The Jackson Herald
April 11, 2001
One stupid mask:
Show me a normal person and I'll show you the greatest oddball
on earth. Nobody's normal-whatever that is.
Here are a few things the dictionary says it is:
"Not deviating from the norm."
The trouble with looking up a word in the dictionary is, you
have to look up the words that define the word you just looked
up. I'm not looking up "norm." It can mean whatever
you want it to mean.
Isn't that the way it is with just about everything in the world?
We see it all from our own perspective. I know that the garage
is where I take my car to have it worked on. You know that the
garage is where you park your car at night.
Heck, I remember when gay meant happily excited, merry, keenly
alive and exuberant. As far as I'm concerned, it still does.
If it means something else to you, so be it.
The wonder is not that we have trouble communicating. The wonder
is that we are able to communicate at all. We just don't seem
to understand each other anymore.
Reminds me of the airline pilot flying into La Guardia field
in New York City. He made a perfect landing-right in the middle
of the East River.
"Look at that crazy fool," exclaimed the air traffic
He wasn't crazy; he perceived the East River as the runway, and
that is where he set his plane down. How we see (perceive) things
has a lot to do with how we react to things. And we always react
in ways to maintain or restore what we think is a favorable environment,
our comfort zone.
But I digress. I'm supposed to be telling you what the dictionary
says about "normal."
None of us occurred naturally. We had help from a doctor, nurse,
midwife-somebody. Only wild animals occur naturally. Then again,
maybe some of us are wild and came into the world on our own.
"Of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence
What are they gonna do: put all of us in a sack, shake us up,
use some magic formula, and dump out Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss Average?
Not even Einstein could do that.
I ain't looking up "average" either. An average person
is just like a normal person: an oddball.
Look, every one of us is a unique, wonderful individual-different
from every other person in the world. Not even identical twins
That being the case, you are here for a particular, specific
purpose. If you don't do it, it won't get done. If that doesn't
make you feel important, boost your ego and help you feel good
about yourself, I don't know what will.
"Free from mental disorder; sane."
That's one more definition of normal. You know anybody like that?
I don't. I agree with whoever it was who said, "Everybody's
crazy but thee and me, and thee and me are a little weird."
Like I said, nobody's normal. There's something wrong with all
Oh, there's nothing wrong with you? My friend, you just may be
in worse shape than those of us who know we are wrecks.
Not total wrecks. Not yet. But we are on our way. We are either
living or dying, or somewhere in between-doing both.
You think that's crazy? Back off and think about it again. One
of the purposes of these epistles is to get you to think - as
intelligently and rationally as your abnormal mental capacity
But we aren't talking just about mental health here. We are also
sick emotionally, spiritually and physically.
What got me started on this diatribe is what we are going through
to mask our physical selves. These maddening, frantic, helter-skelter
efforts may be contributing to the ills in all other areas of
our lives. Are our headlong efforts to be above normal and better
than average driving us nuts?
I'm not talking about our physical health. I can understand going
to the doctor for your annual physical examination or calling
on him or her when you are sick. We spend an awful lot of money
trying to maintain or restore our physical health. But compared
to what we spend trying to restore or maintain our physical appearance,
it's not a drop in the bucket.
My best self is myself. Your best self is yourself. So tell me:
why do we wear these masks?
Talk about cover-up! That's still us under all that gunk. And
we are still loved. Anyway, I hope we are.
If we have to wear a mask (a.k.a. makeup, perfume, cologne, hair
spray, hair coloring, shaving lotion, wrinkle cream, pore cleanser,
old age spot remover, ad infinitum) to be loved, we are in deep
trouble. Could it be we married the wrong person? Are all of
our friends suspect? Could it be they love us for our looks?
Surely not for our money. Money is insignificant compared to
young, beautiful and handsome.
Some of us criticize poor people for spending their money on
the lottery. We spend ours on beauty products. We're all losers.
But we rationalize. We see things from our own perspective. Anything
to maintain or restore our favorable environment. And that means
staying young, beautiful and handsome.
Looking better than we really look, appearing younger than we
really are, makes us feel so much better about ourselves. And
however much money it takes, it's worth it. As that movie star,
Heather what's-her-name, says in that TV ad for some kind of
shampoo, conditioner, rinse, coloring compound-whatever - "I'm
worth it." Or "I deserve it."
Give me a break!
What you say we try this: Let's give the money we spend on beauty
products (masks) to charity and see how much better that makes
us feel about ourselves. It's just a thought.
The inspiration (?) for this piece came to me as I sat in my
stylist's chair at the Corner Salon in Athens. Betty Goss was
cutting my hair and trimming my beard. (I remember when I said
I'd never let a woman do that.)
But first she shampooed and conditioned my scalp and applied
some good-smelling stuff to my beard to straighten it, soften
it and make it shine. Then came several minutes of blow-drying
and gentle brushing, which I enjoyed very much. Upon looking
in the mirror, I felt good about myself-much better than when
I came in. The final touch was a heavy application of hair spray
which neutralized the blustery wind and kept every lock in place
as I went out to face the world.
I wasn't about to let the world see the real me. Not my best
self. I wanted to be superior to that: above normal, better than
I paid twenty bucks for that mask, and will go back in two weeks
and do it all over again.
Help me, somebody! I'm crazy.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Jackson Herald
April 11, 2001
Garren decision: BOE gets a T
Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't we
been here before?
Wasn't it just a couple of years ago that trouble with the Jackson
County Board of Education cost a Panther basketball coach her
The essential dismissal Monday of Ron Garren by the BOE is at
best odd. Technically, Garren has been offered a contract to
teach in 2001-02, but with no coaching responsibilities. What
that means is that the board couldn't find a legal way to fire
him, so they slapped him in the face hard enough to send him
There will be those that support the board's actions. Personally,
I'd charge the BOE with a technical foul and put Garren on the
line to shoot two.
It seems obvious from the BOE's lack of clarity on this issue
that there's much more going on than we'll ever know. Whether
anything unethical has occurred is unclear, but behind-the-scenes
maneuvering leaves one wondering if a personal conflict of interest
is to blame.
At least on the surface, Garren's impending departure is reminiscent
of that two years ago by girls' coach Trina Ledford. Allegations
of personal vendettas by board members have long been associated
with Ledford's demise, and those same allegations have been resurrected
in the Garren fiasco.
Some might say that difficulty with coaches has become a pre-requisite
to becoming a board member.
In hindsight, the dismissal of Ledford has worked out well for
Jackson County. If, however, the BOE is relying on the notion
that a boys' coach of Annette Watts' caliber is readily available,
they might ought to think again.
Garren and others have indicated that a board member has compiled
a list of parents' complaints about the coach and that the list
was one of the tools used to push him out the door. This brings
up several questions:
If the list does exist, was it compiled in the board member's
capacity as a public official, or as a parent? If it was used
during Monday's executive session, should it not be readily available
as a public record? After all, the "personnel matter"
that warranted the session has been decided, so why not release
any pertinent information? Finally, has the list ever been discussed
by BOE members in a non-public forum?
In the board's defense, there may well have been a plausible
reason for letting Garren go. But if that's the case, why is
no one willing to talk about the decision?
By far the most astonishing aspect of this decision is the fact
that it was apparently done against the recommendations of athletic
director Greg Lowe, principal Jim Gurley and superintendent Andy
Byers. If that is indeed the case, why do we need any of these
three positions? Why not just let the board manage the system's
Is Ron Garren the high school equivalent of Mike Krzyewski? Certainly
not. Did he make decisions about players this season that this
writer and others questioned? Sure. But then, could I (or you)
have taken the Panthers to the state playoffs for the first time
in 37 years? Not likely.
It may be that the BOE can once again crawl through its own political
waste and come out smelling like a rose, but for now, the whole
Tim Thomas is a reporter for The Jackson Herald. He may be
reached at 367-2348, or via email at SpeckCh@aol.com.