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Unpaid Bill

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  • Hot Day

    It’s Sunday afternoon in the city of Baton Rouge and the temperature is 98 degrees. The relative humidity is only 46%, so it could be worse and often is. Have not been out of the house since Friday, and tomorrow is uncertain. I’m not sick, it’s just that it is pretty easy to be cool inside and besides, I have been going out too many times when I didn’t really feel good enough to play one-pocket, and have embarrassed myself. I need energy to be competitive and I don’t always have it.

    AT&T contacted me, wanting to know why I had dropped my TV coverage, and I told them that I had quit watching when I discovered YouTube. Now I have a little inside antenna that makes the local news available when I want it. When I broke the ATT package, I saved about eighty dollars a month, and they responded by letting me know that now I would be limited to 1024 gigabytes a month of high-speed internet service. I thought this might be bad news, so I called customer service and asked what my usual usage has been in the past. 48 gigs a month was the answer to that – big relief. I suppose the heavy load is gaming and music and movies online. In the bedroom I also have a little inside antenna, and like the one out front it offers about ten to twelve channels, which is more than I need. However, I miss my nightly doses of Forensic Files. Instead, I can pick up Alfred Hitchcock, Mannix and Cannon. No wonder it doesn’t cost anything. One night I turned in early and got Jack Benny and then George and Gracie. In the afternoons they offer MASH and Andy Griffith and Gomer Pyle. Hardly any infomercials at all – don’t know why. (Yes, I do)

    On YouTube I’m a junkie on the subject of WWII, and the more I watch the more they offer me. There’s no end to it – it really was the first war to be recorded at length and in detail. If you have ever watched any battlefield pictures from the American Civil War you may have noticed that all those dead soldiers seem to have died face-up, or else somebody was busy rolling them over. Not so WWII and other wars since, where we can see them as they fell. We mustn’t forget.

    In the same vein, I discovered a series of twenty-minute biographies online, featuring many historical characters of that era, especially in eastern Europe and around the Balkans. The series is called Biographics, and it’s put on by an Englishman named Simon Whistler, who lives now in Belgrade for some reason. He is baldheaded, bearded, fast-talking and animated. (I guess you have to wear a beard of some sort to appear on today’s visual media). I have watched his presentations on Hitler, Stalin, Tito, Churchill and such as those. The series is extensive. Unable to help myself I went on to hear about Billy the Kid, Charley Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the BTK guy. Simon knows all about everybody and can’t wait to tell us.

    If movie stars and other entertainers is your thing you might prefer the offerings of Jerry Skinner, who does biographies more domestic. You have to like Jerry and his deep south accent – not far from the Gulf coast I imagine.

    The Morning Advocate this weekend added a couple of names to the list of clerics ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse in the Baton Rouge Diocese. Up to forty-three now and still counting. Nation-wide it’s thousands. I was going to write ‘who knew?’, but the sad truth is that people did know, but wouldn’t tell. That’s pretty sick. Hundreds of millions of church dollars are being spent every year for the victims and their lawyers. Sex is big, kids are small and a lot of people just aren’t worth a shit. Enough about that.

    Gonna be a long hot summer, and this is when the coaches discover who really wants to play. LSU should have a good season and a lot is expected from their quarterback. Joe Burrow came south barely a year ago, having seen the handwriting on the wall at Ohio State. He’s cool and smart and he can run a little and we think he will be a winner. But we have to go to Tuscaloosa again – annual bullet to bite. Later -
    If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


    • Eagles and such

      Well, just about everything I have learned this year has come from Google, YouTube and this website. Everybody is watching TV but all the news there is bad, so I stick to my reliable sources. I suppose this puts a bit of pressure on you guys, but it is what it is.

      Jeffrey Epstein made some more headlines a few days ago. He was found laid out in his cell in the pokey with some sort of injuries to his neck. Even YouTube doesn’t pretend to know what happened, so take a guess and you might be right. Appears to be too late for anybody to kill him but maybe he tried to do the Dutch – and if not, why not? It must be tough to be as rich as he is and to be even more notable for something else. We haven’t even been told he was kind to animals or anything like that. Nobody – but nobody – is putting in a good word for Epstein. What will they write on his stone?

      I’ve been following a website called Stephen Fry in America. Fry is a portly Englishman on a tour of the fifty states and doing some good shows at every stop. He motors around in a little black sedan – I can’t quite make out what it is. He’s a homely character and it’s not easy to watch him because he resembles that idiot, Piers Morgan, but he is likable and casual and finds people happy to talk with him wherever he goes. Today I watched him travel the river, beginning in New Orleans and tracking the Big Muddy all the way to Minnesota, driving mostly US 61 which goes right through my town on its route.

      I also watched the young Big Bear eagle take off on his very first flight, on his one hundredth day of life. All the wildlife cams are wonderful – and the eagle cams especially- but the Big Bear group is a favorite. The TV camera is mounted on the very edge of the nest, way the hell up in the top of a big tree. When one of the parents arrives with a fish, it is torn up and eaten within about two feet of the camera. We can see a river down below, and to the eagles it’s always Friday – they have fish every day. Once we saw one of the wildlife guys show up at the nest and put leg bands on both this year’s chicks, for identification. Later he made the climb again and weighed both young birds. He comes on camera with all his climbing gear on, and it must be a helluva workout to reach that nest. You know how them wildlife people are – they do whatever they have to do and they go where the critters are.

      There are also cameras on the bears catching salmon in the rivers and the swift water. There are so many fish that you might see a bear catch one and take a bite or two and toss the carcass aside and catch another one. Down in south Florida there is a young guy who hikes far into the Everglades and sets up Browning cameras that are camouflaged and motion activated. He leaves them up for many weeks and then finds dozens of videos recorded with all the wildlife that passes, day or night. It records the sound, also. Big alligators, by the way, don’t crawl around on their bellies. They get up on their legs and walk. Maybe some of you did not know. But you all care, don’t you? The woods and all outdoors in this country are now full of such cameras. It’s not only the government taking pictures today, so dress nice when you go out hunting or fishing and check around before you pee. Don’t forget what you look like when the weather is cold and a picture of it could show up on social media.

      I watched a video yesterday of a dark-skinned man in a jewelry store, who did a very kind thing for a young mother who tried to sell her ring to get money to buy food for her young children. Recorded and sponsored by ‘America For Arabs’. I don’t know what to make of that – never heard of that group before.

      I mustn’t forget that this is a one-pocket site and not a Dan’l Boone thing. I watched an old video of an interview with Freddie the Beard Bentivegna in Chicago. If you have been around here for more than just a few years you can remember Freddie. He was very active here from the early days of the site. Good interviewer and a good TV show, very funny. Freddie talked about the ‘old days’ of hustling and grifting and gambling and life at Bensinger’s. He explained what it meant to ‘play on ass’ and what a ‘through ticket’ was and also a ‘shit mickey’. He had been there and had done it all, and he left some great stories here for us. He died too soon.

      When I sit here at the computer and watch the matches, old or recent, I do a running commentary aloud. It’s not that I comment that much on the play, but I get pretty excited coaching the players. As I look at the table I generally see the very best shot for the occasion and I point it out to the shooter at least once. He might hesitate, but I don’t cut him any slack – I repeat it until he sees the light or shoots something else. They don’t always pay attention as they should and it’s only blind luck if they succeed without my help. It is just as well that there is no one to hear me.

      That’s it. I’m going to bed soon – it’s nearly one AM. High time for the rest of you to call it a day, also – except for maybe Jimmy B – he stays up later than I do.
      If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


      • Gators

        Always on the lookout for items that might be of interest to readers who spend less time on YouTube than I do. Sometimes there is a superabundance of such stuff, and sometimes there isn’t much. I have long since quit reminding myself that this site is dedicated to the game of one-pocket. There are other forums here for that. If I have any function here at all it is reporting and commenting and always hoping that I can find funny things, which after all are the only things worth much.

        I have recently mentioned a young guy in Florida who hikes deep into the jungle-like Everglades to station trail cameras to collect videos of wildlife. His name is Tim Harrell and his equipment is the Browning Recon Force Extreme trail camera. It comes ready-camouflaged. To be honest, Tim’s posted videos – each about fifteen minutes – can be too repetitive to hold one’s interest. There are endless deer, several bears of various sizes, the occasional panther and plenty of birds and smaller animals. The camera records whenever it sees motion. But yesterday I noted a three-minute record of one of his recent adventures.

        Tim films as he walks, no doubt with a camera mounted on his chest. He encountered a sign, posted on a tree, to the effect that he should beware of an alligator bigger than ten feet long which had been observed several times blocking the little dirt road in the sun. Cool weather moves the reptiles who need warmth. Sure enough, on his way out, Tim found the bull gator lying diagonally across the road and blocking both tire tracks. What to do? He had to pass, so he advanced to within about fifteen feet and rapped on the ground with his tripod, hoping the beast would yield. It did not. After venturing even closer a couple of times, the gator still played dead. At last Tim dashed the last six feet and leaped across and ran like hell. Looking back we can all see that the alligator had not even flinched. Tim was exhilarated by the leap, the gator not so much.

        He labelled the video ‘alligator jumping’ so you can find it if you wish. It begs the old question – where does an eight-hundred-pound gorilla sleep?

        Jeffery Epstein, if not an eight-hundred-pound gorilla at least the elephant in the room, was found dead this morning in his jail cell in New York. Apparently he had committed suicide, method not reported at this time. You will recall that he is awaiting trial on a lot of charges related to under-age girls that he abused sexually and supplied to others for similar crimes. The girls, now adult women, are coming forward in force with damning accusations against him and his death leaves a lot of fascinating possibilities hanging and awaiting resolution.

        Epstein, himself, won’t be tried now and cannot be convicted and that in itself is news-worthy, especially for his family. However, although he was the only one charged so far, a number of other notables were named and accused by the girls. A lawyer and Harvard professor, Allen Dershowitz, is one of them and Prince Andrew of the British royal family is another. Both have been denying loudly and squirming visibly for several weeks. What is ahead for them, if anything? Can the justice system overlook possible charges of pedophilia, a felony in any state? Only Epstein is off the hook.

        Bill Clinton’s name has come up, naturally, and although he has logged a great many air miles in a flying machine with the children, I’m not aware that any of them has accused him of doing wrong. Donald Trump, in turn, seems to have partied with Epstein back in the day, but being a good Republican we can assume he behaved with great restraint – and they have been estranged now for a good many years. But there are others, foreign notables whose names would not be quite so familiar and whose liability in this country maybe not quite so great.

        This tangled mess will be noted in history books before long, and presented in various forms by the various authors of the books. Treachery and espionage could be adjudged greater sins, only in that your country might execute you. Sexual abusers of minor children, on the other hand, might have to do it themselves.
        If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


        • YouTube

          The U.S. Postal Service thinks I live on Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge – probably because that’s where they leave all my junk mail – but that’s just where I keep my pool table and my computer – oh, and my bed. Actually, I am living on YouTube, maybe you have noticed. I can’t imagine that I was paying someone good money to provide my TV service. Good riddance. ATT keeps sending me emails with better and better propositions, if only I would come back. What would it take? Well, I might be willing to pay four dollars a month, or maybe as much as four-fifty. Then I could get back to Forensic Files at bedtime.

          Here I am, trying to keep up a journal on a one-pocket website even though most of the members here know more about it than I do. That’s pretty cheeky. I have long since posted all my bowling stories and I hate to have to make stuff up (no, I don’t). At the end of the day, as they say in Washington, it is obvious that I should stick pretty much to what I know – which is what? I know how to be old and how to live alone and how to poach eggs and how to do a search on Google. That’s about it.

          But I can tell you what I follow on YouTube and save you some time – don’t worry, it’s all great stuff. In case you are into herping (snakes and amphibians) have a look at “NFKherping’, where a sharp young man named Noah Fields and a couple of his buddies are traveling around – often at night – to find these small beasts. Not nerds, either, these guys. They know the scientific names and they take pictures and make videos and leave them all just as they find them. They recently spent several weeks in west Texas and New Mexico, where they turned up some astonishing beautiful and gaudy snakes that look like some kid might have done them with Crayolas. I would never have believed it. Lots and lots of rattlesnakes out there, also. They come in many kinds.

          I watch Patrick Bet-David, who does an interview show for TV. Pat gets interesting guests and asks them good questions and that makes him better than the sports guys. There’s Tim Harrell who puts out trail cameras down in the Everglades and lets us see what is prowling the wetlands. There are a number of such cameras mounted high up in the nests of eagles and other birds, and cameras posted along rivers to capture the bears who fish for salmon. I like the shows about organized crime and La Cosa Nostra, and a show called Mob Talk about the guys in South Philadelphia. George Anastasia walks around town reporting about hoods, wire taps, grand juries, crimes, contracts for hits, criminal courts and jails. George posts roughly once a month. Shows about Appalachia are fascinating – one of the oldest wilderness settlements on this side – full of interesting people, poverty, mining, folk stories and music. The kids’ teeth are rotting, and some of the dentists believe that Mountain Dew is the cause. It’s the big drink in that area and many babies are weaned on it. Lots of sugar in Mountain Dew.

          I’m a World War II buff of sorts, having watched many videos about the several failures of Adolf Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa that was turned back at Moscow, Stalingrad and the siege of Leningrad that went on for 872 days. Many thousands of German soldiers froze to death in the Russian winters or starved to death and died in battle for the lack of ammunition and winter clothes. The Russians seemed to never run out of soldiers and they spent them like rifle bullets, but they turned the war around, halting the march to the east and starting it back toward Berlin. Never such a bloody war in history.

          I will leave it here for tonight and get this posted. There’s a lot more, but it can wait for another time. Today I beat Killer 4-3, and that’s a red-letter day for me. Jojo and I put him up against the wall and made him shoot up in the air. Life is good.

          Recently, in a coffee shop, I sat next to a kid who was working on an assignment in his workbook. I could easily see the heading at the top of the page. ‘Calculate your weight in other worlds’. Other worlds? Are they pulling my weenie? Kid looked like he was maybe nine years old. Probably didn’t know the multiplication table. I have lived too long. Later -
          If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


          • Into the woods

            I used to be a woodcarver. At age ten or eleven – this would have been during The War – I acquired an old life preserver. The flotation in it was balsa wood blocks sewed up in the pockets of a canvas vest. I suppose the canvas must have been waterproofed because I have no doubt the balsa would have soaked up water like a sponge. I became the owner of nine or ten sizeable blocks of wood and I had a pocket knife and I carved. Boy, did I carve! Forbidden in the house, I carved in the garage, in the company of two or three milk goats who were good company, indeed. Great animals and much impressed with my work. I don’t recall ever carving a goat.

            So I became a great woodcarver? Not. But I did become a fan of those who do it better. Currently, I visit a website called Stinnett Sticks to watch videos of a bearded guy named Michael Stinnett creating beautiful walking sticks. His shop is in Canyon City, Oregon, but the carving is done somewhere else, in the mountains and the woods in beautiful scenery. Along with a fat little fox terrier named Molly he hikes around in the outback carrying a saw and cutting his blanks from downed trees, generally with the bark still on. Imagine this: a walking stick with a diamondback rattlesnake four feet long curled around it and climbing toward a chipmunk at the top. You must begin with a sizeable piece of lumber.

            Every scale on the snake would be individually carved and hand painted, or every feather if he is making a bird, and all precisely true to life. I believe they are all for sale, but I imagine you would have to want it pretty bad. Here in south Louisiana competitions are held among the artists who carve duck decoys with similar care and artistry. I envy them all. Solitary labor, like the sign painters. I could do that.

            While we are outdoors I would mention the name of Shawn James, whose videos can be found at a site called My Self Reliance. Shawn is in the Canadian Algonquin Park, which is just across Lake Ontario from western New York. I don’t know where he is from, but he sounds like maybe Virginia – he can say ‘aboot the hoose’. He is a writer, photographer, hunting and fishing guide and outdoorsman. I think he teaches survival classes and woodcraft, and has built more than one log cabin. ‘Off the grid’ seems to be a popular topic today – it means living in the woods and perhaps in the mountains. How many of us would love to do that?

            Mr. James has a place there in the Park and he just seems to keep building. It’s a log cabin, no doubt about that, but he hauled in dimension lumber to build the roof. He camps out there, but I don’t think he is really roughing it. His cabin has a front porch to catch the sun and a big screened side porch to catch the breeze and see the sunset across a valley. There’s a kitchen inside and another one outside and his oven is in a mound of dirt, maybe like the Indians in Peru, and has an A-frame cover to keep the rain off of it. There’s an outhouse and a shed for the firewood and another for the kindling and another for his tools, etc. He builds everything with hand tools and materials found in the woods and has a three-year-old Golden Retriever named Cali for company. Shawn and Cali can dig in and survive blizzards or whatever might come. If you are a fan of camping or living in the outback you would enjoy seeing what they are doing.

            From Baton Rouge I am appalled at the pictures of Minnesota and Michigan in the dead of winter when the snow is up to here and the temperature is down to there, and then I recall that there is a whole ‘nother country north of that and it boggles my mind. I’m told that it gets sort of chilly in Maine and New Hampshire also, but I have never been there. Could be only a rumor. And people live in those places, too. Can’t be all that cold.

            I’m certain I have mentioned a guy named Shaun Attwood in this journal. He is a former drug kingpin and distributor of ecstasy in the Phoenix area, and has done some serious time in the American penal system. Weird-looking dude without a hair on his head, but a sharp individual. He is out of jail now, maybe deported back to England, where he does video monologues about life on the inside and the criminals and gangs one can meet there. Recently he has branched out into other subjects and is having a ball with the mess Jeffery Epstein left behind when he died in jail. We are a long way from seeing the end of that, and the media promises that big name people will be held accountable for their conduct – one being Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and the old queen’s second son. The royal family denies the reports of Andy’s frolicking with teenage girls, but Shaun tells us that they are circling the Bentleys in London. Since I gave up woodcarving I like to follow this kind of stuff.

            There it is – a journal entry without any one-pocket news, because I don’t know any. I am curious to see how this one is received.
            If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


            • A terrible choice

              Here is a little story. Not a very entertaining story, but one with a moral of sorts. Some of you may know similar stories.

              In about 1965 I had been in the bowling business for six years and was deadly tired of smiling at the public, and I was looking for another way to finance my trips to Food Town. At the age of thirty-three I became a sign painter, or rather that was when I began the long and painful process of learning how. In the beginning I sold my work cheap because it wasn’t very good, but there was a market there in the city of Thibodaux. This was something I could do alone. I built a small shop in my back yard, an adventure I will talk about some other time.

              There was only one real sign man in town, a guy who could swing the lettering brushes and I envied his skill. His name was Frank Lusco and he had a one-man shop a block off Canal Boulevard. He was elderly by the time I knew him and he was an old-time sign man. He didn’t do electric or neon, he didn’t do sandblasted signs and he didn’t do changeable-copy signs with individual letters one could move around to change your message – like in front of churches. (Sign broken – message inside) Frank painted and he did it well, but slowly. He was short and chubby and he had a pencil-thin mustache and dark curly hair. I believe he might have been an Italian – did I mention his name was Lusco? He was always busy and always talking about closing the shop and retiring to rest his heart and I hoped he might be willing to help me. But he wasn’t. If I asked a question about signs his answer was that I could figure it out on my own, as he had done. He might talk with me on other topics but my impression was that he wanted to be left alone and that’s what I usually did. But his place was right on my route to the bowling lanes and the big overhead door was usually open unless the weather was bad, and as I passed I could often see what he was working on, and sometimes I would pull over and go and stand in the doorway to watch. I don’t think he liked it but I didn’t care and I didn’t ask questions. He could have closed the door. He was an excitable little guy and it was not wise to set him off. I had learned that early on.

              In 1966 a young man with some money paid the NFL a franchise fee of seven and a half million dollars and became the first owner of the New Orleans Saints. I guess he still had some money left, because a couple of years later he bought a Sulphur mine in the swamp near Chacahoula, just southwest of Thibodaux. Bought it from Freeport Sulphur who had closed it down some years earlier. For those not familiar with the area, Chacahoula is on LA 20, between Schriever and Donner. Young John arranged for a grand-opening shindig at the site, with speeches, live music, jambalaya and possibly some beer. His manager had contracted with Mr. Lusco to paint a sign, to be hung at the mine site by the morning of the party. They furnished Frank with a blank on which to paint the sign. The blank was a slab of steel three-eighths of an inch think and nearly as large as a pool table. It weighed a lot and the men had set it up on saw-horses and braced it with diagonal two-by-fours all around. It was to be a double-sided sign featuring young John’s name in large letters with a double outline and a shadow. Other information below.

              When I drove by that morning I could see the big sign just inside the overhead door. The name was done very impressively in eighteen-inch letters. I’m sure the other side was the same. I did a double take and crossed the center line of the street and swerved back and nearly hit the ditch in front of the shop. Wide-eyed, I pulled into the Malt ‘N Burger on the corner to consider the mistake I was about to make. After maybe ten minutes of review I left the truck and walked back to the shop and stood in the doorway. Frank swung around to face me. He had a brush in his hand and he was frowning and waving his arms at me.

              “Not today, Mr. Bill,” said Frank. “I just finished and some of the paint is still wet and the truck is gonna be here in forty minutes. You just go on about your business!”

              I had made my decision while sitting at the Malt ‘N Burger. “Frank,” I told him, “that’s not the way he spells his name.” There on the saw-horses was John Mecom, Jr.’s sign. It read, in large letters, M E A C O M. The little man’s knees buckled and he went pale as a ghost. He turned and hustled across the shop and into the little office. He emerged with a work order in his hand and a stricken look on his face. He charged up to me and pushed hard with both hands to my chest and I stumbled backward and went down on my butt in his driveway. I sat there and watched him tremble. He was near tears and his glare was pure hatred. I got to my feet and dusted myself off and walked back to my truck. I passed the shop again as I was leaving. His back was to the door and he was scrubbing the beautiful display with rags and a solvent of some kind – varsol or lacquer thinner – and already it was a terrible mess. I think he turned his head as I went by but I didn’t let him see me looking in.

              I don’t know what else happened that day. No doubt he had a confrontation with the truck driver when he got there, but I had given him an option. He could admit his spelling error or just tell the guy he had not had time to finish it. He could say his house had burned down or his brother had dropped dead or just about anything. It would have all been the same to the truck driver, who probably worked by the hour. Missing a deadline is never good but misspelling the customer’s name is a cardinal sin. If I had it to do over, which I don’t, I would have bought some lunch at the Malt ‘N Burger and gone on to my job at Sugar Lanes. I never went back to try to make amends with Mr. Lusco. And now, more than fifty years later, I’m trying to think of a punch line for my story, but it just won’t come. You will have to make your own.
              If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


              • Casper the camel

                Before I came back to Baton Rouge, I lived in Grosse Tete for several years. It’s a community on I-10 about twenty miles west of here. There isn’t much in Grosse Tete except for a truck stop with a fairly good café and a big parking lot. It has always been called the Tiger Truck Stop because they kept a live tiger in a pen. The animal rights people stayed after the owner for years about that tiger, without getting much satisfaction, and finally Tony the Tiger got old and had to be put down and that was the end of that. Except that now the guy keeps a camel in a pen out there, a camel named Casper, which leads me into a story the likes of which you may never hear again – even if you live to be as old as Kirk Douglas.

                Several days ago an elderly truck driver from Florida, along with her husband and the family dog, pulled into the Tiger Truck Stop and strolled over to look at Casper the camel. Having nothing better to offer the beast one of them tossed some doggie treats into the pen. Casper was not interested but the dog was and he ducked under the wire and went to scarfing up the goodies. This alarmed the man and wife and they also ducked under the wire to rescue their pooch and somewhere along the way they offended Casper, who sat down on the lady. In a panic to get free she bit the camel’s gonads – chomped right down on his family jewels. If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’. This had the desired effect and Casper got to his feet and the folks were able to escape the pen. The Morning Advocate reported that no one had any serious injuries, but just to be on the safe side some antibiotics were administered – (are you ready for this?) to the camel! I have not heard that the animal rights folks were involved at any point in my story, and I am repeating it here as sort of a public service bulletin. If you ever find yourself under a seated camel – or maybe even a dromedary, I suppose – this is what you must do. Assuming a boy camel, of course.

                Those of you who have visited the old Greenway Billiards on Greenwell Springs Road here in Baton Rouge may remember Jessie Romig, the former proprietor. Jessie lives out in Grosse Tete and is currently suffering from a dementia and is in very poor health. He has played host and backer for Buster Merchant and Louie Roberts and others back in the day. Talking history here, guys.

                The local police received a report of a mob demonstrating in the street and waving automatic weapons and being boisterous. Responding, they broke up the disturbance, arresting six demonstrators and seizing fifteen of the weapons. Several were assault rifles and several were stolen. Mean-looking guns, displayed on a table and photographed for today’s paper. Turns out they were filming a video for a rap musician! Rap is serious business around here, and the rappers burn more than a bit of powder among themselves and there is an occasional fatality. Gotta have guns for a rap video, apparently.

                I just watched a video of a match from the West Coast Swing for 2018. A player named Bryce Avila was the superior one-pocket player and he won the match from Josh Clover. A couple of capable shot-makers and a couple of memorable items from the video. Clover might be the tallest player I ever saw – I mean reaaaly tall – and I was hoping he would encounter a shot that he would have to stretch for, but it didn’t happen. Avila had a BIH shot at two spotted balls, and he set up Jojo for an apparent okey-doke shot, but he didn’t go all out to force the front ball forward. Instead he tried to double-bank the back ball to his pocket and wound up with the worst result one could imagine. The front ball crossed the table and settled right in front of the wrong pocket and the other one caught the side pocket on the way back and followed the front ball to within a foot of Clover’s pocket, too. Luckily, it didn’t cost him the game. It was an entertaining match, complete in an hour. I watched with the commentary muted.

                Trying to think of a good camel joke, but I only know one, and I won’t attach it here. Maybe I will post it in the Member’s Café in a day or two. One of my favorites, but a bit long and not for everyone. Later.
                If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                • War story

                  In February of 1951 I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Took the oath at Offutt Field in Omaha, where I was given a handful of meal tickets and put on to a train for San Antonio – a train that had no diner, as I recall. From Lackland AFB in San Antonio I was transferred immediately to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls. At Sheppard Field a sort of emergency basic training program had just been put in place to process all the volunteers fleeing the military draft of the Korean War era. Nobody wanted to be in the infantry. Instructors were badly needed and by the time I had been in the military for a month I was an acting corporal and teaching math classes to recruits at all levels. Some groups grappled with the multiplication table, while others could benefit from a bit of solid geometry. Could have been worse. No KP, no guard duty and a Class A pass – except for my working hours I was free to go, and I did.

                  I wanted to join the Sheppard AFB basketball team, but that didn’t work out. Too many players better than I was. Bowling was another matter – I had my own ball and bowling shoes in a carrying bag and most evenings after supper I caught the base bus into town and was soon a part of the scene at Spudder Lanes. Spudder seemed to be a word from the oil fields – I never knew what it meant. I bowled a couple of leagues each week and averaged about 190, which was pretty respectable in 1951. I was able to make a few nickels in the jackpots to supplement the tiny Air Force pay but that didn’t always work out, either, and a number of times I pawned my watch and/or my suitcase at the hock shop right outside the base gate. If I was not bowling I was in the league meeting room learning to play bridge with a trio of locals, also bowling notables. Dale Hansard, Jimmy Doolen and Clint Humphries and I had a book by Eli Culbertson, the guru at that time. Two-and-a-half honors to open the bidding, etc. We all studied the book when we were dummy in the game. A truly enjoyable bridge game with imaginative insults and righteous derisive noises.

                  Not all the instructors were good ‘ol boys. There were a number of college grads in the group and they sort of looked down their noses at the rest of us. Less than six years after the end of WW II, there was a Japanese guy named Mitsunaga and a German kid named Fritz von Pilgrim who had been an anti-aircraft gunner in Berlin at age twelve. Fritz looked a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger.There was also a little guy named Dick B Gates. (Gates was not his real name, but Dick B was.) Not a handsome fella, he had curly hair, thick lips and acne. He was a year older than me and he was in the second year of a four-year hitch and he was miserable in the military. He was shy and not very sociable. He didn’t smoke or drink or gamble or chase girls. He had read all the old magazines in the dayroom four times and sometimes went to a movie at the base theater, alone. Dick didn’t know any dirty jokes and was a poor fit around the barracks. He wanted to get out and go home, but of course you can’t just pick up and do it. He and I spoke a few times, but I was generally in a hurry to get into town.

                  I began to see him in the bleachers at basketball practices until that was over for me. Then one evening after chow he caught the base bus when I did and got off at the same stop I did and he stopped at the concrete bench to tie his shoe and then fell into line thirty yards behind me – all the way to the bowling lanes. While I bowled, he got a Coke and watched from the spectator seats behind the lanes. When I left the place, hotfooting it up the street to catch the last bus back to the base, he chugged along with me as best he could. Said he had enjoyed the bowling. From then on he was my shadow. When I caught the bus to go to town to the bowling lanes, he did the same. While I bowled he watched. If I went into the meeting room to play bridge he sat out front and watched the bowling until it was time to leave. He said it was okay, he liked what we were doing and I was not to worry about him. He never asked me whether or not I liked it. I didn’t like it, to be honest, but then he was the first fan I ever had. And it did sort of bother me to realize that the other instructors might see us as close buddies, which we were not. Just a guy and his shadow. I could have told him to buzz off, but I never did.

                  Soon he was telling me just how tough it was for him. He said he couldn’t hang on for another two and a half years – he had to get out. I pointed out that we had a pretty good gig and nobody was riding us very hard, but he couldn’t see it. He wanted to go home, and I could see he really meant it. So, sometime in the summer of ’51 he said to me one day, ‘Bill, I want you to do something for me.’ I asked him what he needed and he said I should go to the orderly room and tell them he was queer, so they would kick him out. Forget it, I told him. There’s no way I would get involved in such as that. I suggested that he go and ask one of the other guys if he was sure that was what he wanted. I think I even gave him a couple of names. He didn’t say any more about it, but it hung a sort of dark cloud over us. A couple of nights later I woke up about three a.m. to find that Dick was sitting on the floor next to my bunk and he had his arm under the sheet and was rubbing my leg. I cursed him and told him to get the hell away and go to bed, and he went. Two nights later it happened again and I ran him off again, but I was sorry for him more than mad at him. In the morning, on my way to the classroom area, I went into the orderly room and sat down with the NCOIC, a Tech Sergeant that day, and told him what was happening. He thanked me for letting him know and that was all that was said. I left and went to work.

                  All day I wondered what might happen to Dick B Gates and I wondered what he might say to me about it, but when I got back to the barracks his area was bare, as if Dick had never been there. The bunk was stripped, the footlocker stood open and empty and in the wall locker there was nothing but a few bare hangers. I had been gone maybe seven hours and it hit me hard. This was long before ‘Don’t ask – don’t tell’ but I couldn’t believe the speed of the reaction. ‘Queer, you say? Just leave it to us.’ For several days I waited to be called in for an interview but it never happened. No doubt Dick had made no effort to deny it – this was what he had wanted, and he got it. Several of the other instructors asked me what had happened, but I pled ignorance. Everybody had jobs to go to and the building was probably empty when the moving crew got there and no one saw a thing, but Dick was gone, and I missed the little guy. I expected he might write to me, but he never did.

                  I thought about him several years ago and put his name into the internet and they knew him. He had gone to college in Michigan and had taught English and Drama at several schools in that area. Eventually he left Michigan and took a job at a small medical college in a western state, where he retired as Registrar Emeritus after twenty years. There is a scholarship there in his name. Good for Dick. He died in 2004, age 72 and I believe there was a widow, but that was sort of unclear. His obituary mentioned that he had served in the United States Air Force. I suppose if they had asked me that’s what I would have said, too.
                  If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                  • When in China

                    One of the players I like to watch is the Englishman, Chris Melling. He’s creative and I am fascinated by the long and deliberate motion of his cue. In recent days I have spent some time following his adventures in an eight-ball tournament in China earlier this year. I saw him play a couple of long thin Chinese players I had never heard of – Qin Liwen and Abu Lajaing. Fortunately I can prepare this entry in my journal without the need to pronounce them. Writing them is only a little easier. The matches in this event were best-of-29, or races to fifteen, with a time limit of 140 minutes. All the commentary was in Chinese, so I can’t give you any details of that rule. Early in one of the matches, as the Chinese player was at the table, the referee walked up behind him and began to count (I think) in Chinese. She finished her count before he shot and she then explained to him (I think) that the time clock had expired and he was done. He took exception to that and the argument continued for a bit more than ten minutes and involved several other officials, both around the table and off-camera. Melling could do no more than sit through it in ignorance, as no one was sent to enlighten him. Ultimately, the official ruling was upheld and Chris was awarded ball-in-hand. He ran the game out. Except for the long duration of the debate, it was a bit like player/umpire in baseball. As usual, the umpire won. Almost, as though in sympathy, in the very next game she banished Melling from the table for failing to drive enough balls uptable. Abu won that one – what could be fairer?

                    There was even an instance of a ball falling into a pocket after lingering on the edge until the next player had approached the table. The referee correctly fished it out of the pocket and replaced it between the jaws. Melling immediately picked it up and set it on the extreme edge, where it obviously was before falling. (Who didn’t know that?) She objected briefly but then yielded to his move. Neither Chinese player was timid about calling for the referee to clean the cue ball, and they did so frequently. Mr. Lajaing (maybe he wasn’t Chinese after all?), after losing his argument over the time clock and faced with a straight-in shot less than two feet long on the deciding eight-ball, summoned the lady to come and clean his Jojo. His face showed nothing at all and I did not speak his language, but I could tell what he was thinking anyway. Maybe I’m psychic.

                    Chris Melling was not at his best and lost both matches. He made some incredible shots, mostly in emergency situations, but had numerous costly misses. Both his opponents were using the clumsy-looking cues that I associate with snooker. Straight taper, coarse dark woodgrain showing, tiny ferrules and cue tips. But they used them very well and played crippling safes when needed. Tough trip east, Mr. Melling.

                    Other than that I noted that the village of Morganza, Louisiana recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the making of the film Easy Rider. In the tiny café in Morganza the bikers encountered a bunch of teenage girls and some tough-looking local good ‘ol boys and elected to keep riding. I can recommend that on YouTube you search out the brief videos on SEC Shorts, where a group of amateur videographers make fun of the football teams, coaches and programs of the Southeastern Conference. I suppose there are equivalent shows in other leagues, but these are very entertaining, no holds barred. You might also enjoy seeing Nick Saban’s Lake House, which is not a camp by any stretch of the imagination. Don’t know what he paid for it, but it is described as a multi-million dollar property. His power boat, with which to cruise the neighborhood, would be envied by James Bond. It’s good to be the king. I watched a video on the life of Boxcar Willie and passed up the one on how to clean a moose. Sometimes I follow a few steps behind the NKF herping guys, but you have to like snakes. Some of them serpents are pretty spectacular. That’s about it. Over and out.
                    If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                    • Lions and tigers and bears and coyotes

                      When I have watched more than one or two videos on a subject, YouTube picks up on what my current interest is and sends me a lot more choices on the same topic. Usually I have to be grateful for their services, but now and then it’s a pain in the butt. At present my screen is full of Butterbean’s fights and coyote hunting. For cattle and sheep ranchers the coyotes are a never-ending item in their budgets, costing them serious chunks of money by killing the young animals, and most of them are glad to have hunters come and shoot as many as they can. There seems to be no limit on the number of coyotes available. Hunters have high-tech calls of various kinds with which to get the coyotes close enough to shoot from their stands. Even more, some have trained dogs that go out among the targets and interact with them – quite a sight to watch. The dogs charge the coyotes, which turn around and retreat, but before long it goes the other way as the coyotes chase the dogs. It goes back and forth, usually until the coyotes come in range of the shooters. Sometimes there is no gunfire at all – just the spectacle of watching the animals chase one another in turn. A new sport, I suppose, but to the stockmen coyotes are serious.

                      I have also taken a great interest in the organizations around the world that are finding and rescuing big wild animals from inhumane conditions in zoos, circuses, carnivals and amusement parks – mostly eastern Europe and the Orient. Very much like the animal-rights groups in this country that are saving cats and dogs. It’s one of the few things that can touch even hard old hearts like my own. There is nothing sadder than seeing a big bear who walks figure-eights in a six foot square cage all day every day and has been doing it for many years with no apparent chance of relief. Perhaps when he is taken from the cage and transported to one of the preserves, he might be too scared to leave his container and venture out for the first two weeks. Lions, too, and tigers and elephants with iron shackles and chains on their feet – animals that have never known grass or trees.

                      Thankfully, some really huge areas of real estate have been preserved in a wild state and made available for this work – and some great sums of money, as well. We are talking big trucks and commercial airlines to move big animals several thousand miles. Two organizations furnishing the visual stories of these rescues for YouTube are Four Paws and AnimalsAsia, and a group in India is engaged in the same sort of activity with much smaller budgets. If you have any feelings about animals and animal cruelty, you know – and the big beasts are much more appealing than the coyotes. Don’t ask me to explain about that.

                      There are some fine videos from recent tournament matches involving players who hardly ever miss. Many of the players today, especially the younger ones, seem to dress alike; all in black, with stovepipe pants, long sleeves, black shoes. It’s almost like a uniform, and the slim ones wear it best. For the first time I have seen tables with drop pockets that you unload from the bottom rather than the top. Whassup wi’ that? And while I’m thinking about it, how much does it cost to gather up five dozen top players and fly them to Moscow to compete in the Kremlin Cup, and put them up in hotels and feed them, and who is throwing the party? How many of them will make a profit with their pool cues, and what about the others? It’s not like pro golf or tennis . . .

                      For those of you wanting to know about La Cosa Nostra in south Philadelphia (are you there?) Mob Talk 35 went up today. Also, Sammy the Bull Gravano is the star of a long and candid interview on Valuetainment, in which he comes clean – or as clean as he ever does – with Patrick Bet-David, who continues to bring in interesting people and talk with them. For a guy who confessed to nineteen murders, Gravano has some novel attitudes about people and jail and crime and death and informants. Mobsters, wise guys and made men are nearly always interesting interviews. I continue to want to hear. Lots of good stuff on YouTube.
                      Last edited by vapros; 11-02-2019, 09:15 PM.
                      If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                      • Tigers and Tide

                        You better believe there is joy in Mudville. Louisiana is in love. Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers have gone into Tuscaloosa and beaten Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide for the first time in eight years, and are now acknowledged as the best college football team in the country. To understand the magnitude of this win, you must know a bit about the history of these two programs. They are in the same division of the SEC and have played each other a great many times. Alabama has a comfortable edge in the long series. A pretty good coach with a healthy winning record, Charlie McClendon, lost his job at LSU many years ago, primarily because he couldn’t beat Bear Bryant. More recently another pretty good coach with a healthy winning record, Les Miles, had to give it all up – mostly because he couldn’t beat Nick Saban. Yep, it really counts that much around here.

                        Coach O has done the trick in front of the biggest TV audience in the past eight years. Game of the Century, or course. The previous record was in 2011, also Game of the Century, also LSU and Alabama and LSU won that one, too. I’m a football fan and a fan of the Tigers, but not at the level of a great many citizens of this state, for whom it is life and death. Most of all I am happy – really happy – for Ed Orgeron. He is a blue-collar coach in the strictest sense of the sobriquet and a Cajun to a like degree. There is nothing sophisticated about Bebe, as his wife calls him. He is from Cut Off, Louisiana, below which is the salt marsh, and not far below, either. He is big-eyed, hoarse voiced and speaks with the ultimate Cajun accent, and he is dedicated to the guys on this team – guys who would fight the Red Chinese Army with a Ginsu knife for him. Orgeron has knocked around in the coaching profession, going where he could find work, doing what needed doing, learning his trade. He was less than successful in the job at Ole Miss – he says he discovered you cannot handle the boys in the backfield the same as the down-linemen. He is humble, church-going each day, and most proud of bringing football success to his state. No matter where this all goes from here, it’s been fantastic and Bebe is loving it.

                        And the Heisman Trophy is Joe Burrow’s to lose and we are pulling for him to go on being the best quarterback in the country – what a tremendous gap he will leave in just a couple of months. I am recalling a season sixty years ago, when a stud ball carrier named Billy Cannon won the award as the only previous LSU Tiger. So much for football. As Coach O says (every time he is on camera) Go Tigahs!!

                        But it’s not all football here in Baton Rouge. There is rap, too – very possibly the rap center of the world, or that’s the way it appears. The rap culture is everything to an uncounted number of musicians (?!) and their fans and they are making videos to display on YouTube and the rest of the internet – videos with gold teeth, gold jewelry, guns, flashing hand signs, underwear, huge quantities of hard cash and a running commentary on who is king today and how he has journeyed from the hood. I’m not talking rap songs, but rather monologues about the state of the genre, delivered with mumbled authority. Candid comments are made about such topics as death, drugs, police and jail – who is slated to go in and who just got out. Violent death occurs not infrequently among them and with minimal shocking power.

                        I said possibly the rap center of the world because their performances and their troubles with the law follow each other to many other states and venues. Many lines are crossed in many ways. I thought about offering some links for the convenience of any of you who might be interested, but decided I would skip those. In case you are curious, search for the Baton Rouge Effect or Top Boy Gorilla affairs. My interest is not much different than that in La Cosa Nostra. Dynamic people who are closer than we think.

                        Watching a match video recently - not one-pocket - between Josh Filler and Marcel Price, I was mystified to see the way they racked the balls. If there was a template there, Magic Rack or Accu Rack, it was totally invisible on the video. No one seemed to ever adjust it, remove it or replace it. Wha’s up wi’ dat?

                        An item of note to me, at least. Last week this journal reached 25,000 views – proof of something or other. Thanks, folks. Later.
                        If it ain't funny, it ain't much.


                        • I say Football!

                          It’s seventy-nine degrees today in Baton Rouge, gasoline is $1.99/ gallon, and Louisiana is having a wet dream over the LSU Tigers and a baby-faced quarterback who will run the table against Georgia tomorrow in Atlanta and then get the Heisman Trophy two or three days after that. I have no doubt that the Tigers will win the SEC Championship and might even win big, but they will be one of the four teams in the hunt for the CFP title either way. LSU and Ohio State will both be there. And what if Georgia beats LSU – they are a good team – well, humble pie is not bad if it is fixed right. I have eaten more than a little.

                          But, treat yourself to a look at Joe Burrow, the world’s best football player short of the NFL. What a story! He came to LSU when he was not chosen as the Ohio State quarterback. He will be a hero here forever – everybody loves Joe and he loves ‘em back. Nobody could write it better. Sixty years ago a local boy won the Heisman at LSU. Billy Cannon got the award largely on the strength of a fantastic punt return against Ole Miss, but it wasn’t the media event in 1959 that it is today and there weren’t millions of dollars to be made. If I recall correctly, Cannon signed with the old AFL for a modest check and some gas stations. Today in Louisiana it’s bigger than the impeachment – and not nearly as silly. This ain’t Duck Dynasty, folks. This is football and you will have to excuse us this year.

                          Here in the Bayou State, good news and reason for jubilation is not always at hand, as you may have noticed. Baton Rouge has recently been cited as one of the most dangerous cities in this country, and New Orleans is not far behind. It’s a fact that a lot of powder is burned locally and the casualty list of dead and wounded is pretty discouraging. Still talking football, one of the big annual events is the Bayou Classic, in which Southern University and Grambling take their gridiron teams and their marching bands into the Superdome for a spectacular production, and celebrations continue late into the night and are not always contained by the police. Ten people were shot on Canal Street in the early morning hours of last Sunday – luckily I believe all will recover. A similar number were knocked down three years ago on that weekend. The reputations of a couple of fine schools take a serious hit every year and the gun-control people never fail to spread the word.

                          Maybe you recall a news item from several weeks ago, about a lady from Florida and a disgruntled camel at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete. Without going into detail, the camel sat on the lady and the lady bit the camel. Well, I lived in Grosse Tete for a couple of years and ate many meals at the Tiger Truck Stop (it’s a fine place to order homemade pie), and now the proprietor has a billboard on I-10 inviting travelers to stop in for a bite! The board also features a handsome portrait of Casper the camel, who appears to be a bit proud of himself. It’s an ill wind, as they say. . .

                          I’m not yet comfortable navigating the updated website, but with so many members helping I expect to see the light soon. At the moment I am just hoping today’s post can find its way into my journal. I will try hard.

                          Geaux Tigahs!
                          Last edited by vapros; 12-07-2019, 02:21 PM.
                          If it ain't funny, it ain't much.