Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve, 2010

 And so, the minutes and seconds tick inexorably towards midnight, and the start of the New Year, 2011. Can any of us say that we are sad to see 2010 go? The economy continued to stumble on, not really moving in any direction except forward. If it were a patient in a hospital, it would have been declared brain dead, because it has flat lined. Unemployment hovers near double digits. In May, we had the start of the worst environmental disaster to hit the Gulf in memory.  New Orleans was written off again, as were other cities and towns on along the gulf; but, somehow, they persevered.  It is hard to destroy these people, who have seen so much disaster in the past decade. We had the tragedy of Haiti to contend with, which we are STILL contending with, despite the public's short memory. We had the earthquake in Chile in February, more tragedy in a world that has seen more than it's share in the past year. We pull together to help and give aid and comfort to these areas and, somehow, the weary world pulls together, if only for a short time. We had the miracle of the miners trapped for such a long time in that mine in Chile. Just when everyone thought all was lost... a miracle.. all were alive. Again, the world pulled together. NASA designed the capsule that pulled them out, and an American company drilled the hole that enabled them to be pulled out. Somehow, America was the unsung hero. Yet, we are still despised in many places. 
 Our government seemed so inept that the voters sent them a message in November: Stop the partisan crap and get your act together. It wasn't just a repudiation of the current administration's policies; it was a message to both parties. Somehow, at the end of the year, some work that benefits the people got done. 
 We still have a long way to go. It didn't take us long to get from a surplus to a staggering deficit, just a couple of years of crazy spending policies. It will take us decades to get out of it. The debt to China must be paid down. But I have faith in this country. We are Americans, and we can do anything that we put our collective minds to. We must all come together with a common cause. It Can Be Done... It Will Be Done! Of this, I am certain. 2011 should be, will be, the start of our long road back. I'm proud of this country, and I am proud of all of you, and proud to call you all my friends.
 Happy New Year, Everyone
 John

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

 As I prepared myself today for Christmas, it  suddenly came to me how Mr. Dickens could be inspired to write 'A Christmas Carol'.  As I listend to some of the old Christmas Carols, memories of all of my Christmases came flooding back to me. My Mother, Father, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles all came marching back, like the ghosts in Mr. Dickens classic tale. I could see them all,  just as they were when I was a child; they all loved Christmas so much. Everyone of them dressed in their best clothes and made 'The Rounds', visiting each others homes for some good cheer and Christmas Spirits. Later on, we would all gather at my Grandmothers house for a huge Christmas festa of several courses. We would start with antipasto, then have chicken, then Macaroni and meat. Then, we would all rest a bit and then have the main course, a turkey with everything that went along with it. Then, the salad. Later on, we would have desserts and nuts. We ate like kings and queens on the holidays, and we were all together and glad for it. My family loved and fought and argued, and loved. It was like nothing I would ever experience in my adult life.
 Later, I thought of raising our children, and the many nights that we spent putting together toys until the wee hours of the morning, wrapping gifts until the dawn was starting to break. It was all worthwhile to see their shining faces in the light cast by the Christmas Tree. We were a mixed family; Sheryl ia Jewish and so are the girls, I was raised Catholic and my boys were baptized Catholic. Somehow, we made it work with no trouble. We would light the Menorah, and have our Christmas too.  It was never easy financially, but somehow we always had a great Christmas for the kids. I can hear their squeals of delight in my mind, just out of earshot now, but still fresh in my memory. They are part of the ghosts that still haunt my Christmas, in a good way.
  Now, it's just Sheryl and my sister Alma and I in this house where we raised five children. They all have their own lives now, and for the most part, don't feel the need like we used to to be with our parents on Christmas. Danielle, our youngest, still does. Jayson, my youngest son, makes his way up from NYC for the day.  Our other two daughters both have four children, and it's too much of a hassle for them to come over on Christmas. Some time in January, Sheryl will bring them their gifts. It's sad, really, but that's the way it is these days. I guess that's why I am conflicted on Christmas. I love the spirit of the holiday, but the ghosts of our past Christmases still haunt me, and always will.
  Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day has been, for me and many of the  people that I know, The Christmas Season. This is the way that it has been for as long as I can remember, and that’s a very long time. Christmas has become a secular holiday for all to celebrate, no matter what you call it. It is a time for reflection of the past year, a time to show good will and love to your fellow citizens, and most of all, a time for children to wait in anticipation of the DAY. It is the time of selflessness and giving. There has always been a special feeling in the air, no matter what you believe. There are gatherings and parties all over the world in celebration. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy the warm feelings associated with the holiday.
I see a lot posts on the internet and signs on the street that say ‘Let’s Keep Christ In Christmas’. This is fine for those who worship Jesus Christ and all that his birth signifies; but we should not exclude those in the world who worship God in other ways and do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. We should not exclude those who feel that there is no such thing as a God. We can still embrace the warm feeling of brotherhood that the Christmas Holiday has come to stand for. I worked for a Jewish boss back in the mid-‘70s, and no one enjoyed the spirit of the holiday more than he. He threw us a big Christmas bash, and gave everyone a nice bonus, considering that we were in the middle of a horrible recession. He was a tough boss for the rest of the year, but during the Christmas season, he was a real softy.In recent years, there has been a tendency to be politically correct by businesses. They won’t say “Merry Christmas”, for fear of offending someone. There are controversies about having a Creche and a Menorah on public property. How incredibly petty it is to complain about such things. There is nothing in the constitution about this. Putting out decorations is not establishing a State Religion. It just really got silly for a time there but, thankfully, the pendulum seems to be swinging back towards a more reasonable point of view.
I want to take this moment in time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas Season, no matter what your religious views. May all the joys and good will of the season bring us all happiness, understanding, and tolerance of each other. May the New Year begin to finally bring us peace.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day/Armistice Day

 Today is Veteran's Day. A lot of attention is paid to all of us that served and came back from this country' wars intact. I am honored and humbled by all the attention and thanks. But my thoughts drift to what this day meant when I was a child. Back then, we called it Armistice day and it was a day set aside to commemorate the end of The War To End All Wars, World War I. As I grew, it  was decided that it would be for all veterans of all wars. 
 When I think about this day, I think about my Uncle Hal Huffman, a Marine who hit the beach on Iwo Jima, and the other islands in the Pacific during World War II. Hell on Earth for those who served there. I think of all of those soldiers and sailors who took part in D-Day in Europe. So many left dead on those beaches as they were thrown against the massive defenses that the Axis powers had set up to keep Europe enslaved in the war that saw the worst mass murders in history. All of those souls knew that they faced death, but this did not stem their resolve to do what had to be done to finally put and end to the murder and religious oppression.
 I think of my father's friend, John Bavosa, killed in a mission to hurt the enemy where they lived. I think of my father, who could have stayed relatively safe in Panama, but instead fought with his superiors to be sent to the European Theatre to fight against these enemies of decency and freedom. I think of professional ballplayers who took years off of their careers, Hollywood Actors and Actresses and Entertainers from radio and the music industry, who volunteered to do what they could for the war effort. They did not curse the government, or give aid and comfort to the enemy like those from later wars, they did what they could to stop the spread of evil and give solace to the men and women at the front.
 I think of the men and women who served in Korea, who served under the most horrific conditions  to  keep a part of the Korean peninsula free. 
 I think of my friends and comrades who served in Vietnam without complaint because they believed that it was the right thing to do. Fred Carraturo, Bobby Lysacht, Willie Newsome, John Olsen and the other's who gave their lives in that war.
 And finally, I think of all those who came later, in the all volunteer service, who know what they are doing and sign up to fight the wars in the Middle East and Africa so that we may continue to live in freedom.
 Thank You. To all who served. To all who gave all. To those who continue to serve. I love you all, and I honor your service today, and every day that I continue to breathe the free air in this country.
 John Zaffino Corporal, United States Marine Corps 1966 - 1972  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Civility


This morning, I was watching the Today Show, and they had as  one of their topics ‘What Has Happened To Civility?’ Anyone who has read what I have to say from time to time on Facebook knows that this is one of my pet peeves in politics and life in general. 
  All you have to do is look at the political ads out there to see what is wrong. They are filled with half-truths and out and out lies about each other. Charges of being a law breaker, not being a citizen, being soft on crime, being a Communist, a racist, you name it. At the end of these attack ads is usually a disclaimer saying that the ad was paid for by one concerned citizens group or another. These people don’t even have the guts to take credit for their own smears. They have to have a cover to take the blame. 
  Of course, this does not just belong to the sleazy politicians, this happens in every day life, too. You can’t have a civilized discussion about anything political anymore without it turning ugly and hurtful. How many friends have any of you lost because either they don’t agree with your political views, or you don’t agree with theirs? Charges of being a pinko or a Fascist fly fast and hard, even at people that have proudly served their country, just because they: A) Support the President, or  B) Don’t Support The President. If you are in favor of healthcare for all, you are called a Socialist. If you don’t support it, you are called an Elitist. You can’t win unless you just sit back and say nothing. You have to refuse to be drawn into the discussion, and then it is said that there is something wrong with you because you don’t have an opinion.
  I actually have had personal experiences with this. I had an old friend de-friend me on Facebook and block my emails because I had the audacity to ask him to tone down the rhetoric. He called me a whacko and said that I was always a whacko. We recently made up and agreed not to discuss politics again. I had a woman get incensed at me because I said that I admire Nelson Mandela for being able to forgive the people that imprisoned him for 30 years and practiced institutional racism against the majority of his countrymen. He avoided a bloodbath when he came to power, and I admire him for having the intelligence and the love in his heart to do this. I was called a communist and a few other choice words because of this. She also de-friended me (No loss), but not before slandering me to all of my friends. I just let it go and moved on.
  Getting away from politics, just take a look at everyday life. We used to draw the line at uttering obscenities in public. When I was young, if you used an off color word in mixed company, you were severely admonished for it publicly. Not anymore. Recently, a woman slapped a man at the US Tennis Open because he kept using the ‘F’ word in front of her. Words were exchanged back and forth, she slapped him, he said something else, and her elderly husband went after him. All of them were ejected and arrested. Obscenities are regularly used in what passes for music today, from hip-hop and rap, to R & B. Television shows in the so-called family hour are full of sexual references and swear words. Of course, there are still a few that cannot be used over the airwaves, but on cable nothing is off limits at any hour. 
  Now, I have no problem with adult entertainment. If you don’t like it, you can turn it off. I’m just saying that it should be kept to hours when young children should be in bed. Sex should be kept to HBO and Cinemax and the pay channels. If you want it, pay for it. I would still watch it, but not with young children around.
 We should go back to having civility in our daily lives. Being courteous to each other, saying please and thank you, you’re welcome.. is this really just too much to ask. Is it too much to ask that we treat each other with respect? Simple things, like putting down the cell phone when you are in the store, at least when you are on the check out line, would go a long way to restoring some sort of decorum to our everyday lives. Saying 'Please' and 'Thank You' would go a long way in changing attitudes of people that you encounter every day. If you don't believe it, just try it. That surly checkout clerks attitude will change, and you may even get a smile. I know, because I do this every day, with every person that I have an interaction with. When I go into the market, the people who work there smile when they see me. Why, because I treat them with the respect that I would like to get from everyone that I meet, and I ALWAYS say 'Please' and 'Thank You'.  I go out of my way to hold the door for people. I get a 'Thank You' about 3 times out of 4, but the point is that I make myself a better person by doing this. Just try it, if you don't do it already.                                                      Try, just for one day, to curtail the swearing and hostility. I think that the quality of our lives would change measurably.
  I just would like to see us go back to treating each other with decency and respect, like we were all taught as kids. Is this really too much to ask?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Food

 Someone had to explain to me what the hell has happened to food in this country! We went from the food groups of my childhood to the food nazis of today who want to ban everything that we were told was good for us when I was a kid. NO STARCH! NO SUGAR! NO SALT! NO RED MEAT! NO DAIRY!. it just get's crazier by the day.
  OK, so I decide that I am going to eat more vegetables and much less red meat. I start eating a lot of broccoli. The next thing I know, I'm reading that broccoli is not good for me. It hinders the breakdown of uric acid, which causes people who already have a problem to get gout and kidney stones! Uh-oh... gotta stop eating broccoli. Next is spinach, which I love. I read that the iron in spinach can be harmful to many people. Should I stop eating this, also? Then, I read corn is no good for you... as a matter of fact, corn is a grain, and no grains are good for you, so just strike them right out of your diet! What about whole grains? Well, they are better, but still not good. Eat more beans. Good idea, that would solve the gas problem in the world figure out how to harness all of the natural gas we will be generating and, energy problem solved.
 But some people cannot eat beans! What are they supposed to do? Hmmmm ... didn't think of that!  Let's let the 'Nutritionists' and health 'Experts' ponder this for a while, as I go on to more pet peeves with food.
 I swear that there is something that is being added to our food supply that is making everyone fat. It's the same stuff that we ate when we were kids, and that our parents and grandparents ate, and there were fewer overweight people then. Figure out what's been added and you solve the problem. I will not stop eating everything that I grew up eating just because some anorexic looking pain in the behind tells me that it's no good for me. We have people actually making a living getting on TV telling us that we must stop eating anything that we like. These pinch-faced, unhappy looking fools have the title of 'Expert' bestowed on them by the talking heads on the morning shows. Madelyn Fernstrom and Joy Bauer come to mind, along with this guy who writes the 'Eat This, Not That' books. Now there's an unhappy looking guy if I ever saw one. This clown tells us all the food in the restaurants that we go to will kill us because they have thousands of calories per serving. HEY! YOU UNHAPPY LOOKING PAIN IN THE ASS! IF  I AM GOING OUT TO EAT, ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, I REALLY DON'T GIVE A DAMN WHAT THE CALORIC INTAKE FOR THAT NIGHT IS! IT IS A NIGHT TO ENJOY MYSELF, NOT TO SIT AND WORRY ABOUT THE DAMNED CALORIES.  DO US A FAVOR; GO BE UNHAPPY IN PRIVATE, WILL  YOU? AND LEAVE US ALONE!!
  Now, my last pet peeve. The word 'Organic'. They tell us that we should eat organic foods whenever possible. Pray tell, what the hell does that mean? Food is, by definition, organic. It is made from living plants and animals. We are not eating rocks and metals (that we know of)... these would be inorganic materials. It drives me crazy. Do me a favor, leave me the hell alone and get a real job that requires real labor, then you won't have to worry about what the hell you eat, you will work it off..
 Listen, I agree that we shouldn't be eating a lot of sweets. They are not great for you and don't have a lot of nutritional value.... but everything in moderation. If someone would just look into what they are adding to the everyday food that we eat that is making us fat, there would be no need for all of this nonsense that passes for nutritional information today.
 If people would just get out and get moderate exercise, like we used to 30 years ago, instead of sitting in front of a computer, like my fat behind is doing right now, there would be no obesity crisis in this country.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This Jarhead's Viewpoint: When I'm 64!

This Jarhead's Viewpoint: When I'm 64!: "So the big day has come and gone. I turned 64 on Wednesday, October 13 2010. This age has been looming large on my date horizon for a couple..."

When I'm 64!

So the big day has come and gone. I turned 64 on Wednesday, October 13 2010. This age has been looming large on my date horizon for a couple of years now. It all really started back in 1967, when I first heard When I'm 64  off of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. An amusing little throw-away ditty by Paul McCartney that was catchy and fun. The tune stuck in my head for a while, then it was filed away with all the rest of my musical memories, to be taken out, dusted  off, and played every so often. I always Loved Sgt . Pepper's, but this was not one of the stand alone songs from that particular album. With A Little Help From My Friends, A Day In The Life, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds, all more memorable.. or so I thought. 
 In 1968, I shipped off to Vietnam for a tour.  Came back in '69, a little worse for wear, a little more mature, though not enough. I met my first wife, we married in '70. Throughout these years, Sgt. Pepper's would be taken out, dusted off and played. When I'm 64 had become more appealing to me, because now I had a son, though I didn't name him Vera, Chuck, or Dave. Time went on furiously. We loved, we fought, we had another son (Still no Vera, Chuck or Dave). The end of the Vietnam war came and, along with it inflation and the economic crisis of the mid-seventies that eventually extended to the mid eighties. I was laid off from my job with Ma Bell (Western Electric). I desperately searched for another job. I got two, both of them did not equal one half the pay that I was making before. My wife strayed, and kicked me out. Sgt Pepper's Band played on. I was given custody of my boys because my wife wanted to "Find Herself". Sheryl went through similar times. We combined our families, laughed, loved and married in '79. Danielle was born in 1980... one month before John Lennon was murdered. We cried when we heard the news ('Oh Boy'..). John would not live to see 64... he stopped at 40.  My father died in '81 and the age of 58.. another loved one that would not live to see 64. 
 The song resonated more loudly with me now. By the mid '80s, I was silently obsessing on the age, I turned 40 in '86 and went through my own mid-life crisis as quietly as I could. I'm sure my wife was aware, although she never said. I had returned to Ma Bell 'New York Telephone' in 79.  I was now a manager with them and stressed out. Trying to raise 5 children with my wife, who was now working as a manager for the United Artists Theater chain. We both worked furiously, our hours just did not coincide. She worked more nights than days, and I was bogged down with work. Still, we managed to raise five children and maintain some semblance of a home life.  Sgt Pepper's Band still played occasionally, although now on CD. 
 In 1990, I went back to craft, giving up management. I started making more money and was more peaceful. Sgt. Pepper sounded better than ever, and When I'm 64 started to have more meaning to me. The years, I realize had flown by. We had only one child left at home. The others were all gone. I turned 50 in '96. Aside from the occasional minor crisis, typical in any family, life was good. I had a job that I loved, my wife had left the theater, and the economy was booming.  I tore up my shoulder and my back in 2001. I was told I could never work again. And so it has been. 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans' as John Lennon wrote in 1979. 
 So, we have drifted along for the last 9 years. Danielle got married. We now have 14 grandchildren, and I have passed the magical number of years, 64.  So, what now? As time speeds up, and it most certainly does as you get older, we head towards eternity accelerating towards the speed of light and -the end of the line, where all time stops. I find myself contemplating the meaning of it all more frequently. I think, and I fear, that there really is no answer that we could ever begin to understand. All I can do is sit back in wonder at what a long, strange trip it's been.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Reunion... Final Chapter

  The day of the reunion finally arrived, and I woke up feeling like hell. My eyes were swollen, I was congested and just did not feel well. Sher said that she would go and get my jacket and pants so that I could rest up and try to feel a bit better.  I spent most of the morning drinking coffee and hoping that this 45th reunion would be at least a little better than the disastrous 37th.
 I told Sher that we would have to be ready to leave by 6 PM in order to get there by the 7PM starting time. Of course, Sher is always fashionably late, so I should have said 5:30. At 6, she was just starting to dry her hair. Not that she was the only one late, I was still charging my cell phone and camera battery, so there was no way we would leave by 6, even if she had been ready. 
 At 6:30, we were on our way. I84 traffic was horrendous. I don't know where the hell everyone was going, but it was like a weekday rush hour. I 684 was much better, and by the time we passed the exit for the Saw Mill, It was clear sailing. Even the Hutch was relatively clear. My GPS counted off the miles in it's Japanese accented voice and mispronounced the streets and the town of Mamaroneck's name, to my amusement. As we approached our destination, the GPS told us to take a left, which we did. Then it said "Arrive at destination in 800 feet......... recalculating. Take left turn...... take left turn..... take right turn.." Now we were headed back out of the first turn it told us to take. "Take left turn, take left turn. Arrive at destination in 800 feet". It had told us to take the wrong turn and then corrected itself. We pulled up to a group of buildings, and there were no lights on and only one other car with a very worried looking couple inside of it. I looked at the sign on the largest building and it read 'Westchester Hebrew Nursery School'...... something told me that this was not the Orienta Beach Club. I pulled alongside the other car and rolled down my window. "Are you looking for the Reunion?" I said. The gentleman driving answered that he was indeed and was now trying to find a number for the Orienta Beach Club. I asked him if his GPS had brought him here, and he again answered yes. That's all I had to hear... I drove out of the lot down another driveway, and saw a fence. On the other side of the fence was a well lit parking lot full of cars, and a sign that said 'Orienta Beach Club.' We followed the fence and found our entrance. Parked the car, and in we went. 
                                         Sheryl Wasserman Zaffino     John A. Zaffino

                       John Maguire  Jimmy Lysaght  Mary Ann Ianuario Maguire  Bobby Segno
                                            John Zaffino     Santa  'Carl Immediato' Carlucci
         Ginnie Curry Marino     Mary Ann Ianaurio Mauire     Sheryl Wasserman Zaffino                                                                                                                                                    To say the place was lively would be an understatement. The first person that we ran into was Santa Carlucci. I knew him as Carl Immediato when I went to school, but how great is it that he has found a calling bringing the wonder of Christmas to children of all ages. Wonderful! We signed in, got our name tags and found a waiter to get some refreshments. I ran into an old friend, Bob Segno, who I immediately recognized. The last time I saw Bob was on a street just outside of the Danang Airbase. He was wearing an MP helmet and asked me where the hell my helmet was. Of all the places in the world for a chance encounter with a childhood friend, Danang    




Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reunion Part 2a

So we continue on our quest for the reunion. Before I continue, I have to post my wife, Sheryl's, response to my last post.


"That is not true!! I appreciate the complements but I have never felt that way about you!! You are a sweet and caring husband and I love you--"  Sheryl
 I appreciate that fact, hon, but this is my blog and my perception of things, with a little bit of humor thrown in, so you got your say, and I got my thoughts in. I love you too, now go get my leash and lets go for a walk.


 Yesterday was not without its drama. Sher was going to meet her old friend at the Bronx Zoo, then the two of them were heading for City Island for a late lunch before heading home. I was invited to come along, but since they are childhood friends and I am just the husband of one of them, I did not want to intrude on their afternoon trip down memory lane. Sher left around 11:00, I put in the Blu Ray of Ironman 2 and promptly fell asleep. I woke up just as the credits were rolling, wiped the drool off of my chin, and went seeking some coffee. 
 Sher had suggested that she pick up my sport's jacket and pants from the tailors on her way home from the City, since they weren't going to be ready until after 6 anyway. I at first said no, but as the day wore on, I thought that it would be silly for us to go back out again after she came home, so I sent her a text telling her to go ahead and pick them up. I figured that, if they were not right, I would then just head back out and get whatever it was corrected. I read for a bit, messed around on facebook and threw something together for dinner. 
 At a little after 7, Sher called and asked me if I had seen the news. Of course I had seen the usual evening dose of bad news and stupidity that passes for the local and national news broadcasts, so I answered in the affirmative. She said 'Oh, my God! I'm stuck on 684, the traffic is stopped and the Danbury exit has been closed because there was a shooting in Danbury. I of course was my usual compassionate self and said 'But what about my clothes?'. Well, there would be no getting clothes this night, what with mayhem on the interstate! Poor ME! It didn't matter that there may be a wild west shoot out right there in Danbury, I would not have my jacket!
 I posted on facebook, since there were no details forthcoming on any news site that I checked, asking if anyone had heard about a shooting. My friend and physical therapist, Vicky, promptly posted a news article from the Danbury News Times affirming that there was, indeed, a shooting. Vicky told me that she could not even get on I 84 to go home and had to take the back roads.. I told Sher to get off, if she could, and do the same. Of course, there was no mention of this shooting on the news programs at 10 or 11, so we still don't know what happened. I do regret being so selfish that, at first, all I cared about was my jacket, but that's human nature, unfortunate as it may be, that we automatically think 'How is this affecting me?'. I was glad that Sher was safe, but my next thought was for my needs. I need to work to correct that flaw.
 The sun has not yet risen above the mountains, and I am on my second cup of coffee. The day of the great 45th reunion has arrived, and all I would like to do right now is to crawl back into bed and get some more sleep. That's not happening. I sit and wonder what the rest of the day will bring........

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reunion Part 2 (Cont'd)

  As I said, Sheryl and Paulette went off to see if they could find her something to wear. While I was sitting here writing the first part of part 2, Sher was out looking . She called me from road to tell me she was going to one more place to see what she could find. An hour later, she came home looking satisfied with what she had purchased.  Danielle and Johnny came over a short time later and Sher asked if we wanted to see what she had bought.
 Someone needs to tell me, why, after that long, drawn out process that we went through in the morning, getting my jacket, and pants, and shirt and shoes, how this woman, whom I love dearly, can simply go into a store and find a simple dress that makes her look stunning? This has been the story throughout our relationship of 32 years. We both get dressed up, I think that I am looking sharp. Yet, somehow, she manages to look so good that, when we are out, it looks like she is out walking her pet Bridge Troll! No matter what  I do, it's the same old story. As I said before, I should have just purchased a new pair of jeans and a nice tee shirt, for all that it matters. I mean, it's great  having an attractive wife, but men tend to forget that I am there when we go out. They stumble all over themselves, making conversation with her, and those are my friends! Forget men that don't even know us. I am exhausted from trying to fend them off. Even an old Marine occasionally get's tired. Now, I have to hand it to her, she can deftly fend off these drooling cavemen with a couple of words, without hurting anyone's feelings, but that doesn't stop the onslaught. I should tell you that Sher is 7 years younger than me and ages a hell of a lot better than I do. She's a great lady.... but why do I always have to play her pet monster? 
 The one saving fact about the upcoming reunion is that all, or at least most, of the men there are my age and married. Otherwise, I would be in for another night of playing the guy who escorted Sheryl out for the evening.


Post Script : Of course, this is somewhat of an exaggeration to spice up my silly blog, but most of the statements, if not all of them, are somewhat true. I'll leave it to you to figure out how much when I publish the photos from the coming Reunion.  ;0)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reunion Part 2

 This morning, after my Mac computer class at the Apple store, I met my better half at the Mall so that she could pick out something for me to wear to the class reunion. Sher picks out most of my clothes because it's our firm belief that the only thing that I should be allowed to dress is a salad or a turkey. There are some that might say that I AM a turkey,  but that's besides the point. So, off to the Men's Wearhouse we went. I told Sher to run interference, because I do so little shopping for myself that these salespeople could sell me a sackcloth for $300.00, tell me I look great, and send me on my merry way. 
 Now, I must tell you that I really have an aversion to spending money on myself. After all of those years working outside, I really am, after all, a jeans and teeshirt guy, and I don't believe in buying a lot of things for me. I so  conditioned myself to buying for kids, and they making Sher look good, that anything over $25.00 for me seems way too much.
  We were met at the door by my 'Consultant', Mark, who assured me that I was in his very capable hands. I was immediately positive that his hands would be in my pocket, taking money out in large handfulls. I told him that I had this 45th reunion to go to and that I needed to look at least 'Presentable'.. which, after quitting smoking and immediately gaining 35+ pounds, what going to be a very hard task. Mark assured us that it would not be a problem and asked what size I thought I wore. I told  him that, at this point, I was a small and large... small in height, large in waist. Sher had decided that we would go with Evening Casual. So, off to the sports jackets. He pulled out a beautiful leather jacket out and asked me if I wanted to go cowboy. For a moment, I drifted back to my days of watching Hoppy on TV and thought 'Hmmm... I wonder if it comes with a cowboy hat?'. I snapped back to reality when Sher said, 'I don't thinks so'. We went through a couple of more choices, each one increasingly more expensive, until he found one that Sher thought was acceptable. I was getting dizzy looking at the price tag, which was more than I usually spend on clothes for the whole year. The jacket is OK, if not my taste. It's a subdued greenish color with small checks. Very conservative. My taste usually runs to mobster pinstripes, but I think those days are past me now... at least I hope that they are. Mark was salivating carrying on a snappy banter which I was totally ignoring. Next came the pants. He measured my waste, or lack of one, and when he told me what I had ballooned up to, I had to grab the counter for support. (I was seriously thinking of running out and buying a pack of cigarettes, smoking the whole thing, and hoping that those extra pounds would disappear). They picked out a pair of pants that was just shade lighter than the jacket. Next, came the shoes (They have it all covered in Mens Wearhouse, they want to insure that you don't leave with any of the cash that you came in with). Mark, just about floating on air at this point, picked out a pair of stylish brown dress shoes to complement the pants and the jacket. Very nice, very expensive.  Next came a shirt. Mark wanted to put me in a standard dress shirt, but Sher had already decided that it should be a mock turtleneck of some kind. For 20 minutes, they argued over what color I should wear. My daughter, Paulette, had joined us at this point. Sher was looking for blue, but there was nothing in my size. Mark suggested orange, perhaps thinking that I kind of resembled a deranged pumpkin.... we all vetoed that choice, much to his dismay. Paulette and I thought that an off white would be the best choice. We finally won out. Mark started to show me belts, but I told him that I had the belts covered.  We started getting everything together and Mark said "You know, the belt really should match the shoes". We reminded him that I was wearing this mock turtleneck, and that it was worn out of the pants.  Mark looked crushed, and said "Oh, I was really enjoying you company and wanted this to continue for a while longer". I said "In that case, you should be paying US!" Sher sad ''Good one, Hon". 
 The high point of my visit was the tailor, a Paisano by the name of 'Sal'. This was like a blast from the past, a good Italian tailor from the other side! He assured me all would be ready by Friday. He also said 'Don't'a put on a anymore weight, or the jackets'a not gonna fit!' Thanks, Sal, I needed that. They totalled up my purchases, Mark grinning like the Cheshire Cat. With what we spent, I could support a small third world country for a year. I kissed  Sher and Paulette goodbye and left them to their quest of finding something for Sher to wear. I drove home in a fog, my head spinning from the high cost of looking 'Presentable'. I should have decided to buy another pair of jeans and a really good tee shirt!
 Now, I'm sitting here and drinking coffee, wondering if maybe I should have just stayed home on Saturday, opened up a good bottle of wine, and stayed away from the reunion, as I did from school, all those years ago. It certainly would have been the 'John' thing to do.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Facebook Weekend

Do you have these weekends when you just don't feel like getting dressed? This usually happens to me in the early Autumn, on a weekend that's clear and sunny, but cool. This is the way that it's been for me this week. I got up at my usual time on Saturday, 05:30, had my first cup of coffee and looked out of the sliding glass doors into the early morning sky. Beautiful! I could see all the stars for the first time in days! I slid the door open and stepped outside... DAMN! It was cold! When I went to bed the night before, it was 72 degrees and humid. Just a scant few hours later, it was 40 and crisp. What to do? Well, I had to go food shopping, no two ways about it but, after that? Well, not  much, if I had anything to say about it. 
 So, off I went to the A&P and did my bi-weekly shopping. When I got back, Sheryl was there to help me unload. We finished unloading, she went off to work, and I was off to my day of do nothing. First, check facebook to see what's going on. Not much from what I can see. Post my status, say my good mornings. Another cup of coffee. Tend to my Vineyards and my Puppys..... how childish have I become? Pretty childish, but who the hell cares?  My Canadian friend, Laurie comes on, and we start to discuss our Macs and how much better they are than PC's. We ought to do a commercial... we certainly convinced me! More coffee.... saying my good mornings, joining in the morning banter with Carol, and Ms. Pru, Diane, Susan..... say, how come most of my friends, at least the one's that get in on this, are female? This question has occurred to me before, but I never have found an adequate answer. Oh, sure, I will get the occasional answer or good morning from Joe, or Albert, or Rich.. but not the ongoing engaging conversation that I get from my female friends. I wonder if it's because I am retired and don't have any obligations? I don't know... anyway, if someone wants to read something into it, let them. I am beyond caring about silly things like that. Too old to give a shit, as they say...... more coffee. I really should go take that nap, since I don't sleep much at night... but... it's time to take care of my vineyard again. Hmmm I have to go do my duty and help my friends, too.  So, off I go to all of my neighbor's vineyards, helping with buildings, fertilizing, tasting wines.. ... it's now  after one. Where did the morning go. I need more coffee.... put on another pot. Make a sandwich left over meatloaf, while I'm at it.  Jeez, it's after two..  I need to get things together for tonight's dinner. So, I get the meat out, so that it comes to room temperature before I start cooking... assemble the various things that I will need when I start... now, it's after three.  What's happening in my Facebook neighborhood? I exchange banter with Ms. Laurie about the Macs again, the difference between iMac and MacBook, talk in general about how much I hate the cold weather and the loss of sunlight......  time for the Yankee game. Turn on the TV, listen to the mindless stats from Joe Buck and Tim MacCarver... feel like shooting myself, or them. Why can't they just announce the damned game?.... oh well...  time to do the vineyard again. Oh, yay, I won Xpoints in the stupid wishing well game on the vineyard. I do some more landscaping... not real, of course, Vineyard style... talk to Susan and Laurie and Dr. Peg in between doing game favors for everyone that needs them.... more coffee, my third pot.  It's time to get dinner started! Where did the day go.
 Jumping back and forth between the stove and facebook and the Yankee game. Swearing at Joe Girardi for bone head (my opinion) moves. the game drags on incessantly.. four hours plus. ... get dinner on the table ... eat, back to facebook and all of its games and banter.... more coffee. Friends are dropping in, one at a time, in my facebook neighborhood. My eyes are having a hard time focusing. time to call it a night. 
 Where did my day go, and what did I accomplish? I did not get my nap. I did talk to some of my friends and I took care of my various games. What a life. Well.... there's always tomorrow...... 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Class Reunion

 Saturday, October 9 2010  is the NRHS class of '65s 45th   Reunion. 45 years, is it really possible that so much time has passed since I was getting hauled into Miss Coons office for cutting class? She was the principal when I first got there in '62. She was the principal when my father and my aunts went there. Not one to suffer clowns like me well. 
 I had a very checkered history at NRHS, to say the least. I was a terrible student, and an incorrigible truant. I just could not focus on anything else but the opposite sex and cars. Even at this late date, I have to marvel at some of my classmates that just seemed to breeze through without giving anything else a second thought. It must be some kind of brain block. To say that I was never in school is a serious understatement. I spent more time drinking coffee at the College Diner than I did in any classroom. When I was in class, all I could do was daydream about the good looking girl six seats ahead of me, or what I was going to do as soon as I could figure out a way to get the hell out of there. I had my '54 Merc Sun Valley waiting for me, parked on one of the side streets, probably collecting a slew of tickets and, if I could coax her to start, there was plenty of cruising to do. I would jump in that old car with 2 or 3 of my friends and just drive around for hours, or until we ran out of gas, which we frequently did.
  It's not that I was any lazier than any other High School kid. To the contrary, I was always working at some after school job or another so that I had the cash to buy gas. It's just that there was nothing that a teacher could say that would interest me. 
  We were always getting written up for not being in class. They would diligently send the letters home, and I would just as diligently fish them out of the mailbox and dispose of them. Finally, in 1965, they gave up and were preparing to toss me out. I saved them the trouble and quit. A couple of months later, I was taking the oath to join the Marine Corps. I left for Boot Camp on April 13, 1966 and spent the next four years working for Uncle Sam. I took the GED shortly after reaching my first permanent duty station in Beaufort, SC. I scored a 98, so somehow, all of that education they were trying to force into my thick head finally made it in. At least quite a bit of it did. 
 I have spent quite a bit of my free time over the last 45 years studying what I refused to even try to learn all those years ago. I've come a long way since then. I wonder what my old teachers would think.....?

Friday, October 1, 2010

War Stories

I joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and served on active duty honorably until 1970. I served in Vietnam from early 1968 to early 1969.  I had many experiences during those years. From time to time I will relate a story or two on my blog, most of them are amusing.  Here is one such experience. I hope that you enjoy it.

Raisin Wine
The Raisin wine story. We usually had a Marine or three on mess duty at any given time, so we were able to get the needed supplies from the mess hall. First, we needed to get something to put the wine in. We had these big, five gallon boxes that held a plastic bladder inside, filled with milk. We got a few of the empties and cleaned them out really well. Then, we procured several very large boxes of raisins from the mess hall, along with packages of yeast. We put the raisins in the bladder and filled it with water. We let the yeast 'cure' in some warm sugar water, and added it to the mixture, along with a pound or two of sugar. I can't remember the exact measurements. I'm sure that we just kind of tossed it together. The last 45 years have made it a bit hazy. Then, we put it in a dark place for a couple of weeks and , voila!, we had our wine. It was not bad, considering there was one ingredient, the name of which escapes me, that we did not have. It worked... that was the key. Gave us one hell of a hangover, too.  We drank it for several weeks without incident, but scuttlebutt has a way of making it to the ears of those in Officer Country. Captain MacCurry, our CO got wind of our illicit hootch and sent that big slug of a Sargent Major snooping around. That stinking Sgt. Major found our stills and confiscated them. He put us on report, and we got a few punishment details. That isn't what pissed us off. What pissed us off was that that fat slug lifer DRANK our wine, and didn't buy another drink in the enlisted club the whole time he was there.  
 I used to love the Movie "M*A*S*H" and later the TV show, because it reminded me of the antics of the H&MS 11 BOMB DUMP where I served. We were like Mash, except that we were all just enlisted Marines, no officers involved. 



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Education Crisis

                                   The Education Crisis


 September 28, 2010


 NBC is focusing on the crisis in education that we have in this country. This is nothing new. Anyone who has had to deal with today's High School graduates for the last couple of decades knows that this has been coming for a while. They can't spell, they don't know the history of this country and it's not their fault. Somewhere along the line, schools have lost their focus on really educating students and started pushing them through just to make the numbers look better. If any of you have ever watched Jay Leno do JayWalking, you know exactly what is going on, or rather not going on, in our schools. Ask a person on the street why we celebrate the 4th of July, chances are they know it's to celebrate our independence. Chances are slimmer that they know from who and why. Ask the date of the signing of the declaration, you might just get a blank stare. It's appalling to me..... and I'm a High School drop out with an equivalency diploma. I like to say that I am self educated, because I took the time as I got older and out of the education system, to learn. The US used to be first in education. Now, we are not even in the top ten. If we are to maintain our position as a leader in the world community, this crisis has to be paid more than lip service. It's up to educators and the government to see that this decline does not continue. Throwing money at the problem is not the answer. Getting really dedicated people in a position to do something about it is.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Old Jarhead's story: Autumn

Old Jarhead's story: Autumn: " It never ceases to amaze me that as soon as the official change of the seasons come, the very next day it looks like a crew went out during..."

Autumn

 It never ceases to amaze me that as soon as the official change of the seasons come, the very next day it looks like a crew went out during the night and started to paint the leaves on the trees and plants with bright, bold colors. I have a love/hate relationship with the fall. On the one hand, I find the change of colors breathtakingly beautiful. On the other hand, I know that we are losing the light and the color from the world very shortly for another five months. It's sad, really, that something so beautiful can herald the coming of something so stark. I miss my sunlight and warm weather. I will miss hearing the birds sing every morning and seeing the sun reflect so brightly off of the lake and the trees. It's almost like mourning the passing of someone close. The diference is that I have the hope and the knowledge that I will see life burst forth, in all it's glory, starting in five months. If I could only close my eyes and sleep from now until then......

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Computers

 I don't consider myself the most savvy computer person in the world. When it comes to being computer literate, I think that I am very close to being Illiterate! However, I know enough to be able to stumble around like a drunken blind man and eventually find what I'm looking for. If not, I can usually find someone who can help me.  I have a former co-worker, I'll call him 'Pete', who is even less knowledgeable than I am. Pete called me the other day in desperation and left me a unintelligible voice mail asking for help. What I got out of it was that he was having trouble installing a wireless router for the new Netbook that he bought.
 Now, mind you, we are both retired technical people. We both worked for Verizon/Bell Atlantic/NYNEX/ New York Telephone (An AT&T Company)/New York Telephone Company for over 30 years. We basically were with the company from the two cans and a waxed string age right through the High Speed Broadband age... at least the start of it. And we were GOOD at what we did! No slackers, Pete and I. Anyway, he had the installation disk and he could not get the installation wizard to help him. I asked him if he googled the router for help. "What??"  he said. I told him to hold on and, in a matter of seconds, I brought up Cisco Systems, LinkSys support.  Everything that you want to know about installing this router, right there in front of my tired eyes.
 I  told Pete that I was sending the link to him in an email.  He got it and said "What am I supposed to do with this?". I told him to click on it and, if that didn't work, to copy and paste it to his browser window. He didn't know how to do that, so I had to walk him through it. It took fifteen minutes, but we finally did it. Now, he had to update his browser. He really had a hard time getting to update and was at the "Where's my hammer?" stage. I had to talk him down several times because he was going to give the poor netbook a line hammer makeover. After being on the phone with him for and hour, we decided that the best idea was for me to go over tomorrow and help him install it.  The worst that could happen is that we will look like two monkey's trying to screw a football in the process; or maybe, just maybe, we will get the damned thing installed.
  My question is: Why don't they make these things easier to install? Hell, you've got an installation disk, why isn't that enough? I know, we are a couple of dinosaurs trying to adapt when we know that we will soon be extinct, but at least give us a fighting chance. A shelter that we can go in just before the computer meteor hits! Something. I know, we can take computer classes, but we're to old and too distracted to take classes now. Besides, I didn't go to class in High School, why should I be any different now? I would probably fall asleep because it's past my nap  time. 
 They have that special cell phone for older people, the Cricket?? Why don't they have a special computer for us.... You could call it the Idiot! Just a suggestion.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mornings

Every morning it's the same deal. I'm up and at 'em at 05:30. It's amazing how one person can influence the way you start your day after only one day. My DI threw a large garbage can down the squad bay that first morning to wake us up at 05:30. That was in April of 1966, and here  I am 44 years later still getting up at this hour. It's all good, though. It gives me a little time with myself to see the world as peaceful before the reality of the chaos that we live with every day sets in. The world seems so fresh and new from the perspective of my sliding glass doors. With coffee in hand, I see a quiet, peaceful woodland. Even I-84, which I can see from the deck, is relatively quiet. This will change quickly in the hours to come.
 Fall arrives today and my beautiful warm Summer will officially draw to a close. I dread the cold weather and the damned snow. I didn't mind it when I was working, but things have taken a turn since I had to retire. Oh, well. This, too, shall pass and the Spring will come in a few short months.
 I am taking Aunt Mary shopping and to breakfast this morning. It helps us both. It gives me a sense of purpose, and it get's her out of the house. She's 94 and needs a reason to keep going. Later on, I will get on and have a little give and take with my friends on Facebook. It always get's my spirits up. What a great group of people we have met on line. People are the same all over the world, I've found, and it's great having met them..
 Well, I went and took my aunt out. Traffic was terrible this morning. They had it go from 3 lanes to two as soon as I got on the Hutch from I-684. I don't know who thinks that this is a good idea, but traffic was at a stand still. When we finally got moving, it was smooth until we got to where the Hutch and the Cross County Parkway split. Again, down to 2 lanes from 6. It just gets crazier. The kicker is, they had the lanes coned off, but no one was doing anything. Maybe it's me and I just don't understand the way things are supposed to work. Anyway, I finally picked her up at 11 and took her to lunch. She is always happy to be able to get out. I got home at 1:30, and facebook is down. Oh well. What can you do.
 This is a bit of a rambling train of thought. I hope that I will get better at time goes on, but I am not promising anything. I'm not much of a writer, and this is my first attempt. If you stay with me, that's great. If not, I don't blame you. More tomorrow.