Sunday, March 30, 2014

Notes From The Sophomore Class

Here's something that will make you feel old: the youngest members of  The Baby Boom Generation turn 50 years old this year. The punks.

For those of you that were asleep or didn't take this class, The Baby Boom Generation are the people born from 1946-1964. They are noted for several things, but mainly their narcissism, which is truly epic. Did you know that the first word ever spoken by the average Baby Boomer as a baby was "Me"?  You can Google it if you like.

There's a new book on The Baby Boomer experience written by a Baby Boomer named P.J. O'Rouke who is probably one of the funniest people on the planet today. The book is titled Baby Boom: How It Got That Way And It Wasn't My Fault And I'll Never Do It Again.

I know what you are thinking: "Oh great, another book about how great Baby Boomers are and they can barely use an iPhone".  Trust me, it is not another one of those books. Most Baby Boomer books focus on how life was grand until JFK was assassinated and the country responded by going into a non-winnable land war in Southeast Asia, taking drugs, and getting naked. Oh yeah, our music was better, too.

O'Rouke  doesn't really go into that. His contribution to Baby Boomer literature is that he divides Baby Boomers into four classes, like school.

The Senior Class was born in the late 40's. O'Rouke notes members include "Hillary Clinton and Cheech Marin". The Junior Class was born in the early to mid-50's.  The Sophomore Class was born in the late 50's. Finally, the Freshman class was born in the 60's. The President of The United States is in this class. O'Rouke says of the Freshman class: "They have the luxury of fretting of things like the deficit..the fairness of the nation's health insurance system, and whether, if they spend a lot of time at the gym and get a tattoo they  stand any chance of hooking up with twenty-six-year-olds"(The answer: No)

I was glad to read something like this. Finally somebody had the nerve to admit that all Baby Boomers are not alike.

For example, I am in The Sophomore Class. What I remember about my growing up is that boys started to wear "that old long hair", as Old Man Manis used to say.  I remember a lot of talk about Nixon. That topic was on everybody's mind.

One topic was Women's Liberation. The whole thing behind Women's Liberation was that women are just as good as any man and they didn't have to wear a bra anymore. I have a feeling that's when a lot of men starting supporting (ha, ha) Women's Liberation.

O'Rouke says that the Upper Boomer Classmen are real intense while the younger ones are not. That's how The President of The United States can attend a church where The Preacher takes God's name in vain and spews anti-Semantic rhetoric and claim, with a straight face, that he never remembers hearing anything close to that. It wasn't that the President was lying. He just didn't remember it, because, you know, whatever.

I can honestly say this though: I love my sophomore class. The people I graduated with at Wheeler High School in 1977 were all great people. I was never bullied or picked on. I was 5'6", 130 pounds  and wore thick glasses. That tells you something right there.

One of my favorite memories of high school was an English class, when in a moment of trying to be hip or temporary insanity, the teacher decided to let us bring modern record albums (you kids know them as "vinyls") and use lyrics from the songs as an example of poetry. I think she thought we would bring in The Sound of Music soundtrack.

The first kid brought in a Paul Simon album. I'm not sure the teacher was aware of Paul Simon, but if she was she probably assumed the student was going to play "Bridge of Troubled Water" or "I Am A Rock", which were both English class type of songs. Nope. He played the song, "Duncan".  Here is the first stanza of the song we heard:

"Couple in the next room
Bound to win a prize
They’ve been going at it all night long"

Oh, gets better.

"I crept to her tent with a flashlight
And my long years of innocence ended
Well, she took me to the woods
Saying here comes something and it feels so good"

The teacher was horrified, of course. Another student brought in a Led Zeppelin album. If this teacher didn't know Paul Simon, you know she didn't have a clue about Led Zeppelin. While the Led Zeppelin song was blaring away, the teacher had a pained look on her face. It got worse from the literary analysis of the song by the student. It was: "I don't know what this means".  He's a college professor now, by the way.

Years later, I saw this teacher at a wedding and I asked her if she still allowed students to bring in records to  analyze songs. She said, "No! I learned my lesson with your class".

I can honestly say we did not have it bad. Our lives have been pretty cushy. We tell our children, "Yeah, when I was your age, you didn't have all of these fancy TV stations. No! You have three or four at the most. And had to get-your-lazy-butt-off-of-the couch and turn the channels too. And if President Ford was on, well, it was bye-bye Fonzie that night."

Somehow, we made it through all of that and now we have the world we have today.  Sorry, kids.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Lesson From The Lava Lamp

Greg Marshall is a friend of this blog. I think I can say, with all Christian charity, that Greg is clinically insane. They haven't quite invented the medicine to treat Greg yet.

Greg is the only person I know that has seen Elvis (Yes, that one!) without having to pay for a ticket. Greg also bumped into Jimmy Buffett before Jimmy Buffett became incorporated. I know about 400 hundred people that have bumped into Jimmy Buffett somewhere. I can only imagine the conversation Jimmy Buffett had with Greg.

Jimmy: "Are you still in school?"

Greg: "My last final is Friday, so come Monday, it's gonna be all right. Boy, I wish I had a mustache, pencil thin, like Boston Blackie. Have you seen my lost shaker of salt?"

Greg is one of the only people I have heard of (Al Gore is the other, which I'm sure pleases Greg) that knows how to hypnotize a chicken. He (Greg-not Al Gore) is proud of this ability. I'm certain it is on his resume (Greg's-not Al Gore's but I would suggest that the former Vice President add it. It couldn't hurt).

Vice President of A Large Corporation: "I see your resume notes that you know how to hypnotize a chicken. Would you be willing to travel, overnight, and teach this skill to our chicken handling employees?"

I met Greg when we started attending Roswell Street Baptist Church. My son was six years old at the time and my wife and I wanted him to be involved in the programs of the church. It was important to us because our son had announced, on a couple of different occasions, that he wished we were Jewish (long story).

Greg was in charge of a program called "The Royal Ambassadors" which is "a missions discipleship organization for boys in grades 1-6 through hands-on activities that encourage spiritual growth, games and sports, and mentoring relationships". I can honestly say looking at it years later that our son's spiritual growth was encourage by games, sports, and mentoring relationships. It was also encouraged by Greg drinking a Lava Lamp.

For those of you that don't know, a Lava Lamp is a "novelty" lamp that "contains blobs of colored wax inside a glass vessel filled with clear or translucent liquid". The wax blob raises and falls either through the heating of the incandescent light bulb at the bottom of the lamp or by magic, I don't know which. Originally, way back in the groovy 60's, the blobs were colored red and it "looked" like lava. It was really far out. I guess you had to be there.

Greg was always telling the kids that he was going to drink a Lava Lamp. How he came up with that, I have no earthly idea. I'm still trying to figure out why you would want to hypnotize a chicken.

Of course, boys in grades 1-6 are not the sharpest knives in the population drawer. They'd tell him, "No way, you'd die". Greg would tell them he's done it before and somehow lived through the ordeal.

So one day, Greg announces that if the kids met this certain goal, he would drink a Lava Lamp. That's all of the incentive the kids needed.  They met their goal and Greg announced he would drink a Lava Lamp at the next Royal Ambassadors meeting.

I cannot accurately describe the reaction of the boys. They went absolutely, and I say this with great love and Baptist censorship, totally Ape Poop Bat Guano Crazy.

The big day finally came for Greg to drink The Lava Lamp. Of course, Greg had to involve me in his presentation. This was his plan. He had two Lava Lamps. One was your average groovy Lava Lamp and the other was empty. He put biscuit dough in the empty Lava Lamp and filled it with blue Powerade. He was going to give a brief little talk before he drank from the Lava Lamp. But when he said a certain word (the cue) he wanted me to turn the lights off so he could switch the Lava Lamp with the Power Aide Lava Lamp and drink from the Powerade Lava Lamp.

The boys came into the chapel for the Greg Will Drink From A Lava Lamp event.  It had to be like how it was at The Ed Sullivan Show during The Beatles first show. The kids were in a total frenzy.  It was pandemonium, Baptist style.

Greg starts his talk and the kids are hanging on his every word. Then, Greg says the cue. Bam! I hit the lights.

The problem: We hadn't rehearsed this and the chapel was not completely dark. Some of the older kids (5th graders) saw Greg switch the Lava Lamps. Immediately, I heard "He switched 'em! He switched  'em!  Chaos reigns again. It was like a soccer game in Ireland. I thought the kids were going to riot.

Greg drinks from the faux Lava Lamp and makes faces that I'm sure he got from years of watching Red Skelton. The dads in the crowd were laughing. Some kids were pouting. Others were still saying "He switched 'em!'. The rest were looking at Greg with their mouths open.

Greg admitted to the kids that he didn't drink from the Lava Lamp. "I knew it! He switched 'em!"  Then he said, "I didn't drink from the Lava Lamp because that would be a pretty stupid thing to do".

That was a good thing to tell the young boys. Boys grow into guys who generally do stupid things. Guys who think they can drink an adult beverage and then drive. Guys who think they can still date other women while they are married. You can tell a guy until you are blue in the face that something is bad, harmful, etc, and they will go ahead and do it. Tell them it is stupid and show them how stupid it is, and generally they won't.

I have kept up with most of these boys over the years. None of them have done anything stupid or drank from a Lava Lamp.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bossy Boots

In case you missed it last week, several extremely wealthy women have decided to boss the rest of us around by advocating the banning of the word "bossy" in reference to little girls.

The idea behind "Ban Bossy" is to address the pressing issue of girls not seeking "leadership roles" out of the fear of being labeled "bossy". You mean, that's all we had to do with Hillary Clinton? Call her "bossy" and she would have demurely walked away? I wished we had known that sooner.

The COO of  Facebok, Sheryl Sandberg, has teamed up with the Girl Scouts to launch a campaign, complete with commercials, urging us to ban the word "bossy" from our vocabularies.

The commercials feature celebrities like pop singer Beyonce Knowles.

I find it interesting that Beyonce is concerned about the power of words considering her husband Jay-Z, has become a millionaire and a very important person by referring to women as "bitches" and "hoes".  I assume that is not a compliment.

Beyonce has a new song out and supposedly it empowers women, which is a big thing in pop music.

When I was a teenager, the song "I Am Woman" came out. It said "I am woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore". Women were soon empowered all of the place, mainly by wearing halter tops. At least they were in East Cobb, where I grew up.

Here are some lyrics from Beyonce's new song,  "Partition". It makes "Afternoon Delight" sound like a Shakespearean sonnet.

Took 45 minutes to get all dressed up
We ain't even gonna make it to this club
Now my mascara running, red lipstick smudged
Oh he so horny, he want to ****
He bucked all my buttons, he ripped my blouse
He Monica Lewinski all on my gown

Yep, that's the kind of person you want determining what words to use.

It is not clear how this word will be banned or what the punishment will be if someone utters this "B-word" to a little girl. I have a feeling shaming will be involved. Someone in the future will be "written up" and given a good scolding.  They haven't even come up with a word to replace "bossy". Do we say, "Stop being so assertive"?

You'll probably see articles in The Huffington Post stating if only Eva Braun was bossy, maybe Hitler wouldn't have killed so many people. There will be tweets on Twitter noting that Rosa Parks was bossy and it freed her people.   The possibilities are endless because while this generation can't change a flat tire, we sure can come up with new ways of condemning people.

When I started my working life, I worked with people that smoked at their desks, like they do on Mad Men.  Then, they were told that they could only smoke at the loading dock. (By the way, this was where all of the great office rumors were shared.) Soon some companies stated that you couldn't smoke at work at all.  It is like Cedric The Entertainer's line about "You can't smoke on Earth, no more" was proven true. All that happened within 25 years. So culture can be changed.

At least in the smoking situation, you can make a compelling argument there was a health risk involve. Here it just seems like people not liking a word which before last week seemed to be just another adjective. Yet, the entertainers are okay with 506 F-bombs dropped in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Peggy Young Nance said, "They rail against patriarchy and claim women and men are the same, and yet they seem cowed by an innocuous word".

Sometime when it comes to our culture, I wish I could roll up the partition.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lewis Grizzard Is Dead (And I Don't Feel So Good Myself)

Has it really been twenty years since Lewis Grizzard died?

He died in just the second year of  President Bill Clinton and before a Representative from Cobb County became The Speaker of House.

He missed Monica Lewinsky. He would have made a killing off of that. He missed Al Gore getting all prissy about "Global Warming" . He missed "The Macarena". He missed the Internet. He missed cell phones. He missed iPods, Gangsta Rap, and  Freaknik.

He missed The Atlanta Braves winning The World Series. He missed The Atlanta Falcons going to The Super Bowl. He missed the last Super Bowl in Atlanta and Ray Lewis. He missed the O.J. Simpson trial.

What would he have said about The 1996 Olympics? 9/11? The Second Iraq War?

What would he have made of George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? Sarah Palin?  What would he have said about Barack Obama? The Affordable Health Care Act?  Pick-up trucks with seat warmers?

I'm telling you, the columns would have written themselves.

There was a time when Grizzard was The King of Atlanta. Everybody loved or had a run in with Lewis Grizzard at one time or another. Everybody my age and older knows at least one woman Lewis either: 1) went to bed with or 2) tried to go to bed with.  The man was a hound.

I started reading Grizzard when he came back from Atlanta in 1977. It was just after his second divorce. He ended up being married four time before he died. He used to say, "Instead of getting married again, I'm just going to find a woman I don't like and give her a house."

 He introduced us to all of his friends, like Dorsey Hill, (a real person) who said the three most over-rated things in life are Home Cooking, Extra-marital sex and Rock City.

Who could forget Cordie Mae Poovey. If you grew up in the South, you know at least four Cordie Mae Pooveys.  Her polar opposite was the unforgettable Kathy Sue Loudermilk. Grizzard described her wearing a dress so tight "it looked like one hundred pounds of potatoes was stuffed in a fifty pound bag".

One of my favorite characters was "Wayman C. Wannamaker, Jr., a great American".  Imagine this Grizzard book title:  Wayman C. Wannamaker, Jr.,  A Great American, Will NOT Press One For English.

Who could forget his books? If Love Were Oil, I'd Be A Quart Low. Shoot Low Boys, They're Riding Shetland Ponies. If I Ever Get Back To Georgia, I'm Going to Nail My Feet To The Ground. They Took My Heart And Stomped That Sucker Flat. The man was a writing machine on a little device known as a typewriter.

For all of his fame, adulation, and attention, I've heard from more than one person that Grizzard was one of the most miserable individuals you'd ever want to meet. Some of it had to do with the booze, of course. Some of it had to do with the pressure of writing a column at least four days a week (Grizzard complained "Being a newspaper columnist is like being married to a nymphomaniac. It's great for the first two weeks.")

But a lot of it was "daddy issues" that he detailed in My Pappy Was A Pistol And I'm A Son of A Gun. Today, we would say Grizzard's father had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Back then, they would just say he wasn't the same when he got back from Korea.

I read Grizzard constantly back then. I wanted to write like Grizzard. He seemed like he understood the same people I understood. So, I began to write. It is tough to write when you can't spell or know the basic rules of grammar.

In the mid 80's Lewis began to diversify. He developed a stand up act that closed with these words of wisdom: "Life is like a dog sled. Unless you're the lead dog, the scenery never changes". He appeared on Johnny Carson. He acted on Designing Women. With the diversification, Lewis began to get a little bit formulatic. While I still read Lewis, I found a new hero: Dave Barry. I started to try to write like him.

Then one day, Lewis was gone.

No longer would there be a voice for the good old Southern boys. The boys whose dads worked on the graveyard shift at Lockheed and did not get invited into the country clubs or the fraternities.  The boys who have to work through college. The boys that go into HVAC.  People get nervous when the lower class white boys start wanting a voice. They think we're going to stand in the school house door and keep our women barefoot and pregnant. A lot of people speak about us and at us, but nobody really speaks for us.

Sometimes, I'll have a person tell me that my blog posts remind them of Grizzard. It is very flattering, but its like saying someone singing in the shower sounds like Pavarotti George Jones.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rules For Christian Baking

We now have an answer to the question, "What would Jesus do?"  The answer: bake a cake.

In case you have missed all of the excitement, there have been several laws proposed in several states as a reaction against cases in Washington, Colorado, and New Mexico where a florist, a baker, and a photographer have been sued because they refused to perform those services at  same-sex weddings.

The most logical reaction would be this: if somebody refuses to work for you, you find somebody else that would do the work for you and pay them the money. But there are scores to be settled and people to belittle so lets take them to court!

What has been interesting to me is some of the reaction to this from my fellow Evangelicals.

Kristen Powers wrote an Op-ed piece for USA TODAY titled "Jim Crow Laws For Gays and Lesbians".  In it, Powers makes some assertions that I found rather surprising.  She says, "Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married".  She adds, "Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation."

Well. We get everything we know about Jesus and Christianity from this book called The Bible. Perhaps you have heard about it. Just reading what it says about Sodom and Gomorrah, what it says in Leviticus and what it says in the Pauline epistles,  one doesn't get the idea that it is for same-sex marriage. Maybe I missed something.

Look, I know Powers is a "young Christian" (you might even say that she is a "Babe in Christ-sorry I couldn't resist), but this is just semantically silliness. Powers also says, "Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can't they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?

                                                  A Babe In Christ

Apparently, Powers believes the florists and bakers are in the ministry and not business. Prison ministries serve to try to get the "unrepentant murderers" to repent. Is this really that difficult to understand?

As long as we're saying catering a same-sex wedding is not "an affirmation", I guess we can say that catering the AVN  (Adult Video News) Awards would not be "an affirmation" either.  How about a gathering of Neo-Nazis? Or people that like to be cruel to puppies?  Those folks like their cake and eat it too.

However, the goofiest quote in the Op-ed came from Andy Stanley, who is the pastor of The North Point Church in Alpharetta and is a big deal church-wise. Stanley is quoted as saying, "Serving people we don't see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn't see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn't want to sell its products to a gay couple, it's their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it." 

So what other business decisions does Stanley want to "leave Jesus out of " ?  Is Stanley saying that Christians cannot come to any other conclusion than his?

One of the problems with this topic is that there is a "cool" side and a "not so cool" side. The cool side is to be hip and with it and assert that Jesus is not only The Good Shepherd but also The Great Caterer. The not so cool side are those that have such quaint views that marriage is between a man and a woman. Those people have become the new Bull Connors. Peggy Noonan put it best in her piece: "The political-media complex is bravely coming down on florists with unfashionable views."

                                  This is the new face of Jim Crow

Noonan goes on to say, "On Twitter, the freedom-fighter who tweets as @FriedrichHayek asked: "Can the government compel a Jewish baker to deliver a wedding cake on a Saturday? If not why not." Why not indeed. Because the truly tolerant give each other a little space?"

Oh Lord. You can't do that. It used to be the Libertarian ideal was "live and let live". Now,  it's "bake them a cake" or you are a sinful person that probably is really gay in your spare time. Not that there's anything wrong with that. You can even bake yourself a cake.