Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pisswater on the tree

I was working late at the paper on a Tuesday night with my friend Ashton. We were looking for AP filler for the inside pages when I came across this article: "KISS, Gabriel, Nirvana to be inducted to rock hall." It was a boring headline so I changed it to: "Smells like grunge spirit: Nirvana to be inducted into rock hall of fame."
For the up-page kicker, I wrote, "Nevermind," the title of Nirvana's ground breaking 1991 album.

The lame headline didn't bother me, but the contents of the story about made me hurl. Hall & Oates? WTF? Inducted? Yuk. Gross. Flush the toilet, please. I gotta' shower. I thought this was the rock n' roll hall of fame, not the Top 40 hall of fame. The Replacements, Sonic Youth and the Jesus & Mary Chain were around in the '80s. Are they being inducted? Didn't think so. You're corporate and have no soul.

You're nothing but pisswater over the tree of rock n' roll from Son House to the White Stripes. Damn you and fuck the stinking horse you so arrogantly rode in on, you watered down, corporate sucking slab of pablum.

And don't we all know? Hauling Oats suck big fat green ones.

But induct them into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, why don't you? Stick em' on high with Bo Didley, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, the Beatles, Stones...Why? Because they had a bunch of hits in the '80s? There's no accounting for taste is there? Wasn't Phil Collins's "Sussudio" a hit back in '85? Max dickhedroom, a clown named Ronnie in the White House and all that crap. So a couple of guys have a string of hits in the lamest decade of the 20th century and you reward them with a place among rock royalty. Shit, why not put George W. Bush on Mt. Rushmore?

So whose to be inducted next year? Foreigner and Lover Boy? How 'bout Lionel Richie's "Lady" as sung by Kenny Rogers? Yeah, that deserves a special honor. What about Billy Ocean? He had hits in the '80s. Ever notice how in the '80s even a lot of black music was whiter than Wonder Bread with yuppified sugar on it? Hall and Oates - a plastic 1980s hand job.

Cleveland was chosen to be the site of the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame because that was the town, from which in the early '50s a white disc jockey named Alan Freed started highlighting this jumpin', black rhythmic music. He wasn't giving them the Hit Parade.

To be fair, there are some well deserving names among this year's inductees: KISS, the band that nearly perfected rock theatricality, Peter Gabriel, Nirvana and especially Randy Newman. His early 70s' stuff could hurt you, it was so scathingly satirical.

Although it seems a bogus cosmic joke, Nirvana's first album, Bleach turns 25 in the next year. This nasty, metallic-grunge little album came out in 1989, a year when big-haired-spray, spandex, faux-power ballad, cherry pie-in-a-female-crotch, lying assed bands were at their pinnacle as surely as disco - sanitized by crass commercialism - stood at the peak a decade previous.

If Bleach were the only album Nirvana ever made, if they had not "broken through" with their 1991 album Nevermind and "Smells Like Teen Spirit," I don't think they'd get a snot's worth of notice by the hall of fame judges. Almost as surely as God won't know the hypocrites on Judgement Day, those judges in high places wouldn't know Nirvana from the Meat Puppets.

In 1967, The Velvet Underground and Nico must've sold all of 86 copies. Somehow, though, word of mouth got around and the RHF could not ignore one of the most influential bands in rock history. That's how a band that never had any hits gains entrance into The Establishment. It may never come again.

The Sex Pistols won't be back. Man, it was a show of testicles, the likes of which are likely never to be seen again. Appropriately enough, the RHF inducted the Pistols in 2006. When Johnny Rotten got the news, he faxed a hand-written letter.

Next to the SEX-PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. We're not coming. We're not your monkey and so what? 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Well it's 5:55 a.m. as I write this. Drinking the Starbucks coffee I got for Christmas from my in-laws. The kids aren't up yet, but soon will be. We don't have a crap load of presents under the tree, but we're all right. My kids will be happy no matter what. They're getting older. Both stopped believing in Santa Claus a while back. Actually, my son was skeptical of Santa from about age 3. My wife, Maria, is the one to thank for wrapping presents and making holiday dinners. What have I done but write Christmas letters and act like a goofball?

Went to church with the family yesterday. Heard guitars, keyboards, violins, cello, drums, singers. Mom looked happy. I brought her along. It was me, Maria, the kids - Max and Gabby, Mom, Maria's mom and her aunt. Afterwards, we had a late lunch at Spangles. Most us had the kid's cheeseburger meal. Christmas Eve night, I watched It's a Wonderful Life with Maria and the kids. They retreated to their rooms and started reading books before the movie was over and I fell asleep on the couch while Clarence was showing George Bailey what life would've been like, had he never been born. It's okay. I know how the movie ends.

To all my peeps out there, I wish you a merry Christmas. Here's a Christmas song by Irish Celt punk band, the Pogues. It's a beautiful song about an Irish immigrant spending Christmas in the drunk tank and going into a reverie about Christmases past.

All my best  and may you have a joyous new year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas parody letter 2013

Jeff and Maria steal Santa's sleigh.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas. Ho! Ho! Ho! It's Christmas time all over the world. And what's that? Are those jingle bells I hear? Up on the roof top. It's coming down your chimney. Hope you've been good this year.

Well it's been a banner year at the ol' Guy house. I was offered a lucrative new position with a highly respected, award winning news organization. This job has afforded me the opportunity to use my God-given talent as I have interviewed senators, FBI agents, Secret Service personnel, the U.S. attorney for some district, sports legends, prime ministers, the U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, CIA agents and an undercover on-the-CIA payroll assassin (He was a Deep Throat source.)

Also, I interviewed the guy who played Skippy on Family Ties.

My lovely wife, Maria, stepped down this year from her long-held position as Executive Director of a non-profit organization that does good, Christian charitable works and enriches the lives of all in the community. No more lunching with ministers, community boosters, bank presidents and CEO's. She's not such a high profile figure in the community any more and no longer excoriates me for using phrases like "sucks big green ones" in my facebook posts.

My handsome son Max has shown a bent for stage performance and stand-up comedy, as he displayed at last spring's talent show at Garfield Elementary. The audience was in stitches when he impersonated Abraham Lincoln. Yes, the laughter later turned to gasps from parents and teachers when young Maxwell performed a routine taken from Richard Pryor's Grammy winning 1974 comedy album, That Nigga's Crazy.

But it's all good.

Our sweet little daughter Gabby has burgeoning talent as a writer. Take the essay she wrote about Thanksgiving. "Personaly, I don't see what the big deel is about a bunch of people pigging out on thanksgiving when Christmas and the baby Jesus is more important. I think they should take all turkeys in the yard and crap on them."

Gabby is also growing as an artist. Her drawings are moving on, looking less like phallic symbols.

Have a merry little Led Zeppelin III Christmas.
We went to Albaquerque, NM on a short vacation last summer to see Marie's uncle Walt and aunt Skyler. They've had their troubles as Walt was laid off from his job as a high school chemistry teacher. He had a gambling problem, but they're getting back on their feet with a car wash business.

Then there's Marie's brother Harlen. While having lunch with him at La Playa Azul, he shared with us an album of pictures from his colonoscopy.

"See that, that there?" he'd say excitedly, pointing at black and pink pictures. "That's my large bowel. See here, it's the distall part of my small bowel. My lower intenstines. Two days of liquid dieting getting ready for this crap. I had to use the bathroom so much, my stools were looser than a Spangles mudslide."

Ah, kind of like taking a selfie. Don't get Maria started on that. There's this woman we know from church, Rhiannon. She's always taking selfies with her perfect make-up, smile and hair. Rhiannon on her way to go Christmas shopping. Rhiannon eating out. Rhiannon in the bathroom. Rhiannon and her sister mugging for the camera on their way to see her dying mother-in-law in the hospital. Rhiannon being a do-gooder. Helping the tornado victims. Standing there in her shorts and tank top, smiling big into the camera, surrounded by death, debris and destruction.

"She paid good money for those boobs," Maria said.

Since I'm a well known blogger, people wonder what my take is on current social and political topics. "When are you going to write about Duck Dynasty?" people ask me. I've never even watched that show.

Okay, so there's my friend Ethan.  Ethan's a queen. Anyhow, every year I look forward to the Christmas party at the home Ethan and his husband, Bill. It's a huge freaking house in quite the upper crust neighborhood. They have all this good food. Brie and cranberry twists. Mini meatball sliders. Mini New York cheesecakes. And an open bar where I can get all the drinks I want for free.

But oh no, not this year. No, Ethan and Bill had to take some Christmas trip to the Bahamas. I wanted to go to this lavish party. I mean, give me my food. Give me my drinks. But no, Ethan and loverboy gotta go zooming around the big wide world.

Screw it, I had one great moment that rocks the J. Guy world and buries that bad ol' stuff in a toxic grave.

Years ago -- I was around 23 - I was at an SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) conference. In a backroom, I ordered a Scotch & Coke 'cuz I'd read that's what John Lennon drank. Everybody laughed at me & said I wasn't a Scotch drinker. I felt so green. (Hell, I'd only loaded on the stuff big time with my buddy Strunk at a KPA - Kansas Press Association - conference four months previous.) I was so humiliated I changed my order to beer. Now, around 20 years later through my affiliation with the Monty Python Appreciation Fan Club, I've befriended people who actually knew John Lennon & they have invited me to London & Liverpool to their favorite watering holes and....(drumroll) Scotch & Coke!!!!! Oh! Oh! Oh! I have waited so long to get validated. Thought this day would never come. Bite me! Bite Me! BITE ME!!!! BITE ME!!!!! BITE ME!!!!!! BITE ME!!!! BITE ME!!!! BITE ME!!!! BITE ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ELATION! EUPHORIA! OH! YEAH! Happy? I'm in LOVE with HER and I Feel Fine!!!!!!!!!!!

From the Guy family to yours, we wish you a merry, merry Christmas. And if you happen to be up on Christmas Eve night and catch Santa on your rooftop, maybe one of his sleigh bells will fall into your hand. May you never lose the child within.

Your friend,

J. Guy & family

P.S. If you eat fruitcake this Christmas, it could stay in your digestive tract and block you up good. Just the opposite of what happened to Maria's brother Harlen when he cleaned his colon.



Saturday, December 7, 2013


"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." - Nelson Mandela

If I could sum up Nelson Mandela's life in one word, it would be this: courage.

The thing I've admired most about him is that Mandela survived all those years in prison. He not only survived, he became edified, strengthened, almost as if he gained sustenance from all those uncertain years spent behind prison bars. 

Mandela was sent to prison on Robben Island, South Africa's version of Alcatraz, knowing he would probably be there for life. Originally, he was sentenced to death. He was forced into hard labor, chipping at limestone on the rock quarry. Through it all, he stood pat, never faltering. In fact, Mandela was a source of strength and encouragement to other men imprisoned there.

It is far more strength than I or the average person could muster.

"I am fundamentally an optimist," Mandela said. "Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."

No doubt, Mandela was sustained by the force of ideals stronger than the most oppressive of prison bars. If Mandela was a beacon of hope for people, it is because the principles he stood for were his guiding light.

Mandela came to embody not just South Africa, but the entire continent of  Africa. Ultimately, we see him as an international presence. Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., he was one of those individuals who transcended national boundaries. He had that rara avis gift.

Along with his perseverance, the other quality I admire was Mandela's ability to forgive. In this sense, I also feel he shared qualities with some of the great, progressive leaders in history. Here is a quote from Mandela: "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

That reminds me a lot of Abraham Lincoln's quote: "If I make my enemy my friend, then haven't I defeated my enemy?"

Through kindness and just treating people like human beings, Mandela actually befriended several of the captors who were paid to guard him in prison. When he came to political power, he took the rare course of seeking reconciliation with his enemies - a trait he shared with Lincoln and MLK.

Last August, the first time Mandela seemed at death's door, I took my kids to the library. I read them Kadir Nelson's beautifully written and illustrated children's book, simply called Nelson Mandela. We saw pictures of segregated people, then came to the part where Mandela was freed from prison. He spoke to a "colorful sea of people," the book read.

Imagine that. Copper. Ebony. Vanilla. Mocha. Alabaster. Sepia. Bronze.

A colorful sea of people. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Merry paranoid Christmas

War on Christmas, my ass.

Hell, Labor Day was barely over before the big box stores started setting up the tinsel and candy canes. We're not exactly inundated with menorahs. Americans spend $3 trillion a year on Christmas. It's pearl jam in the Big Pants of the commercial industry. Nobody's coming after Christmas with an Abrams tank or M110 sniper rifle. Not even with liberal propaganda.

Not everyone's buying that, though. They believe there's a war on Christmas just as surely as they believe global warming is a myth and Noah placed two of every kind of dinosaur on the ark. No, if that Target cashier wishes them a "happy holiday," it's a full barrel assault on everything they hold dear. The secular clown posse' is pissing all over their Christmas parade.

I celebrate Christmas, love it. But if the clerk tells me "happy holiday," it's the same as if that cashier wishes me a "merry Christmas." I appreciate the sentiment and thank the person behind the counter. Heck, I even say it back.

This is the holiday season. That means there's about 10 different holidays going on. (Isn't it cool - Thanksgivingkah?) "Happy holiday" is simply an inclusive, all-embracing phrase that spreads the joy of the season to people of all faiths, cultures and races.

But the paranoid Christmas-fascist crowd isn't cool with that. For them, their whole world is hanging on those two words. You better wish them a merry Christmas, dammit, and you better like it. They're like the band geek girl from American Pie, exclaiming in a moment of carnal abandon - SAY MY NAME, BITCH!!!

They spot a plot to destroy Christmas every time that innocuous happy holidays phrase is spoken. This Big Tough Thin Skinned Conservative Crowd feels scared and threatened, all their little feelies hurt 'cuz someone didn't wish them a merry Christmas. It's as if all Western culture is hinging on...OMG, they called it a 'Holiday Tree'! You Bastards! They're insecure with their $3 trillion industry. They are spoiled little children who don't want to share their toys.

Of course they fear these other holidays want to move in and destroy them. That's what they - this American Taliban - would do to them if they had the power. It sucks for them that we live in a country with religious freedom - where other religions besides their own are respected, where their religion isn't the only one.

Isn't it interesting how the bullies like to spin it to make themselves out as victims? Oh, they're so oppressed. They have a martyr complex.

There are children living in poverty who won't have a good Christmas. Homeless people. Suicidal people on the holidays. But oh no, you're the victim.

I figure we're all all right so why not have a cup of holiday chill?

Friday, November 22, 2013


"If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal."
John F. Kennedy

Recently I asked someone who was alive when JFK was assassinated if she thought the country would be in as deep of mourning if Obama were killed.

"I don't know, but I'd like to be the one pulling the trigger," she said and laughed, slapped me on the back, grabbed my hand. (She's a handsy person.)

She was an old lady - in her late 80s or early 90s - and I wasn't going to spar with her so I said nothing. Had she been a younger person, I would have felt morally obligated to say something about the inappropriate nature of her comment

That's the climate in America today.


A few years ago, I took my wife and kids to the Texas Book Depository building in Dallas. We looked at the pictures and read their captions along the walls of the museum. The day Pres. Kennedy would be riding in the motorcade along Dealey Plaza, handbills were circulating:

"Wanted for treason" the words read underneath pictures of JFK, resembling a wanted poster. The handbill derided the President for encouraging "communist inspired racial riots" and appointing "anti-Christians to federal office." Does any of this sound familiar?

Not surprisingly, the handbill was printed by a John Bircher who led the resistance to the University of Mississippi's inclusion of James Meredith as its first African-American student.

Is this the legacy that endures 50 years later? Hatred. Racism. Violence. Arrogance. Bigotry.

Nowadays, too many people are revealing their true selves on Facebook and Twitter. The politics of George Wallace prevails. Much of the hatred against JFK was rooted in racism for his support of Civil Rights. Today, this pathological hatred on the right for Barrack Obama, is, regardless of how much they deny it, a product of racism.

JFK was pilloried by "good Christians" with Catholicphobia. They believed that "papist" would be ruled by the Vatican. Today, the Christian Right use Islamaphobia against Obama. He's not Muslim; they just think he is, and if he were, that would be perfectly all right.

In an address before Protestant clergymen - my favorite JFK speech - he made clear that religious freedom was contingent on the separation of church and state. That was the speech that right wing gay bashing 2012 GOP Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said made him want to puke.

Forget that Santorum is a Catholic whose road was paved by JFK. But Santorum, like Palin, Rush, Fox "News" and everyone else of that ilk are heirs to the hatemongers of the past - the Dixiecrats, McCarthyites, the John Birch Society.

I know from history that JFK was not the liberal reformer he has been mythologized to be in death.
But if the things he did were not always great, the ideals he expressed were sublime. Kennedy's galvanic power to inspire a generation with those ideals was illustrious. Young people joined the military, the Peace Corps, fought for Civil Rights, fought against poverty and tried to improve their communities on the weight of these words: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Something was lost the day JFK was assassinated. A lot of hope and optimism died the day.

I guess it was naivete', but in the '60s, people actually believed they could end poverty, racism and war. To try and eliminate those cancers, to have a social conscience, was fashionable. Maybe we won't create the world John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted, but why stop trying?

                          Abraham, Martin and John -- Dion

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Losing my religion

I learned about the love of Jesus, the rock of ages and old rugged cross, from going to church with my grandparents.

When I was a little boy in the '70s, attending Sunday school at the Bible Baptist Church in Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000), you never EVER heard about politics mixing with religion. It wasn't done. People respected that essential line that separated church from state, preserving the purity of both and preventing each from corrupting the other.

A person's politics were one thing and religion was something else. A Democrat could sit next to a Republican in the same adult Sunday school class and it didn't matter. Nobody gave thought to it because politics didn't matter. That was part of civic life, something apart from one's church life. People didn't get into divisions over politics the way they do today. To my grandparents' generation, the important thing was just to vote and exercise one's Constitutional right.

Nowadays, the words "Christian" and "Republican" are considered
interchangeable. If you're Christian, you have to be Republican, right? When I was a kid, the Republican party was the party of Rotarian-Babbitt styled businessmen, not the self-righteous standard bearer of "traditional values."

It is highly unfortunate that sincere Christians have bought into the manipulative rhetoric of glory-seeking politicians and worldly, politically meddling celebrity clergymen. They have failed to see that just because someone talks a good game about being a Christian, it doesn't mean that person possesses that sterling character, becoming of a Christian.

In fact, the people who make the most noise about what great Christians they are show the least amount of Christ-like love and humility. It is a sad waste, the way so many church-goers have abdicated their God given powers to think and reason. They can't recognize a pharisee when they see one.

I've read the Gospels. Stuff like "Love thy neighbor," "He who is without sin, cast the first stone," (The Golden Rule) "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," "Whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all."

Jesus did things like feed the poor and hungry, heal the sick and diseased and hang out with the outcasts of society -- thieves, prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, the poor. He gave hope to those whom society rejected. On the other hand, he was severely critical of those who make a show of piety, the respected religious leaders who "lord it over," who love their power and authority.

Is Jesus not the antithesis of the Religious Right today? Isn't this right-wing element that has hijacked and poisoned our churches the spitting image of first century Pharisees? Yet so many who call themselves Christians today flock toward mean-spirited, judgmental, hate-spewing media figures and websites. And the more hateful they are, the more "conservative Christians" love them.

They don't see that Fox "News" heads like Hannity and Steve Doocey (who I'm embarrassed to say is from my home state of Kansas) are smug and arrogant. It's even in their facial expressions. How can people not see? Are they the same way?

Christ is called "the prince of peace." He said, "My kingdom is no part of this world." How does that square with the jingoistic images I see in religious right facebook pages? They demean the cross by coloring it red, white and blue. I thought Jesus died for the world, not just the United States.

The fb page Christian, Conservative, Patriot and Not Afraid contains images of handguns and assault rifles. It "likes" what I guess are like-minded pages, one of which has as its profile picture an image of Pres. Obama with a noose around his neck. There are "likes" for militia groups.

Those are the fruits of their beliefs.

When I was a kid, Christianity had a good name. The word "Christian" called to mind someone kind and loving, possessing those qualities Paul talked about in the book of Galatians. Nowadays, say "Christian" and it has connotations of bullying and arrogance.

This counterfeit Christianity in the mainstream today, I don't get it. This is not the faith I remember.

                                        I learned about church from my grandparents. I learned about hippie
                                        music from  my mom's record collection.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Teabilly nation

Republicans have sowed the seeds of their own destruction. Committed suicide. Gonna' fall like a house of cards or so I've read.

I live in Kansas where it’s redder than a rare steak dripping over a slaughterhouse floor and let me tell you, the teabilly loons will go into Judgment Day hanging to those cards. They already think Obama has brought on the End Times.

When I was a kid in the '70s and '80s, Republicans were the Country Club party.  Now it's the party of gun fetishists, misogynists, racists, Taliban-like religious fanatics, fag bashers, secessionists and all around thugs.

"Fuck all you Democrats!"

The guy practically shouted from his facebook platform. I've known this guy for years. Had a few beers with him on occasion. I'm thinking it's a good thing he didn't go ahead and get that master's in psychology.

He ranted about how Obama put this country through hell with the government shutdown. That's right, they think he caused it. That $24 billion that Ted Cruz and his big mouth cost the government, they think Obama has it.

My Aunt Betty is a sweet little old lady, part of the prayer chain at her church. Oh and speaking of chains, she forwards email chain letters to my wife and me about three to five times a week -- stuff like how Obama is a racist who hates white people, wants to make it illegal to read the Bible, was born in Kenya …

Her picture was up there, way and high, of veterans unable to view the memorials to fallen soldiers at the Washington Mall. And guess who she blamed for that.

"He's a do nothing president," she wrote. "Look how he's treating our boys."

"They oughta' hang the bastard," Mr. Grissmachy said. He's a corpulent fart of a man whose ass cheeks droop from the stool he occupies at the Backwater Bar and Grill.

Profile pic from a facebook page. I found it via another fb site called Christian Conservative Patriot.

"You like the idea of hanging people, don't you, Mr. Grissmachy?" I said. "Especially certain kinds of people, right?"

"I suppose if you say something bad about Obama, you're a racist," Mr. White Male Victim said.

"Obama's an idiot," Mr. Grissmachy continued. "Did you see the video during the election year where he said he'd been to 57 states? I guess he was counting Kenya."

Poor Mr. Grissmachy. Even the sweat from his fat neck has Fox "News" in it. You can just smell Hannity on him.

You'll find guys like that at the bar. And on Drama--, I mean facebook. Tough kids I knew in school. Guys who fought, drank, chewed Skoal and smoked Camels, kids whose dads had jobs like janitor, tool shed worker and Wonder Bread delivery truck driver. They're on fb now, “liking” Faux News, Rush Limbaugh and posting caricatures of Obama as a chimpanzee. Remember when Democrats were the working class party? 

(I know, I know, there hasn't been a true Democrat in the White House since Jimmy Carter.) 

Sure the one percent would laugh these guys out of the room and Aunt Betty right along with them. But they would follow them straight down to the economic Armageddon they almost caused.

Sen. John McCain dressed his own party down. "It's one of the more shameful chapters that I have seen in the years I have spent in the Senate," he said.

But it's a nightmare he helped create. Nobody knew Sarah Palin before he caved in to the lunatic fringe and brought her out. She was with Ted Cruz, some fool waving a confederate flag and another fool telling Obama to shut the Quran and come out of the White House "with your hands up." They were exploiting veterans.

They represent the good Christians out there. Around a week ago, Cruz, the son of a right wing pastor, was lauded at the so-called Values Voter summit, the annual event hosted by the Family Research Council. You know? That group founded with a Klu Klux Klan mailing list. Nice event, Glen Beck got a laugh with a reference to homosexuals being forced to wear pink triangles in Hitler's concentration camps.

Maybe the Republicans have learned their lesson. Maybe cooler heads will restrain the radicals, but I doubt it. I don't expect the Party of Obstinacy to fold anytime soon. It's like the South after Gettysburg. They've lost, but they're going to hang on to the bitter end.

And there's plenty of good Christian, disaffected white people who will follow them right over the cliff.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Vintage Rolling Stones

                                  I was driving my daughter into the church parking lot for
                                  Vacation Bible School when the voice on my car radio
                                   said it was Mick Jagger's 70th birthday. I'm like, "Holy
                                   sympathy for the devil!" But hey, the Rolling Stones
                                   never get old. Happy birthday, Mick.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The 'race card'

Hate evil and love what is good; turn your courts into true halls of justice. 
--- Amos 5:15 (New Living Translation)

It's funny (well not really funny, sad and pathetic actually) how white people, like myself, can take four or 500 years of oppression against another race of people -- be it people of African, Latin American or Native American descent -- and turn it around to make themselves look like victims.

I'll say it again. Four or 500 years of oppression -- rape; robbery; kidnapping; murder; slavery; trumped-up court system; genocide; economic injustice; impoverished reservations; tenement slums; infanticide; breaking up families; false imprisonment; inaccessibility to education, economic opportunity, food, transportation, housing, health care -- and white people, white males like myself --

are the victims.

The prosecution in the Trayvon Martin murder case played the "race card." They played it against George Zimmerman.

George Zimmerman was in fear for his life. He was getting his ass kicked by that kid. He was justified in taking out his gun and shooting Trayvon Martin. So it turned out that 17-year-old was unarmed. Zimmerman didn't know that.

This was simply a case of a guy defending himself against perceived mortal danger. The person shot to death happened to be black. That was coincidence. Why do you have to make it about race?

There are reasons why not everyone's buying the self-defense line. A black unarmed kid killed. His murderer acquitted by a jury.  It's not like this hasn't happened before.

In the summer of 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago youth, was visiting relatives in Mississippi. It's not clear what happened. He either flirted with, whistled at or touched the hand of a young white woman. That was all they needed. Around three days later -- late at night -- two white men, brandishing guns, dragged Emmett out of bed, kidnapped him, brutally beat him, shot him in the head and tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan blade and dumped his body into the Tallahatchie River.

An all-white male jury acquitted the men. A few months later, protected from double jeopardy, the men bragged about the killer to a journalist.

Oh but that was a long time ago. All the marching back in the '60s was successful. They got their Civil Rights legislation. Blacks are all over popular culture now. We have a black president. Racism isn't that big of problem anymore.

A day before the verdict was delivered in Zimmerman's trial, a link comes across my facebook page. Three black men allegedly robbed and murdered a white waitress for her tip money. We've heard all about Trayvon Martin. Why haven't we heard about this one?

In other words, we have it splashed all over the media about the white (actually half white, half Hispanic) man shooting a black youth. But we hear nothing about these black men murdering a white woman. So the entire white majority has to take offense because one of its own is on trial, charged with murdering a black youth. This is a threat to us. Oh, the media has to play it up about a white guy shooting a black. How come we don't hear about the black guys who murdered a white woman? This is media bias. It's unfair to us.

We are the victims.

It's hard to say why some crimes make national news and some don't. Wouldn't you think people would consider it a tragedy when any murder occurs? Do we have to trivialize barbaric inhumanity by reducing it to some scorecard that only perpetuates bitterness and rivalry between races?

Fine. Heard about any of these cases?

On New Year's Day, 2009, in Oakland, Calif., Oscar Grant, unarmed and restrained, was shot in the back by a police officer in a Bay Area Rapid Transit Station. The murder was captured on cell phone videos. A jury acquitted the officer who did the shooting.

Video of Oscar Grant shooting, captured by a spectator's iphone.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2006, Sean Bell, a 23-year-old man planning to get married later that day, stepped outside a Queens, N.Y. strip club with some friends. Bell, unarmed, was shot 50 times by five police officers. The officers waived their right to a jury trial and were acquitted by judge Arthur J. Cooperman.

On Feb. 4, 1999, Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from the West African country of Guinea, was unarmed and standing in the vestibule of a Bronx apartment building when four undercover police officers fired 41 shots into him. The officers claimed at trial that Diallo matched the description of a serial rape suspect. They were acquitted.

These incidents go way back. On Feb. 13, 1946, Army Sgt. Isaac Woodard  -- honorably discharged after serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II, still in uniform and wearing his medals -- was dragged off a city bus by police officers in Batesburg, beaten with nightsticks in an alley and thrown in jail. He woke up the next morning blinded. For the rest of his life. The officers were acquitted in a jury trial and the courtroom broke into applause. The incident led Woody Guthrie to compose "The Blinding of Isaac Woodard" and Pres. Harry Truman to issue Executive Order 9981, desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces.

World War II veteran Isaac Woodard, beaten and blinded by police.

Trayvon Martin's case isn't just an isolated incident. It is only the latest major headline in a persistent historical pattern of black unarmed men being killed by white armed men who are then given a pass in the court system. It seems every time this happens, the black murder victims are put on trial and the killers play the martyr. He was drunk. I thought he had a gun. He looked suspicious. I feared for my life.

And whites are offended because the prosecution in the Trayvon Martin case "played the race card." As if race is something we can ignore.

I can hear them saying, "Hey, you let O.J. walk." So one miscarriage of justice justifies another? It's true that the late defense attorney Johnnie Cochran inflamed racial tensions in the infamous, media-frenzied 1990s case by asking the jury to "send a message" with their verdict. The implication was, "Don't decide based on the evidence. Let's have payback for all those times blacks have been hijacked by the U.S. criminal justice system." In other words, Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman died for your sins.

It set a bitter precedent. Too many whites are painfully unaware of the long, nightmarish history of injustice African Americans have been dealt by the cops and courts system. Many of them do remember the O.J. Simpson verdict and it's just another pawn in their game of racial antagonism.

In his memoir, African American prosecutor Christopher Darden said the jury had to believe police would go to "supernatural" lengths to contaminate the air-tight evidence against Simpson. Whites were shocked when the not guilty verdict was read. They were revolted when blacks cheered.

I'm not justifying the O.J. verdict, but maybe we should ask ourselves, what would drive African Americans to believe that such a massive frame-up could be possible? There couldn't be any reasons why they would think in that direction, could there?

The race issue is ever present. It's enmeshed in the deepest fiber of our DNA. American history documents a long history of race consciousness that has manifested itself in everything from unspeakable crimes against humanity to veiled, subtle, psychological prejudice. To not acknowledge the presence of race would be to ignore an inordinately huge elephant in the room.

For whites to applaud the Zimmerman verdict shows cruel, arrogant disregard for the mistreatment of fellow citizens by the long arm of the law. Or, at the least, it shows us to be naive about history and the ghastly realities in a system acting in our name. Ignorance surely isn't bliss.

There's much more going on here than the surface illusion of a "race card."

Trailer for the just-released film, Fruitvale Station, about Oscar Grant.

"Things I've Seen" by the Spooks. Contains the lyrics, "Mentally cuffed, thrust by a cop thinkin' he tough, you bust Amadou Diallo is us, and what now I'm on my knees, beggin' 'God please!'"

"American Skin (41 Shots)" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. About the Diallo killing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just-us system

Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!

(Words tweeted by Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, following the verdict, acquitting the man who shot him to death.)

Saturday night. A few hours after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. I'm on the living room sofa with my wife and son, in between picking another netflix movie, checking the facebook messages and tweets on my iphone.

A compilation of these posts, the gist, among several of my friends and followers is this: "The jury found Mr. Zimmerman (love that, Mr. Zimmerman. What have they been watching? Hannity?) innocent.  Let's respect the jury's decision. The facts were presented. The jury had the evidence and Mr. Zimmerman is innocent. Please, let's have no more killing. Riots are not needed."

Okay, so they (read: black people) had their day in court, the system worked, let's embrace it and please don't pull anyone out of their cars and start beating them to death, bust a storefront window or steal televisions. In other words, trust the established order and stay in your place.

People in this country who enjoy the perks of wealth or a light skin tone sure have a habit of telling people, not so privileged what's best for them, whether its billionaire Charles Koch trying to dissuade the poor masses from fighting for minimum wage or people of my skin shade telling our darker brothers and sisters how to behave.

If you're poor in this country, but you're white, you still have something going for you. Add to that a penis and well, there's at least two things in your favor. Oh I've heard it all. The white conservative victim card. Freakin' NAACP, ACLU, NOW. The white male is the most discriminated against person in America. I took a fitness walk at around 5 a.m. today. Sun wasn't up. I was in a reasonably nice neighborhood. Nobody reported me as a "suspicious person."

And I wasn't even dressed especially nice.

It's true, the jury was limited in the evidence presented before it. The cops bungled the case in Sanford, Fla. right from the get-go. Zimmerman was charged and issued a warrant for his arrest nearly two months after the Feb. 26, 2012 killing of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an African-American kid wearing a hoodie.

Authorities sure didn't take Zimmerman in for questioning the night of the murder, just took his word that the gun was fired in self-defense. He'd been bleeding from the head and nasal cavities. Must've been the case. I wonder if they would have rested so easily on Zimmerman's word, had his and Martin's colors been reversed. That's okay, they charged him eventually after the FBI, Justice Dept. and national media became interested.

Yup, that's your race card on the part of law enforcement and the prosecution.

Those reverse racist smear artists were out to make an example out of Zimmerman. They called out the other side's grandstanding, making this Trayvon Martin kid out to be some martyr. We heard about how the kid got suspended from school and smoked marijuana. Not reasons to justify killing him, I wouldn't think.

The kid had not been in trouble with the law, unlike Zimmerman who had to take anger management classes due to such things as assaulting a police officer and having a restraining order filed against him by his ex-fiancee. Those things weren't admitted into evidence.

Trayvon Martin was the one put on trial for his own murder.

All that aside, the evidence wasn't there to convict. Not enough to declare Zimmerman guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We can't second-guess the jury, we don't know what was going through their minds and what they had to work with. So we have to defer to their wisdom.

Except for one little thing.

Juries, as a branch of the just-us system in America, have a long history of coming down punitively against African-Americans in vast disproportionate numbers. All those travesties of justice that took place 50, 100 years ago. Or how about one year ago.

In the state of Florida.

Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother, trying to defend herself and protect her children fired a warning shot to ward off her estranged husband, a man with a documented history of domestic abuse against various women. A jury sentenced her to 20 years in a Florida prison.

Nobody was injured when Alexander fired that handgun. The man who admitted in a sworn deposition to abusing her when she was pregnant -- he wasn't hurt. Alexander had a permit to carry the gun. She was a law abiding citizen, had never been in trouble. She'd earned a master's degree and was an asset to her community, but Florida's "stand your ground" law wasn't applied to her case. I guess the U.S. criminal justice system hates women about as much as it does, black people.

Alexander is African-American. Oh, you better believe it. There was one lone, beleaguered defense attorney sitting at Alexander's table. The cops and prosecution team were an army.

So you see why I might be a little skeptical, cynical actually, about the court system, including the jury system. And I love that system. I want it to work. Citizen juries are a bulwark against tyranny. I hate seeing them used as tools by that system they're supposed to guardians over.

A system that's moved Jim Crow from the plantation to the coffee counter to the prison industrial complex. But oh no, just listen to my enlightened facebook friends.

Mr. Zimmerman is the victim here.

Et tu, America?
(Tweeted by Trayvon's brother, Jahvaris Fulton, following the verdict.)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday mornings

Walking down.

The hill hidden behind the houses that dot my street is a long slope. A drop. No chiggers sticking to my socks or Converse shoes as the grass is refreshed, newly mowed by the Jett, Kan. school district's finest from its parks department. This is the big drop into life, facing behind the middle school and towards Colorado.

Forgot my watch. Look at Maria's Android phone. (My iphone is back home on the charger.) Time -- 5:47 a.m. Temp. 73 degrees. Hummingbirds are chirping -- you hear them out here, all over the trees in the neighbors' backyards -- and a vocal family of pigeons have roosted clandestinely in our gutters at home. During the nice occasions when it snows here in winter and school gets called off on account of "Snow Day," you'll see families - each individual waiting his or her turn to swoosh down the white fluffy hills in a sled.

Below, past the soccer field and goal posts, there's the old soccer field, boxed inside a frame of white peeling paint. The orange sign, "Keep Out" looks you in the face. From there, I wander into neighborhoods. A garage door is open, a group of guys are sitting at a table underneath a lightbulb and tool racks, laughing and joking. Smoke traveling like Hunkpapa signals.

A young dark-haired woman stands in her driveway behind a Suburban. She's wearing a black sleveless top, a white skirt with a palm tree design and neon prints of exotic florals, left arm tucked under the right elbow bent upward, a cigarette between the two main fingers of her hand.

I gotta ask about those guys.

"They havin' a poker game?" I ask her.

"Beer pong," she says, affably.

"Man," I say. "They been goin' at it all night?"

"Pretty much. I just got back from work."

(smile) "Pretty cool. Well, have a nice day," I say, waving my hand, walking away.

"You too."

What's the story, morning glory

My grandpa Mac would always be up early like this. I'd rise early as well, catch him on the back porch, looking at morning glories and vines twisting around the lattice wall. He liked talking about that stuff. Old man would be facing true north, looking ahead, across the street at Kober Brothers Supermarket. A few years earlier, in the early '70s, it was a grassy field. My sister, Angie, and I would run around there with our uncle Ted, flying a kite.

For Grandpa, the greatest year ever was 1929. Sure it was the year the stock market crashed, and he and Grandma would go on and on about how horrible the depression was. But for Grandpa, something good happened that trumped all that.

His 17-year-old bride was on a hospital bed. The doctor said "she had once chance in a million of living through the night." I could picture him in my mind, outside pacing like he said he did, unable to sleep at all. Now I wonder why he didn't just stay in her hospital room, but maybe they didn't let them do that, then.

"I prayed for probably the first time in my life," Grandpa said. "I went to her room the next morning. She was sitting up in bed and asked, 'What are you doing here?'"

He told the story so much that for me it was relegated to the ramblings of an old man. Happened to people a long time ago. Had nothing to do with my life, but Grandma was alive, right? Frying chicken on a gas stove and setting a karafe percolating on one of the burners.

I would go to church with the grandparents on those weekends I stayed all night there, which was frequently. The Bible Baptist Church, a red brick building at the corner of State and Seventh streets, next to the full-service Texaco station, rivaled the Methodists for the status of biggest church in town. This bigness opened up a world for me.

What were Grandma and Grandpa learning in their old people Sunday school classes? Adults, my parents' ages, in their classes? Teenagers? Had to be sophisticated, deeper than what I was learning, but I'd get there.

It was fun. The piano. Singing songs like "Come Into My Heart, Lord Jesus" and "How Great Thou Art," which was accompanied by beautiful pictures of sunsets and thunderstorms. Before Sunday School, Grandma always handed my sister and I, dollar bills, which we'd throw in the basket when the offering came around.

On your birthday, you could pick prizes from a basket. Stuff like a pack of bubble gum, picture of Jesus, a Swiss Army knife. Mrs. Lowery, the woman leading Sunday school, would talk to us about our "mommies and daddies." I'd get so pissed off, thinking, "I'm not a little kid! I call them Mom and Dad!"

After a few songs and a lesson from Mrs. Lowery, we would split into the little classrooms for first, second and third-grade. I remember in second-grade, our teacher was an 18-year-old woman, just out of highschool. Eighteen, might as well had been 28 to me. I remember her name was Sandy like Sandy Duncan, the Broadway actress who appeared in a bunch of TV variety shows in the 1970s. (I was always amazed how this woman could pass for a 12-year-old boy, playing Peter Pan in some television production.)

Seemed like old people style, cornball entertainment was always on at the grandparents house. (Grandma and Grandpa Guy even watched Lawrence Welk.) On Saturday nights, it was always The Carol Burnett Show. They were so cool. Weren't like the hillarious, yet tragically hip young pot smoking Not Ready For Primetime Players on Saturday Night. When Tim Conway and Harvey Korman would start laughing, breaking character in the middle of one of their skits, it was refreshing.

The bad thing was the question-and-answer session at the start of the Carol Burnett show. Someone in the audience was always asking her to do that stupid Tarzan yell.

So one morning, we're in the Sunday school classroom with Sandy. It's a free-for-all. Kids are all over the place, bouncing, loud-mouthed. Just obnoxious little shit-asses. Can't speak for the other kids, but I remember exactly what I was doing that day. Mrs. Lowery comes in, dresses us down and says, "And who's doing the (she pantomines chest pounding, makes a yelping sound.) Tarzan yell."

"Jeff!" Every kid in the class points at me.

I don't remember what I was doing the night before, but I bet you a million dollars, I'd seen it the night before on The Carol Burnett Show.

Friday, July 5, 2013

July 5, 1954

My favorite line in this song is: "Son, that gal you're foolin' with, she ain't no good for you."

The story is that on that hot July 5th day in 1954, the chords just struck up from osmosis while they were sitting in the break room, drinking from bottles of Coca-Cola. Rhythm guitar strumming, bass slappin', jumpin' around. You know the story.

A more obscure figure in rockabilly history, Charlie Feathers, said he arranged the session with Elvis, Scotty and Bill. With all we know, what exactly do we really know? Who's to say, but we need our mythologies, don't we? Our stories?

Feathers, who spent his childhood around Holly Springs, Miss., was embarrassed for the rest of his life about having to leave school in the third grade. (He went on to work in oil fields all over Illinois and Texas.) But hell, he co-wrote "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" for Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys, didn't he? Song spent five weeks at #1 on the Billboard C&W Most Played in Juke Boxes chart.

Old Charlie Feathers
It's a standard known fact that Feathers was like a Greek god to punk and soul rockers like Johnny Thunders, Roky Erikson, The Cramps, The Gun Club and the city's own Alex Chilton. ("If he died in Memphis, that'd be cool.")

So anyhow, the opening shot in this video of young Elvis was

Elvis Presley 1939
 taken in front of the house he'd bought for his mama and daddy on Memphis's Audobon Drive. (It's tough to find a Presley video on YouTube that's not cheesy. This one's not perfect, but it's miles above most.) A white bred neighborhood much more Leave it to Beaver than feudal, farmland mansion. It was Big Time, baby, from a Big Town. He was literally thanking God his family was out of Lauderdale Courts at the north end of downtown Memphis.

Bought the place with some royalties from Sun Records. It's how he paid for the pink cadillac, flashy clothes and Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Well it's Memphis, right? W.C. Handy. Beale Street. Sleepy John Estes. Memphis Minnie. Rufus Thomas. Howlin' Wolf. Sam Phillips. Ike Turner. The Stamps Quartet. B.B. King. Junior Parker. Johnny Cash. Carl Perkins. Jerry Lee Lewis and his pumpin' piano. Barbara Pittman. Billy Lee Riley. Warren Smith. Sonny Burgess. Little Milton. Carla Thomas. The Mar-Keys. Donald "Duck" Dunn. Booker T. and the MGs. Steve Cropper. (Didn't my friends from Moreland Arbuckle work with him?) Jim Stewart. Estelle Axton. Otis Redding. Wilson Pickett. Isaac Hayes. Chips Moman. The Staple Singers. Al Green. Albert King. The Box Tops. The Isley Brothers. Big Star...

Moreland Arbuckle with Steve Cropper. I guess they're in Italy or Holland now. That'd be cool.

Love light. Chuck Berry immortalized the town in his blues-rockabilly tune about standing in a phone booth, calling long distance information to get in touch with a girl he'd lost because her mom didn't agree. In the ending poignant twist, we learn the girl, Marie, is his six-year-old daughter and the mom who didn't agree is his estranged wife.


Oh mama, can this really be the end? To be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again

Years ago, Chuck D said Elvis was "straight up racist." But that's bullshit and he now knows it. In 1956, the African-American newspaper, The Memphis World reported that Elvis Presley defied local segregation laws by showing up at the Memphis Fairgrounds amusement park “during what is designated as ‘colored night.’”

Was he really conspiring with Richard Nixon to kick John Lennon out of the U.S.? Hell no. The man just wanted his FBI badge and he was going to say what he had to, to get it. If he had to go knocking the Beatles and Jane Fonda, oh well. Personally, I wouldn't do it, but that's me.

Private Presley (he'd been promoted to the rank of sergeant when he left) considered it his patriotic duty to serve his country in uniform. He'd go on to sing patriotic hymns from the Vegas stage. But he was also buddies with Muhammad Ali, who had converted to Islam, loved the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.”

In the '70s, Elvis presented Ali with a white robe bearing the words "People’s Champion." Unfortunately when Ali wore it for the Ken Norton fight he lost. Never wore it again, but that's life.

The Civil Rights significance to our mythical heroes cannot be separated, nor cast asunder. When the Beatles covered Smokey Robinson and the Rolling Stones covered Solomon Burke, that was Civil Rights.

And no, it was not these white artists' fault that they amassed all the glory and fame on the backs of black music. They were musicians, not accountants. They were artists, and they did their jobs as artists, deriving from the influences that gave birth to their giftedness. It's the fault of a greedy, exploitative industry and an apathetic, mediocrity loving public if these unsung and beautiful black artist's arent' given their due. If the word rejects the "king of rock and soul" -- Solomon Burke, it's the world's loss, not his. Don't blame it on Elvis and the Beatles.

The Civil Rights Movement that started a long time ago with Moses leading the Israelites through a clearing of the wilderness and about the wilderness toward a long, painful journey home. When Chuck Berry wrote about a man "bound for third, he was headin' for home," it was a veiled reference to Jackie Robinson. What I said about Moses and 40 years in the wilderness -- it reminds me of this line:

I saw a woman walking across the sand
She been a-walkin' thirty miles en route to Bombay.
To get a brown eyed handsome man

So many anniversaries lately. Don't even go there with me about how I have not yet written columns commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg or D-Day. I eat lunch with World War II veterans -- average age 88 and up -- every chance I get.

That's all part of the story, the myths, legends and heroes. The sons and grandsons of Ellis Island immigrants. The American Indians leaving alcoholism and the reservations for the U.S. Military and earth's skies. Japanese-Americans leaving California to fight Hitler's tyranny in Germany, relatives left behind in humiliating sardine camps.

They came back and claimed America for their own, didn't they? And they gave everything -- their muscle, intellect, paintings, music, wages, work hours at factories, in universities...their lives. Sports, music, the arts, are indispensable to the story. It's so much more than mythology.

Go cat. Come on, get rhythm.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sprightly with the spirit

Old Wichita newspaper office and print store.

(for Kenzie)

She was a doll.

More so than the most treasured beauty dotting a Victorian girl's toy shelf, that precious figure, miniature dress of the finest, soft cloth, eyes of glass and with a deep blue gaping that would draw your moral soul into a sea of life that never ends. Eyes that, like the most delicate of hands, would clasp time for you, keeping it still and in safe-keeping. Such a figure, possibly from the farthest seas of the orient -- a little monument of wood, metal, paper and china, never able to match ---

"So what do you think, Little Girl? Wanna go inside the schoolhouse?" I asked my daughter, Gabby.

My daughter always loves going inside the old school building at Wichita's Old Cowtown Museum. She loves sitting behind the oak desk in center stage before a blackboard filled with white chalked representations of the alphabet, set in the most self-assured calligraphy of the Victorian Age. On the board, there is arithmetic and at the tip-top, sterling portraits of the presidents from George Washington through Rutherford B. Hays.

Bonnet falling over her eyes as she leaps sprightly from her chair, she grabs a McGuffey's reader and talks to the empty bleachers, pretending rows of 1870s children are seated in them, slates in their laps.

Gabby loves playing teacher, loves pulling the chord that rings the school bell and signals class to be in session. That's what she loves -- the play.

I want to make sure she likes it here. After all, her brother, Max, didn't want to come. Doesn't like dressing up. Not like at Halloween when you get candy for doing it. But Gabby's all for it. She and I sampled clothes in the Old Cowtown Museum wardrobe, searching for the right look and the right fit, which is sometimes elusive.

"I can hem this up at home tonight," my friend Jacky says, standing with a strip of measuring tape over Gabby's slight frame. You gotta appreciate Jacky and all she does for that place. She's really the face of the museum.

Jacky assures me that Gabby's dress will be ready for the 4th of July 1876 centennial-style celebration Saturday. That morning, I will lace up and tie in double knots the strings going up the long black boots she will wear over black stockings. I'll be in my bowler hat, suspenders and with my vest completely fastened as men of a more flowery era would never bare their cotton shirts before the public.

And there we were. On a Saturday. Just leaving the school, walking past the old Presbyterian Church --  Wichita's first real house of worship -- almost next to the tire swing and across the dirt street from the Munger House, the first permanent settlement on the land that would become Wichita.

They came-a-beatin' and stompin' with the vibrant kick of righteous indignation. A group of fine Christian woman clothed respectfully from their necks to their ankles called to the masses and marched onward, led by a pious man wearing a frock coat and tall black hat, King James Bible clutched like a cast iron hook.

"We gotta go, Gabby," I tell my girl. "They're having a temperance rally. They're gonna talk about how bad alcohol is, how it's from the devil and all. It'll be funny."

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve...

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,

"C'mon Gabby, I say. They're singing and crap, this rocks, little girl, we gotta join 'em," I tell her and she eagerly takes my hand.

An 1870s baseball player, a member of the Wichita Red Stockings, stands in the wings. He's wearing a flat hat, the brim wide enough to shield away the hot, pastoral sun, a red long-sleeved shirt, grey knee-length breeches and long red stockings.

"Well, most baseball players were lushes, but I'm game," he says and joins the ever increasing rag-tag of marchers.

Gabby and I tag along, walking long, veering around the corner past the hotel, blacksmith shop, Fritz Snitzler's Saloon and Turnverein Hall toward the train depot and a platform, from which the esteemed clergyman delivers his discourse, flanked by the town's leading dignitaries and U.S. flags with 38 stars representing every darn state in the union.

"Beloved, we gather before you, knocking at your door today, in proclamation of our blessed king and savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," he exclaims, voice booming in the outside air, traveling with the audacity of a modern telegraph.

"My friends, we beseech you this day within the ancient, mystic chords of the spirit, arms wide open and with a love as natural as that love, with which Christ loved his Bride, the Church."

Amens abound from the women. Silk handkerchiefs wipe the sweat from their unmade faces. The man leans in, an accusatory finger calling down evil like Christ over Satan at the end of a fast.

"But today, evil is upon us!" he exclaims. "Evil! An inexorable growth infesting the soul of our nation! Invisible spirit forces, upon which we have a wrestling of the flesh, have corrupted our farms, towns, cities. Demonic stimulants have entered the body and stolen the farmer from his plow, the mechanic from his industry, the banker from his till and -- beloved -- the husband, father and spiritual head of his brood from the family."

We're laughing, Gabby and me. At the hyperbole, the comic herky-jerkiness of the preacher's flailing arms, the 19th century patois.

"The fruitage of the spirit that Paul talked of in his epistle to the church of Galatia, the fruitage -- love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, faithfulness, meekness -- Temperance -- has been usurped by the vineyards and barley and hops and the distilleries of demonism.

"A brood of vipers has taken over this generation and our nation might not survive till tomorrow if it is not snuffed to the ground like dust. We must eradicate the artificial stimulants, the evil liquid spirits that put out the sunshine of life -- we must cast them like serpents from the land. We must close the doors forever of the tavern, the beer hall and the winehouse. We must pour fourth all beer, all wine, all whiskey into the rivers that will wash our nation clean and reclaim our moral souls before the blessed kingship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Then they all get off stage, singing, "Shall We Gather at the River?"

The passers-by are laughing in the sunshine. I've met all kinds of people here. From all over the USA, Europe, Asia and Africa too. I was in the carpenter shop when a fellow told me he was from Seattle. Home of the sonic boom and grunge rock, too. Jimi Hendrix, who performed the National Anthem at Woodstock.

"Yeah, I knew his dad a little bit," the guy said. "He passed away not too long ago."


I can generally tell what states they're from by the accents. Although I'm not as good as my dad, who's better than Click and Clack from "Car Talk." Raised in the most bucolic of Kansas farm settings, and after two years in the Army, he can tell you what town in New Jersey someone is from.

Yup. The fellow in the khaki shorts and Indiana Jones hat is from Minnesota. "I'm Lutheran," he says. "We only drink alcohol on days that end in y."

"A Minnesota Lutheran?" I say. "Just like the Lutherans in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon."

"Ohhh, those are Norwegian Lutherans," he says. "We're the German Lutherans."

Me and Gabby at Jimie's Diner, Wichita, Kan.
Back in the break room, Gabby and I return to our street clothes and the 21st century.

I pass by Denyse, who played one of the Christian Temperance women flanking the pastor. She's back in her black Nirvana T-shirt and jean shorts, grabbing a Marlboro from the pack kept tight in her purse. I've known Denyse since my first year of college. She and I and others in our circle used to hang out under the stars of her hometown in Rushing Waters, Kan., smoke, have a few beers and talk about life.

Then I see Jacky, who makes small talk with Gabby, and looks up to tell me the girl is like her own daughter. I thank her for being so good to my girl.

"She's a cutie," Jacky says.

"She's a drama queen," I say. "Superdiva, that's what I call her."

But Gabby really loved being here, dressing up like a little girl from another place and time. "It's like being in a movie," she said.

Jacky tells her that from time to time movies get filmed at Old Cowtown and perhaps someday she can be an extra.

"Maybe someday, Little Girl," I tell her. "Maybe someday."

                                          "Stars and Stripes Forever."