What That Billboard Taught Me About Real Men

The Consitution gives us Americans the right of freedom of speech.

 

And that means we can advertise on billboards.

Apparently that billboard on I-40 between Winston-Salem and K-Vegas is experiencing the most testosterone-driven liberty America has to offer, but it is coming at a cost.

No. I do not mean it is driving a wedge between us as a nation. That was already there.

But it is showing us that real men do not have a need for better schooling in grammar and logic as well as in maintaining identity. Real men are above that.

Here is the latest billboard.

coupons

So, “Real Men Don’t Use Coupons Our coupons have pictures of dead Presidents and Statesman, and are good anytime anyplace.”

So we have a run-on sentence that contradicts itself by utilizing something that the speaker claims to not use (coupons) and erroneously capitalizes titles without proper names behind the then fails to pluralize an object of a preposition to keep accuracy then inserts a comma where it is not needed then does not separate two adverbs with a comma that modify the same adjective.

That’s about as grammatically correct as… the last billboard.

If you have kept up with the saga of the “Real Men” billboards, then you know that the owner of the billboard rental business, Bill Whiteheart, would not identify the people responsible for the first two installments which were:

“Real men provide. Real women appreciate it.”

“Much Ado About Nothing. A social experiment that brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror they could only see an angry victim of their incorrect interpretation of a silly billboard — Bless their hearts.”

This blog had posts on both of those billboards-

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/03/01/real-men-dont-use-billboards-to-tell-any-woman-what-they-should-do/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/03/05/shakespeare-and-that-billboard/

But according to the Winston-Salem Journal article on this particular billboard, this renter of this message has no problem whatsoever in identifying himself (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/man-takes-credit-for-puzzling-new-business-billboard/article_013de4a9-5a95-55f2-b084-0dbe5093f679.html#comments).

The billboard also lists a website, which identifies Mitch Carr, an auto mechanic from Kensington, Md., as the man behind the billboard.

 

The website says Carr, who runs a Mercedes Repair business outside of Washington, D.C., enjoys challenging political views and is “politically in the center but believes that people with running water, heat, air conditioning and full bellies shouldn’t whine so much.”

You need to see that website. In fact here it is. It’s called hoohabook.com.

hoohabook

He’s a bit of a writer! The word “hooha” as part of the website’s name? Intriguing!

You might want to look at an excerpt of the book he is promoting on the billboard. He has one on the website – http://hoohabook.com/excerpts-real-men-dont-use-coupons/.

I probably would not use some of these on a first date, but I am not a real man according to this man’s definition as I am a monogamist male in a relationship with a lady who is a hell of a lot smarter than I am who also happens to be the mother of our children and my best friend.

You do what you want.

It’s America. I am allowed to be that. So are you.

He says he wrote that book referred to on the billboard to raise money for what seems like a worthwhile cause. He just does it in an Andrew Dice Clay fashion maybe?

And of course, I am actually giving him advertising by writing about him. America!

But this is what caught my eye. On the “About the Author” page of hooha.com  he states,

“Author E.M. Carr is better known to friends and family as Mitch Carr and is an auto mechanic from Kensington Maryland.

His other endeavors include two music CDs where he is the songwriter and producer, and two Novels written under the pen name of Rhett Dawn Home.

Not only is he a writer. He has a pen name that he writes under.

 

Pen name of Rhett Dawn? What? And he has a web site for that name as well? That’s the website he should be advertising on the billboard here in North Carolina.

Hell yes, I went there.

rhett dawn

If you want to read some excerpts, then read the excerpts from that website. Here – http://www.rhettdawn.com/excerpts-congressmans-wife/.

Oh, hell. I’ll save you the time.

We smiled at each other and I realized my hand was now completely over hers, stroking her hair line as her hand rested against her cheek. She looked up at me and there were those eyes again. There was something in there and I wanted to know more. Here I was with a woman I had spent less than an hour with and knew nothing about, who was opening herself up to me for no reason other than I was a nice person who helped her get her car started.
It seemed crazy, but I wasn’t leaving………

“One last kiss.”
“Here?”
“Here and now!”
“Okay,” she conceded.
I walked her off the edge of the path and up against a very large oak tree. I lifted her arms above her head and kissed her deep. At nearly six feet tall, I towered over her slender figure. I held her arms up by the wrist with her arms supported by my inner elbows and suckled her tongue as she surrendered to my masculinity. I moved my hands down her arms to her cheeks and held her head in my hands as I continued for at least another minute. Her eyes were closed and she kept her arms raised above her head. Her body was resting against the tree and I hoped it was because she was weak in the knees……..

I turned for the door and in an instant the other two were up and across the room with one between me and the door, and the other close enough that he could get in a solid punch if need be. I turned back around and said nothing. I assumed he wasn’t there for confirmation, but for some sort of retribution. I had imagined what I would say if ever confronted, but I realized I was just doing that with the belief that it would never happen, because I couldn’t think of anything to do but let things play out. He looked at me and said, “What, no denial? No excuse? Not even a Sir Galahad taking the blame to protect his lover?”

Move over Cormac McCarthy. Move over Philip Roth. You are both pansies. Thank God Kurt Vonnegut is dead. He was not man enough to write prose like this.

And yes, there is even a chance to get these books on Amazon where you can read about the author Rhett Dawn. But alas…

“The author has chosen to remain mildly discreet for now, but suffice to say he is local to Montgomery County and some names were changed to protect the innocent.”

It’s like Rhett has chosen to remain aloof like the people behind the first two billboards.

One would need to read the rest of the Journal’s story to get a little more understanding of Mr. Carr’s reasoning of why he took out the advertising billboard two states away from his home.

He said he drove by the original sign, posted in February, that declared: “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it.”

It was later replaced with: “Much Ado About Nothing. A social experiment that brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror they could only see an angry victim of their incorrect interpretation of a silly billboard — Bless their hearts.”

Carr said the messages inspired him.

“Real men are sort of a dying breed in this country,” he said. “I consider myself one. You know one when you see one.”

The new message is intended to start a dialogue on what it means to be a “real man,” Carr contends.

“What it means is it’s a knock on men who dropped out of the ranks just because life got easy,” Carr said while explaining the new billboard.

“Just because the war stops doesn’t mean a soldier stops training. We need more real men out there.”

And Mr. Carr’s inspiration has inspired me to list all of the things that I have learned about being a real man from the very billboard that, lo, resides so close to me.

  1. Real men use bad grammar because real men know what they really mean.
  2. Real men are inspired by real billboards.
  3. Real men provide real billboards that women can appreciate.
  4. Real men don’t use coupons that allow them to save more of the coupons that they really use.(I know. It’s confusing).
  5. Real men do social experiments.
  6. Real men make Shakespearean references that don’t make sense to people who actually studied Shakespeare but may not be real men.
  7. Real men bless people’s hearts.
  8. Real men only use coupons that have dead white guys on them so while there may be an expiration date on coupons that many people use, real men use real coupons that have expired people on them.
  9. Real men self promote on billboards books that are self-published.
  10. Real men use pen names that seem generated by a William Faulkner adult entertainment computer program.
  11. Real men are a dying breed. Everyone else lives forever.
  12. Real men talk about how they are real men to, you know, stir the pot and start a dialogue.

Mr. Carr can say anything he wants.

He can spend his 2600$ with Mr. Whiteheart for a month’s worth of space and help the local economy.

He can advertise all he wants. Hell, I have done it for him with a lot of fun and glee I might add.

But he did say “people with running water, heat, air conditioning and full bellies shouldn’t whine so much.”

Whether he believes it or not (and I could give exactly zero f***s), the same freedom that allows him to rent that billboard in a state he does not even reside in and whine about what he thinks real men should do allows me to complain and whine as much as I want about anything I want.

America!

 

 

 

The Art of “Bang and Blame” – A Long Distance R.E.M. Dedication to Donald Trump

Friday, March 24, 2017.

House Republicans on Capitol Hill will be voting on Trump’s health care bill and it seems like Donald Trump may be facing a legislative failure in his first big legislative push.

And it set in motion a chain of interrelated thoughts.

First, there is this proclamation that came from one Donald Trump when he made his candidacy for president about his unique ability to make and seal the “deal.”

Art of deal

Interestingly enough, he used the word “art” in the title of the book that he never wrote, and ironically, it is the “arts” that he has specifically targeted in his budget proposal to boost military spending.

But Trump’s “art” really is not in making the deal. It’s in knowing when to take credit for himself and when to blame others when the outcomes of his actions, or lack thereof, create unpleasant results. And actually, it’s not an art as much as it has become a reflex practiced over and over again with the knowledge that he could always buy himself new opportunities.

CNN.com had a very interesting article called “Deal or no deal, Trump ready to cast blame” on the home page (3/24/17) and both Jeremy Diamond and Dana Bash stated,

Painting the President as a political neophyte who has only been in Washington for two months, the source said Trump has become “frustrated with his staff’s inability to get this done” and argued that Trump was misled by those staffers who urged him to tackle Obamacare head first and hitch himself to Ryan’s plan.

“He was talked into doing this bill first. It was not negotiated well on his behalf,” the source said. “He’s relied on his staff to give him good information and they haven’t. And that’s the problem.”

The source close to Trump described a president who felt bamboozled by Ryan and his own staff, duped into thinking that passing health care would be the quick victory he needed to make good on a campaign promise central to his election and push forward on other policy fronts (http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/24/politics/donald-trump-health-care-blame/index.html).

And then it occurred to me once again that there is an R.E.M. song that literally explains this whole ordeal and encapsulates the egotistical and obsessive will of the president to protect the thin, fragile, fleshy membrane that covers him: “Bang and Blame.”

REMBangBlame

The chorus sings through Michael Stipe’s original, unprocessed, thoughtful, and activist voice.

“You know that’s not my thing, you came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go, you
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
It’s not my thing so let it go.”

Think of it. It’s not hard to come up with a multitude of synonyms for both “bang” and “blame” – both connotatively and denotatively.

Bang” – (from thesaurus.com) belt, blow, bop, crack, knock, rap, slam, smack, sock, strike, swat, thump, thwack, wallop, whack, whop; or (in slang terms) have sexual intercourse with

Blame” – (from thesaurus.com) allege, attack, betray, charge, cite, criminate, denounce, frame, impeach, indict, libel, pin-on, slander, slur, sue

It seems that much of what Trump says either objectifies and belittles women (Bang) or places culpability (Blame) on others.

CBSNews.com one time compiled a list of Trump’s “wildest” quotes, and you could actually classify most of these quotes under the heading of “Bang” or “Blame” as they are either attacking someone (particularly women) else or absolving responsibility and placing it upon others (http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/wild-donald-trump-quotes/) .

  • “I don’t think Ivanka would do that inside the magazine. Although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.” – BANG!
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” – BLAME!
  • “Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding. I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye — or perhaps another body part.” – BANG!
  • “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” – BLAME!
  • “@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.” – BANG!
  • “I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” – BLAME!
  • “You know, it doesn’t really matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” – BANG!
  • “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.” – BLAME!
  • “While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.” – BANG!
  • “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” – BLAME!
  • “I’ve never had any trouble in bed, but if I’d had affairs with half the starlets and female athletes the newspapers linked me with, I’d have no time to breathe.” – BANG!
  • “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” – BLAME!
  • “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” – BANG!
  • “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say China, in a trade deal?” – BLAME!
  • “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.” – BANG!
  • “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” – BLAME!
  • “I love women. They’ve come into my life. They’ve gone out of my life. Even those who have exited somewhat ungracefully still have a place in my heart. I only have one regret in the women department — that I never had the opportunity to court Lady Diana Spencer. I met her on a number of occasions.” – BANG!
  • “I dealt with Qaddafi. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn’t let him use the land. That’s what we should be doing. I don’t want to use the word ‘screwed’, but I screwed him. That’s what we should be doing.” – BANG & BLAME!

And with an impending defeat in this first of legislative miscues that hurt the very people who propelled him into office, it may not be too hard to see why “it’s not my thing.”

rem-bang-and-blame-album-version-1994-cs

And how apropos is it that this particular image of a ’45 featuring “Bang And Blame” is complete with “Losing My Religion,” “Country Feedback,” and “Begin The Begin”?

Song #1 explains Trump’s method of operation as far as his “leadership” style is concerned.

Song #2 explains the disconnect of his policies and those of Paul Ryan with the tenets of the very religion they espouse.

Song #3 explains how people are starting to feel about Trump’s policies – the very people who helped to elect him and he seems to have ignored now while he is in “Ignoreland.”

Song #4 explains that this may be the beginning of something. Maybe?

But it is neat to see that three of those songs were recorded live for Greenpeace, which I am sure receives no love from Trump.

Nor does Sesame Street and PBS. But they do love them some R.E.M.

FurryHappyMonstersSong

“Bang And Blame”

If you could see yourself now, baby,
It’s not my fault, you used to be so in control.
You’re going to roll right over this one.
Just roll me over, let me go,
You’re laying blame.
Take this as no, no, no, no, no.

You bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame,
You bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go.

If you could see yourself now, baby,
The tables have turned, the whole world hinges on your swings,
Your secret life of indiscreet discretions.
I’d turn the screw and leave the screen,
Don’t point your finger,
You know that’s not my thing.

You came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
To blame, blame, blame,
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go now.

You’ve got a little worry,
I know it all too well.
I’ve got your number —
But so does every kiss and tell
Who dares to cross your threshold,
Or happens on you way,
Stop laying blame.
You know that’s not my thing.

You know that’s not my thing, you came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go, you
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
It’s not my thing so let it go.

You kiss on me,
Tug on me,
Rub on me,
Jump on me.
You bang on me,
Beat on me,
Hit on me,
Let go on me.
You let go on me.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Clause and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and Really Bad Letters to the Editor

Yes, Virginia! There is a Santa Claus.

And there’s GINA!

Plus there is a lot of erroneous information in your op-ed printed in today’s Winston-Salem Journal.

Much has been made of your bill H.R. 1313, The Persevering Employee Wellness Programs Act and its dystopian implications on genetic privacy laws already outlined in the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act or GINA.

Your letter to the editor this morning seemed more like an attempt to save face in light of the prospect that the current version of Rep. Ryan and President Trump’s healthcare overhaul will fail miserably. The text of that letter follows:

“REP. VIRGINIA FOXX, Banner Elk

H.R. 1313

I believe the Journal’s March 15 editorial “A wrongheaded bill on genetic screening” misrepresents legislation to provide regulatory clarity for voluntary employee wellness plans.

A provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) encouraged greater use of these wellness programs. However, steps taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led to conflicting regulations. Those who want to offer these programs must either follow the ACA guidelines and be in violation of the EEOC rules or vice versa. By reaffirming the policies outlined in the ACA, H.R. 1313 removes this legal uncertainty so employees can continue to benefit from these voluntary wellness plans.

It’s important to understand that wellness programs have always been completely voluntary. They remain voluntary under H.R. 1313. Furthermore, discrimination based on genetic information is illegal under existing federal law and remains illegal under H.R. 1313.

The editorial also claims the legislation imposes financial penalties on individuals who decline to participate. I disagree. In programs that offer incentives, those who choose to enroll can receive a reduction in their health-insurance premiums. Those who decline to participate are not forced to pay any additional health-care costs, nor will they experience any increase in their health-insurance premiums.

Voluntary employee wellness plans have long helped working families control their health-care costs and improve their quality of life. It’s unfortunate that critics of the bill are spreading false information to deny workers that option.

Virginia Foxx is North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District representative. — the editor (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/the-readers-forum-thursday-letters/article_fcc96549-17dd-584c-beab-33c3d8e8a430.html). “

While I very much appreciate your interpretation of the law, it fails to explain why “nearly 70 organizations, representing consumer, health and medical advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, AARP, March of Dimes, and the National Women’s Law Center, said the legislation, if enacted, would undermine basic privacy provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA” (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/employees-who-decline-genetic-testing-could-face-penalties-under-proposed/article_ec4136ca-650a-5ecd-9963-f5fb91acf1d4.html).

Something tells me that organizations which not only represent medical entities and lawful endeavors, but understand how the law applies to medical practices know much more about these types of things than you. But that is not to say that you have not done some dabbling into scientific foresight and logical divination.

Remember these gems?

  1. At North Surry High a few weeks ago, discussing potential FDA regulation of tobacco and tax increases on cigarettes, Foxx, a former educator, was quoted by The Mount Airy Newsas telling students that “I bet a lot of you like Mountain Dew. You wouldn’t want the government to tell you not to drink Mountain Dew” (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/editorials/article_7541047c-2b29-5478-b53f-b132842eeb3c.html).

Mountain Dew and cigarettes. Caffeine and nicotine. Nothing addictive about either of those.

dew and gigs

  1. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) disputes President Obama’s claim that 47 million Americans lack healthcare. “There are no Americans who don’t have healthcare. Everybody in this country has access to healthcare,” she says. “We do have about 7.5 million Americans who want to purchase health insurance who can not afford it,” she says, urging Congress to adopt a new plan for healthcare reform that wouldn’t “destroy what is good about healthcare in this country” and “give the government control of our lives” (https://thinkprogress.org/rep-virginia-foxx-there-are-no-americans-who-dont-have-health-care-582c8e227b6c#.23f3o5c2f).

And the very bill that you are helping Rep. Ryan and President Trump pass at this very instant was just clarified by the Congressional Budget Office as being worse than the original one that did not have enough support earlier this week.

foxx ryan

“The agency revised its figures to reflect amendments made to the bill that were announced on Monday. The new numbers do not take into account a deal underway to woo House conservatives to support the measure.

Though the bill would be more costly, it would still leave 24 million fewer people insured than under current law. Some 52 million people would be uninsured in 2026 under the GOP legislation, compared to 28 million if Obamacare continued — the same as the prior estimate (http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/23/news/economy/obamacare-cbo-republican-bill/index.html).”

This could be worse than Obamacare? No! Why? Because Virginia, you said,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA66v858_NU&feature=player_embedded

  1. That’s right. You said we have more to fear from Obamacare than we do from terrorists.

So when someone who espouses hyperbolic tendencies when speaking to constituents in Congress while writing books that praise her faith, yet totally contradicts reality and hides behind the fact that she never debates political opponents or hold town halls for fear of being asked intelligent questions writes an op-ed like the one aforementioned, then she may need to be tested herself – for a preexisting condition known as ignorance.

I know what I am asking for from Santa this year.

And this genetically-enhanced kid still wants more hours in the day to go play ball.

Malcolmsanta

Malcolm’s Wish For World Down Syndrome Day (3/21)

Every year on March 21, the Down Syndrome International sponsors for the world community a WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY. You can read more about it here: https://worlddownsyndromeday.org/.

The date is a direct reference to genetic condition known as Trisomy 21 (three #21 chromosomes) which is commonly known as Down Syndrome.

But Malcolm does not thin much about the fact that he has a little bit more genetic material than most people do. In fact, he could care less as long as he feels included just like other kids.

So Malcolm asked me to tell you that he wants people to more inclusive and accepting of what are really minors differences we all have because whether you have Down Syndrome or not, we are more alike than different.

That is unless you are not redheaded and blue-eyed like over 99% of the world which makes Malcolm part of rarest minority in the world in that regard.

And he wanted me to share some pictures of him that show how uniquely alike he is to other kids.

And here’s to the fact that Malcolm never really needs a special day to just be.

Any day will do.

Musings With Malcolm – Time To Get a New Baseball Glove To Match the Hair

If you keep up with just a few of the postings about our little fireplug, you may have noticed that we have been in a bit of spring training. Why?

Baseball season is about to start.

For Malcolm, that means the Challenger League that for years has been running at Southwest Forsyth Little League with the tireless efforts of great people with big hearts and infinite patience.

For me, it allows a dad to share his favorite game with his boy.

And an excuse to go shopping for equipment.

Malcolm’s glove from the last two years has taken a little bit of a beating and to tell you the truth, he has grown some – finally. At last weigh-in, he was a little over 70 pounds of pure muscle driven by a love to play.

If you do not know about the Challenger League, kids of all ages who have developmental and physical delays come together to play baseball and they are assisted on the field by typical developing kids who run with them, field with them, and simply guide them through the process.

Everyone gets to hit at least twice.

There is no losing team. Just winners.

Malcolm goes to run, drink water, and talk to the ladies. And wear red.

glove4glove5

 

Yep, that’s his batting helmet. Sometimes he wears it at home when he plays on the Wii. Or sleeps. Or just hangs out. Sometimes he makes me wear it.

But since seeing his favorite baseball and softball teams at West Forsyth already take the field, we needed to go ahead and get that new glove.

Malcolm picked it out himself. Rawlings of course.

And it is RED!

glove3glove1

Like the hair. Like the fire in his belly. Like the flames that burn the field when he runs after a hit like this:

At least until he sees a lady he wants to say “Hello” to.

Boy has priorities.

By the way, #7 is also the number of Mickey Mantle, one of the greatest switch-hitters to ever live. But more importantly, we went and got ice-cream afterwards.

Only one hand is needed for eating a cone. Glove was on the other.

No More Meals On Wheels – When Lack Of Empathy Is A Preexisting Condition

The older I become, the more I reflect on my grandparents. Both my biological grandfathers and step-grandfather were veterans. One saw frequent combat in WWII as a member of a Black Widow Squadron. My father’s mother even served in the Navy in WWII while her brother sacrificed his life in battle in Europe.

All of my grandparents experienced firsthand the Great Depression. They saw Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Vietnam, and other social struggles.

They also knew about community.

When my MaMa married my PaPa in the late 1970’s both of them began new chapters in their lives. Having lost their spouses in the previous five years, they had a new shared lease on life and the means to live rather comfortably. My Papa had never had children, so when he married my grandmother he all of a sudden had a “ready-made” family complete with grandchildren and stubborn personalities.

And he got to finally impart lessons he had ready to teach on those younger than he.

MaMa and PaPa were devout people, but more than that, they were giving people. They donated time, money, and energy to causes they thought worthy.

One of those causes was Meals-On-Wheels.

measl on wheels

Every week they delivered meals to house bound, elderly people who often lived alone and in rather meager environments. They not only delivered the meals. They visited these people.

They knew names. They knew histories. They knew aches and pains. They knew of medical appointments. They were part of other people’s lives. They understood the importance of human interaction.

My visits with my grandparents did not yield a change in their schedules. They simply took me along with them on their daily routines which meant getting up at some ungodly hour in the morning, eating breakfast without electronics, doing chores, bowling with old people in PaPa’s league, eating dinner at 4 in the afternoon and doing service work like Meals-On-Wheels without question.

And listening to two older people talk about what it meant to have others help, especially PaPa.

I got to listen to a man talk about the past as if he waited his whole life for a kid like me to come along and listen.

As a nine-year-old until I was well into college, if I was visiting on a weekday that they were slated to deliver meals, I went with them. No questions asked.

I knew why they did it. My grandparents could care less about any notoriety or credit. It was a sense of community and the need to take care of others.

A life-long Republican, PaPa loved him some Ronald Reagan. He contributed to his campaigns. He said he felt safer with Reagan at the helm. He said he liked how Reagan did not talk badly about others around him. And if you grew up a country boy in rural Georgia, that was a sentiment felt by many. The older me does not look at Reagan as a beacon of economic prosperity for average Americans, but he did have a persona that was presidential and he did have a maxim about talking positively about others.

PaPa died a little over ten years ago. He saw his great granddaughter. He saw me get married to a woman he adored. And I remembered that one of the last things he said to me had to deal with Reagan and the administration that was currently in the White House and in Congress and how disappointed he was in them that they seemed so divided and neglectful of the average American.

In his beautifully blunt way of expressing himself, PaPa told me that “Reagan would slap the shit out of them.”

A picture of PaPa and MaMa is on my desk at home. I kept his bowling ball and use it on occasion rather badly. There are artifacts from him in my classroom because I like remembering him and things he taught me. There is a book about PaPa floating somewhere inside of me.

I thought of him last night when I saw this. The New York Times released a report that outlined the budget proposal of the Trump administration (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/us/politics/budget-epa-state-department-cuts.html). It stated,

“In addition to the cuts at the E.P.A. and the State Department, Mr. Trump’s team is expected to propose a wide array of cuts to public education, to transportation programs like Amtrak and to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including the complete elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts.”

With the appointment of Betsy DeVos, cuts to public education were not surprising, but I could hear my PaPa roll in his grave when I read about the possible elimination of the Meals on Wheels program.

My PaPa would be the first to tell someone that he/she needed to do everything he/she could for him/herself before expecting someone to help. He would have agreed with the old Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

But he would also be the first to say, “Don’t pollute that man’s waters.”

He would also say, “If the man can’t hold his own fishing pole, then do it for him because we take care of each other.”

PaPa had something that I don’t think Trump has – empathy. He knew what it was like. He never forgot was loss was like. He never forgot mercy. He never forgot loving others.

That’s why he did the Meals on Wheels program, even helping people who were younger than he was.

And I know exactly what PaPa would have said last night if he read the same report and saw Trump on television at a rally for himself in Tennessee.

“A president who has to have a rally to validate himself while hurting good people is a man who does not love others well.”

And then he would say,

“Reagan would slap the shit out of him.”

Musings With Malcolm – You Play The Game With What You Have (And With What You Can)

Once again, my little man and I went to another event to cheer on some students except this tie it was not an athletic event, but rather an intellectual one.

The Piedmont Environmental Alliance and the Wake Forest University Debate Team helped to stage their annual debate tournament. West sent three teams.

Malcolm is not much on debate. When he argues, he usually lets it all out at once.

Red hair gets redder. Teenage angst comes a few years early. But he hung in there for a bit and helped cheer on some great students who went and did some rather great things. In fact, hardware was won, respect gained, and hard work rewarded.

Then Malcolm and I got some ice cream.

But as soon as we got home he went to his room (and apparently mine), got changed, and proceeded to prepare for his afternoon baseball/basketball practice.

You have to. There’s still daylight and we are supposed to get a blizzard tomorrow.

Bat, ball, glove, bases, baggy shorts, old hat, baseball shirt, and water shoes.

Why?

Don’t ask why. Just do it!

So here we go.

Again, notice the deliberate approach to hitting the ball. Then the bat flip, but it gets better. Because…

those pants that he stole from my drawer are some of my water shorts that I use for swimming and not matter how tightly I tie them, they fall.

But, no worries, he won’t let his butt hang out.

Decorum is still important.

Yet, while running, he senses that there might be other things to see. And behold, he comes out with…

a BIGGER bat!

So we hit some more. And then I notice that he has surfboards on his underwear.

And that makes the whole ensemble seem complete.

The ability to mesh swimming, baseball, basketball, baggy shorts, multiple bats, old hats, and water shoes into one fluid activity is not just imagination and creativity.

It’s beautiful.

Enjoy the snow, or lack thereof.

Musings With Malcolm – Next Season Started Yesterday, Games at West

One of the most endearing attributes that defines Malcolm is his ability to live in the moment. He can shake off a bad episode in no time flat and savor the good out of any situation.

And I am jealous of that. So what do I do about it?

Be a part of it.

In the past week and a half he has been to basketball, baseball, and softball games at his adopted high school – West Forsyth, The Home of the Titans – watching others do the very things he tries to do at home.

Of course, I am biased toward the school where I teach and where my daughter attends, and I will attend as many sporting events as possible because I believe that teachers support students outside of the classroom.

I also believe that athletics can be a fantastic outlet for students. In fact, I would wager that most of the athletes that I have in class do better academically when they are in season than out of season. The focus, the time management, the motivation all factor into success in the classroom. Plus, there are some phenomenal teams and coaches at West.

But there is another reason that I appreciate being able to attend so many sporting events: I get to take Malcolm and let him roam. And watch. And emulate. And socialize. And be a part of. And savor. And just be in the moment.

If you ever wanted to see how inclusion really works, go to an event with a child with special needs where people do not see that child as having special needs.

That happens each time Malcolm goes with me to watch a game at West.

If you are not too familiar with Down Syndrome, you may not know that most all people who have that extra 21st chromosome experience hypotonia, or low muscle tone. It can manifest itself in so many ways because muscles help control almost every action in the body like swallowing, digesting, breathing, even speaking. Any parent of a child with Trisomy 21 can tell you that keeping the child active is imperative.

So back to Malcolm. His ability to savor the moment, and his love of sports, and his ease at being with others at West has done something for him and me that money cannot buy – he wants to play sports which means he wants to move and use his muscles.

The very students who grace the hallways of the school where I work have been teaching Malcolm how to move and play ball.

And he lets me play with him.

What people do not see at home is a kid who goes in the back yard and plays basketball and baseball for long periods of time trying to do the very things he sees athletes do on television or in person at West Forsyth. In fact, he will put on his shoes and go outside in the middle of the night if he can because when he gets an idea, he goes.

You want to talk about the kid who shoots baskets well into the night to perfect his shot? Yep, I got one of those.

So, I thought I could give you some ocular proof.

This first video is Malcolm pitching. Notice the intense concentration. The presentation of the glove from the windup. And then like Fernando Valenzuela, he delivers the ball without even looking at the plate. That adds at last 5-10 mph. By the way, his headband is one of those stretch resistance bands. Only great athletes can make that look good.

This next video is of Malcolm pitching to his mother. She does happen to hit the ball, but an error is committed by the invisible second baseman. Damn him.

Notice the presentation. The looking the runners back to the bases. The hat. Man, what a great hat.

In this video, Malcolm rips a double into the gap and then stops to admire it. In fact, he starts to lead the clapping of the crowd. Also, notice the running from home plate to second base which is under the basketball goal. Who needs first base? Again, notice the hat and the bat flip.

This was earlier in the day at batting practice. Headband on. Game on.

And, of course we have basketball. Get your own rebound. Pump fake. And the put back.

Shakespeare and “That” Billboard

shakepeare-winkingbillboard

In the second installment of the mystery that is the I-40 billboard, another pseudo-cryptic message was given by our anonymous source.

Apparently the source is making fun of the backlash that the original billboard received. And I am glad that the source gave us an explanation that requires yet another explanation.

If anything, it gives me another opportunity to come to the defense of one person who would surely be offended by the seond billboard. And that person is William Shakespeare.

If someone uses the idiom/phrase “much ado about nothing,” then most people would surely think of the title of one of the more famous comedies created by the Bard.

Some linguists think that the phrase originated in the 1500’s and the meaning of the idiom seems rather universal:

“a lot of trouble and excitement about something which is not important”Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006.

Making the idiom the title of the billboard would further verify that it is a direct reference to the Shakespeare play.

But if you’re going to use Shakespeare’s title, should you not at least try and use his style and language? It doesn’t have to be in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare wrote a lot of his dialogue in prose.

Here’s the text of the original new billboard as seen now on I-40.

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror they could only see an angry victim of their incorrect interpretation of a silly billboard — Bless their hearts”

Imagine that in Shakespearean English. You could try one of many “Shakespeare Translation” websites. Schmoop has one that is used here.

Magically what is created is not only a reference to Shakespeare, but keeps the spirit of Shakespeare. It makes you feel moere intelligent for reading it as if you were above a social experiment.

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that hath brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror those gents could only see an fell victim of their incorrect interpretation of a fartuous billboard — Bless their hearts ”

But a man of Shakespeare’s wit and ability to pinpoint human nature as well as inject humor and social satire in the same words may have actually said something different in reference to the first billboard.

Consider:

“Much Ado About Nothing
We hath spent wage anonymously to maketh a provocative billboard to stir up a little controversy so that we could findeth a reason to bless thy hearts “

Or,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We hath made a billboard so that those who comment on news articles can maketh excit’ment of others who art offended by t by telling those folk that those gents should just receiveth ov’r t while those gents themselves wenteth out of their way to giveth longer comments about how those gents wast not affected by the billboard”

Maybe,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We bethought twas comical that so many wast offended by the sexist message of the first one that we referenced a playeth that would not has’t originally allowed women to beest cast in female roles”

Possibly,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We actually didst not bethink that people would readeth this billboard because if ‘t be true hath too much text and no graphics and trying to readeth ti while driving would maketh either a wreck or a phantom traffic jam, or both”

Perhaps,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment about not using proper grammar should only beest hath followed by a longer billboard message that doesn’t useth proper mechanics of English convention”

Even this,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment about showing how so many people art immersed in their own insecurities conducted by people who art too insecure to identify themselves”

And maybe this,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that should has’t shown the creators that if ‘t be true those gents hath taken incredible backlash from the original message tis not incorrect interpretation as much as tis incorrect presentation”

But definitely Shakespeare was a man who loved free speech and would fight to the death so that others may speak freely, even if what was said is, well you know:

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that showeth we all has’t freedom of speech coequal if ‘t be true what we sayeth is asinine”

Real Men Don’t Use Billboards To Tell Any Woman What They Should Do

Coming home from an afternoon trip to Greensboro, NC to visit the Nature Center, we encountered the following billboard on I-40 between Kernersville and Winston-Salem.

real-men

That’s right. It says “Real men provide Real women appreciate it.”

Of course, it made news. Even a news channel in Chicago reported on it.

When I first saw it, I thought it was a misprint, but alas, it was not. And I was driving a car with my wife in the front passenger seat and my teenage daughter in the back seat.

The smart ass within me wanted to ask out loud, “Provide what?”

  • Money?
  • Stability?
  • Diamonds?
  • Flowers?
  • Lessons in grammar because that was a blatant run-on sentence that does not even incorporate a period to end the independent clause that really does not allow women to be independent but dependent upon a man to do the “providing?”

And how should women show their appreciation? And that’s when I realized that whoever put this sign up on a busy interstate lived in an archaic, patriarchal version of unreality that I know my wife does not subscribe to and I would never want my daughter to think was appropriate.

Literally a month ago, hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington D.C. for the Women’s  March to bring awareness to gender issues, many of which came to light with Donald Trump’s rise to power. The fact that the number of people who marched far outweighed the number of people at Trump’s inauguration spoke volumes about how many people in our country view gender-bias as another form of prejudice.

Then there was that embarrassing tweet from Sen. Joyce Kraweic concerning grease, brains, and lard that occurred right after the march ended.

But the single women who raised me taught me that what real men should provide is respect for women and that real men did not seek appreciation for just being men.

In a country that still does not equally pay women for equal work, a billboard like the one above simply reinforces the very negative constructs that hold our country back.

In a country whose laws do not adequately protect women from sexual abuse and that allows submissive stereotypes to define how younger people view women and young girls, a billboard like the one above simply does nothing but advertise ignorance.

Bill Whiteheart, whose company owns the billboard and leases its space, has been asked who sponsored the sign, but he declines to identify the people behind the message. He says that they can express free speech.

He’s absolutely right. And I am using free speech to say that its a bad use of speech (and grammar).

America affords us the right to do a lot of things.

One of those rights is the right to be wrong.