The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Friday, November 30, 2012

The F-80 Shooting Star: an Adolescent Romance

In 1952, when I was about twelve, I began drawing things. I say "things" because that's what I soon discovered I could do best. People, animals, vegetation, etc. gave me problems and since there were no art teachers in my school (or in most others at that time I suppose) to help me overcome these difficulties, I stayed with what I could do pretty well. Things like buildings, houses, cars, and airplanes.

The drawing process was fun to me and I spent countless hours drawing at home and sometimes during class with my work hidden by an upright book. I especially enjoyed drawing the aircraft of WWII and the Korean War. One plane I drew many times was the Lockheed P or F-80 Shooting Star, the first operational jet fighter of the USAF. I liked the way the plane looked and I loved that name...Shooting Star.

Unfortunately, none of my drawings from that time, survive.

Although initial issues kept it out of WWII, the plane was designed, developed, and built by Lockheed in 1943 in just 143 days. The plane, though slower and less maneuverable than the Russian MIGs, did see lots of action in Korea.

I'm sure I saw pictures of the F-80 in magazines and newspapers at the time and those served as my inspiration.

The aircraft had a beautiful curving kind of fuselage with scoops on both sides for the Allison J33-A-35 engines. I always drew the plane with those wing tip fuel tanks which to my adolescent imagination gave it a more menacing look.

In the Korean conflict, the slower Shooting Star was eventually replaced by the faster swept wing F-86 Sabre. The website (a great source of aircraft data) says that a little over 1700 of the F-80s were produced. In the late '50s and all through the '60s the F-80 continued to serve in the air forces of several South American countries.

The plane was also modified as the T33 trainer aircraft and was used extensively to train American fighter pilots from the late '40s on through the '60s but other countries used it as late as the '80s. Wiki says the T33 was even employed by the Cuban Air Force in combat during the Bay of Pigs and scored several kills.

The Shooting Star is out of production today but it still lives on in my memory and imagination.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'll Be the S.O.B.

Most of the time during my teaching career, I found it to be more effective in terms of getting students to participate or do the work at hand to be the "nice" guy. Later, when I became an administrator, I found it necessary at times to be the S. O. B.

Sometimes you are the role. Sometimes you play it. Regarding the S. O. B. role in my experience, I hope it was the latter.

Earlier this year, one of my favorite country stars released a new single, "You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore," penned by songwriters Jay Knowles and Adam Wright. IMO, it's one of Alan Jackson's best songs in quite some time.

The Knowles/Wright lyric is simple and unadorned, but emotionally, very powerful. Take this verse, for example:
I'll be the bad guy, I'll take the black eye, When I walk out, You can slam the door, I'll be the S.O.B, If that's what you need from me, So you don't have to love me anymore. 
I like Jackson's video of the song too.

Breakups, sacrifice, bitterness...the very life blood of country music.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Crawlin' Kingsnake" and the Tennessee Drizzle

Yesterday was a travel day for us. The trip was pleasant until we reached that dreadful section of I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis. Somewhere around Carlisle, Arkansas, our progress came to a complete stop. The sun set behind us as we waited in darkness in an ever growing line of vehicles for over 30 minutes. 

Finally, the Arkansas Department of Transportation decided to let us move on and we made it to Memphis, which according to some, is the birthplace of the Blues. We tuned our Sirius to the appropriate channel and found the show "B. B. King's Bluesville" in progress.  

Besides the Blues, we encountered something else in Memphis--the famous Tennessee drizzle, which stayed with us all the way home. This drizzle or at least the Nashville variation of it was described early in the last century by the short story writer and embezzler O. Henry (William Sydney Porter):

Take a London fog 30 parts; malaria 10 parts; gas leaks 20 parts; dewdrops gathered in a brick yard at sunrise, 25 parts; odor of honeysuckle 15 parts. Mix.The mixture will give you an approximate conception of a Nashville drizzle. It is not so fragrant as a moth-ball nor as thick as pea-soup; but 'tis enough - 'twill serve.

I would leave out the honeysuckle part of O. Henry's description, and add this: The Tennessee drizzle is a type of concentrated, slanting rain consisting of tiny, needle like droplets of water. The "concentrated" idea is most important. If you were of a scientific mind and employed some sort of sophisticated electronic device attached to your windshield, I'm convinced after our experience last night that you would get a measure of no less than 7,000,000 droplets per square foot. 

Our Enclave's wipers were at times over-matched, but somehow we managed to get home around 11:30 PM. 

But even though the last third of our trip was bad from the weather perspective, it was a blast otherwise. 

A cold rain was falling outside, but Joyce and I enjoyed a hot rockin' Blues concert all the way to Nashville. We heard some great new stuff and lots of good old stuff like Etta James' "Crawlin' Kingsnake."
"Crawlin' Kingsnake" reminded me of something we used to talk about in Literature class, a figure of speech called a synecdoche. Here's an example: Gesturing to the shiny new Porsche Boxster, Bruce says, "Hey I like your cool new wheels, Dude." In the example, a part, "wheels," is used to signify the whole car. 

I'm going to be discreet here (I'm not sure why) and let you read some more about this figure of speech and then apply it to the song yourself. Or not. Your choice. Either way, you can enjoy the great blues voice of Etta James in a most memorable performance. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roger That

A short list of things before we head to TX tomorrow for Thanksgiving.

1. On Saturday, Vanderbilt beat the University of Tennessee for the first time at home since 1982. Joyce and I were a young 42 then. almost half a lifetime ago, but it seems like only yesterday. I've been following their sports teams since the '50s when I was in elementary school. My friend's father had the concession contract at football games at Dudley Field, and so one of my first jobs was selling hot dogs in the football stadium when I was in the 7th or eighth grade. And later, I got a couple of degrees from Peabody College which is now part of Vanderbilt. Vandy has always had a solid basketball program and the baseball program has really come on strong in the past few years. In the '50s they had some very good teams. But after that there hasn't been much to cheer about. It's the SEC and well, you know how tough the conference is. Vandy was almost always undermanned and overmatched. Until last year and this year. We're on the move baby.

2. The election is over, and my candidate lost, but I'm thankful for many things this Thanksgiving. Too many to list here at this hour since I have a long drive ahead of me tomorrow. But that sunset I looked at as I walked in the park this evening is one of them. The sky was blue with scattered white clouds except for a huge slab of silver gray clouds in the West that went about a fourth of the way up the dome, and right along the bottom of the slab, at the horizon, were a couple of big gashes of gold, tinged with a rose red. The light streaking out of those slits was absolutely brilliant. I'm thankful I got to see that.

3. I normally get between 100 and 150 hits per day on this old blog, most of them looking for how Lady Gaga could be related to the five most beautiful cars of the '50s. A couple of days ago, Saturday, however, I noticed I had received 597 hits. As I looked into it, they were all checking out a post I'd written two years ago about Ernest Tubb and the Nashville shooting incident. I'm not quite sure how to explain this. I got 25 more hits on that post today. What's going on?

4. Finally, I hope all of my regular readers and any other visitors who stumble by have a most happy Thanksgiving.

Seeya next week.

P.S. I'll be reading all my usual blogs but probably won't be commenting until I return.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Welfare Squirrels

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had started walking regularly again at the local park. Back in the late '70s and early '80s Joyce and I did a lot of running and walking there. In those days, the park had a walking trail that was covered with cinders which made a run very easy on the feet but not so good on your car's carpets afterward.

The trail was a 1.5 mile loop and the first .75 mile ran long through the trees beside a creek. There were wild squirrels everywhere. Most of the time they would scamper away as you ran by.

Nowdays, the park is even nicer. The walking trail is now a smooth asphalt band about 4-5 feet wide and although the old loop remains, a new part has been added that extends the loop to 2.25 miles.

We've noticed another significant change. The squirrels. They no longer scamper away in fear as you approach. They come toward you and stand upright with paws out in a begging position.

Over the years, more and more people used the walking trail to feed the squirrels. They would bring bags of peanuts to throw to the little bushy tailed critters. The squirrels soon learned not to be afraid. They also learned as the generations of squirrels came and went that they didn't have to work anymore to find food. Even in winter, people will walk along the trail and throw them nuts.

Yesterday, in the middle of my three mile walk, I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks. Beside the path a large tree had fallen into the creek and a squirrel stood up on top of the splintered stump, arms akimbo, looking down. He must have sensed me looking at him, so he raised his head and spoke to me.

"Hey you. Yeah, yeah, I'm mean you. Come over here and help me."

I stood there stupified. A talking squirrel?

"Hey, I'm talking to you, numbnuts. Get your ass over here and help me."

I walked over to the stump. The squirrel pointed down inside. "Look, he said. "When the tree broke apart this morning, I lost my roof. Everything's gonna be ruined if I don't get it moved to that other big tree over there."

I couldn't believe my eyes as I gazed down into the hollowed out stump. The squirrel's den resembled a plushly furnished man cave, complete with miniature hardwood floors, black leather recliners and sofas, two tiny refrigerators, and an expensive looking mini flatscreen TV.

"You live like a king," I said. "This is pretty danged cool."

"Thanks," he said. "I've got this squirrel chick I know who's an interior designer."

"But how do you afford it?"

He laughed and gave me a big toothy smile. "I'm cute. And the other squirrels say I have the midas touch when it comes to getting welfare nuts."

"Welfare nuts?"

"Yeah, that's what we all call them now. We're victims of urbanization. When the park came along it changed and damaged our way of life. We needed help and we got it. Help we can depend on, year after year. We can still work, but we don't have to now. The humans feel guilty and so they give us food if we're cute enough, or if we...Hey, I can look sad too."

He demonstrated by putting this "poor me" pouting expression on his face, spinning around, and then falling on his back with his little legs extended. He looked like he was dying or would die soon. I don't much like squirrels, or tree rats as some call them, but if I'd had a nut I would have given it to him. He was that good.

I turned and started to walk away.

"Hey, where you going? I need help here," he said.

"Sorry," I said. "You won't get any handouts or help from me. My advice is to get back to work again. Your real nature is too work hard and save up food for the winter, not lounge around and depend on human kindness."

"Look, I got a lotta friends here," he said. "Sometimes we get real hungry and band together in a group to attack an old slow walker like you. A little shin meat can be mighty tasty."

"Are you threatening me" I asked.

"Just stating a fact," he said.

"Ok, here's another fact for you. I got plenty of your kind around my house. They're not freeloaders like you; they make it on their own. But sometimes when they get too frisky and start running all over my roof and eating at my dormers or deck rails, I have to get out my Mossberg."

His eyes opened wide and he jumped off the stump and disappeared into the brush.

As I continued my walk, I noticed the squirrels up ahead scampering out of my way just like they did in the good old days.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When Things Fall to Pieces

Recent events in the news almost sound like one of those old country music songs. There's the David, Paula, Jill, and Holly "square" (as opposed to triangle). And now the possible John and Jill connection with the shirtless FBI agent caveat. Here's a little blogdrama about the mess with some musical help from Carl Smith and George Jones. 

The place was a dive near an army base and was called the All In. The neon beer signs provided most of the light and the floor was littered with peanut shells. It was late, and the place was almost empty. One guy was shirtless and sat alone in a booth at the back, drinking beer and taking photos of himself with his phone.

Another lone man sat at the bar drinking shots.

The man at the bar was an ex Army General who recently had also become an ex-big time government official, and he felt his life was falling apart around him. He'd been forced to resign his high position because of an affair. He put some coins in the juke box and ordered another shot.

As the song ended, another Army General entered. He looked like he'd been sleeping in his wrinkled uniform and his eyes were wild with worry. His command position was in jeopardy and he didn't know what to do. He too sat down at the bar.

The first general looked at him. "You too, John?" he said.

"Shit," said the general who'd just come in. "It's all your damn fault. You and that hussie you hooked up with." He put some coins in the jukebox and sat down.

The shirtless man at the booth in the back wiped a tear from his eye. He looked at a photo of the woman on his phone. He'd been removed from his assignment because of her and he just couldn't get her off his mind. He ordered a beer and put some coins in the jukebox.

When an affair (main street, back street or under the desk) crumbles, when somebody falls on hard times, or when a guy gets stuck on the unattainable, you can always find an old country song to echo the misery. Country music has already "been there, done that, and bought the tee shirt."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You for Your Service

Today is Veterans Day, the day the nation has set aside to honor those who served in the military, the countless men and women who have protected our way of life and our freedom since Revolutionary war times.

I picked out a few of the great Veterans Day posters that I like in order to honor our veterans and to thank them for their service. And a special "thanks for your service" to those I know personally who served: my son (Air Force), my brother (Army), my grandson (Navy), my classmates, my colleagues, my students, my friends over the years, and my friends in the blogosphere. I salute you all.

I like all of these posters, but, counting down from the top, I think I like #4 below the best. What's your favorite?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Two Reasons Why Republicans Lost

As expected, the pundits are out, slicing and dicing and pointing fingers.

Some say Romney's loss was because conservatives don't appeal to blacks and Hispanics. Some say we don't appeal to the young. Some say we should moderate and move the party more to the center. Others say we shouldn't moderate at all, just go full bore conservative. Some say it was all Romney's fault.

And there are many others. All on the first day after the election.

They probably all have a little bit of the truth.

Here's my take. I think were two reasons why we lost, the long running Progressive Pop Culture Complex, and Romney's "niceness."

First, I say we lost and will continue to lose because of the popular culture. Let's face it. The Progressives OWN the popular culture. What they've created is a dangerous monstrosity I've started calling the Progressive Pop Culture Complex (the PPCC). In his 1961 farewell address, Eisenhower warned against the unchecked powers of the "Military Industrial Complex." Today, we have to fear the PPCC, a dangerous mix of politicians, entertainers/artists, producers, and media people.

Sure, there are some conservative actors around. But the huge majority of movies, performers, producers, cinematographers, agents, agencies, studios, TV people, TV shows, artists, musicians, you name it, are "progressive" or liberal.

When I say "own," I mean that literally. They own the movie studios, the TV studios, the networks, the newspapers, the newsrooms. They pay the directors, the producers, the actors. They own the art and thus control/influence the artists and media people. They've used their money and the influence it creates for the past three or four decades to slowly change the country, change its values, change its direction, change its politics.

And how have Conservatives been portrayed? All of us are heartless and rich fat cats, ignorant unsophisticated rednecks, war mongers, and bigoted zombie racists. Progressives, who are responsible for developing the concept of "hate speech," feel free to use it against conservatives.

And don't look to journalists or the news media to investigate the PPCC or to defend conservatives or their ideas. The "news" media, once a proud bastion of free speech and journalistic integrity, is now a full voting member of the PPCC.

Secondly, Romney took the high road. He accepted the idea that Obama is a good guy. He refused to use any kind of attack that would label Obama as a socialist, he never made any use of the fact that Obama's administration was filled with questionable people (Van Jones, et al), and in the end, didn't really pursue the Benghazi issue after Obama's indignant response in the debate.

Romney ran an above board campaign that centered on Obama's performance on the economy. Obama and his team, in this race and in all the others he's run, have been willing to do what was necessary to win.  And say what you will, David Axelrod, Obama's campaign guy, can do the down and dirty. Remember Obama's campaign for senate? Remember those ads that implied Romney caused a woman to get cancer? Remember.... Well, you get the picture.

What the Republicans need is a new Lee Atwater type, Bush I's campaign guy and later head of the RNC. Atwater was a guy who did the down and dirty as well as anybody. He could be nasty as hell, just ask Michael Dukakis.

That's Atwater on the right with his pal Bush I. Looks like he's got his game face on, no? What about Karl Rove, you're probably gonna say? Sorry, but IMHO Rove has lost his mojo. He was wrong about a lot of stuff this year, plus he's a bit tainted by his association with Bush. We need a new guy, someone who knows how to expertly use that big tar brush. Someone who knows how to wield an axe. A pole axe at that. Someone to match the Dem's own Axe...lrod.

So, my remedy for the GOP is one of those two layer prescription tablets the doc gives you for some ailment. The first layer, the red "Atwater" layer, is quick acting and will provide short term relief. The second white layer with red and blue speckles, is a time release compound and involves wealthy GOP people buying into and/or creating their own popular culture propaganda factories and attracting more and more artists/entertainers to GOP ideas.

I'll end by reminding you that Lee Atwater combined both approaches--a professional ability to do the dirty, plus he was himself an entertainer. In case you've forgotten, Atwater was an accomplished blues guitarist and actually was a member of several successful bands. And these weren't just amateur wannabe groups. He played for Percy Sledge and B.B. King among others. 

What follows is a video from an album, Red, Hot, and Blue that features his guitar work along with the work of many other rhythm and blues artists of the '80s. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's a Blues Day

Well, it's all over now.

This election seems to mark the end of the old America, the one from way back in the 20th century, the one whose citizens had those quaint ideas of personal responsibility and limited government, as well as the patriotic notion of one doing what one could for one's country.

Now, we're mostly victims, or noble "helpers" of victims, or activists (God how I've come to hate that word, "activist" means somebody who is working hard to get the government to intervene or regulate even more). And most of us are takers, not givers. Our government is a gargantuan monstrosity. And we want the government to do more and more for us. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

We're blind to the consequences of these foolish ideas. Our debt is as large as the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Our China Express card and all the others in our expensive wallet are maxed out. The mortgage on our country is under water. And we just reelected the guy who put over a third of that bill on our cards in the last four years. But we don't seem to care. Apparently the money doesn't matter. And it doesn't seem to matter that our children will have to pay the price. One way or another.

It's over and I'm blue. So I'm playing some blues. It seems fitting.

Here's R. L. Burnside's "Death Bell Blues." This title says it all.

I saw this next guy, John Jackson, in '72 or '73 in Chattanooga when I attended a meeting of college English teachers. He played in a small room with only about 30 people in attendance. He was unbelievable. I bought his LP vinyl which I treasure to this day. He sings what I suppose is best labeled country blues. Whatever. It's blues. And it's good. The first one has an interesting and perhaps appropriate title, "That will Never Happen No More." The last one is "Red River Blues."

Goin' to bed now. Hope tomorrow is a better day.

UPDATE, November 7, 2012:

I'm feeling a little better this morning. Hope you are too. I'm adding one more song to this post to reflect my mood change. Hank Snow was a great picker. And he could do blues. Yeah, I know. He was a white guy. And country. But we get the blues too.

"I Don't Hurt Anymore" is one of his biggest hits. You still may be hurting, but you'll eventually get to the place Hank sings about.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Electoral College Map Prediction

The polls have been so danged screwy this year, almost as if they were being used to prop up the incumbent. You've got a virtual tie at the national level and Obama winning most of the "swing" states.

Speaking of which, did you hear the one about the uninformed playboy who moved to a "swing" state thinking he might find some action?...

Sorry about that. Anywhooo, it's time to place your bets.

If the election were a poker game and in order to bet on your candidate you had to put a $100 in the pot, would you bet on Romney?

I would. And here's how I think the electoral college will play out.

Romney... 295
Obama ....243

I used the map on the Town Hall site. I hope I'm being conservative in my picks. Check out the Romney states I picked, and tell me what you think.

Click on this link to see my prediction for the final electoral college map.

UPDATE: My prediction was wrong. Tonight, in my opinion, America made a big mistake.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Earliest Memory: Shadows of Fear

The earliest event I can recall in my long term memory is one that was associated with fear.

I was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1940. Since we moved out of the city when I was about four, I only have one memory from that first time my family lived in Nashville. Both of my parents have passed on now, Dad in 2007 and Mom in 2009. But earlier, when I mentioned this memory to them, neither could remember the night in question. It stuck with me all these years I suppose because it was so frightening to a three and a half year old kid.

In 1943-44, we lived in an apartment house across the street from the Nashville Auto Diesel College (That school is still going after all these years; it's now known as the Nashville campus of the Lincoln Technical College group. The big old main building of the campus is still there and shows up on their website.)

My father drove a Nashville city bus in those days and his schedule sometimes meant that Mom and I were alone at night.

On the night in question, Mother and I had been out somewhere in the city for a purpose now long since forgotten. We rode the bus down Gallatin Road and got off at our street. I remember that it was cold and I could see my frosty breath coming out. There were always several outside lights on at the Diesel College and the front porch of our apartment house received some of the light. As we walked down the street and came to our place, Mother thought she saw a shadow move across the front of our house.

She grabbed my arm and quickly pulled me down behind a bush that was growing in the front yard. She whispered and told me that she had seen a shadow of a man on our porch. Her voice was shaking and she gripped my arm tighter. She put her other hand over my mouth. "Be very quiet now. Don't talk. He may be trying to get us," she said.

We stayed crouched down that way for several minutes. As I looked at the front of the house trying to see what she had seen, I could feel my heart beating in my chest and felt a great urge to run away.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got up and went inside. Other than my feeling of fear as we crouched behind the bush and the image of shadows on the front of the porch, I don't remember anything else. We never saw a man.

What my Mom saw, I don't know. Maybe it was someone walking across the campus behind us and we saw his shadow on our porch. Maybe it was just some tree branches moving in the wind. It could have been anything.

Looking back now after all these years, Mom was always very fearful, very skitterish about anything out of the ordinary, afraid of this and terrified of that. I think she may have been scared and scarred by something in her childhood, something that made her fearful for most of her life. Her own mom had died when she was eight and soon thereafter a fearsome stepmother entered the picture. I suspect Mom's personality was partially molded by those events.

Her personality had other facets as well though. She wasn't a fearful and cowering individual. She conquered her fear of being in front of people in high school, for example, and developed a "Minnie Pearl" type comedy act with another young girl. They were quite a hit and appeared at civic meetings, etc. in all the surrounding counties in the early '30s. And as I grew up, I remember several instances of her standing her ground or standing up to someone who needed to be put in their place. She was strong. But fearful.

I don't think I grew up to be quite as cautious and worrisome as Mom, but it is a part of my makeup too. I sometimes experience night terrors and wake up in a sweat. Most of the time I'm trying to run away from some threat or trying to call out to warn someone about an imminent danger.

Maybe I'm still seeing those shadows on the porch.