Category: Culture

The 947th Signature

If there is one question that animated my efforts and drove me to spend the hundreds of hours of research necessary to write this article in The Arkansas Times (be sure to read the Author’s Note, as well), it is “Would I have signed?”

If someone had asked me in 1957, in the early days of the American civil rights movement when passions were rising to fever pitch, to put my name on the line for desegregation and make one small step toward integration, would I have signed?

Bottom line, I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of: Nine hundred and forty-six Harding students, faculty and staff did, and I’m proud of each and every one of them and thankful for the progress that my alma mater has made since those difficult days.… Read the rest

May Day, 1971

Another May Day has come and gone without dancing around a Maypole. But there was a day. Oh yes, there was a day. . . .

It was May 1st, 1971, and I was in 3rd grade at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia, site of many an early childhood nightmare memory. We were all gussied up in our spring best for the school’s annual May Day celebration. My teacher Mrs. English, a dour schoolmarm with wrinkled skin who believed that Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was an elaborate NASA hoax, paced and frowned from the sideline.

All our parents were there, too, not just the stay-at-home moms, but also the dads who somehow got the day off from their jobs even though it was the middle of the week and were now standing there with their space-age Bell & Howell 8mm home movie cameras ready to capture the moment.… Read the rest

How Mary Nell’s Handbell Got Saved

Jesus said to “Love they neighbor” and “thy enemy.” But what do you do when the person who lives next door to you is both?

I guess there aren’t any special dispensations for that scenario. You’re just supposed to suck it up and go. When it came to Mary Nell, our neighbor from 1995-2011, we tried–and failed–over and over and over.

We first met Mary Nell in August 1995 when we stopped by Corley Drive to check out the 10-year-old brick rancher with the huge backyard that had just gone on the market.

Well, “met” only if you count a dried-up prune of a little old lady glaring at you through window blinds as a “meeting.”… Read the rest

Ten Thousand Words

Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about

“Ten Thousand Words” –The Avett Brothers

In a perfect world, each of us would have both a personal trainer and a personal editor; the former for our obesity, the latter for our verbosity.

I’ve seen America fatten right before my very eyes. As a grunt on the front lines of primary health care over the past 25 years, I know first hand the effects of increased sedentary lifestyles and the “cornucopia” of processed and fast foods available at nearly every turn with just the swipe of a credit card.… Read the rest

Robert Rex Meyers: Student, Soldier, Professor, Preacher, “Heretic”–My Friend

Robert Rex Meyers was born in 1923 and raised by loving and devout parents on a three hundred acre farm in the eastern hills of Oklahoma near Henrietta. From an early age, he would rise early in the morning and plow the land, sowing seeds in the rich, moist earth in much the same way he would later plant ideas in the fertile minds of eager students. He studied the Bible and was baptized by a traveling black evangelist named R.N. Hogan in a small, fundamentalist Church of Christ, but it was his full-bodied immersion in the deep waters of natural revelation, the whisper of God in the rustling of wind-kissed leaves and the fragrant incense of meadow grass, that would eventually set his heart aflame.… Read the rest

21-0; That’s Mighty Fine Opium

For those of you still smarting and aggrieved over the fact that an “undeserving” team like the Alabama Crimson Tide was allowed into the BCS Championship Game and then, wonder of wonders, actually won the thing, making this two titles in three years (Can you say, “Cam sandwich”?), then perhaps you can take some consolation in this: It really wasn’t that much fun for me.

What with the extra hours I’ve been working lately (and the resultant fatigue), having two good friends die in the past week, and all the moaning and yakety-yak coming out of Stillwater and practically every other corner of the country over the past six weeks, I hardly took any pleasure or interest in the game up until the time that I turned on the TV Monday night.… Read the rest

The Family Holiday Newsletter (1996[?]-2011)

The Family Holiday Newsletter died yesterday. It was born in December, 1996 when the Family Sons were ages seven, five and three. It may have been before then, but there were no files older than 1996 on the 500GB external hard drive.

It had been on life support for some time, but since this is the third year running that it has failed to make an appearance, the Family finally said their tearful goodbyes and pulled the plug. The newsy, bulleted, Family Holiday Newsletter was one of those “brag sheets” that were de rigueur for “parents of a certain age,” thirty and forty-somethings whose prodigy kids composed symphonies at age five, set age records in the marathon at age seven and cured cancer at age nine.… Read the rest

Exorcising Demons

“It’s only a game!” she pleaded.

Mmmhmm. And Herman Cain was merely a harmless flirt. Eyegal was responding to the sight of me, head in hands, my team up 24-7 at halftime in this year’s Iron Bowl. You know, that annual “intrastate scrimmage” between Alabama and Auburn.

In any other universe, 24-7 at the break is reason enough for a trip to the fridge to fetch the wings and that gourmet beer you’ve been saving for a special occasion. But my stomach was churning too violently to enjoy food and drink. I wasn’t quite “Tebowing,” but almost. If 2010 had taught Crimson Tide fans anything it was that a 17 point halftime lead was never enough.… Read the rest

A Moral Paper Bag

My wife often substitutes at a local private school, one of the area’s finest.  It is where many of Huntsville’s professional elite send their children to be prepped and to gain that special leg-up that only money can buy.

Sometimes, she comes home and tells me stories.

Yesterday, she read her 5th graders the short story, “Thank You, Ma’am” by the noted 20th-century African-American writer Langston Hughes. In it a young boy with a hankering for a pair of  “blue suede shoes” decides to steal the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, a hairdresser who is walking home one evening after leaving her shift at a local hotel.… Read the rest

“I Want To Believe”

“Mulder and Scully came right out of my head. A dichotomy. They are the equal parts of my desire to believe in something and my inability to believe in something. My skepticism and my faith.”

–Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files”

A friend of mine told me recently that I was “altogether too polite” and that I didn’t ask enough “tough questions.” This came as news to my family, especially my sons who, on more than one occasion, have felt the probing, white heat of one of my infamous, late-night interrogation sessions following one of their nights on the town (“Vee have vays of making you talk!”).… Read the rest

Pork-tentious Signs

Asheville, North Carolina and Seattle are on opposite sides of the country, but they share an unusual passion worthy of mention, even praise–pig statuary.

It was about this time last year that I spotted a memorial to an Unknown Pig in downtown Asheville on my way to the Duke v. Alabama game. That encounter launched a bacony reverie that stirred up enough favorable ju-ju for a stunning, 4th quarter come-from-behind victory for the Tide over the the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville the next week.

This year, same song, different sow. Her name is Rachel, and she’s a 550 lbs bronzed beauty of a piggy bank who serves as a mascot for the iconic Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.Read the rest

Walking the Line

We had assembled at Coleman Coliseum on the campus of the University of Alabama to watch our children “walk the line” at summer graduation. The killer tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa on April 27th, 2011 had also rudely interrupted the academic careers of many of the May graduates, leaving them all dressed up in cap and gown with no place to go.

Now, even though they had received their hard-earned diplomas in the mail a few weeks prior, many of them had returned, along with their fellow summer graduates, to don their regalia and finish in style. Also in attendance: a mess of mamas and papas and memaws and papaws, all of them thirsty for some much-needed closure and a little pomp and circumstance.… Read the rest

Three Lessons I Learned At Central High

Last week, I returned to high school.

Fortunately, nobody had rescinded my diploma. Neither had I landed in one of those fish-out-of-water, “impotence” dreams where the hapless, middle-age man, who has long since forgotten the difference between a sine and cosine, is thrown into an advanced geometry class full of National Merit Scholars.

Instead, I visited Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, where nine black students, aka the “Little Rock Nine,” dared to enter her shiny portals of learning in September, 1957, thereby ending ending racial segregation in Little Rock public schools. They were blocked on the first attempt by Arkansas National Guardsmen acting under orders of Governor Orval Faubus who had sworn not to allow the black students to enroll.… Read the rest

X-Men Among Us

Eyegal and I went to see X-Men: First Class last Friday and loved it.

Loved it; as in it was a steamy Friday evening following another day of triple digit temps in Alabama and we just wanted to be in the AC and not have to think too hard and just sit back and lose ourselves in a fast-paced action story. In this case, one resonating with the early-60s James Bond, “Mad Men” period vibe that scratches my nostalgic itch these days. That kind of “loved it.”

You won’t see this movie among the list of finalists in next year’s Academy Awards, but it fit the bill for such Friday night circumstances and was another enjoyable installment in the X-Men movies series which started in 2000.… Read the rest

“Huntsville International”–A Rap Song I Actually Like, Yo!

I’ve never been afraid to embarrass my sons with my bungled attempts at humor and middle age antics–I consider it part of the job description of being a “Dad.” But truth be told, whenever I do something they think is cool, it thrills me to no end. But please don’t tell them that, because that would ruin everything.

For instance, my recent acquisition of a taste for (and reputation for listening to) rap music. Well, not all rap music, but one song in particular–“Huntsville International” by the local rap group, G-Side.

Here’s how a mortuary-white, hopelessly off-beat, middle age, pointy-headed pseudo-intellectual got turned on to a piece of hip-hop:

I’ve a long-time fan of the magazine Oxford American, which is sort of a distinctly Southern version of The New Yorker or The Atlantic.… Read the rest