Archive for July, 2015

Sometimes things just don’t work out…know what I mean?

I mean…I really wanted to be a star in the firmament that would leave a legacy; that would burst onto the scene in a blaze of glory; whose birth would be cause for great celebration throughout the world. No, no, not the Jesus thing; that had already been done a number of centuries before and the star in the East bit is only good for one showing.

But no, I was deprived [some have also said depraved but we’ll go into that another time] by the events of the year 1934 from my moment in the sun; my years of fame and magnanimity; my…well…let’s just say that things didn’t go as well as one might hope. Mother never talked about hours or days of labor. When I was growing up, those things were kept quite private and to one’s self. Father in the delivery room? Are you shitting me? That would be, in today’s parlance, like having the entire medical staff present at the moment of conception, probably standing around with drinks in hand and feeding from trays of canapés carried through the crowd by illegal aliens in those short maid outfits [who are being paid $9.25 an hour and damned happy to be getting it]. No, privacy – that’s priv-a-cee in this case – and dignity were the social mores of the time and one just did not deviate.

As a consequence of all of the above, I just popped out sometime on the morn of September first in the year of our, etcetera, etcetera, silver nitrate dropped into the eyes and me dropped gently onto a scale to weigh in at 7 pounds 8 ounces or there about. No bands; no fanfares. I’m not certain how Dad even paid for the hospital since I’m now aware that even in ’34, the Great Depression was still a part of life for many people including my parents. These were tough times, and without sounding overly ghoulish, World War two coming along actually helped many Americans to get back on their feet. It was at a horrible truth, but, in all honesty, it appears to be the truth.

The year started off with a bang [get your mind out of the gutter please] as Duquesne beat Miami 33-7 in the Orange Bowl and Columbia beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl 7 – 0. Right away you can see that things have really changed on the collegiate football front. Duquesne now plays in Division 1 AA and Columbia, sad to say, has been something of a doormat in the Ivy League for many a moon. Also on the first of the year, Dr. Francis E. Townsend of Long Beach, California announced an Old Age Revolving Pensions Plan. The Townsend Plan would give all those over 60 years of age $200 to spend. It wasn’t until a year and a half later that President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. See, I told you it was a fascinating year in which to be born.

By the end of Mother’s first trimester in March, Academy Awards had been presented to Charles Lawton for Henry VIII, and Katherine Hepburn was named best actress for Morning Glory. The outstanding picture award went to Calvacade. Ironically, two months later, a horse named Calvacade won the Kentucky Derby. This was also the first year of the annual Masters Golf Championship in Augusta and was won by Horton Smith.

As Mother was approaching her sixth month of pregnancy, she was upstaged by the birth of the Dionne Quintuplets as well as the killing of Bonnie Clyde. FDR signed the Securities Exchange Act, establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission and immediately put the fox into that hen house by naming Joe Kennedy as the first chairman of the SEC. Congress passed nine bills in the month of June 1934, probably more than the 112th and 13th US Congresses have passed combined.

During the summer, Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, won his first professional fight, Babe Ruth hit his 700th homerun, and John Dillinger’s life came to an end when the bank robber was shot to death outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago.

By the time I was one week old, I’m certain that Mom and Dad were probably mourning the death of the 134 people who died in a fire aboard the liner Morro Castle of the coast of New Jersey. Word was that the crew of the ship let a small fire get out of control and then rowed off in most of the lifeboats, leaving the passengers to die. A couple of weeks later, Bruno Hauptman, an immigrant who could barely speak English was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of the baby of Charles Lindbergh and his wife.

By the end of 1934, Hitler and his Nazi Party had become the leaders of Germany. Stalin had begun his purge of those whom he thought might disagree with him. Japan had rejected a treaty with the US and Great Britain, and no one could see the spectre of another World War on the horizon.

It was an interesting year. I can’t say that I remember it well, but it was interesting nonetheless. To say that I have seen the world change physically as well as philosophically might be a bit of an understatement, but it’s been one hell of a ride. Have you ever checked back to learn what happened the year you were born, or how the world has changed in your lifetime? Give it a shot; you might get a few surprises.

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An acquaintance of mine teaches philosophy at a private secondary school…and has for more years than he cares to count. Let’s examine that sentence for just a minute: I use the word, “acquaintance,” because (a) I learned to spell it sometime ago and it’s a nice word; (b) (I cannot call him a friend because I have never been to his home for dinner nor he to mine; and, (c) I know him on only the level of quick and short discussions in a single environment, ie, the gym. Do those last two ‘answers’ mean that I don’t really know him at all? Yeah, it really does mean something like that. It’s the same with these little essays that I write for the blog…when it comes right down to it, I’m writing for me; it’s an exercise in egocentricity. I don’t know the people who read them…well, that’s not entirely true; a few people I sort of know have read them, sometimes even commented on them…anyway, let’s move along.

My philosopher-acquaintance from the gym enjoys reading when he is doing his cardiovascular workout. Invariably, the titles of the books he reads are so esoteric as to boggle my [unwarranted assumption here] mind. As a consequence, I have begun to read a few articles and lessons about philosophy online. Frankly, some of it is fascinating; some of it is also as boring as watching paint dry, grass grow, or whatever other little cliché you want to throw out. The one thing it did make perfectly clear to me, however, is that I write for myself because I haven’t the foggiest idea about the people for whom I thought I was writing.

There is great wonder in reading philosophy. I have learned through reading that, “We become philosophers ourselves whenever we ask the fundamental questions and genuinely demand they be answered. One becomes a philosopher when one loves the truth.” If you’ve ever searched for it you know how difficulty the truth is to find. It’s been my experience through my life that people are more inclined to tell either half-truths or outright lies. “Yes, that will be ready tomorrow;” yet, tomorrow never seems to come. “What you do for us is very important.” Really, if it’s so damned important why don’t you say thank you more often rather than finding ways to criticize what I do behind my back? It’s truly amazing how the truth manages to get back to those who are honestly seeking it.

I invite you to consider what truths you have sought and the bullshit that you’ve been handed in place of it. What questions have you asked for which you have never received honest and truthful answers? Oh, certainly, some answers appear reasonable enough, but is reasonable the truth? Are you satisfied with ‘reasonable?’ Then, of course, we must ask the question, “Why won’t someone tell us the truth; give us a completely truthful answer?” Are they trying to protect us from the truth? Are they fearful that the truth, once spoken, will create an irreparable schism from which neither of us can ever recover? “You can’t handle the truth,” is not an answer either. A friend of mine flew helicopters in Vietnam. When he came home, he was staggered by the lies that appeared in the newspapers. “Our casualty rates are far beyond what they’re saying,” he told me, and then asked, “Why do they have to lie?” The truthful answer to his question would probably be somewhere along the lines of, “Because they’re afraid of the rioting that would occur and the potential for the government to be torn apart.” Is that true? I don’t know, but it certainly would have helped to build the numbers of folks who wanted us to get the hell out of Nam without any more loss of life.

The more I read the more confused I become about philosophy and its teachings. “Philosophy is a quest,” I read. “It is the movement of thought seeking to attain the encompassing. It is intelligence being raised above any kind of fragmentary thinking.  It is in philosophy that all the fragmented aspects of knowledge are integrated.  This is the reason philosophy does not neglect anything.  In philosophy we speak of everything since all things have their place and meaning there.

“More deeply, philosophy would become meaningless should it degenerate into a rigid and dogmatic system.  Philosophy is the friend of wisdom.  It carries within itself the love of a just and moderate life, of a human knowledge which is integrated to life.  Hence we say that philosophy is a reflection on all forms of human experience.”

My readings in philosophy have discovered one thing: My mind has become too rigid, too inflexible to become part of a discussion on philosophy. I will attempt to continue to tell the truth; I will continue to seek as much wisdom as I can in the areas where I wish to seek wisdom; I will disregard those who attempt to involve me in their searches for their wisdom, and; I will continue to write about things in which I have some opinion…opinion…hmm, does that mean truth?

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The Presidency of the United States of America is not for sale!

As of this moment, I am going to begin studying the monies that are being (a) spent by candidates; (b) how they spend that money, and; (c) to the best of my ability, determine where that money is coming from.

Donald “Muppet Puppet” Trump maintains that he doesn’t need anyone else’s money because he’s got plenty of his own. No one knows exactly how much. Trump says it’s ten billion, but with the bullshit that he’s been throwing around, I’m betting that’s unlikely.

Hillary Clinton’s raking it in, but much of it appears to be coming from across all of the ponds. Seems to be an unwise move to me since those folks always collect on their debts…one way or another.

Hillary’s $63.1 million is chump change when it comes to Jeb Bush. So far, his SuperPac backers have dropped $114.4 million into the campaign to get him the nomination and the presidency.

Are we saying that America is for sale to the biggest spender? It sure as hell looks like it. Whatever happened to putting a rein on campaign spending? Once again, the one percenters, and the one-tenth of the one percenters are attempting to ensure their candidate gets the top spot. Can you possibly imagine the good that could be done with that money? Where is Congress when it comes time to clamp down on such waste?

It’s been well over a decade since the McCain-Feingold Act was passed, banning “soft money,” unlimited contributions to parties and national party committees. According to Info Please, “The law also defined political issue ads paid for by corporations or unions as “electioneering communications” and prohibited the broadcast of such ads within 30 days of a primary or within 60 days of a general election.” Seems to me that law has been tossed out with the garbage. From all that I can see, the Supreme Court is the body that has struck down attempts to keep campaign spending within reason.

It’s up to us…you and me…to ask questions about campaign spending. We know that the Koch Brothers in Kansas City are determined to buy the election, and we know that the Democrats have their own little bottomless pit of money. Why, however, why is it necessary to spend so goddamned much money to get to be President? When egomania runs rampant, the country will be run by ego…maniacs!

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I have come to the conclusion that hatred really isn’t worth my effort. Oh, certainly, it’s a good thing to do every once in a while I suppose, but it takes more out of me to hate, and the person or thing – thing is the worst – doesn’t even know that I’m hating him, her, or it; how dumb is that? And what do we really mean when we say that we “hate” someone or something? Is hate the correct word to be using. In the case of these terrorists all over the world and the horrific acts they are doing, well, yeah, they are worth hating. A better way of putting it is that we shouldn’t really hate them; we should cancel them. It sounds so much nicer, and it eases the pressure on us. We don’t have to use all of our energy hating them…we just cancel them and not have to be concerned any more.

While I’m certain that psychologists and psychiatrists would disagree with me, I can think of only two reasons for hating. The first is if you suffered humiliation or harm at the hands of another, then you might develop a hatred for that individual or group. The second form that I define is learned hatred. Your parents, for example, might hate something for some reason, and they pass that hatred on to you. There is a song in the musical, South Pacific, You Have to Be Carefully Taught; its lyrics are absolutely frightening when thought of in the context of today’s world. This is not to say that they weren’t a bit scary back when the show originally appeared, but just read the lyrics:

 “You’ve got to be taught To hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught From year to year, It’s got to be drummed In your dear little ear You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught to be afraid Of people whose eyes are oddly made, And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade, You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate, You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

 The song was first sung in 1949. It was considered too controversial for the stage at that time. We lived in a different world then. For Rogers and Hammerstein, two Jewish song writers who had just seen the atrocities of WWII, it must have been a painful song to compose. For the show’s first audiences, it must have been difficult to accept.

The truth of the matter has become all too obvious; hatred abounds in the world today. Much of it is born out of fear. We all have our fears, whether it’s of spiders, of terrorists, of making it to the end of the month with food on the table; of the crazy neighbor across the street who manicures his lawn with cuticle scissors; or, perhaps, it’s of that other neighbor with a differently colored skin or eyes that don’t look like ours, or whose cooking gives off different smells than our cooking. We don’t know who or what they really are so we develop a fear that easily – too damned easily – turns into a dislike that turns into an avoidance that turns into hatred. Sorry, folks, but it’s a fact of life.

The time has come for us to stand up, as a multiracial group in Chattanooga, Tennessee has done and learn from and about one another. If you haven’t seen the story, don’t worry, it’s somewhere on line. Briefly, an elderly man was tired of people not talking to one another so he invited a multiracial group to his house for dinner. Blacks talked about what it was like to grow up black; whites talked about how they felt different. The first few dinners, held at different houses….well, let’s just say everyone was happy the elderly man was there because they all respected him and he kept the discussions on track. As he said, “I never knew what it was like to wheel my carriage down an aisle in a supermarket and be followed by the manager because he thought I’d try to steal something…just because of my skin color. I just never knew.”

The point is that until we understand and respect one another in this country, we can’t possibly expect to goes through the minds of people we “hate” from other countries. Change is a bitch, especially such a radical change as learning to accept the beliefs of others. But then, change has never been easy; just ask the first settlers; the men and women who put their lives on the line so that America could become an independent nation, etcetera, etcetera. Yes, black and red and yellow and gay and straight and transgender people all have different lives. So do the traditional “white” people who inhabit this world. We have done a piss poor job – all of us – of reaching out to one another to learn our differences; to respect our differences; and to stop hating one another out of fear.

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On Friday, July 31st, I have an 8 a.m. appointment with the dentist. No big deal; I’m getting my teeth cleaned for the first time in [words deleted]. There are three teeth that should be removed; they’ve already had root canals, but they’re really shot to hell and they’re causing me some pain. I mention this because I can go to the dentist; I can drive there, walk up his horrendous stairs to the second floor – no elevator required by building code, and sit in his waiting room. The teeth can be cleaned and I can be on my way to whatever I wish to do for the rest of the day.

The following morning, Jeff and Les, Dee and the Mary’s, Karen and Roz, Jimmy and Jim, and I really can’t tell you how many others will gather in the darkness at the parking lot beside Gordon Trim Dining Hall at Babson College in Wellesley. At about the same time, a man by the name of Billy Starr and his crew will be going to work in Sturbridge. It’s early; it’s really early, but they’ll do it because of its importance. You see, these are the volunteer coordinators for the Pan Massachusetts Challenge, a bike-a-thon that this year intends to raise $45 million for the fight against cancer. I can’t really call Billy a volunteer; after all, he’s the one who founded the PMC in 1980. Thirty five years later, the bike-a-thon has grown from 18 riders to 5,500. They are from 38 states and also from foreign countries; they are cancer survivors, folks who know or have lost someone to cancer; they are people who like to ride and wish to see cancer eradicated in their lifetime. The first year that I volunteered, I saw a grandfather, a father who left part of his leg on a battlefield in France, and a son ride together…I cried as they rode off.

As Billy and his crew are setting up in Sturbridge, Jeff will be trouble-shooting in Wellesley. Les will be ensuring that all of the logistics are in place to make life easier for the riders. Dee will be putting her crew to work setting out oranges, bananas, bagels, juices, trail mix, and a pile of other foods for the riders. The Merry Mary’s, as I enjoy calling them, will work with a slimmed down Jeff Silverman to set up the clothing tables where everyone can purchase everything from children’s T-shirts to sunglasses, sweatshirts and whatever falls between.

In 2010, I was honored to be asked to speak to the riders at the Wellesley venue. I joined a retired judge on the podium who spoke just before me. He had beaten cancer once; I had lost my wife to cancer two years before. The judge told the riders that this would be his final ride; his cancer had returned, and this time there was nothing they could do to stop it. I spoke of my wife’s battle, and then we sent the riders on their way. It was a humbling experience. The judge died the next March, but he’d done his final ride and he did it knowing he would never do another.

This is the Pan Massachusetts Challenge. It’s something you have to see to believe. We’ve all lost someone to cancer…a neighbor, a colleague, a family member, the guy across the street; the checker who used to work at the supermarket; the kid from your child’s class. I doubt there is one person in this country who hasn’t been touched in some way by cancer. Everyone connected with this ride knows just how important it is. To ride, they must raise money; most aren’t professional fund raisers, and for many, it’s a bitch to raise the required amount…but they do it. If, no…When they raise the $45 million this year, it will bring the overall total to one half billion dollars raised by the PMC for the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center and the Jimmy Fund in Boston.

I can’t volunteer anymore; my legs and back won’t permit it. I still support the PMC with my limited resources. I dig deep; some family members think I dig too deep. On that I have a philosophy: Give till it feels good. When you know that you are supporting a cause as wonderful as this one; when you know that riders will push themselves to ride 192 miles over a two-day period; when you know that a dedicated group of volunteers will get up sometimes as early as 2 am to get to their posts by 4; when you feel the love in the crowd of riders, volunteers, spectators, and people who are still undergoing chemo, it’s damn near impossible not to support all of these folks.

I cordially invite you to visit PMC.org for more information on the Pan Massachusetts Challenge, the largest single athletic fund-raising event in the world. I hope you’ll be part of it this year and for many years to come.


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In a little over a year, Americans will be going to the polls to pick a new leader. What do we expect of this person? Do we expect the status quo? Do we expect this person to keep world peace, either by sending troops into faraway lands or by pulling them back within our own borders? What about the mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters of these troops; what do they want? Do we expect our new leader to do things so differently that we will be positively affected or that the opponent will immediately make changes that will adversely our standard of living? What do we really want?

It seems to me that the vast majority – the silent majority, if you wish to call them that – just don’t give a damn! The one percenters and the one-tenth of the one-percenters, they care. They care enough to invest millions to ensure that their candidate takes the oath of office on Wednesday, January 20, 2016? Why is that? What do they expect that Mr. and Mrs. Average American don’t expect or don’t really give a damn about? Well, for one thing, they expect to keep their one percent or one-tenth of one percent status. That means they expect a large return on their investment (ROI). They expect their winning candidate to make only those changes necessary to help them improve their bottom line. And since the bottom line for this group means lifestyle and more money in their pockets, they really don’t care when and if their candidate does things to screw Mr. and Mrs. Average American out of more of their hard-earned weekly paycheck. Increase the amount of money that the worker has to pay for health Insurance…sure, go ahead. Allow the pharmaceutical companies to jack up prices on medicines for the elderly…hey, why not? Add a new tax that will have little effect on the rich but will drive the lower income folks deeper into poverty…what’s wrong with that…helps to pay off the national debt… but not with my money!

Lord but I’m tired of these people with their wealth and power. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t begrudge the entrepreneurial spirit and those folks who busted their balls to create something of benefit to mankind. The late Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Dean Kamen, and many others have and continue to do wonderful things, and I admire them for doing so. I’m talking about sleaze balls like…nah, they’re the types who sue at the drop of a hat, but I’ll bet we’re thinking along the same lines. Oh, sure, they make contributions but only to cover their butts come tax time.

I was and remain one of those Average Americans; I will die one of those people. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I care deeply for my country, and I care deeply about whom our leaders are and what lies in their hearts. In order to lead our nation, I believe one thing very strongly, and that is, “Our President should be a veteran of our armed services.” I’d repeat that but you can read just as well as I. There is a discipline learned in the military that cannot be learned elsewhere. There are leadership qualities developed in the military that cannot be developed elsewhere. There is a learned responsibility for all fellow military as well as civilians that cannot be learned elsewhere. Eisenhower, Truman, and Kennedy all had it. It’s an indefinable trait that exists in people who are responsible for the 320 plus million people who call themselves citizens of the United States. It’s a mysterious ability to know what is right; what is wrong; and what the difference is between the two. Unfortunately, veterans of military service are a rare commodity – Jim Webb seems to be the only veteran in the current crop…and perhaps Rick Perry’s Air Force service may qualify him – because universal military service is no longer a requirement in this country, something that I happen to believe is a mistake, but that’s a topic for another time.

So, in the final analysis, what do we expect of our next President? Certainly, honesty would be a good start. It would also probably cut the field in half…at least. Compassion is also a good quality, but only when the time for compassion is necessary and that generally means compassion toward our own citizens. Otherwise, I want someone whose enemies will call him or her “a tough, hard-nosed son-of-a-bitch,” and whose friends will nod silently in agreement. We – you and I – are going to the polls to bring the next leader of the free world into office. Think about those words for a moment: The next leader of the free world. We don’t want someone who will make deals that he or she believes might keep us safe; we want someone who will be that son-of-a-bitch who will make “don’t screw with the US or else” deals. We want a leader who can work with his/her opponents and members of his/her own party in Congress equally well. We want a person who understands that he or she was elected by and is responsible to the citizens of the United States. Am I asking for God? Yeah, as a matter of fact, I am. I don’t expect this person to walk on water or raise the dead, but I sure as hell expect more than I’ve seen over the last quarter of a Century. The next President doesn’t have to fill any shoes but his or her own. I wish that person well, but whoever you are, remember, you can be replaced.

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Narcissism is defined as excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance. It’s a noun, and it’s a person who is vain, in love with himself, admires himself to the extreme, is so self-absorbed in his own well-being that he cares nothing for others; is conceited, self-centered, and egotistical. He has a craving for admiration and may possibly exhibit traits normally associated with a mental disorder. This was all something I knew…not from my own personality, although my ego is right up there. However, I did not realize that being narcissistic meant acting like a fool in order to have others continue to mention your name.


The fact that Donald Trump spoke ill of the legal and illegal immigrants who are crossing our borders from Mexico didn’t really bother me. As he said, some of the Mexican émigrés are probably fine people who are looking for work that cannot be found south of the border, but too many of them are just badasses. It’s not dissimilar to what Fidel Castro did decades ago when he emptied the Cuban jails and let those criminals invade southern Florida.


However, the one thing you don’t do when I’m within earshot is to denigrate veterans of our armed services. You don’t do that particularly when you never served in the armed services yourself. Some might call The Donald a coward for not serving; others would say that he was smart to get out of becoming cannon fodder by grabbing student exemptions and medical excuses. Personally, I believe that the former is probably more likely than the latter. Mr. Trump equates being captured and tortured as being non-heroic. “I prefer those who don’t get captured,” were, I believe the words he spoke in discussing Arizona Senator John McCain. I don’t believe that “evil, ill, and twisted” are words strong enough to describe Mr. Trump’s as asinine statement. How the hell would he even have a clue about heroics and heroism since he has no benchmark? He says that he’s done more for veterans than Senator McCain…prove it! And if he is talking about spending some of his own money to support veteran causes, that’s great, but how else has he helped them?


Mr. Trump is somewhat different from your average American seeking the nomination of his party to run for the highest office in the land. He’s using his own $10 billion, and it would appear that he believes this gives him the right to be as insulting and bombastic as he wishes to be…it does not. There are certain parameters of decency involved, and he appears to breach them each time he opens his mouth. In addition, while nearly every candidate is vague on the specifics of their plans to improve the lot of the average Joe and Jane in the US, the glittering generalities that Mr. Trump is tossing out sparkle like the new fallen snow. To him and to all the others I say, “If you give us specifics, you’ll be criticized by opponents. However, if your plans sound reasonable, the people who count will vote you in.” I’m 80 years old. I want to know what candidates are going to do to help build Social Security. What are you going to do about the high cost of prescription drugs? I have grandchildren who are just entering the workforce; what will you do to ensure that they can retire at 65 and know they’ll not have to take a part-time job to survive. I want to know if my grandsons will have to fight in the Middle East when they turn 18. I want to know when some candidate will have the courage to investigate immigrants to the extent that they won’t become underground jihadists. Answer these questions with specifics. Those are questions for all candidates, not just Mr. Trump.


As for Mr. Trump, don’t just tell us that you’re going to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants. That’s impractical and stupid. If you want to create a three mile no-man’s land on either side of the Rio Grande, great; that makes more sense. If you tell me that you will revoke the deal with Iran, great; we all know that the Iranians are laughing at us because they know we are fools; if you state, in specifics, how you will improve rather than revoke the Affordable Health Care Act, wonderful, because some good has come from it, as flawed as it might be. If you tell me precisely how you intend to bring back cities like Detroit and other aging and decrepit, crime-ridden urban areas, I’ll proudly support your efforts. And if you tell me that you are going to provide living wages for public servants such as police, fire, and school teachers, I’ll love you forever.


The ball is in your court, Mr. Trump. I’ll be watching, and I’ll be listening. However, the very next time you demonstrate the narcissism you have shown me to date, I won’t put you at the bottom of my list of candidates; I’ll remove you from my list. Oh, and don’t worry that you’ll be alone…Hillary’s already there.


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Do it now

Do it! Make your bucket list today and start working to achieve it before you reach retirement age!

“Hey, wait a minute;” you may be saying to yourself, “aren’t you the same guy who said don’t accept advice from others? You called advice ‘baloney,’ and said that we should make up our own minds about what to do in retirement.”

Same guy; same advice. However, there is a twist here. What I’m now saying has nothing to do with the advice of others; it has to do with your advice to yourself. Many of us talk about what we will do after the working days are over; when we retire; when we have the time – and, hopefully, the resources – to do exactly as we please. That, too, is baloney, because we don’t know, not one of us, how we will be when retirement rolls around, or even if we’ll be around when the retirement age is supposed to occur. That is why I’m telling you to make your list now; set some goals for the things you want to do between now and retirement; prioritize those goals and begin working to achieve them.

Here is why I’m asking…no…I’m begging, you to do this now because I can’t; I can’t do the things that I hoped I could do in retirement. I can’t travel because I can’t walk. Oh, sure, I can go up and down the hallway…from the family room to the bathroom, or to go to bed, but that’s about as far as I can go. Yes, I can go to the gym, park in a handicapped spot – I have the tag that allows me to do that – and walk to a bike. It takes me a couple of minutes to use my inhaler and catch my breath, but I can do that. I cannot walk through an airport, up a gangplank, or through the woods. I can’t go anywhere that requires walking more than 100 feet. This, by the way, is entirely my fault. Fifty-one years of smoking is bound to catch up with one in some shape or form; for me it’s in the form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema; for my wife, Joan, it was in the form of lung cancer, and it killed her.

My point here is that you have no clue about your retirement years or the physical and/or mental condition you or your spouse might find yourselves. That’s the imperative of the bucket list. You may never get to visit the Taj Mahal or the tulip fields of Holland, but if either is on a bucket list you make out today, you might not have to wait until you’re old and tired before you make the trip.

A recent study showed that over the past decade, Americans have taken one less week of vacation than they have earned and deserved. Why do you suppose that is? Do we have an inflated attitude about our importance to the job we do or the organization for which we work? Are we afraid that if we take all of our vacation we’ll be looked on as slackers or that “they” will find someone else to do the job at a lower cost? What is our problem? Are we afraid that those upstairs will determine that our two, three, four or more weeks away from the job means that we believe our contribution to organizational welfare is minimal?

Looking back on my own life, I must say that I was one of those who didn’t always take my vacation…and I could kick myself now for not having done so. Oh, the things I missed doing; the things I could have done with my wife and kids. There’s an old adage that goes, “When we’re lying on our death bed, it’s not the things we did that we’ll regret; the regret will come in the form of things we didn’t do. My father-in-law always wanted to go back to Ireland, the country of his folks’ birth. When he was 50, he could have easily afforded to make the trip; same thing at 55 or 60. By the time of his retirement, he was felled by a heart attack. He recovered and still wanted to go. The only problem was that now his wife was suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s. His attempts to care for here at home took its toll on him. One night he fell asleep in his favorite chair and never woke up…and never got to Ireland.

You don’t know what lies in store for you. I’m in that group they call elderly and somewhat disabled; therefore, I know of what I speak. To cite another old bon mot, “Yesterday’s history; tomorrow’s a mystery; today is a gift, and that’s why we call it the present.” Make each and every day a present of some kind. Create that bucket list today…”These are the things I want to do before I die”…you may never accomplish them all; you may never accomplish any, but isn’t it better to think about the joys of what might be than to wind up being old and just sitting on your butt?

Go get ‘em, folks!

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Looking at fear

What is your worst fear?

Everyone has an answer, but in all probability, no one is telling the truth. Think about this for a moment; your worst fear; the thing that absolutely terrifies you and turns your body to jello; causes beads of sweat to form on your brow, and trickle down your neck; the thing that causes your heart to begin beating so fast and hard that you think it’s going to pop out from your chest; that thing that makes you want to scream…is probably something you’ve never had to do; never had to experience, see, feel, touch, or been confronted with in any way, shape, or form. Therefore, it’s not the experience itself that causes the fear because you’ve probably never done it. It’s the anticipation of what it might be like. Anticipation…what a wonderful/horrible word; we anticipate that we will have a wonderful time when we go on vacation. If we’re camping or spending a couple of weeks at the shore and it rains cats and dogs every day, our anticipation sort of takes a beating, eh?

You have probably heard of a study or two that reveals public speaking to be a greater fear than death. Actually, the research that states this is somewhat difficult to find. In a 1973 survey by Bruskin Associates, they list the fourteen greatest human fears. Here’s the way the list stacks up:

  1. Speaking before a group
  2. Heights;
  3. Insects and Bugs;
  4. Financial Problems;
  5. Deep Water;
  6. Sickness;
  7. Death;
  8. Flying;
  9. Loneliness;
  10. Dogs;
  11. Driving in a Car;
  12. Darkness;
  13. Elevators;
  14. Escalators.

You and I both know that it’s darn near impossible to get an accurate list of greatest fears without doing a survey of about a million people…and survey companies don’t do that. They tend to extrapolate based on the minimum number of calls or surveys that can be used as a foundation for their results. It seems to me that when you put insects and bugs, deep water, financial problems, and sickness, before you put death, your sample was kind of skewed.

The most important thing to understand when it comes to fear is that everyone fears something, and anyone who tells you different is a liar. Fear is a natural emotion. It’s what we do about our fear that defines us. Don’t want to do anything about it? Great; that’s your decision, and you’re welcome to it. I have a high school classmate who hasn’t stepped outside in decades. The fear is called agoraphobia Its’ defined as a fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment. Therefore, in order to avoid those places and situations, my friend chooses to stays within her comfort zone which is her home. Me, I have had many fears in my life. Fear of getting hurt in a fight became less of a problem after a few fights. Fear of heights was overcome when I stood six feet from the edge of the 52nd story of a building under construction…only 40 stories were enclosed at the time. As if that wasn’t bad enough, basic Army training had us climb a 40 foot tower made of railroad ties…did that one a couple of times just for me. Perhaps my biggest fear has been of failing; however, I have learned that we all fail at some point along life’s travels and travails. Another valuable lesson I’ve learned is that unless it’s a life or death situation, failure doesn’t really matter. We’re all born; we all live our lives; we all die. What happens between the first and third things can either paralyze us, or we can “keep on keepin’ on.”

Do I have any suggestions for overcoming your fears? Of course not…what…you think I’m some kind of shrink or something? I don’t know you, so how can I offer suggestions? There are web sites that offer advice for overcoming your fears; matter of fact, I came up with 119 million in just half a second. The number of ways range from “Three ways to overcome your fears” to “Thirty-three ways to overcome your fears.” Please…give…me…a…break!

It doesn’t matter who you are; it doesn’t matter what your fear; it doesn’t matter how many fools tell you your fear is foolish because it isn’t, not to you. Forget the quick fixes that are offered by everyone and his brother or sister. I would, however, offer the following quotation as about the best advice I have ever heard: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt.

A great quote from a great lady…just think about it.

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July 4th 2015. Independence Day in the United States of America. Songs will be sung; America the Beautiful; the Star Spangled Banner; dances will be danced to Sousa marches; and, of course, fireworks displays will light up the skies all over the country. It’s a beautiful day and evening for Americans everywhere, right? Well…yea and nay. There are some of us, still thankful to Sam Adams and The Sons of Liberty; George Washington and his skills as a soldier; the Marquis de Lafayette and his French connection, but who also find Independence Day to have a tinge of sadness to it.

People die on the Fourth of July, just as they do every other day of the year. For their families who remain, the Fourth is always tinged with sadness; with memories of better days. Maybe they remember Dad in that ratty old apron, standing at the grille, his face red from the heat, smoke, and ash. He always wore a smile, though. “Who wants an overdone dog? Burgers are ready; come and get ‘em!” Dad hasn’t been standing by the grille for about five years now…one too many burgers or whatever, the heart attack took him pretty quick; now it’s Buddy who’s manning the grille. Oh, Buddy’s the oldest; guess that’s why he took over. First two years, we didn’t have the cookout, but then Buddy said Dan wouldn’t want us to just sit around, listening to patriotic songs and think about him…so…Buddy got it going, and it hasn’t been half bad. Mom’s still kinda quiet but she’s getting better and she even laughs once in a while.

There are a lot of Americans who are in that same position. They lost a loved one on a holiday or they buried a loved one on a holiday or, as in my case, they celebrated an anniversary on a holiday. July Fourth of this year would have marked our 58th wedding anniversary. We got to celebrate the first fifty together and would have made fifty-one if the cancer had just given us twenty more days. I’m sort of glad it didn’t; be even more difficult to die the day you had been married. However, be that as it may, life goes on. People are born; others die, whether it’s on a holiday or not. People used to kid us about giving up our independence on the Fourth of July. One of us would always remind people about the fireworks we created on that same day…whoopee. I never really thought of it as losing independence as much as gaining a partner in a pact that celebrated our independence from everyone else; as two, we made one, and that was a good thing.

So, for those people out there for whom the Fourth of July is tinged with something other than joy, I hear ya; I’m part of your circle. That doesn’t mean that we should hunker down and forget about celebrating America’s independence. After all, think about some of the Brits. I don’t think they’re setting off fireworks and having their backyard barbecues and celebrations today. Shit, they got stuffed. Think about that one for a while. Who knows, maybe Dad’s got the heavenly grille going and serving hot dogs and hamburgers to General George and the Culper Ring, and he’s probably wearing that same ratty apron.

Happy Fourth everyone!

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