Saturday, August 29, 2009

The truth has to be revealed.

Okay, I will be the first to go ahead an admit that Federal Death Panels are already active and providing an invaluable service to the country. The simple fact is that old people are a drain on society wasting resources in an effort to keep them happy in their "Golden Years" at the expense of younger people who can still work and pay taxes to build the perfect Liberal Reich.
These dedicated Death Panel government employees work tirelessly to lessen the drain of tax dollars allowing other valuable services to continue. Just yesterday I learned that the savings from one day of not having to pay Social Security retirement benefits allowed an important study to continue on the detrimental effects of NASCAR racing and how it promotes the continued oppression on society by armed, angry white males.

The following video should show the compassion of these Federal Death Panels workers and the trials and tribulations they carry, both professional and personal, for the betterment of society. Knowledge of anyone who opposes these heroic efforts should be reported to the closest Democrat/Socialist political officer so these people can be quickly sent off to a FEMA camp for reeducation.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In the heat of a sultry Carolina night (anything but)

The finely dressed man walked in quiet solitude down the dark sidewalk listening to the sounds of the crickets and cicadas his steps keeping cadence with their chirping and humming. Dressed in a long sleeve white shirt with a black tie, white oxford shoes, white linen pants with red suspenders, carrying a matching white linen suit coat draped over his right arm the weather was starting to take a toll on the man, staining his expensive clothes.

The absence of even the lightest of breezes along with the oppressive heat and humidity left over from the day lent a heaviness to the still night air. Taking a moment to stop and fish out a handkerchief from his pants pocket to wipe his brow the man looked around at his hometown, Saint Matthews, South Carolina. This portion of town was slowly falling asleep for the night, earlier though the tree lined sidewalks, manicured lawns, and grand porches were a hive of early evening activity as people left the confines of stifling homes for the relative comfort of porch swings, ice tea, and ice cream seeking some relief from the summer weather. Now most everyone had returned inside to prepare for bed despite the lingering heat leaving the man alone with his thoughts about what he would say to the woman he was looking for.

Moving on the man smiled several minutes later as he spied the place and person he was looking for swinging on porch bench swing in the dark. He was approaching the woman from behind and as he came closer he could vaguely hear her humming a song that had been popular during World War Two and was still popular even now four years after the end of the war. The lady could be seen alternately sipping something from a tall glass only to set it down on a small table beside her and pick up an oriental hand fan and quickly stir up the air around her and wiping sweat from her face, neck, and the upper part of her shoulders.

The man made it all the way to the steps leading up to the porch before he announced himself. "Savannah, even in the dark you are still the most beautiful woman in town." He said walking up the steps uninvited.

Savannah was startled to say the least, knocking over the table next her sending the glass to the floor below her and shattering. Ignoring the glass she stepped over to the light switch quickly turning on the porch lights mounted next the front door.

"Gerald," she gasped, " where have you come from? When did you get into town?"

Gerald ignored her questions and gazed upon the only woman he had dreamed of since he left town to enlist the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She was dressed in a feather light dress that hung off her bare shoulders. He was amazed that the heat had left a layer of sweat that actually made her skin glisten in porch light. "I just got into town this evening after arriving in Charleston yesterday morning. I bought a car and drove up to find you."

"To find me?" Savannah asked unable to believe he would, or could do such a thing. "Where did you get the money to buy a car Gerald? I know you were decorated by President Truman himself but when you left town for the war you were penniless and my father had already said you could not court me when you returned."

"Well," Gerald began smiling not only because he expected those questions but because he had good answers for them, "after the war I went to work with a buddy from Texas and we hopped a freighter down to Venezuela to work with an oil firm down there. Two years later we struck it rich, finding the largest deposits of oil ever in that country."

The conversation quickly took a far different turn than the one Savannah expected as soon as she recognized her visitor. Both ignored the unrelenting heat with Gerald telling his story about his years after the war and Savannah explaining how her father thought of her as a hopeless spinster rejecting the advances of the town's only, but grossly fat, doctor.

"Its getting very late Gerald," Savannah said hours later, " people will surely talk if we stay out much later. My father is up in Greenville for several more days with me all alone having strange visitors, it's just not done. " A coy smile danced across her face and it was then that Gerald took hold of her face and kissed the lips he had only dreamed of since he was a boy working with his father at the cotton gin Savannah's daddy owned.

The two, caught up in their passion, ignored the secret eyes that preyed upon them from neighboring houses since the porch light had been turned on and not so slowly made their way inside to Savannah's bedroom. The light inside her room was off but a newly risen moon shining from her open window offered a faint light as Gerald watched Savannah loosen her dress and then see it crumple to the floor. Her bare body, glistening in the silver moonlight, excited him beyond his understanding and as she came closer reaching for his.........

Yeah, breaking the story here since it was only to prove a point. You might be asking why am I writing about something as esoteric and outright strange, for me, as sultry Southern nights?

Many a Southern writer has used the hot and humid nights we have here in the South to paint a picture of passion, love, or to put it far more coarsely to allow the male and female characters to bump uglies. The only problem is that Southern nights are, for the vast majority, anything but an inspiration for passion or even simple sex. We all huddle in quiet desperation around the air conditioning after a long humid day trying to feel clean and dry in spite of the dampness that hovers like a sticky fog outside.

I got home Wednesday to find Dragonwife in quite the Southern tizzy over the non functioning central air unit. It was about 5:00pm and the thermostat showed it was at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the living room and my wife looked like she was about to melt. My son, Darth Spoilboy, was having his fourth shower since returning home from the first day of the new school year. My daughter, Miss Wiggles, was the only one who did not directly complain about the heat other than the fact Spoilboy would not come out of the bathroom.

My arrival home did bring my son out of the bathroom with him demanding that I crawl underneath the house and conjole the delinquent unit back into service. Actually my first impulse was to ignore him and just get out of my work clothes but my wife's behavior was rapidly approaching meltdown point and I figured her semi-snobbish Virginia upbringing would not preclude her from knocking me aside the head with her fancy nonstick frying pan.

I was able to talk them into allowing me to change into a pair of old jeans and t-shirt first since my employers is rather funny about the uniforms they rent us. However, I was soon crawling around underneath the house to the two parts of the central air unit placed there, the compressor and air handler. My resulting inspection showed that not only had several pipes coming out the compressor that had cracked with a near certainty that all the coolant had long leaked away but also that the air handler was covered in mold to the point that any return to cooling the house was next to impossible.

We quickly called a professional, my experience in heating and cooling is thin to say the least, and as I expected the properly trained service technician told us that both the compressor and air handler would have to be replaced. Now the twist in this story has to do with our home warranty insurance. Supposedly if we have a major breakdown of some part of the house be it the washing machine, stove, or as in this case the air conditioner an approved service representative would come swooping in either to fix the issue or supply us with a replacement for a flat fee of sixty dollars no matter how big an issue.

This guy declared that they would replace the compressor for the flat fee but the air handler would not be covered due to the mold and would cost us $3500. Figuring he was on the up and up we soon conferred with his supervisor, a lady with a deep Southern accent, to set up the installation of the new central air unit. The lady was desperate to schedule us for the next day, Thursday, but both Dragonwife's and I had job conflicts that would not allow it so it was scheduled for Friday

While both my wife and I were at work the next day we both independently found out that the $3500 dollars we would be paying for just the air handler would normally cover the replacement of both components. After my wife and I talked over the situation I quickly called the company that was going to replace the unit and canceled their Friday installation. I explained that we found out that we could replace both components for the price of what they were charging us just for the air handler. All I got back from the Southern lady supervisor was a "damn" that I took to mean she knew the jig was up on their back handed swindle.

Since then sleeping at night has not been easy. Far from indulging in sultry nights of passion we all have retreated to the room above the garage that has its own, smaller, air conditioning system. Two small pallets for the kids and a queen-sized air mattress for Dragonwife and myself all hoping that the laboring wall unit does not crap out like the main system under the house. Getting my clan quiet and asleep, especially with the dog Sparky and the cat Spock still play fighting, has taken on many aspects of a Simpsons episode.

The good news is that after receiving several estimates from local, and reputable, dealers a new central air unit should be working sometime Tuesday. Total price, after the tax rebate, will be $3500 with them replacing the duct work underneath the house as well.

That is if I can get the day off, of the three man team I am a part of responsible for hospital sterilizers one of the guys is already on vacation and our boss has lately been reluctant to having just one guy covering the entire hospital. I will have a talk with him Monday morning about taking the next day off, if I have a problem with him I will just have my wife bring her non-stick frying pan and have her talk with the man.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Great Nehi Grape Soda Caper


The gas station attendant, Raymond Mund, even in the early 1970’s seemed ancient and weathered like one of the old oak trees that grew in the city park beside Winyah Bay. His wrinkly skin had the gnarled look of tree bark and his arms and legs had the appearance of twisted and misshapen limbs from those old oaks after suffering centuries of hurricanes charging into the bay that Georgetown , South Carolina looked upon. Mr. Raymond’s disposition was even courser, he went about his duties pumping the customer’s gas and checking the oil in their cars with a silent and determined diligence never taking time to chat or just be friendly. After completing the needed services and transactions all most customers got was a mumbled “thank you” before he walked away to perform some other duty. It was sometimes joked that he really liked a particular customer if he would mumble an additional “come again” before he walked off and the patron drove away.
During slow times at the gas station, he could be found sitting at the small desk that was positioned right next the huge plate glass windows that made up two side of the small square-shaped office from which he took shelter from the hot, humid days or the rain. Surrounded by woods, the station was a lonely island of light in the night before rapid development years later threw up strip malls and assorted chain department stores all around the small station.
During those quiet times Mr. Raymond could often be spied sitting at his desk reading something. Being that all the solid structures that made up the station were painted a bright white, to promote the idea of cleanliness, only Mr. Raymond and the array of oil cans on shelves behind his small desk offered any color in the otherwise bleak and Spartan office.
Promptly at eleven o’clock, Mr. Raymond would turn off the lights to the office and the gas pumps and after locking up the only lighted marker for the station would be the small sign along the road that read: Gate Gas. It was the actual name of the station and to drive the point home the sign bore the illustration of a picket fence gate standing alone with a gas pump hose mounted on its side. For years, one of the absolute certainties of life in my hometown was that Mr. Raymond would return just as promptly at seven o’clock in the morning to reopen the station from Monday to Saturday with Sunday the exception.
Going as far back as colonial times, the “Blue Laws” were enacted to prohibit the commercial selling of just about everything on Sundays. These laws were passed to keep the Sabbath sacred and all good folks in church where they belonged. Naturally, there were exceptions to Georgetown County’s blue laws like the local power plant, hospital, the paper and steel mill, and what was called the “ice house” located in the center of town which sold essentials like gas, basic groceries, minor hardware items, and skirting the very edge of the definition of “essentials”, fishing supplies.
Despite his aloofness, Mr. Raymond took pride in his little kingdom. Although he did have several helpers working with him he did his best to run the station alone. Besides the pumping of gas, selling oil, and keeping the two small bathrooms clean for the customers, he kept the several soda and candy machines stocked that were sheltered under and extension of the same roof that covered the office. The machines sat in the open, with only the roof over them providing a minimal shelter. At that time they were about the only things, along with an old fashioned phone booth that stood just outside the end of the shelter standing a lonely guard, which could be said to be open on a Sunday morning in that section of Georgetown County.
With the opening of the Gate gas station, which served the northern edge of Georgetown, stuck in the middle between the actual town limits and my neighborhood a minor exception was reached with county officials, those ancient laws, and the growing realization of modern life. On Sundays, Mr. Raymond could sleep in and not open the station until nine o clock. Even then with most folks in church Mr. Raymond would have hours to himself with only the very occasional customer to disturb his reading.
Most other times he would be extremely busy with little time to chat even if he had the inclination to do so. The most challenging time was Saturday morning to late afternoon with people rushing off to the beach or pulling boats looking to do some fishing in Winyah Bay or the rivers that fed into it. Mr. Raymond would be rushing from customer to customer, pumping gas, making change from the little coin contraption he wore on his side, selling one of the colorful oil cans, or cleaning up after so the station kept that white cleanliness. Mr. Raymond, having little in the way of customer relations skills with adults, had even less with children to the point that too many kids he took on an image something akin to a local boogeyman so it really was the best for everyone that he stayed busy.
Knowing his reputation being about eight or nine years old I generally shied away from him whenever we stopped at the station. When we pulled up to the gas pumps he looked more like some disgruntled troll coming to the driver’s side window than a semi-demonic character as some of my friends described. Sitting in the backseat of my parents or grandparent’s car he never glanced at the collection of overly energetic children sitting in the back. It was during such times, especially at the beginnings of long drives that my grandparents would cough up a couple of dollars in coins allowing us to run over to the vending machines and buy a soda and a candy bar for the trip.
One particular Saturday while on the way to Charleston with our grandfather my cousin Chester and I ran over to the vending machines to make a road trip purchase. Of the three machines selling sodas we both went over to the one selling Nehi grape soda, which at that time was our favorite. That particular machine was a rather squat, about four feet tall, with a rectangular glass door mounted vertically on the side that opened up to a refrigerated chamber with the top portion of five bottles sticking out from openings only slightly larger than the bottles themselves. Holding the bottles in place to prevent stealing were mechanical levers that were between the widest portion of the bottle and the slightly wider hole. After feeding the quarter into the slot and pushing one of the series of small buttons running across the vending machine to make a selection the corresponding lever would release allowing that one bottle to be removed with another then sliding in its place after the lever closed again.
As only kids at that time can appreciate, seeing the purple colored bottle top saying “Nehi Grape Soda” and knowing you would soon pop the top off was enough to allay most of the fidgets that came with long drives that otherwise only offered sheer boredom. Running up to the machine Chester quickly dropped his money in the slot and pushed the button but after opening the small door to the ice-cold chamber he quickly found that the lever had not released and the bottle could not be removed.
Chester yanked and yanked on the bottle but for his efforts he was not rewarded. “Try the change return lever Chester.” I said waiting for my turn at the machine. Along with the buttons for choosing what flavor of Nehi the machine offered was a small lever that in theory was suppose to drop the coin out of the machine.
“It’s not working Michael”, Chester said with frustration.
Commonsense not being part of a child’s mental state I pushed my cousin out of the way and dropped my quarter in the slot only to have the same thing happen to me.
“Hahaha, loser,” Chester laughed at me but even then I knew had the situation been reversed he would had done the same. That still left us frustrated and confused with the long drive without a drink looming over us. Granddad did not have any more quarters and even if he did asking for two more would be quickly turned down. Our grandfather lived through the Great Depression and while he was a generous man quarters, serious money to him, just did not grow on trees and he would have told us to be more careful next time. That only left Mr. Raymond we could ask for help and even his near boogeyman status could not hold a candle to the idea of the long drive to Charleston without a drink.
“Mr. Mund,” I began after both Chester and I gathered the courage to walk up to the cantankerous old man who was finishing up pumping gas in the car just ahead of our granddad, “that soda machine took our quarters.”
Mr. Raymond looked up at us as he screwed on a gas cap and his expression was not that of someone looking at children not knowing what to say but the look that someone might give if a chair or rock in front of him or her suddenly spoke.
“You kids better not have done anything to my vending machine.” He exclaimed wiping his hands on a greasy rag that was always dangling from the back pocket of his jump suit.
“We just wanted a grape soda for our trip, and the machine took our quarters, sir.’ Chester chimed in and I nodded my head in agreement hoping that just one time Mr. Raymond’s reputation would not be true.
For one brief second a different look came upon the old man’s face as if he was conflicted weighing whether or not to believe my cousin and I. Quickly the old man walked over to the Nehi soda machine and joggled the coin return handle. I guess to check our story with the idea we were not smart enough to try that first, as nothing happened. “Shame on you boys for lying to an old man,” he snarled with a truly feral gleam in his eyes, “now get back with your grandpop before I tell him what you two did.”
Feeling more than a little confused and scared we hurried back and got in granddaddy’s car huddling in the back seat as Mr. Raymond filled the car with gas. After driving off we told granddad what had happened. As expected, he said that when one quarter was lost we should have tried another machine and at least we would have one drink to share. For Chester and I the lesson granddaddy wanted to impart was mostly lost due to our suffering on the long trip to Charleston and back.
It did not take long for both Chester and I to start considering how we were going to correct what we felt was an injustice, we wanted our Nehi Grape sodas and during the following week both at school and while playing we came up with a plan.
It was not hard to arrange a sleep over at Granddaddy and Grandma’s for the following Saturday night for both Chester and myself. For all of my grandparent’s grandchildren spending the night at their house was a chance for what amounted to unsupervised fun. Granddaddy, if he was off from the paper mill, was sure to cook hamburgers and grandma would make a special run to buy butter pecan ice cream. After they went to bed we would then stay up late watching the scary movie one of the three television stations down in Charleston showed every Saturday night. After that, it was an hour of professional wrestling with muscle men vowing revenge and speaking of honor between bouts where they smashed each other into the mat of the ring. Once wrestling was over it all three television stations signed off with us “youngins” feeling so grownup for staying up so late.
Both Chester and I woke up about the same time Sunday morning. It was five o’clock and as silently as church mice we hustled getting our clothes on, gathered our bb guns, and the few other items we needed for our quest and stowed them in an old army backpack.
That early Sunday morning we made our way through the quiet and still streets of the neighborhood, across the lonely main highway hided by the morning mist, and into the woods that about half a mile away would lead us to the Gate gas station. We were undaunted as we entered those woods. Thinking back now, we should have been scared and to this day if forced I will have to concede our little adventure was protected through divine intervention. During this time the woods surrounding our neighborhood still had a few bears, bobcats, and being that it was quite swampy both alligators and numerous poisonous snakes. That we crossed the half mile without any incident greater than mosquito bites had to been because of our respective guardian angels who certainly earned their heavenly pay that day.
Like true soldiers once we reached the wood line marking the gas station property we hid amongst the small trees and bushes making sure we had no one in the area. The only lights were that of the Gate gas station sign next the road and the small indicator lights on the various vending machines. Once we were sure the entire establishment was devoid of human presence we stealthily crawled through the unmowed grass surrounding the station angling to end up behind the vending machines using them for concealment.
Our target was the Nehi soda machine and after we made it behind that machine feeling the soft vibration of the refrigeration unit against our backs both Chester and I broke out into huge grins.
“Are you ready?” we both asked about the same time. We nodded and Chester rolled over to keep watch as I pulled a bottle opener and two plastic cups from the backpack I had carried.
“The coast is clear,” Chester said and after a second to gather my courage I jumped up and went around to the front of the machine. I opened the rectangular door feeling the cool air of the chamber on my sweating face, carefully I propped the door open with my right shoulder while with my right hand I positioned the plastic cup underneath the top bottle of grape soda in the column of five. With my left hand I used the bottle opener to pop off the cap and was rewarded with the sound of the cold purple liquid flowing into my cup. I did spill a good bit on myself since my cup was not quite the same size as the bottle and I could not position it directly under the bottle. However, after the bottle was empty I felt like a king drinking that wonderful but yet artificial grape drink.
“Come on Michael, don’t take all day,” Chester said.
“Yeah, right Chester. Come on out, I can see all the way down the road and nothing is coming.” I said so confident since nothing had yet gone wrong in our plan.
Chester jumped up and repeated the maneuver on the bottle below the one I just opened. “Wow,” he said, “that was the best grape soda I ever had.” He had spilled twice as much soda on his shirt as I did but neither of us cared.
We opened and drank four of the five bottles in the machine completely oblivious to our surrounding by this time. As we were about to open the last one only then did I notice the pair of headlights heading our way. Chester was chugging down the last of his drink and would not have noticed a tank roaring by. The oncoming car was driving very fast through the mist and for a moment I considered not saying anything thinking the driver just might not notice us. Only when it had cleared the mist enough for me to see the siren mounted on the top did I react.
“Quick Chester, back into the grass, it’s the cops!” Chester recovered enough from his sugar rush to do a terrific spit gag without dropping the bottle opener or his cup. We quickly scrambled back into the grass and said a small prayer about never doing this again. When we heard the sound of tires crunching the gravel on the gas station pavement the prayer stopped and along with most of our breathing.
The car stopped at the end of the small shelter covering the vending machines. Neither my cousin nor I had any intention of announcing our presence but we were scared as hell about getting caught, which seemed like a certainty.
The disorganized chatter of radio communications could be heard after the opening of the driver’s side door. Knowing at any minute that the police officer would want us to stand up and surrender Chester and I just looked at each other. It was then that I thought of the bottle caps we had left on the ground in front of the Nehi soda machine. One of the duties Mr. Raymond made sure he, or one of his helpers performed each night before closing, was the sweeping of the area around the vending machines. The bent and discarded bottle caps would be a dead give away to anyone for might see them that something was not quite right. Instead all we heard was the squeaking of the telephone booth door sliding open and the sound of coins being dropped into the pay phone.
Mere seconds later we were surprised to hear the voice of Deputy Sheriff Davis speaking to a lady he addressed as Norma over the phone. The following conversation we heard coming from Deputy Davis was an early morning lesson in phone sex. Davis had called Norma to tell her he was sorry he was not able to slip away to her house during the night for their scheduled rendezvous due to nature of his job. Apparently from what we heard she was only slightly upset but was looking forward to his shift that night so the good deputy could come provide what she so desperately needed.
My cousin and I looked at each other in utter astonishment; Deputy Davis was a regular visitor to our school since his wife, named Barbra, was one of the teachers who taught first grade. Adding to our surprise was as the conversation continued we each figured out that “Norma” was another one of the teachers at our school who taught first grade just a couple of classrooms down from his wife. It did not take a sophisticated adult to figure out what was going on here. Still we kept as quiet as possible even after Chester started fidgeting over some ants that had taken a liking to sugar residue from the spilled soda on his shirt.
Eventually, Deputy Davis hung up and drove away without knowing we had heard his illicit chat. Once we were sure the coast was clear we collected our bb guns and almost sprinted through the woods back to our grandparent’s house. Crossing several backyards trying to get home quicker we eventually bounded through the backdoor hoping granddaddy would still be asleep since he was off and church did not start until eleven o’clock that morning.
We found our grandfather sitting at the kitchen table reading the morning paper and nursing a cup of smelly instant coffee. He eyed us with a knowing look that only experienced parents could give.
“You boys been out on some early morning hunting?” He asked slowly getting up from the table to walk over to the kitchen sink to pour out the coffee.
“Yeah, Granddad we went out looking for some squirrels,” Chester said brandishing the bb gun he carried, never knowing the jig was surely up. Quite simply there wasn’t anything under the sun our grandfather hadn’t already heard from his children at least ten times. Our grandfather stood in front of us and studied us with an air of cool amusment.
“Well", he finally began with that Sourthern drawl I miss so much now, "you boys might should go ahead and get y’all a bath before your grandma gets up and sees all that grape soda on your clothes and around your mouths. She might get to asking some questions I just don’t feel like getting to know the answers to, know what I mean? I also figure you boys might want to say some extra prayers at church today. Especially since I'm going to need to get gas after church, even then you both might want to hunker down while we are there. Mr. Raymond might remember you two once he sees what has happened this morning at the station.”
Even Chester finally understood our grandfather had figured the whole thing out. “Yes sir,” was all we could say and yes, at church we did say some extra prayers and after church we hid in the floorboard of our grandparent’s car as low as we could get while Mr. Raymond pumped the gas that afternoon. As far as the phone call we heard that morning, neither Chester our I ever breathed a word, you learn quickly in the South that some things are better left unsaid.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Another bad turn in a really bad situation.

Okay people, things are going from strange and tense with all sorts of crazy ideas flying around and people keyed up ready to bite like an abused dog chained to pole, to outright weird and scary. After eight years were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were frequently disregarded whenever they became inconvenient to the past administration to now where various individuals are running around scared to death of the implementation of socialism on the nation and "Death Panels" to put down old people.

The humor in this, if that is what can be called, is that most of these people running around scared over socialism can not even define it. "Socialism" is only being used in place by those wanting to rile up the assorted proles because the worn out term "liberal" just does not have the same kick. The ever present trailer trash Sarah Palin, in an effort to extent her fifteen minutes of undue fame, even pulled the euthanasia card in trying to scare the growing number of seniors by painting a scene of selected members of a government agency deciding who is put down and who lives. So off base and disconnected from reality was Palin that these "death panels" were even blasted by a hardcore Republican senator from Georgia, Johnny Isakson.

Hey, I realize some people are scared. I live in the South where the good-natured relations that generally exists between whites and African-Americans is only a thin veneer that imperfectly hides long held suspicions and irrational fears. But from the looks of some of these hysterical town meetings where the duly and unquestioningly elected President of the United States is having his citizenship challenged on absolutely ludicrous grounds it appears the South does not hold a monopoly on stupidity.

However, American democracy has never been a pretty sight. While the analogy about the making of laws and sausage making holds true, at times the practice of American democracy has had far more in common with some slasher film. After going over the edge once in the nineteenth-century tearing the country apart we have on strictly general terms never approached that degree of insanity again, that is until now. Recently a growing chorus of extremists have been calling for the secession of various regions or states that make up the Union because they feel the government is endangering their rights or families with strange liberal ways. A new low was reached when the governor of Texas openly speculated about taking Texas out of the Union. At least the "discussion" had remained free of the specter of violence.

Well, like all good things even that has passed. Today while the president was at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire one of the local yokels showed up openly carrying a pistol in a holster. While carrying a sign with a partial quote of Thomas Jefferson's that in its entirety says: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Despite this person's disjointed ravings his carrying a gun was not a display of political rights or an example of political discussion but one of sheer political intimidation. Such actions usually only bring at least an equal reaction, God help us all.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sunshine's photo meme-Lost in translation

Thankfully Laura at Love at Home has tagged me with a meme that as given me something to sink my teeth into. I'm going on two weeks without any real ideas for posts and its starting to bug the hell out of me. So this meme is a welcome chance to try and jump start my sorry ass brain.

The rules of this meme involve opening the fourth file where I store pictures and then chose the the fourth picture in that file then write an explanation of that photograph, so here it goes.

Witness this simple, small balcony jutting from the side of an ornate house, named the Owens-Thomas House built around 1816, in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. Through the years an untold number of people have strolled the sidewalk beside this balcony, most unknown and long since passed into oblivion. However, Savannah's lovely architecture, parks, and history has drawn famous people like actors, writers, and the occasional national war hero but even many of them have slipped beyond living memory. While a mere footnote, or at best mild curiosity, now to most Americans a very important Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de LaFayette, who did much for the cause of liberty spoke from this balcony in 1825. Even with his passing from the memory of the general public there is an even more historically tragic angle to his story.

The first day of our most recent family vacation had us driving into Savannah on a hot, humid morning. Our destination was the visitor center to catch one of the several companies running sightseeing trolley tours of the historical part of the city. Along with twenty or so other tourists we piled onto the trolley and without any air conditioning we listened to the African-American tour guide drive around and give her scripted lecture of the city. Right off the bat it became uncomfortable for several of the passengers on the trolley since the nice lady driving had more than a slight Gullah accent that made her some of her speech hard to understand.

For those who do not know the the Gullah are descendants of African slaves that were forced to work the many plantations that made up the backbone of the economy of South Carolina and Georgia's Lowcountry regions. The semi-tropical climate of that region was very hard on the rich whites. As sort of an unintended revenge the slave ships that brought Africans to these shores also carried various tropical diseases that cut through the masters and their kin. Africans were far more resistant allowing their population to grow much faster than the whites that controlled them.

During the Civil War white planters, fearing an Union invasion of the sea islands of the Lowcountry, fled abandoning their plantations. The Gullah people eagerly took up the defense of their freedom serving in the Union Army's First South Carolina Volunteers. After the war the white owners never returned due to labor issues and hurricanes. The Gullah people left more or less to themselves returned to their traditional culture free of most outside influence until the twentieth century. Such an isolation allowed their language to evolve its own way and I will admit to those not exposed to its particular cadences it can be hard to understand.

Growing up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina I have a decent knowledge of the Gullah language and was able to clearly following the lecture the tour guide was heroically giving while negotiating the streets of Savannah. Fairly often though I could hear those around me whisper, "What did she say?"

The tour was rather long and with the heat and humidity the interest of most of my fellow passengers faded quickly and they fell into a sort of heat induced catatonia. Even for me the tour was taking its toll with most of the historical sites involving homes that was the location of some local special event or had an architectural importance that did not carry much significance for me. That was until we came upon the Owens-Thomas House. Our tour guide went on to explain that during General LaFayette's 1825 visit to the United States the Revolutionary War hero stayed in that home as the guest of the city of Savannah. The general's visit was close to an end at that time with him about to set sail back home to France. However, before he left he came out on that balcony to address the large crowd that had gathered to show their affection to someone who done so much to aid the cause of American independence.

The tour guide had pulled the trolley to the curb coming to a complete stop in front of the balcony while starting that part of the lecture. The stopping of the trolley and a fresh, cool breeze had the effect of somewhat rousing my fellow tourists. The tour guide went on to ellaborate how it was written in several accounts by Savannah residents about how the old general gave an impassioned speech to those standing before him. After it was done the general turned, entered the house, and sometime later boarded a ship for France. The kicker of General LayFayette's speech that day in 1825 as explained by our tour guide was that several of the city residents wrote in their journals that despite what they felt was an excellent speech no one in the crowd gathered around the hero understood a word of French and whatever was said by him was lost to history.

After concluding her story the tour guide, who had been giving the entire lecture from the driver's seat, looked up into the mirror above her head expecting a big laugh from her hot and dispirited audience. But with her Gullah accent kicking in all she got was quizzical looks and several shrugs. Except for me who was laughing my ass off about to roll out of my seat. The other tourists then started exchanging looks with each other about me and my family was wondering if they could disown me right then because of the way I was acting. But shit, while the heat might have had a greater affect on me than I thought the conclusion of her story was funny.

Now comes the fun part, I get to nominate four others to cough up some inspired crap... I mean story to go along with their pictures. So here are they are:

Keshi: Because her beauty is only exceeded by her wisdom and charm.

Lime: Because her beauty and intelligence is only exceeded by writing and culinary talents.

Zeppo: Just because I want to see his talented writing on this subject.

MadMike: Just because I know he hates memes.

So go forth and do like me and grovel in the verbal emissions of your own pomposity.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

To small to be a republic, to large to be an asylum

For the last couple of days I have been completely lost on what I would post next because I am in the middle of a serious writing dry spell. What few ideas I have floating around in my thin mental ether have less substance than that of ectoplasm or a Sarah Palin speech. Not helping matters is the semi-constant summer video game party that my son has been hosting since we returned from vacation. There is an old joke about having "house guests" staying so long you can claim them as dependents but Dragonwife, being a tax attorney, is actually perusing all the secret tomes and decoding all the mumbo jumbo to see if it is possible.

So with nothing even remotely in the works I was beginning to wonder what I could share with my friends out in the wider and hopefully good-natured world. Thankfully Jon Stewart, my home state, it's politicians, and some of its more interesting inhabitants solved all my problems. A small disclaimer first, please understand that it is safe to visit South Carolina. Many people come from all over the world and leave without having to hear the strumming of hillbilly banjos and having to "squeal like a pig". Although I would keep a close eye on your house.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c

Thank You, South Carolina!
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance