A Tale of Two Salutes

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

I don’t think there is anyone presently alive that doesn’t think that perhaps the most famous opening line ever written in fiction doesn’t apply to England and theUnited States in the opening two decades of the 21st century.

The contrast seems to be on display on an almost daily basis.  In England there is Brexit struggle – do we go, do we stay.  In the United States there are the ceaseless tweets emanating from President Johnny Pontiac’s unsecured iPhone.  The sides are evenly divided in England, in theUnited States it always seems to be the President against the world, with the President occaisionaly taking on the role of Victim in Chief.

The last several days have provided a clear contrast between the best of times and the worst of times,  the death of President George H W Bush the 41st President of the United States. 41 was probably the last everyman President our generation will see.  There will no doubt be others but not in this half of the 21st century.

41 was a war hero, an ambassador, a spy, a devoted husband, father, grandfather and if you believe Maureen Dowd he was also a closet nice guy to liberal journalists, while the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania ?Avenue is an openly Machiavellian manipulator supreme without shame or scruples.

So there you have it, this week our focus has been drawn to 41 vs 45 as if we are on a nationwide debate as to which Super Bowl ranks as the greatest of all time.  For me it has quietly come down to two very brief moments in the Rotunda of our nation’s capitol.  Two salutes.

One from President Johnny Pontiac with his dark haired Estonian Barbie first lady at his side.  This salute looked so plastic, much like the Esotonian Barbie’s smil.  President Pontiac standing stone faced, no doubt suffering from year sof agony caused by the after effects of stone bruises that prevented him from learning how and when to properly salute.

The other salute, rising from a wheel chair with great difficulty and assistance came from a lifelong competitor, war hero & friend.  Former Senate Majority Leader, permanently disfigured and disabled World War II veteran Bob Dole.

I close my eyes and reflect upon having seen both salutes to the last great everyman President and come to the same conclusion time and again.  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..”

Shut Up and Rake

And there you have it California.  President Johnny Pontiac blew in like a reverse Santa Ana wind from the east and pronounced the solution to your problem.  Rake the forest. Works for Finland, right?

Well not exactly.  It seems as though there are some differences between Johnny Pontiac’s advice and facts, once again.  It seems that the year round climate in Finland is about 60 percent wetter than that of California. Not to mention a large portion is covered in snow 4 or 5 months of the year, has more rain than California and many other factors which have nothing to do with raking.

But facts, truth and other sticking points that many of us contend with while raising children, conducting business with integrity and going about our daily  lives are of no concern for President Johnny Pontiac.

The main concern for President Pontiac is optics. How does it look?  Will the thing that I did or say cause me to become the story and obscure the suffering of others?  It always the same script and the only thing that varies are who is getting attacked by President Pontiac.  And what ever their suffering, it’s nothing in comparison to President Johnny and the wrong done to him or his family.

A caravan of folks walking up from Guatemala, walking a couple of thousand miles has no suffering in comparison to the persecution felt by Ivanka for ignoring government e-mail guidelines.  The thousands of deaths attributable to the hurricane in Puerto Rico are nothing compared to the insults hurled at the paper towel point guard that flew into San Juan for a couple of hours never to be seen again.

And so it goes.  President Pontiac thrives off of the challenge issued by Irving Berlin for the 1946 Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun”.  The line repeated over and over in that song “I can do anything you can do better” is the mantra for President Johnny.

President Johnny can do it better than you, he can insult louder, harder and more hateful than you, and he can be injured more grieveously than people with no electricity, food, water, homes or who have died due to inflated or made up death tolls.

He was doing it long before he got off that escalator and came into our lives on a non-stop basis.  It’s as if President Johnny is like some sort of televangelist that has control of our TV’s, our phones, laptops and computers.  He pops up at will with a new crisis justifying his need for a new private jet.

We can be hopeful that some combination of scandal, indictments or charismic opposition candidate takes Ole Johnny down in 2020.  In the mean time we should all follow his advice and just shut up and rake.

Johnny Pontiac

I just can’t seem to make up my mind these days.  Since my recent unpleasantness on Groundhog Day,  I thought that by now I would have a potential NY Times Best Seller at the printer soon to be ready for Christmas release.  As visions of sugarplum fairies, autograph parties and one hour appearances on C-Span at 3 am danced through my head there was a mid-term election.

I’ve sat here at my keyboard staring at the screen watching the backspace key furiously at work reinterpreting what appears on the screen.  I’m not sure if my problem is a direct result of my recent unpleasantness, the election or the fact that I have spent way too much time on Twitter.  Honestly, I belive its the latter.  It was my intent to write about the former but cardiac hunor is just so dark while Trump humor is so much lighter and happier, right?

I’ve tried, I really have.  I started writing a few weeks ago seeking the answer to the question:  “What if Christopher Hitchens had been at the bottom of the escalator in Trump Tower that ominous day in June of 2015?” But I soon found myself entrapped in Hitchens razor which isn’t really Hitchens’ but nonetheless states that what is asserted without reason can be dismissed wihtout reason.  My only conclusion after several days of thinking about it was that there really is no reason for Donald Trump to exist, so I trashed that one.

Last week I went aligator wrestling with the phrase “Body of Work”.  Once again politics and Twitter dominated my thought process and totally wrecked my writing abilities.  I didn’t see this crash coming.  I thought I would transition from politics and “don’t look at my 50 votes to abolish healthcare” to Heather Densch and the NCAA Bowl Selection mess trying to justify including Ohio State in the College football playoffs again.  Somewhere I thought that I would put a bow on it about 1,800 words down the page. Wrong, another crash and burn.

I think the 300 lb gorilla in the room is Donald Trump.  I don’t just consider him to be a public nuisance, which he is, but the man knows no bounds.  He is even more dominant in American Society than he realizes or he could hope to be.  I curse his very existence and not because I think he is truly evil.  Nope, he knows what he’s doing, well for the most part.

I mean he went to Paris and holed up in his hotel or the Ambassador’s residence and ditched his appearance at an American cemetary commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  Which incidentally was about the time the phrase “the war to end all wars” originated.

This phrase was popularized by H.G.Wells and was the title of his book “The War That Will End War” released as a series of articles starting 1914.  Most know Wells as the author of “War of the Worlds” published in 1898 and popularized that Sunday night in 1938 when a young Orson Welles captured a nation via the radio airwaves.

So then Trump leaves Paris early to fly back to Washington presumably in time for Veterans Day.  Well by 10:00 AM the White House had announced there wouldbe no Presidential events for the day.  No wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  No parade with nuclear weapons, nothing but Executive time.  The man don’t show up and dominates the headlines for doing not one damn thing.

And you wonder why I’m pissed at him.  He reminds me of this guy in the sixth grade named Johnny.  Johnny had a second shift job and drove his Pontiac to school, when he bothered to show up.  That guy did nothing.  Except pushups, he did pushups in the back of the class when he was bored.  Then he’d get up and comb his Vitalis soaked hair in the best Arthur Fonzarelli style.  I need to point out that Happy Days and the Fonz were still about 10 years from coming into our living rooms.

I think I’m going to start calling Trump President Johnny Pontiac.  Maybe then I can put up with his arrogance, constant intrusion onto my television and news feed on my phone.  I’m not going to put down my phone for anyone, not even my cardiologist and I do like him.  I probably need to stop using Twitter because the sub 300 character count is definitely killing my writing style.

But now, I have a new and refreshing perspective.  I’m no longer plagued by the ever intrusive orange headed lout from Queens.  Close your eyes and imagine a new image.  A guy with dark slicked back hair combed into a greasy ducktail wearing a tight white cotton t-shirt, tight jeans, white socks, black lace up shoes and a shiny black leather jacket.

President Johnny Pontiac

Adapting to the fact that I’m no longer Superman, hell I really ain’t Clark Kent either.

Well here I am, the day after my 64th birthday just feeling all mere mortal wondering what happened to my invincibility?  I no longer have the ability to leap over tall buildings in a single bound and I sure as hell can’t out run a speeding bullet.  But I am able to sit here and type and my brain works pretty well, still.

My typing skills seem to have deteriorated and the backspace key more frequently serves as my early warning spell check than in the past.  At first I though it was this laptop but then I have a new company computer at work with a “Chiclet” keyboard.  They both have the same defective keys on the left side of the keyboard.

While my typing skills have fallen off, my eyesight has improved greatly.  I accomplished my main health goal coming in to 2018 a month early.  Yep. I spent about $500 on new progressive lens eye wear and then experienced nausea every time I walked with my eyes open for about two weeks. 

I don’t know about anywhere else, but in South Carolina you can get a driver’s license that serves as an ID when going through TSA to board a plane.  So I got a copy of my birth certificate from the health department and then carried a bank statement, a utility bill, proof of insurance, the renewal form, my old drivers license, my favorite recipe book – just kidding – to the DMV and I now am the holder of a REAL ID and can board a plane with it.

Problem is I haven’t flown since early 1988 and I sell cars for a living.  The only time I go near the airport anymore is on a test drive.  However, my youngest daughter has moved just beyond comfortable driving distance.  She left South Carolina for Salt Lake City and who knows, I may go for a visit.  If I do, I am prepared.

Back to my mortality.  I am enjoying my first weekend off since I returned to work after my recent unpleasantness.  That’s a saying we have been using in the South for the last 150 years or so.  We use it when we refer to something that happened in the past and when we want to claim no responsibility we call it “recent unpleasantness”

Frequent examples here in the South include: “the war of Northern Aggression”, “what happened in November of 2016” and in my case “the events of Groundhog Day 2018”.  Now I don’t totally deny that there is a causal effect between smoking for 45 years and congestive heart failure, it’s just the after effects that I’m not too happy about.

So for the last eight months I have been smoke and alcohol free and I feel better.  Despite my misgivings neither Reynolds Tobacco nor Anheiser-Busch have filed for bankruptcy protection thus far.  There really haven’t been any withdrawal symptoms or mental side effects from giving up that deadly pair.  If there have been any, they are greatly overshadowed by my newfound fear of riding in the back of ambulances.

My breathing is much better and I eat healthy, monitor my sodium intake, take my blood pressure and weigh twice daily and try to make sure that I average least seven to eight thousand steps every day.  I have realized that running is not an option and often joke that I can’t run across the street but at my age I already know whats on the other side anyway.

A couple of months ago I saw where there was going to be a “MAJOR” Cornhole tournament here in Greenville the same weekend as my birthday.  Now I don’t think I’ve ever written about this but a decade ago I played competitive cornhole and traveled around the south in pursuit of my youth while in my 50’s.  I probably won about 40 percent of my matches and a lesser number of tournaments but I had a good time, made a lot of friends and was in pretty good shape for a guy my age.

In reality, I was an average cornhole player about the age of most of the other players parents.  However, I was married to Karen and she was a fantastic photographer with a great eye.  Karen made me and a lot of other guys famous with her wall of Facebook pictures from all the tournaments that we traveled to.  As time went by, we stopped going to tournaments.  We also stopped being married but remain very good friends.

So, back to this weekend I decided to play in this tournament knowing full well that my somewhat lacking skill set from a decade ago would be seriously lacking. A few weeks ago I entered a very competitive social tournament and promptly had my ass handed to me in short order.  I found out that the bags I had played with a decade ago were now outlawed and purchased a set of bags that “everybody likes and uses”.  I attributed my early exit from that tournament in part to these new bags.

In the interim I practiced when I had time with these new bags “that everybody likes and uses” but I just wasn’t comfortable with them.  I did however, find the many things wrong with my delivery, release, arc, foot position and my music list playing in my ears.  But there was still something about those bags.

Well yesterday dawned and it was my 64th birthday and the first day of the two-day tournament.  I ate breakfast, took my morning meds and packed my book bag with a towel, a couple of bananas and “the bags that every body likes” and set off to recapture former glory, yeah right.  I was hoping just not to embarrass myself.

I was virtually one of the first arrivals and my old buddy Ryan, the tournament director, informed me that bags were furnished and that there were four styles available and approved for use.  Well I found a set that closely resembled my old “back in the day” bags.  After a few throws my spirits were buoyed as reality began to resemble my memories.

If you’ve never been to one of these tournaments, you try to get there early and throw for at least a half hour or longer to get loosened up and to find out if the humidity will affect the bags, are your shoes too tight and in general to gauge the competition.  I threw for about an hour stopping only to drink plenty of water.  Remember my recent unpleasantness?

The first event was a blind draw doubles event and I was paired with guy about my age.  I had watched him warm up and figured that we were about the same.  I didn’t think he had a chance to win outright but surely we would win a game or two. 

Then we started throwing.  It was over in six frames and we didn’t score a single point, we got waxed.  My partner and I each gave up about the same number of points but I thought I threw like crap but not really any worse than my partner.

After about a ten minute break we were called back to our losers bracket game.  As I walked over I noticed I was a little wobbly and light-headed but didn’t think too much about it. Once the game started I couldn’t seem to get my feet under me and well you can guess how this game turned out.  We did manage to score about 8 points and prolonged the inevitable until 9 frames.

As I walked away I was extremely dizzy and found my chair and water bottle thinking I just needed a break.  I ate a banana and propped up for a while.  When I got up to refill my water bottle my gait remained unsteady.  So I approached Ryan, told him I didn’t fill like I needed to be there and I would see him the next day.  I got home and ate a lite supper and proceeded to go to sleep for the night at 5:30 in the afternoon. I didn’t get back up until  seven this morning.

When I did get up I felt like I could lay back down and sleep another 14 hours.  The morning proceeded at the pace of a good college hangover morning.  In just 24 hours yesterday’s 64-year-old Superman had become this morning’s ClarkKent that felt like he was 84.  But then again Clark always seemed to be ready to go in his suit, eyeglasses and fedora. Not me.

Today I realize that a couple of hours of leaning over, bending over, walking back and forth playing a simple game like cornhole is now something that I should no longer attempt.  That’s pretty disappointing but I guess this is my new reality.  I really can’t run across the street and now I really do know whats on the other side.

Greeting Mortality

Thirty days ago, I came face to face with my mortality.  It probably wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time I realized what was happening.  I wasn’t afraid, but I certainly was paying attention.

I was having a heart attack and spent the day telling myself that my symptoms were something else and if I just sat still a while longer, I would get better.  It was a Friday and finally around 10:00 pm I accepted the truth and dialed the dreaded three numbers – 911.

Within moments I was under the care of a voice on the phone and soon the flashing lights were outside and my living room was home to three paramedics.  Endless questions, sensors and wires and I was getting an EKG in front of my flat screen TV sitting in my old comfortable chair.

Minutes later I’m in the back of the ambulance looking out the back window at the streets that I travel every day. I was grateful for the oxygen lines that made my breathing easier although I had them in my mouth.

I told the paramedics I was a mouth breather and laughed.  After thirty days I understand that being a mouth breather is a result of being a pack a day smoker for forty-five years.  I haven’t smoked in these thirty days and pretty much I breathe through my nose again, amazing.

I was admitted to the hospital through the ER on Friday night, spending several days in ICU and then discharged on Wednesday afternoon. I was given an external defibrillator to wear at all times.  I’ve nicknamed it “Sparky” and it’s either around my waist or slung over my shoulder.

“Sparky” is by my bedside overnight and is only away when I’m in the shower. “Sparky is plugged into my “mansierre” which contains sensors and three paddles that will restart my heart if needed.  Yes the “mansierre”.  That’s from Seinfeld if you’re struggling with the term.

The “mansierre” has about all the sex appeal as my mother’s Playtex bras that she would hand wash and line dry on the shower rod.  And yes, that’s exactly where my spare hangs.  There is limited sex appeal since it is a front closure garment as two of the paddles are between my shoulder blades.

Back to the serious stuff.  Congestive Heart Failure (CFH) is my diagnosis.  I actually had a heart attack back around Thanksgiving but didn’t realize it. But the amount of damage showing in my heart indicated that to be the case.  Currently I have what I think they call about a 15% “pump out rate”.

Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a cardiologist to figure out what that means.  Eighty five percent of my heart is currently not working. I was not a candidate for stents, bypasses or any type of surgery during my stay.  I am currently taking about every kind of heart medicine, blood thinner and what ever else that you see on TV every day all day long.

My cardiologist referred me to a “specializing cardiologist” in another city and that was somewhat unsettling, initially.  You see this guy works in a clinic that has a part of its title “Heart Failure and Transplant Clinic”.   Now those are words that get your attention, right?

Of course, I only had a couple of weeks to dread the drive to find out what other life changes I would be confronted with.    To say that I was filled with apprehension and dread would be an understatement.

But things turned out better than I thought.  My new friend, Dr. Gulatti, and I got along fabulously.  He was full of knowledge, confidence and clarity.  Those are the kind of characteristics that you would want in a heart failure cardiologist, right?

He was one of these guys that you see take charge. You know the one, the guy that steps forward and tells the less bold  “Here, hold my beer, I’ve got this!”.  Within minutes he explained to me his version of the next 30, 60 and 90 days and where we may or may not windup.

I don’t know exactly how this is all going to wind up, but I do know what the options are and how we are going to progress.  One of medicines was doubled at that visit and will be doubled again in another couple of weeks.  Four days later, I can tell a difference and yep, I’m feeling better.

I’m not out of the woods yet and I can’t even see where the woods stop and the clearing begins, but I do know a couple of things.  After forty five years I’m done with tobacco and most likely alcohol as well.  I have no intention of becoming a crusader trying to reform all remaining smokers.  I made my decisions, including the one to stop and that’s the end of my responsibility, as I see it.

If someone seeks my help, I’ll be happy to help.  That is what I hope to do as I write about my journey.  I tried to write about this when I first got out the hospital but I just didn’t understand my feelings.  After 30 days, my sense of humor has returned.  I’ve greeted mortality and I hope to be able to write about my journey for some time to come.

 

 

Screams, Numbers and My Anger

Screams

Here we are, again.  Dealing with screams.  Personally, I’m fed up with the screams.  Not just the screams, but the apologies.  The screams I’m talking about are those of the dying.  People dying of cancer don’t scream.  People hit by gunshots, whether they are seriously injured or they die, they scream.

Soldiers at Fort Hood, civil service workers in San Bernadino, congressmen practicing baseball in Alexandria, night club patrons in Orlando, worshipers at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, college students in Blacksburg, high school students in Columbine, and elementary school children in Newtown.  They all screamed.  About 3:00 this morning, my time, more that twenty two thousand people of all ages screamed at a concert in Las Vegas.

I woke up just after 5:00 AM Eastern time to news reports of the screaming in Las Vegas, this time documented with smart phone video.  Now, about 15 hours later, nearly 60 souls are lost and over 500 lay injured by a sniper attack.  One that could have been prevented.  How do we stop the screaming?  Thus far, the answer has eluded our collective efforts as a country.

The screaming defies race, gender, age, sexual orientation, occupation or religious preference.  Notice those are all things that are supposed to be protected by constitutional guarantees, except the 2nd Amendment.   All of those things listed above are basically rights covered in the 1st Amendment, but they seem to be consistently trampled by the rights of the 2nd Amendment.

Numbers

I want to do justice to the screams by accounting for each and everyone.  But, I didn’t list every gun tragedy that has occurred in my lifetime, so no grisly body counts.  The last time I got this worked up about senseless gun violence was Newtown.  My girls were in graduate school and high school at the time and I don’t think I had ever been so angry.

I foamed at the mouth, paced the floor and sat down and wrote and re-wrote a 644 word op-ed and submitted it to my local newspaper with my name and picture.  I was still living in my hometown and was in sales and cared not one bit, what was going to happen to me as a result.  Four months later, my anger boiled over, I quit my job and started a one-year hiatus that cost me financially.

Those are my numbers.  There is no real need in tallying up the body counts.  Those are numbers that disrespect those who screamed.  The argument changes from the subject to the numbers if you do.  Mark Twain is attributed to have said “there are lies, damned lies and statistics”.  Those who screamed, deserve better than being designated as simply, statistics.

My Anger

There is one number, however, that I do want to share.  That number is $85 million.  That is the reported net worth of former FOX personality Bill O’Reilly.  Mr. O’Reilly chimed in on the events of the last day and on his blog post said “This is the price of freedom,” he continued. “Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are.”

Well Mr. O’Reilly, you’re dead wrong.  What you are describing is not the price of freedom.  While it may be to someone with a reported net worth of $85 million.  to the rest of us, we consider it to be the Cost of Freedom.  See there is a difference between you and the rest of us.

When you have money like yourself sir, things have a price.  You have the money, you just have to figure out the price.  You can afford most things that most of us can’t.  We look at things a little different than you.  We look at a lot of life from the cost side of the ledger.  As we do this, we ask ourselves “what will we have to give up in order to acquire this next new thing?”

That’s the math that we live with.  My decision to deal with my anger in 2013 cost my youngest daughter her 1st year of college.  Oh, she got there and is doing just fine thank you.  But because of my anger, she waited a year after high school, but she waited.

I would guess that it’s been awhile since Mr. O’Reilly waited for anything other than his pink slip from FOX.  You see, there is a difference between the price of an item and the cost of that item.  If you think the lives lost and permanently altered in Las Vegas are simply about price, well, you’re wrong.  Ask the families of the 18 students that Charles Whitman killed in 1966 and the 31 that he injured that day in Austin.

That was a cost you arrogant self absorbed predator, not a price.  What we are talking about tonight is the same thing we have been talking about for over fifty years.  Why?  Because arrogant elites like yourself Mr. O’Reilly, look at things from the price standpoint.  You can afford for us to die, it costs you nothing, but it costs us everything.

It cost us JFK, RFK and MLK in less than five years.  You do remember the five years after that?  So here we are again.  In 1970, there were four dead in Ohio.  Kent State.  Just one of the many tragic events of the Viet Nam era.  There was a song written about that shooting.

It was recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and  was on the “A” side of the single.  “Four Dead in Ohio”.  It  became one of the many anthems of the early 1970’s that led to the end of the Viet Nam War.  After watching Ken Burns’ film last week, we now know President Nixon’s duplicity in how that war ended.  That duplicity led to Watergate and his ultimate downfall.

The “B” side of the single by CSNY contained another song that attempted to call out the similarities between Viet Nam and our own Civil War fought barely 100 years before.  The name of that “B” side single?  “Find the Cost of Freedom”.  The lyrical references are to the Civil War, but the inference is clear.

You’re a smart guy Mr. O’Reilly, or at least you say you are.  For years you declared 9:00 pm EST to be the “No-Spin Zone”.  I hope that you and your millions can recognize that what you see as price, we see as cost.  If you do see that, then apologize to the hundreds of families with loved ones simply attending a music concert less than twenty four hours ago.  It’s not the Price of Freedom, it’s the Cost of Freedom.  Don’t make me have to take this much time out of my day to remind you of the difference.

My net worth is somewhat less than $85 million and I have a daughter with less than two semesters to graduation.  She has a GPA above 3.8 and deserves to go to graduate school.  I need to work for a few more years, so I would appreciate it if you could learn the difference between price and cost.

The following video haunts me almost as much as the screams that I started talking about in the begining.

Super Wal-Mart Sunday, again.

I’m getting better at this, still undisciplined, but writing more frequently.  My first attempt at discipline started this morning as I was paying bills.  I pay everything online, I rarely buy anything online, but I do pay what I owe from this very keyboard.

I go through my e-mail folders one by one and write on a blank sheet of paper the amount, date due.  I start with my bank balances, then put in my anticipated deposits for the next thirty days.  If car sales are good, everybody gets paid at the first of the month, if they aren’t, well they get paid when they are due.

My home work station is on my Mom’s solid cherry dining room table and it’s in remarkably good shape, maybe not by her standards.  She talked my Dad into buying it for her in 1964 a few months after buying their last home across the street from the church we attended.  The table is squeezed into my apartment and even without the two extensions, it still accommodates the six original solid cherry chairs.

The table is where I pay bills, write this non-sense and serve very simple meals for my daughters on holidays.  I have a set menu for the most part and its neither healthy or cheap.  But it is based on favorites that my daughters remember from earlier times in their lives.  Comfort food for cold weather, sausage balls, oven baked macaroni and cheese,  low country boil and banana pudding to name a few.

But this table has a history.  It was only used on special occasions and was always covered by a table cloth with a pad underneath it and plates were set on place mats.  None of that now, although when I dust, the table gets treated to a massage of either Lemon Pledge or Orange scented Murphy’s oil soap.

My Dad paid bills as he sat at his desk which pre-dated the dining room table.  That desk which I sold years ago was originally mahogany finish until my Mom painted it sometime in the late 60’s and then wiped stain on it during a period of time in our family’s life that was known as “Mom’s antiquing phase”.  Nothing was safe.

Accent tables, their old bedroom set including the dresser and chest of drawers, her Lane cedar chest from the late 1940’s and the aforementioned desk and it’s Windsor backed chair, which I still have.  They were either painted off white or green and then wiped with stain and in those days that was called antiquing.  I’m not sure what my Dad thought about it at the time, but he never said a word.

Back to my present day use of the solid cherry dining table.  While I was paying bills this morning, I started writing down ideas on topics that I might want to explore.  By the time I finished and was ready to embark on my voyage to Wal-Mart, I had a modest list of two topics.  I was impressed with my efforts.

I usually make a list on the back of a business card before I go to the store.  There’s not much room, it keeps me on budget and gives me time to wander around observing life at Wal-Mart.  It’s been three weeks since my last visit to the Super Wal-Mart about six miles up the road.  I wrote about that trip when I came home as Irma approached, the topic was hoarding among other things.

Today I had a short list.  When I pulled into my personal parking space, yes, I have one.  It’s on the next to the last row away from the main door, but across from the cart corral.  It’s the third one from the end and it’s always there waiting for me.  As I walked to the entrance I noticed that it is a clear day with very few clouds and I could see the mountains in the distance and the wind was blowing in my ears with a slight roar.

Inside, it looked like a normal Sunday afternoon.  The last time I visited this Wal-Mart Supercenter, Irmageddon was bearing down and folks were buying like The Rapture was headed their way.  Not today.  Couples with children that had obviously been to church this morning, college students clogging the Ramen noodle aisle, and single women.  Not necessarily single, but alone and without their spouses.

No, this isn’t why I go, but hey, its an added benefit.  These women obviously work and have enormous responsibility at home, but on Sunday afternoon, they are out searching the aisles for family meals to be prepared in the coming week.  My guess is that their husbands are home watching NASCAR or the NFL and complaining about who is and who is not standing for the national anthem.

Since I had a short list, and today I had discipline and bought only what was on the back of a business card from a job I no longer have. My trip around the store lasted less than 30 minutes.  Back to the front of the store I began my search, as we all do, for the perfect check out line.  Wal-Mart has changed it’s stripes again and I was forced to accommodate a new option for checking out.

Apparently, the 20 items or less lanes are history.  They have been replaced by something called “Express Check” or whatever the signs said.  The “Self Check Out” lines are still there but are supplemented by the next great thing.  There is a new supervisor lurking in the checkout area.  The sign says “Lay-Aways accepted for all departments here.”  No need to walk to the back of the store just to pay on your kids Christmas list.

I selected basically the first attended line that I saw because I like to talk to the cashiers.  In my opinion, there is no more mundane job in America than running a scanner in a retail environment.  If I had to do that, I just think I would as soon lay in the middle of the interstate wearing a T shirt that says “DO NOT RESUSCITATE”.  My mission is to organize my shopping cart contents they way I want to carry them into my apartment, half-way keep an eye on the video read out as my items are scanned and to try and bring a smile to the face of the person whose job I wouldn’t take on a dare.

The line I selected today wasn’t the shortest one but I like to read the covers of The National Enquirer and the rest to find out if Princess Diana has been found alive in Myanmar or if Robert Wagner has finally confessed to murdering Natalie Wood.  I didn’t pay attention to the person and the cart in front of me when I selected that line, but I thought the lady running the scanner would appreciate my humor, small talk and buggy with only a few items.

After I had read the magazine covers and decided that UFO’s had not really occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue I turned around to observe those behind me.  I encountered a brief smile from a young lady in her late 20’s,  about the age of my oldest daughter, whose shopping cart was full of healthy looking foods.  She immediately pulled her phone from her back pocket and disappeared into Facebook, her shopping list or somewhere.

I turned around and began to focus on the progress of the line and it seemed that while the line was shorter, my position had not advanced.  It was then that I noticed the lady in front of me was leaning over her cart and was also glued to the screen of her phone oblivious to the gap between her cart and the gentleman now being checked out.

As a courtesy, I sort of loudly cleared my throat in attempt to alert this lady the changing environment, but she didn’t look up.  Upon observation, it appeared that this lady was not a millennial based on her shape.  A few extra pounds but not many, but the jeans she was wearing dated her as someone of my generation.  She obviously was near my age based solely on hair color, and no, it wasn’t grey or white, but not a natural color.

Soon, she looked up and realized that she would soon be next to be scanned and escape the boredom of the check out line and moved to the front of her cart to unload.  As she turned to face me, my guesses were confirmed.  She was near my age, her hair was colored and to my surprise, she had been a candidate for elective surgery.

This was evidenced by the low neck top which gave way every time she leaned over the front of her shopping cart.  It wasn’t just that she was leaning over to remove items from her cart, she was getting the items from the cart that were near the back of the cart, you know the side we push from.

I wasn’t purposely trying to look, but she seemed intent on displaying her saline enhancements.  Now, this isn’t why I go to Wal-Mart specifically, but it is part of the overall experience.  The lady, as I said, was about my age and obviously has not read about the damage that tanning beds do to human skin.  But those are her choices and I’m sure that the gentleman that put that ring on her left hand agrees with her choices.

So, this week, there was no sense of panic or urgency brought on by the impending arrival of Irmageddon.  It was just another day at my local Super Wal Mart.  This trip was slightly more memorable than the last one, for a couple of reasons, but not that much.

Oh, and by the way, my list of topics I’d like to write about has grown to six.  Three of them were from my trip to the Super Wal-Mart, just slightly less memorable.  So much for discipline.

FOOTNOTE:  When I started writing this, I wasn’t sure how it would conclude.  Many other things came to mind on the drive home namely the three things I put on my list as soon as I got home.  If I’ve offended anyone, I hope you can accept my apologies.  As I say in my header, these are my observations about life.

Too old and undisciplined to be a writer

Well here I sit on another Sunday afternoon with about 90% of my agenda for today accomplished.  The unfinished 10% gnaws at me with a hunger that’s not gonna let up until Monday comes and I go back to work tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll get up, make my coffee, lay out my clothes and watch Morning Joe and the local news for traffic and weather.  Of course, there is the period of reflection as I shower and shave. What happened to that youthful body and face that I’ve seen most every morning of my life?

You know what I’m talking about.  Your skin isn’t as taught as it once was, there seems to be a new wrinkle in your face every morning and of course, there’s less hair to comb each day.  Of course there is more hair growing out of my ears, my eyebrows grow almost as fast and, my god  is my nose really getting bigger?  I won’t go into the many other problems associated with settling into your early 60’s, but the list is long.

Out the door I’ll go and soon I’ll be at work and back among people.  I live alone and the period of time from Saturday night until Monday morning is almost like plugging an electric vehicle into a charging station for me.  I’m a car salesman in my 19th year of this my chosen profession.  Weekends are my time of reconnecting with me, a southern guy that grew up in the 60’s, desegregation, the Viet Nam war and some damn good rock and roll.

When you get to work and step out of your own car onto the asphalt, that is your field of play  and you assume the identity.  A problem is no more than the next opportunity, the goal is always to gather as much information as quickly as possible.  Most people shopping for a car will tell you everything you need to sell them a car in the first 5 minutes, except the final price they’re willing to pay.  The key is you have to train yourself to listen.

For me, that was hard and took a couple of years to master.  I was an only child and was raised to “be seen and not heard” but in school I was often “the class clown” which was the opposite.  It seemed that at the most inopportune time I could seize the moment and make my classmates laugh, without regard or forethought of the consequences soon headed my way.

Somehow, at age 62,  I have manged to harness this lack of discipline and have become a good listener.  I pay close attention to my customers or “ups” as we call them in the car business and respond to their stated needs and expectations and I “close” at a pretty high rate for my chosen profession.

Car buying, for most people is like going to the orthodontist for a root canal.  They know its going to be a good decision but they just hate it and that often results in a bad post purchase survey.  Despite my best efforts to address their needs and make it an enjoyable experience, occasionally, I get a bad survey and it costs me money.

But tomorrow morning, I’ll again don my Monday navy blue golf shirt and khakis and strike out in search of success.  Tuesday will be a different color golf shirt and so will Wednesday and so on until Saturday and I’ll be back right here again.

Today, I gained one new follower on Twitter.  The odd thing was, this person is a budding, but published writer about my age, but if you believe the bio, serious and with a plan for a writing career.  I was intrigued as I read that after a career in something else, this person had pursued a lifelong interest in writing, gone back to school to study writing and has a plan.

My plan, well, I don’t have one, at least as far as writing goes.  If I approached selling cars with the same lack of conviction that I have towards writing, well I’d be turning burgers at McDonald’s or hash browns at Waffle House.  My initial plan was to write once a week, every week.

My new follower on Twitter has a plan, but she is retired and apparently, financially secure.  Her plan is to write five hours a day for five days each week.  Well that is unattainable for me.  I leave for work around 7:30 in the morning and get home anywhere between 7:30 and  8:30 in the evening.  I’m not complaining, but my brain and my body are usually done for the day when I get home.

I’m not being critical of my new Twitter follower, not even jealous, but maybe a little envious.  Mind you, I wouldn’t trade my life, past or present, for anyone’s.  My journey through life has taken me to unexpected places, but nothing rivals being a parent.

But my new Twitter follower talks about the things that I know are holding me back from be a good writer.  The main one is discipline.  I don’t keep notebooks of ideas and thoughts like she does.  But then again, my compulsion to write is based on daily observations and I could probably use a notebook to help me keep track of story ideas.

Maybe one day, and maybe I might pick up a notebook in CVS tomorrow morning.  I have a 20% off coupon on my key ring and their store is across the street from my dealership.  In the meantime, I’m going to just continue along my undisciplined path, pretending I’m some sort of southern  sage of the keyboard,