Friday, June 29, 2012

STRANGE TREND IN BLOG STATISTICS

I am deeply interested in the statistics of this blog.  For those who don't blog on blogspot, they keep track certain items of interest.  I can look at the number of hits the blog gets right now at this moment in time, over the last twenty four hours, over the last week, over the last month or since I began the blog.  It also gives me stats on which entries are being read, how many times blog entries have been read.  It can tell me what kind of platforms are being used and the percentage of each to read the blog and the kind of browsers used and the percentage of those that are used to read my blog.  It also tells me how people reach my blog by giving me details of search and referring sites, like Facebook, Google, Bling among others as well as the keywords that are used in the search engines that lead people to this blog.  Pretty amazing and interesting stuff to satiate my massive curiosity.

The last statistic that they give me is where people are hitting the blog from by their respective country.  I have been keeping track and so far my blog has been read in over one hundred countries.  It also tells me how many times my blog has been read in each country.  Since I started the blog in October of 2010, the most read country, of course, is the United States by far.  Canada is well represented as are the west European countries like the UK, Germany, France along with some Scandinavian countries and far eastern countries.

A lot of hits have come from former Soviet Bloc countries, which isn't too surprising to me.  The new freedoms that have been opened up since the USSR has been dismantled seem to me to be a natural curiosity of what goes on in the west from these relatively new users of the internet.

For the most part the hits from various countries have been pretty consistent.  One trend that has changed is that when the blog began, Denmark was reading my blog a lot.  For a long time they were number two of all the countries finding this blog somehow.  Since that time though, the readership from Denmark has dropped off considerably.  I am not sure why that happened and it kind of bothers me a little bit, but other countries have taken up the slack so the percentage of readers from foreign countries has stayed pretty steady.  However it is in this category that a strange trend has popped up over the last several months.

Since the dismantling of the Soviet Union twenty one years ago, Russia has become a country unto itself once again.  Boris Yeltsin took control of the Soviet Union on Christmas day of 1991 and immediately made the countries, that the day before had been a member of the USSR, independent sovereign states including Russia itself.

Several years ago Vladimir Putin came into power in Russia.  He is from the old school of Russian history.  It seems to me that ever since he took office he has been slowly clamping down on the Russian people.  He has invented new offices for him to hold and retain his power.  As each year goes by, it seems there is less and less freedom for the people of his country.


Now when I started the blog I would get a few hits from Russia every week.  It seemed to range from between three to seven hits a week.  I was pleased with that.  My thinking is how do people from all over the world manage to find this little tiny blog and why on earth do they bother to read it?  Even people in China have managed to stumble across this hodgepodge of writing and music.  It just fascinates me on how they find it.


Well, several months ago,  President (or whatever office he is holding right now) Putin started to crack down on the access to the internet that the Russian people could have.  They began checking out sites and blocking them from being available in Russia.  Most of the censorship were web sites from the western world, as you would expect.


Since that time, my readership from Russia has steadily grown.  It was of little notice at first, but about three months ago the hits from Russia exploded with a great number of hits on my little blog.  The hits I receive from Russia equals if not surpasses the hits I get from the United States now.  Russia suddenly roared up the ranks of countries reading my blog.  It soared quickly too.  Right now Russia is the number two ranked country that reads my blog since it's beginning and surpasses number three Germany by over 600 hits.  I have sat and watched the numbers from Russia climb every week and am truly astounded.  So far this week, the hits from russia surpass the hits from the United States by ten.  That isn't much but when you consider th over all numbers, any country reading my blog more than the United States is a quite a feat.


I have a couple of scenarios that I think might be happening.  My first one is that there is this beautiful Russian lady over there and she accidentally stumbled on my blog.  Seeing my picture on it, she instantly became fascinated with me and writing.  I have become an obsession with her and she logs onto my blog several times a day just to look at the pictures or to read my writing, even if it is the fifth time she has read it.  She dreams of one day coming to the States just to see me.  She is too shy and unsure of herself to actually approach me, so she stalks me from a distance.  Somehow I don't think that is the case.

There could be a group of anti-Putin rebels who are doing anything they can to deny Putin the joy of blocking their access to the western world.  Since The Russian government would NEVER find my blog, they have latched onto it just to show the Putin regime  that he can't stop them from hitting site in the States. They continue to visit my blog to raise numbers on the hits that the United States receives from Russia.  They don't actually READ my blog, but just connect to it every day to make a protest against their government.


The third possibility is probably the most likely.  Blogspot has a blogbug in it and it is inadvertently giving my blog hits from Russia without there actually being any hits from Russia.  It probably takes at random hits from the States and moves the hit over to Russia so it looks like Russia has suddenly become VERY interested in this little blog.

Who knows?  It could be a number of other things.  I just find the timing of it and the massive numbers of hits from Russia as a little interesting to me.  Who knows, I could be the unknown leader of a great uprising in Russia that is set to be let loose on their government on some future date, based solely on my writings.  Now THAT would be neat.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TOUGHEST COLLEGE BASKETBALL ARENA

Every major university has a home court that seems to give them a slight advantage when playing a game there.  Depending upon who they are playing, a home court game should give a team an extra five to ten points just because it is their house.  This is where ninety percent of colleges fall in.  Then you have those home arenas where, as a visiting team, your nerves are a little bit more on edge and you wonder what the outcome will finally be when it is all over.  Did you lose by only fifteen points or were you able to stay within twenty of the home team?  These are usually older buildings at a basketball powerhouse year in and year out.  Even when these powerhouses build new arenas, the new building seem to take on the terror that the old arena had held for the visitors.

It is pretty easy to name these schools that have such a strong basketball tradition that the court on which they play becomes part of that tradition, even if it is housed in a new facility.  Being from Missouri and being a huge Mizzou fan, I feel the requirement to include Mizzou among those places.  I have been in the old Hearnes Center and it was a definite advantage for the Tigers.  It was loud.  The students were right behind the benches causing a ruckus.  They don't use the Hearnes center anymore in Columbia.  They built a new building called the Mizzou Arena.  It doesn't seem quite as loud and the seats are set back from the court.  However, like all good basketball programs, the new Mizzou Arena is starting to take it's place among the Missouri basketball tradition and is becoming one of those arenas where visitors would rather not play.

In the Big 12 conference, that I am most familiar with, there is also Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Kansas State.  These school's basketball teams can beat anyone at anytime on their respective floors.  For some reason, they are just tough places to go and be positive that you are going to come out with a win.  There is no guarantee in these arenas.  I include Mizzou arena as one of those Big 12, soon to be an SEC school whose arena has some strange magic to it.

Around the country you can look and point at teams that seem to never lose at home.  There is North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, UCLA, Notre Dame and Memphis.  All of these school's have basketball programs that have proven themselves year in and year out for decades.  You go into their house and you are messing with demons from years past that take a hold of the visiting team and seem to slow them down, make them sluggish, and it seems as though the building itself is helping to win the games for the home team.

There are others of course but these schools are the cream of the crop and most of that cream rises to the top when playing in their home arena.  But there is one University in the country whose arena has provided a safe haven for their basketball team like no other. That arena is located in Lawrence, Kansas.

Allen Field House is old.  VERY old.  There is no acoustic material built into the building to keep echos down to a minimum.  You can hear people walking in tennis shoes from the other side of the arena very clearly if the place isn't filled to capacity, as it always is.  You would swear that these old walls at AFH are ready to collapse at anytime, and that is when you are in there alone and just walking around looking at it and all is quiet.  This place is home of the Kansas University Jayhawks.  A team that somehow rises up to meet the challenge of the NCAA tournament every year.  They have won or shared the Big Twelve title for eight consecutive years.  When the Jayhawks are playing in AFH, It is almost a certainty that they will win.

Of course there have been stumbles here and there over the years where somehow a visiting team has struck a victory over KU, but not enough to count.  When the Jayhawks are in AFH they are unreal.  The place is the noisiest place I can ever remember being in.  The cheers of the students and fans never stop.  The students stomp their feet in unison and it really does feel like the building is going to collapse on you.  The eery "Rock Chalk Jayhawk " chant, which by the way I have no clue what it means, sounds like the fan base is summoning up ghosts from years past who have dominated opposing teams in this great hall.   It is one constant level of noise from opening tip to the final buzzer when the Jayhawks sprint off the floor victorious once again.


The building itself houses a museum of basketball season past to present that is downright impressive.  All of the conference trophies from the time the conference was the Big 6, through the Big 8 years and on into the Big 12 era is pretty impressive.  In a glass case hangs a Kansas University basketball jersey with the number 13 sewn on it.  It is the jersey that Wilt Chamberlain wore when he attended Kansas.  They could, and probably will in the future, move the museum to it's own house because it will be unable to hold any more items that AFH graces them with.

Now, I am FAR from a Kansas fan.  I am about as far from a Kansas fan as one can get.  I have a t-shirt that says proudly "My two favorite teams are MIZZOU and whoever is playing Kansas" and that pretty much sums up my feelings.  Kansas is not so hot in any other athletic field other than an occasional decent year in football and maybe the track team will have a good year.  But in basketball,  it is hard to imagine a school in the country with a more consistent tradition of winning and being a force year in and year out, decade after decade.  And a huge part of this is what the kids at KU call "The Phog", the spirit of Phog Allen who coached many of those teams from years past and whom the field house is named after.

No matter what your allegiance is, you have got to respect the basketball program at Kansas University.  I always have dreaded Mizzou going into Lawrence to play a game.  You get this rolling feeling in your stomach on Saturday morning and when it is game time, you hesitate to turn on the television to watch it.  When you DO finally turn on the television and see that packed AFH, you can almost feel your living room shaking from the noise and the foot stomping that you know is going on inside that building.  You can almost see the spirit of Phog Allen move in over the court as they get ready for the opening tip.

Still, with the move of Mizzou to the SEC, Kansas and Mizzou won't be playing every year, and as nervous as playing Kansas always made me, I am going to miss the Mizzou Kansas games.

When it comes right down to it, Allen Field House in Kansas has to be considered one of the toughest, if not THE toughest place for a visiting team to come into and play with 100% confidence.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

FORTY JUNE 17THS

It is June seventeenth once again.  Every year it comes around I think of it's historical significance.  For me the date stands out as one of the most important dates in twentieth century America history.  For me I get much the same feeling as I do on June sixth, August sixth, eighth and ninth, December seventh among many others.  On June 17, 1972 one of the dumbest political events in history occurred.  Seven men were arrested inside the Watergate Hotel complex in the Democratic Headquarters that housed the office of Democratic Chairman Lawrence O'Brien.  That was forty years ago and it seems that the date is starting to fade from the memories of the American people to a point that equals the interest it produced on the day it happened.

When the break-in occurred, it was given little press.  Nobody thought much about it, and they shouldn't have.   It was a stupidly conceived plot thought up by an over zealous committee to re-elect President Nixon.  The silly part is that  President Nixon did not need any such covert operations to be re-elected.  It was a no brainer that the President would be re-elected.   The polls all showed it, His approval rating was high, He was in the process of negotiating peace with honor in Vietnam and had already begun bringing troops home.  the President was a foreign affairs genius and was on track to end the war that President Johnson had escalated during the sixties.

The President was told about the break-in the day after it happened and was stunned and surprised at the stupidity of the operation.  He and his staff immediately began to brainstorm on how to contain this so that it would not do exactly what it ended up doing.

A short history on what led to June 17, 1972 might help understand where the Nixon administration was coming from when the news hit.  The liberal press had been looking for anything to pin on the President.  His political career was supposed to have ended with his loss in the California Governor's race in 1962.  The press had hounded Nixon throughout that campaign and succeeded in getting the former Vice-President defeated.  Nixon would fade off into the history books like so many before him.

The Vietnam War, however , doomed President Johnson's chance of re-election in 1968 and after dropping out, both parties found that they did not have a really strong candidate to run for President.  The Republicans decided to ask Richard Nixon to make another run for the highest office in the land.  Nixon agreed, and with the help of  a third party run by Alabama Governor George Wallace defeated Hubert Humphrey and the man whose political career was once dead was now at the top of the heap.

Shortly after Nixon took office, professional liberal Daniel Ellsberg stole Top Secret Classified papers and gave them to the New York Times, who wasted no time in putting the security of the nation in peril by printing the now famous "Pentagon Papers."  This was the true beginning of Watergate.  Of course the press lauded Mr. Ellsberg and he was almost a national hero for leaking top secret documents.  It was at this time that the People who worked for the President decided to find out more about Ellsberg and broke into his psychiatrists office to see if they could find anything to discredit this new hero.  It was the first operation of the plumbers unit of the committee to re-elect the President, otherwise known as CREEP.  The committee which was headed by former Attorney General John Mitchell prepared a plan to break into Democratic Headquarters.  When the first break in did not deliver any helpful information, a second break-in was set for June 17, 1972.   They were caught and arraigned and if the press had not been so desperate to get anything on Nixon, they started digging.  True the idea that they could get Nixon on something did not catch on for a while until the Washington Post kept pushing and blowing things out of proportion that the rest of the liberal press followed.

Nixon had a taping system in his office and, to me anyway, the tapes show that Nixon did not actually break any laws.  He thought aloud of things that they could do that would be illegal, but most times said aloud that it would be wrong to do those things.

Nixon continued to try to run the country and end the war in Vietnam but was being slowed by the constant attacks from the press and then the congress.  Throughout the investigation, the President cooperated as best as he could without risking national security.  He complied with all subpenas, turning over transcripts of the tapes, the tapes themselves and ordered his staff to tell the truth in the investigation.  He fired those of his staff who the press had somehow tied to the crime which had magically turned from a stupid break-in to a coverup of the worst kind.

Eventually, the press had succeeded in forcing Nixon to resign the Presidency on August 9, 1974.  It was one of the saddest days in our history.  Nixon, however, until the very end decided to do what was best for the country.  Thus came the resignation instead of an Senate trial.  Historical revisionists even say that Nixon was impeached, when actually he wasn't.  He did what ended up being best for the country before an impeachment vote in the house could be taken.  He sacrificed his dignity and the overwhelming success of his foreign policy for the good of the country that he loved.  The press had won again.

Since that time, when Nixon had not broken any laws, yet was forced out of office, we have had a president who committed perjury to a federal grand jury, which is a felony.  This president lied to the American people over and over again.  This President opened himself up to the possibility of blackmail by doing immoral acts within the White House and making foreign heads of state to wait until he was finished with his immorality.  This President put the country through an impeachment and Senate trial, and despite all of the proof of perjury, pay offs, and just being a totally immoral man, was acquitted in the Senate on a strictly partisan vote that Democrats have become famous for.  President Clinton should have been shown the back door of the White House without question if the Nixon resignation is used as the benchmark for Presidents being worthy of office by acting immorally in office.

It is either an indictment on the Democratic party for being partisan on everything, or it is a sign that our country is on a slide downhill that will slowly eat this country from within.  Either way , it isn't good.

Monday, June 11, 2012

SISTER GETS GASSED

This is a story that has two different perspectives to it.  There is my sister Elaine's perspective, and there is my own perspective of what happened.  I'll leave it to the reader to decide who's perspective is the correct one (which will be mine).

The story takes place on a trip we took from Kansas City to Rapid City, Yellowstone, Seattle, San Fransisco, Salt Lake City, Fort Collins and back to Kansas City.  As we left we decided that I would do all the driving to ease my nerves and to get there faster, and Elaine would fill up the car with gas while I took a breather from driving.  We would also split expenses right down the middle.  Sounded like a good plan and it was for the most part.

As with all siblings though, there are times that arise when one of the siblings gets on the other's nerves.  We had a few of these moments along the way although not as many as one might expect who knows both Elaine and myself.  Most of the friction time we did have lasted only a few minutes or at most an hour or so.  The main thing that we kept coming back to, as I recall, was my driving.  My driving got on both of our nerves.  It got on her nerves because I was "driving too fast" and then she got on my nerves when she would express the feeling that I was driving too fast.

I was driving too fast across South Dakota because the winds blowing across the high plains was fairly strong and I should be more careful.  She had seen the big trucks weaving from side to side in the wind and thought it rather dangerous of me to speed on past them.  The sight of one of those big rigs blown completely off of the highway and laying on it's side did not help my argument that faster was better.  I took her advice and slowed down to eighty-five while driving across South Dakota.

Then there was crossing the Rocky Mountains in Idaho.  To me, this was a thrill adventure.  The highway wound it's way around and through the mountains while going downhill at a very steep grade.  There were emergency truck ramps for the trucks to pull off of when they lost their brakes going down these mountains.  That made her nervous and the fact that I wasn't using the brakes hardly at all in the car seemed to justify her nervousness.

Well as sisters and women do, she became so nervous she started begging me to slow down as we descended from the mountains.  I, being the good brother that I am, complied with her wishes and started using the brakes, which slowed us down to about the same speed that every one else was driving.  She was still nervous though and asked me to slow down some more, which I did.  After a few more rounds of asking me to slow down and myself complying with her wishes, I began to notice that every one was passes us at a high rate of speed and I became nervous that we may be rear ended at any time.  So I finally told her that if I slowed down any more we would be run over from behind.  It ended the discussion but things were a little tense between us until we hit the plain of eastern Washington.  We both then put it behind us and continued on our trip in a happy manner.  I decided that her nervousness was due to her age, her being older and more careful than the young free wheeling kid that I was.

It was on our way from San Fransisco to Salt Lake City where the event of the trip that we are dealing with takes place.  We were making our way across the desert, faster than Elaine wanted us to and slower than I thought we could.  Eventually came the time when the car began to run low on fuel.  You would be surprised at how fast you can go through a tank of gasoline in the desert.  And so it was that we pulled over at a little stop and gas out in the middle of the desert with not another sign of life for miles and miles around.   The landscape was flat and you could see forever.  It was mid-morning and so it was not too very hot yet even though the sky was cloudless and the sun was in full force.

We pulled up to the pump and I got out and went over to sit on a patch of grass in this small oasis to stretch my legs and back.  Meanwhile Elaine exited the car and made her way to the pump.  She took the cap off of the gas tank to prepare to fill it with gas.  Elaine did make a mistake and I think she will readily admit that it was a mistake.  She was holding the hose in her hand pointed upward, not in the gas tank as it should have been, when she swiped her credit card in the pump.  As soon as the card was approved, the pump turned on and sprayed Elaine with gasoline for just a second or so.  She was drenched with gasoline from the neck down before she was able to let go of the spout and stop the gas flow.

I immediately jumped up to go to the rescue of my poor sister who was still in shock and had no idea what had just happened.  When I got to her I looked around and noticed three suspicious young men between the ages of eight and eleven sitting on the curbside in front of the store.  Each of them had their mouths covered with their hands and were suppressing giggles and laughs.  It became obvious to me that they had locked the trigger on the pump hoping for exactly the outcome they had received.  A poor little old lady surprisingly drenched in gas while her loving brother came rushing to help her.

Now, this is where the different perspectives come into play.  It is important to remember that gasoline at the time was selling for just over two dollars a gallon because the price of the gasoline is where the two perspectives are focused on.

As I got to Elaine and realized the situation, I looked at the gas pump to SEE HOW MUCH GAS SHE HAD BEEN DOUSED WITH.  My mathematical brain saw that fifty cents had clicked off  on the pump which means she had between a quarter and a half of a gallon of gas on her.  I realized this was not a good situation and decided to tell her how much gas was on her so we could figure out how to deal with the problem.  And so out of my mouth came the words that would haunt me the rest of that day and beyond.

"That's fifty cents of gas you poured on yourself".  She shot me a look and said she couldn't believe that she was covered in gasoline and I was worried about how much it costs.  "Well." she said with great control over her emotions at the time,"I will pay for the fifty cents!"

Okay, at this moment in time I was stunned.  She gave me another look and said she was going to go try to wash the gasoline off of her.  I told her she should do that and do it quickly before it started to burn her skin.  I took the gas nozzle and filled up the tank for her while she went off to try to clean up.

When she got in to the car it was obvious that her clean up was not good enough.  The gas had soaked into her clothes and filled the car with the distinct smell of the fuel.  As we headed on down the road I heard about how she couldn't believe that I was so concerned about how much the gas had cost us that had been spilled on her.  Pretty soon her skin became to burn and the smell was starting to get to me, so we stopped at the next gas station and she went and changed her clothes as well as wash herself off in the tiny bathroom while I waited patiently for her to get clean enough so that she could continue the day in comfort.  The rest of the day every now and then I would hear about how she couldn't fathom the idea that while she was covered in gasoline, I was concerned how much it was going to cost me.

As for me, I was terribly concerned with the volume of  gas she had gotten on herself and the fastest and easiest way to relay that message was how much the gas was worth that she had spilled on her.  I had not even looked at the number of gallons pumped because the biggest numbers on a pump are the cost of the gas you are using.  I saw fifty cents and so that was how I relayed to her how much gas had been poured on her.  I could care less about the money.  My whole concern was with the safety of my sister.  I probably could have expressed it better, but does anyone think that a loving brother as myself could care less about twenty five cents being poured on my wonderful sister and the ground?  Of course not.  I was concerned with the effect the gas would have on her.  I knew it would start burning her skin before long and the fumes from the gas was going to make the both of us sick if we didn't get her cleaned up in a proper way.

I immediately asked her if she had a change of clothes ready to be put on.  When she answered in the affirmative I insisted we stop at the next station and she would wash herself off as best as she could and change her clothes.  I would not had even given a second, third or fourth thought to the cost of the gasoline that she had spilled on herself.  To me cost equaled volume.  And that volume of gas that my sister had sustained made me very concerned about her.

So there you have it dear reader.  Two perspectives of the meaning of one sentence.  My sister perceived it as myself being shocked at how much money she had wasted by pouring gas on herself.  My perspective of that same sentence was that 50 cents represented a lot of gasoline that was dangerous to my dear sister.  Being the loving brother that I am, I showed concern and worry about what had happened to her.

So far the conflict between the two perceptions has not been reconciled.  She still thinks that I was such a tightwad as to be worried about losing twenty five cents while she was covered in gas.  I still know that I looked at the pump, saw fifty cents clicked off, converted that to volume in my head and made sure she knew how much gas she was dealing with.

She didn't talk to me much the rest of the day after she had finally cleaned up and changed her clothes to make the rest of the day more comfortable for her, and myself as well.

I still find myself apologizing to her for using the language I used in an very short amount of time in an emergency situation.  That is okay.  I can understand how she may have taken it the way she did since she was upset anyway by the fact of being covered in gas.  For a second she seemed to forget how loving of a brother she has and how I could never care about money more than her. It's okay with me though.  At least she is okay.  She didn't get too much skin irritation from the gas due to my diligence in getting her to a place where she could clean up and change clothes.  All I care about is that she was okay after the incident.

Well,  It is for you to decide which perspective seems more probable.  That of a woman just being doused with gasoline and being extremely upset about it or that of a loving and caring brother who did everything he could to get the situation under control and get her more comfortable and safer.

I love you Elaine.  I wouldn't trade that trip for the world, even with the gasoline incident.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Stand - Sly and the Family Stone

Stand
In the end you'll still be you
One that's done all the things you set out to do
Stand
There's a cross for you to bear
Things to go through if you're going anywhere
Stand
For the things you know are right
It s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight
Stand
All the things you want are real
You have you to complete and there is no deal
Stand. stand, stand
Stand. stand, stand
Stand
You've been sitting much too long
There's a permanent crease in your right and wrong
Stand
There's a midget standing tall
And the giant beside him about to fall
Stand. stand, stand
Stand. stand, stand
Stand
They will try to make you crawl
And they know what you're saying makes sense and all
Stand
Don't you know that you are free
Well at least in your mind if you want to be

Everybody
Stand, stand, stand






Thursday, June 7, 2012

JIM

I sit on my front porch with a glass of tea and look at the house across the street, one lot down.  The garage door is open and the light is on.  You can't really see it from my vantage point but I know what that garage is like.  The walls are lined with peg boards with tools hanging from hooks installed in the boards.  The tools are not just anywhere but precisely organized so that a person can find any tool at any time when it is required.  Ladders are resting on the joists hanging from the ceiling, again organized in a manner that is almost too neat.

The house is a neat little split level with the same layout as my mom and dad's.  It is painted barn red.  It has always been painted barn red as long as I can remember and I can't imagine it being a different color.  The man who lives there use to paint the house every summer.  He wouldn't paint it completely, but would find spots that needed painting and, on one Saturday during the summer, would paint those spots one at a time, so the house has never been, as far as I know completely painted at one time.  A few years ago, they put siding on the house to take away any painting at all.

This is the home of Jim and Martha.  This entry in the blog will mainly be about Jim.  Jim and I are good friends.  I can go over and be welcome in his house and talk to him whenever I want to,  It wasn't always that way though.  When Barb and myself moved in to our house over thirty years ago, Jim didn't care for me and I certainly didn't care for him.  To me he was an old man.  In reality he was probably fifteen years younger than I am now.  He had a daughter approximately the same age as me.  I figure he was a little younger than my dad.

To Jim I was a lazy, wild, young kid who played music too loud and had too many other young men hanging around the house bouncing basketballs and playing music too loud.  I didn't keep my yard as clean as his.  I did not mow every single week the way he did because I had too many other things to do.

As far as I was concerned, Jim was just a grouchy old redneck.  Back at that period in time, CB radios were a big hobby with a lot of people.  Jim was one of those people who loved his CB.  He didn't have just an ordinary Cb radio though.  He had an amped up one that put out a lot of power and a very strong signal.  The result of this strong signal of his power CB was that my strong and powerful stereo receiver would pick up his CB broadcasts.  There is nothing more irritating than trying to listen to some good rock and roll music when you are in your mid twenties and hearing this redneck language pushing it's way through the music.  This was how things started and got gradually worse as the next few years went by.

Jim's best friend was a man two houses down from me named  Bob.  Every morning before the day started these two sat in Jim's garage and had coffee together.  Bob knew of me through Jim, so there wasn't much love lost there either.  These two did everything together, including keeping an eye on the neighborhood and helping keep the neighborhood up when work needed to be done.

As I grew a little older I began to notice how hard working and how nice these two men were to the neighbors that were in their good graces.  As I grew older I began to see that Jim wasn't so bad.  I felt like I could get to know this man and maybe at least make an acquaintance with him.  Then the opportunity came, even though I didn't realize it at the time.

Winter was just coming on when we had an ice storm in Kansas City.  Ice storms are not that unusual around here and chances are that eventually you will be effected by one.  This particular ice storm effected my immediate next door neighbor by breaking off branches from his tree that bordered my property and eventually it became clear that the whole tree would need to come down. 

I was sitting in my living room the Saturday after the ice storm hit when I heard the roar of chain saws outside.  I had this feeling that I should go out and help with the clean up of my neighbors tree.  I didn't own a chainsaw but I did have two good hands at the time.  I decided to go out and help pick up the remnants of the old tree and put in my two cents worth.  I got dressed up warm and stepped outside.  there I saw Jim and Bob each with a chain saw strategically going after the limbs to clear the tree out.  I walked next door and with out saying a word, started to pick up branches that were being sawed off and dragging them out of the way.  For a split second the chain saws became quiet  as Jim and Bob looked at me out there helping clean up the neighborhood.  It was just a second but I think they were a little surprised.  We worked all day on that tree, and through the day, Martha would bring coffee over to us to drink.  When we were finally finished we stood around and chatted.  Well, they stood around and chatted, I just stood around listening to them chatter.

Maybe I grew up a little that day.  Jim's had grown bored with his CB radio and I hadn't had a problem with that for quite awhile.  There had not been any friction between Jim and myself for a time.  That day was a new beginning for me in the neighborhood.  Slowly things began to change.  Jim and Bob would start waving to me as I drove by their houses.  Before I knew it, they would start to say hi and maybe even more of a talk. 

Eventually it turned into a friendship.  If Jim saw me out working on my lawn mower or car,  he would walk over to see what was going on and if there was anything he could do to help.  I would get home from work every now and then and notice Jim sitting in his lawn chair in his garage and go over to chat him up a bit.  We had some things in common that Jim really liked to talk about, like car racing.

Before long I was one of the guys who was watching out for the neighborhood and helping clean up yards that the owner needed help with.  Jim, Bob and myself had become friends.  It took a few years, but looking back on it, it was definitely worth it.  Jim has been a good friend for many years now.

Several years ago, Jim's friend Bob died.  Jim was devastated and it took him awhile to get back into the groove.  He still misses Bob, but I made sure I went over to talk to him when I could.  When they would lose electricity during a storm, Barb would make some cookies and coffee for Jim and take them over to him so the time without electricity wouldn't effect him too much.  Little things like that made us stronger neighbors and he would keep an eye on our house while we kept an eye out on his.

Jim is truly getting old now.  I first noticed it one night when I was up working late and noticed that his garage door was open at one o'clock in the morning without the lights on.  I was afraid someone had broken into their house and so I went over and knocked on the door.  When I didn't get an answer I called the police to come check it out.  Meanwhile, Martha was getting ready to go to bed and took a last look outside and saw me standing across the street staring at their house.  she opened the door and asked me if everything was okay.  After explaining that I had called the police because of the garage door, Martha sighed lightly.  Jim has been forgetting things a little more often.  apparently this wasn't the first time he had left the garage door open.  The police showed up and we explained the situation to them.

Since then Jim has really slowed down.  He has lost weight and I don't see him outside much anymore.  His son in law and grandson are now coming over and taking care of his lawn.  Jim doesn't walk like the strong proud man he once was, rather he has more of a shuffle to his stride.  He moves very deliberately and not very fast.  His daughter has moved in with her mom and dad and says that Jim's mind isn't tracking as well as it used to.  This is sad because Jim was a very knowledgeable man and very smart. I am afraid age is finally catching up with him.

Looking back, I wish I had made friends with him earlier than I did.  He has proven himself to be a good neighbor and someone I could trust as a neighbor.  I have been extremely lucky in the neighbors I have had (except for one set of neighbors that I will write about later).  I could not have had a better neighbor than Jim has been.