted our marriage to never end. If you like, you can click here for a posting that came from my heart and from the depths of my soul.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in death, Family, funeral, heaven, television, weddings

 

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Coke, or water? I’ll report, you decide!

The “statistics” that follow were in an e-mail that I received several years ago. Somehow the e-mail survived the ravages of time and at least one hard drive failure, and I believe its survival is a message for me to share its message to my readers. Hey, some of the stuff may even be true. However, I challenge the statement that a T-bone steak placed in a bowl of Coke will be gone in two days. If it were cooked medium well before being placed in the bowl and I were in proximity to the bowl, the steak would be gone in 15 minutes or less, depending on size.

WATER

75% percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. That likely applies to half the world’s population.

Even mild dehydration will slow down one’s metabolism as much as 3%.

In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is mistaken for hunger.

One glass of water will shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study.

Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.

Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.

A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on a computer screen or on a printed page.

Are you drinking the amount of water you should drink every day? Drinking five glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.

COKE

In many states the highway patrol cars carry two gallons of Coke in the trunk to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.

You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of Coke and it will be gone in two days

To clean a toilet, pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl and let the “real thing” sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous China.

To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers, rub the bumper with a rumpled-up piece of aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola. (Note: The aluminum foil will do the job without being dipped in Coke)

To clean corrosion from car battery terminals, pour Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.

To loosen a rusted bolt, apply a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the rusted bolt for several minutes.

To remove grease from clothes, empty a can of Coke into the load of greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains.

Use Coke to clean road haze from your windshield.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION:

The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. It will dissolve a nail in about four days.

Phosphoric acid leaches calcium from bones and is a major contributor to the rising increase of osteoporosis.

To carry Coca-Cola syrup (the concentrate) commercial trucks must display Hazardous Material signs reserved for highly corrosive materials.

The distributors of Coke have been using it to clean engines of the trucks for about 20 years.

Are you thirsty?

Which would you like, a Coke or a glass of water?

Special note: The cooking advice that follows was part of the original e-mail, but it’s so mouth-watering that I extracted it and presented it as a recipe for gravy. It just sounds too good to be included in dire warnings of the evils of Coca-Cola. Enjoy!

To bake a moist ham, wrap the ham in aluminum foil and place in the baking pan, pour a can of Coca-Cola into the pan and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham is finished, remove the foil and allow the drippings to mix with the Coke to create a sumptuous brown gravy.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Tragicomedy—Canyon de Chelly chapeau

My daughter took this shot of me and my chapeau a few minutes before she disappeared in the distance on Park Avenue in Utah’s Arches National  Park. She is one of three daughters that I claim, the middle one in terms of actuarial longevity, the one that lives, loves, photographs, plans, plants, reaps, parties and publishes and otherwise  stagnates in Virginia while she could be living in The Great State of Texas—not, of course, that I ever bring that up in discussions—never have and never will, neither vocally nor in written discourse. She posted the photo below on her blog and I commented on the posting—my comment is reproduced below. Click here to view her original posting. When you get there you’ll find this photo:

As one can see, I cropped the photo as originally posted—I was a bit uncomfortable  with that gull hanging around overhead, and that cloud could have contained rain, a condition beneficial neither to a straw hat nor to its wearer, hence the cropping.

This is my original comment on her posting, a comment that she used as the subject for a revisit to her original post.

I have been very remiss in not commenting on this posting and I extend my apologies! Obviously I’ve been very busy—too busy to acknowledge the photographic expertise reflected in these photos, particularly in the shot of that handsome chapeau sported by the handsome dude seated directly below said hat.

How I loved that hat! I remember chasing it in Arizona when an unkindly wind removed it from its wearer and sent it rolling and tumbling toward Canyon de Chelly with its wearer in hot pursuit. Had providence not placed a small bush a few feet from the precipice of the canyon, I may have followed that hat to the canyon’s floor, a sheer drop of 600 feet. However, thanks to providence, the hat’s forward progress was stopped by a strategically placed bit of flora, an indigenous plant equipped with thorny branches that stopped my hat in its race and in its tracks—and me in mine. No, I did not run into the bush—I wisely skidded to a stop when I saw the bush reach out and capture my hat.

That hat and I were inseparable for several more years, but one day it became conspicuous by its absence—it had mysteriously disappeared without leaving the slightest hint of how, when, where or why it left me.

I suspect that my hat felt—even though it was a straw hat rather than a felt hat—from the beginning of that windy day at Canyon de Chelly that its future was inextricably intertwined with the canyon floor, that because of its lightness and its ability to drift with the wind, it would wind up undamaged by the 600 foot drop, and would ultimately live a long life, squared securely atop the head of a person of the four-state region, either New Mexico, Arizona, Utah or Colorado, possibly a direct descendant of the greatest chief in Navajo history, or one of the Apache tribes, Geronimo or Chief Sitting Bull or another of the native American Indians immortalized in literature and movies and television, and still living in the tales told by the most respected elders of various tribes in the great Southwest. Tales of their exploits are also told in the great state of Texas, fantastic recitals that dance—precipitously, so to speak—on the rim of the unbelievable.

Please accept my abject apologies for my failure to respond sooner. I would also be remiss if, driven by my use of the word sooner, I failed to say that the word sooner reminds me that there are also many tall tales told in the great state of Oklahoma.

So now I do so say.

 
 

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My red-haired blue-eyed neighbor . . .

We moved to the farm in Mississippi at the end of the school year in Tennessee. The home of the nearest neighbor on our left was visible, perhaps a quarter of a mile away on the opposite side of the two-lane graveled road. The nearest neighbor on our right was farther away, perhaps a mile or so away, and there resided a family comprised of the father and the mother and, as they say in the southern hemisphere, a passel of young ‘uns.

There were several boys, stair-steps in age but all younger than I, and one girl, a beautiful red-haired woman-girl somewhere near my age, perhaps a bit older than I but much more attractive, with just one exception. That lovely auburn-haired girl with the azure blue eyes was—I won’t say she was cursed with those eyes, nor will I say she was blessed with them. I will only say that she had what my mother referred to as A&P eyes, namely that one looked toward the Atlantic and the other toward the Pacific.

The video below shows various girls that have deliberately crossed their eyes for the camera. Compared with my beautiful red haired neighbor, they all look normal. Click on the black screen below to watch the video, and be sure to turn up the sound for some catchy music—enjoy!

In this respect the girl was a reflection of her mother, a seldom seen lady with the same flaming red hair and azure blue eyes that never seemed to be focused on the same object, each seemingly independent of the other, apparently looking in opposite directions. I don’t remember whether any of the boys had inherited the eye aberrations, primarily because I paid very little attention to the boys or their eyes—they may in fact have been replicas of their mother, but my thoughts and my eyes were always focused on their sister. I do remember that all the boys had red hair, undoubtedly inherited from their mother.

Their dark-haired father worked somewhere away from home and was seldom seen, even on weekends. I don’t remember that he ever spoke to me—he may have felt that I was just another one of his kids, although my blond, almost white hair should have been a dead giveaway—perhaps he shared the same visual affliction with his wife and children.

I know, I know—I’m being ungracious and I don’t mean to be that way. I’m just telling the story as it was, without any attempt to gild the lily. The daughter was a beautiful creature, blue eyes and creamy skin with a sprinkling of cute freckles, a complexion and a countenance that reflected her age. I was only twelve at the time—okay, twelve and a half, but for some time I had been uncomfortably aware of certain physical differences between boys and girls and between girls and women. Believe me, the girl left no doubt as to her gender. The only doubt raised—so to speak—was of her chronological age.

At any time that I bring up memories of the farm and of the red-haired girl with the striking blue eyes, I immediately recall a line from the Wreck of the Hesperus, a narrative poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, first published in 1842. My first contact with the poem was a hundred years later in 1942 when I was a fourth grader at Miss Mary’s elementary school.

In Wordsworth’s epic poem the captain lashes his daughter to the mast to prevent her from being washed overboard in a violent storm. The ship breaks up on the reefs and the daughter is found dead, still lashed to the mast. The only line I remember coherently from the poem is blue were her eyes, blue as the skies, blue as the blue dress she wore.

Yep, times have changed—I defy anyone to show me a fourth grade teacher today with the temerity to present such obsolete reading material to a class. And I submit that it may be difficult to find a fourth grade teacher that is familiar with the poem. I am privy to much of the material presented in today’s schools through contact with my grandchildren, up to and including the college level, and I feel safe in saying that poetry, particularly poetry from the ages, is outmoded, unfashionable, gone the way of cursive writing in our schools.

Students of today, if required at all to apply pencil or pen to paper, choose to print rather than using cursive writing as taught with the old-time Spencer handbooks. The essay questions used in my school days, beginning in elementary school and continuing through college, have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and it is doubtful whether they can ever be restored. The students don’t like essay questions, and the teachers don’t like to create the questions and grade the answers—too time consuming. Bummer!

I just reviewed the last several paragraphs and I realize that I have digressed from my topic, that of the red-haired girl. I offer my abject apology and I will return to the subject of this posting, to wit:

I was only favored with a few weekends during that summer to visit with the family. We kids played kick-the-can, tag, hide-and-seek, pussy-in-the-corner, hop-scotch and similar games, exercises virtually unknown by today’s youth. I have vivid memories of Saturday when it rained all day, and all of us were banished to the barn hayloft—the house was too small to contain us and our antics. I never knew how long the family had lived there. I only know that they were there in the spring when we moved to the farm, and were gone when school started in the fall, replaced by a black family that raised turkeys, and yes, I have in mind a posting relating to the turkeys—stay tuned.

The red-haired girl and her family were gone by the time school started in the fall, so I never had the opportunity to share a seat on the school bus for our 12-mile daily ride to school. Even had she and her family not moved away, the pleasure would have been brief because around Christmas time my stepfather created a situation that would allow him to get rid of his familial responsibilities The crops were in, nothing had been planted for the next growing season, the flock of chickens had been appropriately thinned and the survivors fattened, one mule sold and the other found dead behind the barn—a death that deserves a separate posting so stay tuned—two Fox Terriers had been dispatched to dog heaven, and our milk cow had been serviced to reproduce herself in early summer, and yes, that also deserves a separate posting—stay tuned!

Click here for the story of the family’s breakup on the farm—it’s a tale well told, one that involves a question, Jergen’s Lotion, a cheek severely slapped, a cheek brutally scratched, a pan of biscuits, a shotgun, a race for the woods and a Model-A Ford roadster—not exactly an epic but a story with lots of earthy pathos and drama.

If there was anything else to tell about my relationship with the cute red-haired cross-eyed girl, something perhaps ranging somewhere between prurient and obscene, I would proudly post it in detail, all in capital letters with lots of exclamation points. I suppose I could fabricate something, but I don’t want to tell a lie—embellish, perhaps, but not an outright lie, not at this late stage in life. I already have a heap to answer for, and I have no wish to add to to that heap.

Nope, nothing happened, not even in the hayloft, and I’ll close with a quote from the words of John Greenleaf Whittier in Maud Muller: For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these—it might have been. And just between you and me and the barn hayloft, had I known then what I know now, it would have been!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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Revisit: I still like prunes—a story of my Miss Mary . . .

This is a revisit to a post I made in August of 2010. It has languished in the Stygian darkness of prior posts and in that period of seven months it has garnered an astonishing total of three comments—one from a blogger in Virginia, a person that combines the talents of a writer, blogger, painter, wedding planner, party planner, sculptor, photographer, desktop publisher and gardener—and two comments from her father, the King of Texas. Yep, that blogger is the second-born of three beautiful girls that unashamedly admit to the world at large that I am their father.

I  take an enormous amount of pride in the story of Miss Mary—writing it was a labor of love and reading it is, for me, a return to a gentler world, one without nuclear energy, atomic weapons or rap music. Miss Mary influenced my life to such a degree that I still adhere to most—but not all—of the principles she taught me, her efforts aided substantially by her use of an 18-inch wooden ruler.

This story is true. I wrote it in 1987 when I lived for six months—an eternity—in Houston, Texas. The story has appeared in sculptor Tom Clark’s Cairn Studio quarterly issue, a publication that is distributed to dealers and collectors of the artist’s work in every county in every state in our United States, including Hawaii and Alaska.  Please note that any use of this document, other than brief excerpts, is prohibited by US and international law—it cannot legally be used in any other fashion without my permission.

Yes, ma’m, I still like prunes

On a special September morning in Mississippi many years ago, the air was crisp and clean and cool, and the woman standing in the doorway folded her arms against the chill. Her deep-set eyes, startlingly blue in a heavily lined unsmiling face, were fixed on a small boy as he neared the steps.

To a casual observer she presented a normal picture. A portrait from an earlier time, perhaps, than 1938, a time of black high-buttoned shoes and ankle length skirts, black and thickly pleated. Her white cotton blouse, high-necked and long-sleeved, was relieved in its starkness only by lace at the neck and wrists. Her hair was tightly plaited and shining in the early morning light, the heavy braids coiled and crossed in an intricate crown of silver.

I was that small boy, and I was not a casual observer. For me the picture was very different as my dragging steps brought me closer to my first full day of school. Fear of the unknown made me forgo any shortcuts between home and school, choosing the longer way to delay the inevitable. I was late, and as I squared the final corner the tardy bell rang. From the bottom step the black-skirted figure loomed gigantic, conjuring up visions of darkness, of beating wings, of things seen only in dreams.

I would come to know the woman as a pioneer educator that brought many innovations to her state and city educational systems. And I would come to love her. On that day I found a friend, and that friendship would be broken only by death.

Although past retirement age, she continued her position and her duties as an elementary school principal, and remained a dynamic figure and force in state and local school administration. In a career that spanned three-quarters of a century, she gained the respect and love of all that knew her.

We called her Miss Mary. She had another name, Stokes, but few of us knew it and none of us used it. She was simply Miss Mary. I spent my first six school years in the square two-story red brick building, my attendance broken only by the unpredictable moves of an itinerant carpenter stepfather.

Miss Mary ruled her school with an iron hand, and meted out corporal punishment on the spot. Always present in one wrinkled blue-veined hand was a wooden ruler. With deadly precision the eighteen inches of supreme authority landed on miscreant knuckles, shoulders and backsides of boys and girls alike.

I had the dubious distinction of being Miss Mary’s pet. Apparently to refute that notion, she punished me for the smallest infractions of a bewildering array of rules. The taps were delivered with love, but became painful through sheer repetition.

Lunch was closely supervised. With military precision we moved through the line, plates on trays, collecting helpings from long-handled spoons along the way. Everyone received the same items in identical portions. Conversation was kept to a minimum with Miss Mary moving among the tables, scolding here, praising there, coaxing us to eat everything on our plates. Probably the most disliked food was spinach—in spite of Popeye’s efforts—and stewed prunes ran a close second.

How I loved stewed prunes! At a time when happiness for other little boys was a Buck Rogers ring with a built-in compass, happiness for me was a third helping of stewed prunes. Served almost daily, they were usually eaten only through Miss Mary’s insistence. Not me—I needed no encouragement. I ate the prunes before I touched the main course. Seeing the affinity that developed between me and stewed prunes, Miss Mary told the ladies on the serving line to give me as many of the wrinkled dark delicacies as I wanted. My taste for prunes and Miss Mary’s indulgence probably made me the most regular kid in town.

As with all activities at Miss Mary’s school, playtime was highly regimented and closely supervised. Boys and girls were separated and each grade had its own area for recreation. If one of us strayed into another zone we were reprimanded and returned to our own.

There were exceptions. Miss Mary felt that in sports and at play children should be evenly matched. If one of us was appreciably smaller than our classmates, or lagged behind in muscular development and coordination, we were assigned to an area where we could compete more effectively and where the chances of injury were reduced.

I was smaller than most of my classmates—perhaps because of the prunes—so I spent my playtime with the next lower grade. There were some advantages. I was better coordinated than the younger boys, and I often spent the entire play period at bat by intentionally hitting foul balls. The rule was, “99 fouls and you’re out.”

Miss Mary ended her career in education at the same time I began mine in military service. Our friendship endured as the years passed, but our visits became infrequent because of my duty assignments. Returning to my hometown after several years overseas, I learned that Miss Mary, nearing the century mark in age, lived near the sister I had come to visit. After a call to her nurse and a short walk to the house, my sister and I were ushered into Miss Mary’s parlor. In the cool dimness of the room with its heavy drapes drawn against the bright fall sun, we saw the tiny figure seated in a massive rocker.

Her frail shoulders sagged under the weight of a thick brown shawl. She sat slumped forward, head down and eyes fixed on skeletal folded hands. Silhouetted against the single dim lamp she had an ethereal quality, her skin almost translucent, the diffused light a halo for her bowed head with its wispy strands of white hair. She seemed unaware of me, and paid no heed to my gentle reminders of the past. The nurse said that long periods of withdrawal were common, that Miss Mary might not recognize me or correspond in any way. I tried several times to talk to her, but there was no indication that she knew me or even heard me. Feeling awkward and ill at ease, and filled with a deep sense of loss and sadness, I told the nurse that I would come back later. I stood and moved toward the door and then I heard it.

“Do you still like prunes?”

Each word loud and clear, the voice deep and strong, lightly dismissing the long years, pushing back time and space to another day when a small boy found an unexpected and lifelong friend. Memories flooded over me as I turned back, sat down and replied, “Yes, ma’m, I still like prunes.” But that was all. Not another word. She remained silent and unmoving, head down and hands folded, and did not respond to me or to the nurse. Throat swollen and blinded by a scalding rush of tears, I stumbled to the door and out of the house.

I never saw her again. She died several months later, peacefully in her sleep according to newspaper accounts. Tribute was paid in eulogies by leading citizens and educators from all over the South, and the press detailed her long career and her many accomplishments. All the pictures in the newspapers were of a stranger. Not one was of the woman I remembered. Not one of them was of my Miss Mary. And not one of them was the Miss Mary in my strongest memories, the first time and the last time I saw her.

My sister did not hear Miss Mary ask me the question that day. She heard my answer that I still liked prunes, but thought I was trying to bridge the gulf with another reminder of the past. Nor did the nurse hear the question. She heard only my answer. Did Miss Mary speak to me? Did she remember me? Did the other two people in the room simply fail to hear the voice I heard so clearly? Could I have wanted recognition so badly that I imagined she spoke to me? Or did Miss Mary somehow transcend the need for speech and reach out to me without words?

My old friend spoke to me that day. I did not imagine her voice. I heard it. She knew me and in order to show that she remembered, she asked the one question that would identify me among the many thousands of people whose lives she had touched and shaped and strengthened.

“Do you still like prunes?” She knew me and she spoke to me and she heard my answer.

I have no doubts, no misgivings. I know it.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Jawbreakers, bubble gum & molested chickens

World War II was over—the bombs had eradicated Hiroshima and Nagasaki and large segments of their populations, and neither my stepfather’s carpenter talents nor my talent to deliver newspapers were needed in Tennessee. The modular homes were being disassembled and the areas where hundreds of families had been living would soon revert to the wild. We left Happy Valley, Tennessee and returned to Mississippi because my stepfather had recently bought a 40-acre farm, complete with a skid-mounted grocery store with one manually operated gasoline pump, a small house, a large barn, a chicken house and an adequate outhouse.

His purchase included one milk cow, one white mule, one brown mule and a motley flock of chickens—White Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds with a sprinkling of speckled hens. The flock was serviced by one lone rooster, a Rhode Island Red, hence his name Red.

Oh, and one more item concerning the chickens. Several of the hens were in poor physical shape. I learned soon after we moved to the farm that the hens had been—ah, had been subjected to—uh, ah, okay, I’ll just come right out and say it—they had been sexually molested, presumably by that dolt of a teenage farm boy in the family that previously owned the farm.

That was a presumption voiced by my stepfather, except that he didn’t use the term sexually molested—many of the words he used to explain the physical condition of the hens and to express his displeasure were limited to only one or two syllables. I’ve often pondered on that presumption, wondering and speculating on whether he arrived at that conclusion from reading, from other conversations or from experience—my stepfather grew up on a farm in Alabama.

I never knew, and I definitely was unwilling to question him. I’ll get back to you later with more information on that, so stay tuned. Until then, I’ll close that portion of life on the farm by saying that my stepfather put the hens out of their misery with blasts from a 16-gauge shotgun, after which the carcasses were buried far from the house, feathers and all, except for those that were scattered by the pellets.

There were no cats, an absence unusual for a farm. Also included in the purchase were two small terrier dogs, a pair that served no useful purpose and came to an untimely end through action taken by my stepfather soon after we took residence on the farm, again with the 16-gauge shotgun.

Also included in his purchase of the farm, to my dismay, were several acres of unpicked cotton. For the edification of those familiar with Roy Clark’s song in which he sang proudly that he never picked cotton, I am here to tell you that I have picked cotton and I didn’t like it. Early in cotton season, pickers were paid a penny a pound to pick, and later in
the season when the bowls were sparse and farther apart, pickers earned
two cents a pound.

I strived mightily to pick a hundred pounds in one day, but never made it, no matter how early I started and how late I stayed in the cotton field, and no matter how many times I peed in the cotton sack, an time-honored country-boy scheme to add weight to his pickings. Another way to increase the weight was to start picking at or before good daylight and pick frantically while the dew was still on the cotton, thereby adding the weight of the water—not much, but pennies went a long way back in the good old days.

One penny would buy a cigarette, two crackers with one’s choice of cheese or bologna or sausage, and a plethora of penny candies—an all-day sucker, a jaw-breaker, one piece of bubble gum or one stick of gum, a small handful of jelly beans and one’s choice of various individually wrapped candies such as Tom’s Peanut-butter Logs.

I have a vivid memory of reading a newspaper article saying that the price of cotton paid at auction was forty-one cents a pound, a total of $205 for a 500 pound bale. I was brash enough to ask my stepfather why he paid only two cents a pound for pickers when he was getting twenty times that amount, and he treated me to a prolonged lesson in economics—that effectively broke me from asking any more questions.

I have many more stories to tell about my brief life on the farm. One involves a beautiful cross-eyed redhead, another a tree filled with turkeys and still another of a wild cat I captured and thereby indirectly caused his death, so stay tuned—there’s more to come.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Jackie: It could have—should have—would have been

She was from Huntington, West Virginia and her name was, and I sincerely hope still is, Jackie Nichols. By that I mean that I hope she still lives and loves, whether her last name is Nichols or she married and took another surname. I knew Jackie only briefly—no, no, not in the biblical sense as Adam knew Eve, but only in terms of society’s acceptable normal everyday intercourse between two children of the opposite sex, always verbal and never physical, other than in games—real games—that children play.

Jackie and I and our families lived in Happy Valley, Tennessee. The village was a community of modular homes, created for the families of workers involved in the big secret, the development of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, creating the conflagration that conclusively ended World War II. Happy Valley boasted an elementary school and high school, a post office and a small shopping center that
included a theater—some folks back then referred to the theater as a movie house.

When I knew Jackie—oops, there’s that word again—when Jackie and I met and spent time together, we were 13 and 12 years of age respectively—yes, she was an older woman—and we were still in those years when our lives abruptly went in different directions with very little warning, and no reasonable opportunity to consummate our romance—you know, like with a farewell hug and kiss, both of which would have been our first and our last. I consider that to be a sad tale of unrequited love, a real life parallel that rivals Shakespeare’s fictional story of Romeo and Juliet.

My family—mother, stepfather, an 18-month older sister and I—left the trailer village in Happy Valley, Tennessee and returned to Mississippi, and I could only console myself briefly with the view of our trailer village through the back window of our 1939 Plymouth sedan. Don’t laugh too loudly about the age of our transportation.
The year was 1944 and our car was a spry five years old.

I cannot speak for the others in my family but as for me, I left Tennessee for Mississippi under protest, albeit silent protest, but definitely protesting. I remained silent and left because I had no choice, and because I was bright enough, even at age 12, to realize that I couldn’t remain in Tennessee and support my first real love on the earnings from my paper route, papers that I delivered on Shank’s mare—on foot. I didn’t even have a bicycle.

Jackie and I reversed a situation that is replicated frequently in friendships between young boys and young girls. Normally the boy gets the girl into trouble, but in our case the girl got the boy into trouble, and I hasten to explain how that happened. The witching hour for me to be home in the evening was 8:00 PM, whether the next day was a school day or a Saturday or a Sunday, whether the sun was still high in the sky or had dropped below the horizon. That rule was laid down in menacing tones and promised the punishment if the rule was broken—a whipping was guaranteed for the first and for any subsequent violations—there would be no other warnings.

On one memorable day night fell with a thud, and I stayed with Jackie well past my witching hour. The other kids had all gone home—only the two of us remained, perched on the wooden side rails of a bridge spanning a dry stream and talking boy/girl stuff. Jackie was entranced by the golden tints in my brown eyes—honestly, she said that! And I was entranced by everything about her, including her dark eyes and thick black tresses, her long brown legs and her—well, let’s just say that Jackie was not your usual 13-year old. She was light years ahead of the other girls in our neighborhood in her age bracket—far advanced in worldly knowledge, conversational skills and physical development—especially in physical development.

I was about an hour late in getting home. I believe that had I stood my ground for another hour or so, my life would have been very different, because I believe that some—not all, of course, but some—of that worldly knowledge would have been passed on to me, and that belief still infuses me today.

As regards my decision to head for home instead of staying that extra hour, it echoes the truth of the words penned by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892):

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these—it might have been.

So that’s my refrain—it might have been. It could have been and it should have been, and perhaps would have been had I tossed caution to the wind, shrugged my skinny shoulders and completely ignored my stepfather’s rules. Oh, well—we win some and we lose some, and life goes on.

Here’s to you, Jackie. I hope and trust that life has been good for you, and that you married and had children and that everyone in your family are happy and doing well. I have retained memories of you and our times together for almost eight decades—none of the memories have faded and none will ever fade. To paraphrase Jimmy Durante’s closing words on his old-time black-and-white television show: Thanks for the memories and good night, Jackie, where ever you are.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Sailors, soldiers, airmen and conundrums

Conundrum: a question or problem having only a conjectural answer.

Over the span of my lifetime—not the complete span, because I’m still adding to that lifetime—I have heard a certain conundrum repeated an astonishing number of times, and I’ve always wondered why it refers only to a certain branch of our military services, namely the United States Navy.

The term that is always used is on the order of spending money like a drunken sailor or like drunken sailors. I have never heard anyone say spending money like a drunken soldier, or airman, or coast guardsman or marine—not even spending money like a National Guardsman. I consider the term a conundrum because any answer given would be purely conjectural.

What particular feature, what aberration, whether physical or mental, can we attribute to sailors to explain why we hang that peculiar phrase only on sailors and not on other uniformed personnel? Is it predilection on our part, or in it animosity toward them? Why not on members of the other services? Other military service members—not all, but some—are prone to imbibe strong drink in generous amounts under certain conditions, namely being off-duty at the time, but invariably we toss that bomb at sailors.

I will at this junction attest that I have seen members of the other services in conditions that would rival—nay, perhaps surpass—the conduct of any drunken sailor in any situation and I am prepared to sign an official document to that effect. As a retired member of a military service other than the US Navy I have a right to speak, particularly because I have seen non-sailors spending money like—well, like a drunken sailor.

Why sailors? Perhaps there is something about naval personnel that causes them to over-imbibe and recklessly, generously, blindly spend money like—well, like a drunken sailor. It may be the fact that after spending weeks without touching port, their pay accumulates because they have nowhere to spend it, so when they manage to land in port, regardless of the location, they spread the money around faced with the full knowledge that soon they will again be at sea.

I considered the US Navy for a career before I enlisted, but was daunted by the thirteen buttons—one for each of the original thirteen American colonies. I was also advised by my brother, a salty seagoing sailor veteran of World War II, that the tibia of my right leg, shattered in a baseball game but nicely repaired, would preclude me from sea duty assignments because volleys fired from a ship could aggravate my injury. He told me that sailors on deck when the big guns were fired were told to put most of their weight on their heels or their toes to avoid damage to the lower extremities, that if one stood flat-footed the vibration could possibly cause damage to one’s lower extremities, particularly to lower extremities with previous damages.

I had a problem imagining sailors in wartime standing and walking around either on their heels or on their toes, and I had serious doubts as to the veracity of that advice. The real reason I did not join the navy was the 13-button trousers worn by enlisted men. Had the trousers been opened and closed with a zipper I probably would have joined the navy and seen the world through a porthole, as the old saying goes.

Sailor’s joke: Have you heard the one about the young sailor that was told by a well-seasoned old salt that if he stuck his head through a porthole he would see a submarine. He complied, and a moment later exclaimed to the old salt, I don’t see no su-UB-marine!

If you’ve already heard that one, just skip the previous paragraph.

I enlisted in the United States Air Force and I have never regretted my decision. I spent 22 years in that service and not once did I spend money like a drunken sailor, primarily because I was never paid enough to enjoy such actions. I joined the United States federal civil service and made more money in wages the first year than I did in my twenty-second year in the US Air Force, including overseas pay, separate rations, and housing and clothing allowances. Today the lowest enlisted rank with two years in service is paid $17,616 in base pay plus all the other benefits. My total pay for my twenty-second year of service, with a wife and three children, including all benefits totaled $14,400 per annum—before taxes.

I may bring all sorts of condemnation on myself, but I’m going to say it anyway. Our military people are paid well—extremely well. Let the barrage begin—fire at will!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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What’s a paraprosdokian? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

I learned a new word today, thanks to my son-in-law that lives and works in Plano, Texas and consistently maintains that he is heavily overburdened with work in his position in a prodigious law firm, yet manages to find time to send important material to various relatives, friends, clients and other barristers. The word was paraprosdokian. At first I suspected that someone was trying to spell Kim Kardashian, the girl on that reality show with her sisters and their parents—the whole famn damily—and also everyone’s boyfriends.

Paraprosdokian is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

Before I checked it out at Wikipedia I spelled it out phonetically and pronounced it as pair uh pros dookian, and I immediately formed a mental image of two professionals—pros—relieving themselves in some bushes that lined the Ninth Hole, the one most distant from clubhouse facilities. Later I realized that the do in dokian is pronounced doe rather that do, and that does make a big difference.

Below are some paraprosdokianisms for you to peruse and digest, and if you like, regurgitate them in e-mails for the pleasure of others. I added the last one on the list. You might want to add one of your own and keep the list growing as it goes around the Internet.

Paraprosdokianisms:

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
If I agreed with you, we would both be wrong.
We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
War does not determine who is right — only who is left.
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Evening news stations are places where they begin with Good evening and then tell you why it isn’t.
To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. My desk is a work station.
Dolphins are so intelligent that in just a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
I thought I wanted a career, and it turned out that I just wanted a paycheck.
A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says In an emergency notify, I put DOCTOR.
I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
Why do people believe there are four billion stars, but check when a sign says the paint is wet?
Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
You do not need a parachute to sky dive. You only need a parachute if you want to sky dive twice.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.
Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you’ll look forward to the trip.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
I’ve discovered that I scream the same way whether I’m about to be devoured by a great white shark or a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
I always take life with a grain of salt—plus a slice of lemon and a shot of tequila.
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and then call whatever you hit the target.
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as it does when you are in it.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
I feel more like I do now than I did when I got up this morning.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

POSTSCRIPT: Not necessarily a paraprosdokian joke, but it is a joke:

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the other side.

Why did the pervert cross the road?
He was stuck to the chicken.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it (the story, not the chicken).

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Afghanistan Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake photograph

The photo shown below was placed on a WordPress blog by one of the most professional, most articulate and most prolific photographers among the legions of photographers on WordPress, and for that matter on any of the other blogs as well. I was intrigued by the plant and by the numerous comments generated by the photo, several of which apparently regarded the image as being other than normal and included such expressions as I have a dirty mind, and at first I thought it was slightly inappropriate. The plant also reminded me of something, not inappropriate but something I felt would be of interest to my viewers. I posted a comment on the photo and requested permission to use the photo on my blog.

This is my comment on the photo—it includes my request to the photographer:

One of the most curiously shaped denizens of the world of plants, one that perhaps Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame would label “the curiousest one of all.” At least I believe it was Alice who said that, but maybe the Queen said it. That’s an interesting photo of an interesting plant. It—the plant—seems be walking a tight tightrope, trying to maintain balance between looking dangerous and looking comical. For some reason I feel that it is driving me towards a posting of my own. May I use the photo for my post? You have my word that I will shame neither you nor the poppy plant.

This is his reply:
Of course you may use it, and I never for a moment thought you might shame my shot.

And this is the photo:
Click here for that post and click here for his latest blog post.

Judging from the numerous comments on this photo, it appears that for some of your viewers it apparently reminded them of something other than a poppy bud, and I believe I know what that something is. This plant—if it is a plant and not a snake— has an uncanny resemblance to the Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake found only in Afghanistan—that name is derived from the oblong shape of the animal’s head and the fact that the snake migrated from the Far East—the Orient—many centuries ago. Being familiar with the poppy snake, I recognized it immediately in the photo, but then I read the post and the blogger identified it as a simple poppy plant. Although I was not completely convinced, I will admit that it is probably nothing more than a look-alike of the poppy snake. One can readily see the danger posed to poppy gatherers by that resemblance. I suppose one could be smuggled into the United States because Customs inspectors of today are not nearly as effective as I when I was engaged in the profession. However, any attempt to smuggle in one of those serpents would necessarily be a dangerous act. Living always in the open among the poppy plants, the snake does not like close quarters and it would have been a life-and-death menace if smuggled as a body carry—one lick and it would mean certain death for the smuggler—and for the snake, of course, but that would be little solace for the dead smuggler.

Natives that have been stricken—licked—by this snake invariably shout Oops when it happens, possibly in an effort to warn other workers of the snake’s presence. Oops is an acronym comprised of the first letters of the four words in the snake’s name, and Oops is the last word spoken by those unlucky enough to be stricken.

This is an extremely rare animal that lives and thrives in the endless fields of poppies in Afghanistan. This snake does not bite its victims but simply licks, usually and understandably on a hand, finger or on the wrist, and one simple lick is always fatal, both to the licker and the licked. The licked one will die from the snake’s venom, and the snake will die from exposure to the licked one’s skin, regardless of the licked one’s age, skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, political leaning or religion.

Yes, in answer to your question, most deaths caused by this snake occur during the poppy harvest season. Harvesting is a slow process because each plant must be visually examined closely before it is touched, because the Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake—Oops—rears its ugly head up and balances on the tip of its tail to imitate a real poppy plant.

Harvesting is so dangerous that some workers opt out of the harvest and volunteer to don a shiny new explosive vest under their outer clothing and agree to mingle among crowds of people and then explode the vest at a time most appropriate to kill the maximum number of people, a deed necessary to allow the wearer after death to mingle among seventy-two virgins in the after-life, virgins that will always remain chaste regardless of the number of times they are mingled among, and regardless of the number of minglers mingling among them.

This is the world’s most dangerous reptile. One lick by this snake would kill an African Black Mamba in two seconds, and bring a full-grown elephant to its knees in three seconds, and death would occur in the next two seconds, a total of five seconds from lick to loss of life for the pachyderm. As for humans, they barely have time to say Oops, and are dead and rigor mortis has set in even before they hit the ground. There is no anti-venom available, neither for the licker nor for the licked.

One can clearly identify the snake by its small tongue that can be seen in the photograph, slightly protruding in the ready-to-lick position, similar to the s-shape position assumed by rattlesnakes ready to strike. This animal has only one eye, but that eye can rotate and cover a full 360 degrees of vision, a field even wider than that of rabbits. The Oops’ eye can clearly be seen at the top of his head, slightly off-center to his right. Yes, this is a male Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake, readily identifiable by the overall shape of its head and its small nose, located slightly off-center to his left.

Note to burstmode: I intended to post this as a comment on your blog, but because of its length WordPress would probably consider it spam and throw it in the trash pile, and people would not learn about the Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake and potentially lives could be lost, particularly among tourists traveling to Afghanistan during poppy harvest time. Thanks, and a tip of the kingly crown for posting the photo and allowing me to use it on my blog. It gave me the opportunity to discuss one of the rarest animals on earth, found only in Afghanistan and only in the poppy fields. Should those fields be eradicated, the species will quickly join the ranks of extinct animals and mankind will be the worse for its absence.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to  it.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Antidisestablishmentarianism—a quickie definition

I came across the word antidisestablishmentarianism today—hadn’t seen it in a long time, but I didn’t need to Google it. I just nudged my memory from philosophy and religion courses—History of Religion, Early Greek Philosophy, Golden Thread in Catholicism and others that I took at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio during the mid-1960s in search of truth in religion, a hopeless undertaking (true story). I realize, of course,  that my viewers are familiar with antidisestablishmentarianism, but I need to prove to myself that I haven’t forgotten my schooling so I’ll prattle on.

A Greek fellow named Arius established a theological school of thought, Arianism, and others worked toward the disestablishment of Arianism. Still others were against Arianism being disestablished, thus the anti in the term Antidisestablishmentarianism—they were against the disestablishment of Arianism—got it? The entire fracas consisted of religious scholars squabbling and quibbling over the relationship, in the biblical sense, of the Son to the Father.

Them aire greks war sum rite smart foks, warn’t thay!

That’s my quickie definition of antidisestablishmentarianism and my story and I’m sticking to both.

Postscript: Historian Warren Carroll at Wikkipedia describes Arius as “tall and lean, of distinguished appearance and polished address. Women doted on him, charmed by his beautiful manners, touched by his appearance of asceticism. Men were impressed by his aura of intellectual superiority.” I have added this description of Arius for this reason: Except for the tall and lean portions I, The King of Texas and the author of this blog, am a reincarnated mirror image of Arius, and I make that statement without even the hint of humility.


 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 16, 2011 in college, Humor, philosophy, religion

 

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Hey, Mac—bring those Harris Faulkner videos back!

On the first day of this year I published a lengthy—as is my wont—essay on the proliferation of female news readers on television and the exponential increase in the amount of breast and leg skin surfaces exposed to viewers by some of those women. My dissertation focused on Harris Faulkner and Lauren Sanchez, both employees of Fox News, the former in New York and the latter in California. The following video featuring Laura Sanchez will be replicated at the bottom of this post. I’m including it here in the event that one or more of my viewers might—perhaps but not likely—grow weary of my blathering and cease reading before reaching the bottom—so to speak—and retreat without having had the pleasure of hearing the melodious voice of Laura Sanchez. And the video is worth watching at least twice, even if one is first required to wade through a shallow stream of verbiage—or should that read a stream of shallow verbiage? I won’t mind comments and answers to that question—I’m not particularly thick-skinned, but I can withstand most insults or assaults on my writing.

I used a passage from the Holy Bible to chide the networks and the women, a passage that read in part, her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins, and I intimated that in making that post I was the voice of John the Baptist, the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness.

I grant the notion that I was presumptious and brazen in identifying my voice as the voice of him that was crying in the wilderness, etc., but the reason for that reference should be obvious to any casual visitor to my blog—I can’t resist it. Presumptiousness and brazenness are embedded—so to speak—in my nature and so far in an existence nearing a full eight decades, neither trait has dimmed—nay, both have flourished and continue to flourish.

It is to my credit that I did not quote more of the biblical text concerning the voice crying in the wilderness. I could have cited that part that reads, every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. Yep, I could have referenced that passage in my post but I did not, although it serves as support—so to speak—for that post.

And now to continue:

And lo, it came to pass that somehow, someone somewhere at sometime following the publication of my scholarly literary effort neutered two of the three YouTube videos that were embedded in my post. Both have been technically comprised and are no longer available for viewing. Both featured the beautiful, highly regarded and spectacularly constructed Harris Faulkner, a regular on Fox News, one blessed with facial and other corporeal features lovely to look upon. The viewing screen still appears on my blog, but when one clicks on the screen the following statement appears, white letters on the black background effectively denying an adoring horde of television viewers—mostly men, I’ll grant you, but perhaps persons of the same sex and those of conflicting gender preferences also enjoy gazing upon the beautifully bountiful bosom of Harris Faulkner:

This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated.

Before I continue I must say that I consider this a violation of free speech, a right guaranteed by our constitution—this is censorship at its worst, or perhaps at its finest, comparable to the blanket of silence that covered Germany during the reign of Hitler. A casual look at my blog statistics will show that those two videos were important factors in the daily lives of my viewers—and mine. Those videos were visual stimulants that, in the words of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, were admonitions for viewers to go out and seize the day—or something.

It’s six o’clock in the morning and I’ve been up and abroad—the term abroad is simply a figure of speech indicating activity—since four o’clock in the morning, so I’ll wrap this up with the tale of a magician on a civilian ocean liner during World War II.

The magician had already made several items disappear, including his highly trained and highly vocal parrot and its cage, several passengers and a table of food with its contents and its seated guests, and in each case brought them back to view when, without warning an enemy torpedo struck the ship and it sank in minutes.

The parrot was bobbing around in its cage amid the flotsam of passengers and furniture and ship’s stores when the magician suddenly surfaced nearby, and the parrot screamed at him—are y’all ready for dis?

Hey, Mac, stop screwing around and bring that boat back!

So how is that joke germane to this post?

Hey, Mac, whoever you are that had the temerity to emasculate those videos—stop screwing around and bring ‘em back!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: I am embedding the video of Laura Sanchez in this post as a balm for those that access my blog hoping to see Harris Faulkner, not in the flesh but in an excellent and partial representation thereof. The video of Laura Sanchez perhaps does not completely make up for the loss of the Faulkner videos, but she comes very close to it.

 

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Omaha, St. Mary’s University & Cyrano de Bergerac

Far back in the swirling mists of time, back in the seventh decade of the past century—well, to be specific it was in 1966 and I needed a few more college credits to add to the motley collection I had amassed over the prior nine years.

I was a member of the United States armed forces at the time, not necessarily gainfully employed—military pay was miserly when compared to today’s pay rates. My wife and I were sharing—not equally but sharing—the responsibilities involved in raising a young family of three girls and a miniature Chihuahua, aged twelve, eight, four and one year respectively. That didn’t leave much time for study, but spurred on by my desire for a bona fide college degree, I enrolled in night school at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

I had almost enough college credits to transfer my hours to the Municipal University of Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska in order to earn a baccalaureate. I only needed a few more hours in general education, and at that time I had more than a passing interest in religion, so in my search for truth I enrolled in several courses dealing with religion. My final class at St. Mary’s was a study of early Greek philosophy and ancient Greek philosophers. Successful completion of that final course with its three hours of credit would allow me to transfer my hours to Omaha under the auspices of the military services’ Bootstrap program.

Remember my statement that working full-time and helping maintain a household and raising three girls and a Chihuahua was a hindrance to my studies? I did not do well in the philosophy class, and that was reflected by my final grade, a grade based only on the final test for that subject in that semester. No credit was given for attendance, dress or attitude, class participation or good looks—not that such credit would have helped me—I just thought it was worth mentioning.

On second thought I am convinced that extra credit was given in that class, but was restricted to the mini-skirted girls that monopolized the front row seats, habitually—nay, constantly—crossing and uncrossing their legs. However, I will reserve that topic for a future Word Press post—stay tuned!

The test consisted of four essay questions, to only one of which—number four—I penned a scholarly answer and was given the full 25 points allowed for each question. As for the first three questions, my blue test booklet showed only the numbers and that little black dot—the period—that followed each number. If you guessed my final number grade for the course as 25 you would be correct, and if you guessed my final letter grade as an F, you would be wrong. The priest that taught the class quite generously awarded me a D for the class, a grade that carried weight and could count toward a degree from St. Mary’s University.

That evening I asked the instructor for a private meeting, and we stayed in the classroom after the other students left. I explained the predicament in which the D placed me, and he told me that it could be used at St. Mary’s, but I explained that even if it could be transferred, Omaha would not accept it. I did not shed any tears during my private session with the priest, but I did allow my voice to waver and crack several times—I know I created a pitiful spectacle, but hey, I was desperate.

And it worked. He told me to study industriously and return to his classroom the following week on an evening that he had no class. I spent most of the next week studying the material and writing notes on small scraps of paper. Yes, they were cheat notes—I said I was desperate, right?

I returned the following week and the priest gave me a blue test booklet and a paper with four hand-written questions, then told me to find an empty classroom on the second floor, take the test and return it within one hour. Although the evening was balmy, I sported a sport coat fitted with two outside pockets and two inside pockets, all filled with those little scraps of paper that I mentioned—I was running late that night and had forgotten to remove them—honest! (And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Arizona, etc., etc.)

The rest of this story will be mercifully brief. I found an empty classroom, entered and closed the door behind me so I would not be distracted by hallway noises, and also with the hope that I would be alerted should the door be opened while I was cheating on the test. And now, just one more short paragraph and you, my readers, will be free to search for greener pastures of literature. I know full well that the final paragraph will require readers to suspend disbelief, but so be it—as Bill Clinton might say, It is what it is.

I removed not one cheat note from my stuffed coat pockets—not one. I had worked so hard to identify test material to put on cheat notes that I knew the material by rote. I never knew the actual point grade given, but my D was upgraded to a C that was immediately transferred to Omaha’s municipal university, an institute of higher learning that graduated me in the spring of 1968, the last class to be graduated before the university became UNO, the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: Please note that I said the Municipal University of Omaha graduated me, not that I graduated the University of Omaha. One cannot graduate a university, no matter how mightily one strives—only universities have the right and the privilege to graduate. Yes, I am aware of the common usage of the verb phrase to graduate, but I steadfastly refuse the common usage, electing instead to abuse the words of Cyrano de Bergerac as given voice by Edmond Rostand in his 1897 play—like the mighty oak I stand, not tall but alone—or something similar to that.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 13, 2011 in Books, education, Family, Humor, Military, poetry, Writing

 

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You don’t smoke, you don’t chew, you don’t drink, you don’t screw—damn, boy, what do you do?

Memories of those words and that question, and memories of Archie Williams, W.C. Fields, Shirley Temple, dirty old men and a certain red-haired office typist—all came together in my thoughts this morning while I reminisced in search of fodder for my blog. If that group has in any way piqued your interest, read on.

I’ll begin with the red-haired office worker, an administrative clerk sitting sideways with legs crossed while operating an old-time word processor, a dinosauristic but cleverly constructed machine that combined mechanical, electrical and manual functions, a machine known as a typewriter. When the machine was operated properly it produced ink impressions, alphabet letters, on white unlined material—paper—a versatile material with many uses, made from wood pulp and commonly used for writing and printing upon but with various other uses and capabilities and sometimes referred to as tissue or tissues, quintessentially used at work, at home and away from home.

Just as an aside, I wonder how many readers will resort to Wikipedia for a definition of the word quintessentially. In the past, one in search of a definition would have referred to another dinosaur, that quaint publication known as a dictionary. Alas, that item is swiftly disappearing from our society, but I have one to which I felt I was entitled. I purloined it from my office when I retired from government service. In fact, I retired twice from government service, first from the military and then from federal law enforcement—the dictionary I brought home on the second retirement was simply a free upgrade of the one from the military.

But I have digressed from my original objective, to tell the story of Archie Williams. For that I apologize and return forthwith and continue towards that objective. From the information given in the first paragraph you, the reader, probably have in mind the image of a young auburn-haired beauty in a mini-skirt seated sideways before an office typewriter with her legs crossed and showing lots of leg, both lower leg and thigh and you would be right—except for the fact that the typist was a young red-haired male member of the United States Air Force, clothed in khaki shirt and trousers showing no leg, belted in blue and shod in black, sporting on his sleeves the three stripes of an Airman First Class, engaged in a spirited conversation with Archie Williams, an Air Force master sergeant, a six-striper similarly clothed who embodied and displayed the unique characteristics of W.C. Fields, an old-time veteran Hollywood comic of black-and-white film fame, in at least one of which films he shared billing with a very young and very precocious Shirley Temple, a child prodigy who tap danced, beautifully and at length while wearing a very short dress, and whose characteristic close-ups revealed curly hair, a cute smile, snow-white legs and significant expanses of white underwear, both front and rear, as she tapped and whirled and smiled enticingly for the camera.

I know, I know—you’re wondering why the previous sentence is so lengthy, nearing 200 words. It’s because I’m trying to equal or surpass the length of the one in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, not the longest sentence in literature but certainly among the longest—1,300 words. Of course, that’s very brief compared to a sentence in Ulysses by James Joyce that has 4,391 words—more or less!

I will digress no more—I’m running out of ink, so I’ll try to finish this posting. I’m reasonably certain that you, the reader, are wondering where this is going so I’ll put your mind at rest. I read an article in a magazine prized by men that in big city theaters that show the old black-and-white movies in certain theaters with Shirley Temple displaying her dancing talent, the major part of the audiences consists of dirty old men. Admittedly, some of the dirty old men simple needed a place to rest or to sleep, and some were addicted to black-and-white movies regardless of their contents—some may in fact have been movie producers, black-listed by Senator McCarthy and forced out of the movie industry—maybe.

My contention is that the dirty old men in the audience felt that the child prodigy was wearing that smile and showing the underwear just for them, and as a result of that feeling they perhaps—alright, probably—reached illegal and unimaginable plateaus of pleasure during the showing, a la Pee-wee Herman.

While I was busy in the Administration Office on a typical working day, I was privy—inadvertently—to a conversation between Archie and the young red-haired leg-crossing sergeant that centered on the typist’s off-duty activities. After quizzing him on those activities Archie told him, in Archie’s replication of W.C. Fields whiningly nasal tone, poetically and in rhyme, You don’t smoke, you don’t chew, you don’t drink, you don’t screw—damn, boy, what do you do? Archie’s height and girth, his stance, his ambulatory movements and his habit of carrying an unlighted cigar all mimicked W.C. Fields. While Archie’s physical characteristics were not controllable, I believe that the cigar and his voice were perhaps props, intended to imitate the old-time actor and indulged in so much over time that they belonged to him and were part of his persona, just as legitimately as they were for W.C. Fields.

When I heard Archie’s question I immediately decided that I had no other business in that office, and I hurriedly relocated so I could satisfactorily react to the question without incurring the enmity of the typist. I never knew the typist’s answer, if in fact he gave an answer, and I did not have the temerity to ask Archie how his talk with the typist was concluded. I did learn later from another source that the typist shared his lodging and his life with an over-the-road non-military truck driver. I find it interesting that in that era I was not aware that my service had either an animus against, or a tolerance for, members with sexual preferences that differed from what traditionally has been our society’s norm—there was no don’t ask, don’t tell policy. At that time, circa 1965, I was in my sixteenth year of military service, and if my service had a problem with such preferences it was never part of my training. Over the years I served during peacetime and wartime with several such persons and had no problems—none at that time and none now.

Archie died in the mid-1960s, and his earthly remains were interred in Fort Sam Houston’s national cemetery here in San Antonio, Texas. Full military services were provided, with taps, rifle volleys and uniformed pallbearers, and I was one of the six men that carried the casket, with Archie safely ensconced inside, a considerable distance through interminable rows of upright grave markers to an open grave, fitted with the mechanical device that would lower the casket.

Archie was a big man that in life would have approached a weight of 250 pounds, perhaps more, and at least partially because of that weight I almost preceded him into the excavation that had been prepared for him alone. As we marched towards the open grave I quickly concluded that he had not been embalmed—had he chosen that mortuary option—not required in Texas—he would have been considerably lighter. Of the six pallbearers, I’ll give you three guesses as to which pallbearer was less tall than the others, and the first two guesses won’t count—not that I am necessarily short, mind you, but I will admit that I was less tall than the others.

My position as we marched Archie, feet first through the rows of white markers, was at the left forward corner of Archie’s casket, the corner closest to his left foot, I am convinced that mine was the heaviest area of the weight we carried, perhaps fitted with a large anvil—perhaps Archie had been a blacksmith in his youth and the anvil was placed as a salutary salute to that profession—he may have suffered from a left club-foot, but I doubt that it would account for the weight at my corner.

Just as we moved the casket to a point directly over the grave and the lowering mechanism, my right foot slipped into the opening and I frantically relinquished my portion of the weight—I became an ex-pallbearer. However, the remaining five pallbearers apparently divided up my former contribution to the operation and held the casket up until I could reposition myself and return to pallbearer status, and we then properly placed the casket, stepped back and snapped to attention, and the ceremony continued and was concluded without further incident. In my haste to return both feet to solid ground, scrambling to avoid being interred with Archie, I soiled the knees of my uniform trousers as I frantically returned to an upright position—the soiling process could have been far worse, I suppose.

I have good reason to visit Fort Sam Houston’s national cemetery these days. I don’t remember where we left Archie some fifty years ago—that’s far too much time for me to be expected to remember his Section and Plot numbers. I have promised myself that I will ask cemetery office personnel for the location of his grave. I want to say hello to him, and I may hear again the question below, the question he addressed to that red-haired typist, and perhaps the typist’s answer to the query—if Archie chooses to confide in me:

You don’t smoke, you don’t chew, you don’t drink, you don’t screw—damn, boy, what do you do?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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What’s in a name? The N-word by any other name would mean the same

The following comment was made by a fellow blogger somewhere in the British isles. Click here to read the post that prompted his comment.

Submitted on 2011/03/06 at 9:06 pm
helpforyourenglish.wordpress.com
john-dough@live.co.uk

Who wrote the “rules’ of grammar? Grammarians. How did they decide what to write in their grammar” books? By observing what people said and wrote – usage. Then they came to their own ‘theories’ of what English grammar is (or might be) based on those observations and usage. Grammarians did not invent English. As such, grammar is descriptive and should not be prescriptive. From my experience, using was in your example rather than were is much more common. Trying to prescribe that people should use the subjunctive mood’ in that situation makes it sound like the English language is stuck in some Latin time warp. It’s not really worth getting worked up about.

This is my reply to the British grammarian’s comment:

Thanks for the visit, and thanks for the comment. In far too many instances, comments by viewers are content with saying Nice blog, or I agree or Your blog sucks, etc., but your comment is well written, to the point and welcomed. My first reaction was to respond at some length, but I realized that the subject is worthy of a separate posting on my blog. Stay tuned if you like—with my lack of typing skills it will take some time to create and publish.

And this is the separate posting I promised the British—an assumption on my part—blogger.

Dear John,

As I promised in my initial response to your comment, I have expanded my response into an essay that concentrates on current language restrictions in the United States. You cannot possibly know how pleased I was to receive a real comment rather than the usual one or two phrases given by others, comments such as nice blog, keep up the good work, you suck, etc. Comments such as yours are rare, to be treasured and responded to in kind.

Your comment has inspired me to reply in detail, perhaps more detail than you expected or wanted, and has given me far more than enough fodder for yet another lengthy essay on the use of the English language. I will cheerfully give you credit for stimulating me in that effort.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that you have touched a nerve with your comment’s statement that It’s not really worth getting worked up about. I submit to you that every teacher of English or for that matter every teacher of anything, regardless of the subject, should get worked up about the misuse of established English language mores when people with ivy league educations, some with multiple diplomas—attorneys, authors, doctors, high-ranking business leaders, presidents, millionaires and billionaires in industry and in entertainment venues—continuously violate the most simple rules—yes, rules—of everyday English.

I expect it from rappers, but not from the rest of our society—not from our president and not from the poorest children existing in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia or in the Okeefenoke Swamp area in south Georgia. As for ebonics, I abhor the term and refuse to discuss it, capitalize it or use it in a sentence—in fact, I will not even mention it in this essay—not even once.

The errors in everyday English that I discuss on Word Press are the little things in our society as regards proper English. My sainted mother, in 83 years of living, loving and learning accumulated hordes of homilies, parts of speech defined as inspirational sayings or platitudes. One of her favorites and also one of mine is the saying that admonishes us to take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. Following established rules is one of the little things, and effective communication is one of the big things.

The fact that the use of was rather than were is more common is not justification to continue using it. If that were true—note the if and the were—many, perhaps most of us, particularly in certain geographic regions, would still be spelling out and enunciating the word nigger instead of crouching behind the N-word wall.

It is an immutable fact that when we voice that alternative word as the N-word, our listeners know full well that the psuedo word has been substituted for the real word, the one that resides in the speaker’s thoughts, and thus immediately is projected and comes to rest in the listener’s thoughts, and the speaker, the user of the non-word N-word, put it there, and the listener can place a suitable target—I mean label—on the speaker by charging racism. The very fact of not voicing the pejorative term raises the shade on the speaker’s thoughts and shines the bright light of reality on the term, one that was, and still is, common in many countries, including yours.

There is a host of words on which we place no restrictions on their spelling in our writings or in our conversations—we may decry their use, but that use is common in literature and in everyday speech. That includes such words as honky, whitey, jew, kike, redneck, abie, chink, jap, greaser, frog, goy, kraut, polack, guido, limey (those of the British persuasion should take special note of that one), paddy, nazi, slant-eye, slopehead, nip, squaw, uncle tom and zipperhead. The list goes on forever, yet our society and its preoccupation with political correctness does not mandate us to prefix any of those words with a capital letter and substitute a made-up term for the pejorative term—J-word for jews and japs, for example, or K-word for kike and kraut, S-word for slant-eye, slope-head and squaw and L-word for limey—go figure!

Yes, the list goes on forever and we will forever continue to create new pejoratives to add to that list. Regardless of the list’s length, we can freely use any of those terms in writing, not as pejoratives in and of themselves but as support for whatever communication we are presenting to our reading audience—any of those terms except one—can you guess which one? I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two won’t count.

If the bromide that tells us that the thought is as bad as the deed is true, then every English speaker in the world is guilty, whether or not racially biased. When we voice the acceptable euphemism N-word, the banned word is in our thoughts, and it resounds just as loudly in our brain and in the listener’s  brain as when we actually pronounce the banned word.

Just one more thought and I’ll release you and my viewers from bondage. A bromide in the English language is defined as a figure of speech meaning a tranquilizing cliché. Our use of the term N-word is a bromide, a figure of speech meaning a tranquilizing cliché. A bromide is also defined as conventional wisdom overused as a calming phrase, a verbal sedative.

This bromide has been foisted upon us as a tranquilizer, a medication, a verbal sedative prescribed by a liberal society in order to render us placid, peaceful and pliant, to purposely place us in that somnolent state of glorious oblivion—asleep—and to keep us there.

I propose an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to allow us to call a spade a spade, a time-worn bromide that is now regarded as an epithet, a pejorative term, one that if used by a conservative member of Congress would probably bring Jackson, Sharpton, Braun, Powell, Conyers, Chisholm, Range, Jordan, Hastings, Jackson-Lee, Jackson Jr., Cummings and a host of others out of their respective congressional seats and on their respective congressional feet to simultaneously shout, Racist, racist, racist!, all wanting to order and exact the same penalty decreed by the Queen in the fairy tale Alice in Wonderland—Off with their heads!

For proposing that amendment my head would be on the chopping block, perhaps the first to tumble into the waiting handbasket, yet I am guilty of nothing more than wanting to bring a modicum of sanity to our nation. Our national ship of state is drifting aimlessly on a sea of insanity as regards the use of words considered to be pejorative. As a nation we can consider ourselves to be an asylum for the insane, with the patients giving the orders—again, as regards the use of pejorative words and phrases.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Retired at 10 & 16, a triple-dipper at 20—go figure!

The seventh day of March is a red-letter day for me. One of my sisters, the one closest to me in age, was born on that day eighteen months before I made my entrance into the world of 1932 on September 19, one of the more important events of that year. My birth in that month of that year was overlooked by Wikipedia—that organization listed only four events in September worth reporting, and none was on the 19th. If you like, you can click here to read a proudly crafted and craftily presented study of my birth and many subsequent events.

The year 1932 was a leap year—had I been born on the 29th of February that year, I could only celebrate my birthday every four years, and by counting only my official birthdays I would now be twenty years old. I share my birth during a leap year with my neighbor, a lady that was born on the 29th day of February. As Don Adams of Get Smart fame would say, while showing a small space between his thumb and forefinger—Missed it by that much! Using the same formula that made my age 19, her leap year birthdays would make her 13 years old.

I hold the seventh of March firmly in my memories. On that date in 1949 I awakened at an early hour, performed my morning ablutions, broke my fast, allowed my mother to teach me how to make a Windsor knot in a necktie, dressed and bade my goodbyes, walked the few blocks to the courthouse in Columbus, Mississippi, swore an oath of allegiance to the United States of America, became a US  Air Force recruit, boarded a train to New Orleans, transferred to the Sunset Limited bound for San Antonio, Texas, arrived there the following day, completed 13 weeks of training successfully and remained in the United States Air Force for 22 years plus several months. I celebrated my actual nineteenth birthday in 1951 in the middle of a shooting war while based at Kimpo Air Base near Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. If you like, you can click here to learn a lot about Korea and Kimpo and the war, probably a lot more than you thought you needed to know.

I realize that it’s childish to compute one’s age on the premise that one was born on the last day of February in a leap year but it’s a lot of fun, and childish and fun somehow go together. I have retired twice from US government service, once from the Air Force with 22 years, and again from a federal law enforcement agency after 26 years of service. Using the leap year computation with a birthday only every fourth year, I would have been 10 at my first retirement,16 at my second retirement and I would now be—at the tender age of 20 years—a triple-dipper with a combined income from military service, federal civil service and Social Security.

Hey, I didn’t plan it that way—things just seemed to happen, and as they happened I just went with the flow. Oops, I forgot something—I also have a substantial return from a substantial IRA, one that is earning an annual interest rate of six and one-quarter percent. I suppose that would make me a quadruple dipper.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: I just thought of a letter I wrote to a newspaper editor in McAllen, Texas on the subject of double dipping, a letter that I posted on my blog. Click here to learn how I really feel about double dipping.

 
 

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Was or were, right or wrong, not to worry, just read on

On a day not really all that far back in time—22 June, 2009—I submitted a letter to our local daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in the United States in the hope that it would be published. An offer was made to publish it but the editor e-mailed me to say that certain parts would be cut out. In an e-mail I told him to not publish the letter, and I chastised him for his response to a long-time subscriber to the paper. What follows is the initial response from the public editor.

From: BRichter@express-news.net (the public editor of the paper)
Mon, Jun 22, 2009 1:34 PM
H.M. – Thanks for your letter. May we publish it? I think I’ll cut all the whining about your letters not getting published when they strike a nerve. We’ll just go with the criticism of the photo in question (which I didn’t really think was so bad).
Bob Richter

I rejected publication because the public editor slimed me—well, perhaps slimed is a bit too strong—let’s just say that he whined me and because of that whining, the same label he placed on my submission, I vowed to never submit another letter to the public editor for consideration, but instead post my whining on WordPress, a far more appreciative audience than the Express-News. I have never had a submission rejected or criticized.

Now to get to the crux of this posting—everything I’ve said up to this point was intended to explain my criticism of the public editor’s grammar in his article that appeared in Metro of the Sunday edition of March 6, 2011.

Yes, grammar—with all that supposed talent he has at his beck and call, he started and finished an article he wrote by improperly using the verb was. The article centered on budget cuts proposed by Rick Perry, the governor of Texas that involved disabled Texans, and much to his credit he began the article with disclosing that his son has disabilities and lives in a group home that receives state aid.

I can readily understand and admire the title of his article:

Budget Cuts: What if it was your kid?

The final paragraph is a one-sentence closure with a wish from him and a question for Governor Perry:
What I wish is that Perry would put himself in our shoes:

What if it was your kid, Rick?

The verb was is the subjunctive mood of the verb to be, a mood suggesting that something is not or perhaps may not be. The subjunctive mood gets really complicated if one digs too deeply, but one does not need to dig deeply, or even pick up a shovel in order to determine whether was or were should  be used.

There is an incredibly simple way to remember whether to use was or were. If the word if is lurking anywhere in the sentence, whether visible or concealed, the proper usage is were, and if if can neither be seen nor assumed, the proper usage is was. Please forgive me for the double if in the previous sentence—I just couldn’t resist it—when read aloud it sounds like a puppy barking.

The article’s title should read, What if it were your kid?

The ending should read, What if it were your kid, Rick?

Some more examples of the subjunctive verb were:

What if the copywriters were better versed in English?
What if the current public editor were reassigned?
Were he reassigned
, would it lower the paper’s ratings or raise them?
Was
he reassigned?
No, he was not reassigned.
Note the absence of if in
the last two sentences above.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: In all fairness I must state that, in my somewhat unlearned opinion, the public editor’s article was highly cogent, nicely constructed, timely and well presented, with the only exceptions noted in this posting.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Fox and Friends, new leash on life, S & M

Today is Sunday, March  6, 2011 and the time is 5:30 AM, Central Time Zone, in San Antonio, Texas. Dave Briggs, one of the male co-hosts on Fox and Friends just told us that, “Coming up—a dog has been given a new leash on life by firefighters,” and the scroll at the bottom of the screen read leash.

This information is for the co-host and for the typist entering the information in the scroll at the bottom of the screen—the firefighters did not give the dog a new leash on life—they gave the dog a new lease on life.

By definition, a leash is a rope or chain placed around an animal’s neck to restrain or control the animal. However, in instances of human animals engaging in S&M activities, a leash is often used for the same purpose, assisted by the use of various and sundry items such as blindfolds, handcuffs, feathers, whips, gags, etc.

For those that are unfamiliar with S&M, send me a stamped self-addressed envelope with your request and enclose $25 in cash—small bills and no counterfeits—and I will furnish full details by return post sealed in a plain brown wrapper, including numerous photos in glorious color, created by professional photographers.

Now to continue with definitions:

A lease is a contract calling for the lessee—user—to pay the lessor—owner—for use of an asset. When an individual, whether human or a member of the so-called lesser orders, is given a new lease on life itself, a contract that many believe is an agreement between the individual and a Supreme Being—I cannot speak for how an animal—a dog, for example—might feel, but I can assure you that a human that survives death and is given a new lease on life is very grateful—unless, of course, an individual attempted suicide and was foiled in that attempt—in that event the individual may be a bit upset.

Brother Dave Briggs used the wrong term twice, and the moving scroll at the bottom of the screen showed the word as leash framed by quotation marks. It is unknown whether the scroll typist used the quotation for effect or used it to show that Dave had used the wrong word. I would like to believe the latter—it would be nice to know that at least one person on duty knew the difference between leash and lease.

In previous posts I have said that during the many years that I was gainfully employed, I had an extensive working relationship with a lady for whom English was a second language, and she pronounced the term nit picker as neet peeker, an aberration caused by the fact that in her native language, Eye’s were pronounced as Es, hence nit picker became neet peeker. I mention this only to say that I am neither a nit picker nor a neet peeker—my contributions to language result from my desire for accuracy in the spoken word. In more than one instance the lady I mentioned apparently got her tongue tangled up and pronounced the term as neet pecker—go figure!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: If there is any doubt concerning the veracity of this post as concerns the gaffe, I captured the entire hour on Tivo, and I will cheerfully furnish a DVD on request. Just follow the same instructions given for S&M  information. Send a stamped self-addressed envelope with $25 enclosed—in cash—small bills and no counterfeits, and the DVD will go out with the return post, sealed in a plain brown wrapper, just as D.H. Lawerence’s novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover arrived in our mail boxes many years ago. It’s a great story and the movie was even better—breathtaking!

News flash! Today is still Sunday, March  6, 2011 and the time is 7:20 AM, Central Time Zone, in San Antonio, Texas. I just heard Alisyn Camerato of Fox News fame announce that a dog has been given a new leash on life, and the scroll at the bottom read leash—same story, different gaffmaker.

Alas, so many gaffes, so little time!

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Noontime stars, Playboy, Guam & idling engines

This image of a high-flying commercial airliner prompted the comment that follows below—click on the image at right to enlarge it for viewing. The comment is exactly as I posted it to the photographer’s blog—check it out here. You’ll find scads and scads of gorgeous flora and fauna shots made at locations all over the US and in various foreign locations including Europe, Spain, Antarctica and Mississippi—just a little bit of humor there!

I label the airliner as high-flying because of the unbroken expanse of clouds and the deep blue, so deep that it shows the blackness of space. I’ve flown at that altitude in a T-33 flight trainer with a clear canopy overhead, and I could see millions of stars twinkling in that blackness.

The aircraft was probably at 40,000 feet or more when this was made. I took the liberty of using this photo and my comment for a post on my blog. I know that the photographer’s work is copyrighted, but I have little fear of legal action ensuing, primarily because the photographer/blogger is my daughter, the middle one in age of our three Royal Princesses—so there!

My comment, exactly as I posted it on the photographer’s blog:

The most intriguing and thought-provoking image that I have ever been privileged to view—well, except perhaps for some of the centerfolds in Playboy, but none other than those shine through from my cache of memories.  And would you believe what for me is the most eerie—eeriest, if you will—sensation imparted by this photo? While viewing it I can, at will, vacillate between the sensation of traveling through the atmosphere at near-supersonic speeds under full engine power, versus the sensation of descending with throttles at idle with nothing more than the sound of air passing over the plane’s surface.

Far back in the past century when I was flown at government expense for a mandatory 13-month vacation in beautiful tropical war-torn South Viet Nam, we landed at Guam for refueling and we coasted the last 100 miles to the island with all throttles at idle. The pull of gravity and the weight of the aircraft were enough to maintain the proper airspeed. Passengers were actually whispering to one another to avoid having their conversations being overheard by all the other passengers. Okay, okay, I may have exaggerated a bit on that part of my comment.

Eerie, I say—eerie!

Postscript: In the highly likely event that you or one or more of your viewers read this comment and feel that it was written in jest, it was not. The photo actually brings back sensations that I experienced more than forty years ago, so there—that’s my story and I’m sticking to  it!

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Frog legs, pocket knives & hackberry tea

This YouTube video is in no way related to the primary subject of this post, namely the treatment of raw sewage to recapture the 99.9% of raw sewage that is water and make it potable. I intend to end this post with the same video. I am presenting it here to ensure that my legions of followers have the opportunity to view it. If you view the video at this point and are so turned off by it that you don’t read the posting, it’s your loss—you’ll miss a highly educational essay—timely, well constructed and presented, and I say that with all sincerity aside. I know, I know, everyone always reads my posts all the way to the bottom, but just in case . . .

This morning while watching a cable show—MSNBC—I learned that at sometime in the future much of our drinking water will consist of treated sewage. That knowledge as defined by Wikipedia rests uneasy on one’s gustatory palate:

Sewage is water-carried wastes, in either solution or suspension that is intended to flow away from a community. Also known as waste water flows, sewage is the used water supply of the community. It is more than 99.9% pure water and is characterized by its volume or rate of flow, its physical condition, its chemical constituents and the bacteriological organisms that it contains. Depending on its origin, waste water can be classed as sanitary, commercial, industrial, agricultural or surface runoff.

The spent water from residences and institutions carrying body wastes, washing water, food preparation wastes, laundry wastes and other waste products of normal living is classed as either domestic or sanitary sewage.

The purpose of this post is an attempt to allay the fears of those that may be taken aback when told that the water they drink in the future will be sewage, coming direct to them as treated sewage from some remote treatment plant that has taken the action necessary to eliminate contaminants from raw sewage and now wants people to believe that the water is pure and potable—drinkable.

I know that’s a stretch, given the fact that the so-called sanitary sewage includes body wastes donated—love that term donated—by the community. However, I have personal knowledge that the decontaminated liquid may be consumed without fear of the consumer becoming contaminated—how that knowledge was gained is the purpose of this post.

As a young boy growing up between the ages of six and nine years I lived near a flow of treated sewage moving away from the city’s treatment plant via an open concrete-floored ditch—locals called it the Big Ditch—idling along on its way to Luxapalila Creek, a stream that joins Mississippi’s Tombigbee River, a stream that converges with the Alabama River to form the Mobile River that in turn empties into Mobile bay on the Gulf of Mexico—take that, Mobile!

Purely as an aside, the Indian word Luxapalila is said to translate into English as floating turtles. Considering the effluvial characteristics of human waste materials entering the stream, perhaps the first syllable of turtles, accidentally but aptly, describes the water and its contents—how’s that for coincidence!

But I digress—back to the Big Ditch, its contents and the marvelous flora and fauna that thrived—-or throve, take your pick—when I was a boy. The ditch may well be covered by now, or perhaps its contents have been diverted elsewhere. Many years have passed since I was treated—so to speak—to a life in that area and that era. Perhaps the Big Ditch is still fulfilling its destiny as a playground for the enjoyment of today’s children, activities in dialectical opposition to their parent’s wishes.

On more than one occasion I and one or more of my boyhood friends—always boys, although girls would have been welcomed and we would have been delighted by their company, but none accepted our invitations—dined on the banks of the Big Ditch, feasting on fried frog legs and hack-berry tea, a simple meal easily prepared. From our respective homes we brought a small frying pan, a small pot for boiling water, a block of pure lard, our pocket knives, a bit of corn meal, a pinch of salt, a few matches and our appetites to the Big Ditch, a Shangri-la for giant green bullfrogs easily rounded up by a couple of hungry boys.

We built a small fire and boiled water for our tea—yes, we used the nearest available source of water, that which flowed along the bottom of the Big Ditch. When the water was boiling we dumped in handfuls of hackberries gathered from the proliferation of hack-berry trees that thrived on the banks of the ditch.

The hack-berry tea was set aside to cool, and we heated the pure lard in the frying pan. After separating the legs of several frogs from their bodies we skinned the legs, rolled them in the corn meal, placed them in the frying pan and turned them until brown.

Don’t laugh—our culinary talents and our gustatory senses  at our age were underdeveloped and unrefined, and we had minimum expectations that the meal would equal those served in fancy French restaurants specializing in fried frog legs and offering fine wines to accompany the meal—cuisses et vin de grenouille frits—the French refer to the legs of frogs as thighs instead of legs. The use of the word thighs is probably considered a sexual reference by the French, intended to affect the mood of a dinner companion, whether male or female. A Frenchman might say, Mon cher, j’aime le goût des cuisses, delivered softly and translated as My dear, I love the taste of thighs—his after-dinner delights would be guaranteed—dessert, so to speak.

So there you have it—treated sewage can be safely ingested, digested and further processed by humans without fear of damage to their bodies or their life expectancy. My body shows no perceptible damage from the meals of cuisses et vin de grenouille frits, and I am just a hop, skip and a jump away from successfully completing eight decades of living life to its fullest—whether because of the frog legs or in spite of the frog legs is unknown. However, also unknown is the collective fates of my various boyhood companions. Some of them or all of them by this time may have already exchanged their earthly realm for one or the other of our two alternatives.

I must reluctantly admit that the others—some of them, none of them or all of them—may have already succumbed to the ravages of various diseases that were directly attributed to those meals of cuisses et vin de grenouille frits, and I do not recommend such meals to today’s boys, at least not meals garnered from the same source or similar sources—nope, I would neither recommend it nor suggest it.

I am of the opinion that today’s youth, although physically larger, stronger and enjoying greater longevity and enhanced motor skills, are not significantly more intelligent—in fact many, perhaps most, are somewhat lacking in basic subjects as demonstrated by accumulated grades given on an incredible numbers of tests administered by our schools. There are so many unknowns that I hesitate to imply that meals such as we prepared in the Big Ditch increases longevity, but I will postulate that such meals may promote a higher level of intelligence.

Today’s youth lag behind in the three Rs—reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic and their skills in communication skills are deplorable—they are deficient both in receiving and transmitting the spoken word, obviously derelict in vocal expression and auditory reception. I feel that my detailing just one of my eating habits as a boy proves, at least in some degree, that consumption of treated sewage water will not be harmful to us and our neighbors, and that proof has been beautifully presented to my viewers. That’s why I was motivated to make this posting and I feel that I have made my point—my efforts were successful and productive for society.

I apologize for diverting my attention to other problems facing our society and our nation—I couldn’t help it—it’s either in my nature or it could possibly be the result of my being distracted by a cantankerous keyboard.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: The fact that I frequently watch MSNBC does not mean that I like MSNBC. I frequently tune in to get the side of the news and opinions that are presented by other, more reliable and more truthful cable entities. I do not  dislike MSNBC—I enjoy its graphics and its presentations of news that are not permeated with and perforated by personal political presentations, situations that are far less frequent than presentations that are afflicted—tainted, so to speak—well, let’s face it—filled with and distorted by such taints and afflictions. Tune in to MSNBC on any weekday evening and listen to the talking heads in its evening lineup—you’ll be both attracted and reviled by their vituperative views on subjects ranging from A to Z—from armadillos to zebras–but particularly on Cs and Rs—Conservatives and Republicans.

One more postscript: Having clicked on the center of the above YouTube video, you have read the notice that someone, somewhere and somehow decided that the videos violated copyright, and it is stated that “the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimants including Real Clear Politics” . . .

Obviously when I showed the video and in effect compared it with the effluvia and solid particles that characterized the Big Ditch in my boyhood, I stepped on someone’s pepperoni and they demonstrated their ability to exercise their right to censure that part of of this post. I consider it a violation of my right to express my disgust of the vituperative drivel that nightly spews from the show. It’s still on YouTube, along with similar excerpts from other Ed Shultz’ nightly rants—check ‘em out.

And just one more note: I understand now why the network abruptly tossed Keith Olberman out the window—they didn’t need him because they had Ed Shultz.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Thoughts on Jane Russell, death & Dragnet

An article in San Antonio’s Express-News—the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in the United States—on Monday, 28 February 2011 states that the cause of death for Jane Russell, the generously endowed star of Howard Hughes’ 1941 movie The Outlaw, was respiratory failure. Stop me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t respiratory failure be the cause of death in every instance? I should think that whatever other condition caused the respiratory apparatus to fail would be the real cause of death.

Let’s at least agree on this point—when we say that death was caused by respiratory failure, we are saying that the departed stopped breathing, a term equivalent to saying that someone died because the heart stopped beating. That isn’t enough—we need to know why the departed stopped breathing and why the heart stopped beating. Either of those actions, or their failure to act, will cause the other to happen—when the heart stops beating the breathing also stops, and when the breathing stops the heart stops beating, and neither is the actual cause of death.

Each of us has the innate ability to contribute to the world’s store of statistics, other than just the statistic of having died, and the opportunity to make that contribution is given to us at the time of our death, namely the cause of our death. Was it by our own hand, thereby joining the ranks of suicide statistics? Was it suicide by firearm, hanging, wrist-cutting or a heart attack caused by an overdose of Viagra? As the immortal Jack Webb would say, speaking as Detective Joe Friday in his role as a police detective in the black-and-white television show Dragnet, We just want the facts, M’am, just the facts.

I realize that the Jack Webb skit above is not germane to this posting, but I wanted to show him in action and share his sleuthing techniques with my viewers. I know, I know—I have a lot of time on my hands. There are too many wrongs in this world and too little time to right them, but I will soldierly strive on in my efforts—it’s in my nature.

That’s my story and I’m sticking  to it.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Jane Russell, 38D, The Outlaw, Air Force, Hitchhiker . . .

Jane Russell, the tall brunette movie actress with the dark eyes and the 38-D bra is dead. Born in 1921, she died on Monday, 28 February from respiratory failure—she was 89 years old. When the news of her death was widely reported on television my memory took a long journey into the past. I felt that my thoughts of the star might be of interest to my viewers, hence this posting, and I know that at the very least it will be of interest to my daughters—they have never heard of this incident, a memorable event in their father’s life.

The year was 1946 and I was fourteen years old—wait, let me check that—1946 versus 1932—6 minus two = 4, and 4 minus 3 = 1. Yep, that’s 14 and in 1946 the Dixie Theater in Columbus, Mississippi, well ahead of its time, would not allow me to see Jane Russell in The Outlaw because of my impressionable youth, yet black-and-white movie stills in the display frames outside and the ones placed on easels in the theater lobby placed lots of emphasis on the twin outcroppings that brought fame to the statuesque brunette.

Had the theater been a carnival sideshow, I could have sneaked around back and crawled in under the canvas wall of the tent. That method had worked in the past with similar sideshows of carnivals that came to the city’s fairgrounds, but was of no use in this matter. And had I been accompanied by an adult family member, I would have been allowed to see the movie, but I knew that it was useless to ask my mother or one of my elder sisters, and my brother was off somewhere in the northern climes. And my exalted stepfather, Papa John, had once again shattered and deserted our little family and retreated to the Fraternal Order of Eagles club in Midland, Texas where he spent most of his nights losing at the club’s poker tables.

Eventually I despaired of seeing the movie and it finished its stint in Columbus and departed—it was heart wrenching because I was an avid western fan and that was the only reason I wanted to see it—yeah, right! While it was showing, I made numerous trips to drool—oops, I mean dream—over the still photos, and if the ticket seller did not look familiar I would try again to buy a ticket, but I was rebuffed each time.

Now fast-forward to Chanute Air Force Base located on the outskirts of Rantoul, Illinois, a small town some 125 miles south of Chicago. Much of the US Air Force technical training was centered at the sprawling air base, and I arrived there in the spring of 1949 to train as an aircraft electrician and engine mechanic. Chanute AFB was closed in 1993 by the Department of Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).

I left Chanute a year later in the spring of 1950 after finishing my training and headed for home in Mississippi for a 10-day leave en route, and then on to San Francisco to board an Army troop ship bound for Yokohama, Japan to start a three-year tour in the Far East. That tour was shortened by a year because of the US intervention in the Korean War.

But I digress—back to Jane Russell and her movie, The Outlaw. While in casual status waiting for my classes to start, I learned that the movie was playing in Champagne, the site of the University of Illinois some 25 miles from Chanute. I had no access to private transportation, neither mine nor that of others, and I couldn’t count on buses or trains to get me to Champagne and back overnight, so I opted for the only transportation available. I walked to Rantoul and found the highway leading to Champagne and assumed the position of a hitchhiker and positioned my thumb properly to show my need.

Hitchhiking in those days was somewhat different than now. The papers and radio waves and billboards were not filled with information on serial murderers, kidnappings, rape and child abuse. There were no Amber Alerts, or Jessica’s Laws, nothing worth mentioning that would make drivers hesitate to pick up a boy-child hitchhiker pretending to be a member of the US armed forces. Yes, I was in my US Air Force uniform, the one with all the stripes indicating my lofty rank—one small stripe on each sleeve, a Private First Class—hey, don’t laugh—after all, I was in the first class of all the privates in the Air Force. That should count for something!

I towered around five feet, six inches tall and weighed in at 110 pounds, an image unlikely to strike fear into any driver whether young or elderly, male or female, gay or straight and regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. My thumb was elevated and pointed in the proper direction for no more than ten minutes before a kindly driver opened his door to me, drove me to Champagne and dropped me off in front of the theater where The Outlaw was being featured.

In retrospect I humbly state, with all humility aside that I was a cute little dude, an innocent baby-faced wayfarer, and that appearance could well have been the reason that I fared so well with the hitchhiking process. I have not retained any of those credentials today—well, perhaps the height, but the innocent baby face and the low poundage have gone the way of all good things, the victims of passing time.

Well, that’s it—that’s my tale of Jane Russell and the black-and-white movie The Outlaw. After dreaming of seeing the movie for three years I came, I saw, and I conquered my obsession, but many years later it returned tenfold. I found the movie on a VHS tape cassette and rescued it from its humble position on a garage-sale table. It now has a featured position in my collection of similar western-themed movies—nay, belay that—no  movie is similar to The Outlaw—thanks to Jane Russell it stands in a class all by itself. I have a very vivid recollection of Jane Russell and one of her 3-D films. That’s the subject for a future posting, so stay tuned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Cable TV—lots of leg, thigh and bosom . . .

Sometimes I tire in my wearisome and thankless quest for truth, and particularly for my efforts to identify the elements in our society that are rushing us headlong—helter skelter, so to speak—towards the brink of becoming a nudist society—a society of nudists, or naturists.

We desperately need Holden Caulifield of Catcher in the Rye fame to turn us around before we go over the edge of that precipice—what awaits at the bottom is largely unknown. We can fantasize, of course, but while some people might welcome hitting the bottom—so to speak—others might not be comfortable there. It takes no more than a quick peek into the future to see that our nation is swiftly sliding down a slippery slope. Actually it takes only a quick peek at the plethora of You Tube videos to confirm that movement.

All are familiar with the letters LOL, an acronym for Laughing Out Loud that is used to express laughter at some remark, either made by writers laughing at their own jokes or by anyone laughing at something said or done by another. I submit that in network television shows it also means Lots Of Leg.

There is another acronym, one that I just created that is assisting LOL in changing our entire world into one gigantic nude beach. That acronym is SUYT—the letter U is pronounced as a W, the letter Y takes the Spanish sound and becomes E, and with another E and a final T added, the acronym is voiced exactly as the word SWEET.

The acronym SUYT—SWEET—has a double meaning, and both meanings will be shown in these videos. The word is pronounced the same in both meanings, but when the letters are converted to words they read Show Us Your Tits and Show Us Your Thighs and television complies, especially cable television—the major networks are slowly catching on to the value of SWEET and slowing catching up—it’s just a matter of time and programming—perhaps they should proselytize some of the women on cable television.

During the annual Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans’ French Quarter the cry of SUYT, or Sweet, is frequently heard, shouted out by revelers towards women gathered on the balconies that abound in that section. Of course, rather than the letters of the acronym the actual words are voiced, and the streets and buildings reverberate with the cries of:

Show Us Your Tits!

I am unaware of any survey that documented the number of times the request was made of the second-story watchers during Mardi Gras, nor of any record for how many women complied with the request. I can only speak from personal experience, and that experience was not during Mardi Gras—it was during normal middle-of-the-week evenings of two nights I spent in the French Quarter—in case anyone is  wondering, I retired to my hotel at a decent hour and enjoyed a pleasant night’s rest—alone.

During a three-day official visit to New Orleans in my capacity as a representative of a federal government law-enforcement agency, I estimated that in the time I spent on the street in the French Quarter at least two of every three women standing on the balconies complied with the cry of SWEET—that’s an estimate of sixty-seven percent that acquiesced to the request of those below.

There is still another request that is frequently heard in the French Quarter, that of SUYB, pronounced SWEEB, but voiced as Show Us Your Bootie. I saw the underpants—panties—of a few affable women that evening but no actual booties. Perhaps the actual booties are presented during Mardi Gras, but I have no knowledge of that.

Incidentally, when did baby’s first footcovers become women’s backsides? Which came first? Which ever of the two came first, the name of the other should be changed, and I vote for keeping the name booties for the baby because there is a plethora of euphemisms for rear ends, all of which can be used both for men and women—backside, behind, bottom, breech, bum, buns, butt, caboose, can, cheeks, buttocks, derrière, duff, fanny, fundament, hams, haunches, heinie, hunkers, keister, nates, posterior, rear, rear end, rump, seat, tail and tush.

Enough already! The term bootie should be reserved for babies’ first foot wear, and I suggest that the religious political right push for an amendment to the constitution—it’s time, way past time! And if that can’t be done, place the term bootie in the same class as the N-word in order to protect babies from discrimination and ridicule—just as the N-word can only be used by Ns without fear of recrimination, persecution and possibly prosecution, the word bootie should only be allowed in reference to baby foot ware.

It can be done, Congress, so let’s do it!

I believe that our television networks deliberately show us virtually everything that is shown in the French Quarter, displayed by various female talking heads, and thousands of videos support that contention. I believe that it’s done for a dual purpose—first to lure us to the program and then to distract us from the meat—so to speak—of the program’s presentation. Both SUYT and LOL are shown, both singly and simultaneously—the networks are obviously in compliance with our desires, and far too often the views triumphantly trump the news.

At this juncture I’ll admit something that very few men will admit—my attention span wavers between the words spoken and the views tendered, and in that same vein I will admit that never, not even one time, have I claimed that I subscribe to Playboy for the great articles—Playboy has lots of great jokes and photos, but few of its articles qualify as great. If I had  my way the news would be presented by women such as—well, let’s see—there’s Nancy Pelosi and Helen Thomas for starters, and I’m certain that television producers need only to step out the front door and find many women that could be hired to read the news without distracting their male  viewers—probably most of would close our eyes and just listen, and we and our nation would probably be improved by the change.

Every visitor to this blog would probably admit that some of the women on television bare far more skin than necessary to impart important information to their audience—lots of leg, an ample view of thighs and a substantial expanse of bosom—fooled you there, didn’t I? You thought I was gonna say tits, but I substituted the word bosom, a euphemism prevalent during the Victorian era in our history—gotcha!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: I do not  subscribe to Playboy, nor do I subscribe to Penthouse, Playgirl or AARP.  I am, however, a long-time subscriber to our local daily, the San Antonio Express-News, a rag that is delivered promptly at 6:AM daily, rain or shine, and I recently subscribed to the new Old People Magazine, a publication that “gives old people something to read while waiting to die.” Below are some peculiar particulars of its content.

The first issue of Old People features a photo essay on Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as articles on the post office, the late Bob Hope, and how pills are dissolved into applesauce in order to make them easier to swallow.

Most of the content in the new magazine, however, will focus on the subject of most interest to old people: dying. “Myrtle’s Story,” an example of the short fiction included, reads in part: “Myrtle was old. Very old. She waited and waited. Finally, she died.”

According to Gurnstein, stories like this one have an important message of hope for the aged. This story says to old people, “All this waiting is not for nothing. Sooner or later, no matter how long it may seem, you will die,” Gurnstein said. “In other words, hang in there. In the long run, death will come at last.”

I am not making this up, and I’m anxiously awaiting my copy of the first issue and eagerly looking forward to the second issue, one that will feature pictures of a horse and a duck. Honestly, I am not making this up—if you have  even a shadow of a doubt, click here for more information.



 
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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Airplanes, babies, barbeque & breast feeding . . .

Airplanes, babies, barbeque & breast feeding . . .

Airplanes, babies, barbeque & breast feeding . . .

Today en la madrugada—that’s Spanish for to the dawn, a term used by Spanish speakers in reference to the wee small hours of the morning—whilst I wandered amongst previous postings in search of embedded subjects that might be suitable for a subsequent post, I found some poetry concerning felines and their feeding habits. Most of the poetry is mine, but some of it is the work of unknowns, their identities shrouded in the swirling mists of time.

As an aside, I abhor writers and speakers that resort to using ancient poetical terms such as whilst and amongst, don’t you? Pray with me, and we will offer up a prayer for them in their positions as members of a semi-literate group, and trust that they will perhaps one day come to accept the fact that the use of ancient poetical terms such as whilst and amongst should be left to ancient poets. Oh, and let’s add unbeknownst to the list of words that were created by the ancients and that should be left in their care—exclusively.

As I read the posting I was particularly pleased by the second one, A Kitten’s Plaint, when I noticed that 13 of the total 17 lines were mine, including the title, and that allows me to claim 76 percent of the work. I dislike tooting my own whistle but as a friend from my past would say, It ain’t bragging if you done it!

And as Pythagoras exulted on his discovery of the Forty-seventh Problem of Euclid, exclaiming Eureka!, in the Grecian language meaning I have found it, I was similarly exhilarated when I discovered material for another posting in the title of this post, A tale of two kitties. However, I will not do as did Pythagoras on his discovery—he sacrificed a hecatomb of cattle—that’s 100 unlucky members of the bovine species, and I have neither a large herd of cattle nor a Bar-B-Q grill.

I was tempted to say that I have neither a large herd of cattle nor a Barbie, the term used by the Aussies, but I decided that my use of the term could be misinterpreted—not that I actually have a Barbie, of course, and not that I would necessarily want to have a Barbie—now that I appear to be digging myself into a hole, I will stop digging.

My title for this post is an adaption of A tale of two cities, Charles Dicken’s 1859 novel of the French revolution, reminded me of a silly rhyming riddle that was popular among kiddies during my kiddie days, and when told always evoked gales of laughter, even when most or all of the kiddie audience had already heard it.

Are y’all ready for dis?

How is an airplane like a baby?

Give up?

The airplane goes from city to city, and the baby goes from etc., etc., etc.

Postscript: Note the proper way to hold a nursing child shown in this image. It makes a lot of sense, because in the NO position the baby will be affected by gravity exerting force on its weight—the baby pictured appears to be hanging by its neck and may have difficulty swallowing. I should think that the mother would instinctively know the proper position for at least one obvious reason—that same gravity will affect the connection between the baby and its mother.

Forgive me, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Somebody Let the Cows Out

Somebody Let the Cows Out

My title for this post is a euphemism, as defined by Wikipedia: Euphemism is a substitution for an expression that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the receiver, using instead an agreeable or less offensive expression to make it less troublesome for the speaker. To Wikipedia’s definition, I would add that it also makes it less troublesome for the one to whom the euphemism is directed—big time!

The word euphemism comes from the Greek word eupheme meaning words of good omen, and etymologically is the opposite of blaspheme, or evil speaking—the Greeks felt that one should speak well or not speak at all. An admonition oft delivered to me by my sainted mother was If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything. In my early years as a young boy, a small decorative plaque placed prominently on the wall of our combination living room/bedroom/game room/courting room bore a special poem—the poem and related information, all tremendously interesting and beautifully written, even if I do say so myself, can be found here and on my About Me page. The poem is as follows:

There is so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.

I have carried the image of that plaque and the words of that poem in my memories for almost eight decades. I sincerely wish that I could say that I’ve followed its recommendation over those decades but I cannot—so I will not. I will, however, share this claim with any viewer that happens to stray this way—at this time, admittedly a late date, I am striving mightily to follow the creed expressed on that small plaque in the hope that my failures will be overlooked and credit will be given, both in this realm and in the realm to come, for subsequent attention paid to that sage advice.

Our English language is rich in euphemisms, some created in English and many converted to English from other languages, resulting in a wealth of ways to express something that at first glance is unrelated to the subject, a pot of gold that is constantly spilling over as new euphemisms are created.

And now on to the crux of this posting:

The most recent example, at least the most recent euphemism that applied to me, was when I recently took a neighboring couple to the airport to catch a flight. After we retrieved their luggage from the car trunk the lady favored me with a goodbye hug. Her husband normally shakes hands, but this time he put his arm around my shoulders, pulled me close and whispered in my ear.

I was expecting him to say something similar to See you in a few days, or perhaps Don’t be late picking us up, but what he said was Somebody let the cows out. I was perplexed for at least two nano-seconds and then I realized that my jeans were not zipped, hence the reference to the cows being turned loose, implying that someone had left the barn door open. His courteous and euphemistic whisper in my ear was my neighbor’s way of telling me that my fly was open.

I was lucky—my neighbor could have asked me whether I was anticipating, advertising or absent minded, with the emphasis on absent minded. I suppose that such a question, whether voiced openly—so to speak—or communicated to me in a whisper, could in its self be considered a euphemism—I prefer the one dealing with the wayward cows.

I immediately made a 180-degree turn and tossed the rest of my words—over my shoulder. The ambient air temperature at the baggage drop-off point had risen so swiftly that my first thought was of Al Gore, that he was right about global warming and that it had finally arrived in central south Texas, but then I realized that the increase in temperature was caused by my blushing. Speaking quite frankly, had I been asked I would have said that I did not have a good blush left in me, but I was wrong—I did.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Watermelons, fish, skinny-dipping & dynamite

I recently told the tale of how three of us, all miscreants and all active members of the United States Air Force stationed at Moody Air Force Base near the city of Valdosta, Georgia decided to raid a watermelon patch one Saturday night with the laudable purpose of illegally obtaining enough watermelons to have a Sunday watermelon party for ourselves and for our fellow barracks occupants. We felt that it would be a friendly, patriotic, doable and inexpensive gesture, especially since the watermelons would be free and the only other things we needed would be knives, forks and salt—yes, salt, because watermelon without salt is just watermelon. Click here for the original story of our night-time foray—our incursion into enemy territory, so to speak.

The knives and forks and salt could be easily lifted—oops, I meant borrowed—from our military dining facility, aka mess hall or chow hall, and by some as our slop shop. For those readers unfamiliar with the word slop—and there are lots of city folks, especially New Yorkers, that won’t know—slop is the mixture fed to pigs, and could be comprised entirely of commercial grains or entirely of table scraps or a combination of both.

As for a location for the party, the air base was surrounded by oak and pine forests, and our plan was to combine the watermelon feast with one of our frequent weekend sojourns into the woods to skinny-dip in one of the many dark-water creeks in the area—usually on such outings we consumed only beer—we felt that the melons would be appreciated by all.

The blast from that farmer’s shotgun on that night, on that quiet and peaceful rural road in South Georgia, resounded seemingly with the force of the explosions at Nagasaki and Hiroshima that ended World War II. Well, maybe not quite that loud, but it was at least as loud as the time a certain brother-in-law left me sitting in my car at an isolated location in that south Georgia area while he disappeared into the woods to a place where beavers had dammed a small creek and formed a fairly large body of water behind their dam.

When he disappeared in the bushes after telling me to wait in the car he was carrying a small bag, and a few minutes later when he burst from the bushes running toward the car, laughing like crazy, there was a tremendous explosion that told me the bag had contained dynamite, and the explosion was so loud and so unexpected that it almost resulted in me soiling my seat covers. He had wired the dam with the dynamite and blew it up, based on his belief that the pool created by the beavers’ dam would yield tons and tons of fish—trout, bass, perch, catfish, etc., perhaps even a sailfish or two—no, I made up the part about the sailfish.

I never learned whether the use of dynamite brought anything to my brother-in-law’s table. We left the area in considerable haste, spurred on by his admonition that someone may have heard the explosion and would come to investigate. My brother-in-law said he would return later to check on the effectiveness of his work with the dynamite, sometime after the reverberations had subsided and possible searchers for the source of the explosion had left the area. I never asked him how the fishing was, and he never volunteered the information.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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Didja hear the one about the two little morons and the weather?

Didja hear the one about the two little morons and the weather? Does anyone even remember the wealth of little moron jokes that made the rounds several decades ago? We aren’t allowed to use them now because they are not politically correct. Such jokes would disparage anyone of those among us that may be outside the intellectual norms established by our society. My use of the word instinct in a recent posting brought back one of those jokes, and I humbly offer an abject apology in advance—but not too seriously—to anyone that may be offended now.

I believe the question Are ya’ll ready for dis? which introduces the joke is, or at least was in the past, used by the San Antonio Spurs NBA team at the start of their games. It may be copyrighted, and if so I acknowledge that right and give them full credit for its origin. The voice is that of a former player named Johnson—no, not Jeremiah Johnson—Avery Johnson.

Are ya’ll ready for dis?

First little moron: It’s going to rain.

Second little moron: How do you know?

First little moron: My instincts.

Second little moron: My end stinks too, but it doesn’t tell me it’s going to rain.

I realize the two speakers could just as well have been Bert & Nan (the Bobbsey twins), Pat & Mike (Irish friends), Dagwood & Blondie, Mutt & Jeff, Donnie & Marie, Pelosi & Reid, Barack & Hillary, Chris Dodd & Barney Frank, Stanley & Livingston, O’Reilly & Beck, Paula & Simon, ad infinitum—or ad nauseam, perhaps. And the joke could also feature any two people, whether morons or MENSA charter members, regardless of nationality, race, sex, sexual preference, political affiliation, ideological bent, region, occupation, body build or marital status, whether divorced, married or cohabiting, whether same sex, married or unmarried, or two prim straight old maids or two grumpy straight old bachelors.

I used the original speakers, two little morons, to tell the joke as I remember it—history should never be rewritten, whether by nondescript writers such as I or by presidential biographers, historians and most of all, not by the school boards that decide what goes into the history books.

There’s a time-worn maxim that tells us that If we do not remember history we are doomed to repeat it. How can we remember history when it is constantly being rewritten in order to conform to prevailing social mores, to support or condemn various opposing political factions and to promote or condemn various opposing political agendas?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course, for which there is neither right nor wrong answers, and to misquote a line from the old Laurel and Hardy movies, It’s a fine mess that political correctness has gotten us into.

As a nation we are adhering so tightly to political correctness that little by little we are painting ourselves into a corner, and eventually our chickens will come home to roost—and that mixed metaphor should give everyone something to mull over!

And one more special note:

I especially like the combination of Pelosi & Reid as a replacement for the team in the little moron jokes. They were overwhelmingly voted into first place in a recent far-reaching poll, both exhaustive and exhausting, to determine the most logical team to replace the little morons in all the old jokes, and in any similar jokes that may be created in the future.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must state that only one person was polled. Can you hazard a guess as to the identification of the person that was polled? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count. Yep, you guessed correctly—I was both pollster and pollee and here are the results of my poll:

My vote of first place for Pelosi & Reid was unanimous—I know, I know, that’s an oxymoron.

Chris Dodd & Barney Frank were first runner-ups, also unanimous.

Barack & Hillary were relegated to third place, ditto.

The other candidates were also-runs, unnumbered but also unanimous.

And a rather lengthy final note:

Lighten up! It’s all in fun, and if this posting elicits a chuckle from even a couple of readers, regardless of their age, religion, sexual orientation, political preference or affiliation, education, profession, location, marital status, economic status, race, nationality, place of birth, height, weight, intelligence quotient, hair style, eye color or shoe size, then I have accomplished my objective—I’ve lightened their load for a moment, however brief, as they laboriously trudge along the road of life, usually making the wrong choice when their path diverges—-most do as Yogi Berra suggested: When you come to a fork in the road, take it!

I will conclude this posting by echoing the words of Brother Dave Gardner (1926-1983), an old-time stand-up comic whose career flowered and flourished in various entertainment venues in the years between 1950 and 1970, and included the production and sale of millions of LPs—and for those that have forgotten them or are too young to remember them, LPs are long-playing phonograph records.

Brother Dave would not be accepted today because of his politically incorrect repertoire, one that depended heavily on the use of regional and racial dialect. His career nose-dived in adverse proportion to the rise of political correctness in our republic. Were Brother Dave privileged to read this posting, he would analyze it and express his thoughts with one of his trademark expressions—he would undoubtedly exclaim,

Ain’t that weird!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Supposed has only two syllables, not three—got it?

Supposed has only two syllables, not three—got it?

The world is in turmoil, and our country is currently in the midst of an upheaval caused by a never-ending battle waged by conservatives on one side and on the other side liberals, NOW, communists, fascists, Muslims, progressives, Nazis, abolitionists, various ethnic and racial minorities including blacks and Hispanics, many of the Jewish persuasion, unions, gays, and those that are vertically challenged—short people.

I have, at great length over a considerable period of time, closely observed and analyzed the current problems in the world, problems such as the revolutions underway in the Middle East and in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and potentially in every state not governed by a conservative, and the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Yes, Iraq—anyone that believes the war in Iraq is over is taking the proverbial head in the sand stance attributed to the ostrich, or better still, everyone that believes the war is over has their heads up their collective—sorry, the rest of that phrase escapes me. People in Iraq continue to die by the dozens from explosives-laden vests worn and detonated by morons anxious to meet the seventy-two virgins promised by their religion—die by the dozens has a nice alliterative ring, don’t you think?

At this point I must digress in order to inform my viewers, in the unlikely event that they are unaware that there are only 72 virgins available in the heavenly beyond, that it is not simply a matter of first come, first served, because all arrivals are served—or serviced, so to speak—equally. The same 72 are used by all, but it is written that regardless of the frequency with which those ladies are ravished, they remain chaste—ain’t that a hoot!

I have also considered the plethora of medical problems that plague mankind, problems such as malaria, HIV, AIDS and ingrown toenails, and class warfare and nature’s calamities such as tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, forest fires and the plight of the Snail Darter and the Blind Salamander and the host of other threatened fauna and flora species in our country and across the globe, including Atractosteus spatula calico magna, the snaggle-toothed alligator gar found only in southern states, primarily Mississippi—okay, okay, I admit that I made up the snaggle-toothed part—oh, okay, I made up the entire name—well, most of it anyway.

Having given so much consideration to so many problems, I have selected one, and only one, to discuss on WordPress. It’s one that I can discuss with certainty, and perhaps in some way, in some measure, change the course of that problem and relieve at least one of the many adverse conditions that plague civilization, specifically our supposedly civilized English-speaking nations—please note the four-syllable construction of the word supposedly—I will explain that construction in the next paragraph. The following statement explains the problem I have with the way many people pronounce supposed: The word has only two syllables—not three!

Only two syllables but many, perhaps most, talking heads on television, whether guests or hosts, pronounce the word sup-pos-ed with three syllables. Those people are supposedly well educated, erudite even—at this point please note that the adverb form of the verb suppose has four syllables—sup pos ed ly—but that construction is not a problem—everyone gets that one right.

Many of those people pronouncing the word supposed with three syllables are attorneys, graduates of ivy league universities, many with PHDs, high ranking government officials whether elected or appointed, priests, teachers and school administrators and a multitude of others from every walk of life, people that emulate the pronunciation of the word by people they admire, believing that if they use that pronunciation it must be right, coming from such a supposedly erudite group—and once again there’s that four-syllable construction of the word.

In my survey of the pronunciation of the word by talking heads on cable television, I found those folks on Fox News to be the most frequent offenders, including the gaggle of attorneys that appear on that channel. That’s a real mystery for me—all of them certainly have at least one college degree, and many have several. I will, grudgingly, give Glenn Beck a pass on mispronunciation of supposed because he is not a graduate of any so-called higher institution of learning.

In previous posts I have mentioned a lady that I have known for many years, a lady for whom English is a second language. Her native language will become apparent by my saying that she pronounced the English letter I as an E, thus the term nit picker came across as neet peeker—I suppose it could have been worse in some other foreign language, coming across as neat pecker, for example, or perhaps as gnat pecker.

I mention that lady only because there is a slight possibility that one or more of my viewers may consider me to be nit picking in my effort to educate the public to the correct pronunciation of the word supposed when used as an adjective, as in the term the supposed murderer, or the supposed philanderer, etc.

I am neither neet peeking nor nit picking—my efforts in this venue are similar to the ever ongoing search for the Holy Grail, the vessel from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, and comparable to the search for the Golden Fleece, the fleece of a golden-haired winged ram that was the offspring of the sea god Poseidon, the fleece that was so long and so arduously sought by Jason and his band of Argonauts.

The same people that pronounce the word supposed with three syllables also pronounce the two-syllable word alleged with three syllables, as in al-ledge-ed. I suppose I should make that a separate post, but I won’t bother—it wouldn’t make any difference anyway. May the Grand Protector of Syllables forgive them—I won’t!

That’s it—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Watermelons, shotguns, Red Sovine, Patsy Cline & Viet Nam

This is a sequel to my original post of 13 January 2011. That story involved the theft of a watermelon by a brother-in-law, a born again Christian, and my confession that I had been guilty of a similar offense, but I furnished few particulars. This posting expands on my unlawful actions considering watermelons, namely stealing them from a roadside field a few miles from the South Georgia Air Force Base where I was stationed a lifetime ago—way, way, way back in 1952. Click here for the original post. It’s well worth the read, then come back here for this story of the farmer and his firearm—it’s also well worth the read!

Almost fifty-nine years have passed since then, but my watermelon memories are as fresh as the first seasonal load of melons being off-loaded at my local supermarket, and for good reasons, primarily because my last foray into purloining watermelons involved the farmer, a shotgun and the thoroughly trashed rear seat of my 1951 sky-blue chick-magnet Ford convertible.

On that eventful Saturday night I and my two co-conspirators wisely waited until a late hour in the evening to ignore Georgia law and also ignore signs that many of the local farmers posted along roads bordering their fertile fields of crops. We were of the belief that the farmer would be safely ensconced in his easy chair listening to the Grand Ole Opry on radio, a Saturday night not-to-be-missed event in those days.

As our method required—a well thought out method of stealing watermelons and one highly successful on previous Saturdays—I lowered the top on my chick-magnet 1951 Ford convertible and drove slowly as we neared the field and my two buddies disembarked—jumped over the side of the car—and disappeared into the cornfield on the right side of the road.

Yes, cornfield—this was a combination corn-and-watermelon crop, a common practice in the area. In fact, some farmers added a third crop, that of pole beans, with the corn stalks serving in lieu of the poles that the beans require for climbing and maturing properly. Pretty neat, huh?

I continued down the road for several miles, then turned around and waited a few minutes to give my team time to gather watermelons and place them in the roadside ditch preparatory to transferring them to the rear seat of my Ford chick-magnet convertible.

At this point I must digress to explain the ditch—road building, Georgia style. There were no freeways in the area nor in that era, just two-lane roads graveled or paved with asphalt—the interstate system was in work, but years would pass before multiple lane roads came to that area. The depressions that border both sides of South Georgia roads are called bar ditches by the locals, as in, Muh tar blowed out an’ muh car runned off in uh bar ditch.

I puzzled over the term bar and queried several local natives for its meaning and its origin—natives of Georgia, of course—and was told Ah on oh, interpreted as I don’t know. Having heard the song and seen the movie about Daniel Boone and his bear-slaying ability—kilt him a bar when he was only three—I figured it had something to do with bears—bars—but I was wrong. I learned from one of the more educated and articulate natives—a rarity in that area—that it was a borrow ditch, so-called because soil was borrowed from the roadsides and used to build up the roads to prevent water accumulating on the highway during the rainy season. Thus borrow ditch in English became bar ditch in Georgia-speak.

Now back to the farmer and his firearm. As I approached the drop off point—now the pickup point—I flashed my headlights three times to signal my criminal associates of my approach, then turned off the lights and coasted to a stop at the proper point, and the watermelons began to take flight, sailing over the side of my chick-magnet and landing indiscriminately on the seat, against the side panels, window sills, window handles, on the floor and on each other. Speed was of the essence because we planned on a watermelon party for our barracks-bound buddies the next day, a Sunday watermelon fest to be held in a secret location in a wooded area near the air base, and we needed a lot of watermelons for that crowd.

The blasts from that farmer’s shotgun on that night, on that quiet and peaceful rural road in South Georgia, resounded seemingly with the force of the explosions at Nagasaki and Hiroshima that ended World War II. Well, maybe not quite that loud, but it was at least as loud as the time a certain brother-in-law left me sitting in my car while he disappeared into the woods to go to an unnamed location, saying only that he would return in a few minutes. Click here to read about the explosion that resounded several minutes after he entered the woods.

At this point I will conclude my digression and return to the tale of the Great Watermelon Heist, and hold my brother-in-law’s actions for a later posting, one for which the wait is well worthwhile.

In addition to the sound of the shotgun blast, we could detect the sound of lead shot pellets tearing through the leaves of corn stalks, a sign that the shotgun was not aimed skywards when the pissed-off farmer pulled the trigger—or triggers—judging by the sounds it may have been a double-barreled shotgun, or perhaps an semi-automatic shotgun that held five shells and the trigger was pulled so fast that the five explosions blended into one fearsome sound.

As an aside to this subject, I know that such a sound could have been made, and here’s proof. Many years ago while assigned to duty in Washington, DC, I was privileged to be present at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC when one of the agency’s top guns demonstrated his dexterity and the power of his weapon by firing it six times in succession. The sound of those six shots of .38 caliber ammunition exploding was absolutely continuous, just one smooth roar. When the agent pulled in the silhouette target, it showed that the rounds were all closely grouped in the chest area of the target, a group that indicated the location of the heart.

That’s enough of my digressions and my asides—okay, more than enough. I will conclude this posting by saying that I and my companions in crime escaped unscathed, and our depredations were never made public. That was not our first watermelon heist, but it was definitely the last—we never even considered another, neither in that watermelon season nor in subsequent seasons.

However, the rear seat of my 1951 sky-blue chick-magnet Ford convertible did not escape unscathed. Several of the large melons, tossed in the rear seat under extreme distress—the throwers, not the melons—burst open from impact with the car and with each other, and the faux leather rear seat and side panels were covered with watermelon seeds and juice, as were the combination rubber-and-felt floor mats. I worked half the day on Sunday cleaning up the mess. However, enough of the melons escaped destruction for us to have a watermelon party, albeit somewhat truncated because of the losses we suffered. Ah, those were the days!

This story is true—I know it’s true because, just as was the protagonist in that popular song Deck of Cards, sung variously and in various years by T. Texas Tyler, Tex Ritter, Wink Martindale and Bill Anderson—I was that soldier! If you like, you can click here to read the complete words of the song. It’s clever—I wish I had thought of it!

I know I promised no more asides or digressions, but I must do one more aside. The last time I heard Deck of Cards sung was in 1969, it was rendered by country singer Red Sovine before a raucous, rowdy and unruly crowd in an NCO Club at Da Nang Air Base in South Viet Nam. That in itself is worthy of a separate posting, so stay tuned. If you like, you can click here to learn everything you ever wanted to know, and even more, about Red  Sovine.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Postscript: In reference to that so-called chick-magnet auto—I never knew whether it would have drawn girls into its magnetic field because my future wife and I were already going steady and the subject of marriage had been broached, albeit ever so lightly, when I traded for the convertible, and we married just four months after we met, a marriage that lasted for 58 years. As for the convertible, it was traded immediately after our first daughter was born—so much for the chick-magnet characterization.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in driving, friends, Humor, Military, Uncategorized

 

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Revisited: Two pets for Christmas presents . . .

Revisited: Two pets for Christmas presents . . .

I am revisiting this post because it received more comments than any of the other 372 literary efforts I have presented to the world in general and to WordPress in particular. My purpose is to bring those succinct and tremendously well-written comments out of the Stygian darkness and into the bright light of now—I can truthfully say, with all seriousness aside, that I enjoy reading comments to my postings almost as much as I enjoy rereading the original posting—almost, but not quite!  If you wish, you can click here to read the original posting, published on June 27, 2010.

Two pets for Christmas presents . . .

For a brief period of several months I lived with my family—mother, stepfather and youngest sister—in a one-room kitchenette in a small motel on East US Highway 82 in Columbus, Mississippi. This was in the latter years of World War II—although the term motel had been around since 1925, our establishment called itself the Columbus Tourist Court, the word court suggesting a more comfortable kind of accommodation—it was actually a stand-alone cabin in a line of other stand-alone cabins backed by an ages-old cemetery that historically was limited to black burials but was no longer in use.

Just as an aside, our stepfather frequently told people that the owner of the Columbus Tourist Court was a close personal and business friend of many years standing, and that if one mentioned his name—my stepfather’s name—the owner would cut some slack on the price of the accommodations. I tried that some years later and got nothing but a blank stare from the owner—he opined that he was not familiar with the gentleman—so much for slack, right?

The cemetery was in total disrepair, with tombstones missing, broken and fallen, graves sadly sunken and the ground strewn with remnants of urns and flower vases and leaves and rubbish, even a cast-off mattress or two. My sister and I roamed that cemetery picking up bits of colored glass and retrieving unbroken receptacles for flowers, some almost buried in the ground. This was the equivalent of a nature park for us, a place to linger in the evening after school and on weekends. It was also a place that prompted us to make up ghost stories, sometimes so scary that we scared ourselves.

But I digress—this story is not about cemeteries—it’s about the two pets, dogs, that our stepfather promised one day near Christmas as he and our mother headed for town in his four-door black 1939 Plymouth sedan. I mention the auto because it was never, not even once, not even on days of rain or snow or heat or cold, used to transport me and my sister to school. Had our tourist court been on a numbered thoroughfare, it would have been somewhere around Twenty-fifth Street. Our high school was located at Seventh Street and Third Avenue North—city blocks usually run 12 to the mile, so our walk to school covered some 21 blocks, almost two miles, and we walked it barefoot regardless of rain or snow or heat or cold, and it was uphill in both directions. Okay, I’m stretching it a bit, but the fact remains that we walked the distance five days a week while we lived at the Columbus Tourist Court—bummer!

When our mother and our stepfather returned that day shortly before Christmas, our stepfather gave me and my sister separate packages that we hurriedly unwrapped. My sister’s package contained a beautiful Collie, colored identically as Lassie of the movies. My package yielded a gorgeous Pekingese with the cutest face ever seen on a dog.

These were the two dogs he promised us for Christmas, and he had followed through with his promise. However, there was a hitch—my sister’s Collie was mounted on the side of a large tabletop ashtray and my Pekingese was a lead-weighted plaster dog intended to be used as a doorstop. We expected pets, of course, but we were given functional replicas of dogs instead. Mental torture? Child abuse? Of course, but in those days there was no Child Protective Service or any other service to accept complaints, even if we had been endowed with the courage and the willingness to complain.

Merry Christmas!

We were between trips to the atom bomb project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where our stepfather worked. He was laid off for awhile and we had left a government trailer village in Gamble Valley, Tennessee to return to Columbus, and we were now returning to that area to another trailer village called Happy Valley, Tennessee—both locations are subjects for future postings. Stay tuned!

A funny thing happened to us when we were loading the car for the return trip to Tennessee. I had an armful of funny books—they were actually comic books but nobody called them comic books in those days. They were funny books, even the ones picturing the most violent mayhem, and the comic strips in newspapers were also referred to as the funnies.

Our stepfather told me I could not take my funny books because the car was already overloaded. My sister promptly spoke up and told him, in a completely serious tone, that she would carry them in her lap. That was one of the very few times that our little family laughed together—for a brief shining moment we were a happy family, albeit caused by friction. The moment was brief—the stack of comics was consigned to the trash, we climbed into the car and were off on another great adventure.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

The following comments on this post and my responses follow below—my responses are in italics.

A comment from my daughter in Dallas:

Ok, these are two of the stories that I always remember and they never fail to make me sad. Thanks, Dad??? You write so very well and the story hasn’t changed through the years. Not even a little.

My response:

Hi, Kel—thanks for the comment, especially for the part that reads, “you write so very well.” I consider that to be the ultimate compliment, coming from someone that has the potential of becoming another Eudora Welty (Google it!).

I’m pleased that you find the stories unchanged over the years. I will never admit that some of the details of a posting are a bit obscured by the swirling mists of time, but should it ever happen I would necessarily fill in the blanks.

Much as some of us improve our appearance with cosmetics, I would make up (get it?) fillers for the gaps in my memories, and those fillers would improve the story and propel it forward without altering its basic truths. A corollary can be found in the pig–and–lipstick story, namely that one can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

I believe that some of us tend to remember things not as they were, but how we would like them to be. Your Aunt Dot is a prime example of that—during the final years of our stepfather’s life, she apparently set aside all the bad and retained all the good of the earlier years and I suppose, as Martha Stewart is wont to say, that’s a good thing!

A comment from absurdoldbird: Click here for an adventure in art—this is a tremendously talented lady!

It’s good to read the stories of your childhood, youth and beyond, Mike. And I get the impression from your daughters’ comments here and there, that you’re doing the blogging equivalent of what I’d persuaded my dad to do for me and my sister when he recorded his memoirs onto audio cassette. Though the cassettes were just for us and here you’re talking to the world (or whatever part of the world may come by to read. I do hope that, in time, you’ll get more readers.)

My response to absurdoldbird:

Hi, Val—thanks for the comment. Your peek into my postings peeled back the cosmetic layers and revealed the naked unvarnished truth—my blogging is the direct result of the persuasive powers of Cindy, the princess that lives, loves and works in Virginia, just as your father’s audio cassettes are the result of your powers of persuasion.

Cindy hounded me for years in an effort to get me on camera, extolling my virtues and/or lack thereof in a series of videos. I consistently and stubbornly resisted—I vowed that I would never allow either the visual or the vocal results of such grilling to impinge on the senses of anyone, whether family or friends or the public.

Using the cosmetic approach I could have controlled the visual but not the audio portion. I consider my voice, both timbre and content, to be a combination of Archibald Alexander Leach (Cary Grant) in “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer” and Barak Obama reading from the teleprompter.

However, my recorded voice sounds like a combination of W. C. Fields and Gomer Pyle. And finally, the possibility exists that a slip of the tongue while on camera could land me on the covers of various tabloids along with Britney, Lindsay, Paris, Sean Penn, Hugo Chavez, Harry Reed, Nancy Pilosi and others of that ilk.

As for my getting more readers, the number of visitors to my blog has spiked dramatically just recently, a spike that I attribute–if not entirely then primarily—to you and Cindy.

More from absurdoldbird:

My dad frequently made me turn off the tape, rewind and erase bits – not only stuff he’d uttered but some side comments from yours truly!

It’s a brilliant (and respect-worthy) endeavour to commit ones memoirs to some sort of recording device, whether it’s tape (which will be gone soon, I’m sure), CD, DVD, mp3 or any number of other formats or, as you’re doing, internet, for ones family. Sadly, I have no children, nor has my only sibling. I’d persuaded my sister to record hers, mostly for fun for us both and she’d wanted to do it as an interview so we’d both have each other’s, but my damn tape recorder died and I’ve not yet sussed out the digital alternatives.

Now I want to hear your voice! (Was that deliberate, I wonder?) I had to look up ‘Gomer Pyle’ as the show the character was in, was never shown in the UK. (Amongst other exports from the ‘States, we had Bilko – Phil Silvers – but then he sounded like Top Cat/Boss Cat).

While I’ve only been on WordPress since September last year, I’ve been blogging since 2004 and have been thinking about doing a post about blogging, getting traffic to ones blog, etc. One thing is this: it’ll be your own comments on other people’s blogs and their comments in yours, that get people into your blog, particularly when there is more than one-liner reciprocation. People like to surf into blogs via the usericon they see in the person’s comments to find out what that person is about and what sort of blog they have. They are usually (unless they’re authoring a commercial/professional blog) looking for people who are on their wavelength. People look at the content of comments. If there is something that rings bells with something in their own life, present or past, they’ll be interested. So – if you want more people to come by, just keep doing what you’re doing, and send yourself out more. Explore others’ blogs, talk to people about their own lives, find the blended-borders at which you and they meet and they’ll come and check you out.

And still more from absurdoldbird:

Whoops – ‘she’d not wanted to do it as an interview, but a discussion’ was what I had meant to put in that comment, apropos my sister’s memoirs. Sorry. Some of my thinking is still a little disjointed.

From a girl named Sue: (No, not Johnny Cash!)

I can’t wait for your book to come out so I can curl up with it and a good cup of tea for a heartwarming read when I just want to relax and unwind.

My response to Sue:

Hi, Sue—what a nice comment. That makes me want to build a fire under myself and under Cindy and get the show on the road and when, and if, it happens we just might call on you to pose with your copy—the first one off the press, with its title prominently displayed, a nice poster to use for our book signings.

Thanks for the visit, and thanks for the comment.

And a final comment by my daughter in Virginia: Click here for her blog, one of the finest—nay, the finest—blog on Word Press!

Light a fire under me? Under me? Ahem….I’m the one lighting fires, mister! Get me that title and tagline pronto, ya hear?

Val has some great observations about attracting readers to your blog—keeping on doing what you’re doing and then some!

My response:

Alright, alright—lighten up! As the Spanish-speaking folks enjoy saying, “Lo dije en broma!” I said it playfully, in jest, and you’re right about Val having some great observations about attracting readers—right now she has me working overtime responding to comments—I love it, just love it!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Jesus Christ—the Son of God, or liar and charlatan?

Jesus Christ—the Son of God, or liar and charlatan?

My wife came to me in a dream last night. I awoke after the dream, then slipped back into sleep while savoring my time with her, repeating over and over in my mind what she had said. When I awoke and began yet another sad and silent day without her, only one phrase remained in my memory, a phrase that resounds in my thoughts now and always will. I don’t remember the circumstances or location of the dream or what prompted it, but this is what she said:

I have never felt better in my life!

Every word was enunciated succinctly, properly and clearly including the t in the word felt. The thought was voiced exultantly, jubilantly and joyfully, obviously and literally from the heart and from the soul—even the exclamation point came shining through. I am painfully aware that some of my readers may place this post in Ripley’s Believe it or Not category but please believe me, I am not making this up.

I have never felt that dreams were real because some of my dreams, particularly some of those I experienced as an adolescent, were so ridiculous that I usually was awakened by my own laughter. A recurring dream in my teenage years was one in which I could fly, just as did my comic book heroes.

One of those memorable dreams of flying was precipitated by my leap frogging over curbside parking meters, an unusual ability that few of my friends could match, even those much taller than I, and most wouldn’t even make the attempt, fearing the result of failing to clear the top of the meter and possibly sustaining irreversible damage to specific body parts. In my dreams, each time I cleared a meter I rose higher and higher before returning to the sidewalk, and ultimately I was in full flight, soaring over the earth from dizzying heights.

Some of those dreams were so real that although I was aware that I was dreaming, I eagerly looked forward to my awakening so I could show everyone that I could fly. At this point I must confess that I had many other dreams as a teenager, many even more fantastic and even more improbable—nay, more impossible—than flying, but I refuse to discuss them in a family-oriented venue such as Word Press—there is a time and place for everything under the sun, and this is neither the time nor the place for that.

So what does last night’s dream mean, given the belief that dreams mean something? I am of the opinion that what my wife said is an indication that life exists after death, perhaps not as we know life on earth, but life in another realm.

It is an immutable truth that every person that has ever lived, every person that lives now, and every person that will live in the future wonders if there is life after death. Many of us reject the thought of a life after death, and hold to the belief that first you’re born and then you die, and that’s the alpha and omega of humanity—the beginning and the end. I unashamedly but humbly admit that I was a non-believer until a recent event changed my mind. If you are interested, you can click here for a detailed explanation of that life-altering event—it’s a good read, beautifully crafted and presented, as are all my efforts to communicate on Word Press. I say that in all modesty, a trait that is the only fault in my character—were it not for that fault, I would be perfect!

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending. No, not me—those are the words of our Lord, given to us in Revelation 1:8 in the King James version of the Holy Bible. Whether we believe or disbelieve the Scriptures, neither non-believers nor believers can reject the fact that we exist, that we had a beginning, whether as the work of a Supreme Being, or through eons of change we are risen up from the depths of primeval slime to our present humanity.

It’s the Omega part of Revelation 1:8—the ending of life—that divides us into different groups of believers versus non-believers. Some of us consider the ending of life as simply a new beginning, a transition from the physical mortality that began at birth to a spiritual immortality that begins with death and continues throughout eternity.

None of us reject the Alpha, the first beginning, but we are not unanimous in our belief of a second beginning, or second coming, if you will—just as Jesus will have a second coming to earth, ours will be a second coming to heaven.  While we universally accept one beginning, acknowledging that it is real, many of us refuse to accept the possibility of a second beginning.

I can postulate the possibility that each of us is born with an empty spot, either placed in our body or in our heart or in our thoughts by a Supreme Being or by accident as we ascended from the primeval slime to our present humanness, and the only thing that will ever fill that empty space is a belief in life after death, that death is nothing more than a new beginning. For the inimitable few of my readers that have progressed this far in my efforts to entertain and enlighten, the following quote is offered:

Either Jesus Christ was who he said he was, the Son of God and the savior of man, or he was the greatest charlatan and liar that ever walked the face of the earth.

Can you guess who said that?

Give up?

The Reverend Billy Graham said it—I couldn’t find it online, but trust me—he said it. I memorized it many years ago from a text book required for a University of Alabama speech class, back in the days when I was still rising up through that primeval slime. At first I thought it was, as the British are wont to say, a bit cheeky, but then I realized that the reverend is telling us that we cannot accept Jesus partially—He must be wholeheartedly accepted by body and mind and soul, without a shadow of doubt—therein lies salvation.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2011 in death, education, Family, funeral, heaven, interment, religion

 

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Oh, no! Exit fat, French fries, sugar, salt & gravy . . .

On a recent Sunday morning I unrolled my home-delivered plastic-bagged copy of the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in America, with a potential audience of some two million readers. Prominent on the front page was an article announcing planned changes in menus of military dining halls, specifically at Fort Sam Houston, Texas but eventually in military dining halls world-wide. Click on the image below to read the front-page portion of the article.

As a retired military person I can appreciate and accept all the changes except one. I do not mourn the loss of fat, French fries, sugar and salt and I welcome whatever substitutes replace those items, but gravy? GRAVY? Not gravy, please dear Lord don’t let them outlaw gravy. Without gravy there will be no SOS, a dish that is embraced emotionally and gastronomically by everyone that has ever served in any of the United States military forces. SOS is primarily a breakfast entree—gravy with chipped beef, hamburger meat or sausage added, and usually served as a stand-alone spread on toast or biscuits with various other items added if desired—bacon or sausage, perhaps, or eggs cooked to order, or pancakes or all the above.

Those in the stratospheric zones of the military hierarchy—commissioned officers and their families—usually refer to SOS as creamed chipped beef on toast, or creamed hamburger on toast, or creamed sausage on toast—creamed is simply a euphemism for gravy. However, the unwashed hordes in the military services, the enlisted population including NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) are comprised of those always willing to call a spade a spade—oops, delete that phrase—it is so not politically correct—make the phrase willing to tell it like it is instead. That elite group of military persons refer to the breakfast delicacy as Shit On a Shingle, with the toast being the shingle and meat gravy the shit, thusly SOS. As a side note, that culinary masterpiece known as SOS is also called Stew On a Shingle and Same Old Stuff. The words may be different, but the visual appearance and taste of the mixture are the same.

Please say it ain’t so, Barack!

Please say it ain’t so, Michelle!

Please don’t do away with gravy—that will sound the death knell for SOS, a breakfast choice for untold millions of men and women in America’s armed forces, in peace and war in virtually every country on the planet, a breakfast delicacy that has been around since long before World War II, and in my opinion helped the United States win its wars—with the exceptions of Korea and Viet Nam and possibly Iraq and Afghanistan, wars that are still unfolding. Although we are claiming the war in Iraq to be a victory, it will probably be rated as a failure in future history books, as will Afghanistan—that is purely my opinion, and I freely admit that opinion is similar to a certain body orifice, the operation of which is controlled by the sphincter muscle—everybody has one, and that’s mine.

Please don’t throw SOS under the bus, Mr. and Mrs. Obama. I believe in change just as much as anyone, including battle-hardened Democrats, but I draw the line on the elimination of SOS from military dining halls. As a home-care giver for many years, I have been a frequent morning visitor to San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center and to Lackland’s Wilford Hall Medical Center, and although I have lost my reason for being a home-care giver, I will continue to use both entities for my own medical care, and you may be assured that I will, at every opportunity, enjoy an SOS breakfast in the hospital cafeterias as long as it is served.

And you may also be assured that if SOS is dropped from their breakfast menus I will look elsewhere for SOS and give my business to those other locations, including such ubiquitous outlets as Whataburger and the myriad Jim’s Restaurants in San Antonio, both of which proudly serve sausage gravy on biscuits for breakfast.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: In my outcry against the demise of SOS I used the term eggs cooked to order, and I must tell my readers that in the hospital cafeteria at San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center you can in fact have your eggs cooked to order, except you cannot have soft-scrambled eggs, eggs over-easy, eggs over-medium or eggs sunny-side up. You can only have them hard scrambled, fried hard on both sides, scrambled hard in an omelet or hard-boiled. The rules are in place to prevent salmonella.

But listen up, and I’ll whisper this in your ear: Go to the hospital cafeteria at Lackland’s Wilford Hall Medical Center and you can get your eggs made to order. Just tell the cook what you want and you’ll get it, up to and including fresh eggs cracked in a bowl and served raw, as many as you want and none having been anywhere near flames or heat, usually ordered by those trying to bulk-up for competition in such sports as wrestling and boxing and, of course, for those that just enjoy flexing their muscles for the opposite sex, and in some instances for the same sex.

Hey, it happens—at my age I don’t flex and I never have, couldn’t even if I tried because I never ate raw eggs, but even at my age I still get flexed at—not all that often, but once in awhile. I believe some men follow the advice contained in a song my brother used to sing, namely that, If you can’t get a woman, get a clean old man.

That’s the end of my story and my postscript and I’m sticking to both.

 

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Oh, no! Not another blond joke . . .

Oh, no! not another blond joke . . .

On a memorable March morning in a small country church the preacher ascended his pulpit and looked out over the congregation, and his gaze came to rest on the barely covered bountiful bosom of a blissfully blessed buxom blond beauty. The preacher strongly chastised her, saying that her mode of dress was unacceptable and asked why she would wear such a dress in a house of worship.

The young woman said, My husband is a music lover and he says that when he places his ear on one side of my chest he can hear bells ringing, and on the other side he can hear angels singing, and because I don’t want to deny him that pleasure I always dress like this.

Perplexed but thoroughly intrigued, the preacher asked if he could try it, and after a slight hesitation she demurely acquiesced. The preacher leaned down, and after first listening intently for sounds from one side and then from the other side, he stood and triumphantly announced, to the young lady and to the congregation, that he could hear nothing more than her heartbeat—neither bells ringing nor angels singing.

The blissfully blessed buxom blond beauty with the bountiful bosom stood and plaintively scolded the preacher, saying in a clear and remonstrative tone,

Preacher, you don’t understand—you have to be plugged in to hear the music.

Postscript: After writing this post and just prior to publishing it, I Googled the phrase plugged in and got almost 12 million hits—11,600,000 to be exact, so now there should be at least 1,600,001 hits which include that phrase. I followed the Goggle trail for several minutes and found that many of the entries involved being plugged in to religion, but none that I found referenced blonds or acceptable modes of dress for female church goers. There may be some that deal with such topics but I despaired of finding them and ended my search.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in heaven, Humor, religion

 

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A skeleton and a hangman in Harry Reid’s closet . . .

This e-mail, dated December 13, 2010 is from a long-time friend, a great lady that left the semi-arid spaces of San Antonio, Texas for greener pastures in another realm earlier in 2010. Evidently my computer considered it to be spam and sent it straight to my junk mail. I was cleaning out the files and I found it just this morning. It was a bit startling because she died in the summer of 2010, long before the date of this e-mail, but then I realized that her husband is still using her e-mail for correspondence.

I hesitated a long time—about five seconds—before deciding to post this on my blog for the edification, enlightenment and amusement of my readers. Whether true or not, I’ll bet you’ll find it just as humorous as I did. I doubt that the senator will read this, but if he does I’ll bet it will elicit a smile—at the very least.

A Lesson in Creative Writing

It’s all about how you put it into words . . .

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California, was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Senator Harry Reid’s great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor. The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows  in   Montana territory.

On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription:

Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.

So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle. The reply was as follows:

Senator Harry Reid

Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the  Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.

Now that’s how it’s done, folks—that’s real political spin!

That’s her story and I’m helping her stick to it.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Humor, Obama administration, politics

 

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Listen up, Toyota—relocate the brake pedal!

Listen up, Toyota—relocate the brake pedal to save lives!

This is my suggestion to Toyota and to all the world’s automakers. The first company that accepts my concept and converts its models in accordance with that concept has a unique opportunity to make a quantum leap ahead of every other automaker in the world. There should be no more sticking accelerators, and claims that the accelerator malfunctioned and contributed to an accident should be reduced or completely eliminated. Also it is my sincere belief that my suggestion, if adopted by all the automakers, would significantly reduce the number of rear-end collisions.

Move the brake pedal to the left side of the steering post, just as the gas pedal is to the right side of the steering post, then institute the go, no-no concept for controlling automobiles. Color the pedals red and green, with dashboard lights prominently reflecting the use of each—the brake pedal red for stop and the gas pedal green for go, just as traffic is controlled as directed by red and green traffic light signals.

Simple, huh? Make those dashboard lights prominent enough to alert any driver that the wrong pedal is being used. If you want to stop or slow down an auto and the green light is on, you are using the wrong pedal, and conversely if the red light is on and you want to go, you are using the wrong pedal. And car makers perhaps should consider adding a warning horn system and voice announcements similar to those used on commercial planes to alert the pilots in situations such as landing gear not down and locked, or airspeed is too high for landing.

And on the subject of airplanes, in the absence of an autopilot system the pilots of those conveyances use their hands on the controls to manipulate the ailerons left or right to tilt the plane to one side or the other. They also use their hands on the controls to manipulate the elevators, pushing forward to push the nose of the plane down and pulling back to put the nose of the plane up—can you guess what they use to manipulate the rudder to make a turn, either to the left or the right?

If you guessed that they use their feet to manipulate the plane’s rudder, you win the stuffed teddy bear. Yep, they push in with the left foot to turn left, and push in with the right foot to turn right. I feel that we can equate the functions of foot pedals on a plane to an automobile’s brake and accelerator pedals.

Our government apparently believes at least some of such accidents were caused because the driver confused the accelerator with the brake, and accelerated the car’s forward motion instead of slowing it, a conclusion that in my opinion appears valid.

One needs only to observe the proximity of the accelerator and the brake pedal. In a case of a runaway automobile, the first instinct is to get off the accelerator and hit the brake. In such cases the driver gets off the gas and goes for the brake, but because of the proximity of the brake pedal to the gas pedal, the driver simply hits the accelerator again and thinking that the foot is on the brake, holds it firmly on the accelerator up to the point of impact.

The error is caused by the fact that the right foot is used both for slowing and stopping and for achieving, maintaining and reducing the vehicle’s speed. In a case of a runaway auto, the driver takes the right foot off the gas pedal to change to the brake pedal then, under extreme stress, simply returns the right foot to the accelerator instead of the brake.

And at this point I must note that throughout all this action, the left foot is available but doing nothing to help out—oh, if an accident is imminent the left foot is probably exerting tons of frantic foot-pounds (get it?) of energy against the floorboard but it’s energy wasted, and that pressure will probably result in major damage to that stiffened left foot, leg and hip of the driver if a major accident occurs, plus extra stress on various related internal organs if a major accident occurs.

I am passing my suggestion on to the automakers in an effort to bring the auto industry into the twenty-first century—yes, it’s still in the early twentieth century.

Before I continue let me establish my right to speak on this subject. I began driving at the age of 12 and have been driving motor vehicles of every size, weight, color, horsepower and style including personal cars and trucks, US military and US Civil Service government vehicles for the past 66 years. For the first eight years of that 66 years I used my right foot to accelerate, maintain and reduce speed and to slow and stop vehicles with manual transmissions—the left foot was reserved exclusively for the clutch operation.

For the past 58 years I have used my right foot for go and my left foot for no-go, and I intend to use my feet in like manner for whatever number of years I retain the privilege of driving before being curtailed by old age—or otherwise.

In those 58 years I have never had an accident involving an attempt to occupy the same space as another object, whether the object was mobile or immobile. Conversely, in the first 20 years and in my first automobile, I had a head-on collision with an immovable object, namely the corner of a concrete retaining wall on a beach in Jacksonville, Florida.

I was alone and the hour was late and the night was dark and I was in strange surroundings, and I missed a turn and found myself on the beach. And on that dark night and at that late hour on a beach I learned an immutable truth of physics, namely that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. I had a head-on collision with the corner of a concrete retaining wall on a beach in Jacksonville, Florida.

Traveling along beside the high concrete retaining wall that overlooked the beach, I saw a break in the wall ahead and I started a right turn in order to leave the beach and return to the highway. In retrospect, I don’t believe I reduced my speed before beginning the turn, and I saw the 10-foot high wall rushing toward me at a high rate of speed. As I went into the turn my lightweight high-center-of gravity 1948 Chevrolet coupe raised up on its two left wheels, so I spun the wheel left to get all four tires on the ground, intending to stay on the beach instead of turning over or hitting the wall. Yes, spun—my steering wheel boasted a suicide knob, an add-on that enabled young punks such as I to spin the wheel swiftly with one hand. Read on, and you’ll learn why it was labeled a suicide knob.

I was partially successful with my spinning the wheel to the left. I managed to avoid rolling over, but I hit that wall right at the 90-degree point. Whatever my right foot did, whether it hit the brake, stayed on the accelerator, or left the brake and returned to the accelerator was not enough to avert significant structural damage to the auto and to me—the  retaining wall suffered only minor scratches.

I struck the wall at the corner point where it came down to the beach from the highway, and there the wall made a 90-degree turn to the right. I would have been satisfied—nay, happy even—with side-scraping it, either to the left or to the right but preferably to the left, so the contact with the wall would be on the opposite side from where I sat.

The only other part of my anatomy that could possibly have been instrumental in preventing the accident or reducing the damage wrought was my left foot, and I have no recollection of any helpful action taken by that worthy. I had a habit of resting my left foot on the clutch pedal and may have been doing that just before I hit the wall, so the only action the left foot could have taken would have been to push the clutch pedal to the floor, thereby disengaging the gears, decreasing the drag of the transmission and thus increasing the speed of the car en route to the retaining wall.

My 1948 Chevrolet business coupe with a vacuum-shift manual transmission survived the collision. Both the coupe and I suffered front-end damage, major damage to the coupe but relatively minor to me. I unwittingly— and unwillingly—used the bridge of my nose against the steering wheel to slow my forward motion, and managed to break both the wheel and my nose on impact. I suspect that chest impalement and other significant—perhaps fatal—injuries were prevented by my habit of leaning to the left while driving—when everything stopped moving my body was wedged between the left door and the steering column with its broken steering wheel.

A few weeks after eliminating my paltry accumulated savings to recover the Chevrolet coupe from the body shop, I immediately traded it for a sky-blue 1951 Ford convertible with an automatic transmission, and a whole new world opened up for me. I quickly learned that rather than using the time-honored and time-wasting two-part action of lifting the right foot off the accelerator and placing the same foot on the brake to slow or stop the car, I could use my left foot on the brake and needed only to reduce the weight of my right foot on the gas.

Yep, that’s my suggestion. Simply move the brake pedal to the left and teach drivers to use the left foot for braking and the right foot to control speed. As Sophia of Golden Girls fame would say, picture this:

When an accident is apparently imminent the driver must lift the right foot off the gas, move it over to the brake pedal and push hard, and perhaps avoid an accident. But what if the foot when lifted is not lifted high enough and moved far enough to the left, and the sole of the shoe hooks on the side of the accelerator, or the sole of the shoe is not placed squarely on the brake pedal and slips off to the right and back on the accelerator? Disaster is imminent, and even milliseconds saved could mean the difference between life and death.

In summary the crux of my suggestion, and this rambling post in support of it, is that the left leg and foot do nothing to assist a driver in operating a motor vehicle. It remains idle while the right foot is constantly at work, moving from gas pedal to brake, and from brake to gas pedal, ad nauseam.

If the left legs and feet of drivers could speak, they would probably say that they would like to be involved in the vehicle’s operation, and would probably claim that they could do a better job than the right, much as the political left in our nation feels about the political right.

And furthermore, I’ll bet that an atrophy study of the legs and feet of drivers would show that the left is far more susceptible to the disease than the right caused by lack of use, simply because it is allowed to stagnate while the right does all the work—and there again it appears that a parallel can be seen in our political parties.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: There’s more to the story, including my involvement with a sheriff’s deputy, the US Navy’s Shore Patrol, the people that returned my 1948 Chevrolet coupe to service, and what happened in Jacksonville the night I recovered my car and entered the city over a high bridge and lost my brakes on the way down to street level, and I’m even less proud of that than I am of my bout with the retaining wall. However, I’ve rambled on too long already, so I’ll save the rest of the story for a later post—stay tuned.

 

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Revisit: A letter to my brother Larry (1919-1983) . . . (via The King of Texas)

Dear Larry, I know this will surprise you because the only other letter you’ve received from me was dated 64 years ago. Yep, I was only 12 years old when I asked you to take pity on an exhausted, skinny, lightweight newspaper delivery boy by helping him buy a motorcycle—well, actually I was hoping you would spring for the entire amount, a mere pittance of $125 plus delivery charges. You were doing a brisk business hauling coal for the federal buildings—Read More here. . .

via The King of Texas

Concerning comments and replies thereto:

Astute readers will note that in this posting I have placed the cart before the horse—what follows below is a comment on the original post and my reply to that comment. In order to fully appreciate the reader’s comment and my reply, one should first read the original posting by clicking on the Read More above, or by clicking here if you like.

I like to consider my postings on Word Press as travels and travails through life, both for me and for my family members and others about whom I write. The actual postings are the interstate highways, and reader’s comments and my replies to those comments are the blue highways, the roads traveled by the author of the book Blue Highways, a forever memorable journey—read a review here. The following is excerpted from the Amazon.com review:

First published in 1982, William Least Heat-Moon’s account of his journey along the back roads of the United States (marked with the color blue on old highway maps) has become something of a classic. When he loses his job and his wife on the same cold February day, he is struck by inspiration: “A man who couldn’t make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity.

I assure you that Blue Highways is difficult to put down once you have started reading it, comparable to running downhill, eating peanuts or having sex. I beg forgiveness for having used those hoary similes, but they are so expressive I cannot pass up an opportunity to voice them—I’m sorry, but it’s in my nature! And continuing in that same vein, comments to postings and the author’s replies are, at the end of the day, where the rubber meets the road, a couple of metaphors that, although quite descriptive, are tremendously overused.

But I digress—this is a revisit to my July 2010 posting of a letter I wrote to my brother some 23 years after his  death (I assume that it was received, because it was not returned). I have extracted a reader’s comment and my reply to that comment—I felt that they were far too cogent to remain in Stygian darkness so I brought them out into the  bright light of today.

This is a comment from my niece:

Thanks to Vicki I found your blog earlier this week. To say the least I have spent several hours strolling down memory lane (memories of tales told to me by my mother, grandmother, and aunts) and other hours traveling new and foreign fields. Once when I was visiting your “prettiest sister” she shared the letter you had written her, the one I found here that was written to both sisters. You have always had a way with words. Make that 7 favorite granddaughters—I never could count.

And this is my reply:

Hi—it’s a real pleasure to hear from you. The first name was familiar but the Argo stumped me. I believe that your married name is a harbinger of things to come—good things. Cindy is archiving all this drivel to which I’m subjecting viewers in the remote possibility that she will one day publish said drivel in book form. She already has my first book standing by in the wings, ready to publish. It’s a compendium of jokes, and some—well, many of them—okay, okay, all of them—are of the type that would require the book to be displayed on the top shelf, out of reach for children. In our current motion picture rating system, it would probably be labeled MA15+, Not suitable for persons younger than 15. I’m mulling over that provision and so far have withheld permission to publish—not that Cindy is all that eager to publish  it—she’s pretty busy, deeply engrossed in the process of making a living.

As you well know, Argo is the name of Jason’s craft in Greek mythology, the vessel that sailed in search of the Golden Fleece. I know it’s a stretch but that’s what I’m doing—if it should come to pass, a book of my postings, my pseudo autobiography, will be my Golden Fleece. The term pseudo has many meanings—one of those meanings, perhaps the one most applicable to my efforts is, something old and useless that is paraded around in order to evoke irony.

I hasten to say that I do not profess to be a modern Jason. I humbly admit, with all humility aside, that I am merely an Argonaut, one of the band of heroes that assisted Jason in his quest. I’ll also admit that I’ve never understood why anyone would risk life and limb in search of a stinky old sheepskin.

Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the comment, and I promise I’ll keep posting if you will continue visiting and commenting—as we sailors are wont to say, “I like the cut of your jib!”

Oh, and one more thought—you and I are in emphatic agreement on your label of my prettiest sister, but please don’t tell the others! That’s what your Grandma Hester did each time we visited—one by one she would take the girls aside and tell each that she was the prettiest and that she loved her more than the others but please don’t tell them. That worked for several years until one of the girls—we’re unsure which—finally spilled the beans, whether deliberately or inadvertently is unknown.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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Long necks, fast food, good health & long life . . .

A blogger in Virginia is posting photographs of people that lived a century or more in the past. Click here to see how folks looked and lived in those years. You’ll find your visit interesting and highly educational. As an added attraction, you will be exposed to some brilliant photography of the present, particularly of our planet’s flora and fauna.

However, there is something missing in the blogger’s photos of folks that lived far back in time, something to which neither the blogger nor any of her viewers have called attention, so that task obviously falls to me. I pondered long and strong on the subject, and this posting is the result of my research. See how many fat-necks you can find in these photos—possibly one, the man in the photo at top left—but certainly no more than one.

There is an obvious dearth of girth in the subjects being photographed—please forgive me for the pun, but I would appreciate a salute for my creation of the term dearth of girth, pun though it may be—I probably should have it copyrighted in the interests of gaining remuneration for my efforts. The photos above are a sample of photos showing the lack of girth in the photographer’s subjects.

These photos of people from the past show more long-necks than Texas’ Lone Star Brewery—other than the possible exception noted, there is not a fat-neck in the batch. Having noted that, I embarked on a seriously studious search for a cause-and-effect for the lack of fat-necks and the overall dearth of girth, and I documented that which most people already know in their hearts and minds, but their stomachs won’t let them admit  it.

The cause is the plethora of ubiquitous fast-food outlets, and the effect is pure fat. We go into the front door of those so-called restaurants skinny, and come out the side door fat. We are labeled by others with terms ranging from ample or pleasantly plump to heavy, large, overweight, huge, obese, blimp, lard-butt, lard-ass, fat-ass, morbidly obese and myriad other terms, but they can all be summed up with a single three-letter word:

FAT!

Take a quick look at a list of fast-food restaurants provided by Wikipedia. Please note that these are international chains, and the list does not include local non-international fast-food outlets, nor does it include fast-casual restaurants, coffeehouses, ice cream parlors or pizzerias.

A&W Restaurants, Arby’s, Arctic Circle Restaurants, Au Bon Pain, Blimpie, Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits, Burger King, Hungry Jack’s (Australia), Camille’s Sidewalk Café, Captain D’s, Carl’s Jr., Charley’s Grilled Subs, Checkers, Chester’s International, Chicken Cottage, Chicken Delight, Chicken Licken, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Church’s Chicken, Chowking, Culver’s, Dairy Queen, Del Taco, Dixy Chicken, Duchess, Dunkin’ Donuts, Hardee’s, Hesburger, Jamba Juice, Jollibee, KFC, Krispy Kreme, Little Caesars, Vegetarian Moe’s, Southwest Grill, Mr. Hero, New York Fries, Noble Roman’s, Panda Express, Panera Bread, Pollo Tropical, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Pret A Manger, Quick, Quickly, Quiznos, RaisingCane’s Chicken, Fingers, Rally’s, Red Rooster, Sonic Drive-In, Subway, Taco Bell, Taco Bueno, Taco Cabana, Taco del Mar, Taco Tico, Taco Time, Tim Hortons, Vapiano, White Spot, Wendy’s, Wendy’s Supa Sundaes, Whataburger.

Hey, let’s be honest. Let’s be honest and admit that everyone of us in the United States—whether citizens, legal aliens, illegal aliens, vacationing foreigners or visitors from other planets—are up to our collective fat asses in fast-food outlets.

Such outlets should be outlawed. It can be done, and we have almost two years to persuade people to prepare the necessary documents for such action. Congress should write a 2,800-page law and push it through the House of Representatives—for that it may be necessary to reinstate Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker—then on through the Senate and over to the White House for President Michelle Obama’s signature. That lady is a shoo-in for the 2012 elections and she will sign it—trust me!

Let’s do it! Let’s eliminate fast-food outlets! We can do it! We can slim our population down to match the subjects in this blogger’s photos. We’ll all be slim, hale and hearty and live to the century mark and more.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Adrift uncertain, on a sea of sadness . . .

A small boat drifts on the massive swells of a broad expanse of ocean, without direction, moving aimlessly among groups of land masses, each island offering vistas of white beaches, grassy slopes and forested areas, each a mirrored image of the others, with nothing to distinguish between one island’s attractions and the attractions offered by any of the others.

The vessel is fitted with a small motor, adequate to move the boat and its occupant from water to land, but the engine is silent, the motor tilted up—nothing on any island appeals to the drifter, nothing that would cause him to lower the motor and aim for land.

Each island beckons equally, and although the lone occupant of that small vessel has no preference for any particular island, he longs to land on one or another, just to quell the aimless roaming and find some footing more substantial than that furnished by the unpredictable forces of wind and waves.

The previous three paragraphs are meant to introduce the author of this blog, the king of Texas, a king that embarked on a lonely voyage following the death of his wife late in November of last year. That king is now drifting aimlessly toward the end of the third month of his voyage into a void, a place that is completely foreign to him. For the past 58 years he was anchored firmly, albeit in many different locations, by the love he received and the love he gave to the young woman he married in 1952.


That anchor held firm through fair weather and foul, through gales and ice storms and tsunamis caused by volcanic upheavals generated and fostered by long separations. In one instance over the years the anchor broke loose from its bottom moorings but the chain held fast, and the anchor eventually found its former firm grip and returned the marriage vessel to a normal keel, and for that I thank the anchor, God and all the angels in heaven.

On Thursday, the eighteenth of November 2010 at precisely 9:15 in the evening my anchor—my wife—broke free from life’s anchor chain and returned to her Maker. Her earthly body is at peace—she lies in her casket in Section 71, Plot 47 in San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, and her soul is free in heaven. Her faith in God and her love for me are voiced on her headstone:

Cry not for me—I wait for thee

Some viewers may find this posting, these thoughts and the thoughts that follow sacrilegious and perhaps doubt my sincerity, but if they could see the tears streaming down my cheeks as I write this, they perhaps might feel differently. Should anyone have doubts concerning my sincerity, I will state positively, unequivocally and irrevocably that on the night my wife died I found God—I felt God’s presence and I believe that I witnessed some of God’s handiwork, and I am now in search of Jesus to complete the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. You can click here for the story of my finding God by witnessing His power.

As an aside to this post, I believe that I found Jesus yesterday on February 2, 2011 at 9:00 AM as I was driving on Loop 410 West in San Antonio, Texas. That belief will be the subject of a future posting—please stay tuned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 3, 2011 in death, drivers, driving, freeways, funeral, Military

 

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Revisited: Be aware—be very aware . . .

Readers of this post will note that I discuss, in some detail, the star rating system provided by WordPress. Readers will also note, just in case they wanted to vote, that the voting system is not available, neither for this post nor for any others on my blog. It is not available because a reader rated one of my literary efforts with a vote somewhere less than five stars—four stars, perhaps, but also perhaps only one star. I removed the rating system because I feel that if someone does not like an entry, they should tell why they believe it rates less than five stars, and not hide in the bushes and take pot shots at a blogger. If a reader is not satisfied with an entry on WordPress, then that reader should use the comment feature to criticize. I can only speak for myself, but if the criticism is valid and expressed in good taste, I will cheerfully approve it and cheerfully respond to it. Well, perhaps not so cheerfully, but I will respond, and that response will be in good taste.

As the title indicates, this is a revisit to a previous post—the original is as follows:

Be aware—be very aware . . .

I have just learned a new word. Given the remote possibility that one or more of my viewers may be unfamiliar with the word I will use it in a sentence, for their benefit and to help spread the word far and wide. At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that when I first saw the word I figured it referred to some sort of alcoholic drink because of its resemblance to the Spanish word sangria, “. . . a delicious, fruit-based wine “punch” with its traditional heritage well rooted in Spain.

First, the presentation and definition of that word—to paraphrase Sarah Palin, “Here’s a new word for ya!”

san·gui·nar·y (adjective)

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a&gt;

1. Accompanied by bloodshed.

2. Eager for bloodshed; bloodthirsty.

3. Consisting of blood.

1. sanguinary—accompanied by bloodshed; “this bitter and sanguinary war”sanguineous, slaughterous, butcherly, gory bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

2. sanguinary—marked by eagerness to resort to violence and bloodshed; “bloody-minded tyrants”; “bloodthirsty yells”; “went after the collaborators with a sanguinary fury that drenched the land with blood”–G.W.Johnson—bloodthirsty, bloody-minded bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

Here is the new word (example #2 in bold) properly used in a sentence:

The sanguinary talking heads on cable’s MSNBC, labeled PMSNBC by Rush Limbaugh, comprise a group of professionals, a group in which all, in varying degrees, launch verbal and vicious attacks on everyone and everything they consider to be standing on, or even leaning towards, the political right in our nation’s political spectrum.

I neither condemn nor praise the speakers on MSNBC. In an attempt to understand both sides of political issues, I attempt to devote equal viewing and listening time to MSNBC and another network, a network that claims to be fair and balanced, saying We report, you decide—catchy and lofty phrases, but phrases that one should not accept whole cloth—the facts and opinions expressed on that network should be compared to facts and opinions expressed on other networks.

For anyone that may need their memory freshened on the meaning of whole cloth, the following definition is furnished—the bolding of certain words is mine:

WHOLE CLOTH <a href=”http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a>

[Q] From an anonymous correspondent: Do you have any information on the meaning or origin of the term whole cloth?

[A] Literally, the phrase refers to a complete piece of cloth as it is first made, as opposed to one which has been cut up to make garments. It goes back at least to the fifteenth century in that sense. Down the years, it has been used in a variety of figurative senses, but in the early nineteenth century it began to be employed in the US in the way that we now know, of something that is wholly fabricated or a complete lie. The implication seems to be that a thing made from whole cloth has no previous history or associations, that it is created from a blank sheet in the same way that a total lie is invented.

And finally this posting has come to its end, or at least it is nearing its end. Whether it is a noble or ignoble posting must be decided by its viewers. Each viewer will have the opportunity to rate the posting at its conclusion with five levels—stars—to use for voting.

Note that a vote to the far right star means excellent, and a vote to the far left star means poor, and I believe that one could surmise that the star in the middle stands for average—the center, if you will.

The positioning and the relative value of the stars is either a startling coincidence or a really well thought out and well developed voting system furnished by WordPress. Color me wary and susceptible to subliminal messages, but I seem to fixate on a particular star for voting purposes, and I rarely deviate from that position. Could it possibly be that the voting system reflects the the far right, far left and center positions on our political scale?

I report, you decide.

You should be aware and cognizant of the stars’ positions and their relative values before you vote. You will not have the option of changing your vote, so please don’t vote erroneously and paint yourself into a corner, so to speak—you may leave a posting with a specific label, other than the one to which you adhere, attached to your lapel—so to speak.

I just noticed that in my typing above I inadvertently omitted the first A in be aware and failed to space, thus combining the words be and aware. I corrected the typos but not before I noticed something significant that resulted from my errors. Can you guess what resulted? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count.

Give up? Fail to space between the words be and aware and omit the a and the two words are converted to beware. I have just created a maxim, namely that, “If one does not be aware of all possibilities of certain situations, one should beware,” shortened to “Be aware, or beware!

That admonition qualifies as outstanding poster material and should be posted in every work center, on every street corner, on every marquee, on the giant digital billboards in Times Square, on auto license plates, on Hallmark’s greeting cards, on home wall decorations and prominently displayed on ladies purses as a reminder to the lady that purse snatchers prey on women, and as a warning to potential purse snatchers that the lady is very much aware of that fact. The possibilities are endless—as is, apparently, this posting.

How about that? I probably should copyright that maxim and charge for its use—I could profit significantly from my creation! No, not really—as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun, and I’m sure my creation is not new—knowing that it is not new does not preclude my claiming to be its discoverer—it’s in my nature!

If this posting garners a significant number of votes, the results may be worthy of a subsequent posting, so I urge all viewers to follow the example of many that vote in our local, regional and national elections:

Vote early and vote often!

I welcome and will respond to all comments, whether positive or negative, but please be gentle.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: Since posting this dissertation I have deleted, from all my postings, the counter that allowed viewers to vote on the content and quality of my postings. I took this action because a viewer, perhaps more than one viewer, cast something less than a vote of excellence—less than five stars.

 

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A tale of two sisters: Spain, Topless, Dallas, & Virginia . . .

A tale of two sisters: Spain, Topless, Dallas, & Virginia . . .

The following e-mail was sent by my youngest daughter on her return to Dallas from Spain and other European countries to one of her sisters, the one that works, creates, lives and loves in Virginia. The names LuLu and WapWap are nicknames—their real names are not used in order to protect the guilty.

The author of this e-mail claims that she doesn’t blog because she doesn’t feel that she writes well. She and I are in complete disagreement concerning her feelings about her writing—I believe she has a tremendous potential to inform and entertain virtually any audience with her amusing musings. I made no changes to her e-mail, so I’ll let my readers review and vote on her writing.

LuLu, the recipient and respondent to her globe-trotting younger sister is  a professional photographer, a graphics artist and painter, an expert gardener and long-time blogger, and she makes no effort to hide her light under a bushel. Click here for a journey to various gardens and historic sites through photos made in the US and many foreign locations on several different continents—trust me, the visit is well worth your time!

To: LuLu
Sent: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 11:01 am
Subject: Re: Welcome back from Spain!

Hey, LuLu – I figured that you could use the shawl for decorating or something. I really didn’t picture you wearing it all that much, but who knows? I’m glad mom seems to be feeling better. Last time I was there which was the weekend before I went to Spain she just seemed so frail and tired and I knew she was. And that was before they put the device in her arm. So, I’m glad she seems to be better – she sounds better when I talk to her on the phone.

I’ll call you later to talk about Spain. We had a really nice trip and got to see a lot. Went to Barcelona and visited a winery about 2 hrs outside of the city so we got to see the countryside and its miles and miles of olive trees, Sevilla (loved that place), Madrid and Toledo where we saw a 600 year Catholic church that was incredible.

Loved the architecture in Barcelona (Gaudi’s cathedral, Segrada Familia?). Visited the beach, saw topless from newborn to 90. Quite a different world out there. Definitely no body issues in that country.We could probably take a lesson on that (with top on, of course). Walked a lot, a whole lot -Barcelona is a busy place. About 5 million in the city and 2 million outside of the city. Not a small town by any means.

Sevilla (much quieter, felt really comfortable walking around the town by myself, which I did). Could have stayed there the rest of the trip. The area we were in was very clean, quaint with all those tiny cobblestone streets leading to little restaurants and shopping.

Madrid – another busy city. Very cosmopolitan in many areas, lots of graffiti everywhere which is common throughout Spain. I guess they think it is art, I don’t know. Went to the Prado and some other modern museum where we saw tons of Picassos and Dali (is he a strange one or what?). Went to an authentic Flamenco show which was pretty intense. Just 2 people (man and woman) with a few guys playing instruments and singing behind them.  Whatever they were dancing to they really meant it. I really enjoyed that.

Mom said that you and Michael worked really hard on the front yard and that it looked beautiful. I’m sure she really appreciates that. Every time I went down there she would say that they needed to do something about it and now you have. So, that is a good thing.

Brandon is in baseball camp this week. He also had an all-stars game last night. He plays 1st base and did a terrific job all last year in that position (thus making All-Stars). However, for some reason, guess because he is tired, he could have been on the moon looking down at us because he truly was the only player out there that was paying no attention to the game.

You don’t want to come down too hard on him but the other kids are kind of depending on him to catch the ball. 1st base is a pretty critical position even in minor, minor, minor, minor league baseball. He would just watch it whiz by him and throw out his hand as an afterthought.

As a parent you don’t want to be embarrassed but I actually started to feel that way. Probably the same as mom would feel when I would drop the baton a lot or get my batons tangled up with one another at a competition while doing a simple salute. Not a proud parent moment.

I’ll talk to you later. I was actually weeding the front yard this morning. The weeds are so huge they look like a free form garden at this point. Gracie tried to help me pull them but didn’t have the strength. I try to like gardening and I can see how it is stress relieving but I just feel like there are lots of tiny eyes looking up at me as I disturb their carefully planned homes. Plus I’m afraid a spider is going to bite me, or a snake.We do have those around here sometimes. Anyway, what I’m trying to tell you is that I haven’t developed a love of gardening at this point.  I’m working on it though, but very slowly. Have a good day.

Love,
WapWap

This is the Virginian’s reply to her sister’s e-mail:

Hey, WapWap! Hope you got some great photos to share with us! FYI: Mom is looking (and feeling) really good. She’s got some pep back in her and her appetite is definitely up. Dad was irritating her the other day (you know how he likes to repeat things over and over until you want to deck him?), and to answer some crazy question he asked her, she finally said, “Shit, no!” It was so funny to hear her say that. Cracked him up, too. I guess he had picked at her long enough (you know how she always says he likes to just talk to hear himself!).

We had a great visit and got the flower beds up front looking good again (filled in the areas where they had pulled out all the hedges/shrubs). I’ll send photos once I pull them off the card.

Love ya,
LuLu

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2011 in baseball, Family, foreign travel, Humor

 

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Pure poetry—A tale of two kitties . . .

Pure poetry—A Tale of Two Kitties . . .

First poem (author and source unknown—title is mine):

Ode to a kitty and its dish

Oh, little cat up on the table
In a dish that’s much too small
Have you always felt the need
To curl up in the place you feed?
Don’t you know that germs abound
In vessels much too small and round?
They never even make a sound.

Second poem

A kitten’s plaint—its wish and its vision

(Title and lines in italics are mine)

There once was a kitty
That was fed in a dish,
And when it was fed
It would then make a wish,
That at least for one time,
For food that would be
Other than fish.

Fish always has a horrible smell
As any other kitty will tell,
And I wish that sometimes
During my many lives,
That a slice of roast beef
In my dish would arrive.

Its flavor for me would be as I ate,
A harbinger of pleasures inside the Gate,
My kittenish vision of life in Heaven
After I’ve used up my lives of seven.

Special note:

I am well aware that cats have nine lives, but while nine would not have rhymed with Heaven, seven fit nicely. One need only to suppose that the kitty had already used up two of its nine lives.

I found the first five lines of the second poem in my moldy horde of unfinished projects. I researched the five lines on the Internet but had no success, nothing even close. The lines obviously migrated—legally of course—to my collection of things started, unfinished and forgotten. If I did not create those lines, then I offer my abject apologies to the author, and sincerely hope that my finishing lines will be considered at least halfway worthy. And if I did create the first five lines of the second poem, then kudos to me.

Okay, okay—I know, I know! My efforts at poetry are amateur, puerile even but at least I’m making an effort so don’t knock it if you ain’t tried it!

That’s my poem and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: The second poem—my poem—is dedicated to a friend, a lovely cat lover named Emily. I don’t mean that she only loves lovely cats—Emily is lovely, and her love for cats shines through. She has never seen a cat she didn’t love nor a cat that didn’t need loving, nor will she ever see a cat that doesn’t need loving.

Kudos to you, Emily!

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2011 in cats, death, heaven, pets, Writing

 

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On flags, funerals, Shakespeare & sex . . .

I recently spent some time online seeking information for the proper way to dispose of an American flag, for whatever reason—tattered, torn, soiled, etc. At the risk of being called un-American, I will say without reservation that the information given ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. The most acceptable method of destroying an American flag that is not longer serviceable is by burning, but first its composition must be determined.

Is it cloth? If cloth, it may be burned but under tightly controlled supervision, with close attention paid to local burning restrictions and most important, the flag must be completely consumed by fire, with none of the fragments allowed to float away on prevailing winds.

Is it plastic? If it is made of plastic, burning may well release chemicals that will pollute the air and pose a danger to humans and animals, so clearance must be obtained from our nation’s Environmental Protection Agency—good luck with that!

In lieu of burning, a flag may be buried but it must be buried in a non-degradable container to ensure that it will never again see the light of day nor be exposed to the elements of nature, and the drivel goes on and on—click here to read the do’s and don’ts as promulgated by the United States Flag Code.

A flag is a flag is a flag, etc., or as William Shakespeare might say, “That which we call a flag, regardless of its composition, whether constructed of plastic, silk, nylon, 1200-thread-count Egyptian cotton or a combination of all the above, would have streamed just as gallantly o’er the ramparts we watched as did the original that was flown over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1914 in the War of 1912 and is now displayed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.”

Yep, I believe that’s what the bard might say. Any item, regardless of its composition, that features the proper colors and the requisite numbers of “broad stripes and bright stars,” all arranged in the manner of those of the real flag—the one periodically displayed at the Smithsonian—is a representation of that flag and therefore warrants the same attention to usage and storage and final disposition.

Each year without fail, a local realtor places a small American flag on a stick in the front yard of every home in my neighborhood—the flags number in the hundreds at least, and perhaps in the thousands, and I’m reasonably sure that the process is repeated in other neighborhoods all across our nation. The flags are not marked with the country of origin, but I’ll bet a half-barrel of pickled a-holes that they’re made in China. The staff is some sort of white wood, and the material is some kind of fabric, either a natural fabric or synthetic material—who knows which?

Our flag code requires flags to be of certain proportions, regardless of their intended use, whether flying over the White House or sticking in my front lawn. Overall size is a matter of choice, but the star field, the stripe widths, the size of the stars relative to the overall size, etc., are specified by the Code and any lop-sided construction of the flag, regardless of size, is a violation of the US Flag Code, and any disposition other than specified in the Code is a violation.

I haven’t measured the specifics of the flags that proliferate in our neighborhood each year on Flag Day, beautifying or polluting, take your pick. Given the ability and the proclivity of the Chinese to excel in mathematics, I suspect that they are right on the money—so to speak—in the dimensions of the untold tons of flags they ship to the United States each year.

Are you, dear reader, beginning to see what I mean when I say that flag instructions and its procotol range from the ridiculous to the sublime? In our devotion to our flag and our need to protect it, we have given it properties that more properly pertain to living, breathing life forms, whether human or animal. When we die we are subjected to specific methods of disposition—what, when, where and how, and to a lesser extent for the so-called lower order of animals.

The Star Spangled Banner

On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the national anthem of the United States of America. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories. Click here for the flag’s history.

If the real flag should ever be subjected to destruction—let’s say, to prevent it from falling into enemy hands should the District of Columbia be overrun, whether by the extreme left or by the extreme right, we should consider a Viking funeral for the flag on the Potomac river–what a riveting spectacle that would be! Click here to read up on Viking funerals—it’s worth the read—hey, those Norse ceremonies involved a lot of people other than the diseased in order to comply with all the requirements that had be met.

Timing of the ceremony would be critical, of course, to ensure that the burning Viking ship would sink before ramming one of the Potomac’s bridges. The current is fairly swift in that area—the ship should probably be anchored before being torched, and the usual sacrifice of a slave girl should be omitted. I’m not aware of any available slave girls, at least none that would be willing to volunteer to accompany the flag on its final voyage. Although that would guarantee throngs of spectators and television saturation—all the bridges on the Potomac would be packed with spectators—such an event could possibly produce political complications. I worked and lived in the DC area for three years, and I’ll admit that one of the girls that entertain nightly on Fourteenth Street in downtown DC might be persuaded, especially one filled with the intoxicating drink mentioned by Ahmad Ibn Fadlan in the tenth century—then again, perhaps not—who knows? The following video will introduce you to 14th St—if you need and want an introduction. If not, just skip over it, but if you do shun it you’ll miss out on a nightly spectacle, the pulchritudinous parade of practicing purveyors of es e ex.

I conducted all the research above with the serious intention to present it, with all seriousness aside, in an effort to educate and entertain those that follow my blog and those that simply stumble onto it. I mean no disrespect to our flag, although I detest the placement of that tacky little flag on a stick that mysteriously appears on my lawn each year on Flag Day. I love Old Glory and I dedicated more than 22 years of military service to it, years in which I proudly assisted our nation in losing two wars, with combat tours in Korea, 1950-1952 and Viet Nam, 1969-1970.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in education, Humor, law enforcement

 

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