…Than Owl Sh!t?

 

Image result for Slicker than owl shit"

I stepped out into the cold to check the temperatures in our hothouses and immediately thought, “Its colder than owl sh!t.”  This simple thought took me down a mental path that was “slicker than owl sh!t” and quite soon, I felt “dumber than owl sh!t” as I stepped on an overnight gift left behind by one of my canine children.  I was “luckier than owl sh!t” because the gift was frozen solid.  I avoided a sprained ankle as my foot rolled over the frozen “Baby Ruth” rather than my ankle.  I also avoided the nasty cleanup of my spiffy bunny slippers.

It was colder than owl sh!t and I wished it was hotter than owl sh!t, still.  Twenty-three degrees with a light breeze making me shiver despite my heavy coat.  It’s November 13, still fall, and the morning low for Nome, Alaska is twenty-four.  Crazier than owl sh!t.  I know many of you would have said it was “colder than a titches witty in a brass bra” or “colder than a well digger’s a$$ in January.”  For some reason my mind didn’t go there.

You can tell what has grabbed the attention of my feeble brain.  How did “…than owl    sh!t” become such a versatile descriptor and why do I feel the need to insert an exclamation point for the i in sh!t?

I grew up near the sandhills of South Carolina in an area that was cut by red clay and rocky slate.  I lived in a farming area and am as “country as a cow patty.”  I have spent my entire life in the state including the last thirty-two in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

What little time I have spent out of South Carolina has primarily been spent in other Southern states.  I’ve just had no desire to head any farther north than Maryland.  I did head to Nebraska but that was where the College World Series was held.  A fine South Carolina institution won it that year.  Who am I kidding, I was a Clemson fan and they were there but didn’t win.

I was and am a purebred “country bumpkin”, now hillbilly, with hayseed and lint in his hair and wrapped tightly in kudzu vine.  Maybe more inbred than purebred as I think on it.  You might even use the term, Redneck.

I only bring up the place of my birth because I have heard about every old-time descriptive idiom one might expect to hear in the South…or at least South Carolina.  None work better, in so many ways  than “whatever than owl sh!t.”  Well Found under carnal knowledge” probably has more usage but doesn’t seem to have the flare.

“…hotter than owl sh!t” is more descriptive than “F…ing hot” but as I think on it, “hotter than a Billy goat’s a$$ in a hot pepper patch” gives one a much more interesting mental image than saying “it’s hotter than hell.”    I just thought of randy Billy goat descriptor, “Hornier than a double di@ked Billy goat,” and the cuter, “As happy as a puppy dog with two p@t@rs.”  No more, no more.

Obviously, I’ve slid further down my “slicker than owl sh!t” rabbit hole and it has branched toward more descriptive Southern idioms that come to mind.

An old friend commenting on the current crop of politicians, “My dad always said if you’re going to be stupid, you better be tough.”  Yep, and Lyndon B. Johnson put it a different way, “Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but to stand there and take it.”  No, I’m not saying LBJ was stupid and it wasn’t an idiom…maybe.  I wish our current president would stand there and take it and stay off twitter.  No more politics.

My wife’s favorite Southernism describing one of her basketball teams, “You can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears” shows what a fine lady she is.  I have used a similar description to chronical some of my own teams involving chicken salad and chicken ka ka.  I’m not a fine lady.

She also informed me after I bloodied my thumb doing something stupid, “If you’re looking for sympathy, you can find it in Webster’s.”  I’m guessing she won’t kiss it to make it better and was “madder than a wet hen” as I bled on her floor.

One idiom made me stop and ponder “it was thicker and richer than three feet up a bull’s a$$.”  Interesting considering the Baptist deacon using it was describing fine, thick and rich banana pudding at a church social.  Somehow this is a good thing?  “Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.”  Some sayings defy all understanding.

I began my morning ramble because of checking hothouse temperatures.  For some reason, my wife has never found a plant she didn’t want to save or overwinter.  It doesn’t keep her from buying more plants in the spring, summer, and fall.  A bit compulsive, she has more plants than “you can shake a stick at” and as I await the delivery of our third hothouse I wonder if we are on our way to “more hot houses than you can shake a stick at.”  As I said, somethings defy all understanding.

“Shaking a stick at” is an interesting saying and as I researched it was surprised to find out it was first used in a damn Yankee newspaper in the early 1800s, the Lancaster (Pa) Journal in 1818.  Well, we certainly kidnapped it.  What does it mean?  I have no clue except shaking a stick at anything is threatening and my wife’s plants are threatening my good nature.  “I’m as anxious as a whore in Sunday school.”

Well, I see it is now thirty degrees and today’s temperature is to climb only into the low forties.  I’m going to wait until the red alcohol in my thermometer climbs above thirty-two before I go for my morning walk.  At this rate, it could be an afternoon walk.  I just don’t want to “bust my a$$ because the roads are slicker than owl sh!t.”

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If any of you have similar idioms, I would appreciate you dropping them in a comment.

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Further ramblings in book form may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The startled owl image from The Daily Record https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/weird-news/meet-worlds-most-startled-owl-6266419

Gif from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/best-southern-sayings  Some other good sayings.

“Forgive me Father….”

 

While discussing our health and eating habits, I lamented to my best friend during our weekly early morning walk together, “I’ve got to get ah hold of my diet.”  Six months ago, I needed to lose five pounds…I now need to lose five additional….  My friend’s weight hasn’t varied a pound in the last decade.  I hate him just a little.

I know I could have said “get hold of” but I’m Southern and “get ah hold of” is perfectly acceptable.  I could have said, “get ah holt to” too, also perfectly acceptable from a man who was born, reared and has lived his entire life south of the Mason Dixon.

The point, I actually have one…oatmeal.  Oatmeal is one of the ways I get “ah holt” of my diet despite the fact I don’t like cooked breakfast oatmeal ah tall (at all).  I realize it is good for me.  I know this because of the red heart on the round tubed package with the smiling Quaker on the label.  Oatmeal seems to go well with the concept of diet and exercise…or as I think of it, starvation and torture.

Be clear!  I don’t hate oatmeal, I hate cooked breakfast oatmeal.  I’m a grits guy and all the unhealthy additions used to make it palatable…extra-sharp cheese, butter…maybe some sausage crumbles.  All my non-Southern friends roll their eyes and remark, “I don’t know how you eat grits, they’re so bland.”  Oatmeals not? And a painter’s canvas is white until the paint is applied.  Grits are the same way.  Grits are a blank canvas for the chef’s art.

I told my friend, hoping by saying it out loud I would follow through, “I’m waiting until the first frost and changing over to oatmeal again.”  For some reason, oatmeal seems better suited for the cold, barren, bland, and dark days of winter.  Well, we had our first frost a few days ago and I’ve had my first bowl of steaming hot Quaker Steel-cut Oats.  Yum…not.

I also converted from beer to Jack.  Jack seems better suited to help me through those cold, barren, bland, and dark days of winter.  Oats with a shot of Jack?  It’s five o’clock somewhere.

There is something about the mouthfeel of cooked oatmeal…is that something?  Mouthfeel?  I heard the term on one of those cooking shows that I noticed never cooks oatmeal.  Consistency?  Sometimes it seems the more I chew, the bigger the wad of oatmeal gets.  Sometimes I swallow without chewing.  I like the mouthfeel of grits and I never swallow without chewing because of the added accoutrements.  I used the French pronunciation in my head to make it sound better.  I guess I used the French spelling too.  I just can’t do that with oatmeal with a straight face.

I try to disguise the oatmeal, using it like a gray, chef’s canvas, I guess.  Almonds, yogurt, and frozen blueberries, or cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter, sometimes molasses and walnuts, maybe chocolate chips…okay, I seem to be making it less healthy as I go, and it doesn’t change the mouthfeel.  Oatmeal gets worse as you compare it to the mouthfeel of what you are putting in it.  Kind of like the feel of a silky negligee as opposed to a knobby wool nightshirt.

I like oatmeal’s mouthfeel fine in Missouri cookies or granola…I won’t turn down a raisin oatmeal cookie.  That’s pronounced Missour…rah cookies.  Raw oats, cocoa, butter, sugar, milk, and peanut butter…it has peanut butter, what’s not to like?  No-bake, easy, tasty but probably not very heart-healthy.  Granola is toasted but is pretty calorie-dense with all the honey and nuts.  Sometimes I add it to my yogurt and leave the cooked oats out.

Choices, choices and all are bad.  My bud suggested, “Why don’t you eat multi-grain Cheerios or Kashi?  They stand up well in milk, high in protein.  I eat them with fruit.”  Yeah, a good mouthfeel I guess and they have the little red heart symbol on their package.

Good idea but I think I now realize, eating boiled oats is my own form of self-flagellation for previous nutritional choices leading to my heart attack.  I am paying for my sinful eating habits.  Too much pizza, too much red meat, and fried chicken…drinking eggnog while eating sausage cheese balls at Christmastime, cut in lard cathead biscuits running with butter and King syrup, fried everything….too many sins to enumerate.

I need absolution.  I should be confessing to a food priest…”Forgive me, father, for I have sinned, I ate a fried hamburger last week…with mayo…and cheese.”  My penance would probably be another bowl of breakfast oatmeal served sans anything.  I may be sick.  “Hail Oatmeal, full of grace….”

The featured image came from UrbanDaddy https://www.urbandaddy.com/articles/37513/chicago/the-state-of-chicago-burgers-10-beautiful-burgers-one-beautiful-slideshow   Please forgive me for showing a Yankee hamburger but somethings transcend region.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Diddlin’ Where You Ought not to Diddle

 

When I found myself in a position which allowed me to impart coaching wisdom acquired over my forty-five year career, half-jokingly I advised, in no particular order, “Don’t diddle where you ought not diddle, avoid messin’ with money, win over the Mommas while avoiding diddin’ where you ought not diddle, and wear good shoes, your feet will appreciate it.”  During my career, I only ran afoul of one…oh, so you want to know which one?  My feet hurt…a lot.

Since my last brush with a surgeon’s knife, I realized I should have added a fifth nugget of wisdom, “Big floppy hats and sunscreen are a must.”  Might even add long-sleeved tees and long pants.  I’ve found out your skin will appreciate it.  Unless you like doctors diddling in your calf with a scalpel and suturing you up after.

My fifth surgery to remove skin cancer!   Not a good way to lose weight.  One on an ear, three on my lower legs, and one I don’t understand at all…the sun ain’t evah seen my lily-white butt…ocks.  Well, there was the time a hornet flew up my short britches leg.  Shucking them, the sun wasn’t the only thing that saw my lily-white ass.  There were several cars and a church bus along with the various plants, animals and insects in my garden.  I didn’t get stung…well…nobody whistled or cheered their approval and that stung a bit.

Too many years battling the summer sun on the farm or the athletic fields in minimal attire has come back to bite me.  I guess I shouldn’t have diddled in the sun wearing shorts, tees and a baseball cap.  When I had a physique, I would bronze myself too.  Shirtless, skimpy gym shorts and kicks riding round and round on a tractor, hatless and brainless until I lost most of my hair.  A smart person would have put on SPF 50 or at least a hat.  I’m not sure sunscreen had even been invented.

My best friend chose the same vocation, is my age, and eat up with the same affliction.  Never believing in half measures, he might as well be a vampire.  He runs and walks in the dark to stay out of the sun.  Does his yard work in the early morning hours much to the chagrin of the people who are sleeping in.

If my friend has to venture out into the midday sun, he puts on so much sunscreen he looks like Bo Derek painted white in Tarzan the Ape Man…no that’s a lie and now I’ve got a mental picture I can’t get out of my head.  I think I’ll have to Google a picture of Bo just to replace it.  A bad excuse is better than none.

My grandmother worked in the sun all her life.  She wore feed sack dresses and a huge floppy straw hat  No sunscreen, no skin cancer.  A  farmer all her life, she worked side by side with her father, then my grandfather and continued to plant and hoe her beans, maters, and taters for forty more years after his death.  No skin cancer but a complexion resembling old shoe leather.  I guess I should have paid better attention.

It seems like there is more skin cancer these days than say fifty years ago…or am I just aware of it since being afflicted?  Are we losing our ozone layer, more pollution, and chemicals in the air?  Global Climate change?  Marvin the Martian’s Immodium Q-36 Space Modulator?  Probably I’m just more aware or they ignored it fifty years ago.

I should have worn floppy straw hats…my legs aren’t good enough to do justice to a feed sack dress.

Oh well. The damage has been done.  No sense crying over spilled milk, but I truly hate giving a little piece here and a little there.  Now Janis has joined Bo in my head, singing in my head, “Take it! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby! Break it!  Break another little bit of my heart now, honey.”

I need to stick another song in my head cause if the surgeon takes a little piece of my heart, I’m in deep do-do.  Maybe Katrina and the Waves, “Walking on Sunshine”…can you get skin cancer listening to a tune in your head?  At least I didn’t diddle where I ought not to diddle…maybe.

Okay, ice and elevate.

For those of you who are concerned, don’t be.   I see a doctor every three months to keep a handle on it.   I’ve done better wearing my big floppy hats, long-sleeved tees, face shields and applying sunscreen.   Now if I can do something about my feet.

The featured image is from http://www.webesailing.com/activities.htm

Don Miller’s author’s page may be located at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

 

Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies…and a Cold War Submarine, Oh My!

 

Horror movies?  It’s about sex…I knew sex would raise its ugly head…a pun maybe?  Not really.  It is about sex and other stuff too.

“A common piece of dating advice for young men years ago was to take their date to a scary movie. The tip was based on the idea that when their date got frightened, they would curl in for “protection”; thus, reinforcing a bond between the two (this is the G-Rated version of the rationale).” 1

Dateline early 1970.  We snuggled in the old Galaxie 500, popcorn, Pepsis, and Milk Duds at the ready.  Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers had made the rounds at walk-in movie theaters and several years later had been relegated to drive-ins.  It didn’t matter, the movie was cheap entertainment and presented an opportunity to spend some quality time with my date on the back row of the Newberry Drive-In.  Date?  We were destined to be married in the Summer of 1971 but were still tiptoeing around each other in early 1970.  It might have been better if we had stubbed our toes.  Our breakup was much more painful than a broken little toe.

The date was red-headed…as was Sharon Tate, the now-dead heroine of the movie.  She had a nice form as well put together…so had Sharon Tate.  As you can tell, at the time I was quite infatuated with both my date and Sharon Tate.  It was a shame Sharon had died in a horror much worse than any movie.  Shame the infatuation with my date died after the marriage.

The movie we watched was a horror-comedy…plenty of laughs from two inept vampire slayers, plenty of scares and blood-sucking from Count von Krolock and his vampire minions populating the snow and ice-covered Transylvanian castle.

The movie was mostly comedy and Sharon Tate’s cleavage, but for some reason, the opening credits grabbed our attention, a blood drop that trickled down and across, dropped, and bounced along as the title rolled.  The gothic music made our skin crawl.  We were hooked on something other than our libidos…the laughter was good…and the chills as we “curled in for protection.”

Much of my reading and viewing habits have revolved around horror, sci-fi along with murder and mayhem.  A perfect world is combining them all.  I like a good comedy but given a choice I’ll go with a murder mystery that twists and turns like switchbacks on a mountain road or horror that leaves one on the edge of your seats awaiting an electrical shock from fear…and I like the sexual innuendo thrown in for good measure.   Fade to black.

I’ve found vampires to be much more entertaining than werewolves or zombies…except for the werewolf transformation in some forgotten movie. As I remember, there was a very attractive female who suffered from lycanthropy and an aversion to clothes it would seem.  I think the movie was The Howling but I’m not sure.  She was quite fetching despite the body fur, but vampires are sexy.

The vampires of my younger day were well dressed in black tuxedoes with blood-red accouterments, were suave, had a foreign lisp and for some reason, women found them irresistible.   “Look into my eyes….”  Young females seemed to enjoy having fangs sucking on their necks.

When the heroine was penetrated, by the vampire’s fangs you guttersnipe, a look of sheer ecstasy came over her face and it was up to the boring but stalwart hero to save her and break the spell.  Save her by driving a stake through the heart of his rival before the count could exit his musty old coffin at sundown and plunge his glistening, long fangs into the soft neck of his victim.

A soft neck surrounded by expansive décolletage in Sharon Tate’s case.  Slowly feeding, rhythmically licking away her very lifeblood as the helpless young lady pants, “Oh, oh, oh!” Yep, it was about sex, but we faded to black during those days and let our minds and libidos create their own scenes.

I haven’t been a fan of the horror genre in film since the Eighties.  The violence became too graphic and the sexual innuendo and double entendres quite transparent…if there was any sexual insinuation at all.  It seems graphic violence and gore became the point.

Still, I loved John Carpenter even though just a few of his movies dealt with vampires or sexual overtones…well, there were plenty of scenes with young people trying to get busy only to be interrupted by a knife-wielding maniac.

The first two Halloween movies, The Thing and The Fog were my favorites… okay, I admit I liked the way Adrienne Barbeau filled out her flannel shirt and her voice as DJ Stevie Wayne reminded me of smooth bourbon, quite warming on a cool night…unless you lived in Antonio Bay and were attacked by whatever was inside of The Fog.

Said in a smooth and sultry voice, “But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don’t wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog,” 

With the graphic violence of modern horror, I’ve turned more to the pages of books than the silver screen, now in bloody color.  I just don’t need to see heads exploding or bodies eviscerated, instead, I enjoy the special effects my mind creates along with the double entendres.

I’m probably not going to reread Frankenstein or Dracula; they have been read too many times.  Same with Poe’s horror stories.  I am not sure Bram Stroker even knew about the sexual innuendo he had created within his horror…whether he did or not, the sex was there…along with the horror.  Still, they got me started and sent me on to King, Koontz, Rice, and Straub.

As I think back to the scariest movie or book I ever read or saw, it was not horror per se and involved no vampires, werewolves or zombies…there was sexual innuendo in the movie, even some fade to black.  On the Beach by Neville Shute and the movie by the same title starring Gregory Peak as American submarine commander Dwight Towers and Ava Gardner as his Australian lover, Miora Davidson, scared me to death.

The plot is a simple one, nuclear war breaks out and we annihilate ourselves.  No one knows who started the war only that it, and the world is finished.  Radiation covers most of the earth except for Australia, New Zealand, and parts of South America and Africa.  Unfortunately, the last remaining pockets of humanity will slowly die of radiation poisoning as a death cloud creeps southward.  The United States is gone except for one lone submarine and her crew, now docked in Melbourne.

The end is near.  The book and movie cover the last few months left for humanity, only the cockroaches will remain.

The closing line from the book states, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”  In the movie’s closing, Waltzing Matilda plays against the backdrop of a submarine going home for the last time, deserted streets, homes, and arenas as a wind-blown banner is seen, its words hoping against reality, “There is still time, Brother.”

For someone growing up during the Cold War, it was scary.  For someone who, today, believes in Global Climate Change, the plea, “There is still time, Brother,” seems quite timely.  I doubt we will go whimpering, instead, we will continue to point our fingers blaming everyone else or our own demise.

The final scene begins at the 2:57 mark.

1Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., “5 Reasons We Enjoy Being Scared”, Psychology Today, October 19,2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thoughts-thinking/201810/5-reasons-we-enjoy-being-scared

All movie trailers were pilfered from YouTube.

The featured image is from https://www.surveycrest.com/blog/10-scariest-halloween-monsters/

Don Miller’s author page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Thanks!

The Things You Don’t Expect to See…

 

…that can’t be unseen.

It’s cloudy and mostly dark…it’s supposed to be dark.  It’s seven-thirty on a very late October morning.  If it had cleared I would have noted that the sun was still below the horizon as I began my morning exercise, a three or four-mile walk through my little piece of heaven.

I’ve seen animals, reptiles, and birds of all sorts on my early morning walks.  I’ve been dive-bombed by hawks, pulled up short by a brown bear, sent back to the house by a pack of red eyes peering back at me, reflected in the light of my headlamp.  There have been deer and turkeys a plenty.  I’ve been ankle attacked by a pigmy potbellied pig, but I ain’t never seen nothin’ like ‘is.

I’ve passed vehicles parked along the little spur of a road called Airline Lane.  Usually, they are hunters this time of year or maybe a carload of college kids who had an impromptu party at the lone pull off and decided to stay and sleep it off.  Much safer than defying fate by driving drunk and sneaking back onto the campus of the nearby Christian university.

Not quite wide enough to be a double track, the gravel road was recently paved and is not wide enough for people to really pull off onto a shoulder that does not exist.  Not quite enough road for the big Ram 2500 with big ole tires and a big ole covered trailer.

The behemoth sat quietly right in the middle of the road like a sedated prehistoric mammoth.  I approached it from behind unable to see anything in the truck.  I walked up on the driver’s side making sure I was visible in the big west coast mirrors.  It didn’t matter, they weren’t paying attention to anything but themselves.

I was careful, unsure of what I might run into.  I’ve seen too many slasher films and fully expected to find a mutilated dead body or five.  If they were still in this world, I didn’t want to scare them and get myself shot.  I didn’t scare them, and I didn’t get shot…I did get shocked.  An old saying ran through my mind, “Please put some clothes on, you’re scaring the animals.”

Glancing inside of the cab I found they wuz nekid as jaybirds and enjoying the fine morning in a way I only faintly remember.  I resisted knocking on the window and asking, “Hey y’all.  What y’all doin’ this fine morning.”

I applaud their passion…especially at the crack of dawn on a lonely country road.  How romantic…or moronic.  If I were rating them like an Olympic event it would have been near-perfect score…not that they cared.  They were as oblivious as I was embarrassed.  Thankfully they never saw me.  I wish I hadn’t seen them.  Talk about a broad expanse of white.  That boy’s butt ain’t never seen the light of day and girl watch out you might break the window pushing on it like that.

I’ve seen passion on a country road before, but it always involved farm animals.  I wondered if they simply pulled off for a nap during the night and woke up in an amorous mood that morning or if at the crack of dawn, the urge hit them, and throwing caution to the wind, conveniently chose my little lane as the site for their acte d’amour.

I am reminded of earlier days from a lifetime ago, but no I ain’t nevah done that.  Pondered on it but I tended to scout my sparkin’ spots ahead of time.  There is something to be said for spontaneity…or stupidity in the name of lust.

Oh well, maybe a scene for a future book.  To be young and foolish again…in love or at least, in a reasonable facsimile.  I tip my hat to you and am glad you had exited my little piece of heaven by the time I returned.

Don Miller’s rants, raves, and humor can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Unredeemed it Would Seem

 

As I read the book, The Redeemers by Ace Atkins, a quote caught my eye and stung like an accidental splash of toothpaste to the same eye.  Am I the only idiot figuring out a way to get toothpaste in his eye and actually doing it more than once?

Is comparing a quote to a stinging eyeball a horrible analogy?  “His quote stung like toothpaste rubbed in my eye.”  It probably explains why I’m using an Ace Atkins quote instead of one of my own and why I try to avoid using analogies.  “Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.”

The quote from the book, “There is nothing that Southerners hate more than self-examination,” resonated and sparked my own self-examination of the paradoxes which seem to surround me.  The quote was thoroughly accurate as far as my own moral failings are concerned and honestly it is more about my own self-examination.

Before I’m accused of broad stroking an entire group of people, I’m not.  If this shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try to force your foot into it.  That is on you and you may find your foot, along with your shoe, stuck in your mouth and my foot stuck somewhere else…metaphorically of course.  I’m not talking to or about you if the shoe is not yours.  If the shoe fits…well that is between you and your lord and I just want you to ponder as I do.

The South has been accused of having many paradoxes, like pointing out someone’s moral failings while ignoring one’s own or railing against someone else’s corruption, moral or monetary, while disregarding the corruption or moral failings of your favorite politician as long as it advances your political agenda.  All one has to do is look at the histories of our state governments to find great examples.  Wilbur Mill’s reelection after running afoul of Fannie Foxe, the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” comes to mind.  Southerners haven’t cornered the market on moral failings or paradoxes, we just get caught with great style and dash.

Some paradoxes are quaint or cute, others not so much.  As you might imagine, my essay will eventually turn from the cute or quaint.  It will turn toward paradoxes that revolve around religion and politics.   I’m sure other parts of the country have their own paradoxes…and issues with religion as it relates to politics but again we Southerners do it with such elegance.  

“Religion, Religion! Oh, there is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”  The words shouted in Jimmy Buffett’s ditty, Fruitcakes came to mind when country-western icon Vince Gill and his wife, the “Queen of Christian Pop” music Amy Grant were discussing the paradoxes of their relationship during an interview.  Vince pointed out that they weren’t that different.  They were actually singing to the same clientele.  He was singing to the drunks and hell raisers on Saturday night and she was singing to the same drunks and hell raisers, now recovering and praying for redemption, on Sunday morning.

Not a direct quote but the crux of one paradox.  It’s also one of the cute or quaint paradoxes.  There are a lot of “Sunday morning and Wednesday night Christians” who will enjoy ‘several’ too many shots of brown liquor on a Saturday night and pray for forgiveness through a blinding hangover on Sunday morning.  Bless our pea-pickin’ hearts and please help me remember exactly what sins I committed last Saturday night…or maybe I really don’t want to know.

Saturday night might be relative.  I know Fannie Foxe’s foray into the Washington Tidal Basin took place on a late Monday night and while not stopping Wilbur’s reelection to the House of Representatives, might have derailed his dream of a much higher office.

I live in the Bible Belt and like a stereotypical big-bellied sheriff’s Sam Brown Belt, we wrap our religious mantle tightly around us…except when we don’t.  Sometimes we even make jokes about it.   “What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?
The Methodist will say hello to you in the liquor store.”  “How does a Baptist get into Heaven?  They bring a casserole.”

Only recently were we less conservative, Jesus loving, Agnostic, Deist, Buddhaptists allowed to enjoy a store-bought adult beverage during a Sunday lunch out on the town as Blue Laws were relaxed.  While I struggle with my religious beliefs I do believe in something, “I believe I’ll have another drink.”

Like the good Methodist turned Baptist that I am, anytime I publically order a beer I look around first to see if any of my former students or my church peers are in attendance.  I’m still gonna order, I’ll just make sure I avoid eye contact.

Religion even gets intertwined with our eating habits.  We had an advertising war that took on religious overtones.   An anti-LGBTQ, we ain’t gonna open on a Sunday, chicken sandwich chain was purported to have divine support over the spicy, straight from Satan’s “sin city of the South”, fried chicken chain.  Chanting and making the sign of the cross with crossed fingers, “My God loves X’s chicken sandwiches better than those of the Devil’s Minion!”  See, we can be insanely funny.  Accent on insane.  Yep, I like the spicy chicken place better…”Get thee behind me Satan!”

Insanity could explain some of our choices during election cycles.  I lean left in a deeply Southern red state and sometimes I believe we’ve lost our minds…just not as badly as some other deep red Southern states  In the most recent cycle a deep South state almost elected an accused pedophile rather than electing a…gasp…Democrat.  Politics over family values just as Jesus intended.

We tend to wrap our religion tightly with the flag along with our patriotism and tie them all together…I’m just not sure which flag, the national flag or the Confederate Battle Flag.  If we were on the side of the angels why did God allow us to lose?   Did someone sin?

Some Southerners will ridicule and threaten to tar and feather you if you don’t stand for the National Anthem at a football game while wearing a “Forget Hell” belt buckle and flying the battle flag from pickup trucks displaying several Son’s of Confederate Veteran bumper stickers.  Confusing ain’t it.

I have “bigly” concerns over our touting of the “sacred” Second Amendment while ignoring the parts of the First Amendment that include “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Certain more conservative than me religious groups would like to put iconic stone tablets into every government building or school but would get a might squirrelly if a coven of witches wanted to honor the goddess of fertility, Ostara…by dancing ‘nekid’ on the town square next to the Confederate War monument.  Beware of what you wish for, it may have unwanted repercussions.  One should be just as unconstitutional as the other and I don’t wish to live in your theocracy.

Paradoxes aside, a quote by Flannery O’Conner, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” sparked more self-examination.

I am haunted by the days when I sat attentively beside my brother, in between our parents on the short pew no other church member would dare sit on because “That’s where the Miller’s sit.”  Haunted days before I began to think for myself and question motivations.  Days when I didn’t wonder if Jesus’s message was being bastardized and the Bible weaponized.  Days when religions had not moved so far right…or is that the paradox.  Have I just moved left?

Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects, non-fiction, and fiction.  You may access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett

 

The featured image is from https://imgur.com/gallery/D0FKLsK/comment/1073493907.  I actually had this done.  A cyst on my wrist was thumped with the family Bible and for a time disappeared.  It came back, much like my self-examination and self-ridicule.

 

 

Life in Black and White

 

I share quotes on my social media accounts.  Quotes I can’t create because I’m not bright enough or because someone said what I wanted to say first…and said it better.  I wish I could be profound but instead, I rely on the words of others to enlighten, humor or sometimes, provoke.

I call these quotes, Don’s Daily Dose because a former student suggested the moniker after reading a few day’s worths.  I’m thankful to her for suggesting the title and helping me to realize someone was actually reading them.

I share these quotes along with some form of artwork to emphasize the point…or just because I liked the snake wrapped around an arm attached to a hand holding an apple… the quote was about temptation after all.  The apple different shades of red, the snake a bright kaleidoscope of color…I find the painting tempting.

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Original Sin by Raluca Nedelcu https://fineartamerica.com/featured/original-sin-raluca-nedelcu.html?product=art-print

Usually, the art I choose is psychedelic, me embracing my inner hippie.  Vibrant and wild colors from the LSD trip I never took; peace signs, VW microbuses, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix….  Sometimes I use the book covers from the authors I quote from.  I lean toward bold colors with purple and pink being favorites.

Then I quoted Ansel Adams and looked for art to go with my quote.  I was awed by his landscapes in black and white.  The quote was about the environment, something Adams photographed in black and white, his mode of artistic expression.  Mother Nature stark and sharply in focus…maybe auster.  Nature laid bare, no makeup to soften its features.

The picture I chose of a two-lane blacktop took me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when “filmed in Technicolor” was the exception, not the norm.  Stark blacks and whites along with muted grays were the standards, life laid bare in living black and white.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams Road, Nevada Desert, 1960

Movies, television, stills from Life magazine, most were in black and white in those days.  If I wanted color I thumbed through my grandmother’s National Geographic.  Wild animals and bare-breasted native girls filmed better in color.  In this modern-day, life is replicated exactly as it is on large screened TVs, tablets and I Phones. I still find black and white to be more poignant, more shocking, more potent.

Doretha Lange’s depression-era Migrant Mother does not reflect her pain in its colorized form.  Color is too soft.  Her turned down mouth with fingers stroking the side of her chin…pondering her lot in life it would seem. Her furrowed brow, two of her seven children hiding their faces from the camera.  There are no soft colors, just sharp black, and white pain.

DortheaLange

Destitute mother of seven, Age 32 Doretha Lange https://www.wdl.org/en/item/81/

Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski pleading for “Stella”, wearing a torn and dirty T-shirt, his hands clasped against his head…Same in Technicolor?  Only if his head explodes.  Stanley Kowalski was not a nice person, black and white suits him.

streetcar named

Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire https://macmcentire.com/2017/04/03/random-warner-bros-a-streetcar-named-desire/

I watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, Freedom Rider buses burn, and Walter Cronkite tell the nation a war was unwinnable after Tet, all and more on a black and white TV.  Those depressing moments were befitting of black and white.  No color necessary, no sugarcoating with pastels, no bold makeup.  Just stark black and white.

Jack Ruby

Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald as Detective James R. Leavelle looks on.  Leavelle passed away on August 2019.  He was 99.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/29/us/james-leavelle-dead.html

Most of my childhood memories are in black and white.  Friends and family posing, smiling on three, frozen as a Kodak catches their likenesses.  My parents so young in their courting pictures, people long dead, their faces faded in the old albums I liberated after my father’s death.

I sigh, exhaling heavily as I think about them. My winter depression may be sneaking up, edging closer.  It is a bit early yet but it always catches me by surprise like those “backshooters” in the black and white “oaters” I watched as a child.  Bad men willing to do their worst to the Lone Ranger and Tonto.  Willing but not able as they live on in the reruns of life.

It is still pre-dawn as I edit this and there are no colors other than black and gray of night.  Not even a hint of the sunrise to come.  The almost full moon nearing the western horizon doesn’t give enough light for colors to reflect.  I seem to do my best writing in the dark, surrounded by blacks and whites.   My best writing is relative and it is not the way I want to spend the rest of my life.

Life in black and white seems harsh and I’ve had my black and white moments.  Life needs a few black and white moments to give depth and meaning to the warm colors in between.  Profound.  Maybe I am capable of a good quote after all.  Time to greet the sun.

sun2

Autumn Sun by David Galchutt in 2019 | Fall | Sun art, Moon …

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image was lifted from https://pearlsofprofundity.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/life-in-black-and-white/

 

 

 

Dealing with Writer’s Block

 

And that is a huge joke…one I’m not laughing at.  It’s not writer’s block, is it?  No, it is insanity.  It’s a little early for Seasonal Affective Disorder to rear an ugly head.

Writer’s block…”All work and no play make makes Jack a dull boy…Don a dull boy.”  I feel like Jack Torrance in The Shining although I’m not ready to chop a hole in a door….Maybe mad enough to chew nails and spit rivets…what in the hell does that even mean?  I think Don was a dull boy before the writer’s block.

Writing about writer's block

I’m writing about writer’s block.  Geez.

Honesty is the best policy.  It’s not just writer’s block.  It is do anything block.  I gave up and tried reading and then continued to binge-watch the series Justified… looking for motivation, to no avail.  I failed. I didn’t get my chores done either.  I’m such a slug.  All I did was vacillate between the activities I refused to do.

writer-meme-5

I have too many voices chanting in my head.  Imaginary friends, voices of long-dead friends, voices of enemies I wish were…no, I don’t wish that on anyone.  I have voices from characters in three different storylines I’m having trouble completing.  Completing?  I just want to move forward a bit.

I just reread forty-four chapters in one and deleted half of them.  I deleted them on purpose…garbage I say, garbage!

Writer'sblock1

I went for my morning exercise.  Usually, a bit of exercise will clear my head and quiet the voices.  I focused on the portion of the story involving the death of a major character.  I wrote it in my head, around and around it went, like flushing an imaginary toilet until I got it just right.

Returning home, I sat the chapter aside and let it marinade before sitting down and failing to get it written down.  Could death be the problem?  She is a fictional character and the story won’t work without her untimely demise…Geez.  I’ve become attached to someone who doesn’t exist.

2eikm7

It is another day and I write in the morning, in the pre-dawn hours…or in this case stare at my computer screen.  It suits me most of the time.  Friendly ghosts seem to surround me, whispering in my ear.  They provide no help.  I hear their little “Casper the Friendly Ghost” voices ridiculing me.  Maybe they are not that friendly.

I’ve wasted two hours of prime writing time writing this blog.  My story sits, unwritten…all three of them.  Lucretia still lives.  Allen Kell is frozen in my mind, his hand hovering above his six-gun as he tries but fails to save her.  How will he not save her?

Total word count for today

I must shut down the computer and start my day.  Exercise and then major chores.  Like the story of the hard-working ant and the lazy grasshopper, winter will soon be upon us and there is so much left to do…from not doing it during the summer.  Preparations must be made, must be made, must be made…if I say it enough….  How does a fiddlin’ grasshopper morf into a hard-working ant?

Don Miller, when sane, writes on various subjects, some real, others imagined.  Access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Images from various meme mines.

Because I Can

 

I always hated to run.  Some of you will remember…timed forties, perfect plays, home to first, home to second, etc., fitness tests in PE….  All my running was athletically related and involved sprinting.  I was never very fast…never very athletic.  Snail like but I never left a yucky trail.  Football, baseball…I didn’t do basketball.  Couldn’t get that huge ball in that tiny ring and there is a bunch of running in basketball…minute drills?  No way.

Hundred-yard sprints to end the practice are not fun.  They were never intended to be fun.  Show me someone who enjoys hundred-yard sprints and I’ll show you a masochist…or someone who pulls wings off flies and plots murder.

I found myself coaching in addition to teaching in the early Seventies and learned that, deep down in my soul, I was a sadist.  Marquis de Sade with a whistle and a clipboard.  “Men, we’re going to do all the forty-yard sprints in the world…plus one.”  “You’re going to run forever…too long? Subtract a minute.”  I didn’t do it in a sadistic way per se, sadism was not the goal.  I tried to apply reason, never running for the sake of running and interjecting humor into my expectations. Still, deep down…there was sadistic joy seeing my charges puke at my feet. “Look! Eggs!  Anyone hungry?”

In the late Sixties, the jogging craze hit.  By the mid-Seventies, I had joined it.  Not that I was particularly interested in the health effects of jogging…I was in my mid-twenties and indestructible.  I was more likely to get my exercise skipping “the light fandango” with a beer in my hand.

I jogged not to get into shape, I was more interested in the good looking, long-legged brunette, teaching peer who wore those minuscule Seventies running shorts over her tight and athletic…you get the idea.  I tried to run just hard enough to keep her backside clearly in view.  I chased her but I never caught her.

Despite her external motivation, I had no self-motivation and was sporadic with exercise until a heart attack dropped me in my tracks on my fifty-sixth birthday.  Great birthday present.  A blockage and a stent to correct it and save my life, three more stents a month later, six weeks of rehab and instructions on what to eat…cardboard slathered in cow poop.  Nothing from the Southern-fried food groups.  I learned to eliminate salt on everything except eggs and grits.  I even learned to tolerate oatmeal…with enough fruit and yogurt covering it.

On my days off from rehab I walked.  While I enjoyed walking, the effort just didn’t seem to be enough.  I was from the “No Pain, No Gain” era.  Exercise should have an element of pain involved.  Walking was too easy, and I began to run, albeit slowly.  Underused lungs and quads screaming, maybe I was a masochist.  I don’t pull wings off flies and the only murders I plot are in the books I write.

Five months after my heart attack I ran my first 5K.  After six months I had dropped sixty-plus pounds.  I was my cardiologist’s dream patient.

Only Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles would ever look at me and say, “He looks like a runner.”  Stockily built for comfort not speed, it is best to line me up with a stationary object to make sure I am moving.  But I was a runner!  I ran races to prove I was and to provide motivation.  I needed goals other than beer and pizza after the race and fit women in athletic wear to run behind during it.

I still hated running but it became a mind over matter endeavor.  I found it cleared my head and correctly put together the jigsaw puzzle that was my mind. I did it because I could.  I did it because I was still alive.

5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons…I put a marathon on my bucket list and signed up for one in three months’ time.  I didn’t win any races, but I always finished in the top half of my age group.  I was proud.  I was running against myself and the grim reaper in my rearview mirror.

Four years ago there was a misstep and the pain that came with it…physical and mental pain.  For two years I ran, I limped, I quit running to walk…then started the process over only to be hobbled again.  I finally went to the doctor.  A torn meniscus and early-onset osteoarthritis.  Bone rubs on bone in both knees and the orthopedic surgeon shook his head, “Not soon but if you live long enough there will be a knee replacement in your future.”  I walked and I walked but I couldn’t jog.  For two years I’ve walked or ridden my bike.  I wouldn’t do the marathon.

As much as I hated running, I missed running…still miss it…but I don’t miss it as much as I did Monday.  Why? Because on Tuesday…I ran.  I blame it on the song “Domino” by Van Morrison.  When I heard it over my earbuds, I wanted to dance but my dancing is worse than my running and I was on a public road.  Rather than having people think I was having a Joe Cocker ‘fit’, I took off jogging. Slowly, smartly and with no pain on the following day.  The day after, I ran again.  Alternating jogging and walking from mailbox to mailbox or driveway to driveway my lungs screamed but my knees didn’t.

Probably a mile’s worth of jogging split up over three and a half miles.  It is a start…it is running.

Both days, I argued with myself the whole time.  I was careful but apprehensive, waiting for a familiar twinge of pain.  Waiting for the throbbing ache when I finished.  Promising myself that if I felt an odd twinge or the throb I would quit and chase the foolish thoughts from my head.

Why am I taking the chance?  My “firetrucking” knees hurt when I don’t run.  They hurt when I sit around for too long…but they didn’t hurt any worse than they did after a four-mile fitness walk.  Still, why I wondered?

“Because I can,” I told myself.  Because I want to.  Because it allows an old man to dream a bit…to remember.    There will be no marathon…maybe, not even a 5K.  I may have to be satisfied with a mile jog, but it doesn’t matter.  I run because I can.  I run because it makes me happy.

Addendum

I awoke this morning with a twinge…of sciatica.  My knees are fine. ‘Iffin’ it ain’t one thing it is a thousand others.  I’ll test myself with a short walk and stretch.  If all feels good I run/walk a bit on a nice soft athletic field.  I’ll be smart…maybe.

The line ‘skipping the light fandango’ comes from the Poco Harum song, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.  The complete lyric was, “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels cross the floor.”

…And since I’m on music and running kicks, get up, dance and enjoy the day.

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer and can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from Canva

Hey, Y’all Watch ‘is!

The girl child leaving the local gas station yelled “Hey, y’all watch ‘is” as she exited the entryway.  I cringed but turned in time to see the eight or nine-year-old execute a perfect cartwheel.  “Whew, that might have been a close one,” I thought.  Usually, those words preface a much different outcome.

For those of you uninformed, “Hey y’all watch ‘is” are usually the last words from a good ole boy’s mouth just before meeting his maker.  Living where I live, we have a bunch of good ole boys and I can tell you many have uttered those very words before reaping their heavenly rewards…or hellishly rewards.

An acquaintance of an acquaintance decided to strap a saddle to a high limb of a pine tree overlooking the lake his trailer was on.  He would ride it during windstorms.  Who thinks of such?  Some of the best windstorms ’round here are associated with thunderstorms which can be quite violent.

This good ole boy forgot, or likely never knew, pines are a bit shallow-rooted and I’m sure his two hundred and eighty pounds upset the tree’s center of gravity.  With the freshening breeze of a thunderstorm, his last words were, “Hey y’all watch ‘is”…just before the tree uprooted sending him to his just desserts.  What no Darwin Award?

I have other acquaintances who follow the “Good Ole Boy Manifesto” which states clearly, “Any good time can be amplified by applying copious amounts of alcohol and having a deadly weapon nearby.”  Shotguns and beer…what could go wrong?

A drunk Jethro loudly uttered, “Hey y’all watch ‘is” just before he attempted to emulate William Tell and shoot a PBR can off Bubba John’s head with a high-tech crossbow.  Bubba John accurately called Jethro a dumbass when the first bolt fired destroyed an unoccupied snake aquarium three or four feet to the left of the intended target.  The second shot was also to the left but only three or four inches…and two or three inches south.  Bubba John doesn’t seem to miss that ear a bit and thankfully didn’t qualify for a Darwin.

These memories only come to mind because I have to crawl on top of my front porch roof this mawnin’.  We received our first appreciable rain in six weeks yestidee.  I’m tryin’ to get into character by usin’ words like mawnin’, yestidee and droppin’ my gees.  Okay, I’ll quit.  I’m not sure if it is yestidee or yesteedee anyway.

Praise be to the rain gods, but I found out that I have a leak over my front porch.  Boo to the porch gods.  I don’t understand.  Rain, no leak, no rain, six weeks later, rain, leak.  I must climb up upon it and look around.  I don’t want one of those “watch this” moments and metal roofs can get slippery.

My initial thoughts are, I’m a good ole boy but I reckon if I don’t say, “Hey y’all watch ‘is” I should be okay…but then there was that chainsaw incident followed by the plate glass window incident…and a dozen or so other scrapes with death…or at least severe injury.  Not one time did I utter the magic words…but then I’m not dead either.  Those damn stitches sho nuff hurt and the concussion knocked me loopy…not that anyone really noticed.

One of my earliest remembrances of good ole boys doing stupid things was a local man who, as the story goes, thought he had run out of gas one night but wasn’t sure because the old Chevy’s gas gauge was non-functional.  Undeterred he uncapped his gas tank and used his Zippo lighter to see if there was any gas left in the tank.  This was before the advent of Darwin Awards but he sho nuff would have qualified.

For the uninformed, the Darwin Awards select individuals who have supposedly contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization by their own actions.  I am desperate not to be an inductee.

For more other larks access Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image courtesy of https://www.dumpaday.com/funny-pictures/women-live-longer-men-28-pics/ “Why women live longer than men.”  Take a look there are some funny ones…funny?