The Republican Party has essentially dropped all pretenses of being representatives of the people. They are, with this execrable tax bill, thumbing their long and growing noses at us, all while opening up the nation’s coffers to serve as a feeding trough for themselves and their sponsors/lobbyists/donors.
Let’s be perfectly clear. They are always in favor of privatization, which nowadays serves nobody’s interests save the few (the 1%) who own everything. Every move they make is designed to increase our dependence, while simultaneously removing the few social safety nets that exist. Their God is Mammon and they envision themselves as divinely situated and eminently deserving of their wealth and power. We are here merely to run their businesses, purchase their products, and keep our mouths shut and our bodies where they can use them as they see fit.
Our liberty (what little we actually had) is being slowly eroded, our safety is not paramount, and our economic security is of little or no consequence. Although they all took an oath prior to being installed in their office, I doubt many of them actually believed in what they were swearing to. Here’s the text of the oath Senators and members of the House take upon being sworn in:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
And here’s the most salient part of the Constitution of the United States I believe they are neither supporting nor defending:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
How does raising taxes on the middle class, taking away healthcare for millions of people, ignoring science, exalting one religion over all others, failing to help victims of disasters, and raising the national debt over $1.5 trillion promote the general welfare?
OK — I’m lying about the six ways and the lists. I couldn’t help myself. I had just been perusing the Pulse articles available on LinkedIn and was amused by how many of them contain lists, e.g. “7 Ways Leaders Fail”, “The 8 Simple Rules Of Expert Negotiation”, “3 Traits Shared By Companies And Hoarders”, “The four types of clients you should fire immediately”, “12 Email Marketing Credibility Boosters”, etc., etc., etc. I could go on for some time, but I won’t bore you as much as I was. I know I’ve read somewhere that lists are a great way to create posts and get people to read them. Nevertheless, I tend to shy away from using that strategy because it seems so formulaic to me, and I’m not interested in taking that route.
I know I should have written this earlier today but, as I’ve noted numerous times before, I’m not a journalist and I don’t do this as a business, so I have never been all that interested in an editorial calendar or lining up my posts perfectly with anything in particular. Nevertheless, today is a bit of a milestone and I thought I should mark it with a bit of possibly rational blather.
It’s been exactly — datewise — four and one-half years since I retired from Rocketdyne, where I labored for approximately 23 years. My last day (though, to tell the truth, I had been working at home and nobody expected much from me for the final two weeks I was officially “there”) was May 14, 2010. I can still vividly recall my final moments; being walked to the guard at the front reception area, handing in my badge, saying goodbye and shaking hands with my Manager, and walking out the door knowing I could not walk back in beyond the reception area without an escort.
I felt both elation and sadness. I threw my arms up in the air, but had tears in my eyes. Both emotions were warranted, as the last four and a half years have made quite clear. It’s not an easy thing walking away from a large group of people who you’ve come to think of as almost family and, make no mistake about it, once the main thing you have in common with them is gone, most people essentially disappear from your life forever.
Blogging on the beach, something I’ve never actually done
For me, this has been the hardest part of retirement. While I’ve stayed in touch with a few of my former colleagues, some of whom remained and others who became casualties of our nation’s decision to essentially forget about space exploration (at least manned space exploration) for what still seems like forever, the majority of people I saw on a regular basis I have not heard from again. There’s also a sort of mid-range group who I’ve connected with via Facebook and LinkedIn, but I’ve had little contact with most of them.
I think this is a big problem with our entire concept of retirement. In our culture it seems once you retire, you might as well be dead. The place you worked at has no use for you and, since we are also a culture that celebrates youth and fears old age and death, nobody really wants to know what you’re doing. A possible exception is made for those people who worked at one company all, or almost all, of their life and, consequently, retire with enough money to not have to do anything to supplement their income. Remaining employees do seem to enjoy receiving the occasional postcard from an exotic location, or another reminder of what they, someday, may be able to do as well.
I’m sure there are those who thoroughly enjoy hanging out and doing whatever they want, or nothing at all. I’m not one of them. Bottom line, I guess, is this. I have managed to survive relatively well, though I have yet to find a way to supplement my income such that we’ll be reasonably comfortable for the foreseeable future. I do worry about what might happen in a few years when our income suffers from inflation or some disease or unfortunate turn of events depletes what little savings and investments remain.
I also worry about my physical and mental ability to generate income. At 67 years old, it’s difficult to not notice I’m gaining speed on that inevitable slide down life’s rollercoaster. Nevertheless, I’m not one for fretting too much about choices I’ve made. I’ve been characterized by others as a survivor; one who will find a way to make things happen. Especially when push comes to shove and I’m backed into a corner. I don’t actually want to reach that point, so I’m working on quite a few prospects and avenues.
In another six months it will have been half a decade since I left the place I had been at longer than anywhere save this planet. I’m looking forward to celebrating that occasion a little more energetically. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to afford throwing a little party for some of those former colleagues who remain friends. That would be a hoot.
NB – This post was written using Dave Winer’s “Little Facebook Editor”, which currently posts to both Facebook and WordPress. It also allows for editing and updating to both sites, concurrently. If I continue using it, I’m hopeful I can remember it uses the entire first paragraph for the title. He’s trying to get Facebook to allow for some kind of textual formatting, which would then provide headline capability within Facebook as well. I edited this one to be only the first sentence.
Assuming the Position!
One of the boys in her class was celebrating his 10th birthday at a local bowling alley. I think this was the first time I’ve been to one where the entire building was given over to birthday parties for kids.
This is a large building, by the way. I didn’t count the lanes, but I did count (well, almost to the end) the large-screen TVs that were lined, almost end-to-end, from the first to the last lane and there were no less than fifty. Content was staggered, as you moved down the line, from one screen showing a music video, then two screens for keeping score of the games, then one screen showing a sporting event, and two screens for scoring again . . . rinse and repeat.
When we arrived, I had to check out the bowling balls. They couldn’t have weighed more than 6 pounds, which works really good for the kids. Might be the perfect weight for adults to bowl . . . overhand. When the kids are bowling – at least the younger ones – there are no gutter balls, because the gutters are filled with lane-length bumpers. Without them, the vast majority of balls would end up in the gutters. That’s not a lot of fun for the kids.
Watching the balls bounce off the bumpers, I envisioned a scaled-up version of a pool table, with the balls being the same size as bowling balls, and imagined playing pool or billiards in the same manner one bowls, the rules following those of standard billiards or pool games. I just did some quick research and calculate the playing field/table would be 34′ x 17′. It would appear such a game would include a de facto dodge ball component.
They had three breaks for the kids to dance, all managed by the man behind the curtain and facilitated by the servers/party guides. The dances included the Chicken dance, YMCA, and the Hokey Pokey, plus some Cha Cha line dance I can’t recall the name of. The organization and precision of the whole thing was simultaneously admirable and eerie. There was an assembly line, automaton feel to some of it.
There were soft drinks and the kind of pizza that kids will devour with no complaint, while adults would likely find fault with. I had three pieces. I was told they close down the bar, so I wasn’t able to quaff a brew or two.
Toward the end, Alyssa was anxious to get home, but she had one more frame, the tenth, to complete. I told her she had to finish, as she was on a team and her teammates were depending on her. She bowled the first strike of her short life, without using the bumpers, then went on to knock down nine pins and pick up the spare. She was so excited she forgot she wanted to leave and joined in on another game.
However, as I said, the precision of the event(s) was near perfect and, precisely at 1:30 (it began at 11:15) everybody had to leave. No doubt they clean up, then either open up for public bowling or begin the birthday assembly line once again. I’m pretty sure we had a good time.
Today marks, if not a special day on my calendar, at the very least an interesting one in my mind. Today is the fifth anniversary of the day I became older than my father was when he died. Does that seem like a strange thing to be commemorating? I suppose it is. Maybe a little context will make it more intelligible, if not less silly.
For most of my life, up until his somewhat untimely, if not surprising, death I had been told “You’re exactly like your father!” Frequently as an admonition for some behavioral trait I had exhibited. All-too-frequently it was something my mother found neither amusing nor endearing. I also looked like and was built like my father, adding to my perception that I was somewhat predestined to follow in his footsteps. This was exacerbated by our culture, which is based on and continues to exhibit vestiges of primogeniture. Being the first-born son of a Conservative Jewish family, I know I was doted upon and received far more attention than I’m sure I deserved. It also added to the perception of inevitability I both relished and rebelled against.
When my father died in 1984 I had just turned 37. My metabolism, which is now obviously quite unlike my father’s, had yet to change and I was still pretty thin; still physically similar to my father when he died. He was less than two months shy of his 60th birthday and you can bet there were lots of conversations with my mother and my brother over what that turn of events might mean for my and my brother’s future health.
These conversations continued occasionally throughout the years and, as I grew older, it became more and more apparent I was not really “exactly” like my father. Not the least of these revelations was when I reached the age he was at his first heart attack (around 50) and not having one myself! I’m sure that moment was made more important by the memories I had of being the one to recognize the symptoms and driving him to the hospital late at night at over 80 miles an hour, running lots of red lights in the process.
Friday the 13th Can Be Very Scary For Some Folks!
So, what anxiety I felt slowly dissipated over the years. However, I had done one thing that set a landmark and, having done so, it was impossible for me to ignore or deny it. I had entered my father’s birthday into an electronic spreadsheet and subtracted it from the day of his death. By formatting the result as a number I had the exact number of days (give or take ~ 24 hrs) he was here and alive on this planet. I then added that number to my birthday and converted the result into a date. Ironically, the day on which I would match the total time my father had lived occurred on a Friday the 13th. Though not superstitious, I have to admit the date had a little extra “spice” attached to it.
As it turned out, that date – April 13, 2007 – coincided with the first night of the In2:InThinkingConference I was attending. Since the weekend’s classes, seminars, etc. were to take place in the Woodland Hills Hilton’s conference rooms, many of the out-of-town speakers and leaders, as well as all the people who were working on the conference and its many ancillary activities, would stay at the Hilton beginning on Friday night. In addition to being an attendee, I was a co-presenter that year for one of those ancillary activities, but that’s another story.
As part of the package the In2:InThinking Network had negotiated with the hotel, we occupied the Presidential Suite where there was traditionally a big party. The suite was open to all the participants and there was food and drink; a merry time to be had by anyone who wished to show up and be a part of it. Fortunately, partying has always been one of the things I do quite well, thank you very much, and I spent the evening until well past midnight. I was gratified, as were my friends, I didn’t drop dead at the stroke of midnight and, since that day passed, I haven’t thought much about it.
I spent the evening (after which I would be older than my father when he died) drinking and eating and enjoying myself immensely. It was, for me, a two-fold celebration. I was happy to get what was a bit of a monkey off my back and I was happy to have known my father as long as I did. I was happy he and I had squared away our mostly rocky relationship and were well on the road to being friends when he died. I was happy he was my father and I celebrated his life, knowing that he would have wanted me to have a good, long one. I intended then, and continue to expect, to do just that.
Today is five years to the day and, as a special treat – a lagniappe, if you will – it’s also Friday the 13th; just like it was on that day. Even though it became obvious long ago I wasn’t “exactly” like my father, the realities of genetics and the similarities in our personalities always kept the limit of my father’s time on Earth in the back of my mind. It was never an obsession, but it was a bit of a pastime for a while 🙂 I do, occasionally, feel like I’m living on borrowed time which, in many ways, makes every day just that much sweeter.
ADDENDUM: I have long known of the word triskaidekaphobia, which means “fear of the number 13”, but just discovered the existence of a word for “fear of Friday the 13th”, paraskevidekatriaphobia, which is far more specific.
Right after (and I do mean “right” after) I had shown some friends the “Crazy Double Rainbow Guy” YouTube video, it started to rain a bit. This, in and of itself, was quite unusual here in Southern California. July is not known for a month in which you can expect any kind of precipitation. As I was grilling some hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids and our adult guests (it was my oldest daughter’s 9th birthday party), I looked up and saw a somewhat faint, yet quite distinct, double rainbow.
It was neither as full, nor as bright, as the one that had inspired such ecstasy in the crazy guy, but there it was . . . as was my Flip videocam. I had put on an apron (something I seldom do) and stashed the camera in one of the pockets. I managed to record a bit of my crazy-ass double rainbow and a few comments from my perspective as well. I offer them here not as any especially entertaining video, but rather as a way to memorialize the event, which I considered quite serendipitous and synchronicitous (if I may be so bold as to make up my own words :)) Here’s the link. Hope anyone who sees it (undoubtedly not many will) finds it at least a bit entertaining.
Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017.
I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.