We are going downhill fast and it is not skiing the Alps.

  1. How many states are there?
  2. What sunk the Titanic?
  3. In what war was Vicksburg?
  4. If the president and vice-president are incapacitated, who takes over?
  5. Who is Rosa Parks?
  6. Is Puerto Rico a state?
  7. Finish the statement, “All men are created __________”
  8. What is the number of the original colonies?
  9. Where is the Liberty Bell?

Simple questions. Should a high school senior know them?

The probability is that there is a good percentage who do not know the answers. Do we teach the answers to these questions?

How can one not know the answers?

We are a nation of trivia. We know more about the television shows then the answers to these questions. We know the words to music and that is essentially nonsense. Yet we do not know some of the essentials on our own country. Sad, pathetic and a rift on our educational system.

Note I did not give your number ten. It is usually, “who is the vice president of the United States?”

Now if you read my blog you probably know the answers because my readers are above the average bear. But ask your fellow Americans and be shocked.

Taking a Chances

We, the people, assume the right to take chances. We will celebrate and shoot off fireworks thinking we know what we are doing. It is our right

Of course we are smart enough to use fireworks that are safe. We buy the cheapest and most dangerous toys of all on this day. The result is a few fingers and maybe an eye or two. But we will not leave it all to the professionals. We take chances.

I too have taken chances. We all do. I was on a trip to Mexico in the 1980’s. As a side trip I went to Acapulco to see the divers. During the day I was walking along the beach and I saw something I wanted to do. A boat towing people para sailing looked promising. I went to the young man in charge. I indicated in my broken Spanish that I was willing to do the deed. He kept saying “Gordo” over and over. I assumed that meant brave so I pounded my chest and said “Gordo, Gordo.”

Reluctantly the young man strapped the appliance around my body hooking me up to the parachute that was attached by cable to the motor boat. Within seconds I was in the air like a bird. It was beautiful and quite an experience. As I floated over the water I looked down. There was the water below me and I suddenly realized that if the cable broke I would be drifting into the water which may contain sharks and on top of that I am a poor swimmer. I thought of myself as chump food for the sharks and a chump for taking a chance. Finally the boat headed for shore. Then I realized I had not been given any instruction on how to land. I plopped into the water and scrapped up my leg. By the by I learned later that Gordo meant heavy or overweight not brave.

I wrote this story because people take chances and sometimes pay with their lives. We do it all the time. We climb up on a roof. We did not mean to fall. We text and drive. We did not mean to have the accident. We pull pranks that when we look at them were really foolish. We close the government and think people will reelect us in spite of our stupidity. We put our faces in the mouth of the lion and do not expect him to bite us. Ah people, we believe we are invincible and we are not.

Men in the movies as not men.

A man in a suit.

Ricou Browning donned the first suit to film the underwater gill monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon. He also worked in the sequels. He still lives today but not under water. He worked at Weeki Wachee and did stunt work. Browning was also involved as a director in Thunderball and Caddyshack. He received the Florida Legends Award.

Ricou Browning
Ricou Browning in his movie costume at Wakulla Springs (15055100304).jpg
Ricou Browning as the Gill-man
Born November 23, 1930 (age 83)
Fort Pierce, Florida, USA
Occupation film director, actor, producer, screenwriter, underwater cinematographer, stuntman
Years active 1945–1969

A Man in Makeup.

Boris Karloff sat for hours in a chair while Jack Pierce put on his makeup to transform him into Frankenstein. It was a tedious affair and Karloff endured the hours in the chair. He even went to lunch in the makeup for it would take hours to put it on and off. Originally the role was to be played by Bela Legosi but he looked laughable in the makeup. Boris pulled it off. Later Boris would play the mummy. The shoes for Frankenstein weighed eleven pounds. The copyright was procured for the makeup and outfit.

A man in Drag.

Dustin Hoffman. He played Tootsie and pulled it off. But in an interview he had a weird reaction.

I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive,” he admits. “I said, ‘Now you have me looking like a woman, now make me beautiful.’ I thought I should be beautiful if I was going to be a woman. I would want to be as beautiful as possible.”

When the makeup team assured him that there was nothing else they could do to make him more “beautiful,” Hoffman says he had an “epiphany” that shook him.

Three men known for not playing men.  We are a strange lot Horatio.

Whenever I get annoyed by my wife I remember…

My wife annoys me when she says I cannot drink soda,

It has sugar, aerated water and is not good for you.

My wife is annoying when she condemns sandwiches with meat,

They are filled with nitrates, fillers, and other poisons that are not good for you.

My wife is annoying when she made me quite smoking my pipe,

You have asthma and you need to stop bringing crap into your lungs.

My wife is extremely annoying when she made me give up cheese,

I use to love the stuff but she says it has too much cholesterol and salt.

My wife annoys me by making me take walks and doing some exercises,

The body needs to be stretched and you need you need to work on circulation.

Because of my wife I probably will live longer.

Her annoying is because she loves me and wants me around.

For that reason she can be annoying as she wants.

And I thank her.

A Russian in America circa 1900

A change of name.

My name is Barry Wax or at least I think it is. But when I researched the past I came across the fact that my last name was changed. It took place when my great- great grandfather emigrated from Russia near the turn of the last century.

Being from Russia is different than being from a country in Europe. The language is in a different language with different letters. The trip was probably in a Liberty Ship. I have the berth records of my wife’s great great grandparents.

The destination was Ellis Island. That is where the processing begins. I have learned there was an A group and a B group. The A group came over with money and they were processed like rich people like on the airlines. The majority rest went through a long process. A few were sent back and the usual reason was disease. TB was a big no no.

So there is my ancestor. He speaks no English. His papers are minimal. His skills questionable. But there are some interpreters. His name is Maxovitch Vesbronik. At least that is the best I can make of it.

Ovitch in Russian implies son of. So Maxovitch is the son of Max. Right away his first name is changed to Max. No sense writing the long version over and over. The people doing the paperwork at Ellis took short cuts because the lines were long. The last name had to be looked at. The question asked was “What did you do for a living in Russia?”

He had something to do with candles. And thus the name Wax was put into motion. They could have gone with Wache, which is the German form I think, he could have been Wick, Tapir, or Parafin. So I guess Wax is not so bad. At least it is short.

By the By, I have no middle name. I tell people in those days it cost money for each letter. So my parents were smart enough to save the dough and give me an eight digit name.

My name is short and sweet. In Russian looks like this: Меня зовут коротким и сладким. But on my gravestone I will use Barry Wax. Remember it is a cost per letter.

Compassion, Is it misplaced?

A Story of Compassion

We had been married a couple of years. My father-in-law, Alfred, was an exporter to South and Central America. He was usually on the road for six to eight months a year. He spoke not only Spanish, but the Spanish of each country. There are some differences. Idioms used in one country might not be used in another country right next door.

It was the 1970’s. Nicaragua was in turmoil. Alfred had good friends there.

It was the morning that I got the call. I had married Alfred’s daughter and we owned a house in Tamarac, Florida. We had two children at that time, Sam age 12 and Beth age 9. Alfred called at nine in the morning to ask me a question. “Considering the problem in Nicaragua would we consider taking in two children to save them from harm?” I asked Alice and then called back. There was no way that we could say no. When I told Alfred that he informed me that they were already on the plane and we had an hour to get to the airport to pick them up. I guess he already figured we would say yes.

We got to the airport and picked up our visitors. Maria was eleven and Diego was eight. They spoke only a couple of words of English. We were to have their company for just a couple of weeks that summer. My wife, Alice, fortunately speaks enough Spanish to communicate with these two frightened children. My Spanish consists of maybe a hundred words. The house now had four children.

It was the summer and I was working a job as a recreation teacher at a summer camp. I asked special permission to bring to the camp not only my kids but our visitors. Since I was a good friend of the director I got it. Kids are kids. Maria and Diego quickly learned enough English to communicate. The kids at the park accepted them into their midst pretty nicely.

Two interesting points to note. I am not trying to make any inferences just noting the facts. When Maria and Diego got off the plane they had no baggage. Unfortunately this was one of the last planes to get out of the airport and it must have been rushed. We needed to buy them clothes. It was the summer and money was tight. So I took them to Walmart to get the clothes. Now it was three weeks into the summer and they needed more outfits. They had gone to camp for two weeks and had friends their ages who now influenced them. I said okay going back to Walmart. Maria was upset and I asked her what troubled her. It appears that the children at the recreation facility had conveyed that Walmart was not modern enough. She asked if we could go to The Gap instead. I explained I would get them three outfits at Walmart or two at the Gap. Both children preferred two instead of three as long as the labels read The Gap. That is how much influence and fitting in meant to Maria and Diego.

Finally after five weeks we got word from Nicaragua that we could send the children back. That was a long time ago and we no longer have contact with them. Just hope they did well. It was an interesting experience for us and our children. I figure to chalk it up to humanity and what good was done will one day come back to us triple times.

The Motley Crew of the voyage of Christopher Columbus.

A Real Motley Crew

 

Christopher Columbus’ crew on the first voyage were from small towns in from Andalucia, and nearly all experienced seamen. The Spanish Sovereigns offered amnesty to convicts who signed up for the voyage, but only four men took up the offer: one who had killed a man in a fight, and three of his friends who then helped him escape from jail.

Of the four voyages of Columbus, only the crew of the first voyage is completely known. Alice Bache Gould spent decades combing various archives in Spain, eventually accounting for each of the 87 crewmen of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. She spent four decades in Spain, tracing the data.

Crew of the Santa Maria:

* Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus), captain-general
* Juan de la Cosa, owner and master
* Diego de Arana, master-at-arms
* Pedro de Gutierrez, royal steward
* Rodrigo de Escobedo, secretary of the fleet
* Rodrigo Sanchez, comptroller
* Diego de Salcedo, servant of Columbus
* Luis de Torres, interpreter
* Rodrigo de Jerez
* Alonso Chocero
* Alonso Clavijo
* Andres de Yruenes
* Antonia de Cuellar, carpenter
* Bartolome Biues
* Bartolome de Torres
* Bartolome Garcia, boatswain
* Chachu, boatswain
* Cristobal Caro, goldsmith
* Diego Bermudez
* Diego Perez, painter
* Domingo de Lequeitio
* Domingo Vizcaino, cooper
* Gonzalo Franco
* Jacomel Rico
* Juan, servant
* Juan de Jerez
* Juan de la Placa
* Juan Martines de Acoque
* Juan de Medina
* Juan de Moguer
* Juan Ruiz de la Pena
* Juan Sanchez, physician
* Lope, joiner
* Maestre Juan
* Marin de Urtubia
* Pedro de Terreros, cabin boy
* Pero Nino, pilot
* Pedro Yzquierdo
* Pedro de Lepe
* Rodrigo Gallego, servant

This is the crew of the main boat. Columbus was Italian, the crew Spanish. I wonder how they felt about him. If it were not for the lure of gold they would have thrown him overboard.

Was gold found? No they returned from the New World with some slaves and fruits of the Islands. I often wonder how Columbus got a second voyage. I also wonder how many of the crew on the first voyage went on the second. The lure of gold is a strong incentive. Two of the areas leading families, Pinzón and Niño, headed the expedition. The crews were not the faint-hearted landlubbers and criminals of legend who became frightened during a long expedition and who threatened mutiny until calmed by Columbus. There was no mutiny. These were men with years of shared experience, knowledge of the sea, and confidence in their abilities. As Professor Carl Sauer noted in The Early Spanish Main: “Columbus had originated and promoted the idea of the voyage; Spanish seamen made it possible and carried it through.”

 

I wonder how many Spanish people can trace their ancestors back to the original motley crew?

The Extraordinary Runner

Mavis Hutchison (born 24 November 1924) is a South African athlete

She became famous as the first woman to run across the United States, from Los Angeles to New York City. Her route, run in 1978 as a 53-year-old grandmother, took her 2871 miles and 69 days, 2hours and 40 minutes. This record was not broken until 1993, when Lorna Michael (age 34) crossed the continent in 64 days as part of the Trans-America Footrace in 1993.

Mavis Hutchinson, 53, became the first woman to run across America. The 3,000-mile trek took her 69 days. She ran an average of 45 miles each day.

 

For all you couch potatoes. A grandmother puts us to shame. I am not a runner, in fact the only thing that I have run is the runs.

But my hats off to this lady. Note this was 1978 and Mavis is not in the kitchen with Dinah, she is not birthing the babies, and she is not barefooting. She is a runner. And at fifty three a tough bird. Sixty nine days of running. Damn over three months. Forty five miles per day. This is incredible.

Now get off your behinds and move. Run around the block, run for your life or run for a position. Just do it. To follow my own advice I will be running to the bathroom.

 

Blowing in the Wind? War Forever?

Bob Dylan – Blowin’ In The Wind Lyrics

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

I grew up with this song in my head. And now at sixty nine and another reason for war coming I hear the wind ablowing again. It is the same words I heard in Nam, for Kuwait, for the Gulf War, for Iraq and now a new enemy ISIS. The winds howl and yet the noise is the same. Too many have died and yet more will. We can kid ourselves. But war means death. Drones rain death from above but are not the complete answer. Remember shock and awe from the Kuwait exposition? We still went in and lost a hundred plus men and women. This ISIS affair will not go away easily. This is an enemy that will not blow away and disappear. We cannot do the monkey dance. We cannot pretend we do not hear, see and speak. Evil comes and we must be ready for it. It will blow long and hard and there will be sacrifices. Pray for our youth. Pray for the men and women in uniform. And pray for our country. We are unique and for that reason we are a target.

Commercial People

Commercial People

 

They are born by the vision of a commercial. The pitch person for a product. The mindset to gravitate to an idea that makes the product remember able in the minds of the public. A person generated by an ad man or woman in the corner of their mind and then sold to a company as the spokesperson.

 

The Progressive Woman: Flo. I do not believe we know her last name.

We have got a glimpse into what the front of her house looks like. She seems to have lipstick colored red prominent on her face. Some of the ads depict her in a strange light. In one she appears to be the agent of the streets soliciting two young men while she is in the shadows, promising them discounts for some silly gadget. In another she is in the rain doused and at the end she grants him a loaner car. In a third the machine in the headquarters has a death ray and allows her to defy gravity. Pretty surreal if you ask me. I still do not know what is in those boxes. Paper guarantees? Empty with good thoughts? She is always in white like a nurse. And never in a dress. She is sexless and yet tempting? The message is mixed.  And now we have Jaime.  And two guys from the other company. And soon her mother and possibly her dog.  Finally the coup of her having the Progressive Baby.  When she or he is born it will come with the Progressive price thing in his hand.  Just one question is that lip stick or is it permanent marker on the girl?

 

The Wendy Girl: She has red hair and a great smile. She is always pushing the meat and is a leader of the industry to sell you the idea that Wendy’s is the place to go. Low key and now in the past few weeks rather strangely erotic.  One day she will be pitching Wendy’s on a walker.

 

Where are the Cavemen of Geico? Did the gecko eat them? What about the man made of money? What ever happened to the last drop? Where is the dew drop inn? Do you have a game? It goes on and on the mad men and their ploys.

I see Elizabeth Taylor is still in ads. I would love John Wayne in an ad for head gear, cowboy hat or hoodies. Rock Hudson selling condoms.

Steve McQueen selling motorcycles. Robin Williams selling anything.

Elvis Presley selling exercise equipment. Peter Falk hawking eyeglasses.

 

Captain Kirk selling space dust.  The Lone Ranger selling phony bank notes.

And the point is no residuals because all of them have passed on.  I know Shatner is still alive or is he?