Final Thoughts..

Posted from  Qantas Lounge, Sydney Airport  9:30AM Sunday

 

Happy Australia Day. We are in an airport lounge and will unfortunately miss the festivities of the day. One thing is certain these people like to have fun. The landscape is dotted with hundreds of sailboats on Sydney Harbor. The wharves and quays were jammed pack for our last night in town. To add to the mayhem the Chinese New Year is coincidental. 

Since we last chatted we have gone from Polynesian to urban stops in New Caledonia, Brisbane and Sidney to round up this crazy sojourn. There is an incredible spirit from “have a go at it mate” to a casual genteel. They strive for unanimity much the same as the UK. On the street you can hear a variety of languages as well as dialects within. 

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While spending three days here we saw at least five different cruise ships pull in at 8:00 AM  and depart at 6:00PM. Doesn’t seem like a fair shake but the show must go on. A Norwegian Cruise Line behemoth was a sight to see and I am not sure if it was pretty one. A quick glance told you the guests on board numbered well over 5,000. We had 500. They descend on the city like locusts, a ripe prey for the hawkers of all sorts. 

This is an outdoor city from the business side to the waterside. There are a raft of outdoor cafes serving anything from coffee to oysters and suds. Semi permanent umbrellas shield you from the sun or an occasional shower. The inside meets the outside. We had wait staff from Brazil, Italy, France and Columbia to name a few. All had their reasons. Most were here to stay. 

Brisbane was a gem in its own right. images-4.jpegAbout ten miles upriver from the Jasmine Sea this metropolis has taken itself seriously over the last twenty years and transformed  into a bustling mixture of downtown commerce to the Miami Beach style of The Gold Coast. It seems they make quick work of things and are not bogged down by bureaucracy.

The brush fires have done damage to their land and their psyches. There are fingers of blame but you can’t fight Mother Nature. We woke up on Thursday to the faint smell of smoke but curiously it ebbed and then returned as the wind changed directions. Tour guides pleaded with us to tell everyone they are alive and well..and open for business. They are. The damage to wildlife is enormous with almost a billion lost. That’s right, a billion !images-3.jpeg

All of these cities are whistle clean. It is a relatively young country and they respect and take seriously their environs. The real estate is ridiculously expensive and you wonder how there are so many who can afford it. Ditto the yachts. One is larger than the other whether sail or power. The one difference is they seem to enjoy it rather than flaunt it. 

It has been great to be “Down Under” for so long. Yes kids there is life outside the US. That is not to put us Yanks down but to say we really aren’t the cat’s meow all the time. I keep thinking this confluence of cultures is really good. Everyone has something to offer. The sports are pervasive but it seems to be more about team than superstar. 

I could go on for too many pages. Suffice to say Kathy and I are pretty lucky to have been here and to have had each other for 49 years. We celebrated our anniversary Thursday night. We are lucky to be not only citizens of the US but of the world with all its foibles and follies. Wherever you are just pinch yourself. Say thanks to whomever you praise. Good on ya !

As always 

Ted the Great 

Shore Leave….

I am sitting on the deck of the good ship Lollipop somewhere in New Caledonia, formerly French Polynesia. It is a quiet bay with the bluest of water and an occasional edifice of some sort dots the landscape. I am not sure of our lats and longs and to be honest it is not a concern 

 We were not welcome in our original port of call. This was not because they didn’t want our sheckels and boundless buying power  but because the big chief of the island died and they were in a fourteen day period of mourning. Nothing commercial transpires during that time. Can you see Amazon or Target doing that if Trump or Pelosi or even Bezos passed?

Going ashore on a tender, Kathy and I made our way up to a main road. We espied a church as we entered the harbor and wanted to hike up to see it. The road was well paved but very few people in sight. Unknown-5.jpegThe foliage on either side was dense but forgiving. It is totally unlike anything we have seen so far. This was the South Pacific we had imagined but not yet experienced. 

 

All of these island nations have one thing in common. They are not one but dozens if not hundreds of isles and atolls under some sort of confederation. Either by location or size there is the main spot or city and their freeways that connect are the myriad of waterways surrounding them. 

The cities differ drastically from  Hawaii’s  Honolulu and Hilo or the Caribbean Nassau and St Barts. They are gritty with commerce and haphazard growth. When examined closely the lush sub tropical landscape yields minimal housing with open air and doors to facilitate circulation. No electricity or running water is evident. 

We visited one of these villages in Fiji. images-7.jpegThe residents numbering 500, greeted us with song and dance. The locale was ruled by a chief and he had the biggest house. Of course there was a church. The islands are predominantly Christian and they practice their faith. 

All the residents of each country  are a gentle and welcoming people. They share everything amongst themselves. The doors are always open and if you happen by you are invited in for a meal. To not do so would be an affront. They love music that is both tribal and rasto. Guitars and ukuleles abound as well as ready made drums on bottoms of pails or maracas fashioned from a pop bottle and sand. 

Their main occupation is tourism and the minimum wage if available is $2.35 per hour. Sure we have snorkeled and swam and gone here and there but that visit was a good dose of reality. They are descendants of families going back millennia yet they have kept together and found tranquility in community. We could all learn a lot. 

Interestingly the fanciest buildings are embassies with Australia, India and the United Staes being noteworthy. There should be no doubt the Chinese are there and more are coming. Not with throngs of tourists but investing and lending at a breakneck pace. Their largesse as part of the Belt and Road leaves no doubt of their long term plan. All nations are jockeying for position for trade and politics.

Being islands, everything comes in by boat and container. When someone in a roadside stand offers you a Coke or a Twinkee you can’t imagine the circuitous route it has taken and number of hands it has passed through. Commerce at its best and worst.

These islands need help to prosper or even in some cases to survive.. From repairing roads to building schools. Yesterday in Vanuatu our guide on a couple of miles hike to a waterfalls told us he does it twice a day 6 days a week to try to send his kids to school. The cost of tuition is $300 per child. 45% of the kids do not attend. images-5.jpeg

The trip is wonderful but sobering if you look beneath the covers. All these people live in Paradise and swim and dance and sing. That is their way of life.Part of you says how can we help and the other part says be careful what you wish for. Success ain’t always what it is cracked up to be. The kids are happy and incredibly well behaved. Should we leave it just at that?

In an incredible clash of cultures I am reading Homo Deus by Yuval Harari while on this trip. He describes a future that is sterile and barren. He speaks of how pleasure is fleeting and how we all just want a bigger hit of this or that. We want it all. Somewhere in between AI and these Pacific oases there has got to be a happy medium. I will let you know if I find it.

Kathy and I made it up that hill to the church. It was simple but elegant. It was a labor of love by those who built it. The patio overlooked the Pacific and our ship below.What a picture What a memory.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

There are 20 million 20 foot containers in the world today. Only 6 million are in transit at any given point In time. There are some behemoth ships that can carry 21,000 of them. 

There was a ship called the Happy Giant which displaced 660,000 tons full loaded. It was the length of more the three football fields and if stood on need would be taller than the Empire State building. A few years ago it was sold for scrap and beached in India to be torn apart. 

Unknown.jpegTrade Deals…Of the top ten container ports China has seven. The leader, Shanghai handles 42 million containers a year. Our largest are Los Angeles at 9 million and Port of New York at 7 million.

There are 54,000 ships in the merchant fleet throughout the world. There are 314 ocean liners with a total capacity of  537,000 passengers. There are 26 million people who cruise every year. The largest is the Symphony of the Seas with a capacity of 6687 and 2200 crew.

Man Overboard……

 

Posted: 200 Nautical Miles From Samoa

The Bucket List is getting shorter. We have been to a number of fantastic places worldwide. Right now we are in Oceania in the South Pacific and and traveling some 4000 miles from Tahiti to Sydney on the good ship, Seven Seas Navigator. That is more than the transcontinental distance across the United States.  

If you ever want to feel insignificant, sail for two days without seeing anything nature or man made. Unknown-4.jpegThere is a vastness in these perfectly blue waters that defies definition. You have the magic of the internet but you are 5-6 hours behind the rest of the madding crowd. I went to grab a transmitted copy of the Wall Street journal the other day and someone exclaimed it was yesterday’s !  Think about that. Who really cares?

Of course you can eat and drink yourself to ruin if you try but there is more than that here. I listened to a talk by a professor about the origins of Polynesia both from a geologic as well as cultural point of view. It seems these islands sprang in volcanic fury from the floor of the ocean and then that displacement created barrier reefs.Unknown-1.jpeg Ironically over the millennia the tower of Bora Bora will sink into the ocean creating an atoll. Not global warming but Mother Nature down in the engine room cooking up another curve ball for humanity. Don’t mess with her. 

On the cultural side, this is all part of an unending migration that began in Africa 130,000 years ago and has wended it way East and West and North and South in man’s quest for sustenance and wealth. This particular tributary of exploration originated in central Asia exploding onto Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo and then to Polynesia. From there it moved to Hawaii and Easter Island. 

The speed and extent of this was bound by technology of a sort. They had to build better boats, sail material and most of all mastering how to navigate into the wind. It is said that the change of direction in the trade winds over hundreds if not thousands of years brought new frontiers to be conquered and challenges to be met. I hope this does not sound too wacky but without the blare of news and far from the shenanigans of the titans of countries and industry, you get a totally different sense of what life is all about. 

It is a bit sad to think about this paradise being center stage on the theater of colonization. Let’s just say you are fat dumb and happy on Tahiti or Bora Bora and this dude comes in on his sailing ship and claims your land for the king or queen of England or Spain or whatever.images-4.jpeg He will trade you wampum or better yet weapons so you can come into the real world. He will bring some diseases you have never heard of. You aren’t even who you think you are because you are now known as Queenstown or New Caledonia. What were you thinking? 

It gets better. You are now part of an empire and must defend it from other thieves. We are going to build fortifications, bring troops and maybe even commandeer you. Lastly we are going to bring in missionaries to make all this legal. You are getting screwed but you can go to church on Sunday and thank God for it.  

The Dutch but especially the French, Spaniards, and Great Britain had it nailed down. They would trade islands and territories like a Monopoly board. If you had a war, to the victor belongs the spoils. In the Spanish American War we got Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines. I can’t make this stuff up. 

Some “protectorates” actually worked out pretty well. Regardless of population they have been awarded independent country status. French Polynesia (Tahiti) has around 280,000 people, the Cook islands at 17,000 and tiny Tokelau with 1837 at last count. For the right price you might become president, king or queen or at least prime minister of Tokelau. Your embassy will probably be a two bedroom apartment in Queens but hey, who is keeping score?

The surreality of this trip is in how far you are from home and also being several time zones away. At the end of our journey we will be just shy of 10,000 miles from LaLa Land. Today were are six hours behind New York and tomorrow we will be 23 hours ahead.Unknown-2.jpegSomewhere along the line we are going to lose Wednesday or is it Thursday? You all are aware of just how screwed up I am to start with. This only makes matters worse. Have pity on my poor wife. 

A good friend’s wife was operated on for lung cancer yesterday.We prayed for her.  My fellow Georgetown alumni had a memorial service on campus  at the Lauinger Library yesterday. Joe Lauinger C’67 was killed in Viet Nam 50 years ago to the day. I do not take lightly we are fortunate enough to make this trip. I am not unaware of the travails of the world. I think I will stop right now and just say thank you for all I have. I hope you do too. 

As always

Ted The Great

 

Factoids:

Polynesia (from the Greek words meaning “many islands”) is a large grouping of over one thousand Islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean.

The current population of Polynesia is 681,822 as of Saturday, January 4, 2020, based on the latest United Nations estimates. Polynesia population is equivalent to 0.01% of the total world population.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_1965.jpgThe Polynesians set out in rather large outrigger canoes with family, worldly goods and their dogs and cattle or what ever. The nearest land mass was Hawaii some 2500 miles away. This was in 400-500 AD. They had to navigate by the stars. It is a miracle they landed on the Big island. It was a male dominated society so no one ever asked for directions. 

Originally all the islands’ flora was created by birds bringing seeds in their craws or in their poop. Mother Nature at work again 

Heresy at Christmas….

Posted from Orlando Interntional Airport

I am writing a little early this week. I have a lot to do. No, I don’t shop anymore but the divine Miss K and I are on the go for the foreseeable future. The first part of our trek will take us to Denver and the Kenny clan as well as some old friends.Unknown-2.jpeg People cringe at the thought of traveling. Me? I am looking forward to all that brings with chance meetings and new friendships. It’s good for the soul.

I have been cogitating over a Christmas message for the past week or so. To get me in the mood, I asked Alexa for some music the other day and all she gave me was Brenda Lee and Rocking Around The Christmas Tree. Not doing it for me. I am looking for something spiritual, not holy roller but contemplative. And that of course brings the yearly clash of what this holiday really means. 

There was an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal about secular versus saintly holidays. For me I think we keep drifting further away from the original meaning of Christmas. That is not judgmental but observational. Just for a moment I would like us all to take off our body armor and think about a concept. 

A couple of a thousand years ago there was a baby born. To avoid controversy let’s not call him Jesus or God or whatever but just a child of Joseph and Mary Ginsburg, a nice Jewish couple from Nazareth. They raised him well and he turned out not to be a lawyer or doctor but a preacher. He was really good at it. Now some thought he was the long awaited Messiah. True to form in society we identified with the person and not the message. 

As he grew older he took his show on the road, walking from town to town, city to city. At that time there were a scant few paying attention to religion because the high priests were like they are today….. egotistical and out of touch with the real people. But this guy had a different message. images-5.jpegHe would sit on a rock or a hill, not a pulpit. Love one another. Help the poor. Visit and heal the sick. The feeling resonated. Damn, it felt pretty good to be nice.  

True to form the cognoscenti began to feel uncomfortable. All those centuries of ritual and fire and brimstone were being threatened. If this guy is right, then how are we going to keep people in line? They will no longer need us but will be able to seek salvation and personal peace on their own. They had to eliminate him which is exactly what they did. 

Fast forward through history and a lot of people like Muhammed, Pope Leo whatever his number, Luther, and now Bezos and Muskimages-3.jpeg say they have the secret potion to bring us heaven on earth. Let’s not get hung up on theories but go back to that iconic gentleman who was beyond profound when he set down the basic rule of life: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. 

How simple is that? I am going to treat you the way I would like to be treated.. What if we applied it to every aspect of our lives? If you were on the other side of the equation would you want someone lying, raping, cheating, killing or just leaving you by the wayside? Would we really hate, slander, or fling brickbats?  Would we wave nuclear warheads or imprison and torture if it was you or even worse your spouse or kids on the receiving end? 

 Back to Christmas. We all ooh and aah at the colored lights. There are a number of vignettes on the nightly news about this touching story or that. That stuff is at the same time tragic and salubrious. Oh man, just be happy it doesn’t happen to you. We love having family nearby and call friends we haven’t talked to since the previous year. Why don’t we do that all the time? Be thoughtful and sentimental and even caring throughout the year. Why do we wait for December or at least the last week on October? Good question, don’t you think?

On the gift thing it started out just doing something nice for someone. As in everything we have amped this up, pushed on by non stop advertising and guilt trips. We want a lot and we want it fast. Two day delivery? That will never work. This afternoon or nothing. What do you mean your drones aren’t flying? A parent says I only have 13 presents for Julie and I have 15 for Zach. Better go out and get some more. Unknown-3.jpegIs it me or is this really incredibly sick? Sorry, maybe this killjoy is ruining the vibe.

Okay all you secularists have a valid gripe. I am imposing my beliefs of decency on you under the guise of spirituality. You are right. We should have a separation of religion and the state as well as Macy’s.

 But just think about it for a moment.  Aren’t we actually creating a new god and the religion of consumption? All bow down to the altar at the mall or internet. It can be said we are chanting Alleluia on Black Friday as we go prostrate at the doors. In coming years will  I be able to take you to task about your religion and how you are ruining my experience ? Hmm….I think we should all think about that or would it be heresy?.

Merry Christmas, Hannukah, Quansa and of course Target to all.

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids;

The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion !!!   If that money was spent entirely on US made products it would create 4.6 million jobs. Just imagine if we spent that money on just fixing things that are broken? 

In ancient Rome and early Christendom (200AD), December 25 was pagan celebration fo the birth of the Sun. No pun intended of  course.

The Nativity Scene wasn’t invented until the 1400’s by St Francis. He had an amazing control over animals which of course is why we have cows and lambs in the picture. Go with your strengths.images-1.jpeg

Santa Claus is actually based on the early Church Bishop Saint Nicholas. He was born during the third century (around 270 AD), in the village of Patara in Turkey, and was known for secretly giving gifts of money to the poor. Don’t let that get out 

How’s this for romantic? Mistletoe — that special sprig we all swap smooches under — is actually a parasite, sucking nutrients from its host tree in order to stay festively green all winter long. If enough mistletoe attaches to a tree, it will eventually kill it.images-7.jpeg

There may be a message here!

Rudolph the Reindeer was created by the U.S. department store Montgomery Ward to get children to buy Christmas coloring books, however, his nose was not red as they did not want him to appear as a chronic alcoholic.

Got a little crazy on Factoids. There were a bunch.  TTG

In A Relationship….

It seems today we feel driven  to describe our feelings in abstract or subtle ways. We used to be dating, going steady, or just in love. That would be far too obvious today. I am just seeing someone. Romantic, huh? Significant other? I guess so but just how significant?  It seems we want to take our interactions on a scale from one to ten to see how real they are. Okay Kath, I feel 9.999 for you. 

Rather than trying to quantify I want to just take the concept for a moment. Webster tells us the definition or relationship: the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected. Objects? You mean I can have a thing for my car?920x920.jpg Some people do. Many of us feel strongly about our ideologies or political bents. I guess the description is apt but are we giving short shrift to our humanity. 

As you may realize I am finally coming out of my shell and reaching out here and there. The last few days are somewhat typical. On Sunday we played golf with a very nice couple whom we had never met before. You spend four hours on a golf course and you start to get to know them. A really pleasant afternoon. Winning second place in the tournament doesn’t hurt the rapport either. Chalk up one for the good guys. 

Yesterday I started off at hospice. I met four entirely different sets of patients and their families. I am always somewhat astounded when in the final hours of someone’s life you take it from zero to sixty in a matter of moments. You surmise the situation and try to figure out the best way to play it. In the end you are as sincere and open as possible and miraculously you watch shades of doubt or mistrust disappear. Good stuff.

Later on in the day I got into it with a provider who in my mind had screwed up. Rash assumptions, and of course my Irish, amped the situation intolerably. Slammed phones, veiled threats and of course the walking away, wiped out  all the good points I had accumulated from my morning toils. Worse was the regret and angst over what was said. About .0005 on the relationship  scale. images-3.jpeg

But I have to ponder further. I have a lot of meeting opportunities from friends, and colleagues to a woman at the gas station counter. I try to make the most of each one. I think the first key is openness. You can be aloof or private if it is your thing. I like to see how many times I can interact if in just the briefest way. I am not trying to invade your space but maybe just tell you it nice to have you around on this big blue marble. 

The more you get into it, the more complex. Let’s say you and I are just shooting the breeze. We do small talk. Then at some point a topic pops up that is of mutual interest. You take one track and moi either agrees or perhaps has different point of view. You can slam the door right there and move on. Or you can see if there is common ground to see if you can move this thing forward. 

Things start to get dicey. If I show my true colors will they be scorned or God forbid totally ignored? This relationship thing is really a matter of trust! As you feel more comfortable you reveal more about you and your beliefs. Any strong tie will have opposing forces. Can you accept that or is it your way or the highway? Make or break time, dead ahead. 

Every day whether it is at work, church or the local gin mill you run into people you have seen and possibly met before. You don’t remember their name so you say, “Hey buddy how is it going?” ( Please note big guy, my man or good looking can be interchanged here). Unknown-2.jpeg 

Why do I reach out and want to find out more? Am I just plain nosy or inclusive? Excellent question. I guess I enjoy all different types of people. My friendship palate is not terribly discerning. I am an equal opportunity glad hander. In my mind the more open I am to possibilities the more interesting and fulfilling my life will be. Selfish isn’t it?

I went to church with a friend one Sunday and afterwards we went to Publix to get some bagels  for breakfast. I proceeded to say hello to workers at the floral, deli and meat counter. My buddy looked at me incredulously as if I was embarrassing him. He wanted to put distance between him and this lunatic. Even as I explained why, he wasn’t buying it. Interestingly this friend doesn’t  let you get past the surface. In conversation when you approach dangerous territory his arms get folded and the body language of “Don’t go there!” gets exhibited. Or he just changes the conversation. I get it.

I am not trying to criticize or put down anyone who does not share my enthusiasm for pressing the flesh. I guess I just want to let you know of all the fun I have with people. When you put on a big smile or unabashedly give a compliment, or even better yet get into a deep conversation there is just this stupid thing that makes you feel very much alive. My tragic flaw.

Simply put, I am in a relationship with everything and everyone  I see. I hope that does not sound too haughty or outlandish. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I screw up beyond compare.That’s what happens.  But at least I am trying and that’s the fun part. Hope you do too.  

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Hugging is inappropriate today but it is a proven stress reliever. How’s that for conflicting sides?

Intelligent people have fewer friends than an average person. Not because they are repulsive to anyone but because smart persons are very picky when it comes to friends. Uh Oh! Not good for TTG.Unknown-3.jpeg

Those women who spend more of their time with male friends than they do with female friends are generally more often in a good mood.

Being alone for a long time is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day

We’re losing friends at an alarming rate. The average number of confidants in the average person’s life has fallen by a third in the past 20 years. Now, twice as many people have no confidants at all!

Thanks A Million…

 

Unknown.jpegIt is almost upon us. The day on which we give thanks. Kind of odd we have to set aside a certain time to do this but let’s run with it. I looked up thanks in the dictionary and my eyes caught a corresponding word, gratitude. If you are like me you probably thought they were the same. Apparently not so

I read a short treatise that explained gratitude is a concrete response to something someone has given you. Thanks is more a feeling of wellness that doesn’t need someone else for you to have. That’s right,You kind of get in your cocoon and feel good about yourself.  What was I thinking? Splitting hairs seems to be what we do these days. 

Whether I am grateful or thankful I have to start my list with my wife. No, I am not pandering. I just started thinking about the concept that this lady and I have been together over fifty years, two thirds of our lives.  We have weathered all sorts of tough spots and enjoyed some great ones. We zigged and zagged and yet all along we have stayed together. Simply amazing.

Our meeting was random. Kismet or happenstance? Who cares. When we look at our family of three children, their spouses and seven grandchildren and how everybody happened to be in these particular places we have to be thankful. People and ways of life and talents and personalities all melding and working toward a goal? That is simply a miracle. 

I have got to think about our country that we take so much for granted. Whether you are in a mansion or a one bedroom in a barrio, you have a roof over your head. You are really free to do what you want and think in strange and mysterious ways. images.jpegYou can get on a train or plane or car and just drive to the far reaches. That mobility does not exist in a refugee camp in Syria or Jordan. Your will is only sort of free in China. 

I am going to get selfish and say thanks for who I am. I have traveled to so many places since a childhood in a little village on Long Island. I navigated a train and three subways to get to high school in New York City….at the age of thirteen! I survived Georgetown and a stint in the Navy that included a slight detour in Viet Nam. I have had many careers and somehow managed to stay afloat financially. I am galled when someone says you earned it. I am just stupid lucky. 

I have been given a vivid imagination and unbridled energy. Some of you have experienced my irrational exuberance and man does it feel good to get excited about something. I am so fortunate to be able put words on a page that some of you might identify with. Maybe spark an idea or touch your heart. You don’t think I am thankful for that?

I am grateful for our government no matter how screwed up it is. In theory we are able to cast our ballot for this way or that. We decry the effect of big business and money but the sheer absurdity is that only 50% of us vote. We take it for granted or are too busy in life to decide our future. We get pissed off at politicos and yet acquiesce when the rubber really meets the road. images.png

I am thankful I have a God. That is not proselytizing but bringing up a belief I hold. It says that I have someone other than myself to praise. Could be God, The Father, Buddha, Allah or Yahweh but it someone or  thing to be beholden to. I am not at the center of my universe. There is hope of more to come. As I sit with a dying person who is not religious it seems impossible to believe this is all there is. But that is just me. 

Last I am just glad I have feelings and if you can call it that, a heart. I am not afraid to care or cry. I hug and I hold and really don’t ask permission. To me that is the essence of being human and being alive. To feel joy and pain. To look out the window and wonder at a pond or a forest. To see fifty shades of green and not just a row of trees. What a kick!

Thanksgiving should be every day. I am not so pompous or pious to say that I get it all the time. Truth I had to really think this all through on my keyboard. Meditating so to speak. I am not grateful every day and shame on me. 

But then again that is why I am a mere mortal, warts and all. Thank you for listening. You are all, one of those things I am so grateful for. Or thankful..or whatever. 

As Always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Americans consume 736 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Day alone (about the weight of the Empire State Building).A person consumes 3000 calories at the feast. 

About 200 million pounds of turkey will be thrown away at Thanksgiving. More than 150 million pounds of potatoes, green beans and other vegetable sides will never get eaten. Bread baskets will be filled with an estimated 14 million pounds of dinner rolls that will simply be dumped after the big meal.images-2.jpeg

Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States, Canada and some Caribbean islands on different dates. Throughout the world there are festivals like Oktoberfest. They  represent thanks after the harvest. For the most part it has had a religious significance but recently we have tend to be more secular. 

Many department stores will open on the afternoon of tHanksgiving. That’s even though the idea of going to the mall on a day traditionally reserved for excessive eating, football watching and arguing with relatives is viewed negatively by a majority of Americans, according to one recent survey.

Words…

images-8.jpegAs I sit down to write this latest epistle I am amazed at how long I have been at this. In December it will be ten years. The average Ted’s Head is 1,000 words so when I do the math it means I am approaching 500,000 words in print in the archives. You poor sick people. There are a few of you who have claimed to have read every one of them. They correspond to me often from their latest mental institution. 

There are times when I am serious and others when I am just hacking around. I have more than a number of misspellings, crappy punctuation  or probably some that just don’t make sense. It is Ted’s Head after all. I haven’t figured me out so why should you think you can? I could never run for office because what I wrote in 2010 probably bears no resemblance to my current philosophies. They would have a field day. 

A friend once asked me if I was afraid every time I hit the “send” button.Huh? Not really.  I guess I don’t worry so much about what I have to say as to whether it is coherent. Most of the time it just flies out on the page. I hope it feels like we are just talking with one another. I just get an idea and try to develop it. I am not claiming to be right. All I try to do is get you…. and me to think. 

In this world of texting and sound biting we grow impatient. A few of you have said “Ted’s Head” is too long. It requires too much time to read it. I guess it just takes more than a 15 second spot for my poor little brain to develop a theme. Mea culpa. 

I am passionate person. About my wife, my family, golf, friends, hospice and mental health to name a few. It is beyond gratifying to do so. It causes me to stop and take stock. To both dig deep and to savor. If you can’t get wound up about something you should not bother getting involved in the first place. Where do I get my energy? All of the above. 

images-11.jpegI love to have deep conversations. There are a few of you whom have fed my addiction for this. At first people are wary, like where the hell is this going? Then all of a sudden after testing the water, we jump in with both feet and man is it fun. Some come back for more and others determine they don’t want to hang around with this lunatic any more. Perfectly understood. 

I guess I just love the power of communication of any sort. I think people are by trait and practice wanting to relate. The recluse or hermit can have their way but there is an absolute joy of meaning something to someone. I matter. You matter. How best to demonstrate that? By reaching out in a letter, text, phone call or face to face conversation. 

Vulnerable? Of course. What will they think? Did I word this or that properly. Am I gong to offend people? If I waited to figure all this out I would be fraught with all sorts of reticence. Perhaps our society today is too worried about the phraseology or word usage to see the message through the trees. We are always at the ready to pounce on any misstep or malapropos. 

Think of words as the most powerful and creative tools in your arsenal. Spoken or written it is a sure fire way to let people know about you. You are beyond interesting and have so much to offer. Don’t sell yourself short. Share the wealth. On your next provocative email, CC the world. Come on in, the water is fine Unknown-2.jpeg

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

There are more than 170,000 words jn the modern dictionary. There are also 47,000 that are obsolete. We have new words because we create new things that have to be described. That is cool.images-14.jpeg

There is a word that is over 190,000 letters long. I won’t print it here. It would take you longer than an hour to say it. That would probably shut me up but not guaranteed. 

Schoolmaster is an anagram of classroom. Walrus probably means whale horse.The exercise equipment that’s a standard part of every gym today, the treadmill,  once served as punishment for Victorian prisoners. Still does for me. 

Scrabble was invented by an architect in 1937. The game did not catch on until the late 50’s when  Macy’s put in a huge order. The board and 100 tiles have remained the same for 80 years. Playing the game in other languages really causes a stir.

All the Decent People….

With apologies to the Beatles and  Eleanor Rigby, “All the decent people where do they all come from?” Songs and refrains stick in my mind and this one has been there all week. My buddy Patrick sent me an article written by a Doc from the Mayo Clinic. It had to do with self importance. It seems to me to be a real clash with decency. Let me try to get it right. 

Down deep we all want to be someone. Not necessarily famous but to be a contributing part of society. A tip of the hat or a pat on the back will suffice for most. In a way it is Thank You For Your Service….to the world you live in. A recognition that you matter. 

For some that is not enough. The warped sense of self is starved and emaciated. If you don’t think you are getting enough attention then you try to do something about it. The easiest way is to put someone down. It could be a friend or coworker or even a lesser person on staff. You chastise them to make them look  inferior and you superior. Good luck on thatUnknown.jpeg

I love going to a party, especially a big one. Now if you are full of yourself, air kisses only. Don’t let people get too close. Bro hugs are out of the question. As you work the room you are looking for where the cool people are. You shake hands while scanning the crowd looking for someone who is really important. A quick,”You take care now,” having listened to nothing that person said. Man, are you good!

Your best bet is to stay within a very close knit group. Same faces. Same talk. Very predictable. Don’t want to look stupid. Politics? Only the Left or Right and nothing in between. You are sure of yourself and do not want a scintilla of doubt to creep in. You pepper your conversation with “you must” or “you should” go to this restaurant or country or whatever. You are the cat’s meow. 

In a way it is a terribly sad life. Your day is taken up by what you think people are thinking about you. You worry about your looks, your clothing, your car, your spouse or significant other. Are they up to snuff? Comparing, analyzing, equating. Gotta have the latest, fastest, prettiest, biggest or most expensive. There can’t be anyone better than you. 

Some of you laugh and say that couldn’t possibly be so. Others are now tinged with a little guilt that some of this might be part of you. In actuality it is apart of all of us. We want to take pride. There is nothing wrong with that. Even this old fart looks at the mirror in the morning and thinks I am not looking half bad. Emphasize the half part. images-1.jpeg

And then that is when people are decent. They realize they are part of a universe that does not revolve around them. They have their faults and foibles. The game is to keep them to a minimum. They really do care about their fellow man or woman, especially when they are hurting. They give to others and they give of themselves. They are willing to take the chance. They are okay with being open, warts and all. 

My most despised trait as many of you know is arrogance. The failure to believe that any one else’s ideas could be more believable or acceptable than my own.The fact that someone could be smarter or more talented than me is alien. The fact that I am just an average person in a very smart world. Not a prayer! Yikes!

Being honest with yourself is a bitch but it leads to happiness. Someone once said, if your are truthful you don’t have to remember anything. Life is not a facade but a person like you and me just trying to do our best on the big blue marble. 

In closing my favorite thought for honest people is a group of farm people at a simple restaurant in middle America. They are sitting having a cup of coffee and scrambled eggs or a beer and some chips. They are talking about the weather and crops. They have known each other for decades and their families are intertwined. images-5.jpeg

There are no secrets. They rely on each other in hard times. No one is comparing their work clothes as to who is wearing the latest. Their life is simple and they like it that way. This is where the decent people have gone or should I say have been all along. 

But they are everywhere in these United States. Not just farms but staff in hospitals, local merchants, corporate staff and even the higher echelons. Just ordinary people making this whole thing work. We titans of industry and finance and medicine are not all that smart despite our own beliefs.  We have made this thing way too complex. Just be ourselves. Nothing more. Nothing less.  That’s decent!

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Ironically our self esteem is not based on how others think about us but how we view ourselves. Our ups and downs are created by us not others. 

Researchers used ten words to activate stimuli among powerful and collegial people:

 The 10 power words included affluence, authority, dominance, fortune, money, power, prestige, reputation, status, and wealth.images-4.jpeg

 The 10 collegial words were affiliation, attachment, belonging, closeness, collaboration, community, cooperation, family, harmony, and relationships

Which ones worked for you?

Friendliest States

Minnesota

Iowa

Colorado

North Carolina 

Washington

Least Friendly

New York

Delaware

New Jersey

Arkansas

Massachusetts

 

Til Death Do Us Part….

I was visiting a patient on my Monday morning shift at Treasure Coast Hospice. This was a gentleman in his late 50’s with cancer, who had been hanging on for over ten days. Family and buddies had come and gone, having to get back home both far and wide. I marveled at his tenacity. Just hanging on to that one thread from slipping into the netherworld. How does that happen?

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If you don’t want to hear about death read no further. You would be joining many others who choose not to talk about it. They deny it exists. Our miracles of modern medicine convince us we can be cured of anything. We are not talking about what your body or psyche will be like on the other side. We are going to give you a few more precious months or years. Quality of life? What is that?

People have survived well past medical predictions. Some have even thrived and gone on beyond their wildest dreams. That is a marvel and a testament to their will and perhaps their faith. Yet so many cling to a hope that is a mirage. Their beaten bodies show up at our doorstep at Madera House. A battle well fought or a cruel injustice? Is it fair to the caregivers who have worked so hard for years? The question haunts me. 

In hospice when a patient transitions it is quite evident. A person you spoke with yesterday may be in a semi comatose state. There is not so much a conscious decision but rather an automatic body response to survive at all cost. Your extremities become cold as your efforts to exist  are centered in your torso. Breathing becomes more and more shallow and at times it seems to stop, only to frighten this poor old hospice volunteer to death by a sudden gasp. And then you pass.

If you are privileged to be there you realize a sacred event has occurred whether you are religious or not. There is a peace and quietude that ends a life of however long. When my son was born it was the beginning of being allowed in the delivery room for dads. The OB wanted to meet me to make sure I was not going to my knees. I was struck when he said that each time was a miracle. He opined, “There are five in the room and then there are six”. As I sat with this dying man I thought to myself, “There are three in the room and soon there were will be  two”. The cycle of life.

Nobody wants to die but I don’t know of anyone who has beaten the rap. I think often of my own morality. I take stock on a regular basis and ask myself if I have lived a good life. It is not maudlin but sobering. “Life is precious” is more than a suitable aside after seeing trauma. I walk out of there humbled and with a different perspective on my crazy world. 

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Hospice is one of those institutions and philosophies that is so misunderstood. I have just been asked to join the board and I hope in the days to come to be part of a speaker’s bureau to tell our story. People freak out at the word and that is sad. It is the embodiment of empathy for one’s fellow man or woman. The word meant “inn” or resting stop in the journey during the Middle Ages. Indeed it is on this road of life. 

Spouses and families are struck with denial and even a sense of abandonment when they commit to be part of us. The patient must be certified to have a prognosis of six months or less to live. Yet you can leave hospice at any time. We treat the pain of the illness not the illness itself. We do everything we can to make you and your loved ones as comfortable as possible. We are very good at it. 

80% of Americans would rather pass in their homes rather than a hospital bed. In spite of this, 80% die in hospitals or nursing homes. We have both an in home and our residence program of care. We neither retard or accelerate your normal progression. You will be treated by some of the most caring and gentle professionals in the world. You are in our hands and we take that responsibility with the utmost of devotion. 

Probably one of the most fascinating aspects of hospice is that people do enjoy a better quality of life. In Denver, I had a man in his eighties who escorted his wife’s stretcher into our residence in tears. He just blurted out to me. “I just couldn’t do it anymore”. I hugged him and told him he was home. I can’t tell you the number of families that state unequivocally they wish they had done it sooner. 

The upshot of it all is that the patient is usually the one who get its most clearly. Their loved ones often don’t or are so intrusive as to create quite a ruckus. We are used to it but it is often comical when the one in the bed winks at me while the spectators think they are calling the shots. 

I had a woman with ALS who chatted with me for about a half hour while scribbling on her IPad. She was beyond accepting of the hand she was dealt. She said the only problem was when people would start crying at her bedside. The two of us were laughing when she wrote,”They have go to get over this.” She gave me a big Thumbs Up as I departed upon the arrival of visitors. It is an amazing gig.

I love life. I love my wife and kids and grandkids and friends. I love doing what I do. In just about everything. 

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Medicare or Medicaid cover hospice and the cost of medication for your palliative care. 

There are four levels of care:

Home Care: Patient visitation and monitoring. Usually one to two times a week by a RN or CNA. 

Continuous Home Care: When a nurse is required for a continuous period of time. 

Respite Care:   To provide in our residence a break from caregiving for loved ones. 

General Inpatient Care: For severe pain or other symptoms that require a skilled nursing environment. 

Hospices are both Not For Profit and For Profit. 

Hospices can provide grief counseling for members of the family as part of their mission. We all think we are rocks but it is highly recommended. Death is a life changing event for all. 

In Denver there is a sign in the nurses station: “Angels Gather Here”.  They sure do!

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High Country…..

th.jpegThis morning I decided to take my Boeing 737 MAX for a spin. With everything going on today, the world has got to look a little better from 35,000 feet. Whoa TTG, that plane has been grounded. For mere mortals of course. Suffice to say  I have always played against the rules. Nose down problems? Life has tried to push me that way but I have sufficient strength but not necessarily brains to overcome my inherent software glitches. 

Heading north from LaLa Land, I am taken by the sheer beauty of our land. The Great Smokies and Appalachians on my port side and the Atlantic beaches to my starboard. People below are just getting up. If they are lucky they have not tuned into the world events. Maybe they will grab the cup of Joe and resist the urge to sneak a peak at chaos. Whether it is the endless horizon of the sea or the grandeur of a mountain range slowly changing its color, there is a lot to just sit back and enjoy. 

As I approach DC there is some heavy turbulence. Hot air is causing immense wind shear. I notice on my chart there is an aviation warning here 24/7. No one here looks at the scenery. We have to be about the people’s business. Climate change? Illegal immigration? Infrastructure? No you fool,IMPEACHMENT!!  What was I thinking? 

The oxygen masks drop precipitously from the overhead. Seems all the air has been sucked out of this particular region. th-4.jpegMy airship banks hard left and the hard right trying to find some sort of equilibrium. I know the center is the preferred path but it is almost impossible to find it. Are we going to die? No stupid, just take it off automatic pilot. Trust your instincts. 

Are you nuts? Everyone needs a mentor or guru to get through life. Without CNN or Fox we would be lost. Those guys and gals are beyond smart. Otherwise they would not be on TV. Right? They get paid a lot of money just like pop singers and football players. They are to be respected and admired. They have made it. Really?

True to form I have decided to opt for independent thinking. Just ahead is the Big Apple. Glitz and glitter and skyscrapers challenging God to say no, soar skyward almost to our assigned altitude. th-8.jpegIf you can make it there you can make it anywhere. Bright lights and big egos. I think I will pass on the opportunity of a lifetime. I saw what they did to that little Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg. I read some critical assessments of her and these dudes don’t pull any punches. How dare she?

I will make one pass over St Patrick’s Cathedral. As a former New Yorker it was always a place of devotion and beauty. Uh oh! I thought they cleaned it up but the spires are badly tarnished and bird droppings everywhere. Did they miss those spots or did they just fail to get all the dirt out from their last purge? Interesting question. 

I head West with a little bit of trepidation. As the roads constrict from ten lanes to four to sometimes two, am I getting away from civilization or closer to the real thing? Silly me. I just got buzzed by three Amazon drones and a flying pizza truck from Domino’s. Nirvana. The zillionaires are buying up everything to find spots to get away to escape. Wait, does that make any sense? I thought they already had everything. 

Maybe I have overstayed my welcome with the hoi polloi.. I am gong to put it on auto pilot and head back LaLa Land. I might just stretch out in an empty first class seat  and watch Ken Burns’ Country Music Series. Do I dare have a single malt this early?

Wow this is really fantastic. This guy has taken an iconic medium to reflect on its most simple tenets. People struggle and claw and fight to crawl out of squalor and misery by doing something so simple. Singing! They do it while they are working. While they are praying. While they are just sitting after a long day. This is cool stuff. 

The sheer analgesic of listening to throaty basses of negro spirituals while picking cotton makes the day pass. th-12.jpegThe foot stomping fiddling on Saturday night celebrates another successful passage of the week. The lyrics are at the same time sweet and gut wrenching, talking about the vagaries of life. The rise to the top of stardom and the crash beneath the collapse or booze and drugs. It is hope, love and tragedy all rolled into one. When was the last time I felt that?

Johnnie Cash is singing, Orange Blossom Special so I must be getting close to home. Wheels down but does the reverie have to stop? I have travelled Everywhere Man and it truly is spectacular. I have sensed joy and also a lot of heart break. It is that stupid thing called life once again. 

Go find a plane or car or bus or maybe just a record. Take it upstairs and look down. Think about what an incredible world we have but don’t forget just how badly we have screwed it up in spots. We are all humans with a lot of failings. But if we step back for a minute there is so much we as owners and caretakers can do.

As I gaze at the little screen at my seat I am amazed at the wisdom and simplicity of our our lives. As they are or maybe as they should be. No, I do not want to be an Okie from Muskogee nor do I need to be in Folsom Prison singing the blues. But there is an earthiness and honesty here that I wish we could go back to. Mutual concern not disdain. Sweetness not acrimony. Maybe just understanding we are all in this together. Please unfasten your seatbelt and see the world

As always

Ted The Great. 

Factoids:

Country Music on PBS is an eight part 18 hour presentation that is simply wonderful. Take the time. It is well worth it. 

The Grand Ole Opry, America’s longest-running radio broadcast, began in 1925 and moved to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1943.th-15.jpeg Dedicated to country’s old-time roots, the Opry prohibited the use of electric guitars until after WWII, and drums weren’t allowed onstage until 1973. This conservatism extended to artists as well: a young Elvis Presley made his only performance at the Opry in 1954, and was asked politely to not come back.

Jimmy Dean translated the success of his 1963 hit “Big Bad John” into a television program, and then into an $80 million sausage company. Fellow ‘one hit wonder’ artists should take notes.

Classic Songs:

You’re The Reason Our Baby’s So Ugly

She Got The Gold Mine And I Got The Shaftth-16.jpeg

She Got The Ring And I Got The Finger

My John Deere Was Breaking Your Field, While Your Dear John Was Breaking My Heart

I’ve Got The Hungries For Your Love And I’m Waiting In Your Welfare Line

I Wouldn’t Take Her To A Dawg Fight, Cause I’m Afraid She’d Win

Her Teeth Were Stained, But Her Heart Was Pure

Drop Kick Me, Jesus, Through The Goalposts Of Life