Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"New 'Kicks' For Old '66"


I was so pleased to read yesterday that the Feds,through the National Park Service, will installing new signing on the old Route '66. Though Congress will not be providing any funding for road improvement, at least with the signs, we'll be able to find where it still exists. 
And Route '66, our old "nation's highway", the beloved "Mother Road" does still exists. I know....I've driven long stretches of it. In 1997, as I chauffeured my mother out to Missouri, to celebrate her 75th birthday with her brother, I nearly drove that dear lady crazy, detouring off of I-40, so many times en route. I toured those lovely old towns, pulling my van up to old horse hitchings, springing for lunch at the old hamburger joints still open, and winding down parts of old '66 that were not much more than horse paths.
Though Route '66 was officially started in 1926, its roots run far deeper. In 1857 the War Department ordered a Lieutenant Beale, an army engineer, to develop certain East to West roads that might be used to herd camels bearing army supplies to army installations along that route, most of it running through the southwest.
Before 1926 there were no real roads for the recently introduced automobile to get from coast to coast. Then, in that year, Congress appropriated money to build that highway. When it was finished it originated in Chicago and ended at the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles, weaving its way through the mid-west, through Missouri and Oklahoma and north Texas, then becoming pocketed oasis as it wound its way across Arizona.
And that "Mother Road" was a tremendous economic boon, providing construction jobs, expanding local markets to national, and, along that route thousands of businesses bloomed, to feed and house the millions of travelers hell bent on seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
And it was on Route '66 where millions of Okies would weave their way from dustbowl to the promise of hope in the vineyards and cotton fields and citrus orchards of California. It was the Mother Road that carried my own family to California. We slept on the side of the road, and ate our baloney and potted meat sandwiches on the side of the road, and four year old me sat in the back of a tarped pickup truck, watching the miles fade behind me.
And it was the great adventure of my young life, drinking from canvas bag, or gallon pickle jars, and inhaling the sweet scent of sage and creosote along the way.
Route '66 was officially "retired" in 1985, the then mighty I-40 having already stolen away the gas and hotel and hamburger business...for travelers in a hurry to get somewhere longer satisfied to stop and smell the roses.
But I've traveled the Mother Road. And I have found peace and contentment on long stretches of that old road. I have wandered down that old road, then pulled off, shut the engine off, reveling in the ghostly silence. and I would gaze at that aged asphalt, and remember a time when the wheels of our old pickup rolled across that ancient asphalt as it carried us East to West, or West To attend funerals, then to carry us back home..the memories of the road resonating in our hearts when our heads hit the pillow for sleep.
And, some 65 years later, that Mother Road still calls out to me in clarion song.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Understanding Trump's Rise; The Media's Blind Neglect Of Main Street


I caught part of Charlie Rose over on PBS a couple of weeks ago.  Charlie was hosting veteran journalist Bob Schaefer.  I like Bob Schaefer.  I don't know his politics, don't want to know.  And I like Bob because he's been around forever.  He was writing for the Dallas Morning News on the day Kennedy was assassinated.  He covered Congress for 15 year and, when he took over the CBS Evening News for a time, he brought a bit of shine back to that once "tiffany network".

So, on Charlie Rose, Bob was asked about how America elected a Donald Trump.  Well, old Bob smiled, then just commented that he thought the folks out in the Rust Belt felt like they'd been neglected, and decided to "take a flyer" on Trump.

Of course Bob is right.  But he misses the larger story.  I really wished I could sit down with Bob and ask him one question.  "How did the media get so far afield of national sentiment, and how did the mainstream media stray so far. enabling that to happen?"

Friday, November 24, 2017

"Chatty Kathy"


Kathleen Richardson owns a PHD in Cultural Studies and teaches in one of those obscure universities up in Canada.  You might not have heard of Kathleen Richardson, but you might soon.  She's leading a campaign to ban sex robots and she's doing it loudly.   Ms Richard attests that female sex robots not only demeans women, but might actually prevent men from "properly relating" to the women about them.

I recently viewed Ms. Richards on a video.  She's about 5 feet tall and is spherical, her measurements probably 44-44-44, and her mouth stays busy.  Let's just say that Richardson would be right at home on The View.

Now I will say that I've never gotten turned on by a blow-up doll.  I like the real thing.  However, given the plague of women making sex charges for something that occurred thirty years ago, those nearly life-like modern sex bots might just catch on.  A sex bot is not going to screw you........then screw you again 30 years later when she sees an opportunity to embarrass.
Given the current social trends, I can see explosive growth in the sale of sex bots.  Those sex bots are not going to demand that you shave your chest, or do laundry, or become full blown "metrosexual" to make them happy.

Sex bots do not demand Alimony and will not claim half of everything you've earned since you were 16 years old.  Sex bots do not have angry mother-in-laws, nor relatives who chew with their mouths open at the holiday table.

I believe Ms. Richardson is fighting a losing battle.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Real Story Of The First Thanksgiving


When you begin a serious search about the first American Thanksgiving you tend to come up with a good dozen different stories, perhaps a few grains of truth in each one.  But, truth be told, we still don't know a lot about that first Thanksgiving celebration.

But we do know a few things about the participants.  For example, the Pilgrims themselves were quite a dumb lot.  While they were sure about the tenants of their religion, they seemed to be the most impractical lot of people who ever crossed the ocean.  To best understand the dearth of common sense the Pilgrim's displayed, you kind of have to look at how you pack for a weekend outing today.  A weekend of camping requires that you pack matches, a fuel source,  a tent, sleeping bag, and plenty of grub.

Well, the Pilgrims seemed all too willing to climb on a rickety ship, cross 3,000 miles of open ocean, with every intent to settle in an unknown, likely hostile land.  And yet those Pilgrims did not pack any fishing gear, or sheltering materials, or food stocks to last awhile after they arrived.  You would have thought a group of people so "anal-retentive" over a religion, would have thought to pack a few quilts and pillows, right?  Except they didn't.

And so, when those Pilgrims slid into Plymouth, they looked toward shore and kinda said to each other "what do we do now?"  

Well they waddled ashore and looked about them, and said, "well this looks like a good spot!".  Except, because they brought no shelter with them, they set about just building some crude huts along the shoreline....then sat down, and someone said "I'm getting hungry!"  Another said "Sure wish I'd brought a fishing pole!"

Well those Pilgrims began to starve, and die off from malaria.....cause no one thought to bring any quinine with them either.

Finally, as dumb luck would have it, a group of native Americans wandered by and asked "aren't you folks going to plant any seeds for your harvest?"  And, by some grand miracle, the reason the Indians could ask that question was because of a fellow named Squanto, a local who had, a decade before, been kidnapped and taken against his will to England, where he would learn English...and learn how to turn down offerings of Haggis and Kidney pie.

So Squanto was there with his Wampanoag tribal friends, and taught them to plant seed corn and drop a few pieces of fish bones into the hole....cause the Pilgrims had no idea how to plant!  Well, the Wampanoags eventually taught these dunces how to hunt and fish, and throw a few animal hides over their crude huts and, come fall, when they harvested their crops, the Pilgrims decided to celebrate their harvest.

Now get this.  Recent historians say that these dumb Pilgrims had no plans for a celebratory dinner at all! In fact, they actually decided to fast.  They thought they would fast for a few days after the harvest...a sacrifice to their god who made it possible!

Well, eventually they did have that Thanksgiving dinner, thanks to the Indians!  But you have to imagine how that feast came about.  Imagine you're attending a fat farm.  Fifty of you are sitting around munching celery sticks and sipping water.  Then, the fat farm supervisor sits down to the table with you as the Uber folks deliver her the Boston Market Family meal and place it in front of her!  How long can you chomp on celery as Fat Farm Manager is dining on turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes?

Well, if the new history is right, that's exactly how the Pilgrims came to eat at that first Thanksgiving.  Seems the Wampanoag tribe arrived at the settlement with roast venison, pots of Atlantic Cod, roasted corn and wooden bowls laden with roasted squash!  Well, the Pilgrims' celery and water diet went right out the window as they dove into the grub!

And that my friends is exactly why we celebrate Thanksgiving today!  If it weren't for those Wampanoags we'd all be sitting around on Thanksgiving Day munching on celery.  So, when you sit down to your roast turkey and mashed, and cornbread stuffing...thank an Indian!

You're welcome!

Monday, November 20, 2017

"Smart City"


Well, as most of you know by now, the newspaper reports out with great fervor,  Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has bought a "small" 25,000 acre spread just west of me as the crow flies.  The land is a relatively boring desert expanse that hovers just north of the I-10 Freeway.  Gates and his investment group shelled out $80 million for it.  


The area of land just happens to be fortuitously located adjacent to the future "I-11" north-south industrial freeway that will accommodate international trucking, originating in Mexico, its first end junction culminating in Las Vegas, Nevada, then branching out to who knows where.  Along that freeway international trade from around the world will be freighted through the United States and on into Canada.

Although I-11 will be a boon to anyone around that area, the ease of transport is not Mr. Gates' primary interest.  Gates chief interest is in building a "smart city", already named "Belmont".  And within that city Gates has plans to build smart homes, fitted from floor foundation and up, with all the modern devices that current technology affords.  The homes will have solar power installed, water saving and filtering devices installed, central wi-fi terminals, fiber connections for telecommunication devices, including lightning fast cable and internet, sophisticated security systems, and the ability to control every appliance with phone or tablet.

Gates wants self-driving cars, so I imagine his master planners will come up with municipal codes that ban anything that runs on carbon based fuels.  So look for electric car charging stations all about the ville, and at least one self-driving car in every garage.  

Other than what's already been mentioned, we know little more about how Gates and company plan to run this smart city.  Home builders have already said that the concept of building a city from scratch is a great idea.  Surprisingly, they say that, in incorporating all the solar and fiber and other smart stuff  it should result in homes priced not much above what is available in already established neighborhoods.  Not having to retrofit older, less sophisticated homes, reduces the costs of infrastructure significantly.  Gates plans to set aside 470 acres to build schools and universities, the remaining 24,500 acres allocated to residential, commercial and retail.

Like I said, I don't know what else is planned, but you can almost be sure the city walkways and street crossings will be designed so that residents can walk along, staring into the screens of their smart phones, texting and sexting away, and will never have to actually look another human being in the face.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Playing Hero Without The Heroism


I read two bits of news that troubled me greatly this past week.  First, the U.S. Military announced that they are again lowering standards for entry into the military services.  Last year it was a lessoning of physical requirements.  This year they have announced they are accepting folks who have a history of mental issues.  What is particularly sad about this is that the military only needs 80,000 men and women to meet next year's recruitment goals.  So what we are sadly learning is that this nation can't coax 80,000 Americans to serve their country without lowering traditional standards.  And this from a sample of approximately 100 million eligibles.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Carl Cried "Fowl!"


Carl was a Swedish immigrant who came to America around the turn of the last century.  First settling in Blair, Nebraska, Carl worked on a farm there, doing chores to pay for his keep.  He would eventually move to Omaha, Nebraska and begin clerking in a grocery store.  He was an industrious sort and soon became a farm commodities broker for the store, buying butter and milk and eggs and meat at wholesale, then retailing those commodities in the store.  Soon Carl's commodities brokering expanded into buying for several stores in the Omaha area.

Except, one fall day in the late forties, Carl really screwed up, going out and buying some 520,000 pounds of turkey meat at a bargain price.  Problem was, there was really no market for half a million pounds of that turkey meat around Omaha, Nebraska! 

Carl could have faced bankruptcy...but he didn't.  Carl found a local aluminum producer who agreed to turn out several thousand little aluminum trays, then rounded up his friends and they joined he and his wife in his kitchen as he whipped up several thousand turkey dinners in his little three pocket aluminum trays, the largest pocket for the turkey and gravy, the smaller pockets holding a scoop of mixed vegetables and a dollop of mashed potatoes.

And those TV dinners became a hit with post war working wives.  They scooped up Carl's frozen dinners with great enthusiasm....and the Frozen TV dinner was born.  Carl would go on to expand the business, offering meat loaf and fried chicken and chicken pot pies.


Well, maybe that turkey scare gave Carl a heart attack....cause, in 1949 he up and died.  But Carl's son would continue with the business.  And soon those frozen TV dinners were selling well all over America.  And Carl's last name became a household name!  His full name?  Carl Swanson.

Note:  Swanson Foods was eventually sold to Campbell's Soup Company. You still see Carl's dinners in your local grocery store under the Hungry Man Label.
May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Veterans Day...A Reminder


Last week, as I made my weekly commissary run over to Luke Air Force Base, I pulled up to the main gate, showed my retired military ID card, then was sharply saluted by the young lady manning the front gate.  She then thanked me for my service and, as I returned her salute, I thanked her for hers.  It is a ritual enjoyed between two generations of those who serve.  We are like an exclusive fraternity, the entry required involving the writing of a blank check to your country....up to and including your life.

That young lady in uniform stands partly on my shoulders, just as I stood on the shoulders of veterans from Korea and World War II.  We are a pyramid of millions, that young lady standing at the very top, standing on the shoulders of all who came before her.  She still lives by more than two hundred years of military tradition.  Those of us who no longer serve on active duty support her on her every deployment, cheer her on every time she gets a raise in basic pay, are there for her when she needs our support.

This fraternity of men and women never ask if another has seen combat.  It doesn't matter if they serviced jeeps, ladled chow in a chow line, clerked in the 1st Sergeant's office, or carried a .50 Cal and 75 pounds of ammo on their back.  Because everyone wrote "that check".  Everyone, at one time or another, had to bid a tearful farewell to family...not knowing if they'd ever see them again.  Many of them left for war on the eve of Thanksgiving or Christmas, or a child's birthday...the military clerk who typed up your deployment orders giving no thought to what's "convenient", and with little regard for the calendar.  

And this fraternity belonged to no labor union.  So when the task at hand called for a 24, or 48, or 72 hour work day, well, we grunted and lived up to the task at hand.  Those lucky enough to pull desk duty might have gotten off for Christmas, but most did not....a holiday was something that resonated more in mind than in the reality of the day.  Most of us were on the battlefield, or in observation towers, or bunkers when the church bells rang out for Christmas mass, or call to Easter service.  And the only thing that made all of that tolerable is that we were in it together...shoulder to shoulder, the clinking of canteen cup, or a friendly exchange of C-rations to celebrate the holiday.

Speaking only for myself, I have had my share of service hardship....gathering my toddlers and hugging them tight to my chest, my heart set to explode as I bid them goodbye for a year, giving my wife a last embrace, manning lonely outposts in god forsaken places, and missing my homeland so much my heart virtually ached.  

But I, and nearly every veteran, will tell you it was somehow worth it.  Military service is oh so tough, but it truly gives back as much as it asks for....with the possible exception of that civilian-run VA hospital who long ago forgot their mission.   But the military folks themselves taught us the value of "we", the sharing of a human experience that puts "community" above self.  My Air Force was there for me every time I wished to go out and get more education.  She was there when I needed tuition assistance, her base the refuge I returned to when my time on campus was done.  And each time I was promoted to a higher rank, she was there to smile upon me with pride...and a few dollars more in my pay check.  I gave the Air Force 22 years of my life, many of them unbelievably challenging. And yet the Air Force gave me the life I have today, and, for good or bad, made me the man I am today.

And, whether that young lady at the Luke Air Force Base main gate serves four years, or forty, she will take with her a bounty of honor for the service she rendered.  And she will always know that she is part of that vast pyramid of veterans who boosted her onto their shoulders....and do to this day.

Happy Veterans Day to all who served...and to all Americans who supported us when we did.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Teaching A Man To Fish........."


Just about every mid-size to large city has soup kitchens these days, providing a place for the homeless to get a meal.  Phoenix Rescue Mission has been feeding folks for decades.  In recent years, though, they've concocted some ingenious ways to get those homeless off the streets, and working to feed themselves.

The Rescue Mission's first venture into entrepreneurship began by recruiting, then training homeless folks to prepare and serve food.  They began a catering business a few years ago and now furnish lunch catering to numerous businesses around the Valley of the Sun.  

Next came "Mission Cookies", a retail cookie business run almost entirely by folks who were once down and out, now employed in the art of cookie baking and distributing.  That too is doing well.

Now Phoenix Rescue mission has gone one step further, opening a restaurant, open to the public, whose proceeds will go to support all of their other operations.   Calling their new eating spot "Mission Possible", it may be the only restaurant in Phoenix established, not so much for the benefit of the eating public, as it is to those back in the kitchen preparing the food, and those out front serving it.

Mission Possible's "mission statement" is to provide unskilled folks, mostly on the public dole, the higher grade skills, not just to secure a minimum wage job, but the more highly paid chef and assistant chef and food management positions that pay far better.

In an era where sloth is much admired, and well compensated, I'm encouraged to see a far more positive approach to helping people get back on their feet.

You can indeed teach a man to fish....and never have to support him ever again.

And that's fine.........damned fine by me.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Demand For Confessionals Soar


(UPI) Dateline, Hollywood, 8:00AM, 1 Nov 2017

The Mayor of Hollywood just announced that he's working with several Catholic churches in the city, to borrow ten Confessional Cabinets. The confessionals will be placed at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, allowing Hollywood stars and producers to trek there and offer apologies for heterosexual and homosexual sex abuse.

The mayor said the confessionals are already booked through December and city schedulers are already working on January.

Note: The Hollywood community is currently on a city-wide "time-out", the denizens of Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Malibu all taking an oath of silence....even foregoing the savaging of our President as they wait for the next axe to fall. Movies and TV programs are being cancelled left and right, faster than a mile long line of dominoes.

America seems to be learning something too....that their kids have been exposed to a questionable set of morals for decades, fomented by the movies, TV and music emanating from La La Land.

Confessional manufacturers just started a second shift to deal with the increased demand.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Sometimes A Great Notion!"


I've just thought of a novel and effective approach to solving America's epidemic urban crime!  I just wrote up a position paper and sent it out to the police departments in Chicago, Baltimore, South Central Los Angeles and Philadelphia