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Archive for the ‘Trust’ Category

Choices…What an interesting word. Are you aware that the average adult makes 35,000 choices in a single day? That’s right; you read that correctly…35,000. Heck, we make 226.7 choices just about the food we’re going to eat in a single day. By contrast, children make only about 3,000 choices in a day. Much of the research, particularly about the food, was done at Cornell University, which is appropriate considering they have one of the best schools of hotel management in the country.

But…once more I digress, only to be pulled back to the subject at hand; in this case, “choices.” I’m willing to bet that without half trying, you could list 1,000 choices you make in a day. Consider your clothing, your mode of transportation, your job, your career, the television you may or may not watch, and of course let us not forget about the food you choose…or not. I suppose we could add the choices you make about what to do on the computer or, if you use a smart phone…oy, let’s not get started on those choices

I’d like to consider myself as a pretty average adult. Stop laughing right now! Okay, so I’m a bit older than average. Maybe I’m a bit taller than average even with my age-diminished-height. I could also be thought of as a bit heavier than average – although I have just lost 25 pounds, with 25 more to go. But here are some of the choices I have to make first thing in the morning: Gym clothing or street clothes; water or fruit juice; a protein bar or some fruit; go to the gym or not; if not, what will we be doing today and how do I dress for it; if going to the gym, is the battery charged on my I-pod or should I charge it while I’m getting ready to go. I could go on and on and on and I haven’t even been to the gym yet! Geez, all these choices, most of which we make without even considering that we are doing so. Are you getting my drift here?

If you remember Newton’s Third Law…”For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” then you will, perhaps, understand why we make those 35,000 choices each and every day. Making a single choice influences so many other choices that they quickly add up, and the number doesn’t appear quite as large as it initially did.

Along the line we may make some choices that don’t affect us at the time but that have a huge impact on us later. My decision to smoke for 51 years of my life has now resulted in emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a result, my choices of exercise are quite limited. On the other hand, my choice not to get involved in any criminal activities – yes, it was a choice – means that I didn’t have any kind of a record that would have prevented me from getting a security clearance or pursuing any number of professions.

Are there choices that I made that perhaps I should not have? Absolutely. Let me cite college as an example. In my undergraduate years, I never took the classroom all that seriously. That was a choice that, in hindsight, was about as dumb as I had to have been. Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful collegiate experiences. They just weren’t in the classroom. By the time I got to graduate school I was married, had a full-time job, and truly recognized the value of higher education. To this day, however, I look back at my undergraduate days with some regret.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you for a few moments. What choices did you make today? Were they choices that affected only you or were the effects felt by others? Were the effects on others positive or negative? Did your choices affect the choices made by others? The choices you make as an individual, ie, breakfast, clothing, etcetera, these only affect you. Supposing, however, that you are the head of a small or even large organization. Every choice you make may affect the lives of hundreds or even thousands of others. The choices you make compound over a lifetime and lead to who, what, and where you are. Your choices define you, and they define how others view you. This latter may not concern you at all, but you’d be wise to consider it. Let us return to you as leader, president, CEO, or whatever title you wish to hold. Your choices now become decisions and those decisions always affect the choices and actions of others. So how do you make those decisions? Do you go with the first choice that is offered and to hell with the consequences? Do you make the choice to go with what will please the majority, even though it may have long-term negative consequences? Or do you carefully weigh what is good for the organization, the employees, the community, and a host of others that will be affected by this one decision that is made up of complex choices?

It’s at this point that you begin to think, “Damn, I never looked at my choices this way,” or words to that effect. Our simple choices that only affect us are one thing, but when your choice has a ripple effect (damn, there’s that word again), well, that’s when things become complicated. If you’re on the top rung of the ladder, the choices you make cannot be made impulsively. Every single factor must be weighed. It doesn’t become a breakfast choice or a clothing choice, or the choice of a television program to be watched. Your choice becomes your decision. Can you live with it?

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First they came for the Muslims,                                                           and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Muslim.                                                       Then they came for the undocumented alien,                                               
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an undocumented alien.                                     Then they came for the Catholics,                                                                   and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic,                                               Then they came for the Jews,                                                                         and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me,                                                                           There was no one left to speak out.

Does it sound familiar? It’s a parody of the poem supposedly written by Pastor Martin Niemoller who spent the last seven years of Hitler’s rule in a Nazi concentration camp. I say, “Supposedly,” because there have been a number of questions raised regarding the actual author. However, you can see, I’m quite certain, where I’m taking this. Some will say that this is an invidious comparison while others may see it as merely odious. Whatever your take on the poem, is it possible that you can see the similarities?

A friend of mine, the late Bill Stewart, once told me, “I don’t dislike many people. However, for those few, I work at disliking them.” Bill had been manager of the Northeastern University bookstore. He was one of the most charming, funny, and empathetic people I’ve ever met. He was one who appeared to know everyone at the university on a first name basis. If two American nuns were visiting the Vatican and Bill appeared on the balcony with the Pontiff, one nun might just turn to the other and ask, “Who’s the fella with Bill?” Okay, so it’s old and corny, but in Bill’s case…who knows?

While I cannot claim Bill’s penchant for knowing so many, I do find that those few people I dislike, I work at doing so. Perhaps that is why I have written as many times about Donald Trump. I find him to be physically repugnant, morally and ethically reprehensible, and about as truthful as Whitey Bulger when asked if he’d ever killed anyone…and I apologize in advance to Whitey because the comparison does him a disservice.

Trump’s bullying tactics against his Republican opponents was an interesting strategy. He was able to instill fear in them before the first ‘debate.’ However, in Secretary Clinton, who has been around Washington since Washington, or so it seems, he is battling with someone who has had to fight against better opponents than Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, and Jeb Bush combined. She is fully aware of how many times Trump has been bankrupt; who the mob ties are and which thugs he has supported.

Instead of Trump vodka, the presumptive nominee might have been better off attempting to sell whine, and no, that’s not a typographical error. It seems that when anyone presses him to define his policies on any of the important issues, he accuses them of being unfair, impartial, and prejudiced against him. If he’s so afraid of the media now, what happens if, God forbid, he should actually win the Oval Office? Hmm, perhaps I should add another couple of lines to the poem above. Since Trump believes that he is 100 percent on any answers he gives, what would be the use of a Presidential Cabinet in a Trump administration?

When “The Donald” entered the Presidential nomination foray, many leaders in the GOP thought it to be a joke. Now the joke is on them. They have a tiger by the tail and don’t know what to do about it. Outwardly, many have endorsed the candidate, but I wonder how many will really vote for him. In the case of the Republican Party, they have so far shown that they put party before country, and that is exactly the manner in which they have tried to run the country…and failed. Those GOP members who are straddling the fence are just too cowardly to make a decision…look out boys and girls, that fence is topped with barbed wire.

You’re damned right I’m fearful of what could happen in a Trump presidency. He’s reckless, spiteful, and truly believes that he is the smartest person in the room. His ego is too big for him to ever listen to more experienced figures. Having been born in the thirties, I’ve read volumes of how Adolf Hitler rose to power. I’m flabbergasted by the similarities between Trump and Herr Hitler. I don’t condone Michael Sanford’s  method of ridding Trump, but when my fingers touch that ballot in November, you can bet your bippy, baby, that I won’t be casting my vote for a narcissistic egomaniac like “The Donald.”

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I really like my University of Michigan clothing. My son has sent me a sweatshirt and heaven only knows how many different T-shirts in maize and blue emblazoned with Michigan swimming and diving on them. In fact, it was just such a combination of sweatshirt and T-shirt that I was wearing Tuesday morning as I prepared for my morning exercise routine at Planet Fitness. The muscle ache on the right side of my chest and in my right shoulder, I attributed to lifting one too many weights.

At the gym, and before working out, I sat at one of the client tables in one of the hand-shaped chairs, feeling that this shoulder and arm pain really weren’t getting any better. “Aw, to hell with it,” I thought and headed to my car instead of to the bike awaiting me at the gym. Home I toddled, laying down beside my sleeping partner carefully in order not to rouse her from slumber. After a few minutes of restlessness, I decided that the pain might just not be the result of a muscle pull or tear. Time to get this checked out.

At 6:15 in the morning, one does not go to the local physician. Instead, I took the direct route to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. In a situation not dissimilar from going to the dentist for a toothache only to have it disappear just before you get there, the pain began to subside…and I began to feel like a damned fool. Nurses came and nurses went. Doctors came and off they went. Blood was drawn and it too disappeared into the ‘who-knows-where’ cloud of something or other.

“I’d like to run another test,” said the attending physician, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. This one, I knew, was to determine if there was somewhere, floating around in this magnificent 81-year old body, a nasty little thing called a blood clot. These are fine unless they happen to wind up in your brain where they can cause a stroke or in your lungs where they can cause the ultimate step.

“The scan is clear; the x-ray is clear, but the blood enzyme is borderline,” said the doctor. I was acutely aware of what he was saying, having been through three prior heart attacks. “Are you saying this is an infarction?” I asked. “No, he replied,” obviously impressed that I could use such a terrific technical term – no dummy, this kid – but the troponin level is such that I think we should do another test. I will pause here to tell you that enzyme testing is an excellent way of diagnosing whether or not what the patient is experiencing is heart related or not. The only problem is that enzyme tests have to be performed six hours apart. By now, it was getting nigh on to noon and that meant that it would be well into the evening before the results were known. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t care to spend any more time in a hospital than absolutely necessary. They’re filled with germs and sick people and they are real morale busters. “You want to admit me, don’t you?” I glared with steely eyes (like that?). “Yes,” he said, with a look that matched my own. After arguing the advantages and disadvantages, I had to admit that his case for staying was somewhat stronger than my own arguments for leaving, thus I was taken to a bed in the main hospital, prepared for a sleepless night. Who the hell can sleep in a hospital?

Sometime after dark, this same emergency room doctor came smiling into 543A and proudly announced that my enzyme level had risen, thus indicating a heart “concern.” Translation: You have had a heart attack and we have stabilized you. Okay, that was heart attack number four, but the first one where any semblance of pain had occurred. Heart attacks are funny things. They don’t always behave as we have been told time and time and time again. Pain is not a necessity. Radiating tingling in the left arm doesn’t have to happen. Symptoms of a heart attack are all over the place, bear witness that the muscle ache (I thought) was on the right side, not the left, and while the muscle ache extended to the shoulder, it hardly “radiated” down the right arm. Still, it was a heart attack.

The following morning, there was no pain and I was ready to get in the car. It was over and all was right with the world, right? Young doctor whozit abused me of that idea early on. “We’re sending you in town for a cardiac catheterization,” He said. For those unfamiliar with this procedure – I had been there and done that so was fully prepared (yeah, right), a needle is inserted into the femoral artery [mistake one] in the groin and is threaded up through the heart, looking for blockages. If everything is clear, so is the patient. If a blockage is found, it is cleaned out and a stent implanted. A stent is a tiny piece of wire mesh that is used to keep the offending artery open. “Piece of cake,” I thought. “No pain; everything should be clean and clear [mistake two].

Late Wednesday afternoon, I was taken by wheelchair to the “cath lab.” They prepped the groin area and when the surgeon came in, he announced, “We’re going through the wrist.” I had heard of this procedure, but the radial artery seems so much smaller than the femoral that I didn’t understand how this would be possible. In addition, having a probing needle thrust into my wrist was not something to which I was looking forward. “Don’t worry,” said one of the nurses, “you won’t feel a thing.” While I was conscious throughout this ordeal, she was right. Whatever Kickapoo joy juice I had been given put me on cloud 9 and 10 and 11…good stuff.

I have no idea how long I was on that table, but it seemed like forever. When it was all over and the lights came up, I remember asking if everything was clear. Hardly, replied some doctor from somewhere. It seems that one artery was blocked 99.9 percent and a few others needed some plaque removal. Ergo, I was one lucky sumbitch that a doctor in the emergency room at Newton-Wellesley refused to let me make a fool of myself and go home.

To Doctor Adam Lurie; to Ryan Flanagan; to Doctor Colin Hirst and his team; and to all of the wonderful people I met at both hospitals, thanks for your dedication, patience, warmth, and understanding. Nursing care at both hospital was fantastic and guess what…I even liked the meatloaf lunch I was served just before departing for home on Thursday…in my Michigan sweatshirt and T-shirt.

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What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a God!                                                                                                             William Shakespeare

This will be my 1,000th post on this blog.

Several thoughts come immediately to mind: First and foremost, “What a mouthy bastard!” More polite and I hope more important, “He’s had some interesting things to say.” That sounds a great deal like ego talking and, I suppose it is. However, I admit that I did have a very real purpose in starting this blog. Quite simply, it was to get readers to think. Did it work? Yeah, sometimes it did. I could always count on people like Jerry Burke, Mark Ford, Patti Cahill, Jim Gaudet, Georgia Patterson, Bill Mahoney, and a few other friends to either argue vehemently with me or even back me up on occasion. Once in a while, a few people I didn’t know would made a comment, some good; some bad, but they did comment.

I didn’t want this post to be dull and boring, but it sure looks like it’s started that way. Politics is always a good topic but it just tends to piss some people off while others yell, “Right on, babe; go get ‘em,” and besides, I’ve just about ridden this political horse until it’s ready to drop, ergo, that one heads almost immediately into the trash bin. The do-nothing Congress is also fodder for my keyboard but I tell ya, they aren’t worth the key strokes to criticize them. I swear ISIS accomplishes more in a day than our Congress can accomplish in eight years…useless; just absolutely useless.

I’ve considered doing some follow-up pieces on law enforcement versus the black community. I read where a Washington Post reporter went to Chicago to examine exactly what the problem is in that city; he came away, if I’m not mistaken, with the impression that the biggest ‘gang’ in the windy city is actually the police department itself. It may very well be true in a number of large cities, particularly those that don’t understand where and when to place what officers in what districts. In addition, it’s not always the easiest thing to recruit minority officers, whether they are black, Latino, or Asian. Of course that’s not a problem unique to law enforcement. When I was working at Northeastern University, I remember the head of the history department complaining that he couldn’t land a black Ph.D. because Northeastern couldn’t afford to pay the person what he could get from the “richer” schools, At that time, any minority with a terminal degree was actively recruited and could pretty much name their own terms. Fortunately, today, there are more and more non-whites with doctorates…unfortunately, they still don’t gravitate toward academia as much as I’d personally like to see.

Racial problems, government problems, poverty problems, pharmaceutical problems, a myriad of problems confront both the United States and the world. Is that what I really want this brief essay to discuss? What do we do about the gang violence that is on the increase in cities, towns, and sometimes villages across the US? What can China, the US, and India, among others, do to reduce pollution and their country’s contribution to global warming? How do we stop the increase in national poverty levels around the world…and the US is just as guilty as many of the nations we speak of with a degree of disgust?  How do we ensure that individuals and pharmaceutical companies become more altruistic when it comes to saving lives, particularly the lives of America’s veterans…they put it all on the line for us; unfortunately, the pharmaceuticals see profits and not people as their bottom line.

It seems that a world without problems is the ultimate impossible dream…that and the Cubs winning the World Series, despite all of the nasty things that happen, somehow, this old planet seems to limp along. There is a whale of a lot of good being done, some of it by people with resources sufficient to make their contributions newsworthy, people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg; some of it by people without the proverbial pot but who are willing to give of their time and effort to help others. Perhaps I’m prejudiced but I’ve never seen as dedicated a group of volunteers as I find at the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge each year. They may not ride a bicycle or raise a pile of money for the Dana Farber Cancer Center, but the hours and hours of time given by those volunteers does this old man’s heart good. That just happens to be one organization with which I’m familiar. Multiply that by the tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of volunteers in this country and abroad and it’s very easy to see that for all of the bad we read about and watch on TV, there’s an equal amount of good that never makes it to the headlines.

As I finish this up on Thursday, the day after the San Bernadino massacre, I have to pause and think about the comments I’ve been hearing on television. “How do you feel, knowing that your wife will survive?” is about as asinine a question as could have been asked. Almost as stupid was Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, insinuating that these shootings are mental health issues. That is making an excuse for people who are actually evil. That’s right, evil. If evil is a mental condition, then I’m Howdy Doody on puppet strings. Can’t anyone get it through their heads that evil exists in the world and that this is merely another manifestation of it? Perhaps mental health legislation is in need of revision; I won’t doubt that for a moment. Legislation regarding the payment to our military is also in need of serious adjustment. Legislation regarding who is able to purchase guns is in need of serious adjustment. A great deal of legislation is in need of serious study and adjustment, but please, please, please don’t try to blame all of these shooting on mental health issues. There is evil in this world and we are sticking our collective heads in the sand if we don’t believe that the bulk of these mass killings are merely evil in nature.

I hope to be able to write another thousand essays before I day. A while ago, I said, “This is it; I’m done.” However, that was the coward’s way out. I will continue to write about topics that interest me; sometimes they’ll be happy and (I hope) a little humorous; others will attempt to get readers thinking about what they can do to make a positive difference in this world of ours. ‘Til  next time, be well.

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I am an American.

I was born in America, educated in American public schools, attended college in America, worked all of my adult life in America, married an American lady, brought up three kids in America – not quite true because my wife did most of the kid upbringing – and I fully intend to die in America. I love the country of my birth and death, but I don’t much care for some of the things that go on inside it.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m quite certain that there people in other countries who feel the same way about their nations as I feel about my own…though that’s not necessarily true, because it seems to me that many people in other countries look to America as either being the hope of the world or the devil that is driving the world to extinction.

My complaints about my own country might be considered by some as marginally ludicrous. I don’t consider them such. For example, why does this country spend so much money on foreign aid when we have Native American people who don’t even have clean water with which to drink, bathe, or do their washing in? Haven’t we done enough to the Native Americans? First, we – the settlers who first invaded what we now call the United States of America – slaughtered as many Native Americans as we possibly could so that we could steal their lands. Then, when we came to a certain degree of our senses, we gathered them together and tried to place them on the most inhospitable lands that we could find. When they discovered that the land had value – beneath if not above – we pushed them into other areas where the land had no value above or below. Here it is, the 21st Century, and they are without running water in many of their homes? What is wrong with us? Have we lost all sense of what is important versus what is politically expedient? These people, whom we slaughtered, marched on a trail of tears, pushed away from the ‘real’ Americans, should be revered and treated as well as we treated the Italians, Poles, Germans, Irish, and so many others who came to this country seeking the American Dream and who actually found it. Native Americans, on the other hand, have known nothing but the American nightmare.

“It has been said the democracy is the worst form of government, except for all of the others that have been tried.” The quote is attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, although there are many questions regarding the date, place, time he might have spoken such erudite verbiage. Purists will tell you that America is not a democracy but is, in fact, a republic…and they are correct. According to ThisNation.com, “The United States is, indeed, a republic, not a democracy. Accurately defined, a democracy is a form of government in which the people decide policy matters directly–through town hall meetings or by voting on ballot initiatives and referendums. A republic, on the other hand, is a system in which the people choose representatives who, in turn, make policy decisions on their behalf. The Framers of the Constitution were altogether fearful of pure democracy. Everything they read and studied taught them that pure democracies “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Sounds about right to me because if we allowed the people of Wyoming, Rhode Island, Florida or any other single state to enact laws applicable to every other state, the death of our nation would, indeed, have been swift and violent. The problem, however, is that those representatives we have chosen to make policy decisions on our behalf have, over our 228-plus years evolved from being men and women concerned with the welfare of the nation, to a group of idiots more concerned with perpetuating the goals of their own political party and their place of power within that party…and this is wrong. It is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I for one do not see any hope for a return to the days when, as Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill said, “It’s country first; state second, and political party a distant third.” We the people are represented by those we elected to office; however, their allegiance is being usurped by lobbyists, by political action committees (PACs), and by a few power brokers who can ensure their reelection or their defeat, ergo, their allegiance is really to themselves and to hell with the people who actually cast votes in their favor.

Everyone talks about a moral compass. America’s moral compass is so screwed up that the Founding Fathers are, I am quite certain, spinning so fast in their graves, they resemble a child’s toy on the kitchen table. We invade other countries and wind up starting bigger wars than we can finish. We feed the people of other nations, dig wells for their fresh water supply while our own citizens go wanting. We pay more attention to the infrastructure of other lands than we do to the lands in our country. I am but one voice screaming in the wilderness. I will continue to scream until things change or I am dead, and where I’m headed, I’m certain I’ll still be screaming!

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This is part two of my friendship series. If you enjoyed reading about Sy, I hope you’ll enjoy these three characters.

It’s now possible for me to talk about Sy Sheehan without mentioning some of the other people with whom I worked. Since the A&P was the first real job I had, it also provided an opportunity to learn about the people who had committed their lives to the company.

Among my favorite people was Herb Foote, ‘Herbie’ to his friends. He was the bookkeeper, head cashier, and a real prick about having register tapes and money in the draw equaling exact amounts. Many was the time when Herbie would politely rant – he never raised his voice – about an overage or shortfall on the register. As I progressed through the ranks from bundle boy to shelve stocker, to taking in a load of groceries and marking them with the prices for other shelf stockers to deal with, I would also be called on to run a cash register now and then. Back then, as many as four people might use a cash register, but if you were the last one on it at the close of business, you were the one to catch Herbie’s wrath. He would quietly fault you and your acumen until you almost began to believe that anything wrong really could be your fault. Herb would always wind up his oration by admitting that it might not have been your fault, but you were the last one holding that cash register’s fate in your hands. Yes, there did come a point where it was all any of us could do not to laugh at Herbie’s rants and raves. He used words like ‘accountability,’ and ‘responsibility,’ and these are the words that remind me of him. He was meticulous in his attention to detail, and it’s very possible that Herbie Foote was another in my line of A&P mentors to whom I’ve never given enough credit.

Dick Murray was the assistant manager under Sy Sheehan. Tall, blond, ready smile, and a true ladies man, Dick was always ready with a witty remark for customers or fellow employees. He could stock a bakery faster than any man I ever saw. Loaves of bread, rolls, coffee cakes, and other assorted bakery items would literally fly out of the cases in front of Murray, but somehow, they always seemed to land in the right spot, right side up, and appearing as though they had been placed in position by loving hands rather than being flung there by Machine Gun Murray. Don’t get me wrong; Dick had his serious side and he could let you know in no uncertain terms when he thought you were slacking off.

The most terrifying experience I ever had with Dick Murray occurred about three years into the job. I was working at the speed checkout register; you know, the one for ten items or less. We were smart enough to make the aisle for that register sufficiently narrow that a shopping cart would not fit through. As I was busily checking the customers through, Dick came over and whispered, “The fire chief is going to come through your register. He stuffed four package of meat in his coat pocket and has one and a few other things to check out. I want you to ask him if he’s sure he doesn’t have four more package of meat to be paid for.” I whispered back something to the effect, “Are you shitting me; this guy knows me and my family; I practically grew up knowing this guy.” “He’s shoplifting,” replied Murray, losing his grin. “Just do it.” Sure enough, the chief came through with just one package of meat. Sure enough, I asked him if he wouldn’t like to show me the other four packages. Sure enough, he got pissed; and sure enough, there was Murray, placing his hand on the chief’s shoulder and asking him to step to the office. The last I saw of the chief was his coat flailing behind him; then I saw Murray walking back toward the meat department, four packages in his hand. The chief never came in the store again, and I realized that ‘hail fellow-well met’ Dick Murray was much more than a grin and a glad hand; he had a pair of the sharpest eyes in the store and could spot a shoplifter just as easily as he could stock a bakery. Dick  taught me how to pick up on the movements of those who would steal and how to approach them in a friendly manner while confronting them with what they were intending to do.

Bob Kenney was a quiet Navy vet who ran the deli counter. He kept the milk stocked, the cheese cut, weighed and priced, and even found time to grind the coffee beans for the customers. By chance, he also became a good friend. I said that Kenney was quiet. He’d nod but not speak unless spoken to; his mouth was always closed and straight across…no smile, no scowl. One day, I was cutting and pricing some incoming groceries in the downstairs part of the store. Muller’s macaroni came in a tightly packed cardboard box. If one wasn’t careful, it was easy to slice the packages as well as the cover of the box. Perhaps it was that caution that caused the box cutter to slip and create an inch and a half gash in my wrist. The blood was rather plentiful, so I went up to the meat locker to get some gauze. The funny part was that two butchers were busy slicing up hinds of beef when I walked in. Both took one look at my wrist and damn near passed out. Kenney had seen me come up, holding my wrist. He grabbed a clean apron and wrapped it tightly around my wrist. He took me to his car and then to Dr. Anthony Sabino, our family doctor. The nearest emergency room was in Weymouth, some miles away. Dr. Sabino couldn’t stitch the wound because of its diagonal cut, but he did manage to stop the bleeding and bind the wound.  I remember him saying that another eighth of an inch and I would have hit the radial artery. While I didn’t know what that meant, I have a better understanding of the dangers today. Kenney stayed with me the whole way. Driving back, we stopped at a drug store for a soft drink. It was at that point that the blood loss began to tell and Bob stopped me from sliding off a counter stool and passing out on the floor. He then got me home, helped into the house and told my mother what had happened. Bob Kenney and I were very good friends following that experience, but something I’ll never get over would be the look on the faces of the two butchers, aprons and hands covered in cow’s blood and damn near passing out when they saw my wrist.

Three good people, friends one and all. Thanks guys, thank you for the memories.

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Do you remember any of yours? I’m quite certain you had one, two, three, maybe more along the years when you were growing up. They were the people you went to when whatever you had in mind was not for the ears of your parents…or even your friends. They were teachers, custodians – we called them janitors back then – or maybe even…heaven forbid…a school administrator of some kind. These were the people where there were almost no boundaries, no topic of your concern too touchy to be discussed. They weren’t friends because these people wouldn’t gossip. They weren’t parents because they didn’t judge. They were sounding boards who, if asked might give advice; if not asked would just nod their heads or pop in a question that you hadn’t considered.

I began thinking about this the other day when I received a message from a friend of mine. She was forwarding the memorandum from the President of Babson College, notifying everyone on campus that Bill Cruickshank had died. That name means nothing to you, but to me it was the passing of an era. You see, I knew Bill for more than 20 years; I worked with him, sometimes side by side; other times from a distance. Bill wasn’t “Mr. Chips;” no, he was more like a reincarnation of Roger Babson, the College’s founder. Well, that’s not true either because I don’t believe Mr. Babson would have given you the shirt off his back the way Bill would do. Bill was 90 when he died, which ain’t a bad run as age is concerned. He’d graduated in 1949, coming back from WWII with a Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster and a Bronze Star for valor. We were on a retreat once and had some time to go to the beach. It was there that a saw a couple of the machine gun scars that Bill had. You see, he was gunned down and left for dead in a French farmyard. The farm family took him in and nursed him back to health, but I’ll tell ya, I saw where those bullets had hit him and I have no idea how the hell he survived…but he did…and that was Bill. He didn’t teach, but he worked like hell with his alumni class to raise money for scholarships. More than 200 students benefited from Bill’s hard work and the largesse of the Class of 1949. Those 200 will never forget him; that’s for damn sure. There’s a lot more to say about Bill, but I’m just going to leave it with my tears and a friendship that will never be forgotten.

There are different kinds of “Bills” at every level of education. Remember Miss or Mrs. So-and-so in the fourth grade, the one you could go to whenever you had a problem you couldn’t solve by yourself? And Al, or Sam or Mr. Jackson, the janitor who could dispense wisdom any time you sought it. Today, those same people would probably be arrested for some stupid damned crime or other if the even said, “Good morning” to you. In many ways, there’s a sadness as to how things have changed.

I remember that in high school the one man I could always approach was the assistant principal, Joe Cogan. He was the disciplinarian of the school, and for most people who had to see him, it was not a pleasant experience. To use the vernacular of today, Joe was perfectly capable of tearing a new one for the unruly student. He had another side, however, and that was dispensing good advice to those who sought it. Joe was also the baseball coach, but he taught one hell of a lot more than how to hit a curve or field ground balls. He was a “life” teacher, the most important kind of all.

As an undergraduate, at Northeastern University in Boston, there were a couple of people sought out by many students. I never knew how that grapevine worked, but it seemed as if you had a problem, you could go see Dean Harold Melvin or Professor Raymond Fennell. Funny thing was that Dean Melvin was a full-time professor and Ray didn’t teach a damned thing to the best of my knowledge…but boy, could they dispense wisdom to help bring order out of your chaos.  Ray survived a heart attack, and this was back in the early fifties, when heart attacks were far less survivable than they are today. “When you knew you were going to be alright,” someone asked him one day, “what went through your mind?” I was in my third year so I was still pretty soaking behind the ears, but I have never forgotten Ray’s reply. “Out my window were trees and I remembered thinking how green the leaves were. I hadn’t remembered that they were that green. And I didn’t remember the sky being that blue. Now that I’m recovered, I appreciate the colors around me more than I did before the heart attack.”  When I had my first heart attack in 1990, I was laying in a bed at Mass General. My room was on the eleventh floor, so I didn’t have any trees to see, but I remembered Ray’s comment about the sky. He was right; it did look different. I could also see up the Charles River and look out on Fenway Park…and I thought of Ray, and I thought of how things that I took so much for granted could become so different when you go through a life-altering experience.

The people I knew; the people I went to as an undergraduate; the people, who worked with me years later at Babson, are all gone. And now Bill is gone too. There will be others to take the place of Linda Adams, who dispensed her wisdom through the cloud of cigarette smoke above her head. There will be someone new with a weird electronic object on his or her desk to replace Professor Jack Hornaday who attracted students like a magnet, but I won’t know who they are. I’m out of that business, and good riddance to me. My memories of those people I’ll take with me, but damn, they sure were great “life” teachers in addition to their regular jobs.

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