Archive for February, 2013

So there I was sitting there, thumb in bum and mind in neutral – that’s just a figure of speech; please don’t take it literally – when I decided to Google a question that had been intriguing me. Certainly, some genius along the way had to have put the answer to my question on the Internet…and it would have to be true because we all know that only the truth makes it to the Net. The question was this: “Where is heaven?” It wasn’t that I was going to take a Sunday drive and wanted to know if I should turn left or right out of the driveway, and it wasn’t that I was going to make reservations…those, I believe, have already been made…or not. I was merely curious about what others might have to say regarding the location of heaven. Can you believe it; in less than a quarter of a second, I had over 381 million references to my question. Is this Internet thingie fast or what? Many of the sites that popped up on my screen cheated to some degree because they discussed the corollary of where heaven is located by also describing the location of hell.

There were all sorts of biblical references to the location of heaven as well as where hell might be found. Isaiah, Revelations, John, Corinthians, Matthew, and nearly any other book of the Bible was quoted by this writer or that. This is fine for those who believe that the Holy Bible – which version I don’t know – but that the Holy Bible is the be all and end all of what we as Christians should expect or understand about God, the Blessed Trinity, and the Holy Mother…as well as everything else. To doubt the bible, we are told, is to doubt God; and to doubt God is not only a bad thing, but it sort of excludes us from any shot at getting into heaven. I don’t happen to see things that way but what the hell, that’s me and I’m just one lonely little soul on earth…for a while longer I hope.

I do doubt the Holy Bible. I have no question at all that it was scribed by brilliant men who believed every word they were writing. I also believe in the old quote, “History is written by the winners.” Who is to say that what is written is not a compromise of what actually took place? Who is to say that women were so subjugated that there are no scriptures written by women? Who is to say that some of those who transcribed or even originally wrote scripture weren’t prone to exaggeration or to the twists and turns of their own minds regarding Christ?

Am I the “doubting Thomas” of whom we hear so much? I most certainly hope that is not true. But then, there are those who believe everything that is printed in today’s newspapers or seen on television…and that’s kind of pathetic. For example, I’m certain that Osama bin Laden is dead. It’s the story of how he died that I question. There are so many versions that I’m not certain which one to believe. Some would say that it doesn’t matter because this horrible man is dead, period, end of report. I’m not one of those; I’d like the complete, unadulterated version by someone who was there and who is not going to attempt to glorify what happened…so there!

Let’s get back to the question of where heaven is located. I think of heaven as a place. Since I haven’t been there – to the best of my knowledge – I really can’t give an adequate description. Were I an avid golfer, I would probably envision the most beautiful fairways and greens with no fees and where my driver could send the ball a nine iron away from the green after every single stroke. Were I an ardent fisherman, I would see a beautiful stream running to an endless lake, where I could cast and get a hit each time. Were I this; were I that, I could spot whatever held my greatest interest and from which I would never tire. But I really don’t know. My personal feeling is that the foundation of heaven is in my heart and in my soul. I build that foundation with the manner in which I treat others as well as the way in which I treat myself. I think that Malcolm Forbes had it right when he said, “You can tell the character of a man by the way in which he treats those who can do absolutely nothing for him.” I believe that the strength of my foundation is truly dependent on treating those ‘others’ as I would like to be treated. Yes, yes, it’s the Golden Rule and very few of us are able to live by it…most assuredly, not yours truly. Perhaps it should have been called “The Golden Guide,” because man is what man is and treating others the way you’d like to be treated just ain’t gonna happen on a regular basis!

Anyway, I believe that the foundation for our house in heaven begins with how we act on earth. When we die, our foundation travels with us, and somewhere the foundation is placed. Where? How the hell do I know; I told you that I haven’t been there – pay attention! With our foundation now gone, we will meet God. He will ask us about our lives on earth, and we will be unable to tell anything but the honest truth. We will not lie because God is God and we will be in such awe of His presence that our words while few, will be without elaboration or exaggeration. My God, the God to whom I will confess my sins – and I will recall each and every one of them as though they happened yesterday – is not a vengeful God. He is a God of Love and Understanding. He will punish, but His punishment will fit the manner in which I lived my life. His guidelines for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven are far different from my own; I cannot even begin to describe what they might be. If, however, my God decides that I am to be welcomed into heaven, my house will appear, fully constructed, perhaps as a shack; perhaps as something “better,” but it will be my house for all eternity. What will it contain? Well, I doubt we’ll be watching HBO or Cinemax. My wish would be that my house be filled with books, just as the golfer wants his fairways just outside his door and the fisherman wants his lake and stream nearby, I want my books. I’d like to spend my eternity reading and learning. Of course, that’s just me. Go build your own place. You are, however, welcome to visit any time.

So where is heaven? Heaven is in you. Where is it when you die? I don’t have a clue and I don’t believe that one of those 381 million on Google have a clue either. All we have to do to learn the exact location is to die, and I’d like to read a few more books down here first.

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Finding Love

“Whatcha doin?”

“Nuttin. Whatchoo doin?”

“Jes hangin’ out.”

“Wanna do somethin’?”

“Like…you know…like somethin’.”

“Like what?”

“How ‘bout…how ‘bout…how ‘bout…we go find some love?”

“Huh…love? Where we gonna find that?”

“I dunno. I’m seven; you’re six…an we’s both smart. I bet we can find some.”

“What do we do if we find it? Can ya eat it; is it like candy?”

“I dunno. Don’t think so. My Mom says that now that it’s warm and sunny that love is in the air. I don’t see it, so I don’t think it’s like candy…’n I sure don’t see it in the air around me and you. But my Mom’s smart as us and if she says it’s here, it’s just gotta be here some place.”

“I gotta idea!”


“You know Mr. Peterson? He’s the one who runs that little store that has everything…you know, the baseball gum, bread, milk…even the good ice cream. You know him, right?”

“Well, yeah. But whas he got to do with findin’ love?”

“Dummy…he’s got everything in that store. Maybe he’s got some love! Leastwise, maybe he knows where we could get some ‘fee don’t have any.”

“Good afternoon boys. It’s nice to see both of you. Your folks know you came up here?

“Mom knows we’re out playin’ Mr. Peterson and she always says we can come to your store.”

“Okay, boys, what’ll be today? Just got a new load of comic books in and even got some of that peach cobbler ice cream. That’s your favorite, isn’t it Billy?”

“Yeah, it is, but Henry and me, we’re lookin’ for somethin’ else. We don’t even know if you have it. Mr. Peterson, we’re lookin’ for some love!”

Whoa, that’s a pretty tall order.  Just what kind of love you looking for?”

“We don’t even know sir. Mom says that love is in the air, but we can’t see it. We thought maybe you’d have it or at least could tell us where we can get some.”

“Billy, Henry, there’s just about a million kinds of love.  You can’t buy it; heck, you really can’t even see it no matter what your Mom might say. Love isn’t really something you can hold in your hand, tho if you’ve ever had a pretty butterfly land in your palm and seen just how beautiful it is, I guess that’s just one kind of love. But let me ask you boys a question: Do you love your Mom and Dad?”

[At this point, you have to imagine the two boys looking at each other. It doesn’t matter how friendly they are, the early stages of machismo are already making themselves known. Finally….]

“Henry, you feel funny when your Mom and Dad hug you and kiss you goodnight; like kinda all warm and safe?”

“Okay, yeah, Mr. P, that’s just how I feel. Howdja know that?”

“How about you Billy…same thing.”

“Well, most of the time, yeah.”

“Do you both hug your folks back when they hug you and kiss you goodnight?”



“Well, boys, that’s the best form of love I can think of right now. You love your folks because, well, because they’re your folks. They feed you and put the clothes on your back and all they ask is that they be allowed to hug you and kiss you every day. Theirs is what we call ‘unconditional love.’ They love you because…hmm…because along with God’s help, they created you. They love you because you’re you.  It’s really hard to explain what love is and what it isn’t. People toss that word around pretty loosely, but I’m willing to bet that every time you see your Mother or your Dad, you get a funny little feeling that tells you everything’s gonna be alright. Isn’t that so?

“That’s love?”

“That’s love, Billy. It’s the love you know right now; I think it’s one of the best kinds of love you’ll ever know. The love of a Mom or a Dad for a son or a daughter is almost indescribable. My kids are all grown up now and they have kids of their own. Henry, I’ve got a grandson just about your age, and his Mom and Dad love him just the same way your folks love you.”

“I’ll tell you what boys; why don’t you each take home a container of that peach cobbler ice cream from the freezer over there; bring it home and give it to your Moms. When you do, say, ‘This is because I love you.’ I think you’ll probably get a better lesson in love from that simple thing than all the words, we’ve had to say here. You be careful going home, now.”

Okay, it’s fiction, but just how do you explain to six and seven year old boys precisely what love is. To most of them, it’s probably just a word. As they grow, they’ll learn other kinds of love. They’ll learn that it can make you want to dance on the clouds, and they’ll learn that it can smack you upside the head and hurt like you don’t believe you’ve ever been hurt before. With luck, they’ll find that thing we call ‘true love’ and it will last throughout their lifetime. But, for this one brief moment in time, Billy Flynn and Henry Hunt learned a lesson from someone they thought knew just about everything.

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“When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.”

The author is unknown, but the sentiment is, for the most part, true.  ‘For the most part’ really depends on the depth of your faith. If you happen to be attuned to Shirley MacLaine, you know that you’ve been here before and will be coming back. If you are like several of my professed atheistic friends, you believe that dead is dead and that’s it. The majority of us are somewhere on a scale of faith. Whether this scale is one to a hundred or one to sixteen trillion – had to get the national debt in there somehow – it doesn’t really matter. For simplification, let’s say that the scale is one to ten. Most assuredly, the Pope, Cardinals, and all the way down to the most recently ordained priest ,minister, rabbi, imam, or whatever would rank right at the top of the scale. Daily communicants and those who attend church regularly in addition to being good people are up around the seven to nine ranking. It’s entirely up to you to figure out where you rank on this scale. To use me as an example…I don’t go to church. The reason is quite simple; I don’t believe in organized religion. I prefer to pray to a God who I am positive exists. In that same vein, I am positive that I will meet God and will have to answer for my sins. From that meeting it will be determined whether or not I am welcomed into the paradise of heaven, am required to spend “time” in purgatory, or confined to the fires of hell for all eternity. That’s my belief. Yours may rank somewhere else, but as I say, it’s for you to figure out.

Getting back to the first statement above, there are many times when someone dies that you, if you believe, should be smiling. You should smile – again, depending on your belief system – because you know that person has gone to a far better place than he or she occupied on earth. I cried when my wife was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer; there is no Stage V. However, I did not cry when she died; at the wake; or at the funeral. My belief system says that she went to a better place.

The last time that I saw my kid brother – eleven years younger than me– he was in a wheelchair and on oxygen. That was nearly ten years ago. He died two days ago. When I talked with his wife this evening, we agreed he is so much better off, wherever it happens to be, than he was while still living. Just as many of you did, I shed tears for the children of Newtown. However, I’m not certain whether my tears were for them or for their families. And why didn’t I cry for the kids from Columbine? Tears don’t help the children or their family so why should I cry? I am confident; I am beyond positive that each of those students and each of those adults who gave their lives to a madman and to two madmen are in a better place.

My personal goal is to live my life in such a way that when I die, people won’t be crying. They will be telling stories and even laughing. They won’t be particularly happy that I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil but they will know that I’ve gone where I wanted to go; that the time was right for me to say, “Hey, I’ll see ya later.”

Given my druthers, I’d like to believe that I’ve tried to live my life with the ultimate goal of the last stanza of “The Dash” by Linda Ellis…”So when your eulogy is being read with life’s actions to rehash, Would you be pleased with the things they say about how you spent your dash?” And I can look at that guy in the mirror and say, “Yes, yes, I’m pleased.”

Let them smile when they look down on you in that box.  Let them recall all of your goodness, and let them be happy for you because they know you have gone to a better place. I’m happy for my late wife, and I’m happy for my kid brother. I want to believe that I’ll see them again but, truthfully, that part of the belief system is one on which I’m still working.

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You know things are bad…

You know things are not going well when you instruct your computer to deal you a winning hand of solitaire…and it refuses! Oh it may allow you to think you have a winner right up until that last moment when you learn that you are unable to turn the one card you require. Have you ever heard a computer laugh? It’s an evil sound. In your heart of hearts – no pun intended – you recognize that perhaps it’s time to crawl between the sheets, cover your head, and wait until the stars and planets realign.

How bad can things get? They raise your Social Security benefit and the tax code changes thereby taking more than you were given as an increase…ya just can’t win! Then there’s always some smartass around to tell you that “money can’t buy happiness;” maybe not but can’t you just give me one shot a trying? They tell me that the love of money is the root of all evil. I’m willing to share some of my love. What’s wrong with that? I told some of my creditors that I refuse to think about money. They said they’d refuse to think about providing services.

You know things are bad when a bird flies – smack – into your picture window, snaps its neck and falls dead on your patio. I kid you not; Juli and I both saw it happen. A day later, while other birds were feeding the seed around the body, a hawk swooped in and carried off a female cardinal…before she’d even finished eating. The dead one was still lying there, stiff as a board because the temperature had dropped the night before. I guess hawks don’t like frozen food.

The sun came out after the blizzard and began to melt the huge piles of snow the plow left after cleaning our driveway. This was great until I looked out the next morning. The snow melt had created a skating rink in the driveway. The garage door was frozen so it didn’t really matter. I’m beginning to think of this as the winter of my discontent.

Just as I was beginning to think things couldn’t get worse, the dog got sick in the family room and let go from both ends simultaneously. Cleanup was a bitch but don’t you dare tell me that Fabreze works on everything! We finally wound up burning incense in about six spots around the room. What’s worse? That room is right next to the kitchen. We had to go out for meals three days in a row…over the skating rink, yet…after blowtorching the garage door open…and damn near burning down the house.

I suppose things could be worse. I know the furnace won’t fail; it cost me sixteen thousand dollars to have a new one put in last month…that certainly put a dent in several months of retirement income…but we’ll be warm…which just exaggerates the smell of dog excrement and vomit…Fabreze my ass!

On the bright side…oh, wait a minute; I have yet to see a bright side. Well, March is just around the corner. Of course, with the way my fortunes have been running, the snakes St. Patrick drove out of Ireland are all going to wind up in my basement!

To hell with it, I’m going back to bed…

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Thankfully, it’s not the flu!

“How do you know these things oh great and wise one?” you ask.

I suppose that I could lie and say because I am great and wise, but with my brain half-fried on codeine-filled cough syrup and the other half waiting to learn when it will take effect, I will be boy scoutish and say that the doctor told me it is not the flu.

I have been reliably informed that what I have is a new and “virulent” strain of rhinovirus…love that word, ‘virulent;’ it sounds so masculine and powerful…but back to our story.

Sometime, over a week ago, I awoke feeling about as unvirulent as a newborn babe; coughing – hacking up a lung on occasion – and raising up phlegm of a lovely greenish tint; no, more green than tint. My POSSSLQ immediately announced that she was no longer interest in sharing my bed and could be found in the guest room…DON’T YOU DARE ENTER! Enter, hell, it was all I could do to make it to the bathroom, and at the rate I began drinking water that was quite often, I had no intention of leaving, what is normally considered ‘our’ bedroom.

Admittedly, like a good little ‘doo-bee,’ I had received my flu shot. I developed a fondness for Purelle and Lysol wipes immediately upon leaving a store and before and after working out. Somewhere, however, I screwed up and picked up this virus. Oh, I should also note that we had begun using a mouth spray that would, supposedly, protect us for six hours from airborne viruses. Cautious, why of course I’m cautious. As we age, our immune system begins to deteriorate. Therefore, we old farts become a bit over-sensitive during flu season and take what we believe to be appropriate precautions. To reiterate what was said above; “I screwed up!”

It finally reached the point where I did contact the doctor. He checked me out; told me that I was perfectly healthy; and to go home and wait this thing out. “It should only last another two to three weeks,” he said, smiling behind his mask. Evidently, this new strain of virus takes a month to go through one’s system. Colds last a fucking week and I have to put up with this for a month? Just who is shitting whom? Everyone in his office was extremely empathetic, but I did hear a few chuckles as I closed the door behind me.

Here is a bit of advice…do not get this virus. I have not felt this miserable with a cold in as far back as I can remember. On the other hand, I have to admit that I haven’t had any kind of a cold for as far back as I can remember. Maybe one just forgets these things.

And so my children, hacking and heaving, eyes crusted nearly closed, snot dribbling down my chin and onto my sweatshirt, I shall leave you, having given fair warning  that this germ is not one you should wish to entertain.  As a New Englander, I am now off to comfort myself by sitting on the couch, looking out through the floor to ceiling windows at the freaking blizzard that is about to descend upon us. And, of course, I happen to live in the “two plus feet” area. Thank God I don’t own a bloody shovel!

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I’m common.

Don’t much care for the word, but when you boil the whole thing down, that’s about the best you can say; I’m common.

I mean, well, if I was royalty…then I wouldn’t be common; I’d be royalty…but I’m not…just common.

There’s really nothing wrong with being common. You go through life; you live; you work; you do some other things—perhaps get married and have kids; grow old and have grandkids. Then you die. “There he goes…another common man gone to feed the worms. Too bad they buried him in a suit; somewhat of a waste of good clothing, dont’cha think? I mean, if he was royalty, they’d bury him in royal clothes, but he’s not…so they bury him in a suit. Probably could just as well have buried him in his pajamas…wouldn’t have made a helluva lot of difference; after all, he is a common man…and don’t common men wear pajamas when the go off to sleep?”

Being common isn’t all that bad. I stand little chance of being assassinated because of my political views. It’s presidents and movies stars, rock idols and rappers…they’re the ones who get assassinated. Being a common man means you just have to worry about getting run over by a bus or pushed off a subway platform by someone who doesn’t like the color of your hair or skin or maybe even the socks you’re wearing, but, by-and-large, because I’m the common man, I don’t have to worry about that. Throw in the fact that I’m a 78-year old common man and hell, they don’t even want me as a hostage in a bank robbery. “He’s not only common; he’s old!”

Being common, I go through life looking at other common men. Sometimes, I ask myself, “Is that really another common man, and I watch…and I reach a conclusion…and I decide that ‘yes,’ that’s just another common man.” I also look at common women. To a common man, no woman is common; however, that’s an essay probably best left for another time.

Being common isn’t a bad thing you know. Actually, being common can be a good thing because if others see you as common, they don’t have great expectations of you…”Oh, here he comes, Mr. Common Man; we’ll just let him walk on by because he’s just…common.”

There is, of course, something wrong with this common man thing. It’s wrong because while I may be common, that doesn’t mean that I’m a useless piece of hay to be stacked onto the pile until a needle comes along and makes the hay pile famous. No, a common man such as I stood on Lexington Green and fired rifles at the British. We didn’t mind being common but we did mind if someone else tried to tell us how to live. I was that common man who slogged through the mud and died on a field in a place called Gettysburg because I believed that no one tells me that I can’t have slaves if I want them and can afford to have them. I’m that common man who went to France…a couple of times as a matter of fact; the first time I went, it was to help stop what German submarines were doing to shipping in the North Atlantic… at least that’s why I think I was there. When I went the second time, the reasons were much clearer; I was there because some common man by the name of Adolph Hitler didn’t wish to remain common. It was sort of a bad move on his part. It was also something of a bad move on the part of Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor where my country’s Pacific Fleet was moored. I was there, too; and I remain there as one of the 948 crewmen who are entombed aboard the USS Arizona.

You see, common man is not as common as we think we are. Yes, it’s true that we can’t stand up there with Mr. Edison or Mr. Ford, or Mr. Gates. Ours is not the uncommonness of a Lindsay Lohan, Marilyn Monroe, Fifty Cent or JayZ. We can’t hold a candle to world figures. The only thing that we can do is be common; oh, yeah…and get the job done.

Think about it; it’s the common soldier, sailor, pilot, or marine who allows us to sleep comfortably in our beds each night. Those who rant and rave in Congress don’t have a damn thing to do with it….well, some of them used to be common man.

It’s the Jerry Hurley’s and the Frank Foley’s of this world, common men, who do things that keep the rest of us safe. These two Boston Police Bomb Squad officers paid a high price. Hurley lost his life and Foley an eye trying to defuse a bomb meant to kill another. Just a couple of common men doing a very uncommon job to protect the life of another.

Common man is everywhere. She’s the checker at the Walmart or Raley’s or Roche Bros. He’s the mechanic who tells you that your brake pads are worn and you probably should get them taken care of before going on any trips. She’s the cardiologist who acted quickly enough to save your mom’s life when the chest pains hit and you drove mom to the hospital.

In some regard, we’re all common. We don’t appear on the evening news We aren’t one of the talking heads who flaunt the fact that they can read a teleprompter along with the best of them. Perhaps the Constitution of the United States says it best…”We the people…”

Yep, that’s us; we’re just ‘the people;’ the common people. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good group of which to be a part. We’re the ones who built the railroads across this country. We’re the ones who have made America. Oh, sure, the bankers and the industrialists and the big businessmen think they were responsible. Funny, I didn’t see a one of them in the coal shafts or driving the railway spikes. That was all done by people who were common.

Come to think of it, maybe it should read that we’re uncommonly common…yeah, that sounds even better.

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