The Meaning of Brass Balls

Posted on August 30, 2010


On Saturday, I drove from Virginia to Oxford, MD to attend an annual gathering of a group of journalists who used to work at the Easton Star Democrat.  That’s where Bill Handleman worked many years ago, and, because Bill died this year, the gathering was going to include a few toasts to Bill, as well the usual consumption of crabs and beer.

I was tooling along Rt 50, and, because I had never driven to Oxford before, I was in the middle lane, just minding my own business and keeping up with traffic.  There wasn’t much on my mind other than hoping that the nice GPS lady who lives in my dashboard didn’t have any tricks up her sleeve.  Thus far, she was being cooperative and merely telling me in her most earnest voice to “follow the main road.”  This is something I can do well.

At some point I realized that my space was being shared by another vehicle.  A glance at the rear view mirror told me that, had my trunk been open, the driver of the pick up truck behind me was close enough to count the number of real estate signs I have inside.  “Tailgating” doesn’t do justice to what this guy was doing.  He was, in effect, performing an act that is still illegal in the country of Tonga.

I did what I always do in these situations.  I don’t speed up, and I certainly don’t accelerate on the rises.  Sometimes, I actually slow to a crawl, but this guy was so close, he would have been in the front seat with me if I had done that.  Of course, he got frustrated, and of course, he eventually zoomed around me.

That’s when I saw it (them), hanging from the rear bumper of the pickup: a pair of humongous brass balls, swinging as he drove.  No, let me restate that: A PAIR OF HUMONGOUS BRASS BALLS, swinging as he drove.

Call me an innocent, but I’ve never seen this.  Momentarily forgetting that the GPS Lady could, at a moment’s notice, completely ruin my life, my mind was immediately diverted to seamier (and, I’ll admit, more pleasant) things.  When I finished with that reverie, I turned my thoughts toward Bill.  Being a firm believer in the universe sending messages all the time, I thought about the connection between Bill and what I had just seen.

In the world of journalism, Bill cut right to the chase.  Whether he was writing about a horserace or a street person or a small child snatched away from his father, Bill believed in a take-no-prisoners approach.  Life was too short and he was in too much of a hurry to write about it all to tiptoe around anything.  Bill had journalistic brass balls.

So, thanks Humongous Brass Balls Guy for sending me the message about Bill.  And a special thanks to GPS Lady for behaving yourself on this trip. Or at least on the drive there.  We won’t discuss what you did to me on the drive back.