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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.

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: Don’t Touch My Popcorn

Don’t Touch My Popcorn

NEW YORK – This is incredible. Here I am in the entertainment capital of the world, and I go into a movie theater on Broadway, the entertainment street of the world, and I can’t buy popcorn.

There was popcorn in the movie theater. There was just nobody behind the counter to sell it.

“I would like to speak to the manager,” I said to the man who had taken my ticket. “There’s nobody to sell the popcorn.”

“The manager’s not here,” said the man, “but I can tell you why there’s nobody to sell the popcorn. The popcorn girl didn’t show up for work.” All the kids have zits

“What’s the problem with her?” I asked. “She has a new zit?” (Ever notice that all kids who work for movie theaters have terrible acne.)

“No,” the ticket taker replied, “her boyfriend, Julio, lost his earring in a gang fight and she’s helping him look for it.”

“Why don’t you sell me some popcorn,” I asked.

“No way,” he answered. “The union won’t let me.”

I’m dying for a bag of popcorn and I have to run into Samuel Gompers.

The reason I go to movies in the first place is for the popcorn. A movie without popcorn is like a punkhead without an earring.

I always buy the largest container of popcorn available, so if the movie is long and boring, like Amadeus, I still have a good time eating all that popcorn.

I’m also very stingy with my popcorn. If I take a date to the movie, I always ask her politely, “Will you have some popcorn?”

Most women answer that by saying, ” No, I’ll just have some of yours.” Nobody can eat a little

I never fall for that. Nobody can eat just a little popcorn, so what happens when a woman doesn’t have her own is she starts eating yours, and pretty soon, it’s all gone.

I say, “Listen, you can have as much, or as little, popcorn as you want, but you must carry it to your seat in your own personal container. Try to get some of mine, and you’ll draw back a nub.”

I rarely have a second date with a woman I take to a movie, but a man must have his priorities in order.

The movie I saw sans popcorn was Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me.”

It’s about four twelve-year-olds who go looking for a dead body, and nearly get eaten by a junkyard dog, run over by a train, drained dry of their blood by leeches, and sliced by bullies’ switchblades. It’s a comedy.

But that’s about all I remember. I was too busy thinking about popcorn to pay much attention to the movie.

As I was leaving the theater,the popcorn girl finally was showing up for work with Julio and his relocated earring in tow.

You’re both a disgrace to the good name of Orville Redenbacher,” I said, wishing on both the dreaded curse of large, red zits on the ends of their noses.

Harsh, perhaps, but popcorn is my life.

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: A Hole In One

I made a hole-in-one.

Honest, I did. This isn’t some sort of make-believe column like I often write. For instance, I recently wrote a make-believe column about Jim Bakker meeting his new cellmate, Mad Dog.

But this isn’t anything like that.

I mean that I hit the golf ball on a par 3 and it went in the hole for a “1.”

Do you know the thrill of writing a “1″ on a golf scorecard next to your name?

I’ve had my thrills in sports before. Playing for dear old Newnan High School back in ’63, I hit a jump shot at the buzzer to defeat the top-seeded team in the regional tournament.

That got my name and picture in the paper. (I wanted a kiss from a certain red-headed cheerleader, but she remarked how she detested kissing anybody covered in sweat.)

I also pitched a no-hitter in Pony League, finished second in a tennis tournament, hit a hard-way six on a crap table in Vegas, made back-to-back net eagles playing with Greg Norman in a pro-am tournament in Hilton Head and once had dinner with the girl who used to say, “Take it off. Take it all off,” in the old shaving cream commercial.

(I realize having dinner with a girl who made a shaving cream commercial has nothing to do with sports, but she made the commercial with Joe Namath, so there.)

But none of that compares with my hole-in-one.

Get the picture:

I’m on the par- three 12th hole at the lovely Island Club here in coastal Georgia. I admit No. 12 isn’t that long a hole, but I didn’t design the course, so it’s not my fault.

The hole is 128 yards over a small pond.

It was Saturday morning, November 4. I was playing in a threesome, comprised of myself, Tim Jarvis and Mike Matthews, two players of lesser talent with whom I often hang out.

It was a lovely morning, having warmed to the low 70s as I approached the tee. I was wearing an orange golf shirt, pair of Duckhead khaki slacks and my black and white golf shoes, the ones my dogs have not chewed up yet.

I was first on the tee.

“What are you going to hit?” asked Matthews.

“None of your business,” I said.

We were playing for a lot of money.

O.K., so we weren’t playing for a lot of money, but you never tell your opponent what club you’re hitting.

“Tell us,” said Jarvis, “or we’ll tell everybody how you move the ball in the rough when nobody’s looking.”

“Nine-iron,” I said.

The green sloped to the right. I said to myself, “Keep the ball to the left of the hole.”

(Actually I said, “Please, God, let me get this thing over the water.”)

I hit a high, arching shot. The ball cut through the still morning air, a white missile against the azure sky. (That’s the way Dan Jenkins or Herbert Warren Wind would have described it.”

The ball hit eight feet left of the pin. It hopped once. It hopped again. It was rolling directly toward the hole.

An eternity passed.

It has a chance to go in, I thought. But that’s not going to happen, of course, because I’m terribly unlucky and I’ve done some lousy things in my life and I don’t deserve it to go into the hole.

It went into the hole.

A “1.”

It was a joyous moment when my first hole-in-one fell snugly into the hole. But the best moment came at the next tee, the par four, 13th.

For those non-golfers, the person with the lowest score on the previous hole gets to hit first on the next hole.

I strode to the tee with my driver, teed up my ball and then said to my opponents, “I think I’m up, but did anybody have a zero?”

Jarvis and Matthews were good friends. I shall miss them.

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: The Dawg Story

Bubba, that dog’ll bite you!

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: A Wider Road Might Have Changed Two Lives

They opened a new stretch of Georgia 316, a four-lane highway that runs between Lawrenceville and Athens.

What that means is you can drive on a four-lane highway all the way between Athens and Atlanta now. From Atlanta, take I-85 to the Lawrenceville exit and then 316 the rest of the way.

Athens-Atlanta motorists can make the commute in under an hour, a report said.

Twenty-seven blankety-blank years too late, I said. I was 19 and a sophomore at the University of Georgia in Athens in 1966. I was also in love, but she lived in Atlanta. We were apart for the first time since the  6th grade.

 I had a job in Athens. I worked for the Daily News, a fledgling newspaper we struggled to deliver six mornings a week in competition with  the afternoon paper that had been in town since movable type was  invented.

I worked full-time. I went to class, and then I actually worked more than full time.  That’s because they couldn’t run me out of the Daily News newsroom, a converted automobile dealership. It remains the best part of journalism career.

On Saturdays, I would go to the newspaper at 2 p.m., and I would still be there at 1 the next morning when the Sunday edition was  finished.   Then, I would get into my blue VW bug and head for Atlanta and my girl. Each week we had from about 4 a.m. Sunday until 10 Sunday night together. I hated that drive. It was all two-lane from Athens until outside Lawrenceville where I could pick up  I-85.

 It was 45 miles of small towns and bends and  curves.  Out Highway 29 through Bogart and Statham.  And then into Auburn, Winder and the infamous speed trap, Dacula. They never got me in Dacula, but about 2 one Sunday morning the night cop got me in little Auburn; he was wearing his pajama  top. But he didn’t give me a speeding ticket. The reason he didn’t was I gave him the two Georgia-Auburn football tickets in my glove  box.

 I would fight sleep all the way. A week of classes, studying and work can even exhaust a 19-year-old.  Every Saturday night for months I made that drive. The TLC at the end was worth it, but I still wonder why I didn’t doze off one night and run into a tree  and kill myself.

We decided to get married the summer of ’66. It made a lot of sense.  We knew we would  marry one day anyway, and I didn’t know how many more times I could  survive that drive.

So we up and did it. Mama said, ‘Just make sure you finish school, young man.’ My pretty blonde bride got a job at the paper, too, and they gave me a raise after we married – from the minimum $.25 cents an hour to $.30. I would have paid them.

When I read about the four-lane being open all the way between Athens and Atlanta, I wondered what if it had been that way back in  ’66? The drive would have been a lot easier and quicker. Maybe we would have waited to get married. And if we had waited, maybe it would have lasted. Nineteen is too young to get married. Especially if you’re a blindly ambitious, selfish fool.  My wife wasn’t the one who was the blindly ambitious, selfish fool.

There is a move afoot to give the new highway 316 connection a name.  “University  Parkway”  has been suggested.  Somebody else will offer “Bull-dog  Boulevard,” of course, and “Dawg Alley” must be considered too.

 Whatever they name it when I drive it -and I will drive it often – I will think of her  and how I blew it, and how perhaps a little extra concrete 27 years ago  might have kept something that was very good intact. You tend to think that way as you get older.

All that’s left to say, I suppose, is drive carefully on Nancy’s and Lewis’ Road!

Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: God Is A Bulldog

We’ve posted this before, but few of Lewis’ pieces are more appropriate than this one for WLOCP week.

God Is A Bulldog 

Jacksonville, Fla. – Dorsey Hill, the world’s biggest Bulldog fan, left here Sunday afternoon, bound for Auburn, Alabama, where Georgia’s undefeated football team next appears.

“I don’t think you can get from Jacksonville to Auburn,” I had said to him.

“You can change buses in Waycross and Columbus,” Dorsey answered.

“You aren’t going home first?”

“Home?” He screamed back. “I haven’t worked since Texas A&M, and I haven’t slept since Clemson. You expect me to go back home when we play Auburn in only six more days?”

I lost my head, I suppose.

A lot of people lost their heads here Saturday afternoon. Georgia played Florida. Georgia won the game, 26-21. It’s a lot more complicated than that, however.

Georgia came into the game ranked second in the nation. To continue to compete for its first Big Banana ever, the national championship, Georgia had to continue its winning streak. Florida (“bunch of swamp lizards and beach bums,” according to Dorsey Hill), wanted to step on Georgia’s dream.

Dorsey arrived here Thursday afternoon with thousands of others who made the early departure south from various points in Georgia. Many of those individuals were as drunk as five eyed owls by the time they reached the Florida line.

As local wit Rex Edmondson says, the Georgia-Florida game is the “annual celebration of the repeal of prohibition.”

Dorsey waited until Friday to get into his serious pre-game drinking, however.

“I stopped at the New Perry Hotel Thursday for lunch and filled up on collards,” he said. “It’s hard to drink on a belly full of collards.”Preview

Agreed.

Now that I have had time to digest all that did eventually happen in college football Saturday, I think I can say without fear of charges of blasphemy that the whole thing was a religious experience. “Deacon Dan” Magill, the “Baptist Bulldog,” read a prayer to the Georgia faithful in which he beseeched the Almighty to help the Bulldogs “smite the Florida Philistines.”

Then there was the game itself. Georgia behind 21-20, ninety-three yards away, time running out.

“We need a miracle!” screamed Dorsey Hill, now fortified with more than collards.

Georgia got its miracle. Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott, for ninety-three yards and the winning touchdown with only seconds remaining. If that wasn’t enough, there was the astounding news from Atlanta. Georgia Tech had tied No.1 Notre Dame. Surely, Georgia will be ranked first in America when the ratings are released.

“A tie was a gift from Heaven,” said Dorsey. “Notre Dame gets knocked out of number one but Tech doesn’t get a win. God is a Bulldog.”

Verily.

I must make one confession here. I did it, and I must suffer the consequences.

I gave up at Jacksonville Saturday afternoon. Florida had the ball. Florida had the lead. There was only three minutes to play. I left the stadium. I was in the street when the miracle came.

“You are a gutless disgrace,” Dorsey Hill said to me later.

He detailed my punishment: “We’re going to a tattoo parlor in this very town tonight,” he began. “And you’re going to have ’26′ tattooed on one of your cheeks in red. And you’re going to have ’21′ tattooed in black on the other cheek. I don’t want you to forget what you did.”

I won’t, but which cheeks is between me and the tattooist.


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