Category Archives: Skills…building them

It Was A Friggin’ Miracle…

I wrote a small piece about a t-shirt I saw in the days after the Ferguson riots. In a response from a close friend, I was given links to the Cato Institue , on the likelihood of being killed by Law enforcement, rather than by radical jihadis. It’s true, statistically speaking, one is more likely to die at the hands of the law enforcement officers (LEO) in Southeast Missouri-or anywhere in America, than at the hands of The Islamic State (IS). Ignoring the grammatical errors on the shirt, it still seems as preposterous now, as it ever did. Although, my friend still gave some validity to the content conveyed on the shirt. A debate ensued…

(Photo via Red Flag News)

Something arose form this exchange of ideas, something I didn’t expect–something not seen for quite some time–a cogent and thoughtful dialogue between two individuals who disagreed on something, but both had the same fundamental moral compass. The basics: don’t kill, don’t rape, don’t steal, don’t sell human beings, and a mutual acknowledgement of our governing federal document, the antiquated, but functional, Constitution. This dialogue occurred with an old friend. Which was weird, because post-Ferguson and the ugliness it exposed in people, caused the social media lines of communication to all but cease to buzz. No one wanted to talk, life-long friends were at odds over opinions on Ferguson. Mr. Hizer, as he’s known to those of us who love him. Made some great points and was diligent to stay on the larger topic of militarization of law enforcement, and acknowledged my concerns with misinformation having dangerous social ramifications down the road. The topic was a ridiculous message on the afore mentioned t-shirt. I still firmly believe you do not want to be stopped by ISIS. They won’t just violate your constitutional rights–which sharia legalist don’t recognize at all–they could very well violate your right to have your head remain attached to your body. Sad, but true.

I wrote this after reading the Cato Institute piece:

I am aware of that–if you live in the country with those maniacs(IS)–you’re far more likely to die period.
It is preposterous to say American LEO shoots people of color in the street for sport–in the back–which I saw a multitude of our close, educated friends, post as “info”, in the early days of the Brown story. Which, is understandable given the emotions evoked by the event.
I’m of the nuanced view that LEO is scared and that’s truly dangerous–we can’t have a fearful police force. You get overreactions and thinly held together justifications of militarization of police forces.
That has to be checked by our larger legislative body–they control the allocations. The one thing LEO responds too, is having their funding cut.
[In the past] they’ve reacted with calculated apathy–that is to say they don’t police and crime rises, but I don’t see it playing out that way this time. I see the [US] senate hearings as a changing point in how LEO operates.
At the same time, once LEO makes those concessions–they’ll [feel] more justified in their policing. Especially, given that a trend to put body cameras on all police, has gained traction. Business is booming in the tech industry, but I cynically digress.
This street goes two-ways: why was LEO so afraid going down to control Ferguson? Because they were seeing literally, hundreds of thousands of strangers talking about killing cops on site. I showed you a few. I have many screen shots. That is harder to “control”. You can’t start arresting people based on a Facebook post, but when the person is holding an automatic weapon saying “come get this shit pigs”. How does LEO react? I mean–fear in this case is rational.

I also asked him what kind of message was that shirt sending? How would a ten year-old see that shirt? Having no way to comprehend the horrors perpetrated by ISIS, what ten year-old could the make the comparison? It probably wouldn’t be an issue, if Americans hadn’t started to join ISIS and fighting for jihad. There is a dangerous trend and that poorly written t-shirt doesn’t help matters. It should be pointing out to any would be jihadis out there, you won’t be killing Americans in Syria and Iraq, you’ll be killing other Muslims. Don’t do it.

To Mr. Hizer’s credit he answered with this quote below.

On the shirt guy:
I understand and even agree, but… If you live in southeast Missouri, you are much, much, much more likely to have an altercation with law enforcement than with a terrorist.
You do that 10 year old no service to fill his head with a fear of a monster from far away while we ignore the monster in your pocket.
I’m just saying that he should be aware of the threats he will face, and ISIS is a threat he is not likely to face.
I don’t agree with the way he’s made his point, but he does indeed have one.

Indeed, the man wearing the shirt does have a point. No–you have about a zero percent chance of meeting ISIS in Southeast Missouri, at this point. Poor people–of all colors–have a much higher statistical likelihood of being harmed or killed by US LEO.

I can’t stop ISIS, I can only report on what I read in the media and from first hand accounts about their activities. I have a much better chance of reversing trends in LEO and helping build community relations in my state. I think that’s brought about through more personal community engagements and connections and less armored cars and, to quote Matt Welch of Reason Magazine, less “fucking flash bangs grenades”. Those have a time and place. A babies crib, is undisputedly neither the time, nor the place for that incendiary device. Unfortunately another case like Michael Brown’s is bound to happen. I still believe police should be armed and I believe in our flawed due process. We all agree this needs to be addressed and honestly, I think each different approaches to this are necessary, in their own right. They all also have flaws–my own approach included–that’s where collaboration and cooperation are key.

Collaborating with people you may not agree with will help both sides address the flaws in their messaging and thinking. However, collaborating on something’s is impossible without a base set of agreed upon ideas, something usually found between most Americans, if people choose to look hard enough.

Mr. Hizer has legendary skills of compassion, cooperation, and collaboration with the right kind of people. He’s a great example of those choosing to move forward past the night of August 9th, 2014.


Patriotism: My Meaning.

This, from The Feralist post from the Fourth of July
This picture below, it froze on my device that a way. Fear not, this is not a scathing product review. I refreshed it and it worked again, immediately.


Well, it made me think. What does it mean. Then, I thought I was over thinking it, so I let it go. It did however pose the question ‘what is patriotism’?

This photo was just a map, but the headline made me pause.

graphic, via mediaate

Red states? More like redcoats. Screw the British… Of course not, or the French, for the idiots who forgot "they sat with us at the lunch table before we were cool." As Neal Dewing put it.

Um, Missouri sells to two of those states and Indiana probably makes some money off the western stretch of Illinois.

New England is very small, they can all see each other's fire works. And I'm sure Connecticut is making a killing.

Also Canada can see, so, it probably annoys them a little, which is a little funny.

Did fireworks come from the Chinese? Yes. Thank them, hand them some potato salad.

And how can a map be absurd? It’s a map… However one lady, called it absurd. I read the comment where one lady said "absurd map", I didn't read the article. I'm just commenting on "the map", "the Facebook post". Which is to say the glance at it.

Those are all knee jerk reactions. It’s the great thing about our nation. We can have “knee jerk reactions”. We can explain them and clarify.

Then I saw this photo:

Photo via Andrew Kirrell

It made me remember, people have different views and concerns. Different drives and ambitions that motivate them everyday. It also made me remember we all seek protection under this flag (h/t Buck Sexton, on that Reagan quote.)

Patriotism, to me, is about the effort and willingness to make amends with those you disagree with from time to time, our countrymen(women, cis, ect.).

The Legend of Dorok…

Both his bowl cut and his belly were quite round. His name was Derek. “Hello.” he said, not at all like a 13 year-old, but more like a door-to-door salesman. He began to state the obvious and describe all the clearly visible things in his hands. He had a noticeable stutter, but my family had just moved in to a house up the hill on Grey Street, where Raulston ended, so I knew him somewhat. It was weird seeing him in my house. It seemed weirder that he walked the whole way up the hill, carrying his bass and amplifier. It was his second lesson with my father. It was clear he was trying to contain his excitement, by the stoic and intentional way he stood very straight, starring at our kitchen that led to the basement door. “Hello” he said as my sister walked though the living room, in the exact same manner in which he had greeted me at the door. “Hey” she replied in surprise and continued on her way.
“Ah-w-w-where’s you dad?” He asked trying desperately to control his stammer, having particular trouble with the “D” in “dad”.
“He’s in the basement…he’s putting new strings on his guitar.” I replied.
“Cool, cool.” He repeated nodding his head in affirmation. Clearly conveying, both, how uncomfortable and excited he was to be at my home for his second bass lesson.
“You need a hand with those?” I asked not really knowing what else to say.
“Oh!” Looking at the items in his hand, as if he were surprised to find them there. “No. No. I’ve got ’em.” Another moment of mutual awkward passed, with us starring at his musical gear.
Finally, out of shear befuddlement, I started walking towards the basement in hopes he’d follow, which he did. He also returned to the upright, stoic stance he originally had. He was all business.
We walked through the kitchen and down to the basement, where my father was sitting alone playing guitar. “Oh–hey dip stick.” He said while never ceasing his playing of ZZ Top’s “La Grange”. The acoustics rang well against the grey brick walls of our basement.
Derek set his gear down directly across from my father’s amplifier and started pulling out his bass and plugging in his chords.
“Do you remember where we were last week?” My father asked still playing La Grange.
“Aah” Derek said taking in a deep breath and turning around to look at my father, “yeah, I do.”
“Great!” My father replied finishing up La Grange. “You remember how to tune that thing?”
“Yes.” Derek said now starring at my fathers Brown SunBurst Fender Telecaster, fixated in some sort of trance. He just stood there, watching my fathers hands. My father “brought it home” and ended the song. Carefully set his guitar on it’s stand and stood up out if his chair. All the while, Derek never taking his eyes off the Fender.
“Okay, I’m gonna go get another cup of coffee. Tune that thing and we’ll get started.”

Editorial Update: no one edit this.

( Graphics via, Eddie Adams)

My father walked away, taking his normal giant strides. Derek just continued to stare at the Fender. As soon as my father reached the top of the stairs, Derek approached the guitar on it’s stand. His gob gaped wide open, even more fixated. Without ever looking away, Derek reach down and picked my father’s guitar up and sat down in my his chair. He examined it from end to end. He held it with like my father did, but Derek was left-handed. He had this uncomfortable scowl on his face, like it hurt to hold the instrument that way. He thought, his brow even more furrowed. Then it hit him, you could see in his brow jump, as the thought crossed his mind. He just flipped the guitar over to his left hand and you could see it fit much better. He made the same chord he had just seen my father had play. And then he started…
He started to play exactly what my father had been playing, La Grange by ZZ Top. I stood in the doorway, where I had been standing the whole time stupefied I what I was seeing. He just kept playing. A left-handed kid, who had never played a right-handed guitar before, just picked it up and decided to do it. Before I knew it, I was in some sort of weird trance. What broke me out was my father’s curious “Hmm.. I’ll be..”. I looked over my shoulder and he was standing there not believing what he was seeing either, sipping his coffee. Which, as someone who had been scolded all of my life for touching my father’s guitar, I was now somewhat jealous.
“You never let anyone touch your guitar. Why don’t you let me play it?” I pointed out. My father still sipping his coffee, “Can you play it like that?” He asked. My silence was it’s own answer.
Derek wound down the song and “brought it home” just like my dad had done a few minutes earlier. He looked up and apologized. My father replied. “For what?”.
He took his Fender from Derek and Derek picked up his solid black bass. “Alright, now play it with me…” And they played the song again. Being that it was the third time and I was incredibly jealous, I chose to go watch tv.
An hour later, my father and Derek emerged from the basement with Derek’s gear. By this time, it was dark. So, Derek’s mom had arranged to pick him up after his lesson. She knocked on the door and came in to ask my father how he was doing. My father didn’t answer, he just went and got the check she had given him for the 5 lessons she scheduled and handed it back to her. “Well…I can’t teach him anything, he doesn’t already know. It ain’t right I take this money.” She smiled and excepted the check gratuitously.

That is the legend of Dorok…

A True Story..

A huge and ridiculous debate irrupted on twitter today. The topic was ‘hate speech’. “Red Steeze”, a writer and an editor for a publication called “The Wilderness”, and an individual not known for sugar coating things said this:
“Calling me cis is violence against me.”

I can’t really describe what’s going on, other than it seems to be taking something to an extreme, for the sake of being extreme. Here’s a link. Red Steeze also said this, which somewhat validates my assertion.

The whole debate prompted a discussion between myself and a few of my own friends. We all grew up in a place that had very liberal views on hate speech. As my friend Chris put it, “I was taught all the hateful discriminatory “fag/nigger” shit growing up too, some from my own family! So, I had [my fair share of] cognitive dissonance when I began to realize it was all grossly generalized bullshit.” That’s the kind of place I’m talking about- “down south” as they say. Reading that from him made quite an impression and immediately recalled a memory involving Chris and another friend, John-a memory and an experience centered around this very debate.

It was one night in 2002 at a party in someone’s basement. I hadn’t seen John or Chris in a while, so I immediately walked up to say hello. Some pleasantries were exchanged, as well as some intoxicant, as one tends to do at parties in basements. Chris complimented me on my jacket we all inquired about our academic endeavors. John began explaining some minor collegiate inconvenience, and as an empathetic gesture I replied, “That’s gay..” That’s when the room stopped. John’s eyes went to the floor and Chris stared intensely in my direction. “Oh..” Chris said, “could you explain to me what you mean by ‘gay’?” in a rather annoyed tone. “Um…that sucks?” I replied not really aware of what was going on or what I had done to upset Chris. “What do you mean? How can something like an inanimate object be gay? Does a chair have intercourse with a chair,” Chris scoffed, “of the same sex?” Chris said looking around the room. By now our conversation had garnered attention from the room.

Being young, I naturally dealt with the humiliation through anger. I took a deep angry breath and started to say, “You know what I–“, but that was all I could get out, before John calmly interjected with “I’m gay Grant.” It was something I was not expecting to hear. I was forced, on the spot, to grapple with all the emotions of finding out someone close to you was born “differently” than you thought. Also, it was clear I had just stuck my foot in my mouth. So, I humbly mumbled “My bad John.” Being a party where people were inebriated, there was plenty of mockery to go around, but John would have none of it.

“It’s cool, don’t worry about it.” He just laughed it off.

He, the offended, made sure all individuals judging my momentary humiliation, ceased immediately. I suppose he could see the wheels turning in my head.

“Was he gay in school?”
“What did that mean now?”

He had seen people in this situation before and seemed prepared. He allowed no one to point out or take pleasure in my vulnerable moment. He provided a wide path to walk my thoughtless statement back upon and gave me infinite latitude when explaining myself. Basically, he stopped a social form of bullying.

He said “You’re not awful, you just didn’t know.” He even gave me an amazing compliment on my ability to wrap my head around things quickly, to understand, and my ability to see an honest perspective and not judge it. It was touching.

It was a surreal moment. Out of all the hurt and belittling suffered by the gay community, here’s my friend John, walking me through something. Making sure belittlement wasn’t projected on to me. He had no spite or animosity. In fact, he seemed more than happy to explain “some things” as far as how to conduct one’s self around gay people, and other things like, why the community as a whole is so protective of it’s own. We later went to Steak-N-Shake that night and shared his experience that I knew of, being his classmate, but didn’t fully understand. I’ve repeated this story a few times and it had positive effects on people, so his kindness rippled.

I also, didn’t fully understand Chris’s reaction to the whole thing, at the time. It wasn’t until this recent debate about ‘hate speech’ on social media was ignited, that I did. Chris and I spoke about that night recently, via messaging, in it Chris said, “I wasn’t looking for approval of the group, I didn’t need social approval of my then excessive personal conviction. That was a subconscious persuasion tactic most likely, but not group approval. Or, so it seemed from my perspective. See, two different perspectives. Also, I was taught all the hateful discriminatory ‘fag/nigger’ shit growing up too, some from my own family! So, I had [my fair share of] cognitive dissonance when I began to realize it was all grossly generalized bullshit. My lashing out at you was really lashing out at myself for being angry with myself for going along with the bigot bullshit for so long due to my environment. I was projecting as the psychoanalysts call it.” He was being protective, we had grown up in a place where John could have been seriously harassed, or even worse, had people know his sexual preference. Chris knew in high school, I didn’t. That’s where our perspectives differed.

My point with this is, if you’re going to label something hate speech, you should probably be able to explain why you think it’s hateful. Also, when you do choose to have this discussion, don’t have it on twitter, not if you actually want to grow from the experience.

Ozark Feel Harmonic: Joe Purdy

Here’s my review of a new album by a musician, Joe Purdy, from the Ozark’s, who gave the world a free listen. You’ve probably heard his music before, although you may not know it. His work has been on network television shows and national marketing campaigns.

I’m a fan of the new album; it is quality. You can also listen here at Joe Purdy’s website. I was listening to the new album Eagle Rock Fire in the kitchen. My wife walks in, hears the part from the track “Living in LA” where Purdy sings “Let’s see how he talks about punk rock with his jaw wired shut”, and says to me “Why is Joe Purdy so good?” His work is appreciated in our house. The fact that I can geek out and listen to his music undisturbed should tell you all you need to know. It’s considered a treat. Life’s all about the little things.

(Photo via Joe Purdy.)

I discovered Purdy in 2008. It was a serious “gotcha” moment between a friend and myself. I made a comment about a Kia commercial and how catchy the tune was. My friend Matt, said he had never seen it. So, I hummed the tune and he knew it. Of course, I was skeptical–prompting my friend to pull out his, at the time, new iPhone and play me the song. It was the same song, so I had to hear my friend out. He told me all about this singer-song writer from the Ozark’s. Being that it was 2008, my friend “burned” me a copy of “You Can Tell Georgia”. It’s still one of my favorite albums to listen to. So, to Matt, thank you. You’re a good friend.

Joe–I don’t know you. I’ve seen you twice in concert. You had a very nice, sharp performance at one show and seemed “road weary” at another, but delivered nonetheless. However, you let your music be heard to those who want to listen. That speaks well for the Ozarks as a whole. Kudos to you, my man. The new album, is the goods. “Eagle Rock Fire” is the same quality music from Purdy that many have come to expect, in the true “American Troubadour” fashion. That is to say, he tells one hell of a story and frames one hell of a narrative. How can I make such a declaration? Well, I too am from the Ozark’s. I was raised on Johnny Cash before hipsters made him “en vogue”. It wasn’t an option. Waylon and Willie, Merle Haggard, and Chris LeDoux–these were steady cassettes played at social gatherings in my youth on stereos I didn’t have control over. Basically, I know my “country” jams when I hear ’em. Purdy proves his writing abilities deserves note among other great American singer-song writers, with chorus lines like, “I hope you and my old dog ain’t mad at me anymore”

Also, I mildly bitched to him on Twitter about a less than stellar performance I attended and he doesn’t care. That’s instant “street cred”. For Purdy…that’s “troubadour 101”. My friend who introduced me to Purdy was such a fan, he paid for both of us to go see Purdy at ‘Off Broadway’, in St. Louis. It was such a great show. So good in fact, that my wife decided to celebrate our anniversary the next time he came through town by going to his show again. The second show, he looked beat–“rode hard and put up wet”–is the way the old timers would put it. Needless to say, my wife wasn’t impressed. She gets it though, he’s in character. Purdy may not have been at his sharpest at the second show, but he was real–as advertised.

When I heard “Take advice from me my friend, Don’t fall in love with a mannequin” from the track ‘Ba Girl’, I figured this guy probably has a good perspective on things. As one guy who survived the Ozark’s, examining the art of an artist from the Ozark’s, I can say with certainty, this is Down Home. The texture of the album is authentic. It comes through as organic and original. He’s not faking the down home feel. To be honest, the whole song seems to be Purdy perhaps addressing an industry, “We’ll keep on stealing cowboy songs and feeling free.” I’d love to hear about the inspiration behind that line.

Eagle Rock Fire revived my appreciation for the steel guitar-the place it has in the American social fabric; the images, the sounds, the texture it refers our minds to. It’s an authentic feel of an America we all know just isn’t coming back. Purdy sticks to his basics, tells great stories, and even incorporates the Southwestern-style guitar “pickin”. And yes–there is a harmonica, which I always thought he has used tastefully.

You should give this album a listen. When Purdy comes to a city near you, you should go see him. I know I intend to see him in concert again when he swings through the gateway city in June. Although, don’t let me push you…as Joe Purdy puts it in track number nine, “Take me or leave me, I don’t care which…” You gotta at least respect the honesty.