Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We Have A Man on the Scene ...

in New York City. And he just sent me this. Which is beautiful.

The sign if you can't read it reads, "Why leave a city that has six professional sports teams, and also the Mets?"


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dear Guests, Graduates, And My Probation Officer...

Thank you Chancellor, distinguished guests, proud parents and family members, fellow alums, my probation officer, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, and most of all thank you, the newest crop of graduates.
It is a pleasure and honor to be here today, though the flight was tough. I just flew in from Vegas and boy are my arms tired!

No, that’s just a little commencement humor. Ha! Seriously, great to be here. Better than being in jail. Or in Russia. Same thing, right? Where are my geography and history majors? There you are! Nice to see you two.

I congratulate you because I know how hard you’ve worked to get here. Well, I don’t know from personal experience and all, but I can imagine. Just getting those square hats and tassels to stick to your heads long enough to get a diploma today is a testament to your ingenuity and persistence. And talent with bobby pins. I’m impressed.

Your administration, ill-informed but well-meaning, has asked me to speak today in hopes you’ll be inspired. After all, if I can get a job, you can, right?

Lessons learned from my experience are both timeless and proven. Also simple. Some of it you will not believe until you’ve tried, and failed. No problem; it’s called being human.

But remember what John Wayne said: Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid. Don’t overdo tempting fate. The world loves to chew up people who insist on having self-induced brain cramps.
Don’t spit into the wi
nd. If you’re a cowboy, drink upstream from the herd. If you’re a plumber, don’t bite your fingernails. Bet a home dog on Monday Night Football, and if you’re in a plane, wear a seatbelt. Muhammad Ali once told a stewardess, Superman don’t need no seatbelt. But the stewardess then told The Greatest, Superman don’t need no airplane. Know you’re limitations.

Don’t scoff at the simplicity of “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Compound interest is a beautiful thing. Granted, a penny saved is hard to do, especially if you have children, if you like to eat, and if the transmission goes out on your car.

But mainly – and I wish I’d have accepted this several years and tens of thousands of dollars ago – know that life is difficult. For the prince and the pauper, it’s a tough row to hoe. Not everything is an Orioles-Red Sox game in September. Not everything is your favorite TV show or CD or Sunday dinner or vacation. I used to think that if things weren’t funny, I must be doing something wrong. Very depressing.

But a rule here is that not everything IS funny, or easy. Each of us is always heading into, coming out of, or in the middle of a violent life storm. How do we react? There’s your moment of truth. Learning how to put those fires out, knowing they’re part of the game. Nothing’s wrong with you if “bad” things happen. Just means you’re human.

There are no secrets. Simply, life will put you through the meat grinder. Expect it, and you aren’t perpetually surprised and disturbed. Then instead of getting ground up, you can grind it out. Make every inning, every game count. Never give an at-bat away.

You’re today’s starting pitcher. Until this moment, it’s all been warm-ups. The game starts now.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"The Fat Kid"

That's what they called Harmon Killebrew when he first came up to the big leagues. As in, "Hey, the Fat Kid just hit another one."

By the time he left, they were calling him Hall of Famer. Now 11th all time on the home run list.

Dead today at 74. Hurts me.

Saw him in 1975, his last year in the majors, with the Royals in Arlington against the Rangers. Makes my personal highlight reel.

He was a beautiful human being.

Monday, May 16, 2011

He Had Game! (Michael Douglas, Matt Damon to star in a Liberace movie...I did not know that!)

(Today from writersdigest.org, about one of the more intriguing entertainers in American history, my opinion.)

It is the birthday of American piano virtuoso and unparalleled showman Liberace. Born Wladziu Valentino Liberace in West Allis, Wisconsin (1919), Liberace was called Walter as a child. He had a twin who died at birth. His father, Salvatore Liberace, was a musician who worked odd factory jobs when music didn’t bring in enough money and he encouraged Liberace to pursue music. His mother, on the other hand, thought music was a waste of time and picked fights with Salvatore about better ways for young Walter to spend his time.

Liberace began playing piano at age four and his father held him to high standards. His passion for the piano helped him survive his teenage years, when other children mocked him for not playing sports or his love of cooking. At age 15, he began performing with a jazz ensemble at his school, but he quickly moved to performing at cabarets and strip clubs, where he earned a lot of money despite the Great Depression. He developed more confidence at school and began to have success turning his quirks into comedy.

For a while after high school, Liberace toured the Midwest playing only classical music. But in his early 20s, he began to combine classical music with pop songs, arrangements he dubbed “classical music with the boring parts left out.” One of his first arrangements was a mix of Chopin and “Home on the Range.” He also honed his showmanship during these years, adopting the signature candelabra on his grand piano and dressing in white tie and tails to be better seen in the concert hall. He bought a rare gold-leafed grand piano to match his increasingly theatrical and outsized image. In the late 1940s, he moved to Hollywood and performed for some of the era’s biggest stars.

Liberace was as good at self-promotion as he was at the piano. He played for Harry S. Truman, developed an extravagant Las Vegas act, and earned nearly $140,000 for a performance at Madison Square Garden in 1954 — a record amount for one night of performing. He was widely panned by critics but beloved by audiences.

He died from AIDS-related complications in 1987. An upcoming feature film about Liberace’s life will star Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover.

Liberace once said: “I don’t give concerts, I put on a show.”

To his critics, Liberace said: “Thank you for your very amusing review. After reading it, in fact, my brother George and I laughed all the way to the bank.” Years later, on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Liberace updated the anecdote, saying, “I don’t cry all the way to the bank anymore. I bought the bank.”


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Neshoba County Fair Will Go On -- Of Course

Not all is wet in Mississippi.

A fire hit the Neshoba County, Miss., fairgrounds this week. Only 17 cabins were destroyed, a minor firefighting miracle. (The first photograph is from the Neshoba Democrat. I had a man on the scene who took the other three.) The fair will go on, July 21-30. I would love to go one of these days...

Very happy for all you Neshoba County Fair faithful.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Well, Emily Finally Got Her Braces Off

...She just woke up this morning and ripped 'em out. I don't blame her. Been a long hard road...Congrats to Emily's teeth!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mountain View Property Reduced, Priced to Sell

(Reprinted from Sunday's Times and News-Star)

Is it just me, or did you look at video and pictures of the bin Laden Compound and think, “Man, a million dollars sure doesn’t buy what it used to.”

Despite the back yard mountain view, this place is not exactly the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port. On tape, it looks more like a kennel compound, or an auto salvage yard – no offense to auto salvage yards. I guarantee you that at least twice a week, somebody knocked on the front gate and asked, “Got anything in a Labrador or a collie, or a fender for a ‘04 Fiesta?”

This place reportedly costs a million bucks? Somebody overpaid.

What are cinder blocks going for in Pakistan these days, 500 bucks each?
Another thing: I’ve decided never to use Abbottabad Fencing Company. Ever. Not impressed.

I imagine a crooked sign out front of the property today. “Sand and Stone Rentals and Properties: Just Reduced! Priced to Sale! (Will need some minor repair…)”

It is true that during the lifetimes of all peace-loving people, not all terrorists will be “eliminated.” But one has been. There is one new “vacancy” sign today.

A child asked me this week why everyone was so happy that a man had died, even if he was a bad, bad man. And I told her that “happy” might not be the word – though it might be. An evil life leads to death, and I think what people were celebrating was the end of something evil. If Hitler kills six million Jews or if bin Laden is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans and his own countrymen, no love will be lost for their passing.

It’s pom pom time. Seeya!

Along those lines, I am so grateful that the Navy SEALS are on the same side we’re on. God bless them. If the United States military and our special ops forces are after you, it’s just over. I’m sorry. You might as well sack up the equipment and come on inside because the game is done. Good night Irene. Lights out. There is not a rock big enough or a hole deep enough…

Imagine where you might have been on a lazy Tuesday in March of 2004. A lunch meeting in 2007. A nap on an August afternoon in 2009. Anytime you’ve been doing something in the past nine years and eight months, somebody somewhere in cammo and a short haircut was figuring out how to put a bullet in the head of a guy intent on destroying America and more American lives. Or Muslim lives. All innocents.

Every second of the day and night for the past nearly 10 years, somebody has been tracking, working on finding one guy.


Night-vision goggles. Chinook helicopters. Guns and knives and ropes and purpose.
Once the SEALS strapped on their gear and lifted off from their secret location, it was all over but the shooting and the shouting.

I like that so much is secret about the SEALS and the U.S. Army Delta Force and all of America’s special operation forces. You don’t send out press releases in these outfits. They are very secretive, very needed, doing very dangerous work that has to be done, and I hope they at least sense how much they’re appreciated by their countrymen and by all who cherish peace and human dignity.

In this case especially, the “vacancy” sign tells me all I really need to know.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I almost fumbled and forgot to post this very thing, and that would not have been good, even though I came through last night with a book she hasn't read and a skirt that did not fit. The book didn't fit either. And she'd already read the skirt. Sometimes you just can't win...

BUT ... We are going to eat tonight and then Sunday is Mom's Day and next Sunday is my first anniversity and as you can see i am under a tremendous amount of pressure...

Happy Birthday to the world's most wonderful woman, who is also hot on the outside and very sweet and smart on the inside and is my spousal unit. She is hard to handle but, obviously, easy to please. .... (I must work now but if you see her tell her Happy B-Day! She deserves it!)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Taste of the Real Hot Stove League

(From Sunday's Times and News-Star)

Baseball calls its offseason the “Hot Stove League.” It got the name back when potbellied managers would sit around potbelly stoves and talk all winter about player swaps, each trying to cook up a winner for the spring.

Something’s always cooking in the Hot Stove League, though most of it these days involves court dates and arbitration. It used to be a lot more fun, back before things like steroids, replay, guaranteed contracts, fake grass and Tropicana Field.

There is, though, a Hot Stove League that never disappoints. For years, it got on my nerves. Now, I drink it in.

Since I was a little boy, I have listened to people, mostly women, recite recipes over the dinner table. It usually goes like this:

You sit down to Sunday dinner and somebody takes a bite of pot roast.

“How did you fix this pot roast? This is the best pot roast I have ever eaten!”

“Well, I don’t know. It’s not much. It’s just…”

“It’s HEAVEN!”

“Well…I guess I do like my momma used to do. We killed the cow on Thursday, around sundown. Got it field dressed by 8. Got to cut the meat just right. That’s where a lot of people mess up. Then we pounded it, seared it for 4 minutes, salt and peppered it, put it in the oven on 68 degrees for a calendar day, put it on the smoker all day Saturday, prayed over it before church and, well, there you go. Just sort of thrown together really. It’s not much.”

“Well I will have to remember that. Can I borrow a pencil? Or maybe even a typewriter?”

And on an on. It works the same for fruit salad, deviled eggs, squash casserole, all your major meats.

Of course, such talk rarely happens at breakfast. No one compliments a Pop-Tart or a fried egg. And at some places, the meal’s not what’s important. I can’t imagine a guy asking a waitress at Hooter’s how they get their wings to “do like that.”

But it’s important at home. As a Southerner, I’m ashamed to have failed for years to appreciate this traditional recipes-as-dinner-conversation nuance. It used to irritate me if the compliments started right after the prayer and first bite, because then the majority of conversation would be recipe-oriented, right through dessert.

“Oh my word, this banana pudding is divine. How in the world did you get the bananas to DO that? And the meringue. My god, the MERINGUE?!”

Sort of wore me out, the same way it would wear me out if an oilman stood beside me and talked about petrol refining while I filled up my car.

But now I more or less embrace it. I like to hear people talk about something special they’ve accomplished, and cooking seems more and more a lost art these days. Besides, they can’t be any more proud of cooking it than I am of eating it. I’m the winner.

I view such conversations today as I would two guys riding in a rebuilt ’57 Chevy.

“Boy Earl, she’s a-purrin’! How’d you git ’er to run like ’iss? This thang spins like a top is all. That’s all. Jus’ like a top!”

Beautiful. The older I get, the more I appreciate the subtle underpinnings, the little things that mean a lot, and often take a lifetime to acquire.