Archive for November, 2006


Sometimes you’re the hydrant…

Ok, I know this is a little late for Halloween, but I just came across it and couldn’t resist.



A visit from my Grandfather

I had a most peculiar dream last night. I was working at my computer. In fact, I was thinking about writing something, but, as always, pondering what I could possibly write that any person with an IQ above the room temperature would actually want to read. At that point, my Grandfather walked into the room. I was mildly surprised to see him. It seemed as though it had been a rather long time since I’d last seen him, and there was something vaguely disquieting about this, but I couldn’t put my finger on why, so I just dismissed it and greeted him.

“Hi, Grampa”, I said, using the name I had used for him since I’d been old enough to talk.

“Hey, Stevie!”, he replied, using not only the name but the same cheerful greeting he had used for me since I had been old enough to understand the English language. I usually dislike being called “Stevie”, but with him I never minded.

He seemed to have aged a little since I had last seen him, the eyes not quite so clear, the voice a little raspier. I asked him how he was, and had to repeat the question several times, but that was not so strange, as he had always been hard of hearing although this too seemed to have progressed a bit further. When he finally understood what I had said, he replied, “I’m always better when I see you”.

And this, too, I found slightly odd, as my grandfather was not usually a man to show his feelings this readily. That he loved me like the son he never had I knew, had always known. From my earliest moments of cognizance, his love for me was an unwavering point of reference throughout my childhood, adolescence, extending even into adulthood. It wasn’t just that there was nothing I could ask for that he would not gladly and freely give, although that certainly was true, it was simply that, in his own understated way, the expression on his face, rather than his words, always made it so obvious how glad he was to see me whenever we met. While I have been blessed in my life with an abundance, perhaps even an over abundance, of people who love me, I never felt that love more keenly than from my Grandfather.

So while I thought his remark slightly out of character, I was pleased by it. I wanted to hug him, but I knew that would make him uncomfortable. So we shook hands, while I patted his bicep with my free and as he did the same. There was more warmth conveyed between us in that gesture than in a hundred phony hugs. That was our relationship in a nutshell. There was no more demonstrating because there was no need for it. We loved each other and nothing more needed to be said or done. I basked in a sort of warm glow, as delighted at that moment as I had been as a child to see him again.

And then I woke up. For a moment or two I basked in that delicious dreamlike state that lies between sleeping and full waking, and I happily recalled seeing my grandfather again. As I moved inexorably towards full waking, I wondered uneasily why it had been such a long time since I’d seen him.

Then with full waking, I remembered: he died in 1991.

At that point the dreamlike state was gone, reality came crashing in, and I was filled with such an overwhelming feeling of loss that it ruined my whole day. I remembered the day I sat with him in the hospital, holding his hand, as the little green line on the monitor measured the degrees by which his life was ebbing from his body. I remembered how desolate I felt as I tried to come to terms with the fact that, for the first time in my life, this man who had in many ways been my best friend would no longer be a part of my life. Fifteen years had, of course, dulled this pain, but never fully erased it.

But now, as I awoke from this wonderful dream, the pain returned as fresh and as bitter as the moment when I sat watching him die, and at that moment I would have given anything, anything at all, to be able to really have one more day with him. One more day to talk to him, work in his beloved garden with him, play checkers with him, and yes, maybe even to have hugged him.

But that will never be.

I still have things to remember him by. I keep his old pocket knife in my pocket, the one I used to watch him cut chestnuts with every Christmas. I wear his old Lord Calvert watch every day. It was made in the 1940’s, and after a little cleaning it still keeps good time. When I dress up I wear the gold pocket watch that his uncle gave him for his Confirmation in 1921. Beside being objects of beauty in themselves, in a way they still keep me close to him when I wear them, a daily reminder that he once lived.
It is the great tragedy of the human condition that our loved ones must inevitably and irretrievably part company from us. The greater the love, the more we enjoy their company in life, the more keenly we feel the pain when they are taken from us.

Over the course of my life, I’ve had thousands of dreams, most of which I’ve forgotten. But some dreams, for some reason, stay with me and are never forgotten. It’s not just the subject of the dream that makes me remember them, although that obviously plays a part. Some of my dreams are just so vivid, so real, that I still feel them long after I‘ve awoken from them. The week before I met my wife, I had a dream about her (I knew it was her because we had known each other in high school some twenty years before, but had not seen each other since) but that’s a post for another day.

This dream about my grandfather is such a one, and I know it will never leave me. Did my subconscious bring him back to comfort me during a time of great stress in my life? Or perhaps, as some believe, is his spirit still with me, using dreams to somehow breach the barrier that divides the physical world from the spiritual one?

Rightly or wrongly, I choose to believe the latter.



A rather sorry state of affairs

As if we needed any more evidence of the decline of literacy in this country, this sentence appeared in an article in the Tooele Transcript Bulletin, of Utah.

“Even if he could toss this Slider 2.0, he wouldn’t have the full endurance to consistently throw it for strikes and keep a solid arm for a good amount of time, just ask Minnesota Twin rookie, and new disabled-list regular Francisco Liriano what breaking balls do to your arm, and then tell me you can thrown a candy-cane-like pitch better than Greg Maddux can hurl a change-up.”

This has to be one of the most poorly constructed sentences I’ve ever seen in a newspaper. Now, granted, the Toole Transcript Bulletin is not exactly the national newspaper of record, but it’s still a newspaper, dammit! I do not think it too much to ask of the print media to at least adhere to basic standards of literacy. Where was the editor? Or is he or she as illiterate as the writer? In an era when our nation’s teens cannot even spell or construct a basic sentence, the media has an obligation to set a example of the proper way to express thoughts through the written word.

The whole article is written like this, which is a shame because the subject matter is actually rather interesting, at least to a baseball fan. It’s here if you’re interested.
This is by no means an isolated occurrence, either. Every day I see examples of incorrect spelling, grammar, and syntax in my newspaper, and I wonder what the hell is happening to this country’s educational standards. As John Lennon once wrote, “It gets on my tit!”



Republicans go down in flames

The election of 2006 is history, and the Republicans went down harder than the Detroit (Paper) Tigers. The only difference between the 2006 World Series and the 2006 elections is that anyone with an IQ higher than the room temperature knew what the result of the elections would be. And while I, as a true Conservative, am disappointed, the truth is that the Republicans have no one to blame but themselves.

I rejoiced when George W. Bush took office in January 2001. Now that Republicans controlled all three branches of government, including, for all intents and purposes, the Supreme Court, the country, and the world, for that matter, would see just how a country should be run. I have little patience with liberals (a subject for another post). I truly believe in the Jeffersonian maxim that “the government governs best, which governs least”. I salivated at the prospect of small government, lower taxes, the anticipated economic boom, and a return to emphasis on family values and personal responsibility.

So what happened? The Republicans had their chance and blew it big time, and this time there are no Democrats to blame. They badly miscalculated the course of events in post-Saddam Iraq, but I can even forgive them for that one, because at the time everyone (including John Kerry) thought drop kicking Saddam Hussein was a good idea. We thought the Iraqi people would be grateful to us for liberating them from a blood thirsty tyrant. We were wrong.

No, to me the failings of the Republican party in which I once believed hit closer to home. The irony is that this is supposed to be the party of fiscal conservatism, while the Democrats are supposed to be the tax and spend liberals. But over the last six years the Republican Congress has been spending money like drunken sailors, bringing the country back to the days of deficit spending after Bill Clinton (of all people) had managed to balance the budget.

The unholy alliance the Republicans have made with the odious Christian Right has also proven their undoing. The majority of people in this country are basically centrists, and do not want a government that leans too far to the Left or to the Right. Make no mistake about it: both the Loony Left and the Christian Right want to use government to control your life; they simply differ on which aspects of your life they wish to control.

So in fact I am not really all that disappointed. The Republican party needed a good spanking, and the voters gave them one. And I can say without affectation that I am genuinely grateful that I live in one of a handful of countries on this planet where the people really do have the power to change a government they are unhappy with, and where the politicians are in fact forced to listen to the will of the people at the risk of losing their jobs. Irrespective of how you voted, can you imagine something like this happening in China, or North Korea, or Iran, or any of the many tin pot dictatorships that still blight the Third World?

And let’s face it: the worst thing that will happen to the Republicans is that they lose some pretty cushy office space.  In many countries, when the government changes hands people are taken out behind a wall and shot.

This country, with all its flaws, remains one where the phrase “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” is more than just empty words.


Ooops!! A correction is in order.

Well, it looks like I’m eating my Thanksgiving bird early this year, but instead of turkey, I’m having a big plate of crow, served up nice and hot with all the trimmings by my learned colleague and dear, dear friend, Mr. Murphy.

My previous post (go down one) concerned an email I received concerning the media indifference to Denzel Washington’s generosity towards our servicemen. Now, I really should have known better. I KNOW that most of these forwarded emails are bullshit to one degree or another, but I allowed my own bias on this issue to get the better of me, and I published it more or less verbatim without doing any proper research. My bad.

Mr. Murphy very properly pointed me to, which I had never heard of before, although I’m sure I’ll be visiting it often in the future. To get the real deal on this story, go here.
Now, in fairness to myself, there is in fact a substantial element of truth to the original email. Denzel Washington did, in fact, make a substantial donation to the Fisher House Foundation, a fact which was largely ignored by the media, which I do believe reflects a bias on their part.

But nevertheless the fact remains that I didn’t do my homework, for which I was rightly taken out to the woodshed by Mr. Murphy.



Media Hypocrisy

This article was forwarded to me by a friend. Having, as
I do, a 19 year old son in Iraq, you can imagine how this would be of interest to me, so I’m posting it largely as it was sent to me without much rewriting:

Don’t know whether you heard about this
but Denzel Washington and his family visited
the troops at Brook Army Medical Center, in
San Antonio,Texas (BAMC) the other day. This
is where soldiers who have been evacuated from
Germany come to be hospitalized in the United
States, especially burn victims.

There are some buildings there called Fisher Houses. The Fisher House is a Hotel where soldiers’ families can stay,
for little or no charge, while their soldier is staying
in the Hospital. BAMC has quite a few of these houses
on base, but as you can imagine, they are almost filled
most of the time.

While Denzel Washington was visiting BAMC, they gave
him a tour of one of the Fisher Houses. He asked how
much one of them would cost to build. He took his check
book out and wrote a check for the full amount right there
on the spot. The soldiers overseas were amazed to hear
this story and want to get the word out to the American
public, because it warmed their hearts to hear it.

The question I have is why does: Alec Baldwin, Madonna,
Sean Penn and other Hollywood types
make front page news with their anti-everything
America trash and Denzel Washington’s Patriotism
doesn’t even make page 3 in the Metro section of
any newspaper except the Local newspaper in San



All Hallow’s Eve, a poem

The sun is setting, the sky is red,
and each grave mutely marks the dead.
Dead leaves on the dead grass lie.
Through the wind, you’ll hear a cry,
“As you are now, we were before.
We once lived, who live no more.”

The moon arises, smeared with clouds,
The dead arise, wrapped in shrouds.
Above each grave, where each was laid
A ghost hovers, a baleful shade.
To us the living, they do implore:
“We once lived, who live no more.”

All Hallow’s Eve, the dead arise.
From mouths long dead come voiceless cries.
Beneath the moon they walk the land.
Forever cursed, forever damned.
They hover just outside your door,
They who lived, but live no more.

What they lost in life they seek
With baleful eye and bloodless cheek.
Tormented souls, of hope denied,
Mutely haunting where they died.
They haunt the night, cold and hoar,
They who lived, and live no more.

No requiem aeternam given,
Never saved and never shriven.
They walk the night and haunt our dreams,
Crying out with voiceless screams.
Hope and peace they all forswore
They who lived, and live no more.

The dead will wait another year
To walk the earth and wander near.
Returning to their earthen graves
These tortured and despairing slaves
With dying cries their fate abhor
“We once lived, who live no more.”

–Stephen P. Smith

taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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