Monday, June 28, 2010

Follow up from 'Audacity of Politics'

So if you read my last entry, you know the story of my two phone calls.

This morning I'm just working away and the phone rings.

It was the actual CANDIDATE RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR! I swear I thought someone was playing a joke on me but it was HIM!

He allowed as to how we have some mutual friends (which we do) and he knows I'm a guy who "prefers to fly below the radar" (so did he read my blog about not displaying bumper stickers and yard signs?!) but he would really appreciate my support, anything I could do for him. He didn't ask me for a nickel, just for my support and my vote. (I'm still undecided).

He was just as nice as he could be and once I picked my jaw up off the ground and was able to make sounds from my vocal chords, I wished him the best and thanked him for his call.

Wife asked me if I thought of telling him about his minion who called me on Friday, to which I replied no. Just as I don't hold Barack Obama responsible for Joe Biden or Robert Gibbs, I don't hold this candidate responsible for the jerk who called me last week on his behalf.

I'm afraid this guy and his camp may be way over-estimating my sphere of influence. Really weird.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Audacity of Politics

As long-time readers here know, I've had a lifelong interest in politics, all the way back to the 60s when Lyndon Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater, the first presidential election I remember.

As a younger man, my interest in politics was also mixed with a strong leaning toward conservatism and I usually voted for Republican candidates. I'm still pretty conservative and usually vote Republican but over the past decade I have mellowed a great deal. I have voted in the last two Tennessee gubernatorial elections for our current Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, who was also once the mayor of Nashville. Just as he was an outstanding mayor, he's been an outstanding governor. He's a shrewd businessperson and I believe business skills are extremely advantageous when one is running something as big as a state.

As I said, although I am still interested in politics, I don't get nearly as worked up about it as I once did. I look at candidates and I vote according to my conscience. Usually my preference will be Republican but, as was the case in the last two gubernatorial elections, occasionally I'll "cross over." I rarely display yard signs or bumper stickers anymore and, although I'll still participate in a spirited debate, I am careful when I discuss politics among my friends and never presume that someone has the same leanings I do.

This leads me to a telephone call I received yesterday. To give you some background, about a week ago Wife and I received in the mail an invitation to a "reception" which will take place next week at the home of some good friends. I put reception in quotes because it will actually be a fundraiser for one of the candidates running for governor of Tennessee. There's a primary election this summer and the general election will be in November.

We didn't mind receiving the invite from our friends but we also didn't mind tossing it when we saw that the price of admission was a minimum of $500. There was no reply required and I'm guessing our friends hosting the event gave a list of quite a few names to the staff of the candidate. We promptly threw it away and have not given it a thought since.

That is, until I received the aforementioned phone call yesterday.

"Bob," the voice on the other end said when I answered, "this is ________ and I am a friend of ______________ (our friends hosting the reception)."

He went on to say that he was following up to see if Wife and I had received the invitation. I told him yes, we had received it and then asked him, "Doesn't this require a pretty hefty contribution?"

He confirmed that a $500 contribution would get us in. I told him thank you for the invitation but we would not be attending, although we would give consideration to voting for this candidate. Our friends' endorsement carries some weight with us and we've had some other friends express an interest in this particular candidate as well. He thanked me for my time and we said goodbye.

Within about 30 seconds my phone rang and it was this guy again.

"Bob, this is _________ again."

"Yes?" I said, mildly annoyed.

"Well, I was just thinking after we got off the phone that I should call you back and tell you that, if your finances are tight right now . . . . "

And then I became more than mildly annoyed. I interrupted him and told him to hold on just a minute. I didn't say one word about our finances being "tight," I told him. Then I explained to him that we have a certain amount of funds we allocate for giving to certain things, and right now I had no desire to give to any political candidate, not to mention that I am undecided about the governor's race.

Then, as if he hadn't heard me, he said, "Well what I was going to suggest was that maybe you could contact some other people who have some resources and bring them with you, and you and your wife can just come."

And as if that weren't enough, he then proceeded to tell me how he and his wife were so enamored with this candidate, that they had decided to just take part of their "offering" (I guess he meant what he gives to his church) and re-direct it toward this guy running for governor.

And with that, friends, I was rendered speechless and I ended the call.

Is it any wonder the people in this country are FED UP with politics, whether it's on the national, state or local level?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Two Years Running

I just realized that this blog is two years old today. Two years and 120-something posts later, I'm still finding time to stop by and give an account of what's going on.

I can never thank Kelly enough, who told me about Pearl Soup, which eventually got me here. I am a frustrated writer of the first degree and this gives me an outlet.

To those of you kind enough to read, and especially those who read and comment, I thank you and I am humbled beyond words. It thrills me to read your comments, and to comment on your blogs as well. When I write something that receives zero comments, I always wonder if maybe I've offended (yes, I am a bit insecure). Although I delve into politics on occasion, I try not to be controversial.

To those of who over on the right margin: I've never met any of you in person, except Kelly of course, and probably Pam somewhere in the distant past. I sincerely hope to have the privilege of meeting you sometime, to shake your hand and get to tell you in person how much I appreciate you.

Of course that would require a trip to Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, Florida or Hong Kong. If one of you happens to be in my neighborhood before I make it to yours, let me know and I'll put the coffee on, fire up the grill or prepare whatever it is you might be hungry or thirsty for, and Wife and I will make up the guest bedroom too. We would love to have you visit.

For now, though, I hope you'll continue to drop by here from time to time. You're always welcome.


Happy Father's Day. I could be called many things, but there is no name I like better than "Dad." There are three outstanding people who call me that, too. What a blessing.

I'm thinking of my own dad today, gone from me now for four years. I think of him every day, with a smile and warm memories.

Happy Father's Day to you too, Dad.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Oil Spill

The Gulf Coast oil spill is one of the saddest things that has happened in our country in a long time. The impact is exponential, from the loss of life to the loss of livelihood for those who make their livings in this area.

BP screwed up, big time, and they know it. I don't know what they could have done to prevent this but their cohorts at the other oil companies are making haste to distance themselves from their errant brethren. Makes one wonder, though, if the "other guys" are just breathing easy, thankful that it's not them on the hot seat.

Of course it had to become political. Previous supporters of President Obama are calling him out, a la George W. Bush and Katrina, saying he's a bit late with his figuring out "whose ass to kick" (the president's words).

I'm no Obama fan but really, folks, what did/do we expect him to do? He didn't cause this. And what he has done thus far is mostly ceremonial. Do you think BP would have just said, "Nah, we're not going to take responsibility for this" if the prez had not gone on national TV and then summoned them all to the White House?

Come on! Who else would BE responsible?! They've already spent zillions trying to contain it and doing damage control. (Although their higher-ups, talking about "wanting my life back" and "the small people," could use some lessons in decorum).

As I said, I don't understand it all, other than I know it's sad and it's tragic. When I see the footage of the birds, fish and other wildlife being affected, it breaks my heart. Add to that the folks who live down there and make their livings from the ocean and there's no questioning we've got one collossal mess on our hands. There are probably many lessons to be learned here, even though I don't begin to know what they all might be.

My good friend Bob, who lives in Pensacola, has had some great posts on this lately and he has a much better handle on it than I do. I've enjoyed reading his first-hand accounts of what's happening in his seaside hometown as the oil makes its way to the beaches. If you're looking for some common sense reasoning amidst the bull you're hearing from a lot of the news sources, I would highly recommend a visit to his excellent blog which you can access by clicking on the first of this paragraph or at HELICOPTER PILOT in the right margin of my blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mistakes happen; it's how we deal with them that matters

All three of my children came up through the ranks of our community's local ball fields where my two sons played baseball and my daughter played softball.

As a family, we spent countless hours at the fields. My wife and I would at times pace back and forth between fields where one of ours might have been up at bat on one, while one played outfield on the other.

We were usually pretty mild parents during these games. Sure, we got excited and cheered enthusiastically, celebrating victories and dealing with defeats. But we tried to keep things in perspective, encouraging our sons and daughter to be competitive and do their best, but to have fun and enjoy the game. We tried to do that too, and I have great memories of those summer nights at the ball fields, where we enjoyed watching the games, eating dinners from the concession stand and getting to know other families.

For the most part, I liked the coaches who volunteered their time to coach the young players. There were some who were over-zealous and some who, in my opinion, put way too much emphasis on winning, but I always thought that, unless they were doing something abusive to my son or daughter, they were above my criticism. After all, they were the ones doing the coaching, not me (for good reason, but that’s another story).

I also tried to observe appropriate decorum with the umpires. Calling baseball games, especially at the adolescent level, is not an exact science and the officiating is, of course, conducted by imperfect human beings. Mistakes are made. It’s disappointing when it happens but it’s not the end of the world.

There were a few paid adult umpires, as well as young folks who would, at about age 13, begin calling games for some of the younger players' games. Unfortunately, some of the parents were just plain awful to the umpires, including to the young ones were trying to learn and make some money. And this unfortunately included some verbal attacks on my two boys who served as umpires for a few games.

I was never there when it happened to them, but if I had been, chances are I would have broken my self-imposed rule of not making a scene at the baseball field. It’s bad enough to go off on an umpire at a child’s baseball game, but it’s inexcusable when that umpire is also a child. But it happened and it happened too often.

With those memories still fresh, it was with great interest that I read the story recently about the pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who was one out away from pitching a perfect game. Alas, the last base runner was called safe. The replay clearly showed he was out. It was a bad call. Not the first one ever made, but one with dire consequences.

What ensued after that bad call, however, is a great lesson to all of us.

The umpire, Jim Joyce, apologized. He owned up to his mistake.

The pitcher, Armando Galarraga, was, of course, devastated. But he seemed to take it in stride and there was no big scene afterward.

The next day, however, told the story of the character of each of these men. They met at home plate and shook hands. Joyce had to wipe back tears. The Detroit fans cheered.

Mistakes happen. Some have more serious consequences than others. But they happen, whether at the community ballpark near Nashville or at a Major League game in Detroit or wherever. Perfection will always elude us, whether it’s on a baseball diamond, in school or at work.

Of course it’s how we deal with a mistake -- whether we’re the one making it or suffering the consequences of one made by another -- that will define us. We can brood and throw tantrums, or we can apologize and forgive.

And now we can take our cues from two guys in Detroit who handled themselves with great class.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekend Update

Well I haven't checked in here in a while and it's been good to catch up with everyone this Saturday morning.

Yesterday I had a little surgical procedure to rid myself of the kidney stone about which I wrote a few weeks ago.

I arrived at the surgery center yesterday morning at 6:30 and was home by 10 with some good drugs that enabled me to sleep most of the day. There has been some discomfort with bodily function (putting it quite delicately) that continues a bit today, and I'm still a little tired but, for the most part, I am on the mend.

My urologist has a warped sense of humor but I guess that comes with the territory. I guess when you're doing your urology residency they give you all the standard jokes.

The only bright spot in all of this would be the wonderful IV drugs I get to have between the time they start getting me ready and the time they put me to sleep. During those minutes, I have not a care in the world and the least little thing will make me laugh. And I take no responsibility for anything I might have said.

I would never consider doing recreational drugs but if anyone ever approached me in the dark of night with some of this stuff when I'm particularly stressed . . . . well I just hope that never happens.


The renovation is about done at our house and we said goodbye to the painters yesterday. By the time the new floors were installed; the old ones were stripped and sanded; all of the floors were stained; the new lights were installed; and the painting was done, we probably had about 20 people in the house. They were all very friendly too. People who do this type of work just really seem to enjoy what they do and I am very envious of their skills. I am pleased to say, also, that the quality of work on this project has been excellent.

Wife is anxious to get things back "in order" and I am trying to oblige her. We have had this running joke during the 26 years we have been married about "when things slow down" we'll do this, this and this. I keep waiting for that to happen.


And finally, the best news of all. Ralph has made great progress with his crate-training! Ralph is between 12 and 13 years old and has proven that it's never too late!

It was slow going at first and was at times reminiscent of having a new baby in the house

He would look at us with those longing eyes as if to say, "After all these years, you've decided to put me in a cage?! After all I've done for you?"

There have been some compromises along the way. We have a sectional sofa in the playroom. Ralph has never been allowed on this sofa. About a week into the crate-training Ralph hopped up on the sofa and looked dead-on at his mother. She looked back. She tried to get mad but she ended up laughing.

Ralph 1, Wife 0.

Wife said she would cave on the sofa but held fast on the crate. The crate now resides in our bedroom where Ralph seems happiest. He did not like being left in it downstairs when we would go upstairs to bed.

Until early this week, Ralph would go into the crate at bedtime and when we would leave the house for several hours. It took some coaxing, though, and it was not voluntary on his part. He would always wail a bit when he first entered but eventually began to settle down pretty quickly.

This past Tuesday, however, Wife was in the shower and when she got out, there was Ralph curled up in his crate, having entered it on his own. Now we just say, "Time for bed" and Ralph goes right into his crate.

Wife and Ralph have made great strides in their relationship and we are now confident that Ralph will be able to live out the rest of his days with this family to whom he has been such a faithful friend and companion. I'm very pleased about that.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We're Home!

Wife, Younger Son and I entered our house again this morning after an eight-day absence and oh my, did it feel good!

We came home to wonderful new hardwood floors. We had to vamoose out of here while they were being installed, sanded and stained. I think it was worth it and they are beautiful, but it was tough being displaced for a week.

Wife managed to stay a couple of nights with some friends, as did Younger Son. I worked in Memphis a couple of days and stayed at my place there. We spent a night in a hotel together here in town one night, then spent part of the weekend in Cincinnati and took in a couple of Reds games. (They played the Astros, my favorite team, who are AWFUL this year, but more on that another time). Sunday morning we left Cincy early and headed to our friends' lake house in North Alabama and they allowed us to hole up there until this morning when we made our way home. Daughter and a couple of friends met us there, and a few of our other friends were there for the long weekend too, so it was a good time.

Given that many of my fellow Middle Tennessee citizens are displaced because of flood damage, I would never think of complaining about having to move out of my home because of something I am doing voluntarily. We know we are blessed just to be able to do this work to our home. But we do appreciate home a lot more now and plan to stay right here during the next phase, which is the painting, which begins next week. We're definitely in the home stretch now.