Monthly Archives: May 2017

People of Color

Time to get some blood a’boiling.

i have a complaint.

i am almost positive it will upset most who read it. It will also produce some outrage, disagreement, and maybe exception from those who misinterpret my concern and use my thoughts incorrectly to support something like racial inequality, prejudice, etc., which is exactly opposite of what i intend to convey.

But what the heck. i’m going for it.

Why does a group of people who don’t like some collective label, or someone else in an effort to be politically correct and helpful, come up with something that is inaccurate? The government even got into the act, changing the names  for “race?” (or dancing around even that on their forms). What does it matter? Oh, i know: data.

Among several other terms i won’t mention here, i’m talking about the term “people of color.”

What the hell does that mean?

It seems it was meant to mean any person who is not caucasian.

i think it means i don’t have any color. i beg to differ. i’ve got more color than almost anyone. My arms, due to exposure to the sun most of my life, and the thin skin older folks acquire bringing about frequent cuts, blood, and scabs gives me more color than most. My body has gone from baby paleness to Tennessee summer brown except for the shorts-hidden area and now with a myriad of colors, including the baby paleness returning to the sun screen protection required of old age. My face, and especially my practically bald head is blotched. My neck is…well, i guess you could call it “red,” but i think it’s more rust colored: lots of golf sun, you know, but still “redneck.”

To tell the truth, it doesn’t bother me when someone calls me “paleface” or “redneck.” They are being relatively accurate.

But “people of color” takes inaccuracy to new heights.  And i would add i am definitely not “white.” i don’t look like a sheet. i don’t think i’ve actually ever seen a “black” person either except for this one in Papua New Guinea. But that doesn’t count. One of the marriage rituals for the cannibal tribes at the time was for the bride to paint her entire body in black pigment (i have a postcard with a photo of a bride like the one i say, but that’s a different story and not one to be told here).

i think we need to quit messing around with this stuff. And why do we have to differentiate? There are so many variations of racial mixing, we really don’t know anymore. For example, Barack Obama is the only person of whom i am aware who is really an “African-American.” Folks don’t call me “European-American.” i did meet some “European-Africans” when i was in Africa over thirty years ago.

If your family has been here for more than 100 years, then i think we should just cut all that out and call you an American. Of course, we could start  calling all  folks by their country or continent or both. So i should be labeled “European-British-American-Southern-Californian” or something. Some bright and lazy crown could turn it into an acronym (EBASOC).

Now don’t get me wrong, i think we should all honor our heritages and not denigrate other races, heritages, home of our ancestors, etc. But i’m getting a little tired of people getting wrapped around the axle because someone called them a name they didn’t like.

i acknowledge and accept previous comments by my dear friend, Dr. Kathy McMahon Klosterman about being aware of others’ sensitivity (or perhaps “sensibility” is a better term here). She’s right. Furthermore, i have not experienced the degradation, the debasement, the injustice, and all of the other things i don’t know about because i haven’t experienced them.

Perhaps i’m just too simple to grasp the concept.

But to be perfectly honest, i wish we would just drop all of that “color,” “race,” and all other means of separating us.

How about calling us “souls?”

Reflections in the Crud Days

i took a walk this morning (Tuesday). Yippee ki yay. It was the first time i’ve done any real physical activity in exactly three weeks. Hip hip hooray. The doc said i could walk if i didn’t overdo it. Glory hallelujah. It was glorious. Hoorah. And to top it off, i got this view about half-way through the one and half mile circuit:

i appreciate everyone’s concern and well wishes, but to be honest, other than some breathing issues, coughing, lots of phlegm, laryngitis, fitful short sleep, and enough meds to choke a horse, it really wasn’t all that bad except, excuse my French, i’m really tired of this shit of not doing anything.

But compared to others i know and care about, this has been a piece of cake. i am not complaining, just a little whine with my lunch.

i think…no, i hope it’s nearly over. The wave has crested. I am fairly confident i can now claim i am on my way to recovering from the crud. The doc says i should be good to go by the end of next weekend, about four weeks. FOUR WEEKS.

Man, that’s a long time. i know now.

Really, i was okay. i was just uncomfortable. It was a virus, coupled with sinusitis that morphed into “asthmatic bronchitis.” i knew i was going to pull out of it.

The worst thing was doing NOTHING. i never get a lot done because i keep hopping from one project to another and spend one hell of a lot of time procrastinating, but this was so not me, this just sitting around. When i asked if i could play golf, the doc damn near went epileptic on me. “Rest!” he said, “Rest is a major factor in getting you well. Stressing your breathing before you are recovered is the worst thing.”

So i have been sitting on my a…, ah well, you know. i didn’t have the energy or concentration to write or read, so i slept…sort of. i slept as much as i could, not much but a lot of time in bed trying . i watched more television than i have in the last ten years. And i generally don’t like watching television unless it’s a sports contest with some personal interest.

i am not complaining. There are so many people of my generation who are in much worse condition, dealing with terrible health issues, facing death with nobility, and quite a few already are sadly gone.

i really wasn’t worried…almost. It’s that time. I’m seventy-three. As Gayle Marks Byrnes said to me, “We are survivors.” That’s not bad. It could be worse. The Social Security Administration has a web page stating  “A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3.” When i ran their individual assessment, it predicted 13 more years and my lasting until i am 86.3. My parents lived to just shy of 97 and 99. i’ve got a good chance to keep on ticking for a while.

Still, i’ve had a long pause. The situation led me to think and reflect. You see, when the doc said “asthmatic bronchitis,” some bells rang. When he ordered x-rays to ensure it wasn’t pneumonia, i became more concerned. My mother suffered significant allergies leading to asthma and other physical problems for most of her latter life. My maternal grandfather died early from what everyone now believes was asthma. My father-in-law died from esophagus cancer, and my father, after a life of incredible health, was done in by pneumonia.

My concerns, at least for now, have been put out to pasture.

But who knows? It’s gonna be what’s it’s gonna be, and i don’t think i have a lot of say about it. i’m fine with that.

i am a very lucky man. i have had a wonderful, exciting, groovy, successful, happy, an interesting life. But i don’t think it’s all that different from most people’s lives. And i rest now knowing i always tried to do what’s right. Yeh, i failed a couple of times but without the intention of doing anything that wasn’t right. Bad judgement. i have some people who don’t particularly think much of me. Their choice, not mine. It’s okay. i don’t blame them. i’m not in their shoes, don’t wish to waste my time thinking why. i don’t like them any less.

Whenever i do go, i can go satisfied about what i’ve done and what i’ve not done.

That’s one of the things i resolved while sitting around reflecting for three weeks.

i also wondered if other folks spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. i wondered if it was a good thing or not. i remembered Dave Carey telling me and others how the POW’s had a lot of time to talk to each other about things they thought and felt, much more than all of us who didn’t spend that time as prisoners in the Hanoi Hilton. When they did talk about sensitive, private things, they found out they had similar thoughts about many deep things.

i thought i would share this just in case there are some other old farts who have considered the end of all this like me. They might like to know there are others who spend time thinking on similar lines. Hmm, maybe there aren’t any who think about this stuff.

i know i have committed to writing. What kind of writing and how much is up in the air, to be determined. That’s the underlying purpose in my two-week writing retreat to Flagstaff next month.

This piece initially was about four times longer than it will be when i finish. This crud gave me a lot of time to reflect upon a lot of things. But i cut a lot out. i was…well, i was rambling. i won’t make any promises because i have committed to change before only to rationalize myself out of it shortly afterward.

The bottom line: all of my reflection has led me to a couple of conclusions. i hope to spend the rest of my life unafraid, continue to always try to do the right thing, write in a manner that is consistent with those two objectives, and not worry about what others think.

And have fun. At my age, life is too short to fool with all that other stuff.

Mothers Mine

If you read this earlier, i somehow managed to delete several mothers of mine in my last edit. i am older now and it was later then. It was a good idea last night, but i should have waited for a final edit this morning. Here was what was intended:

i am up way too late. But i have a mission.

It’s a mission i’m not too thrilled about but feel it needs to be done. You see, i don’t particularly like honoring folks because it’s some mandated special day. i’m fine with Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving, but the rest of them seem a little contrived, like you’re sending stuff or writing stuff or sharing photos of whomever is to be honored. And those silly things like Valentine’s and even Halloween seem more like marketing opportunities that we all buy into because we like to celebrate something and take time off from other things.

Just not into it.

But tomorrow’s another thing.

It’s Mother’s Day. i might send something to some of the mothers i know, but it will be as much because i don’t want them to think i don’t honor, respect, and love them as it will be because i want to do it on the second Sunday in May. It’s nice and all, but i’m over it. i would much rather take a day on my own and call or write or send something special from me…or maybe a dinner. But from me, not dictated from on high.

Still, they are something special, these mothers. Not anything like them. Certainly not dads. That’s another category of special.

i would like to write something elegant and respectful, but i think it will just get lost in the wash of loving sentiments about moms that will fill up most media and communications tomorrow.

So i just wanted you to know that i’ve been very lucky with this mom thing. i’ve had a number more than the immediate ones shown here. Their ability to be good moms is a special, wonderful, and very difficult thing. i know about the latter because i tried to do it for about a half-dozen years or more with Sarah…and came up way short of real moms.

So here they are with a few comments:

Aunt Bettye Kate Hall, my mother’s sister. She was a second mom to all her nieces, nephews, and any child who happened to cross her path. She is here with Tommy Duff a couple of years ago.
Carla Neggers, wife of my brother. She’s an incredible novelist, but her love and attention to Kate (i stole this one from Kate’s website), Zachary, and her grandchildren is beautiful to behold.
My sister Martha Duff with one of her twin grandsons (i think this is Culley). There has never been a mom with more love and strength than Martha. She is like a second mother to Sarah as Aunt Bettye Kate was to me.
A troika of moms with theirs in the center. Granny was a phenomenal woman, who survived hardships, hard work to give great love to all of her children and grandchildren. An amazing woman. Here she is surrounded by Aunt Bettye Kate, my second mom; Aunt Evelyn Orr, my third mom and a wonderful caring mother to Nancy and Jon; and my mother.
Aunt Colleen, married to my Uncle Bill Prichard, was a special one. She raised six children, but she adopted all of the children in the family. Nancy and Jon Orr, shown here were the first two. Strong willed, religious, funny, and beautiful.
Mama Jewell, my paternal grandmother. She died in 1951, way too soon for me. But her sweetness and love for her seven children and innumerable grand children was palpable. Although i was only seven when she passed away, i clearly remember how much love and protection she gave me.
In addition to Mama Jewell, there are six of my mothers here. Myrtle, Joann, and Shirley Jewell were frequently my baby sitters, especially Shirley (middle front; the goofy one is on Uncle Jesse’s shoulder). Their mother Alice (second from right) watched over them to make sure they were taking care of me. i can remember sitting in her lap with a warm, comfortable feeling. Aunt Louise (standing with Uncle Huffman) was also a mother of mine when growing up, and we have grown closer over the years — one of my greater disappointments in not going back home recently was i did not get to spend some time with her. Then, there was Aunt Naomi Martin, Daddy’s oldest sister. She was elegant. She raised Maxwell with love and affection while working from when she finished high school, and oh did i love to stay with her. Her stories were simply knee-slapping fun.
Yep, this mother is mine. i included him here because they went together. Always. She and Sarah had a special bond from the start, but Estelle Jewell had that equally with Blythe and with all of her children and grandchildren. She was strict when required, but everything she did was driven by her love for that man, her children, and her great grandchildren.
Kathie is Blythe’s mom (i stole this one off of Blythe’s Facebook page). We have had our problems but i always trusted Kathie with our daughter because i knew how much she loves her. For that i am grateful. She is a special mother and grandmother.
There is this double-whammy who is most special to me. Blythe is a successful businesswoman, a wonderful and entertaining writer, the best editor i’ve ever run across, and she is my first daughter. Over and above that, she is one of the best mothers i’ve ever observed. She has unending love for her son, my grandson Sam. She nurtures him, challenges him, she disciplines him with the goal of making him a success in life. It is rather incredible to watch these two together. i am truly in love with both of them.

 

And then there is this one, probably the most special because she lives with me, and in some…no, many ways takes care of me like a mother would. She is here with Sarah at high school graduation, but she embraces Blythe as her own.

And there you have it. Not very majestic and because it’s late, probably not such a wonderful tribute. But i love them all for being mothers for me, if not to me. i have been extremely lucky in that category, but i suspect most offspring have such feelings today and tomorrow about their mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day.

and good night.

i think i got it right this morning.

Lonely Things

i must be improving. By this time for the past five nights, i have been stuffed with pills and trying to figure out how i can minimize the crud from continual interruption of sleep. i feel that way now, but the urge to write — i was going to write “put something down on paper” and that remains the greatest joy of writing to me, but just too damn inefficient for one who is much like my mother’s description of my father as a “worm in hot ashes” — was strong, and i obeyed. So i think i’m getting better.

i could not talk to Maureen or my daughters tonight. The hoarseness is abating i think, but it’s still work to talk.

So i sit in my office thinking about lonely things. i guess that’s natural if you have been alone (except for Maureen’s cats) for two days. In my life, i have often felt alone and identified with lonely things. i don’t think that is terribly bad. It could be good.

In my world of growing up, i lived a full life, running through it like a bull hell bent to do everything one could possibly do. But in my way, i was lonely, just me. i was wild, or at least as wild as a Tennessee boy could be who had matriculated to the Southern version of Ivy (Vanderbilt) and had made what has turned out into a life-long connection to the Navy.  But i never seemed, at least to me, to quite fit in, anywhere. Even with the women i loved, there seemed to be a loneliness.

Perhaps that was because of the time. Regardless of what we thought then or now politically, culturally, religiously, we were mostly a generation of romantics in oh so many ways. Perhaps that uncertainty created by being romantics in a both practical and insane world we lived required us to identify with the lonely things. i did.

In 1966, there was this gentle soul who captured the imagination of many in my age range. He was the flower child of gentleness, not the in your face, wild-haired confrontational onslaught of the beatniks. Rod McKuen wrote some soothing stuff for romantics. Folks nowadays might call it sappy. Perhaps that is why when Sharry Baird Hager once called some of my writing “sappy,” i took it as a compliment.

He wrote a lovely romantic book of poetry called Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows (1966). i read it at sea in the Navy soon after my first divorce. i heard him recite it sometime shortly afterward. i was entranced.  He captured my sense of lonely things.

Then, there was this guy, a member of a folk trio, The Limelighters. He left his folk group to perform on his own and recorded an album “Glenn Yarborough Sings the Rod McKuen Songbook” in 1969. i bought it in 1970 in the Navy exchange in Sasebo, Japan. i listened to
“The Lonely Things” incessantly on my 22 trips between Sasebo, Korean, and Vietnam that year. i still have it.

After all, i was into lonely things.

Yarborough took the last verse of “Stanyan Street” and recorded that on the album as “The Lonely Things.” If you care not to listen to Yarborough’s version or McKuen reciting “Stanyan Street” on the web, then i offer the lyrics of those verses here:

The silent rain that falls, the meadowlark
the winter wind that calls the lovers from the park
the sad and bitter song December sings
these are the lonely things.

The sun behind the clouds, the starless night
when you’re alone in crowds the need for sudden
flight
the empty loneliness that parting brings
these are the lonely things.

A taste of love too soon gone wrong
the sad mistaken heart that heard the sirens song
and sang along.

The waves that drum the shore at morning light
the friends that come no more to try and make things
right
the hopes that fly too soon as though on wings
these are the lonely things.

And these lonely things aren’t really all that bad. In fact, they can be beautiful. If only you think about it in the right way.

Strange

i don’t think many would call my day today a good day.

i didn’t get a whole lot of solid sleep because of the persistent coughing and strange noises coming from my innards, not to mention the drainage, the head tightness, and the sore throat. Oh yes, for most of the day, i couldn’t talk, at least not well.

i continued to put down pills like peanuts at a baseball game.

Oh yes, it has been blustery, drizzly and sometimes rainy day in the Southwest corner, a veritable raging storm for out here in May. Cool too.

Then mid-morning, i put Maureen on her flight to Austin. My entire immediate family is 1300 miles away for five days when i get one back.

Not being able to sleep well, i dedicated the day to watching sports on television. i watched Vanderbilt lose to Missouri, 2-1 in twelve innings, the first time, ever. My horse, Battle of Midway (of course) showed, a 37-1 shot that held a lead for a while. Disappointed.

So i watched the Padres lose to the Dodgers, 10-2.  What once a long time ago across the country in Brooklyn was my favorite team (until my Pirates came along) is now my nemesis. i’m a Padre fan.

While doing so, i fixed me a grill cheese with some boxed tomato soup Maureen gets from Trader Joe’s. It’s pretty good and i make a mean grilled cheese, but it didn’t seem all that good tonight. Just something to get down.

It wasn’t the catfish dinner, my LHS ’62 class enjoyed back home. Theresa Wright kindly sent me some photos from her phone. i saw these people, my childhood friends, and i wanted to talk to them right then.

Oh, i could go on and on, but i need to go to bed for some more fitful sleep.

But you know what?

i feel pretty good.

i’m getting better. My childhood friends apparently had a great time. The weather is going to clear up in a day or two and be San Diego wonderful. Vanderbilt and the Padres are fun to watch. Battle of Midway showed well for those odds.

And back in Austin, i have five of the most wonderful people in my life enjoying themselves, enjoying each other. And they all have such wonderful promise ahead of them. Even if it is without me.

It may be strange, but that is a comforting, peaceful realization: they are mine and they are just fine without me. i think that means i’m okay.

Strange.

Disappointed Feeling Good

Right about now, i should be completing packing up my rental car at Berry Field (Nashville International Airport to those who do not remember).

In a few minutes, i should be on the road, I-40 East.  The first time i was on that road it was in the late winter 1964. I drove a 1959 Vauxhall i had coerced from my sister for my work car while at The Nashville Banner. My father followed me in the 1955 Pontiac Chieftain, his work car. He had come to usher me home so he could fix some problems with the Vauxhall.

Because of the car problems, Jimmy Jewell directed me to travel on the unfinished I-40, which turned to rock at the Davidson, Wilson County line. It was just about five miles on the rock road when the Vauxhall gave out. We parked it on the side where the next morning Daddy would bring the wrecker to haul it into Hankins, Byars, and Jewell on East Main. He would, as with all things automotive, get it running, and i would drive it back to Nashville. On US 70. Paved.

i planned to try and identify where we left it 53 years ago. It will be tough. i’m not even sure there was a 109 exit. i think there was an exit under construction in Mount Juliet. The only exit in Lebanon was at US 231. Four lanes all the way. Rock.

The problem is i’m not packing the rental car and searching for the spot that Vauxhall died. i will not be sleeping in the Harding’s guest room on Tarver and having a morning coffee out on the backyard patio with a discussion with Henry and Brenda in what has become one of my favorite things about being in Lebanon.

i am sitting in my family room chair watching the Padres and Rockies in a good pitching duel, 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth. i have just had a wonderful chicken, rice, and salad supper Maureen invented in the clutch. i wasn’t supposed to be here. The doctor confirmed i made a good decision. He loaded me up with enough meds to, as my mother would say, choke a horse. It’s mostly preventative, but i am coughing still. i think it will take an unknown number of days, hopefully two or three. But it was the right decision.

It sucks.

i am missing Lebanon and Nashville more than i can remember. The Padres are now leading 6-1 in the bottom of the seventh. i am not real interested and not likely to watch the whole thing, a cardinal sin since i can remember.

Doped up, i will sleep well. Hell, i am a champion sleeper. Been that way all of my life. Father trained. (Several other stories there).

i will wake up, early as usual i suspect, tomorrow morning and realize i will not be talking with Henry and Brenda on the patio. But at least, Henry got the guest bedroom cleaned up and saved some major bucks by not buying some liquor and wine for me (That’s another story in the goofy guy and Harding legends to be told later). i will not be calling my friends and family in Lebanon and from Vandy to solidify my schedule for the next ten days. i’ve got a clean slate…except for that small matter of beating this crap that left me at home.

So Blue Devils of 1962, tell your tales. Vandy and Lebanon friends, enjoy the golf we scheduled (if it doesn’t rain you out).

And Lebanon, don’t change too much more before i get back.

As i said, this sucks.

An Evening Before

Maureen is in her usual place, lying on the love seat with one cat snuggling by her side and the other on her legs. She is purportedly reading but there is really more sleeping going on. She will soon give up and go to bed.

It has been one of those special evenings for me, quite accidentally i might add.

Today, i reengaged with fitness, of my determination i should qualify. i tired of being a slug. At some point about two months ago, i said the hell with it. After all, i’m 73, not an old 73 but still 73, ancient. i should be able to do what i wish for the remaining years. Right?

Then i thought about some things. My parents lived to just shy of 99 and 97 respectively. Good genes, right? But i have lived a much wilder life than they and don’t expect to make it to their age. However, my goal is to make it to at least 85. i want to see my grandson Sam graduate from college. Since i have been wilder, i need to work on lasting more than Mother and Daddy ever did.

Then, there are my friends and me. Several have had some major procedures concerning health issues in the last month or so. My concerns about my condition have continued to prove minor. i am about the only one of friends my age who can still run, albeit rather pitiful to how we all used to run. Dammit, i owe it to them.

So in the last two days, i started running again. Sort of. In my last Navy tour, i ran at lunch, from the Naval Amphibious School along Coronado’s beach to the security fence of North Island Naval Air Station. It was about a 48 minute run, roughly six miles. i did that every weekday from early may 1985 until the end of November 1989.

It was a good run: full of life, enjoyment.

So i decided to work up to running 48 minutes. Today, i ran (my interpretation) for 11 of those 48 minutes. Oh hell yeh, it’s only about half the distance i used to cover in that time. But so what? i’m 73. Feeling good. Oh yeh, oh yeh.

Then i worked on packing and arranging for my trip home. Yup. This is my home, but Lebanon, Tennessee is also my home…forever.

This evening, Maureen and i chose to fix our own fish we had bought at “Blue Water,” an incredible sea food diner and deli. Maureen chose sea bass. i got opah. She did one of her magic cooking jobs on hers. i did some swags on the marinade and grilled mine.

i grilled it in our new “egg” knock off.  We bought it about three months ago. It’s magic but requires me to cook rather than my previous guess and by-golly approach to grilling. i eschew any grilling without charcoal. If i’m not grilling with charcoal, why not cook inside?

It was a lovely twilight. Grilling fresh opah, one of my favorites. My world behind me, ahead of me, here right now. So i gave in. A martini with JJ Cale as the opah grilled to its glory.

As usual, we ate on dinner trays in the family room.

i had recorded the playoff in this weekend’s golf tournament. We watched. It was rather anti-climatic. But we enjoyed. Maureen even liked a taste of my grilled opah. We shared the Lanzarote. It’s a rose wine from the Canary Island of Lanzarote. We bought it at the wine tasting last Thursday in San Francisco. Thanks, Alan Junior. The meal was about as good as it gets for an evening meal. The wine was perfect, and i’m not a big fan of rose.

After the golf, we watched the end of the second Sherlock Holmes movie. Maureen decided she didn’t wish to hear bad so we didn’t watch the news, not even PBS. i’m all for that all of the time.

We turned off the television. i put Dvořák’s 9th, the “New World” Symphony on the portable whatever it is connected to my invaluable iPod. It is one of the few pieces i could hear over and over and over…again and again and again.

When Anton’s piece concluded, i took the whatever that new technological magic is into our bathroom to shower. i put the selection on shuffle. i finished the evening ritual and came back to this infernal computer. But i continued to play my iPod.

It occurred to me i have learned to appreciate all kinds of music. Tonight, i listened to JJ Cale, Dvořák, the Carter Family, Andrea Bocelli, Charles Mingus, Flatt and Scruggs, and Joe Williams. It’s pretty nice to be without prejudice.

Maureen is in bed now. She read out. i am checking all things internet, at least in my limited capabilities to check out all things internet.

Tomorrow afternoon, i will head for Tennessee. Nine days back home. i cannot wait to see my friends, visit places so dear to me, relish Tennessee May.

But as i sit here in the final hours of a Southwest corner day, i have to admit, they just don’t come much better than this.

i hope your day was as good as mine.