Saturday, July 16, 2016

Whitesplainin'


Saturday morning last weekend at about 7:40 a.m and mine was the first haircut of the day at Ray's Barbershop in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000) in the '70s. Ray's been cutting hair there since 1965 when it was still Bub's Barbershop. Ray bought the place from Bub a year later and re-named the place after himself.

Bub ran the barbershop for 50 years just like Ray has turned out to do. When he finally retires, as he keeps saying he's going to do, Jayme, the young lady barber working the chair beside his, will probably take over.

Ray is an old guy, set in his ways. A nice guy, but stuck in his time, retrograde and non-progressive except for in the '70s when he learned how to cut long hair. It was two days after the tragic murders of five police officers in Dallas following what had been a peaceful protest. The news reports I read off Facebook said the sniper who did the shooting was not affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. People like Ray are still going to associate them, though.

"Just terrible, those five policemen getting killed," Ray said while bent over, looking at the side of my head and clipping the unruly hairs.

"It's a tragedy," I agreed. "I feel terrible for their families. I pray for them."

The five officers killed were: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Brent Thompson.

"I tell ya, ya get a bunch of people in a situation like that, blockin' the streets and shoutin,' carryin' signs and it's just askin' for trouble and you got people bringin' their kids out when they should be at home eatin' supper. I tell ya what I think, it's a bunch of hypocrites, all those black people protestin' the cops. First sign of trouble and they go runnin' behind the police to protect them."

"I think they would say they weren't protesting police," I said. "They were protesting police misconduct."

"You talk about misconduct. A policeman tells you to do somethin', you do it," Ray said as my graying middle aged hair fell from his barber's scissors to the floor." That's all they gotta do. Do what they tell you to and you won't get killed."

"Well, yes, you should comply with the cops," I said. "If someone is resistant, however, I think killing is extreme. It should be a last resort, something an officer doesn't do unless he feels his life is threatened."

"It was threatened," Ray said, his voice raised for emphasis. "We need Obama or someone the black people'll listen to to come on TV and say, 'listen, he robbed a store, then he was wrestlin' with a cop, trying to get his gun so he got capped.' And I don't understand why anyone would be recordin' with a phone after her boyfriend got shot. I think those phone cameras are the worst thing's ever been invented."

It wasn't clear whether Ray was talking about Michael Brown, Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. He appeared to have the people and situations mixed up.

Or maybe Ray just lumped them all together.

"Well as I understand it," I said, "that one guy, Philando Castile in Minnesota, was just sitting in his car, doing everything he was supposed to do. He let the officer know he had a permit to carry a gun like you're supposed to do and he was shot."

"I think there's some proof he didn't have a permit," Ray said. "He was reachin' down. He looked like a robbery suspect. What are you gonna do?"

Ray was quiet for a minute while applying Bay Rum to the nape of my neck after shaving it clean. Then he continued on talking.

"Now what I like was that black mama slappin' the shit out of her kid for bein' out there. She was a good one, I'd like to see more of 'em like that."

"I think the vast majorities of protests are peaceful just as I believe most cops are conscientious," I said.

Ray talked about how the protest in Dallas wasn't peaceful, how Black Lives Matter had led to the deaths of the five police officers. I told him I'd read in the news that the protest had been peaceful and was over when the sniper started shooting and that he was not connected with the BLM movement.

"Why aren't they protesting those five officers who were killed?"

"They've condemned the killings," I said. I told him about the images I'd seen on TV of BLM folks and police in Dallas hugging and crying together.

By this time, an old guy about 70 was sitting, waiting for his haircut. (Jayme wasn't in yet.) The old guy who Ray knew by name looked up from the Jett Journal newspaper he was reading to put his two cents in.

"I think them Black Lives Matters people are responsible for the police killings," the old guy who Ray called Slim said. "They went and stirred up some shit, and they're racist. Hell, we're all human beins' bleedin red. Them cops, them blue lives, don't they matter?"

"Of course all lives matter," I said. "When they say black lives matter, they're not saying other lives don't. I believe they feel black lives have been treated as dispensable, that systematic racism has treated their lives as if they don't matter."

"Oh, I've heard all that shit before," Ray said as he brushed the hairs from the back of my neck . A bunch of cryin' and whinin' and bitchin."

"Always cryin' race," Slim said.

"That's what they always come back to," Ray said as he sprayed Tea Tree Tonic to my finished haircut. "I'll tell you what, you wanna make them protesters leave, just offer 'em a job. They'll cut loose real fast."

I stepped down from the barber's chair, just as Jayme walked in. "Morning, Jayme," I said. "Morning, Jeff. Looks like Ray took good care of you."

"Ray's the man," I said after, shifting a side glance at my haircut in the side of the mirror. We get along great, Ray and I even though he sometimes calls me a "liberal socialist." The old man's been cutting my hair since I was a little kid. He knew I was going car shopping that day, having recently totaled my old car, hitting a deer. I was using a rental.

"You oughta be able to Jew that car salesman down good with a fresh haircut like that," he said.

"Thank you very much for the haircut Ray," I said as I handed him a 10 and a 5 dollar bill. He handed me three dollars back, but I told him he could keep the change. He thanked me.

Sometimes I get my hair cut at the Old Town Barber College in downtown Wichita where I can get a haircut for $6. Most of the student barbers there are young women and black and Hispanic males. I wonder where the conversation would go if they weighed in on the divisiveness between police and African Americans.

I've read how the Dallas Police Dept. has been heralded as a model for the country for relations between black activists and police. I hope more people can come together, but how do you get past all the narrow minds that fuel the trash talk we encounter in barbershops, bars, the work place and all over social media?

It's in the news how BLM leaders and police in Wichita will co-sponsor a barbecue this Sunday. I hope for the best.

                              "Black and White" by Three Dog Night






Sunday, July 3, 2016

The radio show time forgot


It's always been a thrill, driving the family in the Santa Fe on North Rock Road in Wichita on a Saturday night in between going to some place like Kohl's, Payless Shoe Stores or Fazzoli's and hearing that husky voice on my local public radio station KMUW 89.1, Wichita.

"I thought that old man was gonna retire," Maria would say. "When's he going away? He said he was gonna retire five years ago."

She can't stand the sound effects.

"It's one of the best parts," I'd tell her.

Alas, Garrison Keillor finally taped his last episode of A Prairie Home Companion. This time he was serious about retiring. Periodicals like the New York Times and Atlantic Monthly have written about him doing his last show which is funny because APHC was inspired by Keillor writing an article for the New Yorker in 1974 about the last radio taping of the Grand Ol' Opry. The experience inspired Keillor to create his own musical variety show on public radio, which was, if not an infant, then a toddler at that time.

The show will go on with new host Chris Thile, of Nickel Creek, (a band that's appeared on APHC numerous times) taking over in October. But I understand there's going to be more music and fewer comedy sketches.

That sucks.

And the guests Thile plans to have on the show -- Beyonce', Dave Chapelle, Sarah Silverman? That's not homespun, Americana, corn pone.

I was driving in the car with my son, Max, on a Sunday afternoon, listening to a re-run of the Saturday Night APHC show.

"Yeah, I know this show has its corny parts," I said.

"The whole thing is corny," he answered.

"I know, but that's what I like about it. It's like old time radio before television when families would gather around the radio and listen to Jack Benny or Bob and Ray. The sound effects are like on Fibber McGee and Molly where you'd hear Fibber open his closet and all his junk would come crashing down." (We'd heard those old shows on Radio Classics on Sirius Radio when we took rented cars on vacations.)

Keillor is 74. He remembers old time radio. It's like he told Pres. Obama, who called in to the last show, "I go back to Harry Truman."

                                            Young Garrison Keillor


There will be no more Lake Wobegon stories on the revamped show. That's the best part of the show. "Well it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown," Keillor would say and go into a monologue about the denizens of his make believe town. These were stoic people who sang "Abideth With Me" at the Lutheran Church, went hunting and fishing, drank beer, surreptitiously smoked cigarettes, made love and died.

I love those recurring bits from the APHC world. Pastor Liz and the Norwegian Lutherans. German Catholics and Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church. English majors. Guy Noir Private Eye ("On a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets one man searches for the answers to life's persistent questions.") Life With the Cowboys. The Ketchup Advisory Board and all those fictional sponsors like Powder Milk Biscuits and Rhubarb Pie. Even Maria would sing along with the jingle. "Be bop a re bop rhubarb pie."

My theory is Maria secretly likes the show. Maybe she didn't at first but I sense it grew on her. I mean, Garrison had on musical guests she likes like Iris DeMent. Maria absolutely loves her version of "Everlasting Arms" from the movie True Grit.

She would complain rather accurately that Keillor, who sang on every show, was not a good singer. So what? That was part of his appeal.

I don't think I'll be able to listen to the new show. If Maria doesn't like the new young host, it won't be as funny as her not liking the old guy. Since Thile is a musician, he probably has a good singing voice. That's no fun. And what -- there's gonna be some hip, urbanized, diversified, attract-the-younger-audience version of A Prairie Home Companion. It just won't be Midwestern Minnesota prairie anymore, and I won't be able to torture my family with cornball humor. It's like how I stopped doing those silly Michael Jackson impressions on the phone with my mom after MJ died. It wasn't the same.

I've read that Garrison Keillor is public radio's past and they need to look to the future. I don't think it's so great.

It feels like old time radio has died a second time. But the good thing is you can download podcasts. So it will never really be gone. And maybe I can play a CD of Garrison's Prairie Home Companion when I'm with the family on trips.


                                 Profile on CBS Sunday Morning





Saturday, July 2, 2016

Confederate flag


"I just posted something on Facebook about how stupid the Confederate Flag is. I didn't mean to re-start the damn Civil War," I said.

"How could you not know that would stir some shit?" my friend Terri said.

I saw some fool in the McDonald's parking lot in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s) with a Confederate flag hanging idiotically from the back of his truck. Just waving stupidly in the summer breeze.

So I got on my Android & posted, "Some fool in the McDonald's parking lot with the damn Confederate flag on his truck."

"My son has a Confederate flag on his truck and I don't concider (sic) him a fool," a Facebook friend posted. I didn't mean to offend her about her son going around with a racist flag.

Then my arch conservative Facebook friend, Brock, replied to my post. Back in school I didn't know what the hell Brock's politics were. Hell I didn't even have any politics when I was in high school. Reagan was the president & I guess some people thought he was tough like Clint Eastwood or something. It was all image & I guess Republican was supposed to be the Cool Party & stuff. But I didn't give much thought to politics although I liked history and government classes. Hated algebra. I imagine nowadays with Fuckbook and all the Social Media out there, today kids are like, "You fucking Democrat liberal Muslim gay louvin' (sic) anti-American dick godamn atheist" and their friends reply something like "Fuck you southern baptist bigot rascist (sic) ammo fucking closet fag." I don't know, I'm just guessing they verbally abuse each other over politics. A lot of adults do on Facebook and I know the kids do so because they have issues. My friend, Logan, is a school resource officer. He's shown me things.

Anyhow I've digressed but the thing is I wouldn't have known if Brock was Republican or Democrat in the '80s & I couldn't have given a shit. Of course today with Facefuck you can't not know. Being arch conservative and loving America (and if you don't, get the fuck out) means defending the rebel flag, I guess. It does in Brock's world.

He posted a meme. That's about all Brock posts. Arch conservative memes.


Okay if you pull your pants up I'll stop being a racist. That's fair. If you practice tasteful fashion sense I'll take down a flag that symbolizes a heritage of slavery, hatred, Jim Crow and racism.

Heritage of hate

But no, they say on Facebook. It's just a flag celebrating Southern culture. Just good old fashioned ass kickin' rebel fun like they had at the Buzzard's Roost where Daisy Duke sauntered in her cut-offs, serving beer to all the good ol' boys on The Dukes of Hazard. That harmless motif was on the roof of the Duke Boys' Dodge Charger, the General Lee. I used to think the flag was just about partying and listening to "Free Bird."

But over time, I couldn't stop asking myself, "How does that flag feel to a black person?" You can sanitize history and say the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, that it was only about defending a genteel way of life against federal intrusion but the historical facts show the war had everything to do with slavery, racism and white supremacy.

The Southern Cross, the flag design popularized by Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, actually has more to do with the Civil Rights Movement than the Civil War. It didn't see a  resurgence until 1948 when Southern Democrats, opposed to Civil Rights measures on the Democratic Party Platform, seceded from the party and formed the Dixiecrats, The Dixiecrat Party was for things like segregation and against things like anti-lynching laws. And they flew that flag everywhere. In the '50s and '60s, the Confederate flag was flown in the South as a symbol of resistance to the growing integration. The KKK flew the Confederate flag.

It's no coincidence that the piece of crap who shot to death nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church last year had posed for pictures with that stupid flag.

So I stirred some shit because I expressed my true feelings about the Confederate Flag. I'm free to give my opinion and they're free to express their hatred all over Social Media & fly their racist flag.


Rep. Hakeem Jeffries D-New York argues for a National Parks ban on displaying and selling the Confederate Flag.