Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"...Apparently, The Criteria For Death Has Undergone Some Changes..."

First, the "fair is fair" disclaimer.

My own matrimonial house is, without question, made of glass.

And far be it for me to start throwing stones.

So, I'm not going to offer any criticism, observation, pontification or chastisement to anyone who decides that "til death do us part" is just a tad overly rigid in the scheme of all things pronounced man and wife.

Marry as often and for as long, or short, as you and/or your conscience dictate.

That said, though, I'd would like to offer the following proposal.

No pun intended but not strenuously avoided either.

Let's call it the two year rule.

Any celebrity who marries anyone for any reason at any time is perfectly within their rights to null the nuptials at any time for any reason without fear of reprisal, retribution or remorse.

Under the provisions of this suggested new rule, though, they may not, at any time for any reason under any circumstances announce said marriage to anyone at any time in any way that might make said announcement public to friends, family, fans, media outlets, social networks, press agents, talk show hosts, tabloid show hosts, potential reality show producers,potential literary agents, potential movie producers, passers-by, innocent bystanders or anyone outside what we will call "the circle of three."

The bride, the groom and the officiant.

Said "gag rule" will be in effect for a period of not less that twenty four calendar months, effective from either the "I now pronounce you" moment and/or the "you may now kiss the..." moment, whichever comes first.

If, at the end of the twenty four month period, the celebrity couple is still, both legally, literally, physically, spiritually and emotionally joined in holy matrimony, then, and only then, are they free to trumpet to friends, family, fans, media outlets, social networks, press agents, talk show hosts, tabloid show hosts, potential reality show producers,potential literary agents, potential movie producers, passers-by, innocent bystanders or anyone outside what we will call "the circle of three", the happy news of their oneness.

At the very least, this imposition of a two year minimum commitment before said commitment can be used for purposes of publicity, profit and/or career advancement and/or resurgence will, hopefully, restore, at least, an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot of reverence and respect to the hallowed and sacred institution of marriage.

And what the hell, maybe even turn the whole idea of staying together and working things out the "new" celebrity fad, as opposed to the apparent current fad of going for the "fewest days on record."

Or, dare we dream, inspire celebrities to stop using marriage as a means to divert the ever busy public eye in their direction?

Maybe not.

Start small, dream big I always say.

And, once again, I've made my share of marital mistakes.

Hell, I've made my share, your share and a couple of other guys' shares.

But, in fairness to me, all I was ever going after was happy ever after.

Not the cover of the next Entertainment Weekly.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"...On Warm Fronts and Cold Fronts and Keepin' It Real...."

Along with various and sundry revelers, carolers, frenzied shoppers and/or loonier than usual area drivers, irony has been out and about this Christmas weekend.

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -Bill Hall, the long-time Channel 4 weatherman and a beloved Nashville television personality, has died. He was 65.

Bill joined WSM-TV on February 1, 1974, as a weather reporter, and in 1977 he moved into the chief weathercaster position.

Bill spent 31 years on the air at Channel 4, as his distinctive and calming voice filled the living rooms of his beloved viewers nightly.

He will be remembered as a trusted and reassuring presence for viewers, as well as a loyal and caring friend for his colleagues.

Bill was known for his love of nature, and his outdoors and gardening segments became popular features.

He also always found time to provide assistance to charities, churches, schools and community groups.

And generations of school children remember his friendship with the one and only Snowbird.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

If you've never lived in Nashville, Bill Hall's departure will, understandably, only register with you as another passing on another day, circle of life kind of stuff.

Fair enough.

But, if you're a past or present Nashvillian, you can't help but feel, if only just a bit, like you've lost a member of the family.

Which brings us around the aforementioned irony.

In a world where assorted Kardashians, Braxtons, Situations, Snookis and housewives, real and/or un, show up regularly on our flat screened doorsteps in their efforts to turn a profit by attempting to ingratiate their families into our own, we find ourselves most sincerely, and poignantly, connected to another group of video visitors.

Local news folk. Sports folk. Weather folk.

Folks like Bill Hall.

Who graciously, cordially and sincerely showed up every day for years to share a little humor, a little style and, at least, a little useful information with us.

No pretense, no posturing, no faux drama,melo or otherwise, no sniping, no backstabbing, no pinching, no biting, no pulling hair.

Just a little humor, a little style and, at least, a little useful information.

Like a loved and trusted member of the family.

Can't speak for you, but that's what I call a reality show.

Ironic, huh?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"...And Then, What Next?...People Who Are Half Black Can Only Say It Half The Time?..."

Old saying.

Things aren't always what they seem.

Turns out that even applies to "no brainers".

Here's the deal.

Eva Hoeke quits as Editor-in-Chief of Jackie magazine

As a result of a recent publication in Jackie magazine, issue 49, a worldwide outcry arose over an article on page 45 entitled “De Niggabitch”, which refers to Rihanna and her fashion style. This word is used as slang in the United States.

Throughout the various social media there has been an emotional response to this choice of words, as published in Jackie. As a first reaction to this editor-in-chief Eva Hoeke said via Twitter that the choice of words was meant as a joke and offered an apology to anyone who felt offended. This reaction stirred up even more commotion, as Hoeke herself also referred to the term elsewhere in the magazine.

In a second reaction through Twitter, Hoeke came to the following conclusion: ‘1. Don’t publish bad jokes in the magazine 2. Don’t pretend bad jokes to be funny. Sorry guys. My bad.’ The response on social media now took on an international character. In a third reaction Hoeke even stated that she would rectify in the next issue of Jackie. This morning Rihanna replied on the article through Twitter. She was furious over the use of the word ‘niggabitch’ and ended her message with ‘Fuck you Eva’. Through social media Hoeke was taunted and threatened in various ways.

Following these events she consulted with publisher Yves Gijrath of GMG. Together they came to the following conclusion: In the interest of Jackie Magazine and all involved she will quit her job as editor-in-chief effective immediately. Hoeke states: ‘I realize that my first reaction through Twitter, in which I indicated that it was a joke, has been an incomplete misrepresentation what me, and also the author of the article, meant. The term ‘niggabitch’ came from America and all we did was describing a style of dress. Because of the enormous pressure through social media I was enticed to promise amendment regarding the linguistic usage in future issues of Jackie. Apart from that I also offered an rectification. I have now come to the conclusion that rectification is not the right solution. I regret that I have taken a stand too quickly regarding an article in Jackie — which moreover had no racial motive at it’s basis. Through the course of events, me and the publisher have concluded that because my credibility is now affected, it is better for all parties if I quit my job as editor-in-chief immediately. After putting my heart and soul into Jackie magazine for eight years, I realize that these errors – although without malicious intentions – are enough reason for leaving.’

Publisher Yves Gijrath regrets the state of affairs and praises Hoeke’s attitude, who primarily thinks of the credibility of the title, which – as she realizes herself – would have been damaged had she stayed. According to Gijrath there’s no doubt about the intentions and qualities of Eva Hoeke, however he does think this joint decision is the correct one. Hoeke concludes: ‘I should have counted to ten before taking unsubtle stands through social media channels. Through this my credibility has been hurt and that neither fits the role of an editor-in-chief, nor Jackie Magazine.

Jackie Magazine will invite Rihanna to share her feelings and thoughts on the article in the next issue.

The offense committed here is obvious and both the resulting reaction and resignation combine to make up the aforementioned no brainer.

Then, again...

While it certainly qualifies as the most celebrity centered, even dramatic, example, to date, of this issue, it's also, just as certainly, not the first time we've been round this corner.

And our old friend, Mr. Double Standard, has reared his/her ugly head.

One need not subscribe to, or reject, any particular racial, spiritual or even moral philosophy to be aware that terms, slang or otherwise, like this are commonly used as part of the black cultural vernacular.

The very same American black music business where Rihanna makes her living is saturated with examples.

Let alone the daily conversational tone of any number of a variety of racial/socioeconomic groups in the country today.

And while that elusive rascal, common sense, not to mention its equally ambiguous first cousin, good taste, cause people to instinctively take offense at, and reject the use of, these kinds of references, the unambiguous truth is that, common sense or no common sense, their use is common.

So, the knee jerk question that arises here, "how dare you call me such a thing?" gets replaced with another, seemingly fair, question.

"...why is it okay for you, and others, to say these things, but not alright for me and others?"

The easy out is the oldest out.

Two wrongs don't make a right.

But the easy out is too easy.

Because, fair being fair, we all have to deal with a simple truth.

We can't have it both ways.

Regardless of race, creed, color or our own particularly unique individual way with words.

So, it needs to be considered socially acceptable to use the term.

Or it needs to be considered socially unacceptable to use the term.

For everybody.

Personally, I'm not down wit callin' my homies "nigga".

Let alone "niggabitch".

I like to think I've got a little more to offer my friends and/or acquaintances from my vocabulary.

And I sincerely do understand the idea that Rihanna would be offended by being referred to that way.

But when the very same commercial music culture where Rihanna lives and works repeatedly, and more and more frequently, sends me the message that it's become socially acceptable to do just that, I have a problem being chastised for it.

And an even bigger problem with someone from that culture crying foul.

Not to mention "fuck you".

It's either okay.

Or it's not.

Simple truth has no color.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"...Well, I'll Never Hear 'Give Mommy A Kiss' The Same Way Again..."

Pop quiz.

What is one of the most durable inventions known to man?

Answer shortly.

A pep rally prank intended to bring laughter and cheers at a Minnesota high school has instead sparked a firestorm of controversy after parents of some senior student athletes took a practical joke too far.

As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a recent winter sports pep rally at Rosemount (Minn.) High featured a comedy skit which took advantage of unknowing captains of the various winter varsity squads. After the team captains walked into the gym blindfolded, they were told that they were going to be kissed by a special someone, and then were asked to guess who it was that kissed them.

It turns out that the person who kissed the athletes -- in every circumstance -- was their own opposite sex parent. While no one has questioned the comedic intentions of the prank, the stunt itself has still drawn plenty of criticism not for the student athletes, but for what the parents did in executing the practical joke. As you can see above, some of the parents took their roles as "special someones" to a level that left many onlookers feeling uncomfortable and even queasy.

Here's how the Star Tribune described the sketch's lowlights:

Some of the parents during the 59-second YouTube video are seen holding the kisses for several seconds, cupping their child's faces or embracing and swaying.

One mother moved her son's hand down to her behind during the encounter. Another mom has her son down on the gym floor to the delight of two male students nearby.

According to the Minneapolis paper, a number of those in attendance called and emailed to make it clear that they felt offended by the sketch, despite the fact that none of the students or parents involved in the kissing antics complained about the routine at all.

Still, Rosemount Principal John Wollersheim insisted that the school wouldn't repeat the comedic routine, despite the fact that a similar routine had been a huge hit at a prep rally at the school years earlier.

"There is no question that people were offended," Wollersheim told the Star Tribune. "I apologize to those who were offended, and we won't do it again.

"Anything that happens at this school is the principal's responsibility. I take full responsibility. ... There shouldn't be an event in a school that we offend people with."

For obvious reasons, I'm reminded of a joke/definition dating back to my misspent youth.

"...the epitome of grossness is when you go to kiss your grandmother goodbye...and she slips you some tongue..."

Apparently, the grossness goal post has been moved back a yard or two in recent years.

And the answer to the riddle?

What is one of the most durable inventions known to man?

The envelope.

Cause with all that pushing, you'd think the thing would be shredded by now.

"...Anyone Who Believes It's Really The Thought That Counts Has Obviously Never Heard The Term 'Chia Pet'..."

Old saying.

Learn something new every day.

Every season, too, apparently.

As we head headlong towards the festive frenzy finish line, the air, broadcast and otherwise, is abuzz with gift ideas for all races, creeds, colors, sexual preferences and personality types, functional and dys, you find on your naughty/nice list.

And soon, of course, the focus of our attention will, as it has for generations, be finally turned away from the gimmies and gift cards and Griddlers (oh, my) and we will arrive, mercifully, together, to ponder and reflect...

...on which diet plan/pill or program best meets our needs in the new year.

For the moment, though, the ideas abound, the suggestions saturate.

Here's a thing, though.

A kind of new thing, actually.

The anti-suggestion.

Not "here's what to get" as much as "here's what not to get."


Knowledge is, admittedly, power, I suppose.

Although I'm not sure the manufacturers, sellers, et al of the following items are all that thrilled with this particular power being parceled out at this particular time of year.

Here, from a piece I came across on Yahoo, from, are "7 gifts you should avoid this holiday season"

Household Appliances

She may have expressed her desire for a fancy Dyson vacuum cleaner or a convenient Kitchen Aid mixer sometime this year, but that doesn't make a household appliance a good gift idea. No woman wants to be reminded of household chores or think you're thinking of her as the one who does the cooking and cleaning when she opens her gift.

A Pet

Even if you think your little ones are ready for a puppy or kitten, save pet adoption for after the holidays. With guests visiting your house, holiday decorations on display, and myriad other distractions during the week, it's the worst time to try and introduce a small animal to its new home.

Jewelry You've Seen on a TV Commercial

Despite the plethora of television commercials with messages to the contrary, most women do not want a heart-shaped pendant from a chain jewelry store. If your loved one is an accessory lover, opt for something special and one-of-a-kind from an independent jewelry designer on Etsy.

Gift Baskets

The one thing there's never a lack of during the holidays is food. From cookies, candies, and fruitcakes to ham, mashed potatoes, and gravy, there's always something to pop in our mouths in the last weeks of the year. That's why no one needs any more food coming their way. While a nice gift basket full of cured meats, cheese spreads, fruit, and candy might be delicious, there's already more than enough to eat without giving someone more.

A Sweater

There's no denying a cashmere sweater is a nice thing, but opening a box and discovering a plain sweater is sort of dull. Plus, the chances of getting the exact style, size, and color the recipient would prefer is slim. Instead, add a nice cashmere scarf or pair of gloves to your loved one's stocking.

Credit Card Gift Cards

While a nice shiny Amex or Visa gift card sounds like a great gift idea, it can be a hassle for the recipient to use. They're processed as credit cards with a limit of whatever is loaded on the card so it can be difficult to use them for purchases that exceed that amount. And most of these cards have an activation fee you'll have to pay at the point of purchase. Instead, opt for cash or a gift card to a store you're certain your recipient likes to shop in.


Most women love pretty lingerie, but let's face it, if you're a man buying a woman lingerie, the gift is as much for you as it is for her. And, if you're opening gifts in mixed company, it could be really embarrassing for the recipient. Save the sexy underthings for a Valentine's Day gift and get her something she really wants this holiday season.

Gotta tell ya, there were a couple of surprises on that list for even this grandfather/oft married veteran of the mall wars.

Sure, for years, on the radio shows and in print, I've been doing my part to wave guys off the almost always fatal act of classifying anything that looks like it belongs on a kitchen counter as a gift, if only by suggesting that the same result can be achieved for much less money by simply taking a vow of celibacy.

And though my morning show actually currently does a weekly segment with local animal shelter folks helping to find the little critters a new crib, I think we can all agree on the logic of not freaking out a little Fido or Furball by "birthing" them smack ass knee deep in the middle of the holiday hoopla.

But, sweaters? I mean, come on.

That's been a staple of gift giving since each/any of us got our very first Rudolph the Red Nosed, with an actual bright red, fuzzy tennis ball kind of thing attached as the nose, Reindeer sweater.

And gift cards? Wasn't/isn't the whole purpose of buying the "generic" credit card type gift card to deal with not knowing what the hell to get somebody and/or not knowing where the hell they like to shop and what the hell they would buy if they were in said shop?

I mean, what the hell?

And, while we're at it, I think a little service charge is a small price to pay for not being burdened with fifty bucks worth of credit at Fred's Deer, Fish and Raccoon Hunt-O-Rama.

Not to mention a Rudolph the Red Nosed, with an actual bright red, fuzzy tennis ball kind of thing attached as the nose, Reindeer sweater.

Lingerie? Okay, that one can be conceded.

As any one who has ever been in the living room on Christmas morning at the same time as Granny, Grampy, MeeMaw, PopPop, assorted toddlers and/or pre-schoolers and a package that unwraps to reveal admittedly stylish, but undeniably, crotchless panties can attest.

But, let's stop this final madness, once and for all.

And ask ourselves the most real, heartfelt, soul searching, sincere as all giddyup question of this most blessed of seasons.

Who among us would not wipe away tears of joy to the world upon the discovery, under tree or in lap, of a fine assortment of cheeses and salamis from Hickory Farms?

There is, I think, some useful information to be gleaned from the Kaboodle article.

But I also think the writer's disparaging of these traditional and very popular gift ideas reveals a little attitude, a little bitterness, perhaps.

Even, I'm sensing, a little trauma experienced along the way, a ghost, if you will, of Christmas past.

I'm thinking really ugly sweater.

Wrapped up in a cheese log.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"...You're A Mean One, Mr. Kimmel...."

Hey, kids, as you excitedly wait for that jolly old man to make his way to your house next weekend, here's a little secret old people won't tell you.

We don't really like getting older, but, after you've lived a certain number of years, you start to understand an even older saying.

" beats the alternative..."

And because we always, at least just a little, want to keep proving to ourselves that we are kids at heart, we are inclined to do stupid, even childish, things.

That will explain why we sometimes do things that you think, or even wish, old people wouldn't making silly faces or doing silly voices...

...or asking you to pull our fingers.

And sometimes, when other old people put us up to it, we do silly things that, at first, we think are funny but, after a little while, realize we probably shouldn't have done.

Like, for example, what this old guy named Kimmel asked us to do.

Kids are cool. Pranks are awesome. Pranking kids? Really cool and very awesome.

Earlier this week, "Jimmy Kimmel Live" aired a video segment of parents taping their kids opening underwhelming (to put it mildly) Christmas gifts. Several days later, the clip is still buzzing on blogs and social networks. Yahoo! searches on "jimmy kimmel christmas gift" surged 953% on Thursday.

As the San Francisco Chronicle points out, the video has called into question whether this tactic is all in good fun or a case of parents emotionally abusing their children for the amusement of others. Is Kimmel a Grinch?

The clip, which features kids excitedly opening presents, thinking they might be a new toy, and instead finding old bananas, empty juice jugs, and half-eaten sandwiches. The reactions of the kids are, of course, what makes the video a hit.

While some old people who watched this video said they thought that it was mean to do that to kids, a lot more people said they thought it was funny.

And most of them said something like, "well, life can be tough and it's important that kids learn to have a sense of humor."

Personally, this old person agrees and disagrees.

First, I think that, just like religion, sex and why the Kardashians are popular, you have to be a certain age to understand about practical jokes.

And pretty much all the kids in that video aren't even close to that age, yet.

So, it's probably not very cool to do something that adults think is funny but only comes off to kids as mean.

If kids did something like that to other kids, old people wouldn't call it a practical joke.

They would call it bullying.

So, that's why, on one hand, I disagree that with what a lot of old people said about this.

Now, as far as why I agree...

Kids, life really can be tough...and you really do have to learn to have a sense of humor.

And learn to laugh at some of life's disappointments.

Because if you think it's totally, like, mean and wrong to excitedly unwrap a Christmas present in December just to find a rotten banana...

...wait until you see what happens in November right after you close a curtain behind you and flip a bunch of little levers.

Merry Christmas, kids.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"...The Twelve Days Of Christmas...Give Or Take Seven Decades..."

In this season of seasons, I found myself...

...looking on the shelf under the laptop showing Facebook, moving aside a Christmas gift catalog, uncovering a copy of Rolling Stone, which, when set aside, revealed the USB flash drive I was seeking to use in downloading some recent Amy Winehouse, Gaga and Nickelback...

And there it was...

...sitting in plain sight on top of this month's AARP Magazine.

At this joyous time of holiday wonder and discovery, I discovered....

...that I truly have become a man for all seasons.

"...You Can't Bitch About What They Ask You When You Asked For It..."

On the odd chance that you're not getting either enough fiber, junk mail or information essentially useless to your life and well being...

Kris Humphries says he feels ambushed by the rapid-fire line of questioning about his short-lived marriage to Kim Kardashian during his appearance on Good Morning America, reports.

Humphries appeared on the morning show Friday, where anchor Josh Elliot asked him about his separation from Kardashian. "For me, it's just certain things happen in life and you've got to move forward," Humphries said, getting more and more uncomfortable as the questions continued.

TMZ reports that Humphries was aware he'd be asked about the relationship, but didn't expect to be grilled. However, an ABC rep insists, "There were no ground rules."

Open letter to Kris Humphries.

At your earliest convenience, please Google "Harry Truman". Look for a very famous quote attributed to the former President that has the word "heat" in it. Substitute the words "television studio", "press conference" and/or "media's sight" where you see the word "kitchen".
Re-read revised quote as needed.
Happy to help.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"...Champagne, Peaches, Wimbledon and Rock and Roll

A Barbara Orbison story you won't get anywhere else...

(excerpted from "I've Never Heard Of You, Either", @2010, Blurb Publishing)

"...If there is any justice in this life, once before I die I will have one more opportunity to talk with Claudia Crochet.
She, alone on the planet Earth, would fully appreciate finding out that I got laid on Roy Orbison’s pool table.
1964. Suburban New Orleans. T. H. Harris Junior High School.
Claudia Crochet was the first girl I ever kissed.
Calling her my first love would be overstatement; saying that she was just a fling would be selling her short (not to mention the fact that at age thirteen, what we shared could hardly be defined as fling).
She lived just four or five houses down a side street adjacent to the school and, since she was the lady and I the gentleman, I would ride my blue Murray with the banana seat and spider handlebars to the school grounds on Saturdays, where we would walk together in the tall grass behind the main building, find a spot both private and comfortable and spend the afternoon necking, groping ever so tentatively and listening to the transistor radio I brought along to provide the proper adolescent ambiance.
“Our” song was “Oh, Pretty Woman”.
If the gods were on my side and that song happened along at the same time we were sharing the tall grass, there was inevitably a longer kiss and a little more time granted before the hand was moved tenderly back down from a young breast covered in bra, slip and dress.
Small wonder, somehow, that Roy was my hero.
By the time I entered the senior high school just two miles up the boulevard, Claudia Crochet had gone on to Catholic school, some new hand trying to caress undetected and, presumably, some new song.
And by 1981, she was very likely married, with children old enough to be sneaking off to sit in the tall grass behind their junior high school, necking and groping and listening to the boom box brought along to provide the perfect adolescent ambiance.
By that time, I was living in Roy Orbison’s house.
Cutting his grass, picking up his kids after school, running errands, driving any one of his nine collector automobiles, getting paid two hundred bucks a week....
...and getting laid on his pool table.
After divorcing and returning to Nashville, I had the good fortune of living with Danny and Ruby Hice, a married pair of songwriters who had had some minor success, Ruby with some mid level country artists, Danny as co-writer of a tune that appeared on Whitney Houston’s first album. Gracious and loving family people, they offered me bed and board when I first came back to town.
Danny, like so many writers who had had a taste of success, was trying to parlay it into a successful publishing company. The American dream was alive and well in the Hice household, the father trying to build a publishing empire from the living room of his three bedroom apartment, the wife writing songs in the kitchen, while maintaining the household, and raising an extended family of teenage son, twenty-ish daughter and the five year old son of twenty-ish daughter who, when offered the life choice of studying medicine or qualifying for a guest spot on the Jerry Springer show, opted for the latter. (“...on today’s show....sweet young girls who get knocked up by white trash rednecks and have to move back in with mom and dad to hide out from the psychotic wife beater....”)
It wasn’t too many weeks after moving in with Danny and Ruby that I realized I was not only living out my dream of writing country songs, I was now being offered the chance to live in one.
Living in that environment was interesting, but neither comfortable nor productive.
And soon, being broke all the time started to wear pretty thin.
Ruby, bless her heart, solved both problems at once.
While Danny made tapes and phone calls and walked that fine line between persistence and denial, Ruby spent thirty hours a week working on Music Row, managing the affairs of a fairly well known singer/songwriter, acclaimed and admired the world over who had, unbeknownst to him, been the inspiration, almost twenty years earlier, for some pretty serious necking and groping.
One day in 1982, Ruby came home with a special smile and an offer.
Roy Orbison and his second wife Barbara lived in a beautiful multi level home on several acres of lakefront north of Nashville, next-door neighbors, in fact, to Johnny and June Cash. Even then, Roy was still a very much in demand touring artist and spent weeks on end overseas playing and singing for adoring audiences. But that life left wife and two young sons home alone for those weeks on end. And Barbara, charming and gregarious, was of German royal ancestry and not particularly thrilled with the more mundane demands of the routine she faced.
Two million dollar home or split level suburban, housework is housework. And grass cutting is grass cutting. And Roy and Barbara were, quite frankly, in what could only be described as the “awkward stage”, wealthy enough to afford a home by the lake and a big screen TV. in the days when big screen TV’s cost as much as some small cars, but not so wealthy as to afford maids and gardeners and housekeepers.
What Barbara really needed was a houseboy...someone who could clean up, cut grass, run errands, pick up the kids from school...and be willing to do it for room, board, a couple of hundred bucks a week...and the chance to actually live in the home of a childhood idol.
“So,” Ruby said to me with a very excited smile, “what do you think?”
Gee, let me get back to you.
And so, it came to pass that a young man whose first Sears Silvertone guitar had clumsily sputtered the opening guitar lick to “Oh, Pretty Woman”, whose first kiss and feel was accompanied by that very lick, who had first picked up a guitar and started playing it in the frenzy of Beatlemania and then been delighted to find that the Fabs had actually opened in Europe for the amazing tenor voice dressed in black and wearing the ominous, but totally cool, black shades, now found himself standing in the kitchen of the house on the lake talking to the wife of the man who had written those very notes and who was, as we spoke, asleep two floors above us in the master suite.
“Zo,” Barbara spoke to me with just the perfect blend of friendliness and blue blood condescension, “do you zink zis is somezink you would like to dew?”
Gosh, let’s in the spacious lakefront home of a pop legend and get paid for it.........or go on living with two sweet people who have to schedule their lives around the regular police visits which follow the unexpected door pounding visits of the drunk redneck guy who knocked up their daughter?
Tell me, does the job come with a health plan?
“Vood you like to meet Roy?”
I could say nothing. Ruby smiled politely, “Oh, we don’t want to disturb him, Barbara, he must be exhausted after just getting home from the road.”
“Nunsense,” Barbara was already beckoning us to follow her up the stairs, “he’s not zleeping anyway, he’s just laying up zere vatching the tellyvision.”
“Well...”, Ruby took one last shot at gracious.
I know there are people who cannot understand the emotional impact of such an experience. We’re talking about a singer, for God sake, we’re not talking about meeting Gandhi or Teddy Roosevelt. It’s just a guy who sings and plays guitar and has had some hit records.
Yeah, right.
As we reached the second floor of the house, Barbara stopped and turned, “vait here, I vill go and make sure he’s not azleep.” She disappeared for a moment into the darkened room with the huge oaken doors.
Ruby turned and looked at me with an expression that needed no narration.
She knew exactly what this meant to me.
There were muffled, soft voices behind the doors and the faint, but clear, sound of “tellyvision”.
Then, the doors opened and, as so often happens in our lives, an entire video history of this man and his career played in my head in just a split second. The black clothes, the dark glasses, smiling in a pose with John, Paul, George and Ringo in the days that they opened for him, that magnificent operatic voice, that voice that inspired and moved and brought tears and laughter and sang in the tall grass behind the junior high school while two kids necked and groped, that sang in the tall grass behind a thousand junior high schools while thousands of kids necked and groped. And, then, fade to black, return to reality and walking toward me was the man who possessed that voice and that power. Walking toward me was the legend in flesh, the idol incarnate, this amazing huge powerful operatic dark glassed man in black.
“Hi,” he said, reaching out to shake my hand, ‘I’m Roy.”
He was wearing striped pajamas.
Standing, at full height, around five ten.
Clear eyeglasses about two inches thick.
And the words “I’m Roy” sounding just slightly deeper than Woody Allen.
I should have been disappointed.
Somehow, finding I could stand eye-to-eye with an idol was an enriching experience.
It made him just slightly less a legend.
But it made him infinitely, and delightfully, more human.
And it taught me my first, best lesson about the difference between myths and men.
I stayed with Roy and Barbara for only a few months, before moving on to the next adventure, but the time there is a cherished series of photos in that place in the heart where such things are stored. From picking up his young boys from school in the new Porsche to being awakened at six a.m via house phone and commanded lovingly to “come down and make ze peenya coladah so ve can vatch Vimbledon” the year that time differences brought the Connors-McEnroe finals and local rooster to life at about the same time, it was a wonderful couple of pages in the chapter.
And then there was that thing with the pool table.
After our meeting in the upstairs hallway that night, I saw Roy, himself, only once more, picking him up at the airport on one of his brief returns home.
Barbara, on the other hand, was home for the majority of that time, alternately bored and enthused, the perfect picture of the “princess” who gets away with it because the brat in her always wears just the right amount of charisma. She was, and is, a strikingly beautiful woman although I could tell from looking at the various photos and portraits of her around the house that she was struggling with a weight problem at the time, an effect of the loneliness she was feeling, no doubt, and we spent many a summer afternoon sitting in lawn chairs placed in the bottom of the Jacuzzi section of their pool, drinking champagne with peach slices, she, probably grateful to have someone to just talk with, and I, feeling the oddest sensation when I realized that I felt totally comfortable and right at home sitting in the Jacuzzi section of the pool and drinking champagne with peach slices.
If it sounds decadent, so be it. At the time, it seemed like the perfectly natural thing to do with someone like the wife of Roy Orbison.
What a letdown it would have been to relax by going for Slurpees at the local 7-11.
Toward the end of my time with them, Barbara, too, left to join Roy for the last leg of his current tour. While I actually found myself missing Barbara’s charming imperialism, it was certainly a magic time, finding myself sole resident of the home of a rock and roll legend.
And I would be a bold liar, not to mention a poor storyteller, if I were to say that I respected their privacy and merely kept the place safe and clean in their absence.
Okay, before you let that tsk, tsk come out, look me in the eye and tell me if you were in my shoes you wouldn’t have peeked into a drawer or closet or two.
All right, then, now shut up and let me tell you the rest of it.
Not wanting you to go away with the impression that I spent days rooting through the private possessions and looting their property, let me place confession into focus.
I didn’t steal any money, including any cash from the drawer in the kitchen where people like you and I keep coins, keys, pencils, old receipts, take out menus, etc.
In Barbara’s case, the drawer was filled with petty cash.....fives, tens and twentys..just in case of “oh, Scott, vill you go get some moh peach slices?....just grab zome cash from ze drawer.”
In a household like this, that happened more than you might imagine.
Nor did I root through drawers, cases, or boxes that were clearly private. I will confess, though, for purposes of cleansing the soul (not to mention increasing book sales) that one night, home alone, after one too many Jack and cokes, I did, after showering and changing clothes in the master bathroom, succumb to the temptation of opening one very small drawer in a wall of drawers inside the walk in closet bridging bath and bed and appropriated, for the souvenir hunter in all of us, one freshly laundered pair of the charming Mrs. Orbison’s panties.
So, come to think of it, I guess I misspoke when I said I didn’t root through drawers. Hey, I was young, drunk and how many times in your life does the opportunity arise to conduct a panty raid at the home of a legend?
The third floor of the house was actually a glorified attic, although in a huge chalet style home like this, attic does no justice. This room was carpeted and couched and chaired and unusually bright, since the backside of the house, the lake facing side was, from the second floor up, windows from floor to ceiling.
But the light of the sun was not the cause of the shine in this room.
That glow came from the walls.
Circling the room, on every wall and on every space that could be utilized without making it seem cluttered, were the gold records. Clearly framed and hung with care and love, these were the tangible documentation that this was, in fact, a home where rock and roll history resided.
“Oh, Pretty Woman”...”Crying”...”Running Scared”.........”Only The Lonely”...........they were all here, and more, many more. I wandered around for hours, reading, admiring, dreaming, a spellbound visitor to a museum closed to the public, a fan allowed to view the inner sanctum, to touch the hem of the garment, to...........
.... play the guitar?
Leaning in one corner of the room, between couch and wall was a Fender Stratocaster whose look and condition easily dated it early sixties. Could this, I asked myself, be the instrument where those killer licks came to life? I picked it up carefully but firmly, and brought it to my chest, in playing position. I struck the first few notes of the intro that had once brought Claudia Crochet lips a little closer to mine..........
da-da da-da-da
I gently put the guitar back down.
No further notes necessary.
Later that same evening, still buzzing from the attic trophy room experience, I sat in the main living room, sipping sour mash and luxuriating in the splendid opulence of it all. Resting comfortably on a huge sofa facing an equally roomy fireplace, I sipped and savored and let tired, but still wide, eyes wander about.
And there, on the mantle above the fireplace, placed discreetly among family photos, candleholders and other everyday people fireplace mantle kinds of things, my eyes came to rest on the penultimate symbol of musical achievement.
The Grammy.
For his performance with Emmylou Harris on the song, “That Lovin You Feelin Again” Roy, with Emmylou, was awarded the Grammy for Best Vocal Collaboration for the year 1978.
And here, right in front of a former grocery clerk turned songwriter, sat the Holy Grail itself.
I stood up and approached slowly, trying to simply savor the moment as much as youthful impatience would allow, and reached out tentatively, needing to make contact, but fearful of violating some reverence.
Supported by both the sheer joy of it all and the sour mash, I wrapped my hand around the sacred symbol and lifted, to bring it closer to my eye and heart and soul.
And the nameplate fell off, fluttering to the floor.
Nothing that had ever happened to me before, or after, that sent me a clearer message about the myth of fame and keeping things in perspective,
This coveted, revered grail of achievement was a simulated wood based high quality gold plate topped trophy with a plastic name plate, printed economically and attached to said base with what was obviously less than top of the line glue.
My best guess...about ten bucks in the local trophy shop.
Before inscription, of course.
Some days after that, in the course of putting away the stacks of cleaned laundry that had piled up on a table in the living room, I made another interesting discovery.
The laundry table, covered from edge to edge to edge to edge with folded, or needing to be folded, washed and dried was no laundry table at all.
It was a fairly new, regulation pool table.
How wonderfully perfect it was, being able to not only afford the finest in recreational equipment, but wealthy enough to stack towels and jockey shorts on it.
It actually was the companion piece to the table I had come across in the main foyer one day, draped with some heavy tablecloth and bearing stacks and stacks of old and new LP’s.
Feeling a surge of work ethic, I removed the LP’s and put them where they belonged (which probably wreaked havoc with the family after I left their employ, the last place they would look for records being, no doubt, the stereo cabinet...)
Then, pulling the tablecloth in order to launder it and determine what use to make of this table, I was taken aback (but only just a little, cause I had lived here awhile and knew the drill, by now) to discover this foyer table to be more than it seemed.
“Hey, Barbara,” I called to the lady of the house, who was sitting by the side of the pool, dipping toes, sipping champagne and reading Harlequins, “what do you want me to do with this television?”
The surprise factor was sufficient to get her on her feet and cutely waddling toward me.
“Vot tellyvision, Scaht?”
Kicking into the best game show prize girl impression I had ever done, I silently stepped aside, raising my arm and turning my hand in the celebrated “here it is” flip as I revealed what was behind door number two (or, in this case, tablecloth number one).
“Vell,” Barbara mused, “vot in de vorld have ve here?”
She seemed puzzled, then thoughtful, then reflective.......and then, the light.
“Oh, yes, zis is de set I had delivered zree months ago. I couldn’t figure out vot to do wit it, so I asked dem to just put it here till I could find a place for it.”
So, for three months, a brand new 25 inch mahogany console Curtis Mathis color television had sat in the foyer of their home being used as a table to stack old records.
Rich got to love’em.
“Just put it anyvair, Scaht” and with that, Barbara was headed back to poolside and peaches.
Those last few weeks, alone in the house, with Barbara and the kids overseas with Roy, were probably the most fun I ever had with clothes on.
And, if I had set out to write fiction about the kinds of experiences one would expect living in the home of a superstar, they would have read nothing like the truth:

...leaving the house one afternoon on an errand and choosing the red Porsche as my chariot, I was driving up the long driveway to the always open gate when I spied one of the inevitable tour buses parked shoulder side. Though Roy’s gate was kept open, there was an understanding that buses could stop on the street and take pictures from there, but were not to enter the grounds themselves. As I approached the gate, evil imp whispered in my ear that there was a pair of sunglasses in the visor. Quickly, putting them on, and then adjusting my hair to suggest someone else, I pulled up in front of the bus, pausing only long enough to make sure the street was clear and then pulled out onto the street, passing along side the bus. As I looked back over my shoulder, two dozen faces and camera lenses were pressed against the windows of the bus and I swear that even over the roar of a finely tuned Porsche engine, I could hear the shutters clicking like castanets at a flamenco festival.
It still warms me to think that on a mantle somewhere in Des Moines, my picture is the center of conversation... early afternoon, standing in the kitchen and fixing bologna and cheese, I was suddenly startled by a knock on the door, startled because the house itself was a good hundred and fifty yards from the street and the kitchen door was on the side of the house, not the first place any UPS driver or pizza guy would knock.
Opening the door, I was faced with a Norman Rockwell meets Andy Warhol portrait of the nuclear tourist family. Mother with wide brimmed straw hat, dark glasses and Polaroid draped around her neck, father with tastefully tacky tropical shirt, Bermuda shorts, black socks and wing tips and 2.3 children standing restlessly, but politely, at the side of either/or.
“Can I help you?” I asked in my imitation of the gatekeeper.
“Hi,” the dad barked cheerfully, “is this Roy Orbison’s house?”
“Yes,” I answered politely but evenly, “what can I do for you?”
“Is Roy home?”
By now I was fairly certain this was no stalker event or assassination attempt, but it was, still, my job to prevent incident and protect property (Barbara’s panties notwithstanding).
“Mr. Orbison isn’t at home right this second, what is it you wanted?”
“Well, we wanted to meet him and say how much we admire him and.....” and he blathered on for a good couple of minutes in the same sort of endearing babble that fans seem to speak from birth.
Finally he came up for air.
“Well, thanks, I’ll tell him you stopped by. Now, if you will excuse me....”. By now even I was impressed with my ability to sound official.
“Could we maybe take a picture of the house and pool?”
By the strict letter of the law, I should have showed them the door.
Or the gate, at least.
But, suddenly feeling the kindred spirit that had moved me to stare for hours at gold records on a wall, I thought what the hell.
“Sure. Look, I can’t let you in the house or let you touch anything, but if you’ll be careful, you can walk around back and take a couple of pictures.”
From the faces, you would have thought I had granted them eternal life.
“Thank you, God bless”, said Dad, leading the en masse’ turn toward the back yard and the pool area.
Ten feet or so later, Mom suddenly dropped back a step, turned and looked back at me, pulling her sunglasses down to make sure she saw whatever it was she thought she saw.
“Say, “ she said as if she had just thought of it, “...........are you anybody?”
My friends tell me I can’t resist the temptation to enlighten.
“Lady, “ I said in my best enlightening voice, “.........everybody is somebody.”
She looked disappointed.
Next time take the tour bus. I hear the chances of getting some great photos are really good...

...during that last couple of weeks, I invited a visit from a lady friend who lived in another state. Whatever pick up line I first used to make her acquaintance couldn’t hold a candle to the one she got on the phone call that started, “ would you like to come to Nashville and fuck my brains out in Roy Orbison’s king size bed?”
You can have your wine, candy, flowers and sentiment dripping couplets.
There is nothing quite so seductive or erotic as the chance to have sex dead square in the middle of rock and roll history.
Our time together was somewhat strained, as I think we were both beginning to realize that this was not to be the love of our lives, but we did manage to share some laughs, she got a chance to see gold records and cheap Grammys, swim in a pool with a beautiful view of the lake where Johnny Cash and Barbara Mandrell and their peers boated and frolicked.
She also, responding to the original invitation, fucked my brains out in Roy Orbison’s king size bed.
After she was, of course, bubble bathed and pampered in the oversized, mirrored, ornately decadent master bathroom.
Hey, I’m an animal, not a pig.
And then, in one of those once in a lifetime moments, we managed to drink, stumble and grope our way into the main living area where we took advantage of the small stack of freshly laundered and soft towels spread across the expanse of the regulation pool table.
Eight ball in the corner pocket, indeed...
I never saw her again after that visit as we both, as expected, moved on.
Five or six years later, I was sitting in my apartment, eating a bologna and cheese, listening to a good friend of Roy’s named George Harrison on my stereo when I got a phone call from my television reporter girlfriend.
“Did you hear that Roy Orbison died today?”
For the rest of that afternoon, I sat quietly, thinking about tall grass behind junior high schools, first kisses, champagne with peaches and giant walk in closets.
And even today, I get a warm feeling when I walk past a pool hall..."

Thanks, Roy and Barbara, for sharing your home and lives with me.

And, Barbara, though he had no way of knowing it at the time, Roy wrote, at least, the last two lyric lines of "Oh, Pretty Woman" with you in mind.

Godspeed, guys.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"...Ob-La Di, Ob-La-Da......With Frame..."

Old saying.

One picture is worth a thousand words.

New saying.

Six pictures tells one complete story.

Simplicity can be stunning.

Wouldn't you say?

"...The Southfork School of Sympathy...."

Carla is a very witty chick.

And my referring to my friend of twenty five years in that fashion is neither patronizing nor denigrating, regardless of any feminist jerking of knees that might result.

The story of why I call her Chickee and she, me, "Scoot" is a fun story all its own.

One of these days.

Meanwhile, the wit I attribute to Carla comes in many forms, but I was reminded, lately, of one "cism" in particular.

Asked for an opinion on any given cultural junk food/news item, Carla offers up what I consider a classic, and classy, response.

"In the first place," she opines, "...who cares?"

"...and in the second place.....who cares?"

Bada bing.

Carla's comedic comment popped up in my medulla this morning as I read the latest installment of the Adventures of Demi and Ashton", still, to paraphrase Paul Simon, newsworthy after what seems like all these years.

Here's a chunk of one tome', for backdrop purposes only.

"...Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are a couple no more, two months after Ashton's sixth-anniversary gift to Demi of a scandal around his alleged infidelity with a San Diego party receptionist while she was off working in New York City. Her belated gift to him was, of course, her decision Thursday to get a divorce.

After his-and-hers statements Thursday, speculation -- some of it humorous -- has filled the information vacuum. Prepare yourself for some gossipy gossip, which we hope you'll keep in the proper perspective.

Who gets Bruce Willis? What will @mrskutcher's new Twitter handle be? Will this drama, like the life of Charlie Sheen, be incorporated into Ashton's "Two and a Half Men" character's story line? (Whoops, too late on that last one, as Kutcher's Walden Schmidt has already been suffering the pain of a divorce from a wife who told him he was emotionally immature.)

Then there's the open-marriage buzz. "Everyone in Hollywood knows about their arrangement," an unnamed "insider" told the Star tabloid, "but they've managed to keep it a secret from the general public."

Chelsea Handler, who said she doesn't know them "personally very well," opined to a shocked, simply shocked Piers Morgan on his CNN show that "I think they probably had a lot of good times with some other women... Clearly they had a lot of threesomes, that led to twosomes without Demi and that leads to a divorce." After watching tape of the couple on a previous "Piers Morgan Tonight," she added, "I absolutely feel for her."

One such twosome was allegedly with Sara Leal, who went public with her claim that they'd had unprotected sex twice, that Ashton was not "weird or perverted," and that they'd talked about astrological signs and politics afterward..."

Truth be told, I've pretty much been in the Carla camp since the moment this "breaking news" broke.

Because, in the great scheme of things, after all, seriously.....take it, Chickee...

"...who cares....and in the second place....?"

Well, it turns out, in the interest of fair and balanced reporting (something Fox News Channel uses as a shroud slogan, but, hahahaha...)I think it right and proper to admit there really is a who to be offered up as the answer to that question.

Who cares?

Obviously, we do.

Or we wouldn't keep reading about it, thinking about it, talking about it and/or wanting to do some or all of those.

I think the more interesting question, the one that doesn't really get asked, let alone answered satisfactorily, is this one.


Ooh. I know. Call on me. I know.

And I even have a snappy slogan for it, too.

Dallas Syndrome.

Not as in the ultra-right wing capital of the Southwest, home to oil barons, cattle kings and Governors who get to run for president because their rich friends pay for it, but, rather, the infamous drama series/soap opera of the 1980's.

Jock and Miss Ellie, Sue Ellen, J.R./ On Pamela, Bobby, all our favorite stars.

And the reason that we find ourselves drawn back, time and again, to the foibles and follies of Kutcher and company is the very same reason that "Dallas" held our attention for years in prime time.

A very simple, basic, primal quality we all share, if not admit.

Misery loves company.

Most especially when the company is stinky rich and privileged.

Something in our human natures, the inverse, perhaps, of the quality that has us pull for the underdog, compels us to take some kind of satisfaction in witnessing the unhappiness of those who seem to have so much but, alas, have just as many upheavals, heartaches and heartbreaks as we mere mortals.

And it's not necessarily a perverse or petty attitude, at all.

Neither a "na-na-na-NA-na" or a "neener-neener".

Actually, an authentic "awwwwww".

Turns out that really rich people put their pants on one leg at a time just like us.

And they get kicked out of their marriages for fooling around just like us, too.

All the money in the world, or at least north central Texas, doesn't insure happiness.

Those of us who don't really have any money (and that, of course, is most of us) are comforted by the fact that it wouldn't matter anyway.

So, in an odd sort of psychological way, we find ourselves drawn closer to these star crossed celebs because their human follies mirror our own...and the falling of their stars metaphorically, and literally, brings them down to earth...

...ergo, closer to us.

At which point, it's then that we return to our own struggles and, at some point in the evolution of the breaking news, realize that we have to deal with our upheavals, heartaches and heartbreaks without benefit of day spas, day care or dollars upon dollars upon dollars of swanky therapists.

And as we hear just one too many reports on how the suffering celebs are coping, we find ourselves quoting my irrepressibly witty friend, Chickie.

" the first place...."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"...And, Yes, I Get Plenty Of Fiber, Thank You Very Much..."

Been a year now.

And I haven't broken anything yet.

It was this time last year that my father passed away, making me, by age and place in line, the oldest living male member of my family.

The patriarch.

Although those who know me, very likely and not un-deservedly, think that a title like that is more honorary than honorable.

Because, hey, let's not kid ourselves, I'm not exactly "head of the family" material.

At least not in the conventional, traditional sense of the term.

And, just so we're clear, I'm offering that self deprecation in a spirit of truth in advertising without any intention of irreverence.

Because, the whole truth and nothing but be told, there are times when I wish I could be a better role model for future family key holders.

I do, though, take some measure of pride in two core personal qualities.

I do love, respect and admire my family.

And I recognize that I'll never be the kind of "father figure" that is instantly recognizable as such.

Come to think of it, just like the guy whose place I took at the head of the line.

Subtle shades of Linda Ronstadt and/or Warren Zevon fading out on the chorus of "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" aside, I realize that I have, in the process of becoming the old guy (old, of course, being a relative term, as I consider myself still vibrant, virile and voracious, admittedly post George Clooney but decidedly pre Regis Philbin)that I have, simply by evolution, taken on some old guy traits.

Not counting the ones I've had since I was, say, fifteen or so.

Trust me when I tell you that curmudgeons, like Lady Gaga, are born this way.

And one of those old guy traits is a growing number of moments when one of these two phrases seem to come out of still vibrant, virile and voracious lips ...

"what the hell...?"

"tsk, tsk, tsk...".

Moments like this morning when I came across the story of the seven year old daughter of the Texas A&M basketball coach who sits in the stands at games and, as the opposing players come to the free throw line, lets loose with a piercing shriek, designed, obviously, to rattle the cage of the opponent about to take a shot.

It looks, and sounds, like this.

If you check this video out on Yahoo (where I found it) or You Tube, do a scroll down and look at some of what the peanut gallery has to offer in the way of comment.

I didn't do an empirical data compilation, but I'm guessing, from quick view, that the votes fall somewhere in the fifty fifty range, half thinking this little stunt is funny/cool/hip/clever/good strategy, yada, yada and half thinking that it is, at best, inappropriate and, at worst, raging, screaming (literally) poor sportsmanship.

Which will bring us back to do-re-mi...and the aforementioned old guy trait.

Just as I heard the piercing shriek of the little gym minx, I heard the simultaneous voices of generations of past patriarchs in my ear, the voices of past generations who had subscribed to, and preached, the basic values of good manners and common courtesy and, wait for it, good sportsmanship and, though hard to discern one from the other, I got a pretty good sense that those voices were a heady concoction of these two primal sounds...

"what the hell...?"

"tsk, tsk, tsk...".

At that moment, I realized that I truly had joined the patriarchal pantheon.

Because, much to my own surprise, my own voice was mouthing pretty much those same sounds at the same time.

And if leaving behind the childhood of lack of consideration for others, selfishness in pursuit of satisfaction, good sportsmanship in pursuit of gratification and an attitude of "lighten up, dude, it's only a game" marks me as a top of the line AARP material, then bring on the Depends and the Dentu-Creme, kids.

Because this head of the family thinks anybody who thinks that behavior is funny, let alone acceptable, should be ashamed of themselves.

And to those whippersnappers and/or whiners who would roll their eyes and offer up, "what's the effin' big deal, old man?", I can only, respectfully respond thus...

"what the hell...?"

"tsk, tsk, tsk...".

How'm I doin', Dad?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"...The Naked Truth About Penn State..."

Another Saturday arrives.

The faithful gather to fervently support their team and their school.

And the faithful who will gather today at Beaver Stadium have their work cut out for them.

Here's a thing about the thing, though.

Rallying and rah-rahing might hit the bulls-eye of standing up and being counted.

But it will miss the point, entirely.

The issue at the heart of darkness here isn't school spirit.

It's truth to power.

Back in a minute.

University Park, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Legendary coach Joe Paterno was hoping that Saturday's game could be a final victory lap, but he won't be on the sidelines for Penn State's last home football game of the season after being fired amid a shocking child sex abuse scandal.

Beyond his absence, some wonder whether the scandal will affect the game in other ways. Will there be a return to the riots that rocked the college campus the night Paterno was fired?

"I hope and believe we will see the best of our students tomorrow," acting President Rodney Erickson said Friday. "They understand Penn State is really in the spotlight. We should convey the best of Penn State values because much of the world is looking at us tomorrow."

Another person who will not be on sidelines for the noon start of the game against Nebraska is Mike McQueary, the assistant coach who has drawn consternation for his role in the scandal.

McQueary alerted Paterno in 2002 that he'd seen a former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, sexually assault a boy.

On Friday, McQueary became the latest casualty in the scandal that began with last week's arrest of Sandusky.

The arrest set off a chain of events, including the ouster of the university's president and of longtime coach Paterno, a move that sparked on-campus riots after it was announced Wednesday.

In recent months, McQueary told a grand jury that when he was a graduate assistant, he saw Sandusky, now 67, sexually assault a young boy at the campus' football complex. He said he reported the incident to Paterno, who alerted Athletic Director Timothy Curley, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said earlier this week.

Neither Paterno, 84, nor McQueary is criminally charged.

Kelly has said that the alleged failure of Curley and Gary Schultz, the university's senior vice president for finance and business, to tell authorities about the abuse claim "likely allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many, many years."

The scandal has stirred an uproar and a flurry of action over how Penn State athletic and administrative officials handled the matter.

Erickson said Friday that he'll appoint an ethics officer to report directly to him. He added that he wants to encourage openness and dialogue among the school's 96,000 students so that they do not hesitate to report such allegations.

"Never again should anyone at Penn State -- regardless of their position -- feel scared to do the right thing," he said.

With a record of 8-1, Penn State is ranked atop the Big Ten and is ranked No. 12 in the country, potentially in position to play in a premier Bowl Championship Series contest. The team faces the 19th-ranked Cornhuskers at Beaver Stadium.

There are three key phrases in that news summary.

First, the tragically obvious mishandling of the reporting of the brutalization.

In recent months, McQueary told a grand jury that when he was a graduate assistant, he saw Sandusky, now 67, sexually assault a young boy at the campus' football complex. He said he reported the incident to Paterno, who alerted Athletic Director Timothy Curley, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said earlier this week.

Huddle up, guys.

McQueary to Paterno to Curley.

Ready, break.

And there, apparently for the most callous of causes, the play stopped.

The most callous of causes, in this case, being defined as not wanting to rock the boat, pee in the Cheerios, pick your metaphor and, as a result, damage the huge money making machine that is Big Ten college football.

Which single link in that chain is to blame for not making sure that Sandusky was busted on the spot?

All of them.

But that's where truth to power thickens our plot.

The ability to speak honestly, bluntly and passionately to those who are above us in rank, authority, status, et al, regardless of consequences.

Which brings us to the second of the three key phrases in that summary.

"Never again should anyone at Penn State -- regardless of their position -- feel scared to do the right thing," he said.

In the classic children's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes", all the citizens of the village were afraid to tell their "master" that the luxurious wardrobe that had been fashioned for him by the clever, scamming tailor was, in fact and literally, nothing.

Afraid because telling powerful people what powerful people don't want to hear is historically not a fast track to future success.

Or staying alive.

The moron patrol that took to the streets to protest the firing of Joe Paterno is, like any moron patrol worth its salt, blissfully blind to the fact that Paterno's failure was turning his own blind eye to an egregious circumstance and "passing the buck" in a superficial and token gesture of responsibility.

And anyone, and everyone, else in the chain of command was/is guilty of abdicating their own responsibility to tell truth to power.

The power, in this case, being that aforementioned huge money making machine that is Big Ten college football.

Decent, reasonable people would be appalled and offended if they were asked to put a dollar value on the emotional well being of a child.

But there's no getting around the fact that the athletic and administrative departments of Penn State did, in fact, put just such a dollar value on that well being.

The exact dollar figures can be obtained by looking at their Big Ten profit statements dating back to the day that Jerry Sandusky was first reported for raping a child.

In the spirit of total fairness, Penn State, as an institution is no more responsible for this heinous act than, say, the United States Marine Corps is responsible for the killing of John F. Kennedy simply because the Corps is where Lee Harvey Oswald learned to fire his rifle.

But if Oswald had been shooting at paper targets of JFK in target practice and the Corps looked the other way, they would damn sure have had, at least, some culpability.

Telling truth to power is tough.

And make no mistake, Big Ten football programs are power.

As evidenced by the third key phrase in the news summary.

After paragraph upon paragraph relating the horrific details of the offense and the people involved and/or responsible for it, the story couldn't help itself when it came to wrapping it all up...

With a record of 8-1, Penn State is ranked atop the Big Ten and is ranked No. 12 in the country, potentially in position to play in a premier Bowl Championship Series contest. The team faces the 19th-ranked Cornhuskers at Beaver Stadium.

In the light of what happened to God knows how many little boys, no one should care at all about that information.

But a lot of people do.

Here's a little truth to power.

Shame on you, if, today, you do care.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"...Kneeling...Huddling Up....Six of One...."

When it comes to plot devices, I've never been much for pathos.

Bathos, not so much either.

Irony, though?

Now we're talkin'.

Maybe it's that irony, at its heart, is really a delightful mixture of poignancy and sarcasm.

Two qualities whose combination have always been as tasty to me as peanut butter and chocolate.

My awareness, and appreciation, of the ironic has been at Defcon 4 the last couple of days as I ponder the Penn State scandal.

Probably because it is, for me, only the irony of it that sets the event apart from your garden variety societal aberration.

Let's face it, were it not for the celebrity value of Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions, this admittedly heinous episode would be just another admittedly heinous episode relegated to a few column inches beneath, or perhaps above, the fold depending, of course, on the size of the community where the admittedly heinous episode occurred.

That celebrity value, though, lifts this particular aberrant activity up and out of the white noise of the commonplace.

And, at the same time, kicks it to a near record level of my favorite quality concoction.

The ironic.

No person in their right mind, mental or moral, can, for a single second, not be appalled and/or outraged at the sexual abuse of children.

Under any circumstance.

But the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of seemingly normal people (the key phrase there being "seemingly normal")feel compelled to take to the streets to protest the action taken against "their" football team indicates that, somewhere along the way, core values have not only gotten skewered, they've gone right dead center through the looking glass.

And therein, I'd offer you, is where the irony comes washing over the seawall.

For how many of those fervent fans who are angry at the firing of a football coach who, at the very least, was the officer on deck while sexual atrocities were being inflicted on children, would consider, and call, themselves good, God fearing, church going upright citizens.

About a standing room only stadiums worth, bet the farm.

And as those same fans substitute cries of despair at the damage done to those children with cries of despair at the toppling of their hometown hero, it is easy to believe, sadly, that their feelings about that hometown hero transcends hero worship, turning out to be, in fact, the worshiping of an idol.

Good church going folks.

Who read their Bibles.

Passages like "thou shalt not kill".

"Thou shalt not steal"

And the one that has my irony alarm working overtime.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

The sexual assault of children is, by any possible measure, a sickness of tragic proportion.

Cries of anger at the firing of a football coach who was, at best, negligent in his guardianship of a basic moral standard is, by any possible measure, a sickness, as well.

A sickness, one might argue, of Biblical proportions.

How's that for ironic?

Monday, November 7, 2011

"...Idol Worship and Justice....Oil and Water..."

Random thought.

Conrad Murray guilty.

Casey Anthony not guilty.

Hard to not jump to the conclusion that the life of a celebrity has more value than the life of a child.

Michael Jackson died and heaven knows someone must be held accountable.

Caylee Anthony died and heaven forbid someone be unjustly convicted.

I imagine it must be terribly difficult making a living as a science teacher these days.

How, exactly, do you explain to students that the world actually is upside down?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"...There Is Nothing Like A......."

Tough week for lovers of the written word.

Totally cool week for lovers of the written word who have already shuffled off the mortal coil.

First, Andy Rooney.

Now, Patsi Bale Cox.

National news being what it is, you have no doubt come across Andy's name and the news of his passing at least a couple of times in the past day or so.

News of Patsi's passing, not so much.

And it's no dig intended at Mr. Rooney and his remarkable life to say that, if there were any justice, Patsi's name would be popping up on CNN in equal measure just about now.

Because, like Rooney but with a style all her own, Patsi Bale Cox was a class act.

In a culture, and world, that can use all the class acts it can find.

This particular class act, though, was more a regional and local hero, as opposed to a national one.

So, lengthy obits, like lengthy bios, will be in short supply in Patsi's case.

Here's, at least, a link to her profile on Blogger to give you just a look at the tip of the iceberg that was this feisty fraulein.

Ironically, though I lived and worked in Nashville for twenty plus years, I didn't "meet" Patsi until we connected as Facebook friends a year or two ago. And while it would be stretching the term to call us pen pals, we did, on more than one occasion, trade winks and uh-huhs.

And, having gotten to know her and more of her work, it was always a source of pride when I posted this yada or that yada on the FB page and, at some point shortly thereafter, returned to find a "Patsi Bale Cox likes this".

Because when it comes to having someone assess your own work, it's one thing to be appreciated by people in general, another thing to be appreciated by people you know and like...

...and an entirely different thing to be appreciated by people whose own work you admire, respect and, yes, every now and then, even envy.

I feel pretty sure that a mainstream media that thinks anything named Kardashian still qualifies as "breaking news" isn't going to do much in the way of uploading news of Patsi Bale Cox's remarkable life.

So, as mentioned earlier, obits will be short supply.

And while it would be, admittedly, presumptuous to attempt to fill that gap, I feel like Patsi might appreciate it if she knew that, upon hearing of her passing today, I suddenly thought of Delores Landingham.

The fictional executive secretary of the fictional President Jed Bartlet in the long running "The West Wing".

At the end of season two, Mrs. Landingham, as she was always both affectionately and respectfully addressed died suddenly.

And at the end of a moving service in a beautiful cathedral filled with friends, family and admirers, Leo McGarry, White House chief of staff, walked quietly to the front of the church, where Bartlet stood, alone in his thoughts of a caring, compassionate, crusty soul who had been a behind the scenes essential part of so many lives for such a long time.

Gently, but assuredly, with a smile only the knowing possess, McGarry looked at his own life long friend and said it all.

"...she was a real dame, old friend...a real broad..."

Presumptuous or not, I hope "Patsi Bale Cox likes this"....

"...Ooooh Baby, You KNOWWWW What I Like...."

Pop quiz.

Name a four letter word, ending in K, that is a fundamental, primary and primal need between two people in a successful and fulfilling relationship.

The answer can be found following this list of "expert" tips on what men should, or should not, say on a first date...and why...or why not.

Five things she’d love to hear:

1. “You look amazing.”
Acknowledge (and appreciate) that she went all-out for you. Trust us, even if this is a simple latte liaison, a degree of decision-making went into that jeans-tee-ponytail combo she’s got going on. No need to be too specific with your compliment; just let her know you’ve noticed that she looks good.

2. “How was your day?”
This may seem like innocuous chit-chat, but it shows you care and are interested in her life. Make sure to really listen to the response rather than glaze over when she itemizes details of a petty spat with a coworker. Bonus: It’ll give you something to follow up on in a later conversation (e.g., “Did you patch things up with that woman in finance yet?”)

3. “I’m really having a great time with you.”
This is probably the best thing you can say mid-date! It takes the edge off and lets her know she can relax. You’ll also get feedback on how she’s feeling, too. Hopefully, she’ll beam back and say, “Me too!” as opposed to a sniffle followed by her muttering, “How nice.”

4. “What do you think about such-and-such topic?”
Guys, you’re great at telling us what you think, but you can be a bit stingy about seeking out our opinions. Ask your date for her viewooint and she’ll be flattered — and stimulating discourse is bound to ensue. Naturally, steer clear of obscure subjects she may not be up on or comfortable discussing, and only bring up hot-button issues like politics if you’re prepared for a potentially serious debate to follow shortly thereafter.

5. “I’d love to see you again.”
This is a great way to end a date, because it assures your date that you like her (and it may also prevent that awful waiting-by-the-phone thing women tend to do). Trust us, she’ll appreciate it.

Five things she’d hate to hear...

1. “You’ve really got a great body. Do you work out or something?”
Do not say anything like this, please! It is way too objectifying and will make her uncomfortable. Avoid making mention of any particular body part or anything that might make you seem shallow.

2. “Oh, I know all about that!”
If you’re commiserating, fine — but if you’re about to start pontificating, resist! Women like intelligent, informed, worldly men, but we also appreciate humility. When you put on your “superior face,” you’re so not sexy to us anymore. If she wanted a know-it-all, she’d spend her evening with Wikipedia.

3. “I’ve been shopping for a new luxury SUV…”
Such a transparent attempt to impress her will have the reverse effect — unless you hear “cha-chiiing” and dollar signs appear in her eyes. So bag those “I’m a big man” comments about your stuff, your status and your salary.

4. “Wanna come back to my place for a bit after dinner?”
Asking a woman to drop by your place off the cuff, huh? What’s next — showing her your etchings? We women hear this and automatically think you’re just trying to get us in a compromising position, even if you really do have a good reason for inviting us in. It would be way better to say something like, “I’d invite you to my place, but it’s a wreck” and wait for her to insist that she doesn’t mind first. Oh, and never ask to “come in for a minute to use the bathroom” when dropping her off at her door, either.

5. “I’ll call you.”
OK, this actually is what she wants to hear, but so many men say it and don’t follow through that I need to caution you about doing that first. So if you have any doubt in your mind whatsoever about calling her, do not utter those three little words! Instead, wish her luck on the big presentation she mentioned, thank her for sharing her time with you and say goodnight.

Personal experience tells me that while there's nothing epiphanous here, both the do's and the do not's are likely to be helpful in navigating the sometimes tricky waters in the sea of love.

Although, said personal experience also motivates me to provide a couple of "value added" items to the list.

One each.

DO say..."Actually, I love to shop for shoes."

Do NOT say..."Dancing With The Stars....isn't that the new show with Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul?"

Love, like the tide, ebbs and flows.

Seasons change and seasons go.

But a successful, long term relationship requires communication like a fat guy needs Krispy Kremes.

I have never been in, nor heard of, a relationship that died as a result of over-communication.

They die every day from lack of it, though.

Which brings us back to the pop quiz.

The four letter word, ending in K, that is a fundamental, primary and primal need between two people in a successful and fulfilling relationship?


Because, sometimes, even guys just want to get some sleep.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"...And That's All He Has To Say About That..."

Andy Rooney died today.

And there will be, I'm guessing, little more than a day or so, max, of garden variety obits wandering over, around and through online, print and broadcast media.

In one sense, that's as it should be.

Rooney was not a world leader.

He didn't win a Nobel Prize.

He didn't find a cure for cancer.

He didn't invent the Internet.

He was a reporter turned commentator who, for forty plus years or so, offered up wry observations on life in five minute doses, mostly seen/heard by viewers of "60 Minutes."

And he died not untimely and not saving kids from a burning building or in an air show plane crash or under the rubble of a stage crashing down at a state fair.

But he was a pretty remarkable guy.

Because for eight decades, he never lost his way with words.

And if you think that's no small feat, try to imagine...

Seventy five years of wit and wisdom coming from...

Jon Stewart.

Joy Behar.

Chris Matthews.

Will Ferrell.

Charlie Sheen.

Bill O'Reilly.

Rachel Maddow.

Ann Coulter.


Or this writer.

Nice work, Andy. Godspeed.


"...The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth, Give Or Take, So Help Me God..."

First, a thoughtful treatise on a timely topic.

(Editor's note: Barbara Risman is professor and head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families. She is the author of "Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition" (Yale, 1998) and editor of "Families as They Really Are" (Norton, 2010).

(CNN) -- In my mind -- and in the law -- there are two kinds of sexual harassment. The first kind is quid pro quo and easy to spot. A really detestable (usually) man gives his (usually) female subordinate employee or student an ultimatum: Put out or lose some opportunity, be it a grade, a job or a promotion.

During the "Mad Men" era, bosses got away with such, and women thought it the price of a life outside the kitchen. No more. Women no longer think this is OK. Professors even lose tenure over this clearly sexist and illegal behavior these days. We've come a long way on the road to equality on this front. Lawyers don't settle such claims for a few months' salary and a promise of silence.

No one knows right now if this is the kind of sexual harassment that Herman Cain is accused of, but I doubt it. For one thing, several others have claimed they witnessed the harassment of the women in question, and such bold threats aren't often made over the dinner table in a restaurant with observers.

But then there is the other kind of sexual harassment, the behavior that makes the workplace uncomfortable, that creates an environment that is hostile to women in general, or just to one person because of her (or his) sex, gender, race or ethnicity. Everyone agrees that workplaces ought not to differentiate between actors simply because of their sex, gender, race or ethnicity.

But beyond that, when sex and gender are involved, we often get into a "he said/she said" dialogue. For example, he believed the jokes were simply funny and created a more friendly setting; she believed they were offensive and created an us (the boys) versus them (her or her and other women) organizational climate where she was always going to be outside the loop, outside informal conversations and social networks that mattered.

Another example might be when a powerful man is attracted to one of his co-workers and simply wants to start some sort of sexual friendship, an offer he perhaps had made many times before and occasionally was accepted. But this time, the woman finds a sexual overture from a married boss intimidating and off-putting. She believes it changes forever the climate of the workplace. Even if he never threatened her status after the "invitation," she didn't believe the professional relationship would ever be the same after what she perceived to be sexual harassment.

If we look at sexual harassment in these terms, as he said/she said, we will never find a solution -- ethical, legal or moral to the problem. At this point, we have yet to create any consensus around the appropriate way to deal with sexual attraction and sexual desire in the workplace. No one can deny that workplaces are often where adults meet their life partners. In a 24/7 work environment, where else do you have to meet a spouse? And indeed, in a world where people often think of themselves as defined by "what they do," it makes sense that those who also do it are the people we have enough in common with to fall for, whether it's to fall in love, or even just in lust.

And yet, we are still in a world where the most powerful class of actors happens to be older men. We do not live in some post-feminist world, where power is yet equally shared. No one wants to anger or displease one's boss, even a little. Nor do we live in a world where the workplaces have become truly integrated by sex. In fact, the most recent research suggests that in the last decade, we've stalled at integration by sex. While women are getting more and more of the degrees, they remain in traditionally female-dominated fields, and are not moving forward in male-dominated ones.

My hypothesis for why is that heavily male-dominated occupations, including politics, are so heavily masculine in their cultures, full of sexual innuendo and -- perhaps -- the kind of sexual harassment of which Cain is accused.

I don't have an easy answer, but I do know we'll never solve the problem by trying to figure out what he said or she said. Instead, we have to decide what, as a society, we want to be acceptable or not in our workplaces and schools and then enforce the norms with legal penalties. Here's a first volley: It should be illegal for men (or women) to make sexual overtures to their subordinates.

End of story.

Power always gets in the way of easily saying no. But more than that, if we want workplaces that do not privilege the men who have previously dominated the social space, we need to change the culture in which sexual banter objectifies women and turns them into the "other," and take seriously the claims by women that men harass them.

The more subtle kind of sexual harassment has consequences not only for the individual woman who finally complains, but for all of us, by sustaining a culture where the powerful positions in many occupations, including politics, remain dominated by men.

Should accepting boorish sexual banter and unwanted sexual approaches be the price of admission to male-dominated occupations? It's up to us as a society to set the standards. Here is a moment in time to take stock: Let's hear what the women who were silenced by being paid off have to say about the private behavior of a very public man who is running for president.

Now, with apologies to Professor Risman for the admitted ease with which one can call plays from the armchair, here's the thing about the thing.

"...Here's a first volley: It should be illegal for men (or women) to make sexual overtures to their subordinates.

End of story...."

Laudable and best intentioned.

But hardly practical.

Because accusation, and/or prosecution, of the overture requires a specific definition of the term "overture".

Which will bring us back to do-re-mi.

Or he said/she said, as the case may be.

Then throw personal tastes, moralities, senses of humor and, even, "common" sense on the canvas and the picture of harassment we are trying to paint looks less Norman Rockwell and more Jackson Pollack.

Even agreeing on a difference between "blatant" and "subtle" is a challenge.

Especially at that line that exists right on the edge precisely between the two.

Insidiously, and certainly frustratingly, it inevitably circles back to our old nemesis, "consensual".

"Oh, heck, she knows I respect her...and that I was just flirting."

"Oh, heck, I know he respects me...and that he was just flirting."

In forty five years of professional life, to this moment, I have never been accused, to my knowledge, of any kind of sexual harassment.

But I can easily recall comments I made over those forty five years that could be interpreted that way.

And that's the problem in trying to solve the problem.

While any reasonable person, male or female, would agree that "boorish" behavior is, at best, undesirable and, at worst, unacceptable, it is, again, that pesky need to define the term that stands in the way.

And, in the midst of an issue that defies clarity, here's a clear fact.

Men and women can be equally guilty of exploiting that pesky need to define.

Men, when their testosterone short circuits whatever better angel wiring they might possess.

Women, when there is some advantage to be gained by damaging the man's position and/or credibility.

Did Herman Cain sexually harass any, or all, of the women who have, at this point supposedly, accused him?

Three people know.

Cain. The woman. God.

And because this entire issue continues to reside on the slippery slope of definition, you can, arguably, disqualify two of those three.

Professor Risman is clearly an articulate advocate for solving the puzzle.

Problem is, it's not so much a puzzle as it is a Rubik's Cube.

And, of all her observations, I think this one resonates most clearly.

"...I don't have an easy answer, but I do know we'll never solve the problem by trying to figure out what he said or she said...."

While we can all agree it's maddening, the fact remains...

Each and every day, well meaning groups of twelve people sit in courtrooms all over the world trying to determine what he said or she said.

And trying, to the best of their abilities, to decide what is true and what is not.

Truth, regrettably, often lurks somewhere in subtlety of shadow.

And, just as regrettably, that's the only thing that is blatantly obvious.