Learning about love one french fry at a time

mcdonalds-french-fries

I am going to share something with you and you have to PROMISE not to tell my wife, I eat at McDonald’s once or twice a month because I love their french fries. I know, I know, I am always writing about how I cycle and hike. That for an old fat guy that I am in pretty good shape but I just can’t help it, I love their fries. My other problem is that I love Burger King double Whooper’s too. If I could find a McDonald’s and a BK next door to each other I would be dead in six months. Hopefully I will never stumble on this glorious arrangement.

Today was a McDonald’s day. I had a good evening on the bicycle yesterday so I thought I would reward myself. Yea I am not buying that excuse either.

As I was finishing up my super-sized order of fries an elderly couple sat across from me. This McDonald’s is across the street from the hospital and near several doctor’s offices. The man had a bandage wrapped around his arm, the kind you get when they take blood. He sat down in the booth while his wife ordered their food.

I didn’t pay any attention to him until I heard a loud thud, he had dropped his phone on the table. As he picked it up his arms and hands jerked back and forth in a violent motion. I am not sure what disease he was battling with such a vicious tremor but it was excruciating to watch.

His wife returned to the booth, placed his drink close to him with a straw and handed him a burger which unwrapped like a six-year-old would tear open a present on Christmas morning. I slowed down eating my fries from six at a time to one so I could watch this couples interaction over the course of their lunch, just one of many lunches they have probably had in 40, 50, maybe 60 years of marriage.

I have a friend who told me recently that he and his wife are “taking a break” from each other. They aren’t calling it a separation, just a break. They are coming up on their 30th anniversary, the kids are out of the house and he began to wonder “is that all there is?” We talked a little about the need to find some common ground, interest, and activities that they could do together to fill the hole left by their kids. My wife started cycling with me and I joined her on her hikes, both things she now kicks my ass doing but activities we enjoy and can do together.

He hemmed and hawed about things he liked but she hated and vice versa. I assured him I got it. It took not weeks but months, many months to get my wife comfortable riding a bicycle on the road. It tried my patience’s to no end but, in the end, I created a monster so much so that she now shames me if I try to blow off one of our regular rides because I am not feeling it or there is a 10% chance of rain.

But here is the thing I told him, look down the road twenty years from now, you have cancer, or a heart attack, who do you want beside of you? Or she has cancer, who do you want beside her?

As the man at McDonald’s put his head down to take a sip of his drink his wife instinctively reached over and held the cup for him. That is love, love in years.

There is nothing easy about being married. People change, people grow. What we believe and accept as truths move up and down, right and left over time. Hollywood tells us it is easier to just walk away. The perfect relationship is out there waiting on us and probably looking for us as well. But that’s Hollywood, storybook and fairy tales.

I saw the truth about relationships today at McDonald’s. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Love isn’t always easy. It will and can drive you crazy. But in the end love wins. Love always wins.

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” –  Buddha

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Fake News from the King of Fake News

So this was the Tweet storm from “our” President this morning;

“The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!”

“Some of the Fake News Media likes to say that I am not totally engaged in healthcare. Wrong, I know the subject well & want victory for U.S.”

“The failing @nytimes writes false story after false story about me. They don’t even call to verify the facts of a story. A Fake News Joke!”

Plus these “Bonus” tweets from yesterday;

“So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”

“Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!”

But maybe you have heard about this;

Fake Time Cover

That ladies and gentlemen is a fake Time Magazine cover that hangs in many of “our” Presidents golf clubs. The Washington Post, the same Washington Post that “our” President referred to as the #AmazonWashingtonPost first reported this story Time Magazine has asked “our” President to please remove these “Fake News” editions of the magazine from his clubs.

If you are wondering why “our” President called the Washington Post the #AmazonWashingtonPost its because the paper is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos certainly doesn’t need the money (net worth $85 billion) but I plan on continuing to support the “failing”, which “our” President likes to call it which is also “Fake News”, Washington Post. The pattern is pretty clear, agree with “our” President like Fox News and be considered a credible news source or disagree with him and be called “Fake News”. Put Sean Spicer on camera when there is a story to tell. Hide Sean Spicer off camera when you know the shit is going to hit the fan.

Honestly these games would be very entertaining if the stakes weren’t so high. Maybe what we should have done is elected Donald Trump as a reality television President rather than the real McCoy. Hell I would have watched that show as long as it didn’t come on at the same time as the Deadliest Catch.

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Is Donald Trump the new face of American Christianity?

Jesus MAGA

The National Association of Evangelicals created this test to determine if you were in fact an Evangelical. Ready to play? Do you accept that;

  1. The Bible is the highest authority for what you believe.
  2. It is very important for you to personally encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  3. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that can remove the penalty of your sin.
  4. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

What seems to be missing in this short quiz is following the example of Christ. Maybe it is implied then again maybe there is just a little bit of built-in flexibility, a loophole. One would think that words like love, compassion, and empathy would be included in this test. But instead, rather than the character of Jesus Christ we get the role, what He is good for rather than what He represents.

My biggest struggle with the Evangelical community is # 4, Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation, but I will save that rant for another day.

Now for me if there was a test to find out if you were in fact a Christian it would be your acceptance of The Beatitudes, the blessings listed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount; 

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

One of the patterns that I have noticed recently among Evangelical Christians and their vocal leadership (insert Franklin Graham) is their attachment to number eight, Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven and honestly this is why they have placed Donald Trump so high on a pedestal as their savior.

Evangelicals compare their persecution right up there with how Blacks were treated for centuries in the United States. That may sound like an exaggeration but it is in fact true. There is strength in persecution, it offers groups something to rally around. And certainly if you have followed Donald Trump for any period time you know he loves playing the persecution card himself, “The real story is that President Obama did NOTHING after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With 4 months looking at Russia under a magnifying glass, they have zero “tapes” of T people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!” 

In my opinion, mainstream Christianity in America looks nothing like Jesus. According Sojourners magazine, “Christians in America have largely supported measures that have rejected refugees, refused aid to immigrants, cut social services to the poor, diminished help for the sick, fueled xenophobia, reinforced misogyny, ignored racism, stoked hatred, reinforced corruption, and largely increased inequality, prejudice, and fear.” In short, embraced Donald Trump as the new face of American Christianity.

I believe Evangelical Christians are headed down a slippery slope with their undying loyalty to our President. If they truly accept that there will be a day of reckoning, a day that they will have to answer for their time here on earth I wonder how they will account for the persecutions they were a party too? The persecution of the LGBTQ community. The persecution of refugees and immigrants. The persecution of the poor. The persecution of people of color and other faiths. Maybe that is the loophole they are counting on.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

 

 

 

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The wide views of Donald Trump

“Views are colorful and interesting and life-enhancing—as long as we know they are views.” – A. J. Bocchino

I overworked by 56-year-old body Saturday riding my bicycle then coming home and putting new lumber on my deck. After lifting sixteen foot boards, carrying them from my truck to the backyard, cutting them in half and screwing them to the deck frame for six hours in the heat I felt like I was 100 years old at the end of the day.

I went to bed early Saturday night and woke-up at 9 am Sunday morning stiff as the deck boards I had laid the day before. Every inch of my body from my hair to my toes was sore which led me to make an executive decision, no bike ride Sunday. Today was going to be an easy day, a day of eating and beer drinking.

My wife and I traveled up to a small mountain community about 90 minutes from our home. To our very pleasant surprise it was 65 degrees, a welcome change from the 95 degree days with 80% humidity we have been experiencing.

This town is a summer home community for the rich, the very rich, Ranger Rover, Mercedes, Porsche, and Maserati rich. We stopped at our favorite restaurant and the parking lot was easily filled with $1,000,000 worth of cars including some sporty, two-door Mercedes I had never seen before called a GT Coupe, starting price $120,000. My Honda fit right in.

Most of the stores in this community sell stuff that Mr. and Mrs. Rich from Atlanta feel the need to wear in the mountains, eat and drink in the mountains, and the knickknacks one would hang on the walls or place on the shelves of their $1,000,000 mountain “Cabins”. My wife and I don’t buy anything when we go. We like to eat burgers at the restaurant, they have Guinness on tap, and gawk at the ultra-rich in their “mountain clothes” eating brunch and drinking Bloody Mary’s. It is and they are, very entertaining.

The one exception to all the high-end retail in the center of town is an old white house right off of Main Street next to the park. The front yard is littered with, for lack of a better word, quirky stuff from metal goats, and wooden chairs to grape-vine arbors. The store sells a few antiques inside but mostly just junk, junk that would give your $1,000,000 “Cabin” that rustic feel.

The guy that owns the store is about as off the grid as you can get in this day and age. No cell phone, website or email. He doesn’t take credit cards but will accept cash with the proper id as he likes to say. He and his crew of buddies sit under a tree and shoot the shit while customers mill around the yard and inside the house. If you want to know the price of something you have to walk it out to him or describe it, he doesn’t like to get up from his chair and mess up the conversation. They are solving world problems under that tree.

I am looking for a couple of wooden chairs for my freshly planked deck so my wife and I ventured over to his store. As usual, he was holding court, with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, sitting in one of the chairs I was interested in buying. Next to him was a guy who looked like life had beaten him down with a stick wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap and drinking a tall-boy Budweiser in a paper bag. Parked next to them was an old Ford Ranger pick-up truck covered in dirt, rust and TRUMP stickers.

The contrast struck me. Less than 100 yards away was a parking lot full of $85,000 automobiles driven by rich, white, Republicans, and I would assume Trump supporters and here was a guy who didn’t appear to have a pot to piss in drinking his tall-boy Bud, smoking Marlboro’s and proclaiming to the world that he too was a Trump supporter. Same view, but with much different results and needs.

As I have done in the past, and much to the chagrin of my wife, I tried to engage the man in the red hat. I wanted to know what he saw in Donald Trump. What did he hear that I have missed. What did he see that I haven’t and didn’t see. His simple and succinct response, “Get the F*ck out of my face”. Oh well, maybe it was just the Budweiser talking.

I understand why the rich folks voted for Trump. They would expect “one of their kind” to work on their behalf. To not only preserve their wealth but their elite status as well. But in an area where the average price of a house is $700,000 against an average annual income of just $25,000 for the full-time residents I really don’t understand Ford Ranger guys attraction to Trump. Is it a white thing? A Republican thing? A government thing? A rich thing? What is his “colorful and interesting and life-enhancing” view of Trump that I am simply missing?

I hope I live long enough to read what the historians write about this period of time, the Trump reign. I will want to hear their views, and how they dissect this man’s rise to the top. I will want to read the stories of the people who voted for him, those wearing the red baseball caps making $25,000 a year and those driving their Ranger Rover’s they bought just to travel to their $1,000,000 “Cabins”. Right now the view I have is just that, my view, a view shared by some, but a different view others have against a wide socio-economic spectrum.

I would hope Ford Ranger guy would want more out of life than a fresh pack of smokes in his shirt pocket, a cold Budweiser, and a crazy old white guy as President but maybe he has everything he wants and needs. Maybe this is the time he has been waiting for, his sunset, his peace. I can’t argue with his view, it is his view, one that I just can’t share.

“I’d rather live in a cave with a view of a palace than live in a palace with a view of a cave.” –  Karl Pilkington

  

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The two sides of a storm

radar

This time last year my garden and grass were burnt to a crisp. The wonderful rains that we had in April and May simply stopped in June and didn’t begin again until September. It was as if some great hand from above turned the spigot off.

The lakes that supply drinking water to area communities were being depleted. Ponds in pastures turned into baked mud holes. People whose lawns looked green and fresh beside their neighbors brown yards were looked at with scorn. It was a very interesting and scary time with all of us asking, “Would it ever rain again?”

As a crow flies, I live about 200 miles away from the coast in northwest South Carolina, an area referred to as the foothills. Beyond these foothills, to the west, are the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond this mountain range are the Great Smoky Mountains.

In the Summer we rely primarily on afternoon thunderstorms for our moisture. Most of these storms are short and very isolated. It can be raining over my house but a mile away bone dry. Some of these storms can be very violent particularly if you are out riding a bicycle. But in the Summer what brings the most moisture, and the best soaking rains are Tropical Storms and Hurricanes such as the latest one T. S. Cindy.

We typically get the remnants of major storms that hit the Atlantic coast from Florida to the North Carolina border and the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida. These storms will make landfall and move North or Northwest, right in our path. Fortunately, by the time they get to us and hit the mountain wall they are no longer destructive, just much-needed rain.

I hate to root for a couple of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes each Summer because I have seen, first hand, the devastation one can cause people who bare the brunt of their power and force. Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, SC in 1989 and wreaked havoc not only on the coast but as far inland as Charlotte, NC. My in-laws owned a beach house North of Charleston which survived Hugo with just some minor damage but the house in front of them, 100 yards away, was completely destroyed. My sister, who lived in Charlotte at the time, spent the night in the dirt crawl space under her house when Hugo hit. Her neighborhood was injured when a tree crashed into her bedroom at 4 o’clock in the morning. But what Hugo did for my community was provide us with rain and some wind. We needed the rain. We could have done without the wind.

So as I sat in my den last night listening to the remnants of T. S. Cindy sprinkle rain on my parched lawn and garden I thought about the families in Louisiana who are in the process of cleaning up after this storm. The news reports are it could have been much worse but homes and communities were still flooded, lives were disrupted, and property was damaged. This was the cost that was paid for me to keep my grass-green and my tomato plants productive. In the end it was a heavy price to pay.

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Playing the Game of Chicken

Playing Chicken

This is how it started;

“James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” – Donald Trump Tweet on 5-12-17

This is how it was challenged;

“Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” – James Comey testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on 6-8-17

This is how it ended;

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are “tapes” or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.” – Donald Trump Tweet on 6-22-17

The origin of the Game of Chicken involves two automobiles driving towards each other on a collision course: one driver must swerve, or both may die in the crash, but if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a “chicken”, meaning they are a coward. Trump loves the Game of Chicken. I would suspect he has made and lost millions of dollars in his business career playing the game.

I spent 30 years in the real estate development business and played “Chicken” intentionally and unintentionally seemingly every week. Someone makes you a low ball offer for a property you desperately need to sell. The offer covers your cost but puts no money in your pocket. You ignore it, Play Chicken, banking on a better offer from someone else or the low baller upping their price because they want it worse than you need to sell it.

The odds of winning or losing at Chicken are 50-50. So in every case, in order to win, you must absolutely be prepared to lose.

I leased an office building in town for a contractor who had what I can only describe as a very shitty reputation. I was working with a tenant who had identified the contractors building, despite my warnings about his reputation, as the spot they wanted to move their company to. Before I began negotiations with the contractor I got him to sign a commission agreement which spelled out what he would owe me and when it was due if we got a deal done. Short of getting cash in advance this was the most protection I could secure.

After several weeks of heated and tense negotiations and despite my continued pleas of finding another space with a more amenable and pleasant landlord we got the deal done. I sent the contractor a bill for my services and waited. Weeks passed. Phone calls were not returned. Emails and certified letters were ignored. Finally one morning I parked in his personal parking spot waiting for him to arrive at work. He pulled up behind my car and rolled down his window. I asked if I could pick-up a check for the money he owed me and he uttered these two simple words, “Sue me”. Mr. Contractor wanted to play Chicken.

Now what he knew, and what I knew as well is that I would lose money suing him. Yes, if I won I would collect the commission he owed me, and maybe some of my “reasonable” attorneys fees but what I wouldn’t be compensated for is the time I would spend over the next year or two trying to collect my commission in court. The contractor played Chicken with me and won……this time.

Several years later the contractor refused to finish a job that he had been paid to do. He had received 95% of the money and only completed 50% of the work for an out-of-town owner when he walked off the job. When the owner confronted him about finishing the work or returning the money the contractor uttered his favorite two words, “Sue me”.

This time he picked the wrong guy to play Chicken with. After several years of depositions, counter suits and attorney fees the contractor filed for bankruptcy and though I wouldn’t have wished this on my worst enemy also developed Pancreatic cancer during the process which ultimately and slowly killed him.

If you read Trumps tweets or listen to his speeches in the context of “Playing Chicken” you realize very quickly this is how he operates everyday. But no one plays Chicken by themselves, there has to be another car and another driver. Trump plays this game like a man with nothing to lose, which is the only way to win, the only way anyone can win. He dares you and I and the rest of the world to swerve. So far we have, but I got a sneaky feeling that is getting ready to change just as it did today, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

“Wow, USA Today did todays cover story on my record in lawsuits. Verdict: 450 wins, 38 losses. Isn’t that what you want for your president?” –  Donald Trump Tweet on 6-2-16

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“I just don’t want a poor person”

“These are people that are great, brilliant business minds. That’s what we need. That’s what we have to have. So the world doesn’t take advantage. We can’t have the world taking advantage of us anymore. I love all people. It rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense? If you insist, I’ll do it — but I like it better this way.” – Donald Trump at his ego-rally in Iowa Wednesday night

To those of us who aren’t big fans of “our” President it comes as no surprise that he held another ego-rally last night in “Trump Country”, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It would also not surprise us that The Donald talked about his favorite topic in the entire world, wait for it, Donald J. Trump.

As usual his tweets reflect what is most important to him, again wait for it, him, “Great night in Iowa – special people. Thank you!”. In the meantime Tropical Storm Cindy has hit the Texas-Louisiana coast dumping heavy rains and causing massive flooding. What have we heard from “our” President about this? Nothing, zip, zero.

Trump has made no effort to be the President of the people, for the people of the United States. He has chosen his favorites, those that idolize and worship his every move and the rest of us are on are own. He is the wedge, the wedge that separates this country and he hammers it harder and deeper everyday.

At his ego-rally last night Trump defended his appointment of rich people on his cabinet, several of them Wall Street billionaires. “I love all people,” he remarked, “..rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person.” For me maybe this would have been the kind of thought you had swirling around under your cotton candy hair but not one you actually verbalize in public, and certainly not one you would ever boast about.

I just don’t want a poor person.” In Donald Trump’s mind poor people are poor because they are stupid, or incompetent. Otherwise, they wouldn’t poor. Rich people are rich because they are smart or in his words great” with brilliant business minds”. For me this is simply one more wedge Trump is using to separate this country, the haves get more and the have-nots stay in the shadows.

I could write an entire post about all the lies and bullshit “our” President spewed at his ego-rally last night but there are plenty of websites you can google to fact check this one and his previous ones (once a month into his Presidency). But I just don’t want a poor person” really struck me last night. Maybe it is because I see the poor. I see them standing in the rain waiting on the bus. I see the kind of homes and apartments they are crammed into. I see the convenience stores they shop at for food because there are no grocery stores in their neighborhoods. I see the kind of jobs they are having to work because they don’t have the right tools or education to earn more than a minimum wage.

Poverty is a cycle and like the color of your skin, your sex, or your nationality, poverty discriminates. Breaking the chains of poverty requires help, support and opportunities. Poor people in this country don’t have a voice and they certainly don’t have an advocate or any representation at the top, I just don’t want a poor person”.

So as the poor continue to suffer and struggle in this country. As Tropical Storm Cindy floods and destroys the homes of both the poor and wealthy alike this is what “our” Presidents is worried about this morning per his tweet storm;

1. “Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia.”

2. “By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn’t they stop them?”

3. “…Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks (long prior to election). It’s all a big Dem HOAX!”

4. “…Why did the DNC REFUSE to turn over its Server to the FBI, and still hasn’t? It’s all a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!”

5. “I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P out. That would be very bad for the Republican Party – and please let Cryin’ Chuck stay!”

I am disgusted by what this man obsesses and cares about but we created him, you and I. We fed his ego. We allowed him to run over us. We held him up as a shinning example of what is so great about this country, the accumulation of wealth, trinkets and expensive toys. He is who he is because we encouraged it, we supported it, we cheered for it, we dreamed about it for ourselves, and now…….we are paying for it. May God have mercy on the blind, ignorant and deplorable souls of America.

“Most Christian ‘believers’ tend to echo the cultural prejudices and worldviews of the dominant group in their country, with only a minority revealing any real transformation of attitudes or consciousness. It has been true of slavery and racism, classism and consumerism and issues of immigration and health care for the poor.” – Richard Rohr

 

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