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The Prof

Posted by admin on May 7, 2020 in Musings, Remembrances, Writing |

The room’s warmth doped me like I’d burned a strong reefer—Panama Red or Acapulco Gold—and the drone of his words floated over me, damned near put me in a trance. Sentences strung out like a long trail of smoke: John Stuart Mill and the never-ending battle between the liberal and the conservative. I wondered if I studied Plato and Zeno and all those old guys, would they wrangle over the same concepts, traditional versus something more avant-garde?

The professor was a CPA and an attorney and he’d written tax policy for Congress. The big congress back in DC, and now he was teaching Philosophy of Law at the university. What a come-down, or hell, maybe it was a come-up from working beneath the heel of politicians. I wouldn’t know, and as I drowsed, I’m sure I’d thought, and who cares?

I needed a class like Philosophy of Law to graduate with my BS in Accounting. Or some course like ethics or one of those esoteric subjects that, once you got on the job, may or may not mean anything since the real business of business is to make money.

Our texts for the class were little pamphlets printed on cheap paper with the pages stapled at the spine and the authors—besides John Stuart Mill, who is the only name I can recall—were mostly a bunch of sirs and lords of the conservative bent in England during the mid-19th Century. Boring prose that bored into no place in my brain. I tried to stay awake and compiled copious notes in my chicken-scratch cursive in my lined paper notebooks. I doodled on the pages where I tried to sketch—like stick women and men—the people in my class, a bunch of pre-law, philosophy, or business majors.

At test time, I’d go to the bookstore and buy the little “blue books”, cheap paper with flimsy white pages between pale blue covers where I’d regurgitate all the notes I’d written down in the class—if I could remember them—if I could recall my scribbled notes.

I’d learned that about the learning process. A lot of my profs—the ones who taught stuff like philosophy, political science, and basic economics—preened themselves in their imaginations, or so I imagined, when you regurgitated onto the flimsy blue books required for exams the exact words they’d pontificated.

But the CPA lawyer’s drones were hard to capture. The paragraphs crooned and you swooned and you dozed, your eyelids like doors slipping shut and your attention like a hazy dream.

Ken Rodgers Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

And then one morning in the late days of the semester he jumped up and smacked his big flat hand on the top of his desk and screamed, “And what the fuck I mean is!” The heads of my classmates jerked and a chorus of “Huh?” rose from their mouths. Suddenly alert, I figured he’d changed character to ensure we understood what Mill meant and what Mill’s adversaries meant, and how it all played out in law and the constitution of the United States.

Standing with a contorted face, his shoulders thrown back, the prof reminded me of a mean drill instructor I might have had at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in 1966. He was, for that moment, monstrous.

Something about his eruption, and about him, the professor, resonated with me.

I mean, how often did one hear that word “fuck” blast out of the mouth of a stuff-shirted CPA lawyer college professor in the 1970s, and one so dull he could cause you to dream while sitting at a desk?

Later that day, I laughed. And I laughed that afternoon as I headed back home, the forty-five miles to my house. And I still laugh.

Except for John Stuart Mill, I have forgotten the names of all those other lawyers and philosophers that came up in that class, but I haven’t forgotten that “And what the fuck I mean is!”

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Posted by admin on April 13, 2020 in 9/11, Coronavirus, Musings, Remembrances, Vietnam War |

I don’t know why I blamed Theo for it all. He was only the initial messenger.

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Posted by admin on February 7, 2020 in Musings, Remembrances |

Once the walls were beaten into submission, we began to kick the water heater inside. I don’t know how we weren’t scalded with steam or blown to smithereens by a spark hitting natural gas, but we mangled the metal and moved on to the next saloon.

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Posted by admin on January 31, 2020 in Musings, Remembrances |

His idea of exercise was playing tennis with a burning Marlboro dangling out of the corner of his mouth.

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Maybe It Still Is

Posted by admin on January 1, 2020 in Birds, Musings, Remembrances, Travel, Vietnam War, Writing |

I climbed up there and demanded to be part of the action, and he complied. He wasn’t excited about it, but in the spirit, I suppose, of brotherhood and Semper Fi, he handed me the rifle. Its cold stock felt like manna in my hands.

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But I Won’t

Posted by admin on December 31, 2019 in Musings, Remembrances, Travel, Vietnam War, Writing |

We rolled up in poncho liners and donned ponchos, but soaked to the marrow of my backbone, I began to shiver, and then I began to shake and my teeth chattered so hard, I feared the enemy could hear them.

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Murmuration and Monet

Posted by admin on December 31, 2019 in Birds, Musings, Remembrances, Travel, Writing |

In the cathedral, when Betty and I made our tour, we found a sarcophagus where William the First’s great-great-grandson, Richard the Lion Heart’s heart was entombed. Yes, his heart. Not the rest of him. His entrails are buried at Challus, where he died of gangrene from an arrow wound and the rest of him is buried near Chinon, in Anjou, close to his parents, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

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On the Oil Patch

Posted by admin on December 12, 2014 in Musings, Photography, Travel |

I have now or never had any intention of having anything to do with mineral exploitation, so I chose other avenues of earning a living, but in 1983 my boss sent me to the Texas Panhandle to learn about the oil business. He owned some shares in several gas and oil drilling partnerships that were […]

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Posted by admin on September 22, 2014 in Musings |

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. –Orson Welles The breeze slipped through the tops of the beetle-weakened conifers and headed east. The light from the setting sun cast its rays through the phalanx of dying trees illuminating spots here and there around the parking lot. Three pickups sat like abandoned hulks. I […]

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On Polygamy and Aunt El

Posted by admin on August 9, 2014 in Musings |

Recently I was digging around in some boxes of old photos my mother gave me before she died, and among copies of tintypes and really old pictures I found one of a woman and man standing in a stiff, late-1800s/early-1900s pose. Written in my mother’s hand were these words: Mary Ellen Riggs Morris and husband […]

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