Friday, May 25, 2012

With Appreciation and Respect...

We should think about it all year long, but we don't.  It will hardly register with most Americans this weekend, but it should.  Memorial Day, thanks to those who have sacrificed no more than a second dessert in the congressional dinning room, has been turned into just another amorphous three day bender for most citizens.  Kids, especially,  have little knowledge or appreciation for the men and women who paid with their lives so that we might live in freedom.  Social issues and politics trump military history in most of our schools, which is ironic on a myriad of levels. 

Maybe it's the passage of time and a growing sense of good fortune bestowed, but I sense an awakened respect and appreciation for the sacrifice of our bravest citizens from the Boomer generation--my generation.  When we were kids Memorial Day was a day of parades and visits to the cemetery.  It also signaled the end of another school year and the beginning of a long Summer vacation.

Looking back I see how very lucky I have been.  An early recollection of exactly what it meant to be afraid comes to me often on Memorial Day.  I was seven or eight years-old when my father offered the only observation I can recall regarding his experience in World War II.  He was pitching to me in the backyard of our Michigan home and had understandably grown tired of watching me bale out of the batters box one too many times.  "Don't be afraid of the ball", he encouraged.  "You don't know what it is to be afraid."

I guess I looked puzzled.
That day, for the first time,  he began to speak of fear, real fear, that he had seen in the South Pacific.  He told me of men at their battle stations under Kamikaze attack being so frightened they could not control their bladder or bowels.  Grown men...I couldn't imagine.  He spoke of the stomach churning and rapid heartbeat that came when a plane from his squadron did not return from a mission and the sick feeling of futility that nothing could be done.

I never did learn to hit a curve ball but a vigorous brush back no longer instills fear.  Likewise, a stint in the Army taught me all about sleeping on the ground, assembling and disassembling an M-16, eating C-rations, and marching.  God, did we march.   Luck had me doing all of this in Georgia and Kansas,  not Vietnam and not while anybody was trying to kill me.  Many of my contemporaries weren't so fortunate.  They experienced  war up close and personal.  For some it was the final experience of their lives.  For them, the men and women who sacrificed it all for America, and for those who fight and die on foreign soil today,  we owe a profound debt only payable in appreciation and respect.

They won't take our check.  Money means nothing to them anymore.  It's all about memory.
Edgar Papice once said, "The most powerful thing we have in our lives is choice."  This Memorial Day take some time and chose to remember those gave up their tomorrows so that you might enjoy today.

Never forget.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Only In America

It came to me in an email and I can find nothing with which to disagree...

Only in America could politicians talk about the greed of the rich at a $35,000 a plate fund raising event.

Only in America could people claim that the government still discriminates against black Americans when we have a black President, a black Attorney General, and roughly 18% of the federal workforce is black.  12% of the population is black.

Only in America could we have had the two people most responsible for our tax code, Timothy Geithner, the head of the Treasury Department and Charles Rangel, who once ran the Ways and Means Committee, BOTH turn out to be tax cheats who are in favor of higher taxes.

Only in America can we have terrorists kill people in the name of Allah and have the media primarily react by fretting that Muslims might be harmed by the backlash.

Only in America would we make people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege while we discuss letting anyone who sneaks into the country illegally just become American citizens.

Only in America could the people who believe in balancing the budget and sticking by the country's Constitution be thought of as "extremists".

Only in America could you need to present a driver's license to cash a check or buy alcohol, but NOT to vote.

Only in America could people demand the government investigate whether oil companies are gouging the public because the price of gas went up when the return on equity invested in a major U. S. oil company (Marathon Oil) is less than half of a company making tennis shoes (Nike).

Only in America could the government collect more tax dollars from the people than any nation in recorded history, yet still spend a trillion dollars more than it has per year  for total spending of $7 million dollars PER MINUTE,  yet complain that it doesn't have nearly enough money.

Only in America could the rich people who pay 86% of all income taxes be accused of not paying their "fair share" by people who don't pay any income taxes at all.

Just sayin'...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Where Customers Count

"The year is half gone and I'm still getting used to the idea of 2012", my old radio partner, Cynthia Heath-Kerrigan lamented yesterday.  She and her husband, Bill, had stopped by for a long overdue catch-up on anything and everything.  As we recalled radio war stories and bad bosses from days gone by when we teamed for morning and afternoon shows in San Diego, the subject of this blog popped up.  Like the current year, and pretty much everything else in life,  the dimension of time is now moving at warp speed.  I recalled how my friend Mike, no doubt tired of listening to another long-winded vent from me as he tried to relax in the steam room at the gym, had suggested that a blog might be just the thing to shut me up.  I took his idea and somehow five years of scribbling is now in my rearview mirror.  No way in hell would I have bet money on keeping this up for anything beyond my usual five minute attention span, yet here we are.  It has been fun and rewarding in many surprising ways.  

The absolute best benefit has been re-connecting with long lost friends.  Few people leave comments on this blog site but many folks from out of the past send emails that take me back to grade school, high school, the Army, long forgotten radio stations and even a few bars.  Hardly a week goes by where I don't have a pleasant surprise waiting in the old IN box.  I've even heard from sons and daughters of friends remembered on this page.  Sometimes they bring the sad news that mom or dad has died, but mostly they express kind regards and news of their parents or old colleagues.

So, I guess--no, I know, what I'm saying is that I'm having fun with the blog and hope you are too.  I guess I'll keep at it until, well--I don't.

Since we're looking backward...for the third or fourth time in the past couple of years the rearview mirror on my now "classic" '99 Mustang convertible, (hang on to anything long enough and it becomes a "classic"), came un-glued from the windshield.  Previously, I had gone to an auto parts store and picked-up one of those "even YOU can do it" kits for re-attaching the mirror.  This time, after several attempts, it didn't work.  My wife, after enduring the many expletives emanating from the garage for just a wee bit longer than she preferred, said: "Call the dealer, make an appointment and GET IT FIXED!"  Women can be very touchy about these things.

I called my friend, Jose, a tried and true service guru at my Ford dealer's and told him I was giving up and bringing it in for a proper fix.  Jose told me that I was "an idiot", (nothing new), and that I should first take the car to Safelite Auto Glass.  He explained that if I brought the car to the dealership  they would, instead of fixing the mirror, sell me a new one.  He was right--that was stupid.

I have long been a fan of companies that value customer service over all else.  They understand that by super serving their client base they guarantee longtime loyalty and continued patronage.  Costco, Starbucks, and McDonald's have all built empires on this philosophy.  Today you can add Safelite to that list.  I have used them twice in the past for windshield repair and been extremely satisfied with their work.   Clearly they know what they are doing and do it well.  More insurance companies prefer them than any other auto glass repair and replacement experts.  After my chat with Jose, I wheeled the green ragtop to the Safelite Carlsbad, California location and pointed to the dangling mirror and said, "Help".  They did.  And, not only did they gladly fix my mirror, they also said "no charge" when I asked to pay.
That my friends is how companies become great.  Keeping the customer FIRST has taken Safelite, like other legendary businesses, from a one store operation in Wichita, Kansas to a national auto glass provider serving nearly four million customers per year.  

Call it what you will, okay a free plug, but you never know when next you might need a windshield repaired or replaced--or even a dangling rearview mirror made new.   Whatever you do, don't call me,  I'll  leave you dangling.  Call the experts at Safelite.
And, tell 'em Groucho sent you--or, better yet, Jose.  

Safelite tech at work

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bettin', Booze, & 'Bacca', The Kentucky Derby

Math, never my long suit, indicates that it would have been the 112th "run for the roses" when I almost lost a bundle.  It wasn't the Derby that nearly whacked my wallet, though it was on Derby weekend.  No, it was another race at Santa Anita where a certain maiden entry was going off at a tantalizing 20/1 price.
  Here's the story:           1986 was the year I sold my interest in a Las Vegas radio station, KKLZ-fm.   I had launched and operated for a few years; it had been a fun experience but a chance to return to San Diego and the relative ease of hosting a radio show with NO management responsibilities was just what   the dilettante in me craved.  Las Vegas housing was slumping and my daughters were in the middle of a school year so the decision was made that I would "commute" to San Diego until we could sell the house and the kids had finished school.  Every Friday after wrapping up my show on KCBQ-fm I would hurry to the airport and jet back to Slotsville for the weekend.  Airfares were relatively cheap in those days and the plan was working well.
At that time KCBQ employed a newsman, Jim Buckalew, who was a fulltime professor of journalism at San Diego State University.  In those days radio stations had actual news departments with real live employees and Jim was one of the best in the biz, a real pro.  Jim was also a major horse player who, as I recall, also taught a course in handicapping the ponies for a while at State.  (Probably a more solid major today than journalism.)  He was a regular at  Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar and was known for his skill at picking winners.   That year, 1986, Jim's enthusiasm for the "sport of kings" had extended to becoming a part owner of a racehorse named "Reason to Study", a moniker chosen for obvious reasons.  

As Derby weekend approached, Jim came to me one afternoon and mentioned that his horse was to have his maiden race at Santa Anita on the day of the Derby.  He was naturally excited and a little nervous as a first time owner and longtime handicapper.  The horse looked to be going off at somewhere in the 20 to 1 price range, not terrific odds on any track.  Nonetheless, Jim was proud and excited.  On Friday he jammed a $100 bill into my hand and said, "I know you'll be going by a sports book in Vegas, could you please put this on my horse to "win"?  I told him I'd be glad to and pocketed his $100.

Saturday morning I woke to a day of household chores like mowing the lawn and other "honey do" items and hurried to finish them so that I could get to a race and sports book before post time for Santa Anita.  It was important to get Jim's bet down on time.  When I finished mowing we headed for the Strip and began looking for parking at one of the major casinos.  Derby weekend traffic hadn't figured into my timing equation and it was getting dangerously close to the wire as I circled the parking lot at Caesar's Palace.  I looked at my wife and said something like, "You know, Jim's horse is a 20/1 shot he's never going to win.  I'll just keep the $100 and give it back to Jim on Monday and he'll thank me for saving his money."  Wisely, my wife said: "NO!"  I drove a few blocks south and found a spot at The Marina, a major Las Vegas grind that has long since been blown to hell for the construction of the MGM Grand.  
Naturally, "Reason to Study" won his maiden race and paid Mr. Buckalew more than $2000.  Every year at this time I recall how close I came to not getting that bet in and how much it would have cost me if I hadn't.  (I realize now that it's not nagging if she's right.)

I hear that Jim Buckalew lives in L.A. these days.  I wonder who he likes in the Derby?
My pick?  Gotta go with "I'll Have Another"--the name appeals to me on many levels and the price, roughly 12/1 as I write this, tantalizes my love of longshots and the day that "Reason to Study"came in at  20/1 in a maiden race at Santa Anita.    

"I'll Have Another" gets ready for the Kentucky Derby