Thoughts on Greenland

A commercial airline pilot I know, who flies regularly between New York and Amsterdam, told me the other day that he had been watching the Greenland ice cap disappear for the past decade.

“Greenland,” I said. “Now there is a place I haven’t thought about in a long, long time.”  I had probably not given Greenland a second thought since the sixth grade when I was awarded a gold star in Ms. Ogelthorpe’s geography class for correctly naming Godthab as its capital, and largest city. And I do recall my uncle telling stories about Thule Air Base, that dated back to his days in the Army Air Corps during and shortly after WWII, but that’s about it for me and Greenland.

Of course, we all know Greenland – it is that white and icy looking projectile dangling at the top of the Mercator Projection maps that hang upon the wall of every classroom throughout the world. But few of us have ever traveled there (although after doing some research, and seeing the incredible beauty of the place, I am almost ready to run out and book a flight to Godthab, or Nuuk, as the capital is now called). In any event, there is a lot more going on up in Greenland than one would think, and some of it is not pretty.

For starters, how many of us here in the U.S. know that back in April, British amateur explorer Philip Goodeve-Docker, 31, died in a storm on the ice cap while participating in a 30 day, 400 mile, trans-Greenland trek. Mr. Goodeve-Docker and two companions were participating in an unsanctioned charity event to raise funds for the Queen’s Nursing Institute, when a fierce storm called a Piteraq descended upon the party. These storms originate out on the ice cap and sweep down the eastern coast of Greenland, often with winds in the 50 to 80 mph range. In the case of the storm that descended upon Mr. Goodeve-Docker’s party, the wind speed reached 160 mph. In the face of such wind, and with temperatures in the neighborhood of -4 F, rescue by helicopter was impossible. Mr. Goodeve-Docker was able to put in a last call to his parents in Britain via satellite phone, and a rescue effort was mounted. Unfortunately not in time.

In what can only be termed an understatement, North East Hampshire coroner, Andrew Bradley, recorded Mr. Goodeve-Docker’s cause of death, as “death by misadventure”.

But back to my point about the Greenland ice cap and how this whole thing might relate to climate change. In July, an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken off from Greenland. This huge ice chunk has dislodged from the Petermann Glacier. You can read this here too. As noted in this article (for those of you who do not care for links), the University of Cambridge has determined that the rate at which these Greenland glaciers are melting has doubled over the past ten years – confirming what my airline pilot acquaintance tells me (not that I doubted the guy, if you can’t trust a pilot who can you trust).

Another ‘non-alarmist’ article, a link to which I shall post here, describes the sudden ice melt that NASA satellites have observed, with even the coldest locales experiencing a bit of a melt-down. The article goes on to say that the scientists are unable to determine whether or not the melting of the ice is due to global climate change, or due to natural causes.

So there you have it. Just a bit of news about somewhere you probably have not thought of in a long time. Perhaps we shall wish we had paid a bit more attention to far off Greenland when the Florida peninsula disappears underwater, and the date palms are sprouting just outside of Bridgeport.

Mahalo

Ed

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…wondering…a salesman’s last night on earth…

On Saturday night, Tulip called me from L.A. Some of you who have been reading EEOTPB since the beginning remember her. She is an old friend of mine who moved from Florida to California several years ago.

She asked if I could find a poem that I wrote ten or a dozen years ago. It was about a close friend of hers.

I found it.

———————–

…wondering…a salesman’s last night on earth…

…I’m wondering how it is tonight,

Out on Bass Lake, and out in Spirit Lake,

And in Grand Lake and on the Great Salt Lake,

Down in Lake Charles and out on Lake Shore Drive,

How is…

The tiny girl named Janie from the Woodsmen,

Is she making out tonight?

Did she save the napkin, or the night, or the dream,

Would we have made it without screaming, just us.

How about the others, like,

The young hooker with her scrubbed cheeks,

Loaded on George Dinkel and telling me once again,

That she had found her love and was returning,

To Pomona to attend Community College with,

Her friend from the dance company…

…nurse comes in to reload the morphine drip.

…was there a fight in Juarez, or was it the girl Cynthia,

I was waking up in the back seat of a cab – on,

The Stanton Street Bridge at dawn,

Wondering if that call had been from Harry,

Back at the Sioux Falls plant. Not caring then,

Not me because of the tremendous high.

If we sold another six hundred thousand,

Color television chassis south of the border,

I could not have cared less…or more.

I love the figures, but not the change,

Just the bottom line people back at the office,

They love when the numbers fly by quickly,

But not me…too much road time to care,

My concern is for the common people,

They say…

…they say I won’t last until dawn

…and I think of her, a young lady married to a man

Who couldn’t keep a job, and who drank each night,

Until he was oblivious to her and her cares,

Dawn. What a name for such a lady -such a timid name.

The last part of the night, the darkest part, will take him,

That’s what they say behind the curtain.

But I wait here, shackled like a tethered brood mare,

Chained to the misery of my last night on earth.

“Give ‘em Hell Harry,” I exclaim to no one in particular,

And I watch dawn break over Kansas City.

A tale of three DUIs

#1 Karlie Tomica

Occupation: bartender

There are two kinds of mistakes that we can make – the ones that can be fixed, and the ones that can’t be fixed. I thought of this as I watched the sentencing last week of 20 year old Karlie Tomica, a young Miami Beach woman found guilty in the death of 49 year old Executive Chef Stefano Riccioletti, who was walking home after work at the Miami Beach Shore Club’s Terrazzo Restaurant at about 6am on January 29th of this year.

At about the same time Mr. Riccioletti was leaving work, Ms. Tomica happened to be doing the same thing – except in the case of Ms. Tomica, she was behind the wheel of her car, and she had, by her own admission, been drinking throughout  her shift. The paths of these two Miami Beach service industry workers would soon collide in the most unfortunate of ways, when Ms. Tomica’s vehicle struck Chef Riccioletti, catapulting the father of two into the driveway of the hotel.

Perhaps either out of fear, or out of oblivious alcoholic abandon, Ms. Tomica fled the scene, leaving Mr. Riccioletti to die in the street. Good Samaritan Jairo Fuentes witnessed the crash and followed Ms. Tomica’s car, calling 911 as he pursued her through the streets of Miami Beach to her Collins Avenue apartment. It was there that police would soon arrest her.

Last week, the tearful, self-proclaimed “Party Princess”, was sentenced in a Miami courtroom to serve four years in the penitentiary, followed by two years of house arrest, followed by 15 years of probation. In addition, her driving privileges were revoked for life. Also, in a unique but thoughtful sentencing twist, she is ordered to write a check to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) each year on Stefano Riccioletti’s birthday, the amount of the check to equal the age that Mr. Riccioletti would have been on that day.

The plea bargain that Ms. Tomica accepted saved her from what was thought to be an inevitable 30 year prison sentence.

#2 Donte Stallworth

Occupation: NFL wide receiver

On the morning of March 14, 2009, my wife and I were driving my niece to a Cosmopolitan magazine photo shoot at Nikki Beach Resort in Miami Beach (yes, the same place that Karlie Tomica worked).  It was early on a Saturday morning, so the trip to Miami Beach should have been a breeze, but it wasn’t. The MacArthur Causeway, a main arterial roadway that runs between Interstate 95, and Miami Beach, was shut down due to an accident that had occurred some hours before. As we crawled through traffic we could see the empty Causeway, and we could only speculate as to the nature of the devastating event that had caused it to be closed.

By the time we returned home that evening, television news was a abuzz with details about a deadly automobile crash on the MacArthur Causeway, a crash that involved none other than NFL wide receiver, Donte Stallworth. For those of you who may not follow U.S. professional sports, Mr. Stallworth is a professional football player of some repute. As such, he has enjoyed a successful career with the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, and the Baltimore Ravens. In short, Mr. Stallworth is endowed with a great deal of athletic prowess and he has made a great deal of money on the football field.

In the early morning hours of March 14th, though, it was a severely impaired Donte Stallworth who was piloting his six-figure Bentley convertible across the MacArthur. Near the eastern end of the causeway, Mr. Stallworth struck and killed 59 year old construction worker Mario Reyes. Mr. Reyes was a crane operator who was hurrying to catch a bus home after his shift ended at a nearby work site. Reyes was, by police reports, not within the crosswalk, a fact not lost on Mr. Stallworth, who later stated that he flashed his lights at Reyes in an attempt to get him to move, as he bore down on him in his Bentley.

Toxicology reports determined that Mr. Stallworth was under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, and on April 1st, 2009 police arrested the football star on charges of DUI manslaughter. He was released the next day after posting $200,000 bail. Mr. Stallworth later accepted a plea bargain in order to avoid years of jail time. He was sentenced to 30 days in the county lockup; 1000 hours of community service; and eight years probation. In addition, he received a lifetime revocation of his driving privileges.

Mr. Stallworth was released from custody on July 9, 2009 after spending 24 days in the County Joint. After being banned from football for the entire 2009 season, Mr. Stallworth has since been reinstated and continues to play professionally.

3

#3 John Goodman

Occupation: Polo Club Mogul

Travel with me now if you will, up Florida’s Turnpike to the very horsey community of Wellington. John Goodman (no relation to actor John Goodman) certainly had it all if anyone did – and perhaps he still does. Goodman was heir to a 1.4 billion dollar fortune, amassed by his father in the air conditioning and  heating business. Mr. Goodman founded the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, a really high end kind of place that attracted the ultra-rich, and the very famous, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Sylvester Stallone and Madonna. Personally, I am not up on my polo, so I don’t know who’s playing who, or how the game is played – but I do know how it starts – lots of cash.

On the evening of February 12, 2010, Mr. Goodman was drinking heavily at a charity event. After settling up a $200 bar tab (by the way, Mr. Goodman left the bartender a $60 tip), he barreled away in his Bentley, ostensibly, as he would tell the court in later testimony, to get a Wendy’s frosty before the ‘fast-food’ restaurant closed.

Ah well, the stories we tell ourselves…

In route to “Wendy’s”, perhaps for a frosty to cleanse his palate after enjoying a number of tequila shots, Mr. Goodman severely underestimated the proximity of an intersection and ran through a stop sign, ploughing his Bentley into a Hyundai driven by a 23 year old University of Central Florida engineering student named Scott Wilson. Mr. Wilson’s Hyundai, with Mr. Wilson still inside, was ejected from the roadway into a canal (we have lots of canals in South Florida), where he subsequently drowned.

Mr. Goodman, apparently unaware of what had just happened, rushed from his totaled Bentley to the comfort of a nearby barn, where a friend maintained a “man cave”. It was here that our Polo Mogul sought solace in a number of alcoholic drinks as he attempted to regain his composure before calling authorities. Small wonder his blood alcohol level would be nearly two times the legal limit when he was arrested on DUI manslaughter charges.

In the days since, much has transpired in this case. Mr. Goodman was in jail for some time, and then was released on house arrest (house arrest being somewhat more palatable when one’s house is the size of half a county).  But this is a slow winding case. Defended by Roy Black, one of the foremost defense attorneys in the United States, the future of Mr. Goodman is still unclear.

Although he received a guilty verdict in the case, Mr. Goodman has now won a new trial. This in spite of the fact that much has marred Mr. Goodman’s case, including his adoption of his girlfriend to help shelter his children’s assets from forfeiture. Fortunately for Mr. Goodman, a juror from his trial came forward with a confession that that juror had been less than forthright when being interviewed for a seat on the jury. Apparently, said juror’s wife had a DUI which the juror had failed to mention in the pre-selection interview.

Now all bets are off as Mr. Goodman looks forward to a second trial. He knows what he is doing. He has already paid a massive amount of money to his victim’s family (reported, but not confirmed to be, 46 million dollars). He has the best representation, and the best accommodations. He has also probably sheltered a fortune for the day he anticipates walking free.

As of this writing Mr. Goodman remains under house arrest in his Wellington, Florida mansion under 4 million dollars bail.

*

So there you have it. The story of the three DUIs here in Florida. All began with one common denominator – excess and recklessness. Three people are dead – all of them had years of life ahead.

Make of this what you will.

So I conclude…

Leave the last one on the bar my friend,

And call a cab.

Mahalo

Ed

Disappearing fishing tackle sparks my short rant on Wal-Mart…

So there I was, last week, at my local sports equipment store. It is a chain store near my house that I go to on a regular basis, although I don’t need much of what they sell there. I don’t golf, my bad knees forced me off of the running circuit years ago, and I am far too old to need football pads, or baseball cleats. I go to this particular store for one thing only – fishing tackle. And they stock lots of it, or at least they did. That is why I was so surprised when I stopped by the other day to replenish my supply of 2 ounce pyramid sinkers, and found their once packed shelves were nearly empty…devoid of tackle.

Frustrated, I  hailed a young store employee to find out what was going on with the fishing tackle.

“We’re not stocking ‘fishing stuff’ any more,” he said, sounding almost happy about it. Then he waved his hand at the few rods that were still standing in their vertical holders, and the nearly empty racks where lures and spoons and hooks were once displayed, and the empty shelves that once held a multitude of tackle boxes, bait bubblers and sand flea rakes.

“Why would you get rid of the fishing tackle?” I asked.

He shot me one of those, isn’t-it-obvious looks, and then he replied. “We need more room for the Lacrosse gear.”

“Lacrosse gear,” I snorted, “you’re kidding me. This is South Florida – sport fishing capital of the world. The Fishing Hall of Fame is a few miles down the road. And you’re clearing out the fishing equipment to make room for Lacrosse gear? Where are we supposed to go now for rods and tackle?”

“Try Wal-Mart,” he said over his shoulder as he walked away, “they have about everything we have.”

“Wal-Mart,” I said. “I never shop at…,” but the young sales associate was long gone.

Of course I was about to ask him why a seemingly bright young man like himself, would possibly direct a customer to Wal-Mart. Didn’t he realize that as goes the fishing gear, so go the propane stoves, tents, and overpriced sneakers? The golf clubs, weight sets and treadmills will soon follow. In another year he’ll be directing disillusioned young lacrosse players to the Wal-Mart Super Store two miles up the highway, and shortly after that he may find himself filling out an employment application at aforementioned store…doesn’t he know that!

Wal-Mart, with roughly 2,200,000 employees (2011 figures), is the number one private employer in not only the United States, but the entire world. And frankly, I could care less if they had ten million workers, as long as they made some halfhearted attempt to pay them better. Their anti-worker message is articulated clearly in the recent events going on up in our nation’s capital. Scheduled to open six new stores in D.C., Wal-Mart axed plans to open three of them based upon the D.C. City Council’s elevation of the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour for so called ‘big box’ stores. Big box stores being defined as those stores with floor space in excess of 75,000 square feet and annual revenues of over 1 billion dollars.

Since by some estimates, each Wal-Mart worker displaces 1.4 local workers it only seems right to me that they pay their workers a livable wage, whether $12.50 per hour is a livable wage in the D.C. metro area is debatable.

In vast areas of the United States, especially in the rural areas of the Midwest, Rocky Mountain West and South, the appearance of a Wal-Mart Super Center is viewed with the same tepid enthusiasm that accompanies news that a new prison is coming to town. It may not be exactly the industry that they want, but at least it will bring jobs. At least their young people will have somewhere to go to earn a paycheck…you know those young people, the ones that for a multitude of reasons are unable to pack up and leave for greener pastures as a good Republican friend of mine suggested to me recently.

And bring jobs it shall, and they shall be derived from the displaced workers that once owned and staffed local businesses.

Or so this seems to me.