Carryin’ the Water

Today I drove them to the airport, helped unload and get all the luggage and gear into the ticketing area fifty feet away, then hurriedly kissed them goodbye as I dashed off to respond to the public announcement, “Will the owner of the green Ford Expedition please return to the vehicle immediately.”  It wasn’t a question.  It was a command.  I knew the security at this tiny airport was rigid, but I also knew the guy stood and watched me unload two large suitcases, a Pack-‘N-Play, a stroller, a regulation car seat, and a mommy and her toddler.  Somehow, I had entertained the belief that at such a small facility with two other cars unloading in front and no one waiting to do so, the security guard would cut me some slack for five minutes, would give me a break out of a heart of compassion.  Boy, was I naive!  No time for compassion or family feelings, we’re here to stop terrorists!  God knows they must be swarming in through this airport.

DSC_00922009-09-19_13-48-21Well, anyway, I gave quick kisses to Jessica and Nadia, then dashed to my truck and drove away.  “Bye, Dad.  Thanks for all the fun.  Love you!”  “Love you, too, sweetheart, you and that wonderful little granddaughter.  Take care!” Not sure I said that, I was in such a hurry to avoid having my truck towed, but I sure thought it.  On the way home I was, of course, “blue” — something the sky was not.  We’re having overcast skies every morning and most days, fairly atypical for this time of year.  But the effect lent itself well to some of my emotions as I drove.  We’d had five days of real fun together.  Now I’d get home, quickly change into work clothing, then head off for the office.  No time to sit and savor the fun, hilarity and challenges of this wonderful five-day visit.  Only after work would time allow me to enjoy the memories while they were fresh, and by then they’d already be overlaid with a thick crust of the day’s business, so that I’d have to dig deeper to find the nuggets.  But the nuggets, like pure gold, survived the business day’s intrusions in good form.

Recollection of the fun started with my cleaning all the fine sand off two plastic beach buckets with small plastic shovel, scoop, a plastic road-grader toy and an even smaller plastic car, the latter driven by a smiling little Howdy Doody-looking man who’s locked in a permanent, paralyzed wave of his plastic hand.  His face recently had been kissed by those sweet little lips as he was pulled out of a sand castle on the beach.  She just picked him up with her chubby little hands, held him close to her face while she studied him very seriously for several seconds, then pulled him to her lips and smacked him a good one all over his tiny face.  Then she looked up at me sitting there watching, and a big smile broke out on her face.  Such a happy face!  Where was my camera when I needed it?  Tucked safely in its bag to keep the fine sand out of its works!  Argh!

God bless those chubby cherub-hands and that brightly lit face.  She is such a loving child, happy … and a little headstrong at times.  But I’d be disappointed if she weren’t, probably thinking her a tad short in inspirationDSC_01442009-09-20_13-34-05 and intensity for life.  Believe me, she’s got it!

As I thought about her today, the intensity of her personality came back without struggle.  When we played on the beach with a new bucket and shovel for digging sand, she soon decided that shovel work was just too slow and unexciting.  Pulling herself from the sand and picking up her new bucket, she headed for the water, that pounding, roaring surf.  There was no hint of trepidation at the prospect of the water’s force, doubtless because she was totally unaware of it.  She just knew she had a bucket and wanted some water in it.  I trailed close by with my camera, watching those little legs pump down the beach and those chubby cheeks jiggling like Jello with every jarring step on the packed sand near the waterline.  She held her bucket thrust straight out in front by her stiff arm, held parallel to the ground.  Right into the surf she went, then stopped, filled her bucket and turned back toward shore immediately.  The weight lowered her arm, but she grasped the bucket firmly with both hands now, gripping its rim with determination.  Water sloshed out with each step, but up the beach she went at rather amazing speed, given her short little stride.  The look on her face told it all.  There was sand stuck to one cheek and the side of her head where she’d earlier lain down on the sand briefly to enjoy its comfortable warmth that was more than a good tradeoff for any concern about getting dirty.  There had been no thought of getting dirty.  No fragile little wallflower, this one.  Yet she’s tender, a small child with all the curiosity and wonder built inside, wanting to know about life and all it offers.

This same small child must have made twenty or more trips up and down the shoreline, hauling water each time, only to dump it out on her pile of sand and immediately make another beeline for another bucketful.  Jessica and I were amazed.  As we watched her and played with her, as I captured her play in my camera and talked with “Mama” and enjoyed the sun’s warmth, I thought of the piece I published here recently — the one about the young school kids.  I was concerned about what they’re being taught — the fear, the admonitions to mistrust, the tentativeness and imminent threat of that big world out there.  No doubt, all the concerns of careful and loving parents, anxious to preserve their children in safety, come to bear in that mix.  And yet I have to think they are simultaneously forgetting an equally important aspect of life — the ability to live in abiding security and enjoyment, the joie de vivre that we must all have been created to feel and know.  My thoughts on this day, as I rode back home from the airport alone, a little misty-eyed and yet proud as could be, turned to song again.  I thought about my precious little granddaughter’s vulnerability, how strong yet fragile she is.  Even so, I thought of those who protect her, just like I do when she’s with me, and just like I would anytime anything threatened her.  The song’s words surged strong in my mind:

“If You Were Mine” by Fernando Ortega from This Bright Hour CD

When my heart is troubled, and I am weighed down,

Then I like to think of how this lonesome world would be

If I could see your face, or hold you in my arms,

If you were mine,

If you were mine.

If you had a bad dream, I would jump inside it,

And I would fight for you with all the strength that I could find.

I would lead you home by your tiny hand,

If you were mine,

If you were mine.

I would sing of love on the blackest night.

I would sing of God and how His goodness fills our lives.

I would sing to you ‘til the morning light,

If you were mine,

If you were mine.

I would sing to you ‘til the morning light,

If you were mine,

If you were mine.Carp Bch 12 9.19.09

I’m glad I sometimes think in songs .  I’m thankful I have a wife, children and grandchildren to think songs about.  I’m joyful to have tiny hands to hold on big beaches.  I’m delighted those tiny hands feel the joy and strength of life surging through them.

Carpe diem.  Vita brevis!


© Sep. 2009 by Michael E. Stubblefield – all rights reserved


Signs of the Times: A Different View

Popop's buddy Lucas, born 2-17-04

Remember my mention of the school where the odd signs are located?  The one with “Parent Drop Off and Pick-Up”?  It’s an elementary school near the place where I live — actually right across the street.  If I leave late for my walk to work in the morning, I’ll likely weave my way through a few throngs of kids headed for classes, although I stay on the opposite side of the street on which the school fronts.

Usually, I walk the half mile back home for lunch by the most direct route, which keeps me across the street from the school.  But sometimes, as I did today, I take a longer route home for lunch just so I can get more fresh air and steps in, since I spend most of my day sitting on my derriere. The longer route ultimately takes me down the sidewalk alongside the elementary school.  And since I was late leaving for lunch today, the youngest students were walking homeward as I neared the institution. Lots of cute kids, mostly bronze children with dark almond eyes, jet hair and smiling faces tottered along the sidewalk toward me in typical friendly banter among themselves, many bearing backpacks that dwarfed them in size — indicative not of the large size of the backpacks, but of how small the children are.  Most of the youngest ones were with mothers or grandmothers and other, older kids.  Some of the mothers pushed strollers with lap babies inside, and some of them were not terribly larger than the kids they accompanied.  So I guess I must have seemed a sight to them as I approached, a tall lanky white-haired Anglo.  My youngest daughter once commented about a photo of our family shot in the outdoors by saying, “Dad, you look like a Q-tip!”  That brought laughter — her description was spot-on.

Today as I neared each individual or group of kids, I could not help but break into smiles because of the cuteness of these little folks.  I love little kids and all their play.  They remind me of my own grandchildren, who are younger than these schoolchildren, — and of my own childhood.  The rise and fall of their excited voices and the quick little steps were fun to witness, for me.  Full of life, carrying their lunch boxes or backpacks, bouncing balls and kicking and poking at each other in good nature.  Carefree … or were they?

As I moved along at a good gait, I noticed something that made me progressively wonder, then made me sad, and finally made me want to gather them in my arms with reassurance that they were safe and loved.  Without intending to be schmaltzy, I found it heartbreaking as I realized that these little guys and gals are being trained to be suspicious, to be leery of “strangers,” to be fearful of people who may want to victimize them.  I noted this from the fact that, almost without exception, each group of kids would stop talking as they neared me, would stare until they almost reached me, then would drop their eyes and quicken their steps past.  I even turned around a couple of times to catch them staring at me as they hastened their retreat down the walk.  Was it my size, or the fact that I’m fair-skinned, or the fact that I was walking at a good clip that scared them?  I don’t think so.  I was smiling, carrying nothing and making no movement that would indicate any kind of imminent danger.  But they still, in the main, looked apprehensive.

Nonetheless, I smiled at them, said “hello” or “ola” to them, and on a few occasions got a bright smile or even an “ola” from the braver, more secure ones and a couple of the adults.  But as I reached home in a few minutes I was almost overwhelmed with the sad reality that they are being released into the world each day with a default switch set on fear and a response mode of avoidance.  How different from my childhood back in the midwest, where we often played outside after school until dark.  Chased lightning bugs in the hot summer nights without direct adult supervision. Played hide-and-seek and other silly games with no thought of being in danger from the presence of unknown people.

Is this present fear the way to cultivate a healthy generation, a generation with hope and enthusiasm? In this training process, are we teaching them to presume everyone guilty until proven innocent?  Are we imparting to them the subtle message that evil and bad predominate? To be sure, there are predators out and about, and some children are victims.  So I’m not advocating turning them loose outside to become street urchins, nor am I advocating sloppy parenting and negligence.  But the predators are rare birds, clearly not the norm.  So, is teaching fear the way to inspire young people with confidence that they can achieve a large measure of happiness and can share goodness with people around them?  Are we instilling in them the reality of clear and present danger, or are we creating a future culture where all are suspect?  Can we improve our world when we’re teaching our young ones to fear, mistrust, distrust and avoid?  To look askance at anyone they don’t know?  I don’t think so.  By doing so, we only erect arbitrary barriers that we profess we want to remove in our “enlightened” culture.  What’s going on?

Is this just a sign of the times?

Carpe diem.  Vita brevis!

Michael DSC_0014_2

© September 2009, Michael E. Stubblefield.  All rights reserved.

Monday Musings: Let’s “Man Up!”

Well, as I suggested yesterday in the context of Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues, on to “Charlies” of humbler means than the corrupt Rep. Charles Rangel of New York.  But Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues should not be totally lost on us without effect. While I think it really is a lighthearted little ditty in which a man realizes and talks about his own shortcomings, it’s not quite that simple.  In a backhanded way, he arrives at personal acknowledgment of forehanded, direct-approach shortcomings that are now depriving him of family and friends — a decidedly more honest approach than Rangel’s example.

I often loathe politicians, especially these days. Influenced by the negative news that abounds every day of the week, it’s easy to think of politicians as bottom feeders — and you can take that just about any way you want. The view I prefer — though find it hard — to concentrate on is the historical fact that the United States has, more often than not, risen above its national leadership even through the worst of times. I hope we’re heading in that direction again these days. One thing for sure — we’re in a mell of a hess right now. But the “real deal” is not an eye singly focused on the horrendous ineptitude, dishonesty, disgrace and downright corruption of national politics, but to focus on our lives and the lives of those around us.


Life’s tough, tougher for some. Even if there were no Barack Hussein Obama II or George W. Bush, no Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or Newt Gingrich or Dick Cheney and swindlers like Charlie Rangel and the Right Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, life would still be tough, tougher for some. We’ve all known people who seem to fit the somewhat humorous (except for those who fit it) old saw, “I live on Tough Street; the further you go, the tougher it gets. And I live in the last house.”  What makes it that way? What gives “Good Time Charlie” the blues?

Talking to a guy at work today. He’s struggling to make ends meet with inflated payments on a deflated house in Southern California. Has a newer car on which he makes payments for another 3 years and can’t sell for half what he paid for it, and a wife and three kids who live in the house with him. The kids attend class in schools increasingly plagued by disorder, lack of funds (amazing, isn’t it, in this nation where we spend HUGE amounts of money to “educate” kids, then spend most of every school year teaching them merely how to pass a single, state-mandated proficiency exam so that the lawmakers and teachers can feel good about themselves, and incidentally about the students, for another year?!), and — yep, undereducated kids. Back in the day, we had to learn all the material and pass numerous tests all through the school year. If we didn’t, somebody — likely, multiple personalities including teachers, principal, and parents — would be on us like a chicken on a June bug, and we’d be read the riot act, assigned extra chores, required to stay after school to clean the blackboards (No! Not ‘chalkboards’ — blackboards!), and then get our hinies whacked when we got home. Perhaps get grounded or restricted for a while at home, too. Required to do homework. (Those were early, feudal efforts at instilling “self esteem.”) 🙂

But I digress.  My subject was the Charlies of our world. Because his employer is experiencing declining demand for his goods and services with concurrently-increasing costs of doing business (wait until the “new” taxes of the next decade hit!), there will be no wage increases or bonuses even though Charlie’s costs of living are as voracious as ever. His kids need braces, soccer shoes and school togs, his older car needs some repairs, and he needs to replace a hot water heater and a dishwasher. Where’s he to turn? Is the federal government really handing out money? Where can I find some?

Talking to a gal at the coffee shop today, similar story, maybe worse. Let’s call her Charlene.  She’s a single parent of a child whose deadbeat dad won’t pay child support (never has) because he’s “unemployed” and seems to make a career of it. He never visits his child or takes him anywhere, but this gal can’t leave the state of California because the law says she has to make her child available for “regular visitation” with his daddy who … well, I already said that. If she wants to terminate visitation rights based on his history, she has the burden of proof (if she can afford a lawyer and time off work to go to court several times where she may, or may not, get the relief she seeks) to show that the father no longer merits visitation. It’s a difficult burden of proof that few can meet. This woman is talented and intelligent in her job, attends night school to get a degree in accounting to improve herself and the chances of her child, and is underpaid at work. Her employer, taking recognition that lots of people are out of work and looking for jobs, keeps wages artificially low as compared with prosperous times. All of this, still ignoring the obvious bungling and corruption we see from inside the Beltway in D.C. that has been rampant for years. But now, our chickens are coming home to roost. We are paying for our national apathy and concurrent, personal greed. In spades.

But still, all in all and even with the struggles and catastrophes we see around and hear more about, especially from the politicians who are so “concerned about the poor and homeless, the uninsured and the desperate” and the media who feed the insatiable “news” monster with their blind reports that all say the same thing and ignore the obvious, I contend that the overwhelming majority of us are far better off than our predecessors.  Talk about tough economic times! Read a little history about the Great Depression (as compared with this current economy that has not and, some say will not, produce the predicted dire tragedies from which we’re nonetheless insistently — and with increasing belligerence — being rescued by our omnipotent Big Bro and his Czars of Everything) and you’ll at once have to confess that we’re materially better off.  We have a far higher standard of living than most of the world.  We have lots of discretionary spending money to blow on all kinds of expensive entertainments that have become an everyday way of life.  Have you ever considered that athletes and Hollywood stars are among the most highly-paid persons in the U.S.?  And there is a current glut of “hero” athletes and “hero” Hollywooders, lots of the latter with o’erweening pronouncements and attitudes about how “we” ought to live and think.  Have you noticed the number of grossly-obese people walking around?  Have you seen the hordes of high school kids who pile into a Starbucks before school every day to get their venti double-fat mocha-frappa yada-yadas with piles of whipped cream on top, something to suck down into their fat little bellies for morning treats on the way to school?  Have you noted the increasing number of obese SMALL children who clearly rarely get off their backsides to play?  Are we spoiled and lazy?  I mean, I like my daily small double cappuccino, but this is ridiculous!

Former generations, not only in the U.S., but even moreso around the world, have known pain and suffering the likes of which I pray we never see. Think of all the horrible drug wars, civil wars, regional wars — and even the ethnic cleansings that have plagued the world in the last 30-50 years (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Angola, Somalia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and surely at least one South American nation), and our momentary “suffering” seems light and endurable.  Not to mention the 55,000,000 – 70,000,000 estimated to have died in the Second World War, or the 13,000,000 or so killed in Russia by Josef Stalin after that war.  Cruel, harsh, bone-grinding work and starvation, then death by freezing, disease, and total misery.  And a few “people” have the temerity to assert that the Holocaust never happened?!!

Note I said a few lines back that we’re materially better off. I’m not sure about other qualities of life, such as cultural sanity and spiritual health. But we still have a fighting chance to turn things around for ourselves if we’ll “man up,” take responsibility for our own lives instead of looking to Wall Street, the dollar bill and Congress with its window dressing of “improved national health care for less money” and coming prosperity for all of us.  We need to get about the business of righting the most glaring wrongs and rebuilding, from the ground up, this system that has gone awry (not that it’s done so on its own). Think we can do it? We’ve done it before!

Consider, for example, the presidency of U.S. Grant, eighteenth president of the United States. He apparently arrived in that office primarily by being successful general-in-chief of the Union Army in the last year of the Civil War (or “War of Northern Aggression” as it has been called by some die-hard Southerners). The first mistake was thus made.  The nation seized on the military leadership, which it mistook for civil leadership, and wound up with one of the most corrupt presidential terms in our nation’s history.  His cabinet and nepotism were second to none in terms of scandal and disgrace, and many of the nation’s business and industrial leaders were equally or more corrupt.  Read about Tammany Hall, Boss Tweed, and many others of that era.  And aren’t we proud that Grant was the first to propose a professional federal civil service?!  Thanks, General!

Well, our ancestors survived Grant’s corruption, just like a later generation survived the Great Depression of the twentieth century and the misguided efforts of Franklin D. Roosevelt, that great “visionary” president who rescued us by putting a chicken in every pot, a dollar in every pocket, and stretched the detrimental effects of the Great Depression into a decade of simultaneous deprivation and government overreaching that was in many ways unnecessarily more harm than good.  He and his Washington experts were allowed to do so by a citizenry caught in grinding poverty and hopelessness and looking to government largesse (as though money does grow on trees, just below the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings, in the big rock candy mountain) to bale it out of trouble — not recognizing that the trade-off was sacrifice of a lot of freedom and self-determination as the national government built its cadres of career bureaucrats.  Sound familiar?  And yet different?  Here’s just one brief description of that 1930s New Deal [read, “change we can live with”]:

Despite all the positives of the New Deal, and there were many, Depression-era tax policies had the unintended consequence of creating a “risk-less economy.” A string of tax hikes and new taxes extinguished the nation’s sparks of innovation.

On top of the Revenue Act of 1932—one of the largest tax increases in American history, which doubled the estate tax, increased corporate taxes by almost 15 percent, and raised taxes on the highest incomes from 25 percent to 63 percent—the Revenue Act of 1935 raised new taxes on higher income levels, corporations, and estates. The Revenue Act of 1937 taxed short-term capital gains as ordinary income. And in 1936, Roosevelt added a higher top rate of 79 percent on individual income greater than $5 million—a rate that was increased again in 1939.

By 1937, the undistributed profits surtax severely restricted the ability of small companies to build up their capital out of earnings, and the large surtax on individual incomes discouraged rich people from investing in new companies.

Spencer Ante, “Slouching Through the Great Depression.”

Yet, by comparison to world suffering, in 2009 we’re merely a collective “Good Time Charlie [Who’s] Got the Blues.” Time to “man up!”

Carpe diem.  Vita brevis!


© September 2009, Michael E. Stubblefield.  All rights reserved.

Saturday Coffee

“Coffee (café): Induces wit … Taken without sugar, very chic, gives the impression that you’ve lived in the Orient!” — GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, French novelist, playwright

I wasn’t headed up town early this a.m. for coffee, even though it’s Saturday. Coffee, the numero uno in my daily routine, would have to come later. My current mission, significantly less auspicious than the morning coffee quest, was a brisk bike ride with a group of new friends, mostly doctors and all specialists, who assured me that I’d be “better off riding with one GP than all four of” them. I had raised a rhetorical question to them in rather (but not entirely) lighthearted banter because of my cycling accident last October that landed me in three months’ recovery from a broken acetabulum (having little to do with my posterior, though it sounds otherwise), a separated shoulder, and a concussion – all this unknown to them. This morning I allowed as how it felt reassuring to ride in a pack of four medical doctors, when one of them ruthlessly (but in good humor, I might add) burst my enthusiastic bubble with the candid quip about the hypothetical GP. And I say “hypothetical GP” because that may be an extinct breed.

Anyway, these guys I was riding with are, respectively, urologist, radiologist, anesthesiologist, and oncologist – all pretty useless on a bike ride, at least from a medical viewpoint, though all are good riders. I mean, look — probabilities are low that I’ll be treated for cancer or a urological disaster on a bike outing, although I suppose if one were riding when a gallstone started it’s descent through the plumbing, it might feel reassuring to have a urologist standing by. But maybe no moreso than the comfort I get when I need help in the office.

Everyone seems to be a “specialist” these days. Even in my accounting office we no longer have the generic “accounting clerks” of the old days when I was a pup in the business. We now have “accounts payable specialists” and “payroll specialists” and “billing specialists” and … well, you get the picture. I can’t get help from the billing specialist when there’s a rush on getting an invoice paid; she only takes care of situations “when we’re asking for money to be sent to us, not the other way round” (for gosh sakes … with the eyeball roll!).

So back to the docs and the bike ride. I’m presently over my worries about the lack of a GP. We’re just having fun, exercise and a little camaraderie today. Have I mentioned that I have a lot of ‘mental problems’? With songs? Tongue in cheek here, but songs do sometimes interrupt serious production. Not songs I’m writing; I’m not a songwriter. The songs I’m talking about are songs that I’ve acquired through the aural canals and unintentionally stored in my brain’s wrinkles (of which there must be more than on even my face, judging by the numbers of songs that roll out with annoying regularity) over the years of my life. I don’t really know whether there’s any scientific evidence that this is creative brainpower surging through my synapses, but random recollections of something I have heard roll out, involuntarily spilled for no particular purpose. But it can be entertaining in times of otherwise inane activities like riding a bike with a bunch of medical specialists.

The song running through my brain this overcast morning was the catchy, bluesy-but-pleasant little country tune with the typical cryin’-in-the-beer lyrics of that genre, Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues. Penned by Danny O’Keefe, it was popular in the early 70s (peaking at #9 in 1972). I have a very cool instrumental rendition of it on a CD project by the great guitarist Earl Klugh. It’s very whistle-able, so even if you’re not a vocalist – and I’m not, at least not when I’m pedaling up a steep hill on my roadie – you can hit your licks on this tune with your whistle. The lyrics go like this:

Everybody’s goin’ away.
Said they’re movin’ to L.A.
There’s not a soul I know around.
Everybody’s leavin’ town!guitar

Some caught a freight. Some caught a plane.
Find the sunshine, leave the rain.
They said this town’s a waste of time.
I guess they’re right, it’s wasting mine!

Some gotta win, some gotta lose
Good time Charlie’s got the blues

You know, my heart keeps tellin’ me,
“You’re not a kid at thirty-three.
“You play around you’ll lose your wife.
“You play too long you’ll lose your life!”

I’ve got my pills to ease the pain,
Can’t find a friend to ease the rain.
I know I should try and settle down.
But everybody’s leaving town.

Some gotta win, some gotta lose
Good time Charlie’s got the blues
Good time Charlie’s got the blues
Good time Charlie’s got the blues

(whistling to end)

Pretty grim, huh? But lighthearted blues, thanks to the catchy tune. How did my thoughts get here this morning? I mean, I’m having fun with these guys and none of us seems particularly down on his luck! Did yesterday’s date (9/11) have something to do with my thoughts? After all, eight years ago yesterday was a disaster in international history and the lives of lots of folks. But I don’t know whether the memory of that day of infamy triggered Good Time Charlie …. I think it had more to do with stories I hear. Here’s an excerpt of one, ironically including “Charlie,” who may indeed start singing the blues. [Hope you can ignore the syntax errors typical of news journalism.]

The End of the Road for Charles Rangel?

Written by Catherine Mullins

Thursday, 10 September 2009

“After a 40-year career of liberalism and scandal, Rep. Charlie Rangel, one of the biggest fish in Washington, might finally be getting fried. [My Note: As New York’s congressman from the 15th District, he’s been in Congress since January, 1971. Think that’s long enough?! Maybe the following quoted excerpt from Wikipedia explains something about his longevity: “Rangel’s district, the smallest in the country in geographic size, encompasses Upper Manhattan and includes such neighborhoods as Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, Morningside Heights, and part of the Upper West Side, as well as a small portion of Queens in the neighborhood of Astoria. … Rangel earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in the Korean War.” That last sentence almost surely explains a common occurrence in human history – taking “heroes” who’ve served one purpose honorably, with the often-erroneous thinking that they’ll make good leaders in another, especially in politics. More about that topic another time.]

“As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the committee that writes the federal tax codes, Rangel failed to report $75,000 he earned in 2007 on a rental property to the IRS. Ironically, he claimed to be ignorant of tax laws. The ethics committee which has ignored Rangel’s tax law peccadilloes in the past is now engaged to look into the matter.

“Since that committee was appointed, it has been alleged that Rangel failed to report over $1 million in outside income and $3 million in business transactions,” CBS reported. The Washington Examiner broke it down further for us: “It turns out Rangel had a credit union account worth at least $250,000 and maybe as much as $500,000 — and didn’t report it. He had investment accounts worth about the same, which he also didn’t report. Ditto for three pieces of property in New Jersey.

“Beyond even that, we’ve learned that Rangel has failed to report assets totaling more than $1 million on legally required financial disclosure forms going back to at least 2001.

“On top of those allegations are ones that ‘he falsely listed a Washington D.C. residence as his primary address when he was living in rent-stabilized apartment in New York City; used Congressional letterhead for fundraising purposes; and helped a wealthy donor to a school bearing Rangel’s name establish a lucrative tax shelter in Bermuda,’ according to Fox News.

“With an ever increasing list of accusations, Charles Rangel is looking more and more like an arrogant and belligerent tax cheat. According to him, though, he has far beyond the average intelligence. With regards to his financial situation he told reporters: ‘I recognize that all of you have an obligation to ask questions knowing that there’s none of you smart enough to frame it in such a way that I’m going to respond.’

Well, poor ol’ Charlie. I hope he’ll be singing the blues in Sing Sing for a long time.  But given our track record for actually prosecuting and incarcerating such cheats of high stature, I’m a bit skeptical. On to other “Charlies” of humbler origins and means.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!


© September 2009, Michael E. Stubblefield.  All rights reserved.


I                                                     DSC_0052



I want it.

The eyes want it.

The ayes want it.

All in favor, say “Aye.”

All opposed, I see it in your eyes.

The “I”

Is told in your eye.

Even though you utter “aye,”

Your eyes will deny,

And it’s clear that the “I”

Shall supersede the aye.

Aye, it’s in your eyes.

“I” overpowers aye.

I pull through.

Eyes look through.

Ayes come through.

While you look at me, and listen,

Your eyes focus inward, forming

The argument that shall dispel the aye

As you calculate and cultivate your

Sentence planned around “I.”

Eyes dart

From side to side.

They avoid, avert, divert.

The pupils constrict,

Doubling in on themselves time

And again to mere pinpricks

Of secretive disagreement that are

No secret at all.

I am tired.

Your eyes look tired.

The ayes have retired.

No longer in support of

The plan that could carry the day,

The eyes lurk darkly in the half shadows,

Waiting, focusing, sensing the opportune

Moment to say, “I will not!”

Can I get past my eye with an “aye”?

© September 2009, Michael E. Stubblefield.  All rights reserved.