Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
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Thursday, October 11, 2018

No Excuses. Just Vote!


Love is a pile of ____, A Musical

We were invited to a performance of a play at the Teatro de la Ciudad de Chihuahua, in Chihuahua, Mexico, this past Saturday evening. This was a presentation of the City of Chihuahua, and featured some very professional actors.
                                                         
                                                           The Playbill:








Before I mention the play itself (other than showing you the playbill, that is), let me tell you about the venue.  The theater itself is old, and its location has variously been occupied by theaters known by names such as Betancourt (1877-1904, when it was destroyed by fire), Teatro Centenario (until 1938, when it was again destroyed by fire), then Cine Colonial (1947-1992, when the doors were closed).  As the names might suggest, it was a regular theater, with live performances up until it became a movie theater in 1947.  Following the closure in 1992, the theater was not used until the City opened it as The Theater of the City, in 2001.

                                            The theater from the street

The presentation that we saw was an original play whose name ends with the well known emoji for "poop."  The name is literally suggesting that love is nothing more than a pile of same.  Basically, despite my own inability to hear and completely comprehend the dialogue, I got the gist of the idea that young couples today argue over petty things, and have a bit of trouble resolving their differences.  It is a comedy, and it does have a number of really decent songs.

                                            A great view of the interior

I have to confess that I was disappointed from the get go to see the actors using microphones, and in my opinion, that took something away from the entire presentation.  Even though these were the behind the neck, hang near the mouth type, they could not overcome the rustle of clothing too close, or the inevitable movement that put the mikes too close to the mouth.  So, in addition to the fact that young people tend to talk too fast for us older folks, and my own limited Spanish, I had to deal with distortion that was pretty much present throughout.  In short, my comprehension of this play was very limited.


                                              Some of the intricate detail

I understand that at least one of the songs belongs to one Cristian Castro, a well known Mexican singer, and a brother of one of the cast members.  That brother played the part of the Psychiatrist, and his name is Marcos Valdes, who just happens to be the son of Loco Valdez, a famous Mexican comedian, and a member of a very distinguished family of actors.  Marco's mother is Veronica Castro, a famous singer, actress, producer, and presenter.

I guess I'm trying to say that this play has some serious bona fides, and, as I did mention, it is a professional presentation that was - for me, at least - marred by the use of microphones coupled with a less than ideal sound system.

Monday, October 1, 2018

So, Why Does The U. S. Have A Department Of Defense?

I have been thinking about our yuge (we're talking major Bigly here) National Debt and Deficit, and other woes of the Trumpian Era, and this one thing keeps bothering me.  Now, I grant you, this did not begin with the current administration.  It began a long, long time ago, when we first chose to ignore the warnings of Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he talked about the Military Industrial Complex, upon his leaving the office of President.  It escalated over the years, and then got really, really bad in the wake of the stupid that followed 9/11.
I am talking about Defense Spending, and the seriously out of control Department of Defense!  Why should our spending on what we euphemistically call Defense be so damn high?!
Just to be sure that I had this right, I looked up the word:
DEFENSE:
NOUN
1.      the action of defending from or resisting attack.
"she came to the defense of the eccentric professor" · 
synonyms: protection · shielding · safeguarding · guarding · security · fortification · 
·        an instance of defending a title or seat in a contest or election.
"his first title defense against Jones"
·        military measures or resources for protecting a country.
"the minister of defense" · 
synonyms: armaments · weapons · weaponry · arms · 
2.      the case presented by or on behalf of the party being accused or sued in a lawsuit.
synonyms: rebuttal · denial · vindication · explanation · mitigation · justification · 
3.      (in sports) the action or role of defending one's goal against the opposition.
"we played solid defense"

I do not see anywhere in that definition, anything about sending our armed forces to any other place on this planet!  Do you see words like "invasion" or "occupy" in there?  I sure do not.  I mean, how is invasion of Iraq equal to "protecting" our nation?  Did Iraq have the power to invade us, and only the Defense Department was aware of that?  So, how are we defending our nation by invading the Middle East, and making war on nations, when it was individual terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers?  Why did our "Defense" not prevent that horror?  Isn't that what Defense is supposed to do?  When did Defense become Offense?  Why are we OK with this?

Have we all forgotten just how much money we've allowed our Defense to piss away over the years?!  Are we all totally ignorant of the good that could have been accomplished with that much money, if diverted towards the infrastructure, or health care, or education?  Does it not hurt you to think of all the waste?  All the loss?

How is joining an all volunteer Army, and going off to countries whose citizens never hurt us equivalent to "serving" the nation?  Hint:  If you joined the Army (or, the Navy, or the Air Force, or the Marines, or even the Space Farce) to serve your country?  You don't need to go to some far away place to do that.  You can "serve" your country right here at home by volunteering to house and feed the homeless, or educate young people, or volunteer at a hospital, or go to work fixing broken streets and highways!

And, if we have a desperate need for Defense of our nation (I abhor the use of that word, "homeland"), then should we not have shoreline artillery batteries, Air Force Bases near our borders, and Army posts?  Why must our Defense be concentrated overseas?

I mean, if we have some 800 +/- bases across the world, that is not even remotely like Defense.  That's Empire Building, and we have always denied any bent towards Imperialism.

Personally, I think it is way past time to stop saying that we must have a huge Defense budget, and time to begin calling it what it is.  It is either an invasion budget, or an empire building budget, or better yet, an Offense Budget, because all of those are more accurate and honest.

Bottom line, for me, is this:  We don't need a humongous military force.  No.  More.  War.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

My latest email from Beto's Campaign.


Beto for Texas


Dear John,
Yesterday, we wrapped up our 34th day straight on the road with 6,803.0 miles on the odometer.
Beto for Texas
On the road to El Paso.

MY NOTE:  This photo is particularly poignant and significant, if you can read the road sign.  The history of how a nearby ghost town got its name is interesting, and I tend toward the first one provided, here:  http://ghosttowns.com/states/tx/boracho.html  GO BETO!

On Thursday in Sweetwater, Tom Ritchey introduced me at our town hall at the Argos bookstore. Amy and I had met Tom and his wife at a gas station in Fort Davis at the outset of this trip, weeks ago. We had just picked up our kids from Prude Ranch and were on our way to Alpine when Tom took the time to introduce himself and say hello to us.
It made me happy to see us come full circle -- after traveling to Del Rio, Corpus Christi, Nacogdoches, DeSoto, Galveston, Missouri City, Longview, Muleshoe, Austin, Comanche, Edna, Houston, Alice, Victoria, Brownsville, Beaumont, Tyler, Laredo, Iraan, Lubbock, Rockport, McAllen, Lampasas and many, many more communities -- to be back in West Texas, to see Tom again in his hometown, where he is the winningest football coach in Sweetwater history, and to have such a great conversation with the community about anything and everything on our minds...to share my impressions of the amazing Collegiate High public school I had visited earlier in the day in Roscoe, to listen to those I want to serve tell me about healthcare, education, delivering for our veterans -- it just made me grateful to be doing this and to be doing it with so many wonderful people.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Sweetwater.
Beto for Texas
With Coach Tom Ritchey and his wife.
Yesterday, we closed out our last stop on this road trip at a rally in El Paso, the town we started from 34 days before, the place Amy and I are raising Ulysses, Molly and Henry, the center of my world. Today, I am thinking through all of the amazing people we’ve met, all the extraordinary volunteers and field staff who made these meetings possible (shoutout to our Ambassadors!), all of the good energy. Everywhere we go in Texas, we find that people are focused on the future.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in McAllen.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Lubbock.
We’re not running against anyone else or another political party. We’re running to do our best for this country, for every one of us. To make sure that we can all learn to our full potential by getting behind our public educators; to ensure that we are all well enough to contribute to our maximum capacity in life because we will lead on universal, guaranteed healthcare; to use our standing as the most diverse state in the country to rewrite our immigration laws in our own image; to ensure that our criminal justice system treats everyone with dignity, respect and provides equal justice; to know that every one of us can find work that ensures purpose, function and a living wage, that we have access to the higher education, the skills and the training to be able to find it; to be there for those who’ve borne the battle, with resources, oversight and accountability for veterans’ services -- to move forward, always. With confidence, courage, strength and, in Truman’s words, “with an unstoppable determination to do the job at hand.” Leave the fear, the anxiety, the hatred and the smallness behind.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Edna.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Comanche.

Beto for Texas
Town hall in Iraan.
This is the most encouraged, the most hopeful, the most excited I’ve been for the future of this country. Despite the disappointments we might face, the dysfunction that defines so much of our national government today, the deep damage we do with policies of family separation or trade wars that hurt our farmers, ranchers and exporters -- I know that we are a match for this moment, that Texas will help lead this country in a better direction.
Beto for Texas
Back-to-school town hall in Austin. Hook 'em!
Beto for Texas
Opening our new Houston HQ with Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
I know that because I’ve met you everywhere in Texas, in every county in the state. I’ve seen the determination to do better for yourself, for your kids, for this state, for this country, for this generation and for every generation that follows.
You’ve inspired me, filled me with hope and you give me confidence that we will win this election and that we will deliver on the very high expectations that we’ve set with, by and for one another.
I am grateful to be doing this with you.
Beto

Beto for Texas
6,803.0 miles on the odometer.



Friday, August 17, 2018

You might want to avoid any dealings with Viva Nissan, in El Paso.

First part of this post began one week ago, on Friday, 08/14.
Let me tell you about my experiences with this dealership this week, just ended.  I have decided to shop around for a newer car, even though I haven't yet sold my minivan.  I have researched and decided that I'd like either a Buick La Crosse, or a Buick Enclave.  My price range is pretty low, so this means I am looking at cars that are around seven years old.

I looked at a couple of Enclaves during the week, and really liked one, but it needs new tires, and has a clunk in the front steering/suspension.  Meanwhile, I had seen an ad online several times for a 2011 La Crosse, on both cargurus.com and Bestway Auto, a subsidiary of the Viva Auto Group, in El Paso.  My inquiry at Bestway's web site, got no response, but at some point, I did get a call from a Pamela Mena, a "Trusted Advocate" with Viva Nissan.  She told me the car in question was at her dealership, and asked me to go see it.  I went over there yesterday morning only to find out that the car was not there, and nobody knew where it was.

Strike one.

Later yesterday afternoon I received a very confusing call from a female, who sounded super bored with whatever she was doing, but she managed to convey to me that the car had been located a another Viva dealership, the Mazda dealer.  She said it was there for "service," but did not indicate what service might be getting done.

Strike two.

This morning, I got another call from Pamela, who told me that she had gone to get the car, and would like to show it to me.  When I got to the dealership late this morning, she had taken the car to put gasoline, so I waited.  Upon her return, she and Luz gave me the keys and went with me for a test drive.

I noticed while we were driving, that the passenger side window was cracked, and then I noticed that the check engine light was on.  I pointed those out, and asked if they would be addressed should I buy the car.  I received assurances that this would be taken care of.

We briefly discussed my current car as a possible trade in, but it was obvious to me that would not work, since I do owe money on it, and dealerships are famous for never giving a fair trade in value.  Her boss, Adelberto, looked at my current car, and gave me some preliminary numbers, but since their computer was off line, we decided that they would have to call me later.  The numbers did not look very good for me, so I came home.

I talked it over with my wife, and we figured out a way to handle the down payment Adelberto was asking for, and leaving my current car out of the deal, so I called Pamela sometime later, to see what we could do.  I told her that, if I was to meet their price, they had to fix the window and the check engine light, and I'd even like to see the price come down for me.  She went back and forth to her manager with my requests, and then said that the price they were offering me was the internet price, and the car is actually supposed to be sold at $11,000, about 1200 more than I had seen in their ads.  No further discount could be considered (despite what Adelberto had personally told me about how he was a veteran, too, and would see if he could get me a veteran's discount).

Not only that, but the car is sold "As Is," and the only way they would fix either the light or the window would be if I gave another thousand dollars to them.  As I told Pamela, I am not going to buy a used car with the check engine light on.  Not now.  Not ever.  Not at any price.

Strike three.

Perhaps I spoke too soon.  Not long after publishing this post, and a similar one to Viva Nissan's Facebook page, I got a call from somebody at Edmonds.com (apparently, they oversee the dealership's social media) asking for my phone number.  I provided it, and received a call from the GM at Viva Nissan, Adrian Soto.  Young Mr. Soto not only apologized for my bad experience, but offered to fix things.  He lowered the price of the car and promised to fix the check engine light and the broken window!  So, I did go back to the dealership, and completed the paperwork to make a purchase.  As of this morning the car is scheduled to be in the Service Department to get these things done, along with a car wash and some gas in the tank!  Now, all I have to do is sell my van.  Anybody want a nice 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SE?  125,000 miles.  Loaded.  You can get more info here:  https://elpaso.craigslist.org/cto/d/2008-dodge-grand-caravan-se/6665535127.html

Oh, one more thing:  I'm sorry for anything I might have said.

Update:  I am not sorry for what I said last week, and now have much more to say!  I tried to wait all of this week for word that my car was ready for me.  I got no real status updates all week long, other than to say the my car was at the Chevy Service Department for the work needed to fix the engine light and the broken window.  Finally, I drove to that location late this morning, and talked to a Gus Torres, Service Consultant.  He was in charge of the work on my car.  He explained that they did not get permission to complete the diagnostics until this morning, and now was waiting for permission to look at the timing chain, because that was what the computer was suggesting as the problem.

I went home, and then received a call from Adrian Soto, the sales GM at Viva Nissan, who said that they needed to back out of the deal.  He said that the engine has sludge, and that means a new engine is called for, and he "cannot" replace an engine.  It would be just too costly.

He asked me to go back to the dealership so that they could shred all the paperwork and credit my credit card for the down payment I had made last week.

And, here is where I think I blew it.  With a certain amount of protest, reluctance, and anger I let him talk me into backing out of the deal.  When I tried to press him to go ahead with whatever fix might be necessary, his only response was that he just could not do this.  I tried to suggest that the onus is/was on him, because his promise to me was to "fix engine light," with no if's or and's or but's or even "unless it costs too much."  He insisted that was not what he meant, and that he just could not keep his promise to me.

So, like a fool, I gave back my copies of the paperwork, and took my refund slip.  The more I think about this, the more convinced I become that I should have - at the very least - made him wait over the weekend, and maybe looked for legal advice.  I think he broke the contract that he made with me, and now I have lost any evidence that I may have had to try to hold him to it.

The bottom line is back to where I started:  Do not ever have any dealings with Viva Auto Group.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

State Regulatory Agencies Are Missing Something

Please bear with me here, just for a few minutes.  During my working years, I spent ten years as an Investigator for the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.  We, who worked there in the trenches, tried to reassure ourselves that we were there for the people of the State of Texas.  All the people of the State of Texas.  We tacitly knew that the reality of that regulatory Board was that its members were more interested in protecting the licensees, rather than the general public, and we tried our best to live with that.  After all, the Board was controlled by physicians themselves!

And, if you look at all the other myriad State regulatory agencies, you will quickly see that this same situation exists right across the spectrum!  Lawyers control the State Bar.  Dentists control the Dental Board, Plumbers, theirs, and so on.

How can an unlicensed person, who supposedly depends on these people for adequate and proper health care, or adequate legal representation, or even adequate pipes and drains, hope to ever see that whatever laws might apply to the given professions actually be enforced?!  Especially those laws and rules and regulations supposedly designed for the protection of the general public?  It is absurd on the face of it, and in reality, we, the great unlicensed majority, haven't got a prayer, or a leg to stand on!

So, here's a radical idea:  Let's continue with State regulatory agencies, to license and oversee the various professions.  But, let's appoint only regular non-licensed people to sit on the Boards that do the overseeing and enforcement!  Maybe one trusted physician could serve in a strictly advisory role for the State Board of Medical Examiners, and one lawyer for the State Bar, and so forth.  But, let's let the people police the licensees that we all depend on.  After all, the way the system currently works, licenses issued by these various agencies are actually more like licenses to steal!
And, that is not only wrong, but it fails to accomplish what the whole idea of regulation supposedly does!  So, what is missing is that people are lacking any voice.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

We Took A Wrong Turn.

I often speculate about why there seems to be so much disagreement about issues that were never a part of my life as a child.  I do not recall discussion or argument over guns, or abortion, or pro-life vs. whatever, or equal rights, or womens' rights.  Granted, abortion was mostly not ever discussed, period, because it was a dirty word.  I do recall the Civil Rights movement, but it was something very distant to a little kid living in sparsely settled Central Washington State.

But, what was I taught that today's kids are not being taught?  What did we learn that is no longer being taught?  Or, what was I not taught that is standard today?  How much has education changed during my lifetime?  Is it that much different today compared to when I went to school?

I really cannot answer all of these questions, but I can certainly speculate.  To begin with, let's understand that I was born, brought up, and educated long, long ago, in a place far, far away, OK?  I was born, raised, and educated in the State of Washington during the 1950's and early 1960's.  That means I started with First Grade (because Kindergarten was not required in those days) in September of 1951, in the small town of Eatonville, Washington.  I then attended Washington State Public Schools in Elma, Prosser, Roosevelt, Goldendale, and, finally, Tacoma.

So, to begin with, it must be understood that my public education was not influenced by traditions or cultural factors such as what might have been unique to New England (Puritanism?), or The South (Slavery, The Civil War), or even the Mid-West (pure grain fed).  My family traditions were pretty much Protestant, although no church affiliation was ever evidenced, white, anglo-saxon, with a heavy dose of Germanic background (my mother's family).

I know today that I was taught a whole lot of things that younger generations seem to be unaware of, or that they have never been exposed to.  And, that begins with history, and must include outdated ideas like standards and principles, honor, duty, civics, and just plain good manners.  We were taught to respect our teachers, and all adults, but especially policemen, and others in positions of authority.  We had a great reverence for the brave soldiers of both world wars, and a strong feeling of patriotism.

We were taught that the first European immigrants to this land were mostly from England, and that many of them were seeking a chance to worship a bit differently from most of the people around them.  I remember that some other factors were involved in that search for a new land, though, as well.  For one thing, there was too much demand for too little land, so poverty and simply having room to live were  factors.  Another thing I seem to recall was the belief that it was wrong to imprison people for debt.

As for the founding of the United States of America, I was taught that a vital underpinning of our type of government had to do with a need to strive for the most good for the most people.  And, of course, that came from mostly religious teaching and belief that one should always strive to do good as opposed to doing evil.  And, from early on, we were taught that the majority rules, because that helps to ensure that the most good for the most people would be a reality.

And, we learned that a very long and hard *revolutionary* war was waged against the British Crown, way back when, to "free us" from the tyrannical government of Great Britain.  We also were taught that a terrible Civil War had been fought between certain States to the South, who sought to retain slavery, and other states, mostly to the North, who thought that all men should be free.  We learned that we, the great people of the United States of America had also fought wars to free certain places from Spanish rule, and to help the people of Europe remain free of oppression, and to stop the evil Hun, first as represented by The Kaiser, and later, from the German Nazis and the cruelty and tyranny of Japan.

Of course, then we found that we (America) had to fight again to help keep the people of South Korea free of Communist rule, and by the time we were teenagers, we found our world involved in a Cold War against more Communists.  So, we hardly had time to turn on each other in this constant strife to save the world, while continuing to work to achieve the greatest good for the most people right here at home.  Actually, I don't think we turned on each other until the protests against our presence in Vietnam.

Maybe that was the turning point.  I don't know.  What I do know is that by the time I got out of the Army, in late 1968, I was already married, and our (my wife and I) immediate focus became the pursuit of education for better careers, and the raising of a family.  Perhaps we, along with too many others of my generation, took our eye off the ball so long that we allowed certain elements among us to begin the erosion of the once great place that was the U. S. A.  After having received good public school educations, we allowed the schools to assume ever more responsibility for the raising of our kids, and discipline began to break down.  We allowed someone, at some point, to remove from the public school curriculum, some very important basics of a good education.

When I say important basics, I am talking specifically about courses like shop, drafting, civics, and course content like art and music.  My wife is a retired classroom teacher, and she remembers when such basically important things like using scissors, all of a sudden, became verboten.  Worse, teachers, especially in the first vital years of education, were no longer allowed to let kids play, as recess was cut!  And, no more naps, for the little ones in Kindergarten!  No work with cutting things out, coloring, using glue, and all those basically simple things that we all started out with.  What were we thinking?

Couple the drastic lack of any ability to provide a rounded education with the breakdown of the family, and the lack of discipline within family and school, and what could we expect?  That answer to that question is apparently at least two generations now who know little of history, lack the ability to think objectively, and are only too willing to believe what any authority figure tells them.  The result?  That son of a bitch who is currently in the white house, and a Congress that long ago sold its very soul to big money.

This helps to explain why it is not possible to have any kind of dialogue with supporters of the current occupant of the white house, or 2nd Amendment supporters.  In short, the very vocal members of today's GOP are not at all like those a couple of generations ago.  The party of Lincoln is now the party of George Lincoln Rockwell, and there is no hint of anything from the party leaders that might resemble efforts for the good of the nation.

I, for one, am saddened at today's version of America.

Beware of the El Paso Los Angeles Limousine Express


               We used to go to Chihuahua, Mexico, several times a year, driving our own car.  Since we have come back to El Paso, we find that the effort to make that trip is much more difficult than it used to be.  And, that is not just because we are older.  No, ever since 9/11, the entire process has become tiresome, bothersome, and downright stressful.  Where once we just needed to gather together everyone's birth certificates, fill up the tank, and stop at the bridge of choice to get permits, now we must have a passport in order to even get back into the U. S., and we need to pay for personal permits, the car permit, buy Mexico Auto Insurance, anticipate paying tolls at least twice (for very poorly maintained roads), and deal with Mexican immigration, the Mexican Military (there is at least one military checkpoint on the road), and then deal with CBP Gestapo upon our return to the U. S. border.

               So, we have been making our now rare trips to Chihuahua by bus since our return to this area, and even that is becoming very stressful and bothersome.  In order to avoid having to go to either the Central Bus Station in Cd. Juarez, or the one in Chihuahua itself, we have been traveling by El Paso Los Angeles Limousine Express, Inc.  This is really a Mexican company that - somehow - is able to operate in the U. S.  They offer "service" to (as their name implies) Los Angeles, from El Paso, as well as to a long list of locations in both Mexico and the Southwestern U. S.  You can see the full list of places here:  http://eplalimo.com/index_files/Locations.htm.  They do serve way more U. S. locations than Mexican, by the way.  They have a small, but really dirty and primitive, terminal in downtown El Paso, and their buses can easily go across the border via the Stanton Street Bridge, and then, after dealing with Mexican Immigration, they proceed to Chihuahua, bypassing the Juarez bus station.

               None of their buses are new, nor do any of them give the appearance of good maintenance.  No Wifi, no bathrooms onboard, no amenities other than spotty air conditioning, and occasional movies in Spanish.  It costs about eight dollars more per ticket to travel from El Paso, to Chihuahua, than it does to travel from Chihuahua, to El Paso.  I have no idea why.  If you buy tickets in Mexico, to any destination they serve, they offer serious discounts for Senior citizens, Teachers, children, and students, with proper identification.  (Mexico, by the way, issues special ID's to senior citizens, that entitle them to a multitude of very real discounts all over the nation, up to fifty per cent off the cost of regular goods and services).  Unfortunately, however, U. S. citizens are not offered, nor allowed any discounts, wherever they purchase, or travel.  So, our cost from El Paso, to Chihuahua, was $39.00 each.  Our return tickets, from Chihuahua, however, only cost us $610 Pesos ($31.72, at today's rate).

               We just returned from a weekend trip to Chihuahua, yesterday afternoon.  We left here Friday morning, at around 9:00 AM.  (We were supposed to leave at 7:45AM, but it was around 8:05-10, before we moved out of the little terminal, and started across the bridge, to Juarez.  Once across the bridge, as per usual, the bus had to stop for Mexican Customs and Immigration, and everybody got off, with their luggage.  Those who were not Mexican citizens proceeded into the building to request and obtain visitor permits, at a cost now of $553 Pesos ($28.76) per person.  These are good for six months.  I should point out that this was not an anticipated expense for the trip, because the last time we went to Chihuahua, there was no charge for a permit for three days.  (They keep changing their system).  The Mexican Immigration guy was seriously stressed dealing with those of us who entered the building on Friday morning, so the process took longer than it should, and was accompanied with all kinds of conflicting directives from him to all of us.

               So, by the time we all had our permits and were back on the bus ready to go, it was after nine o'clock.  There was still another stop on the highway out of town, and then off to the "30 kilometro," where Mexican Customs and Immigration has a checkpoint.  Fortunately, that was not a real stop, but just a tiny pause, and we were finally on our way.

               By the time we got to Villa Ahumada, about one third of the way to Chihuahua, we were seriously behind schedule.  The bus drivers or the company obviously have a deal with a restaurant along the highway, just before the first toll booth for use of that highway, because they now stop at "Parador Villa," a very greasy spoon.  This is a good opportunity to use the bathroom, and grab a quick bite to eat, and buses have long stopped along the way, in or near the town of Villa Ahumada, so one would think that this location is not a problem.  It is a problem, however, when you consider that the menu is not only very limited, but very misleading, and the prices are worse than tourist prices.  A bag of salted peanuts and a bag of potato chips cost me $60.00Pesos ($3.12), with the manufacturer's price on those peanuts clearly saying that they should only cost about fifty cents, American.  The most common burritos around those parts have long been "carne desebrada," or shredded beef.  Properly done, these will come with either green chile, or red chile, and usually chopped up onions and tomatoes, as well.  Parador Villa's menu offers both kinds, but makes no mention of the fact that the burrito you get is mostly diced potatoes, which have no place on a meat burrito.

               The driver, meanwhile, parked the bus and announced a twenty minute stop.  Nearly forty five minutes passed before we got back on the road.  Much later, just as we finally approached the second and last toll booth, only some thirty kilometers shy of our destination, he pulled off the road, to the left side, turning the bus completely around so that it was facing back towards Juarez, or away from our destination.  Another bus driver, from a parked bus, got on and spoke to our driver for a couple of minutes.  Then, our driver announced that that other bus, from Chihuahua, to Juarez, had broken down, and we were on the only bus available that could make the trip all the way back to Juarez.  So, we had to get off, remove all of our luggage, and wait for another bus to come from Chihuahua to pick us up and carry us the remaining thirty kilometers into town.  We waited in the hot sun for about ten or fifteen minutes, until a much older bus pulled up.  This thing proved to lack air conditioning, and, we quickly learned, had a transmission problem (the driver could not get it to go into second gear without a lot of grinding).  We did eventually (nearly three hours behind schedule) get to the Chihuahua terminal, where nothing was ever said by anyone connected with the bus company about why they would treat paying customers so shabbily.
               Personally, I was surprised that none of the passengers spoke out against this treatment.  I mean, a number of us questioned why this was happening at the time, but the driver just ignored us.  Ultimately, I wish there was an alternative to taking that bus, but the cost of using our own car is pretty steep, so I guess we're stuck with this kind of treatment, as they obviously know very well.  All I can say is be careful, and be prepared for all kinds of unpleasantness if you are ever thinking of using this bus line.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

If I were King

My ideas of some things we need to change:


  1. Dump the Patriot Act
  2. Dump Citizens United
  3. Restore the Fairness Doctrine
  4. Make it illegal for attorneys to advertise direct to the public.
  5. Make it illegal for pharmaceutical companies to advertise prescription medications direct to the public.
  6. Strictly and stringently regulate the health care industry, beginning with making it illegal for health care entities to profit from the delivery of health care.
  7. Institute term limits on members of Congress.
  8. End the war on drugs, and free all those presently incarcerated for non-violent drug related crimes, expunging their records.
  9. Restore the educational system to something designed to actually educate our children.
  10. Find a way to redistrict all states in such a way as to ignore political parties.
  11. Get the money out of politics completely, while outlawing all political lobbying, beyond that of a single constituent lobbying his/her elected representative for something specific to his/her district.
  12. Ban all Gunz!
  13. Cut the Defense Department's budget by at least 75%.
  14. End foreign aid other than in times of natural disaster.
  15. Stop the sale of all arms and other weapons of war to all foreign entities.
  16. Provide health care to all citizens.
  17. Encourage participation in unions at all levels.
  18. Establish a fair minimum wage, above a bare subsistence level
  19. Set a cap on CEO salaries, well below that presently enjoyed.
  20. End all corporate welfare.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

K. Osborne, Deputy Vice Chairman, of the Board of Veterans' Appeals should be famous.

Does anybody know what a "Deputy Vice Chairman" might be?  I have received a letter from "K. Osborne," whose signature line indicates that he/she holds that no doubt super important position with the Board of Veterans' Appeals, in Washington, D. C.

This very official looking letter informs me that a motion to move my appeal forward on the docket of this esteemed entity, received by them on Jan. 5, 2018, is denied.  I did not submit such a motion, or any other motion to these people.  I have been patiently waiting my appeal for these last two years or so, and expect at least another year to go by before I ever hear anything further from them.  I do fully expect my appeal to be denied, as well, because in my experience with the VA I find that they do not know how to say anything but, "No."

This letter is important, however, and very unique.  In the more than three years since I applied to VA, this is the first communication that I have received from anyone there that actually includes not only a name, but a signature as well!  Really,  up until this letter, I thought only unnamed persons with fanciful titles worked at VA.

So, I have undertaken to write a letter back to K. Osborne, just to mark the occasion.  Here's a copy for y'all to see:


April 3, 2018

K. Osborne
Deputy Vice Chairman
Board of Veterans' Appeals
Washington DC  20420

Ref:        014/AOD61
               C 25 619 589

Dear Sir or Madam:

               I am in receipt of your letter dated March 24, 2018.  I was pleased and delighted to receive this correspondence, as it represents a first for me in my dealings with the VA.  It is the first letter that I have received from anyone at VA that actually contains a name and a signature.  In other words, this is the first evidence I have seen that there might actually be real, live human beings working at VA!
               However, I must inform you that your letter makes little sense to me, as it talks about a motion that your Board received on January 5, 2018, to advance my case on your docket.  I must confess that this mention, or indeed, the notion of a motion, possibly on my behalf, is news to me.  Since I began this rather long, drawn out process of applying for VA assistance some three years ago, I have submitted no motions to you or your Board.  I have endeavored to provide the VA with as much information as my limited resources allow, and have tried to comply with your process to the best of my ability, but alas, no motions.
               Therefore, even though you have finally provided me with a name at VA, I must tell you that I have no idea what your letter is talking about.
               Frankly, I would have to say that your letter does serve to reassure me that any chance of my ever living long enough to receive any form of assistance from the VA regarding my health issues dating back to my time in the U. S. Army are akin to that of a cascade of snowballs putting out the fire of Kilauea (fyi, that's an active volcano in Hawaii).  It is clear to me now that I likely need the services of legal counsel, plus written statements from medical and dental experts in order to capture your attention.  But, you know, if I could afford such, I would never have started this arduous process in the first place.
               I trust that you will have a very nice day, sir or madam, as the case may be.

Yours Very Truly,

Won't y'all please help me to make K. Osborne semi-famous by spreading his/her name and title all over the 'net?  Thank you.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

For The Record

I've been reminiscing lately about not just old songs, but old recordings.  I have to say old because I am now in my seventies, and the music of my youth is certainly considered to be just that.  My earliest recollections having to do with music would be listening to radio, and hearing songs performed live by artists like Bing Crosby, or Doris Day, and other musicians of that era.  It wasn't until the late 50's that I can recall hearing the incursion of Rock and Roll, via records played on the radio, in what became the Top Forty broadcasts of various local radio stations.  By the time I was in Junior High (1959-60), we were listening to "our" music on stations mostly out of Seattle, like KJR and KOL.  I do recall hearing some limited rock and roll on KTNT (I think it was), in Tacoma.  As for listening to records, I do remember we had a copy of Rockin' Robin Roberts' version of "Louie Louie" (Etiquette Label, which was the Wailers' own label, and they were the band on that record, with him as their lead singer) that I just about wore out.


                                                "KJR, Seattle, Channel 95"


                                                  KOL, 1300 on the AM dial
             
I got into amassing a serious record collection when I was a Junior in High School.  I had started buying 45's (two sided vinyl recordings whose name had to do with the speed at which they were played, 45 revolutions per minute), and then moved on to trading them with friends.  This would have been back in the very early 1960's, when 45's sold for 98 cents, and LPs (Long Playing record albums, played at 33⅓ rpm) sold for about $3.98 (2.98?).  I can still visualize so many different record labels every time I hear certain oldies played.  That was how I remember so many records - by their label, as much as by the artist.  Some singles were especially prized, so we often found ourselves offering one important one for three or four - or more - others, not so important.
            Of course the major record labels were RCA Victor ("His Master's Voice" featured in their ubiquitous logo), Columbia, Capitol, Decca, Atlantic, and a few others.


                A Later RCA 45, from Neil Sedaka, a Wunderkind of the late 50's


                         This RCA Victor logo was featured on many of those records

I think the most common record player for kids like me was the one made by RCA, that only played 45's, and allowed us to stack several records on the spindle, and then played them in sequence.  


                 The ubiquitous 45 player owned by most teens of the 50's into the 60's








          Just a representative few of the many labels found on records of the day.

            Within each of these major labels, there were many variations on some logo's use on different recordings.  Different colors were sometimes used on different recordings on the same label, and I think labels often used variations in color and design for different markets, especially overseas.  And, of course, there were many other record labels, beyond the ones I have mentioned, but I think most were affiliated with one of the bigger names in order to gain wider distribution.  That might explain why some major recording artists seemed to go from one label to another, especially early in their careers.  As for labels, Motown was not really known yet, but Berry Gordy had begun Tamla Records in 1959, and some early Motown artists were being released on Gordy Records.
            While the bright and varied labels may have had some small part in the records we sought, the real reason was indeed - and always - the music.  We were very much aware of and listening to a lot of stuff you no longer hear these days.  The Brothers Four, The Kingston Trio, The LimelitersThe Chad Mitchell Trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and The New Christy Minstrels were some very big names for a time.  Of course, by this time Bob Dylan was certainly writing songs that were quickly covered by other artists, and Joan Baez was also recording, writing and singing some as well.
            My early record players were purchased at a Goodwill Store that was located, I believe, right about the corner of South Yakima and South 25th Street, in Tacoma.  I would buy very old radio/record player combinations, with beautiful wooden cabinets for only a couple of bucks.  I remember buying more than one because usually some part or another would not work properly.  The record changers would fail, or the turntable wouldn't move at all.  I would also buy more than one just to get more speakers to hang in the basement.  Eventually, however, I had a system working, and I strung wires all over that basement so that my sound was extended.
            I graduated from Stadium High School on June 1, 1964, and we moved from Tacoma to Enumclaw, Washington, the very next day.  For those who don't know what the world was like in those days, you should be aware that a new high school graduate had absolutely no value anywhere in the scheme of things, beyond ready cannon fodder for the war machine that existed at that time (yes, we were just ramping up in Vietnam).  I was pretty ignorant of the world, admittedly, and had no clue about what my real options might have been.  I knew that I could not attend college, mostly because I did not know how to even look into such a thing.  (I was largely ignored by our so-called high school counselors because I had neither the grades or the social economic position to make me obvious college material.  I was not aware that others like me were going to Canada to avoid the pending Draft (it certainly never occurred to me that anyone would evade it).  I was convinced that my only option was to seek employment, but there I quickly learned that I was not at all employable.  On the one hand was the old catchall of "You have no experience!", and on the other was, "I can't risk hiring you because you'll be snatched up in the Draft any day now."
            Finally, after looking for work all of that summer of 1964, I was able to land a place in a program that was just getting started under the "Manpower Development and Training Act of 1964," which was designed to train mostly young people to work in areas where there might be a need.  I later learned that the National Job Corps grew out of this, but that's another story.  The program that I entered that fall involved training at Rainier State School in nearby Buckley, Washington, as a Ward Attendant.  I guess that would be something akin to a Nurse Assistant today.  At any rate, I did complete this training through the winter of 1964, into the spring of 1965, only to learn that there were no jobs available.  I think one person out of the group with which I trained was actually offered a job.
            (One other memory stands out for me, from my time in Enumclaw.  I remember purchasing a double record set featuring Peter, Paul, and Mary, on the Columbia Record Label.  This was titled "In Concert," and was recorded at various locations, mostly in California.  



                                         Two Disc Vinyl That I Once Owned.

I bought it at a very special place that was likely called Incorporated Sales, but the name changed to Jayhawks around 1965.  That store, in that little town, had everything you could ask for, at very fair prices.  I believe that Walmart finally forced them out of business, and that's a shame.  Oh, well.  Back to training and job hunting):
            This was just as well, as we then moved all the way across the mountains to Moses Lake, Washington, from which location my father traveled to the small town of Othello for work as a bookkeeper.  I did manage to get hired on there for that summer, driving a forklift in a frozen food processing plant.  I worked through the end of the pea harvest, into the beginning of the corn harvest, until my position was taken over by the boss' nephew, and I was relegated to sweeping up whatever fell off the processing line.  I abruptly quit, and moved to Seattle, where I moved in with my oldest brother and his wife.

            Throughout this time I continued to purchase records, and gradually, my collection had increased until I had amassed over three hundred 45's and over one hundred LP's.  When I got my Draft Notice in October of 1965, unfortunately I decided to leave all of my records with a girl I had known for some time, and I never saw her, or the records, again.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Car, Car"

As you read this, and look at the pretty pictures, I wish I could share with you a song, plus monologue from an old LP I once owned.  I still have the music, only it is now digital, of course.  The LP was "Peter, Paul, and Mary - In Concert," and it was recorded way back in 1964, in several locations, and very much live.  The track that I would like you to hear is called "Car, Car," and it begins with Mary Travers voice dominating, as they ask you to "Take me for a ride in your car, car.  Take me for a ride..."  Very quickly, this leads to various plays on words, and segues nicely into a Peter Yarrow monologue.  Here's a link to an audio version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RtaCYzk5VQ

Sometimes, I wonder how we have gone from having so many different American car manufacturers back in the 50's, to so few today.  I have trouble reconciling something that was preached to my generation, with the reality of what it has come to mean.  We were taught that competition was the lifeblood of American business, and of just about every other aspect of American life.  And, competition was indeed fierce between manufacturers of automobiles.  The first big year of production following WWII was 1947, when there were some 19 brands of car to choose from.

                          This is my personal all time favorite car, a 1949 Mercury

                                                         1953 Packard
         1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk, one of the most beautiful cars of the 1950's

     The 1958 Chevrolet Impala; the only year of that decade when Ford outsold Chevy

Today, of the American brand names, there are only the GM line (Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC trucks), Ford (Ford cars, Lincoln, and Ford trucks), and Chrysler (Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Dodge trucks) (which really isn't Chrysler any more, since it is owned by Fiat, an Italian company).  We could also mention Tesla, which is the first new name in a long, long time.  Also, to be fair, I might mention that GM used to mean Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and, for a few brief years, even Saturn.  And, Ford also manufactured Mercury, more models of Lincolns, and even Edsel.  And, of course, back in the day, Chrysler also made Desoto and Plymouth cars.

Why so many to choose from in years past, when our population was so much smaller, and now, so few, when there are so many more people?!  I know the answer, and it is not the result of the years of competition so much as it is plain and simple greed.  Companies and corporations are never satisfied with simply making a profit, keeping up with maintenance and normal growth.  Now, after all these years of "competition,"  the mind set has become all about Growth and more and more and more profit.

I do have trouble understanding why greed has taken over so many people.  I simply do not recall such an atmosphere surrounding American business when I was growing up in the 1950's and 60's.  One of the most hated figures in the world was mean Mr. Potter, from the classic, "It's A Wonderful Life," from 1946.  Why?  Because he was depicted as greedy, mean, and terminally Scrooge-like.  So, how did we get from that, to the despicable, greedy, heartless, and ignorant thing currently in the White House?!  OK.  OK.  I'm getting a bit off topic (not to mention political) here.  Sorry.

I do not know if it was just the greed that has led us to where we are today, but something else I cannot explain, is that all the new cars today look alike.  I grew up looking forward each year to the new models, as they came out in the fall.  Somehow, I came to believe that competition was driving that re-design from year to year.  And, more important, each brand name had its own distinct look.  Sometimes, sound, as well.  We could tell at a glance what kind of car we were seeing come down the road, and often we could tell the difference between a Ford V8 and a Chevy.

Granted, the car market today is dominated by foreign names (Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, and others), and maybe that has to do with competition, but consider this.  All of those really great names of the past that were driven out of business, for whatever reasons, had to have left a void that these foreign brands have filled.  And, now that the void has been filled, maybe nobody in the industry feels any need to turn out uniquely designed automobiles.

Personally, I feel that the current manufacturers have no interest in new designs, or even in making their cars look good.  I think today it is all about technology, and that is why there are no automobile mechanics any more.  These days, when your car breaks down, you need a technician who can diagnose, and then repair your car.  And, of course, the problems today are not minor, since the technology used requires that entire systems of the vehicle now need to be replaced, even when the problem is a tiny part within a given system.

I just do not know.  Personally, I still love the cars of long ago, and maybe that has as much to do with getting old, as it has to do with anything else.

A look at brands then:

1947 Car brands and sales ranking, with top sales on top, descending:

Chevrolet
Ford
Plymouth
Buick
Dodge
Pontiac
Oldsmobile
Studebaker
Chrysler
Nash
Hudson
DeSoto
Mercury
Kaiser
Frazer
Cadillac
Packard
Lincoln
Crosley

In the years that followed the Second World War, mostly through the 1950's, these brands were introduced:

Kaiser
Fraser
Willys
Henry J
Metropolitan
Continental
Imperial
Edsel
Lincoln/Continental
Rambler
Checker
Excalibur (1965-1983)
Avanti II  (1965-1984 also 87-89)
AMC (1970 - 1987)
Shelby - 1969

And, today, they are all gone, as well.