Friday, May 26, 2017

President Rock

Or should that be President THE Rock?
Yep, Duane Johnson (aka "The Rock"), rassler, actor, and guy who likes to disturbingly dress in drag (a lot!) for comedic purposes, has expressed interest in running for president of the United States. (When he dresses in drag, he can be his own First Lady.)

Sure, why not? Let's do this. These days the idea of President Rock doesn't even sound all that crazy. Donald Trump threw the floodgates wide open, making it acceptable for any sorta celebrity to become POTUS. Qualifications and experience absolutely don't matter.

I'm looking forward to many interesting upcoming political campaigns. President Nicholas Cage? You betcha. He could emote his way through foreign policy. Wait, how about Liam Neeson? He's already recreated himself into an action hero, why can't he become president? He'll strong-arm his way through the Russians. God help anyone who takes hostages captive. Charlie Sheen's gonna want a piece of the action, of course. He'll run a campaign fueled by tiger blood and can solve political hot topics with the power of his brain. President Sheen is WINNING!

Kim Kardashian would make a stunning president. And to keep her in line, to keep an even keel over world events, I elect Kanye as vice-president. Based on the new TV show, Designated Survivor, I imagine Kiefer Sutherland will get quite a few write-in votes.

It's an exciting time for politics! A glorious new Camelot, filled with celebrities and stars!

When The Rock becomes president, I envision him roping off congress, taking the dissenters and annoying bill blockers to the mat! He'll piledrive the Tea Party into a corner, then chokeslam them into submission! Any pesky filibusters? Not an issue with President The Rock! He'll dropkick the stall tactic, launch into a flying moonsault, and brainbuster the filibuster into a nelson hold!

Hulk Hogan will make an excellent vice president! Why there was even (a little) talk of his running alongside Trump as his VP! 

Honestly, I can't think of any better qualifications for running for president of the US than professional wrestling!

Powerslam POTUS!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Thin Walls, Big Heart

I've mentioned the hard times my dog's had lately. (Even harder on me, as I've been relegated to sub-human status, having to sleep in the guest bedroom on the lower level. But I digress. Contrary to my blog, the world isn't all about me).
After two major leg surgeries, Zak's incision started to bleed. Furthermore, he pulled the leg up high and limped.

Uh-oh.

Once again we carted him off to the emergency vet hospital. Nerves frayed, my wife and I sat in a small room, waiting for a frazzling long time.

Around us, animal pandemonium rose. Cries, squeals, yips, barks, growls, the works.

But the worst--the absolutely, heart-rending worst--was the man facing the reality he had to put his dog to sleep.

I don't know what the man looked like. Couldn't really tell you what his actual voice sounded like. But his words, strangled with sobs, tore through the thin walls like an emotional torpedo.

"I guess I was lucky to've known him. I saved him twice before... He'd always been there. My pal. It'd be selfish of me...not to put him to rest.  Oh...God... Oh, my God... I'm sure gonna' miss him. Whatever you can do to make him more comfortable. This is the hardest day..."

He went on. The doctor stayed respectfully quiet, listening to the man working through his anguish.  By the time he was done, both my wife and I were soap-opera-sodden messes, eyes bleary with tears. And we gave Zak a little bit of extra loving.

The good news is Zak just had issues with fluid or something. I dunno. I was still too distraught over the man in the hallway's angst.

I've put down dogs before. Each time it takes while to get over it. It's sad, yet I know it's the best thing to do. But like Sad Hallway Man, you can't help but be torn up over it. It takes effort to work your way through the steps, internally argue and debate. Cry a bit.

After I put my twin cocker spaniels to sleep, I vowed not to get another dog. Time passed. So did my vow. But I still wonder if pet ownership's worth the awful sadness experienced at the end of a beloved dog's life.

Kinda like how I felt after my divorce some years ago. Should I even risk putting myself through such trauma again? Is the clearly never been in love and broken idiot who said "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all" right? 

Eat it, Lord Tennyson. 

But the answer, of course, is yes.

I love my wife.

I love my dog.

I don't so much love sleeping in a tiny bed in the guest room, but whatever. Tis better to sleep than not sleep at all.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The "Cool" Dad

Ain't that an oxymoron-and-a-half?
When my daughter was younger, when I hosted sleep-overs (and parents, I'm warning you, always, ALWAYS invite an equal number of girls...never, EVER host just three. You're asking for trouble.), I always stuck my stupid self in the mix of things.

I never let the girls drink or smoke, but I kinda' think they were doing that on their own anyway. Yet there I was, using buzzy words and phrases ("I'd be so way down with that, home-fry, if it wasn't so cray-cray!"), acting kinda' dumb but believing I was cool.

Hey, the girls wanted to watch horror movies? No prob! As long as the flicks weren't too chock full of gratuitous nudity or  violence (kinda narrowed down our viewing choices). Pizza, you bet! Music? Man, I was up on all the alternative rock, could chat with the girls for hours. 

Problem was alt rock sorta became passe. So did I. And no one bothered to tell me.

When I used the word "hip" on my daughter, I kinda think that was the turning point.

"Dad, no one says 'hip' any more. If they ever did."

Now, the only "hip" around here is the one I'll break when I fall.

I sat back in my hoodie, scratched my soul patch, moved aside my beanie, made sure my tats were prominent, massaged my arthritic knee...and wondered when I got old.

Sometimes, you have to admit defeat. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Wild West just got a little weirder with Jeff Chapman's The Black Blade!



SRW: Give a big ol’ Tornado Alley howdy-do to talented fantasy and horror writer Jeff Chapman. Today we’re yonderin’ back into the Wild West to discuss cowpoke Chapman’s chaps and new novel, The Black Blade. And it’s a hoot and a holler, folks. Traditionally a short story writer, Jeff has spread his wings and written some kind of novel that’ll have the folks at Gulch Holler cryin’ in their beers and spit-takin’ their sarsaparilla.

Welcome Jeff! Tell everyone about your new book, The Black Blade.

JC: Thanks for talking with me, Stuart. The Black Blade Is the first novel in The Huckster Tales series. Other works in the series include a short story and a novelette. In The Black Blade, Orville and Jimmy again find themselves over their heads in supernatural trouble. They have a habit of finding trouble. Marzby, an old man with evil intent and magical powers, imprisons Orville and a farmer’s wife and then sends Jimmy and the farmer on a quest to retrieve an enchanted knife from inside Skull Hill. But there’s an evil catch to this quest. The one who hands the blade over to Marzby selects which prisoner to release. One knife for one prisoner. It’s not long before the farmer aims his shotgun at Jimmy. But the trigger-happy farmer may be the least of Jimmy’s worries. The sun is on the move and there’s a host of strange creatures between Jimmy and the final showdown with Marzby.

SRW: Where’d the term “huckster” come from? What exactly does it mean? And where can readers find other tales of your huckster duo, Orville and Jimmy?

JC: A huckster is someone who travels around the country selling stuff. Usually the value of the “stuff” is questionable. Think snake-oil salesmen. Orville hasn’t sold snake-oil in any of the stories yet, but if he finds he can make money from it, he most likely will. Orville’s primary gig is operating as the turbaned soothsayer Orville the Oracular. Jimmy provides behind-the-curtain support and looks after Maggie, their horse. Jimmy also operates the moral compass which Orville ignores to their peril.

So far, there are three stories in The Huckster Tales series. “The Wand” is a short story you can have for free with a newsletter signup. “The Flaming Emerald” is a novelette available in the anthology Ghosts of Fire. And then there’s the novel, The Black Blade. I have more novels percolating, including an origin story explaining how Jimmy and Orville met and a sequel to The Black Blade.

SRW: I’ve been a fan of your colorful prose for some time, Jeff. No one can turn a purtier metaphor. But I always thought your writing sprang forth from the past, a "Weird Tales" vibe if not older. A writer out of time. I think you’ve hit your stride with the Huckster series set in the old West. The perfect synthesis of place and prose. Why did you choose the old West as your background?

JC: I didn’t intend to write a western when I wrote “The Wand.” I thought of it as fantasy, but the characters pulled me in the western direction. That’s where they wanted to be, so I went with it. The characters are always right.

SRW: We’ve gotta’ talk about research. Everything about the book, from the dialect, the dialogue, the setting, the props rings true. Jeff, did you base this off of years watching sage dramas on the TV? Or did you actually, you know, open a book and dig into true research (ew…what’s that?)? Come on, just between us, there’s nobody else around…spill.

JC: I grew up watching reruns of The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid. My parents loved westerns, so I saw a lot of them: the classic films and the B-grade ones. We watched Gunsmoke. We watched F-Troop. The films and TV shows give you a sense of the myths and feel of the genre. For the details of daily life, I researched online and read some books. For example, I learned that the ubiquitous cowboy hat was not the primary headgear in the Old West. Many men wore bowlers (like Bat Masterson) or straw hats. Orville wears a bowler while Jimmy makes do with a well-worn straw hat. I also discovered that saloon owners sold or gave away cheap snack foods. The saltier the better. In The Black Blade, Isobel brings food for her uncle to sell at his saloon and claims her uncle spices it with extra salt.

SRW: Jimmy’s grandmother--although I assume long dead--is almost a Greek Chorus character throughout the book, constantly spouting wise adages, maxims, proverbs, down home remedies, you name it.  Where in the world did you come up with all of Grandma’s sayings? Did you just wing it? Watch a lot of Oprah? Or is Grandma based on a relative of yours?

JC: I made them up as I wrote. Grandma provides comic relief and an entertaining way to get at Jimmy’s thoughts. She’s not based on anyone in particular. Whenever I needed something from Grandma, I tried to imagine what an opinionated, old farm woman would say. I suppose my rural Kansas upbringing is paying off here. I hope readers get a good laugh out of her sayings. I had fun writing them.

SRW: I was a little disappointed Orville dropped out relatively early in the book as he and Jimmy make a cute comical team, right up there with Martin and Lewis, Starsky and Hutch, and Trump and Pence. A lot of the humor derives from their prickly relationship and Orville’s less than scrupulous moral code. I’m curious, did you set out to instill humor in the Huckster series? Or did it organically rise from Orville and Jimmy’s characters?

JC: I didn’t set out to write humorous stories, but when you have two characters trying to move events in opposite directions, humor is often the result. The Huckster Tales are all written in the first person, from Jimmy’s perspective. His voice has much to do with the humorous tone.

SRW: There are enough fantastical critters and varmints running through The Black Blade to give Ray Harryhausen nightmares. List a few. Then ‘fess up to inspirations…

JC: The first strange critter is Marzby’s pindigo. Marzby claims he forced the spirit of a wendigo into a pig. The result is a ferocious half-pig half-human monstrosity. A wendigo is a cannibalistic horror from Native American folklore. Jimmy also comes across a shape-shifting opossum and a shape-shifting coyote. Coyotes are common in Native American folklore, especially as tricksters. I don’t think many people give opossum’s much thought. I added the opossum as something unexpected.

In the final chapters, we meet Marzby’s servants, a pair of oafish but incredibly strong men, at least they appear to be men. Their skeletons are a mixture of human and cattle bones. 

SRW: The tone of The Black Blade is a little schizophrenic, but I mean that in a good way! On the one hand, it’s a weird western. On the other hand, it’s a fantasy adventure. On yet another hand (where are all these hands coming from?), there’s humor, yet some violent and gruesome incidents. How would you categorize the book?

JC: What you say in your question. I had no idea how hard it would be to categorize the book until I finished it. I followed the story where it led. How about a weird western fantasy adventure salted with humor?

SRW: Jeff, I’ve been after you for a long time to write a full-length novel. You’ve written many fine novellas and short stories, but haven’t taken the big plunge. Until now. Why? And how was your experience as opposed to writing shorter fiction?

JC: I’ve started many novels but always bogged down in the middle of them. With The Blake Blade, I determined to keep moving forward and not stop. The strategy worked. Eventually I reached the end. Now that I’ve written one novel, I’m anxious to finish another one. I see now that a novel is like any other story, only longer, and to finish, you have to focus on scenes, knocking off one after another.

SRW: Truth time. I’ve given this a lot of thought, Jeff… Seems to me it’s more than coincidence. Okay, your name’s Jeff Chapman. You write about horse-riding cowboys in the weird west. Do you wear chaps? The readers want the truth. And photos.

JC: Good one. No, I’ve never worn chaps, though I remember there was a cologne called Chaps that I may have used when I was in high school. I don’t even wear cowboy boots.

SRW: What’s up next for Jeff? (And I hope the Hucksters?)

JC: I’m writing a couple fantasy stories for anthologies. The stories are linked by their protagonist, a cat inhabited by a human spirit. I like cats. After I finish those stories, I’m going to finish another novel, a fantasy story about a mermaid and a fisherman’s daughter. The cat from the stories figures in the novel, too. After the mermaid novel, I’m hoping to be ready for another Huckster novel.

SRW: Alright, time to rustle up the cattle and toss some steaks on the open-fire and zip up for the night, padnuhs. Jeff, why don’t you sing us out—Roy Rogers style—by tellin’ the good folk on the prairie where they might find yore pistol-packin’ work.

JC: To find store links for The Huckster Tales, go to http://www.jeffchapmanbooks.com/huckster-tales. For my other titles, go to http://www.jeffchapmanbooks.com/books. To join my mailing list, go to http://www.jeffchapmanbooks.com. A paperback version of The Black Blade is in the final stages of development (waiting for the proof copy to do the final review). I will be offering some Goodreads giveaways for signed copies. Add The Black Blade to your to-read list (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33898829-the-black-blade ) to receive a notice for the giveaways.

SRW: Read Jeff Chapman’s The Black Blade, folks. Highly recommended and more fun than a pistol-packin’ bandolero.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Toughing it out like a REAL man. Hell yeah!

Two months ago, I was screwing around in the garage, standing on a stepladder, reaching high, straining, trying to shove heavy sheet-rock into the rafters. 

Huh, I thought, maybe I need a little more support. So with my arms full, stretching on the top ladder rung, I extended my right foot to the two steps leading into the house. That's it...just a little farther...almost there...
Clatter! Bang! Crash! Snap!

I ate the concrete floor. Pain shot through me, even more so when I noticed the odd angle my leg was positioned beneath me, a position not even a contortionist would attempt.

Screams went up. Pleas for help to my wife inside the house. And a string of obscenities that would make a sailor blush.

Finally--finally!--my wife came searching for me. Found me in a heap on the floor. After a bit, I got up, brushed myself off. Looked at the dangling sheetrock and thought the job needed to be completed.

"Oh no, you're not!" exclaimed my wife. "Can you move your leg?"

I wiggled it. Sure, the pain was excruciating, but it wiggled just fine. "No problem," I said.

My wife wasn't convinced. But I wanted to be as tough as the guys in movies who sew up their own bullet-wounds. No pain, no gain! Bite down on leather! Tough it out! Hoo-hah!

Cut to two months later.

Hmm, I thought, my leg still really hurts.

My wife had had enough, scheduled an appointment for me. Because, really, going to the doctor is for wusses and hypochondriacs.

"Well," the orthopedic surgeon explains, "you broke your leg."

Huh. Fancy that. For two months I've been driving, walking the dog five times a day (because he, too, had shattered his knee irreparably), dragging my mother through weekly grocery store runs, even walking on the treadmill, for God's sake. 

They fit me with what they call a "boot." It's more like Frankenstein footwear, blocky and cumbersome . I can't drive. I can't walk. Can't do anything. Which is really kinda' dumb when you consider how active I was for the prior two months.
Das Boot der Frankenstein!
Bah. What do orthopedic surgeons know, anyway? Time to go mow the lawn!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Behold the beauty of CHILI RUN!

Not a hoax! Not a prank! Not a bad dream brought on by lousy nachos!

Well...

About that last part... My newest book, Chili Run, was actually based on a nightmare I had.
A really, really dumb nightmare. I started thinking about it (never a good idea).

In my dream, for some reason I was forced to run across downtown Kansas City in my tighty-whities to get a bowl of chili. Running against the clock or face severe consequences.

As dreams go, it made perfect sense at the time. They usually do. Very intense actually. Sure, sure, there's the usual dream dealio about being in your underwear in front of people. But this was the ultimate in underwear dreams. The idea stuck with me like...well, like three-day-old bad chili.

I just had to come up with a reason behind it, see if I could sustain the idea for a novel. Make it interesting, hopefully entertaining. Logical.

Ta-dahhh!

Whether I succeeded or not of course is in your hands/minds.

And just like a dream, just like my protagonists' run, the story kept going. Before I knew it, the damn book became a comedy-thriller-suspense-love story with lofty themes such as racism, bullying and writing.

I know, right?

But don't let the pretentiousness shove you off. It's really just a high-concept, low-brow shaggy dog tale about a guy running through town to get a bowl of chili. In his tighty-whities. Or his brother dies.

It made me laugh and I was kinda on the edge of my seat while writing it. Hope it puts you there, too. In a good kinda' way, I mean. While wearing pants so you don't get chafed.

(And yes, I'm aware of the bad connotation/pseudo pun of the title and a little bit of the kid in me giggles over it! That's kinda what you're in for.)

Chili Run: The perfect thriller for the reader on the go! 

Um, in case you didn't get it, CLICK HERE.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Hippity hoppity, here comes Trumpity!

Honestly, the state of America right now's so depressing and ludicrous, the only way I'm able to handle it without a nervous breakdown is to envision our orange president as something benign, something friendly.

Behold the Easter Trumpy!
There.

You feel it?

That nice, calming mood... The mood the friendly Easter Bunny evokes when it drops off eggs (and for God's sake, why does the Easter Bunny do that anyway? Wait! There I go again, getting upset...calm...find my center...). But do kids really like eggs all that much, consider them yummy?

Speaking of dropping off things, Trump recently made the decision to drop some bombs on Syria. To tell you the truth, for once he may've made the right decision. The gassing needed some sort of retaliation, the Trumpster Bunny was caught between a rock and a hard place. Still...that fear of another impending war causes me anxiety!

Okay, I'm back. Relaxed. I'm swinging with that groovy Easter Bunny now, the most benevolent creature on the planet. Hell, I'm sweating unicorns of peace and farting haloes!

Then again, I'm gonna' wake outta my temporary tranquility and realize that no matter how many Easter eggs I color, it's not gonna tie a pretty bonnet upon the sad state of America.

Dang it!

Sorry. No more digressions...

The world's a lovely, pastel colored place. The Easter Bunny is a beautiful sentiment. Kinda' disturbing, though, if you get right down to it--I mean, what's the reason behind a giant, creepy bunny delivering chocolate? And who likes marshmallow eggs anyway? And the Bunny, like Santa Claus, breaks into people's houses! (Agh, I'm getting sideswiped again!).

Alright. Peaceful. Cool. Finding my core. (And what does that mean anyway? Only core I'm worried about right now is the nuclear core which is minutes away from going full-on inferno!)

Be good people. Tolerate others' opinions. It's what the Easter Bunny would want.

Happy Easter everyone!



Friday, April 7, 2017

When Cats Talk, Worlds Collide!

My cat's been long gone for many years.

Yet the other night, I had a dream. He and I were back at my parent's house in my bedroom. A tough "teddy" gang of Latino cats started hooting from the street. I whipped up the blinds, saw all kinds of bling and attitude. Cats weren't just frontin'. Truth up, yo.
"C'mon, Tiger, come out and play-ay-ay!" the cats said, evoking that annoying guy from the movie, The Warriors. "Run with us!"

My cat, Tiger, turned to me, said, "Stuart, can I go out with them?"

In astonishment, I replied, "I didn't know you could talk!"

"You never asked me."

You know, some of my dreams just shouldn't be turned into books. Unlike the upcoming Chili Run, a true Freudian nightmare.

But more on that soon... 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Pay Attention!

This weekend I went on a wife-commissioned emergency egg purchase to the grocery store.

In front of me stood a huge massive slab of man (twice as large as I am and I'm pretty big). The manager/stock-boy made the mistake of asking Sasquatch how he was doing.

"Well, my back hurts," he says.

"That's great," the stock-boy replies.

Clearly, neither one was engaged in the conversation. They didn't hear each other, communication nil and rote. But I was there, Johnny-On-The-Spot, so you don't miss a scintillating moment.

Communication is important. Often, I see people--couples--sitting at a restaurant, not chatting. Tap-tap-tapping away on their phones as if they can't tolerate one another's company. Sad and silent.

I have an old-fashioned flip-phone. Texting is a tedious nightmare (tap, tap, tap...crap!...start over...tap, tap, tap...). But the stone-age phone helps me communicate, engaged with my wife when we go out.

I'm there.

If I see you in public engaging in such activity, I'll be forced to make a citizen's arrest. "Public Rudeness." You've been duly warned.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Some things just don't jell well with testicles...

Testicles are an important topic, one overlooked by many people. Others would rather just skirt the issue entirely. In this day and age where every Terribly Important Issue has a cable "news" show devoted to it, it's about time testicles came out of the shadows and thrust into the open.
If I have to be the brave journalist (everyone else is one these days, so I'm tossing my hat into the ring) to cast the much needed spotlight on testicles, so be it.

They're here, not very pretty, get used to it!

Sadly, testicles have been reduced to a comic device in films, the (literal) punchline in crappy comedies (see the unfortunate Home Alone series). In what world is groin damage considered comical? Apparently many people find blows to the junk the height of hilarity. YouTube and America's Home Videos are living proof of this sadistic anomaly.

But any guy who's ever suffered testicular embarrassment or irritation, not to mention full-on injury, will testify there's nothing funny about such shenanigans

For example... 

Not too long ago, I developed "jock itch."

I said, "But, doc, I'm not a jock. I don't even watch sports! My idea of sports is gambling!"

My doctor shook her head, wrote me a scrip. Couldn't wait to get me out of her office.

Even with the prescription filled, I couldn't scratch that itch. It kinda' scared me. I became desperate: cooking home remedies, sacrificing kittens, studying Scientology, watching late night infomercials. Anything.

One day I found a tube of ointment in the medicine cabinet, a sample my wife, a knowledgeable medical professional, brought home from a conference. I found the timing fortuitous.

"Soothes skin itching and burning," the label proudly proclaimed.

Hoo-hah! Celestial trumpets! (Just as long as it's not that "wah-wah-wahhhh" insulting, cartoon trombone). A dream come true! I couldn't wait to apply the miracle salve!

After I lathered it on my testicles, my wife says, "Wait! It's not for that! Don't--"

Too late. Fire ripped through my nether regions. I jerked, shimmied, frugged like I was in one of those stupid '60's beach movies ("Hey, Moondoggy, my 'nads are wayyy gone, baby!"). Fanning the area for all the good it did me.
Photos to follow...

Whoever thought it was a good idea to apply menthol to testicles needs to seriously do some reexamining. (It's kinda' like "Ben-Gay." Why in hell the ubiquitous "Ben" is so gay--as in "happy"--is beyond me.)

Frankly, America needs to hear more about testicles. I'm thinking of doing a pod-cast.

"You're on the air with Testicle Talk..." 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Smush-faced, violent kissing on screen!

This goes out to all the ladies. Looks painful, doesn't it?

The '50's and early '60's presented a line of cinematic leading men who really threw themselves into their kissing scenes. What gusto!

I'm talking smashed face, violent, lips out of whack, full-on kissing that didn't look comfortable at all. The man would just thrust his lips and mouth all over his poor unsuspecting costar and hold her tight, captive, by the shoulders. Painful.

Was this considered romantic back then?

Let's see...we had George Peppard. Man, he liked to really get in there, smash, wiggle about, do some serious lip damage. Bogart always looked like a very uncomfortable kisser, but Lauren Bacall apparently disagreed. Gregory Peck, stalwart that he was, always looked ill at ease making out. Sure, his characters were always supposed to be rock solid moral, but his kissing scenes appeared just as wooden. James Dean always looked like he was kissing himself. Anthony Quinn and Ernest Borgnine are probably better left unmentioned (but some time look up how Ernest used to torture his wife with a "dutch oven." The horror, the horror!).
Movies taught me how to romance women. So I smooshed my way through high school, into early college. Sorry for the bruised lips, girls.

Probably shoulda' watched different movies.

Friday, March 10, 2017

My great (maybe not so "great") grandparents owned slaves!

I come from a long line of racists. Most in denial, yet oddly proud of it.
First of all...apologies for my ancestors' past transgressions.

My dad stuck by his convictions. I didn't agree, didn't like it, but at least he was honest about where he stood.

"I'm racist, son," he'd say, "and I don't mean maybe."

I'm not really sure what prompted his racism. He'd hinted at his past, some bathroom incident when he was in the army. I never pushed too far. Didn't want to. Some things are better off buried.

But as an impressionable young child, I couldn't understand why my parents disliked everyone un-WASPy.

"Why do you hate black people, Mom?" I'd asked.

"Me?" she said. "I don't hate colored people. There's some good dark boys out there."

"What about Jewish people? Wasn't Jesus Jewish?"

"Jews! Jews killed Jesus!"

"Hm. What about Catholics? What's wrong with Catholics?"

"Mercy sakes. They worship Mary!"

End of discussion. No insight gained.

With age (and I hope enlightenment), I discovered how ludicrous all of that nonsense was.

I spent years and years fighting my parents on this, trying to change their minds, to look at things differently, more accurately and humanely. Pointless as battling a tornado with a fly-swatter. Best I could hope for is not to get sucked into the crazy.

My mom's still a hard-charging, practicing bigot. Not too long ago, she dropped a shocking racist slur.

"Mom," I screamed, oh so righteously (probably more than was merited, but such is the cross to bear when you're a white, guilt-stricken liberal), "that's racist and ugly!"

"Me?" Her eyes batted, vacant, innocent. "I'm not racist. Just as long as the darkies know their place."

Yow. Spoken like a slave-owner.

Speaking of which, I found out my great grandparents owned slaves, for Gawd's sake. (Sorry, sorry, sorry...)

My dad once told me, "Son, you come from good stock." Regardless of Dad's simile to cattle, there's nothing really tasty about racism.

Recently, I couldn't help myself. Fun where you can get it.

"Mom," I said, "you know a lot of historians say Jesus was black, right?"

Silence. A long, interminable silence. Zillions of crickets. Finally, "Bah. What do historians know?"

Ladies and gentlemen, my mom! She'll be here all weekend!

One of my parents is still on earth, one passed. They taught me many great things. But my disagreement with them over racial issues is set in stone. Weird thing, though, is my love for my folks is oddly, humanly intact. Ugly warts and all.