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Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

That mournful sound

Did you ever hear anything more mournful than the “whaa-whaa-whoo” of a train whistle early in the morning? Your eyes haven’t yet opened. You’re hovering between the last stages of sleep and the very early stages of wakefulness, and you hear “whaa-whaa-whoo” some miles from your bed. You know precisely what it is. It’s what you call “the 4:15 out of Bangor or Portland or Burlington or wherever.” In reality, you don’t have a clue about where that train has been, where it’s going; or even where it came from, but you listen – “whaa-whaa-whoo” – and it can conjure up memories or scenarios of places to go and people to see. It conjures up fantasies beyond your wildest imagination.

Maybe you’re the hobo who’s been riding these rails for years, sort of “King of the road,” as Roger Miller sang. You’ve seen the corn fields of Iowa, the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, the golden wheat stretching miles and miles through Kansas, and wild horses running alongside your open boxcar as the train clickety-clacked through Oklahoma. You’ve felt the warm breezes of the summer and the bone-chilling cold of the winter, but for you there is no other life. You’re free to do as you like and be who you are. No tie-downs or nine to five for you. This is your freedom and the way you’ve chosen to live your life…ridin’ the rails, and listenin’ to the “whaa-whaaa-whoo” of the whistle and the clickety-clack of the rails as you move through your life at your pace and marching to your own drummer.

Maybe this is the train that carried you from Boston to Baltimore to pay your last respects to an old Army buddy from WWII. A plane might have been faster, but you hate those damned cigar tubes, and as old as you are, you aren’t gonna risk your life when the train’s a perfectly safe way to go…at least according to you…and this guy once saved your life in Europe, yanking you to the ground just before that German machine gun saw your unit coming…yep, he saved your bacon for sure. Now he’s gone, but you haven’t forgotten; you remember; and you wanna say your “goodbyes.” After all, hadn’t been for him, you’d probably been pushin’ up daisies in some cemetery in France or Belgium, or Holland, or somewhere over there. So you ride the train…all the way to Baltimore.

Or maybe you’re the engineer who has been making this run for the past thirty years. Your whistle warns that you’re coming through Canton, Bridgewater, Stoughton or some other small town. Yeah, you know the “whaa-whaa-whoo” is loud and can be heard for miles, and you know its 4:15 in morning, and you know some people will get waked by the sound, but that’s your job. You have grown beyond the point of caring. Heck, if you gotta be haulin’ this 40-car load of whatever so that others can eat or drink or build homes or buy cars or…then that’s the way it has to be. You’re just doing the job, the same job you’ve been doing for the past thirty years with still more years to go.

It’s possible, I suppose, that you could fantasize that this is the cross-country trip you promised the family so many years ago. “We’ll take the train so we can sit in one of those cars with the big windows and see America the way the pioneers saw it.” Well, I’m not certain a Conestoga wagon was quite as smooth a ride as one of today’s trains, and I don’t believe the hardships faced by the pioneers could be compared to a cramped shower of today, but what the heck, you promised and the “whaa-whaa-whoo” doesn’t even disturb your sleep. Used to keep you awake when you first began the trip, but not anymore.

So many dreams; so many fantasies to conjure up. All of this just because you heard the mournful whistle of a train in the distance, when your eyes had yet to open, and you were somewhere in that state between sleep and wakefulness. It will happen again tomorrow, and you may hear it or you may be so soundly sleeping that it will make its “whaa-whaa-whoo” and you will never know; never once again to live in a fantasy world for a few more minutes. It won’t matter. To those who hear the mournful sound, they, too, can have their fantasies.

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Let us suppose for a moment that FBI Director, James Comey, had stood at the lectern recently and stated, “We have found sufficient evidence to indict Hillary Rodham Clinton on the charges of treason and providing aid and comfort to enemies of America. At this very moment, our officers are apprehending Mrs. Clinton, and she will be incarcerated without bail until a trial date is set.” Cut to the stage where Hillary and Barack are holding each other’s arms high in the air. Four burly suits approach the stage with FBI badges showing from the top pocket of their coats. The Secret Service agents of both the President and Mrs. Clinton move forward to halt the approach.

“Federal law gives the FBI authority to investigate all federal crime not assigned exclusively to another federal agency (28, Section 533 of the U.S. Code). Title 28, U.S. Code, Section 533, authorizes the attorney general to appoint officials to detect and prosecute crimes against the United States. Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 3052, specifically authorizes special agents and officials of the FBI to make arrests, carry firearms, and serve warrants. Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 3107, empowers special agents and officials to make seizures under warrant for violation of federal statutes.
“The FBI has authority to investigate threats to national security pursuant to presidential executive orders, attorney general authorities, and various statutory sources. Title II of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Public Law 108-458, 118 Stat. 3638, outlines FBI intelligence authorities, as does Executive Order 12333; 50 U.S.C. 401 et seq.; 50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.”
The Secret Service is a division of Homeland Security. Is responsible for the protection of the President and presidential candidates.

Okay, where do we go from here?

There actually is a prescribed procedure for just such a situation. However, before any arrest takes place, the Director of the FBI and the Director of the Secret Service must have a conversation invoking article 1527, Agreement between the FBI and the Secret Service, which says in effect that the agencies will cooperate. As a result, Mrs. Clinton could be placed under arrest and the President could go it alone, extolling the virtues of Mrs. Clinton and telling the audience what a great act she would be to follow him in the office…nah, wouldn’t work all that well…make a helluva image for TV though, wouldn’t it?

In a high profile case such as this, Mrs. Clinton would be given a certain period of time – short of the election, of course – to present herself to FBI officers for a hearing to establish bail. Since she is under indictment, she would be forced to withdraw as the Democratic candidate for President, although she might not; the convention might endorse her and we would have two crooks running for the highest office in the land.

Meanwhile, over on the Republican side, Donald Trump is vindicated after calling Hillary “crooked.” However, FBI investigation shows that Trump (a) received an illegal loan from his father; (b) that his mob ties subject him to prosecution under the RICO Statute; and (c) that he knowingly had a union leader eliminated through his mob ties. The FBI swoops in and arrests him mid-rally, and along with his Secret Service protectors, they haul him in. He is considered a flight risk by the judge and no bail is allowed.

The Republican Convention overwhelmingly endorses Trump and Vice Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich brings the crowd to its feet with a rousing rendition of Dixie as the New England delegations storm out of the hall.

What next, oh mighty seer?

Bernie Sanders agrees to debate Gingrich as Hillary’s proxy. Both are booed off the stage by followers from both parties. The election is canceled. Obama indicates that he will gladly serve another four years, but this is totally unacceptable. As a result, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan are drafted to serve as co-presidents. Six months into their first term, both are so confused that they import David Cameron to run the country. Within a year, and without a single shot being fired, Americans are singing their new National Anthem, God Save the Queen!

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The Leader

The planning began in 2013 as far as can be determined. It would lead him into a position of power, and he would reign as the world’s most powerful leader. In his own mind he would be more powerful than any Caesar, Alexander, Khan, or any of Egypt’s so-called God-like Pharaoh’s. History would mark his tenure as the boldest and brightest, the best thing ever to happen to the United States of America.

He was a showman, a carnival barker, a television personality, a published author, and according to him, a philanthropist whose charities benefited millions. His books were all best sellers…he said. His television program was number one in its time slot…he bragged. The university that bore his name created hundreds of millionaires…he insisted. And the numerous water parks bearing his name were the best in the world…he said it and the masses believed it. He would achieve greatness by uniting a divided country and a distribution of wealth such as had never been seen before.

Well, that was the plan, but like those of other narcissistic, power-hungry, dictatorial maniacs, things began to fall apart shortly after his “election,” if that’s what one wishes to call his rise. During the pre-election days, his Red Shirts, as they were known, disrupted nearly every rally held by his opponent, shouting her down and starting fist fights with her supporters. At one such rally, eggs and tomatoes hit the candidate and forced her to leave the stage. Despite protests from the leaders of his own party, George H. Frump only smiled, threw out his arms and innocently told them, “I have nothing to do with them. I don’t know who these people are. Those people are just protesting all of the terrible lies she’s telling about me.” In point of truth, those ‘lies’ could easily be backed up. Frump’s appeal to the masses about uniting the nation and making it ‘great again,’ his equal opportunity for all ‘Legitimate Americans,’ his promises to round up and deport illegal immigrants, ban certain groups from entering the country, “topped off with an unceasing flood of invective aimed” at his opponent and his predecessor combined with the economic difficulties of the parts of the country – Frump was riding a “wave of street popularity he hoped would help him” into a position from which he could dictate his own terms.

Frump’s promises faded quickly once the election was over. Although charges of voting fraud were brought by his opponent were ignored, Frump marched into the Capitol and it’s many pillared home in triumphant fashion. His inauguration on that January 20th showed the first indications of the type of government that the nation could expect to see for the next four years. Senators, Congressmen, and members of the Supreme Court were relegated to seats below the platform. Members of the Red Shirts surrounded the new leader wearing armbands that bore a donkey, encircled in black with a red slash across its body. In addition, a carefully selected corps of Army, Navy, and Marines encircled the audience with tanks and artillery pieces very much in evidence…the man was now Commander-in-Chief.

If Americans listening to Frump’s Inaugural Address had any illusions that he was going to be a great leader, they were dashed by his opening statement…”The Democratic Party has brought this nation to the terrible state in which we find ourselves today. From this moment forward, that party and every member of it is to be considered an enemy of the United States of America. There will be no more two-party system of government as long as I draw a breath.” Shock and fear went through the assemblage as hundreds of Red Shirts marched down the aisles and began herding Democratic members of Congress away in handcuffs. Half of the Supreme Court Justices, those appointed by a Democratic leader, were also arrested and put into cuffs. The rest of the speech was largely a tirade against anyone who might consider opposing Frump and a warning to immigrants that their days were also numbered.

Frump’s tactics reminded old timers of a dictator who rose to power in the 1930s, but to say anything publically could be viewed as treason. Red Shirts replaced police departments all around the country, often using intimidation and even murder to attain power. Red Shirt politicians – without wearing red shirts of course, began to surface and run for offices formerly filled by Democrats. In many cases, running a campaign was unnecessary. Fatten Frump’s personal campaign fund and you were guaranteed a seat in Congress. It was in this manner that Frump passed and signed legislation that allowed him to control nearly every aspect of life in America, from the financial institutions to agribusiness; and from petrochemicals to pharmaceuticals. America became the United States of Frump.

And, true to his word, Frump’s Red Shirt army rounded up and deported anyone and everyone with a foreign-sounding last name. Ships were filled with “illegal immigrants” who either returned to the country of their birth or merely sailed on until they could prove their citizenship. The “Leader,” as he preferred to be called also built a wall more than 2,000 miles long separating ‘his’ country from Mexico and increased security to such a degree that no one dared to attempt overland entry. Much to Frump’s dismay, illegal drugs continued to pour into America through tunnels. As quickly as one was found, two more were in operation, and The Leader’s famed temper would result in someone being tried for a treasonous act he or she never realized they had committed.

It was at this point in time that I awoke. Sweat was pouring down my cheeks, although it might have been tears. The T-shirt I’d worn to bed was drenched in sweat, and I realized that I was shaking all over. The dream had been so real. I was terrified. “That could never happen in America,” I said to myself…”Or could it?”

 

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“Well, then, why don’t you write a travel piece?”

“A what?” I asked.

“Oh, you know, a piece about where you’ve been and what you’ve seen; the fascinating sights, restaurants, museums, and so forth?”

“You talkin’ to me?” I queried.

“Well…sure…” he replied, now growing a bit hesitant.

“The places I’ve been; the fascinating sights, restaurants, museums, and so forth?” I said, looking quizzically at this person I thought I had known for over 50 years…and actually turning around to see if he might be speaking to a complete stranger behind me.

“I DON’T TRAVEL,” I screamed as though speaking with a dolt, adding, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT?”

That brought the conversation and companionship to a rather rapid close as he stormed off, waving his hands in the air in an “I give up; what the hell’s the use,” fashion. This, by the by, is not the first, nor will it, in all probability, be the last time one of our conversations has ended in such a manner, ie, with one of us throwing our hands in the air – why do we do that, anyway – and trudging away.

So, here I am, stuck with a blank page on the computer, still in a quandary over with what to fill this clean white sheet of screen. “Why write anything?” you ask.

“Well, writing is what keeps my sanity intact, what remains of it that is.” I enjoy writing. Actually, I enjoy writing pieces that make people think…one way or the other. They agree or disagree with my postulations, and it doesn’t matter a damn to me which way they go. As a matter of fact, I prefer it when people violently disagree with me – well, not violently perhaps, but you know what I mean – and they respond with their own clearly stated – most of the time – positions.

My options are limited. To write about any of the five presidential wannabee’s merely gets my blood boiling since there’s not one who is worthy of the highest office in the land. Seriously, think about it: Trump wants to build walls, allow his cronies to do anything they damn well please, up to and including criminal behavior. He wants to make abortion a crime and he hasn’t a clue about foreign policy. Ted Cruz wants to carpet-bomb the Middle East and tough tomatoes for anyone in the way. The way he’s talking, all Muslims would wind up in WWII-like ghettos. John Kasich and Bernie Sanders would each get eaten alive by Congressional foes, and that brings us to Hillary. Sooner or later, she will be indicted for something. I liken Hillary to John Gotti…she’s the Teflon pol to whom nothing seems to stick; Whitewater didn’t stick; Benghazi didn’t stick; e-mail messages aren’t sticking so far. Not a damned thing seems to stick. Ergo, who is going to run the country? As Felix the Cat (for those who remember) might say, eeeeeeeeek!

So politics is out. Perhaps I should write about Senate Bill 524…it’s a pisser! It’s called the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016,” and its purpose is to “authorize the Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use.” What, we’re now making the Attorney General find a new way to fight the drug war. I guess we’ve given up trying to fight the cocaine war. It appears that Congress, in its investigative role, has found that, “The abuse of heroin and prescription opioid painkillers is having a devastating effect on public health and safety in communities across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths now surpass traffic accidents in the number of deaths caused by injury in the United States. In 2014, an average of more than 120 people in the United States died from drug overdoses every day.” My reaction to this is that it’s a great way to reduce the gene pool! Who are these 120 people who have chosen to die by drug overdose?  The circle of Kumbaya singing, well-meaning-but-wearing-rose-colored-glasses crowd will call me harsh, but that’s okay, because these 120 will not breed and they will not vote. Let them die and then let’s go after the doctors who prescribed a 20 or 30 day prescription for Percocet, oxycodone, OxyContin, or hydrocodone. I have had nearly 20 surgeries in my life, and I believe I’ve taken one Percocet pill. Did the surgeries hurt? You bet your butt they did? Were they as painful as some others might be? No! However, if doctors don’t warn patients about the addictiveness of these pills, the docs aren’t doing their job. Why did some of these addicts turn to heroin? Because (a) it can be cheaper than some of the prescription medication; (b) they couldn’t find another doctor who would authorize the pills; and (c) heroin worked better and faster. As a consequence of all this, Congress now wants to play nursemaid to people who don’t have the intelligence or desire not to become drug addicts. Sorry, that’s not where I want my tax dollars spent.

But, Congress responds, “According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (“NIDA”), the number of prescriptions for opioids increased from approximately 76,000,000 in 1991 to nearly 207,000,000 in 2013, and the United States is the biggest consumer of opioids globally, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone and 81 percent for oxycodone.” And “Opioid pain relievers are the most widely misused or abused controlled prescription drugs (CPD) and are involved in most CPD-related overdose incidents. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (“DAWN”), the estimated number of emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of prescription opiates or opioids increased by 112 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 84,671 to 179,787.

Feel free to give me reason after reason for drug addiction in this country, but don’t tell me; please don’t tell me that I have to be part of a legally-adopted payment plan to help junkies rid themselves of an addiction.

Perhaps I should have written that travel piece after all…here goes. I’ve driven and flown from Massachusetts to LA and to Florida. I’ve driven the northern route which is New York State through Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, etc., and I came back the southern route through Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, etc. Our son was married in a hillside chapel in Tennessee, so I’ve been to Gatlinburg, and driven over the Smokey Mountains into North Carolina. My travel has been limited to the United States, parts of Canada, and four unforgettable trips to Bermuda. Unlike many other people, I have not been to Europe or any exotic locales. I’d like to have seen the pyramids, but I have a thing about suicide bombers or kneeling in an orange robe and a drugged stupor while some jerk removes my head from the rest of me. Could I be more expansive about my travels? Certainly, but this little essay is now approaching 1,200 words – go ahead and count, ya damned fool – and my fingers are getting tired. Hope you enjoyed the tirade and that you’ll return again soon.

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Let us make some assumptions…you may believe them to be unwarranted and that’s your privilege. However, that is the Royal “us” which means that I am the one making the assumptions, and you, well, you’re just along for the ride.

The first assumption that I will make is that I, you, me, we, am dead. We have crossed the great divide, gotten on board our particular plane, seen the bright light and heard the most beautiful music we’ve ever heard, etc., etc., etc. By the bye, this really isn’t an assumption; like it or not, there will come a day when whatever is on our bucket list will have to remain there because we have kicked that particular bucket.

The second assumption I will make is that we – you and I – have been reasonably good people. Without fanfare, we have supported charities, given a buck here and there to a homeless person, not committed murder, although we have stolen things from the office, lied about a few “small” things, seen a special human being along the way and, as President Jimmy Carter once remarked, “Lusted in my heart.” All in all, though, our former life had more ups than downs, and, except for that time when our bracket got totally busted in the first round, life has been good.

The third assumption I will make is that we – thee and me – went directly to the first level of heaven. No, it’s not like Dante’s first ring of hell. And, this isn’t like purgatory where you get to serve time before you go ‘up’ or ‘down.’ This is a nice place…with one exception. When you arrive, you are immediately assigned a seat in a beautiful glass building. This chair to which you have been assigned and to which you are magically transported, is known as the seat of heavenly knowledge. You see, for as good as you and I have been, we still have to ‘earn’ our wings, so to speak. While we thought that we knew the consequences of our actions on earth, here we are to learn precisely the results of our actions. For instance, remember the time when you nudged that golf ball a bit to the right to help you make that shot that got you out of the woods. You didn’t think anyone was watching, but your young caddy saw it; saw you get away with such a simple thing; he went on to be a world class money manager who robbed people of their savings…and you can just imagine the consequences of that. But that’s okay because in front of your seat is a long desk. It has books that tower out of sight. You will stay here and read every one of those books. You will ponder what happened worldwide when you took every single action in your life. Once you have completed reading, you will be asked what you might have done differently, either to make the results other than they were or to leave them as they happened. This isn’t a quiz on which you’ll receive a grade…well, not as we know grades…no, this is a quiz to determine your eligibility to move on in the heavenly scheme of things. By the way, cheating isn’t an option. Saying that you didn’t actually move the ball will just put you on another plane…very quickly…and it isn’t going up…get the picture?

So you sit in your seat, looking up at the tower of books. Next to you is another heaven-bound individual. His book tower is somewhat smaller than yours. You ask him why his book tower is smaller. He answers by telling you that he died over 3,000 years ago. This rattles you just a wee bit and you look back again at your tower. “Holy crap,” you think, “I’d better get busy.” As you say this, the first book, the one at the very bottom of the tower, slides out before you. Before opening it, your curiosity gets the best of you and you turn your head this way and that, to the left and right; then you turn and look back. The seats and desks go back far beyond your ability to see all of them. What you can see is that some seats are empty; others have towers of books larger and higher than your own, and some are much smaller. Looking ahead you see the same thing…seats, desks, occupants, small towers, larger towers, everyone reading, everyone concentrating on the book in front of them. You begin to read.

Each second of each minute, of each hour, of each day, week, month, and year appears to be contained in these books. As you read, you find that you and everyone, everything, every moment of your life affected the lives of millions of others. You learn that you, along with everyone else who ever has been or is now existing, is part the Chinese butterfly effect which, in turn is part of the chaos theory. Let me give you a simple example: In your middle years, for no reason at all, you passed a street musician, stopped, listened as she played the violin, and she played well. You dropped a five dollar bill in the hat in front of her. With that five dollars, she went to a fast food restaurant. Her violin case was seen by a man who was having a quick lunch. He asked if she played. He heard her music and took her to someone he knew in the music business. She went on to become a concert violinist of such renown that others were influenced to pick up a violin and being playing, etc., etc., etc. And all, of this happened because you took the time to drop a five dollar bill in a hat. Obviously, there were a thousand steps before the violinist achieved her dream of having thousands or millions hear her music, but you were a part of that. It has been said that a butterfly, flapping its wings at just the right moment, may someday, cause a tornado in Kansas. True or not?

And so you read…

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Why is it so difficult to think of the world 200 years from now? Hell, you, your children, and your great-great-grandchildren will all be dead. Therefore, why should we even care? Why recycle, for example; why worry about the rain forest, species extinction, overfishing, or global warming or any of that stuff? After all, we’re just going to be a pile of dust by that time. Screw the future; there are already enough people who don’t give a damn about it anyway, so why should we care? But…we do recycle; we do attempt to do our bit to keep the earth as pure and pristine as our little efforts can do so. For some strange reason, whether it’s perpetuation of our species or what, we attempt to prevent the world from destroying itself through some combined effort.

When I say “we,” I don’t necessarily mean the United States of America. Shucks, we’re way down the list when it comes to ecological friendliness, or as I like to put it, “Preserving the planet for Cap’n Kirk and his Enterprise buddies in the 25rd Century.”  According to one article that I read, “You’d think with all of the smarts and resources this country has, it would rank a bit better than Number 2–afraid not. Although it did rank a respectable 211 for natural habitat conversion–that honor is pretty much negated by the country’s abysmal ratings in other areas. Ringing in at 1st place for fertilizer use, this country’s excessive application of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) fertilizers can result in the leaching of these chemicals into water bodies and remove, alter or destroy natural habitats. The USA also ranks in 1st place for CO2 emissions, 2nd place for water pollution, 3rd place for marine captures, and 9th place for threatened species.” Sometimes, our braggadocio isn’t so warranted after all.

I suppose that by the time the big blue marble becomes inhospitable to human life, somebody, somewhere will have discovered a place where all human life can be transported. It may even be a possibility that those people, with the species of animals they wish to take with them, will also have found a way of keeping the new planet somewhat cleaner than the manner in which we’ve treated this one…but I rather doubt it. You see, I don’t think that man, as a species, evolves as rapidly as we’d all like to believe he does. We may have banned DDT, creosote, and a few other dangerous things, but as it says up above, we surely have a long way to go. To digress for just a moment, I should tell you that I am now wearing the plastic bottles that only a few months or years ago I was drinking from. That is, I now have sweat pants that are made from recycled plastic bottles…and they’re great!

When I look at all of these ‘studies,’ reports,’ ‘analyses,’ etcetera, about countries and even cities that are good or bad in terms of this statistic or that, I find that the criteria, rather than clarifying the situation, only serve to confuse it.  Smaller countries, on the whole, seem to do much better than larger ones. Russia, China, and the United States have such vast areas as to make some judgments more harshly than they necessarily have to be. As another aside, my son was credentialed to attend the Olympics in Beijing but opted to stay back at Olympic headquarters in Colorado Springs. “I’d been there once,” he told me, “and I wasn’t certain my lungs would every clear up!”

Who are the clean, green, ecologically-conscious countries throughout the world? Yes, you’re right; the Scandinavian countries lead the way. Why is impossible to say, but they were the first ones that came to my mind, and they, along with Germany, Costa Rica and Spain round out the top ten.  These are countries that make a genuine effort to lower their carbon footprint and work at maintaining a partnership with the planet’s resources.

It puzzles me that our commuting problems in the United States are as bad as they appear to be. Some time ago we were caught in the rush hour between Hartford, Connecticut as far south as the New Jersey Turnpike. Between the amount of traffic and the word that was going on to expand the highways, it was rather obvious that by the time the new, widened highways are complete, the traffic will have expanded to keep pace and to keep the traffic jams just as they are today. A mathematician might say that the highway system is expanding arithmetically while the number of vehicles attempting to use those highways is expanding exponentially. The thing is that I’m not certain newer and wider highways are the answer. However, as long as the automotive industry controls Congress, along with a few other industrial giants, we will continue to view automobiles as our major source of transportation.

I’m fully aware that there are people from other parts of the country who believe that those of us who live in New England are as soft as a newly-minted cow flap, and to some extent that might just be true. However, I see industrial park after industrial park with ‘For Lease’ signs on better than half of the buildings, and it leads me to wonder why some companies insist on keeping their businesses in downtown Boston. This is the age of technology. You can be connected to anyone, anywhere in the world in less time than it takes to snap your fingers. Parking in cities such as Boston is a hassle that no one wants or needs. These industrial parks have tons of parking. Why do some of these huge operations insist that the ‘city’ is the only place to be? Years ago, a friend of mine had a consulting business in the heart of New York City. One day, he announced to his staff of 10 or 12 that he was moving his operation to Keene, New Hampshire. He had been commuting from Greenwich, Connecticut into the City, and had enough. How many people did he lose to this move? One…one person could not make the transition, not because she thought it was too “country-bumpkin-esh, but because of her spouses commitments in NYC. He has long since retired, but the business is still in Keene.

We ask that those who lead our businesses have vision. Perhaps part of that vision should include where the company can most efficiently be located. At least here, in the Northeast, visionary leaders should be looking at the suburbs with their unused and probably one hell of a lot cheaper-per-square—foot rental rates as places for their employees. The buildings are already there, in anticipation of a boom that never seemed to take place. Let’s use the space we have and stop destroying more of our land. Who knows, some employees might begin cycling to work or begin to feel better about their commute. After that, more companies might begin recycling programs. Lord only knows what innovative and planet-saving things may happen after that.

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The Guardians

Time was when we were considered to be the very best at what we did.

Lately, however, I’ve begun to note a little bit of dissension. It’s not Hope, Ruth, or Faith. It’s the other male member of the team, Lewis. Lewis seems to resent – well, that may be the wrong word – but Lewis doesn’t seem to care for the fact experience really does count. Since he’s the most recent addition to the team, he doesn’t have that experience. Oh, we all listen to what he has to say, and sometimes he makes some pretty good points. When he does, we usually go along, but experience – there’s that word again – has taught us that, while Lewis may see 98 percent of the problem, it’s that other two percent that jumps up and grabs a feather or two and we find ourselves in trouble with the boss. Oh, feather or two; I’m sorry, did I forget to mention that we’re a group of angels?

We’re not really angels but it’s our job is to keep an eye on people in various parts of the world. When we can, we ‘guide’ people to help them accomplish the things they’re supposed to be accomplishing. It’s a little bit like that movie with what’s-his-name…oh, c’mon, you know it…well; the movie was called The Adjustment Bureau. We thought it was a comedy. After all, we could never appear in person to those we’re watching. First of all we’d scare the hell out of them…yes, we can use that word as long as we keep it to lower case. Anyway, we just sort of arrange things so that – most of the time anyway – they don’t get in trouble. Let me give you an example: One day recently, one of our younger charges –he was around 65 or 70 – he wanted to get to the gym for his regular workout. Faith saw that if he did that, he was going to have an automobile accident that would kill him. Since we’re not ready for him yet, Lewis, who at times shows flashes of brilliance, said, “Why don’t we send him to his bedroom for whatever and make the bed look so appealing, he’ll lay down for a minute or two, and miss the accident?” Unfortunately, he lay down, fell asleep, missed the accident, also missed his workout, and was miserable all day long. The rest of us should have seen it coming, but there are times when Lewis presents his point of view so clearly that we forget Newton’s Third Law…look it up!

Being an ang…whoops, sometimes I just slip up, but being a guardian – that’s really what we are – of the humans who remain on earth is not always easy. Sometimes, we mess up, and when we do, well, you read the papers, you see what happens. We can’t be everywhere, and there really are a great number of people living down there who are…well…who aren’t very good. Fortunately, no many of them slip by the executive vice president – he’s the number two up here; we call him Big Pete, not to his name of course, but he’s pretty selective as to who he lets in to this place.

Here’s part of the job description: “Keep earth-people safe until it’s their time to cross over.” I’ve already given you one example but there are plenty of others; like the other day when this lady was trying to remove a bush from her front yard. It had a big stump at the base and she was really having a tough time. I don’t know whether she knew we were watching, but she looked up to the sky and whispered, “I sure could use a little help here.” Well, Lewis and I, we went down there – she couldn’t see us of course, but when she gave her next push, we gave that stump a pull…lady durn near fell flat on her face. She looked up, said, “Thanks;” we chorused, “You’re welcome,” tho’ she never heard it; and Lewis and I just went back to the group.

You see, our job is to help people; to help them in any way we can. One fellow over whom we watch, was starting to lose his faith in our Big Boss; he thought that maybe the Boss wasn’t really interested in him anymore. He was pretty down in the dumps. This fella lost his wife a few years back and, well, he was thinking about doing something to which that the Big Boss doesn’t take too kindly. You may find this difficult to believe but we actually found a companion for him from the other side of the country. She’s actually more than a companion; she’s his friend; his lover, his care-giver; his guardian, and someone he deeply appreciates. The problem is that he doesn’t always know how to express his love and affection for her, and this has created some pretty tense moments. They have a dog and, unlike humans, dogs, cats, and other animals often know when we’re around. The dog can be a bit disconcerting when it stares at one of us, but hey, it goes with the job. At least the fella is getting back on track thanks to Hope and Faith and the wonderful partner they found for him.

There are always people in need of our help. Sometimes, however, those who are their brothers and sisters on earth could do a little more to help. A kind word can go a long way. The thing that people on earth call money isn’t always the answer to someone else’s problems but the majority of earth people don’t see it that way. Sometimes, many times, people just need someone to listen; sometimes, they just need a hug or a smile or a “thanks for being my friend.” It just makes our job easier and none of us will complain about that.

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