I Hope You Danced!

About 50 years ago on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in June, I and about 480 classmates graduated from Camden Catholic High School. I don’t remember too much about the ceremony itself, I do recall feeling a bit anxious, excited and fearful as to what was coming next. It was not an easy time in our country. We were experiencing demonstrations and riots about civil rights as well as the Vietnam War. Students were shot at Kent State by National Guardsmen the month before. There were verbal and physical clashes between conservatives and liberals and there was a very unpopular Republican president. We had to deal with a lot of social and political turmoil. Some things never change, I guess…

So after 50 years, a few reminiscences…

Most of my memories at CCHS are pleasant. I enjoyed classes with Mr. Azores, Mr. D’Antonio, Mr. Budniak, Father Yorio, Sister Agnese, Mr. McDonald, Sister Victorine etc. I even survived a Latin class with Sister Wilfred. I also survived some good natured barbs from Mr. D’Antonio. I believed I got a very good education from CCHS.

I remember demerit cards, Father Rock, pep rallies, small lockers, Sadie Hawkins day (I never got picked) pizza in the cafeteria, Kathy Hennessey as my lab partner (RIP), The Paper, Kreskin show, Communication Arts, pink, green and yellow women uniforms based on graduation year, music appreciation class, Farnham Park, “River rats’, gymnastics exercises during gym classes, building of a baseball field in the back of the parking lot, excellent school plays…

I vaguely remember that our class was sometimes referred by some teachers as the “most ill behaved ever.” Due to some prank or mischief, we had to sit quietly in the school auditorium for a few hours reputedly perpetuated by a member of our class. We did enjoy a class where there were various personalities, temperaments and characters.

Yearbook

My most influential and favorite teacher was Father Walsh (Quince). Initially I rebelled at many of his views and I often challenged him and several classmates who shared his thinking. He was relatively patient with “Brother Burleigh” and welcomed our verbal jousts on topics including Vietnam, religion, politics, history, philosophy, justice and morality. Quince got me to think more critically and analytically. He was the epitome of a great teacher, one who inspires you for further learning.

I maintained and made a number of friendships at CCHS. Bob Chrzanowski has been a friend of mine since we were both 6 year olds from the mean streets of South Camden. Bob has retired and is enjoying his addiction to golf. Mike Mensinger and I have been friends for over 50 years. I was pleased to be the best man at his wedding. Mike and I had a “cut” contest (missing class) during our senior year at Rutgers. Surprisingly we both graduated. I don’t see Mike as much as I would like but I am attempting to perform a “political exorcism” online currently. I’m blessed to have Bob and Joyce Leonetti as friends. When my wife Chris was going through breast cancer, they were very supportive to the both of us. Bob had rented a bus for the Breast Cancer walk in Philadelphia years ago, which meant a great deal to Chris. Bob and Joyce have a number of charitable contributions. They epitomize the best from our class.  Bob was also my “go to” receiver when we played touch football in our youth. 

I did not know Kathy Murphy, now Caldwell though we had graduated St Pete’s, CCHS and Rutgers together. My friend Ken (graduate of some defunct high school in Willingboro) had the great fortune and judgment to meet and marry her and I benefitted greatly from having her in my life also through Ken. Kathy is a great wife and mother of three very smart children and seven grandchildren. Kathy is a great friend, confidant and support for me. Kathy’s husband Ken has often expressed his disappointment that he did not attend CCHS.

I am pleased when I hear how many of my fellow classmates have done well in academia, business, government service, writing, the arts and charitable work. Two of my classmates have inspired me lately. Joe Mussomeli has inspired me to write. I have read some of Joe’s published essays and columns on politics and other topics and they are excellent. Jean Riberio Lizzio is my inspiration for health and athletics. Jean is an accomplished triathlete and maybe our class’s best athlete, male and female. What she has been able to accomplish in running and competition at this time in our lives when a walk around the block is sufficient exercise for many of us is remarkable.

I have been able to catch up with Jean and Donna Segrest Aristone at the mini reunions that have been held at Dooney’s. (I am prejudiced but I always thought that the young girls I graduated with at St Pete’s were the most attractive and nicest women at CCHS and beyond.) I also enjoy seeing Dorina and John Szczepanski, Patty Corbett, Bud Crane, Bill Foster and Rick Caruso at these mini reunions.

I am sorry that we did not have the 50th reunion as I would have liked to say hello and catch up with those I share comments and likes on Facebook including Rick Boyle, Sandi Weisel, and Ginger Breen.

Happy 50th Graduation!

P.S. I can remember the first two verses of our Alma Mater. I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday.

P.P.S. I am also mindful of classmates who have passed away. Most I did not know well. I do have some good memories (and stories) of Joe Williams, a great guy. Kathy Hennessey was my Chem lab partner and a very personable young lady.

America in Ruins

As I write, there are demonstrations and riots in Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, Miami, Washington DC and many other major American cities.

While I was watching one of the Sunday news shows this morning, one of the commentators said that we are witnessing the “best and worst of America.” Well the worst is winning. Less than a 20 minute drive from my home is Center City Philadelphia. Last night, looters set fires to buildings, destroyed stores, stole merchandise and rampaged almost without any confrontation. I recognized the streets and many of the stores where all this occurred. While there have been some issues between the Philadelphia police and the community, it has never been bad enough that one would expect to see the business district destroyed and in flames.

Robert O’Brien, the clueless and current National Security Advisor said that there is “no systemic racism in law enforcement.” Doesn’t take too much to figure out why there is so much hatred and violence towards police and authority this weekend. It was reported that President Trump had to be taken to an underground bunker during the demonstrations held outside the White House. It’s pretty apparent that the police and the National Guard are not effective deterrents against the rioting and looting that are occurring now.

It has been suggested that the other three policeman involved in the murder of George Floyd be arrested and charged with murder. The expectation is that this will satisfy many of the protesters and that there will be civil peace as a result of that decision. I’m not so sure. I sense that there is more to the anger and frustration of the crowd other than the death of George Floyd.

Many people have been sequestered in their homes for the past two months. Many have lost their jobs or they are on temporary furlough. The unemployed may be experiencing issues on how to pay their rents or mortgages. They may also be experiencing problems on feeding their families. Maybe they also realized that the “American Dream” is not going to happen for them. Bad enough that they are not going to be able to afford the luxuries and items that are being constantly marketed on television, social media and other outlets but that some are going to be hassled by the authorities due to the color of their skin.

The country has no national voice – – it has no one currently in office to turn to. We have a president who people don’t listen to because he doesn’t speak for them or to them. With all due respect to Democrats, they are not exactly offering a national voice of reason either. I was impressed with the black female mayors of Washington DC and Atlanta, Georgia I heard this morning. They spoke with reason, compassion and authority.

I hope it’s not too late that reason re-enters our national conversation and that peace is restored. We have had riots and civil disturbances before. I remember so many in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However these disturbances seem more ominous. Figuratively the heads of the three police officers in Minneapolis may not need to be the only sacrifices to the crowd – –someone has to pay for the poor economy, the huge disparity in income, the failure to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and the obscene unemployment rate throughout the country. Maybe that is the first step or salve to heal the wounds of the country.

What Me Worry?

Some of the headlines just for today:

Trump retweets video saying “only good Democrat is dead Democrat”…

“Haven’t seen black people this upset in 20 years” Van Jones

Total jobless claims top 40 million

Fed: Sharp decline in May leaves business is pessimistic about recovery

Stressed out front line nurses admit they are at breaking point with 68% planning to quit their jobs

United States deaths: 101,573

Q1 contraction worse than thought

The former Minneapolis police officer seen in the video with his knee on Floyd’s neck had 18 prior complaints filed against him

Governor declares state of emergency in Minneapolis

As US deaths top 100,000, Trump’s virus task force is curtailed

A GOP lawmaker had the virus,  Nobody told Democrats exposed to him.

California is re-opening too quickly, posing “very serious risk,” health officer warns

Jim Cramer says market still in for a “rough ride,” suggest sticking with remote tech stocks.

“Sorry, no mask allowed”: Some businesses pledge to keep our customers who cover their faces

 

Clearing My Mental Cache

Items that may amuse, entertain, inform and inflame you…

Pickleball challenge

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The experience of finding an open court to play pickleball in the next few weeks may be similar to trying to find a dinner reservation on Mother’s Day. One might expect long lines, unexpected delays and the need to acquire a lot of patience.

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Just a thought: For pickleball to become more mainstream and garner national attention,  it needs a “bad boy” like Nick Kyrgios or John McEnroe to compete against Tyson McGuffin, Ben Johns etc. of the pickleball elite.

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While I agree that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time, I don’t think he would beat Lebron James in a one on one game if both were in their primes.

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Book recommendation: Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby. An excellent compliment to the recent ESPN documentary The Last Dance.

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As an aside, I am old enough to remember seeing him play and I choose Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns as the greatest football player of my lifetime.

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I would not miss baseball if they did not play in 2020. I would miss college and pro football as well as pro basketball if they did not play in 2020. I am also under the opinion that the NBA should not bother resuming the 2019-2020 season’s games. Wait till November and start the new season.

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Old Paradigm (before coronavirus) “Hi neighbor, can I borrow a cup of sugar?

New Paradigm: “Hi neighbor, (through mask) can I borrow a roll of toilet paper?”

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Five Biggest Lies of the Pandemic

  1. “We all in this together.” (slogan used by just about every company in their ads since March.)
  2. “I don’t take responsibility at all.” (Donald Trump-3/13/20)
  3. The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA…(Donald Trump 2-24-20)
  4. It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” Donald Trump 2-28-20)
  5. The virus is not going to sink the American economy,”. “What is or could sink the American economy is the socialism coming from our friends on the other side of the aisle. That’s the biggest fear that I have today.” (Larry Kudlow Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 28)

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Just an observation but I wish Congress and the President exhibited the same energy, resources and urgency for small businesses and employees that the Federal Reserve did in supporting Wall Street, large corporations, CEOs and wealthy stockholders.

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Fox News just published their poll of suburban women. 33% of those women polled had a favorable view of President Trump; 66% had an unfavorable view. What is more surprising? (A) Fox News posted the results of their anti Trump poll? Or. (B) There are still 33% of suburban women with a favorable view of Trump?

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Though children are not able to attend schools in person, they are receiving a far greater and more impactful education in human nature, mortality, sacrifice and compassion.

 

The Art of Reading

Reading is my addiction. It has been since I picked up a Hardy Boys book from the Pennsauken Library over 57 years ago. I estimate that I have read about 5500 books and that number continues to grow but at a slower pace from my youth. I try to limit my number of reading heavy books (over 350 pages) as I get older.

Reading is an intellectual diet. There are books that nourish one’s soul and brain. But there are also books that serve as junk food for the mind. They may not nourish one’s mind or soul but they do provide temporary substance or enjoyment.

Shown below is a brief profile of my reading tastes

  1. I prefer reading non fiction books over fiction.
  2. I generally do not read fiction books from women authors.
  3. I have no interest in poetry, science fiction and religious books.
  4. My favorite book topics are history, politics, philosophy, biographies, psychology, sports, business, economics, spy and detective novels.
  5. I used to read self help books and books on how to improve business results in your career but I have outlived their usefulness.
  6. I tend to avoid books authored by politicians and celebrities.
  7. I read one book at at time.
  8. I rarely re-read an entire book.
  9. My favorite place to read is the sun porch on my house.
  10. I don’t multi-task as I read. No TV or music.
  11. Generally if a book does not hold my attention or interest in the first 20-30 pages, I will put it down.
  12. My best sources of finding new reading material that I may have an interest include: The New York Times Sunday Book Review section, Kirkus reviews, Book TV and interviews with authors on news shows and television.
  13. Generally when I target a book that I have interest, I look to borrow the book from my town library. If I can’t find it in my town library, I will probably buy it from Amazon Kindle. If I have a discount coupon from Barnes and Noble, I may purchase  a hardcover or paperback, if it is cost efficient.
  14. If I own a book, I may underline sentences and paragraphs that I may wish to reference or remember later.
  15. I look up the defintion of words in a book that I do not know the meaning.
  16. I use Goodreads to catalog and archive the books I read, when I read them and offer a brief review and rating.

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 12.31.59 PM

Last 30 books that I have read

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Deaths

OC 5-15-20

Governor Murphy opened up the Jersey beaches but with the proviso that there would be social distancing and that people would wear masks. The Ocean City boardwalk was packed. I viewed the crowds from the cams I had along the Boardwalk. There was very little social distancing and I saw very few people, including those who were my age, wearing masks.

I’m not surprised that people took advantage of a beautiful day to go the Shore. I’m astounded that so few made even the slightest effort at social distancing and wearing masks.

I think Governors and most elected officials are losing their stomachs in urging precautions and restraints. The populace has tired of making sacrifices and there are so many false reports about the coronavirus that people are not as afraid as they should be in getting infected.

Ruminations from a “Hot Zone”

As I write, 1,228,214 have been infected and 73,418 are dead in the United States from the coronavirus.

I ran some numbers last night based on available statistics. 

5-6-20

  • Less than .4% of the U.S. population has been reported as being infected. This number is probably low as there has not been sufficient testing. Less than .02% of the U.S. population has died from the disease. This number may be higher as there may have been deaths that were not attributed to Covid 19 that could go back into 2019.
  • New York and New Jersey have been the two states hit hardest with the Covid 19 infection. Governor Murphy extended restrictions in NJ until June 7. While the infection rate has decreased slightly, there is a fear of resurgence if NJ opens up businesses and the beaches.
  • Pennsauken has about a 1% infection rate (360 infections from a 36,000 population.) Moorestown has suffered a rise both in infections and deaths. Just about all the deaths were people over 65.

Some ruminations:

Crises bring out the best and the worst in people. Listed are my grades and a one sentence summary of their performance, actions and results:

Trump: F Acted too slow. Preened and whined too much. Responsible for a lot of deaths and destruction of the economy.

Andrew Cuomo: A Demonstrated and communicated leadership, good judgment and compassion.

Governor Murphy: A Not as telegenic as Cuomo but has done a very good job.

Congress: C- Not acting with the necessary urgency that this pandemic requires.

Media: C Uneven reporting. Fox News deserves an F. Coverage of the President’s Task Force was largely a mistake. Too much panic spun at times from various reports and cable shows.

Dr Fauci: B+ I would have given him an A or A+ but for his glowing recommendation of remdesivir whose performance is slightly more effective than a placebo.

Nurses A++ So many heroic stories about their care and bravery.

Really irritated about insurance companies bragging about refunds to auto insurance policies. Liberty Mutual is giving me 15% off of a 2 month premium which probably comes to $30 or less. I like many others are probably driving 60-70% less during these times. 60 to 70% is the range they should have used for the refund.

I have noticed a number of both public and social media comments about letting elderly people die as a sacrifice to the economy. If we ever get to the other side of this crisis, there will be political and economic pain for those who were willing to toss 65+ year old people overboard off the life boats.

Hydroxychloroquine is the Cure and Other Delusions

Beautiful day so I went for a walk. So did many other walkers, bikers and joggers…I was like Roger Staubach and Fran Tarkenton (sorry for the 1970’s sports references) scrambling around to keep six feet away.

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I am willing to follow just about every reasonable government guideline but prohibiting bikers and walkers from using a walking path makes little sense. Doesn’t the walking path carry the same social gathering risks as walking in the streets but you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car?

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Whatever business plans, budgets, dreams, goals, promises, career paths, and financial projections that were made prior to March 2020  are largely extinct. If one is not starting over, one is certainly moving forward from a much different space or perspective. 

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What Shake Shack, Harvard University, AutoNation and other public companies did in applying for and receiving government loans intended for small businesses was the economic equivalent to the rich passengers dumping the less fortunate off lifeboats and into icy waters on the sinking Titanic.

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Q. Who is more dangerous than an individual with a high fever, persistent cough, and extreme fatigue?

A. A Trump voter with a ballot. 

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For clarity, I am not a diehard Joe Biden supporter either. What worked in 2009 or in his days in the Senate aren’t relevant here. The next President has to be conversant on technology, science and medical issues. There is only one issue for 2020: SURVIVABILITY. If I am a 30 year old parent, do I trust my future or my children’s future to a 70+ year old man or woman as President who does not understand science?

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Turns out Bernie Sanders is right. Andrew Yang may be more right (UIC).

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Coronavirus is the Berlin Wall coming down moment for capitalism.

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Sarah Palin is a seer. In 2008, she warned about “death panels.” 12 years later, her prediction comes true. (But not during a Democratic administration). Unfortunately the primary targets for death panels were nursing homes. So many nursing homes served as the concentration camps for those elderly afflicted with coronavirus. Poorly attended, poorly serviced, and many left to die alone without the solace of friends or family, we will carry this shame throughout our history. The elderly and infirm were viewed as collateral damage on the war on coronavirus.

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As a political aside, no support or outrage by the Right to Life group for those seniors?

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I no longer carry the fantasy that if a meteor was to hit the Earth that nations of the world would coalesce, cooperate and come up with an allied plan to save it based on this experience. There seems to be very little scientific cooperation and coordination among countries. Let’s face it, whoever comes up with the cure will be very wealthy and powerful. I have to admit I thought there would have been more progress in developing an effective treatment against coronavirus by now.

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Sad to say, I have very little confidence in the data, statistics, math, analysis and projections that are being offered by various news, government, scientific and business sources during this crisis. Just about all these sources have reasons to lie and mislead the public (political, business, economic). If the numbers don’t support the “narrative” that a government official or CEO is promoting, the numbers can be changed, presented differently or interpreted with a specific spin or slant.

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Directives about social distancing is similar to the warning to Adam and Eve about not eating the forbidden apple. So far, most Americans are abiding by the directive. My sense is that by Memorial Day, Americans are going to want a “bite of the apple” and social guidelines restrictions will be loosely complied with or ignored.

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Wit of the staircase moment. I wish I had used these lines when I was working with certain bosses and corporate prima donnas. This may also come in handy for political arguments as a finisher. Taken from a Dilbert cartoon…

Critic: “I have to disagree with you, Dilbert

Dilbert: Actually you don’t disagree with me.

Critic: I don’t?

Dilbert: No. You think you disagree with me, but you’re mistaken. You’re simply experiencing an illusion caused by the limits of your comprehension. If you were able to fully comprehend both the problem and my recommended solution, you would agree with me. So what appears to be a difference of opinion is just you wrestling with your own defective brain.”

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Kudos to these nurses staring down a crowd of rabid protestors…Those protestors should have left very embarrassed especially the one carrying the “Hydroxychloroquine is the Cure” placard.

heroes

Michael Chow, The Arizona Republic