Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Main Street?


Last night my wife asked me what I thought about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  She very soon realized her mistake: Asking me to comment on a socio-political issue is like inviting Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to come stay with you for a few days.  To my credit, this morning as I was getting ready for work, my wife admitted that she wished she had written down my response, partially because it was poignant, and also because she fell asleep half way through, and couldn’t remember some of it.  Here you go, Darling, down in print as much as I can remember.

First, for those of you who aren’t as patient (or as interested) as my wife, Here is the short version:

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is a pathetic gathering of spoiled rich brats (even the poor in America are rich compared to 95% of the 7 billion people on our planet) who are pissed because they think the American Dream means that they should be able to go to college for free and get a useless liberal arts degree and work 38 hours a week for a six-figure salary and have free healthcare.  The problem is that the real American Dream (which our grandparents understood very well) says nothing about life being easy.

Now for the long version:

Basically I categorize protests into two types, Demonstrations and Disturbances.  Both types involve a group of people who are united in a common cause to express their displeasure at something they feel inadequate alone to change.  The difference between the two is that the people in a Demonstration are able to articulate what they want to change, and how it is to be changed.  In what I call a Disturbance, the people don’t understand enough about the world we live in to even begin to understand what they want to change or how to get there.  They use circumstances as an excuse to behave outside the generally accepted norms of society.  The Rodney King Riots come to mind as a Disturbance.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is clearly, by my definition, a Disturbance.


Although it is impossible to characterize the 2,000 to 15,000 individuals involved in the protests, there are some generalizations that I think are fair:

1. They don’t know what they want

2. There is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy in the movement


3. The protestors don’t have a clue that their movement isn’t negatively affecting corporate America.

4. Protesting and camping out is a lot more fun than looking for a job or working

5. There seems to be a whole lot of coveting going on

6. There doesn’t seem to be much common sense in the protest

7. The movement is divided

8. The protestors are tenacious, and dedicated to the cause

9. Some of these folks really need to take a shower.

10. The protests seem to resonate with some segment of the US population

11. The protestors seem to LOVE Apple products

12. There seems to be a fascination with pooping.

Monday, October 3, 2011

When I was a little bitty baby


When I was a kid in rural Georgia, my mom used to sing us a song as a kind of lullaby entitled Cotton Fields.  Later my three sisters and I learned to sing this old blues song as we drove places in our old red Chevrolet pickup truck because it didn’t have a radio, and after a short while we were generally tired of talking to each other.  I thought that it was an old folk song until later in life I realized it was a blues song written by Huddie Ledbetter, whose stage name was Lead Belly, and that a number of musicians had covered the song including Credence Clearwater Revival, The Beach Boys, Harry Belafonte, Charlie Pride, John Fogerty, Elvis Presley, the Highwaymen, Elton John, Paul McCartney and even the ever-popular Engelbert Humperdink.  My favorite version by far is by Johnny Cash.

The ironic thing about this song is that although I grew up in Georgia, and have lived longer in that state than any other, it wasn’t until I moved to West Tennessee that I saw my first real cotton field up close and personal.  In fact, we live so close to cotton fields that we can sit on our own porch and watch the progress of the crops.  I never truly understood what a remarkable plant the cotton plant is.  I have never seen a field transition so dramatically from one season to the next:

Cotton Field and BarnCotton field before defoliant application

Cotton plants with bolls just starting to open                                Leaves starting to dry


Cotton Field ready to harvestAfter the harvest

            Cotton plants after defoliant applied                    Cotton field after harvesting (note all the wasted fiber!)


Cotton ModuleCotton Module being transported










   Cotton module weighing 10 metric tons (22,046 lbs)          Truck hauling cotton (notice the cotton littering the road!)


I am convinced that the cotton plant is definitive proof in the existence of God.  Here’s why:

  • The cotton plant has up to 16 bolls per plant, and 40 seeds per boll!
  • The cotton in the boll is lily white.  It does not need to be bleached.  It comes out of the boll as soft as a cotton ball.
  • It takes less than 24 plants to make enough cotton for a pair of blue jeans.  You can grow 24 plants in a 5 foot by 5 foot patch of land.
  • You can grow cotton in many areas with no irrigation!
  • The cotton seed husks are used for cattle feed while the centers are used to make cottonseed oil (a cooking oil)

Cotton bolls ready for harvest              lint and seeds from a boll (one of five in the boll!)

                     A cotton boll ready for harvest          The lint from on section of a boll (there are five sections per boll)

My son, Max (pictured above) has been obsessed with cotton balls and cotton swabs since he could crawl.  He calls them fuzzies, and even at age 4 he has to have a fuzzy in his hand (or within eyesight) at all times.  A cotton module is a dream come true for him.

Max also enjoys picking up the cotton that blew out of the trucks that hauled it away and landed in our yard:

Cotton litter from the cotton trucks

Cotton left by the cotton trucks hauling the cotton modules to the gin


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Death in America


My father used to say, “Son, there are only two things that are certain in this life: Death and taxes.”  It took me several years from the first time I heard that saying to actually believe my father.  When, at age 15, I studiously examined my very first pay stub I believed him about the taxes.  When, at age 35, I looked at my cousin, Mike, laying in a casket in a funeral home, I knew that my dad was right about the death part, too.

Mike wasn’t the first family member that I knew to die.  My father’s father, Smitty died when I was 25, but we weren’t very close and his funeral really didn’t bother me at all.  I told my uncle that the funeral home was “as cold as a morgue.”  He wasn’t amused.  I paid my sister $5 to touch his face, and offered her $25 to kiss him (she declined.)

Mike, on the other hand, was the closest thing to a brother that I ever had.  Together we were the only boys out of the 14 grandchildren on my mom’s side, and we lived, for a good part of my childhood, only a mile away from each other, and we used to get into all sorts of trouble on my grandfather’s farm.  Here is a photo of the two of us with our uncle and grandfather (both named Reed):

Also pictured is Buddy, the possum of international fame.

When Mike died, we were all traumatized, especially his wife and three young children.  The funeral was different from what I had expected.  First, there were hundreds of Mike’s friends there, and although he had a traditional casket, his friends had covered it with motorsports stickers such as Champion, Vance and Hines, Kawasaki, etcetera. Mike was a tow truck driver, and along the two-hour trip from the church in Douglasville where the funeral services were held to the cemetery in Marietta there were tow trucks blocking traffic at every intersection.  I feel bad for you if you needed a tow that day in Atlanta, because every wrecker in a 50 mile radius was there blocking traffic. 

Mike’s wife got the needed permits to drive his casket on the back of his flat-bed wrecker.   It was held down with bungee cords.  Along the way, a car not involved with the funeral got tired of the hundred-plus procession of mourners, and tried to pass us on the shoulder.  Some of Mike’s friends started throwing bottles and trash at the car as it passed, and the police, who witnessed the spectacle, and who doubtlessly knew Mike, pulled the interloper over and gave him a ticket.  I later told my wife that it was certainly what Mike would have wanted: a fight at his funeral.

Later, at the grave site, my uncle Reed (pictured above with the ball cap on, holding Buddy) flew a ceremonial kite, which he said symbolized Mike’s spirit ascending to the Heavens.  I was asked to dedicate the grave.

I share this with you to illustrate the ways that we cope with losing a loved one here in America.  The ways are varied and diverse.

Over a year after Mike’s death, I was surprised when I got a Facebook friend invitation from him.  At first I thought they had Facebook access on the Other Side, but later realized it was a way for his family to set up a sort of memorial to him.

You may have seen crosses by the side of the road, such as these:


I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why people do this.  There is an entire website dedicated to mocking those who do.  In my opinion, they are distracting, and in some cases have even caused accidents.

Lately I have seen a number of “night lights” placed on graves when passing cemeteries at night.  Check this out:


I don’t understand this one at all. I doubt the dead are afraid of the dark.


The battery powered crosses are nice, too.

At least we don’t bring our dead to sporting events, as happened recently in Colombia.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pretty in Pink


The road is a treasure-trove of opportunity for blog posts.  Today was very fortuitous, indeed.


My first thought was, wow.  That guy sure likes pink: Pink flames and even a pink cooler.  Then I got a closer look.


The pink rear seat is awesome!  One more parting shot for you:


I also saw a pink mustang convertible with the Barbie logo on the side, but I wasn’t fast enough to catch that one.  I did, however, get a photo of this one:


I also saw this license plate:


Yes, the license plate reads “JUCEE 1”, which translated into properly spelled English is “Juicy one”.  I saw the driver of this Dodge, and can attest that she was, in fact, “Juicy.”  In the sense that a bird would say a caterpillar is juicy.

This mustang’s vanity plate was a little risqué, too:

Tame Me

And my 350Z Nismo did, in fact “tame” the mustang.  Once we got out of traffic on 59, she punched it, and so did I.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Well, there are no planes in this post, and it is primarily about trains.

This weekend I took the Amtrak Crescent line from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to Atlanta, Georgia to visit my parents for my father’s 60th birthday.  I thought it would be a good idea to take the train versus driving or flying.  I thought that it would be a good way to catch up on some e-mails, maybe blog some, relax, see the countryside.  I had some romantic idea in my head that it would be like in the old black and white movies.  I wore a shirt with French cuffs, and a sport coat.

Let me tell you something: Disappointment is not just a town in Kentucky.

On the way to Atlanta, I took a sleeper car.  I highly recommend this approach if you do choose the train.

DSC_7359 DSC_7360

As you can see, a sleeper car is a two-seat private room with a bunk above for sleeping.  In some of these rooms there were as many as three people (two adults and a child in one) although I am sure that was a very tight fit.  Believe it or not, these little rooms have their own toilets tucked under the small table (in the picture above left, it is under my red bag.)

On the way back, I sat in steerage.  “Coach” is the official name, but it is miserable in many ways.


Although the seats are more comfortable than in a commercial airplane, that is akin to saying that Bayview Correctional Facility is more hospitable than Rikers Island.


I felt quite out of place due to the fact that I was the only person over the age of 12 without a tattoo.  I learned some new curse words, and met some very interesting people.  The guy in the seat next to me was pretty inebriated drinking Hennessy with a Mountain Dew chaser.


The two guys behind me were talking about deer hunting (one of them brought his bow.  Yes, really) comparing stories of the biggest buck they had ever killed, times they were almost shot by other hunters, times they almost got arrested for poaching.  Two seats ahead of me someone were watching an action movie that was punctuated by frequent F-bombs.  Another young man is listening to hip hop (for my older readers, that is just another word for Rap Music) on his iphone.

Once we passed the state line and crossed into Alabama, the train seemed to erupt in celebration.  It was Sunday, and it is illegal to sell alcohol in Georgia on Sunday, so people made a bee-line for the bar to order beer.

probably the biggest issue with the trip is one of duration: what would be a 80 minute flight or a six-hour car ride takes 10 hours by train.  On a good day, that is.  We had to stop multiple times for freight trains to pass.  It took 12 hours from Hattiesburg to Atlanta.

Friday, January 21, 2011

S is for Sedative


Again, I will make a disclaimer that this post is rated PG-13.  Read on at your own risk!

Tuesday, January 18th was the big day, the moment of truth.  I got to the urologist’s office at the appointed time, and was immediately given the obligatory urine sample cup and ushered into the restroom.  That morning I took the first of the three prescriptions I had been given for the surgery, and as I left the restroom, the nurse instructed me to put the second prescription under my tongue and to let it dissolve. She led me to a small room and instructed me to sit down on the table and to remove my pants.  She said a sentence that still chills me to this day: “Mr. Smith, someone will be in shortly to shave your scrotum.”

About 5 or maybe 10 minutes later, I could feel the action of the drug that I had dissolved under my tongue taking effect: I felt calm, happy and very at ease.  Aliens with battle-axes could have teleported into the room and I would have just smiled and introduced myself.  That is about when the nurse came in and told me to take my pants off.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, let me just say that I am pretty sure that prior to choosing nursing as her career, the nurse was probably a lunch lady at my elementary school.  She had strong arms, and a wide girth that would have made her equally adept as a center for the Green Bay Packers as a nurse.  She held proudly in her hand a Bick razor.  The stout nurse began to shave me, handling my genitals with the soft tenderness of someone working in a meat packing plant.  She shaved and shaved and shaved.  It took her longer than it takes me to shave my entire face.  She was extremely thorough.

Any delusions I might have had of my being a cultured gentleman were gone at that point.  I felt like Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: “At the age of 14 a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles.  There is really nothing like a shorn scrotum.”

Then the doctor came in.  He gave me a shot of something in the arm to “keep me calm.”  I asked him how he knew how much to dose, curious mostly, but also concerned because people often underestimate my weight.  He responded that over the years he had developed the ability to gauge how much to give.  As he was injecting me, he asked, “Do you drink?”  Jokingly I replied, “oh, yes.  Every day.”  I immediately realized that it was probably a mistake to make that joke, because he injected me with more of the sedative.  I don’t drink at all.

Before I knew it, the doctor says to me, “All done!”  I didn’t realize that he had started.  I tried to get up, and stumbled, and Olga, the nurse held my arm in a firm grim that was more appropriate to a Greco-roman wrestling match than a doctor’s office.  She must have put my pants on me, and as I realized later to my horror, a jock strap.  Another nurse led me out where my wife was waiting.  The nurse gave me instructions on how to care for the wounds, but noting my inebriated state, gave the instructions to my wife


I then thanked the nurse, and fist-bumped her.

In the car, I called people from work, my dad, friends, etcetera until my quick thinking wife prudently confiscated my phone.  I think I slept the entire afternoon.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

V is for Vasectomy

If you are under the age of 18 or if you are easily offended, read no more.  You have been warned!

This week my wife and I went to an appointment with a Urologist.  I am strongly considering getting a vasectomy.  No, that is not a surgery to remove a vase that you accidentally ate, but is a “long term form of birth control.”  Why did Rebecca go with me?  Did I need the emotional support?  No.  It is require by law in Mississippi that a man’s spouse, if he is married, accompany him to watch a video and to give her consent prior to undergoing the procedure.  More on the video later.

First, if you ever have to go to the urologist for any reason, don’t pee before you get there.  No matter why you are there, they will make you give a urine sample.  One guy came out of the bathroom with his little cup full and told the nurse, “Hey, I am only here to pay my bill.”

The urologist came in looking just like Michael Gross, the TV dad from Family Ties.  He was a little socially awkward, which isn’t terribly surprising considering the man dedicated his entire professional life to the study of urine, and urinary tracts.

The video was awesome.  It was made in the 1970’s and featured Dr. Mohammed Bulbul.  Below is a similar video so you get the idea.

Some of my favorite quotes from the video:

“After the procedure, you are going to need to avoid vigorous activities such as horseback riding, mechanical bulls, mountain biking, kickboxing, etcetera.” – Dr. Bulbul.

“After the procedure, I had some discomfort, not unlike if someone were pinching one of your testicles.” –the patient

“Tell me when I can open my eyes again” – Rebecca, while shielding her face from the segment where they show the doctor cutting the vas deferens, the small tube that connects the testicle to the seminal vesicle.

After the video and talking with the good doctor, I started to feel a little self-conscious, maybe a bit different, a bit eccentric.  I have four kids already.  The patient in the video said, “well, we had two kids already and that’s all we wanted, so the time was right to get sterilized.”  The Doctor told us that just about everyone who comes in has two kids.  According to him, once a couple has a boy and a girl, its a done deal.  Wow.

I am not sure I am comfortable with the word “sterile,” either.  It sounds harsh.  Final.

I asked my boss if it would be ok if I took four days of for “an elective out-patient surgery.”  He probably thinks I am going to get breast augmentation or something.

I have a tentative date set for the procedure.  Time to buy some ice packs and rent some movies.  I hear that it is popular for guys to get the procedure done around March Madness, so they can sit at home and watch the college basketball playoffs with an ice pack under their scrotum.  Good times.