Gay Street and Orange Julius

Not long ago, Amy and I took our first visit to the new open market on Lovell Road. Most of what I saw in booths amounted to what I call elegant junk. That was fine with me because I like nothing better than rummaging through stuff like that in hopes of finding some good deals on things not needed. Outside several vendors offered fruits, vegetables, and flowers, and one vendor sold frozen meats that he’d grown on his farm in middle Tennessee.

The best thing I discovered was in the food court. Orange Julius was being sold in one area, and I had to have one. The wait in line was longer than other places, but that’s what happens when something truly good is being prepared. And yes, the price was steep for the size of the drink. Still, on this occasion, I paid it without blinking an eye. The first slurp from the cup brought back plenty of memories from times gone by.

Trips to downtown Knoxville were big deals “back in the day.” Daddy drove Mother and us three boys to Westhaven, where we caught the bus for the last few miles. We exited in front of Woolworths on Gay Street, and that was the start line for a day of shopping.

Mother bought our clothes in a Penney’s or Sears downtown. We’d travel to Millers so that she could shop for material located in a department on an upper floor. Rich’s was the next stop, and when that store became Millers as well, we made trips to both places.

The entire time we crisscrossed Gay Street, with stops on Market Square for good measure, the three of us boys held out our hopes. Sometimes we dreamed of going to the movie while Mother shopped. That didn’t happen much because a tight budget held no money for such foolishness.

More often, we dutifully followed her in and out of stores without complaining too much. Our plan was to be so good that Momma would buy us something to eat. She was much wiser than we gave her credit for being; she knew the way to our good behavior was through our too big bellies.
Food always was a part of our trips. We would scoot into the Blue Circle on Wall Avenue and slide onto the stools at the counter. When we finished, all that remained were napkins, bits of fallen onions, and smears of ketchup.
Sometimes we’d wait for seats at Woolworth’s. The smell of the hamburgers cooking had us slobbering like Pavlov’s dogs, and when the food arrived, it disappeared in only a couple of minutes.

An extravagance was eating at S and W. It was a more formal than what were used to. The cafeteria line offered tempting dishes, but all of us ordered the same thing every time—fish. A black waiter in a white jacket would tote our trays to a table and then place the dishes in our places. While we gobbled fish covered with the best ever tartar sauce, mashed potatoes, and green beans, Mother rested. I don’t remember whether or not she ate, but it would have been like her to do without so we could enjoy ourselves.

We’d trek to the far end of Gay Street sometimes. Our clan passed homeless men and some con men selling pencils one time and another item the next, we hiked until reaching a small shop. There it was—the Orange Julius. Orders placed and cups in hand, our family hiked back down Gay Street for the last time of the day. Sometimes one of us would drink too fast and stop dead still on the sidewalk and grab his temples. “Brain freeze! Then we’d continue the walk to the bus stop.

The other day I drank that Orange Julius too fast and suffered for it as I had years ago. The memories of a time long passed were darkened with the realization that three of our five family members are gone. However, the time we spent together during the simplest of activities made huge impression on my life. Maybe the best thing I can do is to go back and drink another one for each of them.

Not a Fan Not a Follower

The NFL played the first round of play off games this past weekend. A couple of games ended as predicted, but the other two were surprises. I can’t say that I was disappointed in either case. But like most folks, I have an opinion on the Tim Tebow phenomenon.

First, I admit that I’ve never been a Tebow fan. Much of that stems from the fact that the player and his Florida Gators beat my UT teams each year of his eligibility. We who bleed orange have suffered mightily at the hands of this quarterback and his talents as a college player. My negativity is the same reaction that many people throughout the country have in regard to Peyton Manning, the brightest star that’s shined on “the hill” in years.

Now that Tebow is in the NFL, his skills have proven to be less than stellar. Those who analyze talent state that he’s not one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Pundits criticize his passing form, and others say he’s more suited to play the game as a fullback or tight end. Such comments look down right ridiculous when games are completed with Tebow leading his team to a win, most often with game-ending drives.

My beef with this Denver hero has nothing to do with his skills as a quarterback, although I don’t think he’s that gifted. What irks me is the brouhaha over his “religion.” Tim Tebow has never hidden his religious feelings. In fact, he’s worn them on his sleeve at times. Still, that’s his business.

What brings my blood to an almost boiling point is the public display. Eye black with bible verses inked on it is one. Pointing toward the heavens is another. The third is kneeling in the end zone and offering prayer. Are any of these things bad? The answer is no. However, I question whether or not they are appropriate, and he should know the answer. In Matthew 6: 1-6 Jesus instructs his disciples not to pray in public where everyone can see them. Instead, he tells them to go to their closets and pray secretly to God. So, a silent prayer or “thank you” is all that’s needed. Anything more is done to call attention to the individual and his “supposed” goodness.

Then there’s all the talk about God throwing the touchdown passes for Tebow or God willing the quarterback’s winning and favoring the Denver Broncos. Former quarterback Fran Tarkenton, whose dad was a Pentacostal minister, said he prayed before games, but he doesn’t know if God cares about football games and their outcomes. If the good lord did, would he intervene to allow one team to win at the other’s expense? If so, is God a Bronco fan? If so, does that make the Denver team “God’s team?”

I applaud Tim Tebow and his faith. I take exception to his public displays that call attention to himself. I’d much prefer that he talk about the relationship in the pulpit of a church, not at a nationally televised football game. Doing so cheapens religion in that it commercializes it. God is more interested in individuals who focus on living a life of service and devotions. He’s not much interested in show-offs. Ease up, Tim!

To put it another way, God probably isn’t an ardent fan of football and probably doesn’t follow any team. He is more interested in more important things that go on in this world of His.

Proverbial Living

The book of Proverbs, located in the Old Testament after the Psalms and before Ecclesiastes, is perhaps the best book for daily living. Every child used to hear about the wisdom of King Solomon, but before long, the demands of this life got in the way and the wisdom of the ages was locked away in the bible for Sunday school classes and sermon topics.

Our country faces many challenges in the years ahead. Most of us worry about the economy. Our fears over losing jobs are trumped by those for our children’s futures. Will they find jobs? Will their standard of living take a dramatic downturn from ours? Will the country lose its leadership role in the world?
When concerns about money, survival, and fairness come into conversation, remembering just a few of the proverbs can light the way that will help us to regain our equilibrium and standing. What they offer is little more than common sense, but in this day and time, even that is in short supply.
Proverbs 16: 8—“It is better to be poor and godly than rich and dishonest.”
Somehow, someway, things got turned around. Being rich is the most important thing to folks. The richer individuals become, the more money they want, and all too many of them are willing to get riches by hook or by crook. Yes, we all want to live comfortably, but many people have no desire to be filthy rich. For them, riches become cumbersome and weigh them down. Freedom comes with less money and a median income.
Ben Franklin tried to reinforce this proverb when he said, “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.” He knew how corrupting money could be and warned folks of his day. Right now, we don’t have anyone to preach the message that riches too often lead to dishonesty. We must be careful how our fortunes are gained.
Proverbs 16: 11—“The Lord demands fairness in every business deal; he sets the standards.”
A quick glance at the newspapers gives plenty of examples of unfair business practices. Mortgage messes led to historically high numbers of foreclosures. Investment companies gambled with investors’ moneys on garbage bonds and schemes, and as a result, millions of people lost huge hunks of their savings. Some delayed retirement and returned to the work world, even though they’d faithfully saved for years to build a comfortable nest egg. How fair are these actions?
The lack of straight shooting can be found in everyday transactions. How about gas prices for instance? Prices move like rollercoasters on an almost daily basis. Most often, that means increases. Companies jacked up prices almost twenty cents over a recent weekend. The gas in the tanks in the ground didn’t cost them these new prices. So, oil companies took in windfall profits not due them.
Proverbs 16:19—“It is better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.”
Hmm. At the end of 2008, the US economy was almost in the tank. Panic spread as people lost jobs, savings, and homes. The return of the Great Depression seemed to be upon us. Yes, this country was on shaky ground, and fear overtook us.
All the while, other places, such as banks that lost billions, investment firms that fired employees and shut their doors, and major corporations handed out millions of dollars in bonuses. That confused and angered many of us as we tried to comprehend a system that rewards the top executives with enormous checks when so many Americans were hurting. Just the other night, new reports surfaced about how banks and investment companies were lamenting the cut of top bonuses to a mere $300,000 average. Is it just me, or does that seem wrong?
We’ve lost our rudder for living. Perhaps a visit to the common sense proverbs can help us find a guide for right living. If not, then the rich will gain while the middle class loses ground until its members become more like endured servants. We need to make sure that doesn't happen. It might be up to us to re-define what is right and wrong and equitable by reviewing the proverbs from ages past.

College Football Gripes

The college football season is almost complete, something for which many UT fans are thankful. I’ve watched enough games to cross my eyes give me a giant-size headache. The season has caused me to develop a laundry list of complaints, none of which involves the Vols or Coach Dooley.

First, I’m disgusted with the scheduling of games. College football has forever been identified with Saturdays. Night games became more common, but they still were held on that traditional weekend day. Now, college teams play at least four days of the week. Smaller schools’ teams suit up for Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday night games. On Thursdays and some Fridays, big boy schools play games. Lots of times the stands aren’t filled because working folks have to get up for jobs the next morning. Of course, these different schedules are due to the money that they generate. No, it’s not for the schools or football programs; it’s for ESPN’s coffers. When a network pays out billions of dollars in college football contracts, it must create games for which ads can me sold.

Along the same vein, what gives with the bowl line-up? A bowl game used to be special. Now, mediocre teams pound each other with ineptitude in obscure games played on blue fields or in climates better suited for polar bears.

Games need to be scheduled sometime from the day after Christmas through New Years, with a possible exception for the national championship game. At the same time, no game should last until nearly 1:00 a.m. as some have this year. Folks on the west coast can more easily watch a game in the early evening than we on the other side of the country can at midnight and beyond.

I’m sick of the punk attitudes of some players. They make plays and then mouth at their opponents. Some of them stand over other players as if they are about to administer a “beat down.” It’s thug mentality.
What’s all the gesturing about? Some hotdogs thump their chests with both hands to signal that they alone are winning the games. Others take fists and pat themselves over the heart, while a few salute another team mate or the crowd. This “it’s all about me” attitude and the accompanying gestures prove that too many athletes are concerned more with self than team. Coaches should put an end to it.

The last complaint deals with radio talk show personalities. I’m not talking about established folks. No, I refer to the younger talking heads. One is a female who talks as if she knows everything but changes what she’s said when a co-host expresses a better point. Another has a smooth, rich voice which he uses to “dog” everything at UT—football, basketball, coaches and players. His partner is not much better and only occasionally makes a positive comment. All three of these individuals have an agenda that includes putting the football coach in the worst light. I’d dare say that the two males either never played football or were relegated to junior varsity teams.

Around here, the next big deal in sports is signing day. To hear some people talk, UT is a second class program with a poor recruiting class. Never mind that not a single player has suited up yet. Speculation is good, but all of it shouldn’t be assuming the worst. Of course, the seasoned veterans take a different approach, and if it weren’t for them, I’d never listen to a sports radio show.

Yep, I love college football. When Saturday morning rolls around in the fall, a cloudless sky and cool temperatures announce “It’s football time in Tennessee.” I just wish most every other day didn’t include a game. And I wish some players would play the game and quit being show-off punks. Last, I’d appreciate radio show hosts not acting as if they are the final word on a subject and wouldn’t stir up discontent as the tabloids do.

Whew! I feel much better now! Go UT !