Friday, December 4, 2015

Almost Home

After ten days of high fever and sickness the likes of which I've never seen before, and hope not to see again,  my wife is out of the hospital and "at home" with me in the Seattle apartment we rented for the duration of her stem cell transplant protocol.  We--mostly I--have logged three months in this return to the not so glorious  days of living like newlyweds  and the novelty, if there ever was any, has worn off.  It's time to go home.

If all continues to go well, her doctors have told us we will be home in time for Christmas.  This comes as a welcome surprise as we had expected to be in medical stir until the end of the year.  We're ready to get on with the rest of what we hope to be our otherwise fun filled  retirement.  Frankly, until this past couple of years, I had always just assumed what we had would just blissfully go on forever.  That's stupid I realize but what do you expect from a guy who has never had anything more than a cold and never spent a day in a hospital.  Sickness and accidents were for other people, not me.   Linda, on the other hand, has had numerous health problems in the past but none as life altering or threatening as a war with cancer.  Through this now two year dance with large B cell lymphoma she has been non complaining and courageous.  After undergoing the latest five days of doctors zapping her body with the equivalent of what Fat Man and Little Boy did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only once did I hear her let slip a "why me?"  There is no question she is a better person than I.

So, we move on.  Home for Christmas, probably, and different people for sure.  Certainly we've learned that not only good things come to all of us who wait, but ALL THINGS good, bad and in-between.  A quote from a poet, I regret I cannot recall, summed it up nicely when he said, "Great nature has another thing to do to you and me...What falls away is always.  And is near."

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Important Stuff

"It's a blessing, really.  Stuff like this helps you focus on what's important.  My husband takes 26 kinds of medicine every day because of his kidney transplant and we just put it out of our minds and concentrate on all of life's good things."  So said one of the many wonderful medical assistants my wife and I see daily here in Seattle as she gets poked, prodded, zapped with chemotherapy and multiple other  body insults as she prepares to receive a stem cell transplant.  We are at war with lymphoma and don't plan to lose.  Beth, the aforementioned medical assistant,  sees people just like us all day every day and knows what she's talking about.  There are heroes all around us.  Ordinary people who have been handed this dark passenger called cancer and deal daily with its reality while working to dispatch it as quickly as possible. 
Linda is now a participant in a study involving the injection of radioactive isotopes into her marrow prior to the scheduled stem cell transplant.  She willingly volunteered for this protocol in order to to give something back to the dedicated researchers at the University of Washington and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  Every day she is in their care it is impossible not to be thankful for all who have gone before to make possible the the multiple treatments that will soon have Linda back home and ready to enjoy many more years of life.

The latest estimate for a return home and a very careful year of recovery because of her now compromised immune system has us back on the shores of Lake Coeur d' Alene shortly after the first of the new year.   Sure, we'll miss the holidays this year but it's a more than fair exchange for the reasonable expectation of many more Thanksgivings and Christmases with family and friends.  We're lucky to be at such a remarkable facility and are thankful for our two daughters and their husbands who have  willingly lent them to us for extremely helpful visits.  It has more than made up for the years when they were obnoxious teenagers. (Just kidding girls.)

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning how to dance in the rain."
Grandson Dan-"Inspector Gadget"- ready for Halloween


Friday, September 18, 2015

Battle Stations Again

For many years I thought that all of the attention and money focused on finding a cancer cure was foolish.  To me it was a disease that primarily sacked old people.  Stupidly I concluded that it was a natural happenstance of piling up too many years on your odometer.  Sure, the occasional kid battled it but mostly it was geezers who, like ripe bananas, succumbed to this malady.  My family was relatively cancer free.  My mom had survived breast cancer and added more than twenty years that nearly got her to  ninety.  Even though my wife had lost a father, brother and sister to it, cancer happened to other people.
And then she felt a lump on her neck.

Linda and I spent most of 2014 in doctors offices and in hospitals fighting her lymphoma with chemotherapy and she was cancer free before the end of the year.  This summer another lump--oh, please please let it be something else--told us the cancer had returned.  Time to put on our helmets and kick some cancer ass one more time.  That's why we are in Seattle.

 The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is the place to go for a stem cell transplant, which is what all of her doctors think is needed for Linda to send this disease packing for good.  It is the foremost facility in the world for this life saving procedure, having pioneered it several years ago.  The staff is second to none and SCCA enjoys a reputation of having the highest rate of successful transplants of any organization in the world.  Linda is in excellent hands.  She has an entire team dedicated to her victory over cancer and a life extension of many years.

My posts on this blog, which began as minor therapy for withdrawal anxiety brought on by the loss of the catharsis of a daily radio show,  have been a regular thing for me for nearly eight years now.  That may change.  Linda's battle is my battle and now it's time for all hands on deck.  I will post when I can but it may become sporadic as her treatment moves along.  I realize this is no big deal but over the years I have constantly been surprised by the number of you who check in frequently to see what snakes have crawled out of my head.  It's good to hear from old friends.

So, we will be busy for the next several weeks.  Cancer is real and it's non-discriminatory.   These days afford us zero opportunity to lapse into self pity.  There are too many children here for that.

Friday, September 11, 2015

First Day of School

My grandson Dan started school this week.  He will most certainly, unlike his grandpa, do his parents proud and excel  at all that important kindergarten stuff.  He's bright, funny, very personable and outgoing.  At 5 he will, just as the rest of us, start memory banking many of life's milestones like the day he was sentenced to school.  The fun is over!  From now on he will be expected to show up either at school or work for, unless he hits the lottery or gets a government job,  the next sixty years.  It's good that neither he or any of his contemporaries will be aware of this until it's too late, but, like spinach and brussel sprouts, it looms large.

Now it begins...60 years of responsibility.  Ugh!
Kindergarten for this correspondent was a considerable challenge.  I was the new kid, migrating to the neighborhood just prior to the start of school, and I was extremely shy.  Our house was only a couple of blocks from what was to be my elementary school so, of course, I walked.  On the very first day of class when the teacher let us out for recess I made the reasonable assumption that my presence was no longer required in the classroom and proceeded to head home.  I slipped from the playground through the teachers' parking lot, cut through a park. crossed U.S. highway 127 and made for my hacienda.  Mom was a little suspicious of my obviously short day but I assured her that we had been let out early because it was the first day.  The next day I followed the same brilliant plan but instead of going into the house after making my escape from the prison that was school I hid behind our garage where I had ingeniously stashed some toy cars and trucks that deserved my attention far more than the classroom did.

My teacher, being only slightly more mature than her young charges, remained blissfully ignorant of the fact she was consistently missing a student after each recess and I remained "at large" post monkey bars for over two weeks.  I might have pulled off my escape act forever if not for an unfortunate early recess.  One morning there was a problem with the thermostat or something in our kindergarten classroom and we kids were let out for recess a scant fifteen or twenty minutes into our day.  Naturally, since I couldn't tell time, I made my now routine getaway from the school.  I was a rebel who refused to live by their stupid rules!  Unfortunately, as I approached my garage hideaway,  dad was just leaving for work.  The jig was up.  

The interrogation tag team of mom and dad had me spilling my guts almost immediately and I was soon in the Principal's office with my parents as he and they discussed what was to become of me.  The next day I was in a new class with a new teacher who could actually count to thirty and had what seemed to be a special interest in where I was at any given moment.  I still hated school, an attitude that stayed with me until college, but wisely continued to employ my patented school survival regime of doing "just enough" to get by.  It also helped that I was lucky enough to find like minded pals to join me for a variety of trouble making schemes we practiced from the back row of nearly every class we were forced to endure.

I really do hope grandson Dan is better at school than I was.  It will be so much easier for him if he cooperates.  Also, sneaking home in San Diego is just a tad more complicated than taking a powder in Leslie, Michigan.  He'll need cab fare.  Hey, wait,  he's probably got an Uber app.
"Shape up Grandpa!"

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Man Ahead of His Time

His name was Don.  He worked the overnight shift on WAVV-FM in Tampa back in 1975.  From midnight until 6 a.m. he presided over waves of beautiful music interspersed with the occasional weather forecast, low key live commercials, and innocuous station positioning liners such as: "Waves of beautiful music for Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, all night all the time on W A V V." It was a snooze but lots of stations were doing it with great success as FM began its move from something owners regarded as a throwaway to the dominate band in the radio business.  The station was owned by a broadcast company headquartered in Atlanta that had enjoyed great success with its chain of Southeastern U.S.  broadcast properties.

I'm having trouble recalling Don's last name and, by the way, Don wasn't his real name, but the story I'm going to relate really did happen.  WDAE was the company's iconic AM station in the Tampa market and I had recently been hired as the morning man on Florida's oldest and (until my arrival) most respected radio station.  I was 27 years old and 'DAE was my first job in a major radio market.  My world was spinning in greased grooves.

The stations, WDAE and WAVV, were located in their own building in downtown Tampa at 101 North Tampa Street.  The sales, traffic and business offices were located on the first floor; the studios on the second, as I recall.  The AM operation was on one side of the upstairs, the FM on the other with an open office area for the disc jockeys between the two.  Every morning I would arrive around 5:15 a.m. to prepare to go on the air right after the 6 o'clock newscast.  Don, a very large and good looking African American, would often leave the FM studio  and drop by my desk to chat for awhile as he got ready to wind up his all night show.  He had lots of time to do this sort of thing as he was only required to speak every fifteen minutes or so.  As he got to know me better he confided in me that he had a charcoal grill going on the fire escape outside his studio and there were always  plenty of steaks and hamburgers if I was hungry.  This seemed a little weird to me but he was a BIG guy and I guessed he just liked to eat.  Another thing that seemed a little unusual was the constant traffic of very well dressed women who were consistently parading up and down the hallway on the WAVV side of the building.  Don claimed they were "good friends" of his who just dropped by to say hello.  Being young and stupid it didn't occur to me until much later that he had to be lowering the fire escape ladder for them to gain access as the front door and offices didn't open until 9.  Don also kept a rather large handgun in the studio with him.  Once he mentioned in passing that he was always armed and had, a few years earlier, done a little stint in Raiford (the state pen) for "opening up a guy in Tallahassee".   Being mostly interested in getting ready for my show and hanging on to my new job in "the bigs", I never gave much thought to all of this.  I liked Don and he seemed to think I was okay too.

One morning when I arrived at the stations Don had been replaced by another jock.  The new guy told me that Don had been arrested early the previous evening for running prostitutes out of WAVV.  Apparently the fire marshall had also been after him for cooking steaks on the fire escape.

To this day I wonder how it all worked out for Don.  Did he stay in radio?  Get into politics?  Politics would have been a natural transition from being a pimp, or from  radio for that matter.  I'd like to think he was just ahead of his time.  In the age of multi-tasking, old Don would be worthy of an "attaboy".

"Are you ready to party big boy?"

Friday, August 28, 2015

Showers California Style

In 1980 I took a job in San Francisco.  While waiting for my family to join me in our new home I spent lots of time walking the streets getting a feel for what the locals refer to as Baghdad By the Bay.  It was, and still is, a city unlike any other.  I remember jumping on a cable car at California street and Montgomery one afternoon only to discover myself seated next to a very large man sporting an embroidered jacket proclaiming himself to be "Floyd, the Golden Shower King of San Francisco".  I was no longer in Kansas,  maybe not even on the planet.  I was in the weirdest city in the state of Anything Goes, USA.

What made me recall California and showers (not the Floyd variety) was a small story that made the wires yesterday about the Water District of Southern California and its on going campaign to get the citizens of that drought stricken zoo to take shorter showers.  No more long luxurious rinses for the denizens of SoCal!  Nope, the district now has its very own radio station on Pandora called the Water Lover's Station which features non-stop rain songs of short duration.  The district actually spent employee time to develop a 100 song playlist featuring songs such as:  "Purple Rain" (must be the 4 minute edited version), "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" and other stone smashes that roll 24/7.  (Hey, I wonder if the station is hiring?)

I'm fairly certain that the commissars at the WDSC are depending on their customers to do the honorable thing and call a halt to their wash down after listing to just one heavy hit from yesteryear and will not be sending monitors into any bathrooms.  Give them time.  This is the state where dumb ideas come to thrive.  Sacramento is the petri dish of irrational expectations and the home of politicians who can resist everything except the temptation to pander to their often misinformed constituents.

I wonder if this new shower station takes requests?  How about a continuous loop of Carole King's "It Might As Well Rain Until September"?  And, if old Floyd is still around, I'll bet some fed up Californians may have a job for him at the Water District of Southern California, or, better yet, in Sacramento.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Doctor Walter Palmer's office is once again open for business in Minnesota.  The dentist who was for several days the most reviled and hated man on earth, after it was reported that he had killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, wasn't actually at his River Bluff Dental Clinic but several staff members were seen entering the building.  It's no surprise that the doc has yet to show his face since there seems to be no shortage of animal lovers ready willing and able to kill him.  That's right, KILL him.

Don't get me wrong, I don't condone what Palmer did.  I've never understood guys who insist on earning their testicle merit badge by killing critters who've done them no harm.  Apparently Cecil was part of an Oxford University research project and was tame enough to be sporting a GPS collar.  The fact that Palmer was conned into traveling all the way to Zimbabwe and forking over $50k for the "thrill" of knocking off what amounted to an over sized house cat would seem punishment enough, but in the age of misplaced priorities there are many who want the doc to swing for his mistake.  Really?

The world in general, and liberal Americans in particular, seem to be more concerned with the welfare of animals than of human beings.  For example:  Ask yourself who is the bigger detriment to society, a stupid dentist who kills an innocent lion, or a guy who fathers ten kids and doesn't stick around to support them monetarily or emotionally?  Certainly the latter costs us more money and leaves a trail of lives in jeopardy and likely to be unfulfilled and unsuccessful.  Cecil's death is the easy one for us to become enraged over.  It costs us nothing and we feel good about ourselves for being angry.   

Increasingly we are a nation of people just sitting around waiting to be insulted or angered about symbolic slights or perceived injustices.  The demand for removal of the Confederate flag from just about anything and everything is a timely example of this useless symbolism.  Will it make one bit of difference to any American's well being if that flag disappears?   Will there be less black unemployment?  Greater racial harmony?  Not likely, but it may assuage some white guilt and make some of  us FEEL BETTER. 

Another flyspeck that seems to resonate with the more superficial among us is the campaign to change the name of the NFL's Washington Redskins.  Personally, the team's owner seems like the Mount Rushmore of jerks but I applaud his refusal to change the iconic brand name he owns.  Does anybody really think that changing the name of the team will make life a scintilla better for the native Americans we long ago snookered out of what was rightfully theirs?  Ah, but liberal whites will feel better about a phony sense of accomplishment if only they can make that one happen.  

And, they wonder why Donald Trump resonates…

"Liberalism in the 21st Century is, for the most part, a moral manipulation that exaggerates inequity and unfairness in American life in order to justify overreaching public policies and programs."--
Shelby Steele

Friday, August 14, 2015

An Anniversary

Last week there were lots of news stories commemorating the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Most of the coverage was concentrated on the devastation leveled on the Land of the Rising Sun by the atomic bombs code named Fat Man and Little Boy. Naturally, like most events viewed in hindsight, the second guessing about the necessity of a smack down of this magnitude which rendered so much damage and loss of life was mostly of the "we really didn't need to do it" variety.  The contention that "if only we had dropped the bombs off shore the Japanese would have surrendered" is most often postulated.  This chestnut is usually espoused by folks not around at the time of World War II and/or by mental midgets who think Barack Obama and John Kerry are doing a crackerjack job of handling our nation's defense.  In other words, numbnuts.

Anyone who has spoken with veterans of the war in the Pacific, especially those unfortunate enough to have been taken prisoner by the Japanese, will, to a man, tell you that Japan had no plans to surrender.   American captives witnessed the daily sticks and stones drilling by men, women and children preparing for the Allied invasion they knew was coming.  The bombs dropped by B-29 pilot Paul Tibbetts and company were the sole reason the Japanese accepted the Postsdam surrender terms seventy years ago today, August 14, 1945,  and signed the formal documents aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2.

The courage of President Harry Truman to order the bombings and Paul Tibbetts crew to complete the mission most likely saved a couple of hundred thousand American lives that would have most certainly been lost during a land invasion of Japan.  Both men reportedly slept well for the rest of their lives knowing they had made the right decision and carried it out in a timely manner.  I seriously wonder if we ever again will be blessed to have such men.   Doing what is required to put an end to wars we never seem to start these days finds us timid and reluctant.  Career politicians with an eye on polls seem fearful of making any commitment that risks even a whiff of unpopularity with an impatient and often uninformed electorate.  The U.S. is poorer for it, and, I fear, because we are currently led by an embarrassingly naive and timid administration, we invite war with far greater consequences than the country has ever experienced. The world will always be home to those who seek to dominate others.  To show weakness and lack of will only invites conflict.  We pull our punches and equivocate at our  peril.

"I thought to myself, 'Gee, if we can be successful, we're going to prove to the Japanese the futility in continuing to fight because we can use those weapons on them.  They're not going to stand up to this thing.  After I saw what I saw I was more convinced that they're going to quit.  That's the only way I could do it," - Pilot Paul Tibbetts

"Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences." -Norman Cousins  

Friday, August 7, 2015

Have Junk, Will Travel

The end wasn't pretty.
With a "San Francisco or bust" taped to his tin can carcass, the Canadian bucket of bolts known as Hitchbot  set off from Salem, Massachusetts on July 17 for a U.S. tour designed to take him from East Coast to West.  It didn't work.

Maybe the boots were too much?
The Ryerson University research project would have been better off attempting an exploration of its native Canada where the folks are fewer and the politeness plentiful.  Instead, Hitchbot wound up decapitated and disarmed in a Philadelphia alley just two weeks into the planned coast to coast navigation of America.  It was one of those big East Coast Philly welcomes reserved for folks who can't decide between Geno's and Pat's when it comes to where to go for cheesesteaks.  I'm guessing that Hitchbot chose wrong.

This misadventure has given me an idea…

(Two hours later)  There, I feel better after that brief nap.  Big ideas always tire me out.
After watching yesterday's Republican debates and also observing the complete incompetence of our current administration, I have decided on an experiment of my own.  This afternoon I placed our less than efficient I-robot vacuum cleaner by the curb in front of our home in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho sporting a sign saying: I'm D.C. Bound!   Please give me a lift and help sweep the crooks away.  I have also pinned an identification badge sporting the name "Jeff" to this contraption in an attempt to appear friendly.   I have know many Jeffs in my lifetime and am reasonably sure  that the name practically guarantees harmlessness.  Of course, if you are a politician, all bets are off.

This will be a real test, America.  Washington needs a good sweeping out and Jeff is just the hunk of junk to do it!  He won't take up much space in your car or truck should you decide to help us out.  In fact, he can easily ride in the trunk or on the lap of any willing passenger.  The only maintenance he'll require is an occasional re-charge if you're near an outlet.  Your country is counting on you!  Don't leave him broken and battered in the parking lot at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.  (A delightful side trip if your a fan of corn and Lawrence Welk)

I just checked and, so far, nobody has stopped for Jeff.  Maybe I'll join him as he waits. Our local forecast is calling for clear skies and no rain.  The sun goes down around 8:40 PM in these parts.  Let's hope it won't go down on our country.

Just remember the world is a freak show.  In America we're lucky enough to have a front row seat.

"Hi, I'm Jeff.  Washington sucks!  Let me fix it."

Friday, July 31, 2015


Me: "I think I'll get some sun on the beach."

To which my wife replies, "Yeah, but you're my son-of-a-bitch."

We have exchanges like this every day and, though entertaining, it may signify that it's past time to do something about our hearing.  Like so many in denial baby boomers, we are predictably beginning to plow past the expiration date on much of our on board equipment.  Reading glasses, aching backs, sore knees and the usual litany of busted anatomy has smacked us upside our 50 plus heads and we don't like it even a little.

The hearing thing and the loss of almost instant recall of all things trivial bothers me the most.  If it weren't for Google and the Internet Movie Database I would be spending countless nights staring at the ceiling trying to put names to character actors--heck even stars--I've seen hundreds of times in familiar old movies.  Names and faces I used to instantly identify are now hopelessly misfiled in the clutter of my aging mind.  Wait a minute, maybe they're on the cerebral Rolodex?  Nope, not there.

Almost daily I'm reminded of numerous conversations between my mother and me regarding her near deafness in the final few years of her life.  "You don't have to shout," she'd insist as my brother and I would explain to her all the positive points of wearing a hearing aid.  "They're for old people," was the response.  She was 89 at the time and, yes, you did have to shout.

I was in my late twenties when I first began to notice a loss of hearing in the high range, yet it didn't concern me as I continued to wear headphones cranked up to mach 10 three or four hours every day as I shoveled the hits on the radio.  Over forty years of that kind of abuse your ears pretty much take early retirement.  On the plus side, I have become a very accomplished lip reader and closed captioning is a necessity for those of us who know for a fact that today's actors MUMBLE.

So, as far as Linda and I are concerned, it isn't yet time to shop for hearing aids.  Those things are for OLD people.  We'll continue to muddle along missing some important conversational fragments but taking comfort in the fact that perhaps we will also miss some hastily proffered critiques of each other that might better be left unsaid.

"Are you going to wear those crappy looking pants again you old fart?"

"Yeah, I like 'em too.  These khakis really are a work of art."

Now, if I could just remember who played Penny on Sky King...

Friday, July 24, 2015

California Dreamin'...

Those of us who grew up in the East or endured the bitter cold winters and steamy summers of the Midwest all wanted to be in California.  The Mamas and Poppas assured us we'd all "be safe and warm" if we were in L.A. and we believed them.  The weather was fine and the things we cared about seemed to happen in the Golden State.  

I spent half of my 67 years in California and, for the most part, thought the place lived up to expectations.  Sometime in the early 1990's it began to turn.  Traffic and taxes grew exponentially worse and the condition of the roads and infrastructure began to noticeably deteriorate in spite of the growing cost of living in lotus land.  Property taxes, though slowed by proposition 13, snowballed along with sales, income,  and gas taxes yet the state remained broke, the public schools barely adequate and English in danger of becoming a second language.
But I digress.

A friend recently sent me this You Tube video of some major Southern California freeways and city streets from the 1960's.  It reminded me of how great the place used to be and why I no longer live there.  For those of you who remain, this may almost be beyond belief.  If you are a former Californian, this video should affirm your decision to flee.  

It truly was once the state of dreams.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Escape From Squirrel Town

Squirrel Town:  Bring peanuts!
I knew it would happen one day.  On our walk this morning my wife ran out of peanuts for the squirrels that patrol and control the park just around the corner.  We had to run for it but made the street just in time to dash for the safety of home.  The furry rodents are extremely territorial and regard Park Street as the River Styx or, at least, an alligator infested moat and, to my knowledge, have never ventured across.

Safely out of range,  I reminded Linda that the little bastards are nothing more than flea-bitten rats with big heads and bushy tails whose cartoonish appearance fools people into believing they are friendly and would like nothing more than to pal around. WRONG!  The cagey miniature cons sit up on their haunches and swish their tails as they beg pathetically using those dumber than Al Sharpton eyes.  Their brains are about the size of a lentil and it's often necessary to point out where the peanut you have just tossed their way has landed.  

As it is with all creatures, there are some exceptions to the short bus riding denizens of squirrel town.  A  roly-poly rascal I've nicknamed "Kramden" is the Jackie Gleason of squirrels.  He knows right where to plant his pudgy carcass when he sees the peanut momma hove into view.  Right away he is in begging mode with the twitchy tail and paws at port arms looking for all the world like he's auditioning for the lead in a road company production of Oliver Twist.  "Please, sir, may I have some more?"

Kramden in action
Lois Lerner?
So, it's off to the supermarket this afternoon for re-supply of unsalted, (gotta watch that squirrel hypertension),  in the shell peanuts for tomorrow's sojourn through squirrel town.  The walk always does us good and the squirrel shakedown is a constant reminder of Jerry Brown's California tax policies that helps drive folks from the Golden State.  Or, is it the IRS I'm reminded of as we stroll among the rodents?  Come to think of it, was that IRS head honcho John Koskinen with his paw out this morning? Or, is he still busy lying to congress?  And, by the way, where is Lois Lerner?

Perhaps if we follow the peanuts...

"Lois and I have no idea what happened to your peanuts."  Right Lois?  Lois?


Friday, July 10, 2015

You Can't Fix Stupid

Please put on some clothes, I'm begging you!
Longtime locals tell me that it has been a record breaker and, having done some checking, I find that they do  know what they're talking about.  The inland Northwest hasn't been this hot since the early 1960's and, until today, there hasn't been a break from 90 degree and higher temperatures in the last four weeks.  June was rainless but July should bring at least a couple of decent showers.  Unlike California we have plenty of water for drinking and washing but the forests remain dangerously vulnerable to any spark.  No campfires allowed, anywhere, anytime!

All this heat has inspired the least modest among us to don Speedos and bikini butt floss for a traipse to the beach.  After careful observation I have concluded that there is a severe mirror shortage in the homes of many Idahoans.  Some serious adipose tissue is orbiting more than a few waistlines and the percentage of "how drunk were you?" tattoos is nearly incalculable.  On the 4th of July it was all I could do to keep from heading for the nearest ATM to secure sufficient cash to bribe some of these folks back into their clothes.  OH, THE HUMANITY!

Is it something in the water?  Maybe too few glutens or preservatives?   (Hey, we used to be smarter when we consumed more of that stuff.)  I think the answer may be more basic.  Let's say that one out of a hundred of us is a nitwit--no doubt a conservative estimate--and, since there are a hell of a lot more of us than there used to be,  more nitwits equals more dumb choices equals more laughable situations.
It wouldn't be so bad if morons only cluttered our beaches with their over exposed bodies but they also insist on electing felony stupid politicians and repeatedly endanger society with idiotic driving and other reckless behavior.  Need examples?
How about this:  A young man in Calais, Maine thought it was a good idea to put a firecracker on his head before lighting it on July 4th.  He had been drinking.  NO?!  Twenty-two years is a good run for a dolt.  At least he won't be voting next year.

My current favorite candidate for the 2015 Darwin awards is the young guy in Wales who was struck and killed by lightning while taking his picture with a selfie stick during a thunder storm.  Now there is one less welfare slug the United Kingdom has to worry about.

There are three kinds of people:
Those who make things happen,
those who watch things happen,
and…Those who wonder what the hell happened.

We seem to be making more of the latter.

"That lightning will look cool in the background."

Friday, July 3, 2015

"If You Can Keep It"

It is reported that at the close of deliberations during our country's Continental Convention of 1787 Ben Franklin, as he exited Independence Hall, was asked by a bystander: "Well, doctor, what have we got---a Republic or a Monarchy?"  
"A Republic, if you can keep it," came the reply.

On this 4th of July I'm reasonably certain that I'm not alone in my concern for our Republic and its continued existence.  The dictionary definition of a republic is: a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

Time and again history has shown us that republics tend to go aground a couple of hundred years into their existence when the electorate figures out they can use their ballots to reward themselves more goodies than the republic can afford.  Has the United States reached that point?  Obviously there is no shortage of political opinion on this question.  There are days when I am somewhat optimistic and fairly certain that an informed citizenry will wake up and steer our country away from the fiscal and moral rapids we seem destined for and at other times I wonder who I'm trying to kid.

Will we ever elect leaders willing to tell the truth about the terrible straights our profligate spending has created?  Can we come to grips with the very real mess we have made of education?  And, what about our wide open borders?  Will we continue to vote for politicians who promise us goods and services we can neither afford nor deserve as we penalize those who work hard and generously contribute to our gross national product?

It's just my opinion--and only that-- but it seems obvious that one more feckless administration elected on pure guile and possessing a devotion to nothing more than a cloud of symbolism and sentimentality will surely push our ship of state onto the same shoals that have claimed so many well intentioned republics that have gone before.  Are we willing to finally sober up long enough to vote for leaders willing to tell us the truth no matter what the cost to their career?  The most powerful thing we have in our lives is choice.  Let's hope we have a good one in 2016.

In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the fireworks.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Think I'll Pass...

"Get the hell off my beach you disgustingly in-shape triathletes!"
That scream bubbles up inside me as I look out on another day of preparations for the Ironman Coeur d' Alene that goes off the day after tomorrow.  I had no idea what a big deal this annual shakedown is when we moved in last September.  It is one of the big tests for both men and women before the giant masochistic mosh pit in Hawaii.  Nearly 2000 athletes have registered for this more than painful sounding event that starts at 5:30 AM Sunday.  Even the lure of $100,000 in prize money couldn't pry my ass off the couch for  a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run.  In spite of the moola it smacks of Army basic training on steroids to me.

Ranging in age from 18-70 these mesomorph maniacs have been practicing for the swim in front of our home for the better part of a week and it wears me out just to watch.  In fact I WON'T be watching on Sunday.  It has long been my contention that any athletic undertaking that doesn't inspire Vegas handicappers to put up a line is a wasted effort.

My wife is actually interested in all of this nonsense and is more than a little excited to watch the whole thing from the comfort of our front deck.  Because of street closings we are doomed to be restricted to the neighborhood until Ironman 2015 is history.  Talk about a captive audience.  In days gone by I would have done my time happily with the help of a pitcher of martinis, a bag of Cheetos and a baseball game on TV but, alas, diet Dr. Pepper is the only crutch I'm allowed since nearly burning out the clutch on my liver.

The forecast is calling for temperatures of over 100 on Sunday and I'll be orbiting hell.  Participants WILL BE IN HELL  and I'm guessing there will be casualties.  Fifty bucks says at least twenty of them will drop like ripe melons off the overpass.  Anybody want some of this action?  How about the number of flat tires in the bike race?  Busted chains?  Fat guys who finish?
Come on, let's make it a hundred.
I'm scaling boredom mountain here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thanks Girls!

You made it easy.  Granted, I probably wasn't Father of the Year material, but, with more than a little luck, we all made it.  Your mother didn't kill me and both of you girls became successful in your chosen professions and married guys I actually LIKE.  All of this in spite of my untutored and unconventional parental guidance.

Hey, in my defense, we didn't know what we were doing.  Practically children when we married, your mom and I hauled you into the world before our union had lost that new car smell.  We were complete novices and in hindsight it's probably close to a miracle that we (Okay, I) didn't mess you up monumentally.  You really were troopers through it all, far more flexible than boys would have been.  All the moving that was part of the radio business, the odd family  hours we kept because daddy had to get up at 3 AM, and the multitude of "interesting" friends who always seemed to be around seemed not to bother you at all.  You both made the best of an often chaotic existence and I'm proud of you for it.

Maybe if we had waited and been more mature parents with traditional occupations your formative years would have been a little easier.  Who am I kidding?!  That would have been leagues less difficult but, I dare say, not nearly as much fun.  Maybe it's just selective memory but I do think there were a lot of laughs in our house when you were little.  The thought of returning home to you every evening became my safe harbor in a life dependent on a check from one of the most insecure professions on the planet.  You kept me sane.  Granted, sanity is relative when it comes to Dad but you catch my drift.

So, on this Father's Day weekend I thank both my lovely daughters for being such good kids and making me look as if I had a clue.  Growing up I had no sisters but you two helped to fill some of the massive gaps in my understanding of the fair sex.  Your mom knows I still have a long way to go, but in another hundred years or so I'm certain to be a regular Oprah.  Well, at least I'll weigh as much.

I'll close by saying that even though we're miles apart you can always rely on old Dad for the sage advice you've come to depend on through the years: "Better check with mom."  That's it.  That is all I'll probably ever have.  Now, who wants to pull Daddy's finger?

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Night Out

Summer arrived earlier than usual in the Pacific Northwest.  At night our windows are open wide to the cool breeze and the sound of the waves on Lake Coeur d' Alene.  Dropping off to sleep is almost instantaneous when we kill the lights, unless, of course,  there are party sounds emanating from the beach.  Last night was one of those nights when unbelievably crappy music was blasting (why is it NEVER great jazz?) and teens in heat endeavoured to keep me awake for a good five or ten minutes.  Outrageous!

As I lay in bed I was reminded of my own days of raging testosterone and unbridled stupidity.  I realized that a mere fifty years ago my nocturnal activities had no doubt kept some now long dead cranky old fart from falling asleep.  Hormones and near zero life experience invites moronic behaviour.  I recalled an adventure from the summer of 1964 or '65 with another Spencer, Iowa high school guttersnipe pal, Tom White, who shall remain nameless--oops, sorry Tom--that found us on the run from the Lake Okoboji, Iowa lake patrol.    The lake, located a few miles north of Spencer, was, and still is, a popular summertime place for most everybody living in Northwest Iowa.  It's a beautiful lake in a part of the country not exactly famous for a plethora of recreational water opportunities.

Sloe gin, nectar of the 'tards
Tom's folks had a cabin on Okoboji and they spent most of the summer there.  I had spent the night a few times in the past so it was easy to kite a story to my parents about being invited to do it again when Tom and I put together a plan to spend the night whooping it up with a bottle of Sloe Gin swiped from his grandma, (God, do they still make that crap?) a couple of six packs of Old Style and a pack or three of Winstons.

Tom's parents were either out of town or he told them he was staying in town at my house and, as I mentioned, my tale was already fully fibbed.  We were ready to party.  Both of us were out of girlfriends at the time and were more interested in smoking and drinking all night than steaming up the windows of our not so cool cars at the local drive-in movie.  We may have made a feeble attempt to score some female companionship at the Arnolds Park amusement park but most likely struck out since we wound up hiking into Gull Point state park after hours to, we thought, booze and crash for the evening.  Gull Point was patrolled by boat under the jurisdiction of the fish and game department of the state of Iowa.  (You know, Barney Fife with a minnow bucket.)  We figured that since it was dark and we were making no noise we could smoke cigarettes and get blasted 'til our livers shut down or the sun came up.  We proceeded to kill some brain cells.

Around 2 AM, being more than happily in the bag, we must have become just a little too loud or the glow of our smokes may have attracted attention from nearby homes because very slowly a boat began circling the narrow point where we had planted ourselves for the evening.  It was the Lake Patrol.  A searchlight began to scan the beach.  We scrambled into the bushes just off the sand dragging our empties and what was left of the Sloe Gin.  We lay flat as the light concentrated on the area where we were concealed but we knew there was slim chance we hadn't been spotted.  As the boat rounded the point to come at us from the other direction we took advantage the moving spotlight and made a run for it.

We found my twelve year-old Buick right where I had parked it in the lot at the entrance to Gull Point.  Tossing the remaining contraband onto the backseat we fled the scene down the dirt road we had come in on.  One of us, probably me, thought it was prudent to operate without headlights in case the lake cops had alerted the sheriff's office.  There could already be a BOLO out on us!

God, no doubt remembering to look out for drunks and fools, somehow got us safely to a beach in a popular residential area where it was easy to hide the car on a side street.  We assumed that the Lake Patrol junior G-men had noted my car in the Gull Point parking lot earlier in the evening.  We quietly plopped ourselves on the small new beach, quietly finished the evidence and decided to call it a night.

A fish jumping in the lake woke me just before sunrise.  I couldn't decide if there was more sand in my mouth or on the beach.  My head ached and I was already dreading the long day of work scheduled for me at Swanson' Super Store where I worked for Oscar "The watermelon King" Swanson.  Tom, also feeling about the same,  considered what lay ahead at his summer job wrangling wood at Fostoria Lumber.  We groused about the unfairness of it all as we fired up a couple of Winstons and considered our next move.  We congratulated ourselves on evading arrest, blowing one by our parents and--so far--not throwing up.  I recall brushing my teeth in the lake, dropping Tom off at his car and heading for work.  Because life is made for people not encumbered by self awareness, it only took me another 35 years to figure out that this was not a great way to start your day.

Next year is the fiftieth reunion of our high school class:  Spencer High Class of '66.  Maybe Tom and I can recreate this nocturnal adventure of yore.  Perhaps a heads up is in order for the Lake Patrol this time and, instead of Sloe gin and Old Style, a couple of large bottles of Pellagrino or Perrier.  We could always club ourselves over the head repeatedly with the empties to re-live the good old days.

Lake Okoboji

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Face Is Familiar...

"Please stop talking, I'm trying to watch the show," my wife explains as I attempt to enrich her movie viewing experience by providing illuminating insight regarding certain actors.  For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by "working" actors.  The "stars" we all know plenty about but the talented folks who we see time and again in myriad roles largely remain strangers to us.  Though you've seen them in probably hundreds of films and TV shows and recognize their faces, you don't know their names.  I do.  I don't know why but I've made it a point to find out about them and relish sharing this knowledge with anyone--awake or asleep-- within earshot.  Think of me as the Cliff Klaven (John Ratzenberger, by the way) of acting trivia.

Because it's summer and I am stuck for blog material,  I thought it might be fun to offer a small quiz challenging you to match the faces with the names of some of the longtime show business workhorses.  I offer NO prize other than the opportunity to be hushed by others who think you're insane.  
If you've stayed with me this far you are weird enough to accept the assignment; so here goes…

MATCH THE FACE WITH THE NAME  (You too can begin boring family and friends!)









  A. Francis Sternhagen
B. Martin Balsam
C. Neville Brand
D.  Bob Dishy
E. Bonnie Bedelia
F.  Wemdell Corey
G. Whit Bissell
H.  Kate Burton
I.  Deborah Walley
J.  Titus Welliver
K.  Dennis Farina

 1. H

2. K
3. B
4. F
5. J
6. E
7. I
8. D
9. C
10. G
11. A

Friday, May 29, 2015

I'm NOT Running

I'm NOT running.  Of course I realize that I'm letting the country down by not seeking the presidency, but my two year Army stint was more than enough to convince me that I am incapable of tolerating any additional government service.  Keeping commies out of Kansas while dealing with the olive drab bureaucracy was enough for this loyal American.  Political correctness and playing well with others will never be part of my job description. 

That said, it is imperative that I begin this WAY early assessment of the ever growing field of candidates who think they are good enough and smart enough to lead us out of the full tilt disaster wrought by the Obama administration, a chore almost beyond mortal man or woman.  However, since there is no dearth of candidates willing to apply for such a big job, let's take advantage of the seventeen months we have to make up our mind and vet those who are expressing interest in the gig.

Since the Republican field is overflowing, let's begin there.

Lindsey Graham:  A "confirmed" bachelor from South Carolina who looks like he lettered in glee club and got scout merit badges in knitting.  NO CHANCE!

Rand Paul:  Looks like a deranged duck.  Some good ideas for a 1930's isolationist.  It's amazing that a guy who is an eye doctor can't see himself in the mirror and know that his looks have NEVER EVER won a presidential election.

Donald Trump:  Yeah, right.  He pulls this every four years just to get his mush on TV.  A major blowhard, with whom I generally agree, who will withdraw before the primaries even start.  A joke.

Jeb Bush:  Really?!  Another one?  This guy is "democrat lite".  Another rich guy who isn't quite sure why he's running.  Pass.

Ted Cruz:  The creepy guy who got pantsed a lot in high school.  Very smart but un-electable.  How could someone so smart be so dumb?  No people skills.  Even his Republican colleagues hate him. 

Bobby Jindal:  A goofy looking governor who is unpopular in his home state.  Never going to happen.

Ben Carson:  A wonderful story of hard work and success.  He's not a jerk or a liar, so has no future in politics.  A great doctor and a good and decent man who would be a terrific surgeon general.

Mike Huckabee:  Just what the country needs, another hillbilly governor from Arkansas!  This corn pone phony should just take his TV money and go home.  Former governors in overalls make lousy presidents.

Rick Santorum:  This jackass just doesn't get it.  He looks like he's running for student body president.  Nobody likes him.  He couldn't even get re-elected in Pennsylvania.

Carly Fiorina:  The absolute BEST candidate for the highest office in the land.  She's smart, answers questions, and does not equivocate.  The only candidate who knows what it's like to have a real job in the private sector, she went from being a secretary to president of a Fortune 500 company.  She has been fired for sticking to her principles. You should never trust anyone who hasn't been fired at least once.  Our increasingly idiotic electorate is too dumb to vote for her.  A pity, as she is superb.

 Marco Rubio:  Has a real chance to win.  A smart guy with good ideas who could pick up enough Hispanic votes to put him over the top.  Even though he is young and has only been a senator (we all know how well that worked out with you know who) he is capable of greatness.  He scares the dems.

Chris Christy:  Probably can't win the Midwest and South because he isn't "nice" enough.  I think it would be great to have a president capable of bitch slapping stupid reporters and maybe, please God, taking a swing at Nancy Pelosi.


Rick Perry:  Not as dumb as he looks.

George Pataki:  Seriously?!  Nice guy, but no chance.  He must be looking for a Veep slot or a good cabinet job.

Scott Walker:  Smart, tough, a good governor and--best of all--a college dropout.  Hasn't this country suffered enough at the hands of Ivy League educated nitwits?  How about a guy with common sense and the ability to get things done?  After Carly, I like him best.

And now, the Democrats…

Joe Biden:  A walking talking punchline.  If not for politics he would be the guy who tries to bullshit you into buying a used car.  He doesn't know whether to chase rabbits or bark at the moon.  A dolt with a capital D.

That O'Malley guy from Maryland:  Ha ha ha.  He will soon return to the obscurity he so richly deserves.  A delusional doofus; also a lying commie.

Elizabeth Warren:  Hard to recognize without her war bonnet.  A Masshole of the first water.  A piping hot talking pile of pig flop, flies swarm at the mention of her name.

Bernie Sanders:  A communist buffoon.  How can anyone be this old and remain this dumb?

Jim Webb:  A former Republican turned Democrat.  A good writer and a smart guy who seems at sea with his opinions.  We could, and have, done much worse.  He and Rick Perry are the only two in the running who are military veterans, an important fact.

Hillary Clinton:  Richard Nixon in a pantsuit.  A confirmed liar who will do and say ANYTHING to get elected.  America now has more than enough voters not encumbered by facts or historical knowledge to slide her ample carcass into the White House.  The good news is that odds are better than even that it will take her devoted husband, Bill, less than six months to get caught porking the help.  Comedy gold!

And there you have it, our candidate pool for 2016.  The most powerful thing we have in life is choice. It's just too bad these are all we have from which to choose.

If you need me for further advice, I'll be busy boating with my grandson in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where men are men and the women are after them.

 Life is sweet, until I turn on the news.

Doing boat stuff with grandson Dan