Freaking Out…..

Freaking Out…..

If you are at all timid or concerned about life the last few weeks have been a lulu. Ebola? You get to the point where you start looking around at everything from the locker room at the gym to the server bringing you dinner while you are out. Hand shake of peace in church? Well, maybe a little longer. If I am required to get a space suit for everyday living instead I think I will just put on my bathing suit, light up a fat one and enjoy a larger than normal glass of red.

If you are approaching old fartdom the recent stock market plunges will put the fear of God in you. I am not as concerned about how much I have but rather will it last long enough for Kathy and me to sneak quietly out the door?

The shootings in Canada and Washington were really the coup de grace. Lone terrorist? I have suspected my brother Brian of that for 60 years. If you really let it get to you you would be frozen in place and not prone to any activity. It really got me pondering about this whole fear thing.

Psychologists will tell you fear is healthy and is a form of information. Your current situation, this wonderful cocoon we have built for ourselves is threatened in some way. Physically, financially or psychologically our fortress comes under attack. The first thing we do is ascertain if it is real or implied. Am I dreaming this up and overreacting or do I have to take action and fast?

It seems to me that we want to control every aspect of our life…and death. We want to make everything predictable. One of life’s uncertainties is health. We have made incredible strides in the area of medicine. We can fix anything. That is why something like Ebola is so frightening.

We spend millions and billions trying to make our products safer which indeed is a noble cause. We worry about wearing helmets and pads on bikes. We panic about batteries being ingested by infants. We have created air bags on cars and are floored when they could be weapons in their own right. We stop and frisk and pat down at airports. Pull out every last stop.

In a truly ironic twist it makes us more vulnerable. As we strive to squeeze every last threat to anything we have greatly impaired our ability to think for ourselves. We are so dependent on others to safeguard us we don’t know how to fend for ourselves. We have lost the ability to be vulnerable and deal with it.

Our education today is designed to be rewarding of the perfectionist and memorizer. We don’t encourage free thinking but rather coloring inside the lines at all cost. And some of you think the nuns were bad? I have made a ton of mistakes over my lifetime but hopefully I have learned from them and become a better person for them. I could have played it straight and been a lot more secure financially but I sure would have missed a lot of fun. I think my family feels that way too.

We all have phobias of some sort. Spiders? Heights? Failure? Those are all valid parts of the human psyche. Show me someone without fear and I will show you someone who has never taken a chance.There have been multitudes of books written on all types of fears.

Take a mom or dad today. They want to micromanage their kid’s lives down to the last minute detail. We have boys and girls in a bubble. I laugh when I think about my mom. She was always there but in the background. If I was stuck up town I learned how to use my thumb. If I was in a crazy situation somehow I figured it out. I think today you would call it street sense but we all seemed to have it back then. My mother had control but in a wonderful way I never knew it.

There are two ways to get over your fears. First is to have a loved one kiss you and make it all go away. Take that to mean we want someone in finance or government or medicine to say we have this under control. Guess what gang? That ain’t happening. Positions of responsibility have failed miserably over the past few years. Better not look there.

The other is to meet them head on and admit our deficiencies. Grapple with it and at least come to terms with it. Our world is tumbling at warp speed and we will have complexities to deal with at every turn of the wheel. For me I would rather get out in front of a problem than get run over by it.

I am afraid for our country but instead of looking for a bunker I am going to try to attack it full bore and bring it up to you. I am not afraid of terrorism or Ebola because I could just as easily get hit by a car walking down the street. I can’t live my life looking over my shoulder for some rogue gunman. Most of all I am not afraid of speaking out. When I write I am not sure how you will take it but that is not the point. It is an incredible feeling to express my thoughts openly and in some small way say I am doing something. I hope in a sense I am speaking for you. But please, don’t let me freak you out.

As always
Ted The Great


Fear: noun
a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined;
Synonyms: foreboding, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm.
Antonyms: courage, security, calm, intrepidity

Beyond claustrophobia, acrophobia etc there are:
hedonophobia…fear of having fun
prosophobia…fear of progress
Scatophobia…fear of feces
Scriptophobia…writing in public…I don’t have it
Epistemophobia…fear of knowledge
Cenophobia…fear of new things or ideas.

Fear is actually a healthy response to a fight or flight situation and is probably one of man’s(woman’s) oldest and most valuable emotive reactions. It gets your adrenalin going and in a controlled situation can be vital to your survival.

Fear can paralyze you, keep you in desperate situations, and stop you from living the life of your dreams. That should be enough motivation in and of itself to get after it and master it.

Vote Early and Often….

Vote Early and Often

I am sitting here contemplating my navel and staring at my mail in ballot. It is one of our most treasured freedoms but I can’t say I am doing handstands to participate. But before I put down my X for this one or that I am trying to figure out just what the hell I am.

About ten years ago I reregistered from Republican to Independent. I don’t think it was any seismic shift in beliefs or values but just one man’s protest against a flawed system. Like most of my other railings it passed without any due notice.

Now I not in favor of big government so I guess I am a Conservative. I am Pro Life with reservations and believe wholeheartedly in the principle of free enterprise. I think the institution of family should be valued and enhanced. Law and oder has to be paramount but it should not be a license to bully.

Now the wall starts to have chinks in it. I really don’t like the status quo. I thrive on innovation and upsetting apple carts. I don’t want to go back to yesterday much less the good old days. I believe our constitution is marvelous document but some facets must be con temporized. Strict constructionist? No.

Guns? I don’t mind if you have a hunting rifle or a hand gun for your house but arsenals in an increasing urban environment just don’t make any sense. It’s kind of interesting that we want the rule of law but don’t want it to apply to us vis a vis regs on the stock market, commerce or drug standards.

I know there are users of the system but I just can’t look at some poor bastard that has lost his job with three kids and say suck it up and go to work at Burger King. I don’t like Obamacare but our market system has not done very well for someone who needs immediate care. I think FDR had it right to provide for poor people or more specifically widows and orphans to have some kind of safety net but as usual we have taken a simple system and turned it into an “Entitlement.” Whether we need it or not.

For all those who feel they are owed something we conveniently overlook actuarial tables and viability. It’s incredible that we have so many MBA’s and market makers covering the land but we can’t read Uncle Sam’s balance sheet and see serious problems. Conservatives don’t want the debt but were blind to a trillion dollars worth of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Liberals say just tax the rich. It’s only fair. Just wonderful.

Now what is a guy going to do as he fills out his ballot? I will try to figure out what a particular candidate stands for. Immigration? We have got to do something about it. Taxes? Yup, we have to get right on that as soon as the new Congress is sworn in. Jobs? Who isn’t for jobs? But first I want to blitz you with ads telling you what a dirt ball my opponent is. I am sorry, that really wasn’t my ad but some obscure PAC that I have no control over who was slinging the mud. Corporations are people too if you haven’t noticed.

I know. I know. But could you possibly give me some specifics as to how you are going to handle, jobs, immigration and taxes? Well you see those are very complex questions that need a great deal of thought and deliberation my good man.We are working on a position paper that will be out shortly but you can trust me to get the job done. Right!

I guess what I am looking for is a Democrat who is to the right of left or a Republican who is to the left of right. Confused? You shouldn’t be. I smell something in the wind and it is not a foul odor. I think we as a country see this isn’t working. We are not willing to sit idly by and just wait for the next election. At least I hope not.

I was reading an oped by Mac McClarty in today’s Journal. He was Clinton’s Chief of Staff at one point. He was advocating for Obama to shake things up. He said it worked for Reagan and Clinton. I thought about this. He was calling for injecting new ideas and invigorating the staff. As I thought more about this my thoughts wandered toward our Congress.

The President is elected at most for eight years. My current Congresswoman is going for her tenth reelection. I have not received a piece of material as to where she stands on anything. She is in a “safe” district and couldn’t care less. She is knee deep in the Beltway culture and somehow we consider this to be a good thing…for our state. What about the country? To keep electing the same old hacks over and over is a sin. We are all guilty. Which way do you think I am voting on this one? Not because she is left or right but because we have to shake up the system.

We have had failures at the FBI, CDC, IRS to name a few. These are not failings of underlings but the higher ups. To say they are incompetent is to be kind. When you have a good old boy or girl Congress it sends a message. When the bureaucracy is so convoluted that it takes a long time elected official to understand it we have a serious problem. Mediocracy that gets rewarded breeds more mediocrity. Now, now TTG you don’t understand. Really? I think it is up in flashing lights.

Man, do we need new ideas and fresh faces. They can’t possible be any worse than what we have got. Kids we have to get off our butts and start asserting ourselves. When you look at the ballot don’t just see donkeys or elephants. They both smell. See who is going to attack problems and not just exacerbate a ridiculous situation. I am voting early. I wish I could vote often.

As always
Ted The Great


Political scientists say high turnout is generally seen as evidence of the legitimacy of the current system. That is kind of interesting because you would think if you didn’t like the system you would turn out in force to change it. Disgust or frustration seems to be a strong deterrent.

In 2012 voter turnout in the US was 57.5 % Of the eligible voters 126 million cast their ballots and 93 million didn’t. What that further shows is that approximately 28% of the eligibles elected our president.

The current Rothenberg Report lists 386 of 435 seats in the House to be safe. Of the remaining 49 only 19 are considered to be tossups where either side could win.

Reps Dingel and Conyers have been in Congress for 58 and 49 years respectively. Both are from Michigan. Hmmm. There are 11 others who have been there for 37 years or more. The average age of the House is 57 and the Senate 63.

Closing Thoughts…..

I have been trying to figure out how to close this thing. By the time we get home tomorrow we will have travelled some 13,000 miles visited over 16 cities and places and met innumerable interesting and wonderful people. Our version of the Great Race. Good thing they didn’t have the cameras on in the rental car for various map readings in Tuscany. Actually it was rather humorous as we circumnavigated a couple of roundabouts several times until we got the right exit point.

Let’s start with countries first. Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Holland were beyond charming. Russia was predictable if not disappointing. Lithuania and Italy were worrisome in their own way. Germany and the UK seemed open for business. Not only each city but their respective countries had their particular quirks and personality traits. It is odd but we have had very little discussion about politics here. It does not seem to be the center point of conversations as it is in the States.

Europeans as a whole stick to themselves and are not overly friendly unless approached. Take the Brits. They appear a tad cold and detached but when you engage them they are both upbeat and quite humorous. Their way of phrasing things causes one to pay attention carefully so as not to offend by saying “What?” several times in a row.And we supposedly speak the same language. The saddest and most forlorn had to be in Russia. The most laid back were the Finns. You felt like you were in Maine.

The Continent as a whole has the same problems and challenges that affect us. Their postal services are somewhat quaint but fast becoming irrelevant due to our cyber world. The pressing problem everywhere is the Aging Generation. People are living a lot longer but their care is becoming more complex and that in turn is putting pressure on the young.Retirement funds of all sorts are unfortunately underfunded.

Russia, Italy, Lithuania and Estonia are seeing populations contract and it is not good. The young people are fleeing in droves for opportunities elsewhere. Those bright lights appear to be in Germany and the UK and you can see it reflective by both the young people on the streets and the soaring real estate prices here in London. With less of a working population to tax the lesser states are forced to curtail services or raise taxes even further. Either way the situation is borderline untenable. Everyone understands that they have to lengthen the retirement age but no one is willing to broach the issue.Sound familiar?

Whether in the more socialistic countries or traditional states the taxes are high…for everyone. They probably range from a low of 35-40% for lesser incomes to 65% on the high end. Everyone pays. Especially in places like Holland and Denmark they really don’t complain because they feel they are getting a lot for their buck and they probably do with free healthcare and education through college.

In the latter they seem to be happy with their lot in life and don’t slack off but don’t become so rabid about their careers that they forsake quality of life. Many of these countries are minimalistic in their life styles. Homes are not chock a block with furnishings and are usually small and functional. I am sure there are manses and estates in the countryside but there is not a large presence in the cities. Square footage is expensive and they make every one of those square meters work.

Most of all these people like to eat….big time. In the morning there are sweet things of all sorts to choose from….almost to the point of distraction. There are croissants and pastries of every description and taste with a cappuccino or expresso to take away.
Lunch features paninis etc and snacks follow mid afternoon. Dinner doesn’t start any time before 7:30 and it goes on for 2-3 hours. That’s not non stop eating but a very leisurely pace between courses. People just linger as meals are an event and not merely a chore to be done with. There is not huge amounts of drinking either. In 30 days we only saw one well inebriated chap and he was a visitor.

I come away from all of this without a true sense that I would move here or there. We have a wonderful country and most definitely more than most. We should be proud but not haughty. As it relates to commerce and national success it is survival of the fittest here. I am not quite sure how the EU will survive if the top two or three have to keep footing the bill for the weaker allies? You get a good or bad feeling coming into the country by the airport and its major cities. Germany and UK are exemplary. Not always the rest. You ask yourself would you invest here or there and the answer is usually quite evident.

As with all the cities I have been to, the nations have a personality of their own. When you see all the countries in relative proximity to one another you can’t help but think of our United States. Some are dynamic and creative and others live off their more successful kin and not really contributing anything to the process. Some assemblies are thoughtful and demanding while others are politicians in the truest sense of the word. More talk than action.

We have met incredible people from a plethora of nations and a true diversity of occupations. Fellow passengers, passersby, waiters and bartenders. Hotel clerks, ship board stewards and maids. Talk about interaction. Incredibly there was a minute percentage of rude or obnoxious denizens of our planet. I’d have to think hard to recall them.

People are truly like you and me. They’re trying to make their way on this big blue marble.There are immigrants banging on the door here as well as America. Funny thing how people just want a better life and that is a universal concept. How we can accommodate all of them is our mutual challenge but an exciting one. There are a lot of very smart and talented citizens of the planet Earth.We just have to figure out how use these abilities to everyone’s advantage

As always and Ciao Bella for the last time this trip.
Ted The Great

Too many to figure our for this tired body and brain.
Will close with one thought projected by graffiti on a wall in Florence:
“If it is tourist season,why can’t we shoot them?” I hope not.

Random Thoughts…..

Posted from Siena,Italy

Well the trek continues as we eventually are wending our way home. Last seen in Amsterdam the dynamic duo were amazed by the confluence of history and modernity. That city was so full of life and verve. There are some 300,000 bikes for a city of 500,000. They ride them everywhere and in ways they are more dangerous to a pedestrian than cars or busses.

It was not unusual to see a mum or dad riding two or three kids on the velocipede. All without helmets which seem to be for wusses only.They have contrived a wooden bucket of sorts on the front of the bike and of course have seats to the rear. We saw one chap riding four in the front and two in the back. All smiling and somewhat oblivious to danger which is as it should be.

All the while these Dutch have practiced the fine art of engineering and hydrology to a whole new level of expertise. The city was built on concentric circles that have grown throughout the centuries. Starting as a moat at one time they have grown into a fascinating system of canals that tie the city together with serendipity as well as functionality. Yet all the time you get the sense that these are with it people who have fashioned a liberal lifestyle not from hedonism but because they have accepted so many oppressed and battered souls throughout history. Truly one of our favorites.

The trip from Holland to Italy took us through several time warps known as Munich and Genoa. The German hub like its sister, Frankfurt takes air travel and transfer through its paces with ease. There are Lufthansa planes as far as the eye can see. They use remote landing sites and a fleet of busses to speed people on their way. Don’t be late or you don’t get on. The concourses are wide and modern with the blinds and lighting systems geared to synchronize with departure. A short while before the boarding process the fluorescents pop on and the rising curtain of a colorful transparency of imprint of a golf fairway or the like reveal your aircraft on the tarmac. Quite a demonstration of German ingenuity.

Fast forward to Genoa and Chistoforo’s birthplace and behold a step back in time in more ways than one. You immediately understand why the citizens state with a shrug of the shoulders,”That’s Italy.” As we disembarked it was a short walk to the terminal and you climbed stairs to a drab array of carousels. There was only one plane but a lot of capacity. The cart machine was inoperable and you got the feeling they had to wake up the boys to get the luggage off the plane. Customs was not even a cursory look at our passports but a wave through that was equal parts disinterest and disdain.

As I noted last week the Baltics seem to want to work hard to live. The Italianos seem to want to live because there is nothing better to do. They are a charming people and you get a little emotive trying to give your best Bonjourno or Ciao. It’s just fun. The beaches are littered with sunbathers. Speedos and bikinis abound but that’s a problem. Overweight is in season in many parts.…literally Topless is not all it is cracked up to be but hey, who’s looking?

A ride on the Italian Railway System is a study in opposites. You must always change trains and you go from a sleek bullet to an ancient carriage in just a matter of miles. From shiny steel to a graffiti wielder’s canvas. What track is the train coming in on? You get another shrug. It’s whacky but a ton of myrth and merriment.

We are now in Florence. It is probably the most manageable city you can conjure up with pedestrian walks everywhere. It was the birthplace of the Renaissance and the plazas and Duomos reek of antiquity in a wonderful way.Yesterday afternoon we met David face to face and he was beyond incredible. He stands about 17’ tall and weighs 5-6 tons for you who are not in the cognoscenti. The feat of Michelangelo grows in renown when you find out he did the sculpture with no models and no helpers.

He fashioned the masterpiece in a covered courtyard over a two year period. When he revealed it to the Medicis they undertook a journey that was both dramatic and comical if you ever have watched Italians in action. They had to get this behemoth some 5-6 blocks to the town hall. Now just picture the pedestal mounted on a cart of sorts and supported by wooden wheels. They moved it inches at a time and took several weeks. Michaeli stayed with it the whole way sleeping right beside it every night. Everyone brought food and drink….and of course provided plenty of advice on how to do it. Can you just see them talking rapidly and gesticulating every which way for several weeks? Fantastico!
Well I have to go for now. Church bells are ringing out the call to afternoon vino and we are getting ready for dinner. For that we have to cross the Ponte Vecchio. No easy feat for we have to wend our way along a couple of via whatevers. Instead of bikes these people take to motorcycles and scooters of every sort. We figure it is some sort of arcade game where they try to mow down as many pedestrians as possible. The assassins are not just the suave senors but the cutest little seniorae fatales who have murder not lust in their hearts. And they would just as soon cut yours out. Mama mia!

Ciao bela and multa bene.

As always
Ted the Great

We attended Mass in the Duomo today because mea culpa we have been MIA in the church department. The priest, Francis Fox was from Morris Plains NJ right next door to Morristown where Kathy grew up. He knew our good friends and Reverends Paddy O’Donovan and Jack Carroll very well.

The Medicis ruled Florence for over three hundred years from the mid 1400’s to the mid 1700’s. A combination of totalitarian but benevolent rule.They finally went down in flames due to the harshness of Cosmo Medici. So much for term limits.

There are 3000 house boats of every description on the canals of Amsterdam. They cost a fortune even if in disrepair because they have not issued any new slip permits for years. The Dutch were always good traders.

The Dutch play a big part in the history of our part of the world. Think of the Dutch West Indies Company. Peter Minuit bought the Isle of Manhattan for about $29 worth of trinkets and beads. He then sold it all to Donald Trump for billions after promising hair spray for life.