Chanticleer #19

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 

Henry David Thoreau


August 27, 2000

Those of you astute readers with a sense of the monthly calendar realize that you’ve flipped pages twice now since Chanticleer last crowed your way. He has no valid reason for the unplanned hiatus so he will offer no excuses. However, he would like to relate a few experiences experienced and thoughts thought from the past two months.


I spent a week in Israel back in June on a business trip. This was my first trip to the Middle East so I played tourist as much as time would allow. The highlight for me was a day-trip from Tel Aviv (on the Mediterranean) to Jerusalem (about an hour inland) on June 26th. Some observations: San Francisco has nothing on Jerusalem as far as hills go. Jerusalem has over 600,000 people now, and building seems to be going on all around it. Traffic was horrible. The weather was dry and hot, probably mid-90s, with high desert very similar to Tucson or eastern Colorado Springs.

An unexpected highlight for me was spending a couple of hours at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial. The other person on my semi-private tour, a 74-year old Jew from the U.K. named David Colton, particularly wanted to visit it. (Funny that I’ve never really thought about there being Jews in England.) I didn’t object, so our 75-year old van-driver-local historian-Tevye-sound-alike-tour-guide named Ezekiel made a detour prior to entering the old city and took us to Yad Vashem.

Of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, they estimate that 1.5 million were children under the age of 17. A special memorial building pays tribute to these children in a most powerful way. After walking down a somber, darkened, winding walk amidst recordings of children playing and singing, you face a large black-and-white montage of perhaps a dozen children, their names and ages printed on the photos. A recording relates some chilling facts regarding Nazi acts against children. From the montage, you continue around and down into darkness before you enter a space in which you’re surrounded on all sides, above and below by flickering candles. Using some number of actual candles and hundreds, if not thousands of mirrors, the effect is that you’re in the midst of 1.5 million candles – with each flickering light reflecting the symbolic remembrance of an exterminated child.

We had to wait to enter the Hall of Remembrance because we were told a special ceremony was going on. A few minutes later the doors opened and a quite important looking group of people somberly filed out, including several military officials, a camera man and sound man. They set up a quick interview/sound bite session just outside the door, and I overheard a woman reporter asking a distinguished looking gentleman a couple of questions, and I heard bits and pieces of what sounded like very sober, diplomatic responses.

The next morning, June 27th, I read in the Jerusalem Post that the man was David Trimble, First Minister of Northern Ireland. A large photo showed him, aided by one of the uniformed military officials, laying a wreath inside the Hall of Remembrance. The article noted that Mr. Trimble was in the Middle East “to discuss the successes of the Northern Ireland peace process.”

Back home in Dallas on July 3rd, the Dallas Morning News (AP) reported on the build-up of tensions in Northern Ireland as the week approached for the annual Orange Order marches of Protestants through predominantly Catholic neighborhoods. Throughout that following week I read almost daily reports of violence and threats resulting from this annual, “traditional” protest.

I’m struggling with the symbolic relevance of a Northern Ireland politician paying respects at a Jewish memorial for atrocities committed largely by Christians, while the Protestants and Catholics in his country continue to hate and kill each other.

I think it’s important for those of us coming from a Christian-centric culture to do a little historical homework before traveling/pilgrimmaging to “the Holy Land”. While we of course associate Israel, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc., as the region “where Jesus walked”, one should realize that Jerusalem is recognized as a “holy” city by three major religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Inside the walled city, the historical “Old City”, there are four sectors or quarters – the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian.
Personally, I felt a bit uncomfortable, if not embarrassed, seeing a busload of American tourists walking past the Wailing Wall in matching JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY t-shirts and JESUS SAVES! gimme caps. Imagine if they encountered a similar group of Moslem tourists, or Orthodox Jews, displaying similarly parochial sensitivities.

Ezekiel proudly informed us, as we unloaded to walk through the Garden of Gethsemane, just below the eastern wall and just down the hill from the Mount of Olives, that “experts have verified” some of the olive trees in the Garden to be at least 2,000 years old. And I thought … can you just imagine the tourism authorities listening to their consultant if he had reported: “We can say with confidence that our analysis concludes that the oldest tree is approximately 1,600 years old, possibly as old as 1,800 years.”

I don’t think so.

Ezekiel also mentioned on several occasions that the Old City of Jerusalem has been destroyed 16 times, and re-built 17 times. Therefore, some of the claims of “this is where that happened” ought to be taken with some skepticism. However, while I stood in the Garden of Gethsemane, below the Mount of Olives, I figured there probably wasn’t much doubt as to the historical legitimacy of that particular place. I looked across the way, up towards the walled city that housed some of the most holy of places for the three great religions most responsible for much (if not most) of the divisiveness in the world today. And standing there in Gethsemane, I thought, “Your gods are too small for me.”

Seen and Heard

A poster advertissment at Gatwick Airport in London for a high-speed Internet service: Click Ass!

Another poster advertissment at Gatwick … a huge photograph of a nicely-shaped woman wearing a tennis skirt and prominently protruding sports bra, running across the court with racket in hand. The caption read: Only the ball should bounce.

During a business trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I ate dinner by myself at a local restaurant, and received very attentive service from a young female Cedar Rapidian. Returning a few minutes after serving my meal, she politely and professionally asked me in that distinctive flat-vowel Midwest accent, “So how’s that tastin’ for yah there?” (Okay, so try saying it out loud and think “Fargo”, the movie.)

I rode in a British Airways seat for 11 hours from London to DFW behind a guy wearing a hat with stitching across the back that read: TERRY: Tool-Pusher.

In perusing some online ‘matchmaking’ advertisements (although by now I kind of prefer advertissments), I found one particularly interesting. This very articulate woman commented that she was of European heritage, and further explained that most of her “descendants had come from Whales.” I felt obligated to express to her some skepticism as to the accuracy of that claim, since I had carefully inspected her photographs and seen no evidence of blow holes. (Upon further review, I wish I had thought to mention my recent visit to Jerusalem and the Whaling Wall …)

The morning after Gore’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, the Dallas Morning News headline quoted his speech in their front page headline: “I will never let you down”. My first reaction: this exhilarating exhortation of lasting lemming leadership unfortunately reflects a steady regression of lowering idealism among the Dems …

FDR: “the New Deal”
Truman: “the buck stops here”
JFK: “ask not what your country can do for you”
LBJ: “the Great Society”
Jimmy Carter: “the great malaise” (and don’t forget Billy Beer!)
Willie Clinton: “I did not have sexual relations with .. that woman”
Al Gore: “I will never let you down.”

In the interest of equal time, fair play, and equal disgust, I call your attention to a report during the GOP convention that the Bush campaign refuted a Washington Post report that George Dubya had “cut a deal with conservatives to preserve existing anti-abortion language in return for a softer stance on issues such as education, women’s health and immigration.”

Ah, moral leadership at its finest and most mushily compromising concerning one of the few governmental issues that truly affects individual lives.

In case you missed it, they finally lowered the Confederate flag that had flown over the South Carolina Statehouse in July, as discussed in previous Chanticleer Calls.

I’m pleased and honored to report that I’ve been invited to present a program at Notre Dame on September 29th, hosted by the university’s Language Resource Center.

Condoms To Go

Some of you have seen this already, but in case you haven’t … furthering the reminder that meaning is a function of context … context determines meaning …

Driving up North Central Expressway in July, I noticed a large sign just north of Walnut Hill advertising the, uh, ’boutique’ shop – Condoms To Go.

I wasn’t shocked, but I became instantly curious as to why the name specified “To Go.”

Of course, after a couple of seconds it dawned on me that the owner(s) probably decided to call it Condoms To Go as an efficiency measure. This way, by having the name of the establishment include the words to go, the clerks won’t have to waste any time asking consumers, “Is that for here or to go?” Since the name of the store says to go, customers should obviously know that they’re supposed to buy their desired product(s) and then, you know … go.

So I wouldn’t expect to hear the question, “Is that for here or to go?” inside the Condoms To Go store. And I got to thinking about other common consumer questions and phrases that I would NOT expect to hear inside a shop like Condoms To Go:

  • “Want fries with that?”
  • “You can super size it for just 39 cents more.”
  • “Buy now, pay later.”
  • “We can hold it for up to 90 days. But you’ll have to make a deposit.”
  • “Like new”
  • “We service all makes.”
  • “Professional installation available”
  • “Operators are standing by!”

You can read the complete list here.

AND FINALLY – The Little League World Series

The team from Houston Bellaire lost to the team representing Venezuela yesterday 3-2 in the final game of the Little League World Series.

As reported in the DMN, the coach of the victorious Venezuelan team praised the Houston team as “very aggressive warriors.

The writer of the story reported that, “Despite the loss, the city plans a parade …

Twelve-year-olds as very aggressive warriors?

Despite the loss?

What behaviors and attitudes does this type of language reflect … and what does it perpetuate?