Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Time for the annual Thanksgiving tantrum

Every year that I grow older, I say to myself "maybe it won't be so bad next year."  And every year, it gets worse.

Last night upon coming in to my apartment, I heard the neighbors.  But not like I normally do with their 6 year old talking up a storm or shouting while playing.  (By the way, I think this little one is going to grow into a very smart girl.)  Instead, I am gifted with hearing her mother and her boyfriend engaging in a shouting match about whose fault is what.  This is an argument that I have heard time and time again, but have thanked God that I am not one of the participants.  Blame fixing.  Here's a novel approach;  fix the problem, not the blame, OK?

"Look, I've been dating him since the 7th grade and I know that he's a cheater".  Thanks for that one, Maury.  Do you ever watch this maniac?  I watch him when I get to feeling down.  And the reason is that he parades a bunch of people on his show that are waaaay more worse off than me.  But the TV station calls this "reality".  Sure, it happens all of the time.  Your cousin impregnates your sister, your mom, and the neighbors two 14 year old daughters and then say it was their fault.

It is amazing what we accept in today's society as entertainment.  A good example of how we've fallen off of  the Cliffs of Normal is a TV show called American Hoggers.  But now there's Lady Hoggers.  Oh I can't wait for the eventual spinoffs; Child Hoggers and Mother Hoggers and Bulgarian Hoggers and Naked Hoggers.  Then there will be Hoggers Strike Back and Worlds Worst Hoggers and MegaHoggers and Hogger E.R.

And we wonder why our children will turn away from old TV shows like Bonanza, Bullwinkle and The Beverly Hillbillies and gravitate toward 16 and Pregnant, Jerseylicious and Bully Beatdown.  Why?  Because these shows show REAL LIFE.  Haven't seen these "teen" shows?"  Watch 'em.  Sit yourself down and watch.  You'll be amazed at how the words "bitch", "whore" and "pissed off" have entered into acceptable language for television.  Thanks MTV.

And why does it seem that more and more small towns are getting letters from a group called Freedom FROM Religion threatening to sue these communities for placing a manger scene in front of City Hall?  They claim that it violates the CONSTITUTIONAL right of "separation of church and state".  OK.  Find those words in the constitution and I'll kiss your butt in Tiny Town Square.  And MTV can film it for one of their shows.

Normally it is toward the end of my pseudo-rants that I come up with a solution.  Well, you know something?  I can't.  There is no solution.  It's only going to get worse.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Puppies vs. Babies

I have never watched the cable network called The Animal Planet.  And, I never will.  Never.

Before I start getting letters from the ASPCA and PETA, I would just like to say that I like children more than cats.  Or dogs  Or Koala bears.

When I turned on AOL today, I came across the banner that read "Puppies vs. Babies".  I almost threw up.  The competition that will be airing on Animal Planet is trying to determine which is "cuter".  And if you think that your cat or your bird or your schnauzer is cuter than the picture here to the left, then you are as crazy as those idiots on the Animal Planet.

Aren't people crazy enough?  Do you really have to "tongue kiss" your dalmation?  Does little FooFoo have to ride in your lap while you're driving your Escalade down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills?  Or even down Liberty Avenue?  Do you know what will happen to little FooFoo if that air bag goes off?

The other day, someone asked me to be a part (a very small part) in a gathering that will collect money to feed the goddam animals.  (Sorry, but I'm mad, OK?  I know I've really never cursed before in a blog.)  I told this person that when every child in Pittsburgh, or the WORLD has enough to eat, THEN and ONLY THEN will I even lift a finger to insure that some dog gets three squares a day.

Now don't get me wrong PETA, I do not have any fur clothing in my closet.  But I am not an animal lover.  I like animals.  I even think they're cute.  But I do not love animals.  I love babies.  Children.  And yes, even some of you stinky adults out there.

And you wanna know something else?  I'M even cuter than your dog.  Well, maybe... 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Changes

A wise man once said that the only thing that is constant in life is change.  He's right.

And since I turned 62 years old last month, I have noted that things around and within me are changing.  Oh, there's the usual stuff about energy and the new aches and pains that go with age, but that's not all.

I go to this pharmacy about twice a week that has a breakfast counter.  I wrote about it in a previous story.  What I have become less tolerant of lately is the self-proclaimed geniuses that sit in that place, day after day, and spout off huge piles of, as our Irish friends would call it, shite.  There's no easy way to say it.  Their overtures complete with arm waiving and finger pointing make me sick.  Can't people just sit down to a nice, quiet breakfast without all of the morning uproar?  I guess not.  I used to just ignore that nonsense.  Now, I abhor it.

And then there's Bigfoot.  No, not the sasquatch from the upper midwest, but the sasquatch that lives just above me in my apartment complex.  For the last four and a half years, I have been serenaded with her heel-walking technique.  Because of this, I know that she wakes up promptly each morning at 7:15 because that's what time she wakes me up.  And when her boyfriend du jour shows up, I am serenaded with other noises that I understand, but do not appreciate any longer.  And when her demonic children visit every other weekend, it is like listening to a landslide.  Over and over again.

All of this being said, I have decided to move to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  There's too much violence here in Pittsburgh and the shootings and home invasions are getting too close for comfort.  The only violence I hear about in the Old Order Amish is that once in a while, an Amish gang will cut the beard off of some guy.  I don't know what they call that but I call it shaving.  And to my knowledge, it's not a crime.


The Desiderata says "Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth."  I must say that I'm not the most graceful of folks.  And as far as surrendering the things of youth, well, I do that.  But I am darned reluctant to give up most things.  Things that I have carryed around inside for over 6 decades.  Things like knowing that the Desiderata was not found in a Baltimore church in 1692 but rather, was penned by Terre Haute, Illinois poet Max Ehrmann in the early 20th century.

I guess that for me, the universe actually is unfolding as it should.  But to quote the poet T.S. Eliot, my universe is unfolding not with a bang, but a whimper.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Friends

I'd like to talk about friends for a minute.  No, not the TV show, however I'd like to personally let Jennifer Aniston know that I'm available.  But real honest-to-goodness friends.  The first thing you have to know is that these types of friends can be usually numbered on one hand.  You recognize these people in your life when you realize that you'd donate body parts for them or spring from your warm mid-winter bed to go to them if they are in trouble.

I believe that these social networking sites aren't worth the powder to blow them all up.  That being said, I do wander on FaceTube every now and then to check up on some dear friends of mine.  They rarely post information there but when they do, it's something that I want to read.

Today, I was appalled at reading one person's posting that said that they would be in the area next weekend.  What you need to know is that for this person to be "in the area" would require a drive of about 22 hours.  This person told her friend that they would be available next Saturday to meet.  The alleged friend of this person then went on to say that that they were not available and then listed an entire litany of worthless and meaningless events that they were involved with and that alas, they would NOT be around to see them.  SHAME on you.  I'm not going to comment to the person who is going to be traveling but I must say that if it were me, that alleged "friend" would be ratcheted down to a lower level of friends near the bottom of my list.

In our society today, we have totally lost the meaning of the word "friend".  We wouldn't know a good friend if one came up and offered their own blood for you.  Now I know that you might be thinking that this is extreme and foolish, but when you put that statement into the context of a person needing surgery and blood donors, it sort of makes sense.  What is true is that we have a lot of convenient friends who we turn to when we have nothing better to do, but very few truly good friends for whom we'd drop everything to help in a second.

One of the other problems today is that we do reap what we sow.  If we aren't good enough friends to others, then when it's time to need a good friend, our personal Rolodex is blank.

There was a song once sung by Ireland's Finbar Furey and written by Donald O'Keefe called At the End of the Day.  It's an old song whose words state; "And when the new dawn begins to break, open your eyes, let your heart awake, be ready to take what the day may send, and be ready to make every man as a friend, nobody knows what a power you've found, so do what you can for the others around, carry them high when they seem to be low, as on your way you go.

Shoot, I don't need to say another word.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Famished

The word "famished" comes from the old English word "famisshe" and it's where we get the word "famine".  It means to literally starve to death or to suffer to cause extreme hunger.

How many times have you used that word?  I'm famished.  I'm starving.  I'm dying of thirst.  But miracle of miracles, you have survived to tell the tale.  Some haven't.

I remember hearing as a kid growing up in my little town of Smock, Pennsylvania about the starving children of Africa or China.  And, I'm sure that most kids were reminded about this at the dinner table.  "Eat your broccoli."  "No.  I hate broccoli."  "Listen boy, you better eat that broccoli.  And you better think about the starving children of Africa."  "Well, if the children in Africa are starving, let's send THEM my broccoli."  And then you got some kind of discipline.  The kind of discipline that made you want to stand up the whole day in school because your back side was a bit, shall we say, tender?

Last night while channel flipping (I still have the attention span of a mayfly) I came across celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and his show, "Hell's Kitchen."  Its a show where chef Gordon gets to berate and totally slice and dice young men and women who, before the show, wanted to become a chef.  After the tongue lashings and insults, I think that many of them have probably decided that cooking in a fast food restaurant is more suited to their future.  In last night's tirade of the week, Ramsay kept pushing this young lady to cook several lamb chops.  "Hurry up..hurry up" was all he could say.  When the poor girl plated the chops, they were dark red in the centers, meaning that they were "RAW dammit...LOOK AT THIS...BLOODY RAW YOU FOOL...GET THE HELL OUT OF MY KITCHEN!!!!"  But before Ramsay banished them to the life of a hot dog vendor in New York City, he made them march out to the dining area and personally apologize to the patrons.  LOOK AT THOSE CHILDREN, he said.  "THEY'RE FAMISHED."

Dammit Gordon, they are NOT famished.  Oh sure, maybe they're a bit peckish since it had been several hours since their afternoon Twinkie break, but they're not famished.  They're not even starving.  Look at them.  All dressed up with their parents, wearing nice clean clothes and some even sporting a necktie.  But famished they're not.

Yes, the children of many African and Middle Eastern nations ARE famished.  In a 60 Minutes segment I saw a couple of years ago, I found out that there are towns in Africa that have taken to eating "mud cookies".  Yep, cookies made entirely out of mud.  Dirt.  And they're dying every day.

The starving children of this world are not a joke.  I remember my military training where we camped out in various forms of wilderness and went for days without much nourishment, just to prove that we could endure much more than we thought.  But even then, we didn't starve.  Not even CLOSE to starving.

And so this little story today is a plea on behalf of those people who are truly starving.  Help.  HELP.  But many of us say, "Well, I don't know who to get in touch with about this sort of thing."  You know something?  You ought to be SHOT.  I would say that every person who says crap like this has a phone or maybe even a computer.  So go to your computer and Google the words "starving children" and you'll get TONS of addresses to send the money you may have already earmarked for your next dozen of Dunkin Donuts.  Or will you just echo the words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "Confessions" and say "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"?  Come on.

Even as a kid that came from a tiny coal town, we never starved.  And if times were tough, the neighbors helped or the Company Store would extend that ever lengthening line of credit.

But what of the people of today's Africa?  You know something?  It isn't just the children who are starving any more.  Try going here and just click with your mouse;  http://www.thehungersite.com   It won't even cause you to burn ONE calorie or cause you to spend one penny.  It's FREE.

Now, was that so hard?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Smock saved my life

It took me sixty-one years to figure out that my home town most likely saved my life.  Actually, a more accurate way of saying it is that Smock, PA contributed to the improvement of my life.  Either way, explaining my "early years" to someone last night caused me to think about how my home town directly contributed to who I am today.

I do not have anything against cell phones or I-Pods or anything else that has to be plugged in or requires batteries.  But personally,  I have little use for these things.  Sure, I get on the computer which provides a platform for me to say stuff, but other than that, I'd rather be outside.  Outside doing what?  Anything.

Now we can satisfy all of the smart people who are saying "he's going to start turning back the clock" by turning back the clock.  The Smock I knew in the 1950's was illuminated by incandescent light bulbs which attracted moths which attracted bats.  And so almost every night of the three months of summer, the bats put on an airshow that they probably called dinner.  And we learned about how sonar worked.

On most summer nights, the usual gang would creep out the house after dinner and play "hide-ee-go-seek".  People in my town were masters at butchering words and phrases.  We used a telephone poll as "home baste".  The person who was "it" knew all of the hiding spots.  And that litany of names rang through the silent streets most every night.

A couple of years ago, I took my dear friend Brian to Smock.  We were riding very noisy Harley Davidsons.  When we shut them down near the house where I was born and raised, I said "Listen and tell me what you hear."  Brian said "I can't hear anything."  I answered "Correct."  Ever since the evangelists of the New Testament could write, we learned that Jesus would now and again head out to the desert or to the shores of Galilee.  He wanted that blessed peace and quiet.  And hey, don't tell me that you do that today by going to Ocean City or the Outer Banks.  There's usually more noise there than where you live now.

As a child, we played "catchers" around the streets of Smock.  Actually, there was one street that sort of made a big square, but we also had alleys.  They were the roads less graveled.  And in the winter, we played "catchers" in the snow.

The importance behind relating all of this is that nothing we did required batteries or an electric cord with a plug.  Last night, I watched people texting and playing "Angry Doves" on their phones while Mike Gallagher, a Pittsburgh treasure, sang some of the most beautiful songs you would ever hear.  But I can probably ask a representative number of those people who were there last night to name ONE song and they would most likely fail the test.  It's really sad.

Do you have a place that you can go to hear literally nothing?  If not, then why not?  Are you addicted to cluttering up your brain like so many others in today's society?  I hope not.

My home town taught me the value of peace.  And quiet.  And of things that didn't need "booting".  There was that apple tree that my mind made into a space ship.  Each limb of the tree represented a part of the space ship that did something special.  And after Neil and Buzz landed on the moon, I repeated that landing many times in my apple-producing space ship.  And then there was that mound of slack (shale which does not burn) which became a pirate ship.  You've heard of the dread pirate Roberts?  I was the dread pirate Bobby Joe.  And you just didn't mess with me and my sword (err, I mean, broom stick).  The still, small voices in my town forced us to use our imaginations instead of having somebody's else's imagination spoon fed to our impressionable brains via some electronic umbilical cord.

My writing just now was pleasantly interrupted by a very dear friend who is returning home from a music camp in Western New York who said that when he attended this summer camp in his younger days, they forbade any cell phones, video games, or any I-this's and I-that's.  And it was GREAT.

These "mod cons" as my friend Charlie Heaton would call them, have a good place in our world today.  Shoot, I even bought a new Droid X-2 phone two weeks ago (I didn't know that they had an X-1).  And why did I make the leap to a "3-G smart phone" with "apps" galore and billions of megapixels and digital storage?  The numbers on the phone dialer were bigger.

Embrace the future and all of it's apps and craps, but don't forget to just glance in the rear-view mirror once in a while.  And while glancing, turn off the radio or the MP-3 player and then listen and tell me what you hear.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Our God is an Awesome God

Oh come on.  You know the song.  If you crossed the threshold of any Christian denomination church in the last 10 years, you know this song.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd5IODevykM&feature=related  Are you aware that the catchy chorus of that song is only comprised of 6 notes?  Pretty awesome, right?  What you don't know is that I'm a closet Bill Gaither watcher.  Yep.  Bill is awesome.  Watching those old "homecoming" videos featuring a bunch of WAY happy people, many who are now dead.  But they weren't dead at the time of filming.  They were AWESOME.  And the venues that Bill chose were awesome, right?  And I once met Mark Lowrey.  He was a little awesome but he didn't treat me very nice.  But it was still awesome to see him.  And it's awesome that I write this blog, right?  No, no, no, no, no, no NO.  NONE of this is awesome.  My friends, GOD is awesome and nothing else is.  NOTHING.  YOU are not awesome and neither am I.  Your CAR is not awesome.  Sorry, but your parents are not awesome.  Neither is your dog, your smart phone, or your grandma's homemade strawberry pie, but it sure comes close.

When did we start using this tired word?  Webster defines the word to mean extraordinary or terrific.  Actually, if we are going to describe our Maker using some sort of adjective, then "awesome" fits.  But the word, just like God, goes waaaaay beyond "terrific".  Awesome is a good word to describe God.  And if we're going to use that word to describe God, then nothing less than God deserves that word.

A few years ago, our tired, old, worn out word was "cool".  Or "kewl" if you are younger than 12 years old.  Everything was cool.  God was cool.  Certain people and the space shuttle were cool.  The Beatles were cool, and don't you EVER forget that.  I even fell in the parade and started using "cool" to describe lots of things.  But because I respect words, I didn't use the word "cool" as much as the next guy.  I held it in reserve for things like really good wine or my friend Thad's really COOL 1957 Chevy.

And so with the advent (Catholic pun) of the word "awesome", I have decided to reserve that word to describe God alone.  Even in my brand of religion, the Vatican issued a directive that the "Y" word for God not be used.  Why?  The best answer I can come up with is that we have joined with our Jewish brothers and sisters and now hold that word in sacred reverence.  In the synagogues, the "Y" word isn't even written, let alone spoken.

So let's join our Jewish friends and only use the word "awesome" for when we are describing God's power, mercy, love, forgiveness, and salvation.

After all, you cannot argue that our God is an awesome God, right?

So what are we going to use now in the place of the "A" word?

I think we should go back to "cool".