They say it’s our birthday. Well, just missed it.

Our fair blog quietly celebrated 10 years of existence on Tuesday, April 21. Happy B-day!

All this, meaning eightfeetdeep, started as something to entertain myself as well as a daily writing exercise. This was while I was on unemployment from my last full-time job. I had worked as a newspaper reporter, columnist and editor for the previous 15 years at five different Texas newspapers (One doesn’t count.) I had kind of tentatively planned to try my hand at freelancing by the time I was 50 years old. As it turned out I was about six months ahead of schedule.

I have kept up with turning out a daily blog for most of the past 10 years. However, I also have worked a decent-paying part-time job for about seven of those years. During the last year or so as I was given a steady dose of 32-hours a week, as well as serving free now for a few years as a regional vice president of my union local. Consequently, my output slowed down. The same can be said of my paying freelance jobs.

For a couple of years I made money as a freelance journalist. When I say “I made” money, I don’t mean I came out ahead. Neither did I “make” money, as in printing up my own $20-bills. Now what made me think of that? Uh, nothing Secret Service Special Agent Whatshisname.

All of the previous happened as I have become older and developed a few health problems, diabetes the most serious one. I really have improved my health as for Type II diabetes, my A1C falling on a downward trend to 7.1. I also had surgery on my toe Tuesday that was spurred by my diabetes. I developed a ulcer on my left second toe and it never healed completely. So my podiatrist suggested about a month ago that he do hammertoe surgery on that toe in order to keep from striking the injured toe and in doing so allowing my toe to “all hang out” so to speak.

I have a bandage on my foot that I was told to stay off of except for going to the bathroom or kitchen. I have had to do a bit more than that, though carefully, because I am a (confirmed or unconfirmed, I’m not quite sure which one) bachelor.

So, I don’t know what my toe is doing, if anything, and will not know until Doc unwraps it on Monday.

I have tried mostly through using my blog name as my identity to, not shield it, but to not necessarily expose it. I certainly am fooling nobody because so many of my stories have been spread among folks I know, who at the very least, can put two plus two together gets something between three and five.

This past decade has exposed me to some very interesting experiences. Some — like Hurricanes Rita and Ike — were exciting. Others, like living in my truck for about a month at one time, and losing two brothers last year were sad. Those hurricanes were a source of income for awhile, as I freelanced for a major metropolitan newspaper. I freelanced in suburbia for about six months as well while staying in the Dallas area with a friend.

I am in the beginning stages of gathering then culling some of my favorite posts over the last 10 years and, most likely, adding to them for a book. Whether it will be hardcover, e-book, or body art, I don’t know. I need a publisher. If you are a publisher and are not trying to scam me — I will check you out scrupulously — send me an e-mail to the address on the blog.

Looking at my Statcounter stats, I am pleased to see I still get an average of 20 page views per day. Only one or two are return visits, but that is understandable due to my recent lack of output. Most recently, those page views came from the United States and 20 other countries including Iran, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam and, oh, Canada.

By the way, the name, “eightfeetdeep,” yes, it did come in part from the HBO series “Six Feet Under.” I decided not to go along with convention by saying why six feet when you can go eightfeetdeep?

I have thought at times trying to make money through a blog, not especially this one. I do still take donations. But I don’t know what’s to come in the future. I certainly never planned on blogging for 10 years.

One foot bandaged

Greetings. Irony of ironies that eightfeetdeep is recovering from toe surgery. I had surgery on my left second toe yesterday. Now I have one good foot and one foot bandaged. I remained awake during the procedure though I was dosed a bit with propofol and was injected in the foot with lidocaine or some other local anesthetic. I didn’t give much of a rat’s ass while under the sedative. Yes, I know propofol raises some alarm bells with the whole Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers thing. But I felt only slight pain for a few seconds during the surgery and some minor, dull pain afterwards.

The most aggravating problem with all of this is having to strictly limit my walking to avoid pressure on the affected toe. When I must walk the bandaged foot must be assisted by a surgical shoe. This limited mobility is very difficult when living alone with not a whole lot of money. But if the straightened out second toe is successful, I suppose it will be worth it.

Do not stay thirsty my friends.

To play (music) or not to play

“It’s never too late.”

That is a predictable comment when I sometimes openly wish I learned to play a musical instrument or speak fluent Spanish. Certainly, the response is an appropriate one for the latter. Too many uncertainties rise with regard to my learning guitar or even piano, the two instruments I would most prefer to master. One big reason is that I am not the most patient person in the world. It is a reason I give when people ask if I hunt. I do like fishing though, which can often take tons of patience. Go figure.

As a teen I enjoyed being around live music. I went to more than several dozen rock shows, mostly in the 1970s. A few shows I saw were during the prime of the performers’ careers. Included were Creedence Clearwater Revival, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac and Bob Seger, while others concerts were likewise and remain popular. These were bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Doobie Brothers and the Grateful Dead.

When several of my friends developed the idea for a “garage” band I was glad to cheer them on and to help in anyway I could. I guess you could call me a “roadie” though the venues were never more than 20 miles or so away from home. The group also weren’t literally a garage band. Like my late brother John, who was a musician and played more regionally than local and were even once on local TV, their bands had adult sponsors who were very reputable in our town.

I was very pleased when I worked my first “real” job outside the Navy, as a municipal firefighter, and was able to afford a decent stereo system. It was an Emerson system, not a component system with a turntable made by one company, an amp by another and speakers which launched a wall of sound like the giant Klipsch speakers a friend had. My friend brought those gigantic speakers to a couple of parties, our annual chili cook off was one if I remember correctly. I lived in the country with a large pasture in front of my house and my nearest neighbor was about a mile away. Normally, the neighbors couldn’t hear music from my place although their daughter later told me she heard the music and liked it.

I have never felt regretful that I didn’t learn to play an instrument, being the avid music listener and as appreciative as I am of music. My feelings were really reinforced yesterday upon playing perhaps the best Eagles song ever: “Hotel California.” The song — which contains what several polls say is one of the best guitar solos of all time — and the particular incarnation of the band then was largely contributed by a man whose name you probably can’t pronounce but is on many hit CDs and albums. That is: Bill Szymczyk. Pronounced (Sim-zik’.)

Szymczyk is now semi-retired but he has engineered and produced artists from B.B. King on “The Thrill Is Gone” to The Who’s “Face Dances” recording. Szymczyk never played an instrument and considers himself “a professional listener.” He developed that ability as well as building his electronics acumen by serving as a sonar technician in the Navy during the early 1960s.

It was Szymczyk who having produced the James Gang — which featured vocals and lead guitar by Joe Walsh — brought Walsh and the Eagles together. Walsh and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder had some outstanding lead output before Felder was fired from the group in 2001. You can hear Felder and Walsh in that famous “Hotel California” guitar solo.

The Szymczyk-produced “Hotel California” LP title track was named the 1978 Grammy award’s Song of the Year. That’s pretty amazing for someone who was not himself a musician.

“Justified” end worthy of its motivator

WARNING: IF YOU HAVE YET TO WATCH TUESDAY’S SERIES FINALE OF “JUSTIFIED” YOU DESERVE A SPOILER. BUT I WILL STILL AVOID MENTIONING THE CONCLUSION BECAUSE THAT’S THE KIND OF GOOD PERSON THAT I AM.  –Dick, efd creator, producer, writer, director and King of eightfeetdeep.

Since Tuesday evening when the FX channel’s Elmore Leonard-inspired “Justified” played out after a six-season run I have seen the show mentioned in critiques as a “Western.” I find that quite puzzling from the somewhere after the show’s beginning. That is when the theme song cues up called “Long Hard Time To Come” which — recorded by a group named Gangstagrass — is about equal parts bluegrass and rap.

I have read a fair number of Western-themed books and watched even more television and movie “Westerns” for almost five decades. Likewise, I have read most of everything Elmore Leonard has written with the exception of “Raylan,” which I bought as an e-Novel last night from Amazon. Raylan, of course, is the deputy U.S. Marshal protagonist in the now completed series “Justified.” The character also appeared in some four of Leonard’s novels during this century.

A Long Hard Time To Come. Photo appears by Fair Use.

A Long Hard Time To Come. Photo appears by Fair Use.

Maybe it is the fact that Raylan Givens appears like a deputy marshal from the old West by mostly wearing a cowboy hat. Or perhaps the fact the series is set in Eastern Kentucky, which is west of the center of the universe New York City, that makes it a so-called “Western.”

Leonard was listed as an executive producer of the show so the series certainly bears his stamp of approval and his influence. If you have read any of the tons of Leonard novels — especially his crime novels mostly set in South Florida and Detroit — you will likely find violence, general criminality and humor in addition to exquisite writing. Likewise, there is often odd-ball, ignorant and just generally some very poor human specimens who chose crime for their careers. The series “Justified” fits all those identities including the marvelous writing.

Everyone has their own reason for liking or disliking television shows. Sometimes both come into play. Take for instance the legal drama “The Good Wife.” The show, to me, has a great story line and interesting characters. I do ask myself each week, though, why am I watching the show, mainly because the plot line, particularly around the star Julianna Margulies character never seems to come out ahead. Sometimes she wins. But never, or so it seems, that she emerges as a clear victor. Maybe I’m wrong, but the show is named “The Good Wife.” Of course, I know the title means she has been the good wife for her husband, played by Chris Noth, who was states attorney, then locked up, only to emerge as Illinois governor. But still …

Most comedies, dramas or combinations that I most favor are those with a strong ensemble cast. “Justified” has filled that bill with the central characters Raylan (Timothy Olyphant,) Boyd (Walton Goggins,) Art (Nick Searcy) and Boyd’s wife Ava (Joelle Carter.)

A sometime dizzying array of secondary, though not “one-and-done” characters, populated Harlan County in the story or elsewhere over the past six seasons. This also made for a strong story lines that fit seemingly seamless.

The series-ender — titled “The Promise” brought closure as I preferred. It didn’t all come from a dream like “Dallas” or whatever the hell it was that happened in “The Sopranos.” It certainly didn’t end with the whole cast in jail, as was in the unsatisfying end to “Seinfeld.”

But there was violence and and a little mayhem. Even some folks who ended up in the slammer. That’s all of the ending I shall tease.

Now if you have recorded “Justified” you best go ahead and watch it because the end won’t be hidden for long. It’s kind of like something you might find with an Elmore Leonard book.

I have one book to finish on Kindle and I will then read the last work of Elmore and Raylan.

 

 

Percy Sledge: King of the “belly-rubbing” sound dies

Another one bites the dust. I suppose that is inelegant way of starting a “web obituary.” But sometimes it seems, although I have not yet reached 60 years old, that I know more people who have now passed than I do live ones. That’s not true but it sure seems as such.

With that said, I note the passing of soul great Percy Sledge who died Tuesday in Baton Rouge. Sledge, 74, was best know for his lovelorn ballad “When A Man Loves A Woman.” It was an instant hit in 1966. That song and others he recorded like “Take Time To Know Her” were classic soul ballads of those and later years.

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He was without a doubt, back in the day, the king of what my Daddy used to call “belly-rubbing music.”

Sledge toured the rest of his life, never recording any later tunes that equaled his first chart-wise. But if you were of my age in the late 1960s and 1970s, you probably heard his songs on diner jukeboxes while eating greasy chicken-fried steaks to soak up some of the night’s intoxicants. And if you were lucky you also may have watched him play live during his 50-something years of touring.

I was lucky to see him although that didn’t happen the first time I went to one of his concerts. That first time was also my first time to visit a nightclub, which was in Vinton, La., near the Southeast Texas border with Louisiana. I was carded and was not allowed inside because I was 16.

The next time was successful and not only did I get to see Percy perform, but I also got to interview him during a break outside the back door of the club. I just told a band member some mumbo-jumbo, I had actually reviewed a Chicago concert earlier in the year for my hometown newspaper for which I had covered local sports.

My friend Nick and I got to talk to Percy for several minutes. Sledge seem preoccupied with a Houston Astros game on the radio of his limo. I can’t remember if I even wrote a story about our encounter with the great soul singer. Whatever, he and his band members were good enough to give a couple of under-age kids a few words of wisdom. Or something.

Percy, rest in peace, man.

 

Age thrown into race-police struggles

Is the rash of police shootings part of some new worrisome trend or is it a constant that has stayed far from the limelight until recently?

That might be a difficult question to answer. But a “police-involved shooting” on April 2 in Tulsa, Okla. may throw all sorts of prevailing theories to the wind.

The fact is the number of citizens who die from fatal police shootings is not an answer kept and reported like the number of police who are killed in the line of duty. That’s hard to imagine but bureaucracies like to ignore or hide those statistics most meaningful to the public.

During my career as a newspaper reporter when covering cops I would inevitably be assigned to write a story about the latest FBI crime figures released for this or that city. I would go see the officer who keeps crime stats or the chief of police. Some might offer a reason for the rise in a particular crime index. Others would, in their best cop-ese, say these figures are worthless.

You see, unless you kept records on why such crimes were committed, it would be practically impossible to harbor a guess as to why the particular crimes go up or down. Oh, but the editor doesn’t want the latter. “There’s got to be a reason.” Okay boss, we’ll find a reason, even if there isn’t one!

Information researched in the wake of some recent fatal civilian deaths shows somewhere between 400 and 1,000 people are killed by police each year. Whether that is just by firing a weapon, or beating with batons or kicking perps when they are down or zapping them with a Taser, who knows? By hearing such recent and shocking deaths of black people at the hands of white cops might lead one to believe that most of those people killed are black. That would be surmised because most crimes committed are by black actors, right?

Wrong.

It turns out some stats are kept on who commit crimes. And the estimation of black and white perps is off the mark. One survey found people wrongly estimate that blacks commit more crimes than other races by sometimes notable margins. Even so, that doesn’t tell us much about the racial aspect of police-involved shootings.

Where does that leave us? Well, in some cases — rare until recently — local authorities who receive video proof of an alleged wrongful shooting are actually charging their fellow policemen who fire the shot.

Former police officer Michael Slager, charged with murder. In Charleston, S.C., jail

Former police officer Michael Slager, charged with murder. In Charleston, S.C., jail

The most notorious case is one in which a witness recently captured the video of South Carolina police officer Michael Slager while fatally shooting Walter Scott. Scott was stopped for a tail light violation and took off running, possibly because he owed child support. Slager has been fired and charged with murder. He remains jailed.

But now we have an even more recent shooting by a white cop of a black man in which a new twist is added. Another police video — this one from a body cam — shows Tulsa County, Okla., Reserve Deputy Sheriff Bob Bates saying: “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.” This is just after he fatally wounded Eric Courtney Harris. The 44-year-old Harris was shown being shot after allegedly resisting arrest following a gun buy sting operation. The new wrinkle, pardon the pun, is that Bates is 73 years old.

Bates can be heard yelling “Taser … ,” before the shooting and the deputy’s apology. The call-out supposedly meant Bates had meant to deploy his Taser. But he pulled out and engaged the wrong weapons, according to the sheriff’s office. Bates has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, according to Tulsa Co. District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.

 “Oklahoma law defines culpable negligence as ‘the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions,’” Kunzweiler said.

The penalty for second-degree manslaughter in Oklahoma carries a penalty of up to four years in prison.

Regardless of the possibility of prison if Bates is convicted, the issue of age will likely rear its head in this case. Would a younger man get a Taser, many times bright yellow, confused with a handgun that worn by police these days are often black? Or is such a case similar to that comparison made by Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz, himself 72 and a fishing buddy of Bates, in which doctors make mistakes in operating rooms every day?

Justin Bieber, go talk to the Argentinian judges

Well at least one country will need not worry about their society going straight into the crapper due to Justin Beiber’s appearance.

Multiple news sources report that an Argentinian judge has issued a warrant for the arrest of the Canadian waste of global space singer. The judicial order is a result of an alleged assault of a photographer outside a Buenos Aires nightclub in 2013.

Diego Pesoa said Bieber and a bodyguard assaulted him after Pesoa tried to photograph him.

Bieber failed to answer questions about the incident. This week a judge ordered immediate detention of the 21-year-old who has been in a number of scrapes with the law.

Should Bieber feel as if he might want to jet down to Buenos Aires to make a fool of the Argentinian justice system, perhaps he should read this. (Warning: Graphic pictures and descriptions.)

Potential presidents and nutty voters

First Ted Cruz now Rand Paul. Talk about a wide open race for the Republican nominee for president.  And the GOP won’t secure a nomination until late July 2016 in Cleveland. How many more, besides Jeb Bush of course.

Cruz held an old-time protestant revival in his coming out party. Oops. I bet he wouldn’t like his announcing for a run as “coming out.” Oh well.

Paul began his campaign kickoff with: “Let’s take America back.” Back to where or when? But such language is surely smart, as is Dr. Rand Paul, opthamologist. Taking America back is paying homage to the Tea Party, the phrase is often mocked by liberals who say the hard right would like to take America all the way back to requiring minorities to pay poll tax or perhaps even further back, to the antebellum South.

I must admit, although Rand Paul inherits that nut-job political streak of his father, Dr. Ron Paul. He has an interesting past. Paul attended Baylor, the large Baptist institution headed by Ken Starr. But he left Baylor without a degree and was a member of the University’s secret and subversively hilarious NoZe Brothers. He attended Duke Medical School without a bachelor’s degree, which is apparently no longer allowed. His libertarian bent likewise is somewhat appealing while many of his more right-wing beliefs brings him down from his “cool dude” appearance.

Whether the election will be Hillary versus Jeb, or Hillary versus Marco or Hillary versus a resurrected Ronald Reagan, what voters should really concern themselves with is their fellow voters.

America has become so wishy-washy that pretty soon I expect to see those writers of “Nigerian letters,” who will give you millions of dollars providing you give them your bank account numbers, to hit the jackpot.

Most Americans don’t want our military to put its boots anywhere on the ground except out of harm’s ways. But the same folks say the current administration is too timid with our “potential” adversaries.

These are the same good folks who rant and rave over all taxation, including local ones. In Texas the highest individual taxes are often property tax leveled by school districts. But just let a board or administrator cut back on something related to high school football you will see taxpayers gone wild.

Other people might go crazy over a penny’s tax in their rural fire districts. But God forbid if these same taxpayers have their home go up in flames.

It’s nuts. We’re nuts. Nutty America. Love it or leave it.

 

Pondering the imponderable

This afternoon I am sitting here pondering my own little mind full of hobgoblins as well as studying just what my foolish consistency did to bring about such a state.

The Texas Legislature is in session so don’t get me started on states.

No, really. I think about the great questions that have come to haunt me from the many years past. For instance:

Where did all the yellow go?

I refer to the jingle Pepsodent toothpaste ran on the TVs and radios of the 50s and 60s which goes like this:

“You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”

Where is all that yellow? What’d they do with it? It’s hard to hide something that has to be exceedingly large.

  Photo: © Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com

Jonathan Goldsmith, The Most Interesting Man In The World. Photo: © Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com

And that person purported to be “The Most Interesting Man In The World,” why is it with every possible delight seemingly at his disposal would he settle for a Mexican beer? You know there is a reason why lime slices are given with south-of-the-border brew? Because most of those cervezas taste like crap!!! Well Dos Equis isn’t really too bad compared to some of the others. But this most interesting amigo also admonishes us to “stay thirsty.” Humans normally can survive three-to-five days without drinking water. I don’t know how beer figures into this. But going without something to drink is downright insane not to mention uncomfortable as hell. So why would one want to stay thirsty? Oh well, the ad just says their pitchman is interesting, not “the smartest man in the world.”

Those points I ponder are not limited to jingles and other crapola of the ad world. What about songs?

What about songs. Now if you want to travel down that road of no return absurdity, you will have no further to go than the lyrics of the 60s Jimmy Webb song MacArthur Park.

It is bad enough to consider:

  “Between the parted pages and were pressed/In love’s hot, fevered iron/Like a striped pair of pants”

Okay. I have no idea what the symbolism means. Sure, I can read, but if one wants a pressed pair of striped pants it sounds like those buddies need to be dry cleaned.

And,

  “MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark/All the sweet, green icing flowing down/Someone left the cake out in the rain

  “I don’t think that I can take it/’Cause it took so long to bake it/And I’ll never have that recipe again, oh noooooo”

  You bet your ass “oh noooooo.” Though this was hardly considered an example of the “psychedelic” music genre of rock, one wonders whether Webb had been trampling through the cow dung patch and came upon those little “magic” mushrooms.

  Don’t get me wrong. Webb is a very talented songwriter. He has written some of my favorite tunes, largely ones with a country bent or in between. For instance, the Glen Campbell hit “Galveston” and the country superstar collaboration “Highwaymen” — Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings — took its name from the Webb tune they recorded “Highwayman.” Webb also wrote pop hits such as the 5th Dimension’s “Up Up and Away.”

  So Jim Webb deserves my What Was He Thinking award — although Webb has said everything in the song was really there, cake and all.

  It is when a person ponders the larger-than-life matters in life, that he or she is on the road to something, well, at least larger than half-life. Sorry. I think next time we have spring showers I will go buy a cake and put it in the rain.

A cliche will likely prove right in two weeks

We have all heard the old cliche about how things being worse before they get better. Perhaps that is what will be soon happening to me.

By no means am I saying I want my situation worse so I suppose I should explain.

For several months now, I have been a virtual prisoner in my own abode. The pinnacle of these months have been taking a trip, mostly by Greyhound, to Houston to see a doctor at the VA Hospital. I mentioned one such trip yesterday. Fortunately, most were better than this week’s trip.

I have been on light duty, phone duty mostly, at work. I spent about six months doing that last year with a torn meniscus and surgery to repair it. Then came physical therapy for a month. Hopefully, this episode won’t going to take that long. I hope.

What has had me tied down for a short time this year has been — ta da — my left, second toe. Is that not appropriate for a blog named eightfeetdeep?

As I have mentioned before I have Type II diabetes. Some time ago I found a sore on the bottom of that toe. It, the toe, and the two adjacent ones are afflicted with hammertoe. You can read all about it in the link. As a result, the toe keeps being hammered when walking. With diabetes, such ulcerations tend to heal very slowly, if not ever.

I have been seeing a podiatrist for a couple of months now. He suggested, and I tend to agree, that hammertoe surgery is called for. This is a rather long and technical look at the operation written by a podiatrist. If you know a little of the basics of medical terminology, then it isn’t all that difficult. But basically, I will have some bones cut on in the toe and they should heal within a couple of weeks. I will probably need a week off after being “surged.” Isn’t that a better term than operated upon? No? Who cares what you think?

My podiatrist said he has done “thousands” of these surgeries and that they only take 10-to-15 minutes. Of course, there is the waiting around all morning, plus recovery, then figuring out how the hell I am getting home from Houston. I will figure that out and I better do so pretty damn quick because my surgery is in two weeks.

Oh my. Well, like I said. It will be worse before it gets better. Damned cliche!