Our Unstoppable Lust for the Classic Sitcom

I was just watching an episode of “I Love Lucy” when it occurred to me the enduring lifelong classic sitcom that has been on the air 70 years is beginning to lose its luster especially with young people. They don’t seem to get the comedy yet we surely did as young people. The world is changing, friends.   My 12 year-old son sits down, looks at the screen, and gets right back to his video games. He’d rather kill zombies.  He doesn’t understand mid-century comedy.  Yet, he will sit and watch “Dick Van Dyke” for hours on end.  I figured if he liked Dick Van Dyke, he’d enjoy Lucy.

Nothing doing…

Boomers will always be drawn to “I Love Lucy,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Andy Griffith,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Bewitched,” “The Brady Bunch,” “The Partridge Family,” “Green Acres,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and “Petticoat Junction” and a host of others because they remind us of our youth. 

They’re also downright funny. 

We watch “The Brady Bunch” and recall—as teenage girls and boys—the crushes we had on Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams.  When Eve Plumb said “Marcia-Marcia-Marcia!!!” most of us guys, ages 12 through 15, thought to ourselves, “Yes…and now!”  I actually sat down and penned a letter to Maureen McCormick in 1970. 

Fifty years later, I’m still waiting for her response.

Today, I’d be more interested in Eve Plumb.

As baby boomers came of age long ago, we dreamed of being what we saw on “The Brady Bunch”— and “The Partridge Family.”  Most of you ladies had a thing for David Cassidy.  Guys had it for Susan Dey.  I personally experienced a renewed thing for Susan Dey when she was doing “L.A. Law.”  She was still hot in the 1980s when I wondered what it was like to live in Los Angeles.

I’d get my answer.  Been living in Southern California for 27 years.      

 We hear the opening and closing themes and the music and drift into another time.  In fact, we get so lost in the era we forget it is 2021.  That’s the magic of a rainy Saturday watching classic sitcoms.  Seems TVLand has lost its sense of fair play.  It takes advantage of our passion for the sitcoms we grew up with.  Stockholders and bean counters have become priority instead of the viewer and advertiser.  Five minutes of air time and six minutes every five minutes spent suffering through 16 really pointless commercials—most of which are pharmaceutical companies trying to convince us we might be sick.    

These networks are not worth the time anymore. 

There’s Hulu, Prime, and there’s our ginormous library of classic sitcom DVDs.  The TV networks don’t even have a tasteful way of seguing into commercials.  They will cut to a commercial amid a scene and amid a line.  How cheese ball is that?  And now—the biggest insult, streaming with additional plans you get to pay extra for.  It is also finding its way into the web where they charge for the privilege of watching their programs.  Discover Plus is the biggest insult.  Advertiser get bopped without a kiss too.  They pay enormous sums of money for commercial time while local cable and sat’ companies run regional commercials overtop the network commercials.

If that isn’t audacity, what is? 

Meanwhile, I will continue watch my dusty old sitcoms—and loving it.

Time For a Long Look At Ourselves

Time for me to get back in the saddle.  It is time to write great things.

If you’re like a lot of us beyond the age of 60, you’re probably scratching your head wondering what has happened to the world around us.

The answer?

We’ve become a bunch of self-absorbed, easily offended, politically correct crybabies bent on feeling sorry for ourselves.

We’ve become a society of Professional Victims.

Sound like anyone you know?

You know this is not the way we were raised by “The Greatest Generation” a lifetime ago.  The fiercely committed generation that brought us up, who are nearly extinct in 2021, were the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” generation. They endured tough times and became stronger for it. They didn’t complain and did what they had to in tougher times than we’ve ever witnessed.  They didn’t tolerate any whiny-assed self pity from us.  What few are left look at us and our offspring wondering what happened to their message, which seems to have been lost over time.  If they observed us feeling sorry for ourselves growing up, we got cuffed on the back of the head and were told to go out and play.

My mother (far left) and close friends on a hot summer day in 1944 in wartime. They understood how to enjoy the company of one another without cell phones and laptops.

My mother often repeated, “Life isn’t fair and never will be…stop expecting it to be…”

She understood what she was talking about.  My mother, born in 1923, lived through tuberculous in her teens and was in bed for six months through miserable Washington, D.C. heat and humidity long before there was air conditioning. She didn’t have television. All she had was her imagination and her love of books. If she was lucky, she had a radio.  My mother and her big brother, my Uncle Wayne, lived through the Great Depression and a world war.  She watched him go off to war in the Pacific in 1942.  He was gone for four long years with no promise he would ever return. Thousands of fighting patriots did not. Those who did return were maimed, emotionally damaged, and forever changed by what they’d been through.  

My mother and her counterparts understood how to do without during the Great Depression and in the war years to follow. Times were tough and didn’t appear to be getting any better.  They understood hardship and how to cope with it. They didn’t whine about it.  They were tough. They were also compassionate and took care of their own.  They understood the importance of saving for a rainy day—and there would surely be the storms. Our parents and mentors understood this. They never took the good times for granted. They knew life could turn on a dime. They’d been there. 

We obviously didn’t get it.

Baby Boomers and close behind GEN Xers are the most fortunate generation to have lived in the most prosperous time in American history.  The post-World War II years spawned the most robust economy the world has ever seen. The Jet Age. Man on the Moon. Color TV. Fast muscle cars. Video players. Microwave ovens and automatic dishwashers. Global Positioning. The internet. Cell phones.

What more has there been to want? 

We have lived in the greatest period of opportunity in American history. Time to ask ourselves how we can best give back to a nation that has given us so much.

Many of us bought our first homes in our twenties right out of college and vocational school. I bought my first home while serving in the United States Air Force.  Most of us have owned at least two cars.  We’ve snapped up vacation homes, boats, round-the-world cruises, man and girl caves, three-car garages, pools and hot tubs, tennis courts, billiard rooms, second mortgages, and a host of other personal luxuries in record numbers. We’ve been rocket fuel for the endless “gotta have it!” economy. 

We’ve inspired our offspring to do the same.

It is time for an uncomfortable introspective look at ourselves.

Instead of asking yourself what you can do for yourself – ask what you can do for others. When was the last time you asked what you can do for a greater cause than yourself?

Always someone – or a body of people – who could use your help and support. Not just cash or a family heirloom. Just yourself. How about reaching out to the lonely, the sick, the confined, those who are dying, those without hope who need a lift – your ear, love, and moral support. Young people need our support now more than ever. They’re going to be in charge of society when we are but a memory.

How can you best reach out in your spare time?

We are a nation of lonely souls. Lonely alone. And – lonely surrounded by loved ones and friends.  Lonely hearts from sea to shining sea who could use our help. Hope…

There are the haves and the have nots. Those with luck and those without. A cop stops you in a radar trap when some jerk passed you up five minutes ago. Doesn’t seem fair does it?   You may have cancer or some other dangerous disease and think “why me?” Or the flip side – a dear friend, a neighbor, your spouse, your kid, your very best friend—with a dreadful terminal disease. “Why them and not me?”

That would make you thoughtful instead of selfish.

Life is the darnedest irony at times now isn’t it?

However – life is this. We are each on our own journeys. We are each a specific blueprint. We have a beginning and we will surely have an end. Be not envious of someone’s success. That’s their journey. We each make our own success – and failure. Sometimes, we become a victim of circumstances and an unfortunate twist of fate. I’ve had my embarrassment, my shame, my pain. I’ve also had my time in the sun. Great friends and loved ones.  I am blessed beyond imagination.

Thank You, Father… Thank You for my blessings and……Thank You also for my pain.

My pain…my tears… Moments that have made me appreciate the good times….the love of others….the support.

Thank You…

Perhaps it is time for our self absorbed society to turn inward for a look at how each of us needs to change ourselves for the better.

What can we each personally do for others?

One at a time – with selfless tenacity – we stand to get better.

Why The 1980’s Were So Great —Because The Seventies Sucked!

When I think of good times, I think of the 1980s.

Why?  Because the Seventies sucked.

Remember the 1970s?  The Arab Oil Embargo.  Gas lines.  Doubling fuel prices.  Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.  Continuing chaos, unrest and the overflow of the turbulent 1960s.  The Vietnam conflict, outrage, and the fall of Saigon.  Dysfunctional 8-Track tapes that interrupted our music from track to track.  Really lousy automobile quality, the fall of the muscle car—and the Chevy Vega.  The invasion of decidedly boring earth tone colors—a lackluster trend that has never really ended (where are the vibrant colors of the mid-20th Century today?).  The New Right…  Bellbottoms and leisure suits.  Platform shoes.  The Carter years.  Labor strikes and outrageous expectations.  The environmental revolution.  The Iranian hostage crisis.  Ever increasing self-absorption.  And—disco—John Travolta strutting his package along a Brooklyn sidewalk in new shoes, lookin’ for opportunity with the opposite sex, with a gallon of fresh paint to the beat of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” pop hit.

By contrast, the 1980s was a period of emotional and economic recovery.  The 1980s heralded a new exciting, energized attitude across the land.  You could see it in commercials, in the movies, and in the masses. “Oh What A Feeling!!!” was Toyota’s slogan early in the 1980s. Ford and Chevy were back in the performance car business.  It was a period of enormous energy. 

The masses welcomed President Ronald Reagan, who kept us laughing with his incredible wit and one-liners although the news from Washington wasn’t always good. He understood the importance of acting presidential. Reagan and Tip always shared a couple of beers and found a path to compromise. They did what was good for the country because they genuinely cared.  Fuel was plentiful and cheap again.  Disco was replaced by awe-inspiring pop music.  The factory muscle car returned. Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off the pad for that first nail-biting journey into space. 

The 1980s demonstrated with great irony how cyclic society can be.  High times that follows low times.  It takes the low times to make us appreciate the high times.  The 1980s enjoyed a euphoria—an energy—that followed the lackluster downright boring 1970s.  Perhaps this is something we should embrace—especially now.  This year has been one of the toughest in memory, especially if you’ve lost a loved one or been horribly sick with the virus yourself.  Let us all look ahead to 2021 in hopes it will be the beginning of a new exciting era—much as 1980 was.  In order for times to get better, we must each do better in our own lives in an effort to collectively make things better.  And, remember…focus on the good as much as you can and be a tenacious tough survivor.  Tough times will always challenge us.  However—tough times never last.

Happy Holidays, Everyone, and May God Bless…     

Hip To Be Trashy…

Back in the 1980s, Huey Lewis & The News did a pop tune titled “Hip to be Square”, a supercharged, energized piece written by Bill Gibson, Sean Hopper and Huey Lewis himself. Although this song conveys the resurgence of being cool to be “square,” Lewis once expressed this song was completely misunderstood.  The song was more about Huey Lewis & The News than it was people who were square.  The band was so counter 1980s, clean cut, sharp – which made them “square” in such a counterculture age. 

Huey Lewis & The News was counterculture-counterculture.

The phrase “square” is said to have come of African-American slang and has been in mainstream use since the 1940s. Another school of thought is “square” comes from jazz musician culture and a conductor’s hand gesture that means go to a regular rhythm and the hand motion of a square in the air.  Not much of this theory is proven, however, it gives some indication of where it originated.

In the 1980s, it was hip to be square.  In 2020, it appears hip to be trashy.  Yeah, I said hip to be trashy.  As a nation and as a society, we’ve become decidedly sloppy in our demeanor.  Sloppy in how we dress, how we speak, and how thoughtless and selfish we’ve become over time, and what we say to others without much forethought.  We make rude insulting comments without much consideration for who it hurts or the damage it does. 

I’ve long wondered where this pattern began. 

I think it began with us—the baby boomers.

As the late 1960s unfolded, it was hip to be hippie – the 1960s counterculture.  The hippie movement evolved as did the sexual revolution. We wore jeans that had holes in them.  We donned tie-dyed tee shirts.  It became hip to look disheveled and to board a plane looking like we’d just gotten out of bed or been to an all-night pot party.  That trend continued through the 1970s into the 1980s.

This begs the question – whatever happened to common decency?

The popular sitcom “Roseanne” debuted in the late 1980s made it fashionable to be trashy.  Roseanne Barr, a great stand-up comedian and actress in her own right, got her own television series and played herself. Her character – Roseanne Conner – was who Roseanne actually was off camera – quite outspoken and void of a mouth filter of any kind. She said what was actually on her mind at any moment. 

Roseanne did what she did naturally and she did it well.  The result was one of the best sitcoms ever done because it portrayed life in Mid-America – struggling working stiffs trying to survive in tough times. They mixed comedy with the harsh reality of being blue collar in Mid-America. It worked and was a smashing success.

They made us laugh – and cry… It was a portrayal of who we were – and are.    

In the years since, American pop culture seems to have evolved to where even news anchors, politicians, and other figures are rather obscene these days and attacking one other. The media attacks and editorializes instead of simply reporting what happened. Celebrities are outspoken about just about anything they don’t agree with – and quite frankly subjects that are really none of their business. 

And – without getting too political here, we’ve elected a celebrity who is anything but presidential. He doesn’t have a filter on his mouth either.  Can you imagine Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, or Barack Obama trashing another country publicly?  Making fun of a disabled news reporter?  Bashing other heads of state? Baiting our enemies with threats of nuclear war? 

Or – being just downright obnoxious? 

Even if these public figures spoke this way behind the scenes, they never exhibited this sort of demeanor publicly.  Our current head of state has made it hip to be rude and insulting, and so it has gone throughout society ever since he rose to the top. He’s simply a template of who we are – doing what is trendy in America today.  However, to his credit, DJT didn’t start this trend. He has simply chosen to operate off the American playbook with rallies and speeches – fireside chats – most Americans could relate to. We secretly want the freedom to be rude and insulting.

What has made us embrace this trend?  I think the absence of self-discipline and the perception we can do whatever we want when we want. Nice to be able to do whatever you want when you want now isn’t it?  Free to be free. 

However, not free from the consequences. 

The consequences of actions and reckless comments have been far reaching in how the world perceives the United States and the recklessness of what the United States Government has become.

It is challenging to climb back up a sliding board bathed in silicone. 

How we return to being a society rooted in civility and mutual respect remains unknown. We have to really want it.  We have a long way to go.  What’s more, we have to want to return to being a people who look out for each other. 

When I see people helping people in food lines and emergency rooms, I see hope because I think most of want to do good. 

Lyrics to “Hip To Be Square”     

I used to be a renegade, I used to fool around
But I couldn’t take the punishment, and had to settle down
Now I’m playing it real straight, and yes I cut my hair
You might think I’m crazy, but I don’t even care
‘Cause I can tell what’s going on
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square

I like my bands in business suits, I watch them on TV
I’m working out ‘most everyday and watching what I eat
They tell me that it’s good for me, but I don’t even care
I know that it’s crazy
I know that it’s nowhere
But there is no denying that
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square

It’s not too hard to figure out
you see it everyday
And those that were the farthest out have gone the other way
You see them on the freeway
It don’t look like a lot of fun
But don’t you try to fight it
And an idea who’s time has come

Don’t tell me that I’m crazy
Don’t tell me I’m nowhere
Take it from me
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Huey Lewis / Sean Thomas Hopper / William Scott Gibson

Hip to Be Square lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

Why We Still Give Thanks In 2020

It has become an old cliché every year.  Giving thanks, sharing food and drink with family and friends, feeling fat, overfed, and sleepy; passing out on the sofa watching football games, burping dessert, and— suffering through those darned parades…

There’s a reason why we celebrate Thanksgiving…to reflect on the wealth of our blessings, pray for those who are struggling and alone, and remembering those who have touched our lives who are gone from this world. 

Thanksgiving, regardless of your religious beliefs, is about thanking God and each other. This day is about expressing gratitude to those we love and who love us.  We tend to take it all so for granted when life can turn on a dime – like it will always be there – but love is not free nor is it as commonplace as we so often believe.  To be loved in itself is a blessing when so many of us are very much alone.

To those who are alone I invite you to seek the company and befriend those who will grow to love you with time. Relationships take time to unfold. Ask what you can contribute to a relationship.  Waste not your time on those incapable of love for another.  There are those in the world who don’t have the capacity to love—regardless of how much you may love them.  Reach out to friends and family and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Let loved ones know you are thinking of them and are grateful.

As you gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, remember to exercise caution. Be safe. And…make sure you’re around for next Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone…

Are You A Habitual Fixer?

Okay, I admit it…  I am a self-proclaimed fixer.  When relationships go haywire, I feel like I have to fix them—even if the person is a jerk and clearly in the wrong.  Now you know there’s something wrong with that.  Of course, the best place to start fixing is the person in the mirror.  And, even if you need a lot of fixing, it’s always easier to start with yourself.  I tend to be in denial.  It is always easier to blame someone else.

Are you a fixer?

Are you one of those people who perceive you have to make things right – so you keep trying? I’m not talking about everyday “stuff” – a leaky faucet, a cracked sidewalk, a broken table leg. I’m talking people. I’ve always been a fixer. Things go wrong in a relationship and I always feel obligated to be the fixer – to make things right – having to find a way to make things right. Sometimes – things just cannot be fixed because it takes at least two people to make it work.

Does this ever happen to you?

I thought so. 

Hard coming to terms with yourself let alone others. 

Fixing is always best handled on a personal level to where you can work your own issues instead of focusing on someone else’s. Let them handle that themselves.  Easy to talk about, hard to do.  Whenever I keep having the same issue with different people, I am compelled to look in the mirror. Perhaps I might need to work on self improvement. When you have Attention Deficit Disorder and things are decidedly scattered, you’re always a work in progress.

Boomers tend to be a self-absorbed bunch though we fuss about young people.  “Damned millennials…” we keep repeating.  However, young people tend to see things more clearly because they have fresh eyes and the beauty of youth.  Isn’t that what we said 50 years ago?  We were going to change the world!  

Boomers lament growing older. However, there’s a certain beauty and benefit to growing old. We are long on wisdom we didn’t have at 25. We come to realize at this age what we’re never going to be able to fix – and perhaps it’s just not up to us to fix it. Let someone else manage the situation and work on it. Let them reach out to you. And – if they don’t, you never had them to begin with.

Time to let them go…

What’s more, at our age, we should realize we’ve had our time in the sun and it is time to let the young carry the torch. We’ve gone the distance and survived—some of us more than others. It is my hope you are surrounded by friends and family who love and admire you. Makes the going easier.

Dangerous Roads…

Do you remember when it was fun to drive an automobile?  I do…  In the months leading up to my getting a driver’s license at age 16 in 1972, I watched the calendar and counted the days.  I couldn’t wait. 

That was 48 years ago. 

I vividly remember the moment when I took the wheel of my first car—a 1960 Valiant – all alone for the first time.  No adult to supervise my driving.  I could do as I wanted.  There was a huge rush of euphoria.  I was a free man. 

Free to roam. 

However—not free from the consequences. 

The summer before I took my driver’s test, I took Driver’s Education at my high school.  I learned a lot about motor vehicle safety and the do’s and don’ts of the road.  When you are young with a freshly-minted Maryland driver’s license, driving a car is intimidating.  You are fearful of having an accident and having to explain it to the parents.  You are conscious of the risks of driving and what happens if you are careless and break the law.  You understand that—at 16—a speeding ticket can cost your driving privileges.  Maryland motor vehicle law in those days made it abundantly clear for young bucks you better not step outside the line.  The county and state police were out there to remind you just in case you felt cocky and invincible.

Then—I had my first accident.  Paying very little attention to what was going on around me after dropping my sister off at junior high, I made a U-turn in front of a school bus and got clobbered.  I was hit so hard I knocked a large tree over—to which students laughed and yelled “Timber!!!”  I wanted to hide under a large rock.  I was so shaken by the accident I left the scene on foot to get my father a few blocks away.  Right off the bat, I can think of at least two rules (and laws) taught in Driver’s Ed I violated—failure to yield and leaving the scene of an accident. 

The police were waiting when I returned.

My father taught me well.  I thought I’d just pay the fine and learn from the accident.  My ol’ man wasn’t going to let me off the hook that easily.  I was going to appear before the judge, explain myself, and listen to what the judge in his majestic black robe had to say.  Six months into licensed driving, I’d had my first accident.  It was a bitter pill to swallow.  However, it taught me something about responsible driving.

I had a long way to go.

I can tell you I’ve been young, careless, and stupid at the wheel.  That first accident wouldn’t be my last.  There would be other accidents—and tickets—just to remind me to be more careful at the wheel.  The school of hard knocks taught me how to be a better, more responsible motorist.

I’ve discovered a disturbing trend on the road in recent years and it is surely frightening.  At first, I thought it was a Los Angeles freeway issue exclusively until I started traveling more around the country.  There’s a dangerous element on the roads these days.  Young people and distracted dangerous driving.  Video games.  Video cell phones.  Texting and emails.  Preoccupation with everything and anything—except driving. 

One morning, I was on Southern California’s 14, the Antelope Valley Freeway and noticed a young woman eating a breakfast sandwich, applying makeup, and yacking on a cell phone while steering with her knees.  She was all over the freeway—oblivious to everything going on around her.  She was drifting close to every vehicle around her.  Horns were honking and she paid none of them any mind, except to flip them off. 

Over the years, this has only grown worse.  There’s virtually no police presence on California freeways anymore when there used to be radar traps and a solid police presence.  The Chippies were out there waiting for would-be speeders and reckless drivers.  That presence is gone. I presume due to budget cuts.  Whenever I see crazy circus stunt driving, such as passing on the shoulder at 130 mph (when I am doing 80) and treating the freeway as though it were a racetrack, it is always a young millennial with not a clue of what a sudden stop into the back of a semi at 130 means. 

I hasten to remind these young studs the freeway is not a video game.  You don’t get to start the game over when you crash into someone.  You get a free trip to the ER or the morgue.  Your parents and loved ones get the visit from law enforcement that you are dead from a violent car crash.  They get to grieve, cry, and want to die themselves because the news is unbearable. No one should have to go through it.

Although street racing is nothing new, it has become more dangerous. Higher speeds and greater amounts of power. Surface streets blocked off for the festivities to where the police can’t even get near the action and arrest the offenders. Shelby Mustangs, ZL-1 Camaros, Hellcat Challengers and Chargers, Turbo Z’s, Buzzy Hondas and Toyotas, even pickup trucks with insane amounts of power become weapons.

When does this level of insanity end?

We fantasize about the raw power of our classic musclecars – the “rumpity-rump-rump!” Chevelles, Mustangs, Torinos, Roadrunners, and the like. They were fast for their time, but don’t hold a candle to what kids are roaring around in today. I speak from experience. In my senior year, we lost at least two from my graduation class. I’ll bet you can say the same. I had a friend killed right in front of his house.

A buddy with a new 2015 Mustang GT said boldly, “Jim, I want a thousand horsepower…” I had to tell him good luck. It takes cubic dollars to make a thousand horsepower. It also takes knowing what the hell you are doing at the wheel. Not many people can handle 500 horsepower let alone 1,000. They leave the dealer high on the emotional roar of a powerful V-8 – only to wad the damned thing up at the first traffic light demonstrating their masculinity. They could have done that lifting weights and working out at the gym – and lived to walk away from it.

I’ve been a young person and I have been careless at the wheel.  I was never mean spirited.  Today, there’s a mean spirited demeanor out there on the roads across the generations.  Tailgating.  Drifting from mirror to mirror with the high beams on.  Passing and cutting each other off in the heat of anger.  Even one jackass who installed blazing LED aircraft landing lights on the back of his pickup.  The person in front of him was going too slow to suit him.  He passed them and flipped on the lights blinding all of us who were behind him. What kind of moron does this?

It has become quite dangerous out there—which has taken all of the joy out of driving, which used to be a favorite national pastime.  You can’t even find a stretch of road where someone isn’t all over your back bumper.  Not only is there no such thing as respectful disagreement in discussion anymore, no one knows how to be respectful at the wheel either.

I will tell you where I learned something unpleasant about myself and my contribution to dangerous driving.  I was coming onto the freeway and some crazy in a Ford truck tried to run me off the freeway.  Furious, I went after them and chased them to my exit off the freeway.  As I came onto the exit ramp, they attempted to block my exit.  I went up onto the curb in a fury.  My mirror clipped their mirror doing no damage. Point is I contacted another vehicle in a fit of rage.  That’s when I found I was a huge part of the problem. If you’re not the solution, you are the problem. 

That one experience changed the way I saw myself as a motorist. I was unsafe at the wheel—at 60 years old. There’s no road rage feud worth maiming or killing anyone, including loved ones in the car with you.

I had to come to terms with myself and that’s never pleasant. It cooled me off. 

That said, please drive safely.          

A Dangerous Divide…

Baby Boomers remember the things we were taught in high school a half-century ago.  One of those things was the Civil War in the 1800s.  The subject bored us to tears, yet as students and U.S. citizens in the modern age, we need to understand its significance.   The Civil War tore our nation apart with hundreds of thousands dead and maimed.  It remains our deadliest war and nearly destroyed us as a nation.   A long recovery ensued.  Bitter memories remain generations later.  Construction of the Washington Monument was halted along with a massive expansion of the U.S. Capitol due solely to the Civil War.  Areas of the country destroyed by war had to rebuild. 

I’ve wanted to believe we learned something from the Civil War.  However, I’m not so sure we learned anything.  The deep divide across this country remains for a multitude of reasons, only it’s more complex these days.  Left versus Right.  White versus anyone who isn’t white.  Christian versus non-Christian.  Americans versus the undocumented.  And even North versus South generations later.

A dangerous divide…

Prior to Social Media, we understood civility.  If you didn’t agree politically, you just didn’t discuss it.  The same applies to religion.  We just didn’t discuss it because we understood the consequences.  Horrible disagreements have ended many a friendship and even contributed to the cause of one fatal jet crash in the 1970s.  Two pilots were caught up in the distraction of a heated political argument trying to land in poor visibility.  They hit the ground three miles short of the runway killing most of the souls on board. 

In light of the vast growth of social media and the dumbing down of society, we’re showing our true colors as a nation. People have abundant courage at a keyboard, yet none at each other’s faces.  Seems everyone is an authority—yet few really know what they’re talking about.  It appears we like acting this way because we’re sure doing a lot of it.  Respectful disagreement has taken a vacation and we’ve become rude and insulting with one another. 

Has any of this badmouthing of one another been worth it?

I try to understand where this began.  If you remember the “Morton Downey, Jr” talk show from the 1980s, it remains one example of where this disturbing pattern began—but not the sole reason.  Downey pitted people against each other as he puffed on a cigarette butt.  People yelled and screamed at each other.  Downey joined in the scream fest.  Obnoxious was suddenly in style and has remained so ever since.  They called it “Trash TV” back in the day.  Downey inspired “Jerry Springer” and “Maury” just to name two examples of Trash TV still with us today. 

News programs have resorted to obscene language where I’ve heard “shit” and “bullshit” a number of times from news anchors.  Apparently the FCC is allowing this or the networks just pay the fine and enjoy the ratings.  I have a potty mouth.  I’m not shocked by these words.  I just expect better from respected news organizations.

Anything resembling class has passed in America.

I hear some of you chanting “civil war” and “revolution”—with no idea what each means.  Ever lived through a civil war or a revolution?  Me either… Consider this.  Both mean we become unstable and dangerous.  The post-war peace we’ve enjoyed since 1945 would go right out the window.  As free Americans, we need to understand the consequences of revolution and civil war.  We’ve been here before.  The American Revolution in the 1700s.  Civil War in the 1860s.

People die…

What to do about the great divide?  Best to take it one relationship at time and with patience and tolerance.  Be willing to understand another person’s point of view.  Be okay with a differing opinion.  Don’t let your fragile ego get in the way of peace.  As free Americans, we are all entitled to our opinions and beliefs.  That’s what makes us free Americans.  As long as your beliefs harm no one or damage anything, what’s wrong with having differing opinions?

If you have children and grandchildren—keep in mind they’re always listening.  If you practice uncivil disagreement, your kids will pick up on it.  If you settle your disputes with violence, your offspring will do the same.  This is why it is important to raise and lead by example—and I admit I have been a poor example at times.  I am very passionate when it comes to politics and I yell at the TV.  My son hears it.  When it comes to religion, what others believe is none of my business.

I’m like most everyone else. I like when people agree with me and the hair on the back of my neck tends to stand up when people don’t.  However, it is what I do with that emotion that affects the outcome.  Self-talk helps.  That quiet conversation in our heads that keeps things civil on the outside.  Is disagreement worth the heat and consequences when it goes bad?  In America, we’re supposed to be okay with a differing opinion and be free from the persecution of disagreement.

This is what makes us free Americans.  Think about it.


Pardon me? What did you say?  I was in daydream… 

I remember those dreaded parent-teacher conferences when I was a kid.  It was a moment when your performance in class was hung out there for all to see.  One issue for me as a student was daydreaming.  “James would do so much better in school if only he would stop daydreaming and participate in class, Mrs. Smart”

Oh, that old saw? Daydreaming, eh?

Daydreaming made me a lousy student.  However, it has made me quite the writer.  Daydreaming is imagination run amuck—imagination on steroids. You need to try some of it yourself as long as you’re not in the middle of a busy crosswalk or performing brain surgery.  

Great ideas…and bad ones…are born of daydreaming.  Daydreaming is an opportunity to open windows and air out your mind – just letting it be—to put your mental transmission in Park and just stop for a moment. It is an element of fantasy.

Daydreaming is giving you room to relax and ponder just about anything.  I watch my 12 year-old son.  He will stare into space for the longest time.  I will softly say to him, “Jakie…” and he’s in another world – dreaming of the future or fantasizing about that cute little redhead in his class.   Where his mind is is anyone’s guess. However, who am I to disturb that process?  Daydreaming healthy regardless of what you happen to be thinking about.

It’s time for a daydream.

I’m back! I like to daydream.  Feels good.  At my age, daydreaming tends to evolve into a nap.  And, napping is good too.  I love a good 20-minute nap where I can prop up my feet, listen to a TV show softly, and rise feeling refreshed.  I’ve never been a great sleeper.  I can fall asleep anywhere.  Staying asleep is another story.  I’ve been a professional insomniac for over 30 years.  It comes from the pressures and anxiety of publishing.  There’s always a deadline or creative process to sweat out. 

Keeps you awake at night.

When I was 30, I saw no point in sleep.  I believed sleep was so unproductive.  I thought, “I’ll sleep when I am dead…”  I couldn’t have been any more mistaken. And, if you don’t sleep, you’re gonna be dead sooner than you planned.  Sleep is as critical as being awake and doing something productive.  Sleep is an opportunity for your mind and body to repair and rebuild.  Don’t you find you have boundless energy when you’ve had a good night’s sleep? 

I do… 

Daydreaming is the daytime form of imagination and eyes-open sleep.  When I daydream I don’t have fantasies aside from having that little spread in the Midwest where I can sit on the back porch and watch the sun set and the storms roll in.  I don’t daydream about Marilyn Monroe or Farrah Fawcett.  I’ve never even had a poster of these American icons on the wall when I was 18.  I daydream about what’s possible.  Realistic daydreams.  When it comes to women, I daydream about what’s possible—the checker at the local supermarket, the neighbor up the hill, that cutie-hottie around the corner.  And, nah, I don’t daydream about young women because the daydream always leads to wondering what on earth we’d talk about afterward. 

Oh, that’s right, I’m not 30 anymore.

I was watching CNN and one of those infamous panels of pundits when I noticed CNN correspondent, John Harwood, lost in a daydream. He was blankly staring at the floor when Don Lemon asked a question clearly meant for him. Harwood was staring into space, undoubtedly exhausted from the drama in Washington and taking a mental vacation. Lemon said, “John?….John?!” and Harwood was startled out of his daydream. It was an “Oh My God!” moment – the man was daydreaming…

Like the rest of us…

If you’re not into daydreaming, you should be.  It is healthy to daydream and for you to leave your kids alone when they’re amid a deep daydream. Let your mind wander – as long as you’re not responsible for a nuclear power plant or manager for a massive factory or maybe even a member of congress.

Come to think of it, we could use a few daydreamers on Capitol Hill…perhaps they’d get something done.  

Fallen Arches —Memories of McDonald’s

I remember my first journey to a McDonald’s in 1961.  We lived in Lanham, Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C.  McDonald’s was new and different then.  It clearly understood why it was in business—to serve the public with great food at a fair price and do it with a smile.  Its squeaky clean red and white tiled walk-up, drive-in restaurants with golden arches in blazing yellow neon were inviting.  The aroma entering the car was too much to resist. 

Our car just kind of turned into McDonald’s on its own.    

As a little boy age 5, going to McDonald’s was always a treat because my folks could only afford so much and McDonald’s happened so seldom.  My father would walk up to the window, order up a bunch of burgers, fries, and shakes—and my sisters and I would enjoy a great meal in the back seat of an dusty, rusty old Chrysler sedan while my dad puffed on a Salem.  McDonald’s was how parents perpetually occupied children in the 1960s.

McDonald’s Founder Ray Crock

When I think of those joyful times some 60 years ago, I have to wonder what happened to the user friendly spirit of McDonald’s.  That spirit is long gone along with its founders—the McDonald brothers and Mr. Ray Crock.  I see McDonald’s as the General Motors of fast food.  If you serve it, they will come—and they do by the millions.  Patrons will line up for what seems like miles like sheep to savor a Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, Quarter Pounder with cheese, or a thick chocolate shake. 

I sit here in my shabby little office at age 64 and have to wonder why anyone spends their hard-earned money at a McDonald’s.  However, I can sum it up in a few words. 

Too big to care…

Oh sure, McDonald’s and its franchises do a lot for the communities they serve.  Ronald McDonald House?  Speaks for itself.  Serves people—and children—in real trouble.  Will never fault McDonald’s for what it does for local charities and communities.


I’m talking good old fashioned service and product.  Customer service.  McDonald’s is a miserable fail.  The news isn’t all bad, however.  I recall a McDonald’s in Evanston, Wyoming years back.  Impeccable service—clearly a franchisee who cared.  It had a clean, well maintained dining area and a Play Place for children.  You could sit there, enjoy a meal and the music, chat—and leave feeling like time and money were well spent.

That McDonald’s experience at 7,000 feet high in the mountains was unusual.  It wasn’t your typical McDonald’s.  On the rare occasion I frequent a McDonald’s—and only when there’s no other choice—I leave feeling screwed.  Enter any McDonald’s and you are greeted with a kiosk that is as complex as a Boeing 747 flight engineer’s panel.  The intent of McDonald’s isn’t service, but to eliminate jobs for young people and to confuse you to a point where you wind up ordering four Big Macs instead of one.  These kiosks try to sideline you into another segment of the menu when all you really want is a burger.  “Fries with that?” as expressed by a computer.  No, just a burger, thank you.  “How about a tasty dessert?”  No thanks…  I have actually become so frustrated with the kiosks that I’ve walked out of McDonald’s in disgust.

Honestly—I’d be thrilled with a smiling face and a friendly attitude. 

That demeanor is gone from the airwaves along with the original Ronald McDonald—our friend Willard Scott who is long retired.     

I see McDonald’s and Burger King in the same light.  Both are really too big to care and have forgotten why they’re in business.  They’re just doing the hustle.  You can shrug this off as just doing business as a fast food chain in a dog-eat-dog industry.  However—In-N-Out Burger, largely in California and the far West, has never forgotten why it is in business and what makes it so successful—service with a smile, quickly, with a great product.  In-N-Out, which has been in business a long time, is passionate about what it does—and it inspires terrific people to do a great job. Pass any In-N-Out Burger and there’s always a line. 

What does that tell you?

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are also a good value for the money.  Their restaurants are clean, food is good, and you are generally greeted with a smile and the kind of respect a loyal patron should receive.  What’s more, you don’t have to ask for condiments like you do at McDonald’s and Burger King.  Few things are more irritating than having to stand in line for ketchup, salt and pepper, or sweetener for your tea after you’ve stood in line for the meal to begin with.  McDonald’s and Burger King, it wouldn’t hurt your profits that much to put your customers first. 

When I reflect back to what McDonald’s was in the 1960s—clean restaurants, great service, and good food—fast—I recall the commercials.  “Grab a bucket and mop!”  “If it’s McDonald’s it’s clean…” and “You deserve a break today…” blew away in the winds of time.  Restrooms are filthy, which is a strange irony for an eating establishment.  Tables are dirty and need a wipe down.  Floors need to be swept.  Trash cans are overflowing.  Leaves you wondering whatever happened to “Grab a bucket and mop…”

Every business, no matter how large, should always look at itself and explore how it can serve its franchisees and customer better.  McDonald’s, focused solely on profits, has lost its way. 

No thanks, I will find somewhere else to dine.