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A blogging ode to spring — tiptoeing through the tulips

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I’ll just tell you: I’m a real sissy for the tulips. I tiptoe through ‘em like a regular falsetto.

It started years ago – the last century, I think.

Shalah and I had one of our best vacations, starting in Amsterdam. We caught a bus to Haarlem where some famous tulip place existed. Franz something, I think it was. Franz Rosen, I want to say.

I wasn’t terribly excited by the expedition, until, that is, we got there.

Fields as far as you could see, swarming with tulips standing straight and of all the bright and beautiful colors and variegations.

They would ask where you lived and invite you to purchase your favorites and they would mail the bulbs to you at the proper time for you to plop in the ground where you lived.

We bought. Pretty big. I may still be carrying some residual damage on the American Express.

The bulbs came by UPS in stages, before and just after Christmas, and I took the bulb-maker and poked hundreds of holes in the front yard and back.

That early-to-mid spring at our house was a wonderland, and I do not lie.

People would stop their cars and get out and look and take pictures, and ask things like where we found those tri-colored tulips at the side of the front steps.

From time to time a smattering of those would come back and some years we’d buy a few more bulbs locally. But it was never the same. And the squirrels would get them. I guess it was the squirrels. The bulb holes would be opened and empty, the dirt upturned.

So late last summer or early fall, I got one of those marketing emails and made the impulse buy. Some outfit would sell me tulips and send me the bulbs when the time was right for my climate. I made my selections, a hundred bulbs, and punched in my credit card number.

It was my biggest impulse buy off an email since the tangerine and turquoise fiesta ware showed up on the porch that time.

It bothered me that the bulbs arrived in a box almost immediately – in October, I think it was. Surely it wasn’t time to plant them, I thought, and I put the box aside and went my merry way.

And forgot it until Shalah saw the box in mid-January and asked what that was.

Oh, dear, I said. It’s wasted money and bulbs that will never make tulips now, I said.

She grabbed the box and the bulb hole puncher and proceeded furiously to inject them into pots and sections of flower beds on the front, side and back of the house.

I advised her not to waste her time – that October was too soon, but mid-January too late, being learned as I am in matters of tulip timing.

Today, being obsessive, I counted 64 tulips, front and back and side  – bright yellow changing to orange, bright orange changing to yellow, solid yellow, solid orange and then these little miniature tulipy things that peek out in three cup-forming sections of orange and yellow variegations.

I like orange and yellow and a blend – for flowers. I don’t want to wear them, necessarily.

Saturday would have been the day for the tulip festival around here. Today is drab and a few of the tulips are on the downhill side.

I’d post pictures but I don’t know how to put pictures on the blog, and, anyway, we have too much instant photography and not enough word description and imagination these days.











Written by jbrummett

April 6th, 2015 at 5:37 pm

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On thou shalt not kill, and meanness

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Written by jbrummett

March 26th, 2015 at 12:34 pm

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A Brummett Christmas. It was 1959 . . .

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A request poured in that I rerun a Christmas column of years past, something about my dad.

But I don’t have a Christmas Day column this year and I’m wondering if the request confused a childhood Christmas remembrance with any of a half-dozen tributes I’ve made to the late J.T. over these decades of columnizing.

So I thought I would adapt for the blog the column of 15 years ago or so about the Christmas of 1959 in the little four-room house on Arch Street Pike due south of Little Rock nearly to Baseline Road.

It was a happy time. I was 5, 6 and 7 when we lived in that humble house, and those were vividly formative years.

I spent days studying the busy highway and memorizing the makes and models of the big-engined cars, the Chevys of 55, 56 and 57, the Fords, the Mercurys and the Pontiacs.

These were years my dad would always recall as his happiest. He singularly ran a rural garbage route by morning, worked at the Nabisco cookie-loading warehouse by night, and, in between, raised hogs and chickens. He never had so much money, he would recall years later, lamenting that the workload had proved too great and he’d given up the garbage business.

But he had some money for once, enough to grace our driveway with a gray-and-white 1955 Pontiac, which, upon purchase, he took screaming down the southern reaches of Arch Street at 95 miles an hour while mom pleaded with him to slow because “you’ve got those kids in the car,” meaning me and my younger sister.

Dad bought some boxing gloves and I knocked the neighbor kid plumb off the porch. J.T. was proud enough to tell about it over and over.

One afternoon while dad was working, of course, I was climbing along a clothes line and fell and gashed my skull on the corner of a wash tub. Mom and the neighbor lady wrapped it and I went on about my business — rendered by the blow the unique liberal in our Church of Christ clan.

I ran upon a rattlesnake coiled and noisy in the curve of the trail to the hogs, and my mom chopped it to near-death. A tarantula came up in the yard and my sister was coaxing it closer, calling it “birdie, birdie,” before my mom realized the situation. I had my tonsils taken out and came to post-operative consciousness in a children’s ward with the Three Stooges playing and I laughed so hard I wound up throwing up blood that night and nearly dying.

Good times.

So I wrote once about that Christmas Eve of ’59, when I’d just turned 6.

Excited, I lay half-asleep in the pre-dawn hours. Perhaps it was the noise that awakened me. A tent was being set up for me in the living room, by a Santa Claus who said a curse word or two over the project, my mother joked the next morning.

It occurred to me that Santa wouldn’t curse, but that a certain J.T., 15 years removed from Marine infantry duty on Okinawa, was bad about that.

What happened, as I wrote in that column, was that I could have sworn that, as I lay there half awake, I could feel the presence and weight of Santa Claus as he sat on the the foot of my bed. I was entirely too shy to sit up and actually confront him, but I could feel him there as sure as the world, and was as comforted as unnerved.

I wrote that this represented the power of a child’s imagination, and thus actually was Santa in a way, thus the magical spirit and essence of the holiday.

So a friend called that morning and said what I’d written had been so beautiful, explaining in such a clever way that it had been my dad sitting there at the foot of the bed, looking over me after finally getting the blankety-blank tent erected.

My friend asked: That was what I had meant, right?

It is now, I said.







Written by jbrummett

December 24th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

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50 years ago today, 5th grade, a teacher . . .


Fifty years ago today, in the early-afternoon, in a fifth-grade classroom at Baseline Elementary School on Baseline Road in southern/southwestern Little Rock, the most memorable and influential teacher of my lifetime, Judy Hankins, mother of a couple of boys our age, one of whom would grow up to be Craig O’Neill, got called to the office. She was gone a long time.

She returned looking somber. But she had a certain moodiness, shall we say, which made her all the more interesting.

Once she wrote, “I’m a bona fide artist,” which she was, on the blackboard and told us she didn’t have to put up with the commotion we’d caused on our trip to the restroom. Another time she was instructing us in the meaning of “satisfied,” and said it was the way you feel after going to the bathroom. I laughed. She walked to my desk and glared at me and asked, “How dare you laugh at God?” One morning my dad dropped me off at school and my playmates were  in the middle of a touch football play. I threw down my satchel and yelled for a pass, which I caught for a touchdown. Mrs. Hankins, seeing it all as the other team argued, told me I could count the touchdown if it was all right with my conscience. I said, “I don’t have a conscience.” She said, “Then you’re the devil.”

She also unilaterally changed my name from Johnny to John, irking my parents and giving me a more substantial byline.

So on this day, upon her return, she walked silently to the blackboard and wrote, “Thou shalt not kill,” then proceeded with teaching.

Our mom and dad told us what had happened when my 3rd-grade sister and I piled into the car at 3:30 p.m.

Years ago I wrote a column reflecting on this day and said that Mrs. Hankins was “mixing church and state, I guess.”

Days later I got a letter  from her with a gold star attached that told me I was one of her more memorable and bright-eyed students and wondering how in the world one could teach without mixing church and  state.


Written by jbrummett

November 22nd, 2013 at 9:02 am

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I’m no Philip Martin, but I advance the Oscars anyhow.


I love good movies and I like average movies and I can get through some bad movies.

I think the Oscars are mostly hype and nonsense and pretense, but I get interested every year anyway.

It’s folly, really, to declare one film better than another if both successfully and compellingly told their stories and connected with audiences.

“Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Silver Linings Playbook” — all told engaging and powerful stories expertly. And all delivered acting performances that showcased spectacular art and craft.

So now we pick the best. It’s like being a gymnastics judge with Olga Korbut and Nadia Comenici both in their primes competing against each other. You’re looking at a pair of 10.0 scores and trying to choose one perfection as better than the other.

Except, you know, Daniel Day-Lewis was the best actor in his Lincoln portrayal. Somehow that’s beyond dispute. I think he’s the male Meryl Streep, except he hasn’t made as many bad movies as she has.

One more note before I chance predictions: There always is a movie I personally enjoy most during a year and it always gets nominated and it never wins.

It usually is an understated drama with comedic touches marked by great writing.

Last year it was “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen. One year it was “Sideways.” Another year it was “Little Miss Sunshine.”

This year: “Silver Linings Playbook.” I could watch Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro — especially Jennifer Lawrence — in that film all day every day. A movie about the tragic behavioral affliction of a lead character that suddenly has you roaring in glorious happy laughter — now that is some serious filmmaking, a triumph, a genuine ode to a greater humanity.

So, as usual, my favorite movie has a boatload of nominations and won’t win much — an acting award, maybe two, at best.

Anyway, the following aren’t actually predictions. They are compilations and assessments of prevailing predictions:

Best movie — “Argo” has won practically everything in sight so far, suggesting it will defeat “Lincoln” again tonight. I don’t understand it.

Best director — Well, this is strange. The director of the favorite for best film, “Argo,” is Ben Affleck, and he isn’t even nominated. How can you have the best movie if it didn’t benefit from at least one of the better directing jobs? Anyway, Stephen Spielberg should win for “Lincoln.”

Best actor — Daniel Day-Lewis.

Best actress — Jennifer Lawrence. Maybe Jennifer Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty,” though that would irk me. Lawrence in “Silver Linings” was like Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight.” I felt empty when she wasn’t on the screen, and was delighted when she reappeared, maybe to stalk Cooper as he jogged with that plastic bag draped around him. What a movie.

Best supporting actor — This is the most wide-open contest. It also is laden with great talent: Tommy Lee Jones, Christoph Waltz, Philip Seymour Hoffman. So here’s what some people are starting to think: In some high drama, all these great actors will split the vote and the Oscar will go to ….. Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook.” I’d love it, except I worry about Bobby trying to make an acceptance speech.

Best supporting actress — Anne Hathaway in a musical I’ve not seen, and, alas, will not see. I’m sorry. I”m not going to pretend to have sufficient refinement to appreciate  over-emotive singing where dialogue ought to be.

Best original screenplay — Mark Boal for “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Best adapted screenplay — Chris Terrio for “Argo” in an absolute outrage because what Tony Kushner did on “Lincoln” was a tour-de-force.

Best documentary — “Searching for Sugar Man.” A guy named Sixto Rodriguez in inner-city Detroit emerged briefly as a Dylanesque song-writing talent in the early 70s, then disappeared. Except, that is, in South Africa, where he remained legend, but where they were told he was dead. He wasn’t. He was a handyman in Detroit. These filmmakers found him. His back-from-the-dead tours of South Africa have been like Springsteen in Jersey. They say he may not make it tonight because he’s touring South Africa. Good stories. Man, I love ’em.





Written by jbrummett

February 24th, 2013 at 8:24 am

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I make public appearances


This will be a busy week for the columnist/blogger/lecturer/troublemaker with the election drawing nigh.

Here’s what I have scheduled, with an occasional comment:

6:15 p.m. today — presenting program at the Parkway Village retirement center. When last I spoke there, about four years ago, this happened: I followed a man into the community building, several paces behind, and he encountered a man coming out. “Not staying to hear Brummett?” asked the man in front of me. “Can’t stand him,” said the other.

6 p.m. Wednesday  — I will present the third and final lecture of a series on the presidential race sponsored by the Osher Life Learning Institute at the downtown Fayetteville Global Campus of the University of Arkansas. OLLI is a community program for persons aged 50 and older.

Noon Thursday– Conway Rotary Club. Sen. Jason Rapert, the showboat Republican locked in a big race, and a member of the club, keeps tweeting about this as if he’s worried what I may say. I’m just going to analyze, not advocate, of course.

Additional note: The LifeQuest program where I present a weekly class called “Behind the Headlines” is having an election-night fund-raiser at U.S. Pizza in Hillcrest. There’s a buffet dinner and I will hold forth on the election returns as they come in on the big-screen TVs in the party room — from, oh, 6 to 11, give or take.


Written by jbrummett

October 22nd, 2012 at 8:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A musical interlude — a Springsteen moment


Many of you know that I’m a freakish fan of Bruce Springsteen, except that, while I admire his staying power and re-invention skill, I much prefer his ’70s work, when he had youthful angst, to the more recent work, in which the attempted mixture of rock and near-senior bliss didn’t work for me.

So I was interested to read that Bob Seeger said he’d run into Springsteen and that Springsteen told him he had a new album forthcoming and that it was his best stuff in a long time.

Now comes word that the album, Wrecking Ball, will be out in early March. But there’s a preview on the Web today. It’s of a single, “We Take Care of Our Own,” that is both innovative in some of the percussion and reminiscent of Springsteen’s earlier work in the rich, longing and socially relevant lyrics.

It may be that, at — what? 61? 62? — Springsteen has contemplated the new kind of darkness on the edge of the American town, and that he has something to say about it.

Here are some lyrics from this single, which I find stirring and better each time I’ve played it today — about a half-dozen, with one point: I think Bruce means cavalry though I think he says calvary:

“I been stumbling on good hearts turn to stone, the road of good intentions gone dry as a bone… From Chicago to New Orleans, from the muscle to the bone, From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome, There ain’t no help the cavalry stayed at home, there ain’t no one hearing the bugle blown. We take care of our own, Wherever this flag’s flown, We take care of our own… Where are the eyes, the eyes with the will to see? Where are the hearts that run over with mercy? Where’s the love that has not forsaken me? Where’s the work that set my hands, my soul free? Where’s the spirits that will reign rain over me? Where’s the promise from sea to shining sea? Wherever this flag is flown, we take care of our own.”





Written by jbrummett

January 19th, 2012 at 11:59 am

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Flushing a tax cut through a pipeline

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Here it is, the Republican message to middle-class Americans: You may have your little payroll tax cut, we guess, but only with a big condition, that being that we embarrass President Obama by tying this little tax cut to approval of construction of this oil pipeline from Canada that he wants to put off until after the election to assuage his environmental left wing.

I believe, specific policy issues aside, that this is what drives Americans to frustration: They would like to see simple up-or-down votes on simple streamlined questions of interest to them, not partisan gamesmanship that muddies the waters.

In other words: I don’t care right now what you think about this pipeline. First extend the payroll tax cut. Then, if you want, we’ll take up the pipeline. How hard is that?

It’s very hard if partisan interest matters only.



Written by jbrummett

December 13th, 2011 at 6:26 pm

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I told you so

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Another installment in the I-told-you-all-along category: Noted Republican strategist Ed Rollins has told a radio interviewer — it was actor Alec Baldwin, actually — that his work for Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign in 2008 was frustrating. He said it was because Huckabee could have been a great candidate who would duel Mitt Romney for the nomination, but Huckabee’s heart wasn’t in it and Rollins told him he couldn’t want it more than Huckabee wanted it.

Huckabee was running for a show on Fox, for some speaking fees, and for some book sales, and he got it all plus a Ramada Inn-looking house of a thing on the Redneck Riviera.


Written by jbrummett

December 8th, 2011 at 9:29 am

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On the phone with the phone company


Back during the legislative session this year, I wrote about this sneaky little deal by AT&T to continue its phone-tax subsidy for extending broadband service to rural Arkansas by locking in, for permanent calculation purposes, its current level of ever-declining land-line customers.

I was told that Eddie Drilling, the head of AT&T in Arkansas and a renown lobbyist tight with Mike Beebe, had said Verizon surely fed me the column because I was not smart enough to have figured this out myself. Actually, somebody fed me, but I was sufficiently intelligent to figure out what they were feeding me — which is precisely how newspaper work goes.

But I will tell you something I am never smart enough to figure out, and that is my monthly AT&T bill. The dadgummed thing goes on for pages, being consolidated for land line, broadband and wireless service. I don’t have U-verse because AT&T doesn’t value my Hillcrest neighborhood sufficiently to make it available. They did send out a representative of their partner, Direct TV, but he told me I’d have to cut down a couple of trees to have a chance of getting a signal. So I stuck with the cable company.

And now a confession: I’d rather put the bill aside and try to get it paid as is rather than question something and have to go through that arduous hell of trying to AT&T on the phone.

But this latest bill, coming to about $200 more than I expected and containing $116 for a wireless number I didn’t know I had, forced me into the AT&T customer service maze where I spent two solid hours Friday afternoon, from 3 to 5 p.m.

I was patient, pretty much, until the profane end. It reminded of how you’ll go all day and not eat much, hoping to lose weight, and then give in to a fistful of cookies at 10 p.m. You’d have been better off munching during the day. I’d have been better off emitting steam throughout the two-hour ordeal of unhelpful responses and frequent transfers, since AT&T apparently requires a different phone bank, and a half-hour’s hold, for every new issue that arises in the course of a customer inquiry.

One guy had to unbundle my bill to fix something. Then he transferred to the guy who could rebundle my bill, but he required a password I didn’t have, and didn’t know I had, and he told me that, for my own security, he could not discuss my bill with me until I went to an AT&T store and straightened this password issue out.

That was when I shouted an extreme profanity and hung up.

Long story short: My dear wife set up a new IPhone account at the AT&T store in March. Apparently she got herself talked into authorizing a second line for a mere $9.95 a month. So in October I leave Stephens Media, which allows me to take my antique Blackberry and switch my number to my personal account. So I go to the AT&T store thinking I am availing myself of his second authorized inactive line to move this corporate phone.

That’s not what I did, though. I put my corporate on a family plan and, somehow, that second authorized and inactive line got moved out separately. And somehow it absorbed $116 in pro-rated charges. I inquired, but was never given a satisfactory answer, as to how an inactive $9.95 line could absorb pro-rated charges of that amount, or any amount. Pro-rated from what?

Anyway, it turned out that a second person, to whom I was transferred for a lengthy wait, could move that inactive third line into the family plan for $9.95. But I could not simply kill that line, because this contract for it was through March 2013 and I would be assessed $250 if I reneged on this contract.

Then it turned out that another customer service representative could forgive a portion of that $116 in pro-rated charges on an inactive line priced at $9.95, but that required another transfer and hold.

Then somebody had to unbundle by accounts against my will, and then the guy who would rebundle couldn’t because I could not produce a password and then I swore at him and checked out.

Yesterday I got a call from an AT&T “manager” who wanted to review my customer service experience. I told her I was so glad she called and proceeded to take about a half-hour of her time going over all this in painstaking detail.

She professed to understand my frustration and to have zeroed-out something on my bill and credited something else. I expect all this will be reflected on my bill next month and that I will not understand it.







Written by jbrummett

December 8th, 2011 at 9:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized


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