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Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

“The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.” There probably isn’t a single retired person who hasn’t used that line at least once since entering the outer lobby of God’s waiting room. For example, my car is at the auto repair shop today. That shop is only three miles away. It would please me greatly to jog or walk, as the case might be, to pick up the car rather than have one of the mechanics drive to the house and my having to drive him back. Yes, it would please me greatly…ain’t gonna happen…no matter how much my mind would like to do this, I’m aware that I (a) I couldn’t jog down the driveway, (b) I couldn’t walk to the end of my own street, and (c) I could cause myself severe discomfort and probably hospitalization if I even thought too long or hard about doing it in the first place. This is fact. Old people don’t think of themselves as old. We believe we can run a 10K in 45 minutes…we can’t. We believe that we can still stand up at the plate and hit a curve ball…we can’t. We believe we can drive a golf ball 250 yards…we can’t. We believe, we believe, we believe.

There was a time when I could hit that curve…I could never drive a golf ball. As we age, it’s wonderful to have those expectations of ourselves, but the truth is, we are damned to lowering our expectations if we expect to survive to our next birthday. I asked a few friends how they felt about “getting up there,” and how they spend their time in the “days of dotage.” One pal wrote, ”My activities would be of no value to you as I lead a very dull lifestyle. My day starts at around 5:30 am, not because I want to be up at that hour, but nature calls, and I haven’t wet the bed in years. It’s only after relieving myself that I’m awake enough to understand that I hurt too much to go back to sleep. Morning coffee is next on the list, along with attempting the crossword puzzle that was in last night’s newspaper…this in an attempt to stave off senility…or to keep my current state of mind from wandering any further away. Usually, I say ‘to hell with it, and cheat on the crossword puzzle. Finally, I get to my e-mail, checking to see all the great things on which I can save money…but don’t need, and all the lonely hearts who are dying to meet me. My wife gets up and who knows when or where we will go or what time we’ll get back. Since she doesn’t allow me to go in most of the stores, I stand outside and pester other shoppers. Once we get home, I check the obits in the paper, and if I don’t find my name, it’s time for a drink…then dinner – in or out – and a little TV. Since most of the stuff sucks, I either fall asleep in the chair or head off to bed by 11, asking myself, “what the hell did I do all day to be so tired.?” Then I say thanks for the day and hope to hell I wake up to do it all again the next day.”

Other friends are not so fortunate. I have three friends whose spouses are in various stages of dementia. The days of spousal love are gone, and the days of care giver love have arrived. As I’ve mentioned in several pieces, being a care giver becomes a fulltime job. A great deal depends on the stage and the type of dementia through which the spouse is going, nonetheless, it becomes a burden that only true love can survive. I pray for my friends…and their spouses. Unlike caring for someone who is terminally ill from cancer, ALS, MS, or some other degenerative disease, all of these folks are ambulatory and must be watched carefully for wandering is a real possibility.

Heard from another friend, and this geezer – he’s older than I am – is still working. Well, he does volunteer fundraising for several organizations. That does not mean, however, that he neglects his golf game, still trudging around the 18 holes at least three times a week. Thankfully, his spouse is also an avid golfer, and from what I’ve heard through the grapevine, is now challenging him around the greens.

I continue to insist that no one should retire without a plan to help keep them busy…in the short run, the medium period, and the long term. If someone wants to travel in their retirement, great, but you must have the cash as well as the desire. A woman at the gym just came back from touring Sweden and Norway. She found it difficult to believe that I’d never been to Europe. “I’d like to see more of our own country,” I told her. She seemed to find that rather parochial, and, I believe somewhat plebian, but that’s okay…guess I’m just a country boy at heart. I’m quite certain that the castles of Germany, France, Switzerland, and elsewhere, the pyramids of Egypt, and the jungles of the Amazon are thrilling to some. However, I’ve seen the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, and I’ve stood atop Pike’s Peak, looking back to Kansas and its sparkling waves of grain. I’ve driven through the desert of the Southwest, and stood in the snow in Atlanta, Georgia, and I’ve walked on beaches in Florida and Maine, but the USA still holds a great deal of mystery to me. So, I guess I’ll just write a bit more in the blog, go to the gym, do a little gardening when I can, latch hook when I can’t, and just work like hell to stay alive. If that’s not to be, shoot, I’ve had a pretty good run. Hope everyone out there can say the same.

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So, there I was, comfortably ensconced in my favorite chair on the back patio, admiring the containers of potatoes, garlic, onions, peas, and yes, even carrots, looking at the eight pots of impatiens we had just purchased from Lowe’s and wondering how I was going to transplant them to the containers on the fence (whew, long sentence), when a fly landed on one of the posts of the raised bin and asked me what I was doing. Yep, you heard right…a bloody fly landed on a support post and had the audacity to ask me what I was doing. Seemed to me that he had a lot of nerve…well, I thought it was a he at the time…to ask a question of someone sitting on their own patio. Heck, I could hardly understand him, the way his wings were flapping so loud. Guess he was probably yelling. What? Oh, you don’t speak fly? Guess you’re not from New England then. Hey, look, if Harry Potter could talk to snakes, you know, well New Englanders – least I haven’t met one yet who can’t – well, we communicate with all sorts of animal species…’cept cats. I’ll be damned if I can figure out what cats are saying. Most of my friends feel the same way. Cats just give you that smirk that says, “I hear you, slave, but don’t think I’m going to dignify what you have to say by answering you…go, go away before I do something evil…which I will do later anyway…when you least expect it.”

Speaking of anyways, this fly and I, we got into a conversation about why we’d started some of the garden but not the whole thing. He was rather funny looking, blue eyes, glimmering wings, and a little yellow spot just above the eyes. I said, “You’re not from around these parts, are ya?” and the fly allowed as that he was from Virginia and was really just stopping off for a while before he flew on to Maine for the summer. Seems the South gets a bit too hot for him and his family during the summer. “You got kids,” he asked, and I said they were all grown up and had kids of their own. “So, you’re a family man,” I queried, and he nodded his beady little head up and down, actually rising an inch or two above the post before settling back down. “How many kids you have?” I asked. He seemed to ponder that question for a moment, then responded, “At last count, I think she told me it was around six-point- two million…but that’s just a guestimate.” “Your wife told you that?” I asked. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” he said quickly. “Heck, the wife only knows about a couple million. No, my girlfriends told me about all the others.” “So you’re what one might call and adulterous fly, is that right.” “C’mon, man,” he said, “It’s what flies do everywhere. It’s no big deal. You should see what the mosquitoes and grasshoppers do. Wow, it’d kill me to try and keep up with them.”

Juli came out with a cup of coffee. “Who you talking to?” she asked, but then spotted the fly. “Oh, hi,” she said, “You going to Maine again this summer?” The fly nodded, and I looked at Juli. “You know this fly?” I asked. “Met him last year,” she intoned. “Really,” I said, “you know how many kids he has?” “Well, last year, I think he said around five million…is that right?” she asked, looking at the fly. By now, of course, even though it was only 7:15 in the morning, I’m thinking it’s time for a couple of fingers of Glenlivet or at the very least, a strong Bloody Mary. But, by the time that thought passed through my brain, Juli and the fly were involved in what appeared to be deep conversation.

“You never mentioned that you had a fly friend,” I said. “Would you have believed me?” she asked. “Hell no, I wouldn’t have believe you,” I responded and continued, “I probably would have called your brother to take you to the funny farm. Matter of fact, when he leaves, I might just head there myself. I mean, I know we can talk to flies and stuff, but this sure as hell is a first time for me!” The fly flew over and landed on my knee. “Look,” he said, “it may seem strange at first, but you’re the one who told me that New Englanders can talk to us and others. We’re cool with it, and Juli and I were just talking about the compost bin over there,” and he turned and nodded at our bin in the corner. “She was kind enough to put some rotting food in there last fall so we could stop for a snack on our way back home.”
“Well, I gotta buzz off,” the fly said, “Nice meeting you, and Juli, don’t forget, the oranges were really good last year. Gave us a lot of energy for the rest of the flight.” With that, he hovered, did a couple of loops around our heads and headed north.

Juli and I just stared at each other. She finally broke the silence. “Don’t forget to write oranges on the calendar around Labor Day,” she said. “They come back a day or two after.” What could I do? I just nodded, went into the house, and looked for the calendar. Now where the hell’s that scotch?

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Didn’t seem to be a big deal. Fellow came by yesterday. We were sitting at the kitchen table, just chatting, and he asked, “Do you know those little Tedeschi stores?” I just smiled and nodded that I did know them. Maybe my smile gave something away, I really don’t know. However, he followed up with, “What, why are you smiling?

I had to ask, “Do you know the history of the Tedeschi’s?”

“No, whadda you mean?” he asked.

Well, you know me, I’m not one to let an opportunity pass, so I had to tell the story…at least as I know it, and so I began…

Years ago, gosh, I couldn’t have been older than six or seven, we lived on the first floor of a two story house in Rockland, Massachusetts. The house was on Belmont Street, number 51 to be exact. Down the street from us was a little neighborhood grocery store. It was actually attached to the residence, but it had a parking lot that was big enough for maybe six cars. The husband and wife who lived there were Angelo and Katherine Tedeschi. There were days when my dad would take his shotgun and some shells, walk down the street and into the store. He’d yell, “Hey, Angelo, get the dogs and let’s go hunting,” and Angelo would tell Katherine to mind the store, and off he and dad would go to hunt. Remember now, this was late 1940, early ’41. If they were lucky, they would bring home a number of rabbits. Angelo would skin them and put them in his freezer. I have to tell ya, this store was just a little big larger than a two-car garage, so when I say it was ‘neighborhood,’ I mean, if you walked in there, you knew right away who was shopping. They were your neighbors. They knew you. You knew them, and it was a gathering place for neighborhood gossip as well as for picking up that night’s dinner.

It was later in 1941, December 7th to be exact, that America changed. We were drawn into a Second World War. Angelo and my dad were too old to join up, but some of the Tedeschi boys, as I was later told, went right down and enlisted. Ralph, the oldest, went into the Army as an officer. He fought in Europe and was promoted to the rank of major. To his misfortune, he was captured by the Germans. Ralph’s treatment at the hands of his captors was not too good. He was severely beaten. He was urinated on, and a number of other rather vile and despicable treatments were his wont in the camp in which he was held prisoners. He was isolated and thrown in a cell that had a dirt floor. As I understand it, he found a small stick at some point, and that dirt floor of his cell and that stick probably saved his life. You see, Ralph would diagram on that dirt floor his ideas for a new kind of market that he and his family would build when the war was over and he could go home. Different stores, different designs, different this and different that…all on the dirt floor as he was recovering from his beatings and his interrogation. Eventually, Ralph was freed from his captors by Russian soldiers. He was reunited with his family, and he began to plan.

The first “supermarket” opened by the Tedeschi family was on Market Street in Rockland. Ralph’s family, including brothers, Sam, Nick, and Bobby, as well as sister, Etta, were all part of the team. There could have been other brothers, heck, I could never keep track of all of them. Anyway, Angelo and Katherine were able to retire and watch their boys build a small empire. Stores in Braintree, Hanover, and a couple of other towns followed. Eventually, Stop & Shop, another major New England chain of supermarkets took notice. They offered to buy out the Tedeschi’s, and Ralph, as I understand it, drove a pretty hard deal, one that resulted in reasonably good wealth for all members of his family. Oh, and there was another proviso in the buyout. Ralph was prohibited from opening any other supermarket with the Tedeschi name for a period of ten years. Hey, they were all now millionaires, right, so what’s the big deal. Well, not so fast. The Tedeschi family hadn’t gotten to the position they were now in by being lazy and sitting on their collective butts. Within five years, the supermarket bug that had bitten Ralph was back and chomping away. As a result he opened some supermarkets on Cape Cod under the name of his father. They were called, “Angelo’s,” and they were big! As time went on, Ralph turned the business over to his brothers and other relatives. Eventually, another chain came and, once again, purchased the stores.

That, however, is not the end of my tale. My own Mother and Dad were in Florida when Angelo Tedeschi died. They read of his passing in a paper, and Mom called me. “Will you please go to the wake and the funeral and represent our family?” she asked. It was an honor I couldn’t refuse…probably would have gone anyway. When I walked into the funeral home, there they were, all of the brothers, greeting people who had come to pay their respects to this wonderful man who, along with his wife, had raised some pretty damned good kids. Ralph walked over and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you?” I explained that my folks couldn’t come and that I was representing the family because someone from our neighborhood had to be there. I no sooner got the words out of my mouth than Ralph grabbed me in a bear hug and carried me into the room where Etta was sitting with her mother, Katherine. “Look,” said Ralph, “It’s Dickie Bishop!” [Gad, how I hated that nickname…still do]. I spent some time with the family and, really, it was old home week. It was also the last time that I saw Ralph alive.

Years later, my wife and I were spending a vacation in Bermuda. As I was heading for the water at our little beach, a lady ahead of me yelled out to her friend, already in the water, “Wow, not like Green Harbor,” – a beach on the Atlantic to which our my family and all of our friends frequently visited. Being the smart mouth that I am, I responded from behind her, “Not like Brandt Rock either,” another haunt of our neighborhood and right next to Green Harbor. We both laughed and went for our swims. On getting out of the water, I told my wife of the brief encounter which she thought to be rather amusing. About half an hour later, I noticed one of the women talking to a man on their blanket and point over toward me. “Ah, what the hell,” I figured, “might’s well walk over”…which I did and introduced myself. “I’m {can’t remember the first name] Tedeschi,” he said. To which I responded, “Whose are you?” This rather confounded them, and I asked if they were from Rockland. “No,” the man said, “We live in Norwell.” I repeated my question, adding, “Which one of the brothers are you the children of?” It was as though the lightbulb went off, and he responded, “Do you know my family?” I allowed as how I did and asked them what they knew of their grandparents. Turned out that both Angelo and Katherine had passed on before these young people were born. “Did you know my grandfather,” I was asked, and thus, once more, I had the privilege of telling some folks a bit of their own family history. Did I embellish just a bit? Of course, because Angelo and Katherine deserved to be embellished. They, along with their children, believed in and became the American Dream.

I write this not out of a need to tell a story. I write it because another fellow came by yesterday, sat at the kitchen table, and asked if I knew the name Tedeschi. This fellow, too, is an immigrant. He and his mom, escaped from the Soviet Union about thirty-five years ago. He owns a small business, and I can see in his eyes and in his work ethic, that he, too, is pursuing this thing we call the American Dream. I think he’s going to make it, maybe not the way Ralph or his counterparts did, but I really think he stands a good chance of realizing what just about every immigrant dreams of when he or she enters the shores of our United States of America.

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There are problems, and then there are PROBLEMS. I have both. The biggies are my age, my knees, my back, my eyes, and the fact that my mind is slowly going to hell in a handbasket. There is little to nothing that I can do about these problems, ergo, that go into what I call the “Fuckit Bucket.” If there’s nothing that can be done, pull an Alfred E. Neuman (of Mad Magazine fame) and say, “What, me, worry?” The little problems, the ones that I can do something about, include getting enough exercise, taking medications on time and seriously, eating the right foods, finishing up all of my latch hook problems before I die, ibid the harvesting of this year’s garden, and…books before I go blind from glaucoma.

Books are my most pressing problem. Please don’t ask me why, but I own four Kindles. I have not read all of the books that are stored on any of them. If books and Kindles were an addiction, I would be considered and incurable addict…no hope. Take away one Kindle, and I’d go into ‘reader withdrawal.’ In my heart of hearts, I’m convinced that I will never get to read all of the books on all of my Kindles before I make my way to whatever lies beyond. Perhaps it will be The Reluctant Demon, the third in a trilogy by Mark Cain. He’s a very funny writer. Hell’s Super and A Cold Day in Hell are absolutely hysterical, and why I haven’t read the last is somewhat beyond me. It may be that when I see a new ‘prey’ book by John Sanford or something by Robert Ludlam, David Baldacci, Greg Isles, Michael Connolly, Lisa Scottoline, Brad Taylor, or any of more than two dozen authors, I can’t resist…c’mon Amazon, sock it to me…one click and I can own this sucker…and so I click.

Looking for a mystery, thriller, fiction or non-, I’m your guy. Just finished Steve Berry’s The Lost Order, a fascinating story about a horde of Southern Civil War stolen gold and silver that…nah, you’re going to get it and dig in yourself. A word of warning, however, don’t start this book after dinner or supper or whatever you call your evening meal. You may not fall asleep reading it, but you probably won’t get to work or school the next day either. This is a very well research and readable piece of fiction. Oh, and don’t forget to read just how much research he did to write this masterpiece.

There is something else you should know about my reading addiction…I didn’t always have one. In fact, as a “yute” – thank you, My Cousin, Vinny – I stayed away from books as though each and every one carried the plague. Shakespeare…I’d rather drink beer; Edgar Allen Poe…Oh, no, no, no. Arthur Conan Doyle…I’ll go play pool with Billy Boyle. Really, it wasn’t until I married in 1957…an English teacher, no less, that my interest in the written word began to grow. Oh, sure, George Khiralla, a literature Professor at Northeastern, had piqued my interest somewhat with the manner in which he brought Shakespeare to life, but that was George and that was one course, and we tore through the Bard’s plays at the rate of one-a-week, and if you didn’t read and didn’t understand, come the quiz on Friday, you were in deep do-do. Following back surgery shortly after we were married, Joan, my wife, brought home a few books from the library, among them, Allen Drury’s, Advise and Consent. Ouch, talk about getting hooked. The book was a political thriller that lasted 102 weeks in first place on The New York Times best seller list (I did not know that at the time). This was followed by book after book, and I suddenly found myself surrounded. I truly believe that it was the reading of so many different authors that enticed me into doing a bit of writing on my own. Did I ever want to be a published author of a successful book of some kind? Sure. Did it ever happen? Nope. Is there still a chance? You’ve got to be kidding. How could I ever become intelligent enough to do what James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, or Joel C. Rosenberg have done? It would take a fourth book by Mark Cain…Hell Freezes Over, before a book by me would ever appear.

Years ago, some first lady or other made it her cause to get kids reading. The slogan was “Reading is Fundamental,” with the first three letters of that last word emphasized. I just wished to hell she had been around in my younger days. Instead, I had to wait until I was older to read about the Civil War in books by Bruce Catton or The Civil War by Shelby Foote. I guess, by that time, I had already trod the battlefield at Manassas and seen some of the old cannon. By the time WWII ended, I had not yet become a ‘bookie,’ but trust me, I’ve read many since my addiction began. Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and Ken Follett’s Jackdaws are just two that come immediately to mind.

There is one thing that I know for certain…I will never read every single book I’d like to read before my time on this earth is up. Perhaps my idea of Heaven would be lying in the big brown bear chair, floating among the clouds, some soft music in the background, and me reading book after book after book for all eternity…man, what a…death.

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I came in here to write. Sitting in the ‘big bear’ chair, reclined back at a 45 degree angle…well, may not quite that deep, but you understand. An idea occurred for an essay to add to the blog, and if you think I can remember what the heck it was, you’re a better person than I. How the hell can an idea disappear when one is just walking down the hall? Is that aging or is it a part of the early onset dementia that I’m told by my neurologist I have…hmm, I’d really like to settle on the aging. The dementia will come all too soon, and then, if I write at all, it will just be gobbledygook. I’m quite certain there are a couple of readers out there who are thinking, “Gad, all he writes now is crap that is nonsensical…so what else will be new?”

They are, of course, correct. The four basic premises of writing are clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity. It’s a quote from William Zinsser. He died a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 92. He is best remembered as the author of On Writing Well, a book that I, unfortunately, never read. In reading about the man, however, I find that we do have a couple of things in common. He thought that you should write as though you enjoy what you’re writing…and I do. I don’t believe that there is a word anywhere on this blog that I didn’t enjoy putting to paper…or whatever the hell it is they call what you’re reading. Another thing we agree upon is to write what interests you, and once more, Zinsser and I are in the same camp. Oh, yes, and we both, well had in his case, have in my own, the problem of glaucoma. It’s a degenerative eye disease that eventually causes blindness. Hard to know which is going to get me first, going nuts or going blind.

Zinsser was not the idea, however, that occurred to me in the ‘big bear’ chair, nor was it the premises of writing. It could have been something about Donny Trump’s first foray into the world of military might and his bombing of a Syrian airfield. Yes, it is something to be applauded for the terrible chemical weapons attack that Bashar al-Assad launched against his own people. It took courage to act as decisively as Mr. Trump did. It was no more saying, “Stop it, Bobby, stop it, Bobby,” with no further action. Trump just had to see the pictures of children dying in agony to say, “Bullshit, Bobby,” and give little Bobby – in this case, little Bashy – a taste of his own medicine. In my mind, it was a pretty good knee-jerk reaction to a horrific criminal act, but I can’t help but wonder about the long-term strategy for dealing with this insane dictator. Obviously, initial reactions from the leaders of the world are something akin to the manner in which our own Congress behaves. The guys who like us think it was a great move; the guys who don’t like us think it was an act of aggression, or as one Russian deputy said, “This could lead to armed conflict with America.” Perhaps that’s what concerns me a bit. How far are we willing to go? UN Ambassador Nikki Haley indicated in her remarks that the US is willing to go further. What happens if Russia decides to take out a US airbase in retaliation for our strike in Syria? Where does this escalation end? What the hell do I care? Well, I do, because I’d like to see the world in one piece for my grandchildren and their offspring. In addition to which, I don’t believe the Russians are any more interested in universal annihilation that we are…the North Koreans, eh, but not the Russians.

Then, again, I don’t believe that was the idea that occurred to me while lounging in the ‘big bear’ chair – I just like saying that. It could also have been something about our upcoming gardening escapade, but you read all about that recently. Juli did, however, find a Topsy-Turvy tomato planter downstairs this morning and brought that to show me. We’ve decided that instead of tomatoes, we’re going to try bell peppers in this upside down grower. This is what we are now calling our year of experimentation. Bucket—growing of potatoes and cucumbers, experimentation with cantaloupes in New England’s short growing season, and now peppers in a tomato planter. Ye gads, next year it will probably be hydroponics!

Perhaps it was just the beauty of this particular day that I was thinking about when I decided to trundle down the hall. We’ve had damn near two solid weeks of grayness, mixed precipitation which covered the ground at one point, and we have accumulated more than seven inches of rain. The only good part about that is that our drought is no longer. It’s not just been eased; it no longer exists…now that’s when you know you have had one-giant-shitload-of-rain.

Well, as the Brits might say, I’d better just piss off until and if ever I remember what the hell I came down the hall to write about. Let me leave you with the fortune from cookie I received at Cheng Du yesterday, “Be willing to believe in anything that is good.” Kind of a nice way to end this, isn’t it?

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I find it difficult to understand why Senate Democrats would block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination when they all know that it will just lead to the ‘nuclear option’ that will allow the man to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. This is just the child-like behavior that Republicans showed over the past eight years of the Obama administration. It seems to me that the two-party system in America has degenerated into a bunch of name-calling, infantile, assholedness that we often attribute to police state countries in other parts of the world. Perhaps the part that bothers me most is that the American public appears to be content to tolerate this behavior on the part of our national law makers…and that my friends is no less than absolutely frightening.

Are the Democrats so fearful the Justice Gorsuch will sway the balance of power that they have to use anything they have to prevent his nomination from passage? Yes, of course it’s true that he will be a voice of conservatism on the Court, just as Merrick Garland’s appointment would have made the Court one that would lean more to the liberal side of the aisle. However, I have to assume that the successful block of Garland’s nomination was nothing more than a cry-baby attempt by conservatives to further their agenda of diluting any kind of legacy that would be left by Obama. Certainly, Trump’s executive orders and the House’s idiotic attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act seem to be designed to ensure that there is no Obama legacy to be undone.

Call me naïve or dumb or whatever you wish, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that 435 men and women, sent to Washington to do the very best for this country by composing, comparing, and enacting legislation that will benefit this nation as a whole, cannot do so. Sure, I understand that what the people in Maine want, the people in Mississippi want, and the people in Montana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts may want, but goddammit, somewhere along the line, there should be things that people in our 50 states can say, “Well, yeah, I’m not crazy about it, but I can live with it.” This is not the case today in the Houses of Congress. It’s “my way or the highway, and fuck you very much!” and that does not serve the best interests of anyone in any part of the country. Congress has become too self-absorbed with what it considers to be its own importance. To top it off, we now have a person in the White House who encourages this type of discord, although for what reasons, it’s hard to imagine. Congress can censure its own members, but the only way that America can benefit is if we throw some of these people out of office and let some new folks attempt to understand the word, “compromise.”

I can hear the politicians now…”Oh, you don’t understand how government works. You don’t realize the pressure we’re under from our constituents to stand our ground.” Perhaps not, but what I do realize is this: Too many of you have been in office too long, and you have turned government into your own political play thing, that does nothing for the nation, but that lines your pockets in ways that are unimaginable to the vast majority of your constituents. Do you think I’m joking? Time Magazine, in a January, 2014 story, wrote, “The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the personal financial disclosure data from 2012 of the 534 current members of Congress and found that, for the first time, more than half had an average net worth of $1 million or more: 268 to be exact, up from 257 the year earlier. The median for congressional Democrats was $1.04 million and, for Republicans, $1 million even.” In that same year, the median income of Americans was $51,939. Doesn’t that make you stop and think that perhaps members of Congress cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be an average American citizen? They listen and nod their heads and commiserate with their folks back in East Bumfuck or wherever, and then they return to Washington, dining at Fiola Ware, Bourbon’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, or The Source, usually at the expense of some lobbyist or other who will get them to vote for a bill that is actually at odds with what the interests of their constituents happen to be…but they tried…they were just overwhelmed by their fellow Congressional leaders or members of their party…and it’s all a bunch of bullshit…just so they can pocket a few more bucks or increase their portfolios.

Am I a cynic? No, that’s not cynicism, it’s realism. I’ve been on this earth for over eight decades, and in that time, I’ve learned one or two things about political leaders. The first of these things is that they are overly impressed with their own self-importance. A second thing is that they may have begun their political careers hoping to change things for the better, but that they soon become corrupted by those who were in office before them and took them under their wing, and if they refused to be taken “under a wing,” they were soon out of office and never even saw the bus that they had been thrown under by their ‘friends.’ Remember what Mark Twain said, “We have the best government that money can buy,” and by God, he was absolutely right.

My political ambition never carried me farther than being vice president of a Little League, and seeing the back-biting and chicanery that happened in something as low-level as that was enough to convince me that getting into the real political arena was somewhat akin to shoveling shit against the oncoming tide…you just won’t win.

I love America with all my heart and soul. It is the greatest country on earth. It’s a land where people are free to pursue their dreams, and whether they succeed or fall flat on their collective faces, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they are free to get up and start their pursuit all over again. Yes, I love my country, but sometimes I wonder just how we ever came to this sorry impasse that we call the United States Congress.

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I have a serious problem with aging, that is, I don’t particularly care for it. “Exercise,” they say, “you’ll feel better if you exercise.” That’s wonderful, so I exercise most mornings during the week and at least one of the weekend days. Yes, I feel better after exercise, but it doesn’t last, this euphoria of having busted my ass riding a friggin’ bicycle. Within an hour or so, I’m ready to climb back under the covers and sleep the day away. But that’s not the proper way to do things either. The whole thing leaves me somewhat confused. Am I tired because I’m old, or am I old because I’m tired? Ask the question of five doctors and you’ll probably receive ten different answers.

I believe it was the late Andy Rooney who said, “It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” Getting old seems to mean that what one thought of as a pretty good body and mind begins to deteriorate too fast for one to actually comprehend. “So how does this aging process work?” I ask myself. The first answer that I receive from this wonderful Internet of ours is, “The human body goes through a variety of changes as it gets older. In general, muscles, blood vessels and other tissues lose their elasticity. The heart becomes less efficient, bones become weaker and the metabolism slows down.” Aha and eureka, that explains why I can no longer bench press the weight I did when I was 60 or even 70. It probably also explains why I get up so often in the middle of the night to pee, but that’s a bit of information overload that no one really wants to hear about…discussions of my bladder are rather…well, you know. As far as my heart’s efficiency is concerned, it, hopefully is as efficient as six stents will allow it to be. I find that my heart rate on the bicycle I ride appears to be getting lower and lower, which, as I understand it, is a pretty good sign that all is well.

It’s really just that getting older is a pain in the arse, as the Brits might say. My mind tells me that I should be getting the garden ready for planting, yet when I step outside, the very thought of mixing peat moss, manure, and garden soil exhausts me, and I have to sit and rest. It is written in Matthew (26:41) that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This fits my situation on the one hand, but on the other, it does not. Jesus thought that his disciples should be praying rather than sleeping. My mind tells me that I should be doing one thing, but my body asks, “Are you kidding me?”

I remember back to the days when our kids were in elementary school in Newton. My late wife and I were part of a team of parents that built a new playground for all of the children. Actually, it was the men (and this is really sexist!) who moved the heavy truck tires and screwed all of the giant timbers together. Joan and her colleagues were busy preparing the pot luck meal that we would enjoy at the end of a hard day. And it was a hard day, but the playground was great, the kids enthralled by their new things to climb on, swing from, and slide down. The meal was terrific, and the soreness went away in a couple of days. Today, the very thought of tackling such a project is enough to cause me to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep…even dreaming about doing such a ridiculous thing makes me tired. As Mark Twain once remarked, “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.”

The good thing about aging is the very fact of doing it. Many are denied the opportunity to do so. Therefore, I guess that I am somewhat blessed to be 82 and still writing, reading, crafting, and exercising at the local gym. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoy the quote from best-selling American author, Brandon Mull…“The curse of mortality. You spend the first portion of your life learning, growing stronger, more capable. And then, through no fault of your own, your body begins to fail. You regress. Strong limbs become feeble, keen senses grow dull, hardy constitutions deteriorate. Beauty withers. Organs quit. You remember yourself in your prime, and wonder where that person went. As your wisdom and experience are peaking, your traitorous body becomes a prison.” Yes, I still dream of hand-over-hand on the monkey bars, being able to press 200 pounds, doing the 50 pushups that I could do when a drill sergeant screamed, “Drop and give me 50, pig shit;” but those days are long gone. It’s nice to dream about what was, but it’s wise to remember that those are just dreams.

My real dream now is to reach 90. It’s the age at which my Mother said her last goodbyes, and it’s a nice round number. I see all of these ads now that promote new cancer drugs that enable those with that terrible disease to live longer. I have to ask, “Why, why would you wish to live longer if it means that your quality of life is shot to hell?” I prefer to have a good quality of life, free from pain, for a shorter period of time. As one wag put it, “I want to slide into Hell with a martini in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and a horny blonde in my lap, and shout ‘Wow, what a ride!’” Of course, in my case, I stopped smoking and drinking a long time ago…and I really don’t remember…what’s a horny blonde?

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Is this a great country or what? We’ve got a national security adviser who can’t be trusted to advise the President, a nominee for the position of Secretary of Labor who withdraws his name before the Congress even has a chance to lay into him, and a Secretary of Education who can’t even spell at a third grade level. And don’t forget anorexic Kellyanne Conway, that paragon of ‘alternative facts’ who is totally clueless about what actually goes on in the West Wing. Hey, we’re on the road to making America great once more! I’m not allowed to say ‘again,’ because that would be pilfering someone else’s line, and I wouldn’t want to do that. Then we show a picture of the first daughter sitting at the boss’s desk in the Oval Office – looking, incidentally, much more presidential than dear old dad. It appeared that she was about to sign her first executive order that any store not carrying her clothing line would no longer be allowed to do business in her country…oops!

One of the things that I fully understand is the national intelligence agencies’ fear of giving classified briefings to Mr. Trump. While he has a tendency to blame his mistakes on everyone and anyone else, it has become patently obvious that he is the principal leak in the White House. On General Flynn’s resignation, Trump immediately blamed the intelligence community and the media for revealing the telephone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Certainly, the agencies wouldn’t leak it because they understand what the word “classified” actually means, and I have serious doubts about most media outlets reporting it unless they have a minimum of three unimpeachable resources. In this regard, it’s more than apparent that Mr. Trump doesn’t understand how either the intelligence community or the media actually work.

Even some of the most diehard Republicans on the hill are going “WTF!” You have to figure that when Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings are smiling at each other, the US of A has some serious problems. It was my understanding that one of the principal jobs of an incoming president was to unite the country, not send it into paroxysm of laughter on the late shows or anti-anti demonstrations in town hall meetings and outside in city and town streets.

I have returned to this essay after watching several minutes – it was all I could take – of Mr. Trump’s press conference. My epiphany came while he was speaking. I now know how to tell when he is telling the truth and when he is lying. While listening to a question from the reporter, he is in a moment of truth, but the minute he speaks, whatever he says, it is a lie. This leads me to believe that Mr. Trump cannot tell when he is lying. It’s the fabric of his life. Lying, to him, is like breathing to the rest of us. In the brief time I listened, he told three different stories about why his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was asked for his resignation. He went on to lay blame for Russian election hacking on Hillary and the Democrats. He talked about “fake news” in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, three of the most respected newspapers in this country. Why he charged a black reporter with the task of setting up a meeting with himself and the Congressional Black Caucus was beyond my comprehension, but it was certainly an opportunity for Trump to denigrate both Congressman Elijah Cummings as well as Representative Charles Schumer of New York.

There will, no doubt, be those who find my condemnation of Mr. Trump’s actions over the first few weeks of his presidency much too harsh. That is their prerogative. However, it has become apparent to me that the Republican Party has made a tragic error in allowing this man to become a candidate unfit for the office to which he aspired and, even more tragically, to allow him to usurp the office of President of the United States. Would Mrs. Clinton have been a better choice? Not in this writer’s opinion, and that is the single most important question for America to answer…where is our next true leader? Where is the next Dwight David Eisenhower? Where is the next William Jefferson Clinton? Where is the next Ronald Reagan or Jack Kennedy? He…or She is out there somewhere, and somehow, he or she must be located and convinced to dedicate him/herself to a nation that is in dire need of leadership. It does not lie within the mind or the soul of Donald J. Trump, if, indeed, a soul he possesses.

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I dunno, I sort of got pissed off at Bill Shields yesterday. Bill is a reporter for Channel 4 television – a division of CBS – well, shit, that’s what they always say, so why shouldn’t I? Anyway, Bill was out in the ‘first blizzard since 2015’ – BFD – and he said that he felt he was slowly losing his mind. Now, I like Bill. He’s a damned good reporter, sort of the modern day Shelby Scott, for those of you who can remember back that far, but his comment was bothersome. Bill has beaten cancer, but his comment about slowly losing his mind was rather deleterious to those of us who are actually going through the process of doing just that. I don’t need any public broadcast of what I’m going to become.

Let me start at the very beginning – according to Julie Andrews, a very good place to start. Last year, at my annual “turn your head and cough” visit to the doctor, I experienced a spate of dizziness while getting dressed…no, he wasn’t smiling and smoking a cigarette. He helped me retain my balance, but suggested I see a neurologist whose office was one floor below where I was. Sure enough, down I went and talked to the good doctor. He told me that he’d like to schedule some tests, and we did. A few months later, I was sitting with electrodes attached to my head as images were shown, and all sorts of other, little testy things were done. Following the tests, I met with the neurologist. “Everything okay?” I asked. His well yes and no answer temporarily made me forget that I was in a neurologist’s office and not sitting with a shrink. It seems that the tests indicated that while my body is a temple, my mind is becoming akin to the privy behind. It also appears that while I do not now have dementia, there are some signs that say I’m a pretty good candidate.

“I want you to begin using a cane,” he told me. When I asked, “Why?” he indicated that my episodes of dizziness or losing my balance could be aided by the use of a cane…I haven’t bumped into a wall since I began using the damned thing, something I would occasionally do when walking down the hallway of our house…aha, the light dawns on Marble-head. Here I thought that I was just being clumsy. It was good to learn that it was something a bit more than me being me.

I guess I shouldn’t be taking it out on Bill Shields, but like most humans, I’m just looking for a scapegoat. The thing that is most bothersome about this whole diagnosis is that it isn’t actually a diagnosis. There are signs. Well, what does that mean? According to a picture of my brain, there are three little white spots that indicate my propensity toward some form of dementia. I watched my mother-in-law slowly die of Alzheimer’s disease. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I have a dear friend whose husband has frontal lobe dementia. It’s very unsettling to see him, and I don’t know how the hell she manages it. I have another friend who has become forgetful and is in the early stages of I’m not even certain what to call it. Am I going to be joining these people? I don’t know, but it’s a bit wearying to consider. Perhaps the most irritating thing about it is the idea that I wouldn’t be able to continue writing this blog. As I’ve said on many occasions, writing brings me tremendous joy…yeah, and I’ve got over 1,100 essays on this sucker to prove it! I love the idea of reading about or seeing some topic on which I can do Internet searches, to learn about someone or something, to be intrigued by some mystery or other, and then to gather information and present it to you, the one or two of you who actually read the blog…it’s just a hell of a lot of fun, and to be deprived of that is to take away a big part of my reason for being. Heck, I’m no threat to real writers, but I sure do have some fun.

Stay tuned for updates as the old man gets older and, with any luck, loses some white spots!

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Our President-elect is now, formally, our President of these…, even though the transfer of power will not take place for about another month. Despite his nearly three million popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton, Trump says that his is a landslide victory…interesting, scary, but interesting. His “victory tour” of the United States once again highlighted his narcissistic tendencies, in that the way things are going would lead one to believe that he did the entire thing all by himself, even though, as he said, “The election was rigged.” Oh, wait a minute, that’s what he said before the election. I guess that means he was in close touch with James Comey and his buddy, Vlad, the Impaler.

What has really caused me some concern has been Trump’s choices for Cabinet positions. While I was somewhat irked by his choice of white supremacist, Steve Bannon. His “win at all costs” attitude is frightening and that’s being very mild about it. As the former head of Breitbart News, Bannon has not been above planting phony stories about ‘leftist’ Democrats and any others with whom he has a grievance. This is in keeping with the manner in which Mr. Trump tweets out half-truths and outright lies, as he did about the recent “swamping” of The Apprentice hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He failed to mention that the show was up against some pretty stiff competition in bowl games, nor did he mention that people are probably so fed up with him that anything to which his name is even vaguely attached – he’s still listed as an executive producer – is a turnoff for the majority of Americans.

Naming Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State is dangerous on at least two fronts. The first is that Tillerson has absolutely nothing to bring to the table. Granted, he has been at Exxon for 41 years and risen to the top of his company by effectively making deals which have given the company a notable position of achievement in the U.S. business world. I’m sorry, but the rest of the world (a) doesn’t give a damn about the manner in which U.S. companies are recognized on their own turf; (b) plays by an entirely different set of rules peculiar to their own country; and, (c) will be perfectly willing to lead this unwitting lamb to slaughter by deceit, lies, and unfulfillable promises. It’s just another example of letting one more of Mr. Trump’s millionaire buddies into the big boy’s playground.

Jeff Sessions is a wonderful choice for Attorney General. He’s been denied a federal judgeship because of his racist comments. He has twice voted against laws that would include sexual orientation as a hate crime, and he was a proponent of a Constitutional Amendment and would define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The Senate, in response to the outrage of the VA treatment of servicemen and women, voted on a bill to allocate resources for 26 new VA facilities in 18 states and $500 million to hire additional doctors and nurses. Sessions was one of only three senators to vote against the bill, citing excessive government spending as his reason. Sorry, Senator, that’s a wimp-out!

It seems to me that in any confirmation hearing any candidate can say anything that he or she wishes. Words are just that, words. Billionaire Tillerson, can ‘say’ that he has no greater interest in Russia than anyone else. He can ‘say’ whatever he has to say to be confirmed. The same is true of Jeff Sessions when it comes to his record on Civil Rights, Immigration, and LGBT issues. Betsy DeVos can deny that she is in favor of Common Core, but that doesn’t mean a damned thing if she is confirmed.

I look at Steven Mnuchin’s confirmation as putting the fox in the henhouse. Anyone who believes that he will do anything to straighten out Wall Street is a dreamer. He appears to me to be one of these multi-millionaire idlers who is supportive of whomever gets the top dog sea, and he has given money to both Republicans and Democrats alike. His trustworthiness meter registers just above zero for this writer. In addition, my only other experience with a former Goldman Sachs executive led me to take an early retirement rather than try to work with the son-of-a-bitch!

Wilbur Ross, the candidate for Secretary of Commerce, was quoted as saying, “I think the reason why the Trump phenomenon has become so important … is because middle-class and lower-middle-class America has not really benefited by the last 10 to 15 years of economic activity and they’re sick and tired of it and they want something different,” Excuse me, but I don’t believe billionaire Ross gives two hoots in hell about the American middle- or lower-middle classes. Keep a close eye on this one, folks, and see how he benefits those who are ‘below’ him in this economic class.

When it comes time to talk about General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, you have but to listen to one of his quotes: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway,” said Mattis. “So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you — I like brawling.” Those are the words of our proposed next Secretary of Defense. While he later admitted that he should have chosen his words more carefully, the remarks give you some insight into the mind of a true militant who, I fear, would have no compunction about sending military wherever he thought that might “have some fun shooting some bad guys!” While he might stand on the tarmac at Andrews and salute, it wouldn’t do a hell of lot of good for those people in the caskets.

Granted, I have only touched on a few potential Trump Cabinet nominees. Hopefully, we’ll get around to more as the confirmation hearings move along. Just remember one thing…what is said in the hearings and what will actually take place if these people are confirmed and very well be two different things. After all, that’s the Washington way.

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