Till We Meet Again

When I was younger, I called my mother “Momma”; I think all of us kids did at one time. 

Sandra Kay Tucker August 28, 1939 - October 26, 2016

Sandra Kay Tucker
August 28, 1939 – October 26, 2016

She was a compassionate person, a caring person, an encouraging person. As I grew up and explored my interests in writing and art and music, there wasn’t a story or poem she didn’t praise, a picture she didn’t appreciate, or a tune I played on my guitar that she didn’t enjoy – even if, in hindsight, it wasn’t that good.  She always had a good word for me.  She laughed at my jokes and told me how clever I was.  That doesn’t mean she was always pleased with my “cleverness”.

She helped make things possible and made tough choices for us, while, later, allowing me my own choices for she gave me the knowledge that my life’s choices were mine to make.  In contrast to that side of me that valued logic and seriousness, she was the part that said, “take a chance”.  She celebrated my successes and consoled me in my failures.  But in her eyes, there were no failures, my siblings and I were her children and she was proud of us all.  We are her legacy.

She was a dreamer, an indomitable spirit, a singer with a powerful voice, yet even among us children, we knew her in different ways, but that is how life works sometimes.  She had her own choices to make, as well.  To me, she was simply Momma, and without her guidance and understanding and patience…and love, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  She was what a mother should be and I could have asked for nothing more than the blessing she was.

A few days after I spoke these words – or a facsimile thereof – at her memorial, a poem came to me.  She was always fond of showing me the various shells she had collected when she went to the ocean.  I hope she would put this in her collection:

Seashell

I found a shell today
as I walked the beach
by the sea.
It glittered in the sand
as if to be seen
and I thought of you.

It had whirling patterns
etched in translucent white.
And it seemed to fold
into itself somehow
and I thought of you.

And I held it to the sun
and looked at how it was made;
and it seemed a mystery to me
alone, where it was laid.

And the salty water splashed
over the beach
by the sea.
And the places I had walked
were washed away
And I thought of you.

©2016 James Montgomery

Vikings Fan Here… Yep, I’ve Seen It Before

I guess I have to write something about the Vikings after all that’s gone on this week.  Even before Teddy Bridgewater had his freak accident (what else do you call a non-contact dislocation of the knee and a completely torn ACL?), sports pundits were either complaining about Teddy’s arm-strength or saying he needed to step up to “take it to the next level”.  Those who use that mindless phrase need to be put in a pit with the others who say “giving 110%” and be set on fire.  Just ignorant, empty phraseology which belongs in my JockSpeak™ listing.  Let me say this about sports pundits and sports writers, in general: I respect Joe Posnanski because he writes well-researched and thoughtful

Yes, I have a Huddles Vikings doll…

Yes, I have a Huddles Vikings doll…

stories; the others are seldom worth the time to read and certainly no smarter than any meathead at your local sports bar.  In fact, your local meathead probably gets his defective sports thoughts from the national punditry or *gasp* ESPN.  I’m not even going to dissemble on the Twitter-rific train wreck that is CBSsports.com.

Getting back to the Vikings, I go back to the Purple People Eater days and remember those years between Joe Kapp and the return of Fran Tarkenton.  In 1970, the Vikings went 12-2, just as they did in the Super Bowl IV season, the year before, and they went 11-3 the year after, in 1971.  Their quarterback? the committee of none other than the inimitable Gary Cuozzo and Bob Lee, with Norm Snead jumping in later.  They made the playoffs both years and ran into some bad luck against the Cowboys and 49ers, respectively.  The point is this: neither Vikings team had what anyone would call a bonafide starting quarterback and they certainly did not have a dominant running game in an age where run-first was de rigueur for the NFL – especially at the Met.  What the Vikings had was a dominant defense (just like now) and a great coach in the person of Bud Grant (now they have Mike Zimmer).  The Vikings are going to be just fine with Shaun Hill.  He is a competent quarterback who can run the offense – with Adrian Peterson! – and make smart decisions.  Bridgewater is the future of the franchise, Hill is the quarterback for times such as these.  The entire Vikings team has to win, not just the quarterback, and I hope they do, just to shut up some of these idiot pundits.

*Of course, the Vikings do it to me again and, while I’m writing, they go out and deal for Sam Bradford.  It’s not a bad trade, but for a first round, in 2017, and fourth round, in 2018, with the potential to move up, I would have liked to have seen a player who is significantly better than Hill.  Yet, this still doesn’t change my feelings on the potential for the Vikings this year; you still have to play the games!

It Rained in South Carolina

For those of you who might give a crap – and I know most of you don’t, it rained here today.  Now most of you conscious folk who happen to live in the area will know that.  So why am I wasting your time with this?  Well, I’ll tell you.

You see, I checked the weather on the internet this morning, not two hours before it rained, and you want to know what the chance of rain was?  You want to know?

Zero!

The chance of me running out to my truck and getting soaked from the monsoon-like torrent that was coming down on top of my head was ZERO!  The chance of me having to roll that truck’s window up to keep the rain from soaking the driver’s seat was ZERO!

ZERO!

That’s what the weather service provided me.  That was the information that they bestowed upon my naïve trusting ass because they are the weather guys.  They know what they’re talking about, right?  It’s science, right?  And I’m all about giving people the benefit of the doubt except this isn’t the first time they’ve done this.  I guess it’s just not an exact science.  I mean what exactly are they doing that they can go from zero percent chance of rain to the sky opening up and drenching me?

And I checked the radar!  Nothing!  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky according to them.  I played it back to put that weather-in-motion thing that everybody has now and NOTHING!  It’s like nothing ever happened.  There was no rain, no clouds, NOTHING!  I guess all that getting wet while running around in the rain business was just my imagination, huh?  And I guarantee there was some ditz chirping about the great hot day on the Grand Strand while I’m taking a bath with my clothes on!  Do we really need the weather people telling us what’s going on with their green screen and their Doppler radar and stupid hand gestures and walking back and forth across the tv screen.  You can’t have a tornado everyday!

So how did they come up with this train wreck of a forecast?  I think they’re just making it up, playing Wheel of Fortune on this big wheel they’ve got in their secret weather bunker except instead of dollars, they’ve got weather forecasts, you know, temperatures and chances of something happening.  And then they give the big wheel a spin!  Hey, it’s going to be 99° and NO CHANCE OF RAIN!  And if they screw it up, they give you some kind of B.S. about “accuracy in our weather forecasts is important to us because it’s important to you.”  You know, no apology for ruining your upholstery or your new hairdo, just a bunch of B.S.  And we take it!

I mean, what if every job gave you the kind of leeway the weather people get?  I mean what if the garbage man didn’t pick up your garbage but he’ll “get it next time”?  Or if NASA loses a manned space flight: “I guess Mars wasn’t where we thought it would be – sorry!”  Or how about some nuclear missile technician?  “Geez, I was just turning this key and the thing went off like a rocket!  Did I just start World War III?”  Yes! Yes, you did!

I mean, yeah, everybody makes mistakes or has a bad day, but geez, these weather people have screwing up down to a fine art.  You just imagine, if a casino owner ran his casino the way these weather people forecast the weather, you’d have Donald Trump…

Her-r-r-r-e’s Negan!

Ann Ghoulter - Super-Sized

No, this is not Negan!

Well, season 6 of The Walking Dead played last night and things went about as I expected. That’s right, I said things went about as I expected as far as the cliffhanger goes – and the infantile bitching that went on afterwards on the internet. I read the comic, so I’ve known for a long time what happens and who dies, not that it will play out the same way on the TV show. But, because I feel like it needs to be said, GLENN dies in the comic!! Negan takes Lucille and gives ol’ Glenn the Irreversible fire extinguisher treatment. (Watch the movie if you don’t know what I mean. There are scenes in it that will burn in your memory). There! Deal with it!

And because I think the whiners need some conspiracy theory about who dies in the TV version, how about Norman Reedus, since he’s getting his own Guy Fieri-type show a la Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives that will involve motorcycle culture. Could that be a bone AMC threw at him for killing him off? Before any noses get out of joint over this, no, I don’t believe that either, nor do I care about anything to do with people who ride Harleys and wish they were Sam Elliot. “The Dude abides.”

But, seriously, I have never seen such a bunch of whiny, self-entitled, bitches as I saw last night complaining about how Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple ended the season. If you think The Walking Dead is boring, you either have never read the comic and don’t understand the pacing of the story, will accept nothing less than instant gratification (fuck storytelling!), or have ADHD. Whatever the case, you need to watch something else and STFU.

And for those who think a cliffhanger ending was some kind of “gimmick”, oh, so sorry you weren’t good enough or brave enough or ambitious enough to get your own spot at the writer’s table. Whining is so much easier, right? And it takes much less talent (practically non-existent!). There is no way the fanboys were going to be pleased, no matter how the season ended: it was either end the show as it was last night and listen to the bitching or show who got killed and listen to the bitching. So what did Kirkman and Gimple do? Whatever they wanted to move the story along as they saw fit. After all, Robert Kirkman CREATED the comic, so he’s entitled to do that.

A word of advice to those who still need the diaper change: it’s a good show – one of the best shows on television right now – and the comic leads where the show goes. Enjoy it and be grateful that you have it.

A Novus Incipit Annus

Unlike those who refuse to hold the Bush Administration accountable for their many sins and transgressions, I recognize that nothing exists in a bubble; every circumstance we deal with today was affected by previous events in some way.  For whatever failings Obama may possess, he hardly came into his presidency with a clean slate – no one ever does.  A new year does not eliminate the previous year, there is only the changing of numbers.  There are celebrations of hope for the new year and my hope is that we finally get serious about what we, as a nation, are doing.

I had the mixed pleasure of travelling back to my home of origin and spending a few days with my father and stepmother during Christmas vacation.  My father was a biology professor, long retired now, and the opportunities to see him in relatively good health are naturally coming to a close.  We invariably talk politics, he an old George Wallace-democrat, now Republican; I, a left-leaning don’t-bullshit-me anti-Republican.  Our conversations are ofttimes civil, but they can get heated.  What I didn’t expect, on this Christmas holiday, was to be yelling at my father because of obvious Republican chicanery.  Our topic was one I covered over three years ago.  Here’s how it went down:

My father, stepmother, and I were discussing varying aspects of Washington politics and I tried to not let some of the ignorance light a fuse in me because I understand from where that ignorance comes.  My father was born in Mississippi in 1927.  He is Old South.  He thinks derogatory jokes about black people are funny – because they are derogatory, not because they are funny.  My father is rarely funny.  For all his education, my father is a bigot and it serves no purpose to deny  that.  That’s not to say he is a sheet-wearing, cross-burning yahoo, but the racism is there.  He recognizes achievement and little else.  He is not against people of lower economic situations getting opportunities, but he is against affirmative action.  His answer to reconcile this would likely be “work harder”.  Sometimes that works, sometimes not.  I believe the reason for affirmative action to exist at all is that too often working “harder” was not working.  Perhaps you have a clearer picture of him now.

After I had explained my position on the uselessness of term limits in a party-politics system and that the reason the presidential term is limited is because of FDR’s ability to appoint eight of the nine Supreme Court justices before his death, my stepmother went off to do something else.  My father now had his opportunity to set me straight about Obama.  I don’t know why he has an affinity to world almanacs, but he dug one up and turned to the entry for Obama.  He sat on a footrest in front of me and showed me the book and I saw that many things had been underlined.  I heard the quick intake of air and the stern timbre in my father’s voice as he muttered in low tones, “First, he was not born in this country…”

“What!?” I cried.  I was incredulous.  The fuse was lit, but I tried to delay the detonation by calmly replying, “The State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”  I smirked and turned my attention back to the almanac.

My father was halted and sputtered, “He hasn’t proven he was born there.”

“You’re welcome to your opinion, but the State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”

“Well, then, they’re liars!”  This was usual for him when arguing from weakness or simply to hear the sound of his own voice.  But my fuse was short and detonation was imminent. I had had enough of this crap.

“Well, you just go ahead and toss out the facts you don’t like and make up your own and you can live in that little reality – but that’s insane!”  He fell to an uncertain silence, perhaps shocked that I may have been accusing him of being insane.

I stood up.  “I didn’t vote for Obama and don’t particularly like what he’s done, but I’m tired of this nonsense.  Is this about that PDF file of his certificate that people were saying was faked?”  I looked down on him with a nasty jut in my jaw.  “Because if it is, that is BULLSHIT!”

My father’s expression was blank and the fire he had been summoning in his rant was extinguished in meekness.  “I don’t know.”  Not exactly the answer I was expecting.

I began pacing and my father returned to his seat across the room.  “I am tired of reading about this and watching people on television prattle on about this because what they are saying is BULLSHIT!  Is this about that Orly Taitz garbage?”

“I don’t know know who that is.”

“She’s one of ‘em.  Fox News will trot these people out all day long and they are liars and they have agendas!”  Fox News, surprise!, is watched with interest in that household because, as my stepmother says, “They respect the troops.”  Of course they do.

“Who signed his birth certificate?” My father continued.

“I don’t know,” I groaned, “I don’t have the thing with me.”

“I haven’t seen it.”  This may have been my father’s way of trying to turn the conversation back to a “conversation”, but the topic was too far gone and way too stupid by now.

“Well, I have a copy of it and I know more about how that file works than any of those clowns!  And Donald Trump said he had guys over there and he was going to show evidence.  Well, he never did!  You know, why?  Because it was bullshit!  There was nothing to show!”

I couldn’t let it go without one more point to make:  “These are the same people who accuse Obama of being a Muslim without acknowledging that a Muslim can be president.”

“I know they can be,” was his subdued reply.

My father really had little else to say for the rest of the night.  Whatever other tripe had been force-fed into his brain by the Fox propaganda machine would be internalized until it was safe to spew again, out of my presence.  I am under no illusions that I can change his mind, but he raised us to educate ourselves about things and that is what bothers me the most about this conversation.  My father is a man of science, an educator and PHd, and he allows his own bigotry to take for truth the lies that are part of the Obama smear campaign.  He demanded no proof, no evidence, and didn’t even think to research the topic for himself to be better informed.  I am seriously disappointed in him.  Above all, I trusted he valued knowledge over all else.  He failed that trust on a Christmas holiday.

Accepting the System

I’ve played plenty of online games (as have most people who have computers).  I find it strange that we play games that offer different levels of “difficulty” and we don’t think twice about it.  Solitaire is the game that got me thinking about this.  Solitaire is Solitaire – 52 cards, win by stacking in numerical order by suit, everybody knows the game.  So how, exactly, does a computer game add difficulty levels to such a simple game?  Whether you play with a 3-card draw or a one-card draw, it’s 52 cards.  The answer is that the computer program alters the probability numbers – in other words, the games are rigged – and we seem just fine with that.  There is no such thing as a more difficult game of Solitaire than another without an overt change in the rules.  But that’s not what’s happening here; this is a deliberate alteration to make a game unfair and call that “difficult”.

This is what we’ve come to accept in today’s world as the norm.  How many of us actually understand what goes on in the computer world where we can say that our online transactions are safe?  More and more, we put our financial lives and our personal privacy at stake through online activity and we trust nameless and faceless entities to protect us, never knowing that they may be the first link in a long line of betrayal – and we wouldn’t know the difference.   It’s not so unlike the games: we don’t know what we don’t know and we don’t seem to want to be bothered with demanding better.  Have we become so collectively incurious that positing the questions concerning corruption or legal parlor tricks is asking more of ourselves than will ever happen?  After Assange and Snowden how do we know that anything has really changed… because somebody said it did?

How many other systems do we take for granted and just accept?  How many are rigged against us?  Is it too late to fix it?

Confessions

I took a hiatus from writing on this blog, not because I am tired of writing nonsense, but I am getting very tired of writing about nonsense; unfortunately, there is plenty of that to write about.  The stream of stupidity from the Republican “adults” seems endless and it just isn’t worth the effort to talk about while those who are getting paid to do it (Jon Stewart, et al) are doing a rather clever job with it.  But while we have a major reckoning with the Confederate flag (again), it’s time for a little truth-telling – about the flag and about myself.  I’ll tell on myself first.

There was a time, when I was in my early twenties, that I wore a Confederate flag on a jacket that I frequently wore.  I didn’t wear it because of any racial animosity or anything other than as a “Southern” thing from someone who grew up in Alabama.  There truly was no more thinking into it than that, that is to say, there was no real thinking going on about that flag at all.  I was finally forced into thinking about it one night as a black man I worked with, a Marine who went by the name of “Slash”, asked me about it.

“Montgomery, you’re a really good guy and I just can’t figure out why you wear that damn Confederate flag patch.”

“Well,” came the feeble reply, “I’m from Alabama, you know, I grew up in the South.”  Yes, it rings just as stupid and hollow in my ears today as it likely reads for you.

“Well, so am I! I’m from Alabama, too!”

If I had a reply to that, I don’t recall what it was.  What I do remember is Slash saying something along the lines of “think about it”.  I did.  That night, after coming to some conclusions about the flag, I took that patch off and refused to make any rationalizations about it since.

The rationalizations that surround the Confederate flag have to do with “heritage”.  Well, that’s all well and good if you’re a white Southerner who doesn’t think that holding slaves in a country that made the pretense to freedom and liberty is hypocritical.  If you happened to be a descendant of those who suffered under such a myopic society, your views of such a heritage might feel a bit differently.  Regardless, the flag has nothing to do with “heritage”, it is straight up bigotry.  The Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups didn’t adopt the Confederate battle flag by accident – they know what it means and what kind of a culture supported its cause.

Honoring one’s ancestors has a curious quality about it: those who are ostensibly being “honored” don’t know anyone is doing it; they’re dead.  Ultimately, the recognition is on display for the living to view.  What must be “honored” is the act of defending one’s home against the invaders.  Well, why were the invaders invading?  Could it be that the Confederacy declared war on the United States and fired the first shot of the war?  They did this in the name of secession, something the U.S. Constitution did not expressly give them the ability to do.  Then the defenders of flag and heritage will have to begin to lie so to perform the mental gymnastics inherent in defending the flag while disassociating it from the cause of the war.  They will tell you that the war was not about slavery, and maybe they are correct in a very technical sense – the war was for secession– but all paths lead to the driver of the economic engine of the agrarian South: slavery.  One only needs to look at the articles of secession issued by various states and the Confederate Constitution, where the rights of slaveholders were declared and protected, to see the lie.  There is no doubt that the South feared the loss of slavery and viewed secession as the remedy to maintain the institution.  There are no lies to tell, no diversions to employ, that can undo this truth.

Yet, there will be those who will continue to try to hide the truth.  I can only hope that a portion of those will have a similar experience as I did and stop and think about what that flag really means.  Maybe that portion aren’t really bigots, they’re just, as was true for me, unthinking.  I had the courage to admit my mistake and I changed.  Change is coming and it is good.