Saturday, April 16, 2016

Greeting Each Day Like A Long Lost Friend

                                    Good Day World!

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life." 

Purveyors of positivity love to use this phrase to motivate people. It's a great sound byte. You can set out on a journey with that sentiment.

Or, not.

I prefer to greet each day like a long lost friend. A continued challenge from which I emerge daily, still kicking at 65 years-old. 

I try to stay serene each 24-hour span. Alert, but relaxed. Happy and hopeful. Humble and compassionate. Blissfully occuping the hours, but focused on the moment.

Reality can challenge serenity. We all know that. People die every day. The homeless and hungry wander the world waiting for death or salvation.

The first day of my life was November 7th, 1950. Not today.

I cannot let my past trail behind me like an orphan. My experiences have formed me, filling this earthly vessel with the essense of who I am.

I would deny this if I claimed each day was my first. I guess it's just a matter of perspective. Thanks for reading this simple essay.

Time for me to walk on down the road...

Friday, April 15, 2016

Presidential campaign rhetoric is 'building a wall' between students in schools

A Catholic bishop in Indiana denounced the Andrean High School students who waved a picture of Donald Trump and shouted “Build a wall!” at their opponents from a largely Hispanic school in nearby Hammond, Feb. 26, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Miano/The Times via AP) 

                                  Good Day World!

The presidential elections started out bad, then got worse.

One hate-infused promise spewed from the mouth of Donald Trump - "I'm going to build a wall between Mexico and the USA" - is now causing chaos in classrooms across the country.

The Republican party is in shambles trying to deal with the Trump train. The fallout is hitting classrooms like a meteor shower.

Traditionally, previous presidential elections were teachable moments for third, fourth, and fifth grade civic lessons. Not this one.

Teachers are afraid to even talk about the presidential campaign with their students for fear of losing control or getting an email from a parent accusing them of talking politics. 

How ironic is that?

Teachers say that it's the scathing rhetoric that worries them. 
According to new report from the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, the primaries are having a negative effect on students.

Recent reports of Indiana high schoolers chanting “Build a wall!” during a basketball game against a largely Hispanic team, or third graders in Virginia warning their “immigrant” classmates that they’ll be sent home when Trump is elected, are the kind of things traceable to the hate rhetoric rolling off of Trump's (and Cruz to a less degree) tongue.

While the report finds that “children of color, in particular, are being deeply traumatized,” other students appear to be “emboldened by the divisive, often juvenile rhetoric” heard on the campaign trail. 

More than a third of teachers reported hearing an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant comments, and more than half say their students have become increasingly unable to engage in civil political discourse.

Never has there been a more devisive presidential primary than this one. If Trump becomes the GOP nominee the fissues that he's caused thus far in our society will become ravines.

Worse yet, if Trump is elected president, we can expect a regime that will destroy the very foundation of Democracy and everything this country stands for.

Time for me to walk on down the road...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stairway To Court: Led Zeppelin Trial May Change Rock 'n Roll History!

Good Day World!

One of the most successful rock songs of all time now has to stand the test of time in court.

At issue?

A lawsuit was brought in 2014, 43 years after Stairway To Heaven" was released (1969), on behalf of the late Randy California, a guitarist (and composer of "Taurus") for the group Spirit.

A judge ruled last week that a jury must decide whether the British rockers ripped off the opening licks of "Taurus," which was recorded by Spirit.

The trial is slated to get underway on May 10th. The case is Skidmore v.Led Zeppelin, 15-cv-03462, U.S. District Court, Central istrict of california (Los Angeles)

Time for me to walk on down the road...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Kobe scores 60 points and the winning game shot to exit a winner!

Good Day World!

It was tough watching Kobe Bryant play his last game for the Los Angeles Lakers tonight but...

Kobe scored 60 points and led the Lakers to a win over the Utah Jazz for the 1st time in the season. He made the winning shot to exit a winner!)

I've been a Laker fan for over a half century and had the honor of watching legendary players like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Bob McAdoo, Magic Johnson, Karrem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Shaquille O'Neil, Eddie Jones, Bryon Scott, and...

now Kobe Bryant.

I've always considered him an exceptional player, but I didn't always like Kobe the man. 

He wasn't a player I would have approached for an autograph; unlike Kurt Rambis who gave me one during the Laker's preseason workouts at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California.

It was only at the end of his career - the last three years specifically - that Kobe started showing signs he was not such a bad guy afterall.

Age will do that. The Black Mamba got reflective as injuries sidelined him the last three seasons. 

I expect to see Kobe in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He has a lock on it. After tonight's game against the Utah Jazz, Kobe will have a lock on becoming a legend in his own time!

Time for me to walk on down the road...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My Ghost Story: Believe It, Or Not

Good Day World!

After 65 years, I've learned not to write off stories about the supernatural. Our world is full of mysteries.

I first discovered this when I was six-years-old.

One day while playing in my bedroom a man suddenly appeared. One moment nothing. The next he was four-feet away and looking at me solemnly.

Surprisingly, I was not afraid. I was more puzzled than anything and wondered why he was dressed so funny. I think I said "hi," or something to that effect with no results.

Now your probably thinking, "Oh he just had a vivid imagination and thought he saw something." 

Fair enough. I did have a vivid imagination. I won't deny that. But here's some food for thought;

When I saw my Mother shortly after seeing the ghost I told her about him. My mother was a healthy skeptic but agreed to try and draw the man if I would describe him to her.

I would like to note that my mother - who passed away four years ago - was a very talented person who could play the piano like a pro, and was a very good artist.

We sat down at the kitchen table and I began describing the man I saw. After just a few minutes she stopped and looked at me strangely.

I could tell something was troubling her, but she wanted me to go on with my description. She probed every detail of his clothing, face, ect., sometimes asking me to repeat what I said.

As I talked she was sketching with a charcoal pencil onto a blank sheet of paper. A portrait began to develope. The man's hat, his jacket, his boots and sword. A dark bearded face, creased with wrinkles, was soon looking back at me from the sketch.

When I finished my narrative, after noting his uniform was gray, my Mother sat there, tapping the pencil in a mindless rhythm for several moments.

"What was on the man's belt buckle?" she asked one more time.

"Letters," I repeated. "CSA." I did know my ABC's.

She finally let her guard down and admitted she was astonished. I was in first grade and my class certainly hadn't learned anything about the Civil War yet.

Maybe on TV you wonder? We didn't have one. This was 1956. We had a radio, which I never listened to. Music wasn't one of my interests.

When my father came home from work he looked at the drawing my Mother made and shook his head in wonder.

"How is that possible?" he asked her.

Mom didn't have an answer to that. I felt like I did something wrong the way they were talking about the man, and how could I have made up a story like that?

The incident/sighting has slipped into my past. Like a ghost returning to a nameless void after trying to make contact with a six-year old boy.

The drawing my mother made that day was lost in numerous moves over the decades. I remember she went back and colored it in with gray pencil, and kept it with a stack of favorite watercolors she did.

I'm not asking you to believe anything. It was one of the strangest incidents in my life and I'll always wonder why that Confederate Cavalry officer (my Dad was a Civil War buff and came to that conclusion) appeared to me.

One more thing...NO, Dad didn't have any illustrated books on the Civil War laying around the house.

Time for me to walk on down the road... 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Part II - My Path to Manhood

Good Day World!

This post continues from yesterday.

The roads I took in Vietnam became a part of my life's journey.
They were my path to manhood, for better or worse.
                 PART TWO
   Highway 22 overlooked the Song Ba River. To be more accurate, the Ba River as Song means river in Vietnamese. 
We called it the Song Ba River because that’s what someone wrote down on the maps we used. 
Maybe that someone liked the sound of “Song” and modified the real local name as Americans did so often during the war. Who cares right?

   We had allies out in the jungle too. We were staying in the An Khe area along the West bank where some Montagnards lived. They hated the NVA and the VC, so we became allies. The tribe that we had the most contact with was the Jarair. They were tough little nuts who were fierce fighters and who considered the Vietnamese their enemy from ancient times.

   They also knew how to live off the land. They picked wild green onions, chopped bamboo shoots, and captured red ant nests using battery bags discarded by Americans. They’d take some of the rice they always carried with them and throw it into boiling hot water along with the green onions, bamboo shoots, and the red ants. 

   The concoction wasn’t bad at all. Kind of a minty tasting. Much better than the fish head stew I once had in a Montagnard village. While we’re on the subject of local cuisine, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Vietnamese Centipede, an orange-legged terror that runs from four inches to eight inches long and has an attitude. 

   A nearby South Korean unit, we called them ROKS, liked to eat those centipedes. They put them in with their foul-smelling kim che (which already smelled bad enough to gag a maggot). They also ate monkey brains, but I’m not going any further with this.

   There was a certain lizard there, about three feet long, that also figured into the local cuisine. I don’t know what it’s real name was, but we called them “Fuck You” lizards. They hung around trees and in the night you could hear them go: “Tik, tik, tik, phuk yu!” They really sounded like someone saying fuck you. If you listened long enough.

    We’d tell new guys that it was Charlie out there taunting us, and that got their attention. Saw a Fuck You lizard with a flashlight one night. It looked like a miniature dinosaur and hissed at me! The next day I saw that lizard’s double draped across the back of a young Montagnard boy. He may have been Vietnamese. It’s hard to remember some details. It’s limp body spanned his shoulders and he smiled when I pointed at it.

“Numba one chop chop” he said.

 I hope this little two-part post helps you understand what it was like 46 years ago for a 19-year-old boy who had to become a man fast in a foreign land. It helps me to share this part of my history and hopefully help people understand war is hell. 

 For some soldiers like me with PTSD, the war has never ended. I live with tortured memories that still come unbidden. Yet, I manage to lead a somewhat normal life (what’s that anyway?).

 Thank you for reading this. It helps to share.

Time for me to walk on down the road...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Part I 46 years ago: My Path To Manhood

Good Day World!

 Forty-six years ago this month, this week, I was a combat engineer serving in the Republic of Vietnam. 

A year earlier, I was a high school student without a care in the world, and eager to graduate so that I could get on with my own life. Be my own boss. You remember what that was like, don’t you?

You might say my path to manhood was ironic. I had yet to grow up about some things in life, and I ended up learning important lessons on dirt roads.  

  My squad’s mission was to sweep for mines on a two-lane dirt road laughingly referred to as Highway 22. We would get up at first light and haul our heavy mine-detection equipment out and take a stroll down that reddish dirt road until we finished, usually at noon.

   The VC, who watched our every move from hidey holes, enjoyed putting “Bouncing Betty’s” beneath piles of buffalo shit as they knew the odor offended our Western sensibilities. The hoped we’d pass over the putrid piles rather than bother disturbing them. I never saw the trick work, but heard it did somewhere else from guys in other units.

    I can tell you that it was no fun probing for live bombs with a bayonet in a stinky mess. I got use to it however, as I got use to everything in that alien world somewhere in the Central Highlands that spring. How I managed remains a mystery to me today. 

    Army units were assigned to provide us security. men, and sometimes a tank, would accompany us as we walked along swinging those heavy and bulky mine detectors.

 Charlie knew how to hide during the day. 

  He just burrowed down into the ground and waited for darkness. Hoping that the mines he set during the night would kill some invaders that day. Sometimes I imagined his eyes following me. Patiently watching. Hoping to see me become a causality.

 I stepped on a mine one day because I'd turned my earphones down ( I had a throbbing headache from too much drinking the night before) so low it was practically off while shortening my sweep radius. 

The earth stopped as my squad leader shouted and gestured wildly at me. I looked down and realized I'd stepped onto a small depression (a bad sign) and froze.

It hit me that I was standing on a mine as the sergeant came up to me, kneeled down, and carefully probed around the area. He slowly traced around the perimeter of a pressure plate. 

  Time was meaningless. Sweat poured off my brow, urine ran down my leg, as I strained to recognize what kind of mine would be exposed. 

   The sergeant said “French make.” That meant it would take at least 1000 pounds on the pressure plate to set it off. It was safe for me to move. 

 I felt like throwing up, but the sensation passed after awhile.

Stop by here tomorrow for Part II of this slice of my life.

 Time for me to walk on down the road...

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...