Friday, February 25, 2011

45. The Oscars

C.W. was giddy. He showed up at my door as Frank Capra and I knew he was excited about the Oscars.

“Turn on the movie channel,” he barked as he barged in.

“You forget one thing,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“Think,” I suggested.

“Uh, no TV?”

“Not here. You’ll have to wait for the weekend when we go to the farm. We have satellite there.”

“No problem,” he said. “I just have some questions about veracity in the films your species makes. I love them but stuff bothers me.”

“Like when automatic pistols keep clicking after the last bullet is spent?”

“Well, that’s small stuff.”

“So what are you talking about?”

“I’ve watched over a hundred great films over the last couple of weeks, you know.”

“Well you should be an expert.”

“Oh, I am. But I just don’t understand some of them.”

“Why don’t you tell me?”

“Okay, there’s this one, see: ‘Saving Private Ryan.’”

“Yes, I’ve seen it.”

“So this squad makes it through the landing at Normandy and they are all sent to rescue one Private.”

“I think that was the plot.”

“Well when they find him, he refuses an order to come along from a Captain of the Army Rangers and ends up getting just about the whole squad killed.”

“Well, yeah.”

“But he’s a hero at the end.”

“Uh, I guess one could be confused.”

“Then there is this ‘On the Waterfront.’”

“Yes, a truly great one.”

“Well, the hero was supposed to be good enough at fighting to be a boxing champ, right?”


“So why does he have such a hard time when he fights an old fat man who hasn’t done anything but smoke cigars for the last 20 years?”

“Uh, good question.”

“And have you ever met anyone who could follow the plot of ‘The Big Sleep?’”

“Not without copious notes.”

“And wasn’t the Sheriff in ‘High Noon’ a little old to be doing all that fighting and whatever else he intended to do with his young wife when they got to the next town?”

“Well, maybe.”

“I mean, that was way before you had Viagra, wasn’t it?”

“Way before. But if they puzzle you so much, why do you watch them?”

“Well,” he paused. “I guess for the same reason you keep watching the female of your species even though they puzzle you.”

Before I could respond, he blurted out, “But none of those is the weirdest, for me anyway.”

“Oh,” I said. “So what is?”

“Ever see a movie called ‘From Here to Eternity?’”

“Oh yes, dozens of times.”

“Well, I had to go enphase myself directly into a scene to try this one out.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Having sex on the beach.”

I was speechless.

“I mean,” he continued. “Have you ever had sand on your …”
Were the hands the only thing that pointed up for this old feller? - C.W.

“That’s quite enough,” I said. “Someone may be listening.”

“Well, let’s just agree then,” he said. “That such an experience would be far greater in the abstract than in the reality.”

“C.W.,” I said. “You are a born movie critic.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

44. Paying

It was finally warm enough to go outdoors and C.W. said he would meet me for a walk. When I met him near the Clinton School for Public Service he was dressed a lot like Brad Pitt in the move “Troy.” There was one exception, he wore a paisley robe and he affected a mincing sort of walk like John Wayne’s.

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” I said.

Without missing a stride, he turned his face toward mine and said, in a voice somewhere between tenor and soprano, “I am the Great Alexander, come to save your species.”

“Say what?”

“You are treading on the eve of destruction and I am going to lead you back.”

“And how exactly,” I said. “Are you going to accomplish that?”

“Have you not read of my exploits?”

“Oh yes.”

“And how I solved the problem of the ‘Gordian Knot?’”

“Well, sometimes that is treated more as myth than history. But yes, I remember the story.”

As he reached for it, I noticed his sword for the first time. Its sheath was encrusted with pearl and the material was color-coordinated with his robe.

As he grasped the handle, he explained. “Then you know how the great king Midas had tied an ox to a pole in the middle of Gordium using a knot so intricate in design that the ruler allowed as the one who could loose the knot would rule all of Asia.”

“Sounds familiar.”

“And you know how I loosed it?”

“With your sword?”

“And I didn’t even have to whack it very hard,” he said rather softly.

“So what does this have to do with saving my species?”

“It seems,” he said. “That your government has gotten itself into a mess by spending more money than it takes in.”

“Seems so,” I agreed.

“And there was this ...,” he stopped for a second and looked out across the river. “I can’t force myself to call him a ruler.”

“What are you talking about?”

“There was this man who started two wars without a plan to pay for their cost.”

“Oh, that man,” I said.

“And now you are in a real mess and on the verge of financial collapse.”

“Seem so,” I said.

“I know a little something about wars.” He said.

“So I have heard.” I always go along with him when he is on a roll.

You folks really don't have a clue, do you? - C.W.
“First, they are almost as much fun as flower-arranging.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“Second, I made my people pay for them as long as they would.” With this he drew his sword and brought it down upon the imaginary knot binding the country’s financial freedom.

“You know,” he said. “If I were to fly visitors into your country from all over the galaxy—and I won’t because some of them are quite scary—they would be amazed at your species’ blindness in the connection between having things and paying for them.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

43. Artifacts

C.W. was driving my wife, Brenda, crazy. And me too, truth be known. We were snowbound with him at her ancestral farm, deep in the middle of nowhere. He had decided, for reasons known only to himself, to retain the persona of a 11 year-old boy. Just imagine it, if you will.

The first thing I caught him doing was messing with one of my guitars—a Martin D-28 named "Baby" that I keep carefully stored away in its case to prevent undue exposure to the elements and the bad karma emitted by network TV. She is a sensitive thing and easily thrown into an unbalanced state. So you can imagine how I felt when I heard him banging away on it and attempting to yodel.

“Put that away immediately,” I heard Brenda yell.

“Aw gee.” It was only going to get worse.

He put it away reluctantly and then settled into a chair and pretended to read until we were out of the room.

I dozed for a short spell and awoke to a loud, “How dare you?”

I ran into a bedroom and there he was with one of her precious collections of Native American artifacts spread all over the bed.

“I was just looking,” he said as she began to gather arrowheads and stone tools to return them to their box.

He grabbed one. “Is this a Clovis Point?” he said.

“Are we in Clovis?” she tried to take it from him but he jerked it away.

“I’m confused about something,” he said.

“You’re going to be more than confused,” she said, staring at him with a homicidal look on her face. I must add that she has always assigned C.W. as my problem and my problem only, meaning she tolerates but doesn’t participate.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson says the ancestors of the people who made this crossed the Bering Strait about 16,000 years ago.”

“I think that’s about right,” I tried to interject myself between them and assume a pedantic demeanor, which I pride myself at being good at. “They taught us about 10,000 to 13,000 years ago, but that was when I was in school.”

“That’s the problem,” he said.


“Teacher says the earth is only 6,000 years old but says don’t tell anybody she told us the truth because the School Board doesn’t love Jesus.”

We were stunned.

“You’re teacher taught you that?” We sometimes forget to whom we are talking.

“Yes. And I thought your species valued education.”

“Did you bother to tell her what the prominent PhD and astrophysicist Dr.Tyson said?”


“What did she say then?”

“That he wasn’t ‘saved,’ whatever that means, so he had no business teaching science.”

A tight place to be locked up with an alien.
He paused and studied an arrowhead. “Know what I think?”

“I’m all ears,” Brenda said.

“I think that in many ways your species is about as dumb as this rock.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

42. Farmers

Of course I recognized him straight away. C.W. had called and said meet him for coffee early this morning. It wasn’t hard. How many times does one enter Starbucks and see a portly man wearing overalls and a straw hat? I started to execute an “about-face” and leave, but he had already spotted me.

“Big Dope,” he yelled loud enough to be heard in the nearest county. “Moan over here and set.” He had already purchased two coffees so what could I do?

As I eased into a chair, I noticed that he had been studying a small booklet. Our state legislature was in session and he had obtained one of those free publications that feature information about the various senators and representatives.

“Can’t be long,” he said. “Got to be cuttin’ hay.”

“C.W., I said. “It’s February.”

“You don’t cut hay in February?”

“Not in Arkansas.”

“Well, I’ll swan. Guess I’ll chop some cotton.”

“Will you cut it out?”

“Tell me something, Jimbo,” he said, picking up the booklet.

“Don’t call me that,” I said. “What can I tell you?”

“Been studyin’ up on legislators,” he said.


“Was wondering why so many of the men list their occupations as ‘farmers.’ Don’t y’all elect anyone else?”

“Well,” I said. “They’re not really farmers. At least not as a primary occupation.”

“It says here they are,” he said, picking up the booklet. “You mean they don’t really farm. They lyin’?”

“They farm the way George Washington built Mount Vernon.”

“How’s that?”

“They own some land and workers and drive by every once in awhile to see what’s going on.”

“I’ll swan,” he said. “Who in blazes are they?”

“It varies. A lot are attorneys and some are bankers.”

“I can see how a feller wouldn’t want to admit to that.”

“Now don’t stereotype our species. We’ve talked about that before.”

“I reckon. So who does the real farming that I see going on?”

“Corporations to a large extent. It’s a business like anything else.”

He sipped his coffee and grimaced. “I still don’t see how y’all drink this stuff,” he said. “Hit tastes worse than a heifer’s hind-end smells.”

I ignored him and glanced around to see if anyone was watching.

After a moment, he asked, “Well why in the world do they choose farming to list as an occupation if that ain’t what they do?”

“Who knows,” I said. “Maybe they think it produces an image of a strong, independent man of the soil who bows down to nobody—like the ‘Marlboro Man.’”

C.W. on Farming: "Looks like the old days are done fer"
“The one who died of cancer?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“Well somethin’ here don’t make no more sense than a preacher with a lot of money.”

“What’s that?”

“This ‘idee’ of independence. According to my research so far, farming may be the occupation in your country most heavily supported by the taxpayers.”

“Uh no, I said. That might be banking now.”

“I’ll swan,” he said.