JUST MUSING: Roll 'em bones…

“No, no, no, you lost…!” – said after she magically engrafted a new set of rules.  Yelling, jumping up and down, declaring victory before issuing her fiat, “You lose…we aren’t playing by those rules, anymore…!” She didn’t wait for any retort.  She moved backwards – and away – parallel to the ground, knees bent, delicately balancing on one hand, while the other hand held the jacks and ball.  The magician she was, balancing on one hand, before pirouetting and turning in the opposite direction; laughter a constant companion. 

Doing the happy dance; round, and round she went.  I didn’t have her going in circles, nothing of the sorts.  I was too young to understand what the song’s lyrics actually meant.  Her own actions possessed her.  With both arms extended, she circled around me, like an airplane – perhaps, maybe – except her cockpit was agape.  A haunting laugh spilled outward and toward me, interrupting any attempt on my part to stop her from screaming. “Wait, wait, wait…” 

For those of you of a certain cultural persuasion and age vintage, the apt-lyric would be – “Oh, round and round I go.”  No, no, she was not spun out of over me.  Hers was instead a boastful, cheating brag – spilling out during one of the circles, before she fled to the other side of the school yard, “like a spinning top” – to tell others.   

“I won…!”

“Wait, wait, wait, you cheated, those weren’t the rules…!”

҈            ҉            ҉

Cheating, childhood games and politics are universally related, perhaps intertwined – much like a tangled ball of thread – no beginning, no end; impossibly tangled, no matter your patience and the degree of pulling.  A gentle tug on the thread’s structure; unwinding one part, knotting the other, with the same-same remaining the status quo, a knotted and tangled mess. 

In the childhood games of jacks, marbles, four corners, square, hopscotch, baseball, basketball and football, the rules are the rules – right? 

“You missed!”

“No, I didn’t!!!”

The last time I checked there were not any competitive adult leagues of hopscotch, four square, marbles; some of these games survived the transition from childhood to adulthood.  So have the rules; the rules are the rules – right?  They are, unless they’re not – or stated another way, until they aren’t. 

I actually learned all the rules of how to roll the bones from an older boy, a neighbor.  I couldn’t have been no older than 13.  He -18-19-20 – in his second year of college.   “Let me show you,” said at the same time he reached into his pocket and pulled a pair of small, white dice.  The dice seemed different than the dice from Monopoly.  A bit smaller the dice the older boys threw while encircled behind the schoolhouse – in their various degrees of bent-ness – hovering, calling out numbers, rattling off wishes and wants.  Theirs was a mere copycat of what they heard older men say; magical, imaginative incantations willing, hoping the object of their affection would grant their every heartfelt wish.  My baby needs groceries – huh!      

“I don’t gamble…”   

Darnell didn’t hear me, so it seemed.  Opening his hand wider, doing what he did, rolling the dice on the floor; talking, never responding to what I said, what I didn’t do.

“You got any money…?

“I think I got twenty-five dollars?”

“Have you ever rolled the bones before?”

“I said I don’t gamble…”

“Each dice has six sides, with each side possessing a number, 1-6; the lowest 1; highest 6…got that…”   

Sometimes segments of our Monopoly games converted.  Other times we mimicked the older boys.  Show me you love me…seven!  Ha!  Screaming, threatening to do great harm when someone cheated, even though not a dime was at stake, even though we know all the rules.  You boys get away from here.   Even though Darnell’s dice were the smallest dice I had ever seen, I learned another lesson that day – size doesn’t matter, all dice are the same.   

Give me a six!  … Looking for a sweet six!  

Sitting on the edge of the bed in wonderment, seeing and hearing past voices; Darnell moved readily past the stop signs, from telling me what to expect in college to rolling the bones.  My memory tells me his father died first.  I remember both were still living at the time; they remained ensconced on the other side of the door.  The five thirty news personality could be heard reporting the latest tragedy in our collective lives.

“Take your money out… put it on the floor.”

 I did – what he said to do.  He did likewise – put his money on the floor. 

Darnell continued to explain the rules of rolling the bones.  He never asked me whether I wanted to play.  He never asked what I knew.  He flat out ignored I didn’t gamble.   I said nothing.  I started to tell him what I little I knew.  I didn’t.  I wanted to tell him I was the luckiness fool I knew on any new game, somewhat akin to fool’s gold.  I didn’t. 

Darnell smiled after finishing.  He didn’t appear to be smiling to be smiling.  His was an anticipatory smile, what he was going to do to me.  The Wile E. Coyote smile; a ready, set, go smile; knowing – flat out – knowing.  He gave me the dice, inched the pot closer to him, and said, “Roll”.    

I remembered Darnell telling me something about 7, something else about adding the numbers on both dice together – that we were playing for, “two dollars a game…”   

I said “7” and rolled – how about that – magic! Darnell’s eyes bucked, not quite like Buckwheat’s eyes, a lighter, brown version of Buckwheat, same eyes though.     

“Did I win?” 

Darnell mumbled, “Yeah, yeah…”  Something told me I was safe from being cursed out.  His father commented on the news. His mother replied.    

So we did, until we didn’t; repeatedly, ten/fifteen times, with the Gods of Naiveté, protected their blissful, ignorant child.  Darnell eyes now seemed glued in place, a perpetual bulge.  He was now cursing under his breath.  He then do what I heard the older boys do behind the school, “double or nothing”.  He didn’t ask me whether I wanted to double the bets with now my money.  We did the double things … a number of times.  I won still… animals and children, animals and children, indeed. 

Darnell owed me the pot and more.  He knew this.  I knew this.  Boys and girls – chillen and dogs, everybody knew.  I won! – At least for a brief period, until the rules of nature interceded. 

The bigger boy collected himself, mumbled something about “beginner’s luck” and grabbed his money off the floor.  He then became a moral soul – “We shouldn’t be gambling…”  He demanded I take the rest of his money out of my pocket.  I did what I was told.  He told me to go home.  I did that too!       

҈            ҉            ҉

Recently, Major League Baseball (MLB) reported the results of their investigation into the Houston Astros who were accused of cheating during baseball games by stealing signs.  I didn’t quite understand what the complaint was about – nor now do I actually fully understand.  Wait!  What!  Aren’t these grown men playing baseball the same way they played when they were youth – looking for an advantage over an opponent; any opponent.   

The object of the Astros’ exercise/act/malfeasance was to read the catcher and pitcher’s signs, by the use of technology, then relay the anticipated pitch by a non-technological manner – banging on a trash can – to indicate the coming pitch. 

Baseball wasn’t my sport but I do remember – when I played the game – when batting you are always anticipating the pitch, reading the pitcher and catcher, watching for signs of weaknesses in the defensive positions of the players in the outfield, positioning the bat to take advantage of the pitch, the openings in the field.   Told by your coaches to make your opponent think they know your weakness (to believe what you want them to believe), while sucker punching them with hidden strengths.  Flash a sign – a supposed coveted, secreted sign – which maybe false/ contradictory/ meaningless, while the real signs are relayed through other means.  A rule is a rule you say? 

When the other team becomes sloppy, identify the sign stealer, relay this to the pitcher and hit him/her with the next time up or maybe every time up.  It’s just a game – right!  This is why your catcher should always be the biggest/baddest boy on your team, retrieving the ball asking politely, “Oh!  The guy manning the trashcan missed the fast ball upside your head…?”   Fall, trip, push, challenge the rule breaker every time; telling them what you know – in every sport – protect your turf. 

Why didn’t the Astros’ opponents turn over their trash cans and bang with them – one time, two times, three times – outing the routine.  If you good at what you do, don’t apologize.  The other team, why complain to the referee?  The game is baseball.   If a complaint is lodged with the league, do a collective your incredulous dance of defiance.  What!?  Are you kidding me…this is baseball! 

In the Astros’ case I suspect other teams knew what they were doing.  There is no need for each player on the other team to be rocket-scientist to figure out what one bang meant; what two bangs meant.  It seems to me the offenders were engaged in an unwritten, the time-honored tradition of the game.  The Astros should have replied to the league and public, “There is no crying in baseball.”  That’s a rule isn’t it…?” 

The Astros, over the last three years, have been one of baseball’s dominant teams and were coming off a World Series they should have never lost.  So instead of the other teams doing the mano-a-mano thing, as is common in games of anything, the losers ran and told, and played innocent and virtuous.  What…?  What was the complaint again…?   Dominoes, pokeno, spades – you want me to apologize for what…!  You lost, get up from the table! 

The girl who cheated and circled like an airplane didn’t need to tell me she changed the rules.  I knew.  She scooted away and started laughed a haughty laugh.  She made it clear what she did, just in case I was slow on the uptake.  I didn’t cry – a worst offense.  I didn’t run and tell the others I was cheated.  I didn’t tell parents.  I chased after her, laughing and screaming, knowing it was on me not to careful what rules we were playing by – “shut up, shut up, you didn’t win!  Play me again…! 

In basketball, playing defense means playing within and on the edges of the rules.  In this supposed non-contact sport, good defense at times means administering punishment – verbal and nonverbal.  Talking, pulling, grabbing where the referee can’t see the punch to tug; physically moving the other player out of position out of his favorite spot – the exercise of both physical and mental force.  Pick another game – any game – the concept is readily applied to each, this is somewhat akin to the circumstance of a bigger boy daring a smaller boy to get in a beef over his taking his money back.  Absolutely, the game get interesting when the smaller boy is invested and considers the money his; even if he didn’t want to roll ‘em bones, knew with each throw the gods was placing the dice in a proper alignment with the stars and he felt his honor demanded he fight for what was rightfully his, protecting the gods’ gift. 

I will admit I know little about the gentleman/ gentlewoman’s sports of golf and tennis and how to play on the edge of the rules/cheat/fudge/obtain an advantage by playing in a manner which doesn’t show up in the rule books.  In team sports, and the rolling of the bone, the answer to the offended person/ team is rather simple – “You are complaining about what exactly…?

I muse to say, I’m serious.  I’m not serious.  I’m both. 

Honestly I muse to make a more salient point – it is a false dichotomy to compare cheating in childhood games to the world of governing, and politics.  During the recent impeachment proceedings this is what the Senators told us, didn’t they? 

He learned his lesson – I honestly have never heard of any criminal defendant being permitted to steal and walk free unless he/she has pled and proved his/her insanity defense.   

He learned lying doesn’t pay…really?  He learned not to involved foreign governments in American elections?  What…?  James Brown’s – the entertainer – routine was to count to one, two … Do we now need to count to three before giving the drummer’s some. 

He had good intent and evil intent – This too is problematic.  Every politician – from the dumbest to the brightest when caught in wrongdoing would love to be accorded this defense. I did it for the good of the country.  I was helping others by violating laws.  I am protecting other presidents.  This argument is worse than permitting a dog one free bite.  This argument provides The Malfeasant One a readily available and full-proof defense; biting away, permitting him/her to be above the law, further eroding long-held, written and unwritten rules supporting the Constitution. 

I would have fought Darnell to keep my money I put in the pot.  I didn’t because he retrieved only his money from the floor and from my pockets – the money he had lost.  There was no need to fight, I wasn’t invested in the game and winning.  Of course, I would have never been invited back to his parent’s home – after me striking him, and he striking back, to protect his residual honor.  His parents probably wouldn’t have spoken to me again.  They would have told my mother.  I knew this when he finished collecting the lost money.    All Darnell – and I – had to do was not play again.  I told him I didn’t gamble – he didn’t listen.  His grubbing – not grabbing – the money and claiming possession meant little to me, even though he changed the rules.  I knew I should not have let the game go as far as it did, but I did – over, over, over, over again – converting in an instant to Gambling Anthony.  When I moved toward the door, I understood the older boy’s unintended lesson.       

The President’s wishes can never be a crime – tell this to any child playing a childhood game.  In childhood games, you can never do whatever you want.  He screamed/she screamed/they will scream, even fight cheaters.  The field, diamond, court, between and outside the lines of four-squares all hell will break loose, with everyone moving in opposite directions, promising to never play with or against the other person/team/cheaters again.  Children are pretty good at self-enforcing the rules – well, we were. 

Childhood games are different, than politics – we can elect to never play the other kid/team again – because it is a game.  Under the Constitution we have no option, even though the other side wants us to never play again, leaving them with total control, an unequal society, an imperfect union.  This is what all the President’s defenders are saying, isn’t it? 

In the world of politics and the Constitution, the aim of a more perfect union is to declare the game everyone’s game.  Isn’t it…?  They tell us the President can do whatever he wants and can play by whatever rules he wants.  How is this possible?  This concept is foreign to any childhood games, to any game of chance.  I muse to say the argument of telling the rest of us to walk away, and perhaps not worry about playing again because he – the President – seems to permit the permit the fundamental erosion of constitutional principles and concepts.  Sure, I have heard of the adage that politics is rough and tumble.  This adage never meant illegality and corruption. 

This doesn’t take away from my previous position – the baseball teams – Nationals, Yankees and Dodgers – need to get a grip and play baseball (you are permitted to call me a name at this time).  It seems to me the defense of the Constitution is different and others not playing or name-calling isn’t sufficient.  More is required of us.    

JUST MUSING: … nah, nah

I know. I know – tis the season.  Are you permitted to finish the rest? – You are.    To be jolly – perhaps; for love – maybe; giving, cooking, eating – sharing?  Pick one, pick all – tis the season though, isn’t it?  The reaffirming of traditions, renewing old acquaintances, family – the old, a little bit of the new, same-same.  Remembrances, faith, lives lived and lost, ode to the holidays; the holidays – ah yes, the holidays. 

Years ago, I traveled over the holidays to visit my mother.  Immediately upon my arrival she said what was on her mind… “…don’t get too comfortable, you need to visit your grandmother.  She has been asking about you.”  Her words were spoken in a mother’s way, saying what she had to say – never asking yes or no, telling.  Said not in the same voice and manner as, “close the refrigerator” … “close the front door”, although similar – a demand, an expectation to be acted upon immediately – parental love is apt description when these words are stated in the best light.  I answered how I was trained to answer, “Yes, ma’am.”  “Yes ma’am” was the answer, even if a multiple choice quiz is given; even if the test is a blind-test – the blinking lights of a well-lived relationship told me how to answer.  Doing what I was told to do, reaching holding, hugging – a hug the equivalent of a childhood tag – “I got you”; then changing direction in mid-step, moving sideways, then backward, to do what I was told to do, “not tomorrow, right now.”  Not the song’s lyrics, but Georgia’s words. 

She told me to visit soon, “Your grandmother is not feeling well.”  Not tomorrow right now.  I immediately turned to comply – but I digress.        

Before leaving I noticed my younger sister standing in the kitchen.  I pivoted and moved in her direction.  She smiled. I smiled.    

“…come with me.” 

“I don’t think so.” 

“Why?”  

“Grandmother Vide has never treated me nice …”

“That’s not true, is it…?”

Honestly, I didn’t know whether Viola Richardson did or not.  Yes, I saw her as firm – resolute – woman, a tad mean.  I never knew her to treat any of us differently.  Absolutely, my view originated from child’s eyes – viewing the world through a limited prism, seeing the immediate, and even if I saw my eyes were probably too colored. 

“It’s true”, Ima Jean said, she lowered her head, turned away; still waters indeed run deep.  Momma said nothing.  She let us talk.

“Oh come with me…,” grabbing Jean’s hand, retrieving a coat of the couch, pulling her with me out the door.  Jean willingly complied, in part – I say – even though her shoulders and a palpable silence said she wasn’t. 

“If she treats you differently today, we can leave immediately.” 

Jean remained hauntingly quiet; sitting in place, looking out the window, staring.   Neighborhoods hovered overhead, the wind whistled, we moved west on Interstate 30; past downtown, Mrs. Baird’s Bread bakery, nearing our exit to Lake Como.   The uncomfortable cold, the smell of breads, the holiday lights didn’t stop Jean’s voice playing on a repeat cycle … “She has never treated me nice” … 

This was a time before others discovered Lake Como was near the downtown district, was ideal for prime development, when others who didn’t look like us only visited to pick up domestic workers – “I know it’s late, oh, come on and steal away.”   

Grandmother Vide greeted me.   An invisible wall appeared before she could say hello to Jean – which she didn’t – silently engulfing its victim from the time Jean entered to the time she took a seat in the kitchen.  She never said a word to Jean.  Not a word.  The words directed my way now seemed cloistered.  Hers was a palpable, striking coldness, no child deserves. Viola Richardson, my father’s mother, did what she did comfortably – a practiced behavior, done over and over again, throughout the years – Merry Christmas indeed.  You are so welcomed.

My father, Leon Griffin, gave up early on life.  A mixture of segregation, deferred dreams, and the onset of mental illness proved too much.  “He gave up.  Came home one day, frustrated, in tears; he said he was never going to work another day for a white man and that a Negro couldn’t afford him.”  I heard Momma’s words.  I saw my father’s withdrawn eyes, barely audible mumbles.  He withdrew – quit work – another victim of the unequal distribution of societal resources – so I thought later, so I learned much later.  This was the promise I made, an internal promise to work at leveling the playing field; wanting to become a lawyer, working toward law school; “a privilege not accorded…”, Momma said – “in nineteen thirties, nineteen forties Texas” – jingle, jingle.

One time – two, three – four times I saw what I saw; talking, moving uncomfortably about the house, trying to convince myself none of this was true; wanting none of what I saw and heard to be true.  I watched Jean move from one level of withdrawal to another – cowering, crying internally, saying nothing – the same nothing she said stumbling out the door, into the car, exiting the car, into the house.  Naïve, naïve, me – solving the problem, dismissing what she said, by my actions, my words – nah, nah.     

“Grandmother … Jean told me you treated her differently, rude in fact”, were my words.  I didn’t let her respond.  I didn’t want a response.  I saw what I saw.  “She is my sister.  She will always be my sister and I love her.  Your treatment of her is telling me you don’t want anything to do with me.  I will never see you again.” 

I had never talked to Viola Richardson in such a manner.  I never contemplated I ever would.  My passage into these unknown waters was before our children were born.  They would not have the life-privilege of meeting Viola nor Edward.  I was still in college.  In hindsight, I was barely considered to be a man – seventeen, perhaps eighteen. 

Jean remained seated.  She never looked up.  She continued to speak silently.  The silence though was loud and clear, a continual run-on silence.  Childhood anxieties, life experiences, well-worn personality traits said she didn’t want to be in the room; no matter what I said, no matter what I did.

I moved past Grandmother Vide, and grabbed Jean’s now compliant hands.  I didn’t have to grab her coat; she had never made herself comfortable.  We moved from the kitchen, the living room, to the front porch, to the car, never looking back. 

After my father withdrew, Momma divorced him.  She ultimately remarried.  She had my youngest sisters, during the second marriage (Ima Jean and Ida Dell).  One time – within her reach and ears – one of us began to utter an impermissible tease.  Georgia wasn’t having any of this:  “Don’t ever say step-sister, don’t you ever permit anyone else to do likewise, y’all are brother and sisters.”  I believe this was the only time we were given permission to fight by Georgia.  I believe my disrespecting my elder was the permitted fight.  I told Momma what I saw and heard when we arrived back home.  She didn’t chastise me.  She said nothing.  She had seen me act this way before – doing what I was told to do as a child; fight for my siblings, for me – for her.  Jean moved from the perimeter to the back of the house.  She continued to speak with a profound silence.

🎄         🎄         🎄

Viola Richardson loved food, her church, family, design – blending colors, fabrics, linens – nice things.  Original and reconditioned antique furniture graced her home.  She never permitted Grandfather Edward to cook, even though he readily bragged of being a better cook.  “I don’t get it, a chef on the railroad can’t cook for his grand kids”, he said.  “She won’t let me cook because I’m a better cook.”  Grandmother Vide continue to set the table, pulling out nice plates for dinner. 

“Get up and wash your hands”, she said to us.  “Shut up” – told to Edward.  Strangely, these memories remained etched in place; her immaculately kept home, the wafting smell of the cigars Edward chewed constantly. 

I don’t remember seeing Ida. I don’t remember seeing Jean when we moved from the kitchen to the restroom.  I complied, oblivious in a child’s way; laughing internally at their banter, ignoring a profound banter which worked to batter the psyche of a child – my sister – over the years. 

My other grandmother was Chester Anna was much like Viola in certain ways, they differed though in others.  Both brown skinned, good complexion, religious women – firm and plain-spoken.  They differed in locale – Chester Anna born, raised and lived in a farming community up until her illness; Viola a city girl.  Chester Anna a master of the English language, never a profane word uttered from her lips; Viola’s used only one curse word – repeatedly, even when professing her love for Jesus.  “S_ _ t, I love me some Jesus!”  I don’t know whether she ever saw or heard us laughing in the other room when she said what she said. 

Chester Anna set the table with black rimmed, white metal plates.  Like Viola the expectations were clear:  children never reached and touched without washing, without paying homage.  She made her positions clear, in the same firm, no-nonsense matter.  We complied in the same no-nonsense matter, moving away from the table, rushing in the opposite direction, arriving back mere seconds later with part clean hands aloft. 

Muh Chest told me the animals knew when their time had come – a rite of passage perhaps – moving from the barn area to far off fields – foretelling their demise; from ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  She never called a veterinarian – she knew.  Grandmother Vide also knew. 

She called my mother.  My mother called me.  “She wants you to come, Vide wants to see you.”   

“I can’t.  I won’t.”

“She called Jean.  She apologized and asked for her forgiveness.  She wants to apologize to you.”

“She doesn’t have to apologize to me…”

“She wants to see you…” 

Momma didn’t say I had to travel to Fort Worth.  No, no, no – her words were coded in parent-speak, a language I was good at interpreting.  This too wasn’t a choice.  I traveled to Fort Worth two days later. 

Daddy Leon let me into the house; he nodded, moved out of the way, and pointed.  I found her in her and Edward’s bedroom – in the back of the house.  The curtains were drawn; the room was dark; isolating, warm.  She was lying in her bed, her head appeared sweated.  The covers were pulled up to her chin.  Edward had long passed – the Chambers stove was no more, the kitchen table looked different – no linens, no china – perhaps a different dining room table.  The house looked nothing like I remembered: unkempt, smaller – not dirty, not meticulous – not Viola’s home, not kept to Viola’s standards.  I quietly moved from place to place – to my place – next to her bed.  She extended her left hand from under the covers.  She asked me for my forgiveness.  I gave what I could – “Yes, ma’am … Momma told me you talked to Ima Jean.”   

We didn’t talk long.  She didn’t ask much of me nor me of her.  I held her hand and heard Chester Anna voice, “it won’t be long”.  Seeing animals move to the other field.  Seeing elders in the community come to Chester Anna’s home to die.  Listening and helping her wash their bodies, seeing the dying process play out in front of my eyes during those long, hot, memorable Texas summers.          

🎄         🎄         🎄

The dishwasher was invented in 1850.  The original machine was a wooden contraption which had little no practical application to the home.  “When Miele introduced the first automated model in 1960, it was still costly – as much as a housekeeper’s annual salary, in fact. Yet the concept stood the test of time and by the end of the 1970s, the dishwasher had become one of the most common home appliances.”  

The history of the dishwasher is not the reason I muse.  It does help one understand the reason I muse.  One set of grandparents having better plates than the other is not why nor is both grandmother’s sternest, bordering on meanest is not the reason why.  Such was their way – part of their ingrained personalities, surviving in a hostile world, making sure their charge remained respectful, dutiful and fed. 

Members of Viola’s church spoke of her meanest less than a month after my visit – followed by polite, church giggles, layered with “yes Lords”, before smiling, looking outward, comforting with references to her kindness, and multi-fold, complex personality – as we all are.  I tell these stories because this is what holidays to do us – what makes us happy, what makes us sad, a time for reflections.

Please permit me to explain this way:  Market Insider issued a 2017 Press Release:

The US paper cups and paper plates market reached a value of US$ 104 billion in 2016 … The market is expected to reach a value of US$ 119 billion by 2022.”  

Much like pestilence, paper plates and cups, plastic silverware seems to me to be a resistance played out in reverse, by those who were compelled to wash the dishes after meals, during the holidays, after being awaken from a fake/real/deep sleep – drug back to the kitchen to finish the assigned chores.   Are you still dreaming of that white Christmas?  

I muse to say nah – nah, don’t you dare pull out the paper plates, plastic glasses, and utensils during the holidays.  If the sky is not falling, if the sun fails to come up, if you aren’t sitting on a beach during the holidays – these are the best of times, these are the worst of times – don’t.  I don’t care – don’t.

There is no reason to continue this misplaced, misguided, ill-defined resistance – nah-nah.  Stop invidiously disturbing the minds of your children, relatives, me with a Dixie plate – nah – nah … nah, nah – nah-nah.   Life is too unbalanced and unfair for you to put such a burden on them – me.  Put the paper and plastics products down – save a psyche.  If you’ve been putting off getting therapy for your not yet diagnosed, childhood trauma of too many dishes washed – do so now.  Momma didn’t have, papa didn’t have – so what!  Use a real plate.

One of the nation’s Founding Fathers, John Adams, wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, on May 12, 1780:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.  My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelains.  

We are almost there, be patient with me.

I don’t care what generation you are dealing with.  I do know when you reach the generation which has the privilege to study “painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelains”, the insult to history and lives lived can be no clearer – we should no longer continue the tragic slide to the absurd – nah-nah, nah-nah. 

“I said wash the dishes!” 

Sometimes we hold onto petty things much too long.  You also said at one time you weren’t going to eat another potato, rice, beans, tortilla; life is too short and complex to continue dabbling in these continued idiocies. 

I need not bother with whether you are the thrower or the throwee, we need not confuse issues.  The purpose of the common vessel known as a plate is not for tossing at other human being.  Likewise, plates and silverware are not meant to remain closeted forever, never to be used, protected, stored in much too much expensive cabinets and cases – don’t insult the craftsmen, artists, silversmiths – history’s voices will appreciate your acknowledgement. 

Use these cultural vessels, relish their history, understand these are goods which have moved around the world – traded, shared, modified – the subject of exchange by different cultures, and peoples.  Clay vessels in some cultures, tin, glass, copper … china.  If you aren’t convinced, then move to your living room and grab a plastic cover and cover every chair, couch, lamp, share inch of the floor – sometimes one must reduce an absurd practice for the blind to see.       

The quality of the plate doesn’t matter – metal, melamine, bone china – doesn’t matter – the point is use a real plate.  Nah, nah, nah – caring means putting down the paper, plastic, the strange composite objects and do what Georgia, Chester Anna, Viola did, what your mothers and grandmothers did – reach for a real dishes and serve real food – for the ones you love.  I say, I muse.

JUST MUSING: “…’bounce, bounce’…”

New Orleans is regularly recognized as one of America’s unique cities, different from the cookie cutter variants seen in other municipalities; history, architecture, culture, different tongues, peoples and food blended together within a southern milieu.  The city regularly makes the news; festivals, sports, its people.  The most recent story: a McDonald’s employee attacking a customer because the customer had the gall to complain about the fries.  Is this story a manifestation of New Orleans’ uniqueness?                

The customer admitted he might have been abrasive – when reading this, I assumed as much. When viewing the video – it was so.  He was. 

The recording starts with an employee yelling – “Get out”.  A female employee interceded, and pulled the male employee away.  The customer – he too of the male persuasion – followed both.  The employees seemed to feel the customer’s presence.  The male turned and reengaged; pushing, shoving, hitting.  What, I thought…?  All over some nasty fries…?

Years ago, I visited America’s quirkiest city to attend a seminar.  On day two, three of us decided to venture out of the French Quarters.  We asked the concierge for a recommendation, somewhere to eat outside of the Quarters.  As an aside, the McDonald’s in the recently reported story is located on Canal Street, in the Quarters.  Moving slowly through the city – before GPS’ mass distribution – anticipation – longing for the New Orleans’ experience – and hunger were forever present.    

The restaurant was small, comfortable, and clean.  The crowd was a mixture of both locals and tourists.  After looking at the menu, I played safe, I ordered a chicken salad.  Let me explain why:  I have this theory about cooks and food.  Determining the skills or talents of a cook/chef/restaurant is best gauged by doing simple.  You don’t understand…?

Fish, chicken, a salad, basics; salt, pepper, garlic, butter; unblemished, not hidden, not distorted, not covered, and dominated by a sauce – doing simple.  If the restaurant advertises its breads, does it do the basic breads well?  Is it fresh, how is the crumb, is the texture consistent?  Few does, few can.  So I ordered a chicken salad. 

The insufferable August heat, local culture, our hunger were our companions while waiting.  When the food was served, we reverted to our childhood.  Silence! Pure and utter silence; looking down, to the right, left, at the others’ plates, guarding with one hand, eating with the other; racing to finish first, to get the first debs on seconds. 

My mother would periodically look over from the kitchen, commenting, laughing – “Slow down, y’all act like y’all are starving orphans.”  We weren’t – we didn’t care.  Silence – with the exceptions of slurps, gulps, coughs; working too hard, too fast, while doing simple. 

“Slow down…!”

“Yes, ma’am…!”  

Two bites I realized the mistake.  I had been given a chicken sandwich, not a chicken salad.  I waved to the waitress.  She came over, I told.  She went and told – whispering to an older woman, pointing my way – causing the older woman to approach.  She – the older woman – had greying tips – less than mine are now.  She was approximately my mother’s age – as I am now.  She took up sentry on left side.  Her leg touched both the table and me – shoulder, arm. my body.  Her eyes foretold peril.  I understood the touching, it too part of the message.  I felt six, seven, no older than nine.  I did.

And out-of-body experience she forced me into – I was.    

“What are you trying to pull…?

“Ma’am…?” 

“You’re trying to get free food…”

“Ma’am … No, ma’am, I just want you to know of the mistake so my bill can be adjusted…”

I said one thing. She heard another. 

My, “I, I…” was followed by those her telling, threatening eyes and a declaratory sentence.  A plain, simple, non-passive voice, declarations, she spoke … “We’re not giving you free food…!”    

I tried “I, I…” again – to no avail. 

“You saw your waitress put a sandwich on the table, and you still took two bites! You’re not getting free food!  You better shut up and eat your sandwich!”

The elder one turned and abruptly went back to the area of the restaurant she came from – the place she where she was told.  She extended the same gift before leaving thought – that frightful look.  I said what I said.  I swear I heard, “enjoy”.  I’m sure I reverted to six….

One of my companions was a New York, New Yorker.  I don’t remember her name.  I remember her to be a honey-colored woman.  She was one of the few women at the seminar.  she had spent the last two days fighting off the advances, using different tactics with each advance – smiling, frowning, cajoling, off-putting laughter, silence.  This escape from the hotel was her respite, suggesting lunch, moving toward the front desk of the hotel, asking for directions, moving comfortably into the restaurant, breathing an audible sigh of relief.  Her reaction – that day, that moment showed her other side.    

New York’s mouth went agape; both hands skyward, then outward.  A finger pointed at the elder one. I grabbed the finger, then her arm.  I moved the arm from one level another – lower, to the table.  In a New York, New York, kind-of- way, she raged – “How dare her!”  

“I’m sorry.  I wouldn’t pay.  I would have to go to jail.”

I dutifully ate the chicken sandwich.  I was horrified she pointed at Momma.  I waited for the invisible hand of Georgia to reach cross the room and correct her aberrant behavior.  Absolutely, you are free to laugh.  I am a big boy.  I ate the damn sandwich.   

I grew up in a segregated culture and viewed eating in public a hostile act.  Followed as a teen, as a young adult, wherever I went; forever the suspect – these are influencing factors.  Not permitted to eat in most eating establishment; watching and living the civil rights struggle in living, daily color; electing when and where to be the guinea pig.   These influences bubble to the over surface years – sometimes expectant behavior, most times not – over and over again.    

Trained to pick “carefully your conflicts”; avoid societal attempts (“you will be baited”) to make you react by persons in authority (“police, teachers, administrators, store owners”); move away, save and fight for another day – get home – avoid the seat reserved place in the jails for those who looked like you, for the slightest of infractions – was the advice.  Both told and learned behavior.

Existing in a well-enforced, generational-ingrained, apartheid-like system of rules and mores; the 1866 Civil Rights Act – the society ignored the law, didn’t it!  The 1964 Civil Rights Act passed one hundred years later, wasn’t it?  It was, I remember, I was ten.  Old enough to understand differences color imposed.  In language, rules, prohibitions, seen through the eyes of a child; laws admittedly implemented slowly, deliberately – daily, by the courts, store owners, the police.   

“They passed what?!  Civil rights law?!  You either leave or go to jail.”    

Let me debunk a couple of assumptions.  The sandwich was okay.  Nothing exciting, but this muse is not about food, nor is it about race.  The customer in New Orleans was white, the worker was black.  Look at the video.  The video has nothing to do with race; it is a video of two fools interacting in the night.  In my case, the elder was black, my mother-mother’s color, and everyone at our table were black.  I said – this muse has nothing to do with race.  I muse to say, instead of restaurant employees trying to physically assault customers when they complain, or accuse the customer of wanting free food, public establishments should remain conflict free zones.  Instead of customers pressing the point over bad food, insulting the workers, any untoward acts should be viewed as misguided and counterproductive.

҈            ҈҉            ҈

Years ago there was a small restaurant in my community, located in an alley, housed in a shotgun house.  A shotgun house is a small house, no more than one thousand square feet, twelve feet wide – “a shotgun fired in the front, will go through and through, entering and leave every room before exiting” – so was the explanation given to me for the name.  The restaurant seemed half the size of a typical shotgun house, a smallish, confined space.  People literally squeezed-in; limited seating, not by design but circumstances.  A restricted menu – two items a day, no substitutes – open five days a week, awaited the customers who came for an exceptional home-cooked meal.  Drinks too were limited – tap water served on ice – the owner didn’t permit sodas to be served.  “No, no sodas.”  I remembered sometimes there was tea, I think.  I don’t remember, maybe, maybe not.    

Food was served as long as there was food in the pots, meaning roughly and hour and a half lunch service.  Much like visiting any grandmother’s home, the owner sat among the guest; every day, every meal; listening, nodding, occasionally laughing, resting tired feet, after having spent the morning hours cooking for family and guests.

He – a white man – came in first; excited, happy.  “This is it baby!”

She – a white female – followed – she seemed to be a girlfriend to me, not a wife – looking around – a foreign place, a foreign people, not part of her milieu.  I don’t remember any other whites in the restaurant – that day – this day.  Then she did it – – she said “eewww” with both eyes.  Back up – remember this muse is not about race.  Hers was not the old world “eewww” of my youth.  If the truth be in me, her face was no different than mine when I first squeezed-in visited the unpaved alley in the middle of the summer, entered a foreign place and looked around, amazed, eewwwa restaurant, really…? 

“Baby, you’re going to enjoy the food,” he said excitedly. 

His was an out-of-control octave moved upward, downward, sideward – with excitement, anticipation, an uncontrolled instrument.  His body told too, excited to be back – a Frankie Beverly joy – joyous, joyous behavior – boyish behavior, ready to enjoy the anticipatory feast.

She of shocked eyes said nothing – compliant, hesitant trust – following her beloved.  They took two of the remaining seat.   She looked around, before she reached in her purse.  She pulled out a toilette to wipe the table.  I smiled to myself – my behavior too girl the first time I came and every time I eat here.  She remained perplexed – looking around, not at people – never making eye contact; asking her the gods, her God – How on earth did it pass its health inspection?   Truthfully, I always wondered the same thing. 

Her mate ordered his and hers.  Remember – your choices are limited – there are only two plate choices – a easy decision.  He continued to bounce in place, excited.  He waved at the owner a few table over – meaning, she was a mere five feet away. 

“I’m back.” 

The mate remained stupefied, in manner and mode.  The rest of the room continued to eat, watch and talk about her/him/them.  She’s leaving him.  Oh Lord, poor child.  You think she will stay.  I am sure she couldn’t hear what we said; you can’t hear when you are in shock.  His excitement deprived him of both sight and sound.    

“Welcome back baby?” – The owner intoned.   

“How’re you feeling today?” – He responded, giddy, giddy; a giddy man he was. 

“I feel good, blessed.”

“… Food good today…?”

“Always is…?”  Is that your lady?”

“She …”

Before the Giddy One could say what she was – girlfriend, wife – both plates were put in place.  “You ordered the smothered steak … you get the fried chicken?  Daughter never talked much.  Daughter said little else.  She wiped a runny nose with the right hand; wiped the newly soiled right hand on her apron, before turning, slowly – back to the kitchen.  Daughter always moved slowly, so did her mother.  The owner was in or nearing her nineties; Daughter, her seventies.     

We – all of us – watched while – having seen the behavior before.  We were all primates, restrained in place and time, intruding on each other, tapping on glass, rattling each other cages, seeing nothing wrong with our respective behavior.      

Giddy One didn’t care, he was not a participant.  He raised both hands, gave thanks to his God, lowered his head and went to work, enjoying every morsel.  She remained reticent, tentative, timid, a captive of the circumstances; looking around, taking only a small portion of food initially – dangling it on the tip of the fork – to taste, carefully – as if poison doesn’t kill in small portions. 

Her face told – ummm – then the verbal expression escaped, telling the observing primates (us), the world was fine.  The bold seasonings entered every orifice, captured the senses, and compelled her guest to take a sip of water (only water, remember).  The owner heard, smiled in a sleepy, small town, southern kind of manner.  Reticent One’s reaction was no different from others.  The owner had seen the reaction before; she knew she had captured another beast.     

Reticent One moved downward for a larger forkful.  She lowered her shoulders, more relaxed, squeezed-in, like the rest of us had been for some time.  Giddy One remained locked in place, eating, saying little, nodding, wiping, shucking – each fingers – a consumed man.  He was at home, comfortable, among his fellow primates. 

All good stories possess a dramatic turn at some point.  This one does too.  First seen in the hands (much like an arthritic twitch) – flowing to both arms – upward, outward – having a cause-effect on the stomach; moving – inward, outward, causing air to propel through the diaphragm; expanding, causing a vibration in the vocal cords; causing the clear and distinct utterance of two words – only two – distinctly filling the small space we collectively shared.    

“… A roach…!”- Her first words spoken since entering the restaurant.

I looked at my food – saw no roach. I’m good.  I kept eating.

My painter was with me – he took his fork and moved the food around in the plate – looking, looking – looking.  “No roach”, he said.  He too was good.  He kept eating.

Daughter moved slowly out of the kitchen – no rush in her step.  She stood next to the Shattered Soul’s table and inquired, “Where?”

Shattered Soul pointed.  Daughter looked, nodded in agreement. 

“Yep, that’s a roach.” 

Shattered Soul didn’t say she had taken a couple of bits.  Daughter didn’t make her eat the mean.  She did the right thing – I guess – if we are to go by my standards.  She didn’t argue. She took the plate and disappeared.  The other primates went back to eating. 

Daughter came back and placed a fresh plate in front of Shattered Soul.

“Here…”

Giddy One finished his food.  Shattered Soul didn’t finish hers. 

Giddy One paid for both meals, happy, waving to everyone as he open the door for Shattered Soul.  We stayed in our lane, never asking why Shattered Soul wasn’t given a free meal.          

҈            ҉            ҈

Martin Lawrence – the comedian – commonly bases his comedy on a rather simple concept – bouncing someone, something – said with comedic effect, in a declaratory, derisive, off-putting manner, metaphorically ridding himself of the offending person or thing.  In music, the concept can be described more like – bounce-bounce – found in all genres, done with raised hands, a frenetic, participatory crowd in place, accompanied by a pulsating, melodic beat.  I muse to say, sometimes we have to bounce in life and not sweat the small stuff.  Put ourselves in the shoes of the other person – even if the other person, in our eyes is a damn fool – and even when seemingly, we shouldn’t – bounce.     

Cold, overcooked/undercooked, limp/burnt, greasy fries – we have eaten worst.  Complain – sure, do so – however once the push back comes, particularly when the fool comes from behind the counter – bounce!  Thrown both hands up, move backward … bounce!  Complain later and never go back.  No, no, no, don’t follow the fool and re-enraged.  The customer is not always right – particularly when pushing, pushing, pushing an overworked and underpaid worker, uttering abrasive words.  My Mother’s mother would have slapped the customer on the first step, while never uttering a profane word. 

My, my … back to the video – the worker in New Orleans can be seen pushing, shoving, assaulting, letting years of frustrations come out on a customer’s head.  He in turn being the drunk manly-type – I think that’s what we call it – stood his ground – and was an abrasive, utter ass.  Over french-fries?  Really?! 

I get it – the workers/owners/managers are sick to death of the games people play.  Maybe the confluence of the sun, wind, the tropical depressions, and one too many YouTube videos are the proximate causes for the bad days playing out before our eyes. 

Struggling to make a profit, working with the public – is always difficult proposition – for owners.  The workers show up not because they love McDonalds, they are trying to feed themselves, their families, realizing the salary the corporation is paying them is even sufficient to allow them to regularly eat at McDonalds.    

“You’re going to pay for the sandwich.” 

No, I didn’t see race in New Orleans during lunch.  I saw a tired restaurant worker/owner who was sick and tired, sick and tired.  She never heard a word I said.   She told me her truths instead; particularly when commanding me to eat the sandwich and shut up; the same as my mother would have, her mother would have … and you know what you do in those circumstances … you eat the sandwich and bounce.  Our exchange was a real world one – she instructing me on the literal meaning of the word bounce – which I did, like a ball. 

“Eat and enjoy your sandwich, pay and leave.” 

I complied with each instruction, left a tip, bouncing and giggling at the horrified New York, New Yorker.  “Gurl, she ain’t goin’ to hit me up-side the head.”  I knew she would.  I knew she could.           

So I muse…

JUST MUSING: “Jack did. Jill did…”

Jack did. Jill did.  Before explaining why, let me provide some background.  In a former life I had the fortune – or misfortune – of trying a least ten federal criminal conspiracy trials (a safe guess), ranging from one week to six months in duration.  A conspiracy occurs when two or more persons agree to participate in criminal activity in the violation of the laws of the United States. 

The pattern was always familiar, and still remains embedded in still my psyche: a federal judge reading at a controlled pace, telling jurors “a participant need not understand the full extent of the overall conspiracy to be held criminally culpable.”  Every time his/her honors said those words I touched the client and prayed that he/she would not be subsumed by the encompassing broadness of the conspiracy laws. 

People normally confess for a reason:  to clear ones conscience – a possibility; narcissism and a belief ones conduct has no consequences; sometimes as simple as being much like the chicken – to reach the other side of the road.  This muse may be a little of all.  

Recently, I was asked to participate in the reading of the Mueller Report.  “Whatever section you desire me to read”, were my words.  I was given a time to appear.  I complied and appeared.  Before talking a seat to review the materials, I saw copies of the report stacked on a table.  I then to move backward in time, seeing the past dredge upward, like spoiled buttermilk:  his/her “Your Honors” reading slowly, deliberately, to citizens engaged in their compelled civic-duty, looking over seeing the familiar conduct of the federal prosecutors, cocksure, confident, comforted by the conspiracy laws’ breath.    These visions didn’t cause me to walk out before reading.  I displayed exceptional bravery and stayed.  I did what I was asked to do. 

While reading a familiar emotion visited – anger.  Previously to agreeing to participate I had read new accounts of the Mueller’s conclusion on the conspiracy count.  I had a difficult time reconciling the conclusion with the known facts, particularly with experiences in the criminal justice system.  Why overt activities don’t constitute a conspiracy?  What exceptions did the report attempt to carve out?  Is this somewhat akin to George W. Bush exception, creating new rules out of whole cloth? Why are free passes being issued these, while others of lesser means have never been accorded privileged positions?  Why?

No matter what the press releases said – explaining why.  No matter how the political commentators’ angled the fact, the conclusion did not make sense to me.  I understood the words meaning then – in that other life – I understand the meaning of the words now.    

Turning the pages, I reminded myself of the interconnection of money and power in the daily administration of the criminal justice.  This was something I found difficult explaining to clients and others while attempting to balance the mythical scales of justice. This was the difficulty I encountered in the just reading Mueller’s finding on conspiracy. 

May I digress slightly – I promise I will get to Jack and Jill – before you accuse me of being a bitter man.  I will own my bitterness, I am.  Not bitter because of my previous life.  Not bitter because of having to try conspiracy cases and the results achieved.  Do not let my previous confession – or profession – confuse you. 

I enjoyed my work.  I was successful in the representation of those approximately ten citizens.  An eight out of ten success-ratio, in any profession, is a good return; work performed in federal courts in Houston, San Antonio, Little Rock, Galveston, among others.  The results achieved are an anomaly.  Lucky man was I – perhaps.  However, this previous work is not the reason I muse.      

Slowly moving through Section 2 – thinking too much – witnessing voice tone and tenor involuntarily shift – to the point of being shrill – wanting to stop and tell the audience … Are you kidding me!  Enveloping an insane desire to pivot in place and give a lecture on the law … This means this.   The same as those federal judges have instructed juries in the past, daily, in the future – over and over – in different jurisdictions throughout this country. 

I continued to read. Jack fell down and broke his crown; Jill tumbled after him – he did – she did.       

The finding of no conspiracy makes no sense.  The tortured journey the report took caused a recurring dream to recur- in broad daylight – not in the dead of night, not while succumbed under covers.   The criminal justice system is at its worse when power, money, and protection of a political class are at stake

When I read, “no one is above the law”, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time and throw the report to the side and leave the podium.  I didn’t, I kept reading.  

Jack’s fall was complete. Jill’s too.  My voice and tone irretrievably broken, like Jack’s crown … louder, louder, louder … shrilly was me. 

Forever an optimist I remained, reading with an embedded hope, wanting to find an undiscovered gem, which would say something – anything – different.  Hope notwithstanding, Mueller said what he said, the report said what the press said it said (they are what we thought they were).

Time incrementally continued it predictable pace, permitting errors to highlight the ready – misspeaking, grappling with a dry mouth – clearing my throat – mispronouncing one word, two, flipping pages, moving toward the end of the text –  Old Negro Spirituals played in my head, while I looked askew, praying for a better day. 

Somehow I finished.  I moved slowing out of the room, toward the exit, into the clarifying arms of Mother Nature.  The heat encouraged me to move from one place to another, quicker, quickly, little boy in trouble fast.  My movement didn’t prevented anxiety from accompanying me out the door, down the street, back into protective covering.  It did. While Jack did, while Jill did too.

I have been pushed into a stupefying silence over the last few months; watching, reading, seeing the assaultive dance on the constitution – hourly, daily, weekly – tweeting, preening – telling us what we saw, read and heard is not what we saw, read and heard.  Reading about the litigation assault, trying to count the number of lawyers engaged in the civil litigation designed to slow, stop, cease inquiry, keeping others at bay; using money, time and influence. Watching rights flitter away – much like birds in flight – while the others stood in the shadow of my dreams looking, wondering why the law reads one way of them and not for them. 

What an impressive dancer. A smart dresser, a stable genius; holding on, delaying, pardoning, obfuscating.  Dancing, moving across the landscape, insulting what little integrity remaining in the criminal justice system, telling the rest of us how poorly he/they/his supporters are being treated, while the minions parrot the hysterical conduct, applauding profusely, sprouting the same rhetoric, threatening others who dare disagree with the invitation back to the wild, wild west.       

Watching the deadly mix of diversion and hate occur; obtaining the desired effect, in Gilroy, California, in El Paso and Midland/Odessa, Texas, in Dayton, Ohio.  Mimicking historical voices – the words used aren’t by accident – repeating the words of yore – over and over and over again.  Jack died?  Jill died? 

Hearing the citizenry now explain how vulnerable they now feel.  Whether she/he/they likes it or not, she/he/they are now the others; those we have read about, saw on television, thinking not them, that she/he/they were safe.  None of us are safe from the persistent madness. 

Fear now anger has laden my watching, having seen this before.  The criminal system becomes eschewed when an office, a man, a party is placed above the rest of us.  So that I am clear, I don’t muse to be pessimistic.  I don’t muse to be scared, angry or anxious. I muse to say we have seen and survived worst – at least my grandparents told me as much.        

Francis Hall Johnson was one of America’s greatest composers.  Johnson genres were spirituals and classical.  He coached some of America’s greatest talents – Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte, Robert McFerrin, and Shirley Verrett.  In 1930 Johnson selected and arranged a series of Negro spirituals.  In 1958 he gave us the Negro spiritual Hold On, like other Negro spirituals, birthed under seemingly impossible conditions; conditions which would cause an ordinary people to succumb; throw their hands up and quit.  Let me see if I can make the reference to Negro spirituals make sense.        

A childhood friend’s father occupation was that of a trash man.  The father contracted with residents in the unincorporated areas to dispose of their trash.  His mother cleaned homes.  Mr. and Mr. Hiawatha Bradley had thirteen children and made sure each one of them completed high school and college.  Hiawatha told his children they were not captive by others realities.  His/her words are part of my life’s lesson.        

Spewing hate, encouraging violence, playing stupid along the way, while assuming the rest of us are stupid will not work; pardoning his way toward an election – playing the system from one end to the other, also will not work.  The recurring refrain in Hold On is, “keep your hands on the plow and hold on,” is part of the reminder.

No, no, no, I didn’t fall down on the steps of the library and awaken imbued with an over-bearing religiosity, albeit my relatives and friends would love for a small accident – a miracle – if that is all it took.  Just a small knot on his head, Lord!

 Holding on will force this president to step aside sooner than we anticipate, causing him to cut a deal (remember he is the deal maker), to avoid future prosecution.  No, the speeches and encouragement to violence from his and his supporters will not cease.  Money, power, and different life realities are privileges accorded few and their activities are designed to protect as much, tilting Lady Justice’s Arm to the point of breaking one – both – if necessary.  This conduct should alarm the rest of us.  Freeing Lady Liberty from this conduct – this assault – is an obligation bestowed upon all of us.  We fail at our peril.

JUST MUSING: “She ran fast – fast-fast…”

Jennifer Anderson began April’s London Marathon intent on besting an existing record contained in Guinness’ World Records, for running a marathon wearing a nurse’s uniform.  She did – bested the established record.  So she thought – crossing the finish line at 3:08:22, faster than the record-breaking time on the books of 3:08:54.  Guinness said she didn’t – didn’t break the record – because the outfit she wore wasn’t proper.  Is that not the proper British way of saying what was said?  Who cares?      

Nurse Anderson wore blue scrubs.  Her supposed failure was she didn’t don a traditional cap, a pinafore apron, and a blue or white dress.  What period of time was Guinness dragging us?  Did the definition of a nurse’s uniform derive from the trove of Eighteenth Century Romance novels found under the editor’s foot board?   

Nurse Comwell slid the brass spittoon in place.  The vessel was cool to touch.  Madelyn wasn’t. The metals emitted a muted tinge, brass against the iron running board.  Her dying patient was not aroused by the contact, not so in her head; Madelyn’s  desires were awaken.  She adjusted her pinafore apron, the blue uniform next, followed by the nurse’s hat sitting on the rear portion of her head – much like an invasive phallic symbol – standing at attention, claiming possession of tousled, auburn hair.    

Jennifer doth protest – she knew, just knew, as did the public, Guinness read the wrong novel. She explained to Guinness its type of uniform was outdated.  Days later Guinness agreed, ruling she did – win. 

Guinness didn’t say what it based its reversal. I imagine they probably heard the howls of those nurses who have cared, pinched, cajole others over the years; running hospitals, clinics, nursing home – nursing family members when off-duty – whispering, when moving from place to place, to others higher in rank to stop, “before you kill him.” 

I muse to say the competition didn’t have a chance. Nurse Anderson was in her element, running hither and yon with ease.  She probably had time to tell other runners to correct their posture, alter their running style, or to stop running on the side of their feet.  At the three mile post she passed a colleague.  She whispered he should stop at the next rest station – “your color is off a little” – doubling down, increasing her pace, while sweat properly wicked within the scrubs, doing what they were designed to do.  The advice Nurse Anderson bequeathed is not the point of this mythical musing.  The competition didn’t have a chance because Nurse Anderson was running in well-worn scrubs, washed repeatedly, folding and bending with the contours of the body as she ran.  Riding the back of Pegasus, dismounting half-way through the course and mounting Flicker, and two hundred meters from the finish line dismounting, looking around to see if she had any paperwork to do, and computer entries to make, prior to crossing the finish line in record time. 

Postscript:  Maybe she knew she could do it because her mother was of the switch persuasion – pulling, tugging, ripping a branch from the tree, causing her to fun faster than humanly possible to do what she told her mother she had done, supposed to have done, four hours before.  The dishes remained mounted in place, the kitchen floor still contained specs of food she had been told to sweep and mop, the dogs still had not been fed.  She didn’t know the dogs told, jumping and knocking on mother’s bedroom window.  She ran. She ran fast – fast-fast. Washing, moving from station to station, keeping her head down, mouth shut, cleaning, sweeping, thinking what profession she would be able to join to use her considerable multi-tasking skills and knowledge – how best to run from a switch – Pegasus’ and Flicker’s absence – and the type of uniform worn – be damned.   

JUST MUSING: “We’re being rolled…”

George Raymond Wagner was an American professional wrestler best known by this ring name Gorgeous George.  George gained mainstream popularity and was one of the biggest stars in professional wrestling from 1940-1950. While pundits debate the influences of the President’s influences: Fox News, Fox & Friends, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, I possess a different view after reading about the President’s Thanksgiving interview, explaining what made him thankful.

When asked what he was most thankful for, the President turned the focus upon himself, “For having a great family, and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I’ve made a tremendous difference in the county.” Of course, one can attempt to color his statements and point out he – the President – mentioned his family first.  Any such attempt would be for naught. He then proceeded to do what he do (sic) – he doubled down, in a true Gorgeous George kind of way, “This country is so much stronger now that it was when I took office that you wouldn’t believe it.”  The hair, telling anyone willing to listen, making us listen – controlling the narrative – gift wrapped with constants references to himself.

“I am the greatest.” The Gorgeous George model, before Muhammad Ali pronounced himself as such; acknowledged by Ali as his greatest influence.

“This is a man’s world”, sung by James Brown, borrowed from Gorgeous George, adopted by Donald John Trump, every day. You don’t get it still?  We are being rolled.

For those who are not Trump fans, get over it, we seen this before. Supporting Ali no matter what, laughing at the thumping of his nose at the establishment; “I’ am a pretty man.”  Sounds familiar doesn’t it.

Calling his opponents out of their name, “a gorilla”, directed at one, no one stepped forward and condemned the act, ostracize him because of his conduct; loving him more, while he acknowledged he watched Gorgeous George sell out arenas because people either wished for, prayed for his defeat, or agreed  with him – no matter.

“I’m a bad man.” Selling out – hate, hate, hate – wanting his blood, while we cheered – pretty much – loving the conceit, seeing a pretty, youthful, brash Cassius Clay/Ali recite poetry, holding the nation, the world, fans and enemies captivated.  Don’t be shocked if the braggart who you hate so intensely is reelected.  Waving to enthralled crowd, identifying enemies, assuring the stage lighting is right, dominating the news hour, the news days; the light reflecting perfectly off a dyed mane, even on bad hair days.

The evolution of Gorgeous George was a gradual process. Perfecting his shtick – the robe,  the pre-fight ritual, bragging, bragging, bragging, then deciding to dye his mane and preen to friends and foes alike.  Gorgeous was quoted saying, “If guts is all it takes. I’ve got plenty”, when making the decision to go blond.

So George decided to become a glamour boy, too. He let his hair grown longer and wavier. The next step was to a beauty salon in Hollywood to inquire about a wig. After some thought, it was decided a wig would be too easy to yank off in the ring, so the beautician turned George over to two Hungarian hair stylists, Frank and Joseph, who recommended he grow his hair long and bleach it blond – “if he had the guts.” “If guts is all it takes, I’ve got plenty,” said George.

For those of you who are Trump fans, you’re forgiven. Buying into the bluster, laughing loudly when Gorgeous Donald redirects the argument; always redirecting everyone’s attention back to himself; conduct no different than them/us/we folks have done when buying into out-sized personalities.

“I know more about science.” “I could have been a good general.” “I know big words.” I’m sure he would have used, “I’m the greatest”, if not recognized and attributed Gorgeous George and later Ali. Plenty of guts, saying the outrageous, while fans/voters ignore transgressions, no matter how outrageous, no matter how high the pile grows;  “Ain’t no mountain high enough”, isn’t that how the lyrics read?  Feel no guilt, go out and ignore the rest of the world’s protestations, even if to your detriment.  Support the outsize personality. We did it for Ali, ignoring his flaws (isn’t he pretty, isn’t he fine); referring to Floyd Patterson as “the good Negro”, Sonny Liston as “Bigger Thomas”, isolating these black fighters from the rest of black community. Joe Frazier went to his grave perpetually hurt for the labels placed on him by Ali.

We did the same for James Brown (again another fan of Gorgeous George), no matter how many times he was placed in jail for hitting another woman.  Brown’s daughter, Dr. Yamma Brown wrote in her book, Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me ,“As much as I loved my father, and I sure loved him.  I hated him during those times.” Not surprisingly, she explained she acted no different than any other domestic violence victims, “[a]fter a while, she followed in the footsteps of her mother – ‘and acted as if the beatings hadn’t happened.’”   On the good foot, you say?

Arrested on numerous occasions relating to domestic abuse during the course of his life; puffing up like Gorgeous George; Papa’s got a brand new bag, didn’t he? No he didn’t.  We paid little mind to any of this malfeasance conduct, and kept dancing.  I got that feeling. I got that feeling. So does Gorgeous Donald’s supporters.

So to the minority who supported Gorgeous Donald – as he reminds us – your boy will continue to wreak havoc on the Constitution.  So I say, I understand.  I do. I do.  To achieve a bit more appreciation to this tribute to bombastic behavior, I wish I could say, just musing!  I am not, the stakes are too high.

JUST MUSING: “Shame on you…”

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is abandoning the presence of the comedian/comic/comedienne during next year’s annual dinner, April 27, 2019. For those you who are slow on the uptake – the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) is an organization of journalists who cover the White House and the President of the United States. The organization was founded in 1914 and has an annual dinner. The dinner began in 1921 and traditionally is attended by the President and Vice-President. Since 1983 the feature speaker at the dinner has been a comedian. The proceeds from the dinner funds scholarships for gifted students in college journalism programs.

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Crumbled – an imperfect ball – tattered along the edges, perfect for tossing into the nearest receptacle, with no intent at recycling; done with little explanation, substituted with a clean sheet, replaced by a historian. Are you kidding me?

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There is no intent on my part to speak animus/hate against historians, or against next year’s speaker. He may be the kindness, smartest, most articulate speaker in the world. That is not my point. I simply possess a disdain for willful, historical ignorance which equates comics to court jesters, whose role is to willingly pay homage to the King.

Who is the press paying homage to by discarding the comic? The President, members who have been insulted, a marauding, insulted public?  The comic part of my personality tells me most of them didn’t grow up in large families, possess little melanin in their skin hues, exist in a new world in which the comic are pulled out of the classroom and placed on Ritalin protocol.

They are the protectors of the socially awkward; capable of reaching upward, disturbing the normal course of business, asking the most asinine, brilliant, observant questions. They – comics – seemingly gilded with a gold coated fearlessness, capable of saying what others thought, needed to be said; smiling, smirking outwardly, while the rest of us struggle to contain and envelope the same smirk. Seeing our insecurity, channeling their and our anger, stress, undefined plight – saying, saying – saying – what needed said.

What part of Michelle Wolf’s – last year’s featured comic – routine wasn’t true? Absolutely, she didn’t say what she said in a light most favorable to a sensitive press. She raised her hand, introduced herself and poked; doing what comics do and should do.

She called you – the press – cowards and complicit with the White House.  Isn’t this the same as telling the rest of us the king has no clothes?  She didn’t tell knock-knock jokes and she shouldn’t.  She didn’t tell us why, what or where the chicken was going or doing when it went from one side of the road to the other – who gives a hoot!  She didn’t pay homage to Bob Hope, comic to the Presidents. Maybe too many of them are still alive, missing the days of yore, Bob Hope – Bing Cosby – Jerry Lewis – Dean Martin – Joey Bishop. Men who admitted their role was to support the war, any war, and the presidents, growing incredibly wealthy along the way; forever refusing to make those in power the brunt of the joke. In their world humor never had a double edge.

I’m going to skip a lot of the normal pleasantries. We’re at a Hilton, it’s not nice. This is on C-SPAN, no one watches that. Trump is president, it’s not ideal. White House Correspondents’ Association, thank you for having me, the monkfish was fine. Just a reminder to everyone, I’m here to make jokes, I have no agenda, I’m not trying to get anything accomplished. So everyone that’s here from Congress, you should feel right at home.

She did what comics do – didn’t she?  Showing up with a shit-eating comic grin intact, the same grin we have seen for years; the class clown, much like our friends whose sense of humor tilted both left and right, forever smiling, struggling with his/her demons through humor. Making the rest of us think; taking risks, while exposing the King and his minions. She/he is/was/will remain an equal opportunity slayer. This is why the comic is loved/hated/despised, saying what the rest of us wished we could.

Now, before we get too far, a little bit about me. A lot of you might not know who I am. I am 32 years old, which is an odd age — 10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore. I know, he almost got elected, yeah. It was fun. It was fun.

Honestly, I never really thought I’d be a comedian, but I did take an aptitude test in 7th grade, and this is 100% true. I took an aptitude test in 7th grade and it said my best profession was a clown or a mime. Well, at first it said clown, and then it heard my voice and was like, “Or maybe mime. Think about mime.

Poking the bear, the bully, then turning on the bully’s supporters before laughing at a beguiled audience who entered moments earlier, naively believing the role of the comic was to support them. The Press now mimics the executive branch, revoking the comics’ pass.  How sad is this?

No more comedians at the press dinner; smells a little too repressive to me.  Does the press association actually believe playing to totalitarian impulses doesn’t make them complicit in the behavior? “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”, seems to be the best way of explaining the Press’ reaction; standing for free speech until punched in the mouth, turning, running for cover; trying to make sense of this bold new-world, while the bully keeps punching; refusing to stand and fight, and punch the damn bully in the nose.  Turning on the court jester, blaming her/him; instead of supporting the jester for telling the truth about him – her – others.

Thanks to Trump, pink yarn sales are through the roof. After Trump got elected, women started knitting those pussy hats. When I first saw them I was like, “That’s a pussy?” I guess mine just has a lot more yarn on it. Yeah. You should have done more research before you got me to do this.

 

Good joke, bad joke, some hit, some don’t … comme ci comme ça… that’s my point. 

The press should understand the importance of the comic.  Comics invite the diversity of life into any room, telling tales in an apropos/in apropos manner, tone and tenor, particularly when the traditional outlets fail, causing the listener to believe they are forever one of us – even if they don’t know your Aunt Matilda from pooh.  So the Press Association slays the comic while a full-scale assault on the First Amendment and our rights takes place on the other side of the walls.  None of this makes sense to me.

Have they bothered to read Mark Twain, wasn’t he in part a comic? How about Benjamin Franklin, forever poking the bear – farting proudly – even though most of his life he was just as much part of the den as others.

Now, I worked in a lot of male-dominated fields. Before comedy, I worked at a tech company, and before that, I worked on Wall Street, and honestly, I’ve never been sexually harassed. That being said, I did work at Bear Stearns in 2008, so although I haven’t been sexually harassed, I’ve definitely been fucked. That whole company went down on me without my consent. And no men got in trouble for that one, either.

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Count me as confused. Stupefied by a stupid decision, made in board rooms divorced from the rest of the world, looking at their bottom-line, hurriedly moving toward black limousines waiting out front, not knowing the driver is still laughing at Michelle Wolf’s routine, not listening to no damn books on tape, instead listening to what pissed them off so much, to the extent of killing the comic, her/his classmate. Shame on you!

You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. If you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money, because he doesn’t have any.