The 3 Day Labor Day Holiday Weekend!

Today is Friday, September 2, 2016, and it is the big kickoff for the most coveted prize in the overworked American’s daily lives, the fabulous 3 day weekend! Today marks the start for this years Labor day Weekend, the last big holiday of the summer…For 3 whole days we don’t have to worry about the hellish commute back and forth to work world, or our egotistical pain in the ass bosses, the snippety coworkers we have to endure on a 9-5 daily basis, or the boring routine of the same job….We will be free, at least for the weekend, of the shackles of routine! (This is a reprint of my 2015 Labor Day blog)

Yes! We are free! We have the right to hit the road, to go anywhere and do anything that our budget allows, and since Labor Day traditionally marks the official end of the summer, most of us are bound and determined to do something fun, different and memorable! In the old days, the Labor Day weekend also marked the end of school vacation for kids, we always had to go back to school the day after Labor Day, but in these more modern times most schools are already open and holding classes already…The kids summer vacation is already gone and done with…

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So Labor Day in the year 2016 is more of a last ditch holiday for adults, and families too, as we try desperately to hold onto the magic of the warm summer days we have been enjoying, we all have one more weekend of basking in the sun, going to the beach, swimming, sunbathing, boating, barbecuing etc…Because we all know all too soon the chill winds of autumn and the beauty of the falling leaves will soon replace the idyllic summer months…..

And autumn is a fun time too, but we also all know it is a prelude to the howling freezing winds of winter, which will settle on the country with an icy grip… Snow and cold will descend with their grim reminders of reality, replace the sunshine and warmth of summer, and the view we have outside our windows will be drastically altered….There will be increased heating bills, more traffic snarls and icy roads, and that biting freezing winter weather to deal with….

But forget about all that inevitability, this is the Labor Day Weekend, let’s have some fun! Labor Day these days is all about the weekend getaway for most people, to leave their homes and pack the family in the car and take off, somewhere, anywhere….If we live in the city, most of us will visit relatives who live in the country, especially if they are situated near any body of water, but there is water in the cities too… Any lake, a river, an ocean that have any kind of boating, fishing, or water related facilities for sports like swimming or fishing or water skiing available is a bonus…

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At the very least, we will visit relatives and have family get togethers and barbecue, the last of the big 3 traditional barbecues of the summer….The first of the 3 traditional American barbecue holidays is the 3 day Memorial Day holiday barbecue, which marks the beginning of spring and is a glorious prelude to the summer…This holiday is like a rebirth, because we have escaped the icy fingers of winter and are ready to celebrate the advent of the spring, with all it’s new hopes and promises….

Unfortunately, we have mostly forgotten the original premise of Memorial Day, which was to honor the memory of all the brave soldiers who gave their lives defending this country so we could have 3 day holidays like this in our glorious democracy in the first place…American holidays are like that, ever shifting and changing and evolving, and many people still honor the memory of our fallen soldiers respectfully, especially if they have personally lost family members…But in their honor, we also party and pass on the torch that way…

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The 2nd traditional barbecue day is the 4th of July….This holiday is a glorious celebration of our great country’s birth, and at the height of the summer, we always have a 3 day 4th of July weekend replete with the traditional barbecue but also patriotic themes, parades and festooned bunting and flags everywhere, not to mention the incessant din of fireworks, both at locally sponsored and sanctioned fireworks displays and truth be told, in our own back yards…

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But today marks the beginning of the 3rd and final traditional barbecue day, the official end of the summer, the Labor Day weekend… Originally, according to my Google sources: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Originally Labor Day was marked by speeches by prominent men and women, as more emphasis was placed upon the civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the Labor movement…..The holiday often marks the end of the traditional summer season (although summer doesn’t officially end until September 21)….

To take advantage of large numbers of potential customers free to shop, Labor Day has become an important sale weekend for many retailers in the United States. Some buyers retailers claim it is one of the largest sale dates of the year, second only to the Christmas season’s Black Friday.

Ironically, because of the importance of the sale weekend, some of those who are employed in the retail sector not only work on Labor Day, but work longer hours! More Americans work in the retail industry than any other, with retail employment making up 24% of all jobs in the United States. As of 2012, only 3% of those employed in the retail sector were members of a labor union. (Oh, and FYI, in high society, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable to wear white or seersucker..”)

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So it seems as if we have come full circle! From celebrating the growth and strength of the Labor movement, now that union membership is at an all time low, we now just celebrate the freedom of NOT having to work, except for those poor souls trapped in the retail sector….Like Memorial Day, we have evolved and drifted away from the original meaning of Labor Day…

Still, for most people, the 3 day Labor Day weekend is the last hurrah for summer, the last chance to get away from it all, and if we aren’t trapped in the dreaded retail sector, it is our last chance to enjoy our independence from the yoke of work world, to bust out and have some fun, and since we are all Americans, we do it with a vengeance…And why not? We earned it!

To you and all of yours, Happy Labor Day!

The 4th Of July 2017/Happy Birthday America!

Today is the 4th of July, Happy Birthday America, #241! This is perhaps the most American of all the holidays, because it is the anniversary of our nation’s birth with the signing of the Declaration of Independence…Today I choose to celebrate all that is right with America and why I love it instead of carping on all it’s many flaws….(This is a reprint of my original blog from 2015.)

America was built on the foundations of democracy, freedom and liberty, all noble, lofty goals that were considered a great social experiment at the time and achieved only through the blood, sweat and tears of millions of hard working, long suffering Americans, determined to throw off the oppressive yoke of British imperialism once and for all…The American model of democracy was a first, defying the divine right of kings and declaring that each man was as good as the next...

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According to my Google sources: “The American experiment was unique and improbable in 1776, when Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and the American colonies defied Britain, the most powerful nation on earth at the time. As we look around the world at how difficult it is for democracy and freedom to take hold and flourish, America seems like a political miracle.”

The self-evident truth that “all men are created equal; endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” remains the powerful philosophical and moral foundation of a successful foreign policy no less than it is the foundation of the American republic itself.”

“In 1787, Thomas Jefferson also knew how great the appeal would be:

“The flames kindled on the 4th of July, 1776, have spread across too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume the engines and all who work them.” The self-evident truth that “all men are created equal; endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” remains the powerful philosophical and moral foundation of a successful foreign policy no less than it is the foundation of the American republic itself.”

But today is a day for the average American to enjoy their 3-4 day weekend, to fire up the BBQ and knock down some cold ones with their families and friends, to just kick it and hang out with loved ones and forget about all the troubles all over the world…The world is a restless, warlike place, and we have it good in this country, there is no other place I would ever live than right here in the good old USA!

So here’s to all the parades and fireworks and backyard get togethers, all the little things that when you add them up make this such a great country to live in….Here’s to a place where the unique social experiment called democracy, the founding of our own independent republic and the throwing off of the chains of imperialist Britain, is celebrated today…

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We brought that arrogant kingdom, the British Empire, to it’s knees and their surrendering to the unity and bravery of the average American was such a rousing triumph of will power, spirit, and courage it deserves to be honored and celebrated each and every year on the 4th of July!….

As we drink our beers and watch our fireworks today, as we gather together with our families and friends,  let us never forget the hard work and dangerous sacrifices of such men as Thomas Jefferson, who composed and penned the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence. Or Samuel Adams, who organized and spearheaded the “Sons of Liberty” in Boston, arranging among other events the celebrated Boston Tea Party, and Benjamin Franklin who memorably stated the obvious truth: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

This was no mere rhetoric, nor was Patrick Henry’s eloquently fiery speech to the Virginia convention: “Give me liberty or give me death!” It was a simple statement of fact and a sober acknowledgment of what would happen to these brave men if their noble experiment in breaking away from England had failed…They were rebels all, firmly against the establishment, and they made it all possible for all of us, their descendants to enjoy our lives under the freedom we enjoy today and celebrate and party this weekend, like only Americans know how to do…

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Somebody once said, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” and this has always been true, but for one day let’s forget all the divisive politics and hateful rhetoric of the special interest groups running amok  and reflect on how we got to where we are today, to unite and rejoice as one country…There are numerous political hot spots all over the world and nuclear saber rattling from North Korea right now, all of which can and will be dealt with. This is the constant narrative of life in our modern world. But still, let’s try to put aside our petty differences and agree on at least one home truth:

Today is a day to relax and party and celebrate and enjoy being an American, the best country in the world! Happy Birthday America! Happy 4th Of July!

Memorial Day 2017

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Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor all of the fallen soldiers who have died defending our country throughout it’s history…We have all probably lost loved ones to some war at some time, since war seems to always be with us, but there can be no greater sacrifice than laying down your life for your country in combat….(This is basically a reprint of last year’s blog, in memoriam.)

There will be marches and parades and ceremonies all over the country today memorializing those who died in the service of their country. But be it in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or wherever American soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice, this is their special day….

According to my Google sources: Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for “remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.”

I have my own personal story to relate…My favorite cousin, Danny, served in Vietnam…Every day of his tour there as a US soldier, he volunteered to go “on point” on the various patrols his unit was engaged in…Going “on point” basically meant that you were the first soldier to lead your unit through hostile territory on the patrol, seeking out and searching for enemy positions and hence the most likely to first encounter the enemy….It was a very dangerous task, and most soldiers were reluctant to volunteer for it…

Danny reasoned that somebody had to do it, and he trusted in fate to see him through, and it did, he never once received a scratch while on point, the most dangerous duty a foot soldier in Vietnam could perform…. Although ironically, the war did claim him after all… He died of malaria he contracted in Vietnam a few short years after he returned unscathed from the war itself…

So I am sure we all have our own personal tales of friends and relatives who fought and died in foreign wars, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and countless friends and contemporaries…In fact, almost all of us baby boomers had fathers who served in WW II, both in the European and Pacific theaters of war….These are the men that Tom Brokaw immortalized in his book, “The Greatest Generation”…..

An ex soldier named Brett McKay expounded on Brokaw’s theme when he wrote “But there may never have been a generation when the ratio of honorable men to slackers was higher than the one born between 1914 and 1929. These were the men that grew up during the Great Depression. They’re the men who went off to fight in the Big One.

And they’re the men who came home from that war and built the nations of the Western world into economic powerhouses. They knew the meaning of sacrifice, both in terms of material possessions and of real blood, sweat, and tears. They were humble men who never bragged about what they had done or been through. They were loyal, patriotic, and level-headed. They were our Greatest Generation.”

I think that WWII will forever be remembered as the last “good” war, when the forces of good and evil were so clearly defined; with the lunatic fringe of Hitler’s Nazi’s and the calculated Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor plunging Fortress America into a war it neither expected nor desired…

But it was like getting jumped on the street, you had to fight back to survive, and every human being will fight to preserve his own life or family, simply out of self defense, it is an innate human defense survival mechanism, without which we could not have survived throughout the ages…

I am not defending war, but sometimes it seems it is thrust upon us and we have no choice but to fight back, and that seems to have been most obvious in WWII…The other wars that followed, the Korean war, Vietnam, the Iraq and the whole middle eastern set of wars still going on  have been assailed by many as politically motivated, and not a clear case of self defense….The terrorist threat has increased, and the recent North Korean nuclear brinkmanship is real and scary.

 

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This does not lessen the tragedy, heartbreak, and human toll on the soldiers who fought and are still fighting in these wars, and especially on their families at home…. Memorial Day in this country is for ALL the soldiers who died in the service of America, and for all of them and their families we should give thanks, honor, and respect…It is often said “Old men make wars, and young men fight and die in them”….

Anyway that is the real meaning of Memorial Day, so give a few moments out of your busy 3 day weekend of barbeques and fishing trips and travel excursions and family get togethers to at least reflect on the ultimate sacrifice these military men, mostly all young men and women, who were cut down in the flower of their youth serving their country, our country, America….

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Remember they were doing it for us, they died or were wounded in action with hostile forces to defend our way of life, to preserve our heritage, our traditions….In truth, many of them did not want to do it but did it anyway, and that is a measure of their courage and sacrifice that should be remembered and honored in this one day of the year set aside for their memories, Memorial Day….

War is horrible, it is ugly and destructive and negative and ultimately self perpetuating, an endless round of attacks and retaliations, and we can only hope that one day everybody, especially ALL of the world leaders will come to their senses and recognize this basic fact….Until then we can only honor our fallen soldiers, whoever and wherever they made the ultimate sacrifice on this, their special day…

It reminds me of Peter Seeger’s hauntingly beautiful folk song” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”

Where indeed? And for what, and for why? As the Who sang: “All the Banners Still Flew in the Next War” Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it; so today, let us all take a moment to remember!

 

For more posts by John Whye see johnwhye.com

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017! Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)

This is a blog I am re-posting from last year…

Well it has happened again! It is New Years Eve, and another year has spun off into the empty abyss of memory, another calendar page tumbles slowly but inevitably to the floor, another year of regrets and triumphs, victories and defeats, advances and setbacks, all gone, gone, gone….Gone forever, like swirling mists in the wind, like flickering shadows at night, like fog in the morning….One year sets and another year arises, just like the sun on it’s daily rounds….

We will gather tonight, many of us at the ritualistic parties and celebrations that have become symbolic of New Years Eve in all cultures, all through the world, and especially tonight here in America, to welcome in the new year, and to say farewell to the old year…What else can we do? We are only human, after all, and it is an intrinsic part of our nature to always look forward, to celebrate the new….Many of us will overdo it, become inebriated and raging drunk, some of us will do things we would never ordinarily do….It is all OK, it is all expected, it is all traditional, it is New Years Eve! And tomorrow is New Years Day, all bright and shiny and full of hope and promise, a New Year, a new beginning….

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Some of us will drive crazy and make passes at friends and neighbors, and dance and party like there is no tomorrow….We will set off beautiful pyrotechnic fireworks displays and gather together, either at large outdoor city sponsored celebrations or in more intimate venues, at private parties with our best friends and neighbors, or in gaily decorated festive bars and restaurants to mark the momentous occasion…All the while knowing deep inside that tomorrow is already here, that there is no going back, that things can only get better, because they couldn’t get any worse….

Or as Jimi Hendrix put it:

“After all the jacks are in their boxes
And the clowns have all gone to bed
You can hear happiness staggering on down the street
Footprints dressed in red
And the wind whispers Mary”

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New Year's Eve revelers party in downtown Orlando on the evening of Wednesday, December 31, 2003. Street party at Church Street. (Orlando Sentinel/Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda) ORG XMIT: 14376

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We will dutifully make our annual ritualistic new year’s resolutions, knowing full well we will never keep them…Oh yes, we will promise to quit drinking, or quit smoking, or go on a diet, we will vow to live a more healthy life style, to take care of all that unfinished business, to make things right this year, this glorious, unsullied, full of hope and promise brand new year! But all the time knowing deep down these resolutions are rarely kept, and honored only in the good intentions and positive spirit that they were made in…And this is a good and honorable and human thing to do, to at least try….

So Yes! We will! We will try to be better people, kinder, gentler, more humane….We will get that promotion, we will raise our children right, we will be better parents, we will all be better friends, better wives or husbands, better lovers or significant others, yes, we will!… This time, things will be different, this time, this shining, bright new year, we really, really will………………………………………try!

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The time for regrets and sorrows is behind us now, what’s done is done, the old year is gone, and we have the bright open, vast spaces of the new year to work with now, and this year will be the one, the year we have always wanted, it is right there, it is right here, in our grasp, we just have to hold on tightly and not let go!….We need only to keep the dream alive, each and every individual one of us, and it will all come true, there is no valid reason we cannot achieve our goals, overcome our inner demons, climb that mountain of hope and promise and realize true peace and happiness….It is all spread out before us, 365 more days to make it happen, to make it work, to make it right….

And as we look forward to the redemption and hope and promise of the new year, it would be well to remember that this is the human condition, this is what connects us all as human beings…The Scottish national poet and lyricist Robert Burns perhaps put it best, way back in the 1700’s, in his most famous and best known and still revered song, “Auld Lang Syne”…Even though the original words are blurred and archaic and the accent to thick for modern ears to translate freely, most people will gather at midnight and sing along as best we can, because it is a song about the indomitable human spirit as well as the wry recognition of the human condition….

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Freely translated, most of us will at least know these few lines from Robert Burns immortal and hauntingly beautiful song, about life and love and just being human, and once again on New Years Eve we will join together to sing them as the clock strikes the midnight hour…..We all know how the song goes, we all comprehend it’s meaning, we all know the tune…

“Auld Lang Syne,” by Robert Burns:

“Well Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of long ago?

CHORUS:
For days of long ago, my dear,
for days of long ago,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for days of long ago.”

 

HAPPY NEW YEARS EVERYBODY!

 

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

A Christmas Tale, 2015

So this is it, it’s finally here, Christmas 2015!…Christmas Day always reminds me of the classic John Lennon song: “So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one’s just begun…” A beautiful song, full of hope and promise, and one we should all take to heart…

At home here in most of America, this is a blissful, joyous time, with a constant round of Christmas shopping and Christmas tree decorating and stringing of lights and wrapping of packages all finally over and done with…..(Like I always say, Thanksgiving is a sprint, Christmas is a marathon!)

Or for all the other peaceful religious observances that non Christians enjoy, as is their right and privilege, this is still that one special day of the year for everybody to celebrate, to live and let live, to enjoy what we have and bask and glow within the love of our families……..This is the true America…..

This is also the time for religious observances for all denominations, creeds and beliefs, and an affirmation of life, of love, of peace and harmony, the way it should be all the time…It is the the Christmas spirit that envelops us all at this time of year, and Christmas is especially for the children….You are truly blessed if you have a happy family and children to spend your Christmas holidays together with each other….

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And yet, there is another, darker side of the world to ponder over as this year 2015 inexorably winds down to it’s inevitable conclusion…It’s been a wild and crazy year, with the media daily reporting constant radical fighting and bloodshed, mostly in the Mideast, but also in France, in Belgium and political/religious terrorists right here at home, most recently in San Bernadino, California…These sad, pathetic, brain washed, alienated, vengeful extremists vainly sacrificing their lives trying to jam their version of radical righteousness down everybody’s throat under religious pretexts and concepts that have been outdated for a thousand years….

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But are we really any better in this country? You have the ignorant racist rhetoric of a Donald Trump, always shooting his mouth off to promote himself and get people to pay attention to him…You have the entire Republican party held hostage by the 1% like the fascist Koch brothers and their obscene wealth who make insanely rich campaign contributions funneled into the Super Pacs, so they can literally buy politicians to espouse their own racist, sexist, homophobic fossilized concepts and promote their own brand of out dated reality…

To the 1%, the rest of the world does not matter…They are so rich and so insulated behind their castles of money, power, affluence and influence, living in their ivory towers of pride and prejudice, they are almost untouchable, and they are making a concerted attempt to hijack our country and the democratic, egalitarian ideals it was founded upon….They want to seize even more power to become even more disgustingly rich, while they deny the very existence of global warming and the destruction of the planet’s atmosphere….

They deny global warming even in the face of factual evidence that it is going to be warmer in New York than California this year, for their own greedy profits….They buy and elect Republican candidates who are their mouthpieces, who wage war on women, who want to roll the clock back over a hundred years where women had no rights at all and gay people were persecuted and pilloried for their sexual orientation…

They support the NRA and the gun lobby so there are thousands more guns in the street than ever before, so every crackpot with a chip on their shoulder can buy a gun legally and go off on a murderous spree killing innocent people over the slightest pretext or imagined insult or half baked political cause….

And what do they get out of this? They get even more wealthy, they thrill to the seductive sway of power, like the mad Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, blind to the injustice, the hatred, the negative energy their viewpoints engender, isolated and alone in their dark and evil land of Mordor/Murder….

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Separated at birth? Could there really have been THREE Koch brothers?

They have been seduced by evil, and they do not even recognize it, or worse, they do not care, they relish it, they enjoy it, they exult in it….They continue with their archaic mind set of capitalism out of control rhetoric and actions that lead us to plunder the Middle East for their oil reserves to prop up the auto and energy industries, even though they must know there is a finite amount of fossilized fuel in the world, and that inevitably we will have to switch to alternate energy sources anyway…….

They cannot conceive of a world where oil is worthless, because the truth is we have no business in the Middle East in the first place, and if it wasn’t for their insatiable demand for oil we could leave those religious fanatics and zealots alone to fight their tribal jihads and internecine warfare without involving and endangering American lives….It is sad, but it is really none of our business…The entire history of the world is about religious fanatics and power hungry politicians destroying the other side, the ones that do not agree with them…

The 1% could erase the national debt, eradicate poverty and hunger in the United States, and contribute to the fight against global warming to crack down on carbon dioxide emissions and clean up the entire planet’s atmosphere with the money they already have, and still have enough left over to live their uber rich, wealthy lifestyles!…

But we all know they won’t, because the great majority of them are blinded by their own wealth, seduced by their own power, and they truly believe they are superior to the rest of humanity because their grandfathers and other family members were the original robber barons who exploited and tyrannized the poor to begin with in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution…

The few socially conscious rich people who are trying to do good with the money they have been gifted with, like the Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Ted Turner’s etc. of the super wealthy, are criticized and ostracized by the majority of the 1% as traitors to their class….

For the 1% to admit to the guilt and shame that is their only rightful due would be to repudiate their entire rapacious, ruthless existence; it would expose the false sense of hubris and mad lust for power and greed that it engenders, that fuels their dark, empty souls and hollow, pitiful hearts….For them to try and make things right at this stage of the game would be virtually impossible, because they would have to look in the mirror and confess to themselves what lying, cheating, evil people they really are, and have been all their miserable lonely lives…

So this is Christmas, 2015…If you are blessed enough to have a home and a family and children to enjoy your holiday, you are indeed richer than any of the 1% could ever imagine…The Christmas spirit is about love and peace and giving and sharing, and if you have these in your life, you are infinitely richer than any of the vain and shallow 1% could ever imagine or dare to dream…This is what Christmas is all about!

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PHOTO 4: Better late than never (l-r): Alyssa Roman, 13, and Christina Pagan, 11, celebrate Christmas late in the evening of December 27.--Photo by David Greene

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Merry Christmas, everybody! Peace out, God bless you all, and enjoy Christmas 2015…

 

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

Christmas Shopping 2016

This is a reprint of a blog I posted on Christmas day 2015…

Whew! Are you like me, boys and girls of all ages? Do you really mean well but find Christmas shopping to be a very, and I mean extremely, time consuming, almost tedious waste of your mental resources and physical energy? I am not trying to be a Grinch here, but I just was out Christmas shopping and I am exhausted from the effort! The crowds in the malls, the bitter infighting and multitude of near collisions in the parking lots, the long lines, the items that were out of stock, or under stocked…I know it is all worth it on Christmas day, and that is what drives me to do it….

But like many people I am a habitual procrastinator and I always wait till the last minute to get anything done, and Christmas shopping is no exception! And by the way, where the heck did this month go anyway, I mean it is already the 14th of December! How did THAT happen? Actually, this whole day has been a blur, a whirl wind of activity that I usually am able to spread out over several weeks….

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Anyway, I finally began wading through all the other normal chores I had to do today, before I could even start shopping, like  a doctors appointment, dropping off my prescription at my local pharmacy, and then went Christmas shopping after that since I was up and about…Oh, I almost forgot, this day is such a blur, the minute I got in my car to GO to the doctor’s appointment, which was 20 miles south of here and involved freeway driving, the oh so clever Judas dashboard light came on and indicated I had low tire pressure!

OMG! Well I am not going to drive on the freeway with under inflated tires, so my very first stop was the local gas station to pump air into my tires, funny thing they were all 4 of them under inflated by about 5 pounds, reading 25 psi when they should have been 30 psi, so I am very glad I heeded that potentially life saving dashboard warning…(I have to confess I did not even know what the correct tire pressure was supposed to be, so I called my car dealer and he gave me the very useful information that the correct tire pressure is located on a label on the inside of the driver’s seat door, right on the frame when you open the door)…I absolutely NEVER knew that factoid!

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I did not know that, and am just including this particular snippet of information for fellow travelers like me who just expect their car to be perpetual motion machines like I do, and are always amazed when there is a malfunction….But I digress….Anyway, once I got the tires properly inflated and the doctor’s visit and the pharmacy stuff taken care of, as noted above, I went to the mall and another store to get SOME of my Christmas presents…I also picked up a small amount of Christmas cards, another holly jolly tradition I always put off till the very end…

I thought that was it, except when I got home I saw my girl friend had texted me a picture on my cell phone of the PERFECT item she wanted for Christmas, so after I unpacked the car I hunkered down in front of my ancient PC, (no fancy lap top or tablet for this baby boomer,) and proceeded to Amazon to do a little on line shopping…

I know, I know, a lot of you are laughing at me and my ignorance, and probably deservedly so, but the online shopping was WAY harder than I thought it would be…I was working off a cell phone description of a certain item, but since I am tragically unhip I could not order the item she wanted on my cell phone and had to relocate the EXACT same item on my PC…

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Which I eventually did, but just placing the items in the cart was a hassle, and then I inadvertently ordered 3 items instead of the 2 she had requested, so I had to go back and manipulate and massage the keyboard like a crazed mad scientist to remove the unwanted 3rd item from my cart…

Well this took well over a half hour, and then I also had to constantly check my email to make sure I had removed the incorrect item and left the 2 proper items in place, and there was a flurry of confirmations, cancellations and verification’s in my email about this supposedly simple order….

Well the good news is that I finally got it all done, and I have to still say that online shopping is better for me than actually going to the stores…You just have to be patient, like in that Guns and Rose’s song “Patience”.) Now I have at least half the items I need for my family and next week, next Monday in fact, will be even more frantic in a way, because as I mentioned, I am a procrastinator by nature and long habit, and I will once again be super busy…

At least I hopefully won’t have any doctor’s appointments or car issues to deal with next week, but I will have to finish off the rest of my Christmas shopping, then wrap ALL the presents and box them up, and since I am a transplanted Mid Westerner, from Chicago, I will have to cart them all the way to the post office and wait in line to mail them off to my family who still lives in the Mid West before I finally conclude my Christmas shopping, on December 21st…

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At which point, I will be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief and sink into my chair and watch MNF or whatever sports is on TV and congratulate myself for another last mad dash, careening, lurching, staggering trip down Santa Claus lane….I don’t know why, but I end up doing my Christmas shopping like this every year, and there is always that glow of contentment to bask in afterwards, and the righteous knowledge that I have done the right thing again after all is said and done…

Maybe it’s not like that for everyone, for all you organized, think ahead, planners and plotters and savvy online shoppers, (and I congratulate you on your foresight) but I know for a fact that is what Christmas shopping is for me….And I have the sneaking suspicion that I am not alone…There is more madness than method to my Christmas shopping, i will cop to that, but somehow, some way, every year it all get’s done.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but didn’t Christmas shopping used to be a lot easier and less frantic? For anybody who reads this blog, a very Merry Christmas to you all!

 

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

Rain

What is it about rain that makes people act so crazy? We have been suffering from a 2 year drought here in California, and finally last Thursday we got a well needed, long delayed good old fashioned rainstorm…I got soaked on my daily 16 block wake up walk around the neighborhood, just drenched, but accepted it for what it was, a necessity of nature…I changed my clothes and went on about my business…

But later that day I was driving around town and noticed how most people, at least here in San Francisco, absolutely, positively cannot STAND rain! I mean, they will almost run out into traffic, literally risking life and limb, frantically scurrying for cover and clenching their umbrellas with a death grip…And paradoxically, the car drivers seem to be impervious to the conditions, and drive just as fast and dangerous, especially on the freeways, as if there was no rain, until they too have to exit their vehicles and confront the rain themselves…

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We all know intellectually we NEED the rain to counteract the drought, but emotionally the rain is a shock, like cold water getting thrown in your face, and if you are caught outside on foot in a rainstorm, you will do anything to get away from the slashing sheets of rain that seem to invade your personal space on the deepest level….It is like a wet slap in the face!

I was born and raised in Chicago, in the heart of the great Midwest, and people back there take the rain in stride, and slow down when driving, watch out for pedestrians more, and in general just drive accordingly…But even back there, I think most people would rather go through a snowstorm rather than a rainstorm…I guess it is just something about the immediacy of the wetness of the rain, how it splatters in your face, drenches you and soaks right through your clothes, your shoes and socks, chilling you to the bone…It is like an up close and personal insult!

Snow, on the other hand can be dealt with by just layering up with several extra layers of clothing, and you can just brush it off if it accumulates on you…Snow is more of an inconvenience than an assault on the person, way less of a sensory overload than rain is….Although driving in the snow and ice is no picnic, people do slow down when driving…. The city puts salt on the streets to melt the snow, and the city also has snowplows to push the melted or drifting snow off to the side of the road so people can get to work or school or whatever…

I have had several people tell me that they are more scared when walking than driving in snowy weather, not so much because of the snow itself, but because of the treacherous ice that layers up on the sidewalk, often underneath the snow and out of sight… And this is a true fact, but in San Francisco we never get snow or ice, so it is a moot point here…

Growing up in the Midwest, I just took walking through the snow for granted, but I can see now in retrospect that the city takes a lot better care of the streets and roadways than they do the sidewalks…However I did develop a great sense of balance, because although I did indeed slip a lot, I rarely fell, I was always able to catch myself in time….I guess when you are growing up you just take everything for granted, and adjust accordingly…

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I should add, for the sake of accuracy, that in Chicago, every property owner is responsible for shoveling the snow off of his sidewalk, be it his house, his apartment building, or his place of business….And of course they always do, eventually…. Or face the prospects of a lawsuit from somebody slipping and falling on their property…However, it is not like they are out there 24/7, so you do have to exercise caution when walking…

There are no such niceties for rain however….Rain stands alone, and you must confront it in your own fashion, in your own personal way, in your own time and space, your own personal frame of reference….I personally hate being caught in a gusty, windy rainstorm where literal sheets of rain are driven sideways right into your face and body, and no umbrella can protect you….In fact, I have seen hundreds of umbrellas get blown inside out permanently ruined by the intensity and ferocity of a gusty rainstorm…

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TORONTO, ON- APRIL 9 -   A woman tosses a broken umbrella back to the ground in Chinatown, April 9, 2015  Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star

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That is why I never use an umbrella, because to me, it seems they are essentially useless in all but the mildest of rainstorms…I would rather rely on my trusty hoodie to keep me dry, even though of course it gets soaked too, but it will never be ruined by rain like an umbrella, and you can always just hang it up to dry once you reach the sanctity of your own home or apartment……

I have been caught in some fierce rainstorms too, and there is nothing to do but soldier on to your destination….Have you ever ridden public transportation, like buses, trains or subways in a torrential rainstorm? The people in these public conveyances are soaked to the skin, and even brushing up against one of them is like challenging them to a duel…

There are always slippery floors and pointy umbrellas and dripping plastic ponchos inside these buses etc. to deal with, and as a standee you have to be pretty agile…And the air itself is wet and nasty, a scant but welcome relief from the driving rainstorm outside….And when a person finally does get up from a seat to exit at his stop, they always leave a puddle behind them too!

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It’s not so bad coming home from work, but if you are caught in a rainstorm in the morning, on your way to work, you are pretty much guaranteed a long wet, miserable day at the office…And there is nothing you can do about it, unless you have extra clothes at work to change into, which most people do not, thank you very much! You just have to dry yourself off to the best of your ability and carry on!

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Guests wear ponchos in the rain during the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 28, 2013. Thousands will gather on the mall on the anniversary of the march and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech. TOPSHOTS/AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

A man walks across Spadina Ave as Toronto begins a few days of wet weather. Randy Risling /Toronto Star

So, all in all, I still personally much prefer the snow to the rain, but maybe that is because over the years I have forgotten how bone chillingly numb the cold weather and the snow and ice in tandem can affect you….Sometimes, in the Midwest, it gets too cold to snow! That sounds crazy, I know, but it is a meteorological fact of nature….

I actually moved out here to San Francisco to escape the frigid Midwestern winters and the suffocating heat and humidity of the summers, so maybe that is why I can say I prefer snow to rain: because I no longer have to deal with it! I guess no place is perfect, it’s always six of one and a half dozen of the other!….

Right now, I know intellectually we need the rain, to counteract the 3 years of drought,but I would be lying if I said I welcomed it…If only we could make a deal with the weather gods to only rain at night, when we are mostly all already home!

Well, that won’t happen, so Californians and fellow San Francisco residents, get ready for an unusually wet and fiercely rainy winter, with a series of storms set to slam into our fair city…The El Nino weather system practically guarantees it…Just try to remain civil, don’t act like it’s the end of the world, and just do your best to endure it and realize nobody likes getting soaked, nobody likes getting drenched, and make the best of it….

All in all, we have the best weather in the country, so appreciate that…I know I will! As Pink Floyd sang in their hauntingly beautiful ballad “Wish You Were Here,” I know that’s “cold comfort for change”…..But it’s also true, it could always be worse…

OMG what do those poor people in Buffalo, New York think of our complaining about the rain? I am happy to be right here, right now, so bring it on, and I will survive, and so will you!

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com