Sunday, May 31, 2009

Huge Mexican Rats

As though California doesn't have enough problems, there is a serious infestation of large Mexican rats.

In fact, since moving here seven months ago, one in particular has terrorized this neighborhood.

Twenty-four hours a day it makes this throaty squeak to let you know it is around. Incessant, regular as a metronomome. What gonads on this vermin.

After beginning a hunt, I determined to my astonishment that this thing had terrorized one family across the street to the point that they had turned their yard over to El Diablo. They never come outside. They never are in their yard. Only the constant taunting of their nemesis.

The worst is at night. All night. Louder and louder until you are at the verge of insanity. No white noise, soft music or nature CD can block the peculiar unnerving pitch.

Since the local government officials were incapable of dealing with such evil, I took it upon myself for the safety of the town to take this thing down.

It was too fast for pellet guns. It was too smart to go for poisoned food. It seemed to know every move in advance. And, its demonic noise just continued.

This morning, I had an epiphany. If anyone should know how to deal with Mexican rats, who better than the nice Mexican guys that work for Waste Management? Surely, they had dealt with such things.

When I heard their truck in the neighborhood around dawn, I ran downstairs to them. Thru my pitiful Spanish, I tried to explain the problem.

Their eyes got wide. "Si, senor. Donde?"

I showed them the poor victims' house as the first light of day appeared.

Within minutes, they had taken three flanking positions. With raptor like speed, they pounced and had it in a sturdy bag. Yes, this was familiar territory for these hunters.

"Gracias, senor."

I was confused. They had saved me and the neighborhood from a certain slow death. Yet, they were thanking me.

"No, gracias a mis amigos."

As their green and yellow truck drove out of sight, I could hear these brave men celebrate with howls of laughter and victory chants.

"Aye, chihuahua", they squealed over and over.

I will never tell those neighbors how I saved them. The Bible teaches us not to seek glory on earth for helping someone in need.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Women or trees

One mother.

Two grandmothers.

One sister.

Couple of girlfriends.

Two wives.

Two mothers-in-law.

Three daughters.

I've figured out that I can't figure them out.

I'm sure it is me.

I've decided to take up with trees.

In fact, one in particular.

There is a huge bois d'arc in the backyard.

It doesn't move. Always in the same place.

Its moods don't change.

It doesn't need its leaves recolored, its branches redone, any fake anything.

It has big wide branches to provide protection and cool, shady places to snuggle up in and take naps. In fact, its fine if I hang a hammock on it and snore like a pig.

It doesn't pout.

It doesn't watch a clock. It doesn't run late.

It is just there. Always the same. Always ready for whatever I want to do. And just fine if I dont' pay it any attention for months at a time.

Not asking for anything. No drama. No getting hysterical or historical. Just being and happy being it.

Sturdy. Steady. Calm. Impervious.

If only I had figured this out years ago. Oh the money, stomach lining and blond hairs I might still have.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Liars Table

One of the best things about living in a small town in Texas is the characters you get to know.

Like most small towns, there is a cafe where a loyal group of friends meet for breakfast 7 days a week. And we have one.

Years ago, it was called Bill y Bob's. The name was an inside joke on the owner and chef, Bob Santiago. He refers to himself as "The Mexican."

For years, a group met at Bob's for morning coffee and yuks. Ranchers, farmers, the local banker, a couple of former mayors, the pharmacist. All had land and all raised cattle. That was one common bond.

The other common bond was the bullshit stories, jokes and pranks they played on each other. The best comedy show around.

Bob affectionately named them The Liars Table and hung a handmade sign over their front table designating it as such.

I started taking my daughter to breakfast when she was old enough to sit up. Over time, the boys "adopted her" and called her "our girl". She especially likes sharing her birthday with them. They started a tradition of putting in one dollar each on her birthday. She's made off with as much as 8 bucks.

I've been honored to have been invited into the group. Joe, O.D., A.J., Rex, Olin, The Judge, Freddie, Doc, Bob and a few others. I have learned more history and more funny stories in the last 10 years from this bunch. And counting me, the average age is at least 75.

Nothing is off limits. Politics (and they evenly split Republican and Democrat), religion (no Baptists in this group), sex, price of hay, price of cattle, the weather, the price of a cup of coffee, price of gasoline, price of a new hogneck trailer, the ornery waitress, etc.

The language of men who live close to the land is very informative.

When a blue Norther (a cold front) is headed in you are warned that, "It'll knock your hat in the creek." Because that's actually happened to them.

When a heavy thunderstorm has passed thru, you will hear that, "It sounded like a cow pissing on a flat rock." Because they've actually heard that.

When a politician of any sort starts to get too important, you will hear him described as a post turtle. "He sure didn't get there by himself. He sure doesn't know what to do now that he's up there. And who was the asshole that put him up there?" Because they've actually seen post turtles.

Not being a man that lives close to the land, I have asked a few stupid questions.

"O.D., why do you castrate the young bulls?"

"It's real simple. We're just changing that boy's focus from ass to grass."

The cafe names change, the location sometimes moves depending on the price of a cup of coffee, but The Liars Table is a permanent fixture in Celina, Texas.

Next time you're in these parts, look around the town square around 8 in the morning and you'll find them. And they'll be happy to have you join them.

That way, they'll have someone new to laugh about when you leave.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pete and Barvo

Pete is but one of hundreds of thousands of U.S. military members that have given their all in their service to our country. Tomorrow, we salute them all.

And there are others that need recognition.

Like Barvo.

A few months after Pete was killed, I was in San Francisco over a weekend. I went to the National Cemetery at the Presidio. One of the most beautiful pieces of land on earth. Decorated with the majestic, discreet headstones of heroes fallen over the last 100 plus years.

As I wove and wept thru the grounds, I was drawn to the one statue in the front of the cemetery.

It told a story.

I decided then and there that we wanted to tell Pete's story. Not out of vanity. But because the story of this time of war needs to be told. And, we as a family, had the means to do it.

So we began the process of finding a sculptor.

J.R., my son-in-law, called me one day and said I needed to call a guy named Barvo.

Barvo is a Dallas based sculptor. He has done bronze and marble statues around the world. There is a life size bronze of Mr. J.C. Penney in their corporate office. Barvo did that. The statue atop the Texas State Capitol building was refubished by Barvo a few years ago.

We met in his studio in East Dallas last March.

He got very interested in Pete. He fell in love with him. And we fell in love with Barvo.

Using only photographs, he began to sculpt Pete from clay.

His wife, Maureen, told him she had never seen him so emotionally involved in a project.

He wanted it perfect. We got Pete's uniforms, patches, boots, helmet and spurs for Barvo to sculpt.

Using his delicate hands, he remade Pete. The broken nose from an inside pitch during bunting practice years ago. The flat ears. The thick neck. The wry smile.

Barvo got as close to Pete as anybody. Never met him. But became another relative. Another dad to Pete. And a lifelong friend of mine.

We had long planned to unveil Pete on 9/11/08. About a month before, Barvo invited me down to the studio and to lunch. He had something to share.

Barvo had pancreatic cancer.

He was 74 at the time. All I had ever heard was that pancreatic cancer was a sure and quick killer. Barvo calmed me and explained that there was a second kind of pancreatic cancer that was operable. That was what he had.

His doctor wanted him to go into the hospital immediately.

Barvo told his doctor he wasn't going until after 9/11 and Pete was in place in Melissa Cemetery in Melissa, Texas.

That morning of 9/11/08 we had a wonderful celebration and unveiled the statue. Friends, family, neighbors were amazed at what Barvo had created.

As the crowds gathered around, Barvo pulled me aside.

"Alan, I have been with Pete for over 6 months. I carved him. I swear to you he has a little bigger smile this morning than what I carved in his face."

And he was right.

The following Monday, September 15, Barvo went into surgery. He hasn't been home for 8 1/2 months. Just got released this week.

I saw him yesterday. He's weak, but he is very much alive.

As soon as he has the strength, he wants his first trip to be to the cemetery to see Pete. Maureen has not seen the work.

Pete, Barvo and Maureen and I will be out soon to visit.

Give Barvo an even bigger smile.

President Obama, it's your move

U.S. prepares to withdraw, Iraqi resistance prepares for battle

'There will be a war in Baghdad,' warns a leader. Insurgents are bitter about the lack of progress since laying down their arms. Their demands have been unmet, they say, and now the U.S. is leaving.

By Ned Parker
The Los Angeles Times
May 25, 2009
Reporting from Baghdad -- Baghdad will burn, the resistance leader warns.

"If we hear from the Americans they are not capable of supporting us . . . within six hours we are going to establish our groups to fight against the corrupt government," says the commander, a portly man with gold rings and lemon-colored robes who, perhaps understandably, spoke on condition of anonymity. "There will be a war in Baghdad."

The commander and another insurgent leader interviewed for this story belong to the secret world of Sunni tribesmen and old military officers who laid down their arms and helped bring relative peace to Iraq in the last two years. They decided to try to fight the Shiite religious parties in control of the government through political channels instead -- but they never renounced the insurgency.

Now the dormant insurgent groups, with men, weapons and networks intact, are approaching their moment of truth. If their efforts to enter the mainstream fail, it appears almost inevitable that they will take up arms again, either after national elections early next year or sooner.

With U.S. forces preparing to withdraw from Iraqi cities next month, insurgent groups see no sign of progress on their demands for the Americans to guarantee their entry into the political system and protect them from the parties in power.

As the insurgents watched and waited, they saw the Shiite-led government continue to jail their fighters, despite their decision to hold their fire. Likewise, they noticed the inability, or unwillingness, of U.S. troops to stop a crackdown against leaders of the Awakening movement, their Sunni brethren who left the insurgency for formal partnerships with the Americans.

The disenchantment of the Sunnis also could have implications for Afghanistan, where the U.S. military hopes to reproduce the success of the Iraq "surge" by reaching out to moderate Taliban elements. The fate of the Awakening movement and the inactive insurgent groups could cause Taliban fighters to think twice before embarking on a similar path.

"Perceptions can be hard to predict, but in principle it could reduce Taliban willingness to realign with us in Afghanistan if we fail to protect our friends in Iraq," said Stephen Biddle, a defense expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who served as an advisor to the U.S. military in Iraq during the 2007 troop buildup.

In the end, the distrust between the Shiites and Sunnis involved may be too strong to overcome. The Iraqi government views the armed groups as a Trojan horse for Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to return to power and are adamant about blocking a creeping coup from inside Baghdad's government. For their part, the insurgent leaders see a government that is a proxy for neighboring Shiite-led Iran.

A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says military and U.S. Embassy personnel are frustrated by their inability to reconcile the government and armed groups. They worry it's only a matter of time before insurgent factions renew their armed uprising.

"When they finally realize America is an impotent force, or acting like one, are they going to give up and say it's useless and return to armed conflict to topple the government?" the official asked. "Are they going to take up arms against the coalition as well?"

Contacts between armed groups and the Americans have revolved around insurgent commanders' demands for protection from arrests and harassment by the Iraqi government, the restoration of military officers to their old jobs and help in entering politics. The Americans have not given any firm answers to their demands.

Squished in a tiny chair, the Sunni commander, who has as many as 12,000 fighters at his disposal, speaks bluntly about what will happen if the Americans can't deliver.

"Our last option is to go back to resistance, to fighting. We gave our word to the coalition forces, but this is our last option," says the former military intelligence general, who led fighters in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

He says that all options will be on the table as the Americans draw down. He makes it clear that because of the U.S. military, his group is hoping for a peaceful resolution, but that that could quickly change.

"If the Americans leave Baghdad in 24 hours, the street belongs to the resistance and the people. The people are boiling. They understand now the government is representative of Iran," he says.

The insurgent commander, who heads a group called the Iraqi Liberation Army, describes stopping his war against the Americans at the end of 2007. He had already turned his guns on the group Al Qaeda in Iraq that year.

After being wounded in battle, he was picked up by U.S. forces and treated on one of their bases. They didn't realize he was on their wanted list. Soon after his release, a series of talks were brokered with the Americans and a truce was struck.

"Our deal was to be friends, not enemies. I believe if we put our hands with those people, it is better than the religious parties. They are human beings. We trust them," the commander says.

"We gave orders to stop violence against the U.S. forces. We started negotiations with them."

But the commander complains that as his alliance with the Americans emerged, Shiite religious parties in the government started trying to arrest him.

The commander gestures to the man sitting next to him as his link to the U.S. military. Abu Fatma, a slight figure in a gray suit and glasses, belongs to an armed group in the north, estimated to have 2,000 to 5,000 fighters.

Abu Fatma says he helped to persuade armed groups to put down their weapons in late 2007 and early 2008 and created a loose political association that the Iraqi Liberation Army and other groups are backing.

But the truce and formation of their party have brought little tangible benefit, he says. He notes "the betrayal of the Awakening" and talks about the wariness of some resistance leaders to rally behind the truce and endorse elections.

"In fact, some groups have met with us to come under our banner to stop fighting. They ask us, 'What did the Americans do [for us]?' This question has become the most embarrassing question I hear.

"I can get around questions about politics and religions except this one. . . . I'm stumped and embarrassed. I don't have an answer," Abu Fatma says.

"I say, 'Don't lay down your weapons,' because otherwise I would be dishonest to them. I've told Americans, 'If you keep alienating the people, all the Iraqis will fight them, even the government.' "

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Memorial Day, Son

Until Memorial Day 2008, the day meant little to me other than a long weekend.

Now, I understand it is a national holiday designated for honoring all of those brave men and women who have given all for the citizens of the United States.

I hope you have a marvelous, long weekend.

I also hope you will take time to remember the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have given their lives so that we can go to the lake. Cookout with our friends and families. Worship freely. Protest and speak freely.

Pete, thanks for protecting us. Thanks for giving all.

You and the thousands before you are not forgotten.


Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden.

Trees, grass, and all kinds of beautiful growing things.

Did they have to deal with snot?

Did they sneeze and have their eyes turn red when the ragweed grew?

I spend alot of time in Dallas.

The allergy capital of the world.

Doctors that make their living treating allergies move here from around the world.

Everything grows here that can make you sneeze. What doesn't grow here blows in with the endless wind.

Oh yeah. Chicago is not the Windy City because of wind. It's called the Windy City because of the gossip that is part and parcel of the culture.

Dallas is much windier than Chicago in terms of the air blowing.

The wind picks up crap in California and beyond and on the way and dumps it here.

Dear Lord, why do you put us in beautiful green places and then make us allergic to it?

I've had the scratch tests and I'm allergic to grasses, trees, and cats. And we have one.

I'm pretty sure I have set the record for number of sneezes in a row. 25 so far. And the amount of snot that one person can produce. Haven't measured, but it seems we are in the gallons category.

Not really something to be proud of, but maybe the Guiness Book of Records might be interested.

I hear from friends across the country with similar issues. New York. Atlanta. Los Angeles. Chicago.

Lord, are we living in a forbidden land?

Why else would you punish us this way?

Every other commercial is about allergy medicine. (None of which seems to work.)

Do the folks in Europe, Asia and the other continents suffer like us poor put upon Americans? Like, is that why life in Canada seems to be so peaceful?

OK. I get it. It's a tradeoff. We live in the best country on earth. But there is a price to be paid.

For every cherry blossom tree along the Potomac (donated by the Japanese to thank us for our help in freeing them), we have to sneeze.

That's fair. We get freedom. We get the best economy. We get the best of everything.

And for that, we get snot. And lot's of it.

Thank you, Lord.

I could be living in Baghdad where I had no allergies, but was occasionally blinded by sandstorms.

I can deal with the tradeoff.

Just one favor to ask.

Bob, the cat, lives outdoors and catches all the mice and snakes. Could you just take him off the list?

No other cats. Just Bob.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hot Rod

It was 1972.

Three Dog Night was the hottest band in the world.

"One". "Mama Told Me Not to Come".

They came to Atlanta and played at the old Fulton County Stadium.

I was dating Kaye Reagan. (Kaye, you went on to marry a Secret Service guy. Please ask him not to come shoot me with a silencer.)

We doubled with another couple, and I can't remember who it was.

We settled in our seats and here comes the warmup band. Yawn.

Rod Stewart and Faces.

Jeff Beck on lead guitar. Ronnie Wood on bass and guitar.

And in sequined black pants, this crazy spiky haired singer named Rod Stewart.

They proceeded to tear the place apart. We had never heard anything like it. White soul.

Rod Stewart sounded like he had gargled Oban and Drano and then smoked a pack of Camels. Raspy, emotional, incredible sounds coming from his soul.

The crowd went nuts. Wanted more.

Cannot remember a thing about Three Dog Night from that concert. I'm sure they were fine. But, I was forever changed by the warmup act.

Every Picture Tells a Story was the first album I ever bought. Everything before was 45 singles. Rod changed that for me. Maggie May. I'm Losing You. Reason to Believe.

I've seen him about 10 times in concert. When he was young, he ran around and up and down the stage like a madman. He may have had some pharmaceutical assistance, but he was mesmerizing. Never stood still. Kicked soccer balls into the crowd regularly. (He loves "football", and still owns part of Celtic.)

Many of us saw him tonight on American Idol. It looked like he stumbled on stage.

It made me cry.

His voice was still in perfect pitch and he gave ole Maggie May a good rendition.

But the body is failng him. He can't run around like he used to. Can't swing the mike stand like nobody ever did like he used to.

Rod, thank you. You got me to understand the blues. You got me to understand albums. You got me to understanding conflicted love.

You gave your soul to your audience, and I've got part of it living in me.

The Mom test

I called my mom one day to tell her I had met a wonderful lady and was planning to ask her to marry me. I was 45 years old.

Here was the entire conversation.

"Where is she from?"

"Los Angeles, but she has lived in San Francisco and New York."

Long pause.

"Is she black?"


"Is she Jewish?"


"Is she Buddhist?"


"Does she object to your facial hair?"

"No. But thanks for letting me know that you do, Mom."

"Ok, she sounds wonderful. When do we get to meet her?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Life after death

When you reach your fifties, life changes.

Your parents start to die.

Your friends start to die.

If you are really unfortunate, your kids might as well.

I lost my mom several years ago. I have sent this letter numerous times to friends whose parents are in their last weeks of life.

I hope this letter helps you. If not today, at sometime.

May 17, 2009


I am flying to Dallas tonight. Going to spend some time at our house there. Some of the best will be at night, looking up at the stars talking to my Mom. I do that a lot.

It was about 10 years ago that we learned that she had cancer. Her’s was a slow mover, but it eventually got her. She went to a better place on December 30, 2002.

She was my muse, my mentor. I miss her everyday. But I talk to her everyday, and I believe she hears me and talks back to me in unusual and clear ways.

Looking back, I just wish I had spent more time with her. Learning more about her life. Learning more about our family’s history, because she was the family historian. Learning more of her special recipes.

I know where you are. It is hard to comprehend. It is unfathomable to think s/he won’t be here.

So my encouragement to you is to spend as much time with him as possible. Let him know how much he is loved. And let him be your dad as long as he can. And get him to talk about everything. His life. His dreams. His unspoken secrets. How you can best honor him with your life.

As physically sick as Mom was, her mind was 100% until the end. One of my favorite memories comes from her last week in the hospital. My sister and my Aunt Pat were with her and they helped Mom to the restroom. Wearing that hospital gown, it came untied in the back and she was flapping in the breeze. My sister frantically tried to cover her back up. My Mom said, “Honey, don’t worry. That’s why they call it I See You.”

Treasure the life that is left. The best may be yet to come.

And know that if it comes soon, or if a miracle gives him years more, it will eventually come. And when it does, he will still be here for you. You just have to look up at the stars and have a conversation. It’s better than cellular.

Our thoughts are with you.


Monday, May 18, 2009

More music

What'll ya have, what'll ya have?

It’ll be 72 today with 10% humidity.

Your ball is first in the rack and you will be the first off on Gordon Morris this morning.

I’ll sell you that 14 foot Fraser fir for just $200.

It’s in remission.

And in the beginning . . .

Welcome. Your. Atlanta. Braves.


Sir, I would follow your son into war.

That’s your daughter that just scored 30 on us?

Eric Clapton.

Ya’ll want stew with that?

I just found one more in the back.

Welcome back, sir.


Do you want a water back?

You’re the best boss I ever had.

That Zac is the cutest boy I’ve ever seen.

Welcome to Daniel. Please, enjoy a cocktail at the bar while we prepare your table.

Dad, Mom just thru us out of her house. We’re here to live with you.

Mr. B., that’s a classic.

You asshole. You just airmailed me by 25 yards.

Which one of you just called me a knucklehead? You’re outta here.

He played his heart out.

Good morning, welcome to Lucy’s.

Yes, we do have the 1997 Gaja.

Whiskey river take my mind . . .

Do you have any idea how many people are scared of you?

Is ‘dat a wig?

Gung hay fat choy.

I thought you said Laura was pregnant.

Hey Alan, it’s Pop.

I can see the crown of her head.

She will only need seven stitches.

Sir, if Pete's not in a better place, we are all lost.

Mr. Burks, I can see out of one eye enough to drive. And I'm coming to see you.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Music to my ears

Baseball spikes on concrete.

"Good morning, daddy."

Walking around the house when everyone in my family is asleep, and hearing them breathe.

"Mr. Burks, you've been upgraded."

The two short whistle bursts followed by the third to signal the end of a soccer game. Or a season.

"Pops, I just got a new job."

"Your bill has been taken care of by the manager."

Noble muttering the f word when he's two down.

The NDCBF choir.

"I accept your apology, and I'm sorry, too."

The roars at Augusta.

The first sizzle of bone-in ribeyes.

Suite Judy Blue Eyes.

"Herschel's cutting left, he's gonna go."

That Coke pop-top in the morning.

The ATM spitting out money.

"I love you."

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have begun our descent."


A green pinecone hitting the ground with a solid thud.

"Goodnight, Dick."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mr. Panetta, I was wrong

On the very first post on this space, I argued that Leon Panetta was a bad pick for the head of the CIA.

So far, I have been proven very wrong. Mr. Panetta has come to the defense of his agency on numerous occasions. He has taken ownership of his responsibility for our nation's intelligence and it seems he has become a member of that very special club of people that work there.

He unabashedly defended his agency against the slurs of Speaker Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi must be suffering from the after effects of too many facelifts. (Her eyebrows now form her widow's peak to replace her receding hairline. Her skin has been pulled so tight she has to raise her left arm to pee.)

She is scariest when she smiles and shows all her filed teeth.

Here is a delicious account of her statesmanship from Dana Milbank from The Washington Post yesterday.

Nancy Pelosi is a woman of many talents. Yesterday, she performed the delicate art of backtracking while walking sideways.

The speaker of the House had just read a statement accusing the CIA of lying and was trying to beat a hasty retreat from her news conference before reporters could point out contradictions between her current position and her previous statements.

"Thank you!" an aide called out to signal an end to the session. Pelosi walked, sideways, away from the lectern and, still sidling in a sort of crab walk, was halfway to the door when a yell from CNN's Dana Bash, rising above the rest of the shouting, froze her in the aisle.

"Madam Speaker!" the correspondent called out. "I think there's one other question that I would like to ask, if that's okay."

"Sure, okay," Pelosi said, in a way that indicated it was not okay. Pelosi had no choice but to sidle back to the lectern.

Over the next few minutes of shouted questions -- "They lied to you? Were you justified? When were you first told? Did you protest? Why didn't you tell us?" -- the speaker attempted the crab-walk retreat again, returned to the lectern again and then finally skittered out of the room.

The session was bound to require fancy footwork. Intelligence officials last week released documents indicating that Pelosi was briefed in September 2002 about the use of aggressive questioning techniques. The CIA also disclosed that a top Pelosi aide had been briefed in early 2003 that waterboarding was being used to question terrorism suspects.

Republicans pounced: "Nancy Pelosi was an accomplice to 'torture' " said a headline on a piece by Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal. Particularly problematic was Pelosi's statement on April 23 that "we were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used."

Pelosi was out of sorts as she met reporters in her ceremonial office yesterday. "I want to read a statement, because I need to take the time out to do this," she said awkwardly, fishing around for the papers before her. "So bear with me for a moment, because it'll be shorter if I read it. But I am, again, in the -- in the busy schedule that we have, I think it's important to take the time to read this to you."

Carefully, she read that "those briefing me in September 2002 gave me inaccurate and incomplete information" about waterboarding. She admitted that an aide had been briefed a few months later, but then she moved to her fallback argument: It didn't matter if she was told about waterboarding, because "it was clear we had to change the leadership in Congress and in the White House."

NBC's Mike Viqueira was the first questioner. He asked if she had been "complicit" in the use of techniques such as waterboarding because her aide had been told that such techniques were in use.

"My statement is clear, and let me read it again. Let me read it again," she said. She looked for her statement. "I'm sorry, I have to find the page," she said. She read a few lines, then paused. "I'm sorry, I had the pages out of order." By now she had begun to employ her hands in the conversation, raising an index finger, circling her hands and finally moving both hands as if conducting an orchestra.

ABC's Jonathan Karl wanted to make sure he'd heard right. "You're accusing the CIA of lying to you?"

"Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States," Pelosi repeated. As she answered, she held a fist up, waved her index finger, formed her hand into an O, pushed her hair back, then resumed leading the orchestra. She appeared to have developed a case of dry mouth and was swallowing hard.

Now questions were being shouted from all around the room; Pelosi chose one from the back. Did she wish she had done more to object? "No, no, no, no, no, no," Pelosi said. "As I say in my statement," she repeated, looking down at her papers again.

Chad Pergram of Fox News asked if the episode makes it more difficult to have a "truth commission" to probe the use of harsh interrogation methods. Pelosi went back to her written statement: "And that's why I say in this . . ."

An aide was already trying to shut down the session with a "last question" cry, but Pelosi found a reporter who asked about health care -- and then demanded a follow-up. The other reporters grumbled. "Did you get booed?" Pelosi teased.

It was then that the speaker tried to crab-walk out of the session, and CNN's Bash stopped her in her tracks, demanding to know why Pelosi said last month that she hadn't known waterboarding was being used.

"I meant 'we,' we in that -- in that -- meeting," she attempted to answer.

"We were all clearly trying to get at the broader question of whether you knew about waterboarding at all," Bash said. "And the idea that we got from you was that you were never told that waterboarding was being used. But now we know that later, in February, you were told."

"That was beyond the point," Pelosi tried to argue.

As more skeptical questions were shouted, Pelosi opened her eyes wide. She licked her lips. She chopped the air with her hand and moved her arm like a windshield wiper. She swallowed hard. She used both hands to clear her hair from her face as she fired off pleas that "I wasn't briefed," "I wasn't informed" and "They misled us."

"That's it -- we're done!" a Pelosi aide said as the reporters continued to shout questions. Finally, in a burst of sideways energy and with the help of her aides, the speaker crab-walked out of the room.

Madam Speaker, nice work. You have accused the CIA of lying, and been refuted firmly by President Obama's choice to lead the agency.

President Obama has been wise enough to soften his stances on military tribunals, a "by-God we're pulling out of Iraq like it or not" mentality that you continue to push, and continues to use drones to bomb Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan which you have derided since the Bush administration used the same tactics.

Meanwhile, you embarrass your Democratic constituency and the President and the CIA. There you go. The agency on the absolute front of the war on terror and you want to take them on.

Good luck.

Ms. Pelosi, you remind me of why PMS is called PMS. It's because mad cow disease was already taken.

From now on, instead of the term PMS, let's just say, "She's suffering from a full Pelosi."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

If men actually ran the world

All furniture would be of the bean bag variety so you wouldn't break your little toe like I just did on this exquisite Donghia number that never gets sat upon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The sliding board and the monkey bars

Can't remember where I was working.

Can't remember why it was such a bad day.

All I can remember is getting home late, just in time for bedtime with the kids.

Asked them all how their day was.


Except Zac. Who was 5.

"I had a great day, Dad."

"And what made it a great day?"

"They put in a new sliding board at school and it is long and smooth and fast and I went down it a hundred times today."

That's a good day.

My peanut 7 year old daughter is the monkey bar queen. She measures the quality of her day by how much time is spent on the bars. And how many new tricks she can do.

Everyday after school, to the monkey bars.

She swings like an orangutan. She now takes two bars at a time.

And the newest challenge is three bars at a time.

She can't do them all. Yet. In two weeks, she will.

Then she goes to the single bar and does flips and twirls on the high one and low one that make me nuts and makes her giddy. When she falls, she doesn't cry like she does when she stubs her toe at home. This is her world, and she is fearless.

"I'm ok daddy. Just a little fall. Watch this."

All she wants is her freedom to excel or fail and some attention for what she is accomplishing.

Is there really anything else we want in life?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Way out in left field

It was either Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, or Casey Stengel. Baseball historians can't agree.

The story goes that one of these baseball greats was a player-manager. He sent a rookie into play left field (or center field, depending on which version you choose).

The rookie drops two fly balls. The crusty manager pulls the rookie and puts himself in his place. He proceeds to make an error himself. He throws his glove to the ground and shouts, "That rookie has left field so screwed up nobody can play it."

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David McKiernan, was "fired" yesterday after less than a year in the job.

General McKiernan asked for 30,000 more troops in 2008 when he took over from the NATO mission which had essentially failed. Bush gave him 6,000 of those troops. President Obama has will have given him 21,000 by the end of this year and they're considering another 10,000 next year. It's a fine old military tradition that you sack the guy who asked for reasonable resources and then give those resources to his successor who is then successful.

Let's hope so.

And let's hope the Obama administration has a strategy for Afghanistan. To date, they admit they do not.

In November of 2001, per the account of the Delta Force commander who lead the team of special ops experts into the Tora Bora mountains, we had bin Laden surrounded. This battle in Afghanistan made sense. In his book Kill Bin Laden, Dalton Fury (an alias) describes the battle in detail.

And he describes his dismay when he realized that bin Laden had a back door escape into Pakistan. He asked for additional support from military commanders up the chain, all the way to Washington D.C. But they refused to close that escape route. To this day he doesn't understand why. Neither do I.

Again, what is the purpose today of more troops in Afghanistan? Are we going to accomplish what 250,000 Soviet Red Army troops could not? What is the mission? What is the end game? What is the role of Pakistan and the rest of the Muslim world in solving the Taliban issue?

Good men have been in Afghanistan longer than we have been in Iraq. What have we accomplished?

This mess has become so screwed up it will be amazing if any one Gerneral can get it right.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Don't tell me that your Gucci belt is too tight

This economic mess we're in just may be one of the greatest blessings in history.
The world is learning to live with less.

We are becoming smarter about money.

We are more cautious in how we spend.

We are more cautious about our investments.

We are even learning to put some money away in savings.

Private education, Christian Louboutin shoes, Maybachs, 8,000 square foot houses, Cristal for brunch, outdoor flat screen tv's by our pools. We are learning these are not necessary. Not bad things. Just not necessary.

We are spending more time together as families and friends. Camping vacations are increasing. Sales of Kraft macaroni and cheese are way up. We are adopting mutts from the pound versus buying pedigreed Cavalier Spaniels.

Those of us that live in the United States did and still live better than 99.9% of the people on this earth.

We are learning some common sense. That the role of government is to protect us from foreign enemies, provide local safety needs like police and fire, keep our roads paved, and help parents educate our children. We can't afford to research the sex lives of salamanders. (We have Barney Frank to observe and that's education enough on that topic.)

In California, parents and educators are working together to save jobs that have been cut by state budget shortfalls. This is how it's supposed to be. Parents and educators working together to get the kids what they need. Not Sacramento. Not Washington D.C.

Let's hope these lessons stick. That our younger generations learn the difference in nice to have and need to have. Even if this economy returns.

And speaking of that, wonder who is going to figure it out. It won't be government. Somebody is going to have to buy something new when there old one wears out. Like a car. Pants. Light bulb. Roof.

We won't see a return to an economy like 2007 for years. We are learning that houses, furniture, mattresses, cars, etc. have a much longer life span than we knew. The economy will start to turn when replacement needs kick in.

Here's to the basics of life.

Have a bologna sandwich and hand write a letter to an old friend today.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Aunt Lulu jus' swole up and died

The leading cause of death in the South is "becoming swole up".

A number of factors are at play here.

First, it covers so many ills. It prevents alot of unnecessary details at the funeral home when long lost cousin Phyllis comes in, expresses her condolences, and starts playing twenty questions.

It really isn't any of Phyllis' business that Aunt Lulu had not been able to shake them nervous pills since that squirrel caught on fire in her chimbley years ago. Nervous pills and a nip of bourbon were good medicine for Aunt Lulu for years. And this also kept Uncle Horace from jumping off the corner of the roof as he so often has discussed.

The Southern diet has also been known to cause more than a few to become swole up.

Sorghum syrup over a couple of cathead biscuits to top off three over easy with sausage and grease gravy is a proper breakfast. In a hurry, it's a dozen warm Krispy Kremes with sweet milk (you might know that as whole milk if you aren't native to these parts).

Pecan pie has been called the most dangerous thing to a man's heart on earth. (Whoever said that never met my ex.) It becomes even more dangerous with large chocolate bits in it. And real whupped cream, with a little bourbon mixed in for flavor.

And if the word pecan comes out of your mouth sounding like pekin (as in Pekin, Illinois, the home of the late great Senator Everett Dirksen and formerly the Pekin Chinks until the political correctness police made 'em change it to Dragons) you've never had pecan pie.

Or if the word pecan comes out of your mouth sounding like pee-can (as in, "Hey Lardass, pass the pee-can over here. I've got to go and I ain't getting outside this tent with that rattler out there), you've never had pecan pie.

Cheap beer has also contributed to this issue, and another good reason for the catch all, "swole up and died".

I mean really, who needs to know that your brother drank a case of PBR a day since he got laid off at the rendering plant.

Tobacco is another issue that nobody wants to talk about. We all smoke. Very few admit it, especially the Baptists. (As my friend Hardtail says, if you rounded up all the Baptists who DON'T drink alcohol and smoke cigarretes, he could hold church for 'em in his closet.)

This is part of a covenant signed in the 1800's. Nawth Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Jawja grow most of the good leaf. It is the money crop. It has fueled the Southern banks. It's part of how we keep the South the South.

Now, I know Kentucky was a split state in The Great War. But, they are still part of the South. Even if they do eat mutton and call it barbecue.

And by the way, The Great War was not about slavery or states rights. As Lewis Grizzard noted, it was a chivalrous display of courage by Southern men to prevent our beautiful Southern beaches from being spoiled by the sight of Yankee men in black socks and sandals walking along the surf. We did pretty good. But we eventually did have to give up the Southern half of Florida. (Oh yeah, North Florida is as hard South as you could ever hope to find. Go to Lake City for some of the finest dogfighting in the nation.)

Oh, sweet tea, Coke for breakfast, and poor role models may also lead to this end. When watchin' rasslers throw each other around the ring while you're eating crumbled cornbread in buttermilk with a green onion on the side, you might come convinced that Dusty Rhodes is the athlete you most want to be like.

Anyway, think I'm gonna go over to the funeral parlor and see who's passed away this week. The South is full of professional mourners. You know, they attend every funeral in town whether they ever met the deceased or not. It get's 'em out of work, it's a source of good gossip, and Bojangles drive-thru is right next door.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hi y'all, haaaaayyyyy, sup

Jeff Foxworthy.


Lil Jeezy.

All these folks call it home.

ATL, Allanta, whatever you want to call it, it's also home for me.

A big happy mashup of rednecks, black folks, and one of the largest gay communities in the world.

Many people call it Hot 'Lanta, although most don't know why.

In the '60's and '70's, Atlanta had one of the highest VD rates in the country. Venereal Disease was the term for what are now STDs.

The hip, young apartment area was known as Gonorrhea Gulch. It was some kind of hot.

It smells like honeysuckle. It is covered in dogwoods and azaleas. Pork barbecue is abundant and good. Co-Cola runs free out of faucets. Sanford Stadium is only 90 miles up the road. The Braves play here. And Augusta National is a morning's drive away.

No wonder Elton John calls it home. Once you taste properly made sweet tea, you ain't going back for that English version.

Been here less than 24 hours, and already had a properly made Chick fil A. Brunswick stew. Heard the sweet drawl of the neighbor ladies talking in their front yards. Seen pinestraw. And my pop.

If Heaven doesn't resemble this, then I am in no hurry to get there, Lord.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From Kabul to LAX

Took a cab to the airport this morning.

The driver was a very nice man with a foreign accent.

"Where did you grow up, sir?"


"How long have you been here?"

"25 years."

"What do you think about the situation in Afghanistan."

"The trouble is Pakistan. They are supporting the Taliban. The US and British must force Pakistan to take action. Pakistan is two faced. They want to be friends with the West, but they support the Taliban."

"Can the Taliban be defeated?"

"Sure. No problem. But not without help from Pakistan. And not without stopping funding coming from Saudi Arabia."

"What do you think the US should do?"

"Make Pakistan and Afghanistan kill the Taliban. The more troops the US sends, the more Taliban and al Qaeda will be created.

It was very easy to catch bin Laden right after 9/11. I do not understand why Bush allowed him to escape into Pakistan. I know he has been sick. Not sure if he is still alive. But if he is, he is in Pakistan.

And I don't know why Bush went to war in Iraq. A disaster. It was joke. Don't tell me CIA gives bad information. Bush wanted to go to war with Iraq for some reason that I can't understand. And Cheney was a very bad man."

"Sir, I agree with you. I lost my oldest son in Iraq."

He looked back over the seat. "I am so sorry sir. So many killed and injured. For what?"

We pulled up to the curb and he unloaded my luggage.

"God bless you and your family, sir. Again, I am so sorry for your loss. I have children your son's age and I cannot imagine the pain."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

They're not born, they're raised

Nobody was born Canadian.

Or Muslim.

Or Buddhist.

Or Christian.

Or Wiccan.

Or American.

Or a leader.

Or a loser.

Or a Smith.

Or a Malkovich.

Or a Lundy.

Or a bin Laden.

Or a Burks.

Children are born. Then they are raised by the world around them.

They either learn to learn.

Or they learn to not learn.

They learn to love.

Or they learn to hate.

They learn to love their country.

Or they learn to despise it.

They learn to love and respect their parents.

Or they learn to hate and rebel and be as unlike their parents as possible.

They learn that family is the center of the universe.

Or they are without center.

They learn individual responsiblity.

Or they are forever blaming "them" for their problems.

They learn to work.

Or they are destined to beg.

They learn that happiness is in simple, free things.

Or they are forever lost.

They learn to cooperate.

Or they are forever at war.

They learn that only about 1/6 billiionth of this world is about them.

Or they carry a grudge for life.

They learn to give.

Or they learn to be takers.

Parents, it is up to us.

These precious things called children are our opportunities to make a difference.

And remember, they will have children. And so on. And so on.

There is no license to become a parent.

There is no prescribed method of raising children.

Just remember they are clay in our hands.

And souls for us to guide.

Crosby, Stills and Nash got it.

"Teach Your Children"

You, who are on the road,
Must have a code that you can live by.
And so, become yourself,
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams,
The one they picks, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by.
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well,
Their children's hell will slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams,
The one they picks, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.......

Monday, May 4, 2009

Givers and Takers

A wise man once said to me, "Show me your calendar and your checkbook and I will show you where your heart is."

We don't get to Heaven on good works.

But, good works are the fruit of moral people.

People that are in public service made a choice and do it everyday.





Border Patrol. (Perhaps the most under-appreciated group of public servants in our country.)

Mayors and city council members in cities and towns across the USA. (Yes, some lost their way. But the majority do it because they care.)

Coaches of youth sports.

Church and synagogue workers.

CIA, Secret Service, FBI and every other law enforcement agency.

Social workers.

And millions more.

These folks made a choice to give their lives to serving.

This doesn't mean that those that work in the corporate world are wrong. Or that they don't or can't give. Statistics show that most do.

I have been blessed to not have to work for the past year.

I have been able to spend most of my time giving back to the military. And being a dad that can volunteer by working in my daughter's class, coaching basketball, helping my little town in Texas.

My grandparents and parents taught me. I saw my sweet Patsmama (that's what we called our grandmother), make sandwiches for the homeless till the day she died.

I saw my mom walk across the street from the old pharmacy in East Point, Georgia to hand a black woman at the bus stop $20 in 1962. I didn't understand. She explained that that woman needed it more than we do. And we were far from having money to spare. I could have bought a new bike with that money. But she taught me a life lesson in that moment.

I have seen my dad work countless hours in church meetings, civic meetings, senior citizen charities, and taking care of his mom and dad when they were in nursing homes.

I will go back to work soon. But, I will never again neglect my ability to give.

I hope I leave this world as a net giver.

I hope you do too.

The Teachers

It is Teacher Appreciation Week.

A week isn't long enough to properly thank them.

They are life changers, mentors, instructors, nurses, caregivers, surrogate moms and dads, counselors, givers of love and hugs and self-worth, the original multi-taskers.

Teachers spend more time with kids once they start school than parents. Teachers have to referee squabbles in the sandbox and then try to teach kids how to read. They have to console a child whose dog has died and then explain how atoms work.

Teachers spend their own money, which they don't earn enough of to begin with, to buy teaching materials. They grade papers when they are trying to help their own kids with homework.

If I start naming names, I am going to miss someone.

So a blanket thank you to all teachers.

But, I can't hep myself.

Mr. Hood. The first and only African American teacher I had. He taught us just by being there at a basically all white high school about race. And history. And how to be cool. And how to laugh.

And Mrs. Harrison. My kindergarten teacher. She taught us how to read. And what happens when you screw up. (The woman had a serious hiney swatter that she used daily on my friend Mac. I wonder if Mac can sit down yet?)

And the teachers at Celina High School who took care of my kids when things were tough at home. And the teachers at Trinity Christian who taught my kids how the Bible is still a valid document and prepared them for excellence in college. And the teachers at Ursuline Academy who taught my girls discipline, self-worth, and hard work. And Ms. Linden, Mrs. K, Miss Kitty, Miss Mary and Miss Peita who have helped raise my little peanut into a happy, talented, loving, inquisitive girl.

Thank you all and may your good works continue to produce more good fruit.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My sweet Pop and his Em

From the Fayette Senior Services Newsletter in Fayetteville, Georgia

Em Baldwin and Haskell Burks are a "volunteer team" here at Fayette Senior Services. Em was one of the first to come through the doors of our new Life Enrichment Center to become a member and volunteer in January, 2008. Haskell joined soon after in February. They have been volunteering together here ever since. Like perfect bookends, you will find Em filling the role as hostess for lunch on Mondays while Haskell serves as ambassador. They are both on the Event Planning Committee where they are part of a team of talented volunteers that help us implement special events here at the Center.

Haskell has lived in the metro Atlanta area all his life, graduating from Russell High School in East Point at the peak of World War II. He went right into business school after graduating at age 17, where he met his future wife, but realizing that he would probably be drafted into the Army as soon as he turned 18, he decided to join the Navy just prior to his 18th birthday. He served his two years and shortly after his discharge he married in 1946. He joined his father in a barbecue restaurant business in College Park which was very successful until 1959 when their leased restaurant space was sold by the owner. This is when Haskell decided to go into Real Estate getting his license in September of 1959 and he has been in the business ever since.

Through the many years of his career, Haskell has served on the Georgia Board of Realtors and several realty committees. He was president of Clayton-Henry Board of Realtors in 1978 and then President of the Fayette County Board of Realtors in 1989.

Meanwhile, Em was living and working in South Carolina. She was employed for twenty years with the South Carolina State Employment Security Commission. Her husband was a commissioner with the same agency. Before Em's husband passed away they were living in Walterboro, S.C., an island on the intercostal waterway located between Buford and Charleston where she and her husband enjoyed the boating, shrimping, crabbing and other marsh water activities that were part of the coastal lifestyle.

When Em's husband passed away, Em decided to move from her home in South Carolina to live closer to her daughter and grandchildren who live in Griffin. Em said she prayed, "Lord, lead me to a place where I will be safe and can be of a service to others." Em had grown up in Griffin but thought Fayette County was where she would like to live.

It was Haskell's real estate experience that brought he and Em together. Through networking, Em learned that Haskell was a successful realtor in Fayette County so Em gave him a call. Since Em was still living in South Carolina, Haskell worked with Em's daughter and found a home for Em right here in Fayetteville and she moved here in 1998.

It was several years before Em saw Haskell again. Haskell's wife passed away since the time he found Em her home. In 2006, when Em's church scheduled a picnic, a friend suggested that she call Haskell and invite him to attend. He accepted and they have been the best of friends ever since. "Everyone at the church was just so friendly and I felt like I had known them for a long time." said Haskell. Even though Haskell was a long-time member of another church, after he and Em started dating he decided to join her church so they could attend the same services and church functions together. In addition to volunteering at our Center, Em and Haskell are also very active volunteers in their church.

Currently, the volunteer activity that is most special to the two of them is with a project called "The Peter Burks Unsung Hero Fund." Army 2nd Lt. Peter Burks is Haskell's grandson who was killed on November 14, 2007 by an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) while serving in Iraq. When reading Peter's story at, I realized that this young man was a true military hero who cared deeply for his fellow soldiers as well as for the people of Iraq, especially the children.

Shortly before he was killed, Peter sent his family a list of the treats his guys were missing being away from home. But, the list also included items that would help the Iraqi people, especially the children. Peter's family and his large circle of friends started the care package collections. The response was very generous and Peter's family mailed the many donations to Iraq, each boxed into individual care packages to be distributed to the soldiers.

When Peter was killed his family decided to continue his legacy and through a partnership with Operation Iraqi Children, they recently delivered more than 6 tons of care packages and school supplies to Iraq.

“Em and Haskell are like comfort food or a good warm security blanket,” says Executive Director, Debbie Britt. She explains, “From the moment I met them, there was a warmth about them that made me feel that I had known them a lifetime, as if they were family. I’ve told Em before that I feel as though something is out of place if I don’t see her or Haskell at the Center – if you looked up Fayette Senior Services in the dictionary you’d likely see a picture of Em and Haskell on the page. They are one of the many caring faces that define Fayette Senior Services.”

Em and Haskell clearly represent the caring attitude that so many of our volunteers bring to our Center. They certainly represent the volunteers that go "above and beyond."