Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

The gym rat is an interesting species and comes in many forms.

While most would consider the gym rat a person who is constantly working out, this is a fallacy. I have been in gyms where, when one opens a locker – generally a bottom locker and one that actually opens without the use of a pry bar –  a genuine, a-number-one gym rat will jump out and slink away, finding some hole in a wall that has either been kicked in or punched out. These particular gym rats are not sociable, have little to say, but they will feast on athletic gear that has been left behind for any period of time…including sweat socks and old jock straps. You might wish to consider moving away from this nominally-named gym rat at a rapid pace or send it on its merry way with a good swing of your gym bag. Do not concern yourself that this particular species will fight fair if it decides to challenge your authority; it does not work out on either cardio nor with free weights. Its only form of protection lies in its mouth…a rather nasty set of incisors which can cause a surfeit of damage.

There are many more species of gym rats, some to be avoided at all costs, and others to be admired from afar…or up close and personal if you have no fear of being torn limb from limb by some crazed martial arts specialist who’s just been dying to try out her newly-acquired-skills on some unsuspecting fool. It’s also necessary that you understand that species of gym rats vary from facility to facility and name to name. For example, at some establishments it is possible to see a species of gym rat known as “Musculature-excessivitis.” The male of the species can usually be found around the free weights rack, admiring both the free weights and the image of himself in the mirrors that abound in this area. If you should espy one at a time when he is using these free weights, you will note that the weight is sufficient to cause each vein in the body to appear that it will soon burst through the skin and send a torrent of blood skyward. In all fairness, it should be noted that all well-muscled members of the species are not steroid users, merely men so in love with their own musculature that they are constantly attempting to improve the way they believe men or women will find them more attractive. The female of this species is exceptionally deceptive for their manner of dress differs markedly. It ranges from the floppy sweatshirts and pants to spandex that appears to have been spray-painted on the body. The former are generally friendly and will offer suggestions if asked. The latter are usually too busy admiring their own bodies to be concerned dealing with yours.

The species or category of gym rat that I have found to be most common in the several gyms I have attended are the “Preservationists.” These are what I might refer to as “my folk.” They or we, whichever floats your boat, are the middle-aged to seniors who attempting to preserve some form of dignity with whatever they have left on their decrepit frames. Most of us have suffered through some life-altering experience that has set us on a long-term plan to not suffer such an experience again in the near, middle, or even distant future. The exercise pattern is not complex by any manner of means. It is a combination of cardiovascular exercise, accomplished by use of a treadmill, elliptical machine, stair stepper, rowing machine, or some other sweat creating torture device, with either free weights – those dumbbell type ‘thingies’ – or machines that, when first viewed, scare the living daylights out of the prospective user. In total, the preservationist may spend as many as two hours in the confines of the gym, a minimum of one hour of which will be spent chatting with others of their type regarding various aches, pains, and lack of sleep. Preservationists are harmless. Their desire is to live a bit longer than others who do not exercise or, as in the case of some, live just to see another sunrise.

Many gym rats are hybrids, the only thing classifying them for what they are being that they are consistent in their use of the gym. Six days a week, generally at the same time, you will find them exercising. For some, it’s a regimen for dropping pounds in order to fit into last year’s shirts and suits; for others, it’s wishing to fit into last year’s bathing suit or skirt. For almost all, it’s an attempt to look and feel better, both physically and mentally. From over 20 years of experience, I can say that on those days when I return from the gym, I feel energized, and I find that my mind is just a wee bit sharper than when I don’t exercise…wisecracks about my state of mind are always accepted!

Are there other pure, non-hybrid gym rats? Of course there are. To classify most of them, however, would be insulting. The “Look-at-me-look-at-me” and the spandex crowd are more pathetic than pure, and those who use the gym merely as a hangout for an hour or so are just comedic. I have been fortunate in my years as a preservationist. I have met men and women from all walks of life; from drug dealers to headmasters; from police officers to doctors; from prosecuting attorneys to those involve with homeland security; from teachers and nurses and everyday housewives just trying to stay in shape; all have been nice to me, and I’ve enjoyed my conversations with each and every one. The heterogeneity of a gym is remarkable, and I love every minute of my time spent there…rats and all!

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What will you miss?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So, Dylann Roof was afraid that black people were taking over the world. Well, maybe that’s just not such a bad thing after all. I can hear the screams now…”Are you out of your friggin’ mind?” “Oh, come on, you can’t be serious!” “Didn’t you see all of those shootings in Dorchester and who committed them?” “Yeah, right, and all those black gangs would be taking over our neighborhoods and killing all the white people; that’s what would happen you idiot.”

Yep, possibly true. But why is it true? It’s true because a minority of the minority make all of the headlines because of their actions. I have seen the riots; I have seen the black banners; I have heard the yelling and screaming, and; I have seen the way in which we ‘educated’ whites have treated “uppity n___as” for over 200 years.

Despite all of our legislation; despite all of our efforts to integrate blacks and whites, nothing seems to be working. In one of the most advanced civilizations in history, we cannot overcome something as seemingly simple as two races living together in some kind of harmony. Even when we elected a black president, there was sufficient racism in the legislative branch – and other branches – to stop any kind of progress from being made. Anyone who tries to tell me that racism isn’t behind the gridlock in Washington is a goddamned liar! “We won’t let him get anything passed in the House.” Those are as close to an exact quote as I can remember from one Representative. “Him,” the word was “him,” and who was “he?” He was the first black President of the United States.

America was not ready to accept anything other than a white person for the Presidency. It is doubtful that America will ever be ready for anything but a white presidency. It’s too ingrained in us over our two hundred plus year history to accept anything else. We are creatures of habit; we are NIMBY’s such as there has never been. We talk of how we have advanced our civilization by trying new things, and that’s true, we have. But we sure as hell don’t want to disturb the status quo when it comes to the who of how we govern. Someone said to me, “When the Obama’s leave the White House, they’ll take all the china and silverware.” The person was only half joking. Why? Because that is the impression too many of us have of men and women in the black community. Wait a minute; who gambled away the White House china? Why it was President Warren G. Harding. How many alcoholic white presidents have we had? Too goddamned many. How many wheeler-dealer crooks have we had in the White House? Too goddamned many.

I have no sympathy for Dylann Roof; don’t get me wrong. Certainly, trying to start a race war is not the answer to bringing this country together. He deserves to pay the ultimate price for his actions. My gut feeling is that if he has already confessed to these murders, there is no reason for a trial. “That’s not the American way!” Bullshit…why isn’t it the American way? Why waste time and money to satisfy the blood lust that the media will create over this senseless and heinous act? The same should have been true with the Marathon bomber, the theatre killer, the one who shot Gabby Gifford and others, as well as Edward Hinckley. You did it; we saw you; you pay for your actions in the same manner as your actions. Within 24 hours of your capture, you are on your knees with two shots behind the ear. “Oh, my God, how brutal; how you can even think such a thing; this isn’t China where they do that. This is America; we’re not savages@” Oh, really, what would you call the people I’ve listed above…preachers of God?

Over the past 15 years I’ve watched this country begin to come apart at the seams. Statisticians tell us that crime is going down…and we’re supposed to believe their bullshit! The FBI, the Justice Department, this one and that one tell us how we’re better off than we were a couple of decades ago. Guess what, I don’t believe them. I think they are covering their butts and lying to us. Perhaps it’s because when something like Charleston or Newtown happen, it makes a big splash. Perhaps the media is doing a “better” job of covering the sexual assaults that are taking place on our city and suburban sidewalks and homes. I don’t know what it is, but things sure look pretty fucked up to me.

So what are we looking at for the future? Dylann Roof will go on trial, be convicted and when his execution date comes – somewhere in the next 10 years because of all the automatic appeals – the whole thing will be rehashed and America will once more be told that we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior, the population will be up in arms once more. Will any action have been taken to sort out the potential Dylann Roof’s in our society? No! Will any action have been taken in an attempt to control who and how guns are distributed? No. Will the NRA still own Congress? Yes. Will people still be going on rampages of killing children, classmates, adults of all colors? Yes.

Do I have reasonable solutions to all of these problems? No, not to all of them, but I have a few thoughts:

  • Any member of Congress who takes money from any lobby should be immediately ousted from his or her seat in that law-making body.
  • Members of the House of Representatives should not be allowed to serve any more than six terms. If they cannot get the job done in twelve years, it’s time to go.
  • Senators should be allow to serve two terms in office. Once more, twelve years in Congress is quite enough.
  • Certain lobbies are so powerful that they should be disbanded in some way, shape, or form. These include the tobacco, public utilities, pharmaceutical, gun advocacy, and several other vote-buying bastards who serve no useful purpose in our government.
  • Certainly our jails are overcrowded. We do not possess the laws to discourage crime. Opponents of the death penalty maintain that the threat of such punishment is not a deterrent, and they may well be right. However, have we ever really tested this? One execution every ten or twelve years is not testing. Executions every day for a couple of months might get a few bad guys to change their minds about committing a serious crime.
  • The Second Amendment, at least to me, means that if you own a gun, you do so to protect yourself and your home and that you are a part of a militia to guard the country. Fine, let’s put you to the test. If you voluntarily purchase or possess a gun, you will be trained and sent to wherever the United States is engaged in a ‘police action,’ or whatever we’re calling our conflicts these days. You will serve one year in a front line unit. If you survive, you will be allowed to keep your weapon when you return. However, you will not be allowed to keep an automatic weapon or more than 100 rounds of ammunition.

These are very rough plans and will have to be worked out…by whom? Aha, therein lies the rub. Who creates and who enforces these rules and regulations? Won’t be me; I plan to be dead. Good luck, America; you’re going to need it!

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“Wow, what a bunch of lucky dogs!”

“Yeah; Barcelona for a couple of weeks; that would be just so cool.”

“When I took French last year, we went nowhere. That sucked!”

“Yeah, what a bunch of lucky dogs.”


“Did you hear?”

“Yeah”…starts crying…again.

That’s dialogue. I don’t know whether it’s anywhere near what was said before and after the plane crashed into the Alps. I have no idea if that’s the way it went, but to this day – sixty-three years later – I can tell you exactly how those kids felt. I can tell you how fast the news spread through Haltern, Germany. I can understand the shock of fellow students, although not to the extent that comes from losing that many. But, I understand; I remember.

I remember sitting in a funeral home on Webster Street and looking at a casket who’s lid was closed…and sealed…because there wasn’t anything the funeral director or embalmer or whoever makes a corpse look life-like could do. I remember wondering how much of him was in the casket. Did they find all the pieces, parts of his body? Did he see it coming? Was he aware that he was about to die? Did it hurt much? We’d never toss a football around, ever again. He wouldn’t be one of the first ones picked when we bucked up for teams, never again. Yeah, I remember.

The “he,” in this case, was Joe Thompson, a friend who decided to leave high school in his senior year to enlist in the Army. He loved a good fight and wanted to go to Korea. He was at Fort Benning in Georgia; had come home on leave. He and four of his Army buddies were heading back. We never really knew precisely what happened; whether someone fell asleep at the wheel or what, but they all died. I don’t even know where the others were from, but Joe was from our town, a town of about 10,000. Word traveled fast. In those days, we didn’t light candles or create little shrines anywhere. We went to the wake at the funeral home, sometimes in groups, sometimes alone. One of the other things I remember well is that the walls of the funeral home were white, a stark white, and I remember thinking that they should have been something other than white; funny, the things you remember.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s one or sixteen; whether it’s the jock or the class nerd; it’s a classmate and he or she is dead from this, that, or the other thing…and you won’t see them again. It doesn’t matter whether you were a good friend or not; this was a classmate. Kid could have been the biggest jerk in the school, but now the jerk got killed, and that changes things. As kids ourselves, we may not express it or even understand it, but it’s an indication that we aren’t immortal, invincible, or inviolable. He or she was a classmate – same grade or different; it doesn’t matter – and high school is nothing if not a community unto itself.

Is this as tragic as Newtown, or Littleton, Lockerbee or Malaysia flight 370? Sure it is. Nearly all death is tragic. It’s more so when it’s young people who die; even more when it’s a violent end to young life. The people of Haltern will get through this…almost. The pain will last for years. Memories will come back after years have passed and those classmates will remember an episode and they’ll start to cry. Someone may ask them, “What’s wrong?” and they’ll just shake their heads; perhaps look at their own kids. They’ll dry their tears and get on with what they were doing.

Some memories fade quickly. I used to believe that it was the bad ones that faded the fastest; that the good ones remained far longer. However, as you can see, there are times when even the bad ones come back to bite you. Just ask someone who lost a friend when they were young.


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I want to know where the hell the protesters are in Philadelphia and Fulton County, Georgia. What, you don’t know about the shooting deaths of two Black men in that city and Local County? Or is it possibly because they just happened to be police officers ambushed and killed in the line of duty? Is someone going to try and feed me that bullshit line that it was “in the line of duty?” They’re dead; they were Black; they were shot; they are dead. What the fuck is the matter with people who will protest over the death of a thug like Michael Brown and do nothing when a couple of Black, White, Pink, or Green police officers are gunned down.

Officer Wilson was in a shop to buy a gift for his son who had done well academically and who had a birthday coming up in three days. Two armed brothers entered the store and announced they intended to rob it. How dumb were these two? The patrol car, with Wilson’s partner was parked outside the store. They didn’t see Wilson until he announced himself. According to the “Officer Down” web site, “He exchanged shots with the two brothers as he drew fire away from the customers and employees. He was struck three times during the shootout in which over 50 shots were fired. The two men then exited the store where they were engaged in a shootout with Officer Wilson’s partner, who had remained in the patrol car. One of the subjects was wounded during the second shootout. Who is out there protesting the death of Bob Wilson? Perhaps his wife and two sons should take to the streets. After all, they have more right than most to hold signs that say, “Black lives matter.” They won’t do that however; they’re too busy mourning the death of a husband and a father. Who protests for them? “Oh, it was in the line of duty.” What bullshit!

Twenty-two-year veteran police officer Terence Green died when he was shot in the back of the head from an ambush position. Green and other officers were responding to a shots fired call. The suspect had left his house and gone into hiding. As the officers walked past, he fired, killing Greene and striking the radio of another officer. While his mother mourns, there are no protesters. He’s dead but, “It was in the line of duty.”

Since the beginning of this year, 19 police officers have died. In some cases, they have been in gun fights with suspects. In other cases, they have been killed by accident while pursuing suspects. Who marches for them? Who holds up signs saying that their lives matter?

Last year, 125 officers were killed “In the line of duty,” 47 of them from gunfire. These men and women have chosen to uphold the law, to protect the citizens of their communities, but I have yet to see a protest on their behalf; people marching in the streets with signs that read “Stop the violence against police officers.” It appears to be an attitude of “Well, they chose their profession so tough shit if they get killed; I hope they didn’t kill some poor, innocent kid before they died.”

The attitude that I have heard from some people about the police has nearly gotten me in trouble several times. I happen to be a police advocate. When those men and women put on that uniform and strap on that belt with, yes, a gun as a part of their equipment, they haven’t a clue as to whether they will return home that night for dinner and a drink or whether they will wind up in a body bag on a coroner’s table with a tag tied around their big toe. How many jobs have that kind of risk involved… not every few days, weeks, or months, but every 24 hours? It’s a horrible job. It’s overworked and underpaid; it’s people who care deeply about protecting others and are willing to lay their lives on the line for many they don’t even know. When Greene was killed in Georgia, one neighbor said, “I wish I had known him, just to say thank you for protecting us.” Too many people show disdain for the members of law enforcement, referring to them as “Gestapo” and worse. But when they need help, these same people will cry their eyes out when the police save their butts.

Am I prejudiced on this matter? You’re damned right I am. Over the years I have taught more than 4,000 police officers. Some of them are rough and ready, I admit. Some of them appear very cynical toward life, but that’s not cynicism, that’s reality. A few are bad apple bullies, but they generally get weeded out. Most are hard working men and women who want nothing more than to be able to do their jobs each day and get home safely at night for that “dinner and a drink” and maybe, just maybe a kiss from the wife or girlfriend and a hug from the kids.

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The death of Leonard “Spock” Nimoy is sad in many ways. He was a fine actor and, from all accounts, a fine human being. He was a man of many talents, from his acting and directing to some of the beautiful photographs that he shared with us. For me, personally, it was sad because he died of what’s killing me, that is, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. While it’s, as you may have read, the third leading cause of death in the United States, Mr. Nimoy is the first ‘public’ figure of whom I have heard, who has died… and I’m frightened of how it may kill me.

The one thing I do not understand concerning Mr. Nimoy’s death is the number of idiots who feel they have the right to dictate who should or should not attend his funeral. Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner were close friends…for many years. The still-working Shatner had made a commitment that prevented him from attending the funeral. So what? Is it wrong that Shatner chose to honor the charity commitment he had made? Would Nimoy have done the same thing? We’ll never know, but just as Shatner’s children attended Nimoy’s funeral, my bet is that Nimoy family members will choose to attend Captain Kirk’s last stand.

Why am I harping on this? It’s personal and hits very close to home. A few years ago, my sister’s husband died; good guy; good husband; widowed before he met my sister; successful entrepreneur, and all of the other ‘good guy’ adjectives you’d care to mention. My sister asked me to fly to California for Chuck’s funeral, and I went. I went because it was the thing to do and because my sister – my only living relative – asked me to do so. It wasn’t a pleasant trip. In airports and of necessity, I traveled by wheelchair. My sister didn’t know it, and I didn’t tell her. It was a nice service and a nice reception, and a miserable trip back home…okay? It’s over and done with.

If my sister dies before me, I won’t go to her funeral, and should I die before her, I hope like the devil that she won’t try to come to mine…after all, she is three years older than I…no matter what she tells her friends. I fly to California and she introduces me as her ‘older’ brother…damn! It’s not that I wouldn’t want to say goodbye, and I’m certain she feels the same way, but there will be people, possibly some of my own children, who will think me wrong should she pass before me. It’s a crazy world. After all, neither of us is really going to ‘know’ if the other is present…what, I’m gonna lean into the casket and say, “Hey, I made it; how ya doin’? Ya look like shit.”  I mean, c’mon. Then some damned fool will ask, as they always tend to, “What did you whisper to her?” If you tell them, they get all pissed off, and if you don’t tell them, they think you’re a snob.

For those of you who are all pissed that Shatner was a no-show, how about Gene Roddenberry, did you see him there? I know he’s dead, but what difference does that make; he should have been there…and who is to say that he wasn’t. I think the only reason these idiots are criticizing Shatner for not appearing is that they weren’t invited to attend the services and they’re pissed off about it, so they have to express their displeasure and this is their way of doing so…it shows that they’re idiots, but it’s their way.

I’d like to believe, and to a great extent I guess I do believe…that somewhere down the line, Leonard Nimoy and Bill Shatner will get together again. I believe that in much the same way as I believe I will be reunited with my wife and family again. What do we really have if we don’t believe in the possibility of that? Kinda makes ya think, doesn’t it?

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The final epitaph

How strange. We go through life. Perhaps we have a moment of something that others might call achievement or fame. We help with the dishes, mow the lawn, maybe even add a new deck to the back porch, and then our name appears in the paper for three or four days…and we’re gone. Poof, that’s it; that’s the end of it. We appear with thirty, forty, fifty or more names, and that’s all. Well, no, it’s not quite that simple. If we have family, they grieve…for various lengths of time. If we’re without family; if our family pre-deceased us; if we died alone and unloved – except perhaps for a nurse or caretaker – we’re just a name in the paper, along with others, for three or four days…and we’re gone.

Life goes on. We’re not a part of it anymore, but life does go on. Our role is over; we’ve left the stage; we no longer drive the A48 bus along the same route we drove it for years. Some riders notice; most don’t care, just as long as the A48 transports them from point A to point B. That’s their role; go from point A to point B. Then one day one of the regulars is no longer on the bus, and their name appears in the newspaper for three or four days…and the wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round…new driver; new faces; new newspapers left behind on the seats; new names in the newspapers.

What a peculiar merry-go-round on which we live, this carousel of life and living. Some people jump off for a few precious moments of glory and fame, but then they jump right back on; go round and round until it becomes their time to leave the merry-go-round forever. Others will jump on, take their place, and the wheel will continue to spin.

Wasn’t it Puck who said, “What fools these mortals be,” blaming others for what he had done, but even without his magic potion, he was right. Our moment in the sun is brief and then, like the magician’s flash paper, our light disappears. Hopefully, we have left behind a memento or several, either in terms of progeny or achievement. If progeny, we hope they will achieve something greater than our own contribution, but we don’t know, nor, in the end, do we really care.

As I age, more and more I agree with Pogo; “We have met the enemy and he is us.” How prophetic was Walt Kelly’s little possum in saying that. What monstrous truth appears in those nine little words? Taken on a very broad scale, man is his own worst enemy. Certainly, he doesn’t play well with others. One or the other is always trying to destroy some other ‘man’ for whatever ungodly – or sometimes godly – reason or other. So we must thank you, Puck and Pogo for your exceedingly insightful look into this creation we call man; this package whose dismal epitaph appears for three or four days as a line in a newspaper, and sometimes not even that.

Many moons and more than a few sunrises ago, my youngest came to me. She had graduated college months before and was working as a therapist in a nursing home. “Is this it?” she asked. “Is this what life is all about? We work during the week; watch old people die; party on weekends or do something else for two days and then begin again? Is this it?” How does one answer a question like that? James C. Collins, author, lecturer, and student of how and why companies succeed, has an interesting approach: “We will all experience disappointments and crushing events somewhere along the way, setbacks for which there is no “reason”; no one to blame. It might be a disease; it might be injury; it might be an accident; it might be losing a loved one; it might be getting swept away in a political shake up; it might be getting shot down over Vietnam and thrown into a POW camp for 8 years. What separates people, James Stockdale taught me, is not the presence or absence of difficulties, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life.” My answer, although not quite as erudite, was probably similar to yours. “If you’re not living your life as you wish, what would you do to change it? How can you make your life what you want?” It wasn’t a particularly brilliant answer, somewhat of a cliché I would imagine. By and large, my life has turned out as well – I think – as could be expected with the product with which I had to work. I’ve known manual labor; I graduated high school and college (twice); I had a job that I enjoyed immediately upon graduation; was married; fathered children; suffered the usual tragedies of losing parents and even a few friends before the ripe old age of 25; changed jobs and enjoyed the second more than the first; the third more than the second, etc; learned the agonies of being fired without cause – “We’re abolishing your position;” what a pisser that was;  rehired and spent the next twenty years loving every minute of each work day. There were many enjoyments and few painful experiences. There was vicarious enjoyment through the achievements of my spouse and my children. Yet, looking at everything in hindsight, it was just life’s merry-go-round; a nice ride, but it’s almost time to get off.

I figure I’ll beat the newspapers, however. You see, I’ve already arranged that the newspapers not be notified. Those who want to know will know. I don’t care to be a line in a paper for three or four days. I will defy Dylan Thomas and I will go quietly into that gentle night.

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