Ben, who lives with Bob and the Old Professor, was sad to see us go yesterday as Bob and I headed out. (He also had a bit of a tummy ache.)
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
Checking out the car show trophy collection.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Meet the Beatles, Side 2, track 6
Friday, January 24, 2014
The Pontiac is back from J’s Automotive, and for the first time in twenty years, it’s not leaking oil.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Just the kind of quiet tune to clear the head.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Thursday, January 9, 2014
This one’s for you, New Jersey.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
The title is “Thanksgiving.” No, I’m not mixing up the holidays, but offering thanks for friends and family gathering together from near and not-so-near and sharing their gift of friendship and love. You don’t need to be religious to do that; just human. So look around at your world: your family, if they are near, or friends, co-workers, neighbors, even that person down the street that you don’t know but lift a hand in greeting as you go by and exchange a nod. We all share a common bond; we all live on the same spaceship; we all seek comfort in good times and sorrow, at celebration and mourning.
I am thankful to have my friends, my family, my circle. Peace.
Continuing a tradition I began back when this blog was new, which is another way of saying that I’ve posted this on Christmases past…
When I was a kid, our family lived in a house with tall ceilings so we always got a Christmas tree that was at least ten feet tall – maybe taller. (It could have been less, but when you’re six or seven, it looks a lot taller.) We had tons of decorations from our family history; gingerbread decorations held together with fine wire, bubble lights that never seemed to work right, and hundreds of ornaments. We always had a debate about tinsel – I hated it, my sister wanted it. Guess who won that one. Every year we put the tree in a different room – one year in the living room, the next in the front parlor, and then in the bay window in the dining room.
That was not the extent of the decorating by any means. While my family was not particularly religious, we went all out for the season in the decor mode that would have made Martha Stewart get out of the business. This was a tradition carried on from both of my parent’s families; my father tells how his father was a meticulous hanger of the old-fashioned lead tinsel, and my mother’s family did it up to the heights of giddiness that included the tree and presents magically appearing overnight on Christmas Eve. So we had a legacy to live up to. Lights on the front porch were interwoven in the cedar roping that looped down from the eaves. There was more roping on the bannister going up the front stairs, tied on with red ribbons, and roping again around the big mirror in the front hall. Candles in Christmas candelabra filled the house with the scent of candle smoke, merging with the evergreens, and on Christmas Eve, when the big roast was in the oven for the dinner with Aunt Margaret, the house was awash with homey aromas.
We had an old-fashioned hi-fi system with speakers throughout the first floor of the house, and as we put up the tree and the roping – usually the weekend before Christmas – we would dig out the Christmas LP’s. The perennial was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Joy To the World that began with “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” That would be followed by the Bing Crosby Merry Christmas album and anything else we had in the rack.
We had two fireplaces in the house, including one in the kitchen, so that’s where we hung our stockings with care. Christmas morning would arrive and the four kids would line up, youngest first, on the back stairs, squirming with anticipation until we were let into the kitchen and a breakfast of Christmas baked treats, including a Scandinavian stollen baked by a family friend. (Never one who liked things like that, I often wished the stollen would be stolen….) Then we’d line up at the appropriate closed door behind which lay the treasure. Nearly fainting with the anticipation, the door would be flung open – a four-voiced gasp of breath, followed by pounding feet and squeals of delight. We took turns, shredding the wrapping, opening the boxes, reading the tags – “From Mom and Dad,” “From Santa,” “From Grammie.” My mother kept a list of who got what from whom so that the thank-you notes could be written. There was always one Big Present for each kid – a bicycle, skis, a train set, a kitten – and lots of books and clothes, too. And each child was sure to give his sibling something, usually something oddly appropriate; like lavender bath beads from me to my sister.
When it was all over, the trash can was filled with the wrappings, the loot taken upstairs, and new clothes tried on. I would pore through the new books until I was nagged to get dressed to go to Christmas dinner somewhere else – with cross-town relatives or the Carranor Club – and the streets would be empty as we piled into the station wagon. We’d come home in the cold and dark, tired from all the excitement, ready to come down from the sugar-spiked high. The next day we’d pack up for our annual skiing trip to Boyne Mountain in Michigan, complete with its own set of sense memories.
These traditions were carried on as we each grew up and started our own families, adding our own touches; Allen and I merged some of each to come up with our own for fifteen years, including the tree (artificial, though – he’s allergic to pine) and music. (I’ve got the Bing Crosby CD on as I write this.) My sister has passed it on to her children, and my younger brother, with his three kids, carries on much as we did when we were young.
So while there may not be a whole lot of religion in any of it, there’s the strength of the ties of family and love that surpasses any denominational definition. It is a common thread that binds us all together whether we say “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” “Felice Navidad” (which I immediately corrupted to “Fleas On Your Dad”), “Happy Hanukkah,” or “Good Kwanzaa.” It’s the sense of togetherness and hope that can be spread regardless of whether or not you celebrate the birth of the son of God, and the thankfulness that you feel that you have made it through yet another year and look forward to making the next one better.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The interim agreement with Iran to shut down its nuclear program took a long time to get done. As Dafna Linzer at MSNBC notes, it could have been done a lot sooner had we not had a certain president in office.
The sad truth of Sunday’s nuclear agreement with Iran is that it could have come 10 years earlier and with far fewer costs.
It took a Mideast war, an accelerating nuclear program, a crisis with U.N. inspectors and crippling sanctions before the sides started talking.
More importantly, it was the election of President Obama and the return of the reformist leadership in Tehran that made an historic deal between the United States and Iran even possible.
When the United States was attacked by Al-Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001, it was by a terrorist organization that was no friend to Iran.
Acting from inside Afghanistan and Pakistan – two nations that border Iran – al-Qaeda’s actions destabilized the region and brought on a swift counterattack by U.S. forces who remain in the region.
Hundreds of al-Qaeda members streamed across Iran’s borders. Many were caught and identified. The most dangerous, including Osama bin Laden’s relatives, were imprisoned. Low-level fighters were returned to their home countries – but not before Zarif secretly shared their identities, finger prints, passports and other information with the U.S. government.
There was other quiet but vital cooperation along the Iranian-Afghan border to stop al-Qaeda, the heroin trade and warlords from smuggling weapons and goods out of Afghanistan.
The Bush administration benefited greatly from all of it but that’s not the impression it conveyed to the American public or the Iranian people.
Iran’s leaders, working through a Swiss diplomatic channel, sent the State Department a lengthy proposal for embarking on negotiations. Tehran’s leaders sought a “grand bargain,” with everything on the table, including restoring relations with Israel, and giving up any interest in pursing nuclear capabilities that could be used for weapons.
If only they had been greeted with silence. Instead, Bush used his 2003 State of the Union address to enlist Iran into what he deemed an “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and North Korea.
So rather than find a way to peace and possible reconciliation that could have prevented war, civil unrest, and a winding down nuclear threats, we spent ten years rattling our sabres and stuffing a sock in our flight suit to prove that American exceptionalism is da bomb… literally. We spent ten years being told by draft-dodgers that war is the answer to all our problems and great for the bottom line at Halliburton and BP. Instead we got death and the permanent enmity of an entire segment of the world’s population.
Obama and Rouhani must sell this deal at home, and it will tough for both. The American public still carries the scars of a lengthy hostage crisis that followed Iran’s political and religious revolution and are reluctant to trust a new and possibly vulnerable leadership. Rouhani is under pressure from those very same revolutionary guards who see Washington as the root of Iran’s corrupt past.
Failure going forward would certainly embolden the hardliners on all sides, and push toward conflict, not resolution.
But if the deal sticks – a big if – Rouhani will be the first Iranian leader in more than 30 years who unclenched his fist – delivering his people back into the global fold. Obama may well be remembered as the Nobel laureate who removed the threat of nuclear war through the promise of extending his hand.
It’s long past time that we matured to the point where we realize how incredibly insane it is to think that the only way to achieve peace is through war.
Friday, November 22, 2013
There has already been a lot written about the events fifty years ago today. The media has flooded us with recollections, remembrances, commemorations, and the inevitable resurgence of conspiracy theories and speculation. We can relive that day minute by minute on YouTube, including the soap operas and commercials that were interrupted by the controlled panic from the newsroom as they tried to make sense of the bulletins clattering in on the AP teletypes.
I thought a lot about how to mark this day and put it in perspective: what it means and how it has changed our world. But I keep coming back to what I first wrote on the fortieth anniversary: where I was, what I was doing, and how an eleven-year-old kid’s view of the world changed on that day.
Friday, November 22, 1963. I was in the sixth grade in Toledo, Ohio. I had to skip Phys Ed because I was just getting over bronchitis, so I was in a study hall when a classmate came up from the locker room in the school basement to say, “Kennedy’s dead.” We had a boy in our class named Matt Kennedy, and I wondered what had happened – an errant fatal blow with a dodgeball? A few minutes later, though, it was made clear to us at a hastily-summoned assembly, and we were soon put on the buses and sent home. Girls were crying.
There was a newspaper strike at The Blade, so the only papers we could get were either from Detroit or Cleveland. (The union at The Blade, realizing they were missing the story of the century, agreed to immediately resume publication and settle their differences in other ways.) Television, though, was the medium of choice, and I remember the black-and-white images of the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews, the casket being lowered, President Johnson speaking on the tarmac, and the events of the weekend – Oswald, Ruby, the long slow funeral parade, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” – merging into one long black-and-white flicker, finally closing on Monday night with the eternal flame guttering in the cold breeze.
I suspect that John F. Kennedy would be bitterly disappointed that the only thing remembered about his life was how he left it and how it colored everything he did leading up to it. The Bay of Pigs, the steel crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, the Test Ban Treaty, even the space program are dramatized by his death. They became the stuff of legend, not governing, and history should not be preserved as fable.
At the age of eleven, I never thought about being old enough to look back fifty years to that time. According to NPR, more than sixty percent of Americans alive today were not yet born on that day. Today the question is not do you remember JFK, but what did his brief time leave behind. Speculation is rife as to what he did or did not accomplish – would we have gone in deeper in Vietnam? Would he have pushed civil rights? Would the Cold War have lasted? We’ll never know, and frankly, pursuing such questions is a waste of time. Had JFK never been assassinated, chances are he would have been re-elected in 1964, crushing Barry Goldwater, but leading an administration that was more style than substance, battling with his own party as much as with the Republicans, much like Clinton did in the 1990′s. According to medical records, he would have been lucky to live into his sixties, dying from natural causes in the 1980′s, and he would have been remembered fondly for his charm and wit – and his beautiful wife – more than what he accomplished in eight years of an average presidency.
But it was those six seconds in Dealy Plaza that defined him. Each generation has one of those moments. For my parents it was Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the flash from Warm Springs in April 1945. Today it is Challenger in 1986, and of course September 11, 2001. And in all cases, it is what the moment means to us. It is the play, not the players. We see things as they were, contrast to how they are, and measure the differences, and by that, we measure ourselves.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Seventy-five years ago tonight, Orson Welles scared the crap out of his radio audience with a version of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. This is not from that broadcast.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Saturday, October 19, 2013
This is where I’ll be all day.
Bob and I are staying at the Terrace Hotel — that tall building on the right in the background — and he’s judging sports cars. I’ll be with the Pontiac in the “Future Classics” section.