Another Write-wing Conspirator

Commentary, observations, musing, and ranting from the middle of the road (or just to the right of center. Usually.) featuring The Curmudgeon

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  • Welcome to The Curmudgeon’s lair

    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

    If you see a posting you like and wish to share it with others, by all means feel free to do so. I'd prefer that you send the link to your friends, but you're also welcome to reproduce anything here—as long as you retain my identity on the document. If you have a web site of your own and wish to post a link to this blog (or to a specific post), again, feel free to do so.

    The purpose of this blog is simple: to provide me a vehicle for sounding-off on whatever topic suits me at the moment. While there’s sure to be no shortage of politically-oriented palaver here, it is by no means all (nor necessarily even most) of what will be proffered to your discerning mind. You’ll also find that my personal politics, ethics, morals, and standards are pretty much “all over the map” (according to my mother-in-law)—so, don’t be surprised to see rants regarding, say, the interference of churches in politics, politically-correct anything, “nanny” laws, taxes, the United Nations, Congress, the Commissioner of Baseball, the State of Ohio’s speed limits, steroids, Jesse Jackson, the “mainstream” media, ultra-liberals, ultra-conservatives, the price of cigarettes, Obamarxism, regulating sales of alcohol, gasoline price manipulation, Muslim foot baths, illegal immigration, laws banning the sale of adult sex toys, cell phones, heavy-handed cops, meddlesome politicians, Hillary, Billary, our all-but-self-proclaimed uncrowned Queen Nancy, “W”, eminent domain, freedom of speech, and the designated hitter all in succession. It is, as I said, my curmudgeondom — and I have the credentials and bona fides to lay claim to the title of The Curmudgeon. So, there.

    Some of the postings you'll encounter may seem familiar—especially to those who know me personally. By way of explanation… I once had an ongoing relationship with a local newspaper, and had a number of published opinion pieces—some of which may be posted here. My arrangement was for a feature entitled An Opposing View; given that the editorial staff had a generally liberal, left-of-center view, it stands to reason that my "opposing" view would generally be perceived as coming from the right (in more ways than one, in my own humble opinion). These posts will be annotated as having been previously published.

    Comments, of course, are always welcome. You may agree or disagree with me. Doesn’t matter. Of course, I reserve the right to completely ignore you — but, feel free to let your feelings be known, anyway. And if you don't want to comment directly here, my e-mail address is: jimseeber@gmail.com .

    Oh, and…yes, I can spell. That "Write-wing" is only a play on words. So, there. Again.

    Welcome, once again. Strap in and hang on.

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  • About this “curmudgeon” guy…

    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

    Anything else you wanna know—just ask.

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Veterans Day

Posted by The Curmudgeon on October 11, 2012

A note to my brothers-in-arms…

Note: This started as a simple email to friends and fellow veterans. Owing to the response I received, I decided to spruce it up a little and include it here. —Jim

To my fellow veterans:

Perhaps it’s because of the times we live in, with troops in harm’s way. Or it might be the still-fresh memory of the massacre at Ft. Hood. Or it could be owing to recent communications with former brothers- (and sisters-) in-arms. Whatever the source, I’m feeling particularly sentimental about Veterans Day—our day—this time around. It always happens, but…for some reason, it’s a stronger feeling today.

Some of you I served with. Some, I didn’t. No matter. I’ve always felt that—regardless of our respective histories—we share something very special. I suspect many of you feel the same.

Some time ago, I was seated at a blackjack table in Tunica, MS. I’d been engaged in sporadic conversation with the young man seated alongside me, and learned that he’d recently returned from his second tour in Iraq. I asked the usual questions (we all know them—right?) : Where are you from? What’s your MOS? How long’ve you been in?

This, of course, revealed to him (we all recognize the signs and subtle signals) that I’d spent time in the military, as well—and in fact we had Army service in common (like I said: We all recognize the telltale signs of a brother-in-arms).

He then surprised me by extending his hand and saying: “Thanks for your service.”

This simple gesture has become common in recent years—and I kinda like it. However, no one had ever said it to me before; frankly, it caught me a little off-guard. Yes, I’d served. My military career was, however, decidedly unremarkable. No hero. Just did my job—like most of us. To be honest, I felt a tinge of humility hearing a “Thank-you” from someone so recently returned from the jaws of Hell.

Almost sheepishly, I grasped the proffered hand and shook it firmly. “No,” I said. “Thank-you. My time was long ago and a helluva lot easier.”

And then he said it.

“You served,” he said evenly, still gripping my hand. “That’s all that matters.”

And the steady, certain look in his eyes confirmed that he’d meant what he’d said.

He was right.

It doesn’t matter whether we were cooks, grunts, supply clerks, swabbies, wrench-turners, jarheads, or cannon-cockers.

We served—and that is all that matters. Many…most…didn’t. We did.

I’m reminded of a Marine Corps recruiting billboard from a few years ago showing a split-view of a young man’s face. One-half was the boyish look he’d borne before he enlisted; the other half was the steel-jawed look that Uncle Sam put on him. The caption was simple: “The change is forever.”

And it is. It changed us. All of us. And we’ll always be different for it. Regardless of which branch each of us served in or what we did.

How many times have you sat around swapping lies with other vets when you suddenly became aware of the rapt attention being paid by one of them, those who never took our oath?

We share a common bond—one that will never be broken. It’s a special fraternity. It’s something that they will never have, nor even completely understand.

I pity them.

They’ll never know what it feels like.

They don’t know our friendships spawned amid shared adversity, our camaraderie forged by experiences they can’t even imagine. They’ll never know those memories that we won’t—or can’t—speak of except amongst ourselves, our brothers. They don’t understand the particular annoyance we feel when the entertainment superstar of the moment butchers the national anthem at a football game, or why we feel compelled to throttle those in the stands who fail to remove their hats or place their hands over their hearts or at least shut the hell up while it’s being played. They puzzle over why we rail against a giveaway to someone who’s earned nothing, but we’ll give anything—anything—to one of our brothers in need. They’ll never know that bittersweet tug on our heart-strings whenever we hear the mournful strains of Taps being played.

They can’t imagine a wintertime patrol of the DMZ in Korea when you’ve given-up on the idea of ever actually being warm again, settling instead for merely being able to once again feel your toes. They can’t picture an exhausted airman trying desperately to avoid dripping sweat on sensitive avionics components while struggling in desert heat to repair an aircraft for a ground-support mission. They’ll never know the lonely vigil of a sailor standing watch at night, peering into the inky blackness of the North Atlantic. They can’t begin to know fear so deep that you’re no longer certain of having control of your breathing or your bladder as you suddenly realize that there are a lot of people trying to kill you. They can’t imagine your feverish attempts to apply a field dressing, or holding a wounded buddy as his life slips away. They’ll never be able to laugh, years later, as friends reminisce about an over-exuberant celebration in an exotic port after months at sea—that might’ve resulted in a night or two spent in the local jail. They don’t grasp the significance to us of George Orwell’s familiar observation about people being able to sleep soundly in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf—nor do they have any idea that we now and then silently remind ourselves with pride: I was one of those rough men.

Whether you did a two-year stint courtesy of your draft board…or had nothing better to do for a few years after surviving high school…or felt a call to duty…or made a twenty- or thirty-year career out of it…

You served. We served. And whether we like it or not, we retain feelings that get stirred-up from time to time.

We know what it feels like, and sometimes have to choke down some pretty strong emotions. They haven’t a clue as to what that’s all about

I recently attended a ceremony during which my nephew and some thirty other very impressive young newly-minted Army and Air Force officers received their commissions, and I proudly welcomed my nephew and his comrades into our ranks. (For those who think that the “old Army” had something over the new…I have news for you: They’re every bit as good as our memories tell us that we were—and better, in my opinion.) What really struck me during this ceremony, though, was an observation made by an Air Force three-star who delivered some very appropriate comments (a pretty impressive guy, he was—for a zoomie, anyway). He pointed out that the whole of all our service personnel — every branch included — comprises less than 1% of the population. That’s worth considering for a moment…that 1% protects the other 99%. A sobering thought. One might conclude that we are members of a very exclusive club, indeed.

Some might recall that I’ve been waging a years-long battle to try to get people—them—to grasp the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. It sends me into a slow boil every Memorial Day when I see television and newspaper ads proclaiming: “Thanks to all our veterans!”

I appreciate the sentiment, but…that’s not our day; that day is set aside for those who didn’t return—and blurring the line between the two occasions cheapens their sacrifice.

I’ve probably aggravated a lot of people in attempting to correct that misconception.

This is our day. This is the one we earned when we raised our hands and swore our oaths—when we entered that special fraternity…when we underwent that change that we’ll all take to our graves…when we were bound to one another forever.

Thank-you all for your service. Enjoy your day; you earned it. Go grab the free chow at Applebee’s and Golden Corral and Chili’s, and be appreciative that some, at least, acknowledge your service and sacrifice. Muster-up a dash of humility if a kid comes up to you today and says “Thanks” because a parent or teacher instilled that sense of values. Choke back your tears when the bugler plays Taps during the ceremony at The Tomb (or let them flow; you earned that right, too). Call an old Army buddy (or Navy; you get the idea). Shake hands with fellow vets you know; they’re your brothers-in-arms—and it’s their day, too.

Having now gotten all maudlin, I’ll leave you with one final thought expressed by Rudyard Kipling:

I’ve eaten your bread and salt,
I’ve drunk your water and wine.
The deaths ye died I watched beside,
and the lives ye led were mine.

Jim

“A veteran is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.'”author unknown

Note: This is a re-posting of an entry from three years ago. I first posted it in my old blog; however, when I transferred everything to this site, some of the formatting was corrupted. In addition, I received several requests from friends asking that it be re-posted for Veterans Day last year. So, I spruced it up again and made a few changes. Apparently, a lot of people liked it; I received several requests to re-post it again this year. —Jim

 

__________

Posted in veteran, veterans day, war | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Memorial Day

Posted by The Curmudgeon on May 27, 2012

Never Forget

The past week or so, I’ve detected a clear increase in e-mail from family members about a get-together, and noticed that burgers and hot dogs and what-not are on display at the supermarket. And then there was that blurb I caught a few days ago about the Indianapolis 500.

So…it appears that it’s about time for my annual Memorial Day diatribe (not to be confused with my annual Veterans Day diatribe). It’ll go into high gear about the time I see a newspaper or TV ad for a local store hawking its Super-duper Memorial Day Sale. No problem with that; retailers have special sales for any and all occasions.

But then I’ll see it: that “Thanks to all our veterans” missive tacked-on at the end of the ad.

And that will set me off.

Let’s review real quick. Memorial Day is just that; a time of remembrance, to commemorate those who lost their lives while serving in the military. It is not interchangeable with Veterans Day. So many people seem to have forgotten that—and it grinds my gears in a way that few things do.

It’d be difficult to pinpoint the time when the lines between the two occasions became blurred—but I suspect there are others who’ve likewise noticed how common it’s become to intermingle two of the days we should be preserving as separate and sacrosanct. I can only hope that at least some find this trend disturbing.

Call it a pet peeve. Some may think I’m being unreasonable about it. But I can’t help it.

As I see it, we as a nation do little enough as it is to commemorate the sacrifices of the fallen. Compare us to Israel, for example, where everything in the country comes to a complete halt for two minutes at 11:00 AM on their day of remembrance. No shopping. No picnics. No traffic. Nothing. Silence. They all stop and give a small slice of their precious time to commemorate those who gave their all. By design, this takes place the day before their independence day celebrations — deliberately timed to remind everyone of those who paid the price to make it all possible.

We know the familiar phrases invoked for the occasion: “…last full measure of devotion” and “supreme sacrifice,” for example.

Do we remember what it looks like?

Or what it feels like?

It’s been said that when we take to the field of battle we never leave our people behind.

That’s not quite correct.

Wherever our troops have ventured, they’ve left behind a lasting impression in the form of fallen comrades laid to rest.

When then-French President Charles De Gaulle concluded that a decent interval had passed since U.S. forces had led the way in liberating France during World War II, he suddenly became averse to seeing American uniforms and demanded that all U.S. military personnel be removed from French soil.

Dwight D. Eisenhower is reputed to have dryly noted that “…it might take a while to dig some of them up.”

Time and time again, Americans have answered the call—from which many didn’t return. They’ve done so selflessly, with neither the promise of nor the demand for reward. Never the conqueror—were that the case, Germany, Japan, and many nations would today be vassal states—this nation has consistently been a protector and liberator; and when hostilities ceased, as Colin Powell observed, we asked “only for enough land to bury our dead.”

More than 100,000 U.S. service members killed during World War I and II are buried in military cemeteries in Europe alone. Thousands more lie at rest elsewhere around the world and here at home, or permanently entombed in sunken vessels. National cemeteries dot the landscape across the nation, and individual grave sites elsewhere often bear distinctive marking to serve as grim reminders that not all of us get to attend reunions with our old Army buddies to swap lies and hoist a few beers.

Unfortunately, memories do fade; it’s all too easy for anyone to forget over time the terrible price paid by so many. That’s why we have a Memorial Day. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has sought for years to have Memorial Day restored to its original fixed date of May 30, concerned that having the observance continually shifted to make a three-day weekend has caused much of its intent to be forgotten. Similarly, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) criticized the practice, and several years ago commented in its Memorial Day address that “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt this has contributed a lot to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”

We forget that those who gave their lives left behind wives, brothers, parents, and children whose own lives were shattered by their loss.

We forget that most were young, cut down in their prime, dreams unfulfilled.

We forget that what they did—though they may have been liberating Europe or safeguarding our national interests in some far-flung corner of the world—they ultimately did for us. As poignantly noted by one popular cartoon, they forfeited all their tomorrows so that we could have our tomorrows.

Please do try to give that at least a few moments of thought before rushing off to the family barbecue.

To my fellow veterans, I say this:

If there’s any group that understands that difference between honoring the living and commemorating the dead, it’s us. We know the unique message conveyed when hearing Taps being played by a bugler who seems to specialize in wrenching our heart-strings with each mournful note…the familiar acrid smell as the firing party pays its final tribute…that bead of sweat that rolls into the small of the back while we stand rigidly at attention, rendering that last salute…that kick-in-the-gut pain as we watch over a brother-in-arms being committed to his final rest…the indescribable sorrow we feel as we watch a grieving widow weeping over our departed brother.

Most importantly, we understand in a way that most can’t fathom the importance of preserving their memory — and we don’t forget.

We, the living, have our day—every November 11th. This one’s for them, the fallen—those who didn’t come back. I personally consider it incumbent on us, the living, to tactfully point out to the well-meaning but ill-informed souls who can’t seem to discern the difference between the two occasions that this one is for them, the fallen—and that failing to maintain that distinction diminishes their sacrifice.

Make sure they keep their day. Make sure they don’t become a forgotten blur amid the picnics and barbecues and furniture sales.

 

 

 

 

________

The above is a reprint, originally published May 29, 2010.

Posted in Memorial Day | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Veterans Day

Posted by The Curmudgeon on November 11, 2011

A note to my brothers-in-arms…

Note: This started as a simple email to friends and fellow veterans. Owing to the response I received, I decided to spruce it up a little and include it here. —Jim

To my fellow veterans:

Perhaps it’s because of the times we live in, with troops in harm’s way. Or it might be the still-fresh memory of the massacre at Ft. Hood. Or it could be owing to recent communications with former brothers- (and sisters-) in-arms. Whatever the source, I’m feeling particularly sentimental about Veterans Day—our day—this time around. It always happens, but…for some reason, it’s a stronger feeling today.

Some of you I served with. Some, I didn’t. No matter. I’ve always felt that—regardless of our respective histories—we share something very special. I suspect many of you feel the same.

Some time ago, I was seated at a blackjack table in Tunica, MS. I’d been engaged in sporadic conversation with the young man seated alongside me, and learned that he’d recently returned from his second tour in Iraq. I asked the usual questions (we all know them—right?) : Where are you from? What’s your MOS? How long’ve you been in?

This, of course, revealed to him (we all recognize the signs and subtle signals) that I’d spent time in the military, as well—and in fact we had Army service in common (like I said: We all recognize the telltale signs of a brother-in-arms).

He then surprised me by extending his hand and saying: “Thanks for your service.”

This simple gesture has become common in recent years—and I kinda like it. However, no one had ever said it to me before; frankly, it caught me a little off-guard. Yes, I’d served. My military career was, however, decidedly unremarkable. No hero. Just did my job—like most of us. To be honest, I felt a tinge of humility hearing a “Thank-you” from someone so recently returned from the jaws of Hell.

Almost sheepishly, I grasped the proffered hand and shook it firmly. “No,” I said. “Thank-you. My time was long ago and a helluva lot easier.”

And then he said it.

“You served,” he said evenly, still gripping my hand. “That’s all that matters.”

And the steady, certain look in his eyes confirmed that he’d meant what he’d said.

He was right.

It doesn’t matter whether we were cooks, grunts, supply clerks, swabbies, wrench-turners, jarheads, or cannon-cockers.

We served—and that is all that matters. Many…most…didn’t. We did.

I’m reminded of a Marine Corps recruiting billboard from a few years ago showing a split-view of a young man’s face. One-half was the boyish look he’d borne before he enlisted; the other half was the steel-jawed look that Uncle Sam put on him. The caption was simple: “The change is forever.”

And it is. It changed us. All of us. And we’ll always be different for it. Regardless of which branch each of us served in or what we did.

How many times have you sat around swapping lies with other vets when you suddenly became aware of the rapt attention being paid by one of them, those who never took our oath?

We share a common bond—one that will never be broken. It’s a special fraternity. It’s something that they will never have, nor even completely understand.

I pity them.

They’ll never know what it feels like.

They don’t know our friendships spawned amid shared adversity, our camaraderie forged by experiences they can’t even imagine. They’ll never know those memories that we won’t—or can’t—speak of except amongst ourselves, our brothers. They don’t understand the particular annoyance we feel when the entertainment superstar of the moment butchers the national anthem at a football game, or why we feel compelled to throttle those in the stands who fail to remove their hats or place their hands over their hearts or at least shut the hell up while it’s being played. They puzzle over why we rail against a giveaway to someone who’s earned nothing, but we’ll give anything—anything—to one of our brothers in need. They’ll never know that bittersweet tug on our heart-strings whenever we hear the mournful strains of Taps being played.

They can’t imagine a wintertime patrol of the DMZ in Korea when you’ve given-up on the idea of ever actually being warm again, settling instead for merely being able to once again feel your toes. They can’t picture an exhausted airman trying desperately to avoid dripping sweat on sensitive avionics components while struggling in desert heat to repair an aircraft for a ground-support mission. They’ll never know the lonely vigil of a sailor standing watch at night, peering into the inky blackness of the North Atlantic. They can’t begin to know fear so deep that you’re no longer certain of having control of your breathing or your bladder as you suddenly realize that there are a lot of people trying to kill you. They can’t imagine your feverish attempts to apply a field dressing, or holding a wounded buddy as his life slips away. They’ll never be able to laugh, years later, as friends reminisce about an over-exuberant celebration in an exotic port after months at sea—that might’ve resulted in a night or two spent in the local jail. They don’t grasp the significance to us of George Orwell’s familiar observation about people being able to sleep soundly in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf—nor do they have any idea that we now and then silently remind ourselves with pride: I was one of those rough men.

Whether you did a two-year stint courtesy of your draft board…or had nothing better to do for a few years after surviving high school…or felt a call to duty…or made a twenty- or thirty-year career out of it…

You served. We served. And whether we like it or not, we retain feelings that get stirred-up from time to time.

We know what it feels like, and sometimes have to choke down some pretty strong emotions. They haven’t a clue as to what that’s all about.

Some might recall that I’ve been waging a years-long battle to try to get people—them—to grasp the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. It sends me into a slow boil every Memorial Day when I see television and newspaper ads proclaiming: “Thanks to all our veterans!”

I appreciate the sentiment, but…that’s not our day; that day is set aside for those who didn’t return—and blurring the line between the two occasions cheapens their sacrifice.

I’ve probably aggravated a lot of people in attempting to correct that misconception.

This is our day. This is the one we earned when we raised our hands and swore our oaths—when we entered that special fraternity…when we underwent that change that we’ll all take to our graves…when we were bound to one another forever.

Thank-you all for your service. Enjoy your day; you earned it. Go grab the free chow at Applebee’s and Golden Corral and Chili’s, and be appreciative that some, at least, acknowledge your service and sacrifice. Muster-up a dash of humility if a kid comes up to you today and says “Thanks” because a parent or teacher instilled that sense of values. Choke back your tears when the bugler plays Taps during the ceremony at The Tomb (or let them flow; you earned that right, too). Call an old Army buddy (or Navy; you get the idea). Shake hands with fellow vets you know; they’re your brothers-in-arms—and it’s their day, too.

Having now gotten all maudlin, I’ll leave you with one final thought expressed by Rudyard Kipling:

I’ve eaten your bread and salt,
I’ve drunk your water and wine.
The deaths ye died I watched beside,
and the lives ye led were mine.

 

Jim

“A veteran is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.'”author unknown

Note: This is a re-posting of an entry from two years ago. I first posted it in my old blog; however, when I transferred everything to this site, some of the formatting was corrupted. In addition, I received several requests from friends asking that it be re-posted for Veterans Day last year. So, I spruced it up again and made a few changes. Apparently, a lot of people liked it; I received several requests to re-post it again this year. —Jim

__________

Posted in military, national defense, national security, patriotism, veteran, veterans day | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Deal Is a Deal

Posted by The Curmudgeon on September 20, 2011

A poignant afternoon in the land of steel magnolias

I recently spent several hours in Natchitoches, LA (that’s pronounced nak-ə-təsh , by the way — but don’t ask me to explain why) trying to make a badly-planned loading operation end happily. About the only thing that made the whole experience tolerable was the extraordinarily accommodating shipping and receiving staff (a rare happenstance for truck drivers), and I struck-up a conversation with the dispatcher.

Now, I’ll tell you that while my limited experience has suggested that Natchitoches is a pleasant, friendly place, to the best of my knowledge it’s noted for little beyond being the site of the filming of the movie Steel Magnolias.

And one other sad event.

I pointed out to the dispatcher that the small airport nearby was the place where my all-time favorite singer/songwriter had been tragically killed in a plane crash.

“Ah. Jim Croce,” he said. “You know, he’s still very popular around here. Well thought of.” He cocked his head to one side. “Did you ever hear the story about his last performance?”

I’d known, of course, that Croce had performed at a small local college just before his death — but I was unaware of any other significant details. “I’m all ears.”

He smiled and laid it out for me.

It seems that Croce had been scheduled to perform there long before that fateful day, but had taken ill and had to postpone several performances — including the Natchitoches show. At the time, he was still “on his way up,” playing mostly in coffeehouses and clubs where (as Croce put it) he had to be adept at quickly getting his guitar strap off when fights broke out, doing relatively small shows — for relatively small money. In this case, he was to be paid the whopping sum of five hundred dollars for his planned appearance in Natchitoches.

Fast-forwarding a year and a half or so…

Croce has become an established star, with two successful albums and a recent #1 hit (Bad, Bad Leroy Brown). He’s achieved the commercial success that often eludes recording artists — and he now commands big money for his concerts.

As the story goes, his agent reminded him that he’d had to postpone several appearances. Croce informed him that he had every intention of keeping all those commitments, working them into his current tour.

When the agent contacted Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, the school reportedly thanked Croce for the gesture, but pointed out that there was no way they’d be able to afford him now that he’d gone from being an up-and-comer to his current status as a big-ticket performer.

To Croce, a deal was a deal. The original agreement had called for him to do the show for five hundred dollars; true to his word, he’d therefore do the show for five hundred dollars.

And he did.

The rest of the story…well, you probably already know that. Shortly after the show, Croce’s chartered plane crashed on takeoff; all aboard perished.

Now, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of all this; but ya gotta admit that it’s a pretty damn’ good story — and it dovetails nicely with all that I’ve ever heard about the man. It would seem very much like him to keep to his word and do a low-paying show that most artists would’ve conveniently forgotten about.

And today marks the anniversary of that sad day: September 20, 1973.

Fate robbed Jim Croce of much of the success that he’d earned. He’d come through the lean years and taken his hard knocks, and was just hitting his stride.

And we were robbed of all that he still had left to give.

Many of us found within Croce’s lyrics pieces of ourselves…something that each of us could relate to. A former teacher, soldier, truck driver, and blue-collar kinda guy whose strong hands were as at home with a jackhammer as they were with a guitar, he lived quite a life — a life he infused with his music. He wrote of his own experiences and feelings — and they often mirrored our own. He was a working-man’s artist, proof positive that if you kept hammering at something long enough, eventually it’d pay off for you…that if you could weather the storms and the bad times, there was a payoff — and you don’t get the payoff until you do come through those tough times (or — as Croce said in Tomorrow’s Gonna Be A Brighter Day: “Nobody ever had a rainbow, baby, until he had the rain”).

We got a good laugh out of his regaling us with a story about a guy who was “meaner than a junkyard dog” — but he also introduced us to “lovers in the lemon-scented rain.” He’d sing the workin’-at-the-car-wash blues, but then touch us with a poignant tune about lazy days in mid-July and walking in the Alabama rain. Down times and good times, he’d known them all — and he could touch that part of us. And as is often the case, his best work was known only to the true aficionado; it wasn’t in the popular tunes that got all the radio play, but in the “filler” songs in which he could pour out his heart.

To this day, Jim appears throughout my playlist ; over the years, I’ve listened to those old favorites hundreds (thousands?) of times — and they never get old.

My own personal favorite Croce-ism? Most probably never heard it. It’s the last verse of The Hard Way Every Time — and I think it pretty well nails the man who wrote it:

Well, I’ve had my share of broken dreams,
and more than a couple of falls.
And in chasing what I thought were moonbeams
I have run into a couple of walls.
But, in looking back at the faces I’ve been,
I’d sure be the first one to say — when I look at myself today —
“Wouldn’ta done it any other way.”

Here’s to you, Jim; gone — but never forgotten.

 

__________

 

Posted in Jim Croce, music, truck driver | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

Memorial Day

Posted by The Curmudgeon on May 28, 2011

Never Forget

The past week or so, I’ve detected a clear increase in e-mail from family members about a get-together, and noticed that burgers and hot dogs and what-not are on display at the supermarket. And then there was that blurb I caught a few days ago about the Indianapolis 500.

So…it appears that it’s about time for my annual Memorial Day diatribe (not to be confused with my annual Veterans Day diatribe). It’ll go into high gear about the time I see a newspaper or TV ad for a local store hawking its Super-duper Memorial Day Sale. No problem with that; retailers have special sales for any and all occasions.

But then I’ll see it: that “Thanks to all our veterans” missive tacked-on at the end of the ad.

And that will set me off.

Let’s review real quick. Memorial Day is just that; a time of remembrance, to commemorate those who lost their lives while serving in the military. It is not interchangeable with Veterans Day. So many people seem to have forgotten that—and it grinds my gears in a way that few things do.

It’d be difficult to pinpoint the time when the lines between the two occasions became blurred—but I suspect there are others who’ve likewise noticed how common it’s become to intermingle two of the days we should be preserving as separate and sacrosanct. I can only hope that at least some find this trend disturbing.

Call it a pet peeve. Some may think I’m being unreasonable about it. But I can’t help it.

As I see it, we as a nation do little enough as it is to commemorate the sacrifices of the fallen. Compare us to Israel, for example, where everything in the country comes to a complete halt for two minutes at 11:00 AM on their day of remembrance. No shopping. No picnics. No traffic. Nothing. Silence. They all stop and give a small slice of their precious time to commemorate those who gave their all. By design, this takes place the day before their independence day celebrations — deliberately timed to remind everyone of those who paid the price to make it all possible.

We know the familiar phrases invoked for the occasion: “…last full measure of devotion” and “supreme sacrifice,” for example.

 

 

Do we remember what it looks like?

 

 

 

Or what it feels like?

 

 

 

 

It’s been said that when we take to the field of battle we never leave our people behind.

That’s not quite correct.

Wherever our troops have ventured, they’ve left behind a lasting impression in the form of fallen comrades laid to rest.

When then-French President Charles De Gaulle concluded that a decent interval had passed since U.S. forces had led the way in liberating France during World War II, he suddenly became averse to seeing American uniforms and demanded that all U.S. military personnel be removed from French soil.

Dwight D. Eisenhower is reputed to have dryly noted that it might take a while to dig them all up.

Time and time again, Americans have answered the call—from which many didn’t return. They’ve done so selflessly, with neither the promise of nor the demand for reward. Never the conqueror—if we were, Germany, Japan, and others would today be vassal states—this nation has consistently been a protector and liberator; and when hostilities ceased, as Colin Powell observed, we asked “only for enough land to bury our dead.”

More than 100,000 U.S. service members killed during World War I and II are buried in military cemeteries in Europe alone. Thousands more lie at rest elsewhere around the world and here at home, or permanently entombed in sunken vessels. National cemeteries dot the landscape across the nation, and individual grave sites elsewhere often bear distinctive marking to serve as grim reminders that not all of us get to attend reunions with our old Army buddies to swap lies and hoist a few beers.

Unfortunately, memories do fade; it’s all too easy for anyone to forget over time the terrible price paid by so many. That’s why we have a Memorial Day. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has sought for years to have Memorial Day restored to its original fixed date of May 30, concerned that having the observance continually shifted to make a three-day weekend has caused much of its intent to be forgotten. Similarly, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) criticized the practice, and commented in its 2002 Memorial Day address that “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt this has contributed a lot to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”

We forget that those who gave their lives left behind wives, brothers, parents, and children whose own lives were shattered by their loss.

We forget that most were young, cut down in their prime, dreams unfulfilled.

We forget that what they did—though they may have been liberating Europe or safeguarding our national interests in some far-flung corner of the world—they ultimately did for us. As poignantly noted by one popular cartoon, they forfeited all their tomorrows so that we could have our tomorrows.

Please do try to give that at least a few moments of thought before rushing off to the family barbecue.

To my fellow veterans, I say this:

If there’s any group that understands that difference between honoring the living and commemorating the dead, it’s us. We know the unique message conveyed when hearing Taps being played by a bugler who seems to specialize in wrenching our heart-strings with each mournful note…the familiar acrid smell as the firing party pays its final tribute…that bead of sweat that rolls into the small of the back while we stand rigidly at attention, rendering that last salute…that kick-in-the-gut pain as we watch over a brother-in-arms being committed to his final rest…the indescribable sorrow we feel as we watch a grieving widow weeping over our departed brother.

Most importantly, we understand in a way that most can’t fathom the importance of preserving their memory — and we don’t forget.

We, the living, have our day—every November 11th. This one’s for them, the fallen—those who didn’t come back. I personally consider it incumbent on us, the living, to tactfully point out to the well-meaning but ill-informed souls who can’t seem to discern the difference between the two occasions that this one is for them, the fallen—and that failing to maintain that distinction diminishes their sacrifice.

Make sure they keep their day. Make sure they don’t become a forgotten blur amid the picnics and barbecues and furniture sales.

 

 

 

 

________

The above is a reprint, originally published May 29, 2010.

 

Posted in Memorial Day, remembrance | Leave a Comment »

The Presidential Worm

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 5, 2011

The early bird has struck.

In what should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for re-election; if there’s a surprise involved at all, it’s the method of making this announcement.

Never one to shy away from cameras or microphones, Obama selected as his vehicle a peculiar web announcement in which he doesn’t even speak (the only real surprise), and his only appearance is a brief video clip taken during his inauguration. The announcement itself was decidedly low-key, lacking the pump-’em-up energy that marked his 2008 campaign; rather, it seemed more of a slow warm-up signal to his organizers to start oiling-up the apparatus for another run.

Though it’s unlikely that Obama opted for this approach in response to voters’ laments of being weary of the near-daily doses of Obama saturation, voter fatigue was repeatedly cited in the weeks preceding the ’08 election and should be considered a potential issue this time around. Indeed, one might speculate that the strategy was specifically intended to make Obama a candidate without having him look like a campaigning politician—a seemingly pointless effort given that most of the country is convinced that he never actually stopped campaigning after the 2008 race, but probably necessary since he’s now officially set himself on an absurdly long campaign trail. (And you thought Christmas shopping was the only thing that keeps coming earlier.)

Oh, and it sets the stage for his campaign machine to start raising the staggering heaps of cash his campaign is expected to consume, with estimates of an eventual $1 billion war chest being freely tossed-about.

The upshot of all this? Republicans need to take note: The early bird tends to get the election worm—and there’s no clear GOP favorite yet on the horizon.

.

________



Posted in democrat, election, obama, politics, Republican, speech, speeches, vote | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Obama Doctrine: “Stop Me If You Can—and You Dare to Try”

Posted by The Curmudgeon on January 3, 2011

Government by fiat has become the new standard.

With the recent court challenges to ObamaCare, two very telling details have emerged: First, that Obama (as widely claimed during the contentious legislative process) over-stepped his authority in mandating state adoption of his massive power-grab, and, second, that he probably knew damned good and well that he didn’t have that kind of authority—and simply didn’t care.

He basically dared his opposition: “Stop me if you can.”

Back in the dark, recent past when he enjoyed an overwhelming numerical superiority in Congress, Obama could count on a broad base of support for most of his schemes. To be sure, he had a continual problem with dissent within his own party ranks, but he for the most part enjoyed rubber-stamp approval.

Now, he has a much bigger problem: With the Democrats’ crushing loss of the House and decreased power in the Senate, the Obama regime can no longer whip-up support on the scale he previously enjoyed.

Predictably, Obama also has a solution to that problem: Ignore it.

Rather than attempt to ram-through a hostile Congress legislation he knows he can’t get, he’s opted for simply issuing rules through various agencies—and essentially daring his opposition to try to stop him.

For example, the EPA recently issued a series of rules that appear manifestly improper; previously rebuffed, Obama seems to have merely had his minions issue mandates that bypass Congress entirely—and until (unless) such actions are challenged in court, they will stand with the full force of law.

Those who’ve been asleep throughout recent weeks may not have noticed the similar power grab by the FCC as it moved to expand government control of the internet and pursued the Obama agenda of squelching conservative talk radio and his nemesis Fox News. (This campaign is being prosecuted by an Obama appointee — FCC “Chief Diversity Officer” Mark Lloyd — who’s on record singing the praises of Hugo Chavez and his increasingly iron-fisted control of Venezuela’s media.)

Nor is Obama content to merely delegate his dirty work. The recently-ratified “New START Treaty” is a much-maligned accord apparently not fully understood by anyone—and it’s largely the result of Obama’s own negotiations and demands. Though the Senate did ratify the agreement, it did so with only minimal examination or challenge—and it certainly doesn’t reflect the standards established in the U.S. Constitution, which expressly vests treaty power with the Senate. Indeed, Obama recently called for a viable missile-defense system (though he seems to have not actually allocated any resources for the effort)—despite Russian contentions that such a system is specifically prohibited. Stay tuned.

Moreover, with a growing list of issues ranging from amnesty for illegal immigrants to cap-and-trade, the manchild-in-chief seems to be daring anyone with sufficient intestinal fortitude to knock the chip off his shoulder; until someone dares to do so, he’ll keep right on doing whatever he damned well pleases—apparently with the blessing of his party.

In retrospect, recently defeated Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) may have summed up more of the Democrats’ behavior than merely their profligate spending habits when he proclaimed: “If you don’t tie our hands, we’ll keep stealing.”

He certainly described his party’s standard-bearer to a “T.”

Or to an “O.”

__________

 

Posted in border security, cap-and-trade, congress, corruption, deficit, democrat, economy, health care reform, illegal aliens, immigration, immigration reform, obama, ObamaCare | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Merry Christmas.” (Yes, really.)

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 25, 2010

It’s a harmless, time-honored expression. You got a problem with that?

 

In an earlier entry, I ranted thusly:

Saying “Merry Christmas” is a seasonal greeting. Christmas is, itself, observed in the United States as a traditional holiday—not a religious holiday. That some also link it to the birth of Jesus should be of no real consequence (and they’re probably a few months off, anyway), as it’s been suggested that the arbitrary designation of December 25th to commemorate Jesus’ birth was deliberately intended to coincide with the winter solstice and the Roman festival known as “Saturnalia”. People should be no more offended by hearing “Merry Christmas” than they would be if someone handed them candy and hard-boiled eggs and said “Happy Easter.” And that thing’s called a “Christmas tree”—not a “holiday tree.” Raising a fuss about that just smacks of political correctness taken entirely too far (a rapidly growing –finally!– issue in many areas of concern, by the way.) Does the expression “Yuletide Greetings” offend you? It’s no less “religious” than “Merry Christmas”, inasmuch as “Yule” initially referred to a pagan festival—another of many traditional winter festivals of various names observed in cultures around the world for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.

Now, being a reasonable guy, I many years ago began substituting expressions like “Happy Holidays” in the belief that “Merry Christmas” somehow implied other meanings that some might find offensive. (In other words, I bought into the political-correctness argument…though we didn’t call it that back then.)

This was back when the argument was first being advanced that we all have an absolute right to never be offended in any way by anything.

Kiss that good-bye. No more.

I’ve noticed the re-emergence in recent years of the use of traditional greetings by the population at large—even as retailers and businesses seem bent on eradicating their use. Whether this represents a rebellion against the political-correctness movement is uncertain.

Whatever it may suggest, I like it.

So do a lot of other people.

A few years ago, I very deliberately adopted a specific way of concluding business with those I encountered while on the road. For example, after getting unloaded and settling the matter of bills-of-lading, I’d tell the shipping clerk: “Okay, we’re good, then? Alright, have a good day—and Merry Christmas to you.”

You know what? People reacted to that. Their faces would light up. They’d enthusiastically respond: “And Merry Christmas to you, too—and get home safe.”

I’ve thought recently about an interesting encounter many years ago in Korea. The remote site the Army had assigned me to was located near a Buddhist temple, and a few of the priests came to call a day or two before Christmas. I found myself engaged in light conversation with one of them, and couldn’t help pointing out to him the irony of the situation (Buddhist priests in Korea joining in the observance of what many GI’s also regard as the day marking Christ’s birth)—which, of course, wasn’t lost on him, either. He noted, though, that while they didn’t regard Jesus the same way that Christians do, they did acknowledge him as a great man whose teachings were nonetheless compatible with many of their own beliefs; besides, the priests viewed us as visitors in their land, and maintained that they would be poor hosts if they didn’t at least note the occasion. Moreover, he emphasized the universal “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” view as the central theme for the holiday, anyway—which resonated well with their own beliefs.

And he had no qualms whatsoever about bidding me a warm “Merry Christmas” when we finally parted company.

Sorry, but I don’t see anything offensive about Santa Claus, Jingle Bells, or reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to kids. If the strains of Nat “King” Cole crooning about chestnuts roasting over an open fire offends you, you have a problem. While I don’t buy into the “He’s the reason for the season” and “Keep Christ in Christmas” arguments, I don’t find such missives offensive, either; each to his own. As noted above, Christmas is a traditional holiday, and I leave it to each individual to take from it what he or she may. I have no feeling about Nativity scenes one way or the other; as far as I’m concerned, if people want to have them, they’re welcome to it. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, the argument could be made that the presence of such displays is likewise traditional. While I’m more partial to Here We Come a-Wassailing, I’ll freely confess that hearing Carol of the Bells also carries a certain significance. Probably the last place anyone would expect to find me this time of year is a church—yet I’ll also admit that passing by a church alive with a choir singing familiar carols also puts me in the holiday mood; whether one embraces similar beliefs is irrelevant. Again, it’s up to each of us to take from all this what we will.

At the conclusion of a road trip not so long ago (a particularly arduous one, it should be noted), I’d just dropped a trailer and hooked another to take on the final short leg of my journey home—trying to make it home on Christmas Eve. The guy in charge came over and handed me my paperwork (oh, and, by the way…he’d done me a considerable favor,which served to save time and to make my job easier). Tired, cold, hungry, and anxious to get home, I turned to leave—then stopped. I removed my glove and extended my right hand. “Thank-you, brother—and a Merry Christmas to you.”

He’d been about to climb into the cab of his yard tractor, but stopped and grasped my hand firmly. “Merry Christmas, driver. Be safe out there.” The firmness of his handshake, his eyes, and his voice all revealed an unmistakable sincerity.

At such moments, I find that I’m suddenly no longer quite so cold or tired or hungry. In fact, I feel pretty damned good.

So do most others, I suspect.

And with that, I freely, happily, and unapologetically bid you all a Merry Christmas.

__________

Posted in Christmas, political correctness, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

“A Better Class of People”

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 16, 2010

As I was saying,—

 

Some might recall a recent comment I made about truck drivers; if not, scroll back a few entries.

When I first started driving over-the-road, some asked why I’d leave the safe, quiet, white-collar world to drive a truck. I’d jokingly reply: “Better class of people.”

Here’s a timely case in point:

Last week, I finished picking-up a load in Monte Vista, CO. As I was about to leave, I learned (the hard way, of course) that the starter on my truck had failed. The usual remedy is to “pull-start” the truck (exactly the opposite of “push-starting” a car) using another vehicle. At this point, one continues either to a repair shop to have the starter replaced, or completes the journey and defers the replacement until arriving home. After conferring with my company, we opted for the latter course.

No problem. Done it before, and will probably do so again. The key is to not shut-off the engine until the truck gets to a repair facility.

I set off, entering La Veta Pass about an hour later, about 10:00PM. Not one of my favorite places to drive—even under the best of circumstances. Swirling, gusty winds, frequent encounters with ice, snow, and fog, winding roads, and steep grades. It has claimed a fair number of vehicles—and lives. Not a place to become complacent—and certainly not a place one would choose to break-down.

And this is where I discovered the second problem with the truck: Engine overheating.

Now, merely overheating is an annoyance, to be sure. However, it isn’t insurmountable.

Unless, of course, the truck is equipped with a protection system that shuts the engine down when it overheats—and you already have a faulty starter.

You can no doubt surmise what transpired next.

Yep. Just as I reached the summit (about 9500 feet above sea level), the engine shut itself off. I was at least able to wrestle the beast completely off the road—though just barely.

Next, I reached for my cellular phone to call for help. Nope. “NO SERVICE” was all that was displayed.

So…there I am, sitting in pitch-black conditions, unable to call for help, can’t get the truck going, and it’s about 15° outside—with the temperature inside my now-unheated truck rapidly dropping to meet it. And then there’s the chill factor. To make matters worse, deteriorating road conditions had served to reduce traffic through the pass. To say the least, things weren’t looking too good.

I saw the glare of headlights of an approaching vehicle, and turned-on my two-way radio (most folks call that a CB). It was, indeed a truck coming my way. I called out for help as the Freightliner passed me.

I got an answer.

I briefly explained the situation, and asked that the driver make a call to my company when he reached an area with cell service. She replied that she had service and was pulling-over to make the call.

And this is where the story gets a bit more touching.

She told me: “Hang on. I’m turning around.”

Turning around? Up here?

She rounded the turn and pulled up right behind me and I walked back to greet her. “Get in before you freeze,” she told me. Then she pulled a little further down the road to a safer parking spot. She lent me her phone, and I was able both to talk to my company and to make arrangements for a road service crew to come and get me going again.

And then we waited.

At one point, she repositioned her truck again (some pretty nice handling, I might add) to bring us as close as possible to my disabled rig. And, as it turns out, we learned that our paths had crossed just that morning at a truck stop outside Denver. Small world.

I was surprised that a woman alone would stop to help. “I probably wouldn’t have, but you were some distance away, and just asked me to call for help. After I talked to your company, I figured you were for real.”

Now, we all know that time is money. This is as true of trucking as it is of any business—and more than most. After a while, I started feeling uneasy about her spending so much time sitting there. “No problem,” she said. “I don’t actually load until tomorrow morning. I was just going in early, anyway.”

She sat there with me for three hours, refusing to leave until the wrecker arrived. “You’d freeze out there before they ever showed up.”

And when she departed, she casually dismissed the episode. “No big deal. I had time to kill, anyway.” (Note that truck drivers never have “time to kill.”)

Now…if you were broken-down in a mountain pass and entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers, would the average motorist stop to render assistance?

And that, gentle readers, is why I’ve come to prefer the company of truck drivers.

__________

Posted in truck driver, truck stop | Tagged: , , | 26 Comments »

How Soon They Forget

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 15, 2010

Congressional amnesia strikes again.

Shortly before the “shellacking” he received last month, Barack Obama suggested that Republicans were pinning their hopes on voters suddenly developing amnesia. In an earlier comment, he also asserted that “elections have consequences.”

For those with short memories (that would apparently include most of Congress), voters overwhelmingly jettisoned Democrats in droves (sixty-three of them, to be precise) — giving Republicans control of the House of Representatives, narrowing the Democrats’ margin of control in the Senate, and delivering an unmistakable message to the Obama regime.

How soon they forget.

Just today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stood before the Senate and bluntly asked whether all of Congress was “tone-deaf” and stricken with amnesia.

The reason?

A massive, 1.2 trillion-dollar “omnibus” spending measure being rammed-through the lame-duck Congress by soon-to-be departing Democrats apparently intent on looting the nation’s treasury on their way out the door. More than 2400 pages long and delivered to members of Congress only three days ago, it’s apparently been read by absolutely no one (does this sound familiar?) and loaded with “earmarks” and hidden pet projects.

In other words, they (Congress) didn’t learn a damned thing. They heard us, loud and clear—and simply don’t give a damn about what we want or what we have to say.

To be sure, it isn’t just Democrats responsible; indeed, at least two of the leading “earmarkers” are Republicans. That said, the entire effort still is being shepherded by Democrats—many of them lame ducks with nothing to lose.

Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is intent on ramming-through his backdoor amnesty program (aka “The Dream Act”)—again relying on colleagues with nothing to lose by supporting the measure.

And just to round things out, “always-in-campaign-mode” Obama seems to think he’s still gearing-up for last November’s election, likening Republicans to “hostage-takers” in the ongoing battle of the soon-to-expire Bush era tax cuts. (Ironically, some of his stiffest opposition is yet again within his own party.)

However all this shakes out, everyone needs to keep one thing in mind: Though the lame ducks are already on their way out, they won’t be able to carry it off without help—and those who remain in office will be up for re-election in 2012.

Let’s hope voters hold the culprits accountable just as they did last month; since this batch of crooks obviously didn’t get the message, perhaps their replacements will.

__________

Posted in budget, congress, corruption, debt, deficit, earmark, economy, election, illegal aliens, immigration reform, income tax, obama, politics, pork barrel spending, Reid | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »