• My Magnificent Adventure (4/1/2020) - ⚽ In 1893 Frank Sprague installed the first modern elevators in Manhattan’s Postal Telegraph Building in New York City (he later sold his company to Otis Elevator).  This one act started the rise of tall buildings in that city and seeded the spread nationwide.  It’s estimated that the world’s cities now hold more than half […]

    ⚽ In 1893 Frank Sprague installed the first modern elevators in Manhattan’s Postal Telegraph Building in New York City (he later sold his company to Otis Elevator).  This one act started the rise of tall buildings in that city and seeded the spread nationwide.  It’s estimated that the world’s cities now hold more than half the world’s population, but less than 3% of its land.  I was 14 years old (1955) when I took my first elevator ride.  My Dad loaded Mom, Jerry (my brother), and me, into our family car (1952 Hudson) and drove for eleven hours on Route 460 from our home in southwest Virginia (Oakwood) to visit Mom’s sister (Aunt Letha) in the eastern part of the state (Suffolk).  The next day Dad and Uncle Aaron took Jerry and me into town, and we walked into a building with four floors.  Upon entering, we walked over and stepped into a small room with an open door.  Uncle Aaron pushed a button, and it closed.  I glanced up at him with a puzzled look on my face and he returned my glance with a smile.  Suddenly, the floor started moving upwards and my brother and I had absolutely no idea what was happening.   Jerry started crying and held onto Dad’s leg, but being 16 months older, I refused to do so.  Both men could see the look of shock on my face and were unable to contain their amusement, bursting into laughter.  Within a minute it stopped, the door opened, and we got out and walked into an office of some sort for Dad & Uncle Aaron to do some business.  As I sat there waiting for their conversation to end, I tried to understand what had just happened.  Never before had I seen a floor move upwards on its own. What made that happen?  Twenty minutes later we walked out of the office and into that small room again. The button was pushed as I watched intently, then the door closed, and the floor started moving downwards.  Wow, now I was really confused!  What decided which way the floor was going to move?  In a few seconds the floor stopped moving, the door opened, and we left the building headed for the car parked around back.

    As we rode home, I couldn’t wait to tell Mom & Aunt Letha about the magic I had just witnessed!  I was sure they wouldn’t believe me. There were flying carpets in my comic books, but I always knew that was make believe.  I had never ridden on a flying carpet, but I had ridden on a flying floor. This was big!  When we arrived, Dad and Uncle Aaron stood around with big smiles as my brother and I described our magnificent adventure to Mom & Aunt Letha.  They played along with the men and acted as surprised as my brother and me. That night I went to bed wondering what else this wonderful world had to offer?  If floors could fly, when would cars be able to fly, or could we humans learn to fly?  I dropped off to sleep wondering how much magic was still left for me to discover and a feeling of warmth deep inside me made me sleep with a smile on my face the entire night.

    “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner” …Collette

    ⚽ I live in a small town on the east coast of Virginia and our area has a lot of military men and women.  The coasts of the United States are dotted with more than three dozen naval bases, the largest being Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, VA, which is just 20 minutes away.  It was founded in 1917 and is not only the largest naval base in the USA but also the largest in the world.  It covers nearly 3,400 acres and is home to approximately 150,000 personnel.  As you can imagine, we have people in our area from all over our great country.  Our economy is highly dependent on the money they spend.  We also have our nation’s largest shipyard (Newport News Shipbuilding) with a workforce of about 25,000. Langley AFB, with over 9000 military & civilian personnel, sits next door to our small community and the roar of aircraft is always present.  A favorite saying locally is that the aircraft sounds are not noise but “The sound of freedom”.  Fort Eustis is our local Army base (5,000 military) and is also an integral part of our community.  Just in case you are wondering, I’m not  divulging sensitive information, it is all publicly available and is, of course, only estimates.  I served in the US Air Force in the early ‘60s and my experience was that most communities under appreciated the military in their area and especially did not want the military men dating the local single girls. I was married, but I knew a lot of single guys that tried to disguise their military roots by wearing civilian clothing when they went into town. 

    Today, our attitude towards our military personnel has thankfully changed and everywhere I go I see them being thanked for their service.  I think that is wonderful because I recall my experience of feeling rejected by the local community wherever I was stationed.  The only time I felt appreciated was when I went back home, where there was always a slap on the back and a welcome home greeting. 

    In our local area, servicemen & women not only protect our freedom but contribute mightily to our economy.  Truth be known, we do owe them a debt of gratitude.  Yes, we pay their salary & they have good benefits, but a lot just barely get by on a soldier’s pay.  When I went into the US Air Force in 1959 as a lowly Airman 3rd Class, I was paid $75/month, and when I opted to leave four years later, my pay was $225/month.  During the last two years of my service, I worked part-time, 7 days a week, to give my family of four a decent living.  I sincerely hope we are paying our military better now.      

    ⚽ Abraham Maslow (Theory of Human Motivation) created a pyramid of mankind’s basic needs: Physiological–food, water, sleep clothes, shelter, etc.; Safety–personal, emotional, financial, health; Social belonging–friendships, intimacy, family; Self-esteem–feel respected, stable, recognition; Self-actualization–accomplish everything that one can; and lastly, Transcendence–giving oneself to something beyond oneself (altruism or spirituality).   

    I think old Abe is on to something, beginning with our basic needs (food, water, etc.) and then as we move thru life, entering the other stages of his pyramid.  I can look at his chart and see my life as I grew older and how it felt to be in those different areas he described.  I am now firmly in the “Transcendence” phase of life, whereas my goal is to give myself to something beyond self-interest.  I believe most of us will ultimately arrive at this place in life.  In Acts 20:35, Paul says to the Ephesians; “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’”.

     However, during this time of tumult (COVID-19), it feels like a lot of us are sliding back into Maslow’s basic stage (Physiological) of food, water, shelter.  Grocery store shelves are barren as we grab everything in sight, fearing the worst, and attempting to insure we have what is necessary to survive.  I believe this fear of the unknown is a result of moving away from religion and relying only on oneself.  There were times in my adolescent life that my family was bereft of food, with little money to buy it.  But we had faith in a God, and we believed he would see we were taken care of.  Studies show that 60% of Americans believe in God, but only 23% of us go to church each week.  Our southern states (i.e. Alabama Mississippi) are “highly religious” 80% and our New England states (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) have the lowest percentage of those “highly religious” adults (45%).  The median church nationwide has, on average, 75 attendants each Sunday.  Since only 23% of us go to church on a weekly basis, that is, in my opinion, the reason we fear for our future.  Working our way through this pandemic will be decidedly easier for those of us that believe in a Higher Power showing us how to handle this tragedy.  It is up to us “believers” to show how our faith stills our fears and gives us the confidence we need to handle hard times. 

    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) said it well; “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

  • Appointment in Samarra (3/24/2020) - A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Soon afterwards, the servant came home white and trembling and told him that in the marketplace he was jostled by a woman whom he recognized as Death, and she made a threatening gesture....


    ⚽ A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Soon afterwards, the servant came home white and trembling and told him that in the marketplace he was jostled by a woman whom he recognized as Death. and she made a threatening gesture. Borrowing his master’s horse, he fled at great speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km).  There, he believed, Death would not find him. The servant’s master went to the marketplace and found Death and asked why she made the threatening gesture to his servant. She replied, “That was not a threatening gesture, it was only the stare of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”  So, the phrase, “Appointment in Samarra” has come to mean that we may be trying to avoid death, but it will find us.

    I have traveled thru life these 79 years not trying to avoid death but ignoring it.  I am guilty of doing many foolish things during my younger years that could have brought instant death; driving recklessly, jumping off high places into the water, and mining coal with my dad in a mine whose roof was only 27 inches high.  I’ve had 500 lbs of rock fall from that roof within 10-15 feet of me several times.  Never once was I scared, fearing that I barely escaped the grasp of the old man.  I never gave death a second thought, but little did I know he wasn’t done with me yet.  Yes, we all have an “appointment in Samarra”, we just don’t know when that will be.  I read once of a man who placed the following epitaph on his tombstone: “Remember friends as you pass by, where you are now, so once was I.  As I am now, so you must be, prepare yourself to follow me.”  

     I’m inclined to believe Friedrich Nietzsche when he said, “The dying man has probably lost, during the course of life, things more important than what he is about to lose by dying.”

    ⚽ Well, we have switched over to Daylight Savings Time (DST) here on the east coast of Virginia, and I have to say that I’m glad to see it.  Darkness has been blanketing our area around 6pm here of late, but now it will stay away until 7pm, giving me more opportunities to do chores you see😊.  As we move closer to mid-June, darkness avoids us until 9pm and the day seems endless.  I have plenty of time to do necessary things and time left over to do some very enjoyable things as well.  One of my most enjoyable activities is to plop down in my favorite chair in front of my workshop after a day of chores and call someone I enjoy talking to, and whom I know will be home at that time of the day.  I will normally be drinking a non-alcoholic beer or smoking a cigar.  The beer and cigar alternate days because I know the beer is less harmful 😊.  It’s surprising how uplifting a good conversation is to one’s spirit.  In a time when entertainment is just a moment away, on a device that can transport you to any place on earth via video, talking to others seems to be a lost pleasure.  Sure, contact is much easier via text & Skype, but to have a casual 20-minute conversation on the phone with someone you care about is incredibly enjoyable.  I try to limit my calls to that amount of time unless the conversation is of a serious nature.  I had two close friends pass away last year (Mary Ann & Patty), but I have many of their phone conversation tucked away in memories.  I always called Mary and began the conversation with, “Mary, this is the fun police and your neighbor called and said you were having too much fun, and it has to stop”.  I could feel her smile drifting thru the line and from there our conversation started.  She was suffering from dementia, and my calls always raised her spirit.

    To Mary I would like to say, “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world which I find myself constantly walking around in during the daytime and falling into at night. I miss you like hell…….Edna St. Vincent Millay.  She and Patty were wonderful sister-in laws.

    ⚽ My wife and I were preparing to attend the wedding of two of our church friends (Dana & Carey) at 11 am on a Saturday. We started getting ready around 9:30am, changing our clothes, combing our hair and trying to look good for the new bride & groom as they said their wedding vows.  I walked down the hall to our bedroom and my wife had two dresses out, debating on which to wear.  I asked her which one she had selected, and she responded that she didn’t know yet.  That amused me, and as I turned to walk away, I thought about how long it took me to make up my mind on what to wear.  Probably less than a minute, and that would apply to any occasion I would be attending.  I believe that is one of the many differences between men and women.  For the most part, we men pay scant attention to what we wear.  When I go into our closet to get a shirt, I normally grab the first one I come to and then quickly find the pants, belt and socks that I feel would come close to matching.  Sometimes, my wife takes me back to that closet and picks out what she believes looks better.  Am I offended when she does that?  No, most of the time I’m amused and am prone to tease her about it.  I started dating her in 1992, and after about six months into our relationship, she headed upstairs to my closet and removed everything I had in there that smelled of polyester.  I kinda liked polyester because it never wrinkled, but to her they needed to go because no one wore it anymore.  Needless to say, I complied and before long everything was replaced with more modern clothing.  I only control what I wear around the house and in the yard.  If I’m going out the driveway, then I’m wearing what she thinks looks good 😊.  You might be inclined to think that she’s bossy, just the opposite, she wants me to keep my “Tom Cruise” look.  If ever an angel came down to earth, it was my loving, caring wife.  I am so lucky to have her in my life.     

    ⚽ I have made an important decision on how to live the remainder of my life.  I don’t know why I didn’t decide to do it years ago.  It’s such a simple decision and oh so easy to do.  I have decided not to postpone any task that takes less than one minute to do.  I started it today, and I already feel better because I don’t have to worry about forgetting whatever task needed doing.  As I sat down to write this article on my computer, I realized I had left a note in my work pants, so I immediately got up, walked to the garage, and retrieved it.  I can see this having quite an impact on me.  As time goes by, I may change the time limit to two minutes and see how that goes, then maybe three?  I doubt doing three would work because it needs to be a task that can be done quickly, and three minutes is stretching it a little for me. Sometimes I wonder why I care about such trivial things, but I read something a long time ago that went like this, “All things are interesting to a wise man”. I think we all strive to be wise, but only a few attain that lofty goal.

    ⚽ I read the other day that the average American consumes 12 pounds of chocolate a year, thanks to Mexico.  Mexicans have been cultivating cacao plants since 1900 BC, and the Spanish transformed it to the delicious treat we know today.  Later, Hernan Cortes introduced it to Europe, and they are the leading producers of chocolate. 

    Somehow, as much as I love chocolate, I doubt that I eat 12 lbs a year, or one pound each month.  Some of you people must be eating way too much of that scrumptious stuff 😊.  I remember that as a young boy of 8-9 years old, my mother took me to the doctor because I had a rash on my right forearm.  He looked at it closely, then leaned back in his chair and stared at me for a few minutes.  “Mrs. Hale, does Tommy eat a lot of chocolate?”  Mom responded that I loved it and ate it almost daily.  He politely informed her to stop all my consumption of it and the rash would rapidly depart.  Much to my consternation, my mother followed his instructions, and it went away.  Since then, I have always tried to moderate my consumption of that wonderfully tasty bit of happiness.  I firmly believe the reason it tastes so good is that I know I shouldn’t be eating it.  I read an article a while back that said chocolate had ingredients that helped fight certain types of cancer.  That was the only excuse I needed to get back on the wagon.  About the only thing that keeps me in check now is my wife.  If not for her, I would have a rash all over my body 😊.