Purity

We had been exchanging stories along with shots and beers, Tank and I, on one particularly bitter winter day. The snow obscured the view of the busy street outside the tavern's wide windows and the wind hammered angrily at the fragile glass like the fists of Thor. Tank stared down at our pitiful few dollars on the bar. When they were gone we were, the both of us, tapped.

"Broke again," I said, motioning to our last few bills.

"There's a certain purity in being broke," he said in between slamming down his shot of whiskey and then chasing it with a slug of his tap beer. I opened my mouth to challenge him, but he silenced me with a raised hand.

"I said 'broke,'" he replied, answering my unasked question. "There's a big difference between being destitute and being broke. Broke is not having enough cash to buy a shot and beer, or maybe a second hamburger or cup of coffee at the diner. Destitute means you have nothing to eat, no place to sleep, and no prospects for getting either. Big difference."

He took another sip of his beer, and his eyes took on a faraway look, as if he were staring into a dark and painful past.

"I damned well know destitute," he said. "During the Depression. My father lost his farm, and we lost our home. There were no Hoovervilles where I came from. We built a shack in the woods out of tar paper, tin and fallen timber. We lived there for nearly four years, hunting and trapping to eat, like our neighbors and friends. The game warden kept well clear of us. His predecessor was shot dead one moonlit night, trying to arrest a man seining the river for fish for his family to eat. That warden got between a man and his family's survival. Nobody confessed to the crime. Nobody was charged, or convicted. There was one constable for three counties. People pretty much set their own rules and abided by them, or paid the price. Justice was meted out by your fellow citizens. It was swift and many times it was harsh.

We had less than nothing. They talk about the Depression in the big cities, where people had to wait in soup lines, and sold apples for a nickel. Hell, we didn't even have that. Those who were fortunate enough to keep their homes let their cats and dogs loose because they couldn't afford their upkeep. The dogs began to run in packs, pulling down livestock and poultry. There was even a story of them taking down a little girl and devouring her right in her own back yard. I can't say whether or not that was true, but I choose to believe it. It was that bad. Feral cats destroyed game birds; pheasant, grouse and doves, by the thousands. They were competing with us for the food supply, the cats and dogs, and we hunted them down and killed them. Everyone owned at least one gun. It meant the difference between starvation and survival. We gathered together in groups of dozens of hunters and flushed them out of the woods and shot them dead and buried them. If we left them where they lay they'd provide food for their brethren. Starve them, shoot them, poison them and then bury them deep; any way to rid the woods of them."

He laughed, shaking his head. "I wonder how people today would react to that story, that their precious little puppies and kitties would tear out their throats if they were hungry enough. I had thirteen brothers and sisters, and my mother died a few years into it and that left my dad and me and my two older brothers to take care of the little ones. Damn! It was hard!"

He shook his hand, as if waving away the bad memories. "No whining, mind you, just fact. It was tough, but I got through it and when I got to Korea and we were up there on the Yalu River and the winter wind blew down from the north and froze every goddamned thing that didn't move and some that did I saw men who weren't conditioned to take it just give in, lay down and freeze to death, as if their life wasn't worth the effort. I was used to the cold and the wind and the lack of food and toughing it out because that's what you did to make it through. There was no other option, except to lay down and die, and I sure as hell wasn't going that route. And when the Chinese hit us by the hundreds of thousands with those goddamned bugles blowing and human-wave attacks the weak tits among us had already been weeded out and those of us that were left fought back like demons. We then retreated through the most miserable conditions any army faced in American history and made it back to our reformed lines and when we got our strength back hit those slant-eyed sons of bitches like the fire-breathing dragons out of their own mythology. We mounted their skulls on pikes, and mounted the pikes on our tanks. We put the fear of God in those godless bastards, that's for sure."

He took a long drink of beer, his Adam's apple bobbing on his throat as he did. He set the glass down, still staring into the distant past. "Goddamn," he muttered. "We were tough. I was tough."

I had never heard him brag on himself and it was disconcerting to hear him do so. But he was right; he was tough, the toughest man I had ever met and now he was dead, gutted like a fish and discarded like trash on a filthy city side street. Tank Dupree, a man I had come to view as some sort of immortal Titan from Greek mythology was at this very moment sprawled out naked on the Medical Examiner's mortuary slab as they poked his wounds and probed his private parts for clues. I flushed in embarrassment for him. There is no goddamned justice in this world, only that which you make for yourself, and Tank Dupree was past that now.

I cursed and punched a fist into my palm.

This was nothing I could render onto canvas with brushes and oils. It was as if I weren't skilled enough to translate it's sordid and bloody reality into transcendent art. Maybe Pablo could on one of his best days, but not I, not now. This was real life, and I would have to face it with muscle, bone, sinew and brains. I couldn't imagine anyone having the physical capability and raw courage to take down Tank Dupree, but they had and they were out there, somewhere, poised and dangerous. Tank Dupree deserved justice--hard justice--and he wasn't going to find it in the system. I made a vow, sotto voce, to find and kill his murderer.

Before they had the chance to do the same to me.

Lenny Palmer 10/29/11
This is a chapter from my new novel, "Tricky Dick Nixon & the 5 Naked Nuns."

 

The Most Empowering Word

I don't like the term "empowerment," and its liberal application today to anything that justifies pissing away my tax dollars. Like the "I have a disability so you can pay my rent, utilities and food bills so I can sit around all day and smoke pot" empowerment line. I also don't like the word "community," as it applies to a certain race, religion or sexual preference. Like "the black community." What in the hell is that exactly? Is it a gated neighborhood, and do you need a ticket to enter and watch black folks eat fried chicken, rap and vote in a single massive block and only for the Democratic candidates? Or "the gay community," as if it were some sort of alternative planet where gay people sit around sipping Pink Squirrels in apartments furnished out of House Beautiful as they limp-wrist and lisp their way through discussions about accessorizing their wardrobe for the latest Cher concert? This parsing of our nation is incredibly destructive and does nothing to heal the deep divisions among us. It's why poverty pimps like Al Sharpton use them; it justifies his miserable existence, and allows him to paint himself as a leader of "the black community,"something he definitely is not, and which makes me doubly puke when I watch the simpering ring-kissers on MSNBC legitimize the man who brought you Tawana Brawley and race riots in New York. In case you've forgotten, here's a refresher course:
http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/30/nyregion/sharpton-arrested-in-protests.html

And oops, she was lying and Sharpton made himself a media hog and finally a media presence on the basis of that lie but who cares because we need a guy from the "black community" to round out our lily-white cast so we'll annoint him and forget about his rocky and prevaricating past and ooo! don't we feel good about ourselves and aren't we so liberal and cool and with it and Rastus could you serve more chablis and brie to our guests, please?

We may live in a video world, but words still mean things. Like "illegal alien." Pretty simple term, and one that lights up most Americans. It's straightforward and to the point: illegal, meaning against the law, and alien, meaning you don't belong here. But those who have a vested interest in "empowering" those who sneaked into America couldn't argue the point if that was the accepted label, so they did what benefitted them most; they changed the terminology. Illegal alien became "undocumented alien," and then morphed into "undocumented resident." See, they belong here too, they just don't have the papers to prove it, and your problem with their being here is just out-and-out racism you Nazi, sheet-draped, KKK thug. You flinched when I called you those names, didn't you? Hard to respond to being called a Nazi or KKK thug, isn't it? Did it force you to look down at your hands to see if you had to wash the soot off your hands after the latest cross burning? It takes a heart of steel and the soul of a lion to combat them but you can, if you use what is the most empowering word in the world:

"NO."

That's right, the simple word "no" can combat even the most vicious of critics and go a long way toward solving many of our problems in America today. You see the word every day: no passing zone, no swimming, no fishing, no hunting, no parking, and what may be the most insidious of all, the unspoken but understood concept in modern America of "no thinking." You know the sentiment is out there, and has inserted itself into the fabric of our nation: I am your elected representative and therefore I am smarter than you. I will do your thinking for you, and to help you along here is a check generously provided from me to you. "Give me liberty or give me death" has been replaced with "give me liberty or give me my check." I'd feel more comfortable about it if these elected philanthropists would cut us a personal check out of their multi-million dollar bank accounts, but that isn't going to happen, is it? They're in the business of fattening their bank statements, so any idea of sharing the wealth (their wealth) is out of the question. Never mind that the monies given to you are actually yours, cut out of a depleted national  treasury desperate for more tax dollars so politicians can bestow more largess upon their ignorant, humble subjects; you, all of us, have bought into this big lie. But you can fight back, using that simple, empowering word:

"No," I don't need the money. I can take care of myself, thank you.

"No," I am not a Nazi or KKK cross-burner. I do not want to exclude persons from locating here for any reason, and certainly not because of racial issues but there is a legal process for it and if that process can't handle the influx then perhaps we should re-examine it and tweak it to fit today's circumstances, but don't lay your name-calling bilge on me.

"No," I do not believe there is a black community, or gay community, or Hispanic community, or any other horse-hockey names you want to tag them with. I believe there is an American community, and that we all live and work and play and prosper within the protection of its borders and our magnificent Constitution.

"No," I don't need more rules and regulations to force me to eat what you eat, drink what you drink or to not smoke or read certain books or listen to certain radio programs. I am real, authentic grown-up person and can make those decisions for myself, thank you. And by the way; I don't need you harping on my children, either, or usurping my parental authority. They are my children and I have the ability to raise them to become responsible, caring adults.

Finally, and for those who are ostensibly running this mad house called America: "NO, you are NOT doing a good job. Your performance these last few decades has been execrable and in fact may be criminal. Back off and let the people decide for themselves once again. Take care of the roads and bridges, the sewage, the water and protect us from enemies foreign and domestic and leave the rest in our capable hands. We are not saying that we don't believe government has a place; it does. What we are saying is that you have forgotten exactly what that place is."

Parents of daughters lecture them to say no when boys become insistent. Parents of boys lecture their sons to say no to their most carnal of instincts. Responsible parents understand the disastrous fallout from out-of-wedlock births, and do their damnedest to prevent them by the liberal application of the word "no." It's not too difficult to make the leap from responsible parenthood to responsible citizenship.

Only we must remember that it is we who are the parents, and not those whom we have elected to represent us.

Lenny Palmer, 10/23/2011

 

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

You might remember me. I was the radio guy who interviewed you all those years ago when you were running for Illinois' junior senate seat and you were lighting up the world with your star presence. I compared the media coverage of you to Jesus' walking on water and raising the dead. Remember me now? If not, maybe this will shake up your memory: I asked you some stock questions about issues of the day and then as a final question asked you which cookie you would prefer: sugar, peanut butter or chocolate chip. You chose the chocolate chip and I congratulated you on your manly choice. Remember me now?

If not, it's no big deal. You went on to win the senate seat, capture the nation's imagination and then vaulted almost instantaneously into the Presidency. I remained at my position as a talk show host at both AM1050WLIP & AM1220WKRS, now as an 8-noon weekday host. I'm happy at what I do for a living, and hope you are, too.

But enough of the small talk.

You've had a pretty tough row to hoe since taking the oath of office. The economy tanked, and it seems nothing we do will resurrect it. There are proposals and counter proposals in Washington, and it seems everything you put on the table to encourage job growth is immediately attacked by your enemies. And your enemies are legion, many of them in your own party who expected you to lead from a far-left position and when you didn't they expressed disappointment and outrage. Too bad for them. They are nattering nabobs, you are the President. Best keep them at arm's length. You tried to placate them once and look what it got you. Everybody hated you, most of all those you were trying so hard to please.

I'm here to talk to you about jobs, and the economy. I took a ride to Milwaukee with my best buddy a couple of days ago on 1-94. The new construction, IMHO, is an absolute nightmare. A ganglion cyst of highways, tunnels and bridges that are as confusing as the Gordian Knot and twice as difficult to navigate. Milwaukee didn't need a new configuration for its highways; it needed a face lift, to be sure, but not a redo. But Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett and Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle were early and vociferous supporters of your presidential bid so when monies became available you tossed a cool $3 billion their way and they, like all good politicians, spent it all. A lot of road construction people were to put to work and that's a good thing, but now you're talking about another jolt of financial juice for infrastructure to put people back to work. I like the idea of creating jobs but I have to agree with my pal (he's a cop, and a damned good one) when he stated that all you'd be doing would be keeping the same people working at creating more useless projects like the one in Milwaukee. I mean, if you're in the roads and bridges business these have been halcyon days, but it's the rest of us out there who really need the help, Mr. President. Who is that, you ask? It's the men and women who sling hash for a living, or set up shots and beers behind the bar and depend on tips to make ends meet. The guys who crawl under the hood of your car and get it running in tip-top condition so it doesn't break down in the middle of a winter storm while you're on your way to work. The clerk at the retail store who helps your wife find a new outfit. The janitor polishing the floors in the public buildings, or the corporate offices or the corner saloon. The men and women driving the buses, or cabs, or ten wheelers or semis and who keep the country moving and get the goods to market. The guys who mow the lawns and dig the ditches and patch the roofs. The Wal-Mart greeters and yes, even the men and women who put in their time behind the microphone at community radio stations and inform listeners about local issues and relate storm news and traffic news and what's going on at the local museum or library.

You know, regular people.

They used to refer to us as "Joe and Jane Six-Pack," a tag some bristled at but I thought was complimentary. It meant you worked for a living, and weren't afraid to get your hands dirty and at the end of a long day you parked your keister on a stool at the corner saloon and had a few with your pals and workmates to take the edge off a rough day and talked the Bears and Packers and Cubs and Sox and politics and argued and laughed and sometimes even got into the occasional fist fight over some inane issue. You know, straight-up working folks.

Mr. President, WE need the jobs, and we're not going to get them by laying down more unneeded roads or bridges to nowhere. That will only  put more money into the pockets of those who have already been banking big bucks with current stimulus programs. It won't find its way to our pockets, and that's the point. WE need the jobs, and we need them now, or you may just see full-blown unrest on the streets that will make this Occupy Wall Street look like the limp-wristed protest that it really is. The streets very well may descend into uber-violent 1968 fists-flying anarchy with tear gas and truncheons and guns: real world hanging in the balance stuff, and the protesters would not be "dirty, filthy hippies," but the shattered and disenfranchised middle class. You're from Chicago, ask around, there are a few old dogs who'll relate to you how damned unpleasant all of that really was. Believe me, you don't want a reprise of that, especially under your watch.

So what do you do? It's easy, Mr.President: NOTHING. That's right, you do zero, zilch, nada, niente, zip. You have a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. Take a long, leisurely tour around your country and visit the places where people like my listeners and I live. And please don't turn these sojourns into media-hyped public relations stunts. Travel on the QT. Shake hands with us. Break bread with us. Listen to us, really listen to us. We're good, patriotic Americans and we care deeply about our country. We aren't the selfish, obese, ignorant louts that everyone says we are. We want to work, and contribute, but we are finding it increasingly difficult to do so with meddlesome legislators who seem to feel that they not only have the answers to everything but that they can actually cure our ills by piling more laws and restrictions upon existing laws and restrictions until we are suffocated by them. They treat us like little children, and we don't like it.

So that's it, Mr. President, in a nutshell. Do nothing and we'll take over from here. Take my word for it, the country will be in very good hands.

And here's my promise: if you do this and I get another shot at interviewing you I will not ask another loopy cookie question. Scout's Honor.

Sincerely, your friend,
Lenny

Lenny Palmer 10/18/2011

 

Dead Men

Because of the ages of my children (18-31) I still have a connect with what's going on in the younger generations these days, and what I am seeing and hearing not only distresses me, but scares the living shit out of me.

I heard this from the mouth of a high schooler a few days ago about a homework assignment: "It doesn't make a difference whether I get an A+ or a D-, I only have to pass the class."

As one raised with strict guidelines on excellence and doing a job well or not at all (as was most of my generation), I had trouble getting my mind around that casual remark. I responded by saying that it wasn't what the teacher expected that counted so much as what you expected from yourself. It fell on deaf ears. Had this been a singular instance of a young man who just didn't care I would have thought nothing of it, at least not enough to pen a blog, but unfortunately this type of attitude is endemic among young men today, and it has sapped the very lifeblood of our nation.

Now is the time for all of you "take our daughters to work day" screaming mimis to jump in and blast me for my testosterone-laced rant. Never mind that I have fathered two very accomplished daughters and encouraged them to make whatever life choices they thought best for themselves, I have discovered that reality has nothing to do with the politically motivated in America today. Take a position opposed to theirs, and you'll find yourself in their crosshairs, not because of lofty ideals but rather because you have threatened their political power, i. e., money. And I don't care what side of the political fence they're on, it's always the cash that drives the debate. Not that I'm telling you anything you don't know.

Back to the A+ vs. D- debate. You don't hear girls talk this way today. Girls are motivated, mollycoddled, told that they're special and encouraged to get a college degree. Boys on the other hand are shuffled through the system, pushed into graduation and then onto the street, turned loose on a society that has demonized the penis. Many turn to gangs, father babies without accepting responsibility for those babies, form opinions of women based on mindless TV shows or internet porn and happily become the recipients of government aid for home, food, clothing and shelter, many times sponging off a woman with low self esteem who may or may not have birthed one or more of their progeny.

MEN are not supposed to act this way. MEN are supposed to accept responsibility for their children, and honor their wives. WIVES, not girlfriends. MEN are supposed to work to support themselves and their families. MEN are supposed to be life templates for their children, and that means daughters and sons. MEN do not gang bang. MEN do not use drugs. MEN do not strike their wives. MEN sit down to dinner with their families and discuss family affairs with their wives and children. MEN will actually stand up and be counted when the times comes to do so.

Now before you go off accusing me of some Promise Keepers' rant, I want to make one point perfectly clear: I've violated a few of these sacred tenets myself. I am an imperfect being, a man, if you will, and I understand that these are rules that many of us want to follow and sometimes cannot, or will not. But we do need our Ten Commandments of What A Man Is Supposed To Be like those listed above, don't we?

And that is what young men need these days, and desperately so. MEN to lay down the rules and expect them to mature into MEN. No disrespect ladies; we all know and appreciate the sacred role of motherhood, but it's now time for MEN to stand up and be counted as MEN and tell our young boys that a D- is not acceptable, and not because the teacher says so, but because you have set higher standards for yourself both as an American and as a man.

If we can't stand up as a nation and admit this, then why birth boys at all? Because of our new social mores they have been cast adrift in the womb, dead men the second they take their first breath, sentenced to a life of lowered expectations, bad behavior and second-class status.

"It doesn't make a difference whether or not I get an A+ or a D-."

Yes it does, young man, it certainly does.

Lenny Palmer 9/27/2011

 

 

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