Understanding the Crotchety Old Man

“Get off my lawn!”

This self-effacing comment many say to describe themselves getting older and less tolerable sparks laughter but I’m starting to understand why older people get so crabby.

Sadly, I’m no longer in my youth but I’m also not old. At least what society deems as old. However, I think I’m slowly becoming the crotchety old man and just recently figured out why. Or at least, discovered a hypothesis.

In recent years my joy of wondering out for an evening has waned. So much that I’d rather just stay at home, watch TV and call it a night. Believe me, it’s frustrating. In fact, I get frustrated knowing how much I want to go out but then don’t want to. Make sense? Probably not.

My wife and I discussed this recently and we concluded we’re just sick of people and society. The other night, a kid on a skateboard crossed a street against the red right in front of my wife. She popped her high beams on him and he gave her the finger. Oh today’s youth, so well disciplined. Where did parenting go? Had she been much closer Mr. Skateboarder would be a hood ornament and my wife in jail. Because in the state of Oregon, drivers have lost all rights as we’re expected to stop a 3,500 pound machine traveling 30 mph on a dime for not only anyone not in a car but anyone not in a car who decides to step in front of oncoming traffic with little to no warning. If you cannot avoid the self-centered pedestrian who feels it’s their right to cross the street wherever and whenever, off to prison you go!

Sorry, I digress a bit.

Yesterday, a driver zoomed past, pulled in front of us only to suddenly slow down and make a quick right turn. Plenty of room behind us. The driver was one of those self-mutilating humans with the big fat rings in their earlobes. Yes, that’s how big the deformity was, I could see it 40 feet away as we passed.

Last night, a driver cut me off on the freeway leaving less than a foot between our cars. It’s been a long awhile since attending the movie theater but one of the last few times some unruly kids were throwing popcorn, mouthing off and kicking seats. Then they got pissed when escorted out.

Our neighbors let their dogs bark at all hours. I.e. 5:30 a.m., 6 a.m., etc. We brought it to their attention. Once. No apologies, just an excuse. Our relationship hasn’t been the same. Another neighbor started weed whacking in the backyard at 7 a.m. And, we’re not talking 20 something millennials raised without common courtesy. These folks should know better. Marijuana occasionally permeates our backyard now. Another neighbor recently complained on Facebook (of course) about the sexist Home Depot. Apparently, she inquired about toilet supplies and the employee asked “for cleaning?” Oh, the humanity. This chick is over 40! (see what I did there? Wink wink.)

So, we’ve thrown in the towel. We keep to ourselves, rarely go out and dream about life on a farm with animals. You probably say, “Really for all that you’re just staying home?”

Actually, we’re not alone. Our developing desire, we’ve slowly shared to others, about moving to the country away from neighbors and people in general is often met with “we’ve thought about it too” or “we won’t be far behind.” Or something similar.

So this is my hypothesis: We’re born with a set amount of resilience to what life throws at us. Negative encounters slowly erode our “health bar” as they call it in video gaming and eventually we’re left with little to none. Oh sure, things we encounter or pick up along the way briefly add some life to the bar but it’s quickly eaten away by small things – like a stranger I’ll never see again who cut me off on the freeway.

And it’s these mole hills that turn into mountains.

When you’re younger, tolerance is high and resilient. You arrogantly shake your head at the grumpy old man yelling kids to get off his lawn. I’ll never become like him, you swear. Oh yes you will. Little did you know, your tolerance level was strong and the guy who cut you off 20 minutes earlier has already faded into obscurity. Now you remember even the slightest slight. Oh don’t worry you won’t carry it with you for days, you’ll get over it, but it unknowingly sticks in your craw until the next time it happens (you know it will) and you say, “This is why I hate going out!”

You see, I have become the grumpy old man who told kids to get off my lawn. A few years ago after repeatedly watching the unruly neighborhood kids use my front yard as a playground with no interference by the parents I finally went out and politely asked them to stay off my lawn. Unlike the old man of my youth who just screamed at me and I feared my father finding out, I debated and debated how I would approach the kids for fear of their parents finding out. Not because I didn’t want them to get into trouble, because I didn’t want to get into trouble. If you haven’t noticed, parents don’t parent today. Their kids are Jesus.

Thankfully, it went off without a hitch and today they stay off my lawn.

But perhaps more promising, thereafter one of the boys always looked at me with a bit of fear in his eyes. Am I his neighbor-monster?  I have no doubt he’ll have a story in 20 years of that grumpy old man who told him to get off his lawn.

That was me.

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Millennials Seem Driven to a Non-Purpose Life

People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive. – Blaise Pascal

In 2004, I knew a young man who jumped on the Boston Red Sox bandwagon, much like so many others that year. In the months and years following the team’s first Championship since 1918 this poor guy grew exceedingly desperate to be a part of that which he couldn’t.

Red Sox Lore.

He’ll never know what it meant or how it felt to live through years of hope and decades of perpetual disappointment. He won’t experience 1986. Or 1975. Yaz to Clemens. But believe me, he tried. I once overheard him tell an uncle a story that was thoroughly fabricated including erroneous facts he could have verified via a simple internet search. That’s how bad it got.

And I’m not talking about an 8, 9 or 10 year old boy trying to impress an elder. He was well into his teens then and continues his obsession to this day. He wanted to be the life of a party he just stumbled upon.

Quite simply, he coveted something bigger than himself.

On April 15, 2017 Berkley Police in Berkeley, CA arrested 20 people in a violent protest. Of those, 17 were of “millennial” age.

On May 2, 2017 Portland Police in Portland, OR arrested 25 people in a violent protect. Of those, 23 were of “millennial” age.

On June 4, 2017 Portland Police in Portland, OR arrested 14 people in a protest rally. Of those, 11 were of “millennial” age.

Sometime this month it was decided that certain statues that have stood for longer than most in this country have been alive need removing. I’ve seen the photos of the protests. Not a lot of people over the age of 40.

There’s a small flaw to the class of 2009 for the high school in my town. You see, one of the valedictorians who spoke at the graduation ceremony didn’t belong. Someone else deserved this graduate’s spot. Apparently, this valedictorian received a grade that proved the difference between valedictorian and just another graduate. So mom bullied the teacher into raising the necessary grade thus guaranteeing the valedictorian spot to her child who did not deserve it.

So what’s jumping on the Red Sox bandwagon have to do with removing really old statues have to do with rioting at Berkeley have to do with some graduate who got honors he didn’t deserve?

A lot, actually.

Slavery ended 150 years ago. Women’s suffrage was established almost 100 years ago and the civil rights movement occurred before I was born. I easily escaped Vietnam and we haven’t had a major war since.

Thank you Baby Boomers and those who came long before me.

Today, Millennials have nothing to fight for because past generations did and continue to do all the fighting. It’s human nature to want relevancy, is it not? Floating through life having everything handed to you stirs up desires to accomplish something more, I would think. Ironically, it was Millennials who propelled a homeless looking man from Vermont, promising the world at no cost, nearly to the White House.

Conversely, the parents of Millennials were raised by somewhat hardened Americans who saw death, feared nuclear annihilation and witnessed a movement that finally brought equal rights to all Americans. Larger than life issues I missed out on. I’m OK with that. I’ve never felt the need to concoct something in my own life to make me feel relevant unfortunately Generation X didn’t pass along the same integrity that made the Greatest Generation.

It’s a curse Millennials suffer from, and their parents to blame. We gave them too much as kids. So now, Millennials look for relevancy.

Humans are always looking for the next exciting thing or be a part of, aren’t they? It’s what we do. We’re always looking for something to attach ourselves to, or find some kind of meaning or purpose to our lives.

Millennials seem to buy into this more than any other generation. Plenty of articles detailing their narcissism exist and growing up on Facebook created a cesspool of attention-getting that constantly needs filling. Look at me! I’m involved…they proclaim.

Thus, whenever the media decides something is gigantically important like finally seeing the Red Sox win after 84 years or that unfettered racism continues to rule American life all these youngsters jump on the bandwagon because they finally found a cause to latch onto propelling them into the history books. So they think.

Sorry, but if you missed out on history – like years of disappointment rooting for the Red Sox before watching them win the World Series or the cultural changing Civil Rights era – well, enjoy your youth. Cause, right now, that’s all you got. But no, what better way to be a party of history than lie to yourself. After all, if you’ve grown up on Facebook and stake a claim to 1,000 “friends” you’re kinda, sorta lying to yourself.

America elected a black man twice to the presidency. Media mogul and black woman Oprah Winfrey hosted the most popular daytime talk show in history and no one argues that a black man isn’t the greatest basketball player of all time. Seriously, what ethnicity is paying through the nose to routinely watch five multimillionaire black men run up and down a court against five other multimillionaire black men? Cheering them on.

I think the battle was won long ago.

But somehow those in their 20s believe things have gotten worse. Statues that have stood for eons must now come down in order to correct the wrongs of the past. Even Jon Foreman, singer for the band Switchfoot, held some sort of online open dialogue on race, religion and reconciliation. I’m sure he meant well but talk about fighting the fire while feeding the flame.

Removing statues or throwing bottles in the name of who knows what won’t eliminate slavery because it already ended. It also won’t usher in the Civil Rights era because it’s not the 1960s. Did anyone under 35 even know who David Duke was at the end of July? He’s a relic! Just watch, once the media stops pushing this current bandwagon movement they’ll all be on to something else.

Think I’m wrong?

Remember the war cops everywhere raged on black citizens a few years back? What happened? Do you really think not one police officer has shot and killed a black man this year? Oh, a white woman was killed but to very little outrage. Study Millennials close enough and you’ll find a very predictable generation of children desperate to be a part of something they feel passed them by. Is racism really that big of an issue anymore? No, but guess what? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Twenty years ago we were talking about racism and the New York Times said it wasn’t an issue, so did nine out of 10 black teenagers. And, we’re to believe we’ve progressed backwards?

Racism sold newspapers back then, today it collects clicks.

YES!, racist people exist. So do adulterers, cheaters and people who kick puppies. They always will. But to say white kids on a bus heading to school routinely throw eggs at the black kids walking to school is absurd. Racism is a condition of the heart and man can try as hard as he wants but we’re never going to eradicate sin in this lifetime. Only one Man can accomplish that. Why then do so many people think they can eradicate sin?

OK, what’s next? Most folks don’t care who sleeps with who, so that’s out. Hey, maybe Disco? How about New Wave? The Cocaine war? I’m sure nose candy is next for legalization. Wait! How about hating a newly elected 70 year old Republican president? Nah, that’s so 1981.

Oh, got it. Apparently Communism is the new Capitalism. You know, with Bernie Sanders and all. Might think about putting a security detail around the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Think it won’t happen? Why pray tell, does a statue of Vladimir Lenin remain upright in Seattle?

By the way, that valedictorian no longer talks to mom and dad because of how they voted in last year’s election.

Yes, we gave way too much to our children.

… you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. – Colossians 3:9-11

Heaven Can Wait

A few weeks ago, the pastor at my church returned from a trip to the Midwest. Iowa, I think. Anyway, he opened his sermon with an invitation. He wanted everyone to move with him to Iowa.

It was, he said, the land of milk and honey.

He proceeded to announce plans, already in effect, to relocate our church to the Midwest city he visited and then urged everyone to get on-board. Citing gasps throughout the congregation would be an understatement. Yet, he promised everyone that life would be better there. Just pack your things, and by faith, head to the Midwest. Iowa, I think.

Crazy, huh? Well, we’re not moving.

Truthfully, none of this happened. Not one bit. Just something to draw you in. But what if your pastor, a close friend or loved one approached you with the idea of moving somewhere you’d never visited or had any idea of what life was like there, promising that this was indeed, the promised land.

Isn’t that what heaven is kind of, sort of, like? Have you ever been there? I have not. Nor has my pastor or anyone I’ve ever known. I don’t know what heaven or the afterlife is going to encompass. In many ways, I find heaven quite alien. Late at night when I can’t sleep, if I focus on the idea of heaven, eternal life and trying to understand He who cannot be understood, I get pretty freaked out.

Jesus says, “Follow me.” OK, I’m on-board – I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist or follow any other religion. But here’s the reality for me on earth. In this life. Moving to heaven is as foreign as moving to Russia. Or Iowa. Despite what the Bible says or the fictional story about my pastor encouraging the congregation to move to a Midwest town, I’ve never been there. When life is good, I like it here. In my house. In the town I live in. With my wife and the friends I have. If heaven was described as the here and now without the burden of time or death, sign me up.

Have I completely lost you?

OK, when was the last time you prayed for someone with a life threatening illness not to get better? Think about it. If you’re faith is rooted in Christianity and so is the person whom you’re praying for healing, why would you, in a sense, ask for a delay in that person’s arrival in paradise? If this same friend was headed to Hawaii would you purposely find roadblocks to prevent them from their visit? Of course not. You’d wish them well, yes?

This is what I ponder at 2 in the morning.

So, instead of praying for the recovery of ill-members of the faith why not wish them Godspeed? With a smile. If 80 years is but a vapor trail what’s 20? Or 40? Or 60. If you were diagnosed with a life threatening disease but curable with a round of this and that treatment, you’d take it wouldn’t you? And simply block the inevitable. As the pastor of my church really said a few months ago, life doesn’t end well for any of us. We’ll all be carried away in a box, one way or another.

Can you imagine what Lazarus said? What the hell did you do that for?! I was there!!!

Seven years ago today I was abruptly laid off. Three days earlier I learned my father was diagnosed with NHL. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In a few days, the Volkswagen dealer would completely screw up the radiator system putting my cat at risk of acute kidney failure. A few days after that I’d have a birthday. Happy Birthday. It wasn’t a great week, to say the least.

But I survived. The screw-up with my car got resolved. My cat was not affected. And my dad lives today. He’s in his mid-70s and it’s looking more and more that the NHL bug is returning. And I’ll pray for his full recovery.

Just like I prayed for my cat Chloe, Twitch the cat subjected to a garage floor of yummy tasting anti-freeze who eventually succumbed to cancer, my grandma and my wife’s aunt and grandma. But, all of them are now gone. In paradise. I prayed for a stay and in the end I asked for their expedient departure.

I live my life for the most part to prevent disease and decay. I exercise, many months ago undertaking high intensity interval training. I eat right, for the most part. And take a selection of supplements all designed to prolong health and life.

Sometimes I wonder why. Superficially, it makes sense. I’ve seen people die of cancer. I don’t want to. I’ve seen people ride the slow whirlpool of death. I don’t want to. Wouldn’t it be nice if we just, one day, fell asleep unbeknownst that was the day? Then we’d be trying to delay that, wouldn’t we?

Man, I can’t wait to get to heaven. Said no one ever. Well, at least I’ve never heard it. Not even from my pastor. Sure, we all want to go to heaven but we sure do everything we can to prevent getting there, don’t we?

Billy Graham said he wasn’t afraid of death but he was afraid of the dying process. That hit home for me. I suppose dying is like vomiting. The whole five minute lead-up is the worst part! Once emesis starts, it’s a relief. Graham also says God puts within us the instinct to survive. He stirs the higher passions, it’s a thrill to be alive.

Isn’t it impressive when God answers prayers for healing? Keeping us here a bit longer. To say a wildly answered prayer doesn’t embolden my faith would be fallacious. It most certainly does and in many respects I wonder if that hoped for answered prayer is as much about me witnessing God as it is about seeing a loved one survive and allowing me to cling to their company a bit longer.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be heard. Listened to. Including me. Imagine, someday praying for a moratorium towards a better life and attesting later you felt the full attention and collaboration of the Creator.

But if life is better in Iowa, why don’t I want to move there?

I suppose that means I have unfinished business here.

Where I live now.

Hiding From God

Remember in school – after the elementary years when seats were assigned – you’d be tempted to sit in the back of the class?

This was, of course, none other than to avoid eye contact with the teacher and prevent getting called upon. No one wants to get chosen to answer a question or provide insight into whatever the subject at hand and potentially make a fool of themselves by giving the wrong answer or just coming across awkward and silly because you didn’t do the homework.  Well, except for those go-getters. Every class had them. They had all the answers. With their hands raised. Pick me, pick me. You know there’s a word for people like that!

In reality, if you got “caught” hiding it really wasn’t that long. Ten seconds at best but it probably felt like a few minutes as you stuttered and stammered. Maybe someone giggled. Doubtful. And I bet if you’re an adult you have little to no memory of an embarrassing moment or someone else’s embarrassing moment where you thank the Good Lord it wasn’t you. Most likely, you had an answer or did a pretty darn good job of providing one.

I remember in one class the teacher would call on a student to open or close in prayer. (Christian school, people.) I hated that. Basically this equated to spontaneous public speaking. So, when the teacher mentioned praying, I quickly bowed my head as if I were a step ahead and was already praying. No way he’d interrupt someone in the middle of praying, right? I think it worked. But like I said, I can’t say for sure and if I did bumble through a prayer or two I don’t remember, no one else does and I certainly don’t recall any moments from the others assigned to talk to God.

At any rate, teachers were wise to this not so new “trick” of hiding in the back and eventually the uneducated students got wise themselves and instead of hiding in the back, they found a new place to hide  – in between staring face-to-face with the teacher and giving up their modus operandi.

The middle! Preferably behind someone the same height or, even better, taller. Now you could still hide but look like you were interested in attending class and learning. Thing is, a good teacher calls on everyone.

And so does, God.

But when God calls, it’s usually not to see if you actually did your homework.

In many respects, like the teacher in the classroom,  I’d prefer God not to call on me. Leave me out of it, find someone else, please. Get somebody more equipped. Somebody who really did do their homework. How about one of those go-getters? Such great people, they are!

An associate pastor of my wife’s former church recently got called upon in a big way. Make that a life changing way. His 15 year old daughter  was diagnosed with a  form of degenerative heart disease last year and eventually would need a new heart. Time was up in January.

This pastor performed CPR on his own daughter for 10 minutes before rescue crews arrived.  And so began a roller coaster ride teetering on the edge of death, a number of miracles and “what the heck is God doing?” that lasted a month. The pastor updated followers nightly on a facebook page and brilliantly used the platform as a daily sermon. His family’s plight gained international attention and finally, finally!! a heart was found. In many respects, at the 11th hour with seconds to spare.

The turmoil ended  the day after one of the daughter’s doctors told her father, “let go.” If you wish, read about it here.   (No I did not write this after reading the latest update!)

When following the journey in real time, you couldn’t help get washed away in emotion. And though their daughter survived their lives are forever changed. As an outsider who prayed, I had this feeling God would spare her. He did. But I also wondered how I would react in similar circumstances. Probably, not good.

Perhaps that’s why God doesn’t call on me.

No, I don’t want to be called. Life is hard enough as is, don’t give me an extra assignment. But admittedly, I wonder sometimes why God hasn’t called. And perhaps when this life is over I’ll wish He had called on me more and asked me tougher questions and piled on the homework.

Say what?

Certainly, I’ve been called at one time or another. I’ve handled death and layoffs. Family issues and bad decisions.  Doesn’t everybody? But hardly the life and death drama of a daughter who needs a new heart. I doubt if this ends their story, too. A heart transplant isn’t exactly Lasik eye surgery.

Most of my plights probably land somewhere around tame compared to most others. I don’t like the valleys of life, even the small ones, and often I shake my fist at God. Why me?! In hind site, it’s probably more my reaction to the calling then the actual assignment. Well, maybe not. That punch in the gut feeling means something, right? Are you serious, I say. Please take this cup from me.

God says he won’t throw anything your way He doesn’t feel you can handle. I don’t think I could handle what the pastor endured. Well, at least not as graciously as the pastor. Could you? But maybe the pastor probably would have said something similar before his ordeal started. Then again, based on his nightly sermons, he’d have smiled and nodded, “Hey, whatever God’s Will.”

Because he has faith. And, a lot of it.

And if I had that much faith, I’d tell God “Bring it.”

Until then, I’ll take a no-thank you helping.

The Paradoxical View with Illegal Immigration

Years ago, a friend’s television set finally died. He was in the poor house at the time so he had little to no means of purchasing a new set.

But he wanted one.

The current crop of televisions proved far superior in every way to his old square box and truth be told, he was glad when it finally sparked out. He could now get a brand new flat screen that brought to life on-screen characters in a way he only dreamed of…or at least saw at other homes.

He quickly realized after a price check he had no way, anytime soon, of replacing his old set with what he wanted. Buying a used one, that in some cases proved better than his old one, at a thrift store was for some reason out of the question.

Well, he discovered a local store provided the best prices and the best service on new televisions sets. After checking it out, he was amazed at the low prices compared to other stores but also learned everyone, it seemed, wanted a television from this particular store. The wait list was a mile long. He could hold-out, he thought. In fact, that might provide him enough time to save the necessary funds and when the call came, he’d be ready to buy.

No, that wasn’t good enough. He wanted one and he wanted it now. I remember our conversation and how he came across. Almost entitled to this television. It was as if, since he was alive and simply wanted a television (located conveniently just down the street, no less) he was owed this TV even at the expense of someone else. Besides, that store owner could afford to hand-over one TV, he actually said. My friend mentioned he’d worked hard his whole life and could never get ahead. It was time he took matters into his own hands!  So he came up with a plan. Illegal as it may be.

He told me while he was at the store he noticed the lax security and after talking with others in his circle of influence, indeed that store got ripped off, profusely, because it was easy entry, easy take, easy exit.

I told him it wasn’t a good idea. And regardless of where he was in life, he should acquire the television like everyone else. Get in line and pay for it. He told me he’d think about my advice. I didn’t hear from him for about six months when he called and invited me over to watch a football game. When he opened the door, his smile stretched from ear to ear.

His TV was awesome.

“You finally got it!” I said.

“Oh yeah. Several months ago,” he said.

“See, aren’t you glad you waited,” I said.

“I had to,” he said. “I took me a bit to come up with a plan and the nerve to follow through.”

Huh? As it turns out he stole the TV. Indeed, the security was little to none at this store. The poor owner apparently believed in the “good” of people which everyone it seemed, who wanted a new TV, took advantage of. Though in recent years he had hired a security guard who, it turned out, was just a hopeful deterrent. Evidently, the store owner didn’t want to come across like a man with an iron fist.

Anyway, my friend hopped a worn fence, jimmied a lock open and walked right into the store unbeknownst to the just-for-show security guard who occassionally walked the perimeter. On cue, the guard left his car, walked around the store and returned to his car. He either slept or read a book until the the next hour.  My friend watched for several nights, got the routine down and settled on a date.

He couldn’t believe his good fortune. He already knew where to go once inside so he grabbed the TV box and upon realizing how easy it was to fence, picked up a second one and on his way out put a DVD under his arm, took an extra remote control and some batteries, too. There were so many of everything, he said, no one would be the wiser.

My friend went on to tell me the first couple of months after the theft it was nerve racking. He expected the cops waiting when he came home from work. Every time someone came to the door, his heart jumped. Apparently, on the weekends, he hung out with others who stole from the same store. They all assured one another to lay low and before long everything would be OK. They even snickered at the foolishness of the store’s owner.

So, by the time he called me his nerves had settled down and life normalized. A few weeks after I saw him I drove by that television store and a big sign out front said “Going out of Business” and “Bankruptcy Sale.” I shook my head. Gee, I wonder how that happened? Furious, I decided to turn my friend over to the authorities. I called one of those anonymous tip lines and left a message.

Nothing ever came of my phone call as I heard from my “friend” from time to time. He was living large and loving his new TV. He eventually got married and had a kid. But a funny thing happened. He finally got caught.

Turns out, some fuzzy surveillance video landed on an aspiring and very determined young detective’s desk. That, along with my friend’s big mouth, sealed his fate. Cops showed up and hauled him away in handcuffs. He pleaded with them. It’s been three years. I haven’t hurt anyone. What’s the big deal? Why can’t you just leave me alone? His wife and kid, in tears, pleaded too. “Don’t take my daddy away,” his child said.

The cops had him dead to rights. He also wasn’t alone. He was one of many who finally got caught stealing from that particular store. Some had multiple charges and others recent criminals, stealing even from the store as it held its “Bankruptcy Sale.”

In court, my friend asked for leniency. In fact, some groups came to his aid demanding his release. Why his arrest, along with the others, bled the hearts of so many in the nation was peculiar. He was my friend and I thought he deserved jail.  He broke the law. Their argument was he didn’t hurt anyone, it had been so long since the theft and he’d been a productive member of society since his crime – well then – the court should just look the other way.

During the trial, Mr. Store Owner testified how he inherited the business from his father who worked himself into an early grave keeping his livelihood afloat. The owner said he was to carry on the his father’s legacy of low prices, quality customer service and a belief in the good of all men. When he learned what was happening he called the cops. Their hands were tied.

Thus, he turned to elected officials who never returned phone calls or emails. When he tried to put a stop to the thefts himself, it was too late. He was in debt and could no longer stay open. All the thefts, he said, led to his demise. He was now living in a small apartment with barely enough money to put food on his table. Ironically, just like my friend when he stole the TV. The creditors were on his back day and night. The thefts killed his business, he said.

He had nothing left.

But no one cared about the store owner. When he would leave court people yelled and threw things at him. Crowds demanded the judge release my friend. He had a family, after all. (So did the store’s owner.) What’s a few electronics and a handful of batteries? Celebrities even weighed in, if you can believe that. It seemed everybody in America was for my friend the thief and against the store owner who worked hard and played by the rules his entire life all to hopefully realize the American dream.

On sentencing day the judge told my friend the store’s popularity was well-known (everyone wanted to shop there apparently) but so were the issues in deterring theft. The judge rebuked my friend telling him the store was so popular people in neighboring states wanted to shop there but no longer could because the store close.  He asked my friend what made him so special?

“Simply because you live down the street, you felt permitted to ostensibly pillage,” he said.

Finally, he asked my friend, who as far as I was concerned was showing little to no contrition,  if he discovered that his wife had engaged in a three-year affair with another man 10 years after the fact would he forgive and forget. But most of all, would the two live happily ever after? My friend pondered for just a second before saying, “Of course not. But what’s that got to do with my case?”

The judge sadly lowered his head.

“Unfortunately you’re never going to get it. But public pressure forces me to wipe the slate clean and let you free.”

The Judge looked at Mr. Store Owner and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”

Dear Chicago Fans: Root for the Cubs to Lose

Twelve years ago the Boston Red Sox ended the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series for the first time since 1918. Now the Chicago Cubs need four wins to end their “curse” and end an even longer title drought to give their dedicated fan base a taste of once-in-a-generation victory.

Unfortunately this victory isn’t all that sweet.

As a Red Sox fan, though some might say former Red Sox fan, winning the World Series isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Of course, the road to the Fall Classic for the Cubs is a bit different than how the Red Sox got there for the first time in 86 years. The 2004 World Series was actually quite the letdown compared to the American League Championship Series when Boston became the first team in history to dig their way out of a 3-0 hole. And they did it against, of all teams, the New York Yankees.

After the dramatic win it didn’t really matter, at least to me, what happened in the World Series. Let curses be curses. Beating the Yankees in such dramatic and embarrassing fashion was undeniably a once-in-a-generation victory. But Boston rode that emotional tidal wave, won four straight and finally the elusive World Series title came home to Fenway Park. It was anticlimactic for sure, but sweet nonetheless.

It was something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. There was just too much history. Too much promise. Too much letdown. And I was only in my 30s!

I can remember 1986. I also remember all those Boston line-ups especially in the 1990s that shot out of the gate and looked ripe to carry momentum through October. Only it seemed, every year was like the last. The fade started a few months later and picked up the pace after the All Star break. Any breach into the playoffs ended abruptly. I’d watch all those exuberant fans as a child, a teenager and into my 20s watching their team in the World Series year after year after year wondering when, if, I’d ever experiencing the joy of the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series.

Well I did. I did again in 2007. And again a few years later. By then I didn’t care all that much though. By then, I was no longer the fan I was in 2003. It was just different.

I have a number of authentic on-field jerseys. A mass collection of trading cards for individual players. Numerous collectables. I hat I personally got signed by Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez. But something happened after 2004 that turned me off.

The Boston Red Sox were no longer the lovable losers. The team you stood by through thin and thin. Was it ever thick? Everybody hated the school yard bullies in the Bronx. But not everybody “loved” the Red Sox. Well, at least until 2004.

Prior to the World Series win, rarely outside Boston anyway, would you see people wearing Red Sox garb. If you went to the mall or any public spot for that matter wearing a Red Sox hat you’d quite often be alone. The other guy wearing one? You’d spot him or her a mile away and slowly nod as your paths crossed. You were part of a select club.

Not anymore.

In hindsight you could see the writing on the wall during the 2004 season. After the 2003 ALCS when the Red Sox were that close and Grady Little made the unfortunate mistake of putting in the should-have-been MVP to pitch on short rest. Tim Wakefield gave up a homerun and the Yankees went on to the World Series. I wrote a letter to the New York Times I was so distraught. And mad! A copy of it along with the New York Times masthead is framed in my office. Yes, they printed it.

But fans were coming out of the woodwork in 2004. This was their year and everyone was behind Boston against the well-funded school yard bullies. Everyone rooted for Boston.

Then they won. And, it seemed, everyone was now a fan of Boston. Not just a fan. A die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool, lifetime down-on-their-luck Boston Red Sox fan. Suddenly all these new fans knew exactly what those of us, who had been there in the 90s, 1986, 1978 and beyond, way beyond my years of fandom, were going through. Man, even just a year before!

Everyone it seemed wanted in on Reverse the Curse and experience the jubilation of watching this team falter time and time again to finally win the Big One. How could they? Were they even alive back then? Was baseball on their radar just a few years prior?

Now when you go to the mall, everyone wears a Red Sox hat. Or a shirt. Or a jersey. Or a beanie. Or those stupid nylon key chain thingies the younger crowd likes to hang out of their pocket. Where were all these people five years ago? “B” apparently is for Bandwagon. And when you walk by one of these fans and you’re wearing something Boston? “Goooo Sawks” Gimme a break.

Something else happened too.

The true fan, the one who did know and understand the jubilation of winning after all these years, forgot what it meant to be a Red Sox fan. The faithful turned arrogant, make that many of the faithful, and now that they tasted blood they wanted more and at any cost.

A few years after the 2004 World Series a fellow baseball fan told me their two favorite teams were the Anaheim Angels (their team) and whatever team was playing the Red Sox. He wasn’t that vindictive in 2004. In fact, he casually rooted for the Red Sox. Now he hated them because of the fans.

The bandwagon fans. The arrogant fans.

If Chicago wins the World Series I’d bet the same thing happens. Suddenly, everyone is a Cubbies fan. Expect teenagers with no idea who Steve Bartman is to fabricate stories when and how they became the diehard fan and lament about all those dry years and the supposed curse. Pick an airport, you’d think you were landing in Chicago based on the number of Cubs hats. Want to visit Chicago? Just visit your local mall; it’ll feel like you’re in the Windy City.

No – Chicago fans – the other side isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It sucks actually. I’ve rooted against the Red Sox. Just to shut up the fan base. I loved this team. Not so much anymore. I’ve witnessed Boston cross the $20 million a year contract to a single player barrier to disastrous effects. Today, the team pays tens of millions just to talk with a prospect overseas. This is not the Red Sox I grew up with.

The Red Sox slowly turned into what we hated about the New York Yankees.

Is this the Chicago Cubs you want?

Trump Popularity Surges Among Rappers and the Hip Hop Community

A recently released secret recording of presidential candidate Donald J. Trump saying demeaning things about women may have damaged his candidacy with certain segments of the population but in a surprise poll he’s enjoying a big boost among rappers and hip-hop “artists.”

A completely unscientific poll conducted by the Common Sense Institute shows Trump now leading by 93 percent with the rap and hip-hop community. That’s an enormous and unprecedented jump considering figures last month showed the Republican nominee with just 15 percent of the rap and hip-hop vote.

It’s hardly a shock considering the remarks by Trump prove little different if not even tamer than some of the lyrics born from this country’s most “gifted” and “talented” writers of rap and hip-hop “music” listened to by a large swath of the American population much of whom propelled socialist Bernie Sanders to nearly beating Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

For comparison’s sake here’s what Trump said (arranged via a rap segment):

I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it
I did try and f— her. She was married
And I moved on her very heavily
In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.
She wanted to get some furniture.
I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture
I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there
And she was married

Then all of a sudden I see her
She’s now got the big phony tits and everything
She’s totally changed her look
I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her
You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful (women)

And when you’re a star, they let you do it
You can do anything
Grab them by the p—y
You can do anything

“He’s genius man,” said a popular rapper who wished not to be identified. “I mean, I couldn’t come up with that s—t. It’s fantastic.”

A manager who handles several hip-hop acts who asked for anonymity suggested Trump copyright his words before someone picks them up, incorporates the words into a computer generated beat and makes a “s—tload of money” off the multimillionaire.

“Man, if I were him, I’d make sure I get a cut from whoever puts those words into a song. It’ll be a huge, huge hit and I know of several folks within the industry already working on a new song using what he said,” the manager said.

Another industry insider also requesting he not be named suggested Trump’s comments fall right inline with some of the most popular music listened to by teenagers and young adults that crosses all ethnicities.

“Black, white, brown folks listen to rap and hip-hip everyday so what they heard from Trump is no different than what’s ingested by these young kids, male and female, all day long. Similar lyrics to what you heard Trump say bring multi-platinum sales to dozens and dozens of rappers,” the industry insider said. “If parents who once supported Trump are now turned off from Trump then I’d suggest you listen to what your kids play in their car on the way to school.”

Consider these lyrics from “Rump Shaker” by Wrecks-N-Effect:

Ticklin you around Delaware before I enter
Turn to seduction from face hips to feet
A wiggle and a jiggle can make the night complete
Now since you got the body of the year, come and get the award
Here’s a hint…it’s like a long sharp sword

The late Notorious B.I.G wrote the following for “Nasty Girl”:

Conversate. Sex on the first date.
I state, ‘You know what you do to me?’
She starts off, ‘Well I don’t usually.’
Then I, whip it out, rubber no doubt.
Step out, show me what you all about.
Fingers in your mouth, open up your blouse,
Pull your G-string down South. Aoowww.

The 80s group N.W.A. glorified by Hollywood Liberals in the 2015 movie Straight Outta Compton which was nominated for an academy award for best screenplay wrote the following for their song “One Less Bitch”:

She was the perfect ho’ but what do you know
The bitch tried to gag me
So, I had to kill her
Yeah, straight hittin’
Now listen up and lemme tell you how I did it
Yo, I tied her to the bed
I was thinking the worst but yo I had to let my niggas fuck her first yeah
Loaded up the 44 yo
Then I straight smoked the ho’


Kanye West, who sells out arenas all over the country when on tour and not in the middle of a psychological meltdown is one of the most popular users of computers to generate a recycled and repetitive beat for his lyrics which include:

Whip that, bitch out
Tits out, oh s**t
My dick out, can she suck it right now?
F**k, can she f**k right now?
I done asked twice now
Can you bring your price down?

His album Yeezus which doesn’t need an explanation as to Who he believes himself to be includes the following brilliance:

Soon as I pull up and park the Benz
We got this bitch shaking like Parkinson’s
Black dick all in your spouse again.
And I know she like chocolate men
She got more niggas off than Cochran

And who can forget the Real Slim Shady also known as Eminem:

‘Cause at the rate I’m going when I’m thirty
I’ll be the only person in the nursing home flirting.
Pinching nurses asses when I’m jackin’ off with Jergens
And I’m jerking, but this whole bag of Viagra isn’t working

The current generation of parents might just remember this gem from Too $hort in his song “Don’t Fight the Feeling”:

I let my hand slide between your miniskirt
Slip a finger in your panties, straight to work
What time is it, don’t watch the clock
Lay back baby doll and I’ll rock the cock

Considering the vast reach of rap and hip-hip “music” and how the mainstream media fawns over and celebrates the lifestyle and lyrics of that industry, pundits on both side of the aisle say this “October Surprise” against Trump might prove surprising next month at the voting booth.

“He’s one of us,” said a fan of the genre who just turned 18 and is planning on voting next month. “This is how my friends and I talk everyday and it’s no worse than the locker room banter I hear at school.”

A leaked email (that’s no longer available) inside Hillary Clinton’s camp suggested Clinton not pounce on Trump’s words considering credible evidence suggests her husband, former president Bill Clinton,  actually acted on many “hip-hop style” lyrics towards a number of different women.

A person within the Trump camp, speaking on condition of anonymity, said if Trump loses the election he’s already been offered a spot at the table to help bring the West Coast and East Coast hip-hop music scene together.