Happy New Year, Y’all!

1 01 2019

Here in the South, as with anywhere, we have a number of traditions and superstitions surrounding New Years Day. One such superstition, of which I was unaware until my return home following my years in the U.S. Coast Guard, was that it is considered to be bad luck if the first man who enters your home in the new year has red hair.

I count, among my favorite next-door neighbors of all time, Pleasant and Esther Harrell. Esther passed away, I believe in 2011, but Pleasant, a fellow veteran, passed away on January 2, 2007. They were an older Christian couple who would do anything within their power to help you. I mentioned them in an earlier post, “Hey, That’s Larry!” https://billtaylorcsp.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/hey-thats-larry/

Well, it was around 7:30 or 8:00 New Year’s morning 1978 and Esther was knocking on my door. She explained this red-haired man superstition and told me that her red-headed brother (or could have been her brother-in-law) would be coming over later in the day for their annual New Year’s celebration dinner. She wanted me to come over and just walk through her door so the first man to enter her home would not be one with red hair. I was happy to do it every New Years morning after that, until we moved away anyway.

I still miss my neighbors and am reminded of Pleasant and Esther every New Year’s morning.

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Inner Peace: George Bailey’s Epiphany

22 12 2018

Psalm 127:1 tells us, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…”

In this context, “house” is a metaphor. You can plug-in home, family, business, country…just about anything involving people working, living or just existing together. A family without God will break apart. A church without God will split. A country without God will eventually self-destruct because of its corrupt leaders.

Recently, I was watching It’s A Wonderful Life…again. Like A Christmas Story, I just can’t get enough of that movie. And it seems that every time I watch it, I see something new. On this latest viewing, it was the correlation with Psalm 127:1.

George Baily, the Christian?
In the film, director Frank Capra never gives us a look into George’s or the Bailey family’s spirituality until near the end of the movie. We don’t see George teaching a Sunday School class or Janie and Pete singing in the youth choir. We don’t see little Tommy sitting in the pew belching out the tune of Jesus Loves Me. We don’t get a hint of the family’s Christian values until Christmas Eve when George comes home in obvious despair. It is then, Capra shows us the Bailey’s are, in all likelihood, churchgoers. Janie is at the piano practicing Hark the Herald Angels Sing for the Christmas party and Pete is writing a play about the birth of Christ.

Although he wasn’t a money-grubber like old-man Potter, George Bailey did crave the things that money could bring…travel, success, a nice home and new car like the Browns have. Because of his love of money, the root of all evil, George goes into a tirade flipping tables, kicking furniture and scaring the dickens out of the kids before stumbling off into the snowy night only to wind up getting soused at Martini’s and eventually standing on a bridge contemplating suicide. Now, up to this point nothing has happened that would be hard to believe. Enter Clarence, the angel on a crusade to earn his wings, and suddenly, a believable story takes a Charles Dickensish twist.

A Different Story
Suppose we replace George’s epiphany episode with something a little more realistic. Here are two directions the story could take.

In the first scenario, Mary, fed up with his drunken tirades, kicks George out of the house and tells him not to return, bringing to an end the existence of the secular Bailey family unit. Mary has to take a job as the librarian and she and the kids struggle on her measly weekly paycheck. Pete, like his dad, having a thirst for the nicer things in life, is shot during an unsuccessful attempt to rob the Bedford Falls Bank. While Zuzu turns to prostitution to help her mom provide for the family. George winds up sitting at Martini’s bar every night till closing time, sharing double bourbons and a bed with Violet. Having lost his family, his family business, all his friends, his dignity and everything that was good in his life, George eventually jumps to his death into the icy river.

In the second scenario, Mary, a strong believer who is indwelled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the first of which is wisdom, tells the kids to pray. She then sets out to find out what has happened and solves the problem. George realizes that money is merely a commodity that is easily replaced and pales on the value scale when compared to friends, family and, most importantly, salvation. George realizes that in spite of his circumstances, he really does have a wonderful life. All is forgiven and the Bailey family lives happily ever after.

Being Christian is no guarantee the family will survive the trials they are sure to encounter. There is no promise of happily ever after for anyone or any family…at least not on this side of Heaven. But knowing they are walking with God gives believers an inner peace that will greatly improve their chances of survival when hard times come. It’s a peace that helps us to prioritize the things that are important in life because it provides assurance there is a better life coming. Sadly, it’s a peace you will not find in non-believers.





Scared Granny

4 11 2018

The Boeing 727 “Whisperjet”

It was fall of 1988 and I had just begun my consulting career. I was flying out of Columbus on my way home from a project with Owens-Corning Fiberglass in Newark, Ohio. As I got to my aisle seat on an Eastern Airlines Whisperjet (Boeing 727), I saw my seat-mate, for the next hour, was a grandmotherly-type who had already taken her seat by the window. Following a cordial exchange of pleasantries, I pulled out my current read and was quickly immersed in the pages of something, I’m sure was exciting.

 

The lady sitting next to me seemed to be a bit fidgety as she focused all of her attention on the flight attendant, who had begun giving the obligatory safety instructions.

 

“You’ll find these instructions printed on the card in the seat pocket in front of you,” advised the flight attendant. “We suggest you remove the card and follow along.”

 

Granny, beside me, watched as she pored over the safety instruction card as if she was trying to memorize it. She craned her neck, looking toward the rear and then forward, to see the exits as they were pointed out by the flight attendant. She strained to lean over me to see the white lights on the floor that led to red lights. She was really into this and I’m thinking, either she hasn’t flown very muchor she’s an industrial spy for McDonnell Douglas. It was about then that the plane began to push back away from the gate. The sudden movement startled her and she jumped like she had just touched a spoon to one of her fillings.

 

Soon, we were hurtling down the runway and picking up speed fast. The wingtips began to flex upward, giving rise to the nose and soon, the rest of the aircraft. As we became airborne, and the weight of the plane lifted off of the landing gear, the landing gear struts, which were just below our seats, made a perfectly normal “bump” sound as the struts extended. At that, my nervous neighbor reached over and grabbed my left forearm, digging all ten fingernails into my skin like a cat clinging to a mouse.

 

I turned to her and asked if she had ever flown before. With a trembling voice, she said, “This is my first time and I’m scared to death. I wouldn’t be flying now,” she continued, “but it’s the only way I could get to Charlotte in time for my granddaughter’s birthday party.”

 

I tried to reassure her and told her the flight would be good practice for her return home.

 

“Oh no,” she exclaimed, “I’m not doing this again! When I go home, I’ll be sitting in a Greyhound!”

 

Now, that’s a woman who loves her granddaughter!





First Date

20 10 2018

Yesterday morning, after my wife got out of bed and stumbled zombie-like into the den, I told her happy anniversary. Fully aware we had just celebrated our wedding anniversary in August, her gaze suddenly went from “wake me when it’s time for breakfast” to “your senility is showing.” I reminded her it was fifty years ago we had our first date. She was less than overwhelmed. Maybe she just needed coffee.

 

Not many people, I would suppose, celebrate a first date anniversary, especially after 50 years! And, as far as I know, Hallmark hasn’t come out with a first date anniversary card. I guess most people who have been married for 47 years may not even remember their first date; but, I do. In fact, I remember the first time I laid eyes on my wife-to-be. It was the first day of our junior year of high school and I walked into Coach Perry’s Home Room doing what most of the other boys were doing-scoping out the girls who would share class with me over the next 9 months. After all, I was a sixteen-year-old walking sack of hormones. All were familiar faces with whom I had shared classes throughout my scholastic career, except for one. I saw one new face. A pretty face. She wore a navy-blue skirt with a light blue long-sleeved blouse and navy-blue shoes.

 

I suppose, one could argue this date of which I speak was more an outing than an actual date. You see, the local Lions Club sponsored an annual light bulb sale in which high school kids would volunteer to help by going door-to-door hawking bulbs to raise money to provide services for the blind. I asked her if she would like to go with me. Wondering to myself if I had a chance to really get to know this new girl, unbeknownst to me, she was already practicing her new signature…Mrs. Billy Taylor. Mrs. Carolyn Taylor. Carolyn M. Taylor. So, while it wasn’t a date in the truest sense, it was the night I fell in love. But what makes it significant enough to remember so vividly after half a century? Well, they say, every journey begins with the first step and that date was our first step. Without our first date there would have been no Brian, Eric or Mark, without which there would be no Rachel, Brooke or Amanda in our family and thus, no Anna, Abbie, Graecyn or Cody.

 

Then, it was just six says later when I asked her to go steady. “Go what?” the millennials might ask. Ahh, the lost art of courting. I guess in today’s vernacular, we were “hanging out.” But the die had been cast and the makings of a family were born.

 

I like to compare it to the most significant days in the history of the world-without Christmas there would be no Easter.





My Friend, Jesus

5 10 2018

When Don (that’s President Trump to you) was in North Carolina inspecting the damage caused by Hurricane Florence, he gave me a call and asked if it would be okay to drop by the house for a couple of hours on his way back to Washington. He said had a few ideas he wanted to bounce off of me and that he was also in the mood for some of my turkey barbecue. I had to turn him down because I had already agreed to a request from University of Alabama head football coach, Nick Saban, to provide his team with a pregame pep talk in Tuscaloosa.

 

In all honesty, as if you needed me to tell you, I don’t really know either of these two gentlemen. I have rubbed elbows with the likes of Phyllis Diller, Larry Miller, Wynonna Judd, Jeanne Robertson, and several other celebrities. Well, I didn’t exactly rub elbows with them; it was more like we touched elbows while sitting side-by-side in a plane. I suppose it’s human nature to want to claim an intimate friendship with someone famous. Perhaps it gives one a feeling of standing amongst their peers. The closest I’ve come to knowing a celebrity would be my brother, Jerry, a local artist in Wilson, North Carolina. Oh, I did teach Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s daughter in Sunday school for a short while, but that probably doesn’t count.

 

Well, I don’t mean to brag; but, I have a very close and personal friendship with the most famous man that ever drew a breath. Not only is He well-known throughout the world, He is the wisest, most intelligent, kindest and most powerful man who has ever lived. In 1968, I saw Paul Anderson, considered the strongest man in recorded history, drive a 16-penny nail into a board with just his right hand. My friend can bring Paul Anderson to his knees in the blink of an eye. My friend can outsmart, outwit, out-debate, out-anything anyone who has ever lived. My friend is Jesus and we talk every day. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say, He is my Heavenly Father. You might say, I’m a son of the Son. Now, before you go all Joy Behar on me, noI don’t hear voices. I can’t say I’ve ever heard the audible voice of Jesus, but we talk nonetheless. He speaks to me through His Word-the Bible. He helps me to know the right things to do. He helps me when I’m in a jam and gives comfort when things are bad. I’ll be glad to introduce you sometime, if you don’t already know Him. He’s always open to making new friends.





The Legend of Saggy Pants

8 09 2018

Saggy Pants

Sometimes things just pop into your head. Maybe it’s because of something you saw or a song you heard. Or maybe it’s because of something you saw while hearing a song. Jimmy Dean’s 1961 hit Big Bad John was playing when I saw some kid waddling down the street trying really hard not to fall over his sagging pants. This was the result. You’ll notice the similarities to Big Bad John (those of you who are old enough or listen to oldies radio). Many thanks to Jimmy Dean.

 

Every morning at the school, you could see him arrive

He stood 6 foot 6 and weighed 125

Kinda narrow at the shoulders And boney in the hip

And his pants would fall down If he’d let go his grip.

Saggy Pants

 

He’d waddle into class all cocky and brash

With a sneer on his lips and talking trash

The teacher’d say, “boy, why don’t you pull up your pants?”

But, he wouldn’t say a word, he’d just cut her a glance

Saggy pants

 

Then came that day In the Janitor’s Room

When a fire broke out amongst the mops and the brooms

And it grew with a rage as it spread through the school

And everyone ran except Mr. Cool.

Saggy Pants

 

With his belt at his knees, he tried hard to run

But he couldn’t kindle a step if you pardon the pun

Fell flat on his face and crawled toward the door

But he couldn’t get out as he cussed and he swore.

Saggy Pants

 

So finally, he pulled his pants to his waist

And he ran from the room as if he were chased

When he got through the door, he slowed down to a trot

And joined the rest of the crowd in the parking lot.

Saggy Pants

 

He tracked down his teacher and to her great surprise,

He gave her a mighty hug then with tears in his eyes,

He swore an oath that was truly heartfelt

“I’ll never again wear my butt on my belt!”

Saggy Pants

 





The Yankees’ Guide to Grilling

30 08 2018

Recently, I asked a Yankee friend of mine if he had plans for the Labor Day weekend. He said after he finished “mowing the lon and washing the cah,” he was planning to have family over for a “bahbecue.” If one couldn’t already tell by his Bostonian brogue, then a strong clue he was from the North was when he referred to this coming backyard bash as a barbecue. Still reeling from the barbecue misnomer, the telltale was when he said he would be putting his barbecue away for the season.  I asked him what season. “Bahbecue season,” he replied. I cringed. This was wrong in so many ways; I felt sorry for this culturally-challenged transplant and decided he needed help. If you plan to live in the South then you need to learn the lingo. As they say, “When in Rome…” So, for those above the Mason-Dixon Line and west of El Paso, who want to blend in, here is the guide to help you understand the art of the grill.

 

The Grill: First of all, let’s get the terminology correct. In the South, it’s called a grill, not a barbecue. And, it’s called grilling, not barbecuing. Barbecue is not a device on which you cook meat; it IS the meat after having been properly treated with your favorite sauce. The grill was invented for the purpose of cooking meat- meat which one coats with a dry rub of top-secret spices or slathers with sauce. It was not created for cooking Brussels sprouts, cream of wheat, or potato gnocchi. Meat!

 

The Gathering: Similarly, a barbecue is not a gathering of your closest friends for backyard drinks and ribs. Call it a party. Call it a get-together. Call it a congregation of your social network, but don’t call it a barbecue. Nothing screams Yankee louder than asking Bubba and Bubbette to come over for a barbecue Saturday night.

 

The Season: There is no barbecue season. There is a football season. There is hunting season. There is even grass cutting season and the farther north you live, the shorter the season. But the grill is like a calendar…it’s to be used year round regardless of where you live.

 

Yankees will hover for hours over a hole in the ice to catch a fish. They’ll sit all Sunday afternoon in a blowing snow with their favorite team’s logo painted on their bare chest. And yet, they can’t stand in the backyard for 20 minutes to cook a steak? I have shoveled six inches of snow out of my grill so I could cook chickens. I have stood on the deck cooking steaks when the temperature was 11 below. I have stood under an umbrella in the middle of a thunderstorm (not my brightest moment) to cook burgers, so this thing about cold and snow means nothing. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Man-up and light the coals.

 

The Fuel: Fuel of choice in the South is charcoal. It is permissible to use gas when short on time or if you run out of charcoal. But charcoal, newspaper and a chimney (or lighter fluid) make up your charcoal starting A-team. That means, you need two grills or a grill that allows you to use either gas or charcoal.

 

The Foil: Rookie mistake number one is to cover the grill top with aluminum foil. Sure, it makes clean-up a breeze, but, you’re blocking the smoke from getting to the meat. The meat gets its flavor when fat drips onto the hot

That’s not grilling. That’s frying!

glowing coals and the smoke that wafts through the neighborhood rises to envelop the meat. Don’t cover that grill top with aluminum foil. And don’t buy one of those grill mats, copper or otherwise. Those things are intended for suckers who don’t want to have to clean the gratings on the grill. You may as well throw those steaks in a frying pan. If you’re too lazy to clean the grill top once in a while then you should probably just sell your grill and make friends with someone who owns a grill or plan to spend a lot of time at Smokey Bones.

 

The Sauce: Sauce is personal. It is the one variable in grilling, other than the meat selection. You might want your ribs naked or you might prefer them to be drenched in a heavy layer of smoke-flavored sauce. Your sauce of choice might be a ketchup, mustard or vinegar-based sauce. But the thing to understand about sauce-in fact, the cardinal rule of sauce is, it cannot come from a bottle. You need to create your own signature sauce. Until you do, you can fake it by discretely pouring bottled sauce into a bowl or Mason jar so your guests will at least think it’s your own creation. Don’t forget to hide the empty bottle! Don’t have a Mason jar? No worries, any jar will do. You can use an empty mayonnaise jar (preferably Duke’s), salsa jar or peanut butter jar. For low-viscosity sauces such as a vinegar-based, a wine or liquor bottle works best. That way, you can control the amount of sauce you are dispensing by holding your thumb over the opening as you pour or sprinkle over the meat. An empty Makers Mark might be a bit pretentious but still not a bad choice. Warning: If using a wine bottle, avoid Sangria or anything from Little Black Dress or Moscato and other chick wines. Stick with something such as Gnarley Dude or Mad Dog.

 

You should also understand that a good steak can stand on its own; it doesn’t need to be bathed in sauce. Now, I like the flavor of A-1 as much as the next guy but save the A-1 for when you get cornered into eating something totally unpalatable such as when your host serves you scrapple with roasted Brussels sprouts. See: https://billtaylorcsp.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/internet-recipes-yech/. To mask the flavor of a good rib eye with a sauce is a sacrilege.

 

Following these tips will not make you a grilling expert, but at least you won’t stick out like a giraffe at a possum convention. Happy grill’n, ya’ll!