An odd thing happened before the recent Beer Summit at The White House.
To end the recent unpleasantness between Sergeant James Crowley and Harvard's African-American Studies professor Henry Louis Gates, our President, (now known on these pages as Bush Light - the beer that never lifts you up, and always lets you down...)
....decided to have Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowder over to the White House for a Bud Light. Charges of racism, racial profiling, and stupidity had been thrown around. We'll never know exactly what happened during the arrest at Gates' home, but the black officer who was on the scene with Crowley has his opinions. Crowley and Gates left the meeting "agreeing to disagree", and I bet Gates is going to milk the incident on the academic lecture/vaudeville/victimology circuit for the rest of his life.
But I digress. Here's a picture of Obama, Professor Gates, and the supposedly racist cop leaving the White House for the "can't we all just get along" Beer Summit.
Note the compassion and empathy that Bush Light is showing to The Perfesser, who has to walk with a cane. Take note of the racist cop.
Amazing. Truly amazing. Bush Light can't get even the smallest details right, and half the nation still wants to trust him with most of their money and all of their health.
(I don't make up any of this stuff; I just condense what I read elsewhere....)
And now if you're in the U.K., they're coming for your sharp revolving wheels attached to a handle designed to slice through baked crust, cheese, and the toppings of your choice. Yes, British retailers are now asking for I.D. before you purchase a freakin' pizza cutter.
Here's a corporate shill for the Marks and Spencer retail chain:
Staff are required to ask for identification from any customer who tries to buy alcohol or a bladed item and appears younger than 25. A spokesman said: "Our policy is not to sell knives or bladed articles to persons under 18, and a pizza-wheel fits into to that category. We are a responsible retailer, and our customers expect us to be vigilant in providing blades if people appear to be underage."
By the time I left elementary school, I had used axes, knives, tomahawks, hatchets, trenching tools, shovels, pruning shears, and razors - many of them for their intended purpose. Most of us carried pocket knives to school. And now the British don't trust anyone under 25 with a Pizza Cutter ????
This is the nation that produced Admiral Nelson, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, James Bond (I know, fiction), and Benny Hill.
I run a small trucking company as part of my Jukt Micronics shipping manager job. The biggest challenge is finding good drivers.
It's hard to find people you can trust with a company credit card. It doesn't matter how well they drive, or how well they can find their way around if you can't trust them to go out on the road without blowing the bank. Say you've got a new driver, and the only load you have for him is a long way off, someplace truly horrible like Seattle or Key West or Bangor, and you have no choice but to put him on that load. You're nervous the first couple of days, but then you start to relax.
Then you start getting emails from the credit card company....
Mr. Sepulchre, Employee number _____ has charged $_____ at Cracker Barrel, The Interstate 20 Beer Barn, Majestic Liquor, Uncle John's House Of Babes, and Larry Flynt's Hustler Club. Thank you for using American Express, where we charge higher interest rates than the New Jersey Mafia.
So you've got this driver out there 3 days from home. He's spending your money like there's no tomorrow. Unless you bring in The Law (at a huge expense) there's almost no way to get him out of the truck unless he cooperates. You call him and tell him that somebody's gotta pay for all this spending, and it ain't gonna be you. The driver claims that there's no problem. He says that there aren't any unnecessary expenses going on the company credit card. When the driver gets home in 4 more days, he's going to be fired. You know it, and the driver knows it.
So once he gets unloaded in Seattle, do you find him a backhaul in hopes of breaking even on the trip? What if the backhaul keeps the idiot out on the road for a few days longer than absolutely necessary, and gives him even more chances to blow your money? Or do you bring him back into the barn as soon as possible?
What if, just what if, he arrogantly told several other people how much he planned to spend while he was out of the road? What if it was a staggering amount, an amount equal to years' worth of revenue?
The man has your credit card. He's running wild with something you've let him borrow.
One of my best friends ever was the late, great Stan Norwood of Drew, Mississippi. We met in kindergarten. Stan lived next door to a guy named Claude Marshall LaMastus, who was about 12 years older than we were.
This is the story of how, back in the early 1980's, Stan got Claude to the hospital after a uhmmm....hunting trip. But first, some background.
When we were about 14 or 15, Claude Marshall had a terrible car accident. He was coming home from Clarksdale, ran off the road, flipped his car, and was thrown through the sun roof. Claude was paralyzed from the waist down.
Claude hadn’t had much to do with Stan and me until the accident. But once Claude was confined to his wheelchair or crutches, we became his chauffeurs, running buddies, duck and dove retrievers and all-around gophers. I helped him with his physical therapy in the swimming pool a few times. In exchange, Claude let us hang out with him, let us make mix tapes from his record collection, etc etc etc. This was at the beginning of the “Outlaw Country” era, and Claude Marshall and Mike Ellis taught me to love that music. Stan and I were marching band and choir geeks; Claude was a semi-rich guy with some money. Remember, he was 12 years older. It seemed like a good deal at the time.
That’s all you need to know to appreciate this story. I’m going to tell it the way that Stan told it to me. I’m sure that I’m going to get some of the details wrong. If anyone in Drew Mississippi wants to correct or improve on this, please use the comment field.
One day in the middle of winter, Stan and Claude were going down the Sunflower River in a fishing boat, ambushing ducks. It was freezing cold. Claude was in the front of the boat with a shotgun and Stan was running the outboard motor. I don’t know the reason why, but Claude decided it was his turn to drive.
Imagine a paraplegic in full wintertime camouflage trying to get from the front of a metal fishing boat to the back. It was a doomed idea to begin with, and it was complicated by all the guns. Ever since the accident, Claude had become a little bit paranoid. Maybe he felt helpless without the full use of his legs. Most of the time he was armed with an amazing array of guns, ammo, and knives, and that was just for riding around town. I remember thinking that he looked like a cross between Franklin Roosevelt and Pancho Villa.
When Claude had scooted about halfway down the length of the fishing boat, one of his guns went off. The bullet entered one of his legs, and left a heck of an exit wound. The exit wound was nowhere near as bad as the entry wound the bullet made in the hull of the boat. Yes, Claude Marshall had shot himself AND the boat. Because of his paralysis and various pain medications, the gunshot wound didn’t bother Claude very much. Stan started freaking out because the boat was taking on water.
Once Claude got shot, they abandoned the plan to change drivers, turned the boat around, and headed toward the pickup and boat trailer which were about two miles away.
They were bailing as fast as they could but the boat was taking on more and more water. They started throwing out ballast. They threw out the ice chest. They got rid of the seat cushions. They got rid of some fishing poles and paddles and tackle boxes, and they threw out the extra gas tank. They were still taking on water.
When they were about halfway to the truck, Stan looked down at his remaining fuel tank, the one hooked to the motor. The needle was banging on empty, which was enough for Stan to imagine that the engine was starting to sputter. Various obscenities were shouted at the heavens. The motherhood of all gas tanks was questioned. Stan turned the boat around and went back to try to find the gas tank they’d just thrown overboard.
Fortunately, the tank had a half inch of air in the top and was bobbing in the current when they got back to it. Stan fished it out, swapped the tanks, and then made another effort to get back to the truck. In the meantime, they were both wet up to their thighs and were freezing.
Stan finally got them back to the truck. He backed the trailer into the water and started winching the boat (with Claude in it) onto the trailer. Once that was done, Stan had to figure out a way to get Claude into the pickup.
“Hell, don’t worry about me,” Claude said. “I can ride back here. Just get me to the hospital.”
Stan didn’t feel right about it, but he got in the truck, turned up the heat, and pulled the boat and Claude Marshall LaMastus up the riverbank. Once they got onto paved roads, Stan pulled over and suggested they stop at someone’s house, someone who might help get Claude into the cab.
Claude refused. So Stan got back in the truck and pulled Claude and the boat (in sub-freezing weather) all the way to the Ruleville hospital. Stan claimed there was ice in Claude’s beard by the time they got there. I can imagine the looks they got going down Highway 49, looking like a “Field & Stream” Christmas Parade Float.
When they got to the Emergency Room entrance, which had a loading dock, Stan removed the outboard motor from the boat, and backed the boat straight to the dock so they could unload Claude.
Stan said he hung around the Emergency Room for a little while, figuring they’d want to ask him some questions. Nobody ever did.
It was the Mississippi Delta. They’d seen it all before.
A few years after this happened, Stan Norwood was killed in an automobile accident between Drew and Memphis. This afternoon I got word that Claude Marshall LaMastus was killed in a one car accident on the Drew/Merigold road.
Our world is now a much less interesting, much less colorful place. But if there’s a heaven, Stan and Claude are now shooting at low-flying angels from The Pearly Gates. They know they can't hurt anybody; they just want to keep things interesting.
My thoughts are with the LaMastus family tonight. This is a song I first heard in Claude’s record archives. Here’s Waylon:
For the last couple of months I've devoted my Sunday blog space to the cinematic wonders of New Albany, Mississippi's Reverend Estus Pirkle.
Back in the mid-1970's, this guy's movies made their way through most of the Baptist churches of the southeast. Back then they were horrifying. Why? Because they were the only movies we'd ever seen about the Hell we heard preached from pulpits every Sunday.
I no longer believe in the hell for infants. I no longer believe in the hell for Chinese 10-year-olds who die without hearing about Jesus. I don't believe in the hell for Brazilian teenagers who die in some remote part of the Upper Amazon without access to the broadcasts of Jimmy Swaggart. I don't believe in the hell for old men who can't believe that God created us with "original sin", then impregnated a Palestinian virgin with himself as her child so he can have himself killed as a sacrifice of himself to himself to save us from the sin that he originally condemned us to. (If you can't follow that, you're not alone.) I've gotten to know a lot of preachers in the last few years who don't believe it either. I don't even believe in the hell for serial killers, Chairman Mao, or Stalin. I don't believe in the justice of eternal punishment for a temporal offense.
I do believe in giving Estes Pirkle hell, though. So let's continue.
You can hit the Pirkle tab at the bottom of this post to see what's happened in previous episodes of THE BURNING HELL. In short, two hippies named Tim and Ken have rejected Brother Pirkle's theology of Hell. When they're riding away from the church, Ken has a motorcycle accident and his head is cut off, so Tim staggers back into the church for some preachin'. Pirkle's sermon is illustrated by actors from his congregation, the B-movie troupe that followed Ron and Tim Ormond into the Christsploitation film industry, or whichever Mississippians were wandering past the set that day. Pirkle also supports his argument with cameo appearances by Jack Hyles and Bob Gray, two famous preachers who were later accused of molesting their flocks. Especially the little ewes.
God, I know that I'm a sinner, and I ask that you, and the victims of these two witch doctors please forgive me for making that joke. Couldn't help myself.
Let's get started. If you find my commentary helpful, it continues below the final excerpt from THE BURNING HELL.
:00 An early example of waterboarding gone wrong. There are reports that Nancy Pelosi knew about this, although she denies it.
:55 Tim has hallucinations of biblical murderers.
1:10 Satan appears, looking like Cesar Romero as The Joker in the old Batman TV series.
2:30 "He's steeyull uhlaave! He's steeyull uhlaaave ! But this tahm, ah'll kill 'im !"
3:20 Tim snaps out of his Pirkle-induced trance, overcome with the vivid pulpit imagery.
4:00 The altar call begins. "Why don't you get up from where you are right now...." If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that phrase, I could outsource this website to some other bitter ex-southern baptist.
4:35 Tim kneels at the altar. In a few minutes they're going to vote him into the church, they're going to come down front and "extend the right hand of Christian fellowship", and then they're going to take up a collection to get that boy a haircut.
And that's all there is to see of THE BURNING HELL. I think next week I'm going to start dissecting another Pirkle production called "If footmen tire you, what will horses do?"