A couple of months ago, I (along with my trusty side-kick Tini) drove my parents to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Seems that my mother was meeting her three sisters for a sibling’s stay together weekend. My dad, who was not going to be staying with his wife, preferred being nearer to my mother than being further away, was along for the ride.
It really was good to travel with them once again, especially at this stage in our lives. In my youth we put a lot of miles underneath us as a family. A lot of miles. Back then our numerous road trips were adventures across the country. We basically camped all over America in a VW Microbus. My folks were kind of like hippies before there were hippies. They still kind of are.
I am thankful for those so many road trips. Traveling by car was a combination of a lot of reading, observing the countryside, navigating with a map, long talks (day and night) and inevitably reaching a destination. Along the way, the unplanned, the unexpected and the unique experiences of being on the road were plentiful, and mystical…in a way.
Anyways, the drive to Hilton Head is all good. We get mom checked-in with her sisters for the weekend. The rest of the crew is on its own. My dad, the dog and I check into the motel room. The manager goes out of his way to say that the morning breakfast is excellent. He wouldn’t stop. We don’t, as a general rule, pass-up food that’s being offered to us, so the following morning, still a little road weary, we go to the much praised breakfast offering. For the record, it lived-up to the hype, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I mentioned that we have a history of different road experiences. That is what I am here to talk about:
There are maybe 10-12 folks eating in the dining area. I have my back to a wall and a very clear view of the whole room. My dad is facing me. Tini is alone guarding our room wishing he had been taken along. Everyone in the breakfast room has that unique look of being in a motel in the early morning with other people in the same boat. Everyone knows that everyone knows that nobody is home in this room…we’re all travelers of different sorts. All coming from somewhere else, all going somewhere else.
A man and woman, in the latter half of their sixties, are at the next table. I notice that the woman is having increasing trouble getting the food to her mouth and seems somewhat unaware. The man decides that they should leave, but she does not respond or seem to understand. He goes over and physically helps her to get up from her chair. They take a few staggered steps and the woman latches on to the back of the chair that my dad is sitting in. We ask the man if we can help in any way. He asks us to just keep her with us while he checks out (they’re already packed & loaded) and then he will take her directly to the car. We agree.
We manage to get the woman to sit in a chair, but that doesn’t last long. She’s on her feet and seeming to compulsively clean the table with a paper napkin. She does not coherently respond to words. I go to see if the motel has a wheel chair. They do not. When I get back the man and my dad are on each side of the woman pretty much carrying her out of the breakfast room. I step in to relieve my dad on her left side, but she has a super-tight grip on his fingers and will not let go, so he is towed along behind us as we get her to and into the car.
We exchange first names and talk with the man. He thanks us. They are married. The husband says that she is having one of her bad spells. He then did something I found remarkably different under circumstances that weren’t normal to begin with. He says, “Well, you might as well know about our 15 minutes of fame.” From his phone, he pulls up a black white photo that he says is them in what he says is in Time Magazine.
I confess, my initial thought was that his best interest might be spent tending to his wife, not showing dad and I a picture from their youth.
As it turns out, I am pleased, very pleased that he did.
He proceeded to tell us of how he and his wife met. It was at a campus protest in May of 1970 at the University of Maryland. The Kent State Massacre had just happened…the Vietnam War…civil rights…leaders being assassinated – social unrest, turbulent times indeed.
He was reluctantly there on duty having recently felt obligated to join the National Guard. He didn’t want the job, but it beat the alternative, which was the draft and an all expense paid tour of The’Nam.
She was there as a protester. She didn’t want anyone to have to go to Vietnam. She really didn’t.
They somehow met in the midst of the protest, got to know each other, eventually married and have been together ever since.
Now if that isn’t a nice way to meet your future spouse, what is?
He, in what I have come to view as a touching exhibit of love, was showing us a picture of the woman that we had just helped. Young, vibrant, a protester. The woman he knew, but we did not.
He wanted us to see beyond the woman buckled in the seat of their car, but somewhere else entirely. He loved her then, he loves her now. Love over time is wonderful thing.
Dad and I got quite the start to our day.
Back in the room, I fact checked everything that he said. It all fit. I couldn’t locate the picture he showed us however. Months later, digging through Time Magazine’s vault, I did find the same picture he showed us. This is the two of them from the May 18, 1970 issue, along with Time’s caption:
I hope they are well and that she is not having any more bad spells. I am glad we were able to be of some assistance to them. I am the better for our random encounter and having heard their wonderful story.
Whatever your point of view, times are uncertain. Tension. Stress. It amazes me how we can be so divided and yet, underneath it all still a strong nation. America scares the hell out of me while amazing me at the same time. We are truly a cantankerous and contentious lot!
That being said, I think we do need to take a collective step back from Defcon 4. At this point, no amount of harmony would be too little.
As Kurt Vonnegut’s son Mark said, “We’re here to get each other through this thing, whatever it is.”
I suggest dinner and socializing with your neighbors. It’s easy to do and most likely will be rewarding. You don’t know where it will lead to – that’s the mystery, and it has been said that mystery is everything. It may be fun, it may be a bust, but technically no one can get hurt…and we all have to eat anyways.
I think this video is beautiful:
So, let me tell you a true story of what can happen:
A ways back, neighbors of ours decided to get together with a few other neighbors for fish fry (a Buffalo tradition) and then after the restaurant, hang-out together at one of the neighbor’s homes for desert, drinks and socializing.
It was a little politely awkward at first, as one might expect, but it quickly developed into the monthly “First Friday Fish Fry Club.” Its composition grew from four couples to peak at nine. On average, about six or seven couples attended each month.
The couples held very different points of view on many things…from political to social to core values. We, as it turned out were diverse in thought and opinion. We weren’t, however, divisive with each other.
And I can’t say that those differences ever changed, although maybe they softened a bit. I can say that we enjoyed hanging-out with each other in voluntary association. Nobody had to be there, yet attendance was usually quite high. We enjoyed getting along in spite of our differences.
During my self-appointed term as historian and minister of music, over the course of 14 years (yes, 14 years) we gathered 160 times. We had great times, but suffered some tragedy too. We watched our children grow and each other as well.
The First Friday Fish Fry Club, Christmas Holiday Gathering
Turned out to be incredibly special, but we were not incredibly special people. We just lived on the same street, in the same town, in the same state, in the same country. There was no master plan. We started getting together once a month and became better neighbors. America too may be better off if we all become closer neighbors again.
If you decide to mobilize your neighbors for any kind of gathering, there is no way to know how it will go, but I can say that it most likely will be worth the effort. Maybe dinner with neighbors should be a movement…Bon Appetite!
Personal Note: Dining/hanging with your neighbors can help you get over phobias like having “Happy Birthday” sung to/at you. I was always uncomfortable being the recipient of the annual crooning of that song, and I don’t even know why. Each month, one neighbor, let’s call him Peter, would discretely tell the wait staff that it was my birthday.
Well, I stoically face the smiling servers parading at me with a slice of cheesecake, obligatory candle sparkling in its middle. Here’s comes that dreaded song. The horror, the horror. And you would think that I would have anticipated Peter’s monthly maneuver and waved the staff off before it happened, but it being a month since the last attack, life being life, and just having a good time, I would forget about my looming fate. Then as time went by, it became part of dinner. A tradition of sorts. After so many times, over so many years, I now enjoy it.
This is a story about a great grandfather and a great grandson, but before it is told, I think a little background is in order:
Through modern science, the ultrasound revealed that my eldest daughter One’s second child (“1.2”) would be male. The all female streak (daughters & granddaughters) was at an end. There would be a first boy cub.
Great grandfather Michael was my widowed mother-in-law’s second husband – a wonderful man who was loved by all. A man who knew a lot more than higher education could ever have taught him. Michael had a practical engineer’s curiosity. True Statement: He never stopped figuring things out.
Michael and 1.2 bonded right away. They really did. It was special. They did all kinds of things together. As 1.2 became more aware, with Michael showing him, he became fascinated by ceiling fixtures. At family functions, I vividly remember Michael carrying 1.2 room-to-room where they would stop underneath the ceiling fan or light and 1.2 would point up to it. They would each in their own way analyze it for a time and then move on to the next room.
As it subsequently turns out, thus far, 1.2 continues to exhibit an engineer’s curiosity. So perhaps there was a certain instinctual and/or even metaphysical connection between the two of them. They were virtually inseparable when in the same place.
Being faithful parents, my daughter and son-in-law made arrangements, as is done amongst protestant churches, to dedicate 1.2’s upbringing to the Lord. They were attending at the time what I could best describe as a very large church, perhaps not a mega-church, but a very large church nonetheless. The Sanctuary was well appointed with an excellent stage having good sound and lighting. Their services were ably produced. Many people attended.
1.2 was almost one and a half years of age at the time – still way too young to comprehend everything happening around him. As is true of children of that age, most language was beyond his understanding as was the full meaning of the ceremony that he was the subject of.
The pastor who presided over the baby dedications was perfect for the job. He combined earnestness in his role while still being amiable and a nice enough guy. Children generally reacted well to him. It was his duty to publicly confirm with the parents their intent to raise their child within the beliefs of the faith.
Along with that, the pastor would address the child directly, among other things making note of the meaning of the child’s name within its religious context. At the point when the pastor was mentioning to 1.2 that he too had some obligations in this matter – to be a good, obedient son, respecting his parents and being faithful to the Lord above…
…1.2 raised his hand and pointed straight up to heaven.
The congregation collectively gasped in amazed reaction at having seen the hand of God move through the hand of a child. It was on TV and streaming on the Internet. 1.2 had no idea of how far his reach exceeded the length of his small arm!
Michael and I followed 1.2’s upward motion and realized what had happened. 1.2, perhaps not giving the pastor his full attention, had noticed the colorful stage lighting above his head and reacted to it. Michael might just as well have been holding him on that stage at that particular moment. Most thankfully, someone took a picture:
I was sitting next to Michael. I looked at Michael. Michael looked at me. I think…I am pretty sure that wry smiles appeared on both of our faces. Nothing was said between us, words were needless – it was truly an amazing moment in time. In a crowd of well over one thousand, he and I, along with a few family members, knew what 1.2 was up to. To the rest, a religious act of some magnitude had occurred right in front of their eyes, and well, who am I to say, perhaps God does move in mysterious ways…
I was on my way to take my last college final exams…life had other plans for me.
It was 1981. It had been a little over four years since I had joined the United States Air Force. Almost five years since we had married. During that time we had two children. I had just received an Honorable Discharge from the military. I had been going to college full-time as well.
I had acquired an early ‘70’s Volkswagen Square Back that needed an engine overhaul and other work. Living on the coast of California, the surfer dudes were always wanting to buy it – perfection for their purposes. I received numerous offers, but held on to it.
I have never been all that mechanical, but the VW engine is not a very complicated affair. It took awhile because of the scarcity of time and the ever present lack of money. All indications were that my rehab work was adequate, but there seemed to be numerous other mechanical issues that required solving.
Deb and the girls had flown home. I rented a moving truck and with my father’s assistance drove our worldly possessions while towing our MG back to Buffalo. I then returned to California to stay with friends for a couple of months while I finished my last semester of college.
It had been four very long years away from the land I was born, raised and grew-up in. I was ready to go back. I was very much looking forward to being a civilian again. I was anxious to be with my family once more. I had been around the sun 24 times and was eager for new adventures.
The VW ran well enough for me to use while I finished my courses. I had to tinker with it a bit, but I tested it with a couple of small trips and all systems were “go” to drive it back to New York once I was done. I had grown attached to it. It was my escape vehicle. I had been the one who brought it back to life.
So, the day of my last finals came and off I went to be tested. I had no way of knowing the real tests I was facing. Midway there, the VW spewed an oil slick that James Bond would have been proud of. I left it on the side of the highway and hitch-hiked the rest of the way. Not the glorious ending to my college career that I had anticipated…
I managed to get the VW to a friend’s and pulled the engine. I did a quick tear down and then put it back together. Not being sure of what had happened, I took it to the local shop and they replaced an oil gasket as I recall. It was functional once again.
With haste I would soon regret, I loaded the VW with my stuff and left Vandenberg AFB (a little north of beautiful Santa Barbara) and headed home. I didn’t get too far. I was near San Bernardino when the final engine meltdown occurred. I got a small amount of cash for the VW. I gave away the possessions that I couldn’t economically ship home. I was devastated mentally and emotionally. My homecoming drive was a disaster.
To make matters worse, then President Reagan, my former Commander In Chief, was taking a stand against the air traffic controllers. They were taking a stand against their work conditions and were on strike. The nation’s airlines were basically shut down for a brief period. The exact period I was in serious need of the services they normally offered.
I got a bus out of San Bernardino and once again began my trip home. Adding further to my difficulties because of the lack of air travel, the buses were full up with travelers. I and my sadness over what had happened were closely packed with other humans who no doubt had stories of their own.
I vividly remember what happened just before the bus left the Las Vegas station. A woman with two young children came aboard. The woman got the children seated just in front of me, told them to be good and walked off the bus. Just like that. The kids looked scared. The brother was about seven, the sister about five. I could feel a lot of interest in them generated by the other passengers on the bus. Some of that interest didn’t feel so good.
Isn’t it funny how sometimes, in our own bad times, we intersect with others in even worse situations?
I was handed a mission that I could not refuse. Certainly not a mission that I wanted. I had my own troubles, but I knew that those kids needed someone to keep them safe and on course from Las Vegas to their destination in upstate New York.
I moved from my seat and began talking to them. I told them that I had children of my own, that they could trust me and that I intended on helping them along the way. I made sure that the other passengers on the bus could hear me well enough to know that the kids were no longer fair game – they had a protector.
And I took care of those kids. I made sure that they ate, went to the bathroom and slept safely. During stops along the way, I took them on walking expeditions to explore the surroundings and have some physical exercise. We talked. We laughed. We had a few occasional outbursts. I read to them. We played silly child games.
Over the course of the next few days, our route took us through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania followed and then New York. My final stop was Buffalo. I gave the bus driver primary responsibility for the kids’ safe passage for the not long rest of the way to their destination.
As it turned out, parting from them was not so easy. I have the feeling that those kids helped me more than I helped them. That’s life, ain’t it?
I think of them from time-to-time. However it has happened for them and wherever they are, I hope those kids have had good lives.
You lie still less than a foot away on top of the soft mouse pad that protects me from carpal tunnel syndrome.
I noticed this morning, through eyes not yet clarified by my first coffee of the day, your presence in my study. Odd, I thought, that you would even be present this close to Thanksgiving. It is certainly past your time of the year in these parts.
I had the presence of mind to reckon that your life must be short. Rather than remove you from my space, both physical and mental, I decided that if these were your final moments then my study could be your Hospice and I your companion.
Your flight and movement were a little chaotic, seemingly random. You nestled in the heat of the light in the globe of my desk lamp, you circled my cranium, you landed in various spots, and in and on various objects on my desk while I got about the business of the day.
Sometimes I could see you, other times I did not know where you were. Then you would rise again to a new location. I wondered if you had any purpose in this, if there was more going on than my conscious programming allowed me to realize.
Perhaps it was, in your reality, some last business to be done? Or perhaps a ritual of your species’ existence?
I hoped that if there is any pleasure in being a Ladybug that it was satisfying in some way, even so far from your natural habitat.
Then you landed on your final resting spot and moved no more.
For me, my study is a place of many good things. I hope in your last moments it was to you as well. Rest in Peace my little Ladybug. And thanks for reminding me of the preciousness and fragility of life.
An American 13 year old has never seen the United States not involved in some form of war, combat or violent act. Welcome to the USA children!
It would seem that we, the people, are more than willing to spend enormous sums of our money on military weapons. We are willing to use our military power all of the time all over the place.
We weren’t always like this. Nor do we have to be.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about.
I heard that we recently fired something like 40 cruise missiles at a secondary Al Qaeda organization. A cruise missile costs over a million smackeroos. That’s a lot of smackeroos!
The overthrow and execution of Saddam Hussein has cost at least $1.7 trillion dollars.
Benjamin Franklin observed that “Wars are not paid for during wartime, the bill comes later.”
That’s just money. How about the price paid in blood? What is that cost?
I am very much in favor of limited government, but if I must have Big Brother looking out for my best interests, then I say to Big Brother, and I mean it – I know that my best interest is living peaceably with everyone through social interaction and commerce.
The cool thing is that we have the resources and capability available in quantities large enough to effect some real change …
…So back to what I’ve been thinking: Instead of destruction and violence, how about bombing people with love? How about covert random acts of kindness? How about special ops teams committing senseless acts of beauty?
I have a feeling that the results would be much better for all concerned.
Let me relay to you a conversation that occurred not long after Iraq War I – Desert Storm, but well before America toppled Saddam Hussein: This was told to me by a stand-up guy regarding a talk that he had with a Prince of the royal family of Kuwait. He asked the Prince what he thought of Saddam Hussein. The Prince said that he thought Hussein was a very bad man, but the only man that could rule Iraq and keep it in check. My guy was more than a little surprised to get this answer. My guy pointed out that Saddam Hussein had invaded the Prince’s country, raped its people and destroyed many things of value. The Prince acknowledged the heavy price paid at Hussein’s hands, but reiterated that Saddam Hussein was still the best man for the job for all concerned.
Now let’s go forward to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the others…all of whom could be tried for war crimes in my opinion. They lied about the weapons of mass destruction – there weren’t any. They lied about Muslim Jihadists being supported by Iraq – there were none (at least there weren’t until we showed up). They asked us, the American people, to believe them in this. Most of us did. Our Republican and Democrat representatives told the administration “bombs away.” The Senate voted 77-23 while the House voted 297-133 in favor of the Iraq War Resolution.
I remember watching Colin Powell present the administration’s case to the United Nations. Powell was a man that I respected, and still would like to respect, but he really looked strained and uncomfortable making his argument…the way people look when they are saying something they do not believe, but feel compelled to say it anyway. Whatever his reasons, he supported the wrong cause.
We were told if we didn’t want another imminent 9/11 on our hands that America needed to make a pre-emptive strike against Hussein. From my knowledge of history, virtually all pre-emptive strikes are framed in this manner to justify the action, but the underlying reality is sinister and self serving. We, the People, got swindled by our elected representatives. It was a cowardly act of war – one that will probably shame us forever.
Funny too in that we had unprecedented world support before we turned our guns on Iraq. What a waste of goodwill.
Now I am hearing self righteous sabre rattling from the chicken hawk right. Now I am hearing “we don’t get fooled again” from the progressive left. Now I am hearing we were never fooled and we told you so from the libertarians.
Personally, on the record, I was opposed to our offensive war against Iraq. The subsequent facts reinforced my belief established in the ‘60’s about our government, which is: the only thing I can believe from our government is that I cannot believe our government.
But I am personally troubled because of one pretty significant reality: We did this thing to Iraq. We created this mess. I do not think that this can be disputed.
For your consideration, like it or not, do we have an ethical obligation to clean-up the mess we made even though we were lied to?
Benjamin Franklin said, “Wars are not paid for during wartime, the bill comes later.” Though I am far from an expert on the sectarian issues in Iraq, whether we own up to what we did or not, we will probably be paying that bill forever… one way or another.
The waitress brought me another drink. She wanted to light my hurricane lamp again. I wouldn’t let her. “Can you see anything in the dark, with your sunglasses on?” she asked me. “The big show is inside my head,” I said.
I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.
All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.
Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.
I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.
All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!
Wake up, you idiots! Whatever made you think that money was so valuable?
New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.
Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.
People don’t come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.
A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.
Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were big things.
And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
I will say, too, that lovemaking, if sincere, is one of the best ideas Satan put in the apple she gave to the serpent to give to Eve. The best idea in that apple, though, is making jazz.
Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.
People say there are no atheists in foxholes. A lot of people think this is a good argument against atheism. Personally, I think it’s a much better argument against foxholes.
True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.
To be is to do – Socrates
To do is to be – Sartre
Do Be Do Be Do – Sinatra
I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.
Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.
If you can do no good, at least do no harm.
Make love when you can. It’s good for you.
Ting-a-ling mother fucker.
There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.
Until you die…it’s all life.
Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.
We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.
Life is no way to treat an animal.
The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.
There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.
No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.
A saint is a person who behaves decently in a shockingly indecent society.
What you can become is the miracle you were born to be through the work that you do.
My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps right on doing bad, dumb things.
She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.
And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.
The Fourteenth Book is entitled, “What can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years. It doesn’t take long to read The Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period. This is it: “Nothing.”
A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.
Having recently heard of the latest Monkees reunion tour, sans Davey of course, I got to thinking of one of the threads of my youth that came to fruition much later along my pathway.
It’s very important to take the space time continuum seriously… especially when you are not much of a believer in fate, destiny or that things always happen for a purpose, like myself. For me things can be summed up pretty neatly with the words of Douglas Adams, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”
Back in the 60’s, music was exploding. It seemed like every day there was a new sound or a new artist adding to ever expanding genres. I tried to take it all in. We all tried to take it all in. I think we may still be trying to take it all in. It was an incredible time musically!
I love music in every form, but I have always been a sucker for a good pop hook. The Beatles were astounding. They were everywhere. They changed pop music with each new album, and they changed pop culture each time as well. The rest of the English Invasion was a musical force to be reckoned with.
America had to respond. And respond it did on every front. Admirably too.
One of those fronts was sheer profit. The Monkees were assembled as a money making business, pure Hollywood corporatism. Yet it was so wonderfully American.
And I loved the Monkees! Their job was making music! They had the Monkeemobile! They were hanging out and having fun! They got in (and then out of) the most ridiculous situations as a way of life!
My take on them, then and now: Davey had charm that was contagious, Mike was a serious thinker, but someone had to be, and Peter was just goofy. Mickey was just too cool and my undeniable favorite.
In the 60’s, when the Monkees came to town for a concert at the venerable War Memorial Auditorium, I heard on the AM wireless that they were arriving at the airport. My brother and I convinced my mother to drive us over there so that we could meet them in person. I was never more excited. I tried to think of what I might say to them. Maybe they would give me tickets to their concert. Maybe they would ask me backstage. Maybe they would ask me to be a Monkee. Maybe they would ask me to tour with them…
Of course we were at the wrong airport. The Monkees flew into the private airfield right next to where we were. Dreams dashed in the sad realization that we were not going to meet them.
But I knew one thing for certain from the Monkees – I had to be in a rock band. As a result of that, I had the incredible opportunity to perform with musicians who, to this day, I am deeply honored to have shared a stage with – times I will always cherish and be thankful for.
Real good stuff.
Fast forward a few decades. I’m doing the corporate gig as CFO of a rapidly expanding Internet company. We make generous donations to “Computers for Kids.” We get preferential treatment at their annual gala fundraiser. Mickey Dolenz is the performer. I get a private post performance party invite.
I am going to finally meet Mickey Dolenz. Did I mention that Mickey was my favorite Monkee?
It’s not that I am star struck, well maybe a little, but it’s that I like to meet the people who have had a profound influence upon me and thank them. And if possible, have as much conversation as the opportunity presents.
The show was great and it’s time to fulfill a boyhood dream. I’m cool, but yet I am as over-excited as a child. Finally, Mickey joins the party. He situates himself right next to me at the bar in the private room. I seize the moment and request a photo of me and Mickey.
As the photo is about to be snapped, I place my arm around Mickey, and in doing so, I push his drink right off of the bar. Horrors! Mickey looks at me and tells me that it took 20 minutes for the staff to find his particular drink of choice. He is not happy. Nightmare! I sincerely apologize. They replenish his drink. It gets better. I get my picture.
We talk. I feel so good. I tell him that “Shades of Gray” remains my favorite Monkees song. I tell him that Davey did a great job on the vocals. He tells me that it is his favorite too, but he sang the song. I am pretty sure that my memory is good in this regard, but this is Mickey Dolenz contradicting me here. I have to cede to him. Meeting summary to that point: Oh no, bad start that got better now taking a negative turn.
But things went back to good between me and Mickey, and as it turned out, I had the most delightful time talking with him.
When I had the later opportunity to listen to “Shades of Gray,” I realized that Davey did indeed sing most of the lead with Mickey singing along, but mostly harmonizing. Well at least Mickey and I consider it our favorite Monkees song.
Sometimes we get what we want in our childhood, when we are adults…
Candidate for Senate Elizabeth Warren Says:
“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.
“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Frankly Francis Says:
After we each follow our natural compulsion to sing a verse of “Kumbaya,” let’s take a look at what is going on underneath those words.
To gender neutralize the common phrase – no one is an island. We all exist in society because of mutual cooperation. And I think even the dimmest of us knows, no matter what our circumstances, we all have had help along the way. But…
To Ms. Warren’s point, note that she repeatedly says “the rest of us paid for” throughout her argument. She never says “we all paid for” or “the rich along with all other Americans paid for.” She, for some reason, excludes the rich as paying for anything that they utilized, while the rest of us subsidized their success.
Well then, who did pay for that?
Now considering that at least 46% of all Americans pay no federal income taxes at all, almost half of us paid for nothing she mentions but got the benefit of all that stuff.
According to the National Taxpayers Union, in 2009, the top 25% income earners paid 87.3% of all income taxes.
I think one might make a reasonable case that the rich that Ms. Warren castigates did indeed pay for almost all of what we collectively have. And they have already paid for the next kid who comes along too. Such inconvenient truths for Ms. Warren’s argument, I am almost sorry to mention it.
President Obama Says: “There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
Frankly Francis Says:
First, I am pretty sure that Al Gore built the Internet, but regardless, and let us not re-write history here, it was built for the purpose of information sharing, not so that all the companies could make money off of the Internet. Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to improve the market for consumers – they took significant financial risk and effort to provide that. Everyone has benefitted from the creation of new jobs, a more efficient economy, better processes and services for consumers, and that also includes the government receiving additional tax revenues.
President Obama says that there are a lot of smart people out there. I completely agree, but being smart, in and of itself, does not produce a successful business or riches. It requires much more than that.
And President Obama says that there are a lot of hard working people out there. Of course there are. Not to be callous, but if just hard work actually meant anything, I think you would find the rich furiously digging ditches with small hand shovels.
Success does involve hard work and smarts, but it also requires taking personal and financial risk, being innovative, being intensely committed to succeeding as a way of life, and being responsible to the people that you employ, amongst even more energy and time consuming things. A little old fashioned luck never hurts either as it is a highly competitive undertaking – 80% of small businesses fail within their first five years.
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Speaking of our public school system, there were a couple of teachers in my youth that were inspiring, but most were not. Most were just collecting their paychecks. And I am not saying that doing the job expected of you and being compensated is wrong, but that is not praise worthy either. Should we receive extra special attention for doing just what we are being paid to do?
You are right President Obama when you say “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive,” – that somebody would be the Founding Fathers who risked their lives to publish the Declaration of Independence, the men and women in military service who gave their lives for our freedoms, and then to all of the working Americans who turned that into a reality through their efforts and drive, in spite of government’s corruption and its waste.
But hear this –
Matt Welch Says: “Note here how all government spending is equated to roads, public education, and electrical power, which–despite massive spending increases–account for a very small fraction of federal spending. You could (and should!) lop the federal budget in half without touching these line items.”
“Note, too, how increased government spending has not noticeably improved the very areas of service Warren names. K-12 results are flat over 40 years despite more than doubling per-pupil spending. The electricity grid is inefficient, wasteful, and expensive. The latest federal transportation bill continues squandering money without building or maintaining anything near highway capacity, and is best described as “pathetic.” We are getting much less return on our “investment,” while being asked to pony up more.”
So the old axiom that when the government does it, “you pay twice as much to get half as much” may well in spirit apply here.
One might get the feeling from the foregoing that the government thinks it has been slighted for its efforts and deserves more credit…perhaps a lot more credit.
It seems that the government is really serious about this, and with the erosion of so many of our civil liberties, just to be personally safe, it might be wise to thank the government when you receive your Eagle Scout award, when you accept that Oscar at the Academy Awards, when you invent the next life changing advancement, when you graduate from an academic institution, when the government approves your marriage license…whenever you have the selfish notion that you actually did something.