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.