Wednesday, May 24, 2017

[The Esoteric South] - What the old folks used to say vs. that's what they say

*ed note: originally appeared in The Covington News in May of 2017


What the old folks used to say vs. that's what they say

As a young boy I fondly remember my Grandmother talking oftentimes about what the old folks used to say. The old folks used to say this; this old folks used to say that. The old folks had a lot of things they used to say, and I always got a kick out of hearing about it. As a rule, the old folks were good people who believed in doing the right things and doing things right. They believed in hard work, fair dealing & living the Golden Rule (the original one, not the other one). They sounded like good old folks to me.

One thing that really stuck out to me, as a I child, was just how old these old folks must have been. Because if my Grandmother was talking about them, they had to be fairly old, because my Grandmother was old. But then she'd talk about hearing about what the old folks used to say when she was a little girl. "Man," I thought to myself, "these old folks sure were old!" She would also talk about her Grandfather, my 2nd great grandfather, and the man I was named after, talking about what the old folks used to say, and that got me really thinking about how old these old folks were. But once I heard from my Grandmother that he remembered his parents and other older relatives talking about hearing what the old folks said when they were children...well, I knew that we were talking about some really, really old people here.

The old folks used to say you never should plant your garden until after Easter. Now, I didn't have any real scientific data on this or anything, but I can recount at least a few instances in the past few years where people I knew who planted their crops before that holy day ran into trouble because of a late frost. So, don't plant until after Easter. That's what the old folks used to say.

A lot of what the old folks used to say were basically proverbial sayings, or proverbs. "You can catch more flies with honey than you can vinegar," or, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," and many others of the like. Based on what I've found, at least some of these probably wind their way all the way back to the days of antiquity. Regardless of how old the saying, expression or thought was, it seemed to be carried through generations and generations of existence through oral tradition. Folklore. So, there again, when we're talking about what the old folks used to say, we are indeed talking about some really old folks.

A fair amount of what the old folks used to say seemed to be rooted maybe in superstition, or old wives' tales; however, at least a fair portion of those sayings and beliefs seem to be true. For instance, the old folks always knew that the lunar cycle had a major impact on our lives and many other things as well. Just ask anyone in law enforcement or public health if that is actually the case - they will respond in the affirmative. Chicken soup good for a cold? Scientifically proven. Vinegar for cramps? Works every time. Vinegar for a whole host of other things? Most definitely. There's a lot of stuff kind of below the surface or forgotten about that the old folks knew which would behoove a lot of us to know now, in this writer's estimation.

So, when talking about the "old folks" in the expression - "that's what the old folks used to say" -  just know that we're talking about good, godly & hard working folk going back dozens and perhaps hundreds of generations.

On the other hand, when we're talking about "they," in the expression, "that's what they say," we are talking about an entirely different thing. They seem to be the ultimate & proverbial peanut gallery. Everyone's a critic, and everyone's an expert, especially when it comes to telling others how they should live or do things.

My favorite description of the "they" in that's what they say came from my Granddaddy McCart. I've been hearing about this one ever since I was a kid & I've always loved it. Ole E.M.'s thoughts on this bunch was this: "The 'they,' in "that's what they say? They're the biggest bunch non-knowingest folks who ever walked the face of the Earth." Ha! I've always gotten such a kick out of that one! Unfortunately I never got to know the man who was my Father's Father as he passed on about a year and a half before I came on the scene. As anyone would tell you who knew him, he was about as good as any that was ever made, but he obviously had strong feelings on this particular issue.

They, to use the parlance of the younger folks, seem to be the haters, and we all know that haters are gonna hate. They seem to love to mess with folks, tell them what, why & how they're doing it wrong, but without any constructive criticism or offering up any solutions. Well, I, like almost all of us, have found myself in the "they" camp, but not too often. I try to avoid it.

While stirring this write-up in the mental back burner over the last few weeks, it got me to thinking about some other things as well. This generational divide we've been seeing in our society. These Millennials, though, right? To the older generations, I guess Generation X ain't lookin' too bad these days, are we? 

Of course, there's been a good bit of consternation and agitation on behalf of the younger and middle generations pertaining to the Baby Boomers. To me, all of this is unnecessary. We have our differences, sure, but so much more unites us than should divide us. When you get down to the heart & soul of things, we all basically want the same things for our families, our community & ourselves. At least, I think so.  And for the record, let me just say that while this younger crop may seem a little strange & aloof, many of them seem to be absolutely brilliant. And with the older ones - the old folk - I think you always have to remember everything they've been through. They've seen so much, and I believe they have a lot of wisdom & life experience to give.

You can then look at the big picture of things, and see that there is obviously division in the house, in so many things. Politics, religion, college football teams, etc. Well, I just think we always need to the think about what our country was founded on - the actual mechanism/document, the Constitution - and remember what made it possible. Compromise. And the other key - Communication. Or to quote a Pink Floyd song - "We just need to keep talking."

I think the old folks would agree, and probably so would they. 

Thx for reading 
- MBM 


[The Esoteric South] - God Bless the Folks that Drive to Atlanta Daily

*ed. note: originally printed at The Covington News in April of 2017 


God Bless the people who have to drive to Atlanta on a regular basis 

(*Author's note: This column was originally conceived of and most of it written several weeks ago. As fate would have it, last Thursday as I was finalizing this piece, I, like most of you, saw the horrific events on I-85 on the news. Due to the nature of this column and the subject material involved, a decision was made by the Covington News staff and myself to wait to publish the piece. So now here it is. Hope you enjoy!

So I had to go up to the big city for this thing a few weeks back. I had to be there by 8:30 in the morning, preferably, but no later than 9. I think it was technically considered Sandy Springs, but it doesn't really matter. Regardless of whether it's Sandy Springs, Roswell, Dunwoody, Decatur, or whatever, to me - it's all just Atlanta. Terminus. Marthasville. The Big City. The ATL.

Based on my recollection, I'd only been to Atlanta once in the last couple of years. I don't think I'd even been west of Rockdale Co. during that time. And after studying up on it, I'm pretty sure it's been over a decade since I had to make the trek up there in the morning rush hour traffic. God willing, it'll be, at a minimum, another decade before I do so again.

I had to really build myself up for this thing. For weeks in advance it loomed ever so large on the horizon. I'd find myself talking to someone or doing something and all the sudden it would jump into my mind like a flash - "You've got to drive to Atlanta in rush hour traffic here soon! You sure you're up for this?" I never really was...

But that day came. I set my alarm for 5:15; I was up at 4:47. I was proud of myself because I had fixed up the coffee machine the night before and set it for in the morning. I already had my clothes laid out, too. I was on it! After doing my morning rituals, I was out the door around 6:20. I made a quick pit stop to get a biscuit and found myself getting on I-20 at 6:28.

Things were good at first. Newton County, naturally, was a breeze. Rockdale was too for the most part. The trouble started a little ways past Sigmon Rd. By the time I got to Dekalb Co., it was a hot mess.

Back in the day, I always knew that traffic would start to get sideways once you started approaching the perimeter. But not anymore. Well before you even think about getting to Panola or Evans Mill, it's just a complete catastrophe. A total traffic nightmare. I think it took me almost 15 minutes just to get from Lithonia to 285. By this point, I was starting to sweat my timeline. I was hoping against hope that things would get better on "the loop." LOL, right?

Interstate 285 is where dreams go to die, dear readers, and I'm not being hyperbolic here. A band that I was in back in the day, The Cool Swap, actually had a song entitled, "It's a Jungle, Man; 285 - Can U Dig It?" No, I can't. And I never will. If there is a hell on earth, I think it just may be "The Perimeter."

The trouble started almost immediately. In the past, I could always count on merging into this abomination with relative ease. That's no longer the case. I really had to earn it. For the most part I was going anywhere from 2 to 8 miles an hour unless I was completely stopped, except for those unexplained moments where it would completely open up to about 45 mph or so for about 300 yards until you had to slam on the brakes again.

I saw some interesting things and made some fairly poignant observations during the almost 45 minutes that I had to ride the lightning.

I pulled up next to a fella, dressed to the nines in a high dollar suit and driving a luxury sedan that might have cost more than the house I live in, who was obviously having a heavy, heated discussion on his cell phone. He was talking with his hands like crazy and looked to be almost in tears. I have no idea whether it was work or home related. "This poor, pitiful [expletive deleted]," I thought to myself. "Not only does he have to deal with this ungodly traffic, but he's having to also deal with whatever else was going on, too." And even though he looked like the type of person I'd probably personally despise and someone who may well make more in a couple of months than I do in a year, I felt a profound sense of sadness for him. I even said a prayer for him as I drove by.

A little later on, and I had a different experience. I came up from behind and saw a truck that had a Putnam Co. tag. I'd seen a lot of Dekalb, Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale tags, but hadn't seen such an outlier yet. My curiosity was immediately piqued and I was hoping I'd get the opportunity to peer over and see who this Putnam Co. pick-up truck driver was. By the way, I was still paying attention to the road, for your information. Sure enough, it was kind of country-lookin' fella who was white-knucklin' it and had this look on his face that was equal parts fear, aggravation and disdain. I wished him good luck as I rode by.

And by the way, pretty much everybody out there was on their phone. A fair number of folks were talking on them, most were texting. Lord help us all...

Well, I made it on time. So that was good. But that afternoon, right around 4:30, I had to go home.

The trouble, again, began almost immediately. They were doing work on the road that would take me back to the exit that I came in on. After sitting at the same light for three changes, and seeing all these people going down the road I was on, I decided to just go for it. "I pretty much know where 285 is; I'll be able to figure it out," I thought to myself. What a fool I was. Over 20 minutes later and I finally found my way back to that infernal interstate.

As was the case in the morning commute, I had my car radio set to WSB because when you go to Atlanta you have to have it on WSB 750 AM. Though, like most people, I imagine, I was actually listening to the FM station, 95.5. It seems like it's basically an unwritten law that you have to do that, at least it is for those of us who only do rush hour commutes once a decade.

I always get such a kick out the weather reporters' heavy use of adjectives, descriptions, and metaphors. It's kind of reminiscent of an edition of "Marshall's Music Minute," in a different context. "It's stacked and packed up on the north-side connector." Or, "It's totally jammed at Spaghetti Junction." "The outer loop is a parking lot, people, but it's just a tap of the brakes on the west freeway." Usually I get a kick out of all of this, but I wasn't feeling it when I was in the midst of it. "Smiling Mark McKay," I thought to myself, "I bet that no-account SOB is smiling at all us peons and pissants who are dealing with this cruel and unusual punishment while he's up in his helicopter counting all his money."

The rest of drive back was hellish.

The kicker, though, is this: I had to do it all again the next day.

So especially in light of recent events, I'll have to say it again - God Bless these people who have to drive to Atlanta on a regular basis. Bless your hearts, and we're all pulling for you. 

Thx for reading. MBM 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

[The Esoteric South] - Talkin' Southern, Part II

~ The Esoteric South

*A column as seen on the pages of the Covington News
Talkin' Southern, Part II 
A Column by Marshall McCart 
In the very first installment of this column some months back, I wrote about the key differences between a fellow, fella and a feller; made fun of Yankees for saying soda and pop; and discussed the pen-pin merger. This time around I'll talk about some key Southern words and phrases in order to give a better understanding of what it is to be "talkin' Southern."
Southern Words
We all know about the word y'all; however, you'd be amazed at the number of people who mess up and try to spell it ya'll. It's a contraction, you all! You put the apostrophe after “Y”, thank you very much. "Fixin to" is another one, naturally, and there a several others. Here are a few that don't get as much attention but are vitally important:
Rascal
Definition: a mischievous or cheeky person, especially a man or a child. Synonyms: scamp, scalawag, rapscallion, etc. In a sentence: "That rascal Marshall McCart — he just won't do." A rascal, or a scamp, is somebody who is sometimes up to no good - similar to a feller that we discussed in the first edition of this column — but maybe with a certain amount of likability. I'd like to think I have that likability factor to an extent. Regardless, while the South doesn't have total dibs on the word, it certainly seems rather Southern, doesn't it? Bonus: Rascalism — in the act of being a rascal.
Ruckus
Definition: a disturbance or a commotion; Synonyms: racket, fracas, hubbub. In a sentence: "When he lived out in Newborn in that house by the railroad tracks they ended up tearing down, McCart and Company were known for sometimes raising a ruckus." Ruckus is truly a quintessentially Southern word in my estimation. Just look at those synonyms. Fracas? Hubbub?
Hankering (hankerin').
Definition: a strong desire to have something. Synonyms: yearning, craving, itching. In a sentence: "Every time he found himself near Athens, that fella would always find himself with an insatiable hankering for The Varsity." Why would you ever use any other word when this word is available? It's the epitome of talkin' Southern!
Gallivant
Definition: to go around in search of pleasure and/or entertainment. Synonyms: flit, jaunt, roam. In a sentence: "The feller had a propensity for strong drink and a constant desire to go out gallivantin'."
Now, let's put all of those words together in one sentence: "Right before he left for the evening, his wife asked him why he always had a hankerin' for gallivantin' and rascalizin' and raising a ruckus."
Expressions and Sayings
"Six of one, a half dozen of the other."
A saying that I've been hearing for as long as I can remember, this expression refers to when two things are equivalent or the same. Or, as broad as long, as it were. I always assumed this was strictly a Southern saying but upon researching it I found out it actually originated in Scotland about two centuries ago. But, that kind of makes sense as many Scots found their way to Appalachia and the rest of the south. I actually used this one at the store a few years ago when talking about something with somebody. They were from up north. They looked at me like I was crazy and then asked me to repeat what I had said. After I did, they stared at me incredulously. Even after explaining it to them, they still couldn't get it. I think they thought I had just made it up on the spot.
"Lord willing and if the Creek don't rise."
One of my all-time favorites, this one encapsulates the essence of Southern talk. Basically it means that if all goes well, then we'll see you the next time around. The origin of this phrase has long been credited to Benjamin Hawkins, who would later live in Georgia and was Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the U.S. government in the late 1700s and early 1800s. On a response he sent to the President about returning the capital during the time when several Creek tribes were in a state of rebellion and war, he supposedly wrote this famous phrase. Some recently have tried to doubt the validity of this, but regardless, that's the story that we're sticking with.
Here's a three-fer dealing with somebody's intelligence level - "they're dumber than...1) a box of rocks; 2) a bag of hammers; or 3) a bucket of warm spit. All three of these are just outstanding! And you can substitute the word worthless on the bucket of warm spit one. It's fun to mix all these up, too. "Dumber than a bucket of hammers," or, "that's as worthless as a bag of warm spit!" Either way, you're getting the point across that this person or situation is pretty ignorant in no uncertain terms!
"Run out of town on a rail." "Riding the Rail."
This expression, which is still popular when talking about sports and politics, refers to the old American practice of a group of angered folks grabbing some public official or outcast of the community who had done wrong and making them straddle a fence rail that people would then take to the outskirts of town. It was considered the step below tar and feathering. You don't see it done much these days, but I think there's a few folks in town that wouldn't mind bringing it back right about now.
And a few others: "That dog won't hunt." An idea or a situation that is woefully inadequate. "Snake in the grass." A hidden danger, or a treacherous person. "Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine." This one is kind of a deep cut. It refers to when after a pig has been slaughtered, the sun will dry out the skin and pulls the lips back on the animal making it look like it's smiling. It's a reference to blissful ignorance and is similar to a similar one - "Happy as a pig in slop." "Drunker than Cooter Brown." A lot of us have heard of this one but there's a historical reference to it (somewhat). Apparently Mr. Brown lived right at the Mason-Dixon line and basically stayed drunk for four straight years in order to avoid fighting for either the Yankees or the Rebels. And here's a few more words: "Bodacious." Excellent, admirable. "Yonder." In the far distance. "Bonafide." Legit, genuine, real.
Marshall McCart aspires to one day be able to fully and truly articulate that peculiar essence of what The Esoteric South is all about. He can be reached at: marshall.mccart@gmail.com.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

[TES] - How a Little Derpy Dog Stole My Heart

~ The Esoteric South ~
How a Little Derpy Dog Stole My Heart 
The latest edition of my column at The Covington News. 
In all truthfulness, I've never really been a dog person. In fact — and I can already hear the Covington Peanut Gallery snickering — I suppose I've always been more of a cat kind of guy.
I think it has something to do with the fact that I grew up with cats. As a young boy, a lot of my memories center on the two Siamese cats we had, named Ho and Ming. Interesting names no doubt but it had something to do with my father serving in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Anyway, those were really great cats! Ho in particular was just the best. He was pretty much one of my best friends. He would always wait for me to get home from the bus. We played hide and seek and, always to my Grandmother's amusement, Ho would act like he couldn't find me for a while. But then he would always make a beeline right towards me. Once I cut off his whiskers with a pair of scissors but only on one side. Alas, I digress, this is a story about a dog...
Later on, my folks would bring a couple of dogs into the fold — Toby and Tinker. They were both okay, nothing special really. But then one day Tinker had a boy pup. His name was Otis and things would forever be changed in the McCart household. At least a few of you reading probably remember Otis. The conventional wisdom was Otis supplanted my brother and myself as the favorite child; I think he was actually put into Dad's will at one point. We all loved that dog to pieces — myself included — and I was finally starting to get this whole dog thing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

[The Esoteric South] - Reaching Nirvana Through Lawn Maintenance

The Esoteric South 
Reaching Nirvana Through Lawn Maintenance 
Cutting grass is a passion of mine, and I believe it to be good for the soul. I truly do.
Now, that statement probably comes as a great surprise to some of my neighbors in and around the North Covington historical community. They'd probably speak to this in the contrary, and, if so, I'd probably not have much to say to dispute it. However, I think I've got a pretty good excuse. For most of the last year or so our lawn mower has been broken, and while we've tried to pay folks to cut it a fair amount, it's just so much harder to put it high on the priority list when we have to dish out money. In addition, I've been known to have a propensity for laziness, and it's just been so hot! And maybe the whiskey sometimes plays a role...
In fact — truth be told — the last time the grass was cut, after our lawn mower was fixed, it was my lovely wife who cut the grass.
There was a time in my life when I used to concern myself whenever she'd cut the grass (so you can tell it's been more than once). I'd think to myself something along the lines of: "Man, the folks around here are going to think you're a total and absolute no-account." I used to concern myself with this but not anymore. No, I finally learned to embrace it. It's like the lyrics to "Good Hearted Woman." I realized, ultimately, that it was a win for Yours Truly. "That rascal Marshall McCart," they'd say. "He won't even cut his own grass. Poor ole Ann has to do it."
For the record, she says she likes to cut grass. Therefore, in my mind's eye, I'm just helping her to be happy and reach Maslow's concept of Self Actualization, right? We do what we can here, folks, I'm just happy to help!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Talkin' Southern

My latest featured column over at The Covington News:

The Esoteric South 

Talkin' Southern 

Living, working and growing up in the South, I love the sights of our region. The magnolias are distinctive and the weather is always warm keeping things lush and green most of the year.
But there are also the sounds to enjoy, too. And I’m not talking about the cicadas in the summer and the marching bands and referees whistles of fall’s football season. I’m talking about the way us Southerners talk.
Here are a few examples I’ve noticed throughout the years, and I’m sure you can relate to.
Fellow vs. Feller vs. Fella
While these three terms may all seem similar there are very important differences between them to the trained ears of a Southerner.
fellow is a righteous and honorable sort. He is a man that aspires to greatness and a true gentleman who always wants to do things the right way. A fellow pretty much always does the right thing, even when it isn't popular. Fellows are usually very hard workers and always take the high road. They can easily deny their own ego and self-interests and work hard to be the men they're supposed to be.
feller, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of everything I just mentioned. Fellers are a shifty, seedy and shady bunch. Prone to backsliding, they're always looking for the easy way out and in doing as little as possible to maintain. A feller having scruples and honor? Not hardly. Basically fellers are just good ole-fashioned no-accounts. It's all about them; they care nothing of honor or doing the right thing.
fella, the category that this writer — and most of us, I think, for that matter — belongs to, is someone who tries very hard to be a fellow but has the tendency, at times, to be a feller. We can touch greatness and are usually doing things the right way, giving us a shade of being a fellow. However, sometimes we just can’t help ourselves from getting out of our own way, unfortunately finding ourselves as fellers some of the time. Hey, it happens. As Ray Goff would say, we just try to "work hard to get better." Usually we do okay; sometimes it depends on the weather. Or the state of the world, or how much bourbon we've consumed, or how the Georgia Bulldogs are doing in a given season and whether or not we lose to Auburn, Florida or Tech.
Bonus: A felon is a fella or a feller, and sometimes — very rarely — a fellow, who gets caught and convicted by the Law, for a serious example of being a feller.