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Archive for October, 2012

Everything was moved inside; nothing remained on the patio out back or on the front stoop. We were in the path and we were going to get hit. Everyone said, “You will lose power. Be certain you have candles, flashlights, this, that, and the other thing.” We had done all of that about a week ago. It’s not as if Sandy was going to be a huge surprise to anyone on the East Coast. Somewhere, somehow, the states along the Atlantic were going to pay a price; large or small, but it was still going to be a price.

Now that Sandy has left the East Coast, I cannot understand precisely what happened. We have four trees in our front yard. They swung and they swayed a bit, but not one of them ‘went,’ as it were. Oh, sure, one of them lost a branch that was approximately two inches in diameter, but that was it. When I say, “…that was it,” as impossible as it seems, it was the only thing we suffered. Our flashlights were ready; Juli had even put bottles of water in the freezer in case power was lost. But it didn’t happen. We watched horrible scenes on television…all day long and into the evening. The power never once faltered or failed. A couple of streets over, they’re still in the dark, and this is two days after the storm. I had no trouble driving to the gym this morning, but cities and towns that are further inland appear to have wires and trees down everywhere. It just makes one wonder…why them and why not us?

Now comes the cleanup…and the cost. Anderson Cooper, reporting last evening, indicated that he knows his house on Long Island is ruined; he hasn’t seen it, but Long Island was slammed so hard that he is fully aware that the place is gone. Yet, here was a reporter doing his job and trying to help others find some kind of solace, as he said, because he didn’t even know where to begin when he took a moment to think about his own dwelling.

That’s what boggles my mind; where do the cities and towns begin? What has priority in New York City and in New Jersey? Forget the cost for a moment; where do you pump the water from the subways and other flooded areas? Once that water is gone, what are the next steps? Communities with downed power lines because of trees have it comparatively easy when you consider what Michael Bloomberg, Chris Christies, and several others have to face. I don’t wish to diminish the problems of restoring power in some of the communities around here, but it’s truly difficult to comprehend the massive cleanup that is facing those who took a direct hit.

This is when Mayors, Governors, town administrators, and other community leaders get to showcase their leadership qualities. Most assuredly, they are not alone in their decision-making, but when one has to juggle this many problems simultaneously, the right decisions call for real leaders and not real blamers. Watch the type of job they do. Would you, if put in their position, have responded in the same manner. Certainly, there are disaster plans in place for every city, town, and state, but you can bet your boots that Murphy’s Law will come into effect somewhere. It’s at that point that leadership earns its keep.

I wish the leaders well as they make their decisions; I also wish the crews who are doing the hands on the very best of luck…and as many a TV police character has said, “You be careful out there.”

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Eureka, I have uncovered the sinister, devilish, wicked, peccant (how do ya like that one) plot to destroy the senior population of this country. It has nothing to do with the politicians and their threats to ease the budget deficit by cutting Medicare or reducing Social Security; oh, no, this time the politicians are in cahoots with seedy manufacturers, contractors, and pharmaceutical companies to ensure the early demise of those over 65.

Have you ever noticed how empathetic some of these commercials are to those of us with the ‘real’ aches and pains; not that tennis elbow bullshit or the charley horse from running a marathon; those are the wimp injuries of the young. They can get over it. We, on the other hand, wake up with pulled hamstrings, bulging discs, osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis on a daily basis. Those other silly children don’t know the meaning of pain. They get the Ben-Gay and the Aspercream. What do we get? The devious promoters recommend that we buy one of those sit-in baths with a shower and power jets that will make us feel better. Feel better my ass; what they want us to do is to sit in those things until we shrivel up like a prune and become so relaxed that we sink under the water and drown! Not only that, but they expect us to pay good money…to commit suicide. It’s diabolical, I tell you, absolute evil such as only can be created by a conspiracy [oops, another conspiracy theorist is being born…look out world!]. Have you noticed the look on the gorgeous white haired lady in the tub? She looks absolutely orgasmic, but they can’t fool me; I’ll continue to struggle in my own shower. After all, if a shower was a good place for my Uncle Stanley to kick the bucket, why isn’t it good enough for me…or something like that.

Another little product these ‘let’s-get-rid-of-the-seniors’ crowd has come up with is the stair lift. Okay, so it’s the two-story cape in which you raised the kids. It has the four bedrooms and three baths, so you just have to go up and down no matter that there are just the two of you left there. What’s that, you want the kids to have the house when you go? Hey, wake up! If there’s more than one child, they’re going to sell it immediately and split the proceeds. The house will then go under the demolition crane, ball, or whatever it takes and some idiot with no kids will build a MacMansion for which they will get a variance from the town so that their dwelling will wind up about two feet from the side of your house, leaving your neighbors of forty years, the ones you played bridge with every Friday night, cursing your ass and wishing you were dead…oh, wait a minute, you are, and that’s what caused this whole mess in the beginning. They are gonna be really pissed when they meet you on the other side. Of course, there are alternatives. You could move into one of those assisted living complexes, a.k.a., God’s Waiting Room – and yes, you can say that about several communities in Florida, Arizona, and Mississippi. If you go to Mississippi, you may just wish to kill yourself immediately, so don’t go there. Another alternative is to sell your house {to hell with those neighbors; you thought they were card cheats anyway] and move into a one floor ranch house so that you don’t have to go up and down stairs. Speaking from personal experience, this is a pretty good deal.

Let us assume for a moment that you have read the preceding paragraph and said, “fuck you; I’ m staying where I am.” Okay, you might have chosen other language, but I’ll accept your premise. If you stay where you are, the day may come when those stairs are just too much…remember, the greatest danger to senior citizens is falling. So you decide to put in one of those chairs that will carry you comfortably up and down the stairs with the push of a button—it even goes around curves. It also eliminates one of the few forms of cardio exercise you get. So now that you’re not getting exercise, but eating the same diet, you get fat, break the stair lift – probably near the top – and fall on your head as you’re coming down the stairs…bye bye! See how this conspiracy is working?

“They” – those devious bastards – also conspire to kill us by advertising these sleeping aids that will put us into a deep enough sleep so that when the house mysteriously catches fire and we become crispy critters, they will no longer have to send us the monthly Social Security check. Not even our collective colons are safe from assault. They tell us that unless we get rid of thirteen feet of shit a day, we’re “not clean.” And, naturally, they have a solution; “Try Rectolax to clean your colon!” I’d say, “Rectolax my ass,” but that would be rather gauche; let’s just say a) that I don’t believe the ads, and b) I’ll stick to my prunes if it’s all right with everyone else.

So, my message is clear. Beware of products that promise to allow you to grow old gracefully. There is no magic bullet; there are no secret formulas. We get old and we die. There is no conspiracy, but beware of the charlatans who say they can make your life better. Here’s what they should be telling you: Eat right; get some exercise, both for your body and your mind, and; think of all the wonderful things you’ve seen and what else is left on your bucket list.

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I don’t wish to complain about the punishment handed to Lance Armstrong recently. The International Cycling Union and the US Anti-Doping Agency have, in all probability, done a fine job of investigating the circumstances under which Armstrong and the Postal Team doped their way to seven Tour de France championships.  Did he deserve to have his medals taken away and his name erased from the record books? Of course he did…in exactly the same way in which players in any sport deserve to have their names removed from record books and their rings and trophies returned to their governing federation. Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t happen in other sports, does it? Will we demand that Roger Clemens return his Cy Young Awards and any remuneration that went with them? How about Mark McGuire; is his name to be erased from record books, and is the money from his endorsements required to be repaid? Please, don’t understand me but, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Cycling, track and field, and to some extent, baseball appear to be the targets for USADA. Football and basketball players get slaps on the wrist, but there aren’t too many who have been so blatant as to get kicked out of the sport. What does the USTA have to say about its tennis players, or USA Swimming have to say about its athletes?

Let’s get real here, folks. Doping and the use of performance enhancing drugs is a fact of life. It’s not a good fact of life, but it’s out there. I will give Lance Armstrong credit for taking a minor sport in the United States and turning it into a “shot-in-the-arm” industry. Remember the old three-speed bikes? Well, I didn’t have one of those. My two-wheeler was one of those balloon tire jobbies, and we used to ride the thirteen miles from my town to the beach in Cohasset, MA, the rich kids with the three-speeds arriving long before those of us on our horse and buggy bikes. If, on my bike, the chain broke when you were going up a steep hill, you wound up singing soprano for a couple of weeks…and there was no way to repair that broken chain. Bicycles on the road today may have anywhere from 20-22 gears!

Helmets, who the hell ever heard of helmets; today, you cannot ride with a group unless you’re wearing the proper helmet. Thank you, Mr. Armstrong for leading the way.  Parents appear to be more conscious of helmet use for their children. I just wonder what makes them believe that they are infallible for I see too many parents riding helmetless while their children are wearing headgear that should certainly protect them in a fall. In addition to all of their other infallibilities, many teenagers seem to take umbrage when it comes to wearing a helmet. I’m willing to bet that these are the same idiots who love to speed with their licensed buddies and don’t feel the need for seat belts. Bicycle clothing and shoes are a huge industry today in the US. Armstrong was certainly a contributing factor in the growth of that industry.

So while it’s fine to condemn Lance Armstrong for his bad behavior, we should also look at the positives of what he has contributed to the sport. I wear a ‘livestrong’ bracelet; how about you? For years, I volunteered for a bike-a-thon event that has raised millions for cancer research and to fight cancer in children. Bicycle events are now raising money for all kinds of charities. Would that have happened if not for Lance Armstrong? Of course it would, but I don’t believe its popularity today would be as great if America didn’t have its now-flawed hero.

So I, for one, am going to say, “Sorry, Lance; it’s too bad that people will look and see only the bad side. It’s too bad that they will forget your fight against testicular cancer. It’s unfortunate that they can’t understand how your participation in the sport raised cycling to an entirely new level in this country; it’s tragic that people won’t recognize you for what you’ve done to raise money for cancer research and support. So, Lance, while I’m disappointed in you for what they say you did, I just wish to hell I could ride with you…just once, but I’m just too damned old, and it won’t be until I die that they will be able to pry my yellow bracelet from my cold, dead wrist.”

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Gather ye rosebuds

If you’re reading this, I’m already dead, cremated, and have had my ashes scattered to the four winds. Some might chuckle and say, “Hell, he was dead from the ears up years ago; good thing he finally recognized it!” Crass, I know, but what the hell, that’s the way most of my ‘friends’ behave. Well, as we used to say in the old country, “Fook ‘em!”

The only thing I can add to this, my last hurrah, is that it’s true that when you are dying you don’t regret the things that you did; hell, there’s really no way you can undo what’s already been done. I loved my family until the day I died, although I’m not certain they understood that. I forgave my enemies years ago, and we were fools to become enemies in the first place. Americans have enough enemies elsewhere; there’s no reason to be enemies at home.

My regrets are about the things that I didn’t do. As I sit here, writing this on my purgatory pc – they haven’t decided yet if I’m going up or down, I realize that I never made up with my daughters. They resented my having another woman in my life after their mother died, but I still believe I had the right to live my life on my own terms. I regret never having visited more museums and not having visited some of my sick friends when I knew they were dying; just to say, “I’m glad you were my friend and thank you.” It might not make a hell of a lot of difference to them, but it would have made me feel better – what a selfish shit I was.

There are many things you regret not having done after you’re dead. I regret not having lived in another culture, if for no other reason than to see just how fortunate I was to have lived in my own. I regret not having seen the pyramids or taken a boat ride up the Amazon. I wish that I could have seen Florence; my son tells me that it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and, with the amount of traveling he’s done, I doubt he said that lightly. It would have been interesting to visit the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. I didn’t know anyone who died in that war, but I know it would have been a very sobering experience. Perhaps, having watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknowns at eight in the morning when no one else was around could be called a similar, sobering experience; I know it made me cry the first time I watched it – just think of all those men and women who gave up their lives so that I could live my own in complete freedom.

I’ve walked the battlefield at Manassas, Virginia, site of the first ‘Battle of Bull Run,’ and I’ve seen the Union and Confederate cannon that still populate those fields. I’ve stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and watched Old Faithful spout at Yosemite. I’ve seen the falls at Niagara and been pulled over for speeding in Amarillo. However, there are just so many other things that I’d like to have done. I’d like to have told my wife that I loved her more times than I did; I wish I’d visited my Mom more when she was in a nursing home and my Dad when he was dying of lung cancer.

I wish; I wish; I wish…but wishing doesn’t make it happen. By the time I began to think about all of the things I wished for it was too late. My legs were gone; my COPD limited any traveling. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” Robert Herrick told us and so few of us listened. “I’ll do it when I’m….” and “when I’m…” never came.

Oh, by the way, I’m not really dead yet…now ain’t that a bitch!

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The sound of silence

Have you ever listened to the silence? I’m not talking about those few moments while you’re drifting off to sleep and you think everything is quiet; no, there are still the house noises that are playing through your head. The silence you might think you don’t hear when you’re driving alone in your new car? Nope, there’s still the sound of the engine and the tires. I’m talking about the kind of silence that can be almost frightening in its lack of stimuli.

Total silence is extremely difficult to comprehend unless you have ‘been there.’ Over half a century ago, I slept in a field outside of Oklahoma City. It was August and the sky was jammed with stars; I don’t think I’d ever seen that many stars in my life. It was beautiful; it was August; it was a huge field; it was Oklahoma in the 50’s. You would think that would be silence. Sorry but they have some kind of an annoying beetle that flies around in the Oklahoma summer heat and that damned thing can keep you awake half the night.

Years ago, Northeastern University opened its Warren Center for Recreation in Ashland, Massachusetts. This is country land. It was given to the University by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Warren…he invented the Telechron movement for General Electric clocks. There was a wonderful lake on that land. Anyway, in an effort to improve its relations with the Boston community of which it was a part, the University invited a group of inner city children to spend a week enjoying the outdoors. There were cabins and all the amenities and games that any kid would want to play. A number of the kids were frightened. The reason? It was too quiet. They were so used to the noises of the city that they couldn’t get to sleep.

There is about half an hour in each summer day when you can listen to the silence; you can feel it envelop you. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s the time when even the insects and the birds have yet to rise. Where I am, that time is 3:15 – 3:45 am. Sound wacky to you? Perhaps it is, but here’s a bit of advice; don’t invite your partner or the dog or cat to share it with you…you’ll hear their breathing. That’s how silent that time of the morning can be. No, you will not hear your own breathing; somehow that’s absorbed by the silence. The sound of silence is like nothing you have ever heard. It’s beautiful; it’s calming; it brings with it an inner peace you might never have known you could achieve. If you’ve heard it…sounds funny I know…but if you’ve heard the sound of real silence, you know precisely of what I’m speaking. If you haven’t heard it, you should give it a try. If you happen to be older and have tinnitus, it seems to disappear in absolute silence. Don’t ask me why or how; all the reasons for you to have the ringing are still there but it just seems to go away.

There is one other time when you can hear the sound of silence. This is a more common occurrence, but I don’t believe it’s the same silence. When the ground is fully covered with snow and there is still a light, white blanket falling, well before anyone has gotten up to shovel or the plows and snow blowers are doing their thing, there is the moment of silence and peacefulness that you alone can feel – don’t forget to stick out your tongue to catch a snowflake!

I’m the exact opposite of the kids who went out to the Warren Center. I don’t think I could ever get used to sleeping in an urban environment; I guess if you’re sufficiently exhausted you could sleep anywhere. In fact, I know you could since I’ve slept on both a plane and a train (and in an automobile…even while driving…once).

I strongly urge you to attempt to find silence at least once in your life. You will be amazed at the peace it brings to you. I’m not certain that  silence really is golden as the old quote goes, but it certainly is a beautiful thing to feel.

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We’re all going to die. Make no mistake about that. As one writer put it, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” Personally, I have 78 years under my belt. That’s a pretty long time when you think about it. Not a hell of a lot happened on the day I was born; a Saturday it was. In fact, when I checked it out, it looks like me and a few hundred others might hold the record for one of the dullest days in history…yep, that makes a great deal of sense. Things began to pick up, however; Seiji Ozawa was born on the same date the following year and on my fifth birthday Hitler invaded Poland. The point is that I’ve seen a lot of changes in the time I’ve been alive; I rather like it that way.

Perhaps it’s living to be this old that I get really pissed off when some young life is snuffed out…killed before he or she even started to live. It irritates the daylights out of me that those kids from Littleton, Colorado, Christina Green; the little 9-year old killed in the Tucson Arizona shooting; the one-year old who was killed in North Houston, Texas this past August…that these children will never have a chance to see some of the things that I take for granted every single day. What makes a 29-year old man feel that he can take the life of a 19-year old college student? Did someone name this guy God? Did any of these killers think at all about what they were doing?

I cannot comprehend why these killers are allowed to live. The United States has more people in prisons than any other country in the world. China has a much larger population; they don’t have as many prisons or people occupying them. India has more people, but they don’t have the prison problems. Doesn’t it make you wonder exactly what it is we’re doing to have such overcrowding? I have a very simple philosophy on this. If you take a life, you forfeit your own. Yes, there will be mistakes. Gee, that’s tough, but why were you a suspect in the first place? Is this Judge Dread justice? Absolutely, but it’s no worse than what you have already done to earn a call from the Judge.

“OMG, that’s horrendous thinking,” someone will say.  Others will use their faith as a crutch and ask, “How do you know that they hadn’t already completed their assignment from God and it was ‘their time?’” If you believe that, I guess I must really suck at whatever assignment God gave to me. Can someone look me in the eye and tell me 19-year old Lizzi Marriott had fulfilled her role in life? Can they tell me that the karate instructor who took her life did so because that was his role on earth? I’m terribly sorry, but I believe in the God of the New Testament, the kind, loving, and forgiving God, and I just don’t happen to believe that His parameters for behavior go quite that far.

That one-year old in Houston may have missed taking her first steps; she missed saying her first words; she missed potty training and sleeping in a big girl bed. So tell me what this child’s role was that she lived on this earth for such a brief period of time. At the very least, her killer lived long enough to learn how to shoot a gun.

America is in a bad place. Forget the politicians and the upcoming elections. There are too many angry people living in this country, people who feel that they must kill in order to settle their disputes. When my youngest was in college, a friend of hers was walking home alone, back to campus. A group of three young men confronted him and told him they wanted his jacket. He refused and one of the three took out a gun and shot him dead. He then took the dead kid’s jacket. Why? What for? Did it make him more of a man to kill? Did it make the dead boy a stud because he refused to give up his jacket? Neither makes a hell of a lot of sense, but that appears to be the way things are today.

I have seen so much that these dead children will never see. Just the other day, I watched a man free fall from 23 miles up, break the sound barrier and float safely to ground. We have pumpkins on our front stoop that came from our own garden. I have seen the birth of frozen foods, watched more wars in which American men and women were killed than anyone has a right to watch.  I have lived to ride in propeller airliners and those with jet engines. Who knows what marvels and miracles the next fifty or sixty years will hold…but those children will never see them

It seems to be a pretty low priority on the list of a great many people, but it’s about time America woke up to the fact that we have a crime wave on our hands, like it or not.

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In just a few weeks, the United States will elect or re-elect a President and many members of Congress. Can you just imagine the impact that will have on our nation?  Take a moment and ponder the consequences of just what this will mean to your life…

…Okay, you through considering the above and the implications it has for your daily living? Think about it…no longer will you be subjected to one or two minute advertisements regarding the character or lack thereof of candidate A versus candidate B. No longer will your morning, noon, and evening news viewing begin with an explanation of why one candidate had breakfast of ham and eggs while the other had Wheaties and orange juice…with one percent or skim milk…and ate with a regular spoon or a dessert spoon…and read which newspapers while reading…and got how much milk, juice, egg, or piece of ham on the tie that had to be worn this day for God-only-knows what particular political meaning.

I stand with the farmer from Iowa, the man who was interviewed the other day on national television and said, “I’ll be glad when the political ads are over and we can go back to the animal food and grain ads.” Yassuh, that man clarified things just about as simply as was humanly possible. The politicians and their inane campaigns have dominated the airways, television screens, and mail boxes for damned close to two years now and it’s an absolute disgrace the way some people talk about other people in public; Why, I’ll place a small side bet with any of you – let’s make it a small wager – I’ll bet you $10,000 [oops, forgot the decimal point four places from the right] that whoever gets elected will, in two or four or however many years he or she will get, will still be making excuses and blaming people in the other party for not bringing America back to where she belongs. By the way, where does America belong? Who is it that determines where America belongs? What does that mean, anyway? Does having the greatest number of people in the world behind bars make us “belong?” Does having a gross national date of over $16 trillion help us to “belong?” “Belong,” as America’s politicos’ are so fond of calling it means something different to each and every one of us. If I can put food on the table for my family; if I can keep a roof over their collective heads and have a house that’s warm in winter and cool in summer; if I can walk to the market or drive to the next town, city, or state without having to show papers to some gun-carrying official; if I can buy food in any store I choose; if I can go to a doctor and get good medical care at a reasonable price; if I, if it, if I, etc., then I’m one happy camper. In my own particular case, if I can write essays that are critical of the President of the United States of America or anyone else in government who I happen to believe is messing up and post those essays on the Internet without fear of recrimination, I figure that life is pretty darned pleasant for me. Yes, there are thousands of Americans who go to bed hungry every night; there are thousands of Americans who sleep on park benches, under overpasses, on grates because of the heat generated. These are the people who also dumpster dive for their food and search for returnable cans and bottles just to survive, and I honest-to-God think about those people. There isn’t a hell of a lot I can do for them, but I recognize that those with greater resources than I don’t even bother to think about them, and that pisses me off!

So, where does America “belong?” It belongs right where it is; in debt; with a crumbling infrastructure; polarized almost beyond what it’s been since the “War Against Northern Aggression,”  the “War for Southern Independence;” the “War Between the States;” or any of the nearly 100 other names by which that most costliest of wars  is known. And until we the people wake up and realize that America is made up of people, not parties, we will remain right where we belong…a group of whiny children who don’t even belong on the world stage.

After the elections, there will be other people in trouble. Think about the reporters who will actually have to go out and find news stories to fill the two-hour morning shows. Don’t worry about the noon people; they’ll just cut and paste from the morning shows. The evening news folks may have to work a bit harder, but hell, they, too, can scam something from the morning crowd. How about the space salesmen for television advertising? Sure, they have Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up. There’s really not much they can push for Chanukah or Kwanza although I’m certain they’ll give it a try, but you just can’t make up the money that poured in during the political campaigns; those were the easiest bucks of all!

It’ll be kinda nice to have television back where it was; to have fewer faces to view in the junk mail; to keep my finger away from the mute button on the remote; to return to the good old days when people didn’t call each other liar in public forums. Ah yes, the good old days…

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