Friday, February 17, 2017

What is more fun than people?

Mr. Melvin Roark in all his wonderful glory.

My friend Melvin Roark invited me to meet a most interesting man the other day.  His name is Lowell Herrington and he’s 97 years young this past Valentine’s Day. Afterward he told Melvin that I was his birthday present. I got a good laugh out of that and replied that he must like cheap dates.

Lowell is a wealth of information about Baytown, as he moved to Pelly in 1929, if I remember correctly. For those readers who don’t know, Pelly, Goose Creek, and Baytown consolidated in 1948, as the city of Baytown. The old city hall of Pelly still stands on West Main Street and the old Goose Creek jail is north of there on North Main.

He talked about Hog Island and how one fellow would swim out into the ship channel and stay out there, only coming in when a ship came by, There was a huge pavilion on Evergreen Road that I never heard of that was very active. He told me how much everyone walked back during the Depression and how scarce food was, except for the veggies everyone grew.

He remembers Reno’s barber shop on SH-146 and Marshall’s bait and tackle. Reno was my father-in-law and his real name was Willard Reneau. He was a humble fiddle-playing man and called himself Reno, because he thought people would have trouble pronouncing his name. Imagine that, these days. He asked me if Reno had worked for a barber named Broome and I said he did.

Lowell’s mind is as sharp as a younger man and he told me his family all smoked and drank a bit of alcohol, but he never took a hankering to it and he looks like a man of 70 and well preserved at that.

He remembered the German soldiers interned out on SH-146 close to the Pinehurst subdivision somewhere and I had heard this numerous times through other people. His beautiful bride Barbara made us coffee and served delicious pastries and we chatted for a couple of hours. I asked him if he remembered the hundreds of oil derricks and all those that were way up on Goose Creek and he sure did. I don’t think most Baytownians know that there at one time they stood everywhere on the creek. By 1975 when I photographed the expansion of SH-146 at Tabb’s Bay, most of them in the bay were already gone also.

The same goes for the Tabbs Bay Causeway.  I bet one out a 500 people here would get a blank look if you asked them about it. It’s gone now too, like the almost 40 people who have passed away on Lowell’s street. Again and again, he mentioned how much the city has changed since 1929 and how he helped a man catch a runaway horse and then ride it across the town, which then was mostly dirt.

Lowell told us about quarter horse races on Morrell Street and I couldn’t get a mental picture of how that could be. He said it was a big attraction. We talked about the Baytown Historic Café and he knew all about the building and the ones that are no longer there. He said they really need better lighting so people could study the photos. The café building was named after the owner. It was the same name as one of two brothers who would swim out in the ship channel. I should have taken notes, but we were just chatting and drinking coffee.

Lowell still does yard work, unless his son sneaks over and does it while they are at church and his place is neat as a pin. He has a Hispanic neighbor family who barbecues quite often and they always bring down a couple of plates. He and his bride seem a perfect fit and they are happy. I think they’ve been married about 35 years and both lost their first spouse. He used to repair small motors and maybe still does and he informed me that it was just a hobby and although he often times had a back-log, he never charged for labor.  Again, imagine that these days.

I have known another fellow since I was a mid-teen, named Alan Dempsey.  Alan is a Pentecostal preacher’s kid and back in high school, a real ladies man and fist-fighter – but he is also one of the nicest kindest people I’ve ever met. His favorite saying for years has been, “What’s more fun than people?”  Meeting this 97 year old man and his bride prove Alan’s point.

Lowell and his mate are rare jewels and folks should take note of the example they have set. I know they left an indelible mark on me.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Muscles, Yard Work, and Honey-Do’s

We are a couple weeks into the new year and things are really shaping up. The trees are budding out; grass is beginning to grow, and my bride is itching for me to do massive amounts of yard work on our half acre of heavily landscaped homestead. Never mind that she’s a certified Texas Master Gardener – this is man’s work honey!

I used to go out and do yard work for six straight hours and it was just sweat, not aches and pains. Now I sweat at the gym for hours each day and it appears my muscles are only good for the gym! Yard work is hard I tell you! Heckfire, I can hardly open the plastic bag inside a box of Wheaties… I mean Cheerios. We all know what will happen to you if you eat Wheaties every day.

Try opening the lid on a Power-Ade or Gator-Ade bottle with out a Stillson wrench!  Did I just call a pipe wrench a Stillson wrench? Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe it’s just because I am getting old! My daughter Melody is a hair stylist at the Rat’s Nest and cuts my hair. The other day she cut it and when I got home, the top looked like I had been on an episode of Scare Tactics.  The hair was sticking straight up, so in my elderly wisdom, I trimmed it off in the bathroom sink.

When I leaned forward, I realized why she did it. Now I look like Larry Fine of the Three Stooges!  Whoop whoop whoop!  When did all this hair go bye bye? I don’t know!  I feel like Melvin Roark’s twin brother, but that is not a bad thing, is it? By the way, how does Jim Finley keep his gorgeous youthful looks? I think he’s been nipping at that fountain old Ponce was looking for.

Last year I trimmed on my photinia and ligustrum bushes 3 times and I swear; now it would take a field-grade pogo stick to cut them back. Any day now my bride is going to start pointing this chore out and I am smart enough to just trim them back before she informs me the 10th time. Now it’s not like I don’t have the yard equipment or anything – or the knowledge on how exactly to go about it, because I have all the bases covered. I just don’t want to do it. I would rather go to the gym and work on my gym muscles so I can appear I am awesome.

That out building I paid to have remodeled sure looks nice. It is just a shame that the doors they made are heavier than the hinges and now I can’t lock the shed. My bride faithfully reminds me of this every three days and after numerous calls to have them promise to fix it.  I am simply going to do it myself… in a few days!

I just took a peek outside. My 25 foot tall “Dwarf” Chinese holly is heavy with red fruit.  In all the years past this meant Spring is here and any second now I expect the tree to be covered with Cedar Waxwing birds on their way south. It is a sight to see and hundreds of them will clean that tree in a day or less. The down side is that I will be cutting my yard for every three days and those danged shrubs will sprout like they are being hand-fed by the Jolly Green Giant!

Don’t get me started on bark much. Okay, thanks a lot just remember that you started it. I cannot haul in enough bags of bark mulch to satisfy my Bride’s desire to cover every square inch of plant beds with 3 inches of mulch. This means at least two dump trucks of mulch will be dumped in my driveway for me to shovel up and wheelbarrow to the back and side yards and my dad-blamed yellow plastic wheelbarrow rusted out over the last 6 months. Of course a man without a usable wheelbarrow is all but useless to most good female overseers, so I’ll have to buy a new one.

I would rather just repair computers in the sterile environment of my man cave, famously known as the Orbiting Command Ship Central or work on my gym muscles, but NOOOO, I have to do yard work!

Get ready for the spring pysch… here it comes!

Who am I kidding? I love yard work. It’s great exercise and everything always looks so nice afterward. I like to bag my yard, as it always looks so clean and neat, but mulching is better for it. Heckfire, I might even throw down some 15-5-10 fertilizer for my St. Augustine. Now that I think about it, it ain’t so bad. I’ll start on it tomorrow.

Friday, February 03, 2017

There’s a monster on the loose

I’ve made the comment numerous times before about how I always compare the current times to the turbulent 1960’s and how there has been no real comparison of civil unrest, but that is no longer the case.  We are living a time depicted in the words of the Steppenwolf song – Monster and its scary for most of us. What should be exciting and enthusiastic times is now like the whole world is sliding into the abyss.

The liberal-minded people are no longer liberally minded when it comes to being tolerant of anything other than their personal agendas. They are violent and unpredictable and highly intolerant on anything once deemed cautious and conservative.  They have always accused conservatives of being violent gun-toting rednecks and now they are that very genre, except for the guns and I suspect that is what we will face next.

Almost anything conservative is now under attack by them and violently so. This is going on in every civilized major city on earth. The victim mentality is pervasive to the point that they simply feel justified in doing whatever they want including rape, robbery, destruction of personal property and using the F, P, and C words at major televised gatherings. Every stage is now a place where anyone of semi-fame uses it for political tirades.

“The spirit was freedom and justice and its keepers seemed generous and kind. Its leaders were supposed to serve the country, but now they won't pay it no mind. Cause the people grew fat and got lazy. Now their vote is a meaningless joke. They babble about law and order, but it's all just an echo of what they've been told.”

Yea, there’s a monster on the lose and many of us feel like it is going to roil over into total anarchy unless reasoning citizens all over the world want to live like there has been a pandemic that sets us back 200 years. I can easily imagine a world like the one depicted in the Mad Max movies, but do I want to live like that? No electricity, no potable water, no stability and safety, and no food? No and not just no, but heck to the no.

With the way things are going right now, it appears 50% of this nation would rather see the new President fail and the country collapse than make a semblance of working to make it better. I know the people who voted against him won’t think so harshly when they can suddenly go to work because he created job opportunities. It’s hard to speak bad about someone who does good things for you.

“The cities have turned into jungles and corruption is stranglin' the land. The police force is watching the people and the people just can't understand. We don't know how to mind our own business 'cause the whole world's got to be just like us. Now we are fighting a war over there. No matter who's the winner we can't pay the cost.”

Many of the elaborate changes Trump is enacting are either reversals of Obama executive orders, or simply enforcing existing laws, but is it possible people would rather go berserk with rage than do a little fact checking? Talk about fake news. Angry citizens have their heads buried so deeply in their own prejudices that anything can set them off.

The crux of the truth here is that 90% of the earth’s population just wants to live in safety and peace without being overly controlled by any government, but you have religious instigators, actors, athletes, and power-driven politicians who keep everyone stirred up. People just want food and shelter and a sense of hope for the future and all these demonstrations and belly-aching is having the opposite effect they desire. Now there is speculation that Lady Gaga is going to use Super Bowl halftime to project an anti-Trump campaign.

It makes me sick to my stomach and I would feel the same thing if it was Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood going all anti-Obama 4 years ago.  The election is said and done.  Accept it and move on. Wouldn’t it be something if everyone would actually work together to make this country an even better place to live? Whining and crying and beating up people who voted differently than you is not only sad, but it is assault and probably battery.

"America, where are you now? Don't you care about your sons and daughters? Don't you know we need you now? We can't fight alone against the monster."

Quotations are from Steppenwolf’s The Monster.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Not a Chance the Left Will Run Out of Crazies

It’s unlikely the original creators of Looney Tunes ever imagined their cartoon characters would come to life for real. For example, Foghorn Leghorn evolved into Senate Dummocrat Chuck Schumer. There’s no possibility that the left will run out of “Crazies”; there’s a boundless cornucopia of left-wing nut cases, many in the entertainment venues and industries, but many also in congress.

Their ratings on the “nutcase” meter vary per measure of their insane rants, ravings and meltdowns combined with their levels of fame. General Celebrity and Elm Street type Hollywood freaks provide us with feelings from hilarious laughter to disgust, apathy, and sometimes just plain pity.

We’ve recently been witness to vivid examples of celebrities suffering from extreme lunacy and mental illnesses: Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Joy Behar, Rosie O’Donnell, Ashley Judd, Cher, Chelsea Handler, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Maher, Danny Glover and Sean Penn to name a few.

I was very angry with myself for laughing uncontrollably at Miley Cyrus’ meltdown on YouTube where she cried, whined and shrieked hysterically for several minutes because Hillary lost. I felt even more remorse after I had had a horrible thought it might be fun if she slit her wrists too. Terribly unkind of me, she is, after all, one very sick child.

And of course, we are used to old braindead Rosie O’Donnell, but I fear she will someday run out of incredibly stupid things to ‘shrill’ about. I think that she and Joy Behar are currently competing for a “Dumbest Hysterical Woman” participation trophy unaware of current massive competition nationwide. 

Also, speaking of Joy and Rosie, they remind me of the cartoon characters Heckle and Jeckle, the talking Magpies except; Joy and Rosie have smaller brains and neither have a smidgen of the birds’ intellects.

Then too several D.C. morons are competing for title of “Biggest Loon” in Washington”: Among those frantically competing to find a safe space away from intelligent people are: Pocahontas Warren, Cory-Judas-Booker, Screw-Loose Patty Murray, Blatherskite Chuck Schumer, and ex-hero turned Racist, John Lewis.
The buffoons from California are also fiercely in the race and may have a definite advantage as they have salt-air-injection-infections: Doofus Diane Feinstein, Barbara Brainless Boxer, Xavier Bloviator Becerra, Nancy “we-have-to-pass-this-bill-so-we’ll-know-what’s-in-it” Pelosi, Adam Snuffy Schiff, Henry Dunce Waxman, and Maxine Imajoke Waters.

I have as yet been unable to discover the actual location of the inaugural-boycotting Democrat’s actual safe place. I understand though that they huddled tightly together during the inauguration ceremonies, clutching security binkies in deathly fear that they would witness more than two centuries of civility and democracy in action.
It’s unconfirmable of course, but the Los Angeles Times reported that during the inauguration, a great deal of sobbing, whining and tearful sniffling was heard coming from the San Francisco area. Coincidentally, several Hollywood celebrities were rumored to have been spotted in the area simultaneously.

The Washington ComPost, unusually wildly speculative, suggested the celebs and Dems found and shared the same safe space together, but could not verify the rumor that there were depressing shortages of blanket-binkies, crying towels, Café Lattes, and pacifiers.

God populated the earth with some incredibly ingenious, loving, compassionate, resourceful and responsible humans to start with. God inclusively allowed evil to exist by allowing Satan to add a few idiots, incompetents, malcontents and spiteful haters to test his original largess. Satan convinced many of his charges to join the original party of racism and Jim Crow laws, the Democratic Party. 

We owe a debt of gratitude to Jimmy Carter for destroying education in America or the country would probably have continued to be a disgustingly literate and civil land to live in. And thank the lord for Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus, the SPLC, the NAACP, Nation of Islam, and Al Sharpton. Without their enormous contributions, the racial divide in this country would surely have continued to narrow.

Go forth ye, watch and observe their childish petulance. Go ahead, listen, but don’t be fooled by their inept, stupid, foolish, senseless and hateful rhetoric. They hate, they lie, they deceive, they subvert, while professing empathy, sympathy, love and compassion for everyone.

That the liberal-progressive-left is really bent out of shape and furious at losing is an understatement. Hell, hath no fury like maniacal socialists fueled by Soros’ money and abhorrent behaviors driven by various psychotic disorders. They “talk” peace, compassion, understanding and brotherhood but witlessly or unscrupulously and calculatingly demonstrate the exact opposite behaviors. Simply said, they’re psycho!

John Frock, San Angelo, 1-28-2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

Righteous indignation you say?

I was trying to remember when I first became aware of this phrase and what it actually meant.  I guess I was in my mid-teens and maybe it was in one of five English classes I had in high school. Five you say! Yes, five it was. English was one of two classes I flunked in the 9th grade. Algebra was the other and I legitimately failed it, unlike my English course. I really tried to understand algebra, but our moving all over the country had scrambled the rules of math for me.

For all the crazy stunts I pulled in my English class, I was totally cowed down in algebra and stayed confused no matter who tried to help me. I needed to start over. The funny thing is, I took it in the 10th grade and passed it. Years later in a statistical process control seminar, I was the go to guy on most of the other fellow’s algebra. Even today I don’t understand how that was possible.

I failed English because I was the class clown, or rather the main CC. This stirred my teacher’s righteous indignation and she failed me by one point to prove her point. I decided the best course of action for me was to take a summer school English class. I’ve written about this before so I won’t repeat it, but that was a turning point in my attitude about school and made future classes so much fun.

I tell young students my story and explain that if you do your homework and actually listen in class, school is easy… and fun. In fact, if you read the next assignment, it is almost ridiculously easy. Anyway, I want to get back on point here.

Now the original meaning of the term righteous indignation, or maybe righteous anger most likely meant “it is one's right to feel that way; anger without guilt”. This emotion was based on a lifetime of social interaction, home and church teachings, an individual’s perception of law and order, or maybe some self-imposed rule.

Nowhere did it imply violence or breaking the law. What it did imply was someone did something wrong and based on our own perception of right, we feel anger. We don’t have to apologize for our feelings because we don’t act on them. Nowhere in this line of thought justifies doing something physical in retaliation.

Now in the last so many years and here recently in Washington DC and other cities we see looting and burning of cars and smashing windows of businesses as a perverted form of righteous indignation. It is clearly not that at all.  It is lawlessness and anger combined. It is a physical violation of righteousness and personal property to attempt to legitimatize someone’s idea of righting wrong doing.

The end does not justify the means and never has. Although many of the concerns of the women’s march in our Capital city were righteous in scope, the activities of some and the tons of signage that littered the ground clearly violated law and what is right. Women plastering windows with slogan filled maxi-pads are repulsive, trashy, and invasive to the shop owners they selected.

I support people demonstrating for a cause, but it has to be done according to the current laws and then they must clean up afterward. It was disgusting watching videos of the participants cursing bystanders and shooting the finger when asked to pick up their trash. It embarrassed and shamed me as an American. When one man questioned why they wouldn’t pick up their signs, it was met with open objection and ridicule by the protestors. This is shameful behavior and negates their righteous efforts.

Righteous indignation has taken on an almost criminal bent that needs to stop and be called what it really is: blatant unbridled anger. The end certainly does not justify the means, especially when it is violent, breaks the law, or is destructive of property. People have a right to orderly march when they have a legitimate issue, but doing it the wrong way has the opposite effect of their mission and social perception.

On top of everything else, throwing a hissy fit makes you look like spoiled brats who didn’t get your way. So you didn’t get what you wanted? Hey, grow up. Life is full of fences and barriers and you should do like all the righteous people do – go through the doors and gates. The term social means you have to get along. You have to stand in line and when it comes to voting for whom or what you want and you may just have to live with something you didn’t choose. Life goes on. Geeze. Get over it.

I didn’t vote for 16 years of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but I didn’t burn the American flag or threaten to blow up the White House. I simply wrote my representatives and told them what I supported and didn’t and then at each election, I cast my vote. That is how I showed my righteous indignation.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Presidential Medal of Freedom. Really?

A more humbled man I've never seen.
President John F. Kennedy created the award to be the civilian version of our military’s Medal of Honor.  It is to recognize going miles above and beyond anything resembling typical accomplishments and is an incredible honor and should only be awarded when truly merited.  Otherwise, it is like an actor winning an Oscar for being an actor.

According to Wikipedia, The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is the highest civilian award of the United States. It recognizes those people who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

The average annual incidence of award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom is approximately 1 per every 20,500,000 adult U.S. citizens and those awarded with distinction are even rarer.

People who have been awarded the lesser award (without distinction) include Mother Teresa, civil rights leader Philip Randolph, the crew of the Apollo 13 mission, Margaret Thatcher, T.S. Elliot, John Steinbeck, Michael DeBacky, Tony Blair, Chuck Yeager, Norman Rockwell, and Stephen Hawking.

Barack Obama leads all presidents in awarding one of these medals with 123 recipients, including 16 activists, 8 Hollywood actors, 13 singers, Oprah and Ellen, Bill and Melinda Gates, 11 politicians plus Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu, 12 athletes, and now smiling VP Joe Biden with the added bonus of “with distinction”.

I watched the ceremony and have never seen a more humble public servant than Ol Joe as he bowed his head.  It was a performance worthy of – well, an award for acting. I immediately tried to remember one thing Joe Biden has done in the last eight years that would make me say, “Well, he certainly has went above and beyond! Well done, Joe! So being me, I did research.

Well, he was a US Senator for 36 years. He voted to use force in Iraq when G.W. Bush was president. In his second attempt to run for president, he dropped out after securing only 1% of the Iowa delegates. He is the first Roman Catholic and Delawarean to be VP. (Note: I am scratching around including my bald head) He spearheaded the anti-drug use Czar program and we all know how successful that’s been. No, it appears Joe’s one characteristic that makes him special is his ability to talk himself in or out of almost anything. Add in the world class toothy grin and you have an exceptional candidate – evidently.

It was no surprise to me when I discovered his dad was a used car salesman. Like father like son. I am following my gut feelings after researching the man and that in this case the award is a total sham and adding in the extra bonus of distinction is a slap in the face of every deserving individual who was ever given this award. It reminds me of when Barack Obama was given the Nobel Peace prize for nothing more than a promise that he was going to change things for the better. Heckfire, Mr. Rogers had more of an impact on millions of Americans than these two self-serving representatives, yet did not receive either award.  I am surprised the president didn’t award Joe with a 9th degree black belt seeing he was feeling so generous.

Along with the most Presidential Medal of Freedom awards given by any president, Mr. Obama is also the guy who has commuted the most criminal sentences, which will put drug dealers right back on the streets.  As of today, he has lessened the sentences of 774 convicted felons, which is more than the last 11 presidents together. I wonder how this is going to benefit the average American.  The real kicker here is over 10% of these people used a firearm when they committed their crime.

It won’t affect his family though with his squad of secret service agents guarding them 24 hours a day while staying tucked away behind his new walled-off compound. He blasted Trump for wanting to stop illegal’s from coming across our borders and then turns right around and has a wall put up at his new digs. If you think I am making any of this up, check it out for yourself. On January 10th, 2013 he signed a bill into law guaranteeing SS protection for life.

This is just another display of Washington politics at odds with the voters. They heap awards and special benefits on each other and sip from the fountains of luxury vacations while working class America struggles to spend a few nights a year in a motel with their mate. The saddest note is they don’t even realize it. Fat cat politicians deserve what they got when Trump was elected.  Now both sides can lick their wounds and wonder if their job is secure. We, the people have had enough of their double standard.

The news reports every day that more and more company CEO’s are pledging to rebuild right here in the US of A and jobs are going to be created. I cannot see how anyone can see this in a negative light. Washington needs to quit awarding themselves with diluted medals for fictitious accomplishments and return to their roots and the people’s wishes. Kicking and screaming and threatening to cause disruption at the inauguration and afterward reminds me of the spoiled kid whose mom told him he can’t have a candy bar.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The folly of youth? Maybe not.

 Using little more than their imagination, do children still play in the make believe world that was so dear to my generation? Our imagination was so finely tuned that Peter Pan had nothing on us. Of course there were no electronics available or we might have fallen into the same trap our kids now accept as normal childhood development.

Not to be indelicate, but we grew up post-World War II and the forgotten Korean conflict and even though I cannot remember ever fighting an imaginary Korean Commie, my 3 brothers and I sent a lot of “Japs” and multiple thousands of “Krauts” to an early demise and we went to war with them very often and for a good number of victorious campaigns.

Our favorite rifle was quite often a stick and not just any stick, but a hand-hewn stick that each of us took pride in selecting. On a daily basis, we would watch Sergeant Saunders of the TV series Combat and this would recharge our imaginary fantasy batteries.

While we lived on the corn farm in Michigan, we spent hours in the high cornrows patrolling and often sustained heavy casualties that we rapidly recovered from. Now I don’t know what you imagine when I say playing in growing corn, but it can be a very scary place. A lot of animals and reptiles live in a corn field, including snakes, turtles, fox, deer, raccoons, and coyotes and besides all that, it is very easy to get turned around and lost. Needless to say, it was the perfect place to play army and fight the crafty Huns.

Moving to the suburbs of Toledo, Ohio, we found ourselves immersed in deadly urban warfare which pitted a good number of soldiers to help us along with the same number to be “the enemy”.  In the city we all carried plastic guns or Cadet Rifles and the evening war began each night when it was too late to play baseball and lasted until about 8:30 pm when our Mom’s would call us home. I can say without bragging that these city boys didn’t have much of a chance against the band of brothers who cut their chops in the corn rows of south Michigan.

By the time Junior high rolled around, we were still hard at it and spent hours upon hours in the piney woods of North Georgia hunting the Boche and believe it or not there was still evidence of the Civil War battles in those hills. We would run commando style from pot hole to pot hole, where either cannon balls had blown a hole, or soldiers had dug down for cover.

We knew every crook and nanny on the trails through the bushes and dense thickets like we were on a sidewalk and where exactly the ambush we be so it didn’t catch us by surprise. If it did, we would all make gun fire noises in the true style of a cross between the monkey house and the blistering gunfire of the Jeep mounted machine guns of the TV series Rat Patrol. What I’ve described thus far is only a small portion of the games we played that took us outside the house and didn’t cost a dime.

When we lived in Ogden, Utah it was very hot and there were cactus and succulent type plants, as a lot of other vegetation would not grow. Our house set on a hill and abruptly behind it was a 60 degree slope that dropped down about 20 feet. My 3 brothers and I would take off our shoes and basically slide down this sandy hard-packed slope onto the desert floor and lifting each foot to keep from burning it, attempt to run up that 60 degree slope. Sometimes it took 4 attempts and we would grab the brother and help him up. It hurt like the dickens… but what fun! We would then dip our feet in cool water and do it again. Now that I think of it, the sand was probably about a 120 degrees.

Did I mention Wiffle ball? Does the Wiffle ball still exist? We played it whenever there were too few of us to play regular baseball or on the suburb streets under the street light (when Fritz wasn’t around to shoot at us). What a great game and at my present advanced age, I could probably still be a contender (as long as Jim Finley wasn’t on the other team.) I imagine Ol Jimbo has played his fair share of the tricky game and would snuff out my attempts at personal glory.

Mom’s and Dad’s back in the day didn’t feel obligated to provide every luxury under the sky for us and for the most part, couldn’t afford it if they did. We found ways to entertain ourselves and everything worked out just fine. The trophies we got, we actually earned. The money we had come from recycling soda bottles, or mowing lawns. Most of us grew up with rich imaginations ready to move out when the time was right and make our own way and most of us have prospered… after 30 or more years.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Regrets? Yea, I have some.

It was once said of Vince Lombardi: "He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation." Lombardi would later write, "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get back up."

According to Wikipedia, "He is best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, where he led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, in addition to winning the first two Super Bowls following the 1966 and 1967 NFL seasons. Lombardi is considered by many to be the greatest coach in football history."

I’ve written about it before that I actually met Mr. Lombardi’s granddaughter while I was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force base. A few days after I processed into the squadron, a fellow airman asked me if I had met Airman First Class Lombardi and I replied “No.”  He went on to describe her as a snooty-tootie who loved to throw that amazing pedigree around and like the idiot I sometimes was, I bought into it. Well, it turned out to be true to a certain extent and sure enough, the second sentence out of her mouth after she boastfully introduced herself as “I am Vince Lombardi’s niece.”

The next sentence out of my mouth, I regret to this day with no possible way to make it right and it was rude and profane and something along the lines of I had no idea who that person was.  Now, she was very cute, with a pixie blond hair-do and possibly, if I had been properly amazed, I might have dated her, but that is beside the point. Needless to say, I don’t believe we ever talked again.

I knew danged well who the great coach was and I let some dimwit Airman prep me to be obnoxious. Thinking back, if I wouldn’t of had that first conversation, the second would have went something along the lines of, “Cool!  That’s amazing!” and I wouldn’t regret that stupid sentence.

Again looking back over my life I want to try and make up for some of these blunders and social mistakes I’ve committed and that brings me to the real gist of this column – doing good and righteous acts. It is a brand new year and I guess this could be considered a resolution, but I’m going to call it a challenge instead. For starters, I donated blood on January 2nd and double-red blood cells at that. I have a rare antigen in my blood called CMV- and my blood often is used the same day I donate. It goes to babies and people with a challenged immune system, so big points for me on the good scale, right?

My personal challenge for 2017 is to once a week commit a totally unselfish act that makes a positive impact on mankind in general. Now I am not talking about holding a door at Macy’s, as I already do that kind of stuff. I’m thinking bigger, like paying for someone’s order in the line behind you, or having flowers delivered to someone who is depressed.

At an indoor cycling spin class I taught in Meyerland on Wednesday, I challenged the class to do this very thing and I will continue this practice every time I instruct a class for the rest of the year. Like the boy in the movie Pay it Forward, I realize if I can enlist help, it could make a real difference in those around us. Exercise your body and enrich your life by promoting mental and physical well being, right? That’s the idea anyway.

When I say bigger things, I don’t mean they have to be, as DT says, “Huuuuge!” It just needs to have an impact on the person who receives it. A measure of this is if they get your “gift” in the morning, they are still basking in it later in the day. It could be a 2 dollar tip to the lady in the 15 items or less check-out who makes 8 bucks an hour for her thankless job. She goes home everyday and her feet hurt. You helped her make 10 dollars for that hour and she remembers it and tells her husband.

I have some inexpensive cotton gloves and the other day when we had a cold snap, it was also garbage day. I noticed one guy had no gloves and the other had a pair that had seen better days. I gave them both a pair and they called me sir and thanked me. I like to bring bottles of water to them in the heat of summer too, so it is these little things that truly make the difference in a person’s day.

What say you? You want to join me in making a better world?

Friday, December 30, 2016

The honeymoon is probably over

If you have been married for any real length of time, you have learned to live harmoniously for the most part, right? If you haven’t then, stop reading right now, as you have a lot to learn about long term relationships and this will not help you with that.

As a certified spouse, I probably would describe myself as handsome, fairly predictable, and not all that hard to live with and would get “that look” from my bride, especially if I rendered this buffoonish (baboonish?) depiction of myself in her favorite company, namely her BFF’s, known as her Yah yah’s.

They are a close knit group and once a quarter they meet for inspirational devotions and fellowship and to pray for their spouses and friends – her words, not mine.  I suspect their friends get a free pass (read Indulgences) and their mates the real scrutiny (again, I am simply speculating here).

I call it a surfeiting food fest with copious amounts of profoundly righteous gossip, but that I guess is open for interpretation (read downright objection). I reckon they tell their Yah yah’s everything about their husbands that needs correcting and after an intoxicating amount of fattening foods and homemade sweets; they get down to the serious business of interceding for their hell-bound spouse’s aberrant souls, especially me most likely. Now here’s the coup de grâce, they then exchange gifts, consisting of interesting junk none of them would personally buy. Like the kings visiting the baby Jesus, I presume, but I may be off on that aspect, like all my other observations of the married fairer sex.

Now I must assert that I have hundreds of good points, but usually am in the dog house over something and that may have happened three days ago or longer. Who knows? I surely don’t and that’s the truth. I generate fodder for the quarterly Sabbatical like a spewing wood chipper at the hands of the people who trim trees for the power company. The truth is it is because I am a man. There. I said it. Those of us that enter into a contract of blissful holy matrimony are doomed from that unspecified time following the honeymoon until death do us part or the wife finally has had enough and kicks us to the curb.

Thank the good Lord we may possibly be redeemed by our devote Yah yah’s through much caloric intersession and well-meaning scrutiny and exhaustive confession.

The intricate female brain’s upward spiral in matrimony starts shortly after the honeymoon with her barren wardrobe and it will never get truly stocked. The honey-do list is four leagues long and after each laborious task is checked off, two more are penciled in after it. This is not only one of the hidden and sacrosanct statutes buried in the sacred vows, but a heinous conundrum that after nearly 40 years of marriage, still perplexes me. Why is it women feel compelled to make lists of things for their husband to accomplish, but the husband never has a single item on their list for the wife? Not a single one.

The bathing area, tub, shower, and cabinets have forty-seven thousand little bottles of various solutions and scents and I have a bar of soap, a single container of shampoo and what us Southern boys call a warshrag. I can deal with it until my tiny space get buried by all that stuff she simply has to have! I was informed one day after making a mild and meek suggestion that there may just be a possibility that there could be a little bit too much there. “I am a woman and I need that stuff and besides, most of it was given to me by my Yah-yah’s and you wouldn’t understand!”

Blam! She threw down the Yah-yah trump card, which incidentally weighs close to an Armenian metric ton in reasoning and finality. Like I’ve said, I’ve been married long enough to know when to yell calf-rope and I backed away with both hands held high, but this brings us to the gist of this column. I also know (believe) when to draw the line and I’ll explain.

I always have insisted that I have a green toothbrush and she was free to explore the many colors of other teeth-cleaning color combinations, but what do I find when I open the drawer?  Two green toothbrushes and the second one is hers!  Blasphemy and by golly I threw up the red flag (not literally mind you).

I marched right into the living room and demanded an explanation.  I mean this is an open travesty of a written in stone rule that has been in place for almost 4 decades.  “Oh, I got that free at Doctor Platt’s office the other day, mine is in the other drawer.  Rats, out-foxed again. Oh Lord, is there still hope for us married men?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Brrrr to me is not Grrrreat!

When I came into existence we lived in what is now frigid Michigan and the nearest hospital was in northern Ohio, so the city of Toledo got to witness my entrance. It was the beginning of summer and sunny and to this day, that is how I prefer my weather.

In the past we have enjoyed two months of near-perfect weather; October and April. Our usual rain or high humidly has been negated by dry air from the north and facilitates outdoor activity unmatched the rest of the year. This year it didn’t play out like that and last year wasn’t much of a match either. This brings us around to the recent 38ish cool front and my intolerance for cold temperatures.

I have been cold a good number of times in my life and quite frankly, experienced life threatening plunges in my body temperature. Sounds melodramatic doesn’t it, but I’m not exaggerating. To those of us who have never experienced the inability to maintain our 98.6 degree body temperature, it is extremely painful and even worse when you try to warm back up. You will literally cry from the pain. This condition becomes life-threatening when your inner body goes below 95 degrees. On the other end of the scale, being hot is simply uncomfortable and like you, I have experienced my fair share of that.

My three brothers and I ice skated with our backs to the wind up the Little Raisin river in the early 60’s until we were miles from home. We skated so far that we ran out of river and when we tried to turn back, the wind was too fierce. We were frozen and disoriented and crying. We finally abandoned the sliver of iced-over river and got up on the farm road where a passing motorist loaded the four of us and drove for about 30 minutes to get us home.

My mom, having no idea where we got off too, was too relieved to be angry, but wisely ran a tub of tepid water and began the process of thawing us out. Now before you judge her, understand that back in those days, farm kids played outdoors all day unsupervised and only came home to eat. The water felt scalding hot and we suffered through the process of getting our body temperatures back to normal.

Roll forward a few years and this was repeated when we lived in Morgan, Utah and the temp dropped below zero while we went off owl hunting with a neighbor boy. I vividly remember screaming in pain and crying as I thawed out. I also remember how angry my mom was at that neighbor boy. Another thing to note is that any kid growing up in snow country can tell their own horror stories about being cold.

Moving back to Ohio, the 4 of us skated far out on the frozen Ottawa River and once again the wind blew us so far away that my third brother just gave up and lay down on the ice to die. Again this sounds melodramatic, but I assure you under those conditions of hypothermia, you do not think straight. My other brothers and I struggled with him to get to shore and then walked in our skates the 5 blocks to our street with our skates on.  We were too cold to change into our shoes and the painful warming up process was repeated.

While serving in the US Air Force in Great Falls, Montana I was subjected to 5 twelve-hour nights of shoveling snow around the missile silos under the night sky, only to repeat it one day after returning. Understand that there are no trees to stop the constant wind on the Great Plains. We were under blizzard conditions and the fear of a sudden thaw meant water could drain down around the hundreds of Intercontinental Missiles and possibly flood them.  The decision was made to load up airmen and give them snow shovels and remove the snow that had drifted around the giant cement pads that covered each and every missile silo. Each pad covered 1 missile and each pad was miles from the next.

Now I had seen the map on the commanding General’s office wall and there were about 1500 Minuteman missiles under his command and by golly, I think we got every one of them. Initially we flew out in the middle of the night in helicopters and were dropped off on the Great Plains and it was so cold, we all thought we would die before morning. We would dig one out and low and behold, a stake bed deuce and a half truck would roll up and load us like cattle to drive to another silo. We were shoulder to shoulder in the back of that freezing open air truck bed only to dismount and dig out another.

My geocaching/kayaking friends make fun of me when I don’t want to go out on the water if the temp drops below 70 degrees, but I simply do not like being cold.  I have been elk hunting and fallen asleep in my mummy bag, only to awaken and the entire sleeping bag would be under an inch of snow. The goose down inside the bag kept me fairly warm, but that is one sight I don’t care to see again.

The word is that this Christmas, our temperature will be around 70 degrees and most likely sunny and I couldn’t be happier.  I think it was right after Christmas in 1976 that 2 of my 3 brothers and I worked a shutdown in Pasadena and it was 14 degrees. I would have burned a Yule log for warmth if I could have. Merry Christmas my friends, remember the reason for the season, and stay toasty and comfy.

Friday, December 16, 2016

I ain’t giving you a dollar

 At least once a week I am reminded by a news story or online video about a subject that has become a daily occurrence in every city, school, or neighborhood in the US of A. It’s one that parents fear, kids hate, and no one seems to be able to get a grip on what exactly we need to do to stop it. Yup, its violent coercion and we simplify it by calling it bullying.

The cruelty of harassment has been around since the Garden of Eden and it would be a fantasy to believe it will ever stop. Intimidation is a deviant art form that is developed by trial and error and finally success until the perpetrator has it down pat. Like the professional football player, by the time they come into their twenties, they’ve been playing this game for many years. There is only one action that can put an abrupt kink it its development and it is a most effective tool. Resistance.

“Sorry I ain’t got no money.
I’m not trying to be funny, but I left it all at home today.
You can call me what you wanna I ain’t giving you a dollar.
This time I ain’t gonna run away.”

According to the King James Bible, it even works on Lucifer. “…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I’ve written on this subject before, but please bear with me, as this is a subject that screams to be repeated and the intended audience is every person reading this column. Bullying goes on in every country and every stratum of the social world; from powerful politicians and world leaders to the street urchins living in the sewers of a Third World country.

Children learn at a very young age to force their will upon others and most of us learn along the way, that there might just be a better method of getting what we want – some don’t. They continue to hone their compulsive skills throughout adolescence and enter adulthood seasoned veterans of maltreatment of those they believe are weak. Often they carry this philosophy into the workplace and through deceit and subtlety, arrive in prime positions to practice their skill. You know exactly what I am talking about and know many instances of people just like this.

“You might knock me down, you might knock me down.
But I will get back up again.
You can call it how you wanna, I ain’t giving you a dollar.
This time I ain’t gonna run away, run away, run away.”

This perception of weakness draws them out like a vulture to carrion. It is as irresistible to them as a delicious treat to a child. They lust and feed on it and this is the same behavior criminals feed on when they rob a clerk or an unsuspecting person at an ATM or a parking lot. When a person appears unaware or timid, it sparks this deviant fire inside them and they compulsively attack to feed.

When a shopper returns to their car with their keys in their hand and are visually scanning the parking lot, the bully dismisses them for wont of an easier target. The same goes in the school hall when they butt up against someone and that person straightens their back and loudly confronts them. The difference here is the school bully hasn’t developed their skill enough to know when to stop and this is why you may just take a beating when you resist – the first time. If you continue to resist, they will find someone who they believe won’t and leave you alone and that is the gist of the song I am quoting.

Resistance to bullying is the only answer and compliance to their wishes more times than not will only result in something negative for you. Am I saying if a person sticks a gun in your face you should fight them? No, I am not, but try and put yourself in a position where this scenario doesn’t happen. Don’t be caught unaware due to your cell phone, or blindly putting yourself at risk. Remember, the school bully philosophy is the same as the gun-toting criminal; it has just violently evolved to this level.

“This time, this time.
This time, this time I ain’t gonna run, run, run, run, run.
Not this time, not this time.
Not this time.
Not this time.”

With the Christmas season upon us, be a smart shopper and if at any time you feel like you have been targeted, turn around and go back to your car or into the store and call for assistance. Educate your children, as they are more distracted than at any time in our history. Don’t be a target and if you are, by all means resist.

Lyrics No money - Galantis

Friday, December 09, 2016

Buying American will not be an easy path

 American consumers have both poor memories and the ability to quickly adapt to inferior “improved” products. We express our displeasure to each other, but continue to purchase the less than improved items and before long, they become the new standard. We adapt and move on. A good example is the plastic bag inside a box of cereal. At one time it was easy open wax paper or a plastic product that came apart with an ease a 5 year old could accomplish.

Try to open one of these bags now without a pair of scissors and you will need a broom and dustpan. A personal trainer friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a perfect example of this phenomenon. “Evidently my muscles are only good for lifting weights, as I cannot get the wrapper open on my protein bar.”

Aside from a boycott, competition is the best way to keep any one company or country from making too much money. The biggest richest company in the world right now is the Communist government of China. They finance, oversee, control, subsidize, and back everything made in China.  Like Disneyworld in Orlando, all roads lead to their coffers. They dump their goods on the USA while taking very little back except maybe our cigarettes. We do have the best tobacco and they haven’t yet learned how devastating smoking is to their health. Another truth is a lot of the products brought here do not translate well from their perspective to ours.

Here is what I think will happen if Donald Trump effectively levels the trade playing field with foreign countries and forces American companies to build American only and be warned, it will get very ugly. I say ugly not because I think it is the wrong thing to do, but because our country lives on instant gratification and perceived deals. I’ve already pointed out that quality can be compromised, as it interferes with our gluttonous need for instant gratification. “We want what we want and we want it now”, said Jim Morrison and he couldn’t have been more right.

Initially we will see a sharp rise in prices on imported goods, which will generate a lot of negative feelings with the press and the consumer. The replacement American produced products will cost more for basically the same stuff as we were getting from China and other mass-producing countries as American companies scrabble to meet the customer demands.  There may be quality issues involved, which will be eliminated when competitors enter the fray. There will be 3-4 year period of time where almost anything we bought from these countries costs more. As we agonizingly adjust, Trump’s policies will be hammered ad nauseum, but there is a silver lining awaiting us.

The first business to collapse will be the dollar stores. Wal-Mart, the once all American store will take a giant hit, as will other import-heavy businesses.

Competing American companies will be the logical answer to prices dropping and this could take every bit of 4-5 years. In the meantime, we will see a more balanced distribution of monies to the workers and company profits will peak, and then level out as the world market adjusts. It goes without saying that countries like China will scream foul as the elephant riding the bicycle can no longer keep moving forward. Heck, they’ve already started crying foul. They may even threaten to go to war with us.

American entrepeneurialship and creativity will result in innovative products we long forgot were even available, like an actual vent on a gas can, so it doesn't burp out all over the place when fueling the lawn mower. Instead of cheap junk that only adds to the other substandard stuff we accept as quality, we will see pioneered and competitive products offered and if they can’t live up to expectations, another company will build a better one.

I once again go back to the current Chinese-made gas can. The spout is not built to pour. It is a flexible piece of tubing that degrades in about a year and spills gas all over everything when pouring. The crux of the matter is, this is all that is available, because all of them come from China. American companies don’t even try to compete, because you can just go buy another cheaply made one.

Now mind you, this American innovative change will not happen overnight and there will be a lot of perceived pain, suffering, and sacrifice as we adjust to not getting our cheaply-made baubles when we want them. In some areas we will see a price reduction as we become less dependent on foreign products, namely fossil fuel derivatives. Possibly agricultural products will also see a reduction in prices as farmer’s markets will compete with grocery stores. We have made other countries and governments rich beyond all reason by purchasing or outsourcing so many products and I do believe Donald Trump is on the right track. I may have to cinch up my belt a notch or two while it all comes about, but I understand the need for it.

Lop-sided trade deals that favor every country but ours, needs to stop and the sooner we renegotiate these contracts the better. To sum up one logical person, “This ain’t no way to run a business.”