Saturday, February 20, 2010

Captain Obvious and Sergeant Stupid

I watch the local news every morning, more for laughs than anything else.  This morning I was not disappointed.

Tom Haynes was interviewing a victim of a stabbing in a lab on the Georgia Tech campus last week.  Well, it wasn't really a stabbing;  the victim was attacked by a former GT student using a samurai sword.

You can't make this stuff up.

Haynes, otherwise known as Captain Obvious, asked the victim: "When you were being attacked, did you feel that your life was in danger?"

The victim said yes.  I know how I would have answered:  "Nope, I was just hoping to live long enough to get to the Varsity for one more Frosty Orange and a chili dog."

The interview ended with the victim telling Haynes how the campus police and the Atlanta Police Department showed up.  Captain Obvious asked "When the police showed up, did you think your life had been saved?"

Again, yes.  Me?  "Nope, I've seen the APD in action.  They shoot first, and then, if anyone lives, they ask questions."

After this riveting exchange, I tuned to ESPN in time to hear Mike Tirico and Tom Rinaldi talking about Tiger Woods' press conference yesterday.  Rinaldi, Sergeant Stupid, observed that the press conference was "one of those things where people will remember where they were when they heard it", placing Tiger's TV time up there alongside the Kennedy assassination, the supposed death of Elvis, and 9/11.  Brilliant.

Which reminds me of this story:

An old country Baptist preacher was attending an associational meeting where a seminary professor gave a glowing report of the advances in theological education.  The old preacher was called upon to say the closing prayer, whereupon he said, "O God, I thank Thee that I am ignorant.  Please make me ignoranter."

Preacher, along with Fox 5 and ESPN, your prayer has been answered.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mama

My mama's birthday is today.  For the better part of my life I knew her birthday but not the year in which she was born.  Whenever I would ask her how old she was, she'd always say, "39 and holding".  I wonder if she inspired the Jerry Lee Lewis song of the same name.  As soon as I typed that I realized I'd rather not know.

I have a lifetime of "Mama Memories":

--sitting in her lap on a Saturday afternoon, watching the rain pepper our Sims Street driveway, and her telling me it was little children going to church as I drifted off to sleep.

--riding in the front seat of our '53 Mercury/'59 Ford/'64 Galaxie, nestled up against her, my head on her shoulder as we traveled somewhere.  Before the advent of seatbelts or booster seats, there was Mama.  I never felt safer in my life than when I rode with her.

--any and every time I was sick she took care of me, giving me whatever she sensed I wanted or needed.  I'll never forget one evening I had the flu or something and all I wanted was a Dairy Queen hamburger.  Mama sent Daddy over to Mrs. Pritchett (she owned the DQ) and got me a Brazier Burger.  After they'd closed for the day.

--I'd sit next to her in church, and she'd make me little goblets out of Juicy Fruit wrappers.  She'd ask me every Sunday during the invitation song if I wanted to get saved.  One Sunday morning I said yes.  I'm here by the grace of God and the persistence of Mama.

--as I grew older, riding with her anywhere was an adventure.  She knew the speed limit, but she also knew every State Patrolman and Deputy in the surrounding counties.  She never got stopped for so much as a warning.  And she never drove slowly anywhere she was going.  Once, on I-475 near Macon, she flew by a GSP trooper who obviously didn't know her.  He gave chase, she hopped off at an exit, crossed over to the entrance ramp, and sat there until he passed by under the bridge.  She out-troopered the trooper.

--before I ever got my Learner's License, I was allowed to drive.  One Sunday afternoon Daryl Strickland and I wanted to drive the Galaxie out to the Dari Delite.  Mama laid down in the backseat so it would look like Daryl and I were alone, cruising for girls.  God knows what we'd have done if any girls had wanted to ride around with us that day.  I guess they'd have ridden in the backseat.  With Mama.

Everything I needed to know about life and living I learned from Mama.  She's feisty and gracious, the original Steel Magnolia.  You never have to question what she thinks about something, she makes it clear.  She's sharp as a tack and sweet as mountain honey.  She loves me, and that's been no small task.

She's my Mama.  There's not another one like her anywhere.  I love her with all my heart.

And today's her birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mama.  I'm glad you're mine.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Daytona 500

This year's Daytona 500 is over.  The almost-seven-hour marathon was interrupted by numerous cautions, most of the later ones concerning a pothole in Turn Two.  Thankfully, the Florida Department of Transportation had personnel on hand to take care of it.  Eighteen in all:  one to shovel the asphalt, ten to hold warning signs, and eight to nap in the yellow trucks.

I was disappointed--as I have been every year since 2001--that Mark Martin didn't win.

I like Mark Martin.  He's all I have left since Dale Earnhardt died in Turn Three in 2001's 500.  Mark drove Fords for years, until he got too old and was unceremoniously let go by Jack Roush so he could drive Chevys and be more successful.  Oh well.

I come from a long line of race fans.  Uncle Johnny owned two Sportsman Modified cars--1956 Fords--back in the 1960s.  One of those he sold to Ralph Earnhardt so Ralph's son, Dale, would have a car to drive.  The Earnhardts tried to paint it red;  it came out Pepto-Bismol pink.  That paint job's probably what made Dale so tough.  You've got to be a real man (or an idiot) to drive a race car like that on North Georgia and Carolina tracks.

NASCAR ain't the NASCAR I grew up with.  Tiny Lund, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Fireball Roberts...drivers who drove what they brung--with manufacturers who had the philosophy "win on Sunday, sell on Monday".  And it worked.  Until things got sissified.

One universal car body type, with only the nose and tail and brand stickers to delineate Fords from Chevys from Dodges.  Don't get me started on Toyotas in racing.  But I understand they have great acceleration.

One engine type, with horsepower and specs mandated by NASCAR.  Along with shocks, springs, etc.  That's why every car has the same ad stickers on the front fenders, which aren't really fenders at all, just part of a unibody shell that every car shares.

So Mark finished 12th.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was 22nd at the second-to-last caution.  During the next green he moved up to 10th.  Then, on the final lap, he moved from 10th to 2nd.  He drove (at last) like his daddy taught him.  Another third of a mile and he would have won.

But, alas, the finish line is where it is on purpose.  He had 499 miles to win that race, and he didn't.  He sandbagged until the closing laps, counting on someone to wreck so he could move up.

That's not how he learned racin'.  Dale Sr. once said he wanted to get out front so he could "see the air".

It's also a good place to be if you want to win a race.

I Don't Understand Church Folks. At All.

So...my sweetheart and I went to church yesterday, which is normal.  The sermon was about "bringing people to Jesus", which is also normal.  He challenged the congregation to be sensitive to folks in their everyday traffic patterns who need the Lord, which should be normal but usually isn't.

Church folks as a general rule are a clannish lot.  They like to be around others who look like them, talk like them, act like them.  This, too, is normal, and wrong with a capital R.

Since it was Valentine's Day, and I'm crazy in love with my wife, I took her to lunch at a/an Hibachi restaurant in Dawsonville.  I never thought I'd say (or read) those words.  Years ago, a Japanese restaurant in Dawsonville would be like putting perfume on a hog.  The two just didn't go together.

But I digress.

At these restaurants, you sit around the grill with people you don't know unless you brought ten people with you.  That was not the case yesterday.

We walked in and gave the hostess our name, and noticed six other folks from church.  One was the worship leader, one was the CEO, and their wives, and two children.  I spoke to the worship leader when I came in, assuming he would remember me since we had met several times previously.  He didn't.  That was okay.

When we sat down my wife and I were placed on the corner as the other church folks filled up six seats adjacent to us.  To my wife's left was a young couple, obviously out for Valentine's Day.  We struck up a conversation with them as the church folks talked amongst themselves.

They never noticed the young couple, and I wondered to myself what would have happened had we not been there.  And if the church folks had even heard the sermon.

The young man was a supervisor at a construction supply house, and his wife (they got married last October) was a legal secretary, but they wanted to open a daycare in the future.  All this information they shared because we spoke first.

My wife told them we'd like to pray before we ate and asked if they'd mind.  They didn't, so we did.  The CEO said he really liked that prayer.  That was the extent of our conversation, which was really just his observation.

We invited the young couple to church, found out where they lived, told them we'd pray for their future business, and when we finished lunch, left.  Just before we ended our meal, the worship leader and the CEO had to leave for a church meeting.  I knew this because the CEO's wife made sure everyone at the table heard her tell the chef, who just smiled.  I wondered how many church folks he served, and how much they tipped. My experience told me "not much".

You may say I have a critical spirit.  I say I've been on both sides of church folks' beating stick, and, to quote that great theologian Billy Joel, I'd "rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints".  So that's what my sweetheart and I did. 

While the church folks had their church folks conversation.  And ignored a young couple who needed to see Jesus in somebody.  I pray they saw Him in us.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Things You Didn't Know About Valentine's Day

From here, some things you may not know about Valentine's Day, just in time.

1--Women Spend Half As Much As Men--no surprise here.  It's like, "Look, Honey, after you got me that $8 card, the $39 roses, the diamond ring and car, I got you _____" ($.99 card, Hershey bar, McGift Certificate).  Remember, love is never having to say you're sorry if you're a man, and never having to get an expensive gift if you're a woman.

2--Condom Sales Are Highest On Valentine's Day--I did not know this.  I did not need to know this.  I wish I didn't know this.

3--Pregnancy Test Sales Are Highest In March--apparently, Number 2 didn't work out too well.

4--Florists Raise Prices On Valentine's Day--go figure.  Flower prices are jacked up around 30% for February 14.  In the car business, it's called "taking somebody's head off".  In floral circles, it's called making a profit.  How do they make money the other eleven months of the year?  Oh, yeah.  Funerals and weddings.  Don't get me started.

5--Pets Get Valentines Too--as many as nine million people purchase Valentine's gifts for their pets.  These are the same people who complain about the homeless.  It's a dog's life.

6--Women Buy Their Own Gifts--if you don't have your sweetheart's present yet, don't worry.  She'll handle it her own self.  See #1.

7--Romance Is Irrelevant--most Valentine gifts go to, in order, 1) teachers 2) children 3) mamas 4) wives/girlfriends.  I wonder in which category the pets are found.  Oh wait, I think I know.

8--Women Prefer Cards To Flowers--to quote that great philosopher Michael Scott, don't be an idiot.  They don't prefer cards from you.  They buy over 80% of all the Valentine's Day cards sold.  Mostly for their mamas and chihuahuas.  Sorry, Charlie.

9--Men Are Stupid--while stating the obvious, I'm referring to the fact that men buy over 70% of all flowers sold on Valentine's Day.  See #4.  Feel stupid?  Now you can feel stupider.

10--Japanese Men Are Stupid, Too, Just Luckier--the Japanese chocolate industry targets women buyers on Valentine's Day.  Japanese women are encouraged, nay, coerced, into buying chocolate for their husbands/boyfriends for Valentine's Day.  Suddenly I don't feel so dumb after all.  Just jonesing for some brownies.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Snowmageddon II

It snowed again in the mountains yesterday afternoon.  This morning, every idiot driver in the county was on the road.

We got about three inches of the white stuff at our house on Still Road.  As I left this morning and pulled onto Ben Higgins Road a Jeep Wrangler was passing by, so I let it go ahead of me.  First mistake.

That vehicle did not go over ten miles an hour the rest of the way, from Ben Higgins to Auraria to Burnt Stand, a distance of about five miles.  Which took us 24 minutes to traverse.

I'd rather not say who was driving the Jeep, but thank God she didn't turn left at Burnt Stand or I'd still be driving.  However, another vehicle did turn in front of me onto that road.  And proceeded to drive ten miles an hour for the two miles it stretches to Georgia 400.  Which took us 9 minutes travel time.  I could have flown to warmer climates in less time.

I will not mention what sex she was either.

Now, I'm not opposed to women driving.  I'm married to a woman driver.  But she knows how to drive in the snow.  She knows you drive safely, not slowly, which most of the time leads to someone's vehicle ending up in the ditch.

That didn't happen this morning.  But don't think I didn't consider it.

Our dealership has a truck parked out front with banners advertising our Body Shop.  Last night some industrious art students decided that it would be a great idea to add to the display by building a snow...appendage of a male body part.  There are so many things to say here, all of them wrong.

Let's just say it was an accurate representation, which I proceeded to take pictures of before it melts.  I sent them to everyone I knew who appreciated great works of art.  I haven't heard back from any of them yet, but I'm sure I will.

The ice sculpture made up for the time it took to get here.  Now if I can only get that image out of my mind.

I'll never look at that truck the same way again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rasslin'

Jack Brisco died Monday of complications from heart surgery, which (as a lot of things here lately do) brought some vivid memories to mind.

Now, you have to understand that I come from a moonshinin', gold-minin', rasslin', racin' family.  There's not much my ancestors haven't been involved with--right or wrong.  It has made me who I am, good or bad.

I was fifteen and working at Daddy's Amoco station.  Week in, week out, a car pulled up, a guy got out, and gave me a poster for the window and tickets for that week's rasslin' match at the Sports Palace on US 341 between Barnesville and Griffin.  I always went.

Rasslin' (the professional brand) in Georgia was on the wane then, having its heyday in the late 50's through the 60's.  Every Saturday my family would watch "Live Atlanta Wrestling" with Ed Capral and Freddy Miller as the hosts and commentators.  Yes, we were rasslin' fans.  Back when it was real as it could be.  Before Gordon Solie and his "gluteous maximus-solar plexus" days.

Does it scare you that I remember this so well?  It scares me.

There was Gorgeous George, Freddie Blassie, and the Funk brothers (Dory, Jr. and Terry).  You had Mr. Wrestling--I and II.  There were the bad guys:  The Assassins, El Mongol, Gorilla Monsoon, and Gene Anderson of the Anderson Brothers.

I miss those days.

When I was eleven, Daddy and I went to the Municipal Auditorium in Atlanta to see rasslin' "LIVE".  I don't remember much about the card that night other than the Main Event:  El Mongol vs. Mr. Wrestling.  The match didn't last very long, because seated on the front row was a sweet-looking little old lady.  With a big purse.

(My experience with "sweet-looking little old ladies" has not been good.  I'll never forget one of them giving a salesman of mine fits in Florida over floormats in her car.  She brought up the fact [one among many] that she was a widow.  I asked her if she knew why her husband died first.  She said no.  I told her it was because he wanted to.  That's when the fight started.)

A few minutes into the match Mr. Wrestling pinned El Mongol down, his pony-tailed head hanging precariously over the edge of the ringmat.  At which point the little old lady windmilled her purse-holding arm and roundhoused him in the head with her pocketbook, which was full of rocks.  She won the match.

Let me back up a little bit.  As we were trying to find a place to park near the auditorium, Daddy noticed a lot of folks parking behind a fence upon which was posted a sign reading "NO PARKING".  Since this obviously meant for others and not for him, we parked our '64 Galaxie 500 there, along with a dozen or so others.  When we left the place, we walked to where we had parked our car.  The fence and sign were still there.  All the cars were gone.

We walked for what seemed like ten miles to the Atlanta Police Department, where the desk sergeant told Daddy where he could find our car.  Daddy told him where he could put his badge.  That's when the fight started.  Not really--I just couldn't resist using that line again.

We walked the next ten miles to the impound lot, paid the fine, got in our car, and went home.

So, I was primed for action when the Sports Palace offered rasslin' on Friday nights.  Centrally located on US 341 between Barnesville and Griffin (affectionately known as simply "the bypass" because it managed to miss both towns), the Sports Palace was the place to be if you wanted to see rasslin' at its finest.  I did.

So each week when the man would drop off a sign for the front window of the station, along with four tickets to that week's matches, I was as eager as a coon dog during a full moon.  I'd stomp and cheer for the good guys, hate the bad guys, and just enjoy the (free) ride.

I'd go back in a New York minute, but I'm afraid the rasslers (those still living) would have to be rolled to the ring in their wheelchairs.  It just wouldn't be the same.

As that great philosopher Ric Flair once said, "To be the man you've got to beat the man."  To which I say "WAIIOOOO".

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blinded By The Light

I don't normally whine and complain, irregardless of what people may think.  And I use "irregardless" with utmost respecterance.

But I have to say something.

As I've said before, I live in Mayberry.  I fully expect every time I go into town to see Barney sitting outside the Courthouse, Andy at Floyd's Barber Shop, and Goober/Gomer at Wally's Service Station.  But I can't go to town after dark without getting blinded by some folks' headlights.  Coming and going.  Why is that?

Before the advent of "day/night" rearview mirrors (a lifetime ago) I watched Daddy's eyes as vehicles would pull up beside/behind him with their bright lights on.  He never blinked at the blinding rays.  I was amazed.

(Later I would discover that Daddy could out-stare anybody.  Anytime, anywhere.  It's like his eyes never needed moisture.  I'm sure this came in handy the night he took all my money in a Blackjack game before advising me to "never play another man's game, son".)

Anyway...I don't have the gift of non-blinking at three-gazillion candlepower headlights, foglights, driving lights, turn signals, and roof -mounted coon-hunting lights.  I just get mad.

In my mind I have designed numerous retaliatory contraptions, none of which have been picked up by manufacturers.

I thought about outside rearview mirrors which would sense when a vehicle behind me had their highbeams on and automatically adjust to redirect the lights into the approaching driver's eyes, effectively blinding him/her as he/she blinded me.  Just temporarily.  Long enough for them to pull over and put their eyeballs back in the sockets.

I dreamed about a mirror-like plate mounted at the top of the backseat, diamond-coated, with a remote  switch (actually at the time it was a cord I could just yank at will) to flip that sucker up and render every driver behind me sightless, whereupon they would blame the jacked-up truck with 34 headlights and proceed to beat the living snot out of him/her.  And his/her vehicle lighting system as well.

(I use him/her frequently/often because I don't want to want to be fair and equally offensive to all the jackasses who drive with their highbeams on.)

Obviously, none of these inventions ever saw the light of day.  Or the highbeams of an approaching idiot.

So I drive on, headlights on high, oblivious to other drivers.  Flash 'em all you want, I'm not dimming mine.  In fact, I think I'll get some HID headlights for my clunker.  So, if you meet my truck, you'll know it.  I'll be the one with the stage spotlight mounted on top and the "Honk If You Love Jesus" sticker on the back. 

That'll show 'em.  Have a nice day.