Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gator Bowl Bound...GO NOLES!

Sometime later this afternoon I'll get in my wife's Exploder and head south on I-75, Jacksonville and Gator Bowl bound, to meet my son, his brother-in-law, and one of his college friends to see Florida State take on West Virginia to welcome in the New Year.

It's a bittersweet trip in some ways.  I've never been away from my sweetheart on New Year's Eve, not in five glorious years, thirty-one in all.  During my lifetime, I've spent December 31 in various ways:  drunk, playing to a bunch of drunks, on the road home, on my knees praying, asleep in my bed, cuddled with my wife.  But never in Jacksonville.

Carder (the son in question) purchased Gator Bowl tickets before he knew a) FSU would be playing in it, 2) before he knew it would be Bobby Bowden's last game, and D) knowing that if by some twist of fate FSU/Bobby weren't in the Gator Bowl, he could sell his tickets to some unsuspecting and unplanning soul.  And make money doing it.

Ticket prices after the teams were announced sold out in about 2 1/2 hours, then magically appeared on selling sites for approximately two gazillion percent higher than face value.  The whole time Carder was sitting on four tickets, a tailgate pass, food and drink coupons, etc.  Did I mention he was MY SON?

So, the bittersweet is overpowered by the sweet:

--I'll get to go to the last Seminole game coached by Bobby Bowden.  This means a lot, considering how unceremoniously Coach Bowden was dumped by the school.  Urban Meyer can have heartburn a stomach virus chest pains physical issues after the SEC championship, go to an Atlanta hospital, be released, resign, unresign, and take a leave of absence all in one weekend and Gator Nation still wants him.  Bobby can take a backwater program, build it to win multiple National Championships, have some bad seasons, and be asked to leave.  What'w wrong with this picture?

--I'll be at the game with my son.  There's nothing--nothing--more valuable to me than spending time with my family.  To be at a Bowl game just adds value.  We'll have a ball.

--I'll come home a winner.  Just by virtue of showing up on our doorstep.  As bad as I hate to leave, the best part of New Year's Day will be seeing my sweetheart's face light up when I walk in the door.

So....I can't wait until tomorrow.  Not just because I get better looking every day, but because of all the first day of 2010 offers.

The game starts at 1:00pm.  I'll be the guy in the stands with the FSU hat on.  You won't be able to miss me.  I'll be holding up the sign that reads, "I'll Be Home Soon, Honey!  GO NOLES!"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Florida, A Great Place To Be...From

From the Lakeland Ledger, an article that makes me glad I live in the mountains of Northeast Georgia.

Now, I'm sure that weird things happen in Dahlonega and Lumpkin County and other places in Georgia.  I'm just as sure that we don't hold a candle to the weird stuff that happened in Florida this past year.

A congressman asked the House Speaker if she would shut down Congress so he and the representatives from Oklahoma could watch the Gators and Sooners play for the National Championship.  Speaker Pelosi said no.  In hindsight, considering all that Congress did to for America this year, that might not have been such a bad idea.

Somebody in the Ocala area got arrested for driving a lawnmower into a school bus while he was--how can I say this nicely--dog drunk.  Two more imbibers stole a freight train--A FREIGHT TRAIN--and made it seven miles before they were stopped.  A guy in Clearwater was arrested for driving drunk.  Authorities may never have noticed him if he hadn't been in a car with only three tires.

Two other Floridians, shining examples of character, were arrested for fighting over $3 in gas money, using a fish tank and a beer bottle as weapons.  No word on what happened to the fish.  Or the beer.

Again, in the Ocala area, a fellow was arrested for driving a motorcycle.  Naked.  And drunk.  At least in the mountains us rednecks know enough to keep our clothes on while drinking and driving.

Another example of the naked truth:  a 91-year-old man--completely nude-- held a 21-year-old intruder at gunpoint until the police arrived.  It's unknown where he was hiding the gun, but the visual is enough to make you queasy.

I lived in South Florida for twenty-four years.  I saw a lot of weird people, places, and things.  But it seems 2009 was the year of the perfect storm.  A weird, perfect storm.

A man broke into an 82-year-old man's home, waving a toy gun.  The homeowner waved a real gun.  And used it.  The would-be robber was 24 years old at the time of his death.  As that great theologian Neal Boortz would say,  DRT--Dead Right There.

A man in Jacksonville tried to steal a ferret by stuffing it in his pants.  Near Daytona, a 19-year-old man was arrested after he threw a taco at his mama when she unplugged his video game.  Elsewhere, a woman was arrested after she hit a man in the head with a raw steak when he refused a piece of bread.  One dad was arrested for slapping his daughter with a slice of pizza when she didn't turn off her computer.  In Port St. Lucie a husband rubbed a hamburger in his wife's face after she poured soda over it.

And don't complain about your calzone in West Palm Beach.  A store owner there pistol-whipped two guys who did.

In Brooksville, home of the state's mental institution, the city council voted to require city employees to wear underwear.  It isn't clear if the ordinance covers employees when they're off-duty.

In Fort Pierce a woman called 911 when a local McDonald's ran out of Chicken McNuggets.  Apparently a Filet-O-Fish just wouldn't do.  This made national news.

And last, but not least, a Lakeland junior-high student can no longer ride the bus after he farted to make other riders laugh and stunk up the bus.

And in my Dahlonega?  Last week deputies were called to Papa John's after an employee called to say another worker was hitting him on the arm and wouldn't stop even after he was asked to.  And he kept calling the employee a "big baby" when he complained.

We have a long way to go if we're going to catch Florida before 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Environment's Going To The Dogs

A new report says that dogs are more dangerous to the environment than large SUVs.

The report states that medium-size dogs leave twice the carbon footprint of an SUV, even when you include the energy it takes to build it (the vehicle, not the dog).  Something about the size of "meat" (the report's term for dogs) makes owning a dog a luxury.

What about cats? you say.  What about them? I say back.  They leave a carbon footprint the size of a VW.  I can't stand cats and can barely tolerate VWs.  But I digress.

My  sweetheart will be glad to hear about this report.  She constantly worries that our Explorer isn't big enough is helping bring about the end of the world as we know it.  Somebody ought to write a song.

I traded an Explorer and bought her a triple-black Mustang GT convertible for our anniversary one year.  A few months later I traded the Mustang in and got her another Explorer.  The reason I had to trade the GT?  She told me it "just doesn't sit high enough".

So....if I had put a lift kit and off-road tires on the Mustang we'd still have it.

My company, Ford, sells a lot of Explorers and Expeditions.  They are big, but not as big as the Excursion we used to sell.  That beast, built on a 3/4 ton truck chassis, wouldn't fit in most folks' garage.

But women loved it.  As they did, and do, Explorers and Expeditions.  And, as it happens, dogs.

The Explorer saved my wife's life last summer.  She was rear-ended at a traffic signal by an idiot lady talking on her cell phone.  That lady was driving a Chrysler 300C.  The Explorer needed a tailgate replacement.  The Chrysler was totaled.

I think we'll keep our SUV.

My son and his wife are coming up for Christmas and will bring my grandson, Chief Atticus Berry, the golden retriever.  I guarantee that bruiser leaves a carbon footprint the size of a four-car garage.  With a little something on the ground to prove it.  But that dog loves me, which also proves he has excellent taste in people.

Think I'll take Chief for a ride in the Explorer Christmas Day and piss off a tree.

I'll Have Some Yuletide Guilt With My Egg Nog, Please

Let me say at the beginning that I had the best parents in the world.  Period.  Mama and Daddy always gave everything they had to make sure that their children were amply provided for, working hard and long to make ends meet.

Christmastime was always memorable at 26 Sims Street.  We'd pull the fake tree down out of the attic, put those big-bulbed strings of lights on it, place the ornaments, and cover it with foil "icicles".  It was killer, and usually placed so nobody in the room could see the television.

We'd all go to bed early on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning was an exercise in patience and torture.  We couldn't open presents until Mama and/or Granny cooked breakfast, taking time to make--not pop open--biscuits and milk gravy, sausage, eggs, and grits (our house was decorated in Early Cracker Barrel).  Then--then--we'd have to clean the kitchen up before we moved on to the gifts.  Christmas Day was the one day of the year that Mama never had any problem getting help with the dishes.

Then, the glorious moment I'd been waiting for.  Daddy would play "Santa" and pass out gifts, one by one, to different family members.  I remember getting Hot Wheels, a Daisy BB gun, a bow and arrow set, slot cars, and trains.  Mama always made sure I got some cologne--even when I was small--so I'd smell like a "boy-dog" when I went to church.

After the wrapping paper was strewn about the living room and I was anxious to get outside and shoot something or set up my track inside the house and wreck something, Daddy would invariably serve up the last gift:  Guilt.

The family would be waist-deep in ribbon when Daddy would regale us with his tale of growing up in the North Georgia mountains.  They'd cut a tree off their land and decorate it with whatever they had.  Grandpa and Grandma Berry's house, as long as they lived, never had anything other than a fireplace for heating, a woodstove for cooking, no running water (only a well), and an outhouse for...well, you know.

Daddy would remind us that a "good" Christmas for them was one in which they got an apple, an orange, some hard candy, and some nuts.  I'd look around at all the stuff I got and think about Daddy or Mama at my age, just happy to have some fresh fruit for Christmas.

This year I'd just love to hear Daddy tell that Christmas story one more time.  And, as a grown man, I'd still feel guilty for all I have and take for granted while there are countless others just happy to have food for Christmas.

As fate would have it, this year at our house we'll have what Daddy and Mama called (before Dolly Parton) a "hard candy Christmas".  Circumstances out of my control determined how it would be.  But it's okay.  My family will all be together this year for the first time in years.  My sweet wife, all my children, Mama and Susie, and my granddog, Chief.

It's a good, good Christmas.

Maybe it would do us all some good to have a "mountain Christmas" one year.  And watch some little boys and girls play with toys mysteriously delivered for Christmas, while Mamas and Daddys didn't have to worry--at least for that day--what they'd feed their children and where they'd find it.

The Elvisity of Christmas

I've avoided this subject for a long time, but I think something needs to be said about Elvis' connection to Christmas.  Just consider the parallels:

The words "elvis" and "elves" are awfully similar.  Both contain the same number of letters.  Both have consonants and vowels.  Only one letter is different, and that's "i" which rhymes with "pie" and I like pecan pie.  Strange.

Santa lives at the North Pole in seclusion and you only see him once a year.  Elvis lives at Graceland and hasn't been seen since 1977.  Coincidence or conspiracy?

Santa likes to wear jumpsuits.  So does Elvis.  Weird.

Santa rides around in a custom-made sleigh with lots of bling.  Elvis rode around in pink and purple Cadillacs which were also custom-made.  Wow.

Christmas is December 25.  Elvis's birthday is January 8.  Both are in months of the year, and both are on a day in that month.  Eerie.

Elvis sings "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" as though he's singing about himself being Santa.  So far, there's no conclusive proof to refute this theory that Santa and Elvis are the same person.  Unbelievable.

Elvis loved Christmas.  Santa loves Christmas.

The connection is obvious.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Apparently, All Baptists Are Deaf

I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, went to a (then) Georgia Baptist university, and pastored a few Baptist churches.

I work with people who are Methodists, Charismatic, Baptist, and "no preference".

But I sincerely believe all Baptists are deaf.

I had a Baptist pastor in here a couple of weeks ago, a gentleman who had purchased a vehicle from me before. I relate well to pastors, seeing how I was one. It's a blessing. And a curse.

But what I noticed most about this man was his incessant reply to my every statement with a "huh?".

I told him the car's name. "Huh?"

I gave him the price. "Huh?"

I showed him the payments. "Huh?"

After he signed the paperwork my finance manager asked me if the pastor was hard of hearing. I couldn't resist.


I then told him I didn't think the good Doctor (he insisted on being called by the title) was deaf, just Baptist. He replied by telling me that if this guy was an example of being a Christian, he'd pass. Of course.

There's a marked difference between hearing and listening. Some people do one and not the other. Some people do neither. I've watched with dismay as the Baptist faith I grew up with has been disrespected, divided, and dismantled. All because folks won't listen to each other. The people in charge put the "mental" in "fundamental". I'm siding with the finance manager.

This morning one of this pastor's church members (a dealership employee) asked me a question. I gave the answer, to which she replied, "What?"

Maybe not all Baptists are deaf. Just the ones from this particular church.

But I don't think so.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How To Dispose Of Your Christmas Tree. And Your House.

As a public service, and because I care, plan ahead for disposing of your tree after the holidays.

Kinda redefines "Honey, can you get rid of the tree?"

RIP, Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts died this week.  I'll remember him for at least two reasons:  1)  The ORU basketball team and B)  all the jokes about him and his ministry.  Remember, I grew up in the sixties when Oral was in his heyday.

Why can't you play an Oral Roberts record?  The hole in the middle keeps healing up.

The ORU Men's basketball team has been a force to reckon with for years, spoilers or champions all the way.  Probably because they couldn't stay sick or hurt.

He got a lot of press, most of it bad, for claiming that God would "call me home" if he didn't get the $8 million he needed to keep the school going.  He got the money from a gambler in Florida, and folks howled.  He simply converted filthy lucre to heavenly cash.  Preachers do it every Sunday.

My daughter's not very fond of ORU.  To her, the school stole her school's president, Mark Rutland.  He turned Southeastern (Em's school) around and looks like he'll do the same for ORU.

Oral said he hated the term "faith healer".  He preferred to say he had the hands but God did the healing.  I see this statement on a chiropractor's sign near home almost every day.

Love him or hate him, Oral Roberts did a lot of good for a lot of people, all the while using someone else's money.  Kind of like the government in reverse.

What you may not know:   John Lennon wrote Oral Roberts in 1972 asking forgiveness for saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.  I have a feeling that Oral forgave him.  If only we were that gracious.  We harbor unforgiveness for generations, and beyond the grave, in the South.

My Grannie Free liked Oral up until he started, in her terms, "beggin' fer money".  Tents in those days cost a lot, I guess.

He was 91 years old when he passed away.  Reminded me of my Grandpa Berry, who used to tell me he wanted to live until he was 95, then die by being shot to death by a jealous husband.

Being shot to death by a jealous husband could probably happen to a lot of preachers.

Thank God, Oral died of pneumonia.

UPDATE:  No...he's still dead.  Just a friend of mine who felt compelled to send this along:   In my public speaking class at (school redacted), some guy whose name I don't remember was giving a speech on televangelists, during which he said, and I'm not making this up, and it's the only part of the speech that I remember:  "After about 30 minutes of Oral you'll fall asleep."  

I'm waiting for the Michael Scott response.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Adventures In Graduating

Some observations I made as my last child graduated from college last weekend:

--I found out where our tax dollars are being wasted spent.  On every mile of Interstates 75, 4, and 95 throughout South Georgia and Florida.  The DOT is alive and well and ruining trips for people from across America.  These are the people I want handling my healthcare.

--I still love dogs.  Carder and Megs have a golden retriever, Chief Atticus Berry, who loves me.  That dog has great taste in people.

--Graduation parties are lively affairs.  The house was filled with testosterone and estrogen.  My boys and I brought the testosterone from the Georgia hills.  Emily's emo boy friends from school brought the estrogen.  It was a one-sided contest.  The boys and I won.

--You can't mix college students, alcohol, and a guitar without there being some serious one-upmanship.  Most of the singing sounded like somebody killing a cat.  Except when I sang Elvis.  That was righteous.

--Never--NEVER--allow your wife to wear silk pajamas when your son has put silk sheets on the bed you're sleeping in.  She slid halfway to the front door before I could rope her and drag her back.

--When your daughter tells you to be at the graduation venue at 9:00am for a 10:00am ceremony she knows that of which she speaks.  We got there at 9:20 and almost didn't get a seat.  Miraculously we ended up on the third row from the front, the best seats in the house.  As expensive as college was, we should have had a row with our name on it.  From which I would have given the commencement speech.  Which would have been profound.  And short.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

--Commencement speakers haven't changed over the years.  1)  They're normally around 150 years old and B)  they usually say one humorous thing at the beginning of their speech about how little time they'll take speaking so we can move on to the most important event, graduation.  Ours was, and did.  Forty-five minutes later, after eight lists of seven character traits that will prepare two hundred and forty-eight graduates to face the next five years of their lives, he mercifully finished.  (My favorite commencement speaker was Dean Rusk, former Secretary of State under JFK and then-Dean of the UGA Law School, who spoke at my college graduation.  He said he was going to speak seven minutes and sit down, and we could time him.  I did.  He did.  I love that man.)

--Mamas cry at graduations.  Jennie did, before, during, and after.  I managed to miss most of the crying because...

--I am not the one to assign picture-taking to.  I got a blurry picture of Emily getting her diploma, another blurry one of her coming down the stairs at the edge of the stage, and one of something that looked like Batman's cape flying as she walked back to her seat.  While I missed her graduating.  Entirely.  Of course the boys thought this was funny, at which point I whipped around and got a picture of them laughing at me.  It came out perfect.

--I still clean up well when I have to.  Pictures don't lie.  But my sweetheart, well...let's just say I out-married myself initially and it's proven to me every time we get our picture made together.

--Visiting with in-laws works out much better when you can keep your Georgia Bulldog-loving, Alabama Crimson Tide-spouting mouth shut in a room full of Gators.  Except for a few well-timed barbs about who won the SEC Championship.  And the Heisman Trophy, which, in God's providential wisdom, happened to fall on the same night I was with my Gator-shirt wearing in-laws.  I just love it when a plan comes together.  Saturday night was one of those times.

--The longest part of the trip is coming home.  There was rain in Florida (go figure), along with every Drivers' License reject from the entire country.  There was fog in south Georgia, which worsened around Macon, and was unbearable the closer I got to Dahlonega.  Add to the weather that one driver who speeds up, passes you, slows down, gets behind you with his brights on, then repeats the process.  I finally pushed him off the exit to Adel, which is close to Hell, because you can see Sparks from there.  (Look it up.)  I figured he was close to home.

So, we're home now.  Emily's graduated and looking for a job.  It was a long haul, but worth it.

Let the student loans begin.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Songs. Ever.

After a previous post I wanted to give equal time to my prejudiced list of the best Christmas songs.  There are so many awful ones the list goes on forever, and so few you can name them on your fingers.  The list is totally subjective, and I'm skipping the traditional carols, since they're a given.  Get on your sleigh and let's go.

"Christmas In Dixie", Alabama.  The best line in the entire song:  "and maybe down in Memphis, Graceland's up in lights"...Christmas anywhere else just ain't the same.

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", James Taylor.  It took him forty years to do a Christmas album, and this song is the best of the bunch.

"Little Saint Nick", The Beach Boys.  Who'da thunk the Beach Boys, in their heyday, would have a holiday hit that sounded just like the rest of their songs?  Their banker, that's who.  But I like it.

"Jingle Bell Rock", Brenda Lee.  A lot of artists have covered this one, but Little Brenda Lee has the lock on it.  With those deep lyrics, it must have taken minutes to write.  A classic.

"Please Come Home For Christmas", Eagles.  I always thought, with a few modifications, this would make a great Christmas song for church use.  Apparently grief, sorrow, and pain don't contribute to the joy of the season.  Who knew?

"Same Old Lang Syne", Dan Fogelberg.  Okay, the only thing this song has to do with Christmas is the first line.  But I'm a sucker for sad songs, and this one has sadness running over.  Excuse me while I weep.

"Santa Claus Is Back In Town", Elvis Presley.  You need to hear this song.  But you can't find it online, so let me share some lyrics:  "Got no sleigh or reindeer, No pack on my back, You'll see me coming, In a big black Cadillac".  Yeah, baby.  I'll take some blues with my eggnog.

"Blue Christmas", Elvis Presley.  Down at the end of Lonely Street in the lobby of Heartbreak Hotel, there's a tree all decked out in blue lights.  Righteous.

Merry Christmas, Baby.  From Graceland to your house.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Emily Brooke Berry

She was born on a Friday afternoon in Sebastian, Florida.  Her oldest brother was smitten with her from the start.  Her next-oldest brother pouted as he held her, afraid of losing his position in the family pecking-order, but quickly fell in love with her too.  As we all did.  As everyone who meets her does.

I watched her dance and act, heard her sing and play drums, and all she wanted for Christmas when she was young was a cash register.  That should have been a sign of things to come, but at the time I just thought it was cute.

She played volleyball, and her serve was unstoppable.  She painted and organized and wrote me notes.  She was the only one of my children to love cars like her Daddy did.  She'd get up at five a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving every year, not to go shopping with her mama but to go to Daytona with me.  To the Turkey Trot car show.  She gravitated to the engine displays because she loved the noise.

Every day I loved her more and more.

When I hurt her mama, through tears of pain, she still loved me.  I was/am her Papi and she was/is my Emmie-Bug.

I've heard parents say "I love all my children the same".  To which I reply, in the words of that great theologian Roy D. Mercer, "Bull-butter".

Not to get too far off-track here, but does God love us all the same way?  I don't think so.  His love is there for everyone, but it's applied differently.  That's how I love Emily.  And John.  And Carder.  Same love, different application.

When Em was three or four, the boys came to me saying they were being treated unfairly and wanted to be treated the same as their little sister.  Seizing the teachable moment, I replied that if they wanted to wear girls' clothes and be treated like one, I'd be glad to oblige.  The light came on for Carder first and he backed out.  Realizing his flank was exposed, John gave up too.

They knew she was my Princess, and she'd be treated like one.

She's sensitive and stubborn, spiritual and judgmental, passionate and reserved.  She has her mama's heart and her daddy's hardness.  She raises her hands when she worships and prays like Elijah.  I'm pretty sure she has an inside track with the Lord, so I try to stay on her good side. 

She lets few people in, but once you're in, to her you're in for life.  She's a great friend, but you don't want to make her mad.  You really don't want to make her mad.

She loves Elvis and Michael Buble, Sinatra and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  She watches Lifetime movies with her mama and westerns with me.

She wants to get married but she refuses to settle for just any old boy.  She'll see or hear something and say, "I want to have that in my wedding."  I can add up the cost at any time and know I'll be in line for a bailout.  But she's worth it.

She knows her future husband will have to run the Berry gauntlet, so she's careful about who she brings home.  I haven't met anyone yet who's good enough for her.

She's a mystery wrapped in an enigma covered by a question.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

I am, and always have been, proud to call her my daughter.  Some guys say "she'll always be my little girl".  Emily is nobody's "little girl".  But she is my baby.  

And on Saturday, December 12, she will graduate from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.  Didn't she just enter first grade?

My tiny dancer is grown up now.  Her mama and I will be there to see her get that expensive piece of paper.  Mama will cry.  I'll be strong, I'm sure.  And we'll all be proud of what she's done, but prouder of who she is.

Another chapter in her life will begin.  And another in mine will end.

Excuse me while I go glue my breaking heart back together.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Reasons to Celebrate in December

I was reading an article in Mental Floss about "other" holidays observed in December, so I did some research and found these verifiable observable December days:

National Fritters Day (December 2)--my Grandma Berry made the best fried apple pies (fritters) in.  The.  World.  You could put one of her fried pies on top of your head and your tongue would fly up and slap your brains out.  I'm all over celebrating this one.

Wear Brown Shoes Day (December 4), followed by Put On Your Own Shoes Day (December 6).  Is it just me or do these two need to swap days?

Saint Nicholas' Day (December 6)--for the patron saint of pawnbrokers (look it up).  The fat man in the red coat has another day besides Christmas?  What's up with that?

National Cotton Candy Day (December7)--known otherwise as "All Dentists' Eve".

National Brownie Day (December 8)--gooey chocolate with walnuts, please.

Take It In The Ear Day (December 8)--nobody knows much about this holiday.  I think it was another Hallmark ploy, planned in advance of their singing greeting cards.  I've received singing cards featuring Elvis, and Hoops and Yoyo.  For the record, the puppets outscore the King in the audio card competition.

National Pastry Day (December 9)--I've had a cinnamon roll craving since I had surgery back in March.  I want Cinnabon, hot from the oven and slathered in icing.  The closest location to me is 34 miles away.  Apparently I'll keep wanting.

Poinsettia Day (December 12)--a long time ago I heard poinsettias were poisonous.  Then I found out the average person would have to eat between 500-700 poinsettia leaves to die.  I also heard while we lived in Florida that oleander plants were poisonous.   Then I found out that you'd have to smoke an entire tree to die.  One resource says poinsettias should be classified as "toxic" and not "poison".  Hmm...okay.

National Ice Cream Day (December 13)--notice how many of these days have to do with food?  And not the kind that's "good for you", just the kind that's good.  It's either got to be a Dairy Queen Heath Bar Blizzard or Moose Tracks.  In large quantities.  While not in order, let's get the rest of the "glutton days" out of the way:
  • National Lemon Cupcake Day (December 15)
  • National Chocolate Covered Anything Day (December 16)
  • National Maple Syrup Day (December 17)
  • Bake Cookies Day (December 18)
  • National Roast Suckling Pig Day (December 18)
December 24 is not only Christmas Eve.  It's also National Chocolate Day and National Egg Nog Day.  Two days after Christmas you can celebrate National Fruitcake Day.  Then you can spend the rest of the month observing Throwing Up Week.

Forefathers' Day (December 21)--in case you don't know, this is the day that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.  After planting a cross and the flag of Great Britain in the sand they started an automobile company which went bankrupt twice and was rescued by the Indians.  There were probably other Mayflower-type ships that tried to land at Plymouth Rock but couldn't find a parking place.  We already have Thanksgiving.  I'm not sure I could take a double-dose of Pilgrims within one month.

National Flashlight Day (December 21)--we're inviting everyone over for this holiday.  Bring your own batteries.

Festivus Day (December 23)--I really like two things about this holiday.  During the holiday meal "The Airing Of Grievances" allows you to go around and tell everyone at the table how much they've disappointed you in the last year.  After you've eaten, "Feats Of Strength" pits someone at the table against the host.  Festivus only ends if and when the host is pinned.  Kind of like "Jon and Kate" meets "WWE".

Makes you long for New Year's Eve, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thank You For Your Concern

Every day--and I do mean every day--I get at least one email intended to "help" me, usually forwarded to me by some well-meaning or bored friend.  Mama sent me this one today, so I'm passing it on to you.

I just want to thank all of you for your educational e-mails over the past year.  I am totally screwed up now and have little chance of recovery.

I no longer open a public bathroom door without using a paper towel or have them put lemon slices in my ice water without worrying about the bacteria on the lemon peel.

I can't use the remote in a hotel room
because I don't know what the last person was doing while flipping through the adult movie channels.

I can't sit down on the hotel bedspread because I can only imagine what has happened on it since it was last washed.

I have trouble shaking hands
with someone who has been driving because the number one pastime while driving alone is picking one's nose (although texting may be taking the number one spot). 

Eating a little snack sends me on a guilt trip because I can only imagine how many gallons of trans-fats I have consumed over the years.
I can't touch any woman's purse for fear she has placed it on the floor of a public bathroom.

I must send my special thanks
to whoever sent me the one about poop in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet sponge with every envelope that needs sealing.

Also, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258th time.
I no longer have any money at all,
but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Bill Gates/Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.
I no longer worry about my soul
because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me, and St. Theresa's Novena has granted my every wish.

I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.  I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.
Thanks to you
I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

Because of your concern, I no longer drink Coca-Cola because it can remove toilet stains.

I no longer can buy gasoline without taking someone along to watch the car so a serial killer won't crawl in my back seat when I'm pumping gas.

I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans.

I no longer use Saran Wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.

And thanks for letting me know I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face, disfiguring me for life.
I no longer check the coin return on pay phones
because I could be pricked with a needle infected with some deadly disease.
I no longer go to shopping malls
because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.
I no longer accept packages from UPS or FedEx
since they are actually Al-Qaeda in disguise.
I no longer shop at Target
since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army.
I no longer answer the phone
because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica or Uganda or Singapore or Uzbekistan.

And, thanks to your great advice I can't ever pick up a five-dollar bill dropped in the parking lot because it probably was placed there by a molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.
I can no longer drive my car
because I can't buy gas from certain oil companies!

I can't do any gardening because I'm afraid I'll get bitten by a brown recluse spider and my hand will fall off.

So....if you're one of those who send me these types of emails, don't bother.  Otherwise, keep those emails coming.  I promise I'll forward them within five minutes to my seven best friends.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

When A Tiger's Just An Alley Cat

I lived in Florida for two glorious years, twenty-four in all.  During that time I had friends and customers who were troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol.

I learned early in life to have great respect for law enforcement personnel.   My hometown's Chief of Police was Tubby Usery.  His lone patrolman was Opie Pitts.  As I've said before, I grew up in Mayberry, only called by a different name.  But one thing I knew, and knew well:  you don't mess around with the po-lice.

Unless you live in Florida.  In a gated community (another name for "Keeping-The- Undesirables-Out-Land") .  And your name is Tiger.

Did I mention I knew some FHP Troopers?  And that I learned not to mess with them?

As Daddy used to say, "If that was me, they'd have put me under the jail."

Because Tiger Woods lives in a gated community the FHP or the Orange County Sheriff's Office or the Orlando Police have no jurisdiction in traffic incidents unless and until they're called in by Property Management or a resident.  As fate would have it, a neighbor called 911 when they saw Tiger lying in the street as his wife was wailing on him with a seven-iron trying to tend to  his wounds.

I saw pictures of the Escalade after the fact.  Apparently Cadillac doesn't build a fire-hydrant/pine tree-proof SUV, since the front of the vehicle was bashed in.  And, I have a reasonable question:  wouldn't you know if you hit a fire hydrant that you should avoid the tree in your neighbor's yard?

I'm not making fun here.  I'm just an inquiring mind that wants to know.

Initial reports said that Mrs. Tiger (known affectionately as "The Panther") took a Big Bertha and knocked out a rear window so she could free her husband.  Then she knocked out another window on the side.  And another.

UPDATE (I've never been able to do that before just now):  The FHP is going to cite Tiger Woods for reckless driving and consider the case closed.  No word on any charges for his wife's driving.  But then she was using a golf club and not a steering wheel.

Daddy was right.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Worst Christmas Songs. Ever.

The radio stations up here went Christmas Crazy the day after Thanksgiving, filling the airwaves with Good Tidings of Great Joy.  Christmas greetings may be politically incorrect but they are apparently big bucks on radio, with every station competing to be the ORIGINAL! or ONLY! authentic Holiday Station for the area.  As a tribute to all that is good about Christmas I'm sharing my Worst Christmas Songs list.  Now you can find other lists here, here, and here, but these are some of my personal nightmares.  You're entitled to your own opinion, wrong as it may be.

"Dominick The Donkey (The Italian Christmas Donkey)", Lou Monte, 1997.  I just had to add this one for novelty value.  I've never heard it.  Nor do I want to.

"Baby It's Cold Outside", by anyone who ever made a Christmas album.  Face it, everybody knows what this song is about.  That just makes it worse than bad.

"Please, Daddy, Don't Get Drunk This Christmas", John Denver, 1975.  I can't stand anything John Denver does.  I had an interview with an A&M Records exec years ago when our band was shopping a demo tape and I asked him about two artists:  The Carpenters and John Denver.  The Carpenters stunk in concert because they couldn't duplicate their overdubbed vocals from their albums;  John Denver didn't live in rural Colorado but in a downtown Denver condo.  And his songs were ghostwritten.  Please, Daddy, Don't Play John Denver This Christmas.

"Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto", James Brown, 1995.  AAAEEEEEE (spin around on one foot while your cape flies behind you).  Try and find this one in the Christmas music section this year.  It ain't happening.  James Brown is to Christmas music as Congress is to progress.

"Feliz Navidad", Jose Feliciano (and countless others).  I'll hear it several times this season.  And my head will explode each time.  Sing it now:  I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas,  From the bottom.

"All I Want For Christmas", Mariah Carey.  Unbearable at any volume.  She and Celine Dion sound like somebody killing a cat.

"Christmas Shoes", NewSong.  It's a sad story.  It brings tears to your eyes.  It has nothing to do with Christmas.   At all.

"Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer", Elmo and Patsy.  Love it or hate it, it's outsold "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby.  I am not making this up.  On the other side, it's always a hit in the mountains where I live.

"Santa Baby", Madonna, 1987.  Not even close to Eartha Kitt, whose version I really like.  Madonna should not sing Christmas songs.  Or any songs, for that matter.  Or adopt children.  The list goes on and on and on.

"A Wonderful Christmastime", Paul McCartney, 1979.  When I hear the first bars of this song I know Yuletide is near.  I just hope a trash can is near as well.

"Happy Christmas (War Is Over)", John Lennon/Yoko Ono.  John Lennon could take "Happy Birthday" and make it tragic.  Again, my head explodes, my stomach cramps up, and I have difficulty breathing.  Then I turn the radio off and vow never to listen to that station again.  Ever.

There are more, I'm sure, but this is my list.  Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Intraweb 8-Ball

Remember the "Magic 8-Ball" when you were growing up?  You put your chin on the top, ask it a question, flip it over and get a liquid-filled answer displayed at the bottom.  Like "Not Today" or "Maybe" or "Absolutely".  Well, the next best thing is on the Intraweb.

This site will tell you what the Web thinks about anyone or anything, based upon available search engine results.  Just put in the term and turn it loose.  The results are divided into three categories:  Positive, Negative, and Don't Care.  Since we live in perilous times I didn't want to waste effort on trivial subjects, so I put in items of concern to everyone.

Let's go.

Republicans--70.9% Negative.

Conservatives--58.8% Negative.

Democrats--98.7% Don't Care.

Liberals--86.8% Negative.

Between Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, 315.2% either hate 'em or could care less.  Kick 'em all out. 

Barack Obama--94.7% Don't Care.  I see a trend here.

United States--86.5% Positive.

Elvis Presley--99.7% Positive.

Michael Jackson--60.9% Negative.  (Just kidding;  that was actually Richard Nixon's rating.  The Gloved One's was 54.4% Positive.  But the King is, by a wide margin, still the King.)

Jesus Christ--93.1% Positive.

Christianity--63.9% Negative.  Positive about Christ, Negative about Christians.  It's like the bumper sticker that says "I Love Jesus--It's His Followers I Can't Stand".

Mohammed--86.5% Positive.

Muslims--72.5% Negative.  Must be a religious epidemic.

Now on to the really important stuff.  I put in the names of my friends (all three) and, believe it or not, the web, according to the site, "not quite sure" about them.  Neither am I.

Except for one.  Mike Ruffin, that great theologian, has a 100% Positive rating.  He must have paid somebody for his one result on Google.

So I put my name in.  The Intraweb is--wait for it--"not quite sure" about me.

Neither am I.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When Pigs Fly...

...they apparently have Paula Deen in their crosshairs.

The "Lady" from "Lady and Sons" fame was whacked in the nose by a flying ham in Atlanta yesterday and, as BREAKING! news goes in the big city it made the top of the AJC's website.

Jennie, Emily, and Megs are in Atlanta today.  Getting their hair did.

I warned them to stay away from all pork products.  And any woman with high white hair.  You never know when either, or both, are swine flu carriers.  And even though medical spokespeople say the virus is not airborne, yesterday's incident proves otherwise.  So if you see flying bacon strips, sausage patties, or butt roasts, run away.

It's for your own good.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Thanksgiving 2009.

I'm thankful...

...that I'm cancer free. 

...that I have my wife, my children, my Mama, and my sister.

...that for the first time in several years my children are all home together for a few days.  You should see their mama.  I'm thankful just watching her as she enjoys them. 

...that I have a job an opportunity to work (that's the car business). 

...for being in a church that is unashamed and uninhibited in its love for Jesus.

...for God's faithfulness.  Even when it seems I can't hold on, He never lets me go.

...for good friends.  Sometimes they're like women:  can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em.  But I  wouldn't trade my friends for anything in the world.

...for precious memories.

...for the way Mama and Daddy raised me.  Though there have been times I lived like I didn't know right from wrong, it wasn't their fault.  They taught me better.

...for the past.  Forgetting the bad, cherishing the good, remembering the lessons.

...for the future.  I tell my wife, as a reminder, that the rest of our life will be the best of our life.

...for the present.  Every day I wake up next to my sweetheart is a good day.

...for the heritage, handed down through generations before me, that make all that's good in me...well, good.

...for the Bulldogs, Seminoles, and college football in general.  Except UF and Notre Dame.  UF is obvious, Notre Dame is a longstanding loathing.

...for another year in which, as I look back, I have been extremely blessed.  In spite of myself and certainly in spite of the circumstances. 

For all these things, and untold others, I am...thankful.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Leggo My Eggo--We're Running Out

I make no secret of the fact that I love Waffle House.  And it's a good thing.

The Kellogg plant in Atlanta that made Eggo waffles was flooded during our Noah's Ark period a few weeks back, which, coupled with a bacterial problem, caused a nationwide shortage in packaged waffles.  That's right.  If you think gas is expensive, just wait until you approach the Frozen Foods section in your local Publix.  They'll be rationing the Eggos before long.

My children consumed thousands of Eggo waffles when they were growing up.  Now you can say that I, as their father, should have realized that breakfast, as the most important meal of the day, should have consisted of more than frozen waffles and maple-flavored syrup. 

To which I reply, "Shut up."

Eggo waffles contained--and I quote--"wheat, eggs, and milk".  I'd work hard at the toaster and serve my little ones the healthy breakfast, teary-eyed from love for them and the fact that I could catch most of Sports Center.  The latest scores and a hot breakfast.  All the things you need to start a grrreeaaaat day.  Wait a minute, that's Frosted Flakes.  Another nutritious breakfast waiting to be served.

If I had exposed my kids to Waffle House before they knew about Eggos it would have been a financial catastrophe.  I'd be broker than I am now if they had only known about the Yellow Room Cafe.  And they'd each be bigger than the side of a barn.

But I knew.  And I'd sneak WH in as often as possible. 

Me and The House go way back.  My cousin managed one of the first Waffle Houses.  It was in Morrow, Georgia, in Clayton County.  Back when Clayton County was a destination to be desired and not a joke to be told.

Fill me up, please, with a Ham and Cheese Omelet, Hash Browns Smothered and Covered, with a Waffle on the side.  I'll unbuckle my belt and have at it.

I'll leggo my Eggo.  I won't be holding on too tight.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Long National Nightmare Is Finally Over.

"Jon and Kate Plus Eight" will mercifully end its television run Monday night.

It's about time.

As the couple's marital troubles became more and more public my son said TLC should rename the show "Jon Plus Four, Kate Plus Four".

Jennie and I watched the show when it began, captivated by the family's story.  And by the fact that the parents were professing Christians.

The series showed them going to church, talking about God in their lives, and the love they had for their children.  Then it got ugly.

Eventually, the truth about anyone will come out, almost always in a crisis, and usually at the worst possible time.  And everyone will end up knowing.

In the Gosselins' case, looking back, it appears they were asking for it.

Kate, the Baby Momma, came across as petulant and whiny.  Early on you could attribute that to post-partum depression.  But I'm reminded of a scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles when Steve Martin and John Candy are waiting for a cousin to give them a ride.  Now this is not verbatim, but the cousin drives up, gets out of his truck, spits, and orders his wife to get in the back of the truck with the young'uns.  When Martin's character protests, the cousin spits again and states "She's had a passel of young'uns and never screamed or nuthin'", at which point the wife and kids get in the truck bed with the hogs.

Kate could've learned from that movie.  Instead she chose to berate and emasculate her husband in front of the whole country.  What a woman.

On the other hand, Jon, the Baby Daddy, appeared wimpy and whiny as well (do you see a pattern here?).  He seethed silently while grudgingly spending time with his eight children, barely tolerating his wife or them.  After a while it was painfully obvious that he didn't want to be around his kids.  Or his wife.

The couple had twins first (with some help from a fertility clinic) and then came the other six.  The Gosselins said they went back to the clinic because they wanted one more child.


(As an aside, Jennie and I were talking this morning about when her younger sister was born--Thanksgiving season.  She said her mama thought she had a stomach virus.  Some virus.)

Just a thought here.  If you couldn't bear children on your own, couldn't that be a sign that maybe you weren't supposed to have any?  Sounds cold, I know, but hindsight lends validity to that theory.  I'm just sayin'.

After a while the show deteriorated into what looked like a house full of preschoolers, from the babies to the parents.  It was like they were taking crazy pills.  I know I felt like I was.

Stuff like that just wears you out after a while.  He said, she said, and eight innocents caught in the middle of all of it.

Fast-forward ten years, when the children are teenagers.  This saga isn't over yet.  Consequences of our decisions reverberate through generations if someone, somewhere, doesn't step up, take responsibility, and stop the madness.  Parents have to stop being selfish, grow up, and give their kids a different legacy than the one that's being handed down here.

So maybe our viewing the nightmare has finished.  But I fear for these children it's far from over.

And "Kate Plus Eight" is scheduled to begin production in early 2010.  Great.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jim Axel

Jim Axel, news anchor for WAGA TV when I was a child, died Saturday at age 75.

He was one of those news people you could believe.  He looked you in the eye and told you what it was, whether it was good or not.

He worked in the days of TV News authority, not the current "we report, you decide" mentality.  Jim Axel reported, decided, and you could take it or leave it.

My family watched Channel 5 Eyewitness News almost exclusively.  Probably more for Ed Thilenius' sports (he was from my hometown), and Guy Sharpe's weather (he was from The Rock, Georgia, halfway between Barnesville and Thomaston).

But they didn't call Jim Axel (what a name!) the "anchor" for nothing.  He opened the newscast, hovered throughout, and closed it when it was over.  There was no "co-anchor" to throw it to.  He was tough but compassionate, no-nonsense and humorous when it was called for.  One of those men who pass through but once.

Why all the fuss over a retired newsman?  Read it again.  From my perspective Jim Axel was a man's man.  Just what we needed then.

And need more now.

How Many Does It Take?

An oldie but goodie.  From several sources, all unknown and unwilling to confess.

How many Charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
Ten.  One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?
None.  God has predestined when the light will be on.  Calvinists do not change light bulbs. They simply read the instructions and pray the light bulb will be one that has been chosen to be changed.

How many Armenians does it take to change a light bulb?
All. They need everyone to make sure it stays on. One can never really be sure.

How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?

How many neo-orthodox does it take to change a bulb?
No one knows.  They can't tell the difference between light and dark.

How many TV evangelists does it take to change a light bulb?
One.  But for the message of light to continue, send in your donation today.

How many independent fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one, because any more might result in too much cooperation.

How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb?
At least ten, as they need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb exists.  Even if they can agree upon the existence of the light bulb, they still might not change it, to keep from alienating those who might use other forms of light.

How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?
None.  They always use candles.

How many worship leaders who use guitars does it take to change a light bulb?
One.  But soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.

How many members of an established fundamental Bible teaching church that is over 20 years old does it take to change a light bulb?
Ten.  One to actually change the bulb, and nine to say how much they liked the old one.

How many United Methodists does it take to change a light bulb?
This statement was issued: "We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb.  However, if in your own journey you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine.  You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb (or light source, or non-dark resource), and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life, and tinted--all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence. "

How many Amish does it take to change a light bulb?
"What's a light bulb?"

How many youth pastors does it take to change a light bulb?
Youth pastors aren't around long enough for a light bulb to burn out.

How many Southern Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?
109.  7 on the Light Bulb Task Force Subcommittee, who report to the 12 on the Light Bulb Task Force, appointed by the 15 on the Trustee Board.  Their recommendation is reviewed by the Finance Committee Executive of 5, who place it on the agenda of the 18 member Finance Committee.  If they approve, they bring a motion to the 27 member church Board, who appoint another 12 member review committee.  If they recommend that the Church Board proceed, a resolution is brought to the Congregational Business Meeting.  They appoint another 8 member review committee.  If their report to the next Congregational Business Meeting supports the changing of a light bulb, and the Congregation votes in favor, the responsibility to carry out the light bulb change is passed on to the Trustee Board, who in turn appoint a 7 member committee to find the best price in new light bulbs.  Their recommendation of which Hardware Store has the best buy must then be reviewed by the 23 member Ethics Committee to make certain that this hardware store has no connection to Disneyland.  They report back to the Trustee Board who, then commissions the Trustee in charge of the Janitor to ask him to make the change.  By then the janitor discovers that one more light bulb has burned out. 

One more for the road...Know the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?  The Methodist will speak to you in the liquor store.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Veteran

A "repost" from last Veteran's Day:

I'm thankful on this Veteran's Day for all the men and women who served in our military during peacetime and war. My uncle Robert was an Army Medic with the forces who stormed Normandy. I don't know all that he saw, but I know he gave me a Nazi blanket that he brought home after the war. He never talked about his service, and I never asked.

My cousin Raymond was a career Air Force man, retiring after more than 20 years, many of them during the Vietnam War. Thankfully he never had to go to Vietnam. Every time I asked him what his job was he told me he ran the bowling alley. I still don't know what he did, and I think that if he told me the truth he'd have to kill me. I'm glad I don't know.

My uncle Johnny was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the "day which will live in infamy" and was on his way to church when the bombs started dropping. He spent the rest of the war in the Pacific theater.

Which brings us to my dad. Roscoe Athens Berry joined the Army in late December 1941, after growing up poor in the northeast Georgia mountain town of Dahlonega. He was twenty-one years old.  While this was where America's first major gold rush happened, from pictures and handed-down stories I don't think my Dad saw any of that wealth. He grew up in the country, raised by self-sufficient parents, Miles and Pearl, who grew the vegetables and raised the livestock they survived on.

I've seen pictures of Daddy at Civilian Conservation Corps camps from Rock Eagle, Georgia to Wilmington, North Carolina. He looks young and skinny...not malnourished, but like James Taylor says, "soft as smoke and hard as nails". Life is in front of him and he looks up to the challenge.

Then comes the war.

Daddy went from Fort Bragg to San Francisco to Guam, the Phillipines, Guadacanal, Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia. He told me one time that if he could live anywhere else in the world it would be New Zealand (Mama used to tell me I might have some relatives there...I don't know).

He never talked about his experiences voluntarily. If I asked him specifics he'd tell me, in short answers, what happened. I asked him once if he ever saw anyone die. He told me about spending a silent night in a two-man foxhole only to find his partner dead of a slit throat when the sun came up the next morning. He wondered why the Japanese didn't kill him as well.

Dad came out of the Army with Sergeant's stripes as a part of the 82nd Airborne Division and stayed in the reserves for some time after that. I used to wear his dress uniform jacket and hat when I was four or five years old. I don't know when he got rid of it, but one day it was gone.

If my dad, and thousands like him, had not been willing to serve we wouldn't enjoy the freedom we have today. No wonder they're called the "greatest generation". They did what they had to do, without complaining or making a big deal out of their service. It was what we would call today a strong work ethic. It was what they called doing the right thing.

In this age of putrid self-glorification there are few people who would do what they did without wanting everyone to notice and praise them.

Daddy taught me about patriotism. When we'd have parades in my hometown and the flag would pass by, he'd stand at attention and put his hand over his heart. There were times I thought it was corny and old-fashioned.

Oh, to stand next to him one more time and salute the flag.

When Dad died we draped an American flag on his casket. It's still folded like it was the day Mr. Matt Haisten gave it to my Mama. My sweetheart framed it for me and it sits on the bookcase right next to Daddy's picture in his dress uniform, smiling confidently at the world.

Every day I want to live up to his example.

Every day I miss him.  And Uncle Robert, and Uncle Johnny.  But mostly him.

I didn't say it often enough when I could have.  And should have.

Thank you, Daddy. I love you.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two '55 Fords And A Trunk Full of Memories, Part 2

I spent many a summer day during my childhood riding my purple Sears Thrasher banana-bike around Miss Ruth Wehrle's circular driveway.  I'd go up the hill, coast around the top of the arc, and fly--FLY--down the other side, out into Sims Street, notorious for its heavy almost non-existent traffic.  At the top of her homemade driveway, under a homemade carport, sat Miss Ruth's 1955 Ford Customline.

From the time I was seven or eight years old I told Miss Ruth that if she ever sold that car I wanted to buy it.

I drove it periodically, mostly to Daddy's station to service it, and mainly to keep from having to jump it off for Miss Ruth in the rare event she would drive it.  Red Sammons drove it in the movie mentioned in a previous post, but mostly it just sat under the carport at the top of Miss Ruth's driveway.

My in-laws and my wife and I spent the night at Miss Ruth's when Daddy died, since our house was full of other family.  I woke up before anyone else--besides Miss Ruth--and in the early morning hours before the funeral she had a simple request.  Would I drive her car for her?

It hadn't been driven in a while.  There's a smell, a scent, that 1950s-era cars and trucks have.  It's not bad, it's just...memories.  I remembered the times I drove the Customline to the station, changed the oil, drove it around the square, and took it back to Miss Ruth's.  I recalled driving my sweet wife out in the country in it, one arm on the wheel and the other around her as she sat next to me.  Before the time of mandatory seatbelts but during the time of COD's (Come Over, Darlin').

I backed it into the carport and hung the key on the rack outside her back door where it always hung.  When I walked in, folks were up and the day was waiting to be faced.  I told Miss Ruth--for the umpteenth time--that if she ever sold the car I wanted to buy it.  She said when she got too old to drive I could have it.

I was living in South Florida when I got the call from Mama.  Miss Ruth wanted me to call her.

She sounded weak, but alert, when we spoke.  "Somebody wants to buy my Ford," she told me, "but I told them they couldn't have it because I promised it to you."  I found out later the "somebody" was Harold Smith, who had always told me he'd buy it before I would.


I borrowed a flatbed from a friend and drove to Barnesville.  The car was right where it always was, under the carport.  When I went into Miss Ruth's house, she was lying on the couch.  She was now legally blind, but knew my voice.  She was bedridden, but raised up to hug my neck.

I looked around the small house.  On the wall was a frame with a wreath made of hair.  I remembered Miss Ruth telling me that some of that hair belonged to an ancestor, George Washington.  Her home was full of interesting items.  My favorite as a child was a miniature Coca-Cola crate, filled with little green Coke bottles.  It's at my house on a display shelf today.

I  loaded up the Customline on the flatbed, secured it, and went back into the house to give Miss Ruth the check.  That's right:  she didn't give it to me, because Mama wouldn't let me take it for nothing.  She remembered Miss Ruth's love and kindness and knew she needed the money.

When it was restored it shone like it did in 1955, only better.  The bumpers had been rechromed, I'd had it repainted Raven Black, and redid the interior.  When I sold it it had 54,000 original miles on the odometer.

I should have kept it.  Just like the 1955 Crown Victoria, the 1965 Falcon, the 1971 Monte Carlo, and the 1971 Grand Prix.  But I didn't.  I did it for my kids.

It was so, later, I could tell them not to ever fall in love with metal and rubber.

Like their Daddy did.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

These Are The Folks We Want To Manage Healthcare

From Neal Boortz via the Washington Examiner.  These are some of the items my tax dollars will pay for through the current stimulus package.  My take on them after the statement. 

- $300,000 for a GPS-equipped helicopter to hunt for radioactive rabbit droppings at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.
Charter a Delta jet, one-way, to Iran.  These rodents can help their nuclear development program.
- $30 million for a spring training baseball complex for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
Make them one team, the Arizona Coloradoes, eliminate the state line, and move the Dodgers back to Vero Beach.
- $11 million for Microsoft to build a bridge connecting its two headquarter campuses in Redmond, Wash., which are separated by a highway.
Microsoft?  Bill Gates' Microsoft?  Let 'em build their own damn bridge.
- $430,000 to repair a bridge in Iowa County, Wis., that carries 10 or fewer cars per day.
Walk on the unbroken parts of the bridge.
- $800,000 for the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pa., serving about 20 passengers per day, to build a backup runway.
Rep. Murtha needs to backup.  And run away.
- $219,000 for Syracuse University to study the sex lives of freshmen women.
Save the cash.  Just ask freshman men.
- $2.3 million for the U.S. Forest Service to rear large numbers of arthropods, including the Asian longhorned beetle, the nun moth and the woolly adelgid.
Send the beetle back to Asia, the nun to a convent, and shear the wool.
- $3.4 million for a 13-foot tunnel for turtles and other wildlife attempting to cross U.S. 27 in Lake Jackson, Fla.
If possums can cross the road in Florida...oh, wait.
- $1.15 million to install a guardrail for a persistently dry lake bed in Guymon, Okla.
You know how those Okies love to dry-lake dive.  The next Redneck Games event.  
- $9.38 million to renovate a century-old train depot in Lancaster County, Pa., that has not been used for three decades.
They renovated the depot in my hometown.  After somebody bought it, used their own money, and opened businesses there.  Capitalist pigs.
- $2.5 million in stimulus checks sent to the deceased.
According to Social Security, I've been dead for several years.  I'll take my check now,  please.
- $6 million for a snow-making facility in Duluth, Minn.
Making snow in Minnesota.  There's nothing to say.  Really.
- $173,834 to weatherize eight pickup trucks in Madison County, Ill.
Buy Ford trucks.  They're already weatherized.  And Built Ford Tough.
- $20,000 for a fish sperm freezer at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in South Dakota.
Maybe they could just use the snow from the facility in Minnesota.
- $380,000 to spay and neuter pets in Wichita, Kan.
My son had his Golden Retriever neutered (castrated).  Chief hasn't looked at my son the same way since.  Spay/neuter the people behind this so we won't have to face it again from their children.
- $300 apiece for thousands of signs at road construction sites across the country announcing that the projects are funded by stimulus money.
Contractors in Georgia were having to pay for these upfront, then wait for the government to reimburse them.  They decided not to pay.  Or use them.
- $1.5 million for a fence to block would-be jumpers from leaping off the All-American Bridge in Akron, Ohio.
Hire someone at minimum wage to alternately yell "Jump!  Don't jump" if/when someone tries.  Or use the leftover guardrail from Oklahoma.  Or just let 'em jump, because it's not the fall that kills you.  It's that sudden stop at the end.
- $1 million to study the health effects of environmentally friendly public housing on 300 people in Chicago.
Hold the million until everybody in the neighborhood stops smoking, drinking, and using drugs.  Otherwise, the test results will be skewed.
- $356,000 for Indiana University to study childhood comprehension of foreign accents compared with native speech.
Wait ten years.  Then all we'll have to understand is Spanish.  Or Arabic.  Whichever one takes over first.
- $983,952 for street beautification in Ann Arbor, Mich., including decorative lighting, trees, benches and bike paths.
I'm all over it.  Gives folks nicer things to steal, break, and tear down.
- $148,438 for Washington State University to analyze the use of marijuana in conjunction with medications like morphine.
Note they didn't want to analyze the results of mixing drugs, just the use.  This can be done at minimal cost by just walking down the most dangerous street in that college town.  Or just visiting any dorm.
- $462,000 to purchase 22 concrete toilets for use in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.
Have you ever sat on a concrete toilet?  Me neither.  If it's a National Forest, build a latrine and supply shovels.  That'll cut down on exhaust emissions (both kinds) that are killing trees.
- $3.1 million to transform a canal barge into a floating museum that will travel the Erie Canal in New York state.
You can get to it using that turtle bridge they didn't build in Florida.
- $1.3 million on government arts jobs in Maine, including $30,000 for basket makers, $20,000 for storytelling and $12,500 for a music festival.
That explains a lot.  Government arts.  Let someone make a basket while telling a story as he plays his banjo and harmonica.  I'd pay to see that and save us bundles of cash.
- $71,000 for a hybrid car to be used by student drivers in Colchester, Vt., as well as a plug-in hybrid for town workers decked out with a sign touting the vehicle's energy efficiency.
St Michael's College and Albany College of Pharmacy are both located here.  Take the Washington State study of drugs and the Syracuse study on sex, put them together with this one.  Load 'em up, let 'em drive the hybrid and talk about sex.  Saves a bunch.
- $1 million for Portland, Ore., to replace 100 aging bike lockers and build a garage that would house 250 bicycles.
A bicycle garage.  Where would you put the garage door opener?  I have a suggestion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two '55 Fords And A Trunk Full of Memories, Part One.

I first saw it in Preacher Mathis' barn just outside of Milner.  It was half-covered with a tarp but I could see the chrome shining out from underneath.  It was a 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, turquoise and white with a wide chrome strip over the roof.  I never knew what Daddy paid for it.  He wouldn't tell me.  When I asked him he just said "a paper sack full of money".

And it was mine "ours".  Daddy's and mine.

We jumped it off and Daddy drove it back to the station, where it would be parked in the wash bay until it was ready to drive.  Over the next few months Daddy would work on the engine, a 292 cubic-inch four-barrel Thunderbird prototype, and I would sand down the body to prepare it to be painted.  It was a labor of love on both our parts.  It had the original spare, and the turquoise-and-white seats were covered in clear plastic to protect the vinyl.

I took off all the chrome (there was a lot) and wet-sanded it down to the base coat.  Every now and then we'd crank it up just to hear it run.  I've never heard anything like it.  Burble-burble-burrrrrbbbbbllle-ROWWWRRRR!  It was one.  Bad.  Automobile.  I couldn't wait to drive it.

I took it out to Moore's body shop, where Jimmy Moore painstakingly matched the paint and applied all the coats necessary to return it to its new-car glory.  Daddy and I re-installed the chrome and it was ready to go.

I ran that thing everywhere like it was brand-new.  And mine.  It

I drove it to Ed's Tavern, south of Thomaston, one Saturday night when our band was playing there.  Ever see the bar in The Blues Brothers ("We play country AND western")?  They used Ed's Tavern as a basis for that one, right down to the barbed-wire in front of the stage.  When the Upson County Sheriff's deputies showed up at Ed's we ran out the back dragging our equipment behind us.  Never did get paid.  I sure could use that money right now.

I drove it "around".  My children never knew the fun of "just riding around".  If there was nothing going on after dark, you'd go to a friend's house and ask them if they wanted to "ride around".  We never went anywhere and yet went everywhere at the same time.  A lot of what I learned about life I learned "riding around". 

I drove it to Forsyth.  Jackson.  High Falls.  Orchard Hill.  Back when those places meant something.

I drove it in a movie made in Barnesville, Return to Macon County.  Starring Nick Nolte, Don Johnson, and you-know-who.  I got in a screen fight in Mr. T. R. Bush's restaurant (just "across the tracks") with Don Johnson.  Yes, that Don Johnson.  Before Miami Vice.  He couldn't hold his liquor.  And he couldn't fight.

The producer of that non-Academy Award nominated film tried to buy the Crown.  He offered Daddy $25,000.  Daddy said no.

I wasn't driving the night the Crown outran a Greyhound bus on US 341 between Barnesville and Griffin.  Daddy was, and told me all about it.

It was parked outside the station the last time I saw it.  I was in college and happened to be in Macon the weekend it was sold.  I never knew how much it sold for.  When I asked Daddy how much he sold it for, he simply told me "a paper sack full of money." 

I can still see it, hear the exhaust, smell the interior.  In my mind.  Along with the memories.

It was just yesterday.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Intraweb

Every now and then (daily) I have...issues with my computer.

At home, my sweetheart has a powerful machine with a big, flat-screen monitor upon which she can check her email, go on Facebook, etc. with a minimum of trouble.

My baby girl has a Macbook with all the options.

I operate from an old Compaq Presario which is, to put it mildly, tempermental.  Or maybe just mental.  I can't tell the difference.

I never know when I come in to work whether my Mustang screensavers will be showing, or if I'll have the dreaded black screen with the Windows XP (that's right, I like living on the edge of technology) playing Pong with the sides of my borrowed monitor.  Seeing the black screen means that at some point overnight my computer rebooted itself.  For what reason, I don't know.

I am computer illiterate.  The thing kept shutting off every ten minutes or so about a month back, and I was told I needed a new power source for it.  No problem.  I drove to the closest source for a power source, plunked down my forty bucks (remember that amount-- a future post is dedicated to it), and took my new power source, had someone who knew what they were doing install it, and I was off and running again.  For about twenty minutes at a clip this time.

Currently I have a small fan behind the CPU keeping the guts of the computer cool so it won't shut off.  Lovin' life and livin' large.

Which brings me to the other thing.  I think my computer knows too much about me.

I have to "log in" to everything I want to see or do.  As I log in, the site asks, "Do you want me to remember this information?"  WHO ARE "YOU"?  After which it will welcome me back or in or whatever that site says about me being there.

Reminds me of what Lewis Grizzard, that great theologian, said about flying in to Atlanta.  The men's room was the only thing glad to see him.  The lights came on when he walked in, and after he did his business, the toilet cried as he was leaving.

My wife and children have Facebook accounts.  There are people on there Jennie hasn't seen in over thirty years, and others I don't care if I ever see again.  Oh, the joy and freedom of saying "no".

I grew up in a small town, where everybody knew everybody else.  And their children.  We didn't need Twitter or Facebook for folks to know what was going on.  We had parents.

A Barnesville police officer was married to my friend Steve's sister.  Anytime--and I mean anytime--some kind of meanness happened he'd head straight to Sims Street to find out where Steve and I were and what we'd been doing.  The first time I rode my bicycle to town alone Mama had folks all along Carleeta Street watching me, there and back.

Not too long ago, I tried to text my daughter A) to see if I could and 2) to tell her "I love you".  I couldn't, and I couldn't.  It came out like this:  "H knud wmv".  She understood.

And to think I used to wish I was important enough to have a pager.

I don't videoconference, have a Blackberry or PDA, and can barely operate my email.  Who needs MySpace?

For what it's worth, I really don't want everyone in the world knowing what I'm doing "right now", or any other time for that matter.  My life's been an open book to far too many people for far too long.  Time to close it.  And just say no.

So I won't follow you on Twitter, be your friend on Facebook, watch you on YouTube, or anything else.  I'm behind the times and intend to stay there for as long as I can.  Those who really matter have all the information they can stand.  If you need me you know where to find me.

I live at the end of the first driveway on the right when you turn left off Ben Higgins onto Still Road.  See you at the house.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Am Elvis Presley's Love Child

There's a woman from up North making some noise about being related to Elvis Presley.

First she said she was Elvis' child, then changed her story to say she was Vernon's (Elvis' dad).

How can she prove this?  It's been verified that her mother hung around Elvis and his gang back in the late 60's and early 70's.  Somewhere in the vicinity of the King.

Using this logic, since my Mama went to more than one Elvis concert during that same time, where he waved to her AND blew her a kiss, it stands to reason that I--wait for it--am the King's love child.

This would explain a lot.  Like why I love his music, can talk, sing, and shake like him, and have a propensity toward fried foods and shiny cars.  Not to mention my strong physical resemblance to Elvis, commented on by more than one person.  Of course they always say I look like 70's Elvis, but who's listening?  The facts speak for themselves.

Graceland, here I come.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

If I Could Be From Somewhere Else...

...I like saying I'm from Dahlonega, Georgia.  Mainly because folks who hear it over the phone can't spell it, and those who see it in print can't say it.  Oh, they try. 

"Mr. Berry, you're from?"


"And you spell that..."  After which they will mangle the spelling of my hometown in any number of ways.  None of them right.

Or, if they're reading it to me, they'll mispronounce it.  Terribly.

"That's Daa-lo-nee-gah?"


I grew up in Barnesville, just south of Griffin, which was close to Experiment and Gay.  Thank God I wasn't from Gay.

Georgia town names are all over the map.

There's Plum Nelly, "plum" out of Tennessee and "nelly" out of Georgia.

Some of my wife's people are from Willacoochie, on US 84 between Waycross and Jesup.  Her daddy's from Hahira, near Adel and Sparks.  (How do you know you're near Hell in Adel?  You can see Sparks from there.)

I live about twenty miles north of Cumming, and almost a state away from Climax, which is just east of Bainbridge.  Just think what would happen if Cumming and Climax were closer together.

Ball Ground is just down the road from us, just west of Frogtown.

We lived in Moultrie once.  There was a little community between there and Quitman named Berlin.  Easy to pronounce, right?  Wrong, with a capital "R".  I said it wrong the very first time.  The emphasis is on the last syllable, Ber-LIN, as sort of a protest against the Germans for WW II.

I think I'd like to say I'm from Flippen, though.  It's in Henry County, south of Atlanta (the town formerly known as Marthasville, Terminus, and Canebrake).

Can you imagine a greater place to be from than Flippen?  Oh, the questions.

Where do you live?  Flippen, Georgia.  (Read it out loud.)

Oh, you're one of them Flippen Berrys?  Yep.  Mama was a Flippen Free.

Where did you go to school?  Flippen High School.  Our team was the "Outs".  Mama worked for the Flippen Post Office.  Daddy was a Flippen mechanic.

Got pulled over by the Flippen Police.  Took me to the Flippen jail.  Had to pay a Flippen fine.

Dated a Flippen girl.  Got married in Flippen Church of God.

The list goes on.  Or just stops now, to end the agony.

Compared to the places I could be from, Dahlonega is pretty tame.

Could be worse.  Could be from Enigma, which is nowhere near Ideal.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Miss Midway

I read my friend Mike's blog and he referred to this letter in the Christian Index.  It made me think about the things I miss when I go to church nowadays.

My wife and I attend The Father's House, a church in Dawsonville.  It's a non-denominational congregation housed in a former warehouse.  I love the pastor, the music, the spirit of the place.  It reminds me a little of the church I grew up in, Midway Baptist, halfway between Barnesville and Jackson, Georgia.

But this church ain't Midway.

I've never been in a church like Midway since I left there to attend college in 1976.  I'm not sure there's another church like it (the way I remember it) anywhere.

Time either romanticizes or demonizes your memories, depending on perspective.  I guess my memories of Midway take a slant toward the romantic, because my perspective tends to make me remember the good and discount the bad.

There was some bad--"Preacher Bill" Coleman pastored Midway three different times as I was growing up.  He left once on his own, after being "called" to a church in Byron.  The other two times he was voted out.

Susie Hickman sang a "special" (referred to now as a "solo") almost weekly.  I can't forget her, standing next to Annette Swatts, who played the piano when Susie sang.  I'm not sure anyone else could have played for Susie, who always preceded her singing by saying, "Y'all pray for me as I try to sing (insert name of song here)."  We prayed, as she tried.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

Melvin "Gomer" Peugh "led" the music.  He was called Gomer because he looked like Gomer Pyle, he of Andy Griffith and U.S.M.C. fame.  We had a "choir", which Gomer assembled each Sunday morning by saying, just before the service started, "Anybody who wants to sing in the choir today, come on up."  People filled the choir loft, and whatever "choir song" they sang that day came from The Red Songbook/Not The Baptist Hymnal.  My favorite was #14, "Jesus Is Coming Soon".  I can still see Mama in the ladies' section, along with Sara Ruffin, Bernice Knight, Paula Hickman, and two rows of other women.  Daddy was in the back, with Champ Ruffin, Walter Moore, and "Big John" Littlejohn, among others.  When Big John died they had to custom-build a casket for him and it took eight men to carry it.

If I could only hear that choir one more time.

I begged Daddy to let me go with him before the morning service to the "prayer room" in the back of the church, which was really behind the front of the church.  Baptists everywhere will understand where this is.  I guess I was about eight or nine when he finally let me go with him.

The men in that small room--Preacher Bill, Daddy, Champ, James Smith, and others--dropped to their knees and prayed for souls to be saved in the service that morning, for the sick, and for each other.  Preacher Bill slipped out as soon as he prayed, but the others would continue, sometimes even after the service started, then take their place in the choir or in the congregation when they were finished.

In the summertime the men would pray outside under the oak tree near the cemetary.  We didn't have central air conditioning--or heat for that matter--when I was small.  I could look out the open window and see those men praying, hearing their cries to God when there was a lull in the service.

If I could only hear them pray one more time.

We sang mostly from the Baptist Hymnal on Sunday morning, from #1 (Holy, Holy, Holy) through #188 (Amazing Grace) to #240 (Just As I Am) during the invitation, when Preacher Bill would call on you to Be Saved, Rededicate Your Life, or Just Come Pray If You Need To At This Altar Before The Lord.  I'm not sure most churches even do any of that any more.

If I could only walk down that aisle one more time.  And have Preacher Bill kneel with me next to that pulpit, put his arm around my shoulder, and pray with me.

We'd have Homecoming every year.  The men would start Saturday afternoon, cooking deer meat and pork and chicken over coals fired up between two rows of cinder blocks on grills made of chain-link fence and steel poles.  They'd stay out there all night, preparing the barbecue (a noun, NOT a verb) for the next day.  Whatever Gospel group we had hired that year was usually there on Saturday night, spending the night on their bus before they sang the next day, all day, after Dinner On The Grounds.  It was the only Sunday in the year besides Easter that there would be no Evening Service.  The women would make homemade cakes, pies, breads, and their signature vegetable dishes, all of which would be cleaned out within minutes after the blessing.

If I could only spend the night cooking with those men, one more time.

It was the church folks got married and buried in.  I watched my favorite Sunday School teacher (and first crush) Paula Hickman marry a sailor there.  I got Saved there in April when I was seven years old.  I fell on the edge of the altar after a Christmas play that same year and busted my head open, after which Dr. Henry sewed six stitches above my right eye as Daddy and Mama held my hands and women from the church talked about what a pretty job he was doing.  I missed Dr. Henry's son (and my best friend) Ben Henry's funeral there in November 1971 because I was still in the hospital recovering from the wreck that killed him and almost killed me.  I sat with my new wife Jennie, Mama, and my sister Susie as Preacher Bill wept through Daddy's funeral in 1979, then Champ Ruffin's (Mike's Daddy) two weeks later, the last service I attended there before Preacher Bill died.

We sang #188, Amazing Grace, along with the men and women I had watched as I grew up.

It was just like Sunday morning, only sad.  But we sang like we meant it because we did.

If only I could hear it one more time.

Amazing Grace.  How sweet the sound.