Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Politics is politics, no matter where you go

Corruption in office is nothing new, ask the Romans
There are a score of cynics who know vague generalities about Jersey politics. Well, I don’t know generalities, I know a lot of details about local, county and state politics from a few years ago. Politics was partly my living and it was ugly work.

You know, I’m retired now and the last thing I need is some BS that comes with naming names about things. But, in New Jersey, “Pay for Play,” quid pro quo, whatever you want to call it, is an everyday part of life for our elected and appointed folks. And, there are basically very, very few exceptions.
Ironically, the exceptions to that rule are generally wealthy candidates who do not need to make anyone else’s money or gain their living off politics. So, if they become candidates and do not win it is not a matter of life or death with them financially. But, for your economically challenged candidates or young people starting out -- well, they have to make their money somewhere and if they play it by the rules it sure won’t be in government. So, they have to supplement their incomes. And, how do they do it? They have influence in elected office and use that to make their dime. It’s done every day -- it’s done in your town and probably by office holders you think are ‘above reproach’ well, they’re not.
Sure, Democrats and Republicans spout promises and such. But, Democrat, Republican, Green or Independent, a candidate is not truly running for the good of the people unless they have already made their fortune somewhere else. If they have, then they can take ideology seriously because they don’t need to produce a buck from using their influence; it's as simple and as hard as that. I can’t tell you how many broke-ass, broke-down sons of guns I have seen sworn-in without a dime in their pocket yet -- lo’ and behold three or four years later -- they are someone’s vice president of something or they had become someone’s “contractor” for whatever. And, why? Yeah, they sold out. They sold you out, Mr. and Mrs. America.
However, very often, Americans think they know their elected officials whether they are local, county, state or national. You feel this because of the campaigning and the literature, television commercials, Internet get it. When they make public appearances, they’re all smiles and they make sure to hang out at local spots once every couple of months. Your office holder talks lofty ideals and talks about the horror of the other party, but 'they'll keep you safe from all that.' Ordinary people start feeling important because they are under the impression they are friends with the lawmaker. And, you’re getting played for suckers. Politicians are actors playing on a stage, you’re the audience and Corporate America is the producer of the show.
I have been in the heads of a lot of politicians: I ran press operations for quite a few candidates, Republican and Democrat alike. Frequently, I have seen freshmen candidates enter the process as determined, idealistic people only to see them become the same low-life scum as all the rest of them in the span of one short term. Were there exceptions? A few, but just a few.
Oh, and if Conservatives think Republicans are any better than Democrats, they’re nuts.  In fact, in my experience, Republicans are at least as greedy as Democrats but often much more. No one is actually pure and chaste and all that crap. They womanize (frequently with their staff); make backroom deals to feather their own nest, help idiot relatives with finding work, make sure their buddies get nice government contracts and that their campaign contributors or employers get treated real nice -- courtesy of you and me. Oh, once in a while they work--sorta. And, when they work, ladies and gentlemen, they sure as hell don’t work hard.
Politicians hide beneath a thin veneer of respectability and depend on you buying their crap, which you do. After scandals are uncovered, in the face of all common sense and logic, you will ‘stand by your official’ because you’re a sap. In politics, largely speaking, if you’re accused of something by a legitimate newspaper, there has been a lot of good research into it. Yeah, and I’m not talking about Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or any of that Fox nonsense. I mean real publications like the Star-Ledger, New York Times, Daily News, etc.

The flag is just a background for most politicians
“The Media” isn’t out to get anyone, that is the war cry of the guilty. When the United States was founded the Press was granted a peculiar and necessary role in civic affairs in this country; they are watchdogs who have a fundamentally adversarial relationship to government and police institutions. It is their job to be an informal check or safeguard against tyranny. Of course, recently, anyone has been able to call themselves a journalist, from Entertainment Tonight to AOL’s Real journalism takes place in serious institutions and not the Huffington Post or its satellites. If I want to find out about who’s had a nose job recently, I will check the Huffington Post. If I want news, I’ll check the Daily News. Internet news generally sucks, with notable exceptions, and that is a bad thing.
Real newspapers were (and to some extent still are) the only thing between you and total and complete ignorance about what is happening in the halls of power in your town and in the White House. When politicians get caught with their hands in the metaphoric cookie jar the first thing they say is “...there goes the Liberal Media again.” BS. Your buddy the ‘state legislator’ got caught red-handed at something and you’re dumb enough to buy into his ‘the press are out to get me...’ argument. So, next election, you put his sign on your lawn and come home early to vote for him. Please, let me find a bucket because I can lose lunch over that nonsense.
I don’t vote anymore, unless the AARP puts something out and then I vote however they say. Why? Because I am old and my interests are basically aligned with their mission. I don’t care about anything else because it’s all crooked...down to the core. AARP aren't 'good guys' orwhatever -- they just happen to advocate for the things I need.
In Jersey, like in any number of pissant towns, counties and states, there are all kinds of corrupt crap happening all the time. Only, in Jersey and a few other places, it’s shoved right into the voters’ faces and keeps happening because the electorate here is as dumb as a bag of hammers and apparently doesn’t mind. Jersey voters are the blindest people who ever had the furniture rearranged on them, but they love bumping into furniture, I guess.
I’m aware of every kind of vile sin by serving politicians, from bold-faced corruption, to racketeering, graft, pay-for-play, drunk driving, extortion, eluding the police, interfering with a police officer doing their duty, adultery, rape, assault, tax evasion, blackmail, drug and alcohol abuse, forgery, misusing government property, and targeting public and private enemies with official actions, sanctions and police intervention. If you think cops aren't the muscle behind politicians that appoint their bosses and negotiate their contracts, you'd be wrong again.
And, there are things I have heard from reliable people that are much worse done by some of these bastards. I have seen Democrats do it, and Republicans (a whole lot of them). These were not isolated incidents, Mr. and Mrs. America -- this was just the way business is done. It’s sickening and filthy and I actually helped some of those people get re-elected, sometimes having first-hand knowledge of the level of their depravity because I was paid and needed to support my house. And, it stained my soul black for doing it. Sadly, most of those scumbags are still in office as I write this.
And, these are the exact same people you are mewling over with the signs and ridiculous public love. These are “your buddies” that know you by your first name. Hey, whatever.
If you want to really get something done in government, don’t contact your elected official. Find the law or architectural firm that supported that office-holder’s campaign with the biggest donations, then find the partner that authorized the donation. Tell that lawyer or engineer you want your damn street light fixed. He or she can put in a call to their “guy” or “gal” and that light will be fixed by the end of the week. But, if you do it by the book, it may take you months or years. The bureaucracy is for some of the people, not all of them.
People come here and check my column from the old life, and I guess they wonder if I am going to ever mouth off about them. No, I’m not. I am retired and want to fade away into the Florida sun like so many other seniors, without getting bothered by any offended politicians or their rabid followers (morons). But, there is nothing wrong with lifting the curtain for a few minutes to try and tell the kindly folks at home about what lies behind it.
A few of you might actually think there might be something in what I said and some will think I’m a some crazy old coot. And, both would be correct, but I’m sure as hell telling the truth that I know.
As always, I wish everyone the best and thank you for stopping by and spending a few minutes. This was harsh -- yes. But, sometimes, the truth is hard and someone just has to say it -- for themselves if no one else.
Have a safe weekend, watch out for the snow and seeya later, alligators.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

GUN VIOLENCE: How far we have strayed

The U.S. military knows what it is doing with weapons
In the news there seems to be a school or university shooting or shootings with some frequency. Kids have been behind the triggers and it has been ghastly. Columbine was only the first of many horrible things that came after. It is an American tragedy.

Then there is George Zimmerman, Jr., who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death in Jacksonville, Florida in 2012. The state of Florida through the person of Florida State Attorney General Angela Corey tried to make the case that Zimmerman murdered Martin unlawfully. Well, she didn't win her case.

Did you know he is selling artwork of Corey saying she didn't respect the justice system or some such garbage? He is apparently using an Associated Press photo shot of her during the trial, and the AP is bringing his ass to court to try and stop his selling his "art." Who knows how that will end up?

Zimmerman was back in court later on some domestic issue with his girlfriend or wife or whatever, following the murder case, after and media reports that a gun was involved then too. But, nothing came of it.

Then, there was that video shown on the news about Zimmerman being stopped by a cop for speeding or some such thing and he was being treated like a celebrity by the officer.

While we are at it, let's remember all of the terrible police shootings that have ended up with innocent people being shot down in cold blood by officers in the street. I only pay attention to the Greater New York Area, so I don't speak for anywhere else.

We all remember these things. We all know about these things. And, these things have impacted each of us personally, and perhaps differently.

If someone had to put a brand on me, I'm a Democrat and a Liberal. I started out as a Conservative Republican, but life taught me that wasn't going to work for me until I made my first couple million.

Let me recount the Conservative argument: Criminals will always have guns, and if "good people" are disarmed then they will be easy prey for cutthroats. And, just in case the U.S. Government "turns on" its own people -- or we are invaded by some other country -- then an armed citizenry is good because it came in handy during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and the Civil War. So, the last time a citizen of the U.S. needed a gun to protect themselves from a marauding army was in 1865, which was like 150 years ago.

Meanwhile, I don't think the U.S. Government, or any president or executive elected or appointed within it, will ever try to change our form of governance by trying some mad military or police takeover. It's rubbish.

Meanwhile, if there are armed "good guys" and armed "bad guys" then it sounds like a cheesy western picture where the only one that wins are the weapons manufacturers; that's it.

The Civil War was the last time citizens had to 'arm' themselves for war
In the U.S. Army and the Marines, servicemen and women, particularly in combat units, live with their rifle or sidearm at all times. They know everything about it. They not only shoot for qualification twice a year, but some units frequently fire for sustainment to get better. Our servicemen and women live in a culture within the armed forces that knows firearms safety and lives it every single day. There is even lots of formal schooling about firearms and firearms safety throughout their careers. They know what they are doing, and they truly need to because they are our national strength: God bless them.

OK, back to cops. I had a roommate who was a retired police officer for a while. He always talked about what a great shot he was and how he was great on the range. He went once or twice a year. When he was younger, he went a little more -- but it was pretty casual. This us unlike the constant drilling and grilling of our servicemen on the range (well, yes, certain specialties).

I am saying that police officers, with qualified exceptions, really understand the responsibility on their hip or are thoroughly versed in firearms use in a live-or-die situation. So, they frequently screw it up, kill someone, and say they had to make a "life and death call and used their gut." Well, that system seems to be working like a charm.

Hardly anyone 'needs' a gun, certainly not civilians, unless they live in some rural part of the country where animals may have to get hunted for food or a firearm might protect people from will animals.

I don't believe enough use of non-lethal weapons is in use yet by the police from sea to shining sea. And, some cop not knowing what they are doing with pepper spray or rubber bullets is a lot better than them not knowing what they are doing with ball ammunition (live rounds). Sure, there are times they will need guns. But, by far, and again with some exception, police officers don't need firearms to do their day-to-day job if they have non-lethal alternatives. They are not the weapons experts they make themselves out to be in their hubris.

I know...I know...if you're some die-hard gun guy or gal you are jumping up-and-down about what I am saying. But, a lot of people think like me. People are more valuable then guns.

'What if they use knives instead?' OK, let's entertain that. It's harder to use a knife than a gun. Maybe, a crazed kid will injure or kill someone with that at school before he is knocked down and arrested. But, he will not kill 10 or 20 or 30.

What about the criminals? Arrest them. Start using prison space for actual criminals. Put child support non-payers and marijuana smokers somewhere else or in some community based program. Prison should really only be for violent offenders: That's it. Wow! Look all the space we made in prison by putting the non-violent people elsewhere!

Meanwhile, redneck yahoos who just want to have and carry guns to do it and be their version of Matt Dillon are utterly frustrated by their attempts, I hope. History will ultimately make the call on this one, and I believe, despite all the money behind the gun lobby, this issue will eventually have common sense applied to it.

Hey, I'm done with this world and focusing on my last act, kids. So, I have no dog in this race. But, this gun lunacy is so preventable, so counter to common sense and so very tragic.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Find a New Course Toward Health

Does the Devil tempt with cheesecake? Maybe
I heard back from my daughters recently, after not hearing from them for a long time. It was wonderful. I love hearing from them. They are truly smart, classy, beautiful ladies and both of them are in their 20s.

Only rarely do I hear back from old friends. But, friends are not the same as family. I have a healthy, great relationship with a super lady and that is pretty much where I spend most of my free time communicating. You see, she lives in the Greater Boston Area, while I live in the Greater New York Area. Hopefully, that changes soon but we're not there yet.

Anyway, there are all these relationships in my life, like anyone else's: Very little family though. Basically, just the girls.

While I care for the people in my life, I can't get worn out on drama anymore -- anyone's -- not even mine. As I creep up there in age, I have to stay laser-focused on eating right, keeping my mind active, getting proper exercise and feeding my spiritual self. If I don't, then my disabilities will get control of me -- again. Instead of losing weight, I will be putting weight on, and I don't want to do that.

I saw a wonderful message on Facebook, it said: "Don't Get Drawn Into Anyone's Drama, Draw Them Into Your Peace." I like the hell out of that saying, not enough to get a tattoo of it or anything but I sure will keep that one in my pocket for some time.

I think it was Marianne Williamson that said, "If you do not change how you think, you will never be able to change who you are." Well, I'll give an 'Amen' out to Sister Marianne. And, if you like yourself just the way you are and you don't want to change...then don't.

I wanted to change because I was (and am) overweight, unhealthy with many conditions in full bloom, psychologically a mess and I could barely walk down a staircase without breathing hard. Hey, I'd rather be dead than lead the rest of my life like that. Like a lot of people, I live with quite a few problems. These problems were and are permanent and several of them are very physically painful. But, my attention wasn't on fixing me: It was on personal dramas, wallowing in my pain, bitching and trying to solicit sympathy. Yeah, I was a train-wreck.

In my case, I didn't want to be 'me' anymore. I wanted a healthier, more grounded and spiritually charged 'me.' And, with the help of God, the Veteran's Administration and some drive finally, I actually did start doing everything I could to live and live healthy and everything has been falling in line really well.

Yeah, I lost 20 pounds and working on it responsibly. Not by dieting. I just started eating the way I should and walk as much as I could. Oh, and about walking -- I will swear by Vitamin D and Fish Oil. My doctors prescribed them and it has been a revelation.

During a great many of therapeutic sessions I had with my therapists, one of their themes was letting go of grudges, frustration and -- yes -- dramas. They couldn't have been more right. Today, I hardly ever or never get angry, excited, worry or yell.

Why would I? Why should I?

Now, I love but don't get judgmental. If either of my kids or any of my friends had a real problem, of course I would do everything possible to make it right. But, the petty BS that climbs into people's every day life is quite another thing entirely. And, if I don't feel like that then it's on me if I get a heart attack or worse.

Young people fall and bounce. Today, my old ass falls and stays right there where it fell.

You know, mankind is really a race of explorers. Not many of us actually climb the Himalayas (and for the record -- who the hell would want to?) or swim the channel. Still, it is an adventure of sorts to chart a new course in life and to sail toward an unfamiliar port. In this case, the port is a healthy you. Everything about yourself is going to change if you take this journey seriously. You'll stop the little every day things that are pushing you into the ground.

I am not trying to kill myself anymore with tobacco, cheesecake or screaming.

I like this journey. And, as I move down this river more, I have started asking myself why I didn't do this years before. My answer is always the same, though: 'Because I wasn't ready for it.' Well, I'm ready for it now and my personal well-being has my full attention ('bout time). I'm responsible for my personal well-being -- not my significant other, my kids, the neighbor next door, the guy who lives behind the dumpster, the night crew at the Dunkin' Donuts. No, just me.

Do you remember in any business class you've taken through the years, when the first rule of business is discussed: Always pay yourself first. OK, this is just like that, but instead of money -- it's your time, exercise, eating right, doctor visits, taking medication...the whole thing. Do that first and let nothing interfere with your regiment and you're going to notice a change.

Well, thanks for letting me go on and pontificate. I've pontificated so much on this blog so far, someone should have given me a big hat, cape and red shoes by now. It is always a pleasure writing here. Have a great week and...seeya later, alligator.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The KKK Strikes Again!

Hello, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Dateline Chesterfield, VA: A young woman goes to her door and finds a pile of poop there with a note, informing her it was left there by the KKK and they don't like her because she is black.

Are you kidding me?

I'm surprised they didn't ring her doorbell and run away.

Bear in mind, this is the same KKK that was such a national pain in the ass throughout most of the 20th century: hangings, shootings, cross burning, marching down Main Street with their moron robes on. Yeah, these are the guys -- and they left a bag of poop on a woman's doorstep and ran away.

What were they trying to do, terrorize her? The last time I pulled the ol' 'Leaving Poop On Your Doorstep' thing was when I was seven years old. My neighbor, Paul Fiquet, and I left a bag of poop on a day care's front doorstep.

When someone came they just threw the bag in the outside garbage: No big pay off with someone stepping into it. OK, that was the beta testing phase. So, Paul came up with a fool proof idea -- we light the bag on fire and then ring the doorbell and run away. Someone will see the burning bag and stomp it out. So, they would have poop on their shoes then, you see. Only problem was, no one was there -- it was Sunday. No one came out. Our careers as scalawags was over and it was a miserable failure.

Flash forward 41 years. What Paul and I learned is being repeated, only by the KKK, as a means to strike terror into the heart of this poor woman. I don't know her name, but I know her cousin and he told me the whole thing. How do they up the ante? I fear they might try to toilet paper the tree on her front lawn, folks.

Hey, obviously, everyone knows who and what the KKK is -- no need to go over it. They are a bunch of hooded scumbags who have created more unnecessary suffering in this country than anything else for more than 150 years and -- they suck.

I will laugh at these evil hate-mongers resorting to a child's prank to "make their point." I like it a lot better than how they were making their points in the 1920s through 1970s -- and I think everyone will agree on that.

No longer threatening to march 200,000 strong down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, they have 'adjusted their campaign' for the 21st century. Listen, if the most anyone ever hears from the klan again is this nonsense I can't see it's a bad thing.

But, remember, Mr. and Mrs. America, once upon a time in this country most Southern office holders were card carrying members of the klan (circa 1910s through 1940s). Afterward, while they were not outspoken in their beliefs, many kept good relations with the klan. These people had power and what did they do with it? They killed people. They corrupted the office holders of our nation (which didn't take too much) and they gave every American a bad name because of their actions.

The klan killed NAACP President Medgar Evers, they dogged the footsteps of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before a klan sympathizer killed him. They made their presence known on television screens around the country, evoking sheer terror because of their borttomless evil against minorities and anyone else who sided with equal rights.

To my surprise, someone who I considered almost a friend in Franklin, North Carolina told me he used to be a klan member but "...the group petered out here. Now a lot of us just meet for coffee now and again but no one is doing anything." I couldn't speak. I was in shock. Are you kidding me? He never heard from me again.

Meanwhile, in the 80s when I was a young soldier at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the damn klan used to have breakfast as a group every Sunday at this breakfast place I used to like. No shit. Right out in  public. I left and never came back.

Some hate organizations try to make their sickening message more palatable with a smile and a wink. Well, screw the smiles and the winks. They're a hate group and one with a long history of violence. My question of the day: Why the hell are these groups allowed to exist?

This isn't the Elks, the Kiwanis, the Masons or the Knights of Columbus. They aren't having drives to help good causes. No, while the once mighty klan is lowered to doing childish tricks today, I would just assume they not exist at all. And, this is something of substance law enforcement can actually get done. It's just a matter of the national will to want it.

Well, I am casting my vote now: I'd really like them gone forever.

Again, thank you for letting me rant my old man rage. Here I am, getting stirred up and swinging my cane. I best watch it or I'll knock over the glass with my teeth in it.

I've done my best at putting my opinion where it's not asked for enough today. Thanks for coming by and, as always, seeya later alligators.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Your 50s: The New Starting Line

This says cola relieves fatigue: How about slowing down some instead?
So, you're approaching or you are in your 50s. Maybe you work, maybe you don't. Perhaps you have children, maybe you don't. You might still be married or, according to statistics, you may be divorced.

You've gotten a little older, despite the fact the world is still going full-steam ahead. And, you're working as hard, if not harder, as you did 25 years ago.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the game has changed for you after your 40s are in the rearview mirror and, if you don't change some of the things you're doing, the only one who can end up a loser here is you. With little changes, for some, and bigger changes, for others, there is no reason not to have a great lifestyle and wonderful health into your later years.

My parents, Jim and Ruth, they didn't have a very wonderful retirement. Hell, by their own admission, their 50s were a nightmare. But, I can tell you this, despite the fact they were a little older and needed to change their diet a little and add some stress relief in there -- they didn't. Dad found stress relief by being a chain smoker and Mom did it by drinking too much wine or vodka. So, by the time they retired, well in their late 60s, they died of lung cancer and liver cancer, respectively. Not a very good reward for the years they put in this world; not very good at all.

Yet, they wouldn't do a single thing to help their health, or their stress, or their dispositions beyond a certain point. They kept on acting like they were 20 when they were 50, and all it led to was illness, injury and disappointment for them. To keep up with their physical needs they needed to adopt quite a few healthy elements to their life, which they never did.

Obviously, I am glad they had my brother and I. But, having one kid at 38 years old and another at 42 years old was something that really took its toll on them, and only hastened their old age and infirmity. So, they had children very late. OK, that was one bad idea my parents had for themselves.

Here are some other bad ideas my parents had: They bought a house in the suburbs that came with 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large living and large family room, two full kitchens and a large dining room. And, they bought that house on a piece of property that was almost an acre large. Meanwhile, their commutes (both of them worked in Newark, NJ) was an hour each way. This is what they did until their mid-60s.

It made them angry. It made them short. Mom used to say that her and my father "just lived for other people." Well, I said it then and going to say it now -- they had a hell of a bad plan, alright. Their plan outright sucked.

How about living in a condo, which has a staff to tend the yard area, in a town nearby where they worked? That could have been done. Save a lot of maintenance chores on the house, a lot of costs there, and the enormous upkeep of yard work for a large lawn and backyard. Hell, we had a small forest along the side yard.

The smoking and drinking were obvious red flags. So was the way they approached their lives. They turned their lives into drudgery with a series of bad decisions that didn't have to be made to torture themselves. There is always a smarter answer than the most stressful, longest commute to physical jobs, when they are in their 50s. Come on now! Sounds like they still were putting the expectations of 20-somethings on themselves. Maybe they couldn't real deal with getting older, and I think there might have been some of that in there for both of them. Consequently, they rebelled against the inevitably by putting themselves through the impossible.
Enjoy a few sunsets: their actually awesome

I wish my Dad hadn't smoked himself dead and that Mom didn't drink herself dead. I wish they had gotten regular medical care, paid attention to their doctors, ate reasonably, took vitamins and took their medications on time and faithfully. I wish they exercised or had a "date night" every week and just had a better time. Well, I'm not doing that, folks, and you're a damn fool if that's your plan either.

I want to live as best as I can for as long as I can. I can't eat anything I want, anytime I want to: That is how I became 280 pounds. I was holding pretty steady to a 230-pound, worked out body for many, many years. Well, I got injured, I got depressed, whatever -- I got really fat. It wasn't natural. I was just acting and eating like an idiot.

I have physical problems. A lot of us do. But, somehow and some way, we can navigate those problems without turning into the Goodyear blimp. Oh, I'm not there yet. I lost 25 pounds of that whale meat I put on. And, I'm in the process of getting rid of the rest. I grew up; hopefully I grew up in time to give myself some good years ahead.

Do you know what you're retirement is going to look like? And, I'm not talking about money here. The Susie Ormonds of the world are on another site. I'm the lifestyle guy. You're retirement is going to look exactly like what you plan for, what you execute and what you are determined it will become. You can determine your life is going to suck -- well, by all means proceed. Otherwise, you can turn these years into the most wonderful of your life.

I hope you pick 'the most wonderful of your life.' Meanwhile, my ass is down in Florida first chance I get where my joints and my wallet will feel a whole lot better. As always, thanks for stopping by. I'll be seeing you later, alligators.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

'Never Leave Your Ghost Somewhere'

My grandmother, Agnes, was an eccentric woman. Nice. Dutiful. Loved her family. And, very much into all things occult.

Professionally, she was a seamstress in Newark, New Jersey, and worked in one of those poorly ventilated sweat shops there for more than 20 years. It was always sketchy about what happened to her husband, my grandfather, but my mother said simply: "He died."

OK, well, 'Gram,' as we called her, saw a ghost behind every tree, around every corner and she was very adamant about it; utterly convinced of the truth of ghosts. So, one day, I guess I was 5, I asked Gram about why ghosts '...didn't go to heaven?'

She wasn't great with explanations, but she said it like this: "When you have something unresolved in this life that is big, then you leave your ghost behind until you finally resolve it."

I asked what happens if you never resolved it; Gram said, "I don't know."

Pretty grim stuff for a little kid to hear. But, there was a kernel of truth in what she said about needing to get things resolved in your life at some point. Years later, I was a chaplain for a time at Capital Health in Trenton, New Jersey after I finished seminary in New York. I worked with a lot of people who were end-of-life patients: It was something of my specialty.

So, my experience is that when there are big outstanding issues with people, they have a very hard time letting go of life, despite horrible, painful medical situations where it seems improbable anyone can live. And, I have seen those same people pass very serenely if their issues were resolved there in the hospital room with loved ones. It was really quite remarkable.

So, where am I getting at?

Recently, I dealt with a few things hanging around from the old days that really irked me; rented space in my head or whatever you want to call it. And, some things changed. I feel better. I still deal with my medical problems, and they are a burden but, when I got rid of my old business, it felt like 150 pounds was taken off my shoulders.

It felt and feels awesome.

You see, I pray and meditate now, and even do a little bit of the Tai Chi katas I used to take at Amato's Karate, in Hazlet. I gave up booze, caffeine, tobacco and dairy and it has been great. But, getting myself back in total (mind, body, spirit), for me, means clearing up the old business.

I like to think I am not superstitious but maybe that's not true. Because one of the reasons I have always felt weighed down by old issues was what my grandmother said about "leaving my ghost behind." Hey, I love life but I firmly believe in heaven and when I pass that is where I want to go, not rattling chains in some K-Mart or suburban McMansion.

Psychologically and emotionally, all of the occult theater aside, I also think it is very good to unburden myself to take part in the next great part of my life: Retirement. It is a return to childhood in some ways. The focus becomes me again, as well as those I love. This is my time to engage in the "Happily Ever After" I have always been looking for myself.  To travel lighter for this journey, I am working very hard on getting rid of the old, icky karma and allowing myself to experience joy and serenity again, in earnest, and for good.

I know, my approach is a little 'Zen,' but it makes me feel a hell of a lot better. I laugh now. I never get angry at anything. I don't need to feed bad habits anymore -- I don't have them. And, I spend a lot of my day thinking about calories I am eating and how many calories the carbohydrates in water enhancer there may be. I want to keep it pretty basic now. And, that is why leaving the complexities of the old life are a good idea, not only for me but for anyone looking to turn over a new leaf, so to speak.

I saw Michelle Obama got her AARP card recently. I get mine in another year and change. I look forward to it. It is a metaphorical ticket to the rest of my life. And, I look forward to it. So, congratulations to Michelle: Hip, Hip, Hooray!

I have droned on enough for one night. So, thanks for stopping by. Best of luck and health, so seeya later, alligator.

Friday, January 17, 2014

THE NEW NAMES: They Suck and That's Just the Start

Hear Ye, Hear Ye -- The Old Fart Is Bitching Again!
So, when I was growing up in the 1970s, every now and again by the light of a full moon, you might run into someone with a weird name: Dylan; Knute (I knew one); Benton, or something like that. It was rare. And, all it signaled was that a kid got stuck with a weird name because his or her parents were trying to be 'special.'

It was a fairly standard line-up in my days, mostly boys and girls were named after saints or there were traditional names running around. Let's see, pretty common were names like: James, Luke, John, Simon, Peter, Harvey, Stanley, Thomas, William, Patrick, Anthony, Francis, Richard, Harold or George, among others.

For girls, let's see: Mary, Mariam, Marilyn, Judy, Ruth, Melissa, Frances, Sandra, Kimberly, Patricia, Ann, Stacey, Michelle, Andrea, Victoria, Susan, Dawn, get the idea.

Well, all things have to change, right?

So, through the years, things start changing. For boys, you start seeing a lot of Ryan, Dylan, Brody and that kind of thing. With the girls, you started seeing a lot of: Madison, Dakota, Cheyenne, etc. Alright, a little weird but -- whatever.

Then, somewhere in the early 2000s, it got stupid. Now, all of these names are people I have met or know, without exception. For boys: Decker, Reever, Boston, Lex, Striker, Stryker, Rock, Xander, Shamlin. Well, we've traveled pretty far from 'George' now.

For girls: Saber, Sabre, Philadelphia, Donatella, Crimson, Sunset, Meadow, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Morocco and Lattice.

And, let's not forget the interchangeable, for both sexes: Dale, Devon, Devin, Star and God knows what next.

OK, I get it. Stuff is different than the day. To my ears, the new stuff is goofy. And, here is why I think it is happening. So, if you have been reading some you'd know that some sociologists believe that parents, since the 1990s, have been doing this exaggerated "Child Worship" thing with their kids. Basically, parents wrap their kids in Saran Wrap now and give them a nudge when they're 30.

We have "helicopter moms," "tiger moms," "soccer dads" ... I can't keep up. So, to distinguish their child from every other child in the world, they give them a name so unique it is unlikely anyone will ever meet another one. Because every child is so utterly special that none of them need to get jobs cleaning anything, driving anything, busting their ass at anything. Basically, they're too good for the 'growing up' that everyone before has done.

And, where has it gotten us?

Fair Question. So, we have a young male population that is less competent, physically and academically, by and large, than any other generation before it. And, these boys are fatter than ever before. Hey, go team! Good one, parents -- quick -- blame the school board!

Now girls have totally changed roles with boys and that is fine. A lot of the girls I know want a career, definitely a child -- like one, and maybe a man or maybe not a permanent man. It's more than being equal now, women are (in my opinion) more academically inclined, job-oriented, mission oriented and more worked out than their male counterparts. Because 'men' have made themselves extra baggage in this generation. So much for building another temple to privileged youth.

Here's an old-fashioned question, old fart that I am: Who is going to like --- have babies now? So that we can replenish our job force; provided that the kids coming up aren't 'too good' to do anything and the country should just mail them $100,000 checks every month or so.

At what point are children going to have two parents again, if ever? With Gay Marriage on the rise, is Straight Marriage finally taking a header off the top of a cliff? I don't know, but things don't look good here, guys.

Hey, it's not our generation's business. I understand that argument; I espouse it. I have no dog in the race anymore. I'm done working and I have no plans of ever returning to working (unless I get a new body that works). The young people are inheriting the world. Youth is worshipped. After 50, everyone is supposed to disappear. Hey, I'm on target and on script. But, on the way out I would tell you this -- if you want to keep the industrial might of this country going -- the real power of this country -- you have to act.

Want to fix the economy? Let these young ladies have a go at it.

I would stop arguing about illegal immigration and swear-in every hard-working, honest illegal alien in this and get them paying taxes like now. Because the main culture has the worst, most confusing crop of young people I've ever heard of in U.S. history (minus the young women, who may take over the entire world: we should arm them).

If history has taught us nothing, though, it is this: Someone has to change tires, sweep the floor, do maintenance on the cars, fix the elevator, do masonry, electrical...etc. And, if you look at all those jobs right now, to their credit, you will see an awful lot of undocumented workers busting their ass to make a dollar in this country without a quarter of the bitching you'll hear from young people. They're hungry, like our grandparents used to be. They appreciate America -- like us and our parents did. And, they don't play video games on the couch all day. They work. Sounds good: Sign 'em up.

Right now, this country is re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic when it comes to Social Security without the muscle, sinew and 'can-do' attitude of Americans not born in this country, or raised as a 'worshipped child,' who isn't in Saran Wrap and is ready to do a damn day's work.

The truth is there are some special things about all of us. Yes, there are. But, to think that any of us are all that unique -- so dissimilar from other people -- is a lie. Unless your kid is in the process of curing cancer, writing the next great opera or some amazing math prodigy -- how about feet on the ground again?

In my day, I got out of the Army and took a job scrubbing toilets in a flea market. Gross? You betcha. Well, I worked my ass off and then I got promoted to assistant maintenance supervisor. OK, little better. I kept working my ass off and became the maintenance supervisor. Not resting on my laurels, I worked even harder and became the assistant market manager for my facility. Ultimately, I was made a manger. I worked my way up. I didn't show up one day, put in an application for manager and try to haggle a company car in my resume.

You know, it's the young people's world right now. But, I don't think their way works. It lacks character and hard work in a lot of fields that demand it. And, it's a little too ridiculous to think everyone is going to be a CEO. But, whatever.

Of course, not everyone's son or daughter fits into the tidy stereotypes I have provided here. But, I think there may be a lot of glimmers of truth for some people they can recognize. Anyway, no offense meant to video games, couch potatoes, or unfit and unambitious young men.

With that said, I will stop writing so I can have my hot cocoa tonight, take my medications and get to bed early. Maybe I will listen to some Sinatra before I go to sleep or watch the news. That's my Friday night. All the best to everyone and have a nice day! Seeya later...gators.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Problem Fixed

So, I think I have the whole technology thing squared away with. So now, I can continue my march into egocentric mediocrity with some more columns that dole out the metaphorical wanderings of an old coot, whose main bucket list item has become to yell at a bunch of kids to '...get off my lawn!' lol

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Computer Issue

So, I planned on writing this piece about politics. There is an issue with my computer that it just isn't formatting correctly. So, rather than put up some ugly looking column that makes me look like I didn't graduate fifth grade I'd rather not publish at all. So, I will resolve my computer issues and try to get back in the saddle here shortly. Thanks

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Multi-Tasking: No One Is Really All That Great At It

Multi-tasking is a doorway to a heart attack
I heard a lot about "Superwoman" growing up in the 1970s, as Moms went to work more and more. Then, men starting working harder and harder; women started working harder and harder. Until there is a culture and ethos today that, be it a man or a woman, someone can "have it all."

"Have it all" means someone can have a 60-hour per week salary job, go to school at least part-time, be a good parent, a great spouse and an amazing lover...oh, and work-out regularly. This is all before commuting and/or ever getting sick. But, the conventional wisdom is, all anyone has to do is "effectively balance their time."

I don't care what sociologist, therapist or writer says all of this is possible: It isn't. Are they nuts!? I actually think so.

There isn't enough time in the day to do all that stuff. Someone could get a heart attack or a hernia trying to do all that. To make it seem like "multi-tasking" is a reality, the definitions of what a 'good' employee, a good employer, a good husband or wife, certainly a good parent or even a good person had to change. 'Good' had to be watered down to 'Just OK,' for the most part.

Anything that anyone concentrates upon acutely will get done better than anyone who is trying to 'multi-task.' Jonas Salk, the doc who found the cure for Polio in the 1950s wasn't a 'multi-tasker.' Amazing musicians, like your garden variety Arthur Fiedlers, don't get that good without concentrating upon one thing to the exclusion of everything else. And, college students who focus on their grades are going to beat the hell out of a multi-tasker's GPA, unless he or she is up against some "Beautiful Mind" kid who is naturally brilliant.

Let's call it the way it is; don't pour water down my leg and call it rain. People have to earn a living, both parents have to work in a family, and they have to do what they have to do. Sure, Mom and Dad try to keep up with stuff -- maybe they can hold it together for a while but let's talk about the divorce rate while we are at it.

Here is my thesis: People who have too much to do are not the best parents, employees, employers, students, board members, athletic name it. People are working so much there are more heart attacks today than ever, because now women are dropping like flies just like men used to back in the day. The 'home' has been utterly destroyed and marriage is nothing more than a speed bump to the next relationship for most people and the only thing that works kind of OK are the bank accounts -- if someone is lucky.

Listen up, living like that is no better than existing the way animals do. Cavemen ran from large predators and took refuge wherever they could. Being warm-blooded, man had the ability to move around anytime, especially during the day, and cold-blooded predators didn't; ergo man wins. But, is the way people are living today any better than scraping around trying to hide from other kinds of cold-blooded predators? People prey on other people these days. Financial institutions prey on people today. The world mankind has made is one that doesn't allow for any kind of quality of life for people trying to scrape by. Hey, if someone gets a bachelor's degree right after high school, now they are in debt like $50,000 before they've made their first dollar.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the Greatest Generation managed to save the world from Nazis, rebuild economies all over the world from World War II, build the great bridges, colleges, dams and structures of our world, establish most of the athletic benchmarks that still exist in many sports and...they made it home for dinner at 5 pm. And, no one can pull off 1/5 of what that generation did despite the fact they have so much technology they could choke a horse. Mom was able to be home and raise the kids during the day, but Dad was there a lot of the time too. Because he didn't have to work like a Coolie on a train track hammering in spikes like today.
The days of women at home? Gone good-bye

Meanwhile, marriage was something of worth. It had value. It was usually for life. The whole world was built upon the fact that American society and culture was wholesome, united and rowing their oars in the same direction. Hey, I am not saying any of us should dial back time or the tides. The world is what we have made of it and it can't go back. Trying to pretend there is some time machine back is ridiculous; besides, a lot of the 'Good Old Days' were pretty bad with racism, sexism and a lot more 'isms.' So, let's not candy coat it either.

But, this world we have all made is suicide, and filled with so little unity and meaning between people, communities and even in this nation that we should be proud of very little by way of the new Great American Society. But, here is an idea, a thought...a bit of what is on my mind: Get off the merry-go-round. Run for your metaphoric life.

Have a job but don't make it your life. Make your life your life. Have a family, and make it work: Be there for your spouse and your kids, and keep to your vows without balking. If you're a coach, it should be because you have the time and everything with your family is fine...actually fine. And school? Newsbreak: It's stressful. Take it easy on school if you have a lot on your plate. Something has to get off your plate before something else jumps on.

People automatically know what 'too much' is. We are born with the knowledge of how much is too much. But, thanks to Oprah, employers, work-out gurus and the movies everyone thinks they are great at multi-tasking. The truth couldn't be farther from the truth. Most people outright suck at multi-tasking and are just doing everything "half-assed," in the language of my late father.

Hey, what is important to you? What is the thing you want more than anything in this world? If it is a family, then have a family. Try to include a partner that isn't disposable. One-parent families produce a lot of incomplete people, whether they know it or not. That is not to say, of course, that someone should hang in there if a partner is abusive or addicted to anything you don't have time for. But, make the real effort, not some half-way attempt at something.

Do you want to be great at work? Great! Don't have kids if you plan on never seeing them or, worse yet, you can't afford them. Then, live at work, order Chinese like it is going out of style, and use those damn sports tickets the company gets too -- you deserve 'em! But, don't make it too complicated. Because when you make your life too complicated with other people, you are going to disappoint them, by and large. I'm not saying everyone will. I know this guy, Clark Kent, he works as a reporter. He can have it all because he was rocketed to earth as a baby from his exploding planet of Krypton. But you? Since you have no super-powers you better slow your damn roll and figure out what you actually can and cannot handle and still be the kind of person you want.

Sure, I drank too much, I worked too much, I worked all the damn time. I went to school while I was drinking too much and working too much. Oh yeah, I tried to have a family too. Meanwhile, I was on so many civic associations I could barely remember them all. The drinking alone didn't do me in. The lifestyle I chose to adopt and the people I chose to put around me were garbage. I was doing everything like my Dad said: "Half-assed." Half the time, I was working too much to even grab a shower every day. Meanwhile, sleep? What the hell was sleep?  Go to the doctor when I was sick? I can't. I was insane.

Of course, I fell down in a real big way. Then, after my houses, cars, wife and mistress were gone (yeah, I was horrible at being a husband), I had all the time in the world. I fell completely into my alcoholism and BANG! No more scheduling problems -- I had all the time in the world. My phone didn't ring anymore. I burned out, though in my case it was spectacularly public.

Nevertheless, the point is that I know how people that do too much feel. They are trying and trying to catch up, but their life is a damn hamster wheel! My suggestion, get the hell off while you can! Find a new sound. Restructure your life so you have quality in your life, with whatever you decide is 'quality.'

In my experience, you know what unhappy people do...for the most part? They become miserable bastards. They are miserable at work, to their neighbors, to their family, employees, friends, check-out clerks at stores -- and telemarketers really get unloaded on. When they 'retire,' they don't enjoy a damn thing either.

There is another way to live, though: Sanely. Pare down your life until it looks the way you want it to be, with the people you want with you on your life's journey while you're not commuting half the day to get to someplace you really don't want to be.

'How do I change my life, everything is too hard?' I can't answer that. You're the guy or gal who got yourself into whatever in the first place; you have to figure a way how to get out. But, if you can get out...if you can do it... it's pretty nice over here. I lost weight, no more bags under the eyes, sober as a judge and don't miss the sauce, closer to God and even my hair is better. Can you believe that? I can't. I sleep nine hours a night like a baby and wake up feeling like a million bucks, despite a whole lot of injuries and conditions I have. I think sleep rewards us with a lot of things...better health and a sense of calm two important benefits. Sure, I still hurt -- but not like when I was trying to kill myself at work.

I am arguing for life being worth living. I am saying you cannot have it all because we are human, so we are not strong enough, smart enough, healthy enough or able enough to do a thousand different things. There was only one perfect man ever made in this world, and we killed him for it. Get out of the prison you made for yourself and get back to basics. No one will ever regret enjoying their life again.

Here is a scene: A man is on his deathbed in the hospital. He looks up at his lovely wife in his last moments and says, "I know I could have made regional manager if I just got that quarterly report in quicker 25 years ago. Now I don't have that job and......" And, he dies. A nice life? He died years before, buried in his work, but he kept breathing until finally his body caught up.

Be the guy or girl that looks back and smiles when they see their accomplishments, remember their friends, family and even their work. Balance. Balance is important in anything one does. There's no way around it.

Thanks for stopping by, seeya later...alligators.

Bipolar: Picking Up The Pieces

I am not an expert in bipolar disorder and am certainly not a doctor. At no point did I receive training in the illness or even formal familiarization. However, in the mid-1990s, my then-wife was bipolar, and whatever I learned about bipolar, and it was a lot, was from 'living' with her.
To begin with, bipolar disorder is one characterized by extreme highs and lows where it involves emotions, moods and physical activity.

When someone "cycles," or shifts between extremely high activity and positive mood to extremely low activity and mood, there is even a change in personality. The change in personality can be so total it is amazing. However, as I understand it, some people who are bipolar cycle frequently while others do not.

Why know this? Most people are not impacted by bipolar disorder. Well, true enough. But I am speaking to those people who are and their families, friends and loved ones. Because bipolar disorder is no joke. I went through hell with my ex-wife for two years,  before I absolutely could not take it anymore and divorced her. No one wants a divorce, not ever, but it all went too far. And why? She wouldn't take her medication because she "liked the way her highs felt and wasn't going to give them up." She would explain, "I feel on top of the world when I am on an 'up-cycle,' " she said.

Maybe Mary (her name wasn't Mary, but why be vindictive?) was having a good time, but I sure as hell wasn't. And, I went to see her psychiatrist, and he explained this disorder as best he could to me to try and understand and help Mary. However, Mary was having none of it. Despite the fact she went to her psychiatrist and therapist loyally, she would not take medication for long stretches and then only take meds for a little while.

So, here's what I didn't sign up for when I married her: sexual promiscuity with other men, extreme use of drugs and alcohol, spending sprees on credit that we could not pay back, tirades and screaming, all-night 'processing feelings,' days of not leaving the couch or showering, unexplained absences for long periods and generalized insanity; every single day, no let-up. And, at that time, she exhibited no signs she wanted help or treatment at all despite the fact she openly lied to her clinicians as she received their treatment (which she would not implement at home). In Mary's case, she was deceptive to her doctors and caregivers.

Not all people afflicted with bipolar disorder are impacted as heavily by the disorder as Mary, nor are deceitful to doctors during care. But, Mary sure as hell was. And, none of that was necessary. Thank God for medical advances in the Modern Era, which possesses medication to arrest the disorder so people with it may have long and relatively normative lives. But, there is a common problem in some people effected by the disease in that they will not take their medications because they like the 'high' that comes along with it, from what I have seen in my experience.

Mary stood her ground: No meds! Well, no marriage can stand up to a partner flaunting out-of-relationship sexual liaisons in another partner's face, or spending every cent and more than they have, or coming home to find another partner 'coked up' or drunk, or sleeping for days and stinking from not showering, not working and when not constantly attacking me in one cycle, crying for forgiveness in the other.

Right out of college, where we met, Mary was a young teacher who immediately found a position in the Piscataway, New Jersey school district. She taught art. Meanwhile, I received a job as a small-town reporter out of college, but I was ambitious and eager to rise through the ranks.

Mary didn't take her medications, so she couldn't find time to work after that and quickly quit/lost her job (hard to tell which). Then, rather than support me, she turned our marriage into a sham and almost cost me my entire career. How we would have lived I do not know.

I remember one Christmas like it was yesterday. When she was 'up' on a cycle, she used our credit cards to buy gifts for not only her mother and sister but also for cousins she hadn't seen in years, as well as high-school and college friends she was out of contact with. And, she said she didn't care if we didn't have a dime, because she "was going to be happy this Christmas no matter what!" And, after Christmas? She said, "We can kill ourselves after Christmas and be done with everything!"

No joke, folks, I didn't think that sounded bad. No, I did not want to divorce my wife. I loved her. Despite the fact I had been married previously, I worked as hard as I could in my marriage to Mary because I do not really believe in divorce. But let me tell you, no one in the Bible ever had to deal with a woman like this. And, there is a point at which no one can take it anymore. I made it to that point and beyond.

Luckily, I didn't have to decide about going on, because after a string of affairs on me, Mary fell "in love" with a degenerate gambler and decided to take up with him. She made my decision for me. He wasn't just a gambler: He was the kind of gambler who had loan sharks and bookies looking for him. He had to sell television sets from his home, steal from his parents and run and hide to avoid beatings by people he owed money to because of gambling and/or drugs.

Well, I cannot say I wished her well at the time. My heart was broken, my wallet was bare, my ego was stomped upon and  I barely managed to hold on to my career, which I ended up more than salvaging and ended up doing quite well at for some time. I had to go through Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, though, because she buried me in debt.

The last time I saw her face-to-face was after I received a job as an editor for a large weekly newspaper in Middletown, New Jersey. Mary came to my office demanding something or other after our divorce was final. I informed her we were no longer married, business between us was settled and anything between us had been addressed in a Monmouth County, New Jersey courtroom. Still, she persisted. It ended with me threatening to call the police to have her removed from the building. And then, despite all of the mess, there was finally silence -- blessed silence.

Why was all this needed? Not because Mary was a bad person. Mary was and is a very good person, who is now remarried and has a kid. I believe she takes her medication now, and probably doesn't miss a dose. She doesn't want her life falling apart around her again.

From talking to Mary's doctor and doing independent research in the library about bipolar disorder, I learned it is not uncommon for people with the disorder to go on spending sprees with money they don't have, be so hyper sexual with random people they become promiscuous despite serious relationship obligations, lose jobs from not showing up or not clean themselves and sleep for days.

If you are in a relationship with a bipolar person, you better understand what you are getting into with a person so afflicted by talking to a doctor or other credible medical person for advice. Like I said, not everyone is as heavily impacted by the disorder as Mary. And, Mary would have been, could have been fine if she had just have taken her medication: It was that important.

Mary never told me she had bipolar disorder before we got married. We had only known each other a few months and got married spontaneously in, no joke,  Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevertheless, I took this marriage very seriously. I paid for being haphazard and spontaneous for a long time.

This is why I urge people to understand the disorder by talking to professionals. They can decide what they want to do from there. But, bipolar disorder is serious business that deserves serious attention and support by everyone involved. Bipolar disorder may make people with the disorder spontaneous, but there is nothing spontaneous about addressing it -- and people should know that in order to help whomever they know with it.

Again, thanks for stopping by and I'll be talking to you later...alligator.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

DANCING: More than Just a Tradition

Why don't people dance anymore? People have been dancing, alone or in pairs, since the first caveman threw the first-ever rock at the second-ever caveman. It has been the traditional way boys meet girls, or even one of the ways men meet women in a social situation.

When I was a kid, I liked Metal and Disco. Metal had a great sound and, where it involved Disco, it was  awesome because I liked to dance with girls. And, when girls went out to dance...well...they usually looked OK. So, I'm on the record: Disco is fine by me.

And, for a while there, the Disco phenomenon of the mid- to late-1970s was literally all over the place. No matter what television channel you turned to there were the Solid Gold Dancers (not hard on the eyes for a teen), some Disco music show or other, or some promotion for any one of a hundred different dance instructors pushing a record and booklet (yeah, remember that?).

I didn't mind...I liked to dance because I wanted to spend as much 'face time' with girls as I could possibly get, really to figure out how I could date them. My mother had made me be her dance partner (when my father and older brother wouldn't do it) since I was like 7 years old, so I learned how to dance some; it paid off. At the time, though, the last thing I wanted to do was spend an hour or so three or four times a week dancing with my Mom.

Nevertheless, I owed Mom for that one, for out of the toils of labor sprang forth the fruit of hope -- I could dance and not fall over myself and that was appealing to girls who liked to dance. I was a polite kid, too, and that helped. So, I threw myself headlong into Disco, bought the clothes and all, and went to every school and church dance there was that I could get into for an event. I even went to church dances at places I didn't go to church at whatsoever.

Why? Girls.

Then, one day, something terrible happened: A radio station, during the late 1970s (I think), in New York was sponsoring a "Metal Rally," wherein event-goers would bring their vinyl Disco records to Shea Stadium and the records would be ceremonially burned to loudly announce the "Death of Disco."

What? What the hell were they talking about? What does anyone have against getting dressed-up and dancing?

Surveying the likes of the 'Metal Horde,' I couldn't help but notice that, in many instances, hygiene was an outstanding issue and there was a decided lack of girls in their ranks. There certainly wasn't any dancing and all 'Metal Heads' did was listen to music and bob their heads up-and-down. When there was a girl Metal Head...well ...she was usually dressed down, to say the least.

Later on that changed as Metal got more sophisticated, in the 1980s. But, up front, in the beginning, the whole concept kind of sucked for me. I couldn't see the use for music I sat down for three or four hours to listen to and didn't get up once from my seat to do anything. And, why? To sit in an auditorium with thousands of other people and bob my head up-and-down? Are you kidding me? I could buy the record and save the ticket price.

So Metal won. During the '80s there was a big revival of dancing for a while, but it was nothing like Disco. Nevertheless, as a young man I would find any nearby Disco and close the joint out if I didn't have to work the next day.

During my father's day, even the most uncoordinated wallflower, if someone with a gun pointed to his head told him to do so, could pull off a box-step if they had to do it. But then again, someone brandishing a firearm to make someone dance isn't likely to happen outside a Mexican cantina in a Spaghetti Western. Nevertheless, there is cinematic precedent for that, if not a precedent rooted in non-movie history.

As I got older, I still danced but not as often. I wasn't a "dancing with myself" kind of guy. From what I remembered when I danced with Mom, even though dancing was intended to be fun, couples usually practiced so they looked good on the dance floor.

Hey, look at that! A relationship-building event! And, it's one where both people are interacting with each other, working toward common goals, three or four times a week. It's these kinds of things that help to make marriages and relationships stronger between men and women, or even same-sex partners (God bless them).

Americans worship going to work, though, and they work more than any European country and have less to show for it in the bank. When people do their best to work 24 hours per day and they are paid a salary, as white-collar people usually are, then they sometimes throw themselves into the work and 'to hell' with anything else.

You know, I'm just chirping in here...but that idea absolutely bites in my book. Why do people work? So, our choices for an answer are: A. To afford a full life, which includes friends, family and maybe even a significant other; or B. To work one's self into an early grave with just a few close family members and one or two friends, the significant other can either wait or be patient with their time 'constraints.'

Actually, I stole a few girls from other fellas who subscribed to 'Option B,' I don't mind saying.

I love dancing, but getting involved with any hobby or pastime with a significant other is really important to building relationships and staying in close contact with your other half. You know, relationships commonly break-up due to many reasons. Often cited as common reasons couples go their separate ways are: 1. Money, 2. Sex, 3. Jealousy, 4. Started leading separate lives, and 5. Arguing too much.

Well, dancing can't help out the 'money' category. So, at some point, people have to work to live (it's a time-honored tradition). However, in my experience, sex and dancing have a correlation. It's hard to be jealous about a significant other if you're dancing partners -- because you're spending a lot of time with each other. Also, it is not possible to lead a 'separate life' when you are dancing with each other regularly. You can't dance with anyone from another room. You cannot buy an app for your phone to dance with your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend. Finally, if two people can cooperate on a dance floor then the chances are they can cooperate with each other more than adequately in their real lives.

I am not saying that dancing is the Holy Grail of relationships. I am promoting it as good exercise, a nice relationship builder and enjoyable pastime. Of course, anyone should check with their doctor before starting any exercise/dance program. You wouldn't want your partner to fall over from a coronary or break a hip.

As for me, though, I plan on using my retirement to become an elderly Arthur Murray after I get my own orthopedic issues ironed out with my doctors.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and all the best!