Sunday, December 31, 2006

Now HERE Is Some Bullshit

The following gem can be found in a piece in today's New York Times Magazine by Chuck Klosterman about deceased whack job Syd Barrett who founded Pink Floyd. It could have just as easily been crafted by our own Wally Hall.

"[H]is disaffected, hyper-British vocal delivery has influenced singers who have never heard his records."

Oh yeah? How so?

My Sunday Feeling

Last week I went to a reception for my Mother's cousin Joe Boyd and his wife Betty who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The little church was filled with well-wishers. I saw folks I hadn't seen in years. Betty floated around greeting folks while Joe Boyd played mandolin with the bluegrass band that provided the entertainment.

This is the way we all want it to be when we get old. Joe is a little more forgetful than he once was, but he goes to the gym 2 or 3 times a week. Betty's osteoporosis is a worry but other than that she is in reasonably good shape. They have their autonomy, they enjoy pretty good health and they live independently in the home the built in the woods of Grant County.

Not all of us are so lucky. Indeed, from what I have seen lately of the so-called "Golden Years" I would greatly prefer to be crushed by a Steinway concert grand than to go through what some folks endure at the end of life.

One of my brother's father-in-law died the day after Christmas. He was in awful shape. He had a bad ticker despite a couple of bypass surgeries. Last year he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was in constant pain and was confined to a hospital bed they had put up in the house. As if the family didn't have enough to contend with, his wife suffers from dementia. She is loud and combative. The words the sick man uttered with his last breath were "Shut up, Helen."

So much for a peaceful and tranquil passing.

Back in the land of the living, we have to move Mother to the nursing home next Tuesday. She doesn't want to go. As of Friday she had taken to her bed.

" I can't do it son, " she said. "It'll kill me."

" Mom," I said. "The move will not kill you. You're just moving a quarter mile away. You will be at Bob's with the lady who sits up with you while we move everything. You don't have to do a thing."

" But you don't understand. All I have left anymore is my friends. My family certainly doesn't come see me much. I will miss my friends here."

Now this was interesting. She has been at Trillium Park since 1999. This is the first I ever heard any mention of any friends. All she has ever told me is how much she hates it there. But I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt despite her historical penchant for manipulation. After all, it can't be denied that the thought of moving to a new place is stressful to her.

" Mom. You're not moving to a prison. Bob said he will bring you back to have lunch with the ladies you eat with. I'll take their picture and we'll put it up on the wall in your new apartment. And besides, you'll make new friends. Isn't that exciting?"

Silence. She looked away.

" I don't make friends easily," she said to the wall. " I never have."

She turned back toward me.

" Why are you doing this to me? I thought you loved me. I'm just being pushed to the side. Nobody cares what I want."

The lady from Elder Independence that sits with her gasped and covered her mouth. I took off my glasses and covered my eyes with my hand.

"Remain calm." I thought to myself. "Remember Dr. GG said this could happen. This happened five tears ago when we told her she was going to Trillium. She is scared. She is angry that she has no say in the decision. She is also trying to punch my buttons big time."

I got up and sat on her bed. I took her hand.

"Mother" I said. "When I was little it was your job to care of me. And there were times when you made decisions about me that I didn't think were fair and that I didn't like. And while it bothered you to see me upset, you didn't change your mind because you thought the decision you had made, hard as it was, was in my best interests."

" Now I'm no longer little. And it's the time in our lives where it is my job to take care of you. It's my job now. And sometimes I have to make decisions about what is in your best interests whether you like them or not. And just like when you cared for me, the fact that you don't like the decision I have made is not going to change what has to be done on Tuesday. I'm sorry. I wish we didn't have to do this. But we do."

She rolled over and looked at the wall again.

"What is it you say at times like these?" she asked the wall.

Actually, the selection of which blood-curdling oath I might employ at any given time is quite extensive and largely depends on the stress level and the audience at hand. I admit to being curious as to which one might have stuck in her mind.

She rolled onto her back.

"You used to say it when you played.........." She swept her arm through the air.

"What? Tennis?"

" Yes." she said, jabbing her finger in the air. "You used to say 'Awwwwwwww DAMN it!' That's what you used to say. Well, that's how I feel right now."

Yep. I used to say that on the tennis court alright. I am only relieved that she's never followed me around on the golf course.

"That's how I feel too, Mother," I said. "That's how I feel too."

Dave went by to see her yesterday before going back to Missouri. He said she seemed pretty much OK about it. He said they discussed the move and she seemed to be much better today. I'm glad. But we shall see what Tuesday brings. No matter what happens, it will not be an easy day.

We all look forward to an active and happy retirement. We pray for a peaceful end. And we hope to stay out of the nursing home in the interim.

But we don't always get what we want. It isn't right and it isn't fair.

And that's why I want to kiss a runaway Steinway before that day comes for me.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Grim Reality

Suffice it to say, I have a much keener interest in these matters than I did at one time. I also have a Long Term Care policy.

Hit the link to see a cautionary tale.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Flowers

As I write this, it is just past noon on Christmas Day. It's pretty quiet here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest. It's pretty quiet here in my little house. While all is calm, all is not bright. It is a cold and rainy day this Christmas. It feels like New Orleans in February. It is not that cold in Fahrenheit terms but the damp wind cuts to the bone. You can never get warm during winter in New Orleans. I guess that's why there are so many bars.

It has been a good Christmas. Yesterday, I took communion from the Methodists and was blessed by the Catholics, thereby getting all of the bases covered. Last night I had a nice dinner with KM and PM. PM is not one of your wilder and crazier guys. But he was feeling festive last night. Before we left for the restaurant, he proclaimed, " Hell, it's Christmas Eve. I'm gonna have me a drink in the car. I ain't driving."

Who says we don't know how to have fun?

I had presents to open this morning. They were books. All in all, I have been given 4 books this year. I guess people don't think I am sufficiently well read. I have also gotten about 2 gallons of various brands of whiskey. I've got so much high dollar booze in the house that the cheapest stuff I could find to put in the pecan pies was Weller's which is a pretty high-falutin' garnishment for pecan pie. These are good days.

J gave me a watch. Mine died about 6 months ago and I just never got around to getting one. I guess she got tired of me pulling out my cell phone in order to tell time. It's pretty fancy, with about as many functions as my digital camera. She may come to regret her choice of gifts as I have reacquired my nervous habit of shooting my cuff to look at my watch every few seconds. This, I would think is at least as annoying a being around someone who is constantly pulling a cell phone from the holster. Anyway, I am grateful for my watch for no other reason than it is proof that there is at least one good-looking woman in town who will still give me the time of day.

OK. So that was a lot of work for a cheap laugh. You ought to know by now that David Sedaris I am not.

I ran up to Conway earlier this morning to take flowers to my mother. She was lying in bed when I got there. The lady from Elder Independence said her hip was hurting her. Last week it was her shoulder. These are new complaints. Bob examined her and said it was most likely from sleeping too hard in one spot. We got her a heating pad and gave her some Tylenol. Jesus, if it's not one thing it is ten. A buddy's wife gave me some granola. Mom likes granola so I took it to her. Allen approved of this disposition of his wife's handiwork and assured me there' was more where that came from.

It's hard to buy stuff for a person who is confined to a room. She has all the stuff she will ever need. The social worker at the nursing home she will be moving to urged us to resist the temptation to bring all of her things. So the last couple of Christmases I have taken her flowers. Back at the house she always kept a garden. She can't remember my name fully a third of the time. And yet, she can name most of the flowers in the arrangement.

Today was no different. She examined the flowers with an interest and focus that she usually can't summon forth on a good day even. That is good to see. It means that there is some wattage still going on in there.

And now I am home where it is nice and quiet. The Lakers will be on in a few minutes so I can look forward to watching Kobe shoot the ball 35 times in the spirit of sharing and cooperation. It seems to have quit raining. Maybe I'll go out for a run. Maybe I will take a nap. The options available to me are numerous and overwhelming.

The ribs for tonight's dinner are out smoking away on the big Hudson grill. I'm about ready to put the apple wood out there. The air around the house really smells great. When Steve lived next door he would practically beam himself over a la Star Trek whenever I did ribs out on the deck.

I know. I've written that before. I don't care. It is Christmas and it is a happy memory.

Just like Mother summoning forth the name of a flower on Christmas morning. A happy, happy memory.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Christmas Carol

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat and down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
Psalm 137

One of the more interesting things about life is that you can find perspective in the most unlikely places. This is a true story. This is what happened in a liquor store last year on Christmas Eve.

I was there buying a bottle of whiskey to take to my brother's house for the Christmas dinner I was already dreading. Not that I don't get along with my brother or anything. Well, let's put it this way. I get along with him as well as anybody does. It's just that I approached Christmas of 2005 with all of the joyous anticipation that I had earlier reserved for the colonoscopy that I had endured 2 weeks earlier. I was in the liquor store because I couldn't get the same kind of sedatives for Christmas that the doctor had given me to get through that earlier ordeal.

2005 was no fun. To use a sports metaphor-as I always do-when the Great Scorer starts to add 'em up on me, He will note that for the most part, 2005 was the year I hit around .125 while simultaneously losing about a foot on my fast ball. As far as I was concerned, the only thing good about the advent of the Holidays was the certain knowledge that they would usher in both a new year and the prospect of a potential comeback.

So there I was in line to pay for my whiskey when I heard someone say, "Tulane. What's going to happen to poor Tulane?"

There was a nattily attired older man standing behind me. I was wearing a Tulane sweatshirt that a friend had given me for Christmas. The gentleman reached toward me. He touched the letters on my shirt. OK. It was a little weird. But he seemed like a nice enough old guy.

"TOOlane." He said, pronouncing it correctly. "Poor TOOlane."

I offered my hand and introduced myself. I told him I graduated from law school there in 1981. I asked him what his connection was to the well known fount of lousy football.

"They fired me yesterday."

He was getting emotional. I took him by the arm and we stepped outside. He had been on the faculty of the medical school for 42 years. Tulane's medical campus downtown was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina along with LSU and Charity Hospital. Tulane and LSU got off fairly light in comparison to Charity. Charity was forced to shut down completely which was something I never thought I would see in this lifetime. I had read that Tulane and LSU decided to downsize significantly in order to survive. Downsizing is a polite way of saying you are getting rid of people to save money. The word comes easily. Maybe it's because we never think we may be standing in a line at the store next to someone who is the living embodiment of that sterile term.

The man acknowledged he was lucky saying he knew lots of people who were a lot worse off than him. Lots of folks on the Coast were left destitute and here he was up here in Little Rock grateful to the colleague at UAMS who had gotten him a position there. He found himself a place to live in my neighborhood. And, I might add, he found the liquor store. Things could be worse. He wasn't in a FEMA trailer in Port Sulphur. He knew that and he was grateful.

"Believe me, I am not complaining." He said. "The people here couldn't be nicer. I am enjoying living somewhere where the seasons actually change. The cool air is invigorating. Arkansas is so beautiful and UAMS is first rate. Absolutely first rate. But it's not home. I miss Tulane. I miss my old life."

At this point he was weeping openly. I put my arm around his shoulders and walked him out away from the store. That seemed to wake him up.

"Don't pay me any mind,"he said, pulling himself together. "I'm just a foolish old man. I usually handle this situation pretty well if I may compliment myself. But just seeing you in that shirt reminded me that as wonderful as Arkansas is, and as kind as the people are, it's just not home. And I was just..overwhelmed I guess. I apologize for behaving so foolishly in public. This really isn't like me."

I assured him he had no reason to apologize.

"Thank you for listening."he said as he shook my hand.

"Merry Christmas, Doc. I hope to see you again soon." I said.

"Merry Christmas to you." he replied as he turned away.

He took a few steps then turned back around to face me again.

"You tell your lady friend that her Christmas present made an old man cry."

We take blind dumb luck for granted in this life. We feel we are entitled to be happy and that success is a given. However, but for a different roll of the cosmic dice, my life could have worked out dramatically for the worse and I know it. Don't get me wrong. I've got my fair share of problems just like anybody else. Ask anyone that knows me. They will be happy to confirm this.

But I haven't been displaced. I have a job. I'm as healthy as a horse. I have my home where I am surrounded by my friends and my loved ones. There's a little money laid aside and there's food in the refrigerator. When it comes right down to it, I have nothing to complain about. It would be nice this Christmas if we could all think more about those around us who are forced to persevere in tough circumstances more than we think of ourselves.

I haven't seen Doc lately. God knows, Tulane ain't Zion but it represented everything that was home for him. Maybe he made it back home for Christmas. If so, I hope someday he is able to remember his time here in Babylon with some measure of fondness.

And I hope God will forgive me if I ever take any aspect of my relatively charmed existence for granted. Even for one minute.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Season's Greetings

Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist at Oxford and an atheist. He is the author of the best-selling book, "The God Delusion" which as of this writing is number 6 on the New York Times bestseller list. He said this when asked by the NYT about his own philosophy toward Christmas and the use of "Merry Christmas" as a seasonal salutation:

" So divorced has Christmas become from religion that I find no neccesity to bother with euphemisms such as happy holiday season. In the same way as many of my friends call themselves Jewish atheists, I acknowledge that I come from Christian cultural roots. I am a post-Christian athiest. So, understanding full well that the phrase retains zero religious significance, I unhesitatingly wish everyone a Merry Christmas."

So, Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Sunday Wally

I will do my best to translate Wally Hall's post-mortem in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of the basketball Razorbacks getting blown out by Bob Knight's Texas Tech Red Raiders yesterday at Alltel Arena.

It will not be easy.

The fans were hopeful: " It had all the ear markings of a great, if unseasonably warm, day."

However, the Hogs play in the first half did not meet the expectations of the fans: " Just good old Hawg ball, which for most of the first half was more like fog ball."

The Razorbacks did not exert themselves on offense: " The Hogs did more standing around than a Poughkeepsie pedestrian at the Macy's parade."

Boy, do these guards suck or what?: " Ball movement was a turnover waiting to happen, and this is not the way that the Razorbacks practice."

The defense was nothing to write home about either: " Defensively, the Razorbacks forced Tech to shoot layups early..."

Nothing Coach Heath suggested to the players seemed to help matters: "Heath tried what seemed like hundreds of combinations...but they were playing like someone had said the next person who moves has to go Christmas shopping at the mall."

The Razorbacks played with renewed vigor in the second half: " The Razorbacks came out attacking the basket instead of their coach's patience."

The Tech players withstood the pressure as they do not wish to displease their coach who has a not inconsiderable reputation for being stern and dealing harshly with mistakes: " [M]aybe what you saw was fear of making too big a mistake and having Lubbock in their rear view mirror this morning."

Like me: "Sure, some will point a finger at Heath today."

It would seem that they need to pay more attention to detail between now and next Wednesday or they stand a good chance of really getting their asses kicked by an exceptional Texas team playing at home in Austin: " [T]he team was lackadaisical and now has two losses and travels to Texas on Wednesday."

OK. I tried.

My Sunday Feeling

"It's coming on Christmas, they're chopping down trees.
they're putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on."

"River"-Joni Mitchell

Tomorrow will be a big day. It will be one of those markers of adult life that will most likely never be forgotten.

No, I'm not eloping. I'm not starting a new job. For that matter, I'm not retiring either. I'm not adopting a child, having surgery or joining the Masons. I'm not doing any of these things.

Tomorrow is the day Bob and I tell Mother she has to go to the nursing home.

I knew something was up when the folks at the assisted-living place where Mom lives called me and asked for a meeting. It wasn't time for the quarterly report. It had to be something else. And whatever it was, it could not possibly be good.

At the meeting Bob and I were told that Mother's needs had reached a point that exceeded what they could do consistent with the State's regulations. Even with the adult day care that we were paying for. For example, if she gets help changing her diaper during the day, that's assisted living. If they have to do it in her bed at night, that's skilled nursing. The people at the place where she has lived since 2000 could not have been better to Mom. They are kind and compassionate and they treat their residents with care and respect.

But rules are rules. I understand these things. We always knew that this train was coming. I just didn't expect it to come down the track at Christmas.

My cousin says that this is the part of adult life nobody taught us how to do. So I have been soliciting advice from folks on just how to break it to her. I haven't exactly worked it out in my head yet but I know what I'm not going to do.

About the worst story I ever heard was about somebody's Uncle and how he handled it with his Mother when her time came. Rather than tell her the truth, the cowardly bastard told his Mother that they were going for a ride. They were going for a ride alright. He was taking her to the nursing home. When she realized what was up, the poor woman was so shocked that she was rendered speechless. I am told that she never uttered another word the rest of her life.

I have been told that interpersonal communication is not exactly my strong suit. I can do better than the story I just related though. I got that going for me.

People have asked me how I think Mom will handle the news. I honestly have no idea. She has Parkinson's and Parkinson's related dementia. Mother is competent in the strictly legal sense in that she knows who she is, she knows who her people are and she has a vague idea of where she is. Competency is a pretty low bar but she is competent.

She hardly ever leaves her room anymore, even for meals. She has no interest in socializing with others. She is a dark star. To a person of such attenuated interests it may not matter where she lives. A room is a room. Bob seems to think she will be OK with it. He's a psych nurse who works with geriatric types. I trust his opinion. But who knows what will happen tomorrow? Or the next day?

In any event, they didn't give us much time to get this done. So, after a couple of weeks of touring nursing homes-and boy was that fun- we got her into one that is only about a quarter mile from where she is currently living. It is a fairly modern facility in an upscale neighborhood across from Conway Country Club. It is a more institutional version of where she currently lives. She will have her own room. They will look in on her every 2 hours. She will be offered snacks twice a day. They will bathe her, feed her, read her mail to her if need be and basically take over her day to day living. And they aren't charging a stick-up price unlike some of these joints I have toured. This place ain't cheap but it's pretty much what I've been paying now on a monthly basis with the extra "in-home" care. So we can swing this.

Still. Putting a parent in the nursing home is one of those markers that you would just as soon not face up to. Because while this event forces you to consider your parent's mortality, it also forces you to consider your own. In the fullness of time, in the blink of an eye, someone-a brother, the family lawyer, the doctor, a nephew, my Godson or Goddaughter- whoever it is who is in charge of taking care of irascable old me, will be telling me that it is my time as well.

And I won't be able to skate away on that day either. Just like I won't be able to tomorrow.

Duty calls. I am her oldest son. I am the person in whom she has vested legal responsibility to make decisions about her. It is my job to deliver this news a week before Christmas.

Jesus Christ. I wish I had a river I could skate away on.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Sports Page

Not that anyone much cares, but Tulane hired a new occupant for the Endowed Chair of Football. Bob Toledo was tapped to replace Chris Scelfo who somehow beat out Rich Rodriguez for the job 8 years ago or so. Toledo is the offensive coordinator at New Mexico but prior to that he was the head coach at UCLA.

If Toledo's Greenies are anything like the Bruins under his tenure, their games will pretty much resemble track meets. UCLA scored points practically at will but they didn't stop anybody either. To be fair, blowing leads is a fine old tradition in PAC-10 football and may not reflect a lack of concern for defense on his part. But offense has never been a problem with Tulane's recent gridiron offerings. Their defense has been simply awful. We shall see how they shore up that side of the ball.

Tulane football is the proverbial "sick man" of the athletic department. After Katrina, they were forced to cut 6 sports or so mainly so they could field a football team. Prior to that, the football program beat back calls for it's elimination or "demotion" Division I AA. Bob Toledo is a proven winner at a school with a fine academic reputation. If they can't get it done with him at the helm, it might well be time to consider whether to pull the plug on football at Tulane.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"The Only Thing That Matters Is The Jewelry"

The following is the last of a series of articles on the football kids from what used to be Port Sulphur, Louisiana before it was pretty much obliterated by Katrina. A couple of Port Sulphur's best players wound up at Bastrop High up in North Louisiana. Bastrop was allowed to retain the 4A state championship they won in 2005 despite being accused of recruiting the Port Sulphur's kids which is a violation of state athletic association rules.

The title of today's post is in reference to the attitude of Bastrop's coach and is a direct quote. And we think things are out of proportion here in Arkansas.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wally at Ringside

I don't know much about the fight game. All I know about the Sweet Science comes from A. J. Liebling and the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette's excellent Jim Bailey. But I know a little something about the English language. So let's go to Wally Hall's account of last night's championship bout between our own Jermain Taylor and game challenger Kassim Ouma.

First Things First: "...[N]o sooner did Taylor do his traditional wiping of his feet than a reverberating Hog call dialed the excitement up two levels." The traditional wiping of his feet? Did the fight go down in a Mosque?

Ouma struggled early: " ...[t]he Ouchman (Ouma's last name begins in ou. Get it? The first two letters in the word ouch are...hell, never mind ) was taking more shots than a duck hunter from Los Angeles." Like I said, never mind.

I don't need to actually interview a gamer to know what's going on in his head: " In the fourth, Taylor twice put enough leather upside Ouma's head that while his eyes might not have glassed over, he definitely knew the definition of pain." I am just now re-reading this eye-rubber of a column. Wally wrote "glassed." He might have meant glazed. Then again maybe he didn't.

Unlike Jermain, with Ouma it is all about the money: " Taylor landed a flurry...(and the challenger got hurt) but he was determined to earn his $ 800,000 and kept coming."

Lord, it was hot in there: " Sweat ripped off the fighters in the critical eighth (round). "

A Battle of Wills: " ...[t]he massive number of punches was taking its toll."

And my favorite: (In the Ninth Round) " Ouma came out like a man behind on points-and he was-..."

My little brother John, a noted expert on boxing, was at the fight. He said that the speed and fitness of the boxers was amazing to behold. He told me that Ouma was incredibly brave despite getting clobbered all night by Jermain. I learned more about the fight from listening to John than reading Wally.

I don't know what Wally wants for Christmas this year . But if he is going to pretend to be anything other than a shill for Jermain, he should order Liebling's " A Neutral Corner" and actually read it before he writes another boxing piece.

He might learn something about how to write as well.

My Sunday Feeling

By the time you read this, the Heisman Trophy will have most likely been awarded to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. The Heisman is awarded to the young man who is theoretically the best college football player in the country. This is mostly bullshit because because hardly anyone playing any position other than quarterback or running back has won it in recent memory. For all practical purposes they might as well restrict the eligibility to those positions.

The Heisman is still a big deal but it's not the sure-fire predictor of success in the NFL that people still seem to believe that it is. In fact, 3 of the last 5 winners were absolute busts at the next level. In reality, the Heisman Trophy is nothing more than a highly political beauty contest fueled by the Sports Information Directors at the various schools. And believe you me, when it comes to hyping the product nobody does it any better than The Ohio State University (as they grandly refer to themselves) and Notre Fricking Dame (as men of good will everywhere refer to them).

Which makes the fact that Arkansas's own Darren McFadden is a finalist nothing short of amazing. The other finalists this year are the aforementioned Smith, and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. The smart money says that Smith will win in a landslide. Maybe so. He has certainly had himself one hell of a year and is one of the reasons that the Buckeyes are undefeated and will be playing for all marbles next month.

But if you want to give the award to the player that has made the greatest impact on his team I think you would have to give it to McSFadden. And no, I'm not being a homer. Consider this. You could plug anybody in at quarterback at either Notre Dame or OSU and they are going to be OK. They may not go 10-2 or undefeated, but they are gonna be OK.

Arkansas went 10-3 in year in which Darren McFadden did everything but pump up the footballs and fill in at linebacker. He ran for 1,558 yards, he caught 11 passes for touchdowns and threw for 3 more. And this was on a team that had a completely execrable passing game. He put up these numbers in the toughest football conference in the country while wearing a bullseye as well as the # 5 on his back. ND or OSU would have been OK without Quinn or Smith. Arkansas would not have won 5 games without McFadden. But with him in the backfield, and but for a couple of monumental screwups against LSU and Florida, the Razorbacks would have been SEC champs and playing in a BCS bowl. By any observable criteria he was the offense.

It is indeed a testament to what this sophomore from Little Rock has accomplished despite getting a late start due to an injury to his big toe sustained during a fight in a bar just prior to two-a-days. The damn thing had to be practically sewed back on. He was pretty much 100% by the 3rd game. I would still be in a cast. This is living proof that the young heal fast.

He is the best running back I have ever seen at Arkansas and they have had some good ones. He looks for all the world like the second coming of Eric Dickerson. The consensus is that he will be a first round draft pick barring injury. You don't really hear that about the other 2 finalists.

Quinn and White are worthy finalists and good kids. But if you want to give the Heisman Trophy to "the best player in the country" only one of the finalists qualifies and he's the one that his one trick pony of a team couldn't survive without. And his name is Darren McFadden.

See You In Court: The New Orleans Saints lost starting defensive tackle Hollis Thomas for the remainder of the regular season after he tested positive for clenbutrol, a banned steroid. Thomas's defense is that he uses steroidal based inhalers to control a serious asthma condition which was exacerbated when he left the Philadelphia Eagles to play in the more sultry climes of Southeast Louisiana. The NFL said the use of Advair and Singulair would not produce a positive test for clenbutrol and imposed the suspension. Which is good to know, since I have used both of these meds. I wouldn't want to be banned from the Olympics.

However, before the NFL took action on Thomas, it received a letter from his agent that said if the NFL took any adverse action based on Thomas's medical condition, which his mouthpiece described as "severe" and "life-threatening," it would be in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a medical impairment that substantially limits one of more major life activities. I don't know about you, but I would tend to think that if one's profession required one to chase down NFL running backs and throw off NFL linemen then the "major life activity" otherwise known as respiration must not be all that damned substantially impaired. It looks like the NFL saw it they same way.

There is a reason people hate lawyers. Making a ridiculous threat such as the above is one such reason.

That is all for now. I must return to the major life activity of Christmas shoplifting.

Until next time, God rest ye, deck the halls, whatever. I am out of here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Another Reason To Hate Christmas-Incident #1

I'm going to try to find as many examples of stupidity, venality and crass commercialism as I can possibly find and post them all here during the Christmas holidays. It makes me feel better.

2006's first incident comes from our friends at The Smoking Gun.

Keep checking back from time to time as I'm sure there will be more to come!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Greetings once again comrades! I hope that everyone survived Thanksgiving and are now steeled for that annual horror show known as Christmas. As some of you may recall, I have absolutely no use for Christmas. None. Every year I wonder why I don't just blow town just to avoid it. Next year I may just do it. But I think I'm pretty much stuck this year as I have committed to cover at work for folks who are traveling or want to spend time with the kids. However, despite my enmity toward all things yulish, I have already managed to get some presents. I am pretty well ahead of schedule. This is all to the good. The sooner I can wrap this up the better.

It was pretty slow last week. Not really much to report. So here are some random thoughts on a cold afternoon:

Children's Opera? "Hansel and Gretel" the so-called "children's opera" by Englebert Humperdinck ( and no, he is isn't the guy that sang "Delilah") is currently being performed by the Opera Theatre at Wildwood. I went to a recent performance. I hadn't seen Hansel and Gretel since I was a kid in college and had forgotten the details. Having seen it again, I'm not sure why opera companies all over the world do H and G at Christmas. Hell, I don't know why it's considered suitable for children. Follow me.

The opera begins with Hansel and Gretel doing chores while singing about how hungry they are. Being children, they quit working and start horsing around. Gertude, the mother enters and in a fit of rage because the children have not finished their chores accidentally breaks the pitcher of milk from the neighbor's cow that she had saved for their one meal. She then sends Hansel and Gretel off into the deep forest to gather strawberries so that they will at least have something to eat for supper. And with that, she falls asleep at the kitchen table.

Later that afternoon, she hears her husband Peter coming back from town where he has been selling the brooms he has made. He is drunk and singing loudly as he approaches the house. Once inside, he inquires as to the whereabouts of the children. Gertrude tells him that she sent the kids off into the woods and that she doesn't care if they come back at all, so ticked is she.

Peter cannot believe this news. "Don't you know there is a witch in the woods that eats children?" he bellows. He brandishes a broom at Gertrude as if to strike her. Gertrude gets him to chill. The terrified parents head off into the woods in search of Hansel and Gretel but not before Peter comes back into the house for one more pull from the jug.

Let's see. You have starving kids, a mom with anger issues, a father who drinks during the day who also threatens to beat his wife. And this is in the first act! This sounds more like your average Saturday night in West Virginia than a beloved staple of the Christmas season.

The Brothers Grimm indeed.

And a very pleasant Good Morning to you, too! I was walking back home after my run this morning when a late model Camry slowed down in front of me on Kavanaugh. The driver shot me a bird as he crept by. His face was contorted with anger, much as Gertrude's was in the first act of Hansel and Gretel, come to think of it.

I wasn't sure that I recognized him but I thought he looked a little like the ex-husband of JY. Now, RY has no reason to be mad at me. I had nothing to do with his wife's decision to give him the boot. Indeed, I think I've seen her once since July or so. Still, divorce is hard on folks and it can cause a person to think crazy things.

I called JY to report what I thought I had seen, my theory being that if he was acting crazy around me, he's liable to act crazy around her. She told that it couldn't have been RY because their daughter reported that he wasn't even out of bed at the time I was out running.

So who the hell was the guy that flipped me off? And why was I the target of his ire? I'm certain I have no idea who he was. I was on the sidewalk so I wasn't in his way or anything. Was he cuckolded by a man wearing tights? If so, it wasn't me that led his significant other astray. I have led a recent personal life of admittedly uncharacteristic relentless probity. I have not been anywhere I have no business being (apart from the new William-Sonoma store down the street) and I haven't been with anybody I have no business being with.

You see more of that crazy kind of shit here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest than you used to. Just the other night around dusk, I was panhandled on Kavanaugh as I was taking a walk. Young kid. Didn't look like a homeless person exactly but he did have that sort of "I'm nuts" look in his eye that you always like to see when you are confronted.

I thought he was going to hit me when I told him that I wasn't carrying any money. In fact, he started following me after I walked away. I stopped and just stared at him. Now, I am not a particularly brave man. But I also figured that with all the rush hour traffic going past us, I liked my chances for turning this punk into somebody's hood ornament.

He muttered an expletive and crossed the street into the Kroger's parking lot. At least there's an off-duty cop over there.

But you never used to see that sort of thing in this neighborhood.

But back to my guy this morning. Dr. GG happened to call about then. I told her what happened. She is leaning toward this being a random brush with a nut other than somebody that has it in for me. She also rightfully viewed this as an object lesson about leaping to conclusions since the guy I had earlier thought was the perp had a solid alibi.

Divorce makes some people crazy. So do the holidays. I guess I happened to run across a victim of one of those social maladies.

And this is only the 2nd day of December.

Strength. Give me strength.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bidness is Bidness

I guess things are going sufficiently well in the recovery department such that Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco can turn her attention to such weighty matters. Actually, this lobbying effort is not as completely frivolous as it might appear at first blush. The participants in these BCS bowls stand to bring home an obscene amount of money.

As long as there is not even a whiff of perspective about the role of intercollegiate athletics to the larger mission of academics why not try to go ahead and bring home the bacon? That's what good politicians do, after all.

Read all about it on the jump:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Family Thing

I went up to Heber Springs to my cousin's house for Thanksgiving. It was the usual excellent event with plenty to eat, a bunch of kids running around and a golden retriever named Max. Norman Rockwell couldn't make this scene any more wholesome.

After the repast, people do different things. Some folks take a nap, some folks help clean up, some folks watch the football game and some folks fuck around with firearms. My brothers Dave and John, along with Uncle Howard and my cousin's husband Steve went out in front of the house where the cars were parked over to Dave's car. He had some stuff he wanted to show Steve.

The trunk of Dave's Buick was stuffed to the gills with handguns, a rifle, boxes of ammunition and bottles of whiskey. I don't think that my brother has taken to bootlegging or running guns and I don't think he has joined the militia. But he had a small arsenal back there for some reason that was by no means clear. But I am not one to ask questions of heavily armed men.

He gave Steve a .22 rifle that I believe was mine originally. Brother Bob believes that the scope on the spiteful little gun was his originally. I don't really remember and I don't much care. Steve seemed to be pleased with his new toy despite its provenance and, besides, I don't ask questions of heavily armed men.

Back in the house, one of the uncles said he saw driving in that Cousin Willard had a "For Sale" sign out in front of the pasture beside the old home place. This generated much discussion around the table as the consensus among the local folks was that Willard doesn't exactly own that land that he was offering to the public. His brother owned that land or so they thought. They turned to me to ask " Can he do that?"

"Well," I said. Being a lawyer, I always preface any opinion on the law, no matter how insignificant with "Wellllll." It helps create an illusion of gravitas.

" I could give you a quitclaim deed to the State Capitol," I said. "I would be just deeding you my interest which is zero. But this is why title insurance is part of God's plan."

I didn't say that if Willard told me the sun was coming up that I would have to call the National Weather Service to verify it. I didn't have to seeing who was the topic of conversation.

Mother always felt sorry for Willard, who bounced around doing various odd jobs throughout his career, from selling insurance to being the cook at the Cleburne County Jail. There was no word as to whether he was working off a sentence or what effect his culinary skills had on the local crime rate.

Anyway, Mother once told me back when I was in college that the reason Willard couldn't work was because he had narcolepsy which requires him to sleep during the day. This condition was the product of some rural mishap that occurred to him when he was a boy. Either the mule kicked him in the head or the barn fell on him or some shit.

"Gee Mom," I said. "And to think that I always thought he slept a lot because he drank beer for breakfast."

Oh, Willard is harmless enough. Except for the time he damn near killed his crazy wife from California.

Willard was married at one time to this very interesting woman from California named Anna. I don't know how Willard met her, much less talked her into moving to Quitman, but she lived there with her teenaged son. I never saw either one of them when they weren't wearing black. They were Goth back around 1985 before Goth had hit Arkansas.

Anyway, my brother John traveled rural Arkansas a lot for his job in those days and he decided to make a pit stop over at Willard's one day while blowing through town. When he got out he saw Willard standing on the porch with a shotgun. The picture window behind him was completely blown out.

Willard told John that it accidentally went off while he was cleaning it. Coincidentally, he just happened to be cleaning his shotgun on the other side of the window beneath which Anna was lying on the couch inside watching the stories as she did every afternoon.

Willard swore up and down it was an accident, that he really, really didn't know there was a round of buckshot in there despite the fact that he had handled guns all his life and knew better than to clean a gun he hadn't emptied first.

Oddly enough, Anna and her son left the next day. Willard never heard from her again until she served him with the divorce papers. Willard didn't say much about it except that he was impressed that he got a Summons from all the way from California.

Swapping such heartwarming family tales, as always, is a highlight of Thanksgiving. I'll save the one about one of the uncles evicting the tenant in the old home place one fine Christmas Eve with a .357 for next month.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving Message

And for something completely different, go to our affiliate where you will see a video I put up there of William Burroughs-yes, that William Burroughs- giving his Thanksgiving benediction.

I love the Internet.

Peace Out.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


It is early afternoon on the day before Thanksgiving as I begin this post. The world of commerce is slowly winding down. It is a beautiful day here in Little Rock. The morning's chill has given in to the warmth of the sun. Rick's brother-in-law is in town. He wants to take him out for a round of golf and has asked me to join them. Sounds like a plan to me.

I don't much like the Holiday season but I'm OK with Thanksgiving. I'm not a big eater by nature but I like sampling the various vegetable dishes that are available as I don't really make them for myself although I ought to. Every year I say that I will do better in that regard and every year I don't.

I enjoy seeing my relatives. It still takes me aback when I survey the room and see the spaces where Uncle Bill, Aunt Jean and Mother used to be. Mother is still with us but she is not able to travel. Bob won't be there this year. Duty calls over at the hospital. John will be in Jonesboro. If David doesn't come, it will be just me. Which feels kind of strange because, even as given to solitude as I am, I'm not a "just me" person.

I don't know what I would do without my friends and loved ones both near and far. It is a comfort to me to know that when I lock myself out of the house-as I did last night once again-Steve will have the spare key over at his house safely nestled in a drawer under a set of rosary beads. PM and I are thinking about playing some tennis tomorrow. Neither of us have played in forever. Serious fans of the sport should avoid the Little Rock Racquet Club tomorrow in order to be spared this sacrilege. Jen's husband is in town for the week. It is good to hear the excitement in her voice when she talks about their plans. I've been checking with other folks, and them with me, to see who is going to be around after the festivities with both time and booze to share. Got to partner up when the liquor stores are closed. No, try as I might to delude myself to the contrary, I am not a "just me" person. I need these folks and they need me.

If the tennis thing doesn't work out , I'm sure I'll get up and run. Or maybe ride my bike. All the runners and walkers will be out early making room for dinner. We will greet each other along the way as we go by. Every year I meet someone new on Thanksgiving Day. A new boyfriend, a fiancee, a son. They all come out to run out on Kavanaugh on the morning of Thanksgiving. It's warm enough that I can sit out on the porch and drink my coffee while reading the paper. The odds are good that the little girl across the street will come join me. She has a new dog named Rudy. Rudy is of suspect lineage but she is proud of him nonetheless. Around 11 I will head for the country to "take the bird." If this year is like any other year, the phone will ring all along the way with folks calling in from all over.

I'll bring rolls that I got at the bakery as well as a couple of pies that I made. They aren't much good although my friend J praised them to heaven and back. I was feeling pretty good about my product until I was put to low shame last night as I watched her painstakingly frost a triple layer cake, the recipe of which she got out of some goddamned Junior League recipe book from back in Georgia. I think she has around 6 of them.

She confessed to being in the throes of doubt as to whether it was altogether meet and fair to frost the entire cake. And this was before she had wrestled with the Gordian knot of whether to garnish it with nuts. I told her that, back in Mabelvale where I came from, we didn't stand on ceremony too much and helped myself to another whiskey. It's funny. Being a guy, I made an absolute BFD about these sorry assed pies I concocted while half in the bag last Sunday night. J, being a small town Georgia girl, frets over the aesthetics of her handiwork. I know when I am whipped.

So what's there to say about Thanksgiving 2006? I had the occasion to catch up with an old friend I hadn't really talked to in 10-13 years the other day. She asked me how I was. This is what I told her.

" I am healthy. I am happy. I have a roof over my head and a job to go to. I have the best friends any man could hope to have. Ain't nobody got a perfect life. But all in all I have nothing to complain about."

And I am very thankful. May God forgive me whenever I forget how truly blessed I really am.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

I am something of a civil libertarian. Despite these philosophical leanings, as soon as I heard that OJ Simpson had written a book called "If I Did It" I confess to thinking how great it would be if both the 5th and 1st Amendments could be suspended for some people.

Some people just can't stay gone. Anna Nicole Smith, Boy George, Madonna, Britney. Insert your favorite completely useless recurring public figure here. You just can't get shed of some people. Just when you thought that it was safe to go back to Barnes and Nobel, "If I Did It" will appear on bookshelves everywhere on November 30th. In case you haven't heard, "If I Did It" is the "fictional" account by Simpson of how he "hypothetically" could have committed the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. Judith Regan, who published this damn thing, will interview him on Fox November 27th and 28th. You can watch OJ in case you get bored with football.
That's the thing about living in America. Just when you think that you have seen everything, something pops up that you could have never made up. At least not sober. One would think that after getting acquitted of those same murders, the last thing on God's green Earth OJ would want to discuss is how he might have done it. Even in hypothetical terms.

Not that this hypothetical confession will come as any great shock to most of us. Most right thinking people believe that Simpson did it, regardless of what the jury said on that fateful day in Los Angeles. The federal court jury that later scorched him for violating the rights of Simpson and Goldman certainly did.

Granted, publishing this book and doing the interviews don't present much in the way of serious legal consequences. It's not like the State of California can try him again for the Goldman-Simpson murders. Unless he confesses to killing somebody else, he doesn't have further prosecution to consider. He is pretty much judgment-proof despite enjoying a pretty good income stream. After getting rung up in federal court, OJ moved from California to Florida which is a well-known haven for deadbeats. Indeed, because of Florida's generous exemptions, neither his house nor his NFL pension can be seized. Evidently, his judgment creditors-otherwise referred to as "the victims' families"-cannot reach the 3.5 million dollars allegedly paid to him by HarperCollins for writing "If I Did It" as same is being parked in an "educational trust" for the children he had with Nicole. They can't get it out of his hide and they can't get it out of his wallet. Not fair maybe. But that's the way it is.

But think about that for a moment. Assuming this is all on the up and up, his kids' education will be financed by money their Dad got paid for writing a book about how he killed their mother. Is this a great country or what?

But still, all of this begs the question of why he would come out now and make this "confession," fictional though it may supposedly be.

Some "experts" are saying that it is not unusual for criminals to make confessions after the fact in terms of hypotheticals about crimes they have committed. Could be. I've certainly never heard anything like that before but could be. Of course, some people just make stuff up. I give you the recent example of John Mark Karr's recent"confession"that he killed JonBenet Ramsey. Regan says she wanted to publish the book as a way to deal with the domestic abuse she suffered during one of her marriages and to commemorate other victims of domestic violence. Which sounds like complete bullshit to me. I think her reasons aren't nearly as noble as all of that. Here's what I think.

One of my old law professors used to say, "If there's a need for something, it probably exists." HarperCollins doesn't make zillions of dollars by being stupid. It may not have any shame but it isn't stupid. It wouldn't have published "If I Did It" if it didn't know that it wasn't going to make millions. I don't think its any more complicated than that. If Hitler returned to Earth, he would wind up on "Oprah." We are forced to settle for OJ "theoretically"describing the violent murder of his wife and a young man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. HarperCollins rolls it out just in time for Christmas and the cash registers start smoking. What do you want to bet OJ does a book signing tour? The mind reels.

Some people just can't stay gone. And you can't much blame them. Sometimes, in this great land of ours there's no money to be made by in giving in to shame.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Like everywhere else, last Tuesday was Election Day here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest. I think that I am just about the only person I know that casts his ballot on Election Day. Most folks I know vote early or vote absentee. That's OK. But as for me, I love to get out on the day itself. Robert Frost once said that he never felt more like an American than when he was at a ballgame.

While God knows I can certainly relate to that, as far as I am concerned, I never feel more like an American than on Election Day. I like being out with the crowd. I enjoy seeing the supporters of the various candidates with their signs. I like walking from my house over to the little church where I vote. Maybe it is kinda hokey. But that's the way I like to do it.

Truth is, I don't get over to that part over the neighborhood anymore. Funny. As I left the church, I noticed Jack-o-Lanterns in the yard of a little house where I used to hang out back in a previous life. I tried to guess which boy did which pumpkin. I bet I guessed right.

Oh well. Everything changes. Except Election Day.

Reclamation Project- I noticed that the Rev. Ted Haggard fessed up to the congregation of the New Life Church. Without going into the gory details, he admitted to sexual immorality and other improprieties. He has turned himself over to a committee of "overseers" who are going to guide him through a "program with the goal of healing and restoration" for his life, his marriage and his family.

While I wish the overseers well in their attempt to rewire Haggard to where he no longer feels the need to scratch certain of those itches that got him into all of this trouble, I think they got their work cut out for them. After all, it is one thing to give in to that second piece of apple pie, which is about as sinful as most preachers I know get. It is quite another thing to hook up with a male prostitute. And that's not even taking into account Haggard's purchase of street drugs during some of these escapades. I mean that's sinnin' above and beyond the call of duty.

I am pretty sure that the response of, say, the United Methodist Church under similar circumstances would be to get rid of him. At least that has been the response in the two cases of which I am personally aware. They eventually let one guy back only to have to defrock him again when he went back to chasing skirts. The other one is still driving a truck.

But then again, most mainline denominations don't depend on the front man to keep the meat in the seats and the cash register smokin'. Haggard's a proven money maker. It is in their long term best interests to "restore" him to where he no longer feels the need to rent him some from time to time. He will be back once the heat fades.

Prediction: 2 years. Tops.

Life Events- Speaking of Methodists, I have been getting calls from God's robocaller the last couple of weeks inviting me to a luncheon kicking off a new Singles Ministry at the church. Since I would rather give myself a lead shampoo with a 9mm rather than join a singles ministry, I called my excellent friend S over there to see what she could do to get this nuisance turned off.

She said that she and I were both coded "j" in the database which apparently means "pester without ceasing about the damned Singles Ministry." She also told me that, according to the database, I have "0 life events." I asked her what that meant. She said she did not know.

I deny that I have led a life bereft of life events. It has not been particularly purpose driven but it has been full of of life events. Why, I have more life events than you can shake a stick at. I am lousy with life events.

I have been airborne in a car. I have been made to cool my heels for 3 days by an irate judge in Mississippi. I have seen statuesque women making out in front of the ladies room of a beer joint in Foley, Alabama. I have a new car. It is being recalled. Seems the goddamn things spontaneously start themselves from time to time. This is not good.

I am the only person you know who has read 2/3 of Shelby Foote's Civil War Trilogy. I went out a couple of times with a former model who told me she has seen Claudia Schiffer nekkid.

Whoo-hoo! You say that's not a life event? I'll see your life events and raise you 10.

I once received by mistake the draft of the opening remarks a certain commissioner of a professional sport was to make before a Congressional committee prior to his testimony. The former head of the League of Women Voters in Pulaski County owes me 5 bucks. When I bought this house, the bank screwed up the paperwork and didn't require a down payment. The paper got sold before they caught it.

Tell me. You ever buy a house with nothing down? If you did you would call it a life event.

I blew out a tire en route to my grandfather's graveside service. You ever heard of a guy so inept he could "fuck up a 3 car funeral procession?" That would be me. I was that guy. And it happened during a life event. As soon as I got back to Little Rock after law school , I got mugged and I had a car stolen. When I lived in New Orleans, I had a guy leave me money and an apologetic note after siphoning gas from my car. In New Orleans!

In the greatest act of religious faith I ever seen, I once saw a man finish a cigarette before going inside a Christian Scientist church service. Me and another guy-who will go nameless since he is now a sitting judge-once smuggled beer into Baptist Medical Center to take to a buddy who was laid up in there. I know a guy who once got shot accidentally on Friday the 13th. My neighbor's tree once fell on my house on Easter Sunday. I leave it to you to ponder the wider theological import of that life event.

While I haven't bought any meth or sought out the services of a gay hooker, I will yield to no man in the "life events" category. I am not without some influence with the clergy and I will insist that this slander be removed from my permanent record.

One of our local federal judges says that the Holy Spirit descends in the jury room and in the ballot box. Of course, he would say that since he made a million bucks trying cases to juries. All I am prepared to say is that I never feel more like an American than when I am marking my ballot. And I know that those Jack-O-Lanterns in the yard across the street from where maybe the Holy Spirit descends unto me at the place where I vote are other outward and visible signs that I have indeed had some life events.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Go Hurricanes!

I don't want to make too much of this. But there are times when sports are important. Here is a great story in today's New York Times about the continued travails of the South Plaquemine High football team and the coach who is trying to keep these kids together.

I couldn't help but think of all the bitching that goes on around here in Little Rock about the lack of funding and facilities. They ought to be ashamed.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Rising Tide That Lifts All Republican Boats

I met my buddy JC for lunch at a local restaurant the other day. JC was in an unusually expansive mood with the election coming up. Unlike me, he is a consummate political junkie. He knows that I am not much interested in the machinations of politics that consumes him. However, he tolerates me nonetheless, much in the way that my friends who are good golfers tolerate me. I keep my mouth shut. I keep up. I am willing to take instruction.

One of the big races around here involves the one for the exceptionally irrelevant position of Lt. Governor. The Democratic candidate is a self-made millionaire named Bill Halter. The Republican candidate is State Senator Jim Holt who is pictured here.

Now, Holt is an interesting guy. He hails from Northwest Arkansas which is a hotbed of right-wing politics and religion here in Arkansas. Holt's opponent has an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a Master's from Oxford. Holt attended the University of Maryland and the University of Arkansas. More on this later.

Holt is opposed to gay marriage, opposes funding for mandatory pre-kindergarten which he considers socialistic, and has voted against raising the minimum wage. His stance on illegal immigrants is sufficiently draconian that Governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and no civil libertarian, has referred to it as un-Christian.

Holt is derided in the media as an unelectable nut in a statewide race and something of a slacker who needs the Lt. Governor's job to feed his family. JC, however, says that the other Republican candidates, such as Asa Hutchinson who is running for Governor, thanked their lucky stars when Holt made the race.

"Really?" I said.

" Hell yes!" John said. " He's the rising tide that lifts all Republican boats. Asa wouldn't have even made the race if Holt weren't running."

" I'm not following you."

JC looked at me with both resignation and pity.

" Look. It's simple." he said. " The nuts will turn out en masse for Holt. And do you think they are going to vote for any Democrats while they are in there voting for Jesus Jim? Hell no they're not. This means Asa can basically rise above the fray and not have to talk about gays and such too much because the nuts have already been pandered to by Holt."

He paused.

" Actually, pandering is too strong of a word. Holt actually believes the crazy shit he puts out. Anyway, Asa can let Holt keep the faithful fired up about the gays and abortion and illegal immigration and God only knows what else. Asa doesn't have to do a thing and he reaps the benefits of Holt's whack job constituency."

That makes sense to me. At least as much as anything does.

I guess the questions I have about Holt don't have as much to do with his positions as much as
they do with him. First of all, he didn't get a college degree and yet he claims to have been an analyst and watch officer for the National Security Agency. After his stint with the NSA, he supposedly went to work as a counselor and chaplain at a private facility for sex offenders. That's odd. He went from a watch officer at NSA to a counselor's position? At a facility for sex offenders? Neither position required a college degree? Has anybody in the media checked this story out?

Secondly, the man has a wife and 9 kids. His only visible means of support is the salary he draws from the Senate. He has admitted that it is tough to raise such a large family on less than $40,000. Indeed, he has also admitted that he has accepted the gift of a van from a friend from his church. Rumor has it that he also accepts "offerings" from friends and supporters. His friends say that Holt is not a materialist. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think we need more average folks running for office. The way things are trending now, you practically have to be a millionaire to run for higher political office. That's just wrong.

But practically nobody in the state legislature subsides on his or her salary as a lawmaker. The positions don't pay enough. Being a Arkansas lawmaker may be a high calling but it is a part-time job. Do we really want to elect somebody to the second highest constitutional office in the State who has such a spotty resume in the real world of work? Further, all politicians are beholden to the interest groups that support them. Do we want to elect somebody that is also beholden to friends and supporters for his subsistence? Do we want to elect somebody Lt. Governor because he needs a job?

These are interesting times that we live in. There are guys on Tuesday's ballot whose only qualifications are that they are devout conservatives. And they got there fair and square by winning their primaries.

Is that all it takes to be a Republican? Is that enough to win an election?

I guess we'll see tomorrow night.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

As we all know, appearances are important. But they can be deceptive. A couple of things that happened last week prove the point.

Last Saturday afternoon, I set out to procure a couple of tickets to the Razorback game that was going to be played later that evening. I live about a half mile from War Memorial Stadium. My house is next to Van Buren Avenue which is a major artery on game days. What I usually do is stand out on the corner of F and Van Buren around 3 p.m. as the cars start to back up. I hold up two fingers in the air. Eventually, somebody always comes by with tickets they need to get rid of. It never fails.

Last Saturday's plan was no different. I got out there at the usual time. I was wearing a golf sweater, shorts and a cap. A bottle of water was sitting at my feet. After about 15 minutes, an SUV pulls over. The window comes down. I put my hand on my wallet and walk over.

" Sir, do you need money?" the lady in the passenger side said. " Do you need 2 dollars?"

I was taken aback.

"No ma'am. I have plenty of money. What I need are 2 tickets." I said.

"Oh." she replied. "I can't help you with that." Window went up and away the went the SUV.

I should have taken the 2 bucks.

I called over to my neighbor Jimmy who was painting his porch.

"Did you see that?" I said. "A lady offered to give me money. Do I look that bad?"

"We've been meaning to talk with about your look." Jimmy said, looking over the top of his glasses.

"I guess I need it." I replied.

Later on the following week, we had our first cold snap of the season. I decided I would celebrate by wearing a jacket and tie to work, something I don't usually do unless I have to either go to court or to a funeral. Around ten o' clock, I walked down Capitol Avenue to go hit the ATM at my bank. As I approached Broadway, I noticed a street person coming toward me.

"Great." I thought. "I'm gonna be panhandled."

Instead, the man bowed slightly and said, " Man, you sure look good today, Sir. You're a man that looks good in a suit."

Andrea from the U.S. Attorney's office was going by as this was going on. She was greatly amused when I told her about my encounter with the Razorback fan a few days earlier.

" So let me get this straight." she said. " You looked like a bum to the lady going to the game and you looked like a fashion plate to the homeless man. I think somewhere in the middle is probably the reality of the situation."

I guess.

But that's the thing about appearances. They can mean different things to different people. That is why it is important to keep an eye on yourself if for no other reason than to try to see yourself as others see you. It is also important to go out of your way to avoid certain appearances. For example, in my line of work we are under an affirmative obligation to avoid the very appearance of impropriety. Similarly speaking, if I were a gay-bashing politically active moralistic evangelist who makes a living espousing such things, I might want to avoid being outed by a gay prostitute. It makes you look like a hypocrite and it is bad for bidness.

As we all know by know, the Rev. Ted Haggard, the Senior Pastor of a megachurch in the Colorado Springs area, is the subject of an intense media barrage after a local gay hooker claimed in an interview that he serviced the good Reverend for a period of three years and that he hooked him up with guys who sold him meth which the hooker claims Haggard took to "enhance" the experience.

Haggard, whom we may safely assume is not related to Merle, denies that he had sex with the man, but admits that he received massages from him. He also admits that he bought the dope but that he "never used it." Maybe he was trying it out as a supplement to that " Jerusalem Diet" book that he wrote.

Haggard was, up until all of this amusement, the President of the National Association of Evangelicals. He and his organization had a great deal of influence in Washington and vociferously condemned both homosexuality and gay marriage. And Haggard was one of the leading opponents of a proposal to legalize gay marriage in Colorado.

As far as appearances go, you have to say this looks like unshirted hell. While most of us are reasonable people about such matters and don't regard our clergy as plastic saints or expect perfection from them, we generally don't approve of them buying illegal drugs. And while we certainly would not begrudge a man of the cloth a backrub, we expect him to get it from a chiropractor and not a prostitute. At the very least, it don't look good and is bad for bidness.

I predict this story will get worse before it gets better. Haggard says he was referred to the prostitute by a hotel concierge. The prostitute says that's baloney, that the only way he could be found in those days-he has since "retired"-was on the Internet. Which means that, much as Congressman Foley and the Republican Party have found out to their everlasting chagrin, every communication Haggard may have made to his masseur/amateur pharmacist, be it by phone or by Internet, may be retrieved.

But right now he's sticking to his story, ludicrous as it is. And right now, I can't disprove it, even though I don't believe it for 5 minutes. But I know this. His story is what we call a "but, but, but" defense. And the "but, but, but" defense rarely works.

I am reminded of when the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin was accused by a Chicago area man of having molested him when he was an altar boy. When he was asked at a press conference if he had sex with the accuser, Cardinal Bernadin's response was swift and direct.

"No. I've never had sex with anybody before." he said. No "but,but,but" with him.

I don't know just how this will play out politically. Surely, the last damned thing the Republicans need after the Abramoff and Foley scandals is the news that a guy that the President talks to once a week has bought street drugs and occasionally rented him some from a gentleman of the pavement. And just as assuredly, this mess brings joy to the hearts of Democrats, columnists and comedians everywhere. How this translates to how the upcoming election shakes out is unknown.

But the Senior Pastor at my church-who insofar as it can be determined has not bought dope or procured a hooker during his ministry-cautions us to be more circumspect and to look at the big picture.

"Unfortunately, we professional religious types are not immune to this sort of thing being human and all." he said to me in an e-mail on the subject. "The result is that the church and the faith will suffer. Celebration is not appropriate. Maybe Haggard will publicly confess, receive forgiveness from the Church and the community and start all over again. That's what Jesus would probably tell him to do."

Boy, ain't it just like a preacher to throw cold water and perspective on all of the schadenfruede that is going around out there right now. The good ones can't help it.

But Haggard's 14,000 member New Life Church might ought to launch an immediate investigation into this sordid situation if only to ascertain just what kind of conflicted loon has been fronting for the organization for all these years. And they would do well to ask themselves why they didn't catch on.

Because appearances are everything. And this looks like unshirted hell.

And as for me, I'm going to take an extra look at the mirror before I head out in the morning.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Got A Nikon Camera. I Love To Take Photographs.

These were taken at a Halloween Carnival at the church last Sunday night. The girl immediately above this text is trying to shoot a free throw. I love this picture.

Monday, October 30, 2006

We'll Not See His Likes Again.

Arnold "Red" Auerbach, the legendary-and for once the use of the word is appropriate-coach of the Boston Celtics died last weekend.

The obituary that ran in Sunday's New York Times is below:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Being the civic-minded person that I am, I serve on the Board of Directors of a non-profit humanitarian organization here in Little rock. Like most non-profits, we are forced to host frequent social events in order to raise money. Well, "forced" is too strong a word. One of the reasons we do these deals is because they are popular. Most people wouldn't attend just for the cause itself. They like to get out and throw their money around, maybe pick up a couple of adult beverages. If they can assist their fellow man in the process, so much the better.

We have an inordinate number of artistic types on our Board and so we do art shows at a local restaurant about once every 6 months or so. We did one last Thursday, and being the Patron of the Arts that I am, I dutifully attended.

My companion and I got our food and drinks and sat looking at the paintings on the wall as we ate. The first thing I noticed about the paintings was that they were for the most part huge and that they were all surrounded by gilt-edged, ornate frames more suitable for a museum piece than for the average stuff we sell at our fund-raisers.

The second thing I noticed was that, well, none of them were very good.

Now, I do not have a critical eye. My level of erudition, while not especially trustworthy, is at least more sophisticated than " I don't know art but I know what I like." Neither am I apt to burst out laughing while exclaiming " You call that art? My 9 year old nephew can paint better than that!" But that doesn't exactly make me the second coming of Vincent Price. (In addition to starring in numerous creepy movies, Vincent Price was a highly regarded art critic and collector. You didn't know that, did you?)

Since I don't trust my eye, and since I consider myself to be a fair minded person of manifest good will, I leaned over and asked J, " Is it just me? Or is this stuff really bad?"

" No." she said. " You're right. This stuff is awful. Look at the piece behind you."

I turned and found myself regarding an oil painting depicting the launch of the Space Shuttle. I kid you not.

" What is wrong with that painting?" she whispered.

" Other than the fact that it exists?"

" Yes. Look at the sky. It's dark. Do they launch the Space Shuttle at night?"

Sure enough, the artist had the damn thing bravely piercing a horizon of purple and black. I mean, that's just stupid.

"What does she want for this?" I asked.

" Oh Lord." she gasped, looking at the price list. " That one goes for $6500."

" What?!?!?!" I exclaimed in a voice loud enough to cause heads to turn my direction.

She just shrugged and handed me the list. The prices went from the $6500 nocturnal depiction of the Space Shuttle (perhaps priced thusly for patriotic reasons) to relatively reasonable pieces that went for around $400.

But I wouldn't have given you 5 bucks for any of them. The color scheme for anything other than the Southwestern landscapes was primarily pastels, mostly blue. After 30 minutes, I kept fighting the urge to go home and see if there was a UCLA game on TV. The perspectives were all blown. There was a dreadful painting of an American Indian on a horse. The mountain range behind the subject was rendered so incompetently it looked as if he could lean up against it. One's view of a landscape in another piece was distracted by the fact that the legs of the arch you looked through were not the same size. It was if one side had acquired polio during construction.

And on and on. It was just the worst stuff you could ever see. I wouldn't put this junk in a Motel 6. And she wanted top dollar!

While I was standing there with my mouth open, my phone buzzed. It was PM checking in from the West Coast.

"How's your event?" he asked.

" Let me get outside so I can talk." I whispered by way of reply.

" Uh-oh." he said laughing.

" This is the worst goddamn art I have ever seen." I said once I stepped outside. " My nephew can paint better than this."

OK. So I said it. But he can.

" You know, " he said. "You seem to see that a lot at these affairs. I wonder why that is?"


There is a an art gallery down the street from my house here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest. I stopped by yesterday to see if there was the artistic equivalent of a sex-offender registry. I felt that I duty to report what I had seen.

" Oh, you see this all the time." said D, the co-owner. " My theory is that some of these folks are basically in it to launder money."

All at once the light bulb in my head came on. He went on.

"Most of these artists are women who stay at home while their husbands work. They tend to have their own little network of bad artists. Here's how I think it works.

When one of the husbands comes into some money that he doesn't want to pay taxes on, they buy a piece of art from someone in the network. Once the money has cooled off, the purchaser of the piece of art buys a piece from the other guy's wife. And there they go, buying and selling this junk, mostly to each other.

They also do these charitable things where they invite the network to attend along with the general public. The network either buys a few pieces or runs the bidding up. They put these big honking prices on them because the higher the price the bigger the charitable donation they can write off."

OK. So that would explain the $6500 dollar piece that couldn't fetch a "B" grade from a 7th grade art teacher. But why the expensive frames? They must've cost a fortune.

" Nah. When you got bad art, the rule of thumb is: either you make it red or you put it in a fancy frame." D said. " You can buy frames for next to nothing in Mexico or off of the Internet if you know where to look. So you get your fancy faux frame, you stick your faux painting in there, you place a price tag on it only an idiot would pay and-poof!-you're an artist. Happens all the time. Now, that's only my theory. I can't prove any of this. But there has to be some reason other than the art that drives the economics. This is a crazy business but it's not that crazy."

I've heard crazier explanations for phenomena before. Wife gets to stay home and justify the inordinate amount of time she devotes to her hobby. Husband gets a way to cool off the money he won betting the NFL or the cash he made on the side doing an off-the-books radiator job.

Now I don't know if last week's artist is in a network of hacks like D was talking about or not. Hell, for all I know she may be an important regional artist and I am a complete Philistine. I have no reason to believe that there was anything going on the other night that wasn't on the up and up.

However, I do know that you can learn something new every day if you are open to the prospect. I also know that there are reasons for phenomena and then there are real reasons.

And I am pretty sure that none of those paintings got sold, charity or no.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Dispatch From The Field

The following gay banter took place on the Instant Messenger earlier this week.

Elvis: Jeff Skilling caught 24 years from the Judge today. It ain't enough.

tmfw: And he'll do every minute of it in the Federal system.

Elvis: Good. It's too good for him.

tmfw: You know, Skilling's 52. I turn 51 this week. I was looking over my 401k the other night. While I'm doing OK, but I sometimes wonder how things might have been if I had chose a more lucrative line of work. But then again, I'm not looking at spending the rest of my life in prison.

Elvis: You do have that in your favor.

tmfw: Wonder if Skilling would trade places with me?

Elvis: In a New York second.

tmfw: Yep.

Elvis: probably have more $ in your 401k than I do.

tmfw: No way! You made a zillion dollars practicing law.

Elvis: Yes, but I have 2 more ex-wives than you do. But for my unfortunate habit of engaging in matrimony, I would be a wealthy man.

tmfw: So basically, I am better off than you and Jeff Skilling.

Elvis: Y. But it's a low bar.

tmfw: I'll take what I can get at this stage. Hey, I gotta go. " Monday Night Football" is coming on.

Elvis: Glad to see you are still challenging yourself w/rigorous intellectual pursuits despite the advancing years.

tmfw: Bye.

Elvis: cya!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Editorial Comment: This was written a year ago upon the suggestion of a local editor with whom I had done business who wanted me to write something about my feelings on turning 50. I somehow got her new e-mail address wrong and she never got the submission back when she was interested in running it. She said, " Oh well. Maybe we will use it when your birthday rolls around again next year." However, she retired a couple of months ago and the guy that replaced her on an interim basis never responded to the e-mails we both wrote him about the subject.

You don't have to hit me upside the head with a brick.

Sooooooo, since it is a timely subject, and since I really don't have anything else to write about and since I have a cold, here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

I have to admit that they got me good. I never saw it coming. My little brother John told me that every Friday night was Rib Night out at his country club. He invited me and my friend Joan to come eat ribs in honor of my 50th birthday. So I showed up, big dumb me, precisely at 7:30 at the Club, anticipating nothing more than free barbecueue and whiskey. I had no more taken two steps into what I had assumed would be a buffet room full of half-drunk golfers when about 25 of my closest friends jumped out from the corners of the room.. I could not have been more shocked if Martians had invaded as cameras went off around me and I struggled to regain my bearings.

I am not one that surprises easily; I confess that I am far too controlling to allow for that nonsense. I am also too suspicious-it is part of my charm-so for my three brothers to put one over on me-with the assistance of numerous of my friends and relatives says a lot. One, it means that they lie a whole lot more than I anticipated. And two, it shows that I am nowhere near as smart as I think I am. Guys that ordinarily could not be trusted with a wet match kept me none the wiser as to my fate while they traded telephone calls and e-mails behind my back for three months in planning this august occasion.

You have to understand. I wouldn't go across a county line to see me. So I am humbled that old classmates from as far away as California and Louisiana and a writer friend from Arizona gave up the time and money to do what I'm not sure that I would do for myself. I guess they wanted to see if they could induce cardiac arrest in me, which partially explained the presence in the room of a board certified cardiologist. As if that weren't enough, my cellphone went off on cue bearing calls from the other co-conspirators that could not attend. And though the photographs taken may not reveal it, as I do not have the habit of smiling when my picture is being taken, my heart was full of a happiness that I cannot describe. Like I said, they got me but good.

Oh, what a night. What a wonderful, wonderful night.

Ours is a vulgar and brutish age. We receive information about our politics and our religion through sound bytes in much the same way we learn about new cars and light beer. Everything is prepackaged and sterilized. Only during such narcissistic times could life coaches not only make a living but some of them are so successful they have opened second offices. Self-congratulation and navel-gazing is epidemic. We whine and complain about perceived slights as if we are entitled to a pain-free existence. As if we do not live in the temporal. I hate this about the present age.

But you know? Maybe we are not entitled to happiness. Or maybe we are or some of us just don't know how to go about it and have quit looking. (I am not one of those people, in case you are wondering.) The sportswriter Mike Lupica says that you deserve what you get with some people. You can also get what you do not deserve. I know that I do not deserve to have such wonderful friends, to have such a great family. I did not deserve such a fun night. I do not deserve any of this. And I thank the God who lent me both my breath and this one night.

The late journalist Marjorie Williams, who frequently wrote of her struggle with terminal cancer said in one of her essays: "Only a moral idiot could feel entitled, in the midst of life, to a complete exemption from bad fortune." I have been lucky the last 50 years. Like everybody else, I have had my ups and my downs. Like everybody else, I wish that I could have some "do-overs" here and there. I have loved and have been loved. I have hurt and have been hurt. Some times have been easier than others. I wish that I could undo lingering misunderstandings and resentment. I wish I could sit down with certain people and say, like Prufrock, "That is not what I meant at all. That is not it at all." I also know I am no different from anybody else in this regard.

But on the balance, I have absolutely no room to complain. No room whatsoever. I have my health and there's a roof over my head. I have always enjoyed steady employment and the financial security that it brings.

I do not take any of this for granted. While I may be a moral idiot, I am not a complete idiot. I have enough of my mother-who saw a bear in every window- in me to guard against that. While I am not as bad as she is, I know that things can change and that random laughing chance can rise up at any time and strike me down much as it did my father back in our backyard one cold winter day in December some 30 years ago. Random laughing chance left a widow with four sons in its wake on that day. It can happen. So while I am not as overprotective as my mother and while I may not see bears in the window I've seen enough in my 50 years to sometimes recognize the pawprints on the glass from the night before. I am not a complete idiot. I know that life is as fragile and painful as it is exquisite.

In the fullness of time, when I am bent with age-if I am spared at all- and I am sitting in a rocking chair on the porch at the old folk's home, I hope to derive comfort in the certain knowledge that I had a pretty good run all things considered. And I will seek refuge in the memory of a wonderous and holy night back in October of 2005 that was filled with such joy. Please God, permit me that much. Although I did not deserve any of it, permit me to always have that one night,in the company of all of those people that I love, and I can die a happy man.

Please. Let me keep that one night.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"He may have in retrospect seemed a little troubled."

Thus spake the landlord of one Zackery Bowen (no relation) who threw himself off of a hotel rooftop in the French Quarter not far from an apartment where he had killed his girlfriend in a most wanton, gruesome and desecrating manner about a week before.

What he did to that girl was beyond horrible. It is enough to make a member of Al-Qaeda puke. It has shocked a city that thought it was beyond shock.

No shit he was "a little troubled."

Go to the jump for the details. Warning: This is incomprehensibly ghastly stuff. Do not go there if you have a weak stomach or are prone to nightmares. I'm not kidding.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Sports Page

I started to write about the brawl that broke out during last Saturday's Miami-Florida International game. I probably will later on.

But I thought the piece by Bill Simmons-ESPN's Sports Guy-on this being the Year of the Loon in sports was absolutely priceless. And I provide the link to it below as a public service to my dozens of readers.

Hey, Singleaxis! If you are out there, let us know what you think! I found the comparison between crazy teammates and crazy girlfriends particularly apt, having had considerable exposure to both in my checkered career.