Roy Exum: Man’s Need To ‘Jaw’

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

On the first day of every month, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a stroll in “my garden.” I mix up the “orchids” (good stuff) and “onions” (bad stuff) that has idled in my brain from the month before and most people seem to like it. I know I do. One of the “onions” for this January read like this: “AN ONION to the disappointing realization Chattanooga no longer has Bill Kilbride in our midst with the Chamber of Commerce and that Bob Corker will end his Senate run this year. You’d be hard pressed to find two people within 50 miles of MLK and Market who have been better ‘heavy lifters’ for us.”

I really believe that. Both are wonderful friends of mine and, after Kilbride molded our Chamber into the very best in the nation, we must be eternally grateful for the really big stuff he has made happen. Bill hasn’t yet whispered where he plans to smack his next home run but, brother, mine will be the loudest cheers as he rounds the bases. You can count on that.

Corker’s a little different. He’s on the world stage. There was a wonderful story in the Nashville Tennessean about the newspaper naming him as 2017’s “Man of the Year.” In Tennessee. I mean, he’s a guy who calls the leader of Russia by his first name -- “Vladimir” -- and takes no sass from the President of the United States. We’ve been friends since high school and, other than the fact our state’s elected Republican officials are too gutless to confront the vermin that continues to sore Tennessee Walkers in this very state, I am a huge admirer of Bobby’s.

Not only will we miss Corker’s wisdom and vision in the Senate, our entire nation will too. I don’t blame him -- after two terms he’s had enough of our dysfunctional government (I think) -- but here’s what really surprised me. In the eight years Bobby’s been in Washington, I don’t believe he has ever asked a favor or whined about something I’ve written or “asked for ink,” as many politicians are wont to do.

But on January 1, hours after my monthly “garden” report appeared, Corker sent me an email: “I appreciate so much your words today. Been a tough quarter, and the untruths if the last several weeks hard to take. I hope you have a productive and meaningful New Year. Thank you for your friendship. And again, thank you again for today. What a privilege it has been to be able to serve.”

I wrote him back, telling him that the next time he’s home, and has a hole in his schedule, to whistle me up and we’ll “jaw” a bit. I hope he does.

The art of “Jawing” is darn near lost in this world turned plastic by cell phones, Twitter, and CNN but I’ve been a lifetime devotee of the “jaw.” It is the way I was raised. The first time I was ever invited to “jaw” was by the late Merv Pregulman, the University of Michigan football Hall-of-Famer, who worked unknown wonders in our city after marrying the ever-wonderful Helen Siskin and settling here.

Merv was always happy when I would stop by Siskin Steel and, lordy, I loved to “jaw” with him. Maybe it’s a Yankee word, I’ve really never thought about it. But there is nothing more fun than “jawing” with one another when there is no pressing reason to talk. It stokes your soul and reminds you that a solid friendship is a blessing for every one of God’s children. The biggest thing is something good will come from any visit, so help me that’s true.

Another thing: You “jaw” with a guy but you “visit” with a woman. I don’t imagine many females who wouldn’t get nervous if you suggested to “jaw” with them but for two or more guys it’s a real blessing. Some have coffee together in the mornings and some meet for beer after work. Before the legendary T-Bones finally closed on Chestnut Street, the back room would be empty until a little after 4 every afternoon but some days you couldn’t find a chair after 5. And the funny thing was by 7 o’clock just about everybody would have gone home. It wasn’t about beers with your buddies, it was to “jaw” I’m telling you.

Wouldn’t you love to “jaw” with Bobby Corker? Fifty years ago we did it between classes at City High School. For those who know how to “jaw,” we’ll pick up right where we left it and never miss a lick.

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