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  • There's Nothing Like The "N" Word

     

    It was hotter than a bitch yesterday.

    Let me pause for a second here and comment on the above statement. We all have used it, haven't we? It's one of those time-worn phrases that says so much and everybody understands, but exactly what are we talking about here? How hot exactly is a bitch? And are we talking about a bitch in heat, and if so are we speaking of a pooch or the female of our species? There's a litany of these tossed-off comments that have always befuddled me. Like, "It's colder than a well-digger's ass out there." Really. What is the surface temp of a well-digger's ass, pray tell? And have you ever grabbed a well-digger by the ass and given it the old "let me check your temperature" squeeze? I've never met a well-digger myself, but I assume that because of the nature of the work they'd tend to be burly no-nonsense types and an impromptu fondling of their buttocks, even for an asexual check of the temperature, would result in a bunch of fives to the face. See what I mean? Ancient homilies such as these might have made sense in the Middle Ages, when there may have been a well digger in every family but not now, so why do we persist in using them?

    Which brings me back to the original point of my story: it was hotter than a bitch yesterday, and I hankered a cold brew to take the edge off the heat. I remembered a saloon a few minutes away that served shorties, beer in 7 oz. bottles that because of their size didn't go tepid in the bottle. Not many places serve them any more, they're just not practical, but they were very popular back in the day when working class Americans enjoyed a cold one after a hard day on the job but they didn't want to have their brewskis go warm on them. Hard working guys like frosty-assed well diggers. I took the short drive to luxuriate in the tavern's air-conditioned comfort, maybe take in the Cubs game (nothing like a little self-flagellation on a blistering summer's day) and just basically take the edge off the temperature.

    The tavern was empty, except for a bartender who looked a few days over 21 and whose face hadn't as of yet seen a razor, and a mangy mutt of a man who was in the process of delivering a lecture to the lad. He looked like trouble, so I sat at the other end of the long bar and ordered a shorty. It was ice-cold and incredibly refreshing and I'd have it downed in a long gulp or two while it was still frigid. That's why you order a shorty.

    It looked like I had made the right choice: quiet tavern, properly air-conditioned, plenty of shorties in the cooler and the hapless Cubs floundering on the field. I could be alone with my shorties and my thoughts. Nirvana.

    Au contraire. The mutt at the other end of the bar now realized he had a wider audience, me, besides the green behind the ears bartender. He stood on the tips of his toes and raised his voice to a quiet bellow, staring in my direction as he commenced his harangue. "Yeah, that dog o' mine, he's mean. And he's nasty."

    I groaned. So much for a quiet hour or two with me and my shorties.

    "Yeah," he continued. I caught him out of the corner of my eye. I was the other gray-haired eminence in the room. He was searching for support from one of his own generation. Then he dropped the bomb.

    "Yeah, that dog is mean and he's nasty and he hates NIGGERS." He emphasized the word loudly as he stared directly at me.

    He chuckled. "Niggers hate dogs. And MY dog hates niggers."

    I'm 64 years old and heard a lot of that kind of dumb-ass talk years ago, especially in surroundings like this, but it had been so long that I'd actually heard someone vocally express what I know a lot of people still feel deep down in the private hells of their souls that it rocked me back. Why would he indulge me with his racist fantasies? I suspected that alcohol had a lot to do with this guy's polemic, but I also wondered what exactly prompted him to think that I was one of his kind? I mean, did I look the part, like some sort of sheet-shrouded time-warp Klansman with a burning cross in one hand and a noose in the other? I ignored him, taking another hit from the shorty which had suddenly gone sour. Unfortunately he took my silence as tacit approval and ramped up his invective.

    "If my daddy were alive today and he knew we had a NIGGER for President, why he'd roll over in his grave!" A statement which gave me some relief. The mighty oak from which this tiny acorn had sprouted was at least dead and buried. I wondered exactly what the dinner table conversation had been like when this geriatric white supremacist was an adolescent lyncher-in-training. It must have been special.

    Which brings me around to the point of this tale: words do carry weight, whether it's things like a well-digger's ass or a nigger, and we had best be advised that when we open our mouths and spew whatever it is we spew that there are consequences. Or at least should be, and that's the problem in today's America, the old "sticks and stones" debate. We put too much emphasis on the physical on not enough on the intellectual. Beating the literal shit out of someone is an egregious offense, but name-calling is a-okay. It's only words after all.

    Consequences . . . I stared at the dregs of my beer and pondered what I should do. Should I express righteous outrage and punch him in the nose? Or should I engage him in civil debate about the archaic nature of his opinions, and point out the magnificent contributions made by African-Americans to this great country? Having worked over 30 years in the bar business, I knew that his type only understood the punch in the nose, and also that he would not read it as righteous indignation but as just a simple pop to the proboscis. He wouldn't even understand why I'd slugged him, so why bother? Nothing I could do would change his mind, or his opinion, whether it was a conk on the noggin or a blistering  j'accuse. In this case silence would be golden.

    I downed the last slug of my beer, still icy-cold (that's why you order shorties), tossed a couple of bucks on the bar and walked out. Closing the door behind me I thought I heard him mutter "nigger lover."

    I felt pretty good about that, and walked a bit taller as I crossed the street to my car.

    But it was still hotter than a bitch.

    Lenny Palmer 7/31/2011

     

  • I Want Ashley Olson's Purse

     

    I have realized that all of my many financial woes can be solved by sporting a purse.

    Now before you go off half-cocked, screaming that I've finally come out of the closet please read this entire post first. Better yet, read the link to get a handle on what I'm talking about:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/27/ashley-olsen-backpack_n_910616.html

    On my AM radio gig I often refer to myself as the "Charlemagne of Stupid," chiefly because I have made every stupid mistake a man can make in his life and continue to do so. I was taught as a youngster to face up to my responsibilities so you'll hear no whining about the non-balance of my bank account here, but suffice it to say that a perfect storm of accident, circumstance and stupidity have brought me to my current unfortunate state. It wasn't always that way in my life, but that was then, this is now.

    Like a lot of people in the financial hurricane I spend countless hours daydreaming about scenarios that would spirit me out of the storm. It would take about 20 grand right now to wipe my slate clean. Loose change to Bill Gates, but a monetary Matterhorn to guys like me. A lot of my fantasies are centered on things like winning the lottery, or finding a bundle of anonymous cash lying around on a street somewhere. Not exactly a sound financial strategy but hell, when you have nothing you tend to dream about everything. And I have learned the painful lesson that a fantasy financial windfall isn't going to come with a lucky strike at a slot machine, a lottery ticket or a toss of the dice at a crap table. That philosophy has only put me deeper in the hole. Gambling is a recreational pursuit, not a device to build a nest egg. Then again you know that already, don't you?

    So imagine my surprise as I counted the pennies in my pocket until the next payday and read the story about Ashley Olson's purse. You remember her, don't you? She and her sister, Mary-Kate, were toddler stars on a TV show called "Full House" back in the 1980s-90s. My kids loved it, and I didn't mind them watching it because it offered tepid family style plots and little life's lessons that were perfectly tailored for a house full of children under the age of 10. Mary-Kate and Ashley grew up to be beautiful young ladies, made a bunch of forgettable films that grossed gazillions at the box office and parlayed their cash into capital "B" billions. Smart girls. The opposite of yours truly. They have the cash to indulge their wildest fantasies, and sometimes do. I don't begrudge them their dollars. I don't want to pry their bank accounts out of their cold, dead hands and redistribute their wealth to the needy (read "lazy"). No, I have much more pedestrian desires.

    I want Ashley Olson's purse. It's not a purse, really. At least according to the article. They're calling it a backpack, but it looks more like a purse to me. Whatever it is, she paid $39k for this alligator-skin sack, and I want it. Some swamp-dwelling throwback to the Jurassic sacrificed its life so this pampered cinema brat can tool around town with this overpriced reptilian pelt swinging from her shoulder? It just ain't right.

    So Ashley, if you read this post please consider this: your purse, I mean backpack, can save a poor sinner and right a life tilting toward financial Armageddon.  It would be the Christian thing to do. I'll even apologize for the "pampered cinema brat" reference above. To you it's fashion, to me it's salvation. Think about it.

    Now if you'll excuse me, there's a slot machine at the local casino that I know is ready to hit. I just hope I get there in time.

    Lenny Palmer 7/28/2011

     

  • I Knew Dozens of Amy Winehouses

     

    Back in the 1960s and into the 1970s my "friends" were dropping off like flies. Overdoses, suicides, car accidents, murders . . . you name it, they succumbed to it. The circumstances of their deaths all had one thing in common: drugs and alcohol, but because they weren't famous anorexic pop stars all of them left this earth unheralded and mourned only by a few friends and family members. Many of them, because of their addictions and pedal to the metal lifestyles, had alienated those close to them and their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers were only too happy to see them go to an early dirt nap.

    I still remember most of their names, and how they went. Donnie, who always packed a .357 magnum and waved it around recklessly when he'd had one too many. He crawled into a closet one night and put the cold steel of the barrel against his forehead and pulled the trigger. Dave, who passed out drunk, and was hot-shot by his buddies who thought it would be fun to spike him while he was comatose. He died without ever gaining consciousness. Barry, who was knifed by an irate husband and who crawled under a porch for safety and died there and was only found days later because a lady who complained about the smell thought a cat had crawled under her porch and died. Rita, anguishing over a romantic breakup, who turned the gas on in the oven and then while high as a kite lit a cigarette to wait for the gas to do its magic and blew herself and her apartment into smithereens.  Vic, Nick and . . . hell, I can't remember the third guy's name . . . hot rodding on country roads in a tiny British MG-3, drunk as skunks and sharing a hash pipe, piled the sporty little number into a tree while doing 70+ mph. There are others, so many others, who did themselves either intentionally or by accident; do we mourn them? Do we mourn them? Do we mourn the thousands, nay millions, who have tragically met their maker years before Amy Winehouse? Not hardly, but we gnash our teeth and beat our breasts over the tragic demise of a London waif with a talent for singing because why? Because a clique of high-powered media types whose experience with drugs is doing blow in their Central Park West digs with other illuminati and people who count have made it so. With the clickety-clack of their keyboard or hot air jawboning on radio and TV, Amy Winehouse had become the flavor of the week, if her story lasts that long. They will skin her, bone her and hang her rotting corpse out to dry and when the public has had their fill of it they will move on to another high-profile tragedy. That's the way it is. That's the nature of the beast.

    Amy Winehouse's tragic passing is sad, and we should mourn the loss of her talent, but should we not as well mourn those who have crashed and burned but without the media circus and gnashing of the multitude's teeth? There will now follow the inevitable discussion on the legalization of drugs, the prohibition of alcohol, the increased need for publicly funded social services, the demise of the family, affixing of blame, and many cold-hearted comments tossed off by caring individuals who should know better. It will all change nothing, and it will all disappear into the fog of the collective social consciousness until the next celebrity overdose.

    So, mourn Amy Winehouse. But not because of her talent, or her high-profile lifestyle, but rather because she left a grieving family and friends. That, dear reader, is where the rubber really meets the road. If we don't realize that we are all doomed, like my friend Donny, to die alone in a dark closet, the bang of the big gun echoing in the claustrophobic space, the stench of cordite hanging in the air.

    Lenny Palmer

    7/26/2011

     

  • Joe Six Pack

     

    "Joe Six Pack." That's how we used to sarcastically refer to the working guys who left home early every morning, metal lunch bucket in hand, to toil in my home town's many factories. The young people of my generation ridiculed them, thought they were stupid, and believed their lives to be humdrum nothingness. They were Joe Six Pack, their wives were Jane Six Pack. It didn't make any difference that they were our mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers; we believed them to be yardsticks of an unworthy life. We were going to change things, rearrange the world, tear down the ancient edifices of America and replace them with a shining new truth.

    The truth was we were stupid, not them. We were a pack of immature brats weaned on crackpot schemes and hare-brained ideas and a healthy dose of shame for America's largesse. We were going to make things better, bring democracy to the rest of the world, pull America's poor up by government bootstraps, and most of all we were not going to be our parents.

    To put it politely, we didn't know jack and yet we managed in the interim to render asunder the very foundation that ensured America's prosperity and greatness: the American family. I remember holding endless conversations (usually while stoned out of my brains as were my companions) that we should have no-fault divorce, that grubby factory jobs should be replaced by more esoteric and intellectual pursuits and America should surrender much of its great wealth to the world's less fortunate nations and most of all how silly it was to have a single partner in your emotional life. Sounded good at the time, but then tomfoolery usually seems logical while in the eye of the storm.

    This all would have been harmless youthful garbage had not we persisted in these infantile attitudes and actually set the legislative ball in motion on a lot of these immature and destructive concepts once we assumed power in the land. Look what has happened to America in the last four decades. Declining wealth and declining world prestige. Our former enemies now hold our markers and therefore the key to our prosperity. We have become a people soured on the future, with an electorate parsed so deeply that our political parties now operate in armed camps and savage the country between them and do it with our blessings. We, in our inimitable desire to better ourselves, destroyed the American family and used one of the titanic achievements of American history to accomplish the dastardly deed: the public schools. They became not only the educators of children but the feeders of children, the emotional crutches for children, the social network for children, the dispensers of mind-altering and mood-altering drugs and the arbiters of what constituted proper behavior for the nation's children. Our classrooms are now dominated by a 'sit down and shut up" philosophy and a "teach to tests" ethos that sours young minds and suffocates youthful idealism. Public schools have become America's de facto parents, and as the American family has come unraveled there is no one powerful enough to speak out against education and its taxpayer-funded trillions and therefore the destruction continues unabated.

    I never thought it would come  to this. That I would speak out so vociferously against that which I had vociferously defended scant decades earlier. Now that Joe and Jane Six Pack have pretty much disappeared and their workplaces replaced with weed-infested empty lots the evidence of the devastation is everywhere. The saloons that once occupied every other corner and catered to the working class with shots and beers and the ubiquitous Friday fish fry have been decimated, the neighborhood grocery stores which sold their sustenance and carried them on the books wiped off the map, the school lots where kids played baseball and football and jumped rope and hopscotched are now bereft of youth, and the family that regularly sat down together for supper in the evening has been replaced with a goofy mishmash of second and third marriages or loopy boyfriend/girlfriend relationships that confuse already confused children. Knowing this who can honestly say that we have made things better? Now, I like some of the polish we've put on America. I couldn't pen this column or post it without the benefit of this computer and the bully pulpit of the internet. We've gone a very long way in advancing the civil rights of formerly disenfranchised Americans. Who would have thought forty years ago that today's President would be black? My own daughters can now aspire to be doctors, while my sisters could only aspire to be nurses. Good things, all. But weighed against the absolute ravaging of our jobs base and the anchor of the American family we have gone backwards, not  forwards, in our pursuit of creating a better and greater nation.

    We argued for utopia and instead begat dystopia. I will admit it here: I was wrong. We were wrong.

    Unfortunately there is no way to turn back the clock, and the future is dark, and uncertain.

    As Miranda spake in The Tempest:
    O wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beauteous mankind 
    is! O brave new world
    That has such people in't!

    Lenny Palmer 7/23/2011

     

  • HEY STUPID!

     

    I spend a lot of time talking to people, on-air and off, and everyone I speak to talks about the sad state of the American economy. There are no jobs. There is no money, People are afraid. Afraid to spend. Afraid to travel. Employers are afraid to hire. Afraid to invest. They are holding on to what little they have like grim death. Meanwhile the assholes in Washington argue about raising the debt ceiling and about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. They are about as useful to us as tits on a bull, but in an effort to perhaps catch their attention on how to jump-start this pathetic economy I have one simple bit of advice for them, and please bear with me because I am going to shout, so here goes:

    HEY STUPID! YOU WANT TO JUMP-START THE ECONOMY? FLOOD THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE WITH CHEAP AMERICAN OIL! TAKE ALL TAXES OFF THE PRICE OF GAS AT THE PUMP AND DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET BACK TO $1.99 A GALLON! THIS COUNTRY RUNS ON FOSSIL FUELS, DIPSHIT, NOT WIND & SOLAR! IF YOU CUT THE PRICE OF GAS AT THE PUMP IN HALF THAT WILL PUT MORE MONEY BACK INTO EVERYONE'S POCKETS AND GET THEM BUYING SHIT AGAIN SO EMPLOYERS CAN START MAKING SHIT AGAIN AND HIRING BACK PEOPLE!!

    Sorry but you have to shout these days, and also use profanity to get an elected official's attention. Every thinking American knows what I just said above to be true, why don't the people elected to run this country get it? 99.99% of the American fleet runs on fossil fuels, including the trains, planes and trucks that deliver goods to the market. If we do what we have to do, including federal subsidies at the pump, to get the price of gas cut in half doesn't it stand to reason that more money will flow back into the economy? And that Americans will also reduce their crushing credit card debt? Every other country on the planet thinks of themselves first, but not us. We wring our hands in anguish over the right to vote for Afghani women, and send our young boys to that misbegotten fly speck of country to fight and die for this? While American children bankrupt themselves and their families for a college education, we subsidize the educations of non-citizens? While Americans fight to keep a modicum of health insurance, we hand it out free to non-citizens? While China drills for oil off the coast of Cuba, and Brazil drills three miles down into their ocean floor for oil we gnash our teeth over the fate of furry little critters most of us have never seen? I love the furry little critters as much as the next guy, but I love my children more, and I don't want to bequeath them a bankrupt former super power begging for scraps from our former enemies as my legacy to them. I believe the great majority of you out there agree with me, and that you care deeply about your children and grandchildren and your country, too. I want this to be a clean planet. I want us to expand renewable energy. I want us to protect God's creatures, but God damn it, not at the expense of our children! Why can't the pencil dicks in D. C. get it?

    I'll tell you why: because they're all about party first, the people second. They genuflect in our direction and pretend to care greatly about our plight as the bag men behind their thrones give them a wink and a nod and shove endless sacks stuffed with cash into their campaign coffers. You know it. I know it. They know it. And yet we all pretend it doesn't exist. We need common sense now more than ever and we instead receive hot air and hare-brained legislation.

    There is a historic precedent for this situation. Many think it's the American Revolution, but it is not. It is rather the revolution that followed on the heels of our own, when the people of France guillotined their king and set the stage for the Reign of Terror and the ascendency of Napoleon to the throne. It was the crass indifference of the nobility to the plight of the people who brought about violent change. I hope this won't happen here.

    No, I pray it won't happen here.

    Lenny Palmer 7/20/11

     

  • Would You Die For Your Country?

     

    Would you die for your country?

    I think the answer to that question for most Americans today would be "no."

    Now before you go off the deep end, ranting and raving that good ol' Lenny has finally crossed the line I want you to take a deep breath, count to ten and read to the end of this blog before you log in an angry response. I realize most of you would take the question as an affront to your patriotism and love for your country, but  please give the question a bit of reflection.

     

  • Pick Your Bogeyman

     

    I blew it on air yesterday.

    I have been known over the years for my volcanic ballistic rants; sometimes against elected officials or the politics of the day, sometimes against something a listener says during an on air conversation. Yesterday I went postal over a caller's comment. It went something like this:

    "Hi, this is Lenny. You're on the air. Who are we talking to and where are you calling from?"

    "This is Bill from Kenosha."

    "What's on your mind, Bill? Fire away."

    "Well," We had been talking about a recent "flash mob" incident in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood and apparent police inaction over the racially charged (black on white) attacks.

    Well," Bill continued. "What do you expect from a legal system when all of the elected officials are lawyers and they write the laws?"

    I'd heard the argument hundreds of times over the 15 years I've been on the air and gave Bill my standard response. "Let's not forget that a lot of the Founding Fathers were lawyers, Bill. Hell, Abe Lincoln was an attorney."

    Bill's quick response triggered my even quicker temper tantrum. "I know you have to say that because one of your sponsors is a law firm and you don't want to upset them," he said.

    Now, there is nothing I take more personally than my relationship with those who pay to have me endorse their products or services. I have to meet them, know them or try whatever they're selling and then approve it. I have rejected a few over the years and people know that I take my endorsements very seriously. If I endorse something I know not to be a solid product, or a is crappy restaurant, or a sleazy attorney, or a fly by night auto mechanic pretty soon my word will mean nothing, and if my word means nothing with my endorsements, what is my word worth when I report or comment on the local news? I teed off on Bill, told him he'd crossed the line and generally descended into one of the froth-at-the-mouth temper tantrums that used to punctuate my early shows. I'm going to do something unusual on today's show: I'm going to apologize to Bill. Not easy for an egomaniac like me to admit he was wrong.

    Wrong for losing my cool, I mean. But there was something else in Bill's comment that really set me on edge: his (and all of ours) propensity to find a bogeyman and blame that black hat for whatever social/political ill that has captured the national's nano-second attention span. So who is your bogeyman?

    Wal-Mart?
    I have a few buddies who pompously declare that they'll never buy the cheap Chinese goods at Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart has single-handedly ruined the American retailer. I always respond that Wal-Mart only responded to the desires of the American consumer. They respond by lifting their chins Mussolini-style in silent judgement. They buy their cheap Chinese goods at Target instead.

    The Greedy Lawyers?
    A favorite talk-radio whipping boy. Lawyers are repeatedly referred to as sharks, mercilessly feeding off a vulnerable public and writing laws that favor themselves. Lincoln was a lawyer. He wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. All by himself. In fact, many of our Presidents good and bad, were attorneys.

    The Greedy Doctors?
    I'm going to have three in my family. My older son is now a dentist on staff at Children's Memorial Hospital in Pittsburg. He graduated president of his class at NYU and owes about a half million in student loans. He is continuing his studies while he works and will become a pediatric dentist in two years. My older daughter is studying at the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque. She is going to become a nurse practitioner and will also continue her medical studies as she works. Her ultimate goal is to become an osteopath. My younger daughter is 18 months from graduating as an optometrist from the Chicago School of Optometry. She and her sister are also going to be deep in hock for student loans. I want them to make lots of money to pay off those loans, and am confident they will. They will all be fine health care providers, and should be well compensated for their efforts. I don't know about you, but if I'm going under the knife for any reason, I want the man/woman performing the procedure to be at the top of the pay scale. I don't want the doc cracking my chest and replacing my ticker to be on call from "Hearts R Us."

    Greedy Teachers?
    This is everybody's favorite whipping boy, and in this case sometimes they deserve it. I have found most teachers to be solid, hard-working folks but there are those few who do their damnedest to give the profession a bad name. Most of these are union firebrands. I have nothing against organized labor, but I have mixed feelings about teachers' unions, having been on the receiving end of their wrath for a perceived insult. That notwithstanding, we need good teachers dedicated to their task.

    Wall Street?
    This bunch has shot themselves in the foot so many times in the past few decades that it makes it tough to defend them. Suffice it to say that every damned retirement/pension plan in America is in the hands of these mopes, and if you think they're the devil incarnate you should probably pull your monies away from them. You won't, though, because all well-deserved criticism aside, these guys do know how to make money.

    Right Wing Hate Radio?
    I've been accused of this infinite times over the years, but nothing could be further from the truth. People hear what they want to hear, and will selectively edit a talk show host's comments to support their own views of said host.

    Left Wing Hate Radio?
    I've been accused of this infinite times over the years. Please check the previous comment.

    The Evil Drug Companies?
    Let's see: you want pills to pick you up, pills to slow you down, pills to cure your pain, pills to pump you up, pills to get your blood pumping, pills to lower your blood pressure, pills to fight infection, pills to get an erection, pills for this and pills for that and you want all of them now and you blame the drug companies for giving you what you demand?

    Knucklehead Politicians
    This is my favorite on-air whipping boy, and to tell you the truth it's gonna be very difficult to give our elected officials any positive credit these days. In fact, I can't. I believe this is the worst bunch we've had running this country from top to bottom since the 20 years prior to the Civil War, and you know what that bunch got us into. But we voted these guys in; the very few of us who vote, that is, and the responsibility for current crop of elected knuckleheads therefore lands directly into our collective lap. You get what you pay for. Or vote for, in this case.

    So there they are. Pick your poison. Have any favorites you think need any inclusion here?

    Let me finish with the quote made famous by Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

    Lenny Palmer 7/7/2011

     

  • Happy Birthday

    I was a real prick as a young man.

    A muscular 185 pounds, long-haired green-eyed handsome man, I believed the world revolved around me. I painted and wrote, competed in olympic-style weightlifting competitions, bounced at local bars and pretty much could pick and choose what woman I wanted to sleep with. I punched out drunks and my critics and those who just rubbed me the wrong way. Yeah, as I look back on it, I was a first-class ass and a young man headed to an early grave, maybe beaten to death in a bar brawl or shot dead by an irate husband. I had lived so much on the edge that my own father expressed surprise when I turned 30, stating that he fully expected me to meet a violent end long before that landmark birthday.

    Well, now I've doubled that 30 and added another four years, having reached the fabled 64 made famous in that long-ago Beatles' tune. The Fourth of July is my birthday, and I fully expected it to be another unremarkable day. I have spent the bulk of my last 15 birthdays pretty much alone. By choice, mind you. Because of my talk-radio career I could probably whip up a big party for myself at some local saloon, and it would be well-attended and people would bring me cards and gifts and probably bake me a cake or two but I have preferred the solitude of my own company on this halcyon day. I had stopped by a local Barnes & Noble the day before and purchased a birthday gift for myself, a book on the founders of this country; not the Jeffersons, Washingtons and Franklins, but those more pedestrian patriots who gave their all for the cause but because of their less patrician profiles have been mostly excluded from the history books. I had planned to spend a contemplative birthday delving into the lives of these forgotten patriots. Like many others of my generation I was raised by parents with almost no formal education but with a deep understanding that if their children were raised in a literate environment they could aspire to lives beyond their parents' modest achievements. For this I am eternally grateful. I believe that my love for reading and therefore understanding allowed me to make it to my thirtieth year and beyond, unlike many of those who I watched crash and burn around me. I attempted one day to count them, and quickly ran beyond my fingers and toes. Drug overdoses, suicides, car wrecks, murders, heart attacks and cancers; there were literally dozens of lives snuffed out too early because of poor personal decisions and reckless behavior. I was in the thick of it and yet here I am, now in my 64th year, still breathing, penning this blog. I have accomplished something important along the way. I have learned. There are others who have made it through the fiery trenches of their youth and who have not emotionally moved beyond their reckless years. They have not learned. I hope some day they experience the epiphany that visited me years ago. I pen these lines for them.

    Will Sun The Come Up In The Morning?
    Whenever I see young folks agonizing over some petty issue, I always ask them this question. The response is almost always a puzzled look. I tell them that no matter what their issue the sun will rise the next morning, whether they are here or not. A few get it, most don't. I got it. Long ago, and it keeps my uber-ego in check. Most of the time, anyway.

    History Is One Long Story Of One Person Trying To Take Another Person's Stuff
    As much as I want to believe in the glorious progression of humankind's march to collective self-realization, my studies have brought me to this mundane conclusion. Great battles, social uprisings, religious movements and collective intellectual rip tides are really based in the desire to possess what the other guy has. I thought about this yesterday when I watched "The Longest Day"on TV, musing that the men who hit those deadly beaches were first and foremost doing their best to stay alive and secondly trying to recoup what Der Fuehrer had taken from them and their allies. Hitler had taken their stuff by force. They were forcibly taking it back. I'm sorry and I'd love to paint a more glorious picture of that crucial event, but I cannot.

    Great Art Thrives Behind Fortified Walls
    The artist in me would like to fantasize that humankind's greatest creative spirits exist in open and free societies that have eschewed militarism and fixed borders, but my studies have shown the opposite to be true. The pyramids, the great Mayan temples, the intricately carved ivories of ancient China, the engineering achievements of ancient Rome, the monumental paintings and sculptures of the western world and philosophical writings of all cultures did not permeate from borderless, enlightened lands but from those societies who clearly defined who they were and what territory was theirs and protected it from those who attempted to violate their boundaries. Artists flourished under these conditions, many times decrying the very nationalism that enabled them to express their aesthetic vents.

    Know Who And What Is Most Important To You, And Fiercely Defend It
    Primitive societies understand this very well. We more cultured peoples shudder at the thought of cultivating valued intense personal relationships as a throwback to the days of the Dark Ages. We have been poisoned by this "federation of planets" nonsense, and it will be this most of all that will ultimately lead us to our own demise.

    Just Because A Lot Of People Accept It Doesn't Mean You Have To
    A lot of what society condones is crap. Just because it's the accepted opinion of the day doesn't mean it has to be yours. Today's prophet is usually tomorrow's punch line.

    It's Not The Reality, It's The Press Releases
    There are great artists, philosophers, religious leaders, generals and others who have been left in the backwash of history because they lacked their Boswells. Or, as Henry Ford so eloquently put it: "History is bunk!"

    Science Most Often Is Bullshit
    I have learned to ignore science which for the most part is as fickle as women's fashions. It's the facts I keep track of, because as the facts accumulate the science changes. The theories about dinosaurs from the mid-nineteenth century to the present are clear evidence of this. As new and more complete fossils were chipped from rock, the archaeology reconfigured itself. The cold-blooded, plodding, dull-witted behemoths of old have morphed into the swift, intelligent Raptors of "Jurassic Park." The facts, not the science, have enlightened our viewpoint.

    A Machine Wears Out Faster With Disuse
    Keep working. Keep thinking. Never say die. "Carpe Diem." Always.

    Lenny Palmer 7/5/2011

  • The Pop Tart Guy

     

    Sunday, July 3rd. I woke at 5 a. m. to a beautiful crystalline morning. Brewed a pot of hot black coffee, fired up the computer, checked e-mails & FB messages then decided to hit the supermarket before the holiday rush. I didn't relish the thought of jostling hurried fellow Americans filling shopping carts with soda, brats and beer so I was out the door and in the neighborhood supermarket a few minutes after they opened.

    There is no greater endorsement of the American way of life than the supermarket. There I was, roaming the aisles along a few other early birds, filling my cart with fresh fruits and veggies, dairy, a hot loaf of Italian bread right out of the oven, pasta, etc. I eat healthy, and my grocery cart mirrors my eating habits. The pot-bellied, skinny shanked guy in front of me at the checkout was a different breed of cat; his cart was loaded with Pop Tarts, 12 packs of soda, boxes of microwaveable meals, cheap white bread, candy, chips and donuts and plenty of alcoholic beverages. Let's refer to him as "The Pop Tart Guy." The food police would have screamed bloody murder at his selections. As it was I winced, but remembered that this was his choice and that if he chose to purchase every unhealthy item in the market, so be it. That is what the First Amendment is all about.

    I placed my selection on the counter after his and noticed with some pleasure that the Pop Tart Guy's cart, which was about as full as mine, cost him over $100, not including the carton of Marlboros he picked up on his way out the door. Mine was a few bucks over $50, and I gloated in self-satisfaction that not only was I treating my body better, but I was saving beaucoup bucks as I did it. Maybe he'd change his errant ways and see the light I mused, but that would be his decision, not mine.

    Feeling really good about myself, I loaded my groceries in my jalopy and chugged the few minutes back to my basement apartment, jammed the food in the fridge and created a breakfast of steamed new potatoes, fresh spinach and eggs and a wedge of Italian bread and washed it down with hot black coffee. I waited a few minutes and took 1,000 mg of chewable vitamin C and sat back to let my food settle before hitting the gym. Now before you go running to the "comments" section of my web site to lambast me for healthy living braggadocio, let me cut you off at the pass and say this little treatise is not a condemnation of the Pop Tart Guy, but rather a salute to this great country and the blessings it  provides to those of us fortunate enough to call it home.

    Example: I entered the supermarket and had before me a fabulous selection of goods from around the world, all available at reasonable prices and with no preset conditions for shopping. The corporate entity that owns this particular chain does their best on a daily basis to ensure that I am, and will remain, their loyal customer and won't switch allegiance to the other chain just down the street. Competition forces them to remain on their toes and provide their clientele with fresh goods at the best prices, or else they would soon go out of business. No one checks IDs at the door. Those of us from the most humble of circumstances are as welcome in the market as the uber-wealthy and privileged. No one asks for race, gender or creed as a requirement to shop. They are open during hours convenient to us, not them. You may pick and choose what you want to fill your cart with and what or why you purchase it is your owned damned business, not some snot-nosed busybody with nothing better to occupy his time than his desire to control your personal choices.

    To create my aforementioned breakfast I turned on my electric stove and heated up my fry pan, sautéed the 'taters, spinach and eggs and sat in front of the TV and watched the morning news. These few humble amenities are available to me at a reasonable cost and barring "acts of God" are reliably available. My water runs hot and cold and clean. When I use the bathroom, I can take a hot and cold shower as is my wish. When I flush my toilet, the waste is carried away and taken care of. I can blog on this computer, watch TV, listen to the radio or read a book, as is my choice. No one tells me what to write, what to watch on TV, what radio program requires my attention or what book to settle in with. Those decisions are all mine, and I thank this great country for the privilege and honor to do so.

    Do we have our problems in America? You bet we do. Do we argue and whine and complain and threaten and bitch and moan and wring our hands about the fate and decline of our nation? Yes, but it is in the American character to do so. We are always on the brink. According to us, anyway. We are always losing an arms race or an economic race or a space race or an Olympics race. According to us, anyway. We are always being threatened by immigrants, by commie labor organizers, by fascist corporate entities, by Big Brother public schools and by indifferent courts. According to us, anyway. We are the victims of our own arrogance and indifference, and are responsible for wars and climactic Armageddon, starving millions and oppressing nations. According to us, anyway.

    All this may be true, but in rebuttal may I humbly ask you to think of something as simple and egalitarian as your neighborhood supermarket, and me vs. the Pop Tart Guy. Were my choices better than his? According to me, and probably most of you, they were. But the real heart of the matter is not my fresh fruits and veggies vs. his Pop Tarts, but that the choices were there in the first place.

    No nation has ever done better than we in providing this most glorious of conundrums: do I get the fresh spinach or the Pop Tarts?

    Yes, it's as stupidly simple as that.

    Lenny Palmer, July 3, 2011

     

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