Saturday, March 29, 2008

Advanced Beginner or Amateur Expert?

Whew! I’m almost ready to betroth my third year of writing for the Baytown Sun and with the approach of the first of April, I thought I would turn my attention to revisiting what I call neo-beginnings. I like to see my writing style as authoritarian anarchy (Anarchy rules, dude!). Am I all alone in thinking this, or is it a simple case of balanced insanity?

When I compose my column, I like to get an icy-hot cup of steaming java (Black Gold brand) extra-light on the non-fat heavy cream, slip into my unique uniform of hand-grown polyester baggy tights and examine Baytown’s dribbling torrent of solid rumors and important trivia.

I’ve been accused of writing in a hopelessly optimistic manner, but I can questionably assure my readers that I am indifferently attentive to the smoothly steady stream of throbbing palpitations in the systematic chaos which envelopes the surrounding area called Baytown. And I say that with all imagined sincerity.

One well-intentioned and curiously focused malicious reader accusingly asked if I saw myself as the questionable epitome of local knowledge. To this lady of hidden transient stability and lackluster judgment, I answer assuredly I just may be. When it comes to perhaps always having the answer, I put myself up there with the 12 ounce pound cake. It’s not easy and sometimes it’s lonely in this crowded room of idiot savantedness. Know what I mean, Vern?

“But where do you get your hard-boiled and softened-for-consumption facts”, they ask? A lot of them come by a method I call simplistic reflection AND by keeping my ear to the literal buffalo herd noises of the streets. It’s old-fashion futuristic tomorrow today journalism that I have a sort of self slugfest lust to ferret out each and every deadline, but don’t think I’m cheerfully complaining, because I will adamantly agree with you. I have that occasional habit all the time.

My inspiration takes a form of rigidly coiled calm that occasionally oozes into a translucent and heavily smoke-filled thunderous silence and all of this translates into a tranquil fiesta of flowing and chunky journalism. (When inspiration fails me, I read Jim Finley’s old columns and Blam!). Suddenly and usually over or before five minutes, it all comes back in a rush of tomorrows' headlines today…Works almost every time.

One of the extremely finite and myriad benefits of writing a column for the paper is it allows me to express my subversively compliant views while appearing to be somewhat functional at the same time. I get to use a lot of commonly and lesser-known slang sentences which usually nearly impresses my readers. For those slower on the uptake, I “pwn them like a N00b in a first-person shooter” with my verbose and simplified verbiage. It makes it tediously simple and my readers like that.

Google the above phrase for the “411” on it and the next time you want to get over big time on your Gamer nephew, son, husband or child, you can punk them in their own vernacular. See? The stuff I write exudes pertinent and superficial knowledge, which almost comes in real handy literally 30% of the time! It’s a talent and I freely share it, if you buy the paper.

Anyway, I guess it’s time to pull the literal rabbit out of the hat and flip my predications out for the upcoming year and into bona fide view. So, here goes nothing:

- City Council unanimously approves re-installing the “Snake” on Texas Avenue to a standing ovation from the folks who frequent Roosters.
- John McCain wins the Presidential election in November and the Democratic Party finishes organizing its caucus the following February.
- Aging Florida voters surrender to authorities after staging a voter-registration Love-In at 160 Trailer Parks near Orlando.
- A certain “submit letters to the Editor” writer attempts a hostile take over of the newspaper after no one apparently wants to hear from them again.
- Lee College Board of Regents will consider renaming the local college to Don Coffey University after an anonymous suggestion.
- Houston’s Mayor Bill White outrages Baytown City council members when he identifies the whole Baytown area as a target for free Wi-Fi “because the poor there need a helping hand too”.
- The San Jacinto mall is converted into the largest dollar store in the world.

Happy April first everyone!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Should I vote for Barack Obama?

I listened to Presidential hopeful Barack Obama address the nation this past Tuesday with his eloquent history lesson beginning at the penning of the Constitution through the many civil rights advances and its many problems. The man is very much a public speaker, at least as long as he sticks to his prepared material. He talks so well that almost nothing he says can be contested. I have the transcript on my desk as I write this column and have read and re-read it. It's a very good speech, maybe one of the greatest speeches of our day.

Although interesting and fluent, it's not necessary for Barack Obama to give me a 30-minute history lesson on race-relations in this country to win my vote. What I do need as a voter is his assurance that everyone under his future administration is going to get a far shake and that 20 years of the "most segregated moment in American life occurs on Sunday morning" is not ingrained in his subconscious mind. If John McCain had a 20-year history of sitting under the Pastor Wright's opposite and then told the world that he believed in racial healing, everyone would openly reject him. Heckfire, Hillary wouldn't even go there.

Mr. Obama's charismatic delivery is somehow wasted on me, as I have an inbuilt spam-filter when it comes to what I perceive to be possibly smoke and mirrors. Flowery speeches promising vague returns defined as "change" doesn't make me salivate. I simply want line item yes' and no's. I want to see a voting record that has more than "present" in the little boxes. Mr. Obama is either in excess on one count or sadly lacking on the other.

At least with Hillary Clinton we have 15 years of hard evidence to go by if she is our choice, but Mr. Obama is a mirage of sorts. He promises. He points out old seemingly difficult to change problems and promises to fix them. Somehow. Even though his problem-fixing promises are weak and there is no record of his past successes, he has plenty of followers ready to believe him.

About 20 years ago I attended a large gathering of non-denominational basically Christian people in Houston for a Bill Gothard seminar on Basic Life. We were seated in a large auditorium with what appeared to be a thousand or more people and before us was a stage with a giant two-section curtain. Everyone rose to his or her feet as the curtain opened and a projected image of Bill Gothard appeared to be walking onto the stage. A thunderous applause greeted him from the crowd around me.

Much to my wife's dismay, I did not follow suit, but remained seated and did not clap my hands. I looked around and folks were smiling and clapping and anxiously awaiting the night's presentation. Interspersed were others, like myself, who simply would not partake of greeting something that only appeared to be real, but simply put, was a mirage. There is a term for this kind of crowd mentality and it comes from the saying "like sheep to the slaughter". It's "Sheeple" or sheep-people. I saw this same behavior at an Obama speech when he sneezed and his audience of supporters cheered with giddy abandonment.

Now, don't get me wrong, Bill Gothard does indeed teach sound basic life principles, most of which embrace level-headed decision making, but fail to address everyday problems we encounter and I had no problem sitting and listening to his teaching, albeit by virtual proxy. What I did find disturbing was how easily his image and just his image moved people. I also walked away from his seminar with no clear idea of how to implement his teaching into every day life.

Mr. Obama's cultured appearance and incredible speaking ability hyper-boosts him as he exposes old difficult problems, but only hints of solutions. His description of black and white angst over race issues is dead-on, but can he actually change anything? Will his holding the Oval Office make racial unity possible? His followers think so.

Will his admission that Washington is riddled with insider back-scratching and corruption change in his administration? Can he fix it? What is his plan? If we dismantle our Army in Iraq and bring them home, what will we do with all these troops and the war machine? How will surrendering the Middle East make us stronger? I'm afraid Mr. Obama's plan will simply return us to Bill Clinton's day of a weakened military through sweeping military budget cuts, raised taxes and make matters worse.

Finally, the coup de grace for me in deciding if Mr. Obama is "The Candidate" is by listening to France and Germany. Who is Europe supporting for our leader? According to a European based poll of five major countries, Hillary Clinton was the favorite by 43%, while Barack Obama was only able to garner 11%. The Europeans who are our competitors and want their share of the pie (rather the whole pie) gave John McCain a 1% vote. That settles it for me.

What I see in this poll is they think Hillary Clinton will compromise, like her husband did. They are unsure of Barack Obama, because they have no idea what he plans to do and John McCain? John McCain will continue doing what America needs, even if it means putting America first. They fear him.

I personally am not interested one iota what the Europeans think if it means compromising the American way of life.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

City Counsel in Jackboots?

The proverbial fur is flying since Garry Brumback strong-armed the city counsel members into doing things his way. Rumor is that behind closed doors, Herr Garry and his brown-shirt boys plot destruction of rights of the peace-loving and happy-go-lucky Baytonians, all the while polishing their jackboots in giddy abandonment.

I seem to remember the many people who sat in judgment of our past city government because they (apparently) could not make a judicial decision of anything and were guilty of causing the city to fall into a slum. Now, they are being proactive in making a difference and also willing to rescind, amend and flat-out open things up for discussion and is it me, or are we hearing some of the same folks griping?

Let's take a look at our rights being violated (perceived) and the new ordinances that have been voted into law...logically, if possible.

We can claim that because it is our property, we can dang well do what we want and this sounds good, but suppose our neighbor decides to cross OUR lines of propriety. I mean, we do have standards, right?

We may feel like what we do is perfectly fine and dandy, while half the people on our street think we run down the neighborhood or deflate property values and prays we will move back to the hills with our hillbilly kinfolk.

We can be indignant and say everyone else is wrong, claiming it as our right to do what we want with our own property, but by putting the shoe on our other foot we can readily see that some folks don’t cipher the way we do. We can scream socialism, communism and fourteen-otherisms, but the bottom line is some of our behavior may actually scream out to be regulated by our neighbors. If I stack a pile of tires and lumber by my house and the city inspector shows up with a citation, it is because my neighbors object to it, not because the jack-booted city council is making their rounds.

I’ve never organized or ran a garage sale, but I’ve sat in my car, twisting my neck and head out the window trying to negotiate around a covey of cars on the semi-narrow streets of my neighborhood on numerous occasions and I wasn’t “all that” patient either.

One time in particular, the traffic became impassable when a lady literally parked in the middle of the street, unloaded her kiddos and walked away from her car amidst the cacophony of car horns. It didn’t faze her in the slightest (I wanted to use a Taser on her, but thought it would be rude). The next weekend, the same house resurrected the sale and when I became aware of it, I redirected my vehicle down another street.

Do I think all garage sales should be banished? Why, no, but I do think folks should consider the effect continuous garage sales have on their neighbors and since this is taken for granted (the obvious eludes some), it needs to be regulated in my opinion.

I ran a lawn service out of my house here in Chaparral Village (middle-working-class neighborhood at best) for about 10 years and I had a trailer with equipment on it. At the end of each mowing day, I would unload the trailer, putting the equipment out of sight in my garage or out-building and physically pushed the small trailer to the back of my property.

I did this for security AND for the sake of the neighborhood. I must have pushed that trailer 500 times. I could have thrown a tarp over it and chained an angry and vicious rottweiler to it I guess, but I found it in my own best interest, to just move it.

I considered renting a storage space for my trailer, but I felt it would be more cost effective (more money in my family's bank account) to keep the equipment here.

It is my estimation that these many new ordinances are not to penalize the random homeowner for mild infractions, but to give the city power to back up the complaints of citizens who are tired of the 2 boats, 6 cars (2 in the yard) the permanently stored lowboy, weekly yard sales (yard sales? I thought they were garage sales) etc. etc.

I talked to a nice lady on the Jenkins Park trail yesterday and she, like so many, also expressed distrust of our city council’s decisions and we chatted for about ten minutes. I played the devil’s advocate in a friendly way and explained that any attempt by city council to change the status quo was going to run into opposition and criticism and that they are willing to make adjustments if the new ordinances do not work as planned.

And…I told her that it was my opinion that so many of the outspoken critics are just that – outspoken critics with nothing to offer but complaints. They never offer anything constructive, but delight in playing arm-chair city manager or mayor.

By the way, I think Garry Brumback and Mayor Don Carlos wear Crocs, but don’t hold me to that.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Like Peas and Carrots

As a good hard-working American citizen, concerned about the future of Texas and our country, I swaggered down to the Polls, virtual spurs dragging in the dust of the Cedar Bayou Jr. School floor, took off my ten-gallon hat and cast my vote for the candidate of my choice. I exhibit no squeamishness or apologies when I say I voted for John McCain. Note to reader: Is this column about the ten thousand virtues of John McCain and am I going to whine, cajole, pressure and try and convince you, the intelligent reader, who to vote for? Nope. I am not. You will have to do your own homework, just like I did.

What I do want to talk about is who would be a good match-up as Vee-Pee for the front-runners and by the time this goes to press, one of the Democrats may be dust blowing in the wind, so please bear with my prophetic suppositions and possibly insightful meanderings. The prospective Vice Presidents have to mate up perfectly with our current candidates to be a winning combination and like the brilliant sage Forrest Gump said, they must be like "peas and carrots".

Let's start with the current object of affection, Barack Obama, the front-running Democratic savior of the American downtrodden universe (it appears to me). I've been watching this fellow from Illinois (pronounced Ill-An-Noy incidentally) for a while and I've come to the conclusion that this is the nicest man I've ever seen in politics; kind of like Jimmy Carter, but without Billy. Mr. Obama is a people pleaser (33rd degree compromiser/diplomat) and needs a running mate who can match his polished delivery and eloquence.

After seven years of Americans listening to George Bush butcher the American-English language, I admit, Mr. Obama has panache. Anyone sharing his platform has to be just as good or he or she'll look stupid, like Dan Quayle, Jessica Simpson or Ernest P. Worrell – know what I mean, Vern?

Mr. Obama needs a running mate who will never ever offend anyone with his flowery speech, but be able to bring home the bacon when the time is right. Like Mr. Obama, they must be able to promise the moon and stars without actually offering advice on how to make it happen. They have to be a feel good people person.

The candidate should be natty in appearance and if possible, have a semi-behaved, but basically quiet trophy wife. If this dapper fellow of prominence has the ability to talk folks out of their hard-earned bucks, so much the better, so without further ado, I've found our candidate: Joel Osteen. He's a perfect match for a Presidential winning combo! Peas and carrots…

Hillary Clinton might as well grab up Oprah Winfrey if she's still available in the unlikely event Mr. Obama gets defeated. The female candidate political taboo rule doesn't apply to Mrs. Clinton for obvious reasons and no I won't go there. Oprah Winfrey is the consummate vote getter, especially the white female vote (If she had endorsed John Edwards, this thing would already be over). She daily hands out instructions on what to do, read and how millions of American white women should think (and there are oodles of them out there in voter land mind you), so Mrs. Clinton would be really missing an opportunity to win, by passing up Oprah and in the event that President Clinton could no longer administer the Oval Office, Ms. Winfrey could take over by simply incorporating the Presidency into her daily show. Peas and carrots…

That leaves us with John McCain and there is only one man who could stand comfortably in the shadow of Mr. McCain with confidence. He's held in awe by all real men and desired by women, feared by our Country's numerous enemies and if there is one man who could swing the youth–student vote away from Barack Obama, it's this man – Chuck Norris!

Chuck is fair, looks like a Texan, honest, kind, thrifty, brave, vigilant, and real handsome and wouldn't hesitate to hammer-fist/triple side-kick a bad guy (or whole country) into submission. Mr. McCain is quite frankly no spring chicken and neither is Mr. Norris, but between the two them, they can still open up a can whoop-you-know-what if the need arises. Besides, John McCain has a notorious bad temper when crossed and Chuck is basically a nice guy and due to his extensive combat training, only beats up people who actually need beating up. Its yin and yang – balance. Peas and carrots…again!

In my search for the ultimate Presidential sidekick, I did deep research on the Internet to see what exactly Mr. Norris is capable of and surprise of all surprises, it turns out he is good at every thing! John McCain and Chuck Norris: our next Presidential team and that my friends, is what they call in the news/food industry - a wrap.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

She Don’t Misremember Nothin’

I got a letter today from my number one fan, Granny Gladys Adcox, from out Highland’s way. She’s closing in hard on a hundred years of age and I Suwannee, she is a ball of fire. Hardly a week passes without the mailman bringing a letter of encouragement from Granny and usually one of her stories from a past issue of the Baytown Sun.

Granny is my balcony person. She’s my faithful audience and she always cheers. I like it too.

As I fumble-stumble-bumble through life, insulting and alienating people, left and right, it seems, I occasionally do right and applaud someone instead of irritating them. I know to do right and still more times than not - don’t. It’s a discipline I am simply not good at, but Granny is. She knows how to do it and it ain’t fake or false. She means it and the very fact that a 93 year old lady will take the time and expense to sit down and write a letter to rubber puck for brains guy like me, makes me reflect on how poorly I have developed in the social arena.

By the way, I like the name Gladys. It’s an old-school name and my Mom’s oldest sister was named Gladys. My Aunt Gladys took me to see a movie called “Tom Thumb” when I was a youngun and I still remember she bought me a bag of hot roasted cashews (a real treat then and now). I have fond memories of her to this day.

Now, Granny tells me she remembers being born. She does appear to have a remarkable memory and although remembering something that early on is remarkable, I myself have a few remarkable memories, so I can’t say hers is false, in fact I’m going to go ahead and just believe her…why not?

I had a repressed memory suddenly jump into my consciousness about 15 years ago. Some folks don’t believe in repressed memories, but I can attest they are real and you never know when one might decide to surface. Here is mine.

It was the early 60’s and I was attending school in Roy, Utah. My Dad was a job-shopper and he tendered his resume often and we moved often. This caused me and my family to relocate constantly and I guess that’s why when given the choice, I put down deep roots in Baytown, but that’s another story. I was sitting in the cafeteria and it was noisy and full of children. For some reason I can’t remember, I threw a slice of cheese at a kid behind me.

It sailed past two tables, missing everyone and went down to the floor. I was amazed that no one saw me throw it and that it missed everyone. It flew like a Frisbee. Abruptly, a teacher stepped on it and fell and broke her hip, leg, or something horrible. No one saw me throw the cheese and it’s not like I meant to hurt anyone, but in my mind I had committed a terrible crime. For all I know she recovered with just a bruise.

I never told a soul, not my friends, my 3 brothers, whom I shared everything with…no one. I buried and suppressed the memory. I buried it so deep I didn’t have a memory of it and maybe 30 years passed before my brain decided the coast was clear enough to let it out and when it came out, it was like watching it on television. I sat and heard, smelled and saw it all clearly and boy was I shocked.

Anyway, when Granny tells me she can remember being born; I have a good reason to believe her. Our mind is a wonderful recording tool. Granny also sent me her personalized magnet to put on my refrigerator, which I did and wrote that her grandkids tell her she loves to self-promote. I do too; Granny and I’ll tell you why. Ben Franklin did. That’s why and look where he went and what he did, besides I’ve found out through experience that some folks misunderstand my intentions and get offended if I use them as examples, so I just use myself and it ends up being a self-promotion of sorts.

If there is one thing Granny has taught me it is to cheer people on, instead of finding fault. Anyone can find fault with just about anything, from the way the city and school board are ran, to what laws are enforced, but it takes a special person to point out the good in a person or a city official and Granny has this figured out. Granny is a true balcony person with a long generous memory and we need more folks like her.

I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.

Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with ...