What, me worry?

The most antagonistic, irksome, unnecessary phrase in the English language is “don’t worry.” Just typing it onto a page is irritating. Some people tend to use it when they are completely at a loss for words but feel that some type of encouragement must be given. Others use it, I’m convinced, just to hear the sound of their own voice.

Before my late wife, Joan, was diagnosed with stage four cancer – there is no stage five – she was not feeling well. To put it bluntly, she was feeling like crap, yet true to her calling as one of the world’s very few Roman Catholic Christian Scientists, she refused to see a doctor. It was infuriating. She insisted on cooking dinner every evening and was adamant that I should not go near the stove, microwave, or oven. My offers to make veal Marsala, chicken piccata, or any meal of any type were spurned time and time again. My admonishments and that of the children that we were concerned that she didn’t seem to be getting better were met with, “Oh stop worrying; it’s only the flu,” or, “Don’t worry; I’ll be fine.” Yes, you are correct in you assumption that even a flu shot was considered something akin to witch doctor medicine. Eventually, of course, she did see a nurse practitioner. Thirteen months later she was dead.

I’ve always thought of worry as being a good thing. “Oh, you worry too much,” people would say before something I was planning was to take place. “Don’t worry; it’ll be great,” folks would tell me. Know what? They were wrong…but they were right. My experience has been that the more I worried about something that required major planning, the fewer things went wrong. The more my stomach curdled a day or two before a commencement ceremony or some other special programming, the better the program result. Sure, in hindsight, it’s very easy to see the reason why. It wasn’t the responsibility of others to ensure success, ergo, don’t worry because they weren’t worried. I’m not certain who said it, although it’s been attributed to many, but I always liked the quote, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

There must be people in the world who don’t worry about anything. If not, why is the world so screwed up? I mean, think about it. Who told the captain of the Titanic, “Hey, don’t worry. Nothing can possibly sink this ship.” Oops! And who said to the Emperor of Japan, “Don’t worry; they’re just bluffing about some super weapon.” Double oops. We can all recount horror stories where we’ve been told not to worry, and then things turn out that prove we were right to worry.

I’m not saying that we should worry about every little thing. However, you know that mole on your back? Give it some thought; get it checked out; worry about it. You know that rattle that you can’t explain in the front of the car…yeah, worry about that one too, and get the damned thing checked out. You know the Super Bowl bet you made with one of your office buddies? Don’t worry about it. Win or lose, the world will not come to an end. On the other hand, if the money you be was to be used for next summer’s vacation with the family…yeah, worry about how you’re going to explain it to them if you lose. Better yet, you should have thought twice…no, three times…before making the bet…you idiot!

Excessive worrying is, obviously, not good. Worrying about whether there is a terrorist in your neighborhood; will a nuclear war begin tomorrow; how badly will genetically modified foods affect the brains of my children or grandchildren? These are stupid worried. You can’t do a thing about them. This is where “don’t worry” is a good thing. If you want to worry, how about this: “Can you afford to buy groceries and medicines and pay next month’s rent?” That’s a good worry. Worry helps you in several ways: (1) it forces you to make a plan; (2) it allows you to see the repercussions of your planning, which (3) makes you pay attention to detail that leads to (4) your plan generally being air tight. “Don’t worry” about living your life according to a plan. We do it so much that we’re very often unaware of it. It’s when we go off-plan and we’re told not to worry that we get in trouble. There are some other advantages to worry, not the least of which is that people learn that you are someone to be trusted. As one who did a few years of event planning, I always looked at the job as one where I could take away the worry of those who would be participating…the ones who would be made to look foolish if I hadn’t done my job. Let me give you a small example. If I failed to place a copy of the script for how things should proceed on the lectern, how would the presiding officer know who to call on next in the event that he or she forgot to bring their own copy? If I failed to give proper instructions to the graduating seniors and to the faculty with whom they would be working, how could the event possibly occur? I always assumed that the president of the institution would be so busy greeting honored guests and family members that he would forget his speech. Stupid? Yeah, probably, but talk about having egg on your face if you reached into your jacket and found nothing…yikes! The speech was on his chair before he sat down. If he already had the speech, it was a bit of extra padding for the chair; if not, his ass was saved.

The point of all of this is not to believe those people who say, “Aw, don’t worry about it.” My advice? Go ahead, worry about it. Just be certain that what you worry over is something within your control. If it is, worry until it – whatever-the-hell-‘it’- happens-to-be – is finally done. Much of the time you’ll probably look back and ask yourself, “Why the hell did I worry about that?” Hmm, what if you hadn’t?

Another crazy winter

Do you live in New England? If so, are you waiting for the other shoe to drop? Other than New Hampshireites and some folks in Vermont…at least in 2016. The rest of us appear to be walking around with everything crossed but our eyes. We’re growing cautiously optimistic, but we’re not takings bets. We’ve been fooled too often.  Quietly, almost silently, we ask ourselves, “When?” When will we be the ones to take it on the chin? When will that weather front go left rather than right? After all, we’re New Englanders. We expect to get battered by a few blizzards every year. Hell, that’s why we stay here. In fact, I’ll bet there were even a few masochistic bastards who were thinking “Why wasn’t that us instead of Washington, Virginia, and New Jersey?

It is a fact that people who live in New England are so attuned to (a) kids having to go late into June to make up snow days; (b) stopping at the end of their driveways in the winter to look around the snow banks for other traffic and wayward snowplows; (c) cursing out the weather forecasters on four, five, and seven for the accuracies or inaccuracies of their predictions; (d) spending the last hour of their workday wondering if they’ll even be able to make it home…that we just assume the worst.

True, 2014-15 was a record-breaker. However, I can tell you that the Blizzards of ’78 were no bloody days at the beach either. It went from starting a new job two weeks earlier to being told by a state trooper to leave my car under a bridge on a major artery to having a two-week vacation at home to watching two – not one but two – snowplows get stuck  on a road to one side of the house. Oh, it was just “loverly.” The kids, of course, thought it was terrific, but in fact, it was just another indication of how powerful Mother Nature can be when she sets her mind to it.

We are now into the month of February, another of New England’s traditional heavy snow month, but all there is on the horizon is a couple of rainy days. At this rate, I’m expecting a very snowy July…oh, and there’s no such thing as climate change…say the ‘experts.’

Tomorrow, however, is another day. Tonight, the weather prognosticators are telling us that we may have as little as two inches of snow or as much as eight. Now, I don’t know about you, but this does not give me great confidence in the “latest in Doppler radar,” or “the most advanced weather forecasting system at one station only.” You see, at two inches of snow, most of the idiots who drive will be able to do so with only a modicum of fear. As the amount of snow increases arithmetically, e.g., three, four, five, etc., the capability of New England drivers, experienced though they may be, decreases exponentially. The breakeven point is somewhere between six and eight inches, depending on several factors: The first criterion is how long the driver has been traversing New England roads in the winter. Having been born here is not good enough. If your grandparents were born here, you may be considered a New Englander who may meet the qualifications for winter driving. The second measure of your ability is what you are driving. If you perambulate the perimeter of the community in a four-wheel, all-terrain, steel-chassied (another new word) vehicle also capable of traversing the sands of the Gobi, you have a much better chance of being considered a winter driver that one who goes out cruising in a Mini-Cooper or a Fiat. Finally, if you look out the window and note that the plows have not yet been through, sit back down on the couch and open another beer, you are a guaranteed, A-number-one New Englander who know to leave well enough alone until the DPW has done its due diligence by moving the downfall to the sides of the road.

Ah, yes, the travails of New England winters. We rarely know when they will begin and we never know when they may end. While one may believe that Spring actually starts in March, never discount the vile and sneaky snowstorms of April and May in this six-state region we lovingly call the Northeast.

Happy driving.

America’s Hitler

Remember the good old days, right after WWII, when smoking was cool and getting drunk as a skunk on anything and everything you could get your hands on was considered a trip? Do you recall the days when your cough was treated with terpenhydrate and codeine or Cheracol cough syrup, another one loaded with codeine. Boy, those were the days…well, at least until ‘terps’ was pulled from drug store shelves and Cheracol became a prescription item. With all of the crap that was passed off as good and cool, it’s a wonder any of us lived to 65 and yet, somehow, many of us made it.

“Drug abuse has plagued the American continent since the 1800s, when morphine, heroin and cocaine were hailed for their amazing curative properties. By the mid-20th century, however, illicit drug use was all but eradicated in the US through focused national and global suppression of the industry. All that changed in the 1960s when many new and exotic drugs, such as LSD and other hallucinogens, amphetamines and marijuana, became more readily available.” Today, the war on drugs in the US appears to be a losing battle as the cartels south of the border create newer and more lethal potions and find better ways of getting their drugs across borders and into the United States.

We now have a new drug sweeping the country. It is a drug that, in some way, shape, or form, affects every single citizen. It’s known by many names. Some call it anger; others call it fear; a few call it jealousy or envy, while still more don’t even have a name for it. I’ve named it “stupidity.” That’s right, stupidity is the drug of choice for Americans in this, the earliest decades of the 21st Century.

The worst part of the stupidity drug is that we don’t even know that we’re becoming addicted to it. We have stopped using our own brains and allowed others to tell us what we should or should not believe, and that, my friends, is stupidity. When a candidate seeking to become his party’s candidate for the highest office in the land, tells us that we are a nation without borders, we accept it, rather than saying, “Hey, our border on the east is the Atlantic Ocean; on the west it’s the Pacific; on the north it’s the nation of Canada, our friends. Yes, on the south we have some problems, but please, don’t try to tell me that we don’t have borders because that is an idiotic, stupid, fear-mongering statement that is just not true. Of course it’s Donald Trump. It’s Trump because he’s a panderer and a carpet bagger who can appeal to the basest instincts of stupid and fear-infected people.

No one wants to be told they are stupid. Not a soul wants to be told that they are afraid. It’s insulting and an invitation to violent reaction. The trouble is that it’s true. This is evidenced by the number of people who are attending the meetings that Trump holds to promote his desire to be the Republican nominee for President. Will all of the people who are attending his meetings go to the polls and vote for him or are they there just to watch a circus performer in action? There are those who say, “Pay him no mind and he will destroy himself.” Good God, he’s said enough to destroy himself over and over and over again, yet his poll numbers continue to rise, and people turn out to see him. He’s afraid to show up at a debate and the news media hop all over what else it is that he’ll be doing. “Pay him not mind?” He is a media whore, and the only way to make him disappear is to stop covering his inane actions. Trump says that he will make money for the veterans when he skips the last debate. Veterans’ organizations say, “We don’t want any money that is merely the attempt of a political figure to draw attention.”

Here I am, writing about this prima donna…again. Does that mean that I’m one of those whores covering his actions? Oh, Lord, I certainly hope not. I just hope that the nation will come to its senses and stop considering America’s Hitler a viable candidate for President of the United States.

Up, up in the air

The New England Patriots flew to Denver on Saturday morning ‘prepared’ to challenge the Denver Broncos for the AFC football championship. That’s a joke folks.

I’m quite certain you’ve heard the old expression, “Man plans and God laughs.” It truly fits in this situation. Bill Belichik and his coaching staff had, in all probability, a game plan that was adequate to surpass the game plan of Gary Kubiak and the Broncos staff.  However, for some unknown reason, the Patriots’ brain trust failed to take into account one factor that is the difference between playing at sea level and playing a mile above sea level.

Anyone who has ever been to Denver or its surroundings for a day, a week, or months will explain that it takes a bit of time to get used to the altitude change. And please, please do not use that worn out cliché that these are professional athletes who are so conditioned that altitude would make no difference to them; that’s a bunch of malarkey. I don’t care who you are, e.g., Gronkowski and his leg cramps, you are affected by Denver’s altitude.

I was shocked that the Patriots stayed in Foxboro until Saturday morning. I found it difficult to believe that there wasn’t a single soul in that organization that considered the altitude change. This is not by way of making excuses for the Patriots; they were beaten fair and square by the Broncos. They weren’t beaten by Peyton Manning or by the Denver defense or special teams; they were beaten because Denver, on January 24, 2016 was the better team. Would traveling to Denver on Tuesday or Wednesday of the week following their victory over the Chiefs have mattered? I really don’t know, but it couldn’t have hurt to practice at altitude.

If you’ve never been to the mile high city, let me tell you a couple of things: The first thing you notice as you’re walking through the airport…and it’s a big, big airport, is that you find yourself catching your breath a bit more often. If you are, were, or even if never a smoker, things get worse. You also will find that you’re thirsty. Drink water, my friend, drink lots and lots of water! Some people will, after a short period of time, actually develop nosebleeds. I’m not kidding. Altitude changes from sea level to a mile ‘up’ can be quite intense.

My son worked for USA Swimming outside of Denver. He was there for approximately four years. As a coach and former athlete, he knows the importance of keeping in shape, and even during his stint in Colorado, he would go for daily runs. When he would come back to New England to visit friends, they would often say, “Let’s go for a run.” It was a statement they inevitably regretted. When one has trained or even just adapted to altitude training, the difference is remarkable. As he said, he’d just be getting started when his fellow runners were “sucking wind.”

So, don’t hold it against the New England Patriots football team that they lost in Denver. Would they have won had the game been played in New England? I have no idea. Certainly, the Broncos players would have adapted better to playing at sea level, but who can honestly say that this just wasn’t a game the Patriots were supposed to win. Personally, I believe that if the New England team had trained at some place like the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the outcome might have been different.

They tell me that America is angry. “At what,” I ask, but they won’t answer.

They tell me that they’re going to make America great again. “How,” I ask, and they give me bullshit platitudes that don’t answer my question.

They tell me that they will make Wall Street pay their fair share of taxes. I didn’t realize that streets paid taxes, and if they’re talking about the people on Wall Street who have made money by making wise investments, I have to ask, “Just because those people may be more intelligent than the rest of us, why are you going to penalize them? Will you go after everyone who has made millions because they created something or invested wisely? Or are you saying that everyone who works on Wall Street is a criminal?”

They say they will “stand up to Wall Street.” Okay, stand up…then what are you going to do? After all, Wall Street has made significant contributions to a number of campaigns.

They say that they will break up the big banks, and again, I ask, “How will you do that?” but no one seems to hear my question.

They say that they will ensure that everyone has health care, but don’t we already have an Affordable Health Care Act that needs just a bit of tweaking? Are they saying that they will throw out one plan and bring in another? Hell, it took seven Presidents attempts before we even got the one we have now.

They say that we will build a wall all along our southern border to prevent illegal aliens and drugs from coming into the country, but that border is nearly 2,000 miles long. Although the Great Wall of China is nearly twice that length, it took thousands of years to build. What if the next President doesn’t see the necessity of such a wall? Second, it seems to me that alien and drug smuggling is done more by tunnels now. How deep will the foundation be for this wall…pyramid deep?

They say, “We will take care of the veterans?” What does that mean?

They say, “We will take care of our service men? Same question.

In other words, politicians, whether in office or merely running to become a party candidate for the top job in the nation are nothing more than preying on the gullible American public. Are people in America angry? Of course, they are. I can walk into the gym on any morning during the week and find half a dozen people who are pissed off about something. Blacks are angry because they get shot by white police officers. If a black police officer kills anyone, black or white, there won’t be a hue and cry…not unless someone happens to catch the police in the act as in the case of Freddie Gray. Whites are angry because they don’t have the education to get anything but shit jobs, and they want a minimum wage that will help to make a living wage, and I can’t argue with that. Employers are angry because if they have to increase the wages, they’ll have to increase the prices. That means two things: (1) they won’t net as much money for themselves; and, (2) they will lose customers to some place that won’t raise wages.

The world is one vicious cycle after another. There is no Utopia. What there is cannot be cured by campaign slogans or vague promises. It does not matter who says what. Americans are among the most impatient people in the world. “Now” is not soon enough. Well, let me tell you something my fellow citizens; in the two-hundred and twenty-eight years since we banished the British from our shores, we have done pretty goddamned well compared to a number of other nations, and just because you can’t afford to buy an Apple watch or a Tesla motor car or send your kid to an Ivy League college, that’s your problem. It is not a problem for the nation. Own it, you dumb son-of-a-bitch. Take a little bit of responsibility for your own shortcomings.

When I coached Little League Baseball, not everyone who tried out made a team. Kids learned to live with disappointment. Today, everyone must play on a team, even if it’s the parents and not the children who wish to play. Today, kid’s lives are so programmed that if they were told, “Go out in the backyard and play until dinner is ready,” they wouldn’t have a clue about what they should do. “Here, this is called a doll; play with it.” You’d shatter their world. “What does it do? Where’s the on switch for the computer in it?” Does it walk, talk, and crawl on its belly like a reptile?” It’s a friggin’ doll, kid. Do what your grandmother did with hers. You’d expect to see the kid’s hair go up in smoke and the top of its head pop off.

Yes, of course America has problems; of course there will always be anger. We are not a perfect country, thank God. I say that because for all of our imperfections, there are always people in our country who are trying to make things better. They are not the politicians. They are the citizens of Flint, Michigan who said, “Enough is enough. We’re not going to let our kids drink water that will kill them,” and they have made enough of a stink that something is being done. They are the ranchers who have taken over the Oregon wild life refuge compound in defense of others and who claim that the government is unfairly taking their land. They are the blacks in Chicago who saw a child get shot 16 times and who refused to allow a police cover-up.  But…and that is a huge “but,” these are the same people who will listen to bullshit politicians and keep electing them to office because of their vague promises to make changes that just never seem to happen. They don’t happen and the bullshit politicians won’t accept responsibility. Oh, they blame others, but they never blame themselves…and no one holds them accountable for not delivering on their vague promises.

When a politician makes a promise, ask him or her how they will accomplish change? Ask that question five times. Each time they try to say exactly how, ask again…and again….and again…and again. Don’t allow them to get away with dismissing you or not answering. When they do that, their true character comes out, and that character says, “You are a pain in the ass and I really don’t care about you. Go away because you’re too intelligent for me, and I don’t have the answer!”

And the truth is, that is the best answer they could give.

The Old Man

By ???

But I am just an old, old man and I cannot make things change.

When I was young I didn’t care; the world could get along without my becoming irritated at the things I didn’t like. It did…and I watched…and I didn’t make my voice heard…and I didn’t see all the ills of the world, and if I did, they didn’t seem to affect me. Me, me, me, that was my world, and I couldn’t see that it wasn’t just me.

I didn’t march when I should have marched, but what good would it have done. I should have recognized the Vietnam ‘conflict’ for what it was, but I was a ‘hawk’ and too stupid to realize that even hawks can make mistakes.  I should have cried out for women’s rights, but I was a sole voice in the crowd…and what good would it have done. I should have become a better writer, to scream at the wrongs that were never put right, but what good would it have done?

I grew up in a time when you listened to your folks when they told you not to speak out; I grew up in a time when my Dad could be fired for what I might say…so I said nothing…and I was wrong. And now; now I am just an old, old man and it’s getting too late for me to cry loudly enough to make change.

Yet, if I don’t speak out, how will they know? Mine cannot be the only voice or brain or whatever that remembers what happened when we were not allowed to speak out. And so I speak; I speak out and say my piece…but they laugh. “You are just an old, old man. You know nothing. Things were different. You are too old to know.” As though I was never young; as though I never saw; as though I have nothing to say.

Should I die…no, when I die and go before the almighty judge or judges, what will they say? Will they look at me and say “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,” you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. You did not speak out when you were meant to speak. You did not tell them the importance of caring for the blue marble; you did not tell them that the third rock can be beaten only so many times before it will rebel and refuse to satisfy them; you did not tell them that they are caretakers who own nothing; who have only what the terrestrial sphere generously gives back to them; you did not tell them these things. Perhaps you did not tell them because you did not care; perhaps you did not tell them because you did not think; perhaps you did not tell them…because no one had ever told you…and now…now, it is too late for you. You cannot tell them.

“For millennia, we have tried to tell them of their singular responsibility. We have shown them how a species can become extinct with one blow…but what have they done? They have hunted other species until they, too, have become extinct, and they continue to do so despite warnings from those like them that this is not good…but they will not listen. We have shown them the horrors of war and persecution, yet they continue to wage war and to persecute those unlike them. We have provided them with examples of the terror of natural disaster – famine, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes – but they dismiss these events with a bow of their heads as if to avoid looking at the disaster.

“But you, you…old man…what did you do? You did nothing and therefore, you are nothing. Go, leave and be nothing. We will try harder; we will find the someone who will do something, hopefully, this will occur before the blue marble cracks; the rock rebels in such a way that it will destroy itself and all those upon it…but we will try; yes, we will try.”

“In the online age, we live our lives openly and loudly rather than with dignity.” That’s a line, somewhat paraphrased from The Heist by Daniel Silva. It’s one of those novels that the pure academics would call “trash,” but which I chose to call enjoyable reading. I read these books for the very same reason that I write essays for this blog and latch hook rugs. I do these things so that I won’t kill people. Juli, on the other hand, has her knitting, crocheting, jewelry-making, silver-smithing, and reading a variety of books so that she will not join me in killing people.

While killing people may sound rather extreme, there are times when it appears to be the last recourse against stupidity and downright “assholedness” to which we are exposed on a far too regular basis. As one example, I would cite the Netflix series, “Making a Murderer,” which is based on the 2005 Wisconsin case in which Stephen Avery was convicted of killing Teresa Halbeck. The series is presented as a documentary but in such a manner as to paint Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey as the victims rather than as the killers. The result has been a White House petition signed by 300,000 to free the two men and to demand an investigation of the police department which did the legwork and prepared the case against Dassey and Avery. The series has also resulted in the prosecuting attorney receiving over 3,000 e-mails with death threats against him and his family as well as disgusting actions to be taken against his family. Let’s just take a minute to examine this: First, it’s a documentary that has a slant because it did not present all of the evidence used in the trial against the two men. Second, anyone who knows anything about how prosecutors work, particularly in murder cases, there is generally a backlog of evidence that is held back until it’s absolutely needed. This was not the case in the Avery/Dassey trial. It was laid out meticulously at trial, but not in the documentary. Third, DNA evidence, given at trial, was not given in the documentary. In other words, what the unknowing American public has signed as a petition and has used as a basis for threatening the prosecutor is a single, one-sided, prejudiced view of what really happened, Remember the old adage, “Believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you see.” It was coined, as I recall, at a time when newspapers were notorious for slanted journalism (oh, gee, and they’re not today?). In today’s world of instant news because of television and the many satellites circling our planet, we also must be cautious when we watch television news or supposed “in-depth stories” about anything. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say that Netflix didn’t do its homework…or if they did due diligence on the story, they elected to sensationalize and glorify two obvious killers, and in the process, have created 303,000 people who actually believe the bullshit they have shoveled. That’s 303,000 sheep who have been told what to believe, accepted it, and have not bothered to do any of their own research; they are also 303,000 sheep who breed and who vote…scary, huh?

There are more of these sheep who believe that Donald Trump should be President because he’s telling them exactly what they want to hear. He tells us that he will keep the Muslims out of America. Does that mean that he will deport the more than 20,000 Muslim doctors in the U.S.? Does it mean that he will close the Muslim charities, including Helping Hand for Relief and Development which, in 2013 was rated as one of the top ten charities in the United States? Yet, the sheep will follow and vote for a bombastic, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, bully who appears to believe that even when he’s wrong, he’s right. The person who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not a dictator who can make and keep such idiotic promises as building a wall to keep the drug smugglers and emigres out of our country…and have the country from which they are coming pay for said wall. People….think. Stop listening to nonsense and begin to think for yourselves.

Donald Trump’s appeal to certain groups is understandable. After all, Congressional politicians have been using his formula for years. If you tell the people in your district what they want to hear; put their needs ahead of the needs of the country; bullshit them into believing that you can get them what they want, they will vote for you without fully knowing the difficulties of meeting their needs. Is this dishonest? Sure, but if the sheep believe what you’re shoveling at them, what the hell, it gets you back into office. Too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads.

Ours is a nation of checks and balances. Surely, everyone knows that from the Constitution. Therefore, any candidate for any office may make any kind of promise to his or her constituents. However, unless they are promises that will be approved by another branch or successfully tested by the third branch, they are just so much hot air blowin’ in the wind.

Sheep are everywhere and easily lead. It’s those of you and those of us who think independently and don’t believe everything we are told or even see, who will determine the future of America.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 470 other followers