Chanticleer Calls #2

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


September 8, 1999

“Chanticleer* Calls”, a twice-monthly newsletter for discriminating readers, thinkers, feelers, speakers, listeners, and cogitators.


  • Name of a DFW towing service, painted across the sides of the truck: TOW JAM
  • Strip center restaurant catering to the Irving/Las Colinas lunch crowd, named: Nooners
  • Between Phoenix and Tucson along I-10: STATE PRISON NEARBY – DO NOT PICK UP HITCHIKERS
  • As westbound Hwy 183 Y-splits into southbound Hwy 121 and westbound Loop 820 near Northeast Mall in Fort Worth, there are no signs ….. but the road splits anyway.


My daughter, a high school junior, studies psychology this trimester as an elective. She recently explained some of the neat experiments they’ve done in class, primarily involving visual illusions that illustrate how our eyes/brain can fool us. I suggested she try this experiment, which you might consider if you have access to five minutes, three large bowls, and water.

Put cold water in a bowl placed to your left, comfortably hot water (not scalding – no lawsuits, please!) in a bowl to your right, and lukewarm (“just right”) water in a middle bowl. Place your left hand in the cold water and your right hand in the comfortably hot water. Keep them (your hands) submerged in the water for about a minute. Then pick them up (still talking about your hands now) and place them both in the middle bowl.

What do your senses tell you about the water temperature in the middle bowl?

Some of you are probably sharp enough to speculate what happens. (But come on, go ahead and do it for yourself anyway.) Your left hand, conditioned by the cold water, tells you that the middle water is “warmer”; while your right hand, conditioned by the comfortably hot water tells you the middle water is “cooler”. You have only one stimulus – the middle bowl of water – but you have two different sensory responses. Which one is “right”?

As I explained to my daughter (who thought this was pretty, uh, “cool”), just like the left and right hands in the experiment, we are each ‘conditioned’ by our past. Each of us has lived through our own unique, no-two-the-same life experiences. To every new situation or experience, we bring our own unique perspectives and attitudes resulting from our past experiences. We therefore can’t help but experience each situation uniquely from anyone else. If we fail to recognize this – if we expect others to see or feel or smell or otherwise experience something exactly the same as we do – then we forget the extended lesson of the three water bowls:

    • This (warmer water to the left hand) is not that (cooler water to the right hand).
    • This (high school experience of a student from Harwood Junior High) is not that (high school experience of a student from Euless Junior High).
    • This (what I find “pretty”) is not that (what you find “ugly”).
    • This (what I find “funny”) is not that (what you find “revolting”).
    • This (what I find “offensive”) is not that (what you find “satirical”).
    • Etc.


While waiting to meet someone for lunch recently, I watched some kids at a mall ice skating rink. A little girl, probably about four or five, would skate a few feet and then gleefully yell to her mother, “Mommy, watch me! Watch ME!”

I was just wondering at what age we outgrow that desire to show others how we progress in learning how to do something. (Or, do we all outgrow that …?)

“There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything, or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking.” – Alfred Korzybski


CNBC reported that The London Times reported a story that “rising stress levels” were resulting in an increase in what was termed “desk rage”. Presumably, “stressed out” non-postal workers in England are, uh, “going postal” at work as the “stress levels rise”.


This makes it sound as if “stress” is something that blankets the offices like the London fog, as if it’s blown in through the air conditioning ducts, or emitted from the fluorescent lights, or carried in the signals of the BBC.

Is it possible to measure “levels” of “stress”? And is “stress” out there …. in the office … at the desk … in the hallways? And what about “rage” – where is “rage” found, and how is it measured?

Personally, I’d punt a pound they’re both caused by that damn kidney pie and warm ale.

The touring production of “Ragtime” recently played in Dallas, prompting two contrasting letters to the editor in the Dallas Morning News. While one writer lauded the performance (“I was well pleased, as were the hundreds of others in the audience”), another was less, well, “well pleased:”

“We were expecting a “happy” type of show, but were subjected to a horrible example of prejudice and sorrow. I saw almost half of the people leave at the intermission, as we did. I’m sure Tom Hughes [former managing director] would never have allowed the “N” word to be used on a stage in Dallas.”

My responsive ‘chorus’ to this second comment:

“This (using the “N” word in a play”) is not that (using the “N” word in ‘real’ life).”
“This (what pleases me) is not that (what you find “horrible”).”
“This (a play about prejudice) is not that (prejudice).”

While we’re on stage, according to the Arizona Republic … a Mesa Junior High School was scheduled to produce the stage version of “Tom Sawyer” next month. However, a parent expressed concerns about the script, concerns which were validated by school district officials who deemed the play, “culturally insensitive to Native Americans, women and religious groups”, and cancelled the production.

Which, of course, prompted the ACLU to “fire off a letter” to the Mesa school district asking them to reconsider. The school district believes its action is warranted, given a U.S. appellate court decision on a case involving the novel Huckleberry Finn, in which the court “asserted that schools can’t allow racially hostile environments to persist.”

The article states:

“In the case of the ‘Tom Sawyer’ play, district officials became concerned over such characters as Injun Joe, who is jailed for vagrancy, portrayed as amoral and a robber and killer who carries a knife; females that are flirtatious or homely; and a constable who is a redneck. In addition, religious references are made and music played.”


Did Mark Twain actually use the word redneck? Quick, who can find a reference? If “redneck” isn’t in the book … where did it come from?


(1) Why is it so easy for most people to grasp the notion that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but it’s so difficult for many of the same people to get that “offensive” is in the ‘eye’ of the be-offended? Or that “obscenity” is in the ‘eye’ of the be-obscened? Or that “amoral” is in the ‘eye’ of the be-amoralled? Or that “flirtatious” is in the ‘eye’ of the, uh, … envious? (?)

(2) How is it that somebody can be classified a “Native Texan” and not also be classified as a “Native American”? Who makes these rules?


I had a few friends from Fort Worth over for dinner the other night. I normally wear myself out getting ready for something like this, such that I’m beat by the time they get here. I had promised to make my brother’s famous recipe for paella, which involves  quite a bit of preparation. So this time, I divvied up the recipe and asked each person to bring one or two of the ingredients, all prepared. When they arrived, I was not as frazzled as I would’ve been so I could enjoy the evening more. And the actual cooking was as easy as taking what everybody brought and throwing it all together. (Well, not really.)

The moral of the story … friends will inevitably “bring something to the party”. But you need to let yourself ask.


“Excellent observation on the grandpa in Braums–and the kids.  Kids are much more easily distracted from discomfort– at an ice cream shop. However, take them to the bank and see how quick they discover they are hungry, hot, tired, bored, need to potty, etc!”

“I also wanted to add an observation about St. Louis teens and art, or perhaps this can expand beyond our region. Recently, a 17 year old white male, attending one of the “better” Jesuit high schools, living in one of our more affluent areas of the suburbs, was killed while attempting to apply paint from an arousal can [ss: I believe she means “aerosol can”, but having read some Freud …] to the side of a moving set of train cars.  The headline in the paper read “Young Artist Killed.” Television, radio and paper alike reported on the tragedy of this young, aspiring artist, who was cut down in the prime of his life while practicing his art form.  Several stories ran, showing this art. Interviews of his parents from their “mansion” (reported in the St. Louis Post Distpatch), explaining their dead sons love of this art. My reaction was more along the line of: since when is graffiti “art” and vandalism “practice”?.  Given my “city” point of view, I wondered if this young man had been black, living in the city, going to one of our public schools, would he had been termed an artist?”

“You are right about children learning to view the world with a critical eye..and they learn this from the adults around them. I was wondering while reading your description of the grandfather’s behavior (and the children’s oblivion to all the irritants he identified) what it would be like to take a grandfather from say Bosnia and put him in a Braums with the grandkids for the afternoon. Oh my, he’d probably wonder at all the conveniences. Just going to Braum’s alone would be a treat for him. He would not care where he sat or the precise temperature of the room. A short wait for his food would not phase him. I think our culture has become so hypercritical of the world we live in. We have been sensitized to feel free to speak out about any real or perceived intrusion on “OUR LIFE”. We drive faster, we eat faster, we just live life fast. I try to have one night where my kids and I sit down and have a meal together. You know, like Donna Reed did. It’s a wonder I did not give up doing this years ago. It’s always a battle. “can we eat in front of the TV?”, “what do you want us to say?” (when asked about their day), etc etc. But I persist, living in the fantasy that one day they will come to the “family night” table with smiles on their faces and truly enjoy this time we have together in the middle of our busy week. Maybe somehow without realizing it, on the other six nights of the week I taught them not to enjoy this seventh. Food for thought your story, thanks.”