Boots on the ground

A cranky old friend of mine told me the other day, that the older he became, the more certain phrases annoyed him. He told me that one expression that he was tired of, was the overused expression, “back in the day”.

“That expression really rankles me,” he said.

“That expression rankles you?” I said fumbling through my mental dictionary for a definition of ‘rankles’.

“Yeah,” he went on, “like back in WHAT day. Why can’t people just say something like, you know, in 1967 we didn’t have any frigging internet so we had to get all of our news from Walter Cronkite on the black and white Philco at 7PM sharp! There…saying something like that should make you sound old, and curmudgeonly enough, without saying, back in the day all we had was Walter f___ing Cronkite to tell us what was going on in the world!”

This somewhat bizarre exchange occurred in the break room at the office where I work, and I took a quick step backward as my crotchety coworker brushed past me to thrust his dry Florida Panther’s mug beneath the water cooler spigot. Never get between a hard-core hockey fan and a water cooler.

I walked away shaking my head, hoping that a cool mug of Zephyrhills would return my friend’s blood pressure to at least the high side of normal, and planning a blog-post about the small annoyances that we humans choose to clutter up our lives. Such annoyances cause us to waste precious time on this planet, which could be better spent on more productive pursuits. I was planning on kind of a Zen blog about how we are all killing ourselves by focusing on the minutiae – the trivial. Then I heard President Obama (a President that I have voted for twice by the way), say the following, right there on my old Philco (okay, my 42 inch flat screen), regarding proposed and almost certainly upcoming military action in Syria:

“We’re not considering any open commitment. We’re not considering a boots on the ground approach.”

And there it was: “boots on the ground”. I was suddenly rankled. Since rankled is not a word that one uses, or even sees every day, I shall post the definition here:

to continue to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment within the mind; fester; be painful.

That describes my feeling toward “boots on the ground”, a catch phrase which, of course, refers to launching a real, full-fledged, military operation on foreign soil by sending in soldiers (who usually wear boots), and usually indicates that we, as a Nation, are ready to make a long-term commitment to a country or region, based upon real, though often fabricated evidence. Evidence that is more times than not spoon fed through the media to the general public. In order to keep the boots off of the ground we often instead, launch an air strike.  An airborne attack has the advantage of inflicting massive damage  (shock and awe), while making certain that NO boots touch the ground – supposedly.

Boots on WHAT ground, I always want to say when I hear that tired expression circa. 2002. We have boots on the ground in the desert outside of Las Vegas launching drone attacks in Afghanistan, while we have had boots on the ground for the past decade in the desert in Iraq – fighting in a war that was started on some very shaky, if not downright underhanded pretenses.

So don’t get my meaning wrong  here. I am not saying that there is never a time for “boots on the ground”, and I certainly mean no disrespect to those wearing the boots (anyone who reads my work knows that I am committed to the cause of better treatment for our veterans), but I fear that this Syrian mess is not one of those times, or so it seems to me, and unless I have been inhaling too much Florida swamp gas, it will soon prove itself to be just that.

bootsThis is a debacle in sheep’s clothing and I hope that we discover that before the first boots hit the ground.



All in the family

This summer, the Emmy Award winning daytime drama (soap opera) General Hospital has been airing a subplot in which young Michael Corinthos Jr. (played by Chad Duell),  the son of local mob boss Sonny Corinthos, falls in love with his half-brother’s girlfriend, Kiki Jerome (played by Kristen Alderson). In typical soap fashion, happiness and joy will not last long for these two young lovers. Michael and Kiki’s romance soon sours when it is discovered that they are, in fact, first cousins.

Since I seem to recall that real life mob-boss, Carlo Gambino, was married to his first cousin, I wondered why in fictitious Port Charles, New York, such a taboo existed. If such a relationship didn’t stop the Boss of Bosses from achieving matrimonial bliss with a not-too-distant relative, then why should it short circuit young Michael and Kiki’s plans? I mean, there are lots of other notable first cousin unions, notably Edgar Allan Poe who married his first cousin, Virginia Clemm, H.G. Wells who married cousin Isabelle, and Jesse James (the frontier outlaw, not the biker-reality-tv-star), who married first cousin Zerelda Mimms.

The list of cousin couplings goes on and on, and includes none other than Albert Einstein who married first cousin Elsa and of course, Jerry Lee Lewis who married first cousin, once removed, Myra Gayle Brown. Perhaps the most fascinating union, to me anyway, is the that of Charles Darwin who married first cousin Emma Wedgewood. Darwin it seems, was not too keen on the idea of marriage to anyone, and apparently weighed his options carefully before finally taking a walk down the aisle back in 1839. The Darwins went on to have ten children, three of which died in infancy. His other children went on to live out perfectly normal lives with three being knighted by Queen Victoria.

With a little further research into the topic of first cousin marriage, I was able to unearth the fact that while first cousin unions are allowed in 26 of our 50 U.S. states (some with restrictions), such marriages are legal in all European nations, Canada and Mexico. Here in the U.S., about 1 in every 1000 marriages is a first cousin marriage, while in Japan the ration is about 4 in every 1000.

These figures become more shocking when one considers that by some estimates, 80 percent of all marriages throughout history have been cousin marriages! And more shocking yet when one considers that all of us on planet earth are no more distantly related than 50th cousins.

So that’s it. We are just one big, largely dysfunctional family, here on this rock riding around the sun. I will remember that the next time someone – a stranger – cuts me off, rips me off, or in some other way pisses me off. I shall do my best to remember that he/she is just a wayward relative behaving badly, like Cousin Jake who has a way of offending nearly everyone at the Thanksgiving Day dinner table, but gets invited back year after year because – he’s family.

I am thinking of family now, as I hear the war drums pounding, way off in the distance. Members of this human family are at it again, killing other family members in very inhumane ways in a country halfway around the world. Here in the U.S. political leaders seem to be trying their best to rally support for an attack – an attack on something, or someone. Support for an attack is slow to gather among the populace. A poll in today’s Washington Post indicates that six in ten Americans want no part of another military action in the Middle East – probably because we have been lied to about the reasons for past military interventions.

We can  hope that this one isn’t another in a long line.




Does Obama want my guns?? I mean, does he really??

A few days after The Election, I ran into a friend of mine at the Deerfield Mall. My friend (I’ll call him Jason – not his real name), was a Romney supporter, and although I vowed not to mention The Election to him (or any other Romney supporters), purely out of respect, he was obviously still upset about the outcome and he didn’t waste any time telling me how much.

“So how are things, Jason,” I said, suddenly realizing my faux pas in these emotionally charged post-election days.

He shook his head. “Not good Trop. Not since the other day.”

“Yes, about the other day…”

“I’m mighty upset about the election.”

“I see.”

“This is Obama’s second term and he’s got nothing to lose now,” he said that staring at the sidewalk.

“Nothing to lose? How so?”

“He’s coming for our guns Trop, that’s what. I give it a year…maybe two years, tops, before this country busts out in an all out shootout to defend our second amendment rights.”

“You think Obama wants that antique blunderbuss you have hanging over your mantle,” I said. “You should pay HIM to take it. It probably hasn’t been fired since President Grant was in the White House.”

“That’s why I’m buying an AR-15.”

“An AR-15! You really think…”

“And 500 rounds to start with.”

So that’s how the conversation went. I went away shaking my head, and I soon forgot our conversation until the other day, when I ran across an article about an Arizona gunstore that had banned from the premises, anyone who voted for Obama. For those who are too busy to click the link, Cope Reynolds, owner of Southwest Shooting Authority in Pinecrest, Arizona also posted a sign in his store that reads:

“If you voted for Obama, please turn around and leave! You have proven you are not responsible enough to own a firearm. Thank you, The Management”

Could we be talking about the same Obama? Is this the same Obama who received ‘failing grades’ on the gun control issue from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence? Could this be the same Obama who signed legislation that now allows people to pack their shootin’ iron not only in National Parks, but on an Amtrak train as well!

Dang, I don’t know. Does the Prez really want our guns?  It seems as if there are just as many guns as ever, at least here in South Florida, even after all of these Obama years. And mind you, I’m not anti-gun at all. I’m a supporter of the second amendment – always have been and always will be. But I can’t for the life of me (no pun intended), understand why the need for the really high power weaponry?

Need a fully automatic weapon? Drop me a line in the comments and let’s discuss.



Missed the second Presidential Debate

…I was going to add …”and glad I did” to that headline above. But I don’t think that would be accurate. Frankly, I would have watched the debates if I hadn’t been out of town.

My wife’s nephew Landis (we call him ‘Landie’) came in from Tarrytown to spend a couple of days with us, and we all travelled down to Key West for an overnight stay. As things fell out, we spent the 9 o-clock (debate) hour ensconced in one of my favorite south-of-the-25th-parallel-watering-holes, “Captain Tony’s”, or as they bill themselves, the original Sloppy Joes.

Don’t get me wrong – we hit the renown Sloppy Joes as well, it being a fact that Papa himself carried his barstool at twelve midnight, the day that Sloppy’s moved, a block up to the new Duval St. digs. But being a bit of an historian, we always like Captain Tony’s and we always go there as soon as we hit town.

So we didn’t catch the debates, being otherwise indisposed. There was a baseball game on the big screen and some good conversation at the bar and a very good guitar player although I can’t remember his name but I am sure he remembers all of us and we laughed and we sang a song from the sixties and a very bald man in a Rolls Royce pulled up and he had a driver (like f***ing weird in Key West because nobody has a driver in Key West) and there was a man from up NORTH  who said he had connections to the New York Yankees and a girl from Hoboken who said she remembered all of us although she was not sure in the end and man named Carl came in who said that Jamison was not truly Irish whiskey and any man who said differently was not a true AMERKICAN  but he knew personally George Steinbrenner and just like that the night seemed to run all together…until it didn’t…

There was some sort of altercation.


But that is what happens in Key West, the most unique town (arguably) in the U.S. The Presidential debates were over, and the next morning (after a nasty fall down a flight of stairs in the pre-dawn hours), I awoke and found myself alone on the deck of a beautiful bed and breakfast on Angela Street, with a cup of strong coffee, trying to plough through “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pyncheon on my Kindle, nursing a feverish headache and trying to concentrate on his opening chapters that seemed to be falling as short from my consciousness as a German V2 missile from downtown London.

Back to the United States elections. It is almost over. I have voted. Have you? This year it is important. But don’t let anyone deceive you. Don’t let these guys tell you it’s all about “Ohio”, or it’s all about “Florida”. It’s not about the “Swing States” and it’s not about the “Red States” or the “Blue States”. It’s about you, American Voter. Whether you live in Minnesota, or Idaho, or South Carolina or Rhode Island, or Nebraska.

This year we have two guys. One is “No-Drama-Obama” and the other is Gordon Gekko (okay, if that name doesn’t ring a bell, go download a copy of the original movie “Wall Street”).



First debate blues and Tulip surfaces in Vegas

I have to say that I was sort of bummed out after the first Romney / Obama debate – so much so that I really didn’t want to blog about it. A day or so after the debate, I left a message on Tulip’s phone expecting a call back right away. She didn’t answer me for several days.

Last night she called from Mandalay Bay in Vegas.

“I needed a trip across the desert to cleanse my soul,” she said that to me when I reminded her that she’d sworn off gambling three years before after a devastating seventeen thousand dollar loss weekend.

“I can handle it now,” she told me. “I’m going to play a little poker, stuff a couple hundred into the machines, and then come on back up to the room with a bottle of Fairbanks and watch “Field of Dreams” on cable until daybreak. In the morning I’ll be better.”

“Didn’t the fact that Obama missed so many good talking points in that debate against Romney make you mad? I mean he had so many great opportunities to take the guy to the mat and he blew it!”

“Sure. He could have said a lot. But if he’d acted like Romney, with that wild-eyed CEO lie-to-your-face-while-your-job-ships-out-to-Beijing look on his face they would have ripped the Big O to pieces.”

“I dunno,” I said. “Obama came off looking weak. That’s what all the polls say.”

“But you forget, Romney lied about almost everything,” said Tulip. “You know that don’t you.”

“Yes, he did lie, especially about his tax on wealthy Americans.”

“Well, there you go,” she said. “Everyone will see through that one.”

“I am not sure,” I said. “A lot of people I know are convinced that they ARE the wealthy Americans.”

“Even if they don’t have jobs?” she said.

“Yeah, Tulip…they still think they are pretty well off.”

Two thousand miles away I heard her say something under her breath and light a smoke.

“I’ll be glad when this election is over,” she said. “It’s getting ugly out there.”