Over the years, I’ve seen my name in the newspaper or in online posts several thousand times. I’ve made a handful of radio appearances and even done a few sports radio broadcasts. I’ve been on some really keen local access TV shows and even been interviewed by some legitimate local TV news folks.
At one point the newspaper had a partnership with a local TV station’s news broadcast that included having some of our journalists provide insightful commentaries — as well as whatever weird commentaries I could contribute for the Friday broadcast. After about 60 seconds of me trying to make some fairly meaningless point, they’d throw it back to the anchors for a final word. Usually it was something like, “Well, thank you, Chris, for that, um, interesting, um, whatever that was.” Translation: “If I have to spend one more Friday trying to make excuses for this lunatic hillbilly’s nonsense, I quit!”
My point is that I am very familiar with fame — although not so much the fortune. It’s been that way since 1985, when some girl dedicated a song to me at the Montezuma, Georgia, skating rink. “This one goes out to Chris Johnson,” and then Janet Jackson belted out “Gimme a beat!” and proceeded to sing about “Nasty” boys. I was rather proud that Janet was kind enough to think of me.
Now, though, I’m not so sure the song was even about me. It just might have been about Amou Haji.
If you don’t recognize that name, it’s clear you don’t follow real news. You’re wasting time with stupid stuff like Russian invasions, melting glaciers and the impending death of democracy in the United States. But Amou Haji, now that’s real news.
Amou, who died a couple of weeks ago in Iran, had been recognized as “the world’s dirtiest man” and reportedly had not bathed in more than 60 years. It is believed he had some traumatic bathing experience decades ago. I know the feeling. When I was a 21-year-old sportswriter living in a cheap apartment in Valdosta, Georgia, a guy broke in through my sliding glass patio door while I was taking a bubble bath. I just thought the door wasn’t secured tightly, and the blinds were fluttering in the wind, but no. There was a man trying to steal my TV. Now, that was a traumatic bathing experience, although mainly for the guy who turned to see he was being chased by a man clad only in bubbles. I suspect he has yet to stop running, even to bathe in these past 31 years. In fact, with Amou’s death, that would-be burglar might very well be the world’s new dirtiest man.
Amou’s favorite sleeping spot was a hole in the ground. He not only smoked cigarettes but would smoke several at the same time. He also was fond of smoking animal dung from a pipe. He used a rusty tin can to get drinking water from mud puddles, and his diet mainly consisted of roadkill. He was particularly fond of rotten porcupine meat.
Well, of course he died, right?! Oh yeah, did I mention he was 94. Not only that, but he had recently been given a thorough medical exam that found — other than a little trichinosis from eating raw or undercooked meat — he was in outstanding health. You know what finally did him in?
That’s right. Villagers, who probably objected to the smell as castmates on a Matthew McConaughey movie set might do the same, finally convinced the man to get a bath. Yep, soap and water did him in.
But the man was a hermit — Amou not McConaughey — so folks could have just left well enough alone. He was minding his own business … and that of a few rotting porcupines. But, nooooo, folks think they know what’s best for everybody else … and most of those folks don’t live to be 94.
Folks nowadays feel like it’s their business if folks aren’t living the way they would or are living a truth different from theirs. Folks worry too much about those who don’t worship the way they do, who don’t love the people you think they should, or who don’t smell “fresh and clean as a whistle” every day or every decade. If you’re one of those meddlesome busybodies, well, mind your own business. Just do what those news anchors used to do after my commentaries: Hold your nose and move along.
Meanwhile, if you happen to see Janet — I’m sorry, I mean “Ms. Jackson” — tell her thanks for the shout-out, assuming that song really was for me and not Amou.