Friday, November 21, 2008

Surreal Friday


All good things must come to pass....

Great artist make us ask questions.

Who are we?

Why are we?

What will we leave behind?

Are we really here?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Love Story: The Whitehouse Notebook

Wil Haygood

They say "love" never fails; but "time" does....

The butler sees a new White House

Now retired, he started when blacks were in the kitchen.

By Wil Haygood

November 7, 2008
Reporting from Washington -- For more than three decades, Eugene Allen worked in the White House, a black man unknown to the headlines. During
some of those years, harsh segregation laws lay upon the land. He trekked home every night to his wife, Helene, who kept him out of her
kitchen. At the White House, he worked closer to the dirty dishes than to the Oval Office. Helene didn't care; she just beamed with pride. President Truman called him Gene. President Ford liked to talk golf with six days a week.

"I never missed a day of work," Allen said. He was there while racial history was made: Brown vs. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations. When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn't even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia. "We had never had anything," Allen, 89, recalled of black America at the time. "I was always hoping things would get better." In its long history, the White House -- note the name -- has had a complex and vexing relationship with black Americans. "The history is not so uneven at the lower level, in the kitchen," said Ted Sorensen, who served as counselor to President Kennedy. "In the kitchen, the folks have always been black. Even the folks at the door -- black."

Before Gene Allen landed his White House job, he worked as a waiter at a resort in Hot Springs, Va., and then at a country club in Washington. He and wife Helene, 86, were sitting in the living room of their Washington home. Her voice was musical, in a Lena Horne kind of way. She called him "Honey." They met at a birthday party in 1942. He was too shy to ask for her number, so she tracked his down. They married a year later. In 1952, a lady told him of a job opening in the White House. "I wasn't even looking for a job," he said. "I was happy where I was working, but she told me to go on over there and meet with a guy by the name of Alonzo Fields." Fields was a maitre d', and he immediately liked Allen.

Allen was offered a job as a "pantry man." He washed dishes, stocked cabinets and shined silverware. He started at $2,400 a year. There was, in time, a promotion to butler. "Shook the hand of all the presidents I ever worked for," he said. "I was there, honey," Helene said. "In the back maybe. But I shook their hands too." She was referring to White House holiday parties, Easter egg hunts. They have one son, Charles, who works as an investigator with the State Department. "President Ford's birthday and my birthday were on the same day," he said. "He'd have a birthday party at the White House. Everybody would be there. And Mrs. Ford would say, 'It's Gene's birthday too!' "

And so they'd sing a little ditty to the butler. And the butler, who wore a tuxedo to work every day, would blush. "Jack Kennedy was very nice" he went on. "And so was Mrs. Kennedy." He was in the White House kitchen the day Kennedy was slain. He got an invitation to the funeral. But he volunteered for other duty: "Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral." The whole family of President Carter made Helene chuckle: "They were country. And I'm talking Lillian and Rosalynn both." It came out as the highest compliment.

First Lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him in the kitchen one day. She wanted to remind him about the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor
Helmut Kohl. She told him he would not be working that night." She said, 'You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.' I'm telling you! I believe I'm the only butler to get invited to a state dinner." Husbands and wives don't sit together at these events, and Helene was nervous about trying to make small talk with world leaders." And my son said, 'Momma, just talk about your high school. They won't know the difference.'"The senators were all talking about the colleges and universities that they went to," she said. "I was doing as much talking as they were. "Had champagne that night," she said, looking over at her husband.

He just grinned: He was the man who stacked the champagne at the White House. Colin L. Powell would become the highest ranking black of any White House to that point when he was named Reagan's national security advisor in 1987. Condoleezza Rice would have that position under President George W. Bush. Gene Allen was promoted to maitre d' in 1980. He left the White House in 1986, after 34 years. President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him tight. Interviewed at their home last week, Gene and Helene speculated about what it would mean if a black man were elected president.
"Just imagine," she said. "It'd be really something," he said.

"We're pretty much past the going-out stage," she said. "But you never know. If he gets in there, it'd sure be nice to go over there again." They talked about praying to help Barack Obama get to the White House. They'd go vote together. She'd lean on her cane with one hand, and him with the other, while walking down to the precinct. And she'd get supper going afterward. They went over their Election Day plans more than once.

"Imagine," she said. "That's right," he said.

On Monday, Helene had a doctor's appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again. He was all alone.
"I woke up and my wife didn't," he said later.

Some friends and family members rushed over. He wanted to make coffee.
They had to shoo the butler out of the kitchen. The lady he married 65 years ago will be buried today. The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.

Haygood writes for the Washington Post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reflecting on Time: Ugly Realities


women, vessels of male discipline

For the Cause

Would You?

Slavery ordained



Sometimes you can look back at pictures and wonder how in the world,
or what were they thinking
or are you for real....
The truth is that most times, at the time, it seemed like a good idea to somebody.
The truth is that if it wasnt, those who disagreed didn't disagree enough to do something about it. Evil runs amok when the good people hide silently...but who is good among us?

As usual, It Depends has written another incredible blog that will illuminate and challenge your introspection. I think that will be my blog for the day....maybe. Well done. Well said. Well darn! READ NOW

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Seasons of the Trees

changing seasons, tree

After reading a great blog entitled Falling in Love With Color, it is impossible not to be inspired in many directions. Living out in the country, it is impossible not to notice the beauty of the Autumn colors; even if you are just driving down the interstate, you might also notice the same. For the last couple of weekends, we have set out trees with the anticipation of their enhancement of the view. It goes without saying that during their lives and seasons, the trees will not only grow but mutate depending the climate. One might even question if these changes are the result of the environment or just programmed into the DNA of trees or the earth. Young trees' roots are strengthened and trees are stabalized from the wind currents that blow them around. The roots run/crawl through the earth in response to balancing the tree above while also searching for nutrients that will also add to their strength and growth. We have a huge old "buzzard tree" directly outside the bonus room window. It was really one of the reasons we finalized buying the home. The old weathered bark twisted up into the sky posing like some old Scooby Doo ghost with its rotting trunk and heavy broken limbs scratching into the sky. Its obviously been there a while, survived a few storms.

tree seasons

I couldnt help but also think of "people." Yeah, some of them you've seen in National Geographic in some third world country with time etched into their faces and a glimmer of defiance in their eyes saying "I'm still here..." It is the change of seasons that grow us as people. Spring is full of life and vitality and energy. We think we can change the world; we dont know any better. By summer, we enjoy what we perceive are the works of our own hands and minds, our self-imposed might. In the Fall, our bones grow weary of the long battle, our bodies worn and scarred from many battles. By Winter, its obvious the structure formed underneath that has supported some many attempts and goals; the glamour, like leaves blown in the wind, our bones struggling against our flesh reaching for the earth from which they sprang. It is in Winter that those around us recount the blowing winds of life that formed our roots, our character to support the tree and fruits of our lives. It marks the path of our destiny and legacies.

We are the trees, planted in the earth to grow, protect and enhance least for a could we not fall in love with the color of the trees through the seasons?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Still the King of "Pop"

LL Cool J

So just how does he do it? Well its the end of the day and my trusty iPOD has walked me thru the entire day. I just happen to be listening to Thrillercast. LL Cool J is giving his take on Michael Jackson's Thriller album. The podcast is fantastic. I only wish Michael had had more of the right folks around him that would have given better life instruction. Nonetheless, in the Return of the King, Jackson has taken over LL's body and cropped his hair military style. BAD Again dropping soon. Anywho, how does LL keep those dog-gone abs???!!! You just cant be a hater, I gotta give it up to 'em. Momma, that's gotta knock you out! LL...wowl! So hmmm...if you do a cut with Mike and Busta Rhymes...hmmmm King of Pop, drop through Nashville, Tn; there's always a place here.Thrillercast!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday...just Friday

Its a casual Friday afternoon and the sunset is starting outside my window. The colors of Fall are reflected in every beautiful hue.
Hmm....what joys does the weekend hold?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

...then Hell Froze Over!: enter Obama

Hell froze over Well its official; Barack Obama is our nations first black/African American president! There can be no question that there is a flaming somber rage in the air of Nashville, TN. It doesnt take a rocket scientist to see, feel, perceive the invisible mist swirling throughout the city and maybe even state. Tennessee is a "McCain" state! or so they say. Its most places you go. Its that stare, that glare and/or refusal to even make eye contact from "certain" people. I heard it once from a former colleague, "I'm glad you can work for me, I'm not sure I could do the same." Yeah, I should have been enraged; but rage rarely changed anyone's mind. Did it hurt? Yes, but we became very good friends a couple of years later. There's no wonder how some folks feel the way they do about some "darker" counterparts. Somtimes on somethings and some people, I have to agree. Its still ironic, maybe even moronic that a whole group is judged by the actions of a few. I have never seen it with any other race — and my friends are pretty diverse. A blonde friend once played a joke by calling Baskin Robbins after I had gone to get an office treat. There was only one Baskins; so thats the one she called acting like a detective and alerting them to be on the watchout for a well dressed black man who appears "normal" but has been casing and robbing stores. Everyone was shocked to see me return so promptly. After the shock wore off of my return and several questions, they fessed up to the plot. She didnt understand my anger or resentment. She didnt understand why I was concerned about "any" black male going into that store today. But she was blonde, she didnt have to understand — she would never know or have any idea how many people would probably be harassed because of what she thought would be "funny." After all the ignorant replies of it was just a joke, dont get bent out of shape, blah blah blah, I kindly explained it this way. A white guy robs a store, the next white guy walks in and its "how can I help you today." A black guy robs a store and its "watch this one" for every other black guy that comes in...afterall, they're all alike or know each other.... Yeah, you may disagree; but really look around today and see if you can smell the undercurrent. Just because you dont see the air, doesnt mean you arent breathing it or its any less real. Thats real and I'm not willing to pretend it isnt. Are you?

With that said, today marks an incredible opportunity in American history. The slave becomes the leader. No, I dont want anything from anybody or their ancestors. I dont need any handouts and I dont want somebody elses. In the immortal words of James Brown, "just open up the door and I'll get it myself. I grew up working hard from meager beginnings. Aint nothing wrong with working hard; but also work smart. I am reminded of Lincoln's "Reconstruction Plan." He understood that everybody would be at different places with the state of the union. Some would need to be ushered into this new world. Some would never make the journey. Generations of hate and fear (on both sides) take time to overcome. After the divisive Civil War, 1861-65, The U.S.A. was faced with the challenge of rebuilding both the South, the relationship between states, and the federal government. After years in marketing, I have grown to note "buzz words" quickly. Last night the term "divisive" kept coming up from the commentators. I wonder why.... Hate and fear have their own dialect. Sometimes the things we fear is the possibility of being subjected to what we dealt out to someone else.

I think it was a tremendous election. Two great candidates. Nothing can be taken from McCain or Obama. I suspect either would have been a good leader in that sense. In fact I would have enjoyed seeing them on the same ticket because their strengths and weaknesses would have complimented each other. I dont care much for politics, never have; but I do understand the great sacrifices of those who paid blood, families and indignities that such a right could be afforded to the formerly enslaved and even women. American history is not the prettiest of pictures but it does illustrate what good and bad we are capable of and how unity can win over fear and faith can send us trembling scared into a dark future of possibilities into a foreign room of the future with no idea where the furniture is located. Let us not be so quick to curse the first stubbing of the toe...everyone's done it and survived to walk farther into the room. That's how humans find their way. Congratulations to the President-Elect and his family. Congratulations to Senator McCain on a well run campaign and some incredible military service! Congratulations AMERICA for graduating highschool.

Its more than a black thang; its an American Thang!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

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Great ideas for gifts and/or yourself!

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