Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More Than You Need to Know about Screech Rum

“Screech Rum”? Sounds like a joke or a spoof, right? But there really is such a thing as Screech Rum.  Honest!.  I first ran across Screech rum on a trip to Nova Scotia back around 1975 or so. 
Rum has always been my drink of choice for as long as I can remember,  I've tried many kinds of alcohol over the years. I've given honest tries of weeks at a time to sour mash whiskey, scotch whiskey, blended whiskey, and Canadian whiskey. I even got on a gin kick for a while when living in south Florida in the 'seventies - gin and tonic, supposedly a good hot weather drink you know. I've only had tequila and vodka a few times and did not enjoy those at all. Hell, if I wanted to drink something tasting exactly like medicine, why not just do myself some good and drink real medicine? At the price of some tequilas, the medicine might even be cheaper!
Don't get me wrong though - these days I limit my alcohol intake to about two ounces a week - one good stiff rum drink on Friday nights, so a bottle of rum can last me a good long while. Sometimes I do cheat a little though, by putting a couple tablespoons of dark rum over a dish of ice cream. Try that, you'll love it!
Anyway, no matter what I have tried over the years, sooner or later I always returned to rum. So when I stopped in a liquor store in Nova Scotia I went directly to the rum shelf. There I noticed a bottle with the Screech label. In fact, there were quite a few bottles of Screech rum there. And of course I bought a bottle, just for the notoriety of the name if nothing else. I found Screech to be an OK rum, but on the rough side and not up to the standards I really enjoy, like Mount Gay or Pussers. Those can be a little pricey though, so I usually just go for Bacardi or something similar so long as it is a good, dark rum, the blacker the better for me. These days I'm partial to 'Flora de Cana' from Nicaragua, which is a moderately priced, but a good dark and flavorful rum.
Screech is a quite a bit rougher or 'greener' tasting rum than most (see below!), so once I emptied that first bottle, I began pouring other kinds of rum into the empty bottle just to have fun with guests to my house. I was probably responsible for boosting the sales of Screech rum for a while there, but I no longer have that bottle these days.  Next time I'm in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland I plan to rectify that! I have two nieces living in St. Johns, NS, so that's reason enough for a visit right there.
Here's the explanation of how the Screech name came to be from the folks who sell it, the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation itself:
"Before liquor boards were created, Jamaican rum was a popular part of a Newfoundlander's diet, when salt fish was traded in exchange for rum. When the Government took control of the liquor business, it began selling the rum in unlabelled bottles. The product remained nameless until American servicemen came to the Island during World War II.
The commanding officer of the original detachment was having his first taste. The Newfoundlander downed his drink in one gulp, so the American did the same. The American’s blood-curdling scream attracted a lot of attention. An American sergeant who heard the sound from outside pounded his fist on the door and demanded to know, “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?”
The Newfoundlander replied in true Newfie form, “Da Screech? ’Tis the rum, me son.” As all embarrassing moments do, the incident spread, and the soldiers were determined to try this mysterious “Screech” to see what the fuss was all about. The drink was soon their favorite.
The Newfoundland Liquor Board soon adopted the name and began labeling the dark rum Newfoundland Screech."
Which leads me to a story by a friend of mine who was famous for his stories, an unreconstructed Mainer and lobsterman from Matinicus Island, Maine. He's gone on now to those greater lobster grounds in the sky, but his story lives on in his very own words, as I remember them here:
“Now Screech Rum is some more mighty powahful stuff.  I 'membah one time when I got me a bottle of Screech Rum from Newfoundland - 'smattah of fact, I weah IN Newfoundland at the time.”
“Wal', I downed 'bout three quahtahs of that theah bottle - which was one a them dammed Impeahrial quaahts ya know, and went out a-prowlin' on the town - St. Johns ya know.  An'  I stumbled inta this wataahfront baah.  I threw me money down an' ordahed drinks on da house.  'Tweahn't long afoah this good lookin' babe comes up and gets really friendly wit’ me - and' I do mean FRIENDLY.  An', I'm heah ta tell ya she weaah some whole lotta, big lotta woman that one.  An’ she weaah the prettiest woman I evaah sawr. She weaah prettiaah than any wondahfuliest movie staah I thought."
“Whoo Boy!  Didn't we paahty down though son, an' BIG TIME!   We painted that theah St. Johns bright red wit yellah polka dots.  Whoo-ee!  Got almighty that woman weaah a hootah though!  She matched me drink foah drink and we even hadda go get some moah Screech afoaah long!  An' Hell, I don't know how, but aftah that she seemed to get just prettiaah an' even prettiaah!”
“We paahtied heahty all night long until we hadda fall down inta da bed. Next moanin' I woke up wit’ one big godawful headache an' a-smellin' some unholy an' godawful badly - but,  I looked up, an' theah weaah me beauty a-sittin' on da windah  sill,  a-smilin,'  a-sippin' on Screech an' a-smokin a big ol' dog tuuhd cigaah!  GOT ALMIGHTY DAMN!”
“I seen bettah lookin'’ wimmen at th’ undahrtakah's aftah an eighteen-wheeler wreck!”

Monday, September 19, 2016

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and the HATCHET MAN

*You may believe it or not, but in a past life back during the late 'sixties, I worked  as a mid-level supervisor for the General Motors Corporation at one of their huge assembly plants. My job was as a supervisor of a small operation in a building about three hundred yards outside and across a huge shipping yard away from the main assembly plant. There I was sort of 'out of sight and out of mind' and seldom bothered by superiors.  I simply checked in with my boss a couple times each day by telephone and did my job supervising the five employees who worked under me.

Our shop was called 'Outgoing Quality Check' and we were a fairly tight knit bunch. Most of the people who worked with me were older, long-term, seasoned employees who had worked themselves up from the assembly line jobs they first hired in on, to became 'expert' in their particular specialties. One was an 'engine man', another was an expert on transmissions and drive trains, another was a front-end alignment specialist, and yet another was a 'body fit and trim' expert. The fifth man was relatively new and only washed and cleaned up the cars which some of the upper supervisors drove each day. 

The way this worked, about a dozen random cars, 'jobs' as they were called, were selected right off the assembly line each week. These were delivered down to my shop, two or three units per day to be prepared for the assigned individuals to drive home and to wherever they wished to go with them. The supervisors would keep their units for a week, then the process would be repeated. Before delivery to the assigned drivers, the selected jobs would be prepared by my crew. They were washed, the front-end alignment checked, engine tune-up and specifications checked, and the fit of the hood, trunk, fenders and doors all checked to insure those were within GM specifications. Nothing was changed however, unless there was a safety issue. The gas tanks were filled from our own gas pumps, oil levels checked, etc. and our wash man would deliver to cars to the supervisor's assigned parking spot in front of the plant.

Part of this process also involved disconnecting the factory speedometer installed on the assembly line and installing a special, temporary speedometer mounted under the dash in the driver's line of sight. Unless there was an issue with the car, and there sometimes was, they were driven for the full week and refueled from the company gas pump as needed. When they were turned back in the temporary speedometer was removed, and the factory one re-connected. The supervisors driving the cars were supposed to complete a simple little report each time about deficiencies, or anything they noted during their use of the car. A  summary of these reports went into my daily report to the head of the Inspection Department, who was my direct supervisor.

After the temporary speedometer was removed, the unit was simply re-inserted into the delivery schedule and shipped to the dealer.

I was impressed by General Motors' efforts on 'quality control' then, but always wondered about that bit of not-so-innocent subterfuge the company indulged in. We were sending out new cars right off the assembly line which had been driven in some cases, several hundreds of miles. yet the speedometer would show only half a dozen miles when the car was delivered to the ultimate purchaser. Several years later I heard of The Chrysler Corporation being fined millions of dollars for exactly the same thing, but to my knowledge General Motors has never been censured for this. I thought a few times about being a 'whistle blower' on this issue after I left GM, but was always restrained by my father's remembered advice: "If you can't say something good about something, just don't say anything at all."

I do remember several times during my time in that job of hearing of buyer complaints about cigarette butts in ash trays, mud on the undercarriage, or dirt and mud in the foot wells, etc. The factory used to ship out our new cars with the floor carpets un-installed, and rolled up in the trunk. The dealers would install them when they arrived at the dealers' lot, and I assume they usually cleaned things up before delivery to the customer. I guess the dealers simply missed those tale tell little signs when the cars were cleaned. Dealers routinely explained away and glossed over problems their customers might note. You must remember that the staff at any automobile dealer must possess really good lines of blather.

General Motors in the 'sixties was a brutal, absolutely no nonsense working environment with zero tolerance for anything which might even remotely reflect unfavorably on anyone in the higher levels of supervision. I merely tried to stay out of trouble and keep my immediate boss happy. I quickly learned after hiring on with GM, that there is no such thing as 'understanding' or 'compassion' with such a huge company. At that time in the mid-sixties, General Motors was the largest company in the world, though they have since been demoted I've heard. I suppose it is possible too, that the GM corporate culture has changed during the intervening fifty-something years. The successful onslaught of Japanese and Korean imports has certainly caused a lot of other changes for the American automobile industry.

I am calling this little story is 'The Man Who Knew Too Much', and spilling a few secrets here. However, I am not that man who knew too much.

No, that person is another man entirely. Let us call him 'Gregory' although that is not his real name. Greg ran a shop adjacent to and connected to my shop by a common wall. His responsibility was similar, but more involved with the actual nuts and bolts of how the General Motors line of cars and trucks hold up from an engineering standpoint. Often cars that went through my shop would be referred to Greg's shop for further analysis for example. What pieces and parts wear out too fast, break too quickly, need to be redesigned and all that sort of thing. Even the simplest of things might be a problem. For instance, we encountered problems with the the cast iron drainage plug for rear-end differentials. Some of these had flaws where the casting sand left a tiny hole which allowed a very slight fluid leak.  Those tiny holes could lead to a failure of the entire rear end in time. Things like that were Greg's meat and potatoes.

Greg was a graduate of the General Motors Academy, which during the 'forties, 'fifties and 'sixties was GM's fully accredited four year college which offered a free-of-charge engineering degree to selected applicants who passed their qualifying examinations. I don't recall exactly how the program worked, but I had even briefly considered applying at one time in my young life. The reason I did not was the stipulation about being committed to employment with GM for a specified period of time after graduation, something like six or eight years as I remember. But, the opposite side of that arrangement did not apply. In other words, GM could fire you anytime they felt like it.  Apparently, GM has dropped this program since I can not find anything online about it today.

Since Greg had no employment guarantee he was really sweating an interview all supervisors knew was coming from a "Hatchet Man". This is what everyone called the high-level manager sent from the Detroit home office to look over everything at our plant. The point being to improve efficiency, and trim the payroll if possible. Literally, this fellow was a corporate Hatchet Man sent to make needed and sometimes drastic changes. The man's official capacity when he arrived was 'Assistant Plant Manager'. But, his real job was to be a Hatchet Man. Everyone knew this well in advance of his arrival at our plant since the corporate grapevine is very, very effective you know. We even knew the man's name.

Within one week of the Hatchet Man's coming to our plant, some of the upper-level supervisors were receiving summary dismissals without notice. This guy was responsible for firing about 20% of the management within three weeks, in a plant with over 6000 employees. Everyone with a vested interest in their jobs in the corporation was terrified. A manager would be called upon in his office, quickly and brutally interviewed right there, and instantly dismissed. He would be asked for his keys, told to clean out his desk with plant security looking over his shoulder, and out the door he went. I really think the Hatchet Man had studied the files and had it all decided beforehand. He stayed at our plant a total of only six weeks in all, blowing through like a tornado leaving devastation in his wake. 

The dreaded day came for Greg's interview and for me too. Since we were mere mid-level people we were being interviewed together in one sitting. The Hatchet Man asked Greg half a dozen quick, machine-gun style pertinent questions about his job and department's statistics. Greg was very well prepared since we had cooperated with each other by studying and quizzing each other. Greg knew all his answers and immediately fired right back. I was very impressed by his composure because he was a naturally nervous and high-strung guy. But then, right In the middle of all the rapid-fire questions and out of nowhere the Hatchet Man demanded or him, "So, what's your wife's name?"

Poor Gregory just went blank and sat staring in disbelief at the Hatchet Man, his lips moving but nothing coming out. I felt really sorry for him even if I was choking to laugh. The question was so far from left field it knocked the skids right out from under Greg's composure.  He simply could not think of his own wife’s name! He stammered and choked for ten or fifteen seconds, and turned purple in the face with beads of sweat rolling off him like grapes before he could say, 'Mary' or whatever her name was. I could see the Hatchet Man was only having his own cruel fun messing with poor Greg's mind. He gave Greg a nasty laugh and then turned to me.

My own interview was easy and anti-climatic after Greg's performance. I was already thinking about leaving GM so I just didn't give a damn, although the Hatchet Man was not aware of that. I was relaxed and confident, especially after watching the ordeal the Hatchet Man put Greg through. The Hatchet Man just raised his eyebrows at me after a few questions and walked away. To his ultimate relief, Gregory was not cashiered on the spot and we both kept our jobs.

For as long as I live I will never forget that awful and funny day poor Gregory temporarily forgot his wife's name. It was both heartbreaking and hilariously funny at the same time even though I dared not laugh at the time. I haven't stayed in touch with Greg so I don’t know where he is today.  He is retired I suppose if his job with GM lasted a full career or didn't kill him first. I was told the 'Hatchet Man' tradition was repeated on the average by GM roughly every two years or so and it is always possible another Hatchet Man collected Greg's scalp later too.

I'm pretty sure that one particular Hatchet Man is turning in his grave somewhere today as he was far too much of a type "A" to have lived a very long time. And even though I was in his presence for only a few minutes, I could still tell you his name to this very day if I wished to do so. I voluntarily left General Motors within a few months of that interview because I recognized that their corporate soul, or more to the point, their lack thereof, was definitely not my cup of tea. I have never had one single regret about that since either.

I even sold my stock in GM after leaving, the stock I had purchased under their employee stock purchase matching plan. As I recall GM pitched in a dollar for every dollar the employee paid.

*This is a true tale, told from my memory now well over fifty years after the events took place.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Behold, The Butterfly Cometh . . .

First came the Wasp, who settled irritably on a leaf near the colorful crimson bloom. Jumpy, and with many a 'zzzt' of its wings it flitted first to one leaf and then the other, crawling over some, and under others even if it is hard to understand how insects manage this feat. Finding nothing of interest anywhere there, the Wasp flew away, zig-zagging in the air with the appearance of searching for trouble somewhere, as it might seem to an observer.
Then, along came the Moth which alighted clumsily near the bright crimson blossom, staggering a little as it clung on. Fluttering her wings and uncurling her antennae, she searched for a mate, turning in ovoid 360-degree circles several times. Finding none, the Moth too worked her wings once again and erratically fluttered away.
Next, a tiny and busy Ant climbed up the long stalk, taking many minutes to make the journey, Although it seemed purposeful in its climb, the Ant paused many times to wave its front legs and antennae ahead of its path it as if deciding to move on. The tiny Ant paused once again as it reached the bright flower with its different texture. The Ant stood there for many seconds, waving it's forelegs, with its tiny antennae waving to and fro sensing the surroundings, the Ant then crawled fitfully and cautiously across the outer parts of the bloom, seeking food most likely. Finding none to it's liking, the Ant too, wandered away and back down the stalk, in its purposeful yet erratic way.
The bloom, in all its radiant color, waited patiently as it was visited by first one, then another of a variety of small living things, creatures seeking that which the bloom apparently did not possess for them. The brilliant bloom waved slightly in the breeze like an insistent signal lamp attracting them all towards its glow. A grasshopper came, as did a tiny slug. Then an inchworm, then a tiny lizard, and even a regal Praying Mantis. But, none, apparently, found that which they sought. To be fair, the inchworm did find a bit of sustenance, but on lower leaves away from the bloom itself. Each creature did a diligent search in accordance with its own genetics and needs, and each sooner or later departed for more promising prospecting.
'Alas', mourned the bloom to itself in its awareness - for flowers are perceptive entities of course, 'will I exist for naught? Will not my destiny be fulfilled? Will I wither and blow away on the wind, unsuccored, dried up and browned, undesired and unachieved?'
'Will my beautiful, colorful flower be in vain and must I remain unsatiated, unsatisfied, unable to pass my beauty along to another generation?' The despondent bloom almost furled her gorgeous panoply of color then, and succumbed to her despair, so late in the day as it was. But no, she would hold out at least until the end of this day. But, it was very late in the day and very late in the season.
Then miraculously almost, in the waning of the last of the light of day, a gorgeously beautiful butterfly appeared, elegantly colorful, with iridescent hues reflecting the final rays of sun like tiny diamonds in the failing light. Flitting seemingly aimlessly about, the butterfly touched this leaf and that, itself nearly exhausted from the day's labors, seeking that last, that final bit of color for the day. The bloom did not see the butterfly, for of course flowers do not possess the organs for sight. But the bloom did sense the butterfly's hovering presence just as it had for all its previous visitors, and  although the bloom had no way of discerning if any were the precise sort of visitor the bloom so passionately yearned for.
Pausing at the apogee of its final loop for the day, the butterfly sensed the brilliant crimson flower too, for butterflies do have the organs for sight and in fact, many thousands of them in their many faceted eye organs, "ommatidia" as scientists term them.  The butterfly swooped, for it too sensed fulfillment, and directly to the flower it flew, alighting gracefully near the bloom itself. Daintily, almost like a ballet dancer the butterfly stepped into the bloom and slowly unfurled its elegant proboscis. This the butterfly then began to insert carefully into the flower's interior, the working parts of the bloom, seeking fulfillment for itself.
Snap! The brilliant crimson flower reacted, quickly closing her barred cilia which somewhat resembled the iron bars of a jail cell. The trapped butterfly fluttered its wings as it struggled to escape, but the more it struggled, the tighter the flower's grip became until at last the bloom was completely sealed shut and the butterfly lay still in the flower's bosom. 
Finally satisfied and engorged with the beautiful butterfly, her carpel dusted with the pollen carried by that handsome beauty, the Venus bloom settled down to digest her meal in calmness and peace, fulfilled at last. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Start on Solving The Gun Control Dilemma

A start on solving the gun control dilemma: 
We have a serious problem in our country with too many firearms in too many evil or irresponsible hands. Gun proliferation problems in the United States make our nation a pariah among other advanced societies, and much of the rest of the world now look upon us as a nation of gun crazies. This is really not all that far from the truth.
Our nation's gun issues are egregiously aggravated by firearms manufacturers working through the National Rifle Associate (NRA) and other gun ownership groups to block any meaningful legislation to fix our problems. Their interests seem only to be the boosting of ever more sales of firearms. These companies and groups proved to be a potent political force, all out of proportion to their numbers. They manage to make the mere suggestion of gun control legislation the 'third rail' for any politician who dares to bring the subject up. All efforts to enact gun legislation is consistently met by a ferocious all-out assault to defeat both the proposed legislation, and any politician so rash as to bring it up. There exists no effective organized opposition to the gun lobby's domination of the political process in their favor. It is an egregious example of a failure in our celebrated capitalist political and economic system.
Incredibly, even legislation that would prevent people on the terror watch list from buying guns has been blocked. Perhaps worse than that is an example of the tail wagging the dog, Republicans cut funding to the CDC (Communicable Disease Control) for even collecting statistics on gun injury and death!  It is a crying national shame.
A *national survey done by the University of Chicago and published in March, 2015 shows over 70% of Americans favor requiring a police permit for the purchase of a firearm.
 This figure has been nearly constant, ranging only 12 percentage points since 1972, with a low of 69.2% in 1980, to a high of 81.9% in 1998. The number stood at 71.7% in 2014.
In 2013 there were 33,636 deaths in the US due to firearms and 73,505 non-fatal injuries.
 In the same year, there were 32,719 deaths due to motor vehicles. Gun deaths per capita in the U.S. are 5 times that of Canada,, 3.5 times that of France, 10 times that of Germany, and over 45 times that of the United Kingdom. Something here is definitely out of whack!
Gun ownership statistics show that there are 116 guns per 100 people in the US. And while only a minority of the population actually own guns, the ones who do own an average of 8 guns each, which accounts for the guns per capita. US citizens own more guns per capita than than any other country in the world by far. We stand at number 1 with our 116 , with #2 and #3 behind us being Serbia at 75.6, then Yemen at 54.8. The world average is 10.2, or 1/12th of the US per capita rate.
One huge problem is gathering any meaningful figures, since the gun lobby not only tries to block the gathering of numbers relating to gun problems, but also actively tries to obscure those on record by disputing them, and introducing their own slanted 'studies' to hide the problems.
What if there is a quick, elegant, brilliant and easily administered way to begin solving the gun control dilemma? This method is one even diehard 'keep-the government-out-of-my-life' Republicans could embrace, and it would be at very little cost to the treasury. This method requires no government registration of firearms or any other government 'infringement' of the public's 'right to bear arms'.
The idea is dirt simple really:
Simply pass legislation requiring the gun owner to carry liability insurance on each gun owned.  This creates a privately administered system which serves several purposes:
A.  Each gun carries its own serial number which the insurance companies need to insure a particular gun. This will establish a private system whereby each gun is accounted for individually;
B.  Insurance companies would charge for each gun insured, thereby discouraging gun worshipers from owning multiple weapons due to the cost of insurance. They would retain their precious and sacred  'right to bear' arms', but would pay insurance costs for each weapon;
C.  In time the insurance companies would determine which gun models carry the most risk, and adjust their rates accordingly. This might discourage the ownership of assault weapons for example;
D.  The insurance protection would both protect the gun owner and provide recompense for death or injuries resulting from guns;
E.  Establish severe monetary and/or criminal penalties for anyone in possession of a non-insured gun, and subject uninsured guns to automatic seizure.
F.  Provide a 'grace period' of a reasonable period of time to allow current gun owners to obtain insurance for guns, or to dispose of them as they see fit. States (or the Federal government) would establish a reasonable buy-back system for surplus guns the owners elect not to insure. This will result in getting many guns out of circulation. Australia, a country much like our own, passed strong gun control legislation with a buy back program in 1996 after a mass shooting there. This has been extremely successful in bringing down the death rate from firearms in Australia.
This is a reasonable, sane and effective way to begin saving our country from the gun industry and their irrational supporters.
Statutory mandates requiring liability insurance already exist for hazardous items such as automobiles for example, and mortgage companies will not provide property financing without liability insurance on the property.  Should not the same standards be mandated for such inherently dangerous items such as a gun?
There will be a huge battle with the gun lobby for sure, but the numbers are on the side of sanity, common sense and realities. Of course this alone cannot solve all our gun proliferation problems, but it is a start. Please contact your legislators and let them know you are on board to help them solve the gun problems in our country.  We really can do no less for our children and grand children.

*http://www.norc.org/PDFs/GSS%20Reports/GSS_Trends%20in%20Gun%20Ownership_US_1972-2014.pdf


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Party Time in Philadelphia

Party time in Philadelphia

I spent some time in Philadelphia helping train reservists for the Fourth Marine Corps District back in the day. It was good duty, with a lot more time for partying than I was used to.

We had a party one night. A few Marines, our girl friends and a few other friends. It was on the second floor of a row house in Philly. The place was somewhere near the University, in an area where lots of university students lived, and some lived on the first floor of that row house. The second floor was Joe and Riley's place. Joe was a full blooded Cherokee Indian from South Carolina, and about the toughest guy I ever saw to this day. He stood about 6'-4", and looked about four feet wide. I swear, his fingers were at least an inch wide across at the tips, the biggest hands I ever saw on any man. I once saw Joe hit a guy, a big guy, so hard he did a complete somersault and land several feet away. Joe told me one time if he ever got a clean hit on someone who didn't go down, he always took a walk around back of the guy to see what had him propped up.

I remember one time we got called out for ceremonial duty to a huge American Legion club somewhere in the western part of the city. We were the rifle and color guard for the funeral of a Marine killed someplace. It was volunteer duty and we did lots of those kinds of duties in Philly because we knew if the guy was Irish or Polish American, you could always count on a big party afterwards, a 'wake' they called it. The Irish and Polish Catholics were famous for that around Philly, and there were a lot of them in that region. This was one of those deals, and after the graveside ceremony we Marines were invited inside the club, taken to a couple of booths and asked what we wanted to drink. Whatever you asked for, they brought out a full fifth each and sat it in front of each man, and brought us delicious roast beef sandwiches on rye and pickles too. Beer flowed freely everywhere as well. There were maybe 200 to 300 people in this club at the time, with eight of us Marines in full dress blue uniforms camped,out in a couple booths against the wall.

It wasn't long after that when the party really got going. There were folks of all ages, including some children. Some younger folks got to dancing and raising hell on the dance floor. Joe was this big handsome guy, with his dark swarthy complexion, sardonic grin, and this big hooked beak nose like a fierce eagle's beak. The girls always swarmed him. So Joe's out there on the dance floor innocently boogying with this attractive girl when some guy sneaked up behind him with a full pitcher of beer and smashed it down on the back of his head. Turned out it was the girl's boyfriend who she was trying to make jealous and it had worked. Joe just looked sort of surprised, then turned around and clobbered the guy, knocking him unconscious.

At that the fight was on, as it usually was when Marines, booze, partying and a fight got all mixed up together. All the Marines piled out of the booths and started knocking hell out of anyone handy. In seconds it was a general melee, with the entire place in a brawl, women screaming, children running and crying and lots of folks running and falling down and some even joining in the fun punching each other. Chairs were thrown and the adrenalin was flowing everywhere so hard it made your ears pop. In the midst of all this, this short, chubby Irish looking guy ran up behind Joe and tried to pin his arms from behind. It looked almost like Joe was peeling off his undershirt when he reached over his head behind him and grabbed the guy by the scruff of his neck. I remember seeing that poor guy flipping through the air, even though I had some guy by the throat while I was pounding his head myself at the time. I bet that poor guy flipped at least three somersaults before landing flat on his back screaming and with the ceiling tiles crashing down all around him.

The club was soon pretty well cleaned out with people scrambling out all the exits running for their lives and screaming. That left just us Marines, one chubby Irish-looking guy sobbing on the floor and a few tentative legionnaires in their cute little caps. Turned out the poor guy Joe flipped was the visiting Congressman from that district and we Marines were all in hot water indeed. To this day I still think that damned Congressman was one complete and utter damned fool for believing he could make himself the hero by stopping that big, bad-assed Marine. On the other hand, aren't most Congressmen kind of narcissistic and stupid that way? Anyway, the rescue squad came and collected the Congressman while we Marines all left as quietly as possible. We all had to face the music the next day, but that's another story entirely.

Joe was later killed in Vietnam - in a whorehouse I heard, which the Charlies blew up with everyone in it. They had mined the place earlier I think, knowing Americans favored the place. The VC had no qualms about blowing up the girls along with the Americans. I guess poor old Joe went out in his own style. We were great friends and I loved that guy. Still do too.

Riley was this fiery red-headed guy from Kentucky and tough as an oak burl. He was much smaller than Joe, but they were great friends too. He would fight a buzz saw at the drop of a hat, and you could count on him to win too. I stole Riley's girl one time and figured I'd have to fight the little bastard over that, but he just laughed and shrugged his shoulders about it. I later paid $600 for that girl to get an abortion and nobody knew who was the papa, as if it mattered. This was in the days before Rowe-Wade too, but abortions were available if you knew the right people. And $600 was a pile of money back in the mid-sixties too, let me tell you. You could buy a brand-new car back then for less than $2000. As I remember, I think Riley may have kicked in a couple hundred too - maybe he had a guilty conscience, and he was an upright guy in any case. I don't know whatever happened to Riley, and maybe he's still surviving somewhere today.

 And boy, that gal was a good-looking thing too, a leggy blonde, and good German Catholic girl who lived to party. You have to remember that confession absolves a lot of sins for Catholics. I have no idea what the penance was for all her sins, but I'll bet it was pretty harsh for her. Maybe she had to sleep with the priest or something, who knows? She was about 22, and loved country music, which was pretty odd in Philly in those days. We used to love to rock out to 'Proud Mary' at the clubs. Go figure. Hell, she used to make a regular road trip with her girl friends from Philly to Memphis about every two months to take in the Grand Ol' Opry!

Actually, that's probably where she got knocked up, on one of those road trips, come to think of it. Ah, well.

But, back to Joe and Riley's party. It was a good party, and everyone got well boozed and loosened up. The HiFi was going, there was loud talking and laughing, you know the drill. People drifted in and out and no one paid much attention until Joe's girl came in and said something to him. She was this lovely nurse from one of the local hospitals. For some reason I was paying attention and I saw his face go dark, if a full-blooded Indian's face can get any darker. But I knew the look as I had seen it before. He jumped out of his chair and headed for the door. A couple other Marines saw it too and we followed him down the stairs. Turned out the students on the first floor were having their own party and many had been drifting up and down the stairs and crashing our party too, but no one seemed to mind or had said anything.

But one of them had said something pretty gross or insulting to Joe's girlfriend, and he really ought not to have done that, especially if he had known whose girlfriend he was messing with. There were about thirty people in the downstairs flat, all partying and laughing too. About two thirds of them were guys, and Joe charged right into the midst of them headed for this one guy who started back peddling to get away. But, he got trapped in the kitchen and Joe hit him so hard he went through the back window and fell to the ground. Those old row houses are built over a raised basement, so the distance from the window to the ground is something like ten feet. And, I don't know what it is, and I have always been puzzled by this phenomenon which has no logic to it at all. But, as soon as one your own guys smacks someone in another group, there is an instant explosion of action. Just ask anyone who has been in a brawl and they will tell you the same thing. It is involuntary and you will instantly knock hell out of the nearest guy in the other group yourself. I think it is the prime instigator and motivator of any so-called brawl.

It also shocks the hell out of anyone who it hasn't happened to before.

And that's exactly what happened that night. Four Marines descended like a tornado on twenty or so bewildered and terrified young students and beat the living hell out of them. The fight didn't last long because they were either huddled on the floor covering their heads in the foetal position or running for their lives out the door and down the street. It was both funny and sad at the same time. After this first burst of violence the four of us looked at each other a little chagrined and embarrassed, and then began helping the remaining poor terrified guys up from the floor, brushing them off and apologizing. After a bit we convinced them we meant no real harm, and before long we were all having drinks together. All except for Joe and the guy he knocked out through the window. Joe had to go hide out at my place for a few days and rescue squad came for his victim lying on the ground outside moaning. Joe had a way of providing more than his fair share of business for the rescue squad. But, like I said, I still loved the guy.

The police came, looked around for a little bit, asked for Joe, and since no one knew where he was they left. They had been through this kind of stuff before.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt

People believe what the want to believe and facts don't matter! I see the proof this over and over again, usually with people who are considered 'conservative'. Sure, there are some radical 'liberal' and 'progressive' people who do the same thing but is more of a conservative trait. Progressives are usually defined as being far more open-minded than conservatives.
I live in a very, very right-wing region of the country where a majority are far more aligned politically with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona than Barrack Obama, or Hillary Clinton. People where I live are religious, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-gun control and generally racist (black or white), though most officially deny the racist bit. About the only things they seem to be 'for' are 'our southern heritage' ('states rights', Confederate flags), white supremacy (in fact, if not so stated) and war for the slightest perceived reason and hang its consequences. (Maybe it's all that Confederate heritage stuff coming out and boiling to the surface?)
Occasionally I engage in commentary on various news stories of interest to me. Recently I did so on a story on a local murder/suicide in our community where the subject of gun control came up. I am for, as all rational people ought to be, the reasonable control of access to guns. I am not a radical on the matter, and in fact I own several guns myself. There are certain people however, who in my opinion, should not be allowed to have a gun. Such a person was the main actor in our recent local murder/suicide. I was roundly attacked of course for my mention of gun access control, and all facts I pointed out were simply ignored and skipped over - all as I had expected.
The shooter was a man who had been recently arrested for domestic violence and 'terroristic threats' against his wife. If there was ever a type of person who ought to be disarmed, it was this man. Yet this man apparently still had every right to possess and use firearms, which he did with deadly effect by killing his estranged wife and then himself, leaving several children to fend for themselves - and become wards of the state I imagine. You might say 'good riddance' about the killer, but I don't think you can say it about his victims. In fact, they were victims in more ways than one, since the the authorities failed - it sure seems to me - in their sworn duty to protect them from the threatened violence - threats which were officially recorded well ahead of time by said authorities!
Sadly, unfortunately, this is a story heard all too often in our times.  Somehow the gun lobby using our sacred 'Second Amendment' has successfully subverted almost any sensible gun control or gun access legislation in the United States - all in the interests of  more profits for the gun industry apparently.  They have created near hysteria, and, hang the cost in tragedy, misery, lives and money to the rest of the country so long as their profits keep increasing. Such is the 'American Way' and the Capitalist system!
The gun lobby has so successfully propagandized and frightened so many fearful people, and created so many millions more, who will now run out and buy up ever more stockpile mountains of firearms and ammunition at the slightest suggestion of any meaningful gun access legislation. They have so frightened, and/or defeated any legislator who dares suggest gun acess control they are essentially now writing themselves blank legislative checks. All this in the face of about 70% of the population of the United States who support reasonable gun access control. It is a topsy-turvy situation, which the rest of the civilized world is watching with amazement, wonder and horror.
Gun deaths are now forecast to exceed traffic deaths in the United States in 2015.
And, no matter how many facts, statistics or evidence you present to the totally convinced Second Amendment people, that sensible gun access control laws work, save lives and money, protect more people, and so on and on and on, they are so propagandized that nothing penetrates. In the face of raw facts and statistics, they dissemble, obfuscate and deny, or present straw men arguments. They are CONVINCED - and nothing else matters! There is no reason or sanity there, just raw opinion, which overrules everything else. It all reminds me a great deal of a bumper sticker I once saw about Christianity:


Yep. A lot of those are some of the same folks all right!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Never Trust a Fart - Ever!

I see it has been quite I while since I have posted to this blog. My excuse is many other things have taken my interest in the interim time. Now that I have a brand-new computer it has motivated me to add a bit to this blog. I pass along these words of wisdom to anyone who is getting on in years who is interested in a comfortable, ripe old age. At more advanced ages it is important to recognize the things you can and cannot do - or control. Here are a few pointers:  
Hearing and Seeing: There is an old cliche' about believing 'none of what you hear and only half of what you see'. In my experience this is based on pure unadulterated fact. I have noticed our world is full of those who will say anything to sway you one way or another or relieve you of money and property. Think politicians of all stripes, and various charlatans of mercenary natures. The bigger the corporation too, it seems the worse they are about this. The older I get, the more I realize most of humanity - outside your own circle of family and friends - are on the make one way or another, at everyone else's expense. The lesson to the wise and wary elder is to suspect anything you read or are told, and lots of what you may see with your own eyes - until thoroughly proven otherwise.
Dealing with the Younger Crowd: Try not to challenge a younger and stronger person directly, especially physically unless absolutely necessary; instead, use the things you have learned through your many years of hard-earned experience to call up all the guile and treachery you need and are capable of to control and defeat them.  While this might seem callous and cruel, you are actually helping your opponents become stronger and better persons. While they may not see things this way, for sure if you are successful, you will have taught them respect!
Dealing with People your Own Age: Deal with other older persons with all the tolerance and kindness you are capable of. After all, you likely will not know the kinds of lives they've had to live or the struggles they've had to deal with through their lives which make them what they are today. Give them all the slack you can, and above all, DO NOT JUDGE! Not even if he or she is the most miserable, sour, politically contrary S.O.B. or bitch you ever heard of. You simply will not know what kinds of things made them what they are today. And never forget, they will need to make allowances for you too!
Staying Interested: One thing which really helps the enjoyment of your elder years is to be and stay interested in something - or many things - which appeal to you. 'Exploration' is one of life's great joys, so don't allow yourself to 'vegetate' or refrain from doing things because it's hard, or takes effort. Hobbies, projects, activism, whatever - working at and having a passion for things will surprise you at how the aches and pains will seem to leave your body, and even after your efforts wear you out, there's always rum! Or its alternative!
Eating: Eat moderately and healthily, and the closer to natural the better. If Mother Nature had wanted you to subsist on crap foods, that stuff would grow on bushes and trees. Don't ingest things not naturally meant for you - if you were meant to drink cow's milk for example, you would go around on four legs mooing today. Do not eat the highly processed stuff designed solely to make others rich. Do eat the natural things that feel right and taste naturally good to you - Mother Nature is almost always right about that.
Drinking: You should have learned by now to be moderate in drinking alcohol, otherwise you would likely now be planted in a place where weeds won't grow. It just is not worth it to overdo it. You will be hungover and feel like crap for much longer in your older years than you did when you were twenty. Just don't overdo it! This is not to say you should not enjoy a few drinks when you want to, and even get a little tipsy once in a while - just be warned you will pay for any overindulgence!
Sex: Flaunt it if you have it. I's not going to get any better!
Smoking: If you are reading these lines and ever smoked in your life, you very most likely quit such an incredibly stupid thing years ago. (As I did!) Otherwise your dead ashes would already be mixed in with all those cigarette, cigar or pipe ashes and other dirt.
Doing Drugs: Unless they is prescribed for you, don't do them, especially the hard ones. And, use even prescribed drugs with wisdom and moderation. While I do subscribe to the notion of 'better living through chemistry', don't overdo those either. It is all well and good to moderate pain and anxiety, but just remember, Mother Nature sends pain (and anxiety) along for a reason. And, that is to let you know when you need to correct whatever you are doing wrong to and for yourself.
Churching: If you have ever been a churchgoer, don't waste any more of your time which is probably fast running out anyway. Going to church and acting pious may be a comfort for some, and that's a positive of course. But, my experience is all churches in one way or another are merely archaic organized scams for control and for stripping you of as much of your money as possible. (See 'Hearing and Seeing' above.) And think of all the joy and fun you will have missed in trying to live by churching rules and making other churchgoers believe you are holy! Go out and have some fun while you can and to Hell with all those pious-acting hand-wringing do-gooders who are judging you. Go ahead and have the satisfaction of giving them heartburn.
Leaving an Inheritance: Outside of sentimental remembrances, most inheritances end up being burdens to the beneficiaries, serving mostly to weaken them.  It is a rare bird who has had a happy or satisfying life with an inheritance, and almost surely they will not be anywhere near the same strong person who made all that money in the first place. Sure, free money may be great to get, but it almost always is detrimental to the recipients in the long run. Help make them stronger by helping them fend for themselves. If you want your descendants and friends to enjoy your money, live it all up with them while you are still kicking.
Compromising: You have to learn to live with the notion you may not be able do many things you used to do. You can't dance all night anymore, or run as fast a a twenty-year-old, or do the same manual work you once could do without breaking a sweat. That is one fact of your life you must recognize and accept as reality, and it comes to all of us eventually. Don't fight it, just do what you can and don't worry about what isn't possible anymore. That is what I call compromising with realities . . . and never regret the things which are simply not possible anymore.
Having Fun: Having fun and laughing plays a big part in what makes life splendid, so enjoy all you can. Spend money, have a hoot and to hell with anyone who decides you aren't 'acting your age' or are being foolish. Do the things that YOU enjoy and which feel right to you regardless of what any of the sourpusses say -  most try to tear you down only because they are simply jealous inside anyway. Just smile at them and don't be too sarcastic when you make snarky remarks back to them - and I know you will!
Tolerating Crap from Anyone: JUST DON'T! You don't have to - and don't let anyone fluster you either. Make it your business to get right in the face of anyone giving you crap, and that includes the IRS and similar outfits. What have you got to lose anyway? What are they going to do, put your raggedy old ass in jail? Frig 'em, let 'em fart themselves to death!

And Finally, the most Important Rule: NEVER trust a fart - ever! You never know when that sucker just might come out in lumps, or even worse yet, as a soupy brown chowder. As a corollary, never miss a chance to take a nice comfortable crap when you can, and never fail to answer your inner signal to take a leak when it's convenient too! These simple things seem to become more important as you get older, and paying a little attention to them will make your life so much better.