Southern Roots

beach
Florida, 1961. Father on left, me in middle, friend on right.*

MY FATHER was born in North Georgia on the edge of Atlanta during the First World War.

I was born in Atlanta during the Second World War. My father’s parents were born around 1890, which means I am just two family generations south of the Victorian Age.

My father’s parents’ parents were born shortly after the end of the Civil War. I’m not sure where, probably North Georgia. If they were not born there, they moved there.

My father was an arrowhead collector, a newspaperman, an excellent writer and poet, a boozer who shunned coffee and tobacco, and he wasn’t much of a father either.

For a while, he was a chicken farmer. He was drafted into the U.S. Army late in the Second World War and sent to Korea on a troop ship. He didn’t like that one little bit.

Yes, he was in Korea during the Second World War, not the Korean War, which came later. He never fired a shot at anyone, and nobody ever shot at him. He was a typist.

pop
1987

The war ended, and Uncle Sam shipped him back to Georgia. He never traveled anywhere again if he had anything to say about it.

He was not an adventurer.

As I said, he wasn’t much of a father. He had no interest, and it showed. About the only things that interested him were my mother, booze, writing and arrowheads.

He died in Atlanta of a heart attack in 1991. Coincidentally, he was lying in a hospital bed due to some unrelated issue, and was on the verge of being discharged.

He died just moments after brusquely hanging up the phone. He was talking to me. I had called.

He had not called me, of course. He never wrote me a letter in his entire life. He never wrote my sister either.

Those were pre-email days.

Minutes later, my sister phoned to say he was dead.  Age 75, three years older than I am now.

It was Mother’s Day.

I didn’t much like him, but I am just like him. I look like him. I think like him. I sound like him. I think I was a better father, but my daughter might tell you otherwise.

I did make an effort. He never made an effort.

He and I both stopped drinking in our early 50s, but for both of us the damage had already been done, irreparably.

My father was a lifelong leftist. He had witnessed Pinkertons shooting at strikers during the 1930s. For most of my life, I was a leftist too, as was all our family.

Unlike him and the others, I wised up late in life.

Will our many similarities include dying at 75? I hope not because I’m having way too much fun.

* * * *

(Note:  The inimitable Jennifer Rose recently noted the 20th anniversary of her mother’s death. This got me to thinking about my father, which led to the above. I wrote about my mother after she died at 90 in 2009.)

* The lad on the right in the photo is John Zimmerman. We were good friends. He went on to become a pilot in the Vietnam War and later a captain for a major airline. He sent me this photo a few years ago when we reconnected on Facebook.

The hissy fits

fitWE MEXICANS love our hissy fits. They rarely resolve anything, but we throw them anyway. Here are three examples:

First: Eight or so years ago, Mexico City switched its electricity provider from some unionized outfit that ran an antiquated system to the Comisión Federal de Electricidad, the modern entity that provides light to most of the nation.

The unionized outfit promptly threw a hissy fit. For months, they blockaded the entrance to the CFE high-rise on Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. The government ignored them.

These days the entrance is open, and electricity service is immeasurably improved.

Second: Mexico is in the early stages of an “education reform.” In part, this entails competency tests for teachers and they also lose the right to hand off their jobs to relatives on retirement. Unionized teachers promptly threw hissy fits.

The fits happened mostly in the usual suspect, backward states of Michoacán, Chiapas and Oaxaca. Unions blocked roads and highways, and squealed in the streets. The government is giving them lip service, but mostly it’s ignoring them.

Like the improved electricity provider in Mexico City, the education reform will happen.

Third, another reform is the energy sector, which is getting into high gear this year. For a variety of reasons, gas prices have gone up a lot. How did we react? We threw hissy fits, blocking highways, attacking gas stations, looting stores.

People want the old government-subsidized gasoline price. The government will ignore them and, in time, things will be better. Though gas prices likely will be higher.

Our hissy fits normally result in squat, but we throw them anyway. And it’s usually unions having the fits, fighting change, modernization and improvements.

Hillary loses it

HILLARY QUACKS, quacks, quacks about “so-called” right to work. Lordy, who would vote for this woman?

This shrill video is so distressing and hilarious at the same time, I felt the need to share it with you. It was made for a union group, but Hillary apparently does not know that if it’s on the internet, anybody can watch.

And most people don’t like greedy, corrupt unions anymore. They do like “right to work,” i.e. freedom.

This is the sound of a B-52 in drag doing a tailspin.

Here is a bonus video:

Writing stuff and mango snowballs

masks

I STARTED THIS website in mid-2011 with the intention of writing stuff. It replaced the six-year-old Zapata Tales, which was also written stuff, but that stuff was mostly about my living in Mexico, a topic that had begun to bore me, so I was branching out.

I’m good at writing stuff, far better than average. But I’ve never taken a class on it. I’ve never attended workshops. I don’t worry about themes and structure, nor am I interested in the slightest in trading tips with other “writers.” I fly entirely solo.

When I do write stuff, I just wing it. I prefer fiction, but there have been periods in my life that were so wacky that they’ve provided real-life material. A couple of examples of that are Victoria and the cowboy and Swimming with the fishes. Yes, I’m plugging myself, drumming up traffic.

The fiction that I’ve written in recent years now rests on my other website The Pearls of Zapata. I have some favorites. More plugs: The broken staircase, which I’m particularly fond of, The old wolf, and then there are the relatively brief Waco spaceman and the demented Sunny side up.

Some things never landed on The Pearls of Zapata. Instead they got their own websites. There are links in the right-side column. Two are jungle-themed. I think strange things tend to happen in the jungle because it’s hot there, and people go wild in heat.

One is Dark girl in the blue dress and the other is Last night of the iguana.

For many years I’ve wanted to go deep into the jungle, perhaps in Ecuador, and eat ayuhuasca while lying naked, but I never did and cannot imagine that I will now since I’ve gotten rather long in the tooth. Some things are best done when young.

* * * *

My father was a writer, a very good one. He and I shared many traits. He was a newspaper editor, as was I. He retired early, as did I. He was a rather serious dude, as I have become. He drank too much for a long time, as did I. He quit in his mid-50s, as did I. He spent his post-work years writing poetry, settling at last into haiku, where he became quite well known.

He was a life-long left-winger. I am a right-winger. He had no adventuresome spirit while I have lots. His politics were shaped by the Great Depression and witnessing — as a newspaper reporter in the late 1930s — violent, machine-gun-involving, union-busting by fat-cat corporate types.

mugThe 1930s made him while the 1960s, to a lesser degree, made me. The 1930s were miserable times and, looking back, so were the 1960s because they created the self-absorbed, clueless American culture we now see spiraling down the drain hole.

My father died of a heart attack at 75. I am 70, but I feel real good.

How did we wander off to my father? Oh, yes, I like to write, and so did he. Plus, I confessed up top that I never studied structure nor attended writing workshops that might have focused me better. My father did attend workshops and studied structure. Haiku is very structured.

Some time last year, I stopped writing fiction. It was unintentional. The muse deserted me. Perhaps it had something to do with age. Maybe the little gray cells are drying up. I wonder if it’s permanent. Concurrently, I notice that living in a foreign country has ceased to amaze me.

But I still like it very, very much.

We’re going to the Pacific coast tomorrow for a few days. It will be very hot. Perhaps I’ll find some ayahuasca, but I doubt it. I’ll stick to mango snowballs and fried shrimp.

* * * *

(Photo notes: The mugshot is my father though it could almost be me. And what does the photo up top have to do with the post? Nothing at all. Those masks hang in the Hacienda hallway.)