I’M LEAVING AND GAINING WEIGHT

I have gained five pounds in the past 7 days. It’s not that I am not doing exercising or sitting on my keister, it’s because Carol and I have y been invited to a bunch of dinners and lunches by our friends. Although packing is time consuming and muscle building, a couple of meals at Giotti’s and Hong Kong Ruby put the weight right back on. Somehow, the idea of meals and goodbyes go hand in hand.

As I look at the fifty some odd boxes sitting in our garage, I am impressed that we have accumulated so much materiel over the past nine years. It is difficult to imagine how many bottles of sun tan lotion, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce one can buy and not know that there is another full bottle sitting in a cabinet somewhere. My idea is to take these things with us. Carol’s idea is to dump the liquid things and put the bottles into the recycle bin.

If it weren’t for the Salvation Army and some good friends, we would not have been able to lift all of the boxes and put them in our garage. Our next door neighbor Matt did some of the lifting and our friend Neal and his family, his wife Mary and daughters Nancy and Rachel did all of the rest. The twenty year old twins are twice as strong as me and they whisked away all of the boxes in about 20 minutes. I wish I had the video to prove what they did.

The house now stands pretty empty. All of the extraneous furniture is gone and what is left will be dropped off at my son’s house (he wanted his grandma and grandpa’s dining room furniture), while the rest will come with us to Sun City. Actually, that’s not a bunch of stuff- a bed, armoire, desk, two end tables, a coffee table, four bookcases and over 50 boxes. I am told that is really a minimum amount of things.

This next week will be kind of hectic, making sure that house is clean as a bean, and ready to show again. Did I forget to tell you that our buyer could not get a mortgage and that there is now a for sale sign in your front yard? Yes, there are bumps in the road. We have confidence in our realtor and can handle the finances for a little while. Meanwhile, we have an open house today.

Frankly, Carol and I can’t wait till Friday when the movers come and load everything onto the truck. That will be a signal that our new adventure is coming. Our three black cats are aware that something is going on. Our oldest cat is making love to our vacuum cleaner. Somehow, he thinks that if he does that, we will not be leaving. We have things set up in the van so that what happened to us when we took two cats to Myrtle Beach won’t happen again.

We forgot that we might have to get out of the van. Try keeping cats from escaping by dancing in front of car windows, while other patrons of the restaurant are watching you. Not so this time. We have purchased a set of bars that go across the middle of the van and have put harnesses on the cates. We intend to put leashes on them and try and control them while another person exits and enters the van… We will also be staying at a pet friendly motel in Sun City for two nights before settlement. Luckily for us, our friends in Sun City are there to help us.

We still have a few more meals to go this week and some that have not been scheduled. This is one weird time.

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I SAY GOODBYE TO THE CAPITOL

Today was my last day as a hall crawler. I met with my replacement and a young woman, daughter of friends, who is an intern with a state senator, and wanted to walk around with me. We met at the office of a representative from my old home in Clarion. She had gone to high school with my children. She is a fast rising star in the Republican Party. I know that she will be the first woman speaker of the house in Pennsylvania’s history.

She has been pretty close to me since she got to the legislature. Since we knew that this was the last meeting, she gave us a clear picture of what was going on with the state budget. It was not very encouraging, but Donna is not one to mince words. I cannot tell you how proud of her I am. I know that I had nothing to do with her success, yet I feel that she is going to make it big.

My replacement had a meeting to go to, so I was with my young friend. Since she was already familiar with the Senate, I had her go with me to a number of house members. One of my oldest friends, over 30 years is the former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. When Dwight wanted to run for governor, I arranged for him to go out to western Pennsylvania and have his say. He did not make the cut, but his understanding of the rural parts of the state grew large.

Dwight is viewed by his confreres in the Legislative Black Caucus as an elder statesman. He exerts a great deal of moral authority, although he is not as high ranking as he once was. When he and I and Representative Jake go out to lunch, it’s like an Oreo, with me as the white center. We laugh a great deal and do some serious conversation. I will miss Dwight.

Matt is a young man who happened to graduate from the same college and in the same year as some of our scholarship students. He is as bright as a shiny penny and as conservative as one can get. His views maybe different from mine, but he is a true rep from his area. He is very attached to his electorate and does everything that he can to give them some advantages. He is well up in the understanding of school finance and consults with his superintendents of school as often as once a month. That is a sign that he knows what he is doing.

Kristin is a new representative. She has school board experience and was an aide in another reps’ office. She does not come into her job with a lack of understanding of the process of getting legislation through. She is very sincere and have me a big hug goodbye and wished me will. She will also go far in the future. She is very concerned about the stalemate in the legislature and I am sure she has some ideas of how to loosen the logjam.

Bob is a friend of mine. We exchange jokes and information about folks that we know together. He is big time into community planning and all that goes with it. He is exceptionally bright and really should be in a leadership position. Somehow, he probably threatens current leadership. I wished him well after we exchanged some jokes.

I am not sure that the young lady who was with me understood all that was going on. I tried my best to explain the various positions of each of these people. We strolled into Seth’s office. He represents York County and is a cut above his cohorts. Seth is big time into taxes and how to make them fair. He would sponsor bills that would completely change how schools are funded. As he works on these issues, he comes closer to my view of things.

We traveled to another building on the Capitol campus to visit the Chairman, of the Democratic House Education Committee. This is really where my office is. I have been given permission to hang out there. Jim is from Philly, has a doctorate and has a broad view of education in Pennsylvania. He has been on the state board for many years. He was on when I was. He is not a voluble person. He influences very quietly, but with much force.

The executive director for the Dems on the Ed. committee is Chris. This long lanky guy is the brains in the education community in the legislature. He has worked on every major piece of education legislation over the past 15 years. He has sought me out many times to ask how some things that he is working on would affect school districts across the state. He is a frequent speaker at our conference and is always given the highest evaluation.

I am closest to the people who work in Jim’s office. They treat me as one of their own. April was married this past weekend and we have been talking about if for months. I will miss her and Marlena, who is home taking care of her children. As she left, April came over and gave me a big hug and kiss. That’s really all I needed for my last day.

MY IDOLS HAVE CLAY FEET

Not sure if everyone has idols that you looked up to as you were growing up. You may have even acquired them as you were older. I am positive that you felt a tinge of embarrassment when you discovered that they were not all they were cracked up to be. I don’t mean that some smoked in private, or that it came out that they were gay, or just not nice people. I mean you really did not think, in a million years that they would turn out to be absolutely cruel, heartless, sexual predators, thieves, or charlatans.

Yup, this was all brought out by the recent events coming out about Bill Cosby. Cosby was the first African American to do lots of things. Not only did he attend Temple (I have a degree from there, as does my wife), but he got his doctorate from Dwight Allen at the University Of Massachusetts, as did one of my best friends. There were so many things that we had in common that I could not fathom the Bill Cosby who did those things to women. I still have trouble believing it.

I was a fan of Lance Armstrong. His fight with cancer inspired so many folks with that dreaded disease. His accomplishments at the Tour De France stamped him as one of the great sports figures of all times. What will people think in the future about his wins at the Tour De France? Will the wins be removed from the sports history books? Will Alex Rodriguez 660 home runs be part of the most statistically oriented sport in the world- baseball?

How about the ladies? I have been inculcated from my undergraduate days by Margaret Meade. Her words and her research undergirded years of anthropological and sociological research. Now we find that most of her research was made up. What do we do with all the things that were based on her “research?”

How about historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and her plagiarizing? How do people that are so esteemed sink to the level of a 5th grader copying answers from a classmate on a test?

There have got to be people who stand the test of time and have not besmirching their lives with dalliances, deviousness and delusion. Where are the real heroes? Where are the Jackie Robinsons, the Audie Murphys, the Sgt. Yorks, the Golda Meirs, the Florence Nightingales, or the Florence Chadwicks? Are we to be drowned by people like Donald Trump? Get me a gas mask I need to breathe filtered air.

LET’S BEAT UP ON THE MILITARY

This clownish behavior by Donald Trump reminds me of something I have been thinking for a while. Having spent a few years in the Army during the post Korean War draft days, I have come to notice that military people are not looked on with a great deal of respect. Yes, we seem to have caught on with the phrase, “Thank You for Your Service,” but we have not really given our fighting corps their just desserts. Take a look at how many veterans’ bills have not gotten through congress. What about the treatment that they have been getting at the V.A. All this leads me to this conclusion.

We don’t seem to be in the mood to elect someone who has had military experience. Let’s go back to George H.W. Bush. He was last president who could really say had been in a war zone. He was someone who was the youngest aviator at the time he enlisted right after Pearl Harbor. He served till the end of the war. Since Bush the Elder we have had a succession of presidents who have either been draft dodgers, or too young to have military experience.

The two military men, John McCain and John Kerry were defeated pretty soundly with their credentials as heroes questioned. Now we have a real draft dodger criticizing John McCain for not being a war hero. Is this a symptom of something else? Are we ashamed that we have not served our country as have the soldiers, sailors, marines and air force men and women? Is this why we have pretty much turned our back on the Vietnam era military and now maybe the Iraq and Afghanistan era military?

I am aware that it is hard to fathom what it must be like to fight in a war. That is the majority of our country these days. Those who have lost loved ones have some idea of what it is like to be left at home with a family to take care of. Maybe the faux respect that we give these gallant people at Memorial Day and July 4th are just our way of feeling less guilty.

When the Star Spangled Banner is played at events, do we also get the feeling that we have not contributed enough? It is all very strange to me. We seem to honor the Revolutionary War Heroes, the Civil War dead, the World War I soldiers and the Greatest Generation. Do we have disdain for those who came after and fought in less popular wars and then gave their lives? Yes, there are monuments in Washington D.C. Yet, we are not disposed to grant these men and women who defended our country the kind of treatment that our soldiers got when they came home from World War II. I think about it quite a lot. Send in the Marines, but forget about them if they come back, and don’t care for their families if they don’t.

LET ME ‘SPLAIN IT TO YOU LUCY

Here we are in the midst of three or four sacks of chaos. The Salvation Army fellas just came and took away the last of our furniture that we wanted to donate. Let’s see, now we have one blue glider, a rocking chair and a wooden chair that Carol uses for sewing. The rest of the house is just plain ordinary carpet on which bunches of boxes stand.

Each box is taped closed and has a 3 by 5 card on it, telling us what’s inside and where the movers should put it when they get to our new home in South Carolina. The problem with that sort of chaos is that we probably have packed too early and don’t know where the things we need are. We have already opened some boxes to find, to our chagrin, that the entire box should not have been packed.

The second batch of chaos is the selling of our home and the purchasing of our new home. Have you ever tried to read all of the papers that you are given? We do trust our realtors, but when someone gives me 41 pages to read, initial and then sign, I get kind of jumpy. Why is it that I am sworn to secrecy about an organization whose purpose in its existence is to drive you mad and then take over the world. Who knew that you had to swear that everything that you have said is the truth so many times. Do you know that you meet with a notary, who makes you sign her visitor’s book and give your social security number?

On the buying side, what happens if a walkthrough is unsuccessful, as it was for some folks when we were down there this past week? You have an inspection and the inspector says that such things are really important to be done, while others are maintenance items. What do you do, if none of the items have been taken care of? Do you cancel the deal, wait a while and screw up your own sale and have to ask for an extension, taking a chance that your buyer will say no.

How about if your buyer cannot get funded? What do you do then? Do you ask for an extension on the settlement date in your new home?

Those are two of the three bunches of problems. I have not told you all of them. I would depress both me and you with the possibilities. I am surprised that anything ever is bought and sold. The third grouping is the state budget. I know that this has nothing to do with our move. However, it should have been finished by now. The House and the Senate would like the Governor to agree to their budget, while the Governor wants the House and Senate to agree to his.

Negotiations have been going on for weeks. Hard to me to fathom that I might leave the state and the budget will not be finished. I guess it is time for me to look over what is left to do. Do I throw out the Football Encyclopedia or pack it in a box. Is Carol going to use her new computer with a new wireless one or shall we keep the old one and take it with us? What are all of those wires sticking out behind my desk? Only time will tell when I grab all of them and pull.

OUR LAST DAYS AT TBS

Tonight was probably the last night that we will attend services as Temple Beth Shalom in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. We have been part of the TBS family for 23 years. I have written about how we joined, at the instigation of Mark Widoff, former consumer advocate, when we moved to the Harrisburg area. Tonight we were given a special service and Oneg Shabbat (kind of a snack after the service, actually in TBS fashion it was more like a meal).

We heard a number of our friends say some nice things about Carol and me. We were honored to be recognized as having some part of continuing the tradition of the temple. At the beginning of services, one of our signal members, a man of great humility, came for just a few moments to say goodbye and thanked us for our contributions.

This was a special moment for both Carol and me. Henry has been a special friend to us and to the synagogue. His friendship has meant a great deal to us. Once in a while, I would go to lunch with him and talk about some things that were meaningful to both of us. I have treasured those lunches. Henry has taught me so many things. His demeanor is always calm and thoughtful, something that I am not. His insights into current happenings are incisive. There are only two men that I have met in my life with the same kind of thought patterns- Andy McKelvey of Monster.Com and Jerry Lenfest, now publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and philanthropist. There is something about all three of these men that is spectacularly different from anyone that I have ever met. I am proud to have known all three.

We will miss everyone at TBS.  I wish that I could name everyone. There is not a moment in our lives over the past 23 years, that we have not been involved in some sort of activity that relates to the temple. We have had joyous and sad times. We have stood around in the sanctuary and discussed our version of what is going on in the world. We have had jokefests and prayer. We have had three rabbis and a fourth who actually is now a member. We have had music and we have had silence in honor of the departed. As our current Rabbi Grossman said last night, “This is one of the most  mission driven groups of congregants that he has run across.” He referred to the leadership of the congregation and the willingness of the congregants to pitch in when needed. That is what Carol and I have felt from the beginning.

It has been many years since the Kranzel family asked if there were any Jews on the West Shore of Harrisburg. Sixty people showed up at the Dutch Kitchen restaurant to prove the doubters wrong.

The members built the building themselves. The Kranzel family, in the personna of Stuart Kranzel directed and worked to create the building. It still stands today as a monument to those efforts over forty five years ago.

More importantly, we leave a group of people who we have loved from day one. Guess what, we are moving to a place because of members of TBS who will be with us in South Carolina. You just can’t get away from them.

THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

The Civil War (or its other names in different parts of the country- the War Between the States being one) was the bloodiest conflict in the history of our country. It is almost, at 620,000, comparable to all of the wars that we have been in at 686,000. It is 215,000 more than World War II. Our nation was ripped asunder by the conflict and it has not died down yet. The surrender at Appomattox was just the beginning of a festering sore in our psyche.

Reconstruction was hell for the South, as the federal government attempted to exact its due from the defeated South. Although none of us were alive then, the carpetbaggers had their effect on what is going on today. The current populace of the South is still angered by the domination of the other parts of the country in many areas.

However, the economics of our current time favors the South and the West. The rustbelt, the antagonists during the Civil War, is not faring well. Our country is once again divided. This time into the Red and the Blue States, with pockets of the other color in certain sections of each state. This kind of division shows itself in our federal congress, our supreme court and in our executive branch. Don’t kid yourself; the conflicts are not only among the upper echelons of our government, but in families and friends.

The Confederate Flag is just one symbol of the discontent. It is not just a symbol of the lost Confederacy; it is a symbol of many other splits in our country; the wealth gap, the racial divide, the immigration problem, and so many other things.

If you believe that the Confederate flag symbolizes only a historical event, look again. The Stars and Bars has its equivalent in some 12,000 monuments across the country, in all parts of the country. In many parts of our land, it is venerated as much as our American Flag. The point of it all is not to forget. The question is what we are not supposed to forget. Was it cotton, slavery, an economic system, an interpretation of the constitution featuring state’s rights, a call for small government, a rant against political correctness, or even personal rights?

No matter what it means in people’s minds, its time as a symbol is long gone. We should not view its taking down in South Carolina as a payment for the deaths of folks in a Charleston Church. It only troubles people. It wasn’t only the South or the North that lost those 620,000 soldiers; it was families that were destroyed, cities that were pulverized, and the uprooting of parts of our country.

As I sit and listen to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, and tears really come to my eyes, I am saddened that we can at once be Americans all, and then split into separate groups. We are one people, under God with liberty and justice for all. We are not a separate group of people holding up separate symbols for our way of life, we are a country founded by people from all parts of the 13 colonies. We freed ourselves from England. Let’s not keep ourselves apart because of a flag.