Thursday, November 12, 2009

Frozen Soldiers

Frozen Soldiers
Dedicated to my father
RIP Lance Corporal Riley (B. 1920-D. 1966)
Born into a time frame that propelled him into WW II, my dad, Bob S. Riley, would join the Army under the buddy system.
At a time in history when young men went to war to fight not on political expediency or ideology or specter of an education, but on patriotic zeal and passion for freedom, was the watchword, the call that emblazoned young men’s heart. . If it meant dying in a blood strewn battlefield of foreign soil, filled with stench of death and mangled madness, then if that was where freedom lay, then freedom would be found. For what price is too much for freedom?
After receiving basic training, he had an opportunity to attend OCS( officer candidate school) though he only had an 8th grade education. My dad passed on the opportunity as he wanted to be in battle with his friends and if dying was his fate, then he was sold out to that fate.
Patton Speaks To The Troops - England, May 31, 1944
"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. Men, all this stuff you've heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. ALL REAL Americans, love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers . . . Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans. Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post, don't know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating. Now we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know . . . My God, I actually pity those poor bastards we're going up against. My God, I do. We're not just going to shoot the bastards, we're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel. Now some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you'll chicken out under fire. Don't worry about it. I can assure you that you'll all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo, that a moment before was your best friends face, you'll know what to do. Now there's another thing I want you to remember. I don't want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We're not holding anything, we'll let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly, and we're not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We're going to hold onto him by the nose, and we're going to kick him in the ass. We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time, and we're going to go through him like crap through a goose. Now, there's one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you're sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, "What did you do in the great World War Two?" You won't have to say, "Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana." Alright now, you sons of bitches, you know how I feel. Oh! . . . I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere. That's all."
Dad was a foot soldier in Patton’s Army and as such saw more than his share of bloodshed. Tired, hungry with death all around he would witness horrible atrocity. He would lose many of his buddies on the plains of battles and in the forests of fights. He would show heroism on many occasions and was awarded many medals.
He also drove tanks, blew up bridges and did whatever it took to advance the cause for which he was called. He single handily took out a German bunker when under fire, by attacking it despite the imminent prospect of death sailed on to his mission. Tossing hand grenades into the bunker, he wiped out German soldiers who would have surely taken out many more Americans. For this he was recognized.
He came home and was never wounded during all of the battles. His friends did not. He came alone. But he came home with the images of soldiers on the battlefield frozen in time, those who would not have families so that others may. He came home scarred and battle weary on the inside like most do. One cannot kill others and not be affected by it. He often lamented having to kill young boys barely teenagers, that Hitler threw on the battlefield in a desperate attempts to stop the advancing Americans.
Once, when I was about 14 years old, I was wearing a surfers cross around my neck. To me it was just a symbol of rebellion at the time. My dad saw it and approached me. The cross was in the shape of a German Swastika of which I had not considered. Instead of insisting that I remove it, he simply told me that I was free to wear it if I liked, but he warned me that other soldiers may not like it. No long speeches of why, none needed, I removed it and never wore it again.
Unfortunately, my father died of a heart attack at the age of 46 when I was 15. I never got to know him as a man. I miss that. I’m not sure what would be different in my life had it been different but I do know this. He would tell me too never quit, never let someone take freedom from you, never lay down when it’s time to stand up, stand up, be proud for rivers of blood have been poured and “Give Em Hell” to those who would come against.
Sadly, my dad and all others who fought the good fight would be stunned by today’s events. To sit and watch planes flying into buildings by Islamic Terrorist and not to answer with all out war. Making politics out of attack would be an abomination to him and his friends frozen in times on battlefields afar. Political correctness and sensitivity is a joke and one that my dad would surely fight against. You see he also knew the enemies within the camp and like then, now he would if he were here and able, gather his buddies frozen in time of foreign soils and gather them together in and all out assault. I can hear his battle cry “ Give Em Hell”. May we not forget from whom we have sprung and may we most honor all of those living and dead by not idly forfeiting what others paid for.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mrs. Marie Tye, A Teacher for The Times

Mrs. Marie Tye,
A Teacher for The Times

Mrs. Marie Tye, my 8th & 9th grade English teacher was my favorite overall. She possessed a number of qualities that made me feel that I was important. Not another student of the many she taught in her lifetime, but a student that she had confidence in and one worth teaching.
This was during a time in our country when teachers could actually mention God and the Bible in the classroom and not fear retribution. Morning prayers and the pledge of allegiance over the school intercom were daily rituals at school and no one was offended. This was all normal and no one believed their religious expressions were infringed on.
I was not brought up in an overtly Christian home so I had little understanding of biblical stories, books of the bible or things spiritual. I went to church off and on with friends that invited me but I didn’t have any knowledge of what it was all about. There was a picture of the Last Supper prominently displayed on the wall next to our kitchen table but that was the depth of what I knew.
Mrs. Tye was always dressed nicely and appropriately when she entered the classroom. She was no one’s fool as she had several children herself so trying to pull one on her was fruitless. Her facial expressions said it all. When she was perturbed at classroom commotion, she didn’t yell or threaten anyone with a trip to Mr. Havens, the school principal, where getting licks were unavoidable. She didn’t wave a board the size of Mt. Rushmore around as a warning. She simply would look at us and arch her left eye brow and silence would ensue. We knew! Mrs. Tye taught me that a lot can be said without saying it.
Mrs. Tye liked to test our knowledge on a number of subjects by having open quizzes. “Jeff, where can we find the Book of Deuteronomy?” she asked me. I was usually very good at these things, but I was stumped on this one. However, I took a stab at it and said, “In the library???” to which a portion of the class laughed. Mrs. Tye smiled at me and said” can anyone tell me where we can find the Book of Deuteronomy?” to which another female classmate correctly answered,” It is a book in the Old Testament in the Bible.” Mrs. Tye planted a seed in me that day about spiritual things broadening my horizons.
She also liked to conduct impromptu class spelling bees. I was an excellent speller and during elementary school I usually won most class spelling bees. On two occasions that I recall, only one of my classmates, Pat A. Phillips, could beat me when we had inter-class spelling bees. I was a visual speller, I could see the word in my mind, so I wasn’t prone to the rules such as I before e except after c. Although I relied heavily at times on my understanding of vowels, consonants, and syllables to get through, my visual ability was my salvation. If I had seen it, I could spell it.
One day the Book of Deuteronomy came back to haunt me in Mrs., Tye’s in class spelling bee. “Jeff” as she looked at me with a smile and look of re-assurance, “can you spell Deuteronomy?” Little did I know this would come back to me so soon. Trying to look as though I did my research by tracking down a Bible, I gave it a try by spelling it phonetically. “Du-Ta-Ra-On-Me Dutaraonme” it sounded and looked reasonable to me since we were talking about old things in the Bible. I was waiting for her to give me the eye brow arch of dissatisfaction, but true to her nature, she sweetly smiled, chuckled a bit at my attempt and asked the class if anyone could spell it. Again a female classmate got it correct. Must have been Pat A. Phillips! Mrs. Tye had taught me to not quit, keep trying, dig deeper to find the answers.
Mrs. Tye was the first teacher that I remember that had us memorize poetry. By this time in my education I had acquired a good memory of things and could use my visualization to learn. She usually gave us a week to memorize it and then each classmate would have to stand up and recite. One of the first poems I remember memorizing was Rudyard Kipling’s If:
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
I memorized this by the end of the class in which she gave it. Mrs. Tye allowed me to stand up and recite it although I had a week to do so. I did so flawlessly to which she gave me the I knew you could do it smile. I didn’t win a trophy, plaque, or certificate for my efforts. Mrs., Tye aptly rewarded me with not only a poem with which I have leaned on through the years to remind me of where I come from and have been through, but a reward of satisfaction and confidence.
Mrs. Tye was the only teacher besides 2 others that were neighbors that came to our home to visit after my dad died suddenly of a heart attack on December 29th 1966. She showed me her humanness, compassion and concern that night as she reassured my mother now widowed with 5 school aged children that all would be well in time. Her devotion to her family, faith, friends, and a student named Jeff Riley, made her a Teacher for The times.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Art of Nose Picking

Art of Nose Picking
There is an art to picking. I first became aware of this in the 8th grade at North Heights Jr. High in Texarkana, Arkansas. My 8th grade geography teacher, Coach McKinney, had the art down perfectly.
I sat in the middle row directly across from his desk but a couple of seats back. This provided me some level of security when the threat level went from caution to Red Alert, attack imminent.
At first, I believed Coach didn’t realize that he was teaching more about nose picking and its various nuances, than geography. This could be why I mastered the first and not the second. Once we were all seated after the bell rang, Coach would open up his geography book and look at us with a blank stare as though he wanted to say something. We looked back with blank stares as though we wanted to hear something. Coach, was the assistant football coach and head basketball coach because he was taller than the football coach. It all makes sense. I had to be careful though because I played sports and whatever I did or not do in class could and would be used against me later on in the Coach’s courtroom of Law. This was the basis of today’s Miranda warnings.
Once everyone got past the stare stage, class would begin. Coach would ask things like” can anyone tell me where I put my paddle board?” I usually raised my hand and would say something like” Coach it’s still stuck to Billy’s Butt.” That much I knew about geography, location is everything.
Then Coach would lean way back in his chair, with outstretched arms and clasp his hands behind his neck. I had seen this move before. I’m sure most of my classmates thought he was just bored and disinterested in being a teacher and took a casual laid back approach. Not me. This was his warm up signal usually accompanied by his head twisting side to side getting out the kinks. My early warning booger picking deflection system sent out an alert that attack was imminent.
Coach then would lean forward and gaze around the room as through it was an important thing to do and then ask Patsy to read page 1, paragraph 1 in our text book. Although we were almost to semester break, we were slow to learn. Once Patsy started reading, I fell asleep, but one eye cocked on Coach.
On cue, Coach went into the retrieve and load position. He was very particular about retrieval. Digging around is an art itself. Carefully selecting the most robust booger with proper form and texture was paramount to it hitting its target.
Once he had made his selection, next came the exam and roll technique. Coach would roll his choice selection between his thumb and forefinger, gently massaging it into a solid mass never taking his eye off of it. By now, the whole class has caught on and is on the edge of their seats and were preparing for the duck and cover. Everyone is looking around and a slight hum begins to ensue as we eagerly await the shot heard around the world.
Coach, was never one to hurry the process, including teaching geography. Once he got just the right firmness and texture, he would then raise it slowly to his mouth and gently spit ever so gently on his creation. One last tweak of his ammunition required taking it to his left ear after the spit on. Leaning his head to one side and rolling it around while listening intently to its peculiar resonance, he was satisfied that engagement was necessary.
Then came the lock and load. The entire class has now hunkered down into a full safety position leaning forward; face down on desk, geography book on heads, ready for a full scale launch. Coach didn’t notice that small fact as his mind was clearly fixated on completing his mission of not teaching geography, but warfare.
Suddenly and in one smooth motion his hand comes down from his ear, with forefinger cocked back, and ammo loaded on the end of his thumb. This was it, the moment of attack. All defensive positions were secured. I lay with my head firmly imbedded in my desk praying that somehow it would misfire, or fall harmlessly to the ground.
But the flick was on, confirmed by a whizzing that undeniably was the sound of artillery rounds being fired. At this point I was happy that Coach had not mastered an automatic flinger that would reload and bombard us unmercifully.
Then we heard a thud and a bang of broken glass. We slowly rose up, everyone checking for signs of a direct hit on their person. All hands were on deck.
We looked toward Coach who was grinning ear to ear as one who was content with his assignment of the day. He had clearly hit his intended target, a picture of Mr. Havens our principal, hanging on the back wall, now lying scattered on the classroom floor.
I think Coach was trying to teach us in his own subtle way, you never know what life’s going to sling at you, so be prepared, sometimes it can be a booger!

Ghost of Bosses Past

Ghost of Bosses Past
“Pick that sack up” he yelled. “Do you have any idea how much that sack cost?” as he pointed a finger in my face.

“No, not really( as though I cared )” I replied.

“It cost me $.01 and that’s throwing money away.” “If I catch you doing it again, we are going to the back room and having a little talk” he snapped. A little talk to him meant we weren’t going to be chatting over tea and talking sports, I was going to be the sport.

James Peek a man in his late 30’s , was the manager of the Piggly Wiggly I bagged groceries at during my senior year in high school. Red wavy hair slicked down with Ultra Brylcreem, a sheepish smile to say he was onto you, and eyes that would make you run for cover made it evident he was no fool. He had simple philosophies. Work hard, dress neatly, treat “his” customers respectfully, don’t waste, and you might survive.


My first day at work required a tour of the store and Mr. Peek was my personal guide. The last stop on this whimsical tour was the stock room (aka the back room). The entrance to the stock room was an old swinging steel door like one would see in a restaurant in between the kitchen and the serving areas. This one unfortunately didn’t have a window where you could see if anyone was coming through so proper caution when approaching could save a nose from being broken.

The back room was where Mr. Peek, gave his new recruits boot camp. Standing tall with his hands on his hips slightly bent over forward to make sure I could hear him he began to call out his repertoire of rules- “Rule #1- I’m the boss and what I say goes, understand?” as he held up 1 finger. “Rule #2- I will treat you like I would treat my own kids, understand?” as he held up 2 fingers. “Rule #3- If you are ever rude to “my” customers, we will have us a talk back here, understand?” as he held up 3 fingers. By this time in my indoctrination, I was hoping he was missing some fingers, so I could get out of there. I was wondering if he was going to tell me to hit the floor and give him 20. By now, my mind was thinking, the Marines were using Piggly Wigglies as a cover for recruiting and I’m standing in front of my Drill Sergeant.
“Do you understand the rules?” he said sternly looking straight into my eyes. “Yes Sir” I replied while my mind replayed the rule book. Let’s see, you’re the boss, you will beat me within an inch of my life like you do your kids, and if I break Ms. Smith’s eggs or squash Ms. Jones bread, I get an all expense paid trip to the torture chamber. Now I know why there was no window on that swinging door.
The store set up was all designed so Mr. Peek could watch all the action. His office was right inside the front entrance to the store. It was an elevated open office with half walls, so that it looked down at everyone and he had a clear shot- I mean view of everyone and everything. Strategically placed mirrors where he could see every aisle and I saw him toss out more than one shoplifter that he caught. Justice was swift. No police, just him as the escort out with a shout “Don’t ever come back in my store” like Marshall Dillon restoring law and order. From his throne he could rightfully claim that he was King of the Piggly Wiggly Empire and many people paid him homage and tributary by shopping there.
The store was built on a hill and the parking lot had a steep grade toward the end. The back entrance door had a steep decline that ran about 50 yards downhill and into the lower end of the parking lot which made for great downhill runs with the shopping carts while we rode them and used our shoes for brakes.
Mr. Peek reigned supremely and wisely. Saturdays were the busiest days and all hell broke loose if it was double or triple coupon day. I knew Mr. Peek would be more agitated on these days so I prayed for mercy every night before going to bed. “Dear God- Now I lay me down to sleep, tomorrow I might die at the hands of Mr. Peek, if I should die before I’m through, I pray the Lord, Mr. Peek does too.” Amen!
Mr. Peek knew the name of his loyal customers. Every old lady south of the Mason-Dixon Line and west of the Mississippi shopped there. He engaged his customers with a rousing robust southern, “Howdy, how are you today?” and with a hand on their shoulder and look into their eyes, “I appreciate ya.” He was a master purveyor of charm and wit, a true salesman and showman that rang up sales of twice that of larger stores in the chain.
“His” customers were quick to tell on you if eggs were broken or bread squashed from poor bagging. The cost of replacing them came out of your pay check and that could mean no money left over for date night. No one called labor boards to bail them out, that’s the way it was.
Mr. Peek had his good side and would also defend you. One of his customers, a man in his 40’s, was trying to “hit” on me. At first I thought he was just being friendly with me, a guy thing, until he made it abundantly clear that he had ulterior motives. To a 17 year old teenage boy in 1968 this was rather unsettling. I advised Mr. Peek of whom it was and he was astonished as it was a very loyal customer. However, he believed me and approached this man with my accusations and promptly escorted him out of the store and in very direct language advised him that he would personally take care of him if he ever came back.
We live in a time where we need more Mr. Peeks. Those who are not afraid to stand up and tell it like it is. Those who work hard, have values, and take action. Those who don’t pander to public opinion, or bow at the altar of compromise and that follow through on commitments on their beliefs. Mr. Peeks was fundamentally driven, nothing wavering, a true patron of the America I once knew. I’m grateful for those like him, although tough, that knew they were passing onto my generation the values and ethics that would be needed in my world. Though Mr. Peek is gone, his memory like all great warriors of those times, goes on in the hearts and minds of those like me, that he cared enough to tell it like it was—

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Health Care and Other Stuff

Health Care and Other Stuff
I actually listened to Obama’s speech last night. I will give the man good grades for being an orator but long on rhetoric lacking in specifics. However, here is MY opinion on several things:
Health care reform is needed. I haven’t run into anyone, no matter the political persuasion that doesn’t agree. The debate is how to achieve reform and who is to administer it is the bigger issue. I have some of my own ideas to add. This is by no means comprehensive, just talking points--
Tort Reform- This is a tricky area. We all know of doctors and hospitals that quite frankly are incompetent and those need to be held accountable for negligent acts that results in death or permanent injury. How much to hold those accountable are the questions. Allowing liability attorneys to run amuck is not the answer. I believe Texas where I live have tort reform which limits the amount of damages. Some tort reform also cuts down on frivolous actions brought on by unsavory attorney’s trying to make a buck by making the plaintiff pay the defendant damages if they lose. Obviously someone bringing this type of action stands to lose big. The downside of this is those that should bring actions don’t in fear that their attorney will lose the case. Tort reform is a two-edged sword. You can bet lawyers lobbyists are greasing major palms in DC and never want this to see the light of day, democrats, and republicans or otherwise.
Pre-Existing Conditions- This has always been an out for insurance companies. This needs to be banished no matter what reform happens, everyone I know agrees. Why should anyone be negated for 6 months or more due to a job change especially if that job change was involuntary? It’s time insurance companies come clean and by the way, the reason that government gets involved in our lives outside of idealism is that free enterprise( oxymoron) involves a great deal of unbridled GREED by huge corporate interests among others and public outcry for THE GOVERNMENT TO DO SOMETHING. Don’t you know politicians love it? How about free enterprise, become more enterprising and come up with marketplace ideas that will work and how about the government not trying to figure six ways to Sunday of how to tax it to death? Is it possible that CEO’s can live on less than a few million dollars a year and not have homes spread out across the globe? Take a Disney cruise every now and then and get down with the ‘little” people.
Illegal Immigration – Get to the back of the line please. I’m not against anyone no matter who, what and where they are from trying to do better. That does not mean doing better is freewheeling in the US as a means to an end. Go back to your country of origin and if things aren’t quite working out the way you like it there, then start a revolution and correct it. I’m tired as a natural born citizen who happens to be white, 58 and male being put to the back of the line. It’s not your turn because you have suffered more than I and it’s only fair that I spend time on the bench so you can rifle our social services. I have forefathers who built this country ground up and they all suffered, so take your suffrage act to another stage with you on the way out of the door. Starting now, if an illegal immigrant is treated in the US, the full amount of that treatment should be billed back to the country of origin for payment if the illegal immigrant can’t pay which usually is the case. If the country of origin refuses to pay for that treatment, then whatever aid we are doling out to that country gets offset by the amount of billings. Let’s not make this a government issue but a private issue. Private enterprise could do the billings and collections and not create another government run bureaucracy and we could send Dog the Bounty Hunter to enforce collections if necessary!
Taxing small business 8% of payroll to offset non-participation- Okay Obama, when did you own a business? This is absurd to say out of one side of your mouth that small business is the backbone of the American economy and then tax it for not participating. It’s not a tax but a penalty for not going along with the game plan. It’s a fact that 90% of small business fail in the first 5 years. Are we shooting for 100%, and then penalizing it for non-participation will insure that. I have started several small businesses (let’s call them micro business) and I can tell you it’s not a picnic. It is a lot of work and most are done on shoestrings, I know. Banks are not business friendly, and will not loan you a dime but they want your checking, savings and any other investment vehicles deposited into their institution. Unless you can collaterize you have nothing. I was fortunate enough at one time to actually grow a business to a point where I could offer health insurance to my employees. It gave me great pleasure to know that I could do that by being an enterprising and growing business, not because I was being forced into voluntary compliance (another oxymoron)- Give up on this idea
Indigent Care – I’m sure hospital emergency rooms are fed up with seeing the same people show up for emergency care due to gunshot, stab wounds, drugs, alcohol and such. You know the ones. These are the ones who are trying to do themselves in by their actions and they just keep doing it and keep showing up. I’m not advocating non- compassion,, God knows we need more, but there has to be a limit. I realize that a lot of them have mental issues, but maybe if they didn’t involve themselves in the ways they are going, they wouldn’t have mental issues. Not all, but some. I’m sure the think tank philosophy on this is they are collateral damage and it comes with the territory so why try to think of anything else. Where are the mega churches? Instead of begging for money endlessly and selling your books under the guise of evangelism why don’t you hit the streets with your “partners” and make a real difference. Those of you who “claim” you have the power to “heal” why aren’t you doing it? If I believed that I had the power to heal people by touching them, I would be in every hospital non-stop and then we wouldn’t have any need for health care! Get off the TV and get out on the streets and not just around the Holidays as to make a show. I’m sickened by your unfettered and unscriptural fleecing of others for personal gain. Praying over letters, handkerchiefs, trinkets as “healing’ methods is a joke. Wake up America and THINK for yourself.
Funding Health Care by eliminating waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid- Surely you jest. If you know that there is $500 billion of waste and fraud in these services, then studies have been done to discover this. If so then you know the source of the problems. What is being done NOW about that, and WHY hasn’t anything been done about it before? Why haven’t Republicans or Democrats done anything about it in the past? Political football maybe? No one gets any points here, if you know it then do something about it w/o creating more waste. Seems to me these oversight committees have poor vision. Let’s get real about how to pay for things. Yes, eliminating waste and fraud is a good step, but the likelihood of any significant gains there is unrealistic. It takes money so can anyone say TAXPAYER?
Funding Abortions- Nope, all that does is encourage bad behavior. Please don’t give me this women’s right argument. That’s intellectualism and has nothing to do with rights. Unwanted pregnancies? Then quit having sex or UNPROTECTED sex. I know I am stepping on toes but I don’t care. Your unwanted baby could make another couple happy that can’t have children for one reason or another. That baby could become somebody some day, like PRESIDENT, and do some real good. My paternal grandmother died at the age of 26 in 1929 from a botched abortion and subsequently bled to death. I’m not banging drums for “safe” abortions. In my book abortion is legalized murder. Hope your toes didn’t get too bruised. You men that get women pregnant and then desert them, step up to the plate. If you don’t then you are not men just nanny’s and all the tattooing in the world doesn’t make you anything other than trash.. 70% of black babies born today are born out of wedlock, and 15% of the remaining 30% desert, leaving 15% of blacks with a family. Can you say crime? Black people do your race some good and someone please step forward and say it. Are you listening REVERENDS?
Enough already—
Jeff

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Walking Memory Lane- A Time of Reunion

Walking Memory Lane, Time of Reunion
1969-2009
The moment the last bell rung on May 29th, 1969 to now 40 years later seems all at once yesterday and vivid, yet distant and unattached like cells in my brain. August 29th, 2009 reunited classmates, who came from as far away as Japan to reminisce about old times, fun times, and the carefree days of our youth.
The reunion started with the meet and greet. The room was buzzing with smiles, hugs and old people. For a moment I thought I had stumbled upon Happy Trails To You Nursing Home. There was a table where we cashed in our tickets for wine, beer or other spirits but we had options on Geritol, Ex-Lax, Viagra with 4 hour warning label, or Grecian Formula at another table. Realizing I had entered into a production for a new reality show” Born to be Wild Baby Boomers Tire Easily” I quickly got past the denial stage of age and onto acceptance. Why waste time I grew old just standing there.
Reunions at this point in our lives spark fear and trepidation in some. Questions come to mind like, what if I don’t remember names, faces and do I measure up and most importantly can anyone see my Depends through my pants. None of us can see or hear at this age so recognition is quickly remedied by taking a quick peek at the name tag. Yes, I peeked while maintaining eye contact, while the other eye darted, scanned and uploaded the photo and name tag firmly attached to everyone’s chest into what’s left of my processing unit and matched it against the FBI’s most wanted list. This way, I appeared to be mentally intact with a brilliant memory and I think I fooled no one.
It’s easy to mis-associate at this level, like placing names with occupation or how you remember others. While shaking hands and speaking to a couple of classmates, Paula came up and made a gesture like she was playing an air guitar and said” Jeff, are you still playing music and do you still have a band?” “ I play some guitar but only to myself behind closed doors in a padded cell” I replied. She told everyone standing there, “I use to love to go and watch Jeff and his band play.” “It was so much fun” she continued. I thanked her for the kind comments about my music and band that I never had. It’s okay Paula, we will get you some help soon and thanks for the fantasy.
On the way to the rest room, I heard my name being called out behind me. Hearing voices at this age is a bad connotation. Most mass murderers claim they heard voices. I continued on but the voice wouldn’t leave me. Slowly I turned to look and I saw Richard waving at me to come over to his table. I first I thought he was swatting flies, but I ambled over to be safe. “Jeff, do you think Cabo is a good place to retire to?” he asked. “I’m trying to convince my new wife that it is” he continued. I’m nodding my head and pursing my lips and said “I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s great” I replied. “You are still in the travel business-- aren’t you?” he queried. “I was in the freight business for many years and long ago, but not the travel business” I replied. Sorry Richard, you’ve lost your first argument with your new wife but I think I can get you and Paula a group discount at The ‘Home.”
Men are lucky to live this long and never have to make a name change unless we convert to an Islamic Terrorist Organization and become jihadists. Being able to still pronounce names, most no more than 2 syllables like Bob, Jack, Ed, Sue, Gayle, Jim, Pat and Leslie is refreshing. Imagine that I changed my name to Akbar Said Mohammed Ephat- Try putting that on a name tag in small letters. Now along comes Paula imitating an explosive device saying, “Akbar- do you still blow things up?”
Women through divorce or death of a spouse may have 4-5 last names now. I think I saw this on a name tag. Linda (Jones, Smith, Woods, Brady, Martin____________) McNeil. I asked her what the blank was for after Martin and she said no sense in stopping now. I thought it was a brilliant retirement plan.
The DJ’s spun music of our time which I personally thought and still do was and is the best. White boys still can’t dance! When we were young we would get a bit intoxicated and relaxed and our brains would trick us into thinking we had soul. This would translate into our bodies through some metamorphic chemical mutation and make us bust out into” I feel good, like I knew I would” with all manner of jerking motions. Now, we don’t need intoxicants to convince us of this. We have less brain cells now competing for our bodies so while we still think we can bust out the moves; we can’t remember why we still can’t dance. It’s all good.
The time, as expected, passed quickly. In our younger years we would shut everything down and ask why everyone was leaving at 2:00 a.m. By 9:00 P.M. our spouses were in a complete coma of boredom, looking at their watches wondering when it was all going to end. By 10:00 P.M. we all had missed our bedtimes- As we departed there was still some Geritol, Ex- Lax, and Grecians Formula on the table, but there was a run on Viagra!
The world is much different now than as we knew it but maybe it’s a matter of perspective. When we were young we saw the possibilities before us not the dangers, nor the disappointments life dole’s out. We only saw the positive and us in it and how we would change things for the better. Have we succeeded? What has changed as a result of us being out there and does it matter? I submit that things have changed and it does matter in the sense we took our places, made our moves, immersed ourselves in whatever it was that drove us. In that effort we all made contributions to those around us regardless of how large or small we have made a difference. Hail to thee AHS class of 69.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Ramblings of Riley: Letting Go of Mom#links#links#links

The Ramblings of Riley: Letting Go of Mom#links#links#links

Simply Me- A Tribute

To Steve—A Tribute

Simply Me

From time to eternity you now find your rest-
Letting go of earthly things to be better blessed...
You walked the journey we call life-
You're music was not want of strife...

Perfect-- none of us could ever be-
We walked what we knew as far as we could see...
Out of step from what others claim-
You lived--and breathed not to be the same...

Music was your friend and a way to find-
Answers to questions of things we mind...
Les Paul, Gibson, and Martin you called friends-
Whom you shared with others with hearts on mend...

Rest easy now your road is left for others to walk-
To hear your music as they silently talk...
Of melodies of life fast and slow-
The way you played it and let it flow...

Eternity is time standing still you have found-
Now the beauty of streets of gold and angelic sound...
Play your smooth rhythms and driving leads-
In harmony with God--- you are now free... to be simply me.

Thanks Steve for sharing your life, your way, without apology.

Allen R. Jeffries
Aka, Jeff Riley
6-11-2009

Monday, August 24, 2009



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Ville

Happy Ville
Welcome to Happy Ville the sign read. Please check your glumness at the door before proceeding, it continued. Sadness, anger, bitterness, crying, depression shall not enter these gates. Happy Ville will provide joy, peace, tranquility, fun and laughter and will be your ever present companions.
Upon depositing my baggage upon the outskirts of Happy Ville, I proceeded through the gates. God met me there. Not like I pictured Him sitting on a big white throne, hurling lightning bolts at everyone on Earth. He was personal, jovial, a warm presence with a sense of Supreme assurance. We walked on for a while just chatting about good things. He listened very well to all I had to talk about. I could talk of none but good for I had checked my baggage at the door. I told Him how I remembered my mother and how she loved to laugh and he nodded his head in an understanding manner.
God pointed to a beautiful house, tall and majestic, laden in gold. The finest of architectural details were well apportioned on the outside. Looking at the house, I felt an overwhelming peace enmesh my soul. I heard laughter emanating from within. I heard my mother’s voice. I ask God if I could take a peak in and He escorted me to what appeared to be a window. He, with a smile on His face said for me to go ahead and peer in, taking great delight in my child like enthusiasm. The window was more like a cloud, yet transparent. I peered in and saw my mom arrayed in beauty of white, fully herself in appearance and with joy abounding.
We walked on and the further we walked the more beauty of Happy Ville was revealed. Water fountains that sounded like calm winds gently blowing through the air. Gardens of flowers and roses of every kind and color, more brilliant than the colors of a rainbow lined the walkways. There were strands of towering trees gently swaying as I walked by. I noticed a gardener busy tending the garden. He whistled beautiful old Gospel songs as he went about his work. I ask God who he was. God called him over and I instantly knew him. My dad gave me a hug that wrapped me in warmth much like a gentle fire feels when sitting next to a fireplace on a cold winter morning.
Everything was draped in a peace that was difficult to understand, yet I knew. The tranquil quietness was pierced with bursts of more laughter and harmonic singing in the distance. The sound of children merrily playing echoed throughout Happy Ville. There was no cold or heat in the air only a feeling of contentment embraced me. I looked up into the bright beautiful skies above and saw birds of every kind peacefully soaring and playfully indulging one another. There was no sun yet the light that prevailed over Happy Ville was bright enough to blind but I could see perfectly.
God was wonderfully enchanted with how I appeared while we were walking. I could tell He was well pleased with my excitement at all of what I had seen and heard. God was like a doting father with his child that he loves and adores and only wants his happiness.
As we strolled further along the walkways, more and more people began to appear onto me. I suddenly heard my name being called out from behind me in an old voice I once knew. “Jeff”, the old voice with a hint of Dutch German in it called out. As I turned to see, I saw my old friend and mentor, Art Haar. Art had been 90 years old and was now as lively and jovial as could be. With his rotund belly, steely hands, and grandfatherly gaze he looked me in the eyes and said, “I know longer have to kick sand in the devil’s face, Jeff.” With that he gave be a big hug and as he always would tell me” I love ya.” I laughed with him as we remembered those times we met and talked about better things that he now had. How wonderful I felt.
As I turned back around I was suddenly standing in the midst of a host of others and great commotion of excitement was all around. I had never seen such a display of joyful anticipation in everyone’s face. Though I knew not their names, strangely I knew them all. I could sense whose mom, dad, brothers, sisters, husbands and wife’s they once were. The overflowing abundance of tranquil joy in their faces gave me an assured hope that all is well with them in Happy Ville
I could hardly contain myself and thought what a wonderful place Happy Ville is. There was no place like it. Time was gone and no one hurried. There was no day, no night, only the eternal light that never stopped shining.
God then told me that he wanted to show me something extra special. We entered into a great expanse. Untold millions through the ages filled this expanse, yet there was still more room. All eyes were directed toward one person walking amongst them. Though millions surrounded Him, it was as though He knew everyone personally, face to face. No one had a better view than another. I then asked God “Who is this?” “It is my Son in whom I’m well pleased” He replied. I gazed upon Him and knew that I was complete.
I awoke from the night. Still groggy from sleep, I realized that Happy Ville had been a dream. I lay next to my wife and calmness, peace, and happiness over whelmed me. Though a dream, it was real enough to allow me to escape for a while my mortal bonds and conflicts of this life knowing someday I will return to Happy Ville--Today I will have contentment---

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Letting Go of Mom

LETTING GO OF MOM


“Don’t you think that Mom belongs in a nursing home?” my sister argued.
“No, I don’t” I responded. “As long as we are able to help take care of her in our home we will.” I continued.
“How will you do that?” my brother asked.
“I don’t have a clue but we will figure it out.” I responded.
Thus began an odyssey that would challenge my will, patience, and relationships, but would provide to all involved a look into our futures through the eyes of learning to let go.
Most of our lives are spent learning to let go. As a baby we learned to let go of the bottle or breast that fed and comforted us. As a child we learned to let go of that special toy or blanket that we drug around that gave us security. As we grow and mature we learn to let go of everything from friends, feelings, anger, bitterness, jobs, and bad habits to misplaced hope, dreams and aspirations.
However, letting go requires learning how to let go. Sometimes learning is “on the job training” especially when taking care of someone seriously ill and when that someone is your mother.
Mom came to stay with us in September of 1996 after her husband had passed away. My brother and I converted my garage in Houston, Texas into a 1 bedroom apartment designed to accommodate moms changing needs over time.
At the time she was still in good shape, but had suffered from a series of mini-strokes called TIA( transient ischemic attacks). Unlike a stroke which does more permanent brain damage, TIA’s usually cause temporary problems but worsen with time. In mom’s case the TIA’s became more common and each one took her down slowly leaving her a shell of who she was. Many trips to doctors, hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics also opened my eyes to how elderly people are over-medicated as a quick fix and how little attention is given to the stress of family caregivers.
During the 3 year time frame we took care of mom we would learn to deal with caseworkers, counselors, bureaucracy, doctors, nurses and caregivers outside of our selves. We where blessed to have picked some excellent caregivers that would provide the needed relief for my wife and I.
It was a time of reuniting and reminiscing about times gone but remembered fondly. A time of re-bonding, laughing and saying things that needed to be said. Despite the difficulty of the task it was a good time.
As mom’s condition worsened, we learned how to feed, bathe and change her diapers and even resuscitate her on more than one occasion although she didn’t want to be.
“I bet you never thought you would have to do this.” mom quipped to me one time while she could still talk, and while I was cleaning her up.
“Mom, you raised 7 kids , you fed us, changed our diapers, provided clothes, shelter and support, so now it’s our turn to do the same for you.” I responded.
Toward the end of her journey on earth, we weren’t sure she knew who we where. At some point along the way, I had learned to let go of the mom I knew a little at a time, of the time we shared, words spoken, and memories established.
I realize that not everyone is equipped emotionally to handle these experiences but if you are determined to do so, build a solid support system and be prepared for one of the biggest challenges of life.
I’m grateful for my wife, children, family, friends and strangers along the way that pitched in. Without them the task would have been impossible to complete.
November 5th, 1999 was both one of the saddest and happiest days of my life as mom quietly let go at the age of 78 to be with the Lord and to re-unite with my dad.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tale of Tales

Tale of Tales
When I think of the Grace of God, I must be in the top 10 of His examples. When I reflect on my 58 years and all the things I tried and that I’m still alive, only his Grace could be the answer.
I was raised in a family of 7 children so mischief was my middle name. It started early with me and matches. There was something about striking them and watching the glow. By the time I was 6 years old I was considering a career in arson or pyromania. I wasn’t content with striking them. It was more fun to set dry fields on fire around our house in Lafayette, Louisiana. One of my playmates across the street Cyndi who was my age was Bonnie to my Clyde. She loved to watch me set fires and I was eager to impress her with my fiery abilities. Until one day, I got caught. An especially dry field across the street and next to Cyndi’s house was set ablaze by a single match. Up until then, I was able to put small fires out by stomping on them before they got out of control. Not this time! A wind caught the flame and before we knew it a major fire had erupted. I tried putting it out with a garden hose from her house, but to no avail. I tried spitting, stomping, throwing rocks on it, but this day nothing worked. We both split the scene and before I knew it fire trucks could be heard with sirens blazing in the distance. Cyndi snitched on me to her mom, probably to save herself, and my mom prosecuted me seriously with a switch of my choice! They had nabbed me---
Figuring a career in arson and pyromania was not a wise choice, I embarked on my next move. My mom and dad put all of their cancelled checks in an ice cooler. Now, being a 6 year old, I didn’t know anything about economics or money. I thought those checks were cash, after all my parents used them to get whatever they wanted. So, late at night when they were asleep, I crept into the closet where they kept them. I reached in and grabbed a handful of checks thinking I had hit the jackpot. The next day I rode my bicycle down to the local Pak-A-Sac and proceeded to the checkout stand with candy, toys, soda’s bubble gum and pretty much everything else I wanted. The store clerk looking down upon me suspiciously rang them up and gave me the total. I pulled out my new found wealth and deposited them on the counter fully expecting to leave with my purchase. The clerk laughing told me that checks weren’t money and to put it all the goods back up. I didn’t understand. I still don’t!
Again, frustrated with the lack of career paths, I decided on my next move. My next door neighbor, Frankie was a year younger than me. Frankie was kind of a sissy so I could push him around. However I was afraid of his mom who always seemed to be yelling at him, FRANKIE!!! Frankie got an allowance of 50 cents a week and I didn’t get anything but whippings. This wasn’t right in my eyes. So, I thought extortion could be a career path. One day I caught Frankie outside away from his Frankenstein mother. I shoved him up against a wall under the carport and told him that if he didn’t give me his 50 cents I was going to beat him to a pulp. Since he was wimpy and I was older he readily gave in. Handing over the loot to me I told him if he told anyone there would be trouble. Thinking my career in extortion was off to a good start, I hurried to the Pac-A-Sac and redeemed my parents cancelled checks with extortion money from little Frankie and this time I left with some goods. By the time I got back home, my mom and Frankie’s mom were lying in wait and this time, mom had a finely tuned switch made of the finest Louisiana hardwoods waiting for me. Wop---- I’m still looking for you Frankie!
What’s a 6 year old suppose to do? Life was harsh and I couldn’t find my direction. One day, my older brother Mike and our next door neighbor Charlie invited me to tag alone. At the far end of the neighborhood was a small cattle ranch that raised Brahma bulls. There was an especially mean one. He was a huge black snort snottin bull that would happily end my life if he had a chance. He also had a reputation for being able to jump the barbed wire fence that kept him in. He didn’t like passer-bys, especially little rebel rousing kids like myself walking by and yelling at him. This day he would get his chance. I’ve been known to take a dare or two. Mike and Charlie dared me to get in the pasture with him. They told me that if I got in there and started laughing at the bull, that he would chase me. It sounded like fun to me and maybe this was the beginning of a new career in rodeo. I slowly crawled through the barb wire fence. Killer bull was on the other side of the field so I felt safe and was emboldened to run at him yelling, laughing, and waving my hands. As I looked back over my shoulder to show Mike and Charlie what a rustler I was all I saw was their backs as they had taken off running across the street, through another barb wire fence. I turned around and much to my surprise this snot roaring behemoth of a bull was on a dead run at me. The ground was shaking, dust was flying, birds were scattering and my little Louisiana ass was running for a nearby tree. Scampering up that tree next to a huge bayou filled with alligators and water moccasins as big as this bull, I plotted my next career path as I waited for the bull to give up on having me for lunch that day-----
To be continued----

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Staying Healthy-I Think

Staying Healthy-I Think
I recently read an article that said eating fish may ward off dementia--- but I forgot where I put it. If I remember correctly though, it pointed to new evidence that a diet rich in fish, could solve the world’s supply of old people in Florida. This is groundbreaking news. Florida is the capital of dementia as evidenced by the recent real estate boom of buying cheap and going into foreclosure.
This study was done on older people in Asia and Latin America in Miami, Florida. This hypothesis was carried out by The National Brotherhood of Crab Fisherman who carried older Asians and Latino’s on long and unproductive fishing expeditions in the North Sea of Cuba. If they survived the trip they got to live. If they didn’t then it would prove that they didn’t eat enough fish and most likely dined on crabs and puked their internal organs up. This study was funded by a grant from The Fool Taxpayers in America Campaign and sanctioned by The World Federation of Wasting More Money Society.
The study proved that 20% of those who consumed more fish got fatter, grew gills and could swim faster than those that didn’t. The 20% increase in consumption spiked fish futures on Wall Street causing wide spread panic among traders. This drove up prices on speculation that 80% of the test subjects haven’t bought fish yet. The other 80% who didn’t consume more fish, bought stocks short, causing a massive sell off. The Obama administration stepped in under the Freedom for Fish Act and appointed a fish czar to oversee the smell on Wall Street.
The article also cited” that those who ate fish nearly every day of the week were almost 20% less likely to develop dementia than those who ate fish a few times a week.” I’m going to have to Forrest Gump you on that one. I’m not a smart man but momma always told me that there wasn’t any difference between “nearly every day and a few times a week.” Higher mathematics these days!
A comparative study done on “red” meat showed that those who ingested mass quantities of steaks were more likely to have dementia. They were more likely to ride in rodeos, drink beer, forget who they were, shoot guns at people, live in Texas and generally not give a crap-ola about eating fish. I’m sure if they just ate meat and not “red” meat their dementia could at least be pro- longed until after the week end was over.
Now, fish will come with a warning label- “eating this product could cause you to never forget anything your mother-in-law says”------ thus sending meat futures in a stampede on Wall Street.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

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The Ramblings of Riley: Hump Day Blues

The Ramblings of Riley: Hump Day Blues

The Ramblings of Riley: Sandcastles

The Ramblings of Riley: Sandcastles

The Ramblings of Riley: Melody of Heart

The Ramblings of Riley: Melody of Heart

The Ramblings of Riley: Alternative Fuel & Entreprenuership

The Ramblings of Riley: Alternative Fuel & Entreprenuership

The Ramblings of Riley: Benefits of a Wal-Mart Economy

The Ramblings of Riley: Benefits of a Wal-Mart Economy

The Ramblings of Riley: Play Ball

The Ramblings of Riley: Play Ball

The Ramblings of Riley: The Magical Kingdom

The Ramblings of Riley: The Magical Kingdom

The Ramblings of Riley: First Love

The Ramblings of Riley: First Love

In The Garden

In The Garden
In the Garden grows the wonders of life..
.Of remembrances of joy and strife
Of times and seasons that come and go
Of newness that abounds with the flowers it shows.

Fertile soils energy, watered with the suns living rays..
Reminds me of youthful ambition in bygone days
Spirited struggles for blossoming brillance
Continue daily for full growth resilence...

Pruned to mature with evermore branches to reach...
To others to see and to others to teach
That in the Garden grows the wonders of life
To do it all again in winters of strife.
Allen R. Jeffries (aka Jeff Riley)

Sleep

Sleep
Sweetly into the night I fall...
Tired eyes droop with my daily call
Eager to rest in peaceful sleep
Entering another world of which to reap...

Soundly I go into my dreams to find
Maybe an answer to daytimes mind
Timeless state of scenes streaming by...
In all, an answer therein lies

Resting body, spirit and soul...
Energy regained for tomorrows goals
Enthusiasm burst forth with the mornings light..
Sweetly from the night I awake,fresh with new found sight.
Allen R Jeffries (aka Jeff Riley)

Greeds'Domain

Greeds Domain
Greed like a two-fisted merchant on the corner stands...
Banging cymbals, bidding joy to the ambitous ones
Take a look he begs at my wares if you can
More is better, than having just some...

With seedy smile and cocked brow
Greed swells like an untamed river..
No boundaries proferred barks the charmers sow
Reaching into his burgeoning quiver.

Slain ones upon Greeds door knock...
No answer in return will beckoned be
For Greed will stand as a fortress of rock
Lying in wait for those who cannot see
Allen R Jeffries (aka Jeff Riley)

On Being Papa

On Being PaPa-
(For Jackson & Savannah)
In a lot of ways I have been-
Daddy, brother, son, uncle, husband and friend…
To each a place in my heart holds-
In special places of my soul…
Can it be that my blessings are so great?
None other feeling can make my heart ache…
With such happiness and joy untold-
Toddler, baby as life unfolds…
Every day new to my sweet baby’s blue-
Searching out the world around you…
Bright eyes delight, funny smiles shine bright-
Tears of joy brought forth my souls light…
I have such dreams, dreamt of your world to be-
You in it make it real to see…
Kindness, tenderness, understanding and compassions-
Be your roads companions, form and fashions…
The journey seems at times long---- but short-
With you in it life cannot abort…
Feelings of the love my heart knows-
Nor the peace that anchors my soul…
Papa Loves You
Allen R. Jeffries(aka Jeff Riley)

Old Wooden Pew

Old Wooden Pew-
Wooden floors and old wooden pews-
Preacher preaches the everlasting news…
I sit--- listen to salvation great-
Old Wooden pew is life for me of late…
Fits me fine like an old lost friend-
That’s been in wait wondering where I’ve been…
Makes me think about other days-
When lost in my often wayward ways…
It matters not to my old wooden pew-
Fits me like my favorite shoes…
Bids me welcome to sit and hear-
That still small voice, not to fear…
Deeply I wonder about sin and grace-
One without the other I cannot face…
Old wooden pew makes me feel at home-
As I listen to stories of the only light shone…
I feel alone-- yet not, but all around-
Redemption calling with unheard sounds…
Old wooden pew has brought me in-
To hear God’s call & forgiveness of sin…
Allen R. Jeffries(aka Jeff Riley)

Thoughts

Thoughts--

In contentment of quite repose-
In this letter of poetic prose…
Should I say that’s how it goes?
Or wane the day on valley lows?
I know not all of my day’s road-
Sun has risen, sky is blue bold…
Quietness of sounds echo in my mind-
As I contemplate this passing time…
Friends finding their days at end-
Eternal lights shining in…
Breath escaping soon to be gone-
Hoping to some the path has been shown…
Where shall we find the end of our days?
Lament not I have tread this way…
Live not in quite remorse-
Life is a journey with bended course…
Beckon to all I shall say-
Live Today!

Allen R. Jeffries(aka Jeff Riley)

Life's Sum

Life’s Sum
Old man memories of the days of fight-
Getting to the top was the only sight…
Yesterdays struggle to rein
Today’s answer in stark refrain….
Young energies expended on useless thoughts
What to sell, gain and who can be bought…
Accolades, handshakes and secret codes
Not what, but whom you know….
Cup of coffee, sleepy yawn, out the door with slipping mind
Bargain hunters arrive to cheaply find…
The old man’s memories not more than a dime?
At least a quarter, two bits if you would be so kind…
Life’s sum cast upon the dying yard-
For all of this I worked so hard…
Gold watches, trophies and plaques
How much in return will I get back?
For this gold watch will you take a dime?
Beckons a surly man of time…
Old man knows he can no further rein
Today’s answer he is but lame…
At least a quarter, two bits if you would be so kind…

Allen R. Jeffries
Aka Jeff Riley

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First Love

First Love
I remember the first time I saw her. I had never felt this way before. I was 15 years old and I had heard about this from all my friends in the locker room. They gave a lot of pointers of what to look for and what was important in her. I was instructed not to be in a hurry, but to go slowly, take my time and be sure about what I was doing and most of all be careful. If I made a mistake at this point well it could really cost me. My more experienced friends had already been down that road so I listened closely to what they were saying. This was a first for me and I was nervous. There is a lot of peer pressure at 15 and this rite of passage had to be executed properly.
My older brother Mike and I were out cruising one day and I told him about my feelings for her. Mike was married and had a daughter already so he knew a lot about the subject. He had already been through it more than once. A wise and experienced person I needed and because he was my brother I completely trusted his advice. He asked me where she lived and if I wanted him to take me there. I was anxious but ready to take the plunge or at least I wanted to drive by and see if I could see her. She had been outside the previous weekend soaking up some sun, so I knew she liked the outdoors.
I think what first attracted me to her was the way she looked. There’s no denying that men like to look and my boyish voyeurism wasn’t going to be denied on this babe. I’m sure she had been looked over many times. I didn’t mind because something in me said that she would be mine. Men like to show off their ladies and this beauty was sure to turn some heads. I could imagine me taking her to the prom and my classmates would swoon all over her.
We drove by again, several times. There she was, just the way I remembered her from the previous week. This time though, her beauty shined through where I couldn’t take it any longer. I noticed her every curve and contour, the way she held herself, and her dark pigmentation which highlighted her inner beauty. I had to stop. I asked Mike to circle one more time so I could muster up some courage. The last time around the expectation and excitement built until I was almost in a cold sweat.
The moment had come. Mike stopped, and I approached her timidly at first.(WARNING! The following is intended for mature audiences). I couldn’t help myself. Without saying a word I ran my hand down her long, slender body. Touching her rear end I knew I had gone too far now to turn back now. She purred sweetly when she spoke to me and her rumbling heartbeat was intertwined with mine. What could separate me now?
So, I pulled out my $800 and bought my first love, my first car a 62 Chevy Impala black with red interior.

Hump Day Blues

Hump Day Blues
(Sing it B.B King Style)
I got them middle of the week----- hump day blues-baby-
I don’t work---, but I need to- honey, hmmm, yeah
Cause if I ever got a job ba----- by--
You know my hump day blues would be true-- are you with me on this? Now listen up ya’ll
Now Monday has come and gone- baby
Tuesday more coffee down the tubes—honey, yeah
But hump day Wednesday rolls around, darling - and you know it’s true—
I can see the weekend baby, Baby- how bout you----- here it come now—
Chrous: I got them old hump day blues now baby- you know I got them old------ hump day blues- darling- but soon it will be the weekend--- uh huh---and the hump day blues got no more hold on you- say it with me now----
Now—hump day is upon my front door step- baby
I know Thursday be looking good- honey- hmmm, yeah---- stay with me ya’ll
Water cooler talk don’t get it now- darling-
Weekend getting closer by the moment- and I’m ready to go- Yeah I’m singing the blues---

Chrous; I got them old hump day blues now baby- you know I got them old-----hump day blues-darling-but soon it will be the weekend- uh huh- and the hump day blues got no more hold on you—say it with me now---

Thank goodness its Friday now baby- yeah- hmmmmmmmmmmm
Been working all week for today- sugar now baby- honey love you to- hmmm
Daddy be coming home to ya soon- darling, hmmm
Cause the man has been paid in full---- talk it up now—yeah- hmmmm

Chrous: I got them old hump day blues now baby- you know I got them old----hump day blues—darling, but now it’s the weekend baby and it’s all about me and you----- hmmmmmm, Oh yeah! Sing it ya’ll---------------------

Monday, July 27, 2009

How to BBQ Baby Back Ribs

How to BBQ Baby Back Ribs
I have been around BBQ all of my life. My dad was a Sunday BBQ man so the smell and aromas that permeated our yard and house were embedded in me early. The smell of hickory and mesquite smoke is irresistible and sure is to get you some new “friends”. I also had a small BBQ catering business in SW Florida so I have big pit practical experience as well.
Over the years I have experimented with different methods of BBQ ribs. In my early day’s pork spare ribs were mostly what I cooked. I never even heard of baby backs until about 20 years ago, but I didn’t start cooking them until the mid 90’s. If you prepare the ribs properly and know how to use a pit, then they can’t be beat. I have developed my own dry rub for this as well. I can cook them on small back yard pits and large competition style cookers as well. Knowledge of how a pit cooks is important. The right combinations of heat and smoke will impart “fall off the bone” performance ribs almost every time. I can use direct heat and indirect heat, but I like indirect the best. Indirect is when your pit has an offset smoker where you’re charcoal and wood going where the fire is not directly below your meat. I use Kingsford Charcoal and Kingsford charcoal lighter fluid. I have read many articles that teach people not to use charcoal lighter fluid because it will impart lighter fluid flavor to the meat. This can be true if you don’t let the fluid burn off completely and this is done when the charcoal has turned gray.
The Ribs
I usually buy baby back ribs from chain discount stores like BJ’s, Costco’s, Sam’s or Wal-Mart. BJ’s usually has the best selection in my opinion and the best pricing. They usually are packed 3 sides together. A side will usually feed 2-3 people on the average unless you are a hearty eater. So if you are planning a cookout you can figure 2 -3 people per side of ribs depending on mix of people, children, men, and women. Most outdoor BBQ’s come with side dishes that include potato salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, and Texas toast if you come from where I am so this calculation is fairly accurate.
Preparation
Preparation is the key that unlocks the ultimate door of the finished product. I like to prepare mine and refrigerate overnight for the next day’s cooking. I have developed my own dry rub through time and testing. Although I use a dry rub, it turns to a really nice “mucky rub” after refrigeration. This is due to the olive oil that I coat my ribs with before I apply the rub which is a mixture of various dry ingredients. Once you have applied your rub to the ribs, put in a glass casserole dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. If you don’t have the proper dish, you can just wrap the ribs tightly in aluminum foil and then place on a cookie sheet to catch any rub that drips out while in the refrigerator. This is where mucky comes in. The combination of the olive oil and dry rub will create a paste. This paste when cooked will create a bark on the meat that is primo delicious.
The Pit
The pit to the pit master is what a hammer is to a nail. You must know your pit. For the purposes of this writing, we will use a Weber charcoal grill. Although the Weber does not have an offset smoker we can use it anyway. Make a pile of briquettes to one side, using approximately 30-35 briquettes. Soak the briquettes thoroughly and liberally. Replace the grill and wait about a minute and light. Let the coals turn gray and then remove the grill add your smoking wood of choice on top and replace grill. The reason I leave the grill on why the fire gets to cooking stage is that when I put the meat it will sear the meat, helping lock in more flavors. Take the meat out of the refrigerator and lay it meat side up on the opposite side of the fire and put the top back on the pit, open the bottom draft all the way and close the top draft about ½ ways.
Now the essence of Texas BBQ is low and slow. However, in this example, I use a faster technique which requires a bit more watching than an offset smoker where your ideal temperature is around 225-250 degrees. With the method I’m explaining with the Weber, the heat will be around 350. This will reduce the cooking time approximately in half from 6-7 hours to 3 hours as opposed to cooking at 225-250. If you do this correctly you will get the same product in half the time. This takes practice and you will need to check the progress periodically since this is on a smaller pit at higher temps.
It is not necessary to flip the ribs. The combination of smoke and heat and open drafts circulates them both adequately to all sides. DON’T add any BBQ sauce (if you want any at all) until the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. If you do this too early the sauce will burn as most are heavy in sugar.

The Finished Product
How do you know when the ribs are done? There are 2 basic methods. When the meat draws down on the bone about ¼ to ½ inch or when you pick up one end of the side with your tongs and it bends and breaks in half, you’re there. Of course you will have to try it to know it but these are the basics to get you started- Bon Appetite!

Sandcastles

Sandcastles
Our lives are intertwined with hopes, dreams and aspirations. We start out young and we have energy, vision, plans, and places to go. We tackle the world with gale force winds of optimism, seeking to find our place in the scope of it all.
We marry, raise families, work, go off to war, start businesses, experience setbacks and disappointments and like sandcastles built too close to the water we watch them taken back out to sea. Tsunami’s of life sweep on us unexpectedly, wreaking destructive forces we were yet to see, but forever young we build our hopes again and we move the sandcastles back a little from the evening tides. Bigger tsunami’s wash in and breach our best laid plans, only to show us our weakness over and over again. Determined not to be defeated, we recover once again and lay a better hope of foundation and our sandcastles stand new tests of waters of trial and tribulation. We begin to lay stronger foundations and we add sticks of experience to our superstructure and we stand back and admire our handiwork.
We grow older but the tides keep rolling in and out. Our sandcastles have become works of art, and have hardened with the times. They have matured and seem impregnable as life has taught us how, where and when to build them. We have become masters of deceit of the changing tides, and rolling seas of the turbulence of this thing we call life. We are self- assured and even begin to challenge forces unseen and begin to delude ourselves that we have made it.
We have become masters of our own fate and yet our sandcastles have always been built on shifting sands and all else is deception. Tides will roll, tsunami’s will rush in again and take it all away and someday we will have words well spoken of us. The tide is the same as yesterday and thousands of years ago, today and tomorrow. Tsunamis continue to erode hopes; plans, ambitions, goals and the unseen forces of life take no heed of its challengers that build sandcastles of hope.
Yet, those who build the sandcastle of faith know that they are masters of nothing. They build like others but know faith will always rebuild what unseen forces take away. They fear not the rolling tides and tsunamis or the lapping waters at the gate of their sandcastles. The One bigger than all forces combined stands and says Be Still and all subsides in peace and tranquility for the Maker of all has built his sandcastle of salvation for all who hope in faith….

Melody of Heart

Melody of Heart
Melodic sounds of Mississippi delta river blues pierced the chilly night air. Perched upon stumps we sat next to a roaring open fire fueled from broken tree limbs on the banks of a murky river bottom canal in the backwoods of a small east Texas town. Gene wailed out rhythmic lyrics while plucking strings on his worn black acoustic guitar he lovingly called Hank.
Raised a simple unpretentious country boy with a limited education in the Mississippi bottom lands, he found a bit of heaven each time he and Hank got in beat with one another. A short stocky man with a rugged ruddy complexion, engaging dimpled smile, wavy white hair and time-worn hands belied the gentle nature of his soulful longing for escaping time with Hank. There would be many Hanks in his life.
Hank was more than a musical instrument of cat gut and fine wood; it was a marriage of sound and soul molded together between man and desire to visit the longings of heart. Hank embodied all that welled up within Gene’s life, heartaches, losses and joys. Gene found himself through an instrument tuned to notes and his timing of thoughts of life.
Meandering through booths of vendors at the local flea markets, Gene would indulge his second passion of deal making. A Mississippi country boy brought up during the Great Depression, he was well endowed with the tactical skills of a hardened general on the battleground and was well prepared to engage in the art of bartering and negotiating for almost anything. His watchful eye scanned the flea market tables looking for everything from pocket knives to maybe a new “Hank”. Once he locked in what most interested him, the deal making playbook would unravel with ease. His downward look, cocked eyebrow and matter-of-fact charm would indulge him to make a low ball offer to the wary vendor who was of equal cunningness. A game of cat and mouse would ensue until one of the other would either give in or walk away from the deal. The pursuit of the deal was more important than its’ object. Often using his patented walk away tactic, he would let the deal cool down only to come back later and finalize much to his advantage.
His eyes would light up like the sun over darkness when the object was another potential Hank. To him there were other Hanks waiting to be discovered. Perhaps, he thought another Hank could bring him a different tune or melody. Trading Hanks was like a kid in a pet store leaving with a new puppy that captures the emotions.
His last deal was not with flea market vendors, but a covenant with God. At the age of 69 a cancerous tumor was discovered near his spine that would eventually prove fatal. Confined for 2 months in a veteran’s hospital, he would go through what we would all go through, denial, anger, withdrawal and finally, acceptance. I visited with him often and we discussed many things, life, and family and getting right with God; we would laugh and reminisce as if all was well. Gene was my father-in-law, but more than that simply a friend and country boy like me finding a kindred spirit in our journey.
Not wanting to depart this world in a sterile cold hospital He asked to go home. Within two days of coming home, and as the breath of life ebbed away, we found him in his room staring at the ceiling whispering to the angels sent to bring him home, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” I’m sure as the angels embraced him and lifted his soul away from his earthly tent, the sweet melodies of the symphony of Hank’s in his heart brought peace to him as he did to us.

Alternative Fuel & Entreprenuership

Alternative Fuel & Entrepreneurship
America is too dependent on foreign fuel sources and to break this dependency America needs forward thinking individuals who can solve this mounting problem. Bureaucratic government and political candidates love to use this problem during election cycles as a means to convince the VOTING public that they can solve it if only elected to office.
The latest buzz is GREEN. Everything must be green, which is code for earth friendly carbon foot- stepping. Only the brazen idiots in DC could allow such nonsense to pervade the voting psyche. What they really mean is green as in CASH. Yes, I know it’s difficult to believe, that politicians would actually try to make a buck off it. I’m sure none of them own any stock, or sit on any boards of companies that are now racing with wreck less abandon to discover, innovate, develop and produce the great green machine that would sever America’s dependence on foreign oil sources. Why that would be a conflict of interest and we all know politicians only are there to serve the public’s interest—Uh Huh.
Well, not to fear America, I have discovered the answer and it’s simple, it’s cheap depending on where you buy it from, it’s plentiful, organic, and green and it comes in various options. No politician has gotten slimy enough YET to know about this, but there is hope and I’m sure if they get wind of this, Bernie Madoff will be pardoned so he can develop a myriad of pyramid schemes and call them investments.
It’s the bean burrito with rice. Yes, I know you are as astonished as I am but you must trust me, because I come from a long line of entrepreneurs at the unemployment office and folks like us are always keeping our nose to the ground in search of the untapped, niche business to make it big. My dad, his dad, his dads dad, here a dad, there a dad, everywhere a dad, (Kind of catchy don’t you think) were all entrepreneurs all the way back to the beginning, wherever that was, I think in a garden somewhere in Eve. I think that is in the middle of the east somewhere over in the land of Allah. I could have my facts right on this but don’t check it out.
A plain bean burrito with rice is just a regular unleaded burrito and only will get you so far. It’s guaranteed to clog you up a bit. If you throw on some cheese, lettuce and tomato, now you have premium unleaded and that will make your vehicle run smoother without all of the knocks and pings. I know this is true because I saw it on TV but don’t ask me when. I think I read about it also in Sports Illustrated next to a Gatorade commercial, so you know its true- really. However, and this is most important, the government hasn’t regulated and taxed it yet and tagged it with spurious warning levels with skull and crossbones letting us know they are watching out for us. Wow, I sleep better now and all this time I thought it was my new pillow.
Lastly, there is Super Duper Premium Unleaded Bean Burrito with the works including Phi Jamma Lamma Salsa. This is the highest of octane ratings and is the ultimate Mt. Everest of burritos that is guaranteed to have a radioactive half life of 1000 years once it has been produced, refined, turned into various propulsion and non-propulsion purposes like peeling paint from the inside of your car, or cleaning your dog without bathing them, or emitting a colorless gas that is surely to take your neighbors by surprise especially the ones you don’t like, which is most of them. This stuff is so potent that I could sell it to Nasa to power the next launch to discover life on Mars on one fill up, then we will know where we came from, a micro-organism buried hundreds of miles deep in ice under the Martian landscape. And I thought we were created. Where was I during classes on evolution of the species? Wasn’t that the class I took in World History?
Of course having the natural resources that will solve oil dependency is nothing and I mean absolutely nothing without a processing plant that can convert a bean burrito with rice and various condiments into useful fuel and household products like arsenic.
So this new and revolutionary idea requires a fully functional processing plant with refining capabilities. This is where the entrepreneurship bit comes in handy. It’s times like these and ideas like this to put people back to work and out of the unemployment line. Just think how many people could benefit from this. I can’t.
I have discovered by accident a standalone processing plant with refining capabilities and if I can figure this all out by midnight tonight, I could put a patent on it and begin production immediately, like tomorrow morning, after coffee of course and maybe a couple strips of bacon. I like donuts also but last I checked the cops had patents pending.
My discovery is only 4 feet tall, lightweight for a production processing plant at 90 pounds and is totally portable. My nine year grandson Matt can inhale maximum quantities of bean burritos and in approximately 12- 24 hours can produce gas non-stop for a minimum of 2 days. I timed it, but with my gas mask on, of course. He is a one man show. Shovel burritos in, get gas out. I can’t figure out how to put handles on him or a hose for dispensing properly but if I stand him out in the yard when he “feels” one firing up and he’s not howling at the moon, it’s amazing how green the grass will turn-instantly. Beano and Gas X are no match for this amazing find. I think I could even solve the Cap and Trade Energy thing going on butt that’s for another day, cause my wife’s telling me to get off the computer.

Play Ball

Play Ball
Tryouts! This must be a misprint I thought as I read the ad in the local newspaper. I was 50 years old and in SW Florida they had tryouts to play senior men’s softball. The ad read tryouts for the upcoming league would be held at BMX Park. I had quit playing ball at the age of 39 thinking I was getting too old and ran the risk of serious injury. However, having played since I was 6 years old, the love of playing the game would never leave me.
Curious, I told my wife that I was going to go to the tryouts. I jokingly laughed and said this will be funny to see a bunch of old geezers trying out. What would it be? To see who could get their wheelchair to 1st base the fastest? My mind danced around with visions of elderly people with dementia running around a ball field repeating over and over, I got it, I got it!
I dug out my old ball glove and made a quick trip to Wally World to find a bat. When I last played wooden bats were the bats of choice as aluminum bats had not yet become popular among players. There were no wooden bats so I picked the cheapest aluminum bat I could find.
Arriving at the park for the try outs I was a bit nervous. Though I was a good player when I played, some rust had accrued now that I was the ripe old age of 50. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Slowly, I approached the entrance to the field where numerous players were shagging fly balls, while each took turns batting. There were 2 others walking around with clip boards taking notes. I walked up to one and asked what the routine was. His heavy Brooklyn accent was difficult to understand. Being a Southern boy, I needed someone to speak a little slower. I was instructed to go into the outfield and shag some balls and then wait until it was my turn to bat. He took note of what positions I played or desired to play.
Standing in the outfield waiting for my opportunity to impress those around me with my fielding prowess, I was transformed. I was taken back in time like Ray Kinsela in Field of Dreams. Freshly mown grass, the smell of leather, popping of gloves as fly balls were fielded, and the idle chatter of players reminded me of days gone by. Instead of seeing middle aged men, I now saw boys. Men will always be boys, and boys will always be boys. The fun and love of playing ball was not lost today. Instead of seeing men with gimped up knees, and slowing gaits I saw boys with enthusiasm, lightning speed, laughing, kidding one another. Some had sunflower seed pouches protruding from back pockets, while others had their favorite dip of bubble gum. The intensity of competition was evident as balls were fielded and tossed back in. This was serious business.
A lot of the players were either retired from the North, like New York, Jersey, or snow birds. Snow birds were the ones who came to live in Florida from April to November and return back to their Northern home the remainder of the year. They got the best of both worlds. Playing slow pitch softball in the grapefruit leagues in Florida was heaven come to earth.
There was big Jim Dollar. Standing 6’4” weighing 250 pounds, he was the epitome of the game we all loved. He played the game with passionate exuberance. A spirited and fiery field general that barked out orders to those under his charge, He ignited the passion and competitive drive that we all had. He liked to win as much as anyone but to him winning was in the trying. Losing was not as important as the effort put forth and if we lost due to poor effort we heard about it. He reminded me of many coaches I had through the years never quite satisfied, winning or losing. “Winners never Quit and Quitters never Win.” was his daily mantra.
There was Bob Faulkner, equal in physical presence as Jim Dollar. Bob’s passion was as great as Jim’s but his tactics were different. Bob was cunning, a true discerner of talent. Bob’s observant skills of player’s strengths and weakness made him an outstanding coach and player. He was gifted with selecting the perfect palette of players, enmeshing the correct balance, of power, speed, ability, emotion and camaraderie amongst players. His teams played like a finely tuned orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Bob was the maestro of softball.
Fast Eddie, Eddie Steinwahn, was an elementary school principal. Eddie and I played next to each other in the outfield. We quickly bonded as fellow outfielders, vowing to never let a fly ball hit the dirt, not in our territory. This was blasphemous! Eddie had blazing speed for a man in his late 50’s and endowed him with the ability to catch up to fly balls that others may not be able to. Equally gifted running the bags, he was a hard out to come by and was always a leadoff batter. A consummate cheerleader on and off the field, Eddie’s gift for encouragement and his always present, “will get em next time” attitude was a reminder there would be other days.
Dave Joseph was a power hitter. Strong, agile and defining the word competition, he lived sports. Besides softball, he refereed hockey and other sports. He was a product of Buffalo, NY, the frozen tundra as I often chided him. When he stepped to the plate mostly as a cleanup hitter, we often saw balls sail over 300 foot fences. He and I would bond off the field as well. We played together in the Florida Half Century League, a state league with monthly tournaments. He and I would room together when our wives’ did not make it. We shared our beliefs, our faith, our weakness, and disappointments like true friends do. We still enjoy a great friendship of encouragement and support today.
Going to those tryouts gave me a fresh approach to the cycles of life. Meeting new people, playing a game I love, interacting socially on and off the field invigorated my spirits. The soul of the game is still alive in me and others. Age has not defied us our passions. It has rather spurned us on to take on new challenges, not to quit. This elixir we call playing ball cannot be matched by other potions. Many players had lost their wives through death so ball became their companion, a healing salve to mend the wounds of loss. Standing on a field taking in all that life has brought us, remind us of who we really are. Just boys with dreams and hopes, now aging men, we count the blessings of our lives and the opportunity to play again. In our minds, we still hear the roar of the crowd gathered, we feel the freshness of the breeze on our face, the warmth of the sun on our brow as we gather to------- Play Ball.

The Magical Kingdom

The Magical Kingdom
Four years ago I flew my Arkansas grandkids, Matt and Ally and my daughter Heather from my first marriage to Cape Coral, Florida where we lived at the time. This was the first time they have flown and I was naturally concerned for them. After all, flapping your arms for 1200 miles can be fairly challenging. The flight went well and they all enjoyed it and were beaming like headlights on bright as they came off the plane. They have never been to Disney World so we decided to make the 3 hour trek to Orlando for some magical kingdom fun. The grandkids were so excited and could hardly contain themselves. We sang songs, like M- I –C K- E-Y MOUSE and I did my best impression of Donald Duck. Somewhat unintelligible garb, but if it sounds like a duck it must be a duck. However I think I like Goofy the best-- I can identify with his Dum de Dum way of it all. In the back of my mind, I could see him telling Clark W. Griswold, “Sorry folk’s parks closed” after a cross country trek to Wally World. Upon arriving, I pulled my truck into the parking space, put her in park and we all bailed out. The kids had ants in their pants or maybe they just had to use the bathroom. Off in the distance I could sense the crescendo of the day building as the looming tower of the Magical Kingdom beckoned kids everywhere to a fun filled day of fantasy--- and parents with pocketbooks. We hopped onto a tram that took us to the front gate where the real magic began, that of lifting some serious coin from my pockets. After taking out a mortgage at the window to gain entrance we entered into the twilight zone---Uhh-- I meant the magical kingdom. After the kids found the first bathroom, (wasn’t ants after all) and completed that mission, we followed the rest of the swelling multitudes of munchkins to a gigantic ferry. The ferry reminded me of the ones you think about in old Mark Twain stories like Huckleberry Finn, paddle wheels and all except this one was wider than the Mississippi River. Well, we boarded the ferry and went up on the top deck and to the front and there it was. Across the lake the mirage of magic, the temptress and seducer of fantastical delight, chimed her silent illusion. As we got closer, Matt busted out into one of his white kids can’t dance moves in excitement. Ally, looked at him laughing heartily and thinking with cocked brow “and you’re my brother?” The ferry gently pulled into its mooring and once stopped the kingdom shuffle began. As we stepped dockside and moved through the pearly gates, Goofy met us with a “Howdy Folks” and a high five. Yep, today was going to be a day of memory building that Matt and Ally would never forget. The smell of hot dogs, cotton candy mixed with the intense Florida sun, made me want to find the nearest tavern that served up adult beverages--! Oops, this is about the kids. Disney characters were everywhere and little street plays and singing filled the air with such surreal delight. Little kids tugging and pulling on Mickey and Minnie Mouse not knowing someone was on the inside. I thought and wondered what the kids on the inside of those Disney suits were thinking as they tried to “nicely” shake off the little ones wrapped around their ankles. “Why you little brat, if I could I would drag you through the streets, how’s that for some magic? “ “They don’t call me Goofy for nothing.” Oops, there I go again, back to the story. Once we got past the entrance, we quickly picked up a map, compass, and GPS device, infrared night vision goggles just to be safe. After all, the enormity of this magical tour would surely immerse us into paths unknown as we meandered through to find the perfect ride, show and entertainment. Since Matt was 5 and Ally 8 at the time, zeroing in on age appropriate rides was paramount. Also, I must confess, I’m not one who calls fun, getting my insides thoroughly shaken, not stirred, a highlight of the day. Watching others on theses rides, being inverted, dropped, looped, spun all at the speed of light and all within an inch of their lives, reinforced my opinion that Walt Disney was a masochist and only hired engineers that were. However, I take delight in watching the expressions on people’s faces as they whiz by me and yell- OH GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. There seems to be an abundance of religion on those rides and I’m sure many promises are made to God, like” If you let me live through this, I promise, really, really, I will be a missionary in New Delhi.” Umm-huh. The next 8 hours were spent, hustling from one ride to the next or one show time to the next. In between, thunder showers rolled through providing a much needed relief from the heat and a brief respite from delight. As the day worn on so did the hunger and this is where phase 2 of what I call the “magical lift” takes hold. The illusion is fun the reality is money! Now, I’m not a penny –pincher, but will someone tell me why a plain hotdog cost $5 and that I should wait 30 minutes to get it and be happy? Not to mention I have to place the order to someone who just landed in America and has no clue that English is the primary language or thank you is a common courtesy. Okay, so I’m not politically correct but that’s for another day. After getting soaked again in the pocketbook, despite the rain that had already claimed that right, we trudged on. Despite it all, the smiles and time together with Matt and Ally was priceless, what dollar amount could I possibly put on it?--- I’m thinking, I’m thinking---- The day ended on a good note as we watched the end of the day presentation at THE Magical Kingdom. It was the crowning glory, surely to imbed into Matt and Ally’s mind a fun time with their wacky papa in Florida. Hold on- this is not the end. As we began our descent back into the world of reality and began our walk back to the ferry, I reached into my pockets for my keys. Searching vainly, but none were found. I asked Heather if I had give them to her and she dug down into the deep recesses of her purse where I dare not tread and came up empty handed. No worry, I thought, I probably dropped them and someone would take them to lost and found. This is America, and most people want to help others. I know this because I watched several Americans step over numerous bodies laid waste in line while waiting for their turn on the ride of all rides, the cup and saucer! After all, aside from keys to my truck, home, office, safe deposit box, credit cards authorizations passwords, bank accounts( no problem there, it was magically drained that day!), bar coded grocery store tags, and such, I assumed they would be of no importance to anyone. As we got to the front gate, we went into the lost and found and no one had turned them in. Assuming that I had locked them in my truck in all the excitement, the lady called a locksmith for me, so I knew even at the end I was going to pay dearly. She assured me this happens all the time as to assuage my feelings of being an IDIOT, or at least that’s the look she gave me while smiling brightly and cheerfully. I gave her my parking area number and the locksmith said he knew it well and that he would meet us there. Now, I’m thinking we are going to be in the parking lot waiting for 4 hours or more. It takes about 30 minutes to get back there once we left the pearly gates. After hopping off the tram that got us to the parking lot, I quickened my pace to my truck. I jumped up on the running boards to pull myself up to see if the keys were in the ignition and at the same time I grab the door handle. Surprisingly, the door opened and a rush of cold air met me. Stunned, I realized I had indeed left my keys in the truck, in the ignition, with the truck running! Yep, in all the excitement, for 8 hours I left the truck running, doors unlocked, and a half a tank of gas. The only thing that was missing was a big sign on the tailgate that read, “Please take my truck, have fun, pick me up at 5.” Signed –IDIOT! Reeling backwards, with laughter and shaking my head while Matt, Ally and Heather broke down in hysterics, the locksmith pulls up behind me. Shaking my head and impressed that he arrived at the same time I did, I could barely say to him what I had done, still in disbelief at my senior moment. I casually walked up to his truck and explained what had happened and he didn’t crack a smile. I wasn’t sure whether he was reaching for a crow bar because of his wasted trip and his desire to maybe inflict some bodily harm, or just thinking” What an idiot!” This is where the best magic of all occurred. He said he sees it all the time, except MOST people just lock their keys in the car, NOT RUNNING. I asked him how much I owed him for his wasted time, prepared to fork over the full amount and he said- No charge- nada, zilch--. I’m thinking he’s got a story to tell others and that alone was payment enough. However, I told him that I couldn’t accept his kind gesture and he finally said $20. I gave him $40 and to me that was the best bargain of the day. So I guess at the end of the day and as I pondered it all over on the way back home, I thought after all maybe---- just maybe the kingdom has some magic even for me.