Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Greyhound Therapy

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Years ago I was a state child protection worker in the corner county of a state – a county that bordered two other states.  When dealing with various aspects of child protection, jurisdictional concerns often came into play.  We might encounter a child with serious issues, for example, whom we subsequently found out was a resident of another state.  I remember one problematic residence in particular where the front porch was in one state and the remainder of the house was in another.

It was not uncommon for families who encountered difficulties in one state to flee across the border to another.  A move of a couple of hundred yards might then involve bureaucracies in two state capitals coordinating with one another – when neither capital was closer than two hundred miles to the actual families involved.  Then, if the system worked in a timely manner (which rarely occurred), the problem family could easily slip into the third state. 

Of course, the same thing could also work to the state’s advantage.  If another state clearly had “ownership” of the family, it was to the local agency’s advantage, from both a time and money perspective, to assist the family in getting back to the state line where that state’s workers would be waiting to welcome them.  Or, if a homeless family was discovered living in a local campground and not abusing their children, it was often easier and more economical to assist them in getting to their home of record than it would have been to fund and supervise their social services locally.

That was called “Greyhound Therapy,” and the idea was to move them on down the road.  I don’t want that to sound too negative, because during those years I worked with some wonderfully dedicated and caring individuals.    Our first and best efforts were always focused on the needs of families and children, regardless of where they called home.

But there are instances when Greyhound Therapy is blatantly used to benefit the government and not the individuals in need.

A friend of mine who used to live in New York City told me that whenever a big convention came to town (such as the Democratic National Conventions of 1976 or 1980), the city would round up all of the homeless individuals and bus them into the suburbs.  She said that by the time they drifted back into the city, the convention would be over and the city was back to normal.

Hawaii, which borders no other states, is currently implementing its own form of Greyhound Therapy.  Recent news articles have highlighted a program entitled “Return to Home.”  Through it the state is paying to fly homeless people back to where they came from – with “one way” tickets.   Others may be moved from the islands through passage on cruise ships.  The bean counters in Honolulu have come to the conclusion that the price of plane or cruise ticket is cheaper than trying to meet the needs of the homeless.  And while many of those “deportees” will eventually return to the sunshine and balmy breezes of Hawaii, the state figures that the money saved on social services during their absence would still exceed the price of removing them from the islands.  And, like in New York City, this practice also serves to keep the homeless out of sight and away from the tourists and their money.

As these political entities shuffle their problems from place to place, the big winners would appear to be the airlines, cruise ships – and, of course, Greyhound!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Crazy in Clarksville

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a bizarre plan to make their schools safer, administrators in Clarksville, Arkansas, have announced that twenty people who work in their schools will be carrying concealed weapons at school this fall.  This hare-brained scheme mirrors one originally proposed by Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association and shameless huckster for the gun industry.

I know Clarksville, know it well.  The quiet Ozarks community of less than 10,000 country folk is home to the College of the Ozarks where a former in-law of mine, herself a Clarksville native, once went to pharmacy school.  It is just down the road from Altus where ancestors of my children and grandchildren founded the nationally known Wiederkehr Winery.  While the area has always been proudly conservative, it saddens me to learn that it is apparently also a hotbed of wackos.

The plan to arm some administrators, teachers and others in the community's schools was put forth under the umbrella of a little known Arkansas statute that allows for the placement of trained (and armed) security guards in schools.  Those school employees desiring to participate have to complete fifty-three hours of training and are then deemed official “security guards.”  The school district is paying for the training and giving the individuals who participate a one-time payment of $1,100 to purchase a gun, gun belt, and holster.

The identity of the armed employees will be kept secret.  Being from a small town myself, I find that laughable.

Also, having been a school teacher and administrator for more years than I care to remember, I can attest to the fact that having a teaching certificate is not a guarantee of mental stability.  Principals and teachers get angry – at students, parents, and each other – and they operate under a host of pressures, not the least of which is long hours and low pay in the service of people who are often less than appreciative.

And don’t even get me started on janitors, cooks, and bus drivers – often people with short fuses and usually little in the way of psychological or educational training.

It pains me to say anything positive about the insurance industry, but apparently it is the only entity currently trying to block the Clarksville craziness.  Go get ‘em, Flo!

This plan, while sounding nauseatingly like Joe Arpaio's geezer patrols, is even more dangerous.  Arpaio keeps his geriatric Zimmermans in the school parking lots - in their cars.  The Clarksville gunslingers will be inside of the schools, walking the halls like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, ready to handle any disturbance with deadly force.

More guns never solve anything.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday's Poetry: Lynchings, Then and Now

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It’s been nearly a century since the practice of lynching ended in the United States.  Well, at least in theory.  The summary execution of black Americans by vigilantes and members of hate groups, including some who believe they are doing the Lord’s work, continues to this very day.  It’s just that now it has shifted away from the use of ropes – at least for the most part.

The outrageous acquittal of George Zimmerman, a racially focused vigilante who fatally shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, is an obvious example justice being corrupted by race.   Then there was the  Fruitvale Station murder of Oscar Grant, another young black man, by a subway cop in Oakland – as Grant was lying face down on the pavement in handcuffs .  His killer was taken a bit more seriously than George Zimmerman (primarily because bystanders filmed the entire incident - making it impossible for police to rewrite the account of what happened) and had to serve eleven months in prison for willfully taking a human life. 

Having just seen Fruitvale Station yesterday and with President Obama’s remarks about the difficulties facing young black men due to continuing racial prejudice still ringing in my ears, I set out to find a poem about lynching for today’s posting.  Unfortunately it was not an easy task – because there so many from which to choose.

There were three by Langston Hughes that fit the bill:  two dealing with the killing of 14-year-old Emmett Till by members of the Klan (Mississippi – 1955 and The Money Mississippi Blues),  and another (Birmingham Sunday) that focused on the Birmingham church bombing of 1963 that killed four young black girls.   Gwendolyn Brooks, another important black writer, penned a deeply moving poem about Emmett Till entitled A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi.  Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon.

The two that I found most moving, however, were The Lynching by Claude McKay (one of my very favorite writers and a member of the Harlem Renaissance back in the 1920’s), and jasper texas 1998 by Lucille Clifton.  Ms. Clifton’s poem is related to the killing of James Byrd, Jr, a black man who was tied to the bumper of a pick-up truck and dragged to death.  The two poems bridge the gap between lynchings, then and now.

The Lynching
by Claude McKay

His Spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the cruelest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again;
The awful sin remained still unforgiven.
All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim)
Hung pitifully o'er the swinging char.
Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun
The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.

jasper texas 1998
by Lucille Clifton

for j. byrd

i am a man's head hunched in the road.
i was chosen to speak by the members
of my body.  the arm as it pulled away
pointed toward me, the hand opened once
and was gone.
why and why and why
should i call a white man brother?
who is the human in this place,
the thing that is dragged or the dragger?
what does my daughter say?
the sun is a blister overhead.
if i were alive i could not bear it.
the townsfolk sing we shall overcome
while hope bleeds slowly from my mouth
into the dirt that covers us all.
i am done with this dust.  i am done.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fruitvale Station, a Hard Movie

by Pa Rock
Film Fan

Chances are good that most of the people who go to see the film, Fruitvale Station, know the story and are also fully aware of how it ends.  They also realize ahead of time that watching the movie will, to a large extent, be a depressing experience.  All of that is true, but it still does not deter from the fact that Fruitvale Station is an awesome movie, a very emotional account of a real-life tragic outrage.

Oscar Julius Grant was a twenty-two year old black man who was detained and then fatally shot by security officers of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Systen (BART) in the early morning hours of January 1st, 2009.  Grant, along with his girlfriend (the mother of his daughter) and several friends, were returning from a night of New Year's celebrating when a disturbance broke out in the subway car in which they were riding.  The train was immediately stopped and Grant and several of his friends were forced to the pavement in the Fruitvale Station by members of the BART security force.  Grant was lying on his stomach with his arms handcuffed behind his back when one of the officers shot him in the back at close range.  He died later that morning in an Oakland hospital.

The story of the Fruitvale Station tragedy, and outrage, emerged basically in tact because several people on the stopped train had the good sense to capture it on their cell phones.  All of the officers involved in the incident were eventually fired, and the shooter was arrested on a murder charge.  The shooter was subsequently convicted of a manslaughter charge, sentenced to two years in prison, and released after serving only eleven months behind bars.

The movie follows Oscar Grant on his last full day of life, New Year's Eve 2008, which was also his mother's birthday.  While the story entails some of Oscar's dark side, like the fact that he had served time in prison, occasionally cheated on his girlfriend, sold weed, and had recently lost his job at a grocery store for coming to work late, it also depicts him as an outgoing young man who loved his mother, his girlfriend, and most of all his daughter, Tatiana.  He is seen on his last day helping a lady at the grocery - although he no longer worked there, playing with his daughter, dumping a large bag of marijuana in the bay, attending his mother's birthday party, and talking a San Francisco doorman to into letting his girlfriend and two other women, one of whom was a pregnant stranger, into the doorman's building so that they could use the bathroom.  A few hours later he was dead.

Fruitvale Station was written and directed by Ryan Coogler.  His work is masterful, and the end product is a gripping and highly charged account of a true crime.  The movie taps a range of feelings that puts viewers (or at least this viewer) through a tight emotional ringer.  Coogler knows his craft and is not afraid to take it to film.

Oscar Grant is played by Michael B. Jordan, a very focused and aggressive actor who is perfect in the role of the street survivor with the good heart.  Jordan is a young Denzel Washington - and every bit as talented.

Sophina, Grant's baby-mama, is played by Melonie Diaz.  Ms. Diaz, like Jordan, is perfect in her role - that of a woman seeking happiness in a hard world.

The other standout performer in this film is the amazing Octavia Spencer who is featured as Grant's mother.  She exhibits a range of emotions from tough love to full-on grief.  Ms. Spencer owns the screen through a good portion of the movie.

Fruitvale Station isn't a docudrama, even though some actual footage from the crime is incorporated into the movie.   But it is a drama that also serves to document a man's last day on earth and the events leading up to his murder.  It is a totally engrossing film that opens on the heels of the Zimmerman verdict and President Obama's comments regarding the impediments that society places in the paths of young black men.  The movie underscores the reality of "two Americas."

Fruitvale Station is a hard movie to watch, and that is as it should be.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another Day, Another Mile on the Treadmill

by Pa Rock
Fitness Fool

I have been out of cardiac rehab since before my trip to the Ozarks late last month due to a billing dispute and the crappy hours that the rehab clinic maintained.  After inquiring at a couple of other hospitals, I came to the conclusion that they are not in business to meet the needs of people who are still employed.  Most offered availability only on weekdays with hours from approximately 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. - or thereabouts.  Finally a very nice nurse at one of the clinics said that if I would buy a personal heart monitor (around $60.00) and let her teach me how to set and use it - at no cost - she would approve my going to a gym and conducting my own cardiac rehab.

So yesterday I went back to my old gym and re-enrolled.  The nurse had told me to concentrate on the aerobic machines and to not get my heart rate too high - just take it easy to begin with.  Since yesterday morning I have made three trips to the gym where I did a mile on the treadmill during each of those visits.  I have increased the speed with each of those walks and am just about back to where I was when I quit rehab a month ago.

I also made a trip to Costco this weekend where I purchased a couple of pre-made salads and some healthy snacks.

If I am going to exhibit binge behavior, it might as well be a healthy binge!

Friday, July 26, 2013

You Make Me Feel So Young!

by Pa Rock
Perpetual Adolescent

Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger, the lead singer for the Rolling Stones and a founding member of the band, turned seventy today.  No word yet on whether the ancient rocker celebrated with a party, but if he did, it was undoubtedly an epic affair packed with hordes of honkey tonk women, hard drugs, expensive booze, and Metamucil.

Fellow Stone Keith Richards will be seventy this December.  Charlie Watts turned seventy-two last month, and Ronnie Wood is the group's youngest member at the tender age of sixty-six.  Former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman will be seventy-seven in October.

Happy Birthday, Mick.  Here's hoping you encounter plenty of satisfaction in your seventies!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Celebrating Urine-Soaked Rugs and Bowling Alleys

by Pa Rock
Cult Film Fan

So what becomes of Rocky Horror fanatics when they grow too old to attend midnight showings and dance across the stage in ladies' French underwear?  One possibility is that they adjust their focus for age and become Big Lebowski fanatics.  Beer and bowling alleys and sharing your bath with a ferret - that's the new normal as far as cult films are concerned.

A few days ago while channel surfing I came across Joel and Ethan Coen's classic (okay, one of several Coen Brothers classic films), The Big Lebowski.  I hadn't seen the 1998 film in several years, and decided to settle down for an evening's entertainment.  And while "the Dude," aka Jeff Bridges, may not be the role model that you would hope for your kids to emulate, he is definitely entertaining.

My first hint that The Big Lebowski was becoming a cult film came while I was on Okinawa.  Two of my friends in the clinic where I worked would throw lines from the movie back and forth with seeming abandon,  while demonstrating an almost perverse knowledge of the film.

My second hint came while watching the movie again last week.  There are so many sight gags and so much cleverness in the movie, that I'm sure I could watch it several times and always come away with some gem of a line or a visual that I had missed in previous viewings.  It is simply a very good movie, one that just keeps on giving.

The third hint cam a couple of days after I saw the movie on television last week.  I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) while getting ready for work one morning, and they did a piece on The Big Lebowski Film Fest in Louisville, Kentucky.  It is an annual event that has been going on for fifteen years, and like Rocky Horror, it attracts fans in costume - ones who belch out lines from the movie with a beer in one hand and a bowling ball in the other.  The concept of a festival to celebrate The Big Lebowski has also spread to other cities over the years.

So it would appear The Big Lebowski has arrived as a cult film.  Or maybe it arrived fifteen years ago and I just wasn't paying attention.  Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi, along with a big cast of talented irregulars, did themselves proud as they gave life to one of the Coen Brothers' best works.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nick Macy at Forty

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

Forty years ago today I was at Camp Kue Army Hospital on Okinawa awaiting the birth of my first child, Nicholas Karl Macy.  Nick was already about two weeks overdue, and he chose that warm and sunny Tuesday afternoon to make his big entrance into the world.

That was back in the days when some doctors, and military doctors in particular, didn’t want fathers cluttering up the delivery room, so I was parked in a small waiting room just outside of Delivery.   Nick was a big boy (nine pounds) and his arrival necessarily took awhile.  I remember that I had a headache and the nurses wouldn’t dispense aspirins, so a doctor had to step out of the delivery room and hand me a couple of headache tablets.  The other thing I remember is that I spent my time watching reruns of Sanford and Son until Nick finally decided to leave his secure and warm world to venture into real life.

(I had the opportunity to revisit that waiting room on the fifth floor of Camp Kue Hospital while I was recently living and working on Okinawa.  As I stepped out of the elevator I immediately faced the waiting room door – and I was just as immediately transported back nearly forty years.   The room was exactly as I remembered it – except of a wall-mounted flat screen television which had replaced the older, clunky one that I had watched then.   Several years ago Camp Kue Army Hospital was turned over to the Navy and renamed Lester Naval Hospital.  The old, original building has closed since I left Okinawa a year ago, and military personnel and their families who require medical care are now seen at the new Lester Naval Hospital which is located at Camp Foster – a Marine Corps base.)

But back to Nick.  He began school  in Mountain View, Missouri, and attended there through fourth grade.  Starting in fifth grade he attended the Noel (Missouri) Elementary and Junior High School where he had the burden-to-bear of being the principal’s son.    We moved to Neosho, Missouri, in 1989, and Nick managed to graduate from high school there in 1991 amid a great deal of family conflict.

Nick now has a fourteen-year-old son of his own whom he raises on a half-time basis as a single parent.  Life has not always been easy for my oldest, but through it all he has remained a good person and a great parent – and he has always made me proud.

Happy birthday, Nick.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fox Farts

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There has been some buzz in news circles this week regarding the age of viewers of various cable news channels.   It wasn’t overly surprising to learn that the old folks are more focused on Fox News than they are either MSNBC or CNN.

The median age of Fox viewers is, according to the folks at Nielsen, above sixty-five – where it has been for six of the past eight years.  (Nielsen doesn’t record ages by individual year once they slip past sixty-five – so it is unclear how far over the age of sixty-five Fox viewers tend to be.)  The median age of MSNBC viewers is 60.6 years, and the kids congregate at CNN where the median age is 59.8 years.

Not only do the old farts tend to congregate in front of the Fox newscasts, younger people seem to be leaving Fox.  The number of Fox viewers in the age range of 25-54 has decreased each of the past five years.

Fox News viewers are older than the folks who spend their time watching the Hallmark Channel, the Military Channel, and the Golf Channel.

One reason that so many old folks stick with Fox News might be that they are just too damned sedentary to get up and change the channel.  Another, of course, could be senility.

Sadly, at least for Fox, the hearses keep rolling and the funeral bells keep tolling.  Speaking from the vanguard of the baby-boomers who are just now beginning to turn sixty-five, we expect more from news than hate and decrepitude.  You are going to have to inform us, and we are smart enough to fact-check.

Hey Fox, the Republican Party isn’t the only thing overdue for a re-brand.   It will be fun to what you become in your next life.