Archive for the ‘Curmudgeon’ Category

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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I’m boorish. There, I’ve finally admitted to being a bore…or boor…or whatever you wish to call one who really doesn’t care all that much about convention. Sorry, Google and Yahoo don’t help much. Growing up, my knickers – not the British kind – had to be positioned just so; my shirt had to be tucked correctly, and my little clip-on necktie had to be worn correctly. Fortunately, the sixties brought a bit of sense to fashion and we could relax a bit. By the time college came along, sweaters and khakis found their niche but only until one graduated.

It seems to me that the only time I was without a necktie and coat jacket for the next forty years was either late on Saturday afternoon or when I changed into my pajamas at night. Obviously, my memory must be failing on that point, for in hindsight, I cannot conceive of wearing a potential noose around my neck six days a week nor of wearing some kind of suit or sport coat for any more than five or six hours a day. In the ‘office,’ the first thing to find its way to the back of my chair was my ‘uniform’ coat, except in the service where, for some strange reason, you had to wear the goddamn thing as part of the uniform…even on the parade ground. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I don’t like neckties…never have, never will. I don’t know if some women feel the same way about girdles as I feel about neckties, but anything that constrains me…and in the case of neckties, has the chance of killing me…does not rate at the top of my fashion scale. In addition, they’re a scam. ”Why?” you ask. Well, they go from wide to slim and back again, depending on the foibles of this year’s fashionistas and sartorialists. In addition, as time has passed, the old two dollar neckties has become the $150-designer special that one must own to be fashionable. What a bunch of baloney.

Would I have felt better about neckties if I was allowed to wear the clip-ons? No, of course not, because the top button of the shirt would still have to be fastened to the choking point. Should I have worn shirts with the collar a bit larger? Have you ever seen what that looks like? One’s neck appears to be sitting in a hole that’s too big and the Adam’s apple movement is much more apparent. I went from wearing a fourteen and a half shirt collar to wear a seventeen and a half by the time I retired. It was terrible.

What few people realize, I guess, is that the tie was originally a scarf worn by Croatian mercenaries hired by French King Louis XIII. The scarf was not only part of their uniform, but was also used as protection from the cold and as a handkerchief. I don’t know about other men my age or any age who would be caught dead blowing their collective noses into their neckties…just gauche!

For the first few years following retirement, an evening dinner with my spouse required a suit, collared shirt, and noose necktie. I find it idiotic that some restaurants actually require gentlemen to wear neckties and keep an ample supply on hand for those foolish enough to enter looking ‘unclothed.’ It would appear that you are not properly attired unless you are wearing a snot rag around your neck. One of the best things to happen in business was casual Friday, but then some idiots had to screw it up, and many businesses abandoned the idea. I really enjoy watching some of those Silicon Valley workers in their jeans and T’s doing wonderful things without the encumbrance of a suit jacket or necktie.

By the way, it is said that King Louis so like the scarves of his mercenaries that he insisted that neckwear be a part of all formal events at court. Things went downhill or around the neck from there. Yes, it’s true that neckties have gone through more than the width debate. Their popularity has ebbed and flowed with the various decades. Today, the necktie is still certainly a part of the uniform for the military; for many wait staff, and for businesses founded in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Hopefully, cultural changes will occur and the necktie will finally be recognized as the most dangerous item of clothing in a man’s wardrobe. After all, what did old time cowboys call a hanging? You got it…a necktie party!

My necktie days are over. Since my plans call for direct cremation, I won’t even have to wear one to the crematorium. Just take me as I am…T-shirt, sweatshirt, and sweatpants. With luck, I won’t even be wearing my sneakers!


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In the last session of Congress, the Democrats proved their inability to govern when the other party had control of one of the houses that comprise the law-making body for our government. Now, knowing that they will lose any ability at all when the next Congress convenes, the Democrats are using the same tactics that were employed by the Republican House. If this isn’t the most scurrilous, contemptible, dysfunctional, and hypocritical bunch of children at play, I honestly don’t know what is. If they were children on a playground, the nuns would be hauling them back by the ear, one in each hand, and rapping their knuckles until the blood flowed.

The photograph on AOL of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell putting their heads together like a couple of long lost brothers is nothing short of obscene. Some political novice once asked a sitting Senator how he could rail against the actions of another Senator during the day and then go to dinner with the person the same evening. “That’s politics,” the Senator told the confused. I would postulate that it’s not politics; it’s bullshit, and it’s an affront to the voting public…oh, that’s right; I forgot that the American voting public is “stupid.” Oh, Lord, what have we allowed our government to become in this, The 21st Century? In the 224 years since we became independent, wouldn’t you think that somewhere along the way, we would have found the correct way to make our government work without having to go through this deceitfulness that has become an everyday occurrence?

This last minute $1.1 trillion bill that has been passed to keep the government up and running is also loaded with riders that would turn the stomach of a flesh-eating zombie. It’s a win for the trucking industry because it eases the restriction on the number of hours a truck driver could stay on the road; now we’re back to sleepy drivers and higher incidents of truck-related accidents. CitiBank wrote the rider that “…relaxes regulation of high-risk investments known as ‘derivatives’ – rules that were imposed to reduce risk to depositors’ federally insured money and prevent more taxpayer bailouts.”

Another rider on this spending bill, “Allows some pension plans to cut benefits promised to current and future retirees. The change is designed to save some financially strapped plans from going broke. It applies to multiemployer plans, which cover more than 10 million people mostly at small, unionized employers, often in the construction business.” Hey, how did these plans become financially strapped in the first place, and why should the entire burden be placed on current retirees…another smack in the face for the elderly.

Here’s another winner. Under this new spending bill…to keep the government afloat of course…is a rider that allows more money to be given to political parties. The bill will allow each of the “superrich donors” to give nearly $1.6 million per election cycle to political parties and their campaign committees. “The comparable limit for 2014’s elections was $194,400.” Hot damn; as Will Rogers and Mark Twain both said, “We have the best government money can buy.” I can just hear an old-timer telling a first-year Congressman, “Don’t worry son, you may have spent a lot of money on your campaign, but you’re sure to leave here a multi-millionaire!”

To be certain, politics is a game of give and take. “I’ll vote for your bill on this if you vote for my bill on that,” and that’s the way it’s always been and always will be, but for God’s sake, let’s use a bit of common sense. The Republicans get pissed at the IRS so they cut their budget by $350 million? Why, because some of their Tea Party right-wing groups were getting too closely scrutinized? Oh, that’s a great reason. Of course, there isn’t one person on the right side of the aisle who would ever admit that, and the American voting public is too ‘stupid’ to catch on (like hell we are).

We have set term limits for our Chief Executive. It’s about time that the American voting public, this group called ‘stupid’ by some MIT asshole took a stand and demanded that term limits be set for Representatives and Senators. If you can’t do what needs to be done over a period of – and this is an arbitrary figure – ten years, get the hell out of politics and let fresh blood take over, because it’s for damn certain that you have only your best interests at heart; not those of the people who put you into

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The wordsmiths who are in the know add new words to every new publication of Webster’s finest. One of the latest is ‘okay,’ and I guess that’s alright, but it’s still a bit ‘slangy’ for me. If we are to become a nation where only American is spoken, it will make it more of a bitch of a language for immigrants to learn if they wish to become citizens. We can’t say that we speak English; we did at one time, but over the past three or four hundred years, something happened. It seems we didn’t believe that ‘honour’ required a ‘u’ any longer; as a matter of fact, the poor ‘u’ left a great many words in the English language. We even changed letters from our original tongue, mixing ‘s’ and ‘c’ and God only knows what else. However, my concern is not with how we have Americanized the tongues of our ancestors; no siree, Bob – what the hell does that mean, anyhow – but I would like to add “didjaevah’ or ‘didjaever’ if one is from outside New England. It just seems a better abbreviation for “did you eveh” or ‘did you ever’ if…you get the point. Linguists of yore are probably spinning like tops in their graves at the mere thought of further destruction of their lexicon, but, what the hell, they’re dead so what do I care.

Be all of the above as it may, “didjaevah’ jus set ‘n watch the world go by outside yer winda? Didjaevah? Lord, but I can just hear Sydel Sokuvitz, Professor of Management Communication and dear friend, screaming, “You cannot destroy language in this manner!” as only Sydel can say it. I can see my high school English teachers, Gert Ellsworth, Victoria Howarth, and Agnes Lioy getting the coven together to haunt my every dream from this moment on.

Let us move on from this hauntingly boring discussion. The reasoning behind it will appear later. First, let me describe our family room. It is approximately sixteen feet long and twelve feet wide…a decently sized room. One wall is made of stone and reaches a point at the top of the cathedral ceiling. It has a gas fireplace and two small, thin windows…this is one of the short walls. The long walls hold two things: one consists of three floor-to-ceiling windows…not all the way to the peak of the cathedral, of course; let’s be somewhat practical. From the couch across the way, one looks out on a small patio and a portion of the back garden. In that garden is an azalea bush, many, many different types of lilies, roses, pansies, daffodils, and several other flowering plants that bring beauty and color as a view from early spring to mid autumn. The eave, which extends under the roof, is also visible from the couch. It is filled with bird feeders of every variety…from a three-tiered pagoda, a protected dome, a log drilled for suet, hummingbird feeders, and several others which define decent description. It’s probably unnecessary to describe the remainder of the family room. Oh, sure, the perquisite 42” flat panel television sits in one corner and at the other end of the room is a lounge chair, but these only interfere with our discussion.

In the winter, we are treated to blue jays and cardinals and a few other species of hardy souls. Squirrels feed on the seed that is thrown onto the snow and every so often twenty to thirty turkeys show up for some cracked corn and other goodies that my partner keeps stored away…she loves those turkeys. As an aside, I should mention that some have been coming to be fed for almost three years. They first arrived as nineteen chicks or poults, along with two mothers…and you’re bitching about twins…get over it! Rather than calling them with, “Here, turkey, turkey, turkey,” my partner opted for “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” Think about it; hell, they don’t know who or what they are; give them a name no one else will use and who knows, they might just get used to it….and they have. Today, when my partner goes to the back door to feed them, they immediately and with alacrity disperse. “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty” will draw back any who were here as youngsters and that’s generally enough to bring the rest of the crowd. What a sight to see from the couch. We have video of them jumping in an attempt to reach some of the bird feeders. We have still photos of them staring straight at us. There are even a couple who will peck at the windows when the food supply is running low…greedy bitches! That’s the year round crew. The spring is a different story.

Around April, the migrating crowd returns. It’s the return of the snowbirds, but ours deserve the name. There are finches of every size and type. To me, the most beautiful is the gold finch. The male is covered in yellow and black with the yellow predominant; woodpeckers of all types and sizes attack the suet log with gusto while starlings, red-winged blackbirds, and hundreds of others vie for seeds of every variety.

Didjaevah just sit and watch birds for a while…see, you knew that word would reappear. I don’t mean as one of those professional bird watchers with the Nikon 5000 with the three foot lens that will allow you to see individual raindrops on a feather. Didjaevah watch birds feed one another or, as the cardinals seem prone to do, kiss a lot. Didjaevah watch squirrels fight over a single peanut or publicly do what you wouldn’t allow your children to watch on late night pay-per-view. When it doesn’t matter to you what you are watching through those huge windows, anything can bring a smile or a chuckle. It’s life as seen  in the raw. When mother sparrows have brought their young to be fed and teach them how to do so; when turkeys carefully walk around the smaller birds, but still get their fill; when the blue jays squawk because the squirrels have cleaned out the peanuts, this is when you can get enjoyment from simple things. There was a time when the television would be on, blaring Sports Center or the Today Show or some other “mind-numbing” garbage…and, occasionally, it still is, but watching what goes on outside by own windows really gives me an appreciation of nature. Oh, and you should be aware that all of our squirrels are Francois because several have something of a French flair about them and pencil-thin mustaches; all chipmunks are Chester, all though I really can’t tell you why; rabbits are “fru-fru” and that, too, has me stumped. The cardinals are O’Malley’s to honor a Cardinal of the same name. Since they mate for life, perhaps we’re being a bit sacrilegious, but I’m not certain we’ll wind up in Hell just for that. Every species has a nickname of some sort…blame my friend; don’t look at me.

You may well have your own “didjaevah” for one thing or another. I have many, but watching those birds ranks up near the top. Pay no attention to the semi-literate who further abbreviates the new addition to my personal Merriam-Webster. If the attempt “jevah,” they are obviously from a lower class and should not be trusted, particularly when speaking of birds.

Ah well, back to the padded cell.

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You’re going to have to forgive an old man if he misinterprets some of the horse manure that floats from the halls of Congress into the media below…or is it “onto” the media below. It really doesn’t matter a whole hell of a lot, but it seems to me that Congress is supposed to enact legislation for the benefit of its constituency; you know, the people who elected them. I don’t know where it says that they are supposed to go looking for ways to mess up an incumbent administration or cast aspersions on the Office of the President…keep an eye open, sure, but not beat a dead horse until the entire animal smells like what’s comin’ outta the south end.

The US mission in Benghazi was attacked by a group of who-knows-who [wink, wink] on September 11, 2012. The attack was fatal and killed a number of people. There were insufficient resources to defend the mission. That is the fault of US intelligence. That those resources weren’t there is the fault of US intelligence and the military not working together. That no one in the US Department of State or in any US intelligence agency OR any US military organization OR in any branch of government didn’t believe there would be an attack on the US somewhere in the world on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack is sheer idiocy. Every mission, embassy, military post on foreign soil, and tourist who is travelling on September 11th of any year, should be prepare to be treated as a target. Anyone not considering this deserves whatever happens to them. What the hell has to happen for people to wake up to the fact that America is at war on its own soil as well as abroad.

The Republican House of Representatives is dissatisfied with how the Benghazi attack (a) could possibly take place in beloved Libya; (b) who should take the blame for the attack…not the attackers themselves, mind you, but who is to blame from the American side; (c) has been falsely described by the White House according to House Speaker John Boehner. To get to the bottom of all of this, Speaker Boehner is appointing a “select” committee to “… investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks, accusing the Obama White House of “misleading the American people” by withholding emails on Benghazi – emails that only just surfaced this week despite a 2013 subpoena.” According to the New York Daily News, Speaker Boehner stated, “This dismissiveness and evasion requires us to elevate the investigation to a new level. I intend for this select committee to have robust authority, and I will expect it to work quickly to get answers for the American people and the families of the victims.” Hey, Jack, the American people know what happened and the families of the victims don’t require constant reminders that they don’t have a loved one anymore. Build a goddamned bridge and get over it.

On the basis of Mr. Boehner’s House controlled half of the Congress, perhaps Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader from Nevada, should appoint a select committee to determine who is responsible for the erroneous information that precipitated our invasion of Iraq. Perhaps the Senator could subpoena then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to testify where all of those wonderful and fraudulent photographs came from that “definitely” showed Iraq with weapons of mass destruction. We might have bring former President George Bush and his string-puller, Dick Cheney to the Halls of the Senate to tell us why 4,487 American soldiers died in a war that was (a) unnecessary; (b) a personal vendetta on the part of George Bush; and, (c) a bold faced lie.

Speaker Boehner is being led around by the nose by his aggressive Tea Party Republicrats. He has fallen in line with a group of crazies who will do anything, use any reason, and tell any lie to discredit the incumbent administration in order to gain an edge in the 2016 elections. Is the Obama administration withholding some information about Benghazi? Wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Did the Bush administration openly lie about the weapons of mass destruction that preceded the invasion of Iraq? Without question they did.

Benghazi is now a footnote in the history of the United States. We have not learned from it. We will probably be just as complacent on September 11th 2014 and then wonder why a mission, an embassy, a military outpost or fort was attacked. And leaders from the minority party will blame the leaders of the majority party and more horse shit will fly around the Halls of Congress. Meanwhile, important legislation will languish in some committee or other because either Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader Reid believes it will give brownie points to the opposition. Is this any way to run a nation? The idea of a two-party system [try to forget about the Tea Party for just a moment here, puh-leze] of government is wonderful. It’s wonderful as long as the two parties understand that their role is to move the country ahead in pursuit of goals that will help the nation. It doesn’t matter which party wins as long as the nation benefits as a whole.

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The fact that there is a great deal of pissing and moaning over the remarks made by Phil Robertson in GQ Magazine is not necessarily a bad thing. In his comments to People Magazine, he is quoted as saying, “I will not give or back off from my path.” That sounds like a man with the courage of his convictions, and no matter what the Arts & Entertainment network might feel, courage and conviction are two things that this country has been sadly lacking for the past decade or so.


Robertson believes what he believes. The backlash toward A&E would appear to indicate that there are a helluva lot of people who might darn well feel the same way or, at the very least, believe that the man has the right to free speech under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Obviously, yelling, “Fire” in a theatre is not free speech because it infringes on the rights of those in the theatre. If this ‘free speech’ liable or slanders another party, that is an infringement on their rights. In these and other cases, freedom steps aside and prosecution steps in to take control.


Whose rights did Robertson trample? I’m not so certain that he did anything except to express his own personal beliefs. This is how he views the world and he’s willing to stand by his views. There are so few people today who, if put into a situation such as he was, would answer so honestly and candidly. Take any member of the Congress of the United States. If anyone of them were to be asked, “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin that will preclude those practicing it from getting in to Heaven,” they would hem and haw and you know you would never get a straight answer. If President Obama was asked, “Do you believe that the Affordable Care Act is the proper document for all Americans?” do you honestly believe you would get anything but gobbledygook? Of course not.


President Harry Truman was a straight talking person, often called a son-of-a-bitch because of his no nonsense honesty. The same could be said of General George Patton, as well as Osama bin Laden. “What, are you nuts?” you ask. No, bin Laden spent his life trying to destroy America; he made no bones about this; he was focused, and when he spoke out, his words were to the effect that he wanted to destroy America. He didn’t equivocate; he did not give long and convoluted speeches. He knew where he stood and he made damn certain that we knew where he stood. We finally realized that his continued efforts were not in the best interest of America and therefore, he was dispatched. Some say he was martyred. I prefer to think of it as eliminating a potential danger to the citizens of the United States. The unfortunate thing is that too many of his disciples are not committed in the same manner that Obama was. Too many of them are not jihadists but just out and out murders wearing the disguise of jihad.


Truthfully, I don’t watch Duck Dynasty. It’s just not a program in which I have an interest…until now. I may have to start watching it to get a genuine conservative view. Robertson’s comments to Bible study group recently were fascinating: “…over the last 2000 years, “the sins are the same” and “humans haven’t changed. We get high, we get drunk, we get laid, we steal and kill,” he stated. “Has this changed at all from the time God burnt up whole cities because their every thought was evil?” The man makes a damned good point. If there is one person out there who has not broken at least one of the Ten Commandments at some time in his or her life, I want to meet them. People lie, cheat, and steal. Others take the name of the Lord in vain; still others covet their neighbor’s wife, and sometimes commit adultery. Ask a 13 or 14 year old what he thinks of his parents and he or she will tell you their ‘dorks’ or something worse; seems to me that a commandment just went out the window on that one.

In church, we’re told to obey the commandments of God. We’re told to lead good lives; to love thy neighbor as thyself. All of the things we’re told will get us into heaven. How do we know that? How do the priests, ministers, rabbis, and imams know this? Have they been there? Have they talked to God? I don’t mean to be heretical here, but please, don’t be so hypocritical as to pretend to know the entrance into Heaven. Sure, I could be wrong…but what if I’m not. What if there is no right or wrong way to enter into Heaven? What if the sinner who did one good thing in his or her life is just as welcome as the person who lived just a mundane life of doing no good or no bad?

I believe Phil Robertson has opened a few eyes. I believe his honesty, while perhaps shocking, is also refreshing. He has said exactly what he believes, broken now laws by doing so, offended the hell out of a large group of people, but he sure didn’t beat around the bush!

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Aha, oho, eureka, and all that good ‘stuff;’ here we are back in the time of William “The Bard of Avon” Shakespeare once more. This time we are listening to Puck, that mischievous elf from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as he decries, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” We will not criticize, dramatize, synthesize, or even analyze what he is actually saying [about the lovers], but the pintsized elf makes a damned good point.

It appears that ever since we learned to rise up and walk on two feet – thereby negating the need for Johnson & Johnson band aids for the hands – man has been behaving foolishly throughout history. Take fire for example; you just know that some damned fool was going to cook his hand or foot before he discovered that it was a pretty good thing over which to cook dinner or into which one could toss enemies. We think the smokers of today, who flick their cigarettes out the window and into the forest, thus causing the destruction of tens of thousands of acres, are spawn of the south end of a horse going north; it’s a wonder that earth survived the first fire users. Doesn’t it make you wonder if anyone ever tried to eat a burning stick…oy, oy, oy!

I like to picture the person who invented the wheel, standing at the top of a hill, ready to test this new thing. At the bottom of the hill is his buddy, getting ready to stop it from rolling on forever. The only problem with this is that the wheel is made of stone. It may weigh fifty pounds; it may weigh 500; it doesn’t matter. This mortal at the bottom will receive a very rude awakening when he steps in front of this stone wheel to stop it…clunk. While the steamroller – not Mannheim – would come about several hundreds of Centuries later, we must assume that the mortal at the bottom of the hill was, indeed, a flattened fool and that this was not exactly a “eureka moment” for him.

Who was the first mortal fool who had the idea to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Adventure, no; foolish, yes, but in 1901 Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to successfully ‘barrel’ down the falls and survive. Annie was hoping that this misadventure would bring her fame and fortune…and it did…for a while. However, she died a pauper twenty years later. For those who read Remember Who?, it answers one of your questions.

Walter Camp is considered to be the “Father of American Football.” I think it’s quite possible that if Camp were alive today, he would echo Puck in declaring those who play the game to be fools of the first order. I say this with all love and affection for watching the game on television. Those who declare, “Oh but you don’t get the true feeling for the game if you’re not there!” Thank you very much, but I can probably see the game much better, not to mention the fact that I’m not freezing my ass off or sitting so high in the stands that the players look like ants and that the only way to differentiate the teams is by the colors of the uniforms. While the fools in the NCAA and the NFL are coming to understand the price that players pay, it certainly doesn’t appear that they are willing to make changes to protect these players. America is a violent country and football an exceedingly violent athletic event.

Nowhere is a person viewed to be more a fool of the first order than when he or she decides to run for a political office that will take him or her to Washington, D.C. for the performance of her or his duties. Time and time and time again, politicians publically demonstrate the truth of the hypothesis that those who want the job the most are those who are most unqualified for it. After Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrated to 60 Minutes Charlie Rose the drone delivery program the company is working on, he went on to explain all of the complexities involved with FAA regulations among other issues. The next day, Massachusetts’ junior Senator Edward Markey spoke to the media explaining that the program could not hope to happen for years because of FAA regulations. Excuse me, Senator, but Mr. Bezos explained all of that on 60 Minutes. It’s just another case of a politician who would prefer to use his head for a cork for his butt rather than use it for intelligent analysis.

It was back in 1969  when Lawrence Peter and Raymond Hull first introduced the Peter Principle which, when defined, states, “The Peter Principle is a proposition that states that the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence. … “ Following 40 plus years of employment in higher education, I can state without fear of contradiction that nothing could be closer to the truth. Friends who have worked in law, accounting, engineering, town governments, etc, ad infinitum have regaled various and sundry other friends with tales of remarkable stupidity…the classic being, “We never have time or money to do it right the first time, but we always find the time and the additional funds to do it over.”

Scientists constantly question whether or not there is intelligent life “out there.” Frankly, I have to agree with those who believe that there is, somewhere, in some galaxy, a life form that so far exceeds the intelligence they have already seen on this land of milk and honey that they believe we are beyond redemption; that we are neither trainable or educable and, therefore, decline at all costs our dreary attempts to contact them. Perhaps they echo Puck and say, “What fools these mortals be!”

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My telephone doesn’t ring much anymore.

I finally decided to remove the land line or house phone or whatever the hell you wish to call it. That saved some $$$$ I’ll tell ya. It had stopped ringing about five years after I retired. When the children lived at home, it never stopped ringing. Of course, that was in the day when children didn’t have their own cell phone before they could talk. Today it appears that a cell phone is something you give at a baby shower. Oh, and not just any cell phone…that would be gauche…it has to be the brightest, shiniest, and the absolutely-just-off-the-shelf-latest-model. Call me old fashioned, but when a kid in kindergarten just has to take a call from his or her broker, something seems very, very wrong.

The house phone used to ring a great deal shortly after retirement. Old associates would call with questions…“What would you think about…” or “If we decided to change this, what would be the consequences…” You know the type of calls I’m talking about. You think you’ve left your responsibilities in capable hands, but you’re really rather flattered that you’re still being called. Then somebody new comes in or people finally figure out that much of what you did was, for the most part, common sense and they start using their own…and the ringing of the phone slows and eventually comes to a halt. A very – very few – call to ask how you are and how things are going, but that also stops altogether. One day you look at the silent telephones; the one in the kitchen, hanging on the wall; the ugly brown one in the family room, taking up space on an end table; and the blue one in the bedroom, crowding the night stand. So, you think to yourself, “Hey, these are costing me a dinner out per month. Why do I need these and this thing in my pocket?” Yes, I broke down and finally purchased a cell phone; a flip phone.

Getting rid of a land line can, of course, be a pain in the ass. You have to notify everyone who never calls you anymore anyway and let them know that the only way they can still reach you is by your cell phone. It’s a pain in the ass except for not notifying those people you never wanted to hear from anymore anyway.  That’s the good part. For a while the cell phone rings with people confirming that this is your new number. Some, very few I noticed, even wonder if you have financial problems. These are also the people who, when you tell them why you’ve eliminated the land line, usually say, “Geez, that makes a lot of sense.” Suddenly, you’re not the old retired fossil they thought you to be. You’re ‘brilliance star’ rises once more…for about fifteen minutes. Then you get the braggarts who tell you that they removed their land line years ago, as if to say, “Asshole, what took you so long…you are just sooo slow.” I have two words for those folks but, for the most part, I restrain myself.

Having a cell phone has its own share of problems. My children…and their children all have cell phones that are capable far beyond an instrument used for speaking with another party. Their phones connect directly with the Internet, allow them to listen to their favorite music, watch movies, take and transmit photographs and video, text back and forth because e-mail is too slow, and on very rare occasions actually talk with someone on the other end of the line. In other words, what was at one time the primary use for which the cell phone was invented has now become a secondary feature of the instrument.

My little old flip phone is good for reminding me of appointments; yep, it has a calendar. I can take still photos with my phone, but it’s primary function is to make telephone calls to another person, place, or, as is the case with most folks over 70, to a doctor’s office.

Call me old fashioned if you like but I really don’t need to be on the Internet when I’m sitting at a restaurant. I certainly don’t need to text while I’m driving. I’m not a selfie who is into taking pictures and posting them on Facebook or Instagram, and, quite frankly, I won’t even answer the friggin’ phone if I’m driving. When there was no such thing as a cell phone, I survived, and I cannot see any reason to answer a cell phone while I’m driving today. If the world is about to come to an end and someone is calling to share this information with me, fine. By the time I get my phone out of my pocket and answer it, the world will have already ended so what does it matter. If they’re calling to tell me someone died, fine; leave a message. If the doctor’s calling to tell me I have 24 hours to live and he forgot to tell me yesterday, don’t bother me; maybe I can stretch another day out of it.

Cell phone usage is ridiculous. It’s no wonder parents and children don’t communicate well. Mother pulls out of the driveway to drive the kids to school and she has her cell phone attached to her ear. Meanwhile the kids are either playing video games on their I-pads or texting a friend on their cell phone. The only sound in the car is from a CD to which no one is listening, but it replaces any need for conversation. Mom drops the kids; tells them she’ll pick them up at whenever and either drives away with the phone still tucked between shoulder and flapping gums or stops talking long enough to make plans with another Mom who is still talking on her cell phone. I’m telling you, it is absolutely incredible.

Let me ask a simple question…what did people do before the advent of the cellular telephone? Yes, they have given us the freedom to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime…but at what cost? The populist will tell you that it allows us to multitask, something we have always done, just in a different manner. Cell phones keep us up to the minute, we are told. Why? So what? Who really has a need to be “…kept up to the minute?” Don’t get me wrong, I love my cell phone. I don’t have to go from one room to another to answer it. As long as I remember to charge the battery, I merely have to take it from my pocket when it rings…on those rare occasions. I will not, however, worship the goddamned thing the way so many people appear to do. It’s a telephone. If you didn’t have it with you, what’s the worst that could happen…hello, hello, hello? Oh, shit, I think someone just fainted!

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“I would love to see your wheelchair!” the note read. “I’m guessing male 25-35 years professional who thinks he’s got the world by the ass. But I could be wrong.”

“The note-writer was wrong. Matt Milstead, the owner of the car parked in the spot, has been paralyzed for over twenty years. He had parked his BMW in a handicap spot at a YMCA in Grand Rapids, Mich. to participate in a wheelchair rugby game. When he returned to his car he found the note jammed into his door handle.”

That’s part of a press release I was reading on AOL today. It bothered me because ignorant and cowardly people are the kinds who leave these notes. They are ignorant because, unless they see the handicapped person, they don’t have a clue regarding the problem afflicting the person with the handicapped placard. They are cowardly because they don’t bother to wait around to see who is in the space that is reserved for those with physical limitations.

I have a handicapped placard. I don’t like to use it…and don’t whenever possible. You see, I’ve had three heart attacks; I have five stents in my heart. That’s not really the reason for the handicapped placard; I also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema from smoking…way back when smoking was cool and damn near everyone did it. I haven’t smoked in years but that doesn’t matter. The damage has been done and now I’m paying the price. Oh, and did I mention that I also have an abdominal aortic stent and wear a brace on my right knee on a fairly regular basis. I’m still not crazy about using my placard, particularly if I can find an open space that’s not too far from my destination.

At the end of these AOL stories, there are always comments. All of the comments supported Mr. Milstead and decried the words of the idiot who left the note. Many went on to share one of my personal pet gripes about the abuse of the handicapped placard…people who have “borrowed” – wink, wink – or outright stolen a placard and bound out of their vehicles like they’re shot from guns and run like hell into the nearest store. It’s one thing if there is a handicapped person in the car, perhaps even waiting for whatever the athletic one went after, but when the driver is alone and behaving like an Olympic track star, one does have to wonder.

I’m no actually looking to pick a fight but I have confronted both men and women who have been illegally parked in handicapped spots. Usually, I’ll just say, “Excuse me, I don’t see a handicapped plate or placard on your car. Are you handicapped?” The bulk of the time, if they are not handicapped, they will admit it and move their car. Others have said, “I’m just going to be a minute.” With them, I ask, “What about the handicapped person who pulls in during that minute?” If I really get sass, I’ll walk to the back of the car and write down their plate. That really pisses them off. “Whachoo doin’? You can’t do dat,” is generally the response. I’ve also been threatened. I just figure, “Screw it; you want to add assault; hey, that’s your problem!”  On one occasion…and on one occasion only, tell a cop to get out of a handicapped space; he did. You see, I take this handicapped parking situation very seriously.

Very few people go out of their way to look for confrontation. I don’t like confrontation. However, there are certain things that drive me nuts. “May I take the next person over here?” the cashier will ask, and there’s a mad stampede to that register. It’s one of the reasons I like the manner in which many banks now have an aisle setup so that the ‘next person’ is always the right person. It’s not hard to do the right thing. When it comes to handicapped parking, it becomes even easier.

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Hey, check it out; I’m above average…no, not like that silly…I’ve exceeded my life expectancy. Yep, you heard it here first…unless you heard it somewhere else, and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mess with my ego by telling me so.  The average age of the American white male is 76.3 years. At 78 years and five months, I’m feelin’ pretty damned perky about my age [said he, falling to the floor with a massive stroke].

I often think about people I’ve known, many much younger than I, who are now underground or in a jar on the mantel. I have to ask, “Why?” Why have I been allowed to achieve these years when people whom I regarded as having so much promise– in my mind at least – were snatched away prematurely. Maybe it just reinforces my theory that we are all born with a certain task or series of tasks that we must accomplish before being called ‘home.’ It just takes some of us a bit longer to complete the jobs that we have to do. We, of course, are totally unaware of what these chores might be and that’s probably a good thing. It certainly does give me pause to wonder.

How often do you consider the life you’re living? Why is it that you do the things you do; eat the things you eat; live the place that you live; have friends that you think you know, but do you really? We breathe in and out and most of us take that for granted. I suppose they are the things of museums by now, but did you ever see anyone being kept alive by an iron lung.  Before poliomyelitis became an “illness of the past,” iron lungs were common in hospital wards. A friend of mine who had contracted polio died in an iron lung. It breathed for him, but he was taken anyway. I can still see his face; he had a buzz cut before they were popular, and; he had these crazy round spectacles with skinny black rims…couldn’t see a damned thing without those glasses. He was 16 when he died; that’s a long way from 78+.

Perhaps I have too much time on my hands. It doesn’t seem that way. Like everyone else, I’m a victim of Parkinson’s Law…work expands to fill the time available. There’s only one problem with that; I’m retired; my ‘work’ is a thing of the past. My time is now occupied with the things I wanted to do years ago but couldn’t because my time was filled with work, family, and more work. The funny part of that story is that I used to teach a workshop in time management; talk about the cobbler’s kids who didn’t have shoes! I even practiced what I preached but that 168 hours we all have on a weekly basis just seemed to get fuller ‘n fuller ‘n fuller.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in growing older is not being able to do some of the things you enjoyed doing when you were young. As we age, we lose strength; it’s a function of aging. We settle for less weight and more reps when we’re in the gym. We don’t use certain machines because we know which part of our body will hurt like hell if we’re stupid enough to forget.  My eyes don’t adjust as quickly when I try to shoot a basketball, something I probably shouldn’t be doing anyway – act your age really does have meaning. Looking back, I remember when I could sink hoops from way beyond the arc and punt a football close to 50 yards. Why would I want to do those things at 78? Heck, I don’t know but I’d like to think that I could still do it if I wanted.

Nowadays, I content myself with several mornings a week in the gym, doing an hour of cardiovascular exercise and not much else. Having had both shoulders reconstructed and a hand that’s now missing three bones, there’s damned little to be done with weights. Since my physique is now similar to that of the Michelin man and never going to be like that of one of the young studs, what the hell. As Ruth said in the play, My Sister Eileen, “What the hell, let it spread!” I have what I am now defining as “couch butt” because I spend so much time there reading, watching television or working on a latch hook project. There really isn’t a hell of lot else to be done during a New England winter. If it isn’t snowing and blowing, the sun is deceptively shining while the temperature is damned close to zero.

Oh, well, sometimes it’s just a kick to review how far one has come in however long one has been living. One thing is certain: We can’t go back to what once was; therefore, we might as well look ahead to the exciting things that await us in the future…hot damn, it’s IPod 44!

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