Friday, December 31, 2010

GOODBYE 2010 - HELLO 2011

When I was a youngster, I figured out how old I would be when we turned the page to the year 2000.  It came out that I would be forty four years old.  At the time that seemed like very far away and in reality I didn't think I would live that long.  I did live that long and I saw 2000 in and enjoyed all of the fears of how the year would bring about mass computer crashes and shut down world economies.  None of that happened.

What did happen was that I broke mentally shortly after that.  Deep clinical depression grabbed a hold of me and chronic anxiety came along for the ride.  My life changed in that moment of time and I have been fighting it ever since that day.  Again I looked at the year 2010 and did not think I would see it.  I almost didn't see it as I went through one bout of suicidal thoughts that were so close to the surface I was hospitalized for a week.  I will write about that at a later date in more detail.  The point is I did see the year 2010 and it wasn't easy to get here.

The past year has been one of intense stress for my wife and I.  She has developed chronic back pain and my depression is still with me, although somewhat controlled.  We worked on facing 2010 together and seemed to be doing a fine job of it when she was diagnosed with cancer in May.  When this happened the stress level went through the roof.

We managed to work through her cancer surgery and as of this writing she is clean of the dreaded disease.  After the cancer began the huge fighting between the insurance companies and the providers that helped do the surgery as well as my mental therapy to keep me on the right track and not go back to where I was earlier in the decade.  Now the stress is not about Barb and cancer but about the daily struggle of trying to get the bills straightened out so that we can move on from the medical hurdles of 2010.

This past year of 2010 was very tough economically as well as emotionally.  There was a lesson to be learned during the past year and I think my wife and I have learned it well.  We need to help each other stand against all of the hurdles that life can throw at us no matter how often they raise their heads in our path or how high of a hurdle they represent.  If we stay supportive of each other, we can make it through.  Things may not always turn out the way we want them to and we could lose some major battles but no matter what we have each other to lean on.

It was this lesson that allowed us to struggle our way through 2010 and that gives us the strength to prepare for 2011.  President Lincoln once said "A house divided against it self cannot stand."  I believe the president was very wise in that statement.  It proved to be correct in 1864 and for Barb and I it proved to be correct in 2010.

It is a lesson that neither one of us will let slide past us in the future.  We must help each other.  We must be able to trust each other enough to lean on each other.  We must be honest and sincere.  Most of the time these things are not easy and a lot of times we forget that we have a partner to help us through things.  But what we have learned is that when the situation gets to a certain point. we must be able to shift into those actions of trust, love and dependency on each other.  We can do that.  I totally believe that we can because we did in the past year and I firmly believe we will continue to do that in the year to come.  When all is said and done at the end of 2011, we will still be standing tall, together as one and that much stronger for it.

I sincerely hope all my readers and followers have a very happy New Year and that 2011 is a year that we can all work our way through.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

THE CATCH

I played a lot of baseball from a very young age.  There was always three things that remained consistent during my ball playing years.  First I was a very good hitter.  I had good form and a level swing.  My body weight shifted in all the right places and there were times when I could almost swear I was seeing the ball hit the bat.  I would hit more line drives than ground balls or pop ups and I hit them hard.

I was also fairly fast.  I wasn't a speedster by no means but I was fast enough to make a decent run around the bases and pick up my share of doubles.  If I was focused and a fly ball was hit to me, I could usually track it down with out too much trouble.  Speed was my friend in a baseball game.  The speed along with the bat set me slightly apart from others ensuring myself a spot on whatever team I was playing with, whether it be a pick up sandlot game or an organized game.

Thirdly and what stood out the most in my baseball abilities was that I was terrible with a glove.  It wasn't so much that I didn't know how to use a glove, as I stated earlier if I was focused I was a decent outfielder.  There's that infamous word that determines many a man's fate.  That little word "if".  "If" I was focused, I would know when the batter hit the ball and would be able to track it.  Trouble was, I found it extremely difficult to stay focused while in the outfield.  The speed at which the game is played in the outfield is much slower than the speed of the game closer to the bat.  There would not be enough balls hit to where I was positioned to warrant me not checking out the nature of the outfield.  There were strange weeds and grasses out there that needed to be checked out.  I would run out to my position and manage to stay focused through maybe five or six pitches before my eye began to wander.  There were times when  I would hear the crack of the bat followed by a shouting of my name indicating the ball was headed my direction.   There was not time enough for me to scan the skies to see where the ball was so the safest thing to do was cover my head with my glove and fall to my knees.  This happened plenty of times and so I frequently found myself stuck off into left field where my distractions would be less costly to the team.

What about playing in the infield you might ask.  Frankly I was scared to death of fast moving baseballs either on the ground heading to my ankles or line drives heading to my chest.  You would find me waving my glove in the general direction of the ball while my body was heading in a complete opposite direction.  Everyone from my dad to the coach would try to explain to me to put my body in front of the ball.  Block the ball with your body they would say.  If it misses your well protected gloved hand, it would easily be stopped by your unprotected chest or thighs or knees.  They didn't understand that personally, I don't like pain.  I certainly am no fan of inviting such pain as a baseball moving fifty miles an hour and hitting me in the chest would cause.

The only defensive position I felt comfortable at was that of pitcher.  As a pitcher you are watching the ball all the way to the plate so you know exactly when it is hit and in what direction giving you plenty of time to get out of the way.  The problem was that I was a decent pitcher but not a good one.  They used me on the mound when it was needed and they put me in the outfield in order to take advantage of my hitting skills.  As earlier stated, they put me where I would do the less harm.

Then came a day that would stay in everyone's memory for a long time.  I was playing an organized game with older boys on Jay Allard's traveling team.  He occasionally took me with him on these games so he would have the required nine players to field a team and since my bat wasn't too bad, he figured the older outfielders would make up for any damage I may inflict upon the team.

It was a bright Saturday morning the day we played the game and I had been caught checking out the clover in left field more than a few times.  It was not uncommon to hear my name yelled two or three times an inning to keep me somewhat attached to the game.  It was about midway through the game I suppose when I heard from my station in left field a loud crack of the bat.  It was a line drive and it was speeding like a missile right towards me.  I heard Jay and Dad and just about everyone else on or off the field holler out my name.  I saw the ball coming and it was very clear to me that I was not afforded the time to hit the ground or run away.  This ball was going to get me.  As I braced my body for the pain that would surely ensue, I clenched my eyes shut and stuck my glove up in the air.  This was a futile attempt to show them at least I tried to catch the rocket heading toward me.  I stood there waiting for impact when all of a sudden I felt a tug on my left hand where my glove was.  It was silent for second then I heard applause and cheering and my name was being called for making such a great catch.

It took a moment for it to soak in but when I opened my eyes and looked in the glove, there was a baseball.  It was the catch of my life.  I was cheered when I went into the dugout area.  They patted me on the back and congratulated me.  Jay said something about it was a good thing my eyes were closed so I didn't know which way to run.  It was a moment that would stay with me to this day.

That night as I lay trying to drift off to sleep I envisioned Willie Mays making "The Catch" in the World Series.  I put myself in Willie's place.  A great outfielder with astounding speed making a game saving catch and throwing it back into the second baseman.  The only difference was that Willie was running with his back to the ball while I was standing the still.  Willie raised his glove up and watched the ball sail over his head and into the mitt.  My eyes were closed as tight as I could get them and I didn't know the ball was in my glove until I felt that tug on my hand and built up the courage to actually look into the glove for the baseball.  I also did not immediately  throw the ball hard to the shortstop to stop any more advancement of runners.  Thankfully my catch was the third out so there would be no advancing runners.

It may have not been a catch on the level of Willie Mays to other people but it was to me and somewhere deep inside me, I felt that if Willie was there and saw the catch, he would have been proud of me and patting e on the back along with everyone else.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Flowers Are Red - Harry Chapin

Flowers are Red
by Harry Chapin
 
The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw

And the teacher said.. What you doin' young man
I'm paintin' flowers he said
She said... It's not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red

There's a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You've got to show concern for everyone else
For you're not the only one

And she said...
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said...
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Well the teacher said.. You're sassy
There's ways that things should be
And you'll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me.....

And she said...
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said...
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It's for your own good..
And you won't come out 'til you get it right
And are responding like you should

Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found

The teacher there was smilin'
She said...Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let's use every one

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.

Flowers Are Red Video

Sunday, December 26, 2010

THE ENDANGERED ORNAMENTS

Elaine and I had left Seattle and had spent a day driving down the beautiful Oregon coast.  The day of driving had started with a look back at Washington from a high hill on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  From that hill we could spot Mount St. Helen's and the rest of that string of peaks that shoot up in western Washington state.

The drive down the Oregon coast had take about twice as long as an ordinary drive of that length would take.  We found ourselves stopping at almost every scenic viewpoint to look out over the Pacific from some of the most marvelous coastline I had ever seen.  The Oregon coast will silence the most critical of people with it's beauty.  Finally at dusk we had arrived at our destination of Crescent City, California.  It was a tiny town just over the state line from Oregon.

As far as we could tell the town had a Denny's, a Motel 8, and various other little shops.  We went over to the Denny's to get some breakfast then back to our room to get some much needed rest before tomorrow's scheduled trip to San Fransisco.  On the television in the room they were showing footage of the Crescent City Fourth of July Parade.  It seemed it was the only thing we could get on the set.  There were pick up trucks with signs bearing the sponsors name on the side.  "HAL'S HARDWARE", "JOE AND LOUISE'S  CAFE" and numerous other local advertisements in cars or trucks that transported various important individuals that resided in the small town. I am sure we saw the mayor and most of the city aldermen that night before we drifted off to sleep.

The next morning found the weather to be quite eerie.  There was a thick fog hanging over the town and the moisture in the air dampened everything that was out in it.  We loaded up the car and began an early morning trek into the famed Redwood Forest.  The fog was so thick we contemplated whether to go ahead or wait it out.  Thanks to me we went ahead and headed out into the cloud and into the forest.

The redwood forest was silent that early in the morning.  It seemed like Elaine and I were the only two there.  We saw no one else as we crept through the curves of the road that took you around the giant trees.  We stopped and walked off into the woods along a path to see one of the oldest trees in the forest.  The tree's diameter was tremendous and we took each others picture in front of it.

As the morning went along the traffic on the road began to pick up.  Among the traffic we started seeing were logging trucks.  Elaine watched the trucks pass us or looked at them as we passed them.  These trucks were carrying redwood trees.  some of the trees were so large only one was loaded in a truck.  At most we saw four redwoods on one logging truck.  Elaine must have watched each one of the go past her window.  her thoughts must have been growing every time she saw one of these trucks hauling what now had grown to precious redwoods in her mind.

She then began vocalizing her concerns to me.  These redwoods were so special, how could they log them, it made no sense to her.  The Redwood Forest had become a haven for an endangered species of tree.  They should not be allowed to harvest these great giants of the American west.  They should be protected.  I reminded her that lots of things are made from redwood, that it is a useful commodity but she would have none of it.  How profitable could it be when they can only it one tree on a truck at a time?  It made no sense to her what so ever and I swore she was ready to start a Save the Redwoods organization before we left California.

I have to admit it was a wonderful drive through that forest.  We stopped and drove our rental car through the middle of one of the trees.  Each time we would stop and look at these giants, you couldn't help but to be awed and overwhelmed but not only the size, but the beauty of it all.

We finally stopped at a little souvenir house as we neared the end of the forest.  As I was looking through t shirts and things of that sort to bring home as a souvenir to my wife and sun , something else caught Ealeine's eye.

Elaine saw the most beautiful Christmas ornaments and I don't use sarcasm when saying that.  They were beautiful.  Each Christmas ornament depicted a scene of Christmas on it.  They were handmade so each one was a little different.  Elaine excitedly showed them to me.  She was going to get ornaments for mom and dad, among other relatives.  She was totally in love with these ornament.

When I pointed out the fact that these wonderful ornaments were hand carved form her precious redwood trees that she had preached protection for during the last five hours or so, she just shot me a cold glance.

Maybe so, maybe they were made from redwood trees.  It didn't change her mind.  She still felt the harvesting of redwoods should be slowed down if not stopped completely.  She still believed in the cause.  It was too late for the tree that spawned these ornaments however.  The tree was gone, already harvested and cut up and eventually carved into Christmas decorations.  There was no sense in letting this tree just go to waste by not purchasing these ornaments that came from the murdered redwood.  At the least it would give the redwood in question a meaning to its life.

And so in honor of the tree that was no more, in order to keep the said tree's legacy alive, as a way to make the tree's death not be in vain, Elaine purchased a lot of ornaments from that tree that day.

It was her own way of protesting the harvest of the Giant Redwoods, and I couldn't and still can't find a suitable argument against that logic.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

THE DAY OF THE SCHOOL WALKOUT

The new high school in the district had opened up two years before to accommodate the growing student population.  It presented itself immediately with something we had not had before.  We now had a true rival.  It wasn't just a rival based on the athletic teams of each school but on anything involving the two schools.

The old school where I attended did not have air conditioning.  The new school did.  They had a nice big gymnasium with a new state of the art basketball floor while we had a tiny gym with an old wooden court that had loose boards and creaked every time you walked across it.  They had a nice new theatre while we had to stage our plays and musicals in our tiny gym.  The new school had wide hallways and new desks while we were stuck fighting our way to class through crowded little hallways to sit at desk that "Tony from the Class of '66" had used long ago.  The district had decided not to build a track and stadium at the new school thinking that the stadium and track could hold the requirements of both schools.  They were using our stadium and our track for their activities.  This was considered to be not cool to those of us still attending the old school.

Of course we had a lot of things that they did not have.  We had a history that was documented in our library and our trophy case.  There were several wood trophies in the shape of the state of Missouri indicating a state championship in some particular event.  They did not have any trophies of any kind.  We had traditions and standard cheers for our school that they had not developed yet.  We had a pool hall and a small shopping center across the street while the new school some sitting in an old farm field hidden away from any kind of civilization  In other words, we had someplace we could go to when we skipped school.  They had a large parking lot with plenty of spaces for the students while we packed our cars into a tiny fenced in lot where you were guaranteed two or three dings in the course of a year.

It was towards the end of the school year and most of the students were anxious for the year to be over.  We were attending and going through the motions of getting an education.  Most of the teachers wanted to be there as much as the students did.  It had been a hot and muggy spring so far and no matter how many windows you opened you were still going to be miserable.  It was like this almost every spring it seemed like.  Counting down the days until you could stay at home and relax staying cool with a sprinkler or a swimming pool and doing what you wanted to do instead of what the teachers said you had to do.

Then a rumor started making its way through the classrooms and hallways of the old school.  It was having a different effect on different people but the most common response was not one of joy when hearing the rumor.  If the rumor was true and if what the rumor said would happen did indeed happen it was not going to be pretty.

Apparently the new school's air conditioning had broke down.  The new school was too hot to kip the students in.  The district decided to dismiss the students of the new school early because it was just too blasted hot of an environment for them to learn in.  As we sat in our classrooms wiping the sweat from our foreheads it naturally occurred to us how unfair this development was.  We had been coming to school everyday knowing it was going to be hot and that we were going to be miserable while they went to school everyday with nice cool rooms to look forward to.  The rumor further suggested that when the students at the new school were released from their prison, they were going to come over to our prison and chide us for having to stay in class all day while they played.

Plans began to be made.  I am not sure if anyone knows who hatched the plan but before long it had spread through the school that if they came over to tease us we would promptly walk out and take care of them on our way home from the hot nasty building.  Half a day for them would mean a half a day for us and we would make sure that it was fulfilled.

Eventually news of the plan made it to someone on staff at the old school.  Teachers began to warn us that a walk out would not be tolerated, that we would all be suspended, the usual threats that teachers pull out when they don't know how to handle a situation.  I don't recall anyone voicing the opinion that maybe we should think this over because of the threats from the teachers.  They couldn't suspend all of us and we knew it.  The walk out was on.  The teaching the students from the new school a lesson of our own was still on and going home for the rest of the day was certainly still on.

They arrived at about one o'clock that afternoon.  Some of them had the nerve to wear their orange colors onto our turf.  You could hear the taunting coming from the open windows about how they sure were hoping we were enjoying our day in school and that they hoped we weren't too hot being stuck inside our little old prison.  I looked around and saw other students looking around at each other.  Messages were trying to be sent by way of eye contact.  Are you going to go?  are we going to do it?  You could feel the tension as everyone waited for that first student to stand up and walk toward the classroom door.  Nobody moved as the teacher went over to close some of the windows as if that was going to make us want to stay in this oven.

It wasn't long before the school administrators came out to chase the orange clad demons away.  It wasn't that difficult to do.  They had their fun and were more than glad to go get a burger or go home to a cool house.   Then I looked out the window.  I saw some bodies walking away from the school.  Bodies that I recognized  First I saw Howard, a senior that I had made friends with during algebra classes.  Howard wasn't keen on learning or being in school so it was no surprise that he was taking this opportunity.  Then I saw Kenny and Doug.  Soon their were several bodies from our school walking away from it.

Then it finally happened in my room.  Kevin stood up and looked around the classroom for a second before walking determinedly to the door and out.  Soon others followed and when the classroom was half emptied, I decided to do my part in this rebellion.  I stood and walked out in the hallway.  There were several other students making their way down the hall and out the side doors into the sunlight and followed.  It was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up.  We had all seen the protest of students on the television news and we felt like we were a part of something larger.

As I stepped out into the hot sunshine I glanced around.  The administrators were out taking down names of students who were leaving.  They new most of them by sight because for the most part, the students that were walking out had previously had some interaction in the principal's office.  As I watched I noticed they were being given one last chance.  Either they write your name down as you continue to walk away or you could go back in the building and nothing would be said about your transgression.  I stood there at the door for a few minutes watching as my fellow students made their decision.  Most were heading back into the building.  As one of them walked past me back into school, I turned and followed.

The great walkout was over.  It had lasted maybe ten minutes possibly a little longer, but it had happened.  Yes we had certainly showed them this time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bill Hicks - Quote 3

"Oswald couldn't have done it from that window...... unless some pigeons came by and picked him up by his feet and flew him over the motorcade... you know, there were reports of anti-Castro pigeons in a bar the night before the assassination and someone overheard them saying 'coo... coo....'"

-Bill Hicks-

Monday, December 20, 2010

HUSBAND AND WIFE - 57 YEARS

The husband and wife were married fifty seven years ago this very day.  The first 5 years had been total bliss.  The love was real and there was never a doubt in either ones mind that their love would last forever.  They met life together as it placed challenges before them.  They were able to talk, to discuss and to come to an agreement on issues that would have caused a rift between other couples.  They had their first child towards the end of the first five years and the child had pulled them even closer together, something they did not think was possible to do.

The second five years of the marriage saw two more children join the family making them five.  As responsibilities began to grow and the children began to acquire a social life in the form of sports and dance and other such activities, the husband and wife found themselves spending less time together. Where there use to be no space between them a chasm was slowly eroding away.  They found themselves having to divide up who would see which child's activity when the schedules clashed.  They began to realize that the time spent together was slowly becoming less and less.  They held on to their intimacy but only by a thread as the challenges of raising the children began to replace the challenges of the marriage.  Each of them began to accept the fact that less time together was going to be the norm for awhile.  They were still able to share events that had happened at the end of each day and that was keeping them within talking distance and keeping the marriage together.

The final and last child arrived early in the next ten years.  The children were growing up quickly and it was difficult to keep up with the challenges of the older ones along with the different challenges that the younger ones brought.  During this time the oldest began to drive and time that use to be reserved for the husband and wife to relax together was turned into time that the husband or wife would worry about where the eldest was and if he was safe.  The younger three children kept the husband and wife running in different directions as the responsibility of raising them continued.  Decisions concerning the children as well as the family at large began to be made without consultation of one or the other.  Many times this led to a friction between the husband and the wife that had never been there before.  The budget of the family began to tighten as the husband and the wife continued to fulfill the requirements of raising the children.The children continued to grow older and the necessities changed.  As the second decade of marriage came to a close, the husband and wife found that the communication they once cherished so dearly had slowly slipped to an occasional evening when they could catch up with each others lives.  The time spent quietly alone together had slowly been whittled down to almost nothing.

The third decade completed the migration from being inseparable to never seeing each other.  The children were racing through high school and heading off to college.  This required money and so the wife had taken a job full time to help the children fulfill their individual dreams.  The third child was not going to college, preferring instead to spend his days with friends who supplied him with drugs and alcohol.  While the husband and wife were proud of the other three children and their accomplishments, the third child took up the majority of their time.  Time after time they found themselves trying to keep this child out of trouble, out of the police station and out of court and jail.  When the first child began a marriage himself, the husband and wife found themselves tracking down the third child instead of rejoicing at the first child's wedding.   The only time the husband and wife had to discuss and talk were times spent on what to do with the third child.  Meanwhile the second child graduated from college as the last child began.  The wife continued to work to help build something for retirement but she soon found herself hiding away a portion of her money in another account just for herself, just in case it would be needed.  As the third decade came to a close, both the husband and the wife were thinking about going their separate ways, but neither one told the other.

Grandchildren began to join the family as the fourth decade began.  The two oldest children had graduated college and found themselves mates and entered into marriages of their own.  The third child had finally broke his addictions and was in the business of helping others with their addictions.  The fourth child was in the process of finishing college and had no plans to marry.  He had stated strongly that he wanted to spend some time on his own and experience life in a different way then marriage.  The husband and wife could count on at least one grandchild a year for the first five years of the fourth decade.  They were so proud of each of the four children and they tried to let each of them know that they were.  The wife eventually quit her job and slipped into an early retirement as the husband continued his life's work.  The wife began to enjoy her time alone and her freedom as she spent each day the way she wanted to spend it.  A lot of her time was spent with the grandchildren of course, but she had also made new friends while working and enjoyed spending time out with them.  Most of these times with her friends were during the day but occasionally she spent time with them during the evening hours leaving the husband at home alone.  The husband did not have as much time to spend with the grandchildren as the wife had so the grandchildren were not as close to him.  He began to feel left out and alone much of the time.

As the fourth decade came to a close, the husband retired and so was home most of the time.  The husband and wife slowly came to the realization that they didn't know each other very well and that there was very little substance in the marriage to hold it together.  They finally began to talk about going it alone, each on a separate path.

It was on their fiftieth wedding anniversary that the love that had slowly slipped away blossomed once again.  The children had thrown a big party for them that day.  Everyone who came told them what an inspiration they were to keep a marriage together for so long.  That night, after everyone had left and things had quieted down, the husband and wife sat and talked to each other.  They poured their hearts out to each other that night, talking abut past years and how they had drifted apart.  They found the friendship that was so crucial over the years.  That night they found themselves feeling what they had felt fifty years before and for the first time in a long time they fell asleep in each others arms.

That was seven years ago.  Their love had continued to grow until neither knew what they would do without the other.  Everything had seemed perfect to the husband.  Then one day she left him.  Without warning she had just left.  He thought over what he could have done to keep her from leaving but he came up with no answers.  Now on this cool crisp sunny fall morning, he gazed down at the stone with her name engraved in it.  His best friend was gone and he felt more lonely than ever before.  He wanted to find another best friend, someone to share the rest of his life with but he wasn't sure if she would approve.  He asked the stone what he should do.  A breeze came drifting through and lightly touched him on the shoulder.  He felt he could hear a faint whisper saying it was okay.  He needed a new best friend, a new partner to share days with.  He smiled down at the stone and blew it a kiss.

After taking another look at the stone he felt the breeze hit him again.  It was as if the breeze was pushing him to go begin his search.  He told the stone that no matter if he did find a new best friend or not, the new friend would never replace the wife that he had loved so dearly.

He turned and lookout over the city.  The husband took a deep breath and walked over to his car.  He then began to drive to the dog shelter where he was sure he would find a new best friend.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

John Wooden Quote

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. 
 
-John Wooden-

Friday, December 17, 2010

HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO GETTING IN DEEP

When we were growing up, my Aunt Sue and I were best friends.  There was only two month's difference in our ages so there was a lot of growing up together to be done.  We both had a great sense of humor and both of us were fairly witty.  We had caused our mother's great anxiety while we were growing up but none compared to the day my mom, Sue's sister, made a fatal mistake.

We were in our mid-teens at the time and were having a pretty good day.  It was a summer day and it was hot and humid outside. Vacation Bible School was being held and we had spent the morning there.  Vacation Bible School in those days were held each morning for about four hours and lasted two weeks.  That is quite different from the two hours each evening for a week that Vacation Bible School lasts now.  It was a difficult four hours.  Everyday during the summer for two whole weeks we had to be on our best behavior.  This was during the summer when we were out of school.  It wasn't called "Vacation" for nothing.  We were supposed to be out enjoying our summer days, investigating nature, teaching ourselves about the world and life around us on our own.  This time from school certainly wasn't meant for reading, singing and doing crafts for half a day each day for two weeks.  That can be wearing on a teenager.

The day in question was a hot one as I said earlier.  Hot days seem to bring out different aspects of some people's personalities.  Apparently that is what happened to my mother on the day in question.  We were in the car on our way home from VBS as we called it.  Sue and I had ridden with mom plenty of times before so I was surprised when she told us to sit still and calm down.  I am sure she knew that the standard procedure for Sue and I was to enjoy these trips with mom as much as possible so we were starting to pick at each other, poke and tickle and things of that sort.  It was a fun ride up until the time when mom made a threat.  We were either to stop and settle down or get out of the car and walk home.

We had heard this sort of threat dozens of times from both of our moms but nothing had ever come of it.  We tried, we really did.  We sat still as long as we could until what seemed like an invisible force would grab my arm and start poking at Sue or vice versa.  There wasn't much we could do about it but mom did not buy it.  Again the threat came out perhaps a little sterner this time and again we tried our best to do as she requested.  Summer for a teenager is definitely not meant for sitting still and settling down, especially since we had just finished with four hours of sitting and settling down.

It was on highway fifty when she finally cracked.  The car pulled over to the side of the road and came to a stop.  We were ordered to get out and walk home.  We sat there and stared at her as if to say "really?"  The answer was quite definite.  We were to get out NOW and walk home.  So we slowly opened the door and stepped out into the heat of the two lane highway in mid town Kansas City.  Not exactly the safest place to be walking but we were willing to accept the fate that had been brought down upon our heads.  We stood and watched as the car we had been in pulled back onto the highway and began to grow small in the distance.

After the car was out of sight, we turned and began walking.  We knew of a little used road about a mile ahead that would cut hours of time off of the walking so we both figured that would be our destination.  Suddenly that invisible force grabbed a hold of us again and we found ourselves walking backwards with our thumbs stuck out.  It was not more than two minutes before this big tractor trailer truck pulled over to offer a ride.  Of course we would take a ride.  We had to only get to the shortcut and that was less than a mile.  Still more time was being shaved off of the walk home.

When the truck stopped at the road that was to be the shortcut, we thanked the driver.  He told us to be careful heading home and if his mom had left him along side a highway to walk, the police would be coming after her for abuse of some kind.  We explained that she wasn't normally like this, she was just having a bad day that was explained by the heat.

The shortcut road was a little narrow, pothole filled road that would barely hold one car.  It was seldom used because a lot of people didn't know about it and those that did did not want to ruin the suspension in their cars.  The road was an extremely steep hill that climbed from the highway almost straight into the air.  There was all kinds of discarded items along the side of it and so we began to scavenge a little bit.  The find of the day was an old Missouri license plat that was from the year 1956.  The year we were born.  We snagged the license plate and continued up the hill.

The hill came out of the woods into a nice residential area about a mile from Sue's house.  From here was was an easy walk on home and so we began to head down Jackson Ave walking by the school that my mother had gone to as a child.  Finally we arrived at the street that we knew so well and began that final leg home.  What awaited us would be a total shock to both of us.

As we walked up the front walk to the house, both my grandmother and my mother came running out, throwing the screen door open as if a hurricane was going on inside the house.  Immediately we were assaulted by loud shouts questioning where we had been.  The second the word "hitchhike" came out of Sue's mouth a whole new barrage of outrage came flying over our heads.  The truck driver was very nice we said and explained how we had walked up the shortcut road after the truck driver had dropped us off.

The question again came out, what were you doing and thinking?  Well, we were doing what we were told, that was walking home from where my mother had dropped us off.  We were being GOOD.  That line did not go over very well.

Apparently we had misunderstood the instructions given us.  While we thought we had heard "Get out of the car and walk home" apparently what was actually said was "Get out of the car, stand by the side of the road while I drive off to the next exit and turn around and come back to pick you up after you had learned your lesson about being over active in the car."  Personally, I do not see how both me and Sue could make that big of a mistake in listening to instructions.  I suppose something happens to you after spending a whole school year listening to instructions from a trained teacher, and then being thrown into the world to try to figure out instructions from those not trained to teach for a living.  I am not sure, but one thing is apparent, we certainly got the instructions turned around on that day.

From then on, I think both grandma and mom were slightly more careful in their threats to us because we had shown that we do take their threats seriously and being willing to take those threats seriously was something to be respected.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Keep Me In Your Heart - Warren Zevon

After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002, Warren Zevon began work on his last album entitled "The Wind".  The album is a reflective look back by Zevon on life and how he dealt with it.
Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003.  This song was the last one on "The Wind".

I encourage the reader to follow the link at the bottom of this post to the youtube video of this song.

Keep Me In Your Heart by Warren Zevon

Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile
If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for awhile
There's a train leaving nightly called "when all is said and done"
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for awhile
Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

Engine driver's headed north to Pleasant Stream
Keep me in your heart for awhile
These wheels keep turning but they're running out of steam
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for awhile
Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep Me In Your Heart Video

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A TRIP TO THE BALLPARK WITH DAD

My dad is a true baseball fanatic.  He played baseball in some form or other through most of his life so far.  Kansas City use to be home of the Yankee's farm team and his mother would do laundry for some of the players coming up through the Yankee organization by way of Kansas City.  These players would help form dad's ability playing baseball by teaching him how to throw and catch.  Especially catch.  His top position was that of a catcher and he was one of the best short of the major leagues.  He had a love for baseball that I have never seen in anyone else my whole life.

Major league baseball entered the Kansas City market when the Athletics moved to town. It became a normal family outing to go down to the old Municipal Stadium in Kansas City to see the A's play ball.  During this period of my life, thanks to my dad, I saw some of the greatest players who ever played ball.  I saw Brooks and Frank Robinson, Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Norm Cash, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and many other future hall of famers play while at their peaks.  It is a gift my dad gave me that I can never repay.


Dad had rules about attending a baseball game.  The first rule was that you arrive at the game in time to see batting practice.  For those of you who have never seen batting practice, it involves getting to the stadium about two hours before game time.  Once you are there you sit and watch a pitching coach throw up pitches that a decent high school player could knock out of the stadium.  While one team is in the cage batting, the other team is stretching out in the outfield.  Then after about forty five minutes the other team takes batting practice while the first team goes out and loosens up.  Makes for an hour and a half of riveting entertainment.


The second rule was that you only get one drink per game.  He would take bags of peanuts for us to eat and buy the drinks there, but if you spilled it before the game was over you were out of luck.  You either quit eating the salted peanuts to keep yourself from dying of thirst or you continued to choke them down to keep yourself from dying of hunger.  Either way it was a good incentive not to spill your drink.


Rule number three was that you never get out of your seat once the game begins and you stay seated until the last out of the last inning.  This helped us learn the ever important art of bathroom planning.  You had to time a trip to the restroom just right so you would be in your seat before the first pitch and would be able to last until the ninth inning.  If a game went into extra innings, you had better have good bladder control.


Number four on the list was that you kept score.  You would not be able to appreciate the game or understand it unless you kept score.  I actually agree with this rule and continue to keep score to this day.  It keeps your mind off of going to the restroom because you must pay attention to the game to score it correctly.  It was a means to help you stay in your seat basically.


Rule number five was not always kept but for the most part if there was a double header, you go to both games.  In the case of a double header you arrive early for batting practice and stay until the last out of the second game.  This could lead up to about eight hours being spent at the stadium with only that one break between games to make a dash to the restroom and get a second drink.  The double header days was a marathon of baseball that stressed you badly if you hadn't slept well the night before.


Rule number six goes back to pre-game activity.  Never park in the parking lot.  You can save fifty cents by parking in someone's front yard five or six blocks away from the stadium.  This gets your muscles ready for the long ordeal ahead of you by getting any kinks that may have set in your muscles worked out.


Finally the seventh rule.  This is a basic simple rule.  In the old stadium there were support beams that went from the lower level to the upper level and on up to the overhang at the top of the stadium.  It always blocked your view of  part of the field, but there was always one seat that did not get to see more of the field than the other seats.  Elaine was to sit in that seat.  It was hers no questions asked.  She would spend hours sitting behind a pole not being able to see half the ballgame.  According to dad the reason for this rule was very simple.  Elaine never paid attention to the game anyway so as her reward, she stared at a pole for the length of a game.


Once you understood the rules and were able to work around them, you were able to enjoy baseball at it's worst.  The Kansas City A's were horrible even though they had some decent players.  Probably the best known player on those teams was the short stop Bert "Campy" Campenaris.  He partnered with Dick Green at second base to make up about the only decent part of the team.  They were able to turn double plays pretty good.


The best game dad ever took us to though was one hot summer night in 1965 when the great Satchel Paige made his final pitching appearance.  It was a historical night as Paige, at the age of sixty, threw three scoreless innings of ball.  It was a piece of history that our whole family was able to see and to appreciate.  A clip of that game was included in Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary.  Everyone in our family got to see that lanky figure and that long windup that befuddled batters for decades.  Well, everyone got to see him but my sister Elaine, who was sitting behind a pole that night.

Thank you for that special night dad, as well as all the other games you shared with us.

Friday, December 10, 2010

George Carlin - Quote 9

When Someone asks me how I am, I try to make my answer as specific as possible.  I'm not the type to toss off a casual, "I'm fine."  I take care to express my exact condition.  And thanks to my creative flair, I can choose from a number of options:

If I'm in a self-protective mood, a simple "guardedly well" often does the job.  I find also "tentatively keen" doesn't give too much away.  Of course, if there is the least bit of doubt, I simply rely on my old standby, the ever cautious, "I'm fairly well, comparatively speaking."  That works nicely, especially if I feel I genuinely have something to hide.

WRESTLING NIGHT

There was a time when the company I work for was separated into several different buildings.  Most of the buildings that housed the company were in an industrial park in Kansas City, Missouri.  The building where I worked in those early days was across the river in Downtown Kansas City, Kansas.  The drive was a pain, particularly in the winter, but the location had several positives that we enjoyed while working over there.

Among those positives was that we were far far away from the executives of the company giving us freedom that no workplace should ever have at its disposal.  There was a bar right across the street which several of my fellow workers would go to for lunch not be seen again until the next working day.  The famed strip clubs of Kansas City, Kansas were about a mile from the office and where some of our customers were taken if they so desired and be able to have the company pay for it under "entertainment".  The eateries in that part of town were mostly little mom and pop restaurants where the food was as if your grandmother had cooked it up just for you.  Then there was Memorial Hall.

Memorial Hall was built after one of the World Wars.  It was a majestic looking building and when you walked into the lobby you would find murals on the walls depicting different wars that had taken place and memorializing those who gave their lives for our country and our freedoms.  Once you got through the lobby though, the only history being honored was the history being made.

There were about three thousand seats in the little arena that surround an area about half the size of a basketball court with a stage on one end.  On this stage concerts were held almost non-stop through the years.  I have been to many of those concerts over the years seeing such great artists as Rick Wakeman, Charlie Daniels, Three Dog Night and many others.  As a matter of fact, there was only one time I went to Memorial Hall not to see a concert.  That was the night we went to the professional wrestling matches.

Memorial Hall was home to pro wrestling on Thursday nights.  The following Saturday you could catch the previous Thursday's matches on a local television station.  One of those Thursday nights, me and some of my fellow workers decided to attend the matches.  It would be a night that we all could look back on with laughter and good memories.

There was a wrestler that went by the name of Bulldog Bob Brown.  Bulldog was a short stocky man who sported a flat top haircut atop his head and had a nose about as crooked as an old trolls cane.  The bonus of bulldog was that he looked almost exactly like a coworker named Leo.  We decided to go see Bulldog Leo wrestle just for the fun of it.

We went to a bar for dinner and drinks before the wrestling match so a couple of the guys were pretty loosened up by the time we made our way over to Memorial Hall.  Kevan, our boss, was particularly loose after downing a few beers and he was ready and excited as we bought our tickets to gain entrance to the matches.  Once inside it was clear that it was a Mecca for people watching.  There were people from every walk of life and every economic class there.  There were rednecks and businessmen.  There were old codgers and young grass smokers.  Virtually every walk of life was represented and some of the looser members of our party did not fail to point out some of the stranger looking members of the crowd.  A couple of us tried to keep them as quiet as possible while they were doing their people watching as to save us all from getting into a situation that we had come to witness, not take part in.

We yelled and screamed and cheered through the matches until finally Bulldog stepped into the ring.  As he did so, all of us stood up and cupped our hands around our moths and let out a big "LEEEEEEEEE-OH!!!" and continued to do so during the course of the match which ended with a Bulldog victory much to our pleasure.

After the Bulldog match Kevan and I took a trip to the restroom where we found filled with drunken fans just as drunk as Kevan was.  As Kevan was leaving the restroom, he reached over and turned out the lights which resulted in a lot of cursing and death threats, which I took seriously but Kevan found amazingly humorous.

We went back into the small arena for the last match and Kevan started making fun of how fake the wrestling was looking.  When a wrestler was slammed down he would shout "Oh!!! that looked like it hurt!" and other outbursts that generally was starting to irritate the crowd around us for Kevan was by making fun of the wrestlers, also making fun of the fans gathered to watch the spectacle.  Finally after one of Kevan's exclamations on how bad that must have hurt, this little seven year old girl turned and looked at him very seriously and said "It does.  It does hurt them."  Kevan laughed a bit bit and ask her if she was sure and to no ones surprise, yes she was very sure.  Kevan quieted after that and we began to watch the little girl and her reactions to the final matches of the night.  She was in that ring with her heroes and Kevan had tried to make them look like fools.  To her, Kevan was the fool and she had made him feel like it.

It was the last wrestling night any of us had.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

DUFUS GOES BONKERS

Dufus was a fine looking proud little beagle whose master was my friend Gregg.  Dufus and Gregg were best friends and they use to do almost everything together.  One of the highlights of the year for them both was the watching of the Westminister Kennel Club Dog Show and so on a cold February night in 2008, they sat together on the couch to see which breed would win.

Most of the time the winning breed was either a terrier of some sort, a poodle, or some other fluff fluff dog as Dufus called them.  There was no reason why the year 2008 should be any different.  And it was in this mindset that Gregg and Dufus sat with their respective drinks and snacks at hand to watch the annual show.

The show progressed on as it did every year until something showed up on the screen that made Dufus sit up straight.  It was the most beautiful beagle he had ever seen.  He watched intently as the beagle on the television went through it's paces flawlessly.  The announcer said the beagles name was Uno.  Strange name for a beagle thought Dufus.  Not a regular beagle name for sure.  How could a dog with a name like Uno get this far into the competition?  There was only one answer and Dufus knew what that answer was.  This was absolutely the most perfect beagle he had ever seen.  Dufus made a decision that if this beagle did not win his division and have a chance at Best In Show, that he was going to calmly walk over to the television and hike his leg.  There was no other choice.  If this beagle did not make it to the finals, then the fix was definitely in.

Dufus watched closely as the judge walked up and down the line of dogs.  He noticed the judge stop and look closely at Uno before moving on.  After looking over all the dogs in the division one more time, the judge pointed at Uno.  Dufus jumped up and down.  This beautiful beagle was going to the finals.

Dufus and Gregg watched the rest of the divisions waiting for the final round.  The round that would name the dog Best In Show, the best dog at the whole Westminister Kennel Club dog show.  Dufus felt a stirring deep inside and he knew, he just was positive that tonight was the night a beagle would finally take home top prize.  He walked over and grabbed the package of Twizzlers that he had been saving for a special occasion.  If ever there was going to be a time to break out the Twizzlers, this was going to be it.

As the final round started, both Dufus and Gregg were rooting for the underdog Uno.  Both of them had a little knot in their stomachs but when Uno came out onto the floor from behind the curtain and Dufus saw how wonderfully built the beagle was, his nervousness left him.  There was no way that this beagle was not going to take home top prize.

The judging began.  When it came time for Uno to go through the required walk, he did it so smoothly you would have thought the dog was made out of cream.  Dufus slowly began to open the bag of Twizzlers.  Gregg tried to tell him it may be too early to be opening that stuff up because that miniature poodle looked pretty fine out there.  No way thought Dufus.  That poodle couldn't carry a bone next to Uno.  This whole thing was the perfect setup for a beagle to take home top honors.

Finally the judge began his final inspection of the dogs.  Dufus made note that the judge stopped twice at Uno and gave him a close looking over.  The tension was building inside of Dufus. to the point where he was almost whimpering with excitement.  The judge went over to fill in the book and bring out the Best In Show ribbon and trophy.  He walked up and down the line of hopefuls then stopped in front of Uno.  Dufus stared intently at the scene.  This was going to be a moment he would remember for all time.  As the judge finally awarded the top prize to the beagle, Dufus went bonkers.

He was up and dancing around in front of the television.  He opened up the Twizzlers and started to twirl them in his mouth while he did a moonwalk on all fours across the floor.  He did every dance he could think of and then started making up little cheers for Uno.  Dufus decided that from now on he would refer to Uno as Uno the Great.  He ran in circles and jumped up and down on Gregg.  Every time Gregg would try to get up, Dufus would jump on his lap and push him back down.  This was going to be a long celebration and Dufus was determined that Gregg would take part in it with him.

When it was all over and Gregg had gone to bed, Dufus sat on the couch with a stomach full of Twizzlers and water.  He had filled himself with enough partying to last until next New Years.  He sat and replayed the evening over and over in his mind.  What a great day for beagledom.  Finally the breed of beagle would be looked upon with awe and wonder.  He pictured himself walking around the back yard as all the neighborhood dogs looked at him with a new respect because he was a beagle after all and a beagle was the Best in Show at the biggest dog show of them all.

Finally Dufus drifted off to sleep but the celebration continued in his dreams, and he dreamed that if Uno could do it, than other beagles could as well.  Perhaps he himself would sire a young beagle that would go to New York and take top honors as Uno had.  Dufus would never forget that night or Uno.

The news on the following days was filled with news of Uno, the wonder beagle and Dufus felt like he had a new friend in Uno even if it was a fantasy long distance friend.

Dufus passed away earlier this year.  But even with his passing, Dufus gave Gregg as well as many other humans who knew him the pleasure of knowing that Dufus had been able to see a miracle before he died.

Rest in Peace Dufus.  You are of a champion breed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Help Me To Help Myself - John Lennon

Help Me To Help Myself - John Lennon 1980

Well I tried so hard to stay alive
But the angel of destruction keeps on hounding me all around
But I know in my heart that we never really parted
Oh no

They say the Lord helps those who help themselves
So I'm asking this question in the hope that you'll be kind
Cos I know deep inside I was never satisfied
Oh no, Lord help me
Lord help me now
Please help me Lord, yeah yeah yeah
Help me to help myself
Help me to help myself


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DABxb5d7cWQ

Cosell Breaking the News on MNF

“An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous, perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival

.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gcdz1IRVoM

Watching The Wheels - John Lennon

Watching the Wheels - John Lennon 1980

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I'm doing Fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball?

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there's no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind,
I tell them there's no hurry...
I'm just sitting here doing time,

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m8uoObnWQM

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John Lennon Quote

"I've always considered my work one piece and I consider that my work won't be finished until I am dead and buried and I hope that's a long, long time."

John Lennon December 8, 1980

MILHOUS AND THE MAILMAN

Milhous was the first pet I had in my life.  My wife got him for me shortly after we were married.  He was a big dog weighing in at about eighty pounds.  Part German Shepard and part Golden Retriever, he was beautiful.  He had that black snout of the German Shepard but the wonderful soft fur of the Golden.  His temperament was also a mixture.  He was extremely territorial yet very playful with the humans that resided with him in the house.  When we adopted our son, there was much concern over how safe he would be with Milhous.  We needn't worry.  Milhous accepted our son into the family just as everyone else did.

He was named after President Richard Milhous Nixon, starting a tradition that would see my next two dogs named after President Ford and President Reagan.  Milhous lived up to his name though.  He was very protective of his family and wouldn't take anything off of nobody.  He was also extremely bright and managed to escape from the back yard several times.

He was a fence climber.  That is, he would not jump over the fence but climb over it.  It wasn't a slow climb though, as he would be over the fence and off to the races before you knew what had happened.  He was a strong dog with a big barrel chest and the way he would look at a person  with those dark as night eyes of his was terrifying.

He had a special affection for the mailman that would deliver the mail at about ten in the morning everyday.  He stayed in the garage during the week while I was at work so that didn't pose a problem and on weekends I would put him in the garage when I saw someone traveling up or down the street.

It was a nice spring Saturday morning that Milhous and the mailman had their biggest confrontation in either of their lives.  I was out in the yard doing some work on the lawn when I saw the mailman strolling down from house to house on the opposite side of the street.  Soon afterwards came the deep menacing bark of Milhous as he also spotted the mailman making his way down the street.  I took a break from what I was doing and went to get Milhous and put him in the garage.  Milhous cooperated very well, walking slowly into the garage knowing that one of his main nemesis was going to be coming by soon.

I continued to work also being aware that the mail was on its way and soon I saw the mailman a few houses down from mine.  I quit work and stood on my front porch to take the mail when it got there.  The mailman walked up said a cheerful good morning greeting and handed me the mail.  He seemed like he was in a good mood since the weather was so nice.  I took the mail and stepped into the house to set it aside for perusing later in the day.

As I stood in the house thumbing through the mail to see if anything of importance had arrived I heard an extremely loud crash.  I rushed out the front door and saw the mailman standing down at the end of my driveway in the street.  His face was ashen and he had his hand on his pepper spray canister.  I looked over at my garage door and noticed one of the windows had been broken into a thousand pieces and glass was spread on top of my car and over the driveway.  It didn't take me long to put together what had happened.  The mailman had walked between my car and the garage door on his way to my neighbors house.  Being that close to the garage door, he had come into Milhous' sights as he passed in front of the window.  Milhous had taken off after his government enemy and and crashed into the window.  The sudden breakage of glass had caught the mailman by surprise and not being sure what was coming at him, he had high tailed it straight to the street.

I looked at the mailman and asked him if he was okay,  He assured me he was, that he was just a little shaken.  I apologized profusely and assured him this would not happen again.  He accepted the apology and slowly started back on his route with shaking legs underneath him.

I then went into the house and walked into the garage.  I looked around expecting to find Milhous over by the broken window expecting another shot at the mailman, but he wasn't there.  I found him cowering next to the back wall of the garage curled up in a ball in the corner.  He was shaking worse than the mailman had been.  It took me sometime to calm him down and to assure him it was okay to go outside once again.

The confrontation had effected the proud, strong dog more than it had the mailman.  While Milhous would continue barking at the mailman in the future, I don't think I ever saw him charge at the letter carrier again.  It was just too dangerous in his little dog mind.

Going Down Slow - Duane Allman

Written by St. Louis Jimmy Oden  I've had my fun
If I don't ever get well no more
I've had my fun
If I don't ever get well no more
I know my health is failin' me now
I know that I'm goin' down slow

Won't somebody write my mother
And tell her the shape I'm in
I want somebody to write my mother
Tell her the shape I'm in
I want you to tell her to pray for me
Ask her to forgive for all of my sins

Mother, please don't send me no doctor
A doctor can't do me no good
I don't want you to send my no doctor now
Doctor just can't do me no good
Back when I was a young boy, oh
I just didn't do anything I should
  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkFOBZRAbMU

Monday, December 6, 2010

Harry Truman Quote

I remember when I first came to Washington. For the first six months you wonder how the hell you ever got here. For the next six months you wonder how the hell the rest of them ever got here.

BRUSH CREEK

I am not sure how Brush Creek got it's name and to be honest, I really don't care.  Brush Creek use to be a tiny little creek that you could step over that ran through mid-town Kansas City.  Every once in a while in the old days it would flood but nothing too disastrous.   That is it was a fairly calm creek until Boss Tom Pendergast got a hold of it.

The Pendergast brothers, Tom and Jim, ran the city of Kansas City from the mid thirties to the late forties.  They decided who got elected to the city seats, including Mayor.  They would decide who were judges and who were Senators and Representatives from Kansas City.  Nothing happened in the city without Boss Tom's approval.  It was Tom Pendergast that gave the United States Harry Truman by appointing him a circuit judge followed by deciding that Truman would make a good Senator.  Truman eventually became President's Roosevelt's last vice-president and became President when Roosevelt died.

The Pendergast brothers owned several businesses including some bars over on twelfth street, some other stores here and there and they had a concrete plant.  They made their money the old fashioned way.  They stole it.  They extorted money from businesses around Kansas City offering protection and tax breaks and they delivered on everything they promised.

One year Boss Tom decided that the concrete business could use a little extra business, so he arranged to have Brush Creek paved.  It would be paved with concrete.  There would be a little concrete channel about three feet wide for the creek to run in and then there would be about 15 feet of concrete on either side of the channel.  The contract called for seven foot by ten foot slabs of concrete to be used to pave the creek all the way through the midtown area of the city.  When it was finally complete, the slabs of concrete were more like six foot by eight foot enabling the Pendergast concrete company to make a killing on the project.  The result of the paving was that there was no longer any ground for the creek to soak into when the heavy rains of spring came, thereby creating a nasty little flood plain that nature had not intended.

Bridges were built by the brothers over the creek for automobile and pedestrian traffic.  These bridges had arcs on the bottom side of them making a still smaller area for the newly flood conditioned Brush Creek to make it's way through.

Brush Creek quickly became one of Kansas City's landmarks.  It was rather a beautiful site, this concrete creek winding its way through the famed Plaza area of Kansas City.  It would be decades before the folly of the design of the creek was discovered though.  A heavy rain in 1977 ran the creek to its maximum capacity.  The concrete prevented the flood waters from soaking into the ground below it and the arched bridges prevent the water from flowing smoothly through the Plaza area.  The result was a massive flood that nearly brought the Plaza to its knees.  The area did recover from the flood and then began one of the nicest events the Creek had ever been used for.

The city decided to have a series of free concerts in Brush Creek during the summer months.  A stage would be set up in front of one of the bridges, straddling the tiny little creek that ran through this mass of concrete.  People would sit on the concrete around the creek and up on its grassy banks to watch great concerts from old groups for free.  These concerts were very relaxing and always politely attended by the citizens.  I personally saw Blood Sweat and Tears in the creek as well as Ramsey Lewis and Gap Mangione and many others.  The concerts soon became a summer tradition in Kansas City.

Then everything changed with another heavy rain in 1993 that again flooded the plaza and made the city fathers decide to undo Boss Tom's masterpiece.  It was a flood control plan and Brush Creek would be reinvented.  The creek was rebuilt using massive amounts of concrete with more water from the Blue River being diverted into it.  Brush Creek soon looked more like Brush River as the new construction began to come to a close.  There were places to walk next to the creek.  People were soon down on the banks of the new Brush Creek walking its concrete sidewalks, jogging and walking dogs there as well.  When the heavy rains come, there is plenty of room for the runnoff thereby protecting the plaza from any more flooding.

There are boats that run up and down the new Brush Creek giving people a different perspective of the Plaza.  Fountains shoot up from the middle of the creek in various places and the creek is lit at night making it a wonderful sight to behold for its citizens and visitors alike.  Brush Creek has come full circle.  The mistake that Boss Tom apparently made in his paving of Brush Creek was that he didn't use enough concrete, and didn't plan it big enough.


If it weren't for the Pendergast brothers though, Kansas City would not have this beautiful little controlled river running through the Plaza Midtown area of the city.

A few years ago my son was playing baseball in a small stadium about 5 miles from the Plaza area.  There, next to the stadium ran Brush Creek.  Old Brush Creek that is.  It was decaying from neglect but there was the little three foot channel in which the creek ran and the not so huge slabs of concrete that the Pendergast Concrete company had poured so many years ago.  So the Pendergast legacy lives on in small areas of the city.  The concerts are now held up on street level above Brush Creek as the tradition continues on.

Kansas City had an evil boss who ruined part of nature by paving a simple little creek and then The good city corrected that mistake by putting still more concrete in the creek.

From evil, often comes good.

Friday, December 3, 2010

THE DATSUN KEYS

The Nissan cars of today were called Datsuns once upon a time and they had some beautiful cars.  Among these cars was a "Z" series of cars.  There was a 240Z, a 260Z and a 280Z.  They were very slick sport cars with a long front end and barely a trunk in the rear.  They were considered one of the hottest cars of the eighties.

A fellow I worked with owned a 240Z and he drove it to work every day.  He also drove it the way a Z series car looked like it should be driven.  That is fast and hard.  His name was Mike and he was like the rest of us, in our twenties.  The company had been going through a very fast expansion and new people were being hired by the week.  I was one of the new people and while I had worked with Mike at a previous job for a very short time, I did not get to know his personality until we started at Dit-MCO together.

Mike was a gambler.  He would bet on almost anything.  Part of this gambling personality was also that of a risk taker, which explained the ownership of the 240Z and the way he drove it.  Mike was also an engineer and with being an engineer comes a fatal dose of curiosity that eventually bites all of us in the rear eventually.  Mike was about to get his engineer biting of the rear hard and painful.

Another of the engineers who worked there was a conservative young man named Richie.  Richie also had that curious streak but he kept his toned down by thinking out his curiosity before acting upon it.  Mike was quite the opposite thinking "what if?" and then finding out what if within minutes of thinking it.

One sunny Monday morning Richie pulled into work in a brand new 240Z.  He drove it into the parking lot like it was a baby taking its first steps.  He got out of the car and after knocking some dust off of it with his shirt sleeve calmly walked into the building.  One of the first people he met when arriving was Mike and Richie wasted no time bragging to Mike that he too had bought a 240Z over the weekend.

I was standing next to Mike and we decided to go out and look at the new Datsun.  Richie's Datsun was bright lime green while Mikes was a more subtle hue of blue.  We were looking at it and touching it as if it were gold.  Mike opened the front door and sat himself in the drivers seat when a "what if" moment hit him square in the middle of his forehead.

What if I put my keys in Richie's ignition?  Think it would start?" Mike asked almost too seriously for me to be comfortable with it.  I told Mike I didn't think that would a very good idea but Mike figured that his key wouldn't go into the ignition to begin with, so he dug into his pocket and pulled out the keys to his Datsun.

Mike aimed his key at the ignition and to the surprise of both of us, the key slid in so smooth it almost seemed like it was made for Richie's car.  We looked at each other and Mike started to wonder if it would start the new Datsun.  As was his habit, Mike stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth and tried to turn the key. It turned very slightly then stopped.  Mike shrugged his shoulders and realizing that his key would not start up Richie's car he began to pull the key out of the lock, or rather he tried to pull the key out of the lock.  The lock had a firm grasp on Mike's key was not going to let go of it.

Mike began to try everything he could think of to get the key out of the car and back in his pocket but nothing was working.  He went in and got some pliers to try to pull the key out with but the key refused to budge.  Now it was getting to be a serious situation.

After an hour of trying to get the key in a non-destructive manner, Mike decide the time for destruction had come.  He went into the shop and brought out a small tool box with various pliers and screw drivers and other tools and began to sort through the pile to pick the tool that would get the key out with the least destruction.

He tried tool after tool until it became painfully clear that something would have to be taken apart in order to retrieve the stubborn key.  Mike began to disassemble the steering column of the car piece by piece.  Each time a piece of the car would come off, Mike would give the key a tug and each time he tugged at the key, it refused to budge.

Soon the dashboard of the car was beginning to come off and out into the parking lot and the key still sat in it's position like Mallory's Sword in the Stone, only Mike was obviously not a King Arthur.  Parts continued to be pulled from the car over the next few hours and soon, most of the driving cabin of Ritchie's brand new 240Z were carefully arranged in the parking lot next to the car.  It was a horrid sight, one that I did not care to see too much of but I kept going out about every thirty minutes to witness the carnage and see how much deeper Mike had dug into the car.

Time eventually slipped by Mike and lunch time arrived.  I was outside watching Mike give yet another tug on the key when Richie walked out and turned the corner and stopped dead in his tracks.  Half of his car was out in the parking lot and Mike was in the process of taking another part out.

Richie did not say a word but Mike immediately jumped out of the car and walked over to Richie and tried to logically explain why this new car was spread all over the parking lot.  Logically is the key word there for there is no logical reason at all for what had happened except that Mike was curious and had acted upon it.

I stood there looking at Richie as he was frozen in place, his mind working frantically to figure out what exactly he was seeing.  I was prepared for almost anything.  A nervous laugh followed by a terse fix was not out of the question, nor out of the question was an explosion that would send Richie into Mike with fists flying and curse words flowing like a mountain stream for all the industrial park to hear.  But Richie just stood there.  He was frozen and silent as he continued to gaze with glassy eyes at the various parts of his car spread around it.

Richie then asked very quietly and calmly if Mike had thought about calling a locksmith to get his key out?  Mike stood there with a look of sudden realization of an answer to a math problem, the famous "Aha!" moment that we all get once in awhile.  Mike promised to get Richie's car back together without his key in it by going home time that afternoon.

Mike called a locksmith before he began putting the car back together just in case the locksmith had to have something removed.  The locksmith arrived and stood just as Richie had stood, dumbfounded.  He then pulled a little something out of his pocket, reached in and within two minutes had Mike's key back in the hands of it's owner.  Then shaking his head in wonder, the locksmith turned and got into his truck and slowly drove away, thinking of the story he would tell back at the shop.

Mike spent the rest of the day putting Richie's car back together and to be honest, he did a very nice job of it.  Another of the advantages of being an engineer is that you tend to be organized while taking on a project.  Eventually the car was back to it's original state and Richie came out to see if his key would still work in the ignition.  I could see Mike holding his breath as Richie began to turn the key.  It wasn't until the engine started that Mike exhaled and his whole body kind of slumped upon itself.

As for Richie, he didn't say a word.  He put the car in gear and began to drive home.  Nobody ever brought up the subject of the stuck key again, not even Richie.  His car was fixed, it was running and that was about all he could ask for after the state his car had been found in.

So the last question to be asked is that of whether Mike learned a lesson about his curiosity that got him into this situation to begin with.  Would Mike learn to control his curiosity?  Would Mike slow down when his brain thought some wild thought?

After working with Mike several more years I can answer that question in one word.  "No."

Cub's Great Ron Santo Dies

What a great one.  Baseball has lost another immortal.

CHICAGO (AP)—Ron Santo, one of the greatest players in Chicago Cubs history and a longtime WGN radio announcer whose devotion to the perennial losers was made obvious night after night by his excited shouts or dejected laments, has died. He was 70.
“Ronnie will forever be the heart and soul of Cubs fans,” Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement Friday. He praised Santo for “his passion, his loyalty, high great personal courage and his tremendous sense of humor.”
Santo died in an Arizona hospital from complications of bladder cancer, according to WGN Radio. Santo was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 18 and later lost both legs to the disease.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Richard Cory - Simon and Garfunkel

They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town
with political connections to spread his wealth around
born into society a banker's only child
He had everything a man could want power, grace and style
But I work in his factory and I curse the life I'm living
and I curse my poverty and I wish that I could be
Oh I wish that I could be Oh I wish that I could be Richard Cory

The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes
Richard Cory at the opera Richard Cory at a show
and the rumor of his parties and the orgies on his yacht
oh he surely must be happy with everything he's got
But I work in his factory and I curse the life I'm living
and I curse my poverty and I wish that I could be
Oh I wish that I could be Oh I wish that I could be Richard Cory

He freely gave to charity he had the common touch
and they were greatfull for his patronage and they thanked him very much
so my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read
Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head
But I work in his factory and I curse the life I'm living
and I curse my poverty and I wish that I could be
Oh I wish that I could be Oh I wish that I could be Richard Cory

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5Bys0y2Yt0

Richard Cory - Poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good Morning!" and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine -- we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head. 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2abvVBlmTA&feature=related 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BEARTOOTH PASS

It was late June when my sister, Elaine, and I rented a car in Kansas City and started a drive to Seattle to spend the Fourth of July with my Uncle Dan.  It had been a pleasant trip so far and we had taken the time to do some major sight seeing along the way.  We had stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota to see the infamous Corn Palace.  It is the local auditorium in Mitchell that every year is decorated with various parts of corn, from the stalks to ears and even individual kernels.  It seemed like a silly thing to do at the time, but really, how often does one go through Mitchell, South Dakota to have a chance to see it?  It was interesting and I believe we were both glad to have made the stop.

After spending an hour or so at the pride of Mitchell we headed across South Dakota towards our goal of Rapid City, where we planned to see Mount Rushmore and the always in progress carving of Crazy Horse.  As we were heading into Rapid City Elaine spotted on the map a scenic route that would take us through a portion of the Badlands.  We decided to take it as we had plenty of time and it was a choice that we ended up being grateful for taking but it was also a choice that would have a great impact on our trip.  The Badlands were beautiful as we drove through in the late afternoon just outside of Rapid City.  I think it was during this drive that Elaine decided we would take any scenic route that didn't seem to take us too far out of the way.

After spending the night in Rapid city and taking a day at Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse we sat through a night of terrible storms with tornado warnings around us before heading westward on the third day.  This was going to be a day that would rank right up there with one of the most interesting parts of the journey.

We were heading towards our next goal of Yellowstone Park when Elaine began to study the map.  We were right on schedule to hit Yellowstone before dark when Elaine discovered another red dotted trail on the map indicating another scenic rout.  The scenic route was Called Beartooth Pass Scenic route and on the map, it didn't look like it would take us that far out of our way in getting to Yellowstone.  I made a fateful decision by agreeing with her that yes, we should take this scenic route.  The last scenic route had worked out so well and we had seen things we hadn't expected to see, surely this scenic route would bring more of the same.

We saw the mountain looming ahead of us as the highway took us to the pass.  Soon we began to notice that we were moving upwards and the road was getting a little curvy.  Then we came to it.  The East Face of Beartooth Pass.  It was a tall mountain.  It was a very tall mountain and the way you got up and over was a series of switchback roads going back and forth across the east face slowing climbing higher up the mountain side.  Once we got on the mountain it became painfully clear how long of a drive this was going to be.  The road was narrow and three feet off one side of the road was the mountain itself.  Three feet off the other side of the road was air and a long drop back to the bottom of the mountain.  You had to drive slowly and the higher I drove the less I was able to look down over the side.  I was becoming slowly terrified of this road and it showed no signs of stopping.  Just driving back and forth a few feet from certain death for a very long time.  At last we arrived at a view point site where you could park the car and look out over the Rockies and the pass.  We did not hesitate to stop and rest.

There were restrooms there and the scenery was wonderful.  Elaine made friends with a couple of chipmunks and I began to relax.  For some reason I turned and look at the face of the mountain and began to lift my head to see how close we were to the summit.  My stomach began to churn as I realized we were only about half way there.  As I was contemplating this a group of bicyclists came coasting down the turns.  This did not lighten my load.  I quickly walk over to Elaine and told her to look up.  She turned pale immediately.   We both decided to get into the car and get this over with. We started again the slow trek up the East face of this great mountain, trying not to run ourselves off the road.

After quite a drive snow started showing up on the sides of the road.  Not just a little snow but snow that was about eight feet deep.  Now we were driving on this mountain road that fell off into nothingness with a great wall of snow to hide the edge of the mountain.  We were getting tired but did not get on each others nerves as we neared the summit.

The summit was marked by a ski lift.  And not only was there a ski lift up here where the mountain dropped almost straight down but there were fresh ski tracks on the side of the mountain.  I then retold myself one of my favorite philosophies, "It is a fine line between being brave and being stupid."  We passed the ski lift and suddenly the land leveled out.  the snow was about six inches deep on the flat summit and there was a beautiful lake half frozen with evergreen trees surrounding it and snow all around it's banks.  It was like a Christmas card had come to life.  We were at the top and we got out to take in the beauty of the lake.

We got back in the car and headed down the west face of the mountain.  It was not as steep and the curves in the road were more sweeping then sharp.  I found I could coast the car at a reasonable speed and feel relaxed on the descent down the mountain.  Elaine did not, however, feel as comfortable with the speed I was taking so I slowed a bit.  We stopped at one scenic point that look out over a vast valley.  You could see deer grazing easily and slowly.  I thought at the time that this little moment made the climb over the mountain almost worthwhile, but not quite.

We then began our trek on into Yellowstone.  It was dusk when we finally arrived at the gate and we were met by an Asian girl who gave us information and told us some rules or something.  To be honest I really have no idea what she said.  About a mile down the road a couple of Rangers stopped us.  They asked about our experience at the gate coming into the park.  They asked about the girl who gave us directions and I flatly told him "To be honest, couldn't understand a word she said."  I hope I didn't cost her a job.

We finally got into the little town just outside Yellowstone to find we didn't have a room to stay in, but the motel did the right thing and got us a better room at a better motel and picked up the extra charges.  It was dark by now.  We were both exhausted and hungry.  It had been a long scenic route full of stress.

It was worth it.