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One week ago today, a small wildfire approached my father's house in Fountain, Florida. (It's an ironic name in hindsight.) The fire ignited several bales of hay he had just that morning stored in his pole barn. The barn stood no more than 20 yards from his house and no more than 100 yards from the entrance to his cattle pen. Naturally, Dad called the fire department then jumped into action with a garden hose.
How's that for the start of a dramatic story? I'll go ahead and tell you up front that the fire department put out the fire, and the house was saved. That's not what this blog post is about.
I wasn't there at the time, but as I hear it, armed agents of the Bay County Emergency Department arrived before the fire trucks did. And the officers, rather than jump in and help, ordered Dad to put down his hose and let the fire burn. I'll give them the benefit of doubt and assume that they wanted to "protect" Dad, not "serve" the fire. Dad didn't see it that way. He had called for help to extinguish the flames not for a group of spectators to the destruction of his property. So he refused to comply.
You can see where this is going now, can't you?
When father, who moved to middle-of-nowhere Florida to get away from authority figures, said he wouldn't put his hose down until the firemen arrived, the police attempted to arrest him. Note the use of the word "attempted" in the previous sentence. Dad didn't make it easy for them. For what it's worth, I'm led to believe no actual punches were thrown, but there was certainly something of a scuffle as the police tried to drag a 72-year-old man away from a fire.
Personally, I think Dad's reaction was understandable. After all, he believed his property and his livelihood was being threatened. Understandable, I say, but also unwise. Sometimes your best option is to let the world burn.
When the Bay County fire department finally arrived, Dad was unable to see it. He was sitting far away, handcuffed, in the back of a police cruiser. And he stayed in the back of that police cruiser for the five or so hours it took them to put the fire out. (I should say put it *mostly* out. It would flare up again the next day on the neighbor's property and the fire department would be called back to complete the job.)
As I already said, the house was fine. The animals were fine. And Dad was released from the police car eventually and allowed to go home where he was now, presumably, safe. An inconvenience, sure, but at least a happy ending. Right? Wrong.
Four days later, the Bay County Sheriff's Department returned and served a warrant their fellow officer had sworn out against my father for the crimes of Preventing or Obstructing Extinguishment of Fire (Florida Code Chapter 806.10) and Resisting Arrest with Violence (843.01), both Third Degree Felonies. They served the warrant one hour after court closed for the day, ensuring he would spend at least one night in jail until bond could be set the next afternoon. What nice guys, I say sarcastically.
Dad is now home — again — after paying a non-refundable 10% of the $6,500 bond to a bail bondsman. He's facing considerably more in lawyers fees to argue against a 10 year prison sentence. All because he panicked when the cops he didn't call demanded that he not try to save his own house from a wildfire.
If there's a lesson here, it's don't ask for help in Bay County, Florida. Either way, you're going to get burned.
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What my checks looked like in 2010:
What my checks looked like in 2014:
What my checks look like in 2018:
You don't become boring in one go. It seeps in over time. By the time you realize it, it's too late.
In 2005, I watched Super Bowl 39 between the Eagles and Patriots at my father's house in Buford, Georgia, with my father and brother on Dad's large (26") CRT TV. We were cheering for the Eagles because they were Trey's favorite team (and, so far as I know, still are).
I don't recall feeling much drama in that game. I was confident that the Patriots would find a way to repeat as Super Bowl champions. (This would be their 3rd win in 4 years.) After the game, Trey claimed that he also expected the loss to the reigning champions, and that it didn't bother him to come so close to winning a Super Bowl only to lose to a great team.
I think he was lying.
Tonight, in the Super Bowl 52 rematch, the Eagles were finally the better team. Congratulations, Trey. You don't have to lie anymore.
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While most of Georgia spent the past 24 hours stuck indoors looking at snow — not that they have a choice here in Coweta County as Newnan has declared a mandatory curfew — I've been stuck indoors in a bed. For the third time in 10 months, I'm sick.
Why does my phone come with the ability to take this photo pre-installed? Who needs this?
I haven't seen a doctor, but my symptoms are consistent with the flu. You know, that thing that's been killing people this year. Which is not to say that I think I'm going to die. I won't. (At least not right now. Not from this.)
I can't remember being sick three times in a year since my senior year in high school. In that case, I wasn't even sick, just using new excuses to play hooky. I spent "Senior Skip Day" as the only person in most of my classes because I'd already missed 30 days on the year. Poor Mr. Smith didn't know what to do with me, so we just talked about Hamlet.
I've got to figure out what I'm doing wrong these days. Is my diet deficient? Am I too reclusive? Am I just a filthy pig? Whatever the cause, I'm making it a priority to get it fixed in 2018.
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In 1977, my father took me to see Star Wars after he had already seen it once. He loved it and wanted me to love it too. I don't remember anything about that experience. I was only 2. However, we did have a VCR — it was huge with faux wood paneling — and I would watch the movie over and over and over again in the years following. We also recorded and rewatched the infamous Holiday Special.
In 1981, my father took me to see Empire Strikes Back in a theater after it had been playing a few weeks. I can't tell you exactly where. All I remember was that it had red walls in the lobby. Though at the time I was disappointed by the cliffhanger ending, I wasn't disappointed enough not to love all the cool new toys. Not long afterwards, my brother accidentally decapitated my original black-vested Han Solo figure, and my parents replaced him with a Han in Hoth gear. What a downgrade. (I retaliated by running over Trey's sensorscope R2-D2 with my bicycle.)
In 1983, my friend Greg Owens saw Return of the Jedi before I did. He complained the movie had too many purple-lipped talking dogs in it. Their catchphrase, Greg said, was "Eat your momma." When I finally saw it (again with my family, again theater unknown though probably in Stone Mountain, GA), his review was borne out. By Christmas, I had all the available Ewok action figures and a Wicket doll.
In 1999, I saw The Phantom Menace at the new Hollywood 24 theater in Atlanta with friends. The movie was fine enough — in fact I think I continue to like it more than many — but I was disappointed by how many people I spoke to seemed to love it for what they put into it, not what it was. Darth Maul, like Boba Fett before him, particularly irked me. Fans decided he was cool because he looked cool. Their love was for a thing they had created in their heads, not a character that had appeared on screen. This realization that fans loved the franchise not for what it was but for what they wanted it to be was the beginning of the end of my love affair with Star Wars. I have a hard time associating with people who worship style over substance.
In 2002, I watched Attack of the Clones at the United Artists Scottsdale Pavilions theater in Arizona with my brother. We both agreed the movie was terrible. Bad acting, worse writing. Between the forced romance and that CGI Artoo video game sequence, this film is almost unwatchable. I distinctly remember saying that the only reason anyone should pay money to see such a thing was to get out of the desert sun.
In 2005, I have no memory of watching Revenge of the Sith. My friend Keith has told me he remembers my laughter at the final reveal of Darth Vader, so I assume I watched it in Atlanta, presumably back at the Hollywood 24. It was awful. How could any so-called fans of the older Star Wars films still love this franchise after old Ben Kenobi was revealed as the kind of man who turned his back on his friends and his responsibilities, "master" Yoda was an isolationist failure, or Vader himself was a tantrum-throwing idiot? Weren't these supposed to be kids movies? Yuck! If this was the Star Wars Universe, I wanted no more part of it.
In 2015, I watched The Force Awakens at some theater on the north side of Atlanta with reserved seating in recliners that kept my feet from touching the ground. I didn't want to see it, but I'd made the mistake of saying I'd watch it if they found a way to bring Han Solo back. They did. I watched. I found it an insulting exercise in nostalgia. (Hey, guys, let's forget all that prequel nonsense. Remember what you liked about Star Wars? Here it is again!) It's now the highest grossing film of all time.
In 2016, I watched Rogue One at Regal Cinemas 11 in Panama City, Florida. It was my father's birthday present. It was a bad present. The movie was yet another excuse for brand reinforcement, a short story intended to fill gaps in the original Star Wars backstory with stereotypical yet well-costumed characters that would make good action figures.
In 2017, Disney released The Last Jedi. A new one already? As if I wasn't burnt out enough. I hear it's different. I hear this one will change everything I've ever thought about Star Wars. I feel like I've heard that before. Maybe I'll see it one day when it comes on television. Maybe. I'm not in any hurry anymore.
In both cases, I purchased tickets for face value directly from the NFL after winning the opportunity in the annual NFL Super Bowl Random Drawing. For years, so long as football fans sent in a certified letter before May, there was a chance they could buy tickets in November for that January's game. Hopefuls could enter only once per physical address, and each year over 30,000 requests were received for approximately 1,000 tickets. Those were long odds. Now they're worse.
This year, the NFL canceled the program.
Why did they do it? Who knows. The NFL didn't explain its thinking when it updated its website to let us know that we couldn't enter this year. The league hinted they've got something else in the works for next year's Super Bowl LII, but still no word on what it might be. Given the league's guiding principle is the same as Gordon Gekko's — "Greed is good" — I'm not expecting great things.
I'm disappointed in this development, but not mad. I did get to go twice, after all. That's two times more than most. Good times.
Mom dragged me out of bed Sunday to attend the 86th Cotton Pickin' Fair in Gay, Georgia. I was not enthusiastic about this.
Gay's twice-a-year Meriwether County "fair" is very similar to what Coweta County's Powers Crossroads Festival used to be, with arts and crafts vendors vying for attention and dollars. The Cotton Pickin' Fair supplements this with some antique dealers and a touch of history and civic pride. Bully for Gay! However, I wouldn't put it on my list of reasons to wake up early.
I've lived to be 41 years old without ever attending this semi-famous event. I wasn't interested in breaking that streak, but mothers never care about personal-best records. So one hour later, I was standing in front of a stage watching the Sole Momentum Cloggers and Rachel's Line Dancers amid the smells of cotton candy and barbecue.
We strolled through the fair for a few hours in perfect (unseasonably cool) weather. Mom bought a pair of carpenter bee traps, a $3 sausage biscuit, and a collar tag for Audrey's harness. I had a $5 helping of boiled peanuts from the Greenville Lions Club and a good time. Thanks, Mom!
In the end, the Cotton Pickin' Fair turned out to be way more fun than Mom's Saturday surprise: the "opportunity" to help pick-up and deliver two overstuffed sofas that she purchased at an estate sale. (The next person who tells me that I have it easy living in my mother's basement gets a punch in the teeth. Assuming I can raise my arms again by then.)
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to catch up on some sleep.
About a zillion posts ago, I posted a pic of my grandmother's newspaper wedding announcement. At the time, Cam asked for a pic of my grandfather to accompany it. Never let it be said that Walter doesn't follow through! (Eventually.)
Okay, I confess. That's not just my grandfather, and this certainly isn't his wedding photo. This is three generations of his family circa 1979. From left to right, that's my grandmother, my mother, Trey, my grandfather, and my aunt Kelley standing in the backyard of my grandparent's house. I still haven't identified the dapper little member of the Lollipop Guild in the front row.
(This reminds me of a true story: not too many years after this, I attended a Georgia State University initiative for "gifted" children on Saturday mornings. A local magazine ran an article on the class. I was mentioned, described as a snaggletoothed youngster who wore a fake watch. I cannot deny that I had snaggleteeth, but my Mickey Mouse watch worked just fine, thank you!)
I'm guessing that my father was the cameraman. He was big into photography back in the day. I have no idea why the family was framed so far to the right. That's bad composition technique. Visual scanning tendency in Western culture leads the eye naturally to the bottom right of an image, so you should balance the composition by keeping focus away from that edge. Sorry, Dad, but not everyone is cut out for art school.
On January 20, 1993, my high school A.P. American history teacher, Mrs. Pat Tidwell, let us watch the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton in the school media center (i.e., library) during class. The bell to end class rang before Clinton had actually been sworn in, so I remained behind for a few extra minutes before hustling to my next class, English Literature. I wore a purple pullover and blue jeans with a Miami Dolphins Starter® jacket.
Frankly, I don't remember that day all that well.
(What I do remember was that I was not (and remain not) a fan of Mr. Clinton. I found his campaign, including playing saxophone for Arsenio Hall and telling MTV that he smoked but didn't inhale, to be incredibly pandering. Gennifer Flowers didn't help my impression.)
Anyway, as I was preparing to leave, the band started playing "Hail to the Chief." Turning to the teacher, I quipped, "They should be playing the Beatles 'The Fool on the Hill'." I still think it's a pretty good joke.
I wrote all of that just to say that for Donald John Trump's inauguration on Friday, the band should play "Back in the U.S.S.R."
It's funny because it's true.
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There's only one more week remaining in this godforsaken presidential election, and still no one has answered the single most important question of our times: do the candidates wear boxers or briefs?
I'm of the MTV generation, and I recall when Bill Clinton was asked the question. His answer was "Usually briefs." Bernie Sanders said the same thing when Ellen asked him last year. But what about Trump? Or Hillary?
Personally, I used to wear standard white briefs until one evening in 1993, when an icebreaker at my coed freshman dorm had everyone trade underwear and mingle until we had all recovered our own. While everyone else revealed a pair of boxers or silk panties, my only option was a pair of tighty-whities. My underwear was very, very easy to recover. At least my name wasn't written in them.
You can imagine my humiliation. I spent the rest of the mixer sitting alone on a bench holding some stranger's underwear in the air. Scarred by that experience, I naturally changed my underwear preference. Now I only wear colored briefs. (The pair I'm wearing right now are navy blue.)
Based on my experience, I know that what you wear under your clothes says a lot about you. That's why it's so important to see what our presidential candidates are wearing. Trump, Hillary, it's time to drop your pants. It's a matter of national security.
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