Clearing my mental cache

With all due respect, does anyone else find it incongruous the media attention, accolades and ceremonies around the death of Kobe Bryant? Obviously it was a very tragic event as not only Bryant but his daughter and other families were fatalities in the helicopter accident. I’m also uncomfortable with the characterization by some that Bryant was a “ hero.” He was a great athlete, not necessarily a great role model. Compare Bryant’s death to that of a soldier killed in combat. The President doesn’t post a special tweet for that soldier. Much more often than not, the soldier comes back in a coffin draped with an American flag – – there is very little ceremony. There are no hour long specials based on the soldier’s life and death. No moments of silence at sporting events. Bryant, the businessman would appreciate the money being made from his death (Uniforms, sneakers etc.) So his death also matches his life; exploits = marketing opportunities = $$$.

The results in the United States Senate are very similar to the results one sees in World Wrestling Entertainment. Both have a lot of theater but the results are predetermined; in the United States Senate by Donald Trump and in the WWE by Vince McMahon.

Does anyone else snicker when they hear the term “free elections” used to describe a process in the United States?

The Democrats have probably lost the 2020 elections. Their failure to identify and promote a national spokesperson to spearhead the Trump impeachment trial and  pressure “Soft“ Republicans will cost them in November.

The admonition to Republican senators that history will judge them harshly for their support of Donald Trump has made absolutely no imprint on their behavior and how they vote. They do not learn from history and they do not care how they will be judged in the future. What matters to Republican senators is how they can escape any potential opposition in a primary.

The Myth of the Trump Economy

I think it’s time to put a pin in the Trump balloon about his success with the economy. He and his supporters have used the relatively good economic metrics that exist as rationale for his poor behavior as president and as the primary rationale for his reelection. Many Trumpers seem to think that Donald is a resurrection of FDR saving us from a depression or worse. I’m surprised that Trump did not take credit for the US Women’s Soccer Team In winning the World Cup.

Listed below are five considerations when viewing the economy:

#1 The unemployment rate is 3.5% which is excellent. There are more jobs than qualified people to fill them. I’m not quite sure what credit the president or Congress can take for that result. I’d give more credit to America’s entrepreneurs, small business owners and CEOs for the job success. Trump inherited a growing economy from the Obama administration. Trumpers need to remember that the unemployment rate went from 10% to 4.8% during Obama’s tenure. The fate of the economy was much more tenuous in 2009 when Obama assumed the presidency than it was on January 20, 2017. In addition, Obama did not have the favorable political environment where his party possessed the numbers or clout to push through his agenda or bidding, at will. Obama did the heavy lifting for the economy. Trump was the relief pitcher in the ninth inning protecting a 8-0 lead.

#2 The passage of the 2018 Corporate tax bill helped promote an increase in the Dow Jones industrial average by 49%. This is great metrics – – if you are fortunate enough to have invested in Dow Jones companies. So Trump and the Republican Congress made a decision – – they helped improve the fortunes of the large investors to buy new mansions, and new yachts. At whose expense? Our country badly needs improvements in our infrastructure – – we need to fix up roads, bridges, airports, etc. The federal debt has gone up $2 billion under Trump and is now 78% of this nation’s entire gross domestic product. The Republicans have approved the credit card  and issued an unlimited credit limit and our gleefully spending it. This is the party who wanted to cut up the card and freeze spending when the previous President was a Democrat. The problem is that the bill will be paid further down the road by future generations.

#3 The fed funds rate is 1.75%. Why is this important? For consumers, it affects the borrowing rate for your car, your mortgage and any other consumer debt that you may have. Currently, you are able to borrow money relatively cheaply. However, if you are interested in saving money, you are in a conundrum. Anyone who has a checking account, money market fund or certificate of deposit is probably realizing an annual rate of less than .05%. In order to make money or get the best return on your investment, you probably have to enter the financial casino known as the stock market or equities. One of the primary reasons why the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ have and continue to do well is that consumers are investing their money in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. There is no other game in town. If you are a retiree and on a fixed income, you will earn about as much money stuffing it under your mattress as you would depositing it in a bank. One last point, the president expressed he “could get used to” in a  negative interest rate environment. Under this scenario, depositors would pay banks to maintain their cash deposits. If the country enters a recession, the Fed has very few options to bolster the economy given the very low interest rates now. A negative interest rate environment is not impossible.

#4 Remember the President’s promise during the 2016 election to replace Obamacare with a better healthcare program that was cheaper and more efficient? I do. The only thing that the president and the Republican Party have tried to do is to eliminate Obamacare. You never heard what program they were proposing to a replace it. During the Trump administration, the number of people lacking health insurance rose by 2 million. Prescription costs continue to rise and many people each day struggle to gauge whether to eat or to use the money for drugs they need to stay alive or healthy.

#5 Strangely enough, there are consequences to a full employment economy. For this observation, I will speak from several recent personal experiences in trying to conduct business with various companies. First, due to the lack of attracting qualified applicants, many companies are forced to hire unqualified or less than qualified people. Many of these employees require extensive training and follow-up. Second, there is a huge turnover in personnel particularly among businesses that are unable to provide competitive salaries and benefits. In various instances, applicants who accept job offers don’t show up for their first day at work and don’t have the decency to notify the employer that they have accepted another position or simply lost interest in the job they accepted. Third, dealing with combination of unqualified and unmotivated employees is a horrible experience for those of us trying to conduct business with a company. Because many employees do not possess good business judgment or have the ability to resolve issues on their own, they are forced to follow a script. Beyond reading the script, many frontline employees are clueless in resolving billing, delivery and service issues. 

The Kiss

“The best kiss is the one that has been exchanged a thousand times between the eyes before it reaches the lips.” Anonymous

She was a 4.0 in the classroom and a 9 outside it. Ginger was a pleasant shock to the eyes, a fashion model like figure on our college campus. Light curly red hair, big round blue eyes, lightly freckled face, the girl next door but with a bit of a flirty attitude. Her looks and personality reminded me of the actress Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night. Petite, always dressed smartly and perfectly coiffed, she was a classmate in a literature course during my sophomore year of college. She served as my visual and mental distractions to the monotone lectures about Beowulf and early European writers. She was the type of woman that I would hope to marry after I graduated college, worked my way up in a corporation and became CEO. 

Content to admire her from afar in class, our initial interactions involved some class discussion repartee but no social conversation. Maybe I could impress this young lady with my brain or knowledge of literature? But even though I was in a class with her, I never felt that I was in her class. She possessed a maturity, style and aura outside my area of expertise. I was simply content to see this vision of beauty in class twice a week for 90 minutes.

However much to my surprise, she made the first move for a more social introduction early in the semester. One morning as I studied alone at a long table in the bowels of the campus library, she dropped her books and coat on the chair next to where I was sitting. “Mind if I sit here?” she asked. I pushed a chair out so Ginger could sit, “Not at all, I quickly replied.” I would have pushed aside loaded bookshelves so she could sit next to me. Usually first conversations are a break in period with periods of silence. But we conversed easily, like old friends. She wasn’t stuffy or put on airs. She exhibited an interest in what I had to say and a wicked sense of humor. I do admit that I spent most of my time listening to her. It was a very comfortable beginning to what was a three year casual friendship and unusual relationship. 

Ginger had plenty of male admirers on campus and she regaled me with stories of her dates that were usually very lavish (theatre, concerts and expensive dinners.) She also had dreams of being in the theatre or singing professionally. Many of her suitors were from the law school who could afford her extravagant tastes. Every now and then, she would introduce me to another beau who would follow her around campus carrying her books. Her admirers came and went. 

I understood Ginger’s allure but I avoided the siren call of Scylla. The truth was that in terms of personality and social confidence that, in college,  I was much more like “Flounder” than “Otter.” (Animal House devotees will understand my reference).

During our friendship, she never called me by my first name. She would call me Poli Sci (my major), Clapton or some other nickname. I think she got the idea from watching Love Story where Ali McGraw called Ryan O’Neil’s character “Preppy.” During the summer, she sent me postcards and letters from vacation resorts where she had been staying that were addressed to Poli Sci with my home address.

There were times where she genuinely amused me with her concern. She once sat in the bleachers and watched me play a spirited pick-up basketball game in the college gym. I was the only white player among the 10 players. In one of the time-outs, one of the players asked me, “Is that your girlfriend?” Fearing he would approach her and not knowing what her reaction would be, I lied and responded “Yes.” He elbowed me and smiled, “Damn fine lady.” I wish! After the game, she came over and whispered to me, “Weren’t you afraid?”

Another time, I was playing volleyball outside the college center. It was a cold afternoon but I took my coat off in order to play more comfortably. She ran on to the volleyball court at the end of a point with my coat, shook her finger at me and yelled “Are you crazy, it’s 30 degrees. You’ll get sick. Put your coat on!”

I often wondered if she saw me as a challenge. I never expressed to her or displayed any interest about a date or upgrading our relationship to being more than friends. I never showed jealously from meeting any of the guys she dated on campus. Ginger liked to tease me. She found me too quiet and gently criticized my quiet social life. She would see me sitting with a coed in school and ask me later, “Is she your girlfriend? I’d answer, “No, she’s just a friend.” “Like me?”, she’d ask and I’d tell her, “No one is like you.” 

The truth of the matter is that I feared if I pursued her or answered the call of Scylla that I would lose her just like the other guys on campus who dated her. I was content to keep things the way they were.

Until one day a few weeks before our graduation…

Sometimes I would sit with a collection of her girlfriends and my friends in the College Center before class as she held court. I usually had my head in a book or newspaper and listened half heartedly to her conversation. Sometimes her voice would grow very soft and she’d smile in my direction. That’s when I knew she was saying something teasing about me. On this day, I heard her girlfriends giggle while looking in my direction. So I asked Ginger what was so funny. Her answer changed our friendship but ended a stalemate on how we may have truly felt for each other. 

Ginger replied, “I was just wondering, “what it would feel like to get a kiss from you?’

Ah, a shot across my bow! I know I was initially embarrassed. Normally she would say things to get some type of reaction from me and I would usually roll my eyes, shake my head and ignore her jibe. But this came across as a challenge I could not duck. Time was running out. Exams would start soon and so would our opportunities to see each other.

I tried to play it cool. I got up from my chair, went over to her and whispered, “Ginger, can I see you outside?” She slowly got up from her chair as her friends laughed and chortled “Uh-oh.” I held the doors open for her and found a quiet spot around the corner of the College Center. She stood with an amused smile and her hands by her pockets. “Your question deserves an answer,” I began…

I slowly moved in front of her and softly grabbed her hands. “School is almost over. We should satisfy our curiosities that we have left at school. Life is too short to have any regrets. I want you to have an answer to your question.” She listened quietly with a mischievous smirk on her face and a tilt of her head, almost daring me to act. So our three year dance led to this moment.

I pulled her closer to me. She showed no resistance, no hesitation. I half expected her to laugh and walk away. She didn’t. Time stopped. The world stopped. I was totally present. I felt the warm sun on my right cheek. I felt the softness of her hands, noticed the curve of her mouth, smelled her hair and a soft scent of perfume. Birds stopped chirping or I stopped hearing. The din of noise from the college center was white noise.

I moved my left hand behind her shoulder squeezing her closer. I leaned towards her, closed my eyes, and gently brushed her lips with mine and then kissed her. The actual kiss lasted maybe five seconds but I still feel the experience 45 years later. I released her lips and noticed her eyes were still closed as if she was evaluating her experience and her lips were a bit pursed as if she might be expecting an encore. When her eyes opened, a sly smile greeted me. She was silent but her smile seemed to express she won a small victory. I gave her hands a quick squeeze and then let them go. 

About a month later, I saw Ginger for the last time at the conclusion of our graduation ceremony. I did not have a chance to catch up with her before the ceremony as we had different class and exam schedules. We missed having our yearbook picture taken together. She quickly introduced me to her parents and I noticed that she seemed to have another prospective beau waiting for her. Our good-byes were brief. I had hoped that I could still see her but those hopes were dashed when she mentioned that she was relocating to the Midwest with her family. She hooked my arm, squeezed it and pulled me close to whisper “Good bye and Good luck.” She then turned to wind her way through the throng of graduates and their families to slowly walk away. I sadly watched her go about three steps when she stopped and turned around. She had one surprise left. She moved back slowly to me, grabbed my left hand, pulled me close and touched my cheek with her right hand.  She then ran her index and middle fingers gently over her lips, smiled, winked at me and whispered “I’ll miss you, Eric.”

Best of South Jersey/Philadelphia

Image by AxxLcc

Philadelphia Magazine usually publishes a “Best of list” of restaurants, bakeries, places to visit, celebrities etc. that focuses on Center City and the outlying Pennsylvania suburbs. My list is very provincial, mostly places in Camden and Burlington counties. It only reflects my tastes and I have very pedestrian tastes so buyer/reader beware! For amusement purposes only…

Best Breakfast Restaurants: 1. Amy’s Omelette House, Cherry Hill; 2. First Watch Cherry Hill; 3. Perkins, Moorestown NJ

Best Lunch Restaurants: 1. Tre Famiglia, Haddonfield 2. Dooneys, Voorhees; 3. Zoe’s Cherry Hill and Moorestown

Best Bar Food: Blue Monkey, Merchantville

Best Chain Restaurants: 1. Maggiano’s; 2. Brio’s; 3. Olive Garden

Best Diner: 1. Ponzio’s, Cherry Hill; 2. Silver Diner Cherry Hill

Best Buffalo Wings: Pronto, Merchantville

Best Milkshakes: 1. My wife’s; 2. Maple Shade Custard Stand

Best Pizza: 1. Tacconelli’s Maple Shade; 2. Manco and Manco, Ocean City; 3. Bertucci’s, Moorestown

Best Cheeseburger: 1. Habit Burger, Cherry Hill; 2. Five Guys, Cinnaminson

Best French Fries: 1. Five Guys, Cinnaminson; 2. McDonalds, Cinnaminson

Best Hoagies: 1. Jersey Mike’s, Cinnaminson 2. DiPascale’s at Meadowbrook, Pennsauken

Best Return on Investment: Purchase of Sunday New York Times on Kindle for $.99

Best Current Big 5 Coach: Jay Wright, Villanova

Best Big Five Coach Ever: Jay Wright, Villanova

Best Current Big Five Player Not Playing for Villanova: Ryan Daly, St Joseph’s

Best Current Philadelphia Sports Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Best Current Philadelphia 76er Player: Ben Simmons

Best Ever Philadelphia 76er Player: 1. Wilt Chamberlain; 2. Julius Erving

Best Philly Broadcaster All Time: 1. Harry Kalas; 2. Gene Hart; 3. Bill Campbell

Best Sports Event No Longer in Philadelphia: U.S. Pro Indoor Tennis Tournament

Current Sports Event that’s not like it use to be: Big 5 Palestra basketball games

Best Athletes from Willingboro NJ: 1. Carl Lewis; 2. Gino Marella (Gorilla Monsoon-WWE); 3. Ken Caldwell

Best Place to Play Pickleball: Anyplace where my friends are currently playing

Why Trump will be Re-Elected

It may be hard to believe that a President currently experiencing an impeachment hearing in the Senate and with favorable poll numbers no higher than the mid to high 40s would be a favorite to win reelection. However I see trends that support my belief that Trump will be reelected and it’s not because of any great achievements by his administration.

First, after watching the Democratic debates, I don’t see a winning candidate that can roll in the mud with Trump and come out victorious. All the Democratic candidates are genteel, proper and appropriately reserved in their speech and conduct. In other words, they are all roadkill for Trump. Trump will bully, bluster and lie his way around opposition campaign strategy. Debating Trump is a waste of time. Anyone who watched the three Trump-Clinton debates realized that she wiped the floor with him. He was inarticulate, ill prepared and totally outclassed on knowledge of foreign and domestic policies. Yet he was elected President after three disastrous debate performances.

Second, the number of no and low information voters may be higher than those who have a grasp of current events and policy considerations. These voters are more influenced by memes and insults which are Trump’s forte. Many Trump voters do not wish to be informed, they wish to be entertained. They also want a spokesman who will confirm and support their prejudices, feelings of religious persecutions and class oppression.

Third, there is very little long range thinking in government and that also applies to many voters. They are content to kick the cans of global warming, income inequality, affordable health care for all, immigration reform and education reforms down the road. Trump voters show little concern for the impacts of regulation pullbacks and corporate tax cuts on future generations.

Fourth, Trump has a united cabal behind him called the Republican party. He faces no internal opposition from Congress and no serious political opponent emerged to contest his nomination. The Democrats, on the other hand, are showing signs of fracture between the moderates (Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar) and the liberal/socialists (Warren and Sanders). This division and the resultant lack of enthusiasm, support and turnout will doom the Democratic ticket.

Fifth, the role of the press has been critical in past elections. The press would uncover scandals and other stories that could doom a candidates’ chances. In 2016, the Access Hollywood tapes did not change the minds of many Trump supporters. His moral failings and bizarre behavior did not hurt him at all, especially among white Christian evangelicals. The press has been marginalized. Today a Republican woman senator refused to answer an appropriate question about the impeachment proceedings from a reporter labeling him a “liberal hack.” Trump has deflected many of the charges against him by citing “fake news.” It appears that many voters have bought into this fraudulent tactic.

Today there are no editorials calling for Trump’s resignation of removal from office. Democrats have failed to go after Trump like he has attacked them. There is no Democratic spokesperson with the exception of Nancy Pelosi who has blunted Trump’s attacks. I don’t see things changing by November. Four more years…

12 Things That No Longer Interest Me

As one gets older, one tends to downsize interests, activities and that one pursued or took part in throughout their life. Here is an initial list of things that were important earlier in my life but not so much now…

  1. Advertising: As my need to buy and own things lessen so is my interest in advertising or sales pitches. I hate commercials on TV and ads when I’m watching something on Youtube.
  2. Gossip: I’ve pretty much lost the ability to be shocked even surprised by the behavior of people especially celebrities, athletes and politicians.
  3. Long books and articles: I don’t have the same mental stamina that I had years ago. I tend to avoid books over 300 pages.
  4. Snow since I don’t go to school and I don’t have to drive to go to work, snow has become largely irrelevant except when I have to shovel it
  5. Winning At Contests Or Competition: When I play pickleball, I can’t tell you what my wins and losses were that day. My ultimate criteria is whether I had fun.
  6. Making New Year’s Resolutions While there are things I need to improve, I don’t need to formalize or plan how to do it.
  7. Diets: Too old, too late for me to discipline my taste buds and eating habits.
  8. Local Sports Talk Radio: The dumbest things ever said are mentioned on political social media sites and sports talk radio shows.
  9. Expensive Meals: A great tasting pizza can blow me away more than the priciest lobster. Dining out is the opportunity to socialize and connect with friends. Food is often incidental.
  10. Attending professional sporting events: With the exception of high school sports, I have lost interest in attending pro and college football, baseball and basketball games at the various venues. No interest in paying for parking and squeezing my big butt into an expensive seat when I could be comfortable at home watching the game.
  11. Ego: I no longer feel the need to impress. I don’t need to worry about what people think of me. I feel more authentic, more comfortable with who I am.
  12. Wealth: Health and time are more important than money. One always needs money but if your health is bad and you are not enjoying time due to pain, loneliness, boredom or infirmity, your life is poor.  You can’t buy contentment.

Eric’s Pickleball Partner’s Handbook

Will never be mistaken for Tyson McGuffin

With apologies to my past and future pickle ball partners, here’s what you may expect from playing with me:

  1. I will continually forget the score and you will have to remind me what the score is.
  2. I will poach at the most inopportune moments and leave you to cover the entire court.
  3. I will chase “out balls” like a dog chasing a flung chew toy
  4. My eyes are not what they used to be so my line calls may need a second review.
  5. I will play with anyone and at any level. Win or lose, I want my partner to have fun and to be willing to play with me again.
  6. I am not good enough to offer advice. My best and only advice to most players is to continue to play, have fun and your game will improve over time.
  7. When I “tag” someone on the opposite team, I will generally apologize and check to ensure they are OK.
  8. My hearing is as reliable as my third shot drop – – so you may have to repeat things to me.