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It Could Have Easily Been ‘The Old, Rugged Noose’

14 Dec

by Roger White

 

Leave it to the creative mind of Gene Roddenberry to send me into yet another mental wormhole. And I warn you from the outset, this particular “thought experiment” may be potentially upsetting to the less open-minded, strenuously dogmatic, sense-of-humor-challenged, and/or excessively pious of you. You’ve been warned.

Curled up on the comfy couch watching an episode of Roddenberry’s original “Star Trek” series recently, I was thrown quite unceremoniously into a fit of conceptual conniptions by a particular scene from the 1968 episode entitled “Bread and Circuses.” My TV-watching fare of Shiner, Fritos, and . . . er, certain aromatic herbal nourishment may have contributed significantly to the wormhole process, but I digress.

This Trek episode, in which Captain Kirk and crew are forced to fight in gladiatorial games on a planet where a modern-day Roman Empire rules the land, juxtaposes the culture, garb, and traditions of ancient Rome with Caesar Packing Heatcontemporary technology. Hence, you have emperors, senators, and proconsul types handing down edicts over loudspeakers and gladiator contests broadcast over network television.

However, the scene that shoved me down my own little space-time porthole of pontification was the one in which Kirk and company are captured by Roman guards wielding submachine guns. Woah. (And this episode came out in ’68, mind you—two years before Andrew Lloyd Webber armed his Romans with automatic weapons in Jesus Christ Superstar.)

Anyway. That’s when it hit me: What if the Romans—our ancient Romans—had possessed such technology? Of course, the mind reels with infinite possibilities (like what if Spartacus had had access to F-14 Tomcat air cover). But what I became fixated on was the impact on Christianity—not the religion as a whole, mind you, but merely the symbolism involved.

You see, the universally recognized metaphor for the Christian faith is, of course, the cross. Why? Because that’s how Jesus was put to death; the sign of the cross symbolizes His victory over death. But what if crucifixion hadn’t been the means of execution for the Roman Empire? What if, for example, electrocution had da chairbeen the execution method du jour? Think about it. Gold necklaces worn by faithful folks around the globe would have little electric chairs dangling at the end.

Or what if execution of criminals had been accomplished by hanging, for instance? Nuns far and wide, instead of making the symbol of the cross when they prayed, would arch their necks at severe angles and pull on imaginary nooses to display their piety.

Or consider lethal injection. Churches from Brownsville to Bozeman, instead of featuring outsized crosses on their steeples, would display great hypodermic needles to call the faithful to worship.

OK, wait! Hold it. Wait a minute. Put the pitchforks down. Douse the torches. I’m not demeaning Christianity by any means. I’m not poking fun. I was raised Southern Baptist, for crying out loud, by a God-fearing momma in the heart of the Lone Star State, here in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt. All I’m doing is saying “what if.” In an alternate universe somewhere just east of Andromeda, who’s to say one of these scenarios isn’t playing out this very microsecond?

Who’s to say that on an alternate Earth right this minute Alternate-Earth Christians aren’t gathered in their houses of worship singing their praises thusly: the noose“At the chair, at the chair, where I first saw the light…” Or maybe country-and-western singers on Ganymede are paying homage this very moment to “The Old, Rugged Noose.”

And consider traditional sayings and adages. “It’s not my cross to bear” on Europa might be more along the lines of “It’s not my chair to sit in”— or “It’s not my chamber to enter.” Whatev.

No! No, please, put the garden tools down! I’m just saying “what if,” that’s all! It’s just a thought bubble!

I gotta quit doing Shiner and Fritos with “Star Trek” so late at night.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious offspring, a very obese but mannerful dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

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The Morbid Tale of the Marlboro Man–And Others

20 Nov

by Roger White

A moment of silence, please, for Mr. Eric Lawson. Mr. Lawson, 72, died earlier this year from respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The real cause: smoking. If you don’t recognize the name, you’ll certainly know him by his professional moniker. Eric Lawson was the Marlboro Man. You remember? The rugged cowboy dude rode the range, ten-gallon hat on his head and a smooth Marlboro in his hand, in those iconic cigarette ads of the 1970s.

The MMGet this: Lawson was the latest in a string of Marlboro Men to expire due to “hazards of the job.” Before him, aspiring actor David Millar, who did TV spots for the cigarette company in the 1950s, smoked for four decades before dying of emphysema in 1987. Former stuntman Wayne McLaren, another Marlboro male, died of lung cancer in 1992 at age 51. Western TV actor David McLean, who appeared in such shows as Bonanza and Gunsmoke, played the MM in print and television ads—he kicked the bucket in 1995 after 30 years of lighting up. His widow sued Phillip Morris, claiming the company made him smoke five packs per ad; she lost when the suit was dismissed. And then there was Richard Hammer, a firefighter-turned-actor who died of lung cancer in 1999 after his reign as the smoking cowboy. Talk about a risky profession.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many sordid stories of TV and magazine pitch men who’ve succumbed through the years, overwhelmed by their corporate personas. It’s the sort of thing that Hollywood and Madison Avenue have conspired to keep quiet, fearing the backlash of negative publicity. Here are just a few I’ve become privy to:

ow!Did you know, for example, that the original Pillsbury Dough Boy, young Timothy Yeastley of Bakersfield, California, died of peritonitis after being poked in the belly 417 times during a marathon attempt at a particular TV commercial? “The director was never satisfied,” one stagehand remembered. “We kept shooting it over and over. It was gruesome. Timothy gamely tried to carry on, even laughing that silly laugh to the very end. But by the 400th take or so, he was black and blue.” Outtakes have apparently cropped up on Youtube; don’t watch them unless you have a strong stomach. So to speak.

Or how about the sad tale of Gunther Sauber, otherwise known in TV land as Mr. Clean? Poor Gunther became so consumed by his on-air identity that he died of OCD in 1977. Near the end, he spent all his time cleaning, polishing, spit-shining, mopping, shaving his head. They found Gunther, dead of a heart attack, in the Flatbush Avenue Subway Terminal in New York. He was Mr Cdressed all in white, a bottle of cleaner in one hand, a filthy rag in the other. Notes found in his apartment indicated he intended to degrease the entire New York City subway system.

Then there was Lee David Squibny of Hastings, Nebraska—the original Kool-Aid Man. Although Lee went violently—he died of repeated blunt-force trauma after crashing through 46 walls during a grueling TV ad taping session—an autopsy revealed early onset of diabetes. An unsettling side note: All of Lee’s internal organs were stained a hideous grape purple.

And let’s not forget ill-fated Ike Lipshitz, the original Jack of Jack in the Box fame. Mr. Lipshitz, apparently obsessed with staying in character, met a ghastly fate when his bulbous Jack in the Box head became stuck in an elevator door on his way to his fiancée’s apartment. When the elevator Jack is Badarrived at the fiancée’s floor, she was horrified to find only the giant Jack head inside, and a bag of tacos.

I could go on. I would, for instance, tell you about the fate of the first two Mr. Peanuts, but you’d never look at a jar of peanut butter the same way. Or of the original Jolly Green Giant—oh, the endless skin grafts… Suffice it to say, it’s not all glamour and glitz.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Dead Cars Are Today’s Coalmine Canaries

9 Sep

by Roger White

 

You see them more and more these days: dead cars by the side of the road. Sure, the cops and the towing companies attempt due diligence, but they can’t keep up now. There are just too many croaked clunkers all over our highways and byways. I sat and thought about it the other day; you know what the proliferation of all of these deceased vehicles means, don’t you? That’s right, we’re all poor now. Well, 98.8 percent of us.

 he dead

It’s just like the canaries in the coalmine. Miners in our grandpappies’ day used canaries (those brave little birds) to make sure the air was breathable in their unbelievably dangerous underground offices. If Tweety Pie stopped singing and was suddenly on his back with his widdle feet in the air, it was time to haul out of there—the air had turned bad. Well, all those roadside stalled Chevys, puffing smoke with their widdle tires in the air—they’re today’s coalmine canaries. It ain’t good, folks. The air has turned bad.

 

The simple reason for this phenomenon is that our economy is barely breathing. There’s no more economic oxygen. Prices for staples such as groceries and gas are unacceptably high; cost for basic medical care is astronomical—and the whole system of for-profit care is at the very least misguided (and at worst, utterly evil); wages are stagnant; and jobs are about as scarce as an untattooed NBA player. Add to this the fact that the stock market today goes haywire anytime a terrorist sneezes in Yemen—and everyone’s retirement account is somehow inextricably tied to the market—and you have all the makings for a slippery slide right back into 1929, only perhaps worse.

he dead too 

Hence all the inert autos floundering near parkways hither and yon. It’s all about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 21st-century style. People are barely keeping their heads above water. It’s all most of us can do to feed the family, pay the mortgage, and keep the electricity on. Ancillary things, such as regular car maintenance, swiftly fall by the wayside when the money is just not there. And so, kaplunk. The trusty old Ford keels over because its financially strapped owner couldn’t afford to change the timing belt—which, by the way, costs approximately a cool grand including time and labor and all the extra nebulous charges your friendly fix-it shop always manages to throw in.

 

Unfortunately, we can’t really hightail it out of this particular coalmine, can we? And from all appearances, it’s a damn deep mine. In many ways, it’s downright disgusting. There truly is no middle class anymore; there are the mega-uber-wealthy, comprising less than 2 percent of the population—and there are 250 million shades of poor in these United States. The average corporate CEO income today is about $4,615 per hour; minimum wage is $7.25, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

the trapMore and more of us are carrying four- and five-digit credit card balances and are using credit cards often to pay not for entertainment or the occasional luxury item but for groceries and monthly bills. In many cases, it’s unavoidable. My neighbor down the street recently posted on Facebook that her electricity bill for one month was more than $400—and her home is less than 1,900 square feet. AARP magazine noted that in 1963 a 49-ounce box of laundry detergent cost 69 cents; today, it costs $8.00. A movie ticket in 1963 was 86 cents; today, just under $10. Even adjusting for income, we’re much worse off now than we were 50 years ago. Boy, it’s getting tough to breathe in here.

 

Keep your eyes on the roadside, people. The air has surely turned bad.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Well, Hit Me with an Anvil–It’s Contest Time Again

25 Jun

by Roger White

 

OK, OK, you don’t have to klonk the Spouseman over the head with an anvil. Speaking of, you don’t see too many anvils these days, do you? Think about it. When, in your daily comings and goings, have you come across a nice, sturdy yet aesthetically pleasing anvil recently? Critics of modern society may hold forth about how the increasingly technological, service-oriented nature of our economy today has killed such former life staples as record albums, newspapers, actual books, travel agencies, home phones, and the pleasure of becoming permanently out of touch with that behold the anvilglommy high school friend, but I say a true death knell for the world that was is the marked lack of anvils. There was once a time when every decent home needed a good anvil. Nowadays, I’ll bet you can go a whole year without even saying the word “anvil.” And this is so because we simply don’t make things anymore. We tweet. We blog. We text. We don’t plow and dig and forge things. Today’s kids may not even understand the term.

 

Old guy: “I need me a good anvil.”

 

Young guy: “What’s that? An Advil? Got a headache?”

 

Having said all that, however, I did find a reputable anvil supply house—on the internet, ironically enough. For all of your anvil needs, visit www.anvils4sale.com. A classic, German double-horn anvil will set you back about $2,700, but if you’re not fussy, you can land a decent, used church window anvil for right around a thousand bucks. I’m not exactly sure what a church window anvil is, but it sounds righteous.

 

I’ve been told by more than one Spouse reader that I tend to ramble. This may be true. Let me just say the word “anvil” one more time, and we can get to the meat of this column: Anvil. OK, I’m good.

 rambler guy

So, anyway, the whole reason I didn’t want to be klonked with a church window anvil is because you guys have been clamoring for another contest—namely the Movie Mashup. In retrospect, I realize it’s been since last December since we mashed up some good movies, so here we go. Father John Connor, you’re now eligible to participate again. And thanks for the rosary beads.

 

If you recall, what we have here, fellow catnip cosmonauts, is a collection of famous lines from movies. However, quotes from two different movies have been squished together to make one line. Here’s a for instance: “What we got here is failure to phone home.” This is, quite obviously, a collision of “Cool Hand Luke” and “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.” Get it? No? Okay, here’s another one: “My precious goes all the way to eleven.” That’s a combo platter of “Lord of the Rings” and “This is Spinal Tap.” Or as I call it, “Lord of the Spinal Rings.”

 

So. Below (or above if you’re reading this upside down) are 10 Movie Mashups. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to tell moi what two movies got cozy and had relations to make the mixed-up quote. The first 18,427 people to respond with any cinderfella storysemblance of an answer win a genuine “Jesus is Coming, Hide the Bong” bumper sticker. If you get pulled over by the cops for displaying said bumper sticker, I will not be held accountable. E-mail moi at rogdude@mail.com with your best guesses. Void in Maine, Oshkosh, and in that little gin joint over by 5th Street. Ready? Set? Bang.

 

  1. “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been Mister Tibbs.”
  2. “Love means never having to round up the usual suspects.”
  3. “You’re gonna need a bigger damn dirty ape!”
  4. “Attica! Attica! Toga! Toga!”
  5. “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become a martini. Shaken, not stirred.”
  6. “Say hello to my little wire hangers.”
  7. “Shane, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”
  8. “As God as my witness, I’ll never see dead people again.”
  9. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets a box of chocolates.”
  10. “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice elephant in my pajamas.”

BONUS: “I’m gonna get medieval on your pod bay doors, HAL.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

‘Stepped on a Pop Top, Cut my…’ Stepped on a What?

28 Feb

by Roger White

 

There is a narrow greenbelt that runs behind our back yard, and in my meager efforts to keep fit—which involve a weekly tennis match followed immediately by heavy beer intake—I must cross this swath of forest to gain access to our neighborhood tennis courts. In one of my recent forays into the foliage I kicked over a large rock by accident and promptly fell on my keister. Whilst sitting upon my keister there in the wilds, I noticed something shiny and silver glinting from where the rock had been stealthily perched. Ho, I thought, buried treasure perhaps. Have I oafishly unearthed ancient coinage, precious metals, or long-lost jewelry? No? Yes? No?

No. No such luck. It was a pop top.

ye olde poppe toppeBut as I sat there, still on my ample keister, I contemplated this little doohickey. I realized this was buried treasure, in a demented time-capsule sort of way. A pop top! When was the last time you saw a genuine, throw-away pop top? In fact, I’ll bet you that 99.34 percent of the people born after 1980 don’t even know what a pop top is.

Called a “pull tab” by the beverage can industry, the pop top, for you whippersnappers, was how we opened our cans in ye olden days. You pulled the ring, the pop top opened the top of the can, and you promptly tossed the pop top on the ground. I don’t think that’s what the inventor had in mind, but we all did it. Did you know that if you google “beverage can history,” you’ll find that one Ermal Fraze invented the pop top in 1959? You can google just about anything, I believe. Anyway, I should sue Mr. Fraze for damage to my foot—and mental anguish.

Yep, just like the pirate himself sings, “stepped on a pop top, cut my heel etc. etc.,” I did the same as Jimmy Buffet out at Lake Benbrook when I was a teenager in the ’70s. Those little damn things were everywhere, and, yes, if you stepped on one just the right way, it would slice through your bare foot like an angry weasel. Had to have stitches and everything.

Now, it is at this point in my musings that I must make a choice. Do I ramble on about pop tops and my misspent youth, or do I take the course less traveled and hold court about outdated lyrics? Or do I abandon this train of thought altogether and snag a cold Shiner?

Decisions. Let’s go with lyrics that don’t make much sense these days. We’ll liken it unto a symposium for the youngsters who actually enjoy old songs but don’t always understand them. Here’s one, for example:

In the song “Happy Together” by the Turtles, they opine, “If I should call you up, invest a dime…” Yes, kids, it’s true. There used to be things such as pay phones, and they did, long ago, cost only a dime to use. Jim Croce also attests to this in “Operator,” a song whose title also harkens to the ancient past, when actual, real-live people, called “operators,” helped you—in English—to place your call. Anyhow, Jim tells the operator, “you can keep the dime” in his tale of unrequited love. Similarly, Joan Jett belts out, “Put another dime in the jukebox, baby” in “I Love Rock and Roll,” reminding us that you once could use dimes for many purposes other than collecting them in old mayonnaise jars.

ye olde pinne balleThen there’s this from The Who: “That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball…” Plays a mean what? Pinball! “Pinball Wizard!” The Dairy Twin in Burleson had a great pinball game, Bobby Bewley was killer at it, and we were in middle school. It didn’t involve a video screen, or blasting mutant zombies—the entire game revolved around keeping a very cool, very real metal ball from rolling past your flippers. There was much tilting, and there was much being yelled at by the Dairy Twin manager.

In “Sweet Emotion,” Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler hightails it out of town because “the rabbit done died.” Yes, it did. Ya see, they didn’t have reliable EPT tests then. A poor widdle wabbit had to give his life to see if your girl had a bun in the oven. So to speak.

How ’bout this: Do you remember the Five Americans? “Western Union”? Dah-da-dah-da-dah-da-dah…. No? They complained about having to fork over “fifteen cents a word to read a telegram I didn’t need…” Man, I loved that song. Still do. See, the guy in the song ye olde telegrammejust received a telegram (again, a communications method from the dark ages) informing him that his girl has dumped him. Again, a dumping song. It was a double whammy because not only did he get bum news, he had to pay the guy who delivered it.

And, of course, you have Paul Simon noting how “Kodachrome gives the night bright colors…” Ya see, kids, cameras used to have what we call “film.” And this film had to be (air quotes here) “de-vel-oped.” Digital cameras were not built into our foreheads then.

There’s plenty more, I’m sure. If you can think of any, write me at rogdude@mail.com , and I’ll send you a pop top. Or maybe a Mercury dime.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Of Parades and Fireworks and Your Second Cousin’s Missing Pinkie

2 Jul

by Roger White

 

As the blast-furnace breezes of July waft in, caressing our faces with all the warmth and subtlety of nuclear warhead testing, many of us harken back to the salad days of our youth and those old-time Independence Day celebrations—small-town parades, concerts in the bandstand, dazzling fireworks displays, and your second cousin showing off his missing pinkie finger as he regales you with his annual “cherry bomb accident” story. Why are the days of our youth called “salad days,” anyway? I never came near a salad when I was a kid. They should call them “Milk Dud days” or “Captain Crunch days” or something.

 

Nevertheless, as fond as I am of recreational explosives and intentionally putting oneself in harm’s way for a juicy whizz-bang, I must say that my earliest memory of Fourth of July festivities is not particularly joyous. In fact, it’s downright terrifying. I don’t recall exactly how itty bitty I was, but let’s just say the family mutt and I pretty much met face to face. And this was not a big dog. The family was in the back yard, my older sisters running around waving sparklers in the air. I was perfectly content to spectate; those white-hot sparklers scared the bejeezus out of me. Sure enough, my sister (which one shall remain nameless) placed in my itty bitty hand a sizzling, hissing sparkler, which I assumed would immediately set my entire arm ablaze—after which, knowing my sister, I would be waved aloft, an itty bitty human sparkler.

 

As fate would have it, my dad was bending down near me at that moment, lighting a smoke bomb or something on the ground. In blind terror, I dropped the sparkler—directly onto my dad’s back. Dad, clad in t-shirt and shorts, instantly began yelling and gyrating, doing every move from a Native American war dance to the electric slide. Dad’s t-shirt was a goner; Dad ended up with a permanent little line burned into his upper back, and I a permanent little scar burned into my psyche. To this day, I’ll light any firecracker, bottle rocket, roman candle or any other type of festive munition—but I cannot stand sparklers. Stupid sparklers.

 

While I’m on the memory train, however, I do have tucked away on the seldom-used tracks of my mind a much fonder pyrotechnic piece of the past. In this particular vinaigrette (OK, whatever), I’m about 12, hanging at Lake Benbrook with my middle sister’s boyfriend. He was probably 17 or 18, and he was a mad genius when it came to finding creative ways to blow things up. Bottle rockets were Brian’s medium of choice, and model cars and ships were his canvas. We spent much of that afternoon obliterating a great many unfortunate old hot rods of plastic and faux chrome.

 

Then came the piece de resistance. Or as the French say, the piece of resistance. Just as the sun was starting to set on the other side of the lake, Brian took from his car’s trunk five or six model ships. These were World War II vintage: battleships, aircraft carriers, and the like. Each model ship had a length of string tied to it, with a lead sinker attached to the other end. Brian had given this a lot of thought. He gave some of the ships to me, and we waded out into the lake. By 15 to 20 yards out, we were treading water. One by one, we gently released each ship’s line, and soon we had an armada of model ships anchored just off shore.

 

That’s when the fun began. With two coke bottles as cannons, we spent the good part of an hour firing bottle rockets at those brave battleships. As thrilling as it was to score a hit and watch our targets list and sink, the most exciting part to me was watching a smoking rocket dive just under the water and explode beneath the surface. This was like being on the set of The Longest Day. Of all the professional fireworks displays I’ve seen since, none match the “ooh” and “aah” factor of that special, simple day in my mind.

 

And then there was the time I nearly burned the kitchen down trying to make Rice Krispie Treats in a skillet. Wait, that’s a Christmas story. Oh, well, be safe out there, kids. Remember your second cousin.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Let’s Talk about Keith. And Teeth. And Sir Edward Heath.

2 Jan

by Roger White

My reading list of late, aside from the requisite comics and sports sections, has included Life, the autobiography of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, or Keef, as most of you know him. It is a fascinating read, I must say, not simply because you get to peek behind the heroin- and cocaine-caked curtain of Sir Keef’s life and gain a foothold of understanding of how this supremely talented Brit bluesman/rock icon with the biological resilience of a mutant cockroach has managed to stay alive lo these many years, but you also get a marvelously witty insight into the keen and strangely aloof mind of a songwriter — what makes him tick, the amazingly broad array of cues he picks up on as inspiration for his songs, the unbelievably rich life he’s led (from stealing and reselling used bottles to scrape enough money together to eat to jetting from Morocco to the south of France with the world’s most beautiful and exotic people), and his wonderfully unique take on life and how he’s riffed through it plucking those nasty, jangly rhythms with nary a scratch despite spending more than 50 years on the hard edge of a lifestyle that has taken down many a talented man and woman long before their time.

Some have called the Stones “the world’s most dangerous rock and roll band” in their prime, and if they were, then Sir Keef was the man wielding the blade. A dear friend of mine lent me the book, and going in I thought, yah, another ghostwritten alcohol-slopped tell-all with some deftly dropped names and a few juicy “gotcha” moments with just enough backstory on some of the Stones’ most famous numbers and people and hangers-on to keep me reading. Man, was I wrong. Richards can tell tales. And his insight into musical concepts, history, and how circumstance, events, and people being in certain places at certain times caused modern popular music to evolve as it has is quite remarkable. So, do I recommend picking up this book? Hell, yes. And there are many photos. Later on we’ll get ice cream.

Anyway, all this to say, wow, I far underestimated Sir Keef’s literary acumen; however, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I have always stood (sometimes sat, depending on the subject and my current blood pressure) in slight awe of most things British. I mean, Richards may or may not be smarter than your average rock guitarist, but a little voice inside me tells me his British upbringing brings a little to bear. Think about it. British musicians basically took American rock and stepped it up to a higher, thinking man’s level, didn’t they? Most of the best, most progressive rock outfits in history come from our tiny mother country: The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Yes, The Moody Blues, The Zombies, The Who, The Yardbirds, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, ELP — need I go on?

The same goes for comedy. The Brit sense of humor has always struck me as two beats faster, more subtle, and exquisitely more wry than that of the comics on this side of the pond. Don’t get me wrong; I love Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Stephen Wright, and all the others as much as the next guy, but when it comes to writing, content, delivery, and timing, no one tops the Brits in my book. Monty Python, Faulty Towers, Dudley Moore with Sir John Gielgud in “Arthur” – to me, that’s comedic nirvana. I know that some of you don’t get Monty Python. I also know that you are the people who faithfully attend NASCAR events, wear camouflage vests to restaurants, and worship at the altar of Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy. That’s OK. I have no problem with that. (I can just hear the crayons hitting the paper now: “If’n yew love them faggoty Brits so much then why don’t yew git on outta here and move over thar then. That’s rite, jus take the bus on over thar, ya dam trater.”)

Anyway, where were we? Ah, humor, music, insight. All that. I guess the only thing I can’t understand about our dear British comrades, being that they are so refined and intelligent and talented, is the thing with their teeth. With everything the mighty British Empire has achieved through the ages, you would think they would have caught on to the whole dental hygiene kick by now. I mean, gads. I guess the followers of Larry the Cable Guy and our Union Jack cousins do have something in common: a somewhat laissez-faire attitude on ye olde oral health.

Criminy. How I got off on teeth and NASCAR is beyond me, but if you do happen upon Keith Richards’ book, by all means…. Now, where’d I leave my floss?

 Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.