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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rolling Thunder and more at TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) this Memorial Day.

There were about 100 Rolling Thunder cyclists paying an annual visit to the TAPS weekend in Arlington, VA this Memorial Day... and sadly, about 2500 adults and children who wished they weren't qualified to be there.

They are some of the families who have recently lost a loved one in service of our country.

This was our fourth visit as representatives of HOPE Animal- Assisted Crises Response. HOPE had five dog/handler teams invited to help bring comfort to those many suffering the ultimate loss of a loved one in war-related conflicts.

From Friday through Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend, the dogs were on duty to do what they do best... and as usual, the outpouring of love and comfort and calm was welcomed by almost all attending.

This was the 20th anniversary of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a privately funded organization for those suffering a military loss. There were surviving husbands, wives, children, parents, siblings, partners, fiances and other related persons who have this opportunity to share, learn, remember and begin to heal thanks to benevolent corporate sponsors who recognize the need to do something special for the families of those who gave everything for their country.

There were programs and functions for all. For the 1200 children, there was a Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors with age-appropriate activities and sessions for all ages as well as infant and toddler care as required. Each youngster had a mentor (many were military volunteers from the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va) who were with their charges during the day activities when their parent was involved in other sessions and gatherings.

Adult workshops included Proactive Grieving, Turning Hurt into Hope, Dealing with Family after a Sibling Loss, Finding Hope as the Journey Continues, Surviving the Loss of a Child, and dozens more to give you an idea of the help available. Other activities included busses to Arlington National Cemetary, The Mall, a Tour of Washington and The Smithsonian Institution.

There are gatherings and meetings and food and reflection as well as many organizations set up to help with some of the needs of those who find themselves in this position. Speakers at some of the sessions have included Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as notables in areas of relevance to the group. Michelle Obama and The Bidens were scheduled to be with the TAPS group in ceremonies on the Mall on Memorial Day.

The messages in art murals and on the many chalkboards around the large hotel upper lobby by the children and adults were more touching than can be described here. The finale was a massive balloon release by the young people... thousands of balloons each with a personal message to the missing loved one.

They will never forget. Never. Nor should we.

The HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response mission is to provide comfort dog support to individuals affected by crises and disasters. There are presently about 300 dog-handler teams and team leaders across the United States. HOPE working dogs have recently been actively involved in the wildfires in the west, the Washington mudslides, the DC Naval Yard shooting and whenever and wherever such need calls. More at .

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Magic Shoes revisited: An old story with a new twist... the 2014 US Open golf championships for BOTH men and women are here this year, back to back! And what is more important than golf?

The Magic Shoes
I went to dinner with an old friend last night. He is crafty and wise, semi-witty and weird... good qualities for a friend. But the fact that he was magic caught up with me somewhere between dessert and cognac.

"Jerry, I know you have a good heart," he said, "and I have always believed good hearts need to be rewarded from time to time. So I want you to have these" He presented me with a box that simply read Calzature Collezione.

"I don't understand," I said.

"Literally translated, that means magic shoes."

One of the reasons I have always liked Steve is that he is so... so worldly. He knows all the languages."

"Gosh, they really are good looking." And, as I discovered, "They fit perfectly."

"Of course," he smiled smugly.

"But... but what, Steve, is the magic?"

He smiled with satisfaction. "With these shoes, you may have one wish... for anything.  Really anything. You may use that wish to save the world, feed the hungry, cure the sick, stop global warming, have a congress that works... whatever. Just lace them tight, click your heels together three times and make a wish. But be careful... you only have one wish."

I thought and thought... then we had another cognac... and another.  Two hours later, still pondering, we were kicked out of the restaurant so the help could close and go home.

That night, I couldn't bear to take my magic shoes off, they were so beautiful... so I slept in them... and I had a dream... a wonderful dream.  You know how some dreams seem so real, it's almost as if you are awake.  I could see myself and my magic shoes.  I had dreamed my destiny.

I woke to a real surprise... the sheets on the bed were ripped to shreds. My poor loving wife's legs were cut and bloodied. As I put my beautiful shoe-covered feet on the floor, I noticed they gouged our hardwood with every step I took on my route to the bathroom.

Then it dawned on me... MAGIC HAD HAPPENED! My magic shoes had created my dream. The world be damned... I was a scratch golfer, spikes and all! I was Golf Emperor of the World!

I should call to thank Steve for this wonderful gift, but I have an 8:15 tee-time... with barely enough time to kiss my wife who is jumping up and down with... happiness for me, I think.

I'll wow the guys with these fancy new magic shoes... and my new golf knickers, golf shirt and golf underwear which came with them. I didn't see the clothes at first... Steve told me that only the pure of heart can actually see them... then, of course, I did.

YES! The Golf Emperor has new clothes too!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The day I never met Ben Affleck.. or did I? But first, a modestly less but still great fun story.

Ben Affleck? Hmm.
Sure, we have have our brushes with fame. I knew a guy from Peoria once who, at 40 was an IT guy at an insurance company and found no joy in that. So almost every day he wrote funny stuff on Twitter. Seth Meyers heard about it and hired him. Really!

Brian Donaldson, went to school with my kids and look where they are today. Is he really funny though, or is he a 'just from Peoria' novelty? From his Twitter feed:

  • My pants size is "these fit when I bought them."
  • My family was so Catholic growing up that we weren't allowed to hide eggs on Easter because my father said it promoted birth control.
  • "Hey 35-year-old on a Razor scooter, you can loose the helmet. The damage has already been done."
  • If you step on Trump's foot, his hair pops up just like a trash can lid.
  • Every time I read the same My Little Pony book to my daughter, I love her just a little bit less.
  • Do you ever feel like you're all alone and there's no-one around to turn for help? Don't worry. It goes away once you leave Home Depot.
  • The best thing for cleaning spilled hummus off the carpet is chips.
  • It's weird that coward doesn't mean "toward a cow."
And these are just things he wrote that I can blog about. (I have a "nothing my grand kids can't read' policy?) You can pick out stuff he probably wrote in Meyer's monolog.

Ben's wife, Jennifer Garner
--Just because, alright?
Now about this Affleck thing.  A few days ago my wife and I were having a gourmet breakfast at the local Panera's and she noticed two men eating on the patio... one looking very Ben Affleckish, the other kind of Spielbergish-- but not him. So we very casually (and coolly) kept looking, googling and looking some more.

We read that Ben has a golf movie coming up and noted that the search was on for a 'better golfing stunt double' in our golf crazy southern area. Hmm.

Just then, the two of them walked by us. Ben we read, is 6'2. This guy is 6'2'. So I asked, "Are you Ben Affleck... and if you aren't and can play golf, have I got a tip for you."

So they stopped, smiled and had a good time kidding each other about the item on my cell phone. Ben--I'll call him Ben (because that's his name, right?) seemed to recognize the trade press we had googled. He laughed and said "No, I'm not interested. Besides, I'm left handed." 

BINGO! Ben is left-handed and this guy (Ben) is left handed. He and his buddy were having a good time with it. We talked a little golf and kidded a little. Then they both thanked us and left.

So happened we all headed out the door at the same time and exchanged greetings like old friends--sort of.

I asked the other guy one more question. "Are you Matt Damon (which he wasn't)? Laughter and smiles...but... we got him, that handsome bugger. "Say hello to Jennifer for me," I waved. He promised he would.

PS: Little known fact: Ben is left handed. My son is left handed. About 10 percent of humans are left handed... but 1/3 of all chimpanzees are. Do they know something we don't?

Friday, May 2, 2014

It's a ridiculous world out there... and it's nuts too.

Not him but an actor playing the role
A nine-month-old was recently charged with attempted murder of a police officer in Pakistan. So the most logical question is: will authorities try him as an adult?

The police officer made the collar after the boy's father and grandfather reportedly tried and failed to kill him... and since the child was there too, the officer must have figured the infant was the "brains" of the group.

Happy ending, a diaper was changed and the "brains' was released to poop in freedom.

The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA will not be staying at a certain California hotel any more. Ghosts! Several players have experienced the spirit and to make matters worse, Harold Ramis, the man who wrote and starred in Ghostbusters isn't around to save them anymore... he recently died... and may now be part of the problem. Great movie though.

Science marches on: Recent actual and expensive medical studies have revealed that 1) drinking too much alcohol and/or excessive use of cocaine makes it really hard to drive an 18-wheeler; 2) there is a connection between stress and premature aging... stress doesn't help; 3) men like to look at curvaceous women but not necessarily face first; 4) athletes rarely are as smart as brain surgeons; 5) though more people are killed by bee stings than shark bites, most would still prefer to be stung by a bee. All of this raises the question: would you rather have a poke in the eye with a stick or a broken leg? I dunno, surprise me.

Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs, just turned 100. And even better, the Cubs are ONLY 10 games out of first place on their march to another yet another World Series championship. The Cubbies are anxious to have someone who saw them win their last title--a mere five years after the Wright brothers' first flight--throw out the first pitch in their next championship, but no one living today was born yet... except some really old guy in Italy, and his arm is gone. Just you wait til Next Year!

     A first grade teacher admits to her class that she is a die-hard Cub fan. She asks her students to raise their hands if they 
      are Cub fans too. Not really knowing what a Cub fan is but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode 
      into the air.

     There is, however, one exception. One girl has not gone along with the crowd. The teacher asks why. "Because I'm 

     not a Cub fan," she says.

     "Then,"  asks the teacher, "what are you?"

     "I'm a Chicago White Sox fan."

     The teacher, a little perturbed, asks why she is a White Sox fan.

     "Well, My Dad and Mom are White Sox fans, and I am too."

     The teacher, somewhat upset, says, "That's no reason, What if your Mom was a moron and your dad 

     was a moron. What would you be then?"

     "Then," says the girl, "I'd be a Cub fan."

It is against the law in Liberty, NY to be annoying. Really! So a lead-footed hot-head, mad about a speeding ticket, sent his fine in with a note: "Bleep YOUR bleeping TOWN!" The town rejected the payment and charged him saying his note was "likely to cause annoyance or alarm."

I want one of those laws for my town too... but I'd amend it to include being a jerk too.

Chicago, in a NYTimes poll, was found to be the funniest city in the United States. No contest... Chicago has the Cubs so a sense of humor is essential. Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Portland OR, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle were the top 10.

If you live in Virginia Beach, get a life. You were the least funny in all of America. Jacksonville, Miami, Tulsa, Arlington TX, El Paso, Ft. Worth and San Antonio are at the dourest bottom. Hmm, Texas has four. Wonder if that means anything?

You sourpusses better get with it. Monkeys have a better sense of humor than you do. Primates don't just laugh, they crack jokes. Koko, a gorilla, knows more than 2,000 words and and signs 1,000. She was recently asked, "What can you think of that's hard?" She signed "Rock" and "Work." She once tied her trainer's shoelaces together and signed "Chase."

Why do waiters like gorillas better than flies? Have you ever heard a customer complain "Waiter, there's a gorilla in my soup?"

One more Cub joke:

     Einstein invented a machine to reduce intelligence of the super smart so they could better fit 
     in with society.

     He strapped the apparatus on the head of his first genius volunteer test subject and turned 
     the machine on low, not sure of its power. After 30 seconds, he turned it off and anxiously asked 
     a test question: "What is the numerical equivalent of pi?"

     "3.14159 to infinity," the genius said.

     "Hmm," mused Einstein. Needs more power. So he set the machine to medium and tried again.

     "Now, he asked, Who was the 16th president of the United States?"

     "Lincoln, of course. Followed by Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant."

     Getting impatient, Einstein set the machine on high and let it rip. Strangely though, the machine 
     did not shut off automatically. As Einstein frantically tried everything, he finally had to smash the machine with a 
     hammer to make it stop. It had run on and on and on for more than five minutes.

     "Oh my God," he said concerned as he shook his subject., "Say something to me... say anything."

     The man shook his head and finally opened his eyes. Looking at an anxious Einstein, he hollered "HOW 'BOUT
     THEM  CUBS"

Confession: Don't tell anyone... I'm a Cub fan.