Archive for November, 2010

Someone said to me recently, “I wish Obama had the guts to tell off the Republicans and those idiots who won’t give him any kind of a chance.” I have now reached the point where I thoroughly agree with that statement.

The Republican Party is a party of hate mongers who are nothing more than a group of spoiled children who piss and moan until they finally get their way. And their way is to ensure that middle class America and poor Americans stay right where they are so that rich Americans can become richer. Anyone who believes that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have the best interests of all Americans at heart has their head in the sand; these people want the rich to get richer and to hell with the rest of us. The Republicans run with one slogan…FEAR…and it’s epitomized by their emphasis on “God, gays, and guns; love two and hate one!”

When Barack Obama became President of the United States in January 2009, he inherited from the Bush Administration the following little gems:                                                             

  • A financial deficit of over ten trillion dollars. When Vice President Dick Cheney said, “Ronald Regan proved that budget deficits don’t matter,” he opened the door for the Bush Administration to spend to their heart’s content on anything they damn well pleased. They tore through the budget surplus left by the Clinton Administration as if it never existed. Fiscal irresponsibility was a hallmark of the eight years that the Republicans controlled the Executive Branch of government;
  • The worst economic crisis since the depression with banks and major corporations on the verge of bankruptcy
  • Two wars; Iraq, which never should have happened in the first place but which President Bush wanted because Saddam Hussein had made an attempt on the life of Bush, Sr. and young George wanted to avenge his Dad. He used the excuse the Iraq was hiding WMD’s and that certainly proved to be erroneous. While that one was falling apart, he said that going into Iraq was to get Osama bin Laden who, by the by, was nowhere near Iraq. It was just one lie after another and it cost thousands of lives of young Americans. The war in Afghanistan was being fought against us with weapons we had provided in order that the Afghani’s could throw out the Russians. What the hell makes us any different if we’re trying to “bring peace and harmony” to a part of the world that hasn’t known those concepts since its birth more than 2500 years ago. What kind of nonsense is that, when a less than 300-year old democracy is trying to impose its form of “love and Kumbaya” on people who would rather cook goat over camel dung and kill each other?
  • According to New York Times bestselling author Frank Schaeffer, the Bush Administration left “A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war.”
  • Without question, the most polarized that America has ever been with the differences between the liberal left and conservative right and a distinction far greater than ever between the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have not’s.’
  • Like five presidents before him, George Bush did nothing about health care in the United States which was, to be polite about it, nearly in as much disarray as its educational system.
  • One of the world’s largest debtor nations, looked on by many others as a powerless child in a temper tantrum on the world stage, and,
  • An environmentally unconscious group of politicians who didn’t have a clue regarding the magnitude of the crisis the world is facing.

So this is a partial list of what the new President had to solve. He handled these crises in the following manner:

  • He bailed out banks and corporations with government money which sent Republicans on a tear. However, this bailout has worked and has slowed, if not completely halted the economic crisis. We aren’t back on a one hundred percent footing, but the nation is getting there. General Motors, for example, has reorganized, paid back its loan to the government and has gone public again with its stock offering. As fiscal irresponsibility marked the Bush Administration in a sly and underhanded method, the Obama Administration has taken its lumps for being open and candid in its responsible approach to ending the economic downturn. Meanwhile, Republicans are screaming about the way the new President has been spending, forgetting what they did under Bush and a Republican Congress from 2000 to 2006. Seems to me like a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.”
  • He’s ahead of schedule on getting troops out of Iraq and has put people in charge in Afghanistan who have a true understanding of what must be done. He has not be afraid to make major shifts in command when they have been called for and has been far more of a ‘silent’ commander-in-chief that his predecessor.
  • This administration has put an end to the torturing of prisoners of war.
  • While the nation is still polarized, Obama has not concerned himself with favorability ratings but has concentrated instead on doing the job even when it means that short-term thinkers throw additional barbs at him and cite his drop in ‘popularity’ as a sign that he’s not doing the job to their satisfaction.
  • A health care bill has been passed. Is it perfect? No, it is not, but those sections that are unpopular are largely a compromise to get it passed by Congress. Does it need some revision? Yes, it does, but seven presidents before Obama failed to get it off the ground, much less made into law. Now that the Republicans have regained the House, their first goal is to repeal the law. And here they told us during the Congressional campaigning that their first goal would be to stop the joblessness and put Americans back to work. Damn, but I hate liars.
  • Obama has traveled around the globe, trying to mend the fences that the Bush Administration all but destroyed. He hasn’t always been successful, but he’s certainly making the effort to let other nations know that America is still a powerful ally, and,
  • He has recognized the global climate problem and taken steps to ensure that America is an active partner in any action taken to stop global warming.

These are just a few of the accomplishments of this administration and this new President. There are many more. None of what he has done has been acknowledged or accepted by the Republicans in the House and Senate. There are two reasons for this: (1) He is a Democrat and because of the polarization by the previous administration, all Democrats are inherently bad people; (2) He is Black, and before you say that America has outgrown that, take a look at who elected Barack Obama…the only white age group in carried in the 2008 presidential campaign was the 18-29 group. Older Americans are still fearful of Black people. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and O.J. Simpson along with several other Black antagonists, have probably given them good reason. From what I’ve seen, Obama couldn’t care less. I believe that he feels positive actions speak a hell of a lot louder than skin color.

So, to my Republican friends who now control the House, let me issue a warning: You had damn well better work with this President to further an Agenda for America and stop thinking that the ‘boy’ just needs a good lickin’ so that you can, once again, lead us down a path to poverty, ignorance and war. We’re watching you John and Mitch and your cronies. Don’t think we’re a bunch of idiots because more and more and more of us are getting wise to your tactics, and we-don’t-like-it!

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Why do they call it “Black Friday?” Yes, I’m perfectly aware that when companies are successful, they are said to be “running in the black” as opposed to those that are less than successful which might be admonished to be “running in the red.” In today’s absolutely politically correct environment, however, I’m amazed that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and some of our more aware brothers haven’t demanded a change to this day after Thanks giving ritual. The Native Americans, called  “Red” in the earliest days really couldn’t care less as long as they’re reaping the profits at Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, and many other casinos around the country. Those living on the “res” don’t seem to matter; at least I don’t see the government doing anything that shows they give a damn.

Perhaps “Black Friday” should be renamed to “Green Friday” because that’s what the stores are after…”Bring in your green and leave it with us!” It really is inconceivable to me that people with a reasonable amount of gray matter between their ears would stand in a line for five, six, or seven hours on an evening where the temperature generally drops low enough for frost bite, only to get trampled trying to be the first to get the hottest toy or the latest television set. Most of these items will probably be reduced in sales before or right after Christmas so where was the fun? I have begun to consider the purchase of one of those “deli trucks” that could move along the lines selling hot coffee, tea, cocoa, and maybe a few hot dogs and hamburgers. I’d probably make enough money to buy at full price what these suckers are trying to get at a ‘bargain.’

I listened to one shopper who was willing to appear on television. “Well, I got what I wanted but I spent much more than I’d intended,” she told the camera. Okay, lady, what now? Does this mean that the family goes hungry until December 26th, or does it mean you’ll be back Monday to exchange half of what you greedily threw into your cart before the next person could grab it. Sorry, but I just don’t understand the mentality of these people. It seems to be the epitome of what Thorstein Veblen called “conspicuous consumption,” or the possession of goods only to show that one can afford them. The joke, of course, is that generally is not the case; it’s sort of one-ups-man-ship for the middle class. It’s also known as ego getting in the way of common sense.

Just as an aside, I must admit to a certain degree of enjoyment, watching employees attempting to open the doors while the thundering herd was pawing impatiently at the ground on the other side. It was like watching horses at the starting gate. I had visions of some poor store clerk not getting out of the way in time and looking up to see a mass of blood and gore at the entrance. They must have people who are experienced matadors doing ‘door duty’ at these places. Once the herd has been let into the pen, the jukes and spin moves are the equivalent of an All-American halfback…and these are the elderly women moving like this. Lord have mercy on anyone in their way because in addition to swivel hips, they possess the talent of an NFL linebacker getting to the quarterback as they knock the unsuspecting aside…it’s not a pretty sight!

It’s not enough that we have ‘Black Friday;’ now the “marketers of America” have come up with a few new gimmicks to relieve us of our hard-earned cash. This year, we have ‘Small Business Saturday,’ where you are supposed to take what you have left over and pass it on to small business owners. Actually, I can’t complain too much about this one. Small business and small business entrepreneurs are what account for most of the jobs in this country. These are the people who have been willing to put it all on the line, knowing full well that they’ll never be able to compete with the ‘big boys,’ but who are gutsy enough to give it their best shot. Perhaps we should force the larger stores to remain closed the day after Thanksgiving and make it the day when small businesses get first shot. They may not have the bargains that the big boys will have but at least we’re giving them the chance.

Not to be outdone by the NRA – no, this is the National Retailers’ Association, not the other one – ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Small Business Saturday’ have been joined this year by ‘Cyber Monday.’ It would appear that everyone and his brother is trying to find a way to relieve us of our hard-earned cash. If the jobless rate can only stay where it is, next year we might have ‘Jobless but Credit Worthy Tuesday’ or something equally bad.  Since they missed it this year, I’m thoroughly convinced that we will have ‘What would Jesus buy Sunday’ in another year or so…might as well get the green on consecutive days rather than giving the spending public time to consider what they did the previous two days.

Yes, the economy needs to get back on track; yes, we need to spend money to get the economy running; yes, these marketing gimmicks will help to move us ahead toward economic recovery. However, let’s use some common sense along the way. I kid about the people slobbering at the locked doors of major chains, just waiting their chance to charge like the bulls at Pamplona but if these people realized how foolish they look, I wonder if they might behave in a bit more civilized manner. Fine, you saved $150. Was it really worth it in the long run or are you just a wee bit masochistic?

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Holiday card advice

Well, it must be getting close to Christmas; I received my first card the other day. The fact that it isn’t even the first of December doesn’t really matter. Some people like to get on top of things early, and I know that they must think highly of me and want to ensure that I know they’re thinking of me. There are a couple of things about today’s Christmas cards that bother me. I just don’t feel as warm and fuzzy when I receive a card that has a smudged, computer-generated label on the front, a non-profit postage stamp in the upper right-hand corner, and a printed signature on the inside. Somehow, it just takes away a bit of the personal love and attention I wish to feel. There is one advantage, however; the labels on the envelope generally peel off easily; the signature is easy is easy to ‘white out,’ and the card can be recycled. If it has a beautiful nativity scene on the front, I often send the card along to one of my Jewish or Muslim friends.

The “Greetings of the Season” cards are so politically correct as to be nauseating. It’s as though these people who are supposed to know to whom they’re sending cards are covering their collective butts. I’m a Christian. I believe in the Holy Trinity. It’s okay to send me a card with the wise men walking through the desert and following the star of Bethlehem. I love to see artistic interpretations of the Nativity or of Mary cuddling the Kid. These are okay with me. If I want Currier & Ives, I’ll walk down the street in the middle of a snow storm and catch the whole thing live and in real color. Watching the birth of Christ; that’s been done and I wasn’t there to see it, although some people think I’m just about that old.

I have a wonderful friend who is a Rabbi. He sends me Christmas cards with all of the schmaltz of Christmas. I send him a Season’s Greeting card with none of that ‘stuff’ inside. I joke about sending religious cards to those who are not of my faith, but I’m not really that insensitive. I do not pass along “Happy Jihad” cards to my Muslim buddies or “Merry Kwanza” cards showing a Black Christ-child. That’s just plain tacky. I can be offensive enough without having to do things like that.

It appears that many people today want you to know what they and their family did during this past year. I blame that on technology. In the old days – that’s B.C. to you youngsters, and that means Before Computers – friends might take the time to dash off a brief note on the facing side or the back of the card. With the advent of technology and the ease of putting things on paper, we are now subject to a day-by-day account of the past 365 by family member. Not only am I thankful for those with smaller families, I’m happier when I don’t have to hear about what the dogs and cats have been doing. The thing that really irritates me about these lengthy letters is when the writer decides to get cutesy by printing their tome on holiday paper. Invariably, they will choose a dark red or green – the holly and berry shades – a print them with black ink. There is no question in my mind that once printed, authors do not try to read them; that’s a challenge for the recipient, and a challenge it is. I received one last year that was color on color. Seriously, it was one shade of red ink on red paper. On first glance I thought perhaps I had to spray it with lemon juice and use a hair dryer to bring out the words. Finally, in deference to my eyesight, I crumpled the darned thing up and sent it to the circular file.

These Christmas letters really are not a bad idea if one can keep them brief and to the point. I suggest that bullet points be used to highlight the events that you really want people to know, and to that end, I am giving everyone the opportunity to read the holiday letter I’m sending this year. The decoration at the top will be a Star of David in the upper left corner of the paper, a picture of Santa Claus in the center and a crescent with an AK-47 through it on the right. I’m going to cover all of my bases on this one. The letter will begin like this:

“Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues, and Those Whom I Don’t Really Know:”

  • This year, al;riudjy olfot hhlliiieenng lkguengho baquirowjf llutlot  ghthost golfursu bnmkde aduve but who knew lottery taxes were so high?
  • In rabisnaven, the gortshens were oinghwmen and buotbuon bomenoe 234 nroms Hpoghram and the police were very nice about it.
  • Billy toredway the nborldylw smadreqbul pworqudrg but they bnortuyfr and it shormndorfh in tndvxc rombny next fall. We jgoeruosly monlyngshglu rnlhyrwesdsoy nluynlyglunlyrlsugn lsynro wllly. The fire department has dropped all charges. We thought lks jdirnlgllunwlp qjnufxvslunlintlin ghitnsitllnt ontluyyhn at another college next year.
  • Our mgnhor kjldjgfheie kjfnvhrugnfh jeriukmnghjylsqy eurndjil; mfirnlirngooo nglyngylyensie ntlngyl jlsurnvifdhjdo wnhjgynsnjsu tnutkjjsyjwii njmtjksyhtrn ykkwoeyr iomflsuvnoisir jiyskkor hkt. (Sorry for the run-on sentence but you know how Mary is.)
  • Well, glhurnightly ntilshlirngynghyr lsyntuy iulslrusquojsnlluopnb mcnxvbxczjlisuontlun tillusngit ninglisng isnitn oot8i. ngkiul ugnsislque ytqoojfnilskdu rnightointilinglsing ountilingisque ntsintn gslitlungitl.

Until then, I know your prayers will be with us as we move into the new house,


This, to me, is a nice, short, bulleted holiday greeting. It says exactly what you want it to say in only five bullet points. The fact that the words are incomprehensible and that the ending of each bullet poses more questions than it answers is totally immaterial. If people are really interested, they will either take the time to figure it out or they will give you a call and you can relate in detail what you so briefly outlined in your letter.

If you decide to send a holiday letter this year, I hope you’ll take my advice and keep the whole thing short, sweet and lshgulsyn. The recipients will really appreciate it.

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The Pilgrims

 “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”
    H. U. Westermayer


Sometimes, a quotation just smacks you right between the eyes. The Westermayer quote did that to me. I can’t even determine who H.U. Westermayer was. Yes, on one of the Internet pages he or she is referred to as a writer, but other than learning that, my limited research attempts were unsuccessful.           

Think about the quote for a minute. “…seven times more graves than huts.” That’s frightening. Even the word, “huts,” makes you wonder about the strength of character of the people who arrived on these shores in 1620. As I understand it, 150 landed from the Mayflower, including a couple of my relatives…at least, that’s what I was told. One was a manservant, George Soule; the other was five-time governor, William Bradford. One year later, 50 were left. And we talk about the hardships we face today? How many of us would have had the courage to board a 90-foot boat for a 66-day journey into the unknown, many of us risking not only our own lives but the lives of our families? It gives one pause to reflect on the definition of the word, ‘pioneer.’

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” The Pilgrims were exactly that. They were the “wretched refuse,” these escapees from religious persecution. They were servants and masters, husbands and wives, seaman and the seedy. However, their courage in coming to a new world is one which clearly must be admired.

Today, many of us will sit down to a turkey dinner, with cranberry and mashed potatoes, squash, peas, onions, ‘that’ green bean casserole, and whatever other goodies may be a tradition in your family. Perhaps it won’t be turkey but a special dish, reflecting your cultural heritage or a dish of such history that you don’t even remember who first served it…but it’s your traditional meal at Thanksgiving. Whatever it may be, perhaps someone will wish to offer a prayer of thanks for the bounty before you. When that happens, I hope that you’ll remember the men and women who started the whole thing, “…those who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”

Yes, we have problems. You don’t know mine, and I don’t know yours. Whatever yours happen to be, it is my hope that as we begin this holiday season, they will soon be resolved to your satisfaction. To those of you who have loved ones serving in our military on foreign soil, you have my prayer that they will be returned to you soon and safely. To those whose loved ones will not be coming back, I believe I can speak for every reader when I say that you have our deepest condolences and that our prayers are with you on this holiday.

I was speaking online recently with a high school classmate now living in Pennsylvania. “I sang at a funeral yesterday,” she told me. “Everyone had such wonderful things to say about the deceased and how much she’d meant to each of them. I wonder if they ever told her how they felt when she was alive.”

Anita’s story reminded me of one that appeared in Guidepost magazine several years ago. It concerned a group of friends who were talking about the things for which they were thankful on that Thanksgiving. One man mentioned a teacher who had introduced him to the works of Tennyson.  “Does she know of the contribution she made to your life,” another asked. “No, I’m afraid she doesn’t,” was the answer. “Why not write to her,” he was asked. The upshot of the story was that he learned she was still alive – in her eighties – he did write, and she responded, saying, “…I taught school for 50 years and, in all that time, yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered my lonely old heart as nothing as cheered me in many years.”

I’ve always enjoyed William Penn’s quotation: “If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” This is the time of year when, in addition to giving thanks for your blessings and thanks to those Pilgrims who started the whole thing, you could cheer someone up who has a made a contribution to your life by writing to them and letting them know…just a thought.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

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I’m not a terrorist. No kidding; I wouldn’t lie to you about something like that. I’m a 76-year old, white American with a shaved head to honor the memory of my wife. I have extremely bad knees, walk with a limp, am overweight, retired, and dress as I damn well please. I don’t look like Mohammed Atta, Richard Reid or any of the other terrorists who have either been killed or arrested. I’m not a suicide bomber because I have too much respect for my life and the lives of others. I am, quite often, very pissed off at the way my country does things, including trying to foist our form of democracy on other countries that have been at some stage of civilization since before Christoforo ever set foot on an island in the Caribbean or before those dissatisfied relatives of mine ever put foot on the rock. I know that the world is filled with assholes like Kim Jong Il and a few other nut cases, but that’s their problem and so far they haven’t made it mine.

Why am I saying all this? Well, it seems that people are really pissed about having to go through some machine at airports that might expose a few body parts or make you look like a skeleton, or perhaps might even give you a little shot of radiation. Grow up, people and stop saying that you have rights. You don’t want to go through the scanner, fine. If that’s the case, then you damned well better allow a Transportation Safety Inspector to cop a feel; I’m certain that he or she would like nothing better than to grab men’s crotches all day or tweak a nipple or two just for shits and giggles. If this upsets you, gee, I’m really empathizing with you…NOT!

I would rather fly on an airplane where we are all stark, staring nude, having undergone complete body cavity searches than be on a plane that goes BOOM! I’m funny that way. You see, I’m willing to sacrifice a little personal invasion of privacy to ensure a longer and more enjoyable life. Many people don’t seem to feel that way. Let me put it another way: If a terrorist wants you and a planeload of people dead and scattered all over the farm fields of Iowa, it’s gonna happen and there’s little you can do about it. What the TSA is trying to tell you is that they are attempting to reduce the risk of it happening and if that means that you have to be embarrassed for a few moments, you have two choices; (1) put up with it and shut up, or; (2) don’t fly.

Another thing that I find difficult to understand with passengers is the manner in which they attempt to bring things on board as carry-on that are specifically forbidden…why? Do you not read what can and cannot be taken on board the plane as carry-on luggage? We are well over a decade into what is allowed and what is not. You are not exempt from the rules because you are special; you are not special…live with it. In addition, when we talk about carry-on luggage, the restrictions on size must be enforced. One person, taking aboard a plane a suitcase and calling it carry-on, is nothing more than arrogant son-of-a-bitch. Overhead bins are for everyone, not just for one person.

All of the above having been said, the Transportation Security Administration has its own share of problems. First, what kind of people are they hiring as inspectors? How many years of experience do their inspectors have in law enforcement or in human behavioral analysis. Are these people rent-a-cops who have been through two weeks to a month of training or are they experienced professionals? The answer is that in ten years, we really haven’t had time to properly train men and women in procedural matters. I suppose it’s possible that white-haired granny, in a wheelchair, and having a deep Texas drawl might be a terrorist hell-bent on bringing down the aircraft…but I rather doubt it. If “everyone” means that TSA feels there’s a necessity to search “everyone,” give us the reasons. You want to search the lady in the abaya, please feel free. However, if you want to search the young chick in the hot pants and the spike heels, well, I’m not so certain of that one. Somewhere, there has to be some guide as to who is most likely to be concealing “the bomb.” Could it be the young chick or the seven-year old boy with the crew cut? Sure, of course it could be. Is it very likely? No, not really. At some point, there either has to be additional training or an alternative to the way in which searches are now being conducted. Given my druthers, I would say that we are eliminating all pat-down searches; if you don’t wish to go through the scanning devices, find another way to travel. Is that a harsh statement? Yes, extremely harsh, but we live in extremely harsh times. We, Americans that is, have people who don’t like us and wish to do us harm. If a scanning device will serve the purpose of excluding those people from flying and exploding bombs, do it.

“How often do you fly?” you ask. I rarely fly. There was a time, during my working life, that I traveled by plane a great deal. I didn’t like it then; I don’t care much for it now. I don’t like being confined in an aluminum tube that can, conceivably, be brought to earth quickly by a flock of poor-sighted birds. I don’t like the noise or having my legs crushed by the idiot in front of me who would like to sleep. I don’t like the fact that my ass has gotten so fat – along with the rest of me – that it leaves me very little room to “squinch” around. So, there you have it; I’m not a frequent flyer and my viewpoint is highly prejudiced. Having admitted that, let me ask the frequent flyers how willing they are to gamble their lives every time they board a plane? What do you say; how about “no searching at all;” or how about “trusting the judgment of someone with limited training to pick out a potential assassin?

Is America any safer because of what is being done at airports around the world? No, that probably isn’t the case at all. As I said earlier, if someone wants to kill others, he, she or they will do it. It may be at the cost of his, her or their lives, but it can be done. Unfortunately, this is life in the 21st Century. The world has gone insane and we may as well accept it. Do I have the magic solution to this problem? Of course, but if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you…and neither of us really wants that…or do we?

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In the course of my rather lengthy and some might say bizarre lifetime, I have had the benefit of meeting and chatting with any number of interesting people. Some you might call characters; others might be classified as celebrities of some note, but most of them have just been average people who have lived and loved just as I have done.

If you want some name dropping, I own a pair of cloisonné cufflinks and a tie clasp that was designed for me by Soichiro Honda, and I consider Wally “Famous” Amos to be a friend. There are a number of others who have distinguished themselves as entrepreneurs but you’re not really interested in that. I’ve chatted with homeless people in New York, San Francisco, and Boston and always found them generally to be of greater interest than so-called normal people; had loaded guns pointed at me three times but I’m still here to be able to write about it…suffice it to say that it’s not a particularly pleasant experience.

Since my field of 40 years was higher education, I’ve also run into some rather erudite characters along the way. Many were absolutely brilliant in their chosen field…Bill Fowler of Northeastern and later head of the Massachusetts Historical Society whose knowledge of the Federalist Period could keep me enthralled for hours; Bill Miernyk’s statistical mind which could leave the rest of us totally in the dark but who, with a few simple words, could bring everything into clarity; Ray Blois, who made Shakespeare come alive for a group of young men who normally couldn’t have cared less. The list could go on ad infinitum, but I think you probably get the picture. These were the people of my youth; my mentors and molders; who piqued my interest to learn as much as I could about whatever I could.

Those were the educators, what I like to call the “formalists,” for they were the teachers with specific subject matter to be imparted, and the way in which they did their job created greater interest on my own part. However, there are also the “informalists,” and they comprise a larger and broader group of ‘educators’ who formed my life and perhaps have formed yours as well. These included my first boss, Sy Sheehan, who taught me ‘how’ to work and do so correctly, First Sergeant Victor Rivera, the man who had known combat fear but who had learned to control it; hopefully, some of that rubbed off on the rest of us, Sarge.

As years passed, I found that education, the field in which I’d chosen to make my career, offered remarkable opportunities for OJL – on-the-job-learning – but not necessarily from faculty. Students, particularly those from other countries and different cultures, were a vital source of learning; custodians who were also professional artists or horticulturists became my teachers on those subjects. I guess you could say that I was blessed multiple times to find the people willing to share their knowledge.

Obviously, the people with whom I worked directly made major contributions, but there is, throughout this entire diatribe, only one person who was able to teach me the meaning of love and what it takes to stay married for fifty years. That person was Joan, my late wife. I don’t expect you to take notes; there will be no final exam. What I do expect of you is that you will heed carefully the advice of an old man.  Let me tell you what I learned.  I learned that when you first get married, you are youthful and lustful. You are consistently horny and filled with testosterone. Sex is everything…this fades. It fades quickly. That is not to say that sex, in and of itself, is relegated to a back burner; far from it. However, it is no longer the be-all and end-all of your relationship. Now, if you lived together before you were married, you are aware of this. If, however, you “saved yourself,” and that’s probably the joke of the day, then you will understand what I mean. All too often, that word ‘love’ is equated with sex. It ain’t so.  After the sex thingie dies down a bit, you find that your love assumes a real liking for the other person. Yes, you’ve said that you love him or her, but after your married, you find out that (a) he never puts the cap back on the toothpaste, farts in bed with a stench that could cause a herd of cattle to stampede, and rarely moves his dinner plate into the sink, let alone rinsing it and putting it in the dishwasher. She, on the other hand, snores like a freight train that could shake a forty-story apartment building, leaves her unmentionables all over the bedroom, drops shower towels on the floor for someone else to pick up, and picks her teeth after eating…while at the table. These are things neither of you ever noticed before. Can you handle them? It’s not a question of love; this becomes a question of ‘like.’ His farts and her snoring could break a weak relationship. It’s all a part of getting to like the one you already ‘love,’ which began with the sex thingie.

What we referred to as the final stage of a marriage is when you care for one another. One of you and it doesn’t matter which, will age faster, and develop illnesses or weaknesses of some kind or other. At that point, roles change a bit. The one who is healthier becomes the care giver. That is not to say that the ‘love’ or the ‘like’ take a backseat; quite the contrary; both become much stronger. It’s merely that they are different. “How are they different?” you ask. I can’t give you an answer on that. It’s something that is far too personal for one person, no matter what their medical, sociological, psychological, or any other “cal” might be, it differs for everyone. If you get this far in your marriage, you’ll know. I spoke with a man whose wife had died about a year ago. Someone had asked him prior to our chat, “Can you recall the happiest time you ever had with your wife?” He told me that it was a question that stumped him for several minutes before he responded, “Yes, I can. It was the last five years when she was ill.” “How about before she was ill?” I queried. “Oh, that’s easy,” he said, “It was every time we were together.” Now that, my friend, was a strong marriage.

There is one other point I’d like to make about strong marriages. It’s really true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. If you are together 24/7, you’ll drive each other nuts. It’s a fact of life. You need time alone and so does she/he. “Oh, we can’t stand to be away from each other,” you say, to which I respond, “Yuk!” Time alone; time with your friends; time spent by your partner with his or her friends only serves to make you both realize that what you have is a pretty damned good thing. No, you may not have all the money that you want, the big house, the new cars, or whatever.  Remember, the closing lines of the poem, “The Dash,” which go like this, “For it matters not how much you have, the cars, the house, the cash; what matters is how you live and love, and how you spend your dash.” The dash, of course is that little line on the tombstone between the date of your birth and the date of your passing. If you are fortunate enough to find someone to love, make certain that you both spend your dashes wisely.

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Many years ago – oh, god, another history lesson – I was privileged to teach a course at Northeastern University entitled, Advertising Production. For an administrator to step into this situation with only a week to prepare was not the best way to begin a teaching career. The textbook had already been chosen. It was the same text that had been assigned when I took the course as an undergraduate. I felt that it was garbage then and I felt that it was garbage now. Since I was working with a number of people in the fields of advertising and printing, I was able to secure some practical ‘books’ that would actually be of some help to the young men and women in the class. At one point, I took the class to a commercial printer, Clark-Franklin Press, on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston – you don’t think that didn’t take a bit of juggling, but we worked it out. The students saw, firsthand, the production of a four-color brochure from concept to binding. The tour was given by the late Johnny Egan, Vice President for Production. He was engaging, shirt-sleeved, down-to-earth, and with just the right amount of Irish brogue to entrance the kids…damn, he was good.

Those students would come to my office with questions. They told others, and I picked this up via the grapevine, that I was a “damned hard son-of-a-bitch,” but still, they showed up for class; all but one and he was a write-off from the very first day. I sometimes believed that I worked as hard as those students did because I really wanted them to take something from the class. I had cruised through it and remembered that the instructor wasn’t all that great. He was living in the thirties and early forties and we were living in the fifties and looking ahead.

One day, the class ran about ten minutes over its scheduled time. I was going to lunch with a colleague and former classmate who was teaching Economics. He was waiting outside the door when we broke. As we went to lunch – and I’ll never forget this – he said, “Why the hell do you spend so much time with them. They’re just kissing your ass to get a good grade. Once they’re out of your class, you’ll never see them again.” I told him that I thought he was wrong and that these kids were like sponges who really wanted to know what was going on in their field. His one-word reply was, “Bullshit!” and that pretty much ended the conversation.

You have to understand that at the time I was teaching there were two groups of students; one would be out on “co-op,” working in jobs that, hopefully, were related to their studies. At the end of ten weeks, the students in school went out to work. It was a solid program that had made it possible for many blue-collar families to have their kids get a college education. When you were working, if you were living at home and frugal, you made enough money for next term’s tuition, books, and had a little left over – damned little!

I repeated my process with the second group and they were just as enthusiastic. My friend, Bill, would remind me periodically of the foolishness of taking so much time with the students, but I brushed it off. When those kids graduated, perhaps half of them came into the office, one by one, two by twos or even a small group. They said, “Thank you,” and added a few other things. It was one of the most gratifying times to date for me. Bill did turn out to be wrong. Those alumni stayed in touch for as long as ten years. One went into the wine importing business and called to see if he could put on a wine-tasting at the house. Others would send cards or letters telling of their progress in the business world, and a few even went into teaching. Paul Davis, my wine-tasting expert, dropped by my office at Babson when he was bringing his daughter for an admission interview. We talked about the class and the students who had been in it. Paul had kept up with several and brought me up to date. It was a good afternoon and one that I treasure…see, Bill, they do remember…and not just for the grade!

Those two terms ended my teaching career at Northeastern. The faculty member returned and, for all I know, continued to use that same old worn out text until the day he retired. He was a lovely person but boy, did he live in the past (not unlike what I’m doing now).

At Babson, I was still an administrator. No teaching opportunities presented themselves in the regular curriculum, but there was an opportunity to teach regularly at the New England Institute of Law Enforcement Management.  I figure in the time that I was there, I had the opportunity to teach more than 4,000 law enforcement officers. They came from the six New England States, Louisiana, Wyoming, and from several other countries.

The real point of this whole tirade comes down to this: I was having lunch in the dining hall one day with a friend. There were two young Black girls seated at the next table. We engaged them and learned that they were freshmen. “How’re things going?” I asked. “On, fine,” said the first but the second girl admitted that she was having trouble managing her time. “I’ll see you in my office at two o’clock,” I said to her. I’d written a book called, “Getting a Grip on Your Time;” it was designed for students beginning their college career and although publishers weren’t interested, I’d had several copies made through our own copy center…yes, I paid for them; stop being so damned picky! The young woman came down and admitted that things just weren’t going well at all. She had a roommate who was a partier but who was able to struggle through. I called the Assistant Dean of the Undergraduate Program and we all had a meeting. The young lady had the book; she had the assistant dean on her side, and she made it through her freshman year. In her second year, she disappeared for about ten days. I didn’t know it until she dropped into the office to tell me that she’d missed all of her mid-terms because a very close friend of hers at another college had committed suicide and she had to be with the family. Off we went to the assistant dean who, will mightily pissed, was once again helpful. While we waited, she called every one of this young woman’s faculty members, explained the situation, and said that she would consider it a personal favor if they would allow the girl to make up the exam…they did.

Things were little better in the junior and senior year; an automobile accident while on the way back to school totaled her car; family problems plagued her, but she got through. On graduation day, after she’d received her diploma, we hugged and kissed and cried. She had overcome tremendous obstacles, but she had gotten her degree. She went on to work in banking, earned an MBA at another school and just recently contacted me through Facebook. If nothing else good happens to me through the end of this year, I will have had my fill of happiness, knowing that she is well, has a great job, and thought enough of our relationship to renew it. Thank you my friend.

I guess the lesson from all of this is that you can do it. Whatever it is that might be giving you headaches; whatever the problems are that look so unsolvable today; whatever obstacles are being thrown in your path to discourage you, don’t let them. There are people out there who want to help and you are much stronger than you ever thought you were. Get out there; give ‘em hell and do your damndest to succeed!

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