Monday, December 31, 2012

My Back Pages: Thoughts At Year's End and the New Year Ahead

My Back Pages: Thoughts At Year's End and the New Year Ahead: 2013 is just over the horizon.... one day and a few hours away. Wouldn't it be nice if we, as a people, could forgo our differences and...

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Back Pages: Guns and Roses and Little John

My Back Pages: Guns and Roses and Little John: Four of my roses. (Casey, Jamie, Makenna, Taylor) We had another shooting the other day ; this one in an elementary s chool in Newtown,...

Guns and Roses and Little John


Four of my roses. (Casey, Jamie, Makenna, Taylor)
We had another shooting the other day; this one in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. 26 innocent souls taken by a madman, a child himself, who 'Just snapped.' How many times have we heard this over the last couple of decades? Ho many times will we hear it again before we, as a caring society, come up with an answer that is acceptable to everyone? How many more innocents have to die before we say 'This is enough! We cannot tolerate this anothe second!' What really bothers me  is that , as soon as this happened, I could sit and watch the two sides gearing up for a fight. The gun enthusiasts on the one side, and the gun haters on the other. I have to tell you, I don't care about guns. I am a Marine (No such thing as a former or ex Marine). I never got a big charge out of them. When I went to target shoot, or playing the games at the carnivals, I always prided  myself with being a pretty decent shot. This comes in handy when you are defending your country. I never wanted to own one, however. The thought of having one in the house always scared me, for two reasons. One, I had two boys that could find and get anything that you thought that you were hiding from them. I could bet you that, if you tried, they would find whatever you were trying to keep from them  in less than ten minutes flat. Period.  Scoff, if you like, but that is the truth. Two, I never trusted myself enough to possess something that could take another persons life. Maybe now, that I am older, but when I was young, I did have a hot temper at times. I never hurt anyone, but if you have something as lethal as a gun, would you take a chance, if you were me? I think not. I don't need a gun to prove that I am tough. I am  not. I am just an old Marine. Enough said. Oh, those four cuties up there? They are four of my Roses... my sweet granddaughters. Here is another one.
Another Rose, a flower to be nurtured.(Elizabeth)
  I have fourteen grandchildren, that's right, fourteen, and not one of them is expendable! Not for the damned second amendment, that's for damned sure. Here is another one of my sweet flowers. This is John. He's two and a half, and he's funny and smart and he's named after me. I would take a bullet myself before I would see anyone of these children hurt. 
John Alan.. another flower.
 Do I have an answer on how to stop the violence? Probably not, but we have to start somewhere. Everyone with any sense knows that an outright ban is not going to work. We have people in this country that rely on guns for their dinner and livelihood on a daily basis. Hell, my own grandfather in Oklahoma put food on the table up to the fifties and beyond by hunting. I am not for taking any man or woman's livelihood away from them. But we could start by applying the same scrutiny for guns that we use for obtaining a drivers license. Every owner should be duly licensed. A psychological test should be required for each owner. Classes on gun safety should be mandatory for all. This is a start. Getting angry and calling names at people who are genuinely worried about their children and grandchildren only accomplishes closing peoples minds to you and your rights. Earlier today, I saw posts calling gun control advocates 'Fascist tools', Idiots, Communists....... you name it. To these people I can only say that your attempt at ridiculing people and trying to bully them, or marginalize them only hardens their stance against you. We all need to  calm down and have a dialog that will lead to a solution that will satisfy all, and keep our children safe. Arming the teachers is not an answer. Placing an officer or two in each school might be. Can we just stop getting heated and search for a meaningful answer to this increasingly deadly problem? 
  I am appealing to the good in all of you to work things out and find and answer. I know that you can do it. Don't let me down. Don't let our children and grandchildren down. Their lives depend on you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Back Pages: The Spirit Of The Season

My Back Pages: The Spirit Of The Season:   Well, I cannot believe that another year has sped past, and we are officially into the Winter Holiday Season. I have already seen or read ...

The Spirit Of The Season

 Well, I cannot believe that another year has sped past, and we are officially into the Winter Holiday Season. I have already seen or read about random good acts performed by my friends and others that make me thankful that I do know so many people now. From a police spending his own money to buy a man a pair of shoes, to a young lady that I watched grow up being given a random holiday gift from a stranger and vowing to pay it forward, to another young lady who was inspired by this and bought two new tricycles to put in the nearly empty Toys for Tots box where she works, there are so many things that really make a person feel good at this time of the year. It doesn't matter if you celebrate Chanukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanza. It doesn't matte if you celebrate nothing, you cannot deny that there is a good mood that surrounds most people at this time of the year. We celebrate giving of ourselves to others less fortunate. We show family how much we appreciate them by giving gifts, large and small. People tend to volunteer to help the homeless more at this time of the year.
 Regardless of what the news says, there is always an up-tick in sales for the retail stores, big and small, at this time of the year. The lament is usually that the INCREASE in sales was not as large as the number crunchers would have liked; but there is always an increase, nevertheless.
  Now, I would like to get to the heart of my essay. It bothers me, because I have so many friends of different religions, and many with no religion. It's the matte of what to call the season and how to greet each other. I see people posting angrily about people saying Happy Holidays to them. They want to hear "Merry Christmas." While I can understand somewhat their wanting to hear their traditional greeting, everyone must realize  that there is more than  one holiday celebrated at this time, and other religious people do not feel comfortable about being told "Merry Christmas." Why should it offend someone to be told 'Happy Holidays?' I don't find this offensive and, in fact, have been using it for years when I do not know a person's religious beliefs. I use it out of respect for others and the though that I may have offended someone never crossed my mind. I just try to spread a little cheer by acknowledging  that this is a special time of the year to many people, not just Christians. I am sure that others who say the same thing, or something similar, are doing so for the same reasons. 
 So, if someone says "Happy Holidays!" to you, please, do not take offense. Rather, feel thankful that others, regardless of religion, want to share their spirit of the holiday season with you. Smile, let the warmth flow over you, and wish them the same. Let's end this year on a note of unity and brotherhood, and start the New Year with the same. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Thanksgiving - Part II

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Thanksgiving - Part II: Thanksgiving is our favorite Holiday. My wife and I come from different backgrounds, but the one thing that we always had in common was ou...

Thoughts On Thanksgiving - Part II

Thanksgiving is our favorite Holiday. My wife and I come from different backgrounds, but the one thing that we always had in common was our love of this one true family holiday. It's a time for families to take a break from their sometimes hectic lives, to sit and enjoy each other's company, catch up on what has gone on this past year, and reflect on how much we truly have to be thankful for. We often complain about things that we do not have, or things that seem to irritate us all year long. That's just the natural, human thing to do. To take the time to reflect on all the good things that we do have on this day, is somehow fitting and it makes one realize that the US is a great place to call home.
  I take time on this day, in between chopping, stirring, roasting, and the frequent glasses of wine, to reflect on the Thanksgivings of my younger years. They were something to remember, because the whole Zaffino famiglia would gather at my Grandparent's home in New Rochelle. My mother would, along with my aunts, help Grandma make the ravioli for the  second course. They would do it on big boards in various bedrooms and the kitchen. Fresh, and delicious, along with my Grandma's home made sauce... heaven. The men would sit or stand around, drinking their drinks, smoking if that's what they did, and tell jokes. The women who weren't working on the dinner, would sit and talk along with them, laughing, singing, and carrying on. There was so much love and joy in those Thanksgiving get togethers. The eating would start just before noon, and carry on, off and on, all day, until the turkey was served around 6 or 7 in the evening. The glow on my grandpa's face at having his big family all around him was something to see. He was the picture of happy serenity. My Grandma, although working the whole week before and all day on the day, never appeared tired. Just happy to have the family around. After dinner, there would be nuts and assorted dried fruits... the pies came later on. The adults played cards and board games, while the children colored or played their games. We would go home very late, tired but happy.
 When my grandparents died, there were few huge gatherings like that ever again, although the family would 'Make the rounds' on the holidays, visiting each others homes for a holiday toast. If they did it today, everyone would be in jail for dui, but those were different times. and accidents were, miraculously, non existent. We enjoyed a scaled down version of those early feasts, but it was still all about family and being together.... Family Time.

 After I returned from the Marine Corps and my parents moved from New Rochelle to Mahopac, I continued to go to their house for the holidays, bringing my family along. After the end of my first marriage, and my subsequent second marriage, I added two step children and a new baby to our family, and we continued to get together with my brother and my sisters and my sister's family at my mother and father's house for the holiday. It was a tradition that everyone enjoyed. It was a tradition that everyone needed. When that ended with my father's death, and my mother moving across the country, I was at a loss at first. I was working for New York Telephone, and I worked on the holiday, in those early years. The first Thanksgiving in our home, I came home at eleven thirty at night to find a full turkey dinner that my wife had cooked especially for me. I was profoundly touched.
  The next year, we had my father in law, and my brother in law and his wife down from Albany for Thanksgiving. As the years flew by, our house was the place to be for Thanksgiving. We watched the kids grow each year an eventually go off on their own, but we still had our Thanksgiving get togethers. My brother in law and sister in law stopped coming a few years ago. They had moved to South Jersey, and it was just too much of a trip. We still had our children and their families. It was always a great day for family. Like I said, we love Thanksgiving.

  Tomorrow, we will enjoy our Thanksgiving together. Not as full a house as it used to be, but we won't be alone, either. I will reflect again, as I just have, on years past, and raise a glass of wine in tribute to all those wonderful family members who are  now gone, but have left me such a wonderful, rich legacy of memories. I hope that you all have good memories to reflect on, too, and I wish you, one and all, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Thanksgiving- Part I

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Thanksgiving- Part I: Thanksgiving  2008 OK, now I'm going to sound like the Old Man that I am. This is about Thanksgiving, after all, and Thanksgiving is an ...

Thoughts On Thanksgiving- Part I

Thanksgiving  2008
OK, now I'm going to sound like the Old Man that I am. This is about Thanksgiving, after all, and Thanksgiving is an old tradition that dates back to Abraham Lincoln. So if you get bored with old-timer stories, hang in there, because this is going somewhere, and I have something to say.
  Back when I was a young boy, Thanksgiving was a really big deal. It wasn't just Black Friday Eve, or the day that people sat in front of the Television with a plate of food, watching every mind numbing football game that your 200 - Plus television channels will bring you. It was a time to be with your family and enjoy a big meal together. It was a time to reflect on everything that you were thankful for. People got dressed for dinner. Mom and the other women of the family would start cooking and baking days in advance whatever they could, so that the family could sit and enjoy each other's company. No one worked, except for certain utility workers, and people that worked in movie theaters. Some businesses were open early in the day, but all shut down by 1 PM. We had blue laws in those days which required most businesses to be closed. We could not even buy gasoline after 1 PM. What you had was a government mandated day that families could spend together. If you had a television, it was an old B&W set for most of us, and it was turned off after the Macy's Parade was over. Sometimes the kids were allowed to watch the holiday fare that was offered; usually Babes In Toyland, or something similar. The point is, the family was together, and it was a day of good cheer and thankfulness for what we had, including each other. These were good years  to grow up in. Your mother or father, or both, did not have to go off to work in the local department store, so that the owners of the store could get a jump on the Christmas sales. The people that ran the businesses back then knew that they would make plenty of money after Thanksgiving, and despite what you hear from year to year, they always do make a lot of money. These days, though, there is a lot of hand wringing about how much they made or didn't make over last year. It's always "More, More, MORE!!!" Sometime, in the years that followed my childhood and young adult years, the blue laws were lifted in many locations. The big stores started out opening their doors Thanksgiving night. That wasn't good enough... over the past couple of years now, they are open Thanksgiving Day. No longer required to close by law, they open all day, and some actually are open for 24 hours, and they force their employees to work. No more family time. The hell with you and your family time. You either come in and work, or you don't have a job... it's that simple. The men and women who run these corporations don't care about the individuals who work for them. To them, they are just means to an end, and that end is to make as much money as they possibly can. It doesn't matter to them, because they will be off that day, having  dinner with family and friends, with not a thought for the public that makes them their millions except as people to be used and extorted in any way that they can. People losing their jobs means nothing to them, no more than changing a lightbulb that no longer works. Corporations have lost the humanity that it took to build them in the first place. They are soulless entities that are incapable of caring about the people that work for them. 
  If only we would, as a unified people, take a stand and not go to their sales. If only we would send them the message that families and family time together is important, that the meaning of Thanksgiving is not shopping for the best deals that you can get. It's about being thankful for living in a free country where you can spend time with your family and friends a few precious times a year. It's about being together as a family for at least one day a year, taking the time from our increasingly busy lives, to enjoy each other's company and reflect on how lucky we all are to have a family. I will tell you one thing: No one in my family will be patronizing any of these stores on Thanksgiving. Whether or not they celebrate with many, or a few, they will celebrate the holiday. How about all of you?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Happy 237th Birthday Marine Corps....Thoughts On Veteran's Day, 2012

 As I sit here on the day before the birthday of my beloved Marine Corps, and two days before Veteran's Day, I am wondering what on earth can I possibly write about this year? Our Greatest Generation continues to slowly pass into history, the work that they did to save America and the world from the horrors of Nazism/Fascism, and the unfinished war in Korea and the blood that they shed to keep the South free, all seem like a story that someone has written. A terrible fiction that could not have happened. After all, how could anyone throw themselves directly into the mouth of hell, certain death all around them,  their friends being blown to bits: and yet,somehow, they managed to prevail and take down Fortress Europe and defeat the Axis there. The forces in the Pacific sacrificed themselves on island after island, from Guadalcanal, through Iwo Jima, to Okinawa, they threw themselves at an entrenched enemy force who's soul purpose was to enslave the people of Asia and the Pacific Islands and, ultimately, Hawaii and the United States. Finally, the brave pilots and crews of the Enola Gay and Bockscar, dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to finally end the war. President Truman will always be remembered as the man who ended the war through the use of nuclear bombs, but it was these brave men who actually flew the missions. 
 These same men, the survivors of the two great theaters of war, came home and started to get the country moving again, off of the war footing that it had been on, and back to the peacetime business of running the manufacturing plants and thousands of other businesses and raising their families. Disrupted by the war in Korea, thousands more answered the call to stop the spread of communism to the sout3h of the Korean peninsula. Many more Americans and allied forces lost their lives there. They fought the forces of North Korea and the Communist Chinese to a standstill at the 38th Parallel, where both sides signed a cease fire which remains in place today, almost 60 years later. 
 These were brave men and women, many who made the ultimate sacrifice for the continued liberty of the free world. We may never see their like again, and it makes me very sad to watch them fade away. On Veterans Day of every year, I salute them. On a daily basis, I remember them and thank them for all that they have given me and every other person across the globe who are able to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Without them, there would be no United States. Without them, there would be no elections, no freedom to express your thoughts and not be sent to some remote prison. Without them, there would be no me. Thank you, Dad, for your bravery in volunteering, no, insisting that you be sent to the European theater to help end the war, when you could have stayed safe in the Canal Zone. Thank you, Uncle Harold, for risking your life, over and over and over again, island hopping in the Pacific, climbing Mount Suribachi and watching that flag raising, then fighting that horrible, bloody battle to secure that island. Thank you, Chesty Puller for being such a beloved leader of men that your Marines would have followed you to hell and back.
  In the Vietnam War, the children of these brave souls were called to fight a different kind of war in the jungles of Vietnam. It doesn't matter if you think that the war was right or wrong, moral or not. That is for the scholars, men and women much smarter than I, to decide through hindsight. The fact remains that so many served, some voluntarily, some through the draft.. but they served; and so many died or were maimed. Some suffer to this day from the things that they were exposed to during that war. I served, and I am proud that I did. Given the ability to foresee the ultimate outcome, I would not change a thing that I did. I was raised to believe that we owe a service to the American People for the privilege of living relatively free. We did our duty, and we are all proud of our service.
 After the Vietnam war, things did not change much, except that the draft was finally ended. We still had men and women volunteering to serve. We still had men and women being killed on foreign soil. The Marine Barracks in Lebanon, Granada, Panama. The '90s saw our brave volunteers fighting the first Gulf War to secure the freedom of Kuwait from the criminal dictator, Saddam Hussein. After the attack on the World Trade Center. Our troops saw action in the civil war that divided the former Yugoslavia, and went in to stop the genocide of Muslims by the Serb dictator Milosevich. We saw the slaughter of the brave Delta force soldiers and the crew of the helicopter by Somalian forces. The result, 17 dead and 73 wounded from the US. 
  After the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the United States and it's allies entered into two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. The brave military personell from the US are all volunteer now. These wars have maimed and killed thousands of young men and women, yet they continue to volunteer. 
 I want to thank each and every service member, living and deceased, active and retired, for their sacrifice and unswerving courage in the face of the enemies of  freedom. I salute each and every one of you and thank your for your service. You continue to make me proud to be an American Citizen and Marine Corps Veteran.
 To my fellow Marines: You have always made me proud to have served in this unique organization. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARINES and SEMPER FIDELIS!! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Labor Day 2012


Labor Day, 2012

On this Labor Day, 2012, I am appalled as a Union Member and a retired Chief Steward for Verizon after reading Mr. Romney’s ‘5 Point Plan’ for jobs. In it, he blames organized labor for the malaise that has hit the American economy. He blames organized labor for the movement of jobs to foreign countries. He says, in veiled terms that the American Labor Movement has become too greedy. He says that there are too many regulations that chase businesses overseas to countries like China and Indonesia. How dare the American worker demand a living wage? How dare they demand that working conditions be safely regulated, so that we can keep on the job accidents to a minimum? How dare the American worker ask for health care coverage for them and their families. Why, if they would just accept a lower standard of living, lower safety standards, and risk going without any health coverage, the economy would instantly improve, and America would get rolling again! This is like blaming the victim for being assaulted and robbed over and over again. Read his plan, carefully. It sets the labor movement back 100 years. It sets women’s rights back at least 60 years. And yet, people will still vote for this ticket. 
  We worked hard for our wages and benefits. I, myself, was injured on the job and rendered unable to work again, and this was with the OSHA rules in place. What unions do is protect workers from things like discrimination. A boss cannot fire someone simply because they don’t like the way that he or she looks. The Boss must have a valid reason like insubordination or failure to do the job. Unions protect workers rights. Unions ensure that substandard working conditions are not tolerated. 
 Are unions all good? Of course not. They are, after all, run by humans, the same as business, and from time to time there have been abuses. All things considered, however, the organized labor movement has benefited all workers. 
 It makes me angry and sad at the same time when I see these smug individuals ready to shovel dirt on all that we in labor have accomplished. It’s like desecrating the flag to me. If organized labor goes away, the likes of Mr. Christie and Mr. Romney will run rough-shod over the American worker for years to come. 
 But, mark my words: Push us too far, and we will rear up and strike you hard. American Labor may be down for the count, but don’t count us out just yet. American workers will only take so much, before they say “That’s as far as you go, you will go no further!” 
  As for American women, they will not be pushed around for long. They are strong, and they are vocal. They will not have their rights buried again.
 One more thing, for all of you who so easily throw out labels for anyone who does not tow the so-called ‘Republican’ line. I am not a Liberal, or a Socialist, or a Communist. I served my country well under both a Democrat and a Republican without protest. I came home from war to raise a family in the American tradition, like my father before me, by working hard every day, sometimes at three jobs. My Union saw to it that I got paid a decent wage for my work and had good benefits. Nothing exorbitant, just decent. I watched my father work for years for sub-standard wages and no pension. He did have medical insurance. He did not have a union to stand up for him. He was happy that I did. He died at the very young age of 58. So, when someone wants to call me a name, I just shake my head in wonder. I did everything the right way. I worked for them.
  Enjoy  your Labor Day, everyone, and remember what it stands for.
 Semper FI and God Bless The American People.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Independence and the 2012 Election

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Independence and the 2012 Election: I’m glad to be an American with a choice of who I can vote for. No matter how stupid someone else might think that my choice is, no matter h...

Thoughts On Independence and the 2012 Election

I’m glad to be an American with a choice of who I can vote for. No matter how stupid someone else might think that my choice is, no matter how stupid I might think that their choice is, we can still make our choice known. I’ve heard people say, and I’ve said myself, that the founders must be rolling over in their graves over the nasty way that these campaigns are run these days, and the mistrust and lack of cooperation there is between the parties involved, but that would just not be true. The truth is, the states battled with each other over independence and whether to totally break from the British Empire, or to continue be a subject of the British Crown, but with a greater say. The declaration almost did not happen. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware were still holding out from signing such a radical document. There were many maneuvers between the colonies, but the reluctant colonies did come around, and the document was signed on July 4th, 1776. This would not be the last time that there would be differences of opinion as to which way the nation should go. All throughout our history, there are differences of opinion, sometimes violent differences; yet, here we are, 236 years later, still a nation.. and a bigger one at that. We don’t have to agree on everything. It doesn’t make you any smarter if you are a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent, it just means that we see things differently. We need to remember that, in the final accounting, we are all Americans. This country was not built by one party, it was built by several. Standing and pointing fingers at each other does nothing but inflame a situation. We can all agree that the process works, the majority rules (Most of the time), and that problems will eventually be worked out if we just learn to work together. We all vote for who we think is going to improve this country’s economic position in the world. We vote for the person who we think will make choices that are less painful to us. Whoever we elect, he is the President for at least the next four years. We need to learn to respect that.
  Tomorrow, as I sit with my family and contemplate the event which forged this union, I will remember to respect all Americans, regardless of party, regardless of choice, and I will remain grateful that I was born free in a free country.
 Happy Birthday, America, may you last for a thousand years as a Beacon Of Freedom.
Semper Fidelis!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Back Pages: Aunt Mary, My Registration, and The Town Of Pelham...

My Back Pages: Aunt Mary, My Registration, and The Town Of Pelham...: I left my house and realized that I had left my phone behind. I asked Sheryl to run it down to me on her way out. After I left, I still had ...

Aunt Mary, My Registration, and The Town Of Pelham

I left my house and realized that I had left my phone behind. I asked Sheryl to run it down to me on her way out. After I left, I still had this nagging feeling that I had forgotten something. Driving down to Mount Vernon, I noticed that New York State has now purchased a fleet of smaller, unmarked, SUVs for the purpose of traffic code enforcement. This is just to let all who travel the highways of New York State, these SUV's are very nondescript and that the way that they are being placed on the highways makes them look even more like a regular citizen's vehicle. Anyway, not far from where I got on, there was very large, reddish brown coyote on the shoulder, much bigger than the coyotes that I am now so used to seeing in the area.
 All the way down to Mount Vernon, I kept having this nagging feeling that I had forgotten something. I just couldn't shake it. I pulled up to my Aunt's Apartment house and called her. While I was waiting for her, I checked and rechecked everything that I normally carry with me. Everything checked out. My Aunt came down, and I told her my feeling of missing something. She said "Well, let's go get breakfast, and maybe it will come to you."  I drove into Pelham and, as usual, there were large box trucks double parked up and down the street. I saw a space while I was waiting for the light to change, but someone came out of the side street and took it before I could get to it. As the light changed and I continued down the street, I noticed that there were several parking spaces on the opposite side of the street, so I looked around quickly for a place to turn around. There was no traffic coming in the opposite direction, so I pulled into a small parking lot to turn around. Just as I did so, I heard "Whoop, whoop" and the police officer who had been behind me, flagged me over. I pulled into the parking space, and he began to lecture me about pulling a U-Turn when It was clearly marked that no U-Turns were permitted! (It Wasn't) I explained to the officer that I had not seen and signs, and he wave his hand vaguely at the street and said "They're all over the place! I don't know how you missed it. But, I'm in a good mood this morning"  (You could have fooled me, since his ears were bright red and he was yelling at me like he though that I was deaf.) "I'm going to give you a warning this time. One warning, that's it! Next time, I'm gonna give you a ticket!" I contritely thanked the officer and promised to sin no more, well aware that there were plenty of people out there willing to stone me to death for my offense. I put money in my meter, and took my poor, traumatized Aunt Mary by the arm and went in for breakfast. Aunt Mary said. "Signs? What signs? There's no signs anywhere. I was going to give him a piece of my mind if he gave you a ticket!" Aunt Mary may be  96, but she's still full of fight, and she had her cane with her today. I silently thanked the powers that be that all the cop did was yell at me. I didn't want to think of what would have happened if he had done more.
 So, we had a nice breakfast, sat and talked about things in the world and how much better life used to be. (The same thing my grandfather's generation had said 60 years ago.) When we came out to the car, there was a ticket on it. I looked, and it said invalid registration. Now, I have a handicapped sticker, but not an invalid registration.... wait.... she meant 'Expired'! Now, I knew what had been nagging me since I left home. I had the new sticker sitting next to the computer at home. It had come yesterday in the mail, and I was going to put it on before I left the house this morning.
 A worker came out of one of the stores and told me that if I went directly to Town Hall, they would either cut my fine in half, or throw it out... so, off i went.
 Pelham Town Hall is, to put it mildly, not hive of activity. The town clerk sat dozing in front of his computer just inside the front door of the building. After several minutes, he roused himself from his torpor and I explained what had happened. He asked me if I had the new registration with me. I told him, no, if I did, it would have been on the windshield, where it belonged. I told him that I could access the receipt through my iPhone. "No, I'm sorry sir, that will not be enough. It's going to cost you $20.00"  I reached in my pocket and pulled out some bills. I peeled off one twenty dollar bill and handed it to him. "NO, sir." He said. "I said $40.00" And he handed me back my twenty. I found another twenty and handed both to him. "I'll give you a receipt." He said and wrote one out. I thanked him, he grunted something unintelligible to me, and went back to nodding off.
  I took Aunt Mary on her errands, the whole time feeling like a wanted criminal, and thinking that, at any moment, a swat team of police would block me off, order me out of my car and handcuff me after they had made me lay, spread eagled on the ground. I pictured Aunt Mary swinging her cane like a latter day Davy Crockett at the Alamo, before being subdued by a Taser. I breathed a sigh of relief once I dropped her off. She was still mumbling about the "Damn cops..." as she got out of the car.
 Driving home, I felt like I was going to be stopped at any moment by one of the Statey's that sat along the highway. Luckily, I made the return trip without further incident. That was my morning. I hope everyone else had one that was at least as much fun as mine! Just kidding, friends. Have a great day!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Verizon Showing It's True Colors Again. (And they ain't red, white, and blue)

You've got to hand it to Verizon. For chutzpah, they manage to exceed every other greedy corporation out there. Today, they have announced a rate increase for all FiOS subscribers. They are increasing the download speeds for some, while increasing the rates that subscribers will pay. Here is the new rate table.

Standard 15/5Mbps service: (Was $54.99/mo) now up $10 to $64.99
50/25Mbps service: (Was $74.99/mo for 25/25Mbps) remains $74.99
75/35Mbps service: (New offer) $84.99
150/65Mbps service: (Was $94.99/mo for 50/20Mbps) remains $94.99
300/65Mbps service: (Was $199.99/mo for 150/35Mbps) now $204.99

For some subscribers, this means paying $10.00 a month for no increase in speed., and for the top tiered speed, you will go to $204.00 a month. Poor Verizon. It seems that it just cannot get by on the record profits that they are already raking in, they need to stick it to the consumer more. This, on top of cutting more jobs in the US, and shipping more jobs overseas, and the recently announced rate package for Verizon Wireless Data packages and the end of unlimited data options. Meanwhile, the silence of congress on the job drain is deafening.
Thank you, Verizon, for being such a Patriotic Company. You do so much to help ensure that America's economy continues to stagnate for the average American Citizen, while some profit from the suffering of others. You look to squeeze your workers more and more. You wish to desert your retired workers, and take from the them the health care plan for which they all worked over the years. You look to abandon the traditional  Land Line Business which enabled you to get to where you are today, citing the route that technology seems to have taken the business. Forget the fact that millions still rely on these lines as their only means of communication. Even with your FiOS service, you seem to have stopped expanding it, because you are in negotiations with Comcast to turn the FiOS business over to them, and for them to offer Verizon wireless as part as a Quadruple Play. This would start the Verizon retreat from offering wired services, to eventually offering only wireless.This  will be lucrative for both companies, but a disaster for the consumers. So, as you continue on your mission to rip off the consumer, and turn your back on the American Worker, I have only this to say to you: "Terrific! You make me proud to have worked for you!"..... Not!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Back Pages: Memorial Day, 2012

My Back Pages: Memorial Day, 2012:    Once, they filled our world, these giants among men and women. They were our mothers, our fathers, our aunts, uncles, neighbors. They nev...

Memorial Day, 2012

   Once, they filled our world, these giants among men and women. They were our mothers, our fathers, our aunts, uncles, neighbors. They never claimed to be heroes. They never claimed to be anything more than what they believed that they were: Americans. We were raised so closely to them that we saw them with their everyday faults. Going to normal jobs, trying to make enough money to raise a houseful  of children. They were born either during, or directly after the ‘Great War: The War To End All Wars’. They toddled through the Roaring Twenties. They suffered through the  Great Depression. They watched the  war clouds gather over Europe and erupt into the horror of the European Theatre, and were surprised and shocked when America was so brutally attacked at Pearl Harbor. One thing that is crystal clear to me: The term "The Greatest Generation" is the only one that could be given those who lived and died in those years. They came through the Great Depression and made due with less than we can even imagine. They helped each other out, and when their freedom was threatened, they answered the call with unquestioning Patriotism. Somehow, after Pearl, they managed to get this country on a war footing and made the tools needed to fight back. They volunteered for the Armed Services without so much as a second thought.Those who fought in the war did so even though they knew there was a very good chance that they would die. I cannot begin to imagine what those brave souls were thinking in those last few minutes and seconds before hitting the beaches at Normandy, or the beaches on all of those islands in the Pacific. The beaches became killing fields, where many a brave soul died, giving their lives in the defense of freedom. Those who were deemed unfit to serve, nevertheless served on the homefront, working in the factories and on the docks to get the necessary munitions and supplies to the troops. They built over 2700 Liberty Ships in the four years of the war. They built tanks, jeeps, fighter aircraft, bombers, every kind of vehicle and aircraft that was needed to preserve our freedom and to help free Europe and the Pacific. They did it all, without complaint. After the war, led by a General Of The Army who hated war, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, they built the infrastructure that is now in such terrible shape. Highways, super-highways, tunnels, bridges, city streets. They did it all. They made America into an economic superpower by diligently working together towards that common goal. They created the best educational system in the world, Kindergarten through High School. They did it all. 
 On weekends,  the families gathered together for a meal, remembering how tough it was when food was scarce and all they had was each other. Those family gatherings that I remember seem so much more cheerful than the ones that I attend today. They were just happy to be alive. Every memorial day, they would go to the main streets of our country and watch the veterans of the great wars march by. 
 They are slowly fading into history now,  these brave men and women. They are all in their ‘80s and ‘90s; but their mark will be felt for generations yet to come. 
 This coming Monday, Memorial Day 2012, while you are enjoying your cookouts and family gatherings. While you are at the beach, or enjoying the opening of your local pool; just take a moment to reflect on those who have passed who gave us so much, and those few that still remain that now need our support and love. Remember all they did so that we may continue to live relatively free.  I give my undying gratitude to them all. Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Back Pages: Mother's Day 2012

My Back Pages: Mother's Day 2012: If I close my eyes and listen carefully, I can still hear the echoes of their voices: our children, now grown for these many years that have...

Mother's Day 2012

If I close my eyes and listen carefully, I can still hear the echoes of their voices: our children, now grown for these many years that have expanded into decades. In there, in the middle of the chaotic laughter and arguing, I can hear my wife, Sheryl, trying to bring some kind of order to this madness. It was never easy for her.. she was trying to seamlessly blend two families that knew each other, but were not related by blood. What made it worse is that the other set of 'Parents' did everything that they could to make things as difficult as possible. We had two 8 year olds, a boy and a girl, and two 4 year olds, a girl and a boy. They had played together from when they were very little. Now, they were being forged into brothers and sisters. In the middle of this chaos was my 25 year old girlfriend, soon to be my wife. By shear force of her own personality, she managed to fashion us all into a semblance of a family. The kids were so well behaved when she took them shopping that people would comment on them. We married in 1979, and added a daughter in 1980. This completed our family and Sheryl continued to work to bring them together over the next 14 years and then some, after the older children had left the nest. Sheryl's work is still ongoing through 14 Grandchildren and and the occasional crisis that will pop up in any family. One thing is crystal clear: These now adult children are brothers and sisters as much as any blood siblings out there. That's the way they look at each other, and that is the way it will always be.
 Their toys have long been gone from these rooms. There are no more voices at our dinner table. No arguments over what to watch on tv. Just the deafening silence of a home that was full of life, and now has grown old with the owners. The  toys are gone... the years have slipped away, but I will always have these fond memories of our fresh faced children.
 And so, on this Mother's Day, 2012, I would like to salute Sheryl for managing to navigate all the pitfalls of blended families and to thank her for a job well done, with plenty of love to go around for all five children. Thank you, Sher. I love you, and I dedicate this day to you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Back Pages: My View

My Back Pages: My View: Well, here we are in the thick of another Presidential campaign, and the haters have been at it since the beginning of the last one. They ...

My View

Well, here we are in the thick of another Presidential campaign, and the haters have been at it since the beginning of the last one. They don't seem to want to stick to any legitimate issues; they would rather throw whatever nasty, despicable lie they can find out there to see what they can get others to believe. "He wasn't born here!" (A lie!) He's not a Christian (A lie and, even if he wasn't, so what?) He hates America... what? Do you even hear yourselves, or don't you care about how ignorant you sound? I don't care if you don't like the man's politics or not, but throwing hateful and ignorant statements out there just makes you look bad. If you don't like where he stands on the political spectrum, fine. Go after him on the issues, if you even can, at this point. I didn't hear this kind of crap when President Bush was spending us into debt. Or when Cheney said that he didn't give a damn about what the American people wanted. That's a quote, folks, from someone who was voted into office. I have to watch people like his ignorant daughter and former ambassador Bolton twisting the truth to suit their agenda. Whether they like it or not, Obama is the Commander In Chief. He gave the final order to go in and get Bin Laden. If the mission had failed, it would have been on his head, so it stands to reason that, since it was a rousing success, he gets the credit for ordering the boots on the ground that got him. Did the Navy Seals do the actual job? Without question, they are the true heros of the day but,  without the order of the Commander In Chief, the mission does not come off. Are we clear on this now? You have a problem with him 'Politicizing' this mission? Too bad.... that dog slipped off of it's leash years ago, long before there was even a 'War On Terror'.  If you need more recent, think of 'Mission Accomplished' and landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a S3 Viking 1 Aircraft. Now, I will not put President Bush down for doing that... at the time, he thought that hostilities had ceased and that the American People needed a moment that would stand out in their minds. It was a mistake to think so, but it was not something that he did to be vindictive. He did it because he thought it was needed. Period. What I wil say is that every aspect of every war in my long memory has been politicized, so to see these people wrap themselves in the American Flag and scream that what the President has done is wrong, is ridiculous. It's only wrong, because he is not of their party.
 Let's put all of this nonsense aside and get down to real issues with some real proposed solutions that we can live with. The austere changes that the extreme right has called for will only increase the misery of those who are already suffering. How about some incentives that will bring jobs back to the US from overseas, where they were sent during the free trade sell outs in the '90s? How about some kind of sanction put on companies who put their 'Headquarters' in one room in places where they are not taxed, when the real HQ is right here in the US? 
 Healthcare? Why is the far right so against healthcare that's affordable for the working class and the poor? You have given motivation for highly profitable companies like Verizon and AT&T to cut medical benefits that were hard won over the years, claiming that they can't be competitive because they cost too much. Meanwhile, they continue to rake in record profits. Why is the extreme right so against having them offer healthcare as a condition of doing business? If you can think of a better healthcare plan, then please do, instead of crying about the other party's plan. 
 We need real solutions to the real world issues that plague this country and, in fact, the world. I've seen a lot of finger pointing, and name calling. A lot of 'This man is out of touch'. A lot of "I'll create jobs", but not a lot of how. It sounds a lot like Nixon's 'Secret Plan' to end the Vietnam war back in '68. He had no plan. Neither do any of these candidates have a plan to stimulate the economy. 
  Now, to the call for the killing of Claire McCaskill by the radical tea party activist, Scott Boston. I saw this last night and I was dumbfounded! How can anyone in American politics blithely call for the killing of a sitting Senator.... or anyone, for that matter? Is there no decency left in this America that I grew up in and love? Are there no laws against this? I know there is if you make a statement like that against the president, but shouldn't the laws also apply for anyone. This sickens me. It takes the politics of hate too far. What bothers me even more is that not one Tea Party member, or any conservative stood up and condemned this man for what he said. As a matter of fact, when I wrote a comment under the article about how I felt about this, I received a comment back stating that I should note that it stated it was one activist, not a group of activists. Does this really matter? It only takes one crazy person with a gun to take down a citizen or a leader of the free world. Don't make excuses, join me in condemning any statements like this from the left or right. If we can't agree on anything else, we should be able to agree on this. Come on, America, Wake Up, before someone else gets killed in the name of ideology. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Politics and Religion

We all have the same destination.
 If there is one thing that the current political campaigns have showed us, it's that religious intolerance is alive and well in this country, and, in fact,  in every part of the globe. Demonstrations in Afghanistan over the, according to US military officials, accidental burning of the Quran. Shouts in the streets of "Death To America". The kidnapping and murder of different people in the middle east and other regions for not being the same religion as the people that they are trying to educate. Back here in the US, fundamentalists groups who preach intolerance against anyone that does not follow their path to heaven, or whatever their concept of religious salvation is. I myself have been "De-friended" here on facebook because I have spoken out against intolerance by people whom I respect and love, and even a member of my own family for 'Bashing Christianity'. It has been hurtful to me, but if I cannot speak my mind when I perceive intolerance, then I regretfully must let these people that I hold dear, go. The best that I can do is try to explain, but that has not proved to be enough. I just cannot stand by and listen to people say that, if you do not follow Our Way, then you are condemned to eternal damnation. This has been directed at anyone outside of their particular way of following what they perceive to be the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Let me explain. My wife, Sheryl, is Jewish. Two of our daughters are Jewish. Our youngest daughter is still finding her way, and my sons are/were Catholic. As for my self, I, at the age of 65, am still finding my way. I am very spiritual in that I believe that we are joined together by one 'Great Spirit'- God, if you prefer- but that does not mean that I think that this spirit has total control over everyone's life. I cannot believe that a benevolent entity would continue to allow all the suffering and hatred that is spread out across the world. I believe that anything that we do that effects another person, has a ripple effect in some small amount throughout the living world. 
 But this is not about me. As I said, I am still searching and learning. This is about the "My God Is Better Than Your God" attitude of so many people who look to run this country and the world. The fact is that of  the three major religions, all believe in one supreme being. Two of them, Christianity and Islam, give Jesus a major roll in what they teach. In Judaism, they are still waiting for the Messiah. All profess to put people on the road to a better life. Not materially, but spiritually.  I just cannot understand why, if these religions strive for a more enlightened way of existence, they cannot mutually coexist with each other. Agree to disagree, politely and lovingly, on the points of contention. The goal is simple: The end of religious hatred. It does not matter if, as Christianity and Islam teach, you believe that the Messiah and Messenger, Jesus (Isa, in Arabic) has come. He taught tolerance and love of one and other. Isalm teaches that we must lead a more spiritual holy life and not worship false idols. (The Kardashians and their ilk come to mind) Judaism teaches us to lead a spiritual life and to be kind and loving to each other and to love and protect your family. We all recognize the ten commandments as a good starting point on which to build our lives.  Still, we have people killing each other over religion.. not only different religions, but different interpretations of the SAME religions. This family mistrusts that family because they are Baptist, and that family is Episcopalian.  Jews and Islamists cannot, or will not, co-exist because they refuse to find common ground, even though they are standing on it. Right here, in the United States of America, a country that was founded on escape from religious intolerance, we have a Republican Party that is in chaos because of religion. Some find Mormons to be a cult. Some want to run the country according to the way that they believe everyone should believe. I find this to be outrageous and an affront to many of our founding fathers. Jefferson and Thomas Paine come immediately to mind. There is nothing wrong with being spiritual. Dictating the way a citizen must think in order to be spiritual is, in my opinion, just wrong.
 Which is why I featured the Dalai Lama's quote at the beginning to this blog. I will end the way that I started. "People take different roads seeking Fulfillment and Happiness. Just because they're not on your road, does not mean that they have gotten lost" - Dalai Lama
 That's my opinion, folks. No hate needed here, just love and peace.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SIGN THE PETITION...

My Blog is blacked out in solidarity with the protest against the senate and house bills that would censor what we see on the web. Tell Congress WE WILL NOT STAND BY AND LET YOU TAKE AWAY THE FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ON THE WEB! SIGN THE PETITION...:

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