Category Archives: Uncategorized

Jury Duty

It’s been awhile since I last had a summons for jury duty. I’ve only been called twice in my entire lifetime, once in Florida, and once in Colorado.

Both times, I was selected for the jury, and both times I was elected as jury foreman.

I really enjoyed the experience both times, and I completely fail to understand why so many in our society go to such great lengths to escape this duty and honor.

I was reminded of this again this week by a story in the Denver Post about a lady who dressed strangely, over applied her makeup and then lied about post-traumatic-stress-disorder. All to escape a few days of playing a key part in how our judicial system works.

In the United States, jury duty is usually compulsory. Employers are not allowed to fire you, and in some cases, you are compensated for your time. Not much, but it’s usually enough to buy lunch.

In the early 90’s, while living in Dade County, Florida, I was summoned to a federal jury, and ended up serving on a first degree murder trial. The case involved a young black man who had gunned down another young black man using a Tek-9 sub-machine gun.

That such a gun is even available to your average american citizen is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I’m all for the rights of the people to bear arms, but do we really need our own personal machine gun? I think not.

It was a most interesting case, and if you have ever been a reader of mystery novels, the evidence as laid out by the district attorney was every bit as enthralling and engaging as any novel I ever read. The entire case was built on circumstantial evidence, and was riveting.

The defense, as I recall, put on not much of a defense at all. It didn’t help that the defendant looked menacing, acted menacing, and appeared to be bored with the entire process.

Behind the scenes, juries are a group of strangers, often reluctant to talk to each other, and it was very apparent that unless someone stepped up and took the lead, we were never going to proceed with the case. No one wanted to be in charge, so I spoke up, and before I knew it, the other 11 people present had elected me foreman.

Being a jury foreman is really nothing special. It just means that you get to fill out the forms and present the verdict to the baliff. As far as what goes on in the jury room, it’s like herding a bunch of cats, or looking after a bunch of toddlers in a large room where a basket full of butterflies has just been released.

My second tour of duty as a jurist was not too long after I arrived in Colorado. I got summoned to a local county court, and ended up being selected for a jury to try a man trying to get out of a DUI charge.

I don’t know why people think they can escape a DUI these days. You get tested on a machine that has been calibrated sixty ways from Sunday, by people who get recertified every 90 days or so on how to use said machine. If you are driving drunk and get stopped by a cop and charged, you might as well just accept your penalty and move on. The cases are always iron clad, and most of the rest of us who have to serve on the juries that you ask for have little tolerance for drunk drivers. We’ve seen too many news reports about what happens when the worst of you aren’t lucky enough to get stopped before you kill a family.

Anyway, one of the few ways we can actually participate in our government without having to run for election is to serve on a Jury.  I actually look forward to my retirement, where I plan on locating the nearest courthouse, and plan on spending at least one or two days a month just sitting in the back of a courtroom listening. It’s got to be at least as good as television.

Next time you get that summons in the mail, instead of thinking of it as a major pain in your life, look on it as an opportunity to see a free theatrical show, where you get to play one of the parts.



Dumb Things We Do As Kids

As the current Governor of Virginia, and the next three guys in line have recently discovered, suddenly it is a “thing” to be held accountable for some dumb thing you did as a kid, so far back in time that you can’t even remember you did it.

Rather it be blackface, a DUI or a comment you scrawled on a friends yearbook page, thirty and forty years later we are watching bewildered adults being called to task, or worse, careers ruined for what only a few years ago we would have wisely written off as poor judgement by young men or women in the process of growing up and becoming adults.

If we are reluctant as a society to hold a 16 year old kid accountable for a mistake they make today, why would we be so eager to annihilate them 35 or 45 years after the fact? It’s simply not logical, and I don’t understand why our media is so eager to jump on this bandwagon and help.

Why are no pundits out there being brave enough to stand up and point out that the goofy nonsensical man who is fumbling to try and defend his actions of 4 decades past is coming across as silly because the whole thing is silly on it’s face.

Were you to point out a picture of me in my high-school yearbook and criticize me because I appeared stupid, I’d probably agree with you, and I also can guarantee you that I will have absolutely zero recollection of the picture, and especially any circumstances that surround it.

While my own personal experience is that teenagers of today are far less mature than teenagers of yesterday, suffering the effects of helicopter parents and lack of exposure to real-world conflicts they had to solve on their own, I still think that those teens from 40 years ago should not be held accountable for making a stupid error of judgement.

Take, for example, blackface. In 2019, the mere idea of a white person donning makeup to appear as black is loathsome and repugnant. Through education, we have learned why this behavior should be shunned, and we try to teach our children that everyone should be respected, regardless of what ever about them might make them different from ourselves.

But, in 1950, or 1972, or even 1980, as a society, we had not yet achieved that level of education on any widespread level. Oh, sure, there were pockets here and there – the hippy movement of the 1960’s was a beginning, but it was a slow process, that even today is ongoing and incomplete.

I am not today a racist person in any shape or form. But, I was raised in the deep south in a family that for the most part was racist. Not activist racist, I don’t think any of my immediate family was part of the Ku Klux Klan, but in the small ways that really matter in a society.

In my neck of the woods, in my formative years, and not through any particularly purposeful means, I grew up to think that black people weren’t as intelligent, weren’t as “good” as white people. My parents didn’t sit me down and tell me that, it was simply all around me by the preponderance of the evidence. I learned that people with different skin color were “other” because that’s how all the people in my life treated them.

In my town the drinking fountains were labeled “white only” or “colored.” The bus station had a separate waiting room around back with a sign over the door that said “colored.” Until I was in the 4th grade, the white and black kids even had separate schools.

And hold your breath here – but I had absolutely no problem with this. Given an opportunity, I probably might have used blackface for a Halloween costume and never given it a second thought. It wouldn’t have been from disrespect or as an intentional act of racism, but instead an act of innocent ignorance as a direct result of my growing up where black people were “other”.

When you are raised in an environment that gives you examples like this, you cannot avoid adopting the same actions. It is only after you grow older and begin to form your thoughts as a separate and independently thinking person, and gain experience on your own in the world that you can begin to shed the lessons of your childhood in favor of new behavior and new attitudes and new insights.

I don’t think there is a set age where this happens. For me, it was my twenties. Serving in the military helped broaden my exposure to different people and different cultures, but it certainly wasn’t an “all at once” thing like a switch being turned on or off. It was a process that took time. Some of my family still have attitudes towards black people that are holdovers from the old south Jim Crow days, and I can assure you that I’m embarrassed.

The United States today has a far healthier attitude on race than it did in 1960, 1970 or 1980. We are making progress, however gradual.

I don’t personally know the Governor of Virginia. I have no idea if he ever learned to shed the natural affectations of the environment of his childhood. It simply hasn’t been covered by the media as to whether or not there is evidence of him being insensitive to race as a grown adult.

I do feel however that we are wrong in holding him accountable for some dumb thing he did as a kid. This pendulum has swung out a bit too far and our society is suffering because we are now so hypersensitive about these issues.

Getting Friendly with Andrew and Michael – some advice for Floridians

On August 23, 1992 Hurricane Andrew roared ashore the coast of Florida just between the towns of Cutler Ridge and Naranja Lakes. Most everyone recognizes Homestead as it’s place of devastation, but in truth there were a dozen little communities that were affected just as badly.

I was renting a house in Cutler Ridge and sharing it with my cousin Ron, and had been working at the local franchise of Adelphia Cable, which had just built a brand new office building out in the Redlands just off Krome Avenue.

We saw Andrew approaching, but we never really felt the need to run from it. We had no way of knowing, just as the recent victims of Hurricane Michael had now way of knowing, just how bad it was going to get.

When Andrew landed, sometime around the midnight hour on that Saturday night/Sunday morning, it was billed officially as a category 4. It was only later, after all the numbers were crunched that it was upgraded to a category 5. Sustained winds of 165mph were recorded, with gusts to over 200mph.

The only saving grace was that like the recent Hurricane Michael, it was small and it was fast. By shortly after dawn, it was gone and we could emerge from our shelters, dazed and stunned and wonder at the merciless power of Mother Nature on the rampage.

Ron and I decided to ride out Andrew out at the Adelphia building. It was concrete and brand new, and unlike our rented home, was far from Biscayne Bay and was unlikely to see any results of the predicted storm surge, which for a time was 14 feet. The world headquarters of Burger King was located right on the bay, just south of where we lived, and the storm surge there was recorded at 16.9 feet. At the Deering Estate, a bit up the coast, they also recorded waves of 16 feet coming ashore which decimated the beautiful grounds and gardens around the buildings.

As bad as the water was for some right along the coast, the biggest thing with Andrew was the wind.

After we emerged from the building, I noted that the entire north side of the one story building was lime green, and you could smell the crisp scent of limes everywhere. There was a large grove of persian limes immediately to our north, probably a good 80 acres or more, of which not a single tree was left. It was as bare as if a giant plow had landed there overnight and tilled it all up. The only evidence that there had been a lime grove there at all was the green lime scented slime that coated the north side of the building.

Our rental home lost a portion of the roof and several windows and there was a few inches of water which required the removal of all the carpet.

A vivid memory from that time are the streets piled with trash and garbage 10 feet high, for months on end, which of course led to a monumental rat problem, which in combination with no action from our absentee landlord caused us to eventually seek new living quarters. Ironically, we moved into the only house left standing on a block in Northwest Homestead – after a few shingles and a new window, it was perfectly habitable.

Like Panama City, Homestead depended for a large part on the activity surrounding the local Air Force Base. Andrew destroyed that base, just as Michael has destroyed Tyndal Air Force Base.

If the town is lucky, the government will rebuild and the economy won’t have to change. However, with other Air Force bases nearby, the budget  being what it is, I’d encourage the leaders of Panama City and surrounding towns that depended on the Air Force base to begin to think of life with no base.

I’m seeing many news stories now about how the government is failing the survivors of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach. About how nothing seems to be happening. It’s only been a week. After Andrew, we went over 30 days before we saw running water return, and it was nearly two months before we had power.

When all of the infrastructure is completely wiped off the face of the map, it is simply unfair to expect any government to rebuild your neighborhood or town back to the way it was in a week, or a month or even a year.

Rebuilding after Michael will take years. The town of Mexico Beach will be forever changed, and no matter how hard the residents wish, the old friendly town is gone, never to return.

Some say it is a price we pay for living in Paradise. I believe that is untrue. Look around, and no matter where on this planet you live, you are in danger from something. Floods, volcano’s, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornado’s, ravaging fires, brutal weather exists everywhere on the planet and we’ve managed to overcome the obstacles and survive.

Last year we had Irma, which devastated part of the Florida Keys and had a wide impact on the state. Depending on where you lived last year, Irma was another Andrew or Michael, or it was just a nuisance of varying order. In parts of the Keys, houses are still missing, homes are still being rebuilt and residents will tell you it’s just not the same.

But, placing the blame for your comfort on how fast the government can rebuild your life is simply wrong and a very unrealistic expectation. We often forget that the “government” is simply other people just like us who we’ve elected into a position of responsibility. They are human, with their own homes and families, and not a single one of them owns a magic wand that will make everything better.

We humans have to do what we are best at – grabbing ourselves by our own bootstraps and hauling ourselves back up out the the debris left behind and rebuilding our lives. That’s our responsibility alone, and in times like these, it’s best done together, with your neighbors and family and friends.

Some say that Homestead, after 25 years is better than the “old” Homestead. Long time residents may disagree, but everyone will look you straight in the eye and tell you that the “old” Homestead blew away with Andrew, never to return.


I want to steal an Immigrant’s job!

OK, so the title of this post is a bit inflammatory, but since President Trump seems to want to make a lot of his Presidency about how bad it is to have immigrants in this country, I’d like to take a minute to point out exactly what it is that immigrants, especially illegal immigrants actually do once they are here in our country.

I’d bet my next Social Security check that you’ll see very few illegal immigrants in this country taking jobs as Doctors, Lawyers, College Professors, CEO’s of multi-national companies, stock brokers, tax preparer’s, policemen, firemen or teachers.

Instead, you’ll most likely see illegal immigrants changing the sheets in your hotel room. Or working at that smelly old meat packing plant out in the boondocks of Nebraska. Or working on the crew that mows your lawn in 8 minutes flat.

And I’d bet my last dollar that if you go to any agricultural farm nearly anywhere where something is being picked or processed by hand, you’ll find an illegal immigrant.

Oh, and what few sewing factories are left, making shirts or pants or jackets? Yup, gonna bet you’ll find some illegal immigrants there too.

And you know what? If you actually sit down and talk to all the illegal immigrants holding down these otherwise miserable jobs that Americans no longer want, you’ll find that a majority of them are doing it because it’s better than what is available in their home countries.

Have you read the news lately? Doctors in Venezuela making $2 a month? Hospitals that don’t have band-aids? Gangs in Mexico that shoot you for your shoelaces?

The truth of the matter is that there is a place in this country for illegal immigrants. Instead of making it so hard for these workers to enter the country, we should have a guy at the border with a clipboard, listing all the jobs that you won’t let your precious daughter or son fill, and our problem would be solved.

Why are we persecuting these people? They are NOT taking jobs away from Americans. No American wants to be a maid or a dishwasher. We’ve taught our kids that the day they graduate from that crazy college that they went $500,000 in debt to attend, they should start applying for CEO jobs around the country.

When was the last time you looked around your neighborhood and saw a teenager mowing a lawn? They are all inside playing video games.

We’re losing touch with what it means to be an American. Hard work, starting from the bottom and working up, and you’ll eventually be somebody.

I know I’m not the only person ashamed of our President. I don’t care what political party he claims to be a member of, the man is an ass hat and should not be representing the Great American Democracy.

Anyway, since the border is now being manned by the Army, could you tell your daughter that the sheets on my hotel bed need to be changed?



Enfant Terrible

I’m certainly not a highly lauded professional political commentator or pundit. Lord knows there are plenty of them out there, blogging away to their audiences large or small, as well as filling the airwaves on every possible network known to mankind in nearly every country on the planet.

God only knows that I don’t fit the description above, firstly I’m simply not photogenic enough.

There has been enough discussion of our current President to fill a library. Those of us on the left think that he is an Enfant Terrible, governing from a smartphone (isn’t that terribly oxymoronic in this case?), and trading insults halfway across the world with possibly the only other world leader who is of equal standing when it comes to exhibiting symptoms of a bit too little in the smarts department.

Firstly, I’m not so sure that Mr. Trump doesn’t think that running the U.S. Government isn’t just another CEO job at a largish company, where the boss get’s to sit at a big shiny desk and issue all sorts of unreasonable orders and have his secretary pick up his dirty boxers off of whatever hotel room floor they were left on last night.

Kim Jung Un apparently isn’t so different, except perhaps he has better hair. He’s the grandson of  Kim Il-Sung, the first leader of post-war North Korea, and like our own Donald J. Trump, was raised to be a rich brat, knowing nothing but a life of luxury, never actually having to be responsible for anything except his own pleasure. Coming to power at the age of 29, Kim is apparently even more ruthless than Trump, being able to have his detractors murdered or jailed.

This past week, these two clowns have been hurling ever bigger threats at each other, while the rest of the world can do nothing but sit and hold their collective breaths. Purportedly, North Korea is now a nuclear power, and both countries are now threatening to toss nuclear bombs at each other.

This isn’t anything particularly new on the world scene. As a child of the late 50’s and the 1960’s, I lived through what is known as the “Cold War”, where at any given moment we were expecting nuclear holocaust to break out between the U.S. and Russia. Growing up in South Florida, I can remember the drills we went through as children in school, ducking and covering under our desks during the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962. Like hiding under a desk is going to save you from a nuclear bomb launched from 90 miles away?

Many of my relatives and friends are ardent conservatives, and freely admit that they voted for our current clown of a President, some so bold as to give the reason that they simply could not vote for a woman, or that they hated Hillary Clinton, for some unspecific and barely coherent reason. I understand that, I think. My brother told me flat-out that he refused to vote for Obama in 2008 because “I ain’t voting for no damn nigger.” He does admit that he had a change of heart and voted for Obama in 2012, but, the point is that a lot of people voted for Donald Trump simply as a vote against Hilary Clinton. It wasn’t necessarily a vote “for” anything as much as it was a vote against a specific person. The democratic party really screwed up by putting Hillary on the ballot, and Debra Wasserman Schultz, as the then chair of the party,  should be pilloried for the way she subverted the whole party platform in favor of Mrs. Clinton.

Some of these people are beginning to admit that they made a mistake. Not quite so far as to admit that they should have voted for Mrs. Clinton, but a genuine regret that Mr. Trump is now our President and is doing an absolutely abysmal job of it. He is embarrassing our country by simply opening his mouth and speaking. His temper tantrums on Twitter at 3am are a classic example of an uneducated boring twit who has been given too much power.

The fact that he thinks the Congress and the Supreme Court are his “employees” is enough to make shivers run up and down your back. Has this man ever read the constitution and bill of rights? Has he any idea how our government is supposed to work? Of course I’m quite positive that most of our members of Congress have lost sight of this as well. I truly fear for the United States of America and wonder if we are headed for another civil war? Our years as the world’s foremost superpower are definitely waning. Is this how the citizens of Spain felt when the British sent the Armada to the bottom of the sea?

We have an Enfant Terrible in charge, and no one seems to be able to rein him in. How much destruction can he cause to our country or the world before people wake up and realize we made a huge mistake? Is the best we can hope for that he gets bored and quits? Or that he is found guilty of some arcane crime and removed from office? Can it happen soon enough to save us?

Discussing Butthole Sex with your kids

I recently saw an article on a popular female blogger, mother of ten, alleged devout Christian who was having a meltdown over an article in Teen Vogue magazine about anal sex.

I can understand why people of a certain age or background might be uncomfortable talking about this subject, especially with teenagers. Sex, of any kind, was not something that I recall ever being discussed by either of my parents. Of course, when I was a kid, teen pregnancy was at an all time high, most boys figured it out from looking at porn and listening to mostly invented tales from their older brothers, and girls hadn’t a clue.

Today, it’s a bit different.

The CDC says that in 2015, just under 230,000 babies were born to teens between 15 and 19 years of age, a new record low for the age group, and 8% lower than the 2014 birthrate.

Being a government agency, the CDC hedges a bit about the cause of this drastic reduction from the 1960’s and 1970’s, but does concede that more teens are refraining from sexual activity, and more of those who do are using some sort of birth control.

Yet, another survey by a different commission, but still sponsored by the CDC suggests that lots of teens are still having sex, they just may not be having the kind of sex that ends up in an unwanted pregnancy.

This study summarizes that:

About half of teens ages 15 to 19 report having ever engaged in oral sex with an opposite-sex partner. Among teens who have never had sexual intercourse, about 15 percent of both boys and girls report having ever engaged in oral sex with an opposite-sex partner

As for boy-boy or girl-girl sexual experimentation among teens, there isn’t a lot of concrete data available, young teens are unlikely to speak out and identify as gay or lesbian, although that is becoming less true more recently.

However, in 2007 a Canadian study suggested that of about 300,000 boys surveyed, only about 1.5% identified as bisexual, homosexual or mostly homosexual, but 3.5% of them stated that they had had some kind of sex with another boy in the past year, even while not identifying as anything other than heterosexual.

My point is that even if you are a devout Christian who home schools your kids, kids are going to be kids and as teenagers, they will find a way to get off. One of my first oral sex experiences was in the church bathroom, and I can still remember a pleasant mutual jerk-off session with David M. during recess while we were half-way up the oak tree on the grounds of the Seventh Day Adventist church where we both attended the school sponsored by the church.

I think that one of the biggest reasons that teen pregnancy is down is that kids of today are far more educated about sex than previous generations. By the age of 12, today’s kids know more about sex than I knew when I was first married at 18.

Going on a rant and burning magazine pages may be a cute way to get more viewers to your video blog, but it does nothing to address the fact that the best way to keep our kids safe is to educate them. We educate them about lots of other dangers in the world, why would we not also teach them how to be responsible when it comes to sex?

Kids of the 21st Century have few of the issues with homosexuality that I grew up with, and more of today’s kids are identifying as sexually fluid than ever before. I know several young people that are now identifying themselves as “pansexual” and “polyamorous”.  When I was a kid, I didn’t even know what those words meant.

Yet, for all the educating we are doing, we still need to do more.

Some frightening statistics among our young people is that young people 15-24 account for 50% of all new STD infections, and 1 in 4 teens contract a sexually transmitted disease each year.

As many as half of all high school students in the country have had sex of one kind or another.

Since the teen pregnancy rate is the lowest it has ever been, one can only draw a reasonable conclusion that there is a lot of sex other than vaginal going on and it is irresponsible for parents to go on a magazine burning rant rather than sit down with their teens and lay out all the facts in a calm, non-judgmental way so that their teenagers can go out into the world with the necessary facts to stay healthy.

It doesn’t help that our current administration seems to be ill informed as to what actually works, and has now de-funded teen pregnancy prevention programs across some 81 institutions.

Check in over the next couple of years and see how the statistics change, it may be painfully interesting.


When I returned from working in Okinawa in 1995, I stewed around the house I shared with my cousin Ron and my Mom for months, doing pretty much nothing but making copious amounts of bread, elaborate chocolate cakes and five course dinners.

I had enough money in the bank to live a little while with no other income, was getting a generous unemployment check, and really had no ambition at all. I knew it wouldn’t last very long, but I took advantage of it.

Both Mom and Ron had jobs that they went off too every day, so I would tumble out of bed mid morning, start yet another loaf of homemade bread, and decide what cake I would make from my “Death by Chocolate” cookbook, and what I would fix for dinner. I set elaborate tables, or at least for me they were elaborate, as in I rarely used anything paper.

I got a call one day from an ex-boss of mine who I had worked for before I wandered off to Japan, and he asked me if I might be interested in a few months of consulting work for a company that Adelphia had a minor interest in down in Venezuela.

Having nothing else to do at the time, I agreed to take a look at it, and within a couple of weeks, I found myself on an American Airlines flight to Caracas, Venezuela.

I really had no idea what to expect. I knew virtually nothing about Venezuela, and was completely unaware at the time that most of the country fell very squarely into the “third world” category. There was practically no middle class, even in Caracas, you either were very wealthy or you were a serf.

In 1995 when I arrived in Caracas, the experience at the airport scared the holy crap out of me. Immediately after clearing customs, I was surrounded by dozens of clamoring taxi drivers, all wanting my business. Several of them were so bold as to actually pick up my belongings and start loading them into their rather decrepit 1960’s model machines. Thankfully I finally was able to connect with the person who was picking me up, and we made the 30 kilometer’ish drive over the mountains into Caracas.

Caracas is actually in a valley, surrounded by mountains, and is about 20 miles or more inland from the coast. It sits fairly high – about 3000 feet in elevation, has a rather mild climate – much the same as Honolulu.

Unlike Honolulu, the city is ringed with slums, perched illegally on whatever land is available. Shacks built of whatever is at hand – cardboard, corrugated sheets of iron, plywood and plastic milk crates. Electricity, if it is available, is stolen from the local power grid by throwing a wire over one of the Arial conductors – and often people are killed this way trying to steal power from the grid. There is now sewer – bathrooms, if present at all are simply open pipes into what passes for streets, or they just sluice down whatever hillside they are perched over. When traveling from the airport into Caracas, you have to pass several of these encampments, although thankfully not drive directly through them.

They are however, highly visible from within the city as they usually are at a higher elevation, and from most any point in the city you can look out on one of these peasant camps.

When I first arrived in Caracas, my employer put me up in a cute little one bedroom apartment in a neighborhood called Valle Arriba. It’s a terraced community carved into the side of a canyon, and I was several hundred feet above the American Embassy, and my balcony faced pretty much due east. Using a telescope, many evenings I was able to discern two or even three of the moons of Jupiter – the smog of Caracas lay way below and the skies of Valle Arriba were clear.

When I arrived in Caracas, the president was Rafael Caldera. He was considered to be a fairly harmless old man, the rich got richer, the poorer at least had something to eat, electricity flowed most times, and if you lived in a decent neighborhood, you even got running water for a few hours every couple of days.

After about six months, I moved to a new apartment – a penthouse on the top floor of a 10 story building on a gated street on Calle F, just off the Avinida Rio de Janerio. I had a great view of the Avida mountain that towers over much of Caracas, and I was only a few blocks from the Presidential Palace and my balcony overlooked east end of the military airport that dominates the center of Caracas. It was a 10 minute drive to my office at the warehouse facility run by Supercable de Venezuela in Las Ruices.

I had a great two year run from what was originally supposed to be just a couple of months worth of consulting. I ended up running the warehouse and purchasing for Supercable de Venezuela for much of 1995 and 1996. I wasn’t paid all that much, but my housing and transportation was covered, I didn’t have to pay U.S. income taxes because all of my income was exempt, and the cost of living in Caracas was so low that I had a hard time finding ways to spend what money I did make. I sent a lot of what I made back to the States to pay bills there.

In mid-1997, Mr. Khamsi, the president of Supercable declined to renew my contract. I never could get a straight answer out of the man. He was Iranian by birth, but his family fled to Peru when the Shah of Iran fell. He was a Bahai, so he tried to balance the tenents of his religion against his vast wealth and his extreme greediness. He usually failed miserably, and most people who had to deal with him thought he was a snake. I never trusted him as far as I could throw him, but was humbled a bit on a day I was miserably sick at home and he showed up at my door with an arm full of drug store remedies and wishing me well. I don’t think he personally cared a twit, but his religion required that he show humility. It made him very difficult to read.

The building I lived in overlooked the military airport, and apparently in the early 1990’s, Hugo Chavez, a young army officer led an attempted coup against the state – and the building was pockmarked with bullets from airplanes that strafed the neighborhood.

In mid-1997 I finally decided that Mr. Khamsi wasn’t going to renew my contract, even though he never actually said one way or the other, but I got an offer from a U.S. company that was setting up shop on the eastern edge of the country – basically to do the same thing I had been doing, at about the same rate of pay, and with the same set of benefits such as housing and transportation.

I moved across the country, bag and baggage. Since Venezuela is only about the size of Texas, this may not sound like much, but it usually took about 12 hours to drive the 300 miles from Caracas to Puerto La Cruz – a city on the coast in the eastern part of the country. From there, you had to take a ferry or a plane to Isla de Margarita, which is where the new company decided to set up headquarters.

Four or five of us set up shop in the Margarita Dynasty hotel – just across an empty field from the Hilton hotel, and for several months, that was home. We planned and started a whole new cable company while sitting around the pool, or in someone’s room with the A/C cranked high, watching the condensation run down the sliding glass doors.

There were two or three fairly decent restaurants near the hotel, including a little french bistro that we often frequented – eating at small tables on the sidewalk, with the waiters mixing the salad dressing table-side – usually a complete meal was under $5.

Later it was decided that I should decamp to the city of Puerto La Cruz where I was to rent warehouse facilities and get us started in several other remote towns in the eastern side of the country.

I ended up renting an apartment in Puerto La Cruz, just off Calle Los Flores, near Avinida 5 de Julio. I shared this with my good friend David and his husband Leno. David also worked for the company as an accountant, and Leno took care of the cooking and shopping and cleaning. My Mom came to visit over Christmas of 1996 and had a grand time, although I’m not sure what she thought of David and Leno.

I’d start each morning early, around 5am and drive to the airport in Barcelona – the next town over, where I would catch a plane to the island in time for a daily staff meeting. I’d then dash back to the airport, catch another plane to whatever town I was working on for that day – Cumana, Maturin, Ciudad Guyana, Barcelona or back to Puerta La Cruz.  Ciudad Guyana was pretty far to the south, not far from the border with Guyana and Brazil, but was a “new” town with wide avenues, lots of tall apartment buildings and nice shopping. I bought a nice watch there that I still use today. It was my job to establish warehouse and office facilities in all the places so we could begin operations. My spanish was awful, but it was better than anyone else on the team, and at least I wasn’t afraid to try and use it.

Sometime late in 1996 or early 1997 it was decided that I should move back to Porlamar, the capital city on the island of Margarita – and for a few months I had a great little apartment on the 10th floor of a building that overlooked the ocean. I shared this with my friend Kelly Veleyas, and later ended up in a different place with David and Leno once again – which is where I stayed until Unitedcable decided to sell the business to Supercable and I was once again unemployed. This happened in 1998 – I believe I left Venezuela for good in late summer – just before Hugo Chavez was elected President at the end of the year.

My memories of Venezuela are great. I made good friends, I had a grand time – probably because I was paid in U.S. dollars and by any standard of any Venezuelan locality, was wealthy. But, the locals, no matter their status all had access to decent health care, the hospitals were staffed and had supplies, and there were markets everywhere that were stuffed with food, both imported and locally produced and no one starved.

It’s a far cry from the Venezuela I knew of the mid to late 1990’s to the cesspool it has become. Some twenty years of rule by despots who have stripped the country of all it’s resources for their own personal gain have made the day to day life of your average Venezuelan nothing but misery.

The stores have no food, there are long lines for what resources are available, and babies are dying in their mothers arms for lack of medicine and food.

Venezuela is a three hour flight southwest of Miami. It takes about the same amount of time to fly from Miami to Caracas as it does to fly from Miami to Denver or Chicago. We think of it as a far away place, but it’s only 1500 miles away – closer than our most distant coast.

I have nothing but good wishes for the people of Venezuela and I hope that they find a way to prosperity once again.

Religion in Russia

Russia seems to have a problem with Jehovah’s Witness’s, and has officially categorized them in the same folder as Islamic Terrorists.

Now I’ve had my own share of problems with that particular sect. When I was in my 20’s and in the Navy, my first wife and I had the good fortune to live a couple of blocks from the local coven of Jehovah’s Witness, and we were often blessed at 6:45 a.m. on a Saturday by a few of them banging on the front door.

I got to where I’d just answer the door in my tighty-whities, with one hand down the front, cigarette dangling from one corner of my mouth and usually they’d freak and run.

But, do I think they are terrorists? On the same order as those guys that carry a bomb in their backpack on the way down to the local elementary school? Nah, they are actually pretty harmless, although like cockroaches, persistent as hell.

To my sad regret, I’ve not had nearly as many visits from cute pairs of Mormon boys, paired with matching black ties, white shirts and bicycles. Most of them are 20’ish, and there is no such thing as a non-cute 20’ish Mormon boy.

I think though that they too have been trained to flee should a 60’ish guy answer the door in his tighty-whities, no matter how good he might look.

Seriously though, why is Russia so afraid of religion? Since I’ve been on the planet, Russia has been our #1 enemy for like 85% of the time. The 15% of my life that they haven’t been actually labeled as an enemy, they’ve at least been on the “we don’t trust ’em very much” list. I’m not a political scientist, but I think that at least one of the reason’s that the Russian’s have been on our crap list for so long is that they don’t allow “freedom of religion” in the same way our beloved constitution has laid out in frilly ancient handwriting.

But, also seriously I don’t think that the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormon’s or even the Southern Baptists are that much of a cause for panic among whatever is left of the Russian Politburo.

The government of the United States is falling apart. I often wonder if it will last another decade. We’ve become so polarized that our two party system has devolved into a kindergarten fight. But, at least we still let every religion and some that are just poser’s (Wiccans?) live in peace and do whatever they think their religion calls for, short of blowing up something.

Religions’s aren’t a cause that government needs to worry about in any serious way. Let them do their thing – it’s just another way to keep folks happy.  Isn’t that the ultimate goal of governments? Keep the folks happy whilst you’ve got both hands on their wallets?

I think this is a bad move, but then again, does anyone really care what the Russian’s do, except maybe our honored President Donald?


Mr. Trump Goes To Washington

Donald J. Trump has actually been President of the United States for a little over a day now. Something that most thinking adults of a moderate to liberal frame of mind have been agonizing over for months. It’s now reality, and despite all the chants and posters and laments that he isn’t our president, the fact and reality are that Mr. Trump is indeed our President.

While I have no respect for the man, I’m forced to take the stance that we simply must give the man a chance. His ego is insufferable, he speaks with the vocabulary and tone of a belligerent fourth grader, but as horrific as it may be, he is the President of the United States.

We’ve lived through awful Presidencies before. During Reagan’s tenure, hundreds of thousands of young, virile, beautiful gay men died while the word AIDS was never uttered by Mr. Reagan.

Richard Nixon was a despicable criminal, although much more educated and well spoken than our Mr. Trump, but still, a man who was hell bent on improving his own lot and not that of our country.

Andrew Jackson surrounded himself with the most vile of companions, and had parties and gatherings at the White House where the furniture was literally carried off or destroyed. Surely Mr. Trump has a bit more decorum than Andrew Jackson?

Mr. Johnson, on succeeding Lincoln was said to be so drunk at his inauguration that he could barely stand. I do think that at least Mr. Trump was sober, in fact it’s reported he has never had a drop of alcohol, although he does favor fast food over anything more sophisticated.

Compared to Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Mr. Trumps was a bit more muted and certainly not attended by as many people. News photographs comparing the body count on the Washington Mall show obvious empty spaces, and it was reported that along the parade route, there were many hundreds or thousands of empty seats. So, while those who did attend were exuberant and excited, there was definitely not an overwhelming crowd such as what was obvious in past Presidential inaugurations.

Then there is the subject of protests and violence in Washington D.C. What are these people trying to communicate and just how well do they think their message is being received? Surely they can’t possibly think that running down the street bashing in windows of innocent merchants with a hammer is going to win them any friends from the left or the right. Thuggery is thuggery, no matter your politics or your reasons and these people are simply Thugs and whatever message they are trying to send is lost in the violence and the smoke and the noise.

In the end, Mr. Trump is indeed resident at The White House. The People’s house. The First Lady is indeed a former nude model, who speaks heavily accented English, but dresses beautifully.

We have no choice but to give this administration a fair chance to succeed or fail on their own merits. Each of us have our own special interest area that we hope gets attention, but more importantly, there is a whole country to be looked after and protected, and we’ve laid that task at the feet of Donald J. Trump.

Time will tell what kind of job he will do. His inauguration speech was full of a lot of promises that if carried out, may indeed make the United States a better place. Let’s give the man a chance to prove himself.

We don’t have to like the man, but we still need to respect the office he holds and the power he now wields.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

 For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the general American public is failing to see that our new Emperor Has No Clothes.

Is it really Presidential to send out a dozen tweets at 3am in the morning because you don’t like what a reporter in Sioux Falls said about your hairdo? How can we fail to take seriously that our President-Elect is trashing our intelligence community? A presence which has kept us safe since at least the end of World War II? How can we fail to see that our President-Elect and many of his picks for top cabinet and administrative posts are beholding to one or another Russian VIP’s?

It still boggles my mind that poor rural and inner city Americans voted for this man in the hope that he would better their lives. How can they continue to fail to see that once he is in office, and with Republicans controlling both sides of Congress and soon the Supreme Court that their lives will slide from barely hanging on to something akin to the unwashed and untouchable Indian castes who pick through garbage daily in hopes of finding a meal and something to ward off the elements.

The slim hope that Republicans will finally see the light and impeach Donald Trump a year or two from now doesn’t make me feel any better because we would then end up with Mike Pence as our President.

He’s not a whole lot better when it comes to making America a better place for all of our diverse population. He’s a reformed homosexual, believing firmly in the conversion therapy, and wants to cut most if not all socially beneficent programs that are funded by tax dollars.

I’m sort of in the middle. The government should stay out of my bedroom and my pockets as much as possible, however I do want good roads, reliable bridges, and I believe we should take care of our veterans and elderly and handicapped. If you are of sound mind and body and just don’t want to work, then to heck with you and good luck finding a place in the woods to pitch a tent.

Donald F. Trump, our incoming President, is probably the worst disaster to ever strike our shores. Our very existence will be at stake, and we can only hope that Congress will realize the mistake that has been made and move swiftly to impeach. The American people will rally in 2020 and flock to the polls to make amends for the disaster of 2016. It’s our only hope. There is no Obi-Wan-Kanobe to save us.