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    Thursday
    Jan052017

    Fishin' with Frank

    When I moved to the Orlando area from New Jersey, my long-time best friend, Stew Bacheler, who’s since moved to Florida, came up with the notion that we should have an annual beach party, kind of like the movie, The Big Chill. It was a great idea and a new tradition was born that lasted a long time.

    Many of our good friends and, sometimes, a handful of relatives, would meet every summer at Stew’s parent’s house in Beach Haven on beautiful Long Beach Island, NJ. Because his parents owned it, we never had to worry about finding a place to accommodate us.

    This was back in the days of big hair and large, shoulder-held, VHS camcorders. Each year, the crowd would take turns shooting footage that I would ultimately snip to pieces at the end of our week. I’d sift through the tape and edit it into something that captured the essence of our vacation. The following Saturday, we’d have a “world premiere showing” of the completed video where, generally, our good friend, Frank Foran, would host and cook a big dinner. I always did my best to turn it into something entertaining and worthwhile.

    Speaking of Frank, during one of those vacations, I chose to tape a segment about my good old chum. He’s always been quite the fisherman. Why not shoot something that would revolve around his skills? I did, and I titled it “Fishin’ with Frank.” It had a nice alliteration to it, don’t you think? At the time, I worked for an ad agency, so creating art presented no problem. As a matter of fact, I had already designed a title page that depicted a Frank look-alike fishing off the bow of a boat, casting out to sea. For the opening scene, I did a voiceover…

    “Yes, it’s time for Fishin’ with Frank,” while the camera focused on a pool of water. Suddenly, there was a splash and a clunk as the lead lure was cast into a toilet bowl that was promptly flushed. The camera slowly panned upward to the open lid, which had the picture of Frank carefully and inconspicuously taped to it. The video then shifted to the opening scene – the boat – where Frank was shown fishing off the port-side of the bow.

    “Frank! Frank! You’re on!” He turned around and introduced himself. Frank knows his stuff because he proceeded to give us a lesson in, what else? Fishing. Tying a knot on a hook. Choosing the right lures. How to cast off. That sort of thing.

    We had the requisite bikini babes, too, who were all wives and girlfriends. We were a lot younger then and they sure did look good, so I took a lot of shots of the girls. Which was a whole lot more interesting and exciting to watch than Frank. Ahhh, and speaking of shots, the margaritas flowed. Rock ‘n’ Roll music wafted in the background. We all took our turns fishing. Of course, the best scenes were when Frank tried to teach some of the girls how to fish. The camera kept moving toward the women’s bodies. It was as if it had a mind of its own.

    “Dave! Move that camera here, %#$T#$!*@!” I learned one important %#$T#$!*@! lesson out in the Atlantic Ocean that day, like, how to talk like a sailor when the camera’s not where it’s supposed to be. On Frank. Just like his uncle, Dick Foran, a one-time Hollywood movie star.

    Anyway, this was how it went down – the taping of the world premier video of the almost famous program, Fishin’ with Frank on Cable 68, out of Vineland, New Jersey. Of course, there was no such thing as Cable 68 in those days.

    You’d think that was it, right? End of story? Wrong!

    After we returned from our fishing expedition, we cleaned up and went to Buckalew’s Restaurant ~ Tavern for dinner and drinks. In those days, it wasn’t anything fancy like it is today. And they sure did know how to make a great pizza. We sat in the tavern part. Barstools and booths. One side had a long booth and chairs with tables in between. That made it easy to accommodate our ensemble crew of over a dozen people.

    One waitress had the misfortune of asking me who we were. Oh no. Wrong question. “Have you ever heard of the Fishin’ with Frank show on Cable 68?” There was no Cable 68 back then.

    “Yeah,” she thought for a moment. “I’m pretty sure I have.”

    “Fantastic! We just taped a show up here to be broadcast sometime in the near future. That’s Frank, over there,” and I pointed him out. Frank was a pretty tall and good looking guy, so he had a commanding presence. Imagine that. Our waitress started the bobbing ball rolling as news inside the bar spread. Suddenly, waves of people, beers in hand, asked Frank to sign paper placemats and napkins. He was a big star and he lapped it right up.

    Another waitress came up to me and asked, “Are you the producer?”

    Without thinking, I simply responded, “Yes, I am,” as she thrust one of those seafood-themed placemats and a ballpoint pen toward me to sign.

    “I thought so,” she replied. It seemed that everyone had heard of the show. Some were convinced they’d seen it. Oh, the amazing power of suggestion and a whole entourage of production people. (It’s important to point out that we never took advantage of anyone, nor accepted one free drink.) As our pizzas came out of the restaurant’s galley, things settled down and everyone went back to their business of imbibing in refreshing cocktail beverages. We toasted Frank.

    As for our time on the boat? I don’t remember if we caught any fish that day but, I’d be willing to bet you, as Frank always did, that he would have caught the first, the biggest, and the most on the maiden – and only – voyage of Fishin’ with Frank.  

    Thursday
    Dec222016

    Roger Kaputnik

    When I was young, probably around 10 or 12 years old, a funny man by the name of Roger Kaputnik would come to visit. Once a month, he came into my home and told me funny stories. That went on for a number of years until I eventually outgrew him. It was probably when my interest in young boy’s fantasies waned and I moved on to more mundane things, like girls. I can tell you with complete honesty that there’s no doubt Roger helped make me who I am today. Sometimes, he really made me think. Oh, he was quite a character, alright, and he taught me a lot about the lighter side of… well, you name it. It was something new each month. He died of cancer in 2002 at 81 years of age, but he left me with a lot of fond memories. Unfortunately, when I drifted away from my childhood, I never saw him again. I don’t know when that day came.

    I remember when he told me tales about the police. He was a very vivid storyteller and could do it in minutes flat. There was the time a lady in a fancy car got pulled over for some reason and the officer asked to see her license. Of course, this was before there were picture IDs and holograms. She rummaged around in her purse, pulled it out, and nervously passed it over to him as he stood by her door.

    While carefully examining the license, he said, “Ma’am, it says right here that you are supposed to be wearing glasses.”

    “But I am, Officer.”

    “I don’t see them.”

    “You don’t understand, Officer, I have contacts.”

    “What do you mean you have contacts?”

    “Yes, I have new contacts.”

    “I DON’T CARE WHO YOU KNOW!” 

    And so went the humor of Roger Kaputnik. Of course, when he told that story, contact lenses were relatively new and, back then, it was pretty much only the rich who could afford them.

    There was another time he told me stories about neighbors. Maybe it was families or just ordinary people and their peculiarities, but he always got me laughing and some of his tales still ring true to this day. In suburbs, especially in small cities, blocks of houses were built close together, with narrow alleys that separated them. A lot of those houses had side doors. I remember when I was young, we lived in such a neighborhood for a couple of years and I can still envision that scene and the story he told…

    Two children were playing with their toys in the alley, right near the side doors that accessed raised porches with steps that faced the front of the house. It was a safe place for children to play because mothers could keep a watchful eye on them from the kitchen window. Now, remember, this was a time when most married women were stay-at-home moms. Anyway, the kids were outside playing. Suddenly, an argument broke out over whose toys were whose.

    “Hey! That’s my truck!”

    “No. it’s not, it’s mine!”

    “Give it to me!”

    “Gimme that!”

    “No!”

    “No!”

    “MOM!”

    “MOM!”

    As most caring and loving mothers would do in a situation like this, they raced to the side porch in their finest kitchen attire and sped out those doors to make sure their babies were not under attack.

    “Hey, what’s going on?” They asked in unison.

    “Mom, Jimmy stole my truck!”

    “Mom, Tommy stole my truck!”

    And before you could count to two, each mother firmly stated that they bought the truck for their son and, from there, it went downhill rather quickly.

    “Yeah, well my husband says your house is a pig sty…”

    “Yeah? My husband says you don’t know how to cook…”

    “I can cook a lot better than you!”

    “And, you’re a real slob.”

    “You can just tell your bald-headed moron of a husband to forget about that brunch on Sunday.”

    “I wouldn’t want to eat your garbage, anyway!”

    “Tommy, pick up all your toys and come inside the house this minute!!!”

    “Jimmy! Collect all your toys and get inside right now!”

    Meanwhile, throughout this adult commotion, with both mothers throwing every insult imaginable at each other, Tommy and Jimmy calmed down, made peace, and continued to quietly play as if nothing happened. Unfortunately, their world fell apart in a New York second as they were ordered inside.

    How sad. Those innocent children went back to being good friends, something their parents will probably never be again. And because of it, Jimmy and Tommy will not be allowed to play together for a long, long time. Sometimes, I think adults can learn from their children. Certainly, it would be my fervent wish that things get patched up because, in real life, it’s never too late.

    Oh yes, back to good old Roger Kaputnik. Just like a lot of people who comment on blogs, forums, and social media, that’s not his real name. It was his alter-ego in the world of comics. His real name was Dave Berg. Dave Berg was a mainstay at Mad Magazine and I looked forward to reading his quirky stories about life every single month in his column titled, The Lighter Side of… He taught me a lot about human nature over the years. Here it is 50 years later and it’s still the same. Why don’t we put away our war of words and learn to act like kids again.

     

    Monday
    Dec192016

    SPRINKLE SPRINKLE LITTLE JAR

    I went to Dollar Tree last week. I purchase things like bar soap, body washes, and household cleaning stuff. Greeting cards are great buys, too. Everything’s a buck! Sometimes, I take my mother because she always finds deals on things whether she needs them or not, and it’s those little pleasures that make life more fun, even when she buys glittery pre-teen nail polish she ends up detesting.

    This is a relatively new store located in Longwood, FL. It’s a little bigger than the one I usually go to, so it’s better stocked. The manager described it as a showcase store. Usually, I saunter down each aisle, basket in hand, just to make sure I don’t miss out on anything new. On one of those aisles, I found a couple of shelves stocked with spices. When it comes to dollar store spices, I pretty much treat them the same way I treat dollar store vitamins and supplements, like B-12 and fish oil. Quite simply, I don’t buy them. Why not? Because I don’t trust the source – and I don’t know how fresh and pure any of it is.

    While perusing those “exotic” spices, I stumbled upon a container of kosher salt. I don’t know what prompted me to pick it up because I never put salt on anything. Nope, no sprinkling for me. Never. Perhaps, it was the large and impressive Star of David emblazened on the front label. Whatever the reason, I simply picked it up out of curiosity and probably because of one small detail that caught my eye, somewhere around the far left corner of my peripheral vision.

    Upon careful examination of the container and label, I saw that it contained one simple ingredient: Salt. That’s reassuring. It means the salt, of the common rock salt variety, is just what the label proclaims it to be. Sodium chloride. Halite. NaCl. I don’t know if I have to write a short history of where salt comes from, but it’s safe to say that salt mines (where most of it originates) are in abundance throughout the world, and many of the deposits are millions of years old. Maybe older.

    That leads me to a very simple question. Please take a look at the image I provided because it’s this one little detail that caught my eye. What you see is the exact container I picked up to examine. Note what its only ingredient is. Nothing more. Ancient salt extracted from a plentiful source beneath the ground. Pure and white. For something that’s millions of years old, why is there an expiration date stamped on the bottle? Best by 03/10/20. Are you kidding me???

    Friday
    Dec162016

    My Life's In Jeopardy!

    I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2005. There’s no telling how long I had it prior to finding out. It could easily be eight years or so, one of my doctors once told me. During that time, I smoked and drank and ate whatever I wanted, with no knowledge of the damage it could easily have been doing to my organs, particularly the kidneys. That’s because of the tiny blood vessels that feed them. Sugar makes the vessels very brittle. If they’re brittle, they snap. Kidney disease is the one thing that frightens diabetics the most. With five stages of chronic kidney disease, one being normal and five being complete failure, I am holding steady at stage three. Age itself diminishes function, but diabetes is the silent killer if you’re not careful.

    Fortunately, I was sensible enough to quit smoking in 2007. Cold turkey. Just like that! After nearly forty years, I did it and never looked back. A few years later, I stopped drinking alcohol. I don’t remember the year because I slowly weaned myself away from it until I simply lost the desire. I wouldn’t say I’d never have another drink; I just don’t have an appetite for it and it’s been like this for many years.

    When I reflect on all that’s happened in my life since the diagnosis, I sometimes ponder how boring my life has become. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not boring and I’m never bored with myself, but it’s a far cry from my days of youth. After all…

    It doesn’t seem like so many years ago that, in my 20s, I could stay up partying until 4:00 AM, sleep a couple of hours and go to work like it was nothing. Heck, I could do this for the rest of my life, right? Well, not every night.

    In my 30s, I could party with the best of them until 2:00 AM.

    In my 40s, it was more like midnight.

    In my 50s, I might be able to handle 11:00 PM on a good night, but…

    In my 60s? Heck, I’m 64-years-old now, and I start thinking about going to bed soon after watching Jeopardy!

     

    Saturday
    Nov262016

    Nadie es profeta en su propia tierra

     

    For eleven years, I worked as an artist for an ad agency in Orlando. I moved to the area in April of 1981 and was hired that August. There were three (and sometimes four) artists in one room, each of us having our own artboards and niche styles reflected in our work. We were old style artists compared to today’s. Alicia was our premier fashion artist. Extremely talented, she was from Cuba and left the island nation soon after Fidel Castro took control.

     

    Before Castro, Alicia’s family was successful. They were rather upper-middle class. Poof! It was gone. Their loss, our gain. To work with her was a real delight and I deeply appreciated her insight, especially when we discussed her homeland. It was her pure passion that resonated inside my heart. This wasn’t hearsay, it was a first-hand account of what took place in her beloved country; what happened to her and her loved ones.

     

    After the 1959 overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista, Castro set up shop and proceeded to expropriate land, bank accounts, and personal possessions; everything the new government deemed to be an asset. Many people, including her family, fled the country. Everything of theirs - everything of value and every personal possession they accrued over the years - was taken away. Businesses were nationalized and socialism took hold. Communism immediately followed. All of her father’s hard work went down the drain, where a thirsty regime hungrily lapped it all up. She and her family came to the United States with nothing but a strong desire to rebuild their lives in the land of opportunity.

     

    Alicia was married when she left Cuba with her family. Her husband soon followed. She brought one suitcase filled with clothes. That was it. Even her perfumes were confiscated. While going through a security checkpoint at the airport’s departure gate, a guard stopped her.

     

    “Give me your ring,” he demanded. 

     

    “But this is my wedding band.”

     

    “Give it to me or we will take it from you and you will go to prison.” Reluctantly, she turned it over. 

     

    Today, millions of Cuban Americans in the US are celebrating the death of Fidel Castro. I haven’t seen Alicia in 26 years, but I can certainly understand why she would feel no remorse at all. How many of her compadres lost their lives or rotted in prisons?

     

    Lo que bien se aprende, nunca se pierde.

    Wednesday
    Nov162016

    C stands for Confusion

    I know about AEIOU and sometimes Y. In the English language, that’s our vowels. Y isn’t always a vowel, though, and it’s why there’s that little “sometimes” clause. Take the word YES. It’s a consonant. In the word GYM, it’s a vowel. That’s how it works.

    Only a year or so ago, I was comfortable with LGBT because it was used almost exclusively by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual community (or is it communities?) I kinda got used to it and accepted it. I’m open-minded. Suddenly out of nowhere, the Q popped up. Huh? What the..? Oh, I see, the Q stands for Questioning or Queer. But it’s not always used. Is it LGBT and sometimes Q? I don’t know what’s right and I don’t want to offend anyone. Some use the Q and some don’t. OK, fine, but I’m not interested in looking up the differences between Q, L, and G.

    Now, there’s the LGBTQIA community, which includes Intersex and Asexual people. According to the Urban Dictionary Website, “LGBTQIA is a more inclusive term than LGBT for people with non-mainstream sexual orientation or gender identity.” Oops! They didn’t include the Q. Is that considered politically incorrect?

    As an H male, how am I supposed to keep up with these designations that change out of the blue, at a moment’s notice? There’s still Pansexual, Omnisexual, and Nonmonosexual to go, and I guess we can run the gamut from Ambisexual to Zensexual and everything in between, but with only 26 letters in the English language… what happens when the alphabet runs dry?

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make myself a BLT, light on the M.  

    Monday
    Nov142016

    Gimme A Brake!

    This is something I wrote and published on October 13, 2006. I did make minor edits, but it pretty much remains intact:

    My father was always a very good auto mechanic. He used to help fix seemingly unfixable problems on stock cars that would run the modified NASCAR circuit. Back in the seventies, he owned a front-end alignment shop in Flemington, New Jersey. It didn’t take long for him to gain the reputation as having the best one in the area. People from all over would bring their cars to him. There was another guy in town who had been in the same business years longer; however, there were plenty of potholes around to keep them both busy. As a matter of fact, the two liked each other. One day, the other guy suffered a terrible accident on the job and went to the biggest and best alignment shop in the sky. That really bothered my father. 

    §

    I remember when I was 18, way back in 1970, I bought a 1965 Mustang. With air conditioning and an 8-Track cassette. AM-FM stereo, to boot. I was the man! FM had come into vogue by then, but most cars from 1965 and earlier era only had AM. With a loaded Mustang, it gave me enough confidence to go after a genuine girlfriend; one I had been eyeballing. Oh yes, she was a real knockout, I mean to tell ya! Unfortunately, Mustangs were not known for having big back seats. Oh, TMI.

    The following summer, the car needed new front shocks. I had never technically worked on a car up to that point and never planned to, not with a father who knew pretty much everything about cars. And after riding bikes most of my life, cars were still relatively new to me. Oh, he used to let me “help” him when I was a young boy, just to make me feel good, I suppose, but I never really did anything because I really didn’t help much at all.

    One day, I called him and asked if he would put new front shocks in for me. Sure, go over to Carver’s Auto Parts, get what you need and come by Saturday morning. OK, great! I was tired of getting seasick every time I went over a bump in the road. So was my girlfriend. That Saturday morning, I stopped by, parts in hand…

    “See those tools over there? They are all you’re going to need to replace those bad shocks.” 

    “What do you mean?” I protested. “I thought you were going to put them in for me!” 

    “No, you’re going to have to learn how to work on a car and this is a good place to start.”

    When he told me that, I began to dislike him for thinking I was ready to work on my own vehicle. I wasn’t, and I’m certain he sensed it when I called. Had he told me beforehand that I was going to do the work, I’d simply continue to drive on bad shocks.

    “I’m going to be right here to give you all the advice you need, so don’t panic.” 

    One thing about my father’s tools was that you could eat off them. They were neatly arranged, too. AND YOU’D BETTER RETURN THEM THAT WAY! Oh, he didn’t expect me to remember where they all went, but they’d better be clean.

    “No one wants to reach into a toolbox and grab a dirty, greasy wrench.” He was right. He was right about something else, too. I learned how to work on my own cars and I must have saved tens of thousands of dollars over the years because of it. 

    §

    Sometime in the mid-seventies, my very close and personal friend, Frank Foran, had a little Japanese import. I think it was a Subaru. Frank sold industrial coatings for Dupont back then and needed a small, fuel-efficient car that was very dependable. Because of all the driving he did, the rear brakes finally needed to be replaced. Front brakes wear out three times as quickly and those he kept in good working order. After tens of thousands of miles, it was time.

    I called my father and asked if I could use his shop on Saturday to work on Frank’s car. He normally didn’t work weekends so that wasn’t an issue. These were drum type brakes and the shoes were what needed to be replaced. Frank wasn’t as mechanically inclined as me when it came to working on cars, so I took him to the parts store with me, to show him how to shop talk automobile language. (He did know what a turbo encabulator was, but never worked on one.)

    When we left the store, he followed me to my father’s alignment shop. Inside the bay was a rack you’d drive up onto. In other words, it wasn’t a hydraulic lift. It was high enough, though, that you could stand under it.

    “OK, Frank. Slowly drive up the ramp and I’ll tell you when to stop.”

    He got out and climbed down. After removing the tires, I unbolted the wheel drums. After they’ve been on a car for a long time and subjected to the elements, they can be really tough to remove. They were. After finally getting them off, I started to disassemble the brakes, beginning with the driver’s side. I compared the old parts with the new, to make sure everything matched up. Everything was going well. I installed all of the new parts. I checked and checked again to make sure everything was correct. Check! Everything looked perfect. except…

    I tried to slide the brake drum back onto the first wheel cylinder to finish the driver’s side. No way. It wouldn’t fit. The brake padding was too thick. I thought of everything. I looked again to make sure my work was correct. It was. I compared the old parts with the new. Everything was on right, yet, those drums would not go back on. No way, no how. I even thought about sanding them down. I must have spent what seemed like hours trying to figure the mess out. Of course, Frank didn’t have a clue. Finally, I was officially stumped, so I phoned my father and explained the dilemma.

    “Are you sure everything is right?” he asked me. I told him yes. Absolutely positive.

    “Could you PLEASE come down and take a look? I mean, I’ve tried everything.” Reluctantly, he said yes. Frank and I waited impatiently, but we had no other choice. When good ol’ Dad pulled up and got out of his car, he looked over the exposed wheel assembly. Then, he walked up to us and looked into our eyes. Clearly, he could see our frustration. Then, we saw his. Turning away, he opened the driver’s door, reached in, and disengaged the emergency brake. Huh? What the..? Frank, you yanked on the emergency brake handle?

    “You think you two dodos can finish the job by yourselves?”

    I told you Frank didn’t know much about cars. Apparently, I didn’t either.

    Wednesday
    Oct052016

    AN UNBIASED LOOK AT SLANTS

    I originally wrote this article in college, back in the early 70s (with tweaks throughout the years to reflect contemporary thought.) It still applies today…

    With the Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton presidential election dominating the headlines every day, how could we not possibly notice that opinions run strong in both camps; those who support Trump and those who support Clinton. This is not an ordinary election any way you look at it. This one has blood boiling — with gun rights, racism, the police, climate control, and… well, I could go on and on, because we are bombarded by the media every single day. Each one leans one way or the other, and many times we don’t even know it unless we are acutely aware. Very rarely do we read, see, or hear any type of news that isn’t slanted.

    Without a doubt, each one of us has an opinion on just about everything, and sometimes we run into people who are so animated over how the news is reported, they seem to lose track of exactly what they heard, saw or read, and, by inflection, they subconsciously (on purpose) inject their own personal views that create a slant on top of the slanted news. They misconstrue what was actually said in the first place. A lot of it has to do with wishful thinking. As is the case now with the presidential election, people either support a candidate or they despise him/her with a vengeance. Consequently, out of their mouths come some pretty nasty, hateful words. And Tweets. It’s very black and white with no room for shades of grey. Or gray. You see, people even argue over spelling! 

    A lot of times, someone believes deeply in a cause. SAVE THE WHALES, for instance, can be twisted into a political agenda because contemporary conservatives interpret conservation and animal rights organizations and issues differently than liberal progressives. Neither side is ever 100% right, yet they’ll never admit it. It’s all quite convoluted since issues are usually distorted and twisted into opinion. Take Teddy Roosevelt, for example, who was a Republican president. He’s regarded as the founder of environmental conservation in America; a true protector of flora, fauna, and land. Was he a liberal Democrat in disguise despite “conservation” and “conservative” going hand-in-hand? Perhaps he was a conservative progressive, if something like this even exists. Perhaps, it’s what we all should strive for. (My own opinion, of course.)

    For some odd reason, we seem to get confused and downright mean over issues that impact us. Just yell “NO SYRIAN REFUGEES!” in a room full of Democrats. Then, scream “MORE SYRIAN REFUGEES!” in a room filled with Republicans. You’ll never hear so much passion, along with heavy doses of bias and self-serving interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. Speaking of which, in criminal court, we have an adversarial system, where, during hearings and trials, prosecutors and defense attorneys are justified in arguing their causes. Both sides think they’re right. Believe me, I saw it in action, live from the courthouse, during the Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman trials. Nearly four solid years of courtroom action. To this very day, the public still fights over them.

    Obviously, slants take on many forms, not always political. They can delve into the philosophical or religious views of the presenter. They can be based on one’s own experiences. How many movie and restaurant critics have written bad reviews? Clearly, there’s nothing political about them. Maybe you saw that movie and ate at that restaurant and enjoyed both experiences. Who is right here? You or the critic? Below are three different takes on the same fictitious event. One is a straightforward report and the other two are slants. Each slant will infer something different. Please read between the lines.

    (1) A two vehicle accident occurred on Saturday, at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue, in downtown Podunk around 10 PM. One person did not survive. Dennis Walker, 15, of Ruralville was pronounced dead at the scene. His father Michael Walker, also of Ruralville, was transported to Podunk Medical Center, where he was treated and released. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Podunk, and his passengers, suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Police said an investigation into the cause of the accident is continuing.

     (2) A 15-year-old boy died in a two car accident on Wednesday night in Podunk. The accident occurred around 10:00 PM at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue.  Dennis Walker, of Ruralville, was pronounced dead at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Ruralville, was flown by helicopter to the trauma center at Podunk Medical Center. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Podunk, and his passengers, suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Mr. Walker had just pulled out of the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Podunk, where he had picked his son up from a Boy Scout meeting. An officer at the scene was quoted as saying, “I can’t say for sure what happened, but empty beer cans and bottles were found in the other vehicle.”

    A witness said that Wilson’s car was seen speeding out of Frank’s Tavern, less than two blocks away, and was exceeding the posted speed limit of 35MPH. Blood alcohol levels of the driver have not been released. He was taken into custody and an official report will not be disclosed until the investigation is completed.

     (3) An accident which caused the death of one person occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue in Podunk last night around 10:00 PM. Dennis Walker, 15, of Ruralville, died at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Ruralville, was transported to Podunk Medical Center. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Podunk, and his passengers, were treated for minor injuries. There have been many accidents at this intersection over the past 10 years, according to state statistics. A witness at the scene said, “This is ridiculous. We’ve protested to state, county and city officials about this problem for years. We’ve signed petitions. We need a traffic light here now! No one heeds the 4 way stop signs. At least two others have died in the past three years.” An investigation is pending and weather did not seem to be a factor.

    Do you see how easy it is to write a slant? You can slant a story any way you want to suit your own opinion in order to get your somewhat subliminal message across. We see, read and hear it every day. It’s not just news outlets, either. Today, the Internet is a bastion of unlimited free speech and there are millions of bloggers and Facebook members around the world who exercise that right in stories and memes. Clearly, most of them are far from being straightforward and true. There are unlimited Web sites dying to etch their keystrokes into our brains. Even governments get into the game as they attempt to indoctrinate citizens through political correctness and other means. You, the reader, watcher and listener, must learn to distinguish between what is real and what is a twist and even if you agree, it still doesn’t make it true. Or right. Remember that.

    Of course, this is my humble and unbiased opinion.

     

    Wednesday
    Sep212016

    I GOT STONED

     

    I have to tell you that I did not have a nice weekend, most certainly, the loss of my Uncle Dave, but that’s not what this is about.

    Friday evening, starting around 6:00 PM, the right side of my back began to hurt. The subsequent medical report identified the area as a right flank. It was a pain I never felt before, and all I knew was that I was in agony and the only thing I could do was suffer. I was unable to get comfortable in any position; sitting, standing, or lying down. Before bed, I took two Tylenol Extra Strength tablets. They did absolutely nothing to ease the discomfort. I slept sporadically during the night and in the morning, the pain went away after an hour or so. I seemed fine. Great! Whatever it was, it was gone! I had my suspicions, but several people thought I had hurt a muscle. Nope, the pain was more internal than that.

    Saturday evening, the terrible pain returned. This time, I took two Tylenols and two 50 mg tramadol pills. Unfortunately, that combination didn’t help and, once again, I suffered for hours in bed - dozing, wide awake, tossing and turning. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

    Sunday morning, the pain subsided after an hour or so, so I began looking up what might cause the symptom. That night, like clockwork, the pain came back and I chose not to take anything for it because, if 1,000 mg of Tylenol and 100 mg of tramadol wouldn’t do the trick, what’s the point? The only way I could describe it would be to say that, on a 1-10 scale, this was a solid 7. It wasn’t a sharp pain like a knife stabbing me, it was more like a heavy thud, as if someone took a big rubber mallet and swung very hard, aiming straight at my right kidney. Extremely uncomfortable. Interestingly, the pain expanded to include my lower right back.

    Monday morning, the pain subsided, just like the other two days. It was time to call the doctor to make an appointment. He wrote out two referrals (which I went and picked up) to get a urine test and an ultrasound on both kidneys. Quest did the first one and Boston Diagnostics, the ultrasound. Meanwhile, I prepared myself for the impending evening pain. Surprisingly, it didn’t come.

    Yesterday afternoon, I saw the NP (Nurse Practitioner) and explained my situation (and I was very detailed.) She diagnosed me with what I thought it was: a kidney stone. While there, one of the nurses got the results of the tests and they both came back negative. No stone(s) present. That was a relief and I’m hoping it stays this way. Here it is, two nights in a row pain free. Wee! Wee! (And guys don’t handle pain like women.) The stone must have been agitating my right kidney as it inched toward the ureter, the duct through which urine passes from the kidney to the bladder. It wraps around the front as it enters the bladder. Usually, the pain through the ureter is extra-excruciating, yet I felt nothing.

    The NP believes it passed on its own. I sure hope so. She gave me important instructions, though… Drink as much water throughout the day as possible! Good advice! But she had no explanation for why I felt the pain at night and not during the day. Oh well, it doesn’t matter as long as the experience is behind me for good.

    Because I have to drink all this water, by the time I get to my reunion, I will probably look like a bloated whale. At least, I will try to use it as my excuse for not weighing 150 pounds like I did in high school.

     

     

    Sunday
    Sep182016

    Too Chicken to Grow a Beard

     

    I have a Sam’s Club membership. It belonged to my father and I simply transferred it after he passed away. There are good deals to be had if you know what you’re doing. Personally, I don’t buy much in bulk like he did because, in the end, he left cases and cases and cases of canned goods in every closet in the house, and some had expired years ago. I think it had to do with Obama’s election. The end was near.

    Anyway, I went into Sam’s to buy one of their huge and delicious rotisserie chickens. At only $4.98 each, it’s a real bargain. One of the guys behind the counter (I guess you could call them chicken tenders) told me that if I wanted to wait a few minutes, he’d be taking fresh ones out of the oven. Of course, I waited. We talked a little. That particular store sells around 200 chickens a day. Sometimes, 300 on Saturdays. Amazing!

    §

    My class reunion is coming up very soon. No, I’m not taking any chickens with me. A week or so ago, I thought about growing a beard just because I wanted to, so I stopped shaving. ‘Yeah, I look a little scruffy, but it should grow in nicely,’ I thought. Eventually. By the time I fly up to New Jersey, it should be fully grown. It’s not a fashion statement of any kind. I just decided to complement my already existing mustache and goatee that I’ve had for, like, forever. However…

    I was hungry when I got to Sam’s, so I sidled up to the restaurant counter to order something to eat. They sell pizza and hot dogs and other assorted sandwiches at great prices. I decided on a sausage sub with peppers and onions. The lady who took my order and rang it up was probably around 70-years-old. I’m 64. I think she was Hispanic (or Latino) because she spoke in extremely broken English, but I’m used to it after living in Florida for such a long time.

    “Oh, you very handsome man,” she said, but not nearly as clear.

    Oh, how nice, I thought, but I didn’t really believe her. “Thank you very much.”

    What happened next was rather interesting. She took one of her hands and stroked her cheeks in a downward motion, as if to be pressing on a beard. “No, that not look good on you.”

    “No?”

    “No, it make you look old. Much older.”

    “Oh… Hmmm. Thank you.” And I meant it. This was something to think about. I had a full beard back in the mid-80s and I’ve always thought about growing another one. My reunion, I thought, would be the perfect time. Except for that one statement. I mean, I can understand a 30 or 40-year-old telling me that it makes me look older than I am, but a 70-year-old? That’s a whole different perspective and honest critique, so I will shave it before I go. There’s absolutely no way I want to attend my class reunion looking older than the rest of the old people who will be there.

     

     

    Friday
    Sep092016

    Who is Rick Rescorla?

    A HERO OF THE FREE WORLD

    Originally published in 2006, this is my account of but one man. I want to post this every September, on or near the 11th, in honor of Rick and all who perished that day. I will do this until I can do it no more.

    Rick Rescorla was born in England. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1963 and retired as a colonel in 1990. Rick was a bonafide hero of the Vietnam war. In 1965, at the la Drang Valley battles, Lt. Gen. Hal Moore described him as “the best platoon leader I ever saw.” Rescorla’s men nicknamed him “Hard Core” for his bravery in battle. His heroism was documented and highlighted in the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers” from the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young” co-written by Gen. Moore.

    Since 1985, he worked in corporate security, subsequently becoming Vice President of Security for Morgan-Stanley/Dean-Witter, the largest tenant in the World Trade Center. After the 1993 attack, he trained all employees to evacuate the building. He maintained a structured, quarterly drill carried out by all staff to orderly get out. He is the man who predicted 9/11. Please see The Richard C. Rescorla Memorial Foundation.

    On that fateful day, he safely evacuated all 2,800 Morgan-Stanley/Dean-Witter employees but himself and a few of his security staff. After doing his job, he returned to rescue others still inside. These were not even his people, yet, they were all his people. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains have not been recovered. He left a wife and two children. This man is widely recognized as being solely responsible for saving over 3,000 lives. Is it of any importance that he became an American citizen after Vietnam? He is a citizen of all mankind.

    Rick Rescorla is but one hero who perished that fateful day, but what a man he was and what a soul he has that will and should live forever in the hearts and minds of everyone who cherishes freedom. All over the world.

     

    and

    September 11 | A Memorial

    Sunday
    Aug212016

    Working Days and Sleeping Nights

    In the mid-70s, I worked for a peritoneal kidney dialysis company. It was a much needed break from the Weiner King (although I did return.) I traveled throughout Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey delivering care packages to patients. While away, I stayed in motels; just simple motels in any old honky-tonk town I descended upon. Late one afternoon, I wheeled into one in Maryland, location unknown, and got a bed for the night. When I parked and got out of my vehicle, I noticed a large man standing outside his room, door wide open. Big, black hair and matching mustache. I knew immediately who it was even though his name was painted on the van parked right in front of him. FREDDY FENDER! He was smoking a cigarette. I nodded. He nodded back. That was it, but it was a very good experience. No fancy hotel. No entourage. Just him. A regular guy taking a break from where life was sending him.


    Friday
    Aug122016

    The Wart Tree

    In the late seventies, early eighties, I was in the Weiner King business in New Jersey. It was at the tail end of my restaurant career. At one of the locations, there was a large window along the side of the building, next to the front counter. (Actually, the restaurant was mostly glass around the sides and front.) When customers entered the place, the dining room was to the left and the ordering area was to the right. Very easy to navigate. This particular window and sill was all the way to the right, at the far end of the counter. The sill was just above waist-high and sitting on it was a very handsome ming aralia, about 18-inches tall, that looked like a small, leafy tree. No, it wasn’t a bonsai.

    The Weiner King had an extremely loyal following, no matter which of the six stores you visited. At this one, one of the customers was a very nice lady who came in at least twice a week during the lunch and/or dinner rush. Quite the regular, it came as a surprise when she walked through the front door around 4:00, not her usual time. (You get to know your customers’ schedules after a while.) Between 2:00 and 5:00, it’s called ‘slump time’ and it could take forever to get through if you don’t keep yourself busy. I must have been bored that day and let my mind wander — which was nothing new. I was working with a girl named Lauri, who was a college student on summer break. The lunch crew was gone and the evening crew hadn’t yet arrived. Just us. And one customer.

    She walked over to the counter to order but, instead, kept going toward the plant with her arms extended. Her hands got within inches of it, as if to fluff up the leaves, when she said, “I’ve really admired your plant. Every time I come in, I stare at it. It’s beautiful! What is it?”

    “It’s a wart tree.” I have no idea why the idea popped into my head, but it did. I said it, it was too late, and, in a flash, she retracted those arms faster than a toad can stick its tongue back in its mouth.

    “A WART TREE?” she exclaimed with an almost look of puzzled disgust on her face.

    I had to think fast. “Yes, a wart tree. You’ve seen Lauri working here before? She’s studying biochemistry at Rutgers University. You know how some warts have seeds?”

    “Yes..?”

    “Well, someone she knew had a wart. She removed the seeds in a lab and cultivated them into what you’re looking at here.”

    “You’re joking, right?”

    “No,” I insisted. “Ask her.”

    I hated to put Lauri on the spot but, despite her abundance of intellectual prowess, she was one heck of a good sport with a great sense of humor. After collaborating my story with some kind of details pertaining to the structure, functions, and interactions of macromolecules between animals and plants, the woman seemed to buy the story. 

    “It was, after all, a plantar wart,” I added, just to ice the cake. “You know, plantar… plant?”

    “Oh. Huh. A wart tree. I’ll be darned. I never knew that.” She composed herself but was still perplexed. “Well, I’d better order dinner for my husband and me.”  

    I went back to man the grills and Lauri stayed up front working on the rest of the order while making small talk. The woman, meanwhile, stood far away from the little tree. After she left, the two of us laughed pretty hard. It was dumb, but it was done.

    I’m convinced that when she got home, she told her husband all about it, and I’ll bet you he told her how there is no such thing, while rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically. In the end, though, she was either afraid of the tree, warts and all, very embarrassed, or too angry, because I never saw her again.

    Was I silly for doing it? Yes, but working 80 to 100 hours a week will do that to you. And my old boss, Jack, who worked at least 100 hours, used to do it all the time. Just not to customers.

    Friday
    Jul082016

    WAITING TO BURST

    Every day, horror pays another visit. Murder, mayhem, war and dirty politicians. Liars, killers everywhere! How can anyone possibly expect a world of peace when our own citizens fight over fear and loathing from memes with made up truths and BREAKING NEWS on the TV screen? In the end, there’s no emotional difference between Republicans and Democrats. Both are crammed full of selfish, self-centered hate and rage. And blame no one’s willing to take. It’s times like this that push us closer to the edge…

    Please take a moment to listen to kindness and love. Soothe your aching heart. This is a Chuck Wild (Liquid Mind) song called Awakening. I guarantee it will comfort you…

     

     

    Sunday
    Jun192016

    A FATHER'S DAY PRIMER IN EXTERIOR PAINTING

    I originally wrote this in 2007. This morning, I made a couple of minor edits and here it is, my Father’s Day story. 

    Way back in the 1970s, when I lived in New Jersey, my boss would lay me off during summer months because he could get three school kids on break to work for what he was paying me. I was happy since I got time off to work outside painting residential and commercial buildings. Without a doubt, I took great pride in my work and made pretty good money, to boot. Satisfaction all the way around!

    In those days, I preferred oil base or alkyds over latex because there was less of a chance of mold and mildew developing on the surface, mostly on shaded sides. Occasionally, my father would drop by my job sites to see me diligently at work. He’d always call me Rembrandt.

    About fifteen years ago, now in Florida, he asked me if I’d be interested in painting his house. Sure, I said. I wasn’t going to charge him for my work, but I certainly wasn’t going to pay for the cost of preparation and materials.

    Two of my friends were professional painters. Since I had been out of that field for many years, I wanted to know what, if anything, was new since the days of old. I said I preferred oils over latex. They were adamant in their reply, “No! Latex today is much better than it was back then. It has really good mold inhibitors now. Oil base paint will actually encourage mold, especially here in Florida.”

    That was a real surprise, but the last time I painted anything was when I lived up north. In Florida, structures have to contend with incredible heat, the effects of the sun and torrential downpours. The sun, in particular, depletes and dulls the paint’s pigment.

    “Make sure you have the house pressure washed and sealed before you do it. That is very important,” they both told me, “or the paint won’t stick. If you don’t, the paint will crack, peel, and bubble in a year or two.”

    I passed that information on to my father and he said, “No, I just want it painted. Just that, nothing more.”

    I went back to my friends and told them what he said.

    “When you run your finger across the surface and that chalky stuff comes off, that’s dead paint. Try painting chalk and see if it sticks. Go ahead.” They’d had these problems before, obviously, with cheap customers wanting to save money. These would be the same customers that would run back to the painter to complain at the first sign of trouble. That’s my father. Is that what I wanted? No, so I told him I wouldn’t do it unless he prepped the house. Period.

    “Knowing you,” I said, “you’ll run back to the paint store screaming about inferior paint and the first thing they’re going to ask is, did you pressure wash and seal it first? What are you going to tell them?” He relented and agreed. He had no choice if he wanted me to do the job. I asked him to get it washed and I would seal it. It was still going to be much cheaper than hiring a painter because labor wouldn’t be a factor.

    The house is one story with a full attic. It’s constructed of cement blocks with the front and sides having a stucco finish The attic is wood, gabled with a 6/12 pitch. I made sure all wood trim was scraped, allowed to dry, and primed where necessary. I always apply two coats. When I began my prep work, I dug out the foundation all around, brushed off the dirt, and allowed it ample time to dry. In case of ground erosion, I didn’t want any areas exposed without paint. Then, I began, from top down …

    I made sure to paint under window sills that had never seen a brush. For some reason, many contractors avoid finishing areas you don’t normally see and that exposes part of the building to the elements. Besides, suppose someone’s planting flowers around the house. They look up at the sill and see sloppy, unfinished work. Not good. After painting the entire house by using only brushes, I finished and filled the dirt back in at the foundation. (I told you I am meticulous. Fifteen years later, the house is still in very good shape.)

    Several months after I completed my job, the people next door decided to paint their house. It was a classic case of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ While it looked nice, he didn’t listen to the painter or he got his pimple-faced nephew to do it because, about a year or two later, like clockwork, the paint began to crack, peel, and bubble, just like my painter friends said.

    One afternoon, the neighbor came knocking on my father’s door. Very puzzled, he asked, “Why aren’t you having the problem, too?”

    Ahhh… my father had a very knowledgeable answer. “Did you pressure wash and seal it before painting?”

    “No…” the neighbor replied.

    “I see,” he said, already primed with an expert and authoritative response. “Well, you should have asked me first. I would have gladly told you.”

     

    Friday
    Jun102016

    Hey Everybody!

    This particular song brings back fond, fond memories. My little brother was around 2 or 3 years old and he’d stand on the front seat of the car with me holding onto him, singing “EVERYBODY, EVERYBODY, EVERYBODY…” as he wiggled to the music. He was born in 1961 and the song came out in 1963. That was back in the day when songs like this got a lot of long-lasting AM airplay. I was 11 or 12 and there were no seat belts or car seats. He was usually relaxed on my lap until this one started to play…

     

    Wednesday
    May252016

    The Dominic Effect

    About Dominic Casey’s recent disclosure regarding Jose Baez and Casey Anthony, this is a post I wrote on September 1, 2009. The ending is a bit snarky and, if you were following the flow of my articles at the time, you probably would have understood that there was no disrespect intended toward Brad Conway. People were targeting him, too, along with everyone else. Eventually, that included me. By the way, I did have several phone conversations with Baez and a couple of in-person discussions with Dominic Casey. I am researching other articles I wrote for more information. To my best recollection, and it’s in this article, the PI was not working for Baez at the time of the search. More like Cindy.

    BAEZ BEATS BAR

     


    Tuesday
    May172016

    Today's Civil Rights Movement?

     

    When I was a freshman in high school, I did something that, by today’s standards, would be perfectly normal and strongly encouraged and endorsed by the executive branch of the federal government and Department of Justice.

    I had only been at Hunterdon Central High School a matter of days; perhaps, a week, and hadn’t quite acclimated myself to my future alma mater surroundings. Somewhere near the cafeteria was the sophomore wing. I think that’s what it was. Across from the cafeteria was a courtyard. Around the corner as you entered the sophomore section were bathroom facilities. Some of the department head offices were nearby, too. From the cafeteria, you’d go out into the hall and turn left to get to that wing. Being that I was a freshman, it was kind of off-limits, but not in a legal sense. Upper classmen had the upper hand. Wait. Check that. For the politically correct… upper class students. I was just a naive freshgender in those days. I’m talking the late 60s, so you have to understand that we had separate bathrooms for boys and girls. Today? I can’t say I know for certain what kind of nondiscriminatory, nonbinary environments exist in schools.

    All I know is that I had to go. Real bad. I don’t remember where I was coming from, but I raced past students clustered outside the cafeteria as quickly as I could. “EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! PARDON ME! EXCUSE ME!” as I thrust myself through the crowd.

    Quickly, I made the 90-degree right turn, opened the bathroom door and paid no attention to anything other than getting myself into a stall on time. WHEW! I made it!

    For a fleeting moment, it was like a surreal peace. Ahhh… An instant calm came over me and I took time to reflect… Boy, was I lucky! (I think we’ve all been there.)

    Suddenly, the entrance door opened and I heard the light shuffling of shoes. I hadn’t realized I was alone up to that point. The bathroom was mine. In a flash, everything changed and a giant lump went down my throat. They sounded more like high heels. I heard feminine voices. GIRLS! There were girls in the men’s room!

    Uh oh. I thought about it. When I raced past the sinks, I didn’t see any urinals. There were no urinals! I was in the girls’ bathroom! Oh no! They were chattering away at the sinks and giant mirror, probably fixing their makeup and talking about their boyfriends. Almost panicking, I finished by business and, without stopping to wash my hands, made a beeline to the front door. I never even glanced their way. Straight ahead!

    “Oh, that’s Sammy Knechel’s little brother,” I heard one of them say, but, BAM! that door swung open and I was gone. I didn’t look back until I turned the corner toward the cafeteria. No one saw me exit. Whew!

    That was it. I never heard a thing about it from anyone. To this day, it’s been something I didn’t want to open up about because I was most embarrassed by that experience. Not anymore. Let it rip! Interestingly, if it happened today - almost fifty years later - it would be a commonplace, nonevent. Why am I telling you this? Because I was way ahead of my time. Thus, I sit on the throne proudly. What once was a personal thing is now an encouraged perfunctory performance of bodily functions between teenage boys and girls, together in perfect raging hormonal harmony, endorsed by the president of the United States. I feel so… so… so patriotic!

    Just think… I had no idea what a trailblazer I was. Too bad I didn’t accidentally stumble upon the girl’s locker room. Certainly, I’d warrant some sort of medal of honor, but not from any of the parents I know. There’s still that Second Amendment thing.

     

     

    Tuesday
    May032016

    Judge Perry: Little Black Boy

    The following is a true story from 1989.

    I worked as an artist/designer for Stonebrook Advertising in Orlando. We created print ads and radio commercials for the Belk Lindsey department store chain. Mostly, it was newspaper ads, but, yes, I did a few voice overs. My boss was Glenn Stone, but you couldn’t call him Glenn. He was always Mr. Stone and he liked to wear dark, expensive suits, slick and kind of glossy looking; and just to give you an idea of how formal he was, I happened to be in his neighborhood late one Saturday morning. He was outside, cutting the grass while wearing a starched white shirt and tie. I kid you not. I think his wife even called him Mr. Stone.

    One workday afternoon, he called me into his office. “Dave, come on in here and sit down. This here is Judge Byrd. He’s running for re-election and he needs some artwork done.”

    I recognized the gentleman and offered a handshake. “Good afternoon, Your Honor.”

    I knew right away that he and Mr. Stone were old friends. It was quite obvious they both were from the same “good ol’ boy” mold that still permeates in communities everywhere, especially in pockets of the deep south. Mr. Stone explained that Judge Byrd needed campaign designs including ads for newspapers, bumper stickers and bulk mailer pieces. Mr. Stone decided that I would do the work for the judge. Oh, great. Tag, you’re it.

    Originally hailing from New Jersey, I had a few inherently stereotypical prejudice issues with southern judges and politicians from what I had heard in the news over the years — hanging trees and all. Nothing major at the time because I had already been in Florida for eight years; it was just a slight amount of apprehension. Being white, I wasn’t too concerned about myself, as long as I could muster up a good southern drawl if pulled over by the law. Not really, but I think you get my drift.

    We sat there and discussed what kind of strategy would help in his bid to retain his seat. We went over design ideas. Judge Byrd was running against someone I had never heard of until a few weeks earlier, when some upstart named Belvin Perry announced his candidacy to unseat Judge Byrd in the Osceola County Circuit Judge race. I don’t recall that party affiliation had anything to do with it, but I was immediately rooting for Belvin. I couldn’t say exactly why at the time, but I just didn’t particularly care all that much for Judge Byrd. Although I couldn’t pinpoint the reason, it probably had to do with the southern thing and that persnickety air of white male privilege that wasn’t as inherent in the New York/Philadelphia corridor, from whence I came.

    After going over the plan of attack and some incidentals about his opponent, Judge Byrd was ready to leave, confident in the knowledge that we would deliver exactly what he needed to garner a victory. As he walked out of Mr. Stone’s office, he proudly exclaimed something that I found quite shocking and highly offensive…

    “I’m gonna kick that little black boy’s ass.”

    Mr. Stone was all excited. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I said nothing in return. As a matter of fact, I didn’t respond at all. My face went blank. How could a sitting judge display blatant racism like that? Suddenly, I had a real problem. Personally, I wanted to do everything I could to help Judge Byrd lose the election. Professionally, I had to do everything in my repertoire of artistic talents to get him re-elected or face losing my job. I was very confused, to say the least. It was a lose/win, win/lose proposition. I didn’t want him to be re-elected, but I had to do my professional best to design winning ads, bumper stickers and flyers. Why me, dear Lord, why me?

    I called an attorney friend of mine and told him I needed to talk about something VERY important. We met after work and I explained my moral and professional dilemma.

    “My personality is split in half on this, Bill. I don’t want to do it, but I don’t want to lose my job. Since I’m obligated to do it, I’ve got to give it my all as a professional. I have to help the guy get re-elected and it goes against my moral fiber.”

    He was quite familiar with the judge, too, and pretty much felt the same way. “Boy, Dave, I’ve been an attorney a long time now and that’s a new one on me. It’s a mess and I don’t envy you at all. If you want my professional advice, you have to do it unless you have another job lined up somewhere and I’m sure you don’t.” 

    He was right, I didn’t.

    I went to work on a strategy I felt would benefit Judge Byrd. I set up a slate of ads that had to run at certain times throughout the campaign. They had to be laid out in different sizes, too, since, in those days, newspapers weren’t alike. I worked on demographics so I could recommend where I felt mailing the flyers would benefit him the most. And the bumper stickers. Oh, yes, those things. They looked nice, but I cringed when I got behind his supporters, and I saw quite a few. I wanted to say, “Hey! That’s my design. Oh, never mind.”

    I was proud of my work. I was sick of my work. And I waited for election day with bated breath.

    Judge Byrd lost his bid for re-election. It was a bittersweet victory for me. I wondered if there was something I did wrong. But I was glad he didn’t win and I knew in the end that it didn’t hurt me professionally. There was no blame; no guilt. Judge Byrd took his loss well. All politicians know one day they will lose.

    Bill asked me how I felt. Very relieved, I said. Was there something subconscious inside that held me back from really giving it my all? Oh well, it was over and my secret personal nightmare was, too.

    Judge Belvin Perry went on to become Chief Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit and, of note, he presided over the Casey Anthony trial. And Judge Byrd? I saw him years later at a Belk Lindsey store. He remembered me and we had a very nice chat. He went back into private practice.

    My friend Bill became a workmen’s compensation judge for the state of Florida, appointed by then governor Jeb Bush. I always told him what a fine, fine judge he’d make one day and he did. He’s still as humble as the day we first met.

    In the end, it was the will of the people that unseated Judge Byrd, not my designs. Thank God I was never asked to do anything like that again. Torn apart, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

     

    Thursday
    Apr282016

    WOMEN'S MOVEMENT LOST IN LADIES' ROOM!

    I don’t know if women want men in their public bathrooms or not. I don’t think most men would care if women walked in on us, though. Heck, we might give you a show! Actually, that’s not true, and this whole mess about toilet access is turning into a form of hysteria that we need to flush out of our systems. The problem is, Democrats hate Republicans and Republicans hate Democrats and never the stain shall meet. What’s happened is that the country has suddenly grown up; it caught up with the rest of the world, and an entire segment of society wasn’t ready for it, wasn’t prepared and still isn’t. Damn Obama. I mean, could you imagine John Wayne donning a dress and lassoing a stall in the ladies’ room? “That’s mine, Pilgrim!”

    Well, Caitlyn Jenner - a Republican - just used the ladies’ room at Trump International Hotel in New York City (with his blessings, sort of) and dangled a video in front of Ted Cruz’s nose, “Thank you, Donald, really appreciate it. And by the way, Ted, nobody got molested…”

    (Oh, and, since this stinky mess infested the newswaves, I’ve been asking store owners, managers, and employees a simple question. One by one, they answered me, although, I did get a NO COMMENT or two.)

    “Is it okay for me to use the ladies’ room if the mens’ room is occupied?” These weren’t single stall rooms that could be mistaken for unisex ones.

    “Ummm.. Yeah, I guess so.” Could you imagine this response a few months ago? And that’s part of the problem. It’s all happening so fast, no one knows the law. They think men can surrepticiously use ladies’ rooms now.

    §

    Like a rocket ship soaring off the launchpad into space, the booster stage ignited when same-sex marriage became legal in the United States on June 26, 2015. Leading up to it and even today, the country is split over the Supreme Court decision. But all of a sudden, the booster separated and a massive force thrust the transgender toilet issue into the forefront. BAM! Like a phallic symbol, the rocket ship pierced through the stratosphere of society and it seems to be leaving conservatives and fundamentalists behind. Huh? Just like that, it’s a brave new world.

    Sadly, all that the liberal progressives do is mock and laugh and denounce conservatives, calling them stupid, uneducated, dimwits, both racist and sexist in nature, plus a few more unsavory adjectives that, in my opinion, only show how stellar they aren’t, either. They want conservatives to roll over, play dead, and let them mold the country in their image. Of course, the conservatives fire back and here we are now, in a very uncivil war. Progressives v. Conservatives. Closed-minded v. Closed-minded. Who gets to use what public bathroom and why it should or shouldn’t matter any more.

    §

    In the 1980s, I worked with a nasty womens’ libber. She despised men. What I saw on the news was no prize, either. Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan were overtly militant and it turned many men off. How were we [men] supposed to answer their call when they made it clear they hated us? Eventually, they softened their tone and we did, too. Of course, women were always equal as far as I was concerned, I just didn’t appreciate the messengers early on. That’s what’s happening now. Oh, not me, but to many others, and I think it’s stupid, uneducated, and a few more adjectives, when the progressive side doesn’t see it for what it is: rubbing crap into the faces of people who don’t want to change so quickly. So the conservatives retaliate the only ways they can, like what happened in North Carolina.

    Look, I have no problem with transgender people. Heck, I’ve probably whipped it out at a urinal while unsuspectingly standing next to a gay or transgender man. So what? No one ever thinks about that when they’re taking a leak. For that matter, there may have been a transdude sitting in the stall nearby. I don’t care. I go into a men’s room to do my business, finish my business, wash my hands, and get out. And so do they. That’s exactly the way it is in ladies’ rooms, too, and people like Caitlyn Jenner aren’t looking to molest anyone!

    Here’s what I say. If you don’t like the new North Carolina law, boycott the state. If you don’t agree with Target’s policy on sharing bathrooms and fitting rooms with transgenders, just don’t shop there. Problem solved. Go to Walmart instead, well-known as a bastion of normalcy. As for states that have passed sex at birth anti-transgender laws, I’d like to know who is going to check birth certificates at the door. Who is going to look at the plumbing before entering, the Poo-Pee Police? Inspecker Clouseau? Spread your legs, I’m a cop! It’s a fabricated fear. Why? Because I’m more afraid of a Dennis Hastert-type guy than I am of anyone else.

    §

    Now that we’re drifting in orbit, are all systems really go? Is everything A-OK? No, not really. Remember, some guys don’t know any better now. While I don’t believe much of this type of scenario will take place – not yet – another problem arises, and it’s something that hardly anyone is taking into consideration. 

    Just the other day, a very dear female friend of mine stopped at a fast food restaurant. While there, she used the ladies’ room. It had two stalls. She finished and walked up to the sink to wash her hands and gaze into her bright, beautiful, sultry and seductive eyes… No, I’m going off-topic. Sorry. She was standing there when, all of a sudden, a man entered with his very elderly mother. The woman had a walker. My friend decided right away it was time to leave, and she did! No words were spoken.

    This type of situation creates several problems. First off, I would have taken my 90-something-year-old mother into the men’s room. I’m a man. No guy would care if I took her there and into a stall. Neither would she. Secondly, I wouldn’t just barge into the opposite sex restroom unannounced. I’d declare myself. If people were in there, I’d allow them their personal space and wait for them to leave. To not do so is rude. What gave him the right to enter? It could be how the new rules are interpreted because no one is making them clear. To say this woman is beautiful is an understatement and there’s no way, as a heterosexual male, that I wouldn’t look at her ANYWHERE and not say to myself, “WHOA! What a looker!” Especially in such an exclusive setting. I’m certain he did the same thing. In any event, he was the real idiot. Or he was way smarter than we think?

    When it comes to personal intimacy, on a scale of 1-10, what room comes directly after the boudoir for privacy? While, fortunately, he posed no danger or threat to her, is it okay if any masculine, heterosexual guy uses the ladies’ room because he thinks he can? What if my friend had pushed open the door and there he stood inside? She would have immediately turned around and left! A woman (or 12-year-old) shouldn’t be fearful when she needs to use a bathroom facility. That’s her right, not a man’s. Now, she says, she eyeballs women when she uses one. They all look each other over, and they’re not looking for transgender people. It’s the freaks and perverts. Welcome to the wonderful world of weirdos and the strangers who are going to pee on your seat. Splash down!