How To Raise Your Children…or Not

Nothing generates more unsolicited advice than children.  Or, I should say “raising” children.  “Raising” connotes that this is a relatively simple task similar to growing tomatoes.  If you’ve ever grown tomatoes you know that they can turn out all kinds of different ways.  Some are big and beautiful and you beam with pride when your neighbors see them.  Others wither on the vine.  The neighbors see those, too, but you’re not so proud of those. Most are just kind of average.  You did your best.  Oh, well.

I have children–three of them, in fact. All boys. I was present at their births.  I’ve stayed up with them at night, fed them bottles, changed their diapers and read books to them.  I’ve played with them outside.  I’ve talked to them and paid great attention to them throughout their lives.  I notice when they grow.  I love them and I think they love me.  All of this qualifies me to advise anyone on how to raise THEIR children.  What?  It doesn’t?  Wait a second.  People have given me all kinds of advice about school, discipline, good manners, sports, and all other aspects of parenting.  You mean they are NOT experts?  Good Lord, why would they feel so free to impose their views on me?  It’s because they have children, and they know what to do.  Or so they say.

I can understand why parents might seek advice.  We all want to raise scholars, saints, athletes and world leaders.  No one intends to end up with Levi Johnston or Snookie.  Also, some children have such profound physical, mental and emotional problems that advice must be sought.  It is those that offer advice that must be ignored, at least by me.

This post will tell you everything you need to know about parenting or, more accurately, parenting advice.  It’s likely to be offensive, but so are my children on many occasions.  What do I know?  As much as you do, it turns out.


You have a child!  It’s a miracle.  It’s a blessing.  It’s a gift from God.  These and many other platitudes are sure to be thrown your way.  We’re all happy for you.  Really.  Good job.

Here’s the deal.  Procreation is not that impressive.  Sorry, but that’s a fact.  Take a look around, folks.  All these people you see got here through roughly the same process.  Oh, now some of us had to work at a little harder and spent time wondering why we had such difficulty doing something which countless teenagers accidentally accomplish everyday. But, by and large, it’s just biology.  Dogs, cats, wolverines, chimps, etc., all reproduce. Maybe that’s miraculous, too.  Possibly, it’s a miracle than anyone reproduced with ME.  I’ll grant you that one.  Overall, it’s just not that big a deal.

Octo-Mom has 14 children. FOURTEEN!  I don’t call that a miracle.  I call that science gone horribly wrong.  Charles Manson’s parents reproduced.  Good job.  So did Charles Manson.  Let’s don’t wear ourselves out patting ourselves on the back.


If you have kids, you know the thrill of a new baby.  It’s just great.  Really.  They’re cute and funny and you just love them.  At some point, though, the work starts.  Usually, right after someone hands you the baby.

We took our first child home and laid him in the floor and just looked at him.  What do we do now?  It’s not a like a car.  They don’t give you an owner’s manual or an 800 number to call if something goes wrong.  They just say:  “Here’s your baby!  It’s a miracle!  Good luck to you.”

One good thing is that babies are tough–a lot tougher than they look.  You can drop them, although I don’t advise testing that theory.  (The second day my oldest son was home I dropped him but caught him by the neck before he hit the floor.  Tough little booger).  You can, like we did, fail to realize that even wet diapers must be promptly changed.  A horrible case of diaper rash will draw your attention to your negligence.  They won’t starve quietly.  So, you’re bound to feed them often.  These basic maintenance issues are much like caring for a pet.  You quickly learned just enough to keep the baby going.  That’s a great first step.

This phase passes quickly. Baby isn’t an “it.” Baby  is a him or her. Baby has a name. Baby has a personality.  Baby is a little person. With a big personality.  He can talk. He has opinions. He schemes. He manipulates. He charms. He lies. He’s a human. Now, the hard part starts…and never ends. This is also when the advice starts. Good luck with that.


“If I had a kid…” Say no more. You don’t have a kid. You don’t know what you’d do. Might as well say “If I owned a camel …” or “If I were an astronaut…” You don’t and you’re not. Shut the hell up.

Similar is “If he were my son…” This comes from someone who has a kid and presumes he knows what would help your son. Here’s the deal. He’s NOT your son. You haven’t seen his best and worst. Good days and bad days. You don’t know his strengths and weaknesses.  Clearly, if he were YOUR son, he’d be like you and know everything. Plus, if he were your son, he’d be your problem, and I wouldn’t need to hear about it.


I love my kids. I also like them. They’re fun and funny. I like talking to them and hearing about what they’re up to. They often impress me, but they’re not perfect.  They’re  not angels nor do I expect them to be.

Some folks have kids who ARE little angels. They are perfect, at least that’s what their parents say. That may well be true. If so, you can’t help me. My kids are human. They are capable of great things. They can also disappoint me. They don’t take all my advice. They don’t listen. Their judgment is often very poor.  In other words, they are like me.

I suppose some children never disappoint.  That’s probably because their parents have no expectations of them and don’t give a damn about what they do.  The rest of us get frequent reality checks.

Perfect kids don’t do things like back talk, lie, break things, drink alcohol, smoke, curse, have sex, take drugs or just generally annoy their parents.  Their parents will tell you that.  They are the ideal.  They also have parents who apparently aren’t paying much attention to what they are doing.  Lucky dogs.


Some folks want things the way they were. “Back in my day….”  Things are better now. They just are.

If you are fond of social media as I am, you’ll see posts like this:

Growing up, I had only one toy, and it was a rock.  I wasn’t allowed in the house and had to play outside all day.  If I spoke at the dinner table, I had to eat with the dogs.  I said “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.”  I was hit in the face if I back talked.  I didn’t make eye contact with adults.  I grew up respectful of everyone and did no wrong ever.  If you had great parents like mine, repost.

Wow.  It sucks to be you.  Oliver Twist had it better.  These kinds of posts are based upon nostalgia.  Webster’s Dictionary defines nostalgia as an “excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.”  We all believe, on some level, that things were better in the past.  In the parenting advice world, it translates into:  “This is how things used to be.  And they were just better.  If we all acted like this, everything would be better.”

Boy, oh, boy.  This is wrong in so many ways, I don’t know where to start.  First,  if all our parents were so good at raising kids, why have so many of us done so poorly?  Didn’t we learn anything? With such great parents, why do we need any advice at all?  Second, some people have horrible parents.  Maybe you did.  You probably don’t know that because they were the only parents you had.  Third, how’d you turn out?

Folks of my generation largely live in a fantasy world where everyone was raised by Ward and June Cleaver.  Hey, I knew people who had HORRIBLE parents.  Awful people.  These scumbags don’t deserve Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or even their next birthdays.  Here’s some advice that might be helpful:  Tell me how awful your parents were and how you learned from it.  THAT would be impressive.


If you hit your kids, I guess it’s none of my business unless you hurt them.  In that case, it’s everyone’s business.  It wasn’t always that way, but it is now.  That’s a good thing.  If you hit your kids, just don’t tell me that I need to do that, too.

I’m not perfect.  I’ve swatted my kids on the rear end. I’ve thought about strangling them…just a little bit.  I think that’s why babies are so cute.  Even when I’m enraged at my kids, I remember those little babies.  I wouldn’t strangle them. I’ve just reached the point that I’m sure that hitting my kids will help my relationship with them as much as hitting my wife will help my marriage. Readers of this blog know that I have, in fact, fought a woman, but that wasn’t a domestic dispute.

The few times I’ve spanked my kids I was mad.  This bothers me.  Why?  Because I was mad.  I get mad at many adults and hitting them often seems like a good idea, but I won’t do it.  One, I fear that I’ll be hit back.  Two, I fear I’ll get in trouble.  With kids, I don’t fear that.  That’s nice.  So, it’s okay to hit someone too small to defend himself and too much under my control to get me in trouble?  This isn’t a lesson I want my kids to learn.

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”  That’s not a Bible verse.  Sorry, but it’s not.  It comes from a 17th century poem called  Hudibras. The Bible actually says “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24.  At best, it’s a metaphor.  It doesn’t say to beat the crap out of your kid with a rod.  Discipline your children.  Simple stuff.  By the way, the Bible also says that if your son is disrespectful you should have him stoned to death.  Let’s take it easy on the ancient parenting suggestions.

We grew up with a kid who was raised by animals.  One day he comes to the house, and his back is covered in bloody welts.  He was beaten with a stick.  I’ll never forget what it looked like.  Now, would it be okay if it didn’t draw blood?  I’d say not.  I’d like to tell you that his story turned out okay, but it didn’t.  You don’t get to choose your parents.

I got spankings and whippings with a belt and a switch.  Why?  Because that’s how my parents were raised, I guess.  Never anything abusive, but it happened.  I guess I don’t trust myself enough to come at a kid with a weapon.  If you do, fine with me.  Just don’t tell me that’s what I need to do.


When I was a kid, here is what I thought of adults:  Most of them seemed unhappy and bitter.  They were overly critical and suspicious and wanted to put an end to any fun I might be having.  Now that I’m 50 and my generation is now the ruling class, here is what I think of adults:  Most of them seem unhappy and bitter.  They are overly critical and suspicious and want to put an end to any fun I might be having. My friends and I vowed to never by like the adults, but we that’s exactly what happened.

Kids today.  Whew.  Listening that awful music.  Look at their clothes!  I wouldn’t have been allowed out of the house like that.  They’re disrespectful, too.  My parents wouldn’t have put with all that back talk.  Irresponsible, too.  We had chores and work to do.  Look at how lazy they are!  Does any of this sound familiar?  Of course, it does.  It’s what we all say now.  It’s also what our parents said about us.

Here’s a little test.  Did you, at any time before adulthood, do any of the following?  Smoke; drink; have sex; curse; lie; cheat; steal; take drugs; skip school.  If so, you were part of the problem.  Consider, too, that you listened to terrible music, dressed like an idiot and were generally a pain in the ass to your parents.  If you didn’t do any of that stuff, congratulations.  I hope you enjoyed those years being chained in your parents’ basement.

Here’s the point.  If any of your advice is founded upon a belief that kids today are so much worse than we were, you’re wrong.  Even my generation, raised by superior parents in superior times did the same stupid things that kids are doing now.  Lighten up.


If you really are a parenting expert, write a book. Better yet, write a book about my kids.  I might even read that one.  It could contain helpful advice. My sons are three different people with three different personalities. Different strengths and weaknesses.  They were all raised the same but didn’t turn out the same. Chances are your book wouldn’t give me a different result.

Here’s MY parenting advice.  Do the best you know how to do at the moment.  Kids and their issues come at you at the speed of light.  Just do something.  Parents are great at acting put upon.  “It’s the toughest job in the world.”  I really doubt that.  Crab fishing looks a lot worse than parenting.  How about the guy who empties porta-potties?  Those jobs would suck.  Parenting is snap compared to that.

I think I had really good parents. They weren’t saints, but they did the  best they knew how to do. My Dad once told me: “Forget all these father-son fantasies.  Find out what your kids like and learn to like it yourself.”  THAT was good advice.

What about my kids?  They’re alright.  The good has far, far outweighed the bad so far.  They say I sound just like my Dad, which I guess is good.  They can aggravate me and disappoint me sometimes.  I’m sure I do the same to them.

So, everyone can (and will) continue to give parenting advice.  I’ll just nod and go on.  Gotta go now.  I’m sure one of my kids is doing something I need to deal with.  I’ll check back if I need any advice.

© 2012

What’s in a (Nick) Name?

Why don’t I have a nickname?  Someone posted on Facebook that an American Idol contestant was “Mr. Yummy Pants.”  It got me thinking about nicknames.  I’m not sure I’d like Mr. Yummy Pants, but I might be willing to try it out.

I don’t have a nickname.  This troubles me or at least it used to.  I wanted a nickname.  Something cool like Buzzsaw or Rip.  Nothing ever stuck.  When I was a lad, I had very blonde hair.  As a result, I was occasionally called Blondie.  Not very clever, huh?  Also, not very manly, not that I was particularly manly then or now.

Your author back in his tow-headed days pondered why he had no nickname.

A couple of people used to call me Harlan because I’m from Harlan County, Kentucky.  One was a college classmate.  The other was an old boss of mine who couldn’t always remember my name.  I’m glad that one didn’t stick.  I’m from Harlan County, not the town of Harlan.  I’ve never lived in Harlan.  I didn’t go to school in Harlan.  I lived in Loyall.  Calling me Harlan makes as much sense as calling someone from Louisville “Jefferson.”

Growing up in the 1970’s, I was often called “John Boy.”  Much to my chagrin, my wife often calls me that, too.  I had no interest in being the namesake of one of the pathetic Walton clan.

Why did I want a nickname?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because I have a very vanilla name.  It’s so vanilla that I am a life member of the TSA “Watch List,” meaning that I can’t check in on-line for airline flights.  They have to eye-ball me to determine my dangerous propensities.

I think the primary reason is that I grew up in Eastern Kentucky, the Land of Nicknames.  My dad had a nickname–two, in fact.  People who grew up with him called him Cootie.  Lest you think this was because of a hygiene issue, it was not.   Dad played the cornet and trumpet.  There was a famous cornet player named “Cootie;” thus, he was Cootie, too.  He was also called Sherm, mostly by one of his brothers.  This had something to do with Dad being interviewed on the radio to discuss his fictional war exploits.  For the interview, he adopted the nom de plume Sherm Cuffs.

My father when he was known to the world as "Cootie."

My uncles had nicknames.  Jack was called Powd.  This came from his mocking of how a neighbor pronounced her dog’s name, “Powder.”  Paul was called Meek.  I never knew why, but I assume it had something to do with being the youngest of seven children.  I have a cousin that people called Bird Neck.  Another is called Tee.  Yet another is Pie.  Good God, even my brother’s wife has a nickname.

Harlan County was a nickname paradise.  There were Slop Daddy (aka Slop Jar); Mighty Moe; Bubby; Foots (aka Feets); Crip; Humpy; Deacon; Hoss; Dirty Ears; Preacher; Night Rider; Bucky; Rubber Duck; Doc; Courthouse; Tiny; Big D; Ring Eye; Clunk; Peanut; T-Bone; Hambone; Bones; and many, many variations of Junior.  One would think I could have picked up a cool name, but it didn’t happen.

Another factor is that I work in the coal industry, THE number one nickname industry in the world.  EVERYONE has a nickname.  Here’s a typical discussion between me and a mine employee:

ME:  “Okay.  You muck the No. 1 belt.  Do you know the belt foreman, Joe Jones?

MINER:  “I don’t believe I know him.”

ME:  “Well, he’s the foreman on your shift.  You have to know him.”

MINER:  “Oooohhh.  You mean Whirlybird?”

ME:  I guess. Is he the belt boss?

MINER:  Yeah, but everybody calls him Whirlybird.  I ain’t never heared him called anything else.

This has been repeated many, many times.  I always feel a tad inferior because I can’t respond with something like:  “Hey, they call me Crow Bar.”

A major problem for me is that I have no distinctive traits.  I am not a handsome man, but I’m fortunate that I do not have any obvious deformities.  Thus, names like Humpy (he was a hunchback) are out of the question.  Lefty won’t work (right-handed).  I’m a small fellow, but Tiny won’t work, because I AM tiny.  Tiny is reserved for people who are behemoths.  I don’t have red hair; thus, the ubiquitous “Red” is out.  I have small hands and feet, but I reject “Tiny Hands” for obvious reasons.   Coming from German and Welsh stock, I have this homogenous Aryan look to me, which is of no interest to anyone save possibly Mel Gibson.

I did, however, look like this at one time:

Inexplicably, your author's ghastly appearance led to no lasting nicknames.

One would think that a nickname would have naturally developed.  Alas, there is a fine–but important–difference between nicknaming and name-calling.

I also have done nothing spectacular in my life to get a nickname.  I heard of guy that got nicknamed Gizmo because of his inept handling of a situation.  I could be called Good Student or Mr. Punctual.  Nothing seems to work.

If I had been an athlete, I could have had something cool like The Eastin Assassin (Larry Holmes); The Brockton Blockbuster (Marvin Hagler); The Iron Horse (Lou Gehrig); The Worm (Dennis Rodman); Magic; White Chocolate; Crazy Legs; and many others.  Based on my athletic skills I would have been something like “Slow Foot” or “Easy Out.”  No good.

A nickname has to fit, too.  I knew a guy named Hoss.  He was a hoss alright.  I have a friend called Wishbone.  It fits him for some reason.  I don’t think anything ever fit me.  When I had braces, my little brother called me Long John Silver Teeth, but that’s too long even though it did sort of fit.

You also can’t give yourself a nickname.  It’s doesn’t work.  In an episode of Seinfeld, George wants to be called T-Bone.  It doesn’t take.  I know a guy nicknamed T-Bone.  I’m sure there’s a story behind it, but I’m also sure he didn’t give himself that name.  I thought perhaps will.i.ams would be cool, but turns out it’s pronounced “Williams.”  Curb Stomper is cool, but I’ve never curb stomped anyone.  I’m much more likely to be tagged with Curb Stomped.  I knew an Irish lady who called my Wee John, but I just can’t support that.

So, I’ve abandoned my quest.  Hopefully, I won’t get hung with a nickname at my age.  Then again, maybe Mr. Yummy Pants will catch on.

© 2012

I think I fixed all the snafus from my original posting. This should be the entire tome.

Coal Troll's Blog

I recently posted my thoughts on certain aspects of religion.  Some folks enjoyed it, while I’m sure others were greatly offended.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to stick my toe into the deep waters of politics to ensure offending the other half.

I was asked once why I don’t post a lot of political musings on Facebook and Twitter.  I don’t really have a good answer other than it’s just too serious for me.  I deal with a lot of serious issues in my job.  I prefer to get away from all that when I’m not at work.  Like most of the decisions I make in my personal life, not much thought goes into it. Also, politics just doesn’t interest me much.  As a result, I can’t think of anything good to say, as will be shown below.

If you post a lot of political stuff, please read…

View original post 2,214 more words

My Political Ennui

I recently posted my thoughts on certain aspects of religion.  Some folks enjoyed it, while I’m sure others were greatly offended.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to stick my toe into the deep waters of politics to ensure offending the other half.

I was asked once why I don’t post a lot of political musings on Facebook and Twitter.  I don’t really have a good answer other than it’s just too serious for me.  I deal with a lot of serious issues in my job.  I prefer to get away from all that when I’m not at work.  Like most of the decisions I make in my personal life, not much thought goes into it. Also, politics just doesn’t interest me much.  As a result, I can’t think of anything good to say, as will be shown below.

If you post a lot of political stuff, please read the following:


Thank you.  Also, I don’t mind reading stuff with which I disagree.  Someone much smarter than I am once said that he never learned anything from people with which he agreed.  That’s certainly true for me.

I DO have political views, of course.  I’m just not sure everyone wants to hear about them.  Plus, nothing is more ponderous than a political argument.  You think what you think.  I think what I think.  I’ve had enough political discussions to know that we’re not going to change each other’s minds.

A bartender told me one time that the worst customer was the guy who sits at the bar and tries to engage in political banter with the other patrons.  He said nothing clears the barstools quicker.

As with most things, I am cynical about politics.  I’m also the type who tends to distrust anyone in power.  This makes it hard for me to become all starry-eyed over any politician.  Mostly, I just don’t care.  With that in mind, I’ll offer some of my political observations and thoughts.


The most important thing for anyone who reads political rants is to determine at the earliest possible moment whether the writer is a conservative or a liberal.  It’s not conservative or liberal.  It’s a conservative or a liberal.  Your tag.  What ARE you?

Well, I’m not telling.  Folks who know me well know the answer.  Folks who don’t know me well are usually confused.  Those on the far left think I’m an arch-conservative.  The hard right think I’m a wild-eyed liberal.  Maybe I am.  Or not.


Life During Wartime is one of the catchiest songs ever.  Unfortunately, I’m not talking about those Talking Heads.  I’m talking about the ones that fill the airwaves and blogosphere with their opinions about politics.  They don’t even wear that cool giant suit like David Byrne.

For someone bored by most political debates, I listen to, and read, a surprising amount of political ravings.  And I’m not picky about it, either.  Oh, and I disagree with almost everything I hear and read, whether it’s Beck, Limbaugh, Maddow, Olberman or any of the countless other disembodied heads and voices which have somehow found public forums.  In fact, Howard Stern may be the only person with whom I agree most of the time.  I don’t know what that means, but I’m sure it’s nothing good.

Conservative talkers are more entertaining than the liberal ones.  That’s just a fact.  Here’s why:  They’re basically entertainers.  Beck and Limbaugh are DJ’s.  A good DJ and a good program director can entertain doing the same things at the same time every single day.  Howard Stern does that, too.  He knows what his audience wants to hear and delivers it consistently.

Take Glenn Beck. If he believes everything he says, he’s a mad man. In his world, there is a massive worldwide conspiracy to turn the planet into a caliphate ruled by Van Jones and William Ayers. This world will be a Mad Max nightmare with cites burning and no food or fuel.  We’ll eat our dogs. Only Glenn and his Byzantine wall of chalk boards stand between us and this fate. Of course, if we pull the right lever or punch the right chad, it will all go away.

I’m sure he doesn’t really believe all that, but that’s not the point. His fans (and that’s what they are) WANT to believe that. He knows that. Like a DJ playing Li’l Wayne or Lady GaGa nonstop, he knows what his audience wants.  He delivers.

The folks on the left have never figured out the entertainment angle. Al Franken used to have a radio show. It was awful. Al was serious and angry most of the time. Al Franken is one of the funniest people on Earth. If you can read his book Why Not Me? without laughing out loud, you are a soulless, humorless person.  Al seemed to think he  was educating people.  Wrong.  Howard Stern says his listeners love lesbians. Thus, he has lesbians on his show. He doesn’t try to convince the world to love lesbians.  Beck’s listeners want to believe in wordwide caliphates.  The left thinks they can convince the world they are right. Just find your audience and tell them what they want hear–everyday over and over.

Anger can sell, too.  Sean Hannity is an angry dude. I suspect his devoted audience is pretty angry.  He’s good at fueling that.  He’s outraged daily over everything.  Bad news outrages him but not as much as good news.  If a Republican candidate murdered his entire family, Sean would rail against the Mainstream Media for failing to report that Charles Manson was a Democrat.  It’s his schtick.

Sean’s not the only angry fellow.  Take Keith Olberman, for example.  He’s so mad at the right that he’s hateful about it.  Plus, he’s unpleasant, which may explain why he gets fired from his jobs.  His counterpart on the right, Michael Savage, is also too angry.  I think that’s why I usually hear him at night.  Really angry people probably sit by the radio at night brooding.

The real news media is no better.  Let’s say that unemployment drops.  Here’s the MSNBC headline (in typeface normally reserved for declarations of war):


Here is the Fox News headline:


If this is how you stay informed, good luck to you.  I’d rather watch reruns of Hillbilly Handfishin’.  If you ever get a chance watch the 1950’s film, A Face in the Crowd, directed by Elia Kazan.  Elia knew what was coming. 

What’s this have to do with me?  Not much, other than I will listen to this stuff, and it wears me out.  I’d hate to think that I’m like any of these folks or, worse, the people who call their shows or believe everything they read.  I’m find them entertaining, but none of this shapes my views, whatever they might be.


One of the fundamental tenets of politics is that I must:  (1) Agree with everything my politician supports; and (2) Disagree with everything my opponent supports.  A caveat to that is that if I do, in fact, agree with my opponent, I must somehow give credit to someone I like, regardless of the analytical gymnastics required to do so.

I just can’t do this.  Sometimes, both sides are so adamant about not giving any credit to the other that they won’t acknowledge that something good actually works. Here’s an example:  The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was devised by Hank Paulson under George W. Bush.  It had one purpose:  To prevent the collapse of the American banking system from the top down.  I scoffed at it, mostly because Hank Paulson looks evil.  I was wrong.  Bad wrong.  It had bi-partisan support, and it worked, albeit a little differently than originally planned.  No one wants to claim TARP now, because both sides have called it a bank bail out for so long.  BOTH SIDES SUPPORTED IT!  The right calls it big government gone wild, and the left calls it corporate welfare.   The result is that neither side will endorse it out of fear that the other side will make them look bad.  That’s insanity. 

Here’s another one.  Osama Bin Laden is dead.  Both President Bush and President Obama deserved credit for this.  Job well done, men.  Republicans will grudgingly say that Obama deserves credit for following Bush’s lead.  Democrats say that Obama has succeeded where Bush wholly failed.  It took 10 freaking years to find this guy!  Let’s face it.  It was a team effort. 

I’m not always right.  In fact, I’m frequently wrong.  I’m also brighter than most of the clods we elect to office.  They can’t be right or wrong all the time, either.  


Politicians cater to the Least Common Denominator (LCD).   Come on, you know it’s true.  That’s why they spend so much time trying to scare the bejesus out of us.  It’s not enough to point out the serious flaws in government health care.  We must talk about death panels and forced euthanasia, too.  If you support a tax increase on the wealthy, you must do so by claiming that the wealthy are a group of elitists destroying the country and exploiting the rest of usThe LCD likes all that talk.

You know LCD.  He’s the guy who can believe any of the following:

  • I am poor but will benefit by other people becoming rich.
  • I am poor but the government will help me become affluent.
  • Although I am too old, infirm or just plain too sorry to be in the military, I support all wars.
  • I resent Mexicans for taking the jobs I don’t want anyway.
  • A tax increase would be a good idea, as long as it’s not my taxes.
  • There is a massive conspiracy about something.
  • Although I’ve never read the Constitution, I know that anything I don’t like is unconstitutional.

Those are just a few examples.  The LCD and I don’t geehaw, as they say.  You aim at him, and you miss me.  Back to Hillybilly Handfishin’.


Another big reason I lose interest in politics is that I don’t really care much for politicians.  They’re overpaid and underworked.  Congress has a 10% approval rating.  The only thing surprising about this is that apparently 10% of those polled didn’t understand the question. 

U-S-A! U-S-A!

I live in the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth.  Why do I say that?  Two reasons:  (1) I do, in fact, live in the USA; (2) I’ve never lived anywhere else, and my life is pretty damn sweet.  Why wouldn’t I believe that?

According to Wikipedia (the source of all my knowledge), there are over 200 countries on Earth.  I couldn’t possibly figure out if the US is better than all of them.  Now, I’ll dare to assume that we’re better than a lot of them:  India, Mexico, most of the Middle East, Commies, any country ending in “stan,” all the really cold places, Bangladesh and Canada.  I’ll also throw in any country with a goofy-ass royal family.  That still leaves a bunch of countries that may be just fine.  What’s the point of this?

Here’s the point:  We’re Americans, by God.  As Bill Murray famously said in Stripes, we’re the mutts of the world.  We’ve been thrown out of every decent country on the planet.  Even people with whom I disagree are Americans.  We always end up okay, even in the midst of our fights, because we’re Americans.  I don’t hate others because of their politics.  I have good friends who are polar opposites of me politically.  So what?  They are my fellow mutts.

Here’s the other point.  Even those in power are my fellow mutts.  I don’t want them to fail and destroy the country just so my candidates get elected.  I don’t think these folks are engaged in conspiracies to bring down the republic.  Maybe they’re misguided or just plain stupid.  Just because I disagree doesn’t make them evil Communists, Socialists, Nazis or closeted Caliphs. It may make them idiots or it may make me one.  Time will tell.


Figured it out, yet?  Neither have I.  Here’s a small list of my likes, dislikes and general grumblings to assist us both:

  • I don’t think you should wildly spend money you don’t have.
  • Congress is full of idiots.
  • Occupy Wall Street was pointless. 
  • We’ve had two good presidents in my lifetime.
  • I am an abashed, unapologetic supporter of the coal industry. 
  • I don’t care whom you marry as long as it isn’t a child.
  • You can read or watch anything you want, as long as no one is harmed
  • I’m not “green.”  I drive a foreign car with an internal combustion engine, and I like it. 
  • You have the right to hate people.
  • I don’t like wars, but I greatly respect the military.  There should be a law that the person who starts the war should be the first to die for his country.   
  • I don’t like religion mixed with government.  
  • You have the right to carry a gun
  • I supported the war in Afghanistan but not the one in Iraq.
  • I don’t care about my neighbor’s religion or lack thereof.
  • I don’t care if you’re gay.  I’ve spent most of my time around straight people, and they’ve been no treat.
  • I don’t hate Muslims.
  • I don’t mind paying taxes, but I want to pay the least required.
  • Not all poor people deserve to be poor.
  • Almost anything the government touches gets worse, not better.
  • I don’t believe in any conspiracies, except ones where people have been caught
  • It doesn’t bother me that Hispanics speak Spanish.  My ancestors in Pennsylvania spoke German, and Ben Franklin wanted them thrown out of the country.
  • I have no interest in what you do in your bedroom.
  • You can protest whatever you want.

There you have it.  What am I?  A mess, evidently.  But, I’m an American, by God!

© 2012

Hell and Other Bad News

I drive a fair amount in my job.  I like to listen to radio preachers while I drive.  This is odd, considering that I’m not particularly religious nor do I enjoy listening to preaching in church.  There is something about radio preachers that always catches my interest.  My travel is largely confined to Eastern Kentucky (business) and the southern United States (vacation).  These areas are a mother load of radio preaching.

This post is not a theological piece nor is it intended as a criticism–or defense–of Radio Preachers.  Also, please do not take it as some anti-Christian screed.  It just so happens that Radio Preachers are Christians.  That’s a fact.  I’ve never heard a radio rabbi or imam, although I’m sure they exist.  Many of my devoutly Christian friends believe they are persecuted because of their beliefs.  That may well be true, but this post is not part of that persecution.  These are just some of my observations from my years of listening.

Oh, Hell

Radio Preachers enjoy talking about Hell.  Now, whether you believe there is a Hell or not, Hell sounds like no fun.  I guess that’s the point.  While driving through Alabama recently, I heard this description:

Listen to me, young people.  THERE IS NO PARTY ROOM IN HELL! There is no good time!  If you think there is, you are WRONG!  You will be too busy weeping and wailing and burning to have a good time!

Wow.  That sums it up, I guess.  Of course, it got me thinking:  Is there some group of misguided youngsters in Alabama who think–like the great band AC/DC–that “Hell ain’t a bad place to be?”  If so, why?  If you believe in Hell, then you surely know that in addition to weeping and wailing, there will gnashing of teeth and eternal damnation.  You might even tear at your robes (they did that a lot in the Bible), assuming your clothes haven’t been burned off.  None of that will be good.

Hell is the bad cop to Heaven’s good cop. The radio preachers make it clear that it’s really easy to go straight to Hell.  It’s discouraging.

I’ve always been baffled by why Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time threatening to send people to Hell if they stepped out of line.  Even the most casual reader of the New Testament will notice that the Disciples–for all the good they did–were kind of pain to deal with.  Ever notice how many times they question Jesus?  I think this is why he taught in parables.  These guys just weren’t that bright.  Honestly, I don’t think Jesus was all that concerned about Hell.  If he had been, he would have said something like:  “Step out of line one more time, and it’s straight to Hell.  I mean it.”

The only time I think about Hell is when I listen to a radio preacher.  Sadly, they usually convince me that I’m GOING to Hell.  I don’t want that.  It would be bad.  No party room.

Super Jesus

Radio Preachers are always torn between Jesus the man and Jesus the Savior.  Or at least it seems that way.  They always stress that Jesus was (“is”) God’s son, but he was also a man.  As God’s son, He was God incarnate; thus, infallible.  As a man, He was flesh; thus, flawed–but not really, because He was Jesus.  It’s like they want you to know that Jesus was human, but don’t want you to really believe that.  Very confusing.

I figure Jesus was a regular guy.  He was a carpenter.  I’ve known a bunch of carpenters, and they’re all pretty normal.  Jesus probably was, too.  If they had sports, he would have liked them (although, I’m not sure he would have like that “Kick The Goat’s Head” game they play in Iraq).  Jesus was Jewish.  He probably looked like Dustin Hoffman. Radio Preachers, it seems, are concerned that if they make Him sound too human, then they’ll take away his God qualities.  This makes no sense to me, but what do I know?

As everyone knows, the New Testament has a big gap in Jesus’s life.  I figure it’s because he was just working as a carpenter and living a normal life during that time.  Probably not much to report.  He certainly didn’t have disciples charting his every move.

Radio Preachers take everything related to Jesus and make it as dramatic as possible.  Here’s a recent description I heard about the Sermon on the Mount:

And the multitudes had gathered to see Jesus and touch the hem of his garments.  Jesus stood before them.  Oh, can’t you see Him with His arms raised to the Heavens?  Can’t you imagine the glorious moment when He spoke? He then spake unto them:  [Radio Preacher then goes on to read from the Sermon on the Mount].

Now, I really enjoy the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s real preaching, and good stuff, too.  But, it’s pretty clear that the folks gathered there were the sick and demon-possessed.  That means sick and INSANE. And sick means REALLY sick. Leprosy sick. Thanks to modern medicine I’ve never known anyone with leprosy, but back then people were slap eat up with it. They made you wear a big old damn bell around your neck to warn people. Notice what Jesus did? He healed them. He didn’t say: “Oh, don’t worry about that leprosy. Just ring your bell.” Even Jesus didn’t mess with it. He just got rid of it.  Imagine what a motley and disturbed bunch this was.  It would have been horrifying. This is what Jesus was able to draw as a crowd.  This is not a bad thing.  These are the folks who were the outcasts and needed help.  Frankly, that makes for a better story; however, there was probably a certain grunginess to it.

My other favorite Jesus story is in the garden of Gethsemane.  Radio Preachers love this story, especially around Easter.  To me, it’s the story that makes Jesus human.  He’s doing what I would do, saying:  “Hey, I’ll do this if I have to, but I’m okay with you getting me out of it, too.”  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s a great, great story.  Radio Preachers spin it to say that Jesus was REALLY saying that he was ready to roll.  Maybe so.  I’m no theologian, but I don’t take it that way.

Radio Preachers also like to call on Jesus to perform miracles, usually to heal people.  This presumes that Jesus is like a genie in a bottle.  Conjure him up and “POOF!” he takes care of things.  What was Jesus’s first miracle?  I think it’s when he turned water into wine.  Kind of a magic trick really but pretty cool.  Importantly, though, you’ll notice that he didn’t say:  “Oh, and if you ever need me to do any of these things for you, just give me a holler.”  Sorry, Radio Preacher.

God Is A Republican

Radio Preachers don’t hesitate to talk about politics.  In fact, they love it.  I’ve learned one fact which is undeniable:  God is a Republican.  I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but it’s a fact.  He supports Republican candidates for all public offices.  Jesus may have said “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”, but God wanted Caesar to join the GOP.

Radio Preachers tell me that I need to pray for God to elect certain folks to office.  Here’s my problem:  If God decides who wins, why do I need to make a request?  Is He really confused?  Does He need MY input?  I don’t think so.  Now, if God’s candidate loses, which happens from time to time, what does that mean?  Here’s what it means to me:  God doesn’t care about elections.

Interestingly, Jesus was Jewish.  Seems like a lot of Jewish folks are Democrats.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a son took a different political view than his Father, I suppose.

End of Days

This is probably the most popular topic for Radio Preachers–the end of times.  Why?  I guess because it’s terrifying and segues nicely into talking about Hell.  Much like Hell, I’ve determined that the end times will be awful.  Just a total mess.

Evidently, we are in the end times, because the world has just gone to Hell (not literally, of course).  There are wars, earthquakes, famines, immorality, homosexuality, abortion and all manner of debauchery afoot.  Really.  We’re probably the 1000th generation who thought the same thing.  Why?  Because we’re alive RIGHT NOW.  Everything going on now is more important, because it’s happening to us!  I find it all rather entertaining, since this presumes that the past was all butterfly kisses and unicorn rides.

Google the word “pederasty.”  That’s a nasty little practice of a grown man taking on an underaged male lover.  Used to be quite common and accepted by polite society.  A harmless relationship between two consenting adults is pretty tame compared to that.  Read the works of the Marquis de Sade.  You’ll be hard pressed to find anything more vile today.  How about slavery?  Witch burnings (this means BURNED ALIVE)? Nice stuff.  There have been quite a few famines and natural disasters throughout history.  Ask our friends in China, Africa and Ireland about famines.  War?  Name a time when there wasn’t a war.  We’re humans.  We like to kill each other, especially over real estate.  The upshot of it is that we don’t have anything better or worse going on now that ever before.  Chill out, Radio Preacher.

I always heard that the end would come when we least expect it, like a thief in the night.  I’m confident that the Radio Preachers don’t know any more about it than the rest of us, but it’s still entertaining to hear about.

One last thing, whenever end times are discussed, the book of Revelation has to be mentioned.  First, it’s REVELATION, as in the Revelation of John.  It is NOT RevelationS.  I’ll stop listening when the Radio Preacher calls it Revelations (which is 90% of the time).  Secondly, let’s all be honest–it’s totally incomprehensible.  Most of the Bible is enjoyable to read, but this book is like something Hunter Thompson would have written in the midst of an acid trip.  If you can figure out the imagery of horses, pale riders, 666, Whore of Babylon, etc., you yourself are a prophet.  If so, please just write something coherent for the rest of us.  I’ll tell one thing that doesn’t help:  A Radio Preacher screaming about it.  It just makes things worse.


Radio Preachers need money.  Your money.  Well, it’s not your money.  It’s God’s money, but God wants you to send it to the Radio Preacher as sort of a trustee for the benefit of God.  God doesn’t trust you with His money.  He trusts the Radio Preacher.  You should, too.

Keep Listening

I’ll keep driving and listening.  You may think that I’m a horrible cynic with no religious faith at all.  Not true.  Okay, the cynic part is probably true.  I have my faith and my views of God, but I’m the type that keeps it to myself.  I don’t really doubt the sincerity of the preachers I hear.  Some of them are quite good and very persuasive.  I’m just irreverent.  As I heard the other day:  “Brothers and sisters, Hell can’t fill up!  There’s always room for one more!”  Ouch.

© 2012

March of Folly


This story may well be true.  It also may be completely false.  In all likelihood, it’s partially true; thus, I consider it to be based on a true story.  This gives me literary license to fill in blanks and outright fabricate portions of it.

This is based upon a story I’ve heard twice–from two different sources.  One was a person I know well and trust.  The other was someone I barely know.  The essential facts were the same, but there were differences in time, location and other minor details.  It could be that the whole thing was made up.  I don’t know.  But I do know that I like the story, so I’m going to tell it.

As with my other blogs, I’ve changed the names of those involved.  So, if you have a relative called June Bug, that’s not who I’m talking about it.  One name I didn’t change is “Lonzo.”  Lonzo is a shortened version of Alonzo and is a fairly common name in Eastern Kentucky.  In fact, growing up, I knew several people named Lonzo.  Once I left Eastern Kentucky, I never met anyone else by that name.  It’s a good mountain name and fits the character in this story.  The story would lose something if I changed it.

Much of the dialogue is mine.  Some was recounted to me in the story.  Other parts, I made up trying to fit it with the characters involved.

Finally, do not interpret this tale as glorifying or promoting animal abuse.  That’s not what it’s about, although there is a tragic accident at the heart of the story.  I know a lot of folks who like animals more than they do people.  I’m fine with that.  BUT, if you suffer some sort of trauma and go mental reading this, please do not direct your bile toward your author.  I am merely your narrator.  Thank you.


Purdy was a mule or probably a mule.  He could have been a donkey or jackass for all I know, but they called him a mule.  “They” were the Harringtons, which was pronounced “Hairnton.”  There were three Harrington boys:  Lonzo, Terry (pronounced “Turry”) and Junior (also known as June or June Bug).  They lived with their daddy, AC.  No one knew AC’s full name (if he had one), although June Bug was in all likelihood named after them.  The boys had a mother, but no one knew where she was.  Rumor was that she just left them, but some folks said there was an incident with her being hit with a shovel.  It doesn’t really matter.  She was gone, and it was just Daddy and the boys.

They lived on the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River in what most people would call a shack.  The house was down off the highway on the other side of the river.  They had about a half-acre of land connected to the highway by a bridge.  The bridge was one of those homemade bridges you see in the mountains.  It consisted of a couple of I-beams with wood laid across for the driving surface.  It spanned from creek bank to creek bank and was supported at each end by cinder blocks.

The house itself was three rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen.  The front room was sort of a sitting area with a TV.  The kitchen was in the back toward the left.  The two bedrooms were in the back to the right.  Daddy had his own room.  June Bug and Terry shared a room, and Lonzo slept on the couch in the front room.

None of these folks had jobs, of course.  Daddy had worked in the coal mines at some point in the distant past.  Lonzo had been in the Army for two years before he was unceremoniously discharged for some disciplinary reason.  Terry and June Bug pretty much did nothing.  Between Daddy’s disability check and Social Security, they got by.

Daddy had one possession that he valued–Purdy.  As I said, Purdy was a mule.  They also had a few chickens and, from time to time, a hog.  But Purdy was a constant having been around for many years.  At one time, he was used to plow Daddy’s small garden, but he had foundered at some point and didn’t do much of anything now.  Daddy didn’t have much use for his offspring, but he loved old Purdy or at least really liked him.


Daddy made fairly frequent runs to town for various things, picking up a check, buying groceries, etc.  It was a Saturday in October, and Daddy left in the morning.

The boys rarely went anywhere.  They mostly sat around and drank.  Lonzo was the oldest by two years.  Then came Terry, and two years after him, June Bug.  Lonzo would have been considered the brains of the group, but that’s only because of his ill-fated stint in the Army.  He was about 6 feet tall and wiry thin (we called it “squirrelly-built”) with long, greasy black hair pushed straight back behind his ears.  He had that hard, flinty look that only people in Appalachia have.  Terry and June Bug could have been twins.  Both were short with beer bellies and a penchant for going shirtless most of the time. They had fat, red faces and bushy blonde hair.  There were substantial paternity questions regarding Lonzo, but no one ever asked.

The boys also rarely got out of bed very early, and this Saturday was no different.  Lonzo rolled over on the couch when he heard a commotion outside at around 11:00.  He got up, lit a cigarette and walked out on the porch just as June Bug was running from the back of the house toward the creek with a coil of rope under his arm.  Terry came running from the other side of the house.

“Hey!  What the hell’s goin’ on?”  Alonzo inquired.  Terry stopped, breathless of course, and said “Looky yonder!”  He nodded his head toward the creek.  In the middle of the creek, still as a statue, stood Purdy with water up to his belly.  “I’ll be flat damned,” Lonzo muttered. “How in the hell did that happen?”

Terry responded:  “Don’t know.  June just seen him out the winder.  Just froze up right there.”

“Well, what are you boys doin’?”  Lonzo asked.  Terry said, “June’s made a lassoo and’s gonna lassoo him!”  Lonzo rubbed his beard stubble and took a long drag off his smoke.  “I reckon that might work.”  Terry headed down to the creek with Lonzo right behind.

By the time they covered the 100 yards or so to the creek bank, June Bug had already fashioned a crude lariat with a slip knot.  He was unfurling the rope.  “I’m gonna lassoo his ass and haul him in.”  He twirled the rope as he had seen cowboys in movies do and tossed it toward Purdy. He missed.  He tried again.  He missed again.  Over and over he tried, but with no lucky.  Finally, Lonzo lost patience and said “Gimme that damn rope!”  He, too, tried and tried with no luck.  It should be noted that Purdy stood a good 40 feet from the bank, and the rope was no more than 30 feet long.  This bit of immutable physics was lost on the boys.

They all sat down on the bank and stared at Purdy.  “What do we now, Lonzo?”  Terry asked.  Lonzo responded:  “Hell fire, I don’t know.  All I know is that we better get that damn mule outta the creek before the old man gets back.  He’ll raise nine kinds of hell.”

“You reckon he’s sleepin’?” June Bug asked.

“The damn mule?  Hell, no.  He’s standing up” said Lonzo.

“He’s sleeps standin’.  I seen him do it.”  June Bug said.

Lonzo turned at looked at June Bug.  “Is that what you do with yoreself?  Stand around watchin’ a damn mule sleep?  I don’t know if he’s asleep, but I do know he’s in that damn creek, and, by God, we gotta get him out.”

Terry then observed, “He got hisself in there.  I figger he’ll find his way out.”

This was the last straw for Lonzo.  “This right here is what’s wrong with you fellers.  Quitters.  I ain’t no quitter.  I’m gettin’ that bastard outta there!”


After being chastised by Lonzo, the boys just stared at Purdy for a few minutes.  Then, Lonzo saw the answer and stood straight up.  “By God, I’ll ride his ass out.”

Terry said:  “How you gonna do that?  Wade out there?”

Lonzo snapped:  “Hell, no!  I ain’t freezin’ my ass off in that damn creek!  I’m gonna shimmy over the side of the bridge and jump on him.  Once I’m on his back, I’ll just ride him out! Let’s go!”

All three got up and headed to the bridge.  When they got to the middle of the bridge, Lonzo looked down and determined that he could, in fact, hang down and drop right on Purdy’s back.  Even if he missed, the drop wasn’t that far, maybe 10 feet at most.  If he landed in the water, he wouldn’t be in it very long anyway.

Lonzo sat down in the middle of the bridge with his feet hanging over.  “You boys lower me down.  I’ll grab aholt of that beam.”  So, the boys did just that. With Terry taking one arm and June Bug the other, they lowered Lonzo over the side.

Lonzo was facing the wrong direction.  He could grab the beam and hang down, but he would be facing away from Purdy.  Riding a mule was likely to be difficult under the best of conditions.  Facing the wrong direction, it might be impossible.

Once he was lowered into postion, Lonzo swung his right hand under to hold both sides of the beam.  Now, he was sideways.  Then, he saw it.  A length of cable ran the entire length of the bridge just inside the beam.  This was perfect.  He grabbed the cable with his right hand and swung his left hand over.  Now, he had a perfect grip and faced the proper direction.  He was perfectly positioned.

Hanging down from the cable, Lonzo was about 10 feet from the water and maybe seven feet from Purdy’s back.  He started to swing back and forth on the cable to get proper momentum for his leap.  After three or four swings, he was ready.  One last swing forward and he let go.

Falling through the air is a funny thing.  Usually, you don’t have time to think about it.  You just fall.  Sometimes, though, you have a moment to consider what’s happening.  I imagine this might have happened with Lonzo.  He may have seen Purdy hurtling toward him, instead of he himself falling to Earth.   At that moment–and just for a split second–he might have realized that this plan was not, in fact, well-conceived.

Ah, but the plan worked–sort of.  Lonzo landed square on Purdy’s back.  There were two sounds:  First, the loud, unmistakable sound of a mule’s back breaking.  Second, Lonzo emitted a long, mournful scream which could only accompany a shattered testicle.

Purdy folded up like a lawn chair pinning Lonzo.  Lonzo, still wailing, slowly slid sideways until he dropped into the water, which was as cold as he feared.  The cold water, though, shocked Lonzo into full consciousness and he stood straight up, only to be doubled over again in pain.  He repeated this cycle as he struggled to the creek bank.  From their vantage point on the bridge, Terry and June Bug thought he looked like one of those toy birds that dips its head up and down like it’s sipping water.  Lonzo made it to the bank and collapsed, doubled over in agony.

The rest of the story is uneventful.  A watery grave for Purdy, a trip to the hospital for Lonzo.  Terry and June Bug did have to get Purdy out of the creek, and they got to use their “lassoo.”  Daddy was mad, as expected, but he got over it.  Lonzo lost a testicle.


So, there you have it.  This could have happened.  I knew people who would have done such things.  I hate to think of a mule dying under those circumstances, but life’s not fair.

Oh, what about the title of this blog?  A close friend of mine was so taken by this story when I first told it to him years ago that he wanted us to develop a screenplay based upon it.  He titled our project March of Folly.   I see Adrien Brody as Lonzo, maybe.  Robert Duvall as Daddy.

Sadly, the thought of stretching this out to even a 90 minute film is daunting.  I haven’t given up hope, but we really need to get on it.  Hollywood awaits.

© 2012

Trolling Through The South

When I was a young feller, I read Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road. I’ll be honest.  I didn’t care for it.  I was much more fascinated by the fact that he typed it on a long, continuous scroll of paper.  I recall that Truman Capote made a humorous, disparaging comment about the book.  Of course, I can’t recall what it was, but I’m sure I agreed with it.  I just completed my own sojourn through the southern United States.  I won’t write a book about it, although I’m certain I could write something at least as interesting as Kerouac’s babblings.  I will, however, blog about it.

I should note that I travel alone for work quite often, but this was my first “vacation” alone.  Unlike a work trip, where my days are filled with productive activities, on this trip I had to entertain myself.  There was a time when I would never have been allowed on a trek such as this, out of fear that I might never get to my destination or perhaps hole up in a hotel like Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas.  

My son plays high school baseball, and his school played in a tournament in Fort Walton Beach, Florida from April 1 through 6.  He traveled by bus with his team and stayed in a hotel room with three of his team mates.  I traveled alone and stayed alone.  While he and his mates stayed on the first floor of the hotel, I stayed in the separate high-rise in the back, overlooking the ocean.  Very nice.

The view from my palatial room. My son suffered through the week in a ground floor room with three room mates.

I drove from Lexington, Kentucky.  The drive is a long one, taking about 11 hours with the obligatory gas, food and restroom stops.  The first leg of my journey was the Bluegrass Parkway connecting US 60 in Woodford County, Kentucky, to I-65 South at Elizabethtown (known to us as “E-Town”).  From there, you drive due south for an eternity.  Actually, it’s probably 400 miles, but I’m not sure.  Not much to report on that part of the trip.  The only thing that caught my interest was a large sign in Alabama touting something called “The Sons of Confederate Veterans.”  Really, now.  There can’t be any “sons” of any Confederate Veterans left, can there? Because I left very early in the morning, I was forced to break one of my travel rules–I stopped at truck stop in Smiths Grove, Kentucky.  Truck stops frighten me.  I don’t like gas stations with showers, I guess.  Plus, a high percentage of truck drivers are probably serial killers.

The drive gets more interesting just south of Montgomery, Alabama.  This is where you drop off I-65 and drive about 150 miles on the back roads.  There are several things which caught my interest:

Cemetaries:  Alabama was WAY too many cemeteries.  I mean, every town and turn in the road has a cemetery.  When the Great Zombie Apocalypse starts, stay the Hell out of Alabama.

Luverne:  I like this town.  Why?  Because it’s “The Friendliest Town in the South.”  It says so on a sign.   I stopped and bought a Coke in Luverne.  The clerk was friendly enough but nothing special.  So , I’m not sure about it being the friendliest place, but I’ll admit that a one person sample is too little to draw any conclusions.  Luverne is also the home Sister Shubert dinner rolls.  I like those rolls; thus, I like Luverne.

Highland Home:   It has a restaurant called the “It Don’t Matter.”  Good name.

It Don't Matter Restaurant. I'm sure it's my kind of place.

 I didn’t eat there, but I think I’d like it.

Brantley, Alabama:  This is one of those small towns where there used to be something happening.  They have a downtown, schools and houses, but the town looks mostly abandoned.  I’m sure that if I bothered to do any research, I’d find out what used to be there.  But, they do have a one thing:  A big sign declaring it to be the home of Chuck Person.  Chuck played basketball at Auburn and for many years in the NBA.  He could shoot the lights out.  For this reason–and because his full name is Chuck Conners Person–he was called the Rifle Man.  I loved the TV show the Rifle Man, starring Chuck Connors.  It was the story of a homicidal widower and his son in the old west.   Great show.  Brantley is proud of Chuck (Person), so much so that they have this big, nice sign:

Brantley loves Chuck Person.

No matter how badly things have gone for Brantley, they remember Chuck.  Chuck’s brother Wesley was a heck of a ballplayer at Auburn, too, but he doesn’t have a sign.  I’d like to think Chuck comes back to visit from time to time.  The folks in Brantley would appreciate it.

Opp:  Opp is the name of another Alabama town.  I just like the name:  Opp.  Plus, they have something called the Rattlesnake Rodeo.   I can’t imagine what that it is, but I’m intrigued by it.

Whatever it is, the good folks of Opp have had 52 Rattlesnake Rodeos

I came to the end of my trek at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where I spent the week.  Actually, I was on Okaloosa Island, but that’s just a technical difference, if any.

Fort Walton is not as nice as its newer neighbor, Destin, but still pretty good.  I blogged earlier about eating in Fort Walton, so I’ll spare you those details.  I worked out at Gold’s Gym everyday, which was across the street from this place:

No one does transmission work like a Bigot.

I’m sure he’s a fine fellow, but I’d think about changing my name.  Who is his biggest competitor?  Joe Racist Transmission?

All I did all week was the gym, the pool/beach, baseball games, naps, Starbucks and dinner.  Not too bad.  Substitute work for the pool/beach, and that’s pretty much what I do at home.  The only real downside to my trip was that my beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats won the NCAA Championship while I was there.  I watched it in a restaurant crammed full of UK fans, but it wasn’t the same as being in Lexington when it happened.  We have a tradition of burning furniture when the Cats win the title, but I just couldn’t do it that far from home.

Fort Walton has an inordinate number of tattoo parlors.  I’m sure they cater to the nearby military bases and spring breakers, but it still seems like WAY too many.  I counted 14.  That just seems like a lot.  I thought about getting a “UK” tattoo, but my wife shot it down.  That’s probably for the best.  The next time we suffered a bitter defeat, I’d probably be stabbing it with an ice pick.

Since I ate alone, dressed like a bum and had unkempt facial hair, I was mistaken for a local almost everywhere I went.  As my son would say, I was “rachet.”  I liked that. For four days, my trip was great.  After that, I ran out of things to do and was ready to head home.  I lost one of my credit cards, but no one used it for a bunch of tattooing.

My drive back was uneventful, but laborious.  Two traffic accidents and road construction turned my 11 hour drive into 14.  Plus, I followed this frightening vehicle for about an hour:

Possible tarp-covered corpses.

Oh, I almost forgot, I did this, too:

Your author at his most rachet

I may take another solo road trip, maybe not.  I didn’t get into any trouble (except losing my credit card), so my wife may let me do it again sometime.  By the way, my son’s team when 4-1 in its tournament, and he played well. So, there you have it:  My version of On the Road, only much shorter and only slightly less interesting.

© 2012

Eating for One

I’ve been on a road trip this week to Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  My son is playing in a baseball tournament.  I’m flying solo.  The rest of my clan stayed home in Kentucky.  I haven’t seen a whole lot of my son down here, except for his games and when he needs some cash.  In the name of team-building, the players stay together and ride a bus to and from their games.  The result is that I’ve had a lot of “me” time, which suits me to a tee.

I’ve been eating  my meals solo, too.  Yeah, I’m that guy, the pathetic fellow dining alone.  I know this conjurs up images of a serial killer sitting in his tool shed eating gruel from a human skull.  It doesn’t?  Okay, maybe I’m the only one who thinks about that, but that’s for another blog. I’m quite accustomed to dining out alone.  I travel a fair amount for work, and it’s usually solo.  This time, it’s different.  I’m actually on vacation and eating out among the vacationers.  They don’t eat alone.  But, I do.  Here are a few of my observations from this week.

Where to Sit

Would you like to sit at the bar?  I’m always asked this, and I think I know why.  If you sit at the bar, it’s not obvious to the rest of the diners that you’re alone.  You won’t trouble them by looking like a disturbed loner.  Also, if you eat alone, I suppose there’s a more than fair chance you have a drinking problem.  Sitting you within arm’s length of gallons of alcohol is just good business.

I don’t sit at the bar.  Why not?  First, I don’t drink, so I don’t need access to the bar.  Second, the few times I’ve eaten at a bar, I invariably will be seated next to a talkative drunk.  Mind you now, even though I don’t drink, I have no problem with those that do.  Unfortunately, I don’t like making conversation with strangers or listening to some slurred discourse on topics in which I have no interest.  I know now why people avoided me when I drank.

The exception to sitting at a bar is Waffle House, the poor man’s Cracker Barrel.  Okay, it’s not a bar.   It’s a counter, but it’s the same basic set-up.  You eat beside someone you don’t know and, being Waffle House, he may well be drunk.  I’m okay with it, because it fits the ambiance of Waffle House.  I can also watch them prepare my meal.  It’s like sitting in someone’s kitchen.  Now,the  cooking utensils seem really nasty, but they’re not.  Waffle Houses usually have good health department grades.  Who cares if the cook’s flop sweat occasionally drips into your scrambled eggs?  The food’s good and cheap.  Down here in Florida, I’ve eaten breakfast at Waffle House every day.  Bacon, egg and cheese wrap; side of grits; coffee; and water for $7.95.  Good eats.

I should also note that I do not include fast food restaurants and Cracker Barrel as dining alone, because they are set up that.  No one cares if you eat alone at a fast food restaurant.  People are there to get something quick with the assurance that they know how it tastes.  Cracker Barrel has really good food, and I’ve eaten alone at many of them.  It’s no big deal.  They cater to travelers, many of whom are by themselves.  It’s not a big deal to go solo for a stack of pancakes at 2:00 in the afternoon.

This week has been different.  I’ve been to several sit-down restaurants alone.  I usually have a copy of USA Today and my reading glasses hanging from the front of my shirt.  I prefer a booth.  Why?  I don’t know.  It just seems a little more private, plus the tables usually give me more room to spread out my paper.  It also seems like fewer people are looking at me.  They DO look at me, you know.  All of them.

Attention Please

Dining alone, I never seem to have a problem with service.  It’s odd, because one would think that a large table of customers–and potential tippers–would merit the most attention.  Not so.  I get checked on all the time.  I think it’s because I seem pitiful.  Look at that poor man who has no friends.  We should be nice to him.  I like that.  Coffee and water always topped off.  I never have to wait long for my check. It’s like they opened the restaurant up just for me.

Who are these people?

Of course, I’m not the only one.  There’s always someone else eating by himself.  I say “himself,” because it’s almost always a man.  Even though I am doing the same, I can’t help but think:  What’s the deal with that guy?  Does everyone hate him?  Probably.  Poor, pathetic bastard.  Glad I’m not him.

My reaction is similar to the rare occasion when I encounter the Day People.  You know them.  They’re the folks out doing stuff like shopping and washing their cars during the day.  I always wonder why they’re not at work.  It’s none of my business, so I never ask.  When I get to the age where I can say anything,  I’ll ask:  “What are you doing out during the day?  Don’t you have a job, hippie?”  Something like that.  Again, I digress.

I’m sure these folks look at me the same way and ask the same questions.  I’m just a guy eating dinner alone.  I refuse to order room service or eating crappy fast food just because I’m alone.  Now, leave me alone.

Where do I go?

I’m sure you’re curious about where I’ve eaten this week, so I’ll tell you.

Waffle House:  See comments above.  It’s Waffle House.  It’s consistent.  And I always like it.

BD Pizzeria:  I just ate at this place because it was convenient.  Pizza buffet for $6.99.  Nothing special.

Bridge Street BBQ and Cafe:  I just saw this place while out scouting around.  Kinda of a dump, but it looked like my kind of place.  I was surprised when I went inside.  It was nice, clean and looked like someone’s home.  My waitress was about 70, and I’m sure she must be one of the owners.  She was extremely nice.  I had BBQ pork, green beans and mashed potatoes.  It was nothing special.  The pork was inexplicable chopped into chunks but was pretty good nonetheless.  The beans and potatoes were of the cafeteria variety.  That said, I really liked the lady who waited on me.  There were only a couple of other folks in there.  One guy was clearly drunk and just wanted to use the phone to call a cab.  Of course, they let him.  The other guy is pictured below:

Bridge Street BBQ and Cafe. Note pathetic patron dining alone.

Anglers:  This is a seafood restaurant overlooking the Gulf.  I had bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with crab; garlic mashed potatoes; and green beans. It was all outstanding but a little too pricey for what I got.

The view from Anglers

Mary’s Kitchen:    I picked this place because it had a smoker out back.  I ordered the BBQ chicken/pulled pork dinner with black eyed peas and cheese grits.  The pork and chicken were as good as it gets, and I’ve eaten a lot of BBQ.  The grits were the only thing lacking.  They tasted like they had melted Velveeta in them.  Nevertheless, I’d recommend this place to anyone.  Excellent.

Old Bay Steamer:  I got the one-person steamer:  Snow crab legs; mussels; clams; shrimp; oysters; corn on the cob; and new potatoes.  This was a home run.  Everything was great.  Ronnie the Waiter (who bore a disquieting resemblance to rapper Paul Wall) practically hovered over my table.  My water glass was topped off repeatedly.  Good service and great food.

The Steamer Pot at Old Bay Steamer

I’ve got a couple of nights left.  I’m thinking about steak for tonight.  I might go to Ruths Chris in Destin.  I’m pretty sure Waffle House doesn’t have a steak, but it might.  Wherever I go, it will just be me.  And that’s okay.

© 2012