What My Horoscope Say

original painting by George Quaintance, photoshopped by I-and-I

 

 

Sagittarius, my name’s Wes. Half

Shetland pony, half man, half drunk,

Spunky, funky feetswise, street wise

Not so much. Hobbling on All Day IPA

Crutches, engaged to a duchess, a

Non bullshitter my horoscope say.

 

My horoscope say I promise more

than deliverable, say I so un-

diplo make Donald Trump

shiver with the faux pas machine

I be revving 24/7. A freedom craving

charming ass knave, it say.

 

But I know this cat born on the same day

who be ain’t at all like me, good at math,

half Chinese, don’t waste his time

pumping out faux funk, got good

teeth, non-nomadic, tactful, wrath

less, leave no mess, a Sagittarius?

 

Wonder what his horoscope say.

 

 

My Favorite Vulgarity

I can’t believe it’s been five years since Aaron James published Assholes, a Theory, a book that got me in trouble at school when I explained to a star student athlete breaking in the lunch line that he was an “asshole” according to a philosophical treatise I’d just read.

Much to my surprise, although a senior, the violator-of-queue-protocol told his mama, who called the higher-ups demanding an apology, which I refused to offer. “Would she rather I call him despicable?” I asked rhetorically, mentioned he was older than an acquaintance of mine killed in Nam, that I had offered the Anglo-Saxon descriptor in the context of a bone fide academic argument, etc. My bosses, to their credit, demurred. After graduation, I did, however, tell him that I was sorry calling him an asshole had upset him, but he claimed it hadn’t.

Anyway, “asshole” is an example of synecdoche, one of the gadgets poets use in their bag of tricks, a part standing for the whole, illustrated here in Eliot’s famous lines from “Prufrock”:

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

Synecdoche, a sort of cinematic device, focuses the mind’s eye on concrete images, renders the airy world of words in flashes of substantiality as we atomistically see the part and perceive the whole, our mental cinematographer panning out from the rugged claws to the crab itself and our imaginations morphing the symbol into meaning however our imaginations will.

In explaining this concept to students, I actually use asshole as in a despicable person to illustrate synecdoche because, flash, they immediately get it and tend not to forget it.

I have to admit I love the word [1] – almost a perfect spondee – bam-bam.  Not surprisingly, it comes to English via the Vikings [2], those juvenile delinquents with battle-axes, as one of my history professors described them.  Actually, though, according to Wiktionary.com (my OED doesn’t list asshole), its vulgar usage as a despicable person doesn’t appear until the 1950’s in of all places, the Harvard Advocate 137, March 1954.

Asshole’s popularity as a derisive term is not only evident in its broad usage but also in the number of offshoots it has spawned – assholery, assholic, etc.

But back to James’s book and his ruminations. He writes

Our theory has three main parts.  In interpersonal or cooperative relations, the asshole:

  1.  allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does so systematically;
  2.  does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement; and
  3.  is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of other people.

I say, bravo.

Professor James is less successful, however, in classifying assholes because he doesn’t base his division on one principle; therefore, he creates categories that overlap, e.g., the boorish asshole, the smug asshole, the asshole boss, the corporate asshole, the self-aggrandizing asshole.  Obviously, it’s easy to perceive a corporate boss like Donald Trump as being smug, self-aggrandizing, and boorish all in one.

Certainly, he is by far, according to James’s theory, the ass-holiest US president in this and the last century if not the most egregious of all time.

At any rate, I enjoyed James’s book and now that it’s five years old you can probably cop it for pennies on Amazon.


[1] Cognate with Norwegian rasshøl (“asshole”), Swedish arsle (“asshole”). Compare also German Arschloch (“asshole”). Attested from the 1370s, replacing earlier Old English earsþerl (“anus”, literally “arse thirl”). First recorded in Middle English, as ers hole (Glouc. Cath. Manuscript 19. No. I. , dated 1379, cited after OED), ars-hole (Bodleian Ashmole MS. 1396, dated ca. 1400, ed. Robert Von Fleischhacker as Lanfrank’s “Science of Cirurgie”, EETS 102, 1894, cited after OED.) Wikipedia.com

[2] Check out TC Boyle’s “We Are Norsemen” for a primer on Norse assholedom: “The idiot.  The pale, puny, unhardy idiot. A rage came over me at the thought of it – I shoved [the monk] aside and snatched up the book, thick pages, dark characters, the mystery and magic.  Snatched it up, me, a poet, a Norseman, an annihilator, an illiterate.  Snatched it up and and watched the old man’s suffering features as I fed it, page by filthy page, into the fire.  Ha!”

No Photo Survives

artist Martin Snipper

 

 

“Lordy, lordy,” my grandmama used to say,

and “over yonder” and “I swunny.” She was

fat and lazy and loving. Called me “Ducky Mo,”

 

played the piano at Sunday school, kept

her false teeth in a glass of water on

the bedside table, which I hated to see.

 

She liked it dark inside with the gas

heater going full blast, the dry heat

like an oven when you stepped

 

in the front door. She bruised easily,

my grandmama. She waddled, had silver

hair down to her waist, which she wore in

 

a bun. Cheap dresses. White cardigans.

In the hospital, the last time I saw her,

she looked terrible and terrified.

 

No photo of her survives.

 

There Is a Lounge in New Orleans

Out Back of Kermit’s Mother-in-Law Lounge

Introduction

With my pith helmet safely stowed in the overhead bin, photographer/videographer/grief counselor Loquacia Muldoon and I took our seats on a 6 a.m. Southwest flight bound for New Orleans. Jacob T Williams II, with whom I’ve been practicing anthropology going on 45 years, had invited us to his home base in the Big Easy to observe the peoples of that city doing what they do best, getting down.

As my regular readers know, when I practice ethnography, I try to blend with the people I’m observing by mimicking their garb, whether it be donning a Gamecock baseball cap to study a college football game or slithering into a silk dress and feathery boa to rub elbows with drag queens. In the case of New Orleans, though, I found I could dress pretty much normally just as long as I cocked my fedora at the appropriate angle, steeper than usual.

During the expedition, the events became more dramatic from day to day, each successive 24-hour period becoming more funktastic than the next, culminating in the patio area of the bad-ass-iest place I’ve ever set foot in, Kermit Ruffins’ Mother-in-Law Lounge up on North Claiborne in Treme.

Here is my report.

Front Door

Saturday

Our flight arriving just after noon, Jake himself retrieved us from the airport, then took us to an eating establishment called the Cochon Butcher. Mostly white the clientele, this establishment could have been mistaken for a Charleston eatery except for some of its decorative touches.

After a much-needed nap, we met Jake and his assistant Susan at Jefferson Square to catch a bit of Robert Cray, who was playing for free at the Barbecue and Blues Festival. I know, I know, the following statement is going to sound hypocritical, but the place was crawling with bourgeoisie, lazy white people lolling in lawn chairs, nodding sedately to the gentlemanly blues of Mr. Cray.

As Jake and Susan announced their departure, I mentioned I wanted to check out the Rock-n-Bowl. Jake informed me the brass band the Soul Brothers were playing there, so Loquacia and I hopped a Uber and made our way to the venue, a combination bowling alley, bar, and music showcase.

We caught the tail end of Papa John Gros’s set. Here, have gander:

The Soul Rebels were, of course, great, but the infirmity of age required I leave during their very first set. Oh, how the funk be wasted on the bachelorette party participants there dressed in their kitty kat kostumes.

Sunday

Jake mentioned that every Sunday various organizations sponsor a second line parade, so via google, I discovered one was happening on North Broad Street come one o’clock, so Loquacia and I, with photographic equipment in tow, tromped the two-mile, thirteen minute walk. When we arrived at the destination, the drizzle that had been falling went all downpour on us, but some friendly folk invited us to join them on a porch out of the rain.

While we were standing there, a float arrived claiming to be the Big Chief’s float, and some generous souls stood at the railing handing out half pints of some kind of clear liquor, and when those ran out, Mardi Gras beads.  Not wanting to intrude, Loquacia and I had to settle for refreshments provided by street vendors.

As we waited, a drummer in a wheelchair was playing his heart out, sounding like a full-fledged band, until finally the festivities got under way. The video below is the first line, and if you love soulfulness, you need to check it out.

Monday

Well, you might reckon that the line parade would be the apotheosis of the party, but, lo, no, on Monday afternoon Jake us took us to  Kermit’s Mother in Law Lounge, owned, obviously, by trumpeter Kermit Ruffins.  When we arrived, a trio was playing, maybe recording.  Only Jake, Loquacia, a couple of staff members, and I were inside. Here’s a peek.

An old man who seemed to be in maintenance introduced us to Spodie, aka Derrick Shezbie, who spent some time with us, pontificated, bore gifts, etc.

from left to right, humble ethnographer, Jake, and Spodie

Oh yeah, Kermit and Cyril Neville were also hanging around.  Kermit is a happy soul, smiling, generous with the fist pump, hospitable.  Loquacia played tetherball with a young teenager as ten or so adults tended to their hedonism.

Kermit in the pink hat, Cyril Neville with back facing the camera

Eventually it was nap time, and we had a farewell dinner at Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar, watched some youtube videos of Dr John and Etta, Muddy Waters, and the Eurythmics, but alas, the night was old, and so am I.

Tuesday

A mournful flight home, but the memories remain.

I Got a Hole in My Bucket List

I don’t like to work at home, so if I can’t (as the young people say) “do” essays at school, I prefer to “do” them in a bar. Two beers = six essays, and that’s my limit, an hour and a half’s work.

I drink slowly, caught in the aesthetic dissonance of delicious hops and comma splices as I scrawl my comments, making sure my desk, the surface of the bar, is dry.

No doubt many might consider this methodology unprofessional, but trust me, I possess a godlike laser-like remarkable better-than average-ability to focus and shut the rest of the world out as I assess and comment. There are too many distractions at home, too many memories, not enough presences.

However, this week I’ve finished my two sets of essays two days early, so tonight when I biked down to my joint on Second Street, I set out merely to savor a couple of All Day IPAs and consume one pork taco.

I mingled, talked to acquaintances. As usual, listened but said very little. Over the course of my stay, I heard three cool stories by three different narrators.   All three narratives had this in common: really bad shit going down 8 or 15 or 30 ago, but in the retelling, the narrators all smiled and laughed when recounting the horrors.

I’m only going to share the most frightening, because it’s definitely climbed to number one on my ever expanding anti-bucket list.

***

As it turns out, there was a high-speed chase on Folly Monday night. According to my source, the pursuit humped from Artic Avenue across to East Indian, which meant stop signs were run perpendicular to the main Folly Beach thoroughfares (if you can call them that).

Yipes!

My pal on the stool next to me offered that he himself had been a participant in a high-speed chase and was lucky enough to be allowed to drive his arrested pal’s car after the arrest.

Of course, we were all ears.

To edit a ten-minute narrative down to 30 seconds:

Peninsula Charleston.

A cop inhabited Gold Explorer looking down on a front seat of a parked vehicle loaded with cash and heroin.

The driver of that vehicle ignoring the command “don’t move” and taking off a la Tarentino.

Careening across the peninsula, the number of cop cars in pursuit growing and growing.

“It’s like a glow of blue,” the narrator says.

Now they going seventy-plus swallowing bags of dope like starving people raw oysters.

As they reach the summit of the Ravenel Bridge, they see the blue lights of Mt. Pleasant police headed their way.

“You done swallowing?” the driver asks.

“Yes,” the narrator answers.

They come to a stop on the bridge.

All the subsequent search yields is a long hidden cannabis pipe.

They don’t die from the ingestion.

Let’s strike high-speed chases off our bucket lists.*

You can listen to the this song courtesy of Mr. Tom Waits instead.  It’s a vicarious high speed chase extraordinaire.


*Of course, the assumption here is that you’ve already struck becoming a junkie off.

Hating Redheads, a Time Honored Tradition

“Red hair is my life long sorrow.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 

No doubt psychologists and philosophers have delved deeply into dynamics of hatred, how it develops, both physiologically and socially.

However, I’m a layman, unfamiliar with any such studies. It seems like a worthwhile line of questioning, though, especially in this land of mass shootings. I’m interested in what the latest research has to say.

I do believe through personal experience, however, that prejudice is learned, that Dylan Roof wasn’t born hating blacks. He picked racism up somewhere along his stumbling through youth in a land “where old times are not forgotten.”

Here’s a personal example that suggests racism is learned.

In the 90’s, my older son Harrison was into the Ghostbuster franchise, and Winston, the African American Ghostbuster, was his favorite.

One day when he and his brother Ned were playing with those action figures in the playroom, I said, “Harrison, you know, if you ever have a son, you can name him Winston,”

His response: “I will if he’s black.”

Here’s a better example found in that Flannery O’Connor story where a young boy and his grandfather are riding a train to Atlanta,. The boy Nelson has never seen an African American until he encounters a fellow passenger (who just happens to be his social-economic superior}.

A huge coffee-colored man was coming slowly forward. He had on a light suit and a yellow satin tie with a ruby pin in it. One of his hands rested on his stomach, which rode majestically under his buttoned coat, and in the other he held the head of a black walking stick that he picked up and set down with a deliberate outward motion each time he took a step. He was proceeding very slowly, his large brown eyes gazing over the heads of the passengers. He had a small white mustache and white crinkly hair. Behind him there were two young women, both coffee-colored, one in a yellow dress and one in a green. Their progress was kept at the rate of his and they chatted in low throaty voices as they followed him.

[. . .]

“What was that?” [the grandfather, Mr. Head] asked.

“A man,” the boy said and gave him an indignant look as if he were tired of having his intelligence insulted.

“What kind of a man?” Mr. Head persisted, his voice expressionless.

“A fat man,” Nelson said. He was beginning to feel that he had better be cautious.

“You don’t know what kind?” Mr. Head said in a final tone.

“An old man,” the boy said and had a sudden foreboding that he was not going to enjoy the day.

“That was a nigger,” Mr. Head said and sat back.

[. . .]

[Nelson] felt that the Negro had deliberately walked down the aisle in order to make a fool of him and he hated him with a fierce raw fresh hate; and also, he understood now why his grandfather disliked them.

* * *

But what, I wonder egocentrically, are the dynamics that give rise to a hatred of redheads? Even the webpage TV Tropes acknowledges the phenomenon:

“I’m gonna beat you like a redheaded stepchild.”

— LyleBuffy the Vampire Slayer

Redheads who are bullied, picked-on, beaten, or just plain hated for no reason other than having red hair. Sadly, this is not a Discredited Trope.

What is it about a having been born, no fault of your own, with a “carrot top” that makes some people despise you? Certainly, it’s not because you offer a convenient scapegoat for dispossessed Southerners who need to feel better about the lower rungs they inhabit on the social ladder. I mean, the lower classes of our region boasts wagon loads of gingers.

That some people hate redheads came to me early on, when I was 9 or so, at the post office in my hometown Summerville, SC. My mother had sent me inside to fetch the mail. As I turned the key to open a box, I heard a man, a complete stranger, say, “Red on the head like a dick on a dog.”

I realized at the time the remark was inaccurate. I had seen Paul Smith’s dog Champ do it with a neighbor’s dog, and I knew my hair wasn’t the color of a dog’s penis — not a pinkish hue – not even Irish orange – but what people called auburn.

I wasn’t so much insulted but surprised. It made me feel weird.

Flash forward 13 years. I’m a college freshman walking on a sidewalk with my pal Warren Moise, and a total stranger, much older than we, walking in the opposite direction, says in passing to me, “You ugly enough to raise a blister on a bulldog’s ass.”

I’m absolutely certain he said so because my red hair was shoulder length.

me in 1973

I was already late to class, so I let it be — although I would have liked to unleash a Jerry-Lee-Lewis barrage of Anglo-Saxon epithets on his cracker ass. I was pretty good high-flown cussing back then. Still am, as a matter of fact.

Anyway, once again, I knew even though my complexion was more pepperoni-like than Scandinavian, there was no way the sight of my visage spontaneously could erupt a serum filled pustule on a bulldog’s sphincter.

Still, it didn’t make my day, and obviously, I haven’t forgotten either incident.  But it raises the question what is it about redheads that they become unmated stepchildren ripe for abuse? All I can up with is people don’t dig differences. My dog Jack despised the 3-legged dog that used to hop past our house. I bet albinos receive their share of slurs. And what am I whining about anyway?   What little hair I have has gone white, though I do still support a galaxy of freckles from my ankles to my baldpate.

Holding His Leg, Screaming Something in Spanish, Still Breathing When I Walked Away

Suzanne Unrein, ” “Massacre”, 2006, Painting, Oil on Canvas,

We in the USA is exceptional, all right.

Exceptionally violent.[1]

Exceptionally stupid.[2]

Exceptionally greedy.[3]


[1] Americans killed on 9/11: 2,996; Americans killed by guns in 2017 so far: 11,652.

[2]  I have the right to access AK-47s because they will help me stave off a governmental attack (those strafing F-17s/those invading forces of D-Day).

Recently introduced legislation drafted to legalize silencers is called the “Hearing Protection Act.”

Republicans consider it insensitive to whisper gun control on the same day of a massacre.

[3] Check out how much your Senator or Representative has garnered from the NRA,  Bloody hands.