A Bit of Gratuitous Self-promotion Here...

If you'll notice in the upper right hand corner of my blog, you'll see "Published on the Web!" You'll also see, just below that, is "Most Embarrassing Moments" (already posted here on my blog). It is my first attempt at publishing an article on the web. A company called Triond is starting to publish my articles at select sites to generate $$$. I don't know how successful or how much of a failure I will be.

Regardless, after years of procrastination and lack of confidence, I am boldly going where no one thought I would go before (ok, I'm somewhat a trekkie too, so sue me). In any case, if you had asked me a mere month ago I would be "blogging" or in contact with a company to post my memories, my thoughts and my rants, I'd say you had been dipping too much in the apple cider (only the baby boomers would understand that last one).

If you feel so inclined, please go there and either click "like it" or give your comments or do nothing. I'll thank you for the page impression in any case.

Gratuitous self-promotion...over. Have a nice evening.


Credit Card Applications

I have excellent credit. It is something I worked on all my adult life. I paid my bills when I had trouble paying to gas up my car or food to eat. I still paid my bills. As a result, I have a credit rating that only 2% of the USA can claim to possess. Not bragging, just stating a fact to make a point about the title of this entry.

If there is a downside to having a great credit score, it is the tremendous number of credit card applications you get in the mail. On an average day, I get about three in the mail. There were some days, last year, I got as many as six in one day. I have written to the respective credit card companies, whether it is Master Card, Visa, Discovery or American Express, to take my name off their lists. I always get a sincere apology and excuse it is not their fault, but the issuing bank, etc. I have written to the banks and asked them not to send any more credit card applications. Invariably, I get a sales pitch and I hang up. Basically, I have given up trying to stop the flow of applications and just toss them in the shredder.

Two years ago, my next door neighbor’s dog, Sunshine, got an application from Visa with a $500.00 spending cap. I have no idea of Sunshine took her card to “Pets ‘R Us” and splurged or not. My Uncle Mike got an application from Master Card around Thanksgiving 2007. The only problem there, my Uncle Mike has been deceased for six years. I’m sure this is a common problem in both cases (well, maybe not with Sunshine, but still…).

But, in January of this year,, I think the application for a Master Card that arrived at my sister’s house had to be a first. You see, her red Nissan truck received a Master Card credit application. She has no idea how that happened. But, her affectionate name for her truck is “Old Paint”. “Old Paint Hxxxxx, Congratulations! You are pre-approved for a Master Card Gold credit card!” It is one that everyone in her immediate family has heard her give to her truck to start up one more time, seemingly, forever. Most of her close friends are aware of this nickname for her truck. None are claiming to have anything to do with it and all laughed about it. I certainly had nothing to do with it. I’m not that original.

Incidentally, Sis said she showed the application to Old Paint and he/she/it was singularly unimpressed.


John McCain Must Be Smiling

The racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright is at it again. This time he's narrowed his sights on...Senator Obama, of all people. This lunatic said, ""I said to Barack Obama last year, 'If you get elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people,' Wright said." I'm sure Senator Obama has been sanctimoniously forewarned by this latest rant by HIS racist pastor. Rev. Wright is even going after a church member who, at great political risk to himself, refused to disassociate himself from this man. The alleged Rev. Wright went on to say, "Wright said he hopes the controversy will have a positive outcome and spark an honest dialogue about race in America."

Excuse me...but isn't this the same man who said: "G-D damn America" to his congregation (you know, the same congregation that was jumping up and down in praise of their pastor's comments?) in a youtube video? Remember this man saying in this youtube video, "America's chickens are coming home to roost" after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan and "supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans." This is reprehensible in and of itself. I mean, this is something along the lines of the loonies who think the government is responsible for 9-11. Just as a little history refresher course for Rev. Wright, since he obviously didn't study American History in school, it was Japan that attacked us first. To quote former NBA great Charles Barkley, "You hit me, I'm going to hit you right back, only harder." That is exactly what we did to Japan and are presently doing to terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. State terrorism against Palestinians? We do this by supporting Israel, a country whose very existence is mandated by the PLO and Hamas to be wiped off the face of the earth? Maybe that's what the good Rev. Wright is talking about. As for the apartheid government of South Africa; maybe I should have him read my blog entry "Money: The Ultimate Power Broker". As a young 20 year old sailor, I saw how our country reacted to the South African government when they tried to treat our black servicemen with the same racism that perpetuated in there policies of the time. The USA had always condemned the apartheid government for as long as I could remember.

And I'm sorry alleged Rev. Wright, I don't buy your cop-out reasoning by saying "...criticism comes from people who only have heard sound bites playing repeatedly on television and have never listened to my entire sermons." One can only surmise that if those were only sound bites, then the entire nauseating racist rant must have been on par with those by his white counterpart, former KKK leader David Duke.

Senator Obama may have made a politically fatal mistake by not distancing himself from this sycophant. But, that is his choice and one he will have to live with for the foreseeable future.
Somewhere Senator John McCain is smiling.


HDTV: The Decision!

I finally decided to buy one of these new "everyone has got to get one" HDTV's that is all the rage. I honestly didn't put much thought into buying one until I decided to visit Best Buy a couple of weeks ago. I saw this HUGE 52 inch plasma by Sony that was just out of this world beautiful. I could not get over the crispness, the detail and unbelievable life like resolution on this TV! It was the much ballyhooed Planet Earth series on Discovery HD. I just couldn't get over HDTV. To quote Will Smith, "I gotta get me one of these!"

But, I did some checking around and didn't go on first impulse. I even found out there were different types of HDTV's. You have the LCD, plasma, DLP, rear projection types. Then, you have the different resolution formats (I suppose one would call them), 720i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p, the new kid on the block. Confused? You betcha! Of course, then you have the different brands. I saw one HDTV at Circuit City by Westinghouse! When did they get into the HDTV business? General Electric? Ok, that one was familiar. LG? I thought they made cell phones (not too well either, I might add). Pioneer? They made some great speakers back in the day. Mitsubishi? I wasn't looking for a new car. When I started looking at all the different types of HDTV's, connections (HDMI? DVI? help...please), I got the distinct feeling technology waved goodbye to me about five years ago. Talk about Future Shock, I was living it. Alvin Toffler, the white courtesy phone, please.

So, I talked too many sales reps (two actually seemed to know what they were talking about) and came to some conclusions. Each type, LCD, plasma, etc., had distinct pros and cons. The LCD was the thinnest of the TV's I looked at. But, you have to replace a light bulb about ever 3-5 years. Cost? About $600.00 in today's currency. The plasma had the best color and depth of any of the HDTV's I saw. But, it would start to lose it's brightness over time, was fragile and was very, very expensive. I had decided on either an LCD or plasma. I weighed each in my mind for the past two weeks. This morning I decided on the Toshiba Regza 32" LCD. I am very pleased with it. Got it for $699.00 at Rex, here in Mobile. Talk about easy...and I was as nervous as a cat taking a shortcut through the dog pound installing this thing by myself. Installation was so easy, even a cave...eh, even a Cro-Magnon Man like me can do it. I even hooked it up with the HDMI cables. Simple is an inadequate word when describing the ease of using HDMI. The setup was a breeze. The onscreen menu's leave nothing to chance. I set it up as well as one of the techs would have, I wager. Very light and just all around a better buy than the Sony plasma I looked at a couple of weeks ago at Best Buy.

If you need any advice on buying an HDTV...um, eh...go to Sam's or maybe Circuit City. I'm still a bit confused by it all.


My First Car: 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air

Times being what they were, I did not own a car while I was a teenager. It wasn’t often, but I did have to ask my beloved father to use his car for doing the teenager thing for dates, school activities and so forth. I didn’t like asking him for reasons that I will share at a later date in another blog entry. But, for now, let’s just suffice it to say asking him for the keys to his car was something I dreaded more than anything I could think of at the time.

I did not actually own my first car until I got out of the U.S. Navy in 1974 at age 22. I already had a Triumph 650cc motorcycle that I had transported from Naples, Italy to Mobile, AL. But, I used that for mostly showboating. I needed a car. So, my late Uncle Mike sold me my first car; a 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air. My Uncle Mike kept that car clean as a whistle. So, I thought it was probably a good buy at $200.00. And it was a good buy at that price. I had an AM-FM stereo radio that Uncle Mike had installed that was just great!!! I loved that car! It was solid white, had a little rust around the bottom of the front doors and the carburetor had to be primed occasionally to start. But, all in all, I enjoyed that car. I had always been a Chevy man. My father had the elite of elite Chevrolet’s in that he bought a silver 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. To this day, that car is still considered one of the best made cars ever to come out of Detroit. I loved that car even as a precocious 7 year old boy in Woolmarket, MS. But, I had a 1966 edition although it was a bit ragged around the edges. It had over 175K miles on it. But, my Uncle Mike had kept that car up. It purred like a kitten. I was impressed with how well it rode over the roughest of surfaces. It had a great suspension. Gas mileage wasn’t that great. But, in 1974, gas was less than a dollar a gallon. So, who really cared about gas mileage back in those days? Not many people, except Uncle Mike. His reason for selling the ’66 Bel Air to me was the gas mileage. He was not happy with it. I can’t remember the exact MPG on that car. But, I honestly didn’t care at the time.

After about three years, the 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air starting giving out on me. The front end was a becoming a constant problem. It would wear out tires in less than six months. The cost to repair became more than the car itself was worth. So, quite and very reluctantly, I had to sell my car. I sold it for exactly what it cost me, $200.00. I sold it to a man who said he was going to cannibalize it for parts. I did see it one last time as he drove up to a local McDonald's. I felt a pang of regret as it rode past me. It was almost like it was saying, “David, I thought you loved me. Didn’t I take care of you? Why did you let me go?” It hurt. But, I know I did the right thing. I never saw it again after that day. But, that was my first car. And, for some strange reason, it entered my mind tonight. That’s why I’m writing about it tonight.

It’s Been a Tough Week

I guess I’ve had worse weeks in my life. In fact, I’m sure of it. From losing loved ones in my family to being without a job to signing papers on my divorce. But, this one has to rank in the top five of worst weeks in my life.

It started off with losing my best friend since I was 16 years old, Barry. That was devastating to me. I got the news late Sunday afternoon and was just absolutely shocked and amazed. I should have expected it because Barry had been in declining health for several years. But, it was still a shock to me.

Then I get some unwanted news Wednesday from my pest control inspector. While making his quarterly termite inspection, he finds termites in the southwest corner of my living room. I did not even notice the bits of tell-tale dust that they leave behind. He said that the entire section of that corner, approximately five feet high and five feet wide will have to be replaced. Expected cost? About $12K. Fortunately, I bought the added termite insurance package that will cover me. I almost didn’t buy it. The bad thing about it, I will have workers in and out of the house for about 2-3 days and I will have to be here when they are working.

Tuesday, after coming back from Barry’s funeral, I turned on my cell phone to find a message had been left for me from an old flame back in college. She gave me the news she had developed lung cancer and was to begin immediate chemotherapy. For years people had tried to talk her into giving up cigarettes. She has given them up now. Unfortunately, it may be too late.

And to end the week, after taking my 2006 Honda Civic for it’s 5000 mile interval scheduled maintenance yesterday, they found another busted seal leaking fluid from the power steering pump. That is three busted seals and may come under the Alabama Lemon Law. I have had numerous problems with this car. Honda is noted for not only having great gas mileage, but for being dependable as well. That is why I traded in my ’04 Jeep Liberty gas guzzler for this car. In addition to the power steering problems, I have had a battery give up the ghost three months after buying the car. Trim work along the dashboard started coming lose and had to be replaced. I had problems with the automatic transmission where it started trying to skip second gear. They had to keep the car for a week to correct that. Of course, I was covered for all the above due to the warranty. I’m starting to think not getting that extended warranty might have been a mistake.

Maybe next week will be better.


Ghost Hunters: Sci Fi Channel

I had been a casual observer of this series on the Sci Fi Channel up until about a year ago. Now, I’m hooked. Not that I seriously believe in ghosts, spirits, etc. I’ve never personally encountered such. My grandfather considered himself somewhat a spiritualist. He said he had encounters with spirits and so forth. I never believed it. But, he had some mighty convincing “ghost stories” that he related to me many years ago. If the comments on this entry warrant it, I will share some of those stories.

Anyway, “Ghost Hunters” supposedly approach all their cases as skeptics which is what attracted me to the series. I am also a skeptic. I admit I have had situations in the past that I was unable to explain logically. But, as I said above, I never have had any encounters with “ghosts”. As for the series Ghost Hunters, have you ever noticed how all the really serious encounters are just slightly off camera? I find that remarkable and somewhat disingenuous. I can’t help but question the “scientific electronic equipment” the Ghost Hunters utilize to document their findings. Just how scientific is this equipment? I know they question their finds themselves, which speaks well of TAPS overall. But, that leads me to another finding I have made.

Have you noticed the new cast member, Kris Williams? Now, beside the fact she is attractive and well-built (ok, I’m 56 years old, but I’m not dead…I am still attracted to a good looking woman), she seemed a bit too…professional to me. So, I did a little research and lo and behold, Kris Williams is an actress. A D-list actress, but an actress nevertheless. Too me, this somewhat compromises the impartiality of the entire program. I mean, it’s a nice gig for Kris since her career seems to be going nowhere. But, I can’t see myself ever looking at Ghost Hunters as being the professional skeptics as they once were for some reason. It just seems the TAPS crew has forsaken their credibility in order to get ratings for their series. Still, I’ll keep watching the series if for no other reason than to watch Kris Williams.

Rice Shortage vs Gas Shortage

This worldwide rice shortage is something I'm sure that causes panic in Asian countries where rice is the main food staple. I question just how much of a shortage there actually is and how much is speculative in nature to raise the price. The price of rice, along with basically all food, is increasing simply because of increased cost of fuel. Violent protests have broken out in some Asian countries because of the cost and the perception there is a shortage of rice.

In some respects, it reminds me of what happens when we have a hurricane along the gulf coast. Once the hurricane is gone, the first thing people worry about is gas. After Hurricane Katrina, there were few gas stations around that were even open. Those that were open, ran out of gas before noon in most cases. This caused panic. When people panic, they start to to lose their ability to reason. They also become violent. I can't tell you the number of people that got into fights because they thought someone broke in line at a gas station. The cops stayed busy for about two weeks.

Local officials tried, in vain, to reassure people there was plenty of gas. But, the system wasn't designed for virtually everyone to gas up at the same time. As a result, we ran out of gas quickly and the perception endured that we would go weeks, and maybe even months with little or no gas. Once the trucks starting moving again, there was gas enough for everyone. Of course, gas was "only" about $2.79/gallion back then. I don't think we'll see gas that cheap again for a long time, if ever.

I tend to believe the so-called rice shortage is based along the same lines. People are believing that since prices for rice are going up, there must be a shortage. I don't know all the particulars of what the Asian market is like right now for rice. I know China and India have a part in this. But, I honestly believe it is fueled, at least in part, by people who would benefit most from a rise in prices in the rice market. This also goes for people who have ulterior motives to sensationalize the idea of shortages. For example, yesterday the Wall Street Journal had an article advising people to start hoarding food in the USA! I really think that is totally irresponsible journalism by WSJ columnist Brett Arends. He starts out by saying he doesn't want to alarm anyone, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food. He tries to give credence to his alarmist article by talking about rising food prices in this country. What he fails to take into account, in his near yellow dog journlistic column, is that food prices are rising due to....ta daaaa, fuel prices! He's trying to give the perception there is going to be a food shortage in the world's breadbasket. This is what I'm talking about with people fueling perceptions that are unfounded. We may be approaching peak oil production (or maybe already surpassed it). But, I tend to believe we are far from (if ever) reaching peak food production. Sure, rice, flour, meal are all going to cost more. But, by no means, should anyone think there is a shortage. And, least of all, a shortage of food in the USA. People just need to calm down. Of course, that's easy to say if you live in this country. In Haiti, I can see why they would panic.


WoolMarket: The Bridge

As I said in the opening entry on this series, there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the little stop in the road called Woolmarket, MS. As previously noted, they had a drag strip that we were never able to get inside up close (“too much money”). But, we were able to sneak around the gate and watch everything in the tall grass. Come to think of it, it was probably more fun that way since we felt were getting away with something. There was a lot of wildlife in this area since we lived so far out in the country. At night, you could hear the bobcats howl an unworldly scream that chilled me and my siblings to the bone. There were wild dogs (at latter series entry will be on “The White Dog”) in the area that were a danger to our chickens. Of course, wolves were a constant threat. Our next door neighbor told us he had seen Florida Panthers in the area and had killed one several years prior. All in all, Woolmarket was a pretty wild place in the respect there were ever present dangers that you had to be aware of on a daily basis. Mama always warned us not to stray from the house to where she couldn’t see us out the back window. But, at that age, that was nearly impossible for us to obey. This was a new and strange world we had found ourselves.

In those days, there no such thing as Nintendo, Wi, or any of the other gadgets of today to entertain kids. Heck, we didn’t have much in the way of toys since we were so poor. Thing about it, we didn’t even know we were poor. We thought everybody lived like this. Well, everyone except our grandma. She had A/C at her house and a new car. To us, she was the richest person on earth. So, we had to invent our own “games”. We had these “pretend” games where we pretended we were “lost kids in the woods” and had to subsist on little or nothing in order to survive. Of course, the fact we were in eyesight of our house never took away from the fun of the game.

The most fun we had with this game was at “The Bridge”. The Bridge was a very short span of about 20 feet over a 10 foot wide creek, which was called, quite naturally, “The Creek.” During the summers we spent most our time right here. Again, we were within eye shot of our house. This creek was always cold, even on the hottest days of summer. I have no idea why. It sure didn’t run down from any mountains since Mississippi isn’t noted for mountainous terrain. But, the thing I remember most about The Bridge/The Creek was the smell of scupanines. A berry that is found only in the South to my knowledge. Some people made them into wines. Some used them to make pies. They had a very sweet smell. They also seemed to attract rattlesnakes. I have no idea why. But, we saw rattlesnakes all the time down at The Bridge. It was one such time at The Bridge that Blackie, an old mutt that took up at our house and basically adopted us, probably saved my brother’s life.

My brother was wading in the creek, having himself a good old time. My sister and I were throwing scupanines at him and he threw them back. I was about to throw another handful of scupanines when I noticed movement in the creek edge where he was picking his scupanines. It was a rattler at least four feet long. Before I could speak, Blackie was all over the rattler and actually grabbed the snake with his mouth. My brother jumped about 10 feet in the air and Blackie took the rattler into the water to drown him. And drown him Blackie did.

Unfortunately, the rattler got a good bite on Blackie. That dog suffered most of the rest of the day and most of that night. I felt so sorry for him. We didn’t even have money to go to the doctor ourselves, much less take a dog to a vet. After hearing him suffer up until about 9PM that night, my next door neighbor came over and offered to end Blackie’s suffering with his rifle. One shot to the back of poor Blackie’s head ended his life. My father, in one of his rare moments of humanity (his rifle had the firing pin sheared off and had had no shells for the shotgun), took Blackie out in the woods the next morning to bury him. That probably was one of the few times I ever saw my father actually cry. In fact, we all cried that morning about Blackie. Until the day we moved from that house, my mother would take sunflowers (they were all over the place) and laid them at Blackie’s marker about once or twice a week.

That happened our first summer in Woolmarket. It was significant in that we realized, first hand, there were dangers prevalent in the area. We knew now, we had to watch ourselves so we didn’t end up like Blackie. We knew we weren’t in the city any longer. We didn’t get to go to The Bridge for about three weeks after that. And only after my 14 year old cousin from Moss Point moved in with us were we allowed to go back. It just wasn’t the same with him there with us at The Bridge. And it sure wasn’t the same without Blackie.


Death of an Old Friend

A very short entry tonight.

Barry, an old friend of mine from high school, died tonight at a hospital in Florida. Barry and I hung out together in high school. We talked about our dreams, aspirations and woes together. He was my best friend at one time. We drifted apart over the years. But, I always had his number and he had mine in case we needed to get in touch. I mourn my old friend tonight. He was the same age as I am, 56 years old. I remember when that seemed ancient. It doesn't seem that way now. But, with the passing of Barry, death seemed to say "hello" to me tonight. You don't think about death when you are in your 20s or even in your 30s. In your 40s, you start to let it creep into your mind. Tonight, it definitely has crept into my mind.

I have drunk too much wine and probably have a multitude of grammatical errors and misspellings here. But, I don't care. At least for tonight. Barry was a rock to me during my divorce. He was there when he had problems of his own I didn't even know about. His mother ruined him at an early age. She caused a lot of his problems that I won't go into here. But, I sure as hell will in another entry later on. It will be a memorial to my old friend. He deserves at least that much from me. If he had one thin dime in his pocket, he would have given it to me. I know that for a fact.

In this day and time, it is considered odd and a sexual perversion to say you love someone of your own sex. I can't say I disagree with that on most matters. But, in the case of someone who you knew you could depend upon your entire life, I don't give a damn. I loved my old buddy Barry. He was my best friend. I will miss him as much, if not more, than I would a brother who passed.

That's all I will say for now. It's time for some more wine.


Most Embarrassing Moments

No, if you think I’m going to talk about MY most embarrassing moments, think again. Maybe I’ll do it in another blog entry. Maybe. Instead I’m going to talk about embarrassing moments of other people that I have personally witnessed or had the story retold to me.

About five years ago, my wife (ex-wife now) and I went to the local American Legion hall for amateur night. Think of it as a local American Idol where we had three judges rate the performers from 1-10. Some of them were actually good, in my humble opinion. However, some were nothing short of atrocious. This one young lady who wore a dress that was meant for someone about three sizes smaller than herself came out to sing “God Bless America.” It was dreadful from the very start. I just put my hands over my ears and looked down at my feet hoping it would be over soon. My wife tapped me on the hand and said, “Look at her mouth.” I looked up and, apparently, she had a removable bridge in the front top of her mouth that had come loose. She kept singing and, of course, the bridge fell from her rather ample mouth, hit the mic and then bounced around on the floor. Everyone in the audience did their absolute best not to laugh. But, it simply wasn’t possible. I give her credit, she kept singing despite a part of her mouth clearly missing now and resting on the floor.

Unfortunately, she didn’t sign up for the comedy category and was sent home.

My brother related this one to me when he was Bogalusa, LA working on a project for his employer. He said after one really tough day, he went to a bar not far from his hotel to drink a few beers and maybe eat some dinner. He noticed there were some rough looking customers there. So, he decided he might get that dinner to go after drinking a couple of beers. As my brother continued drinking, the crowd was getting more rowdy and one fight had already broken out near the pool tables. Drunks were falling down everywhere and he was hoping the damn cook would hurry with his order. He said he had already drunk three beers in about 15 minutes and was ready to leave. He casually looked toward the men’s restroom and noticed one really smashed Cajun looking man coming out…and I mean literally “coming out.” He said the Cajun guy had his penis hanging out from his zipper and was stumbling from table to table trying to find his way back to his seat. Funny thing about it, no one even seemed to notice. He finally found his seat and the waitress who was bringing beer to his table did notice his penis hanging out. She said, “Damn Pete, I thought you said you didn’t like Vienna sausage.”

And the crowd went wild…

I know this next one people aren’t going to believe because it is so stereotypical. But, it happened. One time I was coming from a local drug store and noticed this one buxom lady next to her Honda waving her key up and down. I’m thinking, this can’t be what I think it is. So, I ask her if I can be of any assistance (gentleman that I am). In near tears, she said, “My damn remote on my keychain won’t work and I can’t get in my f’ing car!!!” I asked her to give me the remote Honda key and, yes…yes…yes I did, I put it into the door lock and opened it for her. “Ooooooh, thank you!"  She backed out and left very quickly. I watched her leave and said, “You’re welcome, sweetheart.”

Yes, she was a blonde.

This last one happened many, many years ago when I was still working my first job at age 15. I’m not sure it’s going to be funny to some. I don’t think it was funny either. But, it damn sure had to be embarrassing. I had gotten off work one afternoon at the Jitney Jungle supermarket and was trying to walk across Hwy 90 in Pensacola, FL to get to my neighborhood. At this intersection there were six lanes of traffic I had to navigate, including an eastbound left turning lane. I made it across the westbound lanes and was standing on the median island next to the left turning lane. The traffic light had not turned red for the eastbound traffic, but had turned red for the left turning lane. So, I stood there waiting patiently. A late model Cadillac pulled up to the left turning lane waiting for the light to turn green. I noticed he was smoking a cigar as he came up to the light. Nothing unusual about that. But, I noticed he seemed to be beating at his rather rotund belly as I stood behind his car. That did seem unusual. Suddenly, this man jumped out of his car and the front of his shirt was on fire! I thought I was dreaming. Here is this man, about 5’6 and maybe 230lbs, doing the funky chicken at an intersection with traffic zooming around us both. I tried to help him take the shirt off. But, I could not do it. I went to try and put out his blazing stomach with my little Jitney Jungle cap. It didn’t work because then my cap caught on fire. This man is screaming at the top of his lungs. And it’s about to get worse. His hair had now somehow caught on fire. Except it wasn’t his hair. It was his toupee and it had fallen off his head. His toupee was now a mini-bonfire resting in the left turning lane. One man did stop and came out with a fire extinguisher to put out his stomach blaze. He suffered second degree burns and lived to smoke another cigar.

Unfortunately, his toupee could not be saved.

Money: The Ultimate Power Broker

During my four year stint in the U.S. Navy, I was stationed in Naples, Italy. Just because I had shore duty didn’t mean I didn’t get my share of ship assignments. In the early 70s, the Vietnam War was still going on, though it was definitely winding down. I served 179 days there on three different ships. I was not allowed to get that 180th day because the U.S. Navy didn’t want to give me combat pay, which was all of $50.00. If there had been any doubt I was getting out and not making the Navy a career, that little detail cinched it for me.

Most of my ship assignments were in the Mediterranean Sea. However, on one cruise aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, we were just off the coast of South Africa. We had been at sea for 10 days straight and needed supplies. So, we headed to Port Elizabeth where we would meet a US supply ship and get some R&R in the city of Port Elizabeth. As we were being put into dock by tugboats, we got an alert to report to our duty stations. This was a common practice when the Captain wanted to speak to the entire crew. The Watch Officer at each station would take a roll call to make sure everyone was there (God help you if you didn’t make it for roll call). The Captain informed us he had a message from the US Embassy that had been relayed to them from the apartheid government of South Africa. We were informed that the South African government was extremely happy and proud to have the US Navy visit their country and for us all to have a good time. However, they were going to make one restriction that they would not waiver from for any reason. All black American sailors were to leave the city of Port Elizabeth by 5PM which was in accordance with their apartheid laws.

Our Captain announced to the US Embassy to relay to the South African government that he did not have any black American sailors aboard his ship.  He did not have any white American sailors about the ship. Nor did he have any other distinctive color Americans. We were all tri-colored; red, white and blue. Furthermore, there would be no shore leave to the hundreds of merchants, bars, clubs of Port Elizabeth by the 5000 men on ship. We were stunned. But, not surprised by our Captain’s outrage. We were resigned to our fate which we understood, but were not happy about.

Meanwhile, the merchants, club owners, bar owners and yes, cat house owners went into warp drive with their own outrage. Hell hath no fury like a merchant when he or she can see thousands of dollars sitting offshore within a stone’s throw of his or her store. We would be tied up for five days and the merchants were going berserk.

Long story short here; after one day of demonstrations and fury; the South African government backed down. They were making an “exception” purely out of humane interests of a powerful ally, the United States Navy. If you believe that, I have some prime real estate to sell you 30 miles south of Mobile, AL.

In the end, it was all about money. Even with the stranglehold of apartheid in place, the South African government buckled under the most powerful of all power brokers; money.




I posted this story back in April as I was just getting started on my blog. It was with great joy I found out that Buddy has a three year old son. It brought back some bitter memories and some great memories all at once as my X informed me that Buddy's three year old son, "Bro", was taking up where his dad left off; walking around the one-mile asphalt with the people in the neighborhood. This has brightened my day. The original story is below.

During my one year stay in north Alabama, I had little in the way of finding things with which to be happy. I had a wife who whined from day light to dark. I was about 400 miles from home and I was surrounded by in-laws. I had been warned by family and friends about moving so close to my in-laws. And, like a fool, I ignored them. It was a hellacious one year in my life I wish not to live over again. I loved north Alabama. I got along with everyone there except one, my wife.

We had a home that was in a new subdivision. It was located in an oval shaped subdivision with a newly laid asphalt road. People would walk around it for exercise most of the day. I would get up early, usually about 6:30AM and walk around the approximately one mile oval before everyone else got started. There was a big yellow lab that would walk with everyone. That dog had to be in the best health of anyone of that subdivision. I mean he would walk with everyone. But, he would look for me because he seemed to realize I was an early bird. “Buddy”, as we later found out was his name, would be at the end of the driveway, where he reside, waiting for me. Buddy was so kind, so gentle and all he would want for accompanying you was a pat on the head. I always gave him more. I would have doggie biscuits for him which he was absolutely insane about.

I would turn one corner on the oval and throw Buddy a doggie biscuit and he would come up to me and nudge me on the leg as I walked. He seemed to know, after a period of time, that once a turn was made, he would get a treat. So, Buddy would race ahead to get to the next turn and wait for me. Of course, I would always give Buddy a treat. He was just a big friendly dog. Buddy was a wonderful dog. He was the kind of dog you would trust to protect you entire family.

While we would walk on these early mornings, Buddy would chase any squirrel that would dare to cross our path. I swear, I saw him almost climb a tree going after a squirrel that dallied a bit too long in the street before us. I also saw Buddy chase a rabbit into a drainage pipe. Buddy got stuck trying to get to that rabbit. I had to pull him out of the drainage pipe with him still barking after the stupid rabbit. Little did I know that a rabbit would be his ultimate demise.

For about two weeks, I did not see Buddy. I was greatly concerned about him. I wanted to go up to the house where I knew he lived and inquire about him. My wife did go ask about him. She found out he had chased another rabbit one morning and did not clear the street before a man in his pickup ran over him. The only comfort I had from hearing this is the driver said that Buddy was killed instantly. I cried about it. I had lost the only friend I had for over 400 miles. The only “Buddy” I could talk to about my troubles and woes. I realized now I was completely alone.

To this day, I still think about Buddy. He brought a measure of comfort into my life when I needed it most. He seemed to realize I needed a friend. And he was all that and more.

I don’t know if it’s true “All Dogs Go to Heaven”. I pray to God it’s true. If ever an animal deserved Heaven, it’s man’s best friend. But, I pray when it’s my time, I hope I see old Buddy and I plan on thanking him for making my life a bit more bearable when I felt I didn’t have a friend in the world. I want to thank him for being there when I needed someone. I want to thank him for just being a "Buddy".


Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting

The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross was one of those rare PBS broadcasts that I would actually watch from start to finish. It wasn't because I am a painter or even interested in painting. No, it had to do with Bob Ross himself. He had such a soothing tone of voice, easy going style that just put me at ease for 30 minutes, mentally and physically. For 30 minutes, all my problems, all my troubles were trivial as I watched him build that blasted cabin without a chimney and me thinking, "Bob, you going to freeze those people to death". But, as Bob said, "We don't make mistakes, we just have happy little accidents." I watched him because you could tell he really enjoyed what he was doing. Bob was enthusiastic about painting and wanted his viewers to join in with him. I'm not sure how many of his TV audience ever joined in his passion for painting. But, it didn't matter. I think most people watched his show because of him.

Bob always hinted about what a rough life he had. He never got into specifics. But, you got the feeling that life had not been kind to him. You could always tell he had a deep and firm belief in God. He never backed away from that in any of his shows. Oh, Bob Ross didn't proselytize to his audience. That wasn't his way. He shared his beliefs in the same way he shared his love for painting. I liked Bob Ross. I regret I never had the opportunity to meet him in person. I guess I'm making a blog entry about him because I watched a "Best of the Joy of Painting" episode last night. It brought back memories of watching him on Saturday afternoons at 2:30PM CST. I never missed watching it if I possibly could.

Bob Ross died in 1995 of cancer. I remember being completely stunned. I always referred to him as "The Painter" to my family who couldn't understand why I was so enthralled with his show. I remember being greatly saddened by this announcement. You just know he was a great guy, someone you would have liked immensely if you would have had the opportunity to meet him. As TV Guide memorialized him (paraphrasing here), "Bob Ross always talked about happy mountains, happy clouds and particularly those happy little trees that he made in virtually every painting on his show. We suspect today those happy little trees are little weeping willows".

God Bless you, Bob. Your fans still miss you.


The Homeless

Some people have phobias, such as fear of flying, fear of water, fear of enclosed places and so forth. I’ve got enough phobias to fill up a medium size library. The one that has always been at the back of my mind is fear of being homeless. There is no rational reason why I should ever feel this way. I don’t even know of anyone in my family or any friends I’ve ever had that said they had a family member who was homeless (come to think of it, they probably wouldn’t talk about that if they did). It was a fear that traumatized me when I was divorced. I was basically homeless. But, I did have a truck I could sleep in when I felt I was too much of a burden on family. They were appalled when I told them I had lived in my truck for two days. That’s as close to homelessness I ever want to get.

I have great empathy for the homeless. Sure, some are homeless because they want to be. Others have reasons ranging from being drug users, alcoholics, no money, no marketable skills or possibly mental illness. But, there are those who are in that position by no fault of their own.

When I first moved back to Mobile, I noticed a man who would carry a bag of what appeared to be his belongings into the woods about two miles from my home. The first time I saw him, I thought nothing of it. But, I continued to see him leaving and entering this wooded area for months. For all I knew, he had a home back there. There is a Shell gas station just around the corner from where this man made his entrance into the woods. While going in to buy a soft drink, I asked the cashier if she ever saw this man that apparently lived in the woods not far from this Shell gas station. She appeared to be saddened when I asked her about him. She said his name is Jake, he is originally from Scottsdale, AZ and moved out to the gulf coast area for work. Jake supposedly was a co-owner of a small construction company in Scottsdale until his partner skipped town with the entire company bank account. Jake declared bankruptcy and he and his family lived in a used mobile home park just outside the Scottsdale area.

Jake apparently took to drinking heavily and his wife took the kids and left him. So, Jake wandered east by hitchhiking, railroad cars, etc. He would take an odd job here and there to make money enough to eat. He had been living in this area for about a year, she said. This cashier said that she would let him take all the water on the outside faucet he needed and would give him a few sandwiches and candy that she paid for out of her own money. He was a very sad fellow.

A week before Christmas in 2006, I saw Jake sitting on the sidewalk of this Shell gas station. I really wasn’t sure if I should intrude on him since he appeared really despondent. But, I decided to ask him if he was alright. He told me that with Christmas just around the corner, he missed his kids more this time of year than any other. They would not accept any phone calls from him. I honestly didn’t know what to say. So, and I couldn’t believe I did this, I gave Jake $20.00. He said he appreciated it, but he couldn’t take charity. I told him to consider it a Christmas gift. He hung his head so that I couldn’t see him crying. I told him Merry Christmas and left.

By the middle of January 2007, I had not seen Jake since that week before Christmas. I ordinarily saw him at least once a week. I decided to ask the cashier at the Shell station if she had seen Jake lately. She told me that Jake had come in shortly after New Year’s Day to buy a sandwich and left without saying a word to her. She said that was very unusual for him.

The cashier and I never saw Jake again. I hope he is ok wherever he might be. I hope he’s eating well and is finding work. Most of all, I hope his kids gave him another chance.

Comments on the Presidential Race

The race for President of the United States has become one of the most bitter (yes, Senator Obama, I'm one of those bitter average Joes you spoke so eloquently about) in my lifetime. I don't remember the Nixon-JFK fight that much. But, I'm told that was one for the ages. The Democratic nomination process has degenerated into a smear campaign by the "change" candidate, Senator Obama and the "experienced" candadate, Senator Hillary Clinton, who I detest with every fiber of my being.

As I have stated previously, I consider myself an independent who will vote for the man or woman and not the party. I do lean more to right of center. Consequently, I find myself voting more in line with the Republicans than I do Democrats. However, I have voted with the Democrats on numerous occasions when it dealt with environmental issues, capital punishment and several other issues. Initially, I found myself enthralled with Senator Obama. I am thinking this is a man who can bring change to this country. He is the "new" JFK. That is what I believed up until he started showing his true colors (no pun intended).

Senator Obama had a chance to break away from a racist minister and would not do it. While he condemned the racist rantings of alleged Pastor Wright, he did not come outright and break away from his pastor. Are we to believe this is the only time in 20 years Senator Obama had ever heard racist views from this alleged pastor in church service or in private? Surely, he doesn't think we are that gulliable. I don't want to call the man a liar. But, he seems to be stretching the truth in Bill Clinton "I didn't inhale" terminology. Senator Obama had a chance to prove himself a potential President of ALL the people. He failed miserably on this count.

Now, we get a glimpse of his elitist background in a speech to some private millionaires in San Francisco. We hear, and I quote,"(T)hey get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." Senator Obama was speaking about a huge voting majority, Middle America. It shows two things to me; One, it displayed amply he is a "not ready for primetime player" in politics. You never, never, NEVER diss a voting block, especially one as huge as middle-class anglo saxon America. Two, it reveals his own mistrust of Middle America, his possible own racial bias as we have heard in relation to his grandmother. So, if you take Senator Obama literally (as he has seemed to want people to take to him), if you cling to your religious beliefs for support in these trying times, you are bitter. If you are tired of the government not taking action against an invasion of illegal aliens, you are bitter and frustrated. If you own a gun to protect yourself against criminals who wish to do you and your family harm, you are bitter and frustrated. Well, Senator Obama, color me bitter and frustrated.

I thought, rather, I had HOPED Senator Obama was the new JFK. Instead, what we see is more of the George McGovern left wing Democratic Party aristocracy. Thanks to people like Senator Obama and the right wing radicals in the Republican Party, we have a nation divided against itself. We have a nation divided into blue states and red states. We have a nation that is indeed, to quote Senator Obama, "bitter and frustrated". If Senator Obama, Clinton and McClain want to find someone to blame for this situation, go look in the mirror.
Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification


My Father in WWII

I have always greatly admired the men and women who fought and participated in the Greatest Generation’s War, World War II. Hitler was a menace who had to be stopped at all cost. I’ve watched Saving Private Ryan countless times. I’ve watched the series Band of Brothers countless times as well. I was greatly moved by both.

My father also participated in WWII as a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy. He often bragged about being on one of the ships at the Invasion of Normandy. And that is what always made me suspicious about my father and his actual exploits in the war. He told the story, at great length, about being on a ship with dead men all around. He further described being washed in blood during battles. But, the problem was that my father was a known liar. Even my poor mother, who had utter contempt for him for as long as I could remember, would take up for him in his heroism in WWII. My grandmother (his mother) always took great pride in him for that accomplishment in his life. She would often look over the fact he was a drunk and abused his wife and children, both verbally and physically.

Whenever I would bring the fact my father is a liar and you had to really take his WWII accomplishments with a grain of salt, I was quickly and firmly told that despite whatever I may think of my father, he is being honest in regard to WWII service. The one thing that always puzzled me is that my father mentioned in one of his stories he had been wounded. Being the braggart he was, he would have naturally shown off his Purple Heart that all men wounded in action receive during war. He never did that. So, I continued with my doubts in silence.

Three years ago, my father passed away. I’m not going to say I was sad or relieved he died. I had no feelings for him for reasons that I won’t go into in this blog entry. In January of this year, I decided to contact the VA and get his military records which were my right as his son. I got his military records two weeks ago. As I had suspected, my father never was at Normandy. In fact, he never participated in the European Campaign. Furthermore, as I suspected, he had not been wounded. There was no mention of any medals other than the customary good conduct award and service time during war awards that everyone got during a war. My father’s time during the war was served on a supply ship in the Pacific and if he saw any action, it was not noted in his military records.

I am not going to say I am filled with satisfaction I was right all these years. I feel bad that this liar fooled so many people, including my beloved mother. But, I do feel justified in proving, at least in my own mind, I was right all along.


Employment Opportunities

With the jobless rate continuing to rise in this country, it is remarkable there are pockets of economic boom. Just in my hometown of Mobile, AL, employers are holding job fairs, taking out full page advertisements in the classifieds, and have "help wanted" signs everywhere in this town. In fact, if one employer finds an applicant not qualifying for a particular position, he or she is immediately referred to another potential employer who might be able to hire the applicant. It is a case of a shrinking labor pool caused by retiring baby boomers (such as yours truly), cracking down on illegal immigrants, and possibly due to people leaving this area because of hurricane season. Whatever the cause, there are far more jobs available (both unskilled and skilled, blue collar and white collar) than potential employees. If you don't have a job in this city, it's because you don't want one or are retired (again, like yours truly).

Now, with the announcement ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, LLC has announced to build a new steel mill in Mobile County (and actually broke ground last November), this adds up to 30,000 temporary jobs and up to 2000 permanent jobs on an already strained labor pool in the Mobile area. Now, combine this with the announcement in Febuary of this year of the Air Force awarding a contract for 179 aerial tankers to Northrop Grumman Corp and Airbus parent EADS to be assembled in Mobile . Boeing has protested the awarding of this contract to the GAO. However, the GAO is expected to uphold the Air Force on this contract award. This contract is worth another 1500 permanent jobs and thousands and thousands of jobs for suppliers and service companies in the area. Total economic impact is not really known at this time. But, the total with ThyssenKrupp and the North Grumman Corps/EADS announcements, estimates of between 100,000 jobs are expected within a five year period. The majority of those will be temporary construction jobs. However, there are going to be plenty of high paying, high and low skilled jobs available.

If you are interested in applying for jobs with ThyssenKrupp right now, you can enter the appropriate information in the Indeed Job search box above. We expect the Air Force to prevail on this contract awarded to Grumman and EADS. Work on the plant here should begin shortly after the Boeing protest runs it's course in about a year.

I will keep an update on these two companies in the weeks and months ahead.



Depression is an illness that strikes 1 in 10 Americans at least once in their lifetime. Also, baby boomers, such as myself, are more apt to suffer from depression than young adults, a major shift in depression age distribution, according to WebMD. Also according to WebMD.com, women, Native Americans, widowed, separated, or divorced men and women suffer from depression. I can identify with the divorced men mentioned in this report.

After my divorce, I went into a period where I really didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. I saw there was nothing to look forward to each day. Inasmuch as my life changed dramatically with marriage, my life changed far more with my divorce. I was neglecting my personal hygiene, I was rejecting friends and family and for the first time I can recall, I questioned my faith in God. During this 6-9 month period when I basically felt sorry for myself, I gained weight, got into arguments with friends and strangers over basically stupid, silly things. I also was suffering from anxiety attacks. I know this is strange, but whenever I was caught up in traffic (as is the case quite often in Mobile, AL these days) I got this incredibly strong urge to go do #2. I seriously thought I was going to crap all over myself in the car and got lightheaded, dizzy. This happened repeatedly until I finally broke down and went to see my family doctor.

My doctor diagnosed me as suffering from depression and panic/anxiety attacks. Well, I already knew that. He wanted me to see a psychiatrist to get properly diagnosed and prescribed treatment. I flat out refused. I didn't see myself as having a mental problem. He set me up with an appointment with the psychiatrist. My doctor told me it was up to me if I wanted to start getting help for my problem. It was totally up to me. I went home and cried for a long time...a very long time.

I think that "cry out" was me hitting rock bottom. I needed to do that and I knew afterward that I had to keep that appointment with the psychiatrist. Quite reluctantly, I made it to his office. I was extremely apprehensive about this meeting. I didn't know what he was going to do. For the first time in my life, I did not feel in control of my identity. I was afraid this man was going to tell me things I didn't want to hear about myself. I decided to walk out when the receptionist called me back to his office.

To make it simple, the appointment couldn't have gone better. He was very professional. But, not detached in the way so many in the medical profession are these days. He set me up for group therapy for six weeks, two nights a week, something I never thought I would be brave enough to do. But, I did it and along with taking Lexapro, I was able to beat my depression. It was like someone had lifted a veil from me. I no longer need group therapy or take Lexapro. I also had some spiritual counseling that helped me overcome this illness greatly.

If you think you may be suffering from depression, don't hesitate to consult your family doctor. Speak with your pastor or a friend or family member you trust. The main thing, get help. There are people that care about you, people you don't even realize.

Cell Phones: Blessing or Curse?

There's not much that annoys me more when I'm in the middle of eating dinner at my favorite restaurant and someone has their cell phone ring off with whatever tune that identifies them as a person. This happened to me today at lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant. I was about to down another bite of calamari when a cell phone went off very close by. I told my friend that you would think people would be considerate enough to turn off their cell in a restaurant by now. My old friend, Mac, said, "Um...David, you might want to consider taking your own advice since it is your cell phone ringing." Astounded and embarrassed, I couldn't do anything but nod my head in agreement. I took the cell from my coat pocket and watched Mac laugh with glee.

I was hoping he would choke on the antipasta.I'm a johnny-come-lately to the cell phone phenomenon since I have only had one about three years. I saw no need for one until I had a flat tire in town about three years ago, ironically enough. My spare was flat also, much to my displeasure. I looked around for a pay phone and lo and behold, not a one in sight. I had to go in a dry cleaning business to ask if they would send a wrecker for my car. About 2 1/2 hours later, it arrived and I had to sit with a guy right out of Deliverance. Everytime someone would do something he felt was a traffic violation he would go "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek, did you see dat? DAMN!"

I decided after that delightful encounter that a cell phone and AAA membership would be in order. It is amazing to me how quickly pay phones have disappeared from the American landscape. I'm not complaining, mind you. But, I'm just thinking how one can get by without a cell phone now. I'm so dependant on that thing. It keeps my appointments and bill paying schedule, alarm clock, music and it even connects me to someone else who has a cell phone or someone living in the Stone Age with a landline. Still, if you don't remember to turn them off (as Nurse Ratched told me to do at a local hospital), they can be brutal. Another worry with cell phone are if you lose track of them at home or, God forbid, at a restaurant or supermarket, you have hundreds of mini-heart attacks. That is a constant worry of mine. But, even just after three years, I am hooked on them after laughing at people for even bothering with the things. How did I get along without one for so long?


Diet and Exercise: How I Managed to Lose 45lbs

When you hit 35, your metabolism slows down. At 40, it slows down even more. You start to notice that "jelly belly" if you are a man. If you are a woman, you notice you have an extra large cushion when you decide to sit down. At 50, thickening of the body is accelerating. In my case, I had gotten up to 242lbs. BP was at 180/100 at times. I had no energy. I couldn't walk to the mailbox and back without wheezing. I was headed for a heart attack and I come from a family with heart disease related issues.

As I said in an earlier post, after my divorce I decided to reinvent myself. I made it my mission in life to lose weight, if for no other reason than to make myself feel better. It was the toughest thing I've ever done. It is an ongoing process. I have to watch what I eat and I have to exercise at least 5 days a week, 2 or 3 times a day depending on what my schedule is for a particular day.

How did I do it? I tried the so-called fad diets such as Atkins and Miami Beach or whatever it is. None of them worked. I decided to take my doctor's advice. I went on a low-fat diet, and really watched what I ate. I stayed away from fast food restaurants except to get a cup of java early in the morning. I counted calories or points using the Weight Watcher's plan. It was tough. But, even more than that, I exercised. I use 10lb wrist weights (each wrist), 5lb weights on each ankle and walk on my treadmill at a brisk 3MPH for slightly over 30 minutes early in the morning. At lunch, if I have time, I do the bicycle machine for about 20-25 minutes. And, to end the day, I do the treadmill thing (with all the weights) for another 20-25 minutes before I shower and retire for the night. I am in better shape now than I probably ever was at age 25 or 30. BP is under control and feel better.

I'm not saying this is for everybody. It most certainly is not and I encourage you to consult with your doctor before you start any diet and/or exercise program. But, the main you must have is determination to succeed. You must have a goal and you must have a reason why you want to lose that weight. My reason? I wanted my ex-wife to see what she lost. I know that sounds spiteful. But, it worked for me and each time I felt like giving up, I remembered what I was working toward.

Dating at Age 50+

As I said in an earlier blog entry, I was divorced about three years ago (July 4th to be exact of this year). I was very despondent after my divorce. I felt unwanted, unloved and almost at the point of being suicidal. I have never admitted the latter to anyone. I had loved my wife and thought she loved me. But, I found out it was an idea that she loved, someone that she wanted me to become. That idea man, of course, was someone just like her father. So, once she found that there would be no changing of me, she filed for divorce. I blame myself for a lot of things in that marriage. But, not becoming like her father is not one of them.

After about 6-9 months of feeling sorry for myself, I started to pull myself together and move on with my life. I had friends who encouraged me to get out more and, of course, they wanted to set me up with someone in my age group. Before I started dating again, I wanted to reinvent myself. I went on an exercise and diet regimen that brought my weight from 242lbs to my present 195lbs. I muscled up and for the first time in my life, I watch what I eat and exercise 2-3 times a day, 6 days a week. I wanted to become a lean, mean love machine at age 56. It was hell to do. But, I did it.

I have discovered several different things since I started dating again. 1. Middle-age spread is a good description of people in my age group. I realize not everyone can have the sort of drive and will power it takes to diet and exercise. For the most part, most of the women I have met are, as they so enchantingly refer to themselves, BBW. I have never been attracted to women that are overtly overweight or underweight for that matter. I have always been too picky and have been alone on many weekend nights as a result. But, I see no point in leading a woman on when I know there is not going to be a mutual attraction. I make it a point not to date any woman under 40 for obvious reasons. Any woman under 30 wanting to date a man in my age bracket has serious issues. If she does want to date him, it's because he's got money to burn, in my not so humble opinion. 2. Women's sex drive seems to increase with entering their 40s, and 50s. This is something I did not expect to find. I don't know if it's due to menopause or what. 3. They are extremely lonely. I can sympathize with them on this. One mistake a lot of women make (and men too for that matter) is that they are willing to overlook far too many things in a potential spouse so as not to be lonely. After a hellacious marriage, I discovered that there are things far more worse than being lonely. 4. This one should really be under #3. But, trying to marry after a short dating period is something I have found to be prevalent amongst women in my age group. For the first time in my life, I have had two women propose marriage to me. Of course, I respectfully and tactfully told them my marrying days are behind me. One of these women that proposed, started talking marriage to me after two weeks! Loneliness can blur the senses of people. That's the only explanation I can come up with for some of the things I have noticed. 5. It seems that there are a lot of women 40-50+ who did not get the bar and club scene out of their system when they left their 20s. I'm just not into that any longer. I'd rather just have friends over, drink and grill out is my idea of a good time now. Oh, I like going out to a club ONCE in a while. But, not every damn night you date.

There's a lot more I could say and will say in future posts.

Rising Gas Prices

Gas prices in my area topped $3.50/gallon this morning. I was astounded when I went to gas up my little Honda Civic (thank God I traded in my '04 Jeep Liberty a couple of years ago). Yesterday, gas was $3.41/gallon. Unreal. Even with this fuel efficient '06 Honda Civic, it is becoming more and more a problem to pay fuel prices. I do a little computer maintenance as a sideline to supplement my retirement pay. I have had to increase my fee to customers as a result. They aren't happy about it. But, I am not happy about paying $3.50/gallon for gas either.

At one point, I had come to the conclusion that gas prices were contrived by the oil companies. There is a part of me that still believes that to be so. I have heard it is oil speculators that are part of the problem. There is also a belief that demand has far exceeded supply in the USA. A lack of oil refinery capacity is only going to make things worse for the consumer. I don't expect to see any development in refining capacity due to environmental issues and the reluctance of oil companies to invest in building since they are making so much money. I simply do not understand how people living at minimum wage are making it today. It's gotten to the point that people are leaving their cars at home and either car pooling (first time for many) or either walking or using their bicycle. I'm ready to buy a small motorcycle myself. It's easy to blame George Bush for this. But, I think the blame game goes further than just one man or one administration. Long term solutions are being talked about as alternatives to fossil fuel. But, that is all we hear is talk. Back in the 70s there was a concerted effort to find alternatives. Once fuel prices came down drastically in the 80s, efforts died out. I hope this time our efforts will find an alternative to fossil based energy once and for all. I don't know how much time we have left to find alternatives. Gas prices are predicted to surpass $5.00/gallon throughout the nation by end of the summer.


Illegal Immigration

Just as a change of pace, I would like to comment on an issue that is at the very core of the political spectrum in America today. Illegal Immigration. It is something that evokes anger, hatred, disbelief and miscommunication.

Politically, I have always been an independent with leanings right of center. I have voted with Democrats on issues such as environment, gun safety, death penalty and other issues. I have voted Republican on tax cuts, abortion, gay rights, illegal immigration and other issues. I simply believe that the extremists in both political parties have taken over and we have an America divided into blue states and red states. If ever there was a time for a third party to step in and gain prominence, it would be now.

However, I do believe illegal immigration effects everything from the economy to the environment in the southwest part of our country. Illegal immigrants do drive down wages regardless of what so-called think tanks would have us believe. They do bring a burden on our overburdened social services system by taking in more than they produce in taxable income (which is a real mystery as to how illegals can get a work ID...but I digress). Specifically, the Hispanic culture is not one that wants to be assimilated. They are proud of their heritage and they seem to think we should learn their culture and their language in OUR country. I only mention the Hispanic illegals due to the fact they are the overwhelming number of illegal immigrants in this nation. Groups such as La Raza do more harm to their cause by forcefully trying to ram amnesty down the throats of the American people and to make Hispanics a special case. The open borders crowd do not seem to care about short term or long term effect that unchecked illegal immigration will have on the USA. In both political parties, you have the Democrats who see Hispanics as another group of block voters to keep them in office. The Republicans see illegal immigrants as a source of cheap labor for corporate America. Somewhere, caught in the middle, are the LEGAL US Citizens of this country who are paying the price for the open borders philosophy of President Bush, and the pro-amnesty crowd. I believe in an enforcement first philosophy in dealing with illegal immigration. Take away the jobs magnet, give all illegals 120 days to leave or face felony arrest and the vast majority will self-deport. Forget about trying to round up 20 million illegals. That will never happen and Nancy Pelosi knows it as well as George Bush. But, that doesn't stop them from talking that nonsense.

Having said all this, I must say that we forget there is a human side of illegal immigration. I saw part of it in a film I saw about three months ago called "Fast Food Nation". Watch that movie and you get a different perspective of illegal immigrants. I also got a first-hand look at the face of illegal immigration this morning while I went to the supermarket for a few items. I saw a young Hispanic male with a small duffel bag sitting just outside the parking lot with his head down. He looked very despondent...and hungry. I remember a little Spanish from my high school and college days, so I approached him. usted necesitan ayuda? Thankfully, he could speak some token English and we were able to communicate. He had not eaten in almost two days, had no money since being laid off from the orange groves of Florida. He was completely destitute. I had an overwhelming reaction to report him to Alabama State Troopers since they do have authority to arrest. But, I didn't do that. I gave him $10 and told him to go buy something to eat. He told me he was going home because there was no longer any work in the US. He was homesick and he missed his wife and two children (I was shocked by this since he looked no older than 16).

As the young Hispanic man stood up, he shook my hand and thanked me with tears welling in his eyes. I admit it, I felt deep sympathy for him. My opinion on illegal immigration has not changed. But, I thank God for allowing me to see another side of this issue.


First Job

My first official job came at the tender age of 15. We were living in Pensacola, FL at the time. My mother had encouraged me to apply for a "bagger" position at the Jitney Jungle Supermarket which was within walking distance of our home. I tried to get her to understand if there were positions available at this supermarket, surely they would advertise them either at the market itself or in the classified ads in the newspaper. Of course, my reluctance to ask for a job had nothing to do with my stating the "facts". I was lacking in self-confidence as were a lot of kids that age. Regardless, she told me I needed to go there and start to make my way into the world (sigh). Somehow, I didn't think stock boy was going to look very well on any future job application. But, it was a start and something I wasn't able to recognize at the time.

The walk to the Jitney Jungle Supermarket usually only took me 15 minutes. On this day, it seemed to only take about two minutes. I walked into the supermarket and just looked around. Basically, I was looking for a friendly face to inquire about a job. I saw this elderly man (probably only in his late thirties or early forties, but still, I was only 15) who seemed to look my way and I walked over to him. His name was Mr. Brice. I will never forget that name for some odd reason. I told Mr. Brice I was there to inquire about employment as a stock boy. He asked if I had any experience (I'm thinking, I'm only 15...how much experience do you think I have?). I told him no, I had no experience in anything except throwing newspapers and I had grown out of that phase in my life. Mr. Brice said that the store manager wasn't in the store at the time. But, I should wait for him and talk to him. Mr. Brice also said they might need stock boys, but he wasn't sure. At this time I'm thinking this is a waste of time when Mr. Brice says, "But, we possibly will need stock boys sometime in the future and I'm sure Mr. Walker (store manager) would be willing to talk to you."

So, I stand out front waiting on Mr. Walker, store manager, Jitney Jungle, Pensacola, FL. And I waited and I waited. After about 45 minutes of waiting, a couple of the "experienced" stock boys came outside and asked what I was doing standing around outside. I told them Mr. Brice told me to wait out here for Mr. Walker. For some reason, they considered me a threat. They started telling me Mr. Walker only hires "experienced" stock boys who have at least three years experience. So, since I knew both were high school seniors, I asked if they had three years experience when they were hired. Yes, of course we do, they said. I asked them how long had they worked here and one said a year and the other said two years. I might add, neither were a threat for the Nobel Prize in Physics. I said, "Well, one of you must have started working as a stock boy about 12 and the other about 13 since I know you're both 17 years of age." Something I remember about being a teenager...you don't like being caught in a lie.

This didn't go over too well with them. Both came over closer to me and I was prepared to get the hell beat out of me for exposing their lie when Mr. Walker came up (I was told he always wore his overly large "store manager" tag where you couldn't miss it). He asked what was going on, I told him I was here to put in my application. I explained that Mr. Brice said I should talk to him about a stock boy position, one that I sure didn't want now. Mr. Walker told the two Rhodes Scholars to get back to work. As it turned out, Mr. Walker hired me on the spot. He said he had two openings, in fact. The two openings were due to the two intellectual giants being let go because "they are lazy", as I remember the store manager saying. Mr. Walker had no idea how relieved I was to hear this not only because I was hired for my first job. But, also because I wouldn't have to tolerate these two clowns who were trying to discourage me from applying for the job.

It just goes to show, mom always knows best. I didn't want to apply for a job that SURELY should have been advertised. I was supremely confident I was wasting my time. But, my mother pushed me into the world with me not wanting to go. I stayed at that job for the next three years, including a year after high school graduation. I joined the U.S. Navy after I left Jitney Jungle. I didn't come back to the store until three years after I had quit. Mr. Walker had suffered a heart attack about a year after I left and died shortly afterward. Mr. Brice, the one whom I owed so much to for showing that friendly smile when I desperately needed one, took over as store manger. As far as I know, he stayed there until he retired.

To Mr. Walker and Mr. Brice, wherever you may be, thanks to both of you men from a 15 year old boy 40+ years later, who still remembers how important a first chance and a smile can be.


Dog Attack

Yesterday there was a pit bull attack on a small child in my hometown of Mobile, AL. The dog badly mauled a 6 year old boy whose face was swollen and needed stitches to close the wounds. The dog was shot by a neighbor as it lunged at an Animal Control Officer who was there to take the dog away. The dog was severely wounded. The pit bull later had to be euthanized . This happens far too often with this breed of dog. I know there are many pit bull owners who continue to say the dog is misunderstood and has an unfair reputation. Be that as it may, this dog continues to come up time after time in brutal attacks on people, particularly children. Insurance companies must think there is something to the attacks also since one of the first things that is asked of you is do you own a pit bull or Rottweiler. I was surprised the first time I was asked this prior to acquiring homeowners insurance. It makes perfect sense to me now.

All this brought home to me my experience with a dog attack several years ago. My wife and I had decided to rent a cabin near the Tennessee River in north Alabama. We had told upon filling out paperwork for the cabin that the area was having a problem with rabid squirrels that had bitten some stray dogs in the area. I found this to be unbelievable on a number of levels. I just couldn't see a squirrel attacking a dog, rabid or not.

We settled into our cabin (this was on a late Saturday evening in August) and I decided to put a couple of steaks on the grill (which is one of my great joys in life) for my wife and I. After eating both well-done steaks, we settled back on the back porch of the cabin and enjoyed the rest of our wine. It was hot and humid as most Alabama summers are prone to be. But, we enjoyed the sight of the mighty Tennessee River as it flowed past our cabin. Ducks, fish jumping out of water, kids on Sea-Doos, people water skiing...it was a delightful day. It was starting to get late and we were both feeling the effects of too much wine. So, with that thought in mind, I decided to take the remnants of our steak and a few other items to the garbage can about 20 feet from the west side of the cabin.

As I walked to the garbage can, I had this unsettling feeling I was being watched. I thought it was nothing more than the effects of the wine and the fact it was rapidly getting dark. As I lifted the lid off the garbage can, I definitely heard a low, guttural growl that came from just behind me. It was a very large dog, perhaps as much as 70-75lbs and he was in a bad mood. I said, "Easy boy, you can have the scraps, no problem." He took two slow steps closer to me and I saw the unmistakable foam coming from his mouth. The first thing I thought of was the numerous shots that were directly ahead of me if this dog bit me. The idea he might seriously injure me or worse, had yet to cross my mind. The one thing I recall from all I've read and heard over the years is running from an animal is the worst thing you can do. It took all my will power not to just turn and run. But, this was no ordinary "when animals attack" situation. This dog had gone mad. It is simply amazing how quickly the human mind can process a situation and come up with a plan in a dire situation as was facing me. The dog was now about 10-15 feet in front of me and was walking slowly, ever so slowly toward me, growling with an intensity I had never heard from a dog or any other animal. I noticed the garbage can was big, maybe 55-60 gallon capacity. It was about one-third full and stunk to high heaven. That wasn't my concern at the present time. My plan was to jump into the garbage can and hold onto the lid to keep the dog out. I knew I was only going to get one shot at this and it would have to work the first time. There would not be a second chance. The dog seemed to have read my mind because now he came at me. I immediately did a high jump that would have made an Olympic high jump champion proud. Landing in the garbage can, I pulled the lid over me, inside facing out because I needed to hold onto the handle to fight off the dog. I didn't know what was in that garbage can at the time (later found out it was frozen meat left by a previous cabin renter). It was heavy, it was rotting, it was filled with maggots, and it stunk. I didn't care. I just know that it was, at least temporarily, a safety net for me.

The dog was going berserk trying to get into the garbage can. With the combined weight of the stinking, putrid rotting meat and my own body weight, he was unable to tip over the can. He was not able to jump in, although he tried valiantly. Each time he tried to jump in, I would push back at him with the lid as hard as I possibly could. The dog's growling was so loud, I was just positive everyone in the little cabin community could hear it. I could definitely hear my wife screaming my name. But, I wasn't about to stand up and holler back at her. I was in a tough enough situation as it was. To this day, I will never understand how this dog kept up the attack on the garbage can and myself. I mean, it was a constant, bitter battle which both sides refused to give in to the situation. Finally, I could hear other people yelling outside despite the barking and growling from this dog from hell. I heard someone yelling my name, but was unable to fully understand what was being said because of the dog. This attack seemed to have lasted an hour because of the absolute ferocity of the dog (although it was probably just 15 minutes), the steaming, stinking garbage I was nestled into for the rest of my life, apparently. I was getting tired quickly from fighting off the dog and each time the dog charged the can he came close to tipping it over. I didn't know what I would do if the dog tipped over the can. I was quickly losing my strength and was getting dizzy. Suddenly, just after the dog had made his most vicious attack on the can, a gunshot rang out. I heard a loud yelp from the dog and silence. Two men and my wife came over to help me out of the garbage can. I practically collapsed in their arms (and I'm sure they didn't want that because of the way I smelled). The dog was shot less than two feet from the can. I can understand the man making the shot. But, if he had told me he was going to do it, I would have been even more frightened than I already was at that point.

Luckily, I had not been bitten or had any scratches from the dog. I spent about three hours at a local hospital and was released to go home and take a long, hot shower. I thought about that event as I read in the paper this morning about that little six-year old boy being attacked by a pit bull. I can only imagine, only imagine the fear that must have swept through that child.


Computers for the Middle Age Adult

Until 1988, when the federal agency I had worked for about 20 years went exclusively to computers, I didn't even know how to turn on a computer. In fact, I was afraid of them like they were some kind of alien lifeform. Maybe fear is an understatement. I didn't even want to touch a computer. But, I had little choice but to learn how to operate them. We were getting in some new Packard-Bell 286 (that's another story I'd like to share someday) computers and everyone was going to have to go to special classes on how to operate them (this was pre-Windows 3.0...a disaster if there ever was one). Instead, we had a DOS interface whose name escapes me at the moment. We had to learn DOS commands (the old standbys, dir, dir/w, CD C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32, etc) that might as well have been written in Hieroglyphics. They had no meaning to me at all.

Still, I had to learn the basics of operating this alien lifeform that was threatening to take over the world. It was one of the more daunting tasks of my life. I had to overcome a threatening technology and my own biases about computers. It was a very slow process for me. I didn't have a clue what creating, moving or deleting files meant. For some reason, I had a really difficult time trying to master this task. However, as time went by in this 12 week course, I found myself actually enjoying my time in my computer classes. I was well on my way to becoming a geek!!! I surprised myself with how I was adapting to the complex world of computer technology. I was so proud of myself when I knew the difference between hardware and software and was able to explain it to someone. In fact, after our graduation from this 12 week course, my coworkers would frequently call on me to help them with their computer problems. This later proved beneficial to me career-wise as I was able to step up the ladder with this new knowledge of mine!

Twenty years later, there is little I can't do with a computer. In fact, I just recently built my very first computer. It's more than just a hobby with me now. It's also a way to make a little extra money in computer repair and maintenance. I never visualized myself at being at this point with something I had feared so much at one time in my life. It still amazes me how I was able to overcome this stumbling block at work. Just as amazing, I am the one explaining the difference to....20 somethings and 30 somethings...about computer hardware and software!! Amazing me just as much is my talking about it in a blog on the internet.


Hurricane Katrina: Part II

About 5AM August 29, 2005 (a Sunday morning if I remember correctly), the wind was starting to pick up considerably. Branches from trees were starting to come down and wind gusts were maybe 30-35 MPH at this time. However, this quickly changed a couple of hours later. Ominous clouds started rolling in...I mean OMINOUS clouds. They reminded me of the scene of the tornado from The Wizard of Oz. We ate breakfast about 7:30AM, wondering if it would be our last hot meal for a while. An hour later, we had our answer; electricity was cut all over Mobile County. The wind and rain continued to increase dramatically as the morning wore on.

About 10AM, the first tree in our backyard went down. The tree had been dead for some time and I was surprised it had lasted this long in the hurricane. Not long after the initial tree went down, we heard a loud boom at the back of our house. A 25-30 foot pine tree had collapsed on top of our house. I went up into the attic to see if it had broke through the roof. We considered it a blessing it had not. The wind now had reached such a crescendo that our ears started popping. Creaks and groans were throughout the house. We managed to tune in to a radio station in nearby Pascagoula, MS where people were being devastated by Katrina. I can only imagine what they went through. I greatly feared our roof was going to be blown off. The winds, while not nearly as intense as what southern MS endured, never seemed to slack from the purported 80-85MPH range we later found out we experienced. My nephew and I were thinking what we would do if the roof went when we heard another loud crash, this time in the kitchen. The tree I had feared most, a 20 foot cedar tree, had collapsed on the roof near the kitchen. This time, the branches of the tree went through the roof and water was pouring into the kitchen. We gathered up as many towels, newspapers, tarps as we could to catch the water. It was not enough. Our carpet in the hallway was getting soaked and we could do nothing about it.

The hurricane raged on until about 3-4PM that day. Only then did we see an abatement of the wind. I have been through perhaps as many as 20 hurricanes in my life. I thought Hurricane Frederic was the worst. But, it was mild in comparison. Despite Mobile largely escaping the catastrophic damage that New Orleans and southern MS received, we still had our share of problems to deal with after Katrina had swept through this area. The worst thing for us was the overbearing, oppressive heat and humidity in the aftermath of the hurricane. It was impossible to sleep at night. We felt as if we were in the Stone Age. There were lots of people grilling out the next couple of days. We went without electricity for about 3 1/2 days. That may not sound like much. But, when the heat index in the high 90s and low 100s, it is miserable living conditions. Kudos to Alabama Power and the numerous power companies in the region who came to get power to thousands and thousands of desperate people.

As I have said, we suffered nothing like MS and LA did after the hurricane swept through. But, the thing that will always stick out in my mind (besides the lawlessness that took over in NO), was the scant amount of coverage given to the tragedy that had befell southern MS. You would have thought only New Orleans had suffered. Only after people started criticising the networks, did you see any coverage of the tragedy of Ocean Springs, Bay St. Louis, Van Cleave and Biloxi. The coverage of New Orleans was controversial because of the screaming for the Bush Administration to do something even though the LA governor had turned down federal help. While New Orleans residents were screaming racism, people in southern MS started cleaning up and helping themselves (with help from church groups, I might add). That is what I will carry with me the most from this tragedy.

There were plenty of people to blame for Hurricane Katrina, with FEMA definitely topping the list. But, to be fair, no one could have ever prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. It was just unprecedented. 2005 was one of the worst, if not the worst year of my life. A simply devastating divorce, homelessness, little or no income and then Hurricane Katrina. It's not something I would wish on my worst enemy. I pray that no one will ever had to endure what I did that year.

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