Say Goodbye to: Levon Helm, a good-ole-boy drummer from Marvell, Arkansas, the only American member of the Band (known as the Hawks before Dylan used them)--also in that famous paternity battle with old Dr. John the Nighttripper. Levon Helm, 71, American musician (The Band) and actor (Coal Miner's Daughter), throat cancer.
Note: We've been told by some viewers that The Daily Growler isn't visible on their computers any longer. Blogspot on which we've posted for 6 years has recently upgraded and says due to our out-of-date browser, it no longer recognizes the Growler--what we have to do on that occasion is click on a box that reverts us back to the "old interface" and then the Growler Growls back at us all merry and bright and alive in its past glory. We are being forced by the Internet hierarchy to buy a new computer--one with an up-to-date Mac operating system. Though we can use a Toshiba laptop running Windows XP that does have the latest Firefox upgrade on it though using that computer means we no longer have access to our vast photo and image files. However, we can download new photos into that system--but we don't like it--and prefer using this old Mac G4 running the wonderful Panther 10.3.9 system. Apple of China is upgrading its operating systems every six months or so it seems--it is up to Lion now--zooming quickly on through Leopard and Snow Leopard--they'll soon be running out of wild cats--though they haven't used Sabre Tooth Tiger yet. Progress in this sense is stupid--one should be able to use a universally standard operating system but then branding is so important to these greedy computer geeks--geeks who are working 24/7 tweaking (we used to call it fine tuning) operating systems and apps and shit just to get more money out of we goofy customers. This is all generational bullshit when you stop and analyze it--it's all to sucker in young people coming of age who will buy any damn gadget you promote as the latest and hippest and fastest and coolest.
Famous Last Words
I thought there would be tons of "Famous Last Words" if I Googled that phrase, BUT, and yes I gave up quickly on disappointment, I could only find a bunch of references to music clips (especially one for a song called "Chemical Response") or sites that simply listed famous last words, like "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," or "Why is your light getting so blue?", imaginary last words, not the actual ones (they are probably there, but I got frustrated and gave up looking for them).
My grandmother on my mother's side, the poet/librarian, kept a small schoolboy notebook in her bookcase. One day out of curiosity, I sneaked a peak at it. In it was a small inked list of the famous last words of some of her favorite people. The only one I remember was Thomas Paine. By his name she had written of this famous agnostic who wrote a great book that roamed the Christian Bible to show its many unscientific nonsenses, contradictory time lines, and absolute idiocies entitled The Age of Reason, "On his death bed, Thomas Paine, admitted he DID believe in God and he renounced his statements of heresy he had made in The Age of Reason."
These are those words my grandmother was referring to:
"I would give worlds if I had them, that the Age of Reason had never been published. O, Lord, help me! Christ, help me! No, don't leave; stay with me! Send even a child to stay with me; for I am on the edge of Hell here alone. If ever the Devil had an agent, I have been that one."
But on a site wikianswers.com under "What were the last words of Thomas Paine?" I found this:
"Witnessed by Amasa Woodsworth, and reported by Dr. Philip Graves, Dr. Manley asked Paine: 'Do you wish to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?' After a pause of some minutes, Paine replied, 'I have no wish to believe on that subject.'"
In my family's passed-on history, I heard a similar last-words tale. The last words of that same grandmother's husband, my grandfather on my mother's side. He had been a very intelligent man who read a lot but supposedly had never read the Christian Bible. He was a man who loved adventure. He was present, along with my grandmother and their first-born son, my Uncle Uncle, at the famous Galveston Flood disaster. After that flood, he with some unexpected money he got, bought an EMF racer, a yellow car that was especially built for car racing back in the early 1900s. And he loved racing that car on the primitive dirt race tracks down in the South Texas area from Galveston and Houston back over to Beaumont, where he and my grandmother made their home after they left Galveston. He certainly didn't get rich racing his EMF so he made his main living as a "fancy" sign painter and when that work was thin, he worked as a house painter. As a result of working with those early-day lead paints, in 1919 he contracted what was called "the house painters disease" that was medically called catarrh.
Definition of CATARRH
: inflammation of a mucous membrane; especially : one chronically affecting the human nose and air passages
Due to the recent Spanish influenza epidemic that killed millions of people around the world, my grandmother thought that perhaps her husband's disease was contagious, so the summer he got the sickest, he was coughing constantly, coughing up phlegm, and finding it difficult to breathe in the stuffy house, she moved him to a small bed out on the house's screened-in back porch.
At his sickest point, when the doctor told my grandmother he didn't have long to live, my grandmother called in her church's preacher and asked him to have a talk with her dying husband about his soul. The preacher dutifully went out on the back porch and pulled up a chair beside my grandfather's bed and after a brief moment put the question directly to this dying man: "Mr. C___, have you found Jesus during this ordeal?" To which my grandfather replied, "Why? Have you lost him?"
Years later when I was a very young kid, this man's only son lay dying in a McKinney, Texas, Veteran's Hospital. On a visit to my Uncle Uncle's bedside after his lung cancer had traveled up through his lymph nodes and had entered his brain, I heard him asked that inevitable question devout Christians must ask the dying, especially the dying who have for all of their lives rebuked the holy message of the Christian Bible, the path to what Christians call "Eternal Life," "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?" After this man had raved about wanting to die, asking over and over for a gun so he could blow his degenerating brains out, in the process calling his mother a "fucking bitch" for trying to make his dying easier (a mother's want), when asked this vital Christian question, he became momentarily his old belligerent self and with his steel blue eyes looked around at all of us and said, "You've got to be fucking crazy...you want me to believe on a son of a bitch who would put me through this? I'll gladly go to Hell to get out of this fucking misery."
I've never forgot that spiel from my Uncle Uncle, who though a man who hated everybody no matter their race and only highly respected the finer creations of life, he's the man who introduced me to Beethoven, he was still my favorite uncle whose finely put words of wisdom and his sense of independence have stuck with me until this day. Though those weren't his last words, they were the last words he spoke to his family. For after he spouted those words out, he shut up to us, turned over and showed his backside to us and said not one more word.
I got into this thinking wondering suddenly while watching a PBS television nature show what my last words would be. Having had a recent heart attack, one that I just barely survived, I have become well aware that my final moment on this coil may be sooner than I ever expected. If I were asked that Christian question, how would I answer it? First of all, I know of no one of my friends or family who would asked me such a question since they all know I have no concept of any god and also that I have since my age of reason been unable to even partially believe the Jesus Christ tale as real--why I don't even believe Jesus Christ as portrayed in the Christian Bible ever existed, he's a fictional (legendary) character the same as Paul Bunyan or John Henry the Steel-Drivin' Man, much more believable characters to me since they come from my cultural roots. One of my favorite junior-high quips was, "Do you know the difference between God and Santa Claus?" The answer to which was, "Santa Claus is real."
So what will my last words be? "What are my chances, Doc?" Or if I know for sure I'm "flying away," maybe it will be, "Don't throw all my shit in the garbage when I'm gone, dammit!" Or if a certain woman is at my bedside, it will certainly be to give her my final love--no words necessary for that, just a look deep into her eyes followed with a loving smile. Yes, that sounds to me like what I would want my final words to be--a deep look into someone I love's eyes captioned with a loving all-telling smile.
for The Daily Growler
Friday, September 15, 2006
I just returned from dinner at a restaurant on Fifth Avenue. I had veal parmigiana and spaghetti covered in a rich wonderful tomato sauce. Except, now that I'm home I have heartburn bad and I never have heartburn...unless I eat Italian food. Why is that? Why just Italian food? Is it the salt in it? Is it the cheese? The rich, thick tomato sauce?
I was reading recently these psychiatrists who say a lot of our fears are caused by suggestions we got hypnotically pounded into us by our parents, guardians, teachers, etc., when we were young and susceptible to such nonsense. I think someone put the suggestion in my head somewhere in the long-gone past that all Italian food causes heartburn and for that reason, I don't eat much Italian food at all anymore--and I love it--I love garlic, I love tomato sauce, I love Parmesan cheese...I love the thing that gives me heartburn...and that goes for my loves over the years, too, though I never dated or married an Italian girl, though my second wife could speak Italian.
And speaking of getting heartburn, I don't why, but I'm getting worried about the coming elections. Just as it looks like the Dumbocrats are going to run rampant over the Repug candidates in November, signs begin to point back toward Georgie Porgie, our first faux "president," to the point his ratings are going back up, not high, but at 40% approval now. My question is why? Why would this idiot's ratings be going up when everything points to total failure in all of his political adventures, which are all his wars, his spying, his taking away our rights and freedoms?--it's as if the American people themselves are guilty of something--and we are guilty of fear if that's the suggestion this booby is trying to put in our heads, going on the theory that if you say something long enough and sincere enough even if it's a baldface lie it will be taken for an honest-to-God fact. Suggestions again. Every time this "president" makes a speech, I laugh out loud at his asinine statements where he talks about God and prayer and "a battle between good and evil" and how this country due to this terrorism is coming back to the faith this country was created on--all spewed out the corner of his mouth. The snide little b...... I'm sorry, but I have heartburn.
The big telecoms are still determine to wreck the Internet. Amazing. These bastards never give up. They are determined to take the Internet away from the public and make it a private communications network that we will all have to pay tolls to use and then, it will only let you go where it wants you to go, like before you can get to your site you'll have to endure maybe five commercial pop-ups that you can't delete or continue through and will have to suffer through to get to where you're going.... Hell, I'm tired of barking. My growl is spinning down to a flat halt. I have heartburn--do wolves have heartburn?...and if they do, you'd never know it from living among them and talking BS with them. I've never heard one of my wolf brothers or sisters complain about heartburn--and what they eat; talk about Italian food.
How about that Pope? Such a pious man, isn't he? So close to God--oh, hell, here we go again with God--yes, the Pope believes in his version of the imaginary Jehovah god--oh, again I'm sorry because I know enough hypnotic-type suggestions were made in favor of this Jehovah dude in Catholic churches and families so that this Jehovah is to most Catholics a real BIG HUMAN BEING who lives in an invisible heaven in an invisible part of the invisible universe. It's OK if the Good Fathers like to have sex with young boys occasionally--in olden Rome, catamites were quite common in the chambers of the religious leaders, senators, and emperors and their sidekicks. The Pope says Islam is just god-damn bent on violence. Oh, shit, was Mussolini a Catholic? Was Pope Pius VI a Nazi supporter? You mean, Catholicism isn't bent on violence and the threat of violence, more violence, and rumors of violence? You mean this Big Daddy Jehovah wasn't a mean M-f-er if you crossed him? Old Jehovah could be a violent son of a bitch; I mean this kindhearted bastard caused a flood that killed every living being on the earth only to save an old Hebrew and his worthless family and two of every beast. Already, your imagination should be telling you, holy crap, who could believe such shit? Millions of people do. More millions of Islamics believe in their violent Allah--Well, hell, Allah means the same as Jehovah, doesn't it? Such easily decipherable BULLSHIT to me; yet, I'm outnumbered by millions who see all of this as the SUPERNATURAL; to me, BULLSHIT is what it is, a form of SHIT, waste, evacuated crap.
I wrote a diatribe a few weeks ago, people don't understand me, that's for sure--I see the world as a cartoon, you have to remember that; remember, too, I'm an anthropomorphic character--I'm not real.
I said this sport was started by some Piedmont-area bootleggers who needed souped up regular-looking cars in order to outfox or outrun the revenuers--old two-door 30s and 40s cars, old business coupes--we called 'em koo-peys when we drag raced 'em on the old airstrips out in the wild gypsum plains of our neck of the woods. There were a lot of abandoned airstrips all over Texas at the end of the war, you know, where there had been training fields, supply strips, and such. Old Chevys were sometimes the best because of their motors--not really old cars, but cars we could afford to chop up, retool, and soup up.
Right after WWII, a lot of our brothers came home with mechanic skills they'd learned in the military. Some of these guys became first-class machinists, tool-and-die dudes, and a lot of these guys were rather bold in what they thought they could do in these areas, having had to improvise during the war in building replacement parts for some of the heaviest machinery in the world. One of our neighbors in far East Dallas was a young man they called Stu though his real name was Sandy and Sandy was a tool-and-die man for the Texas Company (remember Texaco gasoline and Havoline motor oil?). He'd been cut through his middle by machine-gun fire in the Pacific--he didn't talk about that much, but he was always talking cars and how he was going to build his own car come hell or high water. And he meant to build his own car from detailed plans he gotten from Detroit where they didn't build automobiles during the war; so he got these plans for a 1941 Ford sedan, and son of a bitch, he worked night and day out in his garage for many moons and we would go and watch him working on his car and he'd tell us all about what he was doing with all these machines he had out there and downtown at the Texas Company's metal shop where he worked.
We drank Kool Aid his wife made us and watched Sandy build this car. And by golly, one day he called all the folks in the neighborhood down to his place and we all gathered in the driveway in front of his garage and he pulled up the overhead door and there sat a brand new Ford car, except it was a 1941 model and it was like 1947, but it was a brand new car, all waxed shiny to glistening perfection; it looked Detroit-made to us--I mean this guy had made the fenders, the bumpers, the hood, the roof, put in the windshields, gas cap, mudflaps with red rhinestone blinkers, and, damn, a whip antennae rising high off the back of the car just like the old cop cars had. The big moment came. He fired it up. Its starter turned it over and after a puff or two of fetid exhaust, the motor caught, idled, and then started purring like a contented kitten.
A few days later, he was backing his pride and joy automobile out his driveway, and he hit something, he felt a bump and thought he heard what sounded like a blowout, a hissing sort of steamy screech. He stopped the car, figuring he'd blown a tire, got out, went around to the back tire, looked, nope, no blowout. He looked on around back further... and then he saw, first just a pair of little legs wearing new white buckle-on shoes... and he looked further, stooping down to look under the bumper...and then he saw what he had backed his handmade car, his pride and joy automobile over--he had accidentally backed it over his other pride and joy, his young daughter--2 years old, a beautiful little girl who had just learned how to walk and had the beauty of her parents twinkling in her big brown eyes.
"I didn't see her...God Almighty, I didn't see her...God-damn, I DIDN'T SEE HER!"... and he kept yelling that over and over as he went wildly walk-racing around his backyard with my father following him around trying to calm him down, trying to get him to drank some brandy, but Sandy was a religious man and wouldn't touch the stuff.
Sandy sold his pride and joy handmade Ford. He sold it to my friend G-man's father. G-man's father was a race car driver--he drove professionally. He bought fairly new sedans and rebuilt them, put roll bars in them, stripped the interiors down to the interior metal--he didn't want pieces of the car falling off and flying at him if he were diggin' in the high sides of a dirt track, half skidding sideways in the turns, sliding out wide so he'd be in alignment with the straightaway so he could put the pedal-to-the-metal maybe up to 60 mph to race to the next turn, hitting that turn as fast as he could hoping he didn't roll--all metal--pedal-to-the-metal meaning you push the gas pedal down hard against the metal of the car's floorboard, which old dirt track racers took out of the koo-peys and to replace it with sheet metal.
G-man's father chopped up Sandy's pride-and-joy handmade car--made it look like an old jalopy, but after he got it up to his specifications, he took it out and won the first trial race he entered it in over in Dallas at the Devil's Bowl race track. Next day, G-man was all thrills and said he'd never seen his dad so happy; why he hadn't beaten his mother in over a week now. G-man's dad was feeling powerful; hell, he'd won 25 bucks in that trial. He could get a 100 bucks if he could win all his heats in that next Sunday afternoon's feature races.
The Flying Playboy, G-man's dad's nickname, stayed up all night working on what was now his pride-and-joy Ford's motor; he even cleaned the dirt off the car and had it shining before he loaded it on his trailer and took off towing it toward the Devil's Bowl for his big moment.
He took his wife and G-man along with him--he was so confident--he was tooting about taking 'em all out to Red Bryan's Smokehouse and treatin' 'em to some barbecued ham steaks, the best in the southwest, dammit, full speed ahead.
G-man said he saw his father when he was decapitated in the fourth lap, in the far turn of his final heat, which if he won it he would yes have won a 100 bucks but also qualify for the big feature race that next Sunday.
"He was doin' 60 god-dammit, I swear he was, and that was too fast but that was his dad. He said he had to go sixty on the straightaway to win against that Fort Worth guy who calls himself the Sheriff. He was doin' it, dammit; he was ahead of 'em all, pulling away enough he could come out of the final turn and coast through the checkered flag. But, dammit, man, suddenly that Ford just blew up, caught fire, man, in the motor, and I saw dad fighting the wheel and the fire was flashing out of the motor area, coming up right in his face, man, I could see it clearly, man, my dad on fire." He gasped. "Then I saw the car do a roll...it rolled once then turned straightup balanced on its front end..." He couldn't finish the sentence. His father had been his hero. The man loved speed; he loved grease and dirt and beer and working on motors and souping up cars and chopping them down. "You know the saddest thing about watching that?" G-man said. "It was when the left front tire popped off the rim of dad's car and rolled like a jackrabbit straight across the finish line just ahead of the Sheriff. My dad's car tire won the damn race." G-man then broke into wild hyena-like laughter. He was crazy man, pure crazy.
The last time I heard from the G-man was a postcard from Niagara Falls. All it said was, "Fell in love--got married here--she works at the Shredded Wheat factory, always smells good. Trouble is I'm running tonight over at a dirt track in Canada so we'll spend our honeymoon at the track. Maybe we'll cross paths again one day, old buddy. G-man forever."
I guess I'm kind of apologizing to the commentor who told me I shouldn't write about something I know nothing about, like NASCAR racing. He's absolutely right about that and I promise, I'll only write diatribe from now on about things I know something about.
for The Daily Growler