Thoughts About Life in America: Just Try to be Kind

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Top illustration of Betty White and John Madden by Tim Forkes

This year, I have decided to change up my thoughts from a monthly column to a more regular column. This is mainly because I am older, and doctors keep telling me the importance of staying regular and because my thoughts seem to leave my brain almost as soon as they enter it. Enjoy Episode 1 and rest well knowing a sequel will appear before you know it.

The Moore dogs (James Moore)

We have four dogs. Two belong to my wife from before we got together and two are mine who moved out here with me to join her. Hers are white from fancy breeds with funny spelling. Mine are brown mutts discarded by their previous owners.

Interestingly, to me at least, my mutts are prone to eating turds dropped by our whites on the back lawn. They have iron stomachs seemingly impervious to anything they ingest. My wife’s dogs have sensitive tummies and require special diets or medication as a result. Oddly enough, they don’t eat turds.

A man died recently in one of our motel rooms where I work, and video surveillance showed I was the last person to see him alive. I can add that to the increasingly long list of things most people never experience in life. Others might be able to say they were the last person to see someone before they died, but can they also claim to have painted a motel exterior?

Leave tips. The average housekeeper at a motel makes little more than minimum wage. They have bills, rent, and all the other expenses people who work in restaurants have. They also will spend more time readying a room for a guest than the average waitress spends with customers. If you can leave a ten-dollar tip on a fifty-dollar meal, why can’t you do the same for the person who must come in and clean up after you when you check out of a motel room?

I enter almost every room a housekeeper cleans before she does. Week’s will go by where there will be less than twenty dollars in tips left, but I see these same guests tipping the person who delivers a meal from a local restaurant to their room.

The best tippers at our motel are the guests who leave rooms nearly spotless.

Several college football bowl games were canceled because of COVID, but not enough. What purpose do these exhibition games serve? First, there are entirely too many. Half of the colleges earn a bowl game invite because it only takes a six-win season to qualify. Second, many players headed for the NFL next year as a high draft pick skip these meaningless games so as not to risk injury. Countless other players announce their intention to transfer to another school next year and end up skipping their bowl games. Finally, head coaches miss these games after accepting jobs at other colleges next year.

We need a Seinfeld Bowl, a game about nothing.

My solution is simple. Move these games to the Labor Day weekend of the following season. Expand the college playoffs to include sixteen teams to fill our December with football games to get excited over.

The word hero is misused too much. It may be an unpopular view, but I think the term is used far too often to describe people who die under tragic circumstances. I think too many people are called heroes who are actually victims because it provides us with comfort when we read about their senseless deaths. The more people who earn hero status, the less it means to be called one. Heroes are truly special people and like it or not, most of us are just average Joes.

Just to put into perspective, the Colorado police officer who took a gunshot to her abdomen and still managed to fire off shots of her own to kill a rampaging gunman is a hero.

For the life of me, I don’t understand people who protest something like the accidental death of the 14-year-old girl shot by a stray police bullet while hiding in a dressing room because a maniac is attacking customers with a bike lock. It is tragic she died, but don’t protestors ever consider what happens if police don’t confront someone they have been told is armed with a gun?

We live in a nation where there are over 300 million guns in the hands of private citizens and laws that make owning one easier than owning a car. It seems to me protestors might want to do the work necessary to rid the country of this cancer before demanding our cops be unarmed. Maybe then these protestors can think of themselves as heroes.

The best anti-gun song has to be Run Through The Jungle by Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 1970, interestingly, our population was 203 million and the song refers to 200 million guns. Today, our population is a little more than 330 million which is about the same number of guns in the hands of private citizens. For every child born, a gun is purchased by someone. It may be great for the gun industry, but I doubt it reflects the thinking of our Founding Fathers.

John Madden’s passing marks the loss of a true giant of the NFL. He became the head coach of the Oakland Raiders at just 32 years of age. His greatest talent as a coach was knowing how to trust and handle the misfits and renegades from other teams and mold them into what became known as the Raider mystique.  As a retired football coach turned television analyst, Madden managed to find more ways to influence how football was played. His video game creation still has fans playing in droves. Madden’s coaching career was brief compared to other great coaches, but his mark on the NFL has been felt for over half a century. RIP Coach.

I’m not sure what is worse, my hearing or my vision. I do know wearing glasses is not nearly as big a pain as wearing my hearing aids. My hearing aids are two different beasts. My left ear handles the hearing aid great, and I do not notice it when I wear it. My right ear canal is slightly bigger, so the hearing aid keeps coming out. Unfortunately, there is not a tip for the end of the hearing aid in the right size. I think I know why Van Gogh cut off his ear and it had nothing to do with a lost love.

I know someone whose husband has a prosthetic ear. I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of such a thing.

People are wondering why Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley called a time out Sunday, in overtime, thereby giving the Las Vegas Raiders the incentive to try and win the final game of the season, which they did, eliminating the Chargers from the playoffs. A tie would have put both teams in the playoffs.(Claudia Gestro)

I don’t watch football anymore, but I still follow the game, which is enough to make me an expert, right?  There are two reasons I stopped watching games. Knowing what it does to human anatomy makes it difficult for me to watch people killing themselves slowly. The other reason has to do with how horrible I see players performing basic tactics like blocking and tackling, two things that are killing them slowly. To make the game safer, less time is spent practicing in pads and going through full contact drills.  This, in my opinion, results in more missed blocks and terrible tackling techniques which frustrates a fan like me.

The game is going to get worse because players are in a rush to get to the next level. Twenty years ago, college players began leaving early for riches in the NFL. Too often, they were not ready and flamed out. Now we have high school players leaving early to play college ball. They will in turn leave college early with the hope of turning pro to maximize their earning potential. The problem is, most have not mastered the game and as a result, almost every team from high school through the pros are now employing one system of offense. The end result, the game has become boring to this fan.

What are the chances of the Los Angeles Rams winning the Super Bowl if they can’t beat the San Francisco 49ers? (Claudia Gestro)

Third through fifth round draft picks are valued more by NFL teams than high draft picks for two reasons. First, it costs teams less money to sign these players so the more of them you have on your team, the better the chance coaches develop them into solid pros. The second is, most of these players played four years of college ball and mastered the art of their position. They may be a bit smaller or slower than college stars, but they have more upside in the long run.

A rare and endangered Malay tiger was killed by police when it attacked a man at a Florida zoo. Apparently, the man found his way into a restricted area. Once inside, he made the choice to stick his arm into the enclosure so he could feed and pet the cat only to find out the cat preferred to munch on his arm. Cops arrived to see the man’s arm inside the cat’s mouth and him screaming in agony, so they killed the cat to free the man’s arm. Am I the only one who thinks if the police killed the man, the cat could have finished his happy meal and there would be one less idiot living in Florida?

Free agency has arrived in the NCAA and I am happy to see it. I get great pleasure listening to head coaches who make millions of dollars a year and are the first to leave for even more riches complain about young men deciding to transfer to another school for more playing time and money. These hypocrites complain about players lacking loyalty to the school that invested in them. Loyalty works both ways and the best coaches lead by example.

I have never read or heard anything negative about Betty White. Her death, just three weeks shy of her 100th birthday, should not have come as a surprise, but there is no doubt it hit the nation hard. She was loved by young and old and if you are around my age, you cannot remember a time she was not part of our TV lives. The only other living celebrity I can think of who is as beloved as Betty White is Dolly Parton and I am crossing my fingers we all get to enjoy her for as long as we enjoyed Betty.

Time to get rid of, “Out with the old.” John Madden, 85, and Betty White, 99, were both well-loved and for them to pass at year’s end made for a sad way to finish 2021. I propose we begin a new tradition and get rid of the stupid, cruel, and loathed and let us enjoy the John Maddens and Betty Whites of the world a little longer. 

Antonio Brown is a great example of what’s wrong with the NFL. As long as you have something physically to offer a team, they will tolerate you until you don’t. Now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers realize his mental state is a detriment to the team, they have cut him like the gazillion other teams in the league who previously employed him or considered doing so. You can’t help someone with a mental illness while using him for your own profit. Now that he is of no use, the odds of any team helping him get the treatment he needs is slim.

Former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick
(Claudia Gestro)

A player who was never mentally ill remains unemployed. I am talking about Colin Kaepernick. The NFL does not want cause driven players when they bring attention to anything controversial. The league’s idea of players expressing themselves is to occasionally let them make a statement with the game shoes they wear. Kaepernick remains unemployed because it sends a message to the rest of the league, “Shut up and don’t rock the boat in ways that anger our fans.”

There is no such thing as free speech in the NFL, at least if you are a person of color.

“Those damn Japs.”  This was a common phrase I used to hear a lot when I was younger, uttered by men from my dad’s generation. They fought in World War II and did not appreciate seeing Japanese auto manufacturers compete with U.S. manufactured cars. They were costing Americans jobs while also making more affordable cars that got much better gas mileage. Toyota has finally taken over General Motors as the number one automaker in America after GM’s 90-year reign. As it turns out, it’s not the end of civilization.

My feet are getting skinnier. I’ve always worn shoes with a regular width. Now I am having to cinch up my laces tighter which makes it difficult for me to find the perfect shoe comfort zone (just ask my wife). I can’t leave the house until I tie, retie, and retie again my shoes until both feel the same. With each passing year, it becomes more challenging because bending over to tie my shoes usually results in a change of blood pressure and lightheadedness (I understand why old farts rely on Velcro).

Socks to the rescue. With winter here, I am finding if I wear two pairs of socks, my skinny feet issue is solved. So is tying my shoelaces so they feel the same on each foot. Also, as long as my outer pair of socks matches, no one notices if the under pair doesn’t. Now I just need to wear out all my “winter” regular width shoes by summer and buy narrow width shoes for summer. And don’t suggest I buy some thicker socks. Three sock drawers are all I can handle.

If you understand the definition of words, then you know last January 6th was the day there was an attempted coup to overthrow our government. A coup is, “a sudden, violent, and unlawful seizure of power from a government.”

There is no denying this was the goal of those who participated in last year’s attack and all that is now left is to find out who was behind it. Given that there was only one leader in Government who was not there who stood to gain the most from it, it’s easy to see Trump was the head of the snake. While I applaud the January 6th committee’s attempt to get to the truth, I would prefer the head of that snake just be lopped.

I am amazed at just how many Americans are so ignorant of our system of government and how easily they are brainwashed into thinking what happened last year was justified and legal. I guess they were too busy learning how to operate a gun to be bothered to learn about our government.

What’s frightening are the number of talking heads out there who are educated about our system of government and yet continue to defend Trump and the people who stormed the capitol. They do what they do to push ratings and drive their own popularity even at the expense of our national security. Essentially, they are not much more than Jerry Springer on steroids.

What’s sad are the number of people, mostly young, who can’t be bothered with it all because they are so glued to their fingertip technology and find something like an attempted coup too depressing to think about. This is what happens when attention spans are reduced to seven second video clips of life.

Right wing media outlets like FOX News continue to support Trump because it is in their financial interest. Had their viewership spoken out against the attackers and Trump’s encouraging them, you can bet FOX would have followed the money and ratings and turned on him. It’s further proof they are not about news or information. Maybe this is why FOX News considers itself a source of entertainment.

American Patriots have always been defined by their defense of freedom at any cost. Last year’s participants were not patriots. That term, like many others used by the far right, has been bastardized. Under their definition, people who lynched blacks, worked to suppress people from voting, and moved to eliminate our basic freedoms are patriots.

The worst statistic I have read is after all of this, 34 percent of Americans now think acts of violence toward our elected leaders is acceptable. Gone are the days where the entire nation mourns over the murders of people like JFK, MLK, and RFK.

One final happy thought. We get all sorts of folks at the motel I work for. Many are going through a difficult time and as I mentioned above, one recently went so far as to take his life. It helped drive home the point how we never know whether we make a positive impact on others until they tell you. A couple days after the suicide, I encountered a guest who was looking to “bum a cigarette” off someone. When she asked me, I told her I don’t smoke. As my shift went on, I saw her asking others and not having any luck. She had no transportation so getting to a store was out of the question. When I stripped the final room on my shift, I noticed a cigarette and lighter left next on the bed stand. When I finished the room, I knocked on her door and gave them to her. I was surprised when she broke down and began to cry. Turns out, she was going through her own personal struggle and could not believe a non-smoker like me would go to the trouble to help her. If we can put aside our differences and see one another as humans with their own struggles, it’s easy to go the extra mile and help one another.