1000 Words: Role Models

Professional athletes — along with rock and pop stars, television and movie actors, and billionaires — are our nation’s gods. We worship them. We think they’re made of tougher, smarter, sterner stuff than us, we run of the mill mopes. They have achieved their heights because they are better humans than the rest of us.

We pay them millions of dollars a year, we devour every bit of information imaginable about them, we mourn with them when they lose loved ones, and we celebrate with them when they get married or have children.

Should one such celebrity walk into a store or restaurant we happen to be in at the time, there comes a hush, then a murmur, and finally, a glorious frisson rises in everybody in the place. Even after the celebrity leaves, the room remains alive, electric, buzzing. We have laid eyes upon a descendant from Mount Olympus.

I’m going to concentrate on athletes here today. The point I’ll make can apply equally to actors, pop stars and billionaires. But one of my sports idols died this morning and, as I processed the news, I thought more and more about hero worship.

When I was 14 years old, the Chicago Blackhawks were a powerhouse in the National Hockey League. They were led by left wing Bobby Hull, dubbed the Golden Jet for his shock of wavy blond hair, his dazzling smile, and the excitement he generated whenever he rushed up the ice and took aim with his legendary slapshot.

NHL goaltenders at the time often didn’t wear masks and were known to stand in strong against fusillades of shots. Here’s a photo of the great goaltender Terry Sawchuck, the more severe of his facial gashes and contusions accurately reproduced by a Hollywood makeup artist to illustrate the perils he faced on a nightly basis.

Boston’s Gerry Cheevers was among the first generation of goalies to wear a mask. He drew stitches on it to denote every hit it took from a speeding puck. Here’s a photo of Cheevers and his mask:

The NHL puck was made of hard rubber with semi-sharp edges. Goalies, clearly, were a hard breed. But when Bobby Hull fired a shot, it often travelled at 100-plus miles per hour. I recall seeing a photo of one opposing goaltender actually flinching when Hull let loose a cannon shot against him. NHL goalies normally wouldn’t flinch if someone fired a howitzer at them. I wish I could find the photo now, but I can’t.

In any case, Bobby Hull was the greatest goal scorer in the history of the game at the time. Chicago loved him. He didn’t have to pay for a drink or a meal anywhere in the city.

I loved him, too — as much as I loved Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs.

Then one day I read in the Sun-Times that Bobby Hull’s wife had filed for divorce. Details came out in dribs and drabs. It eventually became clear that Hull hit his wife as easily as he slugged opposing brawlers on the ice. It was the first time I ever heard about a player’s private life. I was stunned.

Bobby Hull can’t have beaten his wife, I thought. He’s a Blackhawk. And I’m a Blackhawk fan.

Remember, I was 14.

At about the same time, certain women close to me suffered spousal abuse. I saw black eyes, puffed out jaws, grotesquely distended lips, all visited upon them by their husbands. My eyes were opened. By and by, I came to accept that men — too many men — hit their loving wives with the same force they’d use to subdue a rampaging drunk. And I came to accept that Bobby Hull, my hero, the greatest goal scorer in the history of the National Hockey League, did so, too.

The Hulls must have reconciled because their divorce wasn’t finalized until 1980. Hull got married again in 1984 and his second wife also accused him of physical abuse. In 1986, the police were called to quell a disturbance between them. She told the cops he’d hit her. As the cops tried to separate Hull from her, he assaulted them as well.

Now that domestic abuse is no longer a secret and the men who pummel their wives have been studied and analyzed from top to bottom, we know that when a woman finally makes the charge of violence against her husband, it’s only after the latest in a long history of such beatings.

Long ago, it became undeniable that Bobby Hull, the Golden Jet, was a miserable human being.

I put up a post on social media earlier today remarking that Bobby Hull, one of my teenaged heroes, had died overnight. Then, throughout the day, the more I thought about him, the more I regretted celebrating his life.

He was a thug. In fact, he was a criminal, even if no court had ever found him guilty of his crimes. That’s another common facet of abusive relationships. Wives, either fearful or overly forgiving, letting their husbands skate.

Years ago, when baseball player Barry Bonds was found to have bulked up using banned and illegal performance enhancing drugs, a guy I knew wondered how he’d explain the situation to his then-young son, who idolized Bonds. “What do I tell my son?” the guy asked.

“If you’re looking to professional athletes to be role models for your kids, if you expect them to be paragons of behavior and character, you’re speeding down a dangerous street,” I said.

In fact, the examples of Bobby Hull and Barry Bonds are perfect teaching moments. Parents should jump at the chance to explain that just because a guy can hit 73 home runs in a year or score 58 goals in a season, that doesn’t mean he is a great human being. He is only a great home run hitter or goal scorer. Period.

They are lessons that drive home the point that athletic prowess and human kindness and decency have no correlation. Sure, a great athlete can be a model citizen. But a police officer can be a goon, a doctor can be a scam artist, a schoolteacher can be a sadist. And the greatest goal scorer in the history of the National Hockey League can be a lout.

1000 Words: Words About…, well, Words

Every once in a while one of my more classically-oriented social media friends lets loose with a screed about people’s sloppy usage of the English language.

One fellow, a lawyer, and normally a tolerant soul, revealed a more unforgiving side of himself the other day. He was fed up to the gills with people who mangle the language, using the term “referenced,” for instance, in place of “referred to.” Other prosaic cardinal sins that eat away at his soul include the use of “impacted” in place of “affected,” and “folx” for people.

Me? The more contemporary usage of “impacted” strikes a particularly personal off-key chord. Anybody who’s undergone old-style chemotherapy likely knows the medical definition of “Impacted.” If you don’t know it, trust me, you don’t wanna.

In any case, my poor friend took a beating in response to his screed, with at least one person expressing wonder that a lawyer, no less, should lecture the populace on language. Lawyers, after all, are notorious for playing fast and loose with definitions and usages when the need arises. Take, for example, one of Bill Clinton’s lawyers trying to stonewall an inquiry into his client’s randy nature by trying to argue that fellatio wasn’t necessarily sex. And, you may recall, the beleaguered prez himself tried to throw a monkey wrench into one line of reasoning by quibbling over the definition of the word “is.”

Talking His Way Out of Trouble.

I’ve seen the term “folx” now and again. It’s from the same family as “latinx.” Both imply inclusivity, a noble aim, but both sound and read inelegant, even clumsy. Along the same line is the word “they,” meaning any one person without making mention of any perceived or chosen gender. One friend I know always refers to her child as “they.” See, I’ve violated this person’s wishes in this preceding sentence. This person would not prefer to be referred to (referenced?) as “her.” This despite the fact that as recently as ten years ago a person possessing a womb and who gestated a child therein was, without question, a “her.”

Many younger folx (people?) these days themselves are impatient with and intolerant of those who insist on using terms such as “he” or “she.” They operate under the assumption that someone who learned the language as much as sixty or seventy years ago should immediately and without question transition to the latest definitions. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy.

I know a person who is an upstanding member of the community, who is a hard worker, creative, responsible, an asset to any organization with whom she’s affiliated. We’re on quite friendly terms. Yet it’s only within the last few months or even weeks that I’ve been able to refrain from calling this person “him.” This person is transitioning.

I only wish we could devise some useful yet elegant term to refer to a person that doesn’t pigeonhole them (her? him?) gender-wise.

Go up a few of paragraphs and you’ll see a couple of mentions of the word “transition.” For 95 percent of my speaking life, I’ve know transition to be a noun. Now, more and more, it’s a verb, thanks in large part to the more contemporary usage of it in reference to gender.

Keep in mind my soul isn’t being eaten away by these verbal and written challenges.  I’m not angry or intolerant of them. And, really, neither is my lawyer friend, referred to above. I was simply using a literary device called hyperbole in the grand tradition of Mark Twain. He (they?) trusted his readership to understand he was making a point. Here’s the explanation of an example from “Huckleberry Finn”:

In declaring that he felt “trembly and feverish to be so close to freedom,” Jim uses a hyperbole to explain the extreme excitement and joy that comes from leaving a life of slavery behind him. By using hyperbolic language here, Twain establishes how high the stakes were for runaway enslaved people.

Gabriel García Márquez does the same thing in his (their?) story, “Living to Tell the Tale”:

At the time Bogota was a remote, lugubrious city where an insomniac rain had been falling since the beginning of the 16th century.

Wow. That’s quite a downpour, considering Márquez’s piece was published in 2002.

I wonder what Márquez’s thoughts are about the term “latinx”? Acc’d’g to a recent Pew Research poll, the vast majority of people (folx?) of Latin American descent, don’t like the term and refuse to use it. Yet it’s the preferred term for them in many — even most — reputable publishing sources.

Latinx?

All this is preamble to my main point: language is fluid, constantly changing. If it weren’t, then we’d all be speaking the same proto-language that homo habilis started using some two million years ago. That fluidity, that state of eternal flux verbiage has been stuck in for thousands of millennia has led to the rich global tapestry that human utterances have become today. And, for pity’s sake, neither cave dwellers, hunter-gatherers, semitic tribes, Alexandria’s library card holders, cloistered monks of the Dark Ages, America’s Founding Fathers, Marie Curie, or even the first editors of Ms. magazine would be able to succinctly describe a smartphone had not the term entered the language whether we wanted it to or not.

He (They) Speaks.

I get my lawyer friend’s frustration. I’ve felt it myself many a time. But understandings and definitions must always change. Take gender. In the year 1956, there were only two genders. Period. The people who — biologically, psychologically, hormonally, anatomically — did not fit into either of the two were simply ignored or, worse, made to feel insane. Slowly but surely we’re learning gender is more a spectrum than a barbell. Much more.

The language I learned as a two and three year old was woefully inadequate to allow me to contemplate things like Artificial Intelligence, colonialism, systemic racism, misogyny, toxic masculinity, and so many other things we discuss regularly today. And, I’m not just talking about it from a tot’s perspective. The intellectuals of that day would have been baffled by the things we take for granted now.

I like our fluid language. We need a language in flux. Even if it is annoying and frustrating at times.

1000 Words: Phony Realism and a Funny Organ

Two for the price of one today.

First, actor and film producer Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, acc’d’g to Santa Fe, New Mexico’s First Judicial District Attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies. On October 21, 2021, while filming a scene for a cowboy movie on a ranch in Santa Fe, a prop gun Baldwin was holding discharged, resulting in the death of the film’s cinematographer and the serious injury of its director.

Baldwin on the set of “Rust.”

Considering that Baldwin is a Hollywood A-Lister and there’s big dough behind any picture he appears in, it stands to reason his and the movie’s well-paid defense attorneys and prosecutors’ll be thumb-wrestling for weeks — even months — over who’s really responsible for the tragic accident. The film’s armorer is also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

One thing we learned in the aftermath of the incident is movies that feature gunplay have to have an expert called an armorer on the set during shooting (you’ll pardon the pun). “Armorers are responsible for the transport, storage, and safe use of all weaponry and firearms on film sets,” says the official job description issued by the International Alliance of Stage Employees. That’s the labor union representing many of the behind the scenes workers on a film.

Any number of film actors who actually use prop guns have come out to say they insist on testing their weapons for safety with the armorer before actually pulling any triggers.

I’ll leave that arm wrestling match to the lawyers. That’s what they get paid huge scratch for. Some individual or set of individuals, at the end of the upcoming trial, will bear the blame for the tragedy.

Me? I blame Hollywood. Period.

There is absolutely no reason on this Earth why guns that actually fire projectiles should be used while shooting a film.

Let’s go back to one of my favorite movies of all time, 1947’s “Kiss of Death.” In the movie’s final, climactic scene, Nick Bianco (Victor Mature), an ex-con trying to go straight, gets shot up by the lunatic killer, Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark). Bianco takes three or four slugs to the belly and tumbles to the pavement outside Louie’s Italian restaurant, where he’d been goading Udo. Bianco is seriously injured but survives the shooting. Udo tries to run from the cops, who are just arriving on the scene. The cops shoot Udo but he, too, survives. Udo will go to prison for the rest of his life because he’s already a two-time loser using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The Assistant DA with Tommy Udo (center) and Nick Bianco (right).

Now, the viewer is shocked and saddened, initially, by the shooting of Bianco. Then, when it’s revealed he has survived and Udo has been apprehended, we feel a sense of triumph. It’s a textbook Hollywood ending.

The filmmaker, director Henry Hathaway, has given us precisely what we wanted of a crime film.  We’re scared, we’re hopeful, we’re pulling for Bianco, we get thrills, we get satisfaction. We get catharsis.

It was only after I’d seen “Kiss of Death” a dozen times or so that I realized I never see a drop of blood on Nick Bianco. No gunshot wounds. No gore. No crimson spray. In fact, if I recall correctly, I never even saw flashes emanating from Udo’s handgun. I only heard pow! pow! pow! and then watched Bianco collapse.

And that’s all I needed. Hathaway, as every other director of his era did, forced us to use our imaginations. Do we really need to see gaping holes in the protagonist’s body? The splash of human blood and bits of flesh on the wall and sidewalk behind him?

The obsession with “realism,” as illustrated, for instance, in Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” in contemporary filmmaking has turned us into brain-dead viewers. When “Dexter” chops up another victim, does some forensic expert on the set really need to get spray and splatter patterns precisely right?

Richard Widmark clearly used a prop pistol that only looked like a gun. It didn’t fire anything. We get it; he’s shooting a gun and when Bianco gets shot, he may be killed, or at least seriously wounded. We’re not stupid.

But today’s obsession with “reality” demands film actors use guns that fire — if not real bullets — dangerous blanks that produce fire and smoke and shards of metal that can fly through the bodies of cinematographers and directors.

What’s the point?

We get this faux reality in our movies and television programs, yet we’re fast losing our capability to discern bullshit from reality when we watch the news.

One of Bloomington’s most notable scientists is neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, an adjunct lecturer at Indiana University’s medical school. At the age of 37, she suffered a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Within hours after the onset of the event, she lost the ability to walk, talk, read, write, and remember things.

Ironically, because of her academic training, she knew precisely what was going on in her head as it was happening. She was even able to foresee what motor or cognitive functions would go awry next as the minutes passed.

Happily, Bolte Taylor not only survived but has completely recovered from her stroke. She recounts the ordeal in her book, My Stroke of Insight. She’s also written the book, Whole Brain Living.

Jill Bolte Taylor Toys with a Human Brain.

In a review of My Stroke of Insight, Lorna Collier writes in Brain & Living magazine that Bolte Taylor “regards her stroke as a positive event that left her with a sense of peace, a less-driven personality, and a new insight into the meaning of life…. Perhaps most surprisingly, she recalls feeling an intense sense of inner harmony and deep connection during the stroke that has remained with her.”

Isn’t the brain a funny organ? It can be devastated by perhaps the worst thing to befall it and then, after a time, it can rewire itself in the most positive way imaginable.

Case in point: I know a guy who, when I first met him, was a miserable cur, eternally unhappy, mean, glum, radiating negativity.

Then, a couple of years ago, he suffered a debilitating stroke. Other people who know him told me I’d be amazed at the transformation in him since the event. I ran into him yesterday. He was sweet and joyful, chatty, a joy to be around.

Yep, the brain is a funny organ.

1000 Words: Kid Stuff

In 1968, Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet,” was turned into a lush, epic film by Italian director Franco Ziffirelli.

The film maestro employed teenagers to portray the star-crossed lovers. Their names were Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, unknowns at the time. The former was, at the time of filming, 15 years old; the latter, 16. Ziffirelli made a groundbreaking decision during production: he shot it in such a way as to suggest they were naked as they lay in bed.

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When the finished product hit theater screens, the bed scene included a shot of Romeo’s exposed butt. Juliet, who’d been laying chest down while conversing with her lover, momentarily lifts herself up and exposes her breasts. Before Ziffirelli’s version was released, at least nine international movies had been made of Romeo and Juliet. The 1968 picture was the first to portray the teenagers as actual carnal lovers, cavorting in the nude, no less.

I did not see Ziffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” until many years later, at the Parkway Theater, a repertory (or revival) house on Broadway near Diversey on Chicago’s north side. I don’t remember much of it, even the bedroom scene. Had I seen the movie when it first came out (and I was 12 years old), my head might have exploded.

Then again, my preferred reading material at the time was the Sears quarterly catalogue. The lingerie and women’s swimsuit sections, specifically. So, basically, anything that even hinted at female skin would have caused my head to explode.

In any case, that bedroom scene caused quite a stir in 1968. The general reaction to it was split: some people thought it was a sure sign that civilization was coming to an end; others welcomed it as yet another example of America throwing off the repressive chains of its past.

If I recall correctly, Playboy magazine included a still from the bedroom scene in its annual Sex in Cinema feature covering that year. (More on Playboy later.)

An Italian/British production made for $850,000, “Romeo and Juliet” grossed more than $38 million, worldwide. It was, to be sure, a smashing financial success.

Cut to the last week of the year 2022. The two stars, Hussey and Whiting, filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures, the studio that made Ziffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet,” claiming sexual harassment, negligence, fraud, emotional distress, unfair business practices, and child sexual abuse. Ziffirelli died three years ago. The suit, acc’d’g to reports, seeks up to a half billion dollars in damages.

Hussey, born April 17, 1951 in Buenos Aires, is now 71 years old. Whiting, born June 30, 1950 in London, is now 72. Hussey and Whiting were hailed as Hollywood’s next big things 54 years ago. Hussey would go on to appear in some 50 movies and TV shows, most of them eminently forgettable. She did re-emerge from Hollywood anonymity in 1977 when she portrayed the Virgin Mary in the made-for-television production, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Her last appearance on the screen was in 2015, when she was 64 years old.

For his part, Whiting had an even less remarkable Hollywood career, appearing in a total of 15 movies and TV shows. He went from 1975 through 1990 without a paid screen gig, according to his IMDb page.

Both Hussey and Whiting claim in their lawsuit that the nude scene adversely affected their careers and lives. The two claim to have suffered mental anguish and emotional distress because of it. Ziffirelli, they say, exerted a heavy hand, essentially forcing them to do the bedroom scene in the nude. He’d hired them on the promise that they wouldn’t have to play in the nude, they say, and their careers would suffer if they didn’t do it.

Ziffirelli directs Hussey and Whiting.

This is not 1968. The people who railed against the nude scene back then were viewed as prudes. Now, producers of a film that even suggests underaged sex are liable to be charged in criminal court. Heavy-handed producers have been exposed as molesters and rapists far too often.

Yet, for years neither Hussey nor Whiting expressed any misgivings about appearing in the movie and performing in the bedroom scene. In fact, during production, Hussey was interviewed and said the nude scene “improved” the movie “because it doesn’t look dirty.” In a 2018 interview on Fox News, Hussey said:

It was done very tastefully. And in Europe, it was very different. In American, it was very taboo. But in Europe, a lot of the films had nudity. Nobody really thought much of it. But it was just the fact that I was 16 that got a lot of publicity…. The large crew we worked with was whittled down to only the very basic people, a handful of people. It was done later in the day when it wasn’t busy. It was a closed set. It wasn’t that big of a deal. And Leonard wasn’t shy at all! In the middle of the shooting, I just completely forgot I didn’t have clothes on.

This seems to be one of those cases where it’s hard to gin up much sympathy for either the complainant or the defendant.

I mentioned Playboy magazine above. Like many kids in the ’60s, I viewed any found copy of the magazine much the same as Pizarro looking out over the Pacific Ocean. One of my brothers-in-law at the time had a towering pile of issues in his bedroom. I don’t know how I did it but every chance I could I sneaked upstairs to thumb through a copy or two. After indelibly imprinting the images of, say, November 1968 Playmate of the Month Paige Young in my memory for later recollection at a more propitious moment, I’d skim the articles. I learned much about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Lenny Bruce, politics, free speech, the war in Vietnam, and of course Corvettes and elaborate stereo systems.

Playboy founder and publisher Hugh Hefner liked to think of himself as a sophisticated intellectual. He appeared in 1969 on the Dick Cavett show. Cavett brought on two women’s liberation representatives and an exchange ensued. It was fascinating theater. Here it is:

1000 Words: Optimism Is Hard Work

I’m writing this as I try to dig myself out from under a severe, even frightening, upper respiratory bacterial infection. I’ve literally gone through entire boxes of Kleenex™, countless ibuprofen tabs, several blister packs of Mucinex, and a monster scrip of powerful antibiotics. I’ve drunk more hot tea than an Essex dowager.

A little kid with a hacking cough came into the Book Corner a week and half ago. I thought, “Thank goodness I’ve taken to wearing my facemask again.” Then I remembered I’d just been munching on some crackers and cheese and had neglected to re-attach said mask on both ears. Now, I’m not specifically blaming the pertussive urchin for my ordeal but, as my fever spiked on Friday and Saturday, I couldn’t shake the image of her and my fantasy of throwing her parents out of the store through the front window.

One positive aspect of the whole thing: because I spent the entirety of last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as well as most of Monday asleep (or, more accurately, trying to sleep through frequent fits of hacking, horking, sweating, and gasping) my left hip has given me absolutely no trouble at all through this duration. Just staying off my feet has allowed the hinge to rest a bit, and that’s all to the good. The joint in Q. is scheduled to be replaced on April 10th. I got that date back in mid-November. The surgeon explained the extreme lead time to me in doctorly, diplomatic terms. Here’s my real world language translation: there are way too many goddamned old goats like me in this town waiting to get sliced open, sawed into, metaled- and plasticked-up, and sewn back up.

See, I try to find the silver lining in every situation.

Speaking of optimism, I consider myself optimistic about humanity and the state of our species. Of course, that’s more aspirational than definitive. The internet has bared the most repulsive, terrifying sides of people than had ever been exposed by media such as newspapers, TV, radio, and the movies.

A case in point. Last night a fellow playing defensive backfield for the Buffalo Bills in an NFL game took a direct hit to the chest from an opposing player on the Cincinnati Bengals, fell to the ground, got up, looked a little wobbly, then collapsed on his back, his legs akimbo and feet splayed in the pose of somebody who was settling in for a good long sleep.

Had his teammates not noticed something was terribly wrong and summoned medical personnel for immediate help, that sleep might have become permanent. The player’s heart had stopped. CPR was performed on the field. He was defibrillated. Game announcers were speechless. Teammates and opposing players fretted and even wept. An ambulance was driven on the field and the player was hauled off to the nearest hospital where he remains in critical condition.

 

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The game was suspended by order of top NFL officials. This is the same league, it should be noted, that insisted on playing its regular slate of games on Sunday, November 24, 1963, a mere two days after John F. Kennedy had been gunned down in Dallas. The late president was still lying in state at the Capitol as boozy football fans watched their heroes visit mayhem on each other.

Perhaps NFL bosses are a tad more humane today than they were nearly 60 years ago. Or at least more image conscious.

A number of medical experts have opined — on said internet, of course — that the unfortunate player might have suffered something called commotio cordis. This occurs when the victim experiences a blunt blow to the chest at the exact moment his or her heart is relaxing during its normal rhythmic process. The blow can spark an electrical disturbance within the heart, causing it to stop or fibrillate. That is cardiac arrest.

The time window for the heart to be so vulnerable is said to be 40 milliseconds. That is 1/25th of a second.

One sports medicine expert explains it is something med students should usually expect only to read about and never see in real life:

The poor player’s luck could not have been worse.

A horrible, tragic story, to be sure.

Yet among the internet outpouring of concern, prayers, hopes, and wishes for his full recovery (which is iffy at this moment, considering he was not breathing for a significant stretch of time) are the knee-jerk reactions of any number of ghouls, sadists, sociopaths, borderline personality disorder-types, “he-men”, fanboys and flat-out raging assholes of this all-too-often benighted world.

Here’s a distillation of some of the YouTube and social media comments posted by people clearly unmoved by the sight of their fellow human being lying inert on a stadium floor, in a state of clinical death:

He took his chances the minute he put on the uniform

Soccer players collapse on the field all the time.

Why did they cancel the game? Another example of woke culture.

I hope everyone doesn’t puss out about this and try to ruin the sport.

People get CPR done on them all the time and they get right back to work after a few days. No big deal.

You snowflakes need to calm down.

It filled my heart with joy to see so many players praying for him. Praise the lord.

Now of course in the super-sensitive world we live in he may lose his job. Grow the fuck up.

One year into the NFL vaccine mandate and a player drops dead. Just like we expected.

He’s alive. That’s full recovery enough for me.

Police officers killed in the line of duty never get poilice departments shut down.

Give the man a banana.

Life is hard.

I must admit, I agree with the last comment. Life is indeed hard. It’s hard as hell for me to successfully keep my cool and sanity when I have to share the planet with people who think as those posters do.

 

1000 Words: Quick Hits

The entire Midwest was hit by a mass of frigid air this past weekend, with temps dropping below zero. Now we’re in the midst of a dramatic warmup with the temperature today, Wednesday, reaching the mid-40s. So, of course, to remind me I live in this weird-assed section of the country, I saw a guy in the Best Buy today wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

I caught my first cold in more than three years this week. Dang, mang, I forgot how miserable these rhino-v‘s are. But, of course, the fact that I was cold-free for so long just goes to show how well we all isolated ourselves from each other during the pandemic, despite the best (worst) efforts of COVID deniers and mask refuseniks.

Speaking of COVID, The Loved One insisted I take the test, just to make sure. I’d been certain I only had a cold and not the Big One so I resisted for about 13 seconds. Long enough for her to guilt me into pulling out the test kit.

As soon as I started opening up the box and all the little packages therein, I started worrying. By the time I’d swabbed both nares of my bugle and put the swab into the test solution, I was sure I’d be sentenced to a lifetime (well, a week, at least) of home incarceration.

I set the alarm for 15 minutes, per test directions, and began thinking of how I might talk my way out of staying inside for so long. I simply can’t stay home. Never have been able to. My mother called me a gypsy because of it.

The alarm rang and I slowly made my way to the bathroom where the test thingy was waiting. I felt like a criminal defendant returning to the courtroom as the jury filed back in after deliberation.

The finding? Not guilty.

“I’m a lucky guy! I’m a lucky guy!” I hollered.

Speaking of COVID deniers and mask refuseniks, the Commander-in-Chief of that lunkhead army, the 45th President of the United States, came to mind the other day as I thumbed through Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

I run hot and cold on Hunter S. Thompson. Largely, his books are all about him and that’d be nice if I was at all interested in him. I’m not. He does, though, draw some brilliant, colorful word pictures and occasionally illuminates some previously unseen or ignored aspects of the Hell’s Angels, Las Vegas, and other topics he’s expounded upon.

Anyway, Thompson, in the book, is following George Wallace around as the segregationist ex- and future-governor of Alabama campaigns for a second time for the presidency. Wallace is scheduled to appear in Wisconsin at 7:30pm for a big rally in Racine. His handlers, though, insist he squeeze in a brief appearance at 5:00pm in Milwaukee, about 50 miles north.

The Milwaukee handshake-fest is set up for a place called Serb Hall on the city’s south side. It’s a weekday and the crowd will be factory laborers, mostly of Polish heritage, just getting off work. Reporters and observers think the handlers are making a big mistake — the Milwaukee south side Poles will be exhausted and hungry so why would they turn out for a campaign rally?

To Thompson’s surprise, the place is absolutely packed. Thompson is embraced by locals who buy him drinks and are eager to talk with him. Here’s what he writes:

For the next two hours I was locked in a friendly, free-wheeling conversation with about six of my hosts who didn’t mind telling me they were there because George Wallace was the most important man in America. “This guy is the real thing,” one of them said. “I never cared anything about politics before but Wallace ain’t the same as the others. He don’t sneak around the bush. He just comes right out and says it.”

That was 50 years ago. When the eventual 45th prez was running, a mere seven years ago, people were saying the exact same thing about him. In fact, simply substitute the words Donald Trump for George Wallace and the above paragraph could have been written when wits and wags were trying to figure out why Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton.

Did I mention, by the way, that George Wallace was this holy land’s premier racist through the 1960s and into the ’70s? He was proud of and outspoken in his racism. It was the only thing he had going for him on a national level. Nearly ten million people voted for Wallace in “68, 13.5 percent of the total. This despite the fact that his running mate, the former Strategic Air Command boss, Gen. Curtis LeMay, had called for using nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

Wallace openly and repeatedly endorsed segregation. That’s what people meant when they said “he just comes right out and says it.”

Segregation wasn’t on the table in 2016, but America had just experienced eight years under the presidency of a black man and Trump’s campaign slogan was Make America Great Again.

He just came right out and said it.

My old friend and former roommate, John Spencer Bergman, brought this image to my attention:

Bergman still lives in my beloved hometown, Chicago. The Windy City for years has experienced  un-neighborly strife between neighbors over parking spaces following heavy snows. Chicago got hit by a few inches this past weekend and, as usual, folks shoveled out the parking spaces in front of their homes and put old kitchen chairs out to reserve them for themselves. That’s illegal but, hell, who follows the law in Chicago?

Some Chicagoans have gotten creative in placing objects out to prevent their neighbors from grabbing their shoveled parking spots. This guy turned to Jesus to accomplish the task.

1000 Words: Inkstained

I actually got assigned a paid writing gig for 2023 a couple of weeks ago.

In this year of somebody’s lord, 2022, that’s about as rare a statement as “I hate dialing my TV repairman’s number because it has too many zeroes in it.”

Getting paid to put words to paper is a vanishing occupation. For pity’s sake, putting words to paper — period! — is a vanishing occupation.

Let me correct that: vanished.

I made the vast majority of my dough in this life writing things. News stories. Personality profiles. Explanatory articles. Investigative journalism. Newsletters. Press releases. Annual reports. Anything and everything that could emanate from my (1st) typewriter keyboard, (2nd) word processor, and finally (3rd) laptop. See? My scribbling career spanned essentially three writing hardware technological evolutions.

You think that’s something, try this: When I started out in this racket I either had to mail my manuscripts to my editors or deliver them by hand, taking the bus and train or riding my bicycle.

Mail. As is stuffing a bunch of sheets of paper into an envelope, sealing it, addressing it, putting stamps on it, and walking down to the mailbox to drop it in. Imagine that!

It’s like someone born right before the turn of the 20th century trying to explain to a space age schoolchild how he used to harness the horse to his buggy so’s he could git down to the general store to load up on fatback.

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Laughably Obsolete

Newspapers are dying. Magazines are dead. Nobody writes letters anymore. Hallmark and countless precious artisans produce greeting cards for every possible occasion and with a seemingly infinite number of cutesy, kitschy, treacly inscriptions inside. For that matter, the card cos. needn’t hire actual human being to write birthday doggerel anymore. Simply invest in the appropriate AI software and let the company desktop write the tripe.

For all we know, newspapers and other news gathering outlets may soon be doing the same thing — letting AI bots write their copy.

I know college and high school students of late have been trying to sneak AI-written term papers and theses past the watchful eyes of their teachers. They’re getting caught, fairly easily, right now as the AI technology still is in its infancy but once the bugs are worked out it’s a good bet English literature teacher Mrs. Bertram or Professor Maher in the poli-sci dept. will be fooled more often than not, sooner rather than later.

I know a couple of guys who persist in actually applying ink to paper even as the craft is swiftly disappearing. Dave Torneo, who runs Ledge Mule Press (itself an anachronism in the publishing industry; Ledge Mule does letterpress, woodblock, and other handmade printing) can be found any day of the week, at any Bloomington coffeehouse, writing cards or letters to friends and loved ones. Addison Rogers, one of the Busman’s Holiday boys, emcees a weekly gathering of old schoolers who also write cards and letters to people, just because.

Thing is, both Torneo and Rogers do their bit more as a lark than as something vital to their existence. They’re like those people who build their own kitchen cabinets — they don’t have to and, in fact, it seems almost silly for them to do so, yet they carry on.

Well silly, that is, to the vast majority of the populace who loathe the notion of any activity cutting into their streaming service-watching time. Hah! I was going to write “TV-watching time” but who in the hell watches TV anymore?

And, in a way, Torneo and Rogers’ shared literary pastime indeed is vital to their existence. For without writing cards and letters everyday, they might be forced to while away the hours…, well, watching streaming services on their desktops. Or, knowing them, still going old school and flipping on the TV.

Once they bury themselves in the TV or computer screen they would be inching nearer to a kind of death.

This recently concluded Christmas season was quite a good one for the Book Corner. And that seems odd because not only are people holding on to their nickels a bit tighter during this current inflation but, conventional wisdom has it, the book industry is dying. I’ve written about this misconception quite recently, maintaining book reading and buying is as robust as it’s ever been in this holy land. Honestly, you don’t figure Clay County farmers were devouring tomes penned by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hannah Arendt, or Ralph Ellison back before people had televisions in every goddamned room of the house, do you?

Reading always has been sort of an elite thing to do in America, which is a damned shame. Oddly enough, people seem to be reading more than ever today, if you consider the intake of social media and other internet chattering to be reading. On the other hand, if you’re reading The Pencil, you are a literary connoisseur indeed.

This has to be a particularly American phenomenon. There’s no end to the number of books written about the Dumbing Down of America — and they’ve been written throughout out the entire history of this great nation. Great, natch, in certain ways only.

Not great as in Umberto Ecco‘s private library.

 

Eco’s Home Library Reportedly Contained 30,000 Volumes.

In any case, as I do every single year, I’m loading up on books to get me through the winter. Here are three I look forward to reading as I watch the days — thankfully — get longer:

  • Mercury Rising by Jeff Shesol — The story of NASA’s Project Mercury, focusing on John Glenn and his first-American-to-orbit-the-Earth mission as well as President John F. Kennedy’s gambit to one-up the Russkies.
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain — This one’s more than 20 years old now but it’s still a hoot. What a fascinating, adventurous, informative, creative, and ultimately doomed human being Bourdain was.
  • All About Me! by Mel Brooks — Love him or hate him — and plenty of people think his comedy was so lowbrow as to be Neanderthal, Brooks has made the world laugh for more than half a century, so what could be wrong about that?

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1000 Words: A Christmas Eve Tale

It’s not solely because I’m a curmudgeon (although I often fit that jacket) but I’m always happy when Christmas is over and done with.

See, my birth family went through a traumatic break-up in the early ’70’s. The first Christmas Eve we had with certain members missing was as big a drag as I’d ever experienced in the few short years I’d been alive to that point.

And, no, it wasn’t my parents who split up. They got married when Ma was 16 and Dad, 18. They actually had to run away to Indiana to get married because Ma (well, my future Ma) was underaged under Illinois law. M & D crossed the state line with her eldest sibling, Uncle Louie, and his wife, Aunt Vera. Louie and Vera signed for them as adults. By the way, Ma told me one time that as the four of them piled back into the car outside the Justice of the Peace’s place, Aunt Vera said to her, “You know, you can’t sleep with Joe. You haven’t been married in church yet.”

Such a different age! Ma took Vera’s words to heart and did not sleep with Dad until their union was indeed blessed by a priest a few, presumably endless, weeks later

Aunt Vera was of Polish descent, as was my Daddy-o, as was Uncle Joey’s wife Pauline, as was Aunt Theresa’s husband Dick. Uncle Tony married an Italian gal, and she was a hoot and a holler. She chain-smoked, drank gin, played cards, and had a guffaw that would reverberate through the house. Uncle Johnnie married a gal of Scandinavian extraction which, to me, was as exotic as if she’d been Maori.

The Parellos: (from left) Joey, Tony, Johnnie, Sue (Ma), Grandma Anna, and Theresa. Louie had died by this time.

Weird, though, isn’t it? That of all Grandpa Vince and Grandma Anna’s six kids, four of them married Poles. But that really wasn’t so bizarre in pre-war Chicago. Both the second generation Italians and Poles by and large left their neighborhoods just west and south of the Loop, where the first wave of immigrants from those respective countries had settled. The second generation kids wanted to get away from the tenements and narrow streets and native languages of their youth and start up new, more American, lives in brand new bungaloes on the edge of the city. So they moved to Chicago’s northwest side. The new Italian and Polish neighborhoods abutted each other and that second generation wasn’t so exclusionary as their parents so tons of them fell in love with each other.

But back to my family’s break-up. As I’ve indicated, it wasn’t Ma and Dad — Sue and Joe — who split. Hell no. They stuck together through thin and thin (no typo there). Ma was so young when she got married that plenty of people told her the marriage would never last. Ma, being one of the hardest-headed people I’ve ever known, a real testa dura, took that as a challenge, even a dare, and stuck it out with Dad.

He never said much to us kids, other than to yell at us, and his siblings were similarly icy and aloof. His side of the family, frankly, scared me. Ma’s side, on the other hand, were a bunch of laughing, crying, hugging, fun-lovers. When I went in for my tonsillectomy at the age of four, I told the nurses that my mother and I were Italian, but my father and sisters and brother were Polish. The nurses exchanged smirks, which I wasn’t able to grasp until I was in my teens.

Anyway, in 1979 when I went through my first major heartbreak, I collapsed on the front stoop in tears one night. I could hear Ma whispering, loudly, to Dad, “Joe! Go out there and help him! He needs you!” And after a few long moments Dad came out and sat near-ish me, the look on his face the same, I supposed, as if he were sitting near-ish a dog foaming at the mouth.

“Dad,” I said after an uncomfortable silence between us, “tell me how you met Ma.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, as pained as if I’d asked him what his favorite sex position was with her.

“No, really. Tell me.”

After a little more prodding, he opened up, the first and only time he and I ever really conversed.

“I was over to Hansen Park,” he said. “The American Legion girls were playing softball. They were called the Orioles. I saw your mother playing short-centerfield. She had black, curly hair. I took one look at her and said, ‘I’m gonna marry that girl!'”

With that I fell into a loud, tear-gushing cry.

“What’s the matter?” Dad said. “Did I say somethin’ wrong?”

He hadn’t, of course. In fewer than fifty words, he’d told me a whole, wonderful story.

Ma and Dad, circa 1964.

What I came to realize since then is he was head-over heels in love with Ma and she was very eager to get away from an abusive home. Between his infatuation and her determination to prove all the nay-sayers wrong, they found ways to stay married until he died in 1995. Ma spent the rest of her life trying to tell me how heroic she was to stay married to Dad.

“Ma,” I’d say, for the thousandth time, “I don’t wanna hear it.”

But, again, she was a testa dura, and she’d go on reciting chapter and verse about how she bravely  stuck it all out with Dad.

My family’s break-up came about because my sister, already married with five kids, had taken up with another man. As if that wasn’t bad enough for Ma and Dad to swallow, the other man was…, gasp! — black.

Suddenly, Dad became an orator. He expounded at length and at the drop of a hat about the failures and weaknesses of black men. He insisted my sister be written out of his will. From the moment he learned of my sister’s dalliance, he began tumbling, for the rest of his life, into a deep, dark depression.

Me? I was depressed because my sister and her kids weren’t at that first Christmas Eve after the news broke.

It has become one of those youthful memories that won’t go away even as I’ve become an aging curmudgeon.

The Glabs, 1960: (from left) Ma, Charlotte, Franny, Dad, Me, and Joey. Franny’s marriage wouldn’t last. Neither would Charlotte’s. But Ma and Dad’s did, through thin and thin.

1000 Words: Pizza, The Best Reason to Go On Living

Let’s talk about pizza. And why not?

My mother would make four or five pan pizzas every Christmas Eve. They were the main entree served with the traditional Sicilian Feast of the Fishes. Technically, the Sicilian Christmas Eve repast is called the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but Ma limited our catch to just three: smelts, shrimps, and squids. She breaded and fried up the smelts, mixed the shrimps with rice in a red sauce, and served the squids (calamari) in a thin tomato sauce. We’d eat until it felt as though our bellies would burst.

In fact, the old generation actually ate the meal early in the morning of Christmas Day. The Sicilians back in the old country, as well as first generation immigrants who arrived on these shores, mainly from the 1880s through the outbreak of World War I, would attend midnight mass and then everybody’d dash home for the huge meal. A feast indeed. After eating, I’m told, my uncles would play cards and drink wine in the dining room after the table’d been cleared, and the women would have coffee and cake in the kitchen. The kids’d be careening around the house, pepped up by the promise of opening presents. They’d run and run and run around the place until they dropped, and then their parents would sneak off to put Santa’s gifts under their respective trees.

The main locus of this bash would be Grandma’s house. Anna Lazzara. She was a pistol. She divorced Grandpa, Vincenzo Parello, back when divorce was practically unheard of among working class families. Grandpa Vince was illiterate and therefore could never become an American citizen. I still have his Enemy Alien Registration card from World War II. The US and Italy were at war from December 1941 through the Armistice of Cassibile in September, 1943.

Grandpa was truly loyal to the United States throughout the hostilities and remained so until his death in 1966. He began drawing Social Security when he retired from a cookie factory. He’d get his monthly check, sign it with a big, shaky X, and turn it over to Ma so she could cash it at the bank. He marveled that an uneducated immigrant like himself could get a hefty regular payout from the US government.

Of course, that same US government was unaware that Grandpa during Prohibition made a rot gut wine that he and Ma delivered by streetcar to the poor, unfortunately souls who were his customers. Had he been slammed away for that enterprise, I suspect his love for this holy land might have been tempered.

Grandpa Vince made jug wine.

One of the great regrets of my life was that I came along too late to enjoy Christmas Eve at Grandma’s house.

Anyway, Ma’s Christmas Eve pizza. It was the best pizza I’d ever tasted in my life. That is until I started making my own pizza from scratch. I have about ten different secrets for making the sauce and the dough and even for reheating the leftovers.

Between you and me, here’s how to reheat pizza, no matter if it’s homemade or comes from the pizzeria. See, simply nuking a few slices makes them soggy and that won’t do. I pull out a big skillet and, using the kitchen paintbrush, carefully coat the bottom of it with olive oil. Then I heat it up on the stove until I start smelling the oil. I put the slices in the skillet and cover with a lid, the heat at about four or five out of ten. Ten or 12 minutes later, the crust is deliciously crispy, the cheese is melted just right, and whatever ingredients you have on your pizza are warmed to perfection. Be careful not to burn or blacken your crust as you reheat, You have to keep an eye on the slices and move them around at intervals.

Pizza in Italy goes back at least to the tenth century. Latin texts of the period tell about the traditional gift of duodecem pizze (twelve pizzas) baked and given to the Bishop of Gaeta from his tenants. Pizza throughout history has been a baked, flat, leavened bread base with tomatoes on top. As the centuries rolled by people from different Italian regions, and locales around the world, began adding different ingredients until, for instance, today’s American pizza can even have pineapple on it.

Which, by the way, is a crime against humanity. Just don’t do it. If you do, keep it to yourself and don’t make me weep.

Sicilian pizza is based on something called sfincione. Go ahead, try to say it: s’feen-see-OH-nay. See? You can do it.

Sfincione dough is rolled out in a large, one-inch deep baking pan. The dough is allowed to rise a second time in the pan (after rising first in the original bowl it’s made in). The word s’fincione probably comes from  a regional dialect word for sponge, as the dough is thick and airy and can sop up wine or whatever the diner is drinking while eating. A finished sfincione should be about an inch thick, rather resembling a focaccia. The sfincione is covered with crushed or diced fresh tomatoes, with herbs and garlic added, and generously sprinkled with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Sfincione.

Another secret: when I grate my Parmigiano, I cut off pieces to eat just like that. I love sneaking little spoons-ful of fresh tomato paste, too. And, of course, I always indulge in the great old Italian tradition of dunking a piece of crispy, hearth bread into my spaghetti sauce after it’s been simmering a couple of hours. I’m telling you, I know how to eat.

What has evolved into contemporary Sicilian-American pizza stands, in thickness terms, somewhere between the paper-thin, greasy New York style pizza and the ultra-thick, gooey Chicago-style deep dish stuff. I used to swear by deep-dish pizza but as I’ve grown older, I find it nearly impossible to sleep comfortably after gorging on a Pizzeria Uno’s, Gino’s East, or Giordano’s cheesy slab.

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My good old Sicilian pan pizza’ll do just fine. In fact, I do believe I’ll make a couple right now.

1000 Words: Guns, God, America… and Coffee

I suppose I’m not alone in this but I have several “friends” whom I know only through social media. And, by the way, that doesn’t include Twitter, which I’ve never, ever directly posted on or read; I only have an autopost feature connecting this blog to it. The very idea of Twitter never made any goddamned sense to me, even before the ex-world’s richest archvillain took the company over.

One of those social media friends is a fellow named Simon who lives in Evansville, Indiana. He’s a musician and a house painter, so he appeals to both the artist and the blue-collar worker in me. I do know his brother, Jackson, also a musician and a carpenter. Clearly, both come from good, creative, down-to-earth stock.

But, as I say, I’ve never laid eyes on Simon, the human being. Yet he’s quite expressive on Facebook and so I’ve come to know him, more maybe than any ten of my friends I see on, say, a monthly basis.

Simon seems not terribly infatuated with Evansville, but he remains there, I’d guess, for the same reasons many of us remain in locales or jobs or relationships: comfort, familiarity, connections, and inertia. He likes to point out the less than savory aspects of the town. Evansville, situated along the wide Ohio River at almost the farthest southwest reach of Indiana, a long bridge ride across from Henderson, Kentucky, is not Paris or New York, or even Indianapolis. It’s certainly not Bloomington, even though it has its own college campuses. It’s the kind of place where people imagine they’re dining in Rome when they visit the Olive Garden.

Simon, smart-ass that he is (another reason I dig him), the other day put up a post reading, “Evansville is truly on the cutting edge of urban development.” Underneath that line, he posted pix of a new business opening up in the town. It’s called LawMan Tactical Coffee Lab.

I’d never heard of the outfit before so, naturally, I was curious. Here’s one of the pix Simon posted:

Note, at the bottom of the image, the firearms on display on the wall. Note, too, the business’s logo: a man (of course, a man) aiming what appears to be a semi-automatic weapon.

Looks like the kind of operation somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Lauren Boebert might love.

Again, I had to find out about LawMan. That’s easy enough. The people who run the soon-to-be opening coffeehouse aren’t hiding anything. They love guns. And god. And America *. And, natch, coffee.

[ * Well, their version of America. ]

Coffeehouses, everyone on Earth (including mystics cloistered in Indian ashrams), knows coffeehouses have been the rage for decades now. Hell, Jerry Seinfeld years ago made the joke that Starbucks is opening everywhere, in malls, in department stores, in groceries; in fact, he’d heard of a Starbucks opening up in a Starbucks.

Me? I’ve been a coffeehouse habitué since the early ’90s when I started hanging out in Tom Handley’s Urbus Orbis in the then-iffy neighborhood of Wicker Park/Bucktown in Chicago. At the time, the neighborhood was ju-u-ust beginning to be gentrified. It was still a locus of gangbangers and starving artists. Rents were dirt cheap but anybody with eyes or ears knew they’d be zooming upward in two ticks. As young, white, childless, professional suburbanites and advertising creatives started moving in, Urbus Orbis’s business boomed. Then, as rents soared, poor Tom Handley found he couldn’t afford to stay there. That’s the way of the big city, and has been for as long as anyone can remember.

Anyway, coffeehouses to me always have brought to mind young painters, sculptors, writers, dancers, musicians, hangers-on, intellectuals, chess players, anarchists, professional contrarians, studied poseurs — in short, my kind of folk. As long as I hadn’t been around when the coffeehouses of the beatnik era were all the rage, places like Chicago’s Urbus Orbis and Caffe Pergolesi, Evanston’s Kafein, and Bloomington’s Soma and Hopscotch would do just fine.

Allen Ginsburg (bearded, in glasses) with other Beat poets at Café Trieste in New York City.

I’d never expect MAGA cap wearers to be big patrons of such places. Yet, here we have LawMan. And if there aren’t any MAGA caps for sale in its gift shop or online that doesn’t mean the owners or its intended customers are too busy reading Cornell West or Noam Chomsky to want to bother with them.

Evansville’s newest coffeehouse is an offshoot of the LawMan Tactical Guntry Club. See what they did there? Not country club for softie duffers but guntry club, for real men and their women. LawMan’s website crows the four pillars of its — and its adherents’ — beliefs: Faith, Family, Country, Courage.

LawMan gift shop offers mugs and apparel.

I’ll guess Family doesn’t include any such aggregation comprised of trans people or others of the LGBTQI ilk, no matter how close or loving said aggregants are. Nor does Faith encompass, for instance, a trust in human goodness and kindness and the rigors of scientific inquiry. But that’s just me.

The Guntry Club offers firearms sales, tactical gear, ammo, shooting ranges, tactical training, a fitness center, “reality based” physical training including martial arts, active threat response, tourniquet usage, CPR, tactical communications, as well as a private cigar and bourbon bar. It’s a testosterone blast.

“We will provide the means for you to gain the proper education and training for protection along with the fellowship to last a lifetime,” the website promises.

Owner Bryan Bishop, a Vanderburgh County deputy sheriff, writes:

I want to provide an establishment that is not ashamed to say, God, Bless you, Merry Christmas, and pro-America rights.

America is great, acc’d’g to one section of LawMan’s website, mainly because of the 2nd Amendment. As I read through the site, I might guess Bryan Bishop and friends truly believe this holy land is great almost solely because of the 2nd Amendment. That and god’s good grace, of course. The creator of the universe, apparently, isn’t as fond of other countries.

The times, they are a’changin’. So are coffeehouses.

 

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