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The Song That Rallied a Nation, Won the War, Changed My Politics and Got Me the Girl

January 29, 2013

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December, 1941. French Morocco is infiltrated by Nazi Germany. It is also the last outpost for passage to America and freedom for European refugees. The Germans are met with bitter resignation by the people who long to be released from an oppressive yoke. In a night club owned by a cynical American, Rick Blaine (who “sticks his neck out for nobody”), German officers with beer steins swinging, triumphantly sing their national anthem to a full but emotionally subdued house. Then underground leader, Victor Laszlo, approaches the band demanding that they play La Marseillaise. The band members look to Rick, who silently nods his approval (and in a defining moment sheds his passive non-involvement) and they begin to play. Laszlo starts to sing alone at first, but others join in. Soon their patriotism drowns out the Germans. At song’s end, the house is crowded with cheering patrons. This scene never fails to put a lump in my throat or bring a tear to my eye.

Most of these actors/extras were real life refugees from an dictatorial regime that had spread terror throughout Europe. When singing La Marseillaise, they were not acting. They sung with conviction, determination and hope. The viewer can feel the emotion. The first time I saw it, my life changed. No longer apathetic, I saw the pivotal role America played in the hope of other nations, both then and now. Though oppression still exists in various forms…

It is said this film did more for the Allied war effort than any other piece of propaganda. American audiences saw what fascist maltreatment looked and felt like. If our efforts had been lackluster before, they gained momentum after the release of Casablanca. By the end of 1943, the war had reached a turning point in favor of the Allies. Casablanca won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Years later I would meet and marry my French-Canadian sweetheart, relocating to Ontario. Ironically, I am now an American outside of my own country with a French-speaking wife, who is of a minority here. Occasionally resentment and prejudice rears its ugly head, but La Marseillaise raised an undaunted spirit in me that we both gladly share.

I found that love, like freedom, knows no boundary. Hope lifts the downhearted and is contagious. Justice, honor, morality and heritage are things that need preserving, even in Canada.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

2011 – The Bell Tolled 50 Years Ago

December 31, 2010

Okay. I’ve started, stopped, (paused) started, stopped and started again. Now for the pay-off. I began Shades of Hemingway several years ago and then wrote two sequels and promised a third. After some delays… here it is.

Almost.

Before I commit the next few months to putting the final chapters online I wanted to do a recap.  So, if you are new here and don’t want to review the archives… cool, the recap may suffice.  If you came on board from the beginning… cool, the recap will refresh your memory.  If you came on board from the beginning and remember the story and its sequels… cool.  Tune in next time for the concluding chapters.

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s death.  While Shades of Hemingway, Medium Exposure and Deja’ Voodoo are works of fiction I tried to remain true to the image of the man.   I hope you will agree that these stories all or in part convey the spirit of one of America’s greatest authors.

~ 

Summoned by The Shades of Hemingway; Chris Fiore, a tourist in the Florida Keys, turns amateur sleuth as he sets out to expose the killer of a Key West policeman. Drawn into Cuba by an ancient voodoo ritual that eventually links to Ernest Hemingway’s past, will the bell toll for Chris as well?
 

While vacationing with friends, Chris meets the shades of Hemingway in Key West.  Originally enticed by Hem who wants to be Chris’ ghostwriter for a supposed Hemingway revival, he is later recruited to expose the killer of Robert Jordan.  Chris is continually visited by each of the shades at different intervals of his quest to help guide and encourage him.  Eventually he goes to Cuba to rescue Brett Jordan and learns of his friend Keith’s involvement in human trafficking.
 
 
 Excerpt from the story…*

“You’ll have some big shoes to fill usin’ that, Sport. I wonder if you’re up to the task?”

I looked up to the entrance to the study, and only then did I see another door off in the corner leading to a small bathroom. In the open door, a man of about 40 stood there, drying his hands on a towel. He was dark haired, mustached and stocky wearing a silky-looking bathrobe over pajamas and dark leather slippers. He smiled at me as I gulped down my wildly beating heart.

“I’m sorry,” I stammered, then hopefully asked, “are you part of the tour?”

The man laughed; a hearty, belly shaking laugh. “Part of the tour, you ask? Why, Sport, I AM the tour!”

I was at least ten feet from the entrance to the carriage house study, but I bounded out the door in two steps. Down the iron staircase I stumbled, and out into the back yard I ran like a scalded dog. Only after taking several steps did I realize I was not being chased. I stopped to turn around and looked back at the doorway leading to Hemingway’s chambers.

There was no one there.*

~

HEM, Hemingway at middle age and the most predominant of the shades.

Hem originally contacts Chris and sets him out on his adventure. Hem has all the vitality and vigor of Ernest Hemingway at the prime of his life and celebrity. He is the most ambitious and has the strongest influence of the three shades. Hem is the adventurer and the catalyst behind Chris’ search.

PAPA, Hemingway in his later years.

Papa is the more reflective and subdued of the three shades. He is the voice of reason and appears to reassure Chris during times of difficulty or to impart wisdom.

~

Excerpt from the story…*

“I dreamt again last night, Papa. I dreamt I was back at Sloppy Joe’s with Hem and he was telling me I had to expose Officer Jordan’s killer.”

“Yes, I know, Chris. Jordan’s spirit is in a state of flux, caught between the living and the dead. Your arrival came at an opportune time, giving him a chance to rest in peace.”

“But doesn’t he know who did it? Wouldn’t it be simpler just to have him appear before the authorities and tell them?”

“Simpler, yes, but not possible… that ability is sort of ‘out of bounds’ for us.”

“Why not? He knows who did him in, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he does. But we are not empowered to speak about certain things.” *

~

RING LARDNER, JR., the youngest Hemingway.

Ring is the unblemished and moral one, the idealistic teenaged Hemingway who went to war. He has the strength and virtue of character that Chris needs when his own courage fails him.

~

Excerpt from the story…*

Ring looks over at me. His eyes seem vacant and lost, he is a young man far from home having just witnessed first hand the spectacle and barbarian tactics of war. But his voice is strong. He calls to me.

“Wake up, Chris.”

“What? I am awake!”

“No, Chris… you’re not. Wake up this instant.”

“I’m awake! Ring; I see you, I can hear you… my eyes are wide open! The guy next to me needs a cigarette!”

I look back over at “the smoker” but he is flat on his back and out of it. I look back at Ring and shrug.

“She is still alive, Chris. She is still alive and she needs your help. Wake up, Chris… rescue her. You’re not too late…”

I turn away from Ring Lardner, Jr. and look up and down at the rows of hospital beds. Now they are all empty, even “the smoker’s” bed is vacant. My mind is racing. I can sense my body detaching, a booster rocket falling away into space… am I dying?*

~

KEITH, Chris’ friend who turns out to be the manipulative villain.

Keith is the reason Chris originally goes to Key West. On the surface, Keith is a happy-go-lucky guy with an import/export business. In reality, Keith is involved with human trafficking and becomes Chris’ adversary.

BRETT JORDAN, a Key West detective, is the former wife of Jake Barnes and the sister of Robert Jordan. Brett is unaware that she is a spirit medium for her dead brother and when she disappears, Chris’ infatuation with Brett leads him to Cuba in an attempt to rescue her.

JAKE BARNES, a Key West detective and Brett’s former husband. Jake has been investigating the smuggling of Cuban refugees into the Florida Keys in co-operation with the Cuban government. Keith’s kidnaping of rich Americans and holding them for ransom in Cuba has further strained the relations between the authorities. Jake eventually becomes Chris’ ally.

NATY REVUELTA, a Cuban refugee who has returned to Cuba to assist in the raising of her dead sister’s children. Naty’s family finds Chris after he has been beaten and left for dead shortly after his arrival in Cuba. Naty and her sister had a conflicting relationship with Keith, which led to her sister’s suicide.

ROBERT JORDAN, Key West policeman who is killed in his rookie year. He is the younger brother of Brett Jordan. His death has disrupted the spirit realm and causes the shades to recruit Chris to expose his killer.

“MANOLO” SGT. GARCIA, Cuban policeman who has been working with Jake Barnes. He takes Chris to Cuba when Brett turns up missing.

LORD CRISTOBAL, Cuban voodoo priest who has ties with Keith’s import/export business. Keith has used his connections with Lord Cristobal to expand into the ransoming of Americans.

LAURA, Keith’s wife. She is friends with Rachel and accompanies Keith when he invites Chris and Rachel to go to the Keys. Laura is unaware of Keith’s illegal activities.

RACHEL, Chris’ girlfriend in the first book. Rachel and Laura have a professional relationship which encouraged the friendship between Chris and Keith.

~

Excerpt from the story…*

“Let me get this straight. You say all that talk about me writing for you and making the world remember you and keeping the Hemingway name relevant was just a ruse?’

Hem is more interested in the women, he doesn’t bother to address me directly but is smiling and encouraging them. “In a manner of speaking, yes. Jordan needs you now, more than we do.”

“I know nothing about Officer Jordan other than he was killed in the line of duty.”

“And that is precisely the point. Jordan needs to have his killer brought to justice.”

Now it begins to sink in.

“Wait a minute! You want me to find whoever is responsible for Jordan’s death? I’m no detective!”

Hem abruptly dismisses the women who in turn look at me with dejected contempt. Hem reaches for his shot glass, downs its contents with a single gulp, then returns it in favor of a tall beer chaser, which he thirstily swigs until it is half empty. The phantom bartender instantly appears to refill the shot glass and replenish the beer. Hem pauses for a moment, fingers the little condensation ring formed by the beer glass then again faces me.

“You don’t understand, Sport. We don’t want you to find Jordan’s killer, we want you to expose Jordan’s killer. *

~

There are four books in the series:

In Shades of Hemingway, Chris and Rachel go with Keith and Laura to Key West where Chris first meets Hem, Papa and Ring Lardner, Jr. Hem convinces Chris that the shades need him to act as a ghostwriter in order to represent them for a Hemingway revival, so initially Chris agrees. Chris meets Key West policeman, Robert Jordan, who directs him to the Green Parrot as an “off the beaten path” local bar. While there, Chris gains the attention of several shady characters but remains unaffected by their presence. Later, discovering a conflict between the shades, Chris decides fame and fortune is not worth compromising his principles for and rejects Hem’s offer to make him a writer. Chris returns an artifact he “borrowed” from the Hemingway Estate, thinking that would rid him of the shades. Unfortunately, Chris is caught, put in jail, but then released when he agrees to stay away from the Estate and return for a court appearance. It is while he is leaving the jail with his friends that Chris discovers Robert Jordan was actually a ghost.

In Medium Exposure, Chris returns alone for his court appearance, after breaking up with Rachel. He finds out that the men who saw him in the Green Parrot Bar are Cuban policemen assisting Jake Barnes in a human trafficking case. Chris meets Papa who warns him of the kyklos tod mene and that his own death is possible. Chris goes to another bar, the Golden Earring, and sees Brett for the first time. The next day, following an accidental meeting with Brett at the courthouse, Chris is kidnaped when he tries to leave Key West. After being dumped off on the causeway that connects the Florida Keys, Chris is picked up by Brett who reveals herself to be a Key West detective. Eventually Brett takes Chris back to her apartment and seduces him. The next day, Chris awakes to find that Brett is gone. Jake appears and declares himself her husband. Jake questions Chris on Brett’s whereabouts. Chris discovers that Brett is Robert Jordan’s sister. Sensing he is about to be arrested again, Chris flees only to meet up with Sgt. Garcia. Sgt. Garcia assures Chris he knows where Brett is, that she is in danger and he can lead Chris to her. Caught between being arrested by Jake or trusting Garcia, Chris leaves for Cuba.

In Deja’ Voodoo, Chris arrives in Cuba and ditches Sgt. Garcia. At a local bar, Chris meets Hem, who tells Chris to look up Lord Cristobal. When the bartender learns of Chris’ desire, a ride is arranged. The driver, thinking Chris is a rich tourist, tries to rob Chris then beats him, leaving him for dead. Chris is then found by the family of Naty Revuelta. Ring Lardner, Jr. appears while Chris seems to be fading off. Ring reminds Chris that he is there to find Brett. Because of his desire for Brett, Chris pulls through. The Revuelta family nurses Chris back to health. Naty turns out to be a refugee who has returned to Cuba from the U.S. to help raise her dead sister’s children. Later Chris learns of Naty’s former relationship with Keith which resulted in her sister’s suicide. Chris goes to Lord Cristobal to learn of the possible connection between Keith and Brett. Waiting for Chris at the Villa Vinales de Eden is Jake Barnes who takes him into “custody”.

 ~

And finally begins… 

 

Bone Island Abattoir.

~

I hope you will enjoy and Happy New Year.

Peace. 

 

 

Introducing George Clooney as Ernest Hemingway

January 23, 2010

I was once asked if as I wrote my Shades of Hemingway series had I a mental picture the actors I would want to have play the characters therein.  I half way joked that I’d like to have Leonardo DiCaprio play me but I hadn’t really thought about who would play the others.  That is until now…

Last night I watched the Help For Haiti NowDefault.asp broadcast and as soon as I saw George Clooney begin his introduction I thought, “He’s the one!  He is the one I’d select to play “Hem” in the stories I have written about encountering Ernest Hemingway’s ghost and the adventure that followed.”  So while I admit it isn’t like Margaret Mitchell picturing Clark Gable as Rhett Butler while writing Gone With The Wind, it intrigued me to make up a list of actors to play the parts of the major characters in all four books, i.e.:  Shades of Hemingway, Medium Exposure, Deja’ Voodoo and the latest; Bone Island Abattoir (which hasn’t been published here yet, but it’s coming!)  To read any of the afore mentioned stories, search the AMRFP archives under “Hemingway”.

So, as I said earlier…  Leonardo DiCaprio nm0000138   would be cast as “Christian Fiore”, a.k.a. “Chris”.  Leo has an incredible range as an actor.  He could carry the emotional uncertainty of the hero plunged into an adventure he had not been ready for. 

George Clooney nm0000123   would play “Hem”, Ernest Hemingway’s 40-year-old apparition.  Hemingway’s creativity and popularity was at its peak when he reached this age.  Ernest Hemingway was as celebrated as any American author, but was also an avid outdoorsman and ladies man.  George Clooney personifies the Ernest Hemingway mystic; masculine, complex and intriguing.  George could portray the impish, good-humored “Hem” with authentic relish.

I think that Harrison Ford nm0000148   would make a remarkable “Papa” Hemingway.  Cast against type would put Harrison’s full range as an actor to the greatest test.  Could he be the 60-year-old reflective ghost that struggles against the machinations of “Hem”, the strongest of the three Hemingway personalities?  I think so.  Harrison Ford’s presence would lend an inner strength and melancholy to the great man who aides “Christian” on his quest.

“Ring Lardner, Jr.” is the spirit of a 20-year-old Hemingway jolted by the grim realities of war.  Though he is the weakest of the shades, he plays a vital part in encouraging “Christian” to face the dangers that lie in store for him.  Robert Pattinson nm1500155    could easily sink his teeth into this role.

For the character of “Keith” I had to think of a guy that could be both likable, warm and charming to begin with but beneath the surface hides a cold, calculated killer.  For this atypical bad guy I thought of Jeremy Piven nm0005315    He has the ability to be the best buddy and yet smoulder as someone sinister.

Megan Fox nm1083271   would be my choice to play “Brett Jordan”.  She could be a strong police detective that is sexually assertive but also vulnerable to the influences of the kyklos tod mene.  It would be a cinch to have “Christian Fiore” become enthralled with her.

Joshua Jackson nm0005045   would be perfect for “Robert Jordan”, the rookie cop and “Brett Jordan’s” kid brother.  He has the quiet fortitude that embodies this lost soul.

For Key West Detective “Jake Barnes” I had to look no further than the morning show, Canada AM and Jeff Hutcheson. 20090828?s_name=AM  Seen every day as Canada’s top weatherman, Jeff is the perfect character to play “Christian Fiore’s” gregarious on again, off again side kick.  I don’t know of any acting credentials for Jeff, but his clever delivery and robust personality would be a natural fit.  Jeff reminds me of the big brother everybody imagines they’d like to have.

I think I’d like to see Jennifer Lopez nm0000182   as “Naty Revuelta”.  I realize that the character is of a mixed Cuban/American descent, but I think Jen could pull it off.  She could play the part of a heroine that not only inspires but rescues “Chris”.  Ultimately “Chris” falls in love with this latino beauty and I don’t think that is too far-fetched.   Jennifer is looking for a role to lead her back as a credible actress and I think this one could do it for her.  It doesn’t hurt that Lopez co-starred with George Clooney in the movie, Out of Sight.  If not Jennifer, I’d like Eva Mendez nm0578949   for sure.  It may be possible to place both in there because of Naty’s sister, Rosetta.  Though not a big part, either actress could make it memorable.

 Next comes “Manolo a.k.a. Sgt. Garcia.”  I enjoyed Michael Pena nm0671567   as “Daniel” in the movie, Crash.  I think he could easily come off as the good guy Cuban police officer who is secretly in cahoots with the villain(s) of The Shades of Hemingway.  Also Andy Garcia nm0000412  would be a good choice, he might even double as director.

Last but not least of my casting call would be Benicio Del Toro nm0001125   as “Lord Cristobal”.  I could see him as the manipulator having been out maneuvered by a conniving former ally.  He has a strong though restrained persona that would play well as a man lost in his own evil practices.

Of course, I realize this is just a dream cast that would no doubt cost a jillion dollars and I wish there was a way I could squeeze Tom Hanks nm0000158   into a cameo, but the next best thing would be to call on Ron Howard nm0000165   to direct.  After all, The Shades of Hemingway series does have a happy ending… or does it?  If it doesn’t, maybe we should use Martin Scorsese nm0000217 .   Clint Eastwood nm0000142  might be a good choice, too.  What do you think?

Look for Shades of Hemingway, Bone Island Abattoir to appear here soon.

P.S.  All images appeared in the Internet Movie Database except for Jeff Hutcheson who came courtesy of the Canada AM home page.

peace.

Saying Goodbye and Kudos to the Y2KO’s

December 31, 2009

Well, it’s that time.  Time to say goodbye to a lousy year and a fizzled decade all in one big sigh.  At least that is what some people will tell you.  As I sit here thinking about the past 10 years, I remember the trepidation the general public was feeling about the new millenium.  The world was going to come to a stop because technology hadn’t prepared for the changing of 1999 to 2000.  I remember all those headstone manufacturers that were lamenting the fact that not enough people had died to deplete their stock of tombstones that had been pre-inscribed 199_  and they were set to lose a fortune… like no one really thought the new decade would arrive.

But arrive it did and now we are about to say adios to the y2ko’s to make way for the double digits.  I choose not to look back in despair and criticize but to meander fondly through some incidents that you may have forgotten.  So as we ring in the New Year and decade, think positive about the past… after all, it’s too late to change it now!

First, in 2009.  It is hard for me to take seriously the fact that many people are pointing to 12-21-12 as the end of the world because of the Mayan calendar.   This may not have been too hard to swallow except for the fact that they released a movie depicting the end of the world called 2012!   Perhaps what the Mayans were predicting wasn’t the end of the world but the end of credibility from movie producers.   I predict the end of the world in 2112.  December 21, 2112 to be precise.  Then the digits would be 12-21-2112.  Much tidier and numerically friendly, don’t you think?

A lot of people have been complaining about the past decade, like this person…

These Terrible Aughts

  • Posted: December 29, 2009 at 12:37 PM
  • By Lauren Bans

As the curtains close on what Pew is calling the worst decade in half a century, the Internet is aflutter with uncharacteristic positivity, offering up bushels of best of the decade lists. The Village Voice recently ran a piece on the Best Dining and Drinking Trends of the Decade that included nods to the Slow Food movement and the mainstream emergence of local brews. The Hollywood Reporter issued a best films of the decade list with United 93 and No Country For Old Men making the cut (though feminist blog Women & Hollywood quickly pointed out that HR failed to elect even one female-directed movie to their list.) And Paste Magazine put together an all-encompassing series of Best of lists ranging from Best Video Games of the decade to the more self-indulgent Best Paste Magazine Covers of the Decade.

But what about the worst of the decade lists? From the attacks of 9-11, to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there’s a reason 50 percent of Americans view the ‘00s with negative feelings. Lucky for us neggos, Engine Industries has put together an exhaustive compilation of the Best of The Worst of the Decade Lists. Feast your eyes, and breathe a sigh of relief that the ‘00s are nearly over.

 But do we have to call them the aughts?  yikes!  like we ought to know better!

Nope, I prefer the y2ko’s.  But aside from the obvious, was the past decade really all that bad?  I mean, shucks, with the new millenium came a much enlarged and speedier Internet.  We have blogs like Advantages of Mutual Respect and Fair Play along with Facebook and Twitter.  There are phones that allow us to text message that include cameras with pixels enabling us to make videos, take pictures and surf the web as well as make a phone call.  How can that possibly be bad? MP3 players and digital downloads are cool.  We didn’t have those a decade ago.  YouTube.  Kijiji.  Wii. X-Box.  All innovations of the y2ko’s.  Who ever thought that e-mail would become quaint?  And yet, technology advances with alarming speed while we seem to accept it with a less than enthusiastic yawn.  This past decade has been marvelous as far as technological advancements are concerned.  We take too much for granted.

Oh I know, there are things that have been shitty, too.  911. Iraq.  Iran.  Afghanistan.  North Korea.  Katrina.  The economy.  Bail-outs.  AIG.  The Big Three.  Foreclosures.  Job losses.  The decline of the American dollar.  Protectionism.  But you don’t need me to list them here.  There are all kinds of people out there telling us how bad it was or still is.  But try this one on for size…

Highlights From the Happiness Project

Posted Tuesday, December 29, 2009 6:07 PM | By Gretchen Rubin Gretchen Rubin is the author of the new book, The Happiness Project, an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy. On her popular blog she recounts her adventures and insights as she grapples with the challenge of being happier. Aristotle, Samuel Johnson, Oprah, Benjamin Franklin, the Dalai Lama, Martin Seligman … she considers it all.

She’s also the author of the best-selling Forty Ways To Look at Winston Churchill, Forty Ways To Look at JFK, Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide, and Profane Waste (with artist Dana Hoey). Rubin began her career in law and was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized she really wanted to be a writer.

Here are some highlights from her blog, the Happiness Project:

A Secret to Happiness? Don’t Get Organized.
When facing a bursting closet or a cluttered office, don’t make the mistake of saying to yourself, “I need to get organized.”

Eight Ways To Tell If You’re Being Boring
Watch for the warning signs that show that you’re being a bore.

The Movie Twilight Inspires Me to Do A Better Job With Some of My Resolutions
Inspired by watching the romance in Twilight, Gretchen reflects on memories of falling in love with her husband-and redoubles her efforts to keep her resolutions related to love.

Bad Habits: Swear Off Them Altogether? Or Indulge Occasionally?
If you’re trying to resist temptation, take this test to determine whether you do better when you go cold-turkey, or when you indulge moderately.

Exercise Tips from a Recovering Couch Potato
Try some of these nine strategies if you have trouble sticking to an exercise regimen.

Can You Curse During a Gratitude Meditation?
Comedian Louis CK’s hilarious rant that “Everything’s amazing, nobody’s happy” is a (slightly unconventional) gratitude meditation.

Quiz: Are You Drifting?
When you “drift,” you make a decision by not deciding, or you make a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility. We often deny that we’re drifting, so take this quiz to see if you’re at risk.

Happiness Myth: It’s Selfish To Try To Be Happier
Contrary to popular belief, happy people aren’t self-centered and complacent; in fact, they’re more concerned with helping others than are less-happy people.

How To Respond to Your Happiness Emergency-Stat!
Having a really lousy day? These nine strategies will help you boost your mood right now.

Can You Predict If Someone Will Be Happy in the Future?
Sizing up the temperament of a potential boss, roommate, or spouse? The best way to predict whether a person will be happy is to know whether that person has been happy in the past.

Happiness Myth: Money Can’t Buy Happiness
Money, spent wisely, can buy a lot of things that contribute mightily to happiness. Some of the best things in life aren’t free.

Embrace the Paradoxes of a Happiness Project
Niels Bohr wrote, “The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.” Here, Gretchen outlines some of the paradoxes of a happiness project.

Quiz-Are You an Overbuyer or an Underbuyer?
Do you fit the description of an “overbuyer” or an “underbuyer”? These categories will help you identify strategies to be happier with your spending.

Life’s Cruel Truth: You Get More of What You Already Have
We all contribute to the atmosphere in which we live, so we get more of what we have. Friendly people meet with friendliness; irritable people find themselves surrounded by irritable people.

Practice a NON-Random Act of Kindness
Practicing non-random acts of kindness, it turns out, brings more happiness than random acts of kindness-especially for recipients.

Eleven Myths of De-Cluttering
For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. Don’t let these de-cluttering myths get in the way of keeping your surroundings clutter-free.

Five Mistakes I Make in My Marriage
Gretchen confesses to five mistakes she makes in her marriage-and explains how she tries to do better.

Why Might Small, Comfortable Changes Work Better than Radical Steps?
To bring about change in your life, it’s often more effective to focus on small, manageable steps rather than setting ambitious goals.

Bob Dylan Helps Me Recognize a Paradox of Happiness
Bob Dylan’s observation about his wife, “she’s always had her own built-in happiness,” highlights one of the paradoxes of happiness.

Is it really possible to be happy after one of the most difficult decades of the last century?

I mean, where would we all be without Reality T.V.?  and American Idol? or Dancing With the Stars?   This past decade has brought some innovative sources of entertainment.  Lest we forget, it was only a few short years ago that a very small and select group were telling us what to watch.  Now the selections seem endless.  With the advancement of the Internet, we have choices and information at our fingertips that used to take hours if not days to reach us.  I’ve read articles in newspapers that are at least three days old.  No wonder the printed page as a news source is dying. 

I could not imagine a time I would rather be living in than right now.  It is because of our ability to grow, change and adapt that we have made some of the advancements we have made.  Not that losing a job and going bankrupt is progress, it certainly is not.  But the way we viewed credit and buying more than we could afford had to be curtailed.  We had to re-think our priorities and the long-term effects of our purchase.  People are far more frugal towards the end of this decade than in the 90’s and that’s a good thing.

My wife predicts Oprah will run for President in 2012, that’s why O.W.  has announced the end of her talk show.  Or perhaps Obama will choose Oprah as his running mate for his second term, I’m not sure which.  But the politics of the y2ko’s has made this possible.  We would not have thought about electing someone with absolutely zero qualifications before.  Now just the thought of somebody inspiring somebody else without actually accomplishing anything other than the possibility of said accomplishment garnishes praise and awards.  That was unthinkable just a short decade ago.

The thing with the y2ko’s is that we are more uncertain of the future than ever before.  Fear plays a lot into that uncertainty and it has been played up to a level that is worse than any time in recent memory.  Fear makes us ill.  Our society is heading towards a nervous breakdown if we don’t get our heads out of our asses and do something about it.  We need to demand more of our politicians but more than that… we need to demand more of ourselves. 

So I am looking forward to the future and the double digits, the teen years.  I have no doubt that politics are going to change and change appreciatively for the better.  People are fed up with government and paper champions right now.  We will scrutinize more.  We will want substance and not rhetoric, details and not empty promises.  When we hear the word “change” we will want to make sure that that word is accompanied with “change… for the better” and find out exactly how this is proposed to be accomplished.  Technology will continue to advance at an amazing rate, medical breakthroughs will astound and cause us to cheer.  And the world will be a better place because if the y2ko’s accomplished anything, it is this…

You are responsible for your own happiness, nothing is free and nobody is going to do anything for you that you could not have done better yourself.

Have a safe and happy New Year.

Like George said… it’s all in the mind, you know.

peace.

.

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First Pitch

November 21, 2009

Two Cents’  Worth in the Nickel City
First Pitch

As an American writer, I imagined once how it would feel to approach the editor of a big city newspaper and “pitch” an idea for a new column.  I had read somewhere that the best way to partake of any new venture is to play it out in your mind first, like a dress rehearsal.  By doing this you would take into consideration the method of accomplishing your goal, what obstacles to avoid and the unforseen circumstances to overcome.  That way when you get around to actually doing the deed, it will come to you as if by rote, automatically.

I am new to Canada, there are a lot of contrasts compared to the American way of life.  Politics, entertainment, social issues, each one affects us in different ways.   There is the climate factor, employment, the language, all sorts of fodder for my creative mind.  But in my plan for submitting this idea,  I would not be a meek and mild Clark Kent of the Daily Planet.

The black- and- white scenario that projected in my mind made me the Curt Schilling of pitching new ideas.  I would stride into the corner office and my very presence would metaphorically scream, “Stop the presses ” as I hurled well placed salvos like filet-mignon wrapped with the ribbons of originality.

My initial idea?  To write about “nothing.”  I could just “Forrest Gump” my way through the sights and sounds of this Canadian community reporting my American reactions while using my usual flair for resplendent detail.  What could be a more creative way to give my two cents’  worth?  But my projector threw a belt and the film started to unceremoniously melt on my mental screen, causing the reel on the loose spindle to spin and snap its celluloid tail.

“Already been done.”  would be my future editor’s fatalistic response.

“Been done?  By who?” Or is it, by whom?

“Jerry Seinfeld, 1989-98.  You’ll need to come  up with something else.”

Of course, I do what every other self-confident professional would do in a similar situation.  I stall.

“What do you mean, come up with something else?”

“Something different.”

And right then and there I would curse syndication and American programming.  What place does it have on Canadian television, anyway?  Now the wheels are turning.  The boss wants something fresh, different, and readable.  I need to make an appeal.  I require foresight and depth.   That is where you, dear reader, come in.

As an American from Florida currently residing in Sudbury, surely you have a question or two about why I am here?  Something on your mind?  Just feel like venting?  Don’t care what Americans think?  Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.  Anything is better than nothing, right?  Besides, that was my concept.  It’s not my fault that Seinfeld came up with my very own original idea first.  So you cannot just sit back and do nothing and I think you know why.

Because nothing has already been done.

Is it just me or is rudeness universal?

October 31, 2009

“How are you adjusting to Canadian life?”

“I think Canadian life should be adjusting to me!”

I may be a typical American.  In fact, at the conclusion of the above conversation (yes, it was real) the nice person I was speaking to declared, “Spoken like a typical American!”  All in good humor, of course.  But I’m not sure what being a typical American is… or if it is an all exclusive temperament.

Some Canadians view us with a certain envy, others with disdain.  They think we are loud, boisterous and spoiled… and those are the envious ones.  I’ve heard it said that we come to Canada to take what we want and are very rude while acquiring it.  That while we are here we expect to be catered to and have an air of superiority.  Maybe we are just a little bit too proud…

After all, we took our liberty; nobody handed it to us, there was no civil negotiation… we had to fight for it.  And it seems we have been fighting for it ever since, justifying ourselves to the rest of the world because we are too rich, influential and powerful.  But are we really all that bad?  And is being rude and obnoxious just an American trait that we have a monopoly on?

I was in line at Tim Horton’s the other day, in the drive thru.  I had pulled off the highway and in doing so you could make an immediate right and go into the Esso or pull straight ahead into the drive thru.  Of course there was a line up and when I realized if I pulled forward too far I would block the entrance to the Esso I held back to allow cars to enter and exit that place of business.  Wouldn’t you know it, some guy swung around to get in line ahead of me?

My BB and I were in Walmart a while back (lately her favorite store) and we were looking to check out with only a handful of items.  As everyone does, we were looking for the shortest line, trying to avoid the automated, “Now serving number 10, now serving number 13, now serving number 5…”  When we realized the check out we were semi-standing in line next to was just as good as the rest and were resigning ourselves to it aloud,  a young man and woman briskly shoved their loaded cart ahead of us.

I approached a local newspaper with an idea for a column.  I had written several letters to the editor (6) which appeared regularly the first few months of my arrival here.  I became friendly (incidentally) with a staff writer through one of the soccer organizations because her sons played with ours.  An e-mail from her told me that the managing editor really like my writing and suggested I approach him with a column, so I did.  I spent 30 minutes in his office, supplied 8 original pieces at 500 words each and impressed the hell out of him with my background.  But then I never heard from him.  I phoned and left messages, I wrote e-mails, I wrote more letters to the editor (which they did not publish) I even went by his office and left a note saying please return my stuff.  Then I got to wondering… “Who does not even have the courtesy to contact you and at least say, “You don’t have what we need?” ”  Especially when you go out of your way to make it easy for them to do so?

I guess what I am trying to say is this.  There are assholes everywhere and maybe I am the biggest one around, but one thing I have learned in my short time here on earth is that you treat people the way you would want them to treat you.  Canadians are no more discourteous than any other nationality, but when you are a stranger in these parts perhaps it stands out a little more, and that’s too bad.  The vast majority of Canadian citizens have been very receptive and gracious.  It would be unfair to lump all of them into a stereotypical mold… just as it is unfair to categorize all Americans unfavorably. 

When people ask me how I like it here I say, ” I like it”  because I do… I really do.  When we light the fire and snuggle up close, winter is a welcome aphrodisiac for my BB and me.  As I drive and look out at the scenery, I marvel at the differences between Florida and Canada… each has its own unique beauty.  The change of the seasons here makes me appreciate each ones signal to the alert onlooker;  prepare, store, expand, indulge.  I enjoy every minute of each passing day and regret nothing.  I am a very lucky guy.    

I just wish that some of the rudeness that seems so prevalent in American society had not followed me up here.

peace.

If I should wake before I die…

September 20, 2009

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“Don’t anyone wake me if it’s just a dream, ’cause she’s the best thing ever happened to me.”  Angel Eyes by Jeff Healey

I don’t think about dying much.  I prefer to believe that I would be ready for it at any time, fearlessly staring down the Grim Reaper to the point of his awe and embarrassment.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living.  I still have an ever increasing fondness for Hawaiian style pizza and the seemingly endless varieties of ice cream.  The desire and indulgence of these two items alone could carry me over into the next century.  (a scant 91 years from now)  Not to mention the fact that each morning’s sunrise still inspires an appreciative reverence to the Almighty, music still calms the savage beast in me (or arouses him, depending on the circumstances) and reading a good book or discovering another classic film delightfully tickles my intellect to no end.  Nope, no death fixation here.  So why the somber moment of reflection?  

I am living a dream.  No, I am not rich and famous, I gave up on that a long time ago.  No, I haven’t conquered Mt. Everest or swam the English Channel, neither have I made some stirring contribution towards the betterment of mankind that will headline the annuals of achievement for the next one hundred years.  I am virtually a nobody that will die with quiet dignity amongst a small circle of friends and relatives as most of us do when crossing the finish line in this human race called “life”.  Like everyone else, I’ll be leaving a faint ripple in the sea of mankind that will ebb away into the calmness of those deep, still waters.  But until then…

The 20th of September is an anniversary of sorts, the day my BB and I made contact.   I had actually commented on her blog on the 9th of the month, but it was just a random hit… one of many I had instigated back when I was bored and just reading other blogs to pass the time.  Hers was different.  It struck a chord with me, like she was speaking to me or for me… needing my response.  We were both searching then, but we didn’t realize it… casting our bread out into cyberspace waters and not really expecting a bite.  As we connected, there was an honesty and openness there that I had never experienced in a relationship before.  Maybe it was because we didn’t have the distractions that usually accompany a formal meeting.  We couldn’t see each other.  At first, we only had the words we wrote and read, then came telephone conversations but still… no face to face contact.  No visuals of any kind except through our blogs, e-mails or voices… and maybe that made the difference.

 When you first meet someone, the attraction is mostly physical.  Her eyes, legs, hips or breasts are most prominent; his smile, shoulders, biceps or chest most profound.  After that initial impression comes communication; a look, a gesture, an approach, an introduction.  Finally there is a meshing of compatibility and compromise.  My beautiful girl and I had none of that, just two hearts willing to begin a relationship that had no idea where it would end up.

Now this morning (two years later) I am in our living room writing this little message to you all while she prepares breakfast.  She enjoys being a housewife, honestly… it never seems to be a chore for her.  I find myself asking, “What can I do for you today?” and actually wanting to be her handyman.  All those things we told ourselves when our courtship began; all the negativity and apprehension, all the tension and nagging doubts, feelings of unworthiness… they are all gone.  What attracted us to each other is still the central part of our relationship; honesty, trust, communication and of course, mutual respect.

We both work jobs that are not very glamorous, we have simple tastes and find joy in the little things.  Our conversations are lively and thought provoking.  She has her own mind and opinions as do I, but we allow each other the differences that make up our personalities even when we disagree.  I am proud of the way she carries herself; delicate and feminine yet forthright and determined.  I admire her devotion to her children and humble posture before God.  We’ll both admit we are not perfect in any sense of the word and yet find we blend gloriously.  I am constantly telling her what a lucky man I am.  I cannot think of a better reward in this life than having her love me.

So… if I should wake up sometime before I die and find it was all just a dream, if my life with my French Canadian sweetheart has just been the jarbling of events mixed into the cinema of sweet slumber;  rock me gently, coo softly into my ear and whisper a child’s prayer so that I may lull myself back into this ever-comforting blanket of serene contentment.  She is my reality, I require nothing else.

I love you, my fair one.  Sweet dreams all.    

(If embedding disabled by request appears, try double clicking to youTube)

peace.

To thine own self be Trudeau

September 7, 2009

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My wife and I watched Blazing Saddles a few nights back, the Mel Brooks classic.  She has decided that one way to understand her American husband better is to review his entire DVD collection alphabetically.  The next night we saw Bite the Bullet with Gene Hackman, another western albeit not a comedy but you get the connection.  Anyway, I remarked to BB after we watched Saddles that the movie would not be made today due to how sensitive we have become with being offensive towards any racial, social, ethnic, pantheistic, hedonistic or humanistic group, which rules out quite a few possibilities for good comedy, in my opinion.  I thought about this for a while and pondered how far we have come in this enlightened society of ours.  I remembered some of Lewis Grizzard’s comments on the Thought Police of 1984 (some 25 odd years ago), thinking he was uncanny in his prediction of our future .  We have succumbed to rubbing out individualism and the free expression of an open mind for fear it may be offensive.

I read recently over in England they are in the process of cleaning up the Queen’s English by removing certain expressions from our lexicon.  It is no longer acceptable to say, for example: “It’ll be a black day for…” or ” A dark cloud hung over…” because these words, black… dark…, might relate to a certain minority that may find them offensive.  Fortunately for us we can still be “… in a blue mood…” or “…be green with envy…” because those colors don’t exist in people.  We may still have “…our golden moment…”  “…turn yellow…” “…drive a lemon…” or “…be aglow with saffron…” with no direct affiliation to Orientals, fruit pickers, Ra and/or the Egyptian sun worshipers… yet.  We might even be “…in the pink…” though the latter expression hasn’t been fully approved by the Caucasian Society of Corrective English Speaking Rosy Red Assholes, but their decision is pending.  The article I was reading even declared that there was opposition to the word, “moist”.

Immediately I thought of Duncan Hines Cake Mix.

A few years ago, Duncan Hines proclaimed their cake moist as opposed to being dry.  Nobody wants a wet cake, but a moist one?   Well, that is to be most desirable and they displayed the fork pressing the spongy content to prove it wasn’t cardboard.  How could that word hardly be offensive?  Have we lost the essence of the old declaration, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me!” that we used so eloquently in our defense throughout grade school?  Are words really that harmful?  Can it be so that “moist” is truly subversive and needs to be rooted out of our conscience minds and forever banned from our parched lips?  I… for one, say no.

I have this big, thick research book; The Random House Dictionary of the English Language – Copyright 1969 (which hasn’t been altered to comply with New Age thinking) and it defines moist as: adj. 1. moderately or slightly wet; damp.  2. (of the eyes) tearful  3.  accompanied by or connected with liquid or moisture.  Nowhere in that definition do I find it as intended to be offensive.  Which leads me back to Lewis Grizzard.

A popular humorist with a column in the Atlanta Journal, Lewis Grizzard had the ability to make people laugh with him or at him and themselves by telling the thinking public we are taking this life way too seriously for our own good.  Lewis was a southerner and by some opinions; a redneck.  Though an educated man and fairly successful in his day, Grizzard defended his heritage with pride but with malice towards none.  He understood prejudice, having been raised in the Deep South and found most of his detractors decrying the fact that he was non-apologetic for what he considered his good fortune to be “… southern by the grace of God.”  In his book, I Haven’t Understood Anything Since 1962, he stated our society was heading towards a time when expression would be stifled by the ever invasive “thought police”.   Back then (early 90’s) his prediction was founded in subtle humour, today it is commonplace for people to be offended by words that need to be stricken from the mouths and printed pages of our enlightened societies terminology.  Which brings me to that great Canadian, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

I’ll admit that Canadian politics still baffle me, but there is one thing that has been affirmed in my mind.  Outside of Wayne Gretzky, Neil Young or Alex Trebek; no other Canadian comes close in representing the independent, Canadian spirit better than Trudeau.  Why?  History paints him as a maverick riding in a see-sawing playground of popularity amongst his countrymen.  Trudeau was not a puppet politician who succumbed to the whims of Parliament and/or the White House.  To the best of his ability, he did what was right for Canada.

Trudeau was the first head of state to meet with John and Yoko when they set out on their effort to join political dignitaries together for world peace, lending credibility to John and Yoko’s quest.  Trudeau represented a lessening of government and a more independent role of leadership in the free world as a commonwealth nation.  He was both widely popular and harshly criticized, but even through the fickle polls of public opinion he never compromised.  When asked how he was going to deal with certain political hot potatoes, he’d reply, “Just watch me.”

Jesse Winchester declared him, “the poor man’s friend” because of his seemingly neutral stance on the Vietnam War.  Thousands of draft evaders (including Winchester himself) fled to Canada during those years of conflict, yet Trudeau would not bow to political pressure from the U.S. to turn them away.  While not encouraging them to do so, his view of allowing these “immigrants” to move freely across Canada’s border gained him the unique status of a “people’s hero” in favor of the stuffed shirts of the old political regime. 

Pierre Elliott Trudeau even adopted the dual national language of French/English and would embrace both as Canada’s rightful heritage.  He did not seek to change those official languages to fit a mold or mindset, but united his country equally under them.  Would this be offensive today?  Only to the closed minded.

Unfortunately, there are some who feel threatened and/or exposed by certain terms or the usage of words that are unflattering, so they think if these are done away with prejudice will cease.  But you cannot censor thoughts or feelings with the deletion of expression, because if you try to do so… where does it end?  There is no language on earth more expressive than the English language as it continually evolves ever larger in content.  I say, don’t suppress it… 

I read recently that because one Canadian family head found the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, offensive it was being removed from the school’s curriculum, despite being a Pulitzer prize winning work.  So countless readers will be sheilded from this piece of classic American literature.  Ernest Hemingway’s work is being called into question and I wonder if Mark Twain could be next.  When we start censoring words, we shut down the free will to express and in turn foster resentment towards those who champion the ability to choose.

Last night my fair Chantal and I sat down to watch a black and white classic from 1938, Bringing Up Baby.  Early into the film, Cary Grant’s character was informed that a large private grant was being offered to the university to aid in his research as a paleontologist.  When told he’d be meeting a lawyer representing the party who was very favorable to placing the grant in their institution, he  commented, “Why, that’s very white of him!” 

If today’s thought police had their way, no doubt this film would have been nixed, too.

Don’t let them do your thinking for you.

peace.

How to put Barack back in the black

August 29, 2009

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Uh-oh, have you heard?  The Prez is slipping in the polls.  I guess this health care thing has got Americans up in arms about the cost and ramifications of government control in the insurance business, even amongst Democrats! Whoa.  And rightfully so, when has the government ever been able to take anything away from private enterprise and make it better?  But I agree something has to be done.  Maybe if MY plan is put into practice, instead of the public predicting a run on red ink and producing a chasm in the polls, Obama can regain the approval rating he had from the beginning of his term, perhaps even soar to new heights!

Since I have moved to Canada I have been able to observe first hand how their system works.  We all pay for the health care service.  And while it does not cover things like liposuction or cosmetic surgery, it is an arrangement that has positive results.  Canadians are healthier and more robust, averaging higher than Americans though WE spend more on health products and care than anyone else on the planet.

I know you’ve heard the rumors, a shortage of health care professionals and inferior service, but where I live I have not found this to be so.  Maybe this is true of larger cities, but that would make sense because the per capita would be less as the populace grows.  The fact is that emergency rooms in the States have long waits so what you might have here is not so abnormal.  And while Canada may not have the latest innovations, it only makes sense that the U.S. would because it has the resources and the money to develop them.  Remember, though Canada is a very large country, it has only 1/10 the population of our neighbors to the south.

I long for the days when doctors were people who cared for humanity and while taking that Hippocratic oath felt it their duty and privilege to serve.  It wasn’t about making money but helping people.  Somehow I think we lost that.  In choosing careers nowadays the emphasis  is on how wealthy a person can become.  Imagine that kind of bedside manner; a doctor who has the meter running and dollar signs in his eyes…  I wonder if a brazen, methodical, Gucci-wearing, diamond- studded, Tesla- driving, gated-community-living, high-society-seeking surgeon is really better than one who lives by modest means, motivated to heal the sick rather than skin them?  We need to put noble back into the medical profession.

I don’t mean to paint with a broad brush and imply that all health care professionals are only in it for the money because this would not be accurate.  I know several people who render certain medical expertise and are very good at it, make good money and find great satisfaction in knowing they are providing the best possible care in their field and love the fact that they can be of service to their fellow man.  Shucks, there are wealthy plumbers and used-car salesmen who are the same way.  There is nothing wrong with making money!  But I do feel the motivation of health care should be a higher calling, not merely a higher tax bracket.

So here goes, how to put Barack Obama “back in the black” with American public opinion.

1)  Students that receive government loans ( zero interest loans, perhaps?) to put themselves through any medical training should be required, (upon graduation) to work in a government run facility (like a free clinic) for a minimum of 5 years with a base salary while their loan payments are deferred.

2)  Career medical staff working at government run institutions with a fixed pay scale would receive their salaries tax free.

3)  Insurance cards would be available only to those who are employed with the exception of the elderly, handicapped or infirm.  Supplemental insurance would be encouraged to cover lost wages,  living expenses, and intensive or convalescing care.

4)  Welfare recipients, illegal aliens, career criminals and the habitually unemployed would not qualify for this program.

5)  Any government initiative would gradually be introduced and progressively adhered to over the course of the next ten years, making those who qualify covered by government insurance by 2020 while  workers are required immediately to begin funding in order to have substantial capital by that date.

As President, I would discourage the enormous profits of the current health care and pharmaceutical industry.  Barack Obama could regain the confidence of the American public if he championed this.  They put pictures of diseased lungs and decaying teeth to discourage the public from cigarette smoking, why not show pictures of people having to give up their homes or work three jobs in order to afford surgery?  There are some things that to receive a profit on is just morally wrong in my opinion.  I mean really, folks… how much do we need to be adequately fed, clothed and sheltered?  This is not a promotion towards communism, but a plea towards humanitarianism.

Imagine the Good Samaritan of the Bible being motivated by profit…

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it kinda takes the compassion out of the parable, doesn’t it?

Of course, this is a work in progress and may raise a few eyebrows but the point is… good health care should not be equated to social status.  There will always be specialists who will no doubt carve their niche with a certain clientele, but this is a call to all those others who feel that pain and suffering should be relieved… at a minimal cost.

peace.

Overpriced things we hate paying for… and then some

August 23, 2009

Oh, I love these little posts where we read about the “average” American and what upsets us.  I find I cannot relate to $6.00 cups of coffee, 401K’s, or paying too much for beer at the ballpark, but I do believe there are some things that all Americans feel they are getting ripped off on. 

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I noticed the author did not mention the high cost of prescription medication.  Aren’t most Americans convinced we are paying way too much, especially when Canadians can get the same stuff cheaper and still be able to sell it back to us at a lesser price?

Also, high gas prices still have me pissed, and that is after they have come down.  Even at an average of $2.80 a gallon, the cost of fuel jumped 40% of what it was prior to the gouge we endured 18 months ago.

Food prices have my shorts in a twist as well.  When you live in the most crop productive nation in the world, how is it that food costs have soared better than 10 times what they were a generation ago?  It used to be that chicken was a bargain but lately it has become a gourmet entre’ at my house.

Though I can live without going to the movies, buying expensive drinks at restaurants, bottled water and ATM charges, I cannot live without fuel to get me back and forth to work, nor can I exist without food.  Fortunately I do not require any prescription drugs, but there are some people who have to choose between medication and eating.  This is a terrible crime and a sham. 

There should be a law against making money off of other peoples ailments, whether you be a doctor, lawyer, merchant or chief.  It’s bad enough being sick, worse still being kicked when you are down.

peace.