Saturday, September 23, 2006

Fried chicken and muscle's September!

This terrible month is almost over. Tributes have been paid, and remembrance has been served. We have “celebrated” a half-decade without another devastating terrorist attack. The worst is yet to come, as the Islamofascists run full-tilt boogie toward development of nuclear weapons. America will live in some haze of denial, until the moment that a major city dissolves into a cloud of thermonuclear gas. Partisan politicians will argue the intellectual particulars of “torture” until Cleveland, Akron, or some similar place blows off the map.

Attitudes may change after that, but I am not a great optimist. The appeasers and The Usual Suspects will seek a political advantage from a holocaust. America will bare its throat to the knives of the jihad. Political advantage will rule over common sense, and people will die.

Meanwhile, let’s party! Let’s whistle past the graveyard! We’re talking fried chicken and muscle cars here! September is a somber month. It’s time to lighten up! It’s football season, for cryin’ out loud!

I had to spend a few days in hospital a while back. The staff knows and loves me, but they won’t let me near a computer, so the blog went unattended. I get home, and the first thing I do is take a header down the basement stairs and break my big ol’ nose. Life ain’t easy.

Among the dozens of e-mails waiting for me , there was a simple test question. Titled “Four Things About Me”, it was a simple question about former jobs.

Being bored, I played along at home. I don’t often do this, so don’t submit questionnaires.

One of the things I confess to is being a chicken plant worker. It has to be one of the worst jobs on the planet. I did this in the 1970s, so I could buy a 1963 Chevy convertible. I can easily understand why this is called “one of the jobs Americans won’t do.” Although it has to be one of the nastiest jobs ever created, I did it for two summers. I got my ’63 Chevy convertible, complete with red leather upholstery and creamy white carpeting. It had the traditional four-in-the-floor, and a small block 327 V-8 that wouldn’t quit.

I later traded this gem for a ’79 Corvette. The 350 engine didn’t have the stamina of the 327, but it could be tweaked to 400 horsepower. The state police have me on record as running very fast at times. Women come and go, but there are few things finer than a hot-running car. (Okay, girls, I’m kidding! It’s a joke! There’s nothing better than a hot babe…ooops, I’m stepping in it again!)

Ah, fast cars are things of the past. They’re all Japo-junk today.

Let’s talk about chicken!

I don’t have a lot to offer on this subject. Reflecting on the position as a chicken plant worker, I thought about the fact that illegal immigrants will kill to assume this job. I took a lot of laughter and ridicule for my summer job. I could’ve been hanging out at the lake, drinking beer, getting laid, and waiting for life to owe me a living. Instead, I chose to work for a living, and when it paid off in the form of that Chevy convertible, I was the coolest guy in high school. To this day, I cannot handle raw chicken. After nearly 30 years, I can tolerate a bucket of Colonel Sanders’ finest, but someone else has to cook it.

I’ve been playing with this train of thought for a few days. Just something to lighten us all up, after a month of terrible memories. Then, yesterday, comes news of a new study by Northwestern University, which states illegal immigrants are in fact stealing jobs from Americans. Those being put out of work are high-school dropouts, for the most part. This translates to African-Americans, and others who cheat themselves of their greatest earning potential. I’m a dropout; I know a little bit about this. If anyone had told me in 1971 that I would eventually get a college education, I would have laughed them out of the room, and probably started a brawl, to boot. I was proud of my ignorance.

A few years ago, when I lived in Canton, Georgia, they proudly proclaimed they are “the chicken capital of the world.” One day, the Immigration & Naturalization Service [INS] moved in on Seaboard Farms, the successor company to those chicken plants I paid my dues in so many years ago. The INS brought a full contingent of school buses with them, in anticipation of the “catch” of illegal aliens. The buses ended up parked alongside Univeter Rd., as it was simpler to march the wetbacks down to the jail, just a mile beyond the chicken plant.

I am forced to presume that most of these illegals were ultimately released, and found better jobs in the local construction industry, or further north at the carpet mills in Dalton—the “carpet capital of the world.”

When I worked the chicken plants three decades ago, the majority of the positions were held by middle-aged American housewives. They were a tough bunch, and carried very sharp scissors. One of the first jobs they gave a new employee at Central Soya was steam-cleaning the “blood tunnel”, a stainless steel pipe approximately six feet in diameter. “If you can do this, you can do any job in the plant.”

I do not accept the specious argument that “there are some jobs Americans won’t do.” Americans can do anything they set their minds to. If we have become so weak as a people that there is truly no further employment call for landscapers, chicken plant workers, or other jobs that require more intestinal fortitude than raw skills, then we are truly doomed. There are all sorts of arguments bouncing around today about why no American kids are willing to work for a living. Some are saying it is the enticement of college that is making kids turn their backs on the hard, sweaty jobs.

I have a proposition. I mowed lawns when I was a kid, barely able to stand up to the mower. I later worked the chicken plants. I’ll make you the same deal my dad made me: if you want one of those groovy ‘60s muscle cars—which are worth a lot more in the 21st century—then get out and get a job! I’ll match you dollar-for-dollar, and we’ll see what we have at the end of the summer. Don’t tell me some Mexican lawbreaker stole your job. Get out there and take it back; you can do whatever you set your mind to! Sing The Who’s “Summertime Blues” if you have to. If I can clean a “blood tunnel”, there is no job in America that can’t be mastered.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Unintended, impromtu raving

So, it took a little tinpot dictator to prompt Charles Rangel into saying something that makes sense. I do not like the Congressman, and his political views are diametrically opposed to mine. We can agree to disagree, and he doesn't represent my congressional district, anyhow. I reckon that's what makes America great.

I can't recall ever agreeing with Charles Rangel on anything, but when he took his bully pulpit today and read Venezuelan crackpot Hugo Chavez off, I found myself shouting "Right on!" I don't believe anything a congressman tells me, but I think Mr. Rangel's heart was in the right place, for a change.

Iran's "''Ah'm a madman" is telling outrageous lies at the United Nations, which has no place upon American soil. Crazed gnat Chavez is hogging the cameras and complaining of the stench of brimstone at the UN. Congressman Rangel is right; don't come here and tell me that my president is the devil. That decision is mine to make, and his. As Americans, we can fight about it all day long.

Go back to Venezuela, and cease your socialist publicity stunts in Harlem, Mr. Chavez. Uncle Fidel is still alive, and more than enough of a dictator for South America. He is better at long-winded speeches.

The United Nations should consider relocation to Buenos Aires, or Havanna, or some place in the European Union. We should not be picking up their $22 billion-per-year dinner tab. Those digs on the East River will make fine condominiums. Donald Trump's management company would make much better landlords.

Between the president's heart-to-heart to the UN, and the resounding barrage of hatred that followed, I hope that the American people got a clue. We stand alone, and the rest of the world will not stand with us.

Some will follow the path of least resistance, and support the cut-and-run, make-a-deal opposition party in 2008. I think the She-devil and the Global Warming Nut will make a fine pair to shepherd the death of Western Civilization; they'll be good for a lot of laughs, right up until the first thermonuclear incident.

Then we'll see who's laughing.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Calling them out...

Let me get this straight. I’m a simple man, and dumber than a sack of hair. Coloring between the lines is a challenge.

Pope Benedict, in an intellectual address, quoted a Byzantine emperor who said that spreading religion by means of murder and public violence is a wrong thing to do. The original quote addressed Islam, as it was applied 800 years ago. The Pope’s quote implied that nothing much has changed, and there is still a huge religious cult that seeks to expound their religious philosophy through violence and murder.

What was the response of “the religion of peace”? Why, it appears to be violence and murder. Demands are being made for The Pope’s execution. A nun who devoted her life to helping destitute people has been murdered. Christian churches have been burned. The proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding.

My pal Hawkeye has compiled a very concise list of things that Muslims might consider apologizing for. [Please check the link to “View From Above” at right.] I am turning blue holding my breath and waiting for a single Muslim cleric to suggest that moderation might be the better part of valor.

Long ago, my grandpa gave me an invaluable piece of advice: never apologize. My sense of right and wrong has occasionally conflicted me with that, and I’ve admitted wrongdoing and hurtfulness. On the whole, however, refusing to apologize is a sound course. You can’t unring the bell of whatever words you spoke, and the odds are you were instinctively right when you initially spoke them. Saying you’re sorry for something you meant when you uttered it is a sign of weakness; it’s blood in the water for the sharks.

I don’t see where Pope Benedict has anything to apologize for. On the contrary, he has called the Islamofascists out, like a gunfighter on the street. “Here’s how I see it; how do you respond?” The response is irrefutable proof that Islam is an intolerant religion of violence and hatred. I flinch at making such a generalized condemnatory statement, but the lack of Islamic leaders’ condemnation of violence can only lead me to one conclusion. If there are no Muslims I can trust, then we all become hateful enemies whose mutual distrust is based on stereotypes, not individuals. Stereotyping enemies is the quickest way to accept the killing that follows: “Injuns”, “Jappers”, “gooks”, “sand niggers”.

I am not the best of Christians, but I am told that at least one of my beliefs is right-on in-line with the teachings of Jesus: Killing is a last resort, and the ultimate goal of a warrior is to lay down his sword and shield. It has never in my life occurred to me that I should threaten someone with death if they do not accept my flavor of Christianity. I do not proselytize in the streets. If anyone has genuine questions about salvation, God’s love, and the strictures of the Baptist church, I’ll engage in dialogue. My witness for Christ is best suited to jailhouse dialogue, and I practice a ministry in such environs. “Listen up, you SOB…Jesus got something to tell you!”

(I am quite effective at this.)

Christians gave up “the hard sell” a long time ago. The Inquisition and The Crusades are things of history. Martin Luther pounded upon that door many years ago, and Christian faith went helter-skelter ever since.

Being a simple, stupid sort of guy, I have a fundamental belief in God. I have had inexplicable phenomena enacted in my life, and for lack of a better explanation, I will call them acts of God. I am still alive, which may be the greatest testimony to God’s mercy and ultimate, inscrutable purpose. I’m told that faith is a belief in something I can’t explain. Okay, I’ll make that leap. Rewind to those inscrutable events; some of what I lived through is jaw-dropping stuff, and the fact I’m still here tells me that God ain’t through with me yet.

So, I practice my faith and offer my prayers of daily gratitude to the God I recognize. I may be misguided, I may be infidel. There are Christians who claim the high ground, and tell me I’m going to Hell if I don’t think their way. There are people who worship other gods who insist theirs is the only way.

I am on record as saying I don’t much care about other people when it comes to their personal lives. I don’t care who you kiss, as long as it’s a consenting adult. Anything short of murder and cannibalism, I have a blink and an “okay”.

I think you’ve guessed I’m not an acolyte of The Pope. My faith lies elsewhere; God knows what’s in my heart. I have to admire Benny; he is calling Islam out for a walk-down gunfight. Put up or shut up; Christianity long ago abandoned the “hard-sell” of the Crusades. We preach love, and get repaid with bullets in the back.

There is another passage in The Gospels; I seem to recall some advice about “sell your cloak and buy a sword.”

Push hard enough, Islam.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A postscript to the previous article:

(What follows appears in the comments section of the previous posting. Coming from someone who actually knew LTC Patrick Murphy, however slightly, it is a much more fitting tribute than anything I could have said on the basis of online research. Since blog visitors don't always look at comments on a posting, I feel that this deserves wider attention.

Thank you, Jeff, for the insight.)

If it helps you on this day, I knew Pat Murphy. He wasn't a friend in the usual sense of the word, more of a work friend.

He was indeed married, to a girl of SE Asian descent, although I never met her and can't remember her name.

Murph was a reserve officer, and what some would call a brilliant mathematician. What he did for the Pentagon was not something he was allowed to talk about. When he wasn't serving his country, he worked for Alberto-Culver in Melrose Park, Il. I am a contract programmer for them, and met him in the course of my job. Murph was using his abilities to organize and improve the efficiency of the production environment, although he was clearly working well below his abilities.

What I noticed immediately about Pat Murphy was that he was a natural leader of men. He was liked by everyone he worked with, and inspired those around him to do things a little bit better. He always had a smile on his face, and was an optimist who would love to talk about his plans for the future. He loved the Navy, as far as I could tell, and was proud of what he did for his country, although it frustrated him that he couldn't discuss it. He lived for mathematics and could talk endlessly about the subject. That's when you realized the size of his intellect.

Pat would disappear for his stints at the Pentagon without notice, but we were always glad to see him when he returned. I'm sorry I never got a chance to say goodbye, and his being gone left an empty hole in a lot of people's lives. He was that kind of guy, and I still catch myself looking for him when I visit the plant. He is missed.

Hope this helps. If you have any follow up questions, and it's within my ability to help, I'd be glad to. Unfortunately, I never became a personal friend, so I don't know a lot about his family life. Just know that he was a really good guy.


(In case no one noticed, if you run your cursor down the names on the list in the previous article, you'll find a link that will take you to a memorial site where you can learn a bit more about each individual, and pay your respects if you so desire. The personal information is somewhat sparse, but it'll still break your hearts all over again.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

I can't find the words for this day...

Some weeks ago, I signed onto a project called the 2996 Tribute. It’s a wonderful idea; volunteer blogmasters would be given basic information about one of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11 attack, and we would write a tribute to that person. It’s a righteous and decent thing to do, and a fine expression of remembrance for those innocents murdered in the name of Islamic fanaticism. I hastened over to the project’s website, and made my pledge. I was assigned the name of a Naval officer killed at the Pentagon on 11 September 2001.

I’m a fair hand at self-expression when I think I have something to say. I can knock out a 1500-word column in about an hour and a half, with editing and revisions. I would do a little research, and then compose something hopefully eloquent and meaningful to remind people of the reality of the life and death of Lt. Commander P. J. Murphy.

Then, as I began my rudimentary research, I realized that this is one of the hardest things I have ever tried to write.

I did not know Lieutenant Commander Patrick Jude Murphy. The Navy lists his biographical information as follows:

Patrick Jude Murphy

Home of Record: Flossmoor, Illinois
Commissioned: Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, University of Mississippi, May 21, 1986
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Date of Rank: July 1, 1996
Designator: Submarine Officer
Age: 38

Duty Stations: [These are submarines, for those unfamiliar with the designations.]
USS Sand Lance (SSN 660) 10/87 - 11/90
USS Daniel Webster (SSN 626) 11/90 - 09/91 Separated from active duty 09/91

Awards and Decorations: Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal

As I started to do more in-depth research to personalize this tribute, I suddenly froze, and couldn’t continue. A wave of emotions washed over me, creating a classic case of writer’s block. The rage at the atrocity, alternating with the tears, was as fresh and raw as they were five years ago. I never learned if Commander Murphy had a wife and children, but I assume he did. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s that I care too much. The totality of the horror of 9/11 was too much to explore. Like Commander Murphy, I also didn’t know these people:

U.S. Army List of Casualties:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Goodbye, Croc Hunter

I had a fine archival photo of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Lost in a long-dead computer, it's a great action shot of this intrepid young man hoisting a deadly serious snake by its tail.

I am shocked and saddened by this untimley passing. I always got creepy twitches when he would grab a reptile, but that's a question of guts. Mr. Irwin never had a shortage of those; snakes and similar critters scare me to death. I survive Mr. Irwin by a score of years, but only because I refuse to touch a live snake.

His death is a fluke of the worst sort. Stingrays have killed fewer than 20 people since records have been kept.

Rumor is, Australia plans a state funeral. I hope so; this gutsy guy deserves no less.

What follows is actual quotes from the Croc Hunter:

"Crikey means gee whiz, wow!"

"When I see what's happened all over the world, they're looking at me as this very popular, wildlife warrior, Australian bloke. And yet back here in my own country some people find me a little bit embarrassing."

"Crikey, mate. You're far safer dealing with crocodiles and western diamondback rattlesnakes than the executives and the producers and all those sharks in the big MGM building."

"I bled a lot. I got hit across the face. We couldn't film for seven days. I got whacked, underwater, across the face. I finished the shot, got into the boat and blood started coming out."

"I get called an adrenaline junkie every other minute, and I'm fine with that."

"I have no fear of losing my life. If I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it."

"I would never blame an animal if it bit me, because I'm at fault, not them. I heal so quickly. If you cut my arm off I would grow a new one."

"I'm high as a kite, mate. I'm flat out like a lizard drinking, all the time. You know I have trouble just sitting here. You know, I'm just like, got to get up."

I hope this fine lad gets a state funeral.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A chicken tale...

This is a story about chicken. It has nothing to do with the coming nuclear holocaust with Iran. If anything, it has to do with the nature of children. We [the USA] will fail, and the UN [as usual] will fail. Meanwhile, strong memories will sustain us.

The cult of the War of Northern Aggression is quite strong. Some of us never surrendered, and like the Confederates who sought refuge in Mexico, we never saw a good reason to give up.

130 years later, we still re-fight the war. We give ground where history says we lost; I am fond of asking those who question the veracity of re-enactments: who really lost? The slaves were freed, and most went where? What did you Yankees do for them, besides provide ghettos, slave labor without the perks of the Southern “Massas”, and a vague promise of freedom that failed until the 1950s?

In the 1990s, trying to pay for gas and be on my way, I was jacked up by a clerk from Chicago who should have known better. He asked the wrong question: don’t you know you lost?

My reply was similar to the above paragraph, but much more caustic and profane. The upshot was the same; where did the slaves go when they were freed? I like black people, and agree with Bill Cosby; where are you going to go once the Democrats release you from the plantation? Our Confederate brothers never acted as badly.

The slaves went north, aside from the handful of free men who fought for the Confederacy [a black fact; look it up. Black people are as free as my fine aristocratic white self, and always have been]. Bill Cosby is right-on; do you have a problem with self-responsibility?

Ahh, but this is about chicken.

Re-enactors are a definite hard-core cult. Only the renowned writer Elmore Leonard has dared to touch upon us; my own idea for a murder mystery novel was discouraged upon inception. A re-enactor would never load a live round and fire it on the field.

Those of us who belong to the hard-core cult of re-enacting camp “authentic”. This is opposed to them what camp in cozy trailers, mobile homes, and recreational vehicles. No offense; they have wives, children, etc. who cannot sleep on the ground under a drooling picket line of horses. RVs are forgiven, if they are hidden.

Those of us who can pitch an authentic camp are frequently called upon to give “living history” as to the time and circumstance of the camp. We try to follow history, and anachronisms like sleeping bags and plastic coolers are carefully concealed.

So, to the chicken anecdote:

‘Way back when, we were doing the Battle of Resaca. [Look it up; it’s in your history books; at least those not re-written for politcal correctness.]

It was a Saturday evening: the day’s tactical battles against the Yankees had been ridden; we weren’t going to rob trains, so it was camp time; the horses were on the picket line, and we had the glorious moment of peace that makes all the cultism of reenactment worthwhile. My best description: there comes a personal moment when the present ceases to exist, and for that one instant, you are living the moment. Immediate time fades away, and even the time compression of CQC [Close Quarters Combat] becomes an abstraction. We don’t have time machines, but it is a perfect moment. It is for what re-enactors live for. We don’t chase lost causes; we chase that perfect moment.

So, the day’s battles are done. We have pitched camp, and chase the perfect moment through other means. We call this “living history”. We camp rough, as our ancestors did, and we invite tourists to tour the camp sites and hear the lectures.

One of the riders with the 43d Virginia Partisan Rangers was a fellow named Stan. (We’ll call him that, since it’s his name.) Despite being a Georgia boy by birth and a South Carolinian by heritage, I owe my Confederate heritage to John Singleton Mosby, the “Gray Ghost” of the 43d Virginia cavalry. My great-granddaddy went north, and rode with him to the end. My cavalry was grouped at the tent.

Stan had pet chickens, and brought them along to battle. He would keep them on leg “lead lines”; leather shoe strings attached to a stake near the campfire. To illustrate the concept of living off the land, Stan would occasionally sling the chickens and a small iron skillet off his saddle. No harm was done; we care for our critters.

Having done the day’s battles, we are resting around the campfire.

At this moment, a woman tourist with her eight- or nine-year old daughter wanders through. Having seen the battles of that day, the child immediately inquires about the staked chickens: “What’s going to happen to them?”

We smiled, and someone said “They’re supper.” Mom quickly led her kidlet off to see the rest of the Confederate camp.

In the interim, we coughed up cash for some real food. Roger H. went into town, and bought a bucket of Col. Sander’s finest. Stan put his chickens under a steel milk crate frame, behind the large 43d A-frame tent. Please remember that these are pet chickens, and afforded the same care and considerations as our horses and dogs, i.e. they are well fed and cared for beyond our meager human requirements. We put the non-authentic gear like sleeping bags and ice coolers out of sight, so Stan’s chickens were resting comfortably in a steel milk carton behind the tent, fed, watered, and clucking themselves to sleep.

No one thought twice of our concession to dinner. We raked the chicken and cole slaw onto our pewter plates, and began chowing down.

At that moment, the lady and her child returned from their tour of the camp. Seeing us feasting on fried chicken parts, the child went ballistic. Stan, a family man with daughters of his own, had to go to great extremes to calm the young lady. He took her out back of the tent and showed her that the pet chickens were in fact comfortable, untouched, and quite merry.

That was a strange day

There is no point to this story, aside from begging the question: where do you think fried chicken comes from? I suppose there might be an analogy with the Holy Communion, but that’s reaching.

Before I joined the Army in the early ‘70s, I worked my high school summers in the Central Soya chicken plant. To this day, 30+ years later, I cannot handle raw chicken. I still remember the first task: steam-cleaning the “blood tunnel”. “If you can do this, you can do anything.”

I hope that little girl is all right. No harm came to animals. Even the actors survived in those days.

Stan’s pet chickens lasted into the fullness of their days. Inspired by mine, they attended many a reenactment. No actors were harmed in the composing of this post.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Testing..."Number nine...number nine..."

I am having terrible computer problems, and this is inhibiting new postings at UPI. The current HAL-9000 Mk. II may have to be replaced. HAL is named after the talking “Heuristic Algorithmic Logic” computer that ramrodded the Jupiter mission in “2001; A Space Odyssey.” Like the cinematic HAL, my Dell Dementia home version is cutting lifelines, refusing to open the pod bay doors, and being murderous of my files.

As is rote, I am composing offline, in MS Word. To paraphrase Mr. Fred Rogers, can we say “disk read error… socket error…fatal…sorry for the inconvenience”? My neighbors shun me because they think I’m a madman; I scream and curse at this inanimate object. The sound carries downhill. Scorpion Hill looks down on a sort of collective neighborhood of scattered houses; yelling and screaming is discouraged, despite the therapeutic effects.

I am perhaps mad. I possess a 400-watt stereo with 18” woofers that can rival a concert hall with a competent engineer. I occasionally like to inflict my musical tastes upon the aforementioned neighborhood. Even Keith Emerson’s brilliant piano playing doesn’t endear me to the people next door. Roy Harper’s minor key singing definitely doesn’t do it. Buck Dharma and Blue Oyster Cult are beyond the pale.

To “celebrate” Hurricane Katrina, Led Zepplin’s “When the Levee Breaks” is too wicked.

This post is an experiment. If HAL-9000 Mk. II will stay online long enough, I have new posts working. I thank my faithful readers for checking in, and as soon as we whip these microchips into submission, there’ll be new stuff. There are outlines for a cautionary tale of fried chicken, and there is a very serious tribute to a 9/11 victim. I can compose my thoughts offline; if only I can stay online long enough to post my scribbling here. Chemotherapy is not helpful to the thought process; lucidity is inherent to the young, and along with the 400-watt stereo, it feeds into madness at my age.

It’s become a cliché, but if you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this without fear of reprisal, thank a soldier.