Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Death of J.C. Penney

Yesterday's business news reported that J.C. Penney lost over a billion dollars last year.  Now in its third year of staggering losses the pundits of Wall Street are preparing to write the century plus old company's obituary.

James Cash Penney is no doubt spinning in his grave these days.  The "Sam Walton" of his day, Penney built a retailing empire based on the concept that you provide good quality at a reasonable price.  Penney's always offered a point or two of higher quality merchandise than their then competitor Sears Roebuck & Company.

And, like Sears, Penney's maintained a retail presence in just about every small town in America, either through a retail store or through a catalog store.  If Penney's didn't have it, or couldn't order it, you didn't need it.

I haven't been in a Penney's store in years, unless you call passing through the local mall store to get to the Apple Store.  Penney's became too "hoity toity" for my taste.  Too fancy and far too expensive.  Ironically, it was the fellow, Ron Johnson, who teamed with Steve Jobs to establish the Apple Stores, who has served as Penney's CEO for the past three years.  And he ended up making Penney's worse.  He cancelled all sales and proclaimed that Penney's prices were already bargains, as priced.  He set up fancy little boutiques within the store specializing in Levi's jeans and Nike gear.  He began giving out free haircuts to children of Penney's shoppers.  Through print ads and television ads he placed the Penney's brand squarely behind social justice issues like political activism and gay marriage.  He would hire Ellen Degeneres as their celebrity spokesperson.

Now I don't know how many American shoppers were turned off by the celebration of the gay lifestyle ( I happen to believe Ellen Degeneres comes off as a nice person, and sweet and funny) but if ten percent of America decided they didn't care for their retailer becoming a champion of alternative lifestyles, perhaps that ten percent was the difference between retail success or failure.

To me it was simply the cost factor.  I have no kids that need haircuts and I find clothes of higher quality at T.J. Maxx at half the costs.

I can still recall my old Penney's store in my hometown.  It was the only place we could buy our Boy Scout uniforms and Penney's had a little ten square foot booth in the store, with a uniform Boy Scout mannequin to show you how smartly you'd look in B.S. uniform.   Back then Penney's had those vacuum tubes to handle transactions.  The clerk would write up your order, take your cash, put both in a vacuum tube where it would be whisked away.  After a few moments your receipt and your change would come whooping down those same tubes.  Magic!

When I finally got old enough to work and to buy my own clothes I shopped at J.C. Penney's.  Their Towncraft brand of shirts and slacks were just fine; good quality, long lasting and stylish.  I miss those good old days when retail stocked what YOU wanted to buy, unlike today when they want to tell you what you should be wearing, and what you should think about cultural and social issues.  Someone must have stumbled on that fact recently.  Penney's new TV ad campaign is aimed squarely at "middle America"..the new one minute commercials spend 50 seconds triumphing old fashioned American virtues before they fade out with a J.C. Penney logo.  Sadly, it may be a bit late for that for those who despise social activism as part of their retailing model.

Now, here's the real irony.  James Cash Penny, lived to his mid-nineties.  He ran the stores from 1902 to 1971, his death.  Penney is as well known today as a philanthropist than he is as a businessman.  His foundation supports environmental sustainability, world wide human rights, government accountability and various other social issues.  And yet, during the 75 years of Penney's greatest success, a customer would never know of this.  Penney believed his customers just wanted a good retail deal and that was his business.

So, J.C. Penney, philanthropist, lives on, providing millions every year to the causes he valued,  while J.C Penney, the social activist retailer is hemorrhaging a billion dollars a year and at death's door.  Any lessons to be learned here?

Monday, February 25, 2013

"The Way We Were"

"The Way We Were" is running on Turner Classic Movies at this moment.  I've seen it a dozen times and believe it is one of the greatest romance movies of all time.  The story works so well, the direction so elegant, the acting so superb, that I can overlook my subtle dislike for Redford's politics and extreme dislike of both Streisand AND her politics and enjoy these two cinematic characters.

The film works because it is an "Everyman" story.  It is a story that plays out a million times a year, all over the world.  It works because we know from the very beginning that the relationship will not endure.  And that knowledge breaks our hearts.  Intuitively we know that love does not conquer all; it cannot bridge the wide chasm of personality differences that exist between the two characters.

And yet, all through the film we hope beyond hope that love will triumph over distinctly different senses of morality, over politics, over personal interest and over varying expectations of success.

As these two souls are sailing the stormy seas of life they, at various times, cling to each other in a desperate need for comfort, to share love and life.  And, sadly, but truthfully, neither of the two lovers can claim the moral high ground.  Both have qualities that complement each other but those attributes will simply not balance out on the scales of compatibility.  Both have something good to offer but not enough to satisfy what each of them need.

One of the most heart wrenching scenes ever put to film is the last scene in the movie.  After many years apart Katie and Hubble meet on the streets of New York.  Each have entered the autumn of their lives having settled for a life style, and relationships that they can "live with".

But look into the eyes of these two former loves and lovers.  There remains an intense love buried in the embers, dampened by the many years of "settling" for what they can have, with a deep regret for a love that they could not make work.  You can see the angst of their failure in that final scene as Katie reaches out to touch Hubble's face.  That one gesture expresses the longing and regret of a million of us who were somehow unable to make love triumph over the vast differences in what we want and need to get through our short stormy tour through life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Charity On The Cheap

I just finished reading a heartwarming story about an 88 year old widow up in Washington state who, having $9 dollars to her name, found herself unable to afford her husband's burial.  She was planning to sell everything she owned to honor his final wishes and bury him in the family cemetery.  

Happily, viewers of the local TV station who aired her story chipped in and donated over $12,000 dollars to insure her husband could be buried in dignity, and would not strip her of her meager belongings.

To me the most noteworthy in this news article was not the story itself.  Instead it was the many comments made by readers of the article.  So very many lamented that they were not wealthy, and thus could not grant needy wishes such as those featured in this story.  If they only knew:

While $12,000 dollars sounds like a lot of money, those who receive public donations such as these, will tell you that thousands of individual donations are simply a dollar bill placed in an envelope and the cost of a stamp.  

So many folks assume that a dollar is so small as to be meaningless toward a charity donation.  And that's a sad thing indeed.  How many charities go wanting simply because folks are too ashamed to send a dollar.

Let me tell you how I learned just how much a small donation can mean so much.  Several years ago I received mailer from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  This hospital, founded by the beloved comedian Danny Thomas, now spearheaded by his daughter, treat thousands of children with cancer each year.  Their founding principle is that no child with cancer shall ever be turned away for lack of funds of their families.  More importantly, St Jude is a research hospital, working to find cancer cures.  Their research doctors produce hundreds of research papers each year and share them with other agencies working to find cures for cancers.

Thanks to St. Jude thousands of children have been cured, or had their life prolonged by loving and caring treatment at St. Jude.  And unlike many other charities, well over 90 percent of your donation goes directly to patient care and is not eaten up with top heavy and costly administration.

So after learning of St. Jude I think my first donation was a single dollar bill.  And after sending in that single dollar I began getting pictures of the kids for whom my dollar benefited.  They sent me address labels for my holiday cards.  They sent me calendars designed by children suffering from cancer.

Of course I know those little address labels and calendars are meant to touch my heart so that I might donate again.  And it works!  Every month I receive a little donation slip and a pre-paid postage envelope and I write a check for $7 dollars or $11 dollars, depending on what I can afford for that month.  Sadly, sometimes there is nothing to send.  

But every time I'm able to send a few bucks to St. Jude I feel good.  Damned good.  So, the next time you want to give, but feel a single dollar does no good, please think again.  Why not try this:  take a dollar out of your wallet right now.  Stick it in an envelope and send it to:

         St Jude Children's Research Hospital
         262 Danny Thomas Way
         Memphis, Tennessee

You're going to feel so damn good for so little.  Thank me later.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Affair With The McDonald's Fish McBite Roller

I had seen the Micky D promo commercial for their new Fish McBites when I finally decided to roll on over, maneuver through their drive-thru and try a box.  Little did I know how this little snack food foray would turn into a real life soap opera experience.

As I pulled up to the little tin speaker at the drive thru the first thing I noticed was the note of anguish present in the voice who took my order.  "Wouldn't you rather try our cheddar onion burger, sir?".  I wasn't too suspicious at this, as I'm accustomed to those teen order takers pimping for more food orders.  How many times have I been solicited for apple pies or caramel sundaes?    Upon my refusal of purchasing something else,  I was told to pull up to the first window to pay for my Fish McBite order.

After paying I drove on to Window 2 to pick up my McBites.  It was then that I was a bit surprised to be greeted with a grease spotted red and white bag, handed over by a pudgy, Timex-adorned, slightly liver spotted arm that belonged to a senior lady with salt and pepper hair.  Her features were even, with wide-set blue eyes, a cute pug of a nose, and a guilty smile.

I peered into the bag, flipped open the Fish McBite box and saw a greasy mass of unformed minced fish pieces.  They didn't resemble those appealing panko covered little fish balls featured in the commercial.  "What the hell is this?", I sniped, and handed the bag back to her.   At this our elderly fast food heroine dropped the bag on the drive-thru curbing, spilling greasy fish on to the concrete curbing where it merged with the forlorn pennies forsaken in earlier currency exchanges.  At this our lady fast food queen began to cry, her lower lip quivering as the tears began to flow.  I hastily put the car in gear and drove forward.  But before I got out of the McDonalds lot a wave of remorse engulfed me and I wheeled back around and parked.

It seemed sure that my bout of pique over the horribly prepared fish snack had been the straw that broke the camel's back, leaving the poor lady in a state of frustration and despair that she might not have deserved.  I exited the car and walked into the restaurant.  When I looked across the counter into the kitchen I saw our senior heroine, her head down and back bent as she was being counselled by her 19 year old shift manager.  It wasn't going well.  Just then a wave of sympathy and regret rolled through me and I leaped over the counter and rushed over to dear lady, placing a comforting arm over her shoulder and apologized for my rude behavior over the disastrous fish order.

Surprisingly, the teen shift supervisor made no objection to my kitchen trespass and, instead, backed off and left us standing there under a baking oven.  Our heroine then turned into my arms and buried her face in my chest.  Her tears came in a flood and left the front of my best Hanes T-shirt sodden.  At my bequest she explained that she had been hired to roll these little portions of minced fish into perfectly formed orbs, to be dipped in panka crumbs, then dropped into hot oil before boxing them up for serving.

"Look at this"..she cried, as she picked up a plastic tub of minced fish. "I'm supposed to plunge two fingers into this tub, then form this into a ball and dip in the bread crumbs!".  "But every time I try it the mass of tiny fish pieces just fall apart!".  "I just can't get the hang of it!".

At this, I bent and kissed dear fish lady on the forehead and took her by the hand and led her out the back door.  She continued to cry profusely, her entire body shaking with emotion.  Perhaps it was the intensity of her body quivering but for the first time I noticed how attractive our little frustrated fish roller really was.  Her salt and pepper hair fell around her head in tiny curls, she filled out a pair of size 8 jeans nicely and her ample breasts bounced merrily with each intake of sob.

Soon we were out on the sidewalk and shuffling down the block, her left breast pressing against me as we moved along, increasing my awareness of her femininity and the spark of attraction. Unsure what to do with this sorrowful lass, we came upon a Motel Six just down the way from Micky D's.  Before I realized what I was doing I led fair lady into the Motel Six registration office and signed us in as "Mr. And Mrs Pollock".

We retreated to our motel room and I gently guided her to the bed and urged her to lay back, calm down, and relax.  I then grabbed an ice bucket, walked down the hall and filled it, grabbed a face towel in the bathroom, soaked the towel in ice water, folded it twice, then placed it over her fevered brow.
I then lay down beside her on the bed, took her hand in mine, and cooed words both sweet and sympathetic.

Soon our awareness of the proximity of man and woman, lying side by side on an impersonal motel bed made itself known.  Soon, without my realizing it, she had maneuvered my arm around and beneath her back, my hand falling naturally across one bountifully endowed breast.  It wasn't long before my perceived hunger for a Fish McBite was overwhelmed by a more tactile hunger, a greater rudimentary hunger.  As our fish lady turned in my arms I too turned toward her, my arms encircling the richness of shoulders and breasts, as we kissed, our tongues doing a diago as we explored the crevices of lips and neck and shoulder.  Soon I had worked our heroine out of her fast food tunic and Levi's as I worshipped two luscious breasts presented so freely, so willingly, as she moaned in delight.

I then rose to my feet and shucked my Hanes T-Shirt and label free Hanes shorts and returned to the arms of the dear lady.  We then began the ancient "dance" of giving and taking, the mating dance as old as the caveman, the dance that is both life and death as two souls strive to become one, if only for a brief instant.

Later, when we were both sated, the sweat of exertion filming on our bodies, I found sweet lady exploring my nether regions.  Gently, she took each of my testicles and, using the delicacy of two fingers, begin to fondle each of my love nuggets with great tenderness.  As I looked over at her I could see that she was aware of her finger ministerings, yet her mind seemed to be elsewhere.

Yet her fingers continued the fondling, as if she were measuring, taking note of the unique size and shape of each testicle.  I didn't mind exactly, the feeling of her fingers on my love nuts was not an unpleasant one so I didn't protest as she spent a good ten minutes exploring my nut sac.

She then giggled and planted a huge kiss on me and jumped up off the bed and cried "I've got to get back to work!".  She then jumped into the shower, emerged from the bathroom, threw her bath towel into a corner of the room and worked her way back into her Micky D tunic and Levis.  She then bent and kissed me and left.

After our heroine left to return to work I lay naked across the bed, musing on the wonderment of strange and unexpected liaisons.  After a few minutes I too went in and showered off and dressed and walked back to the McDonalds lot to retrieve my car.  As I circled back around I saw my fish lady again manning Drive Thru window number two.  And what I saw next brought a smile to my face.  Our lady heroine was twirling a nice walnut sized orb of minced fish between her fingers and a happy smile on her lovely face.

I was glad to see she had at last mastered the art of Fish McBite rolling...and glad that I was able to play some small part in her success.  ;)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Springtime Reads

I'm a pretty busy reader, but lately have been fiendishly plowing through a lot of books and am finding "gold" with every thing I find.  Already wrote about really enjoying a re-read of "Vietnam, A History".    Before that I came across a long forgotten gem called "Alas Babylon".  The novel, written by Pat Frank, was a best seller back in the late fifties.  The book presents a frightening but credible story about a small town in Florida that survives a nuclear war.  It's a fascinating study on how we might adjust to a world starkly different than the one we grew up in.

Because I tend to devour all the works of an author when I discover his talents, I went to ABE books and found the other two books penned by Frank and ordered them.  I am now alternating between the two books and find both very well done.  Frank's second novel is called "Forbidden Area"; it deals with a Soviet attack on the U.S. and, once again, Frank is able to present a credible case for the plot, given the Red Scare of the late fifties.

Frank's third novel is a hilarious offering called "Mr. Adam".  The story concerns a nuclear accident which pretty much takes out the state of Mississippi and, because of two specific compounds that are released in the explosion, the world's men have been rendered sterile.  All those that is except for an inept and awkward mining engineer who just happened to be inspecting an abandoned lead mine a mile down in Leadville, Colorado.  Now, at some point in a man's life he has fantasized about what his life might be like if he ever found himself the "lone man" having to service a harem of women.   Frank's "Mr. Adam" offers a delightful and hilarious take on this idea and I'm finding myself laughing and smiling as I work my way through the book.

I've also been mining Ed McBain's Nursery Rhyme Series featuring the character Matthew Hope.  McBain is famous for writing the hundred or so 87th Precinct cop series.  I have read this series very little but find his Matthew Hope books lighter and more enjoyable fare.

Before Dam flew off to San Jose to spend the Tet New Year with her sister she had just finished reading "Beach Road" by James Patterson.   As she closed the book she said "wow, no one could guess who the killer was".  Although I don't much care for the "bubble gum" best sellers like Patterson, Dam's closing comment intrigued me so I took the book home and read it.  Upon finishing it I literally had the urge to slam the book against the nearest wall, so badly is the reader dishonestly manipulated in following a plot that made no rational sense.  (See my scathing review of the book on Amazon).  The book confirmed my bad opinion of Baldacci and Patterson and their ilk and I won't waste hours on their books ever again.

Have also read two nondescript efforts by new writers that were offered up on Amazon's Kindle free list.  In each case the books offered reasonable plot lines but failed in character development and style.

Our alternating weather patterns here in Arizona this winter have made book reading a most pleasant experience.  When the cold rain sets in I can huddle indoors and have a good read, then when the 75 degree days come back I retreat to the chair lounge in the back yard, soak up a little Vitamin D from the afternoon sun and enjoy a good story as well.

Such is the life of the "comfortably poor".  While the furniture collects dust and soap scum builds up on shower walls, and windows go unwashed, and the garden goes un-weeded, and the dogs go un-bathed, I sit in quiet stupor and plow through book after book.

Life is lazy...but good.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Human-Doggie Dictionary


Scientists who study the behavior of dogs says the average adult dog can understand an average of 200 human words.  They're wrong.  Here a just a few non-traditional words they know.

Refrigerator = a magical box which the humanoid visits often throughout the day.  Essential that you gather at his feet to catch anything that drops from the floor during the retrieval process.

Stove = a wasted device humanoid uses to make his food so hot it can't be eaten.  Essential that you gather at his feet, wait for food droppings to hit the floor, then scamper away with any booty captured.

*Note:  If the woman humanoid is cooking, hang around, look up at her often; make her think you are really interested in learning how to cook.  Sometimes she will intentionally bend down and give you a sample.

Sink = Something to avoid at all costs.   Humanoids sometimes, when they are feeling sadistic, will place you in this basin and enmesh you in soap and pour water over you!

Microwave Oven = another wasted heating device that whistles when the over-heated food is done.  Sometimes humanoids use it to heat cauliflower or broccoli; usually passed on to us when humanoid finds it inedible.

Fly Swatter = Another humanoid weapon.  Used primary to kill flying pests but sometimes used across the rump of dogs when they bark too often or too loudly.

Television = Electronic visual device that puts humanoid in a sedate daze.  Too bright.  Too loud and totally useless unless an old Lassie movie is showing.

"No" =  This is a show stopper word.  When humanoids use it you absolutely stop doing whatever you were doing.  It is the last final warning before he reaches for the fly swatter.  Safe to wait at least 30 seconds before you resume whatever caused the "no" word to be used.

Dining Table =  A magical place not unlike the humanoid kids' Disneyland.  You wait until three or four humanoids gather around it, then you scoot beneath it; before long food will be dropping down like manna from heaven, especially if kid humanoids are present.

*Note:  When humanoids have left the table it is perfectly acceptable to leap into a chair, then bound up on top of the table and devour any left overs remaining....if humanoids did not want you to have it they would put it away.

Nap = A lovely word!  Sometimes our humanoid allows us to jump up into the bed and cuddle with him beneath the covers.   So nice!

Birds = Evil creatures that prowl the patio and back yard and drive us crazy in our attempts to catch them. Often lodge on tree branches just out of our reach and caw and tease us.  Nasty!

Garden Hose = A long flexible snake like device that must be avoided at all costs.  Sometimes the humanoid sprays us with water just to irritate us.  When we see him with a hose in his hand we scamper back to the house or hide in the bushes.

"Come" = A useless humanoid term meant to command us to come to him.  Unless we feel like it we ignore him.

"Sit" = see "come"

"roll over" = see "come"

Sunflower seeds = About once a year, usually on our birthday, the humanoid spreads about a hundred of these hard-shelled morsels onto the tile floor.  We then begin to crack them, eating the seeds and spitting out the shells.  He thinks it is so cute and indicates some superior level of intelligence on our part.  What's the big deal, we just don't like eating shells!  He then takes a broom and sweeps up the mess left.  Very nice!

Undershorts = Something humanoid places on his head, then attempts to sneak up on us.  We humor him by barking at him, all the while wondering why he does such silly things.

Burt's Bees Hand Salve = An affection deterrent.  For some reason when we are feeling most affectionate with our humanoid he irritates us by bonking our noses with this salve.  It sends us into a frenzy of anger and we vacate his lap immediately.  Just another cruelty we are forced to endure from our silly humanoid.

Eat = One of the nicest words in humanoid language.  At the first uttering of this word we immediately leap into "happy mode".  If we are really hungry it is not uncommon to see us dancing on our two back legs, whining a little or simply spinning in circles.  This makes the human very happy and sometimes results in some great chow.

Treat =  See "eat"

Car = A fun ride, especially when the humanoid lowers your window so you can hang your head out and catch the breeze.

Note:  Be careful about the car:  if we are both told to jump in the car, that's great.  If he is taking only one of us, watch out!  You're bound for the vet!  When confronted with a ride to the vet, turn your back on the humanoid and refuse to respond to his beckoning.  Let him know you are very angry about this!

Massage =  When the doggie gods are shining on you the humanoid will sometimes give you a massage.  It is wonderful; he massages your neck and back and when he massages your haunches you enter a state of ecstasy.  This makes putting up with all the humanoid's frailties all worth it!

Pet =  The loveliest of all.  When the humanoid is feeling particularly affectionate he will allow me to nap in his lap while he rubs behind my ears, gently rubs my forehead and strokes the line between my eyes.  We often imagine this is what heaven will be like.

Lifetime = A variable term to define the length of our lives.  To humanoids our lives are all too brief.  But we know our time in this life is limited.  That's why we give humanoids all of our love unconditionally; we don't care if he's cute or ugly, we love him anyway.  And we forgive him quickly even if he hurts our feelings because we don't have time in our lives for hate.  We are love machines if humanoids just give us the chance.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Wartime Nostalgia

                                     Atop Rocket Spotting Tower, Tango 1, May 1970

Noted historian Stanley Karnow died this past week.  An author of several best selling histories, he was most remembered for his seminal history of Vietnam.  Ironically, I was re-reading Karnow's "Vietnam, A History",  which I had first read in the early 80's, when I learned of Karnow's passing.  Karnow's book was one of the few modern texts that took the reader all the way back hundreds of years, to include her conflicts with China over centuries.

However, much of the book concentrates on Vietnam's century long conflict with the western powers.  While in Vietnam I had read perhaps twenty histories on Vietnam, to include Bernard Fall's master works about the French colonization of Vietnam.  I can honestly say I don't believe I have ever studied a country's history more replete with conflict and national heartbreak.

This prelude is but a digression for what I really want to say.  I've recently written of a wondrous flowering of early memories of my youth.  They say this is a natural evolution as we get older and I've come to believe it's true.  But this week it has been the re-reading of Karnow's book that has had my memory banks flowing in spectacular technicolor.

Perhaps that's not unusual since my three years in Vietnam represented a time when I felt most alive.  Again, Karnow;  he ran a survey of Vietnam vets back in the 90's and found that 71% of Vietnam vets reported their war time service in Vietnam as a positive experience.  The reasons are complex; when one goes to war, when you awake each day realizing that the grim reaper may indeed pay a visit, then life becomes more precious and your waking hours more "electric".  War is also a time when you form a real brotherhood with the guys in your unit.  In the absence of family they become "family".

And as I write this I long to be a better writer.  I want to be able to describe to my readers just what an amazing and frightening experience my time in Vietnam was like.  From the moment I stepped off that Freedom bird and descended the steps from the plane my senses were assaulted with the alien smells that permeated the night air.  Mingling with aviation gas emanating from the flight line were the loamy scents of rice paddies.   From Saigon to the East came the exhaust belchings of taxi's and cyclo's and the smoke from ten thousand kitchens with the whiffs of fish and fish sauce rising through night air.

To my ears came the constant rumbling of war.  Fighter planes revving their powerful engines in flight line revetments, C-130's ferrying personnel and supplies, bound for another air base in country, or hard  landings on metal PSP runways carved out of the jungle.  More Freedom Birds arriving behind us, full of fresh G.I.'s to keep the 550,000 man U.S. war machine humming.   Our TWA stewardesses tearfully wishing us "God Speed", with promises to come back and take us home in a year.  As I walk through the terminal I hear the thunder from the west, only to be told "not thunder", but the sound of B-52's carpet bombing North Vietnamese strongholds in neighboring Cambodia, not a hundred miles away.

In the coming days I will experience my first rocket attack, I will be dispatched with the other "jeeps" to  a training area and ran through three weeks of combat training, training that was not possible in Lyndon Johnson's rush to beef up the force in anticipation of the next Tet Offensive only a month away.

And in the coming weeks I will learn to get by on three hours of sleep per day.  The hundred degree jungle heat and oppressive tropical mugginess make sleep in our hootches unbearable without air conditioning, a luxury afforded only to the fighter and bomber pilots who must be fully rested for their missions.

And I will venture off the base and into Saigon where I will be accosted by both men and women offering me a polished and professionally produced pack of marijuana cigarettes for one dollar, or zippo lighters with my unit's logo and years of service, or the formaldehyde laden Bier 33, the country's premier beer.  I will be solicited for sex from both sexes who range in age from 12 to 80.  I will be jostled by a Saigon populace that swelled from less than a million to more than 5 million as last year's Tet Offensive drove the villagers to the safety of the capitol city.

And yet I will walk the streets of the old French colonial city and see majestic architectural beauty, remnants of a time when Saigon was known as the Paris of The Orient.  I will see the colorful blaze of poinciana and fire trees gracing the streets of the old city, shading pedestrians from the hot tropical sun.

As I settle into the routine of breakfast powdered eggs, of carrying rifle and 180 rounds of ammo and wearing a thirty pound flak vest in the heat, I begin, like everyone else, to find like-minded groups, instant buddies, soon to be "brothers", and I'll hear of ancient childhoods in Detroit and Memphis and Sarasota and Duluth and Watertown, Iowa, and I'll share mine as well.

We'll eat our night time C-rations, many left over from an ancient Korean conflict, and as we down our ham and Lima beans, then light up our miniature packs of Lucky Strikes, we'll speak of home, of girls left behind, of the "America; The Land of The Big BX", or "America; The Land of Round Eyed Women".  And through all of that we'll form a bond, a bond that says "I'll be there for you when the shit hits the fan".  We'll all go home together or not at all.

Fortunately, in those first tender months of schooling for war, we will not have heard of peace marchers spitting in the face of those who returned before us.  We will not yet know that we are "baby killers".  Instead, we will speak in youthful dream of an America that will welcome us home and allow us to find a place to settle and make our way in life.

So I sit here today, the beginning of the winter of my life now settling in, and all those youthful memories come swarming into my head, occupying my dreams, when I am once again young and strong and looking ahead instead of looking back.  Nearly every month I receive an email from my reunion buddies telling me another one of our "brothers" has passed on, never to dream again.

Nostalgia; both a beautiful and horrid thing.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Canine Super Bowl

My Chihuahua, Ginger, is almost 14 years old now.  She's now hypothyroid and has to take synthroid twice a day.  Because of the thyroid problem she's ravenous all the time.  When she was younger I could fill her dog bowl and walk away.  She would kind of "graze" on that same bowl of food for several days.

Now she weighs 12 pounds and is overweight.  I have her on a diet, and because she would eat a good couple of pounds of dog food if I allowed her to, I have to dole out her cup a day of food in two equal meals.  It seems never to be enough for her so she gobbles her meals down, without even chewing.  She literally just vacuums the dry pellets down her throat and, when finished, stumbles around hacking all that dry food caught in her gullet.

The vet says this gobbling can lead to a twisted stomach that could require expensive surgery.  It can also contribute to her not properly digesting the nutritional value of her food.

In an effort to curb her voracious appetite I tried all kinds of high fiber, low carb dog food.  Most notable of them has been the latest brand.  It's called Nature's Recipe and is made wholly of Salmon, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato.  The smell is disgusting, with a healthy hint of the scent of dog excrement. Alas, the scent didn't slow Ginger down a bit, nor has it curbed her ravenous hunger.

I finally found a suggestion on the Internet that made sense.  One dog owner posted that she placed medium size rocks in the dog bowl.  These rocks causes the dog to nuzzle around the edges of the rocks to get to her food and theoretically slows down her rate of gobbling.

The rocks provided a slight improvement.  Where as Ginger used to vacuum down her half cup of breakfast in less than 45 seconds, the rocks extended her feed time by about a minute.  A few days later I found that Amazon sells a feed bowl (above) that has four elevated nubs that force the dog to nuzzle down to get at her food, thus slowing them down a bit.  I ordered it and it was delivered this week.

So yesterday morning I fed Ginger her breakfast and timed her feeding.  This slow feed bowl might have added an extra minute to her feed time.  Not a miracle cure but much better than before.

Not quite the "Super Bowl" I was hoping for but for $4 bucks it's $2,876.00 cheaper than a real Super Bowl ticket.  :)

Friday, February 1, 2013

"Yes, Dear; Your Whale Vomit Smells Lovely"

Seems there was a fellow named Ken Wilman who was walking his dog along the coast of northwest England when he stumbled upon something strange.  He came upon what appeared to be a rock about the size of a football.

When he bent to pick it up and examine it he noticed it didn't quite have the same heft of a rock that size.  When he lifted it to his nose to smell it he quickly dropped it and acclaimed a quick "yuk".  It smelled bloody awful he related.

Turning to walk away and leave his find he had second thoughts and picked it up and took it home.
After arriving home our man Ken found out that this foul smelling object was actually whale vomit,
and already given the genus tag of "ambergris" or "floating rock".  What old Ken found out next was even better.   It seems this ambergris is a very rare and very valuable commodity.  Giving off an overpowering musky scent, this ambergris is used in the manufacturing of perfume.

As the ambergris ages the strong and offensive musky scent seems to abate where it is then processed into an ingredient used to instill that musky scent in the perfumes that our women treasure so highly.  The higher degree of musk the wilder it drives their favorite menfolk.

So, as soon as Ken's find hit the news a French perfume maker called him up and offered him $65,000 dollars for his "hunk a hunk a hunk of burning love".  But we have since learned that a perfume maker in Switzerland has offered four times that amount!

Now, our friend Ken is a happy man and women can soon look forward to the arrival on Macy's shelves of "oeu de whale vomit" by Jennifer Lopez...or "Miley's Whale Of A Good Time".

I can't make this stuff up folks!  ;)