Sunday, October 26, 2008

Waffle House American

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved the smell of coffee first thing in the morning. I would always wake up before daylight because Dad made so much noise “tip-toeing” around the kitchen. He was “quietly” watching the morning news, scraping butter into his toast and filling the old white plastic ‘70’s era Mr. Coffee maker. The kitchen noise funneled down our trailer house hallway into my bedroom as he rinsed, filled and banged the coffee pot against the side of the stainless steel sink. That was several years before the divorce so the fighting was about ten percent less than it was near the end. So, in my mind, those were “the good ol’ days” of my childhood. I’ve always associated the smell of fresh-brewed coffee first thing in the morning with that time of my life. You know, just like that warm fuzzy Folger’s commercial of the young man returning home on a holiday to wake up his happy parents.

We were a rural, country family. I’ve joked about us being “white trash” because we lived in a trailer out in the woods but nothing could be further from the truth. Daddy actually valued hard work and had served in both the army and navy. He was very career oriented and eventually retired after working for the same company for over 30 years. But, that’s all just preamble to my little story. The greatest insult I would ever hear my dad say about anyone was to call them a “lazy worthless so-in-so”. So, I learned early that “good people” were hard working, early-to-bed-early-to-rise, folks. That’s what made you a real American. Anyone who stayed in bed until daylight was certainly demonstrating faulty character. If you weren’t having breakfast by the time the rooster crowed you had overslept. And yes, we did have a chicken house.

Now that I’m grown, I’ve retained a lot of that old country farm-boy upbringing. I hold two degrees and my job rarely requires me to step outside of a climate controlled environment. However, I still consider myself very blue-collar in nature. I get up at 5AM every morning. Just like Dad, I fix a pot of coffee (in my very gay French-press pot) every morning. I sit and watch the news (hosted by the most attractive anchormen that CNN can afford) and read my paper. I’m proud of having kept that tradition.

Even on weekends I find it hard to stay in bed past 7 AM. There’s very little besides great personal illness or company that will keep me under the covers after daylight. Of course, it also depends on the disposition of my company how long I stay in bed. Yet, I digress. On weekends Mom would cook big breakfasts with eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy….you get the picture. I still love to have those kinds of big breakfasts but I’m not a fan of putting that much effort into a meal on my day off. It does feel right, though, to get up early and have a big meal like that. Its spiritually and emotionally comforting to see the sun rise and be filled up with a big hot meal. So, I’ve become a Waffle House American.

I’ve started my own morning ritual on weekends. I get up without a shower or shave, throw on sweats and a cap and jump in the truck for an early morning drive to the diner. I love the chill in the air. I watch the sunrise. Its also great to see the roads and the city empty of traffic. It’s a beautiful feeling because, as we know, only the most industrious and virtuous among us are actually out and about during that time. If a national disaster struck on a Sunday morning at 6 or 7AM, only those of us on our way to Waffle House for breakfast would be in charge. I can imagine us setting up an emergency command center in the dining room with short order cooks in charge and waitresses guarding the perimeter. And, as you know if you’ve ever been taken care of by a Waffle House waitress, they can handle anything or anyone. If you’ve not had the experience, I caution you not to come between a Waffle House waitress and her tip, and certainly do not try to correct her if she misspeaks on “scattered, smothered, covered, chopped, diced, chunked!”.

Yes, I’ve heard the rumors that Waffle House does not have the most “gay-friendly” business practices. I’m somewhat indifferent to all that hoopla. Who am I to interfere with how those folks run their business. I can’t imagine that too many of us “fancy-boys” have applied to work as short order cooks or dishwashers anyway. Its usually not our scene. I’ll just say this. If Waffle House keeps serving me a hot breakfast first thing in the morning and leave me to read my paper in peace and quiet, I promise not to make out with any guys in the dining room.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Workhorse Roundup

Four Horses

My adventure continues. Slowly and surely I’m making a life out of this experience that I have thought of as an adventure. I’m afraid that its turning out a little different than I expected. But, that’s okay. That’s the nature of adventure anyway, right? I’m also learning a lot about myself. I guess that I had the mistaken belief that if I changed my environment, my location, that something about me would change. It doesn’t. While I am certainly surrounded by new possibilities and experiences, my core values are the same. My response to these experiences are the same as they always have been throughout my life; conservative, thoughtful, analytical. I’m observant but not engaged, present but politely detached.

I’m still the same old workhorse I’ve always been, just with a new saddle and new stable (see the previous post on Workhorses and Carousel Ponies). The difference now is that I’m surrounded by acquaintances that identify with me in ways that I have never experienced before. I appreciate that most of them are like me. They’re reliable, steady, hard-working guys that value personal responsibility. I wouldn’t be friends with anyone less inclined.

However, and this is bizarre, there is now a sprinkling of circus ponies that I have become acquainted with and I love them dearly. I doubt I embarrass anyone with that moniker. These are certainly guys that would quickly acknowledge that they are in this category. With a twinkle in their eye and a flashy smile they would own up to this without any reservation. I have learned to respect their view of life. It is right in line with the classic old quote, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” I’ve come to respect this view of life because each of these fellas would admit that soon enough, time and life will require that they eventually become workhorses themselves. Its regrettable that I missed that “pony-boy” stage of my life. I’m sure that the memories from those times must enrich one’s life a great deal. If anything, I’ve learned that I probably need to lighten up a little and not take myself so seriously. It might be quite possible, and even recommended, for an old workhorse like myself to prance like a pony every once in a while.

(photo credit, Four Horses by halfpic at flickr)

Monday, October 20, 2008


Whether you love the man or hate him, you will like the movie. Believe it or not, Oliver Stone has made a fair and very entertaining film about our current and soon to be former (thank goodness) president.

I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed an Oliver Stone film until now. The “Last Temptation of Christ” was offensive. “Nixon” was chaotic and oppressive. Most of his other films are so complicated they are impossible to watch without a road map. But, this one hit the perfect balance. “W.” shows the bumbling buffoon of a swaggering cowboy that Bush is well known for. But, by the end of the picture Stone has led us to a place to feel honest compassion and sympathy for a man that is quite simply in over his head. While the picture shows George W. Bush to be simple and somewhat stupid, he isn’t devious or malicious. I really wanted to give the guy a hug and a pat on the back when it was over. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the hunky Josh Brolin makes me want to sing “Hail to the Chief” with a whole new sense of enthusiasm. And, Brolin also makes us proud to know that GW is a brief’s, not boxers, guy.

I had heard that Stone had included the President’s Christian conversion. I was dreading seeing it on film because I feared it would be mocked in true Hollywood fashion. Instead, it was treated with great sensitivity and feeling. I can imagine that very scene happening in most of the churches across the South.

Stone’s movie finally hit the right blend of emotional elements; humor, sorrow, anger. It was easy to identify the multiple story/timelines involved. The supporting cast made all the characters serious and meaningful. It would have been a piece of fluff if the only major player had been the President. But, Brolin’s George W. seemed seriously presidential when surrounded by a cabinet that includes Richard Dreyfuss and Scott Glenn. The only questionable casting decision was Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) as PM Tony Blair.

Brolin should receive an Oscar for this performance. The character is perfect from accent and gestures, to swagger and expressions. Even in the scenes that showed W. at his most ridiculous I never felt that Brolin was mocking the man. The character was played with real respect and dignity. Brolin was able to deliver the charm and personal charisma that was present in the younger Bush when he ran for his first presidential campaign. The pre-9/11 Bush was the man that everyone wanted to “have a beer with.” Brolin gave us exactly that. With Brolin in the role it was impossible to dislike the guy. If George W. Bush were to be made into an action figure, it would look like Josh Brolin.

Make no mistake. Watching this movie will certainly not turn you into a Republican. I doubt that one could even call it historically or biographically accurate. But, its certainly entertaining. You should not be afraid to see this film. If anything, Oliver Stone and Josh Brolin have shown us that George W. Bush is not a monster. And, while they have not defended him, they may have explained and apologized for him.