Category Archives: My Opinion of Something

#TBT: We Are NOT That Broke Yet!

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Friends don't let friends wipe with dollar store toilet paper.

Friends don’t let friends wipe with dollar store toilet paper.

This was the last post I wrote before Mama passed away. Two weeks later, she would be gone from me. Sad as that may be, this post does still tell the truth.

I went down to check on Mama recently. She’s been suffering for a good while now with C.O.P.D. and if God is not merciful to her, it will eventually take her from me. I try to keep watch over her and I’m thankful for the hospice organization and my wonderful step-dad for helping me. Now before you go getting bummed out, this post is only tangentially connected to Mama’s health.

Anyway, while I was at Mama’s the salad from the night before and the large bowl of Raisin Bran from earlier in the morning both decided to end their tour of my colon. I told Mama I had to go see a man about a dog then grabbed my phone to have something to pass the time because I figured this might take a bit. The phone was my undoing because I was so focused on pulling up Angry Birds I forgot to check the toilet paper. Big mistake. Now you’re probably thinking the roll was empty, leaving me stranded. Actually, that would have been a better scenario than the one confronting me as I finished my lengthy constitutional because had the roll been empty I could have called Mama from the bathroom and asked her to bring me some paper towels using her scooter chair. No, the holder was full. Unfortunately, it was full of the worst substance known to man.

Dollar store toilet paper!

Now long time readers know I am a restroom connoisseur. Were I to become wealthy enough to build my dream home, I already have the bathroom completely planned out. Budge can design everything else. My exquisite taste in all things water closet related extends to toilet paper as well. At home, having a septic tank keeps me anchored to the pedestrian but adequate Scott Tissue, but I do have a couple of rolls of White Cloud Ultra Soft stashed away for those “occasions” when my stomach has risen up in rebellion and constant use of the facilities begs for something more tender than Scott 500 grit special. When the economy and civilization collapse, it won’t be lack of food, water, or power that does me in; it will be the dearth of bathroom facilities and the end of manufactured toilet paper.

Wonderful but frivolous luxury.

Wonderful but frivolous luxury.

Sadly, the fake dollar store toilet paper ended up in Mama’s bathroom because her illness necessitated turning the shopping over to my step-dad. Now I won’t lie. Money is very tight at our two households. Budge and I have been helping Mama pay her bills for over a year now. Rob, my step-dad, knows this so he’s always trying to cut corners and save wherever he can, which is perfectly reasonable since we are more or less broke. However, as bad as it may be, we are NOT dollar-store-toilet-paper-level broke yet. We can’t necessarily afford luxury like Charmin or Quilted Northern, but we can certainly afford some Scott Tissue. Granted, Scotts isn’t the softest on one’s bottom but at least it is absorbent enough to do the job while being strong enough to not have to wrap a hand in half a roll just to keep the wiping fingers from bursting through mid-stroke.

I don’t know what dollar store toilet paper is made of. Based on its absorbancy, I would guess wax paper, but wax paper is many orders of magnitude stronger than dollar store TP, and that’s where this stuff really starts to wreak. Apparently, dollar store TP is woven from unicorn farts, angel burps, or something else comparably rare and insubstantial. As a general rule, I shouldn’t be able to read a newspaper through a ply of decent TP, but laying a sheet of dollar store rubbish on the funny pages doesn’t even dull the colors much. At the risk of sounding a bit gross, if this stuff is all you’ve got, you’re better off just bare-handing it and cutting out the middle man, so to speak. Dollar store TP is really that bad.

The bare-a$$ed minimum acceptable TP. (see what I did there?)

The bare-a$$ed minimum acceptable TP. (see what I did there?)

To make matters worse, this  “paper,” which is so useless in its intended hygienic function because of its lack of strength and absorbancy in the hand turns into some sort of uber-wadded concrete blob once you drop it in the toilet. It might not take poop off a goose, but two or three handfuls of this stuff will clog up a toilet tighter than the Chihuahua that ate a whole cheese and peanut butter sandwich. Plunging only makes the stuff multiply like some sort of soggy, stinky Hydra. Dollar store TP truly is a mystery substance.

In any event I managed to finish up and get myself reasonably ready to reenter the world so I went in to Mama and begged her to have Rob stop buying dollar store TP. She reiterated what I already knew — he was just trying to save us money. My reply was simple and heartfelt. Buy REAL toilet paper and I’ll give up cable and internet or cut us down to one car to make up the difference. It’s like I told Mama and I’m saying it again to y’all, I’m a simple man. I don’t have many needs. All I ask for to make me happy is decent A/C in the summertime to keep my fat butt cool and some good quality TP to keep the same fat butt clean. Is that too much to ask? When the day comes we can’t afford at LEAST some Scott Tissue, it’ll be time for me to start paying close attention to Breaking Bad reruns.

Love y’all! Keep those feet clean . . . and all the other parts as well!

The Holy Grail of TP! It has THREE PLYS and Shea Butter!!!!

The Holy Grail of TP! It has THREE PLYS and Shea Butter!!!!

#TBTish: A Meditation on Foodstuffs

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I originally posted this in November 2010 under the title “Don’t Ask, Just Eat It.” As happens with lots of stuff I write, I promptly forgot I wrote it. Earlier this week, though I was having a conversation with some folks about favorite foods and it got me to thinking about foods and I vaguely recalled I may have written on the topic. So, I combed through the archive and found this one. It’s mostly the same, but I have reworked it slightly. I hope you like it.

A group of us were sitting around Sunday after an impromptu pizza dinner and we started talking about food. We talked about favorite foods and foods we hated and someone – I believe it was my stepmother-in-law – broached the subject of what kind of -vore humans are. Someone had once told her that we are anatomically designed to be herbivores because of our extended digestive tracts and lack of sizable canine teeth. Apparently, whoever told her that figures all meat eaters have to have short colons and saberteeth, but who really knows? Anyway, I assured her that humans are, in fact, omnivores and I offered as proof the fact that people the world over will eat pretty much ANYTHING.

My Exhibit A was the fact people all over the world consider raw oysters a delicacy. That’s right. You may be reading this yourself thinking how much you’d love a plate of oysters on the half shell right now. Do you know what that means? Sometime in the past, somebody was walking down a beach and probably cut himself (or herself, let’s be inclusive) on an oyster bed. For whatever reason, this distant shore-dwelling ancestor of ours pried the oyster apart and thought the phlegm-like mass lying before him was the yummiest thing he’d seen all day and proceeded to chow down. Raw oysters are proof positive people will eat whatever! It’s that way all over the world. Every culture has delicacies that just don’t sit well with others’ ideas about edibles.

To quote Mr. Jerry Clower, “slick, slimy, boiled okra!”

Just take my wonderful homeland of Dixie. People down here eat something called collard greens. If you Yankees and other foreigners want a good idea of what collard greens are, next time you cut grass, empty your mower bag into a 20 quart stock pot and boil for about four days. Add vinegar. Enjoy. People around here love that stuff. To me, it looks like someone already had a go at it before me.

Another godawful Southern “delicacy” is boiled okra. If you don’t know what okra is, Google it. Once you have a picture of this strange vegetable in your mind, picture it boiled and canned. People exist who love it. I believe those people also ate their own boogers when they were small as well because boiled okra is as close to snot as you can get outside a nose — or a raw oyster.

We southern boys don’t have the market cornered on strange stuff to eat though. Look at Scotland. Their national dish is some concoction called “haggis” which I’m pretty sure is Gaelic for “this is made out of what?!!” Haggis is a bunch of chopped up meat bits — the origins of which are better left unknown — topped off with oatmeal and spices. The whole kit’n’kaboodle is chopped up, swirled around, salted, and stuffed into a SHEEP STOMACH, sewn up, and boiled. People in kilts everywhere eat this. You have to go to Scotland to try it though because most countries won’t allow it to be imported for various food safety issues?

My, my, my! Doesn’t that stuffed sheep stomach look delish?

See, it’s dishes like haggis (and raw oysters) that make me wonder about our distant ancestors. I mean, look at eggs. Who is the first caveman to stare at a chicken and say to his hirsute brethren, “Ug, omaoma mooka go mabab mambo,” which loosely translated from Old High Caveman means, “I think I’ll eat the next thing that drops out of that bird’s butt!” You stop to think about that a minute. If these old boys had mistaken a rooster for a hen, breakfast could be a WHOLE lot different to us today.

Truthfully though, people will eat anything that can’t get away from them. In several parts of the world including Iceland, most of Scandinavia, and great swathes of Southeast Asia, people eat fermented fish. Basically, they bury, box, or barrel up a bunch of fish with some salt and stuff and wait. Eventually, the stuff rots enough and they bring it out and slap it on a cracker! Um, um good! REALLY?! Who was walking down the beach and came across a fish carcass riddled with scavenger holes and thought to himself, “I bet this would taste awesome with a little salt on a Ritz,” ?! In Norway, and parts of Minnesota by extension, they mix herring in with lye to make a concoction called lutefisk. LYE, PEOPLE! It comes in a can; we used to use it in chemistry class in high school. It unclogs drains in sinks. Folks, if the recipe says, “add two cups of Drano to the fish mix,” y’all can just leave me out.

Of course, I mentioned Southeast Asia and I know we’ve all heard the jokes, but some of it isn’t a joke. Dog, cat, and rat are all considered delicacies in places like Thailand and Vietnam. The country folk in those nations don’t make a big ceremony out of it either. They’ll just stick a field rat on a skewer and pop it over a fire. Next thing you know, roasted rat.

Now please understand that I’m not making light of anyone’s plight. Some people eat what is available and I understand that, and I also know if you get hungry enough because you’ve been without food long enough lots of this stuff might seem seriously tasty. I’m not talking about those situations. I’m talking about stuff people eat when they could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something.

For example, someone explain “fugu fish” connoisseurs to me. For those that don’t know, raw fugu (or puffer fish) is considered a delicacy in Japan and commands HUGE sums of money. Just one little problem — if the chef doesn’t prepare the sashmi PERFECTLY, you will become paralyzed, suffocate, and die about thirty minutes after dinner and that’ll really put a crimp in your movie plans, now won’t it? These people are eating something they KNOW will KILL them if just a tiny little bit of the wrong organ is missed in preparation. The aficionados of fugu claim to like the “thrill” of cheating death as well as the pleasant “tingling sensation” even properly prepared fugu creates on the tongue.

Right! I’ll stick with my Long John Silver’s fried shrimp thank you. I can get a tingling sensation on my tongue eating Pop Rocks and drinking Coke.

Ah! Casu marzo! Smooth and piquant, with a nutty, maggoty overtone!

Still, just to show I’m not trying to bash the Orient, people in Sardinia have a local favorite called “casu marzo.” This is a local cheese that is so “good” it’s illegal. Actually, the legality of the cheese has nothing to do with it’s flavor. No, casu marzo is made by leaving strong goat or sheep cheese out for flies to infest with maggots. Yes. You read that correctly. Part of the preparation is to have maggots crawl through the cheese, eating and pooping as they go. Apparently, the maggots “pre-digest” the cheese and give it a unique taste and texture not possible any other way. Don’t worry though. These people aren’t savages. They don’t eat the maggots. In fact, you can’t eat the cheese with the maggots in it because this particular species of “cheese maggot” is impervious to the hydrochloric acid present in our stomachs.

That’s right. Our stomach contents can dissolve steel, but these maggots just swim right through it. Then, all nice and warm in the digestive tract, they can — and have — munch right through the intestinal wall into the body cavity and introducing the contents of our colons (poop) into our abdomens. That, boys and girls, produces a little condition we like to call septicemia or septic shock. Simply put, forget and eat a maggot with your cheese cracker; die a painful, lingering death.

All for a piece of cheese? Really? So who looked at a hunk of cheese someone accidentally left on the table in the garden and now it’s crawling with maggots and thought to himself, “I bet those maggots made that cheese something special. I think I’ll try some!” Now he probably died of septicemia since he didn’t know about the gut-eating-maggots, so that means someone ELSE thought the same thing. He just thought it might be better to knock the maggots off first. Wow.

So yes. Humans are most definitely omnivores. If it grows out of the ground or beneath it, if it crawls, runs, swims, flies, or even just lies there, someone, somewhere will put some ranch dressing on it, munch it up, and wash the whole thing down with a nice Chianti. All I can say is, “ewww.” I think I’ll just stick with ice cream and McNuggets!

Love y’all and keep your feet clean . . . unless you want your toe cheese to become casu marzo!!

#TBT: Somebody Just Got Rich, but It Ain’t Me!

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powerball-ticket

I first ran this post in 2013 after someone in my state won a paltry $400 million lottery. Well, lightning struck again only this time it’s someone right here in the Upstate AND instead of $400 million, the haul is a record $1.6 BILLION. So I thought it’d be appropriate to run it again!

As I write this, someone, somewhere here in my beloved Palmetto State is the nouveau-est of the nouveau riche.

Someone in South Carolina purchased a PowerBall lottery ticket yesterday and for his or her trouble is now $400 million $1.6 billion richer. Let that sink in just a minute. Yesterday morning, this person got up and maybe went to some dead-end job to give a little more sweat and time to The Man in exchange for enough of a paycheck to get by. All day long yesterday at his machine or behind her desk, this special someone was working away without the slightest idea the Long Black Freight Train of Fate was rolling down the tracks right towards him or her. For once, the light at the end of the tunnel WAS a train — metaphorically at least — and this time, that wasn’t a bad thing.

I like to picture this soon-to-no-longer-be-a-drone getting off work and starting towards home in a car or truck with broken air conditioning, four bald tires, and a drooping headliner. He sighs as he pulls out of the parking lot. She waves goodbye to the security guard at the gate. Either way, one of them turns into the late afternoon sun for a hot, sticky ride to the house. Suddenly, the headache that’s been building all day gets annoying so she pulls into a Quickie Mart clone near home to grab a Pepsi Max to wash down a few Advil in hopes of taking the edge off the pounding before facing the kiddos.

He’s a decent guy so he’s probably making some small talk with Apu behind the counter when he notices the sign stating the PowerBall jackpot is up to $400 million. He figures, “Eh, what the Hell?” and gives over a couple of dollars, fills out the ticket and heads home laughing at himself a little at the silliness of buying a lottery ticket. What would his sainted Southern Baptist grandmother think if she could see him now?

Just as an aside, this is one of the quirks of lotto ticket buying I’ve never understood. I’ve actually heard people say, “Ah, the pot’s only at $50 million . . . I don’t even bother getting a ticket if it’s less than $200 million.” That’s crazy talk! You are standing on a sidewalk in front of a 7-11 looking like death on a stick and you’ve come to the conclusion a mere $50 million wouldn’t be worth your while? Now I read somewhere that Bill Gates would actually lose money if he stopped to pick up a $100 bill off the sidewalk. I have no idea if that’s true, but I know none of us are Bill.

Anyway, our erstwhile worker ant gets home, talks to the significant other, plays with the kids . . . whatever. Supper’s ready then the dishes get washed and he turns around to the TV just in time to catch the day’s numbers. Funny . . . those sound familiar. Not even seriously hoping for anything and certainly not expecting anything, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his lotto stub with the numbers he chose. He takes one look at his ticket, looks back at the screen, and the next thing he knows his wife is kneeling beside him fanning him and dabbing his neck with a cool cloth. When she asks him what happened, he shows her the ticket, points to the TV, and just manages to catch her head before it hits the floor. They won. They have hit the big time.

Dude is now LOADED. He woke up in the morning wondering how he was going to stretch the money to the end of the month and he’s going to bed tonight with visions of Maserati and mansions dancing in his head.  Of course he can’t sleep. First thing this morning he called in sick to work. Dude’s tickled to death about the money, but he’s smart so he called the lawyer who helped him close on the double wide. Then he called a buddy of his who is an accountant. THEN, the three of them went down to the store to turn in that ticket.

Now here’s another thing that cracks me up. I was reading some of the comments on the stories about the winning lottery jackpot. One guy, obviously eating a bushel of sour grapes, remarked how sad it was $400 million gets taxed down to $145 million and “no one seems to care.” WHY WOULD YOU CARE!!!??? The day before, stand up weenies and saltine crackers were a gourmet lunch because this guy was one paycheck away from the poor-house and today he has $145 Million after taxes? Sure, Uncle Sam, take your chunk because I’m STILL RICH!! ONLY $145 million. That’s like saying the Star of India is ONLY a diamond or the Grand Canyon is ONLY a hole in the ground.

So this guy is set for life now, whoever and wherever he is, and I’m truly happy for him. If there is any real justice in the world, he or she is a teacher with the class from Hell this year and now gets to quit if she wants to because that brings up my final funny point . . . all these people who win these millions get interviewed and say “I just don’t think I could stay home all day so I think I’ll keep on working like always.” RIIIIGHT! When I was a high school teacher I used to talk about hitting the lottery with my students and I always told them the same thing, “Folks, if you see Coach Wham on the news holding up one of those big paper checks that says ‘Lottery Winnings: $X millions’, DO NOT look for me at work the next day! I will hire my OWN substitute, but I’m going fishing!”

So here’s to you Mr. or Mrs. Lottery Winner. I hope the wealth doesn’t change you — unless of course you are a raging asshole and then hopefully it will change you for the better — and to all the dreamers who have worthless slips of paper in your pockets, all I can say is “better luck next time.”

Til then though, I love y’all — rich or poor — and remember to keep those feet clean!

#TBT: On Rest Areas

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I originally ran this post back on November 10, 2010. I hope it’s held up well.

One of my good friends currently lives downstate from me a ways and I ride down to check on her every so often. One Friday in the spring, I asked Budge if we had anything planned for the next day; she told me no, so I got up early, went down to see my bud, found her doing well, and headed on back to the house.

Footage from my last endoscopy.

I had just left the main interstate for the spur leading towards home when the problems started. From well within my innards came The Burble. The Burble is the early warning sign meaning, in this case, last night’s spicy Italian meatballs had reached the end of their sojourn in the Wilderness and were ready to cross the river into the Promised Land.

Over time, I have learned The Burble is ignored at my peril. My body is being polite to me, but he doesn’t repeat himself often. The Burble is the reason I carry a roll of shop quality paper towels in my Element at all times. Even though I was a Boy Scout for only a scant three months, their motto — “Be Prepared” — left a deep and abiding impression upon me.

In fact, a one-way conversation with The Burble on an overnight trip to Camp Old Indian led to my enlistment in the Scouts being so preternaturally short. No one told me until we arrived said camp lacked indoor plumbing. All manner of numbers 1 and 2 would be addressed in the cozy confines of the various privies and outhouses scattered throughout the grounds. I was forced, at The Burble’s insistence, to venture — flashlight in hand — to one of these shanties where I encountered a dearth of bathroom tissue and a plethora of sable-hued eight-legged denizens with bright crimson bellies. As soon as the bus wheels stopped rolling in front of Gray Court Town Hall the next morning, I turned in my uniform.

But I digress.

By some degrees of trial and error, I have discerned The Burble gives about a ten minute or ten-mile heads up. As I had already passed the last exit with nice restaurants, gas stations, and — consequently — clean facilities, I was forced against my will upon the mercy of the SC Department of Transportation. Briefly, I had to resort to a Rest Area.

Any port in a storm, eh?

I don’t like rest areas. First of all, I’ve seen too many episodes of Criminal Minds and spent too much time watching true crime stories on the Investigation Discovery Channel. Pulling off the highway at a rest stop to me, especially as I was alone at the time, seemed an engraved invitation to become the next lead story on the Channel Four WYFF News at 6. I could already hear Mike Cogsdill reading the tagline, “A fat man was found strangled, butchered, and partially eaten in an upstate rest area this afternoon — a serial killer or rabid polar bear [too much Lost] is suspected in the brutal slaying.”

Unfortunately, serial killer and wild animals or not, The Burble would not be denied or gainsaid so off the road I eased.

As luck would have it, this particular outpost of indoor facilities was remarkably clean and block glass walls and windows let in copious amounts of cheerful noonday sunshine. My optimism was short-lived, however, as soon as I made the turn into the restroom stall area and discovered waiting for me the SECOND reason I despise rest areas — a gleaming row of four “standard sized” stainless steel restroom stalls with a single “special needs” stall on the end.

For the record, so-called standard sized stalls were designed before the standard sized human bottom had expanded to its present dimensions. All over the news and internet is the cry Americans are becoming more and more overweight and larger . . . public rest room designers apparently didn’t get the memo.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am in no way laying claim to a standard sized sitter downer. In point of fact, I cannot boast of a single standard sized body part of any real consequence. As I have reiterated in this blog before, I am NOT a small man. I was born 10 pounds and 5 ounces back in the day when such super-sized offspring were vastly rarer than they are today.

It’s safe to say I haven’t shrunk in the intervening years.

So, I began the onerous task of choosing a stall. Stall 4 was disgusting. Some people don’t know what a flush handle is. Stall 3 had a water leak seeping from the back of the toilet and soaking the floor. Stall 1 was out of T.P. Process of elimination pointed to Stall 2. So, I shoehorned my double-wide rear end and equally broad shoulders into the stainless coffin, placed my cell phone within reach on the floor, and, forcibly cock-eyed on the seat by the idiotic placement of the T.P. dispenser, proceeded with, to quote Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “Taking care of business.”

Now those who know me are well-versed in my hatred of cell phones. To me they are invasions of my privacy and solitude and a general nuisance and if it were not for possible emergencies involving my family, I would throw mine into the nearest body of water. However, I always carry one into public restrooms with me to guard against the very real possibility of my becoming hopelessly lodged in the stall . At least with a phone near to hand, I can call *HP and order up some help. Wouldn’t you love to hear such a call go out on the radio? “Car 54, we have an obese man trapped in a rest room stall in the rest area at mile marker 13, please meet the EMTs there to begin extraction with the Jaws of Life.” Sure, I’d be the laughing-stock of the aforementioned 6 O’Clock News, but at least I wouldn’t have to wait there until I starved down enough to stand on my own and walk out.

But again, I digress.

Samuel L. Jackson Toilet Paper: It’s rough and it’s tough and it don’t take any crap off anybody.

So “my business” being a fait accompli after spending the better part of a half-hour wrestling with the roll of Samuel L. Jackson T.P.,  my posterior was adequately serviced, and I found I, in fact, wasn’t stuck this time and managed to rise, adjust my clothing, and leave the stall to wash my hands, return to my car, and go on my merry way having killed two birds with one stone to wit, taking my daily constitutional AND getting in my cardio for the day. It was an unusually simple affair all the way around.

Now, some of the more astute of you will no doubt ask me why I didn’t just avail myself of the much larger “special needs” stall and save myself time, trouble, and stress. The answer lies in my fatalistic viewpoint. I know with absolute certainty the moment I ever succumb to the spacious temptation of the “special needs” stall in all its roomy glory, a bus carrying the entire U.S. Army Paralympics Team will pull into the rest area and I will emerge from the SINGLE stall available to these heroes standing on my two wholly undamaged legs to face a group of our nation’s finest seated in stoic silence in their wheelchairs. NO THANK YOU! I have enough bad karma in my life without that little scene playing out.

Love ya’ll! Restock the T.P. and keep those feet clean!

It’s Time for the Force to Awaken

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https://i0.wp.com/www.insidethemagic.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Force-Awakens-poster-2-400x200.pngThis post is mostly a rerun, but with Episode VII: The Force Awakens hitting the theaters this week, it seems appropriate. I’m planning to see the film as soon as the initial insanity settles down a little. Crowds scare me more than they did when I was on top of that Pontiac almost 40 years ago now. I’m going to see this one though. I may even go to Greenwood where a nice drive-in theater is still operating. I think it would bring the whole experience full circle for me. I’ll let y’all know what I think as soon as I see it.

A long time ago at a drive-in theater long since buried under an I-85 interchange, a great adventure took place. It was the summer of 1977 and I sat on the roof of Mama’s 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix hugging a speaker and watching the huge Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator inexorably close in on the tiny, defenseless Tantive IV. Three years later, Daddy and Teresa took me to the now defunct Astro Twin on Pleasantburg Drive where I watched Luke Skywalker battle the evil Darth Vader right before the greatest plot twist surprise in cinema history. Then, as a high school freshman, Robby and I sat in the — once again, defunct — Oaks Theater in Laurens to see Luke reunited with his friends amidst a sea of dancing teddy bears.

Star Wars played a MONUMENTAL role in my childhood and the childhoods of a big chunk of my generation. To give you an idea of just what a cultural touchstone those films are to Gen-Xers everywhere, when I called one of my college roommates to tell him I was marrying a girl born in 1978, the first thought out of his mouth was not “Congratulations” or anything like it. Instead, Chris Hoppe shouted at me, “1978! Good God, Wham! She’s never seen Star Wars at the movie theater!” He was right, of course, so as soon as Budge and I left the theater in the summer of 1997 after watching the re-release of Star Wars: A New Hope, I called him up to let him know my beloved was now bona fide.

If some of you who are younger want something to compare the effect of the Star Wars movies and associated phenomena had on us who are now fortysomethings just think how you felt when you found out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was going to be turned into a movie and then waiting for each of the succeeding films. It’s pretty much like that.

Now, if George Lucas had possessed the sense to get a prenuptial agreement with his wife, the Star Wars universe would probably have remained the exclusive unsullied cultural icon for Generation X. Unfortunately, the erstwhile Mrs. Lucas took ol’ George to the cleaners financially leaving him in relatively bad straits — no small feat to nearly bankrupt a man responsible of Luke Skywalker AND Indiana Jones. So, rumors started flying around the newly-burgeoning internet about something none of us Baby Boomer Babies ever dreamed we’d live to see — George Lucas was going to MAKE THE PREQUELS!!

Whatsa pissa poopsa!

Whatsa pissa poopsa!

So it was I sat in Theater 6 of The Hollywood 20 Theater with Budge on May 19, 1999 and watched the familiar opening crawl wind its way up the screen. I was more excited about a movie than I’d ever been or ever would be . . . at least until 2001 when I waited in line for hours to get tickets to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I quickly lost myself in the film’s first fifteen minutes; I was a kid again on the roof of that ’73 Grand Prix. Then, out of the murky green depths of one of the many planets in the Star Wars universe, disaster overtook my beloved franchise. Jar-Jar Binks appeared on the screen. Since Jar-Jar hate is widely documented, I’m not going to waste your time adding my opinions, but let’s just say, when it comes to all the negative things said about the bumbling Gungan, “I concur and then some.” I was delighted and crushed when the movie ended — delighted it was finally over and crushed that I’d waited 22 years for such a turd to plop onto my lovely memories.

Again, to give you an idea, imagine they made the first several Harry Potter movies as you remember them then, for whatever reason, they replaced Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson with Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and Tina Fey. It not only wouldn’t be the same, it would be a type of sacrilege bad enough to get one burned at the stake in Medieval Europe. Heresy is not too strong a word. I was in physical pain by the time Phantom Menace ended. My childhood didn’t just die on screen, it was hung, drawn, and quartered.

After Phantom Menace, I realized Lucas was just going for money so I didn’t bother to see Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith. I figured it would be a waste of time. In all honesty, I do wish I’d seen RotS on the big screen though, just to see the climactic fight on Mustafar between Obi-Wan and Anakin, but since that’s the only part of the movie I care anything about, I’ve just learned to content myself with YouTube. As a side note, if the prequels hadn’t shown Lucas’ money-making bias, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull proved to me he had completely blown up the refrigerator.

The cast . . .

The cast . . .

Well, Lucas sold the beloved space opera franchise to the ONE entity more concerned with money than he is — Disney. Less than a year after the sale, The Mouse has announced Episodes VII, VIII, and IX are in the works with Episode VII to be released next year, probably around Christmas. Today, the official casting announcements came out. The good news is Han, Luke, and Leia are all back aboard although I wonder if Harrison Ford will live long enough to finish all three films. The bad news is JJ Abrams is directing and co-producing Episode VII. So, this movie could be absolutely amazing with incredible visual effects and only slightly less boom and bang than a Michael Bay CGI-fest OR we could end up at the end of Episode IX discovering the entire nine film series actually took place in the imagination of some homeless Earth kid playing with broken action figures someone left lying in the park. To anyone who thinks I’m being silly and overreacting I can only reply with two words: Lost finale.

Hopefully though, the number of original cast members along with the addition of Gollum will pull the final three movies in the Star Wars nonology through. At least John Williams is doing the scores!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

Now, It’s Over . . . RIP Mr. Berra

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https://i0.wp.com/img-s-msn-com.akamaized.net/tenant/amp/entityid/AAeEJRa.imgYogi Berra was one of the greatest players to ever strap on a set of baseball spikes. The numbers speak for themselves, he holds the record for most appearances in a World Series at a staggering 14 as a player and seven more as manager or coach. Twenty-one times he appeared on baseball’s largest stage and in the process, became larger than life.

Yogi was a great player and a favorite of sportswriters all over the country. He shared the field with some of the greatest to ever don pinstripes — guys like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio — , but he never let the amazing success or the rarified company go to his head. He knew he was a grown man blessed to be playing a kid’s game for pay so whenever one of those kids asked ol’ Yogi for an autograph on a baseball or program, he didn’t snarl . . . he smiled and took the item and a pen to sign it with.

In every respect, he was a class act, but, even if he hadn’t been in so many Fall Classics and even if he didn’t have a World Series ring for every finger and two thumbs and even if he didn’t still hold a plethora of records for games appeared in or doubles in the World Series, Yogi would still be remembered because his skill as a baseball player paled next to his alacrity with the English language. To whit,

  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • You can observe a lot by just watching.
  • It gets late early out here.
  • It’s like déjà vu all over again.
  • It ain’t over until it’s over.

He may not have sported Clark Gable good looks, but Clark didn’t catch the only perfect game ever thrown in a World Series, either. Yogi’s real name was Lawrence Berra, but if anyone outside his family ever called him that, it never showed up in print. He was a Yankee through and through, even though it didn’t start out that way.

Yogi had a rough patch breaking into the Major Leagues. First he was rejected by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals who instead signed his good friend Joe Garagiola, another Hall of Fame catcher. Then, when he ended up as a Yankee, his minor league career took a hiatus over a little disagreement we call World War 2 today. Finally, he ended up on the bench in his first season in The Show because he could hit the ball a mile but couldn’t throw from home to second, which is a debilitating issue for a catcher and the heretical position called the “designated hitter” had yet to be foisted upon the sacred game. Once he found his stride, though, things turned out all right for him. Besides his numerous World Series records, Yogi was a three time American League MVP and a 15 time All-Star in his 18 year career which spanned 1946-1963.

He was also one of my Papa Wham’s favorite baseball players and one of the very few Yankees he could tolerate.

In a bit of irony, Yogi died exactly sixty-nine years to the day of his Major League debut. Perhaps the home run he hit with his first at bat should have clued people in to the greatness to come.

Yogi Berra was 90 years old . . . he will be greatly missed by his family, the Yankees, and all true baseball fans everywhere.

Seven Years a Blogger

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WordPress just informed me I registered Grocery Store Feet seven years ago today. Just a couple of days later, I posted this for my first entry into the bloggosphere.

Ahh . . . Labor Day!

Labor Day is a most excellent holiday for teachers and others who work in the school system. It comes at just the right time . . . usually after the second full week of school . . . to give us a much needed rest. After all, it’s a gear-stripping, heart stopping jolt to go from the “lazy, hazy” days of summer to full throttle with a room or library full of students and a brand new year of expectations and goals — some reasonable, some, as Bogie said in The Maltese Falcon, “The stuff that dreams are made of.”
So, however you chose to spend today, I hope you got some rest in. We did here around the old haceinda. No picnics or partys, beach trips or barbecues, just sleeping late, catching up on reading and family and generally being good for nothing layabouts. Perfect day all ’round.
Tomorrow, though, it’s once more into the breach dear friends. I have a computer that is waiting on me and it will behoove itself to start acting appropriately lest I be forced to go completely Office Space on it.
Take care all. More to come later.

That’s it? I didn’t even have my usual, “Love y’all and keep those feet clean” sign off in place. Still, I think it’s crazy I’m still posting — erratically and on no set schedule, but still — after seven years. See, for me, plans are nebulous things. People will ask me what I’m doing when and where for some ridiculous amount of time in the future, like, you know . . . a week, and I just have to laugh. I do well if I’ve got tomorrow thought of. About all I know for certain is I’ll go to Clinton every Tuesday morning to check on Granny and sit with her awhile until she passes away or Gabriel blows his horn. I’m also 99% certain I will gorge myself to the point of immobility on Thanksgiving at the Hall homestead until I’m no longer invited. You get much past that, I’ve got a few murky days creeping around on my calendar here and there. No goals, no plans, no problems . . . if only.

Anyway, for me to be doing something seven years consistently is a pretty big deal in my life. That’s longer than all but one job I ever held and longer than any romantic relationship I’ve been in until I married Budge. In short, in MY life, seven years is a freakishly long time. Now I don’t claim to have improved all that much as a blogger over those seven years, but the fact remains . . . I’m still here. For me, that’s an accomplishment. So Happy Anniversary to the crusty feet and here’s to seven more — maybe.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

Don’t Call It Courage

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https://i1.wp.com/www.parcbench.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Caitlyn_Jenner_ESPY.jpgI’m not going to win any popularity contests with this post, but I’ve heard all I can stand and stay quiet, and it’s probably some sort of record for me as it is. Bruce Jenner is not courageous and certainly never should have won an award for showing courage. I don’t have any problem with his decision to “transition” from a male appearance to a female appearance and make no mistake, all political correctness aside, it is a cosmetic change only. Hormones, plastic surgery, and laser hair removal will work wonders but they will only go so far. These days, if he really wanted to, he could even change his blood. It would be expensive, painful, and require radiation to destroy his present bone marrow, but he could conceivably change blood types. What he cannot do, however, is change his DNA. He was born with XY sex chromosomes and he will die with XY chromosomes and by any biological genetic definition I have ever seen, THAT makes him MALE. He may choose to LOOK female; he may choose to ACT female; but he will NEVER BE a female. That may piss a lot of people off, but it doesn’t change Jenner’s chromosomes.

Still, if that’s what the man wants to do with his life and his money, that is his right. What baffles me is why ESPN felt the need to pass over other, much more worthy nominees, to give him an award with “Courage” in the name. Actually, while we’re on the subject, the existence of an entire slate of awards called ESPYs baffles me. Sports have enough awards as it is without an endless parade of overpaid athletes trotting across the stage to make speeches and pat each other on the back about. What’s the point in that? Have we gone so far down the road of Roman decadence we need MORE bread and circuses?

Yet, if they are going to give an award, at least Arthur Ashe Courage Award seems one worthy of giving. For those who don’t know, Arthur Ashe was an AMAZING tennis star in the ’70s. He held the World #1 spot, won 35 career titles, and remains the only African-American male to win singles titles at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. Unfortunately, he had a heart condition that necessitated a bypass surgery and because of a blood transfusion during the surgery, Ashe contracted HIV / AIDS. This was at a time when AIDS wasn’t the household word it is now, but Ashe battled the disease with the same tenacity he showed on the court and even though complications from the disease would claim his life in 1993, his Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health remain as much his legacy as his outstanding tennis achievements.

So, yeah, he pretty much transcended sports, as the text of the award says, and since 1993, ESPN has awarded a current or past athlete who has also transcended sports in a similar way. For example, the first award in 1993 went to Jimmy Valvano, former head coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack. “Jimmy V” guided the ‘Pack to an improbable NCAA Championship in 1983, but what he is most remembered for is the tremendous courage and humor he showed in his fight against metastatic cancer which cut short his coaching career and claimed his life just weeks after he received his award from ESPN.

Since then, the Arthur Ashe COURAGE Award has gone to people like Muhammad Ali for his fight against Parkinson’s Disease. In 1999, Billy Jean King won the award for her role in pushing forward women’s tennis to be the major attraction it is now. 2002 saw members of Flight 93 win the award posthumously for their bravery in storming the cockpit of the hijacked flight and probably saving either the Capital Building or the White House from destruction. Nelson Mandela won in 2009 and Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball who now is battling early onset Alzheimer’s Disease won in 2012. So the committee has shown they can give the award to extremely deserving candidates who have truly shown great courage in and out of the sports arena.

So why is Bruce Jenner in the same company with Pat Tillman who abandoned a lucrative professional football career to die serving his country in the Global War on Terror? What has Jenner done that is so courageous?

Make no mistake, his athletic pedigree is second to none. Fifth place in the grueling ten event decathlon in 1972’s Munich Olympics and the world record setting gold medal performance in the same event in 1976 in Montreal will cement Jenner’s place in athletic history. But what has he done lately? Well, he was a C-list movie actor for awhile and then he somehow drifted into the orbit of the widowed Kris Khardasian and her insanely narcissistic brood. They married and added at least two more girls to a household which need a lot of things, but not more divas. Then, well . . . Bruce started looking “odd.” Tabloids picked up on it and soon enough the truth came out and so did Jenner.

Bruce was becoming Caitlyn.

My question is what is so courageous about that? Sure, there was a time it might have been courageous, but in today’s society, a public celebrity like Jenner had everything to gain and nothing to lose with his gender switch. God forbid anyone have the temerity to say something negative about a transgender celebrity in this day and age of rabid political correctness. If anything, this move has propelled Jenner out of the doldrums of his career as tenth fiddle to Kris and her girls and into a new career in his own right, but COURAGEOUS? How? General Mills made the mistake of calling “Caitlyn” Jenner by his given name of Bruce in a press release and social media BLEW UP! Where’s the courage involved when everybody in Hollywood has got your back?

Sure, if he was some confused kid in a podunk high school in Alabama or Montana and still decided to come out you bet your ass he would be worthy of being called courageous — suicidally courageous most likely. If he was any nobody, this would be courageous in the extreme, but he’s famous already and this is just making him more famous. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kris wasn’t behind it somewhere even though she’s acted so “shocked.”

To make matters worse, the committee awarding this ESPY passed over two incredible candidates. Lauren Hill was a college basketball player whose only dream was to play in a game in college. She played in bits of five games before she succumbed to an inoperable brain tumor. Noah Galloway is a double amputee Army veteran who STILL does Crossfit, runs extreme marathons, and just recently completed the Dubai Death Race across the desert. They finished third and second to Jenner respectively. Why?

In closing, all I can say is this was the worst choice of an award recipient since Barak Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for getting elected President of the United States. I know the Nobel Committee would love to have that choice back . . . can ESPN say the same thing?

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

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To Kill A Finch

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I taught high school for ten years in a rural Southern country school that split about 50/50 in every demographic category from family income to race. In my years there, I tried to pound Romeo and Juliet, Beowulf, The Scarlet Letter, and many other “classics” of the “canon” into the heads of my students to little or no avail. They froze at Faulkner, swore at Steinbeck, spit upon Shakespeare, and freaked over Fitzgerald. Freshmen through Seniors, I taught them all and they were uniform in only two things: a deep, abiding hatred of every “canon” novel save one and a deep, enduring love of that one singular book.

That book, of course, is and was To Kill a Mockingbird, lovingly abbreviated in my lesson plans as TKAM, e.g. “TSWBAT id inferred MI in TKAM chapter 10.”I

No matter the level, race, gender, or present grade of the student, each loved To Kill A Mockingbird in his or her own way. We had some awkward — extremely awkward at times — discussions about race and slavery as one would expect, but we also had some fascinating talks about poverty and social hierarchy. One of my favorite discussions, and one which seems extremely prophetic given what’s going on in our country today, began with me asking the question of my class, “Y’all think anything has really changed since the time period in this novel?” What followed was a quartet of angry young black guys declaring that absolutely nothing had
changed and we spent the rest of the hour talking about explicit versus implicit prejudices and open versus hidden racism. One extremely articulate young man remarked he preferred talking to “rednecks” because “at least with a [Confederate battle] flag wearin’ redneck, I know where I stand. I KNOW what he thinks about me. Some of these ‘polite’ folk, I’m not so sure of.” Finally, when we were wrapping up the novel, several threads would develop, but the one EVERY class noticed was simple — Atticus Finch was a “good man.”

For five and one half decades, the opinion of Atticus Finch as “a good man” has reigned virtually unchallenged except for a few screwballs from either side of the Right / Left spectrum whom Jesus Christ would not be able to please. Atticus has remained the standard of what a lawyer should be, namely the defender of the weak against the strong no matter how foregone the conclusion to the struggle because – in the words of the man himself – it doesn’t matter if you know “you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” That is true moral courage. Few literary characters are held in the esteem so many hold Atticus. I know of no less than five teachers and professors who named their children Atticus because they hoped the name would convey their hopes for their sons’ characters.

Now it seems someone would sling mud upon Atticus’ good name. He who has stood for so long as the paragon of virtue and the sane voice of reason in a world of hate and innuendo is now subjected to what can only be described as slings and arrows of the most outrageous fortune. What makes this slanderous attempt to sully a good man’s reputation is made so much the crueler by its origin. The leader of the pack of dogs who would tear Atticus down from his rightly deserved pedestal atop the list of iconic and heroic characters is none other than Nellie Harper Lee, Atticus’ own inventor — his literary mother as it were.

After five decades of silence, an aging Harper Lee has once again taken the literary world by storm with her publication of Go Set a Watchman. She claims this is the novelTo Kill A Mockingbirdwas supposed to be all those years ago before an editor told her to make Scout younger. I have no idea. What I DO know is this latest novel assassinates Atticus Finch by turning him from a shining light of dignity and decency in Maycomb into a bitter, white robe wearing Klansman. Far from the heroic country lawyer fighting a losing battle against racism, Watchmanpaints him as possibly the most powerful force for racism in the town. As readers, we are left wondering…….WHY?

If this is the novel Lee intended to publish, she should thank the editor who blocked it. This novel is thoroughly post-modern in that it has no heroes, only degrees of villains; it offers no hope, only more despair. It’s as if, as Lee herself enters her dotage years, she insists on dragging Atticus with her.

Love Y’all and keep your feet clean!

Seventy Years on Suicide Watch

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“‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.” Dr. Robert Oppenheimer.

Seventy years ago today, 15 July 1945, the world entered the Atomic Age with the successful detonation of “The Gadget,” a prototype atomic bomb device, in the desert of Alamagordo, New Mexico. Code named “Trinity,” the explosion crowned years of intense, sometimes maddening, more than once deadly, and always shrouded in I’d-tell-you-but-then-I’d-have-to-kill-you levels of secret research at Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Park, Tennessee; and Chicago, Illinois among many other places. It was a project so cloaked in silence and mystery the Vice President of the United States didn’t know of the Manhattan Project’s existence until shortly before he would be called upon to make the decision to use this terrible new weapon in combat against the Japanese.

The entire lead up to the test took on the quality of a March Madness office pool. All the physicists knew the device would work and go kaboom . . . THEORETICALLY. Empirically, no one, including them, had the faintest idea what was going to happen. The scientists placed bets on what would happen during the test. Most wagered on a specific “yield” the explosion would put off. One wag bet on a “fizzle” with nothing happening at all, which would have been ten kinds of disastrous, while a final optimist believed the bomb would go off and ignite the Earth’s atmosphere, incinerating the planet.

Now, we know what happened at the test. Books fill whole library shelves describing the Manhattan Project, the physics of the A-Bomb, and the results of Trinity. We also know that explosion, which turned the desert sand to green glass, ushered in the era of atomic weapons. Two of those weapons would end World War 2 in spectacular, if controversial, fashion. Still, that is not the ultimate legacy of the Manhattan Project and the culminating successful Trinity test.

What really happened in the desert that day in 1945 was the world purchased a revolver with six chambers and three mighty large cartridges. After the two bombs fell on Japan, the final cartridge would remain in the gun and that chamber would spin wildly for the next fifty years as nuclear powers like the USA and the Soviet Union played a dangerous game of Russian roulette with the world.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/35/Trinity_Site_Obelisk_National_Historic_Landmark.jpg

When that “gadget” worked, mankind, for the first time since God created us or we climbed down from the trees to stand on two legs, whichever scenario works best for you, now possessed the power of complete global annihilation. Before the Atomic Age, we might have been wiped out by a supervolcano explosion like Yellowstone or Toba. We may have bought the farm courtesy of a Texas sized asteroid hurtling into our planet. We may even have contracted some sort of disease no one could survive, but all those scenarios have a single thing in common . . . they are OUTSIDE forces.

With the coming of “The Bomb,” the decision of a few men could set in motion the end of the human race. We image-bearers of God or evolved monkeys now hold the power to kill everyone and everything on this planet except for cockroaches and, possibly, kudzu. I don’t know about y’all, but that is a staggering thought and one my generation was the last to fully appreciate.

See, I grew up in the ’80’s as a member of Gen-X. For eight long years, I watched Ronnie Ray-gun goad and cajole and threaten the Soviet Union into an unsustainable arms race which may or may not, depending on who you ask, have ultimately bankrupted and destroyed the USSR and with it, the USA’s only real rival in the world. Along the way, though, it looked more than once like a big crop of mushroom clouds was going to pop up all around the world as the USSR decided if they couldn’t win the Cold War, no one was going to.

I spent my tween and teen years watching movies and television episodes like Damnation Alley, The Day After, and Amerika. In junior high, we even had a War of the Worlds like moment when some local station started reporting Charleston Harbor and Naval Base had been nuked. It was another “docu-drama” but it scared the Hell out of those of us who hadn’t seen the previews. We knew we lived in a world that could end at any time just because someone on our side or their side got pissed off and pushed a button. We also knew, thanks to Mr. Stoddard and social studies, EVERYONE was going to die because no matter who shot first, the tons of nuclear “boomer” submarines in both superpowers’ navies would finish off whoever was left. I can’t speak to others, but I went to bed scared a lot of nights, but then I always was a sensitive child.

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According to the Doomsday Clock, it’s three minutes til midnight.

So now, we are seventy years removed from Trinity. The Cold War is over; the remaining ICBMs safely pointed, we’re told, into the ocean. Can we really say we’re any safer though? A nuke remains the Holy Grail of every terrorist organization in the world. Just imagine if one of the planes on 9-11-2001 had carried a suitcase nuke instead of just a full tank of fuel. New York City might not be nearly as crowded. Also, remember, at the fall of the Soviet Union, apparently some generals had a “Nukes-R-Us” type yard sale because several small to medium “devices” are still unaccounted for. Where are those bombs?

If the idea of terrorists with atomic weapons doesn’t chill you enough, keep in mind the nuclear club has gotten a bit bigger since 1945. The Soviet Union / Russia joined up in 1948 followed soon after by China, the UK, and France. Now Pakistan AND India (who HATE each other BTW) are both declared nuclear powers. Don’t forget the lunatic in North Korea. He SWEARS they have at least three small nukes. Who knows for sure? Then there’s little Israel with their Samson Protocol. Sure, they don’t advertise they have nuclear weapons, but it’s a pretty safe bet they do and you can bet the house and kids if Israel is ever invaded or attacked by a nuclear missile, they WILL blow AT LEAST the Middle East all the way to Paradise and back.

Oppenheimer, et. al. let a potent genie out of the bottle on those plains of New Mexico. We’ve got the means of global suicide sitting beneath the Siberian and American Great Western plains. I just hope cooler heads always manage to prevail and if they don’t, then I hope I’m really close to the first wave of nuclear blasts because, as the man said, “It’ll sure hurt bad, but it won’t hurt long.”

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.