An Alternate Route

And so for at least a while I have a fairly substantial commute. It isn’t the distance or the time involved with my commute I find so taxing. Rather, it’s the demands imposed upon my psyche which include stop and go traffic upon fairways that would otherwise lope along at about 70 miles per hour.

During those first few days of my new commute I found myself less engrossed with the music on my XM radio than I was with the increasing temerity of my vortex of depression. If I may paraphrase from “A Christmas Story”, what hath brought me to this lowly state? It is with this frame of mind I decided I would take arms and would not allow myself to wallow.

Perused a number of internet maps did I. And slowly, alternate routes didst appear unto me as though the slow realizations of the distinctions of gender based thought processes eventually unfold.

My first intentions towards adopting this alternate dissolved as the breezes capture the good intentions of January resolutions. This was due to the misconception of initial visions of clear traffic patterns which proved as illusory as the Sirens of Anthemusa. My next day’s resolve held true and I was rewarded with both a shorter and more reasonably traveled commute.

The discovered alternative does not entirely obviate the necessity of my negotiating the east bound on-ramp of the Tappan Zee bridge. This must still be endured, albeit for a substantially shorter duration than that to which I had been previously subjected.

As I re-enter the highway that would deposit me onto the bridge, one cannot help but notice the look and attitude of my fellow travelers. Some allow their rage to grab hold of their veneer of civility. In so doing, these souls allow themselves to parade their frustration in the form of blaring horns or lane jockeying. Most submerge their emotions underneath straight ahead stares and clenched teeth.

And it is within this defined backdrop I noticed a legitimately placed, professionally displayed sign on the right shoulder of the road designed to capture the attention and imagination of those who would chance upon this bridge.

The sign advised the following: “Life is worth living.” Underneath this not so cleverly imposed admonition, the author further instructed the so inclined traveler, of a suicide prevention hotline telephone number. Upon reflection, it became apparent this sign was designed in order to thwart those who might have allowed themselves to toss their fates to the merciless maw of the Hudson River.

I literally laughed out loud, and to my windshield I exclaimed, “Thank you. I appreciate that.”

Although the sign was, in all likelihood, designed to address potential jumpers, it seems the message is more appropriate for those who suffer daily traffic.

Wonder why they don’t also consider, as an option, an alternate route.

New Anti-Semitism

Our friend’s brother suddenly passed away. Sad. I didn’t know him well, although I knew of him. We met a few times. Seemed to be an okay guy. Played guitar a little. My wife did a favor for his daughter a while back involving formal dresses.

But he died. A memorial service was held Sunday and a post service get together was held at the sister-in-law’s house.

During the portions of the service where members of the congregation felt compelled to address the audience and unburden their feelings, the daughter and the daughter’s boyfriend decided to become additional members of this subset and, by so assuming, did impose themselves upon the attending flock.

During their rambling disconnected delivery of their collection of anecdotes, certain decidedly derogatory remarks were directed towards Jews. Rather than gasps or silence, the congregation collectively responded with appreciative giggles and grins.

Of course after these heart felt eulogies, the cheap-suited minister was obligated to deliver the usual circular arguments expounding upon the insistence of afterlife, Jesus’ just rewards and the general single avenue one must take in order to successfully transport one’s otherwise worthless sin laden carcass to them pearly gates.

As a brief departure, I could not help but take note regarding the attire of the faithful parishioners. And I grant you I do not regularly attend such events.
Perhaps because of this this my viewpoints may appear to be a bit jaundiced. But I am accustomed to a certain degree of decorum when it comes to the attire adorned at such events. It seems to me somehow shorts, sneakers, biker colors and t shirts fall decidedly outside these expectations. This should have prepared me for the unfolding offerings contained within.

After the service, although composed, I found I could not leave the premises quickly enough. I could actually feel myself hyperventilating with ill-disguised rage.

My buddy Alan followed a safe distance behind. I suggested I was somewhat less than appreciative of that service. Alan is more philosophical and tougher than me so he was able to shrug off the obvious. “The world is anti-semitic. You’re surprised?”

The drive to sister-in law was silent for me and my wife was respectful of my wordlessness, recognizing that anything coming out of my face would not be subject to any thoughtful filtering.

The last straw was, at the house, where daughter’s boyfriend cavalierly tossed off a line about too many Jewish students attending a local University.

I had a phone conversation that evening with Alan and his wife the purpose of which was to determine whether I was being overly sensitive.

They both attempted to assuage me by saying that although my observations were accurate and my feelings were justified, I should let it go because of the caliber and collective intellect of the crowd.

On the one hand, they are decidedly correct.

However I remain steadfast in my resolve that what we had witnessed was simply a small port hole into the rather unseemly world of the general consciousness.

Through news, commentary, and the general timbre of communications there appears to be a rising tide of anti-semitism.

I fear with the widening wealth gap and the general state of lemming mentality, a scapegoat state, as we have witnessed in a number of cultures throughout the ages is slowly but steadily emerging.

My hope is the veneer of civility will be maintained. My fear is that ignorance and mob rule will become the order of the day.

Clown cars and the 14th Amendment

The pure logistics of repealing a Constitutional amendment is, at its best, daunting. According to Article V of the United States’ Constitution, you need 2/3 majority of both houses and ¾ ratification of the states.

This has only been done once and it required another constitutional amendment. The temperance movement decried the evils of alcohol. In 1919, the Volstead act, (named after Andrew Volstead, chairman of the house judiciary committee) passed enabling the eventual passage in 1920 of the Constitution’s 18th Amendment prohibiting the general sale of alcoholic beverages.

This was a huge mistake as was evidenced by wholesale corruption, widespread crime and a general disregard of the letter of the law. This was finally acknowledged and in 1933 the 21st Constitutional Amendment was passed whose sole purpose was the repeal of the much despised 18th Amendment.

Let us now turn our attention to both the present and the year 1868.

Congress passed the 14th Amendment in 1868 in direct response to the recognition of the status of freed slaves. The measure consists of five sections covering the following areas: Citizenship, Congressional representation, funding of insurrection, public debt and the enforcement of the provision.

At issue today is the first section of the 14th Amendment which states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

We’ll break this down in a bit. But let us discuss why this particular bit of verbiage is paramount as we today speak.

There is currently a clown car of GOP hopefuls all vying to win the Presidential election scheduled November 2016. And as Matt Taibbi reasoned in his recent article in Rolling Stone, the tactics recognized for bumping you in the polls involves neither logic nor reason. Rather it is the headline grabber causing higher ratings. In other words, the more outrageous, the better.

The Trumpster seems to be the prevailing headlining bozo of the moment. And he appears to be quite masterful in his ability to grab headlines. During his presidential bid announcement he pronounced Mexican immigrants as rapists and thieves. A good start no? Huckabee, I suspect unintentionally, secured headlines when, during the obligatory Obama bashing, reflected that our nuclear deal with Iran was so naïve as to be the equivalent of marching Israelis to the ovens. This horrific unfiltered bilge simultaneously grabbed headlines and, therefore, increased the Huckman’s poll numbers.

Tasteful, no?

But the Donald has issued a series of outrageous headline grabbers. He insisted he would build a great wall on Mexico’s border and make Mexico pay for it. Right. He denounced John McCain for having the bad taste of being captured during the VietNam war. And of course, he discounted McCain’s status as war hero. There have been others.

But his most recent foray into the shocking involves his insistence on ridding ourselves of the onerous liability of recognizing those born within the confines of our states as, per se, United States citizens.

Those born here are conferred these rights as a direct and proximate result of the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

During the post civil war period this language was hotly contested by the Southern states prior to the amendment’s ratification. Prior to this, African-Americans, regardless of their status were either not recognized or only counted as 3/5 of a person for purposes of congressional representation.

Which brings us to a rather disturbing growing climate of anti-immigration. I feel this is a rather hypocritical posture we citizens of these United States find ourselves.

As we all know, none of us are Americans. Unless your forefathers were born on this land prior to Columbus’ landing, you are not native. And it is with this recognition, among others, our nation was founded. It is with this ethic we still have our Statue of Liberty emblazoned with Emma Lazarus’ welcoming words.

It is with no small amount of wonder and sadness I watch a series of clowns pontificate upon the sanctity of our land. Trump knows full well this particular point cannot be taken remotely seriously on a number of levels.

There is no gray area or area of interpretation, unlike the second amendment. The first sentence of the fourteenth amendment could not be possibly more clear. If you are born here you are a citizen.

An argument is currently put forth by followers of John Tanton’s Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) that certain immigrant groups are engaged in “competitive breeding” aimed at diminishing white power.

FAIR recently helped run a billboard campaign in Virginia blaming immigrants for traffic and sprawl. In a 1997 interview, Tanton said that unless U.S. borders are sealed, America will be overrun by people “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.”

Never mind the same bilge has been thrown at one or another at Irish, Italians, Catholics, Jews, Blacks, Chinese and Japanese. It appears as though it is now Mexico’s turn in the barrel.

A new phrase has entered the American lexicon in the form of what is casually referred to as Birth Tourism. In a nut shell this involves a foreign national arriving on our shores with the express and sole intent of delivering a newborn upon our shores.

There are those who establish compounds and hotels where birth tourism, particularly among Asians, has become an issue. In these instances, there are lies perpetrated to the unsuspecting parents of these babies and these people are accordingly exploited.

While the language of the Fourteenth Amendment is quite clear, the reality poses a different picture.
A child can be born here, but that alone does not give the child or their parents the right to live here, until the child reaches adulthood.

Once a citizen child reaches 21 in the case of the United States and 18 in the case of Canada, that child can return to North America and eventually sponsor their parents to legally immigrate to the country of citizenship. As for education in the meantime, unless the child can show legal guardianship or custody by a U.S. or Canadian citizen giving them permission to reside in North America, they will not be able to study here, either.

So once again, we are posed with overly simplistic bombast designed to instill fear in the uneducated masses. The issue is being inflated for the sole purpose of gaining notoriety.

Further let us look at the likelihood of actually repealing the Fourteenth Amendment.

The process is, at its very best, extremely burdensome. Both Houses of Congress must propose the amendment with a two-thirds vote. Two-thirds of the State legislatures must call on Congress to hold a Constitutional Convention.

Regardless of how the amendment is proposed, it must be ratified by the States. Three-fourths of the State legislatures must approve of the amendment proposed by Congress, or three-fourths of the states must approve the amendment via ratifying conventions. Again, this method has only been used to repeal the 21st Amendment. Only 33 amendments have received a two-thirds vote from both Houses of Congress. Of those, only 27 have been ratified by the States.

And yet, here we stand, allowing our media to fascinate us with yet more shiny baubles of nonsensical irrelevant titterings.

Do we need a properly administered immigration policy? Yes. Do we need a constitutional amendment to address the issue? No.

We need reason, logic and dedicated professionals all in place serving you and me.

The Modern Meeting

I am an early riser. It is not unusual for me to wake around 4:30 to 5:00 am and either read, or practice on my silent guitar or irritate my current Congressmen over the internet.

So it was of little concern to me when our European colleagues scheduled a teleconference at 7:00 am in the morning. I am even more fortunate in that I have an extremely reasonable commute to the office. On a good day, I enter my car arriving at my desk within 25 minutes. On a bad traffic day, the same process might take 40 minutes.

I’m not certain how this may sound to some. But in the suburbs of New York City, let me tell you, what I’ve just described is the equivalent of rolling out of bed.

However, and having said all of that, the process of ensuring your posterior is optimally positioned for work related efforts by or before 7:00 in the morning needs to be considered beforehand if one is accustomed to smoothing on in to work after 7:30 or so.

And so it was. Although I had planned on leaving the house at 6:00 (just because I like to think and plan in round numbers) and was about 6 or 7 minutes late, my arrival, including powering my laptop and ensuring its operational status found both me, with my posterior following close behind, at 6:35. More than enough time to make a cup of coffee and respond to a handful of emails prior to our 7:00 am witching hour.

And so, the WebEx link was clicked and the logon was effected. Then, courtesy of a headset, the required number was dialed and, as if by magic, a conference call was established involving local folks, domestic colleagues and our colleagues in Europe.

However, a key figure on our team, the one member upon whom the very rationale behind scheduling this teleconference was based, was nowhere to be found. The remaining members of the call, roughly six or so, found ourselves conversing about the weather and vacations and pending weekend activities, virtually twiddling our thumbs while collectively waiting for the shoe to drop.
Our protagonist never did impose his virtual presence into the fray and so we continued to wait.

Bear in mind there were several of us locals who were markedly less than enthusiastic about being there at that ungodly hour in the first place.

After a fair amount of thumb twiddling our Italian teleconference leader threw his virtual hands in the air and announced to the rest of us, “Ah. Wella. It a looksa lahk a Billa heeza not a show up. I’m a think mebbe ah reschedule, eh?”

And so the rest of us silently acquiesced hoping the next schedule would reflect as neither overly early, particularly on a Monday, nor overly late, particularly on a Friday. It turned out to be neither. The meeting was rescheduled for 10:00 later that morning.

But as we locals hung up from the call at precisely 7:15 that morning, there were a few audible laughs accompanied by a few headset tossings that had emanated from behind our cubicle walls.

The reasons for the laughter? A couple. First of all, we had to laugh at our own irony for catering to an early morning demand in order to accommodate our European colleagues only to get shot down for our own consideration. Secondly the shear Snafu of it all appealed to the sublime sense of the absurd in many of us.

The fact that we and our collective project represented the daily norm was missed by no one. First there was going to be one very large document to accommodate all the facets of the project. Then a decision was somehow delivered where each segment of the project would be represented by its own document. Then there would be a consolidation of the more logical pieces. Then there was input required from other colleagues from other countries. However they were slow in responding because they had so much on their plate. Then executive decisions needed to be made. However this VP or that Director was on vacation for a couple weeks or so.

Teleconferences were scheduled and expanded and contracted and moved and shuffled and participants were added but not informed. Sometimes the teleconferencing technology didn’t function properly.

And now we have a key player who, for whatever reason, was invisible to us. Was he not invited? Did he forget? Was he just not into it?

My mantra for the last several years is simple: “I get paid.”

They want me to warm a chair earlier than usual for no good reason? Fine. I get paid.

They want me to wait and make up ways to look busy while information slowly flows in my direction?

Fine. I get paid.

Yet somehow, there does lurk the barest hint of the professional in some of us that allow us the fantasy of our substantive input and value.

I get paid.

The Speech Affectation

I recently somehow realized I had developed and maintained a speech affectation and I found it quite disturbing. It seemed whenever I vocalized a thought, I prefaced it with the conjunction “so.”

In other words, “So, Harry. So How’s the prostate?”

“So, what did your sister say, again?”

“So, do you want to go for Italian or Chinese?”

“So, how was the book club last night?”

I have no idea how long I had developed this mannerism. Clearly I had been speaking like this for at least several months. Perhaps years.

I also have no idea how I had come to this realization. This had arrived with the same impact as having looked down to find a very red and very new scratch on my hand without previously having been made aware of its existence.

I brought this to my wife’s attention. Turns out she was well aware of this.

“Hey babes. I just noticed something about myself.” She grunted her disinterest clearly thinking I was going to make some crude comment in order to pathetically entice her towards intimacy at what was clearly an inconvenient time. I pressed on. “Hey babes,” I repeated. “I just realized I have a bit of a speech affectation.”

“ungh hmm” was her preoccupied guttural reply.

“I just realized that I oftentimes start my sentences with the word, ‘so’. Did you ever notice that?”

She acknowledged. “Mmm hmmm.”

I attempted to engage her in at least the smallest semblance of repartee.

“Well I’ve decided to filter that out because I think it’s a pretty annoying speech affectation.”

She decided to give me the briefest of consideration. With a slight turn towards me, actually it was more of a motion towards her right shoulder, she issued the following observation, “Yeah I’ve noticed it. No big deal.”

Well. I was struck with two sensations. Firstly, I was not imagining this. In my own mind this was somewhat comforting, somehow. Secondly, as usual, I was making more of this than was necessary.

Nevertheless, I had decided this was yet another aspect of my overly flawed personality that needed to be addressed by applying strong doses of self discipline and self awareness. Being fortunate in possessing these characteristics, the self help program began in earnest.

I came to realize by engaging yet another filter that this bit of eccentricity was more prevalent than I had initially realized. In fact there were times I found myself sputtering this mono syllabic conversational prelude before I had realized it had been voiced.

At this point, this has been now substantially tamed.

I am now aware of others who begin their sentences with these utterances.

Linguists have a name for the these types of words. Normally, linguists reference exclamations such us “uh”, “er”, “uhmm”, etc as filler. I propose the word “so” is just such a thing. Some refer to these types of words as Paralanguage.

Paralanguage is recognized as anything that does not directly pertain to the linguistic aspect of the communication at hand.

Regardless. This is yet another area designed to assist me in becoming a more fluent speaker.

So, you think this might apply to you?

The Spectator Sport

This entry first started as a description of the realization of my fostering a speech affectation.

That will have to wait, I’m afraid.

With yesterday’s announcement of having The Donald’s hat in the ring, I simply cannot resist the temptation of delving headlong into a description of the fun in store for us all.

First, of course, let us examine the grossly inflated and indefatigable ego of His Donaldness. Yesterday he was able to demonstrate his firm command of the obvious by overstating his having observed the existing tension between Presidents Obama and Putin. Impressively astute. He allowed himself to elaborate. He feels he and Vlad the Impaler would get along just peachy keen … on a business level. “I can make the deal…” he boasted. I can see it now. “Tell you what, old buddy, you let me check out your espionage systems and I’ll comp you two nights and a breakfast at my Vegas Trump International! On me! Whaddayahsay!!?”

Then he decided to pontificate further by elaborating on the devastation those pesky Mexicans have perpetrated on our fair land.

The pomp and circumstance accompanying his pre-announcement was nothing short of magnificent as well. He stood on an escalator travelling downwards towards his podium. As John Stewart of the Daily Show advised, “I haven’t seen anything that spectacular since I saw my buddy Ralph in the mall after he bought an Orange Julius!”

Now. This kind of patter might work well on a one-on-one interview on radio. But somehow, the prospect of the Donmeister slinging this particular brand of hash alongside the cutthroat likenesses of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul somehow leaves me with a few doubts.

Let’s discuss a few of the other players in this particular clown fest.

Amongst the most plausible of the candidates, we have two. Both of them from, of all places, Florida.

The first, and potentially most viable GOP candidate, is one Mr. Jeb Bush. The first and only two-term Republican Governor of Florida, he is W’s younger brother. As you would expect, his fiscal, political and social positions are conservatively oriented. If you oppose most abortions, have doubts about the science of climate change, feel that gay marriage is wrong, think that carrying around loaded firearms is just hunky dory and oppose citizenship for currently undocumented aliens, then he’s your boy. The only thing that’s wingnut about the guy, is that he refuses to acknowledge our Iraq and Afghanistan involvements were based on deceptions at the highest levels.

The other Florida candidate is Mr. Marco Rubio. The junior United States Senator representing Florida has Cuban ancestry. Again, mirroring Jeb, he is as conservative as conservative can be. The only real difference between him and Jeb is that, understandably, Rubio seeks a path for citizenship for otherwise undocumented aliens.

So much for the boring stuff. Now for the true bozos.

Let’s take a gander at Ted Cruz. Ostensibly the most intelligent of the entire GOP lot. In fact, one could make a plausible argument that he’s the sharpest candidate on either side of the aisle. Currently Ted, also of Cuban ancestry, is the junior United States Senator from the great state of Texas. He has argued dozens of cases, and won most of them, in front of the Supreme Court. As bright as he is, though, he has shown his true colors as a card carrying member of the nutso society by asserting a few head scratching concerns. He has stated he is concerned that the United States will be imposing Sharia law. He has stated that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme.” He also appears to be particularly obsessive concerning the role he perceives the United Nations plays with respect to the social fabric of the United States. In particular, he has stated his concern that President Obama is using the United Nations to impose gun control, dictatorships, and alternatives to parental rights. He has often spouted border line paranoia laced bilge asserting Obama’s turning the country into a Communist state and that he has his hands in your pockets and he wants to distribute US wealth globally. Of course, there have also been the wackadoo jabs at ACA asserting the existence of death panels, etc. In short, a bright man but a dangerously loose cannon.

Rand Paul. Ah Rand Paul. Actually, Randall. Son of Ron. He’s an M.D., you know. An ophthalmologist. Currently he is a United States Senator representing Kentucky. Again, another conservative, only this one is blood red. But frankly not nearly as bright as Cruz nor as hard working. On several occasions, rather than pulling his own thoughts together, he lifted text from Wikipedia and other sources directly without giving credit where credit was due. He also tends to waffle on issues such as defense spending and mandatory immunizations. He has also made jarring and downright weird statements concerning a number of issues such as the behind-the-scenes creation of a single Canada/US/Mexico country and economy. He has also publicly supported the rape of mountain tops as good for both coal production and flat mountain top real estate. Apparently he has a bit of a temper. When a CNBC reporter Kelly Evans pressed, instead of behaving in a politic manner, he just ‘shushed’ her. Not cool. Some people have accused Obama of being too cool. Perhaps. But Senator Paul ain’t cool.

There’s another doctor on the scene. Ben Carson is a celebrated neurosurgeon who gained national recognition when he became the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. Impressive, no? And then in 2013 he gave this politically charged speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Later that year, he was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Bright guy. The usual assortment of Conservative based opinions. But Dr. Carson has absolutely no official political ties or experience. Yet, he is well spoken, clearly intelligent and committed to his opinions. Describes tons of people doesn’t it? Why does he stand out? He is African-American. Who else best to follow Obama and run opposite a Hillary type?

Who else to confront Hillary? Why, Carly Fiorina, of course. She’s the right gender at least. Certainly we wouldn’t want to have any disenfranchised Republican women voters, right? Well here we are. Rising from the ashes of AT&T and Lucent, she found herself as the CEO of Hewlett Packard. Her M&A activities with Compaq have, even today, been generally described as successful. However the Board of Directors booted her out of HP after about 50% of HPs value went down the drain.

She was involved with politics as an advisor to John McCain’s Presidential bid. Hopefully for her she wasn’t the one who pigeon-holed Sarah Palin on his behalf. Unfortunately for her she opened her face and commented that neither Palin nor McCain were qualified to run a major organization such as, say, HP. Boy, were they pissed! Later on, she actually won the California GOP nomination for the United States Senate. Barbara Boxer, however, ultimately won that contest. And that’s about it. She’s had tragedies in her personal life with the loss of a daughter to drugs and her own double mastectomy. She’s got bucks. But where does she stand on what? Again, no surprise to anyone, her views reflect the standard Republican playbook. And again, she’s never held office. Remember, during the McCain campaign, she advised that public office and running a large company are not the same. Hmmm.

Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, is also an ordained Baptist Minister who believes in his heart that the earth is 6000 years old. He supports the 19 and counting Duggar family and that Duggar kid who molested his own sisters. Recently, during a discussion of transgender individuals he stupidly advised he wished he would have claimed that for himself during high school in order to ogle the girls in the locker room. He blamed the Sandy Hook incident on the Godlessness in schools. Other than that he holds the usual assortment of conservative views, albeit a tad further religious right leaning. He also plays electric bass.

South Carolina’s Lindsay Graham represents sort of an interesting bag of interests. He served in the Air Force, the National Guard and the Reserves and won substantial decorations. Not surprisingly, he is quite favorably disposed to all things military. Graham favors US intervention abroad and has often been labeled hawkish. Never married. No kids. The usual assortment of conservative values and rhetoric. However, on occasion he has been known to reach across the aisle and work with his Democrat colleagues. He is an anti-Hillary Benghazi crazed conspiracist. His face actually reddens when the topic arises.

Former New York Governor George Pataki enjoys the status of being one of only a few Republican New York State Governors including Nelson Rockefeller and Thomas Dewey. He won three terms as Governor after winning the election from Mario Cuomo, himself being a three term Governor. He has a certain amount of international cred in that he served as our UN ambassador for a period. However he has a strong record of defunding schools and defending tax cuts despite budget deficits. All things considered, he is considered by many to be a Republican moderate.

Talk about your egoed out loose cannon, Rick Perry is your man. After W became President, Rick Perry stepped up as W’s Lieutenant Governor and was Texas’ Governor for over 15 years. He is currently under indictment for abuse of power. Seems a Democrat DA got popped for DUI and Perry told him to resign or else he would veto funding for state public corruption officers. At one point he mandated young girls receive the HPV vaccine. There is a connection between the manufacturer, Merck, and Perry so there was, in all likelihood some form of collusion here. Also, although he claimed he wasn’t serious, he publicly advocated a Texas secession declaring, incorrectly, that becoming a state in 1848 was only part-time and they could form their own union any time. The actual terms of the statehood advised that Texas could break into five separate states.

Do not Google Santorum. You just googled it, didn’t you? Well never mind.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is going to make yet another run at it. With seven kids, there is no doubt as to his allegiances to either birth control or abortion. He is the coiner of the phrase ‘Intelligent Design’ and did his level best to incorporate this language within certain legislation. He has stated that people with pre existing conditions should pay higher insurance premiums, that same sex marriage will be the downfall of America, as will Obamacare, that Obama is clearing a path to behead religious people, and America’s values are being destroyed by the NBA and rock concerts and that women’s emotions prevent them from being effective soldiers. Then, of course there are those groundless accusations against political opponents.

Have you noticed neither Sarah Palin nor Michelle Bachman has uttered a peep concerning their respective availability? Neither has New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie (Bridgeman) or Louisiana’s Governor, Bobby Jindal.

There are several other wannabes out there as well. Mark Everson formally of the IRS might throw his hat in the ring. The unfortunately named Jack Fellure, a retired engineer from West Virginia, consistently tosses his name in as well. The Governors of Ohio and Wisconsin, John Kasich and Scott Walker, respectively may just throw down as well. Scott Walker may be a particularly hard sell in that he has been such a public mouthpiece against unions and teachers.

And there we have it thus far, folks. Now you too can sit back, relax and peruse your betting sheets. Let the games begin.

The Bow Tie

An interesting sideline intersected with me this weekend. Many years back, perhaps you will remember this; you used to wear bow ties. So stricken was I with this bit of masculine, albeit class-ridden, attire that I beseached an indulgence upon you involving an instruction, or a set of instructions, as to how to effect this bow tying process.

For the life of me, I cannot recall as to why these procedural steps (methodologies, if you will) never seemed to surface. Suffice it to say, my bow tie exposures had been limited to pre-tied tuxedo type affairs when called upon to either preside over a wedding or play a concert.

And then we were invited to a destination wedding. My cousin’s son decided to make an honest woman of his long-time girlfriend and the two involved themselves and their respective guests in an elaborate Memorial Day weekend wedding within the Saratoga, New York area.

The first night involved a “rehearsal dinner.” Frankly I saw no rehearsals whatsoever. The second night, Sunday, was the wedding proper. As elaborate an affair as ever I have seen.

All took place within the absolutely charming confines of Saratoga Springs proper.

Allow me this minor digression. If you ever get the opportunity, or an itch, to drive to the Western Albany area, not too far from Lake George, do so. It is the most charming of towns with restaurants and pubs galore. Host of the famous Saratoga horse races, the town is festooned with all things horse. Statues, photos, memorabilia, museums, parks and beyond. Oh yes. Saratoga Springs is water central. Different types of waters to sample, hither thither and yon. Interesting, I suppose. The town boasts of this. Frankly, the aspect of waters for sampling fascinates me almost to the extent of having ring side seats to grass growing competitions. In fact the wedding at issue took place within the bucolic confines of a spring park as such.

Again, I digress. The wedding was a black tie formal affair. Of course, as the drinking and debauchery escalated, the initial formality took to the skies as so many dandelion seeds. In fact at one point, as the band’s volume escalated exponentially, our five year old grandson, Preston, took it in his head that he was the world’s pre-eminent break dancer and moon walker and proceeded to demonstrate his self impressed skills to the entirety of the wedding’s attendees who, to a man, encircled him and clapped and whistled their respective encouragement to which he happily obliged. Our daughter caught the proceeding all on video. Hopefully this act of enshrinement will serve to embarrass the tar out of him in later years.

The so-called rehearsal dinner was slightly less formal although there were stringent dress requirements involving hats for the ladies and bowties for the gentlemen … me as well.

The festivities, held in the racing museum, was decorated with the extremely competent offerings of a six piece Dixieland jazz band. And yes, afterwards, I engaged them in musical discourse involving stringed instruments. The party was over and my wife literally had to haul my carcass away even as I continued the conversation.

Again, the rehearsal dinner mandated the presentation of bow ties to adorn the closed collars of the gentlemen attendees. Upon reflection although many clip-on and pre-tied bowties were displayed, there were a respectable proportion of self tied bowties.

Prior to this, I had decided to adopt a purist route and did, in fact, take it upon myself to bite the proverbial bullet and acquire a couple of bowties and teach myself the manly art of bowtying (if I may coin a phrase).

I first dropped in on my haberdasher of choice who had the galling temerity to demand $49.50 for a single strand of bowtie finery. Barely suppressing a sputtering and not even bothering to quash an eye-rolling, I decided to voice an unspoken vulgarity to myself (I know you’re shocked) and in not so many words thought the establishment might serve itself well by placing the bowtie and its price well within the confines of areas where the moon don’t shine.

Reluctantly I drove to a mall (I despise malls) ultimately winding up in JC Penneys where two merit worthy enough ties displayed themselves for $12.99 and I acquired two. In retrospect I still feel this price point to be overly dear. But there you are.

And now, to the crux of the matter. Purchases in hand, all attentions turned to the internet in order to attempt to locate blow by blow instructions in either text, video or pictorial form. I utilized them all. Sure enough, there was sufficient information enabling even me to follow along in order to traverse the path of bowtying (there’s that word again) expertise.

All humility aside, during our return bus trip back to our hotel, a fellow traveler inquired as to whether my bowtie was pre-prepared or had I, in fact tied it myself. After proving said tie was self-prepared, he frowned and shook his head in admiration and advised he was duly impressed.

Even now, as I put these thoughts to virtual paper, my jacket and pin-striped shirt is adorned by one of those ties.

I owe it to you. There are several pictures of me taken by the hired roving photographer. When, if ever, I somehow latch on to one of these photographs, I’ll send it to you.

Gungor’s Boxes and Wires

I am reminded of Mark Gungor. Mark Gungor is the pastor of the Celebration Church in Madison, Wisconsin. He has (or had) a series of seminars designed to assist married couples in a program he called, “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.”

Whether or not you identify with this as a means, or adhere to its philosophy, I strongly identified with a gross over simplification of the psychological distinction between the American sexes. I believe I was introduced to Mark Gungor by way of a casual internet link one of my friends had forwarded to me. No matter.

This recollection is brought to you courtesy of an extremely minor incident occurring between my wife and myself a mere two days ago.

I was sent to the grocery store. See? My wife sent me to the grocery to select, purchase and return with an item. This was identified by classification, brand, price and purpose. There was no mistaking the intent behind the eventual acquisition. For the life of me, I cannot even recall what this was. Regardless, the hunter returned to the gatherer with item in hand, only to be confronted as to why I did not acquire a related item, in addition. My response was simple, “It wasn’t on the list.” Her response was an ever so subtle Mona Lisa like grin with an even subtler nuanced downcast eye, the combination of which clearly said to me, “You are a complete and utter testosterone driven, chromosome impaired knuckle-dragging moron, and I have no idea why I even consider bothering to trust you with even the simplest of errands and/or tasks.”

I said nothing and quietly left the scene in order that I might practice my guitar more. It was at that moment, I recalled the lesson of Pastor Mark Gungor where an explanation was put forth.

The following is a summary, the lion’s share of which resonates wholly within me. He submits the following:

Here you have a man; an average, reasonably intelligent, reasonably wholesome American family man. Consider his higher functioning brain beyond the mere reflexive parts of the brain controlling basic motor function. This so-called higher functioning brain of your average American male consists of a number of uniquely identifiable boxes. Each virtual box contains a merit worthy subject matter contained within it and is solely unique to that box and is, thusly, named. Some examples of these boxes are: Wife, Kids, House, Mortgage, Chores, Job, Schedules, Friend, Money, Car, Driving, Music, Vacation, Sports and so forth. It is essential to recognize these boxes are perfectly aligned, horizontally and vertically and under no circumstances whatsoever do these boxes ever, ever touch. When a subject appears, the box caretaker carefully retrieves said box, carefully opens said box and intently examines the contents contained therein and removes one article at a time in order to study it. On occasion he may place one other new item within it. Once having satisfied the single issue at hand, the contents are organized within the box, the box is closed and returned to its original station, again making absolutely certain the returned box does not desecrate the sacred space of any neighboring boxes.

Let us now turn our attention to the average, reasonably intelligent, reasonably wholesome woman. Consider her higher functioning brain beyond the mere reflexive parts of the brain controlling basic motor function. This so-called higher functioning brain of your average American female consists of a single unshielded lengthy wire. This wire has labels randomly interspersed along its extensive span. These labels consist of The Relationship, Kids, House, Recipes, Money, The Relationship, Friends, Money, The Relationship, Car, Job, The Relationship, Movie Stars, Money, Music, Decorating, Clothes, Friends, Schedules, Groceries, Magazines, Sales and so forth. Note well: this single unshielded wire touches all items and all areas at all times simultaneously.

This, as the theory exhorts, means that the average American woman’s brain considers all things all the time and all subjects are intertwined and logically inter-related.

Oh. And one more thing, perhaps the most important of all, with respect to the man’s brain. There is another box, perhaps his favorite. It is a box labeled and containing Nothing. This is, of course, why the average American woman waxes nearly apoplectic when confronted with the average American male posed in a comfortable position eyes affixed within a book or a visual display of one sort or another. The concept of a male of the species in comfortable repose is beyond anomaly to the female. There is no gap in her wire.

When I was sent to the grocery store, I first opened my Driving box. After having arived at my destination, the Driving box was carefully closed and returned to its place. The Chores box was then examined. After having completed Chores, the box was carefully closed and returned to its place. I then opened my Driving box, again and returned home, closing the Driving box and returning it to its place.

Upon my wife’s observation of the day’s collection, her Recipes, Friends, Schedule, Home and Money contacts were triggered on my wife’s wire, resulting in her delicate, but plainly, couched body English.

My first reaction was that of a combination of mostly disappointment peppered with a dash of anger. However I recalled Pastor Gungor’s discussion of gender distinctions which, in turn, forced me into yet another philosophical retreat.

I opted towards the opening of the Nothing box, therefore allowing me the indulgence of a Law & Order SVU re-run and assuring the clenched teethed ire of my beloved.

Grandparenting Demystification

I sit here in reflection of my weekend and I recall an incident happening well over ten years ago involving my father, his daughter-in-law and the three grandchildren.

During a business trip hiatus where my brother was out of the house, arrangements were made between our parents and my brother’s family to spend some time at their house.

Prior to launching into this, it must be known that our father was, how shall I say this, not exactly the most flexible fellow in the world. I can now certainly understand some of his least savory and less filtered personality traits.

When our sister-in-law brought herself and her minivan loaded with kids to visit, after several hours my father felt his personal thing being strongly invaded. After a few twitches of this he effectively pointed his finger and advised daughter-in-law, minivan and grandkids to summarily and forthwith get thee hence. And so she did, never to return.

Not cool. But at least I now understand.

You see, my wife has had this habit of acquiescing to pretty much all of our eldest daughter’s requests and absolutely all of her demands.

When the kids need babysitting, my wife is all in. I am never consulted.

Every year our son-in-law’s company flies the sales team, of which he is a distinguished member, and their respective others to a cool location for a week long sales meeting. This year it’s Costa Rica. And although, our son-in-law’s all-but-useless mother chips in to baby sit during the week, it’s us that are required to do the heavy lifting.

And so we are saddled with two young lads currently aged nearly 5 and 3 respectively,

They are adorable and loving and intelligent. But they are also very young children and, therefore, demanding, self-centered, egocentric, easily slighted, and completely unreasonable. Being wholly oblivious to the demands of suburban decorum and décor, it takes these two tykes less than a few minutes to turn our house upside down and strew toys from fore to aft. Perhaps it’s our fault we have toys at all. On further reflection, better toys than my wife’s cutlery.

And so my weekend which is usually relegated to some chores, practicing, reading, writing, spending time with each other and friends was turned into a single concerted focused effort involving the assurance that Thing 1 and Thing 2 remain alive.

This means 100% dedication to their entertainment. Of course, no matter what you do, it’s never enough or never quite right. This one wants that DVD or that toy which, of course, runs directly contrary to the desires of the other. The ramifications are immediate, unrestrained, physical and loud. Always.

On the third day, my philosophical attitude was, to say the least, sorely tried. Oh yes. The fact that we have a very lively intelligent terrier that cannot distinguish between her toys and anyone else’s did not contribute to further my need towards at least the semblance of tranquility. Yes. There was one point where Zayde blew his cork. Epictetus would certainly not approve.

I cannot remember being so grateful for a Monday morning’s commute.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the livin’ bejeebus out of them. But I can take this only in certain doses and on my terms. Pre-determined hours with parents to step in. That’s the ticket. After all, the wee ones are not my charge.

And so I say to you, dear reader, enjoy your grandchildren. You will! But do not offer default blanket babysitting just because your kids say, ‘Aww Dad!”

We have this one friend of ours whose kids are Phish heads. They follow this group if they happen to be within a 750 mile radius. And they just assume that our friend will drop everything in order to oversee the well-being of her grandkids as sonny boy and his wife sit in artificially induced tranquility listening to these Dead wannabes. And despite her post incident tirades, she does, in fact just cave in and does the deed for any given weekend.

Enjoy. But hang tough.

Defense

On his first day of school David was unsure of his new surroundings. After all, he had just been moved from one foster care to another. From one town to the next. And now he had a new home in Illinois. Somehow this one felt different. Although not the ultimate in either luxury or even security, somehow this one felt right. This one felt most like home.

After a brief time, David had grown to call his foster father ‘Uncle’. For one reason or another he had called his new foster mother ‘Edith’. His foster parents made it clear that while they would always be there for him and would provide him any and all the nurturing David required, David’s decisions would ultimately be David’s.

He would have liked his trip to school to have been as uneventful as possible. Unfortunately, his bus driver was surly. Had it not been for his Uncle, the bus would not have stopped for David at all. The bus driver was not uniformed. He was an older man with a four day growth of beard, very dark eyes, a big belly and a receding gray hairline. He eyed David suspiciously. David was relatively small and was certainly not the best dressed young man the driver had ever seen. He instantly didn’t like David. However there was something about this young man that told him to keep him at arm’s length and not to get into it with him.

Before David was able to find his seat, the driver observed his awkward navigation, sneered and started the bus, giving David a bit of a startle. David turned in order to admonish the driver but the driver had already turned to the business at hand and David found an empty seat.

“Hey kid!”

David turned and saw a bigger kid in the seat across the aisle from him. David gave the big kid a non-committal look which seemed to force an explanation.

“Hey kid! That’s Paul’s seat! You better leave now!”

David took this in and quickly looked around to see if he might have been sitting on Paul’s lap.

He was not.

“I don’t see Paul. Will he be on the next stop?” David was more curious than threatened. But somehow he felt compelled to engage a bit of conversation.

The bigger kid looked David up and down and then offered, “Nah. He’s not here today. But it don’t matter. That’s his seat. Now get out. Now!!” David received the finger pointing and the spittle accompanied observation with a plain face and no emotion. David faced forward and decided to ignore this confrontation.

David had been threatened and yelled at from the time he could remember. He had reached the point in his young life when he had long since realized there are times to engage and times to ignore your confrontations. He had decided this was one of those times where a blatant disregard of this hostility would serve him best.

The bigger kid was not letting go, however.

“Ok punk! You’ll get yours!”

Other kids on the bus in front and in back of him collectively decided to collaborate. David ignored the taunts and jeers. “Yeah kid.” “That’s Paul’s, kid.” “Get lost.” “Who needs ya?”

David felt quite badly. There was no small piece of him that just wanted to get out of there and go back to Uncle and Edith. But he took their instructions to heart. This was his business and no one else’s.

The bus finally reached the school. There was much jostling and yelling as the kids got off the bus. David decided to follow the majority of the kids through the school’s doorways and, luckily, he found the school’s administration office.

He told the secretary there, he was new and needed to know the location of his class.

The secretary was very business-like. There were no smiles or small talk. But David was given all the information he needed to find his way around. With a stone face and a wordless gesture, the secretary indicated the door. David equally stone faced and wordless found his way to his class.

Opening the door of his class, a very plain looking elderly dour woman with well-coiffed silver hair took note of the unfamiliar face and spoke in a tone very similar to the secretary’s.

“Hmm. You must be David. I was expecting you. I am your teacher. My name is Eunice Wary.” She indicated a seat. “Please sit there.”

The kids surrounding that seat spoke up loudly at once. “Wait a minute, Mrs. Wary, that’s Paul’s seat.” “I don’t like him Mrs. Wary. Tell him to sit somewhere else.” “Tell him to go away. He doesn’t belong here.”

Mrs. Wary was again, very matter of fact. She raised her right hand and silenced the babble. “Now class. You all know quite well that Paul has never been in that seat. Paul has always been welcome to sit next to any one of you. But every time this was offered, you acted the same way. Paul hasn’t been here in a long time and now David is here. So you all behave and treat David nicely.”

“Now. I have a meeting to attend for a short while. You all behave. Introduce yourselves to David. Get to know each other and become friends.”

And with that, Eunice turned to the door and left for her meeting.

There were seven kids on all sides of David and they waited for a brief until they were satisfied that Mrs. Wary had indeed left and was out of ear shot.

At that moment they all stood and surrounded David. He looked up and recognized each of these kids from the bus.

The bigger kid from the bus pulled upward on David’s shirt and David rose to his feet only coming up to the neck of this kid.

With David’s back to him, the bigger kid placed both his hands on David’s shoulders and gave him a shove. David lurched into one of the standing kids who stood in front of him. This second kid pushed him back announcing loudly, “Watch it kid! Don’t step on me!”

David landed with the back of his head against the larger boy’s chest. This infuriated this large boy who spun David around by grabbing his shoulder.

“That does it, little bitty David!” The bigger boy growled. “You’re in for it now!” And as soon as he said it, the bigger boy took his right fist and buried it into David’s belly.

David immediately doubled up and grabbed his stomach. But he was able to right himself almost instantly.

The kids surrounding David started to chime in. “Yeah Eddie! Give it to the little squirt!” “Take him out, Eddie!” “Yeah! What a punk!”

At this point David recalled his years in previous foster homes. He had been shoved many times. He had been struck many times. He had been denied meals, beds, clothes and had never received kindness from either those foster homes or the families surrounding him.

And so, David learned how to fend for himself. He had to teach himself when and how to take a slap and a punch. At the same time, he taught himself the best way to rid himself of those who attempted to further abuse him. He learned their vulnerabilities. He learned his own strengths and was able to use them.

At this point, David recalled his years of self-taught reality. Before Eddie could take his fist out of David’s belly, David curled up his own right fist and buried it in Eddie’s mouth. Teeth and blood flew everywhere. The kid behind David shrieked and decided to kick him. David took the kick but also grabbed the foot and pulled it towards him, setting the second kid off balance landing on his back. David took that opportunity to pivot on his left foot using his right heel to slam into the balls of kid number two. This one howled and there was a third hand and a fourth pair of hands that took hold of David.

For the next minute, for every pair of hands that punched or shoved or hit, David struck back with fists and elbows until the surrounding seven had backed off bleeding and crying.

They all returned to their seats nursing their injuries.

Finally Mrs. Wary returned.

And she was quite unhappy.

She surveyed her classroom and wide-eyed took in the black eyes, the blood on the desks and the torn clothing.

Pointing further she raised her voice. “You had better explain what happened here!”

Wordlessly the seven kids seated around David pointed to him.

“What? David did this?” All but David nodded their heads. Eddie finally spoke up.

“The little bastard punched me and broke my teeth! I’ll kill him!”

Kid number two chimed in. “Yeah! He kicked me!”

And then the other kids shouted at once claiming the transgressions David had taken upon them.

Mrs. Wary silenced her brood with her raised right hand. “David? Is this true?”

David calmly and softly responded. “Yes Mrs. Wary.”

“Then David,” Mrs. Wary advised through clenched lips “I’ll have to call your parents.”

David considered this. He offered the following.

“Mrs. Wary. You do what you have to. And so will I.”