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Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: Raise Those Chicken Fingers

Had it not been for the Braves winning the National League West race over the weekend, the news out of Athens Saturday night would have been even more startling.  Georgia beats Clemson in football. You believe that? The Braves winning the West was a miracle. Georgia beating Clemson also had to be divinely structured.

It couldn’t happen. But it did. I thank you, God. Ray Goff thanks you. Everybody whose allegiance is colored red and black thanks you. We never needed one any worse.

As the Clemson revelers headed up Field Street to Sanford Stadium an hour before the evening kickoff, you could sense the possibility of losing had not entered their minds.

A fat boy, wearing shorts and an absolutely filthy T-shirt and an orange hat, shouted to Georgia tailgaters, “Y’all about to get whooped and whooped bad.”

A few shouted retorts. I wondered aloud if fat boy could even spell “Clemson.”

“You can’t spell it, either, ” a companion said to me. “It’s not ‘Clemson.’ It’s ‘Clemmons.’”

I’d forgotten.  Clemmons College. That’s what we called ‘em before they started beating our brains out.

God, last year in Death Valley. The heat was nearly unbearable. People fainted. And I was stuck, as are all Georgia fans when they venture to Auburn-with-a-lake, deep in the end zone.

Didn’t matter. I didn’t want to see what was happening on the field, anyway. It was Clemmons 94 and us totally embarrassed.

You don’t want to be a Georgia fan losing to the Tigers at home.  Several years ago a friend was walking out of the Clemson stadium when an orange-clad held a chicken bone in front of him and said, “Come here, Dawg, and get your bone.”

My friend, known as Rocky afterwards, let the guy have one upside the head. How we got home alive, I’ll never know.

Last year they were actually laughing at us. A car sped past my party as we huddled together after the loss and the driver shouted, “Them Dawgs are a joke!”

I pulled out my .45 and shot the car full of holes. No, I didn’t. I just sank deeper in my sorrows.

So Saturday night was payback. A Tech fan had said to me earlier in the week, “It’s going to be a long ride home for y’all Saturday night.”

Turns out, it was Tech that took the long ride home. Tech is 2-3. Georgia is 4-1. You believe that?

I always tailgate with B.A. and Nancy. Chicken and Nancy’s marvelous deviled eggs.

At each home game this year, we’ve had chicken fingers. B.A. has gone into the chicken finger business in a place called Oscar’s on Baxter. He’s got chicken fingers, big burgers and biscuits from scratch.

“It’s the chicken fingers, ” he said to me after the Saturday night victory.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We’re 4-0 at home. My chicken fingers are undefeated.”

And so they are.

We remained at our tailgating site and welcomed Sunday morning. The Clemmons fans had gone quietly into the night. I wanted to tell fat boy to wear a clean shirt next time.

Now Ole Miss. B.A. can’t make the trip to Oxford, but I’ll be there.

We’re trying to figure out how to fax chicken fingers.

30 years ago, this Lewis wrote this classic

30 years ago today exactly, Kevin Butler’s mammoth field goal kick upset Clemson.

We’re guilty of re-posting this column of Lewis Grizzard’s but it’s very, very fitting on a day like today.

Great moments in a would be father’s life

To my Son, if I ever have one:

Kid, I am writing this on September 3, 1984. I have just returned from Athens, where I spent Saturday watching the University of Georgia, your old dad’s alma matter, play football against Clemson.

While the events of the day were still fresh on my mind, I wanted to recount them so if you are ever born, you can read this and perhaps be able to share one of the great moments in your father’s life.

Saturday was a wonderful day on the Georgia campus.

We are talking blue, cloudless sky, a gentle breeze and a temperature suggesting summer’s end and autumn’s approach.

I said the blessing before we had lunch. I thanked the Lord for three things: fried chicken, potato salad and for the fact he had allowed me the privilege of being a Bulldog.

“And , Dear Lord,” I prayed, “bless all those not as fortunate as I.”

Imagine my son, 82,000 people, most whom were garbed in red, gathered together gazing down on a lush valley of hedge and grass where soon historic sporting combat would be launched.

Clemson was ranked number 2 in the nation, and Georgia, feared too young to compete with the veterans from beyond the river, could only dream, the smart money said, of emerging three hours hence victorious.

They had us 20-6 at the half, son. A man sitting in front of me said, “I just hope we don’t get embarrassed.”

My boy, I had never seen such a thing as came to pass in the second half. Todd Williams threw one long and high, and Herman Archie caught it in the end zone, and it was now 20-13.

Georgia got the ball again and scored again, and it was now 20-20, and my mouth was dry, and my hands were shaking, and this Clemson fan who had been running his mouth the whole ballgame suddenly shut his fat face.

Son, we got ahead 23-20, and the ground trembled and shook, and many were taken by fainting spells.

Clemson’s kicker, Donald Igwebuike, tied it 23-23 and this sacred place became the center of the universe.

Only seconds were left when Georgia’s kicker, Kevin Butler, stood poised in concentration. The ball rushed toward him, and it was placed upon the tee a heartbeat before his right foot launched it heavenward.

A lifetime later, the officials threw their arms aloft. From 60 yards away, Kevin Butler had been true, and Georgia led and would win 26-23.

I hugged perfect strangers and kissed a fat lady on the mouth. Grown men wept. Lightening flashed. Thunder rolled. Stars fell, and joy swept through, fetched by a hurricane of unleashed emotions.

When Georgia beat Alabama 18-17 in 1965, it was a staggering victory. When we came back against Georgia Tech and won 29-28 in1978, the Chapel bell rang all night. When we beat Florida 26-21 in the last seconds in 1980, we called it a miracle. And when we beat Notre Dame 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl that same year for the national championship, a woman pulled up her skirt and showed the world the Bulldog she had sewn on her underbritches.

But Saturday may have been even better than any of those.

Saturday in Athens was a religious experience.

I give this to you, son. Read it and re-read it, and keep it next to your heart. And when people want to know how you wound up with the name “Kevin” let them read it, and then they will know.

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: Talking The Russian Code

The Russians Out in the Code

I didn’t find it all that newsworthy to learn that the Russian and American governments often used bugging devices to find out what one another is doing/and or saying.

I always had taken this as a given. Wasn’t the first thing Bill Cosby and Robert Culp did when they checked into a hotel room in “I Spy” was to search out the bugging devices, which always were located in the flowerpot? I also figure both U.S. and Soviet operatives are smart enough to know how to say things in code when they are being listened to by the other side.

My stepbrother, Ludlow Porch of WSB/Radio in Atlanta, who happens to be an ex-marine and quite the patriot, was along with me on a trip to the Soviet Union a couple of years ago and we often carried on sensitive conversations in our respective hotel rooms.

We certainly took for granted our rooms were bugged, especially after one KGB “maid” asked him, “How are you enjoying your stay in Soviet Union?”

Before Ludlow could answer, she said, “Please speak directly into flowerpot.”

After that Ludlow and I devised a brilliant code to use each time we knew somebody out there was listening.

Now that we are both safely out of the country and plan never to go back, here is one of our typical conversations while in the Soviet Union, followed by the translation:

Ludlow: “‘Rosebud’ in the third race at Pimlico.”

(I’m so tired of Russian food, I could eat a horse.)

Me: “This little piggy went to market.”

(Before I left home, I went by the Piggly Wiggly supermarket and picked up a couple of cans of pork and beans for the trip. Want some?”

Ludlow: “Is a bear Catholic?”

(In the name of God, yes.)

Ludlow (again): “Are you going to watch “Sanford and Son?”

(Are you as sick as I am of looking at all that junk in Russian museums?)

Me: “Roger. The big polar bear walks late.”

(Dang right. I’m going over to a bar tonight at a hotel where they are supposed to have ice.)

Ludlow: “Is the new Sears Roebuck catalog in yet?”

(You got any toilet paper left in your room?)

Me: “Pass the Charmin.”

(A little, but I’m in big trouble when that’s gone.)

Ludlow: “Does Bonzo have the key?”

(Do you think President Reagan is correct in thinking these people are a major threat to the security of our nation?)

Me: “A flush beat a straight.”

(Are you kidding me? A country that still can’t master the flush toilet couldn’t hit its own foot with a guided missile.)

Ludlow: “Shoot low, boys, they’re ridin’ Shetland ponies.”

(Have you noticed how squatty-looking all the Russian women are?)

Me: “The elephants are marching.”

(They all have big fat ankles, too.)

Ludlow: “When the bird of paradise flies away, Santa’s belly will roll like jelly.”

(When we finally blow this place, I’m going to be one happy fat man.)

Me: “Hey, Mabel, Black Label.”

(I’ll drink to that.)

Ludlow: “Now’s the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.”

(Isn’t it a little silly for two grown men to be sitting here talking like this?)

Me: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy brown dog.”

(You can’t be too careful when the security of your country is involved.)

Ludlow: “Loose lips can sink ships, Jarhead.”

(That’s the first thing they taught us at boot camp in Parris Island.)

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: Delta Is Ready When You Are

If y’all don’t like Dixie, Delta is ready

I don’t care what they do to the Georgia state flag. They can put a big peach on the thing as far as I’m concerned. They can put Deion Sanders’ smiling face on it.

And let it be known that the opponents of the flag, with its reminiscence of the Confederate banner, will bring down that flag.

One way or the other, color it red, white, blue and gone. It’s politically incorrect and all the things that are deemed such have no future in this country.

We elected Hillary Rodham Clinton and the ban on the gays in the military will be lifted. It’s a done deal. Like it or not, the Georgia state flag has no chance either.

The issue on my mind is white Southerners like myself.

They don’t like us. They don’t trust us. They want to tell us why we’re wrong. They want to tell us how we should change.

They is practically every s.o.b. who isn’t one of us.

I read a piece on the op-ed page of the Constitution written by somebody who in the jargon of my past “ain’t from around here.”

He wrote white Southerners are always looking back and that we should look forward. He said that about me.

I’m looking back? I live in one of the most progressive cities in the world. We built a subway to make Yankees feel at home.
And I live in a region the rest of the country can’t wait to move to.

A friend, also a native Southerner, who shares my anger about the constant belittling of our kind and our place in this world, put it this way: “Nobody is going into an Atlanta bar tonight celebrating because they’ve just been transferred to New Jersey.”

Damn straight.

I was having lunch at an Atlanta golf club recently. I was talking with friends.

A man sitting at another table heard me speaking and asked, “Where are you all from?” He was mocking me. He was mocking my Southern accent. He was sitting in Atlanta, Ga., and was making fun of the way I speak.

He was from Toledo. He had been transferred to Atlanta. If I hadn’t have been 46 years old, skinny and a basic coward with a bad heart, I’d have punched him. I did, however, give him a severe verbal dressing down.

I was in my doctor’s office in Atlanta. One of the women who works there, a transplanted Northerner, asked how I
pronounced the world “siren.”

I said I pronounced it “si-reen.” I was half kidding, but that is the way I heard the word pronounced when I was a child.

The woman laughed and said, “You Southerners really crack me up. You have a language all your own.”

Yeah we do. If you don’t like it, go back home and stick your head in a snow bank.

They want to tell us how to speak, how to live, what to eat, what to think and they also want to tell us how they used to do it
back in Buffalo.

Buffalo? What was the score? A hundred and ten to Zip.

The man writing on the op-ed page was writing about that bumper sticker that shows the old Confederate soldier and he’s saying, “FERGIT HELL!” I don’t go around sulking about the fact the South lost the Civil War. But I am aware that once upon a long time ago, a group of Americans saw fit to rebel against what they thought was an overbearing federal government. There is no record anywhere that indicates anybody in my family living in 1861 owned slaves. As a matter of fact, I come from a long line of sharecroppers, horse thieves and used car dealers. But a few of them fought anyway — not to keep their slaves, because they didn’t have any. I guess they simply thought it was the right thing to do at the time.

Whatever the reason, there was a citizenry that once saw fit to fight and die and I come from all that, and I look at those people as brave and gallant, and a frightful force until their hearts and their lands were burnt away.

I will never turn my back on that heritage.

But know this: I’m a white man and I’m a Southerner. And I’m sick of being told what is wrong with me from outside critics, and I’m tired of being stereotyped as a refugee from “God’s Little Acre.”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’ll probably have to say it a thousand times again.

Delta may be hurting financially, but it’s still ready to take you back to Toledo when you are ready to go.

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: From The Bag Of Treks

Storing My Bags Of Treks

I’m finally home after a month on the road pushing a book. Some notes and observations on some places I went and some people I met:

- San Francisco: I asked a woman here what it’s like to be single in a city with a huge population of gay males.

“It’s terrible,” she answered. “The best men you meet are married, which leaves gays and unmarried straights. Obviously gays are out and the straight guys are so arrogant they think they’re God’s gift to women.”

After a moment of thought, the woman added, “In San Francisco, I guess they are.”

- Dallas: After several weeks of eating airplane food I was ready for some home cooking. I found it in a Dallas restaurant called The Mecca. I had country fried steak, fresh vegetables and homemade coconut pie. I asked the cook to marry me. Baton Rouge not too busy

Baton Rouge: A cab driver picked me up at my hotel. I said I wanted to be dropped off at a restaurant and then be picked up again an hour later and taken to the airport.

The driver said, “I’ll just wait for you in the parking lot of the restaurant.”

“Won’t that be expensive?” I asked.

“I won’t run the meter,” the driver replied. “When you drive a cab in Baton Rouge, you get used to waiting and not making any money.”

- Charlotte: This basketball-crazy town is trying to lure a professional team to the city. That news reminded me of the best line I ever heard about the National Basketball Association season, which runs from October until June.

Said Atlanta Constitution sports editor Jesse Outlar, “If the NBA had been in charge of World War II, Germany and Japan would still be in the running.”

- Fort Worth: I met a man here who is planning to get married for the first time at age 44.

“I thought about doing something funny at the wedding like dressing up like the Japanese did when they surrendered to McArthur on the Missouri.

“A friend of mine reminded me of something, though. He said there are three things that do not have senses of humor, and they are brides, bureaucrats and old dogs.” Colorado cows are fierce

Nashville: I was watching the news on television here, and there was a story about airline pilots using cocaine. When the news was over, I went to the bar at the hotel and had several drinks before leaving for the airport.

- Los Angeles: I saw the new hit movie, “The Color of Money,” starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. It’s a sequel to Newman’s marvelous “The Hustler.” “Money” pales in comparison to “The Hustler.” In pool parlance, it scratches.

- Denver: This was in the papers. A Boulder, Colo., man has filed suit charging he was attacked by one of the defendant’s cows.

The suit says the cow is “vicious and has a dangerous propensity to charge and attack” and that it came at the plaintiff without provocation and rendered him unconscious.

It’s nice to be back home in Georgia, although I must remind myself it was a South Georgia attack bunny rabbit that once went after the president of the United States.

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: Heartache For The Holidays

Heartache For The Holidays

New York – Trying to hail a taxi on a street corner in Manhattan at 5 in the afternoon is like trying to get one Buffalo’s attention as an entire herd rushes past.

You stand there like an idiot with your hand in the air, and the great yellow procession ignores you and rushes on by.

So I’m 20 minutes into this seemingly futile effort when a blue compact pulls in front of me and stops. There is a sign in the front window that reads: “Car for Hire.”

I don’t know if this is some sort of renegade cab driver or not, but at this point I don’t care.

I climb in the back seat and told the man in front where I wanted to go.

He is an elderly man, wearing a hat and thick glasses. We stop at a light as we go through Central Park.

The driver, who hasn’t spoken a word to this point, suddenly says, “It was five months today I lost my dear wife.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I reply.

“Five months ago today,” he repeats. “It’s tough, you know, this time of year.”

I imagined that it would be. For all the joy and hope Christmas brings to some, it can mean the searing pain of loneliness to others.

“How long were you married?” I ask.

“For 45 wonderful years,” the driver answers.

I’m sure I detect his voice breaking.

The man begins to cry. He takes off his thick glasses and wipes his eyes with his handkerchief. And we’re in rush-hour traffic. I’m concerned for my safety, but here’s an old man crying over his dead wife a week before Christmas.

He finally stopped crying and put his glasses back on.

“Before she died, ” he begins again, “she told me I would be OK. She had leukemia, you know. She knew she was dying, but I couldn’t accept it.

“She pulled me close to her and said, `You’re strong as a bull, you can make it without me.’ But it isn’t easy.”

“Any kids?” I ask.

He holds up four fingers. And then he starts crying again. And the glasses come off again and out comes the handkerchief again. This is a terribly delicate situation.

I thought about changing the subject to get my driver’s mind off his dead wife and back on the traffic. But what would I talk about – the weather?

“I met her in 1944,” he goes on. “Ever heard of Roseland?”

“The big dance place?” I ask.

“That’s the one. It was big back then. That’s where I met her, my wife. I walked in and she was the first girl I saw. She was wearing a white dress.

“I saw her and I noticed she was looking at me too, so I walked over, put my fingers under her chin and said, `Hello, gorgeous.’ That’s how the whole thing started. I just can’t believe she’s gone.”

“How old are you?” I ask the man.

“Sixty-six,” he answers.

“You’re still young,” I said, groping to keep up my end of the conversation. “Maybe you will find somebody else.”

“That’s what she told me before she died. She said I’d meet somebody else. I believe she’s up there in heaven looking down at me now. Maybe she’s even trying to find someone else for me.”

“Could be,” I say.

We arrive at my destination. I pay the guy, give him a generous tip and say, “Hang in there.”

“I was doing good until Christmas,” he says. His voice broke again. Off came the glasses again. He dried his eyes with the handkerchief again. Then he says goodbye and drives away.

Home alone in New York at Christmas. Only the movies could make it seem like anything but hell.

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: The Medallions

Double Shot Of Medallions

Sea Island, Georgia – We had the Swingin’ Medallions for a pre-Georgia-Florida football game party here on this lovely isle, home of the five- star retreat, The Cloister.

They come to the Georgia coast by the thousands annually for the game, played in nearby Jacksonville.

The Swingin’ Medallions. I have asked often what, if anything, endures? Well, the Swingin’ Medallions and their kind of music – my generation’s music – has.

I first heard them sing and play in the parking lot of a fraternity house at the University of Georgia in 1965. They had the land’s No. 1 rock ‘n’ roll hit at the time, the celebrated, “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love.”

That was so long ago. I’d never been married and my father was living with me. He had appeared at my apartment one day after one of his long absences, hat in hand.

I gave him a bed. He got a job running a local cafeteria. He paid his part of the rent out of what he would bring home to eat each night from the cafeteria. I never had a better eating year.

We were strolling along the campus together and heard the music. We went to the fraternity parking lot from whence it came and listened for a half an hour.

Daddy said, “Marvelous music. Simply marvelous.”

My daddy said the same thing about World War II.

“Marvelous war. Simply marvelous.”

The major thought practically everything was marvelous, simply marvelous, except women who smoked. I’m not sure why he thought more of world wars than women who smoked. I never got to know the man that well.

The Swingin’ Medallions at the party were one original and the sons of originals. How nice to see one generation pass down its music to another. That rarely happens.

What clean-cut, personable young men they were. They let the more celebratory join for a few numbers behind their microphones.

There is something about a microphone and an amplifying system and a little see-through whiskey to bring out imagined musical talent.

They did “Double Shot” twice. And they played all the other great shagging sounds from the ’50s and ’60s.

Sure, I’ll list a few of them:

“Stand By Me.” Haunting melody if you listen to it very closely. Will you just hang around, darling, even through the bad times?

“My Girl.” The Temptations’ finest, in my mind.

“Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy.” The Tams greatest hit. I know a lady who wants it sung at her funeral.

“It’s funny about this kind of music,” one of the younger Medallions was saying. “We play for people your age [high side of 40 and up] and we play a lot of high school proms.

“The kids like it as much as you do, and they think it’s something brand new.”

Compared to what rock ‘n’ roll became in the ’70s, it’s tame music, soft music. It is music to which there are actually discernible words.

And, perhaps the best thing about it is, you can actually talk above it.

My generation hasn’t given what others have been asked to give. We’ve been through no depressions or world wars, for instance. We’ve given you Bill and Hillary.

But we have left our music, the kind the South Carolina-based Swingin’ Medallions still play with great feeling and just the right amount of showmanship for a group that didn’t riot when it was announced the bar was closing down at 10:30.

It was a nice party and nobody is young enough to jump in the pool anymore. Marvelous. Simply marvelous.



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