Sep 29, 2008

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul...

usually results in a sore used to say an old co-worker of mine back during my corporate days. The Trillion dollar bail out of the federally created Fannie and Freddie seems to be a transaction of that type. The result will most certainly be a sore, and may I add, depleted Peter (Tax paying citizens). The bloated bureaucratic pols that wired together these nasty twins in a government funded laboratory are now urging US taxpayers to bail them out, lest we suffer catastrophic financial ruin. Under what credibility are these swollen politicos operating? For 30 years they handed out cash to anyone with a heartbeat- all in the guise of "making the American dream available to everyone"- (vote buying is more accurate) and now comes the realization that a lot of those "clients" were not capable of, and in many cases, not worthy of receiving the largess. And many of our dear leaders knew that prickly fact from the rancid beginning, but did nothing to stop it. But, now that the cat burping feathers (mixed metaphor alert) is out of the canary cage, our government can only offer socialism as an answer.

I sarcastically ask, are we paying these guys too much?

The entire ruse reminds me of the scene in the movie Ransom when Mel Gibson comes to the cold realization that the kidnappers will kill his son regardless if he pays off. Likewise, if we bail out Washington, then they'll kill us with encroaching Marxism and it's ugly children, political correctness and multiculturalism, or if we let the "banks" fail...well, who knows? What will our government kidnappers give us in return for the ransom? An economic corpse so decayed that the free market DNA needed to rebuild it is worthless?

And the up coming election offers no respite: The Obamassiah himself has benefited handsomely from the purveyors of this governmental shell game; and judging by BHO's taxpayer gouging, community organizing past, we can nauseatingly assume that, should he become POTUS, a big, fat and growing government sow would be a veritable greased groove in which to install Obamatopia . And about half the voters are in favor of eating this crap burger. Dayum.

And whether Raines, Johnson and Gorelick are Obamatrons are not, they all floated gently down to earth on golden parachutes as Freddie and Fannie blew sky high under their so called leadership. Isn't the Enron treatment available for these thieves? I hear crickets chirping.

And Citizen McCain doesn't get off either. He has been a senator for three hundred years and nary a peep about this massive scam he surely knew was occurring. Mr. reach across the aisle, war hero McCain is part of the problem no doubt. I've said it here before.

So it's time to grab your ankles America, it's time squeal like a pig. But there is no reason for despair or to plead for your life or to wallow in misery. After all, we are complicit. We the people have consciously entrusted more and more of our money and our freedom to Washington. We have sacrificed our individualism on the state's funeral pyre and now we are recoiling at the burning stench of it as it blows back into our faces.

UPDATE: The idiocracy in DC takes a day off and the stock market soars nearly 600 points. Well, they're back to work today promising to spend billions of taxpayers dollars (with zero accountability) to "fix" the "crisis" (the one they created) and like magic the stock market starts heading back down. Coincidence? I think not.

Sep 24, 2008

The Brandon File: Did he or didn't he?

While Larry D. continues his hiatus from the blogosphere, here is a little piece he penned a few years ago for his website L.D. will return soon with all new incoherent rantings.

Greenville was once known as the textile center of the world, owing to the booming textile business that thrived here from the late 19th century through two thirds of the 20th century. The western edge of Greenville County was home to the factories and the villages that housed the workers and their families. Many of the "mill hill" folk rarely traveled far beyond the borders of the village; after all, everything needed to sustain life was right there: The company store had food, clothes and shoes; and nearby West Greenville had everything else. Yes, life in the village was simple, compact and unadorned...but there was a passion, and it was Textile League Baseball.

While most village dwellers did stay close to home, one young man broke the alluring bonds of being a "lint head" by becoming one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game. Joseph Jefferson Jackson came like a shot of hot weave room air to the fields of Brandon. There, he caught the eye of baseball scouts and before long was on his way to the major leagues. However, "Shoeless" Joe’s stellar career ended with the scandal that "rocked the baseball world." Allegedly, he and seven teammates conspired with gamblers to influence the outcome of the 1919 World Series. To this day, Joe’s family, friends and baseball fans everywhere have urged Major League Baseball to reinstate Joe to baseball’s good graces by allowing him membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so far to no avail. Did Joe conspire to "throw" the Series? The statistics from that October classic do not reflect that of a man on the take; and Joe himself denied any wrong doing until his death in 1951.

In any event, Joe’s on and alleged off field activities have made him a legend. Several popular plays and movies included characters depicting Joe, the best of which is the movie Eight Men Out. Furthermore, the field at Brandon where Joe honed his considerable skills inspired Greenville County to create the Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park, complete with an entrance constructed of brick from the old Comiskey Park where Joe played for the White Sox. Today, a bronze statue of Joe stands in the City’s west end (see photo above), and recently the city relocated Joe's Brandon home to a site across the street from the new downtown stadium, West End Field. Plans to convert Joe's old home place into a museum honoring him and textile league baseball are under way.

Regardless of what really happened in 1919, the legend of Shoeless Joe Jackson continues to grow... and so does the city of Greenville. No longer just a “mill town”, Greenville now boasts an impressive array of international companies and cosmopolitan residents; thriving and expanding, yet tempered by the southern charm you would expect to find here.

Nearly one hundred years later, folks still debate Joe’s exploits on and off the diamond. If you're visiting Greenville this Summer, take a trip out to The Joe. Perhaps when it's quiet, and a gentle summer breeze is blowing out to right field, you'll hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd as Joe circles the bases one more time. Perhaps…

Sep 17, 2008

The Minibike

Summer 1969, Brandon,West Greenville, SC
It was a typical hot and muggy evening as my brother and I wrapped up the day by doing chores. We had been out all day trying our damnedest to leach the remaining few weeks out of summer before the dreaded school bell rang, calling us back into a world of order, regiment and peer pressure. I had chained the minibike to the 2x4 stud on the inside of the corrugated tin garage after a long day of cruising around the hood, as was the custom. The garage was certainly inauspicious, looking and behaving like any garage that was common to the neighborhood. But how did they know to look in my garage?

The gang of boys slithered along the dark streets of Brandon, almost Italian in their movement. The short, swaggering leader, followed by the big dumb muscle boys who hung on his every word and followed close behind. They knew that he knew where to go-after all, he had scoped out the minibike earlier that day on a walk by of the premises. He had heard through his sister that 'Linda's brother' over in Brandon had a minibike and was showing out on it and he decided to take a look at it for himself. Tonight he would own that minibike.
Now he led the way, the night air heightening his senses and making the hair on his neck stand. The prize for this night's work would be a quick sale of the booty to a fence, who would then unload it to a minibike chop shop. Then the bike would be stripped and repainted, a new serial number added and BAM! - the minibike is sold on the black market overseas. Thoughts of the quick $50 made him quicken his gait. The dumb muscle boys accelerated as well.

The Heist
"You suck, you bastard. You always get to clean the den when there's no cleaning to do" brother Gary whined. "Get over it" I retorted. Translated into today's lingo I was basically saying "get yo bitch ass back in da kitchen and wash those pots and pans! And close yo pie hole!". We had a schedule of chores divided between the three brothers - kitchen duty (the worst), Den duty (the easiest), and the bathroom (sucks - but it ain't the kitchen). This week I was den-man. I was floating along now, floor done and dusting 90% complete. I heard the noise outside but was distracted by Gary's whining about the unfairness of life, so I failed to react to the strange sound.
Fast forward 20 minutes.
Gary has finished the kitchen and talked about making a run to Edwards store for an RC Cola. I agreed to accompany him and we stepped out the back door. As we closed the door behind us, Dad was pulling the old station wagon into the driveway. When his headlights illuminated the garage, a crime scene unfolded right before our eyes. The garage door akimbo (well, it was standing open), an emasculated chain drooping down from an angle-attached 2x4, and an empty, lonely space where the minibike had been parked. My heart started racing as questions from my Dad and my Brother whizzed by my head..."did you lock it?"..."did you have the garage door closed?"..."Yes!" I cried, I did have the door closed! "Yes!" I screamed, I did lock the bike! Truth is, I did have the door closed, but the chain was not locked. I had lost the key after fastening the lock to the chain and so I would just drape the chain around the frame of the bike, making it appear to be chained. This was my fault. This was all my fault. "Who took my fucking bike?" I yelped at anyone and no one. My Dad was the picture of calm as he exited the station wagon and went into the house, obviously ignoring my sweat-laced profanity. The next two hours would be hell!
These are the life moments that shake you and wake you and, for the next couple of hours I was a whining little hormone-filled bitchy, pissy-assed teenager trying to hide a truth, one which my dad already had the answer for – the locked chain. The chain was key to the theft. The lost key led to the weakness of the chain. I had lost the key, making the chain as useless as a fake security camera.
All heavy thoughts for a 12 year old. I had fucked up, been busted, called out and had to admit that I alone was to blame.
A deep scar now runs along another young man's psyche.

Minibike Recovered
The gang of boys walked along the street, taking turns pushing their new minibike. The streets of Mountain View Apartments were well lit and only the small space between the street lamps gave any cover. The brick apartments all looked alike, the only differential being the make and model of the car parked on the street in front of each unit.
Built just after World War 2 and located about a half mile north of Brandon, the neighborhood had become an early form of “project” housing. Like the villages, it was a healthy mix of good people and scum and villainy. If a 1952 ford was on blocks in front of your apartment, you had been there for awhile and were not new to the hood. If a 1948 dodge were sitting out front, had boxes loaded in the back seat and the bare mud front yard of the apartment were strewn with tricycles, chances are you wouldn't be staying there long.
"We should ride it before you unload it", said one of the big dumb muscle boys.
"You crazy?" the leader barked. "We can't start this thing up tonight. Somebody'd hear it and call the heat. Don't be stupid".
Great leaders, no matter what their calling, rise to the top by making quick, sound judgement when problems arise. A problem was about to arise.

Mr Gillespie had received the news about the minibike from his daughter Lucy, a friend of my sister.
Lucy and Linda were yacking on the phone when Linda casually mentioned to Lucy that her brother's minibike was stolen that very evening. After overhearing this news flash, Mr Gillespie, driving his one-owner, red and white 1965 Chevy pickup, was heading for Edward's store for an RC and a pack of smokes when he happened upon a group of hooligans pushing a minibike. He stopped and inquired as to what they were up to. Stepping into the full light of the street lamp, Mr Gillespie recognized the boys as a gang of neighborhood wannabe tough guys. Having seen the powerful minibike on previous trips to our house, Mr Gillespie recognized it as mine and had the hooligans load it into the back of his pickup. As Mr Gillespie drove away (smiling that he'd made the bastards load the thing into the truck) with the gang's new found prize, the gang's leader realized that he had a bit of work to do to achieve his true greatness potential.
Mr Gillespie pulled into our driveway at 11:12 pm on the nose. He and dad exchanged pleasantries and both made sure that I had indeed 'learned a lesson' from this event. That night, the minibike stayed with me in my room, the bike and I to be forever parted only a few months later by another of the notorious gang of thieves (okay, maybe one dude) from the Brandon hood.
True story!

Sep 11, 2008

Of Weddings, Age and Mornings After

It has happened.
My son has finally tied the knot, gotten married, jumped the broom, made the plunge, etc. etc. Mike and Cat were married in a beautiful ceremony at the fabulous Summer House in downtown Newberry, SC at 2pm on Saturday. The weather, despite a threat from Hurricane Hannah, was absolutely perfect, with a light breeze and sunny skies. Friends and family from California, Indiana, Florida, and some from as far away as Greenville and Pickens County attended and made the perfect day even more perfecter(?) The groomsmen and the groom were decked out in black formal slacks, black shirt and white silk ties...kinda like Johnny Cash meets the Sopranos.
The bridesmaids, dressed in above the knee, low cut cocktail dresses (much to the admiration of the groomsmen) with black shoes. Each bridesmaid chose a different style of dress with special made jewelry by the bride to compliment each dress.
But before we go into further detail about the actual ceremony, let's digress a bit to the evening before.

The Rehearsal Dinner
Being the parents of the groom, our main responsibility (other than making sure Mike made the ceremony on time) was to throw the rehearsal after-party. Being Reids (synonymous with broke as hell), we chose the down-home in Carolina approach - BBQ and Karaoke. We hired Hawg Heaven from Prosperity to cater the event and provide us with some BBQ, green beans, mac & cheese, baked beans and fried chicken. sure was good! These folks earned every penny of their fee with good, hot food and friendly (and pretty) servers. Roger and Peggy decided that the party needed some alkeehol, thus stocking a bar with a plethora of liquors and beer that would quench a moonshiner's thirst. After the brief rehearsal, we chowed down and then made room for the chocolate/strawberry groom's cake.
Karaoke was a big hit with all. Our friend Martha was in attendance and, as a former Karaoke host herself, kept the party raucous and rolling. The more the alcohol flowed, the more singers we saw on the stage. Good singers too! Peggy and Roger seemed to have a good time, Mike and Cat were in much demand as a singing act (they harmonize like angels) and Laura and I felt that we had indeed thrown a good party. This was my second realization of the week that I'm no spring chicken anymore. The first was a young man's bachelor party which began at midnight Thursday evening. I was there and lasted until almost 2am. By 3am I was home in bed for a 5:30 wakeup call with a 10 hour workday ahead.
Friday was a blur as I had to pick up the groom's cake and make final preparations for the dinner.
Brother Gary and family were in attendance as well and we bellied up to the bar and drank toasts until they no longer made any sense at all. Then we toasted to being drunk. After that, the party moved to Fort Reid and a few more drinks before we all passed out cold.

The Nuptials
We expected, being Reids, that the day would break with a minor hurricane lashing at us. Instead the day was beautiful, sunny and muggy like a typical southern September day should be. The guests began arriving at 12:45, the tents and chairs were all setup and ready, the wedding party was busy with the photographer (who was wonderful), and the groomsmen were all reeling from an early morning hangover. It was great to see all those old family and friends gathered in one place without a dead person as the center of attention. A joyous mood prevailed as Peggy rushed around from place to place insuring that all was ready and perfect for the bride. She was successful in this endeavor. At promptly 2pm the procession began. The pastor led the way, followed by Mike, me, Chris and Lee. The bridesmaids were next, the ring bearer and flower girl bringing up the rear. Then Catherine appeared on the arm of her ex-military uncle. She was stunning! Mikey did well, very well!
We went through the ceremony without incident (except the ring bearer cried) and all processed out.
The reception was as beautiful as the wedding with food and drink all around.
God smiled on us all this day! Mike and Cat are now honeymooning in San Francisco and Monterrey, California. May they have a pleasant trip!

Sep 9, 2008

The Brandon File: Sometimes folks got touchy.

For this edition of the BF, I thought I’d sit down and spin a good old mill hill story; one that involved some of those quaint remembrances held by many of our brethren shuttle dodgers. Something like, “ we never locked our screen door”, or, “we slept with the windows up and the doors open all the time“. Well, that’s all a sweet notion, and I'd love to romanticize with you, but by the time I came along if you left the doors open all the time that way you’d likely wake up with nothing left in the house but you and the bed.

Sure, we were relatively safe, but there were more than a few bad eggs in the basket. I think it would be safe to say that after the silencing of the looms, there was a perceptible increase in lawlessness. However, that is not to say that all of the following examples were instances of malicious intent, but some of them were; and for whatever reason, these memories have stuck with me all these years.

  • The local pyromaniac-let’s call him Charles-was a dedicated craftsman. After setting a fire, he was always the first one on the scene to help put it out. An apparent hall mark of pyromania. A little prison time for performing his chosen craft and some other misdeeds seemed to set him straight…or did it? He was among the pioneers of neighborhood glue sniffers and gasoline huffers. A luminary indeed, an artisan. Add that deviance to his proclivity for burning things down, and you had an intriguing mix. One that you damn sure kept your eye on.

Once in a while the villagers would take matters into their own hands.

  • Abusive husband shot by battered wife that appears to be a case of self defense-check. Background: Hubby comes home from an inebriational stroll and commences to beating on his wife. By all accounts, he had a penchant for this type of behavior. But this time she was waiting on him. The shot propelled him backward into a lazy boy where he died of his wounds. After an investigation, she was charged, but eventually released.

  • Abusive son in law shot by father of battered daughter that seems most likely a case of self defense -check. A little background: Daughter arrives at mom and dads crying hysterically and claiming that her hubby has beaten her up. Like clock work, the aforementioned white, twenty something male storms through the front door, cursing and waving a pistol. His first step into the living room was also his last. Playing the role of Grim Reaper, the father of the bleeding bride punched that fellow's ticket to eternity with two well placed shots to the upper torso. After an investigation, he was charged, but eventually released.

  • Abusive nephew hacked with hatchet by “fed up” uncle-check. The nephew (Danny) survived, but the hair never grew back over his left ear-ouch. Background: The nephew in question here was a notorious "thumper" as Col. G. Stonehill described Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. I once saw Danny dook it out with a guy outside the skating rink. He was the smaller of the two, but he was relentless in a Mike Tyson kind of way. He had the guy bleeding and on the ground whimpering, "ok, ok". I'm sure the uncle was aware of Danny's aggressive tendencies; hence, the hatchet.

  • Father of pyromaniac Charles blown into the great beyond by a fellow A&E Grill companion-check. It is probably safe to say that the shooting was over money, a woman or both-double check. A veritable redneck stew of beer battered idiocy simmered over blazing stupidity. I believe our esteemed colleague, Tony R. Durham, was an eye witness to this infamous event (or at least the aftermath).

OK, I know what you're thinking. "This guy (meaning me, your humble author) is hung up on drunkards, murderers and fire bugs. Has he nothing else?" Which I'm happy to reply to by saying...well, I might not. I do have some fond memories, and I'm sure I'll get around to them...eventually; but for now it's gonna be drunkards, murderers and fire bugs. Those were the days my friend.

Out of the abyss and into the quagmire...

After a small break from either reading blogs or writing in one, I return to the relative obscurity of MTH. I'll post a Brandonfile later today that further studies the not so romantic side of of the cotton generation.

Meanwhile, I plan to stay awake tonight for the unveiling of this contraption. Some say it will unlock the mysteries of the universe, others say it will act as a time machine that could become a portal for extraterrestrials to come through. If the latter is the case, then I say we construct a LaPetomane thru-way. Our visitors better bring a "shit-load of dimes".

Update: Another opinion is that the start up of the Collider will result in the creation of a "black hole" that will in no time flat swallow up the earth.

Crap! I was going to plant a tree today. Well forget that!

Sep 1, 2008

A Confederacy of Dunces

No, I’m not talking about Congress but instead the hysterically funny novel by John Kennedy Toole. My advice is to buy the book and read it. It is satire and parody at its best with the newsworthy setting of New Orleans. I can’t begin to describe the story; but, I can guarantee you that by the time you are finished with ACOD, the name Ignatius J Reilly will be stamped indelibly in your conscience

But the real story isn’t about the comic brilliance of ACOD, but rather the tragic irony of the author’s life and death. Toole committed suicide in 1969 apparently distraught over not being able to get his masterpiece published.

However, Toole’s mother never gave up her son’s dream. Her persistence paid off when, at her urging, author Walker Percy read the manuscript and loved it. ACOD was published in 1980 with a forward by Percy:
It is a great pity that John Kennedy Toole is not alive and well and writing. But he is not, and there is nothing we can do about it but make sure that his gargantuan tumultuous human tragicomedy is at least made available to a world of readers.--From the Forward by Walker Percy

I was introduced to the novel that year by old pal from the steel mill days, Matt Myers. I read ACOD the first time in my Lily Street apartment. I have read it many times since. So, in honor of ‘Nawlins, or what’s left of it, I give you A Confederacy of Dunces.