February 2007 Archives

"KONICHIWA, Y'ALL"

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In many years of dealing with many graduate students, I have consistently reiterated my belief that history is far too important for us to content ourselves with writing only for a bunch of professorial pointy-heads. Now at last I have proof positive that I practice what I preach. Instead of wasting his time on “Goodnight Moon” or “The Cat in the Hat,” Ryotaro Miyata has opted for my latest tome. Ryotaro’s dad, Ichiro, told me that his son was a little bit frightened by my jacket photo, but otherwise undeterred by my sometimes turgid prose. Apparently, he has a quibble or two with my take on Faulkner, but was nonetheless overheard recommending the book to several of his friends around the sandbox.
I’m sure that as soon as the folks at Oxford University Press get wind of this, there’ll be a rush to get my opus translated into Japanese and placed in the “kiddie lit” sections of all major bookstores over that way. Ryotaro disdains such puffery, of course, but after completing my book, he has been contemplating something a little lighter and asking about some guy named Gibbon.

IF YOU DON'T TELL, I WON'T ASK

One of my favorite Lewis Grizzard stories concerns the minister who pressures each member of his flock to stand and confess their most egregious sins. Assuring them of God’s forgiving grace, he exhorts them repeatedly to “Tell it all, Brother! Tell it All!” After a shocking litany of admissions to theft, adultery, drunkness and the like, the only unconfessed sinner left is a squirrely little guy cowering at the back of the church seeking desperately to avoid the preacher’s gaze as the Rev. and the rest of the congregation bombard him with a relentless chorus of “Tell it All Brother! Tell it all!” Finally, seeing that there is no hope of escape, the little guy rises meekly, and all but whispers, “Well, Preacher, one time I had sex with a goat.” At that point the church falls deadly quiet until the pastor finally admonishes, “Damn Brother! I don’t believe I’d ‘a told that!” The real point here may be that while God’s willingness to forgive may know no bounds, that of his ostensible followers clearly does. I also think this story illustrates that there are certain things about us that only God needs to know (and this may be a case where even He wishes he didn’t.)

I realize my sentiments are out of sync with the “Tell it all!” mentality that pervades the age of “My Space,” “Dr. Phil,” and the cell phone. Last weekend, my enjoyment of a UGA baseball game was greatly impaired by a guy who sat behind me and talked on his phone throughout most of the contest, making me privy, however unwittingly, to the news that his future son-in-law may be looking at jail time and his sister appears to be hitting the bottle a little hard these days. What can we expect, I guess, from people who hear Bob Dole, a former Republican nominee for President and a genuine war hero, touting Viagra.
That this phenomenon is not confined solely to this great land of ours is suggested by this piece from the British tabloid, The Sun, entitled “Farting Ruined My Sex Life,” which tells the sad tale (ouch!) of Lindsey Best, who explains in a lot more detail than we need:

“I had always been a bit farty, but when I was 20 it started to get worse.
Every time I had sex with my fiance I was in agony. I was really worried there might be something seriously wrong so I went to the doctor.
'It's all in your head,' he told me.
I was so constipated I had a bloated stomach which felt painful to touch from the outside.
If I visited a friend for dinner, my stomach would blow up and I would have stomach cramps. I felt awful.
But the wind was the worst aspect. Sometimes it would be quiet and deadly, other times it was very noisy.
I would even fart during sex - it kind of puts you off when you're worrying about breaking wind.
I would try to make a joke about it, but there's only so much you can do.
Eventually, the illness put so much strain on my relationship with my fiance, we broke up.”

Frankly, Lindsey, I don’t give a damn. I will say, however, that the poor guy is well-rid of a flatulent fornicator like you, especially one who would, dare I say, spill her guts, to a tabloid the way you did.
The story actually has a happy ending. It seems Lindsey finally sought help after learning about “The Spa of Embarrassing Illnesses programme.”
She soon discovered that “nearly everyone at the Spa of Embarrassing Illnesses has a condition because of emotions which create a disharmony in the body.
I found out mine came through the sadness and guilt from my parents splitting up when I was nine.”
In the end, the stirring tale of Lindsey’s flight from flatulence winds up bearing a suspicious resemblance to an info-mercial for a show featuring (I ain’t lyin,’ now) “The Spa of Embarrassing Illnesses” on UKTV.
It isn’t indicated whether Lindsey was compensated for her story, but don’t be surprised if news of her desperate but ultimately triumphant struggle to get the wind out of her guts propels her to stardom on this side of the pond as a spokeswoman for Beano.

WHERE EVERYBODY'S SOMEBODY

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(Thanks to good ol' Cheri, whose flash never disappoints, for the photos)


My friend Scott Hardigree pretty much nailed it when he described Texans as “southerners without the guilt.” Texans do in fact exhibit most of the traits that mark white southerners at their best, especially a “never met a stranger” friendliness and charm and a relaxed, down-home manner that would put even the most tightly torqued Yankee at ease. What they also possess more abundantly than most of us Deep South types, it seems to me, is an unapologetically exuberant sense of themselves. Although the racial history of Texas isn’t exactly pretty, it has not received the critical attention focused on the southeastern portion of the old Confederacy, and when the snotty northeastern elitists want to elevate themselves by casting aspersions on the backward country folk, Mississippi or Alabamians are much more vulnerable and inviting targets. There is a long-standing debate about how “southern” the Lone Star State really is, but most folks agree that the farther west you get in Texas, the less southern it becomes. My favorite effort to identify the precise spot where the South ends in Texas locates it at the first honky-tonk where the fights occur inside rather than out in the parking lot.
The Texas lifestyle is so appealing that newcomers sport bumper stickers explaining “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as quick as I could.” For enterprising entrepreneurs, Texan-wannabees represent a rich orchard ripe for the picking. As one of those wannabes, I can attest to this firsthand. Last weekend, several of us journeyed out to visit a former classmate from the Hart County High School Class of ’65, (You’ve heard of us, no doubt.) who lives near San Antonio. An excursion into the Texas hill country near Fredricksburg led us ultimately to Luckenbach, where Texan-ness has been perfected into a marvelously appealing commodity. Many of you will doubtless remember Willie and Waylon’s rendition of “Luckenbach, Texas,” which invited us to get back “to the basics of life” by going to this tiny paradise where everybody wears faded jeans and cowboy boots and sips away on longnecks until “ain’t nobody feeling no pain.” I can truthfully say that no one I saw in Luckenbach appeared to be feeling any discomfort whatsoever, and by the time we left, neither was I. After being mistaken for the band when we pulled up beside the dance hall, we made our way into a wonderful multipurpose facility, the Luckenbach Post Office/General Store/Bar. (That’s me outside the place beside a statue of Hondo Crouch, the irrepressible poet, visionary and promoter without portfolio who made Luckenbach a far bigger spot on the cultural map than it is on the geographic one.) After getting incredible deals on bumper stickers, a shirt, and a souvenir belt buckle, I made it back to the bar where, as luck would have it, an ol’ boy just happened to be cranking up on “Luckenbach, Texas.” In much same way that the girls all get prettier at closing time, as I mowed down the longnecks, he got to sounding and better and better, and I bought a copy of his CD after he promised to saying my favorite song, “Waltz Across Texas.”
By the time my traveling companions finally succeeded in dragging me out of the bar, I was totally sold on Luckenbach’s official slogan, “Welcome to Luckenbach, where everybody is somebody.” The next day, as I pondered about $150 worth of expenditures, I realized that its real charm lies in being a place where, briefly at least, everybody can be somebody else.

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