Thursday, March 29, 2012

Politicians Have To Ponder Surprises Behind The Door

        The other day I saw a story about security costs for big-city mayors.


        It's shocking to see how taxpayers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to protect his or her Honor.


        Years ago, as Mayor of Euclid, I would be confronted by a personal security concern every now and then.


        Three stand out.


        My first term as mayor began with layoffs to balance the huge deficit that greeted me my first day in office.


        I answered  the door one Friday evening  at home and before me stood a mountain.


        His name was Steve and he was on the layoff list in the service department.


        I ushered him into our dining room where he tearfully expressed concern for his ability to support his family.


        He could have crushed me with his bare hands.


My wife was worried and called the police.


Not necessary.


Steve left peacefully after a few minutes. He just had to get a few things off his chest.


He had to see the top man.


I get that. Everything was okay.


A second incident was more threatening but almost comical.


After I supported a tax increase (rare for me), I received an interesting letter.


The gentleman who sent it  said that he was determined to respond to my tax position by punching me in the nose.


He said he attended my church and would not be deterred from carrying out his objective.


Here's the part that gets weird but also sort of funny.


The letter writer signed the correspondence, provided his address, and even included a photo of himself.


I turned the matter over to the police and the punch never materialized.


This last story really  is a cautionary tale for politicians everywhere.


An attractive young woman began attending Council meetings.


She became active in the community, speaking up at town hall sessions and generally and sincerely seeking to influence municipal policy.


One night, I was alone in my office, working on a budget proposal.


There was a knock on the door to the Mayor's office which led directly to the outside parking lot facing the police station.


I opened it.


There stood that young woman.


She smiled and whispered something unintelligible.


I leaned in to understand her better.


She leaned in also.


And kissed me right on the lips.


I backed away, closed the door on her, and called the police chief to report the incident.


It was kind of scary and surrealistic.


It  reminded me of the scene in the  film   The Natural when Robert Redford opens the door and there stands Barbara Hershey with a loaded derringer in her hand.


That night, my wife and I discussed future strategies in opening doors without knowing who is on the other side.


Well, my days in politics are long behind me.


But the truth is that people in political life  have to worry about security, from City Councilmen all the way up to the President of the United States.


There are plenty of wackos out there.


Maybe there's one waiting for me at church this Sunday.


Put a peephole in your door, politicos.


 It's always a good idea.    



Thursday, March 22, 2012

From the Mouths of Babes Come Important Lessons

Lent is a time for introspection and contemplation.


          Many of us prepare for the celebration of the resurrection by sharing in the passion of Christ during these 40 days.


          One traditional method of participating in the Savior's  suffering is by creating some degree of sacrifice in our own lives.


 No matter how small, each little thing we deny ourselves helps unite us with the mission of Calvary.


          So it was with great respect and reverence that I read through the short essays posted on the walls of Mater Dei  Academy in Wickliffe.


          The children in the early primary grades were asked to describe their efforts during the Lenten season.


          Here are the highlights of a few of these reflections.


          James P.  wrote,  " For Lent, I will not eat suckers because they are unhealthy. I'll give them to my sister who is sluggish and thin."


          What a guy.


          Mary S. also was concerned about candy.  She said, " I have decided to give up gum for Lent. In this way I can give the money I save to the homeless. This will permit me to donate $6.54."


  A future accountant, no doubt.


          Joseph J. expressed damage control by saying, "I have decided that I will stop insulting people during Lent. That will help everyone I know."


          Jacob  R. said, "For Lent I am giving up spitting."


          That's nice.


          Margie W.  said,  " I am giving up playing the violin for Lent."


  So much for practice.


          Sometimes habits are hard to break. Mark W.  said, " I have decided to give up hitting my brother for Lent. Normally, I hit him every day."


          Timothy L. was thoughtful in telling us, "I am fasting during Lent because when I see Jesus,  I take dying on the cross seriously.  My brother isn't giving anything up but he needs to know that sacrificing things isn't a joke."


          Stewart G. tells of a drama in his household.


 His paper reads, "For Lent I am going to stop taking other people's stuff in my family because in the end it doesn't go well for me. I don't want to make mom and dad mad. No one wants that."


          No one indeed.


          David H. demonstrated that sometimes you have to make a choice: " For lent I had to choose between being nice to my brother or giving up pop.  I decided to give up pop because it is too hard to be nice to my brother."


          Matthew S.  provided my favorite one. This is a young man who understands the heart of St. Francis.


          He proudly proclaimed,  " For Lent I have decided to give up wrestling my dog because it hurts him and makes him limp."


           I have the feeling that at Matthew's  home, Fido is somewhat apprehensive. The dawn of Easter Sunday may signal the opening bell of round one, with the family mutt stuck in a hammerlock little Matt learned watching Wrestlemania.


          This last essay was very short but also very poignant, written by William M.


 He said, "For Lent  I am going to spend some time talking to my deaf and autistic brother. He likes to talk."


Now that's the true spirit of Lent.




 I'm giving up ice cream.


          It's just too hard to be nice to my mother-in-law.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's It Like When Children Lose a Friend?

            Chardonites are asking about the impact when a young person loses a dear friend.


          The impact is significant.


          I know.


          I lost my best bud Brian Doyle when I was seven years old.


          Here's the story.


          Brian and I both attended St. Ann School at Coventry and  Cedar in Cleveland Heights.


          Sometime in 1963 we bumped into each other walking home a fair distance east of our elementary school.


 It was not unusual in those days for seven-year-olds to walk a mile or two to get home.


          There were two second grade classes at St. Ann's back then, each with almost 50 kids.


Brian and I were not in the same class but that walk home together with Brian became the highlight of my day that year.


          Brian and I quickly became fast friends.


          Our walks down Stillman Road or Coventry if we were daring became our own road to  Emmaus.


Brian's hopes and dreams. My hopes and dreams.


          We discussed girls, the scary nuns(Sister St. John  terrified us), the foibles of our classmates, and the finer points of blood ball. Blood ball was a ruthless keepaway game played during lunch recess on the asphalt parking lot of our school.


          When our routes home finally diverged, Brian went his way and I went mine, day ended.


          We never went to each other's houses, so our families never knew about this friendship.


          But there was no doubt,  Brian Doyle was my best friend in the world.


He knew me and I knew him.


We both had lots of brothers and sisters and we knew that growing up together at St. Ann's held the promise of great times together, loyal friends through thick and thin.


 The spring of 1964 came along and our thoughts turned to baseball in the schoolyard and outdoor gym class.



          Suddenly, Brian wasn't there.


          Our teacher announced  that Brian Doyle had drowned  visiting a hotel while his family was traveling near Cincinnati.


          My soul mate was gone.


I wanted to tell the teachers, my classmates, and my family that I had lost my alter ego.


          But I was a second grader.


          They didn't have grief counselors for us back then.


          It seemed  that my friendship with Brian was a secret he would take to the grave.


And I would carry this sense of loss with me, privately, forever.


The whole second grade went to the funeral.


I blended in with all the rest.


Anonymously shuffled through the service, quietly, in agony.


          I imagined Brian's fear in his last seconds and shared those moments with him tearfully, he in the arms of Jesus while I plodded along, alone.


 I remember closing my eyes and talking to him again.


          Well, life moves forward, but Brian makes himself known to me on a regular basis, creeping into my consciousness and into my prayers.


          What's the impact on young folks when they lose a friend?




          Especially if that friend is  Brian Doyle.


I cherish those memories.


And I look forward to a reunion in heaven.


That dismissal  bell rings and we're bounding eastward on Stillman, adventures along the way.


A friendship to be fulfilled, together, finally.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

PEPSI: For Those Who Think (of eating their) Young

        The wolf spider represents a dark side of the animal kingdom.


        The wolf spider eats its own young.


 Not all of them.


        Just enough of them to ensure  there is adequate   food supply to accommodate the remaining members of the brood.


        It's a  cruel version of the utilitarian philosophy that the end justifies the means, Mother Nature style.


             The Pepsi generation now faces its own form of utilitarianism run amok.


         Here's a story flying low on the radar of the mainstream media.


        The Senomyx Corporation is a high-tech flavor enhancement research development company.


        Senomyx recently signed a $30 million deal with Pepsi to create even more realistic artificial sweeteners.


        Maybe Pepsi will one day obtain the Holy Grail of beverage manufacturing: diet sodas that don't taste like diet.


        And maybe Senomyx is up to the challenge.


        Here's the problem.


        Senomyx has discovered that using human taste receptors is the most efficient way to isolate and identify flavor particles.


        So where is Senomyx getting these human taste receptors?


        From aborted babies.


        You read that right.


        From aborted babies.


        Pro-life groups want Pepsi to discontinue its relationship with Senomyx.


 Pepsi shareholders have introduced a resolution to have the second largest cola company in the world distance itself from this macabre practice.


        What's next? Lampshades from the skin of those gassed in concentration camps?


        Oh yeah, I forgot. The Nazis already did that.


        I don't know about you, but my quest for the tastiest diet cola doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy about using the remains of innocent children to satisfy that desire.


        Pepsi has responded to the uproar in typical corporate bottom-line fashion.


        Pepsi's consumer relations department issued a blanket e-mail that said we must recognize the trade-off.


The missive emphasized that Senomyx techniques would help create "low-calorie great tasting beverages for consumers."




        Now there's a good reason.


        What is wrong with us?


        Are we so dedicated to the technology of creature comforts that anything is justified?


        We've all heard about the lawsuits over foreign objects showing up in food products.


        I just hope you don't find a little piece of a fingernail in a diet Pepsi someday.


        A little piece of a very tiny fingernail.


        That'd be gross.


        It would also be a sign that we've sunk to a new low.


        A frightening science fiction type of low.


        Dr. Frankenstein meets Madison Avenue.


        I don't know about you, but until Pepsi steps away from the idea of fetus enhanced products, I'll be drinking Coca-Cola.


I'll let somebody else deal with that tiny fingernail.


And the moral implications inherent in mixing the big business of abortion with  big business.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lessons From Daydream Believer and the Homecoming Queen

                 We  all eventually give up on some of our dreams.


            It is then that we place them on a shelf.


            The shelf of unfulfilled dreams.


            Life is often cruel.


            That cute girl you loved back in the seventh grade never gave you the time of day.


            On to the shelf.


            The high school baseball phenom who batted .378 his senior year and pitched two no-hitters!


            Until his knee blew out at training camp, ending his chances at the big leagues.


            Today he's a foreman for a commercial builder.


            Another ambition kept somewhere on that shelf, gathering dust.


            Never to be fulfilled.


            Here's a little secret about politicians, major and minor.


            They all dream about being President of the United States some day.


            Then reality hits.


            You're too old, too fat, or  you just barely have enough charisma to get past the next school board race.


            Suddenly it's apparent that the dream ain't happening.        


            On to the shelf.


            The older you get, the more crowded becomes that shelf of unfulfilled dreams.


            Too old to be a cop, too old to join the military, too old for the lead role, too old to have children, too old to visit Rome.


            It's a pretty sad shelf for all of us I suppose.


            I think the best way to deal with your shelf is to keep two rules in mind.


            First of all, don't visit that shelf too often.


            You obsess over your failures and bad luck.


    Those emotional chotchkies will always  be there, but they mean nothing today.


            Secondly, and most importantly, focus on your new dreams.


            After all, we all make adjustments.


            No matter what your age, experience, or history strewn with the carnage of disappointments, you can strive for a new horizon.


            And oddly, as we age, we tend to find dreams of greater value, even if the glamorous plans of the past have crashed and burned.


            The new dream might be to hug your estranged son and tell him you love him. 


            One more thing.


            You may have gloriously already fulfilled a great dream, so take a moment to appreciate it now and then.


            Here's what I mean.


            The late Davey Jones of the Monkees sang a poignant ballad called "Daydream Believer."


            It's the tale of an ambitious young man who marries the love of his life, the beautiful High School Homecoming Queen.


            They get married but live in poverty.  Despite that, he believes he is living a fabulous dream.


            The dream of his   continuing love affair with that fantastic woman.


            The love is the dream fulfilled.


    Billionaires are frequently lonely but the Daydream Believer feels rich, celebrating the joy of life with his true love.


            His shelf of unfulfilled dreams may be crowded but he lives for something greater today.


            So close the door to that closet where you keep that shelf.


            I guess you can take a look at it now and then.


            But be more like the Day Dream Believer, searching for new vistas and embracing the truly valuable things and people you have right now.


            Life is too short to think about that damn shelf.


            Davey Jones is gone,  but in his honor, let's strive to be  daydream believers, forgetting the meaningless paperweights of the past and instead seeking and appreciating love.