April 2010

The Me.

A man in search of an idea. That is I. I have the opportunity to give a 45 minute speech at the University Club in late May and I am finding it a challenge to narrow my focus down to “an” idea. I do and I don’t like speeches. I like that it requires a discipline that I do not necessarily practice. I like that it demands that I edit and condense my thinking. I enjoy the learning that comes from researching the new.

Yet, public speaking can be unsettling. We are accustomed to seeing folks so effortlessly entertain that a certain doubt can creep into one’s own performance. And then I think, “Why?” What is the point of putting one’s self out there such that it becomes a stressor? “Life should be a stretch,” many of us heard growing up. Doing that which unsettles is good, so it is alleged. At 60, I grow doubtful.

I keep a chapbook, a log, a diary of sorts that I write down ideas, notions, insights, things that amuse. My first entry in my current log is dated from July 5, 2009. Evidently I awakened from a dream at 5:11 AM and wrote down the following question to myself: “Whether it is better to have been created or to have evolved?” This sort of idea amuses me no end.

As a secular humorist, I guffaw at the creation myths that are present in all religions, how man is the intentional “creation” of God. Any god. Take your pick. It’s the intentional part that has me in stitches. Recall the recent case of the young Winter Springs’ girl lost for days in the nasty swampland of gator-infested Lake Jessup. The chap who found her publicly claimed God personally directed him to her. I have to ask when such claims are offered, “Why’d God lose her in the first place?” That tightens jaws. Too funny. But religion, myths are always a good topic for a speech.

Here’s a few more chapbook (speech) ideas:

April 26th: “Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it isn’t special. (That’s one’s [my] life in comparison to all others.)

August 10th: Things we wish we never heard. “Did your husband get his girlfriend pregnant?” Or, “get YOUR girlfriend pregnant!” Hmmm? Hah!

September 12th: How do you “get” the kind of woman you want to be around?

September 12th: Let’s play like Gods.

September 22nd: Function of dreams: It’s what your brain does to amuse itself, occupy itself.

October 14th: “Fiat justitia-ruat caelum.” Latin for: Do justice, and let the skies fall.

October 24th: A real job title, “Compulsive Hoarding Expert.”

October 26th: According to the movie “Inherit the Wind,” Earth was created by God on October 20, 4004 BC at 9:00 AM.

I passed a billboard recently that I thought said, “The Me World.” It actually said “Theme World.” I laughed out loud. So many possible speech themes, so little time. The me, me, me of theme. Think it’s a sign? Yes.

Jepson is a 24 year resident of Florida. He’s fiscally conservative, socially liberal, likes art and embraces diversity of opinion. Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US

The Best of Winter Park!

What better way to transition into the future than to tip my hat to the past. Next week begins the new, improved “Pithier Chris,” but the future is not here yet so I complete one era with homage to those individuals and businesses that have consistently provided superior service or products.

I have, intermittently, over the decades provided the Winter Park community (and Central Florida) with my version (vision) of “The Best Of Winter Park.” First a disclaimer, or two. In all of my recommendations I have personally used their services, purchased their products or enjoyed their cuisine and libations. No one asked me or anticipated I would “plug” their virtues. I receive(d) no kickbacks, discounts or “favors” of any kind. This specific column simply recognizes those individuals and businesses that are consistently exceptional. Hats-Off to the following.

Best Ceramic Tile Store: Specialty Tile Products on Orange Avenue, WP. No competition in this category. Simply luscious tile. Gorgeous! Great service. Honorable. It’s worth a visit to the showroom to drool over the possibilities. Talk to Tracey Miller at 407.647.9355.

Best Garden Accessory Store:
Bocelli Inc on Orange Avenue, WP. Store adjoins Specialty Tile Products. Visit one, see both. Great assortment of ceramic stoneware and pottery for your garden. Unique bronze figurines of classic nymphs, fairies, etc. They’ll plan and build your garden, too. See Monte Livermore at 407.644.9949.

Best Artistic Craft Store: Timothy’s Gallery on Park Avenue, WP. I’ve spent more money in this store buying one-of-a-kind jewelry and art than any other. You can always, and I mean always go into Timothy’s and find something for yourself or a gift for someone special. Without fail. It’s their 20th Year in Business! This month! Celebrate with them. Spend. Talk to the store manager, Jill Daunno at 407.629.0707.

Best Antiques and Gotta Haves: Antiques On The Avenue on Park Avenue, WP. In the last year I purchased an exquisite standing Victorian candelabra (holds nine candles) and a not so old, hand-painted Japanese, six-panel folding screen. Both were real finds but I don’t know how anyone lives with out a candelabra, the lighting is sublime. GREAT STUFF! See Hardy Hudson (doesn’t that name alone inspire you!) at 407.657.2100.

Best Fabric & Furniture Reupholster Shop:
Decorative Home Interiors on Highway 17-92, Maitland. Great fabric selection and superior craftsman in the backroom to rebuild your furniture. High marks all the way around. 407.339.4432.

Best Granite Countertops: Amazon Stone located on Highway 426 in Oviedo. Exquisite selection. Superior service. Fair pricing. Contact Andrea Saraiva at 321.765.4950.

Best Ceiling Fans:
Dan’s Fan City on North Semoran Blvd, Orlando. This business honored its warranty and replaced a fan several years after I purchased it. I like that kind of service. Talk to Neil Sapoff at 407.658.0771.

Best Pump Repair Business: A&D Electric Motor & Pump Repair in Fern Park. I saved $200 by simply “refurbishing” my old swimming pool pump. Quick, reliable service. Talk to Al Darling at 407.331.1213.

Best Well Drilling Service: Brothers Well Drilling. Kind of an esoteric business but when you need a well, these are the boys for a good drillin’. Talk to Mike Sikes at 407.328.8221.

Best Swimming Pool Deck Resurfacing: Deco-Crete. I just had my deck resurfaced and it’s beautiful. Talk to Joseph Wood at 407.733.3252. He’s a good soul and an artiste when it comes to decking.

Best Roofer: Batson Roofing of Orlando. When’s the last time the owner of roofing business was up on your roof overseeing the job? Great pricing. Fine service. Delivered as promised. Good people. Call Robert (On the Roof) Batson at 407.423.7570.

Best Floor Installer (Wood or Tile): Allen Installation: I’ve used this gentleman for wood and tile. He’s fair on pricing and a quality installer. Contact Josh Allen at 497.435.1100

Best Cabinet Makers: The Midnight Carpenters, Central Florida. These folks are artists with wood. They just built all my kitchen cabinets and an exquisite counter that makes my heart hum. I’ve known the owner for over 20 years, as honorable as they get. Contact Gabe Lindsey at 321.229.6524.

Best Place to Drink Champagne in the Afternoon: Houstons in WP. Sitting on the back veranda is a fabulous spot in Central Floreeeda to toss one back. The lake, the breeze. The birds. Even when its 90 degrees in August, it’s comfortable (to me). Houstons has good food, too. High marks.

Best Bar for Atmosphere: Dexters in WP. I liked the old bar, too but now it’s located on Hannibal Square. It has the feel, sometimes, of that TV show bar in “Cheers.” It’s a friendly, happening place. Try one of their pressed sandwiches. Good food. Good management.

Best Blue Cheese Burger at a Bar: Hannibal’s on New England, WP. Consistently good burger if you’re in to that “sort” of cuisine. Tasty spuds, too. Nice ambiance. Good jazz music on the weekends.

Best Barbecue: Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Q on Lee Road, WP. Consistently good food. Luv the pork sandwiches. Great beans, slaw and fries, too. Can’t go wrong.

Best Roasted Chicken Lunch: Antonio’s in Maitland. “Birdy-Num-Num!” As Peter Sellers might have said. When on, this chicken is as good an eat as there is out there. Mmm-Mmm Good.

Best Vietnamese Food: Little Saigon on Colonial, Orlando. Consistently fresh. Exquisite Summer rolls. It goes down like candy. I recommend Item 34. Substitute the Spring Roll for more sliced pork. Get a pot of hot tea and you are set.

Best Day In Winter Park: Out-of-town guests arrive and the Parks are not an option. Here’s eight hours in Winter Park. All walking. Do the following. Visit (in an order of your choosing) the Morse, Polasek and Cornell Fine Arts Museums. Take the boat trip on the Chain of Lakes. Eat a light breakfast and a late lunch. Shop Park Avenue. Time permitting, take a cab or drive to the Mennello and the Orlando Art Museums. Cab up to Houston’s for champagne on the lake. Bid your adieus.

Best Art Gallery In Sanford: Jeanine Taylor Art Gallery/Gallery on First. A sweet, sweet gallery on First Street. It has a Good vibe. Good shows. Good artists. GOOD/GOOD/GOOD!

Best Night in Sanford:
Sanford Downtown has regularly-scheduled shindigs that involve music, food, art and festivity. It has several decent restaurants, a wine bar (The Sanford Wine Bar on South Palmetto) that has an intimate atmosphere (with live music) and then you can drift (walk two blocks) over to The Alley (a Blues Bar on S. Park Ave., Sanford) and dance to blues/honky-tonk music. Sanford has a great sidewalk along Lake Monroe and it’s a delightful stroll.

Best Jazz Radio Station
: WUCF - FM 89. For straight Ahead Jazz!

Best Newspaper: The Observer Winter Park/Maitland. Peerless.

Well, that’s all the room left for this edition of The Best of Winter Park. If you have personal favorites, simply write the name of your recommendation on the back of a crispy $50 bill (That’s Grant) and send it to Chris Jepson, c/o The Observer. One recommendation per $50 bill. Please. Crisp.

Are You A Liberal?

What is fair? As in what is a fair amount of taxes for an individual to pay to local, state and federal governments? I recently read that approximately 45% of American households pay no federal taxes. At all.

This seems inexplicable to me. Do you not travel on federal highways? Do you not enjoy the protection of America’s armed forces? Have you not been in a national park or forest? So, why would you not contribute “something” to the national pot? Because, the argument goes, I/you don’t make enough to kick-in any amount.

I am occasionally asked, “Jepson, are you a liberal?” And, I unabashedly answer, “Yes.”

I come to my “liberal” position from one essential perspective. But before I explain why I am a liberal, I must confess that I am a liberal, not from the heart but from the brain.

I am fundamentally (to use labels) an independent, mind-your-own-business, leave-me-alone, I’ll take care of my own business anarchist, thank you very much. I do not want anyone, anytime in my face even remotely telling me what to do, when or how. My favorite quote is “The cowards never started and the weak died along the way.” I will chose exactly whom I will help if I deem them worthy. My heart does not break for those who have made poor choices. Live the consequences of your decisions. And, by gawd, leave me alone to live mine.

I don’t like whiners, hangers-on, sycophants, suck-ups or deadbeats. Or bootlicking, whimpering simpletons. I am singularly unimpressed with those who have inherited wealth (although I support generational transfers) and who have ended-up dissipated and desiccated with/by their lame, conservative thinking. Little is more laughable than listening to an over-stuffed turd-blossum whose wealth was acquired through granddaddy’s initiative yet who talks as if he has some keen insight into how to live. Puh-leaseeee.

I don’t have a soft spot for humanity cuz we’re so cute and cuddly. I don’t get dewy-eyed over the aborted unborn. I’d rather invest in art museums than homeless shelters. Guns don’t bother me and if some duffus of a gunowner’s child blows his foot off because daddy left a loaded pistol in his nightstand, well, unfortunate and as tragic as that is, perhaps it’s Darwainism working on that particular genetic line.

Capital punishment is okay by me. (Except for the unresolvable problem of executing the innocent.) Some crimes against humanity are so egregious as to warrant expulsion from the tribe. Pedophiles, rapists, “some” murderers, “some” swindlers (Think: Bernie Madoff), war criminals—all just might warrant execution. Are we short people in the ol’ rowboat of humanity such that all men are needed at the oars? I don’t think so. Well then, as the Red Queen so succinctly uttered, “Off with their heads!” And why not? It is not as if they have endeared themselves to the tribe through exemplar service to mankind.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the shiftless, lazy hangers-on of society. Whose only effort some days is tearing open a government support check. Who, worse, breed and breed and breed and have child after child after child they cannot afford and expect “US” to support. I, personally, do not want to support another man’s child. I simply do not. You have babies, you take care of them. You house, feed, insure and educate your children. And, I’ll do the same for my kin, thank you very much. That is what responsible adults do.

You know what though? A lot of what I wrote above was much more appropriate for an 1840 America than a 2010 America.

While I am an anarchist at heart I am a liberal through reflection. What else can an intelligent person be?

America is well on its way to 400 million people. If we lived in the best of all possible worlds (read: Votaire’s “Candide”), all adults would be thoughtful and responsible. All children would be planned and properly cared for with “Lake Wobegon” abilities. There would be no crime and if there were, there would be no extenuating or mitigating factors. There would be no shades of gray, no ambiguity, doubt or uncertainty as to the right and wrong ways to live or how to conduct one’s self. Businesses and corporations would be honorable. They would play by the rules and would be as interested in the “morality” of what they do as they are in making profits. Humans wouldn’t be killing (consuming) the very planet they call home. Governments would be stellar reflections of an honorable, generous populace. Graft, corruption, avarice and murderous thuggery wouldn’t be in our vocabulary. Wouldn’t be in our bloodstream, our DNA, wouldn’t be what we are. Alas. Sigh.

If America is at 325 million today and 10% of the population is incapable of sustaining itself, what do we do with such folk? That’s 30 million plus people. If corporations, left to their own devices, would not unconscionably rape and pillage the environment for profits, well, that really isn’t the case is it? If our financial institutions and banking industry were conscientious corporate citizens that placed profits and community service as equal objectives, well, again, that isn’t the case either. If only responsible adults had children I wouldn’t have to be concerned with their children’s welfare. But that isn’t America’s reality either is it? Children do not ask to be born to bums, drug addicts, whores or reprobates.

Let alone the nation’s wretched stain of slavery and racism.

I, once upon a time, worked for an organization that provided funding for legal services for poor Americans—folks so impoverished and destitute that their children sometimes had teeth literally growing into their cheeks. They would be forced to seek legal assistance (a lawyer) to force the Social Security Administration to pay for their child’s dental care. This after months of pain for the child. Americans detest the poor and they dislike nothing more than a poor person with a lawyer. But so what? That child needed help and our government, that’s us, was too indifferent, too bureaucratic to care.

But what kind of people are we who mouth the simplicities I stated earlier? Goofs, that’s who. It’s one thing to spout, as did I, the platitudes of “rugged individualism,” to even attempt to live such a life, oh, say, back when the pre-industrial North American continent was virtually empty, when the weak did, simply, die along the way. But that ain’t America today and hasn’t been for well over100 years.

We live in a complex and complicated world where life relentlessly dishes up victims (humans in great need) like so much cannon fodder. They are real, suffering people with real problems that only through our collective action (that’s government) can we, with any hope, begin to address.

I embrace liberalism because historically as America has grown, all the problems associated with being an urbanized, industrialized nation have grown, too. And liberalism is and has been the only legitimate attempt at addressing and rectifying those problems inherent in our system. Liberalism is imperfect to be sure, but nonetheless necessary.

The unsophisticated, somewhat infantile Tea Party rhetoric I feel emotionally (of my don’t tread on me individualism, etc.) isn’t what is required to solve America’s problems. Simplistic, chest-beating rhetoric espousing conservative values won’t house the poor, clean the environment or protect the nation (us) from rapacious business practices.

But I still would like every American to, at least, put a little in the kitty, other than just their hand taking something out.

On the perfectibility of man. Of males.

I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated His ability. –Oscar Wilde

I am going to give a “talk” in May at the Winter Park University Club. This rambling essay is a search for a topic. Over the past few years I’ve explored the nature of beauty and have made the case for optimism (a distinct challenge). I’ve recounted the contributions four specific men made to the quality of my life as well as touched on the value of history.

I am intrigued by the research on the human brain and how “some” scientists argue that men and women really do think differently and, as a result, reach different conclusions. This seems “old hat” ever since, well, that book came out titled, “Men are from Mars . . .” Nonetheless, science seems to be validating that premise with research and clinical observation.

What intrigues me about our species is how we are so beastly and women seem to get a pass on that, as if they are not, somehow, complicit in what we are. Whenever I hear of the latest wholesale atrocity (99.9% of the time committed by men or gangs of men) I wonder if I am capable of that? Recall the mass killings of the Tutsis by the Hutus. Nearly 900,00 people were slaughtered in a matter of days by men wielding machetes in 1994 Africa.

Could I have been a Nazi? A concentration camp guard? Could I have been a soldier who rounded up Cherokee Indians in 1838 Georgia and marched them to their deaths during the infamous “Trail of Tears?” Just following orders, don’t-cha see. Such a timeless justification.

Could I have been just another Southern 60s redneck who terrorized blacks by lynching uppity “negras.” Or, burned crosses and bombed churches. Men who do such things are, for all intents and purposes, just like all other men just different.

But where does that difference originate and why do women seemingly get a pass on accountability concerning any of the atrocities that are so common in our species?

To women who suggest “beastly” behavior is strictly a male prerogative, I ask one fundamental question, “Where exactly do males come into existence and spend their many formative months?” That’s correct. Tucked securely, motherly in your tummies. Out of which came Adolph Hitler, Mao, Stalin and any of the countless machete-wielding marauders who hacked to death tens of thousands of innocents in Rwanda or who unloaded Jews at Auschwitz.

No, just as it takes two to tango, it takes two to create our species and we are the gnarliest, nastiest, toughest species on the planet. Thank you, Dad. And a tip of the hat to Mom, too. We are, after all, your little boundless bundles of joy. Just look what the stork delivered? Is that you, Adolf?

But if we (mankind) were merely atrocious, what sort of story would that be? So very boooring! We create incredibly “beautiful” art in all its many manifestations and we are capable, too, of inspired acts of compassion and self-sacrifice (although science is suggesting such acts may not be so altruistic). And, as my sister says, “We are the universe talking to itself,” at least in this part of the Milky Way. We are such clever little monkeys. Yakety-yak! Can we talk about it? She asked.

Actually, right there is a beeeeeeg difference between men and women. I don’t mind (so much) talking about “something” oh, say, six or seven times. Really, I don’t. I’m a Chatty-Cathy, up to a point and on a subject of my (or mutually agreed upon) choosing. But, after something has been discussed, after the differences of opinion(s) have been formed, delineated and discussed (debated, if you will), what is gained by revisiting the subject yet again? Clarification has been achieved. If “X” is 100% clear and understood, what is to be gained by going over it again? And, again. Ad nauseum.

I don’t want to make a broad generalization but I will. “Some” women will “jaw” some things to death. Literally. Juuuust to make a point. Or, at least, until the conversation is no longer, hmmm, quite so engaging. Hah! This subject would be an appropriate topic for further exploration. So many examples abound.

I am interested, at the moment, however, in fathers and fatherhood. I’ve been a father for 40 years. My daughter turned forty on April 6th. I’ve not done anything in my life that has been as rewarding or as challenging. Children, to state the obvious, change your perspective. I believe humans are selfish and men, generally speaking, are more selfish than women. Whatever the science behind that assertion (on females being less selfish), I have sufficient anecdotal evidence to make that claim and do.

Fathers are one of the “really big” themes of literature. We all have one and/or are one. It is about as basic as it gets. Either dad measures up or he doesn’t. He’s either a force or he is absent. He sets and enforces standards or he acquiesces. He’s either comfortable with who he is or he is troubled. He is either loving, affectionate and supportive or something less than. Most men are fathers and they comprise a whole myriad of qualities that are a mixture of both the positive and negative. At times. They may be strong, energetic and ambitious when young yet inexplicably (to you) surly and bitter when old. They may be unfaithful but loyal husbands or some combination in between. They may be treacherous, demonic, and complete scoundrels but love you unconditionally as their child. Fathers can gut an enemy one day yet cry heartfelt tears over missing their loved ones the next.

I’ve said before that there is no bigger gift a child can receive than a loving, caring mother. From that, all else follows. It is both a leg up and a head start. If a child gets an equivalent father, he/she is doubly blessed.

I marvel at the complexity of life and specifically, I marvel at the human species. We are both the demonic and angelic. And nowhere is that more clearly demonstrated, our dual natures (our dueling nature) than in men (as in male).

It is no wonder to me that the gods mankind has forever created have this duality of personality. I think immediately of Shiva (a Hindu God), the destroyer and the benefactor. Or, Yahweh. Two brotherly peas in the godly pod.

That is our story (is us) encapsulated by what we worship.

Yet I share Henry David Thoreau’s sentiment, I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious behavior. I so want to believe that.

Now there’s a subject: On the perfectibility of man. Of males.

Do we have our work cut out for us?