A Word About Spina Bifida

I have referenced my disability once or twice in this space, but I usually don’t go into much detail. October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month and all I’ve really done the last couple of years is post a meme/banner on my Facebook page. Then, all the sudden, it occurred to me…I have this space on the interwebs where I can write about anything I want. I’m a little slow sometimes y’all. 

Want to hear something funny?? My father’s name is Jerry, so I am quite literally one of Jerry’s kids. That was pretty amusing back in the day when the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon was a thing. Unlike muscular dystrophy though spina bifida has never gotten its own TV show. Honestly I didn’t even know that the Spina Bifida Association or Spina Bifida Awareness Month existed until fairly recently. I recall being involved with the March of Dimes a little bit as a kid, but it seems that other maladies like multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, & down syndrome are more commonly discussed & understood by the masses, which is fine. When I attended basketball games in college they seated all of us wheelchair folks together anyway, as if we were all supposed to know one another. At any rate, I’m glad there is an organization and a whole month dedicated to awareness. Knowledge is rarely a bad thing. 

I don’t talk too much about my…situation…here or anywhere else, for multiple reasons. First, it’s my life…has been since Day 1. I am perfectly aware that I’m not “normal”, but my daily routine is what it is, and for me it really isn’t…noteworthy. Secondly, there’s a saying that I’ve heard in multiple arenas that is basically “why fit in when you were born to stand out” or something to that effect, which is pretty much diametrically opposed to how I do business. I understand the sentiment, but when one “stands out” for being the guy in a wheelchair it’s not a positive. All I’ve ever really wanted was to fit in, although as I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that no one is really like everyone else and the definition of “normal” is most certainly wide open. And finally, I don’t talk about my disability because I absolutely do NOT want anyone to feel sorry for me. I like people. I enjoy making friends. But I want others to actually like me for all the reasons someone usually likes another person, whatever that may be. I have never sought out sympathy or pity. I’d rather someone leave me alone than feel sorry for me. It should be noted that also applies to this particular epistle. I wish to inform & enlighten…that’s it.

Having said all of that, I must tell you a story that may seem a bit contradictory. When I was in 5th or 6th grade there was a girl that I liked, inasmuch as an 11 year old kid understands such yearning. Unfortunately this girl would not talk to me, and I didn’t know why. Luckily a buddy of mine was her neighbor so I had him do some reconnaissance. He reported back that she was afraid to talk to me because I am in a wheelchair and was concerned that she might say something wrong. In that moment I decided two things: 1) I would never be easily offended by anything, and 2) I would always be the first person to make a completely inappropriate cripple joke. More specifically on the second point I am not the least bit upset by questions and gladly tell anyone what they want to know. Women still tend to steer clear of me, but there are many reasons for that other than my disability. 

I am not a physician or scientist, and I assume there aren’t many of those in The Manoverse, so I’ll try to explain spina bifida (Latin for “split spine”) in the simplest way possible. What it really boils down to is a hole in the spine. There are varying degrees of severity, largely depending on where the spine is open. My “hole” was in the small of my back. A few inches higher and I may not have lived. An inch lower and I may have been able to walk. The cause?? I don’t know. I used to joke that my mother had done drugs in the 1960’s, but anyone who’d ever met her knew that was far from the truth. I’ve also been known to state that I was born in a wheelchair which was extremely painful for my mother. I told you…I’m politically incorrect & mildly inappropriate. At any rate, 1400 babies in the United States annually are born with spina bifida these days. In comparison the CDC estimates as many as 8000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

So what does spina bifida mean in practical terms?? How has it affected my life?? 

Doctors told my parents when I was born that I would be paralyzed from the waist down, but actually I do have sensation down to my knees. Obviously I cannot walk and utilize a wheelchair, which means accessibility is an issue I cannot ignore. Stairs are not my friend. Since the pandemic began awhile back I’ve observed many of my social media contacts really enjoying the great outdoors, which is pretty easy to do here in West Virginia…unless one is in a wheelchair. Hiking, boating, fishing, skiing, hunting, swimming, yada yada yada…all rather difficult options. Are they possible if I was really hellbent on it?? Yes, but I’ve never felt the urge to be that outdoorsy anyway. 

Accessibility affected my education as well. I could not matriculate where I was supposed to because the grade school was old & had a bunch of steps to even get to the front door. The board of education had no idea how to handle the situation, and they also assumed that because I was physically disabled I must be mentally impaired as well. They were wrong. There’s no need to dive into the details, but I was bounced around multiple schools for a few years and never attended school in my district. Unlike most kids my classmates & my neighbors were completely different groups of children. It didn’t hit me how odd this was and how much I missed out on until many years later. It is my understanding that things are much better for disabled students nowadays, which is awesome. 

My collegiate experience was far different. I had an older acquaintance who told me when I was first considering college that West Virginia University, which is less than an hour from here, isn’t a good choice because of accessibility (that may have changed by now, but this was three decades ago). That led me to Marshall University where the campus is smaller & flatter. It was there that a buddy from high school invited me to join his fraternity, one of the best choices I’ve ever made. For the first time in my life I was one of the guys. I had friends. I drank, partied, went to football games, & did stupid stuff just like everyone else. Did I neglect my studies and fail to effectively plan for my future as an adult?? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t change much about that time. 

As a matter of fact, I have to tell another story.

One night a bunch of us were going to a place called the 1896 Club. It was an old house that’d been converted to a bar. As a group of my fraternity brothers headed up the steps into the club I was like “Ummm…hey guys”. One of them came back, and though I can’t recall who said it I remember what they said, which was something to the effect of “I’m sorry Sam. Honestly, I just forget that you’re in a wheelchair. You’re just Sam to me.” To this day it is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Luckily the bar had an accessible back door. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember anything else about that night. 

I won’t bore you with a bunch of medical stuff, but there are several secondary affects of spina bifida, things that have impacted my life significantly. I’ve spent way too much time in hospitals and lost count at 30 surgical procedures. Someone once asked me if I’d ever considered becoming a doctor, and I just laughed. Well okay, I may have rolled my eyes too, which is a little unfair. The inquiry was well intended and the person was being complimentary of my intelligence, which I appreciate. However, I hate hospitals. I respect the job that medical professionals do, but never had the desire to be one of them.

Yes, I can drive. Hand controls are actually fairly simple. I just pull down for the gas & push in to brake. I cannot drive a standard because there is no way to control a clutch. Getting my big ol’ butt and my wheelchair in & out of a vehicle is the more complex issue. Four doors are a no go since getting the wheelchair in would be impossible. I am hopeful that my next vehicle will be a van with a lift, but those are costly and not as available as other cars & trucks. 

Can I procreate?? I think so 🤷🏻‍♂️. No one ever told me I couldn’t. I suppose there might be some medical hoops to jump thru, but it’s kind of a moot point anyway. I’ve never gotten to the point where marriage & fatherhood were on the table, and although it’d be easy to blame that on my disability it really would be an unfair cop-out. I’ve made a lot of mistakes & poor choices that have negatively affected me professionally & romantically, and very little of it is directly connected to spina bifida. That being said, women aren’t typically all hot & bothered by a dude in a wheelchair, and I don’t blame them. Would I like to find someone, settle down, and do the whole white picket fence thing?? Sure, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me and that’s okay. At this point I’d just like to find someone with whom to have dinner, see a show, or simply hang out & watch the ballgame with besides my goofy neighbor (who’s a dude by the way). 

Speaking of propagating the species…

I give all the credit for the positive aspects of my existence to my parents. Today spina bifida can be diagnosed in utero and can sometimes be minimized or fixed…I think 🤔(reminder: I’m not a medical expert). That wasn’t the case when I was born, and I have occasionally pondered my parents at that moment…mid 20s, three year old daughter, their whole life in front of them, at the peak of happiness…and then I came along. Thankfully they rose to the task, never allowing me to feel weird or excluded, and always treating my sister & myself fairly & equally. It couldn’t have been easy. 

It’s called Spina Bifida Awareness Month and I think I’ve accomplished that, so I shall wrap this up. It is always my intention to keep these little ditties easily digestible, although I’m well aware of my own verbosity. Anyway, hopefully y’uns know more about the subject now than you did a few minutes ago, so you got that going for you, which is nice. 

POINTS OF PONDERATION…..EPISODE 7.21 

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

What is the difference between apple juice & apple cider?? 

Apple cider is made from apples that are ground into a mash similar to applesauce. The mash is then wrapped in cloth and pressed into fresh juice, which does not go thru a filtration process. Conversely, apple juice is filtrated to remove pulp then pasteurized to extend shelf life. Vacuum sealing & additional filtering help it stay fresh even longer. Juice can sit unopened in your pantry for months, while cider is perishable and should be refrigerated. Unpasteurized cider will ferment and turn “hard” over time, which means it’ll get you snockered.

Can we all agree that the whole concept of a “YouTube Star” or, even worse, a “TikTok Star” is just dumb?? Look, I realize that I shouldn’t cast aspersions. My life has devolved into a meaningless waste of time and I haven’t accomplished jack squat. But in a vacuum it seems a bit much to call anyone a star whose only claim to notoriety comes from posting silly videos online. It is insulting to any athlete, actor, writer, musician, etc. who has combined natural talent, hard work, mastery of skill, and perhaps a few beneficial turns of fortune into a certain level of fame & prosperity. 

I’ve seen this pop up on my Facebook feed multiple times, and I am always fascinated by the ignorance displayed in the comments. For the record my choice is Starbucks because a) I’m not much of a coffee fiend anyway, b) there are local shops I prefer to support when I do drink coffee, & c) the coffee at Starbucks is overpriced & not that good. At any rate, I am surprised at the vitriol hurled at Chick-fil-A. Well okay…not that surprised by the vitriol, but bemused by how many people are so misinformed. The folks that run Chick-fil-A have publicly commented on their Christian beliefs, which is why their restaurant isn’t open on Sunday. They have also made monetary contributions to Christian charities. Unfortunately, since God & Christianity are increasingly despised in modern society Chick-fil-A’s support of such organizations has somehow evolved into the whole chain & all of its patrons being hateful, bigoted, & homophobic. The fact is that anyone who has ever eaten there knows the food is top notch, the service is excellent, & it is a first class (fast food) dining experience. No one asks about your sexual orientation when you walk in the door or pull up to the drive thru. I am quite positive that people of all creeds, persuasions, & worldviews eat there and probably even work there. There is no hate or bigotry displayed. People really need to jump off their self-righteous high horse and just enjoy some good food in the same way that more conservative folks like yours truly often choose to overlook an actor/singer/athlete’s questionable real life actions and simply be entertained.

I’m fascinated by the term “accidental overdose”. Don’t misunderstand…I have a certain level of empathy for anyone battling addiction. While I have never had to deal with alcoholism and drugs weren’t ever my thing (thankfully) I am obese and fight the urge to eat things that I shouldn’t every day (obviously I haven’t been too successful). Anyway, I find it a bit confusing when a person’s demise is determined to be caused by an “accidental” overdose. Okay, sure…perhaps they didn’t intend to kill themselves. But they knowingly injected/ingested some combination of heroin, pills, cocaine, etc. It was a conscious decision that person made. So why not simply state that it was an overdose?? 🤷🏻‍♂️

Until recently I was the administrator of my church’s Facebook page, and since I’ve had a surplus of free time for way too long (if you know you know) I usually posted a couple of things every day. I had an entire folder of memes & scripture saved that I added to constantly. I never would have run out of content. Then I posted the meme you see here. Anyone with a sense of humor and a passing familiarity with 80’s movies will get it, and it’s actually a subtle commentary on eternal life. Unfortunately someone didn’t see the humor and asked an intermediary to remove it. I have no issue with that second person. I’ve known her my entire life and she only did what was requested. But, the offended party (who I’ve never met) apparently also stated that the content is “questionable” & “that’s not what our church is about”. So this dude who’s been there for five minutes has the gall to lecture me, who grew up in that church and has been part of the community my entire life, about the church’s values. He also suggested to my friend that perhaps they could visit with me together. Now I’ve been out of commission, so to speak, for a year & a half and have had almost no personal interaction from anyone in the church, but all the sudden a freakin’ meme might necessitate some kind of intervention?? Nope. I’m smart enough to know when something is legit offensive and usually wise enough not to pass it on. I also believe that we’d all be better off if people learned to lighten up & laugh a little. Churches especially would benefit from that lesson, because while faith is to be taken quite seriously and the goal is to example Christ, humbly serve the community, and ultimately spend eternity in Heaven with Our Father, there’s no reason why we should be perpetually miserable in the process. 

Music, Laughter, and Sunshine: Honoring the Victims & Families of 9/11 

Have you forgotten how it felt that day to see your homeland under fire and her people blown away?? Have you forgotten when those towers fell we had neighbors still inside going through a living hell?? Have you forgotten all the people killed, some went down like heroes in that Pennsylvania field?? Have you forgotten about our Pentagon, all the loved ones that we lost, and those left to carry on?? – Darryl Worley 

Amongst the plethora of wisdom my father has taught me in this life is the fact that you usually don’t have to look very far to see someone in worse circumstances than you. That’s good advice to keep in mind on those rough days when you’re lonely, not feeling well, or hating yourself for being out of shape, financially deficient, professionally unaccomplished, and any of the myriad ways we tell ourselves we are not good enough & our life is terrible.

I’ve had more of those kind of days in the past year & a half than I care to admit, but you know what?? I am alive, which means that as many regrets  as I have (unlike Frank Sinatra there are more than a few) the fact is that I am doing better than the 3000 people that died on September 11, 2001. 

My family & I have had twenty Thanksgivings & Christmases together that those individuals never got to celebrate. I have enjoyed twenty warm & beautiful summers that they never got to see. On a daily basis I get to read interesting books, listen to beautiful music, & eat delicious food that those folks can no longer savor. I still have my father & my sister, which is more than can be said for thousands of people who lost their parent or sibling two decades ago.

These are not things that I dwell on often…that would be crazy. However, in the years since 9/11/01 I have watched documentaries & read stories about the events of that day. Tales of heroism. Wild conspiracy theories. Interviews with people who were there. History that is concurrently heartbreaking & inspiring. 

Unfortunately most of us tend to look at the big picture. We focus on politics. We lament that our nation, so united back then and supportive of first responders & our armed forces in the months following the attacks, has splintered into various opposing factions in the ensuing years. We celebrate the recent military withdrawal from Afghanistan while forgetting the reason they were there in the first place. Too many show disdain for law enforcement, which then causes others to argue with those that exhibit such contempt. 

I am not saying that any of those subjects are wrong to ponder or discuss. There are valid issues worthy of intelligent debate. However, perhaps we should spend a little more time thinking about the lives lost, the families affected, and the communities impacted by the attacks. Maybe we should get back to respecting the police and our men & women in uniform. And we absolutely need to be more appreciative of every precious moment that we draw breath. 

Twenty years ago 3000 people woke up to a lovely September morning. They got dressed, had breakfast with their families, kissed their spouse, dropped the kids off at school, and went to work at the various offices inside the World Trade Center & the Pentagon or reported for duty at firehouses, airports, & police precincts. They had no way of knowing that they would never return home. To be honest, each of us faces the same potential fate every single day, maybe not from planes crashing into buildings, but from a million other things that we never consider lest we drive ourselves mad.

Life is amazing. Occasionally mundane?? Sure. Oftentimes frustrating, sad, and exhausting?? Yes. But priceless nonetheless. I am reminded of Tom Hanks in Cast Away when he says “l gotta keep breathing, because tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide could bring??”. So today, on this melancholy anniversary, hug your loved ones, laugh with your kids & grandkids, smile at your neighbors, value your job, call an old friend, listen to some music, delight in the sunshine, watch a good movie, read a book, eat something tasty, enjoy whatever makes you happy, and appreciate life. By doing that you honor those that can no longer do the same. 

Connect or Disengage: Perspective on Social Media

By now most of us have developed a love/hate relationship with social media. What started out as a fun way to keep in touch with friends far & wide has somehow deteriorated into a dystopian experiment gone horribly awry, because that’s what humans too often do…we take something perfectly delightful and ruin it with greed, politics, envy, pettiness, & lack of self control. Some folks have the wherewithal to disengage completely, although oftentimes the people who leave are the ones with class, intelligence, good humor, & a moral compass. Isn’t it sad that the exact people who have something decent to offer to the medium, the ones who we really want to continue connecting with, are the ones we tend to run off??  Many that remain tread lightly because we sure don’t want to offend people who may disagree with our worldview, and God forbid we piss off the power behind the curtain that has suddenly become quite bold in censoring opposing views and using misguided algorithms to erroneously parse language deemed hurtful. 

Even considering all that, most of us choose to stay. Why?? Well, I think I may have the answer. I stumbled upon a post from an old high school acquaintance, and what she wrote pretty much hits the nail on the head, so much so that all I can do is second that emotion.

“Thank you for seeing me. I know people use Facebook for different things, and plenty of people might argue that the platform is unhealthy or biased or for ‘old people’.

I don’t love Facebook but I’d say the lot of you have provided more than half of my social need for human connection over the past decade, and moreso during this pandemic. So thank you for listening to my musings and sharing your majestic human stories with me. 

Thank you for the pictures and stories of your children, grandchildren, & dogs. Thank you for the videos of you roller skating, swimming in a river, twirling fire nunchucks, or jumping on a trampoline with your kid.  Thank you for sharing your moments of accomplishment, your railing rants, your art, your music, and your poetry. You guys are totally awesome as a digitally aggregated community that pretty much exists in my phone and my mind.” 

Can’t put it much better than that 🤷🏻‍♂️.

A few of you are friends, neighbors, & family that I see or talk to with some frequency, while many are former classmates or co-workers that I haven’t seen in person in decades. Some are acquaintances that I’ve met thru various social interactions and would enjoy getting to know better. Hell, there are atleast a half dozen people on my friends list who are dead, but it feels like as long as their Facebook page is still there they remain present in some intangibly tangible way. Regardless of how we met or how often we interact I hope you know that I’m glad for it. A year ago I expanded my social media presence to Instagram. All I do there is post memes. It’s less interactive than Facebook, but I find it oddly enjoyable. I peruse Twitter occasionally but it’s much less interesting. Ditto for Tik Tok. Sometimes I’ll run across a funny video or two, but overall it is overrated and God knows there’s little chance I will ever actually post a video myself. 

I suppose the point is that we have a choice when it comes to social media. Those that have left it in the dust have their reasons and I respect that. For those that remain, we can choose to get down into the muck and participate in meaningless arguments. We can choose to moan & whine about ‘FB Jail’, ‘fact’ checkers, community standards, and all the other associated negativity. Or, as my old classmate so eloquently states, we can be thankful for the connection, the stories, the photos, the music, the laughter, & the community. It’s up to you. 

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 6.21

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

I’m not one to copy & paste because I have my own unique thoughts & opinions, but I saw this on FB & it’s too spot on not to steal:

I still love my Democrat friends & family, but you see it your way and I see it mine. You saw Trump’s arrogance, I saw Trump’s confidence. You saw Trump’s nationalism, I saw Trump’s patriotism. You heard Trump’s unsophisticated words, I heard Trump’s honesty. You saw Trump’s racism, I saw Trump’s words being misconstrued & twisted by the media daily to fit their narrative. You saw Trump as a Republican, I saw Trump as a Patriot. You saw Trump as a dictator, I saw Trump as a leader. You saw Trump as authoritarian, I saw Trump as the only one willing to fight for our freedoms. You saw Trump as childish, I saw Trump as a fighter, unwilling to cave to lies. You saw Trump as an unpolished politician, I saw Trump as a breath of fresh air. You believe Trump hates immigrants, I know Trump married an immigrant. You saw Trump putting an end to immigration in America, I saw Trump welcoming immigrants to America legally. You saw Trump’s cages at the border, I saw Obama’s cages at the border. You saw Trump with a struggling economy, I saw Trump with an amazing economy until Democrats shut it down. You saw violence in the streets and called it Trump’s America, I saw violence in the streets of Democrat run cities. You wanted someone more “Presidential”, I’m happy we had someone who finally didn’t  just talk the talk but actually walked the walk. You & I? We see things very differently.

 

 

I try. Atleast in my head I try. Perhaps my effort could be much much better. I know my life would be significantly easier if I could lose weight. A lot of weight. 100 lbs. And while I try to always look in the mirror and blame myself first it has to be said that friends & family bringing me things like 2 lbs of bacon (I live alone), fast food I didn’t ask for, entire pies, boxes of donuts & cupcakes, and greasy pepperoni rolls DO NOT HELP. Are people oblivious?!?!?!?!?? Why are you enabling me?!?!?!?!?? Obviously I have a sweet tooth, lack self control, & have made a lifetime of poor choices. That’s on me. But what kind of people look at the 300 lb. guy in a wheelchair and decide that shoving more bad choices in front of their face is a good idea?? Humanity really needs to reevaluate what being nice means. Offering unhealthy food to an already unhealthy person is NOT being nice…it’s pushing them into the grave. Would you buy a carton of cigarettes for someone diagnosed with lung cancer?? Would you hand a loaded gun to someone with clinical depression?? Would you push a person who cannot swim into a river?? Would you help a drug addict score their next fix?? But it’s okay to keep giving the unhealthy obese person junk food?? You’re actually an accessory to murder, and I wish people were smart enough to understand that.

 

 

Okay, while I’m at it I may as well borrow this one too:

I was in Dollar Tree last night and there was a lady & two kids behind me in a very long line. One was a big kid, one was a toddler. The bigger one had a pack of glow sticks and the baby was screaming for them so the Mom opened the pack and gave him one, which stopped his tears. He walked around with it smiling, but then the bigger boy took it and the baby started screaming again. Just as the mother was about to fuss at the older child, he bent the glow sticks and handed it back to the baby. The baby noticed that the stick was now glowing and his brother said “I had to break it so you could get the full effect from it.” I could hear God saying to me, “I had to break you to show you why I created you. You had to go through it so you could fulfill your purpose.” That child was happy just swinging the “unbroken” glow stick around in the air because he didn’t understand what it was created to do which was “glow”. There are some people who will be content just “being”, but some have been chosen by God to be “broken”…to get sick, lose a job, go through divorce, suffer with addiction, bury a spouse, parent, best friend, or child because in those moments of desperation God is breaking us. But when the breaking is done we will be able to see the reason for which we were created, so when you see us glowing just know that we have been broken but healed by His grace & mercy.

I saw that story posted on FB a couple of times and it really touched me. The truth is that I’ve felt broken for a long time…almost half of my life. I had such high hopes when I was a teenager and even in my college years, but then life happened…poor choices, a car accident that left psychological scars I’ve never gotten over, declining health, loneliness, family deaths that I never quite dealt with properly. The challenges I’ve faced aren’t unprecedented, but if I may make a sports analogy, I’ve seen the losses pile up for quite awhile, to the point that I think I stopped participating in the game. Having said all that, I don’t feel like I’ve ever completely given up. I still believe God has a purpose for me. I still see occasional opportunities to glow. Perhaps I’ll never get the dream job or have a lot of money. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never marry or have children. My life hasn’t turned out the way I once thought it could, but if my brokenness can prove beneficial in some way I’d be just fine with that.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 5.21

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

When I was a teenager in the 80s there was a delicious candy bar called BarNone. It was thick…solid…and very chocolatey. There were chocolate wafers with chocolate cream and peanuts on top, all enveloped in chocolate. Their ad slogan was “Tame the Chocolate Beasty”. In 1992…for whatever reason…Hershey altered BarNone from one substantial bar to two smaller bars (and added caramel) in bright yellow packaging. It was good, but not as great as the original. Then in 1997 BarNone was discontinued altogether. Several years ago a company called Iconic Candy announced plans to revive BarNone, but they seemed to be all talk & no action so I gave up. Not so fast my friends!! Apparently, while we were all caught up in other things last year Iconic finally relaunched BarNone, a fact I only recently discovered. I promptly ordered a box on Amazon and while it isn’t a perfect facsimile (it’s a bit dry and needs more ganache & peanuts) it is close enough. If you liked BarNone back in the day you’ll be glad to know they’re out there again, which makes my world a wee bit better than it was just last week. Sometimes it really is the little things in life.

 

 

Weight Watchers changed their name to WW…but why?? Did somebody that gets paid a salary actually make that decision?? Hell, any idiot could do that job 🤷🏻‍♂️.

 

 

I ran across a blurb that said former child actress Marah Wilson (Mrs. Doubtfire, the Miracle on 34th St. remake) is a cousin of conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. Then I read that Wilson has disavowed her cousin because of his political views and the two “don’t interact”. How sad is that?? I grew up in an Italian-American family, and for us cousins are quite important. I don’t even share the same sociopolitical worldview as my own father, but I can’t imagine “disavowing” him or cutting off contact. I just find it kind of pathetic. Wilson hasn’t even been an actress for two decades yet she still has that Hollywood bubble mindset that believes anyone who doesn’t share their twisted outlook on life is evil & must be cancelled. I used to think that the one thing all performers (actors, singers, athletes, etc) have in common is enormous talent, but I’ve come to realize that most also share some level of mental illness.

 

 

Since Election Day gas prices have soared 18%, while the price of oil has rocketed almost 50%. I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Speaking of actresses…

I’ve never watched The Mandalorian. It’s one of those shows I always thought I’d get around to checking out but haven’t, and when I’m being honest with myself I realize I never will. At any rate, some actress from the show recently got fired for right leaning social media posts. Apparently what really got people’s panties in a wad was comparing Nazis treatment of Jews with the modern day cancel culture wherein there seems to be a concerted effort to squash all traces of conservative opinion. I read her tweet and understood the analogy just fine…didn’t find it offensive at all. What’s more interesting is Disney absolutely proving the young lady’s point by firing her. Leftists really don’t get it. They are completely blind to their own insanity. It would be funny if it wasn’t so maddening.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 4.21


A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

Social media was quite delightful when it first began, but now it kind of makes me sad. Not only is it fertile soil for all sorts of misunderstandings & arguments, but too often it proves just how willfully ignorant some people can be. When that ignorance shows itself one is left with a choice…do I call someone out on their BS (thus igniting one of those unnecessary & frustrating squabbles), or do I take the high road and let someone wallow in their obliviousness?? Either way it is unavoidable that one thinks less of that person going forward and that’s too bad.

 

 

Am I the only one who misses former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany?? Biden’s spokesperson Jen Psaki is such a downgrade. It reminds me of when Prince Charles divorced Diana and married Camilla.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I rather enjoyed a thread in a Generation X group I’d recently joined on Facebook. The question revolved around fretting about whether or not we’d ever have a Gen X President. Quite frankly such things don’t matter all that much to me…I just want the best person for the job (something we Americans have struggled with in recent decades). Some mental giant gushed about the idea of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a possible Millenial President, and it took all my powers of restraint not to post a response that likely would’ve landed me back in FB Jail. I can’t even take fans of that woman seriously. If you cannot see that she’s a total imbecile there’s very little hope for you and I’d suggest sterilization. At any rate, what occurred to me as I responsibly interacted with more sane members of the group is that we Americans tend to prefer an older President (Joe Biden is the oldest person ever elected)…especially conservatives. Wherein there are exceptions…younger folks like JFK, Clinton, & Obama…they tend to be Democrats. One could probably do an in depth analysis of the reasons, but who has time for that?? It just seems like liberals are more slavish to the cult of personality, make decisions based on emotion, choose idealism over pragmatism, & value style over substance. They like political candidates who are charismatic and good public speakers. They probably couldn’t list ten legit things accomplished by Bill Clinton, but they’ll rhapsodize about him playing saxophone on Arsenio Hall. They will never admit that they voted for Obama almost exclusively because of the color of his skin and his oratory skills despite his total lack of meaningful experience. They probably can’t name many of his accomplishments while in The White House either. Joe Biden was elected (allegedly) almost entirely because of Trump Derangement Syndrome and not because of anything he’d ever done. Conversely, Republicans nominate/elect people like the Bushes, Richard Nixon, John McCain, & Mitt Romney. I’m not sure what to make of that.

 

Sometimes something is just funny. Simple as that. Nothing sinister. No deeper meaning…just humor. Parody, dark comedy, sarcasm, satire…it’s all good. Some things might be funnier than others, and what I find amusing may be different than whatever makes you laugh, but intent matters. One might not see the humor in what another finds funny, but they should atleast be smart enough to understand that the other person meant it in good fun. I find people who take themselves & everything else so damn seriously to be quite tedious.

The Mosaic of Life

I spend way too much time online (just look at my Instagram), but while much of that is wasteful & pointless on occasion I do run across something that provokes thought. Such is the case with this little gem. In one of the more notable scenes from the Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life it is said that “each man’s life touches so many other lives”, and while we tend to think in grandiose terms it is interesting to ponder the seemingly trivial ways others have influenced us. 

 

I drink skim milk because my friend Greg introduced me to it in college and now it’s the only kind of milk I buy. Greg also gave me Rush Limbaugh’s book The Way Things Ought To Be in 1991 which transformed my life, and he taught me that “no man has ever said I wish I would’ve bought a smaller TV”.

 

My love for the Steelers & Pirates may have become a thing anyway given my hometown’s proximity to Pittsburgh, but it probably helped that my Great Aunt Garnet & my Uncle John both lived up there and we went to visit occasionally. 

 

An old boss at a job I had over two decades ago turned me onto jazz & blues music, and he also introduced me to sushi. My music palate began to be refined in college, and I have several fraternity brothers to thank for that. 

 

My sardonic sense of humor was heavily influenced by a former co-worker named Woody, and further enhanced by another colleague & friend Deidra who made me aware that I even had a sense of humor. Sometimes compliments stick with you forever. 

 

Obviously one’s parents & family typically play a huge role in shaping many areas of life. Dad has taught me a plethora of things…embracing our Italian heritage, an affection for laughter (I’ll always remember watching Johnny Carson & David Letterman on Friday nights with my father), & appreciation for a good biography just to name a few. He also introduced me to The Godfather & Frank Sinatra. My grandmothers were both churchgoers & undeniably influenced my faith. They were pretty good cooks too: Grandma Pigott made the best potato salad in the world, while Grandma Mano baked her own bread that paired well with the sloppy eggs she & my grandfather both made. My Papaw Jim exampled kindness & generosity. Sadly, just like the fried potatoes that he expertly prepared (painstakingly stirring them in a cast iron skillet forever) but I cannot seem to duplicate, I’ll never be the man he was. When one looks up grandfather in the dictionary his photo should be there. Mom was an unusual mix of kindhearted, empathetic, & tougher than a two dollar steak. She was soft-spoken but could open up a can o’ whoopass when necessary. I’m not sure I believe in all of that Freudian stuff, but perhaps I’ve remained single in a futile search for a woman that could live up to my mother’s legacy.

 

Another former co-worker Don (who occasionally checks in on The Manofesto & leaves a comment) provides a different example of what modeling Christ should look like. We’re not related & he’s more of a contemporary than the older folks I looked up to in church as a kid. He’s also more genuine & rooted in his faith than most people but he’s not self-righteous about it at all. 

 

A girl I was crushing on in 6th grade wouldn’t talk to me, and I found out that it was because I am in a wheelchair & she was afraid she’d say something to upset me. So from the age of 11 onward I decided that a) I’d always be the first person to make a stupid & borderline inappropriate cripple joke, and b) I wouldn’t be easily offended by anything. I don’t know what became of that little girl, but Thank You. 

 

I wish I could remember what grade I was in & the teacher’s name (pretty sure it was junior high), but reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle led to me becoming a lifelong Sherlockian. 

 

My friend The Owl gave me many things: an appreciation for science, philosophy, & engineering that I never had before I met him, a healthy skepticism of women & relationships, affection for Star Trek, a unique perspective of music, and he introduced me to Ray Bradbury. We used to talk for hours multiple times a week about all kinds of things and I miss him tremendously.

 

I could probably go on & on if I had the inclination and pondered the idea awhile longer, but you get the point. I’m proud to be a mosaic and look forward to adding more colors in the future. 

 

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 3.21


A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

From the beginning of the pandemic I predicted that all would be well soon after the Presidential election, regardless of who won. That idea was poo-pooed by many who logically pointed out that the virus was affecting the whole world…not just the United States. I’m open minded enough to admit when I might be wrong, so I softened my stance. COVID-19 is undoubtedly very real, with actual people really getting sick & dying. But now, here we are post-election with President Trump getting run out of DC on a rail and Joe Biden taking the reins, and it occurs to me that it might be possible for something to be both real & a hoax concurrently. How else can one explain the sudden 180 of Democrat leaders in places like Chicago & New York City who now proclaim that shutdowns are bad and we need to open up the economy once again?? Donald Trump had been saying that for months and his opponents in Hollywood, DC, & the media excoriated him for it. There are two possibilities. The most likely is that COVID-19 was a conveniently timed crisis that leftists expertly used to their advantage because that’s what they do. The second option is much more evil…that the virus & its consequences were planned from the very beginning. After all, a couple million deaths worldwide might be considered acceptable collateral damage by some who want total control over the rest of us (control, by the way, that won’t go away just because the virus does). Sinister?? Obviously. Crazy?? Probably. I’m not all that comfortable with such conspiracy theories and usually dismiss them…but nowadays I’m not so sure. How far would they go?? I honestly don’t know the answer to that.

 

If every single conversation we have is nothing but you regurgitating what you watched on TV recently I’m going to lose interest very quickly and you need to get out & experience a little more of what the world has to offer.

 

 

 

No, I didn’t watch The Inauguration, and I don’t plan on offering too much political commentary the next few years. Of course that’s not really anything new…I’ve been shying away from opining for awhile. That being said, I cannot refrain from offering this thought. The past year has been extremely difficult for many reasons, and I have felt the sting of loneliness more than ever. I’ve never longed to have a wife & children more than in the latter half of 2020. But scrolling thru social media on Inauguration Day confirmed to me that perhaps God has done me a favor. Why?? Well, because posts from nearly every single 20/30-something woman that I might consider date-worthy (if they weren’t already taken 😬) kind of made me ill. I get it…first female Vice President. Glass ceiling shattered. Yada yada yada. But, is Kamala Harris…a woman who many believe blew her way to the top (and we’re not talking about bubbles)…really worthy of such hero worship?? It is a repeat of what happened with Barack Obama, who was elected President simply because of the color of his skin. Kamala Harris is a woman…that is her #1 qualification to serve as VP, and from what I am seeing that’s just dandy with most of my young-ish female friends. Identity politics is slowly destroying America. It no longer matters what you’ve accomplished or what your (bad) intentions are as long as you fit into some sort of protected minority demographic. Was America ready for a black President?? Of course. A female VP?? Sure. Contrary to what my leftist friends may believe it has nothing to do with racism, sexism, misogyny, or any other accusatory buzzwords they enjoy spewing. I am a straight white male and God knows I’m not qualified to be President of the United States. I don’t give a damn what color or gender a person may be as long as they do what’s good for America and lead us in the right direction. That’s what people don’t understand about Donald Trump, who, despite his many shortcomings, always tried to put our country & its citizens first. Unfortunately he was never a member of the club and they found a way to run him out of DC (clearly he couldn’t get out of his own way either, which didn’t help). At any rate…ladies, when the Biden/Harris agenda starts kicking into high gear and you suddenly realize what is really happening, I do NOT want to hear your whining & complaining. You reap what you sow.

 

 

One more politics-centric thought. The ground rules have become clear, and I shouldn’t be surprised. After 4+ years of Donald Trump & anyone supporting him being absolutely vilified by the media & leftists everywhere on a daily basis (even late night “comedy” shows became unwatchable), now Joe Biden is 100% untouchable. Nothing but sunshine & roses. TWICE on social media this week I’ve been rebuffed in reply to fairly innocuous comments. One was a simple prediction that gasoline prices would be raising soon, which was met with something like “I cannot believe there are people still defending Trump!!”. Hell, I didn’t even mention the guy!! The second was actually a conciliatory statement toward Biden, saying I feel bad for him due to his obviously diminished mental capacity. Trust me, if I were being up front & confrontational I could have legitimately said much worse, but I really was taking the high road. Big Tech is trying to silence conservatives and succeeding, but even amongst one’s own friends/classmates/coworkers/acquaintances/peers/colleagues interaction has become a landmine. I did my best for four years not to be haughty toward liberals because I understood that Donald Trump was imperfect and didn’t exactly feel like I occupied solid moral high ground, but obviously that’s not going to be reciprocated. The most prudent strategy is to go into sociopolitical hiding, because even relatively benign statements that could be interpreted as the least bit positive toward Trump or negative about Biden/Harris will be met with harsh rebuttal. Reasonable discourse is dead in America, and that’s too bad.

The 2020 Sammy Awards – Part III

Welcome to the exciting conclusion of The Sammy Awards. Please give a rousing ovation for the host of our show…legendary comedic actor Bill Murray!! And if you need to catch up on the proceedings thus far you may do so here & here.

 

We think The Manoverse could use a little more laughter, so let’s welcome an up & coming comedienne who y’all really need to check out. She hails from Knoxville, TN and the combination of a charming southern drawl and clean, relatable, slice-of-life comedy has made her a favorite of ours. Give a warm welcome to Leanne Morgan!!

 

 

To present our next award it is a true pleasure to welcome the star of soap operas like Days of Our Lives & General Hospital and a plethora of Hallmark movies. She’s got a smile that can light up the Vegas Strip…give it up for Jen Lilley!! And the nominees are:

 

 

Favorite TV/Radio Program

 

The World According to Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum is a national treasure. His filmography includes modern classics like The Big Chill & Independence Day, as well as a 1980 TV series called Ten Speed & Brown Shoe. In 2020 I discovered a program Goldblum hosted that had actually began on Disney+ in late 2019. Throughout the ten episodes Goldblum explores a variety of things like tattoos, coffee, & ice cream. We’ve seen similar shows on The History Channel, The Food Network, & Discovery, but Goldblum is such a unique personality that he is able to take a topic and make it fascinating with his quirky wit & singular cadence. So far Disney+ hasn’t produced a second season, but I’m confident we’ll get one in the near future.

 

NFL Redzone

I still don’t know whether it is a channel or a show unto itself, but I do know that there are few things more enjoyable than seven straight hours of commercial free football every Sunday afternoon in the autumn.

 

Cobra Kai

The Karate Kid ranked 7th on my list of favorite sports films five years ago, and unbeknownst to me a television show that catches up with Daniel LaRusso & Johnny Lawrence three+ decades later premiered on something called YouTube Red in 2018. Fortunately Netflix bought the show last summer, and it only took me two nights to catch up on the first two seasons. We find that Daniel has become a slightly cocky car salesman who capitalized on his karate exploits to succeed in business and become a local celebrity, while Johnny is down-on-his-luck, can’t hold a job, has an estranged son, and harbors no small amount of bitterness & resentment toward Daniel about all that happened between them back in high school. Reboots, remakes, sequels, etc. are dangerous ground to walk on, but Hollywood keeps on trying. Cobra Kai is well done. The writing is solid, the new characters we are introduced to are fun & interesting, and the juxtaposition in how we view Daniel & Johnny now versus back in the day is a nice twist. With the music & other nostalgia the show is a special treat for 80s kids, but it is accessible enough for anyone to enjoy.

 

WWE NXT

The pandemic has been tough on live music & sports, but pro wrestling has adapted well enough. I’m sure it isn’t intentional given WWE’s big money deal with Fox to air Smackdown and Raw’s standing as the company’s flagship program for nearly three decades, but for many die hard wrestling fans NXT has become the show to watch. It has the best product and the best athletes of any other wrestling show on television.

 

General Hospital

Yes, I still DVR “my stories”, but while The Young & The Restless has become a snoozefest and Days of Our Lives is just ridiculous at times, GH has maintained a consistent level of watchability.

 

The Rush Limbaugh Program

To be honest I have probably listened to Rush less in the past year than at any time since I discovered his brilliance back in the early 90’s. I’ve been laid up since May of last year and haven’t been driving my truck, which is usually when I’d listen. I’ve made no secret of my decreased interest in politics. Having said that, on the rare occasions that I do get to hear a little snippet of Rush’s insightful commentary I still find him to be compelling and smart. I am all too aware that I have many friends & family that might be horrified to find out that I am a Dittohead, but I find their political views just as disappointing, which is why it’s something I am very careful about discussing openly. I find it sad, but it really has come to that in America.

 

Jeopardy!

Unfortunately this might be the final time the show receives a Sammy nomination. I don’t think the format of the game will change, but so much depends on who is ultimately chosen to be the new host. Forgive me for not having a whole lot of confidence about that choice being a good one. I hope I am wrong.

 

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…

 

 

Cobra Kai. First, a shoutout to my friend Melanie who encouraged me to watch the show. Also, no disrespect to YouTube Red, but kudos to Netflix for giving it a much larger platform enabling so many more fans to discover it. Is Cobra Kai a perfect TV show?? No, it’s not. Perhaps only 80’s kids like me can really appreciate it. Younger folks may find it occasionally cheesy, but I’m okay with that. After all, how much respect do we owe generations that made boy bands, Twilight, and Taylor Swift successful?? It is still a little odd for me to binge an entire season in one night then have to wait several months for new episodes, but that’s just the way things work nowadays. Like most other programs that air on streaming services I don’t expect Cobra Kai to last any longer than 4 or 5 years, but that’s alright…nostalgia has a shelf life. I am one of those people who rails against the glut of sequels, remakes, reboots, et al indicating a lack of creativity in Hollywood, but I understand that view is hypocritical. When they revive something we love and do it well then it’s just dandy, right?? Such is the case with Cobra Kai.

 

 

To present our next award please welcome two of America’s most beloved game show hosts. First is a gentleman who has hosted Wheel of Fortune for nearly forty years. Please buy a vowel for Pat Sajak!! He is joined by an actor/comedian who has hosted Family Feud since 2010. Give it up for Steve Harvey!!

 

The Charles Barkley Role Model Award

 

Alex Trebek

 

I’ve told this story before elsewhere, but the day my mother ended up in a vegetative state that would lead to her death a few days later she fixed a good supper for me & my Dad. As a matter of fact, she had answered the bell, so to speak, for more than twenty years, getting up every day and taking care of her family even when she didn’t feel a bit good. So I have tremendous respect for Alex Trebek, who after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2019, continued to show up for work for the next year & a half. Anyone watching Jeopardy! during that time never would have guessed what he was going thru because he did his job with the grace, class, & professionalism that he’d always shown since he’d began hosting in 1984. Jeopardy! is by far the greatest game show of all time, and even though Trebek was a low key guy who never wanted the focus on himself the fact is that we are about to find out just how important his silky delivery & subtle humor was to the show. Alex Trebek even loved Will Ferrell’s hilarious impression of him in Saturday Night Live sketches that were a pop culture phenomenon back in the late 1990s because he was a man who didn’t take himself too seriously. I like people who are comfortable enough to laugh at themselves. Soon I will be reading Mr. Trebek’s autobiography that was published less than five months before his death, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about a man that I’ve admired since I was a teenager. I’ll give a fair chance to whoever ends up being named the new host of Jeopardy!, but that person will have to be extremely good to even approach the awesomeness of their predecessor. My father always says that death is part of life, but just because it’s true doesn’t make it easy. Godspeed Alex Trebek, and thank you.

 

 

To present our next award it is a pleasure to welcome a man who we’ve thought about inviting to be part of the show for a long time, but usually he is busy this time of year. His spies have already told him who the winner is. Give a polite golf clap to the head coach of the New England Patriots…Bill Belichick!! And the nominees are:

 

 

The Agony of Defeat Award

 

Antonio Brown

What the hell happened to Antonio Brown?? He was an All-Pro wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers until he lost his damn mind and burned a ton of bridges. He bounced from the Steelers to the Raiders to the Patriots. He was suspended for the first half of the 2020 season before making his debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It makes me sick that he has been rewarded for all his foolishness by ending up on a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady that could actually wind up in the Super Bowl.

 

MLB Sign Stealing Scandal

I don’t know if the 2020 MLB season will be remembered half as much as the scandal that rocked the league in its offseason. It was discovered that in 2017 & ’18 the Houston Astros used a method involving video cameras in the outfield and players on the bench banging on trash cans to tip off their batters to what kind of pitch to expect. Whatever they were doing worked since the Astros won the World Series in 2017. Houston bench coach Alex Cora became manager of the Boston Red Sox the following season and they proceeded to win the World Series, and though they were absolved of cheating accusations by MLB there are those that say they did the same kind of thing the Astros had done, just not as much. At any rate, neither team was stripped of their championship, but both Cora and Astros’ skipper AJ Hinch lost their jobs. Cora has since been rehired, while Hinch has been named the new manager of the Detroit Tigers.

 

Kobe Bryant

On January 26, 2020 a helicopter crash claimed the life of 41 year old Bryant and eight others, including his 13 year old daughter Gigi. Bryant had retired from the Lakers in 2016.

 

March Sadness

Of the many COVID-related sports casualties last year perhaps the most significant was the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The Super Bowl had already taken place, and the World Series, Stanley Cup playoffs, and NBA playoffs all still happened. Other events like the Kentucky Derby, The Masters, & Indianapolis 500 were delayed but were held eventually. March Madness wasn’t so fortunate. That all went down way back at the beginning of the pandemic when everything was new and we were all just flying by the seat of our pants. Thankfully the sports world adapted and most everything else has gone on as scheduled, albeit without fans in attendance. I think the cancellation of the basketball tournament was one of the first indications that the whole virus situation is very real and quite serious.

 

Bubba’s “Noose”

My relationship with NASCAR has been a roller coaster for a number of years. I went from catching every race each Sunday to not watching at all for a couple of seasons to a happy medium where I watch occasionally, neither boycotting it altogether nor being all that invested as a fan. Bubba Wallace has won zero races in four years, and his entire existence in NASCAR revolves around identity politics. Last summer, as race riots rocked the nation, Bubba seized on the opportunity by claiming he’d found a noose in his garage at Talladega. As it turns out it wasn’t a noose at all…it was a garage door pulley that had been there for years. Of course if you present the media with a divisive narrative they will pounce and squeeze every ounce of drama out of it, and Bubba Wallace lost all credibility when he chose to perpetuate the lie instead admitting he was wrong.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…

 

 

Kobe Bryant. I wasn’t a huge Kobe fan when he was playing. As fans we choose who we cheer and who we boo for a variety of reasons, some of which aren’t necessarily rooted in logic. However, one of the fascinating things that occurs with sports fandom is that oftentimes, as a player ages, our opinion of them becomes a bit more conciliatory. We begrudgingly recognize their greatness and appreciate the fact that we were around to witness it. I remember watching Kobe’s final game in 2016. He dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz, including the game winning shot. It was a meaningless game since the Lakers were terrible and not going to the playoffs, but as far as storybook endings in sports go it ranks near the top, and I was glad to see it. In retirement Kobe’s image had softened as he embraced the role of #GirlDad, and chances are Gigi was destined to become a college & WNBA superstar. Most if not all plane/helicopter crashes are tragic, but this one…this one might have been the most depressing in recent history. Children died…kids whose lives were just beginning. And Kobe?? He may have been retired and considered old within the realm of sports, but he was only 41 years old. 41! Who knows what his second act may have been. Broadcaster?? Coach?? Team owner or executive?? Perhaps he would have found success outside of basketball. Sadly we will never know what might have been.

 

 

Are you ready for the final award of the evening?? Well you better check yourself because our next presenter is for real and he’s prepared to go to war!! Don’t even think about messing with him!! He has spent more than two decades as a public school teacher in the inner city and he will not tolerate anyone being insubordinate or churlish. Please answer “Present!” as the roll is called by Mr. Garvey!!

 

 

Most Significant News Story

 

The Sickness

 

Should there be other nominees?? Perhaps. 2020 saw the President of the United States impeached, months of race riots, a significant change in the Supreme Court, and a Presidential Election. In a normal year any of those could justifiably win this award. But raise your hand if you ever thought you’d be alive to witness a global pandemic. Whether you call it Coronavirus, COVID-19, the China Virus, the Kung Fu Flu, or anything else, the fact is that nothing we have faced in my 40+ years on the planet has affected so many in such a variety of ways. Worldwide two million people have lost their lives, with almost 400k deaths here in America. It has devastated economies, shuttered businesses, and destroyed dreams. It has altered the way we live our daily lives. Masks, social distancing, working from home, distance learning, empty sports stadiums, online church services, curbside pickup at restaurants, and a variety of other things have become the norm as we adapt because that’s what human beings do…we find a way to move forward and live our lives. Whatever you may believe about the origin of the virus, how our leaders handled the crisis, the media’s role in propagating fear, or what the best path may be in the immediate future, the fact is it is real. Like many others I didn’t take it seriously at first, and to be honest I haven’t feared it all that much because I’ve been on the shelf…quarantined in my own odd way…since May 2020. That being said, I know people who have had the virus. I have heard about their battle, and it doesn’t seem fun at all. The good news (maybe) is that a vaccine has arrived, though I will take a raincheck on offering an opinion about that until there is more data. I am hopeful that the day will come when we can all break bread together at a restaurant, greet each other warmly with a handshake or a hug at church, enjoy live music in a crowded venue, and venture out without a mask. When will that be?? I don’t know.

 

 

 

2020

2020

 

iconic TV host Regis Philbin…record setting test pilot Brigadier General Chuck Yeager…Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg…NBA Hall-of-Famers Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Jerry Sloan (Utah Jazz), & Wes Unseld (Washington Bullets), & KC Jones (Boston Celtics)…actor (The Dick Van Dyke Show, History of the World Part 1, the Ocean’s trilogy) & director (Oh God!, The Jerk, Summer School) Carl Reiner…NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson…legendary soccer player Diego Maradona…National Lampoon publisher & film producer Matty Simmons (Animal House, the Vacation series)…acting coach & TV host James Lipton (Inside the Actors Studio)…former boxing champion Roger Mayweather…film director Joel Schumacher (St. Elmo’s Fire, Falling Down, Batman Forever, A Time to Kill, Batman & Robin) & producer Charles Gordon (Field of Dreams, Die Hard 2, October Sky)…controversial civil servant Linda Tripp…comedian Norm Crosby…former MLB managers Jim Frey (Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals) & John McNamara (Boston Red Sox)…authors Mary Higgins Clark, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Clive Cussler, John LeCarre, & Winston Groom…Reese Schonfeld (founder of The Food Network)…race car driver John Andretti…game show hosts Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!) & Tom Kennedy (Password Plus)…soap opera producer Lee Phillip Bell (The Young & the Restless, The Bold & the Beautiful)…Harlem Globetrotters legend Curly Neal…singers/musicians Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen), Kenny Rogers, Helen Reddy, Joe Diffie, Charlie Daniels, Neil Peart (Rush), Bill Withers, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bonnie Pointer (The Pointer Sisters), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), John Prine, Little Richard, Jack Sherman (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Tommy DeVito (The Four Seasons), Mac Davis, Billy Joe Shaver, Nikki McKibbin (American Idol), Chad Stuart (Chad & Jeremy), KT Oslin, & Charley Pride…Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem & Belmont Stakes winner AP Indy…televangelist Jack Van Impe…football coaches Don Shula (Miami Dolphins), Johnny Majors (Pitt Panthers, Tennessee Volunteers), George Perles (Pittsburgh Steelers, Michigan St. Spartans), Sam Wyche (Cincinnati Bengals), Woody Widenhofer (Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions), Pat Dye (Auburn Tigers), & Ray Perkins (New York Giants)… businessman & former Presidential candidate Herman Cain… Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas & decathlon champion Rafer Johnson… former U.S. Attorney General & Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh…actresses Olivia de Havilland (Gone with the Wind, The Adventures of Robin Hood), Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island), Marj Dusay (Guiding Light, Capitol, Santa Barbara), Paula Kelly (Night Court), Naya Rivera (Glee), Kelly Preston (Jerry Maguire), Conchata Ferrell, & Elsa Raven (Back to the Future, Titanic)… magician Roy Horn… journalists Jim Lehrer, Bob Ryder,  & Hugh Downs…Academy Award winning screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman (Splash, Stir Crazy)…Hall of Fame college basketball coaches John Thompson (Georgetown Hoyas), Eddie Sutton (Kentucky Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks), Lute Olson (Arizona Wildcats), & Lou Henson (Illinois Fighting Illini), & Billy Tubbs (Oklahoma Sooners)… former FBI Director William Sessions & former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft…world renowned golf course designer Pete Dye… fashion designer Pierre Cardin… famed TV executive Fred Silverman…former MLB players Bob Gibson (St. Louis Cardinals), Tom Seaver (New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds), Joe Morgan (Cincinnati Reds), Phil Niekro (Atlanta Braves), Lou Brock (Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals), Don Larsen (New York Yankees), Tony Fernandez (Toronto Blue Jays), Claudell Washington (Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics), Whitey Ford (New York Yankees), & Dick Allen (Philadelphia Phillies)… Joe Clark (school principal depicted in the film Lean On Me)… songwriters Phil Phillips (Sea of Love), Kenny Young (Under the Boardwalk), & Johnny Nash (I Can See Clearly Now)…former NFL players Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears), Paul Hornung (Green Bay Packers), Chris Doleman (Minnesota Vikings), Willie Wood (Green Bay Packers), Tom Dempsey (New Orleans Saints), Bobby Mitchell (Washington Redskins), Tarvaris Jackson (Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings), Willie Davis (Green Bay Packers), Reche Caldwell (San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins), Jim Kiick (Miami Dolphins), Carleton Haselrig (Pittsburgh Steelers), Fred Dean (San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers), Herb Adderley (Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys), Lorenzo Taliaferro (Baltimore Ravens), & Kevin Greene (Pittsburgh Steelers)… Rep. John Lewis (Georgia)…former NBA Commissioner David Stern…Mad magazine artist Mort Drucker… broadcasters & Miss Americas (1971) Phyllis George & (1993) Leanza Cornett… scandalous teacher Mary Kay Letourneau…actors Kirk Douglas (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Spartacus), Sean Connery (portrayed James Bond in seven films), Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld, King of Queens), Fred Willard (This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Anchorman, American Wedding, Real People), Chadwick Boseman (Draft Day, 42, Black Panther), Buck Henry (Saturday Night Live, Grumpy Old Men), Jack Burns (The Andy Griffith Show), John Karlen (Cagney & Lacey), Terry Jones (Monty Python), Edd Byrnes (Grease), Orson Bean (Being John Malkovich, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman), Robert Conrad (The Wild Wild West), Roscoe Born (One Life to Live, Santa Barbara), Max Von Sydow (The Greatest Story Ever Told), Lyle Waggoner (Wonder Woman, The Carol Burnett Show), David Schramm (Wings), Brian Dennehy (First Blood, Tommy Boy, Presumed Innocent), Ken Osmond (Leave it to Beaver), Sir Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit trilogies), Richard Herd (TJ Hooker, Seinfeld), Wilford Brimley (Cocoon, The Natural, Our House), Raymond Allen (Sanford & Son), Trini Lopez (The Dirty Dozen), Kevin Dobson (Knots Landing), Tiny Lister (No Holds Barred), & David Lander (Laverne & Shirley)…famed businessman Jack Welch (former Chairman & CEO of General Electric) & Sumner Redstone (Chairman Emeritus of Viacom)…former Chicago Bears executive Michael McCaskey…editor Christopher Tolkien (son of The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien)…pro wrestlers Pat Patterson, Road Warrior Animal, Kamala the Ugandan Giant, Rocky Johnson, Bullet Bob Armstrong, Rip Oliver, Shad Gaspard, Mr. Wrestling II, Killer Tim Brooks, Danny Hodge, Brodie Lee, Tracy Smothers, and ring announcers Howard Finkel & Joe Pedicino…New York Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner… former NY City Mayor David Dinkins… astrologer Jackie Stallone (mother of Sylvester & Frank)…former NBA players Tommy Heinsohn (Boston Celtics) & Clifford Robinson (Portland Trailblazers)

 

 

 

2019

 

businessman & former Presidential candidate Ross Perot…Vera Clemente (widow of baseball HOFer Roberto Clemente…TV producer Lee Mendelson (A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown)…radio shock jock Don Imus…comedian Rip Taylor…renowned auto executive Lee Iacocca…NASCAR team owners J. D. Gibbs (co-owner of Joe Gibbs Racing & son of legendary football coach Joe Gibbs), Junior Johnson, & Glen Wood (co-founder of Wood Brothers Racing)…Wild Kingdom co-host Jim Fowler…actresses Carol Channing (Hello Dolly), Valerie Harper (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, Valerie), Verna Bloom (Animal House), Julie Adams (The Andy Griffith Show), Carmen Duncan (Another World), Katherine Helmond (Soap, Who’s the Boss?), Diahann Carroll (Dynasty), Georgia Engel (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), & Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad)…authors Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War), Jean Edward Smith (noted political biographer), W. E. B. Griffin (military fiction), & Toni Morrison (Beloved)…directors Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain), John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, 2 Fast 2 Furious), & Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo & Juliet)…former NFL players Bart Starr (Green Bay Packers), Wade Wilson (Oakland Raiders), Sam Davis (Pittsburgh Steelers), Bob Kuechenberg (Miami Dolphins), Turk Schonert (Cincinnati Bengals), Russell Gary (Philadelphia Eagles), Eric Moss (Minnesota Vikings), Forrest Gregg (Green Bay Packers), Willie Brown (Oakland Raiders), Charles Rogers (Detroit Lions), Reggie Cobb (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Gino Marchetti (Baltimore Colts), Jared Lorenzen (New York Giants), Cedric Benson (Chicago Bears), & Cliff Branch (Oakland Raiders)…consumer reporter David Horowitz…prominent business executives T. Boone Pickens & Barron Hilton…Oscar winning composer André Previn (Porgy & Bess, My Fair Lady)…former U.S. Surgeon General  Robert N. McClelland…pro sports team owners Larry Weinberg (Portland Trailblazers), Bill Bidwill (Arizona Cardinals), & Pat Bowlen (Denver Broncos)…infamous game show contestant Charles Van Doren…former public officials Senator & Governor of South Carolina Fritz Hollings, US Senator (Indiana) Richard Luger, Congressman John Dingell (Michigan), Congressman John Conyers (Michigan), Senator & Congressman Thad Cochran (Mississippi), Congressman Elijah Cummings (Maryland)…sportscasters Jack Whitaker, Rod Bramblett (Auburn Tigers), & Chet Coppock… actors Tim Conway (The Carol Burnett Show),  Bill Macy (Maude), Albert Finney (Scrooge [1970], Murder on the Orient Express, AnnieErin Brockovich, Ocean’s Twelve), John Witherspoon (Friday), Bob Einstein (aka Super Dave Osbourne), Kristoff St. John (The Young & The Restless), Rip Torn (The Larry Sanders Show, Dodgeball), Nathaniel Taylor (Rollo on Sanford & Son), Morgan Woodward (Dallas), Jan-Michael Vincent (Hooper, Airwolf), Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210), Jed Allan (Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara), Ken Kercheval (Dallas), René Auberjonois (Benson, Deep Space Nine, Boston Legal), Flash Jenkins (Fletch, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), John Clarke (Days of Our Lives), Peter Mayhew (Star Wars’ Chewbacca), Max Wright (ALF), Arte Johnson (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In), Eddie Jones (Lois & Clark), Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing), Philip McKeon (Alice), Ron Leibman (Norma Rae, Friends), & Peter Fonda (Easy Rider)…NBA Hall-of-Famer John Havlicek (Boston Celtics)…political activist Lyndon LaRouche…football coaches Hayden Fry (Iowa Hawkeyes), George Welsh (Virginia Cavaliers, Navy Midshipmen), Herman Boone (portrayed by Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans), Dick Tomey (Arizona Wildcats), George Chaump (Marshall Thundering Herd, Navy Midshipmen), Gunther Cunningham (Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions), Walt Michaels (New York Jets), John Ralston (Denver Broncos), Pat Sullivan (Auburn Tigers), & Darryl Drake (Pittsburgh Steelers)…musicians Eddie Money, Ric Ocasek (The Cars), Daryl Dragon (Captain & Tennille), James Ingram, Mac Wiseman, Peter Tork (The Monkees), Dick Dale, Earl Thomas Conley, Leon Redbone, Dr. John, & Dave Bartholomew…baseball legends Frank Robinson (Baltimore Orioles), Bob Friend (Pittsburgh Pirates), Mel Stottlemyre (New York Yankees), Don Newcombe (Los Angeles Dodgers), Bill Buckner (Boston Red Sox), & Jim Bouton (New York Yankees)…journalists Jack Perkins & Cokie Roberts…Hall of Fame hockey player Ted Lindsay…Beth Chapman (wife of Dog The Bounty Hunter)…retired golfer Gene Littler…former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens…pro wrestling stars  “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Les Thornton, Pedro Morales, Salvatore Bellomo, King Kong Bundy, Silver King, Moondog Rex, Ashley Massaro, Max Muscle, Perro Aguayo, Rick Bogner, & Eddie Marlin…retired NFL referee Red Cashion…economist & former chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker…infamous marathoner Rosie Ruiz… fashion designers Gloria Vanderbilt & Karl Lagerfeld…champion boxer Pernell Whitaker… James H. Shepherd (founder of Atlanta, GA’s Shepherd Center rehabilitation facility)…former NASA flight director Chris Craft…sportswriter Don Banks