You Too Can Join The Club

In my last post I wrote about becoming a hat-wearing guy. I have to tell you about the man that has helped me with the whole journey. I wish you could meet him.

First let me offer an opinion: I know that sometimes we have to buy our stuff at Wal Mart or Sam's or GAP or Target... you get the idea. And that's fine for everyday stuff: toilet paper, bologna, Q-Tips, etc. But whenever you can, buy from a shop owner, artist, or craftsman. Here's why:

Lemmel Fields has become a special person to me. Lemmel owns the hat shop where I've bought my hats. Lemmel calls me by name; he calls my Amazing-Missus "Shorty." If you go to Lemmel's shop and tell him you're looking for a hat, he will quietly take a look at your head, then turn to the vast selection of hats on his wall, choose one and place it on your head just so. He may snap the brim, then stand back and look you over.

Maybe he'll say, "That's not the one." You don't know why, but you trust him, because this is what he does. He just knows. If the hat meets his approval he'll say, "Have a look in the mirror." You can continue to try on hats as much as you want, but from my experience you will buy the one Lemmel picked for you the first time.

Lemmel Fields, hat shop owner and Pops' friend. This man obviously knows how to wear a hat.

Lemmel Fields, hat shop owner and Pops' friend. This man obviously knows how to wear a hat.

Sure you can buy a hat cheaper a lot of places, but you will not find a fit and an experience like this.

Let me tell you about Lemmel's shop. I love Tulsa. It is my home. There are so many things to love about it, but there is a horrible, tragic, ugly event in the city's history. In 1921, there was a race riot. An area of Tulsa which was known as "Black Wall Street" for its highly successful Afro-American business district was burned to the ground and many people died. No one knows the count for sure. The area centered around Greenwood on the north edge of downtown and was the wealthiest black community in the country.

Today some of the area has been restored and Tulsa's minor league baseball team plays at a new stadium that back's up to Greenwood where Lemmel's shop is.

Whether you need a hat or not, if you are ever in Tulsa, visit the historic Greenwood district. Stop in Lemmel's hat store and tell him Pops and Shorty said HELLO.

Just Be Real, Man

I've been sitting on this essay for a while, not sure if I should post it. Usually when I have a question like that, I ask my Amazing-Missus. She is wonderfully honest. I read it to her, and she said, "What's your point?" As I said, she is wonderfully, brutally honest. 

"It's not obvious?" Apparently not. Then she added, "It's too long. No one is going to read it to the end." She's probably right, so then it really doesn't matter if the point is all convoluted. I've decided to post it.

Soon I'll be doing a presentation on the topic of "Authenticity." (No, wisecrackers; I'm not--necessarily--the example of inauthenticity. I hope. Although I do have my moments and favorite personas.)

I was planning to use these famous lines in the presentation:

Stained Glass Polonius

This above all--to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
--Polonius, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3. William Shakespeare.

But wait! Should I be taking lessons from Polonius? He's pretty much a joke and human train wreck.

That set me to thinking: It seems that as we age, maybe we tend to be like Polonius, wanting to share our wisdom whether we're wise or not. We like to teach great moral lessons, sometimes as though we've never known immorality. "A plank! What plank? I don't have a plank in my eye!" (Matthew 7:4-5)

The question I couldn't get past was: should we take as sound advice the words from hypocrites, nut-cases, frail humans? Flip that: As occasional hypocrites, nut-cases, frail humans, can we offer sound advice and wise counsel?

There's not much choice, is there?

Back to Polonius, here's a little background from Wikipedia: "Generally regarded as wrong in every judgment he makes over the course of the play, Polonius is described by William Hazlitt as a "sincere" father, but also "a busy-body, who is accordingly officious, garrulous, and impertinent." 

Polonius is described as a windbag by some and a rambler of wisdom by others. It has also been suggested that he only acts like a "foolish prating knave" in order to keep his position and popularity safe and to keep anyone from discovering his plots for social advancement. In Act II Hamlet refers to Polonius as a "tedious old fool" and taunts him as a latter day "Jeptha".

Ouch!! Does the name Jeptha (Jephthah) ring a bell. He's the main character in one of the more horrific stories found in the Bible.

Jephthah was the brother from another mother--a whore, according to scripture. His half-brothers forced him out of the home so he moved to Tob to live with his wife and only child--a daughter, the apple of his eye.  It turns out he had some serious fighting skills which came to be in great demand. The Israelites had once again found themselves in dire straits--sold into the hands of the Ammonites, and they needed a man like Jephthah. The Israelite leaders, including his own half-brothers, went to him with a bargain, promising him a position as chief if he can deliver a victory.

Who doesn't want to be the chief, am I right? So, calling on all his resources, Jephthah makes a hasty vow to God: “If you give me a clear victory over the Ammonites, then I’ll give to GOD whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in one piece from among the Ammonites—I’ll offer it up in a sacrificial burnt offering.” 

Judges 11 (The Message) tells the account of what happened upon his victorious return home:

His daughter ran from the house to welcome him home—dancing to tambourines! She was his only child. He had no son or daughter except her. 
When he realized who it was, he ripped his clothes, saying, “Ah, dearest daughter—I’m dirt. I’m despicable. My heart is torn to shreds. I made a vow to GOD and I can’t take it back!” 
She said, “Dear father, if you made a vow to GOD, do to me what you vowed; GOD did his part and saved you from your Ammonite enemies.” 
And then she said to her father, “But let this one thing be done for me. Give me two months to wander through the hills and lament my virginity since I will never marry, I and my dear friends.” 
“Oh yes, go,” he said. He sent her off for two months. She and her dear girlfriends went among the hills, lamenting that she would never marry. 
At the end of the two months, she came back to her father. He fulfilled the vow with her that he had made.

I realize two such stories--Polonius and Jephthah--don't necessarily make a common plot line, but I'm afraid this time they do. I don't need to paint the picture of that plot line; the one where fathers, mothers, and others in essence put children up as a sacrifice, so to speak, for their own gain, be it political or social, or to use a child as a pawn in a battle not of the child's making. But to me it is the most tragic.

Well, this was not intended to be a sermon. It's just a flawed and frail husband, son, father, grandfather and nut-case hoping he can occasionally know himself and not be false to anyone. It goes with the age though to want to offer "wisdom" and counsel whether anyone asks for it or not. Whether the source is worthy or not, hopefully the advice is. For what it's worth.

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! --Dr. Seuss

Birthdays and Veteran's Day

Today is my Dad's 89 birthday. He is today just as I've always known him: a man of character, grace, and humility. I know I've taken for granted the privilege of having someone who is both a loving father and a role model. I've had the opportunity to learn from him how to be a better husband, a better father, and now a better grandfather. I hope I haven't squandered those opportunities.

He is today just as I've always known him: a man who loves his God, his family, and his country. I've been told by psychologist types that my values run deep. If my dad had been your dad, yours would too.

Happy Birthday Dad!


Let me tell you about the people in this photo and its significance. Of course that's my Dad in the center. I took this picture recently at the World War II Memorial in Washington. Dad is holding a Purple Heart that belonged to his brother-in-law, my Uncle Bob. Hang on this is going to get wild.

Uncle Bob was married to my Mom's sister, Aunt Betty. They had four kids. The baby of the four, Coral, married my wife's Brother Fred. That's Fred to my Dad's right. Fred is holding a picture of his dad, Ernest, who is also my wife's dad. So Fred is married to my first cousin and he is also my brother-in-law. The guy to Dad's left is Joe Cox.

Joe is Fred and Coral's son, my nephew. Joe is a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy. Fred is a former Marine and now a Sergeant in the Army National Guard.

They are representing Ernest who is the father of my Amazing Missus and Fred, and is also Joe's grandfather, Ernest was a WWII Navy Veteran. They are also representing my Uncle Bob, who is Fred's father-in-law and Joe's grandfather, my Dad's brother-in-law and a WWII Veteran. Dad is a WWII Army Veteran having served in Central Europe. He is one of the ever-dwindling number of WWII Vets still living.

Thank you Fred Cox, Joe Cox, Ernest Cox, Bob Hillman, William Fuller and so many others for serving.


The Real McCoy

“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.”
— Woody Allen
  • Quintessential
  • Authentic
  • Classic
  • Genuine

I have a good friend who's an attorney in Atlanta. I don't mention that he's an attorney in Atlanta as any kind of qualifier, in fact I realize it could cause you to jump to stereotypical conclusions. So let me quickly say that the wit and wisdom I love about Gene supersedes his vocation and location. This good friend is in fact part of the inspiration of this blog. He's the one that reminded me of the now gone TV show ,"Men Of A Certain Age" with themes similar to what we're exploring here at About POPS.

Not long ago he made a visit to Italy. It was a honeymoon trip. It doesn't get much more romantic than that, right? I asked him after his return if he found that a bottle wine and a bowl of pasta tasted better in Italy than it does here. His insightful reply: "Yes, in the same way that bacon and eggs taste better cooked in an iron skillet over a campfire while camping out." Don't you wish this blog was a scratch'n'sniff?

Why is that? What is there about things like reading an actual printed book, preferably hardback, in a good, deep leather chair near a wood-burning fireplace? Why is a baseball game at Wrigley a great experience whether the Cubs win or not?

Somehow these things just seem more real. Thank you Gene for making the case so vividly.

Words like real, authentic and genuine get thrown around these days in ways that aren't very authentic or genuine. So it set me to thinking; what are some of those things, you know, things that endure, things that are above the passage of time, trends and pop culture?

Please add your thoughts to the conversation by posting a comment here.

P.S." In case you're wondering... 

The phrase "The real McCoy" is a corruption of the "The real MacKay", first recorded in 1856 as: "A drappie o' the real MacKay," (A drop of the real MacKay). This appeared in a poem Deil's Hallowe'en, published in Glasgow and is widely accepted as the phrase's origin. -- Scottish National Dictionary