An Example Why 24 Hours in a Day is Enough

Have you ever had one of those days?  You know, where everything seems to go wrong.

Mine began with taking my wife to her pharmacy to pick up some medicine.

Usually it takes 20 minutes or so for this prescription to be filled.  But after that time passed with a text that her order was ready, my wife went back inside to check on what was going on.

The woman at the counter told her that they didn’t have her medicine in stock after all and for her to return tomorrow.

Flustered, we went home.  Why didn’t the employee notice on the computer screen that the medicine was out of stock when my wife first checked in?

Shortly after returning home, you probably can guess what happened next.

Yep, the pharmacy texted my wife that her prescription was ready.

If only that was the worst thing that happened that day.

When we got home, we had an ant attack in our main bathroom.  For the past few days we monitored a few ants here, a few there, and applied poison to where we thought they were entering.  Obviously they are cleverer than us in finding new ways inside.

So we killed the ants, cleaned up the mess, sprayed again.

A short while later when my son was washing clothes, my wife went to that same bathroom with the ants to discover that we had backup in the toilet, shower and tub.

Just 6 weeks earlier we had our main line rotor rootered.

Plus, two days earlier we had the plumber rotor rooter the clean out next to our laundry room and thought that problem was solved.

Wrong.

Luckily, the plumber was able to come out a short while later and snake the main line.

However, that was just step one on solving our ongoing sewer line issues. 

Clearly, something is wrong with the pipe from our house to the city line.  This will entail hiring another plumber who has a camera who can videotape what is going on in the line.  Most likely, this 68-year-old house has its original claypipe.  I researched the longevity of clay pipes:  50-70 years.

In other words, I’m going to have to replace the old pipe with new PVC pipe that will deter roots from penetrating.  Unfortunately, my line is at least 100 feet long.  I covered my eyes when I found online that this excavation and replacement can range anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000.

I needed a drink.

As my wife was calming me down from all this excitement, since the temperature outside was also rising, I put on the air conditioner.  It wasn’t working.  Great!

I added that phone call to my other list of calls to make in the morning.

But we’re not done.

My wife discovered that our other toilet had overflooded.  But our main line was just cleared.

It makes one fantasize about putting the house up for sale and moving to a brand new home anywhere.

Ah, the pleasures of home ownership!

There are times when one is glad that there are only 24 hours in a day.

It’s No Longer Time for Dodger Baseball

And so, another Dodger season is over.

After winning 106 regular season games tying a franchise record, a wild-card game, the five-game division series against the Giants, as well as two games against the winning Atlanta Braves who will go on to play in the World Series, the 2021 Dodgers are in the books.

As a fan, it is always a weird, empty feeling knowing that your favorite sports team in the world is no longer going to be on the radio or TV playing.  You hold on to every last moment including the final time you will hear Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday on KLAC or Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra on Spectrum.   The announcers and analysts rarely say “see you next year,” their voices and faces disappear  off the air into a commercial.

For the Dodgers, the current roster will undergo changes due to players becoming free agents, among them:  Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, and Max Scherzer.

My guess is that Kershaw will return.  I can’t imagine that he and the Dodger organization don’t come up with an agreeable plan to allow the all-time great leftie to end his career in Dodger blue.

I’m afraid to say the it is doubtful any of the others will be back.  Not even the mighty Guggenheim Group who owns the club can give out big contracts to every player.

Looking back at this unprecedented 9-year run of Dodger playoff baseball, from 2013 to 2021, the only shame is that all those seasons, eight of them as first place division finishers, resulted in only one championship, and it had to be the crazy coronavirus shortened one so that critics can claim that it was because of the 60-game season that they won.  Those same critics should be reminded that the Houston Astros cheated their way to the 2017 banner which MLB should have revoked.

I don’t see the Dodgers fading away from the playoff picture quickly, but expect an eventual downturn with the Giants and Padres rising in quality for the foreseeable future.

One day Dodger fans will look back yearning for the days of Kershaw and Jansen and Seager and Scully.

For now, we wait 5 months for spring and baseball to return.

There is a Reason Why California is Known as the Golden State

A new house on my block went up for sale.  The price:  $1.9 million. 

Most of my life I have lived in Burbank, California.  I always enjoyed the city, a nice, middle-class neighborhood. 

However, Burbank is not Beverly Hills.  Never in my wildest imagination did I think I lived in a wealthy area.

But . . . what middle-class household can afford to buy a $2 million home?

The down payment surpasses the purchase price of my house.

The property tax alone is over $2,000 a month and that amount will never go away but will increase over time.  Combined with homeowners’ insurance, the monthly house payment is over $8,600.  Whoever buys this house will have to make mortgage payments exceeding $103,000 every year.

Who can afford that?

One would have to gross $150,000 in order to net $103,000.  And that is just for the housing expense.  Not included:  cars, clothing, food, entertainment, etc.

Only 8% of Americans earn between $150,000-200,000 a year.  I suppose if a married couple held down two such high-paying jobs, they could manage it.  However, how many couples do you know who fit this description?

Over the past few years, all of my surrounding neighbors have either died or moved.  All the new homeowners paid well over $1 million for the privilege of living in a nice but not exclusive area.  And each of them has late model cars.  And have made extensive renovations on what are already decent looking houses. 

Since I’ve been home from the start of the pandemic, nearly every day there are multiples of trucks or vans from workers who are employed by my neighbors.

If I were looking to purchase a house today, no way would I be able to buy the house I bought 22 years ago. 

Already, my children could not afford my house.  How will the affordability differ 22 years from now?  How crazy expensive will properties be then?

There is no easy answer to this situation.  I know people who have moved out of California to less expensive states.  Those ex-Golden Staters enjoy sharing how much more house they can buy at a much lower price in Idaho.  For me, though, California is my home.  I’d rather stay put in a smaller house that have an estate in West Virginia.  The state made its name from the Gold Rush and today keeps reinforcing that label.

The Booster Shot Americans Need to Cure Incivility

Brooks and Capehart.  How many of you know either of these two individuals?

The PBS News Hour.  When was the last time you watched this broadcast?

For those of you who don’t know, back when there were three major networks—ABC, CBS, NBC—there was the little engine that could:  the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).

PBS first broadcast its news show, The Robert MacNeil Report, back in 1975.  When reporter Jim Lehrer shared anchor duties with MacNeil, the show became the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Almost a decade ago, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff became the first all-female anchoring team.

Sadly, the PBS News Hour always finishes in fourth place behind the big three in the ratings race, but in terms of quality, it is number one.

To me, it has always been the most intelligent, balanced news program on the air.  If you are used to having animated images all around the frame on your TV screen, this is not the show for you.  This is the news in all its undressed staging, sometimes dry, that requires the listener to pay attention.  The pace is refreshingly deliberate.  The producers take time to inform the viewers, rewarding them with more information, less bells and whistles.  It is quite calming.

The highlight of the show for me has always been its final segment each week where two commentators share their differing views—one liberal, one conservative—on that week’s top news stories.  

Whether it was Mark Shields or David Gergen, or David Brooks or Jonathan Capehart, it is comforting hearing smart thinkers make sense of a troubling world.

Just because Brooks is a conservative and Capehart is a liberal has no bearing on their loyalty to a label.  Neither journalist is a mouthpiece of any political party or politician.  On any given Friday evening you can hear Brooks applaud Biden or Capehart chastise Biden. 

These two men with different views respect each other by not raising their voices or insulting one another.  On no other news program can you find such civility, decency and humanity. 

How refreshing is that?

It makes one believe in goodness, gives hope that we are not all doomed.  How wonderful our society would be if we just listened to each other and respected each other.  It really is all about sharing common values.

Watching Brooks and Capehart on the PBS NewsHour is a 15-minute booster shot that America somehow still has a chance of coming out of whatever mess we are in as a nation.

Back to School, Back to Parent Apathy

Imagine if schools made it incredibly easy for parents to attend the two main evening events each year—Back to School Night and Open House—by allowing them to do so from the comfort of their own homes.  How large the turnout would be!

Oh, wait a minute, that availability has already been in place for over a year via Zoom.

The result?  Lower turnout than when parents had to drive over to the school after dinner and walk from classroom to classroom.

At my son’s Back to School Night, there were on average five parents on the video board for each of the six classes.  And my son has four Advanced Placement classes where supposedly the most motivated students are and, one would think, the more involved parents are.

All parents had to do was stop bingeing on “Hacks” and take 90 minutes out of their lives to get to know their children’s teachers.  In other words, show some minor interest in their children’s education.

The conclusion to draw from such a low turnout is that a majority of parents are apathetic and/or lazy.

It’s surprising but not surprising.

If parents don’t care about their children’s education, think of other parenting areas where they come up short in.  I don’t know, things like being selfless, helping others, believing in God and in this country, and, yes, even wearing masks and getting Covid vaccines.

Already too many parents allow their children electronic devices at too early of an age, then look the other way at their children’s internet surfing habits, even allowing them to go into their own rooms, shut the door, and disappear for hours—completely unsupervised.

These children then grow up expecting to do whatever they want to do without barriers or consequences.

And all of society suffers when our culture overflows with these self-absorbed individuals.

Parents need to take a more active role in their children’s lives, starting with getting to know the adults who end up spending more time with their offspring than the parents do themselves:  the teachers.

I Love Lucy More Than Ever Before

This month I have been obsessed with Channel 104 on SiriusXM that has been playing a wonderful, insightful CBS radio show that Lucille Ball did back in the 1960’s called “Let’s Talk to Lucy.”  Premiering on Sept. 7, 1964 and airing five times a week for about a year, this is the first time these shows have been heard in 56 years.

These radio shows are revelations primarily because in short 10-minute segments Ms. Ball was able to bring out personal insights from her guests that went beyond the superficial conversations they normally occur on TV talk shows.

Unlike many interviewers, Ms. Ball listens to her guests which is why so many of the questions are spontaneous based on what they have to say. What’s remarkable is how cultured these people were back then.  So many of today’s celebrities seem illiterate or crass.  

One of the unique features of the show is the minimum production values. It truly sounds like Ms. Ball walked into a star’s dressing room with a tape recorder in hand and recorded everything herself without much assistance. The programs seem to be only sparingly edited so that the natural conversation comes through without manipulation. 

The fact that the medium is radio brings an intimacy to these conversations that could not exist with visuals.  It’s like we are eavesdropping on a private conversation between Lucy and her guest. 

Ms. Ball’s enthusiasm and interest in her guests shine through.  Whenever she is particularly tickled, she has this warm “ha-HA” laugh that naturally flows out of her.  Adding to the immediacy of the moment, one can often hear Ms. Ball strike a match to light a cigarette.

Sometimes a guest is on for up to five programs.  It is fun how Lucy and her guests pretend to return the next day to continue the conversation when it is clear they only met once, the taping edited into multiple segments.

These shows are so refreshingly real and offer listeners a peek into a time capsule of thoughts and opinions of those who were adults and parents back during a tumultuous time in America when the Vietnam War was raging out of control as were young people in terms of their music, dress and morals.

You gain a sense of how lost some parents must have felt in grasping for any help on how to protect their teenaged children from this so-called revolution.  When guest Ruth Berle, comedian Milton Berle’s wife, espouses the virtues of a man who claimed to have the answer to the parents’ angst, Chuck Dederich, founder of Synanon in Santa Monica, it sounds too good to be true—and it is. 

Dederich was viewed as a guru who could magically rescue children from alcohol and drug addictions.  Within years, however, Synanon’s true purpose was revealed:  a religious cult which mandated members shave their heads, and for married couples to divorce and form new unions.  Anyone outside the group who tried to expose the organization faced harsh retaliation.  By the end of the 1970’s, the government shut down Synanon.

Many conversations revolve around pressing issues of the day, most of which remain prevalent today. 

Andy Williams talks about population growth.  There were 3 billion in 1964 and he said that “in 35 years it is projected the world will have 6 billion”—which turned out exactly correct:  6.1 billion in 2000.

Betty Furness talks about the importance of pre-school children getting enrolled in the new Head Start programs to provide them with a strong education footing.

Ms. Ball cares about the elderly.  During her conservation with Vivian Vance, she recalls a time when she was part of an apple festival parade and noticed old people upstairs in houses who were unable to come down to see the parade and how sad that made her feel.

Her strong beliefs in education, discipline and God come through.  It is uplifting to hear how opera singer Mary Costa (now 90 years old) deals with her loneliness on the road by invoking the 91st Psalm.   I can’t imagine hearing any famous person today talking about their faith without people viewing them as weird.

Often you can pinpoint the date of the recording when a guest talks about a child born 5 months ago or a 10th wedding anniversary.  For example, Lucy attended the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  She was mentioning specific events she saw during her 15-hour visit including a funny anecdote about how the jewels of China placed on her head kept slipping down her face.  I went to YouTube and found a 12-minute video documenting Lucy Day, Aug. 31, 1964.  And part of it shows her with the crown.

Arlene Dahl (still alive at 96, her birthday of August 11 coincidentally the day I am typing this) talks about a book she wrote in 1965 called “Always Ask a Man.”  This was a reaction to what was happening at that time when women were starting to dress and act more like men such as wearing pants and having short haircuts.

I can imagine a younger person hearing this with today’s sensibilities and wanting to “cancel” Ball and Dahl as dinosaurs in their view of females back then­­­, but that would be disrespecting the time period that these two glamourous actresses lived in.  It much have been a shock to see these changes unfold during their lifetime.

Even the more mundane discussions on what to wear and how to apply make-up are fascinating to hear.

Of all the topics, however, the welfare of children comes through as Ms. Ball’s primary concern. 

She is very interested in how her guests relate to their children, and how they balance work and parenting.

In a program focused on school dropouts and juvenile delinquency, Lucy talks with Los Angeles Unified School District administrator George Smith who says that “attendance is a very serious problem” that remains true today.

Lucy bemoans the lax parenting that was already evident in the mid-1960’s and blames adult-themed movies and music in bringing standards down.

“We have drifted into something unhealthy almost to an extreme and I wish we could get out of it.”  That sentiment could not be any truer for today’s times.

Listen to how she compares her role as a parent to that of a ship’s captain.  She is very aware of how limited her time is to positively affect her children.

“I do know that I don’t have much longer to be captain of this ship.  Pretty soon my crew will take off on their own so I am trying to make good use of the time that I have.”

Ms. Ball was a strong believer that children craved discipline, something that I could attest to in my 31 years as an educator.

“Parents should realize their responsibilities immediately and take over with a very firm hand.  And I think that you’ll find millions of teenagers who would be grateful for that.”

What comes through after listening to hours of Lucy talk is that she was a true humanitarian.  She really cared about the world around her. 

Beyond being a brilliant entertainer and business woman, she was that rare celebrity:  smart, savvy and all around decent.  Boy, we could sure use more people like her nowadays.

Government-sanctioned Identity Theft

When I taught students how to write, one of the areas most troublesome for them was how to add more details to their writing.

Details are important to a reader by coloring in the outline of an image.

That is why it is unsettling to see how society is de-emphasizing details when it comes to gender, literally wiping away what makes our identities who we are.

It is like government-sanctioned Identity Theft.

The latest nonsense comes from Argentina which has approved a new national ID card that permits the applicant to choose “x” as a gender alongside “male” and “female.”

Here is how President Alberto Fernández explained it.

“I hope one day we get to the point where IDs don’t say if someone is a man, woman or anything else.”

In other words, the endgame is for one day each one of us to be anonymous. It’s as if people have misinterpreted the word “equality” to mean that everybody become blank carbon copies, unformed bodies lacking any discernable traits.  Like a science fiction movie turned documentary, identifying people without gender is a troubling concept to accept.

If someone assaulted you and you were filling out a report to the police, wouldn’t you want to be as precise as possible in describing who the person was?

Many schools now use the word “guardian” to describe all parents because the words “mother” and “father” demeans those who bring up children who are not the birth parents.

In addition to male/female, here are other word pairings that will soon no longer exist because people are not supposed to know if someone is a man or a woman:

  • actor/actress
  • comedian/comedienne
  • host/hostess
  • waiter/waitress
  • congressman/congresswoman

            Hey, aren’t there more pressing issues elected officials should spend their time fixing such as what to do about the homeless who seem to have the freedom to plant a tent anywhere in our neighborhoods?  At least “homeless” is already gender-proof.

Happy Fifth of July

Well, we survived another Fourth of July.

“Survived” meaning our 11-year-old dog got through the barrage of illegal fireworks that begins on June 1, concluding with the legal commercial fireworks display that Burbank puts on, reappearing after being dark during last year’s quarantine.

This year’s fusillade from neighbors far and wide seemed incessant, more intense than ever.  Clearly, people viewed this year’s July 4th as the exclamation mark of the pandemic’s end.

That’s why I always look forward to the morning of July 5th more for Noble.  When we moved into our house 22 years ago, one of the first things our next-door neighbor told us was of the wonderful view we would have from our front yard each Independence Day of the city’s free fireworks show over the hillside not far from where we lived.  At the time, we had our first dog and were worried about how he would handle it.  While a bit unnerved, he wasn’t that agitated.  However, that would change years later when we had our second dog, Noble, whose is more neurotic.

In his first year with us, he nearly scratched away all the paint on the inside of our front door as if doing that would make “the rocket’s red glare, the bomb[s] bursting in air” vanish.

That’s when I made the decision the following year and years after that to take Noble to my brother’s house who lived in another city so he wouldn’t have a heart attack.  My wife didn’t like me not being home to enjoy the fireworks, but I would rather him someplace quiet and calm than me seeing the show.

With the cancellation of last year’s fireworks show, I didn’t have to make that trip.  And this year I thought Noble would be able to tolerate it since his hearing has diminished in recent years.

That thought was wrong for when the first bang rocked our house at 9:00 p.m., all hell broke loose again.  His sight is still fine so as soon as the flashing lights pierced through our blinds catching his eyes, he was in full panic mode as if his family was under foreign attack. He barked loud and long with a crazed look in his eyes, pacing back and forth all around the living room, his impression of a fire alarm.

The Benadryl pill I delayed in giving him foolishly thinking that maybe this time he wouldn’t need it, I hurriedly administered on a piece of bread with peanut butter (cursing the hermetically sealed plastic that makes retrieving the pill impossible), even though by the time it took effect, the city’s show was over.  Or so I thought.

In order to counteract the booms, I turned on a bluegrass music channel on TV to act as white noise.  My eldest son and I kept petting his head and body, speaking soothing tones, using our voice and movements to sooth his old soul.

Within a half hour, the legal fireworks were over.  Noble finally settled on the white plush comforter atop his dog pillow, doing his usual three revolutions to the left, then two to the right, as if he was a locker combination.

Then, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.  It was nearly 10:30 and I jumped to the window thinking, “Wow, those illegal firecrackers are close to our house.”  When I peeked through the curtains, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Evidently, whoever set off the city’s fireworks forget to finish with the grand finale.  Suddenly, the sky was alit again with color and white light to the horror of my canine.  The finale lasted just a few minutes but it caught us all by surprise.

Another panic came and went.  Noble went back to sleep.  My wife and I continued hearing the illegal fireworks until we fell asleep from exhaustion.

And that’s why when waking up this morning to quiet and looking outside to see fog was quite comforting.  Happy 5th of July!

The Kindness and Ugliness of Strangers

One day this week I had to take my dog to the vet to get his ear infection checked.  As I waited in my car for the vet’s assistant to take him to the vet, I noticed a mother and a daughter jaywalking across busy Burbank Boulevard at 9 in the morning, two lanes of traffic in either direction.  They had a golden retriever with them and stopped right near the bench next to my car; evidently, they had a vet appointment as well.

As I waited, I watched them in my right-side view mirror.  The woman in her 40’s was on a phone while the girl in her teens took selfies.

When the assistant came out, so did I and gave her my dog.  As I turned around the rear of my car about to go back in it, I heard a yell and saw that the woman’s dog somehow got out of its leash and was going fast into the lane of traffic where cars regularly speed by at 40 mph.

Instinctively, I went into the lane, holding up my right hand to slow cars down, using my left hand to guide the dog safely back to the sidewalk.

What do you think happened next?

Nothing.

Did she thank me for saving her dog from injury or death?

No.

She didn’t say anything nor looked my way.  It was as if I didn’t exist.

No “thank you” to acknowledge not only what I did in saving her dog’s life, but that I even existed in the same plane as her.  It was as if I was invisible.

I went back into my car and seethed about this for a moment.  I considered getting out and saying something to her lack of, what, being human.

But I resisted.  Someone like her is not going to learn to be kind, polite or humane by me snapping at her.  Evidently, ignoring the kindness of strangers is part of her DNA.  And with her self-absorbed teen-aged daughter by her side, she has already damaged the world by raising another person like her to mix among considerate people.

What rescued my hope in humanity a little were the kind words from the vet’s assistant who returned my dog to my car.

“There is something about his face, but he is such a nice, loveable dog!”  You see, just when you are ready to give up on people, you bump into someone nice. 

There may be only a minority of decent people out there, but each time you come across one, that person is worth 10 of the likes of that ugly woman.

Today’s Times—Where the Common Good for all is only an option

As I was driving around town this morning, a message displayed on an electronic sign caught my eye:

            Obey all speed laws.  Stop at all stop signs.

You mean, there are so many scofflaws among us that the most obvious things must be spelled out on signs around the city?

What’s the next sign: Breathe in, breathe out.  Blink on occasion?

Better yet:

            Get a driver’s license.  Be considerate of others.

Folks, we are living in an era where the majority of people choose to ignore rules that make our society civilized.  In other words, the uncivilized are gaining in numbers.

Those of us who do obey speed laws and stop signs pray that we don’t encounter those who don’t for it could land us either in the hospital or in a cemetery.

Look at the division when it comes to wearing masks.  Some people still get it, that wearing a mask during a pandemic is a health issue, not a political one.  But many others view it as an impingement on their civil rights.

There’s a guy at the YMCA where I work out who does not follow the rules of keeping your mask on at all times or to wipe down the equipment before and after use.

When he checks in at the front desk, he wears a mask.  But as soon as he on the treadmill or the stair climber apparatus, the mask goes below his chin. 

Even as he perspires heavily all over these machines, he does not use paper towels and disinfectant solution to make the machine sanitary for the next user.  It makes you wonder if he even washes his hands or wipes his butt after using the bathroom.

I informed the Y director of this, but with only 3 employees manning a 3-story building, it is impossible for them to monitor mask usage.  And when they do tell a guest to cover their face, within minutes of leaving the room, the guest drops the mask down under the chin again.

This behavior is blatant disregard for being a good citizen.  Even with others in the same room dutifully wearing masks, he decides the rules don’t pertain to him.  He has no shame, figuring who is going to tell him to wear a mask despite signs displayed on walls and machines encouraging to do it “for all of us.”  That is a foreign concept to many.

These people make living life unpleasant for the good folks who follow rules, who were brought up properly.

Well, those lawbreakers need to learn how societies operate.  Rules are in place to ensure the safety of ALL people.  Reminiscent of the Pledge of Allegiance, you know—“with liberty and justice for all.”

One of the nice things about being a teacher was that I could control society in my classroom.

No matter how many kids misbehaved at home or with other teachers, my students respected my expectations of their behaviors.  I discovered after 31 years in the classroom that children craved routine and discipline.  Why?  Because school was often the only place where they had it.

So, those of you who are decent, law-abiding people, beware out there because most others don’t care about you or your loved ones.