Not My Father’s Son

My father, for as far back as I can remember, was always working on some sort of project around the house. I can recall him fixing leaky faucets and running toilets on several occasions. My father replacing broken vacuum cleaner bands and frayed toaster chords was a common sight during my childhood as well. His motto was most-likely, “Why pay someone to do something if you can do it yourself?” In fact, I’m pretty sure I actually heard him say those exact words a time or two. Apparently, my father was willing to attempt just about any handyman project imaginable, many times learning as he went along, so he could save his family of six a little bit of money. He probably enjoyed working on his vehicles most of all. What father wouldn’t mind spending some time in the garage with four active children occupying his house?

My father failed at passing down his automobile repair knowledge to his eldest son, but I assure you it wasn’t for his lack of trying. After I had reached a certain age he began insisting that I accompany him out to the garage and “help” him work on his car. The first couple of times weren’t so bad, but holding a flashlight while my father did everything else was not sufficient enough for keeping my interest. I’m not saying I should have been allowed to do more because I am well aware I wasn’t even that good at holding the flashlight. It’s quite possible when my father finally realized I was not going to be the family’s next mechanically inclined prodigy that he then placed all of his remaining hope in my younger brother. That certainly did not bode well for him because still to this day I am a mechanical genius compared to my brother.

If truth be told, I think the main reason I did not follow in my father’s footsteps was due to my lack of enthusiasm. It simply wasn’t easy for me to get excited about the probability of scraping a knuckle or jamming a finger as I had seen my father do on numerous occasions. The thought of getting my hands dirty wasn’t all that appealing either; however, it was an entirely different matter whenever my grandpa from Missouri came to town. He usually had something amiss, going on underneath his Chrysler’s hood, that he wanted my father to address, and I always hoped to be included in the action. My father had learned most of his mechanical expertise from his father, so I’m not sure why he needed his son’s advice. Maybe the student had become the master, or maybe my grandpa was just looking for some cheap labor. Quite possibly though it may have been my grandpa’s attempt at bonding with his eldest son during his visits. The reason did not matter one iota to me as long as my wish for partaking in the ritual, of men congregating around an ailing vehicle and shooting the breeze, came true.

I can recall one particular Sunday morning, shortly before heading off to church, when my grandpa, my father, and I were experiencing the manly tradition firsthand. The gathering was surely a sight to behold: three generations of McCleary “men” tinkering on one gold car, conveniently parked in the driveway, for all of the neighbors to see. Well, actually my father was doing all of the tinkering. My grandpa was sipping on a hot cup of coffee, and I was just standing there pretending to know what the heck was going on although I wasn’t fooling anyone. All three of us knew that I knew absolutely nothing about the workings of an automobile. My father went inside the house, for only a few seconds, but that’s all it ever took for my grandpa to get me in some sort of trouble.

Before my father had left the scene something had fallen through the gaps, between the Chrysler’s engine and whatever else is under a car’s hood, and my grandpa decided now would be the ideal time for me to retrieve the dropped object. I can’t remember what had fallen through the cracks and was lying underneath the vehicle. I don’t know if it was a nut, a bolt, a screwdriver, or a wrench. It may have been a Johnson rod for as much as I know about cars, but that’s really beside the point. My grandpa had made a request, and as his eldest grandson (and young admirer) I did not want to disappoint. However, I was well aware that I should not honor his request, so I reluctantly said, “I can’t.” The Missouri farmer responded with, “sure you can,” and that’s all I needed: some encouraging words from my grandpa, and nothing else I could possibly have been told beforehand seemed to matter.

In no time flat I found myself lying face down on the dirty pavement. I began inching forward on my belly (military style), under the vehicle, to recover the seemingly all-important object. At the precise moment I could feel the “Johnson rod,” with the tips of my fingers, I heard my father yelling at me to get out from underneath my grandpa’s car. Busted! I could already tell from the tone of my father’s voice I was in trouble, but I wasn’t sure what the punishment was going to be; therefore, I hurriedly scooched myself backwards, out and up from underneath the vehicle, because I didn’t want to expose my buttocks for any longer than I had to in case a spanking was what he had in mind this time. I was donning my Sunday best and was old enough to know better than to crawl between the grimy automobile and the dirty pavement when wearing them. In addition, my father most-likely had warned me not to get my church clothes grubby prior to congregating around the Chrysler. My father may not have been successful at passing down his handyman and automobile repair expertise to the next generation, but both he and his father were very successful at leaving me with some special memories.

The Death Penalty

Last month I felt as though I was being bombarded by the television stations in regards to the death penalty. Two high-profile murder cases, involving convicted killers awaiting sentencing, brought the controversial and highly debated topic back into the spotlight. I really shouldn’t complain since it was a refreshing distraction from the seemingly never-ending political ads dominating the airwaves as they normally do every time there’s an upcoming election. In both murder cases the death penalty is a viable option. I won’t mention the names of those convicted because at this point I’m quite certain they crave the attention, and I do not want to give them their desired satisfaction. I think repeatedly mentioning the culprits’ names in the media only glamorizes the despicable crimes they’ve committed against their fellow man.

I realize discussing the death penalty can become very heated since passion tends to run rampant amongst supporters and non-supporters alike. The only thing both sides apparently agree on is that the violator does deserve to be punished. I have heard it costs more to execute someone than to imprison them for life, but I don’t know if that’s true. To be honest, the financial aspect never enters my mind when pondering the extreme penance. I have been a strong proponent of the death penalty for as long as I can remember. I assumed the Bible backed up my stance since it mentions “an eye for an eye” three different times in the Old Testament. However, recently I learned when Jesus roamed the earth he taught a new standard for all of His people to follow. Please bear with me, for those of you who disagree with my position, because there may be some sort of twist later on. Maybe. The point is to always keep an open mind.

The truth as I know it is our country’s justice system is far from perfect, but it’s the only system we’ve got. Undeniably, on occasion there have been (and will continue to be) innocent people sent to prison and guilty people set free. I do think for the death penalty to even be considered there at least needs to be a confession made or some DNA proof. After absolute guilt has been established in a court of law, of someone committing a heinous crime, I admit to possessing an unusual thought process concerning how the sentencing phase of the trial should be carried out. I propose the punishment, of either death or life in prison, should be decided by a lie detector test. I would ask the convicted murderer this one simple question, “Do you prefer the death penalty or life in prison?” I would then administer the other option than that of the miscreant’s preferred choice.

If you thought the previous suggestion was a bit harsh then you may want to stop reading this before I make my next proposal. Not only am I a proponent of the death penalty, as the penance for atrocious murders, but I am also in favor of torturing the offender beforehand in some cases. Death just seems too good for the terrorists responsible for those recent beheadings overseas. That being said, it is now time for that twist I alluded to earlier. A while back, simply out of curiosity, I asked my pastor what his thoughts were on the subject of the death penalty. He solemnly responded with, “I think all life is precious.” I immediately thought to myself, “but what about ‘an eye for an eye’?” Anyone who genuinely knows me is well aware I am not easily influenced by others once I have formed my opinion on any given matter.

However, I haven’t been able to erase those words, “all life is precious,” from my memory, and maybe I shouldn’t. By the way, did you happen to notice my pastor said, “I think,” when responding to my inquiry? What I appreciate about Pastor Brad, among so many other things, is that he doesn’t “preach.” He teaches instead. He leads his flock in the same direction where he senses God is leading him. Pastor Brad never strays from the truths of the Bible, yet he allows (no, let me rephrase that) he desires for us to search for the “answers” ourselves, to any questions we may have, through studying the Scriptures, prayer, and sharing our thoughts with other believers. All of the truths found in the Bible are solid and unchanging, but some of the other stuff is left to one’s own interpretation. That’s probably why some Christians are in favor of the death penalty while others are against it, and I think that’s okay. Just don’t ask me today what my position is because it may be different tomorrow.

Halloween Past

At a very early age, while growing up in Iowa, I discovered I was almost as fond of Halloween as I was of Christmas. I don’t know which came first: Halloween or candy, but as a boy with an enormous sweet tooth I really had no choice but to fall in love with trick-or-treating. It was impossible for me to ignore the fact that I could accumulate more candy, roaming the streets of my small hometown on Beggars’ Night, than the amount Santa Claus could leave in my Christmas stocking every 25th day of December. My stocking could only hold so much, and many times an apple and an orange took up most of the important space I thought was strictly meant for candy. It didn’t matter how many sugary treats I acquired during Halloween because the goodies were always unwrapped and inhaled within a mere couple of weeks. My older sister was disciplined enough (unlike me) to ration her supply of candy in the same manner a stranded cowboy in the desert would conserve the water in his canteen; therefore, she had plenty of candy leftover well into the next year. To a sugar junkie such as myself that concept was completely foreign to me.

Dressing up for Halloween was always exciting, but dressing up at Christmastime usually meant putting on an itchy sweater and uncomfortable shoes to attend (or possibly star in) some sort of holiday pageant. Knowing beforehand what attire I’d actually be wearing on Beggars’ Night was nearly impossible. In general, my siblings and I each had a couple of costumes in mind, up until about an hour before we were to be unleashed into the dark of night, because we weren’t positive what type of weather we’d be facing until the final hour came. We never knew for sure whether we were going to have decent weather, rain, sleet, snow, or the bitter cold to contend with until the time for trick-or-treating had finally arrived. The famous line, “if you don’t like the weather, just give it a few minutes and it will change,” has never been more pertinent than during late Octobers in Iowa. Most Halloweens we were forced to wear our winter coats over our costumes, so I don’t know why we even bothered getting dressed up.

There were a few foreseeable things my siblings and I could expect every year as Beggars’ Night drew closer. The city would deem 6pm-8pm the official time for trick-or-treating, and my parents would be sticklers for honoring that guideline. We weren’t allowed to leave the confines of our home at 5:45pm, 5:55pm, or even 5:59pm, and it didn’t matter if the other neighborhood kids, dressed as ghosts and goblins, had already come to our house and received a teat from us. I’ve never been too keen on patience, so being all dolled up with no place to go (at least not yet) was just about enough to drive me insane. We couldn’t barrel out the front door until 6:00pm, so barrel out the front door at 6:00pm is what we did. There was so much candy to be had and so little time.

Another thing we could always count on was my mother going to the extreme when preparing Halloween goodie bags for all of the anticipated trick-or-treaters. She would begin her ritual, a day (or sometimes two) before Beggars’ Night, by baking dozens of cookies and popping several batches of popcorn. My mother would place one cookie in a sandwich bag and then she’d add a specific amount of popcorn to that bag with the help of a measuring cup. I would swear each bag was purposefully filled with precisely an equal number of popcorn kernels because my mother aimed for fairness. She apparently didn’t want to cheat anyone or possibly start any feuds amongst siblings who might be comparing their gifts with one another when they got home. My mother typically finished each goodie bag by adding a fun size candy bar, a roll of Smarties, a caramel square, and a sucker before ultimately cinching the sandwich bag with a piece of orange or black ribbon. I always hoped there would be plenty of her famous treat bags leftover and awaiting me at the end of the evening.

My favorite Halloween, while growing up in Iowa, was also my last year of trick-or-treating as a child. I knew well beforehand it was going to be my last year because I was in the sixth grade, and my parents were adamant that once a kid entered junior high then they were too old to be donning a costume and begging for candy. Again, they were sticklers, but this time it was about who should and who should not be trick-or-treating. The weather was perfect for my “last hurrah”: no heavy winter coat to weigh me down or clumsy snow boots to slow me down. I was no longer constrained by my parents to chaperone my younger brother and sister, although I still couldn’t leave the house until 6:00pm, and I had learned the previous year that using a pillowcase was the optimal way for collecting people’s offerings. The newfound method was much better than the old way of using either a cheap plastic bag or the traditional small orange pumpkin (with the stapled black handle that inevitably would come undone by night’s end), so I was all set to hit the streets one last time.

I treated my final experience as a trick-or-treater as though I was an aspiring Olympian. I sprinted from house to house, zigzagging back and forth across the street, while leaping over anything that got in my way including flowerbeds, hedges, and even a few fences. I was guilty of ignoring all trick-or-treating etiquette, and I blatantly disregarded the sidewalks altogether. The sturdy pillowcase got much heavier as the evening wore on, but I managed to somehow tough it out since I knew it was saving me from having to make time-consuming trips back home to unload. I surely mirrored Christopher Columbus as I explored many new territories on my quest for candy. Eventually I found myself over a mile away from home and realizing I had entered the Berg area (aka the rich part of town). I had heard the rumors that some Berg residents handed out full size candy bars on Beggars’ Night, and I was fortunate enough to find out it was true. I decided I should retreat from the rich neighborhood after receiving more than a couple of complaints, from potential donors, about the time now being well beyond 8:00pm.

I tossed the large pillowcase, filled with tasty donations, up and over my shoulder and headed home. I’m certain I resembled some sort of scary Santa Claus toting a bag full of toys, for all of the good girls and boys, but everything in my bag was all mine. My final year of trick-or-treating provided me with a stockpile of candy lasting longer than the usual couple of weeks…but not by much. I could hardly wait, as a sugar junkie needing a fix, for the real Santa to replenish my candy supply, and I was hoping this time the jolly old elf would forget about the apple and the orange when filling up my stocking.

A New Halloween

I thought I knew everything there was to know about Beggars’ Night until I moved away from Iowa and made Arizona my home. My first Halloween in the desert was quite a learning experience. It was approximately twenty minutes into the two hour time frame our city had allotted for trick-or-treating, but my wife and I had not yet given out a single treat. I could not help wondering why we weren’t being solicited by any ghosts or goblins (It’s the one time of year I don’t mind strangers knocking on my door). Our porch light was on, and only the screen door separated any trick-or-treaters roaming outside from the fun size candy bars awaiting them inside our welcoming home. For a split second I thought maybe we had the wrong evening, but I quickly dismissed that notion since both my wife and I are perfectly capable of deciphering a calendar.

I began contemplating that maybe the Scary Sounds Of Halloween cd, I had purchased for the special occasion, was too frightening for a little princess or super hero who might be traipsing through our neighborhood. A half an hour or more had now elapsed, and we definitely could hear some intermittent commotion going on outdoors. Every so often the obvious voice of a child could be heard passing by our house, but no one came to our door asking for a goodie. I finally decided to brave the unknown, on the other side of the screen door, in an attempt to solve the mystery. I did not need to enlist the help of Scooby Doo (and the gang) to crack the case wide open because once I got outside the overwhelming evidence was crystal clear although it was something I had never seen before.

All of our neighbors, who were participating in the annual event, were sitting in chairs at the end of their driveways and handing out holiday gifts to every passerby who was wearing a costume. I immediately cranked up the volume on my stereo system, so the “scary sounds” emitting from the tower speakers could easily be heard outdoors. I grabbed the large bowl of candy, brimming with Butterfinger and Snickers, a couple of lawn chairs, and I set up shop at the end of our driveway. I went back inside for a cold beer before easing into one of the comfy lawn chairs for the evening. For me, after discovering craft beer, Beggars’ Night isn’t complete until I’m sipping on a Four Peaks’ Pumpkin Porter.

Every Halloween, since being apprized of the proper trick-or-treating protocol, we’ve had well over 100 guests expecting a handout. We have now experienced seven Halloweens in Arizona, but my wife and I are still amazed at how many parents, accompanying their children, wear costumes while trekking through our neighborhood. Most of the chaperones donning costumes don’t ask for candy, so I suppose they simply enjoy “dressing up.” Some of them can be seen enjoying adult beverages as well. We continue to be a bit perplexed by the number of parents who have newborn children and are willing to push a stroller up and down the streets in hopes of receiving some free candy. Who is it for? The toothless “sleeping beauty” occupying the stroller? Sometimes the baby isn’t even wearing a costume. Regardless, I always oblige the new parents because I figure it’s only candy, and if they’re willing to beg for it then I’m willing to accommodate them.

The same goes for the high school and college age kids we inevitably have wandering our city’s streets on Beggars’ Night. Heck, I’d gladly join them (even at my age) if I thought I wouldn’t get hassled so much by those who think trick-or-treating is strictly for the little ones. It’s no secret to those who know me that I have a massive and most-likely abnormal sweet tooth. I easily can eat piece after piece of deliciously rich cheesecake or pecan pie, and I certainly am able to devour a half dozen or so assorted doughnuts in one sitting. Sometimes I think even sugar needs to be sweetened. Therefore, I probably should not be the one in my household in charge of buying the bags of fun size candy bars for Halloween…but I always am. In addition, I’m a bargain hunter, and I clip coupons (I’ve rarely paid more than $1.50 per bag), so there’s no question there’ll be plenty of Butterfinger and Snickers leftover after the last trick-or-treater has come and gone.

I possibly went a little overboard last year (even by my standards). I began buying bags in late September, when the sales first started, and before I knew it I had amassed a pretty significant amount of candy. We ended up with 23 bags of fun size candy bars. We used 8 of them on Beggars’ Night. I know what you’re probably thinking, but you would be wrong. I do not prematurely open the bags of candy and then have to go back to the store to buy more. I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason I’m disciplined when it comes to refraining from partaking of my stash before Halloween. Afterwards though is definitely a different story. You would think the remaining 15 bags would at least last until New Year’s, but again you would be wrong. The sad thing is my wife doesn’t care all that much for candy, so the person in our household with the sweet tooth is literally left holding the bags. However, you won’t hear me complaining. With me in charge of the Halloween candy supply, whether in Iowa or Arizona, there will never be a shortage of Snickers on my watch.

It Makes No Sense To Me

I had heard the rumors, but I did not believe them. I’m a fairly rational guy, and I pride myself on being open-minded and listening to both sides of an issue (if there are two sides) before taking an adamant stance one way or the other, but this hearsay was something I could not even fathom. My son said it was true, and my wife said it probably was true because she had heard it many times. Who was I to argue since she works amongst the living, in the service industry, whereas I prefer spending the better part of my day isolated at home. However, I still wasn’t completely convinced something so ludicrous could actually be the truth, so imagine my surprise when shortly after hearing the rumors (and questioning them) I found an opportunity to hear it “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

I was invited to a fancy birthday celebration, and sometime during the evening I was introduced to a fine-looking, young “couple.” They were definitely cozy with one another although I had no possible way of knowing if they were boyfriend and girlfriend based on all those rumors. I figured there was no harm in asking them the “million dollar question” but if there was then so be it because most-likely I’d never see either one of them again. I began my inquiry by obtaining a little background information on the young “couple” sitting next to me. The lady was nineteen years old and the gentleman was twenty. I discovered at least one of them was a Christian. Next, I asked the pair if they were boyfriend and girlfriend, and the answer was yes.

Our discussion was going very well, so I decided it was finally time to ask the question I had been itching to propose. I boldly asked, “Does one of you have to ask the other ‘will you be my girlfriend’ or ‘will you be my boyfriend’ before you’re considered to be dating one another?” They answered, in unison, an emphatic, “yes.” It was true! I was disappointed yet fascinated by my findings, so I continued interrogating the official couple for a smidgeon longer. I found out a guy and a gal can hold hands, kiss, spend every waking hour together, and even engage in all sorts of sexual activity, in today’s society, without it meaning anything. They simply are not dating, or a couple, or committed to each other until the mandatory question is asked and answered. Up to that point they are only “talking.”

My lovely wife of 27 years, by today’s standard, isn’t even my girlfriend yet. We’re still just “talking.” Back in what I guess can now be described as the “good old days” the only question ever needed to be asked was, “will you marry me?” Everything else was already implied and did not need to be said. I have now been enlightened as to what is “proper” and considered “normal” concerning today’s young adults and their so-called relationships. I will never understand or agree with this generation’s way of thinking on that subject. It makes no sense to me.

A Fire Story

The year was 1981. It was a typical summer day in Newton, Iowa: hot and humid with not a whole lot going on (at least not yet). I was mowing the front lawn, but I can’t recall if I had volunteered to do the job, out of sheer boredom, or if my father had insisted on putting his eldest son to work that day. I do know I was pushing the old lawnmower back and forth, aiming to keep straight lines, from one end of the yard to the other. I kept going back and forth, over and over, seemingly caught in a lethargic state. Once in awhile I’d mix it up by following a square pattern, instead of the boring straight lines, to avoid falling asleep while manning the heavy piece of machinery. There was a time in my young adult life when I actually enjoyed performing the tedious task. I don’t think this was that time.

I remember in the past pleading with my parents, on more than one occasion, in hopes of coercing them into allowing me the privilege of experiencing the customary chore that every adolescent boy dreams about. A few of the younger fellas in the neighborhood had already encountered the time-honored task and were even getting paid for it, so I confronted my father with that arsenal of information. It did not matter to him how the other fathers were raising their boys because under his regime I was still too young to mow, and he thought it was utter nonsense to pay your own family for helping out around the house. As an adult I can understand and respect that sentiment, but as a teenager desiring some cold hard cash I just figured he was being a cheapskate.

I continued pushing the shabby but capable lawnmower, while dreading the approaching embankment that assuredly gave even my father fits from time to time, and flinching every time I ran over a rock, twig, or numerous other items hidden in the tall grass. (Oh that’s right, I was suppose to inspect the yard for such things before starting the engine.) My little brother had been entertaining himself, the entire time I was mowing, by riding his bicycle in circles out in the street in front of our house. Suddenly, he pulled up along side of me and nonchalantly said, “I think our garage is on fire.” My brother then peeled out back to the street and continued riding in circles, but this time he added a few figure eights to his repertoire. I wish I could say I immediately took some action at that point but I didn’t. I’m not sure if I thought my brother was joking or if the startling information I had just received only added bewilderment to my current lackadaisical state.

Only when my brother almost immediately returned and made the same declaration did I suspect there must be at least some validity to his disturbing claim. I turned off the mower and dashed over to the garden hose, already hooked up to the spigot, located at the front corner of our house. I decided to take a quick peek around the house before turning the water on to see what exactly I would be dealing with. My eyes widened and my jaw surely dropped when I saw one whole side of the garage engulfed in flames. I dropped the useless “weapon” after realizing the dire situation at hand would be comparable to me bringing a knife to a gunfight. I was wise enough to know (even as a youngster) that I was no firefighter. I was barely old enough to mow for heaven’s sake.

A few neighbors had witnessed what was happening and called the fire department, so I could already hear the distant sirens from the fire trucks coming to the rescue. Fortunately, nobody was inside of our nearby house at the time, but I remembered our two dogs, Ginger and Lucky, were helplessly corralled in our fenced in backyard. I rushed to the wooden fence and hollered at the family pets to come away from the spreading fire. For once in their lives they eagerly minded me as they trotted over to the opposite side of the yard where I was nervously waiting. I hopped over the four foot fence, and I must admit I felt a bit heroic as I lifted each dog up and over the barrier to safety. A substantial crowd had now congregated, out in the street in front of our house, to catch a glimpse of the burning inferno. The onlookers were a mixture of concerned neighbors and ambulance chasers. My brother and I joined them. We didn’t know what else to do.

While surveying the situation and standing in awe of the roaring fire, that was consuming the two car garage and its contents, I spotted my parents up the street. About a half an hour earlier they had walked to our local elementary school to vote. My father’s curiosity, of the emerging commotion, undoubtedly was getting the best of him because I noticed his strides were getting longer and longer as he got closer and closer to the alarming spectacle. Eventually my father was in an all-out sprint, leaving my mother behind, after realizing the magnitude of the unwelcomed occurrence and where it was taking place. He instinctively sprung into action by grabbing the garden hose (I had deemed useless) and began spraying down our neighbors garage, only inches away from the blaze, so their property would not be damaged.

The fire department finally arrived and swiftly doused the flames before the garage fire could spread any further. Thankfully, there were no injuries and our home was spared, but the garage and practically everything in it was considered a total loss. The brown-paneled Ford station wagon, our family of six would cram into on the weekends to watch a double feature at the drive-in movie theater, was lost. The green Honda motorcycle, my father thoroughly enjoyed giving all of his children rides on (my mother wasn’t a fan), was lost. The Christmas decorations, acquired over many years and stored in the garage’s roof rafters, were destroyed. Every single handmade ornament crafted (with love) either at church or at school, for my parents by all four of their children, was reduced to ashes.

My little brother and I were almost reduced to tears, a day or so after the fire, when the town’s Fire Chief summoned us for questioning. He was investigating the cause of the fire and for some reason assumed we knew something. The intimidating man probably interrogated us for only ten minutes although it seemed more like ten hours. The Fire Chief kept insinuating my brother and I had to know something about how the fire started. He strongly suggested we were either setting off fireworks or experimenting with cigarettes before the fire erupted. The Chief then artificially tried befriending the two of us, after failing at his attempt of getting a confession, by saying there was no shame, and he would understand if we had lit some fireworks or had engaged in underage smoking. Neither my brother nor I gave in to the Fire Chief’s persistent hounding because we had the truth on our side.

The cause of the 1981 garage fire remains a mystery to this day. I did not know at the time of the fire that a beautiful girl, new to town, was amongst the spectators gathered in front of my house. Who could have known another fire would ignite, less than two years later, after I formally met and then began dating the “new girl.” It’s still somewhat surreal, after all these years, knowing that one of those ambulance chasers eventually became my lovely wife.

Something So Disturbing

The other day I was in my car and minding my own business when I observed something so disturbing that several hours later I still could not erase the frightening image from my memory. The more I thought about what I had seen the more it kept haunting me. I couldn’t help but ask myself an array of questions after witnessing the harrowing occurrence, and I continued pondering the situation until eventually I felt like I should share the alarming experience with my wife. She wasn’t nearly as freaked out by what I had noticed, but she did understand my concern. I’m sure most people probably wouldn’t have given the matter a second thought, but to a curious and analytical person such as myself the phenomenon was very unsettling. What I saw was a person driving an older model minivan with numerous dents, at least on the driver’s side, and a handicap license plate affixed to the vehicle’s back end. Although the thought of being handicapped can be unnerving that is not what made my skin crawl. It was the seven bumper stickers randomly placed on the back of the van that were so distressing. The political statements featured on all seven bumper stickers unmistakably had one common theme with two of the more friendlier stickers declaring, “pro-America, anti-Obama,” and “worst president ever.”

I suppose at this point some of my Republican friends are pumping their fists in the air and yelling, “Right on!,” while many of my Democrat friends are most likely saying, “what a loser.” I’m not here to debate our President’s policies or his job performance (not today anyway), and I certainly am not going to attempt to figure out who the worst President in our nation’s history is although I did hear George W. Bush referred to as that a time or two during his presidency. Apparently our country has had about 14 years of the worst president ever. Anyway, what I find so troublesome about “minivan guy” is what I perceive to be as someone so proudly consumed with hatred, for another human being, that he desires to have those feelings of anger known to anyone and everyone around him. I realize the chances are pretty slim of this guy’s vehicle being his “pride and joy,” but seven similar bumper stickers gracing the back of any one van seems quite excessive. He should at least add a few of the classics into the mix like, “my child is an honor student,” “I brake for garage sales,” and “my other car is a Ferrari,” so he doesn’t appear to be so monotonous and grumpy.

I am guessing the aforementioned gentleman spends the majority of his time at home watching Fox News, so actually it was good to see him out and about. I have never seen Fox News. My household does not have cable or satellite television, but I’m sure I wouldn’t watch that “news” show even if we did because it is my understanding Fox News is severely slanted towards conservative viewers although I have heard some Republicans refer to the station as the “only news.” That reminds me of another bumper sticker, decorating the angry man’s van, which read, “I don’t believe the liberal media.” I doubt if he has even watched a liberal network for his “news” before, so how could he have ever had the opportunity to believe the liberal media anyway. It’s really not that difficult to differentiate between fact and opinion, but many people tend to hear only what they want to hear instead of listening to all of the facts. My advice to everyone would be to watch your free local television stations for the most accurate and unbiased news. In addition, I would recommend ignoring the opinion pages when perusing a newspaper. Those often scathing letters to the editor and editorial pieces are simply other people’s opinions, and I don’t need to read them because I already have my opinions.

That being said, even though I’m an overzealous channel flipper I do admit to pausing on The 700 Club, starring Pat Robertson, every great once in awhile when I need a good laugh. I have found this program to be the epitome of biased “news.” The show’s Co-host, Terry Meeuwsen, usually will report on a specific topic and then she’ll ask the former Republican presidential candidate what he thinks about the situation. Mr. Robertson’s typical response is either, “Well, if Obama” or “Because of Obama.” Whether the duo is speaking on the important issues of the day or discussing seemingly harmless topics such as food, sports, entertainment, or even the weather, eventually President Obama is the only one to blame in Pat Robertson’s opinion. Let us not forget Mr. Robertson once claimed that the death toll from 911 was God’s response to the homosexuality running rampant in America; therefore, I put no stock in what Pat Robertson has to say on any issue.

Contrary to Pat Robertson, I have the utmost respect for former GOP and Reform Party presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan. I am aware Mr. Buchanan is a contributor on Fox News, but I am referring to the sensible and open-minded Pat Buchanan I admire as a regular on The McLaughlin Group. It’s not too difficult for me to be fond of this guy because his more recent political views almost always mirror mine. I do not base my opinions on what Mr. Buchanan says, as a panelist on the long running PBS show, but I am thrilled when he agrees with me on the subjects they are discussing. The conservative author and syndicated columnist’s views, on many subjects, appear to be opposite of those held by his Republican counterpart, Pat Robertson. Pat Buchanan will question and sometimes criticize President Obama’s policies and job performance, but he is quick to praise the President when he believes it is well-deserved.

Similarly, I strive to seek out the validity on both sides of any given issue before shaping my opinion. The optimum goal of this blog, when discussing any controversial topic, is to share my thoughts with you (whether you agree or disagree with them) and try to explain how ultimately I arrived at my steadfast opinion. I refuse to be so angry and so unwilling to consider all the facts, when contemplating an issue, because I don’t want to somehow miss the actual truth along the way. I never want to be like the “minivan guy!”


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