Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The yin and yang of New York City

Random thoughts on NYC...

It certainly is vibrant; at least, the areas I saw were. Lots of people, lots of small businesses, and lots of activity. I know of nothing like it in Detroit. I'm not saying there aren't parts of the city where similar traits exist. Even if there are though, they don't exist to the degree they do in New York.

Yankee Stadium is lovely. It is one great baseball park. I still prefer the classic stadiums such as Fenway in Boston (nothing personal, Yankees fans, and I'm not trying to trip your triggers either) but the new Yankees park is well built. You're reasonably close to the field wherever you are, and the sight lines are fantastic. After seeing it and PNC Park in Pittsburgh, you really understand that Detroit messed up badly with Comerica. I don't quite get why they played 'New York, New York' after a Yankees loss though.

St. Patrick's Cathedral is a gem. I'm glad we went there for Mass.

Times Square was pretty crowded. It was a summer Saturday evening when we walked through it though. I can't imagine what it must be like on December 31st. I don't think I want to know either.

The Oculus is awful; four billion dollars for what amounts to a shopping mall. It looks like a massive skeleton which has been bleached white by desert heat. I read that it's supposed to be a dove extending its wings. A hideously oversized, very dead dove maybe. Plus it's entirely incongruent to downtown Manhattan, where it's part of the World Trade Center. I don't see it as anything more than a monument to hubris quite frankly.

The prices weren't all that bad. Other than the shops which were clearly aimed at the more affluent, and you find those everywhere, I thought that the grocery, restaurant, and cost on general amenities comparable to what I find in Michigan and its surrounds. I do gather that housing and parking can get expensive. Fortunately, that did not affect me.

I don't know if I could live there. There are just too many people, the metropolitan area is so spread out, and the sensory overload of the town can be staggering. But I definitely like New York City. I look forward to my next visit.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What was and what will be

I have them today: the post trip blues. Having just gotten back from a nice long weekend in New York City, I'm dealing with that bit of depression which most all of us deal with after a long anticipated event is past.

The worst thing about it I believe is the feeling that it didn't actually happen. It did of course. But upon the return home there's a sensation that it in fact did not. It's not like it's simply gone. It's as if it was never there.

Part of that is wistfulness tinged with a vague melancholy speaking. Then too it reflects the natural human desire that the good things keep going. But as I told my son Sunday night when it was too obvious that we both needed to get some sleep, we have to recognize when the party's over. You have to know when you have to move on.

It's the right way to approach such things. Because humanity is imperfect we must earn our daily bread. We have to take the breaks as we get them, and see to our more regular needs the rest of the way. For after all, it's the seeing to those needs which make the vacations possible, right?

So I'm home to earn more time off with family.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mulberry Season 2017

Funny, isn’t it, how we sometimes identify people with certain times, places, or things.

In the alley behind our old family repair shop there is a row of mulberry bushes which have been there for years. My grandfather would, in the late spring or early summer when they were in season, always stop and treat himself to a few of the little fruits as he went to and from work.

Little? Well, mulberries are small compared to most fruits. In context, they’re like raspberries who have spent a lot of time in the gym; a scant few are a handful. They’re juicy and sweet, and Grandpa Joe liked them. I remember vividly his picking and popping them into his mouth as he made his way down the alley, as though he were a kid again.

Time passes, and so, sadly, did Grandpa Joe. Yet the mulberries still grew, and I couldn’t help over the years but develop a liking to them myself. As I hike to and from work nowadays I’ll stop and have a few. As it were, my daughter also came to know and like the mulberries too. Often we’ll take bowls and go fill them with the little purple black fruits, snacking as we pick, and my wife will make pies out of those which make it back home. I like the idea that three generations of a family have been able to enjoy those berries ripening on the same bushes.

Now, I’m not all that naive; I know that Joe Cosgriff was ornery and arbitrary, with a hair trigger temper. I know it from the tales my Dad and his siblings have told, and from the personal experience of having worked with him for a good 15 or 18 years. I know too that there was a part of him which was somehow kind and appreciative, and that there were moments when these came out despite, perhaps, himself. There were good times and trying ones, and lasting impressions. I find as I grow older that, in the end, it is the good times which matter more than the difficult, even if it seems there were more tough days than easy. I believe too that the smallest, almost innocuous memories can also be the greatest insights into the honest character of someone.

What prompts me to write this? It’s June, and the mulberries are in. And I’m thinking about you, Joe.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Saturday in New York

Hey Pops, how are you today?

I'm in New York City, would you believe? Frank and I went to Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. It is a gorgeous, impressive Church. I can see why you liked it. It seemed to come out of nowhere too. We were walking among all those skyscrapers and all of sudden, it seemed to me, there was a Church. As big as it is, it still seemed dwarfed by the other buildings. And it is big, as you know.

We also took in a ballgame. We went into that den of iniquity, Yankee Stadium. But I gotta tell you Pops, it's a great baseball venue. You're close to the field all the way around, and the sight lines are fantastic. You'd have liked it. You could actually follow the ball, not just watch the fielders react as you do from so many seats in Comerica. Just a good, solid baseball park.

The Yankees have this rookie right fielder, Aaron Judge, and he's a monster. Six foot seven and close to three hundred pounds. He's hit 26 home runs already, including one yesterday into the Rangers' bullpen (the Yanks were playing Texas) which I'm guessing went 420 feet. It crossed at the 399 mark in left field, so I think I'm close. It was a magnificent shot.

That was the only highlight for the home side though. Texas won 8-1. I actually felt bad that the Yanks didn't win.

I know. Fawning over the New York Yankees, their park, and their star player. I'm going to Hell, aren't I?

Maybe from your view though, you might put in a good word for me with the Almighty just the same?

Until next time,

Marty

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The streets of New York

It's raining in New York this morning. I supposed there's worse fates.

What I really don't like about that though is that it's supposed to get up to 88 today. Rain in the morning followed by sun usually means hot, sticky weather. I like it better when it rains late.

New York City is interesting. I don't know that I could ever live here; there's just too many people, and that coming from someone who considers himself a people person. But there's definitely stuff I like. The neighborhoods, well, the one I'm staying in anyway, does seem vibrant and alive. I doubt there's a comparable one in Detroit, and I do find that a little sad.

Stores and businesses abound; there certainly is variety. And the traffic isn't really that bad. Again, at least not where I am; I'm not trying desperately to get to a home an hour or two away. It isn't particularly noisy either. I had expected noise.

We're going to the Yankees game this afternoon. They play the Texas Rangers. It is, in a certain manner, my favorite kind of baseball game. I don't particularly care about the outcome. Interestingly, that makes it easier for me to watch any given sport: not actually caring who wins.

But tomorrow I'll let you know what happens anyway.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hobo Joe

I'm not to going to complain about Amtrak today. Oh, it'll get its day under the Marty microscope. But not this day. I'm on a short vacation here in New York City and will keep things properly light.

Me Grandpa Joe rode the rails back in the 1920s. He hopped freights whenever the spirit moved him. Consequently, he lived all over the United States in his late teens and early twenties. I have to admit there's a part of me who admires that roaming lifestyle. Go where you decide when you decide. It was certainly easier to do that a century ago, to stay off the grid and just live your life. Ah well.

He wasn't a bum, though, as many folks think of those who traipsed around the nation as he did back then. He was a hobo. Hoboes worked their way around. When Joe got off a train somewhere, he looked for a few weeks' work. Even hoboes needed a couple bucks.

Consequently he worked on many farms and in factories, and even a couple stints on ranches, once in Montana and once in North Dakota. Part of his job in Montana, oddly, interestingly enough, was taking the ranch owner's wife to Church. Joe was a serious Catholic and went wherever he landed; in that case the rancher wasn't and didn't attend Church, but his wife was and did. So when Joe was there he drove woman to Church. He was going anyway and at the time it saved the boss the trouble. It didn't hurt that he apparently made a couple extra dollars on an off day doing what he would have done anyway.

But to the real point. Hoboes worked (well, okay, other than with the stolen train rides) while bums just wanted a handout. Hoboes looked down on bums. Joe was a hobo. Don't call nuthin' but that.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

De train! De train!

I-a fixin' to go to New York to visit my son. We're going to take in a Yankees game Saturday. I never thought I'd look forward to seeing the Yanks, but so it goes.

I'm taking the train there. I have to drive to Toledo to catch it as there's no Amtrak service from Detroit to New York except through Chicago. That would add about 6 hours each way to my trip and better than a hundred bucks in cost. For a C-note and a half day's time, I'll drive to and from Toledo.

My first thought at discovering that was, gee, no train between Detroit and Toledo? That's when I had to remind myself that the trains don't exist for Marty's convenience. Indeed it set me to wondering whether passenger rail is necessary at all these days, especially when underwritten by the Feds. Yet that is perhaps another issue this moment.

As it is, I like the train. I've taken a couple train rides before. It has been and will no doubt be nice to travel without watching the road, to be able to cat nap or read or, who knows, post a blog as I ride the rails. If Amtrak isn't running late (and it is notoriously tardy) I may even say something nice about it.

But don't presume too much. I am becoming a curmudgeon, you remember.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

For the conspiracy theorists

For many years now a rather strange thing has happened with haunting regularity right outside of the place where I work. An alley runs immediately alongside our shop, and every time it rains a circle of about five feet in diameter dries out, in the exact same place, well ahead of the the remainder of the alleyway.

When it snows, the snow will melt faster, sometimes quite amazingly fast. So fast that there will still be several inches of powder running smack up to the circle, leaving the edge of the snow with the appearance something like surface tension on an almost overfilled glass. Consequently, in the winter we often have the unusual sight of perfectly dry cement on extremely cold days.

I have long wondered about that spot. I would love to know what causes it; is it caused by some alien object buried along ago, unnoticed until the alley was run over it about 100 years back? Are there rays from the sun who have decided it was their duty to keep the circle dry and safe for all its life? Might there be some supernatural explanation? Could I have, right outside my own back door, the equivalent of the mysterious crop circles which appear around the globe?

I don't believe any of that, not for a minute. There has to be some perfectly natural reason for the regular appearance of the dry spot in the alley. Perhaps there are electric lines under it, although I can't imagine electric lines creating enough heat outside of a problem we would have found by now. There certainly cannot be heating ducts there, can there? If they ever rip out the cement, I would dearly love to be there to see what the might find in the dirt below. The bottom line is, there must be a rational explanation for it, right? But that wouldn't be much fun, would it? Would it?

Conspiracy theorists, I may just have something for you.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Extremes in sales

In sales, you just never know what will happen. Chicken one day, feathers the next, Pops used to say. There's a lot of truth to that.

I remember on June 1, 2015, I had 65 lengths of main drain cables in stock. That's a decent amount, and an amount I should sell in a month.

I didn't that month. I didn't sell a single cable in June. But July would be better, right?

Right. Didn't sell any of those cables then either. I was beginning to wonder if I was doing something wrong, if I had lost my touch.

August 4 was the first Tuesday of the month that year. Out of nowhere that day, spread over 7 or 8 customers, I sold all 65 of those cables in 90 minutes.

In sales, you just never know.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Humor on Father's Day

Happy Father's Day.

Fathers tend to be the subject of jokes, and that's okay. They joke too, and most that I know can also take them. There's a lesson there, one of many which our dads have taught us. It might be their most important lesson: have a sense of humor.

Many things in this world are important and need to be taken seriously. Yet we aren't going to save the world. Indeed, we often must simply take a step back and regroup. Humor helps us do that.

So have joke with old man today. If he's gone, think about his jokes and laugh along anyway. Yes, even the ones he told dozens of times. If he liked them, why shouldn't you?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Don't know, don't care

A car, me old Grandpa Joe always said, is good for one thing and one thing only: to get you from point A to point B. That's all it's good for; there ain't no style points.

To be sure, as those of you who knew him will attest, he took the idea to an extreme. He drove vehicles which he probably should have not. Yet I think his basic idea is well and true. It taught me, rightly, I will assert, not to care too much for what I drive.

Consequently I tend to have cars with quirks. Take my current van, for example. If you hit the gas too hard when you pull away from the curb or a traffic light, it rumbles before smoothing out and going on. But when I accelerate easily, it does just fine. Why? Don't know, don't care. It gets me from A to B and that's it's job.

The door ajar and check engine lights stay on constantly. Why? Don't know, don't care. The old girl starts every time and that's all I need her to do.

Sometimes when I roll the driver's window down it won't roll back up. But when I restart the engine it rolls back up. Why? Don't know, don't care. It rolls back up. That's good enough.

Joe's right. It's just a car. And it does what I need it to does. That's good enough for me. If it ain't good enough for you, I can live with that.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ram parts

One of the many neat tools you can buy from Electric Eel is a little cylindrical unit called a Kinetic Water Ram. It has a pump with which you can build up air pressure, and a trigger whereby you release it. You stick it over a drain opening, build up the pressure, and wham! A burst of air opens the line. Neat, huh?

But like anything else it requires service from time to time. After a lot of use the washers inside the unit wear so that it won't hold pressure, for example. There's a repair kit available for when this happens.

One day a customer called and explained his trouble and I said he needed that kit. He asked if I'd order it and call him when it arrived. Fair enough; we do that regularly. I told him sure.

When the Ram repair kit came a day or two later I called the guy to let him know it was in. Thanks, he said, but he was by then in the middle of a large plumbing job and couldn't get to my Shop for a couple days. No problem, I replied, we'd hold it for him.

As I hung up the phone I sat and I looked at the kit. O'er the Ram parts we watch, I thought.

Good eh?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Perking coffee

You've had your morning joe, haven't you? I've had mine. But what's more, I make mine differently than most of you I'm sure. I perk it.

Yeppers, I'm old school with my coffee. I've heard, though whether I believe it or not, that the drip method is better. Not that I can taste. I've also been told that the French Press method is the best way of making your brew. Maybe so, maybe no. Yet that just sounds weird. Borderline disturbing in fact. Naw, give my perked pot of Chase & Sanborn any day.

Oh, I don't doubt that my preference is partly psychological. Me Grams always perked her coffee (okay, I suppose most everyone did before about 1970) using a glass, nine cup Pyrex percolator. I remember sitting in the kitchen and watching it work up to a boil, the hot water becoming coffee drip by drip as it brewed. She must have noticed my fascination, for our wedding gift was an exact duplicate of that large glass coffee pot.

I'm having a second cup right now, brewed from that same pot. I watched it perk the whole way too. Me Grams, she knew how to make coffee.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A little Old Glory for you

Today is Flag Day. We don't seem to hear much about it anymore.

The day traces its roots to June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress adopted the original 13 star, 13 stripe design for our national banner. Still, Flag Day hasn't become as important as other holidays. It isn't even formally recognized except in Pennsylvania on a state level.

Oh, it would just be shoved to the nearest Monday if it were made a full holiday. So maybe it's just as well that it stays on June 14 year in and year out. Your flag should fly everyday anyway.

Still, I miss watching that large old flag which would be unfurled down the face of the old downtown Hudson's store. I think it covered 11 of the 14 floors of building. It was pretty impressive. I saw it happen live twice as a teen, with my mother after dentist's appointments. That to me was Flag Day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Calling a sales bluff

I've been in sales for a while now, and I like to think I have an idea how the game is played. One piece involves discounts. I'm not opposed to them...if the volume is there. So, as it's said, show me the money.

One time a fellow did just that. And I still have his money.

Someone I'd never seen before came to me about buying an Electric Eel, the snakes I sell. After going through all the early process, showing him a unit and what goes with it, we came to the real nitty gritty. We began talking cost.

"I'm going to be big, Cosgriff, real big," he was preaching to me. "I'll bring you all my business. Can you help me out?"

"Whaddaya want?"

"Ten percent. I'm gonna buy a lot of stuff off you, man."

I hedged. You can usually tell when you're dealing with someone who's putting you on, painting a grand vista; playing with cow cookies. Yet this time, instead of turning him down flat I thought I'd call his bluff. "What's your initial order?" I asked.

"Five," he answered without hesitation.

"Deal," I answered in kind. At the time his total was around $6,000. I'd go ten off for that.

"Write me up Cosgriff, and I'll give you a down payment," he says, with an unwarranted degree of self assurance. "I'll pay the balance when you get the stuff." So I wrote him up.

He gave me twenty dollars.

I never even bothered to process the order. And here at least a decade later, I still have his twenty bucks.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The intermittent starting conundrum

As a repairman of sorts, one of the things I hate is when a unit works some of the time and not others. It is much easier to diagnose an issue when something simply doesn't work than when it takes spells of not working. Now my car is doing the same thing.

The first mechanic who checked it said that his diagnostic program didn't show anything wrong. So of course the car worked for about a week afterwards before becoming reticent.

Yet the next day it started all right. I took it to a second mechanic, whose diagnostics told him that the 'cam sensor' was bad. I won't even bother with the details of what such a thing is or how it works, but I do remember another van I had where that same thing went bad. When replaced, that van worked for the rest of its useful life.

Of course my Aveo worked for about a week and decided not to start again. And of further course it started immediately for that second mechanic, whom I took it back to as he had most recently dealt with it.

He's going to let me know what else he might find later. In the meanwhile, my horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Getting people in the pews

I long ago came to the conclusion that Vatican II was ill advised. I will not do what some of my traditionalist brethren have and call it a mistake; at some point Faith must direct to us that God would not lead His Church into serious error. That does not, however, mean that She will not occasionally employ less than ideal judgment.

The liberalizing effect of Vatican II has not been without noticeable waves of trouble. It does not seem coincidental that the drop in vocations began in earnest after the Council; The Dominican nun who was the counselor at my son's school has told me that the in the very first year after the changes of the Council went into effect candidates for the sisterhood in her Mother House dropped by well over three-quarters. Further, Mass attendance has slipped so far that many churches have closed. The question is, why?

Though there are other pertinent factors, I rather believe that it lies to a degree in the loss of the spiritual aspect of Catholic religious practice. We don't appear so interested in saving souls as we are in social justice (whatever that means) and just getting along. Not that justice and Christian charity are unimportant values. It's just that, social justice (if you simply must force the arguably pointless adjective social in there) without regard for the soul is an empty vessel. Feeding the hungry is one of the key callings of our faith. Yet to feed only their bellies cannot nourish them in the wonders of Heaven or necessarily set them on the road to a fruitful relationship with God. It only maintains a body which, on its own, will eventually rot, and nothing more.

I attended a Tridentine Mass for the first time awhile ago and was struck by the the mysticism of it. It was as though something magical was happening: bread and wine became the body and blood of our Lord. It wasn't just Christ sharing a meal with his friends, as some Vatican II supporters seem to feel of it. It was a true miracle in action. Similarly, there was the Divine Mercy chaplet and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass yesterday in my parish. I felt that same profound mystery as I did at the Latin Mass.

So I'm thinking we ought to get back to a greater emphasis on tradition rather than appeals to modernism and being relevant to this age (whatever that means), and I am seeing signs of just that. Latin is creeping back into our services, and Catholic prelates are calling out Catholic politicians who don't act Catholic. We are not far removed from the pontificate of St. John Paul the Great, who had encouraged a return to the old values and norms while working for meaningful dialogue among faiths and nations, an ideal Benedict XIV built upon and which Francis I, despite media insistence otherwise, supports himself. There are even indications that vocations are slowly rebounding.

The future, then, is not so bleak as it may seem to a few of my fellows. We simply must get back to the old idea that if you want people to sacrifice you've got to give them something worth the sacrifice. If you want people in the pews you must appeal to their sense of the spirit. Even if all you want is an end to hunger and have decent shelter and health care for all, you need an appeal to the eternal aimed properly at both the servants of the poor and the poor themselves. You must speak to the soul. The rest will take of itself.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Constants

Everyone has at least one. I think you have to one, too. We need a constant, that one thing which over the years keeps us anchored.

What I mean by that is, we need something which is always there. The body likes comfort food; the soul, I'll wager, wants something more sublime. Something which is, like the soul, without substance, yet sustains it along the road of life.

This idea struck me this morning as I was riding around my van doing a few chores. I had the album Mandatory Fun playing on the CD. That's when It occurred to me: I had found my constant, the one thing which speaks to my soul in a way I can understand. One thing which has been with me for better than forty years. One thing which can keep me sane. Yes, I know what my constant is.

Weird Al Yankovic.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Cloyce and my used Model C

I remember a time when I was 16 or 17 that Pops handed over to me a used Electric Eel Model C drain cleaning machine which he had taken in on trade, and told me to clean it up for sale. With it, for honestly the first time in my life, I went all out on a work project. I really put my heart into the job.

I took the motor off the frame, and washed all the grime off both. I painted the motor gray and the frame royal blue, just as they painted them at the Eel factory. I rewired it and installed new wheels. When I was finished with it that baby looked sharp. She was dressed to the nines. I was truly proud of my work. Pops was too. That made me feel very good.

A few days later a regular customer, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, came by. I was busied at some project at a work bench in the middle of the Shop, the old barn where I still work. "Bill,' I heard Cloyce say to my father, "Have you got any used Models Cs?"

My heart sank right to floor. It went right through my boots.

You see, Cloyce was a great guy and a good customer. He never debated nor asked for better prices. He just bought what he wanted and said thank you. But man oh man, he was one lousy drain cleaner. He lost more cables in more sewers than you might think it possible for any one man to lose. I think he lost more snake cable in a given year than entire companies would. He abused his equipment in ways and manners worse than any person I've ever, ever known. In the museum of incompetent plumbers, yes, I mean this, is a solid gold, life size statue of Cloyce. He was simply not good at his job. It remains a wonder to me how he ever got work. Who would refer this guy?

And Pops was going to sell him my Model C.

He couldn't not not sell the man the machine. I get that. We were, are still, in the business of selling new and used drain snakes, and Cloyce's money was as good as anyone else's. Plus, his poor skills weren't our fault. He had to sell the unit. As he took Cloyce's money Pops, for the only time in his life, looked over at me with a sheepish, embarrassed, pained look which plainly said, 'I'm sorry, son'.

Cloyce wheeled that Eel out the door with a bright smile, while I was truly morose. You know those classic theater masks, the grinning one which represents comedy and the crying one which spoke tragedy? I learned that moment how tragedy felt.

Within a month Cloyce brought that Model C into the Shop for a switch or something. The front swivel caster was gone and the frame broken off so that the drive shaft had no support. The paint was scratched and grime covered my first child. I swear it looked up at me in despair and whispered pathetically, "Shoot me."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fun with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

After weeks of testing and visits to the doctor, I have been told that I have Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. That's a fancy way of saying that when I lay down on my left side, the room spins. Being a conservative, I kind of like all the obvious jokes that that invites.

Anyway, I did a string of exercises in his office yesterday, was given a new prescription, a list of exercises I can do at home, and the instruction to keep my head and shoulders aligned for the next few days. That means that I should not swivel or turn my head towards the object of my attention, but rather turn my whole upper body when called upon or as necessary.

This has already produced what I suppose should be expected reactions. Whether turning to speak with a customer, or trying to get a look at oncoming traffic when driving, even when just walking down the street, I have experienced a whole new range of looks. The incredulous looks are clearly questioning my behavior; I have gotten many what-is-your-major-malfunction return stares.

I want to yell, "I'm not a creep!" or, "I'm not trying to be creepy!" I'm just following doctor's orders as best I can. I don't intend for it to creep you out. It does lead one to wonder if all this will in fact work, or is just a way for doctors to have fun at their patients' expense.

I honestly don't believe that last part to be the case of course. But I really, really hope this is over in the next two to three days, as my doctor tells me is the norm. I'm really sure that anyone who sees me will hope so too.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Remembering D-Day

D-Day: June 6, 1944. Seventy-three years ago today began the largest amphibious landing of an armed force in world history. As Allied troops hit the beaches at Normandy in the wee hours of the morning, at points code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, the liberation of Europe was begun. The high point of the Greatest Generation was underway.

The Greatest Generation stands now at its wane. Its members are all in their late 80s and early 90s now. The celebrations of their accomplishments are becoming fewer, smaller, and less intense. Even with improvements in medicine and diet, only a mere handful will still be around in fifteen or twenty years. Many if not most of their numbers are gone already.

It is no small compliment to call them the greatest. Has their been any other challenge successfully met by anyone else in any other time? True, we are dealing in immeasurables when we say such things. Yet it's still pretty clear that nothing anywhere close to the magnitude of World War II has occurred in all of human history. Might a greater threat and a greater harm possibly rise? Yes, of course. But to date this is it.

What can we learn from these people? We can learn perseverance, we can learn faith; we can learn to believe that, when a serious threat to home and hearth nears, humanity can rise to meet and defeat it. We can learn the humility which so many of the Greatest have displayed when speaking of their efforts in later years. We can learn that all of history teaches us to respect and remember what those who have gone before us have done for us. We can remember that our lives are here today only because of what they did with their lives, and against terrible odds under unspeakable conditions.

We can learn to respect heroism. We can learn to revere the heroes.

Never forget.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Billy Martin and the Christ

One great gift I have received in my life was Great Baseball Writing, a compendium of articles from over the years at Sports Illustrated. Not that the other gifts weren't great. Only this one spoke to my soul.

Reading about the icons of my sport, baseball, well, it's a treasure. And this book made me realize something I had not known before.

I love Billy Martin.

Yes, that Billy Martin. You baseball wonks out there, you know him. The firebrand manager who transformed teams into more than they were. His fisticuffs and carousing are more well known, but his managerial skill was nothing short of amazing. Incredible. Fantastic. Inexplicable.

In the book is an article penned by Frank Deford from June 1975. In it, Martin through Deford spoke of the best things about people. He spoke of their commitment to all the best things, things which transcend mere sports and games. He spoke of Jesus, the Christ.

Did you know that before he accepted a managerial job with the Texas Rangers, after the Detroit Tigers unceremoniously fired him, he spend two hours in Church praying to God for guidance? Do you know what he (Martin) said about that man?

He said, and I quote, "And anyway, temper is a wonderful thing, if you can control it and it doesn't control you. Jesus Christ took a whip to the money changers, right? Well, that's a temper, and that's not a bad guy to follow".

The Jesus with a temper. You might recall that He condemned the fig tree simply because He was hungry and it wouldn't give Him fruit.

Think about that. And then ask yourself, which sermon you will remember later today? This one? Or the one you actually heard in Church?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The unknown curler

Well, now, I been goin' through a minor health issue of late, and me doctors and medical perfessionals, they been doin' me real fine. They been steadfast; they been lookin' real close at me charts and me tests and the like, and they figure I'm okay on the whole. But they still been lookin' for what 'xactly's ailing me. But one o'them, I think he found a link 'tween my ailness and me.

He says t'me today, I been giv'n a'nother patient, and he says that fella plays curlin'. What's more, he (that there patient) says he knows ya.

Well, I ain't surprised none. We curlin' folk, we're a what, a fraternitee. We're close; real close, al'mos family. So as you musta been seein' a curlin' fool, he must know me. And I musta' know him. Her. Whater' preposition you like.

He could'na remember the persons' name. But he recalled that the person curled, they threw them stones, and ferther, that that person knowed me. And I say t'him, then he threw them stones w'me, nor' he never'd not knew me.

Me physician, he did not recall that person precisely. But you, who you are you know.

Kindly tell me who you might be.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My first MRI: on a holiday Sunday night no less!

Now that I've experience my first MRI, I can understand why Pops didn't care for them. You are in a tightly enclosed space.

I knew going in that I would be told I couldn't move my head. So I wasn't surprised that there was a mold which I laid my head into which would help keep it still. I was even okay when the technician placed a folded towel around my head as well. I did not however expect the Hannibal Lechter face mask which was fit into place on top of the mold. "Hello Clarice," I joked to the attendant, who by one of those strange coincidences in life was actually named Clarice.

Okay, that wasn't true. Not that I joked, but that her name was Clarice.

I never actually became claustrophobic, although I did follow not-Clarice's advice and keep my eyes closed during the exam. There was a lot of popping and whirring and odd mechanical sounds, as those of who who have enjoyed an MRI will know. It actually reminded me of a scene I wrote into my first book some thirty years ago. If you've read A Subtle Armageddon, you'll get what I mean. If you haven't, help me out and buy the book would you please?

Be that as it may, I got through the exam all right. I see my doctor tomorrow for the results, and then an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otorhinolaryngolist; say that three times fast, I dare you) next Tuesday. And all joking aside, I find myself at times worried about where all this will lead. I've been dealing with vertigo for several weeks now, and not knowing why becomes rather scary if I dwell on it. Here's hoping tomorrow brings good news.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

Memorial Day: the last Monday in May. The day set aside for remembering our fallen heroes. It is fitting and proper that we do this.

Forget for the moment that it like so many other holidays has been been given something of a second class citizen status. It once was held every May 30th every year. In our rush to celebrate special days more on our terms than as an honest retrospective of deserving people and ideals it has generally been on the last Monday of the month. That is so we may have three day weekends to party more so than a single, specially set aside day to actually contemplate what the day is supposed to be about. Nevertheless, it is still a great day on our calendar.

Great hardly seems the right word. It is sad that we have to have a day such as this, sadder still that willing souls have given us their all in order to make such times a need. But that is the price we pay, they paid, for living in a world where evil exists. We must be thankful for those souls who have made it possible for us to be here and reflect on their actions.

So we will stand by the word great. It takes great people for us to have a chance to solemnly remember their deeds. It takes great people for us to realize that freedom is not free and liberty not a given birthright. It takes great people to give us the chance to grill and hoist a brew and spend time with our families and friends.

It takes great people to lay down their lives for their friends. Remember them, today and every day. They've earned the honor. The very least we can do is acknowledge them.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Zeke

As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I gotta confess something.

I don't know why Pops called Uncle John Zeke.

He did, you (now) know. Dad called his youngest brother Zeke. I still hear Dad's voice saying it. Hey Zeke, I still hear him say, as Uncle John would come in off a run. But why, I dunno.

But hey Zeke. I miss golfing with ya.

Friday, May 26, 2017

I never liked group work

Do you want to know what's wrong with American schools these days? Yes, quite a lot, and particularly with the public ones. Yet certain trends permeate the whole scheme of education in this country, and one in particular has come to mean more than most. And it can be summed up in two words.

Cooperative Learning.

This is a fancy name for group work. The kids are assembled together in small groups to do a project, often made up of smarter students along with, ah, challenged learners, and the magic happens. Everyone learns and everyone's happy.

Except that those of us who remember such group work projects remember well that that ain't the way it happens. The smarter ones drag along the rest, and the rest appreciate that they don't have to work as hard while earning (yeah, right) a better grade at our cost.

But wait! The education elite have discovered a way around that. Simply assign segments of the project to individuals within the group.

But how does that help? If it really does anything at all, it means that the better students risk not knowing the object of the project (sorry, silly Suessian slip of the tongue) in its entirety because some parts of it aren't their responsibility. Besides, hasn't that made the project individual rather than group anyway? Why bother then?

To cut straight to the chase, why is it that we expect students who presumably don't know anything about something to be able to master it on their own especially (as is often the case) when working with other students who don't care as much as they do? Why is a teacher present anyway if the pupils, or some of them, that is, are expected to do their job? Further, how much time is wasted on these projects? How much more material could be covered, and how much deeper would the understanding and appreciation of a subject be, with a traditional pedagogue at the front of a classroom keeping things moving?

The entire idea of group work is patently ridiculous. It eases the teacher's job more than anything else by blowing it off on twelve year olds. All that can do is inspire them to become teachers, where they can collect a paycheck at others' expense. All the while, we wonder where America's work ethic has gone.

It has done nothing but follow its teachers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

One mile past, or, missed it by that much

You know, people are stupid. Really, profoundly stupid. I'm learning that more and more with each passing day.

To be sure, there has been ample evidence of it the last thirty years of my life. What does, yet should not astound me, is how I can still be amazed when it happens.

The latest examples come from my sales job. In directing a potential new customer to my store, I cautioned him not to go beyond Warren Avenue here in Detroit; he would have gone too far if he had. An hour later I get a call from the guy's cell. He was more than a mile beyond our place of business. "I saw Warren and never saw you so I kept on going," he explained to me. You saw the street which I told you was too far and KEPT GOING? It never occurred to you to circle around?

My other phone started ringing, so I hung up on him. I employed Red Foreman's favorite phrase as I did.

Another fella called to asked if he could have his snake (slang for the drain cleaning equipment we sell) repaired by us. "Probably, but tell me what you have so that I can tell you if I have access to the parts you might need," I asked.

"A snake," he responds.

"Okay," I said, trying to be patient, "But what type of machine exactly?"

"Uhh, the kind that opens sewers."

I asked, with no little exasperation, "I need a make and model number."

"Uhhhhhh, y'all worked on it 'bout five years ago..." he began.

Click.

Dang. I hung up on my only customer from 2012. That was such a good year too.

I tell you, the Harvard Business School is dead wrong. The customer isn't always right.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Marty and the humorous EKG

So I was sitting in an examination room at my Doctor's office last Friday as he listened to my heart. He held the stethoscope in one spot on my chest and listened. He moved it across my sternum and listened more closely. He asked me to breathe deeply, and listened more. He told me to hold my breath, and listened intently. He then put the stethoscope down, and went to the door. I heard him say, "Nurse, please bring the EKG cart".

On his return I asked with no small concern, "Why do you want the EKG cart?"

"Well, your pulse is a bit slow. Not dangerously slow, but enough that I'd like to do an EKG," he explained.

"Okay, fine," I replied, relieved. "But could I ask you something?

"Of course."

"Maybe next time you do that, tell me what's up before asking for the EKG machine?"

He smiled sheepishly and said, "Yes, sorry. I should have done that."

No real worries on my part. He's a great doctor and I'm very glad to have him. Good thing too that I discovered him after the Obamacare mandates, because that means I can actually keep him. It was simply a bit of a shock to hear the order for the EKG without knowing why, that's all. But I think we both saw it as the humorous inadvertence that it was, and nothing more.

The EKG was good by the way. I do have a functioning heart.

Monday, May 22, 2017

True faith is not unreasonable

I sell for a company located in Springfield, Ohio: Electric Eel Manufacturing, which is where to go for all your drain cleaning needs. They make the best products on the market, and I say that not simply because I sell them but because it's true. But this is about more than that. It is about the people who make up the company, but also, I hope, about a little bit more.

As I drove there this morning from Detroit, in the wee hours of the day, I was nearing a little town called North Baltimore. There is a truck stop at the exit for the town, and I often stop in for a respite, a coffee, or a snack. I was planning to do that this day but as I approached a little voice said, "Why don't you just go on?", and I thought, yeah, why not, might as well make some time. So I drove by.

Urbana, Ohio is about 30 miles from Springfield. I thought I might get a coffee, and hit my left turn signal to run into a Tim Horton's. But that same voice said, "You're so close. Just get to the factory." So I thought again, I might ought to, and I am quite close. I went on.

I parked at the plant, took a few things into the front offices, and went back out to take my van to the loading dock to pick up my order. I turned the key, and was greeted by a simple little click which I recognized immediately. My starter had went out. But rather than being upset, even though I knew the repair would be costly and that my day would be seriously delayed, I right away thought that I was glad I was there and not in North Baltimore or Urbana.

In part I knew this was fortunate because the people at Eel, good folks all, would help me, and they did. We tried a jump start and a few other things which unfortunately didn't work, and then the shop foreman called their mechanic, who took me in right away. He had me fixed up and I was back at the plant by 11 O'clock, loading and getting ready to get back to Detroit much earlier than I had feared a few hours before.

I had told several friends earlier in the day about my almost stopping but not. I related this story to another fellow right before I left. John said simply, "It was the Holy Spirit." The instant he said that I agreed, "You're right. It was."

Now we might look at this in different ways. It could be objected that if it was God trying to help me, "You still needed an expensive van repair. Why would you be thankful to Him for that?" But we all know the obvious response, don't we? My situation would have been much worse in the earlier part of the day in more isolated places.

Still, this doesn't prove that it was the Holy Spirit. It is a matter of faith, mine and John's and surely several other folks at Electric Eel and among readers, that it was. And this leads to the key trouble which people not of faith have with such an insistence. They will themselves insist that such faith is irrational.

But is it rational, irrational, or in fact beyond reason? Being beyond reason doesn't mean that faith is wrong; it doesn't actually mean that faith is irrational either. I rather believe that faith, so long as it is not genuinely irrational, is actually quite reasonable. Saying that you believe by faith that aardvarks speak English is obviously irrational, as any absurd assertion must be. As such, we can dismiss such a belief as not a true example of real faith. But the idea that an omnipotent, caring being might help us along the way is certainly not irrational. A faith in that sort of being most definitely cannot be called unreasonable.

Oh, you might argue that such a being doesn't exist. Yet we're already past that, aren't we, in our Christian argument? If A, then B. It still fulfills any demand for rationality beyond simply holding the supposed blind faith which many are accused of having.

I have faith that the Holy Spirit kept me going so that I could get easier help at my ultimate destination. I find the thought indeed eminently rational. You may not agree that that was the case. But I do think you're being unfair to say that my thoughts are therefore irrational. Even if you don't believe me, at least don't think I childishly believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

If something of faith can pass or (at least not fail) the test of rationality then there is little reason to disregard it as merely a figment of the imagination. Don't dismiss it merely because it cannot be proven empirically. Faith simply is not belief without proof. It is belief beyond proof.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How I think you should play Texas Hold'em

I've been playing a lot of online poker the last few years. I've yet to play for money, though. The idea of actually risking anything beyond the penny ante simply doesn't appeal to me. Still, I like the game enough to play even for pretend stakes. And even then, I think it should be played seriously. Why? Because one day you might want to try playing with real cash, and if you play poorly in practice, you'll play poorly for real. Yes, that's a dad saying. But like most of what our dads have said, there's a lot of truth to it. They do get smarter as we get older.

So here's a few tips which I find useful when playing. They're from an amateur, me, and I'm sure many of the pros would not endorse them. But I feel I've done well playing Texas Hold 'em the Marty way. And I feel confident that some of the pros would endorse some of my methods anyway.

It's almost always bad to go all in on the first two cards. You should only do it with a pair of Aces, or with Jacks or better when you hold the fewest chips at the table. The game changes too much over five shared cards, and by my experience you lose better than half the time even starting with that pair of Aces. Generally speaking, don't go all in on two.

You will lose more hands than you win. That's the nature of the game. So while it's okay to be aggressive, and you do have to be a bit of a bully to play well, the cards will be against you more often than for you. Be selective with your aggressive play, and remember there's a fine line between aggressive and foolish.

If after the turn you need two cards to earn a decent hand, play conservative and be ready to fold quickly. The numbers are against you; you aren't likely to get both cards.

Bet from strength. If you have a hand which looks very difficult to beat, be aggressive. An easy example I think is when you have any two hearts and three more are on the board AND a straight flush is unlikely. Push that hand hard.

I do not like the bluff. It's too dangerous. Still, you should place small bets or make small calls often enough even with lesser hands to keep your opponents unsure of your tactics. Part of the game is creating uncertainty about your motives. That, however, does not mean betting to 'make things interesting' as a very poor player I know will often do. The game is interesting enough as is.

Beware the wild bettor. He's usually very aggressive or very stupid, and probably the latter. Don't get into raise wars with them. They're depending on luck and, I mention again, the cards are generally against you. They will win at times despite their stupidity. Let the others at the table deal with those players. They'll usually burn themselves out within a few hands; why lose your chips trying to make that happen?

Don't call a high raise unless you know you've got the cards to beat it. I know, you can never really 'know'. But a clear headed study of your hole cards against the common ones will usually give you all the information you need.

I think that's all for now, although I believe I'll share more tips later. But I can't give away too much, of course. I may play you one day.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The right to retire, or, should we depend on others for it?

A friend of my father's was talking to him once, and as is often the case in times like these the two of them were discussing the current economy. More to the point, they were thinking out loud about some of the presumed rights and wrongs which people commonly accept as givens. "But why should anyone think they have a right to retire?" my Dad's friend asked, in getting the conversation rolling.

Why indeed. Not that many of us want to work our entire lives (I certainly hope to retire someday) but it is fair to ask who is responsible for that presumed eventuality. Many workers appear to believe that the company which hires them is responsible for it. Despite the way the system, such as it is, has been set up the last several decades, I have to conclude that is the worker himself who ought to see to his old age more than the company which gives him employment.

I realize that there are more issues than that involved: legal questions, perhaps, or contract issues which guarantee retirement plans. I'm not calling any of that wrong on their own merits; but one does wonder if they are ill advised. It depends, to a degree anyway, on circumstance. But I am more concerned here on whether it is a good idea to assume that someone else should prepare for your retirement. What happens, as seems to be happening lately in some quarters, when that someone can't manage it? Who's hurt the most? We ought to be quicker to question what laws and contracts ought and ought not attempt to ensure.

Much of the problem stems from a certain arrogance on the part of many employees. They feel they're owed...something. And again, as contract or law may require, maybe they are. Still, when I hear, as I have heard from many sources over many years, workers saying stuff such as, "I gave the company the best years of my life.", my first thought is: Gave? You mean they didn't pay you?

Many lament companies outsourcing or sending jobs to other states or even overseas, as though the company, I'll say it again, owes them. I think the correct perspective to put against that question is simply asking the worker, 'Would you leave the company for a dollar an hour more?' If you answer yes, and I will suggest that you are not being wholly honest if you do not, then you need to reconsider any complaint about a company seeking a better deal for itself.

I am just scratching the surface here, but my main point is this. We need to learn to depend on ourselves for the important things in life. When we give to others, any others, responsibility for ourselves or our futures, we may be giving away more than we can afford. The best way to avoid that is to look to yourself for your well being and dignity. You cannot presume, with any moral certainty, that someone else really has your best interests in hand.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Oreo magnification hypothesis

Oh, a kid'll eat the middle of an Oreo first. Or will he, if the flavor is waffles and syrup?

Nothing appears sacred anymore. When the most popular cookie in the world feels that it has to try unusual things in order to appeal to the market, as it has recently with waffles and syrup (as well as myriad other flavors), it is easy to wonder just what's going on with the world. Sure, there's no evil in trying new tastes per se, and if that's what folks want, well, so be it. After all, waffles and syrup do seem popular with breakfast.

But why do we see all this, I don't know, innovation seems an overwrought term to use. There are lots of tasty treats out there and sugary ones are prominent. Yet waffles and syrup in cookies? Especially beloved ones such as good old Oreos? The whole idea simply strikes me as bizarre.

One easy explanation is that the makers of the famous treat, Nabisco, are merely responding to market forces. There's nothing wrong with that, again adding the caveat per se. The market tends to make things better indeed by offering choices and by making improvements on various levels and in various ways which are sometimes heretofore unimaginable. Having said that, I cannot ignore the implications of changing things simply to change them. If the markets are doing nothing more than reflecting upon that, what does that say about us?

What are we looking for, that we can't be satisfied with good old Oreo cookies? Why ought things change merely to change, merely to be different? To display our individuality? Surely when we have to do things differently solely to display our independence we are in fact the most dependent of creatures. If we must have waffles and syrup Oreos in order to be special then we aren't so special. We're merely being contrary. Our personalities and outlooks, if dependent on change (which is after all merely doing things differently) are actually rather shallow.

Yes, yes, yes, I realize the hyperbole in what I've just asserted. I know, I've already said, that there's nothing wrong with experimenting with new cookie flavors let alone habits of fashion per se (yes, I must again add that dreaded as such). I even readily concede that the flavor of an Oreo isn't substantial in any useful philosophic sense. And I certainly do not want to be the reactionary conservative who opposes simply to oppose, who sees every change as dangerous if not sinful. Those reactionaries are as wrong in their attitudes as the revolutionaries who want to alter everything. I simply want people to understand that what was once accepted can continue to be accepted without surrendering any true individuality on our parts. I want also for folks to accept the converse of eternal change: that if you must change what are mere habits, simple personal proclivities, simply to be different, you aren't particularly individual after all.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Taking a look around

That old red bench grinder was staring at me this morning. It stood out from all else as I worked, and I don't know why.

It has some history. Grandpa Joe's brother Bill (the one who tore the bumper off Joe's Packard) was a mechanic in Jacksonville, Illinois. He had his own garage. Uncle Bill had bought that grinder new in 1928. Joe bought it from him somewhere in the mid-1940s and its been in the old barn ever since.

The work bench it sits on for that matter did not start out as a workbench. It was a counter in a restaurant which sat across the street from St. Dominic's, Joe's church. When the restaurant owner remodeled Joe bought the old counter and put it in his first welding shop in 1945. The counter was ideal both for its long top surface and the shelving underneath. Bus trays and whatnot had been stored there in its earlier incarnation. Joe used it to store parts and tools.

We have a five foot high crescent wrench leaning against a wall, Lord knows why. I don't recall ever using it. Along another wall is an iron, five foot long what Joe called a 'breaker bar'. That we did use. It made one wonderful prying tool when you needed it; it offered a lot of leverage.

There's more. More than I remember this minute and more than I spied this morning. But it demonstrates that there's some history in the old barn, and even some of it inexplicable (a five foot wrench?). But maybe I'll use it someday.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Want family style dinner? Eat at home

Buca di Beppo. The name sounds like a rejected moniker for a long forgotten Marx brother. Beppo Marx; think about it. In reality, it's the name of the restaurant I ate in recently. You know, one of those different things you try just to do something different. To experience 'atmosphere', whatever that's supposed to mean. The trouble is, I hate different. I don't want to try new things. Especially trendy, 'fun' things, because, while trendy, they tend not to be fun.

The food is served, I think they call it family style, where you order large dishes and share them. That's supposed to be the fun part. But what's the fun of dinner being ordered by committee? If I had wanted that, I'd have voted for the progressives and let them tell me what to eat like they want to tell me everything else that I need these days.

So as with acts of Congress, it took an insane amount of time to get anything done. It took forever to order because everyone had to debate which salad, which sides, which entree, and which style of plates and silverware to use. All right, maybe not that last part, but still. I don't necessarily want to eat what the person next to me wants, I want to eat what I want when I'm in a restaurant. This is America, by gum, and I can order my own damn food when I'm out. If I want to have dinner family style I'll do the obvious thing and stay at home with my family for it.

Then the food finally comes and everyone gets their first helping. After another fifteen minutes, that is. Passing plates among ten people squeezed around a tiny restaurant table is more confusing and frustrating than getting home to the suburbs during rush hour. You need an air traffic controller to keep the flying dishes in order. And the food isn't cold by the time you finally get to eat, oh no, sure. Then, since it's served the way it is, there's always those last two pieces of chicken which everyone is being too kind to take in case someone else may want one, when the truth is everyone at the table wants one because they haven't had enough to eat. The remaining veggies remain alone, pleading for attention, but who wants them? It's family style eating without the family style portions, that's what it is. At home, where the real family style is, there's always enough for everyone.

I think that the next time I'm invited to such a place, I'll politely decline and eat at home , even if I'm just nuking last night pizza.. The drinks will be cold, the food hot, and all the atmosphere I need will be supplied by the ball game on the tube. Any new experience will be limited to who the Tigers play next. That's about all the diversity I care for.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

For Mom on Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there. Happy Mother's Day too to all of you whose Mothers had you. They deserve the credit, and you owe them everything. Don't waste the chance they gave you. Start by thanking them.

I know she won't see this, but I feel bad that I don't talk about my own mother here anywhere near the degree to which I talk about Pops or even Grandpa Joe. She's been a great Mom, a bit headstrong, maybe, but with her moments. One of those wasn't that long ago.

When she had a pacemaker two and a half years ago at 80 the doctor was explaining after the surgery that it had a ten year battery. "But I need twenty," she immediately told him, as though obvious.

It is a good attitude, right?

Happy Mother's Day Mom.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Vertigo ain't fun

There are things we don't appreciate (if appreciate is the right word for some things) until we experience them. I always thought pneumonia was nothing but a particularly bad cold...until I contracted it. Believe me, it's much more than that. I likewise never thought of exactly how bad dizziness could be. Then I developed vertigo, and I have a definite respect (if that is the right word for such as thing) for it.

Having a room spin and blur for several seconds when you lay down or sit up is perhaps the worst non-physically painful sensations I've encountered. It's a feeling of total helplessness. Everything spins, everything blurs, and then you come out of it slowly and awkwardly. Your head and/or body even wobble. You lay there and just think, 'Oh my'. I've probably dealt with it before, but never sober. You do not forget it.

The doctor told me to get up and lie down slowly. But I can't seem to do either slowly enough. Oh, it's getting better, now that I'm taking an antibiotic (the cause of my vertigo is an inner ear infection). But still, it's kinda traumatic when the spinning happens. And it startles me occasionally when I, say, take a step back and feel as though I'm going to keep falling backwards whenever I feel it coming on. It isn't fun.

They famously say that don't appreciate someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. I didn't fully appreciate dizziness or a loss of balance before the last few days. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Them darn cats

We all have things happen to us which we simply do not understand. For me, a few such things have happened over the last few days.

I was visiting my son and his family this past weekend. Out of the blue their cat Mika, who spends most of her days hiding from their dog, decided I was her best friend forever. Each time I sat down (whenever the dog wasn't nearby anyway) she would rush from her hiding spot and leap onto my lap. I mean she would come out in no time flat. I would pet her until she tired of it; even then she would simply settle into my lap and purr. At least until Gaspode, the dog, appeared. Then she was off to burrow somewhere where he couldn't get near her.

Now Luna, my son in law's cat who is living with us along with my daughter and said son in law, has decided that she must be in my lap whenever I deign to sit down. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to type out a blog post with a tabby across your lap? Yes, I'm managing it, but still.

The thing is I'm really not a pet person. I like pets along the lines of jokes about grandchildren: spend a little time with them then send them home (all right, I do like my grandchild a bit better than pets). Why Mika and Luna have decided I'm all that is puzzling. Oh, I try to treat pets well, but why I apparently put out an aura of adoring them escapes me.

I'm sure it will pass. Not all of my admirers adore me for eternity. And I don't know why that is either.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My brother, Joe's truck, and the fog

Grandpa Joe done a lot of things. Some were understandable, and some were not. One of the things which was not understandable was that he liked to, every now and then, pour a quart of motor oil into the gas tanks of his cars and trucks. I believe he thought it would help keep the engine valves and pistons moving freely. But I have no idea why he thought that and it still doesn't makes sense to me. All I could see was that it made the vehicles belch out thick blue smoke for days afterwards.

Needless to say that produced fun memories.

For his welder rental business Joe had large flatbed trucks for deliveries and pickups. These trucks had manual transmissions, stick shifts. When my brother Phil was brought in to work, Grandpa saw that Phil needed to learn to drive a stick. Joe would teach him the only way he knew how: by tossing Phil the keys and have him back the truck up and down the alley outside his shop, to learn in a baptism of fire how to get the old flatbed in gear. Naturally this was right after Joe had tossed a quart of oil in the tank.

Like many first trying to learn to handle a stick, Phil tended to race the engine far more than necessary to engage the clutch. This put out copious amounts of smoke, until the alley was covered in a cloud of blue as though a very, very dense fog.

He had begun at the far end of the alley, either creeping or lurching towards the Shop as he tried to find first gear. The cloud developed and followed him, intensifying as he drew near the Shop. Soon enough you could not see to the end of the alley. When close enough to the old barn he would stop, and seek reverse gear to back up and start the process again. Slowly Phil would ease backwards and the cloud would gently swallow him and truck both until they could be seen but not heard.

A few minutes later there'd be grinding gears and a racing engine and that old Chevy flatbed would explode out of the cloud, sending wafts of smoke in all directions. This of course intensified the fog. It seemed that the entire block was becoming shrouded in blue; you couldn't see the garages which lined that alleyway.

This went on for about an hour, as me and one of Joe's other employees (I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name) stood by the large truck doors in the Shop and watched, laughing our heads off every time Phil exploded through the fog. To this day I don't know why someone didn't call the cops or the fire department. I've never seen so much smoke without a fire. But Phil learned to drive a stick, and Joe never thought twice about putting more oil in more gas tanks.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Schooling grandparents

This is Charles Martin Cosgriff reporting from Newark, Ohio.

The annual Grandparents day at Blessed Sacrament School went off without a hitch yesterday. Grandchildren accompanied grandparents through Mass and then lunch without issue and indeed with great jocularity. This intrepid reporter was astounded at the number of old people in attendance, having to remind himself constantly that he too was an attendee and should be mindful of his comments.

Despite the day long rain and cold all was well. The only near incident involved a granddaughter (who shall remain nameless) balking at eating her celery sticks even after the offer of using ranch dressing as a dipping sauce. This caused one irascible grandparent (who shall too remain anonymous) to lament the sad state of American youth who would not eat their veggies.

This is Charles Martin Cosgriff reporting from Newark, Ohio.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Who actually is hung up?

We are told that conservatives are hung up on issues of sexual morality. But isn't it the liberals who are in fact tied in knots over such questions?

The right wing, it is also said, is hung up on matters of sex because of religious qualms. Yet how many liberals would not steal, murder, or dishonor their parents? They agree with religious sentiment except when it comes to sex. So again, who is really all too concerned about the matter?

The left does not attack religion over ideals it believes in. Indeed, say the phrases 'social justice' or 'health care' and you will hear all sorts of appeals to religious sentiment. This is a rather convenient sense of justice, considering that the moral relativists of the left tend to be more (and more diversely) sexually active.

The question, then, is: do their actions follow their beliefs, or do their beliefs follow their actions? Do they act they way they do out of real and honest conviction, or because it is how they wish to act, and then attempt a justification for it?

Just asking.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to study for a test

When our oldest son Charlie was in I believe Fourth Grade they began to give the students final exams on individual subjects. Being good parents who wanted our kids to do well in school, my wife and I would ask him the night before what tests he was having the next day. One night he said it would be math and science, so we took his notes and drilled him on that subject matter. The next day he had social studies and religion; that evening we likewise asked him questions about those subjects. You get the drift.

The third night I approached him and asked what the following day's test would be. "English", he said, so I told him to bring me his study notes. He then explained, "Sister's going to have us read a story we never read before and answer questions about it." Realizing that I couldn't help him with that I gave him permission to go about his business.

About an hour later I wandered into the living room. Charlie was sitting on the couch with a book across his lap. "What are you up to? I asked.

"Just studying for my English test," he answered easily.

Confused, I said, "How can you do that?"

Looking up at me as though the answer was obvious he replied, "I'm reading a story I never read before".

That's dedication.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Potlikkers

I had been holding 30 lengths of drain snake cable for a certain guy because he said he needed them. But when he arrived at the old barn he only took 16. The potlikker, I thought.

It's a mild insult which I picked up from me Pops. Whenever someone didn't do what he said he was going to do, Dad would later refer to him as 'the potlikker'. He might pluralize it to 'potlikkers' if it involved more than one person.

The only thing is, I can't find where the term is even a vague insult. My online search has come up with 'pot liquor', or how you can make liquor in a pot, or 'potlikker' which is apparently some kind of southern United States soup delicacy. Either way, I can't see where it's particularly degrading.

Yet I've added the term to my repertoire. Why not? It was good enough for Pops and doesn't appear to be actually hurtful. So put that in your pipes and smoke it, you potlikkers out there.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Catholic humor

You gotta hand it to the Catholics. They have a sense of humor about themselves. Of course, so do conservatives in general, but that is an issue we'll take on another time.

What brings this up is the discovery of a funny little website called Eye on the Tiber. It promises to deliver all Catholic news as it happens, when it happens, and before it happens. And it does a very good job of it. Check it our for yourself: http://www.eyeofthetiber.com/

You don't have to be Catholic to find Eye of the Tiber hilarious. That might help at times, yes, such as the article which tells us that Irish bishops are lengthening opportunities for Confession into 8 hour blocks due to 'gargantuan' demand, a manner which neatly lampoons supposed Church authoritarianism and Irish guilt at the same time. Then there's the piece about the Mars Rover discovering a Jesuit seminary...but we digress. The point here is that serious Catholics can joke about themselves. Let's face it: they aren't expected to by the world at large. Catholics are supposed to be staid, stolid types.

But there are greater points than that at work. Perhaps first on that list is how the site demonstrates how little the media know or understand Catholics and Catholicism. How often in recent months have we heard the media chirp that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a new direction, into the 'modern' world, away from all that mythology and God stuff. He isn't, of course, and EOTT cleverly mocks that attitude. There's a recent article, if that's the right term for it, which gleefully reports that Francis has split with the past in announcing that gravity is true. This comes on the heels of media assertions that the Church had traditionally opposed evolution when the Holy Father said that it was compatible with Catholic doctrine. Yet Pius XII said so in 1950; what's up wit dat?

Simply that the media and the population at large don't understand Catholics and Catholicism. In fact, it's probably safe to say that they don't care to understand religion beyond their own straw men which they use to knock it. To actually take religion seriously would require a feat which they would not find humorous at all, because it might challenge their lifestyle choices. It might make them have to become introspective. They don't want to have to answer the questions that that might entail.

Yet the people who try to answer those questions honestly about themselves are the ones with a comic streak about something very dear to them. We believe that that tells us all we need to know about the secular world, and that it should instruct the secular world on the real Church.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Can an atheist really be good?

Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God...promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all.

- John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration

But can a person who does not acknowledge that he is accountable to a truth higher than the self, external to the self, really be trusted?

- Richard John Neuhaus, Can Atheists Be Good Citizens?

The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky is often quoted as saying, “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” Similarly, the French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre has allegedly opined that "If there is no God, the only honest response is despair." We will allow those continental notables a bit of slack, as the exact sources of those quotes are difficult to pin down. Still, despite anything else those thoughts certainly convey ideas about atheism which an honest atheist should find hard to dispute.

If there is no God, everything is permitted. Sartre taught, rightly, in context, I would argue, that with no God each individual is god. Without a God some sort as a philosophic basis for thought and action then everything is indeed permissible. The individual would have no need to consider other persons' rights. There would be nothing to measure them against if life, the universe, and everything were merely a personal domain.

Atheists will argue that this isn't true. An atheist can care about others, about right and wrong, about being responsible for themselves and his fellow man. Yet if what Sartre and Dostoevsky say is true, then the responsible atheist is being good only because he either isn't a real atheist or is, at the least, simply choosing to live better than his ideals require.

Why should it be any other way? An atheist after all believes (he must believe this as, again, a logical extension of his nonbelief) that we are accidents of the universe who came into being quite out of our control and will leave existence behind in a like manner. Where can you infer responsibility from that? You surely can't find dignity in it either.

I should point out that I am not talking about what many if not most atheists say atheism is but about where atheism, if true, must lead whether the adherents accept such conclusions or not. I will not dispute that most atheists lead relatively good lives. Yet that doesn't prove that atheism is true any more than a cold blooded murder by an avowed Christian would disprove Christianity. While it is generally good advice to question practitioners of given creeds when you want to find out what they believe, this cannot mean that they are in fact right about what they assert. There is a self interest involved in any creed, even Christianity, which may itself cast doubt on the veracity of the creed.

If atheism is true then the atheists who pay their bills on time, respect others, and plan for the future do so either because they're better than their premise requires or are just selfish about their comfort. There really are no other explanations for the 'good' atheist.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Thursday on the road.

A couple of things hit me as I drove through northern Ohio yesterday.

Just south of Toledo is an exit for Ohio State Route 582. The signage for the exit reads that 582 will take you to the towns of Luckey and Haskins. When passing I found myself thinking, 'Oh, that Luckey Haskins!'

A few miles down the road I came to Arlington. You know, the village with sibling issues. Anyway, I noticed a building for sale. The sale was being handled by Farthing Real Estate. So, I wondered, might the company be owned by Hobbits?

Come on, on long drives a guy has to find ways to entertain himself.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Governments are exasperating

Folks ask me why I do not trust government (they really do). Today I shall try to answer why. And I will try to be as neutral as I can, so I do not appear to be any of the isms I am constantly accused of being. Also, because I don't want to offend the dignity of our civil servants. They are, most of them I readily concede, only trying to make a living. I respect and understand that. So please forgive the choppy, roundabout language.

I traversed to a government agency today to transact business which my government demands that I transact. I arrived within their reasonable hours and waited to transact my business.

When my number was announced, I approached the counter. I offered my paperwork. They asked why I had presented them one particular paper. I answered, because I had understood it was expected of me.

They assured me that it wasn't necessary. All will be well. Then they presumed to work on my requests.

And they messed them up. Fortunately I caught the errors (there were three). The point is I had to tell them how to do their job before I could get out of their office. And I have no direct experience of how to do their job. They were supposed to be the experts.

Everything is straight now. I think. I won't actually know until my things arrive in the mail. But this was not the first time I have dealt with inefficient government and I doubt it will be the last. Bureaucracies tend to be inefficient and their hirelings tend to be less than stellar, whether by their fault or that of the bureaucracy itself. And that is one of the reasons why I don't trust government.

Monday, April 24, 2017

2001: A Birthday Odyssey

As many of you might already know, I just celebrated a birthday. And it was a good one too. My sons bought me some great DVDs and baseball tickets, and my daughter took me to a midnight showing of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's perhaps my favorite movie.

By now I'm sure there has been a combination of eye rolling (from those who don't like the film) and nods of agreement (from those who do). Be all that as it may, I like the movie. A lot.

But how do you watch it? The best way is on the big screen. Yet that's true of most any film made for theaters. What, you may ask, in Marty's mind makes it such a grand motion picture?

I'm wont to argue that whether Stanley Kubrick meant it or not, he made a film which touches on the numinous in a profound and inspiring way. Arthur C. Clarke, who collaborated with him on the project, said at the time (the 1960s, when the film was made) that MGM had just made the first $10 million religious picture. I believe he's right, in a manner of speaking.

The fact is that stories take on a life of their own as they develop. 2001 touches on the mystery and awe inspired by all the great questions and great philosophers of history in an innovative and compelling way.

All that being said, and part of me can't believe that someone like me is about to say what I'm about to say, the best way to watch 2001 is to just let it overwhelm you. Allow yourself to drift into its universe; simply sit back and watch it, get lost in it if you will, accepting its pace and unusual qualities, and take in the accomplishments and limitations of humankind (mainly symbolically, but quite literally at points) roll out before you. And I believe the film will make more sense then.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Marty's birthday

Happy birthday to...me.

Yeah, I should be taking my morning walk. But I'm not. I'm sitting on my bed, typing on my laptop, thinking life is good.

And you know what?

Life is good.

Peace out.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Findlay and Arlington Ohio

In my travels, I often drive through Findlay, Ohio. Findlay proclaims itself, 'Flag City USA'. All right, let it be as they say. I have no reason to doubt it, even though I suspect it's just a ruse of some sort.

About 10 miles after Findlay is the little town of Arlington (also in Ohio). The sign welcoming you to Arlington also makes a proclamation. It announces Arlington as 'Flag Village USA'.

You know what I think?

I think Arlington has sibling issues...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Why the surprise?

One of the fascinating things about repairing drain cables and equipment are the the laments which I hear along the way. At times I wonder if people ever actually think about what they say.

Broken cables always just break. The operator never ever put too much pressure on it. Never ever. They were simply feeding it into the drain line and it broke. One fella even claimed, I am not making this up, that he just looked at his machine and the cable snapped. Of course, he was kinda ugly...but the point is that most cable breakages supposedly occur though absolutely no fault of the operator. Right.

A favorite of mine is the question, why did my machine break? It is often asked with incredulity. My normal answer is, I think, obvious. Everything is subject to break. Nothing made by human hands lasts forever. Your equipment, your cars, your refrigerator; they all break, and sometimes we just don't know why. Why are you be shocked by that?

Then there's the equally incredulous, it was working and then it just stopped! Again, why are you surprised? Everything works until it doesn't.

Sometimes I just sigh about it. Other times I blog about it. Today is your lucky day.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lexington and Concord

On this day in 1775 the American Revolution began. The people of Lexington and Concord turned back the British, and harassed them all the way back to Charlestown. The Shot Heard Round the World had been fired. April 19, 1775 had secured its place in American and World history.

The significance of this cannot be underscored enough. To date, it is almost surely the only large scale revolution which has had any modicum of positive success. Most new nations sink into anarchy or more terrible tyranny when a known form of government falls. We need only look to the recent Arab Spring uprisings to see this is true.

To be sure, even our Revolution was subject to severe trials early on. It was no certainty that a civil government based on popular will would result from that war. Yet somehow it did; I believe that it was through Providence and American exceptionalism that our nation rose from the battle field as it did.

I do not mean this as an insult towards other people and nations who are now seeking similar freedom and respect. Perhaps over time Libya will stabilize, Isis fail in Iraq and Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood moderate. But I cannot help feeling that their story will be many more years playing out than the American tale. The fact is that popular uprisings need more than simple change. They need enlightened leadership; they need more than mob or knee jerk mentality.

The colonists had that leadership. They overcame the occasional rabble to form a stable, reasonably free nation. And that's exactly what makes April 19, 1775 so memorable. Our revolution is truly unique in history. It began 242 years ago today.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tax Day 2017

Today is Tax Day, April 18, 2017. Yet we haven't worked enough just yet to have actually paid our taxes. That day comes later this month. Or maybe in May. Whatever.

You want to make people into Republicans or Libertarians? Or better, you want to make them conservatives? Make every dime of their taxes, and not their tax forms, due on April 15 (or 18, as is the case this time around). Further, get rid of the withholding tax. Make people feel deeply exactly how much they pay when it must be paid in a lump sum rather than weekly. You want a second American Revolution? It would start the day after Tax Day without withholding. Probably sooner.

So many of us are so happy when we get a refund that we don't notice what we actually pay. We're stupidly happy when we get our own money back from an interest free loan demanded by Washington and Lansing. Anything wrong with this picture, Americans?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

On this Easter morning, I am reminded that this great Holy Day seems to play second fiddle to the other greatest Christian feast, Christmas. Not that Christmas is a lowly event, either; far from it! Yet I cannot help but conclude, in reconciling the levels of attention paid to each, that we ought to focus more of our efforts, if even only slightly, on Easter.

I do not pretend to be a theologian, but as wonderful as December 25th is, it is something of a precursor to our salvation: Christ comes into the world as all the rest of us have, as a child. His is the promise: for God so loved the world that He sent His only Son for our redemption. Christmas is hope. The celebration of it demonstrates trust in the future which Our Lord has set before us.

Easter fulfills that hope and promise. Though we grieve so deeply and so rightly at the misery and death which Christ took upon Himself for us, it is not His Death but His glorious Resurrection which redeems us. Who else has come back from the dead? Who else has defeated that last obstacle to secure the possibility of our everlasting joy?

So while I attempt to tread lightly in making such comparisons I have to believe that Easter should be felt more profoundly than any other Christian celebration. He is Risen. Our Heavenly destiny is opened to us should we accept. Let us rise with Him to the level for which we were created, made possible by His love for us. Made possible through the Resurrection.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday 2017

Today is perhaps the day of the greatest irony on our calendar. It is Good Friday, the day we Christians remember the crucifixion of out Lord Jesus Christ.

It doesn't seem that it should be called good. On the surface, the celebration (perhaps veneration is a better word) of someone's death, particularly a rather gruesome one, seems odd to say the least. Yet that is an interpretation based solely on earthly terms. When you consider that the great Divinity was involved, it casts an entirely different light on the situation.

God sent His only Son to be humiliated, to suffer and die horribly, for us. Such a great act cannot be seen except as fantastic. How could a sacrifice of that magnitude be seen in other than a positive light?

We cannot rightly see it any other way. Remember what Aquinas teaches: Christ is either lunatic, liar, or Lord. He Himself gives us no option but to answer the question in that frame. He claimed He could forgive others' sins: sins committed (on the surface) against other people by other people. That itself is effrontery or lunacy or even diabolical if He is not part of the Godhead. If He cannot actually do that, if He does not really have that power, then He lies or is insane. If He lies or is insane, then we cannot trust anything else He may say or teach or do. It's that simple.

Yet if we choose the example which faith recommends, if we see Him as Lord of all based on His actions in life and death as well as through the testimony of his trusted companions, then we see the need for praise and holy fear which His death illustrates to us. We understand what that death means: that the God of all humanity will not forsake humanity to her own selfish desires. He will give us an out, if you will, by living the greatest love of all: to give one's life for one's friends.

When the greatest One does that, what choice do we have but to call it Good?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Worth the read

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 at for so long and so hard 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. That is, 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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The trouble with United

I see that a fella, a doctor no less, was dragged off a United Airlines flight because United needed seats for its employees. Today I'm hearing excuses as to why that was okay. You can read one man's thoughts on that here: http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2017/04/10/beating-doctor-united-flight-terrible-maybe-unavoidable/

Without getting into all the details (and I'll concede that I may not know all of them) one thing strikes me as the most salient point: if I pay for something (presuming that the something in question is not itself immoral) it is morally mine. I have moral power, moral control over it.

The arguments about the logistics of airline overbooking are bunk. I pay for a seat from Chicago to Louisville on a certain date at a certain time on a certain airline, that seat belongs to me. I control it. I own it for that period of time. To make me give it up involuntarily is a moral evil.

I sell drain snakes. If a man paid me up front for one with a promised delivery date, I must honor that commitment. I cannot unilaterally sell it to someone else or use it for some other purpose (especially selfish purposes) outside of extreme and compelling circumstance. Period. Simply to get your employees to a destination is not a good enough reason to delay others. No others, again outside of compelling reasons.

That's it in a nutshell.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday of the Lord's passion

Today is Palm Sunday. The day of the Long Gospel, to those of the Catholic faith. It is also the Sunday where I find myself most often moved to tears during the Mass.

Perhaps it is because today is the start of Holy Week. Yet I think it signifies something deeper. I wonder if maybe today we get to see the Lord, our brother Jesus Christ, at his most human, and we also get to see the great example of how He triumphed over human weakness.

Can anyone understand despair quite so well and so deeply as Christ did? He prayed that the cup be taken away. He didn't want to face what He knew he must face; He knew the horrors of what awaited Him. Still, He said: Thy will and not my will. This despite prayer so fervent that He would sweat blood. Can we really understand that?

He would not answer the Sanhedrin, nor Pilate. He knew the futility of it, so He stood mute. He had faith that that was pointless and even that no answer would speak more profoundly than anything He might utter. Pilate was amazed. One can almost taste the apprehension the Roman felt...and one can certainly sense the human fear which caused him to symbolically wash his hands of the affair.

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? He cried. Many today believe it nothing but a cry of total despair. But it was not. It was the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, a prayer which ends hopefully and indeed gloriously. You may read it here: http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Apr2004/Feature1.asp#F9

Christ more fully understood human suffering than any one of us. Yet He gave Himself up to it, to show that it was not futile. Let's not fail Him in facing our own despairs.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The road atlas, or, good things come

I have had a fascination with maps for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I used to sit with Grandpa Joe at his kitchen table and we'd pour over a road atlas, studying what new roads had been completed or proposed (the Eisenhower Interstate System was still in development), or how we might get somewhere, alternate routes and all. It was fun. It was sort of like daydreaming.

For years now, I've wanted a new road atlas. Yet whenever I was in a store thinking about buying one, I'd always talk myself out of it. They seemed so expensive; while it was one thing to buy a book which you might read over and over if you really liked it, buying a book of road maps seemed silly. I never bought one.

Until Wednesday. I was gassing up outside of Knightstown, Indiana and saw a rack with 2017 Rand McNally road atlases for $6.99. I picked one up, then put it down. What did I need an atlas for? Then I thought to myself, in true Joe Cosgriff form, aw Hell. I picked it up again, gave the cashier a fifty and said to give me the balance on pump five, and turned to go.

"Sir! Sir!" she called after I was a few feet away. "A coupon printed after your receipt. You get two dollars off your road map." I went back and took it. My atlas would only cost me $4.99. I guess good things do come to those who wait.

That night in my hotel room as I ate the fast food dinner I'd bought before check in, I sat at the desk and went page by page through my new book. I found that a few things have changed since 1970. Grandpa, did you see there's an Interstate 49 cutting through western Arkansas? Who'da thought they'd put a freeway there?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Experience and wisdom

So, last Friday I was replacing a light fixture in our upstairs hallway. Easy peasy, right? Only the ends of the electrical wires feeding into the fixture were badly frayed. So I thought I ought to peel them back a bit.

All went well until I was trying to shave off about a half-inch of insulation from each side of the power cord. I had just thought silently to tell myself that the knife I was using was sharp and that I should be careful. But Hell, I'll be done in a second, right?

I was done in a second. Done enough for my knife to slip and cut every bit of a quarter inch deep into the pointing finger of my left hand.

It hurt and it bled. Luckily I was five feet away from the basin in our upstairs bathroom. I jumped into it and ran my bleeding finger, bleeding like a stuck hog as the saying goes, under hot water for several minutes. Then I applied pressure, fixed gauze and white tape, and stopped the blood flow. I then finished the job.

A few minutes later I was explaining to my daughter the lesson I'd learned: cut away from yourself. I added, "Experience is when you learn from your mistakes. Wisdom is when you learn from the mistakes of others."

My darling daughter only smiled and said, "You just learned from experience. I just learned from wisdom."

Well, what could I say?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Small town America

This is Marty Cosgriff reporting from Corydon, Indiana.

Corydon is a quaint, small town indicative of middle America. There are many clues of course which let you know when you are in small town America.

First, there is a Waffle House. It is located conveniently across the road from the WalMart.

There is a gun shop. It has been advertised for miles along Interstate 64.

There are a ring of motels and fast food restaurants right on the exit to town. The motels and peasant eateries are here because there is something tourist trappy somewhere near Corydon. I believe that it is Corydon's proximity to a bridge across the Ohio River into Kentucky.

And, of course, there is a Tractor Supply. For all your John Deere needs.

This intrepid reporter found adequate sustenance at Arby's. The gyros were two for one. The one sits in his in-room refrigerator anticipating becoming breakfast.

This has been Marty Cosgriff reporting from Corydon, Indiana.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Opening Day 2017

Today is Opening Day. I don't think I have to say any more (though of course I will) as any red blooded American, when hearing the term Opening Day, knows that it means baseball.

Oh sure, get all technical if you like and point out that it was actually yesterday for a handful of teams. But baseball, being provincial (and that is a strength) takes little regard of that. Opening Day is when your team begins play, not someone else's.

So at 4:10 this afternoon, Monday, April 3, 2017, the Detroit Tigers will send Ian Kinsler to bat, and baseball will begin. We have a lineup which will do some damage. We have decent defense and good starting pitching. We will compete.

Yes, we. Because the local baseball team is our team. A good, solid summer awaits.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

When Marty met Jimmy

I first met Jimmy about 25 years ago, a grand old Scotsman with many a fine tale, after a bonspiel (curling tournament) at the Detroit Curling Club. We were talking after a game. He noticed my name tag and he comments, "Cosgriff? Is Welsh is it?"

I replied, "I don't think so. My cousin Beth has traced our family to north Tipperary in Ireland."

Jimmy replies, "Ah, Irish, Scottish, Welsh. All Gaelic. We all have the one thing in common."

"What's that, Jimmy?" I asked in curious reply.

"We hate the English."

We have been good friends ever since.