Category Archives: Art

FRED REED: Vendetta Over Alabama

America, Art, Crime, Culture, FRED REED, Kids, Music, Race, Relatives, The South

Fred remembers barefooted boyhood, Red Ryder BB guns, pocket knives; shooting water moccasins and making homemade ordnance; teachers who taught the Three Rs, history, the sciences; gin made the right way, the occasional paddle, but no crime, and dulcet Southern speech that flowed slow and sweet like Karo syrup

BY FRED REED

In the mid-1950s my family arrived in Athens, Alabama, I being eleven, my father a mathematician working at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in nearby Huntsville. Athens was small, the county seat of Limestone County. The town square had the courthouse in the middle with the statue of a Confederate soldier and a Baptist church. The library was a frame building with many books and, at least in memory, a musty smell and there was Athens College, now grandiosely Athens University.

The age was politically fraught after Brown, though I didn’t know it. The South was then under siege, isolated, ingrown, defiant, idiosyncratic, tightly segregated, and determined to keep it that way. It was what it was and liked it–a land of guns, NASCAR, hot rods, dogs, and defined sexes. Dixie was the only pungent, culturally distinctive part of the country outside of New York City. An American Sicily, it shaped American music. Gospel, Southern blacks. Blues, Southern blacks. Cajun, Southern whites. Zydeco. Dixieland jazz, Southern blacks and whites. Bluegrass, Southern whites. Country, Southern whites. Rockabilly, Southern whites. Rock, Southern blacks and whites.

There was a regionalism, the attachment to the battle flag, a profound locality which amounted to “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on,” a residual, hopeless rebelliousness against the crushing power of the North.

The times were looser then, less hectored and watched. Rules were few because people knew how to behave without them. Athenians supervised their own lives and it seemed to work. The dog went out in the morning, visited such places as she thought fit and came back when it suited her. Nobody cared. It was what dogs did. We kids went barefoot, supporting the minor agony of the first week until our feet hardened to leather. In summer nothing seemed hurried. Barefoot and BB-gunned, we went forth on glowing green mornings to see what adventure offered.

Small boys carried pocket knives everywhere because no one could think of a reason why  not. There was no telling when you might need to sharpen a stick or put notches on a spool tank for traction. Teachers ignored pocket knives, though they waxed wroth over the passing of notes. BB guns were part of our anatomy, like an extra arm. There were two varieties. The plebeian Red Ryder, plain, dark brown, and functional, for four dollars, and the patrician Daisy Eagle, with plastic telescopic sight, for I think eight. Both were lever-action. They were an accepted part of society. Every corner store sold round cardboard tubes of a hundred BBs which we poured rattlingly into the barrel. Nobody thought twice about this. When you went into Limestone Drug, you left your BB gun in the corner. But more of that shortly.

In Athens in a minor valley there was the appropriately name Valley Gin Company. It was the kind of gin that took seeds out of cotton, not the kind making vodka unpalatable by the addition of juniper juice. It was of corrugated iron, run down like so much of the South, and abandoned except in cotton-picking time. There was much brush around and a creek ran through the valley, crossed by an iron foot bridge.

Here I came on the long afternoons of the Southland to lean over the bridge rail and shoot water moccasins. Actually I think they were harmless water snakes but water moccasins better caught the spirit.  There is such a thing as too much truth.

In the cool and shade of what is now another world, minnows sparkled in clear water and dragonflies flitted in metallic blues and greens. We knew them as “snake doctors,” though elsewhere they were “the devil’s darning needles,” or “mosquito hawks.” They were fast, agile, ferocious looking and I often tried to shoot them, but never with any luck.

The years with a BB gun would not be entirely without benefit. Discharging the shiny little balls against the sky, watching the coppery glint recede through the air, we developed an eye for windage and elevation, that lives later in Marine boot camp would make me the only recruit in a platoon of city kids who could shoot, and this avoided much punitive labor.

The South had not recovered from the Civil War and, along with a middle class like any other, there was poverty. A few kids had teeth blackened with decay and one that I remember had to have his entire dentition pulled. My friend Charlie Cox lived in a shack with a light bulb dangling on a wire. Athens was the county seat of Limestone County and so comparatively advanced but in nearby Ardmore County, if memory serves, instead of summer vacation kids got off at cotton chopping and cotton-picking time.

The Limestone Drugstore was on the town square, and still is, across the courthouse and the statue of the Confederate soldier. It had the usual things one has in a drug store but also several marble-topped round tables and accompanying chairs, a soda fountain with pimply soda jerk, and a large rack of comic books. The Limestone was not a Northern chain, impelled by cutthroat acquisitiveness from corporate in New Jersey, and so was relaxed. The owner, or so we thought he was, was an old man in his seventies we all knew as Coochie, with frizzy red hair. He liked little boys. Not lasciviously as would be suspected today. He just liked kids.

I think Coochie used the comic rack as bait. Probably in all its years the Limestone never sold a comic book, or tried to. We came in, a legion of eleven-year-olds, and piled our BB guns and fielder’s mitts in a corner. It wasn’t a rule, but have you tried to read Plastic Man while holding a BB gun, baseball glove, and cherry coke? We grabbed several comics, by now crumbling and settled in. We spent hours deep in Batman, Green Lantern, Superman. It probably improved our reading, but I don’t know. I can still name Superman’s girlfriends, Lois Lane, Linda Lee, and Lana Lang, as well as Jor-El and Lara, and three different colors of kryptonite. Don’t tell me we wasted our time.

Athens Elementary, where I went to sixth and seventh grades, was not yet integrated and so had none of the problems that would soon come. The teachers were college-educated women, these not yet being siphoned off into biochemistry. They believed their job was to teach the Three Rs, as did teachers all across America then, as well as history, the sciences, and so on. There were no discipline problems to amount to anything though the Board of Education, a substantial paddle, existed to ameliorate the aborning ardor of adolescence. I once fell afoul of this instrument. It didn’t come to much.

The South did not know what to do about the Negro. His dark face loomed over everything. Integration was coming, and people knew what it would do. It did. Segregation couldn’t last, but integration couldn’t work. This left few possibilities.

At the time, virtually no contact between races existed. The water fountains on the town square said White and Colored, the bathrooms in gas stations, Men, Women, and Colored. It the movie theater, known to us as the “pitcher show,” blacks sat in the lower right-hand seats. I barely remember seeing Negros and to this day I don’t know where the black school was. About this time Emmett Till was beaten to death by Klan wannabes in Mississippi. Most people were decent. Some weren’t.

Crime did not yet exist, though it does now. Children could roam wild until late on summer nights with no hazard. A favorite haunt was the Kreme Delight a soft ice cream stand in the style of, who would have thought it, the Fifties. On summer nights yellow neon buzzed and so did bugs attracted by them and children attracted by the ice cream, though we didn’t buzz. Kreme Delight is still there. We got spiral swirls of chocolate or vanilla and felt independent in the night though of course we weren’t. If Annette Funicello had appeared and asked for a double malt, she would have fit. Young studs in their late teens drove around in fitty-six Ford convertibles, hair slicked back in tidal waves, cigarette dangling from corner of mouth, approaching manhood, well aware of it, and maybe trying to hurry things a little. Hopped-up mills, bad-ass V-8s, idled potato potato potato maybe, not really hopped up but with a hole in the muffler but it was close enough. Nothing is better than driving around the gathering point with your best girl and a noisy motor and hoping you look like Elvis. With me it was Hojo’s in Fredericksburg, Virginia years later, but the principle doesn’t change. Or if it has, we’ve lost something.

The South had much on its conscience regarding the Negro. One day Northern cities would have sprawling, semiliterate, segregated ghettos where there would be thousands of blacks killed every year, poverty, drug addiction, phenomenal crime, but these were in the future. Now it is the North that does not know what to do. Some Southerners might say, let them choke on it.

Having no more orality than is good for a small boy, I figured out how to steal twelve-gauge shotgun shells from the country store near our house by putting them in the center of a roll of toilet paper and buying it. I do not know what disease the store’s owner thought might afflict my family. We then cut the shot charge from the shell with a Buck knife—as mentioned, small boys then routinely carried pocket knives with no ill effect, unless you were a twelve-gauge shell of course. We then put the powder charge on the end of a BB gun barrel , shot the primer, and–fwoosh!—a most satisfying spray of sparks erupted.

We were probably dangerous. At least I hope we were. We took bicycle spokes and pressed match heads into the cavity, followed by a piece of birdshot, and held a match under the ensemble. A satisfying snap! Followed. I think this an important chapter in the history of American ordnance. There was a way, too complex to explain here so it will be lost forever, to turn a clothes pin into a gun that will shoot a flaming kitchen match for at least three feet. Do not think that we misspent our time.

My family first lived in a big decaying house on Pryor Street, near the country store. I was for some time known, mostly in jest, as the “Dam Yank on the corner,” until I learned the soft Rococo accents that God meant us to use. People didn’t like Yankees. I guess I still don’t if it means morally pretentious New Englanders. Hitchhiking years later in the humid stillness of the Mississippi Delta, where speech flowed slow and sweet like Karo syrup dripping on busted China, I decided the language had reached its pinnacle of dignity and humility. But Alabama was close.

My parents were Cavalier Virginians from Southside and knew participles from gerunds. My mother once asked one of my friends whether he would like to lunch with us. With curtsey native to the state, he replied, “No, thank you, Ma’am. I has done et.” She was horrified. Other elocutions were, “You ain’t got the sense god give a crabapple,” and, “do that again and I’ll slap the far outa you.” Fire. Sometimes it was “slap the livin’ dogsnot,” but that is rude, so we will omit it here.

A high point of my young life, or at least a point, was the discovery of the science building of Athens College, where my father taught chemistry as a sideline. The building wasn’t locked. In the library of the college in the encyclopedia Britannica I found the formula for thermite, a fearsomely high-temperature incendiary. (If interested, powdered aluminum and iron oxide. It proved  effective for burning Tokyo should you ever need to do that.) Anyway, I found the materials in the science building. Perry James, son of the college president, and I put some in his mother’s prize frying pan, thinking if immune to high temperatures. The resulting hole caused…well, it caused.

Being something of a mad scientist, I made rockets that didn’t work with zinc, sulfur, and stolen potassium permanganate, invented the mnemonic prometanatel, for prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase. This has not materially furthered my trajectory through life, but neither has it done harm. Free access to a science building has much to recommend it.

Athens was a monoculture and so at peace with itself. The kids had names like Jimmy-jack ‘Callister, Sally-Carol Jenkins, Johnny Loggins, or Billy-Joe Faulkner. There were exceptions, such as Sanders Dupree and my buddy Don Berzette, but these were few and, I think Protestant like us. Athens was in the Bible Belt and everyone took it seriously or at least went with the current.  The parts about fornication may have received less intense attention than others among teenagers but I don’t know because I wasn’t one. But I suspected. All were white. There is something to be said for this.

Ages later, on a mountain side in Peru while working as a journalist, I ran into a National-Guardplatoon from Athens. Did they know Don? I asked. Yep.

My family left Athens after a couple of years. Sputnik had gone into orbit and was saying beep beep humiliatingly. This couldn’t be tolerated. Desperate effort had gone into getting a Jupiter C rocket also into orbit. My family went to Redstone Arsenal to see a celebratory mockup. It was wickedly cold and a determined patriotic model in bikini stood grimly by the exhibit. Sputnik had the salutary effect of raising salaries for mathematicians and my father, a loyal son of the South, got a better deal at Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground, as it was then know, in rural Virginia. I have ever since thought well of the Russians.

Read Fred’s Books! Or else. We know where you sleep.

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FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His  commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”

FRED’S BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON, HERE

FRED’S ARTICLES ARCHIVE

Killer Kink

Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm int the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.

UPDATED (8/23/022): Jennifer Lynn Affleck In Love

Art, Celebrity, Feminism, Hollywood

“Love is beautiful. Love is kind. And it turns out love is patient. Twenty years patient.” So wrote performer Jennifer Lopez last month about the storybook ending to the romance between herself and actor Ben Affleck.

Outwardly, media shallows like to depict this successful woman as a feminist powerhouse, even though there is a vulnerability and warmth about Ms. Lopez. She has often said she’s just “Jenny from the block,” as in the Bronx.

Ms. Lopez signed her simple, sweet note as Jennifer Lynn Affleck—which is a touching confirmation that she’s just a woman in love. She dropped her surname and took on her husband’s.

If you recall, these two had a love affair that lasted from 2002 to 2004:

“We were so in love… But also, there was this other thing happening where we were being criticized, and it really destroyed our relationship from the inside out because we were just too young to understand at that time what were really the most important things in life… Having a second chance at real love…We learned a lot. We know what’s real, what’s not real. ” Jennifer told Rolling Stone.

Lopez had bedded some unsavory characters like P. Diddy.

Maybe the more patrician Jennifer Garner, Ben’s ex, was the answer. Clearly, however, the love and chemistry Lopez and Affleck shared did not dissipate. And more importantly, both seem to value the gift of love and to want to do it justice. When you are in your 50s and 60s, you are no longer searching for the perfect mother or father of your future children; you can simply treasure, enjoy and explore the gift of love between a man and a woman.

Mrs. Affleck, clearly a passionate woman, is right. Love is beautiful and precious if one is so lucky as to fall in love. And love ought to be kind.

UPDATE (8/23/022):

UPDATED (9/23/022): The Genius Of Erik Larson

Art, English, Environmentalism & Animal Rights, History, Literature, Science

Thanks are owed to the good friend who introduced me to the genius of author Erik Larson.

I’m finishing up Thunderstruck, so am learning more about Marconi than my old man, a PhD RF (wireless) engineer, knows. I do appreciate now the magic and mystique of the rather rarefied field of wireless. In fact, I’m quite captivated by it.

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History is riveting—it taught me about the Galveston Hurricane, the most lethal natural disaster in US history, instantiating the arrogance of US climate scientists even in 1900. The state’s scientists dissed and cancelled (as in banned) the Cubans–who understood the science of hurricanes well before us–sacrificing about ten thousand souls.

I learned so much about the intrigue—and role of the British Empire, the Admiralty, in particular—in leading Lusitania, a luxury British passenger ship, right to the German, U-Boat assassins. The book is Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.

And who knew Chicago had such uniquely problematic soil? Larson does! Just as he conveys a solid grip of wireless technology in Thunderstruck, or the science of hurricanes in Issac’s Storm, Larson goes into the geology of the city and the great architecture and architects of fin de siècle America, all in The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America. (George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. wanted to best Gustave Eiffel, so he gave us the American version of  the Eiffel Tower, the Ferris wheel, which, during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, carried up to … 2000 people. All new and wondrous to me.)

There are always parallel murder plots, where you learn about the mass murderer du jour or wife killer on the cross-Atlantic lam. These are made all the more suspenseful if you DO NOT GOOGLE them.

Larson weaves gorgeously written, multi-layered, primary-source based yarns about epic historic events. And he never visits the Internet for his research, but, rather, works in libraries and wherever rare artifacts and documents are stowed.

On LinkedIn, a variety of people keep propagating on my page with fluffy effusions about their writing careers. Having sampled a paragraph or two of these people’s “prose”—and then promptly unfollowed the particular umbrella association that represents them (us “writers”) and advances the careers of these scribblers—I would advise these producers of piss-poor prose, first to quit assaulting the eye. But if they wish to improve, study Larson: structure of plot and sentences, syntax, how he starts a sentence; his use of adjectives, how he builds tension.

Still, there should be a guild that pays most “budding” writers not to write.

UPDATED (9/23/022): One of our readers is a descendant of brave survivors of the 1900s Galveston Hurricane. What tough, admirable people American were. Many still are: MAGA.

NEW COLUMN: ‘Tarded’ Medical Idiocrat Won’t Treat ‘Unscannables’ Like Me

Art, Comedy & Humor, COVID-19, Healthcare, Intelligence, Left-Liberalism And Progressivisim, Pseudoscience, Science

“Why come you don’t have your Covid tattoo,” he yelps, cowering in the corner, “where’s your bar code”

NEW COLUMN is “‘Tarded’ Medical Idiocrat Won’t Treat ‘Unscannables’ Like Me.” It’s currently featured on WND.COM, The Unz Review, and on The New American.

Meet Doctor Lexus (diploma via Costco):

In Idiocracy, Mike Judge’s genius of a satire (really a documentary, if you think about it), Luke Wilson plays Joe Bowers, frozen by the military in 2005, “who accidentally wakes up in 2505 to find a broken-down, thuggish America, where language has become a patois of football chants, hip-hop slang and grunts denoting rage, pleasure and priapic longing, where citizens are obese, violent, ever-horny and narcotised by consumerism.” (As I said, a documentary. Citations here.)

The “dumb-a** dystopia” depicted in “Idiocracy” has evolved (devolved, rather) because low-IQ individuals, so robust, have out-bred the intelligent (yes, Judge openly references IQ as a measure of intelligence). Consequently, nothing gets fixed. There are garbage avalanches. A Gatorade-like drink has replaced water in irrigation. Because growers don’t know better, nothing grows. …

The most watched show on the “Violence Channel” is “Ow, My B-lls!” The “highest grossing movie of all time is called ‘A**,’ and consists of 90 minutes of the same naked, hairy butt on screen.” Audiences are enraptured. All enterprises are sexualized; Starbucks offers a “full body latte.” Costco is an Ivy-League law school.

Or, a medical school, in my tale of woe. Idiocracy is the perfect metaphor for my own visit to a Washington State doctor’s office. …

And the doctor’s office has become its own obstacle course. Combine endemic, Idiocracy-like institutional rot, with the control Covid has bestowed on some exceedingly mediocre and malevolent minds—and one can never be too prepared.

In the case of this grubby little shop, the pronoun slot alone on the attendant patient forms ought to have been a portend of what was to come. My choice of pronoun would have been “grammatical” had that option been offered. Otherwise, I never dignify the pronoun charade. See below:

Washington woke would sooner flout the spirit of the  Hippocratic Oath than speak ill of the homeless grotesquerie that is unfolding on our streets. Since the term “virtue signaling” has become a cliché—a term insufficient to the task—let me offer an improvement. The progressive’s preening aims to emphasize his or her own providential purpose in the universe. To that end, progressives like to discredit the rest of us. That’s more like it

When the appointment was scheduled, not a word of warning was forthcoming about the inquisition, the third degree, that would ensue at the front desk on the day of the visit. I’m healthy, masked and without fever. That ought to have been the end of it.

It was not. Shoved in my face on a stark sheet of paper, bereft of the office’s masthead, was the demand for my vaccination status. Well, of course. Doctor Lexus (diploma via Costco) wasn’t owning this disgrace. This was nothing to boast about.

I refused to divulge my vaccination status. …

READ ON. NEW COLUMN is “‘Tarded’ Medical Idiocrat Won’t Treat ‘Unscannables’ Like Me.” It’s currently featured on WND.COM, The Unz Review, and The New American.