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Archive for September, 2011

Who is the most prolific writer of all times? Look it up on Google. You will find 470 million references…in under eight one-hundredth of a second yet! Wow, now that’s fast!

We often think of Shakespeare with his sonnets and plays as being particularly prolific, and it is quite true, but then again, it’s not. If one is talking about sales, then yes, Will ranks right up near the top. If you’re talking about sheer numbers, he’s not even in the ballpark. One source notes that Spanish writer María del Socorro Tellado López, known as Corin Tellado, wrote more than 4,000 romantic novels! However, that’s not really a true measure. Not even Issac Asimov’s contribution of nearly 500 books of science fiction and science in general can compare with the writer I have in mind.

“Who is it then, dammit?” you ask.

“Why, who else?” I answer, other than our old friend….drum roll please…Anonymous. “Anon” as friends often call ‘sheer’ for sheer knows no gender, is probably the most noted contributor to literature of all kinds for all times. Op. cit. and Ibid. don’t stand a chance against Anon. Those two are mere shadows when it comes to citations or even original credits. Let me give you some examples of the works of Anonymous:

“The door of opportunity won’t do some opening unless you do some pushing.” Is that great writing or what? With the thousands upon thousands of scribes out there, it took Anonymous to supply us with that gem.

“You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.” Now we’re getting into the heavy duty stuff. I have often asked, “Why is youth wasted on the young?,” but Anon tops me with sheer’s own quote.

“A smile of encouragement at the right moment may act like sunlight on a closed-up flower; it may be the turning point for a struggling.” This sounds as though it might have been penned by Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Shelley or some other romanticist.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” There are times when I truly believe that Anon gets credit because others have not done their homework. This quotation is one of those times. I have not been able yet to learn if this does belong to Anonymous. My personal believe is that when I finish digging, I will learn that it belongs to one of two esteemed authors…either Benjamin Franklin or Malcolm Forbes, both of whom excellent judges of the human condition. For example, I have always enjoyed Forbes quotation, “Keeping score of old scores and scars, getting even and one-upping, always make you less than you are.” Nuff said on that particular topic.

I leave you with several quotations that have been attributed to our shy friend, anonymous…

  • Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.
  • Happiness consists of living each day as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation.
  • It is a glorious achievement to master one’s own temper.
  • Pain is temporary, pride is forever.
  • Love is the doorway through which the human soul passes from selfishness to service and from solitude to kinship with all mankind.
  • To live in the hearts of those we leave behind, is not to die.
    Death is not the extinguishing of the light; it is merely turning it off because the dawn has come.
  • Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”.   
  • Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.
  • Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.
  • People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it!
  • Happiness is often the result of being too busy to be miserable.
  • The difference between gossip and news depends on whether you hear it or tell it.        
  • History repeats itself because nobody listens.                                                                   
  • Don’t despair of what you cannot do; rejoice in what you are able to accomplish.
  • An optimist sees opportunity in every calamity. A pessimist sees calamity in every opportunity. 
  • There is nothing so comfortable as money, – but nothing so defiling if it be come by unworthily; nothing so comfortable, but nothing so noxious if the mind be allowed to dwell upon it constantly. If a man has enough, let him spend it freely. If he wants it, let him earn it honestly.
  • It is a glorious achievement to master one’s own temper.
  • Courtesy is simply doing unto others what you would like them to do unto you.

Some may take many volumes to express their dreams, wishes, desires, or just to tell a story. Our friend, Anonymous, chooses words cautiously and makes every one count.

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“Ah, it feels great just to be alive!”

What the hell else would you be saying…”Ah, it’s great to be dead?”

Who knows? When we move out of this stage of whatever-the-hell-it-is, we may look back and say, “Aw, damn, I wish I’d tried this sooner.” In all probability that won’t be the case, but we just don’t know.

It reminds me of the story of the elderly couple. In order to maintain their longevity, she insisted that they eat the ‘right’ foods every day which began with a bran muffin and prune juice, after which they’d go for an ‘exercise walk.’ The other foods were equally…well, open to question. She loved it; he was absolutely miserable. One day they were broadsided by an 18-wheeler. You can just imagine who got the better of that one. Arriving in heaven, they met their ‘personal’ angel. He led them to a magnificent mansion and told them it was all theirs.

 “How much?” asked the old man.

“Nothing,” replied the angel. “You have led exemplary lives and because of that this is all yours!”

“Who cleans it?” asked the old man.

“There is no dirt in Heaven,” said the angel. Your mansion will be spotless for an eternity.

The angel proceed to point out to the couple that their new home backed up on a golf course, the most magnificent course the old man had ever seen. The fairway was lush; the greens were perfect; the sand traps were miniscule. “Greens fees,” asked the old man. “How much?”

“Nothing,” said the angel. “The is Heaven; the course is free. A set of matched clubs, specifically for you and your wife, will be waiting for you at the clubhouse.”

“Where do we eat?” asked the old man. “There’s no kitchen in this place.”

“Ah,” replied the angel. “Everyone eats at the buffet over at the country club. Come, we’ll drift over,” and so they did.

The buffet was magnificent. Platters and platters of foods from everywhere. There were meats and fishes and potatoes with cheese and desserts that were unreal…from giant éclairs to creamy pies and cakes. The buffet was astoundingly beautiful and the aromas a gastronome’s delight.

“How much?” questioned the old man.

“It’s all free,” the angel replied, becoming a bit irritated with the old man’s stinginess.

“This is all free?” the old man questioned, “the house, the golf course, the matched clubs, the country club, the smorgasbord, and everything else?

“That’s right,” said the angel.

With that, the old man, shaking with rage, turned to his wife and said, “You…you…with your ‘right’ foods and your ‘right’ exercises, and your annual check-ups, and your daily naps, and…and…and.” By now, his face was so read, his wife thought he would explode. “Don’t you realize Martha that if we’d done it the way I wanted to, we could have been here 20 years ago!”

Okay, it’s a corny story, but are you going to tell me it’s not true? If ya haven’t been there, don’t call me a liar!

I’ve been told that older people are more inclined to be readers of the Holy Bible…prepping for the final exam, some people say. As I find myself in that category of “older people,” I find that I don’t read the Holy Bible. I pray a lot more; I talk to my late wife a lot more, but the Holy Bible, naw. I have my own beliefs, and they don’t include reading a book that has raised more questions than it’s actually answered. I don’t know about you, but I happen to believe in a God who is at once both benevolent and vengeful. Who will weigh your entire life, not just this good episode and that bad one. That just happens to be what I believe. You can accept it, ignore it, tell me I’m nuts, curse me, or whatever you wish to do; that is your prerogative. I will accept your beliefs just as I hope you will accept my own.

I wish you well with your life and with your beliefs…I hope you will wish the same for me as well as for all of your friends and family.

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New England is a remarkable place. Of course, I say that based on extremely limited travel experience. Never having been to “old” England, I guess I don’t really have a basis for comparison. I do know one thing: In New England, there is a community called Islington. It is a part of a Town called Westwood (where the hell’s he going with this one?). In old England, there is a town called Islington.  (Aha!) It is a part of the city of London. Great, eh? Not really. In New England’s Islington, there’s not a bar or liquor store in sight. In old England’s Islington, there are 300 bars – guess who got screwed on that one…unless, of course, you’re some kind of temperance nut. My mother-in-law was one of those. That’s why her husband always had both pockets filled with breath mints. That’s the end of the community comparisons…so there!

We have four distinct seasons in New England. If you don’t know what they are, go look it up. Anyway, as I sat outside this morning in my mackinaw, hip boots, three sweaters, and a watch cap, looking at the fading summer sky, I was reminded once again that our ‘distinct’ seasons are not always that distinct. In fact, over the past few years, our falls and our springs seem to be slowly disappearing. It appears that one day, the weather people – can’t say men anymore – are talking about the fall foliage in the morning and predicting six inches of snow that same night. I want to watch a weather forecast in Canada where some of the women tell you the weather while they’re topless. I suppose that’s one way of distracting you from hearing, “Eh, we got anudder tree feet ‘o snow tonight, eh!” That wasn’t very nice, but some of my Canadian friends will know I’m just jerking their chains again, eh.

Anyway, back to New England weather. My partner is from California. She was born there, educated there, grew all the way up and worked there. Hell, she even retired from there before she decided that perhaps I wasn’t truly insane and so she moved here. Having been here through one complete weather cycle, she is now having second thoughts regarding the sanity of anyone who makes New England their home. It wasn’t bad enough that last winter she stepped outside to feed the critters and fell flat on her ass; ice was a new experience for her. It probably should even have been expected that when she went out to fill the bird feeders, she would brush by an icicle that would promptly broke and that a large piece would fall that was not only large enough to open her scalp but also large enough to once more knock her on her ass – it’s humorous only in hindsight; the wolves loved the red snow. At the time, there was no humor whatsoever.

Once the snow left the ground in late May – it was a really snowy winter – she learned that growing season didn’t really begin until after Memorial Day. “The thirty-first of May? Are you @#$%&* me?” she asked. As the end of June rolled around and the rains began to subside, it was declared by my bellowed that the growing season in New England is exactly one month less a week long. “I’d already be harvesting if I was in California,” she declared. “What ever happened to four seasons?”

As July came around, so did her behavior. There were three or four days of heat and all seemed well with the world. Next came the tornado watches and warnings. Parts of the State, including Springfield and Monson were terribly devastated. Fortunately, Islington was spared everything but gusts of wind and a hell of a lot of rain.

“I came here from California,” she raged, “where the only thing we have to fear is an earthquake or two. Out here, I’m exposed to blizzards, driving rains, no @#$%^&* growing season, and now the threat of a tornado? Have I lost my mind?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that hurricane season was only about a month away.

Despite the inconsistencies in the weather – I chose to call them that rather than saying, “This weather sucks! – The crops finally began to come in. We had beans and peas, beets and summer squash. We had watermelon, cantaloupe, and even several pumpkins. We started with about 12 tomato plants but kept finding ‘volunteers’ popping up all over the yard. They were replanted into beds despite several “experts” telling us that they’d never bear fruit. Before Hurricane Irene made her presence known in these parts – you really don’t want to hear about that tirade; even as an adult reader, you don’t want to hear about that tirade – we had so many tomatoes of all types – cherry, Roma, plain ole round ones, and even some heirloom Black Crims – that I was taking bags full to the gym each day. In addition, I was taking squash, green, red, and yellow peppers as well as jalapenos. One gym member owned a fruit and vegetable store. He jokingly told me I was cutting into his trade!

Irene did a number on the garden. The climbing cucumbers probably landed somewhere on Cape Cod. The watermelon and cantaloupe were washed away along with the rest of the squash. Hands on hips, my partner asked just one question,”When should I expect the first goddam snowstorm?”I thought it would probably be better if I remained silent on that one.

So, to all my friends in Islington, England, why the hell do you have 300 bars and we’re so goddam dry?

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I like Morgan Freeman. L liked him even before he became an Oscar winner…for whatever that’s worth.  He can play any role, take the lead or be a supporting member of the cast. I don’t recall a movie – even Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood” – in which I didn’t find Freeman to play his role to perfection. He’s never seemed to be bombastic or one of the “look-at-me; look-at-me” Hollywood types. He just seems to go his own way. Oh, sure, he supported Barack Obama’s presidential aspirations, but he wouldn’t stump for him. He helped to defeat an amendment that would change the state flag of Mississippi because the new one contained the Confederate flag as part of its design. He has publicly stated his dislike of Black History month…”It’s not Black History; it’s American History. There is no White History month.” By and large, Morgan Freeman is “the quiet man” in a world full of stars.

Mr. Freeman has now broken his silence. It would appear that he is somewhat irritated with President Obama. It’s not for the manner in which the President is trying to run the country, but because he believes that President Obama has exposed the “dark underbelly of America,” by bringing the racists out of the closet and into the fray about who is supposed to be in charge of America.

As one who has been writing about racism in the United States government, I’m glad to have someone finally back me up. You will never hear one member of the Tea Party or any members of the Republican Party in Congress make a racial slur against this President…not one. I don’t know what you will hear them say behind closed doors, but I’m willing to bet that even the fly on the wall gets pretty red in the face over what Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, and many others say in personal attacks on the President.

Congress isn’t working because a group of racist fascists called the Tea Party have made it their sworn duty to ensure that Barack Obama is a one-term President. Forget the fact that America is in a recession that is just getting worse. You people need to forget the fact that your constituents are looking to you to pass jobs legislation that will help them get back to work.

 

Forget the fact that the bulk of our problems began with Ronald Reagan who raised the debt ceiling 18 times; forget the fact that George W. Bush cut taxes and raised the debt ceiling another seven times as well as engaging us in two totally unnecessary wars. These things don’t matter. We cannot have a Black man in the office of the Presidency. My God, Myrtle, it’s Un-American!

House Republican Leader, John Boehner, stands in front of microphones and emphasizes how much his party wants to work in harmony with the President to pass this bill and that bill to help American get back on its feet. Then he goes behind closed doors and bows down and kisses the feet of the members of the Tea Party. He tells them, “Don’t worry, I’m actually on your side…all the way. We can’t afford to let him have a win!”

That appears to be how our country’s business is now being run. It doesn’t matter if something is right or wrong; “We can’t afford to let ‘him’ have a win. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been such open class and racial warfare going on in this country since the Civil War, or, if you prefer, The War for Southern Independence. The United States of America, once looked on by the world as a shining example of how anyone could achieve their dream through hard work and intelligence is now being looked on as one of the most racist and divided nations in the world. We make South Africa during the apartheid years look tame by comparison…all of this because “We can’t let him have a win!” When will Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public take their heads out of their collective butts and see these people for what they are? Or is it, perhaps, that the majority of white Americans are so secretly racist that they don’t give a damn about the country as long as the Black man only gets to serve one term and can be blamed for all of America’s woes?

I have to ask the question: “What ever happened to any kind of leadership in the Democrat Party in America. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can most assuredly not be called leaders. Pelosi would make a deal with the Devil if she thought it would give her personal gain. Harry Reid has been in the Senate for nearly a quarter of a century and has no concept of how to fight against the tactics of the Tea Party. Where the hell is there a Lyndon Johnson or a Jack or Bobby Kennedy? I don’t see anyone with the chutzpah to stand up against the Tea Party fanatics.

Sad to say, but the Tea Party bears a strong resemblance to the National Socialist Party of Germany in the thirties. That may be a harsh statement, but it sure looks like the same crowd to me. This time it will be Black businesses and books featuring Black accomplishments that will be burned in the streets.

Mr. Freeman is right. The Tea Party is very, very frightening for the future of America and right now, there isn’t a single soul who is speaking out against them. Will we, like Germany, wait until it’s too late?

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Old people don’t like change. In my youth, and even up until my early seventies, I thought that was just another urban myth; a fallacy that one could disregard as being propagated by the very young. When computers first came into our workplace, nearly everyone was excited about this new technology and how it would allow us to do so many more things and how the things we were already doing would be made so much easier. Oh, wait a minutes, I said “nearly everyone.”  There was one woman who didn’t dare turn her computer on. I heard all sorts of stories as to why she took this approach, everything from “it could take over your mind,” to “it emits waves that can kill you.” She wasn’t all that old, but she was a bit strange. She was the one who’d been arrested at sit-ins, and was a devoted follower of Greenpeace and Save the Whales…nothing wrong with it unless you have an aversion to spending time behind bars. Therefore, she was excused as something of a kook. I will give her this; however, she stuck to her guns even though it meant losing her job.

My late wife, Joan, was not a fan of computers either. Once, after we had received notification from the bank about the simplicity of online banking, I suggested to Joan that we try it. I might as well have suggested we start a bonfire in the street with our savings…trust me, it wouldn’t have been a bonfire. Can you say, “Blow it out with one small breath?”

After Joan passed, I jumped on the electronic banking bandwagon. Hot damn, it certainly has made my life easier. I have become ‘semi-paperless’ when it comes to paying bills. Between the firewalls on my computer, those that the bank uses, and my backup with Carbonite, I feel like a pretty “hip and trendy” senior citizen. It was a major change, but change was no problem.

When my current life partner came along, “reduce, reuse, and recycle” took on a whole new meaning. It, too, was something I attacked like a hungry dog with a bone. It was wonderful to put out one small bag of trash each week and bring out two barrels of recyclables at the same time. It was a big change, but once again, change was no problem.

When my partner suggested that we have a garden, I thought, “Oh-ma-God, with my bad knees and my bad back, this would kill me. “Honey,” I said in my softest, smoothest, ‘Holy shit” voice, “I don’t know how much help….” Her hand came up in a “STOP” motion. “That’s the royal ‘we,’ she said, “I love to garden; you love to write. You pick out what you like – the “and pay for it” was implied – and I’ll do the work.” Of course, it wound up that she paid as much as I did, and she did all the work. It was another rather large change, but in the end, it was fantastic.

My point is the change can be difficult at any age, but if you go with the flow, everything will be fine. You can turn on your computer without it swallowing you up and taking you to the land of semi-conductors and microchips only to be spit out as a motherboard. You can bank through the use of electronic mail without some greedy, money-hungry monster absconding with all of your hard-earned loot – if yer comin’ after me, you must be pretty damned hard up! You can trust the one you love to turn your weed filled yard…”but it’s green”…into a thing of beauty without (a) getting you taken away on a stretcher, (b) sending you to the poorhouse because of the cost of bulbs (c) disturbing the area normally used by the dog for her morning ‘business!’

Now…all of the above being said, I find that, in point of fact, there has been a change which I was not able to accept; had actually been mourning, and even sank into something of a depression regarding…my gym closed! (Loud scream; many tears and tantrums; getting ‘bitch-slapped and told to build a bridge and get over it;’ and finally sitting back down to the keyboard).

I have been attending the same gym for nearly 20 years. I have watched the management change, and I have watched some of the equipment replaced and updated. During my time, I’ve made many, many friends. I’ve watched some of those same friends die. I’d go to the wake or the funeral and the place would be filled with people from “the gym.” I watched other people battle cancer, go through operation after operation, have this knee replaced or that hip done. Over nearly two decades, some people came and went, but there was always a cadre of loyal supporters who made up the community that we called, “the gym.”

The gym closed without so much as a by-your-leave. One day it was open; the next day the doors were locked. There was no warning. There wasn’t even a sign saying that the gym was going out of business…badda bing, badda bang…gone. This was a change I could not accept. There wasn’t much I could do about it. Buying the gym certainly wasn’t an option…I’m still waiting for that ship to come in! Go to another gym? I won’t know anyone. It’s surprising how social interaction becomes a part of your life. When you eliminate all or even a part of that social interaction, the change can have a genuine effect on your behavior.

After a week of what has been described to me as “mourning,” I tried another gym. I can just hear one of my Jewish friends saying, “You sat Shiva for a gym for an entire week? What are you, crazy?” To some extent they may be right. It was crazy to sit around and mope. The gym to which I went had more modern equipment; it was air conditioned; it had more equipment than I’ve ever seen in a gym. It was beautiful. And, guess what? Many of my friends from the old gym were there. We commiserated before, during, and after our workouts…but we were together. As I was leaving, I said to the gentleman at the desk, “Thanks for letting me try out your gym.” He responded by saying that he was sorry my place had closed; and he welcomed me to come back anytime.

I will change; I won’t be crazy about it, but I will, if for no other reason than not having to listen to the critics say, “Ah, you’re too old to change!”

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“I love Mommy and Daddy this much,” as the arms spread to their fullest possible length.

Let’s see; that lasts until…umm…oh, I don’t know; maybe seven or eight? Whadda ya think? Nowadays, does it even last that long? I grew up in the fifties. We loved our parents a lot longer then, I think. Granted, we were different; we were fresh from a war and “Yes sir; yes maam; yes, Mom; yes Dad. The word, “no” to authority figures was an unknown, perhaps not in every household in America, but I’m willing to bet it was the case in the majority of our households. Some would say that what I’m talking about was love but was either respect or fear. I can tell you with all sincerity and humility…you’re full of shit!

It would probably be best to define ‘love’ at this point. The youthful love for parents is largely based on dependence, it seems to me; that and the fact that the child has no basis for comparison. Therefore, if you, the child, are fed properly – whatever that means – and if you are clothed properly – op. cit – and you have toys to play with, Life is pretty darned good. In addition, you believe that’s how it is with every other kid you know from kindergarten through the third grade.

All of the above is predicated on the idea that your parents have not ‘allowed’ you to interact with other children outside of what they would deem as your social grouping. Should you, perchance, happen across another child in your age group who comes to school one morning with a black eye and cut on his or her cheek; and should this child tell the teacher that he or she fell downstairs but tell a different story in the playground, you begin to believe your parents are even more special; they don’t hit you. The same thing could apply if a child wears the same thing to school every day; if its clothing and shoes are worn; or any one of many other signs that you begin to look at and believe how lucky you are to have such wonderful parents, and a great deal of this is what I would guess some children call ‘love.’ They get “hugs in the morning and butterfly kisses at night,” and the world’s a pretty rosy place.

Then one day you recognize that your folks’ armor actually does have a few chinks. You might overhear them talking about money problems or not wanting to buy you the newest ‘whatcha-ma-call-it’ because it would make you become too materialistic or for some other reason. Maybe they won’t let you go to a slumber party at a friend’s house because the friend’s mother is single and has “that kind of a reputation.” Who can say what happens when you learn that your parents are the direct descendents of June and Ward Cleaver or Rob and Laura Petrie or even Lucy and Desi. The fact of the matter is that they do learn. Remember my favorite Mark Twain quotation: “When I was fourteen, my father was so stupid I could hardly stand to have him around. When I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished how much he’d learned in seven years” This is exactly how it seems to be, even in this day of “enlightened understanding.” Oh, Lord, spare me from such words!

Your love, the way in which you love your parents’ changes. It isn’t as all-encompassing-my-parents-can-do-no-wrong kind of love. It’s more of a love that is built out of tolerance. You begin to recognize that they not only have faults, but they have faults that you will never have. You’re much too intelligent to fall into the traps that they seem to fall into with startling regularity. For many middle-class Americans – yes, there used to be a middle class in America – many of these traps revolve around economics. You go through the whole Twain thing where you think they’re stupid and don’t “understand” you. If someone were to suggest to you that you were going through a thing called puberty and that changes in your body were taking place so rapidly you couldn’t possibly understand them, you’d just get pissed off and call them assholes. When you’re in your teens that seems to become a favorite expression for anyone who doesn’t agree with what you say or do. There are usually a few other adjectives thrown in because it’s cool to swear; everyone does it. Yeah, and if this ‘everyone’ decided to take a header off the Golden Gate Bridge, you going to think that’s cool also?

From 20 to 30, you begin to realize that your parents have probably done the best job they could of getting you to this age. Even as young as you are, you’ve probably already experienced death. It may have been, as it was in my case, an 18-year old buddy of mine who was riding back to Boston from Camp Lejeune, NC and was killed along with four others. That’s close. It’s much closer than losing grandparents who se death you can justify by saying that they were older. When you’re young, unless it’s someone your own age, death doesn’t mean all that much. Even some young men and women as old as thirty plus still seem to believe they are immortal, invincible, and indestructible. To be fair, this may be less true today when so many young people are being diagnosed with some mutation of cancer and other death-dealing diseases.

If you get married and have children of your own, your love toward your parents changes once more. If anything, it becomes stronger: “How in the hell did they raise ‘x’ number of us and keep their sanity. Perhaps this is a love born out of admiration. You begin to recognize all that they sacrificed so that you might have…whatever the ‘have’ was at the time.

If you’re lucky, as you move into your forties and fifties, both of your parents are still around. Your grandparents may or may not be gone. If any of them are still around, you are a very lucky man or woman…no more use of the word, ‘young,’ for you. Should you not be so fortunate to have grandparents or even parents still alive, you begin to wish, with all that you possess, that Mom or Dad was here. There was so much you wanted to ask them, but you never got around to it until it was too late. This is when I have great sympathy for you. This is when I admit how much of a fool I was…too busy to visit my widowed mother because I was raising a family. Our last visit, several years before her death, did not end pleasantly, and we never spoke again. I’m the fool. Now, as I near my Mother’s decade of life, I recognize my stupidity…sorry, Mom; I just didn’t know.

Perhaps one of your widowed parents has found someone else to be part of their life. I can tell you right now that it took me some time to accept the fact that my mother was dating again after Dad’s death. Dating is the wrong word. The fellow had been a friend of the family and when Mom told me that Dad had asked him to take care of her that sorta took the sting out.

Your love for your parents will change many, many times. Throughout their years, however, there is only one thing that you should ever want for them and that’s happiness. Particularly as your parents become senior citizens. Remember, they’ve had many, many life experiences; they deserve to be happy. Ask yourself, “Do I want them to be happy on their terms or on mine?” You will immediately answer that you want them to be happy on their own term. But then, if you’re honest with yourself, you’d like to be certain that they are happy. It’s a nice gesture, but I would suggest you let them dictate the terms of their happiness and then just be happy for them.

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She came from out of the west…the gardener.

She came East to take care of an old man; no reason; just came East…the gardener

“Your backyard is a mess,” she told him, but he didn’t seem to mind, even when she told him that she was…the gardener.

She was right, of course. The backyard hadn’t seen much care since his wife had died just a little over two years ago. He’d sorta lost interest in a whole pile of things until she showed up…the gardener.

“It’s too late to do much this year,” she told him, but they went searching for bulbs and plants and fencing and funny cloth hoses and such. He didn’t think much about it; after all, it was her money that was being spent. All he had to do was stand around and watch…and shake his head…and think to himself that maybe she was just a little bit ‘off.’ But, he figured she knew what she was doing…the gardener.

Late one fall afternoon, after the sun was down and it was dark, he looked out the front window. The lamp in the front yard was on; she’d dug up a circle around the lamp and put some kind of a rubber or plastic liner around it. Seemed kind of funny that she’d be putting wire all over the spot but, he wasn’t going to question her; after all, she was…the gardener .When she came in the house that evening, she announced, “Well, that’s the last of them.”

“How many?” he asked.

“Seven hundred sixty-three,” she replied.

“That’s a hell of a lot of flower bulbs” he thought, but then, she was…the gardener. New England winters can be really bad. If the cold weather didn’t get the bulbs, he was certain that the squirrels and/or the skunks and/or a whole slew of other critters would dig through the chicken wire and eat the bulbs so’s not to go hungry over the winter. Critters are like that. “She is going to be so pissed,” he thought, “particularly since she worked so hard.”

The winter was a particularly bad one. Seemed to be one storm after another, each one depositing more snow than the one before. Flat roofs collapsed in several places; they even talked about trying to shovel the snow of a part of their roof, but both were too damned old to climb a ladder to do so. The kids across the street were so busy with their plowing business, the only thing they had time for when they got home was to grab a bite, a few hours of sleep and then get back on the road.

She kept staring out the big windows in the family room. The three of them stretched floor to ceiling, and you could watch the birds, those who were damned fool enough to stick around and not fly south; they’d attack both of the feeders with gusto. We’d throw out some critter food for the squirrels and chipmunks. They couldn’t get to the feeders. In fact, it was funny to watch the squirrels climb up the pole supporting one of the feeders. The feeder was a vertical tube that hung from a hook. It was called the “Yankee Flipper,” a name applied all too well. We’d watch the squirrels climb the pool with such ease and jump down to the top of the feeder. Unfortunately for these critters, the food was dispensed from four feeding holes near the bottom of the feeder. Birds would sit on a ring and gorge themselves. When the squirrels tried to stand on the ring, their weight would be enough to trigger the ring into a merry-go-round motion, but at a much greater speed than the old carnival attraction. Zoon, zoom, zoom, would go the squirrels, often attempting to hold on with one paw. They could not stay on and would get flipped off into the snow. Were they hurt? Evidently not, because most of them would clamber out of the snow and try it again, only learning after three or four flips that it probably wasn’t worth the effort.

When the snow began to melt, she purchased bags of “critter food,” and would toss it on the small patio outside the big windows. Day after day, the ‘critters’ would be fed. Finally, I couldn’t stand it. “Why are you feeding the squirrels and chipmunks?” I asked.

“So they will know where to come for food and stay the hell away from my garden,” she responded…the gardener…thinking ahead.

As April turned into May, I noticed that the ‘Florida room,’ – read as a porch converted to a nine-month room to sit in – more and more seedlings began to fill up the place. Chairs were bunched together and large pieces of wood placed across them to hold more and more small pots of this and that. Tomatoes or many varieties – Romas, Black Crims, Yellow Brandywines, etc. – summer squash, beans – both yellow and green – peas, beets, red, white, and yellow onions, and Lord only knows what else…the gardener was on the prowl, all the time cursing under her breath, “How the hell can you grow a garden if you can’t plant until after Memorial Day.”

Suddenly – it seemed to take place overnight, which I’m certain it did not – the bulbs that had been planted the preceding fall were shooting up flowers of purples and gold and red and more colors than the rainbow. The backyard had been transformed into myriad colors…the gardener.

Thanks to Loews, Ocean State Job Lot, and Home Depot, nearly the entire yard was filled with flowers and vegetables. Next thing we knew we were harvesting peas and beans; then came the tomatoes, the squash, the cucumbers, the strawberries, and flowers, always flowers; flowers dying and others taking their place. The yard was a festival of flowers and a buffet of vegetables. “Do you want salad with dinner,” became a catch phrase of the late afternoon, along with do you want Romaine, summer crisp, or iceberg lettuce…the gardener.

My life has changed. My easting is healthier. Watching seeds turn into seedling and becoming food for the table; watching tiny bulbs, planted a fall before burst into beautiful color…all of this has given me another life experience. If you’ve never seen your property transformed; if you have transformed it yourself into a thing of beauty, you can fully comprehend when I simply say…the gardener.

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“Team sure looked good in that opener last night, coach.”

“It was a good win; sets the boys up for the rest of the season. We still got ta git better, though…and we will.”

“I know it’s always good to get that first game under your belt coach. My question is, do you really think that, as a Division I school, the win over a junior college team might be subject to some question?”

“I’m not shure you really unerstand what an opener means to the school there, young man. Why you got all those alumnusus in the stands; the president of the university was there. We had to look good to get more money for the boys…I, I, I mean for the school! We think we’re gonna be in the hunt for the BCS championship this year. We got a tough schedule ahead of us, beginnin’ with Miami next week”

“Well, that’s just great coach. How did you think Bidwell did in his first game since his return?”

“Bidwell’s gonna be okay. He’s lost a little weight but he’s still got the speed and the moves. Prison food’s not all it’s cracked up to be, but we’ll put the weight back on. He developed a few new moves during his stay; said those big fellas just couldn’t catch him. Besides, he had Janakowski for a roommate and Big Mel can be pretty intimidatin’ at six-nine, 395. Just good to have those boys back!”

“Coach, there have been a few articles in some of the local papers and on ESPN about eligibility violations here at Pew U. Would you like to comment on that.”

“Yer treadin’ on dangerous ground there, boy. I can’t bother myself with all those aggelations. I leave that to my AD and to the president. I’ll tell ya straight out though that our boys are all in good academic standin’ here and they deserve to play.”

I think you’re getting the picture. When it comes to collegiate athletics, particularly at the Division I level, hard questions, i.e., fastballs and curves are genuine ‘no-no’s’ at post-game press conferences. As a reporter, if you hope to be invited back, you had better be tossing softballs to hold your press credentials.

Thankfully, the NCAA and many of the colleges themselves have begun to see the light. However, that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t some coaches and athletic directors who aren’t cutting corners or turning their heads the other way while violations are still taking place.

Our youngest, an outstanding athlete, was in junior high school when she received her first telephone call from a coach. Fortunately, I knew some of the rules and regulations. I was working at a D-1 school at the time. Recognizing the voice of an adult male, I asked who was calling. He made the mistake of telling me, at which point, I recited the rules about when athletes could be contacted by college coaches. Funny, he never called again. This year, one of our granddaughters had eight e-mails time-dated 12:01 am on the first day when recruits could be contacted. Hey, at least they waited…and now, back to our interview…

“…Coach, Hannrahn threw for 515 yards and eight touchdowns last night. Even though the competition wasn’t very strong, that’s a mighty impressive performance. His arm looked quite a bit stronger than it has over the past six years. Think he can stay away from injuries this year?”

“Billy’s a good kid. You’re right though, He hasn’t been able to make it through a full season without getting hurt. On one hand, it’s bad for him, but it has helped him to keep his eligibility for the past eight years. He talked to me before the season began. Said his folks would like for him to get a real job, so I think he’s gonna be alright for this season.”

“How hard do you think it will be to replace Billy, coach?”

“Well, we’ve got a fourth year freshman, Washington Lincoln, who’s been looking good. As you know, he’s been finishing most of our seasons for us and unless he decides to enter the draft, we’ll be in good shape.”

“One final question, coach. How do the wives and children of all of your players feel about you taking so much of their time?”

“Jankowski, get your ass in here and throw this bum out!”

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“That ain’t right,” screams Mays Gilliam, a.k.a. Chris Rock, in the movie, Head of State. It’s a scream that every citizen should be screaming at the Congress of the United States Right now.

On August 17th, “President Obama will soon announce a new jobs plan that is expected to include an extension of payroll tax cuts, new revenue for transportation projects and an extension of emergency unemployment benefits for the 9.1 percent of Americans who still can’t find a job.” Republican strategist, Karl Rove, responded,  “…And each time that he’s gotten around to tossing an idea out on the table, it has included only more spending, more deficit, more debt and the American people are fed up with it.”

Sixty-seven progressive organizations wrote to the President, urging him to “go big” as he prepared to announce his plan. Conservative organizations simply said that there could not be any increase taxes that would affect the rich or big corporations.

Shortly after Labor Day, Obama was ready. He sent a letter to the House Speaker and to the Senate Majority Leader. Here’s what the letter said:

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. Leader:),

Our Nation faces unprecedented economic challenges, and millions of hardworking Americans continue to look for jobs. As I have traveled across our country this summer and spoken with our fellow Americans, I have heard a consistent message: Washington needs to put aside politics and start making decisions based on what is best for our country and not what is best for each of our parties in order to grow the economy and create jobs. We must answer this call.

Therefore, I respectfully request the opportunity to address a Joint Session of Congress on September 7, 2011, at 8:00 p.m. It is my intention to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the Middle Class and working Americans, while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order. It is our responsibility to find bipartisan solutions to help grow our economy, and if we are willing to put country before party, I am confident we can do just that.

Here is the response from John Boehner (R – Ohio):

Thank you for your letter requesting time to address a Joint Session of Congress next week. I agree that creating a better environment for job creation must be our most urgent priority. For months, the House has been implementing an agenda designed to reduce economic uncertainty, remove unnecessary government barriers to private-sector job creation, and help small businesses, and we welcome the opportunity to hear your latest proposals. As your spokesperson today said, there are considerations about the Congressional calendar that must be made prior to scheduling such an extraordinary event. As you know, the House of Representatives and Senate are each required to adopt a Concurrent Resolution to allow for a Joint Session of Congress to receive the President. And as the Majority Leader announced more than a month ago, the House will not be in session until Wednesday, September 7, with votes at 6:30 that evening. With the significant amount of time – typically more than three hours – that is required to allow for a security sweep of the House Chamber before receiving a President, it is my recommendation that your address be held on the following evening, when we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks. As such, on behalf of the bipartisan leadership and membership of both the House and Senate, I respectfully invite you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8, 2011 in the House Chamber, at a time that works best for your schedule. We look forward to hearing your ideas and working together to solve America’s jobs crisis.

“The Senate Historical Office knows of no instance in which Congress refused the president permission to speak before a Joint Session of Congress,” said Betty K. Koed, an associate historian for the U.S. Senate.”

So now it appears that we’re back to politics as usual. Nowhere in the Speaker’s letter does it mention that the Republican Presidential Candidates will be having a debate that very evening that the President wants to speak to both houses of Congress. You will note that the excuses given are relatively weak when it comes to what security can do on such “short notice” for the President of the United States. The suggestion of the following evening, as I’m certain no one in the Senate was aware, was to be the opening of the National Football League season on television…but who watches NFL football in America? Why, no one, of course, and therefore, the President could certainly speak then. No politics in play here….really….we wouldn’t do anything to the President of the United States…what colossal, unmitigated gall! Either Obama is being a pussy or he’s just trying to be polite. Frankly, I think that his letter should have read “Please inform your respective members that I will be addressing a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, September 8th, 2011…” and gone on from there. You are the President. Yes, I suppose you could be polite and gentlemanly about it, but it’s time – been time for a long time – to tell the opposition that you are sick and tired of their childish tactics. The candidates want to have their debate, fine, but I’m willing to bet that more people were waiting for the NFL season to start that were waiting to hear a bunch of losers tear each other and the President of the United States to pieces.

One person wasn’t there. Republican House Member Joe Walsh of Illinois “I don’t see the point of being a prop for another of the president’s speeches asking for more failed stimulus spending and more subsidies for his pet projects,” he said.  “How idiotic is this president?” Walsh continued. “I don’t want to be disrespectful, but he’s going to bring forth a jobs plan next week. Think about that for a minute. He’s been in office for three years. He’s destroyed job creation systematically for three years.”Joe, by the way, happens to be one of the favorites of that oh-so-centrist group called the Tea Party. I’m from the Boston area; I grew up here; I’m proud of what our Real Tea Partiers did, and I’m embarrassed that this group of people has the audacity to adopt the name of some real patriots. The only thing I’ve seen out of today’s group is a bunch of whining cry babies who do nothing but bitch and who don’t have one truly creative idea among them for getting this country back on track. Their heads are so far up their butts that their heartbeats – assuming they have hearts – drown out any possibility of thinking clearly.

Obama’s American Jobs Act outlined pretty clearly what he feels can and should be done. The Monday following his speech, Chairman Jack Lew of the Office of Management and Budget announced that the provisions that the President had called for would raise a projected $467 billion over the course of 10 years. That’s about $20 billion more than the American Jobs Act would cost.

Are there a great many complications to getting this act passed? Without question, there are provisions in any bill that goes before Congress that are suspect to one person or another; one party or another. However, the manner in which John Boehner and the rest of the Republicans in the House, as well as Senator Eric Kantor of Virginia is just another clear indication that it’s party politics as usual in Washington.

The new motto of the Republican Party is, “We can’t give him a win!” It’s been publicly avowed by several members of Congress. Let me repeat, “WE CAN’T GIVE HIM A WIN!” In other words, screw the American people; screw those who have been out of work for a couple of years or more; screw anyone who gets in our way because,..We can’t give him a win!” That’s Republican political reality folks. It has nothing to do with whether or not the American Jobs Act will help you or me; it’s about not giving someone from the Democratic Party “a win.” Never, never in my life have I heard rhetoric like that. The current Republican members of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress should hang their collective heads in shame. I can only hope that come 2012, Americans will wake up. Don’t vote Democratic; don’t vote Republican. Get Mickey, Minnie, Donald, or Pluto on the ballot, but vote for someone who wants to move the country forward, not push it back into Revolutionary times.

Just remember what Mays Gilliam would say…”That ain’t right!”

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It was 8:57 when I was driving home from the gym this Sunday morning…September 11, 2011. I had just gotten off the bike eleven minutes ago; stood for a moment with my head down and said a little prayer. I must admit that I really wasn’t praying for those folks who had died in New York City, Washington, D.C., or for those who died in Shanksville, PA. Certainly I asked the Lord to Bless their Souls, but my longer prayer was for those who survived. ..The widows, who now had to mourn, find a job, bring up the children, and get on with their lives; the widowers who found themselves suddenly without a wife – the one who paid all the bills, took the kids to soccer practice and swimming and gymnastics, and myriad other lessons or practices…the young child who will never have a chance to grow up because some people just don’t like the United States of America…the stories are endless.

I think a great deal about the rescuers who went into the Twin Towers and never came out. They were doing their job; that’s all; they were just doing the job for which they were trained. They didn’t show up, see the size of the problem and say, “Screw this;” they did their job Three hundred and forty-three firefighters and paramedics who will never see home again.

I think a great deal of the 1,717 families who never received any remains to bury. Some might say, “Oh, they’ll never have ‘closure’.” Closure my ass. I don’t know who ever came up with that word, but in the context it’s used today, it’s a bullshit word. Closure of what? Your family member is gone, dead, not coming back – what the hell good is the word ‘closure’? It seems as though the person who invented that word had never lost a loved one. My wife died seven years after 911; I don’t have ‘closure.’ Every day, in some small or even big way, something will trigger my memory, and I think about “the time we did…” or “…the time we went to…” and there is no such thing as closure. I hate that word. It smacks of cool, young, hip, and trendy. At Joan’s wake, some asshole said to one of the kids, “Well now your family has closure.” Those who lost someone they loved on 911 don’t have closure; they have memories.

Do you ever wonder how many of those people who died and left a family didn’t kiss the wife, husband, or kids’ goodbye that morning? How about the people in Los Angeles who were waiting for someone they knew would be on one of those three flights? What about those one, two, or you-pick-a-number of young, single men and women who were looking forward to a date that night? It’s very easy to “what if,” but it doesn’t matter because thousands died. They died in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, PA. Maybe as many as another thousand died that day…of cancer, heart failure, in car accidents, of old age or whatever, but they died. The families and friends they left behind…they, too, will always remember 911.

If you’ve read this blog before, you know where I was…coming back down route 151 in Falmouth, MA. I’d been to breakfast with an old high school classmate. I saw the faces of the two pilots taking off from Otis Air Force base as they zoomed over the road just ahead of me…I saw their faces; that’s how low they were. My wife was sleeping when I got back to the hotel so I decided to go for a swim. About 20 minutes later, Joan yelled down, “I think you’d better come up here.” The planes from Otis would be too late. The second plane had already smashed into the South Tower.

It’s been ten years for all of us who watched in horror. I don’t know about you, but it’s just as real to me today as it was a decade ago. A lot of things have changed; I’ve lost my wife; I have more grandkids; I even have a new domestic partner. However, for the remainder of my life, I will never forget the looks on the faces of those two fighter pilots; I will never forget the ugliness of the scene as those jets crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and of the wreckage in the field in Shanksville. I’d like to be able to forget those images, but I can’t. Perhaps it’s just as well. It reminds me of a terrible day; of a period of our history when the nation came together. It’s just too bad that “togetherness” only lasted a couple of weeks.

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