Sunday, December 08, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

It happens this time of year every year.  

I was walking across the parking lot of my local grocery store when I was approached by street person.  Or a woman impersonating one.  

Her fists were balled up in front of her face.  

"I need help!" she yelled. "I've been turned down by the VA!"

Pretty aggressive.  And most likely untrue.  It is my privilege to render legal assistance to veterans at the VA legal clinic every month.  Not many veterans are flat out "turned down." Whatever that means.

I muttered an apology and moved on.

Did I feel badly for her?  Of course I did.  But as I have said before I don't give money to panhandlers.  The majority of them will take your donation and drink it up or smoke it up.  Besides, it is inefficient.  Any charitable organization dedicated to the homeless that you can think of can make wiser use of a dollar then a guy on the street.  

The Deacon and I differ in this regard.  Then again, she is a better person than I am.  And she has dedicated her ministry to homeless people.  Every Wednesday and Sunday she goes downtown to a converted storefront where CANVAS, a United Methodist outreach to the homeless, holds church services.  They also feed folks, provide clothes and other services. And every time I go over there I give them money.  I have no doubt that it is used wisely and efficiently.

The Deacon is more apt to give a panhandler money.  That's OK.  As one of her fellow Methodist preachers who does the same told me that what the panhandler does with the money he is given is between him and God.   Which I guess is the right way to think of these matters.

But I won't do it.  

It's not that my heart is made of stone.  I contribute my fair share to charity.  I do a lot of pro bono work for Legal Aid type organizations. I am a sucker for a hard luck story.  Once I check it out and find out that it is a true story.  And I do check them out.  Every one. Sometimes I get lied to.  You would be surprised.  In any event, that seems like a better use of my time and resources.  

The Deacon sees my point.  She doesn't agree with it but she sees it.  And she is the sort of person that, if she at least sees a point to a particular position that she disagrees with, is liable to let it rest. This is part of the lubrication for the finely tuned engine that is our marriage. 

But while tis the season for holiday cheer and all of that, it is also the season for porch thieves and con artists.  During the first week of the Advent season I have gotten 2 voice mails warning of my imminent arrest "by the magistrate" based on my "fraudulent activity."  I have gotten one Nigerian email.  And yesterday a panhandler got in my face.  

I don't have an answer to the problem of genuine want and poverty. Neither do you. And neither do the good folks at CANVAS, Catholic Social Services or Our House, just to name a few organizations off the top of my head that are knee deep in these issues.

But may God bless and keep all of  these organizations comprised of people like the Deacon that are truly doing the Work of the Lord against overwhelming odds.     

They say you can't throw money at a problem.  I say go ahead throw money at these or another favorite charity.  Trust me.  They will spend it wisely.  

And you will know where your money is going.  Unlike if you give your credit card number over the phone to the guy that says that "the magistrate" is after your ass this Holiday season.  




Sunday, November 24, 2019

Not In The Mood

In the last 10 days I have attended 2 visitations, a graveside service and a memorial service.  And I have another one in a week.  

Not to make too much of it.  After all, it's not like I had to charge a machine gun nest.  Or that I was the honoree at any of these events.  But my brain is tired. 

 I have work to do.  Work that pays money even.  And the Saints are on.

So I'm taking the day off.  

Talk amongst yourselves.  And be careful. 

  

Sunday, November 17, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I don't know why I continue to get waylaid occasionally by news of a death.  It's not like I don't well know that none of us are immortal.  Although it is true that Earl "Uncle Earl" Long famously used to address the possibility of his post mortem with the phrase "when I die, if I die," all of us know better.  And I suspect Uncle Earl did too.

I was in Conway watching a Hendrix football game when I got the news that my friend and mentor John Churchill died last night.  The only way that setting could have been more perfect was if the Warriors had been playing Rhodes. Because that's where John played back when it was Southwestern of Memphis.  And he played pretty well as he made the "Little All-American" team as it was called back then.

He arrived at the Philosophy Department when I was a Junior.  He was handsome, burly and loud with a laugh that could be heard in the adjacent county.  He didn't so much lecture as he imposed the force of his personality onto the classroom.  If anybody was a natural born teacher it was John Churchill.  I can see him now writing stuff on the board at 90 miles an hour with his back to the class yelling about the stuff that was going up.  He would then face the class and poke the chalkboard behind him for emphasis while his glasses slid down his nose.

Boy he was something.   

But even though he was nine kinds of brilliant as any expert on Wittgenstein would be, he was no egghead.  We watched many a basketball game together and sometimes late in the afternoon we would shoot the bull about sports in his office instead of discussing my academic progress as any other advisor would have done.

He became my faculty advisor when I busted out of music.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I tried to keep the beloved voice teacher Harold Thompson as my advisor because Harold didn't give a shit.  But Dean Raymond caught on eventually and sent me over to the Philosophy and Religion department, which was, after all, the acreage I was treading in the Grove of Academe.   

John's major contribution to my education was suggesting that I take more history courses after I decided that I was going to law school instead of seminary.  He had a hand in that decision as well because it was he who introduced me to David Hume.  Who raised far more damn good questions than damn good answers.  And so off to the law I fled where hypocrisy is more easily overlooked.  

John left Hendrix, as I recall, to become the Secretary of Phi Beta Kappa which is a pretty sweet gig.  He held that job for the last 20 years or so and retired as Secretary Emeritus of that organization as well as Professor and Dean Emeritus of Hendrix.

My last email conversation with John was in October of last year.  At the risk of inducing a stroke I advised him in writing that I had indeed gotten married.  He wished me much happiness and told me with no small measure of evident pride about his kids and grandchildren.  He told me that he and Jean had retired to Dickson, Tennessee because it was within easy visiting distance for most of his kids.

"I'm working on a book," he wrote. "Wittgenstein and liberal education---also reviewing philosophical books for Choice Magazine.  And reading.  Just plowed through Hardy's major works and now Lawrence Durrell."

He closed with the following:

"Right now I'm sitting on our big patio surrounded by Japanese maples.  We're a couple of miles outside Dickson so it's pretty peaceful.

With warm best wishes,

John"

That sounded like a John Churchill way to retire.  Unlike me who plays golf and hangs out with knuckleheads at Catholic High he read big damn books and wrote high falutin' articles about Wittgenstein.  

I know everybody dies.  That's why life insurance is so expensive.  Death is the one certainty the insurance industry can't quite game.  But there are some departures that catch you unawares or hurt more than others.  This is one of them. If for no other reason than here's more proof that I am no longer the boy that I was when we first encountered each other.  .  

So thank you John for not letting me cut corners, for your kindness to my mother and me when Buck dropped dead, for patiently looking over some of the stuff I used to write for the religion section of the paper and for always being up for a talk about sports.  Oh.  And thank you for not expelling my brother.  That night you called me on the phone was the only time I ever heard you yell.  I don't remember specifically what John had done to raise your ire but I remember Jon Guthrie, the campus minister, was high pissed too. Which I didn't think was even possible.  So thanks again. You were really hot.  

I hope that wherever you are you find yourself surrounded by Japanese maples.  And that you have some large damn tome in your big hands. You are still in my head.  And that's a good thing.  

Warm best wishes,

Paul













     

Sunday, November 10, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I got eyes and I got Facebook.

While I am pretty agnostic about all things Razorback, I follow them mainly because they are the only game in town.  That and nobody around here wants to talk about the Tulane Green Wave or the Hendrix Warriors.  

But I think I can safely say that yesterday's drubbing by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers was the absolute nadir of Razorback football in my lifetime.  And I have lived long enough to be eligible for Social Security and have watched the Hogs since achieving what passed for sentience during my walk in this life.  

Let me count the ways of despair.  They were clobbered-as in never in the game- by a team in a lower division.  A team with a quarterback they ran off at the controls.  That lost to the effing University of Central Arkansas. At home.  On Senior Day.  If you can find a bright spot-or some sort of context even-please let me know.

They are now 2-8.  I don't think there's much chance of them beating Missouri here in Little Rock on their last game of this miserable season.  There is absolutely zero chance of them losing by less than 30 against LSU down there.  The oddsmakers say "pick 'em" against Open Date next Saturday.

I know.  Wally will grind his ax against the Chancellor of the University and that girl acting AD who snubbed him who hired the soon-to-be unemployed Chad Morris.  But who could have possibly seen this utter disaster coming?  Nobody.  That's who.  

Speaking of Facebook, my feed has been blowing up with calls for Morris's scalp.  Indeed, one of my regular correspondents-one who is not known for flat out making stuff up, which makes him unique in the world of social media,  posted this morning that Morris has been canned.  

As I type this my phone just buzzed.  Traditional news outlet KFSM up in Fayetteville just reported that Morris indeed has been canned thus confirming Facebook.  A first.

Assuming this is true, and I have no reason not to believe it, what now?

Who is going to take over this raging dumpster fire of a football program?  And here's something else to chew on, sports fans.  Everybody bitches about these long term contracts coaches get and the big fat buyouts they also get when they are canned.  Arkansas now has 2 ex-head football coaches on the payroll.  

What fool would take the Arkansas job without a whole lot of money and security?  

I guess we're fixing to find out one way or another.

News is coming in fast.  "I'll just hang up and listen,"  as the journalists and scholars on "Drive Time Sports" say.

This ought to be interesting.  

  






Sunday, November 03, 2019

Sick Leave

I am getting over a bad cold and am not in the mood for dispensing wisdom this week.

Other than to remind you to cover your mouth when you cough, wash your hands frequently and "fist bump" rather than shake.

Good luck.   As for me, I may take up smoking seeing as how clean living isn't doing me much good.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

Years ago, I was sitting in a local coffee shop with my friend John.  John was wearing the uniform of the United States Army, having been activated for either a tour of duty in Iraq or because we had invaded Afghanistan.  I don't recall.  A lot of friends and acquaintances wore the uniform on a fairly constant basis in those days.  

He wore a dagger on his belt that was at least 6" long.  I said it looked kind of out of place in a downtown coffee shop.  He shrugged.  Part of the uniform.  He always had to have it on him.  

"FIGMO" they say.  "F*ck it.  Got my orders."

"Let me ask you something," he said.  "Take a look around you."

"Ok," I said. 

After I returned to his gaze, he asked,"Would you say that the folks in here are pretty representative of the population of Little Rock?"

This particular establishment caters to a pretty diverse clientele.  Folks of different races and genders were in there drinking coffee and eating pastries along with John and I.  So I had to agree.

"Of the folks in here, how many do you think have ever been in trouble with the law?"

"Not many," I said.  "Mostly traffic stuff most likely."

"Maybe 5%?"

"Maybe."

"Now just imagine if 5% of the entire population of Little Rock decided to riot all at once.  Do you think law enforcement in this county could handle it?"

"Never thought about it.  Probably.  But it would be tough."

"Well, that's what's happening in Iraq.  Government depends on the vast majority of the population being law abiding.  But it doesn't take very many folks to screw things up completely.  That's what I've seen with my own eyes in Iraq."

Which brings me to Rob Blake.  He's an umpire in Major League Baseball who toiled in relative obscurity as should all umpires until last Tuesday when he felt led to tweet, according to ESPN,  that he planned to buy an AR-15 "because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVIL WAR!!! #MAGA2020."

I do hope that Mr. Blake had been drinking when he issued that pronouncement.  But he might not have been.  And who knows how many other folks feel the same way he does?  I personally know one man here in town who predicted civil war if Trump is removed from office.  And that was 2 years ago.  He already owns an AR. And God knows what else. I have since ceased to follow him on Facebook.

Showed him huh?  

Part of the problem, part of the danger, is that we have too much exotic weaponry floating around out there and we may safely deduce that a certain number of the owners of these weapons are semi-unhinged.  

And another part of the problem is that Trump and his defenders are resorting to intemperate language to describe his political problems stating for example that the recent impeachment inquiry is a "coup."

This is an opportunity to teach.

"Coup" is shorthand for "coup d'etat" or "blow against the state" meaning the overthrow of an existing government by non-democratic means if you will.  Think French and Russian Revolutions.  There are you some sure enough coups.  

Whatever you think of Mr. Trump's current plight, the impeachment process is by no means a coup.  It is described in Article I of the Constitution of United States of America.  It is carried out by elected officials.  And it only removes a person from office.  It doesn't alter or replace the existing government.  It is not a coup.

But try telling that to the average American who gets his or her news from TASS, I mean, FOX.  Or owns an AR 15.

And if we are to be honest, part of the reason for the venomous response of the Trumpers is due to the belief that the Never Trumpers have longed for this moment since his election.  And they're right.  I know folks that were talking impeachment damn near 5 minutes after Trump took the Oath of Office.  And I always tamped such talk down as utterly foolhardy if not groundless until fairly recently.  

But even though the Trumpers have a point of sorts it is largely irrelevant as Mr. Trump has done a pretty damn good job of handing himself over to his enemies ( and maybe more Republicans than we currently know) on a silver platter via room service.  

As for Mr. Drake, he has mercifully shut down his Twitter account and has issued an apology undoubtedly drafted for him by MLB, the MLB Umpires Association, or both.  

"I want to apologize to everyone that my words may feel less safe," he allegedly said in a another statement obtained by ESPN. "I also acknowledge and and apologize for the controversy this has brought to Major League Baseball, my fellow umpires and my family. I never intended to diminish the threat of violence from assault weapons of any kind."

And naturally, in conclusion, the statement goes on to say that Drake is "going to learn from this."

Like I said.  Maybe he was drunk when he took to Twitter last Tuesday.

But what about the sober yet deranged people out there that share his thoughts?  What are they gonna do if Trump is removed from office?

After all, It doesn't take many people to screw things up completely.  My buddy John saw that for himself in Iraq.

Hopefully we won't get put to that particular test here.



   




Sunday, October 20, 2019

My Worthless Feeling

I have nothing to allow today.  Which is rarely an impediment to my writing in these chronicles.

Beat you to it.

Anyway, I'm taking the day off.

Talk amongst yourselves.