Friday, July 31, 2009

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Thursday, July 30, 2009


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)


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
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)



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 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!


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.

Benefits of a Wal-Mart Economy

Benefits of a Wal-Mart Economy
What if Sam Walton were alive today? The Barnum and Bailey marketer of old would relish in the idea of being President. Who says good things don’t come out of Arkansas; the Fouke monster did or was that Bill Clinton?
Sam was known for his ability to buy at bargain basement prices. In the early days of Wal-Mart he would drive 100’s of miles in the middle of the night to find anything cheap- like underpaid employees. If he could buy liquidated merchandise, like checkered pants and sports coats, he would pay pennies on the dollar. He would then rush them back to his store before morning and use them as a promotional item to draw people in---mostly used car salesmen.
His marketing strategy was buy them cheap, sell them cheap, stack them deep. This way he could unload them on unsuspecting people quickly before they found out who he was. Okay, most people didn’t know that he once was a used car salesman. Used car salesmen are endowed with special abilities. They have a penchant for making the old and run down look like new and improved. This is how politicians came into being.
“Attention Wal Mart Shoppers”( and you thought it was K-Mart) Sam’s voice would boom over the PA system. “At the front of the store, next to the ladies bathroom, by the stock room, next to the garbage bin, pass grandma’s house, 2nd red-light past the curve, I have on sale checkered pants.” The Bible says Hell hath no fury, as a woman scorned. I would like to add used car salesman to that quote. Not letting a used car salesman to his checkered pants and sport coat is tantamount to taking their cigars away from them. How else could they sell cars?
Nonetheless, I believe that Sam Walton could have been just what this country needs right now---- an American. Not a hodge-podge American of questionable descent. We all know where Sam came from, the same place we all come from, our mother’s womb or at least most of us. Our current dictator, who is harboring political ambitions by acting as President of the US, has other ideas. He believes Universal Health Care administered by the US Government will solve the energy crisis. Everyone knows the government has energy, look at all the recesses they get. His idea on abortions are self serving, he wants to make sure his children have the opportunity to murder their children when they find themselves without their father, Michael Jackson. Ever heard of DNA? It’s a fact, 75% of black children born today are born out of wed lock or has no known father, but I think I found them-- in professional sports.
In the Wal- Mart economy Sam would reason that it’s better not to kill your babies. He was an educated man with a degree in advanced mathematics and knew that if more people lived, more people could come to Wal- Mart. They have a baby’s section. It makes perfect sense. If you have more people buying, more money would go into the economy after it passes through his bank account. This way, he could hire more illegal immigrants, which would attract more illegal immigrants and all of them could live in one house painted purple. This is why Mexicans swim the Rio Grande and risk their lives daily illegally entering the US. During Siesta’s back in Mexico, they tell the tales of a man named Sam, while they drink Tequila, eat worms, bust open piƱata’s and stop working for 4 hours. Sam knew this.
In the Wal-Mart economy Sam would solve the energy crisis overnight. We would have all the energy we would need plus surpluses surely to last until the next blue light special. He would tell OPEC that he is not paying more than $1 a barrel, take it or leave it. They would of course take it because government regulators could add $90 a barrel of taxes on top of it so they could vote themselves huge raises and appoint a Wal-Mart Czar to oversee discounting. In addition they could kick back the Saudi Royal family to raise up more home grown Al Qaeda to fly for Continental Airlines. “Good afternoon everyone,( using a thick Saudi accent), welcome aboard Continental Airlines. This is your captain, Ali Abba Dabba Dabba Do El Akbar Mohammed Siad , we should be arriving shortly at your FINAL destination.”
In the Wal- Mart economy, there would be no need for Universal Health Care. Wal-Mart has the largest pharmacy in the world. I’ve been there. The other night I had a headache and needed some aspirin. The greeter at the door foaming at the mouth who was an escapee from a nearby asylum, wearing clothes stolen off a homeless man, quickly was of no help. Politely I asked ‘it” for help in what aisle the aspirin was on. His answer was “do you want cheese and fries with that order?” Sensing that “it” was most likely a disturbed “it”, I decided to walk the 10 miles to the other side of the Super Store. Finally the oasis appeared unto me in aisle 2478. There he was--- Jimmy Hoffa, I thought the government, I mean the Mafia, killed him 30 years ago. I let Jimmy know the world is much different now than in his day and that he could possibly form a union for Al Qaeda pilots. I told him getting a job was difficult these days because all employers do a full background check to make sure you are not a white male.
In the Wal- Mart economy all unemployed 58 year old white males who are of natural origin and that can only speak English would be first in line for jobs at McDonalds. These valued jobs should not be withheld from the most deserving amongst us. Sam knew that if he were President and he didn’t make this happen, he would have to hire unemployed 58 year old white males, who would want more money and benefits than illegal immigrants who work for taco’s and live in the stock room. Sam was shrewd this way.
Where is Sam Walton when we need him?