Digressions of a Dilettante

Digressions of a Dilettante
Vignettes of Inanity by Bud Hearn

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dead Wood....and a New Dawn

Today, December 31, began with a fire.

A red ember at first, then a gigantic ball of orange-red flame rose and engulfed the landscape and entered into the very window of the study, penetrating the darkness and shadows of the house at 6:25 A.M. Why today, I wondered, is this phenomenon occurring? This day, the eve of something new, something bold and grand and frightening…this day, the symbolic end of things incredible, things unforeseen, things ominous?

Dead wood is why…and a lot of useless live wood, too.

The run rises every day on the water’s eastern horizon, but from the vantage point of our home-office the event was unobservable. Dead wood and useless live wood was the problem. But no longer…it’s all gone now, allowing the eternal flame to enter unobstructed into the house, offering up the glorious sunrise over the water, a new day with promises and possibilities unimagined.

Those with lucky horizons see this event every day, and they see it because there is no dead wood to obscure their vista. Today we join them. That’s because Josh, Tony and Roberto showed up yesterday, bringing with them the cruel but necessary tools to carve up the overgrown landscape that had also engulfed the yard.

Here we are, boss-man, ready to let the sunshine back into your yard, and I hope nobody’s still sleeping, ‘cause it’s going to get noisy,” Tony said as he fired up his chain saw. “What do you want us to do?” Without hesitation I answered,”Boys, I want to see the sun shine again in this yard.”

Yessir, Boss, we’re experts at getting rid of your dead wood, and the useless live wood that hangs out with it,” Josh hollered from the boom bucket rising 50 feet into the thick oak branches. “Senor, las palmas son una problema tambien,” Roberto points out. “I know,” I replied, “whack all those dead branches out so we can see the sun, Roberto.”

Progress seemed slow at first, but soon the useless debris of mingled dead and live branches littered the driveway, and even the once-nuisance pine tree lay comatose, bleeding its rosin in lifeless chunks on the gravel. These boys were board-certified ruthless surgeons, hell-bent on a mission of restoring a yard that was in desperate need of sunlight. On and on the saw buzzed, the branches fell, the light creeping back into the dark crevices that had laid waste to expensive zoysia grass. It all seemed so heartless, but so necessary.

Days end, as did this one, with the setting of the sun. The boys were done, and the yard was clean. What will it all look like tomorrow, I wondered? Like all new haircuts, or purges of other nature, the results would be seen with the rising of a new sun; I would know soon enough.

Nature itself abhors that which is useless, that which is dead, and soon the rot of decay renders stubble for fires and mushrooms, those grim reapers of death to the superfluous. There’s a lesson here for me, I thought. For even as nature itself is ruthless with the dead and useless, so must I be. The new will just not grow where sunlight does not shine…and as any arborist will tell you, the fruit is always in the new branches, not the dead ones.

The temperate coastal zones assure continued growth, especially when fertilized. So, no matter how often the foliage is pruned, it will grow again, some to flowers and fruit, some to useless branches with nothing but leaves. So yesterday’s purging of the dead wood and the useless live branches is not a “be all, end all” by any means. No, it is an ongoing process, especially if one likes to see new sunrises.

The eve of an old year is now upon us, and the dawn of a new one is about to occur. I always liked this day because I feel justified in purging my own desk, data base and life of that which is irrelevant and meaningless…all without a guilty conscious. Yes, it makes some room for the growth of new relationships, new things, new possibilities. It’s exciting.

Today’s sunrise was a harmless fire as it entered through the window this morning…a “friendly fire” in insurance lingo, the kind of fire that poses little risk to actuarial tables. As the sun rose I could see what yesterday’s purge had accomplished, and I knew this would not be the last “fire” I’d see this year.

Today the sun shines again in our yard. The big trees are perhaps still recovering somewhat from their surgery, and they will soon heal and be back at what they do best: grow. I think I hear this morning a chorus of small shrubs singing joyously in thanksgiving for this gift of new light.

Advice, or New Year’s Resolution? Not from me. But I promise you that for a while there will be a lot more sunshine around this homeplace, and less dead wood to spoil the view.

Welcome to the eve of a new dawn, and may 2009 be the best year of our collective lives. Happy New Year!

Bud Hearn
December 31, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Takin' Out the Trash

Some things defy explanation. This may be one of them.

It was late afternoon as a fiery red sunset cast long shadows across the lawn. The holidays were over, and the aftermath clean-up had been avoided, aided by a combination of music, merlot and meditation. I was mellow that day, listening to Bob Dylan wail about the Memphis Blues:

“Grandpa died last week and now he’s buried in the rocks,
But everybody still talks how badly they were shocked.
But me, I expected it to happen, I knew he’d lost control
When he built a fire on Main Street and shot it full of holes…”

Suddenly the situation escalated out of control and became a spectacle. The Menace had returned, waddling and flaunting its bulging body up the driveway. One cannot take such taunts lightly…urgent action was necessary.

Somehow the stalking Menace had found me again, apparently preferring old home comforts to those of the landfill. It sought revenge, and what better spot to intimidate than from a prominent spot in the driveway? Adding insult to injury, it allowed its morning breath to spoil the crisp afternoon air. The excited but terrified voices within the house disturbed my reverie…the remaining merlot would have to wait.

The scene outside was a shocking sight. The Stalker, now a bulging glob, had swelled to gigantic proportions, apparently from over-indulgence during the holidays (but then again, who had not, what with all the food and sweets…even Visa was stretched). Sullen, unkempt, contemptuous, it mocked the pristine surroundings with its uninvited and gloating presence. Something must be done…there are neighbors, you know.

I’d had many encounters with Mr. Smelly, also known by such aliases as The Vile Villain, The Nemesis, The Scourge and other nauseous appellations. My numerous puny attempts at eradication had previously proven futile. But this time, spurred on by a sudden Green-movement surge and insistence from the house, I found courage to face The Threat and terminate it, once and for all.

Bolstered by the Colt 45 six-shot revolver in a fast-draw holster strapped to my side, I strolled into the driveway to face The Intruder. Tilting the Stetson to block out the lowering sun’s glare, and having positioned the sun at my back (aka “The Eastwood Position”), I shifted into a comfortable gunslinger stance in the Tony Lama lizard skin boots in preparation for the ultimate showdown. It was a scene from The O.K. Corral, to be sure…Burt Lancaster would have applauded the portrayal!

Smug in its reproach and intimidation, Mr. Stinky stood motionless in the fading sunlight, casting its rotund shadow onto the shrubs. Threatened, its ominous bulge began to silently emit an odious aroma, fouling the air and distracting my concentration. (Apparently ancient Darwinian impulses evoke malodorous defensive measures in these creatures.)

The stare-down intensified, and my confidence began to wane. I knew action must be taken quickly or not at all. With lightening speed my hand slapped the leather, the 45 slipping easily into my grip. In less than a split second my six-shooter was out and leveled at the heart of The Undesirable. As the hammer clicked back, my finger tightened on the hair trigger, The Bulge dead-on in its barrel sights. But then…..

Suddenly, and without warning, Dylan quits singing and the sound of a shattering wine glass punctuates the still air. A shrill voice from the house, wilder and more urgent, now shouts loudly, “I said, take that trash out or I’ll shoot YOU full of holes!”

Jolted from my swoon, the illusion faded instantly in the sunlight. Surrounding me, hands on hips, were the bodies of the voices of the house, and I saw the remaining bags of holiday trash sitting quietly in the driveway—halfway to the trash dumpster, innocently minding their own business. Weird!

Were there consequences? You bet… sing along with me the refrain, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…”

Fearing reprisal, and not to be confused with Dylan’s grandpa, I decided to keep the gunslinger dream to myself, at least for the time being. There would be opportunity later for the recital of such exploits, appropriately embellished by age and merlot.

Holidays bring out the best trash of the year. From experience I have concluded there’s a lot more than just holiday trash hanging around. Take my desk…yellowed papers everywhere, evidencing nothing…trash. The computer…hundreds of emails, trash from another time…delete, delete, O worthless clutter. Then there’s the mental trash that lingers around…see you later. Even in my data base thousands of irrelevant names clutter the memory…bye bye, y’all.

One must be ruthless with trash. And in a moment of stark insight, I wondered how many have eliminated me as trash from their data base…horrors!

One thing is for sure: We will always be takin’ out the trash. We created it, and as long as we’re around, it’ll continue to happen.

As for me, I’m now back to the music, merlot and meditation, and pondering the sequel of the epic struggle between man and his trash!

Happy New Year.

Bud Hearn
December 27, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Angels...And the Spirit of Christmas

Be not forgetful to entertain angels, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Heb. 13:2

Our angel, we’ve had her for years. She occupies the uppermost branch in our evergreen tree which, this year, is 11 feet tall. The oxygen is thin up that high, but she seems not to mind. With her gold-inlaid wings spread wide, a rose at her breast, she smiles upon us, especially at night with the lights on.

Clothed in light and mystery
Her place secure atop the tree,
The Angel of The Heavenly Three
Broods in silence The Nativity.

You see, Christmas is about new birth, and angels are never far from new-born babies. These mysterious and ethereal spirits are well-documented throughout The Holy Word:

“…(who) makes His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire,…ministering spirits sent to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation…”.

And Christmas, if it is nothing else, is a time for imagination, and contemplation of intrigue and mystery of angelic spirits. Even the secular world has conjured up its own spirits in Christmas…notably such as St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, and the ghost of Jacob Marley.

For Christians, angels are intricately connected throughout the conception, birth and life of The Christ child. The birth of Jesus, divinely purposed and spiritually attended, was also intertwined with the common elements of this world---a stable, a manger, barn animals, shepherds and cold weather. Could angels, so integrally part of the birth of Jesus, be associated with the nativity of all births? Who is to say?

All new births are miracles …a creative mystery of profound proportions. Can you remember the birth of your children, or family members? In “the old days,” men were not allowed in the “delivery room,” but relegated to a “viewing room” with a large plate glass window. The child, your child, was brought up in an incubator or by a loving nurse, held up to the window for all to see, and to wonder, to marvel.

Not so today, I’m told. Men are now required to be a part of the delivery process… fainting is not allowed. My generation of men would not have been able to pay this price!

We wonder, “What might the future hold for a new-born baby?” Some cynical persons may even dare to ask, “What good is any new-born baby in these days?” The question resounds unanswered, unanswerable. Do angels know? Perhaps, for it’s said, “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways…”.

At Christmas the 16th century English melody, Greensleeves, is one of my favorites:

“What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.”

To intrude into the sphere of angels is to leave one awed, confounded and mystified. Late at night in this season my family sleeps. With the dog in my lap and all lights out except those on our tree, I commune with our angel and ask such questions. The Spirit of Christmas always creates in me a new birth.

In a barn in Bethlehem a Child was born over 2,000 years ago. “What Child is This,” we wonder? I ask this question to my angel. In silence, and haloed in light, I think I hear her say:

Who is this Child I hear you say?
Why, He is the Answer to a better way.
This Child of Peace in Heaven holds sway
And He is the Promise of a much better day.

In a quiet peace I wonder at the Promise of a much better day my angel promises … while I imagine The Possibilities.

May the joys, hopes and child-like wonder of Christmas never cease in your home and mine. Merry Christmas!

Bud Hearn
December 24, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas...the Simpler Things of Life

The Simpler Things of Life

It just doesn’t take that much to be happy…even at Christmas.

I’m in Atlanta Christmas shopping…well, kinda. I’m shopping the banks whose loan windows say, “Open—Final Days, 50% Sale on all Loans, or Going Out of Business, Entire Stock for Sale, Everything Must go.” Look, what use is real estate, or Christmas, without a quick, end-of-year loan to tide me over?

Being a loan-shopping expert, I’ve learned that it saves a lot of personal embarrassment if you just park outside and observe the people who exit the bank. Check out their faces, their walk…that’ll tell you a lot about the banker’s mood du jour. In such matters it is advisable to only test the depth of the water with one foot.

So, for today’s shopping spree I chose the bank which had a parking lot full of fine automobiles, those with proud, though suspect, family names, such as Bentley, Benz, Royce, Aston and Nardelli (oops…well, Italian anyway).

The gleaming granite edifice smelled of “old money,” while the sign on the door boasted “Rock Solid”. The parking lot met my criteria. Unfortunately, today the banker must have fueled his foul mood with “No’s”. (Bankers practice saying this word “NO” a hundred times a day in front of mirrors). The unshaven faces of “shoppers” were long, their suits tattered, threadbare and soiled. One might have sensed that perhaps their whole lives, not just Christmas, needed tiding over.

I had my answer, so I left, preferring the less pretentious bank down the road, its lot filled with GM’s and Fords. It looked as if it needed to make a few loans…or get one. Moreover, it was located directly beneath the lighted billboard that read, “Titanic…Experience the Thrill.” I took that as a good sign and felt lucky today. I was not!

After a few cold ones at Hal’s, and hearing enough hard-luck stories to sink a titanic, my self begin to feel good about itself again. I remembered the little town I grew up in. There was only one bank, and its loan window was always closed…it only accepted deposits. Since things were cheaper in those days, loans were not needed: Gas at $.27 a gallon and we could ride all day on two gallons; Cherry cokes were a dime, and a Saturday movie was a quarter…what deals.

Some genius in our family had the bright idea of planting 20 acres of Christmas trees on the farm, apparently figuring that it’d keep us out of trouble come Christmas. So, we’d cut those trees, load them in the pickup and peddle them from door to door, all for the exorbitant sum of $10 a tree. We neither got into much trouble nor made much money.

While I can’t say for sure, I don’t believe the family’s foray into tree farming was very profitable, and a couple of years later some sort of “lightening” struck the field and incinerated the trees. Oh, how wonderful was the smell of burnt trees to me, and there was great jubilation when the family received the insurance check!

In my little town, the most exciting thing about Christmas for pre-pubescent children was receipt of a large box of fireworks…cost, about $15. They occupied our idle hands for a few days before Santa came (we never doubted Santa, which proved expedient). The boxes were loaded with Cherry Bombs, rockets, roman candles and TNT Bombs. Have you any idea the mischief such explosives can cause in the hands of an un-supervised, roving horde of mindless pre-teens? Yes, fun was cheap in those days, and my neighbor’s 4 acre sedge grass field needed burning anyway.

Christmas is more expensive these days. Big loans are a necessity now to tide us over, whether credit cards or credit lines. But we have no more fun with all these expenses than we did in a more simpler time…I think less. After Christmas the fireworks were gone, the toys either broken or boring, and we got back to sand-lot football or shooting hoops in Tubby’s back yard. Simple things.

Christmas is here again, and for the first time in years we decided that “simple was better.” We’ve shopped modestly, shunned the banks and will avoid the Alka-Seltzers when the January bills arrive. (But I’m keeping my eye on the “Titanic” bank for good reason!)

Yes, simple is in this year. While I’m pretty well set with all I need, a nice pair of cashmere socks would be appreciated…..is anybody out there listening?

Bud Hearn
December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dipsticks...The Evolution of a Species

The Evolution of a Species

Darwin is deceased, but Dipsticks live on…and are evolving!

Huh, you ask? The short answer is that it is connected to Christmas, improbable as that may sound. Yes, it’s a stretch, but look, Christmas is a stretch, too.

Christmas is full of improbabilities…even small children know it’s a ruse, sort of. They know fat men with white beards cannot possibly skinny down chimneys, that reindeer don’t fly, and elves are a myth. They know Santa’s workshop is the internet, not a North Pole igloo, and that gifts are delivered by a UPS elf in a brown uniform, not a red suit. First grade Science classes dispel this nonsense. Willy Wonka and his Chocolate Factory is far more credible...even I believe that!

How, you ask, can a dipstick species possibly evolve into a connection to Christmas? I’ll explain.

I purchased an “evolved dipstick” while in McIntosh County at Harold Webster’s Christmas Tree Farm last Sunday, and again Tuesday. Buying a tree up there is a cultural event, sort of, at least as cultural as McIntosh County can get. And both my wife and the Right Reverend Brearley witnessed the dipstick’s extraordinary evolution.

You know what a dipstick is, right? It’s a long, greasy rod inserted in a cylindrical tube that extends into an engine block. It measures the fluid level in the engine, and no self-respecting Southern lady would ever touch one for fear of grease.

Well, the dipstick has evolved, “branched out,” you might say. It has joined the Green Movement and is now used to measure the water level in the tree stand. That’s right. It’s now a long plastic tube that extends into the tree stand with a cup on one end. It has a clear plastic tube that is inserted. Water is poured into the cup and the clear tube measures the water level in the stand. Ingenious, huh? Why crawl around on the floor filling the stand with water and uttering un-Christmas expletives? Santa hears these things!

Dipsticks have a colorful past, like Christmas and many of you. In fact, dipsticks were first discovered in a NASCAR shade-tree mechanic’s back yard near Darien back in the early 1900’s. Rumor has it that Henry Ford had once come through the county heading south on US 17 in one of his Model A’s. He was waylaid by some locals for resembling a Yankee, relieved of his Model A and last seen fleeing on foot towards the safety of Sea Island. Some say, that is.

Anyhow, rumor has it the car ended up being impounded as evidence by Sheriff Poppwell, and in its disassembly, the dipstick was discovered.

Dipsticks were born as honorable nouns. They have now evolved into vitriolic verbs, used derogatorily when referring to the concept of “dipsticking” someone, i.e., drilling down into their psyche to determine attitudes, intelligence and pecuniary proclivities. It’s a favorite word of congressional inquisitioners and financiers these days.

Dipsticks have evolved into ill repute by keeping company with unsavory characters. According to The Dukes of Hazard, people who are stupid, obnoxious and dummies are referred to as such. Today the news is replete with multiple applications of the term…case in point, Obama and the Illinois Gov. Blagojevich/Jackson being dipsticked by the media. In McIntosh County confessions are more readily forthcoming!

Word is that the Big Three auto execs are again heading to Sea Island for the winter sunshine after the Bailout Party is over. I’m pretty sure they’ll be driving, maybe carpooling, and the route does pass thorough Darien.

Now, there is no shortage of dipsticks in the South, and especially in Darien. I suspect, given the opportunity, these dips would like nothing better than to again stick the Detroit dips for more auto racing parts…or just for fun or for old times sake.

No household should be without a dipstick watering device. Yes, technically the tree is dead, and all you’re doing with the water is bailing it out for another week or so before it’s hauled off to the recycle bin. But after all, it is Christmas, and generosity is expected.
He that hath ears, let him hear.

Christmas is incomplete without evolved dipsticks around, and as my wife is fond of saying, “I have two in my home!” How about you?

Bud Hearn
December 11, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Great Vanishing...Mission Accomplished

The Great Vanishing…
Mission Accomplished

“This time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.” Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Things seem to be vanishing at a rapid rate these days. Why, Thanksgiving was hardly here, and now it’s gone.

Only yesterday my wife lost a pearl earring…vanished into thin air. It was discovered the next day in the dog’s bed. Hmmm….? And just this morning I looked into the mirror…why, I seem to have vanished more from yesterday. At this rapid rate, I will soon disappear totally.

And that’s not all. Over $9 trillion dollars of wealth has vanished from the stock market meltdown, not to mention the vanishing of over $4 trillion in home equities. Soon there may be nothing left to vanish.

Wonder where it vanished? Maybe it was an illusion after all, something that we psyched ourselves into believing was there. It reminds me of my first million of equities in land investments when I was about 30. I proudly sent the financial statement to my father, a Great Depression-era child, a skeptic when it came to esoteric “equities.” All he saw was the corresponding debt.

But I did have about $10,000 in cash, and he allowed as how that was a pretty good start towards becoming a millionaire. Of course, you know what happened in 1974…the same as is happening in 2008. The Vanishing Act ~ déjà vu.

We even have a President who has evolved into irrelevance in a short 8 years. He seemed to vanish to safe places when crises occurred. Hollywood could not compete with the scenarios that fate seemed to gleefully delight in dealing out. From “lying low” when 9/11 happened to “low-down lying” about WMD in Iraq, our Chief # 43 was adept at vanishing and leaving the mess for others to clean up.

The caricature of W by Mike Luckovich seemed to offer up some thoughts on this subject of vanishing, and I trust he will forgive me for passing this on to you.

The Communists prefer to preserve for perpetuity their Ideologues by entombing them in glass coffins for public viewing. I witnessed this while in Tiananmen Square recently. Thousands parade daily by Mao Zedong’s tomb, paying homage to his lifeless body while purchasing memorabilia and other junk. Communism and capitalism coexist nicely!

Twice a year the Chairman is taken to Moscow for re-cosmeticization. Unthawed, he is given a chemical bath and complete makeover. He is then re-frozen and shipped back to Beijing. Some say he looks younger and his eyes have a more benevolent gaze these days. In China, the past is always present.

And it’s much the same for Vladimir Lenin, the Icon of Communism, who died at age 53 and who has been on public display since 1924. Unfortunately, the chemical baths have not retarded the rot and green decay that creeps up from his extremities. Which is pretty creepy in itself. I guess if you’re into metaphors, this might be a good one for the long-term state of Communism.

Even The Vatican is into this preservation act. In St. Peter’s Basilica, I saw Good Pope John sleeping soundly, if not too silently to suit me, in his glass enclosure. He looked very happy, and I’m sure this gave affirmation and great comfort to the Faithful of his sainted stature. Catholics have vivid imaginations!

But not Americans. We soon tire of our leaders and are glad when they finally vanish. And it’s a pretty good time for Chief # 43 to pull his final vanishing act, too---he’s running a little short of stature left to vanish. Maybe Chief # 39 will finally take a hint!

On January 20, 2009, W will flash for the last time that smirky grin and finally vanish into the obscurity of the tumble weeds of West Texas, shouting as he leaves, “Mission Accomplished!”

God will have blessed America once again, and lets hope He hangs around for a long time to come!

Bud Hearn
December 4, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Yarn-Spinner's Christmas Grab Bag

The Yarn-Spinner’s Christmas Grab Bag

In a few weeks we will again be asked to believe in the improbable: That reindeer can fly, sleds sail through air, elves jingle and a fat man in a red suit slides down chimneys. Yes, it’s Christmas again.

We also ask the same question every year about this time: “What do you want for Christmas?” And we usually get, and give, the same vapid answers: “I don’t know,” or, “Oh, I don’t need anything,” or more stupidly, “Whatever you do, don’t spend much money.” Familiar? Another desperate cycle of Christmas shopping!

It’s true, of course that we don’t really “need” much…but we surely do “want” something nonetheless. An “Amen” here is appropriate! How about a real surprise this year…no more socks, slippers, cookbooks, and PLEASE, no more pot-pourri. Opt for the bold, the creative, and for once in your life, go all-out wild for Christmas.

But “How,” we wonder? Gifts do not appear by some stroke of magic just because we wait until the last minute, and we always end up with the Christmas Blues again---but wait! This year Santa’s special emissary, The Island Yarn-Spinner, is offering some truly unique gift ideas from his grab bag…gifts certain to dazzle, amuse, entertain, insult, horrify, recycle and exchange, and some rules for shopping.

Gifts for The Frugal: For Stocking Stuffers try the banks…they’re loaded now with jars of candy and ball-point pens, as well as gifts for patrons, like beer mugs, coffee cups, Frisbees, ice coolers, note pads and key rings, yours for the taking. Cost? Free…Load up early and often.

Gift Boxes: Buy large quantities of specialty retailer’s boxes, like Tiffany’s and Neiman-Marcus, and fill the gaily wrapped boxes with very cheap merchandise. Who’ll suspect? Cost? About $20.

For Unwanted Relatives: “Ah, Mom, not THEM again?” Yes, Aunt Maude and Uncle Eldo… for such there are great choices at the island drug stores, cornucopias of useless trinkets like Robot Pickup, magic tricks, magnifying glasses, bulging eyes on slinky springs, incense sticks and assorted elixirs for all pains, real and imagined. For the lot, about $30, and you’ll get an unparalleled bonus: they will never spend Christmas with you again!

Flowers: Thoughtful…says a lot about the giver. Try the cheap silk ones at the flea market…great choices, though a bit dusty. Cost? Less than $20. Lasts forever.

For the Discerning Shopper: Try Fine Art. Much can be had everywhere, though the term, “fine art,” is a relative one. Quilts, blankets, velvet Elvises and sunsets can be negotiated with roadside gypsies on the cheap…and with shocked disbelief, your recipient will gasp, “Wow, too nice, too nice.” Caution: all sales are final.

Jewelry. Beware …sleazy New York carpetbaggers infiltrate the South peddling jewelry…the term, “satisfaction guaranteed,” is suspect. Advice? Avoid alcoholic eggnog when shopping for jewelry. But for an ephemeral bargain, “gold” Rolexes with “real” diamond bezels can be had on some street corners for as little as $50. OK, so the “gold” fades in about 2 weeks, and it stops recording time altogether…but hey, what does last these days?…it was Made in China. A heart-stopper.

Clothing. Generally smart to avoid. But if you must, try shopping online, www.Harley, and have it delivered right to your door. “It?” you ask? Yes, those sought-after leather “intimates” your spouse always wanted. Think Marlon Brando here and go wild! Choices unlimited, but pricey.

Disguises and Pretenses. Christmas is incomplete without glitter and flash. The cheap way out? Splurge on big boxes, expensive wrapping paper and ribbons, and fill them with such tasteless frivolities as:
Handbags made of recycled tire tubes…chic this year. Cost? $11.95
Photographs of your mother-in-law, framed by an old toilet lid found on a construction site. Cost? Free…her look, Priceless! Hang in guest bedroom for added effect.
Hub-cap wind chimes for a neighbor. Cost? $25, and a neighbor who will avoid you forever…a real winner.
Spam, a caviar substitute suitable for hors d’oeuvre in certain circles.
A year’s gift certificate for Waffle House hash-browns.
And for real shock and awe, write and circulate your own obituary or eulogy. Never leave such important matters to others, ‘because nobody knows the real facts better than you. Even if you survive 2009, it can be posted at conspicuous places as reminders to employees or friends of your importance.

Some Don’ts for the Last Minute Shopper:
Never give your wife a homemade fur coat, no matter what the price.
Chainsaws, while utilitarian, are not acceptable as musical instruments.
Never purchase jewelry at any hardware store.
Wine as a gift is acceptable, but not in cardboard or plastic containers.

Look, Christmas is not for sissies…so when time gets short, as it will, your nerves frazzled and ideas stifled, then take that plunge into the Yarn-Spinner’s Grab Bag and make it a memorable Christmas. And if the gifts bomb out on Christmas morning, just remember two things: First, you can blame it on others, as you have done for everything else that failed in your life; and Secondly, leave the “From” name off of the gift card, feign ignorance and “Deny, Deny, Deny.”

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…” and again this year he will not disappoint!

So, for 2008, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night...”. Just don’t forget what Christmas is really all about.

Bud Hearn
December 1, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"You Are Not Alone Out There..." A Barnyard Dialogue

You Are Not Alone Out There….”
A Barnyard Dialogue

Last night I dreamed I was a turkey named Tom…it was a nightmare.

From whence cometh such visions of horror but from a glut of the fruit of the vine or the dredging up of seething subconscious offal from another time, or life—Yikes, was I once a Hindu? Scary!

Perhaps I had not reconciled the time when, while jogging on a Thanksgiving morning on a country road, some near-sighted Dick Cheney type mistook me for a turkey and loaded me up with # 6 birdshot. Whatever.

In a few days we will all gather with family and friends and gobble through that annual ritual of overeating called Thanksgiving. It’s a 9/11 event in the lives of unsuspecting turkeys, a day that will live in infamy for millions of steroid-stuffed birds that have, co-incidentally, literally been eating farmers out of house and home for weeks. Turnabout is fair play!

I doubt if a gobbler’s attitude is assuaged much by hearing Flintstone the Farmer justify the situation by saying, “Tom, you are not alone.” Surely it would ring hollow, a cruel, mocking slur, even to a bird, and in no way endear Flintstone to his flock. Besides, the axe hanging over the chopping block cast a malevolent shadow as a constant reminder to the birds that something ominous could happen at any time.

The barnyard dialogue that ensued might have gone somewhat as follows:

Tom: “Say, Flintstone, I’m a little confused—why have you been feasting us for months now…what’s the deal?”

Flintstone: “Tom, you are a Royal Bird, bred to be King of the Table, and one day you will lie in state there.” (Flintstone, a bird-psychology major at Auburn University, was head of the turkey debating team and had earned many awards against turkeys…Clearly, Tom was no match for him.)

But Tom, apparently sensing the gravity of the situation, did his best to counter the claims of Flintstone. “Do I have a choice in this matter…can we negotiate?” Tom gobbled.

Look, Tom”, said Flintstone, “you’ve been gouging yourself for months on my fine Purina pellets, and you strut around the yard like you own the place…why, you have more hen admirers than you deserve, all because of my generosity. It’s time for a payback, Pal.”

But must it be so severe, what with the bludgeoning of the axe and the embarrassment of the ritual?” Tom cackled.

Tom,” Flintstone retorted, “you fat, feathered ingrate, consider the luxurious lifestyle you’ve enjoyed for so long…look, there’s a quid pro quo for everything.”

Revolution circulated in the barnyard air as Tom drew a vocal and sympathetic crowd with his logic---anarchy seemed inevitable, and anarchy in the barnyard is never a good thing. Flintstone slipped the noose over Tom’s neck as he led him to the block. Raising the axe high, with one mighty downward thrust the axe fell, glistening in the sunlight as it sliced through the air towards the supple, outstretched neck.

Instantly my eyes opened, the dream ended. Suddenly I was no longer a turkey, about to be beheaded, but myself again. Whew…dodged death again. I must have fallen asleep reading the Wall Street Journal, because when my eyes opened I saw these familiar headlines again: Dow Tanks, $9 Trillion of Wealth up in Smoke, GM Begs for Bailout, $700 Billion a Drop in the Bucket and Investors Beheaded by Fraud.

It’s dangerous being a turkey these days, even an investor-turkey. I don’t advise it. And there’s scant comfort in being told, “You are not alone out there.” In the tradition of Thanksgiving, it is good to know that we can put aside some things for the greater purpose of reunification, even if it’s just for a day, and thank God we are not alone out there…never have been, never will be.

As you prepare for the holiday, remember one important thing: Never dream about turkeys at Thanksgiving!

November 20, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Voice...Reminiscences of the Past

The Voice....
Reminiscences of the Past

The red light on the answering machine blinked rhythmically in the dark room as he entered. It was a cold November night, and something warm was necessary.

Who’s calling,” he wondered? He pressed the “play” button, and it responded instantly with a Voice...so soft and smooth—its Southern comfort oozed through the ethereal mystery of the wireless air into the answering machine. It was feminine, to be sure.

The voice was one of those that has body—presence, one might say—that fills all the empty spaces of a room. It was the kind of a voice that had kind hands that reached through and grasped--invisible eyes that pierced the hard surface of the soul and melted it as hot butter. It had arms that reached out to hold, to hug, to cling, to embrace.

It was a voice with a growing smile that could be felt deeply in the heart, a smile that mesmerizes the attention and by its gaze holds one helpless as in a trance. In short, it was a voice to which, no matter what the question, could only be answered, "Yes." The voice could soothe the hard creases of the day’s turmoil, lightening the listener’s load with its quiet confidence.

And as though magical, it was a voice that vaporized all barriers and the listener was only to be able to utter a weak and feeble, "Yes," to its plea.

It was also the kind of a voice that causes a momentary flash of insight, a moment so shockingly revealing that it carries a death sentence to pretense. It was a voice that created moments so brilliant with light that none could endure the full-length feature and be left unchanged. And it was a voice that revealed in that nuclear flash just what and who the listener is, and was...an insight like the flash of lightening that fractures the night’s darkness, revealing the extent of the storm's damage.

The voice was one that had an almost timeless quality in its tone, not of melancholy so much as of the remembrance of a childhood past with its pleasant memories of long days without care , merging both time and place into a cohesive whole.

Immediately the lyrics of an old Eagles tune occurred to him:

“Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense, but this is the end,
This is the end of the innocence

And he knew that innocence had been lost, like the voice, in the layers of things urgent, things real, things necessary.

Yes, he remembered that he had come so far, so fast, and where had the years gone, but then doesn’t everyone wonder? He reflected on the fact that in each of our lives there is that same “small town voice” that was so familiar for so many years. Where had those years gone, he pondered.

Leaving the room dark so as to continue the mood, he sat quietly, replaying the recording of The Voice again and again, seeing in his mind’s eye the very picture of the caller and wishing for more.

But there was no more…only the repetitive playing of the answering machine into the hollow darkness of the room, asking the same simple question each time it played. That voice was somewhere else now, and he knew it was irretrievable. Could he have held it? No, that is the way with voices.

This was a voice from the past, a voice of long ago...it was silent now. But it was not forgotten. For as honey is sweet and smooth to the taste, so the voice was soothing to the soul, and his toil seemed lighter. As he played it one last time he thought, “It’s the voice of unequivocal love that made it so special,” and he knew its words would be etched in his memory forever.

He smiled as he returned to the present time, refreshed as only such a voice can do. The question kept resounding in his mind, and he knew the answer he’d reply. It was, of course, “Yes!”

In its gracious southern drawl, unhurried as was the whole of its life, the voice asked simply, “Will you be home for Thanksgiving, son?"

It was the voice of my mother, c. 1988...a plea from heaven.

Happy Thanksgiving

Bud Hearn
November 18, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Christmas Madness...A Dog's Survival Kit

Christmas Madness…..A Dog’s Survival Kit

The Christmas clock ticks, ticks, ticks…near, nearer … here. The waning seconds scream out the tyranny of the urgent. Santa will have to be prepared for his role, and there is shopping to do, food to cook, family to feed, cards to write, houses to decorate, parties to attend, toys to assemble…Oh, that we had more time.

Christmas is not all that easy to endure, for humans or dogs. Much is written about the joys of Christmas, but what of its travails? Survival kits are plentiful for humans, but what about dogs?

There’s nothing quite like hearing directly from a dog how to enjoy and to cope with Christmas. Of course, Mac, an alter ego, is chewing my leg off for his turn at the computer, so, what the heck…I give him to you for his own story. Mac, it’s all yours, pal.

“Well, finally. Hi, my name is MacDuff, a solid 25 pound ball of snow-white fur and scion of a fine litter with venerable Scottish lineage. I am a 35 year old (dog years, that is) West Highland terrier, bred for fierce rodent hunting and amorous adventures. I must candidly admit to being extremely territorial and curious, especially when it comes to food. My name should have been “Hoover,” since I resemble a small vacuum cleaner, and I practice keeping my nose to the floor, lest any food morsels be left for spiders or other lesser creatures.

I have a live-in girl friend whose name is Sophie, also a Westie. But due to certain procedures early in our lives, we have only a platonic relationship, which really is not all that bad. It solves a multitude of nocturnal notions and makes for an undisturbed night’s sleep. I consult with her on many things, but I am the resident authority on how to survive, and to prosper, during Christmas.

On my first Christmas I was about 3 dog-years old. At that age nobody knows what to expect and neither did my mentor, Trey, himself 6 months old, human-age, that is. We had a lot in common, Trey and I. The first thing we did was to crawl around the house staking out our respective territories by you-know-what method. I claimed the Christmas tree, many times, I might add, certain table legs and a few suspicious packages. He preferred several select spots on the carpet.

More importantly, we could, and did, use the “innocence of age” to our advantage, provoking only laughter and photo ops as we lurched headlong into the gleaming packages under the big tree in the living room. It was a package demolition derby. Trey must have been only curious, but I was hungry…and the only rebuke I got that first year was when I tore into that finely-wrapped fruit cake…believe me, an innocent look overcomes a lot of wrath!

Two lessons remain from that first Christmas: Lesson One, opening packages is great “attack” training for rodents: stalk, crouch and pounce, especially at night when lights are out. One night as I was preparing for the drill, I heard footsteps tiptoe down the stairs. I slinked back into the shadows, and who should show up but Alex, who was 35 years old too…only he’s human. He must have been on a black-ops training mission too, because he began to shake, smell, and peek into packages he thought might hold something of value. After he left, I resumed my secret mission and ripped into many of the more opulently wrapped packages, knowing I could blame it on someone else. A back-up blame plan is always a good thing!

Lesson Two: Name tags on presents are irrelevant if you’re a dog or baby human, simply because neither of us read very well at this age. They’re all “fair game,” and you get yourself into many pictures this way. It is good training for perfecting that innocent, “Who, me?” look, which will get you a long way in life. And you can further “beg off” by licking the hand or face of your tormentor…what a deal if they happen to have food morsels---or have just eaten fried chicken.

I learned that first Christmas also that we had a certain, shall we say, “appeal power.” We were both cute, I guess, but since I had no diapers to soil, I was petted and hugged more often. And if I rolled over on command, I usually received a “treat.” I rolled over often, I might add, from that time on. And I noticed Trey did, too.

There are certain “indignities” we dogs must endure at Christmas. You would be surprised to see all the goofy paraphernalia that can come in a package. For example, I hear, “Mac, come here.” I know it’s bad news. And what do we have here? Why, a tight-fitting red, blue and yellow Superman suit with a bright red cape….you guessed it, suddenly I’m dressed in that silly costume, hooked to my leash and paraded about. Photographs are made ad nauseam, and I continue to be the brunt of jokes and the laughing-stock of the neighborhood. A simple big red ribbon would have accomplished the same thing, and cheaper, too (I’m a Scot, don’t forget).

Being a boy dog, though, I am saved some of the hideous outfits reserved for Sophie. For example, one year she was outfitted with candy-cane antlers and a red scarf…and she looked none too pleased. Another year was a tight-fitting pink…yes, pink…body suit. Oh, our parents think all this is cute, and I suppose it should be taken in a light-hearted way. Heck, they were babies once themselves, and had to endure similar humiliations.

Another great lesson I learned about Christmas survival is that food flows freely, especially cookies, cheese and chips. But there’s a real talent to getting it from the table into my mouth. Yes, I have perfected that method, too. How? The “pack leader,” that’s my daddy-parent, is a strict disciplinarian, but he is a sucker for my “hang-dog” look. While no food will fall from his hand when mommy is anywhere around, he continues to “buy” our friendship with meager crumbs from multiple sources. I’ll follow him to his grave!

Guests and other family members are easier prey, since, like grandparents, they know they can feed us and go home, leaving the ensuing mess to be cleaned up by someone else...and there will be a mess!

Dogs have some special advantages at Christmas. First of all, we can avoid all the hassles of shopping and decoration that are so critical and that invoke such human distemper. Divorces are mild in comparison. Secondly, we are only expected to remain out of sight and can escape the “drama of cleanup.” But maybe best of all we can sleep soundly when the credit card bills come in the mail, knowing that about half of the stuff will be returned for credit.

No survival kit is complete without instructions of how to avoid the injustice of being shuttled off for days to the yucky “pet hotel” while parents are away recovering from Christmas. First of all, it must be remembered that it will happen. Sickness is the best solution, so the ingestion of healthy doses of green grass, nuts, dried roots or other items found along the sidewalk are mandatory. Rolling in rotted mushrooms or other such perfumed backyard discoveries will help. The object is to invoke a guilt complex so that a suitable in-house dog sitter will arrive…and boy, how easy they are to manipulate!

I could go on, but what’s the use. Experience is the best teacher, and besides, it’s fun learning new techniques. I guess it might be fair to say that Christmas is easier for dogs, simply because it takes so little to satisfy us. Maybe that’s a good lesson for humans…it’s certainly a cheaper way to spend Christmas.

I hear the rustling of food sacks, so I must run. But I think that there’s a certain familial peace about Christmas, like being a part of something big…just to savor the moments is a joy. Dogs don’t try to figure out the science of the improbable, like fat men in red suits who come down chimneys, or reindeer that fly, or sleds that sail through the air…No, it’s superfluous for our enjoyment. Dogs just take it for granted and believe it, not unlike Trey and I did. It just goes to show you that “believing is seeing,” not “seeing is believing.”

“And I heard him exclaim as he rode out of sight, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Merry Christmas, 2008.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

A New Idea...And a Cold Drink of Water

A New Idea…
And a Cold Drink of Water

A new idea is a stick of dynamite. It can get you killed, especially in small towns.

Fond memories of the little town of my youth include this oft-recited myth:

“A new idea and a cold drink of water, taken together, will kill you.”

It swirled in the “dust devils” that transplanted the topsoil and shimmered in the “heat monkeys” that rose from asphalt roads turned liquid in the stifling summer meltdowns. It was preached on every corner and in every church, not so much in words, but in the winks, the nods, the habits and thought patterns inbred into generation after incestuous generation.

Dangerous, you say? Why? Because new ideas step on toes, change things, and tend to upset the status quo, the perceived, predictable and traditional ways of doing things. If anyone were foolish enough to attempt to upset a small-town status quo or the existing power structure, fresh rope would suddenly appear, and the hapless innovator would receive swift recompense administered by local white-hooded vigilantes.

A hot air balloon rose from a field in France, observed by Alexander Graham Bell and a friend. It floated over some trees, coming rest in a field tended by peasants with pitchforks, whereupon it was violently assaulted, collapsing lifelessly in the loess. The friend asked Dr. Bell, “Now what good was that hot air balloon experiment?” Dr. Bell replied, “What good is any new-born baby?”

My mother was always trying new ideas to get me to eat liver. She pleaded in her best logic, “But son, it’s good for you”. She soon learned that logic is not the best motivator of stupid kids. Her last attempt to trick me into eating that foul meat went sideways on her. Its malodorous stench hung in the humid air for blocks in our neighborhood, and people fled their homes, gasping for breath. That episode finally broke her will, and she abandoned all further ideas and efforts of trickery.

My grandmother had better luck with the squash. She had baked it in lemon skins, and it was terrific, to which I said, “Jewel (that was her name, and she was one helluva cook!), this is the best baked lemon I ever ate.” Like I said, kids may be stupid, but good food overcomes logic every time! I love squash to this day, and still hate liver.

One Sunday, my mother in tow, I revisited after some 20 year’s absence the little Methodist Church of my youth. We sat in the second row left, near the altar. After the service, two elderly ladies rushed up to me, saying, “Bud, we barely recognized you…you were not in your usual place.” I guess I still looked stupid, so they said, “Your place was always…always…in the back right, not the front left.” There you have it…the status quo, alive and well…and me, a revolutionary iconoclast!

I suppose I should have told them that while in my Atlanta Methodist Church I had swallowed a new idea, and it seemed to be working. Repentance is one of those “new ideas”, you know, and it always has an Audience. I had changed my mind about some things, so that now I actually enjoy sitting up front, lower left, as close to the action as I can get.

Thomas A. Edison experimented with over 1,000 gas combinations to find one that worked in the electric light bulb. Before success arrived, he was asked, “Dr. Edison, have you failed?” He replied, “No, I have succeeded in finding 1,000 combinations that won’t work.” You are reading this now because his new idea continues to explode in the face of status quo darkness.

Historical events, like our recent election, often do not “create” new paradigms as much as they “reveal” new eras, pregnant with possibilities. Our President-elect took some new ideas, swallowed them with a big gulp of cold water, and burst headlong into history. So long, status quo!

We have the choice: nurture the new, or rot in the ruins of a crumbling status quo…we can’t do both. Do you have a new idea? Then fill the glass, slug it down…and light the fuse!

November 13, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Ticket to Ride...Election Closure

A Ticket to Ride….
Election Closure

“…She said that living with me is bringing her down, for she would never be free when I was around…She’s got a ticket to ride…” The Beatles

November 5th dawned dull, gray and dreary on the Georgia coast, and for some still in the fetal position, it augured insight on the “next four years.” But not today, which dawned glorious, sunny, in the 70’s with a promise just as big.

The election was over, votes counted, and a new face emerged victorious. A different face, perhaps, but then they are all different. And after two long years, closure is needed.

Last night Carolyn, Julie, Will, Thomas and I chose the Brunswick Carnival for rides, food and childhood laughs. We walked through the menagerie of lights, sounds, crowds, games and rides. We had tickets to ride, and ride we did: The Yoyo, the Inverter, Bumper cars, Circus Train, Power Surge, Haunted Mansion, and best of all, the Mega-Drop… Oh, yeah, a 150 foot vertical drop, a heart-stopper! Thrills overcame political disgust, and if the faces there were representative, nobody cared who won or lost. It was all a long way off!

Somehow we managed to keep the corn dogs, hot dogs, cotton candy and funnel cakes within us instead upon us. Somewhere during the death-defying excitement, it occurred to me that a Carnival is the perfect metaphor for a political election (Ok, Ok, you have yours, I have mine).

There we all were, Americana egalitarianism living it up:
“…ain’t that America for you and me, ain’t that America, something to see, ain’t that America, land of the free…” J. Mellencamp
We were all getting along, smiling, laughing, screaming, having a good time and forgetting politics.

But that was yesterday. Today we are all as segregated in our individualism as we were united in our enthusiasm last night. That’s not a bad thing. While we can unite in some things, we can disagree in others. It’s a healthy balance.

Voter approval of 51.6% does not a mandate make. And this election, though “historic” by the peculiarities of this nation, will ultimately be judged not by color, or rhetoric, or enthusiasm, but by a cohesive governing policy of inclusiveness for 300 million plus citizens. When future academics or aliens exhume and dissect the trash heaps of has-been republics, what will they find of us? Our “moments” will be assigned their own specificity gravity as history deems merited.

The body politick, like the body physical, is not only part unity by nature, but also part divisive by design. Nature has declared it bloody, tooth and nail. The “middle” is its balance, and hence its health. Seismic events shift the balance, but not permanently. We have been taught that united we stand, divided we fall,” a partial truth…but it is balanced by another truth, “divided we stand, united we fall.” Balance should always have a seat at our republic’s table.

The process of governing will soon begin, and the victors and the vanquished will regroup…the victors in entrenched protection, and the vanquished, re-arming for the next attack. The middle--that small sand spit that divides--is the hallowed battleground. So,

Let those who now gloat remember the tune,
And those who now groan, the pain will end soon
But neither should stay in the condition they’ve found
For what goes around, soon comes back ‘round!

The Carnival---and could we say politics as well?-- is about rides that swing up and down, around and around-- railroads in circles, trains going nowhere, lights that dazzle, fake facades, cheap trinkets for the masses. The illusion…it’s magical at night, but in the light of day just another field full of steel hulks and trailers, waiting for the nighttime illusion and the crowds. And both will come!

Yes, it’s a new day in America, whatever that means…and we have a ticket to ride! “Buy the ticket, take the ride!” HST, R.I.P.

November 6, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shoes...Shed 'em at the Back Door, Please!

Shed ‘em at the Back Door, Please!

We have a Rule at our house about street shoes: Shuck ‘em and shed ‘em at the back door! So, there they are, six pairs of shoes lying lifeless in the wicker basket in the back foyer, waitin’ for tomorrow.

It was not always that way, of course. The Rule was initiated some years ago by our daughter, Leslie, who is somewhat obsessive about certain things. While she will preserve the life of spiders, lady bugs and other small creatures, capturing them and turning them loose outside, she is ruthless with dust and grime. I suspect her floors would pass muster with St. Peter and assure her entrance into Heaven.

But like all new habits, parading around the house in bare feet took some getting used to, not to mention the embarrassment of explaining to visitors that unless they removed their shoes we’d have to do our visiting through the screen door, so to speak. But after several stern lectures and demonstrations of exactly what clung to the soles of shoes, and with no loss of friends, we capitulated. This was brought vividly to mind recently on our trip to China.

Get this picture: Here we are, tired after a day of touring, and Martha is sitting there on the bus exhausted, massaging her foot…with her shoe on, clearly oblivious to the gooey gook that covered the bottom of it. “Martha, WHAT are you doing? Can’t you see what’s on your shoe,” I shouted? Realizing what she was doing, she recoiled, “Oh, Yuck, look at that slimy goop dripping from my shoe,” frantically grabbing handfuls of Wet Wipes and scrubbing her hands and feet mercilessly. And parenthetically speaking, we mostly avoided contact with Martha for quite a while afterwards!

Now, reflect for a moment and you will see the wisdom of the slight inconvenience of leaving your shoes at the back door. Why, just think of where your shoes have walked on any given day. Imagine, as my daughter pointed out, the creepy-crawly germs and pathogens that find their way from shoe soles into your fine silk rugs and wool carpets. Imagine them clinging to your feet and crawling up your body as you get into bed, or to the animals that sleep with you? Can you get that picture? You will soon become the perfect host…and your home the perfect habitat and filthy incubator of these deadly microbes (well, sometimes I may exaggerate).

Hogwash, you say…but before you dismiss this idea as sheer lunacy, consider some its advantages:

• Bare feet return us to childhood, which in these times some escapism is a good thing…what child ever worried about the stock market or who got elected to anything?
• Your poor feet will say “Thanks” for letting them breathe fresh air for awhile…”fresh air,” you say? Yeah, just take a whiff of the inside of any of your shoes and you’ll know about “fresh air!”
• Then there’s always the freedom of propping your feet on any of the furniture, tables or counters with impunity and without fear of contamination or hearing that dreaded admonition from you-know-who, “GET your feet off that!”

And the list goes on and on…

There may be some symbolic meaning hidden within this inane vignette for you philosophic types who like to dig into the esoteric meandering of such minds as mine. Go ahead, have at it, but I offer this obvious tip: The Shoe Rule offers us the daily opportunity to leave some of the world’s crud at the back door when we get home, and I don’t know about you, but as for me I like to shake today’s contaminated cruddy dust off of my feet and leave it outside…it’ll be there tomorrow when I put the shoes back on!

So, “Shuck ‘em, Shed ‘em and Park ‘em at the back door…they won’t leave home without you!

October 30, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stuff Happens...Call Joe the Plumber

Stuff Happens…
Call Joe the Plumber

I knew all along you could not be trusted with money.

I go to China for a few weeks and look what happened…you let the markets sink, credit seize up and $9 trillion of wealth leak out. It must have been one hell of a party you had. The whole plumbing system is now stopped up, and leaks are spurting everywhere in the house and yard! What did you put down the drains? Now we have to call Joe the Plumber to get things fixed.

I called Joe, but he was busy explaining his dilemma to Barack, and like all the other plumbers, he “promised” to get by as soon as he could ~ as soon as his celebrity status ended. You know Joe, the Toledo Pretender…claimed he was a Master Plumber, but was nothing more than an apprentice. “Not to worry,” he advised…”try the old remedies first, then call me back.”

You know these: Infusion, Ingestion and Intrusion. “Infuse” the system with excessive amounts of that caustic chemical Drain-O and watch the toxic poisons bubble out and fill the air with poisonous gases. Didn’t work, Joe.

OK,” he said, “now try ‘Ingesting’ Rid-X into the sewer lines.” Did that, and while the septic caldron boiled and rumbled, the problem persisted. Panic now…. “Joe, Help, our options are running out, and we have another party scheduled.” Not to worry.

Finally… here comes Joe, driving a used Brinks truck, and toting a large Roto Rooter with a camera attached. Drastic measures are at hand with a Roto Rooter…some of you have had that experience, I suspect. Well, grinding and grating ensued, and the breakthrough began. The camera inserted into the system reveals the problems clearly, and we now see where the leaks are. Whew, things will soon flow again…maybe we can have another party soon! Thanks, Joe!

Now, Joe the Plumber comes from a long line of venerable leak-pluggers. Originally, plumbers were experts with the use of molten lead to plug leaky cracks. Lately, the financial system has taken to alchemizing lead into gold, but as we’ve seen, it was lead all along, and the pipes wouldn’t hold the pressure of the system-overload. And come to find out, the financiers were not really licensed plumbers either, just apprentices overloading the system, having fun at the party.

We can trust our political leaders to stop leaks, right? Well, before you put too much stock in these solutions, remember President Nixon’s “Watergate Seven Plumbers” who attempted to plug the media pipes…remember that spectacle? Sorry…keep Joe’s number handy.

Want a perspective? This week was the birthday of Dr. Timothy Leary, leader of the League of Spiritual Discovery (“LSD” for the illiterati). He was jailed for experimentation with hallucinogens and psychedelics long before they became popular. Wall Street has now hooked Main Street into experimenting with these financial hallucinogens for the last 15 years or so, better termed “Magical Thinking.” Well, Good Morning, America…the hangover is just beginning, and no “morning-after” pill will eliminate the debauchery of this party. Reality has set in ~ the drug-induced state of the last several years is now an ugly past.

Infusion, Ingesting and Intrusion…thanks to Hank, the Treasury Department Plumber, we may yet get the system unclogged, the leaks repaired and the house in order for another party.

Unfortunately, the bill has arrived…and like Joe’s invoice, it is more than we can pay. No, the party will have to wait, but in the meantime, we can certainly live on the memories of the bacchanalian excesses we’ve had. And I hope that one day we may again say, “Let the good times roll.”

October 23, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Living in Slang...Part II


Living in Slang…
Part II

Well, since news travels a day faster in China, I knew that the Senate would finally cave in and “rip off” the American public again. So “what’s new?” And not that there’s not some more juicy news out there, like the Palin/Biden debate, which would be the better of choices for this week’s “advance” Friday Forum newsletter. At the barber shop one can get all one needs to know about nearly anything, and I got an “ear-full” as Donna chopped off my hair for the Chinese Idol show I’ve applied for. And the topic du jour was not golf, at is usually is, but politics. So, here are a few “tid-bits” for you to “chow down on” in my absence.

The “good old boy” network of pundits and handlers of the VP candidates have been busy working on the debate format and “gum up the works” by idiotic questions. The barbershop pundits decided that Palin should declare “bring it on” and “let her rip” as she takes out her skinning knife and pounds it into the podium. Biden would then begin to “laugh out of the other side of his mouth” as he tried to calm the cheering male crowd who knows that “if worst comes to worst,” Palin “would have the upper hand” in the fight.

Of course, the Feminist Movement is “hard as nails” and will soon “go to hell in a hand basket” if Palin becomes VP, which would make things “as funny as a crutch” and as “serious as a heart attack” to their “fools paradise” of world domination and control by peaceful means. It would be the final “nail in the coffin” of the flawed concept of “last man out “ideology they’ve been trying to “feather their nest with.”

The “matter of life and death” knife-in-the-podium concept “has legs,” since the years have been “few and far between” since such debating techniques occurred…duels were the “fair and square” way of “meeting one’s Waterloo” and settling divisive issues between contestants, like “public hanging” was with its propensity to attract crowds. I am not saying that barbershop discussions are the “be all, end all,” but it does “pack a wallop” and require contestants to “put up your dukes”

Of course, I don’t want to “rub salt in the wound” of Biden, a diminutive man of mind and stature, but he should be made to “put up or shut up” to the challenge. It would certainly “bring down the curtain” if he did and “pass the buck” to others to “fill the bill.” Or is that “fill the Bill,” a payback to the Clintons for their “grace and charm” in it all.

Enough of this inane slang and idiomatic idioms by an idiot. But at least I am “open and aboveboard” about things, and having “one foot in the grave” helps. And I’m not interested in “buying another pig in a poke,” nor am I “the pot calling the kettle black” kind of fellow. In conclusion, I have “passed the point of no return,” so I’ll “save face” by ending. Just “put this in your pipe and smoke it,” but don’t inhale!

October 16, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Living in Slang....Part I


Living in Slang...
Part I

We live in a culture of idiomatic sayings, and sometimes it's interesting to take a number of these idioms and slang expressions, cobble them together with some current event, and come up with a coherent utterance. At least it is interesting to the bored and A-type nuts who find little opportunity in real estate these days. So, I've taken the credit crisis and come up with a few expressions that might serve to edify, or at least confuse, aliens from another planet or country. Try these on...

Finally the "moment of truth" has arrived, and our leaders have shown themselves impotent...but we knew that already, and it's "business as usual," whereby the bailout "deal on a napkin" has now morphed into a 400-plus document that attempts to solve the "whole kit and caboodle" of everybody's needs.

Of course, we're all being asked to "swallow our pride" as our future as a viable empire "hangs in the balance". The "flash-in-the-pan fat cats" have made off with billions, and "hung us out to dry” while they figured us for "easy pickens", saturated with "egg on our faces" for being so gullible. What nerve, to ask us to "hang in there?"

But "misery loves company," and there is certainly plenty of company to go around while "the fat is in the fire." Since lately "no news is good news," the leaders have assured us that we have "dodged the bullet" of the dire consequences of "the eleventh hour," and we should have no "bone to pick" with them when this is over.

Of course, we fell "so head over heels" for their "dirty tricks" as they "pulled the wool over our eyes" we are barely "hanging by a thread" and can now read clearly "the handwriting on the wall." The shifty Wall Streeters "ran circles around us," and about all the power we have is to be able to "run off at the mouth" and "eat humble pie" until the sorry mess has "run its course."

Well, you can "eat your heart out" if you sold Wachovia in time, but for the rest of us, we will soon "have to pay the piper" for being "penny wise and pound foolish." With "other things being equal, “it seems to be an "open-and-shut-case" of serious criminal behavior, and I hope they "throw the book at” the "movers and shakers" and "eat their lunch" while they still have some.

Well, in conclusion, and to "make a long story short," I guess we'll have to "make the best of a bad situation" and "make some hay while the sun still shines." So, "make no bones about it," my friends, I'm clearly "the low man on the totem pole" here, and while I'm getting pretty "long in the tooth," I intend to continue to "live dangerously". And now, the "long and short of it" having been said, I'm going to "lay low for awhile" and in the process, be certain to "let no grass grow under my feet."

See you soon, while I have "one more for the road..."scotch, that is, single malt, and a double ! Greetings from China.

October 9, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Windsock...Nature's Warning Device


The Windsock...
Nature’s Warning Device

“The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, The answer is blowin' in the wind."
Bob Dylan

The Windsock... a simple but infallible indicator of wind direction and relative wind speed. It was imported from Japan and China and today hangs in the center of airfields. On an airfield, it is actually more practical than symbolic, but it does have symbolic application. It is unwise to ignore its advice…do so at your own peril.

So again, we’re importing helpful means from abroad to solve our dilemmas. Today’s dilemma? Funding a $700 billion solution to our credit crisis.

From the hangar office I can see it, and often metaphoricalize the windsock. I'm trying to do that as I attempt to digest the declension of our Empire that is requiring the massive $700 billion bailout of banking systems…hard to tell which way the wind is blowing just now, or how it will blow when this whirlwind has moved on ...as it will. The picture in my mind is of the devastation of Ike, the wind that just blew through Texas.

Smiling faces dominated the scene at Saturday's midnight announcement that an agreement in principle has been arrived at...I wondered what they were smiling for, in scorn or in mockery of the folks...us...who would be financing this method of relief. But there they were, hovering around Barney, flanked by Nancy, shadowed by Harry and lesser "Pillars of Principles" in the background for "show of support." I wondered on which runway they were landing this transport plane laden with pallets of freshly-minted cash, and if they were actually paying attention to the windsock of public opinion...apparently not.

It was, after all, the "Bush Plan..." Bush, that Master-Windsock Reader of all time. I think I saw a news clip of him once on the White House lawn, licking his index finger and thrusting it into the air, ostensibly to determine the wind direction of that moment. Could this be more of the same? Time will tell. Of course, we've all licked our index finger too, but less to determine the wind direction than to get the last little bit of fried chicken onto the taste buds.

I walked onto my deck recently amid the credit turmoil and did the lick-trick, and viola, I got an immediate answer...Go To China, the wind said. Heeding the wind direction, I immediately booked the trip to see for myself just where this bailout cash was coming from. So, off I go to the Orient for a couple of weeks, following the route of that master windsocker, Marco Polo--and wearing my Polo shirt, “Made in China,” as confirmation to the Immigration authorities of my appreciation of their efforts.

No doubt we’re in a serious mess. The wind will blow where it will blow, but I plan to leave a favorable impression on the beneficent Chinese while I’m there… hoping that our cyclone has passed on my return. And I plan to return ~ laden, I'm sure, with Treasures from Hong Kong and bills from Visa. And if the pawn shops and the main-street loan shops aren't closed when I return, I will pawn this stuff off and profit from my experience...hope to soon see “Made in America” again.

October 2, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Doctor's Waiting Room.....

The Doctor's Waiting Room....
"...they also serve who only stand and wait."
Sonnet XIX, John Milton

The revolving door opens into a doctor's waiting room full of people like us...sick people, mostly, why else sit around such a desolate place?

You’ve been in these rooms before. It starts early, this waiting. Our parents gawked from one when we were wheeled out, freshly born, shocked to see a red, shriveled, screaming organism. Years later, here we are, back again in The Doctor’s Waiting Room!

Last week Patient Number 48551 walked into the stale atmosphere of Cardiac Room # 2. There is a certain air of seriousness about a cardiac waiting room...two heartbeats from eternity is no laughing matter. The whispered buzz of steady conversation filled the room’s vacuity. Eyes darted and averted other eyes, and a collective nervous anxiety hung heavy in the room’s air.

Strangers whispered out of a need for relief. Responses were perfunctory, like: "You don't say?" or "Really?" or "My, that's interesting." Nobody really seemed to care, but the communication seemed to relieve the trepidation heart patients feel.

He noticed it first, the wall clock. The second hand ticked rhythmically as time's slow demise ebbed out, tick by tick. Perhaps an omen for some---did they forget to repent before they arrived? It set a somber tone.

Seated, Patient # 48551 studied intently out of sheer boredom the ever-changing crowd of “Waiters.” Germ colonies occupied the irrelevant and dated waiting room magazines…no need to waste precious last minutes on this drivel. Other distractions were plentiful.

Patient # 48551 avoided the incessant ticking by imagining the lives of “The Waiters.” He assured himself it was not out of some sick amusement, since the others were probably doing likewise. Delusion is helpful in Cardiac Waiting Rooms. Dead giveaways (oops, bad word choice!) are seen in faces, dress, language, body posture, fidgets and things like that. Imagine the possibilities, he conjectured.

Caught up into his own charade, Patient 48551 began to take on airs himself, making strange facial movements, tics, blinks, fidgets of his own to confuse anyone attempting to caricature him. He thinks as he smiles, "I wonder what role they have me in...Bogart or Brando?" Which would he choose, he mused.

A nurse shouts, "OK, Mr. Hematoma, time for your procedure." Asian perhaps, he thought. Later, "Mrs. Angina, the doctor is ready for you," Italian for sure…a beauty, and pity, so young. The voice again calls, "Mr. A-fib, your time”...a Muslim, maybe. “Hello, Mr. Lipitor, ready?” Obviously Jewish. And on and on it goes, as “The Waiters” wait their time.

Patient 48551 finally gets his time. Soon he emerges with a big smile...the day's results were negative, which is positive for heart patients. Free to go, until the next time, and there will be a next time.

The ticking clock was the last thing he saw as he revolved out. Its ticking still mocked “The Waiters.” But it reminded him of something: Time runs out for everybody sooner or later, but for him, not today….fate delayed again!

Next time, he thought, I hope they personalize that waiting room a little and call me by my name, Bud, and not Patient 48551!

September 25, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Emperor is Naked...The Ugly Side of Leverage

The Emperor is Naked……
The Ugly Side of Leverage

“ A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry, but money answereth all things.” Ecclesiastes 10:19

And The Treasury has printed some $814 billion this week, to be precise ~ so much that the tattoo parlors on Norwich Street have all gone bust for lack of ink.

For what use? Why “bailouts” of course ~ where’ve you been? Bailouts, as we’re seeing, are little more than the repetition of the knee-jerk theory by our “leaders” of the socialist policy of “privatization of profit and the nationalization of loss.”

The last such huge unwinding of leverage was the Panic of 1907 ~ some of you remember that, right? The promoter, one F. Augustine Heinze, attempted to leverage his way into a “market corner” of copper (it’d be oil or gold today!), his scheme abetted by loans from greedy banks in New York. The Hunt Brothers of Dallas tried this trick with silver about 20 years ago ~ the results were the same. Well, the hubris of the “greed-is-good,” theory has again evoked the envy of the “repetition-of-history” gods, though delayed. Yes, “there’s nothing new under the sun.”

The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, commented months ago, “When the tide goes out we’ll see who’s been swimming naked ~ and it will be an ugly sight.” His epilogue to that this week was, “…we now see, Wall Street is a nudist colony.”

And now, as the truth tickles down, our eyes are open and we see our Emperor ~ The Wall Street Machine that recently made us all rich ~ is actually naked, and we are screaming for our share of the newly-minted currency before the paper runs out.

You know the story about the Naked Emperor, right? He was conned by a couple of crooked clothiers who promised to array him in the finest threads ever. But, the Emperor, who surrounded himself with only “yes” people, was really naked. No one would risk upsetting the Emperor by telling him the truth for fear of ridicule and swift reprisal. In the Royal Parade a young, innocent boy shouted, “Look, the Emperor is Naked,” and the scales fell from the public’s eyes.

Slowly the illusion we’ve been living with since 1992 is now exposed to light, and it is indeed ugly. “Print more money,” orders the Emperor’s lackey, that very same person who examined Putin’s soul, declaring him trustworthy. New clothes for everybody shouts Congress ~ except for the taxpayers, who will foot the bill ~ Wal-Mart will do.

Who’s to blame for this Panic of 2008? The finger-pointing has begun. A roundup of the usual suspects is now occurring. They are many. But know this ~ when the final putrid forensic reports arrive, we will be quite surprised at just who the culprits are. For there, mingled with the culpable and deluded, will be fingerprints we recognize….our very own!

“A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry, but money answereth all things.” Ecclesiastes 10:19

Enjoy the party ~ you’ll get the bill soon enough.


September 18, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Running on Empty...But Not Out of Luck

Running on Empty…..
But Not Out of Luck

“Well I’m standing by the river, but the water just won’t flow,
It boils with every poison you can think of….
Leonard Cohen

It was bound to happen someday…my luck would run out and the creative juices would stop flowing, poisoned by “too many details, too little time.”

The Cardiologist’s office is a good place to think about Luck, and other things, like Prayer. So I did. What’s Luck anyway, but the happening of chance in time and place. Good luck for one may be bad luck for another. Imagine the exponential possibilities of events that luck has an opportunity to “play” with ~ staggering. Imagine a gigantic grid, lines crossing, and people moving in all directions. .. no finite gray matter can fathom it!

Theories abound about Luck. One, the “rationalist approach,” considers the rules of probability... and an avoidance of unscientific beliefs. It’s sorta like this: “A” happens, and then “B” happens…Therefore, “A” caused “B.” Get it?

Another theory is that of “chance happenings,” you know, those things like accidents, circumstances and ignorance. Bottom line: nobody has a corner on the definition market, yet

Mark Twain had his ideas on luck. He once said: “If you are looking for luck to help you to win an argument with women, there were just two theories that apply…and neither works.”

While waiting for the doctor’s dissertation on my 118/78 blood pressure and 62 pulse (either my luck held or my prayers worked), I envisioned what I’d like to call my “Luckometer.” It works like this:

Take a blank sheet of paper and draw two lines on it..one vertical, the other horizontal, crossing at the top. On the right side at the top write the word LUCK, and on the left side write the word UNLUCKY. So there you have it, the two extremes, separated by one hell of a thin line in the middle between lucky and unlucky... You with me?

Now, take any heading you want, and write it at the top of the page…things like, Love, Health, Finances, Friends, Job, you name it…won’t matter. Then list on the Lucky or Unlucky side of the page the abundance of things, good or bad, that fall into the respective category. It’s easy to see if you have been, on balance, lucky or unlucky, by the preponderance of entries you’ve made on one side or the other. Eye-opener!

I celebrated my good luck after the cardiologist’s visit with a tasty lunch of sausages and fried chicken livers, and other good S. GA vittles with my pals Frank and Alan. We talked about luck, and Frank allowed as how it was hard for him to decide if he’d been lucky or unlucky…which side did the 7 hernia operations fall on and the 6 divorces? My indigestion began at that point, and I added a few more points on my “lucky” side of the ledger.

Luck would have it that my outrageous friend, Dan Nicholson, called…full of one-liners, he reminded me about luck: “Bud, there are three kinds of folks….People who Make luck, those who Let luck happen, and those who Wonder what happened.”He said to me, “Pal, which of these are you?”

Let me pass this question on to you: Which are you?

September 11, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Tuxedo....The Closet Snob

A Tuxedo…The Closet Snob

The life of the party, that’s me…yet here I hang, lifeless in this musty closet, smelling of mothballs and sandwiched between a smoky-smelling blazer and assorted suits. I tell you, being a tuxedo gets you very little respect these days...at least in some circles.

But it was not always this way. I am, of course, the embodiment of elegance, being worn by men of distinction and pedigree. Tuxedo Park, NY was my birthplace, and my debut was at the privileged, if not somewhat pretentious, Tuxedo Club. Those were the days, when men were really rich, not dissembling debtors…men of refinement who drank fine port after dinner and spoke intelligently. I was born into this lifestyle.

Sadly, however, it’s not that way today. Why, not only am I worn in places that slander my prestige, like high school proms, but I am also relegated to tuxedo rental programs and treated with utmost contempt. Imagine how you’d feel if you were being rented to hordes of beer-swilling teenagers…the height of disrespect. So here I hang, day after day, being passed over in preference to the tasteless blue blazer, the dumbed-down choice of millions of men satisfied with mediocrity.

But my fortune is about to change. Tonight a classy Soiree, a Ball…Yes, finally, my evening has come. Oh, I will make for her a special night she will not soon forget. She will be the princess she knows herself to be. Yes, she will walk into the Club, down the long stairway in front of the envious eyes of bristling females, mirrors reflecting her elegance, escorted by a gentleman made regal by me, The Tuxedo. This is my role: I transform the mundane into the magnificent, a Cinderella into a Princess. Tonight I will make her illusions come true.

However, I must first endure the disgusting curses of the brutish man who will wear me. I can hear him now: “Why do I have to wear this “monkey suit” tonight?” (Imagine, being called by such tree-swinging names?). He will struggle and sweat trying to arrange his gold studs, and after about 15 minutes of frustration, he will be ready for the noose, er, excuse me, the bow tie. He’ll shout to her, as always, “Honey, get in here and fix this stupid tie”. Oh, the insults I suffer. But soon, as always, he’ll be smiling at the shocking beauty walking into the room, Armani-resplendent, the princess he married years ago.

And so it happened as I said. Arm in arm through the Hall of Mirrors they paraded, she in her make-believe world of fantasy, with her tuxedoed James Bond or Cary Grant, her man of mystery and intrigue. It’s a red-carpet walk for them, and he swells with pride at the adoring glances (none of which were for him, of course, but he can pretend, too!). Cocktails, dinner, then dancing…her, the dazzling essence of the evening, and he, with his tuxedo working its magic, working the crowd for tomorrow’s new deal or yesterday’s embellished exploits.

Look, as a tuxedo, I’ve been around. I know what happens as the evening wears on. My tie is jerked loose, the body I am worn by becomes a careless imbiber, my shirt has lost its starch and a couple of gold studs have disappeared. The alcohol has taken voice, and crass behavior concludes the evening of illusion. Ok, it’s time to go now. The fantasy evaporates.

The drive home is always dreadful. I am soon discarded and lie limp in the corner, just another cast-off of the evening. With stains of tenderloin au jus, sprinkles of red wine, dank with sweat and champagne and otherwise lifeless, once again my elevated status is demeaned. Folded without feeling and disgracefully tossed into the dry cleaning hamper, my triumphs in pretence and illusion are forgotten. Things have come full circle once again.

However, The Authority on illusion and fantasy always has the final word: The world needs more occasions for tuxedos and Armani gowns to escape the reality of too much reality. Yes, it was just a chimerical evening, but don’t forget, Cary Grant himself was an illusion, a Hollywood creation. His real name was Archie Leach…and he was a milkman! So ladies, put up with the grumbling and let me transform your milkman into the Prince of your Dreams, if only for an evening…everyone will be the better for it!

Next week, suffocating inside the cheap plastic bag, I’ll get stuffed into the closet and again subjected to the insufferable snubs of the vulgar and ignoble blazer and other slovenly attire.

But as for tonight, I was The Master of the Charade, the cloth of choice to define the nattering nabobs of society, brilliantly transforming the mundane into the magical.

Viva la Tux.


September 9, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The St. Paul Resurrection...Miracle in Minnesota

The St. Paul Resurrection…
Miracle in Minnesota

“…I am The Phoenix, I rise in Flames…”
Anonymous lines from a poem remembered long ago

There has been no resurrection in St. Paul this week…yet. The Republican body politick lies lifeless in the dust. Even the bodies of Lincoln and Reagan remained moribund.

“John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave…but his soul goes marching on…Glory, glory hallalulah…”

In the temple of the Xcel Center, the situs for the televised resurrection of the Republican Phoenix, the throngs of the faithful chant and cry for The Tortured Warrior to rise from the smoldering ashes of the Bush meltdown. The miracle has yet to occur, but not because of lack of effort. The tent revival is parading its finest Party illuminati on stage, ranting and raving, continuing daily into the weary night. Men in expensive shiny suits, interspersed with Armani-clothed women, marched out on cue, summonsing the spirits to grant the petition for the miracle.

It’s a miracle the spectacle has happened at all. Nature always gets its paybacks, and it has not forgotten New Orleans, when Katrina stormed ashore, flushing the remnants of the Bush crowd into the toxic canal waters. It marked the nadir of the administration’s ineptitude. This week, Gustav blew into New Orleans, and right on up the Mississippi River, seeking out the remaining perpetrators of the impotent response. The Republicans are the Party of Hurricanes it seems, an ironic twist of fate.

Perhaps it’s the low-pressure system that has caused the lackluster energy level of the crowds in St. Paul, but the Amens have been hard to come by in the crowd. Or perhaps the Convention is situated in that nether world between East and West, the land of the Lutherans, the Presbyterians…”The Frozen Chosen”…Garrison Keillor’s folks.

But whatever, the Convention has been painful to watch, to listen to. In a word, Boring. But you gotta give ‘em credit…the steady drumbeat of the Liberal versus Conservative mantra: “Zero Experience,” “Too Tough, too tough”, “Nada, Nada,” “Drill, Baby, Drill” have energized the crowd. And at least they have dropped that silly “compassionate conservative” crap, which does not have enough power to resurrect an ant. Mormon Romney was a little frightening as he leaned about as far Right as he could get and still remain standing…my God, is there no pride left?

Tonight The Maverick, the Phoenix Hopeful, will appear on stage, appealing to the gods for resurrection, and pleading for release and distance from his nemesis, GWB (who, of course, remained in DC to deliver his speech, not that anybody cared). His woman, The Mayor of Wasilla, extolled the heavens relentlessly for the Tortured Warrior’s rise, and if I had to venture a guess, she was heard. And speaking of venture, in the town of Jesse Ventura, wrestler turned Governor, these improbable things can happen.

It’s anybody’s guess if the public buys anything either Party says, but if the Mavens of Minneapolis are anywhere near correct, there is a rumbling in the grave…

“…son of man, can these bones live?….Thou knowest”

It’s too close to call, so last night I put the dogs up, turned the lights off, and clicked off the TV as the Alaska Hockey Mom was concluding her petition. Walking out, I thought I heard the bones rattle again…”country above all, big ideas, prosperity, low taxes, straight talk, free from foreign oil.…” And if this elixir won’t raise the dead, let it lie!

September 4, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rocky Mountain Madness...Euphoria in Denver

Rocky Mountain Madness…
Euphoria in Denver

"It’s Colorado rocky mountain high, I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high,
Rocky Mountain high…”
Rocky Mountain High, John Denver

It was bound to happen, and what a perfect setting for it. The mile-high city of Denver, the Pinnacle of the Eastern Slope, is the perfect pick for the Democratic convocation of the Blue-State Hopeful, the Apostles of hope and change.

The slick Carnival showed up this week en masse, gasping for oxygen and grasping for a hold on promises as weak and insubstantial as Colorado’s ethereally-thin air. In many ways it was the perfect venue to stage the evolving Floor Show of Illusion. Known for its abundance of blue sky, what better place to make so many “blue sky” promises of hope and change, mere bones of esoterically-abstract concepts gnawed bare and tossed out to keep the crowds deluded.

The Denver Pepsi Center has been the site of this spectacle of delusional madness. Thousands of wild and hopeful-for-change freaks took turns screaming into microphones, pledging the delegate votes or yielding their position to “that great state of Illinois, home of Lincoln and the next president, Barack Obama.” Pomposity radiated from the podium and reverberated from convention hall walls. “Magnetizers of the Present,” the current and has-been glitterati and low-level Party Luminaries, “strutted and fretted their hour upon the stage…uttering tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing….”~~ thousands upon thousands of empty words uttered non-stop.

Those of us who grew up in small towns of the South have seen, in microcosm, how this delusional madness plays out. From itinerant carnivals to traveling politicians, they all showed up sooner or later down at the fair grounds and held their seedy convocation of cheap tricks, rides, and presumptuous panaceas. Having shaken the last few coins from the dirt-poor farmers, they shook the dust of town from their shoes at the city limits sign, and moved on down the road to another town, to another shakedown. When the effects of the elixirs had subsided the locals looked at one another with this question, “Were we that stupid?” The answer would be evident next month when the bills came due! But we had a good time.

Tonight, down at Invesco Field, Charles MacKay’s predictions in his book, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” written in 1841, will find their fulfillment. With strobe lights flashing multi-colors on his big ivories, The Party Panjandrum, The High Priest of Change will stroll to the podium and stoke the contagion of hysterical frenzy among his 77,000 disciples. He will continue to promise the undeliverable, and from his lips will gush effusively dire omens and divinations of the future. His hollow exhortation will echo throughout the world, cresting in a crescendo that will give human folly and delusion new definitions. Yes, The Dems have their man!

“He climbed the cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below, he saw everything as far as you can see, and they said that he got crazy once and tried to touch the sun, and he lost a friend but kept the memory…”

All good parties must end, and this one will, too. The fireworks and Rock Stars’ Tents will move to another city, but not before the fund-raising count has risen to nearly $1.5 billion. Euphoria will evaporate as well, its descent more slowly that its ascent. The party hangover begins when Visa and American Express bills arrive next month, and hot dogs no longer cost $7 bucks…good thing, because that’s what a lot of folks will remember about this convention. But we had a good time!

And what about the vicarious voyeurs who watched this madness at a distance? Well, the final shakedown for us will be complete when our bills come due, usually every April 15th …don’t worry, you’ll be for sure on the “Preferred Donor List” then!

August 28, 2008