Archive for November, 2017

When old folks fall

When you are old, the most frightening thing in the world is a fall. It appears that one of the first things that begins to fail in the elderly is their balance. A couple of years ago, I had a dizziness episode in my primary care doctor’s office and was taken to see a neurologist. They tested my brain – now stop that; I do so have a brain – and he indicated, after a few tests, that my balance was not what it should be. He recommended that a cane would be a good aid in walking and keeping my balance. I took him up on that, and it has been quite a benefit.

The other day, we were coming home from grocery shopping. Cane over the wrist – bad place for it – I went to carry a couple of packages into the kitchen from the garage. Whoops, bad move. I tripped on the step going into the kitchen, dropped the packages in both hands, and felt myself getting ready for a tumble…backwards. Knowing that hitting the back of my head would probably coldcock me for a while, I reached out with my left arm and landed on the floor with the left side of my face. Here is the slo-mo look at the event. First, the trip, followed by the packages and the cane leaving my grip. Next, the fall backwards, bouncing off the freezer in the garage. Step three was to be conscious of the fact that if I went straight back, the floor would meet the back of my skull. If this were to happen, the speed at which I was falling would or could have had severe consequences…ie, this would have been a bad thing. As a result, I twisted in such a way that I could bounce off the car and land on my left side, doing so in such a manner as to hit the front left part of my head and face on the garage floor. Now, before you panic and say how hard a cement garage floor is, let me tell you something you may find hard to believe…we have a garage floor carpet. Yeah, that’s right. Our garage is carpeted. We didn’t do it, the people we bought the house from did it. He also had chrome-plated oil pans under his cars. Fortunately, the carpet was there. Unfortunately, it is not as thick as your local shag, ergo, it hurt!

Those of you who have ever hit your head sufficiently for it to bleed know that the skull has a number of blood vessels, and when they bleed, they do so in unison. They are a very ‘together’ group. The skull, you see, is not the only protection for the brain. There are three layers, called the meninges. These three layers are called the dura mater, arachnoid mater, and the pia mater. Those are the guys who serve as the guards for the brain being directly attacked when one takes a trip “groundward.” You know on these medical shows, when the doctor comes out and very dramatically tells the next of kin, “Well, she has a sub-dural hematoma and until we know how much bleeding is going into the brain, she’s in danger,” or a bullshit diagnosis like that, well, that’s exactly what they told me…you have a bit of bleeding into the brain from a sub-dural hematoma. It would have sounded funny had it not been that it was me they were talking about.

To learn all of this, the sequence was as follows: (1) Juli patched up the wound, but it kept on bleeding; (2) I drove over to the hospital to have it checked out; (3) They did a cat scan that showed the bleeding; (4) they don’t have the people to watch these things carefully; (5) I was shipped to a major Boston hospital for observation (6) the ambulance driver had to navigate Boston traffic at rush hour to get me to Mass General; (7) the emergency room was bigger than the town in which I grew up; (8) I had the greatest group of nurses, physician’s assistant, and neurosurgeon senior resident that I could ever hope to have; (9) another can scan was done that showed no more bleeding; (11) at midnight, they told me I could go home; and (12), an ambulance drove me home by one o’clock in the morning. My car? Oh, the kids picked that up the next morning.

The most frightening part of this entire adventure occurred as I was laying in the bed at Mass General. “Is this ‘that’ fall,” I wondered. “Is this the one you hear about when an old person falls, and this becomes the ‘beginning of the end,’ so to speak. You know the one I mean. “Oh, poor Harry, he took a tumble and went downhill from there. Everything just started to fall apart, and he was dead in a week.” In fact, at one point, the physician’s assistant came in and asked, “Whattsa matter, you look upset.” I told her about the ‘final’ fall. She laughed and assured me that this wasn’t it. “So, you fell, and you bled into your brain, so what? so what,” she said. “You’re gonna be fine.” It was amazingly great news, and was just another indication of my unwarranted paranoia.

I’m typing this at 4:00 am, so if there are typo’s, that’s your problem. I’m just glad to be home with a shiner and three huge steri-strips holding the wound in place. I do feel like I’ve been a few rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson, but I’m certain that, too, will fade away. And now for a great day with a Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, squash, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

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As if you don’t have enough to do as we enter this holiday season, I have every intention of compounding your life by asking you to join me in celebrating the days leading up to Thanksgiving which, as I understand it, is considered to be our official entrance into the silly season of holidays. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or some other day or days of gift-giving and merriment, or whether you just sit back and say…no, you’re not allowed to say that, here are some pre-holiday events that you might wish to consider…for what, I don’t have a clue, but you might wish to consider.

Today, for instance is Sunday, November 19, 2017, four days before we carve the bird…or whatevah. It is also known as, “Have a bad day” day. This day has been created by those wonderful folks…no, not those folks, by the wonderful folks at Wellcat.com. Go ahead, look ‘em up. In a way, I rather like it. Yesterday, as a friend and I were leaving the gym, she yelled across the parking lot, “Have a nice day.” Since we often banter back and forth, I responded, “Don’t tell me what kind of a goddamned day to have!” She just chuckled and continued on to her car.

Continuing on from yesterday, today is Absurdity Day. So, if you are, as Steve Martin proclaimed, “a wild and crazy guy” or other person, go ahead and do something absurd. I already did. Last week I was in Wegman’s. A man was emptying trash into a larger trash bin. He stopped me and asked if I was wearing compression stockings. I told him that I was…nice guy…we chatted for a few minutes, and I checked out…of the store…whew! Later in the week, I had to order a few more pair of those socks, and I thought, “What the hell, get an extra pair and see if you can find this guy again.” The socks were left on the front stoop last night, and I managed to locate the guy this morning, gave him the socks, and wished him Happy Holidays…kind of absurd but it felt pretty good. So, get your butt in gear and go do something absurd. Don’t let this day pass you by.

Today is also Beautiful Day as well as Universal Children’s Day. No one seems to know who, what, when, or where Beautiful Day originated, but what the hell, every day is a beautiful day if you can get out of bed in the morning. It doesn’t matter if you’re greeting the sun, the rain, the sleet, snow, or hail, your feet hit the floor and that make it a Beautiful Day. Universal Children’s Day is another story…and I quote, “In 1954, the UN General Assembly recommended that all countries should establish a Universal Children’s Day on an “appropriate” day. We are not sure, but perhaps each country did….at various different dates during the year. The resolution was adopted on November 20, 1954.”

Tomorrow is a ‘twofer,’ that is, we get to celebrate False Confession Day and World Hello Day. You really have to think that first one out carefully…like…don’t walk into your local police station and tell them you just robbed a bank…not wise. You could, however, walk into church, go into the confessional, tell the priest that the Mother Superior over at Saint Whoever’s is hooking at night…although, on second thought, I wouldn’t do that unless I was certain I could outrun the priest. “World Hello Day was created in 1973 by Brian McCormack, a Ph.D. graduate of Arizona State University, and Michael McCormack, a graduate of Harvard University.” It was at a time when war between Egypt and Israel was raging. These two men thought it would be a great idea just to say hello to ten people – ten strangers if you will, just as an expression of peace. Not a bad idea…until you get flipped off by a white supremacist.

This year, November 22 is the day before Thanksgiving. About now, you need a break, something that will take you away from the chaos of getting ready for tomorrow. You should be doing something for yourself. Here are some recommendations (not in quotes, but I did copy them from Go For A Ride Day.)
• Take a sleigh ride.
• Ride a horse.
• Ride a horse-drawn carriage.
• Snowmobile rides are always “cool”.
• A bicycle is a great, way to ride and exercise.
• A boat ride, if you’re in a warmer climate.
• Doesn’t a plane ride to a sunny vacation spot sound like fun!?
• You can’t ride in my little red wagon. Okay, you can ride in it.

Had enough yet? Of course not. November 23, 2017 is Thanksgiving. I guess we’re thankful that we finally shot enough Native Americans, took over their lands, rounded them up and put them on the shitiest land we could find, so now we can celebrate. Naw, I’m not really bitter…wait, yeah, the more I read about how they were treated, I’m not certain this is a celebratory day. It’s also Eat A Cranberry Day, National Cashew Day, National Espresso Day, and my personal favorite, National Tie-One-On Day.

Since you’ll probably be camping out at Walmart, Best Buy, Target, or some other retailer, I don’t have to tell you that the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday. It’s also Buy Nothing Day (yeah, right), All Our Uncles Are Monkeys Day, and Evolution Day, this last in honor of the day on which Charles Darwin published his highly controversial Origin of the Species, which is probably why we celebrate All Our Uncles…aw, forget it.

Thanks for tuning in, and have a wonderful week. Remember, if you see me on the street, you can still say, “Hello,” even if it isn’t Tuesday.

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Note to an unborn child

In three months you will be born. Your birth will come at a time of terrible confusion and unrest in a country that has been self-described as the “greatest in the world.” Some would take issue with that statement today, but that won’t really concern you. All that you will understand is that you spent nine months in a comfortable sac, hearing, (hopefully) soothing sounds of love and kindness. Whether you are male or female, black, brown, yellow or white, you will be loved by some, hated by others, accepted by many and distrusted by a few. You see, this world into which you are being born is, itself, still uncertain of who or what it is or wishes to accept.

Whatever your circumstances, never accept mediocrity in your life. As you grow up, remember that there are others out there, just like you, who are richer, poorer, cleaner, dirtier, more ugly and more beautiful. The one thing that you have going for you is your individuality. You have the opportunity to just “go with the flow” or to make a difference, however small, in the world in which you live. You don’t have to be the brightest star of your generation, but if you look carefully enough, you will find opportunities to make the lives of others better.

You will go to school and learn to read and write. You will, I hope, not be content to learn only what school can teach you, because you are living at a time when technological change is coming almost at the speed of light. It is impossible for your schooling to be the only education you receive. You must reach out and grasp the technological advances available to you, and with that knowledge, learn to do as much good for others as you possibly can. There are enough people who sit back and let the day, week, month, and year rule them rather than the other way around. You have ingrained within you a moral compass. It is something that your parents have given you since the day you were born. People have different names for it, but I will call it “integrity.” It is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” You don’t lie, cheat, or steal. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you should be one of the many who has a sense of what is right and wrong and doing what is right…all of the time. As a friend of mine told me on many, many occasions, “No one can take away your integrity. You have to give it away…don’t give away your integrity.” It was good advice to me, and I pray that it is good advice to you.

Even in your earliest school years, you will find children your age who do not have food to eat or shoes without holes, or clothing to face cold winters. I pray that you will not be born into a family that faces such problems. Never forget that. If, in adulthood, you can find a way to improve the lot of those children, I hope you will try to do so. I’m willing to bet that you will also grow up in a world where more poverty exists and where there are more homeless people on the streets than ever before. Perhaps you will have the ability to confront those problems also.

As you grow up, you will find that life has a way of kicking you in the teeth every so often. There is a mock Latin phrase that you should learn early on in your life. It goes like this…Illegitimi non carborundum. In effect, it means “don’t let ‘anyone’ grind you down. I guess that the best advice I can give is to live your life with the purpose of achieving the very best for you and the very best for others. You will confront people who will always take the easiest course of action and the one that requires the least effort. And you will meet people along the way who will do anything, honest or not, to get what they want. These are people with whom you don’t really wish to associate. Let me tell you right now that the easiest path isn’t always the right one. In fact, rarely is that the case. However, if you’re willing to work hard and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, you’ll be just fine.

As you grow older, perhaps you’ll have a family of your own. Treasure them as you can treasure nothing else. Treasure the love of your spouse and return that love with everything you have. Treasure your children if you are fortunate enough to have some. Remember, they were once where you are right now. Do your very best to ensure that the world they enter is better than the one that you entered. One new word that will enter your vocabulary at some point is called, “volunteering.” It’s a tricky word because it requires balancing what you do as a volunteer with what you do with the other requirements of your life. Being a volunteer for a good cause or causes can be so enriching as to become addictive. Don’t forget, “Everything in moderation…even moderation.”

You’re going to be fine. Remember this…”On the day you will be born, you will be crying and everyone around you will be smiling. Live your life so that on the day you die, everyone around you will be crying, but you will be smiling.”

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I received an e-mail today…yes, I still get e-mail…and it was headed, “Awaiting response from Dick Bishop.” Hot damn, doesn’t that sound critical? It began, “You have been selected to take part in a digital poll of grassroots Democrats in Westwood, MA.” I stopped right there. Yes, yes, I know what you’re saying…”You shouldn’t have opened it in the first place.” Well, you see, I had an inkling that I knew what was probably contained in this missive, and while I didn’t realize that I would be addressed in such a fashion, I thought I’d just, well, you know, just give it a little tickle.

Here is my response: “I am not a “grassroots Democrat” by stretch of anyone’s imagination. Do I believe that Donald Trump is certifiably insane and should be removed from office? Absolutely! Do I believe the Democrats have anything better to offer? Absolutely not! Until such time as all lobbyists are thrown out of the District, and until such time as the Congress of the United States finds a way to work together for the common good of the people of this country, I will continue to write my blog, but not financially support any candidate from either party.” This was my time to vent. I had better things to do with my time I readily admit, but what the hell, I was on a roll, and I was just getting started.

I continued, “At 83, it would give me no greater pleasure than to stand before a combined Congress and dress them down like the spoiled and pampered children that they are. There are sick people in this country who cannot afford health care, and yet neither party can compromise to the point where universal health care is no more than a dream. There are hungry and poor people in this country who don’t know where or if their next meal will be coming to them, yet we send all sorts of foodstuffs to starving refugees in other countries.” Was I rockin’ or what? I mean, can’t you just see me standing before a combined group of senators and representatives in a pair of sweats and wearing my T-shirt with a picture of the Capitol Building and the writing underneath, ‘Never underestimate the stupidity of a large group of people.’ (Actually, I don’t think I’d really wear that shirt…although I do own it and wear it to the gym on occasion.)

Taking a sip of water at the podium, l would move on: “Mass murder occurs almost on a daily basis, but Congress – owned by the NRA – does not dare to implement any greater control of who has access to guns. Both the House and the Senate promise tax reform, but each bill put forward, helps only the top one percent of the wealthiest. Our nation has not faced such a critical time since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. America has become a country no longer united, but a nation divided by a commander in chief who is, in fact, a clear and present danger to the future of this country.” And here, I would pause…look to my left at the gathering of Republicans. Pause again, and sweep my gaze across the Democratic side of the aisle.

At this juncture, I would conclude, “Our nation’s elected leaders talk a great deal about the importance of our Constitution, however, they cite only those parts of that wonderful document that will either further line their pockets or allow them to be reelected in order to further line their pockets. Congress does not appear to realize that our Founding Fathers authored a document that was not chiseled in stone, but that was written in a manner that it could change with the times. Please, if you wish to recruit me to your cause, you will have to do a great deal more than send me little surveys that always wind up asking me to fork over more of my fixed income.” With that, I concluded my response as follows, “And I’m willing to bet $100 of that hard-earned income that I will not hear from anyone other than a lowly staffer, if I hear from anyone at all.”

Thinking about it, wouldn’t it just be wonderful, if the House and the Senate would set aside just one or two hours a week in their (pardon me while I have a laughing fit…okay, I’m back) busy schedules to allow constituents to tell them, as a group, how Mr. or Mrs. America believes them to be doing their jobs. The fact of the matter, at least in my humble opinion, is that they are not really doing what we elected them to do.

If you are a Republican member of Congress, you had seven years to put together a program to replace the Affirmative Care Act, to create, edit, and finalize a tax reform bill, to develop and be prepared to put forth your ideas on foreign relations, gun control, reigning in the big pharmaceutical companies, and a whole pile of other legislation to benefit your Republican constituents. If you are a Democratic member of Congress, you should have seen the writing on the wall that you were doing a terrible job because you refused to have anything to do with the Republicans. Because of that stupidity, you lost your majority in both houses, and now the Republicans are doing unto you as you did unto them…and whining about it. I don’t want to tell your business, ladies and gentlemen, but the odds are looking fairly good that you just might win back your majority in 2018. Would it hurt you to extend a hand of peace across the aisle and say to your brethren that you would appreciate the opportunity to have their input on your plans for revisiting affordable care for their and your constituents, that you would like them to help you draft some new tax reform legislation, that perhaps you could work together to tell the NRA to get lost and work with you on new gun control laws? Would that be too much to ask? Yes, I know, these ideas are just completely out of the realm of possibility. After all, this is Washington, the nation’s capital, where politics has often been defined as a “blood sport.” When was the last time that anyone asked the question, “Why?” and when was the last time that the questioner received an intelligent answer? Surely, it has not been in my lifetime.

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Time for a new movement

Making invidious comparisons is not something I care to do, but since I’m already well into Ron Chernow’s Grant, I cannot help but compare the days following the Civil War with a number of things that are occurring in our country at the present time. You see, following the War and the assassination of President Lincoln, Andrew Johnson became President of the United States…which were no more united than Putin telling Trump that Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 elections. While the South may have surrendered at Appomattox, to the very generous terms that Grant offered to Lee and the Confederate Army, the plantation owners of the South seemed to forget that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution – “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” – prohibited them from returning to slavery. Now, comparing that to what’s happening in the United States today, I would say that women, long regarded by many, many men as nothing more than slaves to their whim, have finally decided to emancipate themselves. In the film industry, women have had enough of casting couches and the power brokers and are saying, “We will no longer be silent to the abuse that you have heaped upon us.” In colleges and universities, expect to hear more women coming forward. In the offices of attorneys, financial institutions, state and the federal government, expect to hear more women coming forward. Returning to our Civil War period, I would call this the New Reconstructionist Movement, this time, the women are taking the rights that belonged to them all along, but for which the consequences of protest were too great.

Look at it this way: “The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was the most highly publicized and debated constitutional amendment before the United States for most of the 1970s and early 1980s. First submitted by Congress to the states for ratification on March 22, 1972, it failed to be ratified by its final deadline of June 30, 1982.” Why, because the old boy network was still working. Since 1789, a total of 246 women have served in Congress. Of these, 211 have served only in the House of Representatives and 28 only in the Senate. Seven have served in both. You cannot tell me that there hasn’t been a defined effort to keep women out of elected political office by men. It took nearly 100 years of fighting and suffering before women received the right to vote. And if you believe the word, “suffering,” is too strong, I invite you to go back and study the history of the movement to gain that small token.

Today, we have Judge Roy Moore, a candidate for a seat in the United States Senate, standing accused by four women of sexual molestation a number of years ago. He vows not to back down or step aside. He maintains that this is “fake news.” He asks why these women are coming forward now and blames the opposing party of bringing them forward. He is a fool who either doesn’t watch news shows on television or is unable or unwilling to read newspaper accounts of women coming forward now to speak out about other predators, some claims much older than those that he is facing. Judge Moore would have fit in wonderfully with those Southerners who, after the Civil War, refused to accept the 13th or the 14th Amendments (“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”) I can pretty well assure you that in the privacy of the old boys’ club in Alabama, when the judge and his cronies get together for a few ‘brewskies’ or juleps and a couple of hands of whatever, the N-word is bandied about in much the same way it was in the South 150 years ago. Some people will never change.

Miss, Ms., and Mrs. America, I hope to God that you will find, run, and elect the smartest women available in 2018, particularly for seats in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. You’ve allowed us – yeah, I’m partially responsible, although I’m not a predator – to hold you back long enough. Men did quite well for the first fifty or so years, but it seems to me that since that time, we’ve done a better job at messing things up in the entire world, rather than making things one whole helluva lot better. Today, we live in a world where white supremacy is making a return, where the nation seems much more divided than united, where groping and fondling are increasing at an alarming rate, where blacks are still facing enormous prejudice, and where women are supposed to sit still and keep their mouths shut while power brokers of all kinds believe they are infallible. No more, repeat it after me, “No more.” Forget “Me Too.” There are too many millions of you to join that group. “No more” because it’s time that you take the power and show that you are perfectly capable of doing a much better job than men have been doing for some time. Just do it before I die, will ya, please?

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You Tube, I curse you. I cast a spell on you that will drive you away from me forever. You have become my kryptonite, my Achilles heel, the bane of my existence. I have summoned the three witches of Macbeth to banish you forever from my presence. There…how’d that sound? Pretty good? Think it will work? Nah, you’re right. It’s too ingrained.

What has caused this outrage that’s not really an outrage? In a word, Juli. Let me go back a bit. Four years ago, she purchased a gingerbread house kit. She believed that I needed something to occupy my mind around the Holidays, something that would be new and different, creative and unique, calming and worthy of my talents (ha!). It sat on the kitchen table until sometime the following April when she finally put the damned thing…who knows where, but she did put it. A year later, it appeared once more on the kitchen table, this time with bags of confectioner’s sugar, all sorts of candy decorations, including Necco wafers, smarties, gum drops, those red and white peppermint swirly things, and candy canes…along with the bags of sugar. ”Okay,” said I, “To placate your injured feelings of last year, I shall give it a go.” Let me say right here and now that gingerbread houses can be a colossal pain in the butt! They can, however, also be a great deal of fun and bring enjoyment…no matter how you mess them up. Trust me, my first effort at creating a gingerbread house was not, in my personal opinion, a success. My companion, however, thought it lovely enough to be displayed on the mantel over the fireplace. I did notice that it made its way into the trash very shortly after the holidays, so I get the feeling that “lovely” was just to stroke the old man’s ego.

As I have said, putting together and decorating gingerbread houses can be fun, and over the past two years, my skills have increased (eh) to a degree that I now look forward (well, almost) to the time when I can sit at the kitchen table and attempt some form of creativity (stop laughing).

Gingerbread houses, I swear, come in all shapes, sizes, and most importantly, they come in different levels of quality. Without mentioning retail outlets by name, let me just say that you can buy the really scrawny gingerbread houses that seem to crack and bust up into crumbs with the first layer of frosting to those that are so solid, it could be the house of Rosina Leckermaul – she’s the witch in the 1892 Hansel and Gretel opera (see how educational I can be?). We have not yet reached the point of making our own gingerbread. I will be bone dust in my grave before I allow that to be a part of this process. Therefore, we seek out the sturdiest and only the best quality pre-fab gingerbread houses available. Last year, we stumbled on the epitome, I believe, when we shopped at Wegman’s. No fancy boxes; no inside, lengthy pamphlets on how one should (must, in some cases) adorn one’s gingerbread houses; just the plain four sides and two roof pieces, shrink-wrapped on a plain cardboard slice, the “here-it-is-do-what- you damn-well-please-with-it-holiday-house.”

Yes, I know we haven’t gotten to the You Tube curse yet…just hold your horses. This year, Juli suggested that it might be a good idea if I were to decorate not one, but three gingerbread houses, one for us and one for each of the children who live reasonably near us. “You’re kidding, right?” I responded. “Oh, no, I think they’d love it,” she retorted, although I do believe I caught a glimpse of something sinister in one of her twinkling eyes. Being the suspicious character I am, I decided to push. “Why are you suggesting this?” I asked, and she finally had to admit that she had viewed a You Tube video the evening before that dealt with decorating gingerbread houses, and, of course, she insisted that I watch “at least a minute or two of it.” There are certain things that you learn as you age. One of those things is that when your partner, companion, spouse, whatever, suggests that you watch anything that you know you’ve already been snookered into being a part of, you do it…or else. The confectioner who was decorating this particular gingerbread house just happened to be a lady in Canada…I will never trust a Canadian again! I think she may have been professionally trained as a gingerbread-house-decorator. The swirls of icing, the cutting of the gum drops, the manner in which she worked with food coloring and food pencils and a whole pile of decorating utensils that I didn’t even know existed, made that gingerbread house a work of art suitable for a museum. “You want me to do that?” I practically screamed. “Don’t worry,” I was told, “we have all of those icing tips and the other things.” I didn’t dare ask where the hell we had acquired these things. I’d been had, screwed, routed, beaten in battle, and whatever other expressions of defeat you may wish to attribute to the old man. Four years ago, I won the battle; today, I lost the war. I have now watched approximately six hours of gingerbread-house-decoration-videos-on-You-Tube. The number of houses I will decorate has grown to four – the next door neighbors just have to have one – and, frankly, I’m laughing my ass off, just thinking about the fun I’m going to have.

I no longer agonize over untangling Christmas tree lights only to entangle them as I’m putting them on the tree. I no longer spend hours over which ornaments to place where, so that when the kids come over, they will see “their” ornaments in a prominent position on the tree. I no longer help to decorate the mantle with Christmas greenery, so therefore, I am relegated to gingerbread house duty, and watching to learn “how the professionals do it.” Lest you believe that I am still an amateur, I want you to know that I have already decided on how a couple of the roofs will be decorated this year. One will have a thatched roof of mini-shredded wheats, the frosted kind, of course, to depict snow. A second will consist of layered Necco wafers, and aw damn, I’m beginning to sound like an interior decorator. Curse you, You Tube, I’m going back to watch a football game!

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Let’s lock them up

(I removed this essay from my blog this morning because I thought it did not do justice to the topic. I am putting it back temporarily so that I may solicit your comments. Should it be removed permanently, or should it be kept as part of this blog?)

What is it with these guys who can’t keep their peckers in their pants? I mean…come-on…so to speak. First it was horny Harvey, then Kopy Kat Kevin had to come out and represent the gay community, and now Louis C.K., has made the news. What’s going on? Is this retaliation for all of those Hollywood “wardrobe malfunctions” that were so popular a couple of years ago?

I think that what is happening here is that women are sick and tired of assholes who think they’re something special or have something special that they wish to share. News flash…a man’s penis is no more attractive to most women – trust me, I conducted a survey on this – than a woman’s vagina is to most men. There’s a reason they call them “private parts.” They aren’t for public observation except, perhaps, in the privacy of a married couple’s bedroom…yes, I was going to say they aren’t for public consumption, but I know the comments I’d get on that one.

Seriously, when the hormones begin to rage around 13 or 14, boys go hog wild. They masturbate like crazy, as though they’ve discovered a whole new world. Then, they want to find out about girls, so they go through this whole, “What’s a boob feel like?” and, “Oh, boy, what do I do now?” and shit like that. Then, they finally get laid…don’t say that they finally make love because that’s not what it is. Who knows how many times this may happen, but it happens. Usually, at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, ‘She” comes along. “She” is special. “She” is different. Yeah, okay, maybe they do climb into the sack together, but it’s really different. It’s tender. It’s ‘wow!’ Or perhaps, “She” is so special that they don’t have sex…unusual, and almost unimaginable in this day and age, but go with me here. They marry, tie the knot, stomp the glass, exchange the vows, whatever expression you wish to use. Now they can enjoy all the love-making they want…and that’s what it is, love-making. It’s the ultimate expression of joining two bodies as one for the express purpose of bringing into this world parts of both of them. You don’t have to look at it that way, but isn’t that the basic purpose for making love. Reduce it to anything you wish, but when it comes right down to it, at least in our case, we wanted kids. We lost three and then had two within 13 months…damn close to being called Irish Twins. The third one came along four years later and proved to be just as much a bundle of joy as the first two.

From a certain degree of experience, I can tell you that after a while, you’re too damned busy trying to climb whatever success ladder you’re on to make love every night. A faculty friend in his sixties told me once, “My wife and I have a standing, Sunday morning appointment to make love.” He made it sound almost holy. I wanted to ask if it was before or after church, but I figured if he wanted me to know, he would have told me. It’s true, however, that after a while, sex takes a back seat to raising a family, working a job, taking care of the house, or whatever else happens to be in the way…it is not the priority that it once was.

Anyway, back to these idiots who believe their manhood is something to be admired by everyone of the opposite sex. A clue, guys, “They don’t give a sweet damn about yer wanker.” And if they know you’re married, they have absolutely no interest whatsoever in peering at yer used wanker. A true anecdote: A friend of ours who taught home economics at Cohasset High School, was on a train to New York. A man came along and sat in the seat beside her. He exposed himself and nudged her with his elbow. She looked up at him and down at his manhood, broke into a smile and said, “Really, I’ve seen much better than that.” She turned away and went back to her book. The perv shrunk away to another train on the car. Pat, bless her soul, was single at the time, but took great delight in telling the story.

So, to all you male “celebrities” out there who believe that the female population of the world is interested in what you behold to be a magnificent sword between your legs, I offer this advice… be very careful with whom you share that thing you love so much. One of those women may carry a straight razor and “Bobbitize” you without a second thought. Oh, and you know what, you deserve it, you bloody pervert.

On a more serious note, what these men are doing is criminal. I hope and pray that more women will come forward, will speak out, will see that those who think they can get away with this type of behavior are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Sexual perversion is not humorous at all. Dirty jokes aren’t appreciated, ogling isn’t appreciated, snide comments aren’t appreciated. Respect is appreciated. Use it with everyone.

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Sometime back in the mid-sixties – nineteen hundred and sixties, that is – I was privileged to work for a man with an interesting management philosophy. “Always praise in public and condemn in private,” he told me. “Never embarrass someone by publicly condemning them.” It was good advice then. It remains good advice to this very day. I note this because in reading the management principles of Donald Trump, I came across this one, “Supporting and Inspire the team – You are only as good as the people on your team. Remember that.” His ghost writer for the book, The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, notes, “When he (Trump) feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.” I will grant that Schwartz and Trump have issues with each other, but one must remember that the former spent over a year with the latter to write a book that spent a great deal of time on The New York Times best seller list and that sold in the vicinity of one million copies. Based on this, I’d have to say that the two men got to know one another reasonably well.

There is one thing that bothers me greatly. Most people, even most great leaders, will admit, publicly or privately, that they are flawed. We, you, me, everyone is flawed in some small or perhaps large, way. We have our quirks, and if we don’t acknowledge them, they will eventually come back to bite us in the butt. By acknowledging our weaknesses, we can succeed by working with others who have strengths in our weaker areas. As a very minor example, let me say that I’m a morning person – I think I’ve said this before. I hired two people who found it reasonably difficult to get going before nine or ten o’clock in the morning. However, while I like to retire early and am not particularly effective after ten in the evening, these two were evening dynamo’s. They could go like the hammers of hell until the wee hours of the morning. It made for a great team. The same man cited above, ie “praise in public,” also had a problem with evenings. However, he was president of the university and as such, he was able close his door at two o’clock in the afternoon of an evening event, and take a power nap in his recliner for half an hour. How the hell that rejuvenated him to be as strong as he was in the evening, I will never know…one of those skills I’ll never have, that’s for certain.

During my undistinguished career in higher education, I worked with or for seven college presidents. With some it was a direct relationship, while with others, it was always through a series of supervisors. Using them as my examples of leaders, I learned several things. First, no leader can go it alone and succeed in the long run. Being a dictator may work for a while, but without the support of a strong team, the leader will eventually fail and fall. Next, hire people who are smarter than you, particularly in the jobs you expect them to do. Third, acknowledge publicly, loudly, and often, those who are doing the job and doing it well. Fourth, be open and candid in discussing both successes and areas where improvement is needed. This last is not meant as a castigation of others but of public self-criticism, eg, “I could have done a better job in bringing about…” It shows a humanness that altogether too many people are unwilling to show. It is not an admission of weakness, rather, it demonstrates a strength of personality and character. I’m quite certain that others may disagree with my assessment, and they are perfectly free to do so. My experience with leaders has been limited to seven in the field of higher education. Perhaps leaders in other fields may demonstrate different qualities that make them successful, but it will take someone with experience in those fields to hold forth on their behalf.

Whatever the case, I hold to the old expression that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. With the exception of one of the men mentioned above, all genuinely cared about others. Yes, I had been chewed out by all seven for one thing or another, but only one lowered himself to the point of making it very, very personal. Suffice it to say, he was the reason for my early retirement…or to put it in the vernacular of my youth, “I didn’t need that shit from anyone!”

I guess that all of this is leading up to a question: “How can anyone in their right mind go to work for Donald Trump?” He has absolutely no loyalty to anyone he hires. He is never wrong in anything he says or does in any area. He knows more about foreign policy than the foreign policy advisors. He knows more about budgets than anyone in the Congressional Budget Office. He knows more about warfare than any general, despite the fact that he’s never been in the military. Toss into this mix the fact that he lies openly and denies these lies even when they have been recorded. Yes, it takes treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors to impeach someone in Trump’s position. How much more of this type of behavior must we suffer under this man before Congress says, “Enough.”

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Here is an ethics problem for you. Recently, I order ten boxes of protein bars from a firm in Alabama. As is usually the case these days, I was given a confirmation by e-mail, a tracking number, and was later told that the package had shipped. I should note that one does not order this particular package during the summer months because it is heat sensitive. I then received an e-mail from UPS, stating that the package would be delivered “before the end of the day” on a Saturday. Diligently, I went to the front door on Saturday evening at 8:00 pm…no package. I went to all of the doors exiting to the outside – there are three others – but to no avail. Sunday arrived, and I checked again…no package. Recognizing that the offices of the company were probably closed, I sent an e-mail, stating the problem. As luck would have it, someone was working on Sunday and responded to my e-mail, saying that she would notify UPS on Monday. The next day, UPS offered the following solution: “The driver will try to leave your package out of sight for safety, so start by doing a little investigative work. Check all exterior doors where the package could be placed, such as behind a porch column. Since we don’t have columns, I checked bushes, plants, and trees – hey, gotta be thorough – but no package. Since UPS wants to deal with the company, not the customer, I called the company once more. No problem, I was told. They had already spoken with UPS who agreed to make good with the company. I was told that another package was being shipped…with a box of free bars included.

Monday passed, and I honestly thought that someone had come along, seen the package, and decided it would be better off in their care rather than mine. This wouldn’t have been the first time that this has occurred in our community. In fact, the police had put out a warning to be aware this was becoming a problem. Juli and I had arrived home one day to see a woman walking toward our front door. When confronted, she ran to a pickup truck and she and the driver took off. Sure enough, there was a package from Amazon waiting on the front stoop, ergo, we were aware that such theft was taking place in our neighborhood. That aside, I arose Tuesday morning to go to the gym. Before leaving, I checked my e-mail. A neighbor, just across the road and one house down, had sent me a note saying that she had received a package meant for me and had left it by the mailbox by the garage door. Yep, you guessed it, this was my package of protein bars.

Here is the ethics problem: Do I keep the package and wait for the other to arrive, thus loading the house with protein bars…plus a box of freebies? Do I ship the first box back to the company, calling and telling them that the first box was misdelivered? Do I call the company, explain the mistake, and ask if they wish me to ship the box back? In my own mind, I already have the answer, but I’d like to hear from you? What would you do in this situation?

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An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…”A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Yes, it is an old parable, probably told a hundred ways and attributed to a hundred tribes or maybe to a hundred something else. I neither know nor do I care. What I do care about is when things such as the murders in Texas, Los Vegas, New York, or anywhere else are committed, we give the murderer an excuse by saying that he is a sick or deranged individual. These people are not deranged nor sick. They are evil, pure evil, and they have chosen to feed that particular wolf. Don’t call them “troubled,” or say that they have “mental issues.” Face up to the fact that in this world, there are people who are just plain evil, and they take their enjoyment in their evilness. Many contain their evil for long periods of time, some for their entire lives. They reach the point where we just consider them to be old and unpleasant and we leave them alone…even if they are members of our own family. ‘Uncle Joe’ isn’t just grouchy, he’s an evil son-of-a-bitch who hasn’t had the balls to act out. Others, like Adam Lanza, Seung-Hui Cho, Stephen Paddock, Devin Kelley, and Dylan Roof finally stop feeding the good wolf, and go act out their evility.

You and I probably don’t know people we would call evil. On the other hand, we may very well know a number of them. We think of them as nice, quiet, unassuming, or perhaps we might go so far as to say, “He…or in some cases…she seems to have a problem,” or “is a little strange.” Most of us don’t have the training or even the sense to spot these people, and that’s too bad. It’s no reflection on you or me. I’ve known a couple of people whom I thought we’re great, but they turned out to be murderers. Just goes to show you how my evility radar works.

Were I to stop right here and say that “evil” is all we need to know to explain what Lanza, Cho, Paddock, et al, have done, I would be doing a disservice to you, the reader. There are any number of explanations for evil. Psychologists might explain it as an Antisocial Personality Disorder, which can be viewed as a mental disorder. Scientist, Paul Zak appears to view evil as the lack of oxytocin, a molecule in the brain, that when released, “makes us feel empathy for others and causes us to behave morally.” Zak calls this the ”moral molecule.” Those who do not possess, or release oxytocin have no such molecule and, consequently, engage in amoral or immoral behavior. Sociologists appear to look at evil as deviance from the norm, the norm being not evil. Whatever you read, wherever you study, it appears that everyone has their own definition of evil, and who is and who isn’t. It becomes very confusing.

When you come right down to it, what we have inside of us may not be two wolves. We may call it God and Satan. We may call it ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ but believe me, we all have these two whatever’s within each of us. If not, how could soldiers be taught to kill? It is, perhaps, one of the conditions that creates post-traumatic stress disorder in so many veterans who fought in combat areas. It could certainly explain why many returning military people are reluctant to speak of their overseas combat service. Were the German soldiers in “the camps” evil for killing and burning people? Probably not. They were merely following orders from above. The question is, “Where did taking orders begin with reluctance and where did the evil of giving those orders begin?” We will probably never know, but I wonder if any of those German soldiers ever said to himself, “Hey, this is just plain wrong. I’m outta here,” and desert from a concentration camp?

For the moment, let’s walk away from good and evil, and let us talk about calm and temper. For most of us, we get irritated or “blow our stack” but we are able to control the degree of our outburst. We may flip off the driver who cuts into our lane without signaling, but we don’t ram him or, as in the case of my family member, go home, get a gun, find the person, and then kill him…yes, that is the truth. So, for most of us, we allow our bad or evil side to exist in us, but our good side is the one that is predominant. Unfortunately, there appears to be something on the increase that has the tag of “intermittent explosive disorder,” where adults throw temper tantrums that can result in physical violence such as throwing things or pushing others. One psychologist notes that today this disorder may exist in as many as one in 20 people.

Are there other evil people out there? Sure. Will they display their evil for all to see? Sure. Can we try to identify and stop them? Sure. Will we be successful? Nope. Is this purely a mental health issue as claimed by the politicians? Nope. It’s a combination of many things, but as long as some of the evil people in this world can get their hands on guns, trucks, and bomb-making materials, you can bet your boots we will see more massacres. That’s America today, in the 21st Century…pretty hard to believe, isn’t it?

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