Never Far From a Waffle

On a sultry August afternoon I found myself in a car with my daughter, Audrey, driving from Auburn, Alabama to Athens, Georgia. Like the S.S. Minnow’s scheduled tour, this is a three-hour jaunt. Unlike the S.S. Minnow, we did finish our route in three hours.

The evening before, Audrey and I had flown to Atlanta to begin a tour of colleges she is considering (Audrey is a rising high school senior) and drove to Auburn for a visit the following day. On the trip from Atlanta to Auburn I noticed what seemed like a surprising number of Waffle Houses. For those of you not familiar with the South, Waffle House is a chain of restaurants principally located in Dixie. Breakfast food is the specialty, they never close, and the architecture is identical at each restaurant – essentially a building that is the size and has the charm of a double wide.

On the drive from Auburn to Athens, we started to count the number of Waffle Houses we passed. During this three-hour trip we saw 20 Waffle Houses. Now I didn’t keep a record of the spacing of these sightings, but assuming they were equally spaced, that means we saw a Waffle House every nine minutes. My thesis is that if you are in a car in Alabama or Georgia, you are never more than four and a half minutes from the nearest Waffle House. A comforting thought indeed if you suddenly have a craving for a waffle.


If it is in the Paper, It Must Be True

Many years ago I started collecting articles, headlines, and snippets that I saw in newspapers and found, well, “interesting”.  Some of these were innocent, with a turn of a phrase that no one caught before publication.  Others were clearly the work of someone who had just been fired or had a wicked sense of humor.  Unfortunately I lost my collection of clippings.  Some of these items have remained in my memory, and I would like to share them with you.  Enjoy.

Back in the days of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” the following headline appeared in 1991 in The Wall Street Journal:

  • Gay GI’s Told to Serve Now, Face Discharge Later

This was on purpose.  It is just too brilliant not to have been devised by a higher being.

This is verbatim from an article from a newspaper in South Central Texas.  Honestly, I am not making this up.

  • A 140-pound chimpanzee escaped from a research center by jumping more than 15 feet, snatched a tranquilizer dart gun from an animal worker and threatened police by flailing its arms before an officer shot and killed the animal last month, according to a new report.

    Officials said the University of Texas police officer who shot Tony shouted he was going to shoot before firing at the 17-year-old chimpanzee.

    The officer shouted at least twice that he was going to shoot,” the report said. “In fear for his safety, the officer then fired several times, striking the chimpanzee.”

You know what the problem is with chimpanzees?  THEY JUST WON’T LISTEN!

Newspapers are (or maybe were) a great source for learning about goings on in your community.  For example, I learned that the following team had won the 9-year old baseball league:

  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help Bombers

Those ISIS bastards aren’t going to know what hit them.

Newspapers were even helpful in informing you what to watch on TV by providing synopses of the series or movie.   The Manster, a 1962 movie starring Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, and Satoshi Nakamura, was described rather succinctly:

  • Reporter, injected with serum, turns into hairy monster

This was the very beginning of the anti-vaccination movement.  Damn you Dyneley!!

As newspapers have shrunk, so has the opportunity to find fun tidbits.  I will turn my attention to the internet, because we all know that you can take everything on the internet to the bank.  When I have sufficient material, I will return with Volume II.

Until the next time – YP

A Principled – and Flawed – Smokescreen

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
John Kenneth Galbraith

Political discourse in these days rarely gets deeper than a yard sign, bumper sticker, or tweet.  One of the ideas contributing to our current divide is that assistance from the government to the people unjustly punishes the “haves” in favor of the “have-nots”, and that public largess (seemingly distinct from private largess) provides a disincentive for people to help themselves.

This “disincentive” view is often combined with the belief that members of our society who have “made it” have done so through their personal perseverance, effort, and strength of character, while those who have not “made it” have failed through not just a lack of these characteristics, but because they possess an abundance of laziness, a lack of integrity, and an absence of morals.

But even a cursory thought uncovers that these two ideas are inconsistent.  First, according to this worldview, people at the bottom are there because they lack the good characteristics needed to succeed and possess the bad characteristics that prevent them from succeeding.  So how can providing help remove the incentive to accomplish what they are definitionally incapable of?

Another, shorter way to express the issue is the argument that equality of opportunity does not assure equality of outcome, nor should it.  As Rush Limbaugh so inartfully expressed this recently  “some people are just born to be slaves.”  It is futile and naïve to deny that some successful people have achieved success solely through their effort and character.  And it is just as futile and naïve to deny that some people through bad decisions and bad actions have squandered everything and are responsible for their desperate position in life.  But it should also be acknowledged by anyone who has been senescent for more than a few years that it is at least equally futile and naïve to believe that where someone fits on the economic spectrum is determined solely by his or her individual effort and character.  Yes, a certain percentage of people have succeeded economically because of their effort and character, and an additional percentage of people have failed because of their lack of effort and character.  But for the vast majority of people between these polar outposts, history, logic, and experience suggest that not only are personal characteristics not the determinative factors in success vs. failure, these characteristics are not even the most influential factors.

Nothing can get a tea baggers cholesterol thickened blood pumping faster than the thought of a “welfare Queen”.  Well, you ought to see me when I encounter someone who was born on third base acting like they hit a triple.

I will return to this topic periodically.

Until the next time – YP

The Only Thing We have to Fear is …

Snakes.  Texting drivers.  Necrotizing fasciitis. (That’s a new one for me, but now I don’t go anywhere unless I’m packing Neosporin and hydrogen peroxide.)  All quite rational fears.  If you’re not afraid of these, you should be.  Then there are the fears that are a little more unique.   Clowns.  Open spaces.  Birds.  If these fit you, fine; but I’ll stay with my paralyzing little acrophobia, thank you very much.

But finally we get to those fears that are just plain weird.  Cherophobia – the fear of “gaiety” (that’s of the “Gay 1890’s” kind, not the gay 1980’s kind) or happiness.  Octophobia – fear of the figure 8 (I can understand this if you’re on the golf course, but otherwise?).  Kolpophobia – the fear of genitals, esp. female genitals.  Enough said about that one.

So my weird phobia when I was young was a fear of large inland bodies of salt water.  Soundophobia?  Saltlakecityophobia?  Deadseaophobia?  Not sure this one has a scientific name.  But every summer since I was 6, my family went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a series of barrier Islands on the the coast WAY too far out from real land.  This required traversing large bodies of – you guessed it – inland salt water.  Pamlico Sound.  Albemarle Sound.  Roanoke Sound.  Croatan Sound.  I might as well have been crossing through the Valley of Death, and I was fearing plenty of evil.  The water was always dark, and seemed much rougher than a non-ocean should be.  I wasn’t sure what to be afraid of from that water, but I damn well knew that if I somehow ended up in that water, I would find out.  And I really, really didn’t want to know.

I’m older now.  That fear has subsided (I avoid Sounds now), only to be replaced by a much more troubling and embarrassing fear – Christian Rock.  Not like the Blarney Stone or anything, but music.  Now, I consider Silent Night the best song ever played between December 22 through the 24th.  I can hang with O Little Town of Bethlehem during the season.  What I am talking about is entirely different.  Here are some sample lyrics (each bullet point from different songs):

  • The white snow falls (I cannot see) On my black heart (In front of me)
  • You hold my hand so tight that it spills your blood.
  • He wraps Himself in light
    And darkness tries to hide
    It trembles at His voice
    Trembles at His voice

The hair on the back of my neck is standing on end.  I know there is plenty of stuff in Testament New and Old that can lead to some long nights with little sleep,but this stuff is just plain eerie.

Until the next time – YP

Dispatches from Young Paul

Saigon… shit; I’m still only in Saigon…

Judging by the title, this is to be the first in a series of musings, observations, rants, and dyspeptic releases from me – “Young Paul” (not my real name, but we’ve just met).  No particular emphasis as to topics, just things I find interesting, informative, perhaps humorous, or simply worthy of my disdain.

The first real post will be about fear.  Not the “I hear a noise”, “it’s a snake”, “You’re WHAT!” fear.  But the irrational, unexplainable type of fears we all have, but want no one to know.  I can’t wait to write it.  Wonder what it will say.

Until the next time – YP