“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” – as translated from the historic Greek in Mark 3:25
The idea of a house divided against itself has appeared frequently in literature over the centuries. In the Aesop (b. 620 BC) fable “The Four Oxen and the Lion” we learn that the four oxen are only safe against the lion if they stand together. When they argued and separated, of course, they were doomed to be caught by the lion, one at a time. From that point on, this obvious point often arises in stories, mottos, and songs.
In 1970, the British pop group The Brotherhood of Man was the first to release “United We Stand.” The song reached number 13 on the US charts but hung around long enough to be considered number 64 for the year. The message seems more important to us now than it did 50 years ago. For its golden anniversary have another listen, or perhaps you are hearing it for the first time.
And if the world around you falls apart my love Then I’ll still be here And if the going gets too hard along the way Just you call I’ll hear For united we stand. Divided we fall
“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!”. – John Dickinson, July 7, 1768
When you think of all the things you want to be when you grow up, “old” probably is not on the list. You may think about being a doctor or nurse. You may consider lawyer or politician. Fireman or police officer may be on your list. In fact, in your elementary school days you may have changed your mind many times. It is OK to dream about the future and fantasize about what you should do some day.
If superhero is on your list, you may have to give that one up rather quickly, unless you are Robert Downey, Jr. He is still playing Iron Man past the ripe old age of 50. I guess that is a commentary on keeping yourself in good shape. Of course, he is just play acting, like we do as kids, and he certainly has a stunt double. Your own life does not come with a stunt double, sorry.
If we give it any thought at all while we are young, of course we want to live a long life. Therefore, we do want to get old. If accident or disease does not rob us of life too soon, then we will indeed get old. It is all the things that go with it that I am not too pleased about.
I did notice the changes in my grandparents as they got older. I am certain that I threaded needles for both my grandmothers at some point in time. I knew they could not see as well as when they were younger, but I never thought about that being me some day. Yes, I can still thread a needle, but I probably have to hold it at just the right distance in order to do so. In fact, I really need trifocals, but I have settled for two pair of bifocals instead. The bottom part is the same on each, but one pair is strictly for the computer. The top part of the glasses are set to optimize the view from where the monitor should be, a little more than arm’s distance away.
This is not fooling anyone, of course, not even myself. People can see I switch glasses in order to see. I should have gotten the same style glasses so it would be less obvious. When I am on Skype, and can see myself back on the screen, I really do not like the look but I am stuck with them for a while. At least glasses have gotten better and these are not as thick or heavy as ones I wore years ago.
As my grandfather got older, I noticed he sometimes used a cane to help him get up, or walk around. When he was in his 80’s, he never left the house without the cane. He just might have too much trouble walking while he was away. Sometimes when I walk past a window or mirror, I think for just a moment the reflection I see is my father or grandfather. My stepmother once said that I should take it as a complIment that people see me as my father, since he was so handsome, but I began to think they saw me as they saw him later in life. That is, old.
When you see pictures of me, you generally will not see the cane. I set it down for the shot. Years ago my doctor sent me to a sports medicine guy for a foot problem of still undetermined origin. Maybe I was playing sports in the park long after a time when I should have moved on. Maybe I suffered some trauma that came back to get me. Maybe it was related to some disease I contracted. In any case, I had it operated on, which did not help. Years later I had another operation. That did not help either. I had many procedures in between. Was it just an issue of getting older? We will never know for sure.
I have heard it said that the aches and pains we feel as we get older are not a natural part of life and we should not just accept them. Perhaps some accept them when they could feel better, but I have never accepted them. I have spent a good deal of time getting to know my doctor and all that goes on in his business. Yes, I might as well interview him a little, he interviews me a lot. Together we have looked for solutions to my various problems.
The Gabapentin for the foot nerve pain does not seem to eliminate the problem, even if it lessens it. The Lidocaine patch may numb the pain, but I cut the patch down because a completely numb foot is not a good thing for walking and creates a dull pain, which actually is not much better than a sharp pain.
My doctor does not like my diet or my cholesterol. He seems to cast a skeptical eye at my insistence that I watch the cholesterol rating on the food I buy. That does not include restaurant food, however. Or what John cooks for dinner. Statins did not work. They created muscle and joint pain I could not stand. The non-statin anti-cholesterol pills are not as effective, but hold less side effects, apparently. Other problems and medications have come and gone. Parts wear out, you know.
Recently a high school classmate of mine wrote to say he had finally gotten in to a senior center he had applied for a while ago. He had a variety of health issues in recent years and needed to get into such a community. I wrote back that I could not imagine that any of us would be talking Senior Center, because it seemed like just a few years ago we were in high school together.
With any luck at all, old age will catch you some day. You will probably feel it coming.
The new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, went into development in 2016. The often delayed project was set for release in April of this year but has been pushed back twice due to COVID-19. Under present circumstances, there can be no grand theater premiere or expectations of large box office success. The new release date is April 2021. Meanwhile, we look back at the very beginning of James Bond.
When Eon Productions, maker of all those James Bond movies, finally made a film based on the very first Ian Fleming novel, fans of the super spy may have wondered what took them so long. The novel, published in 1953, introduced us to the Cold War spy with a “License to Kill”, but why no movie? In the book as in the films (plural, follow along), Bond’s mission is to bankrupt the evil Le Chiffre of the Russian secret service by beating him at cards at the Casino Royale.
Le Chiffre is desperate for the money but confident he will win. His own life will be at risk if he loses.
The book was a hit in the UK, but sales in the US were slow and this set into motion events that would keep a serious adaptation of the novel away from the big screen for over 50 years. In an effort to popularize his hero in America, Fleming sold the television rights for the novel to CBS to adapt to a live drama for the series Climax!
The program aired October 21, 1954, and probably would have been lost forever, if not for the eventual popularity of the novels and movies.
The television production starred Barry Nelson as James Bond, an American agent. Sometimes he is referred to as “Jimmy” which ought to make long-time Bond fans cringe. The American agent in the novel is now a British agent named Clarence Leiter (rather than Felix). For the live drama, parts are condensed or eliminated and the focus is on the card game. Since the game is baccarat, not poker as in the latest movie, a little time is spent explaining it for the American audience.
Le Chiffre is played by Peter Lorre, a veteran of the big screen, with just the right amount of evil. A film star of the 1940s and ’50s, Linda Christian, gets the honor of being the first “Bond girl.” You are left to wonder, at least at the outset, whose side she is really on. I guess for an early black and white television drama, it is not too bad, if you can get past Jimmy Bond as an American spy.
In 1955 Fleming sold the movie rights to film director and producer Gregory Ratoff for a mere 6 thousand dollars. Perhaps it was big money then. Unfortunately, Ratoff died in 1960, never having developed the story for the movies. Next up was the producer, attorney, and talent agent Charles K. Feldman who represented Ratoff’s widow and ultimately obtained the rights. By now, the Bond series was off to a good start, so how could Feldman possibly compete? Failing to negotiate an agreement with Eon, he decided to do something that may have been typical of the mid to late 1960s. He produced a “madcap” comedy, a spoof of the spy series.
There just is not enough space here to explain what the producers and various directors did to this film. Although they assembled what was meant to be an “all-star” cast, you can not say they got a lot of great performances from this crew. Various writers created sections that were to be filmed by different directors and all would be edited together. This allowed them to work with many stars doing different scenes at different locations and studios at the same time. A movie monstrosity ensued.
John Huston, who also appears in the movie as M, directed one segment and left. Five other directors worked on the project, one uncredited. David Niven is “Sir James Bond” who must be convinced by Huston, Charles Boyer, William Holden, and Kurt Kazner to come out of retirement to deal with Le Chiffre. Bond takes on the role of head of the spy agency upon M’s departure and they recruit Peter Seller’s (Evelyn Tremble), a baccarat expert, to impersonate Bond and play Le Chiffre at the Casino. Le Chiffre is played by Orson Welles.
Explanations are pointless. See it — or not. The temperamental Sellers left the project for a rest before his part was finished. He was asked not to return. Welles hated the unprofessional Sellers and they barely spoke to each other. A gaggle of stars performed cameos. When all was said and done, it was a confusing mess.
Val Guest, one of the directors, along with the film editor, got permission to film additional scenes with Niven and Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd) — a hopeless attempt to add some continuity to the script and deal with the missing David Sellers’ performance. Watch for un-credited stars, especially at the end. There is no sensible explanation for the final scenes.
The critically-panned film did well at the box office, as many of the crazy comedies of the 1960s did. At least it provided a great musical score by Burt Bacharach, including the hit song The Look of Love. The film rights next passed to Colombia Pictures, the studio that had put out this disaster. They held onto them until 1989 when Colombia was acquired by Sony. A legal battle followed, and the rights were used as a bargaining chip with MGM/UA for MGM’s portion of the rights to Spiderman. Spiderman was traded for the original James Bond in 1999.
Casino Royale was not next as there was one more Pierce Brosnan movie to be made. When Brosnan declined a fifth film, the opportunity to “reboot” the spy series was at hand.
Back to the beginning. Our hero becomes “007,” and the silver screen welcomes Daniel Craig as “Bond, James Bond.”
When John Prine was growing up in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb along the west side of Chicago, he helped a friend with a newspaper route. “…and I delivered to a Baptist old peoples home where we’d have to go room-to-room.” That experience stayed with him and inspired him to write the song “Hello In There.” It appeared on his debut album in 1971.
Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day Old people just grow lonesome Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”
John performed around Chicago at a number of clubs in the late 1960s. He was one of many singer-songwriters here in that era. His debut album was well received and he was nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1972. “I don’t think I’ve done a show without singing ‘Hello in There’,” John stated in the liner notes to ‘Great Days”, an anthology album put out in 1993.
So if you’re walking down the street sometime And spot some hollow ancient eyes Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”
John Prine died on April 7th. He had been stricken with COVID-19. He was 73. He won two Grammy Awards in his career and was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. His song, “Hello In There” has been covered by numerous artists.
One of the artists to frequently sing John’s song was Joan Baez. If you have plenty of Kleenex handy, you may wish to see her tribute to John recorded from her kitchen when he was hospitalized. She had covered the song on her 1975 album, “Diamonds and Rust.”
“I like songs that are clean and don’t have much fat on them — every line is direct, and all people can relate to it. That’s what I try to do.” – John Prine
When I was in Medellin, Colombia, someone had brought up the name of Pablo Escobar when we were out for food and drinks. Escobar was an infamous drug lord who had lived in the Andes mountains near Medellin. My friend commented unhappily that they have to keep telling people that Escobar was killed in the 1990s, meaning he does not live there anymore.
I told him I understand. We have to keep telling people that Al Capone no longer lives in Chicago. The crime boss died at his home in Florida in 1947. Sometimes the truth does not help you to shake your reputation.
At the present time you may hear that Chicago is the murder capital of the country, just like in the Capone days. The leader of our nation has said that crime here is “totally out of control.” He even tweeted recently that they might send in the feds if we do not solve the problem. While we are all dismayed at the uptick in violence in our city, one thing we know for certain: we are not in the top ten in murders per capita on anyone’s list. We are not in the top twenty either. Depending on who is doing the measuring and what size cities they go by, we may even miss the top 30.
I know it is hard to believe. Google it! You will find many news stories about Chicago, but you will also find plenty of articles about cities complaining they have a higher rate. You will find many web sites with rankings and wonder where we are. We’ll wait right here. Then come back and let’s talk about this.
The murder rate was up in 2016. We have not seen such rates since the 1990s. It was a big increase over 2015, but when you look at this on a per capita basis for large USA cities, you may ask, “What about Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis? What about Baltimore and Dayton? What about Milwaukee? Can we send the Feds there, too? Can we send them to Atlanta and Houston and Camden?” In fact there are many cities with increases, so why does Chicago get so much more coverage than the others?
Perhaps it is because we are the third largest city in the country. In comparison to New York and Los Angeles, the crime numbers are much higher. It is easy to look at the three together, as many newspaper articles are fond of doing. From that vantage point, we look very bad.
Perhaps it is because we are the center of the country. We have the busiest airports. We are at the crossroads of the nation. Highways, railways and even ocean carriers move through here, making this their hub and their home. As a center of commerce, there is no overstating Chicago’s significance.
Perhaps it is because the 44th President of the United States hails from here and the current leader — number 45 — would like to embarrass him. Perhaps it is because Chicago voted overwhelmingly for his opponent and he is trying to make an example of us. Or not. This is likely a minor issue as we were already getting plenty of coverage. But why don’t we read tweets about any of the cities in the Top 10 of murder rate per capita?
No matter where we rank, the problem has grown and something needs to be done, but send in the Feds? Absolutely. No big city mayor is going to turn down help fighting crime. But there is a slight problem with the leader’s promise. “What does it even mean?” 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Bealeasked. “It is so vague.” What kind of help is he sending?
Representative from Chicago, Luis Gutierrez, (my Congressman, by the way) is not impressed with our leader “beating up” Chicago. “Chicago’s murder epidemic is more serious than a late night twitter threat from the new Tweeter-in-Chief,” he said. Other Chicago leaders from local aldermen to the Cardinal are unhappy with the treatment.
Instead of vague tweets, where is the partnership with the Justice Department, the FBI, DEA? If there are resources to send, our mayor is all for it. We are a big city with big city problems. There are certain types of help that would be meaningful and possibly effective. “Chicago, like other cities right now that are dealing with gun violence, wants the partnership with federal law enforcement entities in a more significant way than we’re having today,” Mayor Emanuel said.
In a breaking story this weekend, 20 more ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents are being assigned to their office here. A request for this help is long-standing and the Mayor mentioned it to then president-elect 45 in a December 7th meeting (apparently fearless leader forgot about it). Federal gun prosecutions in this District fall way behind other big cities and resources were needed. If more agents have any effect at all, we know who will take credit.
It is tough to be in the spotlight, especially when the light is made brighter by a guy with a Twitter account. We are a world-class city with world-class attractions. We have fine airports and railroad stations. We have a lakefront that runs the length of the city with land that is open and free for all.
We have one of the largest fresh water lakes that supplies our drinking water and our summer playground. When I stand at the Planetarium out on the lake, I see what I think, in my biased viewpoint, is the greatest skyline in the country. If someone wants to send help, we are glad to have you. If someone wants to wage a Twitter war, can he pick on St. Louis and the Cardinals instead?
We’ve seen what a mess “federal” intervention has made in Oregon. Does ANYONE want that in their own city? I’m sure none of us do!
All of us are acutely aware of the novel COronaVIrus Disease (COVID-19) that has swept the nation. It has devastated businesses, overwhelmed hospitals, and inundated social services. In comparison to the last great recession (December 2007 to June 2009), things are much worse. According to the Pew Research Center, “The rise in the number of unemployed workers due to COVID-19 is substantially greater than the increase due to the Great Recession when the number unemployed increased by 8.8 million from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2010.” The Great Recession happened over a couple of years, not a few months.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the number of unemployed at the end of May at around 21 million. That was actually a slight improvement as some temporarily laid-off workers were called back to work. The rise in employment came in ” leisure and hospitality, construction, education and health services, and retail trade.” This may be in anticipation of things opening back up. Some of these businesses are in for a shock.
The head of the World Health Organization has issued a dire warning. “Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up,” he said. This might seem contrary to what an orange politician has to say. He might lead us to believe that the numbers are improving in the US. They are not. While numbers here are averaging 53,000 new cases per day (as of July 4th), Dr. Anthony Faucci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has told a Senate committee that numbers could reach 100,000 per day. “Clearly we are not in total control right now.”
The orange one wants to fool you into thinking that increased testing is the cause of more positive cases. If that is not a lie than it is the statement of an incredibly uninformed individual. His job is to be informed. ProPublica looked at a seven day average from Memorial Day to the following Tuesday. In states like Illinois, New York, and Indiana where testing increased, the number of positive cases fell. This rewarded their early and strong lockdown measures. In Florida, Arizona, and Texas, along with other red states who were too eager to reopen their economies, the number of positive cases exploded.
If you are reading or listening to the real news, not the Faux News the orange one watches, then you know there are plenty of examples of people who scoffed at the virus, and then died from it. We went down that road with you when we pointed out how “Stupidity Rears Its Ugly Head.” Then we mentioned a Virginia pastor, a Texas priest, a Texas mom, and an evangelical pastor who all took the virus lightly, then died from it.
There have been more examples since that article ran. A lot more examples. And yet there are still people who want to believe that this is all a hoax or at least exaggerated. A death toll of 132,000 is not an exaggeration. It is a fact.
A leader of the ReOpen Maryland protests got so sick he had to go to an Emergency Room. I guess I do not have to tell you what he has. Now he refuses to help contact tracers. “I will not share anybody’s information with the government. I will not do it.” The governor is encouraging people who came in contact with him to get tested and to stay away from vulnerable populations. This is how grandma gets sick and dies.
In Michigan, where the so-called POTUS was encouraging anarchy by suggesting gun-toting right-wingers liberate the state, karma has struck. In East Lansing, they may have been able to enjoy a cold beer or two, but many won’t be doing that this week. One hundred fifty-two (yes, 152) cases of coronavirus were linked to Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub. The number keeps rising. Contact tracers show this moving into 13 counties. Those infected at the bar range from 18 to 28 years old, but there are nineteen secondary cases with ages ranged 16 to 63. That’s how grandpa gets sick and dies.
A student has returned to New York from Florida for a graduation ceremony for Horace Greeley High School. She got sick and since 4 others from the graduation are sick. She had returned from a Florida COVID-19 hotspot and contact tracers are now on the case. Hopefully, grandma and grandpa stayed away.
Eight Trump campaign workers were reported to have the virus after the rally in Tulsa. Two Secret Service agents tested positive and dozens of agents are in quarantine. Oklahoma Watch reporter, Paul Monies, tested positive. Former Republican candidate Hermain Cain also has it. He’s 74 and hospitalized. As for other attendees, time will tell us soon. Hopefully, grandma and grandpa did not attend.
You probably know I could go on and on. New cases show up every day as certain red states find the situation out of control. And despite all of the news and all of the examples and all of the numbers, some people still prefer the words of a self-centered orange politician over that of medical professionals. Stupid.
I know this isn’t the sexiest subject on the Internet, but this morning, I had to explain to my furniture store from whom — at the beginning of June — we ordered a new loveseat. The one we sit in — ALL the time — is 15 years old and has more or less collapsed. Considering that we are home pretty much all the time, we need something to support our backs — and sturdy enough to not be done in by the Duke’s sharp, pointy feet.
They have no idea when I’ll get my sofa. I’m not in a hurry anyway, so it was more a matter of information than urgency. Rich Paschall has explained this to me and to you (if you read the posts), I explained it to her. She hadn’t understood it either and said she was grateful because customers get restless and don’t seem to understand why the world isn’t working like it used to.
Most people think the delays are (or were) because so many people are (were, will be) sick, but that was where it began. From then on, it is far more complicated and it is not repaired. Most places aren’t entirely sure how to repair it. Until it is finally fixed, it might be quite a long time before we see the improvements, even if every airline and freight mover works as hard as they can to get it working. Old ideas need to be replaced, in some cases with older ideas we abandoned or changed to entirely new ways of doing things.
We won’t have an economy if we can’t move our goods. Forget about overseas shipping. Even shipping in this country — which is a very big country with many airports and uncounted numbers of roads — has a lot of moving to do.Living in New England, we are completely dependent on getting fruits and vegetables from California, Florida, and Mexico from November through April and often longer. By early summer, I’m drooling over the idea of a fresh orange.
Weather matters. Road conditions are critical. That’s why public works — resurfacing, rebuilding roads and bridges — is a very big deal. It’s not just whether or not you get to work on time.
It’s also whether or not you have work to get to.
We need trains that run in addition to trucks, but we’ve never bothered to repair the tracks, so throughout the country, many direct routes are unusable. We have the trains, but the tracks are old and have not been maintained.
So, while wondering how come we don’t have our new recliner, we should ponder where it’s coming from and how it will somehow get from it’s point of manufacture to the shop in Uxbridge (where we bought it) and ultimately, to our living room.
So for all of you waiting for a shipment, I’m posting a list of three of Rich’s well-written, clearly explained posts about the shipping. How it is broken and how it is being resurrected — to the degree that it can be resurrected.
I’m sure most of you don’t read these pieces because they aren’t sexy or exciting, They won’t make you laugh, but it’s information you nee, whether you are running a business or dependent on those who do. Shipping affects everybody, from grocery stores to flower growers, and people who just want a new fridge.
No one has stopped making stuff … but getting it? That’s a whole other story.
Considering that I had to explain this to my furniture company this morning what’s going on in the shipping industry, I’m pretty sure we all need to understand how complicated this process is. We’ve come to depend on getting everything as soon as we want it, whether it’s coming from China, England, or Australia.
The freight and shipping lines are broken. Like the damaged train tracks all over the U.S,, our supply lines are badly damaged. Restoring them to something like what we used to have won’t be instant. It will take time, cost big money, and require rethinking the process.
It’s a great opportunity for local farms, carpenters, builders … anyone whose business is close to its customers to do a major “reboot.” For everyone else, it’s the giant migraine of migraines. Be patient … or order locally, even if it costs more — assuming there IS a local manufacturer. When we moved all our manufacturing to Asia, a lot of things we all need went far away. I don’t think we make kitchen or laundry appliances anywhere in this country. When you aren’t buying it from a Chinese factory, it will cost more and try to remember even if it has an American brand name on it, that doesn’t mean it was made here or even on this continent.
On the other hand, it might be worth more, too. And you might get it during this lifetime.
My father’s parents, my grandparents, were from rural Tennessee. They lived in Weakley County and their town was Martin. They were farmers but after World War II life there was hard and they moved to Chicago. When my grandfather retired from the Appleton Electric factory, they moved back to Tennessee and bought a house at the very edge of town. By that I mean there was a cornfield across the street.
I had been down there when I was little but don’t remember a lot about it. When I was a little older I would go to visit my retired grandparents, perhaps early to mid-1960s. I would walk with my grandfather into town. It was a mile to maybe a mile and a half to get to the start of Main Street. It could not have been more stereotypical small southern town America.
These walks were more to exercise my aging grandparent than anything else. We rarely stopped anywhere. On one trip as we walked down the street, we saw a couple of black guys coming from the other direction. As they got near us they stepped off the sidewalk to let us pass. I thought this was rather strange. On the next block, it happened again. “Grandpa, why do those guys get off the sidewalk when we come by?”
“Oh,” my grandfather said rather sadly, “it’s just what black folks do.” I was rather naive and I just didn’t get it. I thought something was wrong with us that these people did not want to share the sidewalk with us. It would take a few more years before I got it. I am not sure why, but that is a strong memory that stays with me.
When my grandparents lived in Chicago, I guess I spent as much time with them as anyone. My grandfather read the Bible every day and took the lessons to heart. He saw everyone as the same and never said a bad word about others, so I didn’t consider the idea of different races. He was the most decent man I have known in my life. He was a real Christian and believed in the Golden Rule. I am sure he would not know what to make of all the fake Christians today.
When I was older, a book was recommended to me entitled, “Black Like Me.” It is the true story of John Howard Griffin. In 1959 he got the help of a dermatologist to temporarily turn his skin brown using drugs and ultraviolet light. When he could pass as a black man in the south, he set out on his journey.
He solicited the help of a black shoeshine man he knew in New Orleans, who did not recognize him at first. He needed an introduction in the community and had to confide in someone. The journey is at times sad, at other times harrowing. When you have finished the book you have a better understanding of just how hard life could be for black people in the south prior to the Civil Rights Movement. Of course, you could never really know. Yes, this 1960 book is dated now, but it had a big impact at the time of release. The author had to move to Mexico for fear of his life.
There is a 1964 movie starring James Whitmore that dramatizes the book. It has been decades since I have seen it so I can not explain how much it sanitizes the story for the viewing public. I am sure they did not capture a lot of what he was saying. The movie can still be found online. I ran across a free version on YouTube.
You may have seen the social experiment where a teacher asks an assembly of white people if they would prefer to be treated like a black person. Without getting even one response, she repeats the question, but there are no takers. Then she explains the facts to them:
I have lived in the same house for 41 years. It is a diverse neighborhood of mostly white, but black and brown and yellow too. I have never been afraid to walk down the street before, but it has been a rough few days. People are on edge. Businesses are closed. The post office and the bank are closed. Stores are boarded up as merchants large and small fear for their businesses. I worry about going too far from the house that I might get beat up or killed in a neighborhood that has always been home.
It is no secret how I feel this has happened. I have seen “The Making of America” and it has not been great. If Donald J Trump, the master of divisiveness, is not the anti-Christ, he is doing a good impersonation. But I digress.
With the boarding up of stores from Lincoln Square to Albany Park to Lake View to downtown Chicago, and with the threats to the gay business to Boystown, it has terrified many folks I know. Since the city has successfully cut off downtown with the police and the National Guard, protests have moved to the neighborhoods. A friend of mine commented on Facebook how frightening it was to live like this. He mentioned how there were sirens through the night and people were killed over the weekend. Another friend replied:
“Scary isn’t it. That fear is what many black people feel all the time”
After 100,000 have died, millions have lost their jobs and America’s cities burn, we can hear the right-wingers now. “You can’t blame this on Trump. This is not Trump’s fault.” But here’s the problem. It IS Trump’s fault, just about all of it.
LIAR in Chief
The amount of lies Trump has told the American people is staggering. This is not just a wild assertion as some on the right side of the aisle may claim. It is a well-documented fact. This is not just put out there by the Washington Post, but also by many fact-checkers around the country. If the Post is too liberal for you, you can find a variety of sources. If he is talking or tweeting, he’s probably lying. Now he wants to stop Twitter from fact-checking him.
Opportunist in Chief
Despite something known as the Emoluments Clause, Trump has taken the opportunity to further enrich himself and his rich friends. He plays a lot of golf on the taxpayer’s money, then has the secret service and others in the entourage stay at his lodging, also at taxpayers’ expense. This is the way to funnel your money to himself.
Clause 7 The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
He would not know the meaning of this, nor would he care.
Tax Cutter in Chief
OK, this was never meant to help you. This was all about giving himself and his rich friends a tax break. In other words, the rich got richer.
Hater in Chief
You may think this one is pretty strong. Am I actually calling out someone as a hater? His whole term in office is about hate speech and defending “some very nice people” with confederate or Nazi flags and automatic weapons.
Anarchist in Chief
The statements by someone already in an office that are meant to undermine local, state, or even federal government are outrageous, to say the least. He has used his position of authority, not to work with others, but to bad mouth mayors, governors and US Senators, and Representatives. His provocative speech has indicated to his base of supporters that it is OK to “Liberate” states. It is ok to challenge public officials. That white nationalist protestors include some very nice people. White Racists, including the KKK, favor Trump. In fact, the KKK endorsed him in the last election.
Mis-manager in Chief
He had the opportunity to take the lead in times of crisis. He blew it. He blamed China, he blamed governors, he blamed scientists, he blamed Obama. He blamed everyone for not getting out in front of this crisis but himself. As we write this at the end of May, the virus is on the rise in many states. Trump encourages the opening of states because it would help the economy. The only thing it may help is the death toll.
Leaders of some countries took early and decisive action. Trump dismissed it
“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” – January 22nd.
The World Health Organization warned of a worldwide pandemic, Trump called it a Democratic hoax: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power … to inflame the CoronaVirus situation.” – March 9th
Other countries took action to help their people. Trump and the Republicans blocked a second stimulus payment. They work toward legislation to protect companies from any liability for forcing employees back to work. They threatened to cut off unemployment benefits. Trump refused to cancel student loans.
Nero in Chief
He may not know how to play the fiddle, but he is doing a good job of pretending to be Emperor while the cities burn. Here is why it is his fault:
Robber in Chief
Yes, there are people who are taking advantage of a bad situation to do bad things. Some are looting stores for their own personal joy or gain. Some are causing destruction to make one side or the other look bad. As I write to you, my emergency alert on my phone is not announcing bad weather, it is announcing a city curfew. There is violence in the streets.
There are lawbreakers among the protestors and rioters, that’s for sure. And no matter what any of them may steal tonight or in the days to come, Trump has already stolen from them the most important thing necessary to make and keep America great. He has stolen HOPE. He has left many Americans broken and alone while he sits on his toilet, or wherever, sending tweets of hate into cyberspace. Meanwhile:
Is there any hope that situations will improve between big-city police departments and communities of color?
Is there any hope that economic opportunities will come to the communities of color?
Is there any hope that gun violence and people violence will subside in our country?
Is there any hope that immigrant families, ripped apart at the border, will be united?
Is there any hope that a leader will step forward and unite America with one voice through this pandemic?
Is there any hope that that the poor and middle class will find more assistance during extended unemployment, as other countries have done for their citizens, or will stimulus really be a way to hand more money to the rich?
People who take to the streets in protests that turn violent have lost hope that change will come by any other means. They have been driven down and stepped on and had a knee put to their collective throats. They are sick and tired of it. The words from the Orange Menace in Washington signals to the people of the nation that indeed, there is no hope.
On Monday Limbaugh and Hannity and Trump will all rage away. Will anyone offer hope to the masses?
Most of your high school and college graduates will not have the pleasure of hearing the typical graduation speeches this year. Students are usually listening to them in wonder, perhaps even shock at some odd notion. It seems like a peculiar thing to say to high school or college graduates, and yet we say it all the time.
“These are the best years of your life,” a guest speaker may exclaim. Some may narrow it down to tell students, “You will look back on this as the best year of your life.” The best year?
It was a long time ago, and I can not recall specifically what I heard at my various graduations, but I am pretty sure the idea was sold to me somewhere. “How can this be?” graduates may ask themselves. “What about the next 60 years? You mean to say, ‘this is it’?”
Are these youthful years the best years of our lives? Is this where we had the best times, best friends, best dances and concerts and music and well, everything? The answer is a surprising yes, and no.
When I was in the third year of high school I learned that DePaul Academy would be closing and we would all be shipped off to another area high school. To be perfectly honest, I did not like this a bit. Despite the tough discipline of my school and the fear of 4th year Latin, I wanted to go to a similar environment. However, the school where I applied to go to for 4th year would not take any incoming seniors. So off I went where they sent me, bound to make the best of it.
There were a few familiar faces at the new school, some were transfers like me and some I knew from grade school. There were also new experiences. There were dances and plays. They had a fine arts department (something lacking at the all-boys academy) and teachers who seemed to care about you as well as your studies. I took drama, not fourth-year Latin. I came, I saw, I took something else.
The social activities meant more opportunities to make friends. The interaction was an education itself. Soon there was a group of us that hung together a lot, and some of us still do.
The most remarkable part of this transition was the “Senior Class Play.” Yes, so many students wanted to take part, it was just for seniors, as in 17 and 18-year-old students. I got the nerve to audition. I have no idea what I sang. Everybody was in the show so it did not matter that a hundred of us showed up. We were going to do South Pacific. I was rather unaware of it.
Aside from learning the art of theater (Project, Enunciate, Articulate, Stand up straight), I learned about the classic story of war, hate, prejudice and, of course, love. Learning to play our parts was important. We were commanded to be professional in everything. We also learned a story that held a dramatic lesson in life.
When the movie starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rosanno Brazzi, and Ray Waltson was re-released, we ran off to see it. In subsequent years, we saw several community theater productions as well as professional versions of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical. We grew to love the theater and the lessons that such musicals could bring to us. We learned why fine arts were so important in the schools.
So we were fortunate. We had a positive experience and a good education. We learned our lessons in the halls as well as the classroom, and in the gym which was also our auditorium. We signed one another’s yearbooks and held on to them like they were made of gold. But was it the best year of my life? If so, what about all the intervening years?
It is an interesting paradox that you can not adequately explain to an 18-year-old graduate. Yes, it was the best year up to that point, and it will always remain so. Nothing can ever take away those memories, so hopefully, they are all positive. Those lessons of love and life will influence everything from that point on.
While you are busy making new memories, a career, a family perhaps, and new friends, they will all be measured against “the best year of your life,” whether it is at 18 or 21. Some friends may be better, some lessons may be better, some experiences may be better, but they will all be measured against those moments in youth when you discovered who you were and where you were going. The quality of future friendships must stand up to those already at hand.
If you have a South Pacific in your memory bank, you will tell people all across the (hopefully) many generations that come through your life how this was a great experience. You may say it was the best time ever. If your younger friend looks sorry that your best times were so far back, remind him to enjoy what he has because it will be the springboard to everything else. It will be his touchstone.
Every spring, without fail for these many decades, the change of seasons hits me like some great coming of age story. My imagination calls up images of Bali Hai and I hear echoes of “There Is Nothing Like A Dame” in the distance. I once again feel “Younger Than Springtime” and every night is “Some Enchanted Evening.” Whenever I look back to the Class of South Pacific, I can also look forward to a lot of “Happy Talk” for everyone who will listen.
While we accept the precept of “freedom of speech,” we also understand that it does not apply to everything in all situations. As you probably have heard often, we are not allowed to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is none. This could cause a stampede for the exits and put some people at risk of being hurt or killed in the panic.
Similarly, you can not shout out in a crowd that you see a gun when there is none. Due to the types of mass shootings we have seen in recent years, we know that there could be a panic that could cause harm.
You are also forbidden to engage in the type of speech that would incite a riot. Hate speech in gatherings could, in turn, result in attacks either at a rally, let say…
When the “stay at home” orders dragged on from March to April and then to May, it seemed like we needed some music to fit the situation. Some were creating playlists and posting them online. Others were writing and recording new songs. With all this creativity at hand, I decided to jump into the fray with our own Pandemic Playlist.
First up was a post entitled Splendid Isolation, named after the song by the late Warren Zevon. I sat down to compile a song list that would seem to fit our unique situations. This led to a variety of topics and a very long “shortlist” for my Top Ten. It was hard work watching all those YouTube videos but I knew, “I Will Survive.”
With the SERENDIPITY Sequester Songlist finished, I knew we were off to a good start, but I still had a lot of tunes tempting me to go again. Many titles contained a variation of the word “Lone.” You know, Lonely, Alone, Lonesome and things like that. There were Lonely People in a Lonely Town who were all Alone or possibly Alone Together. From a Lonely Boy to Mr. Lonely they knew how Only The Lonely could feel. This Quarantine list was Just A Lonely Boy, from the opening line of the Paul Anka song.
As I looked over what was intended to be a shortlist for a Top Ten Quarantine songs, I realized there were at least twenty more. No, I will not give you another Top Ten, just the best of the rest. It was hard to rank these as they are all good songs. The order could change at any moment, so remember, this is just One Moment In Time.
8. Solitaire, Neil Sedaka. The song was written by Sedaka and frequent collaborator Phil Cody. The Carpenters had a hit with it, so did Andy Williams. Sedaka recently stated on his YouTube channel that at least 60 artists have recorded it. Despite the hits by others, it seemed best to let Sedaka do the honors. If you liked the old Sedaka songs then you are in luck. The prolific singer, songwriter octogenarian gives mini-concerts every weekday on YouTube during the pandemic stay at home orders.
7. All By Myself, Eric Carmen. Another singer, songwriter, Eric Carmen started with the group The Raspberries in the early 1970s and went on a career all by himself. Carmen is a classically trained pianist and based this hit tune on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The song made it to No. 2 on the US Billboard charts.
6. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Green Day. Some might consider this NSFW due to one of the words in the lyrics. The official video here has sort of garbled the word but you’ll get it. Radio play just took it out. Well, everything is screwed up. What else can I say? I am pretty sure that lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong is not related to Garry and Marilyn, but I never really asked. Any way Armstrong declares, “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me, My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating.” He walks the boulevard alone.
5. Isolation, John Lennon. This one certainly has gotten popular since the stay at home orders. It appeared on Lennon’s first album following the breakup of The Beatles. Recorded at Abbey Road studio, the album was released on the Apple label in 1970 to critical acclaim. Interestingly, Ringo Starr played drums on this track. Lennon is on the piano.
4. Dancing With Myself, Billy Idol. After that last one, I thought we should pick up the pace. If there is no one there to dance with, it is OK to dance with yourself. The song was originally released in the UK in 1980 by the band Gen-X with Billy Idol as the lead singer. The following year it was remixed and re-released in the US as a solo by Idol, who also co-wrote the song. Just remember:
“Well, there’s nothing to lose
And there’s nothing to prove, well,
Dancing a-with myself”
3. Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles. I don’t think there is anyone lonelier than Eleanor Rigby unless it is Father McKenzie of the same song. This 1966 release was quite a departure for the pop band. The song features eight string players, arranged by famed Beatles producer, George Martin. The song is about the elderly and the lonely. Only the Beatles could have had a hit with this one. “Ah, look at all the lonely people.”
2. One, Three Dog Night. Harry Nilsson wrote the song and released his version in 1968, but it was the Three Dog Night version the following year that became a hit. The repetition of the same note at the outset is meant to symbolize a busy single. If you make a call and get no one, then you are the only one. And as we all know, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.”
1. Solitary Man, Neil Diamond. One of the best selling singer-songwriters in the world, Diamond had a big hit with this one, his first solo release in 1966. You are likely familiar with a radio version with background singers and big production. It was a powerful interpretation. There was also a version recorded alone without the background singers. It sounded more personal as he changed “then Sue came along” to “then you came along.” The ultimate message is the same. Until he finds the right person, “I’ll be what I am, A solitary man.”
These were the best ones that did not make my other Playlists. To hear any one of the above just click the title. If you want to hear all nine on the Solitaire Playlist, click here. I added both versions of the Neil Diamond song, one performance from 1971 (above), one from 2012.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.