Crumbling Down

I grew up in a medium-sized suburb thirty-five miles northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. It was the kind of place where I could leave my parents house on my bicycle at daybreak, return at dusk as my mom turned on the house light and everything would be relatively alright. Most of the parents knew each other, hardly anything really bad ever happened, and the worst part of my day was a bloodied knee or nose due to a heated touch football game or an argument over who was better, Van Halen or Motley Crue.

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Atlanta-based WTBS, now known for comedy shows and baseball playoff games, was a sense of pride for us Georgians that showed Atlanta Braves baseball, pro rasslin’, The Three Stooges, Andy Griffith Show, and Leave It To Beaver. A lot of what was broadcast on what we natives called “channel 17″ was in black and white. And it was completely unbelievable. No one reasonable took it seriously. If your parents were lucky enough to have stayed together during the turbulent 1970s and greedy 1980s, then they were working so hard you barely saw them or were so exhausted it was better if you were seen and not heard. This makes some of my social media timelines quite laughable. I know that they mean well, but I believe if they took time to really think about what they post, they’d realize that the sanitized world of the 1950s and 1960s broadcast back to us in the 1970s and 1980s never existed.

This isn’t an attack on conservatism by a liberal but more of a mock. What passes for political and cultural commentary on cable news or social media isn’t reality. Divorce, drug abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, alcoholism, and whatever you want to call “the breakdown of the family” started happening before my generation started using Clearasil.

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I was fortunate. My parents stayed together and seem to be head over heels in love with each other after 45 years. But they, like most people, were far from perfect. They had a bat-crap crazy son who ended up experiencing divorce, mental illness, and the ups and downs of the internet age.

What aggravates me about the immense cultural divide that exists today is that the side I disagreed with, mostly conservative, doesn’t want to argue from an intellectually honest base. They seem to think we’re all going to hell in hand basket when an athlete screams in a microphone, people of a different sexuality want to marry, marijuana gets decriminalized and recreationally legalized, or a former Disney star twerks on MTV. Richard Sherman is this generation’s Muhammad Ali, same-sex marriage is this generation’s civil right, legal pot is this generation’s contraceptive pill, and Miley Cyrus is this generation’s Madonna.

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When cultural walls start crumbling down we should look at it as progress. You know what the reality was behind those black and white television shows we all liked to watch on WTBS? Jim Crow laws terrorized minorities across the nation, mostly in the south where I was raised, alcoholism was greater then than now, especially among housewives, women were not only discouraged from working but sexually harassed when they did, and technology and transportation limited where people could live, work, raise children, and communicate to one another. Not only were things worse in black and white, they were misrepresented on purpose.

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I proudly and enthusiastically tri-created a politics and pop culture website with my friend Linda aka @modmomelleroy of www.elleroywashere.com and Natalie aka @singingfool1224 of www.thecatladysings.com three weeks ago called Lefty Pop aka @lefty_pop  www.leftypop.com. It’s initial success has startled me into realizing I need to be a different kind of lefty, a unique liberal voice, that is both intellectually honest and less arrogant. Yesterday, there, I wrote about my support for legal marijuana. I may be a joker but I’m not a midnight toker, so I made sure to be considerate and sober in commentary.

We can disagree about how the country should proceed. As a liberal, I need to be more open-minded that not every conservative hates gays/women/minorities/and well, lefties like me. I do ask of people who don’t think like me to stop saying and posting things that are just not true. The black and white television show world you wish for this country to be never actually existed. If all of us, regardless of political persuasion or area of the country we hail from would start from this intellectually honest place, then the walls that are crumbling down could be more understandable and easier to debate.

Let me know what you think. As the author of today’s song would say “I don’t mind being their whipping boy, I’ve had that pleasure for years and years”.

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One of the songs I’d run off the school bus in my Atlanta suburb as a 13-year-old in 1983 to watch the video on MTV for is from Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, John Mellencamp. He shares my politics and this is one of my many theme songs. Here’s Crumbling Down.

You know what would make lovely Valentine’s Day gifts? My books.

The Ballad of Helene Troy, an underdog story about a female musician in New York City, and Soul To Body, about an ex-1990s guitar player trying to raise his teenage daughter after the death of his wife, her mother, are available, digitally, on Amazon.com for your kindles, and in paperback from Lulu.com

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Driver 8

Watching the white sedan pull away from the house, my heart and my mind punched each other simultaneously like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed in the final scene of Rocky III.

My oldest daughter, sixteen-year-old Tay, became a licensed driver capable of motoring herself and one member of her immediate family for the next six months, last week. This morning, I found out I had to work from home due to a computer problem in my office. When I settled into the kitchen table for the day, my youngest daughter, eight-year-old Goose, pranced in front of me, dressed to the nines, looking for socks in the dryer.

“Where do you think you’re going?” I asked.

“Me and Tay Tay are going to take the kitten to the doctor at mommy’s work, then go to Mimi’s (her grandmother, my mother-in-law), then go to the mall to buy stuff.”

I didn’t believe her. Since Tay got her license on Friday, she’s gone to the grocery store for us, met a buddy at Starbucks, and taken her middle sister, nine-year-old Bug, to her other’s family’s home. But errands, grandmother’s and the mall? No way. Then Tay appeared holding our four-month-old kitten, Alfie, with her keys in hand, dressed for a day out.

“Hey, we’re leaving. Do you know where the cat carrier is?” She queried.

What? Are you kidding me? My little girls are going to galavant over two towns, including the busiest mall in the state of Georgia without my help in any way? If Ashton Kutcher pops out in a trucker hat, I’m punching him and grounding them, I thought.

Then, they drove away.

I may or may not have teared up like I was watching my alma mater, the Alabama Crimson Tide, win another national championship while I was cutting onions and lemons.

Crap.

Dude, seriously. How did this happen?

Distracted and worried, I did my work, wrote an article about World War 5 in The Middle East http://sprocketink.com/the-winter-of-their-discontent-the-gaza-strip-rockets/ and stared at my phone waiting for a text or call telling me my teenager was scared and needed dad to come rescue her. That message never came.

There are a lot of changes going on in my home. Our Christmas Tree is up earlier then ever and my younger girls can do laundry.

But having my oldest girl being able to get in a car and run errands, take herself to cheerleading practice, and go meet her gal pal for a latte and gossip is overwhelming.

I tried to find something my daughter was probably cranking to 11 while she was driving but everything she listens to is pretty much awful and didn’t match the post. So, I’ll turn back the clock to November 1986 and play something I was bobbing my head and mangling lyrics to in my Chevy s-10 pickup truck on my way to some sort of trouble or a gallon of milk for my parents.

Here’s R.E.M.’s Driver 8. Get it?

Crazy Train

I’m too old to care about the outcome of a sporting event not involving a member of my family. Yet here I sit, distracted from my novel, thinking about an arrogant man wearing blue who called the infield fly rule on a 225 foot pop up that helped ruin the last game of a grown man named Chipper.

Sports has played a large role in my life. As a child, my father and I watched football, baseball, and basketball games together, living and dying with every win and loss. There were more losses than anything. Although I was the youngest and smallest boy in my class until I was 16-years-old, I played several sports, too. After realizing that 5’8″ 165 or so pounds wasn’t going to make any money in any league, I covered sports as a reporter for several years. Writing and broadcasting them filled that artificial void, for a while.

Growing up I suppressed my artistic side as much as I could. It wasn’t “cool” to talk about reading and writing in my social circle. When I got to college, the University of Alabama, I found people who not only liked sports but also liked literature and creative writing. The next time I discovered the same dynamic was the internet, a few years ago.

Last night’s loss by my hometown professional baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, as a result of 3 errors, bad situational hitting, poor base running, and that ridiculous umpire’s call not only ended the team;s season, but also the legendary career of Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones. Born forty years ago in Northeastern Florida, Jones gave 19 years of outstanding hitting, finishing with a lifetime .303 batting average, and gutsy play that could be categorized as star-like. He played his entire time in the major leagues with my Braves, never considering leaving for more money or more fame. Now, it’s all over in one game. But that’s life isn’t it? The real world is more cruel that Hollywood. It’s more final.

It’s maudlin and intellectually dishonest to say that calling yourself for caring too much about a baseball game means you’re maturing. I wouldn’t be on the Twitter or have a blog if I was growing up (please don’t read my timeline from Friday night, thanks). But I’m hurting my arm patting myself on the back for not punching a hole in my wall or threatening to burn my Braves jersey.

Chipper’s “walk-up song” aka the tune he has the press box play when he trots from the on-deck circle to the plate before he takes an at-bat, was Crazy Train by Ozzy Osborne. For those of us who followed Jones’ career, every time “aye aye aye” plays in any setting we think tall, good ole boy wearing grown-up pajamas with the number 10 on his back, getting ready to stroke a double to right-center field. Today, because of the circumstances of last night, and the burgeoning of middle-age reality of having to give less of a crap about certain outcomes of sporting events, Crazy Train takes on a new meaning. I’ll let each of you reading this post decide the definition. Goodbye Larry Wayne Jones. You were the greatest third baseman, switch-hitter, and Atlanta Brave I ever saw.

But my mental wounds not healing, who and what’s to blame, I’m going off the rails of the crazy train.

The Way It Is

Blogging is therapy. If you don’t think so or you don’t realize it, then you’re doing it wrong. There is no difference in typing out your words, hitting publish and getting response versus sitting in a comfortable chair in front of someone who doesn’t really know you and talking.

I don’t understand people who write under pseudonyms, have multiple online identities, or play characters on Al Gore’s internets. I’ve done it before. I was wrong and I felt stupid. I don’t blame any of you or have ill feelings. There are people who are abused and write to escape their horror. There are others with judgemental jobs or family members and they type under a shield to experience the freedom they need to survive. Good on all of you.

If My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog is about anything, other than serialized fiction, then it’s about me and my changing perspective as I grow up. Twenty years ago, Wall Street was my favorite movie. I idolized Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas. His speech to Teldar Paper, where he drops “Greed is good”, was something I mimicked and spoke verbatim in exuberance. Now, it makes me ill. I still like the film, but, currently, my favorite line comes from Martin Sheen’s character Carl Fox. When his son, Bud, played by Charlie Sheen, lectures Carl for not being more greedy and savvy about the real, cruel world around them, Carl says this:

“I don’t go to bed with no whore, and I don’t wake up with no whore. That’s how I live with myself. I don’t know how you do it.”

There’s no scandal inside My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. The title is ironic, unless you’re a whore. If you are, then, yeah, my blog can slap you around.

I love writing. It makes me feel alive. I’m more proud that this place is authentic to who I am and what I value, the way it is.

***blogger’s note***

Although personal, the word scandal is used so this is my response, a weak one they’ll think, I’m sure, to my friends at Trifecta Challenge http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/

scan·dal noun \ˈskan-dəl\

3 a: a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions or disgraces those associated with it

I’m an unashamed fan of Tesla. Today’s song says a lot about where my head’s at, right now. Here’s The Way It Is. Blow a speaker.