Fourth of July 2015

Fourth Of July….

Too many years ago in a place called Plandome on Long Island’s North Shore, The Fourth was in a word, idyllic. This little burgh of a few hundred families sported the Plandome Field and Marine Club. Lest you think of double breasted blazers, yachting caps and white shoes you have it all wrong. Indeed they were commuters to the canyons of Wall Street or the madness of Madison Avenue but here there was a place of repose and tranquility without airs.

On the “day” we had red white and blue crepe rolls woven between the spokes on our bikes. On the Village Green we had races and games, a fire hose fight and you could blow your brains out with cold sodas and Good Humor ice cream. All free! Afternoon softball and more pop with the volunteer firemen gave way to fireworks down on the bay. Of course we had an ample supply of M80’s, Ash Cans, cherry bombs and one and two inchers. Life was good.

I hope they still have that tom foolery. There were no warning labels. No helmets. Just good clean fun. In those 60 or so years I have seen a lot of variations on the them as we celebrate our nation’s birthday. We have commercialized and sanitized. Hot dogs have become a culinary specialty to see who can more creative and cosmopolitan in preparation. Hey it’s a frankfurter for God’s sake! Time marches on.

But I do think about this concept of independence. We declared it and I guess we go along with the program even today. Back then people just wanted to be left alone to do their own thing. No kings or queens. A full house was made of logs and the frontier was your front yard. But that new found freedom was oh so precious. You thought everyday about how neat this was even if the vagaries of indians, outlaws and nature put a rein on your enthusiasm. Our forefathers for sure were for state’s rights and maybe that further filtered down to town’s rights too.

Freedom also comes to mind. No restraint, be it physical or psychological. It could be a jail cell or a thumb. Either way we just want to be us. But if we all did our own thing literally there would be chaos. So we have to have laws but keep them simple. Every man for himself but in a bind we will all band together. But there is responsibility in this liberation. I hold the only reason we have more laws is because people are constantly trying to beat the system. Shortcuts or malfeasance? It doesn’t matter. In this case we need to be vigilant and probably more dedicated to the concept than we care to be.

We have lost our agrarian spirit as we head to the cities. We have lost a bit of that fraternal friendship. That survival outlook. We now are willing to let things be. Don’t rock the boat. We even acquiesce either by failure to fight or just a simple acceptance of status quo. We hold our beliefs whether they are good or bad. We just take what is dished out because it is just easier.

Don’t get me wrong. We are not the first to do this but somehow slavery has taken on many different mantels. Sure there was the scourge of the image of a poor black being sold as a piece of property. I can’t even begin to imagine it. No hope. No future. Just massah. But maybe it goes on. Your job, your lot in life, your parents or maybe even your spouse. Drugs,booze, sex. Maybe massahs come in all shapes and sizes. What about our thoughts and prejudices? Are we all bound by some crazy thing called ideology or even a warped sense of loyalty? Dunno.

I watch a thing called ISIS or Al Quaeda and wonder how this all got started? Looks like these people just gave up. It is fascinating that their few hundred in number overcome thousands of well armed and theoretically well trained troops. Even this nitwit could figure it out after ten years of training. But for so many the desire just wasn’t there. Their freedom was just not that important or perhaps that had grown lazy and complacent. Bad recipe for a prosperous life.

I ask people about this or that topic that relates to our livelihood or future as a country. Many look at me blankly and say “Why should I give a shit?” Others will ramble on about Obama or the Supreme Court or Congress as a whole. Just insert the tape and hit rewind. Their act and ergo independent thought is just the same as it was ten years ago. But this world, our country and our individual states and towns are changing at warp speed. We can be lazy or a slave or even a lazy slave. Or we can get our ass in gear.

When we went to the Baltic last fall I particularly remember our trip to Estonia. We took a city and mountain bike tour. Both our guides were young and beyond enthusiastic. They were so hopeful and yet afraid. Their newfound independence from Russia was constantly being threatened by Putin. Yet their eyes sparkled when they spoke of their country. I wonder how many of ours do?

TTG, what a bummer you are. I just want play golf and come home and grill a couple of steaks. Watch the fire works and enjoy a long weekend. Why do you have to ruin it? Sorry, I have always been a rebel of sorts. Happy Independence Day. I hope you are.

As always
Ted The Great
Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the Fourth of July. Calvin Coolidge was born on it.

$695 million will be spent on fireworks this year. $3.6 million will be spent on flags. $3.5 million of those will be made in China.

68% of homes will feature a barbecue of some sort. We will eat 150 million hot dogs. Joey Chestnut owns the record by downing 54 of those babies in 10 minutes.

In a salute to independence Salem used to set off bonfires stoked with old barrels in competition with neighboring towns. The stacks were 40 tiers high. They cheated. They used to burn witches too.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pur(1743–1826)

Long Winding Roads….

Posted from Alexandria, Virginia
I am sitting here in a beautiful apartment overlooking the Potomac in the DC area. I made a quick dash here yesterday and will go home tonight.I am not taking in the sights or bugging my local politicians. Georgetown’s 1789 will have to wait for another trip for me to down a few. I am visiting friends and one of them for the last time. My buddy Neal is in the final stages of his battle with brain cancer. I owe him and his great wife, KC this sojourn.

As I left for the airport yesterday I said to Kathy,”I have to find a different pastime than dealing with dying people.” It’s been an interesting few weeks. Don’t ask me why but I seem to have this stupid ability to talk with people who are dealing with death. Both patient and family. A stop like this covers both sides of the fence. Both are equally important. A survey of dying people has shown they are nervous about how it will all happen but their biggest concern is about those they leave behind.

During the night I have held Neal’s hand,hugged him and told him I loved him. Wait! Guys don’t do that. Yes, they do. KC and I stayed up too late last night and drank too many glasses of wine but there were no regrets this AM. This too shall pass. As we talk I try to help her make sense of something that seems so irrational. It’s really isn’t. It’s a part of this crazy thing we call life.

Last week at our hospice residence in Denver I spent a fair amount of time with a 42 year old patient who was dying of colon cancer. He and his wife had nine children from the ages of 2 to 18. He was the same age as our son Scott and emotions ran high. On various days I met most of the children and I became “Coach” because of the way I helped their dad. I was a bit humbled by the fact they let me into their lives. Kind of like Neal and KC. It is an honor I do not take lightly.

I met Neal on a cruise to Australia and New Zealand a few years ago. We started having a cigar and a scotch every evening about five. He appeared from the get go as a totally real and decent guy. Soon the group grew to a half dozen and we solved most problems of the world in the course of our opining. Until yesterday we had not seen each other face to face since the voyage but our friendship and those of our wives has grown strong through phone and the magic of email. We have shared so much of life and ourselves. Very cool.

Now some of you might find this depressing but au contraire. It is marvelous. In my work if you can call it that, it is quite meaningful when a person opens up. I think because they trust me and know time is short they are able to say things that some would find so difficult. I probe gently but never invade. I never bang on a door that doesn’t want to be opened but I always stand ready with a key. It’s what I do.

I think that always mystifies me in a way. I was up in Wyoming last weekend with the Colorado Senior Golf Association. That is any old fart that is over 60 and knows how to swing a golf club for better or worse. Let’s say there were around 45 of us. As we sat at dinner with no seating arrangement your lot was cast in any number of personalities and age brackets. Some were facile in conversation and others guarded. Some expressed opinions in an open way and others let you know it was their way or the highway. But guess what TTG? It is what makes a horse race on this planet called Earth.

I guess in some strange way I am opening up to you. As I look back on this epistle I hope they don’t come across as random thoughts. They are just a summation of a few weeks of some serious interaction with my fellow man. It is strangely invigorating and cathartic. It says it is great to be alive and feel like a human being.

I am going to cut it short. I have to say good bye to my buddy one last time, hug his cute wife and wend my way back westward. I am so glad I came…that I reached out. Life is a long winding road. You need to stop and smell the roses. More importantly you have to stop and talk to your fellow travelers. Listen and you will learn volumes.

As always
Ted the Great

I wouldn’t know where to start.

War Is….

I was watching “The Roosevelts,” which is a wonderful documentary in several parts by Ken Burns. He is masterful as he weaves pictures, commentary and of course the most influential parties of the era he is covering. Forget whether you agree with their politics, you get a behind the scenes look at them with their triumphs and their failures. Last night’s episode had to do with the buildup and actual declaration of our entry into World War II. It made me think.

Wars have been going on for millennia. Troy, Sparta, Rome, Carthage, London, Berlin, Washington, Baghdad…just to name a few. Somehow, someway there is conflict. Archduke Ferdinand got shot and caused the continent to react. I have a population overload and need more room. You have plenty of it so I will seize it. You may have oil or gold and it is mine for the taking. Sometimes it is like a government takeover GTO to increase GDP. Hey, it works on Wall Street.

Beginning who knows when many these revolved around religion or political ideology. You don’t think the way I do and ergo I will blow your head off. These become particularly dangerous because there can be no armistice or truce. These are ingrained hatreds and prejudices that won’t go away with the stroke of the pen. You think ISIS is nuts? What about Hitler, the Bolsheviks or even the Viet Cong. In all of the above there is a religion or cult that will fight to the end. War is not a means to an end. It is the end.
Sunnis and Shias have been at it since Mohammed left succession vague. Arabs and Israelis can’t stand the sight of each other. Turks and Kurds, African tribes of all sort and the multitudes of tribesmen from Afghanistan to Mongolia have some sort of grudge against one another. Those don’t die easily.

Wars bring out the absolute worst in people. Hitler was so obsessed with his venom towards Jews he built and operated ovens at Dachau et alia. That is not only heinous but scary that a leader of whatever sort can issue a proclamation to wipe out millions of people. Genocide is present throughout the world today and is not out of the ordinary. Darfur, Bosnia and Rwanda are not ancient history but part of all of our modernity. Pissing on bodies you have just killed or subjecting subhuman torture on the premise of gaining intelligence is unfortunately a reflection of the dealing party. Intelligence somehow seems to be a misnomer.

It is intriguing that if you took a vote of the masses probably there would be no war. It comes from the top, the military brass, politicos or some whacko Imam that says let’s go get them bastards. That in turn gets some sort of proclamation of worth and presto we have a policy that has to be carried out by the sailors and grunts. “Let’s Bomb them back to the Stone Age” doesn’t strike me as a particularly mature and reasoned approach to settle a problem. But hey, what do I know?

Now we all have gone to war in one way or another. When you were a kid there was a bully. He wanted your mitt or your lunch money. He remained in his highly protected position until someone bumped him off. Not literally. He had allies and so did you. But until someone became the intimidator instead of the intimidatee there was an uneasy peace. I guess that was the origin of balance of power.

It goes beyond brute force. We have wars of words. Look at out political dialogue if you want to call it that. Donald Trump, the master of insecurity tells us the Mexicans coming across the border are either criminal, drug mules or just plain stupid. That should go miles in getting him the vote of the fastest growing minority in the US. Listen to a couple who really get into it on some moronic TV show. Kids there is some serious hatred going on there but you don’t have to watch the tube. Go to an airport and see a loving family just back from vacation at the luggage carousel. That’s a show you want a front seat for.
I guess we are all competitive. We want our spot in life just as much as the next person. If you have it you don’t want to give it away. If you don’t, you will do everything you can to achieve it. Today that requires a certain sense of kill or be killed. As the room at the top becomes more and more crowded there just won’t be as many winners and therefore a lot of highly irritated people.

We have this overwhelming sense that life has to be fair. It ain’t. I am a great proponent of we are all in this together but if you are looking for Pax Romana you are going to have a long wait. There are haves and have nots. There are success stories and tales of failure. There are two sides to every story but the fairy tale doesn’t come true very often.

Now before you gloat or bury your head in your hands depending on which side of the 1% you are, I think there are two ways to add salve to these wounds. First is something called realistic expectations. I have spoken before of bigger houses and faster cars. They are not all they are cracked up to be. We have to engender some sense of it is okay to be ordinary. Today we make fabulous success a thing to be honored and sought after no matter what the cost.

Secondly is a realization on the part of the elites (whatever that means) of what the other side is going through. Walk a mile in their shoes. Really see someone bereft or in pain and just understand what the hell they are enduring. Work a bread line or deliver foodstuffs. Live on$180 a month for food for a family of four. I am not saying you have to give away all your possessions to the poor but just freaking get it. EMPATHY cost you nothing except maybe a a breakdown of your well preserved notions. Open your mind and your heart…just a little. And that my friends is my little war. Please forgive me.

As always
Ted The Great

In 2013 there were 31,00 deaths worldwide from war. In 1990 there were 72,000. World War II took the lives of anywhere from 60-85 million human beings. The Mongolian Conquest of the 1300’s took 40 million lives but it beats me how they came up with that number. I don’t think there was Fox or CNN back then. I guess they just Googled it.

Conflict is a way of life. Road rage, mass murders, domestic violence, team competitiveness, lawsuits, divorce are sewn into the fabric of our daily lives.

War takes a societal toll. Marauders destroy priceless art and artifacts. Both the vanquished and the victors must count their dead and provide for broken bodies and minds when they come home. All else stops as we all support the “war effort” at a tremendous cost to development of science and infrastructure.

Have Faith…..

I recently read that Pew Research has determined  the number of us who identify with religion has taken a fair downturn lately. While atheists do not yet outnumber the believing crowd, there are chinks in the armor. Some of you might say the masses are beginning to see the light. No, I am not going to take the holy roller position but I would like to explore faith in several different ways.

If you have faith it means you have a belief or confidence in some person, object, idea or view. By whatever means you arrived at that conclusion and you are behind “it” whatever “it” is. That faith can be blind or you could have extensive knowledge of the matter at hand thereby intensifying your belief .

I think one of the greatest examples of this is when you get on an airplane. Now I do not have an aeronautical degree and when it comes to engineering I have trouble putting a plug in a socket. So for me to take aerodynamics into consideration every time I cavort through the skies would spoil all the fun and cause me to have more than two scotches in flight.

It is not just the plane but the pilots, air traffic controllers, ramp personnel and maintenance people whose wagon I must hitch to in order to get where I am going. Ditto trains, buses and automobiles. After you have put the pedal to the metal you expect the engine to roar and like wise to decelerate when you spot that trooper just over the hill.

I went to the dermatologist today for my semi annual inspection and requisite freezing. I can’t see on top of my head or my posterior so I hope skin doc knows what she is looking at and acts accordingly. I told you all of my meeting with Da Vinci for my prostate cancer a few months ago and I definitely had to look young Dr. Paul Maronie in the eye and say I am with you. You gotta believe.

Food gets perplexing. I love chicken but a Frontline expose on the fowl industry definitely put me on the defensive. Seems these guys knew there was salmonella in their plants but it was at acceptable levels. Just who is defining “acceptable”? Was the milk pasteurized and the butter fresh? Did every employee wash their hands before returning to work?

There are two things at work in all of the above: machines or processes and people that carry them out. You can have the greatest widget or sanitary procedure but if the people don’t give a crap the reliability factor just dropped to basement B. Up to this point I have been very cool about all of this. I am not paranoid or a worrywart of any sort. Probably I am too far the other way and take life as it goes but I am beginning to wonder.

Faith is a trust in my fellow man. But today as we get more and more robotic in our every day dealings does this take some of the culpability out of it? Don’t worry big guy, no one will ever know. When I hand you something and have to look you in the eye and tell you how good it is there is a connection or a bond. When I receive your order by email and then tell the machine to pick it from the bin and automatically throw in the box with a preprinted sticker and have that package dropped by our local Amazon drone perchance the responsibility gets taken out of it by some margin. Maybe but just maybe I lose a little faith.

Faith is indeed a trust. I am incredibly believing to a fault. It has caused me angst and heartbreak from time to time but it is how I choose to spend my life. I am a cheerleader not an undertaker. (Sorry Body Snatcher). An outcome of this irrational exuberance is if you let me down I am crestfallen. I will look askance for a long time and you have to earn your stripes all over again whether you are a priest, politician or HP printer.
This has happened to me on several levels not the least of which is government. Under domes in DC and capitals throughout our fair nation we are being let down. Funds are squandered and promises broken. They hem and haw and fail to make decisions that are so necessary. We gave them the keys to the car and even the gas to run it and they drive it into a wall. We get our hopes up for change and that continually falls flat to personal greed and opportunism. Interestingly it is not our constitution that has failed but the people administering it.

Another good example is religion. Is God dead or just the hierarchy of churches be they Catholic or Islamic? It seems we take something that is inherently good and subvert it to our own ends. That is human frailty I know but when your actions affect so many people we will indeed hold you to a higher standard. I think we can all feel that as citizens of the US and the world. Oh my God, I think that means we are all dependent on one another to do the right thing. I am not sure our compasses are exactly heading in that direction at the moment.

The opposite of faith or hope is distrust and despair. You just can’t depend on anyone or anything. The world is against you and in turn you are against it. Your days are spent criticizing cheap goods or incompetent management. “I told you so” is a mantra and life as a whole sucks.

What a horrible way to live…at least for me. I have faith in our ability to eventually see things for what they are and to figure out a way to make them better. I have faith that quality not quantity will be the norm some time in the future. I have faith that it all works out for the better in the end and man is not inherently evil. If that is blind faith, so be it.

As always
Ted The Great


There are in excess of 4200 religions throughout the world. They can monotheistic as in Abrahamic. Indian such as Buddhism and Hinduism. East Asian such as Confucianism, Shinto or Taoism. They cross cultures and countries. Unfortunately almost every one thinks they are the one true faith.

For the most part quality standards have increased not decreased. Computers modeling and robotics have led to more precise specifications and end results. This reliance has led to more human error situations.

Food quality in the US is determined by the Food Quality Act of 1990. The sheer magnitude of some processing facilities and their country wide distribution can cause huge recalls to occur. An outbreak in Oregon might be traced back to Tennessee as its point of origin.

60 million cars were recalled in the United States last year for anywhere from minor defects to serious problems. There were 89 million cars built worldwide. Detroit, we have a problem.

You Owe Me…..

Lately there have been incredible and heart wrenching stories about immigrants in all sectors of the world. The refugees of Syria have made their way to camps of Jordan and Turkey. Some of those settlements number 500,000. Even more tragic are the people that flee Somalia and other African nations. They pay smugglers anywhere from $3-5,000 to get them going in the right direction.

As they cross Africa they take two paths, some on boats others on foot. Many depart From Libya to Italy where the gangs load them onto old tubs of a ship and set the auto pilot straight for Sicily. Others make their way across eastern Africa to South America and then through an assortment of trains, boats and snake laden swamps to Central America, Mexico and eventually the US.

As some of us or our fellow Americans blithely comment to “send all them suckers back” I would like you to give some thought that these people aren’t exactly arriving on Air Emirates to demand hospitalization and welfare.They have truly risked everything to get here. I daresay we or some of our neighbors have trouble walking four blocks to the store or God forbid not get a spot close to the entrance of the mall. I wonder how we would fare if it was this hard for each of us to immigrate? Don’t know.

But all this begs a larger question. It can relate to a new arrival or a long time resident of one of our poorer neighborhoods. It can be anywhere in the world. Just what if anything are you owed? Okay I get the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness thing but just what are the basics?

Let’s start with shelter. I think I can unequivocally work with a roof over your head. Now is infested with all sorts of vermin okay? Do we go two or twenty to a room. Let just throw in heat, water and electricity. AC? No I have to draw the line there. Hell, I didn’t have AC growing up. Now the accoutrements. TV? Interesting. Color? Big TV? Cable? Man we are going to have to set some boundaries. House phone or cell phone? Now some of my bleeding heart buddies will say that people have a right to be just like everyone else. We don’t want to have them feel like they are any different.

Food? Yes you have to have it. Should your food stamps buy Twinkies, booze or butts. No way (I was going to say Jose but you know how PC I am). The food pyramid still does not work in the ghetto or the rural heartlands. Clothes? Sorry but designer is out. ARC and Goodwill have sales every month. My worn out Izods will look great on you. Kathy had to steal them away from my armoire. Had several good years left in them.

Transportation comes to mind. Not as easy as it sounds. You have no money. You have no way to get to a job interview because you can’t even afford the bus. Now we can cram 8-10 into a Uber Ghetto sedan but then you run the risk of being pulled over by the gendarmes and then it is back to Mogadishu with you. Yes you can walk but we really have to set parameters as to distance and weather. You might make five miles in Denver and fifty yards in Nome,Alaska or Death Valley.

Schooling? Hmmm, now you are trying to stump me. I think we have to give you the basics of reading, riting and rithmetic. GED’s are desirable but not a slam dunk. Junior and four year college? This is a trap. We sell everyone on the concept that you have to have higher education. Forget about the trades. The real money is in being an accountant or communications major. What was your last bill when the plumber or HVAC man showed up at your house? Better yet how long did you have to wait? Forget it TTG. Image is everything.

I am getting close to my limit on what I will provide but I have to include medicine. Not as clear as I would like it to be. The first take is one of basic needs. You have a cold or pneumonia? That is a no brainer. But that doesn’t mean you can go to the emergency room at a gazillion dollars a pop. Speaking of which, let’s say you jump off a cliff and you have now multiplied the number of bones in your body by an order of three. Should I be responsible for you? I don’t think so. You know my feelings if you show up at the hospital after drinking or eating yourself for fifty years to 7/8 gone. Do I owe you to be healed ? Sorry not in my kingdom. I work in hospice for people like you. Cruel TTG. Cruel. Sorry about that.

We have talked about immigrants and the poor. You could use these guidelines throughout this wonderful country. If you have smaller means you have to think in terms of a smaller house. Smaller could even be the difference between earning $250k vs $1million. The concept is the same. You don’t go out to the finest restaurants if you are struggling to meet your mortgage, It’s the old champagne taste on a beer budget.

In pure fact you are owed nothing. That is a cold and pragmatic approach. You can see some poor bastard lying in the street and say “tough shit”. That is your prerogative. But as some one who sees his fellow man and thinks, “There but for the grace of God go I,“ I can’t just move on. I am not going to give you a free ride. But I will give you a leg up. A chance, but you have to make it work. I owe you that.

As always
Ted The Great


Poverty is a state of deprivation, or a lack of the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.Ergo my question. The poverty level for the US in 2014 was set at $23,850 (total yearly income) for a family of fourThe U.S. Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty, including almost 20% of American children. (approximately 43.6 million). California has a poverty rate of 23.5%, the highest of any state in the country.

$8 per hour wage yields $16,640 annually based on a 40 hour work week.
$10 per hour equals $20,800. The apocalyptic $15 per hour comes to $31,200.

There are 43 million refugees worldwide. Major refugee populations include Palestinians (4.8 million), Afghans (2.9 million), Iraqis (1.8 million), Somalis (700,000), Congolese (456,000),  Myanmarese (407,000), Colombians (390,000), Sudanese (370,000).They have been displaced by violence in their countries as well as famine and drought

I think Colorado is a pretty cool and modern state. 1 in 7 of our populace struggles with hunger. 1 in 5 kids aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. 1 in 8 live in poverty UGH!

In 1964 LBJ declared the War On Poverty. We have spent up to $22 trillion by today’s standards on every conceivable program. Sadly the rates of poverty have barely budged the needle. Interesting is the fact that 85% of the poorest counties in the US are rural. So much for the governmental approach. Any ideas.