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Wednesday, May 14, 2003


My escape from life's poorer characteristics comes in two colors, four suits, 52 cards. When I just can't stand to listen to another fucking word in the real world, I check-raise some poor schmuck on a straight draw and take his chips. It's a virtual world where nobody gets hurt and only egos suffer.

My buddy of fast-driving, car-slipping, sober-poker-playing-prowess intoduced me to a book this weekend. Positively Fifth Street contains true crime, women, and gambling in its first 50 pages. Add booze, music, and irresponsibility and you have my passions on paper.

The book inspired me back to my escape. A dark, upstairs room in front of a virtual green felt table. One of the things I do here between hands is surf internet news sites. Keeps me from getting bored and playing too many hands. That's when I ran across this:

At least two more NY TIMES reporters are being investigated for possible journalistic irregularities, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned... MORE... New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg said to be under the microscope from rival WASHINGTON POST, which is looking in to every aspect of his work, sources reveal...

If you've not yet heard, the first NY Times fuckchop, Jayson Blair, got busted for rampant plagarism and laziness. Rather than going out and reporting some of the biggest stories in the country, he stayed home, wrote some prose based on a freelance photographer's snaps, and cribbed quotes from other news outlets. What's makes it even worse is he was working for the Times as a 27 year old lucky SOB. The way I see it, if you cheat your way to the top, stop cheating and make good.

But now the wolves taste blood. On the line now, the reputation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning Southern boy made good named Rick Bragg. And sitting right there on the line next to him is my last shred of belief in the power of hero-worship.

A few years ago I sat next to Bragg at a Ku Klux Klan trial. For three days I didn't know who he was. A print reporter in full star-struckedness clued me in. I became similarly ga-ga. Later, I read his book All Over But the Shoutin' and decided Bragg was my hero. I wrote him and told him so...in so many words. It was the first and last time I've done such a thing. He wrote me back an encouraging note which I still have in this very room.

You have to read his work to appreciate why he is so good. I won't bother trying to explain. But he is my only celebrity hero, and one of just a few real heroes I maintain.

Which is why I will take this opportunity to remind everyone that while I read Drudge religously (as way of keeping up with news), Drudge is wrong about 40% of the time. Further, if the Post is investigating Bragg and Bragg hasn't done anything wrong, it goes a long way toward proving a media elite bias against people who've come up from the dirt and earned an opportunity to soil the elite's Brooks Brothers duds. The elite have a hard time believing the son of a poor Southern drunk could write so well and connect with real people on a level the elite could never understand.

However, if Rick Bragg has earned my trust and respect with lies, I hope he goes down in the same hellfire as Jayson Blair.

That sounds horrible. It sounds so horrible because I want so badly for it not to be true.

I love cards. But I respect Rick Bragg.

Weigh the two and you'll understand why I'm writing this instead of paying attention to the card game in the other window on this computer screen.

Respect will be pocket aces every day of the week. Even that day I can't stand to hear another fucking word.


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