Monday, June 30, 2014

Growing Older

Last week, Eric Clapton announced that he is going to retire. The news was received with a mixed response.

Some – like your Captain – were saddened. Clapton has been around my entire life, beginning his career with the Yardbirds in 1963. He moved on to Cream, then Derek and the Dominoes, among several other bands.

I loved him in the movie version of The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” (1975).

His star seemed to fade for a while. Then in 1991, a series of misfortunes – including the death of his 4-year-old son – led him to write the soft, sentimental “Tears in Heaven”, a radical departure from his former music. That song, and his “Unplugged” album, garnered multiple awards, and Clapton’s concert tours took on a new life. The rock guitarist now sings the blues. We saw him in Memphis in 2010 when he toured with Roger Daltry. (See my review here.)

Others, upon hearing of Clapton’s planned retirement, wished him well. After all, he’s nearing 70, they said. It’s time for him to retire and just enjoy life.

As if he wasn’t already.

But this blog isn’t about Eric Clapton.

Growing older hasn’t stopped the Rolling Stones. 

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are both headed for 71 and are still touring. In fact, we rushed to buy tickets for their 1994 “Voodoo Lounge” tour because everyone kept saying that was going to be their final tour.

They’ve completed six tours since then!

Mick still seems to have plenty of energy to go on; and Keith Richards is pretty much pickled.

No. Literally. After years of heavy drinking and drug use, his body is so well-preserved it will probably outlast mine!

But this blog isn’t about the Rolling Stones.

All of these thoughts came rushing to mind on Saturday night as I watched yet another Jimmy Buffett concert, this one broadcast live from Chicago via Margaritaville.TV.

Ain’t technology grand?!?

Watching on my computer screen allowed me to actually see Jimmy and the band – as opposed to my usual view from the cheap seats. And what I realized is that Jimmy and the Coral Reefers are getting old!

I’ve known Jimmy’s age for some time. Born on Christmas day of 1946, that makes him 67. The receding hairline, gray hair, and occasional need for glasses make this fact fairly obvious.

Michael Utley, keyboardist and musical director for the band, has been with Jimmy from the beginning of the Coral Reefers. Mr. Utley is only a year in age behind him.

Doyle Grisham, on the pedal steel guitar – one can only guess his age.

Robert Greenidge, on the steel drums, is 64.

Mac McAnally, the six-time CMA “Musician of the Year”, was born in 1957.

As for Tina Gullickson (a former “Miss California Angels”) and Nadira Shakoor (formerly of “Arrested Development”), – well, a gentleman doesn’t ask.

And yet, this talented mix of AARP members (with a few younger members thrown in) still sells out the house wherever they play! Whether in beaches, bars, or arenas, their loyal fans flock to see them.

But this blog isn’t about the Coral Reefers either.

Earlier this month, while attending Jimmy’s concert – beamed live to drive-in theaters across the country – I looked around at the crowd that filled the Calvert Drive-In. To my surprise, they were… well,… old. 

I mean, seriously, the people sitting next to us were well into their 70’s!

Then I glanced over at our little group. At 50, the First Mate is the youngest of the six of us!

As I scanned the crowd at the Chicago show on Saturday - filled with beer-drinking, hula-skirt wearing, flip-floppin’ Parrotheads in their shark-fin hats and what-not - I came to the painful realization that the Parrotheads are growing older right along with the band.

And that means... I’m growing older!


What an odd thought!

I mean, it’s one thing for Clapton to turn 70, and for Mick and Keith to (miraculously) live to 71, and for Jimmy Buffett to grow older (“…but not up!”).

It’s quite another thing to realize that I’m growing older too.

I’m not sure I like this! 

And why is the damn Rum always gone?!?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Keep it To Yourself!

So last night the Captain and First Mate joined some friends on their sail boat for a peaceful evening of just going where the wind takes us.

It was quite a change from my norm, as I am usually the one asking, “Where are we going?” “What are we going to do there?” “Why are we doing this?” “How long is this going to take?”

Life-long bad habits.

The six of us had brought ample rations – fruits and vegetables, cheeses and hard salami, and plenty of wine and rum punch. Our only care was losing the wind, which we finally did lose as the sun set.

But for two hours we did nothing but eat, drink, talk and relax.

Did I mention my friends are all Democrats? Yes, this fact, too, contributed to the enjoyable evening.

Anyway, near the end of our voyage we spied another sailboat approaching from behind. Jokes were made about there being pirates aboard the other boat. It followed us for a good while and we got curious about it.

So we came about to check it out.

As we approached, we couldn’t see anyone on the boat. “A ghost ship!” someone cried out!

No, there was a young man at the tiller, and as we ahoy’d the boat, a woman’s head popped up from the cabin. We exchanged pleasantries as we glided past.

Then someone among our crew noticed some unusual contraptions on the back of the other boat. The young man proudly announced that his boat was “green” – environmentally friendly – his outboard and everything onboard was solar-powered.

We were impressed, and we told him so.

Then he called out across the waves, “So I”ll be ready when Obama destroys our country.”

Suddenly, the mood changed. “Them’s fighting words!”

We loaded our cannon and fired off a broadside!

“No quarter!” I shouted! Pistols and cutlasses were distributed to all.

“Prepare to be boarded!”

At least, that’s what we wanted to do.

But the evening breeze carried us on our way to nowhere in particular. As we sailed away, we shook our heads, sipped our wine, and puzzled over why someone would say such a stupid thing on such a beautiful night.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Here We Go Again...

The Washington Redskins are once again in the news.

No, they did not win the Super Bowl.

But thanks for the good laugh!

As he has been for several years now, billionaire team owner Dan Snyder is once again fighting to protect his NFL team’s mascot / logo. You can read my comments on this kerfuffle when it came up last year HERE.

The latest chapter in this ongoing saga was added this week, when a three-person panel at the U.S. Patents & Trademarks Office voted 2-1 to revoke the long-standing trademark protection for the Redskins team name and logos. The panel cited a rule that says trademarks cannot be of a derogatory nature.

An appeal is naturally to follow.

Into the fray jumps blogger Baxter Holmes. Published this week in Esquire Magazine’s digital edition – so you know it’s serious journalism we’re talking about here – Holmes states that more people would be offended by the term “Redskins” if they really knew what it meant.

[The Captain leans in…]

Holmes tells us the term “redskins” refers to the bloody scalps of Native Americans collected during the genocides of the 18th & 19th centuries. “The mascot of the Washington Redskins,” he writes, “if the team desired accuracy, would be a gory, bloodied crown from the head of a butchered Native American.”

Somehow, I don’t think that would sell either tickets or merchandise.

As proof to back up his claim he cites…

Well, his grandmother told this to his mother who told it to him.  

Hmmm. I don’t think that passes scholarly review.

When trounced on by internet trolls, he wrote a second piece defending his first. This time he cites a piece found in a Minnesota newspaper from 1863, which offers a state reward of “$200 for every red-skin sent to purgatory”.  

Yes, this is truly horrendous. And what the European settlers did to the Native Americans as we established this nation is unconscionable. I will not defend it. I can’t defend it.

However, the reference to “red-skin” in the Minnesota reward was not about bloody scalps. As a trained theologian, the Captain is quick to point out that one does not send a portion of a person to purgatory; it’s all or nothing. The Minnesota reward was quite plainly for "dead Indians”. Period.

I have no doubt Baxter Holmes believes what he writes. I have little doubt that his mother and grandmother passed this wisdom along to him. But does that make him right?

In this case, I think not.

Look at the Washington Redskins logo. It is not cartoonish. It is not derogatory (at least in my opinion). This Indian is not getting scalped. In fact, he looks rather noble.

As a non-Native-American, I don’t see the problem.

Nonetheless, we know that logos can be tricky things, open to interpretation. For instance, when I served a United Methodist church in Memphis, I was told that Methodists are not popular among the African-American community because our logo (in use only since 1972) appears to be a burning cross – a symbol of terror utilized against African-Americans by the Ku Klux Klan.

I suspect this story was passed along from someone’s grandmother as well.

What the designer of the UM logo intended to represent was the Cross of Christ backed by the Holy Spirit (commonly represented as fire), with the two-part flame representing the two denominations that united in 1968 to form the present denomination.

I can see how it can be misinterpreted… but we’re not changing it any time soon.

Perhaps the term “Redskin” was once derogatory – when used as reference to skin color. And maybe that is inappropriate by today’s politically-correct standards. But we still refer to African-Americans as “blacks” – when I don’t know any that are truly that color; and I am still designated as “white” – although on most days “pink” would better describe my skin tone… and in the summer it turns to a “golden brown”.

And although it was perhaps “once” used in a derogatory way, does it hold the same meaning today? Even Holmes admits that the meanings of words change over time. (His example was the word “fag”.) So should I be offended while walking through the grocery store and seeing the sign pointing out “Crackers”?

Captain’s Note: Cracker – "a derogatory term for white people, especially poor rural whites in the southern United States."   
Holmes argues: “What is germane to the conversation? What is semantics? That is debatable. The fact remains that to many Native Americans, the term “redskin” has long meant the act of our ancestor’s scalps being collected for bounty.” 

Again, because his grandma said so.

And yet, in polls conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (2004), nearly 80 percent of Americans believe the Redskins (football team) should keep its name, and nearly 90 percent of Native Americans said the name is not offensive.

As point of reference, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 5.2 million people in America who self-identify as Native American and Alaska Natives. That’s 1.7% of the total population.

That means that .17% (less than 2/10 of one percent) of the U.S. population is “demanding” change.

So the question is, should Dan Snyder go to the trouble and expense of changing his team’s 80-year-old logo for the sake of the 500,000 Native Americans who might be offended by it if pressed – people who probably don’t live in Washington D.C. and who probably don’t consider themselves fans of the team anyway?

I wouldn’t.

Friends, the internet has given individuals like Baxter Holmes – as well as your beloved Captain – a world-wide pulpit to express ourselves. And The First Amendment give us the right to say what we want.

It’s up to you, the reader, to discern what is true, and what demands a response.

Please don’t just swallow something because it was “published” on Esquire Magazine’s digital edition.