Damned If You Do or Damned If You Don’t

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The news is driving me to drink, and I like that. Drinking makes me open up and speak my mind. The bit I picked up on today is Senator Diane Feinstein’s statement that if Trump fires Special Prosecutor Mueller it will be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency. Now I know I am hard of hearing, and sometimes what I read doesn’t come through very clearly so bear me out. Wasn’t Mueller hired to find stuff on Trump that would enable the Democrats to impeach him? In my hearing impaired mind she is saying the same thing twice, except she is trying to convince me that Mueller is some kind of gift from God who will eventually exonerate the president. The Democrats have done everything short of hiring an assassin to cut President Trump’s term short.

My advice to the president is to do what you think is right, and don’t listen to the BS being thrown your way from the the same people who revered Obama as God’s second son come down to earth to save us. No matter which direction you take the result is supposed to be the same, except for who would get the credit Senator Feinstein or SP Mueller.

I guess my advice isn’t original like I thought. Eleanor said it first.

On My Honor

 

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My technique for finding good books to read has once again rewarded me. It is simple. Walk into the library, find the recent book shelfs and explore the titles. This time it was the cover art that sucked me in. How could a former scoutmaster like myself resist a book with a Boy Scout on the cover? In fact, this art is not original, I recall this being a Norman Rockwell depiction. Regardless, the story is called The Hearts of Men, by Nickolas Butler.

I have to hand it to Nick, he stayed true to his theme right to the very end, and wrote a story about Scouts and the impact that Scouting has on boys who eventually become men. The story is about friendship that begins in scout camp, and ends at the death-bed.  The lead characters become fathers, and grand fathers whose sons, and grand kids become characters too.

Author Butler also gives us an insight into the effects of the Viet Nam War, and the scars it left on those who fought. It isn’t pretty. My heart felt the pain of the Vets who did make it home to suffer for the remainder of their lives with PTSD, and horrific dreams.

By the end of the story I suffered an attack of dry eye. The outcome being a massive gush of tears flooding from my eyes to compensate for the dryness. I’m sure anyone who reads this story will encounter a similar attack.

The description of scout summer camp could only have been told by a former camper, and the realism of the effects of war also smacks of one who has experienced it. I’m going to be thinking about this story for a long, long time. Within the camp stories there is realistic depiction of men and their relationships with their mothers, fathers, wives, girlfriends, lovers, and buddies. The characters are real, and the emotions expressed are definitely true. The description of the scenes etched pictures in the mind, and the dialogue between characters is very believable and real.

Lessons For All Of Us, Even Liberals

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I figure that one reason these practices have ceased to exist is because more than seventy  million new immigrants have arrived from at least two hundred and six different countries since all of this was standard practice in our society.

 

 
 
Black and White
Black and White

(Under age 45? You won’t understand)

 
You could hardly see for all the snow,
Spread the rabbit ears as far as they go.
 
‘Good Night, David.
 
Good Night, Chet.’
 
My Mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn’t seem to get food poisoning.
 
My Mom used to defrost hamburger on the counter and I used to eat it raw sometimes, too. Our school sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper in a brown paper bag, not
in ice pack coolers, but I can’t remember getting E.coli.
 
Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring), no beach closures then.

The term cell phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager was the school PA system.

 
We all took gym, not PE… and risked permanent injury with a pair of high top Ked’s (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in light reflectors. I can’t recall any injuries but they must have happened because they tell us how much safer we are now.
 
Flunking gym was not an option… Even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be much harder than gym.
 
Speaking of school, we all said prayers and sang the national anthem, and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention.
 
We must have had horribly damaged psyches. What an archaic health system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours
wore a hat and everything.
 
I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed to be proud of myself.
 
I just can’t recall how bored we were without computers, Play Station, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital TV cable stations.
 
Oh yeah.. And where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed!
 
We played ‘king of the hill’ on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites, and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome (kids liked it better because it didn’t sting like iodine did) and then we got our butt spanked.
 
Now it’s a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $99 bottle of antibiotics, and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.
 
We didn’t act up at the neighbor’s house either; because if we did we got our butt spanked there and then we got our butt spanked again when we got home.
 
I recall Donny Reynolds from next door coming over and doing his tricks on the front stoop, just before he fell off.
 
Little did his Mom know that she could have owned our house.
 
Instead, she picked him up and swatted him for being such a jerk. It was a neighborhood run amuck.
 
To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family.
 
How could we possibly have known that?
 
We needed to get into group therapy and anger management classes.
 
We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills, that we didn’t even

notice that the entire country wasn’t taking Prozac!

 
How did we ever survive?
 
LOVE
TO ALL OF US WHO SHARED THIS ERA; AND TO ALL WHO DIDN’T, SORRY FOR WHAT YOU MISSED. I WOULDN’T TRADE IT FOR ANYTHING!
 
Pass
this to someone and remember that life’s most simple pleasures are very often the best.

 

Catching Up

For the longest time I have seen ads claiming that Cable television is running scared. I could not determine what the heck they were afraid of. At that time I subscribed to cable for my internet and television service. Then, this year my cell phone died. I was forced to buy a new one. My landline has been with ATT since the first time I had to buy service in 1961. This time, however, I decided to take advantage of the entire package; land line, cell phone, internet, and TV. The package saved me one hundred dollars a month for the first two years at least. I have endured the ATT internet service to take advantage of the savings, but it is clearly slower than cable. At my age I don’t want anything to be slower because I am trying to squeeze more out of life; waiting for a website to come up does not fit into that scenario.

Two weeks ago, Peg’s caretaker took a day off to attend a party at a friend’s house. The caretaker is from a foreign country, and is not a tech-nerd by any means, but she does know how to save a buck. She came home all excited to show me something she had bought at Best Buy. The gadget is an Amazon FireTVStick. I looked down my nose at it and said I’d try it out.  She couldn’t say enough good about this device. The host of the party she attended had one installed and bragged about how wonderful it was and all the TV was for free. The host is a Russian immigrant who barely speaks English, but was very aware of the Firestick

With the advent of fiber-optic phone lines there has been a major advance in the ability to transmit tons of information over phone lines.  Back in the late eighties and early nineties I visited Sprint in Kansas City, KS as an engineer. These people were diligently working on improving the transmission of data across phone lines. They excitedly explained the benefits of what they were doing. I nodded my head and took it all on faith that they knew what they were doing. I was more focused on trying to solve their problems with my product, a lowly cable tie.

The future that Sprint was working on has arrived. The threat that Cable TV is worried about is called streaming. Today, young people with computers and cell phones are getting their entertainment over the phone lines via a process called streaming. The Firestick is a piece of hardware that allows those of us who have Wi-Fi and digital TV’s to take advantage of streaming. Streaming is the transmission of TV signals over phone lines, and through the atmosphere wirelessly.

Most of us have heard of YouTube. It is a Google process which allows us to load videos onto the internet. Right now, Google has more content available than a person can view watching full-time for a lifetime, and there is more being posted everyday. What I was not aware of is that the stuff we watch on TV is also available on YouTube.

While I was sleeping and surfing the net for news, the youth of the world have been busy working to take advantage of the entertainment content available on the internet. New companies have sprung up with products that allow it all to happen. Most of it is software that allows a user to capture all the streams of data that are traversing the universe; the Amazon FireTVstick is one of them.

This week I finally attacked the Firestick and began to play with it. At this point it is still beating me, but I will conquer the damn thing and we will be watching TV transmitted by Wi-Fi over the internet. When I do conquer the thing it will enable me to quit the TV subscription I have from ATT and save eighty-nine bucks a month, or a whopping one thousand and sixty-eight dollars a year; no wonder Cable is running scared.

Like always when I work with something new like the Firestick I searched YouTube for videos that would show me how to make it work. I even use YouTube to learn how to cook recipes. What I found amazed me. There are dozens of Nerds making videos on how to use streaming devices. What is more surprising is that they have hundreds of thousands of views. The world is on the cusp of using streaming as a way to view video content on TV’s, computers, tablets, and cell phones. Even an old guy like me will learn how to do it and soon will master an entirely new technology. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well at least for now I haven’t mastered the steps to success.

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Aztec Blast

There is nothing like a garden to get my juices flowing. During the past few weeks I have ignored my blog because of extenuating circumstances. Many of you know that I belong to a Lions Club, and two weeks ago Lions International celebrated their 100th birthday with a convention in Chicago. At the last-minute I decided to help out at the parade. I reported on it in a post I titled Amazing Movement. That was my last blog piece. Coincident to the convention I was elected President of the Frankfort Lions Club. I worked the Lions Convention Parade of Nations as President Elect because I hadn’t been sworn in yet. Even though I was not officially the president, the responsibility fell upon me like a ton of bricks.

On June 15, three days after being elected, I learned that the venue we use for our annual fund-raiser called Wurst Fest had closed its doors. For the past thirty-seven years Wurst Fest has been the opening event of the Frankfort Fall Fest which is one of the top ten craft fairs in the country.  This year our Wurst is on Thursday, August 31.

For twenty years, the craft fair has had a Beer and Entertainment Tent operated by a group called BETA (Beer Entertainment Tent Association). The BETA group fell apart and disbanded leaving the craft fair, and the Lions holding the bag. The craft fair is run by the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce. BETA consisted of seven community groups like girls softball, Knights of Columbus, Lincoln Way Band Boosters, etc. The profits from the Beer tent were used to pay volunteers who worked the tent. Usually, these volunteers donated their earnings to their home organization. The Lions tagged on to the Beer Tent by renting it for one night during the Fall Festival. The Chamber craft fair was now facing a huge empty open space in the middle of their event.

The whole thing is complicated by the fact that the beer tent occupies a Village owned parking lot. So now the Village also had a problem. The whole mess could have been resolved had the Chamber agreed to manage the beer tent, and pay the volunteers as before. Nothing would have changed except the people who were managing. I would have made it even more simple by hiring the previous manager to continue operating the beer tent. That is not how the event will run this year. Government got deeply involved. Our Mayor has been waiting for the moment when a disaster like this one came. How did Rahm Emanuel President Obama’s Chief of Staff say it when Obama had a catastrophic problem? “Never let a good catastrophe go to waste.”

The Village Events Commission voted to suspend the BETA group license to use the parking lot. The Mayor rightfully declared that here was not time enough to be fair to all the bars in town to have the option to run the event, so he recommended that the Chamber of Commerce be given the responsibility since they are made up of all the businesses in town. Then came the codicil.

It is no secret that our mayor has been working diligently to raise the reputation of Frankfort to the level of a north shore community like Libertyville, or Kenilworth. He is succeeding at keeping the property values around town increasing, His reputation is sterling and that is why he has been mayor for sixteen years, and recently won another election with seventy-five percent of the vote. He sees the town as the jewel of the south side, and having a raucous beer tent in the middle of a world-class craft fair doesn’t fit his vision. He talked the Chamber into to running the event with the provision they implement his vision which he handed to them in writing along with a layout of the venue.

The Lions have worked diligently over the past years to design an event which would resemble October Fest in Germany. The community has a rich German heritage, and that idea gelled. Suddenly, it has been turned into a small high-class, open air beer and wine garden serving craft beers, and high-end wines with soft snoozy music making it the equivalent of a piano bar.

How does all this fit into the garden? After experiencing three weeks of anxiety over our fund-raiser diving into obscurity I took it out on the weeds. The Monet Vision theme this year is Aztec Blast. It needed refreshing because so many new plants decided to migrate into this elegant world. None of these migrants knew the rules and decided to grow in places where they did not fit. They were not asked to come, they just did. Once established they insisted on propagating and expanding their numbers throughout the boundaries of the Monet Vision. There was only one thing for me to do to save the Vision. I attacked by uprooting them and placing them into a walled space from which they could not escape. This deportation process took three hours of rigorous physical work. The problem is that in many cases I could not get the roots of the problem, and I will have to repeat this process again, and again until the first freeze in October. Or, I could allow these unwanted creatures to assimilate into the masses of the Aztec Blast. Wrong, I can not allow that to happen, these creatures do not obey the rules, they do as nature has designed them to do. Even though they are natives to the earth, they are unfit to live within the boundaries of my garden. Perhaps one day, the Monet Vision will become  Native Beauty in which the canvas will contain only native-born plants without any rules. The problem with that idea is that even among natives there will be a slow process by which the strongest, toughest, and meanest ones will thrive and take over the world.

With all of this said I now introduce you to the 2017 Monet Vision-Aztec Blast.

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Amazing Movement

My fellow Lions have been telling me for the past year to sign up for the Lions International 100 Year Anniversary Convention. I listened, and argued with myself about going. One day I got up enough nerve to begin filling out the registration form online. When it came time to pay and to pump in my credit card numbers the program locked up and I backed out. The Convention began on Friday, June 30 and runs until July 4th. Because it is the 100th anniversary and the Lions Club was founded by Chicago businessman Melvin Jones, it is in Chicago. Three days ago, I decided to let go and volunteer to work the event. I talked myself into giving up one day away from Peg and to serve the cause. E-mail is wonderful. I messaged the Volunteer volunteer and he accepted me graciously. I told him I would work in any capacity. He assigned me to the Parade of Nations. The Parade was on Saturday and this was on Thursday. The hook was that I had to register to attend the event to work the event. I busied myself for the rest of the day deciding on how to get their, where to park and how to proceed. Finally, I decided I would go down to Mc Cormack Place on Friday to register, so I wouldn’t be rushed on Saturday morning. Lion Ralph told me to be at the parade registration tent by 7:00 a.m.

On Friday morning after breakfast and after getting Peg out of bed, I drove the thirty-five miles to Mc Cormack Place and arrived at the convention center at 11:00 am. I had to be home by 2:30 to help with Peg again. I found the line going to room 102 and stopped dead. The line was easily three people wide and a hundred yards long. I wasn’t worried, I had plenty of time. After forty minutes spent chatting with Lions from India, Philippines, and Malta I made some forward progress. Still not to worry, I can still make my deadline. A Lion volunteer appeared, and asked what we were in line for. I told him what my situation was, and he walked me ahead to serpentine line immediately outside room 102. It was half filled. Great I thought, a short line. I met more Lions, this time from India, Philippines, Indiana, Hawaii, and London. At twelve thirty I made it through the door of room 102 only to find another serpentine which was full. Luckily, there were about six registrars moving us along. There was a second serpentine line in the room next to ours. It also served by six registrars. I learned that these people were all non-english speaking Lions.

An amazing thing about all these lines filled by people from everywhere is that there wasn’t a crabby person anywhere. I would have thought that if you just arrived from Australia (eighteen hours non-stop, and longer if connections have to be made), the night before suffering from a severe case of jet-lag, and were tired that you would really be upset by having to wait in another long line. It wasn’t the case, some of these people had waited in lines for hours in a couple of airports before they got to the convention. Lions Clubs International Foundation told us they planned on forty thousand people attending. By the opening day they estimated fifty-five thousand. I personally met several who made decisions at the very last-minute, and missed the deadline to get credentials by mail.  So, there we were waiting and telling stories about our clubs and activities. At 2:00 p.m. I called Peg’s caretaker to let her know I would be seriously late. I got home at 4:30. Peg was fine without me.

On Saturday morning the opportunity alarm went off at five a.m. I crawled out of bed, showered, dressed and left the house by 5:30. At that time of the morning on a Saturday of a holiday weekend the traffic moved at seventy-five all the way to the turn-off for the Outer Drive. I sailed through the construction zone past Mc Cormack Place and onto the Drive. I exited at the light before Randolph, and turned onto Michigan Avenue to disappear into the underground garage under Millennium Park. It was so empty I was able to park within fifty feet of the exit to Randolph Street. I had about a mile walk ahead of me to the parade registration tent, but I was so early I just took my time and sauntered along. About midway between Randolph and State I saw something strange. A City of Chicago dump truck fully loaded with salt and a snow plow parked at the curb. A driver sat behind the wheel. Strange I thought, they can’t be waiting for a snow storm. A few yards further on the opposite side of the street sat another truck with the plow and salt. I menatlly filed it, and proceeded to the reported check-in tent. I got to the spot only to find myself there all alone, no tent, and not a single person insight. This can’t be, I’m right on the mark printed in the instructions. Not to worry, I still had plenty of time so I sauntered back a half mile to the official parade start point. Alas, a tent with Lions. I found someone, and checked in at 7 a.m. By that time, the only parade volunteer vests they had left were XXL or XXXL. I chose the double. I am a big guy around the belly and chest but thankfully, I am nowhere near XXL, I would have asked for an L, or an M. Finally, a volunteer registered me. A volunteer registered by another volunteer. I asked for my assignment, I got it from another volunteer. I was to go to the Purple Zone which was about four blocks back from where I came. I eventually learned that a purple flag defined an area for a specific group of countries. It was about half a city block long and ended at a grey flag. Further west at half block increments there were more colored flags. Luckily, I learned one of the volunteers there with me was another Lion who held the key to the event; a list of countries and the color of their staging area. In the beginning there were not many people at the area, but by eight a.m. things began picking up. The scheduled start time was 9:00 a.m. As more people came my job was to answer their questions. Most needed direction to their start zone. I’d find the lady with the list, and we’d use sign language to direct them. (we had a poster with the zone colors and arrows pointing the direction). The crowd got bigger and nine o’clock came, and went, but the parade did not begin. There was total confusion as Lions from 135 countries milled about looking for directions.

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My XXL Volunteer Parade Marshall Vest

As the crowd grew, the head Marshall had the north-south streets closed off. As they did that the traffic on La Salle Street (the grey zone) got really heavy as Chicagoans not knowing what was going on searched out ways to get around the blockage. My job shifted to holding back people from crossing the street against the lights. The Lions are all crazy I thought, they step out with their backs into the traffic lane without looking to take group pictures, or to look at their phones. Picture taking was in a frenzy as a group saw interesting costumes from another country, and they rushed to take pictures with them. Numerous young ladies handed me their camera and smiled at me to take their picture with a group.

One lady who happened to live downtown was on a suicide mission to cross the street when we stood in front of her with arms stretched out. She very indignantly shouted that she needed to get to the other side. My fellow Lion belly bumped her, and told her if she didn’t obey he would call a cop. She rebelled and yelled even louder. She shoved   him away and proceeded to bull her way past him. He grabbed her by the arm at which point she really hollered out “let go of me, and don’t you touch me again.”

” Lady,” I Said, “all we want to do is to protect you from getting run over, when the light changes we will let you cross.” She stopped yelling and waited. Had we let her go she would have been followed by a stream of people running behind her. Most of these people were from Asia and they are accustomed to crossing streets with lots of traffic, I thought, but one wrong move by me, and someone will get hurt. I stopped another Asian lady who was stunned by my direction. I told her “We want you to go home alive,” she smiled and stepped back. In general, the Asians were very respectful.

Just around the corner on La Salle Street stood the Joliet American Legion Band. Patiently standing at ease in lines ready to march into the parade. Dressed in navy blue suits, white shirts with black ties, and Captains hats they were there for at least two hours standing, holding their instruments. I wanted them to begin playing, but they remained quiet throughout watching the mayhem pass by them. I guess I’ll have to wait until the Sunday night concert at Frankfort’s Concert on the Green where they are playing the next evening.

By 9:30 a.m. the streets were filled with marchers from the countries but still there was no movement. The people traffic on the corners and the sidewalks slowed a bit as last-minute paraders scurried to their start zones. Finally, at 10 a.m.the parade began moving, and my role shifted to one of urging people to move along so there would be no long gaps between. I stood on the median on Wacker Drive and waved them forward to catch the group so they could stand and wait for more movement.” Hurry up, and wait,” I told them. From 10:00 am until 1:00 p.m. I stood and watched in amazement waving my arms forward as people from so many countries passed me by. China was my favorite. I didn’t even know the Lions had clubs in China. First they carried a banner as wide as the street announcing China, Then a very short distance later came another banner declaring China, and below that the name of the city they represented followed by row after row of Chinese Lions waving flags. there had to be ten Chinese cities represented, each with hundreds of marchers. My favorite was the city that did a Dragon Dance as a special attraction. In addition to their hundred marchers the dragon snaked his way around, and through the marchers to the beat of a very loud drum.

At one o’clock my legs were numb and feet hurt, so I decided to quit. I walked away near the end of the line, and headed to a coffee shop on La Salle that reminded me of the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld. I ordered a bowl of chicken dumpling soup, it was the first and only thing I had to eat. I paid $6.79 for this small bowl of soup and thought how glad I am not to be working downtown. Inside the shop I met an Australian couple who were also snacking. I asked them why they weren’t marching. “We did,” they answered.

“How long did it take?”

“About an hour.” Gosh it started at ten, and it is now one and still going. I finished my soup and walked out to be surprised that there were no marchers left on Wacker Drive. I saw a crowd of orange vested volunteers at the corner of Wacker and State two blocks away. I walked slower than my start of the day saunter, and as I approached the tail end of the crowd two old lady Lions tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I knew where to catch a shuttle bus back to Mc Cormack Place. Here they were at the starting point of the parade route, and I had to tell them the shuttle busses were at the conclusion one mile south. I thought they were going to faint right there. I don’t know how they made it back, I’m hoping the lions marshaling the parade at the end would help them out.

I slowly walked the sidewalk south to Randolph, and made the turn east to find my car  when the answer came. There, parked diagonally across the street blocking four lanes of traffic were the two dump trucks loaded with salt, and their plows lowered to the ground. They were a deterrent to terrorists. Chicago can’t control gun violence but it was making sure the headlines would not read “truck rams parade killing. . .” My guess is they had trucks blocking every street crossing the parade route.

Good job Chicago, thanks for letting us use the city for a great parade.

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