Sunday, June 23, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

If you're into natural disasters, Central Arkansas is your kind of place.  Hot on the heels of the historic flooding of the Arkansas River a couple of weeks ago, we had a storm packing 80 MPH straight line winds boil up out of nowhere Wednesday night which knocked the power out for about 80,000 residents.  Some are still out.  What's next?  A plague of locusts?

We were lucky.  Our power at the house was restored late yesterday afternoon.  Not everyone is so fortunate.

I guess I never really thought about this much.  And I think it is because I haven't had to go through many power outages, mainly because my old house was on the grid for the med school and 2 other hospitals.  And it only went out a couple of times in the 20 years or so  I lived there and it never stayed out for very long.  Secondly, I always had someplace to go during 9 to 5.  Suffice it to say, nowadays I do not.

Be that as it may, to me and for the other occupants in my present abode, a protracted power outage is mostly an inconvenience.  As in, I didn't realize we had an electric water heater until I hopped in the shower yesterday morning.  That was exhilarating.  Better June than January however.  

To me, Wednesday through Friday was mostly boring.  We don't realize how much we are addicted to our electronic devices until they are rendered inert.  Or their usage is tapered to keep them from becoming thus.  There's only so much reading one can do to pass the time. But Joe and his mom had jobs to go to.  Sarah went off to visit friends in Conway.  I watched college baseball in a bar.  We got by.  None of us qualify for the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Under the circumstances, boredom or having to merely get by  is a pretty bourgeois response to what many people would describe as a crisis.  As I mentioned earlier some folks are in the 3rd day of being without electricity.  I know a couple of them.  And despite the armada of tree services and electrical workers brought in from all over by Entergy, some folks won't get restored until Sunday night.  Maybe.  

Speaking of Entergy, I was finally able to access a human somewhere in the system after a 45 minute wait Wednesday night.  She advised-evidently reading from a script- me to go outside and check the breakers.  I advised her in return that the electrical box hanging off of my house is practically new and unlikely in the extreme to trip out.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"I heard something go 'bang'",I said, displaying remarkable composure under the circumstances. "And then the power went out."

"Okay," she said. "That would have been our lateral line.  That is an outage event.  I cannot tell you when service to your area will be restored."

Glad I wasted 45 minutes to get that helpful report.  

Again, we were merely inconvenienced here at my house.  Staying in a hot house or apartment for longer than a day is intolerable for the elderly, those laboring with chronic illnesses or folks with small children.  I have asthma.  By yesterday, I felt as if I were carrying somebody around on my back even with the use of inhaler.  And I'm under good control and otherwise in robust good health.  This sort of thing can kill folks that are seriously compromised.  

So the question I keep hearing was "How come it is taking Entergy so long to get everything back up and running?"  I don't know about you but I spend plenty on my light bill.  I expect the lights to come on when I want them to.  And I expect things to get fixed when they don't.

A friend of mine who is an electrical engineer said that it unreasonable to expect Entergy to maintain a crew as big as what is lumbering through Central Arkansas as I type.  This was a fluky kind of thing that could not have been anticipated.  Another friend of mine has suggested that until we pay to put the powerlines under ground, which we are unwilling to do, we will continue to be plagued by intermittent outages given all of the trees we have, especially in this neighborhood.  

My engineer friend also suggested that the carbon level we humans have pumped into the atmosphere has lead to all the water getting dumped into the rivers from the seemingly ceaseless pattern of rain we have been having.  Which also softens up the ground so that trees get easily felled during violent storms that are also caused by said excessive carbon level.  

Trees turned out to be the culprit on my block.  A couple of trees went down on Hill Road taking a couple of poles down with them.  

The power came back on last night.  But it hasn't yet for thousands of folks.  If you read Entergy's outage map, ( which assumes you that you have the wherewithal to actually access the Internet) most of them are south of I-630, which is a sociological line of demarcation in the minds of some folks between the haves and the have nots in this town. Folks over there deserve good service as much as I do.  And they deserve an explanation as to the methodology of how Entergy goes about the process of restoring power.  Not that they will get it.  But they deserve it.

Entergy says it will do a review of its procedures once things settle down to see how it could have handled this better. 

Now I don't know a lateral line from a forward lateral. But here is (are?) my two cents. 

In the last 30 days we have had a flood of biblical proportions and a violent storm that by all accounts caught everybody in charge by surprise.  

Do we think this will never happen again?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

My Sunday Father's Day Feeling

Today is the first Father's Day I have spent living in a house with somebody else's children.  I say "children" even though it is more accurate to describe Joe and Sarah as young adults seeing as how they are 19 and 23 respectively. As I write this, I believe the plan is that they will spend the day with their father who will be in town this weekend.  At least that is my general understanding if I may resort to lawyerly weasel-words.  One of the things that I have learned in this almost full year of step-parenting is that I don't get much information. I don't view this as any statement as to my bona fides or status.  Most of my peers in the League of Fathers that I have consulted have advised me that this is not uncommon.  

I occasionally get asked about how things are going in this area.  Actually, I get asked about this a lot.  It is almost as if there's a line in Vegas on whether I actually pull this stepparent thing off.  Actually, I don't like to use the words "stepfather" or "stepchildren" in describing our status.  Too Brothers Grimm for me I suppose.  The kids don't seem to have a preference one way or the other.  Not that we've discussed that either.

All things being equal, which they never are if you think about it,  I guess I'm doing OK.  I get along pretty well with the kids under my roof.  I've heard some horror stories about living with other peoples' kids.  I wouldn't say that we are exactly reshooting the "Brady Bunch" around here on a routine basis. But I have to say that for the most part things have gone pretty smoothly.  

Having a young woman around has been an interesting and fun experience.  You see, we don't really do girls in my immediate family.  I have brothers. They had sons.  So not only is Sarah my first daughter she is also the first niece amongst any of the brothers.  Not to say that it hasn't been an adjustment.  I knock on doors that are closed nowadays.  I do not open said closed doors until I am admitted.  This is a change from how I was raised.  My brothers and I barged in on each other all the time.  No more barging for me.  

And the other night I came home to a bunch of girls drinking Pimms Cups and all yakking at the same time as they fueled up to go to a drag show of all damn things.  I woke up at 2 am the next morning to the sound of high heels clunking across the hardwood floor.

As you can see my life is very different now.  

Joe takes after his mother.  Not only is he the spitting image of her but he has her same laid back and sweet disposition.  Our relationship is largely defined by our mutual interest in sports.  We have always watch sports on TV together and I went to most of his ballgames when he was a Conway Wampus Cat.  Last Sunday I took him to the finals of his first professional tennis tournament.  I think he's hooked.  So thanks to me he has another vehicle for wasting his time.  That's me leading by example. 

I may be giving voice to my hubris here, but if you asked everybody how I was doing I think I would get a passing score.  Maybe nothing greater than the "Gentleman's C" I mostly pulled at Tulane.  But a passing score nonetheless.  

And if I get a passing score I think it is because I view my role as something along the lines of the Prince of Wales-or Whales- as our Imbecile-in-Chief recently referred to him.  Which is to say that I view my role as more or less ceremonial.  I show up from time-to-time when decorum or the ready availability of an SUV requires my presence.  I pretty much stay in the background which works pretty well for all concerned.  And unlike the real Prince Charles, I don't have to tour factories in an RAF uniform while making lame brained observations with the proletariat such as "My that IS a fine wage." Neither do I have to complain about being tossed by a "skittish mare." In short, the discharge of my duties around here does not require me to be a twit.  

It's not that I am not without my discrete uses.  I provided a house everybody likes.  I also provide the gin which everybody but Joe likes.  At least Joe had better not be liking it.  Now his Mom lets him have a beer now and again.  And so, naturally he drank all of the Dixie I brought back from Covington last summer.  So he's banned from the Dixie.  Likewise, his sister is banned from the bonded McKenna.

This is what passes for me being a disciplinarian.  You gotta draw a line somewhere.  

I may be counted on to have at least a hundred bucks on me at any one time and my credit card has an apparently limitless top end.  The lines of communication seem to be pretty open.  Not that I ever talk to them very often.  We all live in a big house.  Texting is the typical mode of discourse around here.  And if anybody needs me they can usually find me sitting on the porch in my rocker reading and drinking either gin or bourbon as my taste at that particular moment may require.

I help provide.  I stay in the background.  I'm available for consultation on the rare occasion when somebody thinks they need it.  I show up on time.  I mostly keep my mouth shut.  I stay out of the way and let kids be kids.  Until they get into the Dixie that is.

Does that make me the second coming of Fred McMurray?  Hardly.

But I think I'm doing OK.  The "Gentleman's C" worked long ago and far away at Tulane.  It seems to be working in the here and now on Martin Street.  

So far so good.  Happy Father's Day.  


Sunday, June 09, 2019

Radio Silence

I've been spending my time batching it and watching some damn good tennis at the Little Rock Open.  I'm taking Joe with me to watch the finals today.  He has never seen professional tennis before.  I try to provide cultural experiences for his sister and him.  Plus, there will be a bunch of girls in attendance.  He will like that too. 

So no time for blogging.  

Catch you later...

Sunday, June 02, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

Mother Nature is on the rampage in Arkansas and Oklahoma.  I took this picture Wednesday from the bluffs of North Little Rock.  This is what is left of a hole on Rebsamen Golf Course in the Riverdale area below my house where I am typing this now.  The green is probably completely covered now.  

As one of my golf buddies said today, "It's going to be a lonnnnng time before we play Rebsamen again."

A real long time.  

But forget golf.  

The recent flooding of the Arkansas River is shaping up to be the natural disaster of a lifetime. At least my lifetime.  As I write this cities all up and down the river are preparing for unprecedented flooding.  And it is not supposed to crest until next Tuesday or so after which we can expect more rain.  Which is the last damn thing we need around here.

And it has Mississippi and Louisiana in its sights as it roars south.  

Lord. Here comes the flood.

As my friend Marge, whose husband owns property in the Delta said, "There's nothing you can do.  You just try to protect yourself and your property as best you can."

There's nothing you can do.

At least not right now.  Arkansas is now taking the medicine Louisiana had to take after Katrina.  Our levee system is a joke.  Give the devil his due, State Senator Jason Rapert, for whom I have very little use, was completely right when he warned, along with the Corps of Engineers, that this day was at hand.  There is no consistent policy concerning building or maintaining levees in this state.  It is a crazy quilt of public and private. State and local.   It's too late now, boy.

The river punched a hole in an old levee up in Yell County.   One over in North Little Rock almost breached.  A good portion of Fort Smith is flooded out.  And God help Pine Bluff by next Friday or so.

Apart from the levees, how many lives will be lost and/or upended, millions of dollars spent and lost before we take climate change seriously in this country?  And guess what?  The Corps just warned the New Orleans area that the water down there will rise again in two years or so, which necessitate the spending of even more money to reinforce the city.  

There's nothing you can do.  

I went down to the Clinton Center to try and take some pics.  They had it cordoned off.  I couldn't get any closer than a few hundred yards of the river.  And yet I could hear as it rushed past me.  It sounded for all the world like a jet engine.  My house is situated about a mile above it.  Late last night, after the traffic had died down, I could faintly hear it up here on the porch.  Such is the unimaginable power of a river as big as the Arkansas raging out of control.

In ten days or so the immediate crisis will have passed.  But what about the future?  Will take our medicine as Louisiana was forced to do?  Or will we continue to stick our heads in the mud?

But these are issues for another day.  Because right know mother nature is in charge.

And there's nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do.  


Sunday, May 26, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I don't know about you.  But I have been sufficiently amused by the commencement process this spring.  I went to two-count 'em-two at Washington University in St. Louis (Not "at" as I have been stating wrongly for all these years)graduation ceremonies last week.  And last night was my nephew Clarke's graduation from Catholic High.

As I have said before, it has been my high honor to have been the a diplomate thrice in my life.  At one of the stops along the way I learned the word "thrice."  And quite frankly I don't remember a single word uttered by any of the speakers at any of these events.  Chances are, you don't either.  

Let's face it. Commencement ceremonies are pretty dull affairs.  Most sensible folks wouldn't go if they didn't have to.  And most schools make their graduates walk the floor.

But it's over now. I don't have another command performance until my youngest nephew Max gets his ticket in two years.  I am happy.

I tend not to give unsolicited advice, especially after a young person has had to endure the same from an absolute stranger during his or her graduation ceremony.  But I told Sarah to make sure that she took care of any overdue books, parking tickets etc before she left Saint Louis.  I know whereof I speak.

Last February I needed to present my law school transcript to the State Department of Education for reasons known only to it.  The fact that I passed the bar exam and have practiced law since 1981 were not sufficient evidence to prove that I had credentials sufficient to teach Government to Freshmen.  

But when I applied online to Tulane to get my transcript I was advised that they would not release same to me as still owed a debt to the school.  This came as something of a surprise to me seeing as how I was never notified of any past due debt owed to them and it's not as if they didn't know where I might be found.  Besides, I couldn't for the life of me think of what sort of debt that I might have owed.  I never got a parking ticket.  It couldn't have been a library fine.  I never went to the library.

In any event, as I patiently explained to the Business Department on my letterhead, any conceivable period of prescription (that's what they call a statute of limitations down there) had long since expired mainly by Tulane's failure to seek enforcement of the debt over the last THIRTY YEARS.

Much to my surprise, they backed off in 12 hours.  I got the transcript and dutifully turned it in, redundant and superfluous though it was.

But alma maters are jealous of the bottom line.  Especially when they think they have you over the proverbial barrel.  

So here is my advice to all the graduates out there.  Make sure you make your piece with the Business Office at good ole State U before you need a transcript.  They may not be able to revoke your diploma.  But they can sure do their best to screw up your chances at getting a job.

And to the Tulane University of Louisiana I say "thank you."  Or another two word sentence that has "you" as the last word.

 I mean it sincerely.  And I say it thrice.  

Sunday, May 19, 2019

My Sunday-happy to be home-Feeling

No post today after 3 hectic days in Saint Looey for Sarah's graduation.  Like I said, I'm happy to be home.

And happy for her.  

Catch you later....

Sunday, May 12, 2019

My Sunday Mother's Day Feeling

This is the first Mother's Day in a long time that I have spent not just with a card-carrying mother but actually co-habitating with one.  Her son Joe came stumbling back into the house last Tuesday after his first semester at Hendrix.  While I don't get much information, at least not on a sustained basis, I guess he did OK.  If he had flunked out I would have heard about that.  At least I am reasonably certain that I would have.

But Mother's Day around here is a pretty low-key affair much in keeping with Melissa's general MO about most things.  Not standing much on ceremony as she does not, she will do her Sunday homeless ministry downtown this afternoon.  I, in turn, will do my Sunday golf ministry at War Memorial Golf Course, otherwise known as, at least if the Mayor gets his way, Death Row Golf Course.  I turned my final grades in to the school where I taught last semester.  So that's behind me for good. And since it is not raining buckets for once and since the sun is making a cameo appearance in the sky, Joe and I will grill some salmon for the lady of the hour and steak for the two of us.

Pretty low key.

Many of the moms in my life are single.  And may God bless them on this and every other day.  As I have written single moms are like unto drill sergeants in heels.  And they tend to have more balls in the air than Penn and Teller.  My own mother had a zillion balls in the air when Buck checked out at 52.  Looking back on it, she was a much more fragile person than any of us thought at the time.  Then again we didn't know what to look for and folks didn't have the resources then that we have now.  But she did the best that she could.  And that's all you can ask of any mom.  

I guess Melissa has fewer balls in the air than she once did since the dubious acquisition of me.  And since she no longer has both kids in the house. I dunno.  We don't talk about it very much.  

I guess that's the best Mother's Day gift I can give her.  That and an empty SUV that she can use to put some of Sarah's shit in to haul back from St. Louis next Friday.  I am not without my uses or discrete charm.  

But it's nice living with somebody's mother.  I hope she has a nice day.

I hope you do too.

The last 4 months have been interesting.  I will probably write about the experience at some point in time.  I'm still processing it all.  But after I get back from St. Louis I plan on doing just a whole lot of nothing for awhile.  Nothing that doesn't involve sitting here on this porch swing, working out or hitting a golf ball on whichever public golf course the city in its wisdom, after bringing its considerable practical knowledge to bear on the subject, decides to spare.  Maybe take the occasional Legal Aid referral.  Sarah will be here through June.  She says she wants me to take her to the driving range.  This ought to be interesting as well as a test of my high blood pills.

But I plan on doing a whole lot of nothing right here on the front porch of my new house.  And I plan on doing it with a glass of amber liquid in my hand around 6PM most evenings.  

I've earned it.  And boy am I looking forward to it.  

Sunday, May 05, 2019

No Time For Blogging

I'm busy drafting up my last tests as I prepare to depart the Grove of Academe.  Or at least the current one I've been stumbling through the last four months.

I will check with you later.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

Last Sunday was Easter.  We went to the United Methodist Church in the neighborhood where I have attended for years.  I like Easter.  Maybe it's because, like my mother, I always look forward to the spring, as crazy as the weather can be around here.

As we sat together in the pew I couldn't help but wonder how many more Easters I would attend in that space or whether the United Methodist Church will even exist at all in the fullness of time.  Or 5 years from now even.

The UMC has gotten itself wrapped around the axle over the issue of gay marriage and gay clergy.  The same thing that the Episcopalians went through ten years or so ago is now at our door and for the same basic reason.  The African branch of the UMC formed an alliance with social conservatives of the church in the United States to adopt policies banning gay marriage and gay clergy.  Indeed, the Judicial Council has upheld these policies.  And they have teeth in them.  If you as a UMC minister marry some gay folks, you can get canned.  And people HAVE been canned.

And these firings have been upheld despite the fact that to my way of thinking church trials should have gone out with burning defendants at the stake or placing them upon the rack to induce them to recant.  Then again, maybe we will bring those penalties back.  

Let me get back to you on that.  

My friend and former pastor Vic Nixon over a lunch we shared together over 10 years ago predicted a schism over this issue.  I pooh-poohed this notion.  Frank Zappa once said WWIII would never start in Los Angeles because there's too much real estate involved.   I figured the same would apply in the case of splitting up the UMC.  Surely that daunting prospect of what to do with church property and/or pension plans would cause cooler heads to prevail.

Looks like "wrong as usual."

Some of my friends have cut back their tithes to the national and/or international church as a matter of protest.  Some have quit tithing altogether.  And some are considering joining another denomination.

I've been a Methodist all my life.  I was educated by a Methodist college.  The Methodists helped me pay for law school.  While I hardly hold myself as a model of right living, I have tried to "do all the good I can." Even if John Wesley didn't really say it.  It sounds like something he would have said.  And that's good enough for me.  Throughout my life, the UMC has stood for civil liberties, equality and justice.  What now?  The church is going to blow up over the belief that the entirety of knowledge concerning human sexuality is to be found in a cramped interpretation of the Old Testament?  Is that really where we are at now?

Nothing good will come of a schism.  The so-called winners in this debate are on the wrong side of history. They will inherit the wind.  The next generation will look on them as my generation looked at the racists before us.  

There is a banner above the entrance to my church that proclaims that "All are welcome.  All  means ALL."

Yeah.  At least for now.  

"Do all the good you can."

Even if nothing good will come of a schism.  And it looks like one is on the horizon.  


Sunday, April 14, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

If I were more prescient, I would have seen the storm on my personal horizon based upon the comments from other folks on social media about how they came out under the new tax code.  Most of these folks are my age and I'm guessing in my tax bracket.  And they all reported that they took a hit.  Actually, they used words that were graphic than that.  But this is a family friendly space so I won't go there.

I was expecting some tax liability on my part.  After all, I actually made a little money practicing law last year.  And I had to liquidate some investments to fix up my house for sale, buy furniture for the new house, pay for this, pay for that, et cetera et cetera.  So I expected to pay some additional taxes as my taxable income went up.

I did not expect to get clobbered.    

But I damn near passed out when I got the email from my accountant yesterday afternoon giving me the news.  And the other person that lives here has been happier too, although if I got clobbered she only took a glancing blow, albeit one she didn't anticipate.

Now I am not a stupid man.  I realized that the decrease in taxes would result in an increase of taxable income based on my monthly check.  And I realized that my dipping into the IRA was a taxable event.  I also can do without a tax refund.  Indeed, I haven't had a refund from the State of Arkansas since I left the government and some years I don't get one from Uncle or have to pay a little. So, unlike many Americans I don't count on it one way or another.  But I wasn't prepared for this.

And I gather from the tenor of the remarks on Facebook alone that many other people weren't either.  

I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization.  I'm pretty sure he said it but I'm too lazy to look it up.  And I get that.

But for the first time since I became a taxpayer, I feel that the system, always rigged for the wealthy, has become unfair.  The Donald Trumps of the world (I suspect) pay no taxes.  Amazon paid no taxes.  TurboTax beat back a proposal in Congress that would let folks file electronically with the IRS FOR FREE.  

It is manifestly unfair if the burden of paying taxes disproportionally falls on those that do not have access to the myriad of deductions and shelters available to the very wealthy.  As a buddy of mine that plays the market pretty hard said to me the other day,"It makes absolutely no sense that some of these trades I make are not taxed.  It makes no sense."

And my buddy is no wild-eyed commie.  

I was grateful to have the funds available to buy a house, move a family from Conway to here, and do all the other stuff that you have to do when you move and to do a 360 with your life.  Because of this I was able to do all of this without going into debt other then the mortgage on the new house.  Well, that's not true, I took out a bridge loan to use for a down payment on this house secured by the equity in the old house.  But that got paid off when the old house sold.  Worked like a charm.

And I had money set aside for what I thought I might have to render unto Caesar this year.  But I wasn't even close.  

Thank God I have money once again and can handle this.  But that means I'm going to think long and hard about buying stuff I don't need for awhile.  And if I'm thinking like this what about the folks who actually depend on their refunds to make ends meet?  I'm guessing that a lot of discretionary spending or non-spending will keep dollars from going into the economy.  Which brings with it its own set of problems from an economic perspective.

So will this be the wakeup call alerting the trumpers that they have been had?  Probably not.  As long as their leader keeps on about "building a wall" and how the Mueller report supposedly exonerates him that is sufficient red meat for them to keep them in the fold.  

What will happen after Monday when the bill comes due?  We shall see what we shall see.

As for us, my accountant says that next year we should "break even."

I'll take it.  It ain't fair.  But I'll take it.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

A gas station in Tallulah, Louisiana is pretty much the last place I would expect to get panhandled.  Now I almost got my ass kicked at a truck stop there back when I was in law school when some local rednecks took umbrage at the DEVO tee shirt I was sporting.  But that didn't seem odd to me at the time given the close proximity to Monroe (Correctly pronounced "MUN-roh," As in "Rut-roh.") which was then, and is now, the epicenter of toxic rednecktitude. But getting hit up for money in otherwise bucolic Tallulah genuinely surprised me.

"Excuse me Sir," said the voice behind me.

I turned around to see a tall, heavy set black man wearing a chef's smock.

"I'm not trying to scare you.  So don't be afraid,"he said.

"Do I look afraid?" I said.

"No, and that's good.  I just need some help. As you can see, I'm an executive chef," he said.

"I can see you are dressed like one, I suppose." I replied.

"Oh, I am, Sir," he said.  "My car broke down and I need to get to work.  We don't have cabs here but we have jitneys that will carry you where you need to go.  But they charge $22 and I only got 15.  You think you could help me out?"

I just stood there and looked at him.

"Look around here.  All these black guys won't help me.  My own race has turned me down. So I'm humbling myself to ask for money from a white man."

At this point the bullshit detector in my head- and I have a good one- was banging the red zone. 

"I see," I said.  

I looked at the bay next to me.  The young black guy filling up his truck looked at me.  He rolled his eyes heavenward and back down while shaking his head.

"I'm sorry.  I don't carry cash," I said. Which is my standard reply if I am required to interact with a panhandler.

The Chef turned and walked away.

I didn't feel badly.  I never give money to panhandlers.  Ask anybody in law enforcement and they will tell you that 90% of the time a donation to a panhandler will get smoked up or drank up.  That and the old "my car broke down" or "I ran outta gas" appeals for money are almost always false.  

I didn't feel badly.  But I felt a pang of ambivalence about taking my usual hard line approach.  I am married to a woman of the cloth.  She is involved in a United Methodist mission to the homeless downtown called CANVAS where she spends her Wednesday and Sunday nights. 

Walking around the French Quarter last week, we were routinely hit on as anybody who has ever visited there has been.  She routinely and freely gave any spare change she had to some of them.  I guess her eye is better than mine and she can cull out the needy from the con artists.  That and she is a better person than I am.  

Not that I'm so bad.  I refuse to get hit up for money not merely because I am heartless or believe all begging is a con. Although a good 75% is.  I don't give money to panhandlers because it is inefficient.  CANVAS can take two bucks and stretch it a lot further and serve more people.  So I donate to them and and other homeless and hunger organizations.  And I accept referrals from Legal Services.  Giving back in this fashion is a more efficient use of finite resources because a community is involved.  

But I refuse to give to panhandlers just like I tend to give the heave-ho to most salespeople that show up on my front porch unbidden by me.  I will at least be polite to the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses.  I'm not completely heartless.  

After I was through gassing up, I went inside and bought some bad gas station coffee with a dollar fifty that I had lied to the Chef about not having.

I pulled out of the station and pointed my car back to Arkansas and home.

I hadn't gone too far when I saw him walking north up US 65, umbrella in hand.  I figured back at the station that his "broken down" car was around the corner somewhere.  But there he was hoofing it.

And the thought occurred to me.

"What if he was telling the truth?"

Melissa might have pulled over to give him a few bucks.  I kept going. I felt a pang of something like guilt but I kept going.  After all, just because he left the station on foot didn't mean that his story wasn't complete bullshit.  After all, 90% of the time it, and similar stories,  are.

But then again, Melissa and all of the people that deal with the homeless and the dispossessed are better people than me.  

Way better.  

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Rain check

Between grading papers and getting ready to blow town for a couple of days, there's no time for this foolishness.

Will catch you later.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

My buddy Phil looked beaten unto death.  I was standing in his kitchen as he poured me a glass of amber liquid.  All around us was the detritus of what used to be an orderly home.  He raised his weary eyes to mine as he held out his glass to offer a toast.

"Here's to getting this move over," he muttered.


"And to never moving again."

God how I can relate.  It seems amazing to me now, but this time last year the Deacon and I were looking at houses.  We closed on this, the house in the sky, in May.  She and the kids moved in the last weekend in May and I followed a few months later once our union had been solemnized according to the laws of God, or at least the Formerly United Methodist version of same, and the State of Arkansas.  

Someone once told me that the short moves are the worst.  I didn't really believe that until I moved a couple of miles from the F Street Sports Bar to this house.  Between May and August every day I carried carloads of crap either to the new house or to the Goodwill store.  Some of the crap I hauled over here was rejected by the Deacon and so back to Goodwill I would limp.  

It was simply just about the worst summer I can remember.

Phil and Karen are making a short move to a development on the river in North Little Rock.    They are not content merely with the sheer awfulness that is moving.  They are building their new house.  They have to be out of their old house by the first of the month.  If they play their cards right their home might be ready to move in by then.  The progress reports from their contractor tend to differ on this score, at least to my ears, on a daily basis.  This would drive me crazy.  As flat out horrible as the buying and selling real estate and moving processes were, I at least knew where I was going to land once it was over.

And now that I have landed, nothing short of a goddamn court order or my eventual demise, whichever comes first, will cause me to ever leave.  

I wouldn't have left the F Street Sports Bar if I had not entered into matrimony and acquired 3 people in the transaction.  I don't know why Phil and Karen are moving except that Karen has always had bees in her britches for some reason.  For as long as they have lived up on Rosewood Circle she has had her eye out for real estate.  

There was absolutely nothing wrong with their house except that it is situated on a hill which is impassable during snow and ice storms.  Phil offered to sell it to me and this was one of the reasons I didn't want it.  

So I went and bought a house east of him on the same hill which will be equally impassable in the inevitable event of an ice storm.  Shrewd huh?

I mainly wasn't interested in his house because in my mind it would always be his house.  Perhaps that's why the Deacon wanted a new house.  The other one would always be my house and associated always with the bad juju that had built up there over the years.  Juju being in the eye of the beholder of course.  I think I managed to impart some pretty good if not hilarious juju there.  But I get her larger point.  And I know how to pick my shots.

Still, in retrospect, I don't know why people would willingly enter in to the soul crushing experience of dealing in real estate and moving unless they did so in contemplation of old age or downsizing   Or because of a goddamn court order.  

So I don't much understand why my friends are putting themselves through this misery.  Then again, it ain't none of my bidness.  And while I am no model for right living, I do tend to mind my own bidness.  

As for me, I am content to stay put.  I am happy to be down to one real estate mortgage and to have no debt except my house and my car again.  Solvency is a good thing.  

And I look forward to seeing their new house.  I just hope they are able to occupy it after they hand over the keys to the old place.

At least I managed to get that part right.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

My Sunday-Posting On Saturday Because Blogger Is About to Crash- Feeling

We lost one of the all time great ones a week or so ago.  Dan Jenkins, the Bard of Fort Worth, died March 7, having attained the age of 90 despite consuming a diet, that to hear his daughter Sally Jenkins tell it, consisted mostly of red meat, Winstons, coffee and scotch.  

Jenkins was nothing if not prolific.  Not only did he crank it out about football and golf, he wrote novels and screenplays.  Indeed, in the wonderful tribute to him in the current issue of Golf Digest, it was revealed that he and friend and collaborator Bud Shrake got fired from screenwriting duties on the Eddie Murphy vehicle "Beverly Hills Cop II" because they were too funny.  When Dan pointed out to the producer that he thought that was kind of the point of the enterprise he was told,"You don't have to be funny.  Eddie be funny."

"For the next 20 years," the piece said. "The co-conspirators looked across the room at each other, pronounced "Eddie be funny" and howled."

Jenkins was at his best skewering pomposity, the PGA tour and Tiger Woods.  Regarding the latter, Woods kept ducking him for interviews.  Undaunted Jenkins wrote his own fake interview with Tiger.  Check it out.  It is beyond hilarious.  

On the other hand, he could be borderline racist and sexist.  I reviewed "The Franchise Babe" , a novel about the LPGA, for the local paper.  I panned it.  As I said at the time if you're gonna go blue you better be funny.  And "Franchise Babe" wasn't funny.  

But if he was losing his touch with the novel form, he regained it on Twitter of all places.  His tweets as he followed the events unfolding during major golf tournaments were masterpieces of brevity and wit.  Unlike the usual dispatches from the White House.

He died too soon.  Can you imagine what Dan Jenkins would have made of the recent scandal involving those rich folks bribing their kids' way into certain elite institutions?  And USC too?  After all, this is just a sports story.  

As I understand it, the parents hired an application facilitator to help guide the kids through the process.  Which is completely legal.  What wasn't legal is that this guy was the conduit through which applications with faked up athletic accomplishments were passed along leavened in most instances by bribes to college administrators.  

I teach at a local two year school.  We talked about this in class.  Many of my students are of the non-traditional variety.  Many of them hold down jobs.  They don't play intercollegiate sports at our school.  Every one of the ones in my classes got in on their own merit.  At least I am relatively certain none of my kids could come up with bribe money even if they were so inclined.  

The consensus?  It ain't fair.

And that's right.  It isn't fair.  Especially when you consider that some of the ones that got admitted are airheads who couldn't pass the entrance exam during a fair fight and/or could give two hoots in Hell about an education.  

This story has it all.  Social media superstars, bribery, hubris, crooked athletic coaches and administrators.

Ah Dan you died too soon.  You could have hit this one dead solid perfect.  

As for me, I'm taking up Winstons and Scotch.  

Sunday, March 10, 2019


No blogging today.  I'm OBE. Overtaken by events.

Namely the realization that I no longer own two houses.  I'm taking it easy seeing as how I don't think I've actually felt relaxed since last May.  

I shall return.  

Sunday, March 03, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I'm not ordinarily given to nostalgia.  Or at least not overly much.  But I seem to be finding myself succumbing to it more frequently nowadays despite my best intentions not to.  Then again, as my friend and former colleague Danny said, "You've lived a lot of life lately."

He was in the passenger's seat as we headed to Ft. Smith the beautiful last Friday for a retirement ceremony in honor of another one of our mutual colleagues.  Debbie was hanging it up after 35 years.  Which seemed surreal to me when I pondered that I had been around for @ 30 of them.

I was a prodigy, you see.  That's the ticket.  

And I was down the hall from Danny for the same amount of time.  We hadn't really spent that much time together in recent days what with me living life and him working and being a single dad.  So our trip to the Fort was the first time in years we had really spent any time together.  

So we caught up on old news.  Did some reminiscing about those we loved and those we despised.  And we also spent a good bit of time with the fallback topics of most old guys: money, property and cars.  In our younger days we used to talk about women.  We know as much about them now as we did back in the day.  I guess the clock is ticking faster on the both of us now.  And we don't have the time to waste on issues we understand imperfectly.

The ceremony was in Judge Holmes' ceremonial courtroom.  A good number of our old friends from the Justice Department were there.  Some are still working.  Some aren't. There was much hugging, back slapping and leaning backwards while talking the better to check each other out while wearing bifocals.  

The honoree was positively radiant.  Much to our mutual surprise she acknowledged our presence during her remarks.  Any of a number of the speakers that preceded her pointed out that Debbie didn't have an enemy in the profession.  Which is pretty remarkable given the fact of what we do.  I know I've got them.  And I earned them. 

Speaking of money and property, the sale on my old house is set for next week.  And so I spent a good bit of time yesterday removing boxes and other stuff from the shed.  A couple  of the boxes contained a bunch of stuff from my old office. The one down the hall from Danny.  I hadn't looked at any of it since I left.  I guess I put the boxes of my life in the shed so I wouldn't have to remember some of what went on back in those days.  

After I filled my car up with the last load, I took a final walk around my old house.  Empty as it is now I heard my footsteps echo as I turned on the taps in anticipation of the upcoming freeze.  So the pipes won't blow up for the new owners.  They never blew up for me.  But you never know. 

I looked out the back kitchen window to the deck and cabana in the yard.  All the parties. All the Razorback games.  Back when the Razorbacks actually played down the street at War Memorial. I sat for the last time in the swing where I gave Abigail Straessle her bottle.  

I tossed the keys on the kitchen cabinet.  

"Good bye little house."

Danny's daughter is with him now.  He likes having her around more than he thought he would.  He likes having kids in the house.

I have a daughter now.  We Bowens don't produce girls. I like having Sarah around when she is home from school.  Her brother is still at Hendrix as far as I am made to understand.  That's cool.  I don't get much information. I hear from other Dads that this is not unusual.

I have a beautiful wife who tolerates me.  And you can see the Arkansas River from the front porch on our new house.  All is well.  All is better than I deserve.  I've lived a lot of life the past year.

Danny was momentarily alarmed when we wound up in Oklahoma briefly en route to I-40.  Once we got on the Interstate back around Dora (I actually knew what I was doing) he calmed down.

"Hey," he said. "Ya know?  We did damn good work you and me."

Yeah we did. 

It's enough to make one damn near nostalgic.  Maybe I will open those boxes from my old office one of these days.  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

My buddy Don has an expression that he uses from time to time.  And it goes something like this: "It's amazing how stupid rich people can be." 

This time he was referring, not to the currant occupant of the Oval Office whose sexual misdeeds are a matter of public record and need not be recounted in this space. Rather he was referring to the pickle Patriots' owner Bob Kraft finds himself in after law enforcement in Jupiter, Florida busted a bunch of massage parlors over there for offering services a little more intimate than trigger point therapy and facials.  Kraft is accused, along with about 165 other guys, of soliciting prostitutes working at the massage joints in question.  And, in keeping with Don's mantra, a former President of Citigroup and a Wall Street billionaire also went down, if you will pardon the expression.

Not only were these rich old goats busted at massage parlors, these particular establishments were under the gaze of a multi-jurisdictional task force involving Special Agents of both Homeland Security and the IRS suspecting them of engaging in human trafficking.  And as is often the case in such matters, to hear law enforcement tell it, the women who worked for this chain of parlors were little more than slaves who were forced to work virtually nonstop in fairly squalid conditions.   This news must please Roger Goodell to no end.  The owner of the Super Bowl champs caught up in a prostitution bust involving human trafficking.  That's a hell of a way to start your Friday if your the Commissioner of the NFL.

Meanwhile, somewhere Jim Irsay is smiling.   

Which brings me back to Don's maxim.  

All things considered, and leaving out the apparent fact that the sex workers involved here may well turn out to be the real victims, I pretty don't care what consenting adults do behind closed doors.  One of the best things I do is I mind my own business.  And I'm not particularly judgmental.  People do what they do.  

But you would think that a recognizable and famous guy like Kraft for whom money is no object would have a little more sense than to go to a massage parlor if indeed he has an occasional itch for extra curricular activity that needs to be scratched.

An acquaintance of mine who knows how this kind of thing works on the professional golf tour told me once that the way you do it is your take out an American Express Black Card in the name of your caddie and you let him make the arrangements for you.  As you might have guessed, this discussion came up during the Tiger Woods imbroglio which proved that Tiger had never heard of this sort of money laundering or just was too arrogant to think he would ever get caught.  My guess is the latter.

I would think Kraft could have disported himself in a more discrete fashion in any of a number of ways.  Or talk to some of his players.  Some of them would know how to go about this low commerce.

I don't get it.

A spokesperson for Kraft says he denies the charges.  The cops, God help us, say they got him on video.  It's amazing how stupid rich people can be.

But Jim Irsay's looking pretty good.

Sunday, February 17, 2019


Between grading papers and getting ready for a meeting today I have all I can say grace over.

I will get to the present Constitutional crisis shortly.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

Lord knows that I did my share of foolish things as a younger man.  And I humbly breathe a prayer of heartfelt relief when I consider that neither smartphones nor the Internet were around when I was out doing those foolish things.  Most of my stupid behavior centered around women and alcohol or any combination thereof.  The majority of my misdeeds, in retrospect, were fairly harmless in the great scheme of things.  And none of them, knock on wood, have come back to haunt me or cause me to invoke any particular period of limitations as my best defense.

Then again, unlike the Governor of Virginia I never posed for pictures while in blackface.  Unlike the Attorney General of the Old Dominion, i never put it on as part of a skit.  

What's the deal?  Is it a Virginia thing?

I grew up here in Arkansas with my fair share of guys whose views on racial matters could charitably be described as unevolved.  I knew folks, especially in my much younger days, who casually tossed around racial slurs without thinking twice about it.  But I never knew anybody who ever put on blackface.  Or Klan robes either.  

As I grew older, I certainly began to make acquaintances that were old moneyed conservative types from the Olde South, whose attitudes were probably not too terribly far removed from some of my fellow rednecks I grew up with on the County Line.  But they were too genteel and mannerly, at least in my presence, to give voice to such attitudes.  I can't imagine them wearing blackface either at some point at a fraternity party or such.  Although I concede I can't swear that some of them didn't.  

Here's the thing I don't get.  A career in politics was probably the last thing on Ralph Northam's mind when he posed in blackface along with a medical school classmate adorned in Klan robes for the med school yearbook.  You're pretty young at 24 or 25.  I get that.  But he wasn't some dumbass 15 year old all jacked up on malt liquor either.  Indeed, he was fixing to go off and start training to be a pediatric neurosurgeon.  Which I would think requires a certain maturity and concentration of the mind.

And a bell didn't go off in his head that warned him that this was a bad idea?  That maybe this might come back to bite him on the ass?

I don't get it.  I just don't.

But here's a fair question.  I earlier made a semi-joking reference to a statute of limitations that I could seek refuge in at this point in my dotage.  But is there a period of limitations when it comes to youthful indiscretions?  Recent experiences with public figures such as Gov. Northam and Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh suggest there may not be.  And maybe that's fair.  Politics is (are?) politics.  It's not the criminal law.  If it matters to voters I suppose that's pretty much all that matters.  

But we as a nation need to get a grasp on just how far back in time we are going to hold our public figures accountable for stupid stuff they did back in the day.  Because sooner than later we are going to see videos and pics of candidates for public office from when they were drunk at a sorority party, sipping champagne from a bottle at a wedding reception or vaping.  It will happen. 

I tell kids all the time that you got to assume that somebody is taking a pic without them knowing it.  Or saving a text or an email for future reference.  I know many young people who are conscientiously attempting to conduct themselves as youthful pillars of rectitude with an eye to the future.  Is a history of avoiding instead of dodging bullets while young the new path for public office?

I kinda liked seeing AOC dancing on a rooftop in her college days.  I thought nothing of Sarah Palin having competed in beauty pageants.  John McCain stayed in hot water with his CO's.  George H.W. Bush kept his still oiled up first basemen's mitt from Yale in his Oval Office desk drawer.  He would pound a ball in it as he thought things through.  Young George Washington chopped down the cherry tree. Except he didn't. You get the picture.

Do we want to just elect robots who have been building resumes since the 9th grade?  Or do we want people with real flesh, real blood and real flaws.  People like you and me. Where do we draw the line?  

As the text of the old anthem by Richard Farrant puts it (and you should give it a listen on YouTube): "Lord for thy tender mercies sake, lay not our sins to our charge.  But forgive that is past and give us grace to amend our sinful lives."  Does that concept not extend to politicians?

What the Governor of Virginia did as a young man was palpably stupid.  Way stupider than anything I ever did as a young man.  And that's going some.  His recent attempt to lame out of it was even dumber.  The Commonwealth's Al-Jolson-In Chief says that he will not resign.  Rather he intends to go about attempting to foment "racial conciliation."  There's some nerve.

But he is Virginia's problem.  If they "forgive that is past" that is their prerogative. 

Having said that, I'm guessing Bill Clinton is really happy he never had to deal with smartphones or the Internet while he was a young politician.  

Really happy.  


Sunday, February 03, 2019

My Sunday "The Saints Got Screwed" Feeling

Today is the annual national bacchanal known as Super Bowl Sunday featuring the upstart St. Louis-Oops! Sorry.-Los Angeles Rams against the forces of darkness known as the New England Patriots.  

I'm gonna watch it if no other reason than as my buddy Kenny once said of it, "It's gonna be on.  Might as well watch the damn thing."  So watch it I shall.  But I won't be happy about it. 

That's because the Saints should be in Atlanta today offering themselves up as a perfect and living sacrifice to the Patriots instead of the Rams.  That's because the Rams were the beneficiaries of perhaps the most egregious "no call" I think I have ever witnessed in all the years I have watched professional football.  Including the SEC Division of the league.

There was @ a minute fifty left to play in the 4th quarter.  The Saints had 3rd and 10 on the Ram's 15 or so.  Drew Brees drops back and fires one out to TommyLee Lewis.  Only waaaaaaay before the ball was anywhere near Lewis's mitts he got clocked by Rams DB Nickell Robey-Coleman.  Clocked as in hit in the head.  That's right. Not only was it pass interference in extremis.  It was targeting.  It should have been 1st Down Saints and Robey-Coleman should have been checking out the water pressure in the Visitor's locker room.

Naturally, being the consummate teacher that I am, I took class time last Thursday to bitch about the unfairness of it all.  About how this episode, considered alongside the previous season's epic last play choke job, was the perfect metaphor what misery it is to be a Saints fan.

"Misery?" one smart ass said. "They've been pretty good the last 10 years or so.  Even won a Super Bowl.  Another pointed out the missed face mask on Jared Goff during which he damn near got his head separated from his body.  I drew these misguided attempts to provide perspective to an abrupt close.  What's the point of power if you don't use it?

"I'm not listening to any of this," I said. "I prefer to luxuriate in my sense of victimhood."

The female members of the class thought that was pretty funny.  Hmmmmmm.

So the Saints got screwed, blued and tattooed a week or so ago.  They would probably have lost to New England anyway.  As will the Rams I predict.  And for whatever it's worth the NFL will take another look at whether to allow teams to challenge pass interference plays.  My guess is that they will not.  The games are already too long and they could call PI on every play most likely.  And besides, you can't legislate against incompetence.

So today maybe I will go play some golf and come home to the miscarriage of justice that will be this year's Super Bowl.  There are worse ways to spend a Sunday.

Kenny's right. It's gonna be on.  Might as well watch the damn thing.