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Friday, August 11, 2017

I met a woman named Yvonne recently and asked her where she got her name. The answer brought this bizare, long-forgotten story to light again.

Yvonne is not a 'today' name so I asked, "Were you named after Yvonne De Carlo," an attractive mid-20th century  movie star with acting roles that ranged from "The Ten Commandments" to credits with John Wayne, Bob Hope and as Lily Munster in the popular old TV show, "The Munsters."

"No," she said. "I was named after Yvonne Dionne of the Dionne quintuplets." (Ah, now I know how old you are.)

And that's what I'm talking about here. (Remember, this was before 'Octomom' Nadya Suleman who gave birth to six boys and two girls with the help of in vitro fertilization in 2009 and others who have used this fertility process to make the birth of quints almost a sidebar today.)

Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie and Marie Dionne

 Notice how happy these young quints look? That's because, they aren't. The Dionne quints were born in Ontario, Canada in 1934, near the peak of The Great Depression, and a world so thirsting for any good news that was available.

The quints were the first to have survived from infancy to adulthood and became instant celebrities. Their remarkable births (of that day) and the years to follow pushed them into unnatural circumstances that shaped their lives.  They were dubbed, "The most famous babies on earth," and became the next thing to "circus freaks" on the world stage.

Four months after their birth, the quints were made wards of the King (Quebec, remember) by virtue of the Dionne Quintuplets Guardian Act of 1934 enacted just for them, as you might guess. What followed allowed the government and those around the girls to exploit them for profit. It provided tourist revenues in the millions of dollars rivaling even Niagara Falls.

Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie and Marie were put on exhibition and used as a tourist attraction for Quebec. Think I'm exaggerating?


"The province of Ontario swooped in and took them from their parents," reported the New York Times, "declaring that they had to be protected from exploitation. Then it exhibited the children three times a day in a human zoo called Quintland, to be raised as a sort of science experiment. Three million visitors came in the 1030s"

Quintland offers a most fascinating and complete story. This site is a must it if you are curious of what happened from there.

The Dionne sisters were constantly tested, studied and examined with records being taken of everything, notes Wikipedia. While living at the compound, they had a somewhat rigid lifestyle. They were not required to participate in chores and were privately tutored in the same build where they lived. 

Cared for primarily by nurses, they had limited exposure to the world outside the boundaries of the compound, except for the daily rounds of tourists, who, the sisters' say, were generally heard but not seen. They also had occasional contact with their parents and siblings. 

Every morning they dressed together in a big bathroom, had doses of orange juice and cod-liver oil, and then went to have their hair curled. They then said a prayer, a gong was sounded and they ate breakfast in the dining room. After 30-minutes, they had to clear the table. They then played in the sun room for 30-minutes, took a 15-minute break and at 9 o'clock had their morning inspection with Dr. Dafoe. 

Every month they had a different timetable of activities. They bathed every day before dinner and put on their pajamas. Dinner was served at precisely 6 pm. They then went into the quiet play room to say their evening prayers. 

Each girl had a color and a symbol to mark whatever was hers. Annette's color was red and her design, a maple leaf. Cecile had green and a turkey. Emilie had white and a tulip. Marie's was blue and a teddy bear.  Yvonne's was pink and a bluebird.

There is one story of exploitation that the girls were all dressed in Girl  Scout uniforms for a photo shoot and press release, then the uniforms were taken away and never part of their lives. They were on exhibition at fairs and gatherings where their presence could draw a crowd. They were the subject of songs and together, made several movies.

Not all of their recollections are dire but their circumstances controlled their early years and treatment more as commodities than young girls. They were moved from normal to not in a mother's heartbeat.

The girls were finally returned to their family at age nine and 9-year old normal was not really normal at all.

Today, only 83-year-old Annette and Cecile survive. They were recently interviewed for the first time publicly.  This is their story looking back with heavy hearts and seeking little.

"I want all the problems and wars to pass away," Annette said of their birth house, which the city plans to move to a fairgrounds nearby without any mention of its heritage. "It should become a symbol of peace and happiness, respect."

Cecile added, "Especially respect."  

Reader hint: The two links in this post open to a very interesting story of the miracle of birth turned into the tragedy of being a "freak."





Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How to get rich on someone else's money... and how to get poor on your own.

Years ago when my job took me to New York City regularly, I would often ride the subways and read the advertising banners posted along the top of the cars. There was an ad for a court stenographer like this one promising "f u cn rd ths... " you could really "mk mo $" if you just learned to misspell words correctly. Well, I was cursed with a good grasp of spelling so I was out of luck. But my desire to have more money stuck with me, a young father with a growing family. It isn't that easy to find extra cash, as we all know... or is it?

A gold mine
In the seat cushions of America's couches, there is estimate to be as much as $100 million in spare change. So after a fervent search of my couches, I am well on my way with $3.17. (I'm a big tipper.). Yes, I know it is probably my money, but it feels like pure profit.

Actually, it does seem a little absurd, but if you figure there are 350 million people in the United States, then even counting for
families an the homeless, there are easily 100 million couches. And if the average change lost per couch is say one doller--5 dimes, a quarter, two nickles and  15 pennies--there's your $100 million! But there are, no doubt many more couches and old chairs out there. And some, like mine, are gold mines.

Well, how easy is that? All I need now is more seat cushions. Now that's how you get rich!

Our gold mine gone!



A confession: Before we were that smart, we sold our old couches and chair to this lovely couple for $100. Yes, it was a concession but they really needed these and didn't look like they could afford much more. HOWEVER, they are now probably very rich with all the couch money that we just said good-bye to. Silly us.

OK, here's how you get/stay poor:

We recently had to replace our refrigerator and dishwasher. And because we were swept away in an appliance-buying frenzy, we also replaced our double oven and we SAVED more than $3,000. (Am I missing something here?)

Anyhow, my clever wife had, over time, put aside almost $4,000 anticipating this need to purchase. Believe me, she had to look under many couch cushions to find that much. (See how easy it is!) To pay off the balance, we took advantage of a 12-month, no interest payment plan.

Our first invoice--showing the total amount before our down payment--stated that if we chose, we could pay as little as $100/month for 23 years. How simple is that?

Then there was a chart showing that if we chose the minimum payment, we would actually wind up, including interest, of paying $23,254. And that is just to pay off $6,645.18 at 26.24% interest! So, if you are not good at math like I am, we actually saved the original $3,000,,, PLUS the interest charges of $16,608.82 or $19,608.82 in total savings!

Hmm, looks like we are rich. I just didn't think of it that way. Our check, I'm sure, is already in the mail.

But sadly, paying the minimum is a terrible burden to those have to. It's called "Death of 1,000 cuts" OR "Death by paying $100/month for 276 months, at which time your appliances are 23 years old and themselves, dead."

It's no secret that the rich get richer easily and the poor, well they can just as easily get poorer,  simply by living. And we wonder why lottery tickets sell so well in those parts of town.

Wisdom from the ages: 

"Money is not the only answer but it makes a difference" Barack Obama

"A fool and his money are soon elected" Will Rogers

"A rich man is nothing more than a poor man with money." W.C. Fields



  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

An awful lot about not much... but interesting

Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Bulgaria





Fake news test: Which is real, which is not.


Bulgaria is the only country whose name ends in "ulgalia."

This is true.

FYI: Bulgaria is one of the few exotic nations of Europe. I boasts sublime beaches, lovely churches, winter sports and great hiking. It has traditionally not been regularly visited by Westerners but is gaining in popularity with its beauties and wide range of activities.

***

Even after grants and scholarships, the typical family making less than $30,000/year needs to pay 77% of its income to cover the costs of a four-year public college.

Also true.
***

When escalators first appeared, they had escalator men who would ride with passengers similar to elevators who had elevator men working in them.

Gotcha! False.
*** 
Three billion light years away (186,000 miles per second x all the seconds in three billion years) the merger of two black holes--one 19 times more mass than our sun and one 31 times--released more energy in the form of gravitational waves than all the stars in our observable universe.

Absolutely true... and utterly mind-blowing, even if I understood it.

*****
President Trump called Kim Jung Un a "smart cookie" and James Comie a "nut job."

Sadly, true.

*** 
An Ohio woman, impatiently awaiting her son's slow haircut at a local barber college, whipped out a pistol and pointing it at the young barber, warned him to hurry, "I've got two clips! I'll pop you!" So he did.

It's America. True.
***
La Plat Sal (The Dirty Plate) Parisian restaurant offers four-star recipes featuring dirt... or as its' chefs call it, "the mud of the earth that caresses our toes, the sand kissed by the sun, and rocks." And no, the prices are not down to earth. It's Paris.

Deliciously true.
 
***

A child born into a high-income family is six-times as likely to earn a college degree as one who is poor.

Duh! True. Rich usually wins.

***
 There are more than 50 words in Gaelic relating to seaweed.

Whew. False thank goodness. Who needs 50 ways to say seaweed. Real answer: 40 words.

*** 
Prehistoric cave paintings suggest that early man was most interested in primitive art.

Well, true. Post modern didn't come along til later.

*** 
"Adam and Eve on a Raft" is what breakfast joints call bacon and eggs on toast. "Wreck 'em" means scrambled.

True... with a cuppa joe

***

Adam and Eve populated our world.

Hmm... true, the bible tells me so... unless you don't think it happened that way, then false... or will you be sorry later?

FYI: Could two people actually repopulate the world today? Here's a good take on that.


SO HERE'S THE DEAL... what separates real from fake news is often what we choose to believe which is often shaped by who tells us that. And in today's incredibly broad social media world, anyone can say anything... absolutely anything... and there will ALWAYS be someone to pass it on as if it came from God him/herself. 

But remember Absolute Rule No. 1: if you believes something that isn't true, believing it still doesn't make it true. And that's a fact. Smart means double checking or find another source for anything that has a smell to it.

Ed. Note: Thanks NY Times and humorist, film maker Demetri Martin for a few good examples.





Saturday, July 22, 2017

A STICK-UP MAN'S CODE: Creeds, Mottoes, Slogans and Rules that have Shaped America






"Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds" 

Coffee shop buddy Ed (I miss him) loaned me Brian Burrell's book, Words We Live By--three different times--because he thought I'd enjoy it. He was right. It is filled declarations, creeds, mottoes, slogans, sayings, advice and rules--everything from the unofficial U.S. Post Office motto to... 

Looking down the barrel of a gun
A Stick-Up Man's Code: (from a list of personal rules that were found in his wallet when he was arrested):
  1. I will not kill anyone unless I have to.
  2. I will take cash and food stamps--no checks.
  3. I will rob only at night.
  4. I will not wear a mask.
  5. I will not rob mini-marts or 7-Eleven stores.
  6. If chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by a vehicle I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.
  7. I will only rob seven months of the year.
  8. I will enjoy robbing from the poor to give to the poor. 
Other words include our Declaration of Independence and the many official documents that shape our lives... the sublime and less so.

A sign in New York's Empire Diner says: "Be nice. Don't shout. Sit up straight. Don't play with your food. Have a nice day. Take care. Don't be a stranger. Murray, call your mother." 

There is a Declaration of Principles by the Pacific Ice Cream Manufacturers' Association, Robert's Rules of Order that governs democratic meetings, The Boy Scout's code, The Marquis of Queensberry rules for boxing, ("No hitting below the belt,") A Mid-Wife's Oath, Parkinson's Law, ("Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."), not to be confused with Parkinson's Law of Triviality, ("The time spent on any item of the agenda will be inverse to the sum of money involved."), Murphy's Laws, ("Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, No good deed goes unpunished, A short cut is the shortest distance between two points,") and so forth. Every organization has bylaws and rules that govern its purpose.

Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues is there as are Sir Walter Raleigh's Instructions to his Son. And Google says "Do no evil."

The book also includes our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, the Ten Commandments, AA's 12 steps, The Chicago Cubs team rules of 1913 (which make no mention of never winning the World Series for at least 104 years), Jack London's Code, The Official Creed of Elvis Presley Impersonators International (Yeah, really), The Hippocratic Oath and The Clown Code ("No more than 18 in a car at any time," No shoe size smaller than 34 EEEE, etc".) OK, so I fudged that last one... but clowns do have their rules.

Most of all though, it has The Golden Rule stated in many ways:

"I got a simple rule about everybody. If you don't treat me right, shame on you!" Louis Armstrong said that in the 1970s. 
 
In 325 B.C. Aristotle was asked how we ought to behave to our friends. "As we wish our friends to behave to us," he said.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," in one form or another, is found scripturally in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. It is a moral acknowledgement of how to lead a good life.

Socrates, Aristotle, Samuel Clarke, John Wise, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Sedgwick, Petr Aleksevich Kropotkin, Malcolm X, Alan Gewirth and Louis Armstrong, to name just a few, have stated in writings and speeches... in many, many languages... in many different words... from so many ages... their expression of The Golden Rule.

It is not to be misconstrued as "He who has the gold, rules," or, "I don't get mad, I get even." These are usually followed by a hollow laugh, as if to say, "Not really."

But, really!

We sometimes seem to live more by those 'anti-golden rules' than the real thing. We have had wars forever, you know. I guess I'm feeling especially moralistic today. As a society of humans, wouldn't you think we can be better than we are?

Yeah, really!


Monday, July 10, 2017

I have a friend who takes his own EKG... and showed the way to an out-of-the-box solution to our health care conundrum.


This is his actual EKG... he took it himself and sent it to his doctor.

He has atrial fibrillation (A-fib), an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. A-fib is associated with an increased risk of heart failure and stroke. Fortunately, it can be monitored and managed.

His onsets are usually sporadic rather than constant, with some episodes lasting just minutes. But they can and have continued longer, occasionally triggering action.  Without an EKG at the time of an event, there will be no record to build a technical history. So the ability to record an event as it happens is an enormous benefit to good health. (Note: the doctor suggested this process viewing the readings as credible.)

Even if your doctor could record your EKG at the moment it is happening, that procedure would cost significantly for each event, without even considering your need for an appointment and waiting a schedule.

AliveCor app
So my friend, and many like him, are turning to an app on their smartphones to do the job. Yes, believe it. This app (with interface) that took these reading cost $99 because a device interface that records the EKG input is necessary. The reading appears on your phone and may be emailed to your doctor in minutes. There are other apps available free that require no interface (your finger over the camera eye) but his app, AliveCor by Kardia, seemed the better choice. His device is mounted on the back of his  iPhone cover and is always with him. How convenient is that?

This blog however is NOT about my friend's A-fib resolve but what this growing technology allows for in other applications. It is seen by some as the 'out-of-the-box' solution to a better way of harnessing the octopus that is affordable health care for the masses. Best of all, it has a simple-to-understand logic which, in today's world of political victory at any cost, could be read as it's death knell.

Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, says in a WSJournal essay, "Our health-care system won't be fixed by insurance reform. To contain costs and improve results, we need to move aggressively to adopt the tools of information-age medicine." He calls that, "The Smart-Medicine Solution to the Health-Care Crisis."

"No matter how the debate in Washington plays out... we will still be stuck with astronomical and ever-rising health care costs." Projections by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that health spending in the U.S. will grow at a rate of 5.8% a year through 2025, far outpacing GDP growth.

"Our health care system is uniquely inefficient and wasteful," Topol says. "The more than $3 trillion that we spend each year yields relatively poor health outcomes, compared with other developed countries that spend far less."

While he acknowledges that containing costs and improving care is accepted and necessary, it is what we, the patients can now do to greatly help in both areas. "In my three decades as a doctor," Topol says, "I have never seen such an acceleration of new technology, both hardware and software, across every dimension of medical practice. The new tools are not just more powerful, precise and convenient, they are more economical, driven by the information revolution's ability to deliver." 

Now, heart and blood pressure readings can be credibly delivered regularly, if necessary, by the patient him/herself. "The Food and Drug Administration has already approved wearable sensors that can continuously monitor all vital signs: blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, body temperature, breathing rate and oxygen concentration in the blood, for a fraction of the cost for a day in the hospital."

"We now have ultrasound probes that connect with a smartphone an provide exquisite resolution'" he says, "comparable to hospital lab machines. It is possible to examine any part of the body (except the brain) simply by connecting the probe to the base of a smartphone and putting a little gel on the probe's tip. When I first got a smartphone ultrasound probe last year, I did a head-to-toe 'medical selfie,' imaging everything from my sinuses  and thyroid to my heart, lungs, liver, gallbladder, aorta and left foot." 

And his reading showed a kidney abnormality, he was subsequently diagnosed with a kidney stone confirmed by a doctor's CT scan.

Conclusion: Imagine how this could work to reduce hospital stays and any subsequent hospital-driven complication that, statistically, happens 25% of the time. This ties into so many other areas to improve health care at what could amount to significant savings in time, efficiency, diagnosing insight and stress. A person's genome sequencing--identifying all three billion genes--can now be done for about $1,000 and leading to smart alerts and early monitoring.

Whoa! What have we got here... a technical breakthrough on a level of discovery of a cure for cancer or... who knows. 

If affordable health care is seen as a Rubik's Cube of variable options, then to take this path could well be the key to the puzzle that, before now, hasn't been in the picture. Are we on the cusp of another Wright brothers-like event?

Yes, it will be hell to go from here to there as technology evolves and this becomes the political football with lobbyists, the insurance and health industries, political detractors, patients themselves and at every turn, for every reason. But couldn't a President (whoever that is, now or soon) do a "Kennedy?"

On May 25, 1961, after the Russians had put the first man into space, leaving us greatly embarrassed and deeply concerned about being beaten into this future frontier, John F. Kennedy proclaimed to a special session of Congress and the American people, the goal of sending an American to the moon before the end of the decade.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo commander Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Module's ladder onto the Moon's surface... a moment of great national pride.

If we can do that, couldn't we do this, to the great benefit of all Americans? Come on Donald, or whoever, say something.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

There it is! The International Space Station streaking across your sky, maybe right now.


If you haven't seen this marvel of the modern world streaking across your sky at nearly five-miles per minute, you must! In fact, you just might be able to see it tonight. 

It is a splendid, awe-inspiring sight looking at the International Space Station with American Astronauts Peggy Whitson, Jack Fisher and Russian Cosmonaut and mission commander Fyodor Nikolayevich Yurchilhin aboard.


 This is how they see us. 


                                                        This is how we see them.
The International Space Station (ISS) is the most complex international scientific and engineering project in history and the largest structure humans have ever put into space. This high-flying satellite is a laboratory for new technologies and an observation platform for astronomical, environmental and geological research. As a permanently occupied outpost in outer space, it serves as a stepping-stone for further space exploration. 
You know we plan to go to Mars in the 2020s and the list of those desiring to be on that first 9-month flight is in the thousands, all with the knowledge that they will not come back, living the rest of their lives on the Red Planet. That's exploring for you.
The initial ISS module was put into space in November, 1998 and received its first crew in November, 2000. It has been built on and continually occupied by various multi-nation crews. Current plans call for its use through 2020 and no doubt, beyond.
The space station flies at an average altitude of 248 miles above Earth. It circles the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,500 mph, 15 revolutions a day. In one day, it travels about the distance it would take to go from Earth to the moon and back. The space station can rival the brilliant planet Venus in brightness and appears as a bright moving light across the night sky. It can be seen from Earth without the use of a telescope by you when know when and where to look, which I will show you in a few paragraphs.
Five different space agencies representing 15 countries built the $100-billion International Space Station and continue to operate it today.
A full size duplicate of the module core and cockpit can be seen in Seattle's Museum of Flight and it is definitely worth the trip. Oh, an you can see a retired SST and many other fascinating aircraft and lore. Definitely worth the trip if you love this stuff... and even if you don't.
Wanna' know where and how to see the ISS (International Space Station) over your skies? Get the app ISS Spotter available free at ITunes and wherever free apps are given away. (I know, redundant, but cute.) 




The opening page of this app looks like this and it is a live show of the current ISS path around the globe and where it is at that precise moment. You can expand the page to see the whole earth and where it was the last two orbits. And you will be able to see how fast that bugger moves. It's an eye-opener itself.

 Then you go to page 2 and it lists the exact times and locations over where you are... and it is precise to the second. If you track it, you will see that just minutes before where you are, it is someplace over the Pacific, some impossible distance away. Amazing, really. It lists morning and evening viewing times over a number of days it is visible to you. And there are quite a few to choose from, you'd be surprised
So enjoy the amazing and the pioneers that took us there. 

FYI: I was at Kitty Hawk just a few months ago. The Wright brothers took the first ever flight in 1903--a mere 852 feet in 59 seconds, but a beginning.. It took us just a few generations to put a man on the moon in 1969. Maybe just another 60 years and we will put people on Mars. Where then? Now if we could just figure out how we can live on earth, THAT will be some accomplishment.







Friday, June 30, 2017

Those born very rich--and sometimes those who have found wealth later in life-- have a problem. CAN YOU GUESS WHAT IT IS?






Most of the very rich have a prob- lem... and as you can imagine, it's not money, though they always seem to need more.  Acknowledged, money cannot buy health, happiness or true friends but we pretty much know that.

A very real problem for many, especially those born with a silver spoon in their mouths, is that no matter how they may try, they cannot understand how the less fortunate of us feel, think or manage in our shared world. And worse than that, a great many don't care, presuming wealth equals all knowledge.

In my career as a magazine publisher, I worked for three extremely wealthy people... two born into money and one who earned his way rich.

My first, born that way, was gregarious and generous to a point, highly principled and kind-hearted in his way. He never knew a want or had a need. So his acts of kindness often presumed he knew much more about people than he did, so he was often clumsy and misunderstood. But if he perceived you were on his wrong side, he would fire or sue liberally. He was an insecure man of action.

The second earned his way with the role model of a parent in the publishing business. He was a wonderful man to work for, totally open with no hidden agenda, fair and understanding in good news or bad, helpful toward a mutual successful relationship and he cared for people.

The third was a corporate nightmare. His bottom line was sacred, no mater the cost, and growth was mandated or heads would--and did--roll, often despite good news... but not quite good enough. It was of no concern to him to order valuable, dedicated people fired to make the bottom line look better or to help prop up another lagging venture.

My publishing entity became a small part of a much larger corporation and we would have a quarterly meeting in the New York headquarters where we were to be present two days in advance of our meeting to "practice" what to say and how to say it for "the big man." We had slides to address every possible question "he" might ask--dozens and dozens of slides--to be certain we were fully prepared.

Then, on the big day at one winter meeting, there were two dozen of us in a giant conference room at 8:30  for a 9 am meeting. It was soon 9:45 and "he" was not there. At 10 minutes after 10, "he" ceremoniously burst into the room in a cashmere top coat, hat and scarf, greeting everyone as he pulled off his outerwear handing it to an aide one step behind. He joyfully said, "Good morning everyone. It was such a beautiful morning that I just had to walk through Central Park today." No "Sorry I'm late," or anything of the sort. After he was attended to with "A latte, just the way you like it... and a sweet roll with butter and your favorite marmalade," he nodded and we began.

Yep. Most of those I'm referring to lack Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feeling of another. 
 
Empathy is a moral virtue that enriches any and every relationship. I am not referring to decision-making itself but an understanding of the gains and losses of all involved and respect and thought for another perspective, even though it may not be yours.

The Golden Rule has been stated in many different ways over time, but has become a horrible aberration when cited, "He who has the gold, rules."

In sports, winning and losing is part of a game. In life, winners and losers are often determined by "he who has the gold" without much consideration for the consequences. It is often referred to as winning.

Politics has become so ruthless and contentious. Each side must win without regard of the consequences. It seems winning is the most important element of every action. Politics has become a wicked game of our lives where winning is more important than any consequence that may be swept aside by a myopic determination.

And yeah, I'm referring of the rush to kill The Affordable Care Act with anything that can pass, effects be damned. (Author's note: I am strongly for any and every improvement our legislators can make that truly benefits us all. But lacking that, to dispatch one for another just because, is disastrous to millions with no political clout by legislators who don't seem to have the empathy to care.)

I end with three quotes:

Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it is accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves into a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another's eyes or heart. Sue Monk Kidd 

... that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Abraham Lincoln (the conclusion of the Gettysburg Address)

My whole life is about winning I don't lose often. I almost never lose.  Donald Trump
                                                                                                                                                                  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

BOOTS ON THE HIGHWAY: The end of a three-decade odyseey of the mind


About 30 years ago, my wife and I decided we wanted as much good health as we could control so we enrolled in a local fitness club vowing to stick it out forever... or at least a month. That's how it--this journey to alter the future--began.

So why all the boots, you might ask. (Oh, you haven't seen all of them yet.) Well, here's how that came about.

We knew that the only part of our busy day we could control was the early morning. Once our work day began, so did the excuses. We began going to "the club" at 6 am three-days a week. It was winter and it was HELL!

But we did it, starting with a 10-lap walk around an indoor track. Every lap took us past the opening to the early morning high-velocity aerobics class. We'd shake our heads and wonder how crazy you'd have to be to do that three times a week as we worked up a sweat to finish our mile.

But after a few weeks of boring walking, we thought we'd try the class, from the back row, to see if we could stay up. But to our surprise, the group... maybe 20 or so... welcomed us as if more of a crowd would make hell seem easier. To our surprise, it did.

Now here comes the boot part: Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:45 am, my wife and I. still in a sleep-deprived state, would drag ourselves into separate cars (since we had different work destinations) and try to believe this is what we should do as we drove to "the club." 

For one two-week stretch, we would separately pass a lost boot laying near one of our intersections. It was still there, weeks past when it should have been, littering the street corner where we turned.

"Did you see the boot? It's still there."

"I know! Somebody must be walking around with one cold foot in all this snow."

Then, one early cold morning, my wife noticed, "The boot is gone! I almost miss it."

Secret: I preceded her that morning and grabbed the boot. Then that night, without her noticing, I put in on the hood of her car.

The next morning we laughed and tossed the boot near the garbage can til next pick-up day. But fate intervened and that day she saw another lost or discarded boot on the road she traveled. Of course, she stopped and grabbed it for my car hood next day. "Isn't that odd? Two boots in two days. Bet that means good luck."

A few days later I found number three and we immediately bought a lottery ticket. Then, we couldn't believe our luck when we just missed the grand prize by only five numbers. "Imagine, if the 6 would have been a 3 and the 4 was 7 and the 2 was one place to the left instead of the 8, we would be millionaires!"

We just couldn't throw those good-luck omens away... and so it began.

It's really amazing what you see on the side of the road if you're paying attention, and we always were. It was a game and when we scored, we always we always knew it meant something because we pretended it did. 

"Oops, guess this means we have to go to Paparazzi's tonight."
"That's for your birthday."
"This means we'll sell the car today."
"I see a trip in our future."

And the more serious: 

"It's a prayer for Aunt Nancy to get better."
"For the new grandchild to be healthy."
"That Jim will get that job."

It was always something... and as the the boots started piling up, we got inventive as to how they should be displayed. We even took them with us when we moved. And yes, we were the talk of the neighborhood--'those crazy people' I think they said.

Our kids and friends added to our cache with an occasional find. We have boots from many states and several foreign countries. Furthest came back in luggage from Italy. It meant we would eat great pasta for the rest of our lives!

At last count, our garage looked like this:



So when we repainted, all 126 boots (yep, really)  had to come down. The total could have been much larger but some boots on the highway were just not safely retrieved. And believe me, it hurt to have to pass up a great boot. However, we did have a few daring trophies. One was in a busy tunnel on I-5 in Seattle... it was a firefighter's boot--a real treasure--that my daughter and I scouted first then grabbed at 3 am with virtually no traffic to worry about. She drove and I grabbed... took about 5 seconds. See if you can find it in the photo at the top of the post.

Sadly, it was time to take them all down. Most had  deteriorated so it wasn't emotionally difficult to do, then take to the dump for a proper burial among the trash. The fun memories however, and the spirit of the chase will always be savored. Doesn't mean we won't still pick up a stray for old time's sake, but since we didn't win the lottery, I blame the bad boots... oh, and the fact that we never did actually buy a ticket. So it's our fault after all.



Goodbye boots. I guess I'll just keep on driving and watching for the ones that got away.

Ed Note: We were regular participants in hat high energy exercise class for almost 20 years... a class that had only four instructors in all that time and was filled with very sweaty--and warm, dear friends who knew each other by first name and any number of personal tales we shared. We attended weddings and a few funerals of those early morning maniacs--many of which we wouldn't recognize on the street with their clothes on--and shared joys and sorrow. It was one of the fullest, longest relationships that had the benefit of better health. We blame every one of them for those boots and great memories. (Special hellos to Del R. and Jim T.)