…And They Want To Talk About Torture, Huh?

So…where have I been lately?  Good question.

One of the things that I have learned in my 48 years on this planet is that the Universe has many constants.  The polarity of a hydrogen molecule is always the same.  To our knowledge, the speed of light cannot be exceeded (unless of course, you enjoy looking like a big, flat, infinite pancake).  Old Faithful erupts between 42-125 minutes every day.  And I have learned to tell what the weather will be and what time of day it is by the pain in my back.  Yes, I can not only tell you if you should bring an umbrella, but if you’re late for an appointment (so long as your appointment is scheduled during my own pain eruption times of 5-6 hours when my medication wears off).  Trust me on this.

As most of you know, I used to do dumb, stupid things in my youth: driving cars while on LSD; jumping off cliffs into a river just for the hell of it; and most daring of all, I used to climb and hike…mountains.  Not knolls, nor hills, nor even big piles of dirt and rock…mountains.  You see, while everyone else I knew in college was busy skiing (I went to school in Vermont for a time); I decided that I liked the feeling of having some sort of control over the force of gravity rather than having me careen out of control down a frozen, snowy, adult version of a slip and slide.  I decided that facing the mountain head on by going up and then down by the force of sheer will was much better than doing a Sonny Bono on the links.  On one of my frequent excursions, I took a bit of a fall and landed square on my backside…operative word being “back”.  I now have two degenerative discs in my lower back that cause my almost daily pain as a result of my youthful indiscretions and adventurous spirit.

So last week as the first heavy spring rains came upon the Great State of New Jersey and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard, I was seeing entire constellations of stars at two in the afternoon.  It was like when Bugs Bunny gets his over the head and things start spinning around his cranium.  They want to talk about “enhanced interrogation techniques”?  All they have to do is somehow siphon the pain from my back into a patch, and this so-called War On Terror (or whatever it is these days we call it) would be over in minutes.  Metallica at ear splitting volume; sleep deprivation; confinement; and other nefarious techniques used by the previous occupants of the White House would pale in comparison to one of “Doctor Ken’s Back Pain Patches”.  Trust me, this is not what I bargained for when I came into this world 48 years ago.  I also didn’t bargain for alcoholism, bi-polar disorder, and Acute PTSD either…but those were my cards in the hand I got dealt.  This one, though was the deuce of clubs from the pack when I was running a royal straight flush of diamonds.

Sure, I could type…but what good would it have done?  I was too busy enjoying my Pink Floyd collection thanks to those very nice pain killers every time I sat here to write this blog.  My Yes collection never sounded this good.  In other words, there was no way a coherent thing was going to come forth from this keyboard.  So I stayed away from the blog.  Oh yeah, and there was TOO MUCH to write about as well!  Could you really expect me to focus on ONE topic in the past week or two without going crazy?  Pandemic Flu, wars, Chrysler going bust…these were just too much.  Add to that the syncopated pandemonium of my daughter’s First Holy Communion Party (run in part by me, the non-Catholic in the house) no less; with my mother and my in-laws and kids and other assorted guests dithering about.  So as the weather improved, so did my back…and hence this post, all because I joked with my wife about being able to tell the time and the weather by my back.

Right now it’s almost midnight, and the front is moving in.  Yup, it’ll start raining by your commute on Friday morning.  My last dose of assorted M & Medications was taken just after dinner.  And I will gladly let in the “Spanish Inquisition”…so long as they bring along the comfy chair and the soft cushions.

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong


Enemy At The Gates (Part Three)

All too convenient for my liking:

The most populous city in the Western Hemisphere, Mexico City; with over 20 million inhabitants becomes the epicenter of what is becoming an epidemic.  Mexico is a country not exactly known for its strict border policy, and as the US/Mexico border is porous already, infected people can slip through very easily.  People vacation all over Mexico…and we just came off of Spring Break time where thousands of young people flock to Mexico.  They bring it back.  9 cases (all students who were exposed to someone who just came back from Mexico) in New York City should scare the shit out of anyone with a modicum of intelligence.  DO THE MATH.  Remember EXPONENTS?  Keep that in mind as I pose this frightening scenario: MILLIONS OF COMMUTERS INTO AND OUT OF NYC DAILY.  New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania…all breeding grounds.  One case in the Central US, almost LITERALLY the center in Kansas; several cases in California.

An illness of this nature does not simply appear out of nowhere within days.  It had to have been engineered, and most likely (in my opinion…and I must stress this, MY OPINION) planted in the Western Hemisphere’s most populous city.  Who, what, or why doesn’t really matter now does it?  It just is.

Make no mistake about this despite what the Government is telling you now: this is an epidemic soon to be pandemic.  Read the Internet.  Do your homework.  Do not be satisfied with the information that is being disseminated to you from the mainstream media.  Trust the Net; trust people ON the Net who should begin communicating via IM within days.  It is inevitable that once things start getting worse, communication between people from all parts of the globe will be more important than ever.  Communication not based in rumor, but based on fact.  We will all need to become bloggers and reporters now.  We will all need to be vigilant.

Most importantly, we will all need to be human.

Enemy At The Gates (Part Two)

This says it all.  I have reprinted the conclusions from the Levin Report on the Inquiry Of Detainees In Us Custody.  A link to the full report will be provided at the end.  Weep for our nation, for this is our heart and soul and conscience that has been ripped away from us.  The criminals responsible for this absolute and total perversion of the rule of law need to be brought to justice; no matter how high up in the Chain of Command they were:

Senate Armed Services Committee Conclusions

Conclusion 1: On February 7, 2002, President George W. Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees.  Following the President’s determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions, used in SERE training to simulate tactics used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.

Conclusion 2: Members of the President’s Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed.  National Security Council Principals reviewed the CIA’s interrogation program during that period.

Conclusions on SERE Training Techniques and Interrogations

Conclusion 3: The use of techniques similar to those used in SERE resistance training –  such as stripping students of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, and treating them like animals – was at odds with the commitment to humane treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.  Using those techniques for interrogating detainees was also inconsistent with the goal of collecting accurate intelligence information, as the purpose of SERE resistance training is to increase the ability of U.S. personnel to resist abusive interrogations and the techniques used were based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions.

Conclusion 4: The use of techniques in interrogations derived from SERE resistance training created a serious risk of physical and psychological harm to detainees.  The SERE schools employ strict controls to reduce the risk of physical and psychological harm to students during training.  Those controls include medical and psychological screening for students, interventions by trained psychologists during training, and code words to ensure that students can stop the application of a technique at any time should the need arise.  Those same controls are not present in real world interrogations.

Conclusions on Senior Official Consideration of SERE Techniques for Interrogations

Conclusion 5: In July 2002, the Office of the Secretary of Defense General Counsel solicited information from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) on SERE techniques for use during interrogations.  That solicitation, prompted by requests from Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II, reflected the view that abusive tactics similar to those used by our enemies should be considered for use against detainees in U.S. custody.

Conclusion 6: The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) interrogation program included at least one SERE training technique, waterboarding.  Senior Administration lawyers, including Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, were consulted on the development of legal analysis of CIA interrogation techniques.  Legal opinions subsequently issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) interpreted legal obligations under U.S. anti-torture laws and determined the legality of CIA interrogation techniques.  Those OLC opinions distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws, rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody and influenced Department of Defense determinations as to what interrogation techniques were legal for use during interrogations conducted by U.S. military personnel.

Conclusions on JPRA Offensive Activities

Conclusion 7: Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) efforts in support of “offensive” interrogation operations went beyond the agency’s knowledge and expertise.  JPRA’s support to U.S. government interrogation efforts contributed to detainee abuse.  JPRA’s offensive support also influenced the development of policies that authorized abusive interrogation techniques for use against detainees in U.S. custody.

Conclusion 8: Detainee abuse occurred during JPRA’s support to Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation operations in Iraq in September 2003.  JPRA Commander Colonel Randy Moulton’s authorization of SERE instructors, who had no experience in detainee interrogations, to actively participate in Task Force interrogations using SERE resistance training techniques was a serious failure in judgment.  The Special Mission Unit Task Force Commander’s failure to order that SERE resistance training techniques not be used in detainee interrogations was a serious failure in leadership that led to the abuse of detainees in Task Force custody.  Iraq is a Geneva Convention theater and techniques used in SERE school are inconsistent with the obligations of U.S. personnel under the Geneva Conventions.

Conclusion 9: Combatant Command requests for JPRA “offensive” interrogation support and U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) authorization of that support led to JPRA operating outside the agency’s charter and beyond its expertise.  Only when JFCOM’s Staff Judge Advocate became aware of and raised concerns about JPRA’s support to offensive interrogation operations in late September 2003 did JFCOM leadership begin to take steps to curtail JPRA’s “offensive” activities.  It was not until September 2004, however, that JFCOM issued a formal policy stating that support to offensive interrogation operations was outside JPRA’s charter.

Conclusions on GTMO’s Request for Aggressive Techniques

Conclusion 10: Interrogation techniques in Guantanamo Bay’s (GTMO) October 11, 2002 request for authority submitted by Major General Michael Dunlavey, were influenced by JPRA training for GTMO interrogation personnel and included techniques similar to those used in SERE training to teach U.S. personnel to resist abusive enemy interrogations.  GTMO Staff Judge Advocate Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver’s legal review justifying the October 11, 2002 GTMO request was profoundly in error and legally insufficient.  Leaders at GTMO, including Major General Dunlavey’s successor, Major General Geoffrey Miller, ignored warnings from DoD’s Criminal Investigative Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the techniques were potentially unlawful and that their use would strengthen detainee resistance.

Conclusion 11: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers’s decision to cut short the legal and policy review of the October 11, 2002 GTMO request initiated by his Legal Counsel, then-Captain Jane Dalton, undermined the military’s review process.  Subsequent conclusions reached by Chairman Myers and Captain Dalton regarding the legality of interrogation techniques in the request followed a grossly deficient review and were at odds with conclusions previously reached by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Criminal Investigative Task Force.

Conclusion 12: Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II’s effort to cut short the legal and policy review of the October 11, 2002 GTMO request initiated by then- Captain Jane Dalton, Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was inappropriate and undermined the military’s review process.  The General Counsel’s subsequent review was grossly deficient.  Mr. Haynes’s one page recommendation to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld failed to address the serious legal concerns that had been previously raised by the military services about techniques in the GTMO request.  Further, Mr. Haynes’s reliance on a legal memo produced by GTMO’s Staff Judge Advocate that senior military lawyers called “legally insufficient” and “woefully inadequate” is deeply troubling.

Conclusion 13: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there.  Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 approval of Mr. Haynes’s recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO’s October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Conclusion 14: Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II’s direction to the Department of Defense’s Detainee Working Group in early 2003 to consider a legal memo from John Yoo of the Department of Justice’s OLC as authoritative, blocked the Working Group from conducting a fair and complete legal analysis and resulted in a report that, in the words of then- Department of the Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora contained “profound mistakes in its legal analysis.”  Reliance on the OLC memo resulted in a final Working Group report that recommended approval of several aggressive techniques, including removal of clothing, sleep deprivation, and slapping, similar to those used in SERE training to teach U.S. personnel to resist abusive interrogations.

Conclusions on Interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan

Conclusion 15: Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense’s December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO.  SMU TF interrogation policies in Iraq included the use of aggressive interrogation techniques such as military working dogs and stress positions.  SMU TF policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.

Conclusion 16: During his assessment visit to Iraq in August and September 2003, GTMO Commander Major General Geoffrey Miller encouraged a view that interrogators should be more aggressive during detainee interrogations.

Conclusion 17: Interrogation policies approved by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, which included the use of military working dogs and stress positions, were a direct cause of detainee abuse in Iraq.  Lieutenant General Sanchez’s decision to issue his September 14, 2003 policy with the knowledge that there were ongoing discussions as to the legality of some techniques in it was a serious error in judgment.  The September policy was superseded on October 12, 2003 as a result of legal concerns raised by U.S. Central Command.  That superseding policy, however, contained ambiguities and contributed to confusion about whether aggressive techniques, such as military working dogs, were authorized for use during interrogations.

Conclusion 18: U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) failed to conduct proper oversight of Special Mission Unit Task Force interrogation policies.  Though aggressive interrogation techniques were removed from Combined Joint Task Force 7 interrogation policies after CENTCOM raised legal concerns about their inclusion in the September 14, 2003 policy issued by Lieutenant General Sanchez, SMU TF interrogation policies authorized some of those same techniques, including stress positions and military working dogs.

Conclusion 19: The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own.  Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO.  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody.  What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely

My father proudly served this country in the Korean War.  He was placed in constant danger, although for years he always told us he worked in the motor pool in Ft Bliss, Texas.  He didn’t.  He was doing other things for his country; things I cannot write about.  But he was in harm’s way, and at any time he could have been subjected to the Chinese “brainwashing” techniques…the very same ones we used over the past eight years on detainees.

Make no mistake: I want to ensure that my children will never have to endure what I did as a survivor of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center…but I am an American, and Americans don’t torture.  Torture and oppression and totalitarianism is what we oppose and we have fought against; we do not export it ourselves, live under it ourselves, nor become inhumane in the process of the defense of liberty.

We are Americans WE DO NOT TORTURE and those who created this policy, and if possible, those who acted outside the established boundaries of the Army Field Manual should be prosecuted as war criminals.  No exceptions.  I will be DAMNED if I had to survive a horrific terrorist attack only to see my beloved country lose its soul and its conscience in the process.

I would rather I died than see that happen.



The Enemy At The Gates (Part One)

“We have met the enemy, and he is us” – Walt Kelly (Pogo)

It began slowly over the course of the 2008 Presidential Election; spurred on by Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media propagandists like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  Then it began to slowly creep into the campaign in full-throttle: that President Obama is a Socialist.  By true definition of that word, he most certainly is not; the fact that he is left-of center cannot be denied…but that does not make him a Socialist.  It’s one thing for these Right Wing nut jobs to simply go off and call the other guy a lot of names; hell, George H.W. Bush called Governor Michael Dukakis, “a card carrying member of the ACLU” (like that was a frightening thing?  It was also a dumb thing to say because the ACLU even champions Right Wing causes when warranted and is apolitical).  OK, so the Socialist tag got stuck in the campaign; you deal with that, and the Obama Campaign handled that with great aplomb.  It’s when the train REALLY started to jump the track that got me worried, and still scares the living daylights out of me.  It should scare the living daylights out of you too, and for the next several posts; I’m going to hopefully wake you up to the very real possibility that the Right Wing may very well be conspiring to overthrow the legitimately elected government of The United States of America.

Over the past decade, the Right Wing has moved ever so much further away from just the traditional “cut taxes and deregulate everything” footprint that was the bedrock of the old Republican Party most of us used to know.  The GOP has become a shadow of its former self, and has absolutely no resemblance to any kind of sane political movement.  It has become the refuge of fringe Christian religious fanatics that could be very well even more so than their Islamic or Jewish counterparts, quite simply because they have a chance to regain power every 4 years and have the entire US Armed Forces (plus nuclear arsenal) at their disposal.  These are people who WELCOME death and destruction, as it will send their souls toward heaven where they will be united with Jesus once again.  Oh boy.  I’d say it was a bad novel if it wasn’t true, but it is…and this is only one arm of the GOP that is working against not only the United States, but Humanity as well.

The other arm of this political hydra are the Corporate and Military special interests.  They lie in bed together like Brad Pitt and Angelina Joile do, and perform all sorts of acts that best be left off this page; but the general outcome is this: someone gets fucked.  In this case, it’s the American people…smoke ’em while you got ’em.  I hope that was as good for you as it was for me; because essentially since Eisenhower warned us against the rise of the vast Military-Industrial Complex in 1960 that’s what’s been happening to us.  People are out today protesting high taxes; well guess where vast amounts of the Middle Class’ money goes?  Yup, that very sweet hooker we’ve had a thing for since the 1950’s.  President Obama steps in, and is beginning to tell these guys that the rules of the game are going to be changed a bit.  The Military is going to have to spend wisely; the era of the no-bid contract is over.  Those nice, shiny missile defense grids with secret decoder rings are not going to get built.  Corporations are not only going to be accountable to shareholders, but the American public who is itself essentially the majority shareholder in a few of them.  There’s going to be a few rules for those guys as well.

Now we come to probably the biggest, single-most source of waste and fraud and taxpayer dollars: Health Insurance Companies and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers.  The American people have LITERALLY been held hostage by these two special interests since 1947, when Harry Truman’s plan for National Health Care fizzled.  In that time, Corporations pay more to insure their workers; people are forced to pay more out of pocket despite having insurance; and forget about the cost of certain drugs…I’ll save a personal horror story that recently happened to me for another time…but THAT is where EVERYONE makes money.  And it’s not just the GOP who is bought, paid for, and has sold its soul to on this issue…it’s the Democrats as well.  The President wants to shake up this unholy duo as well as it not only costs citizens large sums of cash, but the Federal Government as well.

Let’s review: Right Wing Nut Jobs (w/Religious Fanatics)+Military Industrial Complex & Large Corporations+Health Care and Pharmaceutical Companies= the new base of the GOP.  Let’s wrap that all up into the flag while tying yellow ribbons on the old oak tree for wars we should never be involved with…PLUS A LARGE TELEVISION NETWORK PUSHING, AND INCITING some of the more fanatical elements of this cabal.  THIS is where I have a problem; THIS is where I saw the train start to go off the tracks toward the end of the election…when we started dividing parts of the country into “Real America” and not; between who IS an American, and who is not; and most disturbingly, calls at some of the McCain/Palin rallies for very awful things to happen to our current President (then candidate).

I honestly thought it would die down after the election; all the hate and the fear and the lies and the deception from the Right.  Instead it has picked up steam; it is being pushed forward proudly by a television network who aids and abets this ideology of Neo-McCarthyism.  People are dismissing it as people being sore-losers from the last election; and perhaps some of that is right.  But did ANY of the elected politicians call to “rise up and defend America” like Michele Bachman did after the last President Bush won?  Others have called for the same thing…what is this “rise up”, other than to essentially promote treason; and by the very definition Fox News should be called “The Sedition Network”.

Because, ladies and gentlemen…if we don’t get a handle on these crazies now, we will lose this country forever and be mired in a conflict that would make the Civil War pale in comparison.

NEXT: The hard evidence of the right wing’s desires to take back power at any cost.

“It is only necessary to make war with five things: with the maladies of the body, with the ignorance of the mind, with the passions of the body, with the sedition of the city, with the discords of families.” – Tacitus

Spring Break

We will be taking a short break for Spring and to coincide with my kids’ vacation schedule.  The next posting will be on Tax Day, Wednesday April 15th.  Enjoy the break, and Happy Easter and Happy Passover to those that celebrate those holidays.


My friend’s wife is dying.

That’s about as simple as the situation is, and as horrible as it is.  She is young, and was struck down by an illness that literally hits one in a million people.  Her body has been slowly killing itself for the past four years, and my friend could do nothing but watch his wife slip away from him day by day with absolutely no chance for a cure.  All he could do was be by her side and make her as comfortable as possible.  Now, she has chosen hospice, and it is only a matter of time before I get the phone call confirming the inevitable.  Thus begins another phase of my life, as friends begin to slip away from me.

When I was younger, I had experienced the deaths of many friends.  This was the 70’s after all, and drugs and alcohol were rampant and we did stupid things…like drive while under the influence of SOMETHING.  The first death of a close friend involved a closed casket, because most of his body was scattered all over the Staten Island Expressway.  I had three friends hit the wall of a Deli on a sharp bend in the road while doing 80 miles an hour.  All three died; one of them sat next to me just a few months prior at our High School graduation.  Another friend died while committing suicide; another after contracting meningitis; and yet another after being struck by a car while on the way home from coaching a bunch of kids in Little League practice.

All of this happened by the age of 18.  I had seen more than my share of funerals and wakes; so much so that I get ill sometimes while attending a wake.  All funeral parlors smell the same to me; the sweet sickly smell of perfume and flowers covering up death; our own morbid way of somehow getting closure with the deceased.  I do not mourn for the dead at these events.  I mourn for the living; for the survivors and loved ones be they friend or family.  I worry about how their lives will be, now that this one life was taken from them.  I was at the age a few years ago of weddings, and births, and the occasional death of a parent or grandparent.  Now I am approaching another phase of my life it seems, and it appears as if I may be entering a part of my life where I begin to lose my friends and family at a more rapid pace than before.

In a way I was a part of death on September 11th.  I saw death and I walked upon its dust.  In some strange way though, I never felt like I was going to die on that day…don’t ask my how or why, I just did.  What I didn’t bargain for were the years of madness and alcoholism that followed, which I guess was my death in this life (the one I am conscious and aware of).  I have a belief that there is something beyond this existence.  I am a great believer of reincarnation, although I am not sure if you reincarnate on this earth or another place.  I believe that were are a part of the Universe trying to understand itself and that each of us help it to do so as we struggle to understand ourselves.  I cannot imagine the meaning of my life without that belief, but it has taken me a number of years to come to that conclusion.  Perhaps I am wrong, and when my life ends it will be the simple extinguishing of an insignificant flame on some insignificant planet in the corner of the galaxy.  For now, anyway…I have my beliefs.  I guess you could say they give me some comfort; and there’s more to tell you as to why, but let’s just say one day I was given an glimpse into something wonderful and leave it at that.

So in a few days, perhaps longer…who knows…I will be on a plane to Arizona.  I will be scared out of my wits (I hate to fly),  Xanaxed to the hilt, and desperately trying to keep it all together on the way out there.  Once I arrive, I’ll be fine but then comes my role as a friend.  I know damned well he’d do the same thing for me if the roles were reversed; but this is when you know someone for over thirty years, and you have passed through many of the phases of your lives together.  Although we had been in sporadic contact over the past few years, we remain friends.  We were at each others weddings; my wife and I would double date with he and his wife often (including a most memorable 31st birthday for me).  He is one of the most philosophical and deep thinkers I have ever met in my life, and yet I do not know how he is going to react to this.  I do not know what kind of service it will be, because neither of them were religious in a traditional church-going manner.  If I had my guess, it would probably be a small memorial service knowing their low-key personalities.  No matter how it is conducted, and no matter who attends it regardless of individual belief systems, I only know that I seek comfort and am confident in one thing.

Her time done, she will have moved onward to the next phase.

Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time, I used to get cigarettes for .65 a pack and $6.50 a carton.  Now that same $6.50 may not even get me ONE pack

…I used to have no conveniences of a cell phone, computer, and web sites that constantly kept me apprised of my friends’ doings and them of mine.  Now, I have no privacy, even if I wanted it without becoming a hermit

…people used to by records and CDs.  Now, people buy downloads and don’t give a damn about audio quality.

…I could afford to go to a Yankee game, and maybe even take someone else.  Hell, Tess and I used to buy tickets on the same day, get decent seats, and have a hell of a good time relatively inexpensively.  Now, I can’t even GET seats, let alone afford to take my kids.

…I could set foot in NYC without getting panicked.  Now, that is not the case; so that pretty much eliminates any concerts, or Yankee games.

…I used to fly on a plane with no fear.  Today, the only way I am going near a plane is if I’m being evacuated.

…my 12 year old daughter was my baby girl.  She still is, but like the post I did the other day, she is very much making me feel like an adult today.  She is going to her first school dance tonight.  And thus begins my illustrious career in being the Girlfriend’s Father From Hell!

Oh sure, they call it a “dance”; they’ll be playing music, there will be a slushy machine there for the kids too.  My daughter will not be attending with a boy (at least one that I know of, anyway), but I’m certain she has a crush or two going on. They’ll all break up into their cliques and probably wind up texting each other on their cell phones rather than talk to one another.  That’s the problem with this generation: they have TOO MUCH technology; they don’t truly understand certain qualities of humanity, like actual verbal interaction between people.  I just don’t get this whole text message thing.  I mean, it’s one thing to send a quick blurb that you’re coming home or going out or something pithy that need not turn into a conversation.  These kids manage to write entire paragraphs on the new cell phones with the QWERTY keyboards that pop out of the side.  In my day (I cannot believe I just wrote that), IF you were lucky you got a phone extension in your room…at 16.  Now, my 12 year old blissfully chats and texts her way through life.

I just got back from being outside with my youngest daughter, who’s eight.  She was kicking a soccer ball around the yard, and she’s quite good at it too.  She’s the athletic one in the family; she was the only girl in her class last year to get the Presidential Physical Fitness Award.  She takes gymnastics, has the shape and form of a gymnast, and she’s very good at that as well.  It’s definitely the double recessive genes on my side of the family; both my father and brother were athletic, not I.  I am the only Irishman on the entire planet who cannot play basketball; I’m lucky to be typing right now considering how many jammed fingers I have from attempting to catch a pass.  I was quite good at soccer though, that being the only sport I truly enjoyed playing as well as watching.  I grew up during that first “great soccer awakening” of the 70’s, when Pele played for the NY Cosmos and the sport started to take hold in this country.  It’s too bad most Americans don’t appreciate a game that the rest of the world is absolutely bonkers over.

While I was watching my daughter play, I decided that I need to check-in a bit and just enjoy my moments with the kids now, before it’s too late and they’re off to University.  Next thing you know, I’ll be walking them down the aisle and giving them away to (hopefully) a better man than I.  I cannot believe how fast the past 12 years of fatherhood have gone, but at least I’m sober now for them and for myself to remember these moments, so that one day I can look back on an old photo album with them.  I’ll be sitting there with them and my grandchildren, and then they will say, “Pops, tell us a story about mommy”.  And I’ll begin it with a familiar refrain…

Once Upon A Time…

“Disneyland will never be completed.  It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney

Help! I’ve Turned Into An Adult!

A few weeks ago, I went in to the Optometrist to get a new prescription for my contact lenses and eyeglasses.  I’m quite nearsighted, and have been since I was about 8 years old; which is when I started wearing specs.  I started using contact lenses when I turned 18 the better to show off these baby blues; (and no, they are not colored by the lenses because only the Universe makes this particular shade of blue).  In the past 3 years or so, I’ve been doing what most middle aged people do when they read a paper: they hold it at arms, length and pray that the instruction manual that has been translated from the Chinese into Cyrillic and then into English makes some sort of sense.  What I can’t figure out is why I’ve suddenly gone farsighted in addition to being nearsighted…it makes absolutely no sense to me at all.  So, I wear bi-focals when I’m wearing my cheaters, and up until two weeks ago, I had no problem with my contacts.  Now, I need reading glasses on top of a stronger prescription.  The amazing thing is that I can read a sign half a mile down the road, but I can’t even look at the computer screen without these cheap reading glasses.

Face it…I am now an adult.

Oh, there’s more: my oldest daughter got her first detention the other day.  We won’t go into the details, except to say she beat me by three grades and definitely has her father’s temper and way with words.  I calmly dealt with the situation, affording her the same courtesy that I never was shown as a child, and tried to sort through things logically.  Ok, that worked fine.  Then yesterday, my youngest daughter not only forgot her project for school, but she got a note sent home that she, like her father, loves to talk.  She talks more than anyone on the planet; so much so that her seat was moved several times in the past few weeks.  Not a happy camper was I; but I dealt with that situation with the dreaded “No television for a day or two” punishment.  Needless to say, she tried every angle to get that nefarious predicament removed from her life and I wasn’t having any of it.  Looks like not only have I become an adult about things, but I’m becoming more like a parent, sounding more like a parent, and acting more like a parent.  I’m still trying to decide which TV Dad I resemble, and I’m convinced it’s a cross between Tim Taylor and Mike Brady with a little bit of Steve Douglas thrown in for good measure.

The final piece of the adulthood process came today when my daughter’s new cell phone arrived.  Her old one went belly up last week, and the kid was going through a withdrawal worse than I was when I went to rehab for booze.  After shelling out full price for the phone (thank you Sprint for being so flexible; we’ll happily wave goodbye to you in December when the contract runs out), I had it sent via UPS to the house.  It was SUPPOSED to be activated already; in theory, all I had to do was turn it on, the old phone would have been removed from my account, and the new one added.  Oh…I remember now, this is Sprint I was dealing with!  The phone arrives, and I read over the set up instructions…and couldn’t find the battery cover.  A stinking battery cover!  And neither could my wife!  Not only that, the very detailed diagram of the phone didn’t contain its exact location.  Perplexed, we went on the internet and found the answer.  Forgive me for thinking that the entire back of the phone was supposed to be removed to access the battery compartment.  I was looking for something sane, like a recess somewhere in the device.

Now, I’m no stooge when it comes to electronics.  I can set up home theater systems, computers, wire just about any electronic device you can think of.  My wife is extremely tech savvy too; and here we were, two 40 somethings trying to figure out where a battery cover was.  The activation didn’t happen as planned, so I went on the Internet to activate the phone that way.  They asked me for the number ON the battery as confirmation; so now, I had to navigate that cover once again and locate the number.  Needless to say, the number was too small for even my reading glasses and a 100 watt lightbulb to discern; so I called customer service who activated the phone.  Cheerfully now having said device in operational form, I went out to pick up my daughter who was delighted when I drove up and waved the phone at her from the car.  Once we got home, I asked her if she could find the battery compartment…just to see if it was a middle aged adult thing, or a common sense thing that the manufacturer screwed up on.  She found it immediately; oh, she also never saw one of these phones before either (at least up close).  So now, the text queen is happily typing away on her slide out QWERTY keyboard giving her thumbs a workout.

Yup, I’ve officially been christened an adult and a father under fire in the past few days.  I can’t read without my glasses, my kids are getting into age bracket behaviors that I have to deal with simultaneously, and I can’t find a damned battery cover on a phone.  I did manage to get a very cool ring tone assigned to me by my daughter: it sounds like a bad 70’s porno soundtrack, with the “whaka-whacka” funky back-beat.  Absolutely perfect for this child of the 60’s and 70’s.

I wonder if Mike Brady would have found that battery cover?

“Thirty-Five is when you finally get your head together, and when your body starts falling apart” – Karen Leschen