Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A tribute to clam diggers

The "Maine lobster" is an iconic symbol of our state and an important contributor to our economy, but there is another shellfish that is also important, and to my taste no less delectable: soft shell clams, more commonly referred to by locals as "steamers".  No self-respecting "Down East" shore dinner would be complete without steamers, and I enjoy them as a meal all by themselves - a plate of clams, a bowl of melted butter and a cold bottle of beer is about all it takes to make me a happy diner.

The men (and women, I guess, but I have never known any) who harvest soft shell clams are generally a hard working lot who do  a (literally) back-breaking job, bent over at the waist and turning the mud over with a clam hoe to expose their quarry.  Their work schedule is dictated by the tides  ("as happy as a clam at high tide" is a common expression around here) and they seldom let inclement weather deter them; the real pros work year-round, going out on the mud flats even in the dead of winter when the conditions can be pretty extreme.

Clam diggers not only make an important contribution to the Maine economy but a few years ago they organized themselves as The Maine Clammers Association and became an effective force in advocating for sound environmental policies and industry management practices to protect the resource and the habitat that sustains it.  They have worked effectively with the state legislature to pass reasonable regulations and with local wardens to optimize local controls.  It turns out that what's good for the clammers is generally good for the environment so it's a win-win situation when they advocate for change to improve their own circumstances.

Unfortunately clammers, unlike lobstermen,  have never received much recognition for their contributions to the economy and the environment.  When lobster prices are down, as they are this summer, due to a glut in supply it's all over the headlines, with everybody from the Governor on down calling for action to protect the industry (a political aside:  Linda Bean, a prominent Tea Party supporter and business woman with a big stake in the lobster industry, was recently quoted as saying, "I'm no protectionist, but we need protection [from Canadian processors who are buying Maine lobster at bargain basement prices]" - you just have to love the irony).  But when Red Tide or other conditions cause the clam flats to close it barely gets a mention in the media. 

So this weekend when there was mention of clam diggers in the only section of the newspaper that is important to me (that would be the comics), I took notice.  And I was so happy to see it and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share it here.  So without further ado, here is a tribute to clam diggers everywhere as published in Chad Carpenter's Tundra (copyright Tundra 2012).  I don't know who the bearded guy on the left is, but I'm pretty sure the other two are Chad Coffin (president of the MCA) and Earl Rowe, two clammers I know from the hardware store.

OK, maybe that's not the image I should leave you with so here's a pretty good video to give you and idea of how hard - an rewarding - a clammer's life can be:

But you have to admit, that comic strip is pretty cool.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Those were the days...

Today was a glorious late summer day and I spent the afternoon on the pool deck, doing the crossword puzzle and listening to WMPG on the radio.  They always play an eclectic mix of music, and Sunday afternoon a show featuring funk music is followed by Latino music, and then comes Eastern Sands hosted by Jackie Nice who explores the music of the Near-  and Middle-East.

The Eastern music is totally unfamiliar to me, but it's quite varied and exotic sounding so I enjoy listening and learning about the music and the artists who perform it - Jackie is very knowledgeable and her listeners are enriched by the factual framework she provides as well as her obvious love of the music she shares with her audience.

Today as I listened I heard what seemed to be a familiar melody.  At first I couldn't place it, then after a while I began to associate some lyrics with the tune, but I couldn't quite pull them into my conscious memory. I continued to  listen and hum along until the words started to come to mind and finally I remembered the refrain, "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end".   Those lyrics seemed to fit the music perfectly although I'm sure a trained ear could have detected differences. Still I was surprised that a song Jackie would play on Eastern Sands would remind me so vividly of a song from the pop charts of the '60s and I called her to tell her so (and to thank her for doing her show every week - all of WMPG's DJs are volunteers who clearly love the music they play).

After I called it a day on the deck I came in and googled the lyrics I remembered, and this is the song I was reminded of - it has a whole different meaning for me today than when I first heard it in 1968, but still:
"Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way."

Here's the original version by Mary Hopkin -
I guess those days are gone forever, but you know what? Life is still pretty good!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Today's syndicated New York Times crossword puzzle, which was originally published 5 weeks ago on July 18, was a clever piece of work, created by David Levinson Wilk, in which all of the long theme answers contained a MANMAN union (e.g., truMANMANdate for the clue "The Marshall Plan,e.g.?), all of which were referenced by the revealer clue which produced SAMESEXMARRIAGE as the answer.

As is often the case, a clever enjoyable puzzle elicited a lot of comments at "Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle", a blog to which I go faithfully after completing the puzzle.  A comment by @JFe suggested that readers google "A Father, a Son and a Fighting Chance", and so I did.  And this is what I discovered - I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to share it with you (this piece appeared in the NY Times on June 14, 2012 - Father's Day):

"Modern Love

A Father, a Son and a Fighting Chance

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WHEN my son Jeff was little, he was a pain in the neck about eating. On one drive to Huntsville, Ala., he sobbed for 70 minutes (I know because I timed it) about how we were starving him to death.

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We stopped at a diner and ordered him a meal, and he proceeded to eat about four bites before claiming he was full.
You might think I would lose my temper, but this had happened before, so I was prepared with a well-planned response. I reached over and started eating his food. Bite by bite, I finished everything on his plate, figuring that would teach him to mind his dinner.
Unfortunately, the plan had a different effect. Everywhere we went after that, Jeff expected me to finish his meals. It got so I would only order him meals I liked, knowing how it would go.
And at home, forget about it. I was a workaholic back then, two jobs, out of the house at dawn and not back until 8 or 9. A lot of those nights, Jeff wouldn’t eat his dinner. His mother would get so angry, but what could she do? How do you force someone to eat? The best she could do was the tried-and-true route, telling him that if he didn’t eat dinner, he wouldn’t get dessert.
I would walk into his room when I got home, and he would be lying there, wishing he had eaten dinner so he could have a snack before bed.
“You hungry?” I would whisper, and he would nod, big eyes gleaming in the light from the hall. I would sneak him something, our little secret. Sometimes we would eat it together.
When Jeff was in middle school, my wife noticed he was getting home late from school, sometimes a little dusted up. It turned out some neighborhood boys were picking on him, waiting for him along the path they all took, making his life miserable. It made me furious, probably because I felt guilty for working so much and not being around to protect him.
People didn’t make a big deal out of bullying back then the way they do now, but I had to do something. Jeff was a small, sweet child who never hurt anyone. He just wanted to take the path home and feel safe doing it, but these kids kept singling him out.
I went to see the ringleader’s father. He was a big man in town, a city planner. When I got there, he made me stand out on the porch as if I were trying to sell him something. I told him the story, and he looked agitated and said: “When I was young, this never would have happened. We had some pride. We fought our own battles.”
I told him a one-on-one fight would be fine, but it wasn’t one on one. His son was fronting a gang of bullies, taking away my son’s right to come home happy and safe.
“Five against one?” I asked him. “Is that something to be proud of?”
He grumbled and shut the door in my face.
When I was young, my uncle said to me: “You’re small and you’re Italian, so it’s going to be tough. You can either blend in or fight. Trust me, it’s better to blend.”
The first time I walked onto a Navy ship (at 17 years old and 130 pounds), someone yelled out, “Another wop?”
I smiled and said, “Yep,” and kept smiling no matter what else they said.
My uncle was right; I got along fine. I told Jeff that story, and asked him to get along the best he could.
After Jeff finished college, we would travel cross-country from New Jersey to visit him in California. A few times we would run into his best friend, Paul, whom we liked a lot.
Jeff would fly to visit us, too, and when I would take him back to the airport, I would sit with him until his flight boarded, just the two of us. Every time, I could tell there was something he wasn’t saying, something knotted in his belly.
Finally, he sat us down and said he had something to tell us. We told him that we already knew, and that we really liked Paul, and that we were happy for him. We laughed about how scared he had been to tell us, and after that it was Jeff and Paul, Paul and Jeff. We visited them; they visited us. We took vacations together.
A couple of times the subject of grandchildren came up, and they always said the same thing: they wanted to marry first, and they wanted it to be legal. Jeff wanted a family, a home, like the one he grew up in, and part of that was being married like his parents.
My wife and I went to dinner one night with another couple, some people we knew pretty well, and the subject of Jeff and Paul came up. The guy said: “I don’t believe in gay marriage. I think it’s wrong.”
That’s all he said, but I almost lost my mind. I wanted to smash my dinner plate in his face. My vision dimmed while long-buried emotions rushed back: my little son, all alone, being picked on by bullies, being told he couldn’t walk the same path home because they said so.
Why couldn’t people just treat him with respect? I’m sure this guy isn’t a bad person, and no one would consider him a creep or a bully, but I stood up and left that table and have not spoken to him since.
For our next trip with Jeff and Paul, we went to Hawaii. The boys talked my wife and me into taking a long boat ride in a little rubber dinghy. I was dubious from the start, and rightly so.
The weather turned ugly and the waves got huge, three times higher than the boat. We all thought we were going to capsize. I held my wife’s hand, drawing on the strength of our love and our years together, knowing no matter what happened it would be O.K. because we were together. Across the boat, I saw Jeff holding Paul’s hand in exactly the same way.
That night at dinner, we laughed and drank too much and toasted our narrow escape. At one point Jeff’s face was pure happiness as he looked at Paul sitting next to him. Paul wasn’t returning the look, though; his eyes were focused downward to where he was quietly, carefully finishing Jeff’s dinner.
I realized then that I was crying instead of laughing. I couldn’t explain it except to say there is nothing more overwhelming than seeing your child experience true love.
Not every day will be that happy. Paul and Jeff want to marry and have a family, yet they know there will be more bullying, more ganging up against them, in their effort to seek that. There will be more groups of people telling Jeff that he shouldn’t be allowed to marry the person he loves, that it would be wrong for the two of them to have a family together.
ONE of the worst days in my son’s life was in November 2008, when a majority of Californians voted in favor of Proposition 8, a ballot measure to change California law in a way that bans marriage for same-sex couples. None of us could believe something like that would pass in California. When it did, I wondered if Jeff and Paul would move from the place they loved and had called home for so long.
They didn’t, though. Nor did they accept the new law and try to blend in as I told Jeff to do all those years ago. Instead, they did something that’s made me as proud as I’ve ever been: they fought back.
Jeff and Paul and two women challenged the law in court, and in a landmark decision two years later, they won: Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional by a judge in San Francisco. The proponents of Proposition 8 appealed, and Jeff and Paul won that, too.
The United States Court of Appeals recently declined to take up the case before a larger panel, which opened the door for it to head to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Jeff and Paul still can’t legally marry.
As this Father’s Day approached, all I could think about was how much I want my son to experience the joys of being a father, how much I want him to marry the person he loves and to raise a family.
For now, he is still waiting, and fighting. I see how much the struggle costs him, how discouraging it is that despite his strength and patience and faith in the system, the ultimate decision rests in the hands of those who have yet to act.
One day soon, though, the powers that be are going to do the right thing. I’m his father, and it’s Father’s Day, so let me believe it. One day soon they’re going to let my brave, beautiful boy walk the same path we all get to take home.

Dominick Zarrillo worked for 23 years in the tire industry. He lives in Brick, N.J.
A version of this article appeared in print on June 17, 2012, on page ST6 of the New York edition with the headline: A Father, a Son and a Fighting Chance."

I have two sons, one gay and one straight, and all I want for both of them is what Dominick Zarrillo wants for his son.  They couldn't be more different in almost every respect, but I love them both as much as Mr. Zarrillo loves his son - and I hope they know that.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Local Nut Telegraph

Jimmy Buffett wrote and performed a song about how juicy information, gossip and other items of interest are disseminated in the islands. It's called "Coconut Telegraph" and part of it goes like this: 

"The jungle drums are beating
With the tales from late last night
Cause stories bear repeating
For everyones delight

You can hear em on the coconut telegraph (telegraph)
Cant keep nothin under their hat
You can hear em on the coconut telegraph (telegraph)
Sayin who did dis and dat
Dis and dat, dis and dat"

And the other day, possibly after a beer or three, it occurred to me that the same kind of thing happens in Dirigonzo's Place - when I come upon something that I think bears repeating, all of it stuff about dis and dat, for sure - I fire up the internet machine and crank out a post for the anyone on the world wide web to read.  It's not exactly the Coconut Telegraph since there's no jungle drums involved, and besides that name belongs to someone else, but I think there's enough similarity to dub such posts the "Local Nut Telegraph" if only to emphasize the fact that nothing written here should be taken too seriously. 

Another Jimmy Buffett song includes the line, "Don't ever forget that you just may wind up in my song", and if you change "song" to "blog" that becomes pretty good advice to anyone who may decide to share a personal story with me because sometimes I just can't resist the temptation to spread the news for everyones' delight. So Andrea shared a video with me, you can see it here; Jan told me about her experience at Woodstock, that's way too interesting to keep to myself!; jarhead 1982 replied to a comment I made about a newspaper article with a totally over-the-top rant on the evils of gun control, you bet I'm going to post that.  I can't be expected to keep interesting stuff like that to myself, can I?

Since you've read this far I'll reward your persistence (but not your judgment which apparently is not very good) with the real reason that I posted this piece to begin with - a clip of Jimmy singing about the Coconut Telegraph:

It's Tuesday in Dirigonzo's Place and there's not much going on...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Governor has a plan

Hey there Dirigonzo fans, Ethan Williams here with my very first solo post on a topic of interest to all Maine citizens:  the Governor's "secret plan" that will cure all of the state's fiscal problems for the next ten years. 

Of course the major problem with the plan is the "secret" part - he won't say what it is or how it will help solve our fiscal woes.  In fact, all he will say is that "Republicans will have to do it on their own."  And then, just to make sure there's no possibility of any "bipartisan" buy-in, he adds, "I think we can get it done in about a day, and the Democrats, if you think they hate me now...Wow".

So there you have it - our Governor no longer even pretends to represent all of the citizens of the state, he now self-avowedly represents only those whose interests align with his, which he apparently has defined to mean "Republicans". 

So here's what I want to know: why would any elected official, especially the chief executive of a state, engage in such divisive speech?  Is it possible that our Governor, who was elected with a plurality vote of 38% of the electorate, doesn't give a shit about the 62% who didn't vote for him?

Seriously, have we reached a state where a Governor elected by about a third of the popular vote can dictate policy without even saying what that policy is, and we are just expected to think that is OK, because he's the Governor?  I don't think so, and I hope you don't. either.

I'm Evan Williams and I approved this post, and I think Dirigonzo will, too, when he sobers up and reads it in the morning.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Andrea's Passion

Andrea Carlson Michaels (nee: Eisenberg) (ACME) has a passion for words - I've written about it in this space before, but today I discovered* a video of an interview with Andrea that demonstrates the depth of her passion in  a way  that nothing I could write ever would.  Here is Andrea to tell you about it in her own words: http://www.manygoodideas.com/2009/05/27/business-with-passion-andrea-carla-michaels/.

Sit back, relax and watch the video which is about 25 minutes long.  And then tell me, how can you not love this woman?

(*"Discovered" with the help of @Bob Kerfuffle, who provided the link in a comment on the Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle blog, which I frequent.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Andrea Carla Michaels - Live, In-Person!

Readers know that I am a huge fan of Andrea Carla Michaels (nee: Eisenberg) (ACME), but heretofore the basis for my adoration came primarily from reading her posts on Rex Parker's blog, doing the crossword puzzles that she constructed, and exchanging a few emails with her.

Today, thanks to Andrea herself, I have yet another reason to know that she is truly the woman I love most but have never met - she sent me a link to a youtube video of her doing a brief stand-up comedy routine, and it is remarkable for all the reasons that Andrea is remarkable.

The first being that she chose to share it with me.  I don't harbor any illusions that I am the only person she included when she sent the link out but I am truly honored to be among those she thought of when deciding who she wanted to see it.  Okay, maybe she just sent it out to a mailing list that I happen to be on, but just let me indulge my fantasy, will you?

Then there's the video.  This is not just a comedienne standing up in front of a crowd, telling stories to get a few laughs.  This is someone who is sharing an intimate part of her life, her relationship with her mother, with a group of strangers and getting some laughs in the telling.  But the story isn't just funny, it has a message, a lesson that the audience ( and now you, too) can use to improve their own relationships, be it with their mothers or anybody else.  Really, "I'm sorry your upset, what can I do to help?" is a great way to respond to just about any situation when someone is being emotional with you.  I'm certain that I'll be using it a lot from now on.  And I didn't even have to pay the price of admission to the show to get that valuable advice!

And finally, there's Andrea herself.  How can you watch her natural manner, hear her obvious love for life and those around her, see the passion that she has for entertaining people, and not love her?  You can't, or at least I can't.  Andrea still is and will always be "the woman I love most from 3000 miles away and five weeks in the past".

(Did I mention that she's pretty easy on the eyes, too?)
So without further ado here she is, LIVE AND IN-PERSON (brought to you by youtube, courtesy of Andrea herself) - ANDREA CARLA MICHAELS - enjoy!:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The woman with the infectious laugh

I "meet" a lot of people via the internet machine, if you define "to meet" as exchanging comments or correspondence on the web.  Most of these "meetings" are one-off deals with no prospect or expectation of anything more than just that, an exchange.  Some of them develop into "email pal" relationships, some of which have been quite enjoyable, and on rare occasions they lead to an actual face to face meeting with an honest-to-god real person.  That is how I came to know CC.

CC had posted a piece on a site I visit regularly, and her writing displayed a casualness and sense of humor that I find appealing and I replied to tell her so.  Apparently she found my message interesting enough to deserve a response and so our e-correspondence became a way for us to get to know a little bit about one another.  One of the things she told me about herself was that she has been has been told that she has an infectious laugh.  I, totally crass and uncouth lout that I am, replied by asking if that was the only thing infectious about her.

CC's response to that little bit of silliness, which I intended as nothing more than a throw away wise-guy remark, floored me.  She would have been totally justified in calling me a complete ass, or in not replying at all, but CC chose a different approach - she answered my totally inappropriate question with a serious reply and shared with me a quite personal detail that was, quite frankly, none of my damned business but she apparently felt it's an important part of who she is, so she told me about it.

My reaction to her candor was, "well, damn, if we're really going to be honest with one another I'd better tell her my deep, dark secret (well, one of them anyway), too, and so I did.  And so when we eventually met in person there was an uncommon easiness to our first conversation because we had gotten some of the ugly stuff out of the way beforehand and could easily move beyond it.  Maybe there is some truth to this "honesty is the best policy" thing.

CC and I got together one or two more times and I certainly enjoyed her company,  but then we were out of touch for quite a while, until recently she foolishly responded to something silly I had posted and started the conversation up again.  And so we decided to meet again and catch up, which we did and I had a wonderful time; I think she enjoyed it, too.  But I think I made a mistake that may have proved fatal to our burgeoning friendship - I mentioned my writings here, specifically this post which was nothing more than a working title at the time.

Shortly after our dinner together, CC commented in an email that she had been unable to find my blog.  I don't ordinarily direct anyone I know to my writings here, because frankly I don't know if I want them to know that much about me.  But CC and I had started off with a policy of total honesty so I, or maybe that scoundrel Evan Williams, sent her a link to Dirigonzo's Place.

And you know what, friends and neighbors - I haven't heard from her since. The thing I'll miss most is her laugh.

Here's (a much younger) Billy Joel to tell you about "Honesty":

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

par-a-noi-a (noun)

"A nondegenerative, limited, usually chronic psychosis characterized by delusions of persecution..., strenuously defended by the afflicted with apparent logic and reason."

Recently there was a "Maine Voices" column in the local paper titled, "It will take community to sove problem of gun violence".  The gist of the piece was that we as a nation need to form a community of people who join their efforts in "common cause" to address the problem of gun violence in America.  He did not advocate for repeal of the second amendment nor did he promote limits on ownership of guns for legal purposes, but he did suggest that some reasonable restrictions on firearms, possibly including registration, might be helpful in reducing gun violence.

Maybe he's right, maybe he's wrong - I don't know, but I thought his column was a well-written and rational statement of his point of view, so I went to the paper's on-line site to leave a comment telling him so.  I rightfully anticipated there would be a lot of comments in opposition to his ideas and I wanted him to know that there is some support for his premise that the community needs to come together to address the problem.  Here is what I wrote:

"Robert, thank you for expressing your point of view so rationally and eloquently. There are many who agree and will join with you in "common cause", they are just not apparent among the commenters here."

And my comment quickly brought this reply from "jarhead 1982":

"Yeah, Robert, we support the 1st amendment also, as shown how we never tell anyone they can not speak their opinion,
....even those promoting a pathological lie that gun control reduces violence
.., or the pathological lie that the 80 mil law abiding gun owners are responsible for all the violence instead of US govt acknowledgement that career crimnals, gang members, and suciiders cobimned kill more than 92% using a firearm illegaly each year
... or the lie that the BATF actually enforces the existing gun control laws rather than let 1.83 mil felons and crazies and such go free without prosecution when caught attempting to buy from a licensed source since 1994
....or the lie that police can protect you as the courts have ruled dozens of times they cant, and the police only solve on avg 8.06% of all the violent crimes committed
....or the lie that cpl licensee's are more dangerous than a trip to the 700k doctors who are more likely to kill 12,000 to 25,000 than the 8 mil cpl licensee's
....or the lie that that the 5th amednment does not exist and felons are affected by the 85% of gun control laws that do affect their 5th amendment right of no self incrimination Hayns ve US 390, 85, 1968
....or all the other pathological lies the insane mythomaniacs like you spew.
...or the pathological lie that an inanimate object has supernatural powers to load, aim, and fire itself
...or the pathological lie that an inanimate object has the advanced supernatural powers to use its voice to command a person near it to commit violence, thankfully, most of those who believe that are locked up for public safety for being the loveable violent schizophrenics they are.
...or the pathological lie that a gun never works to provide self defense, uh see Shoneys Aliston AL 1991, Pearl High School 1997, Appalachian Law School 2002, Trolley SQ Shopping Mall 2007, New Life Church CO 2007, College Station Georgia 2009, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc...
No we respect your rights, unlike you in your primal sadomasochistic need to dominate and tell everyone else what they can or can not do because of your unsubstnatiated, internalized fears of how violent a girly girl like you would be were you to be armed.
Instead you continue to infer that the armed law abiding civilian is your so called adult version of the mythical boogeyman, a childhood fantasy. A boogeyman you cant articulate how they are so scarey, where all those evil boogeymen are who commit these make believe crime you are afraid of, it is rather pathetic.
Oh so many more examples validated by GOVERNMENT DATA that not one single anti has been able to refute.
Yeah, calling a litany of pathological lies common sense, and you wonder why we refuse to debate much less compromise on a belief, a belief based on a pathological lie that gun control reduces violence.
No, we wont debate theoretical pathological lies as comon sense, we ridicule and ignore them as that is all such mentally ill drug induced fantasies are worthy of."

That, my friends, is the very definition of paranoia, and it is a paranoia that is constantly fueled and reinforced by well-heeled interest groups, the NRA and ALEC being chief among them, who represent the corporate giants who make billions of dollars from the manufacture and sale of firearms.

I hope the community can come together to address the problem of gun violence in America, but don't expect any participation from the likes of jarhead 1982 - they're too busy worrying about a plot to take all of their guns away from them.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An afternoon with Jimmy Buffett

Today was the last day of my "staycation"; all of my house guests had departed and my son was away for a couple of days so I had the afternoon to myself, and when the morning clouds cleared out and the afternoon promised to be hot and sunny I decided the place to be was on the pool-deck. It seemed a shame to spend such a beautiful time alone so I invited my old friend, Jimmy Buffett, who knows more about how to relax in the sunshine than anybody else I know, to join me and reminisce about some of his own vacations and adventures. 

It turns out Jimmy and I share a vision of how to relax on vacation.  Here's how he recounted his experience on a charter boat on the Amazon River while celebrating his fiftieth birthday: 

"...I am a contented fellow, just moving with the motion of the boat through the relatively calm river water, staring out at endless miles of nothing.  It is exactly what I came to do.  I don't have a care in the world...I am not in charge, nor do I have even the slightest urge to be. I make like a native, curl up in my hammock, and just watch the world go by...while for one whole day I put my life into neutral."
(I should probably attribute this quote to Jimmy's book, "A Pirate Looks at Fifty", copyright 1998 (I'm a little behind on my reading).)

OK, I was floating on a tube in my pool instead of on a boat on the Amazon, but the effect was exactly the same - relaxation is a state of mind and being on vacation is all about relaxing, where ever you happen to be. On this point, Jimmy and I agree.

 Jimmy has something to say about setting one's priorities in life, too, and again I found us to be two peas in a pod when it comes to what we consider to be important when it comes to living a good life.  I'll let Jimmy tell you in his own words:

(My dogs are labs, but these Goldens illustrate the point pretty well, too.)

When the conversation turned to current events, politics and the economy, as it always does, Jimmy again had just the right answer to put things in proper perspective, at least for a soul-mate like me - you may disagree.  Here's what he said:

So yes, we still have a lot to drink, and think, about but somehow it all seems less overwhelming when Jimmy puts it in those terms. 

When the sun finally went behind the clouds and it was time to get out of the pool, I thanked Jimmy for stopping by to help me put my vacation, and life in general, in the proper perspective.  It really is all about "...changes in attitudes...", no matter what latitude you're in and his visit was just what I needed to remind me that daily life can be a grind but you don't have to let it wear you down.

And now I'm going to let my puppies run before it gets dark.  Some vacations are better than others - mine was a great one by any standard and I'm glad Jimmy stopped by to remind me of that.;

Friday, August 3, 2012

She was at Woodstock!

So I'm at the Red Cross to donate platelets, which I do regularly, and while the technician is sticking needles in both of my arms somehow the topic of Woodstock came up in the conversation - and it turns out she was there!  Not just there, but part of the experience.

She was 15 and lived in a mill town in southern Maine; her parents never would have let her go to a rock concert in New York, except she was going with her cousin who it turns out is none other that Joe McDonald of Country Joe and the Fish fame.  Of course he was performing at Woodstock so going to see him was a big deal to her.

They headed to Woodstock in a limousine but the highway was too congested with concert-goers to get all the way there, so a helicopter was dispatched to pick them up and deliver them to the venue - Country Joe and his kin were definitely VIPs and were treated as such.  Once there she had complete access to the backstage area and got to meet all of the groups that performed - truly a once in a lifetime experience for a 15 year old girl from Milltown, Maine!  I'm pretty sure her parents would not have let her go if they knew the substances that would be readily available and the activities that were going on all around her.

I know a few people who were at Woodstock, or say they were, but Jan (that's her name) is the only one who was part of the "inside" group of performers who made it all happen, and who made it an event that even those of us who were not there will never forget. Here's Country Joe and the fish to show you why:

And here;s the song that everyone remembers - it still seems relevant today:

I was in the Army in Germany in 1969 - but Jan was at Woodstock.  I'm glad she shared the story with me, and I wish I could have been there, too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Post Office needs our help

The US Postal Service, in case you missed the news, is in financial difficulty and to be fair it's not entirely their own fault.  The USPS is an independent agency of the government and does not receive taxpayer money for its operations but it is subject to congressional control, and therein lies the problem.  It estimates that it is now losing $25 million a day, which includes $5 billion projected savings it had expected to be accruing by now if Congress this spring had approved its five-year profitability plan.

The plan would cut Saturday delivery, reduce low-volume postal facilities and end its obligation to pay more than $5 billion each year for future retiree payments. It is this last item that is causing the immediate crisis as the Postal Service, with cash running perilously low, is expected to default on the $5.5 billion due Wednesday and another $5.6 due in September.  The defaults won't cause any kind of catastrophe in day-to-day mail service and post offices will remain open, but Post Master General Patrick Donahoe has described a "crisis of confidence" that could lead even once-loyal customers to abandon use of the mail, thereby compounding the problem.

So that's the status quo for the post office, which finds itself increasingly preoccupied with staving off immediate bankruptcy while Congress delays on the postal overhaul bill.  This is not unexpected, of course, because there are those in Congress who would love nothing more than for the USPS to go away so all of those lucrative contracts could go to private corporations run by their rich friends, so they can get even richer at the expense of the American public.

Imagine how you would feel if the Postal Service announced that it was closing the Post Office in your town or your neighborhood - I'll bet you'd be outraged and do everything you could to prevent such a disaster from occurring.  Well, how do you feel about the very real possibility of the closing of all the post offices?  It could happen, people, unless we let our elected officials know how important it is to us that they remain open.  So write, call, email or fax your congressional delegation, all of them, and tell them to pass the postal overhaul bill currently pending - it has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.

And if they don't pass it, vote the bastards out in November - because if they can't even keep the Post Office open they don't deserve to be in office.  Our founding fathers thought the post office was important enough to authorize its establishment in the Constitution, and some in the current Congress want to get rid of it?  Seriously, do you think these people are representing the American people who elected them or the corporations who financed them?

How do you feel about having YOUR Post Office closed?  Tell your congressperson.