I DARE YOU


Over the past couple of years, the partisanship and resulting animus between political sides has increased to a level that makes me wonder if our country will ever be all right. Politicians have managed to fracture the very fabric that makes American democracy so wonderful. They’ve managed to so polarize us so that we no longer can be civil to one another. I don’t care about the politics any more. The most important thing is for the American people to be kind to one another and to join forces for the common defense and good of the U.S.A. Therefore, I’m challenging each person who reads this and asking them to challenge at least one other person.
Each of us needs to find someone to help. These days, that shouldn’t be such a difficult undertaking. The individual that we search out shouldn’t be a family member or friend. Instead, the subjects for our projects should be folks we either don’t know at all or only know in passing. Yes, co-workers that are not well known can be included.
We don’t want to announce to them that we are about to help them with some situation. No, our goals are to get to know our choices well enough to know what they might need. Doing that will require a great deal of work. We have to spend time with folks enough to discover what areas of their lives need our help. Now, by help, I am not at all suggesting that we interject our opinions on what person should or shouldn’t do or what that we impose our values on them. No, we simply need to find people that we don’t know well and change that situation.
Once we’ve become familiar with those people, our goals are to find ways to offer help to them. Oh, yes, some people won’t need anything, and if that arises, we should choose someone else. For a block of individuals, financial help might be the key issue. Others could possibly need emotional support as they struggle with some area in their lives. Perhaps the most important help for others is simply having someone who will listen.
What is most important about this exercise is that each person who initiates it should observe the differences that his actions make. Does the one helped feel better? Does a friendship blossom? What things are learned by both people involved? Finally, has the act of reaching out to another person made a difference in how he is perceived?
This exercise takes a little effort and time. The benefits might be unmeasurable. In either case, I hope that we all might learn to be a bit more patient and empathetic with those whom we try to help. Who knows? We might help heal the great divide that now eats away at our country.
If you are brave enough to accept this challenge, let me know how it turns out. You can remain anonymous, but send an email to joerector@comcast.net to let me know how things went…good or bad.

GOOFY LOVE


Ah, young love thrives in the halls of high schools around the country. I’ve seen so many couples in the hallways and common areas. Their actions aren’t much different from those of generations that preceded them.
Back in the day, boys discovered females who would pay them brief moments of attention. Freshmen boys still struggled with that awkward physical time when their bodies were growing and their voices were squeaking. Most of them had just recently realized that the other sex existed, and their
fascination and preoccupation with them was intense.
Newly formed couples walked the halls of school tightly holding hands. Females looked comfortable with boyfriends in tow. However, those males traveled on stilted legs and with heads bowed and nerves on edge. They feared that a group of their friends would spy them and begin the teasing. Yelling at them or catcalling were common acts intended to embarrass. In reality, those who harassed were simply jealous of their friends who’d found girlfriends.
Boys walked their honeys to each class, and they were willing to be late for their own and to suffer the consequences. They ate lunch together and sat so close that one seat was all they needed. The couple looked cow-eyed at each other. Girls patted the boys’ legs and males made clumsy attempts to softly brush back locks of hair from females’ faces. Anyone who might catch a glimpse of them was subject to feeling just a bit nauseated at their actions.
In past generations, punishment for PDA (public displays of affection) was swift. Only the bravest of souls dared to exchange hugs. Rarely did a couple kiss goodbye between classes. Teachers tolerated not even a minute of such foolishness.
Sock hops gave young folks the chance to legally hold each other tight, and if the lights were turned down low enough, they might even kiss. They looked forward to slow dancing to such songs as “My
Girl” or “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” and the dance ended with “Stand by Me.” Because they were too young to drive, they stood in front of the school and draped themselves around each other until parents came to pick them up.
What stands out most about young couples was the power dynamic. Females definitely ruled the roost. The boy was so thrilled to have a girlfriend that the acquiesced to whatever she desired. In fact, the boy always seemed to walk a step behind her, and others instantly commented that the male looked more like a whipped puppy following its master than an equal in a relationship.
At some point, these romances faded and then died. The girls usually grew tired of the immaturity of the freshman boys and looked in greener pastures for upperclassmen. To their surprise, even older boys displayed the same streaks of immaturity. The females decided that they “could change” their boyfriends into individuals who were more to their liking. That tactic rarely worked as older boys just didn’t have any desire to be “whipped into shape.”
Decades later, women are still dealing with males the same way. We men still have a bit of immaturity inside, and our partners work tirelessly to rid us of it. They are still in charge in the relationship; men have seen the job of being boss and want no part of it. However, the spark that appeared so long ago is still present, and we men experience the same awkward feelings about those special girls whom we have loved so long. It’s an older, deeper, more comfortable love, but it burns just a brightly as ever.

TIGHT-LEGGED JEANS


Anyone who catches even a glimpse of me immediately recognizes the fact that I’m not much of a dresser. Neither am I in the least bit interested in the latest fashions. So, it would surprise no one that I balked at the wearing the pair of jeans my wife brought home the other day. She told me to try them on, and when I did, they were so tight around the legs that I felt smothered. Amy explained that the
pair was tight-fitting in the legs. My legs are so skinny that folks have made jokes about them for years, so it was not surprise that I wasn’t at all interested in wearing them to accentuate that characteristic. The truth is I’ve never been able to wear the nicest, most popular clothing items.
My brother was nearly four years older, and when he was in high school, guys wore peg-legged pants. They were so tight in the legs that just pulling them over feet was a difficult task. However, the look was stylish, and Dal wore them. Jim and I, on the other hand, had no chance of owning such a pair. We both possessed round body shapes, and mine was more so than his. To get a pair of jeans or pants big enough in the waist required buying “husky” cuts.
That term was code for “fat boy” jeans. Wearing them with such skinny legs would have made us look like lollipops. Our pants were big, and the seats and legs were baggy.
Only during my senior year did my body change. Some of it was due to maturity; the other part was the result of surviving on a diet of cigarettes, cokes, and peanut butter, mayonnaise and mustard sandwiches. Even though I lost several pounds, I didn’t buy new clothes. Instead, pants that were too large were cinched up with a belt. The look wasn’t good, but I survived.
In college, I owned a couple of trendier items, and my shoes were in style, even though they hurt my
feet. Jeans were the rage, and most folks wore earth shoes. I sported a bush jacket with a belt that always hung loose. No girls came rushing up to me because I was dressed so well, but that was all right since my pursuits were aimed at studying to make sure I earned a college degree and to perform better than I’d done in high school. Okay, I suppose it would have been nice if I’d made an impression, but I lucked out my senior year when I met Amy, and by then, I wore regular stuff without regard to the latest fashion demands.
Since Amy and I married, she has become the one who chooses my clothes. Left to me, my wardrobe would consist of sweat pants, t-shirts, and tennis shoes. My wife thinks that, on occasion, a better mode of dress should include a pair of slacks that aren’t so old that the ends are frayed and, at the minimum, a polo shirt that hasn’t faded to a color different from the original. She’s given up on my wearing a tie or a suit. I reserve the right to wear those things only for the most special occasions and for funerals.
So, Amy returned the tight-legged jeans without bringing home a different pair of slacks. That’s fine with me. The pairs I already have are comfortable and plenty good enough to wear most places. On my return home each day, I rush to once again put on my shorts and worn out t-shirts. It’s only then that I am suitably dressed. Oh, and those items are from places like Walmart or Costco. I’m not trying to make an impression on anyone these days. Comfort is more important.




TO MUCH TO DO


I walked into the workroom early the first day of school after Labor Day because I like to arrive early to find out what I’m supposed to do for the day as a substitute. Some teachers were already present and readying their rooms for students in 7:00 a.m. classes. Others arrived a bit later until all were on hand by 8:00. So began another day of educating the young, but these teachers today have much more piled on them than just a few years ago.
No, this isn’t a piece that bemoans the salaries we pay our teachers. Yes, they are underpaid, but most of them knew the low wages of the job before they went into the profession. That doesn’t make it right, but I see other things that are discouraging.
One is the expectations of teachers to perform extra duties. Bus duty has long been something that teachers despise. It required them to arrive even earlier than normal and to stay until the last bus
arrives to pick up students. If a bus breaks down, those teachers must remain with the waiting students until another type of transportation can arrive. On many occasions, administrators might have already headed home as the teacher hangs around with bus riders.
Some teachers are expected to serve lunch duty roles. They make sure students don’t act up and that
they clear their tables of all trash and trays. It’s shocking how many students will walk from the table with the expectations that someone else cleans their messes. I always wonder if they do the same thing at home but know that the answer is “yes.”
In some schools, teachers are required to stay in touch with parents about a variety of things. When students miss a set number of days, the teacher is required to call the parent to inform them that the
child has missed days. Yes, parents need to know when their children miss excessive numbers of days, but calling after three or four takes more time from teachers. It’s a redundant task since most schools have programs that automatically call home when a child misses a school day.
Teachers are also expected to call homes when students’ grades become D’s or F’s. Parents’ knowing about poor performances of their children is important. However, they have access to the grades of students through the school’s computer platform. All that is necessary is for them to get on line and look. If they have questions or concerns about the grades, then they can contact the teacher for a meeting or conversation. The onus of responsibility for the child’s maintaining a passing grade should fall upon the parents, not the teachers.
Most teachers have large classes. For a high school teacher, that can mean 120 or more students per term. Tests and essays and worksheets must be graded. A single planning period is not enough time to complete the grading, especially when teachers must sometimes meet with administrators or cover other classes. That means they spend hours marking those papers at home.
The fact is that teachers work hard. Oh sure, some are lazy and rarely hit a lick, but for the most part, teachers put in plenty of energy and time to make sure students are exposed to concepts of classes. When additional duties and tasks are added, the job can become overwhelming. Again, most teachers knew what they were headed for when they accepted a job. Still, it would be nice if they could teach classes without having to complete so many other assigned duties. Give a teacher a thank you for the work that he or she does. Then make sure your child takes advantage of the opportunities to learn and be ready to face the college or technical school that waits in the future. 



BACK TO CLOTHES


School started not long ago, and I’ve already been able to serve a couple of days as a substitute. Many of the days I’ve scheduled have 7:00 a.m. classes, but I don’t mind starting early so that I can finish before the traffic rush at the end of the day. Being around a school filled with teenagers isn’t uncomfortable for me either since I spent thirty years in front of English classes. For me, the worst part of the school year starting deals with clothes.
All summer I’ve lived in shorts. Most of the time, I woke early, put on a pair of them and a t-shirt, and drove to the YMCA to complete an “old man workout.” Then I made my way home to complete the day’s list of chores. Sometimes I changed into older pairs of shorts that were covered with stain or paint from earlier tasks. No one much cared what I looked like as I mowed the yard or pulled weeds. By mid-morning, every article was drenched in sweat.
The rest of the time, I wore a bathing suit. Hours were spent sitting by the pool as I read a book or jumped in the water to cool down. On some days, I spent all afternoon there and returned to sit with Amy in the evenings after she arrived home from work. One drawer in the dresser is filled with bathing suits, but for some reason, I like best the two that Amy bought for a bout $5.00 a pair. If smudges of dirt or grease from machinery swiped across them, it made no difference.
Along with those shorts, I wore old t-shirts. Most were several years old, and they were dotted with paint or stain. Some were so old and faded that Amy begged me to toss them out, but like most men, I refused to discard the most comfortable tops that were in my wardrobe. Amy bought several sleeveless shirts in hopes I would clean out the raggedy ones, but they were simply added to the rotation.
Back in the grind of school, I have to wear slacks and a decent shirt. Nothing is worse than the first couple of days after returning to the regular wardrobe. The weather is still stifling hot and humid, and those long pants smother my skinny legs. Polo shirts and dress shirts just don’t “breathe” like my old tops, so I feel as if I am in a sauna the entire day.
Even shoes are miserably uncomfortable. After a couple of months of wearing flip flops, my feet feel swollen and pinched in shoes. Socks don’t help the matter any at all.
I was more than a little shocked on the first day back at school. Boys were clad in shorts and t-shirts, which was normal attire. However, the girls’ clothing was a different story. Too many of them wore shorts that were so short that they barely covered and legs or behinds. Tops were cut much too low or had openings in the back that allowed them to show of the latest sport’s bras with intricate webbing. In addition to the shock, I admit to being a bit jealous. No, I’d never wear some of those items, but I longed to return to my shorts and t-shirts that were of better quality.
Before long, the cold weather will blow in, and everyone will be covered from head to toe with warm clothes. Summer dress will be long gone. Yet, as spring arrives and warm temperatures move in, I’ll look forward to the time that I can again spend the day in my comfortable clothes.

JOHN McCAIN


John McCain passed last week. Since then, many Americans have thought about the man and the services he gave to his country. He is in the truest sense of the word a patriot and a hero.
First of all, I wasn’t an avid supporter of McCain. When he ran for president, I did not vote for him. His ideas were, in many instances, just a bit too hard line or conservative for me. The man’s decision
to choose Sarah Palin as a running mate was the deciding factor. I’m not sure whether he chose the woman or his campaign strategists convinced him to take her, but her addition spelled the end of McCain’s chances for the highest office in the land.
Even though I didn’t vote for him, I respected him. I knew his love of country and commitment to it were genuine. His bid for the office was grounded in a desire to serve these United States and to keep the country on a correct course. At the same time, McCain campaigned fairly in the election; he played tough, but he wouldn’t allow half-truths and innuendo the slightest bit of oxygen. Nothing better shows that than when he corrected the woman who called Obama an Arab and a Muslim. Yes, John McCain played hard and wanted to win, but he always played within the rules.
During his time in the senate, I sometimes cursed his over-the-top demands for more defense spending, tax cuts, and right-to-life issues. He railed against many social issues, and too often, the man attacked those who disagreed with him. However, McCain was one of the most well-liked persons in the senate. Folks on both sides of the aisle remember that he often apologized for being too harsh with them. Most important, he seems to have left disagreements at the door of the chamber; when he exited, McCain was a friendly and likable individual.
The stance he took on the vote over Obamacare was one of the most courageous acts I’ve ever witnessed. Senators on both sides stood and cheered his return to the Senate chamber on the night of the vote to determine the program’s fate. In dramatic fashion, he turned thumb’s down and defeated his own party. He voted to protect his constituents, and in the process, might have protect millions of others who would have lost healthcare coverage.
It was also that vote that further made Trump hate McCain. While running for president, Trump refused to recognize McCain as a hero. “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” Such an ignorant statement from a man who avoided service because of bone spurs would have been the opening shot to a long, loud, noisy war between two men. McCain never allowed that to happen. Instead, he went about his business of serving the people of the country the best way he saw fit.
John McCain died from the cancer that attacked him a year earlier. America grieves over the loss of one of its greatest heroes. The picture of his desk draped with a black cloth and adorned with a bouquet of white roses stings. A true leader has died. A man who stood up for principles, order, and the rules of governing is now silent. He gave 60 years of service to this country, but the man in the oval office denied him the flying of our flag at half-staff and only spoke positively about him after the American Legion sent a scathing letter and demanded the respect that was due to McCain. Republicans and democrats will both deliver eulogies during services; they are rivals and friends of the senator. The sitting president will have to find something else to do because he wasn’t welcome at the funeral.
So, another statesman has left us. Who will replace him? The next senator should be someone who is just as much of a maverick as John McCain. That means he or she will work for the good of the people, not for the party or a petty leader. We need more people like McCain on both sides of the aisle. If they come, congress just might once again work as it should. Thank you, John McCain, for your service to all the people of the United States.



KEEPING THE OLD AND THE NEW


Well, the day finally arrived. I gave in and purchased another vehicle. Doing so was a difficult decision because I struggle with the idea of having to make a car payment. However, times arrive in life when such actions must be taken.
I bought a “new old car.” Ever loyal to Nissan, I chose a 2011 Pathfinder. It has plenty of miles from the previous owner, but otherwise, the vehicle is in good shape for a car so old. Amy and I don’t buy new cars for several reasons. One is that we can’t afford new cars, nor can I justify paying more for a car than I did my first house. (Yep, I’m old.) The second reason is that new cars lose so much value the moment they leave the lot. Many times, a used car has been driven long enough to work out the bugs so that it can be a more reliable one with a few miles on it. The third reason for buying the car is that I’m tired of dropping into and climbing out of the Nissan Sentra that I now drive. I need something that allows me to either sit straight into it or step up just a little to enter the car without having to promise an arm or a leg.
I’m passed the excitement that comes with a new car, including a new used one. It’s a thing and a means to move from one spot to another. If I fail to get one car I like, I don’t fret much anymore because another one will come around before long. Oh, I like having something to drive that’s a bit more up to date, and I only require three options on a vehicle: electric mirrors, intermittent wipers, and a working radio. All the other gadgets are nice to have, but not necessary.
I’ll sell my 2012 Sentra at some point. It only has 56,000 miles on it, and the car is a perfect first vehicle for a teenager or a second car for a family. I will keep my other car. My 1987 Nissan
Pathfinder stays parked under the carport. It’s one vehicle we bought new, and we added a back seat, radio, and air conditioner at later times because it was cheaper to do so. Over the last 31 years, my old Pathfinder has traveled to hundreds of baseball games and has pulled a trailer filled with mulch, flooring, and building materials. The inside shows the wear of so many trips and years. The arm rests are split, and the dash is now covered with a material to hide the deep crevices in the vinyl. Charlie Muncey, our hero mechanic, worked hard to fill in the rusted out areas under the back seat. The air conditioner and radio no longer function, and sometimes the engine runs too rich.
Even though that old car has more than its share of problems, I can’t let it go. In fact, my son just a couple of weeks ago implored me not to sell the old Pathfinder because it is so much a part of the family.
I’ll enjoy driving an updated Pathfinder that has plenty of bells and whistles and three rows of seats. The worries of arriving on trips out of town won’t linger as they did when I drove the old car. Still, I’ll take my favorite vehicle when I need a load of mulch or want to haul a load of materials. We have too much history to just part ways so quickly. Wave at me if you see me in either of my Pathfinders. I’ll be the guy driving down the road with a smile on his face.

LESS FOR MORE


Some kind of critters managed to sneak their ways into a box of cereal at the house. At first, I thought, “Mice,” but on further inspection, I decided that some kind of little bugs had gotten into the stuff. Off I went in search of plastic containers to hold cereals and other types of foods, and before reorganizing the cabinets, I scrubbed them with soap and vacuumed everything. The problem has been solved.
What I have noticed during this cleaning exercise is just how much smaller boxes of cereal are. I remember back when I was a boy and my dad, who died August 31, 1965, would eat cornflakes. He’d grab a bowl that resembled a washtub and pour the stuff in. That box fed a family of five for at least a
week with some to spare when the next grocery store trip rolled around.
Today, a box of most cereal is about twelve ounces. That makes for too few servings. Oh sure, a family can pour a meager serving of flakes or oats or shredded wheat into their bowls and stretch the box over a longer period of time, but I thought the reason for eating cereal for breakfast was to have a meal, not a snack. Yes, I know cereal isn’t the healthiest choice for the morning meal, but sometimes I’m in a rush, and at other times, I don’t have an appetite for bacon and eggs or some other larger menu item.
Chips are other food items that have shrunk over the years. Back in the day, a large bag of Fritos or Lays Potato Chips was a treat at hour house. We three boys would fill ourselves and still have the majority of the bag left for other times. I discovered Cheetos when I was about thirteen and have since loved them. The old bags were stuffed with big pieces, unlike the scrawny products today that
have more air than food in them. The Cheetos are tiny morsels that do little to satisfy a craving.
I almost laugh out loud when I watch the Payday candy commercial. The announcer talks about the giant size of the bars. He evidently was not a child of the 50’s and 60’s. A Baby Ruth or a Payday was so large that a child could only ingest about half of the candy. The leftover part was stashed in the
refrigerator for a later time. Sugar Daddy suckers lived up to their claims as “all day suckers.” Mouths and jaws tired long before the pure sugar treat was eaten, and the remaining part was good for later if the wrapper didn’t stick too tightly to the surface.
The only things that haven’t shrunk over the years are prices. I suffer from sticker shock every time I look to purchase a treat. My favorite candy is Reese’s Cups, but I just can’t bring myself to spend a dollar or more for an item that is half the original size. On occasion, I will break down and buy some kind of candy, but I’m so traumatized by the price that the joy in the treat is gone.
I do realize that time has marched on and that things are different. I further recognize that prices have increased for everything we buy. What I don’t understand is how we’ve allowed companies to
increase prices on products while reducing the amount that a container holds. Even toothpaste prices have soared, but the tubes hold much less than they once did. It would be nice to occasionally be able to buy an oversized Reese’s Cup and feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth. However, that’s not going to happen in this lifetime.

SCHOOLS AND TRAFFIC


If you were out and about early on Wednesday of last week, the chances are you were stuck in a major traffic jam. Yes, friends, schools opened in Knox County on that day, and for the next year most of us must acclimate ourselves to the travel woes that go with education. Plenty of things contribute to the inability to easily travel from Point A to Point B.
I’m all for growth and progress. Knoxville and Knox County are sprawling more each year. A drive in any area of the county will reveal how many subdivisions and apartment complexes are sprouting up. The problem with those developments is that they all dump traffic onto the roads. A recent survey indicates that the average household has 2.28 cars. So, even if a small development has 40 units, it unloads about 90 more vehicles on road surfaces.
Taking into consideration that most new developments are built on side roads, the problem grows even stickier. For instance, I live in the Ball Camp area. Every morning, a line of traffic backs up from the railroad track below the house and snakes its way up Ball Road in one direction and across another set of tracks on Ball Camp Pike. When a train comes each morning, the back-up makes sure that students are tardy to work, parents are late to work, and drivers lose their patience and tempers.
I attended a hearing on allowing a nearby development to proceed. One individual who would determine its fate answered a concern about inadequate roads by saying, “There are a lot of narrow roads i
n the county. That’s just something people have to deal with.” Really? Wouldn’t it make sense to develop the infrastructure before allowing hoards of new developments to begin?
Another factor causing traffic problems is parents. For some reason, moms and dads insist upon driving their children to school. They load up the kids and hit the roads. School zones are clogged like sink drains. Other vehicles trying to maneuver through the quagmire to reach other places are unable to move at all.
I passed the Cedar Bluff school zone just before students got out at noon on the first day. Even though schools wouldn’t end for about forty minutes, cars were lined up going both directions on Cedar Bluff Road. Even worse, some jerks had zipped down the line of waiting cars and then tried to cut
line. That blocked another lane of traffic. Don’t these people have better things to do than to sit in cars for long periods of time and snarl traffic?
Buses run throughout the county every morning of school. They stop to pick up students, and such frequent stops can back up traffic for a mile. The sad thing is that many of these big yellow limousines carry too few students. Parents won’t allow their children to ride buses. They believe that buses aren’t safe in so much traffic. Hey, if these folks would put their children on school transportation, the number of vehicles swamping roads and school zones would significantly decrease. Folks, tax dollars are paying the contracts for these buses. Not using them is a waste of money. Think about that the next time you have a conniption fit about how your tax dollars are spent.
Yes, school is back in session, and the traffic will be crazy. My suggestion is that any of you parents who can should put your children on buses that drive right to the schools. Of course, I know that’s not going to happen, so my best advice is that you all drive carefully, obey the traffic laws in school zones, and be patient. Summer will return a few months. 


THE LAST GENERATION TO ...


While I was sitting poolside the other day and pondering life in general, I was struck by the fact that my generation, the Baby Boomers, are unique. Oh, I know we’re old now and should be given patronizing smiles and then be ignored. Those of us in this generation, however, are the last generation to have experienced so many things. Here’s just a short list of them.
We’re the last generation to have experienced the early years of television. During that time, many of
our families didn’t even own a tv, and when we finally got one, it was a black and white set that weighed as much as the kitchen stove. Those old sets received three stations; around here, they were 6, 10, and 26. Rabbit ears on top of the set could bring in two of the stations, but an outside antenna mounted on the roof was necessary to pick up the ABC affiliate Channel 26.
We are also the last generation to have to rise from the couch, walk across the room, and change the channel. No remote control was available. In fact, we often declared that our parents had us so that we could serve as human remote controls.
Our age group is the last consumers to enjoy the sounds from an 8-track tape player. I f we were lucky, one of the machines was wired into our old cars, and we popped in tapes to play music by Chicago, Iron Butterfly, or Three Dog Night. Holes were cut into door panels to insert speakers that worked until a wire shorted or a solder gave out.

Another thing that’s gone by the wayside is the cassette tape player. It proved to be more compact and allowed us to have a Walkman player to listen to music anywhere we wanted to go.
No other group will ever have to deal with rotary phones or party lines. Folks won’t have to listen to a ring to know if a call is for them or their neighbors. Nor will teenagers be embarrassed as
they talk to boyfriends or girlfriends while standing in front of parents or younger brothers or sisters. Today, some of us don’t mind leaving the house without a phone stuck in our pockets to be in touch with contacts or to connect to the Internet.
Just recently, I heard that car makers will phase out straight shift cars. If that’s so, we’ll be that least generation to learn to drive a vehicle with a stick shift. Sure, changing gears might hang around for a while, but Baby Boomers are the last folks to have cars with gear shifts as standard equipment. We had to pay extra for an automatic transmission. Those who learned to drive a car with a clutch and shifter were always able to drive any car that might be
available. Today, young people are limited to vehicles that have automatic transmissions, and they miss out on some of the fun of driving other types vehicles.
Baby Boomers are today’s senior citizens, and we will take with us many marvelous creations and inventions…for our time. Younger generations have developed their own items that are considered second nature—cell phones, video games, laptop computers, and Bluetooth devices. They will never know the joy of banging out a letter or term paper on a typewriter or spending hours in a library while they search for information on a topic. In a blink of an eye, however, these youngsters will be oldsters, and their toys that they hold so dear will be relics. I just hope those things are as important in their memories.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the out-of-date things we Baby Boomers used. Let me know if you think of others. I’d appreciate the memories that they bring back.


A GOOD LAUGH


Mildred Simcox, my wife’s aunt, passed away recently. She’d suffered the cruel effects of dementia for several years and finally found relief and release from a life trapped in a mind that faded away. What hurt so much was the fact that this woman loved to laugh. She taught all of us in her life that
laughter is one of the best things that we can experience.
During the celebration of Mildred’s life, her nieces and nephews shared stories about her levity. A particular time that brought on ripples of laughter from family occurred at someone else’s funeral. One account recalls that shouting began as the spirit moved mourners. Another declares that Mildred broke out in a smile and then a guffaw after an individual tripped and fell.
Mildred was like at least one person in every family. She was prim and proper most of the time, but on occasion, she let down her guard and allowed her true being to shine. She’d been a school teacher, so God had granted her “the look,” the one that seared the very soul of the person at whom it was directed. When something amused Mildred, the teacher fa├žade evaporated, and a smile, devilish grin and cackle replaced it.
We all could use a bit more laughter in our lives. I don’t ever laugh at folks who fall because my first concern is whether or not they are hurt. I’ve also experienced those times when I found myself sprawled on the ground or at the bottom of a set of steps and never found the situation particularly funny. I find humor in the things that people say. Expressions can set me off, and when a person spews ridiculous lies that are beyond belief, I lose it. Some comedians and a small number of goofy movies can bring on belly laughs. Those times always help me to realize that life truly is good.
We need to stop taking our lives and our situations so seriously. Sure, times arise when our attention to events requires our full concentration, but for the most part, life is just a casual thing. In a few hours or days or years, the things over which we stress so much will be the stuff of funny stories or won’t be important enough to remember. When we laugh, even for a minute, our bodies produce endorphins that relaxes us and allow us to simply breathe.
Right now, our country is fractured. Folks are divided into polarized camps and refuse to budge an inch from their beliefs. Our lives are “hard” because every event becomes another battleground for sides. No one smiles; instead, we squawk against the stupidity of our opponents. A much more effective act in those instances would be to consider the absurd contentions and then laugh loudly at them.
I’ve missed Mildred and her laughter since that vile disease struck. She became one of the persons whom I most liked in this world. Her silence will leave me sadder. What this former school teacher, aunt, and friend leaves behind is the image of a smiling face that reveled in moments of life and expressed that joy through a hearty laugh. That’s a legacy we could all wish to leave behind.

NANU-NANU


HBO aired a documentary about Robin Williams last week. Anyone who knows me well can quickly assure folks that I watched it. Since the beginning of his career, I followed him and lauded his creative and comedic abilities.
Williams hooked me with the first episode of “Mork and Mindy.” I’d never seen anyone who could
fly through jokes, change personalities, and keep his audience laughing hysterically. The Orkian handshake and catchphrase “Nanu-Nanu” spread throughout the nation’s population. I remember using both during my teaching days at the time. Some students thought I’d lost my mind, but others who’d viewed the show smiled politely or laughed aloud as they recalled a skit from the show.
Other comedians became favorites of mine over the years. Tim Allen and his shtick had me rolling in the floor with laughter. I loved the way he grunted like a pig in his imitations of men. The irreverent comedy of the Punk Magician shocked everyone, but his warped sense of humor kept viewers laughing. Lewis Grizzard transformed his newspaper columns and books into stand-up acts that sold out as soon as they were announced. Yes, I was a fan of Bill Cosby and his “Cosby Himself” routine. His spot-on comments on parenthood had those of us with little ones realizing that we were normal.
Still, Robin Williams remained my comedy hero. When his “Live at the Met” video came out, I
watched it and copied it to watch time and time again. Sure, Robin Williams was sometimes vulgar; at other times, he was crude; and on occasion, he bordered on disgusting. Even so, I always understood where he was going, which might say volumes about my own moral compass, but more than likely, it says that I could see that his intent was the humor, not the offense. In it all, he managed to keep fans laughing during his 2-hour long concerts.
I always wanted to see Williams, and in 2002 he scheduled a concert in Nashville. My older brother Dallas called and asked if I would like to see the show. I responded “yes” but that I couldn’t afford the ticket. He told me to be in Nashville the weekend of the event and that he’d get two tickets for us.
I made the trip on that weekend and spent some of Friday night sitting with Dallas on his screened porch. We talked for a bit about the concert, but then he uncharacteristically said he was going to bed. The next day he didn’t feel much better; his head was spinning, and he felt nauseated. The show was on Sunday evening, and Dallas rose that morning but didn’t stay up long. He stayed in bed all day, and when he was up for any reason, he apologized for not keeping me company. Closer to the concert time, he told me that he just didn’t feel well enough to go. I told him that was okay and that I could go by myself.
I saw my long-time favorite celebrity that August night, and he left the crowd at the grand Ole Opry House screaming for more, I saved the ticket stub and put it in a frame. It was a wonderful night.
That weekend also turned out to be the first inkling that my brother was seriously ill. On Labor Day, his wife Brenda called to tell me he was in the hospital. Dallas had developed lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain. By January 2003, he was gone. I placed a photo of the Dallas in the frame that held the ticket stub to remember the entire circle of events.
I miss Dallas and thought about the concert and his illness as I watched the Williams’ documentary. My heart broke when I learned the comedian had committed suicide. The one hope I have is that these two men have had the chance to meet in heaven so that my brother can laugh as I did all those years ago.

A NEW BED


As Amy and I ease toward retirement, we make changes to things that have been fixtures in our lives. We’ve meted out some of the items that Mother kept in her house. Amy gave herself permission to clear some possessions that she thought might be essential in earlier years. Maybe the biggest change to come is our choice of a new bed.
After we married, we slept in a full-sized bed for years. Over that time, we had several different frames and headboards. One of the first was an antique that I discovered. For several days, I worked to strip the coats of paint that had baked onto the surface by the heat of the barn in which it had been stored. The headboard was approximately six feet tall and rickety. We never knew if the thing would collapse in the middle of the night.
Mother gave us the bedroom suite that she and Daddy first bought. The headboard and footboard mirrored each other, and two dressers and a night stand completed the set. I remember as a small boy that I climbed in that bed when a scary dream woke me and sent me hustling to their room. Our children lay in that bed when they were little as well. Dallas especially enjoyed piling in the bed in the mornings and cuddling with his mom for a while. His fitful sleeping sometimes sent me in search of a place to finish a night’s rest.  At some point, we fitted that bed with a queen-sized mattress and rigged the headboard to fit the frame.
A few years ago, Amy bought a new bedroom suite. The old set was moved to Dallas’ empty room. It included two nightstands, one dresser on which the television sits and another monstrous dresser with a mirror mounted to it. Our bedroom seemed to have shrunk. The headboard was oversized, and not long ago, we moved the bed to Lacey’s vacant room.
We next bought a headboard and footboard from a Habitat Re-store. They had a much lower profile and didn’t overpower the room. Again, I tried to fix them to fit the frame for the bed, but the pieces jiggled and shook, and I was sure that they’d fall or break.

After more than forty years of marriage, we’ve bought a king-sized bed. Our decision was that both will sleep better if we have a bigger bed that doesn’t ripple with movement every time one of us rolls over. The real reason for a new bed is the dog. Sadie sleeps with us. She might start at the foot of the bed, but before the night is over, she’s moved between us or has stretch across the bed so that we cannot straighten our legs or pull up the covers.
Maneuvering in the room will become even more difficult, and my main worry is that I’ll stub my toes on the frame. Amy will eventually find the right kind of headboard for this new bed, and of course, new sheets, blankets, spreads must be bought. However, my tired, worn out body is looking forward to having enough room in the bed, unless our third sleeping companion still chooses to stay in close contact.

ABOUT FRIENDS


When I was a little boy, I had one friend. My twin brother Jim and I were inseparable. We played together, fought together, and took up for each other. Sixty years later, we’re still “tight” and try to spend time with each other as often as possible. Other friends came later as I grew up and extended my world passed the front yard.
Back in the day, kindergarten was something that rich kids attended. The first educational experiences for most of us came the opening day of first grade. Jim was in a different classroom, so I was on my own. Little by little, I ventured out. Even today, I remember some of the first friends I made. Steve Buffalo and Steve Cox were buddies. We played together during recess and sometimes sat together in lunch.
Throughout elementary school, other boys became friends. Joey Wallace, Bill Jones, Pat Wright, Tommy Robinson were just a few of them. Our yard was home for football games and baseball games after school. We visited each other’s houses and even spent the night. Oh, fights broke out; in fact, every game we had at some point was interrupted by two boys throwing punches. Then it was all over, and we returned to the games.
High school introduced other new friends. Many of them were in band. Ken Mills, Mark Large, and Randy Allen were just three of them. We had good times after practices and on the weekends. Some of us managed to drink alcohol that wasn’t legal for our age. It’s a wonder that we lived through those times.
Unlike most folks, I didn’t make many friends during college. My time was spent studying to make up for a lack of educational dedication in high school. I met a couple of girls in English classes who became friends. Not until I began dating Amy my senior year did I meet my best friend Doing so has proven to be the most defining thing in my life.
I’ve made a friend or two during my adult years. Most are folks I met on the job at school. Bob Shoemaker was a good friend for years; Glenn Marquart was another buddy of mine, and Joe Dooley is now a solid friend. Others were Jim Pryor, Bobby Campbell, and Frank Kennedy, and we spent plenty of times shooting the bull and laughing during planning periods, before, or after school.
I also made some friends as I worked part time jobs at Budget and Knoxville Toyota. We worked hard and eased the times teasing and laughing.
My two best friends, yes, I have two of them, are Doug Meister and Billy Hayes. I’ve known both of them for over thirty years. We’ve played ball together and coached ball together. I can sit with them today, and it’s as if we’d never been apart.
What I do know is that most of the people with whom I made friends are still special folks to me. I might not see them for long periods of time, but all I would need to do is call them, and they would respond instantly. Some of those good friends have passed, and I miss them. The ones still here make the void smaller.
It might do this world well to recognize that we have only a handful of good friends in our lives. They are the ones who accept us even with all of our faults. No one should ever take friendship lightly; no person should set out to shame or degrade any friend. Losing a friend is a terrible thing because replacing him might prove to be impossible. To have a friend means to be a friend. That is a good motto by which folks and countries should live.

A VIEW OF THE FOURTH


I intentionally waited to write this until the day of July 4th. It’s not so much because I am lazy, but in the world today, things occur so quickly that I’m never sure whether the events on which I comment will prove to be true or false. At this point, however, I feel safe thinking that these things are real, at least for today.
To begin with, it’s hotter than a $2.00 pistol. The whole week has been crammed with days in the 90’s, and someone said yesterday the temperature, not just the “feels like” temperature, hit 100 degrees. Here’s a new flash: it’s summer and supposed to be hot. Humidity can also be added to the
mix here in East Tennessee, and that makes for sweltering summer days. That’s why plenty of folks spend their days on at pool or lakeside. Some are even lucky enough to make it to a stream in the mountains where the real cold water is located.
We’re celebrating Independence Day, and the economy is humming along. Employment is at record low levels, and companies are beginning to run out of folks to work. It wasn’t too long ago that people had to scramble to find part time work, but now things are much brighter for Americans who need a job.
I’m not so sure how the economy will be affected by the dump truck load of tariffs that we are imposing on friends and enemies alike. Those measures are being met with tariffs by other countries, so the prices of goods will begin to climb. That means the tax cuts that we might have seen in our paychecks won’t offer extra savings or more purchasing power; instead, we’ll wind up shelling out the money in an effort to at least keep even. It seems to me that we might aim any tariffs at enemies and not at our friends with whom we have small or nonexistent trade deficits.
Immigration is causing problems for the entire country. I certainly agree that we need to develop a workable immigration policy. That would include an orderly flow of immigrants into the U.S. and a workforce to fill some of the positions that are dependent on migrant workers. However, this country cannot continue to take children from their parents when families cross the borders. Yes, in some situations, those folks are breaking the law, but we are a nation founded on immigrants. Taking children from moms and dads is an immoral act that defeats the ideals upon which the U.S.A. was built. In short, we are better than that.
The news outlets of the nation are not enemies of the state. If that were true, then the Knoxville Focus would be your enemy. Do you feel that way about this paper? Sure, some outlets report things I don’t like, and I’d rather not see the spin put into news stories. The reason for so much conjecture and opinion in some places is 24-hour news cycles. Really, how much can a cable news say about the same story? To keep the cameras on and the ads selling, networks must add stuff. Hey, we’re supposed to be an intelligent citizenry, so we should be able to tell the difference between fact and opinion. However, we need a free press; it’s one of the most crucial elements to a democracy. If you don’t like what an outlet says, don’t listen or watch, but at least recognize its right to exist.
I’m worried about the days ahead. We are fighting with friends, dealing with countries that tried to influence our elections, and cutting deals with regimes that have lied for years. Polarization stifles the government’s ability to work for the people. My wish for this Fourth of July is that common sense and love of country replace such adversarial roles. How about we all try to meet in the middle and moderate our views for what’s best for the country? It might work since nothing else seems to have.

VACATION TIPS


It’s vacation time, and Amy and I’d saved for ours for a long time. My organized and savvy wife hit the Internet and booked our trip. It ended a couple of weeks ago, and we are back to the grind once again; however, the break refreshed us and gave us a chance to rest for a while. Based on what we experienced, I’ve decided to offer a few tips to those who are traveling over the summer.
First, make sure you understand booking flights on line. Over the years, we’ve grown accustom to standing in line to check bags and receive boarding passes. Checking in electronically takes away that pass. I was more than a bit confused as to where I would sit. A hateful Delta worker met us at the gate and offered no help. We eventually understood that a seat would be assigned at the gate, but ours weren’t together.
If you travel often, buying a TSA Pre-check pass. It allows purchasers to go through shorter security lines where they can keep their shoes on. Most importantly, folks with passes don’t stand in lines for long times. In the Panama City Airport, we stood in a holding area for several minutes before we were allowed proceed to the security clearance lines. All of these points lead to the biggest piece of advice: arrive earlier than you think is necessary or take a chance of missing you flight.
Make sure to check the rating of the establishment where you stay. We booked place at a Wyndhamrd floor abode was magnificent.
spot through Resort Quest. It was 30 stories tall. The condo in which we stayed was nice. The amenities were also nice. Our view from the 23
The problems were multiple. We arrived at 10:30 a.m. because of our flight schedule. Yes, we knew that check-in time was 4:00 p.m. However, we hoped that the staff would be able to get us in our room before that time. We sat for a while and then decided to visit the beach. Chairs and an umbrella
were included in the booking, but we encounter trouble with that because we had not been assigned a room. The attendant allowed us to use the facilities any way. I checked at the front desk for our room number. Our paper work lay at the same place that it had when we arrived; it was now about 1:00 p.m.
A storm hit and scattered folks on the beach. We had no place to go, so we sat in the lobby across from the front desk. At about 3:45, we received a text with our room number and key pad numbers. I  
had to then go to the second floor to get a cart to load our luggage. One wasn’t available. When I finally loaded our belongings and returned from the garage, Amy and I discovered the worst problem. The elevators were slow and too few were available for 500 units.
All of this is to say that I suggest that you don’t stay in large facilities. I won’t book again a place where I can’t walk the stairs if the elevators are too slow or busy. I also will make sure that early check-in is available when our flight causes us to arrive before time. I’ll also make sure the staff cares about customer service and takes steps to get vacationers in their rooms in a timely fashion. That means they might have to send someone from the cleaning staff to clean a room instead of one where no one has been waiting for hours.
I’m not a griping, old man who finds fault with everything. Amy and I had a wonderful time after we finally broke through to our room. We filled our days sitting on the beach and reading. When rain came, we sat on the deck and watched the clouds and rain blow in. I do, expect, however, better customer service from those who are making a living on the travels of others. Make sure you check every step of your trip, but still expect problems to arise. They must be a part of vacations.

SCARED


Okay, folks, I’m scared and worried. No, I’m not afraid for myself; my concern is for my children and grandchildren and this country. What is going on is the destruction of the U.S. by a man who is unfit to be the president.
Supporters say Trump is “draining the swamp,” but a quick look at the actions of those in his own cabinet prove that he’s swapped one type of swamp monster with another kind that answers to him. This man is a danger to our nation, and his giving power to corrupt individuals is criminal.
Immigration is a sticking point for this man. Remember when he vowed to build a wall for which Mexico would pay? It’s not started, so now President Trump wants American citizens to pay for the boondoggle. At the same time, he’s had the Department of Justice wage war on immigrants who come from the Mexican border. Children are ripped from their parents when families cross the border. Just today a baby was taken from a mother as she breastfed the child. I’ve heard the lines that they broke the law and must pay the price. However, should that ever include losing children and breaking families? What would you do if someone took your child from you and placed him or her and foster where you would not be able to find the young one? Nazi Germany did the same thing to families heading for the concentration camps.
Trump’s war continues against most elements of press. Fox News and the conservative media are spared haranguing. However, so-called “liberal outlets” are damned and condemned by this president and his minions. Kellyanne Conway called their convoluted stories “alternative facts,” and Rudy Giuliani said the same thing. The truth is not a variable. It is based on facts. The truth never waivers. Statements that don’t say the same things as the truths are lies, plain and simple. The Constitution is quick to defend a free press and states its importance. This temporary resident in the White House should understand that the truth will outlast his lies and those of his followers.
Twitter attacks by this president are daily events. Most of them are complete with misspellings and grammatical errors, but that’s not as concerning as the lies and attacks and misinformation that he unloads. His limited vocabulary always includes simple words, sometimes misused. Trump believes that if he says something in those Tweets enough times that all people will believe it. Only the 38% that has always blindly supported him will swallow the line of bull he shovels on social media.
President Donald Trump has turned his back on our allies. Those folks are the ones with whom we’ve had steadfast relationships for fifty years. This man swats them away as if they were flies. In their places, he puts our enemies and other countries run by thugs, murders, and miscreants. Each day the president sides with these evil folks he destroys the United States’ leadership role in the world.
So, yes, I’m scared, but at the same time I’m mad. I’m furious that this incompetent man has been able to hijack the GOP and turn it into a disgusting political party. My anger is also aimed at the cowards who represent the people in Washington. Keeping their jobs is more important than standing up to the lies and misdeeds from this administration. Last, I’m furious with those people who refuse to see that this president is destroying our country. It’s no longer a Democrat versus Republican thing; it’s a defining moment for the survival or destruction of the U.S.A. God help us and guide us because we aren’t capable of steering the country in the safe direction.  

ANOTHER YEAR IN THE BOOKS


Another birthday has come and gone, and another year is in the books. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful family that chooses to gather on a weekend around that date to celebrate that day. We sit
around the pool, cook hamburgers and hotdogs, and laugh and talk until we’re exhausted.
Growing old isn’t that difficult for us. If we are lucky enough, time slides along and takes us with it. Birthdays when I was young left memories and warm sun, honeysuckle, and Mother’s sixth grade class picnic at our house. The smell of leather always reminds me of that birthday when Jim and I received new ball gloves as presents. Neither of us were skilled at using them, but that never kept us from throwing ball in the front yard or trying to play on the team Mr. Wright coached. Melt-in-your-mouth always set center stage on the birthday table.
Teenaged birthdays were different. Sure, presents were nice, but more important was having a few friends at the house for a while. After celebrating there for a while, everyone left for destinations such as the Copper Kettle or another hangout. Yes, we bought alcohol with fake drivers’ licenses and sipped on the stuff. Cigarettes weren’t taboo then, and many of us started the habit during those high school years. When a couple of birthdays rolled around, I even had a girlfriend with whom celebrate the day. Mother was always home on birthdays and made sure they were special.
Adulthood changed those birthdays. Amy did more than she should have to spoil me. We always managed to meet up with Jim and his clan at Mothers. On that 40th celebration, she and my sister-in-law Brenda planned a party at the Karns community center. A crowd of friends attended and listened to tales on the two of us. My older brother sent a cassette tape that recalled all the horrible events that we caused over the years. The get together was highlighted by the appearance of a large, friendly dancer.
Lately, birthdays are more about just spending time with the folks I love. Lacey and Nick bring Madden with them from Nashville, and Dallas travels home from Chattanooga. They insist on giving presents, some of which are rather strange. I’d as soon they saved their money and just came home for a couple of days. Years earlier, the family stayed up late to watch movies or television shows or just to talk. My bed time comes much earlier now, and my eyes slam shut too soon to suit me.
For the last few years, Madden has stayed the week after my birthday. We find things to do to keep a young boy busy. This year was to be partially spent swimming in the river in the mountains, but days filled with rain caused us to change plans. Just having him stay here willingly is nice, and I try to keep him from being too bored.
This year, I greeted the anniversary of day of my arrival with more aches and pains. Knees and
fingers ache, and a limp caused by inflammation of my Achilles tendon puts a crimp in the activities I want to enjoy. It sounds as if a case of the “gripes” is also present, but the truth is that I am thankful to be here each and every day. I love my wife, children, and grandson. Jim and I still hang out and find projects to keep us busy. I’ll take as many more birthdays as the good lord gives me because I want to share the days of each year with the people I love, even if I have to do so a bit slower.

BE NICE


I arrived at the Knox County Clerk’s office about five minutes before it opened. A man in front of me said the last time he completed this chore, he was number 50 in line. However, at that early hour, I walked in and immediately met one of the workers there. Her cheery voice and kind attitude made renewing my tags easy and pleasant. The fact is that we need more of this kind of behavior in our world.
The clerk’s employee unarms visitors with her friendly demeanor. In return, others relax and return the kindness. Everyday, those workers at that office face throngs of drivers who want to renew
licenses or registration stickers. The job demands patience and efficiency. For them to be kind also to folks, especially the ones who are more than a bit annoyed by the wait, is a credit to them. I didn’t get the name of the woman at the Cedar Bluff office, but if she sees this column, I want to make sure to thank her for being nice.
Fast food businesses are other places filled with stress on employees. Hungry customers are in a hurry to get their food and eat it or take it home to families. True, sometimes those workers at the businesses have no regard for customers and never worry that the line through the drive-thru wraps around the building. However, most of the folks on that side of the counter are concerned about processing orders as quickly as possible. We who are ordering food might make the day a bit easier
for them by being nice. That means saying thank you and foregoing our first instincts to tear into a teenager for having to wait a long time for a burger, order of fries, and drink.
Nothing tests the limits of our temper as does a phone call to a major corporation. Whether the help is with our cable, computer, or health plan, most customers fume when the first thing they hear is a
recording. If the wait is long, company representatives are in trouble when they finally answer calls. Our first tendencies are to blast workers for failing to answer quicker. Never mind that the phone lines are jammed with customers; we want help now. A kind person on the other end can quickly diffuse angry customers. If that person can quickly take care of our problems or questions, we are a bit stunned. In the end, we change our tunes and become kinder, gentler people.
Now, I’m the first to admit that my patience wears thin quicker than most people, and I’ve been a surly S.O.B. at times. However, when people are automatically pleasant, I become a calmer person as well. In fact, I enjoy talking with the worker and tell her how much I appreciate the kindness and help. That’s the way the world should be. More consideration for others makes everyone feel a bit better about life. One thing is for sure: we need to remember what our parents told us when we were children—be nice!

TRUTH OF CONSEQUENCES


The legend regarding the father of the country tells us that he “could not tell a lie.” As children, we are taught to tell the truth or otherwise suffer the consequences. As witnesses in court, we “swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help us God.” What happened to the commitment to the truth?
Every day, television ads blast us with promises and results. However, the fine print at the bottom of the screen tells the real story. Companies advise viewers not to take on the IRS by themselves and scare them by saying that the agency is taking homes, cars, and all other possessions of those owing tax moneys. However, few folks can qualify for paying the IRS less than they owe. They might still might have to pay just as much in taxes after working with one of these businesses, and then they pay fees for services to that company that promised to help them so much. That sounds like a lie to me. 
Buying new cars are nerve-racking experiences for most people. That time only worsens when they face salesmen. Customers are taken to small offices where they bargain with the dealership representative. It’s surprising that the salesmen are unable to accept or reject offers by buyers.
Instead, they must discuss offers with the sales manager. On many occasions when a seller leaves the office, he stands around for a while without ever asking permission before returning with a counter offer. I don’t need games, nor will I play them when buying a car. No customer appreciates the string of lies and deceptions with which car dealers beset them. All of us know that there’s no such thing as a deal on a car.
People don’t know what is true in the news. Sometimes reporters inject their biases into news stories; at other times sensationalized and exaggerated statements turn what should be solid reporting into yellow journalism. Even when stories are factual, they can be pooh-poohed by an opposing
media outlet. In the end, we can only go with our gut feelings as to determining what is true, and all too many have irritable bowel syndrome that colors their best guesses.
Worst of all, our government is lying to us. Polarization has taken over both parties. Instead of working together for the common good, politicians in two of the branches of government are more interested in promoting their viewpoints than in digging for the truth and giving it the light of day.
New lies bombard us daily, and citizens turn deaf ears to anything that doesn’t agree with their thinking. The country feels as if it is in a tailspin, and the pilots have parachuted to safety. Telling the truth offers no advantage to individuals who hold office.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” All of those who sing Jefferson’s praises might do well to take that statement to heart. In fact, all of us would do well to be more honest in all of our dealings in this world. The return to the truth should start in the hallowed halls of our government. Elected officials becoming role models for the citizens of this country could turn the tide toward better days. Otherwise, I fear that we are watching the crumbling of our country and its rightful place in this world.

IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE


All over the country, folks are assembling at churches, school gyms, and larger facilities to hold graduation ceremonies. Whether the event is for a high school or college, moms, dads, husbands, wives, and children are celebrating the educational accomplishments of students.
Some historical accounts report that the traditional cap and gown were worn during the 12th th century to differentiate the students from the townspeople at the university where they attended. Others say the garb was worn to keep students warm in the unheated classrooms where they studied.
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These days, the cap and gown outfit is a sure signal that a person has completed a course of study. Now, whether that individual has exceled in his studies or has sneaked through them isn’t necessarily indicated. Only those with the highest academic successes are labeled with cum, magna, or summa laude. The rest of the graduating class is a hodgepodge of grade point averages.
Some students have been diligent in their pursuits of knowledge. During my high school years, I never let classes interfere with my education. Instead, I poured more of my energies into friends, events, and mischief. That’s not to say that I squeaked by to graduate, but a 2.6 grade point average and a score of 18 on the ACT were nothing about which to brag. Some of my friends spent little time in study but managed to make A’s in their classes. One individual even scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. However, in looking back, the people I most admire are the ones who worked for their good grades.
In college, things are a bit different. Many students arrive on campus with dedication and determination to succeed. I was one of them. It was in those classrooms where I paid the price for not working hard in high school. For my entire college life, I studied long, hard hours; “all-nighters” came before exams. So much of the material made little or no sense to me the first time I read it. Only after reviewing things did I “get it.” That studying hard continued even as a worked on a graduate degree. However, most of the materials in that program was stuff with which I disagreed, but to make it through the program, I played the game and regurgitated the stuff for professors during test and in papers.
A large group of students leave homes for college for different reasons. They are there to make friends, engage in parties, and meander through their lives free of home and rules. Last on their lists are attending classes or studying materials. Consequently, their stays at universities don’t last more than a term or two. Then, they return home to figure out what will become of them for the next several years.
College is not for everyone; I’ve said that for years. However, a basic education is essential in today’s world. The old manufacturing jobs of the past that once paid so well either aren’t coming back to the U.S. or aren’t paying sensational salaries. Having a skill or continuing an education to develop one is essential. Otherwise, individuals are doomed to a life of struggle.
Congratulations to all those who walk across the stage with a diploma in hand. If you have worked to earn it, know that your efforts will be rewarded. If you have done as little as possible and narrowly made it through with an attitude that “D stands for diploma,” realize that such an outlook will lead you to disappointment. Each day is new, and with it all of us have opportunities to learn something new. 

THEY DON'T GET IT!


I’ve always said that high school students have remained the same over the years. One of my classes proved me wrong the other day. We were studying humor, and I showed the old routine by Bill Cosby about being a parent. Yes, I know Cosby stands convicted of terrible crimes, but these students don’t read or watch the news enough to know what’s going on. The comedy that Cosby presented is still excellent, regardless of the type of person he’s become. What is upsetting is that the world we’ve created has stifled many admirable qualities of too many children.
Plenty of our children don’t have much curiosity. Information bombards them all day long. The
Internet and social media broadcast all sorts of materials, and young folks aren’t always sophisticated enough to tell what is true. In the end, they begin taking what is dished out without ever wondering first about a topic and then investigating it.
At the same time, children are rarely excited about anything. We’ve given our offspring so much that not much is left to be called special. Christmas and birthday gifts don’t surprise them. In many cases, our offerings pale in comparison the things we have given
children on a daily basis. A car isn’t a special thing to a child unless it’s a new model. How dare parents try to pass off used vehicles as a wonderful presents to teenagers. A vacation isn’t such a big deal unless it includes swank settings and plush accommodations.
Today’s young folks are too quickly offended. Our society sanitized everything in life. Too many things are politically incorrect, and as such, they are either taboo or have been assigned “kinder, less offensive” names or titles. We all recognize that some labels are simply
wrong, but that doesn’t mean all of them are. Words we used just a few year are no longer acceptable because someone decided they demeaned another person or group. Our children live in a world where they are taught to use “he or she” so that no one feels left out. Double-speak continues to spread like a virus in our language. I’ve often said that such politically correct language reminds me of the movie “Demolition Man,” where uttering any word identified as offensive resulted in a ticket.
Worst of all, adults have wiped out children’s senses of humor. Some might ask how that has happened. On too many occasions, parents have failed to pass along what constitutes a funny situation or action. The absurd is the standard for humor these days. Of course, it might help if moms and dads shared some of the adventures they experienced as young people. Also, children fail to understand subtlety or nuance in humorous situations.
Perhaps what occurred today is further indication that my time has come and gone. Still, this is the first time in over 30 years that I’ve showed this video to a class without a single laugh coming out at some point. If children don’t see the humor in being a parent or going to the dentist, I feel sorry for them. Their futures are going to be filled with angst. I like my life up to this point and wouldn’t change it with a teenager. They have already missed too much.