The evil empire……..Canada?

“Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!” – Donald Trump tweet 4-25-17

trump and Trudeau

I freely admit that I know little to nothing about Canada. I know where it is, North. I know that Jim Carrey, Mike Myers and the living legend, the Godfather of grunge Neil Young are all Canadian. Hockey is a big, at least I assume it is. That it is a large country and that some of its citizens speak French. That’s about it. Nothing scary, nothing threatening.

I would say Canada has been a pretty good neighbor, honestly I could go so far as to say a great neighbor. In my 56 years of walking on this earth I can’t recall reading or hearing about Canada organizing an invasion of the United States or that they had ballistic missiles pointed at the fine folks in Wausau, Wisconsin. All in all I think we have gotten along famously with Canada. So why is our President picking a fight with them? Because that is what Bully’s do, pick fights.

Growing up I remember Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s dad, who was also a Prime Minster, Pierre. Honestly what I mostly remember is Justin’s mom Margaret who danced at Studio 54 and hung out with the Rolling Stones. All good things in my teenage mind. We certainly didn’t read about Nancy Reagan hanging out with Mick and Keith or Andy Warhol and I am not sure I would have wanted too. But anyway, the point is, Canada was okay by me and The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew, one of my favorite movies.

So to the citizens of Canada I would like to offer you an apology for our ugly orange American. His poll numbers suck. He hasn’t accomplished shit in his first 100 days and it is highly unlikely that he will accomplish anything in the next four years other than line his pockets with favors and money, piss off other countries and maybe, if we are lucky, get impeached before he wrecks our environment. He thinks talking tough and dropping bombs makes him look Presidential. Fortunately, the majority of us, think it makes him and us look foolish to everyone else. But he has the power, he has the title so God help us all, even you O Canada.

“The Canadian spirit is cautious, observant and critical where the American is assertive.” – V. S. Pritchett

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Sexy Spring

turkey

My wife and I had just pedal down my favorite two-mile stretch of road. It is relatively straight with a 1% grade from stop sign to stop sign. When I make the right hand turn on to this road I put it in my big ring, mash the pedals and take off. If the wind is at my back I will hit speeds of 25 to 30 mph. Big fun on skinny tires.

At the end of the road we always stop to catch our breath and drink some water. Last night was no different except for the sounds that greeted us among the pastures, cows, and the occasional car whizzing by, frogs, horny frogs to be specific.

There is a large marshy area across the street from where we rest and two days of rain have made this a swampy paradise. Last night we were treated to a loud chorus of horny frogs looking for their Miss Everything or at least there Miss Right Now. The sound was deafening and at the same time amusing. I can only assume this swamp was filled with old timers and dare I say virgins, all competing for the attention of females, which for us males, is the ultimate competition.

The signs of Spring are everywhere. Pastures are filled with baby calves, my car is covered in yellow oak tassels, and my grass needs to be cut, again. But nothing says Spring like the parade of horny woodland males trying to find a mate.

Last night we were about ten miles away from finishing our ride when my wife spotted a male turkey in a beautiful pasture at the edge of the woods. He was strutting around in full plume. It was a remarkable dance to watch. Though it was getting dark I suggested we hang around for a minute to see if he was “successful” enticing some swinging single female out on to the dance floor. She asked how did I know that there were females in the woods? Oh, I knew. I have seen that strut before, hell, I have been in that parade a time or two, thirty plus years ago. I might have even “won” the attention of Mrs. Ends and Beginnings strutting around in my cleanest pair of khaki’s, Polo shirt, and top-siders lathered in Jovan Musk Oil. But she would never admit to that.

Sure enough, two females came out of the thicket and the old Tom made a beeline for one of them. I am not sure how he chose which one to pursue. Me, I would have picked the slowest one. There is certainly no reason to spend much needed and better served energy chasing a one night turkey stand.

Yes, Spring has sprung. The grass is green, the weather is crisp, the flowers are in bloom and the woods are filled with…..sex.

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NASCAR Is dead and I don’t feel so good myself

starlite_group

Let me give you a little context, I grew up in Charlotte, NC. Just so there is no confusion, Florida may be the corporate headquarters but Charlotte is the home of NASCAR. As a kid I went to dirt track races at a little .4 mile track between Charlotte and Monroe called the Starlite Speedway with my uncle. This was a rough and rowdy crowd (the drivers and the fans) where a Saturday night race in the dust would and could turn into a fist fight on the track and in the stands at the drop of a corn dog.

I have been to NASCAR races in Charlotte, Daytona, Bristol, Rockingham, Talladega, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Martinsville, Richmond, and Darlington. I have sat in sky boxes and I have sat three rows from the track covered with bits of Goodyear tires in my hair and my teeth. I have camped out in luxury RV’s, pup tents, in the backseat of my car or in the grass with a blanket tossed over my drunk ass. I have sat out in the rain and 120 degree Labor Day weekends in Darlington. My business even sponsored a car for five years fielded by a plumber who raced at our local track. Yes, once upon a time I was a NASCAR fan, once upon a time.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced today that he was retiring after this, the 2017, season. “Junior” as he is referred to, is a third generation Stock Car driver. His grandfather Ralph was a legend at tracks like the Starlite Speedway and his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. was, well, Dale Earnhardt Sr.

I began to give up on NASCAR several years ago. I got tired of them monkeying with the schedule and the rules. I got tired of all the “corporate” identity with the tracks, races and the drivers. With all of NASCAR’s efforts to lure big corporate dollars it lost, at least in my opinion, something very important, personality. I followed and attended NASCAR races for the characters both on the track and in the stands. Over the years I have met some unforgettable people, personalities that really shined after drinking too much Budweiser with sunburned necks they wore like a badge of honor.

Yes there are still some die-hard fans but going to a race today is expensive and what was once just a southeastern attraction includes such far-flung destinations as Kansas, Texas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Chicago. Joe the carpenter, from Gainesville, Ga. can’t afford to take Mamma and Joe, Jr. to Chicago even if he wanted to go to the Windy City (hint, he doesn’t). But what Joe and every other southern Stock Car fan is asking themselves is what the hell is NASCAR doing in Chicago anyway? Simple answer, money.

I know that racing “stock” cars isn’t just a southern thing, but NASCAR was just a southern thing. In the old days, most drivers were from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, did I mention North Carolina? Today they are from California, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, and even Washington state. When I was a kid drivers had last names like Johnson, Baker, Roberts, Thomas and Wallace today we have drivers named Allmendinger, Almirola, DiBenedetto, Keselowski and Suárez. There is nothing wrong with these “new” guys it is just different and hard to pronounce.

Maybe my problem is that all of the drivers I followed have retired and I haven’t picked a new one to follow. But I have the same problem with these new crop of drivers that I have with the new crop of professional golfers, they are all the same. The same vanilla personalities, no characters, no Rusty Wallace’s or Lee Trevino’s, no Buddy Baker’s or Fuzzy Zoeller’s. They are not going to get in a fight in the pits or throw a golf club. They are robots, keeping their emotions in check and their sponsors happy.

So to the drunk guy, roasting in the Talladega sun who stands-up 188 times yelling “EARNHARDT” every time “Junior” passes him, I am sorry. The end was inevitable. My end was inevitable as well. I have come a long way. From the eight year old kid covered in dust eating a corn dog at the Starlite Speedway to sitting in a luxury sky box at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway drinking a craft beer and eating squares of cheese on a toothpick. It has been a nice ride NASCAR, but I am retiring with “Junior”….. inside, inside, inside, clear, clear. 

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Zen and the Art of finding yourself

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”  – Robert M. Pirsig

In 1981 I was a freshman at a Junior College. I had laid out of college for a year after graduating from high school because I honestly had no idea why I needed to go to college. My guidance counselor had recommended trade school, learn how to weld or become a machinist. I was pretty good in math and science and scored well in those SAT subjects but reading, and vocabulary sank me.

I had a decent job in high school and once I told my boss I wasn’t going to college he offered me full-time spot. I was a nineteen years old, making decent money but living at home under my parents roof, and under my parents rules. The chafing began immediately. I figured that I had three options, find a roommate and move-out, join the military or find a college that would accept a guy that had the English skills of an eight year old.

Given how hard all my friends were partying I figured if I moved out I would be dead or broke in a year. The military really wasn’t an option because I was a headstrong, long-haired, had trouble with authority figures kind of a kid. I still am, accept for the hair. So I found a very small, christian based (which caused me trouble later but that is another story) junior college that was willing to take my Dad’s money and accept me.

My English teacher was an old beatnik, Dr. Ted, who had survived the 60’s and had started teaching at this college ten years earlier so he could hide in the mountains from his three ex-wives, write poetry and play his mandolin. We hit it off immediately.

Ted looked very different from the other professors at this tight ass little school whose President, even in the 1980’s, still rocked a crew-cut and skinny ties. Dr. Ted had crazy long gray hair that looked like he combed it with an egg beater and a scraggly beard he must have trimmed with a pocket knife. On pretty days he would move class outside on the stonewall around the courtyard. Even though he was born and educated on the West Coast he morphed into an Appalachian hillbilly with a Jack Kerouac hue.

Dr. Ted and I spent hours talking and playing music together. As an impressible nineteen and twenty year old it would have been easy for me to worship the ground he walked on, to be star struck by this Renaissance Man who seemingly lived his life on his own terms. But Ted was always quick to point out his faults to me. He wasn’t a good father, a lousy husband and given his education and pedigree here he was teaching at a junior college that was basically one glorified step-up from a community college. Despite all that, despite all the disappointments, despite not living up to the expectations he and others had for him, Ted had found something, his sweet spot, his center, a place I hadn’t found and Ted knew that.

One day after class he told me to hang around for a minute. He reached into his desk draw and pulled out a book and handed it to me, the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I remember thinking at the time what the hell was Zen. It was not really a word tossed around in the 1980’s, in the southern Baptist culture that I grew up in like it is today. Ted’s request was simple if not a little cryptic, read it and find something about yourself in it.

“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.”  – Robert M. Pirsig

What Dr. Ted understood about me that I didn’t understand about myself was that I was just here, occupying space. Now in itself there is nothing wrong with that, but at a two-year junior college there aren’t infinite possibilities. Maybe I could extend two years into an extra semester, but beyond that I needed to figure out where was I headed. I didn’t necessarily need to know the destination but I needed to find the direction. Dr. Ted explained that anything was possible if I could find my center, and that all paths, which ever path I chose would begin there. If I didn’t know my center, if I couldn’t find my core then the temptation would be to just walk around in a circle and circles will and do confine us. Ted discovered that time inside a circle evaporates quickly and we can’t and won’t ever get lost time back.

Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance died Monday at the age of 88. I won’t go so far as to say that his book changed my life but it did help me steer the ship somewhat and maybe that was life changing enough. I have read and reread the book more times than I can remember. Sadly, the copy that Dr. Ted gave me disappeared many years ago. It may have gotten tossed in a Goodwill box by mistake, or I could have lent it to someone who never returned it. But the thing I do have is another copy and the memories of a twenty year old still finding his way.

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes much sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge. And if you project forward from that pattern, then sometimes you can come up with something.” – Robert M. Pirsig

 

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Picking the wrong messiah for Earth Day

“New polls out today are very good considering that much of the media is FAKE and almost always negative. Would still beat Hillary in popular vote. ABC News/Washington Post Poll (wrong big on election) said almost all stand by their vote on me & 53% said strong leader.” – Donald Trump tweet 4-23-17

I love how “our” President tweets about the election being over on the one hand, but continues to bring it up in other tweets. I can assure you he will talk about it a time or twelve at his “Ego Rally” this Saturday in Pennsylvania.

Here are a couple of the other questions the Poll asked with the answers “our” President neglected to tweet about;

Do you think Trump…..

…. has the kind of judgment it takes to serve effectively as president? 56% said no.

…. has the personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president? 59% said no.

…. is trustworthy and honest? 58% said no.

…. can be trusted in a crisis? 52% said no.

I guess it took him the entire day to decipher the rest of the poll hence this tweet early this morning;

“The two fake news polls released yesterday, ABC & NBC, while containing some very positive info, were totally wrong in General E. Watch!” – Donald Trump tweet 4-24-17

I got to give him credit though, his “Basket of Deplorables” are sticking with him. “Trump’s rating is 10 points higher among whites who lack a college degree than among those who have one…… he reaches 65 percent approval among non-college white men.” 53% of us think they picked the wrong messiah to hitch their wagon up too but by god they haven’t given up on him…..yet.

I spent Earth Day walking in the woods in the Pisgah National Forest. My wife and I did a hard six-mile hike up a ridge and back down along the Davidson River. As I trudged over rocks and roots, deep in the woods, miles away from any semblance of civilization and cell service I thought about John Muir’s words; “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” 

But when I got out of the forest and back to cell service this is what I read from our President; “I am committed to keeping our air and water clean but always remember that economic growth enhances environmental protection. Jobs matter!” Economic growth enhances environmental protection? I am not sure I understand his correlation between the two. The perception that I get from the Trump administration is a willingness to sacrifice environmental protection for the sake of economic growth and jobs. A willingness to cut funding for the advancement of science so that we can make more bombs and build walls.

Believe me, I get the short-term implications, the coal miner that voted for Trump doesn’t care about the melting polar ice cap. He cares about putting food on the table, and making a truck payment. His long-term view is simple, one maybe two lifetimes. Certainly no longer than his Presidents view. Why should we put the well-being of a polar bear over our own? Why should we be worried about 17,000 gallons of oil spilled in rural South Dakota or banning a pesticide that scientist have stated causes brain damage in children? “…economic growth enhances environmental protection. Jobs matter!”

Here is the thing, without environmental protection there will be no economic growth. Our existence is dependent on a happy, healthy Earth. It is not the other way around. This seems to be simple logic to me but when has logic and politics ever been uttered in the same breath?

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” –  John Muir

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The faces of North Korea

This is the face most of us have assigned to North Korea;

kim jong un

But this is the face we should all be thinking about;

Smiling kids in Pyongyang

It is very easy to forget that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has a population of 25 million people, not just one. Unfortunately all of our Presidents saber rattling as pissed the “one” off and honestly I am not sure Trump as thought much beyond his tweets at what exactly he plans or proposes to do with the Supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.

All of us, every American, knew going in that Trump is a bully. That is what some of us hate most about him, that is what some of you love most about him. As one rocket scientist Trump supporter told me “He don’t take no shit”. Yup, that is exactly what I was looking for in a world leader, someone whose mouth, or thumbs, writes checks that his ass can’t cash. Oh wait, he can cash them. He has discovered that he has an arsenal of bombs available at his beck and call. Think about it for a second, we have given the neighborhood bully, the guy that dunked your head in the toilet and then gave you a wedgie bombs to play with. Any idea who we should be more scared of Donald Trump or Kim Jong-un?

“China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will” – Donald Trump tweet 4-21-17

What exactly is the North Korean problem? That they are making bombs? Maybe even nuclear weapons? We have bombs. We have nuclear weapons. Why doesn’t that make us a problem? We are currently pointing missiles at them, why wouldn’t they point missiles back at us?

“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!” – Donald Trump tweet 4-16-17

The Human Rights Watch groups describes North Korea this way; “Under the rule of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea remains among the world’s most repressive countries. All basic freedoms have been severely restricted under the Kim family’s political dynasty. A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that abuses in North Korea were without parallel in the contemporary world. They include extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence. North Korea operates secretive prison camps where perceived opponents of the government are sent to face torture and abuse, starvation rations, and forced labor.” 

I get it, it is a bad place, with a very bad leader or in Trump parlance, a bad hombre. But again, what is the plan Mr. President? What is the goal? To blow them off the face of the earth?

Our President is focused on the wrong face, we all are focused on the wrong face. We can’t save one by bombing the shit out of the other. We can’t save one by sending threatening tweets to the other. We can’t save one and destroy the other by threatening China either. Last time I checked China was not in our debt we are in theirs to the tune of $1.059 trillion. What’s our leverage with China? I am pretty sure that topic wasn’t covered in Trump: The Art of the Deal. I guess he is in the process of writing that chapter next. The question is are we ready to read it or better yet live through it?

“I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will! U.S.A.” – Donald Trump tweet 4-13-17

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A man walks into a bar….

“A man walks into a bar with a cheese sandwich under his arm. “A pint of Guinness for me and the cheese sandwich,” he says to the barman.
“I’m sorry, sir,” replies the barman, “we don’t serve food in here.”

My wife and I had dinner with her family recently to celebrate her Mother’s birthday. The restaurant we went to has a very nice bar and patio area that, at 6:30 pm, was filled with people my age, who, by all appearances, were single and ready to mingle. I had heard this bar was an old folks hangout and that was confirmed for me when I was leaving. I saw two recently divorced guys that I knew, drinks in hands, wearing their best casual threads, cruising through the crowd of middle-aged, available women. I gave them a smile and a thumbs-up.

I have thought, not often mind you, what would happen if my wife a) left me, or b) heavens forbid, ran off and joined the circus. Where would I, how would I meet the next Mrs. Ends and Beginnings?

I was invited to a lunch recently and sat beside the daughter of a man I adored. He died about four years ago and I asked her how her Mother was doing and her response, “Lonely”. She had gone out a couple of times but dating for her was, in a word, unfulfilling. Her Mom, a beautiful and smart woman, is very introverted so striking up a conversation in a bar, with some random stranger would not really be one of her strong suits. She told her daughter that the she understood within the first fifteen minutes why the handful of guys she had gone out with were single. Honestly having that realization that early into a two-hour dinner would make for a very long and painful evening.

I met my wife in a bar. Something I swore I would never do, meet the mother of my children, the women I would spend the rest of my life, or her life with in a bar. My daughter met her mister wonderful, the son I never had, in a bar.

I told my friend’s daughter that I can imagine how hard it is for her Mom. When you have been married to the same person for over thirty years it is hard not to compare everyone else to that person. Dating requires a certain amount of entertaining, creating a persona or even putting on airs when all you really want to do is curl up on the sofa in your favorite pair of sweatpants and watch television.

For whatever reason my wife and I know a lot of couples our age that are divorcing. The reasons run the gambit from infidelity to just being tired of each other after thirty years. The one thing I have learned about marriage is, like life, marriage runs in cycles. From hard to easy, from exciting to boring. Don’t like where you are in the cycle, just wait, like the weather it will change. But I think now to many people won’t wait or feel like they can’t. If it is an abusive situation I completely understand but if it is a grass is greener I think many people will ultimately be disappointed and lonely.

When my daughter got married I gave her and her husband a wooden bowl. I told them that this wooden bowl was created from a tree that began its life as a simple sapling. Depending on where this sapling took root the odds of it growing into a mature tree were risky. Any number of things could have prevented it from growing, but we could see by the rings in the bowl that this tree not only survived it thrived.

I continued that each one of these rings conveys a story. There are thick rings which tell us it was a good season for growth, and there were thin rings which reflect a harder season, a season which this tree had to dig deep, spreading its roots into the soil to find what it needed to survive while slowing its growth on the outside. Each ring told a story, but this trees story wasn’t based on just one ring, or one season, it was the story of all the rings together.

A man walks into a bar…..

I hope that the only reason I have to walk into a bar is to drink a handcrafted stout or porter and not to find a mate. I remember how hard the dating game was as a twenty year old and it certainly couldn’t have gotten any easier as a fifty or sixty year old. But I am convinced that there is someone out there for everyone you probably just got to kiss a lot frogs to find that someone. Bring some ChapStick, leave your sweatpants at home and don’t give-up, don’t give-in but most importantly, don’t settle.

“A dyslexic man walks into a bra.”

 

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