Are Ghosts Real?

After telling you all my spooky stories, I thought I ought to at least own up to my own point of view. Do I believe in ghosts? I don’t know. I hope so. I believe that some folks, if they could come back, would.

Supposedly, Jean-Claude Schmitt says that ghosts are those who resist the social necessity of forgetting. I think there’s some truth to that. In order to live, you have to move on–from successes as well as tragedies, sadly enough–but ghosts ask us to linger, both with them, and on them.

Here, they seem to say, is a spot the past hasn’t let go of, a place where long ago still is. Every ghost has the luxury of fresh grief. They inhabit a place–whether real or imagined–where faces aren’t forgotten, smells are still fragrant, a touch is still soft, and the knowledge of those things is not dulled by time. Places ghosts are said to inhabit are places where the past comes leaking back into the present.

(And I think ghost stories fascinate us because they’re little love notes to a fucked up world. No matter how bad things are, someone loves this place enough to never want to leave it.)

Ghosts don’t move on, and that’s what frightens us about them; they inexplicably linger. And the living are their mirror image, rushing on to forget, to put it behind us, whatever “it” may be. Between the living and the dead, because there are haunted places, there’s a necessary balance, one that allows us to move on without completely forgetting.

That, I must say, is why “ghostbusters” make me sad. They storm into places and contact the disturbing spirits and send them off “into the light.” The connection between the “what has been” and the “what is” is severed. The haunts can no longer continue to confront us.

And I think that’s too bad, because real or not, ghosts connect us with our own pasts, some of which we’d like to leave behind, and some of which we’ve missed so desperately, we’re glad to have it back, if only for a spine-tingling moment.

The Last Spooky Story for Halloween, pt. 2

Our house was also strange. There were the usual old-house problems. The house had settled and, unless you pushed hard on the doors and made sure they latched, they wouldn’t stay shut. It creaked and groaned.

And our family was going through some tough times. My brothers were self-destructing in spectacular ways that often involved the police. And we had no pets, so the house was big and, often, empty feeling.

Strange things would happen. Often, when I’d shut the door and made sure it latched, I’d be doing stuff in my room and I’d see the doorknob turn and the door open a foot or so, as if someone was just opening it up to stick their head in to check on me.

One day, when I came home from church, I was in the front room, getting ready to turn the TV on when I heard someone upstairs snoring. I thought it was possible that my dad had somehow gotten home before me and decided to take a nap before lunch.

Strange. Out of character. But a possibility, if he wasn’t feeling well. Otherwise, he’d just be sprawled out in the Lazy-boy. So, I go upstairs to check and see if he needs anything and, of course, there’s no one up there. I do a walkthrough of the house and there’s no one home yet but me.

One night, as my mom was laying in bed, not yet asleep, someone sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her hand.

Another night, my brothers had a friend up from downstate, and they were in the library watching TV. It was a Saturday night and, as anyone who knows me from back in the day can attest, if you spent Saturday night at our house, you had to go to bed at a reasonable hour because your ass is getting up for church, regardless of your religion.

On this night, they were watching TV in the dark in the library because, from that vantage point, you can see anyone who’s coming through the house from either direction and sneak in the other direction back upstairs without being noticed. The other advantage to the library is that it’s kind of tucked under both staircases, so you can hear folks on the stairs long before they actually get down them.

So, it’s late and they’re watching TV and they see the black outline of a man in the dining room. This startles them because they haven’t heard anyone on the stairs. But they think maybe they just didn’t hear my Dad coming down the steps. So, they turn off the TV, and sit there in the dark, hoping that Dad hasn’t noticed them. The figure mills about in the dining room for a little bit, and then comes into the music room, which is adjacent to the library and mills about a little bit and then seems to head back into the dining room and fade from view.

They wait to hear if Dad is going to go back up the back steps. They don’t hear anything, so they figure he must be in the kitchen getting a drink. So, they sneak up the front stairs. Just as they’re passing my mom and dad’s room, though, they notice that both of them are laying in bed and that my dad is snoring away.

The next morning, they still tell my dad he scared the shit out of them and ask him why he didn’t just come into the library to tell them to go to bed. Of course, he denies ever having come downstairs.

The Last Spooky Story for Halloween

When I was in college, my parents and brothers moved to a big brick house in a little town just up the bluff from the Mississippi river. The house was, I think, the nicest house my family has ever lived in. The downstairs was open and spacious and each room was connected by these beautiful French doors. There was a big, formal staircase at the front of the house and an informal staircase at the back of the house leading into the kitchen.

Strangely enough, the house next door to it was set up almost exactly the same, except a little smaller and, where our house had square walls and straight hallways, the house next door had curvy walls and hallways.

When we first moved there, my mom and I were talking at Walmart about how cool the two houses were and the woman who was checking us out was like, “You live next to the Methodist Church?” We said, “Yes.” She said, “I lived in the house next to yours. It’s haunted.”

She then proceeded to tell us how she and her husband had rented the house, just for a few months, right after the previous owner had died. She said that the previous owner’s death had really stood out for the community because it was the last time anyone had been laid out at home. So, the body laid in the front room for three days and then they came and took the coffin right out the front door, and across the street, and into the Catholic Church for the funeral. During the funeral, she said, the bell at the top of the church rang out once for each year she’d lived. Again, an old-fashioned moment, a nice touch, except that no living person was ringing the bell.

The woman at Walmart said that when they were living there, there was still some stuff of the old woman’s in the house. Specifically, she said that the woman’s hope chest was still under the front window. She and her husband, though, had turned the parlor into a bedroom and decided to move the hope chest into the dining room and use it as a kind of bench seat at the window there.

She said that the night after they moved it, they woke up to the sound of it dragging itself across the floor. She said they found it in the doorway and decided if it wanted to be back under the front window so bad, they’d just put it back and leave it there. So, they did.

One More Spooky Story for Halloween

This one is kind of spooky and kind of just strange. When I first moved down here, the Shill came to visit me and I hauled her over to the Stones River Battlefield to go ghost-hunting. (Yes, nieces and nephews, if you come to visit me, your butt is getting hauled on one unsuccessful ghost hunt or another.)

The Stones River Battlefield is supposedly riddled with ghosts and it’s kind of got a creepy feeling about it. This creepy feeling is not assuaged by the fact that some homeowners who live at the edge of the National Park have yards full of religious statuary facing into the battlefield, as if they are the first line of defense against something awful. But, despite our best efforts, the scariest thing the Shill and I encountered was an unforeseen long walk.

So, as we’re leaving, we see, on the other side of the road, a strange walled-off area near the cemetery. We decide to stop and go up and take a look. Here, (I hope; it’s my first blog photo) is a picture of what we found inside the wall.

Hazen Brigade Monument

As you can see, it’s a big cube monument surrounded by graves: graves of dead Midwesterners. “These are our boys,” I say to the Shill as we wander around looking at the gravestones. Now, it’s an utterly still day; there’s no traffic and no trains. I look over to the area on the right of this photo and I see that some of the stones are white (which you can see here as well). I walk over to take a closer look, to see if I can figure out why the stones are different.

And just as I step onto the nearest grave to take a closer look at the headstone, two osage oranges drop onto the ground at the exact same time. It scared the shit out of me. I holler and jump back. The Shill says, “Oh my god, did you hear that?” And I say, “What?” “I thought I heard someone laughing.”

Okay, fine, skeptics, I’ll admit, we were geared up to have something strange happen and the laughter could have been imagination. But what is the likelihood of two osage oranges hitting the ground at the same time if there’s nothing to shake them loose? Isn’t it more likely that one would drop causing the weight on the branch to shift, causing the other one to come loose, thus resulting not in them both hitting the ground at the same time, but one hitting slightly later?

Well, hmm, it was scary when it happened, but now I’m sort of convinced we were freaked out by a strange, but not supernatural, arboreal occurrence.

October Soup

Yesterday, I had to turn the air conditioning on in our house. It’s only 72 here on the third coast, but I’m running the air conditioner.

Miss J.’s father-in-law will tell you how it gets so cold in Alaska sometimes that you can go out and push the fog around. The air here is so full of water that this morning, instead of taking Mrs. Wigglebottom for a walk, we took a lovely canoe ride* around the neighborhood. I’m running the air conditioner just to pull the humidity out of the air so that we can breathe. Still, it annoys me and cracks me up that I’m running the air conditioner at the end of October.

*As you all know, there’s no way this could happen in real life. After the last/only time we tried to take Mrs. Wigglebottom canoeing–which resulted in her tipping over the canoe (losing my sandals, damn you dog!), swimming for shore, and hiding behind a brownie troop–there’s no way she’s ever getting back in a boat, I’m almost certain of it. Which is too bad, because, for a dog who sinks like a stone, she really loves water.

Ways to Waste Time at Work

  • Browse maps of locations you might someday visit.
  • Save up all the email you meant to send all week and do it all at once.
  • “Review” your old work.
  • Get change for the candy machine.
  • Reorganize your files.
  • Call your home and leave messages for the dog on the answering machine.
  • Make dinner plans with the Professor. Be exceedingly vague so that you’ll have to have a long, drawn-out email exchange for what could be settled in 35 seconds on the phone.
  • Get folks riled up about their in-laws.
  • Go and get the mail.
  • Write your to-do list.
  • Review your to-do list.
  • Consider writing a brief poem centering the names of people who have birthdays in October and one bland, unimportant character trait they share in common.
  • Call it “The Butcher, Miss J., and the Divine Ms. B all have noses.”
  • Realize, after titling the poem, you’ve basically given away the whole point of the poem.
  • Wonder if you’ve forgotten that the Man in Miss J’s House also has an October birthday.
  • How will you fit him into your poem?
  • Practice making “I’m very concerned about what’s on my computer screen” faces.
  • Consider an experiment in which you make your dad and The Butcher watch the first fifteen minutes of every new movie, then insist they guess the end. If they’re right, will that make them psychic or just prove that there are no new ideas?
  • Try testing your own psychic powers by trying to make the Shill and the Super Genius both crave pickles.
  • Wonder if that’s really a fair test of psychic powers. Instead, use psychic powers to ask the Professor’s brother to pick a number between 1 and 10.
  • Intuit that he’s picked 7.
  • Psychically ask him if his number was 7.
  • Receive telepathic confirmation! You’re psychic.
  • Briefly consider accepting phone calls for psychic readings at your desk.
  • Make a list of “Ways to Waste Time at Work.”

I’m Not a Part of the Redneck Agenda

My favorite political song of the year, if not forever, remains Green Day’s “American Idiot,” if only for the line “I’m not a part of the redneck agenda.”

But the most moving political video of the year has got to be Eminem’s “Mosh.” It’s not his best song, but it’s terrific. Here’s a link to the video, though, I must warn you that it took me all morning to be able to connect to it. It seems like Launch might also have it, but I bet they’ve edited the cuss words out.

Also, in the spirit of openness, I must remind you that I’m a hippie liberal scum, so if art that shares that point of view is not to your liking, you might not like either song mentioned here today.

Stinky Mrs. Wigglebottom

I’m not one to knock certain brands of pet care products. I’m not one who normally gives pet care products a whole lot of thought. You know, pet care products are just items I take for granted will work and I spend my time thinking about more important things, such as whether a beer burp is superior to a Mountain Dew burp.

But, hartz, you’ve let me down. It started innocently enough: your flea products made all the ass hair on the small cat fall out. Sure, it was alarming, but it solved the argument that’s been raging in our house for as long as we’ve owned the small cat–who’s going to clean the shit out of the long ass hair, and how will they do it? Without ass hair, the shit could just drop into the litterbox cleanly and the small cat smelled pleasantly shit free. So the cat was half-bald. The hair’s grown back and she’s no more worse for wear.

But now, your shampoo makes my dog stink. She stinks so thoroughly that she got in the bathtub of her own accord on Saturday and stood in there until I came looking for her and discovered that even she knew she needed a bath.

At that point, I had not blamed the shampoo. I’d blamed being away for a week in Vegas. I blamed the Butcher, who I assumed had involved the dog in some stink-inducing plot that he’s too embarrassed to tell me about. After all, when I got home from Vegas, she was covered in a strange red rash.

But after the bath, she smelled even worse and, when I re-opened the bottle of shampoo and took a good sniff, I knew that she did, indeed, smell like that shampoo gone horribly wrong.

Never one to waste an opportunity to flirt with cute girls, the Butcher is seizing the chance to go to our favorite pet store and ask the girl who works the counter for help locating a shampoo that will not make my dog stink so bad she can’t stand herself.

So, you can see how things go in our household. I have to put up with the stinky dog and the Butcher gets to turn this who thing to his advantage. There’s a lesson in here someplace; I’m just not sure what it is.

Oh, wait, yes, the lesson is that there will be no more Hartz products in our house.

Nashville, you make me laugh, part 2

Mrs. Wigglebottom were on our walk this morning, trying to be on the lookout for something that might be of interest to you all. Three-fourths of the way through the walk, I was trying to work out something about the awesome joggers in my neighborhood who always yell when they’re coming so they don’t frighten the dog.

But then, I saw a guy standing in his front yard, peeing. Yes, all out, pee streaming, cigarette in hand. “Morning,” he said as he shook off and repackaged himself. “Good morning.” I said and tried very hard not to laugh. I mean, I thought it was a general rule of public decency that when peeing outside, one faced away from the road!

Future Spooky Stories for Halloween

My uncle, the History Teacher, is dead. It’s been almost a decade and I still get caught off-guard when one of his brothers calls me and I think, for just a second, it might be him. After he died, he appeared to my dad’s best friend in a dream. This upset him, because my uncle still had his crutches, and my dad’s best friend believes that when you go to Heaven, you are made whole. My uncle explained that he came in a recognizable form.

He also appeared in a dream to my recalcitrant brother, but he’s never shared the particulars with me. He was in a dream I had once, sitting at a table with my ancestors (I didn’t recognize any of the rest of them, but as dreams are, I knew that’s who they were) and he was wearing a green Robin Hood outfit. I asked him why and he said it was my dream.

However, I am holding out for the day he appears to my dad, because my dad declared, after he heard that my uncle had come to the best friend, that if my uncle ever appeared to him, he would shit the bed.

Nieces and nephews, I can think of no funnier thing that could happen in the life of our family. Knowing my dad’s family, I am at a loss for why this hasn’t happened yet.

All I can think is that the non-appearance must be out of respect for my mom, since she shares a bed with my dad.

But one day, I hope to post the scary story of the day my uncle scared the shit out of my dad.

Local News

This morning, I was thwarted in my efforts to walk the dog by a huge electrical storm. But, I thought, lucky me. I’ll get to see more of my favorite televangelist, who is on BET on Tuesdays.

Alas, the cable was out.

So, instead I was reduced to watching our local Fox news. Most of this was okay. I learned not to drive through flooded creeks and that they’ll close school for any reason in Tennessee, including, apparently, a lot of lightning.

But then, they had on Ben Vereen and some other guy talking about their new musical. I’m not yet going to tell you what musical they were promoting.

Instead, let’s just get to the discussion. First, we heard a lengthy lecture about how the theater, and musicals, specifically, were Culture and how we should all make every effort to get cultured, presumably by going to see their musical. Then they made reference to our city’s “culture” and how it’d been a long time since anyone had done a country music musical.

And then, folks, in what had to be the most cringe-worthy thing I’ll see all day (god willing) Ben Vereen put on his best Southern yokel accent and talked about how he just couldn’t wait until they got another country music musical.

E-fucking-gad. Isn’t a basic strategy of human interaction to think about how you’d feel if someone did what you are about to do to you?

But, worst of all, you know what they’re here promoting? What bastion of CULTURE they’re gracing us with? Broadway the Musical, which is a collection of songs from famous musicals. They’ve not even bothered to come up with something new and they’re lecturing us about culture?

Write something original, take some chances, be nervous that people aren’t going to get what you’re up to, and then try to persuade me to come, based on the importance of theater and the benefits of theater-going for me, but don’t insinuate that I’m not going to go to your show because I’m just a hillbilly. Maybe I’m not going to your show because it’s just repackaged crap from better musicals. How about that?

Listen, I don’t want to turn this into a political forum and I’m as hippy liberal as a meat-eater can be. But I’ll tell you right now that this whole exchange illustrates for me the biggest, and, I’m afraid almost insurmountable problem we liberals have.

No, not that we try to claim that bad theater somehow has value as “culture,” but that we have such a snooty way of talking about the things we love and the things that are important to us.

My neighbor, the guy who gets laid, is, obviously, as poor as us, or else he wouldn’t be living at the end of a dead-end street in a building that’s about to be shaken apart by either the traffic on the interstate or the trains, but he’s sure that repealing tax cuts on the richest Americans will hurt him. Not because he’s rich right now, but because, someday, he’s going to be. So, he feels like he has to protect the interests of the group he’s going to be a part of.

I don’t think this is an anomaly. I think the conservative rhetoric, the story they tell about themselves, is some version of The American Dream, that anyone can be successful if they work hard enough. For the record, I don’t believe this is true. I don’t believe everyone is born with an equal chance. So, I hear this line of bull and I think it’s quaint and unrealistic.

But what do we liberals have to offer? What’s the story we tell about ourselves? That we know better than you what’s best for you. We know what is “American Culture” and we can make jokes and deride country music and NASCAR and “The Heartland,” because we’re better than that. I’m not saying all liberals think that. I’m saying that’s how we come across.

What’s the better choice? You’re just like us, you just haven’t quite gotten here yet. Or, no matter what you do, you’ll never be like us.

Miss J. once told me how much it bothered her to see how Southerners were portrayed in popular culture and how insulted she was the very way she talked was turned into a kind of short-hand way of indicating how stupid and potentially violent someone was.

I think Fly-over America is full of people like Miss J. and I, who really want to make our country better, who really believe that real compassion should not be left to the churches alone, but also integrated into our government, who believe that federal programs can really make a difference in people’s lives, and who are willing to pay taxes in order to pool our resources with other citizens in order to make real, lasting, positive change.

I’m a liberal. I share much of the same agenda as liberals throughout the country. I believe that I share the same agenda as many people in this country and it irritates me that we’ve snobbed our way right out of seeming relevant to at least half of the people in this country.

Clearly, we are a deeply divided country. People on the one side see the other side as full of moral degenerates who want to impose our evil, secular agenda on them. People on the other side see that first side as a bunch of religious nuts who cannot be reasoned with and who might turn violent at any second. Both sides seem terrified of the other.

Well, someone has got to be brave and someone has got to ask him or herself “How would I feel if they did this to me?” That’s where we’ve got to start from. You say you want the Ten Commandments posted in every courtroom because they provide a basis for our laws? How would you feel if I demanded equal space for Hengist and Horsa, the sons of Woden, credited with conquering England and laying out the foundations for our common law? (Thomas Jefferson, for you history buffs, proposed something similar.)

Ah, well, I could go on, but I’ve got to get to work. Also, I think I have to track down some Hengist and Horsa figurines.*

*For you horse lovers, you may have noticed that Horsa is basically Horse. Hengist means, roughly, stallion. I’m not one to comment on the smarts of horses, but I thought you might find it interesting that a pair of horse-gods are credited with starting part of our legal tradition.

Spooky Stories for Halloween

A few years ago, Miss J. and I went to visit the Divine Ms. B. who has a gig as a historical reenactor in one of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. What was really cool is that she and the other reenactors lived at the mansion for the duration of the gig, so we also got to stay at the mansion while we were visiting.

The way the house was set up was kind of like a lollipop, with the round part of the lollipop being the main house and the stick being a hallway with small rooms off it. We stayed up on the third floor. Miss J. slept in with her sister in one of the rooms in the lollipop part and I slept on a couch in the hallway. Our big plan for the first full day we were there was to get up early and drive up to Salem, Mass. and see the sites, so when I went to bed the night before, I was expecting that someone would wake me up, at some point, so that we could get on the road.

Of course, being the first night in the place and not being sure when I might have to wake up, I was sleeping kind of restlessly. So, at some point, I wake up because someone is saying my name. I sit up on the couch and I look around, and there’s no one there. I try to see if I can see out the window at the end of the hall, to get a guess on what time it is. Is it close to dawn? But it’s dark, so I assume maybe it’s raining. I get up, go to the bathroom, and don’t hear anyone else rustling around, so I decide maybe it’s not that it’s time to get up, but that I’ve been snoring and disturbing someone’s sleep.

So, I go back to the couch and lay down, but I’m really freaked out. So, I’m laying there a while and I realize I can hear someone breathing, regularly, and softly, as if they are asleep. I remember that there’s a door right by the side of the couch, so now I’m feeling relieved. Obviously, someone has their bed right by the door and I was snoring and making it hard for them to sleep. So, now they’ve gone back to sleep and I can go back to sleep.

The next morning, the Divine Ms. B. comes in to wake me up and she asks how I slept. I say something about how I’m sure I slept better than the person I kept up with my snoring. She asks what I meant. I say that whoever was sleeping in the room right next to me must have been woken up by me and so woke me up. Ms. B. gets a weird look on her face and asks what time this was. I say that it must have been around two, because I heard the clock chime.

At this point, she gets an even weirder look on her face. As you’ve probably guessed by now, there is no working, chiming clock in the house. There is nobody staying in the room right by where I was sleeping because it’s not even a room. We opened the door and looked in and the door just provides access to the pipes in the house.

Eminem, genius or idiot?

[As a side note–Am I turning into a 20 year old boy? Worrying about Eminem, making jokes about sexual falafels, trying to pre-buy Grand Theft Auto? What’s next? Keg stands?]

[Also, one should point out that you might not want to take a girl who doesn’t even know the names of the songs she’s critiquing too much to heart.]

As most of you know, Eminem has managed to cause yet another uproar with his latest video, called… something… apparently I’ve not yet managed to bother to pick up that little important bit of information. The song basically goes “boys, I mean, girls, girls, girls, girls. Awh, Awh, Awh.” So, if you’ve heard it, that’s the song I’m talking about.

The outrage has come from the Michael Jackson camp, who is (are) offended because the video spends a great deal of time making fun of Michael Jackson.

The first couple times I saw the video, I thought it was pretty stupid. It doesn’t just make fun of Michael Jackson; it also pokes fun at Madonna and MC Hammer and checks Santa, PeeWee Herman, the phenomenon of streaking, Eminem’s movie 8 Mile, and a bunch of other stuff. But, for the most part, it seems, on it’s surface, to just be making fun of the 80s. And, big deal. They’re over and we already know they’re corny.

But, today I think this video is actually one of his most brilliant meditations on his own fame. Usually, most folks point to that “I am whatever you say I am” song or “Stan” as being his most interesting takes on the perils and stresses of fame. Fair enough. Clearly those are serious songs.

Yet, look at the people he impersonates in the video–Michael Jackson, Madonna, MC Hammer, PeeWee Herman (if we accept that it’s a vocal impersonation, not a physical one, as I think that is actually PeeWee Herman in the video. If it’s not, then all the better for my point.)

What do all these folks have in common? They all were unstoppable, inescapable cultural phenomena. What else do they have in common? They all were brought down because their private conduct couldn’t match up with their public image.

And so, I think, in bringing up 8 Mile and quoting from his other big hits, which were so damn catchy and also seemed to be inescapable cultural phenomena, he’s kind of asking a question. At what point does he become like them? At what point does the private person decay under the weight of the public persona, and, once that rot sets in, how will it express itself? At what point does Eminem stop being the jester and start being the joke?

The Butcher

The Butcher’s birthday is coming up soon. He’ll be 24. I just don’t know what’s weirder than watching your youngest brother, who still seems very young to me, turning ages that I felt very adult at. Twenty-Four. I believe I was in grad school. My other brother was already a dad. It’s a very adult age–24–and yet the Butcher is still my little brother.

Well, it makes me feel better about how I’ve been totally unable to pull my life together in any kind of orderly way. I mean, give it six years and when the Butcher is turning 30, I’ll be able to look back and say, “Wow, thirty is young.”

Anyway, I’m debating about what to get him. Do I go for America or the newest Grand Theft Auto or perhaps a weekend up with his hero, Miss J.’s husband?

Bill O’Reilly, one last time

So, I caught the beginning of his show last night and thought he looked tired and haggard and, I’m ashamed to admit, I began toying with the notion of how, if I were his “people,” I would get him out of this jam.

I’m hoping for input from my dear friend, the Corporate Shill, who has some experience polishing turds, but here’s what I think is his only option, publicly. (I’ll leave it to you lawyer-types to debate the relative merits of him settling.) I think he looks guilty; you turn on the TV and you see him looking tired and haggard and scared and you think, “This is a man who knows he’s fucked up beyond belief. This is a man who had everything he could have ever hoped for and flushed it away in a fashion that turns him into a joke.”

[Now, some might argue that O’Reilly was already a joke, but I think the joking about O’Reilly previously to this revealed people’s anxiety about his power. It was an attempt to deflate him a little. Now, it’s different. He used to be a joke because he thought he was better than us; now he’s a joke because we know we’re better than him.]

I think his only option is to get on TV and say he’s got a drinking problem–true or not–and that when drunk, he’s acted like a lout. He should say that until he heard the tapes of himself (I’m assuming from the long block quotes in the papers that his accuser has tapes), he was unaware of the extent of his inappropriate behavior. He apologizes to the woman and to other women and gets him into a treatment facility.

I think that’s the only hope he has of really salvaging a career. I think fighting this, especially if it drags out for a long time and other women come forward, is only going to make matters worse.

But, maybe he has other options?

My Kick-Ass Day, revisited

Y’all, I have started this post a number of times now and am just not sure how best to phrase the funny. Needless to say, seeing this on the news last night made a good day better. One should not gloat at other people’s problems, but Bill O’Reilly’s got some funny ones.

For one, when sexually harassing his producer, he tells her about his fantasy of taking her to a Caribbean island and rubbing her with a loofah. Then, inexplicably, he switches gears and says he will rub her with a falafel.

Now, the best falafel I’ve ever had was in New York, and I don’t recall anyone suggesting that I should use it as a sex aid and I would guess that if ever there was a town where someone would tell you what to do with a falafel, New York is it. Perhaps this is why Bill O’Reilly so kindly offers to teach women how to masturbate with toys if only they will call him on the phone. The knowledge and wisdom that man has! It’s a shame he’s being so unfairly persecuted.

If only I had Bill O’Reilly’s phone number and a falafel. . .

To read the court documents for yourself, here’s the link: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/1013043mackris1.html?link=eaf

It’s my first blog link, so let’s hope it works.

My Kick-Ass Day

The ways in which my day ruled:

1. I saw the recycling truck coming and ran down and got the recycle bin to the curb just as they hit our house, thus saving us from yet another month of a full, unusable recycle bin.
2. I got all my money stuff straightened out from my trip.
3. There was a candy bar left in the candy machine for lunch.
4. My intern and I cleaned off my bookshelves.
5. I got a ton of work done.
6. There were good brownies after the talk I went to about Herman Melville*.
7. Ghost Hunters is on and Grant is a cutie.

*One might argue that any day involving a talk about Herman Melville is automatically disqualified from being “kick-ass.” I would argue that the person I know who is most excited about Melville used to perform on stage wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and a large diaper**.
That, my friends, is why I love Melville–his fans are nuts.

**One might think that any grown-ass man who wears a large diaper in public would maybe be confined to a small cell most days. If the small room in the back of the house filled with books counts, you are right.

Las Vegas

A list of important lessons learned in Las Vegas:

1. The word “Riviera” implies class. The implication is wrong.
2. The only thing funnier than having an academic conference in which a great many people do some kind of gender studies in a hotel whose logo is a line of women wearing nothing but g-strings, is seeing all of those academics in their nice clothes sitting out by the pool because it’s the only place for miles that doesn’t reek of smoke.
3. During a fire alarm at 2:30 in the morning, one can get up, go to the bathroom, put some clothes on, gather one’s money and room key, walk down three flights of stairs and outside in a calm manner, learn that the alarm was false, and get back upstairs to go back to bed while one’s across-the-hall neighbor is still running up and down the hall in her nightgown screaming about death.
4. On a Sunday, there is no such thing as “too early” to get to the airport. My flight left at 9:25. I got to the airport at 6:45. Because some jackass breached security right before that, they had pulled everyone off of all of the planes and ran them back through the metal detectors ahead of us.

The Politics Bar

While I was in Vegas, I briefly quit my job because I had the most brilliant idea for a theme bar EVER!!! You may ask why I’m sharing it with you on my blog. “Aunt B,” you may say, “Aren’t you afraid someone is going to steal your brilliant idea for a theme bar and use the time while you’re at work to pool a great deal of money and open said theme bar before you have a chance?”

Well, yes, my dear nieces and nephews. I was afraid of that, which is why I briefly quit my job. Unfortunately, even though my job only allows me to pool a very small deal of money, without it, I can pool none. So, I decided instead that I’d post my idea here and the date and time stamp would prove that I came up with the idea now, thus allowing me to sue the pants off of anyone who steals my idea. Of course, I don’t know what I’ll do with their pants, but that’s a concern for the future.

My idea is a politics bar; like a sports bar, but with many tvs turned to CNN, FOX, MSNBC (of course), and CSPAN, CSPAN2, and CSPANs 3-45 (depending on how many TVs I can afford). You can sit in my politics bar, drink, argue about who should be city dog catcher, and watch the Senate vote. During the presidential elections, you could meet up with your friends and watch the debates. On Thursdays, we’ll have an open mic night, but instead of folks singing or doing comedy, you’d stand on a soap box and pontificate about the day’s issues. In back, I’d have a patio for dueling. The jukebox would play only politically-themed songs, though we’d have a rule that you could only play The Battle Hymn of the Republic once a day.

Even now I’m brushing up on the words to Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans.”

So, if any of you have a lot of money and little sense, send it my way. This seems like an idea whose time has come.

The Battle of Franklin, pt. 3

We hadn’t brought chairs–didn’t think of it, honestly. So, we ended up sitting on the ground. Still, we had front-row seats and, lucky for us, sat next to a woman from St. Louis, whose husband was one of the reenactors. Doubly lucky, we sat right behind the big artillery her husband and his group of reenactors were operating. So, we had someone who could answer all of our questions, and a group of men we could feel a little personally vested in.

Though we were physically facing north, looking towards Spring Hill, in the pretend world of the reenactment, we were facing South with the Union troops looking out of Franklin and awaiting the Confederates. For those of you who have been to Franklin before, I think we were sitting somewhat behind and east of where the Pizza Hut is now.

Because we were sitting with the woman from Missouri, many of her men came over to talk to her. One of them, the captain, I think, was so dashing that the Professor and I developed instantanious crushes on him, though I’d venture to guess that the Professor’s first thought was “I wonder if I can convince him to shave” and my first thought was, “I wonder if he gets to sleep in one of those awesome white tents every weekend.” To each their own, of course.

Behind us were some girls from Cincinatti, who were skipping their homecoming dance to get all dressed up in hoop skirts and spend the weekend in a field. They were nice enough to keep brushing the crickets and spiders off of us; the field was full of them. We all talked about what the different men on the field were and how it ought to be a lot harder to tell which soldiers were women and we learned that reenacting can be very dangerous, as the St. Louis woman’s husband had, on various occassions, shot himself in the leg, ran a sword through his cheek, and busted some ribs when he “died” and fell on a tin cup.

As they were moving equipment around and repositioning troops, I was briefly sad that my uncle was dead and not here to do this kind of stuff with me. When he was alive, I loved it when he came to visit because we’d always go to museums and he, like me, always wanted to linger and read every sign and touch everything and just absorb it. He was a history buff and I know he’d have loved what happened next.

At first, the start of the battle was only obvious because the fife and drums started playing. Then, we’d occassionally hear the infamous “Rebel yell” but because they were on the other side of a hill, we didn’t see them for a long time. The artillery fired repeatedly, but still, I’d say for a good twenty minutes, we were just seeing a lot of smoke from the artillery, hearing a lot of fifing, and seeing a lot of folks milling about.

But then, we saw some flags peak over from the top of the hil. And suddenly there was a long line of gray rising up over the hill. Towards us, were a lot of Confederate calvary, and to our right, in the heart of the battle, we watched the Confederates charge the main Union line, watched us fall back and regroup and charge back and this went on and on, them coming over the hill and us falling back. We regrouping and falling back and then pushing them back across the ridge. Wave after wave, though each was progressively smaller as men “died” and were “taken captive.”

Meanwhile, by us, the two calvaries were clashing and shooting at each other and, once they ran out of “bullets,” they took out their swords and began to fight that way. Our guys from Missouri kept firing and about this time, we had our first “casualty,” a big guy right in front of us. After he lay dead about ten minutes, the oldest guy in the group came over and tickled him to make sure he wasn’t just gravely wounded. I don’t know about the historical veracity of the tickle test, but it seemed to provoke some last, fading signs of life from our first dead guy.

The whole thing went on for over an hour before the Confederate Calvary got bored with history and came charging over through a hole in the artillery. Imagine, if you can, fifty men on horseback at full gallop not three feet from you. They came through the hole, turned along the rope that separated spectator from participant, and waved and hollered as many of the specators cheered. Then, since they had departed from history, they just milled about behind our lines before a couple of Union reenactors noticed them and turned around and shot at them, thus giving them an excuse to come storming back by, to even louder cheers, and rejoining the historical record back in front of our guns.

It was shortly after this that the gun the St. Louis woman’s husband was helping to operate was hit and, after a few short, valient minutes, everyone around that gun, including the dashing, handsome captain, seemed dead. However, there was a miracle when the St. Louis woman’s husband realized he’d not made the gun safe before he “died,” and he was able to muster the strength to not die, but only develop a terrible leg injury, thus being able to raise himself up and do something to the gun so that there was no danger of an open flame encountering any gunpowder, before he fell back to the earth.

Then, after a while, the dead rose up and made their way off the field, and the battle was over.

I have to tell you, I thought it’d be unbearably corney and that I’d sit there every minute wondering why in hell folks spent good time and money doing this. But it was really, really cool. Maybe it mattered that I sat with other folks who were on the Union’s side. I might have been bothered if we’d had to sit with the folks who were second-guessing every Confederate move in order to figure out where they went wrong. Maybe it’s easier to enjoy this stuff guilt-free when you know you’re on the side of the winners? Still, I’d guess that 85-90% of the people who were there were cheering for the Confederates.

I don’t know what, psychologically, they get out of it.

But I thought it was really awesome and it’s something I’d highly recommend on a cool, October afternoon.

p.s. For you horse fans, they didn’t seem at all bothered by the noise and the guns and, in fact, seemed to be having a lot of fun running around. I didn’t see any of the calvary men die, but the St. Louis woman explained that, when they do die, they’re very careful to keep hold of the reigns so that the horses aren’t just running around loose. She said it occassionally still happens, but not very frequently.

I, myself, am more of a mule fan, and, happily, we saw some beautiful mules and I now have the Professor convinced that we must go down to Mule Days in the spring. The mules also seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The Battle of Franklin, pt. 1

So, the Professor and I had been weighing whether it would be more fun to go to the reenactment of the Battle of Franklin or to the Moon Festival on campus. After short deliberation and a check with Madams J & B, we decided that there’s only one 140th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin and so we’d better go down and be a part of it.

First, though, I convinced the Professor to come with Mrs. Wigglebottom and me to the park and then to have some lunch in our fine, if messy, home. I had a hamburger; the Professor had corn dogs. Mrs. Wigglebottom was happily worn out from the park, so she just had a piece of ice, which she broke in two and set beside her for later (poor Mrs. Wigglebottom and her poor grasp of basic physics!).

The battle was just one of three major battles being held in an enormous field just south of Spring Hill. Friday night had been the Battle of Spring Hill (which, you history buffs know, ended rather abruptly when the Union forces marched by the Confederate forces in the middle of the night and snuck north to Franklin), Saturday was the Battle of Franklin, and today is the Battle of Nashville. Since both Franklin’s and Nashville’s battlefields are under 140 years worth of urban sprawl, they hold all of the battles in the same field, part of the actual battlefield of the Battle of Spring Hill, just turning the forces in various ways so that the layout of the land varies a little from battle to battle.

The movie at the Carter House in Franklin actually does a very nice job of explaining the intricacies behind these series of battles. In a nutshell, here’s what’s going on. In one of the strangest, to me, anyway, moments of the Civil War, Confederate General Hood had been fighting Union General Sherman in and around Atlanta. As Sherman marched out of Atlanta towards the Atlantic, Hood headed out of Atlanta in the other direction, intending to retake Nashville and regain some momentum. Though he hoped to somewhat surprise the Union forces as his men marched up the road to Nashville (what is now Route 31), he was engaged in Battle at Spring Hill, then at Franklin, before reaching Nashville.

Though the Union forced retreated from both Spring Hill and Franklin, the damage they were able to do to the Confederate forces (six Confederate Generals were killed at Franklin), made it impossible for Hood’s forces to recapture (or liberate, depending on your point of view) Nashville.

The Battle of Franklin, pt. 2

Now, for those of you who’ve been to visit me, you know that Faulkner is right when he says that the past down here isn’t even past. So, the Professor and I had some misgivings about going to an enormous reenactment of a Civil War battle. As we drove down the dirt lane towards the parking field, we developed a cover story that we thought would keep us from getting harassed, if this were to be some strange Southern Pride event. I forget what all it involved, but I was going to have some kids named Billy and Owen.

The first thing that struck us was just the magnitude of people who were directing this thing. We saw, I’d guess, ever Columbia cop, every Maury County sheriff’s deputy, all the Spring Hill police, many of the Tennessee State Guard, all the area Boy Scouts, and hundreds of event staff, and that was just to make sure that we got to where we were going smoothly and parked in a timely manner.

Once we got out of the car, we had to walk a long way to the front gate. As we were walking, we saw a young woman giving a young man in a halo (not the holy kind, the “I broke my neck” kind) a piggyback ride. We briefly wondered if we should have worked up some kind of “Peole you migth see” scavenger hunt to make the day more interesting. Then we paid and went in.

I think that, as one goes through the gate, she is confronted by a kind of psychic dissonance that made me, at least, wonder if we’d made a grave mistake. On the one hand, there was the kind of stuff you’d expect at a historical reenactment: places to buy homemade rootbeer,or old-fashioned clothing and hats, lanterns, and candles. Then, of course, there were plenty of places to buy Confederate flags. And there were lots of places to buy food, including funnel cakes, that were covered in bumperstickers that said the expected things like “Heritage, not hate” and “The South is Going to Rise Again” and the more unexpected things like “Fighting Terrorism Since 1861” (with a Confederate Battle Flag) and another one that encouraged us to love all Confederates, White, Black, Brown, Red, and Yellow, equally.

Stranger still was the tent that contained framed pictures of trick photographs in which a war widow dressed all in black could be seen weeping at the grave of her soldier who’s ghostly presence seemed to be trying to comfort her. There was a whole series of weeping widows with ghostly husbands. And, I still wonder what I would do if I walked into someone’s home and saw that they had even one of these, let alone the whole series.

I think that, after about an hour, the Professor and I were still undecided as to whether we’d made a grave mistake or not. But we decided to get something to drink and a funnel cake and head on over to the battlefield and eat and drink and chat.

It was at this point that the afternoon went from mildly scary and troubling, to all out interesting.

Lifesavers

The folks in the office suit next to use used to have a black-market snack shop in one of their back rooms. In the candy machine in the hall were old, hot Snickers with Almonds and rows of chips in flavors like “Taco” and “Old Cheddar” all costing between $.85 and $1.00. The folks next door sold anything your heart desired–cookies, Snickers, Twix, popcorn, brownies, chips in flavors like “corn” and “potato” and paper (just in case your office ran out), all for less than .$50. Plus, since you just had to pay into a coffee cup, if you were short on change, you could just put in a slip of paper with the amount you owed.

It was Heaven, I tell you.

So, of course, someone in the building narced them out, they got shut down, and today, the candy machine is mostly empty, and I’m eating Lifesavers so old they’ve started to go soft.

Thanks for nothing, tattletale!