Going My Way?….

Posted from Amsterdam,Holland

We are about to leave our floating hotel. One of the best parts of cruising is you only have to unpack your bags once. The worst part? Trying to keep your waistline intact in the midst of a non stop onslaught of great food. Get your butt to the gym, TTG.
While I pound away on the treadmill or elliptical machine I have a choice of three programs on the TV: BBC,FOX or MSNBC. In the latter two I get to see Hannity or Rachel Maddow. ????? I do flip back and forth from these outer limits of the Twilight Zone and my thoughts turn to concepts such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Success. Common Good. Now there are a lot of calories to be burned trying to figure those out.

We have been a lot of places and met a lot of people.You try to glean what is good and what is bad. You look to see if somewhere hidden is a person who has figured this out. I hearken to Finland, Estonia or even Lithuania to set the scene. These people live simply. As a matter of fact they seem to work to live rather than the contrary. Life is something to be enjoyed and not endured. This does not preclude the denizens of big cities but you do have to make your own way and not get caught up in the flow.

What is success? To me it is making the best use of your talents. Living up to your potential. That has to include making money of some sort but the amount seems commensurate with what’s important in life. If things mean a lot to you by all means make as much do,re,mi as you can. On the other hand being a hermit and eating locusts went out of style a long time ago. You do have to earn a living and here living off the state is proof it has its consequences.

For me it is saying at the end of the day I done good. Or at least more good than bad. I hope I related to people. I didn’t shun responsibility if it was warranted. I hope I made someone’s life a little better by maybe just recognizing them.If I saw I injustice I at least tried to call it out. If I witnessed a wrong at least I said STOP and did not look the other way. I tried to be fair in my judgments but should also realize I have no right to judge. My way is not the highway. Don’t get it right all the time but I am trying.

Most of all it comes down to living honestly. I think in terms of us as a country. We have got to realize that we can’t be all things to all people but democracy says that everyone should have a say. It is interesting when we say so and so won by a landslide garnering 55% of the vote. Hello! There were 45% that didn’t like the winner. But the majority of the vote was just a little right or left of center and not on the radical fringes.

Honestly speaking we have to be mobile. We have seen over here whole populations move to find food and shelter. In the US there are jobs that are wanting but we don’t want to pull up to leave home. That may be true but my grandmother and her sister left home at 14 and 16 respectively to come to America from Ireland.Get the picture?

Honestly speaking we are not all going to make it to the top or at least not in our vernacular. Big houses and bank accounts don’t always mean happiness. There are incredibly gifted people who work with their hands. There is nothing wrong with being ordinary. We seem to have set this goal for everyone to be financially self sufficient by the age of 40. It doesn’t always work this way.We all have a place. Mark Twain said we are all perfect. Just at different things.

Honestly speaking Washington doesn’t work. After seeing the Baltic States you realize how diverse a country of our size is. We started out with 13 colonies within a stone’s throw of DC. We are now 52 and span thousands of miles. We all have different priorities and we have proven we can’t figure that out. One size does not fit all. State and regional governments have to step forward and take care of themselves. On a purely philosophical side we can’t expect the federal government and eventually the state to do everything for us.

Honestly speaking we are the world’s largest superpower. Just like the Yankees or the current NCAA winner everyone wants to bump us off our pedestal. We should be proud of who we are but not haughty. We should not have to put out every fire. We should not have to solve every problem. Diplomacy and arm twisting seem a lot better than swagger every time.

Most of all honestly speaking we have to embrace change. As I study the Renaissance it was a celebration of man’s spirit. A combination of ingenuity and creativity created a whole new era. We are that time line on steroids. The world is moving so fast it would be easy to just say let’s sit this one out. As we travel the interconnectivity of the world is startling. Ports and airfields with shipping and airline companies you have never heard of. The trick is to make it work for us and not be sucked in by the monster.

Most of all the world needs visionaries who are leaders. Corporations and universities should be the breeding grounds but the intense spotlight and meager rewards of public life rob us of some very dynamic minds. We are left with party hacks and lifetime politicians. Just like career bureaucrats they know how to work the system. We wind up losing.

Well, I have now lost 10  pounds with all this thinking while pedaling. (I wish) I know it is a little far afield but I feel like I want to reinvent TTG for the 439th time. Not throwing out all the old pieces but giving them some help with fresh ideas and a new perspective or coat of paint as it were. If you are happy with things as they are I applaud you. Me? The next fun and challenging thing is right around the corner. Gotta look for it.Going my way?

As always,
Ted The Great.

In Sweden the bus driver has to blow into a receptacle to make sure he hasn’t been drinking or doing drugs before the coach will start.

Contrary to current lore the Vikings did not have horns on their helmets. This would have been far too cumbersome in battle. This horn business was dreamed up one time by some idiot Minnesota fan. Actually he was pretty smart because he has made a lot of money. Remember that change and creativity thing.

In Finland it is considered very rude to be late. Considering the normal weather pattern if you are tardy your friend has to freeze their you know what off waiting for you.

We have drunk vodka shots in a bar made completely of ice in Stockholm. We had some local moonshine with an RAF pilot in Lithuania. We were sung to by a choir of old people who survived the gulag in Siberia for 20 years after being ripped from their parents at the age of anywhere from three to five. Life is good. Live it.

Greetings Comrades….

Salutations  from  St. Petersburg ,Russia. It is the land of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great so by sheer osmosis it feels very much like home to Ted The Great. There is more gold leaf in the palaces than there is in Fort Knox. It is fascinating that both here and in Copenhagen a palace can be nothing more than a big building downtown.Just something some duke or duchess just had to have. In fact yesterday we passed the biggest of them all, KGB headquarters where I am sure the court is replete with minstrels and clowns including the Major Domo. (I better wait until we are out of Russian waters to post)

As a rule you hear very little of Putin. The locals probably still worry about who is listening. The guides we have had are very pleasant but conspicuously restrained when it comes to talking about anything other than the script. By contrast in Estonia the two young people were quite engaging and downright proud. The young girl who took us on a cross country bike trip relished the fact she had participated in the human chain in the late eighties. She said thousands held hands over many hundreds of miles and won their independence without any violence or their countrymen and women being killed. There is something exciting about that freedom thing.

When you study the history of the region you pick up a lot more of the subtleties or maybe I was just asleep during those lectures too many moons ago. War is a part of the culture not only for Russia but also Denmark, Norway, Germany and one of the biggest thugs later in the millennium was good old Sweden. I thought they just skied and knit sweaters there. There are fortresses and turrets of old in every hamlet and quiet harbor. The paintings depict this battle or that. Countries are played like pawns on a regional chess board. Finland Knight four to Russia Castle five.

The intrigue is that over thousands of years, countries and shires were formed by tribes migrating from Mongolia et al. Some stayed in one spot and others moved on. The language took hold in one place and then was adapted in another. All was well until one particular tribe wanted to grow and needed more space. What else would one do but send over some Goths or Vikings or whatever and rape and pillage all in the name of the Motherland? And all this has continued relatively unabated for millennia .

Russians have borne a lot of the brunt. They have been laid siege by the French under Napoleon and the Germans under Hitler even they thought they had non aggression pacts with each. The abhorrence of Mein Feuhr is pretty evident in any presentation. Here in St Petersburg they were bombarded for 900 days straight during WWII. The various churches, museums and government offices were numbered one through ten on the Luftwaffe hit parade. The Hermitage was number nine.

I questioned why Russians always look so dour, sad or even angry? They say it is cultural but I think the right term might be environmental. Since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 the state was in control of everything from media to your home life. You were afraid to say anything of a personal nature for fear you would be reported, questioned and very possibly sent to Siberia.These were not idle threats. If you thought Lenin and Trotsky were bad you would not believe the cruelty and savagery of Joe Stalin’s boys. It is always ironic for me to see Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin yucking it up in Yalta as they divvied up the spoils of war.

Imagine your country has been blown apart by warring factions over many centuries. The weather is bad and only gets worse with mind numbing cold and snow in the winter. I think I would be a bit paranoid about both my allies and my enemies and from the weather point of view wondering why I would want to live here? Look at the tenor of the writings of Dostoyevsky or the music of Tchaikovsky. They reflect the times and you can hear it. I did ask one guide what the difference was between Pre 1991 and after? She said the jury was still out. There was freedom to make as much money as you want but at the same time there was risk. There were positive things in the security of the state. Very interesting.

As for our view of the metropolis Kathy and I found it depressing in many ways. The city has a grimy facade that is rusted and crumbling in many spots. Most of the buildings are monochromatic grey and have the feeling of the old Cabrini Greens or lower East Side projects. Contrast that with the Hermitage and Winter Castle with over a thousand rooms you really wonder if things have just been replaced by a new aristocracy. The truly odd part is that while BMW’s, Range Rovers, Audis and Mercedes are in ample supply, the inhabitants don’t seem particularly well dressed. Maybe it is all part of the enigma that is Russia today. .

Overall you get the impression that once again the country is spending its resources on building up industry and by extension its military. Corruption is still rampant which is on display for a stadium being built for the World Soccer Cup. It was started in 2004 and scheduled for completion in 2007. It still looks only halfway finished and is the laughing stock of the denizens for its snail’s pace and the lining of several bureaucrats’ pockets.

There is no doubt the Palaces, gardens, fountains and Hermitage are spectacular. You hear about Sotheby’s auctioning off a Picasso for umpteen zillion and yet in the above there is a room with twelve of them. Cezanne, Monet, Rembrandt ? How many do you want? But beneath the surface as with any good patina it’s where the rubber meets the road. You have to look at the bones of the structure. From this man’s vantage point it feels old and tired. That’s it for now.

As always
Ted The Great.

Josef Stalin took power in the twenties right through to his death in 1993. It is estimated that during his rule from executions, starvation and war dead the number rises to almost 43 million lives lost.

There is a hotel in St Petersburg where Hitler planned to have his party celebrating the conquest of Russia. He had invitations printed with both the time and the place.

St Petersburg is actually a series of islands that hold some 5 million people. During the war there were 1500,000 shells lobbed at it during the siege. They removed all the paintings, furniture and chandeliers from museums and palaces and transported  them inland. Hitler’s troops tried to destroy any vestige of the Russian culture.

It is interesting to note that a large portion of the art we viewed here and around Europe has a religious theme. Huge cathedrals have been built and everything from tapestries to paintings to sculptures reflect interpretations of the bible. Yet not many people go to church anymore. Hmm.

Here We Go Again……

As I sit here in my perch I am watching the sun come up in Colorado for the last time for a bit. We are heading out on the latest version of TTG’s Magical Mystery Tour. It is strange and yet incredibly exciting to know that tomorrow that big orange ball will pop up a lot earlier thousands of miles away in Copenhagen. I hope I never lose that childlike enthusiasm for things that are new. I spent yesterday morning as the Shuttle Assistant for the Hike For Hospice in Morrison. It is actually very cool to be in the foothills a mere 30 minutes from downtown Denver. The people, the housing, their way of looking at life are really quite different. Now my title got me a bucket replete with towels and disinfectant in case one of the rider’s dogs got so excited that he or she couldn’t hold it. I kid you not. It was my job description. Lo how the mighty have fallen. The round trip between the parking lot and the base station for hikers was about twenty minutes. Going to, yours truly held court and thanked people for coming. On the way back I struck up a conversation ( surprising huh?) with my driver. Gary. The tale unfolds. It seems he came to America from the former Socialist Republic of Georgia. He and his wife and three kids pled for and were granted political asylum. Six years later they became citizens. The system works. He and his family came to Denver because a cousin had already settled here. He said with the mountains it reminded him of home. For the next few hours between runs he extolled the virtues of the United States and dissed his former homeland. Some were obvious and others were quite intriguing. As so many others he didn’t speak the language at first. He could have remained in the captivity of an ethnic neighborhood but he plunged head-on into learning the speak and the ways of his new home. He wasn’t particularly gifted in book smarts but he had the look and sound of a survivor. And here he was driving for Grey Lines. He kept repeating what a wonderful country we had here. People were friendly, outgoing and courteous. Maybe he bypassed the Big Apple. He said in Russia the locals were quiet and almost demeaning. Never look out for your neighbor. You are in it for yourself. It is a hard life and if you were poor you were shunned as unworthy. No welfare. No food stamps. If you were homeless or a drunk you died from the elements. No one even stopped to pay you any matter. As a resident of a Moscow satellite they hated the so called motherland.They had seen subservience since the days of Stalin and it never sat well. I asked how come the polls say they love Putin? Interestingly he said those were the native Russians not the occupied hinterlands. He said the people were old and naive. The fortunate young and oligarchs had fled or were too busy partying to worry about such mundane things. The remaining ones were happy to rally behind a politico that would rub the sweet salve of nationalism on their broken psyches. As we made our final run I could see a man that maybe had hoped for more in his life but was so incredibly grateful for what he had. At sixty four years of age he had to keep working but that was okay. The sixty or so hours of driving were worth it. When he got home there was a glass of wine and maybe some Georgian music. Life is simple. Just live it. As we shook hands and bade good by I felt a kinship. I thanked him for sharing…for letting me know how lucky I am. I had my new buddy and also so many that had come to remember a loved one. I asked one group who they were there for. A lovely young woman spoke up and said it was for her daughter. She was twelve years old when she died. Another was there for her dad whom I recalled visiting. He was ninety two. Funny how death doesn’t pay attention to time in service. What an incredible day. As I drove home I thought about many things. I looked at the housing developments where Toll Brothers or Shea had carpet bombed hundreds of residences in large swathes. I drove the back streets of Denver and saw mansions and bungalows that go so far back in time. So many people. So many different ways of living. So many outlooks and political persuasions. How are we ever going to get us pulling on the same oar? We are going to many cities and burgs on the Continent. We will meet Danes and Poles. Swedes and Finns. Italians and Brits. Sure there will be museums and churches and palaces of every description. But I am really going to try to meet just ordinary folk. People like Gary. I am going to do my best to ask questions and just listen. I might just have plenty of reason to reinvent myself. God help my poor wife. I will write when I can but won’t guarantee to greet every Wednesday morning. Hopefully there will be lots to ponder and share. I’ll let you know if I run into Putin. Ciao or whatever. As always, Ted The Great Factoids: Until the 1930s most legal immigrants were male. By the 1990s women accounted for just over half of all legal immigrants. Contemporary immigrants tend to be younger than the native population of the United States, with people between the ages of 15 and 34 substantially overrepresented. Immigrants are also more likely to be married and less likely to be divorced than native-born Americans of the same age. Seven out of ten immigrants surveyed by Public Agenda in 2009 said they intended to make the U.S. their permanent home, and 71% said if they could do it over again they would still come to the US. We get an average of 3 million immigrants a year. Denver’s population grew 8.2 percent between 2010 and 2013. Since 2000, Denver has grown 17.3 percent. Must be doing something right. Butterfly Hospice cares for kids under the age of eighteen either in residence or usually in the home. If you want a dose of reality go to your nearest Children’s Hospital, get a cup of coffee and just sit in the lobby. It’s a wake up call.

Arrogance Revisited…..

I got into it with a dear old friend this week. It was not pretty and I am not proud of my overreaction. He made a statement that I have it in for rich people. I am Irish and I am stupid. I got on a tear about arrogance. You can figure out the rest. The whole process has stuck in my craw over these last several days.

By definition arrogance is thinking that you are better than most if not all of the world. You look down on people. You want to exercise your superiority which in my mind is a prelude to insecurity but that is another story. You really don’t care about the rest of the world. It’s all about you. It has nothing to do with being rich or poor. You see, arrogance is all around us.

I really locked horns with Archbishop Chaput when he was here in Denver. He is now in Philadelphia and no doubt happy he is far away from me. I told him I really had a problem with priests being holier than thou. Ironic huh? In a pastoral way he tried to tell me that priests were in their own realm and had a special calling from God. I in no uncertain terms told him we all put our pants on the same way and we are all in this together. Kind of like what Francis is saying now. I really do have have to call him soon to see if he is in line with Rome’s teaching on this one. Was he exercising his superiority?

Of course there is the arrogance of power. Whether you hold the purse strings or the finger on the trigger you have swag. It is a false hubris but a mighty one. The most obvious correlation is to the very rich. But that is far too easy. They can be anyone or anything they want. When you live in an ivory tower the world always looks the same….below you. It doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook.

Think about a fully armed SWAT member or a gang member with a 357 Magnum. You can be in your perch on top of an armored vehicle or a rooftop. You’ve got power. Just walk down the street on a dark night in your local hood. The cops on one side and a Crypt on the other. You are talking about severe disdain for your fellow man on either side of the barrel.

How about the gender thing? I am a guy. I’m big. I’m strong and I can kick the crap out of you a la Ray Rice. I can also berate you and make you feel like dirt. I am lord and master of the mansion. Hunter gatherer and all that BS. This is beyond sinister and yet it goes on in the confines of trailers as well as mansions every day. You don’t think that is arrogant?

I could go on and on but it touches everywhere. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, judges. All have their little fiefdoms over which they hold court and wield power because of their implied expertise. Don’t you dare question me. Do you know who I am? Yeah I do, so back off.

Even in casual settings. A few weeks ago I got in the Foretees Lottery for a Saturday morning tee time at our club. After the drawing I was scheduled to play at 8:30 AM with a +3, a 2 and a 4 handicap. That sounded like fun. They were young guys and I was looking forward to getting to know them. Lo and behold they bailed out Friday afternoon for greener pastures at another time. Why stoop to play with a lowly 14? I was left to fend for myself and wound up not playing. Sounded on the surface as a little arrogant to me. Maybe they had heard of my golf swing?

Coincidental with this type of thinking is the appellation of genius or super star to just about anybody. Genius is a strong term connoting an exceptional natural capacity of intellect as it relates to science, art music etc. Webster’s words, not mine. Einstein? I can do that. DaVinci. Easy peasy. Oprah? Nick Sabine? Bill Clinton? Maybe we are on different wave lengths. But as long as we adulate success, personality and beauty and consider them pinnacles to be sought after then maybe we should be subservient.Being looked down upon? Why not? I think a genius comes along once or twice in a lifetime as opposed to once or twice a week. But then again that is just me and therein lies the rub.

From the top of the world here I could get a big head. I could revel in the fact that with all my pondering I have it all figured out. Maybe I can put words down on paper but I shouldn’t delude myself into thinking I am real smart. I truly am like every one of you. I am a schmuck trying to make my way in the world and in some way hope to make it a better place.

I am passionate about my causes. I try to convince people that my way is better or they should be looking at the world around them and at least scratch below the surface. Just think! I really do try to listen but I guess if you feel strongly enough about something you ought to defend it to the death.

Uh oh! I guess that means I am arrogant. Thinking sometimes I know better and yes maybe at times feeling like I have a little more going on upstairs. Guilty as charged. What it really comes down to is the difference between that so called passion and being a jerk about it. For some of you I am truly am sorry if I have crossed the line. Hopefully my malady is not terminal. My heart really is in the right place.

As always
Ted The Great

I have just returned from a luncheon where the guest speaker was Marcus Luttrell, former Navy Seal and author of the Lone Survivor, about a raid gone very bad in Afghanistan. He was the only one of four to make it back. He told the story with incredible candor and poignancy.You could have heard a pin drop. Before the festivities my good friend John Horan aka The Body Snatcher made it possible for me to attend a private meeting with Marcus. There were the parents of two of the three killed in action. The small suite was also fortified with three other Seals currently on active duty and just returning from deployment. Wasn’t sure if i should feel secure or scared to death. As I looked around the room I realized they can all be as arrogant as they want. They were certainly heads and shoulders above me…and probably most of you.


I was struck by an article in the paper today that told of helicopter moms hiring decorators for their son or daughter going off to college. In the age where everyone is screaming about their college loans are you kidding me? Once again we have proven that an annual rite of passage has to be gussied up and improved upon.

Forget about the fact that going to college has for time immemorial been about learning and trying to figure out things on your own like trying to get rid of that huge zit on your nose before your big date. I can just imagine telling my father that I almost flunked out of Georgetown my sophomore year because the atmosphere just wasn’t quite right. Or my room was not the right shade of mauve. The fear of God,my father and Vietnam got me back on the right track not Martha Stewart or whoever she was way back then.

Now ambience is defined as the feeling or mood associated with a place, person or thing. That is very cool. As I conjure up thoughts of this or that I definitely can get elated or depressed in one fell swoop. Abject terror was rappelling down a fifty foot cliff in survival school. Bliss can be achieved by viewing the Pacific from a Hawaiian island with a tall vodka and tonic in one’s hand…..or as a young parent knowing that the rug rats are finally asleep. But the funny thing is no one had to tell me how to do that.

Today is different. We need consultants and books for everything from dressing to eating to sleeping and the like. I am sure people look at me with my ten year old Brooks Brothers polo shirt or my faded khaki shorts and think how ghastly. At a party one time a fellow invitee subtly dropped the idea that he had owned a similar shirt to mine… ten years ago. Up yours, Mac. I am just breaking it in.

My daughter Megan is a decorator and wife Kathy is a closet one. They gather weekly to rearrange every piece of furniture in our humble one floor abode. If I was blind I would be dead from walking into things that were over there the week before. What do you mean you like that chair? We have to recover it or buy a new one. How else are we going to keep this economy humming ? You have no sense of fashion TTG. None.

Enter Feng Shui which is not pronounced anything like it shows. It actually translates into “wind water” which like anything that costs a lot of money makes no sense whatsoever. The goal is to harmonize everyone with your surrounding environment. I think this was dreamed up by some gay Chinese dude trying to increase his lot in life. If this is so cool why does pictures of the annual Chinese Party Congress look like a throwback to the old Apple 1984 Super Bowl ad?

They describe polarity as one creating exertion and the other receiving it. Yin and Yang. I thought that was invented by Cheech and Chong but what do I know? Actually it is more like Pelosi and Boehner or O’Reilly and Maddow. That’s not exactly a revolutionary thought but then again it might be in Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book.

I was watching the Broncos preseason game in my office on my eight year old Vizio TV. This used to be our main mode of visual reception but it has been replaced by a bigger and jazzier version of a one year old Samsung in the living room. I have now been told that the incredible picture I am now getting is obsolete. I have to have a curved screen that will allow that 350 pound lineman to jump right into my space. Really? Pretty soon we will be able to have sweat smells wafting from the box. Special, huh?

We have a bunch of things that are drastic improvements over the old. I grew up in an old colonial house with seven people and three very small bathrooms. With three brothers it bordered on disgusting but we lived to tell about it. When Grandma Shorty came to stay and fell asleep on the john it became downright difficult. I would have loved to put one through the hoop in quiet meditation rather than having brother Brian beating down the door but that’s life. And many of you had only one salle de bain for the ship’s company. How did we ever survive?

Point being is that ambience is truly a feeling or mood. It can be Ralph Lauren or Coco Chanel or even better grassy field or a dock on the bay. It can be the staccato beat of Spanish Harlem or South Beach. Perhaps just sitting by the river with some wine and cheese. Who says the South Platte can’t be the river Seine? You can look out to the Rockies or the Poconos. Sheepshead Bay….or San Francisco Bay. It really doesn’t cost much. It’s what you make it and they are all just perfect on their own.

We are a consumer society. We crave new and different. Gotta keep up with the latest trend. It’s incredible when we see a home built in the 90’s and consider it dated. It was the cat’s meow back then. Whether it is cars or suits, place settings or coffee makers there is always something new and different around the corner. When that creates vibrancy and innovation it is refreshing. When it makes us slaves to Madison or Fifth Avenue it is sad. It blows me away how we are made to be beholding to fashion and fads all the while someone telling us how we are supposed to look. Really?

I am going to pick my spots and do my own thing. Surprising eh? Sure I am an old fart but hopefully not a codger. I hope my grandkids still think I am crazy but in a good sense. The best ambience of all is when I can sit here in Command Central and try to pound out thoughts that will get you to think. Nothing more. Nothing less. I don’t have to pay anyone to show me how that is done.

As always
Ted The Great

The National Retail Federation reports that we will spend $48 BILLION this year on electronics, furniture, bedding and supplies for our little darlings to feel at home while they are away.

IKEA was founded in the Netherlands in 1943. It now totals 350 stores in 43 countries. It has annual sales totaling more than $25 billion US. God knows how much you have to pay someone to put together the furniture once you buy it.

You can get a bottle of presentable red for $10, some cheese for $5 and a box of crackers for $3. The blanket comes from your house. Not a bad date for under $20 .

In the US we spend about 7% of our household budgets on food for about $50 billion. Russian families spend 38%. On the other hand we spend $225 billion on clothes per annum but a far cry from Europe who is leading the way at $350 billion. It costs to be trendy.