The lessons I’ve learned from ‘opening a vein’

When I first got the idea for this blog and launched this site six months ago, I was looking for a way to release some of my creative energy and to get back into the habit of writing for enjoyment. I think I’ve found my outlet.

This blog marks my 52nd post.

Over the past six months, I’ve learned a few things from the experience. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

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–As much as I know about communications and good writing, I’ve also realized that I know next to nothing. There have been pieces that I thought were wonderful that received only so-so feedback. In the same token, there have been pieces that in my mind were mediocre at best, that friends or family members had questions about and really seemed to like. Each time this has happened, I find myself stopping, looking at them incredulously, and saying, “um, why?”

–You just never know what’s going to touch someone.

–The golden rule of writing is definitely true: shorter is better. Use five words, instead of ten. In the words of Strunk and White’s classic writing style guide,  The Elements of Style, make every word count. Unfortunately, I’ve consistently broken this rule, rambling on-and-on like the reader has nothing better to do with their time. My deepest apologies.

–The blogs that I’ve enjoyed spending the most time on have also been the ones that have hurt the most. They’ve forced me to open a part of my heart or explain a story or an experience that my normal introverted self would rather keep under cover, hidden from the outside world. The great American sports writer Red Smith is credited with saying: “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” I’ll never be as gifted in my phrasing as Smith, but I can certainly understand the pain. When I’ve been fortunate to open a vein of creativity or passion, I’ve been rewarded ten times over with content that I might never have been able to mine or harvest. My hope is that the writing has been for the better too.

–I started the blog because I thought it would get me working on my novel. The novel remains in a rumpled folder on my desk. I still think that I’ll get to it one day, but so far, I’ve been having too much fun with the blog. No John Grisham rags-to-riches story for me. At least for now.

–My two favorite blogs have next to nothing in common. I wrote the first one twenty years ago and set it in a drawer. My other favorite played around in my brain for two weeks. I thought about it every spare second, on my way to work, during my lunchtime run, grocery shopping, everywhere. And then finally when I sat down at my laptop, it came rushing to the surface in a ten-minute flurry of writing. The two pieces:

I love what these two pieces say about courage . . .  and life.

In any event, thanks for reading and checking out my blog. I hope you’ve gotten something by coming to the site.

 

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On the campaign trail, there’s lies, damn lies, and then Donald Trump-sized lies

My mother was wrong.

She taught me that you should always tell the truth and think before you speak. If you didn’t know an answer, you didn’t make one up. And while gossip and rumors are all around us, you should try your best to not repeat outside of the house what you heard, lest the next rumor be about you.

I know that that all bets are off when it comes to politics and seeking out the truth. They have about as much in common as me and Michael Jordan on the basketball court, but I’ve learned in recent weeks that my mother was flat out wrong.

Bold statements and lies, despite what you might think, are actually good. Who knew?

Lies, lies and more lies

My mother was wrong. You don’t need all your facts. Just say what’s on your mind. Think someone’s a jerk, just say it. Think a particular ethnic or religious group is the root of all problems, then get it out. The facts don’t matter. What matters is speaking “the Truth.”

If the person you called a nasty name gets mad at what you say, look shocked and with all the bravado you can muster, say that you’re just speaking your mind. You’re speaking on behalf of the little guy. And then the pièce de résistance: Go on the offensive and say that you’re offended that they’re offended by your original remark.

The politician of the future and the new world order

Think I’m crazy. Here’s just a small sampling of Trump’s communication plan in action. Last week, Trump went off on George W. Bush’s administration for starting the Iraq War, stating that “they lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none.”

When pressed for details days later, Trump stepped back from his comments, saying: “I’m not talking about lying. … Nobody really knows why we went into Iraq.”

My natural inclination is to ask: Which is it? But in this new world order, the truth just doesn’t matter. It gets better. On Thursday, Trump was in a huff that Jeb Bush didn’t return his call. Classless on Bush’s part, probably. However, Trump called Bush everything but a buffoon for the past six months. Um, I wouldn’t want to talk to you either.

Now George W. and Jeb deserve everything they got from Trump. They’ve been around long enough and walked over enough people that I shed few if any tears for them.

So my mother was wrong. Or was she? There’s a part of me that understands Trump’s appeal in giving it to the establishment. He’s found a way to put into words the worries and concerns that everyday folks have in today’s society.

In the end, I want my leaders to lead. I want them to lead on fact, not a statement they made up the previous day. I want them to believe in what they’re saying and come with real plans, not just broad statements.

Back it up please

I also want them to not lie. For example, I call myself a Christian, but I could care less if Trump attends weekly Bible study. I’d like it, but I’m more concerned that my president be a moral leader. God knows I have my faults, I certainly expect that Trump or any of the other candidates to have their own.

However, don’t try to convince me that you’re a bible-thumping evangelical one day, and then the next get confused referencing Second Corinthians or get into a fight with the Pope, calling him the closest thing to a thief and a liar.

What do I expect of my president. I expect him or her to look at the facts. Research the facts some more. Surround themselves with smart people. And then build strong believes based on those facts. And then and only then speak up.

In short, say what you mean, mean what you say.

Unfortunately, that’s just never been Trump’s way. He has a few good ideas, but he fails to surround his ideas with real plans and makes a mockery of the process. He’d much rather make a Reality TV splash than serious significant change. What’s next “The Presidential Campaign: The Reality Series.”

Excuse me, but I’ll pass.

That’s not fair!

Life isn’t fair.

It’s one of those simple, but enduring lessons that we all have to learn at an early age. Johnny gets two pieces of candy and you only get one. “Aw, hang in there. Next time, you’ll get two.” Next time comes around and the parent, teacher, friend, whomever, forgets to start with you.

For whatever reason, I’ve always been that kid or now adult crying out or even whining “that’s not fair.”

When I was still in the womb and it came time to line up for the “fairness gene,” I went through twice and quite possibly a third time. I get riled up by the littlest injustices and inequalities; it’s rooted deep into my personality.

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And unfortunately, I can never just let something be. I have to point it out.

I’m fully aware that I probably should have gone into law or some other profession that would allow me to better fight for productive change. But that wasn’t to be. In any event, here’s a few of those annoyances — some big things, other very minor — that have risen to the top of my pet peeve list lately:

Playing politics

Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to put off the naming of a Supreme Court successor, stating that the position should not be filled until the American people have spoken and we have a new president in office.

I understand why the Republicans would like to wait. I’m certainly no fan of President Barack Obama. And yes, I find it revolting that Obama who called for a McConnell-like move when the roles were reversed, is now expected to name a nominee in a few weeks. However, McConnell’s call rings hollow to me. It frankly smells like swarmy politics.

The people have already spoken. They spoke when they re-elected Obama by a margin of five million votes on November 6, 2012. I may or may not like the outcome of that vote, but he was given the job to lead the country until January 20, 2017. Not February 13, 2016, but right up until January 20, 2017.

In President George W. Bush’s final year in office, he encouraged Congress to enact the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act to bail out the housing and banking industries. While certainly controversial, no one stated that Bush should hold off lobbying for the bailout until the next president was in office.

Supreme Court nominations rest with the president and President Obama should be allowed to fulfill that responsibility.

Party politics stink

Of course the other party is just as crooked. I’m annoyed that while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have generally been neck-and-neck with actual votes, Clinton now has a sizable super-delegate lead.

After the first two contests of the primary campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders held a a 56-42 percent lead nationally. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t win where it counts — the race for super delegates. Some states award their delegates based on each candidate’s percentage of the vote, while others simply award their delegates to whoever finishes first.

In real terms, this has meant that Sanders leads Clinton in the tally for delegates 36 to 32. She however had won where it counts with 98 percent of the super-delegates. She “earned” 362 super delegates to Sander’s 8, putting her in a commanding overall lead.

I get that the parties are all about following the hot money and who is going to win in the general election, but let’s stop calling it a Democratic process, because that certainly doesn’t resemble the people’s vote.

Excuse me, make way for Mr. Big Shot

Of course, it’s not just politics that cause my fairness meter to go off the deep end.  I’ve been driving a lot lately and as my luck would have it many of the roads that I travel have construction. While challenging now, I remind myself that someday my commute will be improved, maybe even lessened.

In the meantime, however, I have to live with road-rage infested drivers and the problems they create. Without fail, I seem to come across impatient drivers everyday who think that the idea of everyone merging from two to one lane is for everyone . . . but them. They’re special. The rules of the road don’t pertain to them. They get to make their own rules.

I get that traveling can be taxing. I get too that sometimes you’re late and need to get to work or school or whatever, but do we really need to drive on top of the bumper of the guy in front of you or wait to the very last moment to merge. Really? Is that aggressive behavior really necessary?

I must not understand the rules of the road. I must be missing out too on the important people that I’m traveling next to on the highway. Obviously.

Are good manners too much to ask?

Of course, as a father nothing bothers me more than when I feel one of my children deserves some recognition from a teacher, coach, or some type of authority figure and they’re not getting it.

I’m not a helicopter parent. I don’t give my kids praise they don’t deserve. They need to work for it, but when they’ve worked hard they shouldn’t be treated bad just because someone has authority over them.

For example, one of my boys came home dejected the other day because he did poorly on a test and his teacher marked an answer wrong that he actually thought he got right. My son generated the courage to ask why the problem had been marked wrong. The teacher ended up giving him points back on the test, but gave only half-hearted feedback and certainly no apology for marking the question wrong in the first place.

I know all to well that the teacher’s job is thankless and I wasn’t counting on the teacher getting on their knees to apologize. I would have liked some recognition, however, for my son’s efforts to take the problem home over night and research the answer, learn from his mistakes, and make the best of a bad situation.

None of that happened.

One more injustice to fight.

 

 

 

How a dog taught me the meaning of friendship

As a kid, I wanted my own dog. Every TV show that I watched and every book that I read seemed to feature a boy and his dog. They didn’t go anywhere without each other. They were inseparable.

When I was just a toddler, my brothers had a dog, a big beautiful collie, named Shep, that looked just like Lassie, but she got loose from her collar one day and ran out into the street where she got hit by a passing driver.

My parents vowed to never get another dog.

And then one rainy day my mom and I visited my aunt and uncle, who owned a farm near Selinsgrove, and we came home with a little black puppy. I’ve never asked my mom if she planned to come home with a dog or if it just happened.

In any event, I had my dog — a fox terrier, a toy terrier mix. She was black, furry and the runt of the liter.

And I was scared to death.

While my mom drove, she put the puppy in a small Middleswarth potato chip box on the back floor of the car. (Back in those days, several local potato chip brands were sold in rounded cardboard boxes.) The box was only eight or ten inches high and the little puppy kept working to get out of the box. Every time we rounded a corner, she would lean against the box and try to jump out. Each time she did, I would jump too, scared that she would come for me. I remember laughing and crying at the same time and my mother, trying to calm me down from the driver’s seat.

NittanyDogBowl“You’ll be okay honey, she won’t bite you. She’s scared and just wants to say hello,” my mom said. I didn’t know what to think, I just wanted my mom to drive faster so that we’d get home and she could help me take care of her.

My brothers and I would name the little puppy Snoopy. I was a big fan of the Peanuts cartoon and loved Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy, so the name was a natural. Our Snoopy looked nothing like Charlie Brown’s. Our Snoopy was all black and a mutt, but the name fit.

I might have been scared of Snoopy the first time we met, but we quickly became best friends. Snoopy and I went everywhere. We played together, we hung out together. We shared the same sandwich.

When I trudged off the school bus and landed straight into a huge puddle or was upset over that day’s spelling or math test, without fail, Snoopy would greet me at the door jumping up and down and full of excitement. She couldn’t wait to see me.

Snoopy came along at the very right time in my life. I was gawky and shy. As hard as I tried to fit in, I seemed to stand out more. But Snoopy came along and made everything better. She made me feel special just for being me.

If I spent all day Saturday playing basketball or my own make believe version of the seventh game of the World Series, Snoopy would lay on the porch waiting for me. She’d pop her head up every so often checking on me. In my mind, I thought she was clapping when I made a one-of-a-kind shot or difficult play. I’m sure she was adjusting her spot, but it didn’t matter. She never seemed to take her eyes off me.

We learn much from our parents, friends and teachers at an early age. But I learned some of the most important lessons in life from my dog. She taught me the value of friendship and kindness. She taught me that there’s nothing quite like a dog’s unfailing love.

When years later, we had to put Snoopy down, she continued to teach me, loving me to the end, she taught me about dying with dignity and grace. Snoopy had been getting more and more lethargic. We knew she was getting older, but we hoped that somehow she’d pull through and be back to the same old lovable friend that we had come to count on.

Unfortunately that wasn’t to be. I was to have one final moment with Snoopy. Her eyes were starry-eyed, she looked right through me. I said my goodbyes and told her that I loved her. And that I would always love her.

I started to get up to leave and miraculously, she gathered up all her strength and reached out to lick my hands one last time. Friends until the end.

And to think it all began in a small potato chip box.

The tragic story I’ve never been able to shake

A tear trickled down her cheek. She wiped it from her face and quickly turned her head to look out a nearby window. She stopped talking and we took a short break. A few minutes passed and we started up again.

She told me how the day started like any other. They had breakfast and chit-chatted over the upcoming weekend. They were planning to take a drive to a nearby stable. Her 10-year-old daughter wanted to start to take horseback riding lessons. She wanted to ride like the equestrian riders that she saw on TV.

Of course, they were late getting out the door. She said they always seemed to be late. Her husband had left her five years earlier and it was just the two of them. They raced out the door and the woman dropped her daughter off at the bus stop. Before splitting up, the woman leaned over the  car-seat to say goodbye and gave her daughter a quick peck on the cheek.

Through thick tears now, the woman told me that when she drove off she looked in the rear view mirror to see her daughter smiling and waving. She would never see her daughter alive again.

“If time were on a film loop, I would take it back to that very moment and stop it. Never let it go forward again,” she said.

When the mother got to her office, she learned that a dump truck driver running late to a job site ran a stop sign, hit the daughter’s school bus, instantly killing the girl and injuring several other students.

The woman was in her 60s now, the accident had happened nearly two decades earlier in the late 1970s, but it could have just as easily taken place the previous day. She told me how she thought of her daughter every day. Even then . . .years later. And how her daughter, if she had lived, would be in her 30s and possibly with her own children.

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I interviewed the woman a number of years ago for a story on bus safety. I interviewed lots of people over the years, but the woman’s story for a variety of obvious and not-so-obvious reasons has stayed with me through the years. I’ve never been able to get the woman’s loss, her pain, her story out of my mind.

I picture her and I instantly feel her suffering.

I thought of the woman again the other day listening to a scene from the Broadway musical Hamilton that my own daughter turned me onto over the Christmas holiday. In the scene, Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza suffer “through the unimaginable” when their 19-year-old son was shot in a duel and died the following day in their arms.

The words cause the hair on the back of my neck to rise and flutter. When I think of that kind of unimaginable pain, it’s unfathomable to me. I force myself to face it, but it’s so severe, so burdensome that I have to stop.

We have faced our share of challenges, but nothing in the same stratosphere. My heartaches for all those parents past and present who’ve had to go through this type of pain. I calm myself by remembering the way the woman handled her loss.

She lobbied for measures to improve bus safety and became a counselor helping other parents, who had experienced similar loss, to grieve and pick up the pieces to their lives. She had spoken frequently in special meetings with members of Congress and to state lawmakers. Thanks to her work, a number of bus improvements had been made. When I talked to her, she was lobbying for mandatory seat belts – something still sadly needed in Pennsylvania.

I remember asking why it was important to her to talk publicly about her loss. She said that she found solace telling others about her daughter. She said too that she thought it would have been what her daughter wanted.

The woman suffered much, but she used her experience to fight and to try to improve society. In short, she carried herself with grace and peace. I guess that’s all we can ever ask for, God’s grace and peace to handle whatever life brings our way.

Who is the loser now?

I messed up.

Several years ago, I was competing against a coworker for a prized promotion. We both knew who was in the running and that it came down who did the best on a project that we had been assigned. Unfortunately, I made a mistake, an error, at the wrong time and I didn’t get the outcome I wanted.

In Carolina Panther Quarterback Cam Newton’s world, I should have sulked and been a sore loser. I should have hit a wall in anger and made life miserable for everyone around me including my friend and coworker, who ended up getting the prized position.

I could be taking Newton’s words too far, but I doubt it. After critics questioned last week his behavior after the Super Bowl 50 loss, he said, “I hate losing. You show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser,” Newton said.

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I’m picking on Newton, but many high profile athletes today and even legendary coach Vince Lombardi, who first phrased the quote that Newton stole, have it all wrong. Yes, like them, I consider myself extremely competitive. I want to be the best at everything I do. I want to be the best husband and father. The best worker. The best writer. The best Monopoly player. It doesn’t matter. I like to win. When I enter a 5k race —  small or big, no matter the cause or charity —I want to beat every other back-of-the-pack runner like me that I can. I think that’s natural.

But losing and failure has its place. I would change Newton’s quote to say “show me a sore loser and I’ll show a spoiled brat, more concerned about themselves than the rest of the team.”

No one wants to lose. No one wants to put in countless hours of practice and preparation and walk off the field or conference room or court room with the emptiness that comes with losing. We all want to win.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way and many times there can be only winner. (And I’m not trying to say that I think everyone else who comes in next should get a “participation trophy.” I’m not saying that either.)

However, in my mind, the winner is the one who recognizes the lessons that comes with not coming in first. The winner is the one who recognizes where they need to improve, who gets back up on the bike or saddle and works double over the summer to get better, comes back prepared and battles to win the next Super Bowl.

To me those are the real winners.

medal-390549_1280Instead of Newton’s or Lombardi’s comments, I find solace in the advice of Olympic gold medal winner and civil rights and women’s rights pioneer Wilma Rudolph. She said: “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be champion someday.”

Or even Michael Jordan’s often quoted comment: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Our culture is obsessed with winning. We love our winners and love to trample on the losers. I get that winning is good, but Michael Jordan played on just six championship teams. Does that mean he was a loser, a never-was, a has-been, the other nine years?

I don’t think so.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that if Carolina Panthers’ and Newton fail to understand why they lost against the Denver Broncos and improve on those areas, they’ll never win a Super Bowl with Newton as quarterback.

And by the way, that job I missed out on, I sought out the advice of mentors, former supervisors, coworkers and others around me. I got their critical input on areas that I needed to develop and I ended up getting an even better job six months later and succeeded in ways that I never would have expected. I learned from my “failure” and in the long run became a better person.

If that makes me a loser, then so be it!

What’d you say?

I blame it on my poor hearing.

My son is looking at colleges and the potential of participating in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps to earn a commission in the U.S. Marines. He’s a strong, dedicated kid and will do well with whatever he chooses. I considered going the same route when I was his age. Like my son, I was hard working and committed to a larger mission, but eventually chose to go a different path.

As I try to help my son and be a good sounding board for him, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I didn’t pursue enlisting or seeking a commission. In retrospect, I think a big reason goes back to a something very small, but oh so important: my hearing.

I’ve long had problems with my left ear, all very manageable in normal everyday life and probably passable from a military physical exam standpoint, but still a hearing loss. I generally hear fine when the noise is clear and in front of me. When I’m in a crowded room or somewhere with any number of competing noises, all bets are off. In those types of situations, I need more time to process what I’ve heard . . . not exactly what the military wants to look for in its candidates in a high stress, emergency environment.

Here’s a funny sidebar: I loved the band U2 since the early 80s, but I’ve always been a step behind when it comes to their music. The haunting tone of Bono’s voice has always been hard for me to pick-up. I’ve long butchered the lyrics to their songs until I had a chance to look them up in the liner notes or on the Internet. In the same vein, my hearing made interviews interesting, asking sources to restate what they said, when I worked as a reporter. I once interviewed long-time U.S. Senator Arlen Specter after a town hall he had for constituents and asked him to restate one of his answers. Specter routinely chatted up reporters so he thought nothing of restating his answer, but, of course, a train went by when we were talking and I had to ask him to repeat himself a third time. Fortunately, he liked the sound of his voice more than anything else in this world and had no qualms retracing his path. Thank goodness for small favors.

In any event, when I was thinking about joining the service, I would see videos of boot camp or officer candidate school and watch drill sergeants yelling at new recruits and I would strain to hear what they were saying. I automatically saw myself flailing around trying to follow an instruction to some maneuver and making a complete fool of myself. Yes, I know basic training and officer candidate school are much more than that . . . but it still put a major question in my mind.

I put that dream aside, but I’ve often wondered over the years how my poor hearing has impacted me in my other ways. There have been times when I’ve felt a second or two behind in catching a joke or one liner, a boss’ instructions, or a waiter’s question, but most times I’ve been able to work myself through the situation. Besides the occasional joke, my friends have always understood.

I wore a hearing aid in my left ear for a while, but I had more problems than the aid was really worth. I suspect a more permanent hearing aid is in my future, but I certainly don’t want to rush anything. I’ve tried over the years to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact me. I’ve always asked for quiet corner seats in restaurants. When I talk with my kids, I make sure I can see their faces.

And if my son does enter one of the armed services, I’ll be sure to make sure that I’m in the front row so that when he graduates, I’ll be the first to hear his name, cheer him on, and congratulate him.

While all well and good, my poor hearing has come in handy a time or two. At least when it comes to my wife and her many honey-do lists.

“What? What did you say dear? I can’t hear you. Did you say something?”

 

Super Bowl 50: A get-together unlike any other

When the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers line up across from each other tomorrow evening for Super Bowl 50, a number of records will be broken. CBS expects 189 million people will watch the game in the U.S. and around the world and increased the average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl to a record high of $5 million (that’s $166,666 per second). Tickets to the game started at $850, but the average secondary market price — if you can get them — is running fans more than $5,000.

I love football.

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I’m a lover of a good story, so I love the stories, both big and small, that come out of the game each year. Who will win: power, speed, or the one who’s best able to outsmart the other? Or will it be the one who’s best at keeping their composure in the most stressful of circumstances?

This year the story lines are no different: Will Peyton Manning retire and walk away from the game at the end of the year? Will Cam Newton find a way to get past Denver’s number one ranked defense?

The media seems to go on-and-on with stories. Will Coldplay and Beyoncé live up to past Super Bowl halftime shows? Will the Left Shark from Katy Perry’s halftime show last year make another appearance?

But I’ve found lately that I’ve been thinking about the stories not covered. What if 189 million people were focused on something other than just a little brown pigskin? What amazing things could we accomplish? Think about it.

If we were able to focus those resources on something else, we could:

  • Focus people’s time and energies to curing cancer, AIDS, diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, etc., etc., etc.
  • Work together to end poverty and bring about world peace.
  • Get everyone in the U.S. involved in the electoral process and elect people of honor and courage instead of the foolish and contemptible presidential candidates from both parties that we have today.
  • Build enough homes through Habitat for Humanity in every large city in the country to take a big swipe out the homeless and low cost housing problem that grips so many cities.
  • Find a way to invent a wand and a spell straight from the book series Harry Potter that will clean my kitchen, make my bed, and complete my project at work with the mere flip of my wrist.
  • Find a way to invent a beer that tastes like a German beer or better yet a Guinness, but is good for you and has next to no calories compared to the limp tasting light beer that floods the market today.

I know, I know there’s plenty of things we could focus all that brainpower, but it’s a start. And yes, I know that I am dreaming, but I do take heart in the knowledge that the Super Bowl is one of the few events throughout the year that brings people together, no matter your race, religious background, sexual preference, both avid fan and nonfan more interested in watching just the commercials, and even rooting tastes.

The Super Bowl in many respects is very much a national holiday because even with all the hype and craziness, it brings families and friends together. Take away the turkey and the stuff and the Super Bowl is a miniature winter version of Thanksgiving.

So when the game starts on Sunday 6:30 ET on CBS, I’ll be glad that the New England Patriots are home (just like me) and I’ll be thinking of new ways to bring everyone together for “good.”

I’ll also be counting the days until the next Super Bowl, when hopefully the Philadelphia Eagles get their act together and win their first championship since 1960.

Go E-A-G-L-E-S.

When I’m king of the world

Years ago I read Shakespeare’s King Henry IV for some stuffy English Literature class. I don’t remember much about the play, but I vaguely recall King Henry complaining about the challenges and responsibilities of being king, stating “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Unlike King Henry, I would eagerly take on the challenges of royalty and I know exactly the steps I would take.

When I’m king of the world:

crown-312734_1280

–Colleges and universities would be able to charge a fair and reasonable tuition rate, but they would not be able to swindle students and families out of a small fortune. In my world, paying for college would be an accomplishment — something to be worked for — but it wouldn’t be a burden, handcuffing students with lifelong debt.

–The salaries for the best teachers, police and fire officials, and frontline medical and mental health workers would be commensurate with senior business executives. (Nothing new there, I’ve said that one for years.)

–Television meteorologists would have to list their success rates (e.g. how often they were correct in their reports) in the corner of the screen so that viewers would have something to judge them by beyond just that he or she is friendly and looks good on TV in front of a map.

–After every ten years worked, working adults would get a nine-month paid sabbatical that could be used for community service, academic research, career exploration or entrepreneurial activities. Besides generous credit that would be directed toward them, employers would share in tax breaks for allowing workers to participate in the program.

–Heavily traveled Routes 422 and 76 into Philadelphia would be listed as disaster areas and federal and state officials would be given a deadline of three years to fix the bottleneck into and out of Philadelphia.

–Drivers who fail to brush off the snow off the roof of their car would have to spend a day in drivers-ed classes watching crash site videos to show them how their carelessness affects others.

–For every promise one of the Presidential candidates make, they would have to support it with a detailed policy white-paper. No fake promises in the heat of the moment. No throw-away claims cited one minute, forgotten another. Each candidate would need to present the facts and their plans to solve each specific challenge. (What would that mean for the Democratic and Republican front-runners?)

–The Monday after Super Bowl Sunday would be a national holiday. (In addition, the New England Patriots including coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady would be labeled as cheaters and ineligible to participate in any future Super Bowls. Sorry to all my friends in Boston and everywhere else in New England.)

–Emergency rooms would have greeters similar to a restaurant or hotel concierge who would welcome you and upon arrival would inform you of your wait time. They would proactively check-in with you every 15 minutes with a more precise time estimate. They would also work to try to make “your stay” less traumatic and painful. (Yes, I’m speaking from my family’s recent experience.)

–In order for a mechanic or car dealership to say they were customer service focused, they would have to pick-up your car and return it when the work was completed. No extra cost.

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–Taxes would actually be simplified and easily understood by the average American. Same for the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that parents of college students must fill out this time of year.

–The formal thank you note would come back in style.

–The whole gang of the Kardashians would be kicked off American television for the lack of moral development and would not be able to return to the airwaves until they held real-life jobs for three years. At that point in time, they would have to explain what they’ve learned from having a job. If they haven’t learned anything from the experience, they would be banned forever from reality TV. (The same goes for the Housewives of whatever series.)

–Of course, I would also issue any number of decrees ensuring that I had all the trips and toys that I could ever imagine. I would need to plan some “me” time, it’s tough being king.

These are all random, very much a hodge-podge of thoughts and ideas, but they’ll be some of the first steps I’ll take when I get my crown back from the dry cleaner.