Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Three Wise Men of Dardanelle

   Whenever I travel to Dardanelle, I like to stop at the Hobby Shop on Front Street. I go in there to visit the three old Republican coots who run the place.
There are signs posted on the wall that warn, " Shoplifters Will be Killed and Eaten." 

   Maybe you can see why I like these men?
   They usually have a small television on in the background broadcasting the news. Today was Ted Kennedy's funeral, so I couldn't resist from asking these men if they were sad.
   "I don't feel any different," said the tallest man. "I don't feel one way or the other."
   The retired pilot, sitting behind his computer, was shaking his head in a disapproving manner. "I'm old enough to remember Chappaquiddick," he said. "And they just kept re-electing him," he said in disbelief.

   I knew what the ex-pilot was talking about. I'm not old enough to remember Chappaquiddick, but it has been all over the news. At a party one night in 1969, Ted and a young female aide went for a drive. Ted drove his car off of a small unlit bridge and into the water below. He escaped, but the girl died. Ted claimed he made multiple attempts to save her, and then walked (walked?!) back to the party to get help. Sometime later that night, Ted swam back to the mainland and went to his hotel for the night.

   I looked at a map and Chappaquiddick appears to be several miles away from the mainland of Massachusetts (although one web source reports that Ted swam 500 yards. I've never been to Chappaquiddick so I don't know how far it is for sure. But I do think that it would've been a challenging swim for nearly anyone, even without it being late at night or coupled with probable drunkenness.) How did he do that? And why? Why did he leave his other friends? Why didn't he call an ambulance? Even if you are certain the person in your car is no longer alive, how can you just leave their dead body in the water? Maybe you'd have to walk a mile in Ted's shoes (or swim a few miles, in this case) to fully understand his decisions, but it is puzzling and disturbing for sure.

  The tallest Republican coot casually mentioned that his niece's husband was at that party on Chappaquiddick. "What?" I asked him. "You mean THE party?" He nods, and I shout, "Ohh! Tell me more!" The people at that party would've surely been able to tell if Ted had made an honest effort to save the girl, or if he had any motive to dispose of her. But the tallest wise man just said, "He won't talk."
   "Are you serious?" I ask him. Yes, he's serious. He tells me that his niece and her husband live in Boston, and he only likes to go to Boston when he is flying to England because it has a better airport than New York. Then he tallies up the cost of my exacto knife, plywood, saber saw and wood glue that I am purchasing and puts it in a nice bag for me, and he asks me if I want to buy another model ship like I did last the last time I was there.

   I paid for my items, and my friend Cameron and I left the store. The Hobby Shop is always an adventure.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Camelot Has Closed

My co-worker told me today that Ted Kennedy died. She said she had been crying, and when she heard that he will be buried with his assassinated brothers in Arlington National Cemetery, she started crying again.

Ted, arguably the most scandalous of the political powerhouse of Kennedy brothers, was the one we got to keep. His long reign in the U.S. Senate ensured that some small piece of that glamorous brand of Kennedy liberalism was always lingering in U.S. government. He was a tangible, breathing legacy of his two brothers that were broad daylight while serving their nation. "How perverse," said Brian Williams on MSNBC news, referring to the inconsolable amount of tragedy that has become synonymous with the Kennedy family.
   Before last year's announcement of Ted's malignant brain tumor, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crash had been the most recent family devastation. My aunt Jackie said she was driving when she heard the news of the crash, and she had to pull off the road because she was crying so hard.
   Keith Olbermann described Ted Kennedy as, "The very definition of the word democrat." He cited Kennedy's political influence over the years, which included championing programs that help provide nutrition for lower income families, aided people with disabilities, ensured voting rights for minorities, provided rights for immigrants, and gave women the opportunity to play collegiate sports.
   Senator Kennedy never saw his long-time wish for universal health care come to pass, but he did manage to give a riveting endorsement last year to the presidential candidate who believed in "the cause of my life," (Kennedy's own words.)
Health care should be a right, not a privilege.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What Have These Eyes Seen?

Bowling with my 92-year-old Grandma.My Grandma turned 93 today. We live in different states, so I had to wish her a Happy Birthday on the phone.
"Do you know how old you are today?" I asked her.
"I was born in 1916; you do the math," she replied quickly.
She makes me smile. She always makes me smile. She has a very German sense of humor - no frills, no fuss. And she's one tough old bird.
I recently went to California and looked at her old house in Albany. She lived there with my Grandfather for 30-something years. She remembers when the front porch railings were built, when the stairs were built, when everything was built. She was there when the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed, for crying out loud! She remembers the local movie theater showing news reels of the recent progress that had been made on the Golden Gate. "It was a big deal," she says.
She left her family's farm in North Dakota to find a better life in the West. "I don't like cows," she'd say. Two of her siblings followed her out to California, which is why I now have kinfolk sprinkled all over the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Global Equality Has Begun.....

.....sort of. The U.S. has managed to convince our Swiss friends to disclose the private account information of more than 4,000 its American clients to the IRS, according to online news sources. The IRS has allegedly requested this information for 52,000 Americans, in an effort to collect due taxes from those who are serious about tax evasion.
One question I have is, how did the U.S. get the names of those 52,000 people in the first place? If the Swiss accounts were truly private, how did the names of the account holders get into the IRS' hands?
I may sound like I am against the IRS finding these tax evaders. (I realize it is probably not fair to assume that all 52,000 people are guilty of tax evasion, but, one has to wonder why they would bother setting up a Swiss bank account unless they really needed to hide something?) One person commented on the New York Times' website that this action by the U.S. is a "witch hunt," since there is no hard evidence that any of these people have committed a crime. What gives the U.S. the right to gain access to private financial information on a hunch? The person argued that this action is not any different than if the U.S. had successfully forced Google to disclose information about what types of websites you view in the privacy of your own home.
Does this action by our government represent yet another example of our freedoms lost, or is it just a step towards ensuring that everyone, including the uber-rich, pay their share of taxes?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Strong women, Strong girls

Could you survive alone on an island for 18 years? What if you had no choice? A woman in the 1800s actually did that on this island - San Nicolas. It's located 60 miles off the coast of Southern California.
I read Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins when I was in grade school, but I did not realize that it was based on a true story. It was haunting. It was sad. The strength of that young woman, her fortitude, her survival instinct, her love for her little brother....incredible. I remember reading the story and wondering how the girl knew what to do to stay alive. She was impressive. She was wise beyond her years. She had the grit and wisdom of all of her grandfathers and great-grandfathers somehow stored in her soul. 18 years...alone. And the worst part is that she died less than two months after she was discovered and brought back to Santa Barbara. Apparently her new diet could not be tolerated by her digestive system, which had been accustomed to a very limited range of biota on the island.
I would have liked to have met this woman. She was made out of things that I can scarcely fathom.