Monday, July 12, 2010

Strange day #2 - Sagas from paper carrier days

It was the dead of winter and something sinister was afoot in the Perkins household. A flu-like illness was plaguing our entire family. All of us had headaches, malaise, and achey eyeballs. I don't remember that any of us went to the doctor - we just kept working and followed the lead of Mom, a stalwart lady who could defeat anything with the strength of her will.

Things came to a head on a bitterly cold Sunday morning. I awoke at 3:15 AM with a throbbing headache and headed out into the 7-degree cold to throw my paper route. Strangely, the longer I was out, the better I felt, and by 5 or so, my headache was gone. But it had been a tough morning. I remember wrapping a paper with a rubber band...which popped in the frigidness and made my hand bleed. But around 5:30 or so, I managed to finish the route and head home. As I approached our house, I was amazed to see a car belonging to my aunt and uncle in the driveway and all the lights in our house burning.

Here is what had happened. Both parents had intense headaches during the night, such that Mom finally convinced Dad to get up and call an ambulance. Dad never made it to the phone and collapsed on the living room floor. Mom got up, stepped over Dad, grabbed the phone and called her sister, Pearl. In retrospect, she should have called for an ambulance, but I'm sure her brains were scrambled at that point. Mom told Pearl to get over ASAP, then she collapsed.

Pearl and Raymond arrived to bizarre scene of my folks sprawled unconscious on the floor and quickly summoned an ambulance. Mom, Dad, and my younger brother and sister were all taken to St. Paul Hospital, and minutes later, I rolled up with a quizzical look on my face. Here's what had happened. Our source of heat in the house was a floor furnace. Just prior to all this sickness, our house had shifted and, unbeknownst to us, disrupted the gas line feeding the furnace in some way. The silent killer, carbon monoxide, had been seeping through the house for at least a week. That explains why we all seemed to improve when we left the house during this time.

I drove to St. Paul and saw my family. I don't know what was given them by the doctors, but all were doing much better. If fact, it seems that I was able to bring everyone except my dad home. I went on to church, where it was announced that the Perkins family would need electric space heaters to get us through the next few days. The wonderful folks responded beautifully and we were able to stay in the house until the floor furnace was repaired.

It's frightening to think what might have happened had Mom not made it to the phone. Here's why. If she had collapsed before calling Pearl, I would not have seen them in the floor when I got home. My custom was to park the car, go around to the back of the house and let myself in a back door to the kitchen, then head immediately upstairs to my bedroom for an hour or so of shut-eye. That might have been enough time for the deadly, almost undetectable gas to finish off my parents and my siblings. We were very blessed that morning. And it wasn't the first nor the last time my mom's strength of will saved the day for our family.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Two strange mornings on the paper route...

My previous blog entry focused on my years spent as a paper carrier between ages 8 and 16. All those days of delivering the Morning News and Times Herald were toughening me's just that I was blissfully unaware while it was happening that any good was coming from the jobs other than the money I was making.

I could tell a hundred stories but I want to examine only two at this time. Saga #1 was on a cold, dark morning at a very spooky part of my route. This was a section that I chose to walk rather than take the car. There were so many customers that it made sense to park the car, load up my paper bag, sling it over my shoulder, and take off walking. I threw papers to two parallel streets this way. The nervous time came at the end of Fairview Street. Getting to Kinmore Street from there involved walking down a connecting dirt road. Here, thanks to googlemaps, is how it looks today. (Give the picture a moment - it will eventually come into focus.)

Every morning, I mustered up the nerve to walk this dirt road. There is a single light pole halfway between the two streets and tall bushes form a wall on one side. In my mind, anything from escaped convicts to aliens to grizzly bears could be in those bushes. So I'd swallow hard, take long strides, and hurry through the eerieness to the relative safety of Kinmore Street, where there were houses and doors to knock on should I need to be escaping whatever was after me. Often, I thought about the plague of darkness administered to the Egyptians...dark so dark you could feel it! That's how dark it was on this little road, broken only by the light from that single pole.

This particular morning was just like most other winter mornings as I started the scary walk. Cold, darker than normal due to cloud cover, and the wind was making whirring noises as it blew through the bare tree branches. I, as usual, told myself that nothing was out there and strode resolutely ahead. Then I saw him.

He was good-sized but all I could see was his silhouette in the scant light from the light pole at the end of the dirt lane. He was walking toward me. Decision time. Do I turn around and return to the street from whence I came and take refuge on someone's front porch at 4:20 in the morning? Or do I man up and act like who I really was...a sophomore in high school, doggone it! Well, I decided to proceed. My feet were moving but I guarantee you, I wasn't breathing. I silently rebuked myself for not at least carrying a stick or a 9-iron or something!

I moved the paper bag from my right side to my left to provide an imaginary buffer zone in case this guy lunged at me with his machete. 20 feet apart now, then fate would have it, we were gonna meet directly under the light which was halfway down the road. At least I'd get a good look at him and perhaps be able to give the police a description of the killer with my dying, final words.

We came abreast of each other under the light. He was fearfully wrapped up against the cold; he appeared to have several layers of coats on and, importantly, a wrap around his face that covered everything except his eyes. Goodbye Mom and Dad, you too, Charlie and John and Marybeth, my siblings. I don't think I fired off a prayer - my mind was too paralyzed. Suddenly, he spoke. "Mornin'," he said in a voice that surprised me since I heard a tinge of fear in it. A tiny segment of my fear dissolved at that point...wait, he is scared, too??!! So I quickly responded, "Mornin'." And then he was gone.

I took long, hurried strides to the end of the road and the safety of the street light. Then I turned and looked back up the road. Nothing. He had disappeared back into the darkness. I got a warm rush. I had stared beady-eyed death in the face and had won. I fairly flew through the remainder of the route that morning, ridiculously proud of myself. But the self-congratulatory attitude didn't last long as I quickly realized that walking down that dark road the next morning, and the morning after that, and in fact, every morning from then on would be incredibly more difficult since now there was proof that evil men would step out of that tall shrubbery at any time...and probably grizzlies, too.

Well, this story took too long. I'll save the other wild morning saga for the next blog entry.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Throwing Papers

People on the street often run up to me and breathlessly inquire, "Tim, what made you the tough guy you are today?" My answer is always the same and always succinct. "Throwing papers."

It started when I was in the 3rd grade. Mom and Dad decided that my older brother and I needed to start saving up for college. Either that or they sensed an air of entitlement from us that irritated them. Soon thereafter, we were the proud owners of a Dallas Times Herald paper route fairly close to our house. But those of you who are long time Dallasites may remember 1957 as the year when the drought of the mid-50's was broken. There were days when a canoe would have come in handy in delivering those papers.

The early months were terrible. The previous paperboy had left the "route book" a mess. My brother paid me $3.50 for each month, and often made nothing for his trouble. Gradually we began to show a profit, and both of us opened savings accounts at Grand Ave. Bank.

From 1957 to 1963, I was a loyal Times Herald paperboy. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. Hot weather, cold weather, tornadic weather (I remember watching the great Dallas tornado of April 2, 1957 as I threw my route). Then, in order to bring in the big bucks, I switched to the other paper in town, The Dallas Morning News. The key word there is "morning". For two years, I arose every morning at 3:15. I could usually be back in bed by 5:30. On school days, that would give me about an hour extra of sleep before I got up again to drag wearily to school.

Paper throwing, as it was called, is nothing like it is today. Nearly every paper deliverer today is an adult who does his/her route from a car, and the paper is tucked inside a plastic bag. He doesn't have to collect money from the subscribers at the end of the month like we did since folks today mail it in to the paper on their own.

We tough guys (today's deliverers are wusses) folded the papers and secured them with rubber bands. I remember the thrill of having a rubber band snap on ice cold hands...I've never been shot, but the pain from a bullet can't be much different. You want to scream, but that's not what you need to be doing, say, at 4:30 AM on a darkened street.

My parents laid the rules down early. Our driving goal was to give our route customers the best service they'd ever seen. This was demonstrated on rainy days. We didn't have the plastic bags, so Charlie and I would find a dry spot on the porch to deposit the paper. But often there was no dry spot, so we would open the screen door and lay the paper behind it. If the door was locked or if the area behind the screen door were wet, we would knock on the door and hand a dry paper to the thrilled customer. Sometimes this would earn us a tip ranging from 10 cents to (gasp!) a quarter.

My next blog entry will focus on some of the most memorable days I had while throwing papers and becoming the tough guy I am today, including the scary morning I returned to the house at 5:30 and found that the rest of my family was almost dead. (This is called a teaser, you know.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A remarkable school...

One of the biggest blessings in my life is the opportunity to be associated with the Rangel Leadership School for Young Women. This school is the only all-girls public school in the Dallas area. It targets the best and brightest females and strives to create and mold them to take leadership roles in society.

I'm driving a school bus for them this month, but it's not your typical summer school. It's a program called, "Each One Reach One", and the girls who participate volunteer to do so. Basically, it introduces them to the world of serving others. Here, for example, is this week's schedule:

Monday: Visited the Scottish Rite Hospital to learn about that great institution.

Tuesday: Visited Vogel Alcove, close by downtown Dallas, to become acquainted with this amazing place, a shelter for homeless children. They spent the bulk of their time there playing with these unfortunate kids.

Wednesday: Today, I dropped them off at the Dallas Farmers' Market, where they shopped for veggies. Then I took them to a residence where the veggies were transformed into a meal for 15-20. We then loaded up the food on the bus and I took them to the Preston Rd. Church of Christ, where the girls fed the women involved in a program called, "New Friends, New Lives". This program targets women who have been "rescued" from the sex industry, either as prostitutes or strippers, and are being given a new chance at being moral and productive in society.

Tomorrow: The girls will work on a "Habitat for Humanity" home.

Friday: The girls will visit a homeless shelter, learn how it operates, and give some of their time to helping out.

The day that we visited the Vogel Alcove, I asked one of the girls how she liked the experience. Her response: "This is where I want to volunteer when I'm an adult."

A remarkable school giving great kids life-changing experiences.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Putting a face on poverty...

I've spent the week driving a summer school route - in fact, I drove it three times a day for five days. What I saw was stuff not usually seen by middle to upper class America. My route took me through the heart of south Dallas and through very poor parts of a section of Dallas known as Oak Cliff. Let's face it...the privileged very rarely see the ravages of poverty up close...and we like it that way. But I couldn't avoid it. Here are some observations:

In my world, transportation is a given. I open the door to my garage and there are always two vehicles there, ready to roll. In very poor neighborhoods, having a set of wheels may mean you own a bicycle, and that is how you get around. I saw older women on bikes this week and they weren't tooling around trying to lose weight. It was their way to get to the laundromat.

One day, I saw an elderly lady walking down the sidewalk, holding six or seven plastic bags filled with groceries. She was in poor health and was struggling. For a second, I was puzzled. There are no grocery stores in her neighborhood, which is, by the way, one of the drawbacks of living in a blighted area. Then it hit me...she had done her food shopping at a convenience store. No telling how much extra she had to pay for the items she bought, and if there's anyone who shouldn't have had to pay too much for anything, it was this woman.

Mental health is a huge issue in poor areas. On Monday, for example, I came to a busy intersection in a black part of town. There was a white guy standing in the middle of the intersection - he had positioned himself perfectly to avoid being hit by the traffic heading in four different directions. He had struck a pose. He had his eyes shut and his right arm was pointed straight up with a closed fist. It had all the trappings of a catatonic trance. He didn't move a muscle during the time I was able to watch him. On Tuesday, I drove through the same area and there he was. Only this time, a cop had him over to the sidewalk and was writing him a ticket. I don't know what his particular problem was/is, but I can guarantee he is unstable.

On my early morning run, I saw many individuals who sleeping outdoors. One was on a filthy mattress that lay in the shadow of a liquor store. This morning, I saw another guy curled up in the doorway of a business that hadn't opened yet. My house is about 30 miles from this area, but it may as well be on a different planet.

Jesus mentioned that we will always have the poor with us. That wasn't him giving us permission to ignore them, because he also talked about feeding, clothing, and helping those less fortunate. I also know all the things said by those of us who are "successful" - like how hard we worked to get to where we are, the sacrifices we made, the correct choices we opted for...all of those being true. Those in the cycle of poverty may be totally responsible for their status in life...but that doesn't absolve me as a Christian of my responsibility to share what I have. The ways I choose to share are probably not important...the act is. All of which was made clear to me this week. I'm glad God rattled my comfort zone a bit.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Parents' Perspective

My dad was stationed at Camp Roberts in California at the beginning of World War II. My mom, who had never been more than 50 or 60 miles from Wills Point, Texas, got on a train to San Francisco and married him a few days after arriving. Dad was probably destined for combat in the south Pacific, but a need arose for soldiers with post office experience...and Dad's mom had been a postmistress in west Texas, so he parlayed that into a position with the Army post office in San Francisco.

But there was still the time when he had to say good-bye to Mom and boarded a ship destined for wartime action...only to be inexplicably brought back to port and fortunately, Dad never saw combat. But he did an amazing job of getting mail to the soldiers who did have faraway addresses - we have several letters in our possession that call attention to the proficiency he brought to the operation, and what a vital operation that was.

One thing that has always stuck with me is my parents' description of what wartime was like stateside. About how often San Francisco and other coastal cities had to go dark after sunset and therefore render themselves less of a target for Japanese planes. There was always that fear that if Japan had the nerve to hit Pearl Harbor, they might have the capability of striking the west coast. My parents spoke of just how tenuous they perceived the nation's future was. Japan was certainly a formidable foe and Hitler was unstoppable early on in Europe.

Obviously, my parents had no way of knowing that Allied forces would eventually triumph. For all they knew, the United States might buckle under the stress of fighting what amounted to two wars half a world apart. Life was scary, freedoms were dear, and love of country was the adrenaline that pushed them to make the most of every day they had with each other - and make whatever sacrifices needed to be made for our country.

What hurts me now is the sometimes cavalier attitude that younger generations have toward our hard-won freedoms. I do cut them a lot of slack, however, because unless you have lived through a time when you think the country might fall, there's no way you can appreciate America like Mom and Dad did. They were in their 20's and didn't know if two months later, the war might be lost and the country's freedoms permanently destroyed. I'm sure that uncertainty made their love for each other and their country more intense and more precious. Fear was the adrenaline that drove relationships...and armies.

So I hope this Memorial Day that those who've never paused to grasp how this great country has managed to stay free will be struck by the sacrifices of those who've gone before us. And that they'll resolve to honor and revere the sacrifices made by our veterans, even by those who never fired a bullet at an enemy but made certain a sweetheart's letter was delivered to a homesick guy on the front line.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why he's so ashamed of us...

So sorry I've been such a slackard...I honestly wanted to write again about my aversion to the junk Hollywood churns out. But the guy America elected as commander-in-chief keeps begging to be reprimanded...if not impeached. So here we go.

He has bowed before the Saudi king and the Japanese emperor and seems to take delight in apologizing for the great heritage of our country. He claims we aren't a Christian nation. His people kowtow to the communist Chinese and apologize profusely for terrible Arizona...the same Chinese who have rap sheet a mile long of REAL dastardly deeds.

Of course, the other day Obama had a love-in with Mexican president Calderon. They acted like long-lost college lovers as they denounced Arizona for doing the unthinkable - enforcing a law already on the books. It was stomach-churning disgusting to the max. Most of America, polls show, stand behind Arizona in trying to do something about the massive problem of illegal immigration. But then, most of America is also against the health-care bill, cap-and-trade, and bailing out corporations. Obama doesn't care.

So why doesn't he care? It's simple. He's not one of us. What little we know of the guy indicates that the big influencers in his life have been loony-birds. And isn't it curious that we know nothing of his grades or papers from his time at Columbia University...and that Fox News cannot find a single classmate who even remembers this charismatic figure? By the way, I'm non-partisan about this. George W. Bush's whereabouts are fuzzy for a couple of years during the Vietnam war...he has never come clean about exactly what was going on in his life during this time. He, also, seems to have been hiding something.

I think Obama doesn't like America or her heritage. He has no connection with our military and thus no concept of the sacrifices that have been made and are being made to keep us free. Nope, it's all about him. His speeches are stunningly bereft of appreciation for America's history and her people. And since he doesn't act or think like typical America, it bothers him none to denigrate his country in front of foreign leaders.

The good news is that he is so out-of-touch that Americans who shunned political participation in the past are now rising up in huge numbers to alter the landscape in Washington. Hopefully, the election of Obama will one day be rendered by historians as an interlude in our glorious history when Americans briefly fell asleep at the wheel.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

So puzzling...

Left-wingers just keep getting farther and farther out there. Did you see where NYC mayor Bloomberg initially thought that the perpetrator of the Times Square almost-explosion would probably be "home-grown", "deranged", and somebody who didn't like the health-care bill? This is the typical mindset of liberals these days. They fall all over themselves trying to categorize Tea Party members as violent extremists, but somehow shy away from calling the Ft. Hood murderer a Muslim terrorist. Go figure.

They are also exposing their faulty biases with this Arizona controversy. Rather than accepting the real fact that Arizona is merely making a state law out of a federal law already on the books, the left has decided this is akin to Nazi Germany. Obama himself said that Hispanics who go out to get ice cream now have to worry about being pulled over and intimidated. Please. He either had not read the law or (more likely) wanted to score points with a huge minority voting bloc. Guess he doesn't want to hear about the deleterious effects of illegals on crime rates and drug enforcement.

Up is down. Wrong is right. Christians are scary and Muslims are our friends. Patriotic, peaceful Tea Partiers are evil but terrorists need to be coddled and babied. Hang on America. The wilder and more extreme the left gets, the more folks leave the Democratic party and look for more reasonable candidates.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ugly numbers...

Usually, when one points out Obama's unprecedented spending spree, his supporters start deflecting by saying bad things about Bush's spending or even Reagan's. Indeed, it's probably bad under any circumstances to increase the nation's debt. But what the president has done staggers the mind and shows what happens when you elect a guy who hasn't run a business and has no real economic acumen.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has projected that over the next ten years, cumulative deficits will reach $9.7 trillion and federal debt 90% of the gross domestic product. Global capital markets are unlikely to accept that credit erosion. If they revolt, as they did in 1979, ugly changes in fiscal and monetary policy will be imposed on Washington.

How bad is the outlook? The size of the federal debt will increase by 250% over 10 years. Other than during WWII, this hasn't been seen since record-keeping began in 1792. It is so bad that by 2020, the country will have to borrow $5 trillion a year just to refinance maturing debt and raise new money.

No family can long survive spending beyond its means...sooner or later, it has to shut down all-but-necessary spending and try to get the wheels back on the road. Obama loves big government and he's the answer to every liberal's prayer. But this ain't play money he's tossing around. And to help cover his uncontrollable spending habit, he is resorting to another Democrat favorite...raising taxes. For our sake, and the future of our kids and grandkids, this neophyte spender-in-chief needs to be reined in. His first trip to the woodshed will occur in November.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The party makes 'em nervous...

The liberals don't quite know what to make of the tea party movement that has swept across the land. But they do know they're scared of it. Most of us clean-living folk had never heard the term "tea-bagger" until CNN and MSNBC hosts started gleefully using it with accompanying leers. They also quickly rushed to judgment and claimed the tea party movement was saturated with racists and homophobes.

Now there's this. In a desperate effort to try and derail a groundswell of conservative sentiment, liberals have launched a website which recruits folks for the purpose of infiltrating the tea party movement. Once inside, these fine people will try to give the entire movement a bad name by making racist posters and signs, misspelling words on such posters and signs, and generally acting like rabble-rousers. This is typical of the Chicago-style politics of which Obama is so keen. Pretty much anything goes when your opponent has the upper hand.

And upper hand it is. Obama's popularity is at an all-time low (Gallup). Most want the health-care mess repealed. Democratic politicians around the country are trailing potential Republican candidates by double-digits. So it's time for them to trot out the really ugly tactics. It's all so predictable. As long as you can call folks racists and homophobes, you stand a chance.

So don't be aghast if you see someone holding a sign claiming Obama is Hitler (or maybe "Obamma is Hilter"). It's just business as usual for the party-crashers.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Welcome, enemies of America!

Barack Obama continues to demonstrate in a very bold way that he is not only out of touch with the American people, but that he may be more in touch with our enemies.

Today, he voiced his goal to make nuclear weapons obsolete and apparently, he wants to start this process with our own. This guy is the anti-Reagan. He has overridden his own Secretary of Defense and announced that we won't be developing any new nukes. And then in a truly stunning move, Obama said the U.S. will not retaliate with nuclear weapons if we are attacked with chemical/biological warfare.

If I weren't already convinced that this guy is naive and nuts, well, this does it. It's an open invitation to our enemies (you know, the ones that want to destroy us?) to hit us with their best shot...we'll just turn the other infected cheek. You never give your adversaries this kind of information. There's a reason a catcher in baseball uses discreet hand signals with his pitcher to indicate the kind of pitch he wants...rather than shouting out, "I'd like a fastball, please!" Of course, we've seen this bizarre behavior from our Mohammed-in-Chief before. Remember when he told the world his timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan? Absolutely brilliant!

And I haven't even brought up (yet) Obama's weird hatred of Israel. Oh, yeah...that's right. Israel is a long-time ally, therefore they are the enemy. Let's buddy up to Iran (how did that work out, sir?) and castigate our main friend in the Middle East.

Conservatives warned about this guy during the campaign. We told deaf ears that his values weren't ours, his past was obscure and cloudy, and his list of achievements non-existent. We detailed the long list of shady characters who've influenced Obama. But too many were caught up in the rush to make history with him and to believe his deliberately vague "hope and change" mantra. Sadly, we were right. Almost daily, our president is indeed making history. The kind that dooms us as a world leader.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


A week ago, I lost a brother-in-law. Ralph was a consummate gentleman, a man of God who oozed integrity. These days, it's increasingly hard to find guys who qualify for words like "gentleman" or "integrity". He was the type of friend who would do anything for you and you didn't necessarily have to ask. Last year, even when his health was obviously limiting his activities, he repeatedly offered to come help me clean out and organize my garage. The point is not that he wouldn't have been able to help's that he still wanted to be a buddy even in his condition.

I couldn't get Ralph to ever say anything bad about anyone. He simply considered others better than himself and refused to be drawn into discussions that included put-downs or gossip. Very simply, he was a better man than I. This in spite of the fact that I nearly cut his hand off many years ago. We were using a chain saw to cut down a large tree in our in-laws' yard. We were almost finished, but I was trying to cut a large piece into smaller pieces and Ralph's hand drifted a little too close. The saw kicked upward and nailed one of his thumbs. The thumbnail was almost completely severed and there were other slices all around the nail. The rest of his life, Ralph carried around maybe the ugliest thumb I've ever seen. And, he refused to blame me, saying it was all his fault. Yeah, right.

Four days after Ralph died, our 7th grandchild entered this world. Julia Kate Hall arrived, the 2nd daughter of our only daughter. Most Perkins babies are bald and stay that way for months. This kid has enough hair to wear curlers today. And she is drop-dead gorgeous. Now we know that everyone tells new parents that their baby is beautiful. Even if the kid looks like Joe Biden. But as an impartial (ahem) bystander, I sense that visitors are truly blown away by this kid's looks. In today's parlance, she is smokin' hot. She's already been asked out by two boy babies in the newborn nursery. I'm gonna have to start screening her boyfriends immediately.

So we said good-bye to Ralph, hello to Julia. But it's all good news. Ralph has been freed from a worn-out physical body and been given a new eternal one. We will see him again. Julia arrived less than 24 hours after we gathered around Ralph one last time. Transition. Nothing stays the same, nothing is stagnant. Every day, we are 24 hours closer to our reward. This week served as a poignant reminder to seize the day, live wisely, serve others, and enjoy every minute given us for what it is...a gift from God.

Friday, March 26, 2010

If only...

It's no secret that conservatives dominate the broadcast airwaves these days. Regardless of the time of day, one has no trouble finding Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham or Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly on the dial. The aforementioned have carved out a nice living by being the figurative towne criers for the Republican party. It's great to have smart, talented, quick-thinking spokespeople to filter through the politics of Washington, D.C. and give their listeners the pure-as-the-driven-snow truth, not the laughable lies that seem to regularly drop from the mouths of Obama, Pelosi, et al.

But I have a sizable problem with these folks. Somewhere in the quest to get the word out, they forgot how to be polite. And that's a shame. When a famous someone shares my ideology, I would prefer they have impeccable manners and a common sense of courtesy toward all, particularly those with whom they disagree.

Most of these "hosts" will talk at length with callers possessing similar political leanings and exchange opinions amicably, but when a liberal calls, they immediately become condescending in tone and soon, insults are flying. Often, they take a quote from a Democrat, take it out of context, and launch into a tirade about how awful the person is...not cutting the poor opponent any slack or realizing that occasionally people don't say precisely what they mean or perhaps choose a word that didn't exactly convey what they meant. Last week, much was made about a Democratic Representative who said something like, "we will control you", and when the GOP world heard the word "control", they siezed upon the quote as evidence that their opponents preferred communism over democracy. I've listened to the entire conversation and I feel the poor guy just picked the wrong word to say, something all of us who speak more than three sentences a day tend to do. Now rest assured, I disagree totally with this man's politics and would love to see him voted out in November, but come on, there's no need to have such a hair-trigger response.

Of course, the reason these folks have their high-visibility jobs is the fact that they DO act that way...arousing shouts of praise from conservatives and fits of rage from liberals. Ratings explode and reward them for their venom. In fairness, there is one fellow who endorses the company line AND treats liberals as people with brains. He is Mark Davis of radio station WBAP here in the north Texas area...he often substitutes for Rush when Rush needs a day off to cool his heels...and his tongue. I would hope that Mark someday has more of a national platform. It's so refreshing to hear someone whose intellect and conservative passion are matched by his respect for decorum and friendly discussion of issues.

Again, let me reiterate that I want nothing but failure for big-government liberals and their leaders. They must be removed from office ASAP. But wouldn't it be refreshing to have a polite give-and-take that doesn't leave everyone splattered with mud?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Uh, oh...

Looks like the Dems will pass the obscene healthcare bill.

This will no doubt be a day the country will rue, probably as soon as the taxes hit. Or as soon as they really find out what's happened to their healthcare.

But it will accomplish one wonderful thing: it will clear Congress of the Democratic majority come November. That's the price you pay for ignoring the will of the people.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The final gasp of Obamacare?

What the Democrats are doing this week shouldn't surprise us. After all, they pride themselves on being smarter than we and therefore know what's best for us. How else to explain the desperate and unconstitutional effort to get the monstronsity of a healthcare bill passed before Easter recess? By the way, the rush to get it done now is because Pelosi, Reid, et al don't want the 75% of Americans who hate this bill to have a chance to dissuade Congress members during the extended time off back in their home districts.

The Supreme Court has ruled that before a bill can become law, both houses of Congress must pass the exact version of the bill. The Democrats are playing fast and loose with the rules now, trying to get the House to pass a faux bill that can be altered later. Such is the level of their desperation and, dare I say it, immorality. Surely we can agree that Macchiavellianism is immoral and certainly, the Dems feel the end justifies the means at the moment.

Where is the outrage from the media about this? Oh, yeah. They're still in love with Obama, even though there are starting to be defections in the Anointed One's journalism army. One thing is for sure: the American public understands this mess. They have phoned the offices of fence-sitting representatives so much this week that some reps have had to disconnect their lines.

Hopefully, by Saturday, this healthcare bill will be dead...the bill that Obama hasn't read, he admits, and the bill that Pelosi wants us to pass and THEN find out what's enclosed. It will truly be a relief to finally stomp the last bit of life from this monstrosity and get started on a health bill that makes sense and doesn't hamstring our kids and grandkids financially. However, should it pass using the slimy, dirty trick process, I feel certain that the Supreme Court will quickly rule it unconstitutional. Mercy, would I love to write the majority opinion for that decision.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why I hate Spring Break

Woke up with a deluxe edition of a head cold this morning. What's doubly irritating about that is that my bride and I had planned to go to San Antonio to see elder son Brett and his family this morning. We don't get to see them enough anyway and then to mess up this opportunity is vexing...and I should have seen it coming.

Three years ago, on this exact Saturday, I had an all-day field trip to Lone Oak, Texas. It was a lucrative one - picked up the group at 6 AM and wouldn't return until 8 PM or so. I got them there okay but there was a problem. I had been assigned a newer school bus, a strange, unfamiliar beast...and I couldn't get the heater that keeps the driver warm to work. The passengers were toasty but I was a shivering idiot by the time we arrived.

Short story long, I felt the first pangs of illness around noon, and by sunset, I was a mess: feverish, alternating burning up and shivering, weak as a Nancy Pelosi explanation. I should have called dispatch and begged off, but like any male, I wanted to fight through it. All the way home, I had the overpowering urge to sleep...not a good thing when you're behind the wheel. We were returning to Dallas on I-30, and at one point, I passed the exit to FM 549 - the exit I take to get to our house. It killed me to know that instead of being home in 10 minutes, I had another 30 miles to go to get these kids home and another 30 miles back to FM 549 and a chance to go to bed. I eventually made it and spent the next 5 days in bed with the flu.

Last year, my sons and I decided to head to Arizona during Spring Break to take in Texas Rangers' spring training. Naturally, the days leading up to our trip were cold and rainy in north Texas and by departure day, I had a funny throat and a throbbing head. We had a blast, but my enjoyment was dampened by the fact that I wasn't 100%.

Well, Brett just called and said that if I have a miraculous recovery in the next 24 hours, to come anyway since he and Jenny are both off Monday. I've just taken a dose of Airborn (sp?) and maybe, just maybe, there will be a miracle
from a God who is sympathetic to my Spring Break curse.

Friday, March 05, 2010

$9.7 Trillion

Remember about six weeks ago when Obama lectured the American public on family budgeting, urging us to do things like canceling trips to Las Vegas? Somehow, there has to be a better spokesman for economic strategies. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office now estimates that Obama's spending will add $9.7 trillion to the federal deficit in the next decade.

Listen. You don't have to be Dave Ramsey to know that Obama is doing precisely the wrong thing when it comes to money. How many couples over the years have learned the hard way that spending more than you make doesn't work? Indeed, it leads to a deep financial hole that is next to impossible to recover from. How many parents have taught fiscal responsibility to their children by literally making them save up for a desired product and then buying it?

Compare this to what has happened since Obama took office. Need money? Print it. Need more money? Increase the debt limit. Need even more money? Borrow from China to the degree that even they are chastising us.

Most of America knows better, and that's why Obama's popularity is in a steep decline. Most of America doesn't want his financial naivete' to become a monetary nightmare that will burden our children and grandchildren.

This is what you get when you elect a guy whose life experiences made for the flimsiest presidential candidate's resume' in U. S. history. We can only hope that the November elections save us from his blind-leading-the-blind policies. Apparently, the Democratic majority in Congress can't be counted on to take the blinders off before then.

If we just hadn't been in such a rush to elect a smooth, charismatic black man to the nation's highest office. Looked like such a wonderful idea to so many. May we never be so delusional again.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

O Canada

I really am ambivalent about Canada's victory over the USA hockey team. I so wanted the Americans to win; they didn't really match up well talent-wise with the Canadians, but seemed to have an endless supply of grit and determination. This was exemplified by the tying goal late in regulation time, a goal which temporarily inserted a dagger deep into the maple leaf on the Canadian team sweaters. But a lightning-fast overtime ended with a quick wrister from Sidney Crosby and Canada's relief was palpable.

The United States will survive. We have NBA basketball heading toward playoff time, major league baseball in spring training, and American Idol going strong. We are extremely proud that our team almost won the gold medal in a sport that is still something of an anamoly in the country.

Canada needed this victory much more than the U.S. I've only been north of our border twice, but each trip has convinced me that those hardy folk up there are fiercely proud of their country. One of our trips coincided with Canada Day and I must say I have never seen so many flags so ardently displayed...on houses, from buildings, street lights, and wrapped over shoulders. And nothing is imprinted on Canada's consciousness more strongly than hockey.

I guess it has something to do with the ever-present frozen ponds, cold weather, and short days, but Canada has to have something to divert their attention from the severity of life up there. That's not a knock on those fine folk. I admire them for leaving the comfort of their homes, cabins, and igloos when the wind chill is -50. There had to be something to bring joy and vigor during the long winters and hockey was it. And the hockey players they have produced are almost without fail model citizens, polite and respectful, unassuming, and tougher than an angry rattler.

So from down south, we tip our hats to the Canadian hockey team and to their devoted fans. We almost gotcha, but not quite. There's no shame in barely losing to the best. And oh, by the way, your national anthem is better than ours.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More quality businesses...

Since my last post, I have thought of two more businesses I'd like to give props to.

1. Costco. One defining quality that all great companies seem to have is a happy workforce, and Costco's people act like every day is Christmas. Now all this joy would be meaningless if the rest of the shopping experience was a dud. But Costco has great prices and quality stuff. Also, it's so great to get through a checkout line in less than two minutes...and Costco pulls this off as well. Yesterday, Carole and I bought one of those items where you simply take a ticket to the cashier, pay for the item, and then wait around for somebody to go to the back and find one. Well, literally one minute after paying for it, an employeed handed it to us. Service. You can't beat it.

2. Milestone Electric. This applies only to DFW denizens. Here's a company whose prices are competitive and spelled out prior to the work beginning. The work is done right. But it's the guys who show up from Milestone that set the company apart. It's as though Milestone hires only former Boy Scouts. They are freshly scrubbed and have eyes that twinkle. They're all in their 20's (it seems) and all sport that All-America look. They are polite to a fault. Indicative of how the company's approach is this example: on their last visit to our house, we presented them with a $50 coupon of unknown origin and vague expiration date. Mr. Boy Scout allowed it even though I got the feeling he was bending the rules a bit.

Again, chime in with businesses that you've found to be customer-friendly.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Quality...hard to find

Since quality products and quality customer service is so hard to come by these days, I thought I'd give some credit where credit is due. After all, sloppiness and apathy has become prevalent in current society, leaving us with inferior merchandise and frustrating encounters with customer service reps. And I say "service" with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

So let me toss a few bouquets to some folks and products who deserve our plaudits...and our business:

1. The Honda Corporation. I started buying Honda lawnmowers in the 80's and my sons and I wore out 6 or 7 of them by mowing 25-30 yards a week, year after year. (That's how we got the funds to put our kids in Dallas Christian.) The mowers were fabulously reliable and produced great-looking yards. Then, in 1990, I bought my first Honda Accord. Since then, Accords have been a mainstay in our lives, never failing (never, I said!), and getting excellent mpg. Now, I'm driving my first Honda Ridgeline pickup, and it's a marvelous vehicle.

2. Tul pens. I'm extremely picky about writing instruments. Put the proper pen in my right hand and I can toss out some superb penmanship, a rapidly disappearing art these days. I found Tul pens at Office Max and decided to give them a try. Excellent. They come in colors and have a very narrow felt tip that gives a smooth, even stroke. My former employer, Dallas Independent School District, should have provided them to my students to counter the chicken-scratching homework that used to cross my eyes.

3. Lowes. Every suburb has matching sets of Home Depot and Lowes stores. Here's a hint: avoid Home Depot. I imagine that their merchandise and pricing policies are quite comparable. The difference boils down to how the customer is treated. At the Depot, it often seems the customer is an afterthought, someone to be avoided. At Lowes, the word has apparently come down from corporate suits that the customer needs to be treated with respect and friendliness. Employees actually seem to seek out puzzled-looking patrons to offer assistance. After the sale, Lowes is rock-solid in standing by their products and if the customer is dissatisfied, will bend over backwards to make sure the experience becomes a happy one. I'm sure there are occasional exceptions, but in the main, Lowes stomps Depot handily.

4. Walgreens. Since I've been a chronic-pain patient for decades, I've purchased many a prescription in my time. The decade of the '80's was a horrible one, because I was almost forced to use a now-defunct chain known as Eckerd's. Their pharmacies were staffed by highly-qualified pharmacists and highly-acned high school dropouts. Since the dropouts answered the phones and dealt with the customers, mistakes were as common as wobbly wheels on Wal-Mart grocery carts. Fortunately, Walgreens and CVS came along and filled the void when Eckerd's disappeared. The folks behind the counter at Walgreens are unfailingly cheerful and competent. And they don't screw up the prescriptions. Makes life worth living, eh?

5. Cotton Patch restaurants. For those of you who aren't in Texas, this is a home-cooking chain that tries to cook food like Aunt Bee. They succeed. The food is flawless every time. The wait staff is friendly but not smothering. The managers are great about wandering by and checking on customer satisfaction. And they know how to put a mean batter on chicken-fried steak and chicken-fried chicken, two mandatory Southern food groups.

Got any places or things you'd like to laud?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

His Majesty's Service

I was reading today and came across the story of a Catholic friar named Abbe Pierre. Pierre was assigned to work with homeless beggars in Paris after WWII. He found that many were freezing to death in the city during the winter, not having a place to flee from the cold. He tried to interest the community in the beggars' plight, but had no success. He decided the only option was to show them how to mobilize themselves.

First, he taught them to do their everyday tasks better. Instead of sporadically collecting bottles and rags, they banded together in teams to scour the city. Next, he got them to build a warehouse from discarded bricks and start a business in which they sorted out vast amounts of used bottles collected from around Paris. Finally Pierre inspired each beggar by giving him responsibility to help another beggar worse off than himself. That is when the project really took off. An organization called "Emmaus" was founded to carry on Pierre's work, with branches in other countries.

A few years went by and presto! No more beggars in Paris! And Pierre believed his organization was about to face a serious crisis. "I must find somebody for my beggars to help", he declared. "If I don't find people worse off than my beggars, this movement could turn inward. They'll become a powerful, rich organization and the whole spiritual impact will be lost! They'll have no one to serve."

Pierre eventually went to India and found leprosy patients to fulfill his desperate search to find someone worse off than his beggars, and when he found them, he was overcome with joy. He returned to France, and Emmaus worked to donate a ward at an Indian hospital. The beggars had found people who needed their help so the spiritual motives of their lives continued on.

For us, the lesson is clear. Has there ever been more opportunity than right now to be there for the less fortunate? With our economy struggling and unemployment rising, the gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots" becomes ever more obvious. Christ spoke a lot about this, about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving cups of cool water to those in need. He instructed us to consider others better than ourselves. If we do this, we will have to go against the flow of society. Advertisers constantly urge us to think of ourselves first, pamper ourselves, and reward ourselves. For sure, there was a great outpouring of American aid and effort for Haiti...but most probably ignored the opportunity.

For a nation of individuals that increasingly struggles to "get in touch with your real self", Christ's admonition that "he who loses himself shall find himself" rings very true. This Pierre fellow had it all figured out.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The dangers of assigning status...

The secular world wants us to believe that our mission on earth is to attain enough status to earn the love, recognition, and plaudits of others. Advertising execs, of course, get paid the big bucks to entice us into this dangerous web of artificial importance, much like the hunter lures the prey into the waiting trap. You are familiar with the various items that we admire: good looks, youth, education, wealth, wit, and so on. Next thing we know, we're acting in a condescending manner to the custodian and getting sweaty palms before shaking hands with F-16 pilot.

Sadly, Christians like me find ourselves playing the status game. It affects how we choose our friends, our purchasing habits, our manner of speech to those less fortunate than we, how we dress, and our attitude about our current level in society. Often, these things subtly become engrained in our mind and habits and pretty soon, we're indistinquishable from those who never darken a church door.

James 2 talks about the dangers of seating an obviously rich man up front for all to see while shoving a shabbily-dressed guy to the rear. Very strong language is used to show God's disgust with such preferential treatment. Don't know about you, but I'd rather not tick God off. We all should jettison any kind of people-rating system. I'll work on myself, that's for sure.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Personal Bucket List

I often think of things I want to do before my personal 24-second shot clock expires, but usually I don't have pen and paper in hand to jot down these incredibly important tasks. So I'll use my flawed memory to present these, and also give probabilities of them happening.

1. Touch the Stanley Cup. No other piece of sports metal carries such impact and importance. Most hockey players refuse to touch it until and unless their team wins the thing. Probability of fulfillment? Less than 1%. It would pretty much require the Dallas Stars to win their second NHL championship, and the way their fortunes are going, it might take more years than I have left.

2. Fly in the Concorde. The Concorde is the most elegant aircraft ever and the fastest commercial jetliner ever built. Probability of fulfillment? Zero. About three years ago, British Airways retired their fleet, succumbing to the extraordinary fuel costs and pressure from environmentalists. If only I had ponied up the several thousand dollars to buy a one-way ticket back in the '90's. There are a few of the birds preserved for the public to see and visit, and maybe I'll at least get to touch one.

3. Live next door to a busy railroad track. There is still a lot of little boy still left in this arthritic old man. I would love it, even to the point of ignoring the hassle of being awakened repeatedly in the middle of the night. Sure, the train whistle can jar you from slumber...but the clickety-clack will immediately lull you back to sleep. Probability of fulfillment? Zero. I am going to try to avoid moving again in the time I have left on this planet. I'm gonna leave the job of cleaning out the attic to our kids.

4. Live next door to a busy airport. No big surprise there. Probability of fulfillment: um, zero. Carole would probably leave me over #3 and surely leave me over this one.

5. Meet Claudine Longet. I have already written in the past about my fascination with the former Mrs. Andy Williams. But since I'm already in trouble with my wife, I shall not push what little luck I have left. Probability of fulfillment: less than zero.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Sleeping Giant Finally Awakes

It's easy to be swept away by glitz. Folks buy cars all the time that they shouldn't have fallen in love with but couldn't help it. The paint was too shiny, the accessories too tempting, the ride too smooth, and next thing you know, those well-meaning folks are saddled with debt and have buyer's remorse.

A lot of Americans were swept off their feet by Obama...a guy who is well-spoken, looks sharp, has a winning smile, and generally fulfilled everyone's long-time vision for our first African-American president. His campaign promises, hope and change, sounded good and enough folks bought the ideas that Obama was swept into office. Now, however, the shine is off. A year has passed and the country officially has buyer's remorse.

Scott Brown's victory in our most Democratic state is exhibit A that America has finally seen through the glitz. Several Democratic politicians have gotten the message and today offered up conciliatory remarks, talking about the party needing to move more to the middle and away from the extreme left. But Obama may be the most arrogant human on the planet. He still feels that his personna is enough to sway folks to do what they don't want to do. But the people don't agree.

This is the great thing about America. Our democratic process allows people to effect change without resorting to coups or assassinations. On Tuesday, the shock-wave of change rippled all the way to the Oval Office without anyone firing a gun or storming a palace. Mistakes get corrected and politicians get the message without physical least some of them do.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pat Robertson and Haiti

We are all aware now of Pat Robertson's comments on Haiti and the earthquake and about how it was the result of a pact with the devil. This is wrong on so many levels.

First, the timing is horrendous. Now is not the time to pontificate. As someone wrote, you don't sit by the bedside of a friend dying of lung cancer and remind him that he shouldn't have smoked. This is the height of poor taste.

Secondly, his theology is suspect. I haven't found anything in the New Testament that alludes to God acting in such a punitive matter on innocent people. There are passages indicating that He disciplines His people when necessary, but nothing about wholesale, massive, indiscriminatory natural disasters as tools of retribution.

Each time Robertson does this, he undermines the hard work of Christians who take it upon themselves to administer love to those in need. For those looking for a reason, any reason, to belittle Christianity, he gives them years' worth of material. God wants His people to be giving cups of water, figuratively, to the less fortunate (Matt. 10:42). Millions take that task to heart every day, and thousands will be involved in helping those in Haiti. These folks are the salt of the earth - totally unselfish folks looking to do what they can without any publicity or accolades.

Robertson's influence, whatever it may be, would have been much better utilized had he spread the word about how to donate to the Red Cross or, even better, organized a group led by himself to go to Haiti and render real assistance.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Wind Chill - Baloney

We've had quite a weather week here in north Texas, as have most of the denizens of the U.S. who live east of the Rockies. One particular morning, the temp was in the upper teens and the wind was gusting 30+ mph. That would put the wind chill at around minus 5.

But I have serious issues with this whole wind chill thing. The NWS says it's based on how the cold feels to a human face five feet up on a cloudy day or at night. It sounds very subjective to me but they say it's based on some "heat transfer" formulation.

Here's my beef. I think nearly everyone would much rather experience a calm, cloudy day when it's minus 5 than a very windy day in the mid-teens. The wind has a way of penetrating all those layers the experts tell us to wear. After it digs through all that fabric, it takes aim for nerves buried deep under the skin. There's a reason why "bone-chilling" is a common phrase during winter.

The coldest temp I've ever experienced was minus 1 F. It hurt not a bit. Now the sun was out, but there was no wind. In fact, I found the air rather invigorating. I would much rather have been in those circumstances, even had it been cloudy, than to have a windy, 20-degree day.

So the experts need to get away from their desks and step outside the next windy winter day. My hunch is that they will rush back inside and re-do the revered wind chill chart. And the next time the forecast calls for, say, 15 degrees with 30 mph winds, and they say the wind chill is minus 5, feel free to join me in hollering out, "B-b-b-b-b-baloney"!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Through a Glass, Darkly

With each new day and each new problem, Obama proves that he's looking at things through a different prism than most in the country. This is not surprising since he has been pals with radicals and Rev. Wright for so long.

The latest blunder is, of course, related to the "underwear bomber", a real wonderful fellow who wanted to take hundreds down with him in a futile attempt to get to those waiting virgins. The Obama administration has opted to treat this fellow as a regular criminal off the streets rather than a terrorist. This is hardly surprising since "terrorist" is not a word used by those close to the president. This jihadist was "mirandized" and any significant info he could have passed on will now be lost forever.

A Rasmussen poll shows the vast majority of Americans want this guy turned over to military authorities. They also want to see water-boarding and any other "enhanced" interrogation techniques used to get him yapping. See, Americans understand this situation for what it really is - war. Radical Islamists are out to destroy the country. Therefore, we should use whatever means necessary to protect and defend our country. But Obama, I guess, sees all this as a big misunderstanding. If we saw things his way, we'd be bowing to various potentates and eliminating "jihad" from our conversations, too.

The Islamists are dropping major hints that they have only just begun this fight. Most patriots got the message on 9/11. The situation now is, will we continue to be fortunate enough to have passengers leap over seats and subdue the enemy, or will we have our head down in a magazine and miss the hints? We certainly can't count on Obama to be alert and vigilant. Whose side is he on, anyway?