Thursday, February 16, 2017

Devil With the Blue Dress On

    When the Democratic Party abandoned its focus on what is best for everyone that is willing to contribute more than they take they subsequently tossed out traditional family values and legions of loyal believers in favor of popular social trends and what it considers politically correct; the result has been a mass exodus of staunch supporters like myself and millions more across the country that make up what is left of the American middle class.

    The new priorities of the party is a reflection of the growing division in our country between people of different ethnic backgrounds, cultures, faith and long held social norms of various communities; it has become symbolic for failure and the near collapse of morality and pride in what our nation always stood for among the vast majority of 21st Century Democrats. They have made flag burning, destroying other people's property and character assassination of anyone who doesn't hate what they hate their adopted identity over common sense and working in unison to achieve good things for all.

    What the Democrats have accomplished during their restructuring phase essentially amounts to dividing us all into groups based on the color of our skin, social economic status, sexual orientation, gender and age. I am a straight male and I am white. I am a U.S. citizen by birth and my heritage is deeply rooted in Jewish faith and I believe I share Christian values with other religions. I am not poor and I am over the age of 40.

    Others in my group  who might also be seen as past their prime and now also less valued by the Democratic Party is anyone that falls below the poverty level as well as some that are are much better off financially than most of us! Our group also is also heavily populated with females and it includes people of color and very different backgrounds; some are not physically attracted to the opposite sex but instead prefer being with same-sex partners, and collectively we all seem to have as many different visions for our futures as we do different religious beliefs!

   Nevertheless we have a common denominator in that we walked away or were deemed by them as not in step with the Democratic Party's new focus, thus no longer considered needed by the them to achieve its changing identity. In other words, they divided us, pitted us against one another and then chose sides, and when they took their eyes off us we came back to haunt them from voting booths across the land and we will again and again in future elections until they wake up and discover what is really important to everyone and not just their chosen niche groups.

    If they are unable to do that we could be witnessing the end of them and the birth of a new party that will be called something entirely different but still use the jackass as its mascot. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, until it is met by a voter that has been lied to or forgotten about. or taken advantage of.

    Among the elements of change within the ranks of Democrats is the complexion of the party itself; it is now an organization that has become a tight-knit union of politicians looking out for only themselves while making promises it knows it cannot keep to the growing number of poor people regardless of skin color that have needed to struggle their entire lives whether they are U.S. Citizens or not. They exist to fool them and other segments of society it claims as its own such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender community. By their rhetoric Democrats have demonized anyone that sees the devil in the details of what they have been offering all of those people but have failed for decades to deliver.

    Marching in parades and standing at podiums to share solidarity with various groups whether they believed in their causes or not didn't work out as well as they thought it might. They miscounted their loyal base and they underestimated the number of defectors from it while courting new voters they believed would show up for them and swell their ranks even greater, but  it didn't happen. Instead they were blindsided by reality and force-fed a new president that they despise and a congress that promises to take more away from them!

    Being switch-hitters and wearing cheap disguises when the stakes were as high as they were this time around proved fatal to Democrats' plans of reshaping America into a land of milk and honey only for them, and it is something they may not recover from within the foreseeable future. I know a few key players that admit privately why they show a second face to the public than the one I have known for years. I grew up with some of these politicians, I went to school with them and I worked alongside many of them for the same goals when I too was a loyal Democrat. That all changed about a year and a half ago when I had to come to grips with how they, not me went way left of center! I still hold with traditional Democratic values but finding other Democrats that still do is like lifting a hen's beak and believing you will see teeth.

    If any of this sounds harsh it is intended to because there are harsh realities they would prefer will never be discussed or exposed! For example: there are very few if any elected Democrats that would qualify for public assistance programs or could be considered to be barely making it. Most earn above average incomes for the work they do and they live in the finer neighborhoods; they have amazing health care benefits, good retirement programs and are usually only seen outside of their safer environments when stumping for support of something they want; whether it is to remain popular among their colleagues and constituents or because they fear not being elected or re-elected and forced to actually look for a job like everyone else that needs to earn a living.

     Don't believe it? Look at any Democratic controlled city in America and count the familiar names that keep getting elected to one office after or another or to the same one over and over. It's an easy gig once they get their names established and recognized, and usually that is all they need because once that happens the money they suck from supporters and donors flows their way like water from a spigot! But as you come to realize that the worst cities in America with the highest crime rates and most ghettos are typically under Democratic control and have been for decades it should cause you to wonder how these people keep getting elected.

     Democrats know the answer to that mystery; they recruit voters from those dirty and dangerous places with promises everyone knows they will break to clean them up. They show up in every parade where they climb into convertibles to play a rolling shell game; hiding their true agendas and then distracting everyone on both sides of the street by waving in a friendly gesture with one hand while tossing Tootsie Rolls to their children with the other and making them believe there is more candy where that came from.

    A typical example of a city where Democrats are pulling the wool over the eyes of anyone that still believes they are looking out for who the say they are is my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. I can point to and describe the community I have called home for nearly 60 years as an example of their cloak and dagger policies, and none of our elected officials (nearly all Democrats) would be eager to engage in any debate with me. If any are actually reading any of this they will pretend they didn't and won't weigh in one way or another because they cannot afford to be made to look like frauds.
   We used to call this part of town the south end  before the big investors moved in and ran off most of the blue collar families and replaced them with a community of mostly upper income professional people.

    The old south end was once home to a middle class that stayed here for generations but was forced to scatter when jobs disappeared, property values escalated and when the inner-city public school system became more of a watering trough for liberals and their politically correct knuckle headed ideas instead of focusing on teaching kids to learn much more than basic academic skills or how to become productive citizens when it becomes their turn to contribute to the good of others. In addition to having had a Democratic mayor for nearly two decades every seat on our city council, every seat on the board of county commissioners and our school board is and has been under Democratic control and it has been for a generation or more!

    Collectively they are responsible for every problem that has resulted from bad decisions made by reckless people who make their living in politics. Our school system has gotten by without checks and balances by misguided people that use the board as a low-diving platform into higher paying elected offices, and by some that choose to run for seats on it because they have nowhere else to go in politics for a paycheck. Ours has been racked with mismanagement mistrust and scandal for more than 40 years yet it keeps pestering voters for more and more money during almost every election.
    Instead of being able to boast of successes it looks for excuses for its failures and reasons to close more buildings that don't have enough students in them to make it worth anyone's tax dollars to keep them open. Columbus has grown to the fifteenth largest city in America yet the student population in our public school system doesn't reflect growth, and in fact is less than half of what it was forty years ago! The area I grew up in was once the neighborhood of hundreds of school-aged children but one could stay outside 24 hours of any given day now and never see any kids because families with more than two people have nearly all but vanished from around here.

    We never see children walking to school or waiting for a bus to take them there, and we never see young mothers or fathers loading them into mini vans or SUV's to take them. The few that do live somewhere close by attend private schools even though there are public school buildings operating within a five or ten-minute walk from their homes. The houses around here that not long ago could have been purchased for under $100,000.00 if they were pristine now go on the market for as much as three-to-ten times that amount even if they need worked on. There are no homes close by that the poor people Democrats claim to be concerned about could afford to purchase or even rent!

    The blocks that have escalated out of their reach in value have been tagged with names like Schumacher Place, Merion Village and German Village; where houses that routinely cost a half-million dollars or more line brick streets and are enjoyed by people that probably never needed to worry about making one paycheck last until the next.

    The residents close by no longer resemble the working class that was here; one would be hard-pressed to find any with jobs like meat packers, steel workers, glass makers or someone working in retail or in the service sector. There are a few, but they are greatly outnumbered by people who earn salaries high enough to afford those expensive homes and who pay servants like house-keepers and gardeners to do their domestic labors and who drive vehicles with nameplates like Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Infinity.

    These are the people that mostly identify themselves as Democrats. During the 2016 presidential election cycle Hillary Clinton campaign signs outnumbered Donald Trump yard signs a thousand or more to one! It was the same for Democratic candidates running for office on the state and local level as well and it has been this way for the past twenty years! When this was a blue-collar area there was an even number of Republicans and Democrats living here but that ratio no longer exist and the few Republicans that are still around keep quiet about their political leanings for fear of being labeled unfairly by their neighbors as being sexist or supporting racism, homophobia and every other bad title they can think of.

    Those Democrats that claim to care about people that are not white are mostly white people that have no interest in moving to other neighborhoods close by where poorer minorities are forced to live. They invest nothing but talk in those communities where homes are worth under fifty thousand if they don't have a few windows covered with plywood or aren't decorated with gang inspired graffiti.

    They claim to care about the trash strewn alleys and streets where children walk to school past drug dealers and prostitutes and they go to their community festivals each summer and fall to deliver political speeches that promise help is on the way but they leave the ghetto as they found it and concentrate instead on making those little islands called Schumacher Place, Merion Village and German Village prettier and safer for the people that have the means to help their nearby neighbors but don't.

    The mostly hand-picked Democrats that hold nearly every important office here are made up of people they all claim to care about and they are black folks, white folks, men and women, gay and lesbian and they are getting younger and younger with each new election. But what few can claim to be (if any) is someone that truly puts others needs above their party or even on the same level playing field.

     They are too busy to really care about people in general, they bed down with special interest groups and they build properties the middle class will never be able to afford and then they buy them for investment purposes. But what is worse than that is they give tax-breaks to their friends that build them while gouging everyone else to make up for revenue loss.

     Their investments are returned to them in the form of campaign contributions and higher salaries they vote for themselves. They don't create the jobs they promise and they offer no incentives for struggling families to want to stay where they are. Instead they create chaos in neglected communities so more people will want to leave and free-up more bargain properties they can buy and sell to people that can make them attractive and more expensive to expand the boundaries for them to invest in and profit from.

    They pretend to be interested in lower income areas by cleaning out community watering holes like public swimming pools or turning on fire-hydrants for poor kids to run through on hot summer days. They build cheap little recreation centers or make cosmetic improvements to dilapidated or closed ones for children to go to for structured play-time, and they turn vacant lots where houses that weren't worth saving have been torn down and put a few basketball nets and call it a park.
    Those parks don't have a sliding-board or a swing-set because  they aren't really parks when compared to the wealthy Democrat's majestic Schiller Park in German Village (also a stone's throw from nearby Schumacher Place and Merion Village)  where there are numerous tennis courts, an outdoor music and arts facility, a huge indoor recreation center, a grand lake, lots of lighting, a running track, tall trees and beautiful gardens that are meticulously kept along with plenty of open space for their dogs to run freely while they sit at picnic tables and gossip about the crime that lives just a few blocks away.

    The people that comprise the neighborhood associations are people I know, they are my neighbors and they talk to me about gala's they host to raise funds to keep their park and streets clean and safe and they include some who hold public office, professors and some who work in radio, television and print media. Many are attorney's, doctors, engineers, business managers and even CEO's of large companies and a few ease their consciences with philanthropic endeavors that show they care but are able to easily reel their gifts back in through tax write-offs for themselves or by being awarded contracts by their friends to build new things.

    What most have in common is no small measure of arrogance and belonging to or only supporting the Democratic Party. Not the one I was raised to believe in and place my trust with, but a new one whose demographics and complexion is different than what it ever was before. It has become a party that has hung out the welcome sign for new voters that are younger and have less to contribute than my generation and those before mine have. When they see us we peering into their new storefront window they turn that sign around and shut off the lights hoping we will not join the opposition party but just go away instead.

    They do this because they know we aren't as easily fooled as their new congregation and because we aren't shy about voicing our opinions or questioning there motives. Anytime there is an organized rally somewhere to protest the purging of so many many Democrats in Washington or in State Houses around the country I get the flyers asking me to attend, they are delivered to my doorstep and then I watch the social media where my neighbors encourage us to join them in protest there also. And they do go; they make signs or buy them from vendors and they dress up in vulgar costumes and attempt to shame everyone that doesn't think like them or has the the moxie to stand for anything they don't.

    The Democratic Party in America truly has become the Devil with a blue dress on and it isn't just the women wearing the dress anymore, sometimes it is a man who probably has an identity crisis.      

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Creating Your Own Drama

     Other people's drama doesn't concern me in the slightest; whether they are bogged down in a personal relationship that keeps them off balance, or if they are upside down with their finances or mired in political passion with nowhere to go but to Facebook to tell the world how miserable they are or why they have turned on previous friends or current relatives. We see the same caustic political opining every day, usually by the same people we allow to invade our own social networking space with their lopsided and often misguided rhetoric. It has become something we expect and only what we know will be there whether we agree with them or if we consider them to be off-the-charts-bat-shit-crazy.

     There is no escaping it unless we drop out of social networking altogether or delete every actor in our lives whether they are friend, foe or total strangers that we don't agree with or anyone that tries to drag us into their miseries. But then we would need to stop reading newspapers, magazines and online news feeds and turn off our radios and televisions and concentrate only on our own drama.

    I find myself constantly rubbing the back of my head without any answers to me to explain why I read most of the garbage that Facebook is now but I do read it and then move on to more garbage being posted by the same purveyors of hate, bullying and self righteousness. Many of them believe they can change the world by expressing opinions that only prove they are angry about something or by finding fault with everyone that doesn't agree with them but all they are really changing is other people's opinions of them.

    Celebrities and politicians are the worst of the lot because those people feed and exist off being adored and supported by others that agree with them and they know where to find them. They exist in a cyber world that is heavily populated by people that are eaten up by hatred and mistrust of anyone that doesn't share their views or likes something they don't. The politician seizes the opportunity to invite them into a world of make-believe and broken promises and because some people have nowhere else to go or are simply unable to think for themselves they accept those invitations and thus become surrogates for them and their true personal agenda.

    On the other hand, celebrities in the entertainment sphere have mammoth egos and only want to be admired because they need to sell movie tickets or promote their latest recording, or gain radio listeners or television viewers. They understand that there are enough people who are easily star-struck, waiting for a hero to follow, so they pick sides in every argument whether they believe in it or not because it is a built-in audience that is easily wooed; they become their master of ceremony, the front man to share and shine on their behalf and to lead them in a cadence echoed across the land with like-minded others that agree with them.

    A recent example of celebrity leadership was the highly anticipated half-time show for the 2016 Superbowl. It was widely believed that Lady GaGa; considered by many left leaning liberals to be one of the great orators of modern times and among the most trusted voices in America today, as well as one of the great political scientist of the 21st Century. They believed she would take the stage before tens of millions of TV viewers and make the most profound political statement since Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  Lady Gaga was going to set the world on fire by sharing her opinion of America today and the President of the United States and of everyone that doesn't despise him or anyone who is willing to give him and his promises a chance to see if we can do better.

     She was to be the dynamite at the end of a fuse of yet another incendiary device being lobbed at mainstream America and its choice for new leadership that has taken positions that radical leftists fear will derail their efforts to turn us all into a love your neighbor society even if the neighbor hates everything you stand for and might someday kill you. That radical left of liberals that believes in free speech only when it suits their needs and expectations, the liberals in America that are still seething and will continue to seethe and simmer in a boiling pot of irrationality until the whole world agrees with them.

    Her legions of admirers were stung by the results of the presidential election and she was supposed to right the sinking ship they call America and set us all straight with whatever pearls of wisdom she was expected to unleash. Her fans were excited and liberal politicians were frothing at the mouth with anticipation; they changed their own plans, cancelled previous engagements and commitments to be somewhere else just to be in front of a television for the halftime show because they were sure she would put everyone they disagreed with or despised in their place and bury them beneath a heap of shame.

     I missed the program so I cannot say with certainty, but whatever she did or said on stage didn't change the world as many hoped it would. From the disappoint in her performance I saw from liberals I can assume it fell short of what Lincoln's political messages meant to large crowds that gathered to hear his take on important American issues.

    The anticipated drama of what Lady Gaga would unleash, nor the game itself was on my list of things to do on Superbowl Sunday, but putting a fresh coat of wax on my car was!  I try to keep the drama in my own life manageable and in perspective, totally devoid of  being a distraction to anyone else's. Before the coin was flipped for the 51st Superbowl the wax was applied and my car was again shiny, and before it ended I was back on Facebook sharing pictures of it with friends that appreciate images of shiny Ford Mustangs!

    I have to be honest I am not familiar with Lady GaGa: I have never listened to her music and never concerned myself with her political views, and I didn't care one way or the other about either team in the Superbowl or who would win. It is the reason I didn't get caught up or emotionally anxious about any of it. Like I said; I avoid other people's drama while doing all I can to concentrate on my own and mine isn't the kindling for anyone's distorted views of other people or their political passion. My drama isn't about asking for favors or understanding of anything, yet I suspect there are some that might read this and find enough in it to pick a fight with.

     But whatever any reader's take on all of this might be it is hard to imagine how anyone could look at my car and not agree that it looks good when it is clean and sports a shine!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Fixing To Die

    In March, 2017 it will be twenty years since my mother passed. I often wonder what she would think of us and the world if she could come back and try to pick up where she left off before she got sick, and before we all had to say goodbye to her. I have a pretty good idea that she would not be pleased with all of the changes she would encounter, in fact, I knew her well enough to believe she would be as terrified as she would be mortified.

    1996 was the last year she was well enough to still be the family go to girl when any of us had a problem or if we needed comforted or only reassured that tomorrow will be a better a day; that was her signature saying when she couldn't explain or fix something for someone else right away. In October of that year she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and the day before she received that horrible news she went shopping. That day began as any other before she realized for sure that something was wrong and from then on everything in her world (and ours) went downhill and then five months later she was gone.

     She wasn't fixing to die before she was told that she might, and it wasn't until she was too weak to struggle against what was rapidly becoming inevitable and fell into a coma before her will to keep hoping and fighting to stay with us eventually gave out.  I was at her bedside when she passed and the next twenty years have seemed like only a few days. But here we are; two decades since, and with the years came the changes of attitudes and behavior of most of the world in addition to technological advances that changed how we get things done, how we treat one another and of course our economy, one that she and my dad (who passed a year later) probably couldn't survive on their own if they were still here, even if both were healthy.

     Nevertheless, my parents were strong people that played by the rules and they spent their lives under a different set of them than we now have for everyone; maybe it is a disguised blessing in their favor that they didn't live to see what we all do now, or that they needn't be expected to accept changes I suspect they wouldn't want if given a choice, or to even be able to comprehend. That changing economy for example; most of my mother's favorite shopping venues are gone or are closing, largely because of how the masses shop now through the convenient process of never having to leave home by doing it on line.

    Mom was a window shopper who enjoyed walking past one and peering into another and seeing a reason to enter a store; she found joy in getting dressed up to leave the house whenever it was possible to go somewhere or do something different than being cooped up at home where she was busied by the daily routines of housekeeping and making sure hers was a fine oasis away from the madness and chaos of others. She would return from a day out there in it and say she was glad she didn't have to face it everyday but we all knew she enjoyed it.

   Websites have replaced those windows and keyboards and computer screens asking for credit card numbers have made it easier to purchase just about everything (including food) without ever seeing it close up, trying it on to see if fits, or being tempted by an aroma. We pay on line for what we want to buy instead of handing money to cashiers and carrying it home ourselves and then wait for someone in a brown or white truck to bring it to us. Simple transactions but with possible consequences ranging from identity theft that can wipe us out financially or theft of the products from our porches when there is no one home to greet the delivery man.

     Before the stores boarded up their windows and the employees that worked in them were sent home for good getting anywhere presented fewer challenges and was less expensive as well as being far less dangerous than it has become for people her age. Her commute was on city buses where she didn't mind standing at a stop waiting for one to get her away and back home again. But most of those destinations she wanted to visit are gone and those buses are no longer the safe capsules of transportation they once were. She would be reluctant to even board one today if yesterday she saw something on the news where something horrible happened. The hugely inflated fare it now requires to climb aboard or how riders now pay with debit or credit cards instead of coins dropped into a box beside the driver would leave her gasping in disbelief.

     For that matter, what we pay for everything would go well beyond sticker-shock for both my parents and probably for everyone that died around the time they did. But what might shock them both more than prices for goods or services is the people that were born shortly before or after they died and how we are raising and educating them as well as the people they knew and how so many of them have changed!

    The progress that has come wouldn't be viewed by them with the same zeal it is for everyone that has embraced how we get things done or the new tolerance for other people's behavior that was different from what they believed was normal.

    Nearly all of the progress that was made in their lifetime and the things that were new in the 20th Century has become old-school now; all replaced with gadgets and ideas they might not understand or want, and it has taken just twenty years to all but erase that familiar world they knew. This would be a scary place to be for my mother but not for my dad. His attitude would be more in line with mine, which is a will to accept what I have to but to hold onto what I want to keep until my time is over and not allow anyone or any machine change how I manage my affairs or what I think when it is my decision to make.

     My parents were never fixing to die; they treated each day as they did earlier ones until the choice was no longer theirs. I on the the hand have reasons to and they are reasons neither of them were confronted with because they lived in a time when dying was probably a sadder occurrence because for them there was more to look forward to in their normal world than some of us see in ours. In their lifetime not much was so different from a past that was interesting and when the world was more sane than it has become, and when what they accomplished in all of their years of living would still matter for the future more than what we have does for ours.

    Progress is galloping past us faster than it did in their time and people's attitudes and expectations are flying off in different directions even faster! My cell phone that I have had for 15 years is a dumb phone compared to newer ones with bigger screens that are really compact computers. Nothing about my life and what I use is regarded as smart. I still do most things manually even when I could pay for smart things and my own attitudes and expectations haven't changed significantly from what they were twenty or even 30 years ago.

    But a lot has changed for my generation which has become one that is more and more willing to forget the past and do its best just to find a comfortable place in the years we have left. Were I to die today and somehow find myself back here in 2037 I am sure I would drop dead again from shock when I saw the changes that are surely ahead. So I am fixing to die; not that I have any plan for that to happen soon, but even if we cannot be sure of when...we do know that death will befall us at sometime, and as morbid as it may sound I have been busying myself with being ready to the point of embracing the idea!

    In my work as a writer I have shared more than just clues that I am ready to go anytime the Lord is ready for me, and if today were my last one I am fine with it. In fact, if he were to leave it to me to decide if today was the finish line or choose to hang around another twenty years this would be my day of glory! What I envision in becoming an old man portends a place I want no residency in, especially if it is a nursing home or the more polite term for a warehouse for old people (assisted living space). The idea of living longer if it means not being able to care for myself without help is something I hope I never experience.

     It is a roll of the dice; be okay with checking out soon, or risk catastrophic happenings that could render us helpless, bankrupt or wishing we were dead all because we weren't ready or didn't plan for either.
     Those my age who say they are excited about getting older than we are, or that they enjoy this time more than when they were younger are either easily amused, still in near perfect health, or they are lying to someone. Even if they are financially better off than most I suspect there is some truth missing from their vocabulary when they talk about how much better they think the world is now than it was before it got on the fast track to change. But if they are really honest and really think it is I hope they live another 40 years. If they do, good for them; maybe by then all of what they hope to see around them will be worth it.

    But what is around me now, and what is trending and evolving is more than I want twenty more years of, so I shake off as much personal frustration as I can by staying focused on what makes me happy while keeping an eye on anything or anyone that displeases me and avoiding it when I can. I am fixing to die by living the way I choose for as long as I possibly can. That means expecting less and staying satisfied that I lived in a better time and can still do only the things I must and what my personal resources allow.

    I am fixing to die by not hoping for phone calls that could change my life or waiting for my government to ever get around to caring more for more people than it has lately and by not fearing what it is likely to do or become. I am fixing to die by voting against politicians that continue to seek new ways to keep their careers going by making themselves more popular to people I have little in common with, and I am fixing to die by setting my own last few goals to manageable heights.

    That means waking up every day and ignoring changes that don't suit me and shrugging off all of the warning signs of things or people that make me uncomfortable or could kill me! In other words I am preparing the best I know how to finish how I was when that day was decades still ahead. I am fixing to die by not waiting for someone else to do anything I want done and just doing it myself on my own terms.

    We are turning a political corner in America with a new president that is unlike any politician I have seen and for that reason I voted for him against any expectations I had that he could possibly win the election. But he did win and although he scares a lot of people who are hoping he and the country fails under his leadership I remain optimistic that he will not only succeed in undoing what those who came before him changed for the worse or to only benefit a few, but that it will be better for more people before the smoke and noise subsides from the angry ones that only have their own interest at heart.

    I hope I am right about this man, but even if it turns out that he isn't much different than the rest I'll be okay with that also because whether half of the world likes the other half or not our choices become fewer and with less hope with each new election and there isn't much anyone can do about that.  I have been approaching this whole fixing to die thing with the attitude that it is inevitable if not just over the horizon for me, and after that what is left behind will be up for grabs for someone else just as it always has been.

    By then it won't matter to all of us who moved on to whatever is next, and when the time arrives for me to face the consequences of living a long time no one should wonder if I was ready to die or not because if anyone has been paying even a little attention to me or what has defined me as a writer they will know that I have been fixing to for a spell.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Man with the Golden Gun

     They call it our golden years when we reach the age I am now; when no longer do we have to meet deadlines or live up to another's expectations, or for that matter prove anything to anyone. If you are like me you may have looked forward to the time when you could finally slow down or even stop keeping a schedule of any kind. I used to dream of the day when I could stop working and just relax anytime I felt like it; perhaps write my memoirs (as mundane or uninteresting as that might sound) while the rest of the world was out there slugging it out every day for whatever they wanted.

     Then I got there, and I arrived with about 95% of my teeth still in my mouth, most of my hair in places it ought to be and with all of my body parts still attached (except my tonsils) but most of them not working nearly as well as they once did! I got here much sooner than I thought I would because as we get older time continues to fly whether we are having much fun or not. My own golden years showed up in the blink of an eye, and speaking of eyes, mine ain't what they used to be either.

     In addition to spending more time writing than I probably should I also read more now than I used to and a lot of what I read is stuff I wish I hadn't. The news, for example; most of it is more depressing than it ever was to me and because I am getting older I find myself reading things that happen to other old people and what I might expect to also happen to me! For instance: I just read a piece on the Internet that talked about what happens to a man's penis when he gets old. Now that was an article I never would have paid any attention to back when mine mattered more to me than it ever will again. 

     But I read it nonetheless even though I knew it would depress me and there isn't anything we can do about it. As a matter of fact the writer pointed that out; the penis loses its elasticity, it shrinks and struggles to perform the basic functions we used to enjoy and there isn't any way to stop the aging process. In other words, it too becomes golden after a lot of years pass and for guys like me who resist change when change doesn't suit us the news about this is not good, but it also is not devastating because I now have fewer reasons to care about things like that than I did when I was in my 30s and there has been a lot of interesting distance covered since then.

      It won't matter to anyone but me that I have become like every other old guy in this respect but still I feel a measurable amount of sadness about the whole thing because not a day goes by where there isn't a reason to think about it or be reminded of it, and it can happen at the oddest times; like when I am watching television and a commercial comes on about pills for men with erectile dysfunction and I see some guy in it who looks to be half my age sitting in a bath tub holding hands with a woman half my age.

      At a time like that I think to myself how lucky I was through the years I never needed to have that discussion with my doctor and still don't because it really doesn't matter if mine is still functional or not and all of that stopped being a priority anyway. But still it seems unfair when you consider that as we age we get a few inches shorter but our nose and ears become larger; those parts that everyone sees every day become less attractive while the part we are urged to keep covered grows smaller, and according to the article as it shrinks our testicles actually grow longer!

     Not a pretty sight to look forward to.

    Throw in that our butts also lose their curvature and become flatter, or in some cases sag there isn't much left in terms of physical attraction (if we ever had any to begin with), and barely anything left of us to attract positive attention from anyone else besides our personality (if we can make it interesting) or something that sets us apart from others (if we can discover what that might be and hone it). 

    That butt issue has become more depressing to me than having become a man with a golden gun because it changed how my pants fit. I see men older than me whose belt-lines line up with their nipples and I understand why so many need suspenders to hold them up and why having more room in the crotch area makes less sense (unless it is because our testicles will fall further than they used to hang).

    The moral of this amoral story is my golden years and everything about them that is golden came with hidden fees I never anticipated. But I began this piece by hinting it would be a James Bond story and it is; for anyone familiar with the early Bond flicks you might recall that his boss, an aging but distinguished gentleman known only as "M" always looked at 007 with a scowl on his face and usually spoke to him condescendingly, as if he were disgusted by him, and with blatant resentment even when he knew he was the best agent Her Majesty's Secret Service employed.

     I suspect that it wasn't personal; the man was merely jealous.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Everything goes well until it doesn't...

      I wrote the title of this post as a polite variation of  shit happens, not to complain about anything going on in my own life that has left me feeling down or wondering why every day isn't a great day or even just a good one. We were reminded of how fast things can change for everyone in 2016, and for the first time in 2017 many of us were again when we lost our power and were left shivering in our homes in the middle of the night.

     The temperature outside was plunging into single digits when the lights went out and the furnace stopped but there wasn't anything many of us could do about that except to hope the electric company could resolve the issue quickly. When power was restored a few hours later it was another reminder of something else we sometimes take for granted; for me it was simply an inconvenience that I hoped would not linger for very long, but for people that cannot pay their utility bills and do not have enough friends or someone in their family to help them out in times of need, or for all of those that have lost their homes because of disaster or another reason my temporary problem was one of annoyance, not dire emergency, and for that I am eternally grateful!

     None of us are immune from unpleasant detours when all is well in life and everything we have and enjoy is working in our favor. That great job or the best people we could hope to surround ourselves with could all become disappointments one day or gone altogether, and all it might take is one bad decision on our part or something we cannot explain at all. It has happened more times to me than I care to divulge here and I am sure it will a few more before I have the chance to know why.

      But I have learned to pick myself up and not rely on anyone to comfort me or suggest ways to avoid being disappointed further, or left to feel sorry for myself when I am having a bad day or when others are doing something that disappoints me. Someday everything I have will be gone so I cherish what is left of my stuff but not as much as I covet the fact that I am still able to protect my home and those who count on me and keep giving me reasons to want to.

     I suspect there are people whose lives rarely get inconvenienced and many who might be reluctant to admit that everything isn't rosy for them all the time but I am more comfortable in my own surroundings when I am not joined there by them. It isn't that I resent people that seem to be born into immunity from ever being let down or anyone that has earned it, I just don't have the time nor patience to waste marveling at them or wondering why my own life was one of more challenges than theirs. But they too will know moments when everything was going well until it stopped; it might be a health concern that becomes out of anyone's ability to correct or the loss of a loved one but none of us finish life as happy as we were before something changed.

     In the moments before the power went off the other night I was looking in the medicine cabinet for a bottle of Excedrin hoping to relieve a headache that had been lingering all day and I blurted out oh shit!  There were a few last-minute routines I needed to undertake before going to bed and suddenly I was not only in the dark but so was my 13 year-old disabled dog that needed to get outside one more time for the evening; a chore that requires lifting her to steady her (95 pounds) and carefully guiding her through 3 rooms and down 4 steps to the yard which was not only freezing but now pitch-black.

     Normally on a frigid night such as this one I would know it was time for her and I would be completely dressed for the elements including a coat, cloves and suitable shoes, but I was in my boxer-shorts, a t-shirt and only socks when the lights went out and my other gear was in two other rooms! After successfully helping her and my other dog get out and back inside it was feeding time for them and for the cat that was howling for her late-night snack also. However, before I could address any of that I needed to find candles to see what I was doing and to light a few paths in the house and to do that I needed matches, which I had forgotten where I put them.

     Once those routines were accomplished there was the matter of rigging up suitable warmth and the garage was where I needed to go to search for a kerosene heater I keep for such emergencies. After another 10 or 15 minutes it was inside and fired-up and with the warmth came the stench of burning petroleum in my living room that quickly mingled with the stench of scented candles. They were all we had because my wife believes candles should emit aromas whereas I cannot stomach the smell of pumpkin spice, vanilla or raspberries if it only resembles the real thing.

      It must be a woman thing, or only something feminine men can appreciate; flavored candles? Please. That might be one of the worst ideas ever come up with but at this crucial time I had no other choice but to light several as I still needed to find that pill bottle and put into play a few more indoor and outdoor routines before sitting up through the night to make sure we stayed warm without inviting disaster by being careless with the flames now needed for light and comfort. It was then I wished I hadn't switched from a gas stove to an electric one when those words came to me; everything goes well until it doesn't...and how good a cup of hot coffee would be right now!

     So I returned to the garage to find my portable propane stove to heat water. (What's a few more fumes when one has a splitting headache?) As I was setting it up on the back porch I received an alert on my cell phone from the electric company advising that power would likely be off for 4 hours, and then a second one came warning that it might be 12 hours and the only good in any of that was that at least I could snuff out those stinking candles when the sun came up. But then, 20 minutes later, like an answer to a silent prayer that nothing else would go wrong and that no more delays would be advised the sound of the furnace and the lights coming on at the same time once again served as a reminder that God hears us and once again everything was going well.

     If there is a point to be made here it is only that I experienced another episode of temporary set-back and that I need to work a little harder on taking fewer things (like electricity) for granted. In recent years I have been working harder and harder on doing that while encouraging others not to take life or themselves too seriously when everything isn't going the way we hope it will. Like the 2016 election cycle; where out of nowhere our political system was turned inside out to reveal how different we all are and how much unalike our expectations are.

     For liberals everything was going their way, and the future looked nearly guaranteed that it would for years to come until shock waves were sent on election day, and now for everyone (like me) that believes liberalism is barely different than a dangerous cult it is even more important as we look ahead to remember, everything goes well until it doesn't. If we can keep the power we need on, and if we never take for granted what it means to have it (or be without it) we should be fine. On the other hand; if we get cocky or don't prepare for emergencies or steady our emotions when something unexpected comes along we will be in far worse trouble than I was when the lights went out.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Walking in High Cotton beats being poor

      Something I rarely talk or write about is my personal wealth, which by the way, and to my own surprise continues to grow substantially.  I no longer have to wake up and go among the masses each day to compete for my own cotton patch or hope that it will one day be bigger than my neighbor's or even just enough to live above what might be regarded by anyone as a financially secure or only safe comfort zone. 

     What I do have I already worked many years for and I believe I have earned all that brings me joy. I won't discuss with anyone but the Internal Revenue Service my personal holdings or bank statements because quite frankly that area of my life is no one's business, and as far as I am concerned it is none of theirs either but the law being what it is I am compelled to go along with it and the idea of ever being audited is something that I would prefer never to be bogged down with.

     Nevertheless I do from time-to-time share anecdotes within the pages of stories I write that reveal experiences and the paths I have taken en route to where I hoped I would be before I die. They may not leap from the pages but they are there, outlined and explained the best I know how for anyone that might be curious as to how it came about that a kid from a broken down neighborhood who some believed was plagued with a learning disability, coupled with an attention deficit in the early years of schooling somehow overcame both and unlocked enough mysteries to climb over what used to be obstacles.

    Whether it sounds like I am lamenting about previous hardships or on a boasting spree for the comfort and riches I have managed to cobble together from all of that would be up to the reader to decide, but I hope an open mind will prevail before that call is made. Keeping an open mind is in large part the secret to all of my successes in life; believing in things even when they seemed out of my reach, believing in other people when common sense said it was a toss-up and in myself when I was more hopeful than sure has played the biggest role in my becoming a wealthy man.

     Of course being in the right place at the right time didn't hold me back either because when I found myself there I seized as many opportunities as I knew how! That old saying it's not who you know, it's who you blow may be true for many, but I never had to blow anyone to get where I wanted to be. Those who truly know me or anyone familiar with my work might argue that I am not a kisser-upper as much as I am probably a defiant and rebellious sort when kissing up might better work to my advantage. I am not beneath blowing a little friendly smoke in someones direction when I see an opportunity to gain their attention to something I want them to know about me, but never have I been accused of holding back what I really think or expressing my opinion even when it might be perceived as impolite.  

    In fact, it is no secret to anyone that I might have been invited into more lucrative circles or encouraged to remain in a few impressive jobs longer than I chose to if I had been a little friendlier or more neighborly than I was when I spoke my piece instead of what someone else wanted to hear or expected. When it comes to politics, liberals would describe me as a train wreck, and when it comes to social graces among politicians I might be the last person to be invited to deliver the keynote address at a banquet or a fund-raiser although I do speak well and have what I believe is an above average command of the English language.

    But given the other things I do have, or some of the things others might only dream of or are still trying to get, being the way I am has proven to me that I have been approaching life in a manner that has resulted in being successful if not understood by some. In that manner of rationale I believe you have to be rich  to fully understand and appreciate riches. I think that because there was a time my life could have been described as that of a poor man, or at the very least one who struggled often I am in a position to now draw comparisons to us who have a lot and those still scrambling to get theirs! 

   And before I can be labeled a pompous ass I hope it will be known that I take nothing and no one for granted, and that I fully realize that everything I have could be swept away with one careless decision or one catastrophic event. We all teeter on that balance and all of us hope we will never step on a crack and be swallowed up by it.

   It is why when I dreamed of someday becoming a rich man I vowed philanthropy, and becoming a philanthropist is my immediate goal. My intention is not to rival or compare myself to someone like Percy Ross who discovered joy and personal satisfaction in giving away money; I aim to hold onto mine for as long as I need it. But what I do want to share and spread around to others is a mindset that leaves me believing that I am wealthy and that so are many others who don't even know they are!

   The home that shelters and keeps my family safe from the lions at the gate isn't particularly impressive to anyone but me but it is the one I want and wouldn't trade for anyone else's. My family is an eclectic passel of people that are as different from one another as people I have known all my life but they are all extraordinarily gifted people. The bosses and co-workers I have known through the years all taught me something that became valuable in some way, and the friends I have known, especially the ones that hung around were and still are people worthy of being admired and cherished.

      I treat friendship and loyalty to one another as  precious gifts that we exchange.

     I never received an abundance of education but I was educated well enough to land in some exciting and rewarding workplaces where I was surrounded by brilliant people that taught me to be brilliant when I needed to be. However, just as important as all of that is the peace of mind I have obtained as well as my awareness of how well my life has turned out even when there were many times I was left wondering whether I was doing things the right way or if anything I was doing really mattered. I have had amazing pets all my life that were more than adequate stand-ins when people failed to show up to remind me of what I was seeking all along, and compared to some that are as old as I am now my health, although not perfect is reasonably good considering the abuses and neglect I have shown my body through the years.

      I never bought expensive toys but managed to have toys I wanted and they included vehicles I dreamed of owning or only wanted during moments of impulsive buying, and the joy of owning them wasn't anymore complicated to me than it was working on them when something broke or tinkering with them to give them each my own personal touches. There is a term for people with obsessions for these pleasures; we are called car guys and the value of our cars can be as high for an old rusty Chevrolet as it would be for a shiny new Ferrari. Many of mine could have been called rust-buckets but I enjoyed all of them.

      None of them were expensive and collectively they mirrored the rest of my life! It has been one of riches in every way but how someone with different ideas might describe personal wealth. Like I said, I will keep the bulk of my money and only give away some of it to hold onto what I have and need. If I had more and could spare more I would  be someone like Percy Ross and other wealthy philanthropists that are more generous and practice more benevolence than me, but my riches are defined in a different category than theirs. 

      My life has never been about a fatter bank account than I need to keep going and remain satisfied along the trail; it is defined in two amazing bulldogs that keep me smiling every day and knowing that we will remain dry on this cloudy and dreary day, in a comfortable place where neither they nor I will see it end unable to satisfy our hunger. It will be on further display when my phone rings and I don't like the number displayed on caller-I.D enough to answer it.

      I walk in that high cotton every time I visit the garage where there is a seven-year old Mustang parked; where I can climb in it and go somewhere if I need to or just gaze at it knowing it is the car I want and can afford. The cotton in my life turned out to be a healthy crop but not so high that I am ever likely to get lost in it and because it is just high enough I am truly a man of great wealth. Having revealed that, please don't ask to borrow any money as I have none to lend. But there may come a day when my pockets are fuller and when I have more than would be fair for any one person to hoard. 
     If that day does come I might just be the guy more people would enjoy having around, and it could arrive sooner than later if enough people liked and believed what I shared here, and if they are willing to explore even more pearls of wisdom that explain how I became a rich man.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Legacy of Division... How I will remember the Obamas

     There is no photo to accompany this post because quite frankly the image of Barack Obama will forever haunt me as a once loyal Democrat that voted for his presidency twice and lived to regret it.

     Seeing him now only reminds me of how easy it was to be duped into believing he would have all of America's best interest at heart and that somehow he would find a way to more unite our country after the bad taste that was left in so many mouths following the George W. Bush era. What we got on return for our investment of trust in him was a more divided nation than at any time since the American Civil War! Sadly, after all of the hope, this is how he will be remembered by many that trusted him to do better than he was clearly capable of doing.

     When I look back on his tenure as the most powerful person in the world I can only come up with one thing that has happened under his watch that had a positive effect on the majority of us; the cost of gasoline tumbled to an affordable price for everyone that needed it. As far as many of us are concerned the only benefactors of his presidency has been foreign governments, the lobbyists that delivered wealthy investors who funded his campaigns, attention seekers  and anyone bumming a free ride or demanding clemency from being held accountable for anything.

      I saw a popular sway in American values and expectations under the Obama regime by people who identified themselves as Democrats and it was as if they were all holding matches to fuses with intentions of burning down most of the traditions that were struggled for, bled for, and have lasted more than 200 years that identified us as the strongest nation in the world. Not a perfect nation, and certainly one (like all others) that could stand a tune-up from time-to-time, but not one in dire need of turning us all against one another until we either fix everything at once or go to war with ourselves.

     That is what happened in the 2016 election; we went to civil war against those that saw our country differently than we did or wanted it to become something we didn't want. The fuses were lit to pit everyone that stood for ideals that were traditional America values against everyone that either never respected them at all, or felt strongly they were no longer good enough. In our zeal to rise above prejudices and protect democracy for all we found ourselves wallowing in the gutters of hate-filled rhetoric, pointing fingers of blame and sacrificing decency and civility to one another for believing what we believed.

       For us Democrats that felt disenfranchised by the failures and lack of concern for the whole country at the national level as well as by other Democrats within state and local party ranks it was not a difficult decision to break away and cross the lines that divided so many. We looked at and listened to who the Democrats had in mind to succeed him when it came time for Obama and his flock to vacate the White House and we heard loud and clear the other side. For me it was a first: never before did I ever consider trusting the Republicans with my vote and making it count for anything that would be in my best interest, but this time it was the Democrats not them that convinced me that I should.

      In the end it came down to a handful of choices; two major party candidates that didn't seem to even belong in the same country (let alone be trusted by half of it to lead it back to grace and prosperity) and a few power-hungry renegades who identified themselves as neither Democrat nor Republican; none of whom seemed smarter than a fifth grader, and each of whom could have caused nothing but chaos and further discombobulation within our already fragile and vulnerable borders.

     The Democrat's choice to assume responsibility for leading us in the post-Obama era was a woman that sported what amounted to a hateful chip growing from both shoulder blades. Her rhetoric against traditional America was as condescending and laced with as much racial divide and content for men and women that longed for being treated with respect for their sacrifices as Mr. Obama fostered and cultivated during his two terms. In many ways she came off as sounding evil and certainly more dangerous to the whole of the country than he.

     In the final debate between her and the Republican nominee she railed against and questioned his patriotism when he suggested a wait and see attitude when asked if he would accept and support the process we have always used to select our presidents, and when it was over it was her and her followers that wouldn't go away quietly. Instead they protested vigorously and called for others to protest; they promised (and are still promising) total disruption of the results. They spent and wasted tens of  millions of dollars on futile recounts, hoping for a miracle that would further change how we choose our leaders from a fair process to only something fair for them. In short, the entire world saw the new Democratic Party that I and apparently many others warned was festering before our very eyes during the Obama era.

     I will remember President Obama not only for his many failures and weaknesses, but equally important for what he was  able to accomplish; disruption of the old Democratic Party and how he led a national movement to redefine what it stands for, a wider racial divide since the 1960s, his promise for affordable health care for all Americans that left me spending more than a third of my income for insurance premiums and oh yes...lower gas prices. The idea that choosing the first African American president would unite us more and break down racial barriers that existed before him proved just the opposite and if he is an honest man he will claim the lion's share of responsibility for that.

     When he said he wanted to be the president for all Americans he must have changed his mind sometime near the end of his first term when his focus shifted from all to only those making the most noise. His "squeaky wheel gets the grease" policies were carried out and paid for with higher taxes for businesses and working Americans that supported him and received nothing in return but made to feel double-crossed. And in the end, at this time for him to go, he has shown only low-class surrender of his powers by mocking and criticizing the man selected through due-process to replace him, while promising nothing to aid in facilitating changes that have potential to be positive for more people than he was able to deliver.

     Even the First Lady refuses to leave quietly or with any resemblance to grace or dignity. Saying that because her preferred candidate lost the election she now knows what it feels like to not have any hope is a back-handed slap in the faces of people everywhere that really have known hopelessness. It is a punch in the gut to hungry and homeless people that never found a way out of despair under her husband's presidency; it is a kick in the groin to everyone forced to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet, and to sick people who cannot afford to see a doctor or anyone that was forced to file bankruptcy because they went when they needed to.

      Her comments about knowing what hopelessness feels like when the servants that have served her for eight years are gone and when there are no highly trained Secret Service agents there to protect her and her children any longer is salt into the wounds of every family that lost someone who was murdered in some ghetto in America that she and her husband all but ignored and were left to become dirtier and more dangerous. It probably tightened the tourniquets and heightened the mental anguish of every wounded veteran now struggling for decent medical care for what they went through to keep our country safe, and for every college kid drowning in tuition debt it probably left them wondering why they even went to school in the first place.

      Michelle Obama leaves her perch in high society a woman as defiant and stained by arrogance as her husband, and it is fair to attack her; the long honored tradition of keeping First Ladies immune from verbal prosecution for the failures of their husbands went by the wayside when she inserted herself as a voice and believing she spoke for the majority of the country. The immunity from scorn left her as it did when it no longer applied to Mrs. Clinton when she too insulted half the country.

      When Mrs. Obama took the low road to mock the newly elected president and everyone that supported him she stood like a soldier defending what she believed was the good that came from her husband's time in office and she believed she was echoing popular sentiment. But sometimes soldiers lose the fight even when they believe it is the good one and they get knocked down. If she is truly a brave soldier (as she has poised herself to be for the past eight years) she should have expected all the cannon fodder coming her way since she invited it with bold remarks, but if she can't it only proves how alike she and her husband really are.
     Many of us see him now as only a bitter man that was so caught up in his own ego and protecting what he believed was a proud legacy that he tarnished it with a patina that should never be removed; to be left for all to look back on as a lesson in the principles of democracy. His idea of democracy and that of what remains of the Democratic Party has shifted from what many of us knew it to be before they turned truth into prejudices against what they call being politically correct.

    There can be nothing politically correct about anything they accomplished or hope to accomplish when it leaves tens of millions of people feeling frustrated and hopeless but it seems that was their goal all along. The evidence showed up when America kicked him and his hand-picked would-be successor to the curb and finally said enough is enough.

     Many of my fellow Democrats took back any respect they once held for me when they discovered that I supported a  promise to restore America to something that will once again resemble what made it great in the first place but I am okay with that. The  friends I lost through all of this can and will be replaced, and all of us will keep believing in what we choose to believe in. What didn't completely destroy us will be our only hope to endure with any chance of ever coming back together.

     I extended faith and trust in Barack Obama and I will remember him as a president who let me down. Walking away from the party he led, that of my parents and grandparents before them was made easy by those that have done all they could to cast out the old faithful and replace us with people that never believed in what we did. In his wake will be two very different countries, both pretending to be united but still divisive, and they will be represented by more than two political parties. The Democrats that shifted their support to Republicans are already proving that it needed us to keep alive and protect all that we hold dear, and we needed them. In this, the aftermath of eight years of division, Democrats working with Republicans are on course to becoming the only truly democratic party we have.

     The old Democratic Party will keep trying to reinvent itself to become more and more attractive to younger generations and to various minority groups and millions of immigrants regardless of where they come from or whether or not they have our country's best interest at heart or their own agendas to weaken it. It is an act of clever awareness and resourcefulness on their part to keep fielding candidates that can hopefully restore their power and effectiveness over the masses.

     For them it is only about numbers and they have done the math. However, what they were willing to sacrifice came at a cost  just as unaffordable to them as Barack Obama's health care plan that was successfully shoved down everyone's throats. In the end the math was right, but the sum of it all was not in their favor and it left them even angrier at America than they were when they launched their revolt against traditional American values.
     That to me is this president's legacy.

    Our parent's Democratic Party was dismantled and sold off sometime between 2009 and 2016, but those of us with strong traditional Democratic roots are replanting in a new political garden now; forced to re-seed but finding more space to grow within the Republican Party.

    Maybe what we really need now, instead of a third party is new names for both major parties.