23 March 2020

[Perrin Lovett] - When Bubba Met Kenny

There is a terrible viral epidemic in America. Already this year, nearly 30 million Americans have been infected and nearly 25,000 have died. I write, of course, of the yearly apocalypse known as the ordinary flu season. We’d better shut down the entire economy. We are doing just that at the moment for the strangest reason imaginable. My friends, say what you like, but it is my opinion that the Coronavirus Panic is a ridiculous, low-effort hoax. That is not to say it isn’t real. A hoax, being a thing or activity conducted or utilized for deceptive purposes, generally involves something very real, not fake. I perceive it as a most-convenient cover for the pre-existing, independent collapse of the economy, of which I have written about before, here and elsewhere. But, just like the free-fall collapse of Tower Seven, the disease obviously exists. 

As I write this, the US has around 40,000 cases. Upon your reading it, we’ll probably have 50,000. On Saturday morning, I talked to one of them, my old friend and Augusta-area patient zero, Jason Hasty. I use his name because he said it was okay and because he previously disclosed his condition to the media. He’s running for District Attorney and wanted the truth to prevail regardless of how it impacted his campaign. That’s the kind of man he is. Accordingly - and, Lord, I never thought we’d come to this - I hereby endorse Jason Hasty for DA of the Augusta Judicial Circuit! A plague. A depression. Perrin endorsed a politician. I know, right? Anyway, if you live and vote in the counties of Columbia, Richmond, or Burke, then you have no better option than Jason, a true friend of freedom, truth, and justice. 

Much of what we discussed and he shared with me appeared in a weekend article in the Augusta Chronicle. He’s not exactly sure where, when, or how he contracted COVID-19. And his symptoms, like those of many patients in the news, are slightly different than the “fever, cough, and chest pressure” the CDC repeats. He had all of those, to varying degrees. On the phone, he sounded a little congested. Then again, as I spoke from a park bench in a pollen blizzard, I’m sure I sounded much the same. But he reported fatigue and pain, specifically in the legs and neck, as the worst of it, rating those a “nine” on the old scale of one through ten. His treatment has consisted of staying home and resting. It’s working - I am most happy to report that he is on the mend and already feeling much better. 

I had drafted something else about the COVID and the economy. Read my letter to President Trump (I doubt he will). Also, read more of my infamous ripoff poetry, The Masque of the Red DEBT. There’s much else to say, which I might get to later (assuming we maintain electricity and the internet). The closing of the churches bothers me, although given how Americans have shunned God, it might be a fitting return. If not, then perhaps we can answer their “spiritual communion” with a little of what I call “spiritual tithing.” I had a lot more, but then, something else terrible happened...

Kenny Rogers died last Friday at the age of 81. Many people know his songs. Many know his acting and his roasters. But few ever got to know him, if just briefly. I was one of the lucky few. Here’s how it happened:

About 25 years ago, in Athens, I was dating another one of the many sweet girls who were too damned good for this old (even when younger) sinner. We’ll call her Jen. Jen was the manager of the Hallmark Card Shop in the Alps Shopping Center. Whenever I got the chance, I would venture by, hang out with Jen and the girls, squish spiders, move boxes, and otherwise make a nuisance of myself. I almost felt like part of the team and they graciously (or mockingly) made a nametag for me. It read: “Hallmark - Bubba.”

One afternoon, the store wasn’t very busy and the women had business in the stock room. They suggested that “Bubba” watch the front, so he dutifully stood behind the register, which he had previously operated (owing much skill to this regular job at JC Penney). And then, in walked the very lovely Wanda Miller (then, just a GF) and the legend himself, Kenny Rogers! Bubba kind of went slack in the jaw the way a lot of real Bubbas do. Rogers looked around for a second, peeled off a couple of Benjamins for Wanda, and left her to shop. She made a not insubstantial purchase. While ringing her up, Bubba asked something like, “I-i-is t-t-that Kenny Rogers?!” She affirmed that it obviously was, and then kindly suggested that Bubba go out and say hello.

I found Mr. Rogers in the driver’s seat of a minivan (not kidding), with the window down, acting like any man waiting for his girlfriend at a card shop. I walked up and said, “Uh, Mr. Rogers?”

He said, “Hello, Bubba!”

I said, “I love your music! And the chicken!” (I thought that maybe some fans neglected his culinary excellence). 

Wanda joined us mid-conversation and he volunteered an autograph before they left. I think it might have been her receipt. Whatever it was, I long ago lost it. But, I’ll always have the memory. In a world of bullshit and hoaxes, Rogers was the genuine thing, a true American gentleman. I honestly have met very few nicer people in all the years since - certainly, among the famous and powerful types I’ve encountered. I was a nobody college kid behind a fake retail badge; yet, he treated me the way I suspected he treated everyone - as a friend. I watched what Dolly Parton said, this weekend, about their long friendship. It must have been as beautiful as she is. I’m proud that Bubba caught just a tiny fraction of the grandeur. I’m glad that back then, we hadn’t started this social distancing foolishness.

Rest in peace, Gambler.