Saturday, February 20, 2021


 

It was 1995 and I was in Dallas Texas. I was staying at the Anatole hotel which had been built to accomodate the GOP Convention in the past. I was there to attend meetings on a new pharmaceutical agent called Lamictal, which our sales force was being introduced to. We were going to co-promote the product with Burroughs Wellcome to the U S medical population. Looking back over time, our sales division is now gone as well as BW having been sold to other big pharma players.

I had stepped out onto the plaza outside of a meeting room and I was taking a break and happened to look across the mezanine. There he was standing outside of a meeting room smoking on a gigantic stogie. I excused myself and made a beeline to him.

Extending my hand I introduced myself to him. I told him I was from Tallahassee, Florida and never missed a moment of his daily program. I even watched him om TV. He smiled and immediately engaged with me. He asked me how living in Tallahassee was. I told him how great it was and that I never wanted to live anywhere else. He then asked what brought me to Dallas. I told him. He asked for the name of the new legend drug and what it was to be used for. I shared that information with him as he pulled out a little notebook and a pen and wrote down the information. He then told me that he was about to be introduced to a group inside his meeting room, that it was nice to meet me and good luck on the product launch. He disppeared and I was so happy that I had gone across the way to shake hands with the legendary Rush Limbaugh. He  truly was one of the nicest people I had ever met. 

I had discovered him a couple of years prior while riding around in my company car trying to be places to peddle my wares to medical practioners. He was usually found on the AM dials but also frequented a few FM stations. He was the father of conservative talk radio. His delivery was entertaining and delightful. His ideas resonated with fellow conservatives. He was not afraid to say what was on his mind. I was immediately addicted to his pronouncements. He delivered his message in an unadulterated, unapologetic way. He was bold in doing so. I found his program unique and refreshing and creative. He was not afraid to step on your toes, to challenge your beliefs. His parodies and his style were straight out of central production. Excellence in Broadcasting. The EIB virus was about to inflict you. Talent on loan from God. Taking on the other side with half his brain tied behind his back. He was funny and serious.

I was home one day and had just watched his TV show. My wife Nancy had brought to light some chore I was to have accomplished and as usual had neglected it. I was bold enough to talk back to her. Our Emily, about 9 years old at the time said to her Mother, " He has been watching Rush. He is always obnoxious after he listens to Rush." 

I smiled to myself, taken aback by this child that I loved. Later on I became deflected by other pursuits and listend to him less and less. Occassionally I dropped in to visit him and see what he was talking about. 

I will always remember how kind and engaging he was to me that day in Dallas.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Memories of a Grand Lady

2019.

Today I post concerning a grand lady who passed away just this past Saturday at the age of 89. She is survived by 7 children: Chris, Robby, Nani, Kyle, Brett, Liz and Janice. She had 33 grandchildren and 56 great-grandchildren.

Her name is Emmanell Nani Viera Tucker. She was born in Hawaii.and attended college at Brigham Young University where she met Luther Christopher Tucker, Jr (Kit). They married and moved home to his native Wakulla county Florida. Kit passed away in February of 2019. 

Kit's father was a state senator from Wakulla, county serving in the state legislature into the early sixties. Nell's brother-in-law was Donald L. Tucker who was an elected representative of the Florida house of representatives for several terms. He served as speaker of the house for two consecutive terms. He was instrumental in building the Leon county civic center which was later changed to bear his name, the Donald L. Tucker civic center. Don passed in September of  2019.

The notoriety of Nell's family does not end there. Nell's grandson is Brendon Yuri, American singer and song writer and musician best known as the lead vocalist of the band Panic! at the Disco. 

All of Nell's children and grandchildren are precious to her. She was the matriarch of a group of people who are multitalented and proud and loyal to their family name.

Nell, in her lifetime, saw the bombs that fell on Pearl Harbor that marked the United States entry into WW 2. She was a young girl at the time rushing home to seek the shelter of her home there in Hawaii. She experienced life along the way leaving a legacy of service and love to others. She was a gifted vocalist, dancer, teacher. mother, wife, friend, grandmother and happy hearted person who rarely complained of her lot in life. 

She was a personal friend to my family and many others. We have shared many stories and laughs along the way and shall now miss her being nearby. Our commonality was the Church of Jesus Chirst of Latter day Saints. She was true and faithful to the covenants she made in her church all along the way and now into the eternities. 

Following are a couple of comments made by my daughters concerning Nell Tucker.

Emily Vass Raines comments as follows:

Music can be such an integral part to testimony building and I had the best primary music teacher ever in Sister Tucker! I remember singing “Saturday is the day we get ready for Sunday” and learning about preparing for the Sabbath Day. Sister Tucker had shoes for us to polish and clothes for us to iron and made learning about the gospel through music so much fun! When I was 16 I participated in the Stake youth choir and sister tucker was our leader. This is really when I remember my testimony growing so much as we sang “From Cumorah’s Hill.” Sister Tucker didn’t just teach us to sing the words, she taught us the meaning behind the words. I remember she also taught how sacred these words were and how blessed we were to have this knowledge and when we sing the words, think about them and share your testimony through song. She told us that we had angels with us helping us share this important message of the restoration. I always knew how much Sister Tucker loved me. She may have needed to give us a stern talk about what our purpose was and why we needed to straighten up during our performance, but we listened and we wanted to do our best because we loved Sister Tucker and we knew how much she loved us as well!

 

I was lucky to grow up in Eastgate here in Tallahassee just a few streets over from the Tuckers and loved to go over and hang out with Amber and Kristen and Heather and Shelly when they were visiting their grandparents. One day I was walking over to their house and a huge dog started barking and jumping on me. I was terrified of dogs and froze on the spot! Before I knew what was happening I saw Sister Tucker running toward me yelling at the dog and shooing him away and wrapping her arm around me to make sure I was ok. I immediately felt safe, that dog couldn’t get through Sister Tucker!  I loved playing at their house and watching Shirley Temple and Esther Williams movies. I just remember feeling like part of the family and feeling loved by Sister Tucker. She and her family were such a big part of my childhood and growing up years.  I will miss her so much!

                                                              Beth Vass Sundstrom comments as follows:

I have so many fond memories of Sister Tucker - as a church music director for our children’s organization, as a leader for our youth organization, and as the grandmother of my friends.  One trait is consistent with all of these roles that she played: love.  Sister Tucker always made me feel loved.  She would go out of her way to speak with me or give me a hug.  She always had good advise to give and funny anecdotes to tell.  She had a wonderful way of making you feel important.  What a blessing she has been to my life and such an example of the love that Christ represents.


I conclude with my personal comments regarding Nell. She was a hard working, faithful latter day saint. She was immensely proud of her faith, her nation and her family. The world is a little bit less in its existence because of her passing. However, heaven has gained a super star. She will wait and watch there in heaven by the door as her posterity come, one by one to join her. She will embrace and rejoice with each one of them. She will pray for them from her vantage point in the palace of eternity. She will hope and try to influence each one to reach a little higher and to try and remember the meaing of OHANA.







 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Remembering Thalidomide

Does anyone out there remember hearing about Thalidomide? It was a pharmaceutical agent that was introduced into West Germany in 1951. It's original availability was as an over the counter medication. It was indicated for insomnia, morning sickness and anxiety amongst other cavalier options striking the user's fancy.

It was the usage in pregnancy that caught all the press all over the world. The drug caused roughly 10,000 malformations in newborns. Thalidomide was being introduced into the United States by Smith Kline French. SKF sought and obtained a license to market the product in the US amidst the development of the evidence of first trimester malformations. The product was not ever marketed in the US subsequent to this evidence.

The Thalidomide babies are prominently imbedded in the memories of those who read any sort of news in the 60's. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration implemented more rigorous requirements for all new drug development from that point onward. Today there are countless checks and cross-checks in the development of any new pharmacologic agent introduced to the US armamentarium. It costs a ton of money and plenty of time to get a new medication past the FDA guidelines. And that is as it should be.

I mention this here in the fall of 2020 in light of all the press you see and hear about the development of a Coronavirus vaccine. I come from 30 years of service working in the  pharmaceutical industry. It is daunting the amount of bureaucracy that is entailed in the development of a new entry into the market. Every company in the industry spends loads of money maintaining a research and development division who are pressing every day for new medications and modalities that can cure cancer, alzheimers, MS, spinal cord injuries, etc. 

It is in the face of that reality that we look forward to a vaccine and antivirals that will stop the spread of the coronavirus and pull us out of the nightmare in which we all are integrally intertwined.  However, we all want it done right. There are just no shortcuts to that end point.

A short study up on the thalidomide tragedy should shift our focus to that fact.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Day The Music Died
















On March 7, 2020 myself and my son and two son-in-laws journeyed to North Port, Florida to watch the Atlanta Braves play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a spring training game. Little were we to anticipate that this would be the final weekend of Spring Training and any other kind of baseball for the 2020 season. It was a perfect day for a game. The wind was a little stiff requiring a light jacket. The sky was so blue that it made you squint to look at it quoting Moonlight Graham from Field of Dreams. We had such a wonderful time. Concern about any kind of pandemic was light years away from our conscience because the boys of summer were getting loose for the season ahead.

I sit and write at the moment in a mountain cabin in Gatlinburg here on July 15th, when we would normally be watching the All Star game.  A lot has changed and brought a lot of divisiveness among our fellow citizens. We just ventured out to Pigeon Forge and the places we went into required the wearing of masks. After re-entry into our car we broke out the hand sanitizer each time and scrubbed the unseen virus particles from chafed hands. No longer do we shake hands with people whom we hold dear. In fact we practice social distancing from everyone at this point in our lives. Many of us work from home. We shun barber shops, libraries, golf courses, restaurants, convenience stores, church and countless other places we hold near providing the daily fabric of our lives.

The one thing that would make all this livable has been taken from us. Simply stated, baseball. I cannot help but reflect back 19 years ago to September 11th, 2001 when those planes flew into our World Trade centers and thousands of our fellow Americans died painful deaths. Those scary times were palpable. However, one thing that seemed to bridge the divide was 9/21 when the Atlanta Braves played the New York Mets in Shea stadium. The pomp and circumstance that accompanied the game complete with 7th inning singing of God Bless America was Chicken soup for the soul. The president threw out the first pitch. Firemen and Police officers were everywhere and yes the crowd honored them and the honor they brought to our country. 41,000 fans and millions at home comprising the TV audience watched that game. We felt better. We felt safer for some odd reason because of the game. Mayor Rudy Guiliani was present. He was quoted as saying " Don't be afraid. Be alert." In fact that became a bumper sticker." Mike Piazza the Met catcher, the every man who was drafted almost 200th in the year he went Pro, hit the winning home run. Baseball resumed all across America and the Star Spangled banner and America played at every one of those games.

During WW 2 FDR refused to allow baseball to cease. He called upon the players and the fans to embrace the game and support all that went with it, for no other reason than America just flat out needed the game.

I think back to the 1994 baseball strike when the season was canceled along with the post season. For the first time since 1904 the World Series was not played. Many of us were angry with management and the players association. I remember swearing off ever embracing baseball again. I might have lasted a few games into the next season as a hold out but in due course of time I was back watching and listening and following my heroes.

Last year was frought with elements of cheating during the play offs. Years past have brought gambling schemes and spit balling and performance enhancing drugs but America holds fast to what has been called the national past time. I suppose that baseball has a special zen that goes along with it. Even when things are not right in the world, all seems better when the boys of summer are doing what they do.

Now we come to this unseen virus that has become our enemy. It is like an invader from another solar system. It is there, we fear it. It has unraveled our world wide social network. Baseball must rise from the ashes. It is slated to do so next week on the 23rd. I say bring it on. Enough is enough.

I sort of have felt the same as I did on that cold winters day so many years ago when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper died in that private plane crash. A song memorializes it. How many of us have not listened closely to the words and melody of  American Pie by Don Mclean. Please let the game resume. America, indeed the world, needs to hear the music again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Who was that masked man?




















When I was a second grader at London Elementary school in London, Ohio I had an after school routine that still resonates in me today, 67 years later. I would ride the bus home from school and rush into our home. After fixing myself a peanut butter sandwich I would sit down in front of our enormous black and white TV with the 10 inch screen and prepare to watch The Lone Ranger. I can still hear the theme music adapted from the William Tell overture. Each saga would pit good against evil. The masked man and his faithful side kick, Tonto, would happen upon some poor person in distress and set about righting the wrongs that seemed to be set upon this poor innocent soul. At the conclusion of the episode the person who was the beneficiary of this heroic act would pose the question to those nearby, "Who was that masked man ?". Then the theme music would cue and the credits would roll as the ranger and Tonto would ride up and over the hill to their next adventure.

Some years after that and 40 plus years ago from where I sit now I have another memory. I was working as a salesman in the town of Albany, GA. I had met my district manager there and thought it would be funny to meet him wearing a gas mask. I cannot remember the exact reason why I thought this was such a good idea. However, the mask wearing, was very well received and struck a cord of entertainment with my boss. He thought it was hilarious and referred back to it often over the 30 year career I had with our company. He had a great time years afterwards reciting the hilarity of my meeting him wearing the gas mask.

There were a few moments where I regretted ever having donned the mask. Don, the boss, talked me into wearing the mask into the main post office there in Albany. as I walked into the lobby, patrons and employees riveted their attention on me and gave me a wide berth. I walked to the window and asked to purchase some stamps. The clerk asked me what was the deal with the gas mask. I told him that it was a protest against air pollution. He was not amused. He sternly advised me that he did not think it was funny. He further pointed out to me that I was in a government facility and that I was lucky to escape being arrested for such a silly act. It gave me thoughtful reflection and regret. 

I know that banks and retail shops have paid extra scrutiny to any customers who present themselves while covering up facial features, even marginally, two months prior to now.

I find it ironic to our current state, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, that you bring attention to yourself by electing not to wear a face mask of some variety. Indeed the question may be asked,
 " Who is that unmasked man?" In our current culture there are infectious disease experts all around us. Never mind that most either failed or never took basic Biology, not to mention micro-biology. Their expertise is garnered by non stop infusion of the news media feeding us a constant stream of how dangerous life  has become on the world stage of the corona virus outbreak. You look about you in an historically benign place such as a grocery store and you see people shuffling along wearing masks, gloves and, if they could have gotten them, bio-isolation garments. Indeed it looks like a scene from Zombie Apocalypse all around us.

It seems that if you wait around long enough everything is going to shift to the circular path of hearsay, marginal information, hype and power of suggestion. Is it better to have a plain belly or one decorated by a star? I suppose that Sylvester McMonkey McBean said it about as well as it can ever be said. You just can't teach a Sneech.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Re-Post: Chicken Little is Alive and Well

THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 2009


Chicken Little is alive and well

The American news media has something terribly wrong with it. They love to scare the public. I suppose that they have gotten so convincing that the public is hardly a challenge any longer. They have been haranguing on the economy for awhile now and they have us pretty well convinced that it is in the dumper to stay. That is unless we allow the league of idiots that comprise our congress to fix it. The fix is the federalization of most all of the banking interests in America. They have bailed out a sizeable portion of the heavy hitters and now have their tentacles firmly around the banks and financial institutions. Next stop is health care.

How do you take over health care? First you have to convince America that the current system is a failure. They count the numbers of people without health coverage and say how horrible that is. Never mind that ANYONE can access medical care at the ER of your choice ANYTIME.

Well you have to create a focal point that will create a problem. A health care crisis of some sort.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........let's see now. How about Swine flu? We start reporting that we have a new viral variant for which there are no vaccines. The congressional gang of morons could then stand tall and nationalize the supply of Relenza and Tamiflu and save the day. All the while they could fast track the development of a vaccine.

Nevermind for the last 100 plus years viruses have been coming and going. There was the Spanish influenza in 1918 that created a world wide pandemic and killed a ton of people. There was the Hong Kong variant that went "pan" on us and knocked off a pretty sizeable number. There was the Asian A-2 that went "demic" and gorked a big portion of the world. The A Bangkok, the A Singapore, etc. etc.

Also, nevermind, that it is the norm for the virus to go into a population of fowl ( A Avion ) or a population of horses ( A Equine ) or Porky's pals the pigs ( A Swine ). So the media sets the stage scaring everyone to death about the BIRD FLU..........................the SWINE FLU. The World Health Organization deals with this year in and year out. When you go to get your flu shot it will have 3 weak little viruses in it. It is trivalent protecting you against 2 A variants and 1 B variant. You go get your shot and you feel kind of protected. That is until a new variant shows up. Then, Oh my gosh !!!!!, I am not protected. What now?

Folks, do you know that the people who die from A flu are either over 90 yoa, immunocompromised, have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( ie: emphysema ). That is the long and short of it. If you are a healthy human being your immune system will do its job and lock it down. It is no fun to have the flu. I have had it 5-6 times over my 63 years. I am sitting here being obnoxious writing about it. However, I am way less obnoxious than the ridiculous media that is scaring everyone to death over it.

There is another front to perambulate. How do I know when I have the flu? As opposed to a common upper respiratory infection. I used to sell a very specific medicine for influenza A. The docs I called on would ask or postulate, " How do I know when I am seeing influenza A ?" We would always discuss high fever, malaise, retrobulbar aching ( behind the eyes ), etc. I would always say by the time you do your anti-body titer and send it off to the health department and get an answer the flu will have moved on down the road. Use my drug, amantadine, it is safe in children down to 1 yoa. I sold a boat load of it and even won Man of the Year honors within my company.

I called on this one old country doc up in Blakely, Ga. He had been practicing medicine for about 50 years. I was making my pitch and told him, " Doctor, I know just what you are thinking. How do I know if I am seeing influenza A?" He responded by saying. " No, Lee, I know when I am seeing the A flu. If a person comes into my office and sits right there where you are sitting and tells me that they have the flu, they don't have the flu. They have a head cold. If a man sends his wife in to get me to come out to the car and look him over because his fever is 103, his legs are like noodles and he is aching all over, now that man has the flu." He had it right.

Forget about obsessing over this A-variant of the influenza. If you get it, chances are you are going to outlive it. If you die, it was probably just a matter of time anyways.

Same thing holds true with the reporting you are hearing about the real estate business. The media has it mostly incorrect. There is plenty of money out there for mortgages. The rates are below 5%. You can get in with less than 4% down. If you are a first time buyer you get a, $8k tax credit if you close by December 1. Quit obsessing over the swine flu and let's go buy you a house. Now that is something to get fired up about.

Please visit me on the web at http://elvass.com/

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Evolution of a Back Yard Pool


                                                                                                                                               
When our children were younger we were fortunate enough to live next door to wonderful people who loved them. They had a swimming pool and our kids had standing invitations to swim. Our children became very strong swimmers and we all enjoyed their pool. I am sure that I appreciated that wonderful circumstance. I am also sure that I did not appreciate it enough. You see, all the cleaning and maintaining of that pool went unnoticed by our whole family. By the time we engaged with it all we saw was a sparkling blue watery playground.

Switch forward a few years and we moved from that home and those neighbors. It was 1993 and we needed a larger home because we were all getting larger. So we moved into a very nice home in a nice neighborhood on a golf course with a swimming pool. Life raced along and career, school, church, sports and a busy life consumed us all.

Along the way that swimming pool became my nemesis. I seemed to need to constantly clean the miserable thing. I spent hours upon hours brushing it down, removing leaves, vacuuming, shocking it, pouring $1,000’s in chemicals into it and it would still be green and murky looking. Changing pumps, filters and of course liners helped. I seemed to get more proficient in the process and on occasion it would look sparkling, cool and inviting.

I admit getting into it and floating around on an inflated apparatus was a very nice source of relaxation. We all sported some pretty impressive tans in the summer. That is, when the weather permitted. I recall many times when my kids were in high school and later, college they would plan to have friends over to get into the pool and voila our semi tropical location here in Florida would produce the afternoon thunderstorm and cancel all plans. During prolonged hot weather periods the water in the pool felt like lukewarm bath water.

Then there is the capital investment side of it. After I became a real estate broker, later in life, I learned that a pool is a neutral asset. There are as many people who would hate a pool as there are who would love a pool when it came time to market your property. On top of that is the liability associated with owning a pool. I have a fence around my property. However I added a $2,000 kiddy fence put there by an acquaintance in the fence business who gave me a “deal” on it.

Along the way a beloved pet, Maggie, drowned in it. I still have nightmares about pulling her out of it. That was almost 10 years ago in 2010. Also there is the financial shock of having to replace liners at $5,000 a clip.

The liners seem to have a life span of 10 years. I replaced one in 1996 at that cost. Of course we were pretty engaged in getting into it at that point in time. Then in 2006 with our three children pretty much moved out, married with children, etc. I decided that the thing I wanted most of all was to fill it in. I had the man with his back hoe on the road practically when my wife sat me down and showed me videos of our last July Fourth holiday. Of course that occurred around our pool. Watching our little grandchildren splashing around in the pool was more than I could resist. I not only replaced the liner but built a much nicer, concrete deck around it and added some other amenities at a cost of $10k plus.

Well, we took a great vacation to the Smokeys back in August. When we got back I noticed that the pool was down about a foot. We were in the midst of one of the worst heat wave droughts in 50 years so I felt perhaps it was just intense evaporation. So I put in the hose and got it back up only to find it down another foot in a couple of days. I did not even bother to look for the leak. Liner is now 13 years old so it is beyond its life span.

It is impossible to find someone to do any kind of work around your house.  So I spent almost 6 weeks and finally got two disparate bids. As I put out the word my wife and daughters were distraught. My grandchildren became militant. However, no one swam in the pool at all this past summer. It was time and it became a done deal.


Now that it is done,  I experience some unexpected pangs of emotion. At the same time I cannot prevent myself  from smiling and occasionally breaking out in glee. Yet, also I find myself with a little sadness and nostalgia. My ownership of this pool now spans more than 25 years. I assess that passage of time. My three children have graduated, married and given me grandchildren. I retired from a 30 year career and started a second career. Filling in the pool sort of becomes a simile for the passage of that time. As the albatross hung around the neck of the ancient mariner in the Coleridge poem the pool has hung around mine. I wonder if the mariner ever got rid of his albatross? I surely have mine and in due time when the summer sun beats down and I am swimming in my daughter’s pool I will never have any regrets for cutting that bird loose.