Author: Tommy


Watching TV


⚽  We Americans, according to research studies, are more likely to watch television than engage in any activity other than sleeping and working.  Studies show that what we watch can shape our thinking, political preferences, and even our cognitive ability.  

Now, I agree with most of that statement, but I’m a bit surprised that it affects us cognitively.  The study goes on to say the evidence suggests that time spent in front of the screen can have negative consequences, particularly when the shows are mostly entertainment. The harm seems to come from the fact that it replaces more enlightening ways of spending time.  I think most of us will agree that we spend too much time watching that darn TV.  A daily average for my wife and I would be about 3 hours, and truth be known, that’s probably excessive. 

My first wife and I got married right after high school in 1959.  I went into the US Air Force shortly thereafter and she joined me in 3 months at Lackland AFB, TX.  Four months later I transferred to an air base outside Dallas (Perrin,) and we lived there for almost 2 years.  During those two years, we were without a TV for almost a year.  An Airman I worked with was buying a new TV and offered to sell me his old one on the cheap.  It was a black & white with a 12” screen and stood off the floor on thin legs that were about 2 feet long.  A small 45 RPM record player came with it and plugged into the back of the TV so you could listen to music thru the speakers.  I can clearly remember the first day I came home from work and after eating supper, sitting down with my wife to watch TV.  It was like having a movie theater in our home!  Every evening we were being entertained, and that felt so good!  But, eventually, we became accustomed to being entertained and the smile gradually left our faces.  And here I am 60 years later, watching TV without even a hint of a smile.  The one thing I know for certain is that TV will dumb-you-down faster than anything else in your life.  It requires nothing from you, and in return, never gives you anything substantial in return.  So, that begs the question, why don’t I go on a “No TV” sabbatical.  I think it is because TV has become ingrained as part of my being, becoming like an extra organ, and we all know you can’t live absent an organ.  Maybe I should concentrate on trimming back the amount of time I watch the blasted thing, or better still, apply the routine I use in smoking cigars:  watch TV every other day for a few hours.  Clearly, as confused as I am, I need to give this some more thought 😊.     

⚽  The young people amongst us are less likely to suffer in silence, but almost all of us are social creatures.  A lot of us hate to be alone, believing that if we are, we’re anti-social.  Solitude is not always good for us, but it can be, and should be, judiciously pursued.  Choosing to do things alone can have mental and emotional benefits.  Being alone with our thoughts and giving our mind free rein to wander can be exhilarating. It can be simple things, for example, I have an umbrella that I use when I go down the driveway to get the mail when it’s raining.  One of its rods had a broken string that kept the fabric tight, and it has been that way for several years.  I have often given thought to throwing it away and buying a new one, but I hated to do that just because of one broken string.  So, the other day, I sat down with that “broken” umbrella and started thinking of how I could repair it.  Sure ‘nuff, during that time of solitude, the answer came to me and now I have a perfectly fine umbrella.  Kinda leads me to believe I should do that more often😊. If you want to know my umbrella solution, let me know.  It was fairly simple.

⚽ Amish men take about 18,425 steps per day. Amish women take about 14,196. The average American adult takes about 4,000 steps per day. Only 4% of Amish are obese, compared to 31% of the general population.  

We have made several trips to the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and, I must admit, we have seen very few overweight Amish people.  It is amazing to witness how simple their life seems to be.  It reminds me so much of my life as a young boy at 5 years old.  We didn’t have electricity, running water, or even a bathroom.  I carried drinking water in a bucket from a well about a quarter mile from our house.  I lived with my Grandpa and Grandma McCoy, and neither of them had a paying job.  Grandma did housework for families located up and down the valley, and Grandpa mostly piddled around the house.  I’ll betcha if I had a Fitbit back then I would’ve averaged 20,000 steps a day.  On one of our trips to Amish Country, we took a ride in a horse-drawn wagon with an old Amish guy as the guide.  We took a tour thru a typical Amish home and in so many ways, with the simplicity I observed inside the home, it reminded me of my childhood.  They seem to take pride in the simplicity of their lives but, to me, it’s like having a wealthy family located in a poor neighborhood and the poor people not wanting to be like them. I could see the look of drudgery on the faces of the women & children whose entire day was filled with chores.  The only ones that appeared to be content with their lot was the men and boys.  I couldn’t quite put it all together, but I suspect that the boys were always up to some sort of mischief and the men probably had a hobby of sorts.  I observed that the men interacted with the public more so than the women. 

I want to think that it’s admirable for a group of people to elect to live such a simple life, however, I find it hard to accept because they expect their children to live the same way and if they choose a more modern path, they are banned for life.  I have a hard time understanding how you abandon a child you love under any circumstances.  Why not allow them to live their life and come home to visit when they want?  That’s always been the proper way to raise children. I’ll have to give it some more thought.  Maybe one day I’ll figure out their logic.  

“Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.”  — Helen Keller

I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well….Tommy.


I love Dogs


⚽ A recent study indicated that dog owners are four times more likely to meet today’s physical activity guidelines.  Most of them walk close to 300 minutes each week, which is 200 minutes more than those without dogs.  I have seen dog owners in our neighborhood walking their pets in complete darkness, in pouring down rain, and in hazardous snow and ice.  I mean to tell ya, these people are serious about their dogs getting their exercise.  It is easily realized that they treat their pet as if it were a child, both in the affection it gets, and the physical care it receives.  They will spend untold money on its health and pay more to get it groomed then they pay their barber or beautician.  My son owned a Pomeranian named Grace and he was exactly the type of owner described above.  She slept on the bed beside him and when he rolled over, she went around to the other side, always facing him.  At 5am she would rouse him from his sleep, and he’d get up and take her outside to the backyard to use the bathroom. 

My wife and I have refrained from getting a dog, not willing to make the commitment required based on what we see from other owners.  Our reasoning is that we travel a lot and would have to find a place for the dog to stay during our travels.  But, deep down, I suspect that there’s more to it than appears on the surface.

John Galsworthy, perhaps said it best about dogs, “Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many of our years,”.

⚽ My wife is a serious house cleaner.  I often joke about buying her a riding vacuum cleaner because she is so particular about our home being clean.  The other day I came into the house from working outside and found her vacuuming underneath the refrigerator.  She had removed the lower grille, and upon finishing asked me to put it back on.  Bad move on her part.  I inspected it, observing that a metal expander goes into a slot on each side of the fridge.  I laid down on my stomach with my trusty flashlight and attempted to shove one of the expanders in its slot, it wouldn’t go so I try again, only this time I pushed harder.  Yup, you guessed it, I broke the plastic rod that holds the expander in place!  So, now I’m relegated to trying to repair the damage I caused.  I looked in my tool drawer and whipped out a tube of “Magic Glue”, and glued the plastic rod back on its base, suspecting that it would never be strong enough.  I left the grille on the garage workbench overnight and inspected it the next morning.  To my surprise, it appeared to be firmly glued back in place, but I wasn’t satisfied that it would endure the shove I needed to place on it to secure the grille back on the fridge. I noticed the plastic rod had a hole down the middle of it, so out I go to my workshop (shed) and rummaged thru my screws to find one that will let me anchor everything tightly.  Sure ‘nuff, I found what I needed, inserted the screw in the hole of the plastic rod, and screwed it tight.  By now excitement was building up within me because I could smell success.  I put a light film of Vaseline on the metal expanders to enhance their ability to slide into their assigned slot and headed for the refrigerator in the house.  I grabbed a flashlight, laid down on my stomach and aligned the right side of the grille with the hole, and it slide in effortlessly.  I can feel a celebration coming on, but I stayed calm and slide over to the other side and aligned the left side, giving a slight push, and it pops into the assigned hole.  Flashback:  My high school football team (1958 Dragons) are playing a Friday night game somewhere.  The ball is snapped to our Quarterback (Benny Coxton) and he drops back and throws me a pass and I scramble into the End Zone. The excitement within that 17-year-old boy’s heart is exactly the excitement in his now 79-year-old heart when that grille snapped into place.  Funny how the requirements for “excitement” changed as you age. 😊   

⚽ Irish Poet, William Yeats said, “There are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t met”.  I think old Bill is correct, but I see very little evidence that this is how we all feel about our fellow planet dwellers.  If we roll back the clock to mankind’s early existence, and follow him for a day of his life, what we would probably see is someone that spends most of his time foraging for food to feed his family.  More than likely, animosity towards his neighbors did not exist because everyone was in the same dire situation.  Estrangement from one’s neighbors did not exist, in my opinion, until the neighbor became more affluent.  Eventually, this affected countries and caused unrest and wars.  Heck, we see it in our local community when there is a big disparity in income between different sections of the same town.  The people that have status think they worked for it.  The people that don’t have status feel those that have it inherited it from someone and didn’t have to work for it. 

What can we do to change this situation?  I think we start by helping those less fortunate than we are, extending a helping hand to those in need.  By being a friend.  That could involve money, advice, or just listening.  People are more likely to resort to bad conduct when they lose hope that things will get better.   We are Christians because we believe that living a “Christian life” will get us into Heaven.  That is our motivation to live a good, productive life.  But if the possibility of redemption was non-existent, would we be the kind and gentle people we are today?  Probably not.  So, I think our job as human beings is to have no strangers in our lives, only friends.  And if we treat our fellowman as a friend, not a stranger, soon, in my opinion, our world becomes a better place to live. 

There’s an old country saying that goes something like this, “When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy them by asking if there’s something you can do.  Think up something appropriate and do it,”.   Now that’s a nail I can hang my hat on 😊.

⚽ I enjoy playing the guitar, I have never done so publicly and never intend to.  My wife seems to enjoy listening to me play, but I have not practiced since her first surgery back in October. It’s been four months and since playing the guitar is all about muscle memory, as you can imagine, my muscles have forgotten a lot.  I sat down to practice the other night and my fingers were having a difficult time locating the correct position on the strings.  I had to watch very closely to get a clean chord.  In a lot of ways, I think life is exactly that way.  Relationships suffer if ignored, health deteriorates if unattended and skills erode if you stop using them often.  So, how do we ensure those things don’t happen?  Well, it must be something we want to do, not something we do if we have the time.  I read once that if you want to see what’s important to a person, look in their checkbook, because what’s important will have many entries.  I think that is very true.  I look in my checkbook and I see the names of a lot of people that I love and care about, and I see their names often.  I also have quite a few entries in there that reflect my enthusiasm for all things pertaining to computers. I see that my wife and I attempt to help others thru our donations to our church and charities.  What I realized as I scanned the entries in my checkbook is that giving is important to us and that we do what is necessary to help others less fortunate.  We travel to places to spend time with those that cannot travel to spend time with us. In other words, the things that are important to us get our attention.

I think the hardest thing to get from someone is their attention, at least for any length of time.  Often, that’s what your wife or husband wants and what your children need.  Most of the time we fail to give it because we are involved in our work, but sometimes it’s because we are pursuing our own special interest.  Francis Baker said, “Attention is a hard thing to get from men”.  There’s likely more truth to that statement than we are willing to admit 😊. 


Kindness


⚽  In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” (1869) Prince Myshkin, thought it was 10 times as hard to die when death was certain: Put a soldier in front of a cannon, and he could still hope for the best; give him a definite sentence of death, and he’d fall apart. Sure enough, when another character, young Ippolit, learns that he’s dying of consumption (TB), he falls into mortal despair and seeks to hurry his end.  Eventually, he recognizes that a life shortened is not a life without meaning.

How hard it is to know you only have a limited time to live.  We tend to think that life is endless until we are told that it is not. My son had pancreatic cancer and was told he had 8-9 months left and lived only 5 more weeks.  I can recite many more end-of-life situations for people I cared about.  None of those people were in a condition to live a meaningful life after their diagnosis.  I guess, if you have many years to live, that possibility exists.  But, if the time is short, you mostly try to figure out how to say “Goodbye”.  If you are religious, you resign yourself humbly to “If it’s God’s will”, but if you’re not, I don’t know how that gets handled.  

Then, there are us older folks who know the end isn’t too far away yet have the possibility of living longer.  I think we are the ones in Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” that seek the “life with meaning”.  We try to be more understanding of faults we perceive in others, to be more financially supportive and to “lend a hand” when needed.  But I must admit I see that in the younger folks as well.  My oldest granddaughter has three children at home, a husband that’s gone for long periods of time on his job, and yet, finds it within her heart to take in two small children that needs a family.  How wonderful is that!  I have a friend down the lane from us that, during summer, takes his riding mower up and down the street cutting the grass for anyone unable to do so.  You don’t have to look far to discover acts of pure, sweet kindness from people of all ages.  And really, in the end, we should ask ourselves; have we lived a kind and generous life, have we helped others while attempting to better ourselves? Katherine Mansfield (British writer) said, ‘If you wish to live, first you have to attend your own funeral”.  My interpretation of that quote is that I need to understand that someday my life will end, and only then can I live a fruitful and interesting life.  I wish that I’d realized that much, much sooner!

⚽ During a Sunday morning service a few weeks ago, our pastor told us that during the time of Jesus, salt was a highly valued trade item, and was considered a form of currency by many people.  I recall my mother saying that someone we knew was “the salt of the earth”.  I knew it was a term of respect but had absolutely no idea of why salt was used in that context.  One of the many reasons I enjoy going to church on Sunday is because Pastor Jeff always ensures that we leave church service a little smarter than when we got up that morning. 

Salt has come a long way since then and we use it in a lot of different ways, but not as currency.  As a matter of fact, doctors today encourage us to avoid the ingestion of salt because of its ill effects on our body.  As we all know, it is almost impossible to avoid salt (sodium) in our food since it is included in just about all of it. 

I remember as an 18-year-old in 1959, going thru basic training at Lackland AFB, in San Antonio, during July & August.  Our uniforms were designed for winter and summer and all buttons had to be closed.  The temps ranged from 99° to 103° during the day, dropping into the 80s at night.  Since we sweated a lot, we were required to take a salt pill before each meal to replace the salt lost during the day. Turned out to be a very bad idea and I’m confident they no longer follow that practice.  Most of us also thought they included something to diminish our sex drive but could never prove it.  If they were, it never worked on me😊.

⚽  Tracy Lawrence, one of my favorite country music artists, has a song that includes the lyrics, “Every time I make my mark someone paints the wall”.  Probably, we all have experienced that problem.  My wife and I booked a cruise to Cuba last October and within a few months our President canceled all travel to Cuba.  We re-booked for a cruise to Mexico with my granddaughter and her husband and my wife’s colonoscopy revealed she had colon cancer.  So again, we canceled.  I could cite numerous examples of making “marks on the wall” and them getting painted over.  I guess it’s mostly my age, but I seem to complain a lot lately.  I try not to, but if I’m not careful, I slip back into that well-worn groove.  If someone were to ask me what a typical day is for this old codger, it would go something like this:

Each morning I arise at 7am, put on my clothes, including my Fitbit, and head down the hall to turn on my computer.  I walk into the kitchen and turn on my coffee pot, drink a tablespoon of Extra Light Olive Oil (morning & evening), and return to my desk.  I do my daily eye exercises (2 minutes) and within an hour eat breakfast, normally a bowl of mixed cereal.  Around 9am my wife and I do our daily exercise routine (15 minutes) standing in the kitchen.  On Mon/Wed/Fri we walk 3 miles on 3 possible trails near us.  Our goal is to walk 10,000 steps daily and we exceed that often.  My Fitbit tells me that in the last 12 months I have taken 2.3 million steps.  One day each week I do weight-resistant exercises on a machine I have upstairs. After lunch I go outside for 3-4 hours of yardwork and repairing/cleaning things.  My only vice is smoking a cigar every other day.  I asked my doc about it and he said, “At your age I’m not gonna worry about it”.  That made my wife furious.  I normally smoke it sitting in my favorite chair in front of my workshop, while listening to an audiobook, or talking to someone on the phone.  At 7:30pm my wife and I have dinner in front of the TV while watching Jeopardy and the evening news(recorded).  The TV is off at 10:30pm and we head to the kitchen to do dishes and then to bed by midnight.  The only drug I take is a weak “statin” for my cholesterol.  I spend a fair amount of time each week maintaining my website (www.tommyhale.net) and writing the missives that I post on it.  I can cite from memory the 50 US states by population, the 25 largest cities by population, the 25 largest countries by population and all 45 US presidents.  I do this twice weekly and the reasoning behind it is that it’s my test to determine if my memory is deteriorating.  I know so many people with dementia.  I try to learn something new every day.  I do believe the adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”.  I guess I could also add, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well…. Tommy.


Growing Your Vocabulary


⚽ It is well known that writers make grammatical “mistakes”.  It happens to us all, regardless of our efforts not to.  For centuries, we have searched for a gender neutral missing third-person pronoun. that could be used in place of he or she when gender is unknown or irrelevant.  Grammarians have always insisted that it is plural, but more and more it has become accepted to use “they” as a substitute for the singular he/she.  Personally, I have used it in that way for several years, knowing it was plural, but ignoring my college English teacher’s admonishment against doing so.  I believe that most of us can find instances in our life where we ignored accepted practices and discovered later that what we did previously had become outdated.  For example, most people believe that it is better to read a book than listen to an audiobook, but today it is a fact that more people listen to audiobooks.  In the past, most people kept up with what was happening in the world by reading newspapers and today most people get their news online.  Now, most of us file our taxes electronically, whereas in the past we used paper forms and struggled with tax codes.  Yup, times have changed, and we need to change with it.  I now feel comfortable using “they”.  Times have changed!     

⚽ “Now that I’m old, my teachers are the young”… Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. His work was initially published in England before it was published in America.  He died in 1963 at age 88, and he was known for his depiction of rural life.  How odd it is that back then (‘40s &’50s) he thought adults could learn from the young, because I grew up during that time and adults, in my experience, paid little heed to the young.  I’m not saying we weren’t loved, but that we had very little influence on adults.  I do think the current generation of adults are influenced by the young.  We have high school students lobbying for gun control laws, Greta Thunberg (age 15) of Sweden is lobbying in behalf of climate control All Over the World and as I watch the evening news, I see young people trying to make their voices heard everywhere.  The Democrats currently have a relatively young gay man (Pete Buttigieg, age 38) running for their party’s presidential nomination.  John F. Kennedy was our youngest president at age 43. You must be at least 35 years of age to run for that office.

So, yeah, I think young people influence us, and in more ways than we think.  While in my twenties I cursed often, influenced by coworkers, but believing I could avoid those words at home around my two young children.  Well, it eventually happened at home and seeing the bewildered look on my 6-year-old daughter’s face, convinced me to change my ways.  I never had that kind of influence on my dad 😊.  An old Swedish Proverb says, “Being young is a fault that improves daily”. 

⚽ My wife and I went to her post-op (post operation) visit with her surgeon two weeks after her operation on January 21st to reattach her colon & small intestine.  I asked him at what point could we feel safe about the reattachment not leaking and he replied, “Very rarely at this stage does that happen, I would say once in a blue moon”.  I know that a “Blue Moon” is two full moons within one month and it only happens every 2-3 years (It happens again on October 31). That made us feel a lot better because the elephant in the room was whether this could go south quickly and without any advance notice?   Later, while pondering his “Blue Moon” statement, I wondered about other colloquialisms.  As a kid, I was told, “You can wait until the cows come home”, meaning wait until it happens and that may take a while.  If Mom wanted to get something done quickly, she would tell me to “juice it up a little”.  She would also admonish me when I was in trouble, “You’re in a pickle now”.  That normally meant she was going to tell Dad of my offense when he got home from the coal mines and he was going to give me a “whuppin”.  I recall one time that my brother and I got into some mischief and she waited until we all sat down at the supper table and told him.   He firmly informed us that after we finished our meal, he would take us to the bathroom for a whipping (that’s always where the dastardly deed was done).  We ate every morsel of food on the table and that amused my father so much that he broke out in laughter and the lashing was avoided.  He was never very good at whipping my brother and I, seems he just didn’t have the heart to do it.  I can only recall him doing that twice in my life and I deserved both. 

To clear up the “Supper” thing; in the mountains of Virginia when I was a youth, we ate breakfast, dinner (lunch) and supper (dinner).  We carried our groceries in a “poke” (bag) and bought bottles of “pop” (sodas).  If you were afraid to fight another kid, you “chickened out”.  I kinda miss hearing those old expressions, but when I go back home every summer, those words are like music to my ears, reminding me of the kid I was all those long years ago, and how much I love the people that still use them.  If I had to draw a picture of my hometown, it would have to be drawn on my heart.    

⚽ Students are over 4 times more likely to drop out of school if they are unable to read proficiently by the 3rd grade.  I ran across that fact a few days ago and was dumfounded.  I know that by the time I was in the 3rd grade I had a stack of comic books that were waist high.  Our little two room grade school didn’t have a library, so the only reading material available were comic books.  If I came across something I couldn’t pronounce, or understand, I went running to my mother with my index finger firmly glued to the offending word.  By age 9 (1950), I felt I had mastered the art of reading😊.  I recall that in one comic book the person was watching TV, and I wondered “what in the heck is a TV”?  I also remember reading Dick Tracy in the Sunday Comics and being amazed when he would talk to someone far away by speaking into his watch.  It took about seventy years for that to happen.  With all the opportunities to read now, it’s inconceivable that our young children cannot read well.  I do believe the ability to read is a cornerstone for success in life.   I have only known three people that were illiterate.  One was very successful, one lived comfortably, and the other one depended on her husband for her livelihood.  I believe it is important to stress the importance of an education to our young people. Likely, today’s environment demands a college education to live a fulfilling life, but it is not impossible to make a good living minus a college degree.  It just makes it infinitely harder to accomplish.  

How do we help our young people get their education without incurring a mountain of debt?  Well, immediately after WWII, we allowed all ex-servicemen to attend 4 years of college under the GI Bill for free.  That investment in America’s future paid dividends, so why can’t we do something similar now?  Allow each high school graduate the opportunity to get 4 years of college for 2 years of community service in their chosen field immediately afterwards.  Failing to do so would require repayment of the cost of their education.  Also, if the student dropped out of college before completion, they would have to repay their educational cost to that point.  I’m confident the law would have to be more complex than what I’ve described, but smarter people could surely come up with a viable plan. 

Alice James said, “I wonder whether if I’d had an education I should have been more or less a fool than I am,”.  You know, I sometimes wonder that same thing! 😊    


Dress Code


⚽ I was standing in line at our local McDonald’s a while back waiting on my order to be filled and standing beside me was a very attractive teenage girl.  She was wearing, what appeared to be panty hose that went all the way to her neck and although you couldn’t see skin, you could see her shape, and believe me, she had a very good figure.  At times, she seemed a little uncomfortable, standing beside an “old guy” revealing all the contours of her body.  I tried desperately not to stare, and for the most part, I succeeded.  At my age, I can control myself when something like that happens, but I don’t know what I would’ve done during my teenage years.  To me, it appears that young lady had no concept of the male sexual appetite, or she didn’t care.  True, the male sexual appetite may not be her problem, but it could get to be.  I don’t go into the bad areas of town for fear of being mugged, I don’t drive fast for fear of hurting someone, and I don’t swim out too far from the beach for fear I can’t get back before getting too tired.  I hope that young lady stays in safe places.  Sure, she has the right to wear what she wants, but I’ll betcha police officers wear their Kevlar vests for a reason and that’s because it’s prudent.  That young lady should only go places where she feels safe, dressed in that manner.  I wonder if her parents approved of her choice of body attire.  I recall my daughter during her teenage years in the ‘70s.  At age 13, she wanted to wear nylon hose to school, and I said “no”, so she stuffed them in her bag and put them on at school, taking them off before coming home.  I only found out after she became an adult and was bragging about how she fooled me.  The one thing she failed to realize then, but now knows, it’s easy to take advantage of someone who loves you.  I also recall that a fellow came to take her out on a date when she was 15-16 and he drove up in a van.  I met him at the door and told him that if he wanted to take my daughter on a date, to go back home and get his parent’s car and then come back.  He complied.  Tricked out vans in the 70s had a very bad reputation.  I dunno if that still applies.  I started letting my two children make decisions about their life when they reached the age of 15, unless it pertained to their health and safety.  I have met a lot of wonderful young people, and I don’t believe the world is going in the wrong direction as it pertains to them.  That young girl needs to know that males have a different sense of right and wrong then females.  I know that thought is depressing, but fundamentally true.  A basic rule for young teenage girls is; if you try to sneak out of the house without your dad seeing what you have on, you aren’t dressed appropriately. ☢

⚽ Have you ever wondered about the hierarchy of a poker hand?  As a kid in the ‘40s & 50s, playing cards was a good way to pass the time during the cold winter months in the southwest Virginia mountains.  We had no money and using match sticks wasn’t putting enough “skin in the game”, so we played “Noses & Knuckles”.  If you bet 5 knuckles and won, you took the cards in your hand and whacked the dealer’s knuckles 5 times.  If you lost, he took your cards and whacked your knuckles 5 times.  You normally preferred to use “Knuckles” because it hurt less, but when the skin was peeled from the knuckles of both hands and if you wanted to continue to play, you switched to “Noses” hoping your luck would change.  If not, you continued playing until the pain was overwhelming and you dropped out.  Oh, I remember those winters well!  It takes about 2 weeks to heal enough to play again.  The knuckles seemed to heal faster than the nose and for us boys, it was a sign of manhood to endure those whacks without showing pain. It was especially painful when the older boys won because they could whack you much harder, and they were better card players.  In that game, you had to get smart or get out, so I worked on my game and eventually became very good at it.  I found it easy to win against opponents my own age and harder with the older ones, but I did have success.  The girls never participated in that manly game and they probably thought we were idiots.  I wonder how many people would be addicted to gambling today if they had to put “skin in the game” as we did as youngsters?  Back then, I was unaware of anyone that was addicted to gambling, we just did it to pass the time and when Spring and Summer rolled around, we were outside playing “Dodge Ball”, “Kick The Can”, or “Hide & Seek”. 

I still fondly remember those days of long ago, when we played in that little coal camp called “Page”.  I keep in touch with a few of them, but so many have drifted out of my life, probably, never to return. 

Getting back to the poker hand hierarchy:  The Royal Flush is the top hand (Ace, King, Queen, Jack & 10 all in the same suit).  Next is the Straight Flush, which is a bit easier to get (five cards in sequence that are all in the same suit).  For example, they could have a seven, six, five, four, and three, all diamonds.  Then Four of a kind, Full House (three cards of the same rank & two of another rank); a Flush (five cards in the same suit-not consecutive); a Straight (five consecutive cards of different suites (Aces can count either as a high or low card)); Three of a Kind (same rank); Two Pair; One Pair, & lastly High Card (Hands are ranked by comparing the highest value card in each hand).

 So, to recap, the order goes: Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three of a kind, Two pair, One pair, & then High card. 

Playing poker hardens your character and forces you to learn how to deceive your opponents, a trait that is never useful in any other endeavor and a very unattractive trait to have.  I haven’t played cards much since becoming an adult, unable to find anyone retarded enough to “put skin in the game”. 

⚽  My wife and I sat down to watch the Super Bowl at 6:30pm on February 2nd, and after the fireworks and loud music faded into the background, I asked her who she wanted to win.  My favorite team is the Washington Redskins and I’m not sure she has one.  She responded that she was pulling for the Kansas City Chiefs and I asked her why?  She responded that since she didn’t know anything about either team, she made her selection because she liked their uniforms. That brought a big old grin to my face. I have never, ever, pulled for a team to win because of the color of their uniform. I doubt that any man has ever based a selection for that reason.  For me to pull for a team other than the Redskins, there’s a more nuanced reason:  I lived in that city; my son/daughter was born in that city, etc., but never because I liked their uniforms.  I think this helps explain the subtle difference between the sexes.  Personally, I enjoy those differences, and I believe that’s part of the attraction between us.  I noticed her dosing at times during the game, and I could tell she was only watching the game so she could see the commercials and half-time show that everyone raves about afterwards.  The game was over around 11:30pm, and by the time we washed the dishes and got in bed, it was almost 1:00am.  Being retired, we didn’t have to worry about getting up and going to work the next morning, so that was good.  About 115 million Americans watched the game, as well as about 40 million foreigners.  It kinda felt good to be sharing that experience with about 160 million of my fellow planet dwellers.  Freud said, “When we share… that is the poetry in the prose of life” Now, you can pound a nail with that hammer!

Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me.  I know you will return their love abundantly.  That is my intent as well.  I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well…Tommy.