Friday, December 23, 2016

Buzzards Without Feathers

When I was a boy I lived on a farm in southern West Virginia, about 45 miles from the Virginia line. We had a limited amount of livestock. Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkey, duck an old lame horse and a few cats and dogs. I was painfully aware of these barnyard members of our family. The reason being my brother and I had to feed and water them morning and evening. I even had to milk 3 members of the cow family morning and evening.

Life was pretty simple there in those hills. Little in the way of TV programming. No computer with games and such. It was a dreary day to day agenda of up early and work until your dropped in the evening. There was little to break the monotony of routine.

I remember the fascination I had with a certain member of the Cathartidae family, in particular the turkey buzzard. These creatures could be seen gliding through our skies, over our pasture land in a seemingly effortless gliding path. When they began to accumulate in numbers and began to circle in a particular space you knew there was trouble in "River City". When it was on your property you knew that you had a member of your barn yard family likely missing having fallen to accident or pestilence.

Our father would send us boys out to track what was going on when he read the skies bearing the mark of the buzzard. It was an interesting departure from routine for us. We became explorers, adventurers, detectives in the effort to unearth the cause of this mystery. We would head out to the far reaches of our farmland, usually on foot to observe, return and report. The news was always received with mixed results. The barnyard gang were investments to my father and mother. Death striking them was not a positive outcome.

Now at 70 and 1/2 I am a city dweller. I still see buzzards surveillancing the skies overhead but the mystery of that creature has dwindled in my life. I am involved in the race of various pursuits. None of them as mind numbing as hoeing potatoes or shocking corn. One of my more pleasant involvements has always been traversing my neighborhood on foot pushing a baby stroller or on the business end of a leash for our energetic little hound dog. I have made the acquaintance of numerous neighbors over the years in this fashion and have always enjoyed stopping and catching up on their news.

One such neighbor was Mr. Irving Bornstein over on Tipperary. He was a friendly sort of a fellow. I would encounter him as I walked past his place and catch him when he was retrieving a trash can or putting out mail or getting his mail. He would come out and check to see how much little Bellamy was growing. I learned about his family, his wife, his daughters. What the neighbors were doing that annoyed him. He was from Jacksonville and made his living as a tile setter. He had apparently been a successful one judging from the luxury cars in his driveway. He was in his 90's. I encountered him one day on the arm of a daughter and learned that he had suffered a stroke and was fighting hard to stay at home.

Bellamy moved away and I had fewer occasions to pass his home. I began to walk that way again after my physician ordered me to get active again. I did not see Mr Irv ever when I passed his house. There was not a lot of perceptible activity at his place and I feared the worst.

A couple of weeks ago I came up to his home and there was enormous activity ensuing. Cars were parked up and down the street and people were coming and going in droves.It became obvious to me that this had all the markings of an estate sale. I turned up his driveway with Petie the wonder hound and asked a fellow who was in charge if there was any family present. He advised me that Mr. Irv had passed away some three months earlier. His wife had moved to south Florida to be near a daughter.

People were picking the bones of his personal possessions. There was a lot of cash being exchanged. So much that the liquidators had an armed deputy sheriff present. While I spoke with the head liquidator a realtor came up and handed him a card and said to please have his widow contact her about listing their home.

As I walked away I mused concerning the similarities between my earlier experiences with the buzzards providing evidence of the passing of one of our barn yard citizens by their circling activity. The same evidence caused me to investigate the welfare of my neighbor Mr Irv. The only factor that was dissimilar was the fact that none of these buzzards possessed any feathers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Memories of Huntingdon College and Jeff Sessions

I attended two Alabama schools in pursuit of a bachelors degree. One was the University of Alabama and the other was a small, liberal arts college in Montgomery, Huntingdon College. I was awarded a BS with a major in business administration in 1969. Huntingdon was known as a "poor little rich kids school". The tuition was on a par with Harvard. Many children of rich and powerful people ended up at Huntingdon after an unsuccessful run somewhere else or just to keep control of the party hardy gene prevalent in many of them. I was not one of them. Huntingdon just happened to be in my back yard so I went there.

I ended up having a 30 year career with a huge, global company. I served in several positions ranging from sales rep to government affairs manager. The customers and clients that I served were very bright people. The prime customers were physicians and health related personnel. During the GA assignment I was in touch with legislators at all levels and association executives with ties to health care. I always was comfortable in relating to all of them and felt that my Huntingdon education had prepared me in a splendid fashion to conduct myself as a business professional.

I remember a certain business law class that I took at Huntingdon. The professor was appointed to a federal judge position later by President Nixon and had recently served as US Attorney for the middle district of Alabama. He was quite the colorful jurist.

The class I took from him was held at 7:00 AM in the Delchamps center on campus. He had a deep baritone voice and pretty much read the text book to us at that early hour of the day. The class of 25 or so of us would listen to him and wait for the inflection to rise in his voice at particular segues. When that occurred you were well assured that the subject addressed was going to be on the test. You wanted to take special notes during such moments.

On this chilly, January day we were in his class. I was taking careful notes with a Flair tipped pen. It had a nylon point and was a forerunner to the roller ball. It made a nice writing instrument with bold, black images that were easy to read. Amidst one of Judge Varner's changes in inflection I was furiously scribbling notes. The pen went dry. The seats in the classroom were aligned in a straight line with parallel rows running straight away from judge Varner. So we were seated right behind another student with the exact alignment to the right and left of each of us. As my pen went dry I shook it desperately like a thermometer and the ink happily returned to the tip so I was successful in completing my notes.

After a lull in the lecture I casually looked at the floor to my right. I was horrified to see splashes of black ink on the floor running at a 45 degree angle to the row of students to my right. I then noted a student who had ink all across his London Fog trench coat and part of his shirt. He was looking haplessly at the ceiling as if he had been awakened by a kamikaze from above. Class ended in a few minutes afterwards and I approached the student and apologized profusely offering to pay to have his coat cleaned.

That student was Jeff Sessions. I knew him casually having played intramural basketball with him. He was one of a few lucky campus dorm male students who lived amidst the 3 to 1 ratio of women to men there at Huntingdon. He was such a nice, gracious person who laughed at the ink incident. He was from Mobile and was immensely popular there on our tiny campus.

Jeff went to law school at Alabama. Practiced law in Alabama, was appointed U S Attorney there. He later became Attorney General for Alabama and won a senate seat and has been Senator Jeff Sessions ever since. He helped carry water for the Trump campaign and it is now being discussed that he  may well land a cabinet position. My ink target may possibly become the secretary of defense. You never know where life is going to lead. Wish I had been more careful with that Flair pen.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Medical Marijuana, in Case Oxycontin isn't Doing it For You

Repost from December 2013

I suppose if you live long enough you will have seen just about every liberal and demeaning piece of legislation there is roll through our state houses. Now we come to the legalization of marijuana in Florida. Apparently our chameleon friend and former Governor, Charlie Crist, is all about prescribing the benefits of Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC). As a morphed Democrat now he is all concerned about end stage cancer relief and glaucoma patients. Doesn't it just warm your heart? It is fitting that one of the foremost ambulance chasing law firms in the state, Morgan and Morgan, is squarely behind him.

I will admit that probably 9.9 people out of every 10 in Florida most likely light up a joint a couple times of month. It is extraordinarily common. However, it remains on the Florida statutes as a no-no. For my  money that should remain the case. There are far too many impaired people driving our highways presently. Do you really want to aid and abet more people in that regard?

Florida would become the 21st state to join the ranks of those who allow people to be prescribed marijuana for everything from glaucoma to fibromyalgia. However, guess what, prescribers can already dispense THC. Under the current DEA guidelines THC is a class 1 scheduled, controlled substance. Which means that a licensed prescriber can use it in an experimental fashion on a patient right now.

I promoted a product branded Percodan for many years. It is a schedule 2, controlled substance and is most likely the most qualitatively effective pharmaceutical product for pain available. The generic name of this product is Oxycodone. You have to go to the needle to find something that will make your pain go away more effectively. Along came a delivery system that got it into your blood stream a little better in the form of Oxycontin, marketed by Purdue Frederick. It was marketed to oncologists primarily for pain associated with cancer. Fast forward a few years and you see a glaring problem all over the country. Pill mills in various Florida locations have sprung up everywhere so the prescriber can make money and the consumer can get high. Many people die as a result of this widespread problem.

Back in the 70's there was a drug called LSD that the drug culture used to abuse.Lysergic Acid Diethylamide was used to induce a psychotic state in laboratory animals so that antipsychotic agents could be assessed as to efficacy. PCP, phencyclidine HCl, was used as an animal tranquilizer. The drug culture discovered it and it became a widespread problem. People are weird about looking for the next magic elixir. Now you make THC more available and what do you have? A bigger and wider generation of zombies to drive domestic disputes, fill up the emergency rooms and populate the pshyciatric hospitals.

The Florida Supreme court just approved a measure that will put it on the ballot in November. Those who vote will decide whether or not it is a good idea to put medical matijuana into the hands of Florida citizens. Polls indicate that such a measure would pass by 80% or more.

The apostle Paul did his own poll. He said in 2 Timothy 3: 1-4: " This know that in the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good."

So the world is ripe for medical marijuana. May the God of heaven help us all.

Friday, November 4, 2016

October Memories and the Apocalypse

I remember it like it was yesterday. 6th period at Landon High School in Jacksonville, Florida. October 1960. I was 14 years old and in sixth period study hall, I was usually allowed to miss the study hall so that I could go from 5th period to basketball practice. On this day the coach, Jim Kitchens,  had cancelled practice. Probably so he could go home and watch the 7th and deciding game of the World Series. I remember the thrill of that game and the exuberance that followed a walk off home run hit by Bill Mazeroski. That won the World Series for the Pirates 10-9 and remains as the only walk off in the 7th game in the history of the World Series. It was an historic occurrence and I was able to see it via a little black and white TV sitting up on the stage.

I also remember another walk off home run. This was hit in an NCAA regional baseball game which I attended in May 1997 held here in Tallahassee. The game was between Auburn University and Florida State. It was the championship bracket of that 8 team tournament. There was huge significance to the game because with a win the Seminoles went to Omaha and the College World Series. There was a member of the Auburn team who had played at Florida High school about a 7 iron from Howser stadium. I remembered him because my son had played HS baseball for Lincoln HS. They played against one another in a summer league program. He was not a prominent member of the team as a back up catcher. Auburn's All American catcher, Dunn, had been hurt in the SEC tournament and that had activated this young man as starting catcher.

In the bottom of the 9th inning this young man came to bat with 2 runners on base. Seminoles were up by 2 runs. This young fellow worked the count to 2-2. The pitcher threw him a fastball middle in and he turned on it and sent the ball over the left field wall in the direction of the stadium where he had played HS baseball. Walk off win for Auburn. In the next game Tim Hudson beat the Seminoles 8-7 to send Auburn to the CWS. The young man's name who hit this home run? David Ross, 2016 World Series icon whose final year in MLB has dominated the canvas of fall baseball. Funny how things work out isn't it? From back up catcher to hero in the NCAA tournament. The story did not end there. David was drafted and played many years in the bigs. He ended his career with the Cubs on the highest of notes. He also was a star of stars on Dancing with the Stars, coming in second place in that competition.

I am telling you this has been a world series to end them all. Their win is almost apocalyptic. Here in this fairly new millennium we have all sorts of signs that point to apocalypse. Global warming, the economy, the wierdest of all elections ever held and now this. The Chicago Cubs are the world champions of baseball. Surely the apocalypse approaches steadfastly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Ride to South Georgia with Georgia and Benjamin

It was a beautiful October day, this first Saturday in October. Our cousin, Hilda Vann, was to have celebrated her 96th birthday at her daughter's home in Newton. Georgia and Benjamin had spent the night with us and were to accompany us to this gathering of "old folks". With a smattering of young and middle aged folks mixed in. Promises of good food and a chance to run around on a south Georgia peanut farm enticed them to come along. They are 8 and 9.

I decided that I would take a back road up to the main drag into Newton. We would see some swamp land and forest along the way and perhaps see a little wild life. I told them about the time I had taken John Darwala, a company colleague from Philadelphia up to Cairo via that route. He had asked me in his best Indian accent if I had ever seen an alligator whilst riding along that little two lane stretch of road. I advised him that I had not. It was a mile down the road that a big gator, about an 8 footer, dragged himself from one side of the road to the other right in front of us. John was ecstatic and would refer to this experience all along the course of my 30 year career with DuPont.

I told them of another time that Benjamin's Mom and I had taken this road on a fallish Sunday morning and had seen two of the most beautiful wild turkeys we had ever seen. I then regaled them with a tale of one of the biggest rattle snakes that I had ever seen coiled up on the shoulder of this little back woods road. It was about at this point in the trip that I noticed that I was getting little, if any, affirmation of what I was speaking of. I looked in the rear view and saw the ear buds of their individual devices just entertaining them as best could be. Benjamin was gaming on his Kindle and Georgia was listening to her music on her I-Pod.

I am pretty used to being ignored. I am 70 and have been invisible to humanity for a good 20 years. Please see my BLOG entitled The Invisible Man. So I dispatched with the fascinating tales of my journeys down this road less traveled and began to agree with my  wife that we had wasted a good 30 minutes on this back woods road.

My mind traveled back to when I was around 9 and my brother was 6. We had grabbed a good hand hold in the bed of Dad's old pick up truck and enjoyed scooting down the old country road on our way to a church picnic. Our entertainment was spitting into the wind to the other's detriment. Our entertainment at the picnic was catching tadpoles in the pond near the site.

I further mused as to what it must have been like to have been 10 years old back in Hilda's day. That would have been around 1930. People could talk for days about the airplane that they  had seen fly over their farm or the fact that the preacher had a new car and maybe they could get a ride in it one day. No television, maybe a radio. Certainly nothing like a lap top computer, I Phone, Kindle, X-Box.

My 7 grandchildren have incredible technology at their finger tips. They bore easily. They must constantly be entertained by what's on cable TV or what game they can conjure up on their devices. As I drive by the nearby elementary school I am taken by the fact that the kids walking home from school are not running and playing tag or tossing a ball. They are walking along staring into their palms and tapping on that device held there. They truly do look like a Zombie nation.

I suppose each generation must have similar observations about the kids in their worlds. I still revel in the road less traveled and the mysteries and surprises that lie along the way. " Oh I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence. How two roads diverged in the woods and I, I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Where Were You? (Repost)

I remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot, so do you. I remember where I was when Bobby Kennedy was shot, so do you. I remember where I was when Dr. King was shot. I will always remember the day I watched Neil Armstrong take that first step on the lunar landscape. You have to be a mature American to recall all those events.

You can be a child as young as 12 and remember the most significant event since the shot heard around the world that was fired at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina somewhere around 1861. That event was September 11, 2001. The Ft. Sumter event was the impetus that led to the most blood ever spilled here in America since the Revolutionary war.

When those planes flew into the World Trade Center and our Pentagon approximately 3,000 innocent Americans shed their blood, innocent, collateral damage in a cowardly act of terrorism. Since then one of the most evil dictators in history was captured, tried and hanged. Our soldiers still are taking it to the terrorists and those who have harbored terror. Many additional lives have been lost in an effort to make you and I feel safe once again.

I was in Baton Rouge, La. with DuPont. I had flown in on 9/10. Myself and 2 colleagues were doing software training for 2 cardiology groups assembled at the Baton Rouge Hilton. I had been to breakfast and had read a little article in USA Today about the establishment of 911 as the emergency number for the nation. Some sort of commemoration was scheduled somewhere on 9/11 to apply a little numerology. When I left my room to go down to the meeting room my colleague, Roger, came out of his room with a funny look on his face and announced that an airliner had just flown into the World trade center. I thought back about the article I had read and I said " No that is just some sort of gimmick to promote the establishment of 911 as the nationwide emergency number." Boy was I ever wrong.

We went to the meeting room checked in with our management and called off the training and went to pack. I was fortunate enough to think about getting a rental car. I had National Car Rental on speed dial. After I speed dialed it about 10 times I was able to successfully reserve a car. By the time my colleague from Birmingham, who had driven down, got us to the airport all airports across the country had been closed. Air Force One was heading to Louisiana, where I was. I had a guy at the rental car desk offer me $1000.00 for my rental car. He was trying to get home to Los Angeles. My other colleague and I drove the 8 hours back to Tallahassee and then he went on to Sarasota. We were scared. I just wanted to be home with my family.

I remember my daughter stood in line in Gainesville at the University of Florida, along with her room mates, to donate blood. People went to church in droves. Retailers sold out of flags. The mood of the country was anger towards the terrorists.

Where are we now? Blood donations have become a way to buy dinner for some. People stopped going to church in droves. Republicans hate the Democrats. Democrats hate the Republicans. Everyone hates the war. Tea parties abound. GM's principal owner is the U.S. Government. Financial institutions are owned by the government. The government wants to own health care.

What scared us to death back on 9/11/01 is now just a bare memory. If you fly into New York City there are new structures going up to replace those twin towers. It is hard to remember what they looked like in our mind's eye.

The same resolute planning that effected 9/11/01 is still going on in some Al Queda camp somewhere. Death to America still motivates people to strap bombs on thier children and send them into a crowd.

I wonder when and what the next 9/11 will be. Sure makes you pause and reflect doesn't it.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Surviving an Itty Bittty Hurricane

Living in Florida means one thing pretty consistently. You are vulnerable to a pretty volatile meterologic environment. I'm talking a consistent rash of thunderstorms, a much lesser occurrence of tornadic activity and a miniscule threat of tropical storms and hurricanes. Someone once said that this is the cost of living in paradise. I really cannot dispute that statement. One consistent thing about Florida is the hot and humid weather.

A couple of weeks ago my wife, Nancy, and I were laying in our bed. Around midnight we were awakened by the distant sound of thunder and could see some bright flashes of lightning. The storm was sort of pretty and melodic mixing flashes of light with rolling cascades of thunder. As the storm approached our address we could tell that it was going to roll pretty much right over us. Sure enough it did. After a few minutes of being a bit on edge we heard a zap and a ping and then a heavy retort. We had either endured a direct hit or one very close by.

The next morning we were disappointed to learn that we had no cable, internet or phone service. Life without TV is very difficicult for my wife as well as myself. I only watch sports on the cable. Her viewing is much more wide and sophisticated. I am an internet junkee. I find it unnerving not to be able to look at Real Clear Politics, for my team,, and  local news all driving to and culminating in the many pithy tweets I send out via Twitter.

It took us 4 days to restore our TV and internet. Life was not pleasant. I also make my living via access to the internet as do so many other people. Thank heavens for the IPhone. We had to buy a new TV as a result of one being fried. That meant a little larger screen just in time for football season. Little did we know what lay in store for us.

We get somewhat Tropical storm weary in this part of the world. Seems like every year about this time there are numerous tropical depressions floating around in the Gulf or the Atlantic. In my world of real estate the significance is that if there is a named storm floating around in the "box" then real estate closings come to a grinding halt. The box is an imaginary space 700 miles X 700 miles. If a named storm moves into that box then property insurance issuance is frozen. If insurers won't insure, lenders won't lend and most buyers cannot buy. I had 3 closings scheduled this past week and was keeping a close eye on TS 9 out in the Gulf. Having barely managed the closings and getting past them I suddenly realized that TS 9 is now Hurricane Hermine.

Two of the families I was helping were out of town move ins, one from Atlanta and one from Niceville. A race was on to get closed, beat the storm and get moved in. Both families accomplished their moves and settled in prior to the storm settling in on a direct line for our location .

I had been so involved in business that I was totally naive concerning the storm. All of a sudden here it is Thursday and all manner of storm preparation has broken out around me. Fortunately, my wife, Nancy, is always in a state of preparedness for most things. We had plenty of water, food, snacks and batteries, meds, fresh clothing, etc. I settled in to watch two football games Thursday night. Both were humdiingers. I began to realize the seriousness of the matter when the wind started blowing and rain was hitting my house sideways. It really got my attention when in the space of seconds my house was darker than the inside of Marianna caverns. The only sound manifested was the whistling of the wind. It seemed like morning would never come. It did.

We awakened to trees down all over our neighborhood as well as the Big Bend region. 150,000 people were without electricity across the region. One of the clients I had closed had a tree down across their house on the first night they had stayed in it. Of my three children they all had power. My son's thankful to a home generator that powers his whole house, even AC.

We were without power for 60 straight hours. We were able to cook, keep two refigerator's cool, light a couple of lamps, power a TV and run fans thanks to a small generator. The absolute worst was being without AC. We could watch cable and take baths over at our daughter's house but laying in bed sweating is no fun.

As always it is nice and disappointing to see people at their best and worst. Tree removal people were out in droves after the storm. My client with the tree on her house was offered a removal service for $1000 per hour and it was going to be a 5 hour job. Fortunately, she was not born yesterday. Her husband is a police officer and hopefully this contractor will hear from the AG after this cools down. Be nice to see him pay some heavy fines and maybe even do a little time.

It was also nice to see people treating  each other with courtesy as they approached traffic lights that were not working. Dangerous intersections were being negotiated very carefully as people very kindly yielded to one another as they moved through the intersections. I checked on a neighbor who is a very capable widow. She assured me that she was fine. As I left I provided her with an ice cold Diet Dr. Pepper from a cooler on my back seat. She smiled and hugging me accepted the treat and wiped away a little tear. Just a little kindness goes a long way when people are stressed out and disadvantaged.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Psychology of a Bonus

It is an interesting thing to note that a person could be making $200,000 per annum and get a $10,000 bonus and be near nirvana as a result. I was employed by a multi-national, world wide company for 30 years. For twenty years of that time I was a salaried employee as were all of my fellow employees. The company we worked for believed in paying you well. There was no such thing as a peformance bonus. You were given a yearly performance evaluation. If you were fortunate enough to hit on all of the metrics in this performance evlauation you got a salary increase. There was a complicated, human resources developed, career grid. Every position had a level and a salary guideline. If you went from being a paper clip counter 1 to a paper clip counter 2 you got a very nice salary increase. There were 4 levels in each position. The gist was that there was a 56% spread across those levels. If entry level was $10,000 per year then the spread across the level you were in went to $15,600. Go to the next level the entry on that level would be $13,000 and the spread would take you to $20,280. All I know is that I started with the company in 1972 at $7800 per year. When I left, 30 years later, I was making $180,000.

Along the way, I was invited to serve as a member of a task force that looked into adopting a bonus program. Our division, within the company, was to be a test market on the effects of implementing such a bonus program. If it seemed to have a synergistic effect on employee performance then it would be adopted all across the company. The career performance evaluation method was to be retained and this was to be an opportunity for a bonus to be paid out quarterly. It took us 20 meetings at 20 locations across the country. We retained consultants to help us with the analytics and we rolled out the finished product approximately two years later.

The bonus was designed to provide you with an additional 10% added to your base salary. It behooved you to be the bosses fair haired child still to get good peformance evals. It was strange to see the level to which the sales force reacted to this bonus program. There were all sorts of little pockets of schemes across the country designed to tweak the sales numbers to drive optimal bonuses. Most employees lost sight of the fact that 90% of their compensation was performance based along such ideals as ethics, teamwork, sharing of information, etc. Instead people in teams would conspire against fellow employees to drive this 10% bonus system. If their conspiracies were egregious enough they could be disciplined, put on probation and receive no salary increase or bonus.

I was not ever able to see how this effected the overall ability of our sales force to drive more business. The sad result was that due to other issues the company decided to sell our division to another company. There were mass layoffs and I and many of my colleagues who had helped develop this bonus structure never saw enough proof that it was all worth the time and effort to create it.

Thus I conclude after thinking about this issue that there lurks within us some strange corner of reason that bonuses play to. It is sort of like "found" money. I recall the character Clark Grizwold, played by Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation. A sizeable part of his income had to be his salary. That seemed to provide more than adequately since he had a very nice home and numerous amenities. However, he dreamed of his Christmas bonus and the swimming pool it was going to provide for his family. One can only assume that he was willing to put in the extra hours, take on extra assignments, and whatever else it took to max out this bonus.

I suppose that this "found money" analogy must be what drives people to play online poker, buy lottery tickets, spend a week and a wad of money in Atlantic City to win the bonus. The very next lottery ticket I buy will be my first. That truly is a tax on the stupid. That is a whole different post to this Blog. Lot of tricky psychology wrapped up in this whole American scenario of the bonus.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Goat Man

When I was a teenager, I used to spend summers working with my father all over south Alabama, most of Georgia and into Mississippi. His business was cleaning and repairing shopping carts. We traveled around mostly secondary roads into places like Demopolis, Sylacauga, Clanton, Enterprise, etc. We also spent time in the larger cities as well. It was pretty boring and hot, merciless work for which I earned minimum wage.

I clearly remember the few occasions where we would run across the “ Goat Man ” traveling down a secondary, less traveled road. He was always to the side of the road and taking his time and did not seem to ever back up traffic. He was quite a sight with his little herd of 20-30 goats just ambling on down the road pulling a ramshackle old wagon on his way to no where and in no hurry to get there. He always inspired an image of speculation as to what he was all about. Some thought he had some sort of mystical power, I guess somewhat like a wizard. Others thought he was a holy man with a commanding evangelistic style and could save your soul. I guess in the fashion that Neal Diamond used to sing about Brother Loves Travelin Salvation Show. I think the sum and substance of the Goat Man was that he was a penniless, vagabond. There were many characters like him that seemed to find their way through Mayberry on the Andy Griffeth show. Sheriff Taylor always seemed to escort them on out of town as a few chickens and hams disappeared in their presence.

The speculation as to who he was was part of the fun and lore of seeing him. Back in the 60’s we did not have 15 round the clock news and information channels on the cable. As a matter of fact there was no cable TV. There was only a flimsy antenna that could bring in three of the major networks if you were lucky. Thus the speculation was just that, rumor and fantasy for the most part. Nowadays there could have been a reality TV show starring the Goat Man in the same vein as Honey Boo Boo. Perhaps he could have been a presidential candidate.

Wikepedia paints him as somewhat of a kook. His real name was Charles (Ches) McCartney. He had run away from the family farm in Iowa at age 14. I was raised on a farm and left around 14 yoa. I can certainly see the temptation to leave because it was hard work and the lure of the open road would have been tempting. He lived off of his goats and donations from strangers. He was a friendly sort of person and did a little preaching when the mood hit him. It was reported that he smelled very badly. Speculation would be, did he earn the moniker of “ goat man “ from the company he kept or because he smelled like one? He died in 1998. He claimed to be 106, but it is more likely that he was 97. He met his demise in a Georgia, nursing home. He married and had a son who preceded him in death along the way.

I remember moving to Tallahassee in 1972. After a short while living here and driving the streets I encountered a bearded man in a crown and a cape with a gold cross hanging around his neck. I soon learned that this was King Love. His real name was Kamal Abdou Youssef. King Love was born in Egypt in 1933 and matriculated to the states via New York, Tampa and ultimately to Tallahassee. He was a physician and had practiced pathology it was rumored and had somewhere along the way gone off the reservation. His mission in life was pretty simple. He would find a spot on a street corner and dance and shake a tambourine or beat on a drum and would espouse that love was the answer to all the world’s ills. Well, it was hard to argue with him on that accord.

He was obsessed with then Governor Bob Graham. He spent his social security check at Kinkos making up bulletins and flyers which he would toss across the fence at the Governor’s mansion. The security staff kept a close eye on him but never had to shoot at him. I had a golf partner, close friend, who was a practicing ER physician. He told me of an occasion when one of the nurses came to him and told him that King Love had been triaged into one of the exam rooms. He had to come immediately to see the King. The urgency was that he seemed depressed. This nurse declared that seeing King Love depressed was just too sad to deal with . My doctor friend had to do something immediately.  King Love died some time back in federally subsidized housing of natural causes here in Tallahassee. Culleys funeral home gave him a free funeral and burial. There were a surprising number of Tallahasseans in attendance.

I am not sure why I am blogging about this today. Maybe it is because it is rapidly becoming summer and my mind travels back to past summertimes when living seems to get a little slower and laziness descends on us. We are all about the hustle and bustle of whatever it is that we do. To have actually seen these two folk legends in my lifetime causes me to speculate as to what made them compelling? It is sort of like the bumper sticker that used to be popular, “ Why be normal ?” Indeed, why? We see these sorts of folks that seem to be caught up in their own little lives. They live in their private little dillusional existence and seem to get by while all the rest of us are pressing hard to make the buck to pay the rent and pay the utility bill and in my case buy some green peanuts for Nancy, my wife, who loves to boil her own peanuts in the summer time. I think, at least in my case, that there is some envy in play.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

PFC James Clayton Reed

Re-post from May 2011:

My thoughts are turned this Memorial Day weekend to my first cousin, Jimmy Reed. He is one of 3 children born to my aunt Delores and Uncle Clay who lived in Los Angeles, California, light years from where I lived in West Virginia and later Montgomery, Alabama. We shared some happy childhood experiences. We did not see each other often but when we went to visit them or vice versa it was for extended periods of time. I remember him as being funny and entertaining. He was my younger brother's age almost exactly. They could always make me laugh.

Well here I am turning 65 in two days. I had a thirty year career with DuPont and got to travel a lot. I was able to carry some important assignments for DuPont and achieved some degree of recognition. I met a wonderful girl and we fell in love and raised 3 children. We have 7 grand children. I used to coach softball and baseball, volunteer in scouting, work in PTA, go on family vacations and just generally have had a great life.

Jimmy died just west of Khe Sanh during operation Purple Martin March 20,1969. That was just a little more than 30 days before his 19th birthday. He was a member of the D Company, First Battallion, Third MarDiv, USMC. He died that day along with 2nd Lt. Mike McCormick of Wellston, Ohio; LCpl Max Baer of Goshen, Ind; LCpl Steve Byars, Lakeland, Florida; LCpl Ernest Elders of Shelby, NC; PFC Norman Beck of Rockford, Il.; PFC Jeffrey Forry, Marion, OH and PFC Larry Knox of Harrisonville, MO.

I graduated from college in 1969 and rode a student deferrment to avoid military service. I also pulled a 344 as my draft lottery number. Were it not for those two happenstances I well could have had my name engraved onto that war memorial wall in Washington, DC. I have been there and was able to find Jimmy's name on that wall. It is a somber and eloquent memorial fitting as a requiem for those who gave their lives on various battlefields of the Vietnam war. For whatever purpose that war served I honor his memory this Memorial Day. I wish I could pick up the phone and call him and tell him a joke or two but that opportunity was nullified by the winds of war. His Mother, my aunt Delores, has grieved every day for her fallen son for 42 years now.

It is pure irony how some of us end up pursuing the military option. Today we have a totally volunteer military. You press the statistics on the makeup of our armed forces and you will see a lot of people who just seemed to have no other option than to join the military. The impetus is largely economic with job prospects being what they are. In mine and Jimmy's youth the draft was rampant. The selective service boards were steaming at full speed. In my case, had I not been a student it was a certainty that I would have been drafted into the miltary.

I recall that in those days you would report for a college class and two or three of the people that had been in the class the day before would be gone. You had to maintain a class standing to keep your draft exemption of 2-S. In order to do that you had to be in the upper 1/4th of your freshman class in academic performance. Fail to do that and you were draft fodder. Sophomores had to be in the upper 1/2 and Juniors in the upper 3/4. If you made it to be a senior then they left you alone. Along about my freshman year they administered the selective service standardized test. The guys at Harvard made the claim that the students in the bottom 3/4 of their freshman classes were superior to the upper 1/4 of the freshman class at State College X. So the selective service came up with the standardized test and administered it to us all in the second semester of my 1st year. You either had to maintain your academic standing or have scored 75% or better on the test. I remember scoring a 78 and my worries were ended.

There was also a point at which I was thinking I needed to drop out of college. I checked with the draft board and I was told the day after I did I would be reclassified 1-A and almost certainly drafted into the military. I do not know of Jimmy's circumstances but while I was studying Mark Twain in English 301 he was most likely doing basic training at Paris Island. Talk about worlds apart.

When I ponder the freedoms under which I live and also ponder the 58,220 war dead from the Vietnam war, the 405,399 from WW2 and the 116,516 from WW1 I feel guilty and appreciative at the same time. I do believe that those fallen willingly sacrificed their lives so that we could continue to breathe the free and unfettered air of liberty. I have to ask myself what sort of life have I led to justify the single death of my cousin Jimmy, not to mention the 100's of thousands of war dead who made similar sacrifices.

I suppose I have made small sacrifices but the bumper sticker I read once that said "All gave some but some gave all" makes me realize what an investment we all have in our freedom. Just about every American can tell a similar story as mine about my cousin, Jimmy. I contemplate why he had to lay down and die that day in Vietnam. It was because he felt the call to duty and like others of his family before him felt the obligation to serve. Pure and simple.

May we take a little time to really remember those who sacrificed their lives and well being to keep us safe and free this Memorial Day weekend. God bless you Jimmy. You were way too young to die. I hope to see you again someday, if I am worthy, and shake your hand and say thank you in person. I hope that you will see someone standing in front of you who you can feel justified your sacrifice. I need to work to become such.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


How many times have you been lying in your bed at night and just drifting off to sleep and some Neanderthal comes driving by with his woofers at full WOOF?. He is very likely to be a pimply faced little boy who looks like a troll and could not buy himself a date with a girl. So he and his friends are cruising in your neighborhood, sharing the milk of their taste in Rap music. Wait a minute, delete the music from that sentence, because it ain’t and insert a capital C in front of the rap because it is.

There was such an event that occurred recently in Jacksonville that resulted when a citizen in between doses of his Adderall emptied his 9 MM magazine into a car of punks who were playing their music in a loud and obnoxious fashion in the parking lot of a convenience store. He asked them to turn the C-rap down and they refused. He then went off the reservation and killed one of them and mortally wounded 3 others. Betcha the one who assumed room temperature wishes that he had just turned it down if only for a brief moment. I think he earned a life sentence in Federal prison for his action. Betcha he wishes now that he had just gone home and taken his Adderall.

My wife and I were recently at the beach to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. We drove down to Mexico Beach one of our favorite hangouts. We always rent a room at the same place and enjoy the sounds of the surf. US Highway 98 runs right through the middle of Mexico Beach. Everywhere we looked we saw motorcycles. From the moment we checked into our room we heard the sound of motorcycles. For two days we got to see and hear, first hand, the participants in a week long gathering called “ Thunder Beach.”  I respect people’s right to own and operate a motorcycle. They are a fascinating sub-culture of people. Most of them wear Harley Davidson monogrammed clothing. Pretty much all of them have numerous and sundry tattoos many of which you would be ashamed for your minister, daughter or granny to see and read. The bikes they ride cost a pretty penny. I am not sure that Harley-Davidson stock is publicly traded but it bears looking into about like Smith and Wesson stock. One profile that I think demarcates the subculture is that most of them are OLD MEN. They have to have been successful to afford those Hawgs.  By the way do you know what they call motorcyclists down at the ER? Organ donors. In the meantime, ride those damnable things somewhere else besides my neighborhood or my beach.

I live on a busy street. The traffic at certain times is unmerciful. Everyone in Tallahassee cuts through Killearn Estates to get somewhere else. We also happen to have a very nice sidewalk that runs in front of my house. The joggers, walkers, bikers, pogo stick enthusiasts, etc. comprise a steady stream of traffic by my house. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have been awakened prior to 6:00 AM by runners and/or joggers that come by my house guffawing and talking to each other at the top of their lungs. It is the rudest, most selfish activity that I can imagine. Now I am proud of people who exercise. Heaven knows I could use a little more of it myself. However could you not do it without noise? How about give me your address so I can get my golf group together and drive golf balls off the side of your house at 4:00 AM.

I love the people who go walking through the supermarket with their cell phones on speaker. They are talking at the top of their lungs to someone on the other end talking at the top of their lungs. Do you really think the rest of humanity gives a rip what you and your genetically deficient friend are talking about? At the very least take it off speaker. At the very most wait til you get home to hold this meaningless, superfluous conversation.

Even mother nature intercedes on our quietude at times. I love mockingbirds. I think they are our state bird here in Florida. I have had numerous experiences at 3:00 AM where a mockingbird has decided to serenade me outside my balcony. A pellet gun can be useful during such episodes. Waving a towel at the energetic little insomniac is effective. I remember once upon a time visiting friends in Arizona. Now that is a serious time lag. If you can last to 10:00PM their time you are retiring at 1:00 AM your time. On this particular occasion I remember a mockingbird serenade beginning at about 2:00 AM EST and persisting well past morning. Maddening!

Why do the inhabitants of our world have to be so incessantly loud? Is it installed into their DNA? Do they need to be noticed? Are they lacking something in their personal lives? How many times have you stayed in a hotel where a party begins at midnight and persists for many hours right next door to you? This usually happens when you have to be at a meeting at 7:30 AM. I remember one such occurrence in the Rennaisance in downtown Atlanta. The party began at 1:00 AM. No pounding on the walls, calling the front desk beating on their door could tone it down. The smell of Mary Jane wafts through the door between your rooms. They have numerous bouts of wrestling on the bed that bangs up against your head board. They could care less that they are keeping you awake. On this one occasion I had to arise at 6:00 be in my meeting at 7:30. By this time they are sleeping comfortably in their beds. The last act before I leave the room is push the TV to face their door and turn it up to full volume. I am sure that they were so stoned that it mattered little. I still smiled as I pushed the button to summon the elevator.

Our US Constitution was written with these words in the preamble “….to ensure the domestic tranquility………” What the heck ever happened to that notion? In parting I find irony in the fact the army, CIA, UN, etc. brought the ruthless thug Manuel Noriega to justice by flushing him from his mansion by playing rock and roll at killer decibles 24/7 until he crawled out in a state of humble silly-puttiness and surrendered. Something to think about.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sweet Caroline

Today I blog about my first grandchild, Caroline. I think back to when I first met her. She was minutes old, coming from the delivery room in her father's arms. She was a little ball of pink, glowing newness. She had just come from her Mother's tummy. That tummy that I used to tickle in a father's generational fashion when she was a wee little tot. I loved Caroline instantly as I had her mother when I first saw her in 1976.

Caroline is one of 7 grandchildren belonging to my wife, Nancy, and I. We love them all proportionately. However, the first grandchild holds an important place in a grandparent's value system. Sort of in the same fashion as Iasaac must have held Joseph within the relevence of time and space. She was such a godsend to us in a time in our lives when we needed some sort of interdiction from on high.

I had just been out-placed from my job and career of thirty years. It was only a job and a means to an end. But it also carried within it security and expression of the well springs of my life enabling me to provide for myself and my family. It was a jolt to my central nervous system and due to the fact that it jolted me it had a similar effect on Nancy and our daughters and son. I had decided to launch a new career in real estate in that year 2002. This was a major paradigm shift for all of us. There was a lot of angst surrounding a learning curve that required class time and testing and ultimately licensure.

On this particular day in August I announced to my new colleagues that I had to leave a meeting that I was in and go to the hospital to become a grandfather. That raised some eyebrows as if I were scheduling cardioversion or some sort of surgical procedure. I explained that my daughter was due to have a caeserian section at 2:00 PM and I would thus become a grandfather. The raised eyebrows transitioned instantly to smiles and laughs and congratulations.

Due to to the fact that our daughter was working and our son in law was in medical school we had the grand opportunity of having Caroline with us over the course of many days and sometimes even nights. She shifted our focus to the new beginnings of a little life surrounding nurturing and innocence. I cannot help but remember the words and lilt of a song that Bobby Goldsboro sang in the 60's. It was Watching Scotty Grow. All that had brought worry and anxiety to our lives dissipated into the day to day practice of watching our little Caroline grow. We doted on her and still do to this day 13+ years later. I cannot help but remember how she used to cry and pitch an unmeasured fit when her parents would come to get her and take her home with them. I smile today at their having to bring her back and let her hug and kiss us one more time. It was not as if they were carrying her off to water board her. It is just the unseen bond that develops between a child and grandparent that borders on euphoria, an unseen state of well being.

Time would pass and Caroline would add two more little sisters to her family. We loved each of them in their own special way. Our love with them is a trivalent bond that cannot be broken. It is soddered by the same mixture of doting attention wrought in a way that only a grandparent can perform. Once when she was little her mother waked her one morning and announced to her that she was going to have a wonderful day and to guess where she was going to go. It was somewhere wonderful. Caroline immediately responded with 'Nana and Pop's house?' She was even somewhat disappointed to learn that she was going to Disney World.

Her father accepted a medical residency in Pensacola. Caroline and her little sister, Kate, would be moving 400 miles in a round trip from us. Caroline and Kate stayed numerous days with us while Mom and Dad arranged the move into a demanding life as a medical resident. We somehow made it through that separation. We did put several thousand miles on a fairly new Mercury Mountaineer over the course of those 4 years.

They also made numerous treks back to our home for holidays and wonderful visits adding a little Georgia Clare to the family as well as a  90 pound American Bulldog, named Sam.

When Caroline was little I used to feed her animal crackers. I would hold one in front of her and ask her the question " Who loves you baby?" She would respond with "Pop" and she would get the cracker. It always disappeared quickly with a smile on both of our faces. Once, years later, during a family dinner she looked at me as she handed me some bread and asked, " Who loves you, baby?" I melted then and I melt now thinking of that and a thousand other little, silly interchanges with our Caroline over her 13 years of life.

The day after Thanksgiving when she was 5'ish. She had come from Pensacola and was sitting on my lap as I played some songs from You Tube. This was a common scene when she came into my office. On this particular day I chose to play her Neal Diamond's, Sweet Caroline . She relished it. Of course I had to embellish the experience a bit and tell her that song was about her. She was captivated by it as we played it over and over. Then she wanted to write a letter to Mr. Diamond and thank him for writing that song about her. I helped her write the letter. We sealed it in an envelope and put it in the mailbox and she went off happily preoccupied with the strains of Sweet Caroline playing in her little memory. It struck me as irony that just at a time on the calendar when other little children were writing to Santa Claus, Caroline was writing to Neal Diamond.

On the occassion of Nancy's 60th birthday. I connived and threw her a surprise birthday party. People came from as far away as Mesa, Arizona and Columbia, South Carolina. Of course, Caroline and her Mom and sisters came from Pensacola to join the surprise. We had hired a DJ to play music. He happened to be one of Caroline's Uncles. One of the songs in his armamentarium was Sweet Caroline. She was 5 at the time and wore a red dress. She managed to coax her Uncle Stace into playing that song over and over. She would happily dance swirling around the dance floor in that pretty little red dress and stole the night.

Someday, I will lay down in a place hopefully not very far from here and graduate from this life. I will replay a lot of scenarios in my mind in the same fashion that Mufasa from the Lion King did partly with his son, Simba, as he made the jump to hyperspace. I will see a little girl in a red dress dancing around a dance floor to the tune of Sweet Caroline. I will inventory my life and count my many blessings. This precious little grandaughter that my daughter and son in law and the God who gave me life sent to me will be present in my inventory of memories. What joy and happiness she has brought to me and so many others. To say I love you Caroline is an inadequate expression of what you have meant to me. May your life be filled with  many happy memories of life similar to what you have brought to me.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Repost on Capital Punishment ( From February, 2011 )

We are embroiled in a capital trial here in Tallahassee. The accused is a man named Hilton who allegedly killed and decapitated a nurse from Crawfordville named Cheryl Dunlap around Christmas three years ago. Hilton has already been found guilty in Georgia for the decapitation murder of a young lady hiker and sentenced to life in prison there. He was extradited here to stand trial for Dunlap's murder to apply the rule of law, provide closure for the victim's family and, in that Florida still has the death penalty, pay for his crime with his own life.

So the debate continues on concerning should government via it's judiciary be in the business of applying the Mosaic law of " an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" ?
As an aside, I wonder just how far the Mosaic law is from Shiria law in that realm. Under Shiria law, it is my understanding that a woman may be stoned to death for committing adultery. That is a big time " Whatttttttttt?" on my radar screen. They ain't enough rocks in America to keep up with that death sentence as adultery is as common as drinking water.

However, back to the capital punishment debate. In my past I have held the personal belief that capital punishment should be a part of our system. It is an effective deterrent in my mind. If for no other reason it deters mass murderers from recommiting the same crime. What about the rights of the deceased to have justice applied? Where there is overwhelming evidence that the accused perpetrated the dastardly deed does not the punishment match the criminal act?

I then read a book by John Grisham, called The Chamber , and another entitled The Innocent Man. They both had at their core the capital punishment debate. One was a saga of a grandson of a member of the KKK on death row for a bombing of a southern church where little girls were killed. The other was a man who served 20 years in prison lots, of it on death row, until proven innocent. They softened me up a little on capital punishment. However, I, who has extreme claustophobia and panic disorder, would prefer to be gone than to have to spend the rest of my life in a cage.

I just read an op ed by Sandy D'Alemberte whose name I never could spell correctly. He used to be the president of FSU and is a very bright and wise JD. It was just published this past Sunday in our local muckraker newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat. He calls into question the wisdom in retrying Hilton for a crime for which he has been sentenced to life in prison up in Georgia. In these hard economic times why should Florida citizens have to bear that expense? Another juris doctorate answered his query in this morning's edition of the fish gut wrapper, Democrat. He basically said that a criminal should not be allowed to manipulate the system to his benefit. To wit, Hilton confessed to the crime in Georgia so as to avoid prosecution in Florida and risk having his own head sawed off with a serrated hunting knife by a state paid assassin. Of course his victims did not have a choice in that regard in that he acted as judge, jury and executioner in each heinous act of lunacy.

I cannot help but reflect back over the years. I remember picking up the newspaper in my front yard back in January of 1978 and reading the blood chilling account of the Chi Omega murders. We were all touched by this maniac over the years in just staring at him as you would a two headed mountain goat at the county fair. You were disgusted at his depravity but we were drawn to the account of this looney tune as it played out in the written and electronic media. They even made a movie about Ted Bundy and someone wrote a book. Heck, some freako even married him and had a child by him through the benefit of conjugal visits while he was in prison.

I used to be in the pharmaceuticals business. For a period of time I called on Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. I used to go back into the forensic unit and speak with the psychiatrists back there in that hell hole. That is where they keep the people who killed their grandmother for turning off the TV in the middle of a Tom and Jerry cartoon and then grinding her into sausage. They were adjudged to be too crazy to stand trial and placed in the forensic unit at Florida State Hospital (FSH). I would walk by the doors where they kept the Freddie Kreugers of our world and the screams and epithets you heard would make your hair stand on end. If there is a such a place on earth where demonic spirits rule, I would nominate that place as spook central.

Anyway on one particular day I was in to visit my friend and client Dr. Carmencita Mola, psychiatrist. There was quite a buzz ensuing amongst the staff. I asked her what was up and she told me that Ted Bundy was coming to their facility for a few days. I asked for what purpose. The answer is almost laughable. You see, he was sitting on death row after having been sentenced to death in Lake City for the rape and murder of Kimberly Diane Leach. All the pleas had played out and it was pretty certain that Teddy was going to fry. Now ( you are not ready for this ) the state of Florida was postured to kill him in a few short months. He was in FSH to receieve counseling to help him deal with the fact that the people who were paying for this counseling were going to kill him. I wonder how much "counseling" he gave the 36 to 136 people whom he killed prior to bludgeoning them?

Incidentally, I had a close friend, Alex, who was an assistant state attorney in Lake City. I would see him pretty frequently and we would go to lunch. It was his task to bring evidence to the table to help prosecute Bundy. He interviewed him face to face. He told me two things that remain with me to this day. One was that being in the presence of Bundy was like looking into the eyes of Satan. Secondly, Alex had a little 12 year old daughter. He told me that reviewing the evidence of the murder kept him awake at night. He was a pretty tough old state attorney and the evidence was so horrible it kept him awake.

I knew two people who were in law school with Bundy at University of Utah. My son dated a girl in college whose father had been the policeman who had arrested him in west Florida. All said what a sociopathic human being he seemed to be.

To end my recollections about Bundy who assumed room temperature 22 years ago I have to put you on an airplane heading to Tampa. Halfway there the captain came on the PA and announced that Ted Bundy had just been executed. There was spontaneous applause that occurred throughout the cabin. I am not going to tell you whether or not I joined in. I do remember staring out at the ground below reflecting long and hard for the rest of the trip on the role of the death penalty in our judicial system.

I think if I were a relative or friend of Cheryl Dunlap I might want to reserve a front row center seat to witness Mr. Hilton take his last breath somewhere down the road. If it had been my wife or daughter he had taken and killed I would pray for 2-3minutes alone with him in a room. I suppose that capital punishment must have a stronghold in our primieval identity.