Sunday, April 30, 2017

Moving Forward

An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life: whether this life has any meaning, purpose, or value. 

Yes, it was, as they say, an existential crisis.  At least it was for me, in a way.

As you know, two weeks ago my old pal Barry Suttle died suddenly. No warning. Tuesday night, he was commenting on Facebook about how he loved Leon Russell's cover of "Jumping Jack Flash".

Wednesday morning he was gone.

I don't ever remember him mentioning having a cold. A couple of months ago, he mentioned chest pains. He went to the doctor. The doctor said it was gastric reflux.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Barry really encouraged me to write. He said I was good. He said I reminded him of Lewis Grizzard.

That still blows me away. Someone who knew me as a skinny, uncoordinated, zit-faced, four-eyed geek at Wheeler comparing me to one of my humor heroes now that I'm a tubby, uncoordinated, zit-faced geek with contact lenses.

On Blogger, you can see how many people have read your post. When the great Furman Bisher died, I wrote a piece called "Selah" (the Hebrew word for "ponder" which Bisher would sometimes end his columns).  It got a grand total of three reads. Three. ***

One was Barry.

After the initial shock of learning of his death, I became really numb. It was like nothing made sense to me.  Then I realized it was the first non-accident sudden death I had experienced.

My Dad's death was not a surprised. Neither was my mother-in-law's.  My father-in-law's death was surprising, but he was elderly and not in the best of health. Mom's was a shock too, but she was older and had lived a full life. My brother's niece called me one evening and said, "Your brother will die in 30 minutes".  So, even then, I had some time to prepare.

With Barry, I had no time to prepare. He was here one day. Then, he wasn't.

His memorial service helped me out a lot.  While there were tears, there were also some laughs.

The speakers told a lot of great stories:

  • Barry and Bobby singing "Let It Be" with Barry's hand written lyrics with this instruction: "Dramatic". 
  • Barry bringing Mike's Hard Cider Lemonade for use as the communion wine at a Bible study retreat. 
  • Barry drinking Scotch with Tony.
  • Barry retrieving his son's first college home run and getting stuck on the fence.

It struck me how Barry was the same with them as he was with me. Open. Honest.  I could ask him any question and he would answer me.  If someone else asked the same question he would give the same answer.

If I had to sum up Barry, I would say this. A lot of people tell you what they think. Barry told you what he saw. That's what umpires do. That don't tell you they think they saw a strike. They tell you they saw a strike.

I can't tell you how many people Barry told me he loved. It has to be in the millions. He saw a lot of good in people that frankly I had trouble seeing.  But, upon further review, he was right in what he saw.

We used to talked about sports, Wheeler, girls at Wheeler, and music. I never did tell him about one of my new favorite singers, Hayes Carll.  He's a Texas songwriter, kind of a mix of Jerry Jeff Walker and Jimmy Buffett. He has some really funny songs. One has this classic lyric: "We were making out like Bonnie and Clyde".

Carll has some serious songs and one is called "Long Way Home", which I've listened to a lot over the past two weeks. In the second verse Carll says:  "So what are we supposed to do? Just walk around forever blue?"

I thought about that a lot while trying to process Barry's passing.  I'm pretty sure he would not want me to walk around forever blue but instead to move forward with the time I have left. He would want me to be a good friend, a good employee, a good husband, a good father and father-in-law.

He would also want me to keep writing because he saw something good in it. Hey, who am I to question the umpire?

*** As of this posting, the blog post "Barry", has 3857 reads.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017


It is always a shock to learn of someone's death, particularly someone as young and vibrant as Barry Suttle.

When I learned of the news, I said something I rarely say, "Oh, my God".  I was blindsided. As George Strait would say, it came out of a blue clear sky. 

He was my age. He just celebrated his 58th birthday. His best friend took him to Pebble Beach  in February. Barry hit a hole in one.

Barry was another Wheeler Wildcat. He was a very good football and baseball player.  Now my class was unusual-the "jocks" got along with everybody and didn't make us non-jocks lives miserable.

Even with that, I really didn't know Barry well until a little invention of Mark Zuckerberg came out: Facebook.

Barry accepted my friend request and soon we became big buddies.

He was friendly to everyone.  He had a great laugh. Once, I showed him the meme of the police horse getting yelled at by a far left protester. The meme said Why Are You Yelling At Me Lady? I'm A Freakin' Horse.  Barry roared when he saw it.

He always made it a point to compliment my blog. He liked my stupid "24 Recap", which frankly, I sort of lifted from Dave Barry.  He always encouraged me. Men in their fifties usually don't encourage other men in their fifties. He said I was just as good as anybody that writes for The Marietta Daily Journal. 

It is because of that  I dedicated my Kindle book Go Ahead and Humor Me to him. 

After his kids grew up, he sold the family business and went back to college to get his Masters' degree so he could teach high school English.

Barry was an umpire in the spring and summer. During the break of his games, he would go to his truck and read Shakespeare. Really.

He said it was tough going back to school. The other students were much more, er, millennial than he was, in every way, shape, and form. But he stuck it out and he got his Master's degree.

He was in a movie too!  He played an umpire (naturally) in "42" which is about Jackie Robinson. He had a line: "Play ball!".   He said it took only one take.

He was very proud of his children. His son played professional baseball for a while. His daughter was the apple of his eye. He became a grandfather just a few weeks ago.

I must admit I heard a voice when I learned of Barry's passing. It was the voice of David Gates.

Barry had a very elastic taste in music. One of the groups he liked was Bread. The lead singer on most of Bread's '70's soft hits was David Gates. Barry liked all of their songs.

Every Tuesday on Facebook, I post a "70's Song Lyric Challenge". It is mainly a goof to get people to talk to each other, which is one of the great things about Facebook.  

This past Tuesday, I posted a lyric from "Goodbye Girl" by David Gates. I haven't heard that song in years but I heard it on Pandora last week. I thought it was going to be a "stumper"- a lyric nobody would know.

Barry did.

I sent him an inbox message. "How in the world did you know that?"  He explained he loved sappy love songs.

So, when I learned of Barry's passing, I heard David Gates singing, "Goodbye doesn't mean forever".

Goodbye, Barry. As the another 70's song said, thank you for being a friend.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Judge Not

  Judge not, that ye be not judged. ~ Jesus

Boy, if there has been one verse in the New Testament that people have learned it is Matthew 7:1. It was part of "The Sermon on The Mount", you may have heard about it. It has been in all of the papers.

Jesus is being, as we say, straight up. This is a direct command. Do Not Judge.

In Matthew 7: 2-3, Jesus goes on to say that how you judge is how you will be judged and you shouldn't be a hypocrite.


It is tough not to judge people. It is almost as hard as not looking at a woman and lusting in your heart. That snared Jimmy Carter, so you know it is tough.

The problem comes in what is actual judgment. It really depends on your viewpoint.  If someone is criticizing you or something you like, they are are judging you and are on the wrong side of Jesus. However, if you are criticizing something or someone, you are simply rendering an opinion.

This recently came up during the startling revelation that Vice President Mike "Mike" Pence and his wife, Mrs. Mike Pence, do not have lunch or dinner with a member of the opposite gender, regardless of party affiliation, by themselves.

It is known in the Evangelical world as "The Billy Graham Rule". Billy Graham would never meet with a woman alone. Tongues wag, you know.

It is a pretty good rule for members of the clergy. It prevents misunderstanding, gossip, and a whole host of other issues.

The layman, well, it is probably a good idea, but it is not always possible.

For example, for years, I would eat lunch with various women I worked with and somehow we managed not to fool around in the breakroom.  I have also had lunch with female friends and everything was up and up. I told my wife where I was and at what time I was there. Plus, my wife has that app on her phone that tells her where I'm at all times.

My opinion: I think it is okay for a man and woman to have lunch together as long as they don't have sex for dessert.  My wife trusts me and I trust my wife.  Anyway, our lunch schedules now preclude us from having lunch with anybody, so this is a non-issue for us.

Even though I disagree with the Vice President, I understand the logic and it is really none of my business. If it works for them, it works for me.

However, Olga Khazan wrote in The Atlantic magazine that "women"(i.e. the staffers, etc in Washington)  "suffer" (i.e.: don't become famous) because of Pence's "Dudely Dinners".

She writes, "Pence is not the only powerful man in Washington who goes to great lengths to avoid the appearance of impropriety with the opposite sex. An anonymous survey of female Capitol Hill staffers conducted by National Journal in 2015 found that “several female aides reported that they have been barred from staffing their male bosses at evening events, driving alone with their congressman or senator, or even sitting down one-on-one in his office for fear that others would get the wrong impression.” One told the reporter Sarah Mimms that in 12 years working for her previous boss, he 'never took a closed door meeting with me. ... This made sensitive and strategic discussions extremely difficult.'"

Khazan correctly points out that if somebody is going to cheat, they're going to cheat.  If there's one thing Bill Clinton taught us was that. But, it is not too out of the realm of possibility that someone catching dinner every night with someone else might be slipping around.  However, you won't know until you know.

It is a topic we have to give each other some slack. If we shouldn't judge Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage, which George Stephanopoulous said was "a mystery", we really shouldn't judge the Pence's marriage either.


Sunday, April 2, 2017


It was quite a shock to learn of the death of legendary Atlanta country deejay Warren "Rhubarb" Jones. Like most shocking deaths, it was due to a heart attack. He was 65 years old, which is sounding younger and younger to me.

Like most news now days, I first read about it on Facebook.

He came to Atlanta in the mid-80's to country music station WYAY. He was the lead morning man in their "Zoo Crew". Morning drive time radio had a lot of "Zoo Crews" back then. They were supposed to be wacky CRAZY people helping you to work.  Glenn Beck was in a "Zoo Crew " at one time.

As a listener, radio seemed fun back then. They were always giving away money, to the tenth caller. If not the tenth caller, it was the tenth caller with "the phrase that pays". Everybody had their favorite morning show. I was a Gary McKee man and listen to 94Q every morning. On my birthday, my wife would call the show and "The Birthday Monster" would wish me a happy birthday.

Soon, somehow, McKee was gone. Z93 became a "classic rock station". I listened to their morning show "Chase and Woodside".  Then one morning, they were gone too. They were replaced by "Slats". As soon I got used to "Slats", he was replaced by "The Greaseman" whose talents I never did recognize or appreciate.

I turned to Christopher Rude at 96Rock. Again, one morning, he was gone and replaced by a national show "John Boy and Billy".  By the time I got used to "John Boy and Billy", 96Rock brought The Regular Guys to town.  I listened to them, but they got fired. Soon, they were rehired. Then they were fired, again.

I turned to "Randy and Spiff".  One morning I went to a meeting at work and when I came back their oldies station had turned into a country station.  Then I went to STAR94 for Steve and Vicki. They were fired the next week.  I felt like a morning drive time radio albatross.

I read in the paper that Southside Steve Rickman (of The Regular Guys show) was going to join Rhubarb's show. I turned it over to Eagle 107.6.  It was an enjoyable show. Rhubarb played to the country hits. He introduced me to the great Kentucky Headhunters song "Dumas Walker" ("We'll get a slaw burger, fries, and a bottle of Ski").

He would have all of the comedians that dropped by Atlanta on. Colin Quinn sounded like he understood Rhubarb. Chelsea Handler actually asked if "Rhubarb" was his real name. She didn't sound like she was joking.

Of course, the radio station company that owned the Eagle sold out to another radio company that went belly up and sold to its present owners, Cumulus.  Cumulus changed formats and Rhubarb left Atlanta mornings after twenty years.

The old country music deejay during those twenty years earned his Master's degree and he ended up as a professor at Kennesaw State University.  He was a tireless supporter of the school and you rarely saw a picture of him without his KSU swag.

He was involved with his community. He held fund raiser after fund raiser, often with Charlie Daniels. It seems everybody knew Rhubarb, even if they never listened to his show.

I had one close encounter with Rhubarb.  There was a lady where I work who sat in a cubicle a couple of doors down from mine, who was a big Rhubarb fan. She had autographed Rhubarb pictures in her cubicle. One day, I stepped outside my cubicle and saw a man knocking on her door in full deejay regalia: sneakers with no socks, short pants, and a Hawaiian shirt.

It was Rhubarb. It was her birthday and he was coming to take her to lunch.

Of all of the entertainment mediums, local radio is the most intimate. You feel like you know these people when you don't. While some of them make good money, a lot of them don't and have two jobs.

But, unlike Hollywood or rock stars, you can actually reach out and touch them. They will smile and listen to you.  Rhubarb Jones smiled and listened. He actually had this unique concept that his listeners were his customers. I'm not sure present day radio actually understands this.

So, thanks, Rhubarb. Say hello to Hank and Elvis for me.