My New Year’s Resolutions

1) From now on I will refuse to tell anyone my kids ages. It’s not that I don’t know them…Ok, once I confused my daughter’s real age with how old the little creep acted, but just…uh…um… twice…

And it’s not that I want anyone to start doing the math and realize how old their ages make me. Nope, it’s just that I want to respect their privacy. Yes, that’s it. I am a very respectful father.

2) I am going to start watching less of the evening news. I’m a Walter Cronkite fan. For those of you too young to know, he simply delivered the news. No “We have sad news to report” (Really? when was the last time you reported something good?)  No, “some of these images may be disturbing!” (hey, any time I see an image of Trump it is disturbing). With Trump gone, what will the networks cover anyway, the latest PS-5 news? 

Besides, I’m sick of all those old-people pharmaceutical ads.

3) I’m going to be nicer to my dog, Buddy. He’s a poodle and, as everyone knows, poodles are very smart. That’s the problem: he is, at times, smarter than me. For example, he’s better at knowing when he needs to poop than I am. When he gives me that look and I wait too long, it’s…well… embarrassing for him. And creates extra work for me. Which stinks. 

So, from now on, I’ll take him out, even if it is during an Eagles game and they actually have a chance… 

4) Next year I’m definitely going to buy Christmas presents for everyone. I had thought I could skip all the expense this year and blame it on Covid, but my kids got so angry! So did my friends… it was weird! Hey, on second thought, maybe I can save money next year, too, and blame it on their unreasonable anger this year.  

5) I’m going to be nicer to my neighbor, Susan, next year. I’ve thought about it and I’ve decided to forgive her for never laughing at my jokes,.. the ones everyone else laughs at, the ones only an idiot wouldn’t get, the ones that send her dogs running in circles and barking in delight! … OK, just forget it Susan!

6) I will apologize for not sending Christmas cards this year… sort of. To be really honest, I didn’t send any because I didn’t get any. Then today, the post office dropped off – I dunno – 20 cards? Ok. I’ll apologize but blame it on Trump’s Post Office.

7) I will stop blaming everything on Trump, which is a bummer. He has been such a blessing. Not matter what I’ve screwed up, it is so easy to blame Trump!  Yelled at the kids? Trump put me in a bad mood. Underpaid my taxes? Trump showed me how. Refuse to pay vendors? Trump’s example. Wow, with him gone, life will be hard!

8) I will continue to wear my mask throughout 2021. Even if Covid  19 disappears. I find it really helps in interpersonal relationships (now my SO can never know how I feel) and in winning poker games (the perfect “poker face”), not to mention robbing people (sometimes I add a wig, just for fun). 

9) I will never, ever complain about having a cold again. In fact, I will welcome colds, flu, hives, pimples, dry eyes, allergies, poison ivy, annoying neighbors –  any ailment that doesn’t have the word “Covid” in it.

10) Wow. These are cool resolutions, don’t you think? Almost as good as last year’s. I might actually follow through this year.  (“might”,… I said “might”… )

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Why Nobody Eats Chicken At Christmas

“Know why we have turkey or ham for Christmas, instead of chicken?” asked my dog Philo one day. “Or why chickens have three toes?”  He paused, “And those little red markings?”  

I pretended not to hear.

“Because a long time ago, chickens saved Christmas” He turns his aristocratic nose toward the window, waiting for my reaction. 

What!? Is he kidding? What idiot would fall for that stuff?

“What?” I said. “Are you kidding! What idiot would fall for that stuff?”

Thankfully, he doesn’t answer.  Instead he tells this story.

Long ago the only chickens in the world lived with Santa at the North Pole.  

One Christmas Eve, Santa trudged through the deep snow, past his bright, fully loaded red sled, and into the barn to tack up his reindeer. 

There he saw the most shocking sight of his merry life: 12 very tipsy reindeer! Dancer was dancing on two legs, holding beer in his antlers! Prancer was prancing with a bottle of Kentucky Sourmash, Donner and Blitzen were on the floor,… blitzed! And there in the corner, by the full length mirror, sat Rudolf, admiring his now brightly glowing red nose.

“What have you done?!!” yelled Santa. The reindeer, who had been laughing uproariously at nothing in particular, froze. “What have you done!” Blitzen yelled at Donner. “What have you done?!” Prancer yelled at Rudolf.

Rudolf pointed at the mirror and proclaimed soberly, “Isn’t my nose pretty! ”

Santa left the barn in a huff. Now, chickens in those days had flat, single-toed feet, so they weren’t as steady as they are now. They had no red topknots and no red beards. In fact, they were white all over. 

Which explains why Santa tripped over Charlie and why Charlie immediately went flying. Boom! He landed on the back of the fully loaded red sled and bounced right onto Santa.

“What’s wrong?”  Charlie asked Santa after they both got up. 

“Oh my!” said Santa, tearfullly. “The reindeer are sh-h-hnockered!  Sh-h-h-mashed!! “ Schnitlzeled!!  I’ll never get presents to all those children!!” 

Well, that Charlie Chicken, he put one of his stubby little wings on Santa’s shoulder and asked just one question: “How do reindeer fly?” 

Santa made sure no-one was listening and then whispered into Charlie’s ear. Charlie ran to the other chickens as fast as his little one-toed feet could carry him. He whispered in their ears. Their eyes got big. “Oh boy!” they exclaimed. 

In moments, twelve chickens were in the traces of Santa’s sled.  Santa, smiling now, jumped onto his seat, cracked his whip and the chickens churned their stubby little feet….and…got…. nowhere! With only one stubby little toe per foot, they had no traction!

“You have no traction!, “ yelled Santa. No kidding, muttered Charlie under his breath.  

Then Santa took his whip and, every so lightly, flicked it at the feet of each of the twelve chickens. There was a slight puff of snow and suddenly each foot had, not one toe, but three, three very sharp toes, perfect for gripping snow and ice.

“Now, on Charlie Chicken! ”, yelled Santa, and off they went, straight into the sky, as fast as the reindeer ever went.

The presents, every one, were delivered like clockwork. By morning, when they got back, the reindeer were lying on the floor of the barn, groaning with headaches and upset stomachs, just like Mommies and Daddies the world over after late Christmas Eves.

To thank Charlie and the other chickens, Santa gave them little souvenirs of the trip: spiky red hats, and floppy little red scarves, which have adorned chickens ever since. 

“And that’s why chickens have red markings and why no-one – EVER – has chicken on Christmas” said Philo with the authority only a French Poodle can project.

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Shocked! Shocked!

“The founder of Johns Hopkins owned enslaved people. Our university must face a reckoning,” said the headline in a Washington Post Op Ed recently. Martha S. Jones, the author, is a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, and director of the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project. 

She was shocked! shocked! that Johns Hopkins, the founder of Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital, had once owned slaves.  She joined legions of people who are shocked! shocked! that their heroes, from Washington and Jefferson forward and into the 1800’s, owned slaves.

Martha was so upset at this discovery the she prostrated herself on the Opinions Page of the Washington Post, not to mention taking off her Johns Hopkins sweatshirt “in a small gesture of reckoning but a sincere one”. 

Now that’s penance, albeit with a small “p”.

There are a lot of Martha’s out there who are shocked! shocked! at the fact that many of our founding fathers owned slaves.  

The Romans, if one is to believe historians, thought slavery was just fine. It was one of the spoils of war and contributed to the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire.  Slavery – of all races -continued as a spoil of war for centuries, all the way up to the 1780’s when slavery as a spoil of wars in Africa became the subject of a huge debate during the Constitutional Convention. The southern states and northern states couldn’t agree, so they kicked that can down the road and crashed into it 72 years later in the Civil War. That resulted in a legal solution. The associated moral issue of racism is still being resolved.

LGBTQ was accepted in Ancient Greece. That attitude lasted right through Washington’s time and into the 1800’s in this country. But, by the 1950’s, it was verboten, against moral and legal (in some states) law. The 1969 raid by police of the Stonewall Inn, a gay hangout in Greenwich Village, New York, led to demonstrations that many say triggered the eventual acceptance of LGBTQ people today, 50 years later.

In the 1980’s, Congress passed a number of laws that resulted in long sentences for those caught with marijuana. 40 years later, we’re passing laws allowing not just the possession, but also the selling of marijuana, even as we are just starting to think about giving get-out-of-jail cards to those who broke the 1980’s laws. 

We think of morality (especially our own) as absolute, permanent, locked in stone. But, while the wisdom of some morality has remained consistent over time (“judge not, lest ye be judged” comes to  mind), much has not.   

Morality has evolved over time, just as everything else in nature. What the Marthas of this world need to remember is that what is morally upstanding today may be less so tomorrow.

Washington and Jefferson (and most others) were taught from an early age that slaves were part of a healthy economy and that African Americans weren’t completely human. Thus the compromise in the Constitutional Convention describing African American slaves as 3/5th of a white person (at least for population counting.)

As a kid, Johns Hopkins was taught that slavery was OK. Then he and his generation saw the cruelty and immorality of it and taught that lesson to the next generation.

There are numerous examples throughout history of evolving morality. Criminals were drawn and quartered at one time. Thieves hands were lopped off. Pirates walked the plank. Speaking out against a country’s leaders was grounds for death. (and still is in parts of the world). 

It is easy to look back on all of that with an air of superiority. But consider how people might look at us 50, 60, or 100 years from now.

In our current moral certainty we jail people for some crimes and not for others. If you’re black and rob a store, you’ll do more jail time than the white pharmaceutical company owners who hooked hundreds of thousands on pain killers and caused thousands of deaths, not to mention the Wall Street types who bankrupted millions. Lying in court can land you in jail; lying in politics can land you in the White House. 

Will future Marthas look at us and our era with shock! shock! or will they see us as a combination of good and bad, learning and evolving morally as well as physically.

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“Oh Give Me A Home, Where The Buffalo Roam”

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking at January 20th with great trepidation. Boring Old Joe is going to take over the White House.

No-more insulting foreign countries or US military heroes. No more shredding of protocols and tradition.  No more hyperbole and lies. The Bully of the Bully Pulpit will take his last flight on Marine One and with it, bring down the curtain on so much of our daily drama.

Whether you love Trump or hate him, life is going to be very -extremely – boring without him. 

Looking to prepare for this major change, I decided to leave the comfort of my static life and do something I had never done before; risky times call for risky actions.

I spent the weekend at an RV park. 

RV’s, to me, had always been the hippos of the freeway, huffing up a hill in the passing lane and preventing me from even approaching the speed limit much less exercising my right to exceed it.

Usually, there would be an old man or woman in a baseball cap with both hands on the wheel staring serenely ahead and oblivious to my need to get somewhere…fast!

In a way, they remind me of the covered wagons of the early Americans except, where covered wagons usually had a horse tied to the back, RV’s have a car or boat. And instead of forming a circle at the end of the day to ward off attackers, RV’s form straight lines in RV parks, usually off a secondary highway and often near a stream or lake.

And they’re not wagons; they are mini apartments, with bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms with hot and cold showers, and living rooms with TV’s and internet. They come in all sizes and colors, from the classic tear drop trailers of the 1930’s to the behemoth Winnebagos of today. 

RV parks are actually big housing tracts, where the houses come and go at will.

They come in all sizes and prices, from small, used ones at a few thousand dollars to huge, ritzy ones at half-a million and more. They have brand names that recall calmer times, like “Tropical”, “Solitude”, and “Bighorn”, and better times, like “Minnie” and “Thor” , the brand my friend owned.

“This Coach is a gift from our children… paid for with their inheritance” says a sign on one RV. The couple sitting in lawn chairs next to it nod as we chuckle. “Absolutely true”, she says.

Like RV’s, there are a variety of people in RV parks.

There is a couple in their 60’s, he with a German accent and she with a Hispanic lilt. He has left others in charge of his MD group in Illinois so he and his S.O. can roam for a few months. His RV is also a Thor, although not the same model. He shares a few tips he has learned about the vehicle and the lifestyle.

While we are chatting, two white haired people in motorized wheel chairs, ride by us and wave. 

On the one hand, this is a world I have never visited. On the other hand it is vaguely familiar. People are relaxed and happy, eager to interact without posturing or artifice, and instinctively considerate.  Although there are dogs everywhere, each one is leashed. Kids dash in and out and ride bikes as freely as they did before grownups filled their lives with playdates and after school activities. 

A movie star beautiful woman is walking her puppy. Her three kids run and laugh as she stops to chat. She and her husband had made a living with their food cart, but Covid killed their business, so they sold their house and now live out of their RV, where she home schools the kids and he works part time. 

We pet the puppy and ask its name. “Seven”, she says with a soft smile and explains he is named after an infant son who died seven years ago in a car accident.

Her candor speaks to a sense of community and trust rarely encountered between strangers in today’s world. Indeed, the whole park has the feel of an era when life was slower, when it provided real, not manufactured drama, but also gave us the breathing space to deal with it. 

President Biden may seem like a boring prospect, but after this weekend, boring seems pretty exciting right now.

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Dear Joe,

Don’t worry about not answering my 25 earlier emails or calls. What with the campaign and all, I’m not at all insulted. My son ran for President of his high school and I was with him every step of the way,.. except when he was at school. which is where he campaigned… So I know what you went through. 

You’re doing all the right things in terms of staying cool in the face of Trump’s foot-stomping temper tantrums. I do advise against putting your foot down when he rants about the election, though. It can cause hairline fractures of the lateral and intermediate cuneiform bones. The good news is that will require wearing a boot, so if Trump shows up at the Inauguration, you can put your foot down – on his foot.

Picking a seasoned, smart, and calm set of professionals to lead your administration is such a clever move. First time in 4 years, if I remember correctly. 

But you have to do more than that. You have to corral the feral cats that make up the Democratic Party. You have to calm the Republicans who have been made crazy by Trump. You have to make Americans believe each other again, not to mention believe in each other.  

Here’s my considered advice.

Have occasional televised Zoom Halls, with a moderator, similar to those you had in the campaign. Make sure to invite folks from different parts of the country. Answer questions candidly- no spin. If you don’t have a good answer, say that. If you can’t answer for security or other reasons, say that. If any of them are wearing MAGA hats and long, bushy beards, keep your answers simple and use one syllable words.

Clearly Fox and other Trump networks will try to undercut you, but, Zoom Halls will do for you what Fireside Chats did for Roosevelt: create a bond of trust with the American people.

And from time to time include Kamala Harris. The country has to get to know and trust her, too, because…really Joe, how long do you have? 

Stop using the word “socialism”. The word is toxic to many in the country, especially the older, less educated voters who think communism and socialism are the same, even though they’re not. Socialism involves nationalization of commonly needed resources (healthcare, education, utilities, for example).  It is  successful in countries like Sweden and Denmark. Communism which started as an extreme version of socialism, has never actually existed. It was immediately morphed into dictatorship by Russia. Older Americans remember ducking under school desks in Atom Bomb drills because of Stalin and Mao.  Communism and socialism are equally feared by old White types, even though they graduated from public schools, drive on our national road system, and collect Social Security checks.

Outlaw the phrase “Defund police” by Democrats. It implies eliminating police through budget cuts. Who in his right mind would do that, outside of a Mexican cartel? “Refund police” might be more appropriate in terms of putting police money toward training in mental illness treatment, community policing, and de-escalation techniques. 

Get down to Georgia right away. Hold hands with Stacy Abrams and ride her coat-tail. Ditto Carter. Send every celebrity who scores well in Georgia. Take the spotlight away from Trump. Use surrogates to blame Trump and Kemp for everything wrong with Georgia.

Take AOC and the other ultra-liberals to a quiet lunch and softly knock heads. Explain that you have enough problems with McConnell and his bunch and if she roadblocks you, she’s giving the Republicans an easy march to 2022, not to mention 2024. Convince her that timing is everything, including her time in the sun, which can’t happen without a Democratic sweep in 2022.

Make infrastructure the priority, after Covid 19, as part of reviving the economy. And give rural areas special attention. I know city and suburban kids like video games, but country kids might, too, at least after milking time. And their parents wouldn’t mind exchanging party line phones for Netflix.

Right after that, how about giving education a boost? Imagine a generation that understands the difference between socialism and communism, a generation that understands why “Black Lives Matter” became a slogan instead of “Black Lives Matter, Too”, a generation that respects giving as much as taking, a generation that values nature as much as the future because without one, the other won’t exist, a generation that…

…Wow, Joe, you have a lot to do! But don’t worry, you can call me, any time.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)