Hell of a Guy
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it - Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Life and Death


A very good friend of mine defines the word “Life” as a sexually transmitted fatal disease.  While it is somewhat a macabre definition, it is nonetheless blatantly true.  Two recent incidents have hammered this home to me and moved me to moments of melancholy and emotion. 

Two weeks ago my immediate supervisor was admitted to the hospital with an esophageal rupture.  I am not medically trained, but a little Google search allowed me to see exactly how serious and life-threatening this can be.  He was closer to death than he may ever realize.  Someone – God perhaps – was watching over him.  He is lucky to be alive, and one day I will share this with him.

My boss and I have a special relationship.  At one time he reported to me.  Over the years we have become very close, and though there is about a fifteen-year age difference between us, I can easily, openly and honestly say, I love him like a brother.  We are that close.  And, yes, we have shared the sentiment.  I am very thankful he will be back to work in a couple of months.  After nearly ten days in the hospital, and much of it in an intensive care unit, he is home.  Hopefully, he will slow down a bit and enjoy the remainder of the life the God of All Things (see “Me, God and the Quantum World” – 3-29-06) grants him.  I wish him a speedy recovery.

Tuesday evening tragedy befell a young man named Garrett.  In the speed of light his life was ended at the tender age of twenty years. 

Garrett is the nephew of my former wife.  I last saw him in 1998 in Ft. Lauderdale as he lay near the pool behind his home.  He didn’t have a lot to say, but that is the way of young teenagers and I didn’t attempt to extract a conversation from him.  A simple “Hi” was enough torture to put him through.

My best recollection of Garrett is a moment when he lived in Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia near Downingtown.  The house his parents owned had a descending driveway, the end of which came to an abrupt drop-off of two or three feet.  Seems to me in my nostalgic view of this event that Garrett, along with a friend or two, decided a quick jaunt down the driveway on a Big Wheel would launch him into a slick “ski jump” ride into his backyard.  It did.  While I did not get to view this event, the story as told by his mom and dad had me stitches.  Though Garrett may not have thought it so funny, especially with all the scabs and bruises he got as a prize for the longest jump.  It seemed Garrett was forever in the stunt mode.

One time he took Karate lessons.  Garrett was a classy kid.  I recall his dad telling me the Karate instructor had told he and Garrett’s mother that Garrett didn’t participate in the lesson because he was too busy admiring himself in the mirror.  He loved the Karate outfit and thought he was way cool in it.  He was a special kid.

This disease called Life is but a tenuous thread.  It can snap for any of us at any moment.  It is very fragile.  It is particularly sad when one so young, so promising is taken away.  Unfortunately it happens way too often, and in this case, way too close to home.

Monday I will attend Garrett’s funeral in Baltimore.  I have not been a part of Garrett’s family for thirteen years, but I am overcome with grief and more than emotional when I think of what his passing means to his parents, his sisters, his friends and extended family.  I am prepared for a day filled with spilling emotion.  As I age I am becoming more accustomed to death and funerals.  I am not prepared for this one.

I am not a religious person, as I have mentioned a few times in these postings, but I have made my peace with the God of All Things.  While a “life after death” is not something I am hanging my hat on, I am quite satisfied in my belief that the human essence exists far beyond this container in which we reside while peregrinating the face of this planet. 

My thoughts are with his family, and that is all I have to say about that. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What the hell has he done now?


Have you ever had a dream in which you found yourself outside in your underwear, or even worse, naked?  Have you ever been outside in your underwear or naked? 

The Nancy and I live out in the country.  Our house is a little over a half mile off the paved road.  We are secluded.  I must own up to the fact that I have been outside naked on more than one occasion.  It didn’t take much self-urging to do it.  I just did it. (Maybe I can be in a Nike commercial?)  If this is a mental photograph you don’t wish to visit, now might be a good time to check in on Meredith at http://www.metalmeredith.com.

One morning about a year ago, shortly after The Nancy and I moved in to this house, I took a little walk around the old barn just off our property in the buff, just so I could say I did it.  It was early in the morning, so no one was around; even The Nancy was sound asleep.  Another time I had taken a shower in the bathroom in the basement and then took a short walk out the basement door in the rain, and you guessed it…el buffo!  The rainwater was chilly but nonetheless refreshing.

The neat thing about this is there was no laughter at the sight of this aging body roaming around outside in natural glory.  Funny thing, deer and turkey don’t laugh…at least not out loud and the birds don’t give a shit.  Maybe they all muffle it?

I told The Nancy while on a Carnival cruise to the Gulf of Mexico back in 1997 that I was going up to the “clothing optional” deck where I would disrobe, and if no one laughed, I would stay.  Well, when I went to that area of the ship there were some folks up there; all were fully clothed, except for one lady who should have been.  I decided against exposing this pristine, Herculean body for public consumption just so I would not be categorized with someone whose body was not as perfect as the one I occupy.  It would not have been fair to her, and I am fair to a fault.

Now I have a place where I can wonder the countryside in whatever state of dress or undress I choose.  And I have done this a couple of times.

I will make the announcement publicly:  This boy done cut the grass naked as a jaybird, and enjoyed every sunburned inch of it…so to speak.  My wife seems to take great joy in telling this little story to almost everyone.  I think she is either proud of me, or just wants it on the record that she knows about it.  That way when the gossip about the Naked Grass-Mowing Guy comes back to her, she can say, “I knew that.” 

Of course I wasn’t truly naked.  I did wear shoes.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

This is August…


This is August.  August for anyone working in the education service industry - which includes suppliers of equipment (and that would be me), educators, administrators, service workers - stress during the month of August.  August is Hell Month.  I keep this little Dr. Seuss poem near me and read it aloud very often.  Enjoy!

The Lost Dr. Seuss Poem:

I love my job.  I love the pay!
I love it more and more each day.
I love my boss, he is the best!
I love his boss and all the rest.

I love my office and its location. 
    I hate to have to go on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and gray,
    and piles of paper that grow each day!
I think my job is really swell,
    there’s nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my peers,
    I love their leers and jeers and sneers.
I love my computer and its software;
    I hug it often though it won’t care.
I love each program and every file,
    I’d love them more if they worked a while.

I’m happy to be here. I am. I am
I’m the happiest slave of the Firm, I am.
I love this work.  I love these chores.
I love the meetings with deadly bores.
I love my job - I’ll say it again
    I even love those friendly men.
Those friendly man who’ve come today,
    in clean white coats to take me away!!!!

August sucks, and that is all I have to say about that.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More On Making A Difference…Part Whatever


The little things we do for someone sometimes has an enormous effect beyond that person and effects the lives of others.  It’s like throwing a pebble in a pond…a ripple begins and spreads out over surface of the water, perhaps completely.  I have mentioned Mitch Albom’s wonderful book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” in prior postings to my website.  Everyone should read it.  It is a beautifully written story about the difference one can make in other peoples lives.  The two stories below do this a special way.

Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was his lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but also, Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family
occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block.

Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him. Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great.

So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay.  Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:

The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.


World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier.  Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold: a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.

There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.  Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.  Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29.

His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.


Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.

And that is all I have to say about that (for now).

PS to Judy:  Thanks.

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