Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Here ‘n’ There

Thirty years…that’s a long time in the overall scheme of things. You move from one place to another; you pack up or have a mover pack up all of your belongings…box after box after box. By the time seven or eight years pass, the boxes are usually empty. Things are put away in their appropriate – sometimes inappropriate – place or places and you figure “whew,” won’t have to do that again. After we die, let the kids worry about all the crap we brought with us from a seventeen-room house to this eight-room paradise…and it’s all on one floor.

What we, like most people, I assume, forgot that the time might come when there would be a reason to remove and examine some of the accumulated detritus that we all manage to collect and store – “oh, isn’t that cute; I’ll put it away to look at some day” – where ever a place can be found.

The winter of 2015 has provided a reason to dig through the accumulated debris of our lives. All of the wallpaper in two rooms must be removed. To do that furniture must be moved. To move the furniture, some of it must be ‘emptied.’  You see, we have a large china closet that contains one hell of a lot more than china. It has drawers…and drawers…and drawers…and even some hidden drawers…and cubby holes. Since Juli doesn’t know what I wish to retain and what should be trashed, it is incumbent on yours truly to search the dregs for what will stay and what will be placed in a ‘children’s box’ – and here I thought they’d have to do it after I died…stupid, stupid me! In addition, there are things like bills and tax returns and medical information, and this, that, and the other thing dating back to 1986. That is what we today call trash, and it’s going to go!

Going through this massive mess of minutiae is also saddening. Seeing my late wife’s notes and budgets in her handwriting brings back the fact that she’s gone; her handwriting’s here but she’s not. I guess that unless you’ve lost someone you love, that concept may be foreign. When you have lost someone you love, even their handwriting can bring back the sorrow of loss.

This, however, is not meant to be a sad essay, but one that has a bit of humor. In my searching, I came across about a dozen copies of the following poem. “Why a dozen copies?” you ask (or not). Hell, damned if I know, but there they were. If you’ve heard it, you may not think it’s funny; if you haven’t, you may get a chuckle. The younger of you may not even understand the idea of sending a letter to a friend, particularly now that e-mail is passé and texting is the ‘in’ thing.

Here ‘N’ There

Just a line to say I’m living, that I’m not among the dead

Though I’m getting more forgetful and mixed up in the head.

I got used to my arthritis, to my dentures I’m resigned,

I can manage my bifocals, but oh God, I miss my mind.

For sometimes I can’t remember when I stand at the food of the stair,

If I must go up for something, or have just come down from there.

And before the fridge so often, my poor mind is filled with doubt;

Have I just put some food away or have I come to take it out?

And there’s the time when it is dark, with nightcap on my head,

I don’t know if I’m retiring, or just getting out of bed.

So if it’s my turn to write to you, there’s no need getting sore,

I may think that I have written, and don’t want to be a bore.

So, remember that I love you and wish that you were near,

But now it’s nearly mail time, so I must say goodbye dear.

There I stand beside the mailbox, with a face so very red.

Instead of mailing you my letter, I opened it instead.

 

 

“Wow, what a bunch of lucky dogs!”

“Yeah; Barcelona for a couple of weeks; that would be just so cool.”

“When I took French last year, we went nowhere. That sucked!”

“Yeah, what a bunch of lucky dogs.”

“Oh-my-god!”

“Did you hear?”

“Yeah”…starts crying…again.

That’s dialogue. I don’t know whether it’s anywhere near what was said before and after the plane crashed into the Alps. I have no idea if that’s the way it went, but to this day – sixty-three years later – I can tell you exactly how those kids felt. I can tell you how fast the news spread through Haltern, Germany. I can understand the shock of fellow students, although not to the extent that comes from losing that many. But, I understand; I remember.

I remember sitting in a funeral home on Webster Street and looking at a casket who’s lid was closed…and sealed…because there wasn’t anything the funeral director or embalmer or whoever makes a corpse look life-like could do. I remember wondering how much of him was in the casket. Did they find all the pieces, parts of his body? Did he see it coming? Was he aware that he was about to die? Did it hurt much? We’d never toss a football around, ever again. He wouldn’t be one of the first ones picked when we bucked up for teams, never again. Yeah, I remember.

The “he,” in this case, was Joe Thompson, a friend who decided to leave high school in his senior year to enlist in the Army. He loved a good fight and wanted to go to Korea. He was at Fort Benning in Georgia; had come home on leave. He and four of his Army buddies were heading back. We never really knew precisely what happened; whether someone fell asleep at the wheel or what, but they all died. I don’t even know where the others were from, but Joe was from our town, a town of about 10,000. Word traveled fast. In those days, we didn’t light candles or create little shrines anywhere. We went to the wake at the funeral home, sometimes in groups, sometimes alone. One of the other things I remember well is that the walls of the funeral home were white, a stark white, and I remember thinking that they should have been something other than white; funny, the things you remember.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s one or sixteen; whether it’s the jock or the class nerd; it’s a classmate and he or she is dead from this, that, or the other thing…and you won’t see them again. It doesn’t matter whether you were a good friend or not; this was a classmate. Kid could have been the biggest jerk in the school, but now the jerk got killed, and that changes things. As kids ourselves, we may not express it or even understand it, but it’s an indication that we aren’t immortal, invincible, or inviolable. He or she was a classmate – same grade or different; it doesn’t matter – and high school is nothing if not a community unto itself.

Is this as tragic as Newtown, or Littleton, Lockerbee or Malaysia flight 370? Sure it is. Nearly all death is tragic. It’s more so when it’s young people who die; even more when it’s a violent end to young life. The people of Haltern will get through this…almost. The pain will last for years. Memories will come back after years have passed and those classmates will remember an episode and they’ll start to cry. Someone may ask them, “What’s wrong?” and they’ll just shake their heads; perhaps look at their own kids. They’ll dry their tears and get on with what they were doing.

Some memories fade quickly. I used to believe that it was the bad ones that faded the fastest; that the good ones remained far longer. However, as you can see, there are times when even the bad ones come back to bite you. Just ask someone who lost a friend when they were young.

 

The sleep fad

A mattress that sells for $100,000? Are you kidding me? I may sleep on my mattress – which did not cost anywhere near that much –  at times, fart on it, and, in my dotage, I’ve even been known to ‘leak’ on it…and this sucker costs one hundred grand…my first two houses didn’t cost that much money for God’s sake. What the hell is going on here?

It appears that the latest ‘fad’ in human behavior and how to get more production from aforesaid homosapiens is to ensure that their period of rest known popularly as ‘sleep’ is designed to get maximum sleep over whatever course of time is devoted to said rest period…a hundred thousand grand? Are you shitting me?

To the extent possible, psychologists, psychiatrists, entrepreneurs, mattress designers, and other, lesser known charlatans are now marketing sleep aids in the same manner as they market fast foods, Red Apple Ale, and automobiles. You have to have the best if you’re to be productive, and if you don’t have the best, you won’t be able to focus, produce, and become part of the one percent. This, in addition to one advertisement I heard the other day that said you should change your mattress every three years. You’re joshing me, right; you expect me to spend one hundred ‘K’ on a mattress and gun it after three years?

There are even “sleeporiums” in New York where you can go to catch a quick forty winks…didn’t we use to call those ‘flop houses…and you can do so, not only with designer mattresses, but also with designer pillows, depending on how you get your rems.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so judgmental on this one. After all, I happen to have a buckwheat pillow which is great for catching zzz’s. I don’t really know if it’s the pillow or if it’s that I’m so goddamned tired of doing nothing all day that I just pop off to dreamland without the assistance of buckwheat. I would add, however, that those bouncy, foam-filled pillows that one normally finds in a hotel room do inhibit my slumber. If I happen to move my head in my unconscious state, my dreams immediately switch to the hardwood and my head appears to be the ball. Depending on the time of year, I may be a March Madness ball or part of the NBA…it’s very uncomfortable.

It seems to me that sleep has become the ‘fad’ topic of the day. How much sleep should children, adults, and others – who the hell are the others – get in order to ensure they are at their best when they wake. One of my former employers used to spend the time between 2:30 and 3 pm in his lounge chair, taking a power nap. That was over half a century ago. Nobody thought much about it. His daily schedule began at about six in the morning and on most days ended near midnight. He always seemed fresh and alert, and I’m betting that half hour nap did the trick. There are, evidently, people who can control their bodies to that extent. Perhaps that’s why I never became rich and powerful…I couldn’t control my body. If I attempt to take a power nap from 2:30 to 3, I’ll generally wake up at eight, grumpy and grouchy, and have a horrible time getting back to sleep.

Back, for a moment, to our ‘sleeporium’ in New York. This place is amazing. You can set your own method for falling asleep. There are pillows (probably on the hundred ‘K’ pad) that will lullaby you to sleep with Brahms, Beethoven, or Bach. If you are aware of how you sleep, e.g., on your right side, they have a pillow for that (also for left-sider’s). You can set the lighting to your own personal taste, and after 40 minutes, a gentle sunrise will slowly awaken you. The next step will be the aroma of a newly-mown lawn, or the lowing of farm animals with a rooster doing his “cock-a-doodle-doo.”

There is, undoubtedly, something to this idea of getting a sufficient amount of sleep to be able to do a job the following day, whatever that job happens to be. If one happens to be toying around with a pathogen that could kill others, it would be best to be alert and aware of what one is doing. The same might be said for a long-distance or cross-country truck driver, or any of a thousand (but not a hundred thousand…geez) other professions.

If you happen to be a teacher – whether kindergarten, elementary, high school, or college – you can easily tell those who are not getting their share of the ‘snoozies.’ The bobbing heads, the drool falling from the side of the mouth, and the thousand-yard stare are just a few of the signs that both the pillow and the mattress didn’t get much of a workout the past evening (don’t even go there!), and you may be quite certain that your brilliant presentation is falling on ears that are completely blocked.

While designer mattresses and pillows will, I’m certain, be followed by designer sleepwear, sheets, blankets, quilts, and ambiance-designed bedrooms, there are already several books out on sleeping and how to get the most – whatever the hell “the most” is supposed to mean – out of it. I see this coming. If you don’t have the latest and greatest bedroom, you’ll become a social pariah and ostracized from the circle of those who do.

Having said all of this, I will admit to one other sin in addition to the buckwheat pillows. Shortly after Juli arrived, we purchased some polar fleece sheets. Sumer, fall, winter, spring, we have not slept on anything else since that first night. They are warm in the winter; cool in the summer; in fact, beautiful any time of year. Are they an extravagance? No, not really; the cost over traditional cotton sheets is negligible. Do I get a better night’s sleep on these? Probably not, but I don’t honestly know. There is, however, one thing of which I’m absolutely positive…these sheets will never, ever, under any circumstances, appear on a one hundred thousand dollar mattress!

There are men on the roof of my house.

They have hatchets, drills, shovels, and God-only-knows what other instruments of torture and mayhem they may possess.

These same men were on my house yesterday…no, silly, they did not camp out overnight…at least, I don’t believe they did. If they had, I’m quite certain I would have heard the scraping, drilling and chopping that is currently taking place…or the sound of someone writing his or his girlfriend’s name in the snow…from on high.

These men are welcome on my roof. It is because of them that we may be able to remove the buckets of various types and sizes from the living room and from the room I laughingly call “an office.”

The insurance adjuster has been here once. That was before we drilled the holes in the ceiling to relieve or direct the leaking water into the buckets. We did that for fear that if we did not, the drips would further weaken the ceiling and the whole damned thing would come crashing down.

The snow outside the family room, which had shrunk to a bit below two feet, has now been replenished by the men who are shoveling, scraping, drilling, and chopping. In all probability, the ice will be completely melted by late June, early July. The snow is expected to disappear by late May, just in time for planting the garden, although who is to say whether or not the ground will be sufficiently thawed by that time. Perhaps it might even be a quagmire into which one can sink and disappear following a few measly steps.

The men have now left. A couple of them came to the back door – how they got there, I’ll never know – and collected the agreed upon toll for their services. They left via the garage; otherwise, I think they might have had to tunnel their way out. The roof is now clear of ice and snow, and I can only pray that I have seen the last of 2015’s white stuff.

There is one drawback to having all of this roof work done…the snow and ice must have a place to go. In this case, it went into the front and back yards; therefore, we cannot use the front door because there is approximately seven feet of snow in front of it; we cannot use the back doors for the very same reason. Should an emergency arise that we must leave the house rapidly, it’s dive through the bathroom window or pray that we have enough time for the garage door to open…bathroom window would be quicker but there is still three or four feet of snow in the side yard.

There are no more men on my roof.

There are no more drills and hatchets, no more shovels and God-only-knows-what’s…

…and please, oh please, let no more white stuff fall on my roof again this year!

I want to know where the hell the protesters are in Philadelphia and Fulton County, Georgia. What, you don’t know about the shooting deaths of two Black men in that city and Local County? Or is it possibly because they just happened to be police officers ambushed and killed in the line of duty? Is someone going to try and feed me that bullshit line that it was “in the line of duty?” They’re dead; they were Black; they were shot; they are dead. What the fuck is the matter with people who will protest over the death of a thug like Michael Brown and do nothing when a couple of Black, White, Pink, or Green police officers are gunned down.

Officer Wilson was in a shop to buy a gift for his son who had done well academically and who had a birthday coming up in three days. Two armed brothers entered the store and announced they intended to rob it. How dumb were these two? The patrol car, with Wilson’s partner was parked outside the store. They didn’t see Wilson until he announced himself. According to the “Officer Down” web site, “He exchanged shots with the two brothers as he drew fire away from the customers and employees. He was struck three times during the shootout in which over 50 shots were fired. The two men then exited the store where they were engaged in a shootout with Officer Wilson’s partner, who had remained in the patrol car. One of the subjects was wounded during the second shootout. Who is out there protesting the death of Bob Wilson? Perhaps his wife and two sons should take to the streets. After all, they have more right than most to hold signs that say, “Black lives matter.” They won’t do that however; they’re too busy mourning the death of a husband and a father. Who protests for them? “Oh, it was in the line of duty.” What bullshit!

Twenty-two-year veteran police officer Terence Green died when he was shot in the back of the head from an ambush position. Green and other officers were responding to a shots fired call. The suspect had left his house and gone into hiding. As the officers walked past, he fired, killing Greene and striking the radio of another officer. While his mother mourns, there are no protesters. He’s dead but, “It was in the line of duty.”

Since the beginning of this year, 19 police officers have died. In some cases, they have been in gun fights with suspects. In other cases, they have been killed by accident while pursuing suspects. Who marches for them? Who holds up signs saying that their lives matter?

Last year, 125 officers were killed “In the line of duty,” 47 of them from gunfire. These men and women have chosen to uphold the law, to protect the citizens of their communities, but I have yet to see a protest on their behalf; people marching in the streets with signs that read “Stop the violence against police officers.” It appears to be an attitude of “Well, they chose their profession so tough shit if they get killed; I hope they didn’t kill some poor, innocent kid before they died.”

The attitude that I have heard from some people about the police has nearly gotten me in trouble several times. I happen to be a police advocate. When those men and women put on that uniform and strap on that belt with, yes, a gun as a part of their equipment, they haven’t a clue as to whether they will return home that night for dinner and a drink or whether they will wind up in a body bag on a coroner’s table with a tag tied around their big toe. How many jobs have that kind of risk involved… not every few days, weeks, or months, but every 24 hours? It’s a horrible job. It’s overworked and underpaid; it’s people who care deeply about protecting others and are willing to lay their lives on the line for many they don’t even know. When Greene was killed in Georgia, one neighbor said, “I wish I had known him, just to say thank you for protecting us.” Too many people show disdain for the members of law enforcement, referring to them as “Gestapo” and worse. But when they need help, these same people will cry their eyes out when the police save their butts.

Am I prejudiced on this matter? You’re damned right I am. Over the years I have taught more than 4,000 police officers. Some of them are rough and ready, I admit. Some of them appear very cynical toward life, but that’s not cynicism, that’s reality. A few are bad apple bullies, but they generally get weeded out. Most are hard working men and women who want nothing more than to be able to do their jobs each day and get home safely at night for that “dinner and a drink” and maybe, just maybe a kiss from the wife or girlfriend and a hug from the kids.

On Radicalization

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a warning to parents that ISIS is using social media to influence young Americans to join them in fighting for…for what? For an independent Islamic state; for a chance to get their heads blown off by an Iraqi, Iranian, Jordanian, or anyone else who sees Isis for what it Is…a bunch of trigger-happy idiots who are interpreting – I should say misinterpreting – what the Quaran actually teaches. They can make all of the claims that they wish, but the fact of the matter is that if you hate this country so much, go, get out. Live the dream; become a terrorist; but understand this…those are not toy guns that are firing back at you. If you get hit by a round from anything other than a Kalashnikov – I don’t care if it hits your little finger – you will probably die, as much from the shock as anything else. This is not a game that is being played. It is not a television show where you get shot and killed one week and miraculously recover by the third episode. If our children are being radicalized by ISIS on social media, we have some very real and very serious problems.

What is this “radicalization” of which we speak? According to one of this country’s most senior terrorism authorities, radicalization is “the process of adopting for oneself or inculcating in other a commitment not only to a system of [radical] beliefs, but to their imposition on the rest of society.” By imposing their beliefs on the rest of society, he is speaking of the use of violence, which in this case means those who don’t believe as the radical believes, must be punished in order to make them conform.

Why and/or how does radicalization to the point of condoning or actually participating in violent behavior occur? No one really seems to know despite the amount of research that has been done. What actually changes in a person that causes them to accept this violent manner? Most research dictates that change goes through a variety of stages. The first thing that must occur is that the potential recruit must think that an injustice or humiliation has occurred. It might be something as simple as seeing pictures or videos of dead civilians when America was fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. These horrible sights may be blamed on American air strikes even if that is not an accurate portrayal of the horror. Over a period of time, the recruit is provided with motivational sources that make him or her more likely to believe in violence.

Research appears to show that “An individual’s search for identity may draw him or her to extremist or terrorist organizations in a variety of ways. The individual may be searching for a purpose or goal in life that defines the actions required to achieve that goal. A violent act may be seen as a way to succeed at something that makes a difference. The absolutist, “black and white” nature of most extremist ideologies is often attractive to those who feel overwhelmed by the complexity and stress of navigating a complicated world. Without struggling to define oneself or discern personal meaning, an individual may choose to define his or her identity simply through identification with a cause or membership in a group.”

Think with me for a moment about the youth who join gangs. What is their primary need? It’s a sense of belonging to something; of connecting with others who feel similarly, ie, that they have been dealt a rotten hand in life (injustice or perhaps some form of humiliation); that they are searching for some form of identity, eg, gang tats or signs, and; that they are willing to be violent in order to be recognized.

There are many other factors that appear to influence recruits to become extreme terrorists – in this day and age we think of Muslims, but they are just the latest in a long line of violent extremists – including the need for a mentor or leader. This mentor may be someone who is articulate and who shares the recruit’s values on the Internet. In the case of the Muslim jihadists, it might be an imam or other religious authority that condones violent behavior because of the manner in which they interpret the Quaran.

Another factor that has proven particularly successful for recruiting terrorists is the Internet. ISIS and other terrorist groups before them have produced some pretty slick videos that make it hard to ignore their messages. All it appears to take is an unhappy or dissatisfied individual, capable of violence, who is seeking something “better” for his or her life.

Parents may think they know their teenagers. Few do. You take it from here.

 

Just so FUBAR

Never in my life have I considered myself to be particularly…what is that word…ah, yeah, brilliant. I’m just not. I’m an average guy with an average amount of intelligence and, hopefully, a great deal of common sense. I am, admittedly, quite opinionated and at times quite stubborn (My friends are reading this and saying, “Thank God; he is finally confessing what we’ve known for years”). As you can tell, I’m setting the stage here to launch off onto a tangent about other people.

First and foremost, I have developed an intense dislike for those elected officials who now serve as members of the Congress of the United States of America. For the past five or six years, they have put their political party and their own self-interests ahead of those of the country. For example, does the country need a national health care plan? The answer is, “Yes.” The fact that seven presidents before him were unable to get one through Congress is to the credit of the incumbent president. Did he threaten, cajole, and run roughshod over both houses to get it through? Sure, probably, and why not? Is it a good bill? Eh, who really knows; the goddamned thing is 20,000 pages in length with more to follow, and without question, there are sections of the law that are self-serving to some group or other. It is the beginning of a law that has been needed for some time. However, this particular Congress wants to scrap the whole thing; get rid of it; start over with new thoughts. Hey, wait a minute, if every one of those 20,000 pages suck, why the hell did you vote for it. But that’s what this Congress wants to do, and why? In large measure, it would appear that this Congress does not want this president to have any kind of legacy when he leaves office, and why? As sorry as I am to say it, there is sufficient racial prejudice in this Congress that they don’t want to give a Black president any credit for anything; sad, very sad, but it’s true. Now, to further demonstrate stupidity of this Congress, they voted for the Keystone pipeline to be extended to the Gulf knowing full-well that this president had environmental concerns about the pipeline and expressed his intention of defeating it, but they voted for it anyway…and he vetoed it. Why would you go ahead and vote for or against; why even bring it to the floor if you knew it was going to be vetoed and you didn’t have the votes to overturn the veto? Stupid; that’s all it is; stupid. Don’t we have enough problems in this country that require intelligent, well-thought-out legislative action without (a) beating a dead horse in the Affordable Care Act and (b) voting on an issue that is already dead?

Who are these people who make up the legislative branch of government? They are, supposedly, intelligent, articulate, people. Many of them have been in office for years, getting reelected with regularity by the people of their state or district. It causes me to begin to wonder about the people who continually reelect these people. Now, I’m not a television freak, but I have taken to watching one additional program. I say “additional” because I do watch the news on several channels, along with The Big Bang Theory and several on demand series. No, the program I have added is Judge Judy. This program has given me insight as to why these same people keep getting reelected. It’s because the people who vote are the same people who appear as plaintiffs and defendants on Judge Judy. And they are idiots. They are not actors; they are real people. They are flown to the show; they are put up in hotels; they are given a stipend for their appearance…and they are idiots, idiots, idiots.

Quite frankly, when I go to the gym, I meet people from all walks of life. They carry on intelligent conversations. They appear to be reasonable and sensible people. They don’t appear to be like the people I see on Judge Judy, but now I begin to wonder. Maybe these are the people who say, “Fuck it” and don’t bother to vote, although I find that doubtful. Maybe people who live in this area are a little brighter (a little brighter????) than the people who appear on Judge Judy. “The people are real; the cases are real; the judgments are final.” That’s what the opening on the show says. Should I be doubting this? Are the people really not real? Have they been pulled from asylums around the country? Does the show have talent scouts that go to various mental wards to select these people? Yes, it’s a television program, but holy shit, it’s supposed to be real…and these people are blithering idiots!

So I have to ask myself, who elects the members of Congress? Is it the people with whom I interact on a daily basis or is it the Judge Judy ‘suer’ and ‘suee?’ If it’s the former, what are we doing wrong? If it’s the latter, I guess I can understand why Congress is just so FUBAR.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 426 other followers