Miscellanea: Ruminations on a Dreary and Somber Day

Sandra Lynn Burleigh (Donahue) 2/28/1956 – 1/5/1995

I have lived 25,080 days. My sister Sandra who would have been 65 today died at age 38 in 1995, lived 14,191 days. She embodied the adage that it’s the quality of life in your years that matter not the years in your life.

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While it’s important at any time, the value of having good friends and family is far greater in our senior years than the value of one’s investments and assets.

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There are people who have hundreds or thousands of “friends” or followers on social media that may influence their lives. In my life, there are or were five people who influenced me by their thoughts and examples to be a better person. For them, I am grateful.

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We receive 86,400 “presents” daily so everyday is Christmas.

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According to the book, Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality by physicist Frank Wilczek, we can have a billion thoughts in our lifetime. I think that as we get older many of our thoughts are re-runs like old Gunsmoke or MASH episodes.

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Based on normal actuary tables, I have probably lived between 87-89% of my expected life. If I was a car, I would probably be replaced for a new model. Regrettably my trade-in value would be relatively low. My tires are worn, my headlights are dim and my engine is not as powerful as it once was.

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Ben Johns: Pickleball = Michael Jordan:Basketball

Johns and Jordan are the best closers in their respective sports.

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Cash Prizes: 2021 Australian Open = $80,000,000; 2021 Pro Pickleball Championships = $100,000

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Mitch McConnell: on Capitol Riot 1/6/21

“The mob was fed lies,”.“They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”…”These criminals were carrying his banners. Hanging his flags. And screaming their loyalty to him,”

Mitch McConnell on 2/25/21:He would “absolutely” support former President Donald Trump if he became the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.

WTF???

But Wait for It…

“Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.” ― Groucho Marx

The first corporate job that I had after college was working for a finance company in reviewing and approving credit applications. I developed a nice phone relationship with CBA operator # 33. Over the phone, she was funny, a bit flirtatious and very personable. Since her office was not that far from where I worked, I invited her to lunch. She did not disappoint. She was attractive, had a pretty face, about my age, was funny and the conversation flowed freely. Eureka! I found a nice girlfriend! But wait for it…. At the end of the lunch, I asked if she would like to have dinner with me this Friday night. She said “Yes” and seemed as excited as I was in getting together. But wait for it…

She gave me her home phone number and address and I said that I would pick her up at 7 o’clock, if that was OK. She frowned a bit and said “Would you mind making it at 8 o’clock as my husband leaves for work about seven at night?”

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My bad luck with women, in my bachelor years, unfortunately extended to my friend, Steve. He and I would get together on weekend trawls looking for the girls of our dreams at places like Kaminski’s, Someplace Else, The Coliseum etc. One weekend night, he and I met two women, Lori and Debbie, who I had worked with when I was in college. The four of us shared some conversation, some memories and a bit of flirtation. Steve became very smitten with my former blonde, blue eyed colleague, Lori. He begged me to call Lori for another weekend get together that might include a nice dinner. Obliging my friend, I contacted Lori and with some unexpected reluctance, she agreed to have dinner. But wait for it… Lori had two conditions: the first was that I and her friend Debbie were also at the dinner. No problem. 

The second condition was that Steve was not to become interested in Lori. Puzzled, I asked why as I knew Steve was very smitten. Lori replied, “Because I’m getting married in four weeks.”

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( I generally get tongue tied or am unable to come up with a suitable riposte when provoked but I think I nailed this one). Early 80’s memory…

While having lunch with a single and flirtatious work colleague, she handed me pictures of her recent trip to a resort on one of the islands. She narrated many of the pictures where she was routinely shown in a bikini and sipping various tropical drinks at a beach. I silently flipped through the pictures between bites of my lunch until I came to the last picture. But wait for it… It was similar to all the other beach pictures except the top portion of her bikini was missing.

Grinning she asked “What do you think? As I was handing the pictures back, I replied, “I am surprised they were that big.” Her eyes widened, “Do you mean my chest?”  I replied, “No, the size and swell of the waves in the background of the picture.”

Modern Day Icarus

But who names a starship the Icarus? What kind of man possess that much hubris, that he dares it to fall?” 

― Amie Kaufman

The fortunes of men do not move in a straight line. There are dips of fortune and misfortune that follow like a timeline graph of the S&P market performance. What and who goes up, inevitably fall, at least temporarily. For public figures, in particular, falls and misfortunes are amplified as they are publicized, criticized and posterized.

Failures and misfortunes proceeded by hype, hubris and arrogance are replete from the past. Politics is a veritable quicksand of past victims of questionable judgement and behavior including Richard Nixon, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer,  and Oliver North. Sports and media icons of fallen fortunes include Pete Rose, O.J. Simpson, Tiger Woods, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby and Lori Laughlin.

Comeuppance often is self inflicted. Poor judgment by words or actions or can often alter the flight of one’s career or legacy.  The sun melted the wings of Icarus when he flew too close to the sun. Legacies and reputations crash when their victims flew too far from truth, probity, decency and humility.

Five current examples of contemporary Icarus like behavior:

Jacob Peter Gowy‘s The Flight of Icarus
  1. Donald Trump: His pride was so damaged that he decided to lie and obfuscate about the results of his re-election defeat. Worse, Trump was able to dupe sycophants and crazed zealots to an attempted overthrow of the government, rejection of election results and the assassinations of Congressional political leaders.
  2. Lou Dobbs: Never met a crazy conspiracy theory or theorist he did not like or have on his show. More intimate with Trump than Melania. Confirmation of H.L. Mencken adage: “The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” 
  3. Lindsay Graham: More flip-flops than a boardwalk in the summer. Once respected for his bipartisanship, he once rose on the wings of a John McCain friendship and principles; today, Graham’s descent coincides with his support of those elements, policies and people that McCain despised.
  4. Curt Schilling: What you say has consequences. A Hall of Famer based on his Major League Baseball performance. Off the field, his comments on same sex marriage and Muslims project him as a minor leaguer bust in the fields of politics and culture.
  5. Carson Wentz: Once the Franchise, now soon to be one of the great disappointments in Philadelphia sports history like Markelle Fultz, Shawn Bradley, Mike Mamula and Kevin Allen.

Sage 3

Seeking the wisdom of the past to explain the present…

News HeadlineWisdom (from the Ages)
Fox News cancels Lou Dobbs’ show; pro-Trump host not expected to be back on air. (LA Times)The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy: the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
— JK Galbraith
Trump’s attempts to overturn the election have cost taxpayers more than $519 million so far, Washington Post finds. (Business Insider)“He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.” 
Groucho Marx
(Rep. Marjorie Taylor) Greene apologizes to GOP colleagues — and gets standing ovation. (The Hill)“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” 
― Albert Einstein
‘No regrets’: Evangelicals and other faith leaders still support Trump after deadly US Capitol attack. (USA Today)“We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.” 
― Christopher Hitchens
Poll: 64 percent of GOP voters say they would join a Trump-led new party (The Hill)“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”  H.L. Mencken
Supreme Court Rules Against Calif., Doubles Down On Religious Rights Amid Pandemic (NPR)Nowadays, science provides better and more consistent answers, but people will always cling to religion, because it gives comfort, and they do not trust or understand science.—-Stephen Hawking
2 more Trump supporters who took a private jet to Washington, DC, have been charged in the Capitol riot. (Business Insider)“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
― George Carlin

Senescence: Round 2

Some additional Pensées on the art of aging and other ruminations…Earlier Pensées found here

The best thing that we can receive are not presents, but simply “presence”.

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While I sadly accept the fate of lost friendships by death, I continually mourn lost friends due to distance, dispute or their disinterest. 

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Young broken hearts quickly recover; older hearts rarely…

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Memory is a funny thing. It vividly remembers the wink of an eye from a pretty girl 50 years ago but can’t remember what it had for lunch yesterday.

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In every real man, a child is hidden who…misses the comfort of hugs and reassurances of parents, siblings, relatives and friends no longer alive.

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As a young child, I treasured a pocket watch as my timepiece, today I just treasure peaceful time.

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One may try so hard to be liked by everyone that one can forget to take the time to like themselves.

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The average older guy’s daily wardrobe often can fit into the locker he had in high school.

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30 minutes of personal or phone conversation > dozens of text and Facebook messages

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On long solo walks, I find myself rarely traveling alone…

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40+years of marriage: Life accomplishment = .400 batting average: baseball. Both achievements deserve recognition in their respective Hall of Fames.

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Linus has his security blanket; older Americans, nostalgia.

Photo by Daniel Frese from Pixels

Waxing Nostalgic

At 68 years of age, while I appreciate all the technological and other wonders that I have and am experiencing, I do wax nostalgic at times of things that I miss like those listed below:

Major league pitchers who throw complete games

Basketball players who don’t take games off

Two way football players who play offense and defense

News that only comes on between 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. No breaking news every commercial break

Civil political discussion shows like Firing Line with William F. Buckley

Women without tattoos or nose rings

Swanson TV dinners

Quality local newspapers and local community reporting

Competitive heavyweight boxing

Cuff links

Pocket watches

The convenience of transistor radios

Gino Giants

Bosco

Wall St Week with Louis Rukeyser

Phillies Hot Pants Patrol

GE College Bowl

Comic books

Vaughn Meader

Big 5 Basketball doubleheaders at The Palestra

Doctors who made house calls

Calls to businesses answered by a person

People shaking hands

Bildungsroman (1970-71)

My freshman year of college at St Joseph’s College in Philadelphia was easily the most transformative year of my life. What I learned and experienced outside the classroom was much more of an education than what I gained inside it. Before my yearlong residency at Fortier Hall (4th Floor), I was a skinny bookish introvert with limited social skills. After Fortier, I was still introverted but my social skills improved and I gained a sense of confidence in dealing with people and how I presented myself, maybe with a little bit more “Fortier” swagger. My sense of humor improved and I incorporated some of the best traits that I admired from my fellow Fortier residents.

Truth be told, I majored in basketball at St Joe’s (not Political Science or pre-Law). I squeezed classes and studies in between playing basketball with commuting students, intramural leagues and pick-up games. I spent as much time in the Fieldhouse as I did in the library. My knowledge of history and literature improved but not as much as my ball handling and outside shot. My roommate was on the freshman basketball team so that became my introduction to various social groups on campus and to some of the pretty young women in the cheerleading squad and women’s basketball club team. I even practiced with some of the young Lady Hawks and I enjoyed some social time with a few off the court. 

The fall of 1970 marked the first year that women entered St Joseph’s College. Some coeds lived on the third floor of my building and I was grateful when some helped me with the mechanics of doing laundry or sending up soup when I was not feeling well. I think their prescence largely made the building more civil. There were also parties and chances to meet women from other schools including Rosemont and Harcum. I still have fond memories of Becky from Rosemont who put up with my failed attempts at humor and seduction to woo her. I enjoyed her company and conversation.

Animal House had Bluto, Otter, Flounder, Boon and Pinto. Fortier Hall had “The Boy,” The Pope, Smilin’ Harv, Fish, Steak, The Great Eraser and Hooter, among others. Just about everyone received a nickname. I had one too but I will conveniently tell the story of my nickname possibly on a future blog post. Despite differences in personality and temperament, we mostly got along.

Fortier Hall was not exactly “Animal House” but it did have its moments. I remember a planned raid on Villanova to cut down one of their trees for Christmas. I fortunately did not attend the raid as I later had to help bail out some of my hall members who were caught and arrested by Villanova campus police. There was also a fire alarm set off at 3 a.m. on a very cold winter night. While the rest of the residents of our building dutifully evacuated and shivered outside in robes and pajamas, my fellow Fortier hall mates were “advised” to stay inside. The students freezing outside did not enjoy that practical joke.

One frigid night, the heat failed in the residents’ building. The Resident Manager of the building was housed on the first floor with his very attractive and young wife. Using the PA system, he advised us of the heating situation and to make plans accordingly to stay warm and comfortable. He closed his announcement with a request for any ideas or suggestions to stay warm. Someone yelled outside loudly, “Send your wife to the Fourth Floor.”

Fortier Hall did have a priest who lived with us. He largely (and wisely) stayed out of the way. My recollection of him was rather unique. One night, a group of my fellow residents were watching “smokers” (porno movies) in a darkened lounge.  I poked my head into the room and said, “Aren’t you worried about Father seeing this?” I should not have worried as he was sitting in the corner of the room watching the film. 

There was a protocol to put a tie on the door knob outside when you had a woman in your room. This was a “Do Not Disturb” sign alerting your roommate and others to stay away. On weekends this was not an uncommon occurrence and our good Father managed to disappear. I swear the seniors in our hall paid him off.

I experienced one food fight at St Joe’s. The cafeteria food was not good and tended to be very bland and predictable. So Food Services made an announcement that steak was going to be served. All of us looked forward to it. We shouldn’t have! The steak was tough as a pigskin. You could not cut it. You could not chew it. Soon steaks were flying around the cafeteria like footballs on the gridiron and a chant from angry students broke out, “The steak is shit, the steak is shit.” The Director of Food Services came out of his office to assess the clamor and had to dodge pieces of inedible steer aimed in his direction.

Big 5 basketball was the big social event on campus at least from December through March. Villanova was the big rival and the rollouts tended to be more brutal and caustic for that game than others. One of the most infamous rollouts was “ What’s the difference between Chris Ford and a dead baby? Answer: A dead baby doesn’t suck.” Big 5 games were generally sold out at the Palestra and raucous. A group of us also supported my roommate at freshman games and we were especially obnoxious at our home games towards the visiting team. I personally pissed off one All Star South Jersey player who looked like he was coming into the stands for a fight.

There were three influences on campus that I did not have any interest in. For some reason, guys on my floor liked to watch soap operas, especially General Hospital. I passed. I also did not share any interest in drinking beer so I often was the only sober member of our Hall during parties. I never smoked, inhaled or tried marijuana. I still recollect the Hall parties filled with the odor of Mary Jane, loud music by The Doors and the smell of spilled beer on the carpets. I did pick up one bad habit and that was cursing. Cursing was part of normal discourse among Fortier residents and I carried this bad habit home for a short while.

I don’t remember any classes or teachers at St Joe’s that made any impression on me. I learned much more from the residents of my Hall and those of another Hall (Ryder) that shared the fourth floor with us. I was in a mix with students of different countries, states, ages, economic status, talents, interests, political and cultural views. I also shared conversations with students who inspired me by their drive and ambitions for the future. My freshman year was during the Vietnam War and while there were no disruptions on campus, there was plenty of discussion and debate on our continued military involvement. (That’s why I feel bad for students who are now forced to online studies. The biggest benefits of college may be the social and intellectual connections you make not the dry textbooks and sterile lectures you muddle through.)

I finished up my education sophomore through senior year at Rutgers University in Camden. The teachers and classes were much better at Rutgers and I focused more on my studies and less on basketball and social events. I graduated with a Political Science degree with the intention to attend law school but wound up in the banking industry as a career. I owe my year at St Joe’s as the start of my life education and its influence is still a part of me.