Wednesday, June 20, 2018

An Immigrant's Story

That's me sitting on my Grandmother Kamila's lap

My grandparents, Alfons and Kamila, met in America in Sag Harbor, New York after they had both made their way to America from Poland independently of each other back in the early 1900's.

Alfons, my grandfather, had been conscripted into the Russian cavalry after his older brothers fled to America to avoid service. He rode with his regiment across Siberia to fight in the Russo-Japanese War which had ended by the time he arrived there, and he later became a member of Czar Nicholas' Imperial Guard at his palace. When he finished his service, he went home to find that all of his family had either died or gone to America. So he went to America to work at the Fahys Watch Case Factory in Sag Harbor with his older brother.

My grandmother, Kamila, had a more difficult path to America. Her father, Jan Kuczynski, and mother, Jozefa, farmed a tiny piece of land in rural Poland. They couldn't even afford a horse. Jan came to America to work on the railroads. After an accident that took several of his fingers, he took his $200 disability settlement and returned to Poland, where the family continued to rack up debt. So he came back to America to work in the coal mines. A few years later, he returned to Poland a sick man with a lung disease and died shortly after that. The family scattered with her older brothers heading to Massillon, Ohio to work in the steel mills and Kamila getting $27 ship fare advanced to her from an aunt in Sag Harbor to come work in the Fahys Watch Case Factory.

After my grandparents met and established themselves here in the country, it was decided that they would head back to Poland to visit some relatives when the factory closed for resetting in the summer of 1908. My grandfather returned to America after the summer, but my grandmother stayed behind to settle my grandfather's family property and to prepare her mother and little sister to voyage to America.

As fate would have it, Kamila gave birth to Helen while in Poland. So when Helen was two years old, the four ladies trundled off to Hamburg to board ship bound for New York and a new, hopeful life. Jozefa, however, was diagnosed with an eye infection and was detained in port for six weeks with her youngest daughter. Kamila and Helen went ahead...

Here's what my Aunt Stephanie wrote about the voyage:
"During the ocean trip a measles epidemic broke out among the children and the ship was rerouted to Philadelphia. Helen along with other children were placed in the hospital in isolation. Two weeks later, Kamila was told she could have her child, but when the baby was brought in, it turned out to be a boy, whose mother had left for Chicago the week before, having been told that her baby had already died. Kamila had a hard time convincing the authorities that hers was a little girl, almost two years old. Finally she was told of the error and that her little girl had died and had been buried. She was offered the baby boy, but she refused and went back to Sag Harbor, broken hearted."

Finally reconciled with her husband, the two restarted their life in America by working hard to build a better life than that which they escaped.


I share this as a way to let people know that immigration stories are unique human stories. When people come to this country, some can afford to follow established protocols, but others, may not have such opportunity. They may be fleeing intense poverty and seeking a better life, like my grandparents. They may be fleeing for safety and away from an endless cycle of violence. Regardless, each has their own reasons and their own story, the immigrant's story. Knowing my family history leads me to feel nothing but compassion and love for those, especially the children, who are being detained in mass at our border. Children wondering if they will ever see their parents again. Parents wondering if they will ever see their children again. My grandparents realized such trauma, and its impact resonates with me over a hundred years later.

God Bless America.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Myrna is Lost

Myrna is Lost

I met Myrna this morning.

She's a 78 year-old young lady who is struggling with the basics of living. 

I had our Honda Civic at our local auto spa to have a fluid change and was happily shooting the breeze with my old mechanic friend.  Pete used to run his own repair garage in Roanoke (Famous for the VW on the roof back before the 1985 flood).  Pete sold the business to a big new car conglomerate a few years ago now, and he took a job working the front of an established repair towing business on the other side of town.  So, I followed him there to continue our auto relationship.  My father-in-law always told me that when you find a great mechanic, stay with him.  He was so very right (That's another story for another day).

I was sitting in the waiting area of the garage waiting for them to finish the oil change and was passing the time catching up with Pete and shooting the breeze about ACC basketball.  Pete's a big Hoo fan, but he's still a good guy.  He shares a passion for basketball like I do.

As we were chatting, sad story after sad story walked in.  One lady came in,   asking for an inspection.  Her car had been rejected at another garage and she said that she keeps getting pulled over.  So far, they've only given her warnings, but the rejection sticker had certainly been on the windshield for a long while. So now, she has new tires and fixed the broken tail light.  Pete helped her make an appointment.

No sooner had the rejected lady left than Myrna came through the door.  She had driven up in an old, pump-squealing, butt-ugly beige Toyota Corolla. Dressed in rumpled sweats but sporting an "Elvis Presley" tote bag resplendent with a smiling portrait of The King on the side, she wobbled up to the counter and asked Pete if she could get an inspection.  Pete, who doesn't miss much, greeted her and asked her if she had come in a few weeks ago for an inspection...Myrna didn't hear him.  So Pete got up, looked out the window at the sticker and discovered that it wasn't expired at all.  Myrna couldn't understand.  She said that her friend had told her she needed to get a sticker or she would get pulled over. 

At this point, I did what I do sometimes; I got involved.  I glanced out the window and notice that her license plate tags are due to expire at the end of March.  So I shared this bit of information with Myrna and Pete.  Myrna was having trouble understanding.  She still wanted Pete to get her the sticker, but Pete gently told her that she needed to deal with the DMV. 

DMV That was like the crack of a rifle for her.  Immediately, she began worrying about going there.  She said that she gets lost so easily around here.   Her son used to live at home with her, and he would take care of stuff like this, but he walked out on her and now never visits and she doesn't know why.  She has so many things to do but doesn't know how and she gets lost.  I suggested that she go online, but she doesn't have a computer.  Then I suggested that perhaps she could call the DMV and ask for them to mail the stickers to her.  Pete was skeptical.  He said that the DMV won't ever answer the phone these days.  But he looked up the number anyway...and couldn't find one.

Myrna, meanwhile, was getting more and more upset.  Frustrated and resigned to hopelessness.  Suddenly, she asked Pete if he had followed all the Billy Graham news.  “He was a great man.”  We all agreed.  She said she watched every moment of all the coverage of his death and funeral. 

Finally, Pete told her that she was going to have to get out there to the DMV in person.  Myrna replied that the place was too busy for her; plus, she didn't know where it was . One time her son took her there - about 30 minutes away (15 actually), but she had no idea where it was.  I asked her if it was the one by the airport, and she said yes, but she didn't know where that was. 

Resigned to failure, she began to leave. Pete got back to work calling parts guys and making appointments.  As she began walking to the door, she said that maybe she could go to the Walmart on Rt. 460 (Bonsack) and ask someone where the DMV is.  Again I piped up by saying, "That's sort of in the wrong direction."

Myrna then plopped down in the comfortable chair beside me and began talking to me about everything.  Her daughter left her with her grandson shortly after he was born and ran away, so she raised him up.  Then he just left her, and she didn't know why.  But he won't even visit any more. 

Since she liked Billy Graham,  I asked her if she goes to church. Perhaps someone from there could take her to the DMV.  But she replied that she used to go until the pastor came in one Sunday and told everyone that he and his wife were leaving and never coming back.  Then everyone just scattered.

One time, she went to see Elvis in concert, and he asked what she wanted to hear.  She told him, "Blue Suede Shoes".  He told her that he didn't care what they wanted; he'd play what he wanted (as he winked at her).  Then he launched into "Blue Suede Shoes".  She said he was the best, but he had a worthless wife and daughter.  “And that horrible daughter is running the mansion and charging an arm and a leg to visit.”  I nodded and told her that was unfortunate. 

In the meantime, I found the phone number for the DMV and wrote it down for her on a scrap of paper with instructions to ask for them to send her new stickers for her license plate.

She took the paper and began fiddling with it.  Myrna, looked defeated and rumpled.  Her teeth were mostly gone and her gray-streaked shoulder-length hair was unkept.  She looked like she was lost in this life. "I'm 78.  I just lost a son 7 months ago, and I just can't seem to get over it.  I just can’t get over it."  (I was a little confused by this...was this the same person as her grandson/son who left her?  But I got the impression that he was someone different.) He was out in a boat oystering when he got scratched on the wrist by a shell.  He should have come in, but his daughter kept the boat out too long.  He died of a staff infection.  I used to oyster too.  I could do it all day (she smiled).  I just can't get over it...."

"I'm sure he'd probably tell you to get on with your life, Myrna."

She agreed and began fidgeting with her key ring.  "Look at this (pointing to her key ring) See that?  "It says ‘Jesus Saves’. It's so pretty." I agreed.  "I guess I'd just better go home."

"That's a good idea," I said.  "Maybe you can get someone to help you get there."

"Maybe my granddaughter will take me."

She wobbled out the door, got in to her defeated Corolla, and slowly retreated with the car squealing every inch.  She drove away searching for answers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Water Heater Healer

I really do not do plumbing very well at all. For the last few weeks we have noticed that our water heater has not been heating water very effectively. So I decided that I would do some repairs on it. I went to the store and bought all the parts I thought I would need. I got two elements and a short drain hose, plus an element wrench, and then I proceeded to watch a whole bunch of how-to-do videos on YouTube. After about ten videos, I figured I was an expert. 
According to my videos, the first thing I was supposed to do was turn off the power. I did this without any problems. The second thing I had to do was to cut off the water to the water heater. Again no problems. Next it was time to attach the hose to the drain plug. It turns out, this, the simplest part of the task, was the first of my several failures.
When I went to attach the hose to the plastic drain plug, I discovered that the plug was out of shape. Instead of being round, it was an oval shape. No matter what I did I simply could not screw the hose onto the drain plug. After about a half hour of wrestling with the hose, I decided that I would simply let the water out of the water heater slowly and allow it to matriculate across the unfinished basement floor to the drain in the center of the room. 

My plan worked perfectly at first. The water slowly drained to the hole with no problems whatsoever. So I went upstairs and took a nap while the water heater drained all the way out. When I woke up an hour later, I went and checked the draining and discovered that it was...still draining. So I waited some more. 

Surely after two hours of a steady, controlled flow, I figured that it must be almost done. So I went to work on the upper element. My test indicated that the element was operational, but I decided to change it anyway. I put the special wrench on it and applied increasing force, but the element would not budge. Fused in the socket. It would take some sort of jack-hammer to get it out.

After about 20 minutes, I gave up on that element and went to work on the bottom element. I reasoned that I’d just replace the bottom as it was most likely to be compromised. the wrench quickly broke the crud seal and the element began to back out. That’s when the big disaster struck.

The tank that I thought was empty...wasn’t. Hot water began GUSHING out the hole recently uncorked by the element. Thankfully, it streamed right for the drain, but it kept coming! Obviously not even close to being empty. On and on. I got completely soaked dealing with the mess. After it slowed I finished the job by screwing in the new element and sopping up the water with a wet vac. I simply can’t understand how the heater was not drained.

After turning on the water and burping the system, I turned on the power. It’s been 8 hours, and we have very hot water. So far, there have been no further water disasters.

Editor’s Note: some people rage against others when they call water heaters “hot water heaters”. I suppose they make a fair point that water heaters are made to heat up cold water. However, doesn’t the hot water in the tank also get heated?  Therefore, it actually is, at least partially, a hot water heater.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Regarding Stadium Cups

Regarding Stadium Cups

Bear with me.  There’s a point to all of this.  I promise to eventually get to that point, but I’m not in any hurry.

Back in 1975 or 1976, I obtained my very first Hokie Cup.  It was a solidly constructed orange cup with three maroon “Fightin’ Gobblers” decorating the side. I still have that cup. It’s valued and treasured, residing on a shelf in my cluttered garage.

Like many of you, I made it through my college Bill Dooley years drinking from repurposed Hokie cups gathered from Lane after drinking the Hokies to another win or loss.  Those cups were life-savers, hydrators; mixing companions.
After college, I took a small cup collection with me to my first apartment and used them as my primary beverage holders.  In fact, to this day, I rarely use glassware, choosing instead one of my trusted Hokie cups.

I’ve written about the souvenir-sized Hokie cups dispensed at VT games here several times in the past twenty years.  As I recall, back in the mid-late 1990’s the large white cups with HOKIES spelled out in block letters on the side were rugged, HUGE, and eminently serviceable. 

Enter the post-MV1 era.

In an attempt to milk cash from thirsting spectators, the athletic department ordered smaller, flimsier, candy-assed (my new favorite expression) cups.  Holding a full large cup in your hand after a few warm-up parking lot drinks immediately presented the real danger of serious spillage.  Gone were the solid cups of the magic years; replaced instead with an inferior product.

Either in 2003 or 2004, the athletic department decided it was time to beef up its souvenir cup.  Perhaps this was due to my daily email assault on Jim Weaver’s electronic and paper mailboxes.  Who knows? Regardless, a new cup was born.  Flexible, yet sturdy. Large, yet functional. “HOKIES RESPECT That’s what it’s all about” is what it said. Jim Weaver’s oft-discussed attempt to tame the rabble.  While the campaign fell flat, the cups were fantastic! They used these fabulous cups for a couple of years before moving on to a bigger, glitzier black cup featuring various stars from that year’s team.  While I liked those cups, too, they weren’t as auto-friendly.  Too big to fit an ordinary cup holder.  Fortunately, I had relatives that needed them.
But as a couple of years passed, I grew concerned that my stash of marvelous 2004 Hokies Respect cups was slowly diminishing.  The cups were not the problem. They weren’t disintegrating.  It was my fault entirely.  I’d misplace one or step on another. Let a friend use one without telling them how valuable they were to me.  It really was all my fault.  At one point, I was down to just two serviceable cups.

The Miracle in Salem.

On June 9, 2012 I found myself attending the Group A, Division 2 state baseball championship at Salem’s Kiwanis field where The Greene Dragons of William Monroe defeated Chilhowie 5-4 in extra innings. At one point, I wandered over to the concession stand to get a Coke.  To my utter shock and joy, the attendant served up my drink in an authentic, brand-new 2004 Hokies Respect cup.  In fact, situated in a corner of the shack, was the largest collection of Hokies Respect cups I’d ever seen.  There must have been hundreds of them.  So I bought drinks for all my friends and collected the cups.  I went around the bleachers after the game nabbing any left-behind cups.  All told, I ended up with about ten mint condition wonder cups. 

So for the past five years, I’ve kept the same four cups in rotation,  They are showing signs of wear and tear though.  The “Hokies Respect” is fading.  The cup now says, “That’s… it’s… -out.”  Fortunately, I still have four or five 2004 cups in reserve.

Which brings me to the point of this whole story.

When it comes to plastic stadium cups, I know what I’m talking about.  I may not know how to diagram a defensive alignment or why a defensive end can’t “gain the edge” on every play; I do understand cups.

At the Delaware game, I purchased my usual souvenir cup just before the opening kick-off.  I was looking forward to the new 2017 design.  Who would be on the cup?  Would it be “Hokies Respect II” or some clever design.  Would the cups be durable?
It turns out that the new cup is black like last year’s cup, but it is decidedly taller and thinner, much like the cups at the Bristol game last year.  In fact, when I went back and compared the cups this year to last year, I noted that the capacity went from 32 ounces last year to 24 ounces this year.  But here’s the real kicker. The price for the souvenir beverage went from $5.00 to $5.50. While the cup design was great, the ruggedness was apparent, and the cup’s potential for fitting in an auto cup holder seemed promising, the change in size and price seemed downright miserly.  Last year, the large souvenir cup cost $0.16 an ounce.  Now the large beverage is up to $0.23 an ounce.  That’s almost a 44% increase in cost! Scandalous! This unconscionable greed-grab harkens back to the euphoric post-national championship daze when ticket prices sky-rocketed and flimsy cups became the norm. 

I’m not mad because of the cost spike.  I’m not even mad because the little girl sitting next to me kicked over my drink before I even had a second sip.  I’m just not mad at all, really.

Honestly, that’s what it’s all about.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

First Inaugural Address of Donald J. Trump (Draft)

I discovered the first draft of President Trump's first inaugural address in a location I'm not allowed to disclose.  I'm told that his handlers felt the need to tighten it up some and pare it down to keep it more manageable on the teleprompter. Here it is in it's raw form. I've noted in red areas that were stricken in the actual address. (Parody)

The First Inaugural Address
Donald J. Trump
First Draft
Chief Justice Roberts, fellow Americans and people of Russia and the world, thank you.
Here I am presented with an opportunity of speaking before a huge audience. I am now able to confirm what I had felt, namely, that I have a talent for public speaking. My voice has become- so much better that I could be well understood, at least in all parts of the giant halls where my friends are assembled. No deal could have been more pleasing to me than this one; for now, I am in a position to save to a place which had been very special to my heart: America.
We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country from its desolate ruins and restore its golden glory for all of our people.
Together, we will determine the course of our America and our world for all eternity. We will face challenges, we will confront hardships, but we will get the job done.
Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama decided to step aside throughout this transition.  Now for the first time I learned to know men and I learned to distinguish between empty appearances or brutal manners and the outward appearance of real inner nature of the insiders.
Today's ceremony, however, has very special meaning because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people, so you could bestow it upon me. You conferred upon me a huge mandate to scrub and disinfect the walls of Washington.
For too long, a corrupt group of lobbyists and lawmakers in our nation's capital have reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. Their wealth is not your wealth. And while they celebrated in our nation's capital at parties with balloons and tiny cone-shaped party hats, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment, it belongs to you; tens and tens of millions of you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today on the white way and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is my country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people who cede authority to the ultimate savior.
January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people crowned the new ruler of this nation.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
Everyone is listening to you now. You came here today by the tens of millions, flooding this Mall with cheering, smiling faces; supporting me and to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before. Idealism does not represent a superfluous expression of emotion, but in truth it has been, is, and will be, the premise for what we designate as human culture...Without his idealistic attitude all, even the most dazzling faculties of the intellect, would remain mere intellect just like
outward appearance without inner value, and never creative force. The purest idealism is unconsciously equivalent to the deepest knowledge.
At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its loyal citizens. Americans want great exclusive schools for their children, safe neighborhoods free of undue distractions for their families, and good, hard-working jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people, servants, and a righteous public.
There are certain truths which stand out so openly on the roadsides of life that every passer-by may see them. Yet, because of their obviousness, the general run of people disregard such truths or at least they do not make them the object of any conscious knowledge. People are so blind to some of the simplest facts in everyday life that they are highly surprised when somebody calls attention to what everybody ought to know.
For too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; starving waifs scuttling from filthy corner to filthy corner pan-handling for scraps; rusted out factories scattered like abandoned tombstones across the landscape of our nation; rancid water spewing from toilets across the soiled floors of squalid apartments and homes; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; unrepentant scorching fires consuming whole villages; unwavering quakes engulfing innocent businesses; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized working potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their tragedy is our tragedy. Their dreams are our dreams. Their debts are our debts. And their success will be our success. We share one heart, one lung, one home, and one glorious manifest destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance by all Americans.
For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own. The former president increasingly used his influence to create conflicts, intensify existing conflicts, and, above all, keep conflicts from being resolved peacefully. For eight years this man looked for a dispute anywhere in the world that he could use to create political entanglements with American economic obligations to one of the contending sides, which would then steadily involve America in the conflict and thus divert attention from his own confused domestic economic policies. 
And he spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made the wealthy wealthier, other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon like the setting sun at the approaching night in a dimming world.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our business class has been impeded by inconvenient and irksome taxes and regulations. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.
But that is the past. And now, we are looking only to the future.  For the future is the past plus the present one day more at a time.
We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land, that all men are created equal. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first. From this day forward, all will bow to the ultimate authority.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit those who employ American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our clothing, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.
Protection will lead to a great wall of prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down easily.
America will start winning again, winning like never before. We’ll make deals, winning deals.  Deals that no one could ever believe possible.
We will bring back our jobs, good hard-working jobs. We will bring back our borders and take back our country from the illegals and squatters.  We will bring back our wealth from those who take from the hands of the job creators. And we will bring back our dreams, dreams of a time of purity and righteous morality.
We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways and golf courses all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor and serving the job creators in every way.
We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American. We’ll eat our corn from the windswept plains of Nebraska and our orange juice from Florida and our apples from New York. We’ll buy our cars from Ford and our gas from Exxon.
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth. Truly, this earth is a trophy cup for the industrious man. And this rightly so, in the service of natural selection. He who does not possess the force to secure his Lebensraum in this world, and, if necessary, to enlarge it, does not deserve to possess the necessities of life. He must step aside and allow stronger peoples to pass him by. 
At the bedrock of our politics will be a blind allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.
The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.  Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . We need believing people.  When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. The application of force alone, without support based on a spiritual concept, can never bring about the destruction of an idea or arrest the propagation of it, unless one is ready and able to ruthlessly to exterminate the last upholders of that idea even to a man, and also wipe out any tradition which it may tend to leave behind.
Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is still starving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it. Instead, we demand huge, transforming ideas implemented without wasteful debate or idol [sic] conversations.
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action, and my first action will make you forget the failures of the past eight years.  Uncertainty cripples any serious and firm resolve and results in opinions swaying from one side to the other, leaving any decision that is made weak and half done, even when it comes to the most essential measures of self-preservation.
Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. All great movements are popular movements. They are the volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotions, stirred into activity by the ruthless Goddess of Distress or by the torch of the spoken word cast into the midst of the people. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. We will demand unity.
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease, to embrace the golden host, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. To the Christian doctrine of the infinite significance of the individual human soul and of personal responsibility, I oppose with icy clarity the saving doctrine of the nothingness and insignificance of the individual human being, and of his continued existence in the visible immortality of the nation.
A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. Unity only comes when minds are turned to the power of the nation.
It's time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. 
We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag. We know that the more we work, the more we get. Those who have no understanding of the world around them have no right to criticize or complain.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl and squalor of Detroit or the wind-swept, barren plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same flaming night sky, they will their hearts with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.
So to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again.
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. You can fight only for something you love. You can love only what you respect. You can respect only what you know.
Together, we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. We will make America the most feared nation in the world again. And yes, together we will make America great again. We sing with the clarity of proud voice the words of that modern country spiritual, “There ain’t no doubt I love this land. God bless the U.S.A.”
Thank you. God bless you. God bless me.  And God bless America.
Thank you.
God bless America.

Note to KellyAnne: Want to sneak in this quote from AH but can’t firgue out where to stick it.
 Few teachers realize that the purpose of teaching history is not the memorizing of some dates and facts, that the student is not interested in knowing the exact date of a battle or the birthday of some marshal or other, and not at all—or at least only very insignificantly—interested in knowing when the crown of his fathers was placed on the brow of some monarch. These are certainly not looked upon as important matters. To study history means to search for and discover the forces that are the causes of those results which appear before our eyes as historical events. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Make It Stop Blinking!

Make it Stop Blinking!

Forced into a one day exile from substituting, I found myself with a whole day to fill.  In case you don’t know, I retired a year and a half ago.  As part of a special retirement deal that purges “The Big Salary People” from the school system payroll, I promised to work one fifth of a school year for five years as a substitute teacher with one year of pay thus apportioned.  One caveat is that no retiree substitute shall work more than four days in any one week or the county feels that I shall be regarded as a full time employee and, thus, eligible for benefits like insurance and a full time job.

So I awoke today on my mandatory day of exile with only the barest sketch of a plan on how to fill my time. First up. Read the newspaper. Check.  Have a pepperoni and cheese bagel, Check. Read my email. Check. Respond to email. Check. Find some silly You Tube videos to send to friends (Trolololo Song). Check.

At this point, I realized that it was time to get busy.  I knew that I wanted to pick lettuce from my raised beds before the Siberian Express descended on our fair city tonight.  I also knew that I wanted to begin decorating the house for Christmas and that meant that I needed batteries for my fake window candles.  In fact, I was even contemplating buying some more candles to put in more than just the front facing windows. 

My trip to Heritage Family Market in Fincastle was reflexive and relaxing.  Cruise down I-81 to Daleville and get onto that road that goes there. Only the blind mergers and oblivious trucks kept me from truly experiencing requiescence.


There are jewels inside yourself. Precious, profound and ready to be discovered.


Heritage was hopping today, but I lucked out by getting there when Dwayne (I’m on a first-name basis with all the clerks) had a break in slicing deli meats and cheeses. So I put in my usual order for sharp yellow cheddar, pepper-jack, havarti, and beef bologna-a half pound of each all sliced on setting one. Dwayne knows that part, and I never have to tell him.  Sometimes I get low-sodium turkey breast, pepperoni, or hard salami just to mix things up a bit.


I hustled off to shop while Dwayne filled my order.  I picked up my bag of corn chips and two tubs of assorted flavor gummy bears. Heritage has been open for a couple of years now.  Its owners and workers are members of a Pennsylvania Dutch community from Mission Home, VA near Charlottesville.  They sell all sorts of food essentials, especially baking goods and candy.  Their place in Fincastle is quaint and draws a rich collection of professional and common folk. Today, a little boy and his hunting overall-attired father were checking out when the boy pleaded with his father to let him give the money to Tim at the register.  It was so sweet that I found myself smiling with a tear as did the old German Baptist lady in front of me in line. Requiescence attained.


I wished Matt, the checker, a good day and headed off to Roanoke to visit Big Lots for my batteries and fake candles.  Traffic was pretty intense, but I couldn’t be shaken from my sense of peace.  Honestly, I swear this is true. Very few people work these days. Seriously.  They may be “working”: but they aren’t working. They’re out driving around.  Today’s not the first time I’ve noticed this phenomenon.  I’m sure that my teacher friends can’t possibly understand how this would be possible.


After dodging blind mergers and oblivious trucks and very nearly dying at the Peters Creek Road (my normal) exit when I was nearly rear-ended by a merger and a truck, I made it to my Big Lots at the old Hill’s department store on Hershberger Road.  It’s a dingy place, but often filled with surprises and treasures.  Today, I got a little of both.


I took my basket by the friendly Salvation Army bell ringer and entered the store. I scoped out the batteries and found that I could get 30 Ray-O-Vac Al Kaline [sic] batteries for $12 (40 cents a battery) or 24 Ray-O-Vac Al Kaline [sic] batteries for $10 (41.6 cents). I opted for the 30-pack.  Then I made my way to the Christmas candles.


My path, however, was blocked by an older mother and her adult daughter who were loudly screaming at each other in normal conversation about what decorations to buy to “GO OUTSIDE THE HOUSE!”


“MAMA. THESE LIGHT WOULD GO GOOD OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.  DON’T YOU LIKE THESE LIGHTS?  HOW ABOUT THESE LIGHTS?  WE COULD USE SOME OF THESE LIGHTS AND THEM LIGHTS, etc.”  Still in my state of requiescence, I decided to leave them to the space and go shop elsewhere until they finished their task. 


I strolled over to the foreign canned foods.  Big Lots always has cool foreign canned goods.  I found some unusual pouches of Indian cuisine.  Just heat up the pouch, toss the bag in water for a minute then pour over rice.  As I was reading labels all alone in MY aisle, a young man with a red vest, dark glasses, and neatly trimmed beard and goatee turned down the aisle and stopped right behind me.  Right behind me-Within an inch of touching my shoulders and rear end.  He marked my move every time I stepped to the side to increase my personal space bubble.   My creep meter was on red alert.  I felt like he was staring at me in some sort of seductive way.  So I rather quickly moved on to the tea aisle before doubling back to the Christmas decorations.


The two ladies were still going at it on the lights aisle, but they had at least moved away from the fake single candles.  I found that I had two choices for single LED plastic candles with base: a three pack of GE candles for $12 or a single pack of no-name candles for $4 a piece. No difference in price and no difference in looks.  Both seemingly matched the candles I already have.  So decided on the GE candles.


Earlier while I was futilely waiting for the two loud ladies to exit the area, I pulled up a Big Lots coupon on my phone: $5 off a $15 purchase or $15 off a $50 purchase.  I loaded it onto my phone for the checkout.  So as I stood there by the candles I decided to get three 3-packs of GE lights at $12 a pack in addition to the pack of 30 batteries also for $12.  12x4 =$48.  To take me over the top, I settled on a cheap stocking stuffer for my wife.  It didn’t have a price, but I figured that it would certainly take me over the top. 


I beat the two loud ladies and the strange man to the checker and proceeded to watch my stuff ring up.  Then I handed my phone to the clerk, and she entered my coupon.  My total: $47.38 cents.  My $15 dollar discount?  Where was it I asked politely.  She didn’t know, but the coupon didn’t seem to register.   I asked her to try again. Same result.  By now the line of strange people was stacking up and they were all glaring at me.  I was THAT guy who was slowing down the process and making them late for missing more work while driving around on roads.  I wasn’t mad.  How could I be?  I was still retired, still in exile for a day, and still immersed in my requiescence.


But the $15 gnawed at me.  Instead of exiting the store, I hung out by the service desk reading the fine print on my phone coupon.  I couldn’t find anything that would preclude me in using it for the booty that I bought. So I interrupted the checker and the glaring customers and asked her if I could talk to her manager.


Mindy came right away.  She’s a great manager.  When she took over the store a couple of years ago, she set to redesigning the lay-out, clearing out the junk and improving the customer service.  She’s the best.  I explained my issue calmly in my most relaxed cadence.  She checked my ticket, added all the stuff up, and immediately figured out the problem.  My total before taxes was $49.97.  It seems that the stocking stuffer had cost exactly $1.97 bringing me three cents away from qualifying for the $15 discount.  The register had, indeed, given me a $5 discount which brought my total to $47.38 after taxes. So I asked Mindy if I could just go back and get something else to bring me to the magic level, and she agreed. So I got another 30-pack of batteries and got my $15 discount.  So I ended up paying just over $49.


While all of this was happening, another guy came up to the customer service register with some batteries and was waiting patiently for me to finish.  We began some general chit-chat he made some quip about how he’d never worked so hard at being retired.  When I asked him what he retired from, he proudly told me that he was the very first African American who ever served in the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Department. That absolutely made my day.  I felt honored to meet him.


When I made it home a little later, it was already almost 1:00 and my day of big plans was slipping away from me.  So I went out and picked my lettuce and came back in to load my new candles up with batteries.  Job completed, I put the candles in their widows and left to process the lettuce.


Darkness descended.  Life was still chill for me.  Then I saw my new candles…they were blinking.  I don’t like blinking lights.  Somehow, I’d chosen blinking candles.  Candles that sit in my windows and blink all night like a lighthouse beacon.  They won’t settle down.  They just blink a orange-ish fire.  Incessantly.  No discernible pattern.  BLINK-BLINK. BLINK. BLINK-BLINK-BLINK-BLINK. BLINK-BLINK…  I just wish the damn things would STOP BLINKING!




These jewels are just like flowers.
Some are taking root.  They are in the process of being fertilized and getting ready to sprout.
Others are growing and budding, preparing to flower.
There are also beautiful blooms inside, brimming with fragrance and lively vitality.
Others are in stages of decline, getting ready to retreat, recycle themselves,
and naturally cycle back to the beginning.