Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


The house my family and I have been living in since 1983 was built in 1967, so I imagine that the hedge that separates my property from that of my neighbor was planted some 50 years ago.

Let me cut to the chase.  The hedge has become an evil monster. It is about 12 to 14 feet high and wider than hell.  Early on I did my best to trim it, but despite my best of intentions, the hedge took over.

This winter, with one heavy snow after another, the branches of the hedge collapsed under the weight of the fluffy white stuff, so much so that something had to be done before the hedges swallowed up what was left of that part of my property.

I have no one to blame for the overgrown hedges but myself.  I can’t blame Mother Nature because I let the hedges get out of hand. That’s why I’ve spent a good number of hours trimming the hedges that I’ve grown to hate.

I believe hedges are those parts of our personality that we ignore thinking they either won’t be noticed or they’ll take care of themselves.  It doesn’t happen. Hedges like those cloying aspects of our personalities need to be trimmed.  Attention has to be paid to them or they will take over.

How can you follow the Yellow Brick Road if it is overgrown with untrimmed hedges? You can’t.

With every clip I take and with every thick branch I saw off, I feel a weight being lifted.  Progress is being made. I believe that when the job is done I will be more than pleased.

Now all I have to do is not allow those damn hedges to take over. I need to be in charge.


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blind spot four

Have blind spots gone the way of rotary dial phones, cursive writing, and handwritten notes?  While many of those things that were part of our lives are no longer in use or no longer necessary…despite our fondness for things we once held near and dear, we have not eliminated blind spots.

That doesn’t mean we try to live our lives as if blind spots don’t exist because that’s far from the truth. In truth, we try to live our lives by denying that blind spots ever existed.

We don’t want to face the fact that we are all blind to certain things in our lives on the YBR.  We only want to get to the Emerald City. We don’t want to be mindful that there are things in our blind spot that impact the way we drive.

If you’ve ever tried to move over the left land on a highway and either hear a horn blasting you from behind or in the last second you finally see that car in your blind spot, you realize how it can scare the shit out of you.

When your heart stops racing you wonder how you forgot to take into account that there might have been a vehicle in your blind spot.

Many of us try to step on the accelerator to get ahead of those pesky shortcomings in our blind spot. We fail to realize that no matter how fast we drive ourselves those shortcomings will always be there unless we face them.

Sometimes getting spooked by something in our blind spot helps us face reality…something we often don’t want to face. It takes a lot of courage to do that.

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Maybe you’ve never played “Words with Friends,” the internet crossword game, but certainly you’ve played “Scrabble” the famous board game.  Both games are the same. Both games are different in some very different ways.  After playing a word in “Words with Friends,” you are given the option to check out the “better” word you could have played.

In my case I played the word “doc” for 21 points.  But had I known, I could have played ALL MY LETTERS on a TRIPLE WORD (TW) square for 88 points! I could have gotten four times the number of points if only I had…

If only I had what?  If I had only scrutinized the board a little more.  If only I had taken a closer look at my letters.  Well, you know something, that’s exactly how it is on the YBR.  We consider what we have and we make a decision. Sometimes we learn that we didn’t make the best move we could have.

That happens a lot. Sometimes we never know we could have made a better move. And when that happens we are none the wiser. We don’t stop to beat ourselves up.  But when we do learn we could have made a different (and better) move we do beat ourselves up.

On our daily walk on the YBR we make dozens of moves. If by chance we learn we could have…which translates to “we should have” made another move, we often go over the move we made and the move we should have made in our head ad infinitum.  This never helps because we take the move we should have made and believe the rest of our journey would have been so much better than the road we find ourselves on.

Let me tell you something. That’s a lot of bullshit. The moves we didn’t take always seem better because we don’t have to take the next move.  But once we’ve made a real move we will make other moves…and who knows, maybe the next real move we make on the YBR just might be the right move.

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Of late I’ve been confused. Or to put it more accurately, of late I’ve been more confused. You would think at three score ten confusion would be a thing of the distant past. But in my case, it’s not the case.

I don’t know how it popped into my head. It just did. I got to thinking about the words on a popular poster from my college days: Wherever You Go, There You Are.  Since this poster usually hung in the rooms of those students who were inclined to smoke weed, I thought maybe you couldn’t understand the true meaning of the quote unless you were high. And since my inhalation of the substance did nothing to me or for me, I never got the meaning until I went abroad in my junior year at college

That’s when I had the first of many “aha moments.”  Having never been alone and on my own ever before, the withdrawal that occurs for the first time allows you to experience what it means to be alone and on your own.  That’s when I saw the light and understood what Wherever You Go, There You Are meant.

Until I was alone and on my own, I didn’t know who I was (the you in the quote). It took me my entire stay at Oxford to discover who I was, and once I did, I realized that despite the fact that I had previously used other people’s definition of who I was, I had the right…and the obligation…to define myself on my own terms.  If I wanted to be genuine I couldn’t use anyone else’s definition.

Returning home after an amazing study abroad experience, I fully understood that no matter where I was to ever go, “I” would be there.  I also learned something else.  I did not have to remain set in stone. I did not have to be held prisoner to the “I”  I had become because I could change and I could grow.

That got me thinking about how we become “I” and what ingredients go in to making us the “I” we become. I did some research and learned that psychologist say that by age seven our personalities are basically fully formed.  I also learned that by the same age much of our wiring (the way we think about things, what we believe in, etc.) is almost hard-wired.

I used to believe that education was supposed to allow us the opportunity to work on our wiring.  Higher education was supposed to provide us with the tools and the environment to really work on our wiring.

I have my doubts.  Even when I was in college I don’t believe “we” were encouraged to think and to grow into a more open-minded “I.”  Thinkers are a danger to society because thinkers think, of course, but thinking involves challenging the status quo.

Having now been teaching in a college for close to 15 years, I am concerned. Today’s students are arguably good students, but they have been hoodwinked into believing that the purpose of a college education is to prepare them for a career…not for life. Today’s career-minded college students are so very focused on getting “that” job that they don’t see anything else. Instead of “going” to college, I believe many students have been sentenced to spend four years at college doing “hard” labor, i.e. taking a bunch of course they could give a rat’s ass about.  Once released from college they will be on probation for the rest of their lives because all that will be important to them will be climbing the ladder. Where is the growth?


It reminds me of the lobster. I had no idea how a lobster got grew. Then I learned something.  The lobster’s shell is hard and not elastic. In order for a lobster to grow it has to shed its shell. It actually has to get out of its shell and grow a new shell.  And in order to continue growing, it needs to go through this process over and over again…until it’s plopped in a pot of boiling water and served with butter, lemon and a side of fries.

I wonder if today’s college students are willing to shed their shells?  I wonder if wherever they go they will be there.

NOTE:  If any students in my spring 2018 COM 102 class responds to this blog by 5 pm. Friday, March 2, they will earn a bonus.

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You have to climb the damn tree!

out on a limb

That’s right…and there’s no two ways about it. Unfortunately today we have been so hoodwinked by people in power that we believe that you shouldn’t climb trees, primarily because you actually might think for yourself. And if you do have the courage to climb the tree…and you actually believe the tree is worth climbing…the best thing you can do, in my opinion, is go out on a limb.  Take a stand and have the courage of your convictions.

Might you fall?  More likely than not there is a very, very, very good chance you might fall down. Mind you I said “might fall down” not “will fall down.”

Because we live in world of non-stop news there are so many goddamn trees in the forest, that it is overwhelming.

Just last week there was another tragic school shooting that took the lives of 17 innocent people.  There are not enough words in every language combined to say anything that might make some sense out of the senseless.

Following the shooting a million of Giant Redwoods sprang up all over America.  I’m certain one or more of them is in you own backyard. This tree is called, like so many other trees in the forest of bewilderment, the tree of opinion.  While we ALL might agree that the loss of life is so very tragic, we don’t all agree on what we can do or needs to be done so this particular tree never grows up again on the YBR.

Some argue that a school shooting tree won’t ever grow again if we:
1) Get rid of all the guns in America
2) Ban any type of assault weapon
3) Dismantle the NRA
4) Raise the age of gun ownership to 21
5) Make gun ownership applications much more detailed and quintuple-checked
6) Prevent anyone with a prior record or anyone with a certified mental illness from buying a gun
7) Put guns in the hands of trained and qualified educators
8) Place at least one armed officer in every school
9) Build walls around all our schools
10) Placing a 2000% tak on any weapon and limiting the number of bullets a gun owner can buy…and raise the price of a bullet to $3648.92.

Number ten was my addition and I added it to cover all the ridiculous suggestions people are making.  Number 1 through 9 are not ridiculous, but none of them win unanimous approval.

I have no suggestions other than we do need to find a way to make our schools and everywhere for that matter…safe.  Our children should never, ever have to worry about their safety in school. No teacher or educator should ever have to worry that this might be the day a school shooter comes into our school. And no parent should ever, ever, ever have to think for a second that when they kiss their child good-bye for school that it might be the last time they kiss their child.

Some argue that a school shooting tree won’t ever grow again if we:
1) Spend more money and time on dealing with mental illness
2) Find ways to identify possible school shooters before they do the unthinkable by being much more observant and looking for the signs
3) Train people in law enforcement to take warnings more seriously and by looking into what people are saying after seeing.
4) Institutionalize those who have been identified as individuals who represent a threat to themselves and/or others

It will take  greater minds than my simple mind to come up with a real, permanent solution because the problem with guns is only a (big) part of it…not the whole.

.But, now that I’ve climbed the school shooting tragic tree, I’m going to go out on a limb.

While there is no way in hell that I can find a smidgen of a reason to condone the school shooting. And if I’m saying that, I have to take the next step, and say that I cannot find any reasonable excuse why the shooter did what he did.

I said “excuse.”  There is no excuse, (I’m not out on the limb, so don’t start shaking the branch.)

Would I be too far out on the limb if I introduced the idea of finding the reason why the shooter did what he did?

Having listened to some credible talk show hosts…and their callers… condemn the shooter by saying he should be roasted alive on national television, should be executed asap, should be sent to a jail where the other prisoners were given the green light to beat the shit out of the shooter, and other such punishments courtesy of the Dark Ages…

I have the heard the word “crazy” thrown around this past week more than I’ve ever heard this “dangerous” word used in a long, long time.

To say the shooter was crazy, sick, the devil incarnate, etc.  is not going to bring back any of the lives lost.  To say that he gave more than ample warning signs that were ignored, is another story altogether.  “We” dropped the ball on that one.

But, it’s easier to shift the light of blame on the shooter, who, without a doubt performed a heinous act.

I heard some talk show hosts say that there are thousands of people in America who had similar mental issues and family situations…even the death of parents…but they did not go pout and buy an assault rifle and shoot up a school.  And I’d have to agree with them.  God knows how many people out there matched the Florida school shooter’s profile but did not gun down innocent people.

But, I think we are masking our doubts with rage. It is better, I fear many believe, to kill the monster and hang him from the highest tree, without thinking he could have been my son, my grandson, my brother, my cousin, my nephew, my best friend’s son, a kid in my class…or even me.

According to the 2010 Federal Census Bureau, there were some 30 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 and 53 million between the ages of 5 and 17.  So, if we combine those age groups, it might be safe to say that in 2010 there were 37-40 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, the age of what might be called the “target” school shooter.

One percent of 38 million is 380,000. Half a percent is !90,00. A quarter percent is 95,000.  And .1% is 38,000.  Taken one more time, .01 percent of 38 million is 3,800. (For fractional people, that’s 1/1000. Small in comparison to 1/100 or one percent, but consider how many people in that same age group suffer from some form of mental illness?

Check these facts to see the whole picture

Sorting through the numbers I think it’s safe to say that 10% of our 38 million (14-24) suffer from some form of mental illness…or by the numbers that would be 3.8 million.

Let’s then say that 99.9% of those 3.8 million would never, ever pick up a gun and go on a school shooting rampage.  That leaves 3,800 (or .1%) who might consider it…and a mere 1% 3,800 you with 38.

38 people spread out over the breadth and width of America makes them virtually invisible. No one should ever be invisible!

I worked with some of these invisibles when I was in college where I used to go up to Hillcrest Academy (Poughkeepsie, NY) before Geraldo Rivera did an amazing job by exposing the horrors at Willowbrook.

I can’t tell you how many children were institutionalized at Hillcrest, but in the boys section with children between the ages of three and ten there must have been at least 20 boys. Boys who were dropped off at Hillcrest with many of them never to see family again.

We cannot, I repeat, ever go back to the age of Hillcrest.

Where am I on the limb?  I think we need to take a hard look at mental illness in our country and remove all the use of words like crazy and stop saying what one person with mental illness would or would not do.

The Florida shooter was 19. Not a little kid. But he was a kid once upon a time.  Did he fall through the cracks?  Was he physically not lovable enough?  Did he grow up invisible?  Was there ever a time in his life when he could have been thrown a life raft?

Last year the Federal Government spent some 54 million dollars in an anti-smoking campaign.  As much as I want to wipe out smoking (how about banning the product…there is no Constitutional Amendment protecting our right to smoke) imagine in half of  what the government spends on anti-smoking went to helping the mentally ill.

Okay, you can now begin shaking the limb.





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2018 gold medal

If following the 2018 Winter Olympic Games were an event, I wouldn’t be on the medal podium. Nonetheless, I have been watching many of the events.  In doing so, my Americanism comes out. Not that I’m anti any other participating country, but…you know what I mean.

Recently I heard a number of reporters talk about America’s poor showing at the games (hte lowest medal count in two decades is what I heard.)

Just because we’re America does that mean we have to win a gazillion gold and a similar number of silver and bronze medals.  Are we supposed to be embarrassed? Are we supposed to make excuses and say wait until 2022?

I was never in the spotlight so I can’t honestly tell you what it must be like to bear the burden of always being number one.  Or, are we at fault because we brag about how great we are in everything?

At a time in history when nationalism should be minimized on the world stage, we, the people of the world, seem to be more nationalistic than ever.

It made me think about being an American in the Trump years.  I distance myself from the president because on a personal level he would be the last person I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with.

I believe America’s number one export should be unvarnished kindness and our number one import should be unfettered understanding.  Instead of building walls, we need to be paving the world with yellow bricks that criss-cross the world.  In our desire to conquer space, we need to conquer fear and hatred right here on earth.

I was tempted to post this in an abbreviated form on Facebook, I opted not to because lately I’m feeling very uncomfortable on this popular form of social media.

Because I have no WordPress blog friends I don’t have to get any likes.  I just have to like what I said.

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afric's gift to America

When I was in seventh grade my father gave me a book, It was “Africa’s Gift to America.” It not only change the way I saw the world, it changed my life because it opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was four years old, and Rosa Parks bold move had happened six years earlier.  I was too young to fully grasp what was happening in the country, but I believe my father thought I needed some educating.

And what an education it was.  Page after page was filled with information and stories about the many great gifts African-Americans had given to a country that was supposed to be founded on the belief that all men were created equal.

I kept the book on my bookshelf until I went to college.  While the pages were not  dog-eared, the book did show definite signs of wear.  I used what I considered one of my favorite books for more than a paper or two in high school. And never tired of reading it.

As a college sophomore I donated my copy of “Africa’s Gift to America” to the library because I believed it needed to be shared.

Close to three-decades after my father gave me “Africa’s Gift to America,” I wrote a story greatly influenced by the book.


Black History was always more than a month for me.

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