With the seeming demise of retail we are losing our culture…

April 22, 2017

For the most part I have never enjoyed shopping, well maybe unless I am getting something special for myself or something I desperately need — well then again, I can get excited about buying gifts for others too. But even if I am not a shopper per se I hate to see the demise of the retail trade. But that is what is in the news.

Many small retailers were pushed out by the larger retailers. But now the larger retailers are being pushed out big time by online shopping with the online behemoth Amazon getting much of the business.

There does not seem to be much of a future in being a retail sales clerk.

But that career has been in trouble for a long time. Way back in the 1970s I remember seeing members of the retail clerks union picketing a Montgomery Ward store (I just read that firm is history — no one told me). But I knew some union carpenters who walked right past them without a thought — if you need a saw or a pair of work gloves or overalls or camping equipment or whatever you go to where they have it. You gotta live.

That was before the internet and before online shopping.

But even then there was not really a future in being a retail clerk. I think it was really a job for teenagers or some family member, often a woman then, who was simply supplementing the major source of income for the family.

On the other hand, when I was a little tyke I think the man who lived next door worked in a department store.

Also when I was in high school the town we lived in had its own department store, a locally-owned establishment. I remember a beyond-middle-aged clerk who sold me my gym clothes. I’ll forgive him for putting two left gym shoes in the box resulting in major embarrassment to me my first day of high school gym class, or P.E. as we called it then. That same man also sold women’s undergarments — so I guess the mix-up could have been worse.

Dad always liked to patronize the local stores, such as the hardware store on Main Street, and since he was into photography, for his work and for family stuff, he liked to patronize a local photo studio/camera shop.

I thought the guys at the hardware store were nice and helpful and I am sure my dad thought them even more so in that he spoke their lingo more than I.

The photo place, not so much. I found the old guy to be a kind of crank.

And that was the way for a  lot of local merchants. They would go on and on about how people were ripping them off, supposedly snatching stuff when they were not looking and generally letting their little ones run amok. And often the little local stores at the time did not have a wide selection. It was common for people to go either north or south to the neighboring and larger towns that had shopping centers with larger stores.

One thing I like about little stores, particularly things like the old-fashioned hardware store, is that those old boys (girls too sometimes, but not so much then maybe) could not only sell you something but could advise you on how to use it. When the big box stores came in they sometimes hired people who through no fault of their own did not know much about what they were selling. In some cases I think that situation improved at some places over time.

Anyway, even though I myself have not always been a shopping fan, the loss of the shopping experience I realize is a major loss or will be in our culture.

I mean shopping is part of the history of all civilizations I think.

Remember the ancient bazaars, Scarborough Fair, Market Street in San Francisco in maybe the 1950s, with the Emporium, City of Paris, Macy’s.

People went shopping not just to get goods but to socialize and patronize eating establishments and walk around and enjoy their time on earth.

But in this crazy fast-paced world where everyone is racing to who knows where and gets stuck in traffic in the process and where retail service is spotty — some clerk’s can’t even figure out a discount if the computer goes haywire — it is so much easier to get on the smart phone and order.

I think we’re losing something here. And it is not just jobs.


Well don’t write off retail just yet. Just today I passed by a new shopping center going in with advertising for a sporting goods store due to open soon.


Maybe there ought to be tax incentives for stay-at-home parents…

April 3, 2017

Just read a story whose headline suggested millennials may be more amenable to the now old-fashioned concept of women staying home and taking care of the children. There were a lot of survey statistics and those always confuse me because sometimes they don’t seem to paint a clear picture in my mind, but that is not really important to what I want to say.

I think the story was basically trying to say that maybe some of the younger generation (younger than I) are seeing the problems of raising a family with two people occupied with work outside the home and that in some cases young men have grown up to see their fathers struggle with the fact that men have lost their dominance in the work place and often their role as main bread winner.

And I think there was a statistic that said couples without kids on the whole enjoy life better than ones with kids, that is if they both work.

In a little more than a hundred years we have gone from the extreme of women almost being forced by custom and law to stay home and rear the kids and in many cases having no right to own property to near equal footing in the workplace (except still maybe not in pay — and that is a hard one to figure), or maybe in many cases women are surpassing men in the workplace. It often seems easier for women to get a job than unemployed men.

I don’t personally make surveys, and like I said, stories that throw a bunch of statistics at me, especially ones that in some cases seem to contradict each other, muddle my mind. But I do know what I have seen in my life (1949 to present).

In my lifetime my own mother mostly stayed at home. However, she was older than most mothers by the time she had me. She had worked out of the house from time to time when she was younger, even after she had her first child. But that was seasonal work, such as working in a fruit cannery.

(And actually, when I was in high school mom returned to seasonal work. She worked in a peach cannery and then a prune processing plant.)

But in my childhood it was more like the old sit-com Leave it to Beaver.

Mom prepared three meals a day, mostly from scratch — a lot of baking and frying and boiling on the stove. She nursed us when we were sick. She read stories to me,  made Kool-Aid and cookies for me and my friends, was a Cub Scout den mother — oh yeah, she fed and cared for the family dog, supervising its periodic bath in the backyard. Mom did all the grocery shopping. And sometimes the family car was not available. As a toddler I recall riding my trike next to her while she carried two bags of groceries under her arms several blocks.

Did mom like the arrangement?

Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe not all the time.

I know she wanted to be able to work outside the house, partly for variety but mainly to add more income to the family budget. She envied women who had jobs — she envied two-income families.

As far as I can recall (and I would have never known for sure), most of the mothers of my classmates did not work outside the home — this was in the 1950s.

Of course the biggest difference between then and now is that almost all of my classmates had a mother and father at home. By the time my own daughters went through school they were an oddity in that they had both mother and father at home.

We live in a far different world now than when I grew up. For most households it seems people have found having both mom and dad work is a necessity in order to provide a roof over the head and food on the table. Now that might not be true for high-paid professionals but then they want to keep up with their peers in lifestyle.

Of course what I said about having both mom and dad work obviously does not apply if it is a single-parent household and there are so many now. And there are so many single mothers, the result I would say of a breakdown in society.

I don’t think we want to or even can go back to a time when most women stayed at home to rear the kids, society has moved on, but certainly there are advantages.

It of course does not have to be mom who stays at home. There are cases when dad stays at home. But whoever it is, if that person can cook, and especially if that person can go beyond opening cans or microwaving frozen dinners, oh what a savings in money and if balanced meals — including fresh fruits and vegetables — are served, oh what a possible boon to health. But even if the stay-at-home person primarily warms up prepared meals that would still be a major savings over fast food or restaurants or delis.

And of course having one spouse able to stay at home and do all the other chores on the home front, cleaning and watching the kids and so on, is both a savings and a relief from the stress of the work world  and would seem to promote a happier household.

We need paid maternity and family leave and probably tax incentives to allow one spouse to stay at home. In some cases, I don’t know, spouses might trade off.

I have to say, in the past it seemed rather natural that women took care of the house and kids — it’s kind of a biological thing, wouldn’t you say? But modern conveniences have lessened some of the workload around the house. And our society has liberated women from the slavery of the past — and no one, man or woman, should want to return to that.

So all I was really trying to say is that there can be major advantages to having a stay-at-home mom or, for that matter, a stay-at-home dad. I had not really thought about the tax incentive thing previously, but now that I did — yeah why not? I think it would be good for individuals and society as a whole.


While I in no way want to criticize single mothers, I don’t think we should encourage this situation. It takes two to tango and we need to find ways to encourage living up to responsibilities.







Looking for a gift in the big city, unreported crime? A racial incident?

July 27, 2015

In my continual quest to buy a late present for my six-year-old grandson — well actually I had only made an attempt once before — I wandered through San Francisco’s Chinatown but found nothing, and that is to say that does not mean there was nothing, but nothing caught my eye. Actually I was just looking for a toy cable car. They had them, but they all seemed to be the same, cheap and flimsy — well cheap would have been okay, but flimsy not so much. If he is like I was as a kid (and then let’s hope not) he’d crush the thing in no time.

I tried ordering a toy truck via Amazon. What I got was something cheap and flimsy. I crushed it just trying to get it out of the package.

Actually he’s more into Lego sets, and he’s really good at building things. Ahhh, an eye for how to put things together, shapes and sizes, how things work. They say he has my looks. Fortunately he seems to have some hand/eye coordination and problem-solving skills at a young age, not like me.

But I just wanted to get him something simple, something for a little kid his age, and something for a little guy who probably has more stuff than he knows what to do with. If he tells his kids that as a little one he had to do without he will be a liar.

Look as I did I just could not find what I wanted.

In my quest Chinatown did not seem to me what it once was. Somehow the allure, the imagination, the mystery was gone. I told that to my next oldest brother. He said that’s what they said when he was a kid. In fact, he said, “Chinatown never was what it used to be”.

A tip: if you have never gone to San Francisco, by all means do go to Chinatown. You’ll enjoy it I’m sure, actually still lots to do and experience. But get off the main street, Grant Avenue, sometimes. Probably more interesting local color there.

And it is the big city, always something unexpected going on:

My sister and I were walking along Grant Avenue when a tall and skinny young Asian man came running by in what appeared to be a panic. I did not think much of it at the time, other than to wonder what his hurry was. But right after that we witnessed a rather large black man breaking into an upstairs window from a fire escape. This was in broad daylight. People were gawking at the spectacle. My sister wondered if he had “lost his key”. A group of elderly Chinese people were among the gawkers. One woman suggested someone call 9-1-1. Don’t know if anyone did. We left the area. This was in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon. I’m curious. What was that all about? How would I find out? This is the big city. I doubt the local news covers such things, if there even was something to cover. All the witnesses but no apparent action did hauntingly remind me of the infamous Kitty Genovese case in New York all those years ago when a young woman was attacked and murdered and supposedly witnesses in a neighborhood cowered behind their own apartment windows and did not even report anything.

Another tip when visiting the city: go to all the touristy places for sure, but also get away from those places and just see the city. It is beautiful and enchanting. And parts of it are dirty and smelly. It’s a big city.

We also strolled through a part of town that was redeveloped with shopping centers and on a Sunday was deserted. My sister said at the time it was thought it would revive the area. And then when they cleaned up the Old Ferry Building people said it was a waste of time and money. The place was packed yesterday.

And we went to maybe the most touristy of all place, Pier 39. That is the one place I would advise you just don’t bother with. I mean why would you spend the money to go to the big city just to buy a T-shirt? Or to look at gaudie, cheap (but expensively-priced) merchandise? It’s at one end of Fisherman’s Wharf. I think in total Fisherman’s Wharf is still worth going to, even though over the decades of my adulthood (I am almost 66) it has been transformed from a quaint fishing port into a carnival, because if you look hard enough, some of the old flavor is still there.

Also, it’s fun to ride the old streetcars. I used to ride what I called “old streetcars” (not to be confused with cable cars, which are even more fun). I rode the old boxy kind with my mom. We lived in the Sunset District of San Francisco across the street from the Pacific Ocean, and on occasions mom would take me in hand (I was really young when we left the city to live elsewhere) and we would board the street car and go under the Twin Peaks through one of two tunnels and come out into the daylight again on Market Street (nowadays the tunnel continues down Market). I recall the old street car making a hum, mum, mum sound, and it swaying from side to side if we happened to sit in the back. Oh, and I recall the change machine you dropped your fare into and the clanking of the coins as they swirled around and hit the sides of the glass globe.

Then these old boxy street cars, with their dark green paint, were replaced with more streamlined-looking cars which still had the dark green paint, and in turn they were replaced by even more streamlined cars and the paint scheme was changed to something somehow not as appealing I thought. But nowadays while there are the modern cars, the city has also purchased old ones from cities around the country, such as New Orleans. Maybe they even have a streetcar named Desire. Anyway I think the old ones are fun to ride on a look at.

But it is the city, and things happen. My sister and I were tired from walking around, and we boarded one of those old street cars to get back to her car, which she parks at the other end of the line (finding parking when you get downtown is difficult and can be expensive of course). We were at Pier 39 (why did we go there? to look for the toy cable car. But same cheap stuff). We needed to get back to Pier 1 or just past to board the other street car back to the other side of the mountain (remember Twin Peaks). At one stop a large black man got on. The car was crowded. The slightly-built Asian driver directed the man to go further back in the car — I don’t think we’re talking about to the back of the bus as it were, but maybe far back enough that he was not hovering over the much smaller driver (motorman?). The man refused to budge. The Asian driver refused to move the car any further till he did. It was a standoff. We got off the car and walked the rest of the way. I did eventually see that car move. Don’t know how it was resolved.

So we had what might have been a racial incident. But like I commented to my sister: I would have just complied with the driver. I mean he is the captain of the ship. On the other hand, I see the black guy’s point maybe. I think he thought he was being asked to move simply because of who he was — but I am not at all sure that was the case. But if the driver does not want you hovering over him, then why not just move a few steps back? Can’t we all just get along?

But while we are on the subject: while we were on foot, waiting at a traffic light, a convertible with a black couple (and the race may not really be important here) was sitting at a light with extremely loud rap music playing. And I use the term “music” liberally. It was annoying. I mean I love the sights and sounds of the city — except that. And I think the occupants of these vehicles know it is annoying. But they have an attitude they want to inflict upon the rest of us.

I’m planning to go to a conventional toy store in a neighboring city today and get something for the grandson. Maybe a good old Tonka Toy truck. Do they still have them? You know, the kind made of metal and sturdy as a real truck was when I was young — when everything, including real vehicles, was made of steel. I drive a big truck myself these days, but it’s mostly fiberglass. If those things catch on fire they just melt to the ground.

I usually shop at home. Shop locally. But the one toy store we had they closed.

Maybe kids don’t play with toys so much these days.

Too busy on their computers.


Just to let you know, I finally bought a Tonka Toy, a big metal dump truck, at Talbot’s Toyland in San Mateo, Ca. Of course it was made in China.

And still, there is a history to the Stars and Bars that is worth preserving…

June 30, 2015

Once the furor over the flag, the Confederate flag, dies down, let’s not be all political correct about it all. I mean let’s not have it be like Christmas where you can’t put up a nativity scene or even say Merry Christmas without someone calling the cops or threatening a civil suit. But yes, maybe the days of it flying from state houses, or otherwise displayed officially, are about over.

And it is right to call out the racists who try to use the banner for intimidation.

A few days ago I wrote about the momentum in favor of ceasing to fly the Confederate flag, because regardless of historical value it symbolizes slavery, human bondage, the terrible things we as a nation made black people endure. I was writing about the zeitgeist more than my own feeling, but I did opine that it was probably just as well to on a personal level to refrain from displaying it because of the terrible feelings and memories in brings up.

And I certainly don’t think it should have the imprimatur of government if it is displayed.

But the Stars and Bars represents a history a Southern heritage, a story of America that should be preserved and read about and understood in order to fully appreciate our unique American identity. We are like a family who had a major disagreement long ago and got over it (well most of us did) and are stronger for it. Along with the bad, comes the good.

However, the sad truth is there are ignorant and dangerous people who will display the confederate flag for nothing more than an attempt at intimidation and a statement of racism with no regard to legitimate history or even knowledge of it.

One misguided and full-of-hate young man recently gunned down people in a Bible class. He used the Confederate flag as a symbol for his hate. And his actions of course are what prompted all the current furor, and rightly so.

While I don’t think our modern governmental entities at any level should fly the flag, or otherwise display it or authorize it, I’m sure it will remain in museums and be used in other instances, such as Civil War re-enactments.

More about the pride of the South:

Throughout my lifetime it has been an accepted thing — well among white folks — to root for the South if you are from there. Football is popular down there, so it’s kind of like taking pride in the home team. And people of course have ancestors who fought and ones who were killed or injured in that terrible bloody conflict known down in Dixie even today not as the Civil War but the War Between the States.

It would take more than I can devote, or more than I know, here to fully explain why so many common soldiers from below the Mason-Dixon line were willing to put their lives on the line when most of them did not own slaves themselves. And I only kind of think I know what their thinking may have been. I mean I have read about it at some point.

(Blogger’s Note: due to some weird computer glitch not all the paragrahs have enough or any space separating them. Eventually I’ll probably just delete this post. It’s just that I wrote so much…)

Somewhere in my family line some distant relatives may or may not live in the south, but basically my direct heritage is from people who migrated from primarily Germany and France to the Midwest, Ohio and Illinois, as well as Nebraska on my father’s side and then to California. Both my parents were born and raised in California. My only possible connection to the Civil War as far as I know is my mom always used to say that one of her ancestors was a drummer boy in the Union Army.


But I recall my dad used to tell me that Southerners would say: “save your confederate money boys, the South will rise again”. And they were saying this well into the 20th Century.
And one of my little pals when I was young was from Texas, and although only a little boy who could not have fully understood it all, he took pride in being a rebel, identifying with the Stars and Bars. But that was in the time when a popular western on TV was “The Rebel” with its theme song beginning: “Johnny Yuma was a rebel…”
But seriously, one has to put themselves in the place of those rebel soldiers. They were fighting for their home territory. The ways of the South were different from those of the north. And they did not run things. The power was with the slave-holding gentry who ran sprawling plantations and who lived sort of like nobles in a feudal society.
I don’t think there was much of a middle class. Maybe the middle class basically consisted of shop keepers and professional men.
But, whatever, the whole economy down South was tied to cotton raised with the help of vast numbers of black slaves. Way back in the colonial days our forefathers seemed to have a way different attitude toward human rights, even if they did create the great experiment in democracy that is the United States. Even some white people were essentially slaves under the indentured servant system.
(And strangely enough there were some free black people then, and stranger still, I have read some even owned black slaves themselves. And history tells us that black people in Africa rounded up other black people and sold them to white slavers — and of course this does not excuse slavery in any way.)
(And by the way I am just going by a generalized knowledge of history in all of this, and the subject is of course much more complex and convoluted than I present here. But I do take steps to be accurate as possible as far as I go.)
Black slaves from Africa were originally imported to work tobacco and rice and sugar plantations, but once Eli Whitney invented that machine that mechanically picked the seeds out of cotton, the cotton gin, cotton became king, but it demanded a lot of field labor in the days before tractors and cotton picking machines (and interestingly those cotton picking machines did not take off until the early 1950s, although they were in development before that, but that is another story, and a fascinating one I think in that as a little boy I was a witness to that to a degree, tagging along with my dad, who made photos of them in the southern San Joaquin Valley of California) .
And then of course, as reprehensible as it is, black people were considered by many as something less than fully human — of course that was mainly out of convenience, I mean it makes for an excuse (albeit phony) for less than human treatment I suppose.
Once the millions of black slaves were here there was widespread fear that they would revolt (I mean wouldn’t you?). There had been a revolt in in Haiti, among other places. And there is another family connection. I have a French ancestor who was in the French military, I believe, and was killed in a slave revolt in Santo Domingo, according to a relative of mine.
There was also the fear that Northerners would force an end to slavery, and then what? The Southern economy would be ruined and what would happen with all those people becoming free men and women?
The white gentry encouraged the fear of black people in the minds of the lesser whites to both help keep the blacks in line and to protect themselves from the lower class whites who themselves might vie for land, power, and money in the South.
William Faulkner wrote several novels with the theme of the upheaval in the post Civil War South when, for lack of a better term here, some of the poor white trash usurped the role of the plantation owners who had been ruined by the loss of the war and their black slaves. (And I am not calling anyone trash myself, just using a known term and explaining the story line).
And then I think the more recent movie Cold Mountain deals with the social and peer pressure put upon the mostly young men of the times to sign up for the Confederate cause.
But it’s a new day. Equal rights among all human beings is the law of the land with no qualifications and most of our society has bought into that.
However, our history and our heritage survives.
I think it’s ironic that Joan Baez, the wonderful folk singer and civil rights and peace activist from the 1960s era (well her fame and talent has gone beyond that) did her own version of this song that tells the fictional story of a young rebel soldier in defeat:
(The original version of the song was written by Robbie Robertson and recorded by The Band. This is the Joan Baez version.)
Virgil Caine is my name and I drove on the Danville train
Till So much Cavalry came and tore up the tracks again
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive
I took the train to Richmond that fell
It was a time I remember, oh, so well
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringin’
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the people were singin’
They went, “Na, na, na”
Back with my wife in Tennessee and one day she said to me
“Virgil, quick, come see, there goes Robert E. Lee”
Now I don’t mind, I’m chopping wood
And I don’t care if the money’s no good
Just take what you need and leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best

The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringing..

Like Germans recognizing horrors of the Holocaust, some Southerners now feel shame over slavery

June 24, 2015

It appears that the horror of the shooting and murders by a young white man, somehow influenced by extreme racism, of several people in a Bible study class at a black church in South Carolina has had something like the effect the horrors of Nazism had on the German public, especially the generations that came after World War II.

Even though Southerners are still proud to be who they are and to be from where they are, they are not necessarily proud of what their ancestors did — I’m not saying all southerners feel that way, but according to a news story I just read it has become fashionable to recognize or admit that what the old Confederacy did was basically fight to preserve slavery, and as someone in that story said, all the terrible things that go along with human bondage.

(And one article I read claims that the notion that the Civil War was about more than just slavery is a false one, that in fact that is what it was about; I’ll comment on that some paragraphs down.)

Although there is the disturbing presence of Neo-Nazism in Germany today, the mainstream of German society recoils at its World War II-era past in which some 50 million Jews and others not meeting the qualifications of the “Super Race” were condemned to death in what is termed the Holocaust (gassed to death and incinerated in ovens) or at the very least slave labor, which often killed them by the physical abuse and starvation.

With this recent shooting and all the recent deadly confrontations between blacks and white police, with deaths being suffered by the blacks, many who before might have continued to defend the flying or other display of the old Confederate battle flag, the Stars and Bars, as nothing more than an innocent, prideful recognition of Southern heritage realize or own up to the fact it is among other things a symbol of white supremacy and the right to deny civil rights to non-whites (or more specifically blacks). Yes there may also be a symbolism for the nostalgia of the antebellum South and the genteel, rural way of life with grand plantations over a beautiful landscape. But a major component of that old way of life was the use of human beings as slaves. And really, in this day and age, one cannot with a straight face defend slavery and at the same time call him or herself a believer in American democracy.

I do not really know what the real attraction of the Stars and Bars is. It goes beyond a symbol of the old Confederacy. Many with no Southern heritage like to use it, adorning their pickups trucks and such. It’s sort of a symbol of anti-establishment, anti-intellectual, certainly anti-liberal, feeling. It is maybe a symbol of individualism, as in “I’m a rebel”. And to some extent just something to have fun with and enjoy when you’re out and about or when you are kicking back and having some brews.


He’s a drug store truck drivin man
He’s the head of the Ku Klux Klan
When summer rolls around
He’ll be lucky if he’s not in town…

(Recorded by The Byrds. Song authors: Gram Parsons and Roger McGuinn.)


I feel somewhat neutral as to whether it should be displayed (I mean this is supposed to be a free country with freedom of speech and expression).

Some Southern states have actually at times incorporated it into their own flags, while the Stars and Bars itself may also fly at the capitols of some Southern states, and some states offer or allow or have allowed Confederate license plates.

I do think one has to realize what the history of that symbol is. If not, then one is ignorant or being intellectually dishonest.

And it would seem good judgment to tone it down in the interest of a more harmonious society.

A major reason for the loss of favor among the political establishment with the Stars and Bars, especially in the South where it did hold favor, is the fact that blacks nowadays, finally, have political clout. And despite the fact that racism persists and rears its ugly head, overall we have a much more tolerant society. And while young racists, such as the one in South Carolina, are still being produced, most young people today I think don’t look at the world through the prism of race.

And here is the biggie: commercial interests, such as Walmart, want no part of losing customers over the issue of race and bigotry. Walmart as an example says it will stop selling Confederate flags.

Earlier this year, the business sector wanted no part of political moves to discriminate against gays. Again, why would they want to lose business?

And what was the American Civil War all about? It was not taught well when I went to grade school and high school. I learned a little more in college but I think either it was not presented quite right there or I failed to see the forest for the trees. I mean as a kid I simply knew that Lincoln freed the slaves. Then one learns that there were the issues of states’ rights and tariffs and such. But when you read and think about it all, you have to come back to the same point, the whole thing revolved around a social and political and economic system that revolved around treating certain human beings as nothing more than livestock. And in no way can that have ever been right. It has been a mark of ever-lasting shame on our nation. But we can get over it. We have made amends. Let’s don’t go backwards.

So definitely I don’t think government entities should have anything to do with flying the confederate symbol, be it the battle flag or anything else associated with slavery.

As to individuals, I would hope we could just leave that up to personal judgment.

Bigotry exists, but it is not as popular as it once was. Or at least I hope not.


The guilt or shame or regret over slavery and our racist past is actually shared by all since all parts of the nation had a part in it and slavery was even written into our beloved Constitution. I did not mean to state or otherwise imply that the South holds all the responsibility.

Missing when boys were boys and men were men

June 5, 2015

I don’t know if we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again, but I do miss the time when boys were boys and men were men. You know from the All in The Family theme song.

Don’t get me wrong. I am 100 percent for rights for all people no matter what their sexual persuasion: heterosexual, homosexual, and even transgender. People are people.

But in the news now is this transgender business. I don’t read much past the headlines in this. I mean I saw a headline in the New York Times opinion section calling for allowing transgender people to openly serve in the military. But I did not read on. Maybe I will later.

I’m just more comfortable in a society based on the natural fact that in our species there are males and females. What’s the difference? Well firstly, we have different plumbing — different sexual organs. In the natural way of things — I’m having to  explain this? — the male mates with the female (or visa versa, however you want to put it) and through that process new life can be formed. Now a higher power (God if you will) also included something about men being attracted to women and women being attracted to men. Through this process mating and child rearing can happen. While the idea of actual families may be somewhat a human construct — that is developed by humans themselves — it seems to have worked.

Also one of the highlights of life is or should be this attraction between the sexes. I mean it seems to make up the subject matter of most songs and even most literature in general. It is life itself.

But there are aberrations. Some people are born homosexual (gay being the common designation nowadays). And then there are men who actually feel they are not attracted to the same sex but that they are actually woman trapped in men’s bodies (okay maybe they are attracted to the same sex then. I’m already confused). And I guess it works the other way around too (men trapped in women’s bodies). And I think it is pretty well concluded that being gay or transgender is not just a bad habit but a fact of nature, albeit an aberration.

So if you have read this far you may be asking what is my point?

My point is that I accept the fact that people are born the way that they are and I accept the fact that they are basically entitled to the same rights as anyone else. But I also think the reality is that all of this is an aberration (I keep using that word). Our society has been structured to accommodate the norm. Boy becomes man. Girl becomes woman. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. They get together. Along comes baby or babies and the cycle is repeated. All of this does not mean everyone lives happily ever after — that would be rather dull anyway.

I kind of wish we all could just accept people are who they are but in the process we would not have to give up our own societal norms and way of doing things. And for may part, if you are a guy and you want to turn yourself into a woman, well that’s your business. But don’t expect everyone to be excited and supportive (but hopefully those closest to you and your friends will). What I’m trying to say, and I know not very well, is that it is still a man and woman’s world, based on the splendid differences between the sexes.

Olympic star Bruce Jenner has apparently had himself turned into a woman (thanks to the marvels of modern whatever) and has felt it necessary to have himself displayed on the cover of Vanity Fair Magazine (saw it on the internet like everyone else). He now wants to be known as Caitlyn.

I just think the whole thing is rather tawdry.

I mean do what you want to do Bruce, but why make a spectacle of it? I guess it’s supposed to make some kind of statement for the benefit of promoting acceptance for all transgenders. I will have to admit, all the publicity, the promotion of acceptance of gays and transgenders, with the aid of celebrities, we have endured over the past decade or so has revolutionized our society. I keep reading that the younger generations now accept all of this without question.

I grew up during the sexual revolution — more rights or I should say equal rights for women. On the whole this has been a positive. Certainly women have a lot more to offer the world than duties as homemakers. And even if they were to be only homemakers they naturally should have all the rights that men enjoy in a free society. Perhaps one of the negatives, though, is that women’s role as the rearer of children has been diminished or marginalized and there has been a break down of the traditional family. Some people may say good riddance to the traditional family unit, but not me.

One of the problems with the erosion or disappearance of the traditional family unit I think is that people lack responsibility. Children are produced but often one or both parents don’t seem to feel that sense of complete responsibility. Their life comes first. And then the children grow up and maybe without even knowing it they take on that sense that their only responsibility is to themselves for their own self enjoyment — never mind the kids that might be produced or duty to society as a whole.

Okay I got off track. I mean I’m not blaming transgender folks. I’m just saying, liberalizing our social values can be good, but things can get out of hand.

I say let people be who they are but stick with the reality that things like transgender are not the norm.

Maybe I am being selfish. I mean since I consider myself normal, at least in the sense I have been writing about, I am not considering the torment others go through, others who find themselves outcasts in society.

Yes, I am happy that society has developed more tolerance. And I suppose without a lot of hoopla about the fact that some of us are different and about how we should accept God’s children as they are this would not have come about.

But this thing with Bruce Jenner on the magazine cover, an Olympic star, well it’s all very strange…

I’m not officially religious, but it just seems like Sodom and Gomorrah to me.



Gangs could not exist without our help; they should be seen as uncool…

May 27, 2015

I just read a heart-breaking story about a police officer making his last traffic stop for the night in a suburb of Albuquerque, N.M., and before he could even draw his service revolver, or perhaps even knew he should, a passenger in the car, a purported gang member, shot him dead.

It occurs to me that gangs do not exist in a vacuum. And they need support from other folks just to survive. I mean they must have a place to live and to sleep and to eat. They take that support, sometimes from family members and from the social welfare institution, and then they prey on the public.

But out of fear and out of cynicism of the system the gangs are protected by the very public upon which they prey.

People who live in gang-infested areas would do better to support and help the local police than to see them as the enemy.

In some places, though, the police have not made that easy. In some places the police are their own worst enemy.

But the scourge of the gang culture threatens us all.

It does not help that young people like to dress in gang-member-like attire.

It would be refreshing to see that as not being cool.

And of course the entertainment industry and other commercial interests play on the gang wannabe culture in their cynical chase for the all-mighty dollar.

It is said that the gangs are in part the result of a feeling of hopelessness among the lower class and among so-called minority groups.

But in my life I have seen two basic types of people: those who follow or try to follow the norms of society and who do what they can do be productive members of it, and those who do not — and nationality and skin color seem to have nothing to do with it.

As a truck driver I am constantly in areas where unemployment is no doubt high, and yet, I see people of all cultures and skins colors working. I feel sorry for them having to live and work around others who do not share their sense of self-worth and responsibility.

But gangs could not exist without our perhaps at times unwitting support.

It’s good business versus discomfort with homosexuality…

April 3, 2015


In my original draft of a post on the Indiana and Arkansas religious freedom/anti-gay laws I had written a sentence that said the courts have ruled against discrimination against homosexuals. Got to thinking about that, did some quick research (as I had time on breaks from my real job) and decided to yank that sentence. It would be more accurate to say the law seems unsettled on all of  this. The Supreme Court of the United States I believe it is correct to say has not tackled this issue head on. It has in one or two cases (or more?) let stand lower court decisions against such discrimination.

But it seems it depends on where you are whether a business can simply refuse service to someone because they are homosexual — I mean we’re talking about performing a service, such as decorating a wedding cake or taking photos at a gay wedding. In at least two cases, I believe, lower courts have held refusing service based on one’s sexual orientation is a denial of constitutional rights.

For now, I’ll just say the law is unsettled.

As far as day-to-day commerce goes, I can’t see any room for discrimination. But I do kind of see the point of someone not wanting to basically take part in something they don’t believe in or are uncomfortable with, such as a photographer being asked to record a same-sex marriage. And I did not suggest whether that is right or wrong. People have their  own beliefs and feelings.

But on regular day-to-day commerce society would break down quickly if we only dealt with those who thought and acted just like ourselves.

My original post follows except for that one sentence I deleted and replaced with all the above:


The governor of Indiana said it was all a misunderstanding and misreporting by the “media”, that the law his legislature just passed was not intended to allow discrimination against homosexuals. After an immediate backlash from homosexuals and businesses eager for their dollars (it all spends the same no matter what a person’s sexual orientation), he even offered or called for an amendment to the law to make sure it would not allow discrimination against homosexuals.

Faced with a  similar new law in Arkansas — they’re called “religious freedom acts” or some other such euphemism — the governor there, facing the same backlash, called for the repeal of the law or at least an amendment.

I think anyone who follows current events knows that the laws were intended to allow businesses to refuse service to homosexuals. What else could they be for? Has anyone said?

It seems to me that we don’t need religious freedom acts.We have the First Amendment which specifies that we have freedom of religion.

Now I will allow that there could be some instance where a business might be run by someone of a particular religion and that someone might be asked to do something that seems counter to his or her religion. I would suppose all this might have to be on a case-by-case basis. I mean there might be some rare exception where said person would not have to perform a certain service — I don’t know about this one.

But the reality here is that so far the main targets are people who do not want to serve homosexuals and in the instance of the National Health Care Act or Obamacare there was the notion that religious institutions should not be subject to requirements to provide health coverage that included birth control or abortions.

In the so-called Hobby Lobby case, the U.S. Supreme Court did hand down a majority opinion that sided with religious institutions not wanting to be under a mandate to provide health care coverage for birth control. But the ruling was said to be a narrow one, only applying the certain situations — like I said up top, the law seems unsettled. I’m sure the reasoning in Hobby Lobby could be used in cases against serving gays. I don’t mean it would be right, just used.

But the current fuss is over the former, serving gays.

I would say that if you put yourself out there to serve the public in this free and democratic country, then you just have to serve everyone equally.

What if the heathens took over and owned most of the businesses and refused to serve religious folks?

This religious anti-gay thing the Republican Party has used to whip up frenzy and gain political points for so long has finally come back to bite it in the rear end.

Like I said before, gay dollars spend as well as straight dollars — any good Republican knows that.


I usually do not use the term “gay” in place of homosexual. I lament that the original meaning of such a good word, “gay”, has been lost. It happened sometime I think after my teenagehood. Back then local newspapers still ran headlines about everyone having a “gay” time. The meaning would be misconstrued now.

If we’re so lonely why do we seek virtual reality?

March 26, 2014

And I thought I was the only one who was lonely, a widowed truck driver out on the open road, but it seems much of society is even with people all around them. I mean people are constantly texting each other, sometimes when the person is in the other room — my own daughter and her daughter have done this, but they are not alone (no play on words intended), and I’ve heard others do this too. And we all have seen people sitting with each other at a dinner table having their own private texting sessions with people elsewhere.

Now Facebook has bought out an outfit that makes some kind of head gear (it looks super clumsy and dorky in the photo I saw) that allows people to have some kind of virtual reality get-togethers with folks elsewhere. The story I read did not give details, and I was in no mood to know too much about it anyway. I think I got the creeps some time ago when I read that the technology already exists to where you wear a certain type of glasses that will instantly tell you who you are talking with and their background (and can we or will be shortly be able to read their mind, that will be the end of the human race or at least any kind of meaningful relationships. I mean as much as we’d like to know what someone is thinking, it may sometimes be better if we do not).

I have a true love, hate relationship with technology. On the one hand I lament that it at first promised great things for my former occupation as a newspaper reporter and then all but did away with traditional paper newspapers. On the other hand I love having the electronic or web version of the New York Times at my finger tips wherever I go and with the latest updated stories (and of course all the other sites). I appreciate my Kindle with its e-reader and even its feature that allows me to watch movies. And as a truck driver I can’t imagine what I did before the cell phone, not only is it handy, but one could not even do the job without one these days, and it is extremely difficult to figure out how we did without them. I began my truck driving just before cell phones took over. I still recall making calls from the telephones that were at the driver booths in the restaurants at the truck stops. I don’t know what we did when we broke down. Since cell phones quickly took over my breakdowns have meant I make a cell call for help. I did have to flag down another trucker once when my cell did not get coverage in a particular area. Fortunately the other driver’s phone did — before he stopped many trucks just whizzed by (who has time?).

So yeah, it’s great to have the latest news and to have books and movies at my fingertips and to have help on the way when I am stranded on the road (and to be able to do this blog), and I’m all for breakthroughs in medicine so we can all live a longer and healthier life, but at some point I wonder, don’t we have enough?

And why are we so much after being all by ourselves in virtual reality? Has technology dehumanized us?

I think the answer is: not yet, but it will.



Oh, and back to the trucking culture. When I began this phase of my life, we all used to eat at the truck stop restaurants and hang out, phones on the tables, and make calls to our dispatchers. And of course truckers swapped stories. You should see some of those restaurants these days. Many of them are deserted. Many have closed down. They have been replaced by fast food outlets. What with cell phones and other technology speeding up the dispatching of trucks and creating tighter delivery schedules — and at the dame time new “safety” rules make truckers cut corners in their time to get things done in a narrower window — no one has time. In addition, many truckers have their own refrigerators and microwaves in their trucks.

It’s a faster world. It’s a lonelier world.

Simple America dies with Andy Griffith, who was as American as the Fourth of July…

July 4, 2012

So the day before the Fourth of July, the United States’ birthday celebration, Andy Griffith, better known as the fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, dies.

Well Mr. Griffith was right up there with the Fourth of July with what America is all about. Yes, the iconic character he played was fictional, of course, and nothing is as simple and clean as the skits that were played out on the Andy Griffith Show, but they were American through and through, although they represented a culture that is fast disappearing — the simple down home America.

I’ve seen it for real in my life time. Of course under the exterior of happiness and warmth and hospitality and simple pleasures there is always conflict and strife, but we have to accept life as it is.

But when I look back at that sitcom when I watched it, in its original presentation, I marvel now at how each show had no violence, no sexual innuendo to make you wince if your children were present or your mother, and how there was always a moral at the end, and yet it all played out as quite realistic.

But you know, in my life I have seen these characters or at least versions of them.

When I was about 12 and lived in a small town in the Sacramento Valley of California, I swear there was a local policeman who was the spitting image of the bumbling, full of false bravado Deputy Barney Fife of Mayberry. He was skinny and the police gear weighted him down. And for some reason the cops then had taken to wearing motorcycle crash helmets, even while driving squad cars — that added to the overburdening weight of gear for this slim cop.

A better example yet was my first brother in-law. He reminded me a lot of Andy Griffith, in looks and actions. He was a policeman for a time in Oklahoma. Later he ran a local service station there. Bur he loved the small town life and Oklahoma. “This is God’s Country”, he would proudly proclaim. He had a droll sense of humor. Once I was with him in his home town and he went to the local bank and drove up to the drive-up teller widow. He gave the teller a sack of fresh garden vegetables. “We’re still on the barter system here”, he told me.

When he worked as a cop he hauled hay on the weekends for extra money.

When I was taking journalism classes at junior college I interviewed our local sheriff in the small rural Northern California town where I went to high school. He looked and dressed like the stereotypical southern sheriff, although this was not in the South.

He told me that the way he got deputies was that he knew the young men’s families and hired them accordingly. I was so young and raw at this that I did not realize that he told me a lot that would have made a colorful and quite informative real news feature. I only handed it in as a class assignment.

He was folksy, but a man of the people, the people who elected him.

Later we got a sheriff from out of the area with high-toned ways. No one, but the select few, could ever see him. He was much too busy.

But the county to the north of us, with a larger population, still had the down home type sheriff. I could not get in touch with our local sheriff. But once I had a story that required me to call the other sheriff to the north. I dialed that county’s sheriff’s office number I got out of the phone book and the sheriff himself answered and was quite accommodating.

But just like that new high-toned sheriff, as a nation we have pretty much moved away from the simple life.

And we are no happier for it.

But of course not everyone grew up in a small town or small towns as I have or maybe you have (actually I was born in San Francisco but my family moved away from there before I entered kindergarten). But things were more down home and simple even in the urban settings once upon a time.

We’ve moved away from that too for the most part.

And yet I sense people long to return.

Well there’s always Andy Griffith reruns.

Rest in Peace: ANDREW SAMUEL “ANDY” GRIFFITH, 1926 to 2012 (age 86)



I’ve also encountered characters in my childhood and adult life to match the other regulars and visiting characters who were portrayed on the Andy Griffith Show and I’ll bet many of you have too. Heck, if you’re baby boomer like me and a guy, weren’t we all Opie at one time?