Archive for June, 2015

Strap Up

“So…what bug you got up your butt today?”

“What makes you think I’ve got a bug up my butt?”

“Either that or you need more fiber and that woman with the Phillips shitter!”

“Don’t be rude; it’s called a laxative…and no, I’m not constipated.  Pissed a bit, yeah, but no constipation.”

“And what, pray tell, has pissed you off this time…religion, politics, Venus and Jupiter dancing together, or the fact that you can no longer walk a mile, much less run one? There, have I covered all of the bases?”

“You forgot people.”

“Uh-oh, I’m almost afraid to ask…that subject’s as broad as it is long as it is wide as it is high. Who’s making your skin crawl today?”

“Irresponsible parents; irresponsible teenagers, irresponsible legislators…in general, irresponsible people. They just piss me off!”

“Okay, swami, lay it on me.”

“People who don’t wear bicycle helmets have to have a death wish. If you fall off your bike or get knocked off, you have a reasonably good chance of hitting your head somewhere in your trip to the ground.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa…why?”

“Velly simple, grasshopper. The head is the heaviest part of the human body and it will tend to begin or complete any type of fall…I think. The head weighs anywhere from seven to eleven pounds. The brain is only around a couple of pounds, but then you have the skull, the eyes, the teeth, and all the muscles and skin. Combined, they’re pretty heavy. So, if this heaviest part of the body falls or gets knocked off a bicycle, that head is going to get hit; that brain is going to get rattled or worse, and it’s all so goddamned unnecessary.

“Every day, I see kids on bikes, fast bikes, those umpty-ump bikes that can fly, and they’re wearing baseball caps or nothing at all on their heads. The stupidity of it all is that there’s protection out there for these people and they or their parents don’t take advantage of it. I saw a guy on my street the other day. He was riding with his kids. The kids all had helmets. I stopped and asked him what would happen if he fell and the kids saw his head split open and his brains all over the street?”

“Holy shit! Did he come after you?”

“Nah, I was in the car anyway. He comes after me; I slow down; wait til he’s close, and slam on the brakes. Then, the kids could see what I was talking about.”

“You’re joking?”

“Ah….okay, I’m joking. But no, the guy was kinda embarrassed. He told me I was right and told the kids that they were going home.

“I compare bike helmets to seat belts. They may not save your life, but they give you something of a better chance of survival. I mean, come on, is your kid’s life worth twenty-five fifty bucks? Is your life worth that much? There are still plenty of people who don’t use seat belts. They’re usually the ones who get ejected in an accident…fly right through the windshield…whee…right into a tree…or worse, a telephone pole…see ya!”

“You are one sick puppy.”

“It’s not sick at all. It would be so simple to save a few lives or prevent a few kids or just people from becoming vegetables because they rattled their brain around a little too much. State legislators are so busy with bullshit laws that they can’t see the potential for this good one that’s staring them right in the face. What’s the relative cost of saving a person’s life or paying for a funeral? It’s a no-brainer. Helmets should be required for bicycle riders just the way seat belts and motorcycle helmets are required. Doesn’t it just make sense?”

“Makes sense to me, man. Gotta run.” Straps on a bicycle helmet. “Gotcha on this one, dude!”

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Being told that, “You don’t know your ass from your elbow,” is something of a senseless criticism; in addition to which, I really do know. However, no matter how hard I try, I have difficulty understanding why we ever invaded Iraq or Afghanistan. I mean, c’mon, there have been nearly 7,000 troops killed in those two countries since our insurgency into lands about which we know absolutely nothing. That’s 7,000 sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers who won’t get married or have kids and grandkids. That’s 7,000 parents who won’t ever see their loved ones alive again. That’s 7,000 lives that were pissed away…and for what? Is it because we in America think we know better than the people who have lived on that land for thousands of years? Is it because we believe that, somehow, those people were responsible for what happened in New York on September 11, 2001? Call me an idiot, but I really believe that America’s foreign policy and our approach to a professional defense force are a bit more than all screwed up.

Osama bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian, planned the attack on the World Trade Center towers. The bulk of the attackers were Saudi Arabians. Why attack Iraq? Our government tells us that the terrorists trained there. Oh, didn’t they also train in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Florida? Should we have attacked those states too? Of course not; not any more than we should have attacked Iraq because a bunch of Saudis maybe trained in that country. And, when America finally killed Osama, where was he? It sure as hell wasn’t in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Saudi Arabia. It was in our friendly neighbor of Pakistan. My only reaction to that is…what the fuck?

When we finally got into the war against Germany, it was because they had declared war on us. In addition, we didn’t care for all their land grabbing or their desire to rule Europe. The Japanese were another story; they came at us directly because we had pissed them off. This I can see. These are reasons to go to war. Korea was a United Nations “peace-keeping action” which didn’t lead to peace and was largely fueled by American military. Vietnam was just plain stupid and both Kennedy and Johnson should have had more brains and balls than to let it escalate, “red menace,” or not, but Americans so often think short-term that the intelligence of their decisions should really be questioned at times.

In the case of the Middle East, however, we’re messing with stuff about which we have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever.  History in that part of the world doesn’t go back to 1776 or even to 1620. Their history goes back into the triple digits and before, and that’s how they like and want it. Are there modern and civilized peoples living in the Middle East? Of course there are. Those aren’t the people who want to fight. It’s the ignorant ones who will strap bombs to themselves and walk into a market stall and blow up themselves and all around them just to prove whatever point they believe they are proving. They kill people just because they aren’t from the same tribe. That’s like the people of Oregon attacking the people of Idaho because they’re against eating potatoes or something equally stupid.

So what are we doing still fighting over there? If you believe our own government, it’s so we won’t have to fight them over here. You’re shitting me, right? Shoe bombers, underwear bombers, and hijacked airplanes are going to happen all over again…is that what you’re telling me? Then I tell you this: Reduce the number of troops in those Middle Eastern countries to zero. Get. Out. Of. The. Middle. East. Bring the troops home; reduce the defense budget; invest in technology; put cameras on every telephone pole in America; man them with military men and women; and shoot anyone who looks suspicious! Ridiculous? Of course it is, but it’s a hell of a lot better than sending home nearly 7,000 American bodies in caskets. It would also provide some jobs for some of our wounded veterans whose disabilities make them unable to do a hell of a lot more than keep an eye out for potential terror or criminal threats. Oh, are you saying that this would be an invasion of privacy; is this what you’re telling me? Why are you worried about that? Do you have something to hide? You don’t believe that if the federal government wanted to learn your innermost secrets, they would have a problem doing so? Grow up! This is the 21st Century. There is no such thing as privacy anymore. Either accept it or go where you believe such a thing still exists…or…kill yourself…but that’s a rather drastic alternative.

I am as pained as the next that we have reached the point in our civilization where Big Brother has access to that most valued of rights, our privacy. Nonetheless, I’m also not sufficiently paranoid as to believe that Barry Obama, Joe Biden, John Kerry, or even Charlie Baker really give a damn about me. They have enough to concern them. There are groups of people in this country who actually hate the government, any government; they don’t want to be governed. However, there are certain rules and regulations that we, as a nation, have decided should be followed, so those government haters can join the privacy paranoids and find that Utopia somewhere to live out the rest of their useless lives. As for me, I’ll smile at the camera; flip off the next one; and I’ll moon the third…got to keep those folks on their toes, and if it prevents one terrorist from killing one more American, I’ll go to my grave a happy man.

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“Politicians and babies should be changed every so now and then, and often for the same reason.” The quotation has been attributed to Thomas Jefferson, although Ronald Reagan used it in one of his presidential speeches. The quote actually applies to many people and situations, and now I have learned that it also applies to many of the flags of our 50 states.

There has been a great deal of bitching, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over the Confederate flag flying over the state capitol in Columbia, South Carolina. Here’s a news flash…that isn’t the official flag of the state. The actual flag depicts a crescent moon and a palm tree – I think it’s a palm, or maybe it’s a palmetto – on a blue background. It was adopted on September 28, 1861. It’s dull; it’s deadly…well, that may be a poor choice of words, but if a flag is supposed to depict the excitement of its state, South Carolina needs an upgrade…and not just to SC.2. They have to jump all the way to SC.21; after all, we are living in the 21st Century.

There was an article in The Washington Post recently. A columnist tore every state flag apart. While not piece by piece, she did have a disparaging remark to make about each of the flags. As I read the article and studied the flags, my first thought was, “What a bitch!” but then I realized, “She may be onto something here; these flags really suck!” However, all of the controversy over the Confederate flag flying over Columbia isn’t even about a state flag. It denotes something else. If you’re a southerner, it means southern pride; if you happen to be black or from a non-slave state, it is a symbol of violence and the horrible treatment of one race of people, and it should be removed.

Aha, now we’re beginning to see the two sides to the same story. On the one hand, we have patriotism; on the other we have hatred. Which is correct? Are either correct? Are they both correct? I’m opting for the latter, ie., that both groups…those who want the flag to remain and those who wish it removed…are, in fact, right. There is the pride of calling oneself a “southerner,” such as in the song, “My Home’s in Alabama,” by Alabama or “Southern Pride,” by Matt Dylan or any one of hundreds of country songs that reflect a loyalty to state, county, or town. On the other hand, the south equates, to some people, both black and white, with the Ku Klux Klan, with attacks on freedom riders who were trying to register voters, with lynchings of black men and women who were perceived to have broken some unwritten southern rule, and with a perception of slowness supposedly illustrating uneducated or a low level of intelligence.

Hell, the only state that still has the Confederate flag as a part of their state flag is Mississippi. Georgia did have the flag as a part of its state emblem until 2001, but it was removed. In examining the flags of our various states, it’s not all that difficult to understand why they have been adopted. However, each and every one of them could use an update to reflect the status of state in the 21st Century.  Only four states have flags that were designed on or after 2000; Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah.  Don’t get me wrong…there is no bigger ‘history must be preserved’ buff than I, but some of these flags just invite smartass remarks. Alabama, with its big red ‘X’ or whatever the hell that’s supposed to be is, in and of itself, a joke. Hell, the flag they flew during the Civil War was more attractive than the current obscenity! The flag of Hawaii appears as though the state thinks it may still be part of the British Empire.

Do I believe state flags should be changed every Century? Yes, possibly. Certainly, they should be reviewed periodically to determine whether or not they accurately reflect the current status of the state. During my career in higher education, I worked for seven college presidents. Only one did not wish to have the logo of the institution changed. The seals of the institutions were inviolable. They were created when the institutions were begun. The logotypes, however, depicted the current vision of the institution. Some might say the same is true of the states; I don’t believe that. Most state flags were created for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. One dates back to 1845. Every state flies the Stars and Stripes. If we are to say and believe that we are “united,” wouldn’t it be a good idea to incorporate some variant of our national emblem with our state’s emblem?

The state flag of Massachusetts could probably use some updating. The motto, “By the Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty,” was fine when the Pilgrims first hit the rock, but it seems to me that we might consider an update. In addition, the last time I saw an Algonquin Indian in Massachusetts was…ah…let me see…nevah! I’m certain there are still descendents of the many tribes that used to populate our state, but to select one group of people as representing an entire state – any state – is to potentially offend other groups, ergo, take people out of the equation. From the Berkshires to the tip of Cape Cod, the symbols of Massachusetts are myriad. The same is true, I believe, of every state in the Union.

Perhaps it would be an idea to hold design competitions to bring our state flags up-to-date, incorporating part of our entire national emblem with something or things that are of great significance to the particular state. Sounds like a plan to me; what about to you?

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Advice…People give you more goddamned useless advice. “Now, when you retire, you should…” “When I retired I had a lot of fun doing…” Bullshit, you don’t know me; you don’t know what would or would not please me, so please, please, please, keep your advice.

I never said that of course. People think they’re doing you a favor by telling you what worked for them; what made them happy. They’re well-intentioned, it’s true, but retirement or the mere thought thereof is sufficiently traumatic. It’s worse, I suppose, if there is some kind of policy that says one has to retire at a certain age. In my own case, I left voluntarily when I was just over 63, recognizing that if I had to wait for two years, I would either have been fired or jailed for assault. I didn’t care for the person that replaced my boss, and I’m the type who tends to speak his mind, ergo, things would not have gone well…for him or for me.

The only good bit of advice that I ever received concerning retirement was this: “Be sure you have something to do that you can do for the rest of your life.” It’s simple and it’s the best advice anyone could ever give. Whatever “it” may be, one should have experimented with it prior to retirement. Few things would have made me happier than to see some parts of the world that my son had spoken of but I knew long before retirement that Florence, Paris, and several other cities would be out of the question. When you have bad knees and a back that’s been through three surgeries, you will, if you’re smart, forget about extensive travel. Documentaries and computer research may not be the same thing, but they can serve a very useful purpose, and if you try hard enough, they’ll fill the bill. Taking up a sport in retirement can only cause frustration and has the potential for injury that is an unnecessary risk. If one is already committed to golf or tennis, great, but to take it up after one retires is a questionable decision.

One of the most interesting things about retirement lies in the question, “How long will I live in my retirement?” If one retires because of illness, great, you have some idea of how long you’ll smell the roses before you’ll smell the roots; if not, it’s a guessing game. Based on my own history, I wouldn’t have bet on anything beyond a few years. Things do have a way of changing as we all know, and I’ve been retired now for damn near 20 years…who’d evah have thunk it? If I was to give advice to anyone about this facet of life, I’d say, “Plan to live to 100; anything more than that’s a bonus; anything less is probably what you were thinking in the first place.” As Dr. Wayne Dyer writes in his book, Your Erroneous Zones, “Look over your shoulder; you have a constant companion. For want of something better, call it your own death. You can keep looking over your shoulder, in which case death will catch up to you more quickly, or you can forget that death is even back there and just plunge ahead.” It’s wonderful advice from a man who appears to know of what he speaks.

Now I’m doing the same thing that I cursed in the first sentence of this little essay. Therefore, let me add this: My advice is just as useless as the next person’s. What I tell you is what has worked for me; you may well say, “Yuck, what an asshole; I would never do that stuff,” and that’s fine, but, and it’s a major but, it is imperative that you not sit back on your ass and watch television all day. This will kill you probably faster than anything. Your body goes to pot; you get into the snack thingie, and the next thing you know, diabetes comes a calling. I became a member of a gym. In addition to the physical exercise, I’ve made a number of friends. They are people with diverse backgrounds and they have become my teachers. I’ve learned philosophy from a man who was the headmaster at a private school and who still teaches there. I’ve learned about plumbing from a man who has his own company. I’ve learned travel first hand from a woman who travels all over the world and returns to share her experiences. The learning tree at the gym has more branches than one can count…and it’s like a “workout classroom.”

I’ve also learned the joys of gardening from my companion, Juli. We have both flowers and vegetables, and although the growing season is short in New England, there is plenty of time for salad-makings, including lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, radishes, and croutons…of course you don’t grow croutons, ya damned fool…I was just testing you.

Writing has been a wonderful outlet. There are over 950 essays on this site. Some are pretty bad; others, at least in my alleged mind, aren’t half bad. The two in which I take great pride are She is Gone and The Final Epitaph. While they won’t win any Pulitzer or Peabody Awards, I’d like to think that they show some depth of thinking on my part. Therefore, if you find the idea of writing about your own experiences or any piece of fiction with which you can have some fun, go to it!

If you happen to be a reader, get a Kindle or some other tablet.  Sure, turning pages and the smell of the paper are great, but the Kindle or Nook are lighter and carry more books than you’ll probably read in a lifetime. Pick up a craft; real men can do cross stitch and latch hook and lapidary [look it up].

Retirement means, as a friend told me, that you’ll be able to spend more time looking at the useless catalogs and second class mail addressed directly to you or just to ‘resident.’ It also means that you can now take the time to smell those flowers everyone used to tell you to do when you were working. They do smell pretty darned good. Whatever you elect to do, keep busy, have more than you can accomplish, and listen to a few good jokes every day. Laughter is food for the soul so laugh often and laugh ‘til you cry!

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Despite what some people may think…and even say at times, I was not around when the Civil War was being fought. A number of people in some of the southern states refer to it as the War for Southern Independence or the War Between the States. I have not spent a great deal of time in any of the southern states. Yes, I spent eight plus months working in Washington, D.C., and living in an Army barracks in Virginia, but my exposure to southern living has been, to say the very least, limited.

Working in the Pentagon, we soon found out how many of the younger people felt about a unit from Massachusetts. “Go home, ya damn Yankees,” we were told by many of the young women working near us. Other comments were not as kind. The New England accent is distinctive and easily identified, and whether we were in uniform or in civilian clothing, we were quickly picked as not only from the north but from a hated part of the north.

All of this is merely a preface to one simple comment…”The Civil-fucking-War is over; we won; you lost; get over it!” It would appear that too many people in the south don’t wish to get over it. They hate white northerners; they hate blacks; they hate integration – except when black players give them high rankings in football polls from peewee to high school to colleges and universities – and they can tell you every Confederate victory that ever took place during the War to Suppress Yankee Arrogance.

Yes, without question, enlightened blacks and whites in the south recognize that we are “…one nation, under God…” but there are still far too many who cannot accept change. Why, for example, does the Confederate flag fly over the state house in South Carolina? It is the only southern state that still does so. Some would call it a symbol of southern pride…and perhaps it is…to some. I call it a symbol of everything that was fought against during that most tragic of conflicts; a symbol of hatred, bias, and bigotry; a symbol of white supremacy; a symbol of “We want a return to slavery or at least to keep the black man down and down let him better himself because in our minds, he’s not even a human being.” Where the hell is this attitude coming from? Is this something they teach in school? Or perhaps is this something that has been passed on down by ignorance and fear; ignorance of a world that has changed; fear that black freedom will mean black rule? There is a stupidity here that I find offensive and really find difficult to comprehend…and frankly, I’m too old and too tired to try to comprehend it.

Vigils are being held in South Carolina and in many other churches around the United States.  For the most part, they’re bullshit. “I hope the TV cameras catch me in the audience or laying flowers at the site of the shootings.” Within a month, it will be back to business as usual. Some other heinous crime will occur somewhere else and the spotlight will shift along with the television cameras and the news reporters who will make outrageous claims. They may even make comparisons between what has happened wherever to what happened in Charleston or Newtown or elsewhere, but no significant actions will be taken to correct the problem of race relations in our country. After all, Ferguson, New York, and Baltimore have certainly faded into oblivion pretty damned fast.

Am I being a ‘baiter’ or a ‘racist’ or some other name in order to foment racial unrest or a hatred of people in the south? Nope, I’m just being an old man who’s seen all of this crap before and has lived long enough to know that when politicians decry something so terrible, it means they’re on the campaign trail and this is just another opportunity to garner votes. If that Confederate flag is not removed from the state capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina within the next two weeks, I will openly proclaim Governor Nikki Haley a racist and a bigot. What the hell will it take for her to understand just how hateful and fear-filled that symbol of The War for Southern Freedom really is?

We live in the United States of America. What don’t people in South Carolina understand about that word, “United?” There are a great many things that need fixing in this nation of ours; many are just my personal beefs against this group or that; against local, regional, and national policies. However, I’m not about to go out and purchase a gun and go kill the people I feel are responsible for the things I don’t like. This is America where I can march in front of town hall, the state capitol, or even somewhere near the White House if that happens to be my desire. That’s my right; that’s part of my freedom in this country. Killing others because you don’t like the color of their skin or because you believe that as a group they have grown too powerful is not a right; it’s a crime, and because it’s a crime in the USA, the assassin will receive due process. See how fortunate he is to live here!

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So, Dylann Roof was afraid that black people were taking over the world. Well, maybe that’s just not such a bad thing after all. I can hear the screams now…”Are you out of your friggin’ mind?” “Oh, come on, you can’t be serious!” “Didn’t you see all of those shootings in Dorchester and who committed them?” “Yeah, right, and all those black gangs would be taking over our neighborhoods and killing all the white people; that’s what would happen you idiot.”

Yep, possibly true. But why is it true? It’s true because a minority of the minority make all of the headlines because of their actions. I have seen the riots; I have seen the black banners; I have heard the yelling and screaming, and; I have seen the way in which we ‘educated’ whites have treated “uppity n___as” for over 200 years.

Despite all of our legislation; despite all of our efforts to integrate blacks and whites, nothing seems to be working. In one of the most advanced civilizations in history, we cannot overcome something as seemingly simple as two races living together in some kind of harmony. Even when we elected a black president, there was sufficient racism in the legislative branch – and other branches – to stop any kind of progress from being made. Anyone who tries to tell me that racism isn’t behind the gridlock in Washington is a goddamned liar! “We won’t let him get anything passed in the House.” Those are as close to an exact quote as I can remember from one Representative. “Him,” the word was “him,” and who was “he?” He was the first black President of the United States.

America was not ready to accept anything other than a white person for the Presidency. It is doubtful that America will ever be ready for anything but a white presidency. It’s too ingrained in us over our two hundred plus year history to accept anything else. We are creatures of habit; we are NIMBY’s such as there has never been. We talk of how we have advanced our civilization by trying new things, and that’s true, we have. But we sure as hell don’t want to disturb the status quo when it comes to the who of how we govern. Someone said to me, “When the Obama’s leave the White House, they’ll take all the china and silverware.” The person was only half joking. Why? Because that is the impression too many of us have of men and women in the black community. Wait a minute; who gambled away the White House china? Why it was President Warren G. Harding. How many alcoholic white presidents have we had? Too goddamned many. How many wheeler-dealer crooks have we had in the White House? Too goddamned many.

I have no sympathy for Dylann Roof; don’t get me wrong. Certainly, trying to start a race war is not the answer to bringing this country together. He deserves to pay the ultimate price for his actions. My gut feeling is that if he has already confessed to these murders, there is no reason for a trial. “That’s not the American way!” Bullshit…why isn’t it the American way? Why waste time and money to satisfy the blood lust that the media will create over this senseless and heinous act? The same should have been true with the Marathon bomber, the theatre killer, the one who shot Gabby Gifford and others, as well as Edward Hinckley. You did it; we saw you; you pay for your actions in the same manner as your actions. Within 24 hours of your capture, you are on your knees with two shots behind the ear. “Oh, my God, how brutal; how you can even think such a thing; this isn’t China where they do that. This is America; we’re not savages@” Oh, really, what would you call the people I’ve listed above…preachers of God?

Over the past 15 years I’ve watched this country begin to come apart at the seams. Statisticians tell us that crime is going down…and we’re supposed to believe their bullshit! The FBI, the Justice Department, this one and that one tell us how we’re better off than we were a couple of decades ago. Guess what, I don’t believe them. I think they are covering their butts and lying to us. Perhaps it’s because when something like Charleston or Newtown happen, it makes a big splash. Perhaps the media is doing a “better” job of covering the sexual assaults that are taking place on our city and suburban sidewalks and homes. I don’t know what it is, but things sure look pretty fucked up to me.

So what are we looking at for the future? Dylann Roof will go on trial, be convicted and when his execution date comes – somewhere in the next 10 years because of all the automatic appeals – the whole thing will be rehashed and America will once more be told that we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior, the population will be up in arms once more. Will any action have been taken to sort out the potential Dylann Roof’s in our society? No! Will any action have been taken in an attempt to control who and how guns are distributed? No. Will the NRA still own Congress? Yes. Will people still be going on rampages of killing children, classmates, adults of all colors? Yes.

Do I have reasonable solutions to all of these problems? No, not to all of them, but I have a few thoughts:

  • Any member of Congress who takes money from any lobby should be immediately ousted from his or her seat in that law-making body.
  • Members of the House of Representatives should not be allowed to serve any more than six terms. If they cannot get the job done in twelve years, it’s time to go.
  • Senators should be allow to serve two terms in office. Once more, twelve years in Congress is quite enough.
  • Certain lobbies are so powerful that they should be disbanded in some way, shape, or form. These include the tobacco, public utilities, pharmaceutical, gun advocacy, and several other vote-buying bastards who serve no useful purpose in our government.
  • Certainly our jails are overcrowded. We do not possess the laws to discourage crime. Opponents of the death penalty maintain that the threat of such punishment is not a deterrent, and they may well be right. However, have we ever really tested this? One execution every ten or twelve years is not testing. Executions every day for a couple of months might get a few bad guys to change their minds about committing a serious crime.
  • The Second Amendment, at least to me, means that if you own a gun, you do so to protect yourself and your home and that you are a part of a militia to guard the country. Fine, let’s put you to the test. If you voluntarily purchase or possess a gun, you will be trained and sent to wherever the United States is engaged in a ‘police action,’ or whatever we’re calling our conflicts these days. You will serve one year in a front line unit. If you survive, you will be allowed to keep your weapon when you return. However, you will not be allowed to keep an automatic weapon or more than 100 rounds of ammunition.

These are very rough plans and will have to be worked out…by whom? Aha, therein lies the rub. Who creates and who enforces these rules and regulations? Won’t be me; I plan to be dead. Good luck, America; you’re going to need it!

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Water pressure?

I’m no authority on water pressure but…

[Damned right you’re not…probably not an authority on a helluva lo…]

Excuse me but why are you interfering with my es…

[Interfering, you say; interfering, I’m not. You trying to make a damned fool of yourself over water pressure and me just mindin’ my own busi…]

Whoever is typing…I do wish you’d stop. I’m trying to say something here!

[I think you already said it. You’re no authority on…]

Okay, that’s it. Cut with the typing or I’ll tear up the page. There; how do ya like that?

[Excuse me dipstick…but you’re typing on a computer screen. You can’t very well take the paper off the screen and scrunch it up…what a jerk!]

True enough, but I can easily delete whatever you have to say on the subject. How ‘bout them apples?

[Please…don’t revert to quoting Matt Damon. Good Will Hunting was just a mov…]

I wasn’t quoting anyone but me, asshole, and stop interfering…please.

[Ooh, reverting to foul language; not nice; not nice at all. You should be ashamed of yourself.]

Me? Me ashamed of myself? What about you? You type lines of gibberish every time I try to make an intelligent statement abou…

[…about what? About water pressure? Why does anyone even give a damn about water press…]

Okay, smartass, since water pressure, or lack thereof, which is what I was going to discuss, about what do you wish to speak?

[Oooh, nice touch…not ending a sentence with a preposition; very good.]


[Give me a minute; I’m thinking. I-am-thinking]

Don’t take too long; we’re running out of paper.

[Got it! How about the number of Republicans who have already said that they’re going to run for Presi…}

Been there; done that. Besides, if you talk about one, you have to give equal time to all of them, and since the front runner, Jeb Bush probably won’t have any real competition but hasn’t declared, do you really want to talk about Bobby Jindal and the rest of the half a percenters?

[Careful, you mentioned one; don’t you now have to mention everyone?]

Okay…Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Car….

[Stop right there.}

What? Why?

[Just a quickie about Ted Cruz. You know how he always says he’s going to open with a joke and it’s  always “Joe Biden.” Can you believe that tasteless jerk did it on the day after Biden’s son, Beau, died? Talk about someone in need of sensitivity training. The guy’s a real jerk!]

May I go on?

[No, you’ve said enough.]

It seems to me that water pressure was probably a safe subject to discuss. Anything else just seems to piss people off. Would you agree?

[I think you might just have a point.]

And since I’m not going to discuss water pressure, and I really don’t like discussing politics or religion, it leaves us very little. Just as a few asides…We’re already eating strawberries from our garden; the squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers seem to be doing fine, along with the jalapeno peppers. The walls in the two rooms that were severely damaged by ice dams are just about ready for painting, and the wheels on the bus are still going round and round.

[Yeah; life’s really a bitch, ain’t it?]

Matter of fact, life’s pretty damned good. It all depends on how you live it. You want to look at the down side all the time, sure, life could be viewed as a bitch. You want to look at it another way, you’re gonna get your rose-colored glasses knocked about a bit. However, I’d rather count the blessings I have rather than the illnesses I’m fighting or the fact that I don’t see the grandkids…or the kids for that matter…as often as I’d like. Ya see, God’s blessed me with the ability to ride a bike and to walk a little ways; there are lots of people who can’t do that. I still have my eyesight so I can appreciate the beauty of the yellow, pink, coral, red, and multi-colored roses that Juli puts in a vase every few days; speaking of which, I have Juli. How He ever got us together, I will never know, but somehow He did it. I have my sense of smell, so those flowers aren’t just pretty, they smell good. I can turn on the television set so my hands are working and I can hear what’s bein’ said, so the ears are still okay. I saw a man younger than me today and he was using a walker. How do ya think that makes me feel…pretty damned blessed I’ll tell ya. I have a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head. I have change in my pocket and a car on which there are no notes. Water pressure? Screw the water pressure. I have a woman who loves me, friends who e-mail me, and my God who is always with me. You don’t have to think about or even believe in Him. I do and He makes me happy. What the heck more could I ask for?

[Amen, Richard, amen.]


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What next?

So they now have a little pink pill that they think will increase a woman’s libido. The key word here is “think,” because the sample used in the research study was reasonably small, and the side effects were unusually…well, let me just say that the guy might enjoy it, but the woman might sleep through the whole damned experience. Hmmm, sounds a bit like necrophilia to me, but then, I wouldn’t have been part of the study for rather obvious reasons. I mean, come on; you can’t drink alcohol if you take the pink pill; it might cause vomiting…oh, that would be nice…all in the mood and suddenly…GAACK!. It is possible that there are greater mood killers, but off the top of my head…or the middle of my stomach, or even the bottom of my feet, I really can’t think of much worse. Picture this: You’re at a bar with a young woman you just met; the two of you really hit it off; I mean really, really hit it off. She asks if you’d like to go back to her apartment, and you – ever the eager studley male – readily accept. She says, “Wait a minute, I just want to pop this pill.” You somehow make it to her place without incident, and she excuses herself…you think she’s going to slip into something more comfortable when you hear…GAACK! Okay, the mood isn’t completely shattered, but then everything goes silent. Being the curious type, you peek into her boudoir and there, passed out completely and purring like a contented cat is your ‘sure thing.’ Pardon me, that’s not a contented cat; it’s a locomotive going off the tracks. You, being the gentleman, you’ve always been, find a blanket, cover your date, and slip gently away. End of story…and for all of you perverts out there, I will repeat, you cover the young lady and retreat.

It seems to me that the “little pink pill” needs a few more studies before it’s released onto an unsuspecting public, particularly with the side effects that are already being discussed and sound disgusting.

So boys it’s back to the tried and true, and No, I am not talking about spiking your date’s drink with some damned rooffie or whatever the hell they’re called. I’m talking about two willing partners who, “when the mood is right,” head for the twin bathtubs after he pops a Cialis. I have a real problem, a genuine conundrum with the twin bathtub thing in the Cialis commercials. You see, I fathered three children. My wife and I never did “it” in a bathtub. We lay in bed together and created life…I guess you’d have to say, “The old fashioned way.” I’m not certain but it would seem to me that if the couple in the ad is doing “it” in twin bathtubs, he must be a whale with a six foot penis that cannot be shown on television, or they know something of which I am completely ignorant. The couple leaving the football game who look as though they might wish to consummate the evening on the fifty hard line, okay, that I can see. You hang around the stadium until the crowd leaves and they turn out the lights and, well, you know the rest. The couple in the ad who are hanging out the wash and then looking all relaxed and satisfied in a backyard hammock, well, that I can also see, although hammocks aren’t the most stable platforms for activities of, well, shall we say “that nature.”

This, of course, is a very delicate subject for discussion on a PG blog, but I figure when television is advertising pregnant mare urine as a cure-all for post menopausal sex without pain, damn near anything is fair game for discussion of sex.  I’d like to consider myself a contemporary Renaissance man, in touch with my masculine and feminine sides – the latter not quite to the extent of Caitlyn Jenner – but some of the stuff they advertise on television these days just knocks my socks off. I’m quite happy not to be sitting around with Mom and Dad watching this sh…stuff!

I have begun to believe that my disgust for some of the advertising on television has to do with my age. Don’t kid yourself, when you get past 80, if you still have a great interest in getting laid, you just didn’t wake up from a dream. Reminds me of the 90-year old who told his doctor he’d just married a beautiful 25-year old woman. The doctor warned him about his heart condition but the old man just scoffed. He told the doctor that they’d only been married for six month and she was already pregnant. The doctor asked, “Have you ever heard the story of the man out camping and forgot to bring his gun?” The old man admitted that he had not. “Well,” the doctor continued, “a bear came charging into the camp, and the poor man, not knowing what else to do, held his arms up as an imaginary rife and screamed, BANG, BANG, and wouldn’t you know it, the bear dropped dead right in front of the terrified camper.” The old man thought for a moment and responded, “That’s crazy, someone else must have shot the bear.” The doctor just stared at the old man and smiled.

Hope you enjoyed this one.

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Circles of Heaven

Having never read it in high school or college, I decided to take a look at Dante’s Alighieri’s Divine Comedy: Inferno. Go ahead, ask me why. How the hell do I know; it was something that came into my head, possibly from some television program; possibly because someone at the gym mentioned it…right; or, possibly, I just wanted to investigate to learn in which of Dante’s nine circles of Hell I might be spending the rest of eternity, once I kick the bucket…and it doesn’t move.

On early investigation, it became quite apparent why I did not read Dante’s Inferno, as it has been called by many. The reason is that it is a poem; not only a poem but one of those poems, sort of a very complex and far more complicated and complex than this old mind cared to study. For all who have read and understand the entire thing, bravo [you bunch of fibbers]. I mean…come…on; who’s trying to kid who? I mean, how do you pronounce, “Caiaphas,” and there are more like that…many more. The other thing that really bothered me was how they describe some of these circles of Hell. We all know that Hell is not supposed to be a whole lot of fun but boiling pitch? Throwing boulders at each other? This is just getting way out of hand.

It is reasonable, I assume, that having escaped from the nine circles of Hell and their various levels within, that my mind would turn to more pleasant thoughts. And what more pleasant thought could there possibly be than those of Heaven. If Satan and his minions could occupy one area of life after death, why should not Heaven be possessed of something similar? If you agree, please raise your hand; if not, just go away…stop reading and go away…because you most assuredly won’t agree with what follows.

Unlike Hell, there is no vestibule for Heaven. God has already decreed that Florida, all retirement communities in the United States and abroad, can serve that purpose quite well. Therefore, they shall be known as God’s waiting rooms. It is important, I believe that you should understand that my God, the God of which I write, is a New Testament God, ie, He is a God of love and forgiveness; He is not the vengeful God of the Old Testament and while I am not, admittedly, a Biblical scholar, that is how I view the Testaments of the Holy Bible…there; now that we have that settled, let’s move on, shall we?

The first circle of Heaven is what might be called the lowest. It contains those who have sinned. They have broken several of God’s commandments, among them, taking the name of God in vain. Who among us hasn’t, at one time or another, and in one situation or another, muttered those third- commandment-breaking words, “Goddamit!” over something or other…c’mon, admit it. You might have quickly followed up with, “Sorry, Lord,” but at the time, you just might not have done so…that’s okay…as long as you remembered at some time to apologize. There are variations on this manner of taking His name in vain, but you get the picture. Honoring thy mother and thy father is a commandment that too many have shattered, broken, or at the very least, cracked. If we are to take this, the fifth-commandment literally, Hell might have to open a new circle. However, if we are all too aware of this as a condition of our life, it’s also possible that God will understand when we make an effort. Now, if you break other commandments, sorry, but you won’t make the first level; not a chance; you’re headed in the other direction. So this first level if for those who, while they have sinned in some small way, they have also seen fit to ask God for forgiveness while still alive. I call it the Forgiveness Circle. You spend eternity talking with others about the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” that you let get away. It’s rather noisy, so to some it might feel like punishment. However, it doesn’t compare with the first circle of Hell.

The Second Circle of Heaven is for what I call “loyalists and believers.” It’s a place of peace and restfulness. The souls that reside here are those who regularly prayed to God, not for material goods but for His bounty. These are folks who were either regular attendees at their place of worship or who might have sat around the dining table every night, held hands and asked that the Good Lord bless that of which they were about to partake. I don’t know these families, but I know of them. They are families in places like Appalachia who may not have much of a bank account but they sure have a lot of love for the Lord and for each other. They care about their neighbors and would give you the shirt off their back even if you never asked for it. They might be the president of a company who volunteers at a soup kitchen on weekends and no one who knows who he or she is. I suppose you’d call them average Joe’s or Jane’s. They live their lives to the best of their abilities and never attempt to harm others through word or deed.

My Third Circle of Heaven is for the “heroes and the caring.” These are not chosen by man or by committee; these are people – souls if you will – that are selected by God as those who, while they lived, dedicated their lives to others without thinking of themselves. Could they have had foibles of other kinds? It’s possible, I guess, but like Ivory Soap they were 99 and 44 one hundredths percent pure. Man might be surprised at the size of this group; there are more of them out there than we can possibly consider. It would be wonderful if I could give you some examples but remember, this is just my concept and I wouldn’t be foolish enough to tell you who I believe God would ever choose as a caring hero.

The Fourth Circle of Heave is reserved for the honorable souls, those who have devoted their lives to serving God and his precepts. Here is where I would expect to find Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi, several Popes, Cardinals, priests, rabbis’, shamans’ imams’ nuns and other religious servants of God. Yes, yes, I’m fully aware that throughout history, there has been evil in the church, but there has also been much that has been good. The church – whatever church – has started wars; has ended wars; has made bad decrees; has made good decrees – but in the overall, has produced many honorable men and women whom we should admire.

The original Disciples of God have a circle all to themselves. However, they may at any time decide to add another soul to their circle whom they deem worthy. God, of course, has veto power, but it’s doubtful He would ever see fit to use it. “How,” you ask, “could these men ever decide anything among themselves? They were so different and they argued among themselves all of the time even as they followed the Lord, so what are you thinking?” Aha, those were men, imperfect in many ways, but in one way alone were they not joined; they were joined in their love of Jesus, and they are now viewed, as all in Heaven are viewed, as perfect beings in the eyes of God.

The saints, too, have a circle unto themselves. Even those who achieved sainthood and were then removed from that exalted position by one political faction or other remain in this circle that has been created not by man, but by God

My Seventh Circle of Heaven would be reserved for “the innocents.” These are children who died because of the stupidity and negligence of man. These are the children who died in the Oklahoma City bombing; those killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; those murdered because they were Jewish or Gypsies or slaughtered because some tyrant made a wrong decision and for which he is now burning in Hell. These children are watched over and cared for by those we call God’s Angels, who are, themselves, a very special former human whose soul has been blessed by God in such a manner that their very essence is allows them this noble responsibility.

God does not have his own circle. God is the circle. He attends all circles, watches all circles, evaluates all circles constantly and is forever changing who belongs in which circle. Oh, and one other thing, there is an elevator between the circles because those who have achieved any level of Heavenly being should always be allowed to spend time with others who are loved by God.

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