Monday, April 27, 2015

THE SINKING OF THE SULTANA (150 years ago today... America's forgotten maritime disaster)

           Try to imagine having survived Andersonville as a Union prisoner during the Civil War, only to end up on The Sultana for your joyous ride up the Mississippi River toward home.  You and over 2000 other passengers would be packed onto a steamer designed for a capacity of 400.  One of the ship's four boilers was in need of serious repair, but the captain would make a fortune if he could pull off one last trip up the river... $5 per head was a lot of money in 1865... So he ordered a makeshift patch job on the leaky boiler, and set sail.

            When the boiler exploded at 2:00 AM just north of Memphis, passengers and crew were thrown overboard into the flood swollen river.  Many of the men were so emaciated from their horrible imprisonment that they were unable to swim to shore.  Estimates of the death toll range from 1,700 to 1,800 men, hundreds more than died during the sinking of the Titanic.

             And yet, America's worst maritime disaster is relatively unknown to most of us.

             Maybe if they made a movie, and had Leonardo and Kate stand on the prow of the ship as she went down...

Friday, April 24, 2015

DO WE HAVE AN OFFICIAL STATE CONDOM, YET? (breathing a sign of relief that the latest session of the General Assembly has adjourned...)

            The breeze blowing across the southeast last week wasn't the typical atmospheric movement of air.  It was the collective sigh of relief all Tennessean's felt when our state's General Assembly adjourned its latest session at Legislative Plaza.  Just knowing these clueless bastards are back in their own hometowns is a comfort to us all.  We'll sort through the damage they've done this session, but at least it's over until they reconvene.

             One of the last things passed by the Volunteer State's House of Reprehensibles was a resolution naming the Barrett model M82/M107 50 caliber sniper rifle as the state's "official state firearm."  The Senate didn't get a chance to weigh in on the matter, so until the legislature reconvenes next year the state is woefully without an official state gun.  Hopefully, no other state will snatch the Barrett sniper rifle before our General Assembly has a chance to confirm its designation as our own.

             Seriously, this is what passes for governance in our state.  They passed a law allowing gun carry permit holders to take their shiny toys with them to the playgrounds and parks, regardless of local restrictions, but stopped short of allowing concealed weapons in their own statehouse.  It's one thing to allow ammosexuals the freedom to carry loaded pistols to the little league park, but quite another to think that the angry constituent in the hallway of the capital building is packing heat.

              Before the House debate on the sniper rifle thing was over, a couple of state representatives expressed concern that naming one particular gun manufacturer's product as the "official state firearm" might be seen as a commercial endorsement of that company's guns over those of other fireams manufacturers in the state.  After all, there are several companies pumping out guns in Tennessee.  It's just that the Barrett 50 caliber is probably the most well known, given its popularity among our troops in the field.  I took a tour of their plant here in Murfreesboro a couple of summers ago, and it's an impressive place.

               Still, you have to hand it to state Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) for having the balls to file resolutions naming FedEx the state's "official delivery service", and for naming AutoZone the state's "official auto parts manufacturer and distributor".  Neither resolution was acted on by the House, but it was admirable bit of legislative sarcasm all the same.

               All of this has me thinking...  When I watch our legislators in action, I'm struck by the fact that so many of them seem to be walking, talking endorsements for the pro-choice movement.  Most of them oppose the pro-choice movement, and as proof they've had a couple of new abortion restrictions signed into law by our governor.  But still, when you hear them talk, and then consider the bills they deem worthy of our legislature's time and attention, you have to wonder how much better off we'd all be if their moms had taken a drive down to Planned Parenthood a few decades ago.

                Maybe Tennessee should have an official state condom?  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION, I REFER TO EXHIBIT ELEVEN (the guardian ad Litem's report to the court...)

               There's something unnerving about waiting for a judge's ruling, even if you and everyone else is certain of the outcome.  You just never know...  O.J. Simpson's case is proof of that.

               My lovely (and dangerous) wife has been the most uneasy about all of this.  It's a sibling rivalry thing that goes back four decades.  Fighting with her sister for custody and guardianship of her sister's daughter isn't like any other squabble they've had so far, and the stakes couldn't be higher for either of them.  The child in question, our nine year-old niece Sarah, has been worried shitless about the outcome of next Wednesday's hearing for months. Ever since her grandmother died in early December, Sarah has been on pins and needles, desperate for some sort of resolution... anything that would grant her a sense of security about her future.

                Yesterday we got a spoiler alert for next Wednesday's court decision, and it's cool news for all concerned, (with the possible exception of my sister-in-law...)  The report from the guardian ad Litem (the attorney appointed to investigate, interview, and recommend guardianship of Sarah to the court) was forwarded to all concerned parties yesterday, and though it's not the final word on the matter, it is encouraging.

                 Earlier this month Mrs. Squatlo and I celebrated (if you can call it that) our wedding anniversary.  I believe we had time for a hug and "love you, too" between elementary school drop offs, pick ups, piano practices, voice lessons, homework, meals, and kid bedtimes.  The highlight of the day was reading the Happy Anniversary note Sarah wrote to us.  In fact, it brought a tear to my eyes, and that doesn't happen very often.  When the woman serving as ad Litem came to our house to interview us and talk to Sarah, we showed her Sarah's note.  She asked for a copy.  That copy of Sarah's Happy Anniversary note was entered into the court evidence as "Exhibit Eleven", and probably went a long way toward sealing the deal for Sarah's guardianship.


                           Exhibit Eleven (pardon the spelling errors, the kid's nine...)

                 To paraphrase from the ad Litem's report:

         "In summary, the undersigned Guardian ad Litem recommends that Cindy and Bob Squatlo be appointed to serve as Custodians for legal and physical custody of the minor child."

            Obviously, a judge has to approve the recommendation, but we're told that's merely a formality.  We'll go to court on Wednesday, face off with Mommy Dearest, and probably have a ringside seat for one of her epic ass-showing meltdowns right there in the courtroom.  Our attorney has recommended we take out orders of protection, because he thinks she's seriously unhinged.  A copy of her criminal history was included in the report, and it's a lengthy and interesting mix of aggravated assaults, forgery charges, DUIs, drug possessions, and assorted other charges.  Not exactly Mommy of the Year material, despite her protestations to the contrary.

              It's all over but the crying.

Monday, April 20, 2015


          12:45AM: I hear Zippy pulling a shirt off of a hanger Cindy left on the closet doorknob. Efforts to capture cat begin.

12:46:  Realizing the kitten is too quick for me to grab in the dark, I go to the kitchen and rattle her food bowl to lure her within reach.  No kitty takes the bait.  I go back to resume search in bedroom.

12:48: frustrated, I lean down quickly to make snatching attempt at grabbing said cat under edge of bed, not knowing Cindy's right foot was hanging off side of bed.  Slam left eye into Cindy's big toe, temporarily halting cat search.

12:52:  wiping away tears, I return to kitchen, shake food dish again, with same result. No cats.

12:55: return to bed, climb in, pissed off...  "I can't catch the damn cat."
Cindy mumbles, "Both cats are outside.  I put her out before I came to bed."


1:25 AM:  lightning and thunder show begins.  Cats begin wailing on screened-in back porch.  I ignore.  Serves 'em right for waking me up earlier, even if they didn't have anything to do with it.

1:27 AM:  particularly loud thunderclap makes cats go into hysterics on porch.  I go let them in.  Much running around ensues.

1:30 AM:  I lie awake, knowing that at any moment Sarah will come into our room in tears, terrified of the storm.  And the cats will be here any moment to torment me, as well.  I toss and turn, waiting for the inevitable.

2:00 AM:  the storm dies out. Sarah slept through it all.  The cats did too.  The only person awake is me... and I don't know how any of this started.

Damn cats...