VLADIMIR, HE’S MAKING A DURACHIT OUT OF YOU

See if you can recreate in your mind’s eye the scene in the oval office with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.Kislyak  and the Russian foreign minister, Lavrov.  Along with Trump, they look like they were a bit inebriated, while they were laughing hysterically. To the American people, that might have looked a bit askew. Then when we found out what went on in that meeting, we might have gotten angry.

What did that picture look like in the Russian press? Let’s take this to the people in the street in Sverdlovsk, or Vladivostok, or any other town and city in the Russian Federation. With unemployment in Russia growing and the economy on its knees, it probably looked like the big wheels having a good time with the capitalist President of the United States.

This would go along with the various positive things that Trump has propounded about what a wonderful person Vladimir is. Could it be that from the Russian perspective, that Trump has corralled Vladimir and his cronies into doing things that might have a negative effect on the Russian Federation? Do the Russians think, as some do here in the U.S., that Trump is an incredibly smart businessman, who has outsmarted the Russian autocrat.

Can it be true that this man, Trump, is so clever that he has a public persona of ignorance of world affairs, unknowing in the machinations of the world economy, and no understanding of history? After all, he is an Ivy League graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, a long and somewhat successful career as a businessman, a television star, and an international tradesman?

Look out Vladimir; you are being taken by one of the greatest actors in American history. Hasn’t it occurred to you that when you supported Trump, he might really have been conning you to do that. Remember how he wanted your hackers to find Hillary’s 30,000 emails? Didn’t you even consider that he would eventually be blaming you for any of the bad things that happen during his presidency?

Even the words that he used with Kislyak and Lavrov about F.B.I. Director Comey strike you as somewhat odd? It is almost as if Trump understands that his public behavior, odd as it might be, is a perfect ruse to get Vladimir comfortable with his apparent stupidity. Then, with his guard down, and his certainty that Trump is a durachit, Donny Littlehands then pulls of a coup of humongous proportions.

Trump is not the only person to affect a similar strategy. There have been countless politicians in the past and maybe even today who appear one way in public and another in the confines of their posse. When you look at The Great Turtle, Mitch McConnell, you see a lethargic, drawling boob. However, in private he is an eloquent mastermind of political strategy. There can be no doubt that he is conning us into thinking that he is a bit learning disabled.

So, there you have it. This giant charade may go on for the next 7.5 years. You better watch out Vladimir. Constantly check your spectacles, testicles, watch and wallet after a conversation with Donald Trump.

 

I PUT A PUSSY WILLOW UP MY NOSE

My wife, Carol, has been involved in education for a long time. She spent 14 years teaching 3rd grade and gifted kids. Her adventures with the gifted group have been grist for so many stories. At the time Carol taught, many gifted programs did not divide the children by age. If they did, there were a few grades in any group.

It is for that reason that planning activities for those kinds of children becomes even more difficult. These are never ordinary kids. If they are really gifted, they give their regular teachers headaches. How about a kindergarten child who became the milk money counter because he did a better and more accurate job than the kindergarten teacher. Furthermore, the teacher appreciated the extra time that this munchkin gave her to do other chores in the classroom.

How about the second grader who worried about his teacher because she had a difficult time understanding the concept of negative numbers. If you have ever been a teacher at any grade, you have run into these kinds of children once in a while. Most teachers love to have them in their classes. They add so much to the classroom atmosphere even while driving the teacher nuts.

Sally was in kindergarten. She would cry when she came to Carol’s class. Carol finally got her to tell what she was crying about. In a blubbery voice she said, “I worry about the children that I have left behind in kindergarten. They won’t be able to play the games because I am the only one in class who can read.” Touche Mrs. Hillman.

Mark was in third grade and Carol had prepared a peanut butter and confectionary concoction that was stiff like clay. The children were supposed to make it into something creative. Mark kept licking his hands and rolling the concoction in his hands. He clearly wanted to eat it. Carol said to him, “You cannot eat it until you create something out of it other than a ball.” He quickly made fist, traced his thumbnail down the center of the ball from top to bottom of the ball and said, “It’s a hiney,” and stuffed it into this mouth.

Roger was in kindergarten and wore glasses that were covered in chalk dust and always askew. His favorite activity was to recite songs backwards. When asked what he was most anxious to learn about, he thought for a moment and asked, “How does Santa get to all of those houses in one night?”

Brittany was in third grade. One day she said to Carol, “Do you have dry underwear?” Carol said, “yes,” do you?” “No I need some.”

Then there is Johann. Johann was a really exceptional first grader who was fond of making animal noises. He was very immature for his age. If you can imagine someone so bright and then immature at the same time.

Carol decided to take the lot of her children to the Reading Museum to see some shrunken heads, and other important things like paintings and statues. In front of the museum was a small stream with a garden and little bridges. The kids loved it until Johann came up to Carol and said, “Mrs. Hillman I stuck a pussy willow up my nose as far as it could go and now I can’t get it out.”

Carol looked at Johann and asked, “Why did you do that? His answer was, “I just wanted to see how far up it could go.” So, with a quick switch in lesson planning, Carol gathered the troops and took the children to the emergency ward of the next door Reading Hospital where the kids learned a bunch. Johann was fine. The end of the story happened a few years ago. Carol discovered that Johann is now Dr. Johann the pediatrician. How about that?

 

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING ANGRY?

 

You can read the title of this blog posting in two ways. The first way is to ask why it is wrong be angry. The other is to ask a rhetorical question, “Why can’t I be angry.” It is the latter surmise that I am referring to. Evidently, there has been a pivot (I now hate that word and its current use) in our country.

Before the 2016, it was the followers of Donny Littlehands that were out there yelling about almost everything in our country. The found their frustrations being answered by a candidate that tapped into their anger. They had no idea that this catering to their anger would eventually lead to their eventual demise.

Another group of dissatisfied customers was the followers of the “Bern.” They were so angry that their ideals were not being recognized by the oldsters in the Democratic Party. They believed all that Bernie told them could happen. They also had no idea that their lack of participation in the election process would lead to their eventual demise.

There you have it. A pile of people with rage setting a course for perdition. Except, that one of the groups has gotten their dreams come true and the other their worst fears.

Is it possible that we all viewed this rage with a skeptical glance? We are the middle of the roaders of all stripes. How did this fringe candidate beat all of those other fine looking 17 candidates to become the scion of the Grand Old Party?

As you look back at the campaign of the first woman to be a presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, do you now wonder how a person with such a placid personality and little emotion could have been nominated. How did she not realize that the passion of a new generation and their absence in November election would doom her to failure?

Was there a candidate on either side of the political spectrum who engendered as much passion as the followers of Donny Littlehands? The answer is maybe. Bernie’s youngsters were concentrated in specific areas of the country. Donny’s were all over the map.

Now we have a resistance movement that is mostly middle class women who seem to believe that acting like ladies and gentlemen is a path to dethroning this would be dictator. Folks, that’s not the way it is going to happen.

If you interpret the above dissertation as a call to arms, you are sadly and unequivocally mistaken. It is a call to passion. You are fighting against a foe who has found bedrock of passion and hatred of all the middle class values that we treasure. The answer to this provocation is not to act even more like ladies and gentlemen, but to summon up your gut reactions and speak them or write about them or some other form of active protest.

Let me describe a scene right here in Adult Disneyworld. Our congressman and former Governor of South Carolina, the Appalachian Trail and Argentina (you remember him don’t you) has had a number of Town Hall meetings. He is a slickster and knows how to play a crowd, even a hostile one.

In his visit here in Sun City, his first questioner was an angry gentlemen who said things that were true, but in a way that was very angry and maybe even off color. He flipped a bird to those that tried to shut him up. There was nothing in his words that wasn’t true. Yet, the crowd there assembled (all old people) insisted that he sit down or be thrown out. Two huge security people approached him to bodily throw him out. The slick congressman went over to the man and kind of caressed him and calmed him down. This made the congressman a gentleman and the crowd approved.

It’s kind of like when you are approached by a well-dressed man on a street asking for directions, he stumbles as he says thanks you and brushes by you. You later discover that he has picked your pocket of your wallet.

In other town hall meetings across the country, the successful ones, the ones with the most vigor are the loud ones, the ones you see on pt. For some reason we seem to enjoy those displays of raw emotion. However, in our own placid approach, we don’t do such things.

Anger does not mean rational thinking. Anger is a display of what one is really thinking. You should be angry about the things that are happening in our country. We have a president who has called our constitution “archaic.” We have a president who crowed that he did not need any American banks to fund him because he got more than enough from Russian sources (Eric Trump and Donny Littlehands).

We have a majority of Congressmen who believe that taking $800 billion from Medicaid will make the program stronger. Don’t the lies and broken promises make you angry? Yes, anger is a normal emotion. It is not something that requires its suppression when it lifts your bile. If anger is all you do and you take no political action, then anger is, in fact, useless.

Anger is a stimulant to action. Trying to be ladies and gentlemen does not work in 2017 and maybe even forward. Think of what you might have said to Donny Littlehands if you were Carly Fiorina and Donny said a stupid remark about your face. What would you have said if you were Jeb Bush and Donny said that you had no energy? You were governor of Florida, would you have let this punk say those things about you. What would you have said to Donny if he accused your father of killing JFK?

We should all be angry at the actions of those who have been appointed as cabinet members and subalterns. The newest member of the Littlehands administration, the head of the FCC had been an attorney for Verizon. There has been an attempt by some of the larger carriers, such as Verizon to corrupt “Net Neutrality.” This means that there could be a time when the carriers decided what you could get on the web and the larger carriers would have more swack to edge out smaller companies.

How about Trump children and their relatives going to China and selling visas to Chinese businessmen for 500k in order for them to invest in their businesses. How about Ivanka Trump getting licenses from China for her companies to sell in China. Should we not be angry about the U.S. government paying money to a Trump enterprise- Mar a Lago and a New York City apartment because the Littlehands child is in school there and the mom does not want to move into the White House?

Are all of these not things to be angry about. So to the elderly lady who came to my house the other day and reacted negatively to my being angry about these things, where has being civil and mannerly gotten us? While the administration makes ethnic snides, racial epithets, and a president who has provided us with proof that he is a vulgar misogynist and cheater on his wives, we should rise all above that and be civil. Not on your ever lovin’ rear end. Be angry and do something.

 

 

I AM THE SON OF A BELARUSSIAN IMMIGRANT

Just read a wonderfully partisan article in the Chicago Tribune penned by someone who introduces himself as the son of a Greek immigrant. I have seen and heard many people introduce them with that kind of historical reference. This is the first time that I have either spoken or written those words.

I believe the people who say those things believe that it gives them more credibility to describe themselves as someone who came directly from a lower caste and has risen from some sort of disadvantage. I am not of that sort. There are millions of people who are first generation who have succeeded in this country.

Somehow, I have a feeling that there is much more behind a statement of ancestral description. It is closely tied to, “I am a self-made man.” The self-made crowd never seems to refer to anyone who has every helped them get to where they are now The story is usually a depiction of a parent working their fingers to the bone so that their children could have a better life.

The inference therefore is anyone who is not succeeding, or is slothful, or, you should pardon the expression, on welfare, is somehow a lesser person. If I could make it on my own, why can’t you? You must be doing something wrong if this son of an immigrant made it, why can’t you? This is a land of opportunity, home of the free and the brave.

I worked my way through college, either going at night, or had three jobs to make it through. I had the drive and ambition and understanding of what those things mean in a country that gave my dad the freedom to come here and make a life for his family. You should be doing the same thing (they say).

All those things are tough for me to listen to. Now that I live among my age cohorts in a retirement community, I hear that more often than I would like. Most of the time, I keep my mouth shut. Sometimes, I can’t take it anymore. When they start speaking about the old days and how people really worked hard for their pay, I calmly look at them and say, “If you continue to speak of the old days, Friday afternoon will the rubber truck come and take you away.”

REMEMBERANCES OF TIMES GONE BY REDUX

Each year, my two in-law fathers and my best friend decide where we might want to go for a 5 day jaunt to someplace in the United States. We are restricted to certain areas. That restriction circumscribes our travels to those areas that have casinos that fall under the aegis of the Caesar’s corporation of casinos. Those include but are not limited to, Caesar’s World, Harrah’s and Rio. Inspecting our country and trying to find such casinos is the job of our tour director Bill.

Bill’s skills are universal. He has a degree from Harvard (or is it Yale) in physics. He taught math and physics at the high school level in Altoona. He was among the first committee to negotiate a teacher contract in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania before the law was passed to allow negotiations. He is and was a successful negotiator (sound familiar). He became the go to person in Pennsylvania when teacher unions negotiated contracts with school boards.

I actually ran into him in 1980 when the school board in Kutztown negotiated a teacher contract up to Fact Finding. He is a wonderful pubic speaker and still a great teacher. However, he does not teach math or physics (or maybe he does). He teaches people how to win at gambling. Yes, I know, that is impossible. He does know how to up the odds of you winning.

He is particularly adept at video poker. He is a serious gambler. I know that because I have spent time with him at casinos around the country and the world. His skills rest mostly on choosing machines that pay off at higher percent’s than others. How can he tell? It’s all on the payoff tables. After billions of plays, some machines actually pay off anywhere from low 90’s to 99%. There are even a very few that pay off at 100%. Yes, I know that does not make sense. However, if thousands of other machines, one armed bandits, and tables pay off more, it is not gratuitous to have one pay off at 100%. Remember, this is over billions of plays.

Bill has been playing for 35 years. He has a person that takes care of his activity. She arranges for us to get things comped when we go to various casinos around the country. When Bill was really playing, a white limo would pick us up at the airport. We sometimes get comped rooms and other goodies. Our favorite is the special rooms set aside for high rollers. They are awash with great food (they call them snacks) and whatever liquor we might want. (Who wants a chocolate martini)?

Generally, the servers and bartenders in these places are as amenable to customers as I have ever seen. My mom was a waitress for 35 years. These folks are as accommodating as any that I have ever seen. Of course you must understand that their tips must enable them to earn a bunch more money than my mom ever made.

Bill is the impresario of our group. Not only does he provide the place to stay, but also the transportation, the golf venues, the restaurants, the tipping and whatever emoluments go to people who need them. It is a great idea that Bill has come up with. Not only do we have a great time playing golf around the country, but all the problems of transportation while we are there, food and lodging are taken care of. Within a day or two of us coming home, Bill has already sent us an email with our share of the costs. Be vie for who can send him back our checks first. It’s a kind of game that Big Al always wins.

Big Al is not really big. He is of normal size, with a thoughtful look on his face from the time he gets up till the time he parts company with us. He also drives a golf ball as far as any of can and out drives much younger men. We did once calculate that he hit a ball 300 yards one time. He, being the modest person that he is, eschews this praise.

I have written about Al before, but his tour with us brings us closer to what he is. Al is Italian. That is not to say that this is his outstanding feature, but his life revolves about that part of him. He was raised by his father. His mom passed away at his birth. His dad took him, many times, back to his own birthplace, Pinzolo, Italy. Yes, we have been there, twice. It is in the Dolomite Mountains close to the Austrian border. In truth, Al’s dad spoke German as a kid. Al, himself, can speak fluent Italian and dialect. His daughter, my daughter-in-law also speaks Italian.

Al has been in the grinding business since he was a boy. His father owned a shop in Reading, Pennsylvania. Al worked there till he retired a few years ago. He still maintains a few customers to keep his hand in. He is part of the Reading business community and is sad about the deterioration of the town. He is the product of Catholic schools and sent his daughter to Catholic school K-16. She went to a Catholic college.

Al calls himself a “goalonga.” In truth, that is exactly what he is. There are few, if any times, that he objects to any of Bill’s choices. He enjoys the meals, the banter and everything that happens on the golf course. Like me, he does not shlep his clubs with him and rents clubs at each course. We always compete for the lowest price for rental clubs. One time, the price was 50 bucks and Al and I decided to ride together and share clubs. We had no problem doing that. Actually, I played better that day.

Al has some set routines that he follows every day. He actually orders chocolate milk for breakfast and sometimes for other meals. He has particular chocolate that he likes and succinct ways of putting those two things together. I sometimes watch him when the server brings a separate portion of chocolate and a glass of milk. It is artistry at work.

Al also takes a nap in the afternoon. It is a European custom that he adapted to his life here in the U.S. I have been at family gatherings when Al has absented himself from the table and gone to another room to snooze for an hour or so. Having traveled in Europe, it is now surprise to me.

Sometimes Al looks to me or Bill or sometime to Norm for explanations of things. He is an invariant information seeker. He has no problem expressing his need for information. He is not embarrassed to ask when he does not know something. Sometimes, I wish that there were other people who had that quality.

I believe Al misses his work at the shop. It has been such a large part of his life. He had a regular schedule for so many years that he was attuned to. Now he goes in for a few hours. He is also a car enthusiast and a pool player of some talent. He has won tournaments in Las Vegas. He would go to this tournament once a year for many years. He does have a pool table in his home.

His love for cars extends back many years that is what he and my son have in common. His daughter is also a car buff. We actually met Al at a car show in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Al and Mary (his wife) take mystery trips in their Corvette. They actually gave my son and daughter-in-law a 1970 Corvette with only 35,000 original miles. Al was the first and only owner. Al loves to talk cars. He and his wife Mary usually keep me abreast of what is going on in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Interestingly enough, Al and Mary knew who I was before our children got together. Once in a while I was in the news or on the radio in that area. That was purely coincidental.

Norm is the third of my group. He is my son-in-law’s father. Norm has man qualities that stamp him as a success in life. He began rather humbly in Connecticut and rose to a Vice Presidency of Price Waterhouse accounting and consulting firm. He has been very successful in business and is pretty wise with his investments. He will also tell you that.

I admire Norm for what he has done with his life. After all, our grandchildren in common share some of his genes. That’s not a bad thing.

Norm is an inveterate jokester. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get something from him. Last sending was a bunch of Henny Youngman’s one line jokes.” Someone stole my credit card. I am not going to report it. He is spending less than my wife.”

Norm is a purveyor of old pictures from the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. He is very sentimental about those times. I guess you always have fond memories of when you could actually play basketball and go out to the movies with your friends or one girl friend. Those stay with you forever. Once in a while you can even smell the smoke of the cigarette as it burned slowly between your fingers.

Norm enjoys all of the activities. He is a good golfer and hits the ball down the middle most of the time. As years go by, the drives become a little shorter and the fairway clubs become more of a necessity. For us, the putting is the thing that takes away pleasure. You can get onto the green, but if you four putt, you are dead in the water.

Speaking of the water, I mostly avoid it. I might even take a drop before hitting it, depending on the hole and the course. Norm is a stickler for the rules. If we kind of botch things up on a drive, we take a mulligan. My rule is; we get one mulligan on each hole, but after nine holes, you cannot accumulate mulligans. You have to start over.

Norm does not like all of that stuff. He wants everyone to play by the rules, or else why keep score. The three other of us try to explain that we are trying to have fun. We are not competing with each other or with ourselves. He still has some trouble with that. If he moves his ball or does something outside the rules, we really get on him.

As Bill takes care of everything, Norm often makes suggestions that Bill does not take. For instance on this trip (I have heard), Norm called a friend of his in Las Vegas for a restaurant suggestion. The other two agreed. The restaurant was not very good and was really expensive. I guess that Norm will not be suggesting any other restaurants.

This last trip ended last Thursday. We all got into Las Vegas at different times. We could not play on Saturday. So we picked up Al at the airport and went directly to the buffet at the Paris hotel casino and at a magnificent dinner buffet. Bill had gotten some groupon tickets and our costs were much less than they would have been. Wine and beer flowed and crab legs were the order of the day. The selection was voluminous.

Of course, we went back to our hotel at Harrah’s and gambled for a bit. I lost, of course. I went back to my room at about 10. I fell asleep almost immediately. I had gotten up at 6:00 and was really tired.

At about 2:00 a.m., I awoke with a stiff case of shortness of breath. I called down to the desk and asked if there was a doctor or nurse on the premises. They told me that there were EMTs. I said send them up. They arrived in about 5 minutes. There was Chris and Darren. Chris was from Arkansas and Oklahoma and Darren was from Hawaii. They were efficient and friendly. My pulse, my oxygen, my blood pressure were all normal. They suggested that I see a doctor.

The next morning I called Carol and she suggested that I go to Urgent Care. One of the things you must understand about Las Vegas, if they can scam you, they will. Most of the Urgent Care facilities offered a $500 fee before you got examined, plus other benefits. The Urgent Care center from the Las Vegas Hospital was one that was regular. They took insurance and gave me a good going over, an EKG, bloodwork and a thorough exam by a doctor. They could find nothing amiss. They told me to see my own physician back home.

Fortunately, I had already made arrangements to get on the first plane Monday morning and had Carol make an appointment with my cardiologist.

I got home in the late afternoon on Monday and waited till Thursday for my appointment. My shortness of breath had abated by then. The doctor also did an EKG and sent me for more esoteric blood work and a heart monitor to wear for 24 hours later this week. Right now, I am not sure what is going on. I guess when the bloodwork comes in and the monitor does its job, I will find out whether or not I am crazy.

My three cohorts have been calling me. They seemed to have had a good time at all of the courses they played. Bill almost won some dough and Norm and Al seemed satisfied. I really missed being with them. I know that they have planned to go to Tampa next year. I will surely be with them to enjoy all of the festivities.