Way back in my Army days there was this unwritten but widely followed rule that when you were telling stories you had to preface them with a statement which is only partially printable in a family newspaper. It went like this: “This is no ----.”
And then off you’d go, talking about whatever was worth a story, like how when a certain Guamanian spec four buddy of mine in Germany had a few beers he’d tell people he was Samoan.
Me being a field artillery career E4 who spent most of his waking hours trying to hide from sergeants, I thought that was a great idea and would go along with it whenever the occasion demanded, which was usually in bars.
“Yep, he’s a Samoan all right,” I’d say, and someone would go, “well, he looks kind of small for a Samoan,” and my Guamanian buddy would eye them balefully like he was trying to decide whether to go full Samoan on them or not. Editor’s note: Back in those days nobody in their right mind messed with Samoans, not least because the small ones were built like coke machines and could bench press a house. I doubt that’s changed.
Anyway, my buddy used to get these care packages from Guam inside of which were usually video cassette recordings of what I guess were the Guamanian equivalent of MTV videos, since this was in 1990 or thereabouts and MTV was still about music videos.
If you’ve never seen a 1990 Guamanian music video you should go find one on Youtube right now. Look up Chamorro music. It’s good stuff.
Sadly, the packages also contained these horrible seaweed snacks that tasted like I imagine dead grass would taste if you seasoned it with bait squid and bat knuckle and then fried a bunch of it up like fatback, without the fatback. That’s no ----, either.
But it occurred to me as I was wondering whatever happened to this guy that one reason some folks accuse the mainstream media of “FAKE NEWS” is because we don’t tell folks “this is no ----” when we report something that clearly is no ----.
Forget the who, what, when, where and why, or writing in an inverted pyramid style, or making sure our ledes (that’s newspaper talk for leads) hook the reader. We’ve been doing it all wrong. From now on, we need to start every story with “This is no ----” and we’ll be fine. Newspapers will be saved. Local TV news will be more entertaining (imagine the delightful Dawn Baker saying it, I dare you. “Hello Savannah, this is no ----.). Everybody wins.
Anyway, here I go. This is no ----.
I was driving Saturday up Highway 204 in Chatham County in a line of cars when a passenger in one of those ubiquitous little Honda or Toyota or Nissan SUVs ahead of me chunked out a piece of trash. “Well, what the heck,” I thought most litterbugs usually wait until nobody’s looking to inflict the rest of us with their garbage, them being the lazy swine pig people they are. I honked my horn because people who throw trash out car windows make me have to try to remember the serenity prayer. A few minutes later, an arm popped out of the driver’s side window and flung out a crumpled up paper bag.
I got mad and honked again, then passed them and looked over at the driver so I could give him the look my wife gives me whenever I do something she finds exasperating, which is most of the time. And then I looked again.
It was Rod Stewart. It was a short round Rod Stewart! It was a short round Rod Stewart smoking a cigarette and trying to see over the steering wheel! Holy cow! Rod Stewart was short and round and driving an SUV up Highway 204, smoking with one hand and throwing fast food garbage out the window with the other!
And no wonder he doesn’t care what people think. He’s Rod Stewart. He’s used to living on yachts and apparently now he likes to go slumming and drive a dusty SUV up Highway 204 and smoke and throw things out the window while he tries to see over the steering wheel because pop stars are known to be short, eccentric and have weird hobbies.
If I twittered, I would’ve tweeted right then. Instead, I fact checked because I’m a professional newspaperman. And it wasn’t Rod Stewart. It was a woman whose profile and haircut made her sort of look like ol’ Rod, but she was not he. Sure, it would’ve been a better story if it had been Rod Stewart, tooling around in a nondescript beater flinging trash at Chatham County for no good reason whatsoever. I would’ve gone viral.
Instead, it was just some woman decorating the roadside with her trash, one of too many people hereabouts who treat Mother Nature as a garbage pit. And sadly, that’s no ---- either.
Stay safe out there.