I am guilty of promulgating fake news, and I am sorry

Young J.D. Vance (played by Owen Asztalos) learns much from his mother (Amy Adams), though addiction grows to subvert her authority.


The face reminded me of Adrienne Barbeau; something about the mouth was Tuesday Weld. The voice was pure Dolly Parton, though she was not burdened with the outlandish bust.

Lisa was in many ways my first real girlfriend. She might have been called a “hillbilly chick,” living as she did on the near west side of Cleveland, a working-class white neighborhood. I still lived with my parents in a two-story colonial in the east side suburb of South Euclid.

She was nineteen and I was twenty-nine when we met in a bar. We were both there to see Wild Horses, whose bass player was a friend of mine. She was feasting her eyes on the bull-necked, shaggy-haired, indecently studly Italian drummer, who was known to cause the drool level to rise in quite a few women.

She was not so distracted as not to respond to my inane repartee as I sat there, not far from her, guzzling Rolling Rock.

She went out with me, became my steady girl. After my repressed twenties, Lisa provided an intimacy I’d long been denied.

I got away with it for a year or two before she broke up with me. There was a culture gap between us, but also I had been denied sexuality and female companionship for so long that what I had with her could only be the start of a new chapter for me. I can’t say all the explorations matched up to her freshness and affection and charm.

I never forgot Lisa, and often considered how she’d made the right move marrying some fireman with a boat he put onto Lake Erie, a man who appeared a lot more fun than I was. All I ever did was take her to Corky and Lenny’s deli at Cedar Center to show off my glamorous exotic shiksa or to Loparo’s pizza joint up the corner from my parents’ house, then down my parents’ basement to make out on the hard couches.

When I discovered she’d wandered into my Facebook orbit forty years later, I was delighted. I don’t know to what extent she read my blog, but I know she read the Facebook teasers I would create to advertise it.

It saddened me that I pissed her off because of a rant I did about Biden and Trump. I am using this space to apologize for it.

I referred to “rednecks” cruising around in big pickup trucks with American flags and Trump banners waving even after he lost the election.

I launched the thing spuriously, though, and this I now must admit. I said the Walmart sporting goods department no longer had guns because, fearing a “gun grabber” president, people bought them out. I never knew that for sure.

I found out from some blowhard in the lunchroom at least a week later that there are no guns there because Walmart decided to stop selling them. The guy he was sitting with put in that recent shootings in Walmarts, like El Paso, prompted the move.

I swooned at the thought of my laziness, my never having checked it out. Just to make sure, I Googled the thing and found that at the end of October the company made this decision.

When I had ranted online, I used the absence of the firearms to lob a nasty comment about how, day after the Sandy Hook horror, it must’ve been “these same assholes” muttering, “That nigger better not try to take my gun,” but that was a lie too. I made that quote up. Fictional license? No. This is a form of journalism. Anger untampered by facts is poison.

I didn’t know I’d fucked up right away with what I’d written, except Lisa commented, “You dated a redneck once. Boy, I had you figured wrong.”

I felt sad. Fell into abject apology mode. I love everybody, blah blah. Meant no offense.

In truth, I don’t think I harbor any animus toward people of Appalachian background. Yet I can feel some kind of unavoidable falseness going on here as I say this.

My friend Dan, former fellow teacher and Marine, once said to me, “Around here, you’re a redneck or you’re nobody.”

A month ago a guy in an AA meeting intimated he was disappointed Trump lost. “I went to work out this morning at my redneck gym,” where guys there were bitching and moaning.

My old girlfriend bristled at my use of “redneck,” the whole context. Felt it smeared her. I know she liked Trump, am sure her husband and family want him to keep being president.

But that’s not the point. I should have been more sensitive.

If I hear someone talk about “Jewish people” I cringe. First of all, why not just say Jews? You can feel them dancing around these alien people they don’t get. Or like.

THE MOVIE Hillbilly Elegy was quite good and did not deserve its negative reviews. First of all, Amy Adams filled out wasn’t bad on the eyes, and she inhabited this intellectually brilliant but crazed character with all the aplomb she brings to her other work. Secondly, Glenn Close’s pistol-packin’ mama — a brave and unflinching foray from the sexpot of Fatal Instinct — stole the screen. Thirdly, Gabriel Basso was believable as the product of Kentucky rustic culture and all that family fierceness in protecting one’s own: a young man trying to fight his way out of (what my Texas sister once called) the rural ghetto but without losing his pride in his heritage.

The book, by J.D. Vance, told the story of a people that needed to be told, people from the upper South, using Route 23 to get to Ohio and all those factory jobs. This scene has fallen into economic depression and opioid abuse, a slew of social agonies that are just now beginning to be correctly catalogued.

There’s even a scene in the film where the character playing Vance bristles at the use of the word “redneck” by one of the east coast lawyers he came there to get hired by.

I don’t think I’ll be using the word redneck anymore.

Long as you don’t talk about Jewish people.

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