My post vacation thoughts…

civil_defense_manualThis blog has suffered greatly these past couple of weeks, as professional demands, as well as lack thereof, have taken a toll on my writing schedule. Translated, that means that after working like hell for quite a while, I went on an eight-day vacation and didn’t write a line. Seldom do I vacate for eight entire days, but this year was an exception, and although I did not travel far (only 125 miles up the Florida coast), I was officially, ‘away’, and when I am ‘away’ I try not to touch a computer keyboard. This year I almost made it through without touching fingers to keys, and if it were not for the need to post an item for sale on Craigslist, I would have succeeded in keeping my vacation ‘computer free’.

I also try not to watch too much network news. I mean is there really any need to be completely informed on all matters at all times. Since there is little threat these days that ‘The Big One’ will be dropped on us at any time, I see no need to stay connected to international affairs 24/7. I recall reading a Civil Defense book that we had in our home when I was a child. I remember the chilling photos of the mushroom cloud rising over a distant city, as a family hunkered down in their well stocked fallout shelter, hopefully safe from annihilation in a wake of a gazillion megaton nuclear blast, that in reality would have vaporized them along with their supply of canned tomatoes and bottled water.

This particular Civil Defense guide went on to suggest that farmers take transistor radios to the fields with them during times of international tension, in order to monitor unfolding events. Presumably, they would be able to get the tractor tucked safely in the barn, should a flight of ICBMs be tracked coming in over the pole. Ludicrous indeed. As time went on, and the sixties unfolded into the seventies, these Civil Defense guides disappeared as we all accepted the grim reality that in event of such a man-made doomsday, there would be few, if not, any survivors.

Today, we seem to have little to fear from sudden and complete annihilation of the North American continent, however, our lives seem to be no more or less safe from destruction by events beyond our control.

The Orlando, Florida television stations, in the beachside community where I spent last week, preempted local news in lieu of live coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman, the armed community watch volunteer who seemed to go prepared for trouble, found it, and dealt with it using deadly force, is on trial for (what is effectively) his life. Meanwhile, the distraught family of the unarmed teenager felled by his bullet plead for justice. So it is a dangerous world, where walking in the wrong place, at the wrong time can mean deadly consequences. We are an armed nation, and there are lots of people packing heat and not afraid to use it – or maybe they just use it if they are afraid, who knows. Fortunately, this trial is coming to a head, and shortly justice will be served – hopefully.

Word of the tragic death of 19 Arizona firefighters came to me not over a network news station, but via The Weather Channel (TWC), as I tuned in one morning to ascertain whether or not the line of storms off of the Atlantic coast was a threat to the day’s fishing. I immediately turned to an NBC news report, delivered over my phone.

Finally, the crash of an airliner in San Francisco distracted me from fishing and beach.  As I paused to think for a moment about the two young girls who lost their lives in this ‘routine’ flight, and to consider how vulnerable we all are as we shoot through the skies from city to city aboard a mode of transport deemed safer than driving. Unlike the crash of the commuter plane in Buffalo a few years ago, in which the experience of the pilots is coming into question, this jet from Korea to the US had four pilots aboard for this long-haul international flight. The fact that it could crash upon landing, on a clear day, after making a successful flight across the Pacific Ocean is beyond belief.

The cause of this crash will take aviation experts, of which I am not one, months to investigate before a cause is determined. What I do find interesting is the news media’s continuing disbelief that the shaken passengers took time to gather personal possessions (even duty-free bags), before exiting the burning aircraft, as if these oblivious survivors put Ipods and scotch above human life as they malingered to gather earthly possessions. More than likely, these passengers were is shock in the few minutes immediately after dropping onto that San Francisco runway. I wrote a bit about this several years ago in an article about surviving a plane crash. You can read it here if you like.

So that’s it for now. Vacation is over, and I am back working and blogging. I am thinking about the fragility of life. As a new tropical disturbance crawls through the Caribbean I find myself thinking of how quickly our situations can change. If we are alive and relatively healthy we should consider ourselves lucky.

Stay safe.



Remembering the Draft

Sometime back, during the Vietnam-war-torn year of 1969, a young California man named Dwight Stone went to his mailbox and opened a letter (much like this one) from the United States Selective Service. The letter began:


You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States…”

Similar letters were received by more than 1.7 million other young men during the Vietnam War era of  1965 – 1973. Needless to say, such letters were met with varying reactions, ranging from quiet submission to fleeing the country for life in Canada, or Sweden. If you were a U.S. citizen, and a young man between the ages of 18 and 25 you had a draft card (unless you burned it as a few did in protest to the war), you were well acquainted with your local draft board, and you had plans to either volunteer for service, or to postpone service by obtaining a draft deferment. In any case, the thought of being swept off to fight in what was fast becoming a very unpopular conflict was a real possibility.

Mr. Stone, being little different than many young men his age, was less than enthusiastic about military service. As a man of little means, Mr. Stone lacked the funds to leave the country. In the words of Mr. Stone himself:

“I [sic] ain’t no Rockefeller.”

In the African-American, inner city community in which Mr. Stone lived, the war, by his own account, was not popular. As a poor man of little influence, he felt that his odds of ending up on the front lines, and returning to the States in a body bag was great indeed. Much greater than those whose families could afford to send their sons to college, thus gaining them an educational deferment, or to buy them a ticket out of the country.

So he did what he could. For three years, he attempted to avoid induction at all costs, including a failed attempt at a student exemption. When that didn’t work,  Mr. Stone went into hiding. Finally, with the U.S. Government nipping at his heels, an exhausted and frustrated Mr. Stone called his local draft board and turned himself in.

On June 30, 1973, Mr. Stone was inducted into the U.S. Army, thus earning him the distinction of being the last man drafted into the U.S. Military. This Sunday, we ‘celebrate’ the fortieth anniversary of Mr. Stone’s induction. Perhaps all for the best, no young man has been ordered to report since. One has to wonder if it were not for the unpopular Vietnam War, if we would not be calling young men (and perhaps young women) up today for service.

While young men have been drafted since the Civil War, the draft that spanned the Vietnam War period had actually been in place since 1940. Throughout the peacetime years of the late 1950s, men continued to be called for service, including perhaps America’s most famous draftee, Elvis Presley. Elvis reported for duty on March 24, 1958, after receiving his “Greetings” letter sometime around Christmas of 1957, while celebrating the holidays at Graceland. Of course there were few bullets flying in those days. The Cold War was in full swing though, and with the threat of global nuclear annihilation looming over us all, The King packed off to basic training. After basic, he shipped out to Friedberg, Germany where he served honorably in the 3rd Armor Corps’ 32n’d Tank Battalion, Company D.

By the time Elvis mustered out of service on March 2, 1960, to return to the recording career that had been kept alive by Col. Tom Parker, he had achieved the rank of sergeant, met a young girl named Priscilla Beaulieu, who he would eventually marry, and become a role model for countless young men who would come to view military service as a patriotic obligation.

In the years since, much has been made of Elvis’ off-base life style, where he lived with family, and entertained in comparative luxury compared to his fellow soldiers. While this is true, I still find it difficult to imagine any of today’s recording artists (think Justin Bieber), reporting for duty and shipping out for Iraq, or Afghanistan (no disrespect to ‘The Biebs’ intended). Times have changed far too much, and while we rightly rush to thank our servicemen and servicewomen for their service, a draft that would conscript a young person of Justin Bieber’s celebrity would be almost unthinkable.

So I am thinking about the draft today. Actually, I have thought about it on other days too, especially during the early days of the Iraq war. For a time, as it became increasingly evident that the rationale for this conflict was being framed using some very shaky facts, I wondered if the public would be more questioning of our involvement, if the draft were still in place. I remembered a saying I once heard that describes my feeling succinctly: “Let’s fight. Here, I’ll hold your coat”.

Oh yes, getting back to Mr. Stone. It seems he actually came to enjoy military life. He did his basic training at Ft. Polk in Louisiana, and after further training went on to become an electronics repairman at Ft. Richie, Maryland. Mr. Stone served honorably, and was discharged after serving 17 months. Today Dwight Stone works with disadvantaged youth in Sacramento, California. In a 1993 interview with the Seattle Times, Mr. Stone said:

“Serving your country is not a bad idea, as long as you include everybody,”

I have nothing more to add to that statement.



Thoughts on Government surveillance

“If this government ever became a tyranny … the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government … is within the reach of the government to know.” – Senator Frank Church

If you are not wondering what the hell is going on with our government these days, or what the hell the government is doing to us, or where the hell all of this is going to lead, then you haven’t been paying attention. But make no mistake about it, this Big Brother, Big Government, Snoop/Spying/Prying into our lives started a long time before a 29 year old Booz Allen Hamilton hacker copied off a stack of his employer’s classified documents and flew west, leaving both his clandestine job and glamorous girlfriend in the jet vapors.

Citizens are now blogging, commenting, tweeting, and using all forms of media to express their shock and disdain for the apparent intrusion of the United States government into their personal lives. The scandal rages. Techie type analysts scramble to educate the masses about the nuances of government eavesdropping, hoping that perhaps a better understanding of ‘metadata’ will help assuage the concerns of The Public. Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the aforementioned hacker, remains ensconced in a luxury Hong Kong hotel room, sitting high atop his stack of stolen documents as he lashes out at  the Obama Administration for its failings:

“Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge…”

So how could such a condition come about? What of those great ‘checks and balances’ that we learned about in our tenth grade American Government classes? Aren’t those supposed to save us from tyranny? Or, perhaps it was the Bush Administration that set us upon this road to Orwellian doom.

Perhaps a good place to begin to understand our recent condition is by reading “The Puzzle Palace”, by James Bamford, an amazingly insightful and well researched book about the National Security Agency (NSA). This book takes the reader inside the NSA’s Ft. Meade, Maryland facility and documents in detail, the NSA’s intrusive, albeit effective, role in monitoring, if not influencing, international events, including the Iran-Contra affair, the downing of KAL flight 007 over the Kamchatka Peninsula by the Soviets, and the first Gulf War. It is important to note that this book was published in 1983.

Have our God-given rights been taken from us, in one fell swoop. Did the erosion start with a Republican President riding a nationwide ‘save-us-at-all-costs’ attitude that came about as a result of  the worst terrorist attack on our soil in history? Were those same policies given a wink and a nod by our current POTUS?

I think that the march of the government into our personal lives has not happened suddenly. It is just that are many more opportunities today for governmental abuse of power. In 1983, the internet was, for the average citizen, non-existent. Today we have cellular phones that revel our whereabouts, Facebook pages that record the minutia of our daily lives, and Linkedin pages that document business associates, and organizations. Mysterious magnetic strips on credit cards, and driver’s licenses, hold facts about us that sometimes even spouses do not know about. Our medical histories, where we spend our money, and where we travel to from the assumed anonymity of our computers, is all meticulously recorded and available for tracking should the ends justify the means.

This did not happen overnight. Many of us have remained silent for decades, not taking the opportunity to lash out when we could. Perhaps requiring urine testing as a condition of employment for even the most low-level, non-governmental position, was an intrusion we could have stopped had the outrage been great enough. But as a friend of mine smugly told me after submitting to such a test in order to get a relatively mundane clerical position, “I have nothing to hide. They can test me all they want.”

Meanwhile, in a report that I read today, Mr. Snowden still remains in hiding in his Hong Kong hotel, doing what he believes to be right and waiting for the fallout. Interesting, in a brief description of his days in hiding, it is reported that when he logs into his laptop, he does so under a hood, so as not to give the prying eyes of the NSA the opportunity to discern his password. And so the paranoia shall grow.



Thoughts on Hurricane Season 2013

I have not blogged in a few days, having been tied up with paying pursuits. Before I went away though, I’d started a piece about the beginning of hurricane season 2013. It is quite an event for us in the tropics, so I guess I shall continue…

At that time, tropical storm Andrea was forming off of the West Coast of Florida, churning up deadly rip-currents, tornadoes and floods. Andrea has sinced passed across Florida and raced up the East Coast toward the recovering shores of New Jersey, after which, she went on up to New England before finally crossing into Canada, where she snuffed out power to about 4000 in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Here on Florida’s Gold Coast – a good distance from Andrea, there was considerable storm damage. Considerable if you were one of the unfortunate few whose homes were destroyed by the Andrea spawned tornadoes. From Loxahatchee up in Palm Beach County, to Marathon down in the Keys, people felt the effect of Andrea, and it has caused plenty of us in this part of FLA to think back to 2005. We think about Katrina, who passed us by with just a slap of her hand across our cheek, before turning hell-bent into the Gulf of Mexico, gathering strength in the warm Gulf waters in order to do her nightmarish dirty-work on the low lying Gulf Coast, before she destroyed New Orleans.

A few months later in that same year, we felt the brunt of Wilma, a particularly nasty storm that churned up out of Jamaican waters in October, becoming the fastest Atlantic storm in recorded history to reach Category 5 status, going on to leave 62 dead and 28.8 billion in damages in her wake, making Wilma was third worst hurricane to hit the U.S.

Of course there were others – like Ophelia, the little tease that sat offshore for days, leaving South Florida beaches in tatters before finally turning her fickle attention to the Carolinas where she, in her own good time, devastated the coast from Cape Fear to the Outer Banks, racking up 70 million in damages and leaving three dead.

There are so many hurricanes rattling around in my recent memory it’s hard to keep them straight. There was Rita and Charlie, and Dennis, and a score of others. And then there were those  who didn’t touch our U.S. shores, but went on to devastate our neighbors to the south, in the Caribbean, and along the coast of Mexico. And then of course, as some of the ‘old timers’ will tell you, often in hushed tones — there was Andrew — the first storm of the 1992 hurricane season — Andrew the stalker, who waited until August 24 of that year to unleash his deadly fury, coming ashore on Elliot Key, before taking deadly aim on the mainland Monroe County cities of Florida City and Homestead.

So I was thinking of all of this the other today, as I was tinkering with my generator, gapping the plug and checking the fuel filter, digging in the junk drawer for D batteries and wondering if I have enough drinking water stockpiled should one of the projected 13 to 20 named storms head this way. I was also thinking about climate change and why we still have people who deny that such man made change is occurring – in spite of the fact that NASA and NOAA and the vast majority of the scientists in the friggin’ world agree that man made climate change is real and ongoing.

Of course, I realize that terrible storms have lashed the earth for eons. The Caribbean is, in fact, awash with sunken 17th and 18th Century Spanish gold, the ships carrying such treasure having gone down in dreadful hurricanes then unnamed. So there have been powerful hurricanes forever, but could it be that things are becoming more extreme?

In my native Midwest, a 700 hundred mile long ‘derecho’ recently formed. A terrible windstorm that wreaked havoc from the Mississippi River all the way to the East Coast of the U.S. A derecho (derecho being Spanish for ‘straight’) is somewhat the opposite of a tornado, which is a twisting wind.  Derechos are, therefore, a big straight wind – sort of a land hurricane. Derechos are  nothing new either, the first recorded one occurring in Iowa in July of 1877. I am sure that there were countless ‘big-straight-winds’  in the countless centuries that followed the last ice age, some fierce and deadly. But I don’t recall 700 mile long derechos. Nor do I recall tornado shelters in Des Moines shopping malls like they have today (not that it’s such a bad idea).

So now, those of us in the tropics turn a wary eye to the Weather Channel’s Tropical Update. Later in the season we will watch the tropical waves tracking off of the coast of Africa, each wave micro-analyzed with the latest high tech equipment and satellite imagery, and we wonder how we ever survived without 24 hour cable, let alone television itself.

Meanwhile our friends in the Heartland remain vigilant for more deadly storms dipping down from the clouds, recent memory of the tragedy in Oklahoma fresh in the minds of all, while along the Jersey Shore our family and friends now draw an uneasy breath in Andrea’s wake, the painful memory of Sandy still fresh in their minds.

Keep an eye to the sky and stay safe.



Climate of fear in the Sunshine State…

For those who think that life in South Florida consists of lazy days at the beach, sipping poolside Mai Tais, or partying till dawn with South Beach hipsters and celebrities, while the rest of the country shivers in the cold and shovels snow, you will be pleased to find out that there is plenty of gloom and doom here, just like everywhere else.

Giant pythons, released by irresponsible reptile enthusiasts now slither through the Everglades; African killer bees, introduced by well-intended, but sadly mistaken, Brazilian scientists, are on the swarm; and now we face the invasion of the Giant Snails. Yes, I said Giant Snails. You can read about them here. To make matters even worse, the 2013 hurricane season is only days away, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicting an active to extremely active season. The names of the upcoming storms have been posted, and one has to wonder which one (if any) will be retired in the wake of loss of life, and devastation, as have the names Katrina, and most recently, Sandy.

So with all this stuff out there to scare the beejesuz out of us, do we really need yet another government program to put us even more on edge than we already are? Apparently, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office believes that we do. The recently instituted, Community Partners Against Terrorism (CPAT) program, has been recently rolled out, complete with a sampling of the kind of behavior that we law abiding citizens should be on the lookout for. Among the behaviors we should be watching for, according to CPAT, are people taking pictures of bridges without a person in the picture.  One would think a savvy terrorist would simply deflect undo attention from his or her plot by simply placing a fellow terrorist in front of the camera.

In any case, I am starting to wonder if we really, really, need to be reminded to be on the lookout for just damned near anyone doing anything that we don’t do ourselves. A rowboat with a man lashing a package to the girders of a bridge certainly demands a call to the authorities, but to think that a hapless tourist, or student, or even some blogger like me, looking for a quick jpeg to upload for a paper, or blog, is at risk of being questioned by Sheriff’s deputies as to his or her motive is startling . And yes, I know that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear, and I don’t necessarily agree with that line of thought. There is plenty to fear when a fear induced police state impinges on the rights of an individual to conduct a peaceful activity in a public place.

New York City, perhaps numero uno in the list of likely terrorist targets, and undeniably the site of the most tragic terrorist attack on U.S. soil, is home to some of the most photographed bridges and buildings in the world, as is San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.

Perhaps in the wake of the tragedy in Boston earlier this year, we are all a bit more on edge, at least at public events and in public places. A week or so after the Boston Marathon bombing, I was at a large South Florida shopping mall. It was lunch time and the food court was filled with people. I couldn’t help but notice a young man rushing through the mall lugging a backpack. A half dozen people stopped what they were doing and  watched him pass with eyes riveted. One lady looked absolutely terrified. Suspicious? I thought not – but then again,  his activities were probably as suspicious as some guy taking a picture of a bridge. Here’s the non sequitur – young men with backpacks were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing, therefore young men with backpacks are terrorists – that’s paranoia setting in.

A short time later, I spotted the young man with the backpack riding a bicycle, turning onto the campus of Florida Atlantic University, a mile down the road. Obviously, he was a young college student late for a class and had to stop at the mall for something or other. Since bicycles do not offer a secure compartment into which one can lock ones valuables, the young student was therefore forced to lug his backpack through the mall.

So there you go, and that’s what I am thinking about today – at what point do the vigilant  become the paranoid? I am thinking of other things too, but I don’t want to come off too grumpy. I think the early arrival of the rainy season is affecting my mood, so enough for now; dark storm clouds are on the horizon, and I have got to go prepare for Hurricane Season.

Stay alert – stay safe – stay sane.



My final gun control post…Adolphus Busch IV dumps on the NRA

The last time that I blogged about gun control, I told myself that it was the absolute last time that I was going down that rabbit hole, there being so many topics out there that interest me more than the stupidity going on in Washington, D.C. For that reason, along with a few other reasons that I shall not go into here, I felt that pouring yet more frustrated rhetoric, out into the blogosphere would be, simply put, pointless.  But here I go again…

Personally, I do not have strong feelings about gun ownership or gun owners, per se, as I am not anti-gun. I do not, however, as of this writing, own any weaponry as there is nothing that I care to shoot. I gave up hunting animals at an early age when I discovered that I got little joy from killing them, and my fear of the human species has not yet ‘red-lined’ at a level that I feel the need to arm-up to protect myself and my family (naivety being akin to bliss).

I am well aware that many people hunt legally for sport, and people in remote areas often keep guns for protection from four footed vermin as well as two. Still others in urban areas feel the need for guns, for a variety of reasons, some of them valid, and others not so much. I have no quarrel with any of them. I would hope never to see the day that I could not legally purchase a gun in the U.S., should I want to own one. And I am not a gun illiterate. I know the difference between a pistol and a revolver, a breech loaded shotgun vs. a pump model, and I know that .40 caliber ammo is not as easily obtained as .45 caliber. But I also know one other thing about guns…they are damned dangerous.

In the hands of the homicidal, the suicidal, and the genocidal, guns are capable of inflicting great harm quickly. You need to know what you are doing when it comes to guns, so making certain that only the right people get to own them is really important. It is also really important that once the right people own them, they hang onto them, and they don’t peddle them to just anybody with a wad of cash. So it goes without saying that I was more than a little disappointed last week, when the gun control bill, proposed by President Obama (and backed by lots of other people , Democrats and Republicans alike), floundered like a sick panfish on the floor of the United States Senate.

“Well, I expected that to happen,” I said to my wife when I heard the news. “No blogging about gun control for me.”

“Why not,” she asked.

“Because the gun thing is a dead horse,” I said, “and nobody wants to continue to beat one of those. Then I read about Adolphus Busch IV.

Adolphus Busch IV, the brewing company heir, recently rescinded his membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA), thus inspiring me to write here again about guns and their control, or lack thereof. I mean, if a brewing company magnate has the moxy (not the word I really wanted to use, but you get the impression), to stand up to the National Rifle Association, then I owe the issue one more blog.

Mr. Busch recently renounced his NRA membership with a scathing letter to that organization that read, in part:

“I fail to see how the NRA can disregard the overwhelming will of its members who see background checks as reasonable.”

Perhaps if we had more gun owners of Mr. Busch’s mettle, some sanity might one day settle upon our Nation. Mr. Busch further noted that today’s NRA is quite unlike the NRA that he had joined back in 1975, an organization that was formed to protect the interests of hunters and gun owners. Today’s NRA, according to Mr. Busch, looks nothing like that, and has instead morphed into a special interest lobbying group for arms and ammunition manufacturers. His observation mirrors my own. As I recall the NRA of the late seventies, it did not wield the power it has today, and seemed to be primarily concerned with gun safety issues, like keeping hunters from accidentally shooting each other on hunting excursions. Or so it seemed.

This is all I have to say on this issue for now, and I will remain silent on gun issues henceforth. There are other BIG issues to address: more poetry in honor of National Poetry Month, giant snails are invading Broward County Florida, and Obama is hijacking an asteroid. Not to mention that I have found an issue upon which I completely agree with Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida…need I drone on…



Thoughts on the Marathon

In November 1983 I ran in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. Back then, the Marine Corps Marathon was only in its eighth year of existence. In that year, a comparatively paltry field of 8,604 runners showed up to run a race that followed a serpentine 26.2 mile course through the streets of the U.S. Capital. Considering that last year, 23,518 runners completed the race, the streets back in 1983 must have been relatively deserted.

Less than halfway through the race, I thought that I was finished, as my blood, perhaps thinned by training runs in the warm Florida sunshine, seemed to be slowly coagulating in the frigid winds that swept in across Haines Point, in Washington, D.C.’s East Potomac Park. My muscles tightened, and my fingers became too numb to feel the cold. My ears burned and a stiff headwind seemed to freeze the tears that welled up in the corner of my eyes.

Race officials pulled me into a tent for observation, thinking I was borderline hypothermic, and it looked for awhile as though I would be crossing the finish line courtesy of the straggler pick-up bus. But the short respite from the cold, along with a few sips of hot tea, revitalized my body and restored my determination to continue, so I slipped out of the tent and back into the race. A fortuitous change in wind direction, and a course that led back toward the warmer streets of the city were undoubtedly responsible for my eventual crossing of the finish line under my own power.

It was a day in my life that I recall with amazing clarity, probably due to the large amount of oxygen surging through my blood stream, and into my brain. By the halfway point of the race, the so called, ‘runner’s-high’ had set in, and even the drab, grey skies over Washington seemed crisp and colorful.

I most recall the cheering crowds that lined the streets along the course. As we ran down Constitution Avenue, the halfway point of the race, someone called out that the winner had finished. In my quasi-hypothermic, runner’s-high state of mind, it is difficult to put into words, how devastating that knowledge was to me. It was not that I had any illusion of winning, or coming close to winning. But to think that the winner had already crossed the finish line, received his trophy, posed for a press photo-op, and was by now probably having a late brunch at the Crystal City Marriott was mentally crippling. For a few seconds I wanted to quit. But I didn’t…

Had I been on a course by myself, I think that I really would have quit, but I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by dozens of other determined runners. And then there were the crowds – hundreds of people lined the Constitution Avenue shouting words of encouragement — two hours after the winners had passed. The energy that I picked up from the crowd that day was indescribable. I went on to finish the race, albeit half frozen and dead tired, but I did finish.

In reflecting upon the tragedy in Boston on Monday, I have to wonder if the Marathon will ever be quite the same. Of course, the Marathon as an event will survive. Marathon runners are a hardy lot, and today’s marathons are huge moneymaking events. But I hope that we will not be forced to view future Marathons with the same kind of trepidation that we do making an airline flight. I hope that marathon fans of the future will not be relegated to fortified viewing areas. I hope that we will not react with some of the same knee-jerk reactions like we did in the days following 911, when we enacted laws that did little to actually protect the public. I hope that we will be able to protect marathon participants and spectators while still preserving the spirit of the event. This I hope…



A farewell to Roger Ebert…Reflections on the Atomic Bar…

The other day, when I heard the news of Robert Ebert’s death, I had one of my ‘mortality moments’.  I have mentioned ‘mortality moments’ before in this blog, most notably regarding the passing of John Glenn and George McGovern. Mortality moments are when someone, usually a celebrity, and usually someone that you have not given a whole lot of thought to in awhile, but whose name is a household word — that kind of person, leaves this world behind. All of a sudden you realize that humans are not meant to stay here indefinitely. You think that if ______________ is gone (fill in the blank), then it is not inconceivable that my day will be here before I know it and I should, therefore, make good use of the time I am allotted.

Roger Ebert, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1974 was not someone who I had thought a lot about recently, although I did hear that he had battled cancer for some years. Though I was not a huge Roger Ebert fan, if someone walked up to me on the street and asked me to name a movie critic, I would say Roger Ebert. If they asked me to name a second I would say Gene Siskel and if pressed for a third I probably couldn’t come up with another name. This is possibly because I am not a huge movie buff, but I am a huge fan of good criticism and when it is professionally delivered by someone of Mr. Ebert’s caliber, it can be quite entertaining and useful. This leads me to question the future of movie critics in general. With journalists abandoning the profession in droves, is it possible that ‘movie critic’ will one day be added to the ever growing list of obsolete professions, alongside Boomsquires, Lamplighters and Town Criers. I think it is possible.

Reviews abound today on everything from books, to movies, to computers, and toasters, just name it, everyone is becoming a reviewer. Before I purchase a book, I usually read the reviews on Amazon, reviews that were made by people who have simply read the book, and now thanks to the internet, have a platform upon which to cast their proverbial thumbs up, or thumbs down. A gentleman I know, who has published a number of novels, insists that a spate of negative reviews on his recently released book is due to his recent divorce, his ex-wife and her friends being the culprits in the negative comment flurry.

In any case, Mr. Ebert published a very moving essay, regarding his thoughts on his impending death. This essay has been all over the internet of late, but I will provide a link here  for those who may not have read it. It is required reading for those who feel that they themselves will one day die.  Although I do not subscribe to Mr. Ebert’s conviction that nothing exists beyond death, I can offer no evidence to the contrary.


My friend Tulip called the other night. Tulip used to live in Plantation, Florida, but she lives out in Los Angeles now and is applying to enter a Film Studies, PhD program. She asked if I still had a poem that I wrote some years ago, back in the late 90’s. The poem was written in the far hours of the morning, on the back of a cocktail napkin, just outside of the bowling alley at the now defunct and demolished Showboat Casino on the Boulder Strip in Las Vegas. I haven’t touched the poem since I wrote it, and I reprint it now in its original gin-stained condition — for Tulip:

The Atomic Bar

Past the Boulder Highway,

Over on Santa Fe,

Light years off the Strip,

Lydia stands on the Atomic Bar.

Yells: “don’t mess with Texas”,

She sings a cowboy song.

It’s a sad state for her native state.

It’s a sad state for her current state.

No harm is ever done in the desert.

No harm done to the present,

She’s bad news says Glenn,

The California Biker turned,

Full time Atomic Bomb.

Said he wanted to move to Saba,

But came here to do it right.

Sold his bike in Fresno.

When he gave into it.

No time like the present.

He lives in it, and drinks it in all day.

But he respects it always. Takes it for what it is.

He picks up a six pack of Coors silos,

Next door at the liquor store, then,

He walks off into the night.

He knows, long nights are often,

Just around forever. Bike’s gone.

Sugar’s gone. Atomic Bar is open,

All night long, every day.

New faces. Some come in painted.

Like figures on the wall,

Night refugees down from the Nugget.

Lydia says Greg Allman makes,

Her life worth living.

She’s sinking fast,

At the Atomic Bar.


Or at least that’s how I remember that night…



Medical weed on the ropes in FLA…Bong ban goes into effect July 1

I suspect that some of you may imbibe from time to time in a bit of the ganja as you surf the blogosphere. For that reason, I thought that a few words about what is going on here in Florida may be of some interest to you, regardless of where you reside.

Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I am not a pot apologist. I am far from it, but I do think that the drug laws in the United States need to be overhauled. Especially those laws related to marijuana. So let it be known that I am not a cannabis user. At least I don’t plan to use it unless I find myself afflicted with one of several chronic diseases, the pain of which seems to be markedly lessened by a daily dose of marijuana (a joint or two).

Should I find myself in constant pain brought on by one of these diseases, I would think that I would have enough to worry about, without being concerned that the authorities could descend upon my home at any time and seize my plants. The plants that I had nurtured since they were seedlings in the privacy of my own home; the ones that I lovingly cared for in the privacy of my own home; so that when they were mature, I could pluck forth a few leaves and dry them, and then in the privacy of my own home, smoke said leaves, and in so doing achieve some relief from the pain associated with my disease.

You’d think…

Which brings me to Parris, Florida resident, Cathy Jordan. The 62 year old Jordan suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Confined to a wheelchair and barely able to speak, Ms. Jordan, with the help of her husband, Bob, grows her own marijuana, or at least she used to grow it, until deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s office raided her home and confiscated her plants, seedlings and all.

Ms. Jordan, who is a high-profile activist for legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, was given three to five years to live back in 1986. Today, by her own admission, she has outlived many of the doctors who treated her – a fact that she attributes to her daily cannabis regimen.

Today, Senate Bill 1250, the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, is slogging its way through the Florida legislature, probably not destined to become law anytime soon, if ever. If enacted, this law would have allowed folks like Ms. Jordan to legally grow up to 8 marijuana plants for personal use. Frankly, it does not look good for this important legislation during this session. If you reside here in the Sunshine State and you believe that this measure is important enough to warrant a few minutes of your time, please contact your state legislator and voice your support.

But do not think our Florida lawmakers are sitting on their hands waiting for the session to end, oh no.  They have pushed through a new law to take effect on July 1, 2013 to help protect us from the evils of pot. As of that date we Floridians shall be forbidden to purchase ‘bongs’, or those pipes especially sold to smoke weed. Well…they are sort of banned. Sale of bongs is now relegated to only those establishments that derive 75 percent of their income from selling tobacco products.



Thoughts on: Messin’ with stuff for the sake of messin’ with stuff

Okay, I’ll admit it. I got up on the wrong side of the keyboard today and I am not feeling my usual self. I think what is galling me today are people who want to change things just for the sake of changing them. Sometimes we like to have a little stability in this world – what’s wrong with that.

One guy who knows what I mean is right-wing webmaster, extraordinaire, Matt Drudge. Now I don’t buy into Matt’s particular brand of politics, in fact he and I are polar opposites in that arena. But one thing you have to say about the guy, he knows how to run a website. One look at the Drudge Report and you’ll think that it’s 1993 again and you’ve just logged onto the internets with your brand new Gateway 386 using a 300 baud dial up modem. He’s kept that same format for years and has been very successful with it. Oh I know, recently he’s been sneaking in some color glossies, but he’s still got the same gazillion links to every online newspaper and syndicated columnist in existence. Republican, Democrat, Tea Partier, or Earth Firster, we all end up at Drudge, and he’s taken it all the way to the bank.

Another guy who knew something about leaving things alone was Henry Ford. The famous Ford logo with the scripted company name ‘Ford’ was first devised back in 1912 and although it underwent numerous changes throughout the years, it remained very much the same. So much so that the logo on the 1927 Model A is almost identical to the logo on my 2006 F-150 truck. The logo was on a brief hiatus from the late 50’s until 1976. Since ’76, however, nobody has messed with that famous logo (although it was put up as part of the collateral needed to secure government funding back during the precarious auto bailout days, but that’s another story).

So there you go – two good reasons to leave stuff alone.  I could actually go on and on, and I probably would if I thought it would do any good, but it won’t. Now let’s talk about people who just cannot leave stuff alone — like the owners of the Miami Dolphins football team. They want to mess with stuff. Now EEOTPB is not a sports blog, not by any means. God knows there are enough of those out there. But as a Dolphins fan, I have always felt that one of the more endearing fan-facing elements of the team was its logo – the happy dolphin in a football helmet. It was well,…fun. And football is supposed to be fun isn’t it? It’s certainly not work, or why would we spend time and money attending the games.

The old helmeted dolphin that adorned everything team related, from players helmets to fans bar-b-q grills is being replaced by a sleek new dolphin. This new dolphin is not even wearing a helmet. A dolphin that looks sort of …logo-like. It looks like it was conjured up by some Madison Avenue ad guys who have no intention of venturing past New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium to attend a football game.

Most notably missing, to me anyway, is the fact that the new dolphin doesn’t have any eyes. The eyes, with an ever so determined expression on the old dolphins face gave the logo its character. This new dolphin is sleek and fast looking and not to be trusted. It looks as slick and insincere as a New York used car salesman. So maybe putting eyes and a mouth on the dolphin was a bit too sappy for the ad guys. Maybe it was too cartoon-like. All I can say is that I personally liked the cartoon-like old dolphin, because he (or she, gender is not readily apparent when one is dealing with dolphins), painted a likeable face on the team – a team that needs all the likeability it can get in light of the past few disappointing seasons.

If you want, check out these links to the old logo, versus the new logo, and by all means feel free to weigh in on this virtually inconsequential issue.

I told you upfront I got up on the wrong side of the keyboard…now I gotta run…there are some kids walking on my lawn and I have to go yell at them…