Dealing With My Demons

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Respected Readers, it has been some time since I’ve written to you, at least in this place. Many of you have asked me why I haven’t written. Oh, believe me, I have thought about writing, even sat down and begun the process. Let me tell you why I have not.

In the late fall of 2018, I was trying to digest the significance of the Kavanaugh hearings—the “trial” of Judge Brett Kavanaugh by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. I thought the actions of our Senators during that mindless display would be something we should all think about.   I’ll tell you a little secret. When I believe we ought to be angry about something, I often use angry words. But I promise you, they are considered angry words. I don’t write, speak or do anything else well when I’m angry. I try to wait until I’m calm, and consider very carefully any angry words that are needed. Each of you who knows me well will now be smiling, because we both know I’m not always successful at this. But I try, I really do.

So the reason I didn’t write was because I was still angry. When I tried to tackle a different subject, perhaps something light and humorous, I would return time and time again to the outrageous conduct of the United States Senate. I wouldn’t let it go. Then, of course, I got angry all over again. This was no writer’s block. It was a vapor lock. I simply kept overheating.

If any of you have ever known a subject that angered you months or years after it happened, you’ll know what I mean. Something that causes you to be unable to speak without anger. Something that causes you to bite your tongue so the wrong words don’t fly out.

It’s been several months, and the witch hunt of Judge Kavanaugh has ended, at least for now. We could easily hide this dark thing that happened with plenty of newer headlines. But it’s still back there; it still happened. The black mark on all of us in the fading days of 2018, when a group of United States Senators chose to ignore the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” in order to feather their own political beds with a sickening lack of character and competence. Mind you, those are my calm angry words.

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Just yesterday, I took issue with some fellow Kansas City Chiefs fans about how we should approach the loss of the AFC Championship game. We can make excuses, or we can look at ourselves with an unblinking eye. We have the opportunity to examine our flaws and correct them. It is within our power to do this.

Perhaps that is the way we should consider the Kavanaugh travesty. Maybe we need that unblinking eye to correct our flaws, or, at least, to make the effort.

No Problem?

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I had the perfect subject for today, and when I began researching the issue, I found that Bill Flanagan of CBS News has already taken the words out of my mouth. Or pen. Or keyboard. But I was determined to write about it anyway.

When did people (mostly young people) start thinking that “No problem” is a good substitute for “you’re welcome”? As Flanagan wrote: “Who spread that virus? The Taliban?”

Please listen to me, young people–and older people who apparently don’t get it. If it really wasn’t a problem, don’t try to make it sound as though it might have been. It’s infuriating, particularly with a paying customer. Or maybe just the older ones.

If I walk into an auto parts store and ask for a hamburger, they’re liable to look at me like I have six heads. If someone actually hands me a hamburger in there, I’m liable to give them a sincere “Thank you.” And if they said “No problem,” I would think it appropriate. That’s because it surely was a problem. But if I pay for my food at a supermarket and say “Thank you,” and the cashier says “No problem,” I would wonder why he or she thinks it might have been a problem. It’s a food store, for heaven’s sake. It’s where they sell food. And I’m paying for that food. If I thought it might have been a problem for them to sell me the food, I’d find a different supermarket. And why am I the one saying “Thank you” anyway? I just gave them two hundred and fifty dollars.

The other day, I sat in my car at a drive-through burger joint. I was on my worldwide mission of trying to convince these businesses that “Have a nice day” is no substitute for “Thank you.” The young man at the window handed me back my credit card and as I was attempting to put it back in my wallet from a seated position, he immediately thrust the bag of food at me (another thing their training geniuses ought to think about). I took it and sat there, waiting for the rare and elusive “Thank you.” Didn’t happen. I looked at him and said “Thank you?” (And yes, I proposed it as a question.) He looked at me and mumbled “No problem.” That threw me completely off my stated mission.  I said nothing and drove away. My lovely bride, Saint Mary, has convinced me that if I actually make it a problem, they’ll spit in my food.

Flanagan said it best: “To all the young people of the world: If you want to get good tips or just generally not infuriate older people, PLEASE, only say “No problem” when there is a reasonable expectation that the task you are performing might be problematic.”

If you have taken the time to help a little old lady across the street in heavy traffic, and she says “Thank you,” a “No problem” is appropriate. Even better under those circumstances is “You’re very welcome, it’s no problem.” That’s probably asking too much.

But if you work in Pizza Hut and a customer thanks you for selling her a pizza don’t say, “No problem.” She’s paying for the pizza!

Just say, “You’re welcome.”

It’s every bit as efficient. “You’re welcome” takes no more of your time than “No problem.” Both answers have the same number of syllables and only one of them doesn’t irritate older people with Mad Cow disease, like me.

Why don’t corporations and other businesses understand this? My theory is that they do.dbsig2 My theory says their market research has convinced them that, as more old people die and more young people have driving licenses, fewer and fewer people recognize or care about good and appropriate service. Maybe they should consider thanking people for spending their money and saying things like “You’re welcome” for about twenty more years. After that, no problem.

 

Just For Mike

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I saw my good friend Mike the other day. He asked why I hadn’t published a column recently. I published two columns back-to-back on July 30 and July 31, so Mike is either right or wrong, depending on your definition of the word recently. I suppose I publish when a subject refuses to be dismissed. When I can’t get it out of my head, I perform an exorcism by putting it to paper. Mike and I had a very short discussion about the bitterness and hostility of political discourse today and we both mourned the loss of civility in those debates. So you see how these columns happen? Mike brought up something that I couldn’t dismiss.

I would describe Mike as liberal. I’m pretty sure he would describe me as conservative. We’ve had political discussions since we’ve known each other and not once have we resorted to fisticuffs or ad hominem attacks. I disagree with a lot of his socio-political opinions, yet I admire and respect him as a human being. He is a very human being, and he makes my world a better place.

Occasionally, I have a “guest writer” in this space. So maybe it’s time for me to state my opinion on a subject, then let Mike have his say. I suspect he’ll find the subject interesting.

We all want to protect our children. We all want them to grow to happy, healthy adulthood. Yet the conservative and liberal approaches to this goal are quite different. Bullying is a good example. The liberal slant seems to be an attempt to eradicate the bullies. Don’t know about you, but my sense of things is that bullies were around long before I got here and will be here long after I’m gone. My parents taught me how to deal with bullies, and fifty years later, I’m still good with their approach.

In this day and age, our children grow up and attend colleges and universities. The Wizard of Oz claims they go there to become great thinkers. But today, in this society with First Amendment rights to free speech, our institutions of higher learning provide “safe spaces” where our children are protected against words and ideas that may be uncomfortable. That sort of thinking seems to fly in the face of the traditional liberal position.  That sounds like “free speech for me, but not thee.”  It must be difficult to stimulate great thinking in a “safe space” where one would never experience an opposing view. Seems to me there wouldn’t be much to think about in there.

So the larger issue is this: We all want our children to be safe and healthy, but what is the best method of doing that? We often vaccinate our children against diseases. The principle involved is pretty straightforward: We put a small, weakened version of the dreaded disease inside them, and their bodies develop antibodies to kill it. Those antibodies hang around in there, making them less vulnerable to the real thing.

So, if we admit there is evil in the world, shouldn’t we prepare our children for evil by making sure they know it’s out there? Is that not wiser than rolling them in bubble wrap and kicking them out into a world we’ve told them is all goodness and light?  Wouldn’t it be wise to innoculate them?

Mike, it’s your turn. I promise to publish it. How about my inoculation theory? Give it your best shot!

An Echo In An Alternate Universe

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I am a gadget guy. I always love the latest invention and I’m driven to possess it. For example, my house is full of Amazon Echo devices. I think there’s one in every room. Yes, I know that all those devices are listening to us and Big Brother could hear it. Truth be told, we don’t say very much in this house that is anarchistic or even interesting. If necessary, we point at the devices and whisper.

As a result of this new technology, I have multiple lamps and other devices currently ruled by Alexa. I can walk into the room and say “Alexa, turn on the fireplace lamp,” or “Alexa, what’s the weather outside?” Magically, the lamp lights or I hear about the weather. However, we’ve discovered some inherent problems with allowing voice-based technology into our home. Saint Mary, my lovely bride, can never remember what I named the fireplace lamp or any of the other handy gadgets. This creates an additional problem: if your home is all Alexa’d up and you can’t remember the names of your devices, there is no easy way, for example, to turn a lamp on or off. You’d have to unplug the lamp from the little smart plug thing, which I have inconveniently hidden on the top shelf of a ten foot bookcase. So you need the stepladder to turn off the light.

It’s frustrating for Saint Mary, on a lot of levels.  Not remembering the right names is exasperating.  And carrying that stepladder around all day isn’t helpful.  I hear her trying various names for various lamps and devices, usually unsuccessfully. One day she said to me, and you must imagine her tone, because it was pure malice whether she admits it or not, she said, “This is like being on a game show. And never winning.” I was so frightened that I gave her the secret word and the lamp came on.

She says I’ve spent far too much money on these things. She says if I would look at the checkbook and the budget, I wouldn’t buy them. And I explain that she’s absolutely right and I try not to look at the checkbook, so I don’t feel guilty. To her, it’s dollars and cents. To me, it’s cause and effect.

But she did make me think about something. Suppose there is an alternate universe, with an alternate history.

In that other reality, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph in 1878. The next year, he discovered a way to integrate the phonograph’s technology with the lightbulb, and patented a device that allowed people to turn the lightbulb on and off by speaking to it. He named the device Edison, and it was wildly popular. The Edison developed over the years, giving folks the weather and directing them to see movies, check the stock market, find menus for their meals, read or listen to books, ask what time it is, etc. It was a marvelous invention and it took over our lives.

Then, around 2010, Saint Mary, in her frustration, developed an electrical circuit-breaking device. Operated manually, it quickly shut off the electricity, or re-supplied it. This device could control the lightbulb by means of a pump handle located in the center of the room.  In a few short years, the Manual Electronic Circuit Disruptor had been improved, miniaturized and installed in the walls of most new homes. It’s simplicity and ease of use made it even more popular than the Edison. Most people simply called it The Switch.  People loved it, because they didn’t have to talk or remember names of things. They simply walked over and flipped the little lever on the wall.  They Switched.

When the patent expired, Mary sold her company for eighty billion dollars and stock options. And we were content because Mary could quickly turn a lamp on or off without remembering the names of inanimate objects and I had new gadgets all over the walls of our home.  We were insanely wealthy and I never again felt  guilty about impulse buying.

Life was good in that alternate world, but of course it never happened.  The End.

Alexa, turn off DB laptop.

Someone Must Pay The Piper

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The other day, I listened to college students discussing “Medicare For All.” They were supporting Democratic Socialists of America candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders, both of whom are currently touting this idea. In addition to Medicare, the students are apparently upset that someone is going to take away their plastic bendy straws. But let’s stick to Medicare.

When asked how we would pay for this, Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders have been unclear, if not elusive. A recently-released study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University showed that the plan would require historic tax increases. That analysis estimates the plan would cost, conservatively, between $24.7 trillion dollars and $34.7 trillion dollars over ten years. No one seems to know what the following ten years would cost. My guess, based on the fact that population will increase, is that I shouldn’t count on the price going down.

The students were very clear about how to pay for it. “From the government,” or “from the rich,” each of them said. But when asked what would happen if the government or these rich people ran out of money, they said “taxes.” Maybe they didn’t realize that the government’s money is taxes. Maybe they didn’t realize that taxes include rich peoples’ money. They seem to believe that every wealthy individual in our country got that way by doing something evil and should, therefore, give it back.

Before my liberal friends assail me (and they will), maybe we should back up and think about what is at issue here. It’s not a moral issue; it’s a mathematical one. It’s not about bad people not wanting to help good people. It’s about whether we can do it. We can talk about Medicare For All until we’re blue in the face, but sooner or later, somebody has to figure out how to do it. Part of the process of helping people in a substantial and sustainable way is finding out if we can afford affordable care and if we’ll be able to continue helping. The old Boy Scout first rule for lifesaving: Save Yourself First. You can translate that as “If you drown, you’re of no help to anyone.” Sooner or later, someone has to pay the Piper, and I have a sinking feeling that you and I are not the said Piper.

Supporters of Medicare For All say, and the Mercatus study states, that the plan could reap substantial savings from lower prescription costs–$846 billion over ten years, because the government will be dealing directly with drug manufacturers.  Mind you, that is the same government that gave the University of New Hampshire $700,000 to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows, and spent thousands of dollars for a hammer or a box of Kleenex. Maybe they should let us make those deals at Wal-Mart, because I can get Kleenex for eighty-nine cents.  Cutting your $30 trillion dollar bill by $846 billion is like spitting on the Hindenberg as we go down in flames.

It’s my understanding that many universities are no longer requiring courses in government and history. That could be part of the problem. George Santanyana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Socialism has always failed, because the Piper had to be paid, eventually. In the Russia of 1917, the people revolted against what they believed to be tyranny. Along came Vladimir Lenin shouting “Revolt in the name of the proletariat,” beginning what would be the most oppressive regime in world history. And, we might add, a country bankrupt and unable to help anyone.dbsig2

I want to help good people, but I know I have to be able to help. Don’t trust our salvation to the government. Trust it to folks who can find a bargain on Kleenex. The government knows virtually nothing about anything. Other than taking things it hasn’t earned.

A Little Cup Of Sanity

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“The world’s gone mad.”

Saint Mary and I often look at each other and say that, after reading or hearing the latest news or reacting to a particular social media posting. The world’s gone mad.

The top of this column has always read “Start your day with a cup of sanity.” I had originally offered that to you, but today, that seems presumptuous. Maybe it’s there to help me drink from my own cup. The following are some ideas that seem important to me. I don’t suggest they are for you, I know only that I probably need to hear them. You may agree with them and if so, you’re welcome to think about them. They are my cup of sanity this morning in a world that’s gone mad.

I Don’t Need The News Media

People will tell me about any news they’ve heard and I can discuss it with them if I feel the need. I should avoid the news media whenever and wherever I can. I don’t want to stick my head in the sand and assume all is well, but I am beginning to believe that the news is important to me only if I can talk about it with a real live human being. Being bombarded with it from every electronic avenue is doing me no good whatsoever. I think I’ll listen when I want to, and otherwise just turn it off. There used to be decent news in our society. It was long ago in a galaxy far, far away, when news organizations, whether print or broadcast, had one purpose: just get the news out there. I am from the first television generation, Mickey Mouse Club, I Love Lucy and all of that. In those days, the news organizations didn’t make a profit. They were carried, if you will, by the networks as a public service. They figured they could broadcast the news once per day, in the evening, and get the important stuff to us. Not so today. Today, the news cycle is continual and they’re selling advertising. In order to sell advertising continually, they need something to feed us continually. So they invent things and call it news. It’s not. Stormy Daniels isn’t news. The Russians aren’t news; they’ve been around forever. Trump isn’t news and neither is Nancy Pelosi. It’s all just drivel and nonsense intended to make me argue with someone. The news media is now divided into separate camps. If they weren’t, it would be hard to invent news. Without the contrast—the constant argument–they can’t produce constant “news.” And of course, without constant news, they can’t sell constant advertising. I begin to think of myself as a rat in a cage, being constantly shocked as I press the wrong levers. I’m getting a little tired of that. So maybe I’ll let all of this “news” come to me from people I know. That way, at least, I can discuss it with them and draw my own conclusions.

I Need Social Media For One Reason

I need it to get this column to you. That’s about it. It’s probably not important that you read it, but more that I’ve said it. I’ve gotten it out of me. Some of you answer and I feel as though we’ve had at least a small discussion. We’ve connected, minded our manners and done something important to each of us. Blasting opinions on social media is like shooting arrows from the narrow turret window in a castle. You can shoot your arrow and you’re protected; you don’t have to be responsible for it. You don’t have to answer. Social media promotes our own irresponsibility. I was never a perfect child, but not once in my youth did I say “I’d like to be irresponsible.”  There is very little about social media that is good for me.

I have the odd feeling that if we all recognized the news media and social media for what they are, the world would be a much better place. This isn’t intended to be profound. It’s just a little cup of sanity.

Obituary BSA

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The Boy Scouts organization is dying. The attacks upon it over the past thirty years are murder by any other name.

I have been associated with Scouting for nearly sixty years in one way or another. I will hold its hand for a while longer as it passes from us, but probably not until the very end. I have my reasons.

About a year ago, I warned that the BSA’s acceptance of transgender members would lead to the acceptance of female youth members. It all happened, far more quickly than any of us imagined.

Many of us may think this is a recent development—and so it seems. But the battle has been taking place for nearly the sixty years I’ve been involved.

Who is involved in this battle? Who is the enemy? What is the battle about? It’s so easy in today’s world to see a thirty-second “news story” and to think “Oh, the Boy Scouts are in trouble again.” It’s far more than that. What is at stake is no less that the core beliefs and values of our children. The enemy? It would be easy for me to say it’s “the liberals.” That wouldn’t be quite fair. I know many liberals who are good human beings and want the best for our children. So I will say it this way: the enemy are people who hate people like me, and perhaps people like you. They hate freedom. They hate individual and critical thinking. They hate the things I value. You may find that they hate you as well.

Mike Rowe put it so well several weeks ago when he said “Girls are not the enemy. The enemy is bad ideology, and the inability to effectively confront it.”

The reason this battle is so hard for us to recognize is because it’s not a full frontal assault. It has occurred over decades rather than a particular day or year. It’s an insidious attack, using treacherous weapons. The enemy uses ideas and catch-phrases that, in and of themselves, are difficult to fight. Let me give you an example. The enemy says, in essence, “Little girls should have a fun and exciting program too!” Well of course they should. Who can argue with that? I don’t know of a single person in the Scouting program who disagrees with it. And so we are inundated—overwhelmed, if you will—with ideas that “sound right.” And yet all we have tried to do over past decades is to protect a program that teaches boys how to be men.  I suspect “they” don’t like our finished product.  I think they hate the men we produce, as much as they hate me.

So why did I say the Boy Scouts are dying? Because this enemy doesn’t want to change Boy Scouting; they want to kill it.

The enemy, whoever “they” are, want this organization dead and gone. If you think that is far-fetched, and that I’ve gone mad, just keep your eye on the Girl Scouts organization; that is the bellwether. If they are forced to change, so be it, but I don’t think men and boys belong there.  But if that organization is somehow conveniently “overlooked” in this rush to irrationality, then perhaps this will more clearly appear to you as a premeditated, intentional and wanton wish to kill us.

The enemy have gone about this premeditated murder over a long time. They have determined our core beliefs and attacked them with lawsuits and propaganda, decades in their determination, attacking seemingly “little things” with ideas that, on their face, seem to make sense. It’s a long, slow passing. It is death by a thousand cuts.

They have attacked the Boy Scouts for the things that make up our core existence: an oath to do our best, to do our duty to God and our country.

Now that they’ve won the gender battle, what do you suppose they’ll attack next? I think they will attack our fundamental belief in God Himself.

I suspect that battle will come, as before, in sheep’s’ clothing. At some point, if history is any indication, the sheep will begin to howl.

If they win the battle over God, I’ll be forced to remove myself from any association with the organization. That’s why I can’t hold its hand as it dies. I will have tried, but it will be a failed exorcism. That organization will no longer be something I recognize.dbsig2

I can’t fight this battle alone. What I must do is recognize any talents I have, and try. To me, that means telling the truth about what is really happening.

My hope is that you will recognize it and perhaps think of something you can do.

I Was Famous Fifty Years Ago

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My son Beau remembers everything.

He texted me a few weeks ago to tell me that June 3, 2018 is a sort of anniversary for me. I hadn’t thought about the incident for decades, but according to the calendar, he’s right. It’s been fifty years.

In fairness to my readers, I should start at the beginning, fifty years ago. I promise not to take that long to tell you the story.

It was June 3, 1968. I was seventeen years old, with my family on vacation to the west coast. We were in Disneyland. For any young people, think of Disneyland as the prequel to Disney World. Think same idea with less acreage. It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I was a young inquiring photographer in those days and I had my 35mm camera slung over my shoulder. We had been in the park several hours. It was hot. I was tired. Sometimes things happen when we least expect them. Important things.

My parents, along with my brother and sister, must have been somewhere behind me. I had pulled my camera around and was absent-mindedly fiddling with the controls as I walked slowly across an open area—I don’t remember the location, but I can see it clearly in my mind as I type this. It couldn’t have been a parking lot, not in the middle of Disneyland, but it was barren except for a very tiny building somewhere near the center. I don’t have a clear picture of it, but I remember it as almost a little shack, with a single door. In the years that have passed, I have supposed it must have been an exit from an underground passage of some kind or another.

I can still see that door opening as I walked toward it. Emerging from the tiny building was a huge man in a business suit. Maybe he wasn’t huge. Maybe I was completely not huge. He wasn’t looking at me. He looked right, then left and was moving toward me. Another huge man followed him. And another. And more. They were all moving in my direction and looking everywhere but at me. And they moved past me, quickly, as if I wasn’t even there. It happened so fast, I didn’t understand what was happening.

I had walked within ten feet of that little building when Bobby Kennedy—Senator Robert F. Kennedy—walked out of that door. I was the first person he saw. We were no more than two feet apart. Apparently his bodyguards didn’t view me as a problem. Kennedy smiled and started to extend his hand to me. Then he saw the camera in my two-fisted grip and lowered his hand. Maybe he was thinking “Camera. Smile,” because he kept grinning. There was suddenly a horde of people around us. I am sure that the muscle memory in my arms and hands raised that camera—I certainly didn’t consciously do it. I don’t think I ever got the viewfinder to my eye. I believe I took the photo from about chest level. A good photographer knows when he’s going to get the shot. Conversely, he’s also aware when he’s about to miss it.  When this happens, you point the camera and push the button now.  Kennedy and his entourage were moving very fast, and I had pushed the button not knowing whether I got the shot or not.  And then they were gone. Kennedy, his bodyguards, the crowd. All gone.

All of that happened in less than ten seconds on June 3, 1968.

Kennedy was running for President that summer. The California primary was a tight race between Kennedy and Senator Eugene McCarthy. The next day was election day for the primary. That evening, my parents were going out for dinner, and my sister and I sat in a Los Angeles hotel room, deciding where we would spend our evening. Kennedy’s organization was in the Ambassador Hotel, which was within walking distance. McCarthy’s people were in a different hotel, also close by.

I could claim that we were in the Ambassador Hotel that night and get away with it, but we weren’t. I remember thinking that I already had a photo of Kennedy, and I wanted to see if I could get McCarthy also. In retrospect, probably a wise choice.

We went to McCarthy’s rally and ultimate concession speech. I was crawling on the floor with news photographers nearMcCarthy’s podium and got some great shots of him. Security for presidential candidates was relaxed in those days. I have no idea what happened to my photos of that night.

By the time we returned to the hotel room, Kennedy had been shot in the Ambassador Hotel, and of course, you know the rest of the story. We watched it on the hotel room television.

I didn’t see the Kennedy photo until we had returned from vacation. I should point out to younger people that, in those days, you took your roll of film to the drugstore or the local photographer and waited about a week to get your photos.  It was an exercise in delayed gratification.  If you don’t know what that means, I’ll explain it to you later.

1968 Kennedy PhotographI was sort of “ok” with the shot. It’s slightly out of focus (remember I was shooting blind and in those days, only young peoples’ eyes had auto-focus.)  From a photographer’s eye, there’s a lot wrong with it. And every photographer worth his salt wants to be remembered for the shots that he actually planned and intended to take. That’s when they call you an artist. They don’t do that when your jaw has dropped and you fumble to push a button. But it’s mine and it’s real.

My mother thought that photograph was the greatest thing since sliced bread, of course. She took the photo to odbsig2ur local newspaper, the Republican-Times. And there, on the next day and on the front page, was my color photograph in living black and white.  It says I elbowed my way through the crowd.  Not true. My mom probably imagined that.  It says I was six feet away.  I was a lot closer than six feet.  Either my mom made that up too, or the news media hasn’t changed much in fifty years.

You may not believe this, but I was famous in my hometown for a couple of days. After that, I was just a nerdy kid with a camera again. My public was capricious; my fans were–there’s just no other word for it–undependable.  I became yesterday’s news. I looked at the photo lots of times that summer. Eventually, it got filed away. I have thought about it only two or three times in the last forty years. Apparently I showed it to my children at some point. Beau would remember.

And that’s how I was famous for two days fifty years ago.

More Strange Opinions

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Our local newspaper, the St. Joseph News-Press, runs a daily item titled It’s Your Call. People can phone in without being identified and say whatever they want to say. I remember the days when, if you wanted an opinion published, you had to identify yourself. You also had to be able to communicate and make sense, but that’s apparently no longer a requirement, either. I have two conclusions from all of this: People will say anything and It’s Your Call sells newspapers. In the interest of self-disclosure, I wrote this and my name’s at the top.  Here’s a sampling of what Its Your Call has given us in May:

May 3 WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?

In response to “The difference,” conservatives don’t understand. The whole issue is Democrats don’t understand there is one constant is this equation. It is the person that drives the vehicle or shoots the gun. That is the responsible party. You liberals just don’t get it.

Huh? What? I’m thinking a lot of people didn’t get it.  Was this as good for you as it was for me?

May 5 NOT FUNNY

I see Stormy Daniels is going to sue Trump for defamation. This woman is a porn star, and most of you know what that means. How are on earth can she sue the president for defamation. I would almost laugh, but I think it is sick.

Well, most of you know what that means.

May 5 UP NOT DOWN

Didn’t they say the sewer bill was going to go down? Well, mine went up $10. So, are they going to raise it up real high so when they bring it down a little it looks like they lowered it?

It’s all in the perspective, isn’t it?

May 6 NEEDING REPAIR

McDonald’s spent a great deal of money remodeling and investing in their restaurant on the North Belt across from the Highway Patrol, and now you can barely get to it from the crater-sized potholes in front of it. You would think with the highway department driving by there on their way to work, they would notice and repair them, not just a temporary fix like asphalt but actually repair the road.

I am going to suggest that McDonald’s offer the Highway Patrol free Big Macs for about two weeks. This could work.

May 7 UNDER ATTACK

Being a farmer in DeKalb County that has a giant windmill on his property and that windmill is attacked with lie after lie and now they are attacking me with slanderous remarks, I am going to name my windmill Donald Trump. This is what people do in politics.

I was sure there would be a Don Quixote reference in this, but it never arrived.

May 10 A GOOD WOMAN

I find it really hard to agree with liberals when they are always in support of someone like Stormy Daniels and the way that they talk trash on our first lady. I don’t think they would recognize a good woman if they stepped over them on the way to the bar.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of hearing about Stormy Daniels. And most of you know what that means.

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May 12 WATCH OUT, WOLVES

I’m glad to see that the state of Missouri has millions of dollars to throw away on the so-called endangered Mexican wolves. If I see one around my farm it is not  going to be endangered, it is going to be dead. I raise livestock. I have little calves and goats, and all wolves are good for is to kill them.

I think this guy is serious. I respect his right to protect his property, but couldn’t he build a wall around his farm and make the Mexican wolves pay for it?

Living The Good Lawn

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My good friends know that I have hated doing yardwork my entire life.

They know that, for most of our married life, Saint Mary does that sort of thing for us–not me.  The truth is that she enjoys working in the yard and I don’t, so she does.  I get the usual jokes from my friends about making my wife mow the lawn.  “Hey, it’s springtime. Better have Saint Mary get that mower tuned up so you can watch the game.” Etcetera.  I’ve given up trying to explain.

Our good friends Bob and Donna have their lawn and gardens displayed all over social media, and they are beautiful.  So is their lawn.

I looked at the photos of Bob and Donna’s work, and thought to myself, “I can do that.”

It turns out I can’t.  It turns out I have no business trying to be horticulturally creative.  I have learned that I shouldn’t attempt to do something unless I actually know something about it first.  I learned this lesson in my workshop.  I’m not quite sure why I didn’t remember it a hundred feet away in my lawn.  I don’t have a green thumb.  I don’t have a brown thumb.  As it turns out, when it comes to nurturing green things to life in my yard, I apparently don’t even have opposable thumbs.

In the past few years, we paid someone to mow the lawn.  We were both busy and it was just easier. When we retired, Mary said we ought to do it ourselves.  I came up with the perfect answer.  Knowing her parsimonious control of the family pocketbook, I said “Tell you what.  I’ll start mowing the lawn if I have a riding lawnmower.” And she agreed.

Gulp.

OK, so we went lawnmower shopping last year.  Knowing full well that a small, light-weight push mower could do the job in about twenty minutes at a cost of about $150, I opted for a huge riding armored tank with zero turn capability, dual handles with gears and pulleys and chrome side-pipes with smoke shooting into your atmosphere.  If there’s smog in St. Joseph, it’s probably my doing.  When I saw it on the showroom floor I fell in love.  I said “There.  That is what we need.”  Saint Mary held tightly to her purse.  I wish you could have seen the look on her face.  It was pure adoration.  I’ve seen it a lot over the years.

It’s important that you know the geography here–the lay of our land.  Our property is on a curve in the road, so it’s a wedge, a triangle, a piece of pie approximately the size of a postage stamp. This property doesn’t require mowing once a week or even once a month.  This property is small enough that you could probably walk out there and stare it into submission. The zero-turn feature turned out to be a good idea, because this machine barely fits in our lawn.  I basically have to spin it around once and my lawn is mowed. Oh, and I had to have a shed built so we had a place to put this thing.  I don’t want to say what all this cost me.  I’m pretty sure my grandchildren will get it paid.

The day they delivered this thing, I was off and running.  I think it took me about five minutes.  That didn’t seem like much fun to me.  But I discovered this lever thing.  You can use it to cut the grass higher or lower.  Well, I decided on lower.  As the summer progressed, I couldn’t wait to mow the lawn, because it had grown about a half-millimeter in my opinion and needed a light trim.  And mind you, I developed a tendency to cut my lawn about every two hours.  Got to stay ahead of the game.  That’s always been my motto since I became a lawn expert. Shorter and shorter.  Mary said “You’re cutting it too short.  You’re going to kill it.” I tried to tell her how much fun it was to mow my lawn.  She said “If that’s the case, turn the blade off and just ride around out there, Mr. Green Jeans.”

We have wonderful neighbors.  There’s Joyce on one side, Steve and Jenni on the other.  And Frank and Helen down near the point on the piece of pie.  They all have really nice-looking lawns.  I’ve noticed most of them get it done by walking.  Behind a mower.  I’m pretty sure that, when this Rube Goldberg monstrosity is whirling about my tiny homestead, with me in the cockpit, my headphone ear protection clamped on my head and my cold drink in the cupholder, they are probably saying things like “Seriously?”  and “Really?”  Yes, it embarasses me, sort of.  But I have an investment here.

Mary says she watched me on the day I hit what we now refer to as “paydirt.”  Joyce and Jenni and Steve and Helen and Frank were probably watching too.  Mary says I looked like PigPen, that character from the Peanuts cartoon strip.  She says I was actually attempting to cut dirt.  There were dust clouds swirling, sticks and rocks flying through the air.  Joe The Dog was whining.  When I finished that day, our property looked like The Grapes Of Wrath.  Oh, the humanity.

Things are calmer this year.  They are still calling us the Joads, but we’re planting our way back to social acceptance. I’m trying to coax clover and grass seed out of the ground and save us from the Dust Bowl of ’17.  We don’t really have a lawn yet.  I don’t know what to call it. Well, it’s just dirt, is what it is. But I’ll tell you this: if you get on Google Maps, you can spot our property easily.  It will pop right out at you.  It’s the thing that looks like a piece of chocolate pie on a lettuce leaf. I now spend my days looking forlornly out the window at our dirt farm.  There are actually some hints of green out there.  The neighbors are probably doing the same thing, anxiously.  Saint Mary occasionally grabs my arm and says “Steady.  Steady boy.  Not yet.”