Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This Butts For You!

I am not a tree hugger. Never have been, never will be. I don't hold to the views of Greenpeace, or any other eco-militant group. I do not participate in Earth Day. I don't drive a Prius, nor do I vote for the Green Party candidates. Let's face it, I am not politically correct in my views, stances, and thoughts about the environment.

With that said, I am not a litter bug. Never have been, never will be. I do my best to be a steward of the Earth, or more succinctly; my little part of it. If I can get somewhere by walking, I usually walk though not always. I use my bike (Cannondale Beast of the East M800-SWEET RIDE!) as much as I can and have retrofitted it from mountain bike tires to street slicks. I don't believe in having every light on in my apartment. When I leave a room I turn the light off. When I do the dishes I don't let the water run on and on and on whilst I wash away last nights dinner residue (I know it sounds yummy doesn't it?)

Does all of what I don't do make me a bad person? Does all of what I do do make me a good person? Hey, I am just me and I am doing my best to take care of what I have been blessed with and to not muck things up too much for my kids and their kids (when they get around to having them after they are allowed to marry at the age of 35).

One of my pet peeves (Lord don't I have a lot!), is something that you may laugh at it, but it bugs me nonetheless. It deals with smokers. Now let me preface this by saying that I think smokers, on the whole, are a persecuted lot. It seems that the public perception of smokers ranks them as more lascivious than rapists, thieves, and politicians, ok maybe not politicians by you catch my drift.

I don't mind that people smoke, I am not out to rid the world of smokers. Some of my family and friends are smokers and I have never threatened to with hold my love and friendship if they don't quit smoking. Hey, I hang around smokers so much that I am up to a pack and a half of second-hand smoke a day. And depending on my mood, and how many beers I may or may not have had I will occasionally light up a butt or two.

With that said, my beef with smokers centers on those who feel that the open road is their ash tray. I see time and time again, smokers who drive down the road and flick their spent butts out their windows. I always think to myself, "Don't they have and ash tray in their car? Why can't they put it out in that?" I don't know why it is that these people feel the need to smoke, flick, and floor it away from there. Is it that much of a problem to empty an ash tray?

I shouldn't lump all smokers together, it is just cigarette smokers who do this heinous act. I never see cigar's being tossed out a car window, nor meerschaum pipes, hookahs, or even bongs, just cigarettes. Why is that?

Every time I see a ciggy-butt thrown to the wind by a motorized smoker blowing by I expect to see, over my shoulder, Chief Iron Cody Eyes standing there with a tear rolling down his cheek from those eco-friendly public service commercials from the 1970s. Remember him?

Man did the Indians get screwed! But who is laughing now? It seems that almost every remaining tribe is rolling in the wampum from all of the casinos that they own and now they are wielding some incredible clout. They should use that muscle to, in the spirit of the late Chief Iron Cody Eyes, move in on the garbage hauling, um excuse me the Waste Management Industry, and start charging the people who stole their land exorbitant amounts of cash to haul their trash away.

I know, I know, the garb, um Waste Management Industry is under the ownership of our friends of Silician descent but I am sure that our Native-American friends could make them an offer that they couldn't REFuse (pun intended).

Getting back to cigarettes by the wayside, if you smoke just put it out in the ash tray that God gave you when you bought your car. I am sure that you are using the lighter that came with it so why not use the ash tray that is there too. You don't want that ash tray to start having a crisis of self-confidence do you?

So there it is, my pet peeve du jour. I told you that it would seem petty, but alas, I am not above pettiness regarding my peeves!

Now go out and enjoy the day! And smoke 'em if you got 'em, you now know where you can put them too!

Be Good, But Not Boring!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bagel and a Shmear, Amen!

I grew up in Greenwich, CT which is really part of the suburbs of NYC. I love that part of the country. There is a hodge podge of cultures there and you get a taste of the rest of the world in the Tri-State area. In my neighborhood there were Italian families, Greek families, Swedish families, Jamaican families, Polish families, Jewish families and at least one Irish/Mexican family, my own (weird combination indeed! However we were too lazy to drink!)

There were all kinds wonderful smells around dinner time that would come from the homes in that neighborhood. My best friend's mom was one of the best cooks that I have ever had the pleasure to know. She was a little Italian woman who could make something out on nothing. Her specialty was braciole . To taste that was to taste the food of God; it was heavenly.

At Greek Easter time, the Demitriadi's would dig a pit in their front yard and roast a lamb over the fire that they would start in that pit. The aroma wafting through the neighborhood drove all of us wild with hunger. Thank God Himself that my mom and Mrs. Demtriadi were good friends. We always got an invite to dinner with roasted lamb, spanakopita, baklava, and other Greek delicacies.

My mom was not one who liked to cook(though she could and was better then she thought), but my father, well now that man could cook! He even had a cast iron pan that was older than God, or so it seemed. That thing was so well seasoned that it was blacker than the devil's heart.

His best meal was Sunday Brunch. Every Sunday, after church we would come home and dad would get to fixin' our meal. There were only four people in my family but he would cook for an army, and usually a friend or five of mine or my brother's would drop by.

The menu would change from time to time but you would always find good bagels(maybe even some bialy's) cream cheese, lox, and sliced onions. There is nothing on this Earth quite like a good bagel and a shmear of cream cheese. I am not talking about the things you get in the supermarkets in plastic bags, or the things that they sell at Panera Bread and call a bagel. I am talking about good Jewish bagels made the right way; boiled in water first then baked. This produces a nice crunchy outside and a soft chewy inside.

I live in the Midwest and I have not been able to find a good bagel, pizza, or deli anywhere. They have things that they call bagels, and pizzas, and delis, but they are the not the real thing, they ain't kosher! (Kosher pizza? Believe me they exist, not so much Jewish pizza as much at it is pizza done right!).

It is amazing how you can take the little things for granted in life, and when they are gone they create a void that is tough to fill. We can live without these things, that is for certain. However, our quality of live is not the same. It changes and is lessened. Other new things come along and may take our attention away from what we miss but the void is still there.

Lest you think that I am just talking about food, I am not. I am talking about people, and places, and events. I know that I have taken people for granted in my life, and when they have gone there is a void and even their idiosyncrasies that once drove me crazy are missed. Why is it that we don't appreciate what we have until it is gone?

I heard of a story of a woman who had wanted a particular dress that her husband thought was too expensive, so she never got it. She would walk by the store where it stood in the window on a mannequin and she would just wish and continue on her way. Her husband knew that his wife really wanted it but it was just not in his budget to get it for her.

Sadly, she past away not long after that. He was so stricken by her death that he went and bought that dress to have her buried in it. It may sound sweet, but when you really look at it it is sad! She never got the joy of wearing that stupid dress! He bought if for her anyway, so there was money to be found somewhere.

I am not advocating blowing the bank on meaningless things. However, what would have been the harm in getting her that dress while she lived. Maybe they would not have been able to do some of the things that they were accustomed to do, but aren't our loved ones worth the sacrifice? May we appreciate the time with our loved ones that is given to us while it lasts.

That is what I learned sitting around that Sunday Brunch table. We weren't rich people, both of my parents worked and we rented apartments to live in. We never had the most expensive things there were, but we never went without.

I learned that there are times to splurge, and cook for an army knowing that the smells, the company, the conversations would lead friends and family to our home. I learned that family matters most and that we should never look back in regret over not doing something that should have been done for them.

I learned all of this, sitting around a kitchen table after Sunday church drinking milk, and having a bagel and a shmear.

Be good, but not boring!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Harry " I Fit Iron Dick" Potter

I am not into the Harry Potter thing that has been going on in the World for the past several years. I started the first book but got bored with it and found that it was not that well written. I have seen most of the movies and they were fun, although repetitive. There are other books that are vastly superior to the Potter books, and I believe that the hysteria surrounding the books was media driven.

I love sci-fi and fantasy books. I am not avid in reading every one that comes out but I have some favorite authors; J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov. There are other wonderful authors, but I don't read as much as I should and when I do read I read other genres such as fiction, poetry, history, and biography.

People who know me and know that I read fantasy and sci-fi ask me what I think about the Potter books. I guess it must be in the way that they ask me, or the fact that they have a copy under their arm, but I know that they want me to validate their love of Potter by saying that the books are the best thing to happen to mankind since the invention of steam engine. I hate to let them down, but I tell them that I think the Potter books are poorly written and nothing more than pablum for people who want to been known as well read but in fact are not. OUCH! Ancient Latin saying of Truthem Dothem Hurtem!

They step back a pace or two as if my words had sucked the very life out of them. They stumble around for a moment or two take a deep breath regain their footing and then say something to the effect that at least the books have got kids reading. "At least the kids are reading! What's wrong with that?"

Is that the saving grace to the Potter books? At least kids are reading?! Well with that logic I guess that we can hand our children Penthouse Letters, Mein Kampf, or the Kama Sutra, afterall it doesn't matter what they read it just matters that they read.

Style over substance wins out again.

I will admit that with all of the latest hoopla over the last book being released I was a bit curious as to who would get the ax. I had heard that Ms. Rowling had said that some of her characters would not make it out of the book alive. Interesting! I thought.

So I asked the few people who I know that have actually read the book as to who dies. It was odd that not one of them would tell me.

"Read the book,"they would say to me.

"I would rather have a colonoscopy," was my response(between you and me trying to find out who died without reading the book was just as painful!).

My friends told me that if revealed who died that it would ruin if for me. And I let them know that it would not ruin anything for me and they would save me the money it would cost to buy the book(like I would really buy that book-puhleeze!).

So, as it stands now I am not curious about it anymore. I don't give a rat's ass who dies and who lives. The thought is not keeping me up all night worrying about poor Harry and his posse. What keeps me up all night is stuffing can tops into long paper bags, but enough about my current job-more on that later.

In case you were wondering about "I Fit Iron Dick," it is an anagram. Go figure it out. If you just can't do it, then go watch Austin Powers Goldmember in the deleted scene section. Crude humor? Indeed! Funny? Very! Dr. Evil will hip you to the anagram. Now go solve it you Frickin' Idiot!

Now go read a book, just not the Potter books!

Be Good, But Not Boring!

Here I Stand?

If you are reading this, and I thank you for that, you may be asking yourself, "What does he mean with the title of his blog? Here I Stand? What does it mean?" All wonderful questions and I will attempt to answer them.

First and foremost, I am a Christian in the Lutheran tradition. Martin Luther (no not Martin Luther King Jr. but an even older man with a similar name) uttered the words, "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me!" when he was on trial for heresy against the Catholic Church. It was April of 1521 and Luther was convicted by the Holy Spirit, and his own conscious, to not recant of his belief that there was more to God than just what the church and the priesthood were telling the people. He learned from the Bible the truth about God and it was vastly different than what the church was saying it was.

Luther was a man, full of the same types of problems that all men have. However, God used him in spite of his shortcomings and say what you want about the man, he was passionate and had conviction. He knew, that April of 1521, that his life was on the line but he did not back down and ransom it for something that went against conscious.

I respect that stance, and I am not half the man Luther was, but yet I strive to have that type of conviction in my faith, and in my beliefs in general, to literally put my life on the line for what I believe. In that avenue I will know whether I really do believe what I say or if I am just full of it.

There is more to Here I Stand... than just Martin Luther's hand. As with most people I have had ups and downs and one of the biggest downs was being involved in a car accident in 1982. I was badly injured, yet I was alive unlike my best friend who left this world in that crash. Among the injuries that I sustained, other than a broken heart, was a severely fractured right femur bone. I was in traction for 14 weeks and it took me another year before I could walk again unaided by crutches or a cane.

So I stand, and I thank God for that. That I stand, whether it be here, or there, or anywhere is that I do indeed stand. And through the years since then I have learned to crawl, then stand, as I have dealt with the loss of my best friend in that accident.

And though I stand it does not mean that I am stuck in one place. In order to walk or run you need to stand as well. So, I walk forward in life, standing with my head held high in the knowledge that I will probably fall somewhere along the way. Then I will pick myself up, brush myself off, and start all over again.

Chumbawumba was a one hit wonder group with their song Tubthumping. You remember it! Don't deny it, it is probably even on your iPod. It is no song of greatness, and it is pretty repetitive, yet it pumps me up and gets me going when I feel ready to give up and give in.

"I get knocked down
But I get up again
Though you're never gonna keep me down."

Corny? You betcha! But it is also true, and at heart I am a cornball. You will either love that about me, or hate it with a passion. The choice is yours.

So Here I Stand...surveying the scenes before me, out here in the Midwest. Looking at life with wonder and renewed hope and knowing that whatever I meet will be an adventure. I am no Pollyanna, not that it would be so bad, but I am just a man with hopes and dreams and love to give and lessons to learn. Not that much different from you, perhaps. So check in from time to time and see what else is brewing. Feel free to leave a comment, I would love to hear from anyone who took the time to read my thoughts.

Thanks for sharing this with me. More to come!