Friday, September 23

"Lovely Rita, Meter Maid"

There aren't too many songs about Rita, but there will probably be more after this weekend as Texas and Louisiana pick up the pieces. It's time for the return of the ballad, like "The Ballad of New Orleans II," and "The Ballad of Poor Port Arthur."

Disasters are dominating the news, taking precedence over everything else. Two hurricanes punctuated by a JetBlue landing yesterday and a burning bus today. Colosseum stuff for some. Painful tears of compassion for others. Either way, most of us are addicted to tragedy --- as long as it's someone else's.

Wednesday, September 21

Out of the Blue

Of the thousands of lightning strikes here in the valley last night, one of them struck a poor woman going for a walk in Modesto. She's still alive and needs God's mercy as a lightning strike to the head has a way of changing your life forever.

Lightning storms were rare in Paso Robles in the 50's and 60's, I think. Mom would have us kids huddle in the hall until the worst was past. She grew up in Kansas. Thankfully, she didn't have us crawl under the house!

This is turning out to be the weather news year of the 21st century so far. Hold on to your emergency kit and keep that SUV filled with gas!

Saturday, September 17

This Overtime Thing

"In 1967, testimony before a Senate subcommittee claimed that by 1985 people would be working 22 hours a week or 27 weeks a year or retire at age 38. The extra time each week could then be given to church involvement, reading a good book, strengthening the marital relationship, parenting the kids or volunteering for civic organizations. But instead the exact opposite happened. Boredom was predicted, but exhaustion is the reality." Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

This week's whirlwind of overtime, managing a temp worker and driving Barb here and there (Liz had our car while hers was broken down) all add up to that much loved word, 'stress.' Downsizing to skeleton crew status has affected a lot of businesses, including ours. When someone goes on vacation and we're swamped, the hair pulling begins as the more inexperienced goons take up the slack. So I was #1 goon this week, doing my regular job plus another added in for good measure. Sound familiar? They call it 'being flexible.' It's not in your job description, but 'cross training' has been secretly inserted into your contract whether you like it or not.

Am I complaining? Not when so many are out of work and live like peasants around the world compared to me. And God usually plans these times of exhaustion so I can pay for that unexpected and inevitable catastrophe. He gives me the strength (barely, but enough) to do it. It's little wonder everyone died so young 100 years ago. Their 12 hour days plus Saturday killed them early. We're all living on added time in the 21st century, even with the work stress. Quit complaining.

Monday, September 12

Barnes and Bobo

I dropped Barb off for her class at college before going across the street to our clannish culture center, Barnes and Noble. It's Bobo out of water whenever I enter these halls of hardcore highbrows. It's like going into a bar. People here and there, sipping a few words from a book and glancing around the place to see who's looking at them. "Please don't catch me looking at an art book or making a futile attempt to find a book on Church history or scrounging through the computer and sale books," says Bobo as he lowers his baseball cap. Must be his self-righteous self smelling up the place again.

The parking lot's fresh air and setting sun calmed old Bobo's uneasiness. "Let's not pretend we want to go there for awhile," he offered. "Fine by me, but, man, you're weird," I added as we jumped into the truck and hand signalled all the way home.

Saturday, September 10

Andre the Giant

Jimmy Connors must be loving it as Andre Agassi waltzes his way to the U.S. Open Tennis finals at 35 years old. And that's REALLY old in tennis star years. Here's a picture of the puzzled winner, scratching his head and wondering how he did it.

So how's your tennis game? Are you hanging in there even though you're over the hill and in the bursitis woods? My wicked serve and forehand fossilized some years ago, but it was fun while it lasted. My great regret is not playing more and better, to peak at 35 or 40. The only thing to peak at when you're close to 60 is . . . a . . . let's see . . . oh, I forget!

Monday, September 5

The Blame Game: In the Crosshairs

As if you didn't have enough to wade through in Katrina's wake, I'll offer a few comments on current blame game. First, like 9/11/2001, this is another perfect opportunity to throw flaming criticisms willy-nilly in the name of political fervor. Poor President George gets the hottest nucular (sic) blast here as commander-in-chief of hurricanes and all other global warming disasters. With his feet to the fire, he is Enemy Numero Uno on the Bush-haters' list of culprits.

We can next blame the Army Corps of Engineers, the governors of Louisianna, Mississippi and Alabama, then the mayor of New Orleans, then the people who were unwilling to leave their homes, then the looters and killers, then the local dog catchers. And let's not forget to blame an American population that has rejected its Godly heritage. And speaking of God, shouldn't we add Him to the list? Isn't he the ultimate reason for these disasters in the first place?

"Then they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed." Ezekiel 39:29

"I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness. I make peace and create calamity. I am the LORD who does all these things." Isaiah 45:6b,7

"When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses." Jeremiah 10:13

"And when [Jesus] got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing.' And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?' Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?'" Matthew 8:23-27

Leave sin and God out of the equation and your answers are just "blowin' in the wind."

Thursday, September 1

Deja Varoom!

Okay, let's get this straight. You were making about $3.00 an hour in 1963, maybe a little more. I was making $1.00 an hour when I pumped gas in 1966. We payed about 35 to 40 cents per gallon for gas, maybe a bit less or more. Our cars got maybe 15 (my Mustang) to 22 miles per gallon on the highway.

Now most breadwinners are making from $15.00 to $20.00 an hour and paying $3.00 for a gallon of gas. For families with two incomes, that's $25.00 to $30.00 an hour or more.

The math is pretty clear. Gas is still pretty reasonable and we've been getting a free ride for a long time. The big problem now is owning two or more vehicles. One of them (that SUV tank) still gets about 22 miles per gallon and our houses are filled with ten times more 'toys' than our parents had. Oh, a lot of us drive over 10 miles one way to work.

The moral: We spoiled brats and fat cats need to start a starvation diet. Simplify your life and the necessities of life will take care of themselves.