Friday, August 30, 2013

Horrified at 6 AM!!!


This is getting out of hand. This morning I pull up the weather channel website to check out the forecast and there on the side bar to the right is a picture of Miley Freaking Cyrus with the tagline, “We can’t help but stare at Miley Cyrus.” Ahh yes, the face that launched a million pageviews. Et tu, Weather.com?

Not to be outdone, when I clicked on the forecast for Myrtle Beach, the bottom right hand corner featured the most frightening photograph I’ve seen since that Buddhist monk sat himself on fire in Saigon 45 years ago. Even writing a description of it will be harrowing. I thought of cutting and pasting the thing but this is a family blog and I don’t want any angry fan mail. It’s a picture of a man (I think), leaning back suggestively on one elbow wearing a white dress shirt unbuttoned all the way down the front. This deeply tanned man has done this ostensibly to reveal his pectoral muscles which are the size of basketballs. These things are so gigantic, the over-flexed muscles have apparently swallowed his nipples since none are seen. It’s as if he has had breast enlargement surgery using bowling balls. It is the single most disturbing visual image I have come across in my adult life. What is it an advertisement for you ask, why, a new perfectly legal steroid formula for all you serious body builders out there. Well, if you want to end up looking like this dude, I suppose you better be serious. Compared to his otherworldly pecks, the poor man’s head sits atop this heaving mass of muscle looking for all the world like an afterthought, a swiveled raisin atop a truck load of cantaloupes. I swear, I may never visit weather.com again.

Which makes me wonder why this particular ad ran on this particular website? Everyone knows that Google knows everything about all of our predilections, our buying habits etc. What does this bizarre ad say about…me?? I’m 55 and a member of American Family fitness, do they now assume that I would be interested in turning my chest into a flotation device? Well, just in case someone at the NSA is reading this, let the information gatherers over at Google know that I’m perfectly happy with my C cup, thank you very much.

Shheeeese!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Irony and Unintended Consequences


How ironic that on the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I have a Dream Speech,” our President will be speaking at the very same time that he is scrambling fighter jets and bombers to rain down destruction on Syria, a country that hasn’t attacked or invaded us and with whom we have very little trade or interaction. The reason given for this action is that chemical weapons have been used in that country’s civil war and our intelligence services are pretty sure that Bashir Assad was behind it. I say “pretty sure” because this morning brings news that the intelligence we have connecting Assad to the chemical weapons attack is “not a slam dunk.” For instance, we aren’t totally sure who controls the chemical weapons stockpile in Syria or for that matter, where they are  located, and at this hour there remains no solid evidence linking Assad himself with the order to use them.

Now, back when Barack Obama was a US Senator from Illinois, it was exactly this sort of thing that sent him into high dudgeon when George W. Bush was in the White House. “The President does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual imminent threat to the nation,” he intoned back in 2008 as a candidate for W’s job. Vice-President Biden went even further back then, claiming that if Bush went to war in Iraq without first getting approval from Congress it would be grounds for impeachment. Of course, it certainly isn’t news when a candidate for President says one thing on the campaign trail, and dramatically changes his tune after he gets his first daily intelligence briefing as President, but still, at the very least, both of these men seem to owe old George an apology.

Just a thought before I wrap this up. What happens if one of the bombs floating down from 35,000 feet happens to land smack dab in the unknown location of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, spewing deadly gas throughout Damascus killing thousands of innocent people? Will our President be brought up on war crimes charges at The Hague? Will he have to return his Nobel Peace prize?

God save us from the unintended consequences of our folly.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Do The People Really Want?


On Monday morning I wrote about the very real probability that the United States was about to open military hostilities with Syria. The readership of this blog responded with a collective yawn, a few scattered page views. Yesterday, I wrote about a raunchy performance by Miley Cyrus at the MTV awards show and everything blows up, the most page views I’ve had in over a year. Apparently, even at a sleepy back water media outpost like The Tempest, sex sells.

Everyone I know complains about the media. It’s too biased; it’s too infatuated with the sensational, too enamored with flash, while ignoring “real” news. After writing a blog for nearly three years now, I can say without hesitation that, while the political and cultural bias of the media is a reflection of them, their promotion of the sensational is a reflection of us.

If this blog was my living, if I depended on page views for my income, in order to survive I would constantly have to write about the salacious. It is guaranteed to attract readers… period. Works every time. The fact is that people aren’t interested in the federal budget deficit. They aren’t interested in government corruption, malfeasance, or the erosion of our Fourth amendment rights to privacy. They don’t even seem all that concerned about our participation in yet another military adventure in the Middle East. But let a twenty year old spoiled brat shake her bottom on an awards show and all of a sudden Americans snap to attention.

Let me be clear on this. When I say “Americans,” I’m talking about myself too. When I click on the Drudge Report or the Huffington Post, I too tend to be drawn to the most provocative story. When I’m browsing through the first page of the Wall Street Journal, what do I read first, the story about the possible nominees to replace Ben Bernanke at the Fed, or the latest embarrassing sexual depravity to be unearthed about Anthony Weiner? Too often, it’s Weiner. Which one of these stories will have the biggest impact on our nation and actually affect my daily life and prosperity? Seeing as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is the most powerful man/woman in the world, the answer is self-evident, but my eyes can’t resist the dirt on Weiner.

Maybe it’s all a giant conspiracy. Maybe the big shots in the media think that if they can keep us all excited and exercised about Miley Cyrus, Anthony Weiner, Alex Rodriguez and Lady Gaga, we won’t notice that the wheels are flying off the country and we’re headed for the Grand Canyon.

Bread and circuses.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Miley Cyrus and Will Smith



This is the photograph that greeted me yesterday morning when I opened my laptop. The MTV awards show had taken place on Sunday night and as is routine for this particular showcase of the very latest trends in vulgarity, former teen Disney star Miley Cyrus had disgraced herself on stage. This was the reaction of the Will Smith family.

I haven't quite known what to say or even think about Ms.Cyrus' performance. Considering the venue, I don't consider it all that unique. Honestly, I haven't watched any awards show, much less this one in a very long time. I take it as a given that an awards show celebrating contemporary music would just be too embarrassing to endure, not to mention too depressing. But, there must have been something different about this Cyrus thing because even reliably libertine celebrities seemed turned off. So, I hunted around YouTube until I found the clip. I watched her entire performance and felt nothing but anger and disgust...at her father. Billy Rae Cyrus, that one hit wonder country singer from twenty years ago spent all of his daughters childhood trying to be her "best friend." He indulged her every whim, denied her nothing and in so doing created this narcissistic train wreck I saw prancing around the stage in a vinyl bikini. She had the look of someone who hadn't been said "no" to by anyone in the last ten years. There she was laboring under the illusion that sticking out her tongue at spastic angles and gyrating her backside wildly in front of a 35 year old married man made her look sexy. The giant form hand that she constantly used as a sexual prop only added to the embarrassment, making her look not provocative, but silly. So while all of this was going on, what did dear old Dad do? He took to Twitter to say how much he loved the performance and to remind us all to pray for world peace. Meanwhile, the Muslim world watching this display is confirmed in their belief that the West is beyond redemption.

Which brings me back to the picture of the Will Smith family. Everyone is holding up this photograph as proof that Will Smith was horrified by what he saw. Maybe he was. But when I saw it, I thought, "What in the world was Will Smith thinking buying front row tickets to this event for his children??" He's a sharp guy, he knows what goes on at the MTV music video awards show. I'm sorry that his kids had to see such a disgusting display, but this one is all on Dad.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Give War a Chance


 The big news this week appears to be the deteriorating situation in Syria. With each passing day since last week’s gas attack in Damascus, the war drums have been beaten by conservatives and liberals alike. Pressure is being applied on our government to “do something.” The “international community” is said to be up in arms. Even the French have made noises about dusting off their old bolt action rifles, you know, the ones that they threw to the ground at the first whiff of diesel fuel from Nazi tanks back in WWII?

Our President clearly doesn’t want to get involved in another Middle Eastern blood bath. He’s probably playing cards somewhere in the White House right now trying to avoid running into John Kerry, and in his defense, who wouldn’t? But, one gets the feeling that the pressure will become too much, and he will eventually order some sort of cruise missile launch. Maybe this will satisfy the “do something” crowd, but maybe it won’t. My question would be, if you decide to launch cruise missiles, at whom do you aim them? Which side of this civil war represents America’s interests?

Bashir Assad is a very bad man with a hot British wife. By all accounts he is classic despot who cares little of his own people and has a particular hatred of the Jews. In this way he is much like half of the despots on the African continent, and would fit in nicely among the thousands like him long dead and burning in hell. The Rebels on the other hand are a conglomeration of jihadists, Muslim Brotherhood wannabes, anti-Semites, anarchists who love watching things explode and the occasional Syrian nationalist yearning to be free. John McCain thinks they’re swell. So, I suppose we’re on their side.

But, before we fire up our military response, I would like someone to tell me what vital American interests are at risk here? Is Syria a major oil producer? No. Do they provide us with some product or service that we can’t live without? No. Is Damascus a top tourist attraction for major donors to the Democratic party? No. Then, why in the name of James Monroe are we about to start lobbing bombs at them?? When the African genocides in Darfur and Ruanda were blazing hot and in the midst of killing a million people, I don’t recall any American military intervention. What makes Syria with its “mere” 100,000 casualties so special? Is it because they are so close to our ally Israel? So what? I’m pretty sure that the Israeli military is more than capable of handling the Syrians, especially since they are busy killing each other!

No, no, a thousand times NO! What’s going on in Syria is none of our business. If we wonder why the people in the Middle East hate us so, we need look no further than the Made in the USA sticker on that unexploded shell that accidently hit the hospital which the Rebels were using as a headquarters. The videos of dead children’s body parts strewn through the streets of Damascus will go viral and we will get treated to more charming footage of enraged Arabs burning the American flag. I say, if they want to have a civil war, they don’t need our help. In fact, we had a civil war once. We killed each other to the tune of 600,000 dead. Our enemies gleefully watched and our friends had the good sense to stay out of it. We ended slavery and are a better nation because of it.

Give war a chance.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

In Defense of the Millennials


In recent years it has become somewhat of a national sport for people my age to rag on the “Millennials,” that generation of Americans between the ages of 21 and 30. They are said to be a bunch of entitled, pampered, crybabies, living rent free in their parent’s basements who spend all day playing video games and whining about how hard they have it, emerging only for the occasional Occupy Wall Street rally. Well, it has been either my good fortune or some cosmic accident, but I have never met anyone that age fitting that description. In fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. Because of my involvement working in a church youth ministry for ten years back in the day, it has been my privilege to meet hundreds of millennials, and frankly, I’m getting a little tired of the stereotype.

I can start with my two kids. My son, age 24 is working two jobs putting himself through graduate school in Princeton, New Jersey. My daughter did the same at Wake Forest where she earned her degree in English Literature and is now working feverishly decorating her new 7th grade classroom at Moody Middle School preparing for the onslaught of 100 skulls full of mush that will descend upon her in a couple of weeks baptizing her with fire as a new English teacher.

But, it’s not just my kids. When I look at Facebook, I learn what has become of the hundreds of kids I taught in church, and it is truly inspiring. I see two young men who became missionaries, one in China, the other in Poland. I follow a couple of young women who have gone overseas to volunteer, one in Thailand, the other all over as a participant in the World Race. I see the beautiful pictures of adorable children produced by young couples happily married and gainfully employed. I see a news producer in Kentucky, an Architect in South Carolina, teachers in Charlotte, Nashville, San Diego, and even Minot, North Dakota. I see a Doctor in Birmingham, a chemist in Danville, an engineer and an IT consultant in Richmond. I see a youth minister in Burke, Virginia, and an accountant in Atlanta, Georgia. I know a social worker in Jackson, Tennessee, and an add man in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m absolutely sure that each one of these young people has their share of problems. But I’m equally sure that they are battling through them like all of their ancestors did before them. They are all working, paying taxes, and contributing to their communities. I see each of them as a tremendous source of encouragement about the future, and I’m growing weary of hearing their generation impugned by a bunch of self satisfied 50 year old Boomers who have done their best to screw up the world that these kids are inheriting and will someday have to run.

Are there a bunch of 25 year old losers out there living rent free in their parent’s basements? Sure. Probably about as many as there are 55 years olds busy spending their parent’s inheritance on tummy tucks and face lifts. Each and every generation has its share of reprobates. Don’t worry about the Millennials, these kids are alright!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Trayvon Martin vs. Chris Lane


When the germ of an idea crept into my head to write this particular blog, a little voice in my head whispered, “Are you nuts? It’s not worth it. Let it go!” Then another little voice shot back, “You coward! Write it already!” Yes, I freely admit that there are, in fact, voices in my head. So, here goes.

Earlier this week came news that Chris Lane, an Australian college student here on a baseball scholarship, was shot in the back by a group of bored teenagers, when he made the mistake of jogging down a quiet street in Duncan, Oklahoma. Now this morning comes word that Delbert Belton, an 88 year old World War II veteran from Spokane, Washington was beaten and killed by two young men as he was about to enter an Eagles lodge to play some pool. In both of these tragic cases, the victims were white, and the attackers were African American.

A firestorm of protest has arisen over the relative silence of the national media coverage of these two murders when compared to the 24/7 wall to wall “let’s have a conversation about race” diatribes that accompanied the Trayvon Martin case. Back then, before even an arrest had been made, our President was out in the rose garden reminding us that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. As of 7:12am this morning there has been no comment on these cases except for a press spokesman saying yesterday that he wasn’t aware of any murder in Duncan, Oklahoma. Similarly, in the days after the Trayvon Martin killing, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton screaming into a bullhorn demanding justice, in fact the most dangerous place to be in those days was standing between Jesse Jackson and a TV camera. With the killing of Chris Lane we only get a Tweet from the Rev. Jackson reminding us that shooting someone in the back is “frowned upon” in America, an odd formulation, to say the least since I would think that things which are “frowned upon” would include leaving your wet towel on the floor in the bathroom, or leaving the toilet seat up, not cold blooded murder.

Defenders of the comparatively tepid press response to the Chris Lane murder point out that it was clearly not a “hate crime” since the driver of the car containing the murderers was half white. Set aside for a moment the questionable assertion that “hate” can never be involved when both the killer and victim are the same race, it would appear that the press is moving the goal posts here. George Zimmerman was also half white, but when he pulled that trigger he became 100% white, since for the media, “Hispanic Murders Black Teen” doesn’t sell nearly as many newspapers as “White Vigilante Kills Adorable African American Honor Student.” So, if having a white mother and an African American father makes someone “white”, then why all the fuss about Barack Obama being our first African American President? That honor still goes to Bill Clinton.

The point of all this is that people need to stop complaining about the press covering racially charged murders differently depending upon the race of the victim. It is never going to change. The job of the journalist is to “speak truth to power”, and in this country white folks have the power. So when an 88 year old man who was shot in the leg storming an enemy position on Okinawa gets beaten to death by a couple of black men, while unfortunate, isn’t the kind of story that allows the reporter to launch into a discussion of America’s racist past. The cold blooded murder of an Australian baseball player by a couple of 17 year old gang bangers doesn’t exactly advance the narrative of African Americans as perpetual victims. Reporters in this country didn’t amass thousands of dollars in college debt just so they could write stories about white victims of black crime. These are not the type of stories that win Pulitzer prizes. Every New York Times reporter worth his salt dreams of the day when he arrives first on the scene of a tragic drive by murder of an African American nursing mother and child gunned down by a couple of “bored” 30 year old white investment bankers out joy riding in their stretch limo.

Here’s what I think. Anytime someone is beaten to death, or murdered, it’s a tragedy. The violent ending of a human life is always a terrible thing. When the victims are white suburban kids gunned down by other white suburban kids, it’s horrible. When the victims are black city kids murdered by other black city kids, it’s no less horrible. Whenever life is viewed as cheaply as it is in our world, we are all victims. Oh for the day when the Jesse Jackson’s of this world find the murder of ANYONE as something not to be “frowned upon” but to be outraged about.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Wedding Planning Saga Begins


My daughter will be getting married next July. So this past week the hunt for a “wedding venue” began in earnest, transforming my life into a scene from Father of the Bride. I sat quietly in the corner of rooms as my wife, sister and daughter began discussing the byzantine complications associated with picking the perfect location for the big event. Finally, after a vigorous and comprehensive internet research jihad, the candidates were narrowed to four finalists. This past Saturday, the three of them left the house for an all day tour. A week and a half later, we have a winner.

I must say that the wedding venue business may very well have the most arcane pricing structure of any business in the history of commerce. Trying to find out exactly how much the thing is going to cost is like trying to guess how many Skittles there are in a fish bowl. The only reliable answer seems to be, “This will cost somewhere in a range between $13 and $65 thousand dollars.” Ok.

Here’s how it works. The perky and uber-friendly event planner/sales gal extols the virtues of “The Veranda on the James”, or some such pretentiously named place with glowing words like “elegant, ambiance, dreamlike and unforgettable.”  Then she wraps up her virtuoso performance with, “And you can have all this for a mere $30 per person!” Pam quickly does the numbers in her head, 200 guests times $30 per person, why, that’s only $6000!  Visions of our beautiful daughter walking down the rose covered walkway leading to the Victorian gazebo overlooking the river begin dancing through her head. She’s about to sign the contract and plop down the deposit when she discovers that there are a “few extras” that she might want to consider first.

While $30 per person would indeed pay for a perfectly lovely event, these “extras” will make the difference between ordinary and memorable. She learns that the food included in the $30 intro package isn’t enough to satisfy a hummingbird on Weight Watchers. $30 buys your guests a plate of carrot sticks and low fat ranch dip as an appetizer, followed by an entrée of beans and franks. Of course, if you want your guests to have knives, forks and spoons with which to eat this feast, you’ll have to pay a $5 per guest “utensil fee.” Drinks include one small bottled water per guest. Other “extras” include $2 per guest for chairs, $3 per guest bathroom access fee, and $1 per person rice allotment. Pam soon realized that the $30 intro package was akin to paying $1,000 for a lake house in Maine only to discover that electricity and plumbing are an extra $699,000.

After the full impact of this particularly horrific sticker shock wore off, Pam, and Kaitlin got down to the serious business of decision making. Pros and cons were placed on spreadsheets, numbers were crunched, calls made, e-mails sent, credit lines secured, until finally last night after dinner the light bulb flashed over Kaitlin’s adorable head. YES!! The decision was made, at a reasonable price, everyone including me is happy, so now we can move on to the easy part of…… finding a dress.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Warrantless Cell Phone Searches?


Here’s a question to ponder on this Tuesday morning. If the police arrest you, should they have the right to confiscate and remove evidence from your cell phone without a warrant?

Before law enforcement officials can enter your home searching for evidence of a crime, they first must obtain a search warrant from a judge, in keeping with the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that citizens should be “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” But should “papers and effects” now include cell phones?

The Obama administration will ask the Supreme Court today to consider allowing “warrantless cell phone searches”.  The case in question involved a man arrested by police in Massachusetts because they thought he was trying to sell crack cocaine. After the arrest, the police took his cell phone, and found information that led to the discovery of a house full of drugs and cash. The defendant appealed his convictions under the “fruit from the poisonous tree” doctrine that states that evidence seized illegally cannot be submitted in court.

So, what do you think?

If I were ever pulled over by the police because of suspicious behavior and they were to confiscate my cell phone, they would be quite disappointed. What they would find would be a multitude of dog pictures, a Words With Friends app, a bunch of stock market update things, an up to the minute baseball score gizmo, and a boat load of deleted credit score and Canadian pharmacy emails. But, on the other hand, my smart phone does everything that my work laptop does except screw up printing jobs. An enterprising cop could eventually find my payroll downloads, bank account balances, private communications with my wife etc.. Today’s cell phones are where we keep every vital thing to which we need unfettered access. It is in many ways the modern version of the filing cabinet in the attic, something that used to be protected by the Fourth Amendment.

I’m sure that the administration lawyers will yammer on about terrorism or how this is vital as a crime fighting tool. Then they will make the tired claim about how it is very rare that a cell phone is searched anyway, and the only people who should fear such a seizure are the guilty.

What is the deal with Presidents and their hatred of warrants anyway, first Bush and now Obama? Oh well, once again that pesky Bill of Rights is getting in the way of the State and its never ending battle to control us. Damn that James Madison!!

The trend line on these matters is running against “us”. More and more courts are buying in to the arguments of the “security state” so my trick knee tells me that the Supremes will rule in favor of big brother on this one. But, we probably have nothing to worry about since the vast majority of us are innocent, right? I mean, it’s not like the police would ever abuse this new power. In fact, just the other day my President assured me that all of this hand wringing about the NSA eavesdropping on private phone conversations was all hog wash. Just because the NSA has the capability to listen in to our calls doesn’t mean they would ever do it, he explained. I’m sure it will be the same with this cell phone thing. No worries.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Lot of 'Splaining To Do


In the old I Love Lucy TV show, whenever Lucy got into trouble, Ricky would fold his arms across his chest and in that thick Cuban accent say, “Lucy, you’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do!”

 Senator Rand Paul introduced a bill a few weeks ago to suspend all United States aid to the Egyptian military. The bill managed to do something that is virtually impossible in Washington D.C. anymore. It managed to unite Democrats and Republicans, going down in flames 86-13, as one senator after another rose to denounce the “dangerous naiveté” of the junior senator from Kentucky. “It would be a terrific mistake,” John McCain intoned, “for the United States to send a message to Egypt: you’re on your own.”

Now practically every senator who voted against the bill is in full ass-covering mode as they watch CNN and FOX and see Egyptian tanks rolling over unarmed protesters. As the streets of Cairo run red with blood, Senator Paul made another statement to the press:

“This is something that those who voted in Congress will have to live with. The question is: How does their conscience feel now as they see photographs of tanks rolling over Egyptian citizens?”

For his part, Senator McCain seems to have had an epiphany of sorts since he now thinks that all military aid should be cut off immediately. Although the President yesterday did cancel an upcoming joint military exercise with Egypt, he refused to cut off the 1.3 BILLION dollars worth of military aid that flows to them unabated, warning that the United States cannot afford to “lose our influence” in Egypt. To which Senator Paul replied:

“For those who think that more weapons is engaging us with the Egyptian people, ask an Egyptian. When you’re protesting in the streets and you get run over by an American tank, you’re not going to be appreciative of American engagement.”

I am fully aware of the fact that Senator Paul is very much a mixed bag. He is relatively inexperienced, confused about some things, flat wrong about others. But, ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to American foreign policy, I haven’t heard an American politician this willing to tell the truth about our wrongheaded bumbling in a very long time. My hat is off to him, and if he wants to throw his hat in the ring for 2016?  Well, let’s just say there will be some very interesting debates, and some mighty nervous candidates with a lot of ‘splaining to do.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Most Irritating Ads Ever


Perhaps the best thing about writing a blog is that you get to vent about issues large and small. One day I can write about some serious soul-searching spiritual question, the next day I can provide commentary about my ongoing plan to vanquish squirrels from my neighborhood. Well, today I want to talk about one of my most inconsequential yet irritating pet peeves. It concerns an increasingly popular advertising technique that I cannot escape. I see it on television and I hear it on my radio at least ten times a day. It involves the following formulation:

 

“What the ----------------------‘s DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW!!!”

 

In advertisements for everything from hair color to gold, there seems to be a vast conspiracy afoot to keep the truth from you. Apparently there exists an enormous reservoir of inside information out there that various companies are desperate to keep hidden from the masses. But, luckily for us, a million advertisers are working feverishly to spill the beans.

You need a super low rate on your mortgage? Call Rhea Finance to discover what the big banks don’t want you to know! Aren’t you dying to learn how to lose 25% of your body weight in only three days with no exercise? Find out what doctors don’t want you to know. Tired of paying through the nose for car insurance? Find out what the big insurance companies don’t want you to know.

If all this information is so privileged, how come none of these companies were able to keep it from a bunch of ad men? Can nobody keep a secret anymore? This advertising technique feeds into the deeply held American suspicion that everything is a conspiracy. Are you 32 years old, unemployed, living in your parent’s basement? Is this a result of laziness, a series of bad decisions and your fondness for cocaine? Absolutely not. It’s because the “system” and “the man” have gotten together and hatched an ingenious plan to keep you down. It’s the Democrat’s fault. It’s all because of Sarah Palin. And the “lamestream media” is in bed with all of them, keeping the truth of their nefarious plot a closely guarded secret. So when the man in the dark suit with the earnest expression tells you that you desperately need to find out what the Wall Street fat cats don’t want you to know about gold, well…what’s that 800 number again?

Well, I’m about to tell all of you about what the advertising business doesn’t want you to know. There is no hidden truth about floor wax, deodorant, hard wood floors, or hybrid seeds. But there are a million salesmen who would love to make you think there are. Judging from the vacuousness of these “don’t want you to know” ads, the advertising guys think you’re an idiot. Judging from the sheer number of these ads, they must be right.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The President and the Rodeo Clown


I was five years old when my brother and sisters came home early from school on the day that President John Kennedy was assassinated. It’s one of my earliest and most powerful memories. The entire house became solemn and quiet as our old RCA black and white television with the aluminum foil wrapped around the antennae reported the awful news. In 1981 I learned that President Reagan had been shot when I got home from class and saw my father sitting in front of the television with tears coming down his face. I sat with him feeling disgusted and angry that someone would try to kill the President, one Democrat, one Republican, but the same sense of outrage.

The thing is, I’m one of those people who still have perhaps a naïve reverence for the President of the United States. Not that I worship him, but rather, I consider him to be worthy of a special respect and honor, regardless of his performance in office or his ideology. Even when they behave badly and by their failings don’t actually deserve it, Bill Clinton comes to mind, I still feel a bit uncomfortable when they are openly reviled in public. The way the right savaged Clinton was shameful. The left’s disrespect for George Bush was often close to treasonous, and now President Obama is receiving his share of mockery.

However, as much discomfort as I feel at the rampant disrespect for the Presidency that has dominated our culture for most of my lifetime, it has no legal remedy. We live in an imperfect Constitutional Republic with a democratic form of government. We have a Bill of Rights that doesn’t grant us rights but rather protects those God-given rights from government encroachment. The cornerstone of those rights is the freedom of speech. Our President is not a monarch, we don’t bow down to him, we are allowed in fact to despise him and to express our hatred in a variety of ways from scathing editorials, to late night comedy stand up routines and yes even rodeo clown stunts at State fairs.

Had I been in the audience at the Missouri state fair last week, I would have probably booed when the clown appeared with an Obama mask and the announcer started asking the audience if they would like to see Obama rammed by a bull. This is a perfect example of the kind of thing that I find disrespectful and harmful as it ultimately degrades our discourse. However, a simple Google search will reveal that this is far from the first example of rodeo clowns savaging Presidents. A rodeo in New Jersey of all places had done the exact same thing to then President George H. W. Bush back in 1994, going so far as allowing a bull to rip a straw dummy with a Bush mask to shreds. Similar rodeo high jinks in Alabama had targeted both the younger Bush and Bill Clinton. Apparently, the rodeo community is an equal opportunity offender.

But this morning comes news that this particular rodeo clown has been “banished for life” from performing at the Missouri State Fair and has been ordered to endure “sensitivity training.” No…a thousand times no!! It is not a crime to be rude. What makes President Obama above the common ridicule and mockery that has been the fate of every President in American history? Voices now claiming shock and horror at this rodeo clown were silent when the target was one of the Bushes. Why the sudden discovery of decorum, this new found disgust at political theatre? Of all the Presidents who have served during my life, none has had thinner skin than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Confederate Flag


There is a bubbling controversy here in Richmond, Virginia concerning an organization called The Virginia Flaggers. They have purchased a plot of land just south of the city adjacent to interstate 95 and it is their stated intention to begin flying an enormous 10’ x 15’ Confederate flag atop a 50’ flagpole which will be fully lit by floodlights at night starting next week. This has reignited the tired but still explosive debate over “hate vs. heritage”. Is the Confederate flag an offensive symbol of slavery or does it represent the brave sacrifices made by thousands of young men who rallied to defend Virginia from invasion?

According to Susan Hathaway, spokesperson for the Flaggers, “The sole intention of this is to honor our ancestors.” The local chapter of the NAACP has a different view espoused by its executive director King Salim Khalfani, “If those soldiers had been successful, I’d still be in chains.”

So, what to think? The claim made by Mr. Khalfani that he would still be in chains had the Confederacy won the war is a dubious one since the economic underpinnings of slavery were already unraveling before the war even started, but his larger point is valid. For African Americans, nostalgia for the old south isn’t exactly a hot topic of conversation. The feelings that the flag brings to mind for them are quite different than the simple devotion to ancestors claimed by Mrs. Hathaway. More likely, for African Americans, the confederate flag is associated with jacked up pickup trucks, gun racks and beer swilling teenage boys out on a Friday night looking for trouble.

I write these words from my study at home. On the wall to my right hangs a print of the famous E.B.D. Julio painting, The Last Meeting depicting Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback talking just hours before Jackson would be mortally wounded in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Behind me hang portraits of the two generals and to my left is a picture of Jeb Stuarts plumed hat, riding gloves and pistol taken from him the day he died. In my library there are no less than eleven books about the history of the Civil War. It has always fascinated me and I have studied it as an amateur all of my life. The point is that I have great sympathy for the heritage point of view in this debate. But I must also say that my feelings about the flag and what it represents has gone through many changes over the years. I have come to the position that, like it or not, the flag carries with it a ton of baggage and is offensive to a sizable slice of our population. For this reason, I’m against this enormous display on such a highly travelled highway entering the old capital of the Confederacy. The symbolism is too heavy. I think of how I would feel if this was a giant Mexican flag erected by a Pro-Amnesty group and imagine it would be close to what African Americans feel towards the Stars and Bars. The vast majority of people who see it will not be thinking about the brave men who gave their lives defending their homeland from invasion, they will be thinking, “What the hell? Who put THAT up??”

The question of whether the Virginia Flaggers should be prohibited from flying it is another issue all together. As much as I would prefer that they found a less ostentatious way of honoring their ancestors, they have every right to fly this flag. It’s their land, their flag, and their decision. It’s a free country. But just as they have a right to fly it, those opposed have every right to protest against it. It’s called Democracy, and public conflict and debate is how we roll.

Bring it on.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Tale of Two Children


God has seen fit to bless me with two children. I have a 26 year old daughter and a 24 year old son. They share the same set of parents…and very little else. In many ways the two of them are polar opposites, God’s peculiar brand of humor, as if to say, “Watch what amazingly unique people I can create from such unremarkable ingredients!”  In perhaps no corner of life are the two of them any more wildly different than in the area of organization. Kaitlin is “the cloud” to Patrick’s overstuffed filing cabinet. For example…

A couple of years ago, Pam and I drove down to Nashville to help Patrick pack up all of his worldly belongings into a U-Haul truck from Belmont University to Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. He assured us in the week leading up to the big day that he had been getting everything ready so moving day would be “no big deal.” What we found upon our arrival still gives me nightmares to this day. There was Patrick, standing amongst the most unruly collection of boxes, bags and plastic bins imaginable. In one particularly frightening box there was a large frying pan with a sliver of dried food still attached, an unfolded tuxedo vest, two boxes of tea, a spatula and a handful of sheet music, the very definition of “miscellaneous.”

Contrast this with our experience two weeks ago when we made the same trip to move Kaitlin home after two years of grad school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We walked in to her bedroom and there were boxes taped up and labeled with permanent marker, “Coffee Mugs”, “Non-perishable kitchen supplies.” A hearty group of able bodied and similarly focused friends had been recruited for the task of packing the U-haul, among them an engineer with an amazing gift for geometry who made packing the truck a breeze. Once home it took three rooms upstairs to contain all of Kaitlin’s stuff, but within the week she had single handedly gone through it all, designating this pile for Goodwill, that for the dump. Imagining Patrick navigating a similar challenge is practically unthinkable. He simply lacks the linear thinking skills necessary to organize and execute such a thing. He would open a box to empty it only to be distracted by a notation on some random piece of sheet music found inside, then run to his keyboard to get to the bottom of it. Two hours later, the next item in the box would be discovered.

So, you can imagine the level of guilt that my wife had that we were not able to be in New Jersey yesterday for Patrick’s move from first year apartment to second year rental home. There was a U-haul involved, and the dismantling and reassembly of desks and beds, and she wasn’t there to help him plow through it all. So imagine our shock when he sends us a picture of his room last night at 10:30. There was his corner desk with his $5000 worth of musical technology up and running. There was his bed in the foreground…MADE. There was a picture hung on the wall, and white Christmas lights strung along the ceiling. We could actually see the floor! He had done it, he had successfully moved and organized his new home without his mother’s guiding hand. Although I have my suspicions about just how much of this he did without some sort of assistance, probably from at least one female friend, still, it was a very impressive picture, more proof that he is closer than ever to becoming an actual grownup.

Amazing.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I Finished My Novel


Back in February of this year I began writing a story. It centered around the single idea of what it might be like to be a gambling savant. From there it began to flourish into something more than a story, and before I knew it, the thing was off and running. Yesterday morning, six months, thirty chapters and many plot twists later, I have a completed novel on my hands. Each chapter has a title, but the overall work does not, and it needs to be proofed and edited, but the hard part is over.

Although it was a great feeling to finish it, to resolve the thing, to wrap up some of the loose ends, there was also a tinge of sadness. When writing a novel you create a small universe, and populate it with characters of your own design. You endow them with personality, strengths and weaknesses. You introduce conflict; mitigate that conflict with humor where you can, but sometimes it feels better to let the conflict run amok. You discover that your feelings change about your own characters as you’re writing; ones you were quite fond of at first begin to disappoint you like rebellious children. Then you turn on them, meting out literary justice. Then, while driving down the road, or taking a shower, an idea overwhelms you and you suddenly know exactly what will happen next and you can’t wait to write. But eventually the ark of the story begins to exhaust itself and it must wind down. You must find a way to end it. This is the hardest part. There are so many ways you can go. You write the final chapter a hundred times in your head but none of them feel right. A week goes 

by, then two weeks. Then in a flash of inspiration, it all comes to you while you’re cutting the grass. You sit down at your laptop and in two hours, it’s all over. You’re happy with the result, but sad because the world you have created has come to an end. Your characters become frozen in place like a museum exhibit.

So, now what do I do? For me writing is a hobby, a marvelous diversion, but not my profession. I don’t know the first thing about getting anything published. I’ve heard about self-publishing but don’t know enough about the process. Obviously, I like my work but I have no idea whether it’s even good enough to publish. Is there a market for a book that features gambling, dying parents, an ugly divorce, one unsuccessful suicide attempt and one successful one, adultery, ghosts, a gorgeous redhead, mysterious dreams, spiritual transformation, the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius, and a dog with unexplained powers?  Guess I’m about to find out.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Losing My Feel For Church


It’s the dog days of summer. You have your shoulder operated on, go on vacation, help your child move home from grad school, and before you know it you realize it’s been a while since you’ve been to church. You’ve gone maybe two or three times over the past two months, and one of those times involved a nasty fall going up a flight of stairs. This is after going practically every Sunday for the better part of 50 years. What happens when you discover that you haven’t missed it?

You miss the people. You miss seeing those with whom you have shared your life, the wonderful people who have loved and cared for your kids almost as much as you have all these years. You miss the fellowship. But you find that you really don’t miss…church.

For one thing, you discover that having a full two day weekend is nice. You can get away overnight some place; get some things done around the house. The weekend doesn’t seem quite so manic, so fleeting, and as a consequence, Mondays aren’t so dreadful.

But, of course, there’s guilt, the linchpin that holds life together. You know that you should be at church. It’s not good for your spiritual health to miss the assembly, the gathering of like minds. The dangers are formidable and profound. You can become indifferent, estranged from other Christians, adrift.

No one from church has seemed to notice your absence, no one has called. This is one of either the benefits or curses of attending a larger congregation…anonymity. But even that doesn’t bother you because it saves you from having to explain to someone that you’ve basically lost your feel for church.

One of the reasons is that you know exactly what will happen every week. It’s not like there will be anything different this Sunday from last. After 50 years you’ve heard every sermon 16 times. You do miss the music since it’s the only thing that ever stirs anything like real emotion. You also miss the huge stain glass mural that dominates the architecture. Whenever your mind begins to drift, which is every two minutes, you stare at the thing. You look into the face of Jesus who looms over you and you think about your savior and what it means to be a disciple. You wonder what he must be thinking right now as he peaks inside the million churches across America gathering to worship him. Is he as mystified by the unrelenting boredom as I am?

But soon, summer and its more hectic schedule will be over, and you will run out of plausible excuses for not being there. You will get with the program. “Do not forsake the gathering together”, the early Christians warned. You will take it to heart. There will be plenty of time for staring into the stain glassed window come Fall.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Blast From My Past


So, last night I had just eaten dinner and had settled in nicely to watch an episode of Mad Men when the door bell rang. It had completely slipped my mind that Andrew Hemby and Andrew Cannada were coming over to visit. Earlier in the week I had mentioned it to Pam but neither of us had remembered. But there they were. Ten minutes later, just like in the old days, Matt King lets himself in, unannounced and uninvited. I felt 45 again!

Although Hemby had promised to bring me a bag of Nicaraguan coffee beans, he showed up empty handed. Some things never change, I suppose. We spent a couple of hours together catching up and debating my views on gay marriage, the church and Hemby’s pending nuptials, pending in the sense that the only thing missing is a bride. I can’t tell you how proud I am of these three boys.

Andrew Cannada, or “Swift” as he will always be known to his friends is a Doctor, having just graduated with a degree in Physical Therapy. He is married to a wonderful girl named Angie. Matt King is a teacher and also happily married to Sandra, another amazing girl. It is clear that each of them followed my advice and married up, out kicking their coverage by a mile! Andrew Hemby is a consultant for an IT firm and doing very well, all the while trying to decide if he wants to go over to the dark side and become a lawyer.

I spent four years of my life teaching these guys Sunday School back in the day. They were three of over 200 kids that I had the privilege of knowing through the large and boisterous youth program at Grove Avenue Baptist Church. These three were among the best and brightest that I ever taught. It comes as no surprise then that they have all grown into outstanding young men. Listening to them talk last night was an inspiration. Here were three guys who are thinking and caring about important things, trying their best to make a difference in the world. They are working hard, serving their communities, and carving out lives for themselves in a  screwed up world.

I’m getting a little bit tired of hearing negative things about the “millennial” generation. I know all the statistics and I’ve heard every joke there is about the kid who came home from college and took up residence in the basement and hasn’t been heard from since. Most of these jokes are told by members of my generation…the Boomers, the last generation on earth who should feel obliged to criticize anything. We are in the process of handing these “millennials” the most dysfunctional America in history, the one that “we” have been in charge of for the past 15 years. As I sat listening to these three last night, my confidence in the future was given a much needed boost.

So, hats off to the law firm of Cannada, Hemby and King, and hats off to their parents, who clearly did something right.

But Hemby, you don’t promise a guy Nicaraguan coffee beans and then pull the rug out like that. Bad form, bro. Apparently, my work is not yet done!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Do We Live in a Strange World, or What?


This is a very strange world we live in, so much more so than I remember it being when I was a kid. It’s not that it’s better or worse. I’m generally not one to sit around rhapsodizing about the “good old days”. When I was a teenager there were no smart phones, no computers, no internet and no such thing as the Cadillac CTS, so, come on! But still, I can’t escape the feeling that our world has grown exponentially weirder year by year since the sixties in ways great and small. Just a few examples follow.

Our government shuts down 21 embassies in the Middle East and warns Americans abroad to avoid going to “American type places” because of some grave terrorist threat. But we here nothing about it from our President’s lips until he goes on the Jay Leno show. The President of the United States goes on the Jay Leno show for the fifth or sixth time of his tenure in office. It seems like the most natural thing in the world for the leader of the free world to be mucking it up with a comedian on late night television, joking about his “bromance” with John McCain. Strange.

From family values conservative Mark Sanford to flaming liberal Anthony Weiner, it seems that no personal failing disqualifies anyone from public service anymore. Sanford, when governor of South Carolina, lied to his own staff about his whereabouts, then uses tax-payer money to fly to Rio De Janeiro to hook up with his soul mate, leaving his loyal wife and house full of children behind. In the days of my youth this would have been a shameful disgrace that would have forced him out of office and the public eye…FOREVER. Meet the new Congressman from South Carolina’s first Congressional district! Strange. Anthony Weiner’s escapades have been well chronicled here, and incidentally would have been impossible when I was a kid since we didn’t have Twitter. Nevertheless, there he is running for mayor of New York, capitalizing on great poll numbers among young women. Strange.

On the very day that Major League Baseball announces that A-Rod will be banned from the game until the end of the 2014 season, he makes his season debut for the New York Yankees. Wait, what?

Johnny Manziel, a college football player who as a freshman single handedly put his University, Texas A&M, on the map and enriched said university immeasurably, is about to be declared ineligible by the NCAA for taking $7500 from an autograph broker for signing his name to a bunch of memorabilia. It seems that everyone associated with this kid has made a boatload of money off of his football exploits, except Johnny Manziel. Strange kid, even stupid kid, but an even stranger and stupider system.

But, there’s no point pining for the past. This is the only world we have, so we should make the most of it, I suppose. Still…what a strange day and age.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Give Up!



 

Back then, I thought it “outrageous” that our elected officials would have the nerve to exempt themselves from the most egregious provisions of Obamacare. I found it unimaginable that Republicans would go along with such a scheme. Fast forward to today, and I stand amazed at the manifest foolishness and hubris of the ruling class.

Just for a moment, let’s put aside any discussion of the merits, good or bad, of Obamacare. I would like to ask my readers who support the law to explain to me how you could possibly support your Congressperson exempting his or herself from its consequences in a manner unavailable to anyone else? If this law is such a breakthrough, so beneficial for our nation, then why shouldn’t ALL of us be subject to its proscriptions?

Before Obamacare, members of Congress and their staffs were covered under the Federal Employees Health and Benefits Program, perhaps the richest plan in the history of Western Civilization. So, naturally, any one size fits all plan that would replace it would be less generous and more expensive. So, Senator Chuck Grassley back in 2009 sponsored a bill that would mandate that any health care law passed would INCLUDE all members of Congress. What better way to communicate to the American people that we are all in this together? The provision passed his committee unanimously. But, after the 2000 page monstrosity that famously, nobody actually read, was passed into law, the results of its provisions soon became clearer. Suddenly, members of Congress discovered that they would be paying LOTS more out of pocket for their coverage and in addition would have fewer choices, etc. In other words, details matter, and these details were unacceptable to the ruling class. So, Congresspersons who make $174,000 a year and their highest paid staffs discovered that they would NOT be eligible for any Obamacare subsidies. Democrats and Republicans alike began whining to Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, “We won’t be able to afford this! Our staff people will leave for the private sector, this is an outrage!!!”

Reports in this morning’s Wall Street Journal suggest that President Obama himself magically worked out a deal with some Personnel Management bureau that will provide ,out of thin air, a $4900 subsidy for individuals and $10,000 per family to help Congresspersons and their employees “cope” with the transition from their gold-plated health plan to Obamacare. In other words, the greatest achievement of Barack Obama’s Presidency is good enough for us, but not quite good enough for our betters in Washington. Provisions must be made for the ruling class that are unavailable for we mere citizens.

Now, I know there are those of you out there who think that Obamacare is wonderful, and long overdue as a matter of justice and compassion for the uninsured etc.. etc… But would someone please justify what has just happened for me, because what little faith I have remaining in government is about to disappear forever.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mad Men. A Review.


A couple of months ago, my wife walked into the Apple store looking for a cable and walked out with Apple TV. Suddenly we were all hooked up with Netflix just in time for my shoulder surgery. It was a few days later that we discovered Mad Men. Last night we finished season four, so now, a review.

First of all, MM has the coolest theme song ever which features haunting cellos and an amazingly rockin’ drum line that practically demands that you watch the show. So, there’s that. The show is a period piece, set in the early sixties. It takes place on Madison Avenue, New York City back in the days before Giuliani, back when the city was a festering dump of trash and crime. The lead character is an advertising executive named Donald Draper who works for a smallish, boutique firm called Sterling Cooper. Draper is the brilliant, brash, boorish and mysterious creative director of the firm and the character through which the entire show flows. There are an abundance of fascinating characters from his smoking hot wife Betty, to the Rat Packish rogue partner Roger Sterling, to the rich boy brat and insufferably entitled Pete Campbell, all the way to the neophyte secretary/lost lamb in the wood Peggy. All of these characters are essentially horrible human beings inasmuch as each of them sets about doing horrible things to themselves or others. But each of them have a barely there, yet vaguely discernible streak of decency simmering under the surface. You find yourself watching, hoping to catch a glimpse of humanity. Eventually you are rewarded and when you are, it is incredibly satisfying.

But there is one character who is different somehow. She is the statuesque red head who runs the office, Joan Harrison. She overpowers every scene she is in partially because of her stunning hourglass figure, and shocking red hair that shapes her face like a painting. When she walks across the office, coming or going, she plays up her ample assets in a way that stops traffic. But she isn’t just eye candy for the hoard of rude sexists she works for, she brings with her an arrogance, a cool detachment. She is the only true grown up in the room and she knows it. She has the air of self confidence that comes with the knowledge that you are truly indispensable. Joan isn’t much better than anyone else in the morals department, but she makes up for it with the substance of her work and the one thing lacking at Sterling Cooper…integrity. She quickly becomes the only character on the show who you find yourself rooting for.

Donald Draper is another story. Handsome beyond human understanding, and possessed of an artist’s creativity and imagination, he is to advertising what Warren Buffet is to investing, a genius who people tolerate because, well,..because they have to. He waltzes through the show cheating on his wife, cavorting behind her back in ways large and small, all the while running from a terrible secret that gradually reveals itself over the first couple of seasons. He is riveting to watch. You know he’s a terrible person, a real ass, and yet you can’t look away somehow. You can’t decide whether you want him to find happiness and redemption or end up rotting in jail for the rest of his life. And in this conflict lies the brilliance of Mad Men.

We will keep watching because, well…because we have to!

Friday, August 2, 2013

August Stinks


How can it be August already? Seriously, what the heck happened? It seemed like just a few days ago Pam and I were in Myrtle Beach celebrating my birthday and looking forward to warmer weather and now I wake up and it’s…August! You remember August, right? That’s that worthless month sandwiched between vacationing July and Labor Day. There are no holidays. Most people have already taken their vacations already. Now there’s just 30 days of hot nothing.

If you have school-aged kids, you’re counting down the days until they finally go back to class already! If you have college kids in the house, you have setting up a dorm room to look forward to. If you’re a teacher, August is that pit in your stomach, that rude reminder that life is about to get harder soon. Your yard is turning brown; your bank account is empty because you spent too much money at the beach last month. Yes, August is great.

Back in February, my other least favorite month, there comes a time when you’ve had it with the cold. Snow no longer holds any wonder. Christmas is over, you’re sick and tired of hot chocolate, and you just want to go someplace warm. Well, August is that way. There comes a time, usually around the 15th where you discover that you are very much over summer. You start day dreaming about fall colors, drinking apple cider, and wearing sweaters. But those days won’t come anytime soon because…it’s freaking August!

Thanks to our hard working Congresspersons in Washington, August has been granted a few titles that you’re probably not aware of, in a desperate attempt to spruce it up a bit. For instance, I bet you didn’t know that August if National Romance Awareness Month. Yes there’s nothing like 95% humidity and 105 degree temperatures to make me aware of how romantic the fall will be! August is also National Picnic month. I don’t know about you, but every morning when I go outside and my sunglasses immediately fog over, the first idea that comes into my head is always, “Hey, let’s have a picnic!” And finally August is also National Eye Exam Month. What, was National Anal Exam already taken?

What is wrong with us? We are never satisfied with where we are in the moment. When it’s cold, we want warm. When it’s hot, we want cool. When it’s August, we want it be…anything else.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Karma at Firebirds


Monday night, Pam and I went out to dinner at Firebirds. As we got out of the car and began walking through the parking lot, there on the ground in front of me was a familiar blue-gray colored card. I stopped, took a closer look and confirmed that it was a Wells Fargo debit card. Someone had dropped it and there it was, face up in the middle of a busy parking lot of the largest mall in Richmond. My first reaction was to make some crack, “Looks like dinner is going to be on Anne Smith!” But then Pam and I started to talk about how terrible it was going to feel when this person reached for her debit card only to discover that it wasn’t there. So, once we got settled at our table, my wife went to work surfing the Interwebs and in no time, we had a phone number.

When I got her on the phone and told her that I had found her card, she practically promised to put me in her will, so thrilled was she that there still existed in the world an honest man. She explained that she had given the card to her three sons so they could go get something to eat and they had lost it, and how she would send them to Firebirds right away, and she was just so very thankful that I called. In less than ten minutes her three boys, each over 6’5”, wearing basketball jerseys arrived. Before I gave them the card I asked which one of them was going to be cutting my grass for the rest of the summer. A big laugh was had by all, and they disappeared from my life forever and I went back to dinner at Firebirds.

Here’s where it gets weird. Two days later, I take my filthy car to the carwash, order the works then go to the cashier to pay. No debit card. Immediately, my stomach tied itself in knots and I could feel my blood pressure inching up as I began retracing my steps. When did I last use it, was it at Martins? Didn’t I buy some gas at Circle K yesterday? No, that was Sunday, and I haven’t been to Martins in a while. Maybe I left it at home. I texted Pam. She said it wasn’t at the house. “When did you last use it”, she asked, and in a flash we both remembered Firebirds. I quickly found their number on Google and called. I got put through to the friendliest restaurant manager in the world who said, “Yes, Mr. Dunnevant, we’ve been waiting for you to call. I’ve got your card right here.” What are the odds?

Now, if I were Buddhist, I would understand this to be a textbook example of Karma. But I’m not Buddhist. But it’s still a textbook example of Karma, if I understand the concept correctly which is roughly that what good deeds you do for others eventually will return to you. It’s sort of an Eastern spin on the Golden Rule, an addendum to it that says…”and if you do unto others as you would have them do unto you…it will come back to you”.
I’ll take it