Thursday, June 27, 2013

Uneasy communication


A lot of things rolling down the pike, but probably no more than usual. It's always a challenge, keeping up with news events and giving them the attention I feel they deserve in this blog. Supreme Court delivers historic rulings on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Prop 8. I was happy, especially after feeling apprehensive, following the insane ruling they'd leveled a day earlier on the Voting Rights Act.

Nelson Mandella's on his deathbed. There's stuff I've been trying to write about him, but there may not be enough time while he's still for this world. The cord has been severed.

Paranoia strikes deep. The IRS, under Obama's watch, was exerting undue pressure on progressive as well as conservative groups. This news goes full circle to where the Big Brother stuff started when the news was nothing but the IRS putting it stiffly to the Tea Party. Then it was Obama's attorney general Eric Holder and the seizure of AP reporters phone records. First and Fourth Amendments jeopardized. When government, the military or business starts strongarming the press, it's (as I've been telling you since the '90s) hitting me where I live.

Bradley Manning. Edward Snowden. Julian Assange.

I wanna have a party for the '70s. Bring back the ditchweed and freshly freed sex. Paranoia like Tricky Dick eating laced brownies at an ABM sumit with Leonid. Sesame Street and America for all of us. Daniel Ellsberg facing the rest of his life in the Big House.

do you remember...your president nixon?

"So you gonna wave a rainbow flag?" Paul asks every new customer at the bar. TV's above the jukebox. Turned on to MSNBC. Occasionally, I look up from my laptop and share some intellectual exchange with Kal. He's been coming here for years, probably longer than he's worked in the antrhopology department of Wichita State University.

I never felt pressure, nor a compulsion to announce to anybody: "I like pussy."

People just let you be what you wanna be here anyway. This is good because there's so damn much pressure.

What's the stupid blog going to do? Put my wife and kids into the poorhouse? You're ruining my life, here. Brother calls up. "You're always in a bad mood after he calls," Maria tells me. Can I watch Mom? Can you? My daughter has a game in Briarwood (big ol' southern suburb of Wichita). My son has a Boy Scout campout. "I'm about ready to put her in a home," I almost say of Mom, but figure, not now. Not now. Let's just get all this shit over with.

I tell my friend Lele that a college student wants to interview me about my blog and use of social media. Don't think I'm the best person to talk to on the subject, but not telling her that. Maybe it'll help bring in some traffic.

"Your blog doesn't have a niche," Lele tells me.

"You don't promote it enough," Jackson tells me by secret untapped phone from far away in Wyoming.

I know I need to write something comprehensive about the civil liberties threats from within the House of Obama. With work and kids and Mom and stuff, there hasn't been time to sit at the computer and gather facts like a reporter.

"If it happened under a Republican president, you would've written something the first day," Lele tells me.

She had to go there, but I concede it's a fair assessment. Hope it's not true.

Fingertips slappin' keys. (Pause) Posting resumes for jobs. Admissions counselor at a small Methodist college. A similar position at a Quaker college. Security guards. They're always hiring for security guards. I hear the ol' guy, a retired detective, likes to help people. Farmhand, rock n' roll band, Target sales team.

Three instructors from the local community college
(home base in Skelly, nearby in Brewster County).  Someone says she doesn't have her master's.

"A good buddy of mine teaches English there and doesn't have his master's," I say.

"For certain things you can get by with that," the gal with tatoos tells me and adds something about needing to have 18 extra credit hours in the area beyond your bachelor's.

I get ideas, but not too many.

I talk to Kal about about how much I loved working in the pasture all morning when I did that. Cleaning up all the horseshit. By myself with only my thoughts and the sky. I'd slip my
Staples notepad from my pocket and jot down a few ideas, clean more horse manure.

"That's a lot of shit, Jeff," the man tells me.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Soprano Street



The first TV shows I ever remember watching? Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Gilligan's Island, Major Astro, Sesame Street...

There were always celebrities on Sesame Street when I was a little boy. People like Johnny Cash, Flip Wilson and "Broadway Joe" Nammath and Carol Channing stopped by the neighborhood. They bantered with Oscar the Grouch, had chats about the letter of the day with Big Bird and performed musical numbers with the Count. A number, say seven, might pop up before a background that looked like a gothic Romanian castle in the Carpathian Mountains.

A generation of little people like myself sat on shrug carpets, perched in front of four-legged Zenith box television sets and drinking Tang, taking our Flintstones vitamins and learning our alphabet and numbers. Why could I count to 20 at 3-years-old? I'd been with the gang, sweepin' up clouds away.

Little boys and girls born just after the Baby Boom -- 20 years later when the media would label us "Generation X" and we might be sitting in college classrooms, singing all the words verbatim to Schoolhouse Rock songs, naming the Brady Bunch kids in reverse order and many would be listening to Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

But those adults interacting with Jim Henson's muppets on Sesame Street? We didn't know they were celebrities -- Big Names.

Around 30 years after I'd watched Sesame Street, my boy, Max was watching. Of course the show jumped the shark 20 years ago, the best mini-films and skits back in a time capsule the size of a bank vault and everything went downhill after that annoying Elmo came along. But it was still Sesame Street, still teaching kids things like numbers, letters and how to be kind and share our toys.

Buzz Aldrin with Cookie Monster comparing the shape of the moon to a cookie.


Christopher Meloni was among the children and muppets, wearing a coat that was Columbo-like except for the long, tall length. He was self-parodying, a detective just as tough as a 3-year-old would imagine.

Dang, this guy's on Law and Order: SVU, you know...The SEX CRIMES unit! Iced-T has been on the street too, right there with the apartment buildings, sidewalks and Mr. Hooper's Store. Man, who else has been there? Jay Z and Dirty Ol' Bastard?

James Gandolfini (gonna miss that guy) was there, talking sensitively to a little Muppet in a white dress about feeling scared. At the end, there's a veiled parody of his Tony Soprano role as he ducks -- scared of the celery and all vegetables coming at him like flying felt pellets. A little something for the parents watching with their children.

The talented actors, actresses, singers and musicians making guest appearances on Sesame Street over the years have included people who have made dark, gritty films, sometimes portraying lethal violence and promiscuous sex. They have written songs addressing adult problems -- in the bedroom and every other room and outside space where the ways of the world finds us.

I bet these artists -- many of whom are compassionate, contemplative people -- would be among the first to champion the care and nurturing of children that will help ignite their creative energies. With all the phony talk in society about "family values," these artists -- straight, gay or whatever -- will be among the most vocal about preserving childhood for our kids and not rushing them into adulthood before they're ready.

Naturally, celebrities would relish the opportunity to be on Sesame Street. Artists continue in life to keep activated the creative spark we're all born with, yet have quashed before we're out of T-ball. They continue to prune and season the creative sparks within their brain synapses. They engage the culture, holding a mirror to society and prompting reflection of the most probing questions of our times. In other words, they spark critical thinking.

It's like my son's pre-school teacher, Mrs. Costello, said: "He's gonna need that in life."

Artists tend to promote higher order thinking skills. I knew Edie Falco as the host of PBS's Independent Lens before I'd ever seen The Sopranos.

But it's artists of all stripes. An actress who did a nude scene? Sure, but also Taylor Swift. Richard Pryor? Yes, but Bill Cosby also guested on Sesame Street. Tony Danza, too.

Diversity is a hallmark of public broadcasting, like it is of America. Michele Obama appeared on Sesame Street, showing kids how to plant vegetables. But Laura Bush has been there too, reading to children from Wubba Wubba Woo by Christine Ferraro and Mike Pantuso.

I was surprised to hear that Bill O'Reilly has appeared on Sesame Street. I still don't like the guy, but I have a smidgen of respect that wasn't there before.

There's a part of me that's always been skeptical of that axiom: "Prejudice isn't innate. It's a learned behavior." It seems I was aware of color differences from quite a tender age, but when I really take my memory back -- at 3 or 4-years-old (and yes, I do have some memory of it), I didn't think anything of the white, Hispanic, black and Asian American kids romping past urban parks and rural farms to where the air is sweet.

I actually think I did pick up prejudice, or at least knowledge of prejudice, from adults. Social stratifications are humanly erected walls, not intrinsic human responses.

As a guy trying to make his way, struggling to make sense of the crap society throws at us, I've had to confront my own prejudices. As someone who likes to write junk on a blog, a newspaper and whatnot, I don't think I can afford to harbor prejudice. I have to draw back within the recesses of my life and subconscious to revive the creative gene present in early childhood  ----

in bedrooms, backyards, sandboxes, Sunday school classrooms, before educational television.

If I'm accepting of people of different national origins, religions, sexual orientations, political beliefs and philosophies, that's not me -- that's Mister Rogers. I decided I would tell my kids exactly what Mister Rogers told my generation of kids: There's nobody else like you in this whole world and you're special just for being you.

One day when my son was 3, he was singing: "You'll have things you'll want to talk about" ---

"I will too," I sang, finishing the line.

"You know that song," he asked.

"Of course I know that song."




Thursday, June 20, 2013

'blue moon in your eye'

 
 
I had just flipped to fakebook when I saw it -- headline splashed over the Chicago Tribune like a gangland shooting. (Recently, I had "liked" the Tribune's page so I could get through and tell 'em, "Do not ever, Ever sell out to the Evil Koch Brothers and may you burn in hell if you ever betray your friends.")
 
Actor James Gandolfini, dead at 51. Suspected heart attack.
 
I was so sad. Too many people dying. Trouble in life, I've seen...always.
 
A few weeks earlier, the same day one my best reporter friends became a first-time grandma, it came over the wire that Jean Stapleton, who played "dingbat" to Archie Bunker on the groundbreaking All in the Family had died. That half-hour Norman Lear created comedy, derived from a sitcom on the British telly, changed the game forever.
 
So did The Sopranos.
 
Tony Soprano was, I think, the first morally ambiguous character in television history. Here was a man conflicted between his innate conscience and a criminal life that had been his birth right from the moment he popped from the babyhole. Born of Italian-American stock, he was mob enforcer of a New Jersey crime family.
 
A little boy watching his capo father -- Johnny Boy Soprano -- slice off the fingers of a guy when he couldn't pay his debts. A mother, Livia, who never exactly told Uncle June -- Corrado Soprano, Jr. --- to bump off her only son in order to control the crime family, yet left no doubt.
 
Think this guy had issues? Oh yeah. His pop and uncle June would use his big sister Janice as lookout when they pulled a job at an amusement park or street deli. She was his father's favorite child, right?
 
Trying to control his Mafia Family was nothing compared trying to keep his suburban clan intact. Materialistic, self-absorbed, narcissistic, manipulating, they were ----
 
us.
 
I was driving to work one morning. Trouble at home. Trouble on the job. People talking in the hallways. Secretly plotting? How secure was my job? My family's home? Cell phone rings. Name on the screen: "Maria." ---- "Shit." A blow-up argument 'cuz I don't take out the garbage enough and it's just the way I was raised and no communication. (It happens to all couples at one time or another.) "You're breakin' my balls, here." Yelling and cussing. Connection lost.
 
I feel like Tony Soprano
 
Automatically, inadvertently, the thought shot into my head. And I realized that David Chase and the other writers of the Sopranos, James Gandolfini and the other actors were holding a mirror to America at this fin de siecle and here we were. A microcosm.
 
Tony Soprano was just another American middle-aged guy with job stress and a dysfunctional family. His job just happened to entail killing people.
 
Maybe America identified. Maria's brother Matt took to watching the show and said, "The fat guy, he reminds me of Dad with his temper."
 
Oh we've seen it. Maybe not the guy knocking a street hustler's teeth out, strangling a turncoat with piano wire or breaking some guy's arm and threatening to take away something no man can live without. No, we haven't seen it. But we know that guy. Crude, boisterous, pugnacious, emotional, quick-to-anger, likely to punch you in the nose if you're not mentally quick and able to defuse the situation before the women and children start crying.
 
We know that guy. You better believe it. I think a lot of other people in America do too. Many probably grew up with that guy.
 
It takes an intelligent and contemplative artist, a true Shakespearean actor to pull off a complicated character like Tony Soprano. That James Gandolfini could do it, shows he was a sensitive man.
 
Recently, while at the Warren Theater in Wichita, Maria and I saw a preview for a film in which Gandolfini played a kind, devoted Southern husband in a feel good movie. Now what the hell was the name of that thing?
 
I was looking forward to seeing what all this actor could do. At 51, he was taken away way too soon. But look online and you'll see a database filled with films and roles you may never have heard of.
 
Check 'em out.
 
We're sure gonna miss you, James Gandolfini. And Tony Soprano, may you swim with the fishes.
 


Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day 2013




Writer's Note: Yesterday was Father's Day. Did not submit this by deadline because I was too busy trying to be a good dad, myself. I was literally born late, I show up late for work, I will be late to my own funeral. Who cares?

It was around seven years ago. I had just been hired as a social worker at a nursing home in Potwater, Kan. Janice, the director of nursing, engaged me in conversation about where I was from, who my parents were and all that.

"My dad worked at the refinery in Skelly, Kan. for over 40 years," I said. "He retired a few years ago."

"Oh!" she said, breaking out all smiles. "Is your dad Gerald?"

"So I suppose you know him like everybody else?" I said. From the time I was a kid, I remember people stopping him -- "Hi Gerald" -- at the grocery store, barbershop, tire and auto store, the bank. He knew everybody, just a hail-fellow-well-met.

"Wow! You're really popular, Dad," I'd say.

Yeah, he'd talk forever to everyone. Except me. Unless he was delivering a lecture. Then he'd keep you sitting there 'till the cows came home.

Janice was in her 50s when I worked with her at the nursing home. But in the early 1970s when she was a young woman of college age, she bartended at the Amvets, a private club at the west end of town. Dad was always talking about the place in conversation, I remember. The place, as Janice, told me was owned and operated by Leroy, a tough talking, cherry Skoal chewing Korean War vet who had a soft spot for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

She remembered my dad with his sideburns, dark browned hair and superfly clothes, the pipe he smoked and was never without. A plastic pouch of Captain Black, as natural to Dad's life as Cutty Sark scotch and cars with carburetors, blocks and u-joints outside the mouths of vehicles and dismantled in the garage.

Some of my earliest memories are of Dad and his friends (Dad had a lot of friends) in the garage taking apart cars and piecing them back together with a never ending supply of Craftsman tools for every occasion. Once in awhile, one of those friends might bring over a son or daughter who would play in the kitchen with my sister and me. What our dads worked on and created in that garage was always such a brilliant mystery to me. An enigma.

"He was always a gentleman," Janice said.

I've always been proud whenever any one's told me that about Dad. And in a bar too. How many guys have I seen besotted and drooling sadly in bars, scamming over women who would never ever have them?

Not my dad. He was always a gentleman.

"Dad always had a great work ethic," I said as Janice shook her head, knowingly. "That's one thing I picked up from him."

"Playin' baseball meant settin' up a bunch of rocks in the pasture. In summer, you always went barefoot. There were two kids in my Sunday school class, me and Johnny Wrampe."

"I was always really bashful," Dad told me. He couldn't say two words to anybody. "You know how I got over it? Working in a filling station." He wore a spiffy uniform with a hat, kept a rag in his back pocket, filled gas tanks, checked tire pressure, wiper fluid level, belts and hoses...talked to sheriff's deputies, school teachers, farmers, bank presidents, housewives...

For Dad, who was raised in the middle of a pasture in a community barely more modern than an Amish village, checking cars in Skelly, Kan., (pop. 4,000 at that time) constituted hitting what Grandpa Guy always called "the Big Town."

Dad saved his earnings, bought a 1958 Plymouth Fury. Later traded it in for a '58 Pontiac Chieftain he purchased from the Showroom Floor. You could do that in those days -- work in a gas station and save up enough money for a down payment on a spankin' new car.

He had a crapload of chemistry hours from Skelly Junior College, the big shivery burnt red-brick building behind a big old lawn on Main Street. (The brick building beside it housed Skelly High School.) So they hired him as a bottle washer in the lab of what was then Midian Refinery. (The place would undergo about four takeovers before Dad retired -- at which time it was called Fortress Refinery.)

"Grandma and Grandpa were making your dad's car payments when he was in the Army," Mom once told me.

I never sought confirmation from Dad on this matter. His parents -- hard working people of the soil -- made him who he is and if they sprung for a few car payments, oh well.

Upon returning home from the Army, Dad and a buddy of his entered a competition at the firing range at the county fairgrounds. A bunch of cops were taking part. Dad and his friend kicked the cops' asses. A week later, Dad, like his friend, was getting calls from the Skelly Police Dept., offering him a job. But he'd just gotten a promotion from the refinery. He stuck with the refinery.

At least that's the story Grandpa told me. The old man was always telling stories. Hard to tell what was true and what was mythology.

A few years back I wrote a children's book (unpublished) about Grandpa's life. Recently, I was at Dad and step-mom, Marcia's, house, discussing some official business when somehow we got off on a tangent about Dad's early life.

"Playin' baseball meant settin' up a bunch of rocks in the pasture." "In summer you always went barefoot." "There were two kids in my Sunday school class, me and Johnny Wrampe."

Dad and Marcia were on my front porch recently, giving me some vinyl records they'd purchased at a garage sale when I brought up some idea I'd been kicking around.

"Hey Dad, remember that book I wrote about Grandpa," I said. "When am I gonna' write one about you?"

"You think so, huh?" He's always saying that. I can remember him saying that when I was 7-years-old.

"You gonna write about how I outran the cops at 120 miles per hour?"

"I don't think I should put that in a children's book," I replied.

(Pause) I continued: "You know, someone could never get away with that today, with all the radar and satellites and sirens, all the back-up and everything."

"No, you'd be a damn fool to try it today."

"Didn't you ever feel any compunction, regarding the safety of all this drag racing and out running the cops?" A question I'd been dying to ask him for some time.

"There weren't that many people around then."

Steve freakin' McQueen.

And then he said something about country roads and how the land west of Braum's Ice Cream and the car wash at the corner of Central and Oil Hill Roads in Skelly -- area where a strip mall, doctor's office, Wal-Mart, Burger King and Game X Change are now -- was a no man's land of dirt roads, trees and fields.

I should say that Dad entered the Army. Once when I was a kid I asked him if he ever met Elvis. "No, he was coming out when I was going in."

The summer before my senior year of high school, a recruiter spent about two hours at my house, telling me how great the Army was supposed to be. He had me chomping at the bit to sign up. Give me all I want -- the car, the college, girls who'd give you all kinds of lovin' 'cuz you wearing a uniform.

After he left, Mom told me, "You know he's just selling you a crock of shit?" Which, he was, but I now realize that was his job. I lacked such discriminating factors in those salad days and I let Mom talk me out of signing up as easily as I'd almost let the fat little recruiter talk me into joining.

It's just that -- what John F. Kennedy said about asking what you can do for your country -- that's always meant something to me. Dad served his country in uniform, which is a hell of a lot more than I've ever done and for that reason, Gerald Guy will always be a better man than me.

"I didn't go willingly. They came after me," he told me one Saturday morning as we sat in patio chairs, drinking iced tea and looking over his newly mowed lawn.

He rarely ever lectures me anymore. Guess he feels retired. Although sometimes, "Mr. Advice" still shows up from the backdoor. It's all good, I decided awhile back I prefer him as he is. Around now I'll need to appeal to his wisdom more than I have in years. Kids giving me drama and all. Dad is a great resource, from which I can tap.

But no more tapping for money. That's all over.

Back at the nursing home in Potwater, there were always fires to put out. Administration, activities director, nursing staff -- they'd all be on my ass. I'd fill up with more anxiety than news director Miles Silverberg from early '90s CBS sitcom, Murphy Brown.

"Find your happy place, Jeff," Janice told me, while standing near the bathroom by the nurses' station.

"I wish I had that stoic reserve like my dad," I told her.

"Well you will."

"No Janice, it's too late."

I take more after Mom. Emotive. Anxious. Manic. Neurotic.

Pacing around my front porch Saturday night, drinking a Leinenkugel. Maria, Max and Gabby were at the in-laws, hanging out at the clubhouse in their retirement village. I called this old man.

"What are you doing?" he answered.

"Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. You never answer the phone. It's always Marcia."

"What do you think about that?"

"Sound like you're about to hit the hay."

"Well it's almost 10 o'clock. Going to a kid's ball game in Derby at 7 tomorrow morning." (He and Marcia are always watching grandkids play ball. They say if they stopped being on the go now, they'd go downhill fast.)

"So did you get your Father's Day card in the mail?" he asked. He's always asking if I got something in the mail. He and Marcia have always been prompt about inserting things via U.S. mail. Most of the time, I've just handed Dad birthday, Father's Day and Christmas cards in person. But I made an exception this time. I mailed that bad boy. Dropped it right into the slot.

"Now that card you mailed me, was that a Father's Day card or a birthday card 'cuz it could be either one, that one that said, 'When I grow up, I'm going to be just like you' and it's underlined."

Told him it's a Father's Day card. His birthday had been a week earlier. Never made it out to hand him the birthday card.

"So I was thinking I might mix you a Father's Day cocktail."

"Like what?"

"Martini, Gin and Tonic, whatever you want," I said, adding "but only, only if it's okay. Did your doctor tell you to stay away from alcohol?"

"Oh we're not supposed to, but we'll have a beer, a margarita sometimes. Everything in moderation."

"I see," I said, making a mental note to mix his drink a little weaker, mine a bit stronger.

"By the way, I do want to be like you when I grow up."

"Okay good," he answered. No big deal.

"Well I better get my ass off the phone. See ya."

"Bye, bye."




When I was a kid (circa 1978) this song came on the radio. Dad turned up the volume.




Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to dads everywhere.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Loose chains in the world


Somewhere between late afternoon and early morning on a summer day. 1980. It may have been June 14 because I specifically remember having a book due at the Jett, Kan. Public Library on Flag Day. It was typed on the phish-blue card stationed on the back-packet at the hardback of the book.

Whatever that book was, I've long since forgotten.

I had walked to the library because the chain was loose on my bicycle, not an uncommon occurrence in those days. After poking around the poking around the children's book section and the record section for about an hour, I was ready to check out. (I got my initial education in Cream, Hendrix and Zeppelin from the vinyl record section of the Jett, Kan. Public Library.)

The record I checked out that day was different from my usual choices. It was a double disc filled with speeches by Bobby Kennedy. All I remember about that album now is going home,placing it carefully on the turntable and the analog reproductions of applause, cheers and hard Boston accent.

I didn't know much about him, but I would find out. Obviously John F. Kennedy was the one I would know more about, his being a President and all. There was a photograph of him near the office at Longfellow Elementary -- a picture I'd seen a million times, going back to Mrs. Alley's kindergarten class and before I knew who the man was and even noticed the picture in the first place.

"That's Kennedy," I remember my friend Myron telling me. Myron and I always played cowboy at recess.

This past school year, I'd finished fifth-grade in Mr. Turner's class. There was a slough of books on his shelves -- old books, paperbacks, pictureless hardbacks, dog-eared and bic-pen littered books. Books for children and adults. Mr. Turner was always trying to challenge you like that. One of those books, I remember, was To Seek a Newer World by Robert F. Kennedy.

a newer world

There was something in that for me. The world. Around the previous November when I was class helper for the week, I got to read my favorite "poem" from the class "language" book and I chose FDR's January 6, 1941 "The Four Freedoms" address before Congress.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world...

So I checked out the record. There was a fiftyish woman in a black dress, smiling at me as Olivia, the twentysomething librarian, ran the packet card through the Big Machine.

Olivia was...if the words had existed in my vocabulary, I would have used such adjectives as "ebullient" and "effervescent" to describe her. She had black hair and olive skin, the beautifully genetic result, I'd later learn of the pairing of her mother, a Native Indian woman, ("Some of her sisters still read the Koran," she would tell me) and her father, a typical Southern man, now living in Virginia and working at the Pentagon. When their turn in the rotation came around, the couple team taught the adult Sunday School class at the suburban church they attended in Virginia.

Never, did Olivia question me or make me feel self-conscious about checking out adult books or asking the questions of the world that kids -- born and bred for baseball and after-game pizza parlors -- would care about.

Standing there, waiting for my turn to talk, and watching Olivia listen to the woman in the black dress, I knew she was really listening. Olivia could listen to you as if she were holding your hand even if she wasn't.

"There are so many things I wish I'd said before he got so frail," the woman said. "So many things I -- I felt like I needed to be forgiven for, but Daddy said he was the one who was sorry for not -- " she kept stopping to avert any outflow of emotion "being a more attentive father. All I ever wanted was my dad. Those times -- not like it happened a lot, but -- when he took me to work with him and held my hand -- it was downtown -- I felt so big."

Olivia was consoling without saying anything.

When I noticed the break and it looked like the conversation had ended, I asked Olivia if I could use the phone. (This was long before 10-year-olds had two cell phones on their persons.) "Can I call my grandma to ask her to pick me up?"

After hanging up the phone, the fiftyish woman in the black dress looked at me, smiling. "Do you know how happy your grandma is that you asked her to pick you up?"

"No," I replied nervously. Happy? I figured she'd feel put out that I was acting like a pest, asking her to drive over and get me when I could have easily walked over myself.

"You're making a lot of memories for you and your grandma."

I don't know why I remembered that all these years, I just did.


Saturday morning videos


                                
                                  They had not a clue.


I thought it was so cool when the local American Legion in my hometown sponspored a showing of Easy Rider. I always thought of them as a conservative organization. My uncle told me he took his first hit of sweet California sunshine, while in beautiful Southeast Asia.


Ferris Bueller? He's Mr. Showbiz! They don't make entertainers like Wayne Newton anymore and that's a shame. I love him. Maybe not as much as Balki from mauldlin 1980s sitcom Perfect Strangers, but I do love him.



Rock n' Roll's first SOB. Raisin' hell back when Keith Richards was in short pants. Take a look, then two. Check out that man's confidence, the cockiness, swagger and innuendo. No doubt, he gave Elvis a run for his pink Cadillac. And I used to love his annual telethons.


 

I can remember hearing "School's Out" on the radio when I was 3-years old. A few years later I saw Alice Cooper on The Muppet Show. "I took Alice everywhere he wasn't supposed to be," he said during a recent guest appearance on Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me.

They have sainthood. True standard bearers of The Cannon. Appeared on Ed Sullivan a hell of a lot more times than The Beatles. We miss you, Liam.


Well gollly!!! Coming to you live from Motel 6. Loved him in Full Metal Jacket.


We all must love the quiet palpability of the Vulcan race. Seriously, how can anyone not love Leonard Nimoy? Especially when he shows his sensitive side?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Colorful Sea


Myrlie Louise Evers with slain husband.
I was covering a meeting of Student Government Association for my campus newspaper at Wichita State University in the fall semester of 1992 when a big controversy erupted over whether to fund a proposed multicultural center. White male conservatives were against it.

After hours of impassioned debate, Dr. James Rhatigan, the president of student services, offered his opinion, expressing the need for cross-cultural understanding.

"I'm old enough to remember hearing people cheer when Medgar Evers was shot," Dr. Rhatigan said.

I barely knew who Medgar Evers was. I knew he was some kind of a Civil Rights leader, who like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X, was assassinated. Medgar Evers? Wasn't that the name of the university Denice enrolled at on The Cosby Show?

Last year, I heard Evers murder referenced sadly in the movie, The Help. Still haven't gotten around to seeing the '90s film, Ghosts of Mississippi about the trial and conviction of Evers' murderer Byron De La Beckwith.

I still have much to learn about the man, but I'm getting there. I know he fought for the United States and the Allied Powers in the Battle of Normandy. (The 69th anniversary of this tide-turning and heartbreaking moment in World War II was remembered a few days ago.)

A native Mississippian, Evers went on to enroll at Alcorn State University where he was a football hero and a civic-minded young man, involved with the student government and the school's debate team. After college, he was hired by the NAACP after he sought their help in suing the University of Mississippi for rejecting his admission to its law school. http://www.naacp.org/pages/naacp-history-medgar-evers

The vigorous Evers was working to desegregate Ol' Miss between 1952 and '54, well before a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. would be asked to lead a Montgomery, Ala. boycott of the city's bus transit system. In 1962, James Meredith, escorted by U.S. Marshals, became the first African-American student admitted to the campus.

For his role in leading voting drives and investigating racially motivated murders, Evers was gunned down in his driveway, just hours after Pres. Kennedy delivered a televised address in support of Civil Rights. (You have got to check out this site!): http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/06/medgar-evers-murder-50-years-later/  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57588891/for-medgar-evers-widow-husbands-legacy-trumps-personal-bitterness/







There will be a few more anniversaries before the year is out -- the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on the Washington Mall, of JFK's assassination and on into 2014 and noting the Beatles getting off the plane in Kennedy Airport. That's part of the story too. Elvis and the Beatles also played roles in Civil Rights history.

The past couple of days I've been contemplating another Civil Rights leader -- Nelson Mandela, the prominent anti-apartheid reformer and South Africa's first black president. I'd been bracing for the worst, but I heard news reports today that the 94-year-old is breathing on his own in the hospital. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/06/08/189705242/nelson-mandela-back-in-hospital-with-health-complications

I knew little about him that fall of 1989 when a group of students on campus led a protest march, chanting, "Free Mandela!" A young lady I worked with, washing dishes in the student cafeteria, said, "A protest? That's stupid." But I figured, "Hell, isn't that what college students are supposed to do?" I interviewed an affable, young African-American man for my campus newspaper.

"So they're going through what we went through in the '50s?" I asked.

Yup.

I sat in the children's section of the library today with my daughter Gabby. We both took turns reading a book about Nelson Mandela. I kept pointing out to her the beautiful paintings by the book's illustrator and writer Kadir Nelson. When freedom was extended to all people "a colorful sea of people celebrated" I read to my girl. http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/books/Nelson-Mandela-Kadir-Nelson/ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/books/nelson-mandela-by-kadir-nelson-and-more.html

I'm happy for Mandela, that he has lived to see seemingly insurmountable changes come to fruition. A few months back, my wife, Maria, and I were looking through a book of sermons by MLK and came to the sermon he titled, "Shattered Dreams."

"He had a lot of dreams that didn't come true," Maria said.

On Aug. 28, 1963, King told a colorful sea of 300,000 people stretched before the the the Lincoln Memorial of his dream for racial harmony and reconciliation. He talked about the "promissory note," the bounced check that signified America's failure to live up to its Constitutional promise.

A day earlier, W.E.B. DuBois, the African-American leader, who 60 years earlier, had predicted that day would come when blacks would demand their rights, died in the African country of Ghana. A couple of years earlier, he had renounced his American citizen, effectively giving up hope that America would ever cash that check.

Booker T. Washington, the African-American leader engaged in a philosophical rivalry with DuBois at the turn of the century died in 1915 around the time Pres. Woodrow Wilson laid down a serious mission to segregate every facet of the White House, showing that Washington's policy of accommodation was not going to work. So many inroad he had made, gone.

Twenty years earlier, abolitionist and early Civil Rights reformer Frederick Douglas died. Just one year before the U.S. Supreme Court would give legal sanction to segregation --upholding the ugly, dishonestly named pseudo-legal philosophy "separate but equal.'" Effectively, the decree dismantled everything Douglas and his brothers and sisters in the fight had worked for.

Some miracles we see in a lifetime, some we don't. Sometimes a dream is deferred.

In 2009 I watched as former Klu Klux Klan supporter Elwin Wilson apologized on national television to U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga for assaulting him nearly 50 years earlier. Wilson went on to apologize to many people for a lifetime of racist acts. It was, for this old man, a spiritual journey. He wanted to free himself from a burden of sin that had troubled him for years. He sought redemption before God and man.


I know what it's like to feel incomplete, to have a monkey on your back.

It was always the things in the margins that caught my attention. The sidebar stories, details that didn't get the most play. I was in my apartment in Texas, looking forward to a flourishing career as a journalist, when I looked back at my old college history textbook.

I read about cavalry soldiers tearing babies from the arms of their American Indian mothers and slaying them with bayonets, of an African-American service man home from France at the end of World War I, hung from a tree while still in uniform and mutilated in the Deep South.

A wave of sadness overtook me.

Pushing 30, I knew I could no longer put off seeking answers to life's persistent questions. There had to be some spiritual power in the universe to make sense out of everything.

Recently, I was talking by phone to a friend in California. We've known each other since high school. He kept wishing me luck on my "journey." The man likes using freakin' words like that: journey.

"I hope you find peace, Jeff," he said.

I'll manage, we'll get through life. My belief in God is inseparable from my belief in humanity. I gave up on stereotypes a long time ago. You'll never get the good stories if you go that way. Somewhere, there's truth amid the lies.


Filmmaker Paul Saltzman interviewed "Delay" De La Beckwith for a documentary. http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2013/02/25/saltzman-last-white-knight.html The son of Evers' murderer, a man who'd beaten up the young Jewish Saltzman for trying to enroll blacks to vote years earlier, was unapologetic about his racist, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish views. Still, he impressed Saltzman with his candor and the humanity beneath the surface. That's all Saltzman was seeking.

In a rare moment of honest introspection, De La Beckwith said, "Maybe I wasn’t taught right."

Driving down the highway, talking to a friend.

"I just figure we're all all right," the voice said. Over Verizon. Beamed over satellites from...

Out there in California.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sprawl-Mart


Am I the only one in my town not happy about the new Wal-Mart? Seems like it. Others will fill up the fat parking lot, climaxing their pants as the big fat doors of consumerist-anger open to reveal Asian sweatshop merchandise and a clusterfuck of aisles.

But I'm staying away.

So they're they are at the edge of town. Hope the farm fields are safe. This town has done a lot in recent years to get its soul back -- beautification and business revitalization efforts. Hope it all doesn't go down the drainhole now. Wal-Mart has a tendency to turn downtowns into graveyard skeletons.

Oh but Wal-Mart is such a driver of the community economy, the asshat community boosters say. With the giddy little press releases they drop on the city newspaper office like turds falling lovingly into their toilets of pearl. The stressed out reporter's going to have another cigarette and instead of rewriting a damn press release, make a few phone calls and ask a few pointed questions to salvage his soul and add some bite to this happy, shiny whitewash.

But what the hell is he supposed to do? His big boss, the publisher, sits on the rotary board with two or three of these porter house fucks. Last week, they went down the revitalized town hanging yellow ribbons to welcome back the son of the banker, just acquitted in the rape trial. These people have nothing if not taste, class and good old Sunday morning morals.

In many communities, the babbits have used all the powers that be of press and social shitting media to push for a sales tax (the most oppressive kind of tax there is) to pay for a Wal-Mart. I once read about a city that imposed eminent domain to build a Wal-Mart. The Walton corporation in cahoots with the city hired a team of double talking lawyers to get around all the Constitutional arguments. All this before the store got built and brought anti-climactic effects upon the city before screwing them.

Oh my God, the sex will be great! No, not so much.

The community boosters will extol the benevolence
of Mr. Wal-Mart, this American enterprise generously bringing jobs to the community. Factory shut down. People lost their retirement, insurance and life savings. That's okay. They can get minimum wage jobs at Wal-Mart. Mr. I-Love-This-Community is prostrate at their feet. Why not, he won't work there.

When Mr. and Mrs. Community Booster are sitting at the one swanky restaurant in town, gossiping over a three-hour lunch, I'd like to ask them how they would like working in a place where their bathroom breaks are monitored. How would they like it if they were reprimanded for socializing with their co-workers and committing "time theft?"

Hatred, like seeds, budded early and grew like a mushroom cloud. Every evening, my mom came home in a foul mood, still wearing her Wal-Mart "smock" as she fixed dinner over the stove.

It wasn't until around eighth or ninth grade that I started feeling embarrassed that my mom didn't have some "important" job like all the Important Popular kids at school, sitting at their own damn lunch table. As if your parents didn't pay a fucking dime to support public schools. Why couldn't my mom be a stockbroker or realtor or at least work in a bank? Why couldn't she have a college education?

I mean, jeez, my mom could be such a bitch, driving us to school in the morning. (Please God, don't let my friends see me riding with my mom.)

"I'm gonna have a better job than Wal-Mart when I grow up."

(Words I would later eat.)

"Good Jeff, I hope you do."

I'm 21, in college, struggling. Said I'd never do it, but I get hired at Wal-Mart. They suck on struggling people like Dracula thrives on human blood. Orientation time.

"Wal-Mart doesn't believe in unions," the blond assistant manager says.

Mind drifts back. Something Mom once said.

"My dad worked in construction and if the job wasn't backed by a union, he would not even think of going there."

I'm damn proud of my family heritage.

Fat blond woman. Feminine-rich voice sweetly dissing those skanky unions that only want your dues. (We'll take care of you.) You and me are gonna have a problem, I think to myself.

"I didn't raise you kids to be ass kissers," Mom told me.

Sometimes I wish she would have. Probably would've made my life a lot easier, being a yes man, going with the flow and not rattling any cages. No questioning of authority. I don't know. My wife has to answer to a board of directors in her job, running a non-profit agency.

"Sometimes I wish I just worked at Wal-Mart," she said.

Years later, I'm a reporter in some piss Oklahoma town, writing for some paper run by some fat publisher-lackey for the corporation who's on the rotary club. Former Top Gun naval pilot turned motivational speaker and "educational speaker" addresses an audience one evening at the high school. Wanna know what's 'gonna happen to your life if you don't get a four year degree? he asks.

(Speaker voice initiated) "Attention K-Mart shoppers, we have a blue light special in the shoe aisle."

A woman in the audience, sitting by the store manager, raises her hand and tells Mr. Joe College, "I work at Wal-Mart, I'm proud of my job and I'm not stupid."

A multitude of sins committed in life and I just revealed to you a major one. Can't tell you how many times I've begged for God's forgiveness.

Mom has dementia now. Remember that Oasis song from the '90s? The lyrics, There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don't know how.

So yeah, I have a college education. But it doesn't mean much to me anymore. Just a piece of paper, only made special because I dedicate it to ---

Victoria Lou McElroy Guy.








Sunday, June 9, 2013

Super guys


I want to briefly reflect on a friend who passed. This is kind of along the lines of my previous published column. Last Monday, while learning about the death of a national hero, my wife informed me that a local hero from my hometown had died.

There's a family owned pharmacy in my hometown and that's where I get all my drugs. I do not use Wal-Mart, Walgreens and I darn sure don't use Kober Brothers supermarket pharmacy. Those stuck-up jerks have been rude to my wife and I one to many times.

So in my hometown of Jett, Kan., it's always been Cooper Drug for me. Cletus owned the store from 1956 until around 10 years ago when his son Brett took over. Still, although long retired, Cletus showed up for work about every day. He kept his pharmacist license current and displayed on the wall. He continued to fill prescriptions and give consultations. I think he liked wearing that white pharmacist jacket. Working right to the end at 83-years-old. I'd say that's a good way to go.

The funeral took place last Friday at St. James Catholic Church. My cousin, Scott, a friend of Brett's arrived in town for the memorial and was quickly back on the road to preach Sunday at the church he pastors in South Dakota. Several of Brett's friends came to lend support. He's a super guy with a super family and he brings out the best in people.

Like his old man.

Let's be good to each other. Have a great week.

Community driver


Sunday evening, time continues unforgiving as I retreat to the start of the week now ending. History is one of my favorite things. The past is something we place into perspective and context in walking roughshod and forward.

Listening to NPR through endless driving -- that's my ever present lifeline behind the world. Silent, anonymous, yet, like the sounds of BBC radio in pre-dawn hours, it affords me a connection to the world more profound than any social media.

I remember my old job with the nursing home in the dinky town of Potwater, Kan. and driving elderly residents to appointments at places like the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. Mr. Ferris was the old man I most identified with. He and I had a connection. He liked stuff like NPR and Newsweek magazine, same as me. A lifetime ago, he was a young naval ensign on a ship bound for the Pacific.

Last Monday, on NPR it was reported -- and would be throughout the week -- that long-time U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey died. The senator's office reported that Lautenberg was "the last remaining World War II veteran serving in the Senate." http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/06/03/188291880/sen-frank-lautenberg-dies http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-03/local/39702959_1_smoking-ban-domestic-violence-lautenberg http://articles.philly.com/2013-06-05/news/39766836_1_u-s-senate-gun-laws-democratic-senator

I'm always sad to see a good era end. Around eight years ago, I was in a college classroom, preparing to pursue a master's in history, and talking about how only a handful of World War I veterans remained on this earth and how sad it would be when the last one died. Later, the last man did die and one of my favorite bands -- Radiohead -- recorded a tribute.

Now, the last World War II veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate.

One of my greatest thrills as a young newspaper reporter back in the '90s was interviewing the old men around town who had served in World War II -- either in Europe or the Pacific.

One old guy, Mr. Epsom -- once a 19-year-old preparing for the invasion of Japan when it was announced that a bomb had been dropped over Hiroshima -- agreed to meet me at his stomping ground at the VFW near the south edge of that dusty Oklahoma town. He ordered a Bourbon Cherry Seltzer for himself and bought me a Coke as if I were a little boy. (I was around 25, but looked about 16.)

Mr. Epsom talked about how the Depression era farm kid from the country and street fighter from the city had gone off to war. He'd settled down, managed a printing plant in town and did things like coach his kids baseball teams and run for school board.

All this brings me back to Mr. Lautenberg, one of those street kids who went on to a career and public service.

Born in Patterson, N.J., the son of poor Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants, Lautenberg had a hardscrabble childhood and "grew up feisty and strong-willed, rarely shying away from a good scrape," the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.

Lautenberg took care of his mother and sister after his father died, working, while finishing high school. At age 18, he joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps. and was stationed in Europe. Like so many other young men returning from the war, he went to college on the GI Bill. In 1949, his degree in economics was handed to him by Dwight D. Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University.

Years later, as a successful businessman, he landed a spot on Nixon's "enemies list" after donating $90,000 to the Great Plains Populist George McGovern in his '72 presidential bid.

Lautenberg launched his senate career in 1982. He never chaired a committee, nor sought the limelight, but worked hard behind the scenes, pushing for things like mass transit, highway and aviation safety, championed organized labor and increasing veterans' benefits.

I learned this past week that Lautenberg is the guy to
thank for clean air on domestic flights. A former two-pack-a-day smoker, he authored legislation that banned smoking on commercial domestic flights. And this was back in the '80s when wonderful bodies like Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds had a hold on Congress similar to what the NRA has today.

Oh he was progressive on gun control as well. He authored a bill that would prevent domestic abuse violators from owning firearms. In 2003, he voted against invading Iraq.

Isn't it funny how veterans are usually the most opposed to sending young soldiers into combat, while neocons like Dick Cheney, who never wore a uniform in his life, tend to be the most vociferous at beating the war drum?

Sacrifice and public service. Those are the qualities that personified the men and women of The Greatest Generation.

Just yesterday, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Dingell, Jr., of Michigan, became the longest serving member of Congress -- 57 years, five months, 25 days. This 86-year-old started serving in 1955, somewhere around the time Bill Haley and the Comets were climbing the charts with Rock Around the Clock. Dingell took over the Congressional seat his father had occupied since 1933. http://www.npr.org/2013/06/06/189270809/michigan-congressman-to-become-longest-serving-member

Among that generation, I'm sure there have been many conscientious servants on both sides of the aisle. Dingell told npr that the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were his proudest moments in public life and rightly so. That legislation represented the pinnacle of bipartiasianship and social amelioration in the political arena.

You probably never heard of Lautenberg or Dingell, but I bet you've heard of Michele  Bachmann, the arch-conservative representative from Minnesota who made news by announcing she wasn't seeking another term. She never effected squat for legislation, yet she became a celebrity, manipulating that same media she stonewalled. She represents the anti-public service view.

Nowadays, we have people who would have you believe compromise and government are dirty words. Really? When you were 3-years-old and jostling for toys in the pre-school playroom, didn't you have to learn compromise? And government? Doesn't someone have to build the roads and make sure our schools and workplaces are safe and free of disease?

Is government not about meeting the needs of society? Didn't the generation that had to ration coffee, metal and sugar during World War II know something about that? Heck, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Ike Eisenhower, came back to America, got elected President and built the interstate highways.

That's what government does: public service. It's only been that way since ancient freakin' Mesopotamia. I guess government-haters think holding office is about self-service or serving the rich.

But that's not the world our grandparents knew.

A few months back, my old newspaper pal Mike, now a city council member, commented on the flower bed at a local park. A local civic organization has maintained those brilliant-colored flowers for years, but most of the people in that group are in their 80s and above.

"They're gonna die off and this younger generation isn't into community activity," Mike said.

U.N. -- Think globally, act locally.

Okay, so things are different now. We have facebook. But doesn't facebook update me about volunteer clean-up dates for a group that's building a bike path/walking trail between my town and another in the county? Can I and others use modern life to activate good old fashioned community spirit?

Let's hope so. Going into this next week, I'm itching to fight the good fight.

Oh, and I think I'll tell my friend Allen that I'm available to volunteer at the World War II Museum.


Family values for everyone



It's a heart warming ad for a cereal noted by physicians as "heart healthy." Happy two-parent home and an adorable little girl who loves her mommy and daddy. That's family values personified. The American Dream.

We're all aware by now of the blowback from the Cheerios ad featuring an interracial couple and their daughter. I learned of it when my old newspaper friend Tod posted something about the controversy on facebook. Controversy? The word seems so misplaced in this context. How is it that the most innocuous things can become "controversial issues"?

Really? A mixed race couple controversial? In 2013? Jeez, it's only been a good 150 years since Lincoln released the Emancipation Proclamation. It's a fundamental right -- the idea that individuals of any race who connect with each other and fall in love can legally marry. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this right in its landmark 1967 decision in the case, Loving v. Virginia.

Interesting. A human right that was affirmed by law in the year of the "summer of love" is a "controversial issue" in the age of YouTube. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/06/03/cheerios-general-mills-commercial-mixed-race-ad/2384587/ http://www.pri.org/stories/after-racist-backlash-cheerios-ad-draws-support-for-interracial-couples.html

This issue has been hanging around for the past week, and it's significant that I'm writing about it on Sunday, the day people in America and throughout the world go to houses of worship.

Fifty years ago -- in 1963 -- Martin Luther King, Jr. called Sunday at 11 a.m.  “the most segregated hour in this nation.” http://www.godandculture.com/blog/sunday-at-11-the-most-segregated-hour-in-this-nation http://thinkchristian.net/mlk-and-defying-the-most-segregated-hour  There is still, sadly, a measure of truth in that statement, but you know something? I've seen a few miracles in my lifetime.

Nothing like walking on water or turning water into wine, just people coming together. I've seen Hispanic, Asian-American and African-Americans in predominantly white churches. I was in a predominantly black church in downtown Wichita, conducting some business for my job when I started reading the bulletins on the wall because that's what a guy like me does -- reads stuff -- and this affable young lady engaged me in conversation.

"You're welcome to visit here anytime," she told me.

Something supernatural started happening around 50 years ago. A parting of the waters cleared way for a path where everyone was welcome. White Baptist ministers, Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis joined King and the Civil Rights marchers and those images are forever enshrined in evocative black and white photographs. King even became buddies with Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

Then there was another response to integration in which the good, white church goin' people pulled their children out of those evil public schools and placed them in good Christian private schools where they didn't allow no mixin' of the races and what God had ordained.

I've heard such rumblings among my own people. Black people were invented when Noah put a curse on his son Shem. Or maybe it was earlier. When God put a mark on Cain's forehead after killing his brother Abel. There you go, the entire black race was descended from a murderer.

Interracial marriage? How sinful. How contradictory to nature. Even the birds of the air knew to only congregate among their own kind. And the harm to the children? Their skin would be a deformed zebra-like mixture of black and white.

But look at the little girl in that ad. She's a doll. Completely adorable. The kid appears confident and well adjusted as if she's the product of nurturing parents. She looks like the kind of girl who might play with my daughter. This child and her parents look like families within my -- and my wife's --- own extended family.

That's right. Younger people within our families didn't buy into that interracial phobia propagated by the older generations. But then the older people saw these cute, typical kids with their parents --- everyday couples feeling the joy and frustration of living with their children and each other. Not so bad, the old folks decided. I think they forgot about their previous views.

What's happened in our family is a microcosm of
what's happened in America. It's an accepted mainstream view that families may be a mixture of white, black, brown, yellow...whatever. I know conservative evangelicals who are of mixed race families.

Interracial family-phobia is a long discredited notion. Who buys into that ancient horse and buggy manure anymore? I hadn't heard anyone dissing interracial marriage in 20 years.

Until recently.

You see, while the majority of Americans have moved on, a loud minority of constipated, christo-facist neanderthals are blocking up America. Some of these philistines even hold keys to power. These days, they're busy beating up safe targets like gays, Muslims, Hispanics...You don't see them bringing out the ol' Jim Crow dogs and crosses until something happens so big that they can't keep it in the closet anymore.

Something like the election of a bi-racial president or the depiction of a bi-racial family in a cereal ad.

By the way, dissent is a beautiful thing in America -- when expressed in a healthy fashion. Criticizing the President does not make one a racist. Bringing up his race in the process of criticizing him is racist. For example, the sign shown below is offensive and racist.

"I'm not racist, I hate his white half too."


There they go again. That's the kind of mentality that blows a gasket over a harmless Cheerios commercial.

This -- I don't know -- pseudo-religious, pseudo-scientific, pseudo-political mindset is an imposition laid down by people who preach Family Values. They're all about family values until that family includes, say -- a Catholic mother and Muslim father or  two mothers. They place no value in such "non-traditional" families. You don't want those people coaching their daughter's soccer team or serving with PTO at their son's school.

The Hate Crowd will always be around. They were around in the days of segregation and they'll be here in 2030 when we're no longer a predominantly white nation. Racists will not be able to curb the inexorable wave of diverse people coming together for the better, yet my hat's off to the hate mongers. If not for them, I would never have never been aware of this beautiful ad.

I predict this Cheerios ad will become a classic like the Mean Joe Greene Coke ad and Mikey with Life cereal. Pretty ingenious stuff, like something Don Draper and his team would create.