A Feeling I’d Never Experienced

A Feeling I’d Never Experienced

Despite never having a dog of my own until manhood, I’m a lifelong dog lover.  Doris and I adopted my first dog, Brandy, three years after we wed. Brandy was a mixed breed one-year-old that we rescued from the local Humane Society.  She was a sweet dog, gentle with our babies and a spectacular Frisbee catcher who loved going airborne to pluck a disk out of the sky.

We loved Brandy for eight years before she passed away from a sudden debilitating disease.  It was a sad time for all of us.  I felt especially guilty that the poor dog spent so much of her days alone, waiting for one of us to come home from work or school.  It wasn’t fair to her. Like most dogs, she just craved attention but got too little from our family on-the-go.  I vowed not to get another dog until I could give it the time and attention it deserved.

As many who know me are aware, when Doris and I moved to Maine to start our early retirement, we got a miniature Australian Shepherd (a.k.a. American Shepherd) we named Charley.  He joined our lives at eight weeks old, nearly nine years ago. I craved to be a dog owner again and vowed this time I would do it right.  Charley has long been a full-fledged, card-carrying member of our family with almost all rights and privileges attendant thereto (except relieving himself indoors), and is similarly acknowledged by our daughter’s and son’s families.

Charley is my shadow and I’m his. Whenever possible, he goes where I go.  He has a disposition that, if emulated by most people, would make nuclear weapons and the United Nations obsolete.  He is bright, smiley, affectionate, playful, popular, obedient, patient and eager to like anyone he meets. He plays well with other dogs (he has a fascination with licking their ears for some reason) right up until they show an interest in his food bowl or try to be too friendly with me.

Charley is not just smart, he’s really smart. We were living on Orr’s Island in Harpswell, Maine when we brought Charley home from an upstate breeder in Litchfield.  Within less than a week, Charley (an eight week old ball of fur) knew to go to the front door to be let outside when he had to “go.” Our 400-foot driveway was a long and somewhat serpentine hill that ended in front of our house on Long Cove. For exercise (Charley’s, not mine) I would put a tennis ball into the socket of a “chucker” and throw the ball far up the driveway.  Charley would run up the hill, retrieve it, and bring it back to me so I could throw it for him again.  This lasted a few months before Charley changed the game.  One day, after running up the hill to retrieve the ball as usual, he started down the driveway but then stopped.  He looked down at me, tilted his head to one side, laid down on his stomach on the macadam, and rolled the ball down the hill to me. That was the way we played from then on. He figured it out all on his own and after a while had learned where to release the ball so that it didn’t fall off either side of the curves in the driveway.

When we moved from Maine to our present home, a condominium, we made sure we found one with a hill.

We never “crated” him – he’s always been welcome in our room on our bed any time.  Dog trainers (actually dog-owner trainers) ) were surprised at how quickly he learned and responded to commands. I easily trained him to come to me when I called him or whistled two specific notes.  Many folks in our neighborhood of more than 60 condominiums know and like Charley.

In early September 2019 we made our familiar hour-and-forty-five-minute trek to our daughter and son-in-law’s home to help care for three of our grandchildren (our son and daughter-in-law have #4) while ‘mom’ was away for three days.  Of course, Charley was with us.  Our eldest grandchild, four-year-old Maddy, had earlier explained to Hunni (Doris) and Pop (me) that while Charley lived with us, he was our dog, but when he was at their house Charley was their dog.

All went well.  I drove my daughter to the airport on Thursday evening and she returned safely late the following Sunday.  The kids were good all weekend and  Hunni and Pop were prepared to return home after breakfast on Monday. At 3:30 Monday morning, Charley woke Doris with the whimper he uses to let us know he’s got to “go.”  She forced her way from under the covers, turned on the light on Charley’s collar, flipped on the back yard light and opened the door for Charley to go relieve himself.

Our daughter’s back yard is fully fenced in and has three gates. I’d checked to make sure all three were closed when we arrived on Thursday, and found that one was ajar.  The fence is old and the latch on that particular gate doesn’t align well with the fence.  I force-straightened the gate so that the latch could close, gave it a shake to see if it held, and moved on when it did.

After five minutes Doris called for Charley to return, but he didn’t.  She asked me to try so I pulled on some warmer clothes and my sneakers, grabbed a flashlight and went outside to see why he didn’t answer Doris’s call.

He didn’t answer because he wasn’t there.

When I went to each of the gates to check the locks I found that the one I’d forced together had come apart, leaving just enough space for Charley to fit through.  I called for Charley and whistled the two tones from there, confident that he would come running back from wherever he was, as had happened almost always over the years.

This time, he didn’t come.

I felt panic rising from my heart when he didn’t answer my call.  I called louder as I walked beyond the fence and I started what turned out to be a two-day repetitive monologue asking God to help me find him. Aware that it was nearly 4:00 a.m. I tried to temper my calls of “Charley – Come” and started what must ultimately been hundreds of two-note whistles.

This wasn’t the first time Charley had disappeared, but it was the first time he had done it south of Maine.  When we lived in Maine we had three acres of woods of our own and access to trails along the shore that began about a hundred yards from the end of our driveway.  Charley and I used to walk those trails at least once a week.  He never strayed from me there, but on occasion he chased a deer or just followed a scent around into the woods.  Most times, when I bellowed “Charley, Come!” within a minute or two he’d come running to me full blast, with a big smile on his face and ears pinned back.

The few times he failed to come, I’d drive my pick-up within a radius of half mile of home calling for him.  In less than an hour I’d either find him or Doris would call me to say he’d come home.  Each time, though, I had to fight down the fear that I might never see him again.

And now, I was prowling the suburban streets near my daughter’s house in Warren, New Jersey, calling and whistling for Charley in the early morning dark, silently asking God to let me have him back.

I learned a fair amount about Social Media shortly after sunrise that Monday.  While I was illuminating front yards on both sides of the adjacent roads with my flashlight, Lauren had sent an all points bulletin about Charley on her neighborhood’s Facebook page. Later, cruising the roads in the early daylight, I saw a gathering of mothers and children waiting on a street corner for the school bus. As I slowed towards the intersection one of the mothers flagged me down to tell me that she saw the Facebook posting and that she had heard her neighbor’s dog barking early that morning.  She said this was a dog that normally didn’t bark.  I was impressed that this good lady knew about my lost dog and was deeply concerned about Charley.  I thanked her sincerely for the only tip I had so far.

Lauren also Messaged her cross street neighbors, including my tipster, to ask if I might  look in their back yards for Charley.  With 10 minutes all of them had responded ‘yes’ and wished us luck.  I spent an hour or so in those back yards but heard only the high pitched barking of the nice lady’s backyard neighbor’s little dog.

Meanwhile, Doris took up the vigil of waiting outside at Lauren’s to be there if and when Charley returned on his own.  After seeing our two granddaughters off to school, Lauren drove around the vicinity and suggested that I might want to go to the top of the steep mountainside that ended the backyards of the homes directly across the street.  She gave me the driving directions to the backside of the mountain (nothing like the Rockies, but steep nonetheless) to a forested area at its top.  When I zeroed out my car’s trip odometer I measured that the road into the woods was .8 of a mile.  I parked my car and walked about 2.5 miles traversing those woods.  By the time I returned to Lauren’s home I was worn out physically and emotionally. The day was approaching evening and the daylight that I’d hoped would reveal Charley was fading away.

Doris asked me to change places and let her drive around looking for him for a while.  I agreed, so she took the wheel and I took the vigil chair.  There I sat with a blanket wrapped around me like a cape, my arms crossed, head down, and eyes closed.  It was then, because I was alone, that I allowed myself to cry – deeper and painfully. There and then I resumed my monologue to God.  I pleaded through the tears with Him/Her to let me find Charley.

I’d long ago realized my vulnerability to the significant price of grief/pain I will pay if I survive Doris or, God forbid, any of my kids or grandkids.  It is the ultimately high cost of love.  After nearly nine years, I was beginning to feel the leading edge of pain from the present possibility of Charley’s loss – a loss compounded by the likelihood that we might never know how or why we lost him.

One might observe that I’d obviously lost my sensibilities and my priorities in caring for a dog this much. Those who ever had a dog are more likely to cut me some slack on that observation. If they knew Charley they’d probably understand even better. When my neighbors back home heard that we couldn’t find Charley, more than a few of them were moved to tears.  Our closest neighbor told me that her reaction was that it felt like she’d lost her brother.

I am one who believes we have/are immortal souls and love is a product of the mind, body, and soul.  I am convinced that the purpose of life is to carry and reinforce our souls.  The size and capabilities of souls many differ, but they are all immortal.  No one dies completely, not my parents, not my teachers or friends, not even the souls of my worst tormentors totally expire. I am convinced that Charley is also a soul because he is obviously capable of love.

It was in moments of dwindling hope that I might ever see Charley again that I was compelled to find the real reason he was gone.  What had I done to deserve this?  Somehow, I felt totally responsible for his disappearance. I ended that Monday trying to understand what I had to atone for.  I thought of one possible reason for God’s anger.  Despite knowing that God does not negotiate, I tried to strike up a deal with Him/Her over it.  Whether or not I could have Charley back, I vowed to banish that reason forever. I promised.  It was all I could think of to do beyond looking everywhere for him.

By nightfall I was drained, so I slept.

When I awoke on Tuesday I immediately checked the open garage and the back yard. My hope that he might have returned during the night was erased.

I knew that time was my enemy.  The longer Charley remained lost the less likely it became that we would find him.  Since failing to come home was against all of his characterized behavior, I could only think Charley was unable to come to us for some reason.  Had he been stolen?  Possibly, but who could have tried to take him at 3:30 in the morning? Had he been run over by a car or truck? Had he run down a deer and been kicked when it tried to defend itself?  This was a more plausible reason, but still not likely. Earlier in the year a bear was seen loping around my daughter’s neighborhood. The sightings were confirmed when the animal’s visits were caught on several home security cameras.  Had Charley fallen prey to some other animal in the woods?

With each click of the clock the situation became bleaker. My hope of finding him was dwindling as my despair was ramping up.  After another morning in the woods, this time armed with his squeaky toy, I returned to Lauren’s house having had no luck. In the privacy of the basement bedroom Doris and I used, I lied down and prayed to God to keep Charley safe.  Then I berated myself for wasting what time I had left to find him before returning home to Connecticut.  The idea of leaving without Charley was horrible, so I got out of bed and grabbed by car keys and the squeaky toy to continue my search.

Tim and Lauren’s home is on a dead end road. A 20-foot wide deer run separates the end of the street from the back yards of new houses under construction on another street. The deer run is perpendicular to the dead end of the street. I hadn’t yet ventured up that steep slope so I climbed half way up the hill and called for Charley while squeezing the toy for a half-hour, all to no avail.  By this time my mind and soul were just numb.  I had spent two days with the ugly notion that I might never see Charley again. Doris, Lauren and I had covered almost all of the territory where he might have been if he was not dead or dognapped.

As I drove my car back to the house, I noticed the neighbors’ houses and back yards where I had begun my search. At that moment a small hopeful feeling broke through the numbness and whispered that I should look there again.  This was the area described by the young woman who said her back yard neighbor’s dog had been barking in the early morning hours of Monday.  Her’s was the only lead I had, so I parked the car, picked up the squeaky toy and walked to the area I had traversed on Monday morning.

The back yards of the home of the barking dog and of my tipster faced one another, because the front of each house faced one of two parallel streets.  The yards were separated by a swathe of unattended foliage covering about 50 feet between the back yards of both houses. That area was a jumble of thick, waist-high vegetation.   When I waded into it I literally could not see my feet as they plodded through the territory.  All the while I continued calling for Charley and squeezing his toy after each call.

And then I heard his bark.

I squeezed the toy rapidly and told Charley to keep barking, which he did.  My adrenaline pumped the squeeze toy as I slogged in the direction of his wonderful barks. Soon I came upon a structure hiding in the sea of foliage.  It was an old, eight-feet square, seven-foot deep dry well, constructed of cement blocks.

I looked over the rim and saw Charley on its dirt floor, running in circles, yelping for all he was worth, and reaching up with his front paws as high as they could go to try to reach me!

Never before in my life had I encountered a moment when my psyche immediately sling-shot from deep despair to magnificent elation in the blink of an eye.  I cried tears of joy while laughing hysterically at the same time.  I shouted to the world and skies,“I found him! Dear God, I found him. I can’t believe it, I found Charley” It felt almost as though Charley had returned from the dead.

All this time he had been less than 300 yards from Lauren’s house.  I sat on the edge of the well and called her on my cell phone. “I found him!”

I told her exactly where we were and asked her to tell Doris and to bring a small ladder so we could get Charley out of that hole in the ground.  When I ended the call, I jumped into the well to pet him and hold him and share in our excitement of his having been found.  Charley was thirsty and hungry (in that order) but otherwise unscathed from his ordeal.  When I scaled the step-stool ladder and lifted him to Lauren, Charley was yelping and licking her face.  When he saw Doris coming across the yard he sprinted to her with a similar greeting.

Doris had brought one of our three grandkids with her. When two-year-old Goldy saw Charley running at top speed to get to them, she said, “Hunni (Doris) look! Charley loves me!”

She was right.

Epilogue

Since then:

I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I found my shadow again.  My gratitude is not limited only to the Heavens; it involves much more somehow. That moment of going from despair to joy was a gift that nudged my cynicism further away from my core, my soul.  Being so near to hopelessness and then having my most urgent supplication granted is an event beyond description.  The townspeople who were so wonderfully aware that Charley was missing and actively looked for him as they went for a run, or to the store and the like, gave me comfort and hope and reminded me what a real community can do.  Charley and our family are fully recovered from our ordeal.

And I do thank God everyday for life, love, family, friends, and Charley.

 

Main St. Disney is Wall St. Disney

Main St. Disney is Wall St. Disney

I have been a huge Disney World fan for several decades.  I loved going there, my kids loved going there, and even my wife loved going there (the first 6 or 7 times, but not so much the 13 times after that).  Now my kids have babies and I‘ve been looking forward to going to Disney World with them when they’re old enough to appreciate it so I can see the park through their new eyes on their first trip there.

Despite it’s being my best childhood dream, I never got to Disney Land as a kid (there was no Disney World at the time), but I made up for it as an adult. I realized shortly after my first trip to Orlando that Disney World was a place where I could escape Rest of the World both mentally and physically.  Stress disappeared and the only objective for each day was to have more fun.  I never counted, but I’d estimate that over a span of 30 years I’ve been to Disney World at least 20 times. (Extending a business trip for a day, I finally fulfilled the childhood dream by spending a full day in Disney Land in 1995.)

There are lots of folks who have been there many times more often.  It was my treasured escape, until today.

Today Bernie Sanders sent me and scads of his other admirers an e-mail asking us to sign a petition in support of the many Disney employees who have been shamefully treated by the Company.  My first whiff of the tarnish on Mickey’s statue came when a neighbor/friend told me that his son had just been fired without warning or cause from his job as a singer in Epcot.  That couldn’t be right. That wasn’t Disney, it was Rest of World.  I filed that a away in my “there has to be more to it” file, but today Bernie’s light shining on the corporate side of Disney moved that file into the “could well be” drawer.

I can’t tell the story better than Bernie Sanders did, so I pasted an abbreviated version of his call for help here:

The Walt Disney Company is an enormously profitable corporation worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion. Last year, it made $9 billion in profits and rewarded its CEO, Bob Iger, with a compensation package worth up to $423 million over a four year period. And as a result of the Trump tax cuts, they were given an additional $1.6 billion.

At the same time — and this is a national disgrace — employees at the company’s theme park in Anaheim, California are paid so poorly that many of them are literally living in a tent city not far from the park.

According to one recent study, nearly 1 in 10 workers employed at the park reported being homeless in the past two years, more than 2 in 3 say they are food insecure, and 3 out of 4 employees say they do not make enough money for their basic needs.

This is not what Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are supposed to be about. This does not sound like the “happiest place on Earth” to me.

Now, I could be wrong, but I don’t expect you will see the plight of these low-wage workers at Disney discussed tonight on ABC, which is owned by Disney. Nor do I think you will be hearing too much about income and wealth inequality in the mainstream media….

It is long past time that we, as a nation, stop worshipping the corporate greed of Disney and businessmen like Bob Iger, their CEO.

While he may be regarded as a brilliant and successful businessman among his peers in the financial, media, and political elite, the truth is that the way Bob Iger and Disney treat their workers represents much of what is wrong with contemporary capitalism.

This is a company, and a CEO, that accepted an obscene tax cut gifted to them by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, publicly promised to anyone who would listen a $1,000 bonus for all of their employees, and then withheld that bonus from some union employees unless they agreed to a contract that gave them a tiny raise to a wage that is still a starvation wage.

This is a company, and a CEO, that in addition to paying their workers here at home extremely low wages, employs many thousands of people in China to manufacture their products sold at Disney stores and online.

This type of greed and ruthless capitalism is not an economic model that we should be embracing. It is not to be celebrated. We can do better, and we must do better…

 

It’s me again. Speaking only for myself, it pains me deeply to realize and say that Disney must do better to earn the respect and interest I once had in this once great Company.  I happen to be a Disney Shareholder, but not one with the wherewithal that the company would take seriously.  I can only hope that others, shareholders and/or Disney enthusiasts, who find this uncharacteristic greed disconcerting will sign Bernie’s petition.  I did.  Maybe the petition will get their attention.

It feels to me as though Mickey has lost his soul.

https://go.berniesanders.com/page/s/disney-greed?source=em180531-t1-full

 

A User’s Guide to Donald Trump: Appendix 1

A User’s Guide to Donald Trump: Appendix 1

The American public has never had to deal with anyone like Donald Trump in the White House. Most of us are aware of that. But it’s important to identify the aspects of The Donald that set him apart from all previous 44 Presidents of the United States, with perhaps the exception of Warren G. Harding.

For many years Donald Trump was a member of/financial contributor to the Democratic Party. Why then did he suddenly declare his candidacy for the Presidency in the Republican Party primaries in 2012?  First, his motivations for his party affiliations and contributions were, like always, strictly self-serving. They were pragmatic, not ideological. The money he “donated” and his affiliations were intended to be profitable in the long run.

So when he smelled an opportunity that he could never have among the Democrats, it was natural for Trump to change sides. Although he was never interested in running (and losing) against the incumbent Barack Obama in 2012, he was hungry to join the legion of Republicans who sought the presidential nomination. This was an irresistible chance to invent and introduce a new facet of his image, downplaying his amoral, audacious real estate escapades and reckless, amoral, playboy persona. Here he would test fly himself as a potential statesman.

No one took him seriously in 2012; he gathered very few percentage points in the primaries. But that didn’t matter. He wasn’t in it to win it back then. He’d accomplished his objective of planting seeds of quasi-political respectability. He’d shared the stage shoulder-to-shoulder with life-long politicos whose names were, in most cases, lesser known by the general public than his. He wedged his way in and gave his eventual presidential aspirations a precedent.

Over the next four years, he created and burnished his supposed executive leadership credentials with his new popular television show, “The Apprentice.”   Sitting on his regal executive throne, he disparaged and humiliated young business school graduates with his denegrations of their performances in difficult assignments that ostensibly tested their chops. His image took on a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners attitude and a demi-god-like impatience with the fools he had to tolerate. As intended, he presented himself as a tough boss who demanded results. Contrary to his 2012 primary showing, his television ratings were astounding. Not satisfied with besting unknown job applicants, he then gathered a bunch of celebrities whose fading stardoms were in dire need of any kind of boost, and thrashed them around to get ever-higher ratings. He proudly proved he could easily control and inflict failure on characters whose names were recognizable having once been popular but who were now stuck in the minor leagues.  Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity rose.

Like a mountain of bubbles in a bathtub, there was little real substance in the political image Trump created for himself by 2016. He had no real steak to offer, but he had more than enough sizzle.

The rest is history. He tossed his Vietnamese-manufactured “Make American Great Again” hat into the crowded ring and immediately stood out boldly against the stable of Republican wannabes who were virtually indistinguishable from one another.  His cast away opponents either went home to lick their wounds or prolonged their agony by embracing his campaign.  Trump squeezed out what little value they had left and then left them by the roadside (see Christie, Chris).

With active and illegal complicity, his de facto campaign manager Vladimir Putin crafted and executed a masterfully deceitful strategy for the general election. Hacking into Democratic leaders’ e-mails and making other well-timed cyber moves and Wiki leaks, Putin’s minions created a growing series of questionable concerns about Hilary Clinton. With heavy strategic applications of paid advertisements on major social media sites, The Donald’s allies in the Kremlin pushed all the right buttons to plant propaganda into the willing ears of those living in the heartland. Their strategy’s climax came at the either unwitting or cunning announcement by FBI Director James Comey that more Clinton e-mails were under investigation less than 48 hours before the polls opened. The Hammer & Sickle banner was raised to new heights as the Trump/Putin campaign successfully turned the tide of reason in the electorate just enough for the Electoral College to negate the popular vote.

Gleeful high fives in Moscow.  Trump was in.

God help us.

Now that he is president, it’s important to understand what motivates Trump as he plays the ringmaster over his circus. We caught more than a hilariously stupid glimpse of what is in store for the next four years very early in his administration. In the face of indisputable evidence to the contrary, Trump launched his administration by adamantly insisting that his Inaugural crowd was the largest ever, dwarfing President Obama’s crowds.  In other words, Trump’s presidency began with what 99.4% of sane people in the world knew was the boldest of bold-faced lies. His humiliated Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, was ordered to support those outrageously false assertions in his first press briefing from the White House. Trump and Spicer were the only two people who made those farcical assertions. Everyone knew that neither believed it.

And that was just the inauspicious beginning.

Many political commentators have since grasped the obvious and reported that Trump has absolutely no fundamental political beliefs to inform his decision making. Instead, his decisions waffle depending on what works best for him at a given time. Believing in nothing is very advantageous to someone cares nothing for the truth and wants to remain pragmatically flexible.

Regrettably “pragmatically flexible” is a new piece of Washington-speak that is the equivalent of “unpredictable,” or in Trump’s case “wildly unpredictable.” Trump is definitely that. Those who try to read his mind have to realize he is fundamentally a spoiled and over-inflated bag of pure ego.   Not unlike his counterpart in North Korea, Trump expects his people to, not only accept, but applaud loudly, his blatantly self-serving lies.  Unfortunately, many who invested their support in him find they either have to turn a blind eye to the nature of the man and his shenanigans or admit to a big mistake. Understandably, obstinance favors the former option.

Unpredictability is a strategic tool that fools people and keeps Trump in the limelight where his bleached comb-over and pink cheeks look best.  He stirs the pot, which is not necessarily a bad thing but can be very dangerous in some instances.  I think we all have reason to worry about whether he knows the difference.

Ultimately, Trump has no ideology or morality in the foundation of ‘What’s Best for America.’ The true bottom line is that whatever Donald Trump does is driven by what’s best for Donald Trump. It has always been that way; he knows no other way to live.

Certainly some people, his family, his unstable inner circle, his daughter’s wedding planner, and his business associates have benefitted from some of his decisions and actions, but those are collateral consequences. Trump seems to firmly believe that what is good for The Donald is always the equivalent of What’s Best for America.  So far, I contend that our American values and his stances have never been aligned and are becoming further distant by the day.

A User’s Guide to President Trump – Warnings:

  • Do not expect the truth from The Donald; Fact check whatever he says, even if it is something you think might be true.  It’s a shame to have to do this, but it comes with the territory.
  • Always keep in mind that Donald Trump is his own favorite cause, topic, and person. Donald Trump NEVER does anything that doesn’t primarily benefit Donald Trump. Interpret anything he says or does accordingly. From this vantage point, what he says and does will make more sense in a perverse way. It might not be acceptable or make you feel better, but it is easier to work with than total chaos.
  • Donald Trump will often surprise his allies and detractors by doing the polar opposite of what they expect. He unapologetically contradicts himself often. He is unpredictable simply for no other reason than shock value. He loves creating unexpected change because it almost always grabs his favorite elixir: attention.
  • Oh, one more thing, and this is a big one. Beware: At all costs, whatever you do, don’t let Trump’s reckless bravado start a nuclear w

 

I have a cold…again

I have a cold…again

I have a cold…again.

I hate having a cold.  This one started just two weeks after my last cold finally left my system.   I’ve been cycling through colds separated by brief hiatuses (hiatusi?) for several months now.

It’s not hard to figure out why.  It’s an occupational hazard. Two and a half years ago, I was shanghaied into a new job.  Grand-parenting.  My official title is “Grandfather,” but never one to stand on ceremony, I prefer the  informal, “Pop.”

For the first 63 years of my life, I was not qualified for this job.  My resume was strong but it lacked one absolutely-mandatory-no excuses-accepted qualification – a grandchild. I was an honorary Grandfather, a title I still proudly hold, but in order to qualify for the bona-fide Grand Certificate and the 401K opportunity* that come with the real thing, I needed one more credit.

*[Update: I just learned there’s no 401K opportunity, but I’m expected to establish a College Fund for each grandchild. Shanghaied again.]

Finally, in late 2014 my wife Doris and I were invested with full rights, privileges and responsibilities of Grandparenthood. Our names were added to the on-line version of the Official Grandparents Directory/ US Division/ New-bees Chapter: www.diaper-changers (the national equivalent of the British Division’s famous www.nappy-changers).

There are now three acorns after my name and Doris’s.  So far all of our acorns reside under one roof.  For  good reasons, Doris and I were enlisted for temporary duty to assist in acorn management under that roof.   At least for the time being, we are a household of seven family members, two of  whom typically labor weekdays nine-to-five in “Day Care.” (Their artwork and paper hats can be stunning.)

I’ve learned that it is wise to inquire as to how many other acorns are in a Day Care. The chance that one of our acorns will catch another one’s cold and bring it home for us all to share is inextricably related to the number of acorns there. We are vulnerable to colds incubated in Day Care for export as well as the home-grown kind. Only a miracle combined with a total ban on kissing might break the cycle of colds passed around in our present environment.

Tired of grabbing tissues to clear mucus from my stiff upper lip, I recently decided to buy an over-the-counter cold remedy.  I was amazed at the number and variety of cold remedies on Walgreen’s shelves.  Each item’s label listed the specific combination of symptoms that the remedy was supposedly designed to manage: congestion, headache, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, general aching, fever, sleep deprivation, halitosis.

(Okay, one of these wasn’t among any product’s targeted symptoms – can you find it?)

Amazingly, each product touted its prowess with typically only three or four among the universe of cold symptoms.  I found not one product claiming to relieve all cold symptoms; the most I saw was five.

I guess if you have six or more symptoms you should go to the hospital, not the drug store.

Before going out to buy a cold remedy, I suggest you should list and prioritize your symptoms.  Not including the mystery entry, my list of ailments two paragraphs ago names nine different cold symptoms.  Among products with labels advertising special effectiveness for three symptoms, there are exactly 84 possible combinations of three symptoms that could be offered. (So says a permutation calculator on the Internet.  Impressed?)

This inventory of 84 possibilities is considerably more than the 50 or so cold relief products on Walgreen’s shelves.  I suspect some odd combinations of symptoms, like headache, general aching, and halitosis, didn’t make the cut.  Nonetheless, if you are hunting for a remedy to cure your three most acute symptoms, your hay stack is 84 differing three-symptom combinations and the needle you seek, may not even be in a store that stocks only 50 or so combinations.

Make sure to bring your glasses when you go to buy; symptoms listed on the front of the package are alphabetized on some labels, but not all. No uniform code of for symptom labels addresses this issue.  Finding a package claiming to have been made for your three priority symptoms could take some time. Plan accordingly.

Alternatively, however, you can look at the lists of ingredients in the various products, like I did. There you may be surprised to find, despite the symptoms listed on the front labels, most of the mainstream cold products list the exact same active ingredients in the exact same proportions!

So why do manufacturers put the same ingredients in so many different bottles?  Well, if you see a product that appears to specialize in Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Congestion, and those are your symptoms of greatest concern at the moment, wouldn’t you choose it over other products touting their effectiveness against symptoms you don’t have?  If you don’t know the pills are essentially all the same, wouldn’t you be willing to pay more for a product that appears to have been customized specifically for YOUR symptoms? Wouldn’t that increase the product’s profit margins?

In the end, it appears that the only thing associated with a cold remedy that has been customized is its label. 

This slick trick is a shining example of American Marketing Ingenuity at the Top of its Game.

This is what Makes Money for investors, which is what Makes America Great.  

Let’s see China, Russia or North Korea top that!

 

 

 

So, What’s the Point?

So, What’s the Point?

Not for nothing, but for some sartorial reason in the flurry of photographs of President-elect Trump in the media I have noticed that he always seems to wear his neck ties longer than most men.  Typically, a gentleman will wear his necktie so that the point at the bottom of the tie reaches the top of his belt buckle.  I imagine the theory involved is that a necktie is an accessory that is intended to enhance the appearance of one’s shirt and so should end where the shirt ends.

Mr. Trump, exercising his right to freely wear his necktie in whatever manner he chooses, apparently prefers to tie his ties in a manner that the front facing end extends below his belt buckle.  Inasmuch as most ties in today’s fashion are pointed at the forward facing end, they resemble an arrow one might use to direct someone’s attention to that which is beyond the point.

As noted, in most cases, the arrowhead points to the man’s belt buckle.  In Mr. Trump’s case, and more recently that of Vice President – elect Spence, however, the elongated front portion of the tie points directly to the crotch.  Is there some subliminal, or perhaps overt intent for this?  Target practice perhaps?

What’s the point?

donaldtrump-tie6  trump-tie-3
donald-trump-tie-13

Republican National Convention: Day Three

Bernie Sanders was Right

Bernie Sanders was Right

Donald Trump’s campaign, while preposterous and inconsistent, has thrown a bright light on a social divide in America that is deeper and more severe than most of us realized.  There is no doubt that Trump is a narcissistic ass who has the ethics of an alley cat with a grossly enlarged libido. Nonetheless, despite his bombastic claims and morally degenerate behavior, many Americans are willing to turn a blind eye to his racial, ethnic, and misogynist hate mongering, and believe that “Donald really tells it like it is.”

People, we know something’s wrong, but let’s not forget what is right.

What’s Wrong?

Clearly, the great social experiment of equal opportunity and mutual respect in our Democracy is far less mature than it ought to be at this point in our history.  What has happened to stir up such vile and destructive emotions among so many people?

I believe that the current, worsening social divide is a product of an even more stark divide in the United States, namely the economic chasm between the wealthy and the rest of us.

During most of the 20th Century, the strength of our nation was largely drawn from a large and vibrant middle class that bridged the divide between the rich and the poor.  That middle class provided a vital pathway to success for people in poverty who wanted to better their conditions. It provided the reachable goal of helping a next generation live better than the parents had. Anyone could get ahead through honest work and intestinal fortitude. There was credible reason for hope.

But the dawn of both the information age that supplanted our manufacturing economy and the political shift of tax burdens from the rich to the middle class, changed the role and nature of the class structure in America.  Today, the poor have little means or hope to achieve upward mobility.  They have been nearly completely disenfranchised from the American Dream.  They are surrounded by greedy predators, like Mr. Trump, who create bogus “universities” touting the promise of a bright future.  Unsuspecting and well meaning people take on student loans to pay for an ultimately bogus education and a useless degree.  Because student loans are not forgiven by bankruptcy, people least able to pay back loans trade their hopeful futures for a lifetime debt.  And the rich get richer.

While the poor lose hope, many in the middle class face the legitimate fear of falling below the poverty line to join the ranks of the hopeless.  The middle class is not shrinking because more people are getting rich.  The erosion of the middle class is from the bottom, not the top.

Meanwhile, the rich buy the allegiance of law makers in local, state, and national political arenas and quietly arrange the rules of the land in ways that allow them to systematically siphon off more wealth from middle class and the poor.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the tax codes of all levels of government.

There is no doubt that the top 10% of wealthy Americans pay significantly less than their fair share of taxes.  Don’t listen to politicians or political pundits who, like Mr. Trump, make up false statistics to the contrary.  Fully 50% or more of the wealth of this nation is owned by that 10%.  By far, more taxes are collected from our 50% than are collected from their 50%. End of story!

This economic disaster began with the Ronald Reagan notion that if we cut taxes for the wealthy, all kinds of great things would happen.  They would invest all that untaxed money to create tons of new jobs for millions of people. Some of the wealth of the top 10% would “trickle down” like soft rain from a cloud, nourishing us all.

It simply didn’t happen then, and it will not happen now. The rich don’t use their money to create rainfalls for anyone. Most use money to get more money. Few, if any people benefited more financially than the rich during the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of of the 21st.  They have built their rigged system.  All they need do now is maintain it.

What’s Right?

The spiral we are in where the rich profit at the expense of the rest of us can only be stopped if the rest of us, 90% of the electorate, demand that:

  • Tax codes are simplified and the wealthy are made to pay their fair share without exception. The purpose of taxes in a democracy includes being a mechanism for a healthy distribution of wealth among the electorate.  That needs to happen.
  • The power of free speech is equitably shared by all. One’s right to speak freely is sacrosanct, but the decibel level of one person’s right to speak should not be allowed to drown the speech of others.  Free speech needs to include the concept of an equal right to be heard.  That’s where the power resides.  That is why we desperately need to impose limits on how much money any one individual or group of individuals, or a corporation or a union, or a political action committee can contribute to the decibel level of any one candidate.  The idea that free speech in America includes the right to drown out the speech of others who may not have a mega-phone is dangerous and ethically contrary to the bedrock upon which this nation was built.
  • Good jobs are created by government to repair and improve the infrastructure we all depend on (even the rich) for transportation, communication, education, law enforcement, welfare, and commerce etc..
  • Education for the information age is widely made available and affordable if not free in many cases.

The gulf between greed and simple comfort is wide.

The gulf between greed and happiness is wider.

Being part of the solution is always better than being part of the problem.

Bernie was right.