Archive for November, 2016

I was a depression-era baby. My mother and father believed strongly that if you couldn’t pay for it, you didn’t need it. That included just about everything, including a can of baked beans to a new or used car. It’s just the way things were. Mom had a ‘Christmas Club’ whereby she would go to the bank each week and deposit five or ten dollars – sometimes as little as a couple of bucks – in order to buy presents for the kids in December. This was ingrained in us from our earliest years…”Don’t get into debt!”

When I went off to college, my folks had scraped enough money together to get me through my first year. My part-time job put money in the bank so that I could continue. Since I went to a university that offered the co-op plan, I was able to work a term to pay for a term…”But I didn’t go into debt!” Tuition and books were a lot less expensive then, and I most assuredly was not a residence hall student. One book that was a required text was “Advertising Production.” At the first meeting of the class, the instructor informed us that it was not his choice of a text, but the department chair insisted. He then said that it wouldn’t bother him in the least if we returned the text to the bookstore. That had been the most expensive text I had ever purchased and, suffice it to say, no one from the class came close to getting to the bookstore with the speed and exuberance of yours truly.

When it came time to purchase our first home, my wife and I were very concerned. We both held full-time jobs, but both were in education. Anyone who has worked in the field knows that the salaries are not exorbitant. My folks couldn’t help but my wife was the only child of a successful theater chain executive. He helped us with a ‘wink, wink loan,’ and our mortgage became something manageable.

By this time, credit cards were becoming a bigger and bigger business. “Buy now; get it now; pay later,” was the mantra and many people fell into the trap. Since she, too, was a depression baby, our philosophy was a bit different…”If you can’t pay for it, you don’t need it.” Gee, where had I heard that one before? Did we eventually build some credit card debt? Absolutely, but not to the point where we couldn’t pay the debt off in the short- rather than the long-term. We calculated annual rate percentages and couldn’t stand the thought of “them” taking all of our interest. Hell, it ticked me off that our mortgage payments were more interest than principal for a while.

The biggest drawback to this frugal behavior didn’t catch up with me until the other day. In order to get a substantial discount on a moderately expensive item, I agreed to apply for an Amazon credit card. In the turn down letter that I received, was written, “We used information from your credit report in making our decision. In whole or in part, from the credit reporting agency below (Experian, Inc). The agency won’t be able to provide the specific reasons for our decision. We’ve enclosed details about your right to know the information in your credit report at the end of this letter.” I was truly pissed! I called Experian to learn what was going on, only to be told after an hour and two minutes on the telephone, that I didn’t have a credit rating because, basically, I didn’t have any credit debt. Of the three people with whom I spoke, not one could speak the King’s English. I kept asking to speak to a supervisor which only got me transferred to another – be polite now – international speaker. After the first 26 minute wait, I asked how many people were working the phones in the office. This question at first stumped the person on the other end. Finally, she admitted that there were somewhere between 100 and 150. “Why then the long delay in answering your phones?” I asked. She just chuckled, yes, chuckled, and asked how she could help. She couldn’t and I was again transferred. After a similar wait, I reached Kadherin, who neither spoke English very well and either chose not to understand or didn’t understand my request. Here’s the topper: I am now being charged $39.95 for calling Experian plus a $1.00 charge for my credit report, which I will never see because it’s nonexistent!

Tomorrow I go to my bank and request a credit card from them. I will use that credit card, but only to the extent of receiving a monthly statement for the purpose of establishing some credit line. I should not have to do this because I pay my bills on time. This has been ingrained in me since birth. Thinking back on it, while mother was changing my diapers I do remember her singing a lullaby about “…the Joneses are in debt; we won’t keep up with them, etcetera, etcetera,” and the chorus was “…if you can buy it, you don’t need it,” or words to that effect. Yeah, yeah, I remember that (uh huh, sure you do)!

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Birds and Geese

Have you ever watched a large flock of birds’ murmurate? Don’t bother, I had to look it up and be surprised too. In giant flocks they turn as one, swooping, diving, climbing, and banking, as choreographed movements as the best dance troupe in the world. How do they do that thing that can be so mesmerizing to the watcher? It happened to me again this morning. I was sitting in my car, waiting for the gym to open when this dark swarm flew over the parking lot, all but disappeared in the distance, came back again and performed several more of those we-move-as-one maneuvers before alighting on a long line of high tension wires across the street. I wanted to get out of my car and applaud, but there were other people waiting, and I didn’t want them to think that I’m any crazier than some of them already think.

Grainger Hunt, a senior scientist at the Peregrine Fund, calls these large flocks murmurations. They are “a dazzling cloud, swirling, pulsating, drawing together to the thinnest of waists, then wildly twisting in pulses of enlargement and diminution,” he writes. It’s certainly worth stopping your car for, or stopping to watch a video like the one recorded over the River Shannon in Ireland. It can be found on YouTube and it’s worth the watch.

The bigger question is, “Why don’t these birds smash into one another?” With flocks as large as the one I watched, it was as if everyone knew to change direction simultaneously. The flapping of their wings would make impossible for the lead bird to chirp out, “Swarm…to the left, or dive to the telephone pole.” I mean, c’mon, it doesn’t work that way. So, how does it work? In 2010, a group of researchers at the National Council of Research and the University of Rome found that, “Surprising as it may be flocks of birds are never led by a single individual. Even in the case of flocks of geese – more about them later – the movement of the flock is actually governed collectively by all of the flock members. But the remarkable thing about …flocks is their fluidity of motion.” The research team indicated that, “…the group responds as one and cannot be divided into independent subparts.” If this isn’t a prime example of teamwork, I really don’t know what is.

Ah, but since teamwork is the new subject at hand, let us talk about geese. Say what? Yes, I could hear you all the way over here. Now, geese are another example of perfect teamwork. The following is taken from A Gift of Inspiration:

“Lesson 1 – The Importance of Achieving Goals – As each goose flaps its wings it creates an UPLIFT for the birds that follow. By flying in a ‘V’ formation the whole flock adds 71 percent extra to the flying range. Outcome: When we have a sense of community and focus, we create trust and can help each other to achieve our goals.

“Lesson 2 – The Importance of Team Work – When a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front. Outcome: If we had as much sense as geese we would stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

“Lesson 3 – The Importance of Sharing – When a goose tires of flying up front it drops back into formation and another goose flies to the point position. Outcome: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks. We should respect and protect each other’s unique arrangement of skills, capabilities, talents and resources.

“Lesson 4 – The Importance of Empathy and Understanding – When a goose gets sick, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to the ground to help and protect it. Outcome: If we have as much sense as geese we will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong.

“Lesson 5 – The Importance of Encouragement – Geese flying in formation ‘HONK’ to encourage those up front to keep up with their speed. Outcome: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups and teams where there is encouragement, production is much greater. ‘Individual empowerment results from quality honking’

“The original version of Lessons from Geese was written by Dr Robert McNeish in 1972”

Thus endeth the lesson regarding murmurations and the lessons taught to us by geese.

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Do you remember those old Western ‘B’ movies, the ones where actors like Jeff Chandler, Burt Lancaster, and Rock Hudson played the Native Americans? There was always some line somewhere in the film where the Indians (oops, Native Americans) first saw the shooting of a gun and called it a “fire stick.” Those films were pretty bad, very insulting, and yep, I saw them all from one of the hidden nooks in the old Strand Theater in my hometown. Probably every theater had a couple of those secret places where you and your ‘gal’ could sit and make out…and to hell with the movie. In those days, making out meant something like putting your arm around her shoulder and perhaps sneaking a kiss or three.

Anyway, enough of the sentimentality and personal history. Juli just purchased a ‘fire stick.’ No, she didn’t buy a weapon to be used against the varmints in the yard or the neighbor’s bratty kids. This fire stick is all one word but the computer won’t let me do that so I’ll just stay with the old fashioned way. This particular fire stick is just about as terrifying as the first gun seen by Audrey Hepburn in her Native American role in “The Unforgiven.” This thing allows me to talk to my television set and it, in turn, responds by doing exactly what I ask. It even has a friggin’ name. It calls itself ‘Alexa.’ Now I don’t know if that’s supposed to have any deep hidden meaning or if someone at Amazon – oh, yeah, of course it comes from Amazon…doesn’t everything? Anyway, I can ask ‘Alexa’ what the weather is in my area or what movies I can watch, by title, by actor, director, or for all I know, even by key grip, whatever the hell a key grip is. Watch enough credits and you’ll always see a key grip somewhere. Now when I say ‘ask,’ I don’t mean that I type my question. I speak to this thing! And it responds by showing me the answer to my question. Of course, if I ask a question that requires a vocal response, it does that too…now that’s pretty scary! I fully expect that one of these days, Alexa is going to tell me to “…Go to hell; find it yourself,” just like any self-respecting robot will do to its owner someday.

After my first session with Alexa, which lasted darn near an hour, I turned to Juli and asked, “Where do we go from here?” Very nonchalantly she answered, “We’ll all have computer chips in our brains.” I’m certain she’s right. Last week, we watched a news story about a man having a chip inserted in the back of his hand in order to unlock the door to his very secure office. He just held the back of his hand against another gizmo outside the office door and, ‘zap,’ the door opened automatically. Of course, what made me chuckle was the fact that his door and the panels on either side were floor to ceiling glass. Who needs a computer chip when you’ve got a hammer, eh?

I come from a generation that saw pens with replaceable nibs. You dunked the nib in an inkwell and wrote that way. Yes, we had manual typewriters as well. My Dad had an old Royal and it was the machine on which he taught me the “right way” to type. Even in high school, we used Underwood manual typewriters. We’ve certainly come a long way, but dammit, I remember those days. As several friends have reminded me, “You’re so old you fart dust,” a comment that is most often greeted with a smile or chuckle, but which sometimes hurts. It seems that technology is outpacing the human mind, and yet, it’s the human mind that is creating this technology. It appears that we have the choice of accepting and embracing this technology or run the risk of becoming obsolete and put out to pasture somewhere.

In many ways, I consider myself fortunate to have seen and to have learned many of the exciting things that have happened over the past eight decades. Imagine going from nibbed pens to ballpoints, from manual typewriters to electric to Selectric to auto-spacing and auto-correcting. Imagine going from the first computers that required something the size of a large warehouse in which to operate to the mini-sized tablets of today. Imagine the old two piece, cord-connected, stand up telephones of yesteryear to the phones of today that have more power than the computers used to land Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. What next? Will we actually see robots in the grocery store, doing the shopping for their owner families? Will driverless automobiles be so common that our grandchildren won’t have to take “Driver Ed” in order that we get a discount on our insurance? Will we become so lazy that doctors – robots, of course – will stop talking about obesity because it will be the norm. Maybe we’ll just go to a ‘place’ once a month to have all of our fat removed by liposuction or some advanced technique. Men then would all have six-packs and bulging biceps, and women would have any figure they choose. Ah, the advances in technology…where the hell does it all end? For me…well, I’m just fascinated by my little ‘firestick.’

(Aha, I got the computer to accept it!)

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There was a time when I could be as shocked as the next person over some well-known celebrity’s death, but if you think about it, what the hell, it’s going to come to everyone sooner or later. When your time is up, it’s up, and there’s really not much one can do about it. In the Bible it says, “Oh death where is thy sting; oh grave, where is thy victory.” This is told to us because the Bible says that something better is waiting on the other side of death. We don’t know that for certain because no one has come back and gone on the lecture circuit to tell us how great it is. Why would they? If it’s so great, heck, they’d stay there and soak it up…which is probably why no one has come back. My sister tells me that when she died and before she came back, she saw “sheer beauty,” but then the doctors’ reclaimed her so she’s no help…nah, she’s a good kid!

Many of us have experienced family death. The question is whether it’s been sudden and shocking or a lingering illness that steals the live of someone we loved. My father was rather young when, riding in an open touring car, he lost his biological mother to a train crash. My mother’s folks were not so lucky. They lingered in a hospice facility, side by side, as cancer wasted them away. You might raise the question, “Why were they ‘not so lucky’?” If you’ve ever watched cancer kill, you would have your answer right there.

When Florence Henderson died recently, it got me to thinking. Here was a woman born in the same year that I was hatched. I didn’t really think of her as the “Brady Mom,” but more for the musical shows in which I had heard her. She had a terrific voice, was the voice of the first ‘Fanny’ and, as I understand it, ‘Oklahoma’ was written with her in mind for the lead role. But now she’s gone, and it was just another reminder of my own mortality. She died of heart failure. I’ve had four heart attacks. Makes me sortta wonder.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really fear death itself. My life has been extremely full. I’ve traveled across America from east to west; been north and south and spent time in the places in which I wanted to spend time. Got married to a terrific lady and together we raised three pretty darn good kids. Got them educated, into adulthood, married, and now they each have three. Along the way, I’ve watched the kids set collegiate records, run their own businesses, coach Olympic athletes and, in many ways, do far better than I ever could have dreamed…or done myself. I guess we can all brag about our families in one way or another. I have been twice blessed by another woman whom I love and now, in my dotage, I can look back and say that there are very few things I haven’t done that I truly wish to have accomplished. So, bring it on. Death, you have no sting for me. My sins are many and I may wind up where the sun doesn’t shine and heat is pretty bad, but what the hell (so to speak), I’ll meet so many friends that at least I won’t be lonely. The single drawback will be that my wife won’t be there. She’s in a more heavenly place.

Dying, of course, is a different story. It’s rather like that interim step toward the completion of your goal. You’re born…you live your life…interim step…death. Those seem to be the stages. Perhaps that third step, because of its uncertainty, is the one that I fear. I’ve known several folks who have just gone to bed at night and didn’t bother to get up the next morning. That sounds all well and good but what the heck were they dreaming about when they passed. A former classmate was laying on the couch and didn’t say anything…just rolled off and was dead before he hit the floor. It doesn’t really matter what that interim step is because we will all take it in one way or another.

It might be wise for all of us to pay heed to the words of author Jordan Smith, “When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.”

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Is it really love?

“It was love at first sight!”

Is that really an accurate statement? How can you accurately state that someone you’ve never seen before, never spoken with, never danced with, never dined with, struck you dumb? Was it love or was it lust? Was it overwhelming beauty, the clothing, the confidence emanating from that other person…just what was it that made you utter that statement? In the first edition of The Godfather, Michael Corleone is said to have been “…hit by the thunderbolt” when he first meets Apollonia, ergo, love at first sight, but how can one actually believe that?

Perhaps “love at first sight” is a misnomer, perhaps not. I contemplated this the other day as I was staring at the picture I have of my late wife on the mantel. What actually happened to me when I walked into the teachers’ room and saw this woman, and without thinking twice, thought to myself, “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?” Hey, I didn’t know who the hell she was. Beautiful? In my eyes, absolutely. She was smiling at something someone had said…and it was a fantastic smile. In hindsight, however, looking at the photograph, I had to ask myself, “Why and how? Why and how did you know that this was the one?”

According to Dr. Elliot Cohen, writing in Psychology Today, “…in simply seeing others without ever having an opportunity to get to know them, we cannot reasonably be said to love them. Indeed, in some cases, when we get to know others whom we admire from a distance, we may even come to regard them as downright repulsive!” Personally, I’ve never found that to be the case, but I suppose he has a point. The other person’s views may not coincide with your own and that could, I suppose, be a turn off. They might spit when they talk or have some physical impairment that you didn’t notice at first, express racist, misogynistic or anti-something views not in line with your own, and while that may not make them “downright repulsive,” it could affect your idea of wanting to spend too much time with them.

Cohen believes that the “at first sight” may not be that at all. That we may relate to our “love” because they resemble someone we have known and thought highly of or even been related to. He then carries it to the extreme of citing Plato’s contention that our souls are parted when we leave Heaven and come to earth. When we find “that special person,” our “soul mate” as it were, the two souls are joined. That’s a bit of a stretch, even for me.

It seems to me that falling in love is quite different from love at first sight. The former takes a great deal of time to develop. You “fall” in love, I believe, as you grow to know one another, as you learn to appreciate how the other acts, thinks, feels, and yes, even makes love. These are the deeper feelings which bond you to one another forever while “love at first sight” may be something of a purely sexual attraction.

Aimee Boyle, a writer and teacher, states, “The intensity of falling in love at first sight can conjure a sense of spirituality; a sense that you have touched the divine, have found a spark of the essence of love and the meaning of your life on earth. No matter what your experience, love at first sight can and does occur and can be one of the most confusing, exhilarating and sacred experiences possible.”

Hot damn, talk about opposing viewpoints, but are they really? Perhaps I’m just a fortunate guy. I’ve been twice blessed. Getting to know and fall even more deeply in love with Joan, sharing our fifty plus years together, raising three children, and then watching her waste away to cancer did nothing to abate my love for her. Seeing my current partner for the first time was not the same. Attractive? Yes, but not the staggering beauty that I thought I saw when I was 22. “Well the, how did you know she was for you?” you might ask. It didn’t take long. The evening she arrived we stopped for dinner on the way home. Our conversation was enough for me to say, “Wow, I really like the way you think. We have so much in common. I really want to know you better.” It had nothing to do with bearing and raising children. Hell, we’d both been down that road. It had nothing to do with jumping into bed and all the attendant emotions that go with that. No, it was completely different. How I felt at 75 was a far cry from how I felt at 22. Was it maturity? Probably. Joan and I had matured together. My partner and I are mature enough to know that it doesn’t matter if one of us leaves the cap off the toothpaste, but we’re also mature enough to not do such a stupid thing.

So, can there be “love at first sight?” My answer would agree more with Cohen. “Love,” no. A desire to get to know this person better because he or she looks like “my kind” of person…oh yeah. And “my kind” includes many, many things, such as intellectual pursuits, physical activities, educational actions, and sure, sexual pleasures. You may get hit by the “thunderbolt,” but if that’s all there is, the depth of feeling is, in my mind, shallow and not worth the pursuit.

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What happened to fall?

‘Gnarly,’ isn’t that a great word? I’m not talking about some surfer dude back in the 80’s when “gnarly” and “rad” and a few other “no-one-knows-what-the-hell-your-talking-about-words” were on the lips of the ‘hippier’ dudes wherever. As the trees lose their leaves and the branches take on that cold, barren look of winter, I stare at some of the branches and the first thing that comes to mind is just how ‘gnarly’ they look. The spindly outer branches look like webs that could entangle the unwary, but those upper branches with their twists and turns and boles of different sizes, they look scary, as if they could reach out and grab the unsuspecting. It’s all like something out of a Harry Potter story.

The streets have made their own little ‘center islands’ of rust and copper leaves. It seems to be the oak leaves that are the strongest and that cling together to form these little, driver-created islands on the roads. It’s all just another announcement by Mother Nature that, “winter is coming; get ready; be prepared; hunker down.”

I would never admit it to people like Jack Smith or Arthur ‘Hooks’ Gardner or Leo ‘Spits’ Flannery or even Bill Glavin but I really wish to hell that I could afford to be a snowbird. You know, Cape Cod in the summer and some sunny clime in Florida in the winter. To be fair, ‘Hooks’ lives in Georgia so he doesn’t escape completely unscathed, but Jack, Leo, and Bill…hell, those are completely different stories.

The first dusting of snow in the winter is really beautiful…unless it’s not a dusting but a damnable blizzard. Right now weathermen and women in Boston are all excited about the snow that’s falling in Connecticut and the western part of Massachusetts. “Oh, it looks like Springfield will get a good six inches while the Green Mountains of Vermont may pick up two feet!” Two feet? Two feet, my ass; that’s a whole pile of snow and it’s still November. C’mon guys, gimme a break!

The first tee at the local golf club is at the top of a reasonably steep hill. I used to take the grandkids sledding there when they and I were much, much, much younger. Truth to tell, they were younger and enjoyed every bumpy ride to the bottom. Grandpa would stand at the top of the hill and try to recall a time when he enjoyed sledding quite as much as they did…it was extremely difficult to remember those days. I do remember falling off my sled and somehow getting cut behind the ear by an errant steel runner on my Sky Ryder… bled like a sonofabitch, but the tree shouldn’t have been in the way. We used to steer around that tree, at least I did until the rope on my steering bar snapped. Looking back at some of the crazy things we did – such as catapulting over a five-foot high wall belly-down on our sleds – it’s a wonder we didn’t all have torn up kidneys or at the very least qualify for the Vienna Boys’ Choir!

People talk about the blizzard of ’78 or the horrible winter of 2014, but to me, anytime the temperature drops below 70 degrees, it’s freakin’ winter. Even this fall was warmer than average and I liked it, I liked it!

You may tell me that my memory is shot to hell, and you just might have something there, but I remember past winters, before I was out of high school when I thought the snowdrifts were bigger than anything I’ve seen since entering adulthood. You see, winter and I just don’t get along. I no longer shovel or snowblow, but even sitting before a beautiful (gas) fire on the hearth, singing Christmas Carols (through clenched teeth) and attempting to be merry and bright (I don’t wear neckties anymore; I’m retired), my spirits droop during (what seems like an eternity) the winter months.

So, for all of you avid skiers and après skiers, go ye forth and enjoy. As for me, I’ll just layer-up and count the days until the trees again will fill their ‘gnarly’ branches with leaves of green, and spring warmth will envelop me once more.

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Oh light, where is thy glow

I don’t know about you, but I’ll certainly be happy to see December 21st come and go. What…you don’t know what’s so important about that day? You’re kidding, right? Oy vey, here we go again. Just as June 21st has the greatest number of daylight hours, so December 21st has the fewest number of daylight hours. Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, June 21st is the longest day of the year?” Well, guess what, they’re wrong. The hours of the day are still 24± but the day just has more light hours than dark. Therefore, you could probably say that it’s the shortest night of the year…oh good, I’ve thoroughly messed with your head…how wonderful!

Now think about this one…when daylight savings time goes into effect and the hours in the day grow less and less light, what happens? Well, the first thing is Halloween…yeah…a big celebration for the kiddies. We take their collective little minds off the fact of fewer hours of daylight and replace it with a sugar rush! Meanwhile, mommy and daddy are beginning to show the first signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder…no wonder they call it SAD. Generally, it’s too early for a drink and too long before the recreational marijuana stores open. As a consequence, mommy and daddy insist on going through the kid’s stash of candy so that they, too, might get a sugar high. Problem with that is that mommy’s butt and daddy’s gut grow a bit more with each little Snickers, Hershey’s and Almond Joy bite…naughty, naughty mommy and daddy.

Halloween, of course, is the precursor, the grand beginning of what is touted as The Holiday Season! Yeah, Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings and the adults at one table talking ‘adultly,’ and the children at the children’s table wondering what the hell the adults are talking about…”and if you touch my turkey one more time Billy, I’m gonna kick the shit out of you!” Welcome to the children’s table. Everyone eats too much and those who are guests wonder why the hell they didn’t cook their own bird so they, too, could have leftovers for tomorrow…and tomorrow…and tomorrow…yuck!

Thanksgiving is supposed to celebrate our thanks for whatever we have to be thankful for…at my age, I’m thankful for the ability to still draw a breath, but then…naw, there are many things for which I’m thankful. I’m thankful that my kids and their kids are all reasonably healthy…they don’t really tell me when they’re not, so I suppose that’s also something for which I should give thanks. My greatest fear in life is that of the possibility of having to bury a child or a grandchild. It’s just not possible to describe the feelings I have for those who have to do it. I’m thankful for the 50+ years that Joan and I had together, and I’m thankful that Juli and I found one another. Yeah, when push comes to shove, Thanksgiving is a pretty darn good day for me. When he was younger, our grandson used to pass out 3 x 5 cards at the beginning of each Thanksgiving dinner. After the meal was done, he would read the cards and we would have to guess who had written them.

Thanksgiving is followed by what is now known as Black Friday. That’s the day when items that were $9.99 on Monday are offered at the Holiday Savings Price of $10.99. It’s also known as Dad’s Wallet Depreciation Day. Loss leaders such as $800 television sets are sold for $300 for as long as they last, and “I’m sorry but we just sold the last one” is heard a minute and a half after the store opens. People go wild. You think the marches in the street were bad after the election, hah, they cannot compare to the rampage that takes place on Black Friday. This is followed by Small Business Saturday, when everyone is encouraged to shop the smaller, independent stores. The shopping frenzy is interrupted by the Christian Sabbath and then it’s back to the buy, buy, buy mentality with Online Monday. All of this and we haven’t yet reached December 1st. “Fresh cut” Christmas trees begin arriving for sale the last week in November, and anyone damned fool enough to buy one then better have a fire extinguisher handy by the time Santa hops into his sleigh.

See, all of this is a big hoopla to make us forget that the days have little daylight left. We forget this because we first get a sugar high, then get our bellies filled beyond anything we ever thought of. Next, it’s spend next year’s paycheck before it even arrives, go into depression over that until the first time the tree lights are turned on, and then watch the kids’ faces as they tear apart their presents on Xmas morn. The following week mommy and daddy celebrate by either making damned fools of themselves at some neighborhood party, or by going to bed before the stroke of midnight (smartest move of all). Yep, it’s that time of year when daylight disappears early, only to be replaced by a blanket of white that gives the illusion of brightness.

Damn, but I’ll be glad when daylight savings returns!

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Do something about it

Okay, so you’re pissed off. Hillary didn’t win…BFD, WTF, TS, and all the other little acronyms you want to toss around. Gary Johnson didn’t win either, nor did I expect that he would. However, if you didn’t even bother to go to the ballot box, what the hell are you doing carrying a sign that says, “Not my President?” Come-on, this is ridiculous. You think you’re unhappy. Heck, I’m eighty-two years old…know where I’ll be four years from now? Probably in the damned ground or, at least in my case, scattered around the ocean somewhere feeding the fish.

This whole concept of rioting in the streets must be something new to white people. Hell, when black people do it, they at least have the brains to break a few windows and loot! I mean, after all, if you’re going to take to the streets, do it right. Buncha black folks in South Central, East St. Louis, and Ferguson are goin’ “Goddamn white folks don’t even know how to do the riot thing right…buncha ignoramuses!”

You can be just as mad as you damn well like, but the fact of the matter is that Donald J. Trump is now the President-elect of the United States of America. He will be – yours and mine – the 45th President of our country come January 20th, 2017. I’m gonna hold his feet to the fire about everything he said on the campaign trail. I’m gonna blast his ass right here every time he reneges on any one of those campaign promises. He’s already shown America just how racist he is by naming Steve Bannon as his White House strategist. He’s already backed off on his threat to wipe out the Affordable Care Act on his first day in office. He’s already “ooing and ahhing about a special prosecutor to put Hillary Clinton in jail. And I hope to be able to call him on every other campaign tap dance that he attempts to back away from. I expect to see some pointy-capped, sheet-wearing clucker at my door on January 21st just for my past rants. Remember Pastor Martin Niemöller…”First they came for the…” and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this happen during the Trump administration. Until they come, however, I will continue to write. Sure, I’m small potatoes, but ya gotta start somewhere!

The point is, STOP THE DAMNED RIOTING IN THE STREETS! Your demonstrations are meaningless. Your voices mean nothing to the incoming administration. You want to be arrested, fingerprinted, mug shotted or whatever the hell they call it, fine. If that’s your bag, go ahead and do it. But, let me ask you this, what are you really accomplishing by these acts of civil disobedience? Want to do something better? Get involved in your community. Learn to organize. Run for school committee. Do something constructive, not just walking the streets at night shouting, “He’s not my President!” Take the time to learn how the system works and make it work for you.

I spoke to a man this morning. His mother used to stand in lines for 2 – 3 hours to get bread. Sometimes she got it; other times it was stale; and sometimes, by the time they got to her, there was no bread. His family was lucky. They came to America in 1980. He now holds two degrees from American universities. He lives in a very wealthy community. He is an entrepreneur who has people working for him. Why am I telling you this? He came to America and made the system work for him. Those of you who feel so entitled that all you have to do is shout and scream and the system will change to suit you…grow up! It doesn’t work that way. You have to work for it. Mommy and Daddy may think you’re the cat’s pajamas, but the world thinks you’re the cat’s ass until you go out and prove yourself. And proving yourself is hard, hard work.

And while you’re trying to prove yourself, read. Read about people who are already making this country great…no “again” about it. There are people out there, some with political experience, and others who are just good leaders and managers, CEO’s and COO’s and CFO’s and maybe, just maybe they’re right in your hometown. Read about your Congressman or woman. What are they actually doing for you, your community, and your country? If they’re not doing the job, call them on it. Make noise by writing to your local paper or commenting on it on your local television station. But don’t take it to the streets. Every time you do that, they laugh and all you do is make a damned fool of yourself. Obama was a community organizer, a lawyer, and a teacher before he went to the Senate. How does your resume stack up against that? You’re too young to have done all of those things? Well, get your ass in gear and start doing something about it. Bitching and wailing and gnashing of teeth doesn’t cut it. I’m too damned old to do it. Some of you reading this are in the same boat, but maybe your children or your grandchildren or someone you know who is unhappy is still young enough to take a stand against the establishment and give it a good swift kick in the butt!

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The first cold

Oh boy, the first cold of the season…how thrilling…NOT!

After I have finished my morning gym workout, I generally sit at the front of the facility and chat with the gentleman on duty. He’s had a fascinating career, working in public relations with major league baseball farm teams and also at the University of Delaware. Highly articulate and intelligent, he’s a pleasure to speak with first thing in the am. Yesterday, as we were chatting, I began to sneeze. Allergies, I thought, and he confirmed that his had begun acting up. We both felt that we could hardly wait for the first hard freeze…wait a minute, we’ve already had a couple of hard freezes. Oh, no!

But…my worst fears were realized while driving home. My nose was running so fast that I thought it was white water rafting on the Kennebec. Holding a handkerchief and driving one-handed is not my idea of fun, so I was happy to arrive in the garage after a three and a half mile sneeze fest and a piece of cloth that could, quite literally be wrung out.

“Where do I go that some virus could attack me,” I wondered. After all, I don’t go into the grocery store with Juli. She maintains that she can get things done a great deal faster without some old fart on a cane slowing her down. Tactless? Yes. True? Also yes. So, what the hell, I sit in the car with my Kindle and get some reading done…hey, it ain’t such a bad deal when you get right down to it. I rarely go into Walmart to pick up anything. There are certain items that we get there and Juli applies her grocery logic to my trips to Walmart. Aha, this leaves the one place I go on a regular basis, but she does not…ye olde local gym.

It is my contention that gyms rank second only to hospitals as spots where one is most likely to contract some illness. I mean, c’mon, who goes to hospitals, sick people, right? On the other hand, who goes to the gym, people who are looking to keep themselves from going to the hospital…okay? There seems to be some kind of a dichotomy here. Gyms…good health; hospitals…bad health. Yet, this is not actually the case. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of people who go to the gym in the morning are fanatics about wiping down the machines they use both before and after their exercise regimen. Since I don’t spend all day and well into the evening in the gym, I cannot speak for others. I’m as bad as all of the others in terms of cleaning the equipment, so much so, that I bring my own Lysol or Clorox wipes. The problem that I have is I don’t wipe the machines down before I use them. After this latest episode, rest assured that I will now follow the lead of my colleagues and wipe before and after.

Why do you even care about this? Well, truth to tell, you may use a gym. If not, fine. However, do you go elsewhere where you handle, let’s say, a grocery cart that has been used by who-knows-how-many-others? The same is true of clothing stores or almost anywhere else you might shop. I’ve noticed that many stores now have wipes containers near where you grab a cart or basket. Use the wipes. It isn’t wimpy to do so. In fact, it’s smart to do so. Right now, we have entered the cold and flu season. You really don’t want to contract either…well, unless you want to do your Typhoid Mary imitation again, and that just leads to ostracization by your own social circle…not such a great ‘thang.’

I will be a happy camper when this bloody cold is gone. Airborne and all the other OTC recipes for ridding it probably won’t do a helluva lot, but orange juice will see me through…particularly when it’s mixed with vodka at a one to ten ratio. I may still feel rotten, but I’ll be too drunk to know it!

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Trump’s Triumph

Does this mean that ‘groping’ is now back in style?

Do we now go back to insulting women by calling them “fat pigs” and other demeaning remarks?

Will we now face the prospect of all same sex marriages being cancelled?

Can we begin to tell everyone we dislike to go “fuck themselves” without fear of recrimination because our new president says the same thing?

Are we now at risk of destroying the planet because our leader is no long fearful of using nuclear weapons while not understanding the overall consequences?

Is the election of Donald Trump a true indication that democracy is failing?

Perhaps I’m just being a sore loser, although I didn’t vote for Clinton either. Still, I’m appalled that this nation could elect such a narcissistic, misogynistic, arrogant, egotistical, and hate-filled person as Donald J. Trump to lead it for the next four years. In his acceptance speech Trump admitted that “a few people” didn’t vote for him, but that he wished to unite all citizens of “this great country” and “…bind the wounds of division.” Excuse me, but in your campaign you insisted that America isn’t great and that you wished to “Make America great again.” There is a disconnect here. Mr. Trump successfully alienated women, Latino’s, Blacks, Jews, and darn near every other racial, ethnic, or religious group at one point or another, and he was still elected? How can this be? Just how angry can the populace be? Has a majority of America located the fountain of stupid? And drunk from it liberally?

Put bluntly, “The devil now has his due.” What he does with it over the next four years, if the country lasts that long, will be interesting. He has the potential to appoint three conservative judges to the Supreme Court, ergo, Roe v. Wade will quickly disappear. Women will no longer be free to choose what happens to their bodies…well, except for those who carry guns and know how to dispose of bodies…hmm, that could create an entire new industry. President-elect Trump has indicated that he will immediately revoke Obama care, but with what will he replace it? Seven Presidents before Obama tried and failed to get a health bill passed. Even with a Republican majority in Congress, it will be interesting to see who comes up with what or if anything at all is done to protect the 22 million people who will be affected by this loss of care. He has made it very clear that in his view marriage should be between one man and one woman – except for Donald Trump, of course – so we must now wait to see how many LGBT marriages will be revoked or annulled.

The incoming president may be in for a rude awakening when it comes to foreign relations. Although the former head of the KGB was quick to congratulate him, Mr. Trump would be wise to understand that Putin will not be satisfied until the entire world is controlled by dictators controlled by him. International bullying is quite a different game than that normally played by our homegrown bully extraordinaire.

Overall, I cannot express any optimism for the future of America under President-elect Trump. The Electoral College has put him into office despite the fact that he has never expounded on his plans for anything. “We will repair the infrastructure of the United States and this will create thousands of jobs.” Fine, how do we pay for it?

I’m perfectly willing to give President-elect Trump exactly the same kind of “honeymoon” that the Republicans gave to the President-elect Obama. That is, he has until tomorrow to unveil his entire agenda for the next four years. Never mind this first 100 days nonsense. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The Republicans were merciless in their attacks on Obama and his plans, beginning with the ‘birthers’ led by Donald J. Trump right down to those cowardly Congressmen and Senators – you know who you are, and sad to say, so do I – who were calling Obama racist epithets preceded by a few choice adjectives preceding the noun. Oh, yes, and the first thing I would like to hear is how you intend to run the government with a balanced budget. Good luck, Ace!

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