By Dan Bodine
Death of media mogul Rush Limbaugh last month reminded me of hearing my first hotdog sermon on hate back in the ’70s. I’ll tell this story again. My story! Actually has little to do with Limbaugh — he circled in a much higher orbit. But for stuttering, the hate part was a way forward for me, yes! An answer! Can’t imagine what just knowing an initial cause means!
And it involves a noteworthy friend, too — invaluable to me, to be certain — the late Jane Hepner, a Dallas teacher who later steered me back to a speech clinic during my crisis. And subsequently to the discovery of a small speech defect in my mouth.
At 30 then, as small as it was, it explained my lifelong stuttering. To me, anyway. And led, finally, to making peace with it.
As in: So what? You don’t like the way I talk? Go listen to someone else then!!!
As in: Having to push syllables and words with an extended tongue down under your upper gum line is no reason to git your dandruff up, Jethro! Git rid of ‘poor me’ and hate, too!
Born with high arch in roof of mouth — upper gum-line pulled inward mui poquito left an unseen torque — a tongue “cramped up” against it. A small “extended tongue” configuration in mouth! Who said talking is always easy?! Damn sure possible, though! So count your other Blessings and git on with Life!
As in: Yes, embedding Hate inside you for any reason is poison. Especially with speech, where there’re always teasers who’ll attack ‘ya; and if’n you’re standing there not knowing why you’re different, you just get angrier and angrier at yourself for opening your mouth in the first place!
Stay away from letting it eat you up! And forever be grateful to those who helped you finally discover a why to the difference.
Limbaugh, of course, conservatives’ darling as a radio commentator, was a natural at talk. Indeed, made his living stirring hate up by blaming others! Very good at it! Me, never hated him for it – was caught up on my poison lesson when he soared in national stardom, I think.
But I did admire his success at getting all the attention. And using it to bolster his causes. Which centered around redneck conservatism, true. Kinda like catchin’ crawdads with lean bacon though. Not my cup of tea, no.
But, hey, America’s standard for success is wealth; and Limbaugh honed his narrative! Burn up liberals in proverbial flames! And rake in money from advertisers! If’n there was a Hotdog Club USA, yeah, we’d both be in it! Coming from quite different directions, of course!
Former President Donald Trump last year awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom was just one of his trophies. Limbaugh knew he wasn’t any demigod, of course, but he thoroughly relished drawing as much anger from the left as possible! More juice in his circuit!
Politics, admittedly, can be unique theatre in America — simply because it’s based on one person/one vote Democracy, and the ongoing struggle to define eligibility for it. That’s an overarching description, for sure.
But inside that struggle is where Limbaugh camped out, using his radio microphone as a bazooka. Any current news or rumor that moved leftward toward costly humanism — e.g., hinting at more government spending — was a sitting duck for whoopa doo-doo on the airwaves!
And to say that as a radio commentator he helped galvanize this current generation of conservative political activists in hate wouldn’t be a stretch, either. But the flipside’s reality isn’t quite that dark though.
Our laws, remember. Democracy is not for Sissies! Only to move people was what Rush was getting paid for! To cash registers, of course! Not to violent acts, his rhetoric wasn’t. He’d found a half-reputable niche.
Which was one difference between him and former President Trump, for instance. Limbaugh would never go into an explosive crowd he’d assembled and then light the damn fuse! E.g., tell ’em to storm the damn Capitol! He genuinely loved his country too much, one argument is! Another, he wasn’t stupid!
No, his bread ‘n butter was getting attention (good or bad) — for more attention at almost anything drove up his show’s advertising ratings. He was good at it, yes!
Especially, say, fomenting a national listening corps of truck drivers back in the decades of ’70’s – the ’00s who needed their boredom stimulated! A hotdog he was for ’em, yes. Who made it by generating his own hate club.
My hotdog hate — or at least the reflection of the main body of the damn demon worm embedded in me it represented — actually came off on another person, though. And it took a particular church sermon even to get it dislodged enough in me to recognize it — and to start it on its long exit from my skull!
Stuttering may be in your head, yes — President Joe Biden, for one, has developed his own technique for dealing with his — but all cases are not necessarily all in the brain. Not originally. Mine, i.e., was this somewhere else! In the Beginning!
When I departed the Navy in ’71 to return to college and back to a diodes assembly line’s assistant foreman job at Texas Instruments Inc. in north Dallas (under a national draft, that was the mandated law that benefitted me then), I was damned and determined to find out why I still stuttered.
Up until then — the most common explanation, yes — was it’s in your head. (And no, no one had ever looked good in my mouth for a physical speech defect until that 2nd trip back to this well-known Dallas speech and hearing center. As strange as that sounds!)
That is, all during my schooling, various counselors would explain, “You’ve got some bad childhood experience blown sideways or upside down, maybe… something’s stuck in your head, and eventually you’ll resolve it and then you can start talking plain, boy!”
Oh, that’ll be such a glorious day, won’t it?!
Yeah, maybe it was a gonna be! But here I was at 27 and I still ain’t seen hide nor hair of that s.o.b. or whatever it was that’s sideways or upside down in me — and my patience is so thin I’m like a loaded bazooka headed for somewhere like Lebanon, ‘ya know. Do it!!!
So, realizing my inner child was both impatient and on a tantrum, I looked in a phone book one day and found what was then Callier’s Speech and Hearing Center in Dallas. After an extensive listening examination, they told me, too, it’s in my head — and gave me the names of some therapists who’d handled some of their speech clients.
Almost 2 1/2 yrs. later with this excellent psychologist, whatever it was was still in my head, and I realized I wasn’t gonna get it out in this therapy group. As much as I’d enjoyed the group and had personally benefitted from the therapy, too, I felt. So, I left.
And…Yes, this is a convergent story. Apologize for its length. But I need to add this was the time popular pro golfer Lee Trevino of Garland (another north Dallas suburb), was a well-known hotdog on the links — and the sports rage of the DFW metroplex, too. Local radio, tv, newspapers always (it seemed) were mentioning the hotdog!
And I was just lucky enough to have an electronic maintenance technician on my diodes manufacturing line at Τi then who’d impersonate him up close to me — guy named Phil the hotdog, who was assigned to various assembly equipment mostly young women operated. Always shooting golf on weekends, Phil was!
And at work, any problem with their machines, these female operators — most of ’em young and quite attractive, too, as I remember — knew to summon Phil! Had tall signaling lights on their machines. Just turn ’em on! If he was roving the area, he’d see ’em! Before cellular phones this was — Phil on the run!
And since he was so popular, whenever he’d come over, other operators nearby would stop their work to come over and mix and mingle, laugh and guffaw with him for a minute or two — Crowning the hotdog with even more attention!
My resentment at Phil steadily rose. I began stewing in it! Got really personal, yes.
It was all the attention he drew for being a hotdog!
I mean, no one (ever), wanted to “mix and mingle, laugh and guffaw” with me. Why not?! I stuttered??! Was that the reason?!! Brrr…HATED him, I did!
And not sure I was still in my therapy group by then, but I’d learned enough about the poisons of hate to feel very uncomfortable carrying this, yes.
So, one Sunday morning looking at the newspaper’s church section, I saw where the minister of a North Dallas Unitarian Universalist church in Richardson (same N. Dallas suburb where Ti is located, too), would be discussing the problems of carrying hate.
La, ta, da!
I got dressed and boogied on over! I knew some shit about this topic! A top-of-the-morning to you, too, preacher man!
And damn if’n I wasn’t blindsided!
No preaching about hate! It was a game on hate the preacher played on us! And, yes, I fell hook, line and sinker for it! Most of us did, I think.
Conjure up an image of the person you hate, he said.
And beside that image, mentally list the reasons why you don’t like him/her! Write ’em down! Up there by that person’s image — write ’em all down, in the air! Mental notes!
Hee, hee! I immediately put up Phil‘s face from Ti! (ugly, bald-headed s.o.b.!) And beside it in detail, of course, all the reasons WHY!
The girls loved him!!!
He could play on company time and not feel guilty!
Not only had professional respect in life but was having fun at it, too!
Etc., etc.! Yabba, Jabba, Yabba — Cool-aid!!!
So yes, I was set up good for the punch line when it came. Many of us there were!
“You are that person you hate!” the minister finally told us, remembering generally his words. “Accept it! The things that bug you in these people are more-‘n-likely things you haven’t recognized about yourself yet! You’ve repressed it! It’s like shoving down a lid into a bucket of water, causing some of it to splash out onto others! And when you see that on someone else — a way of acting or talking, say, you’ve repressed all your life — you instinctively recoil from it! But why? When you’re actually hating part of the image of yourself!”
Talk about a brave preacher! Hell, he hadn’t even asked us when coming in to check our pistoles at the door!
“Here’s how it works!” he added quickly.
And then began this long “he-nailed-it” explanation of repressive religious fundamentalism (his example), the ill effects of childhood repressions smoldering us in latent urges well into adulthood — e.g., in my instance, recoiling over the sinfulness of someone showing off and bringing undue attention to his/herself!
It ain’t fair, Mama, Papa! Just ain’t fair! (Who said that?! Where’s that little smart-ass fart!?!)
“Write ’em down!” the preacher continued. “All those things somehow you learned you ain’t suppose to do! Even though sometimes you find yourself really wanting to do! And then feel bad about it! Those ‘shame on you’ things! Write ’em down! Stare at ’em! And then welcome them home! Embrace ’em! ‘Hello, Me!’ Because those are all traits that are part of you, too!”
Maybe a half-second after this came — delivered in pregnant silence, it was, yeah — sounds of air being released from people, gasps, were like air coming from an instant puncture of a huge Led Zeppelin balloon! I mean, people were like … Collapsing inward into moans while in their seats!
No way, no way! the initial shock of disbelief was.
But we were caught! And we knew!
Seconds later waves of mouths aghast, or head noddings while looking at the person next to you, affirmed it all, too!
For me, Phil’s face had jumped up there so fast I knew I’d gotten caught with my jeans’ zipper only halfway up again and someone banging on the outhouse door! Are you old enough to remember that far back?
“Who’s in there!?!”
Caught! we were. No doubt about it!
“Hello, Hotdog!” I muttered.
When all was said and done, weeks later I mentioned this experience to Jane once. She was a Dallas ISD teacher, and read vociferously.
Something about it connected to my speech problem bothered her. And shortly afterward — few days maybe — she called me. Never could thank her enough for it!
“Dan, when you originally went to that speech and hearing center — the one who sent you to the shrink — did they examine you first?”
“Yes,” I answered quickly. “E-E-Even had a couple of people watch from behind one of those see-through walls, that looks like a huge mirror from this side! It was a group decision to recommend me for group therapy!”
“No, no! I don’t mean that!” she replied. “I mean, did they actually look inside your mouth and throat, tongue, do all that?”
“Uh…N-N-No,” I answered. “S-S-Said it was in my head!”
“Well, it may be! And it may be, too, originally there was something physical!” she told me. “Something so small, no one’s ever paid any attention to it! Some speech problems start that way! Maybe so minor doctors don’t notice it, but still it’s got to be addressed! Makes it more difficult, for instance, to pronounce certain sounds when a child first starts talking. And then all that anxiety over why starts! A person needs to understand why! It’s not a just in your head thing! I think you need to go back out there (to the center) and ask for a physical examination of your mouth! Just to be sure!”
“Uh…OK! Good idea! I’ll do it!”
And that, more or less, is how the conversation went that would send me back to the speech center. I took the advice of a good friend and went back and asked for a physical look-see.
Day of the appointment, got in what I guess was called an examining chair — similar to a dentist’s reclining chair. And opened my mouth wide, as asked.
And, of course, will never forget the words nor the facial expression on the woman with the tongue suppressor doing the examining when she first looked in.
“Oh, my gosh! What a high roof you have!”
I love you!
But not near as much as I loved Jane!
And, later, Phil?
Hey, fellow hotdog!
Hee, hee! Remarkable the changes in you when you understand something so large coming from something so small!
On the way back home, on the Dallas freeway, I was crying so hard from happy relief I had to pull over into the emergency lane to compose myself. Cars and trucks were zippin’ by!
I rolled down the glass on my window, and stuck my head out.
“I’m normal!!!” I shouted at all the motorists. “I’m normal!!! It’s not in my head!!”
Hee, hee! No doubt they thought I was another idiot!
— 30 —