FLOPPY PARTS: A FORWARD

ONCE UPON A TIME…

Why write a short collection of “sorta” non-fictional stories about men and their “floppy parts?” I don’t know. Do I have to have a reason? Might it have been a longer collection if I were more gifted or if I had more interesting stories? Did I have to include stories about my own floppy parts? All of these are questions I asked myself before they ever formed in your mind. The major females in my life – my wife, daughter and a cousin who is trying to read this collection and to provide a woman’s point of view along with edits – are all appalled. I am sure my granddaughter would make it unanimous if she could read. I am safe there…for a while. She still loves me as long as I bring her favorite toy Linda Gail when I visit.

While discussing my writings with my brother, my eavesdropping-adult and married daughter commented, “Why are you writing about floppy men’s stuff?” Accompanying the question was a look that reminded me of the taste of a very bad oyster. My wife won’t discuss it at all unless you count eye rolls as discussion, and to quote Cousin Cyndi, “I would love for you to take your God-given talent of writing and delve into a deeper, more socially-redeeming subject. Shift your focus from your genitalia to your heart.” I am not sure I can do one without the other and I really am unsure about the talent thing, God-given or otherwise. I would guess one of my reasons for writing this is the relationship between my genitalia and my heart. Notice, there was no mention of my brain. So, it would seem, as far as the women in my life are concerned, all is normal.

While I have been in the company of women who were just as ribald as any guy, I don’t think most women understand the preoccupation men have with their floppy parts. Watch men lying around in the comfort of their own homes. Try to do this without their knowledge. Why are they stuffing their hands down into the front of their underwear? Are they keeping their hands warm or checking to make sure the something hasn’t just fallen off? It is just that simple a fact; it is a preoccupation with their, or rather our, floppy parts… and a preoccupation with the opposite sex’s floppy and not so floppy parts. Don’t they go gland in gland…ahhhhh… would be hand and hand. Gee, that sounded even worse! The male’s preoccupation seemed to be validated at a place I would never have expected floppy parts to rear their ugly heads – an assisted living facility. Bless my soul! I have heard stories about the wild happenings at some of these facilities for the aged but had dismissed them as urban myths. I find I was wrong… I wasn’t expecting any debauchery at a party for a family member celebrating her one-hundredth birthday. Dora is a very attractive, sweet and vital woman who is still quite mobile despite her walker and doesn’t look or act a day over…ummm…eighty. A gentleman from the facility who looked older than Dora asked, “What’s the celebration?” After being told we were celebrating Dora’s hundredth birthday, the great grandfatherly-looking gentleman exclaimed with a cackle, “If I had known she was that old I would have tried to nail her sooner!” Dora, you might want to brace yourself or keep your door locked.

So, this collection of short stories is mostly about men and their preoccupation with their floppy parts and covers several topics including athlete’s foundation garments, pain and injury, and relationships, mainly mine. It is not intended to be profound or socially relevant, although I do have hopes they will help the author come to grips with the wee bit of guilt that consumes him from time-to-time. I have had a strange and wonderful relationship with the opposite sex. I find them both strange and wonderful and this confliction has caused me much pain over the years. Well, there had to be some pleasure or I would not have kept proposing to them…hummm…there IS a thin line between pleasure and pain. Just the width of four little words – “Will you marry me?”

Sooooooo, these stories are intended to be humorous and to encompass former students, players, peers and the author himself and are written from a decidedly male point of view. They are BASED upon true stories and, despite the pain – physical or otherwise – no animals (human or alien) were permanently injured or killed in the production of this compilation. It is a book about pain and pleasure, love and hate, and sanity and insanity. It is also about the confusion the author has over which of these opposites are which, along with a question as to whether that “overwhelming feeling” might be love or lust.

You may assume there was some poetic license taken and the truth might have gotten twisted enough to be presented the way the author would have liked a story to have ended rather than the way it did. That way, if you actually know me, you really might not know who I was telling a story about…unless you do know, because some of the stories are completely true. What it is not is a graphic “kiss and tell” book. That would be oh so boring. I hope you enjoy the stories and find the humor that was intended. You know there is only one way for you to find it! So, begin… “Once upon a time, fifty some years ago….”

If you enjoyed this excerpt you may download or purchase FLOPPY PARTS at the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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CHANGE IS GOOD!

I have changed but then I haven’t. I have always LED with my heart, THOUGHT with my heart and ACTED with my heart. I did not need Myers-Briggs to tell me I was an INFP although the introversion kind of surprised me. I have EMPATHY for large groups of people…AND INDIVIDUALS… that your logic will not allow you to have. My mother once admonished me for “wearing my feelings on my sleeve.” She was correct but I am incapable of change…I still wear them PROUDLY.
Sorry, which is not an apology, I just know how inconvenient and infuriating it is for someone as logical as you to deal with someone who thinks with their heart. I’ve changed. I no longer care about YOUR LOGIC…any more than you should care about my illogical FEELING.

I FEEL that things are right or FEEL they are wrong. I am sure of nothing…except that I ate oatmeal for breakfast. I only have 20/20 hindsight. I am also suspicious of people who are so DAMN sure of themselves and always have the “RIGHT” answer. There is no question in their minds. There is no room for “the other side.” Again I have not changed…except that I no longer defer to your LOGIC. Instead I realize that you might be wrong…as I realize that I might be. I only FEEL that I am right or FEEL that you are wrong. I HAVE CHANGED! I will admit to the errors of my ways, I will not apologize for them.

I no longer just question “why,” I question “how.” No longer do I just question “Why is it what it is?” I question “How did it get this way?” and “How do we change it?” The only difference between you and me? I don’t have your LOGIC and your “correct answer.” I have to dig, and dig and dig to come up with “a feeling” about “why and how.” Unlike you “I don’t have the right answer” I am left only with my feeling. I HAVE CHANGED, I don’t care about your right answer and my wrong one.

So, when you question “Why does he think way THE WAY HE THINKS?” I have the answer. I don’t…! I FEEL that way. I have changed because now I FEEL I have no reason to change. I am what I am and I will let you deal with it…or not. I will ENDEAVOR to love you either way.

Don Miller has written three books which may be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
Inspirational true stories in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING can be downloaded for $1.99.
“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in FLOPPY PARTS for $.99.
“Southern Stories of the Fifties and Sixties…” in PATHWAYS for $3.99.
All may be purchased in paperback.

HALF MARATHONS, BBQ AND POT BELLIED PIGS

I had returned joyfully from my first half marathon, a feat, if not biblical in scope, monumental for me. The ride home had replaced my post-race euphoria with a bone weary soreness and all I wanted was a hot shower, a post-shower brew or six and a nap. I felt once I had accomplished these few, smaller feats I would be able to meet the evening along with partaking of a little BBQ with friends to celebrate my success. Instead I was faced with a lost “potbellied” pig. It was huge and it was outside of my back fence “root hogging” for all it was worth. The old idiomatic saying for self-reliance, “root hog or die,” did not seem to fit. I would say this pig had missed very few meals. It looked like a Vietnamese potbellied pig but it was huge, much larger than the three hundred or so pounds it was supposed to weigh. If it had been having to “root hog” to survive it had been doing a great job.

Linda and I debated what should be done and I was chosen to go out and “shoo” it away. My yelling must have sounded too much like “sooie” because he came to me rather than running away. There was a frayed rope around its neck…obviously a pet. He followed me into the goat pen and seemed to be quite happy to root around in left over lettuce, table scraps and goat pooh, his snout all moist and…yucky. After his late morning snack, he decided to plop down and take a nap. When I say plop, the earth moved.

What to do? There were only a few homes nearby and we knew our neighbors didn’t have pigs. How far can a pig roam? We drove to the nearest home with an unknown pig population and hit the jack pot right off the bat. Off the beaten path, at a crossroads with the Native American name of Chinquapin and Langston Circle, there was an old house in major need of under pinning and paint. The gentleman I found outside could have walked out of an “inbred cannibal finds a chainsaw horror movie” and was complete with overalls over a dirt stained “wife beater,” a sweat stained straw fedora on his head and broken down brogans on his feet. Yes, the requisite “chaw” was resting between his cheek and “toothless” gum. When asked about a pig his response was to look under his house while explaining “I got one around here somewhere.” “Damn where did that pig get off to?” He further pointed out, in between spitting tobacco juice, “If it weren’t for my wife that hog would be in my fridge and not under my house.” I knew the feeling and decided I might ought to laugh.

Because I was having the “Motel Hell” vision of Rory Calhoun donning a pig’s head and picking up a chainsaw, I decided to bring the pig to its owner rather than the other way around. Doing so, I found out a lot of interesting facts about pigs. They won’t jump into the back of a pick-up and refuse to “walk the plank” onto it. Too heavy to lift without a front end loader, something I had, but once again “Piggy” was too smart for my own good. We were going to have to walk back…and I was already beat. Up Highway 11 and then left onto Chinquapin, “Piggy” and I were looking at a half mile uphill climb in what had become a moderately hot mid-day sun. My education would continue. People look at you “funny” when you are out “walking your hog.” Some laughed and pointed fingers, others laughed and ran off the road although they recovered before doing any damage. I also found out pigs will run when they realize they are headed home and very quickly I might add, eleven to fifteen miles per hour. They don’t run in a straight line either, more like a destroyer trying to avoid torpedoes. To put this in perspective, I had just completed a half marathon running an averaging six and one half miles per hour. I was outclassed by a pig and in a full sprint to keep up. Thankfully, despite the old saying “sweating like a pig”, pigs don’t have many sweat glands and when pigs become overheated they become “mule” like and simply lay down where they are. I say thankfully because I wanted to lay down next to him. Can pigs have a heat stroke? Yep. I had another thought involving the old Southern idiom, “As happy as a dead pig in the sunshine,” but was a little concerned which of us would be the “smiling” dead pig. Thankfully, we both survived. After a bit of rest, “Piggy” slowly sat up and continued on his way…at a much slower pace.

Later in the evening, after finally getting my shower and nap, I found myself at the Green River BBQ in Saluda. It was probably just my imagination but for some reason the pulled pork and ribs tasted just a bit sweeter. It also could have been the adult beverages I was trying to rehydrate with or the mental vision of a “potbellied” pig squirming under the old front porch.

Don Miller has written three books which may be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
Inspirational true stories in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING can be downloaded for $1.99.
“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in FLOPPY PARTS for $.99.
“Southern Stories of the Fifties and Sixties…” in PATHWAYS for $3.99.
All may be purchased in paperback.

BLACK SNAKES AND A NAKED WOMAN

I have a fear of snakes. Not a phobia of snakes. Just given the choice of petting a kitten or petting a snake I’m going to pick the kitten…every time! While I don’t have a hatred of snakes I also don’t want to live with them. We have nearly ninety acres of woodlands, streams, hills and valleys. They need to stay out there where they belong. Just after we moved in to Hemlock Hills, we found snakeskins…loooooong snakeskins as in five feet plus and they weren’t out in the woodlands, streams, hills and valleys. We found them under the house, in the attic and behind the paneling cladding our bead board walls. The next spring, we would find out where those snakeskins came from.

It was a late March day when I first made the acquaintance of one of my black rat snakes. Laying in the sun, he was not nearly as scared of me as I was of him…or her. How does one tell? How many steps do you run when you first see a snake lying next to your foot? My escape was more of a combination hop and lunge followed by three rapid steps before my mind said, “Shut it down, it was a black snake and nothing poisonous.” It was a huge reptile, as was its mate. They were a matching pair of near six footers I saw together several days later. Both had recently shed their skin and their black skin seemed to glisten in bright sunshine.

Late one afternoon I saw my three puppies sitting outside the back door leading onto our combination back porch wash room which was adjacent to our kitchen. As I continued past them I told them, “You can sit there and wait but your Mommy (Linda Gail) is not here.” There was no reaction except for wagging tails and their attention seemed to focus on the back door which rarely closed on its own and was always slightly ajar. My attention was also drawn to the door when I noticed six inches of rat snake tail peeking out from underneath. Oh pooh! I ran around and went in the front, jogged to the kitchen and found the rat snake occupying the kitchen, back porch and steps leading to it…ALL AT THE SAME TIME! I stepped toward Snakey hoping it would retreat. It did, right under the dryer. Crap! Okay if I rock the dryer maybe I can entice it to move…but it might move right up my britches leg. If I crawl on top of the dryer maybe I can shake it enough to make Snakey move…that is just where Linda found me. “What are you doing?” She was not happy or impressed with my answer. We decided to open the porch door and close the kitchen door and wait it out. It must have worked.

Every time I watch NCIS reruns and the Mike Franks’ character is featured I remember my favorite of many favorite Mike Franks’ quotes,

“But the memories we make.
We fill the spaces we live in with them.
That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live,
the longer I live there
the spaces become filled with memories –
of naked women.”

My space is filled with memories, but of only one naked woman. I was and am truly blessed. I smiled at the vision of my bride sprinting nude from our old fashioned bathroom. Sprinting and yelling, “Snake, Snake, Snake!” I imagined the snake, a five-foot plus black rat snake, yelling in my head, “Naked Woman, Naked Woman, Naked Woman,” as it tried to climb the wall behind her. We had returned late to our old non-air conditioned home. The late July heat and humidity were still evident when Linda Gail decided to bathe. Believing the bright overhead incandescent light bulb simply added to the heat, she had entered the bathroom in the dark and after beginning to run her water, stripped, reached down and plugged in the small lamp that sat next to the lavatory. As the light dimly flooded the small bathroom, she found herself staring face to “forked tongue” with a snake that was coiled below the short electrical cord. Typically male, my attention was drawn to the vision of a fit, well put together woman with fabulous…EYES, running naked through the house and not on the snake that was trying to escape in the other direction. There is always a price to go with the vision I was enjoying, the snake had to be removed but first I had to find it. “Here Snakey, Snakey, Snakey!”

I know a lot of people will ask, “Why did you not kill it?” Someone sold me on the fact that black rat snakes were predators willing to eat everything from mice, rats and birds to other snakes, including the poisonous ones and if hungry enough their own species. I would agree that this was sound advice. Until they met unfortunate ends we had no snake or rat problem. They were dispatched to “snake heaven” by an over eager, snake despising home renovator who believed all serpents were minions of the devil. Exit my snakes, enter mice, rats and copperheads. I really don’t have problems with copperheads when they are where they are supposed to be and my yard is not where they are supposed to be. I have two Blue Heeler puppies who think they have been placed on this earth to rid it of all serpents. Not a problem until they get bit by a copperhead and they have been, a couple of times, and have never learned a lesson. Because of this fact, I have found myself rescuing our legless non-poisonous little friends by putting them over the fence with the strong admonishment, “Now don’t come back!” Why don’t they ever listen?

Don Miller has written three books which may be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
“Inspirational true stories” in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING can be downloaded for $1.99.
“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in FLOPPY PARTS for $.99.
“Southern Stories of the Fifties and Sixties…” in PATHWAYS for $3.99.
All may be purchased in paperback.

CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY-PEPSI COLA

This is an excerpt from the book PATHWAYS entitled “Pepsi Cola.” Because of “Separate but equal” and “With all deliberate speed” I had very few opportunities to interact with African-Americans until I graduated from college. Pepsi Cola would be the first African-American adult male that I would have the opportunity to meet and observe. I have heard it said that it was easy to fear what you don’t understand, meeting Pepsi Cola would provide the opportunity for one of those first steps toward understanding. Please note, I attempted to write this from the stand point of an eight-year old mind and in the language of the period.

“While I had seen African-American males I would not meet my first African- American adult male until the very late fifties when we remodeled our house. A black brick mason with the interesting name of “Pepsi Cola” Mobley was hired to add the brick veneer to our original home along with the two new rooms added onto each end. Not only would he add layers of brick to my home, he would add layers to my thinking and understanding.

“Pepsi Cola” was impressive, as were his two sons who served as helpers and apprentice brick layers. It was their responsibility to carry the bricks and “mud” to their father as he did the placing of the brick runs. I found the whole endeavor to be interesting but not nearly as interesting as the “colored” folk who were carrying out the tasks. The acorns did not fall far from the tree! Close-cropped “steel wool” hair over clear ebony skin; they possessed the whitest of stereotypical teeth below broad flat noses and wide cheekbones. They looked nothing like my friend Maw, who, though tall, had an almost delicate look compared to them. All three were powerfully built with muscles bulging and glistening with sweat from handling and placing the bricks. “Pepsi Cola’s” decades of brick work had given him shoulders so wide I doubted his ability to walk through a door without turning sideways along with hands beaten, scarred and as rough as the slabs on the side of my grandparent’s barn. All three started the day in tattered yet clean tees and denim pants that had patches patched over patches. As the heat of the day intensified, shirts would be discarded exposing broad, powerful chests that were covered in tight black curly hair. Curiously, whenever my grandmother or mother stepped outside, there was a bit of a scramble to put their shirts back on. “Pepsi” was gregarious, singing Negro hymns and laughing his way through the day or “holding court” for anyone nearby, which was usually the eight or nine-year old “little man” that was me. I found him to have the most interesting accent to go along with a lot of words that began with “dees” and ended in “esses.” His sons were the exact opposite – quiet and, I would say, somewhat sullen. In hindsight, my guess is that there was little way to wedge a word in edgewise with “Pepsi Cola” around.

I learned a lesson of the times during the course of the remodeling. Sent to carry a jug of water out to the workers, I asked Mr. Mobley, “Mr. Mobley, would you like some water?” “Eyes do, Eyes do, indeeds, Little Man,” he answered with his best grin. In turn, I gave the sons water and returned to my grandmother who informed me of my grievous faux pas, “You don’t refer to ‘coloreds’ by mister unless you use their first name.” Okay, “Mister Pepsi Cola!” “

If you would be interested in reading the complete selection “Pepsi Cola” and the book Pathways, you may purchase a paperback or downloaded a version using the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

SOMETHING ABOUT THE COLD

Spring is right around the corner. I could feel it in the cold this morning. It was still twenty-nine degrees, plenty cold for here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, but there was a different feel to it. A feeling that winter’s death grip is loosening. A feeling that the rebirth I associate with spring might be on the horizon. It is a feeling of change. I know that winter will attempt to hang on. In this part of the world March snow storms are not uncommon and the last frost date is April fifteenth. BUT IT JUST FEELS DIFFERENT!

As a retired baseball coach my feelings of change may be tied to major league pitchers and catchers reporting to camp or the reports of high school and college scrimmages with their opening dates just around the corner. I remember a game finished in a heavy sleet and another with a wind chill so low that both pitchers combined to pitch a one hitter. I do not miss games in early March. No, winter will hold on as long as it can despite what a ground hog saw or didn’t see.

There are other harbingers. Crocus and buttercups are trying to push up toward the sun. I saw gold and purple finches at my feeder. Time to get some thistle. The main herald is my beautiful red tailed hawk. Well she is not mine but it is the third or fourth year she has made her nest in a dead oak tree on the hill above us. I hear her mating call and know there is a male somewhere and that it won’t be long until they will be training their little “branch hoppers” to fly and hunt.

If weather trends continue like the years before, there will be plenty of great days for baseball practice, a round of golf or even wetting a hook in late February and then March will come in like a lion with strong and mostly cold winds. I see there is possible snow coming next week but there is something about this cold.

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CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY-IN PRAISE OF DIVERSITY

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I thought I would avoid this question but I got the dreaded “When are you going to teach white history?” Why is some of “white” America so “butt hurt” over Black History Month? And come to think of it a certain news celebrity of color too. I have seen social memes and comments that have included “When is White America going to have a Month?” “Black History Month is Racist!” “Why do we have to have a Black History Month?” In a perfect world, YOU WOULDN’T. Nor would you have Women’s History Month, in March, a Native American Heritage Month, in November, a Hispanic Heritage Month beginning in the middle September or any of the others that you can take the time to look up. Unfortunately, we are not, nor have we been, living in a perfect world. To quote a former student, “We celebrate white history in all months…

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CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY-IN PRAISE OF DIVERSITY

I thought I would avoid this question but I got the dreaded “When are you going to teach white history?” Why is some of “white” America so “butt hurt” over Black History Month? And come to think of it a certain news celebrity of color too. I have seen social memes and comments that have included “When is White America going to have a Month?” “Black History Month is Racist!” “Why do we have to have a Black History Month?” In a perfect world, YOU WOULDN’T. Nor would you have Women’s History Month, in March, a Native American Heritage Month, in November, a Hispanic Heritage Month beginning in the middle September or any of the others that you can take the time to look up. Unfortunately, we are not, nor have we been, living in a perfect world. To quote a former student, “We celebrate white history in all months that don’t begin with F.” Well, there are those three months that teachers are NOT on vacation.

As a retired, high school history teacher I know history books are written from a decidedly Anglo-American point of view…well…at least where I taught. Asians are mentioned about four times. Transcontinental Railroad, Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese involvement in World War Two and China goes communist. Oh, I almost forgot Viet Nam. That makes five. Hispanic contributions, maybe a bit more. Spanish colonization, Mexican-American War, Imperialism, Pancho Villa, and then a jump to NAFTA and the question “Why are they taking our jobs?” Notice, these are all mostly decidedly negative when viewed from an Anglo point of view. Native Americans are prominent but disappear after Wounded Knee unless you happen to bring them back up in the Sixties with the many social movements. Again, until recently, Custer’s Last Stand was viewed negatively by Anglo America. Damn Redskins stepping on our Manifest Destiny and the only good Indian…! I digress.

I rarely taught Black history during Black History Month. I was wrong. I deluded myself into thinking that I taught ALL HISTORY ALL YEAR LONG and didn’t need to focus on Black history. Then I began to assess what I had taught. I’m not happy. Kind of like ALL HISTORY CAN’T MATTER UNTIL BLACK HISTORY MATTERS. Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Harriett Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois versus Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King and maybe Malcomb X. There were others but most were only related to one aspect of African-American lives and American history. A decidedly important aspect but besides George Washington Carver and Langston Hughes there was nothing about other contributions.

Black History Month should be viewed as an opportunity to spotlight contributions by African Americans. Musicians, artist, writers, poets, inventors, explorers, scientists, business people, soldiers, etc. As a teen I picked up one of my father’s books, Foxes of Harrow. It was written by Frank Yerby. I read all of his books that my father had and along the way picked up a few more. They featured historical fiction and a bit of…latent eroticism. Nothing graphic! As a young adult I was looking for more of his books and found out he was bi-racial and from Georgia. Who knew and it didn’t matter. Just like celebrating Black History Month shouldn’t matter to those railing against it. It should be a positive educational experience.

Three of my last four years teaching were teaching “cultural” geography. I loved it. One, I had no end of school testing pressure and could go off on any tangent I desired go off on. I could be creative and allow creativity from my students. It became about cultural diversity. It also reminds me of a paragraph I wrote in a story about a former student turned preacher. “Today I look at diversity as a smorgasbord of delights. I believe we should just focus on how diversely different people party. How can you be distrustful of people who produce such wonderful food? My life without Latin, Soul, Oriental and Cajun foods would not be life ending but life would not be as joyous, especially without a Belgian, Mexican, Jamaican or German beer or maybe some Tennessee whiskey to go with it and a Cuban cigar for afterwards. Someone might as well play some Blues, Reggae or a little Zydeco to help the atmosphere along. It is just as easy to focus on the positives about diversity as it is the negatives and again with knowledge comes understanding.”

I realize that I am a social liberal and make no excuses. I believe that the rights that someone else is given doesn’t take my rights away from me despite what I might think, including the right to celebrate Black History Month…or Cinco De Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day for that matter. In fact, I have joined in. Who knows? This old dog might just learn a new trick or twenty.

TRIPPING OVER A ROOT WITH ESTERLEEN

As I have gotten older I tend to view my past through, at the very least, a guise of humor. My own form of historical “rose colored glasses.” It was not always that way when the past was just too near the present. My wife hates it when I try to hide behind present day humor. In fact, seconds ago I got the “Your humor is inappropriate” speech. Geez I feel like a slug. I often wonder if there are some subjects that viewing with humor should be a taboo? My interactions with the opposite sex, including my wife? Yes, we still interact and I did write a book entitled “Floppy Parts.” My heart attack? There is little humor in an elephant sitting on your chest. Race Relations? I am always unsure about joking about race relations.

By 1977, seven years after complete desegregation came to the state of South Carolina, tensions were still raw but at least they were being kept in check…and mostly under wraps. Then came the miniseries “Roots” and LeVar Burton’s debut as Kunta Kinte. My little classroom world suddenly became a little less calm. As a faculty, we were warned that this television production based upon Alex Haley’s book of the same name, might cause ill will and the trouble associated with it. We were instructed to be ever vigilant and try to defuse any situation that might arise from the unrest. Enter Esterleen Hill.

Esterleen could cause unrest on the calmest day. It was just her way. She was impressive in size, not fat, just very healthy especially in the areas that men like for women to be healthy. She had a healthy grin and laugh to go with her healthy size and tended to wear her ”healthy” feelings on her sleeve for all to see…and hear if you were blind. While seemingly mature beyond her years, she was not likely to let her feelings go unheard by anyone willing to listen. Actually you were going to know her feelings whether you were willing to listen or not. Outspoken? You bet. Using the vernacular of the times, she was also just a tad bit militant when it came to race relations. I am not saying she had Black Panther posters pasted to the inside of her locker but if given the choice between an autograph from Huey Newton or Martin Luther King, Esterleen would have picked Huey’s. She told me many times, “Just go on and leave me alone! I didn’t ask to be here anyway.” Here would be the recently desegregated Mauldin High School.

For reasons that escape me, Esterleen and I connected although at times the connection would be strained. Because of our connection, when a “good old boy” attempted to stir the racial pot by saying, “I don’t know why God made n@#$%^s!” I took it upon myself to try and defuse the situation and steered Esterleen and her half dozen or so minions into my room. My intent was to utilize what is called a “teachable moment” and have them participate in a “healthy” discussion. First, I had to get control of the situation which at this moment was controlled by Esterleen. With her voice at its highest volume setting she proclaimed that she was not going to let that “honky son of a bitch get away with that shit!” I fixed her with one of my “teacher” stares and in my best authoritarian voice instructed her to “BE QUIET AND SHIT RIGHT THERE!” Did I just say that? Judging from the look on Esterleen’s face, I guess I did. In a somewhat less authoritarian voice I said, “I mean sit! Sit right here!” Judging from the laughter that had exploded and the bodies rolling on the floor I guessed that I had “defused” the situation. Teachable moment? Healthy discussion? No just laughter…and the calm that followed.

“AND HEADS EXPLODE”

“Social commentary is the act of using rhetorical means to provide commentary on issues in a society. This is often done with the idea of implementing or promoting change by informing the general populace about a given problem and appealing to people’s sense of justice.“ Credit to Dictionary.Net.

I keep waiting for Beyoncé and her half-time show to go away and slope off into the sunset but she can’t because “heads are exploding” everywhere. I hate that description. Social media trolls, left and right, need to find better descriptors…as do I. The fact is the vast fabric of social media won’t allow her fade away.

I don’t dislike Beyoncé…or her hubby Jay Z. I don’t know them well enough to dislike them. I don’t buy their music simply because “it’s not my cup of tea.” It has nothing to do with boycotts. Their music simply justifies my belief that very little good music has been produced since the Eighties. Give me BB King, Taj Mahal or Jimmy Buffett any day but that is nothing more than personal preference and the fact they go well with Jack Daniels and a cigar. I know Beyoncé less than I understood the half-time show. I didn’t understand the show at all because the poor audio combining with my near deaf right ear made it impossible. I also would suggest that I might not have understood it due to my age and race. Visually, that part I got…the forms not the uniforms. The next day, after heads began to explode, I decided to educate myself by cueing up her video so I could run back any portions I might have missed in real time. It was a mistake for sure because of the thoughts that began to percolate in my head. My thinking probably is better characterized as fermenting rather than percolating.

One of the thoughts fermenting in my head was that many artists have used their particular mediums to make social comments since…since…since Homer penned “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” Martin Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses”, along with a printing press, helped to bring about the Reformation and was considered radical at the time. Many writings led to our own American Revolution along with one in France. There were a couple of monarch’s that didn’t agree with those “liberal” social commentaries including one whose head didn’t explode but ended up in a basket. During my own lifetime many famous people have provided commentary on issues to promote change. In the arena of sports, Cassius Clay burned his draft card in protest of the Viet Nam War and racism. That was before he became Muhammad Ali. John Carlos and Tommie Smith, fists raised in the Black Power salute at the Olympics, were branded, along with Ali, as being un-American for speaking out against racial injustice. War protest songs like Buffy St. Marie’s “Universal Soldier” or “For What It’s Worth” sung by Buffalo Springfield were not well received by the “Establishment.” Songs of the Civil Rights Movement like “The Times They Are a Changin’” by Bob Dylan and Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” supported one “radical” position and made the status quo very uncomfortable. That was the point wasn’t it? MAKE SOMEONE UNCOMFORTABLE! Even the Academy Awards were used when American Indian activist, Sacheen Littlefeather refused Marlon Brando’s Oscar when Brando staged his own boycott in 1973. With many other examples it is my opinion that Beyoncé is simply joining a larger group of social commentators using song or dance to make her point.

During the years of my youth, as the social, civil and political struggles played out on my black and white television set I remember the heads of my father’s generation exploded to…we just didn’t get to see it play out at the push of a finger or click of a mouse nor did everyone have a computer to make their feelings clearly known. Terms or statements like “thugs,” “has been bitch with thunder thighs” and “trash” have replace terms and statements like “uppity Negro” or “don’t know their place” but the intent seems to be similar. For some reason my parents made few, if any, comments and seemed to be more concerned with whether or not I was wearing socks with my Weejuns than activities playing out in Oakland, California.

Questions, so many questions. Was her show appropriate for the Super Bowl? Where else are you going to have a “gazillion” people to promote a cause to? Could she have dressed differently? Sure but it’s really not my place to be a fashion NAZI. Was it anti-cop? Maybe. It certainly was anti-BAD COP! If that is bad I guess I am bad because I stand with everyone who is, against bad cops including, I hope, the majority of cops who are, in fact, GOOD COPS. Are the Black Panthers or Malcomb X anti-white? I don’t believe promoting your own race or ethnic group is anti-another race or ethnic group. The hardest point to admit for some of us is that there were and are valid reasons for what both the Black Panthers and Malcomb X were promoting, using rhetoric similar to modern secessionist and militia members operating today. Before you say it, the Black Panthers’ original ten points said nothing about killing whites or the police, they proposed using the Second Amendment to protect their race. It is also not against the Constitution to say you are a socialist or a Marxist. Seems like I’ve seen something written recently about both of those points…and others. Were cops assassinated, yes and I despise that fact along with the Black Panthers who were assassinated by the FBI. Actually I abhor all violence in any form, for any reason.

Lastly, and my cynical petticoats are getting soiled, both Beyoncé and Jay Z are smart business people. You can call for a boycott if you want but something tells me their bank accounts are going to increase rather than decrease. Seems like the members of The Beatles did okay even after my brother and two cousins burned all their records when the group announced that “they were bigger than Jesus.” I see the Dixie Chicks have made a comeback. What did they do?

So ends my social commentary and I hope your head doesn’t explode as you read this.