THEY JUST CAN’T WAIT

Being laid up for a number of weeks gave me a chance to watch a bunch of pro football games. I have been a pro football fanatic since 1946, when the Brooklyn Dodger football team existed. That will give you a hint why I am an Indianapolis Colt fan. In listening to the football pundit’s talk about how running backs are not in the ascendency and how the quarterback is the star these days, it was like a cold washcloth being thrown in my face.
It is absolutely true that the days of the running back are truly gone. Yes, there are still a few who grind it out, like Adrian Peterson, or Frank Gore, but they are in the raging minority. The big stars are the quarterbacks; Mannings, Brees, Stafford, Brady, et al. Records for yardage are broken every year. Touchdowns are thrown at every moment of the game so that records fall with impunity. Last year three quarterbacks threw for over 5,000 yards. Peyton Manning makes a really mediocre Bronco team into a Super Bowl contender. How did this all come about?
I believe that it is a societal shift that began with Star Wars and osmosed into all facets of our society. No, I am not blaming the movie; it was also part of the giant shift in how we perceive things. Star Wars began a new way of viewing movies. There were not long scenes and action shifted every forty five seconds. Since that movie, action shifts at even shorter intervals. This is not to say that there aren’t movies that are slower, but the run of the mill action, sci-fi, kids movies and the like have these fast shifts. Just look for yourselves.
In 1989, when we were beginning our equity suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to meet with former Governor William Scranton. Our attorney, Fred Speaker, had been the attorney general and knew Governor Scranton. Fred was a wonderful person and was the guy who mothballed the electric chair in Pennsylvania.
The meeting took place at the Scranton Club. The Governor gave me some advice that I have followed to this day. He told me that the wealthy would never give anything up willingly and that going to court was the right thing to do. He also told me something that I did not understand then, but I do now. He told me that in his mind, the older the wealth, the longer it took to accumulate. He said that people were willing to wait for their yearly income from coupon clipping and interest on their savings. He said that investments were done very slowly and mostly on blue chips.
In 1989 he said that people were unwilling to wait and that they wanted to make a 100% profit in six months. That really didn’t mean anything to me then, but it sure does now. The acceleration of wealth accumulation has had a precipitous effect on how things work in our country these days. Even the stock market sees large gains and losses in smaller time frames. In the 90’s dot com millionaires rose and fell almost daily.
The era of instant gratification is upon us. We would like to become wealthy in short periods of time. There are those who can do such things. As for most of us, we await the numbers on the state lottery with eager anticipation.

MY FRIENDS IN OTHER COUNTRIES

I really don’t check to see the statistics on my blog. I have about 115 people that I send out notification to and I assume that they are the folks who read the blog and respond sometimes. Just this evening, after an afternoon of American football, I looked at the blog statistics and had my mind blown. Over the past three months, there have been people from 28 countries who have looked into the musings of Jean Jacques Crawb.
These were not just European, or English speaking countries, but places like Indonesia and Syria among others. I am not sure who these people are, ex-pats, business types, or whomever. Since I am not given to explaining the idiomatic meanings of words, nor do I refrain from using place names, American slang, or purely American experiences in my tomes, I wonder what these people think.
I am hoping that these folks respond to my blog with their own thoughts and questions. It would be so interesting to see what my experiences mean to them. If you folks, in other countries, are out there, please let me know.

BROOKLYN ROADS

I just realized that I am a Brooklyn boy- born and somewhat bred in that strange place. I was reading the Sports Illustrated article about the new Brooklyn Nets basketball team that will play in a new arena in Brooklyn, Things have not been the same in Brooklyn since 1957 when the Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles. I am not sure that I realized till I read that article what a strong pull Brooklyn has on me.
No, it’s not the strange way that people speak- pronouncing the word oil “earl” and the word earl “oil.” It is a long history of my family and Brooklyn. All of my father’s siblings lived in Brooklyn. That just dawned on me. All of the people that we visited from his side were Brooklynites. I believe all of them died living in Brooklyn, including my paternal grandparents. I believe that most of them were even buried in cemeteries in Brooklyn.
Although I was only four when my dad died and we moved to Grandma’s apartment in Manhattan, my memories of Brooklyn are still with me. I can still see the bottles of milk, with the cream floating on top, that were delivered by Sheffield Farms drivers. Who knew then that they were the largest purveyor of dairy products in the U.S. at that time? Would you believe after many combinations that they are now Kraft Foods.
The fall months provided such glorious pictures in the sky. My mom would take us to Prospect Park (the zoo) and the botanical gardens. I can still smell the inside of the elephant house and the roses in the garden. I am thankful to mom for taking us to the Brooklyn Museum.
Although I was living in Manhattan, I would stay with my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Joe during two weeks in the summer. They would take me to Coney Island. As described in an earlier tome, it was some of the nicest parts of my childhood. I can still smell the franks at Nathan’s, candied popcorn and cotton candy. My adventures playing skeeball still stay with me today. I have imposed my love for the game to my grandchildren. They are much better at it than I am.
Yes, the Dodgers left Brooklyn. However, I still have those memories of Ebbets Field. For $1.25 you could sit in the grandstand and actually overlook the outfielders and yell at them. I did meet Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field one day when we both entered the grounds at the same time. I can remember his smile, as he greeted me. I cannot forget that moment. It still brings tears to my eyes when I realize that this icon is no longer with us. He still affects me on a day to day basis, as I go along trying to do the right thing.
Those are some of my Brooklyn Roads ( as Neil Diamond has sung). Williams Avenue, the Loews Livonia, Pitkin Avenue, Louis and his comic books, Charlotte Chustrin, the day my dad died are all part of the things that make me what I am. I was born in Kings County Hospital and my soul has not strayed too far from that place. Go Nets Go!!!!!!!

GOOD PEOPLE ARE BEING SQUASHED

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend Joe Bard, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and told me that one of his board members had just resigned as a school superintendent in a small rural county in South Central Pennsylvania. Superintendents leaving districts to go to other districts is not that unusual, but this was at the beginning of a school year. That really is strange.
The story was that this woman, who I am sure is very competent was being hounded by two of her board members on a regular basis. They also had plants in the audience at school board meetings calling her names and saying horrible things about her. The situation got so bad, that she had to resign to save her own self-image and her future. She did get another job almost immediately, but that’s another tale.
Let’s take a look at this story a bit closer. This is happening with frequent regularity across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other states. The one thing that civilian boards understand is personnel matters. They may not know about curriculum, finance, scheduling and like, but they know how to hire and fire. The closest person to the board is usually the school superintendent. They see that person most frequently. If familiarity breeds contempt, then this is a perfect example of how superintendents of schools get canned.
This is not just a small school district problem. It happens in large cities, middle sized cities (although with less frequent regularity) and wealthy suburban school districts. If you want to call his politics, you can I don’t believe that it is strictly political. It is something more. Board members come onto the board with particular axes to grind. They don’t like a teacher, a football coach, a principal, a custodian (yes, a custodian), a guidance counselor, etc. Remember most board members understand personnel. They know that they can hire and fire anyone that they want. Or can they?
Joe was a supe in a district in Western PA. He was a rather good administrator. He was respected by his staff and had a good name in the community. His students tended to do well on any kind of testing and he was getting more of them to go to college.
One section of the community, the born-again Christian section did not like him at all. He seemed to be too liberal for their tastes. He was encouraging girls to go to college and was speaking to parents about ways that they could help their children succeed in life. That was not his job. He was a school administrator and was not allowed to go into the community to speak to parents and interfere with family life. That was the province of the church and the family by itself.
Since the primary was over, these people could not get onto the ballot to run for school board. However, there was such a thing as a write in. So they stood at all of the polling places and vouchsafed for their candidates, all five of them. They became board members on the first week of December, elected their own board president and proceeded to hound Joe out of the district within three months. The community that he was working with did not lift a finger to help. It was not their problem.
By the end of April, Joe was gone and the five new board members were in no hurry to hire a new superintendent. Somehow, they contacted me, as the IU Director and kind of told me that it was my duty to watch over the district until they could hire someone. For my own good and the good of the district, I complied. The budget was to be passed in its first round at the end of May. These people had no idea what to do. I once found them on the floor of the superintendent’s office with lots of yellow tablet pages moving from place to place. They asked me some questions and then proceeded to ask me to help them with the budget.
Since they were not conversant with school budgets, I was able to get things in shape for the passage in May and June. They had no idea what they had gotten themselves into. The new super was a good person and did a fine job.
During the next two years all five of the new members resigned. They either got tired of all the work or they just could not make the changes that they wanted. They did leave the school district in shambles.
Bill is an out of stater. He took charge of a pretty progress modest sized school district. It was a college town with lots of professor’s kids attending. Bill filled out most of his first term and then, as the law permitted, he was given a new five year term in February of his last year. He was very satisfied and saw this new contract as a symbol of the good job that he was doing.
In April, the school board decided to can Bill. The only reason that they could tell both him and the public is that they did not like his administrative style. Funny, he had been there for a number of years, and they must have liked his style for that length of time and then gave him a new five year contract. He is now sitting at home collecting his salary and is in negotiations with board about getting out of there.
Ramon was the superintendent of a medium sized city school district. They hired him because of his work background and his ethnic background. The city is mostly Hispanic. I am not sure that Ramon was doing a good job. As far as I can tell from a distance, he was moving ahead. At Christmastime in his first or second year, he went on a small vacation. When he returned to work, he went into his office at the administration building and found that it was completely empty.
He was told that his office was now in the upper part of the gymnasium and that he was not longer to be running the school district. This is a technique called “dry desking.”
Let me conclude with a higher ed story. Ken has been the financial aid director at one of Pennsylvania’s public colleges. He has been doing this job for over 30 years. I have known Ken since 1982. My daughter babysat for Ken’s children. A few weeks ago, a team of campus security folks came to his office with an order for him to leave campus and never come back. He was told to pack his things, while they watched him. Evidently, the powers that be did not want him to screw up any of the financial aid machinery. He is now home collecting the rest of his yearly salary and will retire. Good way of parting with a long time great employee.
What does this all mean? I believe that somehow, those in authority in these places have lost all of their perspective. As I said, people get to be in charge with huge feelings about how things work. The President of the public college, who fired the director of financial aid, did it so that he/she would not have to face this long term employee, who has done so much for kids over 30 years. If you ever get a chance to be in a position of authority, give me a call.

STOP IT! YOU ARE SCARING THE CRAP OUT OF ME!!

Now that I am driving again and listening to satellite radio, I am getting really scared about the future. I did not know that the world economy was in free fall and that all monetary values will soon go down the tubes. That’s what the gold salesman told me in their presentation. There is not better hedge against a bad economy than gold. Why this company has unearthed a passel (how much is that) of gold coins minted from 1907 to 1930 in Ossining, NY. These coins will save you from a life of penury and starvation.
I wonder if the people in Greece and Spain have been listening to this. They have a much longer history than we do, so they should have much more gold. Can’t they just dig it up and make everything whole again.
Another ad on t.v. tells me that there is a Native American reservation (not sure if it is Navajo or Comanche) that will lend me 10,000 dollars no matter what my credit rating. There is a beautiful woman, probably Native American, who tells me that I will pay a pretty high fee for the money, but that it will be better than paycheck loans. There will be easy payment plans for you. I wonder who these people really are and can you get a loan without any kind of credit rating.
Then there are all of the melting people. I don’t watch the history or geography channels, but I do see films and presentations about the melting ice cap in the Arctic region. You can see all sorts of animals sun bathing in places where they used to slide along the ice. This will cause the oceans to rise and remove the possibility of Carol and me using our timeshare in Puerto Vallarta.
The election has spawned a large number of threats to my being. I am now frightened by the national debt, our lack of military strength, the continuation of public television ( I only watch the old rock and roll shows and Sherlock Holmes), and my healthcare. I cannot tell who is going to be worse for my issues. I am not really worried about my children and grandchildren, but I would hate for them to have to take care of Carol and me when we are in our 90’s.
I am worried about the flu, meningitis. West Nile virus and all of those other named microorganisms. What do I do about all of these things? Is there no way for me to avoid them, or should I just not listen to satellite radio and only look at the sports channels and HBO?

IN ADVANCE OF INSANITY

Being mostly cooped up in the house for the past month, I have determined that I am slowly going crazy. I don’t seem to be able to control my impulses. I cannot stop but feeling drugged most of the day, as I pad around looking for things that might strike my interest. I guess I could have read all the books that I lined up to read. I have not read any one of them. I just watch t.v., eat (although somewhat nauseous), wander around and do my exercises.
For a treat, I do onto my email and read the myriad of advertisements and communications from friends and family. That takes about five minutes, which also includes my responses. My view of food has changed. In normal times, I am a three meal a day late evening snacker. Now, I peruse the saltines, iced tea and various cheeses for mealtime. As I improve, I notice that I am slowly getting back to my regular routine.
I have recently done a great deal of cheating. In two weeks, I am to see my orthopaedist for him to look over his work (truly an art form), and send me back to my normal way of life. He would then tell me that I could drive and take off these horrible stockings that prevent blood clots. He may also say that I should continue the exercises, take an x-ray and send me packing for another six months. I will not have told him that I have already driven for two weeks to save my sanity. There is always a battle of priorities between all other parts of the body and the brain. Now I have chosen my thinking mechanism.
Carol now allows me the freedom to go to a diner on my own, get my license renewed at the motor vehicle office and head down to the casino once in a while. I am also able to go out to lunch with some of my friends (if they are available). These are small crumbs of independence that I treasure. Other than those few times, I am limited in scope by the large slice on my kneecap and assorted chemicals that I must take at prescribed times.
I have a new friend, my cane. I really don’t need it, but when I go out for any reason, I take it with me to gather all the sympathy that I can get. It is especially great when going to the pharmacy to pick up my pills. People ask me how I am doing and I kind of make up stories about my knee. They are nice about it and I have a feeling that they know that I am engaged in some sort of hyperbole.
I have also distracted myself by purchasing a new computer. It was about time. My old one would not let me do any computations on Excel anymore. It was also amazingly slow. I did not realize how old it was till I looked it up. I enjoy the two our sessions with the Geek Squad trying to upload my printer, download my Outlook address book and set up my screen saver. It gives me some solace to know that I have repaired my computer life, while rehabbing my knee.
I am now on a regular schedule with the physical therapy people. In some ways, I look forward to the sessions. The therapist is a pleasant young woman who seems to take her job very seriously. At some points, the therapy is aimed at creating white hot pain in my knee. I enjoy the end of such manipulation and consider that the “happy ending” part of the session. The rest of the time, I am raising and lowering my leg to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. They are so strong right now that I can crack walnuts in them.
I can no longer see a time when all of this will be over. A good friend told me that it will take a full six weeks and then about six months for me to resume my life as a hall crawler in the Capitol. There are so many bad things happening in our Commonwealth at this moment, that I feel that I should have been around to fight them. As I ascent out of the snake pit, I conjure up visions of people who need to have me up in their faces telling them what jerks they have become. Maybe that’s a way out of this funk; I can start writing scenarios for those encounters. Or is that just a symptom of my craziness?

JUST SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER

There are so many things that we take for granted. These are things that we don’t think about because they are echoed by all with whom we come in contact. Let me give you an example or two. Why is it that we call our President African American? The 50% of him that is black is actually Kenyan. Why don’t we call him white? His mom, grandmother and grandfather were white and they raised him. If you have any black blood in you, does that automatically make you black? Does that go for all other racial and ethnic groups?
Tiger Woods is another example. Why is he not Thai, rather than African American? Is there something wrong with calling him Thai? Ever see a picture of his mother. She sure doesn’t look African American. How about Ted Williams, the baseball player. We found out recently that his mom was Mexican. Does that make Ted Williams Mexican? Not sure what he would have said when he was alive.
Did someone forget about public health? That’s the real reason that we don’t have the Black Death (plague) in our society. We had wiped out polio and other horrible diseases. Now there are people who are refusing to get shots for their children for all of these kinds of diseases because they say it is their right. Maybe it is their right to refuse, but it is also a damning action on their part in terms of public health and the future of our country.
The country is divided into two parts- red and blue. Whatever happened to white? I thought that we were all in this boat together. How about we dump the other two colors and we all become white. Stop hoping that whoever the president is, fails. What kind of American is that?
Eggs are bad for you. They jack up your cholesterol and hasten your death. Is that really true? I had heard that for a long time. Carol’s sister and brother-in-law stopped eating eggs. Their cholesterol is much higher than mine and I am an inveterate egg eater. Nothing better than two poached eggs, corned beef hash (two slices of lemon) and rye toast. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
Daddy’s kneeism can strap you down for life. People are raised by their parents to believe certain things and it stays with them for the rest of their lives, if they don’t ever question. I am not sure what kinds of things you were brought up with, but I had a ton of things, some of them very bad.