Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ask The Alien: Revenge

Dear Ask the Alien:
During Happy Hour the other evening, my wife revealed to me that there were some events in her life that she had never shared with me. This bothers me quite a bit for we have been married for what seems like a thousand years. And ... it makes me more convinced than ever that she threw away my "Slim Whitman" album years ago and it wasn't really the only item taken during a burglary like she claimed.
My question is this. Should I retaliate? She has a ZZ Top CD that she is extremely fond of.

Dear Vengeful:
No, I kinda like her ZZ ... uh ... oh ... I mean from the way you put it, she is a person of great patience and ability to plan long-term. If you ever intend to sleep all night again, I would counsel restraint. Of course you could buy a Jennifer Hudson CD and begin playing it at top volume, but I doubt if any jury would convict someone of murder as a means of avoiding such screeching. Best learn to appreciate "Gimme All Your Lovin'"
The Alien C.W.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

295. Clarity

His name is Furlough Thompson—Mayor Furlough Thompson. He was born in November of 1943 while his dad was in the United States Army, which may explain the unusual first name. He governs the small town of Potluck, Arkansas (population 1,236) and he delights in comforting me when I am afflicted and afflicting me when I am comfortable, as they say.

Actually, “he” is the Alien C.W. in one of his favorite shapes. He remains fascinated by the thought of my profession as an urban planner and delights in showing up as the Mayor on occasion to torment me, or as he terms it, “To hep yuh better understand thangs of an urban nature.”

At least that’s the way he explained his sudden appearance this week. When I questioned his assumption that a Mayor of a city of less than 2,000 souls was the place to start understanding urban issues, he had a quick response.

“Assumptions,” he said, leaning back in his chair. He is a tall man in his 70s, still maintaining a full head of brown hair. He ran a hand through it and repeated, “Assumptions,” he said. “Now you just take the first three letters of that word and think of BeyoncĂ© Giselle Knowles-Carter.”

“BeyoncĂ©?” I began to mouth the letters he had specified.

“As in, some are better’n others,” he said.

I stopped and didn’t say anything more.

“Now,” he said, “You have to understand that, as we say in in Potluck, ‘If a hound dog couldn’t howl, he might as well be a pig.’”

What could I say to that? You are correct, so I just listened.

“If you’re fixing to (editor’s note: i.e. if you plan to) be a consultant on urban thangs in the South, you’re a gonna have to work on your u-fer-isms.”
“My what?”

“Your u-fer-isms. Your,” here his expression changed, “use of a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.”

That stumped me for a minute. Then understanding settled on me like peace on an Arkansas family that had just enjoyed a good “bate” of turnip greens.

“Do you mean euphemisms?”

“Ain’t that what I said?’

“Okay,” I said. “So give me an example.”

“You can’t keep telling folks they can’t have this or that ‘cause they don’t have the money and they might have to raise taxes.”

I just stared.

“You remember what happened last time?”

“Getaway cars are nice,” I said.

I simply love the way that your so-called
conservatives explain economics. - C.W.
“Revenue neutral,” he said. “That’s what you tell them. It has to be revenue neutral. That’s what your Governor says when he proposes something that the state can’t pay for and he won’t say you have to raise taxes to have it.”

“Revenue neutral. And that means?” I asked.

“That they can’t have it, somebody’s ox is fixin’ to get gored, or somebody's gonna have to crap money.”

“Hush,” I said. “My wife is in the next room.”

“And,” he said, “you can’t keep telling folks that their city won’t grow because their schools have too many n…”

“Stop it,” I said. “We don’t use that word here.”

“Non-whites attending classes,” he said, ignoring me again.

“So what must I say?”

“That it is a necessity these days to have a ‘good school system’ in order to grow your population.”

“A good school system,” I repeated.

“Yep,” he said. “Everybody knows what that means. And,” he said, “drop terms like neighborhood of concentrated sociological problems.”

“For what?”

“Inner city. They’ll understand, and know who you’re talkin’ about.”

“What about white flight?”

“Forced busing,” he said.
“Income inequality?”

“Takers and givers.”

“Ambivalence toward urban problems?”

“States’ rights.”

“Vestiges of past slavery?”

“Benefits of our national guest worker programs.”

I laid a trap. “Undocumented aliens?”

“I have papers,” he said. “Want to see them?”

I gave up. “I’ll bet,” I said, “you could find a term for child and spousal abuse.”

He didn’t miss a beat. “Do you mean a return to traditional family values?”

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

294. For The Least Of Those

C.W. was in a philosophical mood. I could tell because he was wearing this cap and gown he claims he received when awarded an honorary doctorate from some school I never heard of, the Ozark Mountain Graduate University. I suspect its credentials, since the gown has an ad for STP motor treatment on the front along with the school motto, Non Postulo Scio Usquam, which, best I can tell, means “You didn’t need to know it anyway.”

He was in the form of a middle-aged man with a flowing mustache carrying a pipe he would have been smoking save for the memories of my wife and the last time he did.

“I’ve been thinking how great your society is,” he said.

“That’s a switch,” I said, looking up from my computer. “You have been somewhat critical lately.”

“Ah,” he said, “but I’ve been conducting a study of how you maintain a statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need—your programs of ensuring health, safety, and prosperity for all.”

I thought long and hard. “Are you talking about welfare?”

“Yes,” he said, “the glory of your society: assistance to the needy and disadvantaged.”

“I hate to tell you this …”


“Some people don’t think so.”

“How could they not?”

“Some call it ‘taking’ and think one should be ashamed of seeking assistance.”

He stood up straight in his chair. “Horse flat growths forming the plumage of birds.”

“No horsefeathers. For real.”

“You’re telling me that some don’t believe in assistance to the least of those among you?”

“I’m telling you that some find it so distasteful that they want to force anyone seeking it to suffer the degradation of a drug test before receiving help. Peeing in a cup and all that.”

He thrust his unlighted pipe into his mouth and scanned a sheet. “Surely they don’t mean to include the 39 percent of children who receive assistance.”

“I think,” I said, “their motto is, ‘If you’re old enough to pee, we’ve got to see,’ and that’s it.”

“That’s a lot of urine,” he said. Then he laughed.

“What’s funny about that?”

“Oh nothing,” he said, pointing at the school motto on his gown. “I was just how some of our instructors use words like ‘youren’ and ‘oursen.’ It’s real folksy.”

I was glad to see his mind distracted and, perhaps, moving away from this topic.

“Oh my goodness,” he said as he grabbed his pipe.

“What’s wrong?”

“Children,” he said. “What about the elderly?”

“Along with the children.”

“The disabled.”

“We pay. You pee.”

“Is this what the man on TV meant by the word ‘takers’ that he almost seemed to spit out?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“So anyone receiving public benefits and not paying taxes to support them is a taker?”

“It would seem so,” I said.

“Holy urine sample,” he said.


“Churchgoers,” he said.

“What about them?”

He consulted a paper. “Oh my goodness,” he said.

“What. What?”

“Churches receive all public benefits, right?”

“That’s correct.”

“And don’t pay taxes for them?”


“Holy welfare,” he said, examining another sheet. “That’s 71 billion dollars a year for 60 million people.”

“If you say so.”

“Just consider the logistics,” he said.

“Of what?”

“Collecting all those samples.”

I had never thought about it and told him so.

“I guess those who offer communion could…” He stopped. “No. That wouldn’t work.”

I'm speechless in the contemplation. - C.W.
“No,” I said. “Why don’t we talk about something else?”

“Oh,” he said. “Those ‘Pay for Glory’ churches could have the samples turned in and collected with their donations.”

“I think Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer could afford to do that,” I said. “That takes care of part of the problem.”

“Not all, though,” he said. “I see some tough situations.”

“Like what?”

“Those churches up around where my university is located.” He pointed to his gown again.

“What about them?”

“They all handle rattlesnakes during their services.”


“I don’t think they would have a lot of urine left afterwards.”

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- C.W.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veterans Day Revisited

Here is a repeat of one of our most popular posts in honor of Veteran's Day.

There are times when C.W. can break your heart. I know, he broke mine this week when he appeared in his saddest form yet.

It was late when I answered a knock on my door. There stood an American soldier in the kind of Class A uniform they made military personnel wear in public back in the day.

I say American soldier. Truth be told, he looked more like a kid dressed up like a soldier. He said later he was 18 but could have easily passed for 16.

He was white, thin, and his skin seemed to glow with paleness from deep in his soul. His uniform, though impeccably arranged, hung from his frame like a sheet on a clothesline.

“What the h…,” I began.

“May I come in?” he said.


As he walked into the room in a slow, funereal gate, I observed him closely. His uniform sported a single PFC stripe and a black nametag that simply said “Armstrong.” The highly esteemed Combat Infantry Badge was pinned above a field of ribbons that seemed to weight him down. They included the two Vietnam service awards and a Purple Heart. Another badge identified him as a “Marksman.”

He stood until I offered him a seat whereupon he sat stiffly and stared at me.

“Your species behaves more strangely at some times than others,” he said, after straightening his trousers and checking his highly polished shoes. Then he stared softly into space.

“Let me guess,” I said. “Vietnam Veteran.”

”Vietnam casualty,” he said. “The last day of January, 1968.”

“The Tet Offensive.”

“I had been ‘in-country’ for two months,” he said. He picked a thread from the sleeve of his blouse. “And there were a great many places where I would have rather been.”


He nodded. “Twenty-five percent of us were.” He looked at me and cocked his head. “We accounted for 30.4 percent of the combat deaths.”

I said nothing.

“But that’s not why I am here,” he said.

“Why then?”

“Questions,” he said. “I see where the Supreme Court of your country is considering passing a law that the government can’t mandate that someone do something they don’t want to do.”

“Well, they don’t call it passing a law,” I said. “They call it …”

“I know,” said. “You love to play with words. As your famous writer William F. Buckley Jr. once observed, we could call the act of sodomy ‘following too closely’ but it wouldn’t change much.”

I looked at him closely for a glimpse of a smile but saw nothing but more sadness.

“So what is your question?” I asked.

“Why didn’t they come up with this before 1968?”

“I don’t know,” I said. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Seeking to change the subject, I nodded at his nametag.


“Of the Charleston, West Virginia Armstrongs,” he said. “Did you know our state had the highest percentage of combat deaths in Vietnam?”

Can't your species find something better
to rail against than health care? - C.W
“No,” I said.

“It’s true,” he said. Then stared away again. “They say that when Momma heard the news about me, she shouted and prayed all night long and, as long as she lived, she would tell anyone who would listen that they didn’t know what real sorrow was.”

As I say, he can break your heart.

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- C.W.

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