Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering My Father, A Deceased War Hero

My father, the late Ret. Army Major Vester Brooks Smith, was a decent human being. He was not perfect. He had his character defects and flaws like most people do. In 1993, he died at the age of 73 in Memphis, Tenn. He lived his whole life practically down south except for time when he lived out west as a child. I will always honor him and his memory as a father and as a war veteran.  Most importantly, he was a war hero. He enlisted in the United States Army National Guard at the age of 17 in 1937. He lied about his age because in those days they didn't have computer system to keep up with people's Social Security numbers and etc. Apparently, during the depression years in America, a lot of young men lied about their age in order to join the military forces. It was way out of poverty for these boys and their families.
After his graduation from high school in 1939, he was called up to go fight in War War II in the European theaters as well in Burma. After the war was over, he came back to Memphis and met my mother in 1946 when they married. In 1950, after he had finished Officers Training School (OTS) and his college degree at Memphis State University, he was called into to the Korean War where he served for a year in combat in artillery with his National Guard Unit from Memphis and earned the "Bronze Star Medal" for bravery.
After the Korean War, he lived his life out in Memphis and North Mississippi working as a professional accountant and bookkeeper. He continued to serve in the Memphis National Guard where he retired after 27 years of duty. Prior to his retirement in the guard, in 1968, two U.S. Marshals, showed up at our house on Rolling Oaks Drive in East Memphis, to notify him that his guard unit was being activated to protect the City of Memphis during the Martin Lutheran King riots. My mother took my brother and me to Arkansas to escape the violence. She was afraid the rioting would reach East Memphis. But it never did. It was contained to Downtown Memphis, thanks to my father and his unit and the Memphis police.
In 1974, after 27 years of marriage and five children with my mother, my parents divorced. Being the youngest, I was devastated. However, I survived it like most children of divorce do. My father suffered from "Battle Fatigue." Nowadays, they call it "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." (PTSD). But health professionals back then did not recognize it, the way they do these days. The medical community knows how to treat the condition now. However, my father's philosophy and in dealing with his problems was "You work hard and you play hard." He never did quit working hard or playing hard. Thank you, dad, for serving our country and being a decent human being.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Does Anyone Know How To Stop A Leak?

My wife and I cancelled our vacation plans for a trip to the Gulf of Mexico this past week. We were planning to stay at the Holiday Inn Express at Orange Beach, Ala., for a couple of nights. However, after the BP off-shore oil drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico about 37 days ago, we decided not to go down there out of the fear of oil washing ashore of the beautiful white sand beaches of Alabama. Also, we had a lot of questions that really couldn't be answered by anyone via phone at the hotel or from even a friend who lives in Mobile, Ala. Even recent news reports were apparently of no help in trying to determine which direction that the oil was heading. There were no guarantees that there would be no problems to affect our visit there regarding the thousands and thousands of barrels of oil that are leaking into the ocean.

It is really ashamed that this has happened not only for our vacation but for the Gulf Coast tourism and economy but more important, the environment and the planet. And more disappointing, there has not been nothing done yet stop the leak. I'm sure BP executives and engineers have been pulling there hair out trying to figure a way to stop it. They're latest attempt by pumping cement and mud to seal off the leak might work. But who knows? BP now even has a link to a web-site where you can watch a live camera of the leak in action at the bottom of the ocean. other night, I was looking around on Youtube and I came across an interesting video that really makes a lot sense to me. Believe me, I not a big environmentalist or "Going-Green" person. However, I do recycle and I do not believe in littering. I am extremely against littering. I believe trash has it proper place along with recyclables and etc. But this video clip "Pale Blue Dot" on Youtube by Carl Sagan, the late famous astronomer, who wrote and narrated the highly acclaimed PBS television series called, "Cosmos," is about our planet, "Earth." In this short video clip, Sagan tells us that our planet is the only planet like it in the universe that sustains life as we know it. Our planet is very unique and it's the only home that we know in the universe. The other night on my Faceback, I posted the "Pale Blue Dot" video and commented, "This is the only home we have in the universe. Perhaps, we should find better ways to drill for oil in our oceans in the future."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

HBO's Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam Of Crystal

I really didn't know much the infamous Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss until recently. The other night I watched the HBO documentary "Heidi Fliess: The Would-Be Madam Of Crystal." The documentary shows Fleiss during her efforts in 2006 to create a brothel for women in Nevada where prostitution is legal. The name of the brother was going to be called the "Stud Farm." She buys land and a house in a small town called "Crystal" located in Death Valley after moving there from Los Angeles. During the first segment of the documentary she has a homeless guy who works for her but she fires him after they go out to the desert one night to collect rocks. He forgot to bring the flashlight and they get into an argument. He goes back to Los Angeles to live. She runs into several roadblocks when she applies for a license from the city and county where she was trying to establish the brothel. Even a local saloon owner is against her and states that Fleiss is going about everything the wrong way. Also, the president of the Nevada Brothel Association speaks out against her and says that she is bringing negative attention to the brother industry in the state with her notoriety. She evens became a witness in an FBI investigation after being brief business partners with another brother owner who was being watched by the Feds.

The documentary also shows portions of interviews with Fleiss where she talks about her past as a Hollywood Madam and her time served in prison for federal charges when she was convicted in 1996. Lately, she can be seen on VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. She admits on the documentary that she addiction problem to crystal meth but was currently sober from the drug. Probably one of the more interesting parts of the documentary is where Fleiss befriends an elderly neighbor who loves and collects exotic birds. The sickly woman who is on oxygen lives in a trailer next door to her property and has about 20 or 30 birds in cages surrounded by her in the bedroom and the living room. Fleiss falls in love with one particular bird and eventually learns to love all the birds. When the elderly neighbors dies, the woman leaves all the birds to Fleiss. At times, it seems that she is overwhelm with her new duties with keeping all the birds. Even her brother-in-law comes over from Los Angeles to build an extra room on her house for the birds. She finally gives up the idea of building the brothel after hitting the roadblocks and buys a laundry mat in the small town and calls it "Dirty Laundry."

I found Fleiss to be a highly intelligent woman from a well to do family who learned to hustle at young age. Besides making millions as a former madam, Fleiss has also made a lot of money from her notoriety by writing books, being portrayed in movies and documentaries and appearing on reality shows. I really liked this particular HBO documentary and I highly recommend it if you want to be introduced her and perhaps seen a kinder, softer gentle side of Fleiss instead of the Heidi Fleiss most of us have heard about, read about or seen on the national news.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rush: The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?

There's going to be a documentary movie at the theaters this Summer regarding one of my all-time favorite "Classic Rock" bands, "Rush"-the trio from the Great White North (Canada) who has been making tremendous, incredible music for over four decades now. The movie, "Rush:Beyond The Light Stage," is going to be showed for one night only (June 10th) in theaters across the United States. I am hoping it will be shown in Nashville which is about an hour south of Bowling Green, Ky., where I live.
My hope for this group who has managed to have mega-hit songs such as "Limelight," "Tom Sawyer," "The Trees," and "Closer To The Heart," just to name a few, is that these guys deserve to be inducted into the "Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame." Come on, these guys, Geddy Lee, bass and vocals, Alex Lifesome, lead guitar, and Neil Peart, drums, are incredibly talented, awesome musicians! Seriously! I've seen Rush in concert four times-once in 1979, twice in 1981 and once in 1982 at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn., while living in North Mississippi. I also feel that these guys should have won at least one Grammy already. Yes, their music has been labeled for by Rolling Stone magazine for geeks or techno nerds because of their extreme concept albums and album cover artwork through the years as well as their style of rock music. Also, the lyrics that Peart (The Professor) writes are so deep and very abstract with such themes regarding the atom bomb, the human brain and the free spirit of the radio.
It's been said that Rush is a "cult band" with a cult following. Even Lee has admitted this. If that be be it. Then I am part of their cult and I am a follower. Rush songs have been woven in the fabric of my life through the years. I can put a certain Rush song on and certain memories will come flooding back to my mind. Most of those memories involve high school and college. Perhaps, Rush has a way of making us middle-age, baby boomer men and women feel young again. Isn't that the trend with most Classic Rock bands from the past? They make us feel young again. That's probably why that movie, "I Love You, Man" has a character who is about my age or maybe a little younger (from my generation) who is a Rush fan. That's why you see so many Classic Rock bands going on tour again these days especially during the Summer months. They are milking it for all it's worth and I don't blame them. Let's keep knocking on the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame's door to encourage them to open up and let Rush in.