Feeling for One’s Country

When I was a child, the concept of patriotism was a simple thing. It meant standing before our flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and singing God Bless America. It was something we all did together, perhaps because we were so young and naïve, but I do miss that feeling of unity and standing for something, however abstract, that we shared as a country together with all creeds, colors, nationalities and an ideal of freedom,  in the ritual of recognizing that we were all really just one, even if in a vastly theoretical oneness that made me feel safe somehow in a dream or model of brotherhood that we later seemed to lose along the way, perhaps in our increasing awareness of individuality and all its factions.

Now I feel some of the beautiful chill of national pride only occasionally at sports events when the crowd sings together. It’s sometimes almost as though we feel shame for recognizing ourselves as a nation with its own speckled history of grand humanitarian strides mixed with stumbling blocks of ignorance and greed (as in every other nation). When we do stand before our flag, it isn’t that we are excluding other nationalities, but rather embracing all who wish to be part of the best of our ideals and hopes.

England (with the United Kingdom), with a chronicle of over a thousand years, still does it best. When they sing their hymns and national anthems, there is something of their long history that touches every heart, not from vanity, but with a shared feeling of immense dignity and pride in standing as one people, regardless of color, accent, religion, or race. I long to feel that pride that I felt as a child about our own country, one for which there is still so much potential, if we can come together on some level ground, where personal prejudice is minimized by the overwhelming feeling of the beauty of the vast landscape and the shared prospects of its many people, with our almost limitless resources to help, rather than to hurt one another.

Here is a little video taken at Royal Albert Hall in London. It is most stunning when heard with earphones (as though you’re there). See what unity and true pride look like in the English national hymn (Jerusalem) and God Save the Queen. If it doesn’t give you chills, then your emotional freon supply has been sadly depleted. Enjoy.

Oh, and God bless America!



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The Hiatus of America’s Reason


When did everything become so black and white that nuance, middle ground and actual discussion disappeared, like last year’s Easter eggs, and that any opposing view is seen as a threat or insult?

rage #1

All my life I’ve observed factions in my own family of Dutch Protestants versus Irish Catholics and Republicans versus Democrats, but never in the sense of war camps determined to decimate one another. Though passionately loyal to their religious and political convictions, the extended families of my parents were always willing and able to put their personal tenets aside in favor of shared memories over coffee and cake or beer and pretzels. I know that that sounds simplistic and naïve, but bear with me.

rage #2

The media during the presidential campaign of the past year seemed perfectly comfortable in churning up enough tweaked photos and edited stories to make anyone’s blood boil about whatever the “opposition” was doing at any moment. Tabloid-quality narratives on the Obamas made the Emperor Nero and Messalina look like Calvin Coolidge and Little Orphan Annie. Sometimes the stories were laughable and sometimes heartbreaking in their ferocity. Hillary Clinton was unfairly bashed until, in the media, she no longer resembled even a fragment of her true self. Donald Trump was as much under attack until he became, at least to Democrats, the Anti-Christ. They all became comic book characters in single dimensions that were both comical, because they were absurd, and dangerous, because too many gullible people wanted to believe they were accurate and truthful assessments. Each side developed immunity to any truth that didn’t agree with its predetermined convictions. There was nothing too outrageous that couldn’t become part of someone’s arsenal of “truths” to condemn the enemy. Prejudices on both sides became impenetrable to anything that contradicted their preconceptions.

Demonstrators square off during a rally outside City Hall in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 27, 2016, during the third day of the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The adrenalin rushes from both sides in the powerful feelings of self-righteous indignation released bone-crushing sarcasm and criticism of the opposition. Truth didn’t always have much to do with the messages. Too many people on both sides became comfortably smug among their equally ill-informed allies in a shared laser focus on their own safe sources for information. The extremes were Fox News and MSNBC, which are light years away from each other in their style and content of reportage, but both managed to sculpt the news in the most artful ways , trimming this detail or leaving out something else, always rendering the final stories perfect fits for their generally predetermined political agendas. For me, PBS came closest to news unencumbered by emotional claptrap and tipped scales.

rage #4

I’ve stopped reading the absurd, often mean-spirited political posts on Facebook, one of the last places I go to find any measure of balance and untrimmed truth. Both parties can duke it out, but without me. The other day I saw a post on FB by one of my former students from the 1970’s. Her message was that none among us knows the pain of other people, so we shouldn’t always judge…but rather be kind instead. I thought the post one that was badly needed, but in her very next post, the same woman indulged in a pronouncement of cruel, malicious jibes against Michelle Obama just for the way she looked. My heart sank as I realized that the student’s posts were cafeteria-style, chosen on whims that often had little connection or real moral significance from one moment to the next. Another post farther down the page by someone else was bashing Melania Trump for no good reason. There have been days that I’ve felt sickened by post after post of the most vitriolic and unmerited criticisms of all those from the political battle of the past year, some of the digs being as puerile as ones from when we were kids on the playground… “Your momma wears combat boots!” Are there really adults so insecure that such meanness makes them feel better or safer? It’s simply beyond my comprehension.

I’m weary of the easy, cheap stereotypes for the words “conservative,” “liberal,” “Republican,” and “Democrat.” They’ve lost most of what they once meant. All four words seem to have become ugly insults, because people have become too lazy to analyze dispassionately what the words can mean, but the cold, factual, dictionary definitions have lost their original luster in favor of enraged add-ons of disgust and pure assumption.

As a nation we seem to have forgotten that we’re all in this together and that it’s not a boxing match where one can’t win unless someone else is down. The resulting stalemate has made much of our political discourse snide and devoid of any level of empathy in the wider view, because we have no wider view.

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but he is now the President of my country, for better or worse. I believe that the discord and obstructionism which was used so ruthlessly (but not always successfully) against President Obama should be at its end. The new president should be given the chance to see what he can do for the nation (not for the political party). If he fails, he can later be impeached so that we will all have to join forces to clean up the rubble left behind. As Americans, we have survived Andrew Jackson and George W. Bush as presidents. The country will not collapse. I believe it will become even stronger, if for no other reason than that of a possibly painful lesson to be learned in hindsight. President Trump will be as observed, checked, and criticized as any former president has been. We all have the right and responsibility to watch him carefully and maintain our duty as a republic to criticize him if or when he strays from the common good or what is constitutional. Any other way would suggest a number of former dictatorships of which the world has already seen too many. So give the man a chance to make things better. Our nation was great before, so I rather dislike the sarcastic notion that we can be great “again.” But, perhaps we can improve, and our new President’s prolific rhetoric can become reality in some ways. We’ll never know unless he can take the wheel and steer us somewhere else. Also it’s up to all of us. One man can’t do it alone, as we’ve seen so many times in the past.

Bitterness and civil war are not the answers to our continuation as a nation. We need to find areas of agreement for unity, not fragmentation for every single cause that comes down the pike, however worthy. There can be debate based upon facts and shared hopes so that we can find some middle ground, where extreme, one-sided, self-righteous, greedy rage cannot topple us into oblivion. Reason and compromise are so difficult, maybe especially for adults. Let’s do something together as a nation, for a change.  JB

Lady liberty

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Saying What Needs To Be Said


Meryl Streep is a courageous, compassionate woman, who said what the rest of us wanted to say, but she was heard, and what she said struck a nerve, especially for Trump (whose name she didn’t even mention). Reason has flown out the window about politics. The Trumpster has reached the point at which he can do nothing wrong in the eyes of his worshipers. They take offense at any criticism of their new deity, yet they are resplendent with insults and criticisms of any opposition, even if those criticisms are based upon supposition and lies. They see only what they wish to see and always find ways to dismiss his mean-spirited side and his meandering opinions that change daily. I’ve given up trying to rationalize.

Perhaps the most painful lesson our democracy has ever seen will occur over the next four years (or whatever time elapses before an impeachment). Our country will suffer for a while in ways we probably can’t yet imagine, but perhaps even the Trumps and Trumpettes will realize at last that something was horribly wrong, and their siding with and protecting this sinister man was a mistake they will wish they had never made. Time will tell, but I’m not as blindly optimistic and starry eyed as some of my friends seem to be. They are bedazzled beyond repair.   JB


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Baby, It’s Cold Outside


Human reaction to air temperature is a very relative thing. Though still a Hoosier (born and raised in Indiana) at heart, and accustomed to brutal winters on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, I have to say that my tolerance for what I used to believe was “cold” has been seriously modified. Having also lived in Colorado for ten years, I have undergone a major change in my response to what is chilly, because I spent half of those years as a snowbird, leaving the house in Centennial in early November to live in our Pompano Beach condo in Florida until May. In 2016 I became a permanent resident of “The Sunshine State,” having become weary of the 2200-mile drive with the dog every six months before we sold the Colorado house.


Though Centennial has more sunshine than Miami, there is also a lot of snow, along with the occasional sub-zero temperatures. During the past five years, my body’s thermostat has undergone some real changes in its reactions to heat and cold. I used to shovel snow in Indiana and Colorado wearing only a light down jacket, gloves, and a knit hat when the temperature was ten degrees and took walks when the thermostat registered zero. My gradual transformation to a thermal wuss really took only five years.


I used to chuckle to myself over the native Floridians, who would wear mittens, mufflers, earmuffs and anoraks when they saw the temperatures plummet to the low fifties. I must confess that I have now become one of those very climate-sensitive folks, perhaps because the mornings that dip into the fifties are so rare. Ninety-eight percent of the time, I now wear shorts and polo shirts. “Formal” occasions require light cotton slacks and short-sleeve shirts. Neckties are quite rare and seem to be used only at the time of one’s death, so that I’ve had most of mine quilted into toss pillows.


I always had a working fireplace before moving to Florida, but the one in the house we own in Oakland Park down here is, though make of brick, purely decorative. On Christmas Eve at our condo, where we enjoyed the holidays, I spent hours reading, while sitting in front of a large TV screen watching a video of a fireplace ablaze with crackling logs while I burned wood smoke- scented candles. The video lasted two hours, and I played it twice,  later adding the scent of balsam candles for extra olfactory effect.


We’re all used to sitting in front of TV screens or radios, but those devices are fairly new, having been around only within the last century and now having become portable, so that folks are seen everywhere glued to their hand-held, electronic screens, often oblivious of whatever or whoever else is around them. For many thousands of years, however, human beings gathered around campfires, fireplaces, and potbelly stoves in communal experiences of warmth and shared stories. My attempts to recreate that ancient experience electronically is certainly synthetic, but I hope, nonetheless, that it achieves at least some of what our ancient ancestors enjoyed.    JB

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A Faithful Shamrock…


This shamrock plant is at least twenty-seven years old. Jim received it in 1990 at a boardroom meeting on St. Patrick’s Day. Each person was given a Dixie cup containing a little plant. Over the years this one has endured brutal winters, staying in the cold sunroom of the house in Colorado to the sun porch of the Florida condo, where it seems to thrive best.  JB

Saint Patricks Day shamrock leaf symbol isolated on white vector illustration

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Delusion and Personal Road Blocks

Antique pen and inkwell

Antique pen and inkwell

I don’t know my own country as well as I thought I did. In some ways we are strangers now, and I’ve been wrestling with the outcome of our national election to understand why I still feel so far away from the way things actually are.

I stayed up watching election returns last night until ten o’clock, when I decided that waking up this morning might feel like Christmas Day. Wow! Was I wrong or what? It was like waking up to find coal in my stocking with no explanation of what I had done to deserve it.

The myriad subterfuges and distractions by both political parties over the past year led me to misread and badly misinterpret the needs and desires of most of my fellow Americans. I saw their outward rage but failed to understand that their chief target was the status quo and its lingering, empty promises. I also neglected to grasp their profound nostalgia for a more stable America, one that existed before this present era of swift and extraordinary changes that, for many Americans, have made the world around them seem to be spinning out of control. Those needs required a revolution.

I omitted the strong factor of fear experienced by the working class, who find that “getting ahead’” is often only for other folks. My rose-colored glasses didn’t really see the terror through racial division and the ever-present, if subliminal, conviction that our Norman Rockwell, 1950’s, white- home, apple pie community was, to many, being sabotaged by a growing inclusion of Blacks, gays, Mexicans, Muslims, etc., (at least in the media), who were becoming a bit too uppity by enjoying more equal status and, therefore, had to be reviled by squinted info sources like Fox News, a media empire that has made The National Enquirer look like The New York Times.

In a subtler way, women themselves had to be punished for the supreme audacity of supposing they could actually be equal. Imagine a female who, instead of staying home to bake biscuits, was brilliant and courageous enough to be the leader of The Western World. This was simply too much for middle America to digest and short-circuited many brains in their monumental efforts to discredit and revile her, ignoring completely the  great things she had done over many years and using nonsensical distractions against her over things only a tenth as dangerous as those done by male presidents of the past sixty years.

I finally reached the conclusion that the election process this time had less to do with actual issues than with fantasy and powerful emotions on the part of voters, who saw what they needed or wanted to see instead of checking facts carefully along the way. Myths are created when people need them and even need to believe them, good or bad. Demonizing with lies and tweaked “truths” became an art form during this election. The Republican candidate went over the top, hurling insults that sounded like a Las Vegas nightclub routine of Don Rickles or Redd Foxx that had nothing whatever to do with improving life in America. Denouncing the opposition reached a new political and moral low. Fear, misogyny, and racism became the ammunition sharpened and aimed carefully at everything and everyone outside Beaver Cleaver’s and Donna Reed’s households.

One of the greatest shocks for me was the cavalier way those calling themselves Christians excused the raw meanness of spirit of the man promising to “make America great again” as though Christ himself had been hijacked and replaced by some golden idol that could do no wrong and must be worshiped instead. I don’t think I was the only one to wear rose-colored specs. In the end, perhaps it’s really just about power and money, not about ideals, which in this election have taken on the nature of double-talk and hypocrisy.

The American philosophy of tolerance, charity, and equality has somehow, perhaps by anger, greed, fear, and ignorance, been packed away as though in some old cedar chest and replaced by things I cannot recognize. All I can do is wait and see what unfolds over the next four years. I’d be happy and grateful to find that even a pompous windbag filled with promises and empty catch-phrases could bring us together as a continuing and prosperous nation, but the word “together” no longer seems to have meaning in the new order, in which I fear we will be splintered and see mostly divisive chaos with only a very painful lesson to be learned before the next election (barring an impeachment process). The people have indeed spoken, but I fail to understand where they believe we’re going now as a country.  JB


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The Current Political Landscape…a Personal View


Our nation is filled with mistrust and rage right now, but it’s also filled with good people. If it weren’t, then there would be no hope and no reason for an election or striving to overcome what is already wrong. We’re all in this together, so we need to begin sharing some common goals. Personal attacks have not helped and have served only to distance people we believe are against us. It’s been an ugly campaign from both sides, but if we don’t find some common ground…beyond character assassination, our country will suffer even more from our energies being spent in creating a war zone in which nothing will ever get done.


There has to be a middle ground. We can’t be a half-nation or two nations in constant and ugly opposition. Otherwise we’re doomed to keep enduring more of the same. This election has been based much more upon suspicion, innuendo, and hysteria than upon cool reason, facts, and realistic goals. The stalemate is going to cost us a lot, if we’re not more level-headed and prudent. I still believe that our worst enemy is our love of self-righteous indignation. Nothing gives a better rush…but it’s dangerously destructive and blinding. Already, $5 billion dollars has been spent on leading us toward one candidate or the other.

White House

I just read again George Orwell’s 1984 (published in 1949). Mind control isn’t just a myth, and it scares me that so many are so gullible to believe either candidate is without flaw that the zeal to elect one or the other is of religious intensity. Neither one deserves worship. They both have flaws, and we need to sift through them realistically and dispassionately.

God, I’m tired of all this!   JB

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Seeds of Propaganda Can Produce Giant Sequoias

 Many would agree that the current political election campaign has been, at best, a back-biting, mean-spirited, divisive and hopelessly duplicitous experience for most of us who tend to take elections at all seriously. There have been other vicious election campaigns in our relatively brief history as a nation, including the one for Abraham Lincoln, who was vilified and threatened with assassination even before he was elected President.


The same kind of hateful chasm exists now between the two major parties in which most voters I know personally are totally and emphatically for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. No one is on the fence, because there is no middle ground. Almost everyone with whom I’ve talked on the subject grimaces at the mere mention of the opposing candidate, because the feeding machines of propaganda on both sides are prodigious and prolific in their churning out material that renders anything resembling the truth to be something from some galaxy far, far away. Fox News (Faux News) is, for me, the worst source of “information” in its cranking out one tabloid feature after another in a predictable plethora of rage-inducing silliness to keep anyone’s crazy uncle amused for hours on end.


The media, of course, know their audiences and, like puppeteers, they can manipulate their viewers by stirring up their righteous indignation to fever pitch over any claims by the “opposition.” This phenomenon has produced a laser-like devotion and loyalty on both sides that will allow not even a glimmer of light to enter from the other candidate. The process has become more like a sports event for a championship game than for making our country a better place, where comparing and sharing ideas can actually occur.


Minds have been made up and unlikely at this juncture to change much, if at all. Ice doesn’t melt often in an emotionally and intellectually Arctic climate, where everything has become rock-hard in terms of viewpoints and personal prejudices. Nothing can hide The Trumpster’s racism, misogyny, egomania, ignorance of world affairs and government procedures, his temper tantrums, his tendency to bully others, and his embarrassingly unsheathed vulgarity, all traits that may appear amusing for a moment to some after too many beers but which on the world stage could damage our already waning national prestige.


A recurring fantasy I’ve been having over the past few weeks involves a revelation and game-changer of monumental proportions before Election Day even arrives…when Donald Trump steps up to the podium while on national television (world-wide telecast) and before a boisterous crowd says, “Ladies and gentlemen. After much soul-searching, I want to share with you all something that has been on my mind since last spring. I’m going to step out of the race for the presidency as of today (pause due to the agitation of the audience). Please let me finish before you burst some blood vessels in surprise or anger. My leaving the race isn’t because I believe Crooked Hillary will do a better job than I thought I could do, but rather that my experiment has come to its end.


That experiment has been one testing America’s confusion, gullibility, and ignorance, an America which I was able to convince was in crisis mode and that I was able to persuade to join a dark side of hatred, sexism, suspicion, and fear not known since the days of Italian Fascism under Benito Mussolini, whom I admire very much. As you know, I’ve always seen myself as a winner, and I still do. The game is simply over, and I have won again in my having been able to hoodwink half the nation into accepting catch-phrases as truths, and morally degrading slogans as healing. It’s been a tremendous awakening for me, as I hope it will have been for you whose level of skepticism has been that of backward children, hungry to believe any nonsense that sounds good to them at the moment. My shady reluctance to share my tax returns and official medical records should have been a signal, but you all ate up everything I said, no matter how vile, to the point where I could actually do no wrong. Maybe that’s because when you were kids, your only real authority figure was an unprincipled loud-mouth braggart and pompous windbag, which is exactly what I am, folks, in case you hadn’t noticed. What a terrific revelation this should be for you all. It might even make America great again. Maybe in the future, you’ll be more careful about who your idols and political leaders are. As for me, I’m off to my villa in Aruba, where I intend to enjoy a life away from politics.”     JB



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A Personal Turning Point on Current American Politics

Over the past year, like most of my relatives, friends, and acquaintances, I’ve been observing the political landscape in our nation, and its descent into a dystopian battle between two sets of what we used to call “ideals.” It has seemed thus far like being enveloped by some impossible Orwellian tale of societal and psychological shackles from every direction.


The key word for me here is “psychological,” because so little of what we have been observing in this Machiavellian campaign has any basis in the reality of so many American families. The one-upmanship war has reached a point of no return that makes Richard III look like Mr. Rogers.


I understand the rage felt by many Americans who feel cheated out of their fair shares of The American Dream. The symbols of material success in The United States are the fat cats at the top of the system, a system that seems to continue without threat from the bottom feeders who keep them afloat. It’s the kind of anger that opens the gates of revolution, and it’s why The Tea Party movement was born. Such fury always needs a scapegoat. The abstract image of government itself provides one, of course, but actual names make better ones for those who need targets for their disappointment and seething rage. The President himself has become a Wicker Man on which to burn enormous amounts of public exasperation through mountains of tabloid nonsense that, as Roger Ailes has said, if repeated enough times, people will believe without question.


Both the presidential candidates themselves are “fat cats” in terms of material wealth, though Trump’s being one doesn’t seem to matter to his devoted worshipers. The Trumpster’s not giving a damn about protocol and his thumbing his nose at common courtesy and tradition give his fans a vicarious sense of power against a government they feel is responsible for their own discontent. One of the catch-phrases used to defend Mr. Trump’s candid, irreverent style is that “He speaks his mind.” Common sense tells me that this is not enough for someone to become President, especially when I think of an old friend of mine now in a nursing home, where he says whatever pops into his addled brain at any given moment, entertaining the staff there with his unfiltered comments that make the aides chuckle and shake their heads at every outrageous assertion he utters. Yes, he does “speak his mind,” but I don’t want to see him in The White House as leader of the western world.


One of my other friends sees this election as a terrible choice between Emperor Nero and Lady Macbeth. No president in our history has had a pristine record of not occasionally robbing Peter to pay Paul through decisions that cause disagreement from one group or another. That’s part of what politics is. Such tough decision making should be put on the same ground for both men and women.


For me, all the actual political issues aside (which for many Americans seem of only secondary importance anyway), as I stand back to see our political climate from afar, like a report on The Weather Channel, I have a different take, which may be closer to the middle of things (wherever that may lie), which is certainly hard to find in the media, except perhaps on PBS, because TV coverage on Fox News or MSNBC seems to bang me over the head with black and white visions of whatever they see as “the simple truth.” I’m not sure there is always a simple truth, but I’m terrified occasionally by views of some of my friends and relatives based upon stilted, undocumented sources that make The National Enquirer look like the New York Times or The Washington Post (which aren’t infallible either).

Hillary Clinton is certainly not “perfect” either, but I have seen her unfairly reviled over and over again (often by people who are most vocal about calling themselves “Christians”) as no man has ever been. The most recent news concerning Donald Trump’s comments about women brought to me a revelation, not about him but about his voter base. I believe that in America we still have at least a subliminal level of misogyny more illogical and intense than any other places outside The Middle East. Our Norman Rockwell ideals of women remaining in the kitchen and at home as domestic servants (or the code word “goddesses”) have been disturbed over the past sixty years, and I believe strongly that many Americans (women included) are frightened by such change (the supreme manifestation of which would be a female as Commander in Chief) and would gladly express their devotion to that older America with the albeit inappropriate and ironic dictum of “Women have become too big for their own britches.”

For some men this may represent a difficult power struggle, and for some women it may symbolize greater responsibility and competition. Either way, they have made Hillary Clinton a magnate for a level of loathing not seen since Salome or Messalina. The irrational barbs of this campaign against Clinton would certainly have a different response, were they directed at Mr. Trump, barbs which according to his own words and to the actions of his most ardent followers, would have no effect. The defenses, by his wide-eyed worshipers, of his comments from twelve years ago say it all. In their eyes, he can do no wrong, while Hillary can do no right. This is more emotional than rational, but many people can’t step back far enough to see it with any cool-headed clarity. They’ve made up their minds and don’t wish those minds to be cluttered with anything except praise for The Trumpster. This glaring partiality is probably true for folks from both political parties.

The intelligence and cool reserve we have often associated with masculine traits in governmental position have become blurred in this election process, leaving many men and women flummoxed, angry, or frightened. For them, a strong, capable woman is good in the kitchen but not in The White House. However, a puerile, lunatic flashing the finger at the establishment (and at people in general) is all right. Where have we gone wrong?     JB


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Life in My Condo

Life in my Pompano Beach condo has been enjoyable the past few years that I have been a Colorado/Florida snowbird, and now that the Colorado house has been sold and we’ve purchased a new one in Oakland Park, Florida, we’ll be keeping the condo but renting it, completely furnished, for extra income until old age (which could come any moment) requires us to move back to it, since everything here is done for us. The move to the house will be in another month or so, but in the meantime, I continue to enjoy watching (with binoculars) the golfers on the green across the little lake outside my sun room. Part of that entertaining spectacle comes from the varied and sometimes eccentric attire of the players. Some of the more elderly males seem to prefer Bermuda shorts, narrow-brimmed, feathered, straw hats, and wing-tipped black shoes with dark knee socks. No cartoonist could hope to capture the side-splitting humor of this stereotypical clothing, but more entertaining still are the occasional tantrums of golfers, who throw their clubs, or become even more enraged falling into the lake while trying from  their little golf carts to retrieve errant golf balls before disappearing among the banyans and palms . Honestly, it’s better than anything on cable, with the bonus that this voyeurism is absolutely free of charge.


Then there have been interesting and eccentric neighbors among whom was Molly, two doors down from me. In her late seventies, she was someone who spent most of her time watching TV soap operas and drinking prodigious amounts of wine, which rumor suggests she actually put instead of milk on her morning corn flakes. Molly had to give up the daily gallon glass jugs of wine she had been purchasing before last year. The sound of each empty bottle being hurled down the trash chute on our second floor sounded like a bomb going off in the steel receptacle on the first floor. Molly would often choose to dispose of those big glass jugs late at night, perhaps with the flimsy hope that the rest of us would never suspect that she was drinking enough to keep a hockey team permanently drunk. Nevertheless, more than once I peeked out my window blinds after these incidents, believing at first our complex had been invaded by terrorists, but then seeing Molly instead wearing her chenille robe and weaving back to her apartment, twice leaving behind one of her pink fuzzy slippers, like some impossible, aging and intoxicated Cinderella.


Another neighbor caught Molly discarding one of those massive jugs one night and awakening the whole building again. The neighbor’s only comment to her was, “Molly, if you ever toss one of those jugs down that chute again, I’m seriously going to hurt you.”

After that, Molly bought only Franzia boxed wines, ensuring (thanks to the angry neighbor) that the rest of us in the building would get an uninterrupted night of sleep without having to phone 911 to report an alleged, lunatic bomber.


There is a neighbor in the apartment on the first floor just under mine. Mrs. Felding is a widow from Canada who, like me, had been living here only during the winter. Her dog is a Boston Terrier with the nastiest disposition I have ever witnessed in a canine. Since Mrs. Felding uses a walker for her mobility, she is unable to walk her fifteen-pound dog, named Cujo (and for good reason). Cujo spits, snarls, barks and lunges at every living creature he encounters. Mrs. Felding’s son Warren, who lives elsewhere in Pompano Beach, visits daily to walk the dog at least three times, and my introduction to Warren included a menacing explanation about the terrifying Boston Terrier.


“Be sure never to come near Cujo! Only Mother and I can be around him without danger of bodily harm.”

“Thanks for the tip, jackass,” I thought. Then I asked myself what could possibly turn a household pet into such a psychotic, vicious creature that should under any normal circumstances be cuddled comfortably in a plaid, flannel dog bed surrounded by adoring family with ruddy-faced children before a blazing fire. It seems they can’t even buy any toys for Cujo, because he simply eats them, I mean completely! They have never found Warren’s bowling ball, which disappeared last year and sends my imagination reeling.

Everyone else in the building is aware of Cujo and his violent nature. Window blinds can often be seen cracking open before residents venture outside, as though they need to make sure Cujo is nowhere in sight first. At times it appears that this fifteen-pound dog is holding our building hostage and that the world’s fear of Pit Bulls is entirely misplaced, when indeed, all the Pit Bulls I’ve met have been sweet-natured, playful dogs, totally unlike the unfair and inaccurate stereotype created because a few morons have bred them for fighting. As a dog lover, I feel awful that in rare cases like that of Cujo the Boston Terrorist, the dog cannot be peacefully and lovingly approached. Cujo has made me perhaps unnecessarily wary around new dogs for the first time in my life. In any case, maybe I can blame his unsociable behavior on a Napoleon Complex. I mean, have you ever met a mean St. Bernard or Great Dane?    JB 


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