Lewis Grizzard: My Favorite Son of a Gun

“Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche.” ~ Lewis Grizzard

One morning a few weeks ago, Dana gave me one of the highest compliments I could imagine, though she did it quite unknowingly.

columnist lewis grizzard

Prompted by a national news story about a black couple who’d been refused a wedding ceremony at a “white” church in Mississippi (and a number of other personal experiences) I’d gone on a three-day blogging tangent about religious segregation in the South.

I asked Dana to read the post before it was published and give me her reaction.

“You’re not afraid to write about anything, are you?” she asked.

I’d never really thought about it that way, but, no, I suppose. What’s to fear in the truth, and why don’t more of us write about and discuss the things that make us most uncomfortable. What’s to be gained from the silence of injustice and human prejudice?

***

By the time I was old enough to read a newspaper, (a ritual I formed daily by the seventh grade), my immediate attention went to the op-ed page where Lewis Grizzard’s syndicated column was published three times weekly.

columnist lewis grizzard

If I could emulate the style, tone and message of any writer in the world, it would be Lewis Grizzard, who’s probably as responsible as anyone for my career in journalism.

Known for his regional demeanor and commentary on the American South,  Grizzard, at 23, was the Atlanta Journal‘s youngest-ever sports editor, and later went on to become executive sports editor of the Chicago Sun-Times.

But Grizzard’s career was defined by his work as a columnist, and at the peak of his career, he was syndicated in 450 newspapers across the U.S.

Grizzard was an eccentric man. In all his career, he never typed a word on a computer. He favored the typewriter.

“When I write, I like to hear some noise,” he said.

In its “Best of Atlanta” issue, an Atlanta alternative newspaper had two categories: “Best Columnist and “Best Columnist Besides Lewis Grizzard.”

The author of thousands of columns and 25 books, Grizzard was the quintessential Southern writer. And he was fearless. Head on, he addressed politics, feminism, race, guns, Russians and anything else that would push the hot button of thousands of readers.

That’s why I love Grizzard. He never took himself too seriously, but he said what he damned well pleased.

Grizzard’s life gave him a plethora of writing topics to which so many of us can relate. He was married four times, born with a defective heart valve which ultimately took his young life at 48, highly opinionated, a recovering alcoholic and he loved sports.

“I finally figured it out. I finally figured out how to have some peace and happiness. I sure would hate for the man upstairs to take me now, but at least I figured it out.” ~ Lewis Grizzard

columnist lewis grizzardMy favorite Grizzard line comes from a column he wrote about his first hole-in-one. Watching the ball leave the tee he said, “it was as if it were a white missile against the azure sky.” Every time my best buddy and I hit the links, we cite the line at least a half-dozen times.

Grizzard wasn’t a hero to everyone. His behavior wasn’t always that of the Southern gentleman.

Many labeled him as “the author from hell” for his behavior on countless book tours.

But his writing was pure heaven to me. Grizzard would have had a field day with this thing we call the “blog.” I miss him every time I pick up the paper.

A few of his books you might enjoy:

“Chili Dogs Always Bark at Night”

If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground

“My Daddy was a Pistol, and I’m a Son of a  Gun”

“Does a Wild Bear Chip in the Woods”

You may enjoy some posts on my secondary blog at www.latitudeone.wordpress.com

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Impossible Conclusions: Life in Shades of Grey

“Not all those who wander are lost.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m gradually learning to embrace the fact that life’s greatest questions really have no conclusions.

Bradley Harris of Memphis, TN, is my editor, and, moreover, my greatest teacher. Once again, his editor’s notes have given me more than sound writing advice. They’ve given me a lesson in life.

Two weeks ago I sent Brad the final never-ending draft of my first non-fiction book. In the final chapter, I’d unknowingly drawn a conclusion I suppose my subconscious believed would give encouragement to the reader and set up a call to action for living a better life.

Puerto Cayo Manabi

Captured by Dana, me, wandering in thought, in Puerto Cayo, Manabi, Ecuador.

Brad’s notes challenged the conclusion, and the very notion the book required a tidy, happily-ever-after ending. And I knew immediately he was right.

And thank goodness for his profound advice; for without it, I might never have survived the last 24 hours – one of the most confounding days of my life.

“The yearning to know What cannot be known, to comprehend the Incomprehensible, to touch and taste the Unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man.” ~ A.W. Tozier

My days are painfully predictable. I get out of bed around 3 a.m., write, drink coffee, research, go to work and come home exhausted to hit the bed around 7 p.m. Yesterday’s schedule was typical. It was just greyer than most.

After a 4 a.m. blog post, I scanned my WordPress reader, something I almost never do. When I randomly stopped by Holly Michael’s blog I found she’d nominated me for an undeserved award, and said some very kind things about my work. You may view Holly’s inspirational site here: http://wp.me/1Gxnc

Anyone else would have been thrilled, but it set into motion an entire day of questioning the priorities in my life. And that really doesn’t take much for a 46-year-old guy who’s well into mid-life crisis

So the day begins at 3 a.m. wondering about the possibility of “life’s calling” as a writer.

Next up, around 4:30 a.m. I get a blog post notification from www.laspalmasecuador.com – a pictorial update of a home we’re building in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. The progress is amazing. Dana and I love everything about Puerto Cayo – particularly the business potential, and the opportunities to build a meaningful missional community there. Something very grey from 5,000 miles away is screaming to me, but with a grey, clouded clarity. You may view yesterday’s post about that news here: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-yA

By 4:30 a.m., it’s already an emotional morning. My wife says she’ll pray for me throughout the day. My best friend, knowing my confounding situation, sends me a note that says “go with your gut.” What he doesn’t know is that my gut’s the very thing that scares the daylight out of me.

I finish the routine and make the 10-minute drive to work, and think of my dad who passed away in February. I wish I could speak to him, but he’s not here. And I cry most of the way to work.

Tuesday 8-5 is spent preparing for the next day’s business trip to Thayer, MO. I’ll embark on that trip about 4 hours from now. The thinking time on the road will be precious, and for that I’m grateful.

Five o’clock and I’m waiting in line at Domino’s Pizza. My mind races through the events of the day, and all the writing projects on the schedule. There’s a manuscript to complete, then two more books to finish the trilogy. Then, I predictably wonder what comes after that?

Brad’s notes immediately come to mind: Why draw a conclusion? The most important things don’t require a black and white answer.

This side of heaven, the most important questions in life are inconclusive.

So now, another project stands on the sideline. I’ve purchased the domain: www.theimpossibleconclusion.com

What I’ll do with it stands in the shadow of greyness for now.

You may view posts on my secondary blog at: http://wp.me/2tJ80

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This Marketing Message is Lost on Me…

In a weird pasttime, I’ve always enjoyed seeing the visual marketing messages on U-Haul trucks as they travel down the road.

It’s interesting to wonder where they’re going and the story behind the move.

But when I saw this truck yesterday, I had to wonder what U-Haul’s marketing department was thinking.

What am I missing here???

U-Haul

Why the Cost of Your November Cheeseburger will Probably Double

Some 40 percent of the U.S. is now in the midst of one of the worst droughts in history. The Mid-West has received virtually no rain in five months. We see the newspaper accounts and the stories on the national news … and for now, we may give it no more than a passing glance with sorrowful thoughts for how it affects the American farmer … and we may think no more of it.

Most of us never think of the trickle-down effect of an event like this.

But we will feel the pinch, and of that you can be well assured.

You’ll know it in November when your cheeseburger becomes a luxury.

***

This is likely the first sight you see when you walk into your local grocery store. The average cost of a trip to the grocery store costs somewhere around 50 bucks. Get ready for that to change.

food supply

These packages of ground chuck are now priced at about $2.99 per pound. This is the foundation of your cheeseburger. If you want to save some serious money, buy a freezer and stock up now. The $2.99 is soon to be a thing of the past.

ground chuck

This is a gas/diesel pump just around the corner from my house. Farmers use thousands of gallons of diesel each week. The current price of diesel is nearly $4 per gallon and it’s on the rise as well.

kum and go

This is an image of the Mississippi River Valley watershed. The colored areas (all currently in drought) are the finest farmland in the world. This is also the primary route from which you receive most of your food. Grain and other goods are shipped to barges along the Mississippi River via the Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas and White rivers.

mississippi river watershed

This is a barge on the Mississippi River. Grain goes from the farmer’s field via barge, and ultimately makes its way to your dinner table in the form of cereal, bread, etc.

barge on mississippi river

This is an image of what the Mississippi River looks like today. At record low levels, barges can’t even make their way down the river and farmers have no way to ship their grain to market. That’s bad for everyone.

low water on mississippi river

This is a rice well in Craighead County, Arkansas. Without the benefit of irrigation, American farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature. It takes perfectly specific conditions for land to be irrigated. It must be precision leveled, and there must be an ample water supply. There are few places in the world where both conditions are available. Farmers in the Mid-West raise their crops on rolling hills, and it’s impossible to level the land, and thus, irrigation is not possible. So, when it doesn’t rain for five months, all is lost. Also note, that it takes about 100 gallons of diesel per day to run this well. That’s a cost of $400 per day for the farmer just to keep his crop alive.

rice well

This is another method of irrigation called a center pivot. When you travel by plane and see “circles” on the land it’s a result of irrigation that comes from a center pivot. Again, it takes considerable fuel and perfectly level land for this method of irrigation.

center pivot irrigation

This corn crop in Jackson County, Arkansas is ready for harvest. It’s a bumper crop because it was irrigated. The price of corn has skyrocketed because most of the nation’s crop is burned to a crisp. The farmer of this land is fortunate.

corn harvest

I recently took a business trip and drove through the state of Illinois. This ear of corn is typical throughout the midwest. It’s barely enough to harvest. You may think a shortage of corn has little effect on you. Yes, it does. Corn is in everything. Read the labels on the things you buy. This thing called high fructose corn syrup is in everything from salad dressing to ketchup to cereal. It’s also terrible for your health. This farmer is not so lucky.

drought effect on corn

This is what a bumper rice crop looks like with proper irrigation.

rice crop

This crop of soybeans in Independence County, Arkansas is on non-irrigated land. These beans should be waist-high. I doubt the farmer of this land will even harvest this crop. Soybeans go into a lot of things you never know about. Oil, makeup, even a processed hamburger.

soybeans in drought

This is how your cheeseburger begins – from a cow. Today, because of the drought, there’s not enough grain, pasture land and hay to feed them. Livestock farmers are selling everything they have and the beef market is about to be flooded. For the next two months the supply will be abundant and prices will remain steady, but after that, demand will continue and supply will be scarce. Don’t be surprised if the price of beef doubles. And it’s all because of the drought.

polled hereford

This is what pasture land looks like in Arkansas today. It should be lush and green and cattle should be grazing everywhere. But because of the drought, it’s just dead dirt.

drought effect on pasture

This is your cheeseburger. Soon, it may be a delicacy.

cheese burger

Please enjoy the posts on my secondary blog at: www.latitudeone.wordpress.com

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Another Day Trip in Arkansas

(Blogger’s Note: If you enjoy this post, please come back tomorrow, and I’ll show you (in pictures) why the cost of your cheeseburger is about to double, and that’s no joke.)

***

Sophie stopping for a pose in Oil Trough, Arkansas. If you’re not familiar with Arkansas, this little town is in the middle of what we call Tornado Alley, and it’s been wiped out several times.

arkansas

Dana cooling down after the float trip.

dana watkins

Lunch at Mikey’s Deli in Mountain View. Note the dead animal in the background.

stevenwwatkins

Self-portrait before launching on our White River float trip.

White River Float

…and we’re off for a 2-hour float.

arkansas white river

Hummingbirds in action feeding at the home of my friends Cindy and Danny Smith.

hummingbird feeder

An Arkansas cliche’. You must have your photo made in the Big Rockin’ Chair.

Mountain View Arkansas

An old Church of Christ building (still active) on the road home.

church of christ

If you go to this church, this is where you go to the bathroom, and that’s no joke. We kidded that it was full of holy crap … (no disrespect intended.)

outhouse

An old barber shop (one seater) near Batesville, AR.

barber shop

A bit of local Olympic history… this is the home and training grounds for Earl Bell, 1984 bronze medalist in the pole vault. Bell lives in this facility near my home and trains world-class athletes here every day.

earl bell pole vaulter

Mitt Romney’s Mulligan

First, a few disclaimers:

1. If you want to label me, I’m a 46-year-old-white-Christian-southern-moderate Democrat who’s never voted for a Republican. However, if I’d been the age I am now in the 1980s, I’d probably have been a Reagan Democrat.

2. For the most part, I believe the Obama presidency has failed to live up to its expectations. It’s been particularly harmful in a moralistic sort of way.

3. I think Mitt Romney is a good, smart, decent man who has the qualifications to potentially serve well as president, but his campaign is a disaster.

4. In the 48 hours since I decided to post on this topic, Romney’s apparently decided to name Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. It’s a bad choice that makes his road to the White House all the more difficult. But the Saturday announcement does allow the Romney campaign to dominate tomorrow’s Sunday talk shows, so touche’.

5. I’m pulling for Mitt Romney to turn his campaign around, show who he really is, and there’s a remote chance I may possibly cast my first Republican presidential vote ever. But it’s not looking good so far.

***

mul·li·gan/ˈməligən/

Noun:
  1. A stew made from odds and ends of food.
  2. (in informal golf) An extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard.
Romney running mate Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney’s apparent VP.

In my world of professional duffer’s golf, we have this thing called a mulligan.

In certain tournaments, you may purchase x number of mulligans. In a gentleman’s round of golf, players agree to mulligans off the first tee or at certain designated moments along the round. The mulligan is a do-over, a second chance. An opportunity to erase the previous hook or slice.

It’s a chance to start fresh and forget the past.

The mulligan is an applicable metaphor for the Romney campaign.Duffer

Though many will disagree, I contend, the Romney campaign has, to date, failed to show its true potential. So far, foreign policy visits have been disastrous, the tax issue looms as a dark cloud of dubious dealings. He runs needlessly from the issue of his Mormon faith and his record as Massachusetts governor. And his selection of Ryan as running mate gives no diversity whatsoever to the GOP ticket. That in itself, is a hugely missed opportunity, but not unexpected.

***

But Mitt Romney is a good man. Even the most left-wing blue-dog Democrat must admit that. His qualifications for the presidency are as good as any Republican candidate in recent years. He’s a successful capitalist who’s been in the trenches, and that may very well be exactly what the country needs as this moment, as opposed to Obama, who many contend has never had a “real” job.

In a few short days, Mitt Romney gets his last mulligan. His acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa is Romney’s final opportunity to let the world know who he is. He desperately needs to bare his soul. After Tampa, there will be no more defining moments.

As a press secretary to U.S. Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR) from 1996-2000, I wrote hundreds of campaign and political speeches. Were I in the same position with Romney today, I’d shape my acceptance speech around the following 10 points, and I’d bare my soul to its innermost core. These points are not the message, but the points around which the message should be shaped.

  • Married to the same woman for 43 years with five great kids.
  • Stuck beside his wife every step of the way when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996.
  • A product of the public school system.
  • Successful enough to make his way through Stanford, Brigham Young and Harvard.
  • Lived in a basement apartment as an undergrad at BYU.
  • Spent more than two years as a Mormon missionary in France.
  • And while there sustained a broken jaw defending a female missionary who was being harassed by a rugby team.
  • Progressive record as governor of Massachusetts.
  • Understands the world of capitalism and pulled off a successful Winter Olympic Games in 2002 at Salt Lake.
  • His father is his mentor and hero.

mulligan

Your down to your last mulligan, Mitt. Rich as you are, you won’t be able to buy another. You need a birdie.

Bare your soul in Tampa.

PS Mitt: Consider making this your convention theme song:

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Re-blogged from LatOne.

Latitude 1

We wondered to ourselves many times if it would really be possible to build a home while we were 5,000 miles away. The photos show it can be done. We’re getting updates about twice a week now and are several weeks ahead of schedule. Looking forward to seeing a finished work when we make our way South this December.

If you’re intrigued by the possibilities Ecuador has to offer, and have a love for adventure, I’d encourage you to click on the sidebar links to www.lossuenosdelmar.net and/or www.laspalmasecuador.com. Gary and April Scarborough would be glad to show you more.

Electrical work going in the kitchen.

Bamboo supporting second floor construction. This is the dining room and kitchen.

Getting ready for second floor construction. The second floor is our bedroom and a 500-square-foot covered patio facing the Pacific‘s western sunsets.

Back of the house. Guest bedroom on the bottom…

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