"Fools rush in where wise men never go.
But wise men never fall in love,
So how are they to know?"
-- Ricky Nelson, 1966
There have been personalities and occurrences that have made a deep impression on me, and I would guess you have similar experiences. It is an interesting exercise to go back in your mind and reflect on the impact each one had on the development or maturation of your character.
In this section I will share a few of my own personal experiences with people and events that have helped shape the person that I am today. How some influencers have affected a generation of Americans, and reached across every continent on Earth.
Having been exposed to their wisdom, their invention, their personalities, and their charity, we Americans are privileged. It drives me crazy to listen to liberals demonize white people as "privileged" when those same people, including the last several generations of blacks in America, are most certainly "Privileged Americans". When comparing the experience of anyone from any other society on Earth, Americans of any group (immigrants, minorities, women or homosexuals, even convicted felons) have it better in America than anyone born anywhere else on the planet. Americans are "privileged" for sure and yet we are also the most benevolent people who have a record of selflessness unmatched by any civilization, ever.
"Per capita, Americans voluntarily donate about seven times as much as continental Europeans. Even our cousins the Canadians give to charity at substantially lower rates, and at half the total volume of an American household."
When an earthquake hits, flooding occurs, or an epidemic breaks out, the USA has humanitarian relief systems in place to assist other countries, unlike anything offered by China, Russia or Canada. Our emergency response teams helped out after Japan suffered devastating damage from the Tomodachi earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Same thing in the Philippines during typhoon Haiyan, and the 2015 Nepal earthquake. US military services helped stop the 3 year long Ebola Crisis in West Africa ending in 2016.
We might be arrogant, self-centered, or selfish, but we are not, as a country, ignorant of our place in history, or our responsibility to lead the world by example. Americans may demonstrate many flawed character traits, but one thing we are not, is mean spirited.
The following are examples of the concept of Americanism at its best. Iconic people that touched me to the degree that I have embedded their love for America in my heart.
I was a little boy in elementary school when the teacher held up a picture of the first President of the United States, and said Mr. Washington, as a boy, had to admit to his father that he had cut down his favorite cherry tree while playing with his new toy, a hatchet. She said the moral of the story was that "we should never tell a lie."
I remember that lesson not because I would never tell a lie, but because as I grew older I realized there were so many opportunities to tell lies. And that in most cases I would, like George Washington, usually get caught. And the ramifications were much worse than the original lie.
I must have been 7 or 8 years old when my mom found a box of polished rocks in my closet. She confronted me, "Where did these come from"?
I lied and said I found them. It didn't take long for her to elicit a confession: I shoplifted them from a local hobby shop. It was humiliating. I will never forget how ashamed I was. She marched me down to the hobby shop to return the stones and apologize to the owner.
In my school days, everyone was on the same page. My teachers, my parents, my babysitters, my uncles and aunts, all said the same thing: I was very fortunate to have been born an American and that meant I had high standards to meet. Year after year we would review history and George Washington was always at the top of the list of great and influential American forefathers that helped establish and shape our country and our lives.
As I matriculated through college, the stories of the Father of Our Country, much of which had been embellished and deified, focused on his dedication to the idea of a new system of self-government, self determination and the pursuit of justice, always stuck with me.
When I visited the Capitol Building in Washington DC during the 20 year remembrance of 911, I saw the painted ceiling in the dome. It shows George Washington sitting on a floating throne, posed like a King and appears to be nothing less than a God. He is surrounded by a golden glow and Angels floating in clouds providing him with strength and wisdom. It was a way of venerating the idea that Washington established a new kind of society where all of the rights of its citizens were granted by God, and the Government was "of and by the People".
If America is a brand, then George Washington is its spokesman, then and forever. Was he flawed? Of course, but his humanity was in the fact that he built a refuge for liberty like none other in the history of mankind.
As a five year-old, I would pick up my little toy guitar and do an impression of Elvis singing "Hound Dog" for my parents, whenever they had friends over for cocktails. They thought I was cute and I loved the attention. I would shake my hips and swing my knees, and curl my lip! I would conjure up my deepest five-year old voice and gruffly sing " You ain't never caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend o' mine!"
It was a special event to go to a theater to see movies in the late 50's, and to see my idol play the leading man was awesome. He was, in my young life, the first real celebrity. But beyond that, Elvis was also a revolutionary. He broke all the rules of decorum. He shook his legs to the degree that, on the most popular Sunday night variety TV show at the time, Ed Sullivan wouldn't allow cameras to show anything below his waist. He sang songs of the south, written by and for black folk. He flirted with the girls in the audience, and he danced erotically.
Later, Elvis submitted to the draft, and scared his fans when he turned down the offer to be a special services soldier who could avoid conflict by entertaining the troops. Instead, he elected to do general duty, which endured him to American men who also faced conscription.
Before he left to do his tour of duty, Presley made King Creole, a movie that he knew would leave a lasting impression on his fans. In the movie he has to fight for his life, his girlfriend and his job. As an 8 year old, I was captivated by his emotional appeal. And the film served its purpose, making me and millions of his fans hungry to hear from him again. But it was also clear that Elvis recognized the importance of America in the world and how he and every other citizen had a duty to protect our country so others would be afforded opportunities to be free.
This was my first deep impression of the power of the media. I cried when Elvis almost died in the movie, he was like a brother to me. He bridged the gap between the marginalized "black" music genre and the emerging rock music genre. The legacy of The King will always be a part of our unique American Music Legacy, because Elvis pioneered a genre of music that was genuinely Born In The USA.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The death of President John F. Kennedy occurred in 1963. That year was filled with emotion for me. I was only 13, so I did not spend much of my time contemplating politics. But I could not avoid being inspired by JFK. He was such a charismatic man, who could dominate a room with his charm, and make people think about their role in our society.
"There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin!"
-- John F. Kennedy
Kennedy exhorted Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." The day Kennedy died, a piece of American idealism died with him. I believe it was a turning point in the Baby Boomer generation's unlimited optimism.
Like Disney, Kennedy evoked the idea that "if you can dream it you can achieve it." He challenged the American scientific community to put a man on the moon. He said, "We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people."
Though the condition was, at that point in time, not recognized medically, I believe millions of Americans subsequently suffered a debilitating psychological disorder called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Seems reasonable after witnessing the assassination of our young President, followed by the murder of the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, on national TV.
I also believe it will someday be recognized as the foundational moment for what we currently refer to as Fake News. Americans may never really know how and why JFK was gunned down, and maybe we weren't prepared to know the truth. Because if it didn't happen the way we were told it happened, much about how our current culture and how it has evolved today, would be a lot different.
Today, America suffers from unresolved fear and anger, and a deep sense of anxiety that the American Dream is an illusion. That no one can be trusted to protect our American Identity, and therefore it is not immortal or even noble, anymore. This neurosis is reflected in our youth culture that mutilates itself, practices satanic religions, and commits suicide at unprecedented levels. The trend of broken families, with enormous numbers of absent fathers, mirrors the sense of abandonment that many Americans feel when they cannot find gainful employment, or establish long term relationships.
The murder of American leaders, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Kennedys, and the premature deaths of dozens of inspirational leaders and artists like Elvis, John Lennon, John Denver, Princess Diana, and so many others, along with the constant turmoil directed at political and social activists, leaves an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that, to this day, permeates our culture.
The Dynamic Duo of Television
As a kid he was happy, living in relative wealth on a ranch in Cuba. His US educated father was the youngest elected Mayor of Santiago de Cuba, and also served in the Cuban House of Representatives under President Gerardo Machado. His mother's father was an executive with Bacardi Rum company which was founded in their hometown. When the Cuban Revolution created political instability, his father was arrested and their property confiscated. Luckily, his father's political connections gained his release after six months in prison. His father decided it was time to leave Cuba. Arriving in Miami in 1934, the sixteen year-old boy came to America speaking no English. His first job was cleaning bird cages. As soon as he graduated from High School, he took a $39 a week job playing guitar at the Roney Plaza Hotel, where Mambo King Xavier Cugat discovered him. Just three years later he had his own band and later auditioned for the leading man part in the Broadway musical Too Many Girls.
The 23 year-old Desi Arnaz was on his way to Hollywood and a place in history.
At three years old, she had a really bad day. A bird became frantic when it was inadvertently locked in the house she had recently moved to in Montana. She was traumatized by the bird's desperate attempts to escape, crashing into walls and windows, and nearly killing itself.
Later that same day, her father died after a battle with typhoid fever. She would be haunted by that experience for life, suffering from ornithophobia, an irrational fear of birds.
Soon thereafter she and her mom and brother moved back to New York to rejoin her grandparents in the resort town of Celoron. It was there that the little girl got her first exposure to vaudeville and live outdoor performances at the community park.
When her mother remarried, her stepfather encouraged the 12 year-old to try out for the Shriner chorus line. She quickly discovered she got an emotional boost from the attention. She excelled and began to seek broader opportunities.
Like the plot in a Broadway play, her mom tried to break up a relationship with an older boy by enrolling her in the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts. When her instructors said she was not cut out for a career in show business, she dumped the boyfriend and returned to New York City to try to prove them wrong.
She never graduated from high school. After a brief foray into fashion modeling, she was set back with a two year bout with rheumatic fever. At 21 Lucille Ball was starting all over again, and she was willing to take almost any gig. Her first real break came when she got a minor role as a dancer with the Goldwyn Girls in a musical film called Roman Scandals.
That film gave her just enough confidence and money to move to Hollywood to pursue her dreams. In 1937 she landed her breakout role in a Katherine Hepburn-Ginger Rogers film called Stage Door that told the story of two aspiring actresses rooming together in New York City. She had a minor role but it got her experience with major players and she attracted attention for her simple beauty.
She later auditioned for the Scarlett O'Hara role in Gone With The Wind, and though she did not get the part, she did win the lead part in Too Many Girls.
The Rub? It was on that set that Lucy met Desi and formed a team that would revolutionize Hollywood and the world of television as we know it today…
When producers drafted Lucille Ball to do a TV series based on her successful radio show My Favorite Husband, her husband, bandleader Desi Arnaz, was cast as her comedic straight man husband, Ricky Ricardo. Little did anyone know at the time what a Dynamic Duo they would become, not just as TV stars, but as pioneers and major influencers in the burgeoning television industry. Together they made history, and changed the television medium, in many amazing ways!
First, the idea that a couple of mixed heritage was highly controversial, but to have a woman as the star was simply unheard of. Giving her the lead and the name on the title was inherently risky and groundbreaking. Plus, at 40 years old Ball was six years older than Desi, which was another cultural anomaly. But producers were smart enough to deduce that much of their TV audience would be women, so they had a profit motive.
Second, to cast a Cuban-American, who spoke with a rich accent, was also risky. Many thought it was crazy, but in her brilliance, Lucy knew Desi would be a key to their success. He had charisma, excellent comedic timing, and she understood the value of "Oh, Ricky!" playing the object of her affection and the straight man for her clumsy physical humor. He represented the "Every Man" who found it difficult to meet their wives expectations, but never quit trying. Plus, he was a true musical talent, and that in itself would distinguish the show from the many joke-oriented TV comedy shows.
Early on, the couple directed writers to maintain high standards by avoiding ethnic jokes unless they were aimed at Ricky's Cuban accent. And even then, the only ones allowed to make fun of his awkward mispronunciations was Lucy and her mother character. His hilarious Cuban colloquialisms were a steady stream of laughs and I Love Lucy continuously explored the humor in social stereotypes.They pushed the barriers before television cultural barriers had even been established.
More importantly were the innovations Lucy and Desi brought to the process of making television programs. They proved to be pioneers in dozens of ways, most of which are, to this day, unprecedented in the history of television.
Most television at that time was produced in studios in New York. Comedy programs were performed in front of a single portable 16mm camera, sometimes in front of a small audience. This was a hangover from the radio era. The stage play would be shot on 35mm film directly from the live action 16mm camera monitor so it could be edited, and rebroadcast to the rest of the nation at a later time. That process is called Kinescope, and it resulted in diminished clarity, but videotaping was not available at that point, so this technique was used to capture and replay show segments as broadcasts over the airwaves. A program recorded in New York on 35mm film would be sent by carrier to distributors on the West Coast and not seen until several days later. Since the audiences were substantially bigger in metropolitan areas on the East Coast, most programming was produced in New York and broadcast for immediate viewing.
When executives discussed using Lucille Ball in a TV sitcom, who by then was a successful radio actress and emerging film regular, they were confronted with a series of challenges: First, Lucy was anxious to have children, and she was also being sought for movie roles. So she insisted that the new program originate in Hollywood. In order to produce the show in front of a large studio audience, which they all agreed was necessary to generate the kind of synergism Lucy required, they would need to do two things: record the show directly on 35mm film, and build a custom studio to house the audience. So I Love Lucy became the first TV show to be filmed live on 35mm film.
Second, because Hollywood studio union rules about filming required it, Lucy and Desi became the first TV stars to produce their own show. Both of these things forced Lucy and Desi to form a new production company they called Desilu Productions.
And their revolutionary contributions didn't stop there.
Desi decided to use three cameras on dollies to film the action. He brought in many specialists to perfect a new way of lighting the set, of moving the cameras and of recording the sound. Desilu Productions was reinventing the concept of live series television, and revolutionizing the entire industry at the same time.
To accommodate all of the space required for the staging, the movement and the cameras, not to mention a live audience, Arnaz had to essentially build his own studio, which also became a TV first of its kind. Because it was so much more expensive to produce, Lucy and Desi took salary cuts in exchange for owning the film. That led to the rebroadcasting of shows, which in turn began an entirely new form of revenue, the syndicated rerun industry.
Their show was also the first to feature an ensemble cast, which is now common.
Chronicling the progress of Lucy's pregnancy and eventual birth of the character Little Ricky in real time and actually showing Lucy's pregnant bump were both 'firsts' in television.
The episode of "Lucy Goes to the Hospital" was yet another first for television, drawing 71% of viewers. The overall rating of 67.3% audience share for the entire 1952 season of I Love Lucy is to this day the highest average rating for any single season of a TV series.
When the I Love Lucy franchise came to an end their marriage was also at its end. Desi was in real life the stereotypical Latin womanizer; he chased skirts and drank too much. In 1960 Lucy filed for divorce and eventually bought out his shares of Desilu Productions to become the first woman majority owner of a major studio. Under her direction, the company went on to produce many major hit shows including The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mission Impossible, My Three Sons, I Spy, The Untouchables, and That Girl.
It was Lucy that made the groundbreaking Star Trek series happen. When CBS passed on the pitch by Desilu Productions, she ordered a pilot made anyway. NBC rejected that too, so she demanded a second episode shot with William Shatner as Captain Kirk. The rest is television history.
She sold the business to Gulf+Western in 1968 for $17 million (about $128 million in today's dollars). As per their pattern, Lucy and Desi sold their library of shows separately to CBS Television Studios/Lorimar.
In 1989 President George H. W. Bush posthumously awarded Lucille Ball the Presidential Freedom Award.
I was too young to watch most of the original I Love Lucy broadcast shows in the early fifties, so I saw them in syndication. And though many of the TV programs of that decade will always be considered originals, or groundbreakers, simply because they were the first of many to follow, I have chosen to focus on the Dynamic Duo because they had so much impact on an industry that itself has had more impact on my life than perhaps any other medium in the second half of the 20th century.
The techniques they innovated, the frontiers they explored, the cultural bias they confronted, the power of the syndication of programs and the economic and social ramifications of what Lucy and Desi did are almost beyond calculation. Both of them were giants in their own lane, but together they were collectively perfect representatives of people who rose to positions of enormous consequence from rather pedestrian backgrounds.
Did they happen to come along at the perfect time, or did they make the time they came along perfect for them? Did they become stars because they were great actors, musicians, stage directors, writers or comedians, or did they simply understand the medium better than their contemporaries?
Though Lucille Ball was the onscreen superstar, and Desi Arnaz was a visionary businessman, it took the synergy of them working together as a team to leave enduring memories with millions of viewers and transform the medium of television forever.
Here's The Rub: Most of us never paid any attention to what was going on behind the scenes, so two titans in the TV industry went mostly unrecognized for their monumental contributions to the television medium.
Maybe the goofiest TV star ever, he made an enormous impact on me. The man made me laugh at the dumbest jokes! I still believe to this day, his brand of silliness is a good way to keep yourself from becoming neurotic.
As a 14 year-old I would look forward to coming home from school and watching "Soupy Sales" doing live improvisational comedy routines on my black and white TV. All he had was a small studio set and some puppets and the voice of his comedic partners.
Soupy had a 'pet dog' puppet named White Fang, "the Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA". He was actually just a white furry arm that protruded from out of the picture frame and made unintelligible grunts while waving around his large paw with black claws. Viewers would only hear hear rudimentary"Roh ahh roh ahh roh!"growls.
Soupy would carry on the conversation by interpreting White Fang's reactions to his silly one liners and comments on the human condition. The body language of the giant paw, making hand gestures and grunts, was the perfect setup partner for Soupy to carry on what was essentially a radio-show comedy routine.
Black Fang was White Fang's female counterpart, "the Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA!" With a high pitched effeminate series of grunts she would grab Soupy and pull him off camera. Then the audience would hear a series of smooches, kisses and smacks. Soupy would reappear with his hair tousled and with large lipstick marks on his face.
It was one big loveable, dumb family! But it was also quite adult, and current. Soupy mixed campy one-liners and comments on current events with popular music accompanied by another puppet named Pookie The Lion. Soupy would dance around while Pookie pantomimed the words and made fun of his clumsy "Soupy's Shuffle" dance routines. And in most cases, Soupy would finish the show by taking a pie in the face from White Fang.
During the peak of his career, as ratings grew, so did the sets and the number of actual guests. Major stars asked to be invited as walk-ons, and the most famous show included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Trini Lopez, where all of the staff and the stars ended up getting pies in the face.
I was actually watching when Soupy's most notorious program aired on New Year's day. Because it fell on a weekday and he was required contractually to work, he wanted to piss-off management, so he told the kids in his audience to quietly sneak into the bedroom (if their parents were hung over and sleeping in), and remove any "funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents" and put them into an envelope and "send them to me".
Of course he was suspended for that, but I thought it was ingenious and hilarious!
I mention him because he came along at a time in my life when I was particularly vulnerable and impressionable (10 to 15 years old). His humor was just edgy enough to intrigue me, but never derogatory or demeaning. I loved the way he mixed media, playing popular songs while showing goofy newspaper headlines or commenting on the news. He foreshadowed the eventual popularity of the "Infotainment" format.
Later, I saw the NBC network's super hit program Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In as a derivative of Soupy Sales deadpan humor.
"Soupy Sales never attained the star status of Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason and other early TV pioneers, but he will certainly be remembered as one of television’s most innovative comedians of the baby boomer era."
-- Ed Golick
I used my little Sputnik shaped crystal powered transistor radio to listen to music broadcast on XERF, a 250,000 watt radio station based in Mexico. The Big X could be heard all over North America and had an especially strong signal in Southern California. Robert Smith, aka The Wolfman, had graduated from a Louisiana station playing mostly rhythm and blues and Black Gospel music, but in 1963 he started his nightly gravelly voice, howling "AAHHEEEEEEYY!"
Wolfman Jack's wild animal persona while broadcasting from Ciudad Acuna, across the border from Del Rio Texas, allowed the station to use a signal five times more powerful than allowed in the US. He then began to play an esoteric blend of musical genres, emphasizing current recording artists of classic country and gospel rock, motown and rhythm and blues. He took phone calls, pitched any number of products delivered by mail, and urged his listeners to "Lay your hands on the radio and squeeze my knobs!"
All of this high energy banter led to an amazing amount of news coverage in national magazines and newspapers, and enormous amounts of sales revenue. The Wolfman was gaining a national following, but the radio business, and politics in general in Mexico, were unstable, so he eventually moved to Hollywood and began taping his shows, shipping them to the Rosarita studio in Baja, which broadcast them under the call sign The Mighty 1090 with a 50,000 watt range. This led Wolfman to become the first shock-jock to essentially syndicate his show, shipping his tapes to hundreds of small stations across the country to be replayed at all different times in different time zones.
When I listened to his broadcasts, I was always impressed with how he differentiated himself and expressed a universal love for popular music of many genres, to appeal to a nationwide audience. He was on the cutting edge of the future of AM radio, playing Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Freddy King and any number of black and Latino musicians ignored by top forty AM stations.
He was later to become a historical icon by appearing in classic films about Youth Culture. He had roles in two American Graffiti films and Deadman's Curve, and some TV shows including The Odd Couple, Vega$, Hollywood Squares and Married With Children, among many others.
The Rub? Wolfman Jack represented everything I aspired to be as a middle school student. He was me in my wildest dreams!
The British invasion began when I was 13 years old. It was a transformative time for a boy of that age. Too young to date girls, I could not understand them at all, but I sure was interested in them. Too young to drive, but in California life was all about cars, girls, music and sports. So when I Wanna Hold Your Hand came along, it struck me as fun to sing along with and perfectly timed for my feelings about girls.
I tuned in to the Ed Sullivan Show, along with millions of others, to see what the Beatles sensation was all about. It was shocking! Watching the girls go berserk, screaming and crying, climbing all over themselves to get a better view, I have to admit, I was thrilled by the whole experience and I had no idea why.
As the years went on a great deal of my free time was spent wallowing in the freedom culture of pop music. And without a doubt, the Beatles were the Gods of My Era. They, along with the Beach Boys, captured the mood and sense of joy baby boomers were perfecting. The Beatles shaped the world's youth culture, singing about love and relationships, about war and peace, about drug use and even religion. And when it led to conflicts with the authorities, I always felt like the Beatles were a good example of people who cared about the world, and who brought us all joy with their music. I never got a sense of anger or discouragement from their songs, and always believed they were one of the best things that ever happened during my teen years.
As with much of the music of the sixties, the Beatles made me happy. But even more importantly, they were serious artists, creative geniuses who set high standards of excellence in every aspect of their music. They perfected their instruments, and used an enormous number of unique instrumentation in their arrangements. They revolutionized the recording industry, and pushed others, like Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones to dig deep into their creative juices to break new ground in the world of writing and recording rock and roll music.
Most major recording artists in popular genres of music, even some who were not born at that point in time, will tell you they were inspired by the body of work produced by John, Paul, George and Ringo. They not only explored a wide variety of musical genres, they expanded them. They changed how men groomed themselves, how they treated their girl friends, how England and the world perceived America and vice versa, and their music is still selling well to this day.
According to Billboard in 2017, the Beatles had the two top selling vinyl records (Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sold just under 140K albums combined). Their "Best Of" #1 album has been the best selling album of the 21st century. David Fiorenza, a Villanova University economics professor said recently, “Their financial impact today is bigger than any other artist, living or deceased.”
At thirteen I was caught up in the excitement of the Beatles and The British Invasion. I was obsessed with the exploding music renaissance, but I never made much of a connection to how all of that was affecting our culture. But by the time I was 18, it was obvious that the Beatles and the musical renaissance they were leading was affecting the entire world.
John Lennon was shamed when he famously suggested that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." But the truth hurts. He was more influential because he and his bandmates reached into atheist, communist dominated cultures, and sidestepped the authoritarians in those countries. Those repressed people had no idea who Jesus Christ was, but they loved The Beatles.
The Rub? Almost 60 years later it is still unexplainable how four young men from Liverpool could emerge as one of the most influential cultural forces in world history!!!
He was the youngest son in the television series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Some critics have criticized both the TV show and Ricky Nelson because the family was presented as the ideal nuclear family, with a man as the patriarch and his submissive woman as the enslaved stay-at-home mother. Ricky was to become a sensation in his own right as a pop singer and songwriter. He began at 8 years old, but he played a part of my life as far back as I can remember.
Like Ricky's TV brother David, my older brother Ron was always the smarter, more socially advanced teenager. Ricky was, as one of the show's producers described, "an odd little kid" He was somewhat shy and insecure, which made him so much more vulnerable and likable to the mostly young and female TV audience.
I liked him because he was like me, introspective and mysterious. When he started playing his songs at the end of every show I was rooting for their success, and was excited when they became hits. Over the years my affection for his music exploded. His preferences shadowed mine. Like Presley, Ricky flirted with the girls, because he was gifted with charming good looks. As his comfort level with approaching women improved, so did mine.
I was enamored with his song selection, song writing, and his relationship with his TV family. I never for a moment thought it was anything other than a staged performance, but I did appreciate the effort to portray the nuclear family as a good thing for society.
The Rub? Like Elvis, I happened to go see Ricky play live just weeks before his untimely death. I became acutely aware of how his song list mirrored my adolescence.
Besides being the most inspirational and patriotic scientific accomplishment in world history, the human story behind the scenes blew my mind. My dad was involved in the aerospace industry and had been directly involved in designing the first manned vehicles to exit the atmosphere and return to earth, laying the groundwork for the space capsule that carried the astronauts back from the Moon. I had personally met some of the test pilots, and my Dad had kept me informed of many of the amazing advancements that had come before Apollo 11. My best friend in high school was the nephew of, and named after, the iconic father of our NASA space program, Wernher von Braun. He had photos on his walls of his homeland, German family and military history that probably should have been classified.
We previewed pictures of all kinds of rocket and capsule prototypes, so as a nineteen-year-old I was pretty savvy to the whole process. But like most citizens, I didn't assimilate just how incredible the achievement was until years later
Now we take much of the technology gained from that scientific achievement for granted: Our telecommunications that broadcast worldwide TV news and sports; our cell phones and internet and credit card data connections, our computer capacity and speeds, wireless and cordless powered devices, MRI and CT scan and microsized medical advancements, GPS and mapping accuracy, and many food storage and sanitation improvements, have all come as a direct result of NASA's engineering innovations.
But the most important part of the Apollo 11 success was the renewed attitude that all of us can do great things. It doesn't matter where you live or who you are, the truth was revealed that humans, working as a team, can change the world, change our future and improve our experience, if we decide we want to.
I remember all of the news reports that gushed about how America won the space race, and how being first to put a man on another celestial body could never be upstaged. It was a rush of nationalism and Americanism. But I have since seen disturbing examples of how some people in our country cannot help themselves from looking at the glass as "half empty."
"It's too bad, but the way American people are, now that they have all this capability, instead of taking advantage of it, they'll probably just piss it all away.'"
-- Lyndon Baines Johnson
This from the man that became president after the worst political crime in modern American history. The man who was entrusted to step into the shoes of JFK who inspired us to land on the moon. From a Democrat who later resigned from running for reelection because of his guilt and shame for losing the Vietnam War. Talk about pissing away an opportunity!
The Rub? The space race and the nation's reaction to landing on the moon solidified my transformation to becoming a conservative. It made me, and millions of Americans, realize just how small we are in relation to the universe, and how important it is to dream, to work as a team, and to stay grounded in faith and respect for adventure.
During the 70's I was busy having fun. I was working in the ski industry, not making much money, but I enjoyed the perks of being in an industry that I also used for entertainment. I sold lifestyle goods and services to young, active, and happy people. But the country began a tailspin after the guy I voted for in my first opportunity to vote in a federal election, Jimmy Carter, came to power. At one point, Carter's negativism became associated with the term "Malaise". He tried to convince Americans they should dial back their ambition, lower their expectations and settle for something less than the best.
I had fallen for Carter's persona: A sly, contemplative peanut farmer, who used simple reasoning to address major geopolitical issues and our nation's civil unrest. After the Nixon resignation and the indifference of Gerald Ford, Carter seemed like the antidote to our country's climate of instability. He had a strong military background, he was an engineer, and his southern deference to his wife was reassuring.
The ski business was hurting from an economic recession when, in 1979 the Iranian Revolution created a panic and oil prices skyrocketed. My little ski shop business in San Diego came to a screeching halt. I was in serious financial trouble when a ray of sunshine suddenly came upon the political scene.
It would be easy to suggest Jimmy Carter and the oil crisis, the changing regimes in Iran, and Carter's emphasis on energy independence, had a major influence on the future direction of my career. And that would be true, except that Carter, in his inimitable way, actually cast a dark shadow on the country. He seemed to make people sad. And the economy was affected by that. Carter epitomized the saying 'Nice Guys Finish Last'. He just didn't instill enthusiasm in people. He tried to negotiate his way to peace in the Middle East, only to be used and taken advantage of by all of the parties involved.
In November 1980, Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States. He was swept into office riding a backlash from the negativism, the lecturing and the phoniness of Jimmy Carter and the Democrats. Reagan's gregarious optimism, his charm and sense of humor and patriotism, were a perfect recipe to turn an otherwise weak economy around.
In what has to be viewed as a miraculous recovery, Reagan fired up the American economy and our self esteem. He recaptured the spirit of entrepreneurship and Americanism, and the atmosphere suddenly turned sunny. Reagan was not just good for America, but he was good for the entire world. I believe his undeniable sense of enthusiasm, and good humor, reached across all cultural and national barriers, and stirred the universal desires of people to be self directed and free.
When I watch videos of President Reagan speaking in Moscow, Berlin, or Washington, I still get chills down my spine. The man was simply inspirational. If George Washington is the CEO for the American Brand, Ronald Reagan was our Brand Ambassador.
In 1982 I had begun a new career in the cabinet business, and was feeling pretty optimistic. In 1983 I proposed to Cathy, which is another reason I give Ronald Reagan a lot of credit for helping me to become the man I am today. I was starting to feel optimistic again, something that had been drained out of my life for a couple of years.
The Rub? Ronald Reagan projected optimism and it was infectious. It has proved to be a rare resource amongst leaders anywhere in the world. Too many leaders simply project arrogance, speak down to the voters, and spend too much of their time trying to push political agendas and get reelected. That air of confidence gave me the optimism to commit to marriage, and to become a devout Reagan Republican.
But the Blame America First crowd was just beginning to build their coalition, and Ronnie was the effigy they wanted to burn.
Miracle On Ice
The 1980 Olympics were illustrative of how the Olympic Games have shaped America's self image. Many times our athletes have demonstrated enormous integrity and excellence, but none better than the Miracle On Ice during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid New York.
The world was watching on TV when our team of mostly college amateur players confronted a seasoned professional team fielded by the socialist government of the Soviet Union. Our emotionally charged and enthusiastic team won the Gold Medal in an amazing last minute thriller that has been described as one of America's greatest sporting achievements, but I saw it at the time as nothing more than divine intervention on behalf of Americanism.
There have been many sports events that have inspired me, and some are simply incredible (i.e., Tiger Woods entire career; Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at 46 years of age; Magic Johnson single-handedly winning the World Championship for the Lakers in 1980 when he played all five positions, scored 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists; the Thrilla In Manilla, when Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier in the greatest boxing match of all time; Kirk Gibson's walk off homer, etc.).
The Rub? I have selected the Miracle On Ice because it transcends any one event in sports. The American Hockey Team exemplified and personified the Spirit of Americanism. The game reached a worldwide audience and it inspired an entire generation of Americans, whether they knew anything about hockey or not. That event spawned the now common chant, "USA! USA!"
Muhammad Ali was, in my mind, the Greatest Sports Entertainer that ever lived. By that I mean the man simply mesmerized everyone in his sphere of influence. It was as if he were a master hypnotist, because once you engaged with him, you were never the same. I am willing to bet, as a young man, the extra cocky Cassius Clay, had no idea how much influence he would ultimately have on the entire world.
His persona stretched across numerous genres: He was an artist, poet, comedian, actor, philanthropist, international peace ambassador, religious leader, author, sex symbol and cultural activist. His fights were watched by nearly 2 billion viewers, and when he lit the Olympic Torch to open the 1995 Atlanta Summer Olympics, 3.5 billion people were watching! No one boxer, or celebrity of any kind, has had as much influence on sports entertainment, than Ali.
I was 10 when he won a Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics. I was not especially interested in boxing until I witnessed his magical style of dancing around the ring, taunting his opponent, then swiftly overcoming them as they ran out of gas. It was electrifying!
Once he turned professional in 1961, he was targeted by the press because of his brash and articulate self promotion. He was, after all, just an upstart young black male with a big mouth. But that was only the beginning of an unbelievable series of events that documentarian Ken Burns tried to capture in his 4-part, eight hour long film released in 2021, titled Muhammad Ali. The film took five years to make.
Ali's historic rise was derailed when he refused to be drafted, and it ended up costing him at least four of his most productive professional years in the ring. But over time, the public recognized his sincerity, honesty and conviction. Not to mention the enormous success of his worldwide journey to winning three World Boxing Championship Belts, and producing many of the most memorable moments in television sports history.
Later, he revealed that he would vote to reelect Ronald Reagan for President. That left many liberals wondering, why? "He's keeping God in schools, and that's enough."
Here's The Rub: Ali was the Anti-Establishment icon for most of the second half of the 20th century. Some polls showed him to be one of the three most well recognized humans in history. Despite his controversial nature, he never let an opportunity to influence young people in a positive way pass him by.
"I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me."
I was working towards a bachelors degree in Radio and Television Production at CSULB. One of my senior year projects was to record a live event. In those days recordings were made on reel-to-reel tapes. It required a massive piece of machinery and constant attention to produce proper sound levels and clear reproduction of the speech, concert or play. I set up to record a typical Friday night concert held in the student union cafeteria. Usually there would be two artists and about 75 to 100 students in the audience.
On that particular night I had to record two distinctively different styles of music. The first guy was a classic guitarist named Leo Kottke. I didn't know much about him. The star of the show was an up and coming writer and singer named Jackson Browne. They were both outstanding musicians and would later go on to amazing careers. (Boy, I wish I had kept those underground audio recordings! They would be collectors items now! I turned them in and never asked for them back.)
In the Spring of 1972 I was struggling to get the required number of units to graduate on time in June. But I also wanted to explore some of my interests, so I enrolled in a screenplay writing class. I spent one semester writing two term papers: One had to be an original, and the other an adaptation. Screenplays must include camera directions, set description, sound effects, and dialogue.
Each one was to be 90 minutes in length (usually about ninety pages) and would be graded on originality, presentation, and character development. I wrote my original screenplay about a college murder involving a close circle of friends. It was titled Dead On Arrival and was incredibly difficult to format, requiring me to spend many nights typing on a manual typewriter and correcting with White Out.
My other manuscript was an adaptation from a story I read in Playboy magazine. It was about a newlywed couple of celebrities on an expensive honeymoon on a tropical island paradise that turns out to be purgatory.
The Rub? My adaptation titled Haunts of the Very Rich was written in 1972. A successful television series produced by Leonard Goldberg and Aaron Spelling debuted in 1977. It was called Fantasy Island about rich folks going to a strange island where they can live out their fantasies, some of which turn dangerous and all of which teach them lessons in humility. It was a great show but it made me crazy with envy to watch it…it was eerily similar to my college project that no one ever heard of.
I was rewarded for my work by a very nice and helpful Professor, Dr. Howard Martin, when he offered me a six week voluntary student training program. It was one of only five internships available to the entire graduating class. I chose to work in an advertising agency in Hollywood. I considered making 30 and 60 second TV commercials the short version of theater movies. It was an art to capture the viewer's attention and sell them something in such a brief amount of time. I was excited to see how it was done and if that might be a career path for me.
For my term, I would follow around a producer, and to the degree that he/she would allow, I could actually be involved in the production of TV and radio commercials. My interests were always involving ideas (written), visuals (art, TV/film or documentaries), and sound (preferably musical). Dr. Martin found a position for me in the world's third largest ad agency at the time, Leo Burnett Worldwide. They were responsible for some of the media's biggest advertising budgets.
Dr. Martin showed a lot of support for me when I otherwise was not making waves in college. My grades were mediocre at best, but he saw something in me and I was one of only five students handed an opportunity to attend off campus, student training.
The sponsor for my chosen trade was the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and of course Leo Burnett Worldwide donated the participation of one of their Hollywood producers, a man by the name of Patrick Collins.
On my first day, I drove to Hollywood from Sunset Beach. I pulled into the parking lot and walked into the four story building, my mouth dry with nervousness. The receptionist sent me up to Mr. Collins' office, and a few minutes later he came in, wearing a herringbone vest and matching derby cap, with a purse slung over his shoulder. After introducing himself, he pulled out a long handled, wooden brier-style pipe and lit up. He put his stylish leather hightop shoes up on his desk, leaned back and listened intently.
We talked about my ambitions and he described how the national agency system worked and his role. He said we would continue to execute his schedule and I would simply tag along. But, he did suggest there would be some moments when I would be encouraged to offer my input. Just be patient and wait till he gives me a cue.
After a series of phone calls confirming appointments, off we went in his red Austin Healey convertible. I am not kidding: Every aspect of Patrick's personna matched my image of what a casting couch "Hollywood-type Producer" would look like.
We went to production houses to look at dailies (previous days film results). We stopped into studios, sometimes to conduct auditions for upcoming filming or voice-over roles for radio ads. We ran the gamut of the various specialty vendors required to pull together the final product.
I was involved in the production of ads for United Airlines, Memorex Audio Tapes, Taster's Choice Coffee and their newest account, Schlitz Malt Liquor. ( I have written extensively about many of those in previous books, so you'll just have to read them to get the tantalizing details.) I was involved in casting so I met and engaged in conversations with Ella Fitzgerald ("Is it live or is it Memorex?") Casey Kasem and dozens of others who went on to have stellar careers both behind and in front of the camera.
Patrick was congenial, extremely articulate at explaining all of the considerations required to satisfy clients. Recently I found his email address while visiting the Leo Burnett website, so I sent him an excerpt from my book Turn Right At Lost, that describes a hectic film shoot involving a rambunctious bull. I asked him if I had properly characterized an event that happened fifty years ago.
I never expected to get a response, but I did! Patrick is in his eighties, teaching jazz at UCLA, and he said, "You got the majority of it right!" I can't describe how thrilling it was to read his email!
For a variety of reasons I never matriculated into the field of television advertising, but the one man who leveled with me about just what path I would need to follow if I really wanted it bad enough, was Patrick Collins.
I look back and wonder if I missed a great opportunity. As Mr. Collins suggested, should I seriously want to pursue a career in television advertising production, I would have had to leave California.
The Rub? I loved the lifestyle, the glamor and the people on the talent side of the industry, and I knew I could do the work. But I hated the hollow, shallow, phony aspects of the administrative side of Hollywood, the corporate exploitation of lower level participants, and their narcissistic values. Patrick Collins was where I wanted to be, and I wasn't willing to spend a couple of decades working in Boise Idaho to get there. Besides, I couldn't fathom living in Hollywood…
I don't know about you but...I have always been enthralled by brilliantly conceived turn-of-a-phrase poems, songs or greeting cards. When just a few words convey huge amounts of emotion, or logic, or clarity, I am impressed. There is a talent to maximizing the impact of carefully selected and formatted words. How many times have you heard a familiar lyric or greeting card phrase and had a vivid flashback to a cherished moment in your life? A Deja Vu moment that will forever be burned into your memory?
I never had the opportunity to personally meet Joyce Hall but I do feel like we are connected in some way…
One of America's most iconic and oft repeated descriptive catchphrases is "That's a Hallmark Moment!" I have prided myself in my ability to create catchy ad taglines and smart- aleck phrases. I have used those skills dozens of times writing party invitations, Christmas cards, wedding vows, memorials and other business or personal communications.
I can spend hours standing in front of a greeting card display, laughing and crying at some of the incredible beauty and grace in condolence cards, or the pride and joy of new baby announcements or graduation or marriage congratulations or the flaws in human nature captured in humorous prose for birthdays and anniversaries.
Joyce Hall has had a serious impact on my creative life.
Have you ever wondered how much money you have spent on greeting cards in your lifetime? Don't do it. It is frightening. But you cannot deny The Rub: How our culture has adopted a nearly ubiquitous medium to acknowledge and celebrate special events, relationships and people in our lives. We share important Game Changing events by proxy greeting cards.
Joyce Clark Hall was born in 1892 in a small town farming community called David City Nebraska. His father was a preacher. Not a very good one because he couldn't hold down a job. The family was very poor. At a very young age his father ran off and left Nancy and Joyce and his two brothers to fend for themselves. As a teenager the family moved to Kansas City where Joyce and his brother Rollie started a business making penny postcards.
They carved out a niche but were nearly ruined when the building burned down in 1915. When they rebuilt they made the Game Changing decision to emphasize greeting cards instead of postcards. By 1919 they had diversified from just Valentine's Day and Christmas cards, and began innovating the idea that cards were a great way to celebrate many special occasions.
By 1923 Hall Bros. had 123 employees and sales reps in 48 states. It wasn't long before major artists and writers were attracted to the concept and wanted to get involved. Norman Rockwell, Pearl Buck, Jaqueline Onassis Kennedy and Winston Churchill became contributors. The iconic poet Ogden Nash offered his skills too, and many people believed the collaboration set the tone for the rapid expansion of the humorous greeting cards genre that Hallmark came to dominate.
Joyce Hall led the development of the cross promotion marketing concept as radio and television began to capture the attention of millions of Americans. Hallmark signed up Walt Disney to use his cartoon characters and they incorporated other major pop icons like Popeye the Sailor Man, too.
Each step seemed to add to the enormous success of Hallmark and the ubiquitous nature of the greeting card industry. But "J.C" as Joyce preferred to be called, was nowhere near satisfied. So he and his staff of creative geniuses invented the television "Special Event". They reasoned that people who spent millions on holiday greeting cards, would also invest time in watching high quality pre-holiday television events.
The Hallmark Hall Of Fame series typically aired just before Christmas and Mothers Day and became instant ratings bonanzas. They were aimed at family audiences and always promoted family values and excellent production values. Over the many years the series has run, few special TV events have ever out performed the series, and they have garnered many Emmy Awards and still remain popular.
Here's The Rub: Today, the Hallmark Channel is seen in over 85 million homes and has carved out a reputation as a stronghold of traditional American values because they remain apolitical and try to air only programs that do not denigrate Christian values. The company has been able to navigate the transition from written communication to impersonal digital formats. They not only have had great success in film and television, but they still dominate the greeting card business.
In recent years, Hallmark Entertainment has moved into radio podcasting on SiriusXM and also opened a publishing company. From conditions that would have discouraged almost anyone, a young and ambitious 18 year old entrepreneur defied the odds and built the most dominating greeting card company in the $7.5 billion worldwide industry, and began the process of diversifying it into a media monster which is to this day unmatched in the world.
OJ Simpson attended the University of Southern California during the same years as my brother Ron. I became familiar with him since I rooted for the Trojans. Then he went on to become a superstar in the NFL, and later a Monday Night Football commentator. OJ was likable, articulate and funny. He was obviously arrogant, but aren't all star athletes?
For 90% of his career most of us were totally unaware that he repeatedly abused his wife. Nicole Brown Simpson made several calls to the LA Police to report him, but she always refused to press charges. Her prevarication cost her her life. The forensic evidence was overwhelming, and everybody knew OJ murdered her, but legal technicalities allowed the jury, which was hell bent to nullify his crime, to declare OJ a victim of racial profiling, bias and police misconduct.
Uxoricide is the act of murdering your wife. It happens more often than we want to admit. Roughly 64% of spousal murders occur with the child in the home and 43% of the children either witnessed the murder or found the body.
A recent study found that pregnant women in the US are twice as likely to die by homicide than pregnancy-related causes.Two-thirds of the deaths occurred in the woman's home, suggesting a partner was responsible. Globally, 39% of all homicides of women are by an intimate partner, whereas 6.28% of all homicides of men are by an intimate partner (Stöckl et al. 2013).
The first—and most common motive is anger, expressed in a pattern of escalating rage, abuse and violence. The next-most-common motive: fear of abandonment and loss. The violence usually occurs after she has threatened or attempted to leave—an act that can be particularly dangerous for women who find their spouses controlling and abusive,
A third commonly seen motive is sexual jealousy. This includes everything from becoming upset that she flirted with someone to knowledge of an actual affair.
My point is that men are emotional animals. Some can be domesticated, some cannot. Most men have anxiety about their relationships, but they control themselves. They recognize they receive an overwhelming amount of positives from their partner, and so they forgive and forget those fears that sometimes arise. Other men seeth inside when they believe they are being abandoned or betrayed. They allow the emotional tornado to gain momentum until it overwhelms their restraint and they lash out.
Most male abusers believe their torment goes unnoticed, and when they overreact and commit murder, they are surprised when they get caught. Some retain just enough guilt that they choose suicide over prison.
What about those like OJ Simpson that not only act out viciously, but manage to escape responsibility? How do they sleep at night? Are they tormented by nightmares or at least by depression over the pain and suffering they have brought to the survivors?
I, like millions of Americans, loved OJ because he entertained us. He never made an issue of his race, and I certainly didn't see him as anything other than an amazing athlete and a "cool guy" that I could enjoy. But I was aware that he was being treated differently. That he managed to cruise through his college classes without lifting a book. That he had some issues with the law (drunk driving?) that he skirted. That he was handed the Monday Night Football gig with no broadcasting experience. I, like most Americans, looked the other way. We knew he was being treated differently, but the truth is, we envied him!
OJ is the highest of the high profile murderers who escaped conviction. There have been hundreds, because our legal system is set up to protect citizens from being framed or wrongly accused by angry partners or otherwise ruthless opponents, for whatever reason. We, as a society, rationalize those 'anomalies' as the price we pay for our system that assumes the accused is innocent until proven guilty beyond "all reasonable doubt".
Here is The Rub: The OJ Incident changed the culture in America far beyond his athletic, media or criminal deeds. He was, in my opinion, the head of the spear in releasing the onslaught of racial animus, the rejection of integration or assimilation of black culture into western white culture. His media journey revealed the dark underbelly of black anger and resentment. A cultural narrative that has, in my opinion, been promoted for the purpose of keeping black people under the thumb of government bureaucrats to maintain their gravy train of subsidized "social programs".
It was a quirk of nature that he was placed in such a position of leading the "Social Justice" movement in America. He was for much of his life, quite the opposite: He was the poster boy for assimilation by a rich and powerful black man. He was a peacock in the media, starring on Monday Night Football broadcasts. He appeared in Hollywood films, and was seen with his beautiful, blond, blue eyed trophy wife in celebrity magazines.
Behind the facade, however, was an angry, jealous and emotionally unbalanced black man who walked cautiously across the thin ice of preferential treatment, barefooted. He lived a double life and managed his demonic "other" peronna with skill. He was publicly enabled, allowed to skirt responsibilities, and given dozens of "breaks".
And our American culture was doing something similar: It was hiding a racial schizophrenia behind a facade of constant growth in wealth and achievement.
The second half of the 20th century was conflicted. Americans were fully aware of racial prejudice and inequity in opportunity. We were struggling with liberating women, minorities, and assimilating an enormous number of newly established foreign cultures. The Great Melting Pot was boiling over. But we were also getting really rich. Jobs were everywhere. We had improved mobility, communications, and media platforms. It was easy to brush irritating social issues under the rug of distractions.
OJ Simpson was riding high on the media wave of exciting expansion of entertainment vehicles, the exploding success of pro sports, television and film celebrity, and opportunities presented to women and minorities. When his wife was found with her throat cut, and the police said they were charging OJ with her murder, he paraded across Los Angeles freeways, in his white Ford Bronco, holding a gun to his head. He was instantly lionized as The Black Man David vs The White Man Goliath.
And simultaneously The Incident marked the beginning of the War On America, as we now know it. Our American brand would never be the same. It was as though our food had been contaminated by e-coli. No one wanted to eat at the Restaurant of Americanism ever again.
The Rub? Our American legal system was corrupted permanently. Any progress we had made toward unifying whites and blacks was gone. All of the distrust and anger engendered by our Progressive school system and the Democratic Party congealed. The OJ Trial of the Century pitted Liberals against Conservatives in a new form of conflict: It put racism on trial and the outcome would be the death penalty for The Constitutional Ideal that all men are created equal. Instead it would have to be remodeled to say, All People Are Created To Be Equal, or it would not survive another day.
It brought the New Woke Movement to the cultural forefront, and that is where we find ourselves today.
I stumbled onto Zecharia Sitchin after a friend mentioned he had read one of his books and thought I might like it. I found a copy in a pile of books at a garage sale and bought it for $1. It was titled The Twelfth Planet and it laid out his theory that visitors from other galaxies came to Earth millions of years ago and commingled their DNA with existing life to produce the beginnings of what we now know as Mankind.
It was one of the most complex, intriguing and convoluted books I ever read. There were portions I skipped over because they were redundant or just too dense with archeological terms and references.
But the fact that any man would dedicate the majority of his life to learning and understanding ancient Sumerian and Akkadian clay tablets, and connecting historical archeological data points to those relics was overwhelming. The man is amazing because nearly every scholar of his generation considered his theories and books to be the work of a delusional old man. Yet almost every new discovery since has to a large degree affirmed many of his concepts (He has published 16 books and sold millions of copies in 25 languages worldwide).
Eventually I read at least a dozen of his books, and became addicted to the TV series Ancient Aliens. Do I subscribe to all of their theories? No, but who am I to debunk them? There are millions of people all over the world that hold similar views, and many of them are vastly more educated in related fields of study than me.
The subject matter is humungous, so few bother to attempt to wrap their minds around it. And they belittle those that do. Lots of people thought Walt Disney was delusional too.
The point is, I am fascinated by folks that think outside the box. And beyond that, they put in the serious work involved to support their thinking. Sitchin is the vanguard of historical Mavericks who look back into the 4 billion year history of Earth and dares to challenge the myopic views of Darwin. He is credited with being one of only a handful of archaeologists who can decipher hieroglyphics on the walls of some of the most ancient tombs and monoliths ever found. His writings are so extensive, his theories so complex, that few want to invest the time it takes to try to understand him.
I can't say I understand him, or his timelines. But I also can't deny that a lot of his work fills in vast historical gaps that beg to be explained.
Dr. Timothy Leary became a media darling and spokesperson for the hippie generation in the 60's. He earned a doctorate in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. He defined the term "Counter Culture" because he supported research using psychedelic drugs. He coined the phrase "Tune in, turn off, drop out" to suggest that traditional academics were shallow and controlled by commercial interests, that the future would be revealed by advancements in human consciousness, not by incidental experiences. He was an early supporter of the theory that extraterrestrials colonized Earth, and he promoted the colonization of space.
Dr. Leary was, like Sitchin, viewed by many as a rogue, overzealous, promoter of dangerous thinking. President Richard Nixon called him "the most dangerous man in America". He was constantly under indictment, arrest or investigation. But he calmly continued to explore futuristic ideas and wrote dozens of books explaining his concepts ( i.e., Info-Psychology: A Manual for the Use of the Human Nervous System According to the Instructions of the Manufacturers, and a Navigational Guide for Piloting the Evolution of the Human Individual , 1987).
As a young college student I experimented with LSD and I would draw a parallel with reading Sitchin to some of my psychedelic experiences: I knew full well that, while under the influence, I would hallucinate. My mind would play tricks on me. I witnessed impossibilities. Those visions were distortions brought about by my drugged mind. But afterward, I realized that there are times in our lives when we need to question reality. When we should accept that there are other points of view, other perceptions about what we typically accept as "normal".
That we don't know what we don't know and need to acknowledge that before we can "get educated".
There have been times since those days when I have seen things that I never saw before. I have seen auras, the energy field that humans project. It is normally invisible to the naked eye, but it exists. Most of us have unnerving instances when, just as you think about a friend or relative, the phone rings and it's them. We dream about something that actually happens the next day, or we experience deja vu so real it is scary.
Here is The Rub: There is, without a doubt, much about our conscious awareness, and our unconscious unawareness, that we still do not understand. We all know the human mind is absolutely the most astonishing organic device on Earth. We also know that we still don't understand just how powerful and astonishing it really is.
The point is scholars like Zecharia Sitchin and Dr. Timothy Leary opened my eyes to alternatives. Their impact helped form my worldview, and I thank them for that.
The Mayor of Realville
I am lucky to have lived in the Age of Rush. I have been listening to Rush since 1989. I was spending most of my time driving around California working in the construction industry. I enjoyed the mental stimulation of listening to topical talk radio rather than just music. There were plenty of hours I could sing along to music either on the radio or using cassettes. But here was a man who challenged my thinking. He discussed things I was interested in. Things like media bias, political correctness, faux environmentalism, pro football and Hollywood weirdos.
He benefited from the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 that had required radio/TV programs to provide a counter response to any political discussions. Suddenly Talk Radio was unleashed and conservative views were especially popular because so much of the liberal media had been ubiquitous for decades. Some said Limbaugh was the first person to escape the 'Berlin Wall' of broadcasting.
He was also available across county lines and AM radio was usually a strong signal. He was incredibly funny. He was also talented at mimicking voice inflections and idiosyncrasies of condescending and smug politicians and news reporters. Nobody mimicked Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton or Barack Obama better than Rush.
I have always said Limbaugh reminded me of my time in college: I really enjoyed the discussion and discovering new ways of looking at things, and I respect his talent at making salient points in an atmosphere of mutual respect. He always pointed out how he felt he had the most informed listeners in talk radio, and I would agree.
I remember when golfer Payne Stewart's private plane was discovered to be flying across the country with everyone on board apparently dead from asphyxiation. Rush drew on his lifelong interest in flying and airplane history to give his listeners insights they would not have found in the mainstream media. He has a unique ability to give off-the-cuff descriptions of news events, or to deliver reverent obituaries when necessary.
His long history of doing live radio incorporates much more than just "right-wing" conspiracy theories as people on the left would have you believe. He has been a valuable resource during major live news events like the explosion of Apollo 13, the death of Princess Diana, the impeachment of President Clinton, and many of the Congressional confirmation hearings that were inevitably heated political shouting matches.
As time went by, Rush grew increasingly confident in his analysis. He has said he knows liberals better than they know themselves. He claimed his show was right 99.7% of the time. Maybe not, but in an overwhelming number of times, he was incredibly accurate at holding politicians accountable for their personal and policy indiscretions.
He called his show the Institute of Advanced Conservative Studies. I can honestly say I have an MBA from that institution, because I not only listened often, I researched and blogged about a lot of his subjects, and generally embraced many similar views. History has proven Rush was right most of the time. Just like history is proving Trump has been correct the majority of the time, Rush was not just right, he was precient. He was the Mayor of Realville.
Rush is often characterized as braggadocious. Of course he was. I am not sure if Rush coined the phrase, but it fits him like a glove: "It ain't braggin if you can do it!"
I have taken a lot of heat for my dedication to Rush. I have never had anyone criticize me for listening to or embracing the views of my many university professors as though their viewpoints were holy scripture. People quote celebrities about subjects they know little about, and we just laugh it off. In 1994 Limbaugh published the first of his many books. Titled See I Told You So, it chronicled his many predictions that ultimately came true.
That was just the earliest stages of his career.
He made the case that blacks are trapped in inner city depressed economies because they invest too much credibility in Democrats. And that is because they are taught from a young age that America's racist white culture victimizes them and enslaves them in the welfare state, so they fail to assimilate. Many white Americans believe this systematic victimization is true and have reached these conclusions not because of talk shows like Limbaugh's but because the empirical evidence is overwhelming. Major urban centers are almost exclusively governed by Democrats. For decades, nothing changes. So who is operating modern slave plantations?
Rush was called a xenophobe because he contends some people in power prefer to let millions of unvetted illegal immigrants into the country, then purposely under-educate them, assuring a large underclass of Democrat-dependent voters. It is hard to deny this when you look at unbiased demographic trends over the last 25 years.
I think Americans have slowly learned to look closer at critics of people and institutions like Limbaugh and the "Climate Change" movement. Once again, recent polls show support for the "Chicken-Littles" or as he so appropriately called them, the "Whacko Environmentalist Movement" is rapidly declining. How many times can these people scream that the sky is falling before we all start ignoring them?
Some people call me a Limbaugh sycophant. But the truth is Limbaugh has mostly affirmed my thinking. And we don't always agree, but he has taught me some great lessons in understanding the mindset of liberals, the machinations of Washington, and the inside-baseball secrets of The Beltway Brotherhood.
As for environmentalism, I am confident in my own thinking and know I would never suggest that homosapiens, who have only occupied Earth for less than 1 million of the 4 billion years of its existence, could possibly destroy it so quickly. Are we contributing to some deterioration? Of course. But we are the Earth's inhabitants, and we have every right to be a part of the environment. All of which is an ecosystem we humans still don't entirely understand. I believe there is a higher authority involved and we should honor our home, and respect it too. But killing ourselves is not, and never was, part of the ecosystem of Planet Earth's legacy.
Rush was at his best during Christmas time. He found a number of ways to review the year's major news events, while mixing in seasonal musical segues. He made a relatively unknown band named Mannheim Steamroller, world famous.
During his holiday sign-off show in December 2020, he knew it was likely his last broadcast. He had been fighting a terminal case of lung cancer. I sobbed as he somberly thanked his crew, his wife, his mentor and producer, and of course his millions of dedicated listeners. I cannot think of another time in my life when a close friend shared their most intimate and terrifying last moments so eloquently.
Rush inspired me: He became a New York Times best selling author, and eventually won a Children's Choice Award and Author of the Year in 2017 for his Rush Revere children's book series.
Here's The Rub: Rush Limbaugh, the King of AM Radio, was definitely under appreciated. Not by his fans, but by those that never really got to know him. I would compare Rush to a coach or teacher. We have all had one in our life that touched our soul. One that superseded all the others, made lasting impressions and fashioned our world view, in a way we may not at the time have really understood.
Some would put Michael Jordan on their list of major impact athletes and entertainers. He was, admittedly, an astonishing basketball player. But Shaquille O'Neal was something else, altogether. He would prove to be much more than "well known". Shaquille O'Neal has ultimately become a legend in his own time.
Shaq has achieved more diversified success than anyone could have ever predicted. He was admittedly a skilled sports enthusiast. Besides basketball, he played baseball and football. He says he really loved football and thought there might be a future for him in that sport because of his size in high school and because he loved to run over people. But his stepfather was a former basketball player and always felt Shaq had the tools to be a great player, so he kept counseling Shaq on the finer points of the game. His continued progress from dominating in high school to becoming a two-time All American and two-time SEC Collegiate Player of the Year, led to him becoming the first overall pick for the Orlando Magic in the 1992 NBA draft. In his first week he was named Player of the Week, becoming the first new NBA player to ever accomplish such a feat. He was Rookie of the Year, a starter in the All Star game in his rookie year too. He won two Gold Medals playing on Dream Team ll and lll in the '94 and '96 Summer Olympic Games.
But his career with the Magic never got out of third gear, and he chose to move on after his contract ran out. He had a vision, and it included Hollywood.
Most people around the world know the name Shaquille O'Neal as one of the greatest NBA players in history. He was perhaps the most athletic big man the game has ever seen. And he had a certain personality to fit the bill too. After signing a massive $121 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, O'Neal was quoted, "I'm tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok."
Shaq credits his stepfather for teaching him to use the dunk whenever possible. It proved to be his most powerful weapon and also his trademark. During a five year stretch he led the league in field goal percentage. But for several years the Lakers stumbled along with little return on their investment.
But once again, the Game Changer for Shaq was when the Lakers hired Phil Jackson as their head coach. Jackson challenged Shaq, and the new kid on the block, Kobe Bryant, to create a new dimension in the Big Man-Shooter offensive combo which included a strong defensive element.
Shaq responded to Coach Jackson in a big way. The following season O'Neal came one vote short of becoming the first unanimous choice for the league's Most Valuable Player Award. O'Neal has said he and Kobe Bryant were the most effective and dominant one-two punch in NBA basketball history. For three straight years he was named playoff MVP and maintained the highest playoff scoring average in league history. The Lakers won three consecutive world titles, accomplishing the "Three Peat" for only the fifth time in NBA history.
After a couple of seasons marked by team dissension and a series of injuries, O'Neal demanded a trade and was sent off to the Miami Heat where he joined upcoming superstar Dwayne Wade. But maybe more importantly, the Heat hired Pat Riley to become their head coach. In 2006 Riley squeezed the most out of the Heat and O'Neal to mount an incredible playoff series comeback from a two game deficit to win Shaq's 4th World Championship ring, this time playing for Miami. As had happened before, Shaquille rose to the occasion when a strong male leader inspired him to reach for the ring.
After 19 years and playing for six different teams, O'Neal retired and became only the 32nd athlete in history to have his jersey retired by two professional sports teams (the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers).
But that is only the first chapter in an incredible story about a young man born in the boroughs of New York. Shaq was just getting warmed up.
During his basketball career he had completed a Masters of Business Administration degree from the University of Phoenix in 2005. In 2012 he received an Educational Doctorate in Human Resource Development from Barry University. He also studied filmmaking and cinematography at the New York Film Academy. He has been quoted as saying he would eventually get a law degree and run for Sheriff, somewhere. He has always been fascinated by law enforcement and became a reserve officer in the Los Angeles Port Police after passing an exam with the L.A. County Sheriff's Reserve Academy, and was at one point sworn in as a Sheriff Deputy in Clayton County Georgia.
Shortly after finishing his career in the NBA, Shaq began doing analysis for Turner News Network (TNT) NBA telecasts. He was recognized as insightful, humorous and self-deprecating. He gored many sacred cows. He would sometimes disparage former managers and teammates, but claimed it was just part of the job. He didn't want anyone thinking he was fawning over other players no matter how sacred they may be.
He is to this day one of the world's highest paid advertising personalities. He is currently the spokesman for The General Insurance Company, IcyHot sports medicine, Epson printer ink, Krispy Kreme and Papa John's Pizza ( he owns nine locations in the Atlanta area) and has in the past done work for Pepsi and Reebok, as well as many other smaller specialty companies.
Besides trading stocks and investing in real estate and mortgage lenders, Shaq is heavily involved in the Video Gaming Industry, appearing on dozens of DVD basketball game covers and as a storyline character in many of them.
Many Americans are unaware of O'Neals music industry work. His 1993 debut rap album, Shaq Diesel, went platinum. He has since released four studio albums of original material. He appeared on records with Michael Jackson and Aaron Carter. In 2010 he conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra at the Boston Pops Symphony Hall. He is still touring as a DJ under the trade name DIESEL.
Shaq has a long history of appearing in films and music videos. In 1996 he starred in a fantasy comedy-musical movie called KAZAAM! He was the 5000 year-old Genie who emerged from a magic boombox to grant a young boy three wishes. He has dozens of cameo appearances in films, usually as himself, but sometimes as a character of consequence. He played the main character in the DC Comics film saga Steel, about a black citizen hero that dons an armored suit to stop a maniacal arms trader. Overall, O'neal has appeared in 15 Hollywood films and done voice-overs in three others.
Here's The Rub: Though Shaquille O'Neal never invented anything, he has demonstrated an unparalleled ability to traverse conventional stereotypes about seven-foot-tall black men, spoiled rich athletes, or poor kids from Newark, New York. I could have focused on mega athletes like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or Magic Johnson, all African America super stars in their field. All of whom have had success in business and mentored other great athletes and had a huge influence on me. But none of them have had the incredible diversity of success that O'Neal has accomplished. All of them are known around the world by their first names, and all are great ambassadors for Americanism. But Shaq is unparalleled, and if you asked him "as a kid, did you ever think of yourself as one of the world's most famous persons?" He would say, "Nope."
I admit I am partisan because I was lucky to watch Tony Gwynn play his entire career in San Diego. Born as a Los Angeles Dodger fan, I moved to San Diego in 1977. My exposure to the Padres had been that the lousy team down south often played spoiler to the Dodgers. Too many times, when the Dodgers assumed that they could roll over the Padres and coast to a division title, the Padres managed to play their best and squeak out an upset. So I decided, if my future was in San Diego, I was going to become a Padre fan.
For years it was tough to watch them self-destruct, but I hung in and then a young kid from San Diego State College came along. In 1984 he won the batting title and the Padres went to the World Series behind Alan Wiggins, Gary Templeton and Steve Garvey.
Tony was totally unique in an industry of mercenaries. He played 20 seasons with the Padres. Gwynn is the only major leaguer to win four batting titles in two separate decades. He was Mr. Padre to the greater San Diego County community and to me, he was an inspiration because of his dedication to his trade and his loyalty to his fans. His humor and humility was unmatched in professional sports or in my life's experience, period. He lit up the newsroom, a public speaking engagement, or when I encountered him and his wife in a public place. He died in deep debt.
Tony never got rich (his contracts were negotiated prior to the TV revolution in MLB), and he struggled with weight and health issues, so his fans related to his human vulnerabilities. He was the real "guy next door." So many of today's multi millionaire players will never come close to achieving the milestones Tony accumulated, but they will walk away with more money than their great grand kids could ever spend.
Tony was a beautiful San Diego day as a person: Warm, breezy, full of hope and excitement, and his aura shone like a golden sunset over the blue Pacific horizon. He was one and the same with the personality of the Greater San Diego Area; not too ostentatious, never conceited or pompous, Tony could walk into any room and command it because everyone there respected him as a true ambassador for baseball, good sportsmanship, and human dignity. The first time some fan shouted "You da man!" it had to be directed at Tony.
If America's Finest City was a team, he'd be the Head Coach.
Tony and his wife Alicia raised their family in Poway and were often seen running errands and participating in school sports and community activities. Seemingly oblivious to their celebrity, the Gwynns were patients where my wife worked for an oral surgeon. Cathy had some very friendly and interesting discussions with Alicia. She was no shrinking rose, either. She holds a Ph.D. in Christian Education and a Master’s Degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Marriage and Family.
The Rub? When Tony died prematurely from cancer, a part of the San Diego sense of community died with him. Tony Gwynn was not a big man, unless you value character on and off the field. In that way, he had a deep emotional impact on me and I feel "privileged" to have shared the career and times of Mr. Padre.
Picasso of the Radio
Talk about a national treasure! The very first time I listened to a baseball broadcast, I was treated to Vin Scully. I didn't know at the time how good he was because I had no frame of reference. I was just a young boy listening to my crystal triode powered transistor radio. It was something I found interesting and I could get a good signal while doing my homework or laying in bed.
That was my experience with baseball until I got into Little League because there was little or no television coverage at that time. Then my coach took me to a Dodger-Giant game at Dodger stadium in June of 1962. As Sandy Koufax completed a no-hitter, most of the people attending the game listened to Vin tell the story on their transistor radios! The crowd was so quiet you could hear Scully word-painting the moment throughout the stadium. That is one of those transformational moments I will never forget.
Vin Scully broadcast Dodger games for 67 consecutive years. He started the year I was born…his recording of the last out of Koufax's perfect game in Dodger Stadium in 1965 is still played at the Baseball Hall Of Fame. I've listened to him describe many of the Dodgers' most historic moments, as well as NFL games ("...Montana ... looking, looking, throwing in the endzone ... Clark caught it! Dwight Clark! ... It's a madhouse at Candlestick!"), women's tennis, the PGA and he brought a unique point of view to The Masters in Augusta.
Scully's call of Kirk Gibson's game winning walk-off home run in the 1988 World Series will always bring chills down my spine (and his subsequent telling of the story of Tommy Lasorda peering down the hallway to the Dodger clubhouse, asking the injured Gibson if he could stand up long enough to bat), but he has had so many special moments in the history of professional sports in the second half of the twentieth century in it is almost unbelievable.
I loved Vin Scully because he represented to me the best of broadcasting talent and ethos. As a trailblazer in an industry experiencing explosive growth, he set the bar very high. There have been many DJ's, sportscasters, news anchors, talk show hosts, interviewers and singers that captured my attention in those days, but there was no one who could mesmerize his audience for 2 or 3 hours like Vin Scully.
Scully was always a proud American who consistently gave thanks to God and to his country for giving him the chance to live his dream. Always a strong supporter of Americanism, in 2017 Scully stated that he would "never watch another NFL game again" due to some of the league's players kneeling during the pregame playing of our national anthem. That perfectly reflected my aversion to what would cause me to walk away from the NFL as a rabid fan all of my life.
There have been, and always will be great sports announcers, but Vinny was more than a voice. Vin Scully was more than a play-by-play man, he was a great storyteller, historian, and a great American patriot. He was the Picasso of the Radio. I can only hope some of that rubbed off on me.
My childhood friend was the son of friends of my folks. They lived a few blocks away, and Bill Jr. went to elementary school with me. We played little league, rode bikes, and spent many hours swimming in his pool, playing Marco Polo.
His dad, Bill Sr., was a very successful Yellow Pages Regional Sales Manager. For twenty three of the twenty four years he worked the Southern California territory, his team was the number one seller of ad space in the western market. He was the consummate salesman and sales team manager.
He drove a spotless Porsche Sportster convertible, he wore polished wingtip shoes and a three piece suit everyday. He was the life of any party because in the Army he had perfected dozens of card tricks. He had the "gift of gab". But of all his talents, the one that rubbed off on me was his skill at using the telephone.
Big Bill, as we affectionately dubbed him, understood the power and reach of the telephone unlike anyone I have ever known, and that was in the late 50's and early 60's. He knew how to get past the gatekeeper, how to schmooze the receptionist, how to make any situation appear to be a win-win outcome. I listened to him convince a sporting goods dealer to provide our little league team with free shoes. No matter what was needed, Big Bill would pick up the phone and have the problem resolved in a matter of minutes.
He was a disciplinarian, and when we disrespected his authority, we would hear Big Bill booming, "Grab your ankles, boys!" But his emphasis was on winning, not just in competition, but in public relations too. He would get the best seats at the ballgame, or restaurant, and when we walked in the hostess would act as if she knew us from childhood. He refused to settle for second best.
He refused to come up short. When one of us faltered, or complained about obstacles, or we tripped rounding first base, he would ask us to listen for just a minute. "When you fall down, don't stop to get up!"
The Rub? At that point in history, the telephone was the most powerful networking tool available, especially if you knew how to use it. Watching him work his magic as a young man rubbed off on me. Mastering the phone is a skill you don't learn in college. In fact, it is a lost art in our modern world.
Thanks to Big Bill, I effectively applied his savvy techniques throughout my career in sales, and I use those skills almost daily when I speak with receptionists, bill collectors and solicitors on the phone.
There are literally hundreds of people who have had a strong influence on me, and helped form my character. And the same is true of certain events that have occurred in my life. Suffice it to say I have been blessed to live a rich and multifaceted life. Some would say I am a typical American middle class white male. I would not disagree. But I have limited experience outside of my local sphere of influence. Though my family spent many days traveling the roads of California, and I traveled around most of the west coast and Arizona and Nevada as a sales rep, I have zero international travel experience. I don't see that as a big disadvantage because no matter where I went, I noticed an eerie similarity in the human species. You might even characterize it as "stereotypes". My guess is the branches of the hominid tree produce similar leaves anywhere on the planet.
My dad was a very smart and honorable man. I didn't really know that for most of my youth. I absolutely respected him, and I trusted his judgment, mainly because he was almost always right. He was my father, so I obeyed him, most of the time. A few times I rebelled, which usually didn't end well for me.
But that's what kids do as they grow up: They test the guidelines, the rules and restrictions. They probe for faults that they can exploit. In the end, as time passed and I matured, I began to recognize his wisdom, too. But I knew little about his history, his work or his family. His mom and dad passed when I was in elementary school. I hardly knew them, they were not interested in dealing with their grandkids. He worked in the aerospace industry, and though I got to see many airshows, I had no idea what his work duties were. What I knew about my father, I learned from tossing around a baseball, going skin diving in Baja or skiing in Mammoth.
Hugh was into family activities: We jumped into our station wagon and went to the beach, to the desert, or to the mountains, almost every weekend. He was the Project Manager, and Mom was the Operations Director. It was a great way to keep two rambunctious boys from wandering too far off the plantation.
He was not a risk taker, and to a degree that held him back. He accumulated a small fortune, mostly from small investments in industries he was familiar with. His home, which he purchased in 1960 for $55K was worth nearly $1M before his passing. He could have made a lot of money had he been willing to risk more. But in the end, our family was comfortable and he and my mother were free to ski, skin dive, fish and travel as much as they wanted.
He was also very healthy: Never smoked, drank very lightly, and maintained a simple, everyday exercise routine along with an occasional jog. I don't think he ever took prescription medicine, at least not until he reached his late 70's.
At 80 he had to give up a lot of things: He could no longer ski. He stopped participating in his annual get togethers with affinity groups, and no more jogging. Living alone we worried about him. His house was filled with newspapers and magazines. His clothes got ruddy because he wore the same jogging suit nearly every day.
At that point he found a lump on his back, which turned out to be a melanoma. They dug it out and told him he was lucky to get it early and his cancer was gone. A couple of years later he started getting forgetful and confused. We began to wonder if he was safe to drive when it started taking him hours to come visit. He would make an excuse that he took a detour to "drive by an old friend's house", but we knew he was getting lost. We wrote it off as dementia.
Cathy and I decided it was time to sell the home and move him closer to us. We found a nice condo a few blocks away, and after considerable lobbying, finally convinced him it was inevitable, he had to give up his dream home he has occupied for 42 years.
We hired a part time "helper" to make sure he was eating and taking his medicine. She would stop by every other day and we would fill in the other days. It soon became apparent that that was not enough. He was forgetting to turn off the range, or he would leave food out of the refrigerator. He was drinking too much, so we switched him to non alcoholic wine. That just made him angry and hostile.
Cathy had taken him under her angel's wings, and asked the doctor to run some tests. Sure enough they found his protein was high and that led to other specific blood marker tests. Then a PET scan found a tumor on his brain.
Suddenly many of his odd behaviors made more sense. That tumor was probably a branch of his back tumor years before, and was affecting his mind, his memory and his coordination. The oncologist said it was a fairly slow growing cancer, but the bad news was that it was in an inoperable location.
He needed full-time care and both Cathy and myself were working. I decided to go part-time, because her job was tenuous at best. I was a commissioned salesman, so we would take a financial hit, but we couldn't afford a full-time caregiver. We went through several attendants, which was a job in and of itself. Unless you go out and pay a highly ranked and credentialed skilled nursing team, you can expect to be disappointed.
A year later we had no choice but to put him into a full-time nursing home.
Watching your father (my mother had passed 11 years prior) revert to a small helpless child, is one of life's most difficult duties. Everyday, like a two-year-old growing in reverse, his ability to understand the world around himself, deteriorated. His temper was short, but each day his ability to voice his feelings diminished. He grew quieter and quieter. He curled up into a ball and would scooch over on his bed, pressing against the wall for security.
One day I came to visit and found him in a wheelchair in the hallway. Alone, and with his chair stuck in a corner, he was staring at the wall. I touched his shoulder and announced my presence softly. His eyes didn't register anything. They were scared and vacant. I called for an aid, and he rolled Hugh into his room and we put him onto his bed. After a few minutes of struggling to find any form of communication, I met with the head nurse. She told me he started to show a loss of organ function and that would indicate he was coming to the end.
It takes some time to process words like that. Should I say goodbye?
She also said it would not be a good idea for my kids, who were at that point 13 and 16, to see him. It would be better if they remembered him from a better time.
For a few days they kept him heavily sedated. Each day his vital signs slowed. When we visited, the nurse said "Go home. Be with the grandkids and help them. You can't help around here and we don't really know how long he will hang on."
It was a somber ride home. We hugged the kids and gave them the news that Grandpa was in decline. Around midnight the phone rang.
The nurse has dealt with this situation a thousand times. She was right about keeping the kids away. How do I know that? Because the most prominent memory I have in my mind's eye is, and probably always will be, coming across my dad, sitting in that wheelchair in the hallway, staring blankly at the walls.
September 11, 2001
I have written extensively about the impact of 911 myself and our country, and the whole world. It was such a life changing event, it takes enormous amounts of analysis to try to understand. I rank it right up there with the Alamo, Pearl Harbor, Normandy Beach, Armistice Day, JFK assassination, and the 2020 stolen election. I will leave it to say in this setting, it shook the world like Hiroshima.
January 6, 2021
I watched the Stop The Steal demonstration in Washington starting at 8AM. I had some friends that had flown to DC to participate. To us, the fact that an election could be so OBVIOUSLY corrupted was nothing less than an act of war. Something had to be done…
But I was shocked to see idiots climbing up onto the Capital Building and breaking windows. When Ashley Babbitt was shot, I almost had a heart attack.
I remained in shock for days, and I went into semi-depression as the gaslighting was implemented, telling all of the sheeple that "This was not a demonstration! It was an insurrection and the worst attack on American Democracy since Pearl Harbor!" I know what this means: The hijackers are defending their crime by redefining the laws, reframing the events and using inflammatory rhetoric to indoctrinate the public to ignore the crime of the century, the utter rape of our election system.
"You didn't see what you think you saw! The more you insist on complaining about it, the closer you come to being declared insane!"
This event will someday be revealed for the crime it really was: A Black Flag event driven by the Progressive Cabal to create another pretense to persecute conservatives, to slander and undermine Donald Trump and the Make America Great Again movement, and to weaponize the Judiciary Branch of the Beltway Brotherhood.