Saturday, February 05, 2005

"Beggars Can't Be Choosers" And Other Hogwash

If you've learned anything about me through this blog over the years it's how much esteem I have for the men and women who navigate the nation's highways and biways as truckers. It was this noble vocation, after all, that gave the world one of the finest "Old So-and-Sos Never Die" jokes, to wit: "Old truckers never die; they just get a new Peterbilt." God bless truckers.

One thing, though. I don't get the obscene mud flaps. I've thought about this a lot, and I'm still not sure what message truckers are sending when their flaps are festooned with the silhouetted image of an ostensibly nude woman - and is there anything sexier than ostensibly nude? - in the classic upright and locked position, practically be splattered with mud.

Is the message for women? "If you're 102 pounds, disproportionately buxom, and ostensibly nude, I'm your man!" Or is it for men? "Hey, fellas. Check out my flaps. This is an accurate representation of what the women look like who regularly throw themselves at me when I roll in to the Stuckey's in Bucksnort, Tennessee at 3 a.m. Jealous? You should be."

I'll keep thinking on this one.


You've always heard, "Beggars can't be choosers." Not true. Some of the choosiest people I've met have been beggars. The other day at Sonic, Ellen asked me for some loose change after lifting her shirt to show me a bandaged wound. I offered her the chicken wrap I'd just bought for myself. She declined and reiterated her request for cash, which I was happy to give her.

A homeless woman in Monterey, California told me she never under any circumstances accepted food from people. Too risky, she said. More risky than starvation, I wondered. A guy I met on the corner of LBJ and Preston in Dallas one time told me he'd "made" a couple hundred dollars that day. I said, "You mean you've been given a couple hundred?" He said, "Same thing." He only had one leg.


Millions are spent on R & D in the area of kitchen cleaning utensils. There are times, though, when the only thing that'll rid cookware of caked-on crud is your fingernail.


The winners of official PGA TOUR events so far in 2005 are as follows: Stuart Appleby, Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson (twice). All are in the top 15 in the world rankings. If Mom was aware of this fact, she'd likely utter her trademark retort to any unusual feat in a sporting event: "It's fixed."


There are few times when a mother telling her little boy, "Here's an idea: you be quiet and I won't beat you" is funny. To the woman in 12B on the 6:59 flight from DFW to Abilene February 9: that night was not one of those times.


Anna Claire turns 3 next week. She's at a great stage in her language skills when certain words are uttered forcefully, if not accurately. She's all in to princesses right now, and one of her favorites is Sleeping Beauty. Except from her, it comes out "Seeping Booty." Which sounds like either something a contestant in the strongman competition might experience or perhaps a condition that prompted the pose struck by the mudflap floozy.

Casting Pearl Before Swine

By now, the Religious Right is on Red (Pink?) Alert over the news that an upcoming episode of a PBS kids show about a cartoon rabbit, Buster, features a same-sex couple engaging in the shamefully lubricious act of - hide the women and women - eating dinner. Personally, I've always felt public television's greatest threat to America's youth was Teletubbies.

As expected, every conservative organization, institute, and alliance from the Whigs to the Illegitimate Daughters of Strom Thurmond have decried this development as the latest incontrovertible evidence that the liberal media is leading America further away from the traditional values of places like Helena, Montana, and escorting our country instead straight to Helena handbasket.

But before we throw the bunny out with the bathwater, take note of the paean paid to Johnny Carson, who died last month. Did you see the footage of Johnny's song-and-dance number with Pearl Bailey? The year was 1964. Black-and-white wasn't just the way people watched TV back then. It was how so many of us lived, certainly when it came to race relations. When Pearl met Johnny that night 40 years ago, white men didn't dance with black women, not in polite company anyway. They just didn't. But there was the fully-integrated Carson - and, mind you, merely a budding comedian with a career to build circa '64, not the undisputed and eternal King of Late Night - gettin' jiggy with Bailey, so talented, so pretty, but so know, black. You can still hear the echo of sets across the Deep South and other pockets of white superiority shutting off en masse at such an abomination.

Indeed while Carson fiddled four decades ago, Christian America still burned with the fire of segregation. Most of our fair schools, synagogues, and churches remained free from the scourge of socializing with Negroes. Christian college students who stayed up late that night witnessed two things on their TV screens they'd never seen on their campus:

1) a white man fellowshipping a black woman
and 2) people of any skin color actually dancing.

Instead of taking the lead in welcoming blacks into a lily-white world, God's people by and large were wallflowers while the entertainment industry asked the African-American community if it could have this dance. The Civil Rights Movement accompanied Carson's derring-duet in the mid-'60s, but here's guessing nothing in Washington had a more profound impact on normalizing integration than what was coming into living rooms outside the Beltway from television studios like Carson's in New York.

As with most of us, the entertainment world often misses the mark (see After M*A*S*H and any of the disasters perpetrated by erstwhile Seinfeld cast members). And it's not as if African-Americans have had it easy in Hollywood. Far from it. But Show Business gets it right a lot, too. Sometimes uncomfortably so. And on that night in 1964, Carson got it right.

For that, the least I can do is join Johnny's inseparable sidekick Ed Mc Mahon in offering a posthumous but hearty "Hi-oooooooooo!"