Monday, April 25, 2011

Angel Flying too Close to the Ground

"So fly on, fly on, past the speed of sound.
I'd rather see you up, then see you down.
Leave me if you need to.
But I will still remember.
An angel flying too close to the ground."
Willie Nelson

Sometimes friendships, like angels, fall out of the clear blue sky.

I'm fortunate enough to have stumbled into such a friendship.

Now I don't claim this young woman is a literal angel. I'm always a little skeptical of those who claim to have met real angels. My doubt is based on accounts of such occurrences from the Bible. Those who met angels in the Bible were always scared out of their wits. They "fell on their faces as if dead," or were "sore afraid." I believe a few may have, to put it nicely, pooped in their pants (or peed their frocks, as it were). No touchy-feely cherub-faced angels are present in scripture.

No, this angel is more along the lines of the earthly concept. She's young, beautiful, hard-working, intelligent, and has a compassionate heart.

The Redhead and I first met Liz at a Mexican restaurant in a nearby town about a year ago. We had been told this place was the "real deal," and being lovers of authentic Mexican food, we decided to give it a try. It was as good as advertised--the best I've had anywhere in Alabama. We spent that original visit chatting with the wife of the owner. We do this at all Mexican restaurants--we try to speak a little Spanish, they try to speak a little English, we talk about our mutual interests. We didn't meet our soon-to-be friend on the first visit, but I did notice the only employee who was not Hispanic. She was easy to spot, because she never stopped moving--a veritable machine of the waitress arts--a blur of activity.

On our return trip, we were seated at a table in her section of the restaurant. I started the conversation with my standard joke for Caucasians who work in Mexican restaurants: "I sure hate to see these white Americans taking Mexican jobs." She actually laughed out loud (the Redhead has heard this one so many times that she rolls her eyes because she knows it's coming).

Over the next few trips, a friendship formed. I'm not sure why. Something just clicked. Perhaps she missed her parents back in Georgia. Perhaps we were on the lookout for a potential daughter-in-law. Who knows? But some sort of bond was formed, and we feel richer for it.

Over the months that followed we visited the restaurant about once a week. We eventually met her fiance', a fine young Mexican-American man. We met at other restaurants for dinner, we four, and talked about things of mutual interest: Mexico, the U.S., politics, the two languages, and our families. We dined together in each other's homes. The angel made us a delicious cake at Christmas and another one for my birthday. We rushed to the emergency room one night to check on her when she was sick.

And then came the night a month or so ago at the restaurant when the angel told us that she had to fly away. She was moving back to Georgia to help out with a sick grandmother.

That's what angels do, after all. They help when they are called on.

We traveled to Georgia this weekend to watch the angel and her handsome hombre tie the knot. It was a small ceremony--just family and a few friends--so we were honored to be included.

So now we are left with mixed emotions. We are sad and feel poorer knowing we will miss our friends. But we are equally pleased and happy to have witnessed young love as it embarks on the exciting but perilous journey of lives joined together. And we are thankful for the short time we had together.

Such is the experience of those who encounter angels. Their lives are never quite the same.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A New Radical

As I've stated many times before, I don't really care for politics. I don't like either side in the U.S. political system. I don't usually write about it because followers of both sides get mad--sometimes they even leave nasty comments and hurt my feelings.

O.K., I lied. They don't really hurt my feelings. If you don't like my writing, I suggest you do what Gomer told Barney one time: "Why don't you run up an alley and holler 'fish'?"

A sound bite from our current president on the news this morning is simply too good not to comment about. He said that the Republicans' plan to cut spending and trim the country's crippling debt is "radical."

This was a personal revelation for me. It's liberating. I plan to use it to change my life. I recommend that you do so as well. Think of the new freedom we'd all have if we will just adopt this simple philosophy.

Mortgage payment due? Don't send it. Drop them a note and tell them their expectations are "radical." Utility company: radicals. Car payment: radicals. Other bills? Just a bunch of radicals trying to impede your quality of life. Don't stand for it any more.

Join me in the newly formed "Radical Party." Everything's free, and we don't have to work any more.

Just think of it! We will all have more time to watch unlimited hours of Andy Griffith reruns--unless those radicals at the cable company cut off our signal.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alabama Book Festival

I spent a few hours yesterday at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery.

Four books were featured this year, and three hadn't even been colored in yet.

A little self-deprecating Alabama humor there...

Actually, the festival was well-done, as usual, thanks to the hard work of Jeannie Thompson and all the good folks from the Alabama Writers' Forum. A very nice crowd turned out, this in spite of the fact that the night before a large portion of the state was in peril of being destroyed by a line of storms that dropped tornadoes willy-nilly across the countryside.

The festival always offers something for anyone who loves books. High culture mixed with a festive spirit. Happy children with armloads of new treasures, and blue-haired old ladies browsing through the stacks of some of the best of Alabama literature. Several different venues scattered across Old Alabama Town that allow patrons and aspiring writers to listen to readings and question some of their favorite authors from a variety of genres.

I have a confession to make--one that will no doubt draw contempt from some of my writer friends and confirm my true hillbilly nature. I skipped the poetry tent. This in spite of the fact that there were some very fine poets in attendance this year.

Now don't get me wrong. I love poetry. I try to read a poem each day, and I have great respect for the craft--a deep admiration for writers who have the ability to arrange words so sparsely and yet so beautifully. I even try to write some poems occasionally, but quickly find that I'm a rank amateur with little hope of ever writing anything really good.

But there is something in me that does not enjoy hearing poetry read by the author. It always seems a little pretentious and awkward. Something about the medium to me is intensely private. I feel as though I'm listening to a love letter, or eavesdropping on a private conversation. I am fidgety and unsure of how I should react. Should I stare unblinking at the poet? Should I look at my shoes? Should I smile or try to maintain a countenance that bespeaks deep concentration?

Perhaps I just need to be properly trained.

It reminds me of my early college days, when I took a public speaking course that required dramatic readings. On poetry day, I read a well-known poem that I liked a lot, only to be publicly humiliated by the linguistics professor.

"You have the rhythm and cadence all wrong!" His face was red, and he looked as if I had just strangled a puppy.

"Who on earth taught you that poem? Where did you hear it read that way?"

"Well, sir," I replied as I looked at my shoes, "it was the poetry professor right down the hall."

Poets are a passionate lot. I think I'll stick with blogging. There's little chance anyone will ever ask me to read this stuff out loud.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I'm up this morning to find that our computer, television, and other appliances are unplugged from the electrical outlets. I get the coffee started and systematically reconnect to the grid.

Coffee in hand and caffeine beginning to work it's magic, I vaguely remember flipping to the weather channel before heading off to bed last night. Watches and warnings flashing across the bottom of the T.V. screen, Cantore's melodramatic pleas to take precautions, and a particularly nasty looking line of red on the radar.

Big thunderstorms headed our way.

Of course, I don't need the Weather Channel to know this. My little female boxer is terrified of thunderstorms. She can sense their approach several hours before they arrive. She is nervously pacing throughout the evening. Pacing or laying at the Redhead's feet. Or maybe a more accurate description would be she's laying on the Redhead's feet.

I go to bed. I have a rather relaxed view about weather. Storms don't bother me. It shall be what it shall be. Nothing I can do about it. Might as well join Jesus for some quality sleep in the boat. Plenty of others to worry and fret without me.

As I sip my coffee and await daylight, a quick review of television and Internet sites indicate that the storm was a real rip-snorter. Scenes across the South of power lines down, golf ball-sized hail, and trees blown over. A map on the Weather Channel shows how many thousand lightning strikes occurred across our area.

It seems there was a big storm last night after all.

I guess I'll have to take their word for it. It didn't wake me up.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Politician

I ran across this relic of Alabama politics in the little north Alabama town of Cullman a few weeks ago. It reminded me of my childhood and the little bulldog of a man who became synonymous with the State. He will likely always be remembered for his segregationist views, though I believe he was no different from most of the politicians of today. He said what he thought he needed to say to get votes.

Wallace started his career as a Circuit Judge in Alabama, where he gained a reputation for fairness. Although he upheld segregationist laws that were on the books in that day, there is no historical evidence of any personal racism in his rulings. In fact, quite the contrary. J.L. Chestnut, a black attorney, recalled that Wallace was the first judge ever to call him "Mister" in the courtroom.

Wallace's political views took a decided racial turn after he lost his first run for Alabama Governor in 1958. His opponent, John Patterson, ran with the backing of the Ku Klux Klan, while Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP.

His racial rhetoric began to increase in the 60's, and his popularity exploded. When questioned about the change in his political strategy, Wallace said "You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been a part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor."

Wallace was elected as Alabama's governor several times and made a few runs at the White House. His most successful attempt was in 1972, when his bid was effectively ended in Maryland by an assassination attempt that left him paralyzed from the waist down. It's interesting to me that he had toned down his racial rhetoric in favor of a "law and order and state's rights" platform. These ideas have been a large part of the Republican party platform ever since, and have largely transformed the South from a Democratic to a Republican stronghold.

I remember the day he was shot very well. I was a child of desegregation, and I remember being surprised by the whole thing. I thought everyone loved George Wallace. I was at little league baseball practice when I heard the news that he had been shot. I recall asking one of my black friends if he had heard and he laughed and said "Yeah, my daddy said somebody bounced a bullet off his head."

I was confused about the reaction, so I asked my mom about it when I got home. She said, "Well you know son, a lot of black folks don't like George Wallace."

There were people who didn't like George Wallace. Who knew?

Kids watched a lot less T.V. back then.