Category Archives: Music

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.

******************************************

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.

UPDATE III (8/13/022): Trump Raided: Fate Of The 4th Amendment & Due Process In Police State USA

Celebrity, Constitution, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Law, Music, South-Africa

UPDATE III (8/13/022):  TAKE NOTE: “The American Gestapo A.K.A. FBI” by Paul Craig Roberts: DOJ, Judiciary, FBI: “…none of these people are good people. They are not people we can have any confidence in. These are not people we would let our sons and daughters marry. These are very bad people. Yet these very bad people are in control of our lives. ..”

****************

Ashleigh Banfield of News Nation, ACTUALLY covers the raid of Trump’s Florida mansion, whereas other leftist channels are lying low. Waiting to have the matter focus-group tested given the impending primaries? I bet they are.

Banfield lets a conservative radio mouth, one Bill Cunningham, roar about 4th Amendment violations and the revolt the raid will ignite among Deplorables, all crucial points.

News Nation clearly provides more substantial coverage than does Fox News, which, unlike Cunningham, hardly mentions the Constitution, and only rabbits on about how unprecedented the raid is and about logistics, such as:

“If only the FBI coordinated better with Trump”.

Fox is also indulging in “what aboutism”, namely, “If this were Hillary Clinton… blah, blah”.  As I said, nothing substantial. These people aren’t smart. Tucker excepted, Fox News is about ratings, not deep reflection.

Violations of due process, in the case of the Mar-a-Lago raid today, in search of classified material and presidential records removed,  have become more common in police state America than in Apartheid-era South Africa, which, as chronicled in Into The Cannibal’s Pot, was unsurprisingly legalistic and by-the-book. But then, rooted in Roman-Dutch law, South Africa was a minority ruled, first world civilization at the tip of Africa.

UPDATE II (8/9/022):  Fox News continues to voice support for the “men and women of the FBI.” It’s only those at the top who stink, said a guest agent. Speechless. The FBI is among the most corrupt government agencies.

When in recent memory has the FBI stopped an attack on the homeland other than attacks originating in its own entrapment schemes, where a low-IQ Abdul is persuaded to purchase explosives from the FBI “for Jihad” and then is “caught” in the act. A presser follows. (HERE)

The FBI is progressive to its core.  And Trump hired the last of its major swamp creatures. President Trump hired Christopher Wray, whose heroes, as stated in his confirmation hearings, are Directors Robert Mueller and James Comey. How did Trump imagine Christopher Wray, who looks up to the two and swam in the same polluted waters, would reform the FBI? (“Hiring Another Swamp Creature For The FBI“)

Michelle Malkin offers an excellent summary of FBI depredation in “FBI: Feds Behaving Incorrigibly.


Notes in the margins:

RIP Olivia Newton John. She had had breast cancer. It always comes back to claim its victims, eventually. “Seize the day” has become a cliché, but it should not be. The passing of a vital, rather young woman is a reminder of how often we squander the gifts and opportunities we are afforded, because we would rather play it safe than experience life to the fullest.

I loved this one: Olivia Newton John, 1974, “I Honestly Love You”:

So-called musicians today lack the emotional depth, the facility with language and the skill (for chord progression) to compose a love song. When we were growing up, these kinds of aching tunes were in abundance.

UPDATE (8/9/022): Another youngish woman felled, aged 64: veteran anchor Uma Pemmaraju. Time is something we run out of fast.

Original Fox News Channel Anchor Uma Pemmaraju Dies at 64

FRED REED: Manners. Aplomb. Deboneurtude.

America, Culture, FRED REED, Gender, Journalism, Music

FRED REED on journalism when it was a trade dominated by tough, rough men, who hung out with bikers and bar-fighting Brunhildes

Let me tell you about aplomb. I don’t mean watery New-Age aplomb, suitable for a fern bar. I mean the real article, forty-weight, that you could lube a diesel with.

This was in the early eighties. I was still a staff writer on Soldier of Fortune magazine. This was years before Craig, the staff artist, killed himself riding drunk on his motorcycle somewhere outside Boulder. (He died, everyone said, as he would have wanted. Horribly.)

In those days Craig and I hung out for a while in the Berkeley Bar in a bad section of Denver. Craig was a big, baby-faced street fighter out of Chicago with a Special Forces past and a mean streak. He mostly drew skulls. He also like the Brandenburg concertos, and used to listen to them at his easel with headphones built into a World War II leather flying helmet.

The Berk was the home pit for the Sons of Silence, a bad biker club. If you haven’t been in dives like this, don’t start now. They swarm with huge bearded bozos with tattooed eyeballs and missing teeth and slow ominous grins and the IQ of a camshaft. You get the impression that they are evolving, but just not as fast as the rest of us. They’ll hurt you. Either they like you or you’re jelly. They don’t worry about consequences. They can’t remember them.

The Berk had Formica wood tables and smelled like a weight room. Rows of bottles waited patiently, but not for long, behind the counter and corpulent biker babes lolled about like stranded elephant seals. No one else did. When you have a biker clientele, you don’t have any other kind of clientele. Craig and I were guests. I had sold Bob Brown, the editor of Soldier of Fortune, on a story about the warm patriotic urges of the Sons, who didn’t have any. The Sons were charmed. They might get on the cover. They knew they would never get closer to significance.

It was cold enough to freeze the personals off an iron dog and dirty snow gleamed yellow under the streetlights. We showed up in Craig’s pickup truck, wearing our credentials: cammies, antisocial T-shirts (“Happiness Is A Confirmed Kill”) and jump boots. A Tribal Meeting followed, heap big pow wow, talk’em. Craig and I sat in a booth with Torque, the honcho, and a brain-fried guy called Lurch, and Mountain Jerry, who was a pretty Tarzan replica with long golden hair like Rapunzel and gold-flecked eyes that spoke of psychopathy and bone fractures. He sort of looked through you.

“We don’t like the press,” Torque said. So what? Nobody did. I didn’t. Torque had a face like a gorilla’s armpit. “You can do your story. SOF’s a righteous mag. Righteous.” I guess it was a recommendation. Like having Carlo Gambino say that you were a Really Good Person.
“We do what we can,” Craig said.

Lurch just stared at his beer with his mouth hanging open. He didn’t actually drool, probably because he couldn’t remember how. I figured he had smoked too much brass polish or sniffed some bad glue.

During this prayer meeting, Lurch had An Idea. You could tell it was bubbling up inside him. His jaw closed slightly and a crazed focus came into his eyes. He was going to say something, as soon as he figured out what. His head came up. Yes, an idea. He almost had it.  And then it left him. He collapsed with a soughing sound, like a punctured tire. Gone. A Real Idea, probably the unified field theory. And it got away. He stared sorrowfully at his beer. Eeyore of the Bikers.

We went back to the tribal thing.

Manners, though. This is about grace, elegance, and aplomb. Yeah.

Later we were boozing at the bar, doing what women call male bonding. It means talking to each other. I was chatting with Mountain Jerry. Craig was talking to some guy farther down the bar and drinking peppermint schnapps. Which was amazing on two counts. First, that the Berk had such an effeminate candy-ass yuppie-swine liqueur. Second, that Craig would drink it in a biker bar. It was grounds for execution.

Thing was, Craig was scary. He’d cripple you. You sensed he was ready to rock-and-roll, and you really didn’t want to rumble with him. Some guys you leave alone. The Sons could smell it. About then one of the biker babes got into it with the barmaid. I don’t know what the raison de guerre was. The challenger was a gas-station Brunhilde like a sack of potatoes, except potatoes have better skin. Shrieking ensued. Barmaids in motorcycle hangouts do not back down. You could tell this one wasn’t a Latin professor at Bryn Mawr. She screamed obscenities in a florid cloacal gush. The potato sack gave as good as she got.

The bikers ignored them and kept drinking. Jerry and I were discussing social encounters in rural bars in West Virginia, where we both came from. The chief instrument of intercourse in those regions was the pool cue. It was simple and direct and provided the hospitals with a brisk business.

Over Mountain Jerry’s shoulder I saw the challenger’s arm flash forward. She was throwing a bottle at the barmaid. Either her aim was bad or the barmaid ducked. Bottles shattered behind the bar and the mirror pretty much exploded. Slivers rained down on me, but missed my drink.
Mountain Jerry never flickered. He grinned his slow mean golden grin and said, “Git it on.” And kept on talking. He was amused.

The bar top glittered with glass fragments. The barmaid was about to leap over the bar to do battle with Spud Sack. Screaming continued. Nobody paid the slightest attention. Down the bar I saw Craig absently, without looking, pull a sizable sliver of glass from his schnapps without interrupting his sentence. He dipped a finger to see whether more shards awaited. No. All was well. He lifted the glass and drank.

That’s aplomb.

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

******************************************

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.

NEW COLUMN: Bleeding Russia Dry And Then Next ‘Color Revolution’

America, Culture, Foreign Policy, Just War, Music, Russia, Sex, The West

NEW COLUMN, now on WorldNetDaily, The Unz Review, and the New American, is “Bleeding Russia Dry And Then Next Color Revolution,” wherein a distinction is made between a “justification” for war and a “reason” for war, I ponder whether Putin’s avid patriotism is matched by that of a younger Russian generation, and dole out some love for Tsarist Russia and Tchaikovsky.

Excerpt:

… A trickier question for those of us on the Old Right is this: Putin is a Russian patriot. This, in-depth interviews with the Russian president amply evince. He adores and is deeply acquainted with the nation’s “ancient faith,” its history and traditions. But could it be that we of the Old Russell Kirk Right, nostalgic for the very same things absent in our own societies, are romanticizing the Russian people? This writer shares Dr. Cathey’s love of Tsarist Russia’s great culture before communism. (Boyd says Rachmaninov; I say Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique,” his Symphony No. 6 is a singularly intense and sublime expression of the agonies of the individual, caught between salvation, sin and love of Mother Russia.)

But is this same sensibility present in younger Russians? No doubt, Putin is steeped in Russian culture. But do younger Russians share his traditionalism? True, very many hate communism, but that hatred is devoid of a civilizational dimension. I fear younger Russians are already in the market for a Western life filled with sexual titillation and consumerism. …

… The Rest of “Bleeding Russia Dry And Then Next Color Revolution” is on WorldNetDaily,  The Unz Review, and the New American.