Today would have been the 100th birthday of my mother, Barbara Walker Ross, for whose minister father I am named. I wrote at some length about her here and here.
The youngest of eight children, she quit school at sixteen to support her parents and to give my Uncle Bill the chance to go to seminary. I never once heard her complain.
She took ten years off her life to have me when she was nearly forty-two and suffered more than she needed to every day of the twenty-six years she had left as a direct result.
I never learned any of that from her. She’d have given anything for me to never know.
When I was twelve years old, I once told a white lie that ran around the neighborhood like wildfire and ended with a dozen adults, including my parents, believing I had gone missing. The misunderstanding was cleared up within a few hours and the neighborhood thought no more of it because all was well. When my mother came to me the next day to have a talk the first thing she said was this:
“They only believed it because it was you.”
She did not say they only believed it because I was her son, or because they had gotten their idea of who I was from who she was. She didn’t have to.
The next and last thing she said was:
“You’ll have to decide how you feel about that. No one else can decide for you.”
What I decided was to commit myself a lot harder to the idea of living by the only three rules she ever gave me.
Respect your elders (and if they fail to earn it, the proper response is not anger, but pity).
Don’t lie, especially to yourself. It only gets deeper from there.
Never do anything–good or bad–just because someone else is doing it.
I’ve tried my best to live by those rules from that day to this. Every regret I’ve had, except one, was a result of my failing to do so.
Regarding the one exception (and it doesn’t matter what it was so let’s just say it involved a girl and my foolish pride), she gave me the best advice of all. I ignored it and it’s only in the past year or so that I’ve realized everything since has been a form of penance.
She’d have never wished that on me either. She’d have given anything to be wrong if it put me in a better place.
I always knew on some level that I was lucky, but only the passage of time has revealed how much. Youth, as they say, is wasted on the young.
I’m gonna be happy today because that’s what she would want.
As I’ve mentioned before: My traffic took a real hit beginning last July. I assumed it was caused by Google changing their search algorithm as I noted several other bloggers reporting a similar drop (about 20-30%) around the same time.
My numbers started crawling back at the first of the year but really took off when I finally scratched together the money to clean up the site for existing malware, build a firewall against future intrusions and obtain an SSL certificate. May and June were big improvements. July has been record-breaking (smashed the record for Visitors I set last month and,barring some unforeseen freeze, will surpass my year-and-a-half old record for Views by the end of the day).
I’ve also pulled ahead of the pace for my record year in both views and visitors (2016) and have seen the traffic grow for a record seven months in a row.
And, as I periodically do, I’d like to send a big thanks, and a song dedication, to everyone who visits, comments, links and otherwise makes the blog worth doing. Which, if you’re reading this, is you….
Like a lot of people, I took a real hit from Google changing their search parameters (or whatever it is they do) in June. Up to that point, this blog had steady quarter-by-quarter growth for five years. In the last six months of 2017, views and visits dropped off about 25 percent, making this the first year I didn’t improve over the previous one (I was down about eight percent for the year).
On the other hand, the comments increased dramatically, so I traded some quantity for a lot of quality. That’s a deal I’ll take any day, though I hope things will get cracking in the new year so it’s not a choice I have to make!
Anyway, that’s one of the main reasons I slacked off considerably in December, hoping to recharge the batteries and hit the ground running in 2018.
The other reason is I ran up against a sort of existential spiritual dilemma (I hesitate to call it a crisis) which is going to require me to make some serious decisions about my personal life and goals in the next few months…Don’t worry, if anything major happens, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it!
Meanwhile, here are posts I have in the hopper, just waiting a moment of inspiration for me to finish them…
-A continuation of my meditations on John Ford’s People (beginning with the latest on The Searchers)
-Vocalist of the Month features on Brenda Lee (pretty far along) and Sandy Denny (nascent but promising)
-The revelation of My Favorite Book of Movie Criticism
-A new category called Track-By-Track where I break down some classic albums with what I hope will be a fresh approach to record reviewing.
-Nothing specific, but I’ll step in on the Trump Era when a moment of clarity arrives. Just FYI, my gut had him a slight favorite to win the election throughout 2016 (which put my gut in a very small minority). My gut has him a slight favorite to emerge the winner in his war with the Security State which will almost certainly come to a head in 2018. Stay tuned….
-Plus a continuation of my other new category of Handy Tens and all the other usual ongoing features.
1) Morris was initially attracted to the tiny Panhandle town of Vernon by its reputation as Nub City, a place famous for amputees who shot off (or otherwise removed) various limbs to collect on large insurance payments. Not sure if this is any way related to the vigilance required to prove the identity of dead bodies missing their hands in Winter’s Bone but it wouldn’t surprise me.
2) I tracked it down because I’m planning a post on Florida movies. This looked like a possible winner and was available for a couple of bucks on Amazon. The rest of this list is dedicated to the reasons it probably won’t make the cut.
3) In Errol Morris’s Vernon, Florida, there are no black people. Not even in background shots. That must mean Tony Peters, the kid with the wicked slider who kept striking me out in Pony League in the spring of ’75–and who, a couple of years later, led mostly black teams, filled with his brothers and cousins, from Vernon High to state championships in baseball and basketball–was a figment of my imagination. I mention it because, absent him, my very good batting average (.426) would have been considerably higher. Even higher than the .550 I was hitting before a stupid bet in the one-county-over Graceville High School weight-lifting room threw out my back and left me swinging with one hand for the last half of the season. (I won the bet. Small comfort.) I’m sure the fear that southern black people might seem as incomprehensibly “eccentric” as southern white people had nothing to do with any of this.
4) The film presents half a dozen implied stories, each of them worth it’s own narrative, and follows exactly none of them to a satisfying conclusion. I’d of gone with the adventures of the young pastor myself. In life, he must have had to contend with the old coots who know what the Bible really means in a thousand interesting and delicate ways. In the film, he never even meets them. And there’s some pretty good rants from those coots here, but nothing close to the End Times testimonial sermon I heard an old-timer in overalls preach from the second row pew of one-county-over White Pond Baptist in 1979 while all ten of us in attendance (including my father in the pulpit, my mother at the piano, me and seven members of the old man’s family) listened rapt. Dad was interim pastor there for a year. That was the only time the old man showed up. After the service, his daughter-in-law explained it to us, half-apologetic, half matter-of-fact: “Grandpa does that sometimes.” Nothing like that here.
5) Wausau, which is a suburb of Vernon, is mentioned once. Any filmmaker who spent enough time in southern Washington County to make a documentary and didn’t work in a story about the baseball field in Wausau–where it was theoretically possible to hit a home run over the eight-foot high left field fence without the ball ever travelling more than a foot off the ground–just ain’t worth his salt.
6) I’d forgive all that if Morris had caught the special feel of the North Florida woods where he keeps stalking a turkey hunter. My father walked away from his stalled car in December of 2007 in the heart of those very same south Washington County woods. Hunters found him three days later, passed out on the ground (a day after I had discovered him missing from his apartment and convinced the local police to put out an APB on him). He was transported to the Washington County Hospital and, two days later, to the nursing home next door. He died there eight months later, never having walked again. I’d give a lot to have the feel of the last place my father walked on this earth captured on film. The way Morris shot Vernon, Florida those woods could just as well be in Mississippi….or Pennsylvania.
Or the Tennessee Smokies where Dad grew up. And where he thought he was when he left his stalled care and tried to find his way home.
My sense is that, in the last two weeks, the Trump Fever broke. On the evening of the day he punked the G-20 summit that was the latest in a long line of Security State backstops which, assuming the key operatives (in this case various heads of state) could get the stars out of their eyes and quit staring at Ivanka’s ass or keep their knees from buckling when Melania flashed that fragile smile, were supposed to humiliate him beyond all hope of recovery, it became pretty clear that–barring some drastic, pyrrhic action like an assassination–he’ll now march from victory to victory.
You know, just like he’s been doing since June, 2015. Back when “the Republican Establishment” was going to put paid to him–by driving him not only from political life, but society itself…remember?–in the impossible event he became a problem.
Oh. there will be speed bumps along the way, and, just like the obstacles now fading in the rear view mirror (faster and faster, I might add), they’ll be celebrated as mortal wounds by whatever’s left of that creaky old Establishment (and breathlessly Re-Tweeted by those who are still certain–certain I say!–that this time, we’ve got him).
Those who put their faith in such folks, needn’t worry. There’s probably a month or two of real entertainment value left before your champions do what they were always going to do and kick you to the curb, the better to curry favor with the new boss.
My puny, unsolicited advice is to kick them out of the tent before they get the chance.
Why let them co-opt you one last time and destroy even your one-in-a-million hope of igniting a grass roots movement with real teeth in it? The fake ones you’ve been relying on aren’t getting it done. If you’re looking for a leader to emerge from the current crop, you’re trading in fool’s gold. (To wit, there’s real talk Bernie Sanders will carry the flag in 2020. God help us. But, believe me, Kamala Harris won’t be any less chumped and compromised by then, even if you buy the sketchy assumption that she is now.)
As we sit here tonight, Trump has a conservative majority entrenched on the Supreme Court, with more to come. His trial-balloon travel ban (sorry, did you think it was something else?), is now, with a few negotiating ploy caveats, in place. Contracts for the border wall are proceeding apace. The regulatory wall, built from used tissue by the Bi-partisan Consensus over the last thirty-five years for the express purpose of enriching themselves at everybody’s-but-their-own expense, is being torn to shreds. He’s tied the “Russian thing” tin can to Obama’s tail, and, by extension, Hillary Clinton’s. (Rhetorically, conspiratorially, theatrically, that is–i.e., the ways that matter in a land where concepts like the Rule of Law were reduced to laughless-punchlines by the very folks who now insist they are Never Trumpers long before Forever Donald Trump happened along.)
And, oh by the way, while you weren’t looking, the Alt-Right has seized the language and the messaging.
And oh by the way….
They view Trump as a loss leader.
Albeit in blind-squirrel fashion, Kathy Griffin–one of many useful-idiot celebrities whose brains apparently function as test patterns–had it right.
If Trump’s head isn’t on a platter by the end of the summer, there’s gonna be some deep and lasting changes around here–and perhaps more than a few.
Up to now, the main question since election night has been whether Trump understood that he was in a war with the Security State that would end in his utter defeat or theirs.
Tonight, for the first time, the question has changed.
Do they understand?
Bet they do…
Which means it must finally be time for Trump to ditch “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and keep what’s left of his opposition really confused, by switching up his theme song…
Or would be, if playing in a rock and roll band was still masquerading as something more than a chance to meet the kind of fabulous women Donald J. Trump and Michael Jagger are prone to marrying.
It’s not that Trump is a genius (he sort of is, but it’s not that). It’s that he’s opposed–up and down the line–by idiots.
Idiots who have had their masks ripped off….and their Consensus destroyed.
It took two years.
So, as ever….Goodbye us.
But really, it was fun while it lasted.
C’mon Mick…Are you sure you don’t want to play the Ballroom in 2021?
[Note: Yes, I know. There were protests. To call them meaningless would be to debase the word. Somebody cue “American Woman” and dedicate it to Angela Merkel.]