Sunday, July 31, 2016

A new day

Life is so different today.

One week ago today, this minute, I was on the subway in New York City. We were on our way to Liberty Island. I saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Now I'm half dressed and switching between the Detroit Tigers and the PGA Championship.


It feels odd. Reality feels odd, doesn't it, especially when it comes around again as it will?

It is serious business. It feels unusual. What's up with that?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Culture clash?

Wednesday evening as I returned my rental car, there were two young women talking just to the side of the building entrance. One was liberally adorned with tattoos, with some kind of deep blue streaks in her hair and a piercing crossways through her bottom lip. That ain't my style, but whatever. Anyway, I was myself wearing a Boston home baseball cap and Fenway Park shirt, purchased during my recent trip. As I approached the door the adorned girl glanced at me, smiled broadly, and said enthusiastically, "Nice Red Sox gear!"

I said back, smiling also, "Thank you!", and went on in.

She came in a minute later and happened to sit near me as I waited my turn. Apparently she was there to rent a car herself. I asked, "So are you from Boston?"

"No, Providence. But we're all Sox fans." We then went on to talk about baseball, the Red Sox, Fenway and its wall (the Green Monster), and about how we would each love to see a game from the seats atop the Monster. It turned out her family has had Bosox season tickets for years and they all love baseball. She goes to Fenway every time she's back home.

"Mr. Cosgriff?" the next available agent asked. I thanked the young lady for the conversation as I excused myself. "No, it was great seeing someone from Red Sox Nation so far from home!" she responded.

I didn't tell her that I had just gotten back from Boston, or that I had specifically went there because my beloved Detroit Tigers were the visitors and that I had cheered their 4-2 win. That would simply have been crass, given that she was so excited to see someone she thought was from Beantown and a fellow Sox fan. It was by any measure a great small world moment. No point even mildly ruining it.

But it further proves, as I said the other day, this baseball, it gets to ya.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Newark, Boston, New York City

This is Charles Martin Cosgriff reporting from home base in Detroit, Michigan.

These past few days have floated by far too quickly. Yet some moments stand out strongly.

Newark, New Jersey is surprisingly cosmopolitan. I had reserved that positive judgment for Manhattan Island. I am impressed by my error. Still, my presuppositions were confirmed to a degree when we had a drink in an Irish pub Saturday evening. So much for presumption. If there's an Irish pub, it's civilized enough.

After visiting with my son and his fiancee, which was the highlight of my adventure and I mean that despite what thou detractors shalt assert, I most enjoyed seeing Fenway Park in Boston. Yet New York impressed me in ways beyond simple prose. Liberty Island, Ellis Island; the reflecting pools where WTC 1 and WTC 2 once stood. Marvelous. We are one nation. It was quiet as we watched the water stream within the fountain, despite the thousands walking and talking nearby. You only heard the pools. You only heard the voices. They spoke powerfully.

Yet Boston. It's New York's sister, if they would both agree to the relationship. She has faced her attackers too. I'm not sure that I've experienced anything close to singing Sweet Caroline so deeply as the Red Sox nation sings it. Sweet Caroline, silence, then 38 thousand responses asserting "dun dun duh". Being part of it has scored me forever.

I wish I had taken Pops to Fenway. I think even he would have said, with his fist, dun, dun, dahhh. He loved the spirit of the game that much.

But it is what it is. That's all for now. There's more to come. And that's your bad luck.

This is Charles Martin Cosgriff reporting from home base in Detroit, Michigan.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The guy in the middle

Baseball gets a hold on you, and it never lets go. I have vowed at times to stop paying attention to it, as I have stopped paying much mind to other sports. Too much money involved, too much emphasis on kid's games. And then the greatest game draws me right back in.

My son took me to Fenway Park in Boston yesterday, and it was a great experience all around. We took a tour of the self proclaimed America's most loved ballpark (that might be hyperbole but it is one wonderful baseball stadium) and watched the Detroit Tigers triumph over the Boston Red Sox 4 to 2. It was a tense game which the Detroits tried to give away but didn't. Francisco Rodriguez earned a four out save as Jose Iglesias cleared the Green Monster with a two run homer in the 6th.

But to being drawn in. My first most wonderful ballpark experience was when Pops took me to old Tiger Stadium the first time. We walked down an enclosed corridor and turned left. That floor of that next, thinner corridor dipped slightly then rose, opening into a deep green panorama of seats, with an emerald green that I swear almost twinkled. To my young eyes it the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was hooked.

They've since torn Tiger Stadium down, leaving Fenway as the last classic baseball stadium in the American League. As a Father's Day gift, Frank took me there. We entered off the street and into a large corridor. Going right a few feet we then turned left into a smaller corridor which rose into a marvelous red, green, and blue panorama. Emerald green grass covered the field. I was solidly rehooked. There was a lump in my throat.

So now I think I'm the man in the middle. Between two gifts from family generations on each side of me I felt, as a 56 year old man, just like I had as an 8 year old kid. This game, it just gets to ya.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Seeing the sights in New York City

So. Many. People. I've never seen so many people.

Yesterday I saw New York City for the first time. I had my first commuter train then subway ride; I didn't realize it was so hot down on the subway platforms, but maybe that was because it was so hot anyway. And there were so many people. Still, my son assured me that there weren't that many as it was the weekend. Wow. At that, we actually got around town rather easily.

Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and left very impressed with New York and wanting to come back to see more. We went to Liberty Island and saw the Statue of Liberty, then Ellis Island to learn more about the history of immigration into the US. I took what I thought were a couple good pictures of the new World Trade Center, and the reflecting pools memorializing the victims of 9/11 were such a sublime, beautiful tribute that I found myself choking up. They are that powerful.

I also experienced my first NSA search, which was required to see Lady Liberty. It wasn't bad, other than having to remove my belt after emptying my pockets. As I has popped the button on my short pants I stood with some small fear waiting as my items went through the metal detector; if those britches gave way I would have faced charges completely unrelated to national security.

But it was a great way to spend a Sunday, and I do intend to come back and see more of Sinatra's kind of town. For today, it's on to Boston to see the Tigers play the Bosox at classic Fenway Park.

That's all for now. This is Charles Martin Cosgriff reporting from Newark, New Jersey.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The view from almost the Atlantic Coast

Charles Martin Cosgriff reporting this morning from Newark, New Jersey.

Pennsylvania is one long state. It took forever for me to drive through it yesterday. Much of that no doubt was anxiety. Not the bad anxiety of worry but the one that's a kind on anticipation. I mean, it's as far to drive across PA as it is to drive to da UP, and that drive never feels long to me. But I had never driven across Penn's Land. Very mountainy, but beautiful in the lush green of summer.

I think all the city names were, like, 19 letters long. Every exit on Interstate 80 seemed to offer a glimpse of Franklinhillcountytown or Underhillandoverdale. I passed by Punxsutawny, where that obnoxious, all knowing groundhog lives. I thought of checking it out but that anxiety I mentioned kept me going. And had I stopped, I might have killed that overgrown rat and started an incident. It would have gained me laud and honor outside of Pennsylvania I'm sure, but could I have gotten outside the state? Besides, I have to re-cross it Wednesday, so maybe I'll do the deed on the flip flop.

The traffic in New Jersey hasn't been so bad as I expected. Rather light, actually. But we're going to try driving through New York City on Monday as we trek to Boston. Let's see how my car handles I-95 at mid-morning. Of course, it's a rental, so how much do I care?

This has been Charles Martin Cosgriff from Newark, New Jersey.

Friday, July 22, 2016

At war with the cat

I like my son-in-law's cat. We get along well. I've even cut her slack for the last few days. The roofers with all their noise have done a number on her nerves. Yet she will not be given her breakfast nor supper before the appointed time, and that's that.

She eats, well, she gets a dish of food, at 5:30 in the AM and the PM. Period, that's it. Usually my daughter sees to that but she is not here this week so it's on Dad. And he, believe me, is a strict taskmaster.

"Meow," purrs the feline to me plaintively as I stumbled downstairs this morning at 5:23. No dice, sister, I respond mercilessly, coldly. Ya got seven minutes.

"Meow," she again laments. Yet I don't break. I stroll into the computer room, I log onto Facebook, I check my e-mail. I walk into the kitchen at 5:28 simply to tease her. I run the water in the sink until it's cold enough for me and I get myself a drink; she stares at me like Mr. Spock, expectantly, eyebrows raised. I stare in return. The clock is mine, animal. One more minute, I resolve.

The alarm on my phone rings; it is 5:30. I pour a scoop of hard brown kibbles into her bowl. She stares at me. I will eat as I am ready, she messages silently. I don't care replies I, you have had nothing until my will allowed it. So goes our conversation in anthropomorphic telepathy.

And I have won. She averts her eyes and eats. I have won.

So I have convinced myself after four hours in the ER for treatment of multiple deep claw wounds. The DNA under my fingernails, from the defensive measures, prove the cat struck first. But I have won, I have. There was no food for her before 5:30. Nor will there be tomorrow.

But my wife will have to deal with that. I'm O negative, if any of you care to donate.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dad's day at the Ryman

There's this picture I know which will mean nothing to many folks. Most pictures don't I'd imagine. They're someone else doing something else, and that's that. Most pictures are innocuous that way I suppose.

Some are captures of moments which mean little but for the excitement of that moment for those involved. Some are public and capture the peculiar importance of what it is the photographer was shooting. The VJ Day sailor and nurse, his great embrace and her great acceptance, reflect that sentiment. A birthday party or wedding are more the embalmed history of those being partied to or being married show that as well. They are important to all involved or at least, to those photographed.

And then some pictures tell a story which we would all embrace should the tale behind the picture be known by all. I know one of those.

My father loved country music, especially the twangy bluegrass genre which found its way into northern cities such as Detroit as the great northern flight fed them during the hungry days of industry after the Second World War. He met his wife that way, as he had become friends with her brother, my uncle, who himself had fled an impoverished North Carolina in the days after the war seeking a better life for his family. His extended family had, being among them my mother, came north as well. So my parents met. So is my personal history at its' start written.

Years pass, and time yields towards itself. Dad never lost his love of country music, and never lost his love of its history both personal and in its music. He became a salesman for a company, a national company of which he was merely its local rep. And that took him beyond his proscribed territory. It took him to cities which were beforehand out of his range.

He once found himself in Nashville, Tennessee, for a trade show, where he had a few moments to himself. So he took some of those moments and he went to downtown Nashville, to see the Ryman Auditorium where many of his country music heroes had performed. He took a tour and stumbled into an opportunity to envisage himself among country music's elite. He could have his own picture made at center stage as though he were performing among the country music elite.

They gave him a cowboy hat and a guitar. They told him to take a certain spot on the stage, strum the guitar, look one way, and smile, and they would take a picture. He did it all. And he came out looking, as if in an analogy he had used often himself about others, as a kid in a candy store. He looked like a country music singer in his own right.

He was smiling as though it was meant for him to be there. As though he should be there. And as though he was comfortable, right where he should be.

He was a kid smiling like a kid living his wildest dreams. No doubt he was. I see it in that picture I know.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The World as I know it

I really don't know what to think sometimes...

I thought I'd sleep till Noon, yet here I am at 4:59 AM trying to compose a blog about I don't know what.

My van is in Canada, a phrase which almost rhymes. It could be in a better place I suppose. But then, so could I.

We've all been through it, eh? Everything looks good, no clouds in the sky, and in a moment a severe thunderstorm warning with hail. And we worry.

I'm sorta worried right now. My car's in another country. What do I do?

I wait a few more hours, then call the mechanic I've been recommended. Then I go from there.

Ah life. I wouldn't trade you for the world.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Lucky Jim? Lucky Marty

Awhile back I stumbled upon the type of thing one often stumbles upon on the Internet: a list (this one by Esquire magazine) of 80 books in no particular order which Esquire insists everyone ought to read. To my delight (I can be delighted rather easily it seems) I found several books on the list which I actually have read: The Things They Carried by one Tim O'Brien, a rather grotesque Vietnam War tale which I thought far too full of itself; Jack London's The Call of The Wild, which I remember little of except that they made us read it in Grade 7; The Killer Angels, a simply marvelous historical fiction from Michael Shaara wrapped around the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War (I gained a great respect and admiration for the Confederate General Longstreet after reading it); and Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff about the Mercury astronauts, where I similarly learned to like Deke Slayton. On the list too though I have not read it was David McCullough's The Great Bridge, about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. As he did such fine jobs with biographies of John Adams and Harry Truman I find myself interested in how he might make bridge construction an exciting read. But what most delighted me to find on list was, of all things, a little comedy which I first read after my wife, who had had it assigned to her in an English course at the University of Detroit, complained to me that neither she nor the rest of the class understood. So I borrowed it immediately. Five pages in I was laughing so hard I was, as the cliche insists, crying. Or hurting, as both adjectives are suggested by like cliches. The book, which by one of those strange intersections of time and circumstance I just happen to be rereading just now, is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.

It really is very funny in its very English way. There are passages which until yet I laugh so long and hard at that I have to stop reading for minutes at a time. Then I have trouble getting back to the text because the funniest moments just keep coming back to me. Yes, it is that good. If you like dry, droll, yet still somehow over the top English humor.

And you should, you know. The English have a delightful way of melding sublime understatement, surreal juxtaposition, and outlandish slapstick in hilariously satisfying ways. A wonderful example from Lucky Jim is a passage where an absent minded driver comes near to a head on collision with a bus. His passenger, the actual lucky Jim, describes the incident in harrowing comedic detail, finishing with a description of the obviously excited and screeching bus driver, "...his mouth opening and shutting vigorously.' I'm chuckling at it still.

The closest American approximations are the Marx Brothers and, believe it or not, Bob Newhart. The English, they know humor. Americans should get to know English humor better too.

And I'm not talking Benny Hill either, you walking primates out there.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Dietary temptresses

Tuesday morning I had to go to Gaylord, Michigan. I stopped at Birch Run just past Flint to grab a bite to eat, thinking I would go to Tony's Restaurant. You get a pound - that's right, one pound - of bacon with every meal. Yes, that sounded good. Eggs and toast and hash browns and all that nice salty bacon. Then I reminded myself I was under orders to cut down drastically on my salt intake.

Cue the Homer Simpson moan of total despair. Oooooooooooooh. So I went into a nearby Tim Horton's and ordered a dry, toasted bagel and a bottle of water. Those who know me know that that alone required an act of supreme will: Marty simply does not go into Timmy's and not leave without an extra large black coffee. Yet as I had burned my coffee quota before I was barely out of Detroit, water would have to do.

Yesterday morning I had to go to Springfield, Ohio on business. I was meeting my friend Mark for breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel. What would I have: the double meat breakfast with sausage and bacon, scrambled eggs, and biscuits and gravy? Or do I opt for the Uncle Herschel's, with hash brown casserole, biscuits and gravy, and a big slab of hickory smoked cured ham steak?

Heavy sigh. I had a bowl of oatmeal and a muffin.

Heading home up US 68, I thought of this Amish store north of Bellfontaine. It's a neat little store with Amish furniture and Amish arts and crafts. Plus it has an impressive food section, where among other delights of the palate you can buy absolutely the best chocolate covered raisins on Earth. I mean, these things put Raisinets to shame; I decided I'd stop in and buy some. You can eat them like potato chips.

Like. Potato. Chips. Another snack I can't have with any regularity. And these raisins are a double whammy: caffeine and processed sugar are in milk chocolate. So I drove past the Amish store. But I swear it gave me a sly wink and a come hither look as I went by. I didn't know anything Amish could do that.

Yes, I know it's for my own good. But right now, today, this new diet is just harshin' my buzz, dude.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Battle of the Wash Basin

Our old laundry basin has been in need of replacement for years now. It has been leaking rinse water for as long as I can remember, and the ancient barrel trap underneath has plugged constantly. When it sprang a fourth leak, the time had come to permanently replace it. There were by then more buckets catching drips below it than actual floor space beneath the cement double basin.

The campaign began with a trip to Home Depot, where we found most of the materials we needed. I say most because efforts like this always end up needing more supplies than one at first thinks, and the history of the conflict, man versus plumbing, bore out this truth. Yet we had garnered the bulk of what was necessary, and the enemy was duly engaged on Saturday morning.

The old tubs were too heavy to be moved easily, so they had to be broken apart and carried out in pieces. Selecting a short handled five pound sledgehammer which looked like the one Thor uses in Marvel Comics, and holding towards the sky as he did for strength and symbolism, I began to strike the cement walls of the beast. I also felt a little like the ape in 2001: A Space Odyssey who has just learned to use that bone as a weapon, banging the hammer into the cement as Also Sprach Zarathustra resounded in my mind. Soon the old basin was in small bits, which I carried out for the bulk trash pickup.

While setting the new basin in place after clean up, I made one tiny miscalculation. I love using PVC for the drains, but you have to make up your mind exactly how you're going to piece it together because when the glue sets, and it sets frighteningly fast, you're, ahem, stuck with the final product. There are no mulligans, no re-dos. So when I secured two parts together and stupidly angled one 180 degrees opposite of what was required, it meant quite maddeningly that all I could do was go and buy another trap. Yet with the trap purchased at a local hardware and the correct alignment, I was soon finished with Saturday's work and sat back to relish my victory on day one of the battle.

Day Two should have been easy, but I went a step too far, trying to remove an old cast iron pipe which I could have and should have worked around easily. But arrogance and pride being the Devil's tools I had made up my mind that it had to go. I mean, it had to. I had already bought the PVC supply line to replace it. I was, I believed, more of a man that it was a pipe.

A sad and silly mistake. I would have been better off sacrificing the, literally, 89 cents the proposed replacement parts cost me, for all I did was create a leak where one had not before existed. Yet now it was far too late on Sunday to do more than make a fifth trip to the hardware (I did mention the other four, for those unexpected yet necessary parts, didn't I?) for putty to mend the leak temporarily so that we could use our washing machine. But the putty would not hold, even after the third application (and two beers; was there a connection?), and the drip, though slight, mocked me. The battle mainly won, though, the drip caught easily in a two and a half gallon bucket, I resolved that total victory would come today, Monday. I was 95% victorious as it was.

It is dripping more slowly this morning. The bucket is not even half full. Do I call off a permanent solution until the weekend, take time from work today to end it all, or call a plumber?

Heh, heh, call a plumber. Right. I'll keep you informed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Grandpappy's a Pokemon trap

My son and his family were able to stop by the other day, and I found myself in a good conversation with my granddaughter. She had plopped onto our couch as I sat in my chair, and was excitedly telling me about the fun she had taking pictures of the Fourth of July fireworks. They were in the Soo, at the top of the Tower of History tourist attraction there. So they had a great vantage point, and I'm glad that she's getting into a neat hobby.

She was talking about some of the shots she took, but checking her phone regularly. That was fine by me. She's a near teen after all, and I'm okay to get any attention I can get. Not that she has an early case of the teen surlies, if that's what you're thinking.

Suddenly she said, "Keep still, Grandpappy," and rose up to creep towards my chair, pointing that phone straight at me.

"What? What's wrong?" I asked, concerned, well, for me.

"Keep STILL!" she barked, sounding a lot more like a full grown woman than a 12 year old. I kept still.

Stealthily making her way across the living room, she was within about two feet of me before pressing something on her phone. Then triumphantly she turned it around to show me the cartoon bird which was on my shoulder. Which she had 'captured'. "Look what I got!" she said proudly. She had caught a Pokemon. She was playing Pokemon Go as we were talking.

Now I'm the one who felt played.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bill James and the world

It is fascinating where certain interesting ideas may be found. The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is must reading for any baseball wonk, almost entirely (surprise, surprise) for its in depth analysis of the game and its players. Still, that doesn't mean that every scrap of value found within it is restricted to interpretations of the true American National Pastime.

Mr. James at one point laments the rise of professionalism in our nation over the last fifty years or so, indeed comparing it to the many other -isms which have infected our body politic. Sportswriters and reporters have become journalists, whereas at one time they had the simpler jobs of reporting the news or sports, with someone to answer to if they didn't stick to those specific jobs. But James takes it further: teachers have become educators who teach to tests rather than teach the subject at hand. Cops have become police officers, garbage collectors sanitation workers, and so on.

The result is that we now have self aggrandized professionals in all fields, but to what point? James opines rather well that legal professionals delivered us the O. J. Simpson verdict, but not justice. On other fronts, he says, journalism has made reporting on news and athletic events adversarial rather than benign. Doctors evolving into physicians and nurses into health care professionals have driven the cost of an aspirin in a hospital to $35 while doctors used to make house calls. You get the point.

While we cannot agree with him on every particular (health care costs have went up for reasons beyond and better than a simple change of attitude, even if you believe they have gone father than reason might allow, and reporters are almost naturally adversarial) his general point is well founded. Why do we see teachers so differently lately? At one point, they had the rather straightforward job of making kids sit down, shut up, and pay attention, while expecting and getting the general support of the community. Now, we demand results from them, codified and quantified based on all kinds of data which the general public doesn't understand yet supports in the cause of education. Why can't we be happy that the kids end up with a high school diploma? Surely most of those earned over the course of American history have been reasonably granted?

Why can't cops catch the bad guys and lawyers by turn prosecute or defend them? What are we really seeking when we make things into more than they are? The net result seems to be displayed through that incident with Barbara Boxer awhile back. You know, the one where she asked to be called "Senator" rather than "Ma'am" because she earned it? Instead of becoming the professionals we claim we are, we instead begin to be arrogant about what we in fact perceive ourselves to be.

We do not mean herein to pick on Senator Boxer in particular. Really, we don't; nor do we wish to disparage the jobs which are done every day and well by all the good teachers and cops and doctors and nurses out there in our land. But the sanctification of what, in the final analysis, we as individuals do for a living cannot help us to truly appreciate the necessary jobs being done for us and by us each and every day. It seems that we've lost something of our innocence, indeed of our humility, when we demand a certain grovelling before us as we earn our daily bread.

We hate to say that all a teacher is is a teacher, or that all a doctor is is a doctor. Yet we cannot escape the feeling that a real teacher or a real doctor should feel that way. It is one thing for the general society to venerate any given individual's very good and very much needed work, indeed up to and including that of, say, trash collector (Would you do that? Pick up others' garbage? Then respect the ones who do). But for the professional to demand that treatment, quite frankly, reeks of a lack of professionalism.

By and large, true professionals command the respect they deserve. They command it precisely because they stick to their jobs rather than trumpet about them. They tend to know their place, and to know that they are not irreplaceable. They know their jobs are bigger than they ever will be. They do them in that light: as best they can without ever thinking they are better than anyone else because of it.

Be appreciative of all the things others have done for you. Be humble about what you do for them. If there is a better prescription for a better world, we do not know what it is.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Moms are such moms


I was lumbering back from the old barn yesterday morn and Mother happened to be perched on her front stoop. O'course I sat with her for a spell, just to chat. "The lottery's pretty big tonight," she comments after a few pleasantries.

"That's what I hears, yes," replies I.

She asks, seemin' to merely inquire to the air about her, "What d'the tickets cost?"

Answers I, "Two bucks each".

Mother commences to fumble through her wallet and thrusts four dollar bills at me. "When you get yours buy me two," she blithely commands. Funny, I'd naught spoken about purchasing any a'tall.

Still, then, I dutifully purchased a pair o'Powerball tickets that afternoon (what kind of boy would not do such a simple favor for his old mum?) and delivered them back to her. And she called it, I purchased me own as well. I was at the party store anyway, eh?

Perhaps she's a millionairess by now. One that knows how much her boy loves her as well too, no doubt.

Friday, July 8, 2016

My doctor is trying to help me. I think.

My doctor laid down the law yesterday. Although my overall health is very good, my blood pressure is too high. Not wanting to give me a prescription without an attempt at 'lifestyle changes' he laid out the gauntlet.

Lose 15 pounds. I guess I saw that coming.

Do not salt any food. That's not too bad as I don't salt much anyway.

Avoid processed food. Okay, that's a toughie. I like quick and easy lunches made from lunchmeats thrown on bread, and often I use no condiments. Not good enough, he says. Har-rumph.

Avoid potato chips. And I really love potato chips; he's really starting to meddle. But I can have one one ounce serving a week.

Avoid red meats (there's a shock) and stop taking Benadryls for my allergies. So I'm trying Claritin on his suggestion. But it's never worked for me before.

No more than two cups of coffee a day, and preferably only one. Come on Doc, you're taking away all the stuff I like most. Heavy sigh. And I ought to have salad for one meal a day. Really? Rabbit food?

I'm told I'll get used to the new rules and begin to enjoy them, and I suppose that's well possible. I do now look forward to my morning walks. Yet they had been followed with coffee and salty breakfasts (hey, I said I rarely salted my food, not that I didn't enjoy salty foods). No more of that. For me, these are very serious alterations to be tossed under the benign banner of lifestyle changes.

Ah well, it's for my own good. I know that, and I want what's for my own good, honest. Yet I can't help wonder what a common blood pressure medicine would cost per month.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Equality is just another word

We are in this world almost daily deluged with calls for equality. It all sounds so good, and everyone seems to want it. But there's only one problem with it.

We are not, any of us, really equal.

This is not to say that we are not political equals. Yet even that phrase leaves a bit of uncertainty: we are only equal because my vote should count as much as yours. That doesn't strike me as equality. It strikes me as justice.

In the same manner, and I have employed this tactic when talking about freedom, education, peace, and so forth, so too do we find that we must apply it to any calls for equality. We need to ask what the supporters of equality really mean. Because any absolute and final equality can only be of circumstances and must actually be something which applies only in very, very few cases. Take equal pay for equal work, for example. Notice that we are asking a question whose answer only applies to very strict and definite circumstances. A woman cancer doctor, 50 years old, with 20 years of practice, who graduated from the same schools with the same grades as a complimentary male cancer specialist in the same place of work, and with the same proficiency of work, should get the same pay. No rational mind would argue otherwise. But the case is so limited that only answer is the right anyway. Again, that's because of justice, not equality.

As to the other facet of the argument, well, calls for equality must ring hollow on their face. A brain surgeon isn't a plumber, no matter how much more we want the latter when the faucet breaks or the basement floods, and no matter which is male or female. As a matter of decency, we should not look well on the surgeon nor ill on the plumber. But yet again, that's a point about justice, not equality.

We could refine the case further, but we trust the point is made. When we are demanding equality we are often (if not in fact always) demanding justice. We are asking that we be treated rightly and properly in light of the circumstances which surround us. We are not asking for equality. We are asking for justice.

So, and I am sure many people may have grown tired of me asking yet I must, when you demand equality, do you really want that? If so, how? Why? For we need to remember that the only sure way to make folks equal is downward, to the where no one is above the lowest common denominator.

That the average person means equality in the sense of true justice I don't doubt. Still, it is when we use terms wrongly that we have the greatest troubles. It is then that the radical fringe of any given group may take the day. Yet when we clarify our thoughts, when we strive to end misunderstanding by calling things what they are, then, indeed, justice wins out. Isn't that what we really want?

Monday, July 4, 2016

One very personal Independence Day

Today is Independence Day. 240 years ago the United States declared themselves separate and equal to Great Britain. But this day I find myself remembering a very different July 4th, one of the fondest memories of my childhood.

It was around 8:30 in the morning and I was 9 or 10, just goofing off in my backyard. I saw Grandpa Joe come out of his house (he and Grams lived next door to us) but he didn't see me. He walked out his back gate and up towards the old barn where he worked, the same old barn I have now. Naturally, I had to investigate. What could he be doing on a holiday?

I got to the shop right as he was opening the truck doors. "What are y'doin, boy?" he asked in that vague gruff manner of his when he wasn't in full on gruff mode.

"Wonderin' what you're doing," I answered honestly.

"Well, c'mon in then". Joe was welding something underneath one of the stake trucks he used for delivering the welding equipment he rented. I held a flashlight for him as he scoped out the job. Then he fired up an old Hobart welder he used exclusively in the barn, gave me a welding helmet with strict instructions to keep it on until he said I could remove it, and commenced with the repair on the truck's frame.

After a while he paused for a break. We went and got donuts ('vittles' he always called coffee break donuts or snacks) and ate them while we drank our coffee as he smoked a cigarette or four. Then he went back to finish the job, me wearing that far too big and heavy helmet and holding a light for him when asked. Soon we were done.

He shut everything down and did a quick clean up, and then locked up the barn. He turned to me and took a five dollar bill from his wallet and told me to take it. "You worked too," he told me to tell his son and daughter-in-law who might wonder how'd I'd come across such largesse. Five bucks was huge, to a 10 year old in 1970. I said thank you. In fact, I believe it was more like "Thank YOU, Grandpa Joe!"

"Aw Hell," he said back, as was his wont.

So I earned my first pay on a long ago July 4th. And I had a really good time doing it.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Does God will evil?

Okay, here I go, trying to make a sensitive blog on a sensitive question. On a Sunday no less. But such concerns have never stopped me before.

I've heard many times when something bad happens that it is God's punishment. I have similarly heard that God doesn't work that way. So what's fella to think? Does God punish or doesn't He? And the short answer is: He might, we just don't know if or when. And I think it's nonproductive to fret too much over that point.

Still, I think a better way to phrase the issue is, does God allow bad things to happen? Yet even then I'm not sure that allow is the correct term any more than I would automatically say that he causes them to happen. My point is that sometimes things just happen, things which may be interpreted as punishment. In fact, the corollary is also often true: sometimes good things just happen. It's interesting though that when good things happen folks aren't so quick to question the motives of the Almighty.

Be that as it may, the bottom line is that God wills what He wills, and we simply don't know when, where, and how He does that. Many actions are simply the result of human free will, and nothing more. So how about we concede that we don't really know God's intent, but we do know our own, and work from there?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

When we don't talk so good

While listening to the radio this morning I heard a song, one of many which employ the same sentiment, where the singer laments someone he 'used to know'. But doesn't that mean he stills knows her? I mean, who's he talking about if he doesn't still know who they are?

It's a little like when I was explaining to a small group of family about a new (to me, anyway) way to fill a cup of beer. There was a cap at the bottom of the cup, and the bartender held the cup over a post, pushing up the cap and filling the cup from the bottom. My aunt looked at me, confused, and asked, "But don't all cups fill from the bottom?" I guess they actually do, right?

I'm not one of those who argue that language is vague and confusing. I think the poor use of language and/or honest error either on the part of the speaker or the listener can make it appear confused. Still, the little incongruities can be fun to notice.

Sort of like, when we were loading trucks back in the days working with my grandfather, Grandpa Joe would bark, "Raise 'er down!" when ready to place a load on the truck bed.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Canada Day!

Today is Canada Day. It celebrates the anniversary of Canada being granted dominionship (we hope that is a word) within the British Empire on July 1, 1867. Called Dominion Day until 1982 when Canada earned full independence, it is essentially Canada's Independence Day.

It is one of those subtle ironies of history that such great friends as Canadians and Americans celebrate their anniversaries so closely together. Particularly in border cities such as here in Detroit, where we are able to enjoy the relatively free interchange of people, ideas, and goods with our northern allies, we ought to be somewhat awestruck by the kinship between our nations. There are few nations who truly have the sort of bond which we have, and we in Michigan are able to partake of that friendship every day in almost every way.

Though technically a newer nation than the United States, Canada is in many ways older and more distinct, more nuanced than we are. It gives Canada a depth which the US lacks in certain areas, as it allows her a better connection to the Old World (such a quaint yet endearing term nowadays!) than ourselves while living fully in the New.

Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, true sister cities bound by proximity and shared interests, keenly aware and appreciative of one another even though in separate countries, share many events during these days. There are of course the massive fireworks, while each city supports various other events: the Windsor Summer Days in Ontario and Detroit River Days. It is something of a shame that they are no longer called the International Freedom Festival, as they were until 2007. It seems to break the unity of the celebrations. Still, their common history marks the anniversaries of each nation's independence similarly and faithfully. The parties remind us of our bond.

We should count ourselves fortunate indeed to have such tremendous associates, such stouthearted and true friends so nearby. It gives us a perspective the rest of the United States may not have, and shows us profoundly what true friendship must mean.

Happy Canada Day, Canada!