London 3/23/17

It’s a city I’ve been fascinated with since the film, Mary Poppins.   I desperately wanted to go there, to see the place where a soot covered Rob Petrie cavorted on rooftops with a magical, singing nanny  and her flying umbrella.

I was lucky.  I got the chance to vacation there with family exactly three years ago.  We spent a week in London with jaunts to Bath and Salisbury.    It never rained once, we met the kindest people and everyday was a sublime history lesson.

It was such a wonderful experience, which is why  it’s so eerie to realize that we walked on the Westminster Bridge.  We road on a boat on The Thames that embarked from a pier beneath that bridge. We stood in the shadow of Big Ben, the exact same spot that saw so much carnage went down on what had started out for Londoners  as a typical Wednesday afternoon in March.

We’re still in such denial about our barbarism these days.    VVideo taped beheadings throwing homosexuals off tall buildings , placing infidels in small cages with hungry tigers barely make headlines.    Reports of raping  women, then stoning them to death for being the victim barely lasts  one news cycle.    Today’s media  is nothing more than an extension of  some weird polite society in which nothing unpleasant is ever discussed.   It tiptoes around the “T” word.   Of course it was terrorism. And the attacker’s actions should be considered as such, even if he’d been nothing than a  fifth  generation resident of Trenton, NJ and a so-so Presbyterian.

We used to use nouns and verbs in reporting news.  These days?   Screw “alternate media”, we’re well beyond that.  We’re now into “alternate verbiage”.    We’re so worried about offending the offender.   Tell a soldier who fought in Korea or Vietnam that those were mere conflicts.     Some might tell you they’d never go back to Incheon or that tiny village near the Mekong, but in many ways, parts of them never left.  Everyone leaves a psychic footprint, in good times and bad, but in the midst of anything extremely traumatic, it becomes permantently imbedded in the bedrock.

Connections to places are strange things.

In 2000, I was a member of a popular morning radio show.   We spent a week in New York covering the Grammies.     I can remember heading back to the hotel after a show and the cab we shared drove close to the World Trade Center.     We’d all been to New York before, so none of us were tourists at that point, yet as we passed, my fellow passengers  and I admitted we’d never seen the world from a fixed position 110 stories high.    We agreed that a visit would have to be on each of our “to do” lists, but since we had one full day left in New York, we’d have to do it next time.    Sixteen months later, the Twin Towers  were reduced to a twisted, smoldering heap.

On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I felt like I do right now.  I’m saddened by every tragic terrrorist attack, but it becomes even more personal when you live or work in a place that was bludgeoned by hate.    Or perhaps you played there;  attended a concert at a theater where the audience members were nothing more than human target practice.    What if a few weeks you cheered on your team during a soccer match at a stadium targeted for mass tragedy..     Perhaps you vacationed a few miles from the scene, spent an hour in an airport that was bombed; maybe you knew  someone who knew someone who was on a bus or train that was blown to bits.

I don’t understand what motivates us to use hate to justify anything.    Why does hate seem more powerful?

I don’t know the answer, but perhaps I can offer how it happens,.   According to Cherokee legend, a tribal elder was sitting with his grandson by the fire one night.   He regaled the boy with stories of their people, of wars with enemies,  won and lost.    He then tried to explain to the biggest battle of all–an ancient one that’s fought within every human.   The old man described it as a constant fight between two wolves, equal in size and passion but the exact opposite in what they represented.      One is Evil and he embodies anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

The other wolf represents Good.   He encompassed joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.   The child contemplated the story briefly, then asked , “Which wolf wins?”

The grandfather replied simply, “The one you feed.”







Well, It’s Wednesday

I really don’t have much to say. 

Work is taxing, mainly because it’s so new.  Everything is new.  New people, new modes of operating,different styles, etc.   Every office–be it a news room or some corporate  carbuncle, er uh…cubicle–has its own culture.

In this one, everyone is ridiculously polite.  It’s a quiet office.  No one talks much.  Cussing is out of the question and even laughter is a rare sound.  That’s tough for this loud mouth to take.  I mean, come on!   I have a stilted vocabulary that exceeds that vulgar parlance of any Teamster or longshoremen or Kathy Griffin, who by the way, I simply cannot stand.    In her desperation to be funny, different and in your face ballsy emits an odor I can smell and it’s emitted straight from the thousand of tiny pixels that comprise the H-D image on my Sylvania flat screen.    She tries too hard.   Nothing is as unfunny as that.   

Wanna know what else isn’t funny?  Wooden clogs on linoleum flooring.  My ensemble du jour was  brown and my pants were a wee bit longer and the only brown shoes I had with some height to them were a pair of 13-year-old Børn leather clogs–wooden soles; leather uppers.   I love these shoes, but they’re only good to weawr if no walking is required.   That was not the case today.  I was literally walking hither and yon all damn day.  By the time the boss pulled the tale on the bird to alert the other working stiffs that it’s quittin’ time at Mr. Slate’s rock quarry and by the time I Yabba Dabba Doo’d it while jubilantly sliding down the back of my huge, boulder-toting apatosaurus on which I’d been working when I wasn’t walking, I was in pain. 


There’s no give in wooden based clogs.  None at all.  Consequently, my arches fell like the Roman Empire.   I’ve been home for hours and my dogs are still barking. 

Now, if you’re fashionista and quietly chiding me for my unhip choice in footwear, I really don’t care.  I’ve worn clogs in various incarnations since 8th grand and that my friends, means they’ve adorned me feet for a very long time.  

But how I became interested in clogs in another story.  Yes, I’ve read all of Hans Christian Andersen’s books and similar Dutch themed stuff like “Hans Brinker”, which I always thought WAS writen by Hans, but it wasn’t.  It was written by American novelilst,  Mary Mapes Dodge.  Hell, I was raised on kitchen sinks that had been scoured clean with Dutch cleanser.   

Dig the clogs  → → → → → → → 

Little girls in Small Town, South Texas didn’t wear clogs.  We only saw them in literaure and paper shaker dispensers.   I first saw a clog up close and personal while touring Dacchau, the Nazi concentrtion camp in the state of Bavaria, in Southern Germany. 

We were in Europe on vacation during the summer of 1972.   The summer Olympics were in Munich that year and there was an air of Tuetonic pride in Germany.   World War II and all it’s Nazi atrocities were in the distant past.  This was a time to prove to the world that Germany had changed.   We arrived as the games got underway.   The good mood in Bavaria was palpable.  Decades old wrongs and perceptions were would righted    This was a place where  for three weeks in August and September, te world could engage in friendly competition on a sports field…not on a battlefield. 

My parents were kids when WW II broke out.  They were teenagers when it ended.  South Texas was a million miles away from the ravages of war in the European Theater, but the radio and MovieTone Newsreels  which were shown prior to the latest Hope/Crosby “road picture” playing at the Rialto brought it home..front and center. 

Prior to our departure, they talked about making my sister Karol and me witness first hand what happened during the Holocaust.  I was 13 then and an idignant, petulant asshole.   I remember yawning at the thought and kept referring to my upcoming vacation as the “Man’s Inhumanity To Man World Tour”. 

My attitude changed when we arrived at Dacchau and I saw near the entrance, the msot sobering and disturbing wrought iron sculpture that I’d ever seen. 

Figures of what amounts to human skeletons painfully distorted and tangled up in barbed wire.


Here’s a close up of one of the iron images.  There is no discernible facial expression, but the anguish is evident. 


On the base of this statue are the words, penned by Spanish philosopher, Jorge Santayana;  “Those who forget the past, are condemned to repeat it”. 

I stared at that saying for a while.  I remember feeling as though I was digesting this very absolute warning for mankind. 

That day, I learned about crematoriums and the purpose for which they were used.  I walked into shower rooms that were really gas chambers.  I looked up at shower heads that only never emitted a drop of water…only deadly Zyklon-B gas.  SS Guards could pack hundreds of prisoners in these rooms to die in seconds.  The Nazis were nothing if not efficient mass murderers. 

In one of the museums I saw photo after photo; one more horrific than the last and in one display, I saw an actualtattered black and white striped prisoner uniform with that yellow Star of David which that day seemed incredibly stark and pronounced.  And then I saw personal effects that had been confiscated when the prisoners were initially interred.  Jewelry, handbags, wallets, glasses, walking canes, gold teeth and shoes all belonging to someone who had been born to die so horrifically simply becasuse they weren’t Aryan.    

Among the shoes, were clogs.   Hundreds and hundreds of clogs.  

I was incredibly moved by what I saw at Dachau.   

We arrived back home to Texas in August.    A few days later, a group of eight Palestinian terrorists, members of the Black September organization broke into the Olympic Village and took eleven Israeli athletes, coaches and officials hostage in their apartments.   The subsequent standoff in the Olympic Village lasted for almost 18 hours. 

The next evening the terrorists and their hostages were transferred by helicopter to the a nearby military airport, ostensibly to board a plane bound for an undetermined Arab country. The German authorities planned to ambush them there, but under-estimated the number of terrorists and were undermanned. During a botched rescue attempt, all of the Israeli hostages were killed. Four of them were shot, then blown up when a Palestinian tossed a grenade inside the helicopter. The five remaining hostages were then machine-gunned by another terrorist. 

I remember watching the news that night.  “My God!” I thought.  “The world hadn’t changed at all!”    

Somehow, history had become a thing of the past..literally and as a result, the world witnessed condemnation first hand.  

It was the color of blood.  

It was death at the hands of hate. 


In Nazi Germany, man killed because of perceived differences in DNA.   Today, man kills over territorial ownership of a dusty piece of inhospitable land in the Middle East.  

Will we ever learn?   It’s doubtful.   

We’ve obviously forgotten the lesson. 

Gee, guess I had something to say after all.