WITHER GLENN…?

The world is a troubled place. Wars, terrorism, disease, hunger and the like plague us. I have no solutions to any of that. My mind remains clouded by one question: What happened to Glenn?

I am an unabashed fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead. I make no apologies for that nor will I offer any explanation. If you’re not a fan, there’s no point in your reading this. If you are a fan, you know Glenn is in trouble of the worst sort. You’ve likely thought of little else lately.

The last time we saw Glenn (four weeks ago at this writing–Season 6, Episode 3) he was on the ground amid a herd of walkers. (“Herd” is the most common word for a large group of walkers. Personally, I prefer a “stagger” of walkers, but the show’s writers continue to ignore me). Glenn’s fate has been determined by the dastardly Nicholas whose thanks to Glenn for not killing him culminated in a weakly mouthed “thank you,” followed by Nicholas’s suicide shot the head.

At the moment the bullet passed through Nicholas’s worthless head, he and Glenn were standing atop a dumpster surrounded by walkers. Mortally wounded, Nicholas fell into Glenn and both toppled into the walkers below. We then see Glenn silently scream while bloody entrails are ripped from him…or someone.

This looks really, REALLY bad for Glenn.

This looks really, REALLY bad for Glenn.

 

Glenn is dead. Or he isn’t. Or he is. Let’s examine the evidence.

GLENN IS DEAD

Why would I think Glenn is dead? Consider:

  1. Someone got ripped apart. It’s either Glenn or Nicholas. That’s a 50/50 proposition.
  2. Glenn was surrounded by walkers, swarmed even. There’s no reasonable way to escape that. Does he slide (backwards, mind you) under the dumpster which is conveniently elevated several inches off the ground? I just don’t see how that happens without at least a bite or two.
  3. No one has heard from him. No sign. No signals. Nothing. Rick escaped from an RV which was just as surrounded and made it back to Alexandria. It’s been at least days, and there’s no sign of Glenn. That’s bad.

So, maybe he’s dead.

GLENN IS NOT DEAD

How could anyone think he’s not dead? Well, think about it:

  1. Glenn isn’t just any character. He’s not Tyreese, for God’s sake. He’s Glenn freakin’ (whatever he last name is)! He’s been on show since Season 1. He’s the moral conscience of our main group. He can’t die.
  2. We didn’t see him die. As long as we didn’t see him die, he could be alive. Who else died like that? Okay, maybe we didn’t see Merle die either, but Merle was an asshole. We always see the good guys die, and there’s always drama.
  3. There are too many questions. He (and, more importantly, I) deserve some finality, some resolution. Until it’s resolved, he’s alive. Maybe.

He could be alive.

WHAT DIDN’T HAPPEN

If I’m not sure what happened,  I do know some things that didn’t happen–or at least better not have:

  1. It’s not a dream or hallucination. Why kind of writing hack would do that to us? It would be the worst kind of manipulation of a loyal audience. The shark would be jumped at that point with Bobby Ewing riding on its back.
  2. He didn’t fight his way out unscathed. All he had was a knife. Forget that one.
  3. He doesn’t get saved at the last minute. Oh, I know it would be cool if Daryl came riding up on his hog (which was stolen in Episode 606) and drew them all away just as they were finishing up on Nicholas’s corpse and about the tear into Glenn. You might as well have all the walkers struck by lightning.

If none of these happened, how could he possibly be alive? I’m thinking he’s dead again. It’s hard to say, really.

WHAT DID HAPPEN?

I’ve studied this episode like it’s the Zapruder film. Yes, I know that Nicholas and Glenn ran past a fire escape. I, too, have screamed at the TV about this, hoping they’d hear me. They didn’t even look at it. I’ve read that one can hear a distinct “click” of any empty gun after Glenn emptied his, indicating that Nicholas’s gun was empty. If so, it’s all a dream. I’ve watched that scene again and again. Is there a click? Maybe. It’s there if you want to hear it. It’s also not there if you want it to be something else.

I can suspend disbelief with the best of them. After all, I accept the existence of walking dead people. I accept the fact that no one ever calls them “zombies” when, in fact, that is all they would be called in real life. All the dead people wear clothes? Okay. Ever notice that no matter how desiccated the dead are, they rip humans apart–by HAND, no less–in seconds? I don’t think that’s possible, but I’ll accept. It’s the same with tearing people apart with your teeth. We’re humans. We don’t have fangs. Why don’t the dead ever get really weak? I don’t know. It’s a TV show. I’ll accept a lot of things to be entertained. But, there is a limit.

If Glenn survives, it needs to at least be plausible within the show’s context. Consider this aerial view:

The-Walking-Dead-Glenn-Death markup

Artist’s rendering of Glenn’s approximate location.

Where I come from, that’s called some deep shit right there. Where is he going to go? Maybe, just maybe, he slides under the dumpster and then somehow gets out. He has to sustain a couple of bites. Do they do replay of Sophia (one of the best scenes EVER, by the way) with Glenn staggering into Alexandria only to be dispatched by Rick? Wow. That would be lame.

How about this? Glenn is just gone. He never comes back, and we never know. In this world, that would happen, probably often. People would disappear. The problem–and it’s a big one–is that this cheats the audience. We are observers. We should know what’s happening even when the characters don’t.

(At this point, I must note that the comic book has a much different demise for Glenn. That’s a possibility, I suppose. The show has deviated from the comics many times. There’s no reason to think it won’t here, too.)

Oh, hell, I don’t know what happened to him, either. If Rick can get out of that SUV surrounded by walkers (same episode), maybe Glenn got out. Nicholas was a nut. He could have hallucinated or fantasized or whatever you want to call. Did you notice how hard Glenn hit the pavement when they fell? How did that happen? There was no clear space. He would have land on top of the walker herd. Why would Nicholas fantasize about Glenn screaming? Seems like you’d fantasize about yourself screaming. So many questions. I’m more confused than ever.

Oh well. Again, what happened to Glenn? I have a feeling that we’ll find out in Episode 607 (November 22, 2015). Whatever happens, I’m bound to be disappointed as I’ve convinced myself that no outcome can be satisfy me. I hope the writers prove me wrong.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2015

 

DEAR PETE…A FAN’S LETTER

Dear Pete:

Let me start by saying that I am a fan. I grew up in the 1970s when the Reds were The Big Red Machine. I followed that team as closely as a kid living in Harlan County, Kentucky could, being over 200 miles away. Many nights, I sat in the basement listening to Marty Brennaman and the Old Lefthander Joe Nuxhall call games on WSGS out of Hazard, Kentucky.

You’re in the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. Newly discovered evidence indicates that you bet on baseball while a player for the Reds. You even bet on Reds games. You’ve denied all this in past. I’m sure you will again.

A lot of folks believe you should be reinstated by Major League Baseball and honored as one of the game’s greats. Major League Baseball Rule 21 (D) says something altogether different:

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

This is posted in every clubhouse in baseball. There is no gray area. Was there something about this you didn’t understand? Maybe you just thought you wouldn’t get caught.

These new allegations, if true, are the end of the road for you and Major League Baseball. I take no pleasure in this. In fact, it pains me to watch this play out.

You were one of the idols of my youth, along with Johnny Bench, Roger Staubach, Dan Issel and Wilt Chamberlain, sports stars who seemed bigger than life. You, though, were different. You were a regular guy who just happened to be a great baseball player. As a kid, I knew I couldn’t do the things the stars did, but you made it seem that hard work made anything possible.

All Reds fans from those days remember when you left for the Phillies after the 1978 season. We had suffered through the indignity of seeing Tony Perez traded and now you were gone. Of course, we didn’t blame you. We blamed the Reds, in particular General Manager Dick Wagner whom we viewed as a villain on par with John Wilkes Booth.

I was as happy as anyone when you returned to the Reds in the middle of the 1984 season. With you as player-manager, the team responded, playing better baseball for the remainder of the season. A year later, you were the Hit King. By then, I was a grown man, but it still thrilled me to watch you play.

By 1989, I was in my second year as a lawyer. I heard about your suspension at work.  I was outraged. There had to be a mistake. Later, when you were permanently banned from baseball for gambling, I still didn’t believe all the allegations. Sure, you bet on horses. Maybe you even bet on other sports. But you wouldn’t bet on baseball. Your denials rang true to me. You loved the game too much to compromise it by violating its most sacrosanct rule.

That you may have bet on baseball was just not possible, even as the evidence mounted. I continued to believe you even after you accepted a lifetime ban. You accepted this indignity, I rationalized, only to stop the kangaroo court of Major League Baseball from falsely declaring that you had bet on baseball games. You were in the Star Chamber where accusation amounted to conviction. I couldn’t blame you for falling on your sword.

As much I believed you–and I did–two things nagged at me. One, why would the Commissioner’s Office be out to get Pete Rose? You weren’t a bad guy. In fact, you were one of the good guys, a shining example of how to play the game. Two, why was Commissioner Bart Giamatti so convinced of guilt? Giamatti was no dim bulb. He was a man of great intelligence, both a scholar and an avid baseball fan. It made no sense.

Then I read the Dowd Report, the investigative report prepared by former federal prosecutor John Dowd, a man whose named you have dragged through the mud over the years. The report supports only two conclusions: (1) You were guilty as charged based upon overwhelming proof; or (2) you were so thoroughly despised that dozens of people would conspire to destroy you. I was wrong. You lied.

Of course, you remained defiant, that is, until you finally fessed up in 2000. I guess you knew you would never be reinstated unless you came clean, so you admitted to gambling on baseball. In your typical fashion, you didn’t confess in a meeting with the Commissioner or with any humility. Instead, it was part of a book, My Prison Without Bars. Almost immediately, you began hawking autographs with the inscription: “I’m sorry I bet on baseball.” I can buy one on PeteRose.com. Pete, you still can’t get out of your own way.

You know baseball history. Baseball was almost destroyed by gambling in the early 20th century when the Chicago White Sox fixed the 1919 World Series against, ironically, the Reds. After the Black Sox scandal, gambling on baseball was the third rail of the rule book. Touch it, and you’re finished. Anyone who bet on baseball would be banned for life–no exceptions.

You know about Hal Chase, first baseman for the New York Giants. Prince Hal was an early example. He was banned in 1921 for betting on his own team. Chase was a particularly scurrilous character who was also rumored to have fixed games as far back as 1910. The rule was clear–bet on baseball and leave the game forever.

Dowd estimated that you may have been in debt over $100,000 at the time you were banned. The new revelations show that some of this debt may have been owed to a bookie connected with organized crime. Did you really mortgage yourself to the Mob while we were cheering your return to Cincinnati?

This latest revelation isn’t the first indication that you bet on baseball while playing. In his book, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, author Kostya Kennedy offered several anecdotes of such gambling, even from your own mother! I suspect we’ll now start hearing more such stories. Hopefully, you’ll remain silent. When you defend yourself, things seem to get worse. Regardless, your time for confession has long since passed.

You taught me that my heroes do, indeed, have feet of clay. I believed you because I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe you loved baseball just like I did back in those days when you were a hero. Instead, you trashed the game by committing its gravest sin.

Your apologists–and there are more than a few–compare this to steroids. That’s a false analogy for a number of reasons. First, no one ever threw a game because of steroid use. Second, during the so-called Steroid Era, performance enhancing drugs weren’t even banned. Finally, you–of all people–should have been above this.

I’m not suggesting that you ever threw a game. I’ve never heard even a rumor about that. If I did, though, it wouldn’t be hard to believe. That’s where you’ve taken yourself.

What about the Hall of Fame? Contrary to some people’s belief, the Hall of Fame is not run by Major League Baseball. It has its own rules. Frankly, its rule declaring you (and all other banned players) ineligible is, at best, silly. Allow the voters to decide. Prince Hal never got in, even though he was regarded as one of the best players of his day. The Steroid Era stars have found the doors to the Hall closed to them despite none of them being on the permanently banned list.

As far as the ban goes, I have no sympathy for you. You knew the rule. You’ve done well because of your banishment. Unlike some, I don’t begrudge you making money hawking your autographs and photo ops. With your lifestyle, cash is probably a necessity. If you can make money off your own downfall, so be it.

In the twilight of your career, you chased the hits record of another notorious star, Ty Cobb, hanging on well past the point of being an effective player. It is ironic that you were so driven to secure your place in the record book, while so cavalierly disregarding the game itself.

So, make no mistake. You accepted a lifetime ban that was richly deserved. You knew that. Don’t act like it’s an injustice. It isn’t. You knew the rule. You knew the penalty. That’s actually that’s the epitome of justice.

The most surprising part of all this is that I’m still a fan. I’m a fan of No. 14 who strutted with his chest out. Charley Hustle who ran to first on walks. I see you rounding second with your helmet flying off and then diving head first into third. You made kids like me love baseball. It seemed like more than a game. It was important. It mattered. I just wish you’d felt the same.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2015

How To Win a Fight…or Die Trying.

I don’t fight people, at least not physically. As I write this, I’m 52 years old, and that’s just too old to fight. Truthfully, I never was much of fighter. Nevertheless, I’ve been in a few fights. I grew in Harlan County, Kentucky, deep in the mountains of Appalachia where people have a reputation of being rough and tough. I enjoyed no such reputation and for good reason. I am neither rough nor tough; however, these deficiencies give me great insight into the world of street fighting.

I haven’t been in fight in about 30 years or so. Even that fight was not impressive, as I was forced to fight a girl. You can read about that here. How, you might ask, would a man of such limited prowess ever even get in a fight? In my youth, I possessed two traits which made the occasional dust up unavoidable–a big mouth and small body. Pour strong drink into that mix, and you get in fights. The more I drank, the more I ran mouth. The more my mouth ran, the more people wanted to shut it. They would then size me up and determine that giving me a beating would be fairly easy.

I’m not offering any advice on how to start a fight. Starting one is easy. Mouth off, look funny at the wrong person, throw a punch and other offensive behavior will do the trick. I want you to know how to survive a fight. Here are the things you need to know:

PUNCHING IS OVERRATED

You know how in movies a guy will knock someone out with one punch?  That doesn’t happen in real fights, except by accident. Hitting someone in the face is difficult. Unless you are battling Mr. Potato Head or the Elephant Man, the human head is a small target. Hitting it with one punch is almost impossible, especially if the person is trying NOT to get hit. The exception to this is the Sucker Punch (discussed below). The other problem is that punching a head only works if you hit the face. The rest of the head is very hard as it consists of a thin layer of flesh and a really hard human skull. Punching a skull hurts.

Punching someone can hurt the puncher more than the punchee. I suspect this is because hands are made for such things as holding pencils and tying shoes. They aren’t made for beating things, hence the invention of the hammer. If you punch someone two or three times in the face, your hands are going to be pretty banged up. That hurts.

If you must punch, know your targets. The nose is great because it hurts and bleeds like hell. You will at the very least stun your opponent, if only momentarily. The throat is great, too, but almost impossible to hit. Under the armpit or directly under the rib cage are great, too; however, if you miss even a little, you won’t do any damage.

Real life punching is also goofy looking. You won’t look like Floyd Mayweather throwing a punch. Your punch will more like a close-fisted slap. You also are likely to be throwing the punch off the wrong foot, destroying any leverage you might have had. You likely have the wrong kind of hands for punching, just like me. I have bony hands with sharp, protruding knuckles. I know that sounds good, but it isn’t. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve determined that human knuckles are made of some kind of styrofoam-like material that crushes easily. Hit something two or three times and your knuckles will swell up and be useless.

Note your author's bony, protruding knuckles. These are ill-suited for a fist fight.

Note your author’s bony, protruding knuckles. These are ill-suited for a fist fight.

The best kind of fist for punching is a big, fat one that doesn’t even look like a fist. It looks like meat mallet. If you have those at the ends of your arms, use them.

KICKING IS UNDERRATED

Just as the punch gets way too much credit, the kick is virtually ignored. No, I’m not talking about some fancy karate-like spinning back kick. If you can do that, you should be out fighting all the time just to show off. I mean a kick like trying to kick someone in the testicles or the face.

The kick has several advantages. One, it doesn’t hurt like a punch. Two, it can create valuable space between you and your assailant (or victim, as the case may be). This space can be used for such tactics as running or head down bull rush. Third, if properly executed the kick delivers more force than a punch. The kick best applied when your opponent is on the ground. Despite what you’ve heard, kicking a man when he’s down is perfectly acceptable in a fight. In fact, it’s often necessary.

I must here mention the martial arts. I greatly respect any person who has mastered one of these ancient forms of self-defense. These people need no advice from the likes of me. Mastery is the key. As I once heard, martial arts teach you one of two things: (1) how to kill someone with your bare hands; or (2) just enough to get your ass kicked.

FIGHT DIRTY

This caption is deceptive. There isn’t any dirty fighting. If you want rules, become a boxer. Regular fights don’t have rules. Here are some moves to consider:

  • Sucker Punch: This is hitting a person when he doesn’t see if coming. This is the mark of coward, but it could win a fight for you before it starts.
  • Eye Gouging: This is an underutilized tactic. There are plenty of badasses who will dare you to punch them. None of them will dare you to gouge their eyes.
  • Groin Smash: If you’re male, I need say no more. If you’re female, well…I just don’t know what to tell you.
  • Clawing: I’m not talking about scratching (unless that’s necessary, of course). Clawing is similar to the gouge, except you can apply it anywhere (see Groin Smash above).
  • Rabbit Punch: This is a punch in the back of the head. This isn’t recommended because of the relative strength of the back of the human skull; however, you might want to just take a shot if you are running away.

These are just a few tactics you can use. During the heat of battle, you may think of many more. Try them all.

RUNNING

Running gets a bad rap. Many times, it is your last, best defense. The shame of running is no worse than the shame of getting a thorough beating and hurts it less. No one call tell you when to run. You must judge when the tide has turned. Profuse bleeding is usually a good sign. Unfortunately, many of us wait one punch or kick too late to utilize this move. For instance, I was once kicked in the stomach while on my hands and knees. At that moment, I thought “I need to run.” That thought was followed by another kick. Too late to run. Use your judgment.

AVOID WEAPONRY

I can’t emphasize this one enough. It’s bad enough to get in a fight. It’s even worse when you get killed. Weapons are good for that. For example, you might think hitting someone with a chair is a good move. You’ve seen movies and know that chairs splinter when they contact a human form. They don’t. They just hurt like hell (This all assumes you are strong enough to swing a chair like a club). You hit someone with a chair, beer mug, nunchucks, etc., and you better hope he doesn’t have access to something more deadly. You might find yourself at a gun fight armed with a chair.

CHOOSE YOUR OPPONENT

You don’t have to fight everyone with whom you have a conflict. If your potential opponent is a large, dangerous-looking man (or woman), you might want to think twice. You can save face by saying something like “Hey, dude, I don’t want any trouble.” That’s not cowardly. It has air of a man who has seen his share of trouble and wants to find a better way. If that doesn’t work, see RUNNING above.

Bear in mind, too, that there are people who actually like to fight. These people are deranged and will kill you. Avoid them. Sadly, usually we only discover this during the fight.

AVOID OLD MEN

I offer this for the young people. When you’re a young man, you feel indestructible to some extent. You are at your physical peak and look with pity at the middle-aged or older man, with his wife, kids, job and mortgage. This false sense of superiority often causes a young man to be mouthy or threatening. I know, for I was once young. Here’s some advice: Leave the old guys alone. Here’s why:

  • Old Man Strong: I don’t why–and science can’t explain it–but old guys are strong. They don’t look like it with their beer bellies and flabby arms, but they are. Even skinny old guys are strong. You will underestimate this, and he will beat your ass.
  • Old Man Don’t Care: Unlike a young fellow, an old guy isn’t concerned about losing a tooth or getting a black eye. He has no bright future ahead of him. He’ll wade right into you. It will catch off guard. Then you’re trouble.
  • Old Man Courage: Old guys don’t scare easily. Maybe it’s because they’ve  seen a lot or maybe they just don’t give a damn. Fights are scary. They get your adrenalin pumping. Old guys don’t get rattled. They just wail away.
  • Old Man Mystery: Let’s say you’re a college age man and you get in a fight over something you said in a bar. Chances are that your opponent is about like you–college guy, drunk, mouthy, etc. You know what you’re dealing with. Now, add 30 years to that guy. For all you know, he got out of prison yesterday after 20 years for skinning some guy just like you. It’s best not to find out.
  • Old Man Army: He could also be Marines, Navy, Air Force or even Coast Guard. If you fight an old fellow, you just might be locking horns with a military veteran. Bad, bad move. These guys are just waiting for someone like you. It’s better to apologize and buy him a drink.

Just as boxers should stay in their weight class, you should stay in your age class. If you are an old guy, at some point, some young guy will mouth off to you. Have at it.

Those are my tips. Of course, none of this applies if you are a large, dangerous person or just psychotically violent. If so, you need no pointers me. I’m certainly not trying to tell you what to do or suggesting that you can’t handle yourself quite well. Take no offense. I’m not looking for any trouble.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2015

OFFICE FOLLIES

I’ve worked in offices my entire adult life. In fact, I’ve never had a real job outside an office. In particular, I’ve worked in law offices. This is, of course, because I’m a lawyer. Even before I became a lawyer, I worked in law offices, first as an errand runner and then as a law clerk. All offices have cultures, rules and oddities all their own. I’ve thought about writing a book and maybe I will but not now. A book requires names and details, and I’m sure most of the folks with whom I worked would prefer anonymity. Plus, I like a lot of them, and I don’t want to be sued. As far as the ones I don’t like, why give them unwarranted fame? If I ever do write a book, here are some things I’ll discuss:

RULES ARE RULES

The bigger the office, the more numerous the rules. I had it explained to me that “We have these rules because they are important. We give them a lot of thought. We don’t treat them lightly.” Okay.

When I first started working, everyone wore coats and ties. Even women. Their ties were these odd, floppy neck pieces that looked like poorly tied ascots or cravats. Suits were the order of the day, too. Sport coats were a little too reckless. These were the rules. Over the years, times changed and ties became optional in most offices. My office was different. We didn’t have Casual Friday. Nevertheless, I stopped wearing a tie. This was a bad move. Why? Here’s another rule: Don’t stand out. If you stand out, people play attention to you. The more attention, the more likely they are to find something you’re doing wrong. At least that’s what happened with me.

Office rules are rarely written down. This creates flexibility in enforcement. For example, during a performance evaluation, one of my superiors said “You have a reputation for going to lunch.” This was bad, so I stopped. After that, I ate at my desk or in the office kitchen/lunch room. This made me look busy and too important to be bothered with socializing.

At my next evaluation, I was told that I needed to socialize more. Specifically, I was told to get out in the town during lunch and “be seen.” Being seen was important. It might have even been a rule. So, one of my colleagues and I started taking walks at lunch. We were seen by lots of people every day. I then developed a reputation for walking at lunch. This was bad. And so on and so on….

When I first became an attorney, my employer gave us office etiquette advice. These weren’t rules as much as suggestions. Don’t wear any weird ties or flamboyant socks. No saucy lace hose for the ladies (or men, I guess). Don’t discuss client confidences in public. There was even advice on how to act in an elevator (move to the back when people enter, don’t smoke, no loud talking, etc.).

For the past ten years, I’ve worked in a small office. We don’t have rules, mostly because no one wants the job of enforcing them. We work in sort of organized chaos. I recently told one of my partners “One day I’m going to walk in on a Monday morning and say ‘Today is the day we all get our heads out of our asses!'” Of course, I won’t do that. First, that’s exactly where my head is most of the time. Second, that would put me in charge, and I don’t like rules any more than anyone else.

RETREAT, RETREAT!

Big law offices like to have retreats. A retreat is where the partners are forced to travel somewhere for a weekend to discuss the state of the law firm and future plans.You do things like make personal marketing plans, discuss branding and drinking excessively.

My old firm liked the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Indiana. If you’ve been to French Lick in recent years, I understand that it has experienced a bit of a Renaissance with casino gambling. When we went to French Lick, it was primarily known as the home of Larry Bird and Pluto Water. I assume you know Larry Bird. Pluto Water was a popular laxative about 100 years ago before the benefits of fiber were well-known. One of my partners described the resort as a “really elegant Motel 6.” Another said it was “the Place to Be…in 1925.”

frenchlick

My favorite place in French Lick back in the ’90’s.

We’d spend the weekend in French Lick (or the “Lick,” as I called it), more or less intoxicated the whole time.Once, my room was so decrepit that the title floor in the bathroom came loose and stuck to my feet. It’s quite terrifying to wake up from a semi-blackout in a bed full of tile.

Once, we had our retreat at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. This hotel is really nice, but it’s also a sprawling complex which combines Las Vegas sprawl with labyrinth-like architecture. You’d leave your room with no assurance you’d ever find it again. Despite the nicer locale, I still lost the will to live within a few hours of my arrival.

Your author at a law firm retreat in 1999. The sticker on my shirt says "I'M SO HAPPY!" I wasn't really.

Your author at a law firm retreat in 1999. The sticker on my shirt says “I’M SO HAPPY!” I wasn’t really.

I finally concluded that the purpose of our retreats was twofold: (1) Other firms did it, so it had to be a good idea; and (2) Much like when your mother forced to play with a kid you hated, there was a belief that bringing everyone together would foster collegiality rather than contempt. I usually left with new names to add the list of folks I didn’t care much for.

THE NAME GAME

It’s fun to nickname people in an office but only if you never tell them about the names. Here are some of my favorites (I won’t include the ones that aren’t fit for a PG-13 crowd) :

The Egg Man (He tried to buy human eggs in the office)

Chief Speakforyourself (Someone once called our office The Island of Misfit Toys to which he responded “Speak for yourself!” (which, by the way, is what the speaker was doing)

45 (See below)

The Marm (looked like a school marm)

Queen Victoria (Hey, he looked like her)

The Generalissimo (This is a long story. It would be an entire blog post)

Porter Waggoner (The guy came to work with a fancy pompadour)

Catdog (Two lawyers so inextricably linked that we could not tell where one ended and the other began)

45 was typical of how you could get a nickname. We were at our retreat in Nashville, and a group of us younger partners were sitting in the floor outside the hospitality suite bemoaning our status. One of our senior partners staggered out of the suite and asked “You boys seen 45?” “Huh?” one of us asked. He said “Room 45? You seen 45?”

Okay, the Opryland Hotel has 3,000 or so rooms. There could be 200 room numbers including the number 45. Yet, he was insistent. “45? Room 45? Where is it?” Finally, someone said “Yeah, upstairs.” That seemed to satisfy him. From then on, he was 45.

Another favorite involved a guy named Dale Josey. I use his name here for two reasons. One, I have nothing bad to say about him. In fact, I didn’t even know him. He worked in our firm’s marketing department doing something important, I’m sure. Second, the story requires use of his name. Why? Because we called him the Outlaw Josey Dale. That still brings a smile to my face.

A TIME TO PRAY

I have nothing against prayer. In fact, I do it myself. I worked in an office where it was quite popular, so popular that there was a morning prayer group. They’d pray about things. Usually, someone in the office was ill, so that would be a good subject. All in all, it was rather benign. Oh sure, there was the time that someone distributed literature which conclusively proved that the Pope was the beast of Revelation. That aside, the group seemed like a fairly affable bunch.

One of our senior partners like to pray, too. I once visited his office to discuss a personal matter with him. Before I finished, he reached for dog-eared Bible which was copiously marked with Post-it notes. It was kind of what I imagine Mark David Chapman’s copy of The Catcher in the Rye looking like. He started flipping through and said: “Can I pray for you?” What am I supposed to say? “Sure” was all I could muster. So, he did. Right there. I wasn’t sure of the protocol, so I just closed my eyes and said my own silent prayer–one in which I beseeched God to stop the other praying. It probably says more about me than it does him, but the whole scene made me uncomfortable. When it was over, I felt like I had been stripped naked.

I found out that I wasn’t alone. Others had been prayed over, too. It wasn’t like he thought I was especially evil or anything.

SCANDALOUS BEHAVIOR

At some point, all office workers are exposed to scandal, sometimes even their own. Discretion prevents me from offering many details here. Let’s just say that if you suspect two (or more) co-workers of engaging in inappropriate sexual congress, you are correct. In fact, by the time you suspect this behavior, it will have been going on for quite a while, maybe even years. Your suspects are almost always married but never to each other, of course. Just accept their shenanigans and move on. Judge if you must, but understand there are others in the office doing the same thing, and you don’t even know about them. Don’t you feel left out?

Sometimes, things get stolen in the office. The first thing you do is blame the cleaning people. After all, they are a sketchy group with free rein in the office. Only God knows what they do when you’re not working. If you don’t want them stealing from you, then stay at work, you lazy bastard.

Here’s the truth: The thieves are almost invariably someone who works in the office. We had a lady who had been arrested a dozen times for various forms of theft. We didn’t do background checks in those days. She came in and stole from us, too. Quit blaming the cleaning people.

Later, a purse was stolen in the middle of a work day. First, we blamed the cleaning crew. Next, we changed the security codes for the office. It never dawned on anyone that it almost certainly was someone working in the office, since we didn’t really have  problem with drifters roaming the halls. Oh, well, we all felt safer knowing that it was now slightly more difficult for the thief to enter the office.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED

I could write a whole book about office restrooms, maybe not a book but at least a lengthy pamphlet. Even in an office of well-dressed, educated people, the sights, smells and sounds of a public restroom rival your worst nightmares of any poorly maintained highway rest area. I’ll spare most, but not all, of those details. For example, there was the man who steadfastly refused to flush the toilet after making a major transaction. I assumed it was a statement of some kind, a protest against injustice. “This will teach those sons of bitches,” I imagined him fuming as he left the stall. His fiber-rich diet was no mere healthy choice. It was a weapon used to battle The Man.

One lawyer couldn’t hit the urinal. These were the big, trough-like urinals that stick about a foot out from the wall. You could sit on the damn things. Still, he missed it. He would zip up and nonchalantly walk away, unconcernedly shuffling through a pool of urine. The worst was to be beside him at the other urinal. I feared being soaked from the knees down. Fortunately, the privacy divider took most of the offending spray. Most of it.

The strangest–and certainly most disturbing–event concerned what became known as “The Device.” One morning I sauntered into the handicapped stall as I did on occasion. I normally eschew such activity at work, but nature has her own ways. When I entered, I saw it–a white plastic bag emblazoned with the name of local medical clinic. I should have run screaming, but curiosity got the best of me. I just had to look. Using my right foot, I pulled open the top of the bag and saw The Device. It was an orange cylindrical container with a tapered spout on the side. Below is my crude rendering of this dubious medical aid:

dEVIE

The top was sealed and it was packed in ice. Yes, ice. Whatever it contained required ice. What the hell was it and what was in it? I consulted my closest friend in the office, but I wasn’t able to show him because he was out of the office. (For you young people: This was in the ancient days when we didn’t carry cameras or even phones with us at all times). I didn’t dare ask anyone else. What if it belonged the person I asked? I would then have to hear about his hideous health condition which required this contraption. I could only conclude that it was some kind of sampling device to take specimens of God knows what. Based upon my description, my colleague speculated that is what some kind of crude colonic irrigation aid. If you know what this is, let me know. On second thought, don’t. Perhaps it’s best left a mystery.

I HAVE MET THE ENEMY

Offices are full of many different types of people, but they all have one thing in common–each thinks that he or she is the only “normal” person in the office. That’s always been true with me. Everyone else is a weirdo or social misfit of some sort. This is especially true in the law office. Let’s be honest–most lawyers were not “cool” when they were young. One of my partners once confided in me that she had been “kind of a nerd” when she was young. Really?

The sad truth is that each office has a culture, and you contribute to it. Maybe you’re like me and question everything. If so, you’re one of the reasons that they have rules. You have to be kept in line. Maybe you like to make rules. If so, there’s a place for you at the top, assuming you don’t get stabbed in the back on your way up the ladder.

I’ll post other office musings as time goes on. There’s really a lot of material here. Maybe a book is the way to go after all.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2015

The Boy Who Loved Christmas

I guess that’s not a very creative title. Lots of people love Christmas. I’m one of them, but I’m not a boy anymore. I’m 52 years old. I still love Christmas.

At the risk of drawing the ire of my Christian friends, I’ll confess that it has little to do with the Christian aspects of the holiday. It’s not that I discount that. That’s just not the hook for me. (Feel free to post your scathing comments below. I also don’t think there is a War on Christmas. Even if there is, Christmas won.

So, here’s what I like:

THE PRESENTS

I have to be honest: I like getting gifts. Admit it–you do, too. I won’t even return bad gifts. I just keep them. Really, I don’t think there are any bad gifts, just unsuitable ones. They way I look at it, no one has to give me anything. I should appreciate the effort.

Okay, sometimes I’ll give one of my gifts to someone else, but I never “re-gift.” I’ll just say: “Hey, someone gave me this, and I can’t use it. Do you want it?” Bourbon chocolates are a good example. Those are big here in Kentucky, and I don’t like them. I never have. Every year at Christmas, I’ll get boxes of them from various sources. If you’re not familiar with this confection, just imagine fudge drenched in bourbon. It’s an alcoholic’s idea of candy. (“Chocolate’s great, but you know what would make it better? BOOZE!!“). I just give them away. Fruit cake works the same way, except I can’t find anyone who wants that crap.

While I certainly appreciate the effort, despite no gift being bad, they’re not all good, either. Clothes are rarely good presents for me.  At I’m 5’ 8” and 160 pounds, I’m the wrong size for a typical American. I am, however, the perfect size for a middle weight boxer. Think about that: MIDDLE weight. This connotes a person of medium size, does it not? Why, then, do people insist upon buying me clothes designed for men twice my size? If a “large” size fits me, what size do actual LARGE men wear? I get sweaters that hang to my knees, shirt with sleeves falling below my hands and pants in which two of me can be stuffed. Even these grotesquely ill-fitting items are greatly appreciated, though. I try my best to wear them. I’ll hang on to them for a while, hedging my bets against being stricken with gigantism or morbid obesity. At some point, I’ll donate them to charities devoted to clothing behemoths.

With these limited exceptions, I like all gifts, especially if they are gift-wrapped. Socks, neck ties, cologne, fruit, books–you name it–I like them all. No one is obligated to give me anything, so it’s a nice gesture. Sometimes, I get great gifts. One year, my brother and I got like 10 G.I. Joes. I’ll never forget that. I got a baseball glove when I was 10. I still have it, too.

I also like giving gifts to people. In fact, I might like that more than receiving them. I don’t even care if you like the gift. My wife never likes my gifts, unless it’s something she has specifically identified, and I mean specifically. I need photos, serial numbers, model numbers, sizes, colors, etc. In fact, it’s most helpful if she just buys the gift herself. One year, I used a personal shopper to pick out maternity clothes. My wife hated all of them. The fact that she wasn’t pregnant may have contributed to that, but you get my point.

Christmas also makes me want to give money to worthy causes. Well, the tax deduction also motivates me, but it’s great that Christmas comes at the end of the calendar year when a giving spirit and greed combine so nicely.

It’s said that it is better to give than receive. I’m not sure about that, but they’re both fun.

THE MUSIC

Christmas music is great, too. Deck The Halls sounds good whether sung by Pat Boone or Twisted Sister. White Christmas? Bing Crosby, Elvis, Jewel, Leon Redbone—they all can nail it. All of us sing along when we hear these. We sing along to Good King Wenceslas, even though we don’t the words. We don’t know whether there are bells on Bob’s tail or Bobtail. Regardless, we cheerily sing along.

Naturally, not all the songs are great. During three or four Christmas seasons, my youngest son played Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer over and over (and over). I’ll admit that I found it humorous the first couple of dozen times. After that, it became tedious. It’s Cold Outside is a fairly new classic, but its tacit endorsement of date rape doesn’t put me in the holiday mood.

Then there are the Christmas Carolers. I don’t see them as much as in the past, but they still roam about. Maybe they focus more on hospitals and shut-ins. That’s for the best. Honestly, carolers make me a tad uncomfortable. I just stand there and watch them. Singing along seems unnecessary, inappropriate even. Just when I think they’re done, they sing another song. When they finally do finish, there’s an awkward moment of silence. I’m never sure if I should applaud, hand them money or just shut the door. The whole scene makes me uneasy.

Otherwise, Christmas music is always good. It puts me in the Christmas spirit, even if our radio stations start playing them in October. Once Christmas is over, I don’t want to hear them. It just makes think about how far we are from next Christmas.

THE EXCITEMENT

If we’re honest, most of us will admit that we don’t remember a lot of details about childhood. Mostly, it’s just a highlight reel. I remember Christmas. The nerves and excitement bordered on terror. I had a friend who would stay awake all night, practically mad from excitement. He still talks about it. That’s Christmas to me. Christmas made me totally mental.

Even after I passed the Santa phase, I was still excited—maybe even more so. Without the North Pole bureaucracy, my chances of getting cool presents increased. I was a pretty good kid. Besides, I knew my parents didn’t have Santa’s unrealistic expectations regarding behavior.

I was fascinated when I realized that my parents got me all those presents. Certainly, it explained a lot. Now I knew how “Santa” figured out what I wanted. It answered my questions about the seemingly impossible logistics of covering the entire planet. Plus, I had come to realize that reindeer really could not fly. Elves, of courses, were just creepy.

But in those days of Santa, I was full-on believer for years. Sure, there was the Santa at the Sears catalog store whose red hair showed under his cheap wig. I dismissed him as one of Santa’s many “helpers.” That our chimney led straight to coal-burning furnace was no issue for me. I just assumed that Santa had the good sense to come through a window at our house.

I’ll admit that Santa also stressed me out. I worried about my behavior. Like most kids, I only focused on this as Christmas neared. I fretted that my transgressions from earlier in the year might cost me a G.I. Joe. What needless worry!

One year, I was so overcome with joy that I had to remove myself from the living room where Santa left our substantial take. I went the kitchen and promptly downed six glasses of milk to calm my nerves. Then, I vomited. Now, THAT’S excitement! I don’t puke on Christmas Day anymore. I miss that.

I’m glad to say that my own three sons picked up some of this from me. My middle son, in particular, was always so excited that he would cry when saw his gifts. Even now, as a young adult, I still see that he’s thrilled on Christmas Day. Nothing wrong with that.

I’m older now, even old some would say. I’ve passed from believing in Santa to being Santa to retiring as Santa. Regardless, I still get a thrill thinking about Christmas.

THE COMMERCIALIZATION

I’m one of the few who will admit that he likes the garish commercialization of Christmas–the advertising, the lights, the sparkle–all of it. Here’s what my house looks like:

We like to think we strike a delicate balance between festive and obnoxious.

We like to think we strike a delicate balance between festive and obnoxious.

We love it.

I like Christmas movies. I’ve seen Christmas Vacation a dozen times, at least. Elf is a new favorite. I even like Black Christmas, Bob Clark’s classic about a murderous lunatic. I am, however, one of the rare few who does not care for It’s A Wonderful Life. I find the whole thing depressing. Oh, sure, there’s the upbeat ending where George realizes everything is great. Up until that point, it’s like a barium enema–painful, uncomfortable and you just wish it would end. Just when you think it can get no worse, it does. That you ultimately get relief does little to erase the memories. I come away questioning whether George’s life is all that wonderful. Everyone else seems to love it. So, maybe it’s just me.

I know there are folks who don’t like Christmas. They tend to be vocal about it, too. I don’t care. I think I’m still the boy who loved Christmas, just older. In fact, I’ve spent most of my adult life feeling like a kid pretending to be an adult. That’s problematic in many areas of my life. In the case of Christmas, I’m okay with it.

©www.thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2014

Picture This…

I like pictures, photographs to be exact. It’s likely a family thing. My parents had lots of photos. My mother in particular had many photos of her teenage and college years. She had even more, but her mother, enveloped in what must have been emotional or mental illness, shredded her photo albums. Still, there were a lot of photos of my mother at various stages of her life. She always looked like Mom in them, even if the image was of a younger and smaller version.

My paternal grandmother loved photos. She had many boxes full. We usually visited Granny on Sundays in the small Eastern Kentucky town of Evarts. Granny had framed photos scattered about her house in addition to the boxes. She said she would save money to have photos taken of her children whenever there was a photographer in town. Granny’s love of photos is why I have a framed photo of my father at 4 months old:

 babydad

Dad often said that this “little fellow” had no idea what a tough world he was being sent into in 1925.

Photos tell stories, of course, but often you must know a lot of background before you know the story. That is certainly true of this photo (of my favorites):

fam

As photography goes, it’s unremarkable. The lighting isn’t ideal and the color is a bit odd. My mother, for example, was quite pale. She never had that much color. Regardless, I like the people in it. The date was August 11, 1987, my 25th birthday.  It’s in my parents’ home in Loyall, Kentucky. It was my home, too, from age 12 on. That’s me, the Birthday Boy, behind the cake. On the left is my younger brother, Richard Kent Williams, born March 16, 1967. My parents are behind me–Earl Malone Williams and Anna Muriel Dye Williams. I’m not sure about the photographer, but I assume it was my future wife, Sherry.  It was important to my mother that I come home for my birthday, so I did in 1987 like every year expect 1982 when I was stranded in Lexington, Kentucky without a car. So, I guess the story is that I came home for my birthday, and we posed for a photo. It is also worth noting that birthdays were the rare occasions when my mother would pose for a photo. Otherwise, she was like pursuing J.D. Salinger for a portrait sitting.

There’s more there, of course. My Dad was 62 years old. Mom was 57. My parents shared the same birthday–January 19. From a young age, I knew that at any given time, they were five years apart in age. Dad was in remarkably good health, considering that he didn’t exercise or eat right or even ever see a doctor. Mom, on the other hand, had only recently passed her five-year anniversary of a breast cancer diagnosis. Her health had been poor, not so much because of the cancer but more from the “cure,” a toxic cocktail of chemicals which eradicated cancer cells but left her weak and unsteady. Today, I also know that Mom suffered from depression, at least that’s my unprofessional diagnosis. In this photo, I didn’t think any such thing. I thought she was just prone to spells of sadness, much like she described her own mother.

As I write this, I’m 52, but I’m not 52 in that photo. I’m 25. It’s tempting to wax nostalgic or melancholy and think about what was or what was to come. For example, almost six weeks later to the day this photo was taken, Richard was dead. As far as I know, this is the last photo of him. He’s fine in the photo. I like that. Like most people who die young, he became his death. Here, he’s just a 20-year-old posing for a birthday picture with his brother.

Here, Dad hadn’t had a heart attack, like he would two years later, radically changing his lifestyle (for the better, I should add). Mom would have her share of health woes in years to come, but not on that day. Me? I was a 25-year-old who finally finished school and was about to start a career as a lawyer. I hadn’t had the ups and downs of that career and the self-imposed stress which would help make me the exact type of person that this young man loathed–pompous, self-important and with an over-inflated view of his own significance.

I know that house well. My parents built it, and I thought it was a mansion when we moved in.  It was a classic 1970’s split-level home with four levels, but it had things I’d only imagined in my 12 years–air conditioning, for example. It had carpet all over the house, too! I still shared a room with my younger brother, but that was much better than sharing it was my younger and older brothers. After my father died in 2008, I sold the house, but I never out-grew my fascination with it.

A friend once told me that life “comes at you at the speed of light at point-blank range.”  What he meant, I think, was that things happen all the time, every day, and we just have to deal with them. It’s tempting to look at this or any other old photo and ponder all the things that were to come. I prefer to think that none of those things, good or bad, happened to those folks. They are frozen in that photo.

Sometimes, though, I do wonder about what those folks would think about what was to come. None of us would have accurately predicted the future. Unlike that young fellow in the photo, I’m the father of three sons. I didn’t even ponder such things in those days. Now, I’m the one who poses with his sons for photos:

fathersday2014

None of us in this photo knows what’s coming, either. It will surely come, of course, and we’ll deal with it. Or we won’t.

In the years after my 25th birthday, I wasted much of my young adulthood planning and hoping for the future, much of that little more than self-centered scheming to try to make the world suit my desires. This peculiar form of madness masqueraded as ambition. When I see these old photos, I realize how little I knew then. Then again, that 25 year old would be stoked to know about all the cool things that were to come. His view of the future sold himself short. There was a lot more growing up to do and the pains that go with it. Everything turned out pretty sweet.

In some sense, we’re still in 1987, I suppose, celebrating that birthday. At least that’s what they’re doing in the photo. That’s where I go when I look at it. I can’t claim to be the same person I was at 25, but that is me in the photo. I know, because I have the picture to prove it.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2014

So…Where Are You From?

I’m always interested in where people are from. Maybe it’s because it allows me to end a sentence with a preposition without fear of reprimand. After all, no one asks “From where do you hail?

Maybe it’s a Kentucky thing. One thing you often hear in Kentucky is something like this: “He ain’t from around here. He’s from somewheres else.” Seems like we’re always asking people where they’re from–Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, etc. You might even be from Louisville, which is part of Kentucky in only the most technical, geopolitical sense.

Everyone is from somewhere. I’m sure someone famous said that at some point. I live in Lexington, Kentucky. Lexington is a college town and, as such, most of us Lexingtonians are from somewhere else. I suspect that’s true of most college towns. In fact, one of the first things you want to know when you meet someone here is “Where are you from?

Where you are from is important. Okay, it might not be as important as where you are. How you got from where you’re from to where you are is even more important. After all, that’s your life. It’s certainly more important than where you’re going since you might never actually get there.

When I’m out of state, I’m from Lexington. For example, I was in Newberry Springs, California a few months ago and a guy named Shaggy asked where I was from. I said “Lexington, Kentucky” without hesitation. Truth be told, I’m not from Lexington. I only live there. Actually, I’m from Harlan, Kentucky.  If you were familiar with Harlan, I’d never tell you I’m from Harlan, though. Harlan is a town, and I never lived there. I’m from Harlan County, a much broader designation. To a fellow Harlan Countian, I’m from Loyall. I might even specify Rio Vista or Park Hill. If you knew anything about Loyall, that would make sense.

My father was from Evarts, also in Harlan County. My Mom was born in Detroit but grew up on Island Creek and in Cumberland. So, she was from Pike and Harlan Counties.

I’ve probably met people from all 120 counties in Kentucky, which is an ungodly number of counties. By contrast, California has 58 counties. Texas, on the other hand, has 254. I’ve met very few people from either of those states.

I’ve traveled through a lot of small towns in America. They all have one thing in common. Someone is from all of them. Some folks are so well-known that the town claims them.

In Kentucky, we claim Abraham Lincoln who has born in Hodgenville. Nevertheless, Illinois is The Land of Lincoln. Honest Abe is one of those folks claimed by a lot of places. Will Rogers is like that. He’s all over Oklahoma. If you fly into Oklahoma City, you might land at the Will Rogers Airport. If not, you’ll land at Wiley Post Airport. Oddly enough, Rogers and Post died in the same plane crash but not in Oklahoma. Claremore, Oklahoma honors Rogers even though he wasn’t really from Claremore. He’s also not from Vinita, Oklahoma, which has a statue of him near what used to be the world’s largest McDonald’s.

I read an excellent essay by Ander Monson, The Exhibit Shall Be So Marked, in which he notes the generic qualities of small towns. In my travels, I’ve noticed the same thing. Small towns are small everywhere. There are scandals and gossip, good people and bad. They all have an air of folks living easy and hard. Being there because they love it and because they can’t leave. Not all small towns are friendly. Some people are friendly and some won’t give you the time of day. It’s not all Norman Rockwell.

With the exception of geography and accents, I’m not sure that you could tell the difference between Prestonsburg, Kentucky and Commerce, Oklahoma. That’s not entirely correct. The major difference is that Mickey Mantle is from Commerce. Folks in Commerce know it, too.

IMG_7572

Brantley, Alabama, knows it’s the home of Chuck Person aka The Rifleman, former Auburn University basketball star and long time NBA player. Brantley is an otherwise quiet, nondescript town that has seen better days.

Brantley loves Chuck Person.

Brantley loves Chuck Person. I’m sure they love his less famous brother Wesley, too.

 Brantley isn’t a lot different from Binger, Oklahoma, home of Johnny Bench. Schools, churches, stores, city hall and better times long ago.

JB's sign needs straightening

JB’s sign needs straightening

A lot of people are from Oklahoma. Eric, Oklahoma is the home of Roger Miller. How do I know? Well, they have a Roger Miller Museum, just as Binger has its Johnny Bench Museum.

IMG_7795JB Mus

Twenty-five or so years ago, I was in Yukon, Oklahoma. Someone told me that Garth Brooks was from there. I had never heard of him. Of course, that changed. Now, no one has to tell you that Garth is from Yukon. They’ve painted it on their water tower.

Elk City, Oklahoma is notable not for elk but for a huge oil derrick in the middle of town. It’s also the home of Jimmy Webb, who wrote the  MacArthur Park and bunch of other great songs.

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a Perry Como Museum, but they have a Perry Como statue in a down town that could be anywhere in the country, except for the Perry Como statue. Perry doesn’t stand on Bobby Vinton Boulevard, though. That would be awkward.

Your author and Perry Como.

Your author and Perry Como.

Canonsburg is close to Washington, Pennsylvania, home of Jerry Sandusky–no statue of him.

I’ve been to Wailuka, Hawaii on the island of Maui. Baseball player Shane Victorino is from Wailuku, but they don’t have sign or statue or museum for him–yet.

Carthage, Missouri has a beautiful courthouse. It also has both Marlin Perkins and Old West outlaw Belle Starr as natives.

Edd Roush was from Oakland, City, Indiana, through which I happened to drive when I was lost once. If you don’t know Edd Roush, don’t feel bad. He was one of baseball’s great stars in the early 20th Century. That’s why they have a park named after him.

I once spent a couple of days in Newark, Ohio, which is pronounced “Nerk” from some reason. I didn’t spend as much time there as Wayne Newton did. That’s where he’s from.

Cuba, Missouri is the City of Murals. As far as I can tell, no one is from Cuba (which can’t be literally true), but Bette Davis and Amelia Earhart visited Cuba–at least according to the murals. I’m not sure if they were together, but that seems unlikely.

Kennesaw, Georgia is a nice town. It’s best known as the town with an ordinance requiring everyone to own a gun. I didn’t have a gun when I was a there, but I was just visiting. Thankfully, I didn’t get caught. A lot of people are probably from there. And they’re packing.

You can get some good barbecue in Clinton, Oklahoma. Country singer Toby Keith is from Clinton, at least that’s what a waitress told me. Why would she lie about that? She wouldn’t.

I ate lunch in Needles, California on a 115 degree day. It was probably that hot when Charles Schulz lived there, but I don’t think he was born there. Then again, maybe he was. Snoopy’s brother Spike is from Needles, too.

What about Loyall? We have Jerry Chesnut.  Jerry is a country music songwriter of some renown. He’s in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He even has a website. It’s no wonder we named a road after him.

Other people are from Harlan County. Wallace (Wah Wah) Jones was a famed basketball star at the University of Kentucky. Legend has it that Nick Lachey was actually born in the county, but we don’t have a sign or anything for him.

Kentucky claims a few people. Muhammad Ali is from Louisville. So was Hunter Thompson, but Louisville is a big city. Lots of people are from big cities. It’s a numbers game.

Charles Manson is from Ashland, Kentucky. As far as I know, they haven’t built a museum or park in his honor. Maybe after he dies….

Jesse James wasn’t from Kentucky, but he robbed a bank here. So did Willie Sutton. Col. Sanders was a Kentuckian, but you probably knew that. He wasn’t a criminal.

Larry Flynt is a Kentucky boy, from Magoffin County. Unrelated but just as interesting, famous White House correspondent Helen Thomas was from Winchester. We also claim Johnny Depp, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence and Ashley Judd, so we have are fair share of beautiful people, too. Flynt and Thomas are not two of them.  You probably wouldn’t guess that any of these folks were Kentuckians (except for Flynt), but they are.

Some people have a hard with identifying where they are from. Military people are a good example. They’re from all over the place. Some folks are embarrassed about their origins and will only vaguely answer with something like “Eastern Kentucky” or “back East.” If you push them, you can get the details.

Of course, accents can give you away unless you are from Kansas or Nebraska or some other accent-less land. I have an Eastern Kentucky or Appalachian accent. I knew a woman from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and found it odd that she would say “eh” of “hey” at the end of sentences. I found out that was a dead giveaway of the UP.  Similarly, folks from New England speak with an odd brogue and say things like “aayuh” during casual conservation. There’s no hiding where they are from.

We’re all from somewhere, even without road signs, museums and parks in our names. I guess most of us are proud of where we’re from or, at the very least, we don’t lie about it. Taking pride in it does seem a little odd given that we really have no say in the matter. Oh well… so, where are you from?

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2014

The Joy of Kentucky Football

kentucky-football-helmet

I am a lifelong fan of University of Kentucky sports–basketball and football being my major loves.  Our basketball Wildcats have a storied history of success, winning more games than any collegiate program ever.  Add to that eight NCAA titles and numerous Final Four appearances, and being a fan is easy and rewarding.  Football, though, is another story altogether.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about our football woes. This was during the throes of one of our many downward spirals. I touched on the strength of our fans.  It’s time to give us our due.

WOE IS US

For all our basketball success, our football fortunes have been star-crossed, at best.  Football is the yin to basketball’s yang.  We are the Yankees of basketball and the Cubs of football.  Worse, we are the Kentucky of football and not in the basketball sense.

I could catalog the failures of our gridiron Cats, but I won’t.  Let’s just say that my Cats haven’t had much success.  Really, we haven’t had any success compared to the successful college football programs.  We also have the misfortune of playing in the Southeastern Conference, home of such traditional football powers as Alabama, Florida, LSU and Auburn.  Even the SEC’s lesser lights like Ole Miss, Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas have proud football traditions.  I assure you that any fans of those schools would be enraged to hear them called lesser lights.  We UK fans would just nod and consider “lesser light” to be a compliment–a solid notch above doormat.

I’m writing this as a lament about UK football.  I’m here to praise it and us, its loyal fans.  I know the history as well as anyone. I remember losing a game on TWO pass interference penalties the covered almost an entire field as time expired.  We’ve lost as time expired too many times to count.  We’ve lost to teams that had no business playing an SEC team.  We can win 1 or 2 games and still be put on probation for recruiting violations.  Yes, we cheat, too, but we don’t even win.  One of our coaches, Bill Curry, referred to a portion our fan base as “the Fellowship of the Miserable.” Few of us disagreed.

We don’t stay for wins, and we don’t leave because of losses. Sure, one or two win seasons are tough. We gut them out. It doesn’t matter if brighter skies are not on the horizon. Let’s see other fans do that.

KEEPING IT REAL

We’re real fans, more so than the devoted following of our basketball team (of which I am certainly one).  It’s easy to cheer for a perennial winner.  What of a team which disappoints or, even worse, plays down to our lowest expectations?  We still show up to the games. We watch them on TV. We hold out hope, where no sane man would.  I have a friend who routinely predicts a 9 win season, even though that never happens. This, he maintains, will be our year.

Like all fans, we embrace victories as proof of our own superiority. Young men, barely out of high school, give us a sense of well-being. We call their success our own, as though we contributed to their efforts.  Kentucky fans, though, also embrace the losses. We are not a “we” win “they” lose crowd. However, we know that there will be games–many, in fact–which we cannot win. This does not dampen our enthusiasm.

We have no Bandwagon Fans. What are Bandwagon Fans? Anyone who becomes a fan of a team at the height of its success without another explanation such as geographic proximity. For example, if you became a University of Alabama football fan during the past four years, you are likely a Bandwagon Fan. Bandwagon Fans typically live far away from their chosen school and have no academic or family connection. They aren’t bad people, but they just aren’t as hard-core as some of us. If their team falls on hard times, they can just jump to another.

If anyone jumped on the UK Bandwagon, it was back in 1950 when we won the Sugar Bowl. If you’re that old, I’ll give you a pass.

Some of us, like me, are alumni.  As at all colleges, we alums have a special bond. It’s our school.  We’re honor bound to support our teams, regardless of the pain. Many are not graduates. UK has a statewide following, much like a professional sports team. This is certainly the case with basketball, where the fan base extends border to border. Our basketball fans include many folks who not only have never attended a game, they have never set foot on campus.

While the numbers are not as great, we have those folks in our football fan base as well. They have no school allegiance obligating this devotion. They’re fans, pure simple. One thing is certain. They didn’t develop their devotion through watching our Cats dominate.

There was time when we’d pack Commonwealth Stadium regardless of our Cats’ prospects. Times change and so have we. Like all fans, we have many other sports options.  Back in the ’80’s, you might have 2 or 3 games on TV over the weekend. Now, there are games on all day and night. Only the truest of the true Blue make it to every game now.  It’s like belonging a club.  We show up rain or shine, win or lose or just plain lose.  There’s something admirable about that.  Or sad.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE REASONABLE

My wife and I look happy, even though it's likely that this was taken in the midst of a crushing defeat.

My wife and I look happy, even though it’s likely that this was taken in the midst of a crushing defeat.

For many college football fans, every season comes down to one game–a loss.  One loss scuttles the whole season.  That loss is the difference between contending for the BCS Championship and a disappointing one or two loss season. I can’t imagine that situation nor do I want to do so.

Even UK fans can have a season ruined by one game.  With us, it’s usually the Louisville game.  We really want to win that one. Some seasons, we only win a couple of games anyway. Losing to U of L just seems unfair. However, if the Cats finished, say, 9 and 3, we’d get over a U of L defeat.  Not so at schools like Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and others.  For those teams, the three losses would be catastrophic. While a UK coach might look forward to a multi-year contract extension, coaches at these schools would find their very value as human beings questioned.

I don’t want that. We already have enough of that with our basketball team. My dream is having a shot–a real shot–at the SEC Championship every few years. In the other years, we’d still be respectable–no more one win fiascos.  I don’t want to spiral into a funk with every loss.  We have basketball season for that.

It’s fun to upset teams. We beat LSU when they were No. 1. We won’t forget that. Or beating Tennessee with a wide receiver at quarterback. Or finally beating Steve Spurrier. Merely losing to UK can ruin a team’s season. If we were a great program, those instances would be little more than footnotes.

As I write this, the 2014 season is one week old.  My Cats are 1-0!  Our second year coach, Mark Stoops, impresses me. He’s not a Kentuckian, but he understands us. He preaches patience but knows the Cats can do better. Hey, that sounds like me! I wish him great success (just as I have his many predecessors).  However, I confess that the prospect of success scares me. We’ll no longer be Punter U. We won’t look at the schedule and immediately write off 3 or 4 games.  We might actually expect to win every game.  That’s a lot of pressure for a fan.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2014

Oh, my God

God.  That’s a big subject and a touchy one, too.  I’m talking about big “G” God.  Gods (little “g”) is (are?) also a big subject but not as touchy.  Face it–we don’t know people who worship multiple gods and, if we do, we just sort of laugh them off as nuts.  We who believe in such things as people rising from the grave and whatnot are much more rational.

I’ve been thinking about my idea of God.  Regardless of your religion or particular domination, you have your own ideas about God.  Naturally, you’ll do your best to keep these ideas consistent with your own religious views.  Recently, I read something which asked what I thought God would look like when I met Him and what I would say to Him.

I’ll admit that I never gave much thought to either part of that question, expect the second part which I do think about when I watch James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio.  “What will you say to God?” is, of course, one of the questions devised by the great Bernard Pivot.  I mention this only to subtly point out that I am an erudite student of such things and you very likely are not.

The God of which I speak is my God.  You may know Him by another name such as Yahweh, Jehovah, Elah, Allah or so other moniker.  He’s the Creator, the Almighty, the Supreme Being.

So, what does God look like?  I’ve read the Bible a couple of times and can’t recall any description of God’s appearance.  That’s probably because no one sees him, expect maybe for Moses.  Even Moses only saw a burning bush, and I just can’t make shrubbery my God.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I have a pretty juvenile image of God.  My God has long white hair and big white beard.  He sort of looks like Santa Claus, only he’s not fat.  He also wears a long, flowing white robe.  It might not even be a robe.  Maybe it’s a dress of some kind.  Honestly, it kind of looks like a Ku Klux Klan get-up without the hood.  I can’t get the idea of the white robe/dress out of my head.  That’s just God clothing.

Oh, and he doesn’t wear shoes.  Why not?  I don’t know.

I also don’t know why my God is so unkempt.  I’ve known people with long hair and beards.  Most men with big beards are also bald.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps they just want to grow hair anywhere they can.  I can’t fault them for that.  I can’t grow a beard. Maybe that’s why I think a beard is Godlike.

He’s white.  And male.  And American.  That all makes sense.

Why does my God need a haircut?  I’ve never thought of men with long hair as being particularly pious or even wise.  In fact, most atheists I know have long hair.  God certainly can’t be an atheist.  I just can’t think of God with a crew cut or smart-looking businessman’s coif.

Most puzzling is why I think of Him as really old.  I guess that’s because God has been around so long.  He’d have to be really old, wouldn’t He?  Then again, He would be ageless, wouldn’t He?  Maybe I think of Him as wise and, thus, old.  That makes no sense.  Old people can be wise, but a lot of them aren’t.  For example, if you are total dumb-ass at 40, there’s a really good chance that you’ll be an old dumb-ass at 75.  Add to that the probability of advancing dementia, and you have a not-so-wise man.  My Dad lived to be really old, but was a lot wiser at 50 than at 80.  If God is like my Dad was at 80, praying is useless.  He’ll just forget what we talked about, and I’ll have to repeat it the next day.

So, here’s a drawing of my God.  Feel free to use this yourself:

god_0001

I do not envision God to have misshapen feet and hands. He chose not to give me any artistic ability, resulting in a somewhat crude rendering of His likeness.

At this point, I should note that I know there are religions where it is offensive to draw or depict God or any sacred image.  If you belong to one of those religions, please take no offense.  You may assume that this drawing is not of your God.

So, what would I say to God?  More correctly, what will I say to Him? It will depend on the circumstances.  Should I die some particularly gruesome death, I’d probably start with “What was that all about?” I imagine God to have a very deep, booming voice, something like James Earl Jones. It would be nice if he sounds like Morgan Freeman.  That would be comforting.  Naturally, he speaks English.

Anyway–what would I say?  I’d probably say something awkward like “Hey, how are you?”  He’s God.  Of course, He’s doing well.  Then, I’d be really embarrassed. He’s probably real good with people and would put me at ease.  Once I lightened up, I’d ask him some questions:

  • Is it safe to assume I’m clear on the Hell thing?
  • Is any of my family around here?
  • Faith healers–a bunch of lying bastards, right?
  • Why did you quit smiting people? There are so many people who deserve it.
  • Did you really see everything I was doing?  If so, I’d like to apologize for quite a few things.
  • Do you ever get really pissed off at the televangelists?
  • Assuming I get to be in Heaven, do I have to be around everyone else in Heaven or can I choose to be around only those people I really liked?  Don’t get me wrong–I’ll follow the rules.  I’m just curious.
  • I took your name in vain quite a few times–I guess you know that.  It wasn’t anything personal. It’s not like I really wanted you to condemn someone or thing.  I had a bit of a temper, and–let’s face it–I was just as you made me, so I’m not completely at fault.  Does that make sense?
  • Back when I was alive, I wrote a blog post about what you look like.  That didn’t offend you, did it?

I’m sure I’d think of a bunch of other questions.  Then again, I’d probably be pretty nervous. Maybe he’d have a bunch of stuff to tell me and kind of carry the conversation.

I fully expect someone to be offended by this and call me names.  Perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to get a religious lecture like I did when I posted about Jesus.  Save your breath.  My God also has a sense of humor.

©www.thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2014

Oh, Dear Me

It’s become quite popular for folks to write letters to themselves. Seriously, it has.  Sometimes, they’ll write to their young selves and offer advice.  Maybe you’ve written a letter to your future self full positive affirmations and whatnot.  There are even websites offering tips on writing to yourself, where in the future or the past .

I’ve never done this, mostly because I’ve written very few letters in my life (with the notable exception of business letters of which I’ve written thousands).   I once had a therapist suggest that I write a letter to myself.  Like most suggestions, I ignored it.

Today is my birthday.  I am 52 years old.  I spend little time thinking about the past.  There’s nothing I can do about it, so I might as well move on. My birthday is the only time I wax nostalgic.  I’m not sure why, but I do.

Current Me has no advice for Young Me.  Young Me wouldn’t take advice anyway.  Plus, if I write Young Me and tell him all the things that will happen over the years, he might be terrified.  Young Me was quite prone to worry.  No need to make him fret.

I’m also not interested in writing Future Me.  I have no idea how old Future Me will be.  Future Me already knows everything that Current Me and Young Me know, plus a bunch of other stuff.   Who am I to annoy him with my advice?  Maybe he should write Current Me a letter.  That might actually be helpful.  At least I’d read it.

The letter I’d really like to see would one from Young Me to Current Me.  I don’t remember much about that dude.  It might be to nice get his take on my current situation.  Perhaps I’ll write him a letter which will compel him to respond.  It would read something like this:

Dear Me:

Thanks for your recent letter.  I appreciate all the advice, but I’ll be fine doing things my way.

I’m doing okay, I guess.  I’m in college and planning to go to law school.  I guess you know all that.  Sounds like I end up doing alright.  To be honest, I can’t imagine how it worked out like that.  I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time.

I’m glad to see that things have gone well for you (us?).  I’m quite surprised that you’ve been married for over 25 years.  I can’t keep a girlfriend for more than a few months. Now, you tell me that I’ll be married in just a few years. Is sour wife really ugly?  I’ve always worried that I’ll have to settle for some homely chick.  Next time, send me a picture of her.  Then again, maybe it’s best I don’t know.

You have three kids?  And none of them are psychopaths or grievously mentally ill?  I’m barely able to care for myself.  I’ve messed myself up in a lot of ways.  I can’t imagine what I would do to kids. 

It’s a relief to know that you made it through law school and actually got a job.  I appreciate your suggestion that I pay more attention in school, but you forget that there’s a lot going on in my world.  When I’m not brooding, I try to have a good time.  School isn’t my idea of a good time. 

I’ll admit that I’m a bit sad to know that you aren’t super-rich or famous or anything like that. I hoped I’d make a bunch of money doing something and then not have to actually work.  Oh, well.

Hey, you didn’t have to tell me about Mom and Dad dying.  Obviously, they will at some point, but it’s better to leave that a mystery.  I’m pretty much completely dependent on them right now. I suppose I really will have to fend for myself at some point.

I was intrigued by your observation that Mom and Dad are actually right about almost everything they’ve told me.  Your memory might be failing you.  I still think I know better than they do. 

I was pleased to find out you’re 52 YEARS OLD!  I never expected to last that long.  That’s great.  As I write this, Dad is in his early 60’s.  I can’t imagine being that old.  Good work.  Hopefully, I won’t do anything to mess that up.  Of course, I guess I won’t, since you were able to write me. 

Thanks for the picture. You didn’t get real fat or bald, but I see you got Dad’s white hair.  I’ve always expected that to happen.  You still kind of look like me but not really.  I’m not sure I would recognize you if we passed on the street.  You really are starting to look like Dad, which I never expected.

Did you become a pompous know-it-all like most people your age that I know?  I hope notPlease don’t go around telling everyone else how to live their lives.  Be especially sure to take it easy on the lecturing.  Honestly, no one wants to hear it.

Here’s another thing to remember:  Let your sons be themselves.  They’re going to do that anyway, so you might as well help them.  I know, because I’m living through that right now.  Yes, they’ll disappoint you sometimes, but they don’t mean to do it.  It happens.  Be sure they know you love them regardless. 

Don’t hammer your kids too much when they make mistakes.  Believe or not, they usually know.  I’m not saying to ignore the problems–you know Dad never did!  Just take it easy.

I must take exception to some of your counsel.  How do you know that I’ve never been in love?  Again, your memory fails you.  You’re falling prey to one of the worst mistakes people your age make–you forgot what’s like to be young. 

While we’re on that subject, being young isn’t a barrel of laughs all the time.  I worry about my future and occasionally do hideously stupid things.  You might remember it as nothing but a bunch of good times, but there are plenty of bad ones, too.  Don’t waste any of your time wanting to be me.

I always figured I’d contract some horrible disease or die young in a stupid accident of some sort.  Future Me must have done something right along the way.  I can’t fathom that I will do all that you described in your letter. 

To you, I’m sure it seems that I did all I could to stand in your way and make life difficult.  Mostly, I did the best I knew to do at the time.  Even when it wasn’t the best I could do, I still did something. Instead of telling me what you think I need to know, you should perhaps forgive me for some of the mistakes I made.  I’m sure you’d do the same for your sons.  

As an aside, nice try with the “smart phone” nonsense. There’s no way that everyone carries a phone with them all the time. Do you really expect me to believe that your telephone has more computing power than any computer in my time?  You send written messages to people with it?  Listen to music?  Read newspapers on it?  C’mon.  I know you’re in the future, but you’re not on Star Trek. 

In closing, thanks again for the letter.  Take care of yourself.  We should try to hang around as long as possible.  After all, we don’t want to get a letter from Future You telling us how we’ve screwed up his old age.

Your friend,

Me