JUST MUSING: “Donald in Wonderland…”

“Jimmy Dean sausage and eggs and perhaps some toast, white not wheat. Thank you, madam.”

“Thank you,” Chad said moving out of the view of the cameras; discrete, circumspect, deciphering the unusual request.  Smiling to herself, at the use of the word madam; he said it almost right, almost.

Later Chad retraced the same steps, and reentered the room.  She waited for an appropriate moment to inch forward, along the outward outline, receiving instruction of the pool producer she was permitted to move.

She inched closer, to emit a clear response to the request – at least she thought she was clear.  The response was delivered in a whisper – “Chef’s said, bunch…”

He – Complicit John – never expected this response.  He didn’t.

Complicit John was part of the world’s most powerful political contingent.  Moments before their contingent moved through the halls of the grand building, choosing a separate entrance, laughing at the “others”, who seemed shocked at the change in protocol. “We rock stars” – they bragged, which sounded like a misguided teen movie.  Breaking rules, wreaking havoc, turning the world upside down; up is down, down is up. Their sex, drugs and rock and roll is chaos.  They adopted a strange mantle, “famous, stable geniuses”; laughing at the rest of the world when they moved from one target to another.  They were their own weapons of mass destruction.  They never understood why the others laughed at their self-labeling.

Complicit John didn’t see Chad watch the contingent move down the hallway.  He was giggling with Complicita Sarah at the time.  Chad remembered him. She wondered about the awkward smirks.  He seems so cocksure – so she thought.

Complicit John repeated what Chad said, not because he didn’t hear her.  He was shocked she didn’t understand that her answer meant, “No”.  She couldn’t have meant, “No.”

Chad knew what she was saying.  Her response was clear, layered with an additional dose of incredulity – “Bunch!?”  Not at all unsure was the tone and manner.  A response as forthright as the forthrightness of reality and certitude burned her darkened skin hue.

Complicit John only saw Chad’s color.  In Complicit John’s world, Chad couldn’t say no.  Do what I say. Do what I want – his world, their world – a daily ride to Wonderland; a daily, discounted pass to Donald in Wonderland.

“Bunch,” she repeated, “bunch!” removing the question mark, accentuating the exclamation.

Complicit John had requested what he believed to be a Texas sausage – part of the base, so he thought.  Jimmy Dean was no longer a Texas sausage – if it ever was – long before purchased by a conglomerate.  Jimmy Dean was sold by the singer/originator in 1984 long before the singer/originator’s death in 2010.  Ironically (irony is one of those things which is full supply in Wonderland), Complicit John made the request even though he didn’t particularly like pork sausage.  A bit too spicy, made him gaseous.  One of the foods found on the list given to him by his doctor.  Written as a suggestion, implying he should avoid.  The suggestion was later converted to a demand – by his body – joining an additional list of foods he should assiduously avoid.  An unexpected frown and facial twitches always followed when Complicit John ate Jimmy Dean – if fact any pork sausage.  The frown was – always, always, always – followed by violent, silent gaseous odors, which appeared at the most inopportune times.  Jimmy Dean was ordered anyway.  To see what they would say, how they would react, loud enough so that everyone on the other side of table could hear him.  The world was their oyster.

Chad didn’t flinch.  Bunch meant brunch.  She wasn’t bringing him Jimmy Dean sausage and eggs, even if the kitchen had a dozen rolls in the kitchen.  It didn’t.

Moving quickly away, listening to the room fill with gaseous odors; away from Complicit John, past Elton John’s Comparator, who sat to the left of Complicit John.  She smiled at the Comparator, not because she liked him – the stable genius – she didn’t.  In addition, she flat out hated the Comparator’s comparison of himself and Mr. John.

He doesn’t like gays. I’m gay. Elton John is gay.

Furthermore Comparator can’t sing; at least she didn’t believe he could.  Sure she knew who Jim Nabors was; she wasn’t a friend of the late actor/singer.  When walking past she thought, he aren’t Jim Nabors, even in Wonderland.  She also knew John was famous / famous – white famous as one comedian has mused.  He is only famous in his own mind, infamous is better word.

Chad laughed when on the other side of the room.  Out of hearing distance of the odious, gaseous sounds, moving towards the kitchen for the first time, to tell the Chef what she had said.  She wanted to make sure he knew.  She lied on him.  She had never asked him about Jimmy Dean and eggs.

He didn’t mind.  Not in a thousand immigrant days did he object.  His history silenced any possible objection.  Chef Algiers travelled from Africa when he was eighteen, twenty years ago, and joined the French Army.  He was later was assigned to NATO.  When the position of chef came open five years ago, he applied and was hired.  He reasoned Chad, a native of Chad, technically didn’t lie on him.

Chad requested to leave early.  She told Algiers’ she intended to travel from Brussels to Great Britain – to cross freely over the border – an act she intended to repeat, as long as England remained in the Union.  Chad told Algiers she wasn’t going to visit relatives this time.  She wanted to join in the protest against the Great Comparator.  She hoped Complicit John saw her in the crowds.  She particularly wanted to see the Baby Comparator.

.

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JUST MUSING: “Those were the days…”

The artwork was the familiar, contained on a business card – a little more than three inches by two inches – imbedded with a blended image of the great ape and people of color – my color, the Negroid race – making an explicit point. At the bottom of the picture, sometimes on the back, was the contact information for the Ku Klux Klan. The card was never handed out personally to me, meaning someone saying, “Here is my card, if you’re interested.” No, no, that wasn’t the point. Theirs wasn’t an invitation to join. Placed in the door jam, on the counter, slipped inside a book, near enough, close enough, so there wasn’t any misunderstanding who the intended recipient, our place on God’s green earth.

The act(s) was actually behavior more complex than the issuance of a simple business card. Behavior imbedded in the culture.

Language, art, the written word – benign and covert acts – powerful symbols capable of converting fruit to an obscene level, degrading, “Animal like creatures they are.” Watermelons, bananas – causing some who looked like me – including me – to refuse to eat those fruits in public. Theirs was a participatory sport, and they all participated, historians, social, physical, medical scientists – all participants – continually supported and provided cover for the differences in the species. In actuality they were enforcing a system of enforced inferiority, protecting a caste system at the same time.  This is where Roseanne Barr’s tweet was directed. Her act was no different.

It confuses me when we as a society pretend to not understand the outrage and why a publically traded corporation (Walt Disney Company) in this century refuses to participate in Roseanne’s revisionist tweet and why it – the corporation – decided not to allow her to continue to represent their corporate interest.

She apologized? She didn’t apologize? She took it back? She didn’t? It matters not, ABC/Disney properly said no – not this century, not this time was an appropriate response. If you have spent generations believing, I guess ABC’s actions are mind-boggling. If you find nothing wrong with the “joke”, this is why I muse.

I have told the below story before.  I will repeat it. It is apropos, even though the events took place over twenty five years ago.

______________________

I was visiting the client’s business at the time. I don’t remember the exact year. I don’t remember the particular season. I do remember the weather was seasonably hot and humid, accompanying us as we stood in the parking lot talking about the client’s new problem.

A Mississippi boy, thirty years my senior, who grew up at a time our attorney-client relationship – in all probability – would not have existed, would have not been permitted. At the time I had represented the client’s personal and business interests for five years. We had been successful in acquitting him against multiple criminal indictments and had at least three courts dismiss as many as fifteen different criminal cases filed against him and the businesses.

During our conversation, he – the client – looked my way, and frowned. His wasn’t a sun frown. He didn’t seem to have gas.  It seemed something else was bothering him.

“Mr. Griffin, how much money do I pay you a year?”

I shrugged a simple shrugged, both shoulders moving up, hands extending outward, not knowing why he asked; not knowing the exact amount, knowing a range instead.

“I don’t know Doyle, $50 – $60,000.00 a year for the last five years, on average.”

Doyle frowned again. He moved his head in the other direction, away from me, avoiding eye contact. Doyle’s frown and movement seemed familiar.

The frown was not the frown seen when someone bites too fast, too deep into a lemon. No different, his was a historical frown. The same frowns etched across faces on those Fort Worth’s buses, when we – as children – entered and sat anywhere we wanted, besides them – white women, white men – part of the dismantling of segregation. The difference on the day I stood with Doyle, in Texas’ relentless heat, was time had continued to changed.

I never questioned those I sat near on the bus. Absolutely, I was insulted – and hurt – when their frowns were coupled with their moving both face and nose, like we stunk. I brought the event to momma. She explained racism nicely, and explained to “play them no mind.” I never questioned those sitting in the bus though. I questioned Doyle, about what my eyes saw, what my memory said.

“Doyle, can I interpret your frown?”

Doyle being Doyle, answered, with Mississippi accent still intact, “Sure Mr. Griffin, be my guest.”

So I did. I took a swing. Smooth as Bobby Bond’s swing – bat back, arms straight, stepping forward and through – swinging pure and sweet.

“You thought you would never see a day, growing up in Mississippi, where you would ever pay a Black man that kind of money…that was the frown I saw Doyle.”

And not to my surprise, Doyle answered, “You’re right Mr. Griffin, except I didn’t think the words, ‘black man.’ I thought another word. I thought only one word instead.”

I didn’t laugh. Doyle didn’t laugh. We didn’t need to. Ours was the act of sharing a bit of honesty and history. I said what I saw. He confirmed what I saw, correcting me for using two words instead of one. He knew he couldn’t use the word anymore and wasn’t about to do so. We wished each other well. He went back to work. I did too. When I was driving off, I understood things were a changing, something folks like Roseanne and her ilk refuse to accept, forever wanting to return to those years of psychological comfort and imposed superiority.

JUST MUSING: “So I pray…so I muse…”

I am confused. Staring and studying photographs. Wondering why the captured images possess extended lips. I saw something else when peering into other’s worlds – Georgia stood in the corner ready to pounce. I admit Georgia’s was not a defined image. She still hovered much like she did when we were children, while commanding – “Put your lips in.” Georgia viewed the extended lip condition as defiance to her chastisement, whether verbal or physical. Georgia’s image in the photos is more ghost-like, an image engraved into my imagination. Causing me to remember, cry, but don’t cry too much; be careful not to extend your lips. Knowing, always knowing – engraved into a child mind – it will take her a little time to calm down because of our/us/we/she/he/me doing what we had done wrong.

A single mom attempting to keep seven children out of harm’s way, making sure we understood it was necessary for us to be frightened of at least one person on God’s green earth – her. Don’t be confused, we were afraid. We recognized Georgia as the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, running the roost – her roost – on Perry Street.

What strange poses? Arms extended outside of the frame, an unseen object in one of their hands, everyone’s lips pursed. I have never heard of Lime disease before – not Lyme disease, Lime disease. A disease caused from eating too many limes, causing ones lips to pucker. No, never have, but clearly these friends and strangers are so infected. The condition must be a communal disease; in every picture his/her/their lips seem to display the same distorted extensions.

What on earth! Poor souls!

Georgia’s wont and commands were simple:

“Stop crying!” “You will listen to my instructions next time!” “I will give you something to get mad at … don’t push your lips out at me!”

No, no, no, Georgia wasn’t an abuser, more of an enforcer; a benevolent ruler, who always extended a warning before taking action; one time, twice, three times. “If you don’t understand… if you do … if you do … You do understood, don’t you? Do it again, and I will beat you until your head roke like okra!”

We had never cooked okra when the warning was first uttered. We were children had eaten it, but never cooked it. The physical properties of okra were unknown to us. We didn’t have to ask what roke or rokes meant; having some understanding the origin of the word wasn’t necessary. Georgia’s sentence structure and the words used provided sufficient understanding of what she meant. The meaning wasn’t good.

Our lips – we couldn’t do anything about them. We be children of color, existing in a balmy South. The only thing we knew about lip altering procedures was to “drink plenty of water to keep them from cracking”. We were the “you know what Vaseline is, don’t you”, generation.

It took years before one of us finally explained to Georgia, “Momma my lips aren’t sticking out. They are made this way.” Her warning face was on at the time. This time – that time – the face melted. Not like okra. More like butter, losing definition and form, taking away structure; melting, clarifying, revealing a change in condition, converting from a solid substance to a liquid one. She bent her back forward; both hands grabbed both knees; a soft sound emitted initially, followed by a hearty laugh. She wiped both eyes, turned in the opposite direction, saying nothing else. The laughter had become personified. Or perhaps she permitted it to continue, giving permission. Either one, it resumed, resonating – extending out, filling the small space, granting permission for her charge to laugh. Laughter which invaded every nook and cranny; one of many cherished moments – knowing her love was greater than any contemplated punishment for our/my/his/her malfeasance.

Art Linkletter when he was nearing his 100th birthday explained the greatest invention in his lifetime was the advances seen in the medical sciences; extending lifespans, curing diseases, ceasing life-sapping plagues. Linkletter died on May 26, 2010, at the age of 97. With Linkletter’s quote in mind, oh how I wish the medical scientists figure out a cure for this terrible disease. None of its victims ever attach explanations to their social posts. Go Fund Me requests are absent. I am sure some of us would happily extend help with medical costs. I have seen no posts educating us with what “they too” are experiencing. Celebrities have remained quiet when they should not; Harvey Weinstein/Bill Crosby quiet, secrets contained in cloistered and exclusive circles.

Looking closely, I noticed some of their lips were “like that”, extended naturally; surely not that naturally. Others were not as naturally endowed – they too though were pouty, extended, afflicted by this horrible disease. A non-discriminatory predator – everyone pursed, soured, extended in a distorted manner. These electronic images remained engraved into my frontal lobes causing me to be concerned for the safety of strangers/friends/love ones/others.

So I pray. So I muse.

JUST MUSING: “Uncle Bobby…”

The Department of Labor recently issued a report, citing record low unemployment.  Listening to pundits tout the numbers, I waited for someone to say the numbers were actually a narrow view of the economy. No one has, no one will.  A famous rapper likewise made an astounding pronouncement. The rapper’s views on race and world history raised sane eyebrows, caused some to gnash their teeth. They ignored his statements were a familiar litany. He has asserted other supposed truths in the past, has always come off as a braggart on a multitude of topics (fame, money, women (misogyny)). I feel more comfortable in characterizing the new moment in the sun as nothing more than an Uncle Bobby. The Uncle Bobby moment applies to the famous rapper, the Department of Labor’s pronouncement, and the unhinged statements of a former mayor when he stepped back into the limelight, arguing a pending federal investigation is the work of Nazis.

Everyone has a crazy uncle. This fact is why certain behavior should be viewed with a slanted eye. For clarification, I am not musing about the Sexual Deviant Uncle Bobby. The sexual deviant Uncle Bobby is the one who touches and hugs too long, blaming errant tongues, hands, lips on their medication, the victim, on role-playing. My reference to Crazy Uncle Bobby is referencing the wildly off-balanced condition which deceptively takes on the appearance of being balanced, when it is not. There is always a severe disconnect between facts and Crazy Uncle Bobby’s behavior. Spinning out of control, thinking too much, too little, trying to make sense of the world, most times failing – this is Crazy Uncle Bobby’s way – sharing baseless theories and thoughts. When their surmises are examined, one realizes Crazy Uncle Bobby musings are constructed on logic which has the weight bearing capability of ground coffee waste – brown/black, mushy and pungent – incapable for bearing its own weight, spreading and dispersing with the slightest touch.

Uncle Bobby’s condition is a communal one, meaning shared by others. This is the reason everyone has one. Over-talking thoughts, believing his incredible stabs in the dark – ideas, concepts, and thoughts – are new, unique, even bothering on profound.  He never sees to the contrary, blinded to what others see. Spewing, “you know” – because Crazy Uncle Bobby(s) always starts any conversation with meaningless words, and phrases. “You know.”

Self-absorbed souls – looking back, forward – thoughts percolating from the bottom of the mound, causing an inconsistent, disconnected, scattering of thoughts. Wires crossed, causing his brain waves to flow slightly off kilter, short-circuiting somewhere along the way. Words flowing out and over, in an Uncle Bobby kind-of-way, muttering unique utterances which never meeting the definition of insanity (in a legal sense), insaneness though, flat out crazy is he, are they.

Looking in the camera, philosophizing: “When I hear about slavery for 400 years. That sounds like a choice.” The world was shocked. His family was probably not. They knew. We shouldn’t be shocked. I was not. I have seen the condition before.

Citing personal remembrances or the historical record to show Uncle Bobby the error of his ways will not work. Telling him the comments were hateful, hurtful, idiotic, are nothing more than futile stabs in the dark. Walking away, calling Uncle Bobby an audible “fool” is good enough. Let Uncle Bobby love whoever and whatever he wants and walk away. Walk rapidly away.

“Stay away from Uncle Bobby.”

“Mother I’m not a child anymore, I know Uncle Bobby’s crazy.”

The Crazy Uncle Bobby condition is much like aging. Sneaking in, announced/unannounced, taking over at the strangest of times – morning, mid-morning, lunch, evening, night – the predictable and unpredictable visitor who overstays the visit, submits a change of address without, and stares unflinchingly, when an attempt is made to discuss the prolonged stay. Crazy Uncle Bobby as a mental condition silently obscures rational thought.  This is the reason everyone has a Crazy Uncle Bobby.

Be clear – the condition is not necessarily a mental illness. Albeit distinguishing between what is and what isn’t is problematic. Uncle Bobby in the meantime continues to walk, function, exist; he never bothered about trying to determine which. Nothing wrong until something is wrong. Scientists may discover the condition is actually the male ego which has weathered, aged – wearing on the edges – causing unpredictable behavior. Such a finding would not and cannot be be the answer. There are too many of us out here who can attest their Uncle Bobby has been acting a fool as long as they can remember. Forever stating the most inappropriate statements, no matter the conversation or circumstances; always marching to a different drummer.

“Momma did you hear what Uncle Bobby said?”

“Baby, can we talk about something else.”

The change in the calculation for the unemployment rate, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLSS), involved lowering the calculation from five years to two years.  The change means the long-term unemployed are no longer counted, magically lowering the unemployment rate. I bet Crazy Uncle Bobby convinced the rest of them the new calculation makes sense.

On February 3, 2015, Gallup referenced the unemployment statistics as “the big lie”.

If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job — if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed.

Facts don’t matter when Crazy Uncle pontificates. Never make the mistake of proclaiming, “what!?” Crazy Uncle Bobby sees the question mark. He ignores the explanation mark. He and the decisions he wrought are worse than a functioning drunk, more properly, the pontification of a functioning fool.

Appearing logical when they aren’t, veering off the rails in both manner and mode, nary dependent upon studies, or reasoned thought is Crazy Uncle Bobby’s way. Changing the rules, forever providing descriptions in unnecessary detail – why and how he came to his reasoned conclusions – telling everyone foolishly listening they are smartest of the smart.

Don’t be confused by wealth class or position. The Crazy Uncle Bobby condition does not work as an impediment to Crazy Uncle Bobby(s) moving throughout the social hierarchy. They are much like cockroaches. Successful, adaptable, and ever present tribute to their ability to survive structures which may limit others. A condition played out on a spool – over, over, over – convincing others the rightest of their ways.

Don’t be fooled in the future. Recognize the condition for what it is. Reference Uncle Bobby as you should – “fool” – and walk away. When walking – fleeing – you are permitted to remind yourself, “we all have one, we all have one, we all have one.”

 

JUST MUSING: “Taps played to green and red…”

Watching tears flow, chests heave, and unspeakable grief play out on our televisions.  Being forced to revisit time and place.  Questioning how school shootings have become so commonplace, not protecting our children; terminating lives early; changing channels, avoiding discussing the unspeakable.  Casting eyes elsewhere, while rapid sounds continue to ring in our heads, hearing a now familiar sound of rapid gun fire, wondering what we would do, how we would act if faced with such terror.

What we can do now?  “Too soon to talk,” repeated by some.  “We will pray for you”, regurgitated by others.  Words spoken in the same predictable manner as a wound-up toy, moving across the floor, in a familiar pattern or path, towards the wall – repeat, repeat, repeat – knowing full well once it unwound any movement will cease, incapable of doing nothing else, against the wall, on the floor, until the next time.

“We will pray for you”, they say again; reminding us of those people we never want to pray for us.  Knowing they may well pray – and nothing else – before going back to their regular activities, while the slaughter continues. A hollow sound, ringing – tap – tap – neither black or white, non-discriminatory terror played out in living color, rendering from our children real blood.  Oh sure, I remember the adages reminding us that even with forest fires, there is rebirth.  The reminders:  flood water cures droughts, bringing to our planet nourishment, replenishment of the water table; traumatic events represent the good and bad.  Changing lives, sometime tragic, others times not; forever reminders for us to keep the faith.  Should we assume this time, the next – the next?  From ashes to ashes, dust to dust, so we say.  So we pray.

Stopping in place, looking at familiar tears flowing, while these survivors expressed their anger, packaging fears in tidy bundles, screaming back at America, joining the Sandy Hook, Columbine parents, the rest of us, all infected with this uniquely American disease.  Screaming at politicians and those who wrongly believe their freedoms are tied to a totally unregulated ownership of weapons of mass-destruction.  Speaking truth to power, screaming at those with real and ostensible power; don’t pray for us, do something or we will.  Awakening me from my stupor; perhaps awakening others too.

Telling they did.  Following the color of money, both red and green; posting contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA); using profane words, seemingly more appropriate this time, not-at-all about respecting ones elders.

Tattle-tales they were; speaking truths about the duplicity of our supposed leaders.  You were not there, in the closets, under the desk, watching my friend die, said as a promise to their dead and dying friends who occupied the same battlefield; done while those same strange sounds continue to overlay – over and on top of their reality – causing words, and promises to emit from the mouths of babes.  Tap – tap – tap.

Perhaps there will be action this time.  Not from our leaders.  Not from those sending hollow prayers.  Committed words spoken around and under flowing tears, promising to work at stopping the nonsense; not wanting their siblings, friends and later generations to experience the same blind madness we have permitted on our watch.

JUST MUSING: “Even those mean white men down at the Cotton Gin…”

Some of life’s lessons never leave us, even if buried, unseen for years, presumably gone the way of lost memories.  The lessons remain engraved, assuming a dominant position at unforeseen times, buried in some undefined place in our psyches.  Forgotten but not forgotten is a contradictory way of explaining that which is not contradictory, and not complex.  My mother’s mother use repetitiveness and firm commands to make her point, “respect your elders.”  It was never “yes”, unless followed by “ma’am”.  “No, sir”, even for the mean white men down at the Cotton Gin, when I dare asked.  Correcting, reminding, reaching over, grabbing – a hand-full of shirt – converting me into the boy puppet.  “Yes, ma’am,” head moving up and down, arms now engaged in the submissive mode; eyes, mouth, body movements – everything – controlled by the puppet-master.  If the hand inserted in the back didn’t work, a firm tap on the back of the head seemed to work just fine; reminding, re-engaging the circuitry, somewhat akin to striking the television set of my youth on the side, the top, in the back, in order to get a clearer picture; in the case of Chester Anna, to elicit a proper response.

“Yes sir.”

I have never fooled myself to believe the training was not successful.  Mind’s eye said she possessed the ability to sneak anywhere, day or night, and she did so when placing a stamp of approval, visible only to her, in a location I could not see, certifying I was sufficiently compliant and properly trained in the etiquette of the society.   She retained these powers even after her death.  No need for you to give me any mystical explanation of what I believe.  I don’t care.  It is what I believe.  I don’t need an explanation.

“No, ma’am, I am not hungry.  I don’t want anything to eat.  Thank you anyway,” words said even when starving, sitting in place, not moving, while aromas moved from kitchen to the living area, invading every ounce of a child’s deprived body, wanting to say yes, wanting to admit hunger, knowing full well the consequences if you did..  A “no, ma’am” feebly emitted; forever hearing Chester Anna’s admonishments, seeing her hand near – none of those vivid rainbow sightings, no beautiful flowers, no smiling faces – no, no, no, her presence was always accompanied by a stare, more intense than the sun’s glow, never profane, forever pious.  However ready to erupt, much like Mount Agung, on a moment notice, willing to test the circuitry at any moment.  Tap! Tap!

“You eat at home!”

These were lessons ingrained.  Never assume they have been lost over time.  Not my history.  Forever receiving reminders, similar to flood water, invading no matter what mystical powers you believe will protect you from Mother Nature.  Somewhat akin to being reminded intelligence is never artificial, no matter what they tell us – whatever that means – but I digress.

The most recent reminder was this Thanksgiving.  Appearing not in disguise; easily recognizable; so apparent I thought this is a trick question.  Surely Chester Anna was lurking, waiting for me to respond improperly, ready to move across the room – tapping, tapping, tapping a cane pole against the floor.  I was not going to be fooled.  I will never be fooled.  Never, ever again; I know my role.

After saying “no” twice to attending a family dinner to two different and equally important family members, I received a call from an elder, my 96 year old mother-in-law.  “You are coming to the family dinner?  Even though I have placed a question mark after the words, there was no question mark buried in the intent.  There lies the trick.  She knew the answer to the question and wanted me to repeat the answer to make sure I understood.  She didn’t wait for an answer to the first statement.  She followed immediately with, “If you don’t attend, I will never speak to you as long as I am alive.”  The last statement/test/trick was followed by a chuckle.  A Lena chuckle, forever laughing at her own jokes, affirming to me she had spoken to Chester Anna.    I looked around to see if Chester Anna was in the room.  I saw skeleton images, like the ones seen the Day of Dead celebrations in Mexico.  I didn’t think for a moment to wait for them to reveal theirs were costumes.  I answered immediately.  Knowing you always answer immediately.  Loud enough, so she could hear, so Chester Anna could hear.  Loud enough to receive my collar back, to be permitted to move off my toes, to the floor again.  “Yes, ma’am I will be there.”  No mumbling allowed.  Clear diction, said in a manner which said I meant every word.  Said with a correct posture, so there would be no doubt, just in case either of them was staring at meet through the phone lines, from some unseen place to cast retribution.

No more deviance.  No more saying what I will not do.  Immediate compliance in order that the images would move away, “what time do you want me there?”, was the question.  Laugh if you want.  I was a ten year compliant little boy, retreating backward in time, paying respects to an elder, knowing my place.  The same respect I paid to “even those mean white men down at the Cotton Gin.”

“One o’clock.”

“Yes ma’am, see you there.”

JUST MUSING: “Don’t be duck-ist…”

Mickey Mouse and his charge were angered by The Los Angeles Times reporting on Disney’s relationship with the City of Anaheim.  The Times’ story posed questions about Mickey’s influence on the City, to the detriment of other taxpayers.  After the Times refused to retreat, Mickey, Daffy, Goofy, and Elsa (a new generation star), persuaded the Board of Disney to invoke a Times only ban on the Times preview of Disney’s new releases.  For those unfamiliar, the press is allowed the opportunity to see new releases prior to the movies’ distribution to the public.  The Times responded in kind, issuing a press release telling the public about Mickey’s edict.

NOV. 3, 2017, 6:00 A.M.

A note to readers

The annual Holiday Movie Sneaks section published by the Los Angeles Times typically includes features on movies from all major studios, reflecting the diversity of films Hollywood offers during the holidays, one of the busiest box-office periods of the year. This year, Walt Disney Co. studios declined to offer The Times advance screenings, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with Anaheim. The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public.

 

Donald was the only one who sided with the Times.  Standing alone, on the right side of the Board room, one webbed foot planted on the floor, the other on the wall; leaning back, quacking, protesting much too loudly, speaking imperceptibly against the Board’s anticipated decision.  A good transcriptionist would have had difficulty deciphering Donald’s mutterings; spitting out choice words, some profane, in the heart of Walt’s world.              “The Board’s rule strikes at the heart of the First Amendment.   The right of a free and an unfettered press,” Donald’s words, translated to plain-speak.  Mickey and the others were nonplussed.  Mickey turned to his right, cuffed both hands, telling Snow White – and the other seven – to stop giggling.  A non-jolly Mickey, a different face than his public face; frowning instead of smiling, speaking in a lower octave – a bass not a tenor – explaining, “He knows not what he is doing,” seemingly revealing the voice the public has heard all these years was made-up, a false, comical, insulting, falsetto.

“We are not preventing them from reporting.   There is nothing requiring us to allow the Times to review of our movies, Mr. Duck.  Mr. Disney would be terribly disappointed in your position.  I have to tell you I am.   The Board is apparently in agreement, Mr. Duck.  The will of the majority, not the tyranny of the majority – as I heard you say,” said the Board’s chair.

Donald stood firm, hissing, spouting, spitting his words out – not Cajun, not Bawstan, nothing like the most severe southern accent – words spilling out in an unpredictable cadence, with quacks interspersed unexpectedly, further muddling his opposition.  Donald’s anger compounded the problem, distorting his diction, making the opposition doubly unreasonable.

Donald believed in free speech, even for Elmer Fudd.  Fudd didn’t look like him.  Fudd believed differently than he.  Fudd wasn’t part of the Disney family.  Donald didn’t know what Fudd was; he even sounded funny to Donald, a stuttering, cartoonish buffoon was Donald’s unkind opinion of Mr. Fudd.  The interesting part of their relationship – Donald understood what Fudd was saying when he talked.  His difficulty lay in Elmer’s tendency to repeat himself.  He also detested Fudd calling him down for cursing.  None of these differences with Fudd mattered at this time.  Donald was a pure civil libertarian.  He believed in the right of free speech even for Fudds; meaning others, friends and foes alike.

Donald was wrong however on his First Amendment point to the Board.  The Board’s lawyer delightfully corrected him.  “We are not the government Mr. Duck, and the last time I checked no one has amended the First Amendment to add anyone other than Congress.  ‘Congress and Disney … shall make no laws,’ no, no, no, not how it works.  I have never seen Disney’s name referenced in the Constitution.”

Oh, ‘the not how it works”, got everyone going; hissing, cackling, laughing, clapping, stomping, a rather cartoonish, clownish, clannish bunch they were – Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Belle, Princess Jasmine, Maleficent and even Elsa turned in unison, shouting Donald down, pointing to the floor.  The scene took on the ambiance of a sporting event, done in a style that only Disney could produce.  Thumb emojis floated across the screen located on the back wall behind the Board, pointing downward.  Disney being Disney, the animations were life-like; they moved off the screen, floated through the air, pointing downward, frowning while they travelled in the unison.  Riotous, cavorting, snickering behavior was the mood of those watching this mean version of the Wonderful World of Disney, converting and changing the words of the theme song, “When you wish upon a star, makes a difference who you are.”  Daisy, Donald’s girlfriend, turned, batted her eyes and spit.  Instead of sputum flying the fifteen feet separating them, animated block letters flew out and upward, then corrected themselves, lining up in an orderly manner, and instead of a Disney-like chorus line, they spelled out the word, L-O-S-E-R.

The Board ignored Donald’s plea, leaving Donald isolated.  They voted their intent, exited stage right, and were heard mumbling over a live microphone, “He always quacks.”  The comment angered Donald.  He found the comment derogatory, off-putting, hateful; bordering on being … “duck-ist.”

The Board knew the law.  Disney has and always has had good lawyers.  The same lawyers who refused to give an interview to The Los Angeles Times when the story broke.  The law firm is located in Sleepy Hollow.  Absolutely, the lawyers had advised Disney correctly: “Disney can’t control the Times’ reporting (“the right of a free press is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution”) … “we don’t owe them the right to review our movies early.”

So it was, the Board accepted their lawyer’s advice; we don’t have to talk to you defense.  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Iger approved the motion, followed by a second, told Mr. Duck he was out of order, followed by the previously predicted unanimous vote; putting in place a Los Angeles Times only policy.  Thus the Mickey induced policy allowed Disney to raise the ladders, secret behind the moat, permitting Iger and his minions to secret away to their magical castles to cherish the applause of the admiring minions.

Joy, joy, joy filled the air, Donald grew silent, dejected and moved toward the exit, while others in Disney’s universe celebrated, anticipating a joyous holiday season and wonderful reviews of Disney’s movies with the banishment of the tattletales.  Donald’s sadness permitted the door to hit him where it shouldn’t – dead center – rousing him from his stupor, causing the emission of a severe, shrill, startling quack, propelling Donald upward and outward into the arms of the Times’ reporter.  She was there covering the meeting, and exited before Donald to interview him for a follow-up story.

Donald was particularly fond of the Times’ reporter.  No, no, don’t jump to conclusions.  Donald’s not like that; never has been; never will be; Donald is Donald, a different Hollywood star.  A different relationship was theirs.  He was the reporter’s source in a number of different areas:  labor issues, mergers and acquisitions, even admitting he had a favorite Mouseketeer.  This last admission appeared in a fluff piece published in January 2015.  The reporter was forever mining sources, listening, reporting, loving the breadth and size Disney represented.  A fan, a critic and now standing in the hallway, holding Donald, catching him with a basket catch, the same catch she had deployed in the Lassie League in San Bernardino when she was a child.

҉            ҉            ҉

The Disney universe is vast.  Disney’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing of subsidiaries reflects ownership of different entities worldwide, including the familiar Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Pixar, Marvel Studios, ABC broadcast television network, cable television networks such as Disney Channels, ESPN, A & E Networks and Lucas Films.  Other studios which are part of this conglomerate:  Touchstone Pictures, Maker Studios, and ABC Studios.  Disney also owns multiple musical publishing companies, resorts, and theatrical groups.   Disney’s holdings are worldwide; delivering a gross income in 2016 of 22.91 billion.  A conglomerate engaged in the business of speech through various means; movies, books, publications, entertainment, and advertisements.  Cornell Law School’s website explains, “Commercial speech has been defined by the Supreme Court as speech where the speaker is more likely to be engaged in commerce, where the intended audience is commercial or actual or potential consumers, and where the content of the message is commercial in character.”

Notwithstanding, what one may think of Disney’s size, the Board’s lawyer was right with regards to her assessment of the law and the proper way of protecting her client.  Moving a recognizable flock of white hair with one hand, back over her head; mingling the hair with hair a different color.  A raven now appeared, hovering overhead.  The lawyer emitted a laugh heard before, a familiar laugh.  Her name was Cruella de Vil.  Before going to law school de Vil was part of the studio’s permanent cast.  A classical, mean, beauty was she.  Meaning of the last statement? – One of those people who possessed a non-welcoming smile, a smile which was not a smile, an illusion.  Lawyer de Vil could honestly brag that she didn’t look her age.  Nary an errant line; possessing the same youthful mane when introduced to the public in 1961 (101 Dalmatians); same laugh, she was the original Frozen, frozen in place, over time, preserved.   Disney’s creators served her well.  Now a different profession, stacking papers, with an eerie smile affixed, talking to an associate:  “Mr. Duck’s reaction when he flew off the wall was classic.  When the emoji struck him on the side the head, it was better than any other animation I have ever seen.  Flying, stumbling out of the room, getting struck dead smack under his tail.  Bravo!  Dead center, I say, dead center!”

҉            ҉            ҉

In 1938 Mickey, Donald and Goofy starred in a film-short in which Goofy damn near got Donald killed.  Donald, for some reason, blamed Mickey.  There was a considerable period of time in which they did not speak.  Gossip has it Donald held the grudge for ten years and didn’t appear (voluntarily) in another film-short, until 1954.  May be true, may be not true.  The truth of their past didn’t matter when Donald exited, webbed feet first.  Donald understood fundamental rights were not about friendship.

The initial Los Angeles Times story was written by Daniel Miller and was published on September 24, 2017.  The story was entitled, Is Disney paying its share in Anaheim?:  The money battle outside the Happiest Place on Earth.  The article revealed some startling information, including the following introduction:

 A few hours after the gates swing open at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, the cars are still pouring into the massive 10,241-space parking garage.

They zoom into the six-story concrete structure, carloads of costumed kids, foreign tourists and graying baby boomers sporting Mickey Mouse ears, “Frozen” dresses and “Star Wars” backpacks.

The cash pours in too: Each vehicle pays $20 to park at the Mickey & Friends facility, $35 for a preferred space close to the escalators and elevators.

Even if the parking garage fills just half its spaces, it would still generate more than $35 million in annual revenue and easily hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the structure.

That money all goes to Walt Disney Co. The city of Anaheim, which owns the garage and spent $108.2 million to build it, charges the company just $1 a year for the lease.

The Times’ article concluded, and rightly so, that Disney is the master of obtaining subsidies for its ventures, securing “$866 million in incentives it secured for film production, real estate development and other projects from 2000 to 2016”, far outpacing “incentives won by its rival media conglomerates, according to IncentivesMonitor, a services of data firm Wavteq Ltd.  Disney’s haul was more than double what Time Warner Inc., Comcast Corp, Viacom Inc. and 21st Centruy Fox Inc. each got over the same period.”  The Times’ reporting did what a free press does, the article begged the questions which needed answering, allow fresh air to enter, invited sunlight to shine on a conglomerate, even one as beloved as Disney, to ascertain whether the Government was wisely using public funds.  Too much fresh air entered, The Times got itself banned the from the preview of Disney’s new releases, and the instatement of The Los Times’ only rule.  A rule instated to punish the press for telling on them; telling the public what Mickey and his friends were doing to the rest of us.

Donald understood free speech meant protecting the odious message too, even if the message was hostile to his interest.  Never aging, appearing in film-short after film-short, known world-wide, knowing his position may well lead to his demise – erased from tablets, deleted from computers, digitally altered, morphing into something else other than Donald Duck were the dangers he faced.   Donald had treaded this path before, once helping organize Park employees, who wanted to publicly tell which characters the employees played.  Fortune Magazine in June 2015 reported the dispute.  This union is attacking Disney’s weirdest policy, read Fortune’s caption.  The union – the Teamsters – represented the Park employees.

And what was Mr. Mouse’s position in this dispute?  Suck-up Mickey could not have cared less; always the favorite son; forever supportive of management, squeaking submissively.  Mickey could well have invented the quiet-ass-mouse adage (no mistake here on the adage, he was a quiet-ass mice, a suck-up).  Donald has always differed, forever irascible, confrontational, however never to the extent of silencing his and others rights.  Donald tendered information to the Teamsters, working toward resolving the dispute.  He stuck his beak out then.  He was sticking his beak out now.

On November 7, 2017, the New York Times reported thusly, Disney Ends Ban on Los Angeles Times Amid Fierce Backlash.  The Times reported that the change in course occurred when a number of news outlets, including the New York Times and A.V. Club said they were boycotting Disney’s advance screenings, in solidarity, until the Los Angeles’ Times only rule was lifted.  Their position was consistent with the unknown adage – because I’m making up an adage to apply to this story – Free Speech for Thee Too!

And since this musing is moving through the different levels of sanity, a few other points:   The New York Times’ story wasn’t totally accurate.  They failed to report on the meeting called by Mr. Duck; putting everything on the line, calling others to task, persuading they  vote against their economic interest in order to support free speech for themselves, friends, and competitors.  His was not a clear speech; his diction is never clear.  Spitting, sputtering, cursing – in a rage, he was – he was the not nice Donald.

Maybe the reporter for The New York Times didn’t understand what he was saying; had never seen any of his shorts; had never used him as a source.  The Los Angeles Times reporter sat in the corner laughing at their contempt, listening to the New York reporters mumble out loud, “A talking duck; a talking duck!”  She remained in place listening, chuckling to herself,  Give me a break, I have seen worse on the streets of New York … give me a frickin’ break buddy!   Donald was her favorite.  Didn’t I say that?

Those New Yorkers actually did a “fairly” (with contemptible air-quotes around “fairly”) good job in their reporting, biases notwithstanding.   Their story accurately reported the support of “several high-profile Hollywood figures, including Ava DuVernay, who directed A Wrinkle in Time, which is to be released by Disney on March 9.   Saluting the film journalists standing up for one another, Ms. DuVernay wrote on Twitter on Monday: ‘Standing with you.’”

What did those contemptuous reporters leave out?  They never mentioned the flying and attacking emojis.  They omitted references to the sputum which floated through the air like sputum initially before magically converting to block letters; letters which came out of nicey-nice Daisy’s mouth.  There was no mentioned of Cruella de Vil’s retirement and her now being a lawyer.  Disney never told us any of this, still playing the same films over and over again.  No mentioned of de Vil’s presentation (arrogant, rude, devious, cutting, and unbecoming of the profession).  Sure she looked marvelous (hair, skin tone, voice was the same, never aging not one day).  It seems to me – since I have plum fallen off the wagon with this musing – that none of her physical attributes should have mattered.  The reporting should have reported her role; she started the charge of the tyranny of the majority.  Those reporters probably didn’t trust the public knowledge of the term, tyranny of the majority and the persistent historical comfort in silencing the minority view.

The sad unwarranted and belligerent conduct of Mr. Disney’s favorites was not placed in the historical record; laughing, snorting, carrying on worse than Donald did in a 1952 film-short entitled Donald Duck – Trick or Treat.  Conduct worse than cartoonish, unreal.  Moreover, those foreigners entering a foreign land failed to mention Donald speaking at the meeting, calling a huddle of the reporters afterwards in the hallway, leading the formal meeting two days later, as he did for the Park employees in 2015, encouraging the press organizations and assorted celebrities to collectively boycott the Los Angeles Times only policy.  Seemingly those New Yorkers didn’t believe and didn’t believe their readers would believe.  Now you know the truth.

Perhaps, not believing, they too were being duck-ist.   Something we thought we were long past in our society.  We’re better than that.  Unfortunately in these times – this time – they were not.