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Archive for August, 2015

Narcan my ass

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey called a press conference to announce that she has struck a deal that will make Narcan more readily available to the cities and towns of the Commonwealth. What’s Narcan, you ask. Well, it’s an opioid drug, and its principal use is to reverse the effects of an opioid drug overdose.

There ya go, kiddies. Next time you OD on heroin, have a buddy call the EMTs and get your nasal spray or shot of Narcan. Then, next week, it can be your buddy’s turn to OD and you can save your buddy’s ass. Whoopee, freaking do! What the hell kind of personal responsibility are we encouraging here. How about nobody calls the EMTs and we let you assholes just die.

After Healey had her say, the mother of a former drug user said that her son had been saved by Narcan. About a month later he died. Care to guess what killed him? You’ve got it; he overdosed again, but this time there was no one around with the antidote. She appears to believe it’s just wonderful that more Narcan will be available. I want to scream, “Lady, don’t you understand that this is just another opioid and does nothing to help solve the drug problem?”

I don’t get this. If you choose to become addicted to drugs, is it the responsibility of the city, town or state to save your ass from your own self-destructive behavior? When I lost my license for speeding at the ripe old age of 16, my father wanted to take my ass out to the woodshed and teach me a lesson. Thankfully, mother prevailed, but the lesson learned on that occasion was to slow down and never put yourself in a situation where the possibility would exist that I’d lose my license again. Either today’s little narcos are too stupid to learn or their parents don’t know about the woodshed or they’re too busy to pay attention to what the hell their kids are doing. The latter is my basic contention; parents don’t care until it’s too late. They have abrogated any responsibility for raising their children after the kid enters his or her teens. After that, the child is on its own…until the shit hits the fan. Then it’s someone else’s fault. It’s the fault of the school that should have noticed the changes in the child’s behavior; of the friends who are really going to rat out one of their own; of the store behind which the kids purchased their drugs; of the parents of the child who actually purchased the drugs; of the owner of the vacant building where the kids went to shoot up;  of the community for not tearing down the building; of the police for not finding out who is bringing the drugs into the community, and anyone else they can think to blame except for themselves and/or their child.

These are the same parents who are blaming the schools for giving too much homework to their children. They are the same parents who believe the school day is too long, but that their children are not receiving a good education. They have no compunction about telling the teachers how to teach but don’t know the first thing about whether or not their kid is paying attention. The same damned fools who don’t have a clue about what their kid is doing on “its” computer or what apps it may have on the latest smart phone which is an absolute necessity because “all of my friends have them.” Well guess what…find some new friends cuz you are not getting the latest smart phone!!

Do I sound upset? I really am not. My children are grown. Three of my nine grandchildren have either graduated or will be graduating from college within the next year or so. God forbid the other six even think about getting into a Narcan situation. My son’s three wouldn’t be able to sit down for a month, and my other daughter’s three would all be wondering if anyone got the number of the truck that knocked them on their butts. Cruel? In a pig’s ass that’s cruel. Maybe sparing the rod and spoiling the child is the motto of some families, but I can tell you here and now, it ain’t mine or my kid’s.

What do we have to do as a nation to ensure personal responsibility and accountability? What will it take before parents wake up to the fact that today’s children are far different from when the parents were that age? If you don’t want to take the responsibility of being a parent, instead of a honeymoon, go to the nearest hospital and get yourselves sterilized. If you can’t handle the responsibility of child rearing, don’t have children. Tie the tubes; get a vasectomy; do anything to prevent pregnancy. But if you have children, and you don’t take responsibility for their behavior, don’t piss and moan when they turn out to be drug addicts, suicide victims, or worst of all, school shooters.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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Look over your shoulder

How many people can say, without fear of contradiction, that a book saved their life? As much as you might like to believe it, the answer is, “No,” it was not The Holy Bible. Would that it could have been, but at the time, I wasn’t much of a Bible reader. Come to think of it, I don’t consult the good book all that much today. I still consider that the Bible was written by men, with all of the prejudices of men, and with all of the twists and turns that men can write to make themselves sound better and others worse than the truth might be.

No, the book that I read was by a fellow named Wayne Dyer, and it was called Your Erroneous Zones. It was published in 1976, shortly after I was fired from the place where I had been working since 1957. Promotions had come along, moving from this direction to that direction; moving from direct contact with students to more contact with corporation members and those on the board of trustees. The last position I held was Dean of University Relations and Assistant to the President…at Northeastern University in Boston. Damn, but I thought things were moving along nicely. However, a change of presidents at the University; a few political struggles, and the old assistant was unceremoniously shown the door. This is where Dr. Dyer comes in.

Someone, and for the life of me I can’t remember who, recommended that I get a copy of the book. Yeah, like right now I need a book to distract me while I’m sending out resumes and cover letters by the gross…so I bought it. One night I began to read. In the very first paragraph he says, “Look over your shoulder; you have a constant companion. For want of a better name, call it your own death. You can keep looking back over your shoulder, in which case death will quickly catch up to you, or you can look ahead. Forget about death and other problems and move on with your life.” It was about the best answer I could have received to my current dilemma. I finished Dyer’s book. It inspired me to keep going; to understand that no matter how many rejection letters I might receive, somewhere out there was the job for me. As it turned out, the job was there…took three years to find out, but it was there. I cannot tell you how many of those books I purchased and gave to people who found themselves in the predicament I had already faced. I kept a dog-eared copy for many years, but finally gave that one away too, and now I’m going to have to get another one. Why, you ask…You’re 81 years old…what the hell do you need an inspirational book for? Well, I’ll tell ya…Dr. Dyer died the other day. I don’t want to forget him…ever…or what his book did for me. I want to own a small piece of Wayne Dyer, because it’s exceedingly difficult to put into words just how much his writing helped me. I had three young kids, two houses, two cars, and a bunch of ancillary costs and other problems that could have driven me right out of my gourd had it not been for the words in that book. We never lost a house. We kept the two cars. And the kids seemed oblivious to what was happening around them.

That’s me. About five years later, I was visited in my office by an old colleague from Northeastern. “How did you get through those times?” he asked. “Weren’t you concerned about losing everything?” I explained how Dyer’s book kept me balanced; how it had been of such tremendous help to me. In fact, he left with a copy. He was going to need it. He’d just suffered the same fate that had befallen me years before. Sad to say, the book didn’t help him. He was found in a hotel room in Florida about a year later. He had committed suicide.

My point to all of this is that Dyer’s death reminded me of how his writings had, quite literally, saved my sanity which, I believe, in turn saved my life. So I’m saddened by the death of Wayne Dyer. He meant a lot to me. I don’t need the advice in his book anymore. You see, my friend, that one who is over my shoulder, he’s getting a little closer every day. I can’t say that I’m looking back because I’m not. It’s just that I can now hear his footsteps and that’s something that’s rather new. Don’t worry, though, there are still a few things out there, off in the distance that I’d like to accomplish before I allow that “sum bitch” to swing his scythe and end it all.

My advice to you? Don’t look over your shoulder when you’re having a bad day. Look ahead to everything in your life that you want to accomplish. Let no one ever tell you no longer have the talents you had yesterday. No matter what happens, you’re still the same person you were before the trouble befell you. In fact, you’re stronger now because you’ve faced those troubles and they’re behind you; keep your head up and find those new horizons. I did and spent the next 20 years of my life in a job that gave me nothing but pleasure and satisfaction. If dumb little old me did it, anyone can. Dyer is gone, but his words will always inspire.

 

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There was a time when I was color blind. It’s only taken me something over 80 years to learn that perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps I wasn’t color blind all those years after all. Black people seem to have a greater propensity to commit criminal acts than other races. Jeff, Beshama, Jimmy, Ernie, Joe, Sandra,and so many more black friends can feel free to call me out on this, but I’m sorry folks, check the Department of Justice figures. I don’t believe they have been skewed or fiddled with or offset in any way just to make the members of our black population look bad.

I watched the news recently as a disgruntled V. Lester Flanigan shot a white reporter and cameraman on a local television station. No, admittedly, I didn’t see the actual shooting; I just heard one gunshot. The camera was then dropped as V. Lester continued his rampage. Now, I don’t happen to be gay and I don’t happen to be black, but I do know what it’s like to be fired without cause and without recourse. Disgruntled? You bet your sweet patootie I was disgruntled. I guess knowing where the next university president was having his affair, with whom and on what day was just cause to him, but it certainly didn’t appear that way to me. What the hell, I’d known for a few years what he was doing. If I hadn’t told anyone before, what kind of a fool would I have been to tell others now. Therefore, yes, I was somewhat more than irritated when I was informed that my job was being abolished (can you say “bullcrap”?). However, I didn’t publish a manifesto and I didn’t go out and shoot people. I consider that my regard for human life is just a little higher than that.

On that same television newscast, another black man was fighting with police as they attempted to bring him into court for arraignment on a second murder charge.  When they read the charges against him, I wondered how one human being could do that to another. There are times when I wonder just how my black friends must feel when one after the other of their own race gets paraded before the television cameras for some heinous deed. Hopefully, they just let it bounce off in much the same way I do when I see a crime televised that has been committed by a white idiot. That’s what I consider all of these people to be, idiots. Nothing, nothing in this world with the exception of war, justifies the killing of one human being by another…nothing. Losing a job does not; racial slurs do not; nasty comments about one’s sexuality do not; a perceived insult is not a cause for killing. You want to kill someone? Kill yourself, but what others say and do, while somewhat painful, is no cause for ending their lives.

I’ve searched and searched and searched for accurate statistics regarding violent crime by race in the United States. One study claims that,  “… during the 2012/2013 period, blacks committed an average of 560,600 violent crimes against whites, whereas whites committed only 99,403 such crimes against blacks. This means blacks were the attackers in 84.9 percent of the violent crimes involving blacks and whites. Interestingly, we find that violent interracial crime involving blacks and Hispanics occurs in almost exactly the same proportions as black/white crime: Blacks are the attackers 82.5 percent of the time, while Hispanics are attackers only 17.5 percent of the time.

“Some observers argue that what causes the overwhelming preponderance of black-on-white over white-on-black violence is “chance of encounter,” due to the fact that there are five times as many whites as blacks in the American population. However, there are only about 30 percent more Hispanics than blacks, yet black-on-Hispanic violence is almost as lopsided as black-on-white violence. This suggests blacks may be deliberately targeting both whites and Hispanics.”

This is all well and good except that the organization releasing this data is a conservative think tank, known for its right-wing thinking. I’m not saying that the data is wrong or right; what I am saying is that I’ve seen too many occasions when statistics have been twisted and skewed. Nonetheless, just looking at the raw data presents a frightening picture of black crime in the United States. And it’s as frightening to members of the black community as it is to other ethnic groups. Civil rights advocate, Van Jones, wrote in a 2005 article, ‘Are Blacks a Criminal Race?’ “African American youth represent 32% of all weapons arrests [and] were arrested for aggravated assault at a rate nearly three times that of whites. A 2012 study by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention revealed that in 2010 black youths committed six times more murders, three times more rapes, 10 times more robberies and three times more assaults than did their white counterparts.

Similar statistics were released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the “Uniform Crime Reports.” They determined, “In the year 2008, black youths, who make up 16% of the youth population, accounted for 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58% for homicide and 67% for robbery.” By contrast, the only categories where white youths surpassed blacks were in liquor law violations and driving under the influence.

I don’t know the people who make up these statistics. I know plenty of black people. They don’t fall into any categories in this statistical data. So where are all these black criminals? People like Al Sharpton and other ‘injustice collectors’ will find every reason in the book not to blame crime of any kind on blacks but on the white society in which they live. To me, that’s just plain wrong. Is there greater poverty among members of the black community in the United States? Yeah, possibly. The bigger question is why? Although he’s no longer the hero he once was, Bill Cosby has made some good points. Black fathers should be assuming more responsibility for the children they create. Black mothers should be saying, “No,” and meaning it when more sex is going to lead to more kids and they can’t afford to properly raise the ones they already have. I think there is an innate fear on the part of white people in this country to confront the social ills that affect the black community. Black gangs form because there is safety in numbers; well, screw that. Let’s cut down the numbers so that black kids won’t have to worry about walking down the streets in their own neighborhoods. If more police are required, let’s get them; if more prisons are required, let’s build them; if stricter enforcement of laws are necessary, let’s enforce them. At the same time, however, let us not paint every black person we see with the same damned brush that says, “You’re black, therefore, you’re a criminal to be feared;” that, too, is bullcrap. Let us eliminate the United Negro College Fund and make it the United American College Fund with just as much money going all ethnic groups. Let’s eliminate Black Entertainment Network and Miss Black America contests, and let’s begin to unite, integrate, and truly integrate all races into one giant community. I’m not proposing that we gather in the circle and sing Kumbaya; that’s nonsense. But whatever we’ve been trying so far sure hasn’t worked. The black community and the white community are still miles apart in this country. Let’s stop talking about why we can’t do something better and let’s start talking about how we can do something better. Please, before I die, I want to be color blind once more.

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What will you miss?

What will you miss when you’re dead? Everything, breathing fresh air, walking, and talking don’t count because we’re all going to miss those…or not. I will miss sitting on the couch and patting my dog. Her fur isn’t soft like that of a kitten. It’s thick, sometimes greasy or dusty or so filled with pollen that I have to take an antihistamine just to be able to pat her…but she’s mine. She’s mine to pat and to get to turn over so I can rub her belly and come as close to purring as a dog can possibly do. She’s not really ‘my’ dog. I purchased her; wrote out the check, but I put her in the name of my companion, Juli. You see, I’m too old to have a dog, at least not one with as much energy and bounce as this one seems to have. So, yes, when I’m dead I will miss being able to pat my dog.

I will miss the changing of the seasons; watching summer fade; the leaves changing color; going back to their birth shades, if you will. Not everyone knows that…that the leaves are only turning green because of their chlorophyll. Otherwise, we’d be seeing those reds and yellows and oranges and various other colors along the spectrum from spring until the fall. It’s a nice thought but without the chlorophyll, this would be an entirely different planet, therefore I guess I could add that I’ll miss chlorophyll (How can one miss something one knows so little about?). I can guarantee that I will not miss the snows of winter. Some might tack on that where I’m headed I’ll have no worries about that. I’d tell those people to “go to hell,” but then they might and it’s possible I could run into them.

I’ll miss watching Juli turn tiny little seeds into beautiful flowers of so many colors and types; vegetables, of which we had so many that I would bring piles to the gym for anyone to use. “I’m going to make a tomato quiche,” one woman told me, “because those tomatoes you bring are really great.” How nice to hear that and what a compliment it is to Juli’s skills as a gardener.

We don’t really think about what we’re going to miss when we’re gone. Then it’s too late. Maybe, just maybe it would be a good idea to sit down and make a list of the things we’re going to miss when we “shuffle off to Buffalo” or wherever it is we shuffle off to. Then we could place more emphasis on those things, knowing…well, you understand what I’m saying. Some folks might say, “Aw, that’s just that thing they call a bucket list,” to which I would respond, “A bucket list is things you’ve never done; this is quite different.” This list might consist of things you’ve done a hundred times or more, but every time you do it or them or whatever, it gives a great surge of pleasure…so, dammit, do it! And yes, I know, some of you would like to change a letter in your bucket list, but if you’re going to be serious, you’ll understand just how much of a mistake that would be; life is altogether too short to be making that kind of list.

We take life too much for granted. If you think that’s not true, I invite you to visit Children’s Hospital in Boston or St. Jude’s in Memphis or any one of a hundred or more kids’ hospitals around the country. Some of those children would give just about anything to be in your shoes or mine. Admittedly, I don’t know what your shoes are like, so let me just say they’d give anything to be in my shoes. Visit an Alzheimer’s Center where there are young people with early onset of that disease. You’ll be amazed at how fortunate you find yourself feeling.

I don’t want to be a sad sack here, but let’s face it, the end – or the beginning if you like – is going to come to all of us. Let us determine to live our lives rather than just exist until the end comes. I am both envious and jealous of people who can go to Old Silver Beach in West Falmouth. They can park their cars and walk over the sand to the water’s edge. They can go into that water, that beautiful salty water, and swim to their heart’s content. I can’t do that anymore; I’d very much like to, but I can’t. I wish that I had done it more when I could have done so. It’s too late now. I can’t walk that far; that’s not figurative, it’s literal. My body won’t allow me to do so…and it pisses me off no untold end. I’ve even reached the point where I have to use a walker on occasion…and that really makes me mad. I can’t shoot hoops with the kids across the street anymore, and it was such fun to do so. I’d regale them with lies about my basketball career – well, not all lies, but mostly – and they’d lie back to me about what they were doing or going to do, and we’d all laugh. I’d like to have done that more often. The truth is that there are so many things I wish I had either done or done more of that it’s kind of sad. Perhaps everyone over a certain age has that same reflection, and it’s probably somewhat unhealthy to dwell upon it. “Look ahead, because if you keep looking back, that grim reaper is going to catch up sooner than you expect.” I put quotes around that because someone else probably said the same thing at one time or another, and I’d hate to be accused of plagiarism.

So do those things you love to do while you’re still able to do them, and if there are things on your “round tuit” list, don’t wait until it’s too late to get around to it. When I was younger, older people would say something like, “Live your life to the fullest,” or “Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow.” Like every other young person, I’d go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, okay…” and go on my merry way. Ah, what wisdom they were uttering, and how foolish I was not to listen more clearly. Now it’s my turn to say those same things. Remember, when you’re on your death bed, it’s not the things you did that you’ll regret; it’s the things you never got around to doing. Don’t miss any of it, my friends, not one single thing.

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I walk down the hall and into the family room. The television is on and the defendant is telling Judge Judy, “I don’t owe her nuthin!” The judge is trying to explain why she owes the money to the plaintiff, but the defendant continues talking, just as rude as she can possibly be. “She needs a good bitch slap,” says I. “Do it and you’re a racist; a hater, and an all-round bad guy,” responds my partner. I stand there, watching, and the more I watch, the more I want to climb through the television screen, get in this kid’s face, and tell her where to get off. Finally, the judge says, “Let me tell you something: It won’t be my mike that gets turned off. Finding for the plaintiff in the amount of $19.75!”

The rudeness of this young woman – black or white; yellow or red; pink or green – appears to be the norm in today’s society. And if you call them on their rudeness, you are one thing or another. You stop at a stop sign and someone behind you blows his or her horn. You’re standing in line at a checkout and someone bumps you from behind with a carriage; you turn around and they just give you a dirty look like it’s your fault. I’m really sorry…no I’m not…this seems to be a more prevalent attitude among black people than it is among whites, although, wait a minute, all you white folk out there; you’ve got “nuthin” to go bragging about; you’re just as bad in other areas. You drive while talking on the phone and applying your makeup or sipping your latte, so don’t go saying that it’s a racial thing. What it is…is a rudeness thing. It’s a lack of not getting “bitch slapped” when you were young.

Spare the rod and spoil the child my ass. Drop your drawers and get a few good hard smacks; get told why and get told never to do it again. Set the rules and regulations early and stick to them. Today’s generation seems to believe that rules do not apply. Yes, yes, yes, I’m fully aware that it wasn’t that many weeks ago, I wrote something similar. The difference is that this time, I am really upset, angry, and generally pissed off at the various types of rudeness that exist today. Rude has become the norm rather than the exception. The worst part about it is when you politely tell the person that they’re being rude or “not very nice,” or “I’m sorry but I didn’t hear you say ‘excuse me.’” And they don’t! I often wonder if rude people actually know that they’re being rude, or have they gotten away with their actions for so long that it is second nature to them; that they don’t even understand their rudeness.

I still hold doors for people to enter, particularly women. I still say “please” and “thank you” when Juli asks and then brings me hot chocolate when I return from the gym. I say excuse me to sales people in stores if it appears they’re standing around with their thumb in their bum and their mind in neutral. Sometimes you’d think that I was interrupting something truly important to them, like doing what they are getting paid to do. I stop at stop signs. I do not obey speed limits, particularly on highways, but I also do not text or talk on the phone while I’m driving. I’d like to be able to keep a car length for every ten miles per hour between me and the guy in front of me, but you know as well as I do what happens…another car just jumps in and narrows the gap. Am I ever rude to others? Yes, probably; if you piss me off sufficiently, I’ll probably tell you to “f**k off.” When you’re my age, you can generally get away with it. (Actually, I only say that to my ‘friends.’) No, I’ll probably just stare at the offender until he or she says, “What?” Then I’ll smile and walk away…because, quite frankly, if someone irritates me that much, they’re not worth my time or the effort to explain to them what they have done to infuriate me.

It’s becoming more and more difficult for me not to adopt the attitude that I see in many others today. My old college dean, Roger Hamilton, would have said about these people, “They are rude, crude, malicious, vicious, and ignorant.” I know that for a fact because I actually heard him say that to a few people when I was one of his students. Thankfully, I was never the victim of one of his verbal assaults.

Ours is a world of wonderful, magnificent in fact, medical, scientific, and technological advances. However, we appear to have lost something along the way. We have lost the art of kindness; of obeying rules; of treating people as we would wish to be treated. I wish that I understood exactly what happened to make us do the things we do; treat people as if they were dog doo-doo; act as if we’re the only ones with rights; speak in a manner that immediately despoils the English language. It makes me fearful for future generations. I hope there is a return to good manners and polite behavior. Don’t know how it’s going to happen but it certainly would be refreshing

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The American media is filled with stupid people…and, as we all know, you can’t fix stupid. You see, the only reason that Donald Trump remains in contention in the Republican hopeful’s campaign is that the media gives extensive coverage to the man…perfect example: I’m writing about him in my blog. The easiest way to make Trump is to stop covering him. Pay him no mind. Give him no cameras to which he can play. Unfortunately, there isn’t one media outlet in the United States who will dare to do this. Trump makes news by making outrageous comments which are the lifeblood of networks for ratings. If he really wants the nomination, he will hire someone to take a shot at him. It would be better yet, for Trump that is, if the shooter should turn out to be a Democrat…even more so, if the shooter was wearing a “Hillary in 2016” button. And, of course, the absolute topper would be if the shooter, missing though she might turned out to be a woman.

Trump would be a shoo-in, both for the nomination and the election. His name would become so ingrained by the media in the minds of those in the gene pool who shouldn’t be out alone without a keeper but who are allowed to vote and to procreate that the nation might just as well break out the gem-studded crown, the purple velvet robes – trimmed in ermine, of course – and the golden scepter adorned with the biggest diamond in the world. Why? Because the media would elect him. Not one story would be on the evening news that did not contain the words, “Donald Trump.” He would be asked to expound on everything from the rising price of tea in China to a cure for the drought in California to how we should control wild fires, etcetera, etcetera.

But the media will not stop. They will not ignore this most ignorable of all candidates in the Republican slate. They fear that another network will carry a story of what the fool said today, and they fear they will lose readers, listeners, or viewers. Trump’s very buffoonery is why the media adores him. They are well aware that he won’t answer a direct question with a direct answer. They know full well that if he is asked if the sky is blue, his answer will have nothing to do with the color of the sky or even the sky itself. Therefore, why cover him? What has he said to date that makes him Presidential material. Well, let’s see; he’s insulted Mexicans and then denied it. He’s insulted women and then denied it. He’s called a fellow candidate an “idiot,” and gives out his private cell phone number; then says the man couldn’t get a job in the private sector. He denies that he has gone bankrupt, stating that it was his companies, when we all know that because of his massive ego, the man and his companies are one and the same.

Media folks…wake up! Ostracize Donald Trump and let him die slowly on the vine. Dis-invite him from all future Republican activities. You have at least half a dozen viable Presidential candidates. Cover them and let Trump wither away and crawl back under the rock from which so many snakes have appeared. Is he good copy? Of course he is because he’s outrageous. He knows that his intemperate behavior will bring out the cameras. It’s what he wants, and all of you in the media are terrified of saying, “No, we will ignore you because you are making a mockery of what this nation stands for…integrity and decency.”

You’re old news Donald. America has no room in its stomachs for hooliganistic bombasts with dreams of becoming a benevolent – or not-so-benevolent – dictator. Oh, yes, and to you media folks, we’re only two people, but we change the channel whenever a story “starring The Donald” comes on. How many more will it take before you folks at ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, CABLE NEWS NETWORS, and every other station in the country wake up and smell the bullshit that is being shoveled by the guy with the bad comb-over.

 

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What do you hear when you’re all alone; in the silence of a room without television or any other electronic device? What do you hear if a window is open in that room? Do you hear the sounds, the beep, beep, beep of a truck backing up? Do you wonder what that truck is doing? Do you think that perhaps a new foundation is being poured and that’s the truck that’s bringing the concrete? Or maybe you hear the wail of a siren. Is it police? Fire? An ambulance? Do you smell the smoke from someone’s barbeque or is that a leaf fire? Do you do any of these things? Do you think about the world outside your own? Do you enjoy the sounds of silence?

All of the things that I described above took place this morning. I was sitting alone in the family room, trying to finish a latch-hook rug that I’ve been working on for too long. The dog was laying down, almost asleep but with one eye on the squirrels and chipmunks running back and forth across the patio. The television was off…for no particular reason other than there is crap on TV in the morning. We live approximately one mile from a major highway and, yes, the noises do drift our way. When I heard the first siren, I knew it was a police chase; they have a distinctive sound. It died as he pulled someone over as police car sirens are wont to do…damn things sound like they’re dying! The second wail was an ambulance. It whoop,whoop, whooped as it sped along. “Are you going to a hospital, a crash, a home…where are you going,” I wondered. And then the room returned to silence.

I don’t really know – nor should I – how silence affects others. It does funny things to me. Yes, the small piece of yarn goes over the hook and through the open square, filling the hole as row after row is completed. However, that’s mindless work; following latch hook directions on a printed piece of paper is hardly what I would call…use your own metaphor! In the silence my mind wanders. I begin to silently hum the theme song from the movie, The Summer of ’42. That morphs into thinking about Harry Hunt and Ed Hurtig, two WWII casualties. I knew who Harry was, but I learned of Ed only when his brother wanted to name a building for him at Northeastern University. Funny, they were both Air Force and both died on Christmas Day. I wondered if they knew one another. And then I began to think of young lives unlived…my friend, Jerry, who worked with me in the A&P and who went home on a Saturday night and was dead by Tuesday…polio killed him and I can’t even remember his last name. I think of Mrs. Hunt, changing the blue star in her front window on Belmont Street to a gold star…at least she still had her younger son, Henry. I don’t even know if Mrs. Hurtig had a start in her window; I hope she did…funny, the family didn’t have any pictures of Ed that he wasn’t wearing a hat. They wanted Ed’s picture to hang in the lobby of his building, but they wanted to show him without a hat. The artist had quite a challenge, but she met it, and as sports announcers are so fond of saying of a good play, “She nailed it!”

Many things go through my head in silence. What about you? Really, what happens to you when you experience silence around you. The trucks, cars, and sirens, might as well be a million miles away; I can hear them, and all they do is trigger thoughts. Is this the way all minds work? Am I a total freak? The idea for this piece came in the silence. I wondered to myself if other people go back in time, stay in the present, look ahead, or does nothing happen in the silence. “You’ll have all the silence you want when you’re dead,” some genius said. I suppose, but no one’s come back to contradict the statement.

Some say that silence is golden. I guess they mean that it’s a thing to be treasured. If you’ve ever sat on a beach alone and watched a beautiful sunset…when the sea is calm and that golden ribbon of the sun touches the water, offering a walkway that can never be trod, there, there my friend is where you will find a moment of golden silence as well as beauty.

It is my fondest hope that you may find moments of silence. They will thrill you and enthrall you; they will embrace you and entice you. They will allow your mind to be completely empty and filled to capacity with thought. In The Chosen, Chiam Potok says, “I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.” Listening to silence sounds to some as a crazy idea, the product of a mind that is, perhaps, somewhat delusional. It’s not; silence creates its own learning laboratory. It’s up to us as listeners to spend time in the classroom. In his book, The Phantom Tollbooth, American author, architect, and Hampshire College faculty member, Norton Juster, writes, “Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” Listen carefully, my friends; listen carefully to the magnificent sound of silence.

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