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May 09, 2016

"I just slap-shit out of her"

Trash Talk and Scamming at the VA Hospital:


 VAMC1.jpgby jim richmond

     Sitting for several hours the other late evening in the "Urgent Care" waiting area of the VA Hospital here in Battle Creek, Michigan, I was having trouble breathing.

     But figured the other 15 or so in this large waiting area, with chairs ringing the wall probably were having their own health challenges as well.

     I tried to curl up emotionally and mentally, but still was ruminating between reading a Kindle version of a Doris Kearns Goodwin book, and turning increasingly incensed at the loud, profane talk of a group of other vets waiting in the area.

     No, not young Iraq vets. Old men like me They weren't watching the TV on the wall, or minding their own business.

     Instead -- whoever listening be damned -- they were Mother-fucking this, kiss my ass that, laughing how they were conning the VA to get higher disability payments, exchanging tips on applying 40 years late for PTSD compensation linked to their Vietnam era service, self righteously complaining about waiting too long, about the poor quality of VA care, and telling oneupsmanship tales of kicking the shit out of women for holding back money or keeping their legs tight together.

     I and one other vet moved as far away from the the group of about 15 or so as possible, almost down the hall to the photos of Michigan Congressional Medal of Honor winners.

     I finally got up, walked to the intake worker behind the glass screen and told her to take "Richmond" off the waiting list.

     "Where ya going?" I asked the other vet who had moved over away from the noise.

     "Trying to get a ride to Community Care (senior home) by Dickman," he replied.

     "Come on," I said, "let's get the hell out of here."

     I'm not snichin or telling stories out of class in this FB post.

     This morning I called the Patient Advocates office at the VA and went over this tale. A vet herself, she agreed with my criticism, assuring me it was quite different during normal clinic hours in the waiting room..

     I hope that as she suggested, my experience was just anomaly.

     If not, there's probably a lot of folks scamming the VA system.

     As I told the lady on the phone this morning, I may have hated serving during the Vietnam Conflict, but I appreciate what I get from the VA.

    Serving your country is a duty and a responsibility.

    It doesn't "entitle": you to scam the system for every dollar you can squeeze out of it.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  Turned out I probably had pneumonia and was treated the next day at the same VA Hospital, by my Primary Care Team Leader and Nurse Practitioner Lisa D., who made a place on her schedule to see me right away, and got me started on a 5-day dose of "overload antibiotics."  That's the kind of thoughtful care that has been the "norm" of my experience the past 15 or so years at VA facilities in Battle Creek, Kansas City, Albuquerque and San Francisco.

May 02, 2016





by jim richmond

Few, perhaps, would have Doris Kearns Goodwin as one of their near lifelong professional heroes.

I do.

Tainted somewhat by claims from several authors that two of her books used their passages without citation, Goodwin disappeared from the PBS News Hour 15 or so years ago.

She is back. Aged 73, and now on the Sunday morning TV political roundtables.

Like George Will, you at minimum must admire her range of knowledge on American political history.

And her shared loved of and writing about American baseball.

The range of her Pulitzer-winning biographies stands with the best.

I've read them with admiration, inspiration, and gained new understanding about our leaders and our political process:

-- Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
-- The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga.
-- No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.
-- Wait Till Next Year:Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
-- The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.

As some of you know from my past newspaper columns, ragstorichmond blogs, and FB posts, I look for and write about personal unselfishness and goodness in people and their relationships, if I'm often lacking in those qualities myself.

Goodwin taught for 10 years at Harvard. Then made an unusual, unselfish choice. She resigned from Harvard.

With small children, Goodwin decided she wanted to be home with them in their growing up years. So she reserved mornings to research and write.

She was at the school bus when her children came home. Afternoons and evenings were for her family.

As a result, Goodwin spent 10 years writing the Fitzgeralds/Kennedy opus.

From Irish immigrant stock, she goes to 50 Boston Red Sox games a year.

Goodwin still has the same husband after 40 years; and describes how she cherishes that relationship and her children.

She is not a perfect role model. (Is anyone?) But she is all I wish I could have been, and more as a writer and a person.

And yesterday morning, as I watched Doris Kearns Goodwin on one of the TV roundtables, her analysis, knowledge, attitude and smile lit up the discourse.

How delightful it would be to have dinner with her some time.

April 20, 2016

Paul Singh: "Thanks Battle Creek!"



Paul Singh moved to Battle Creek 23 years ago, after driving a cab and working in a New York City convenience store.

"I wanted to find a quiet, friendly place. That's Battle Creek," Singh told me this morning, who now owns 8 area gas and convenience stores, including a new one at the west side intersection of Van Buren and Michigan Avenue.

He is also proud of being President of the local Sikh Temple.

Singh said it took him eight months to build and open his latest convenience store, which is always spotless, with an unusually large offering of food, pop and liquor.

He sells Mobil gasoline. "See, it's $1.95 today," he said, pointing with pride to an outside pump. "Mobil costs me a penny and a half more, but it is very good gasoline."

He was pitching in this morning, he said, because his regular morning clerk, Amber, had called in sick.

Amber always has a smile when I drop in each morning.


April 05, 2016

Leila Arboretum Gets Set for Big Changes, Attractions in 2016


Leila Arboretum Gets Set for Big Changes, Attractions in 2016

Yesterday, I  took my first spring walk around the 1-mile loop at Leila Arboretum here in Battle Creek, Michigan.  A favorite activity for many others, especially seniors like me!

A bit chilly but sooooo refreshing to view the more than 3,000 trees, dozen-plus gardens, and to chat with Arboretum CEO Brett Meyers about lots of exciting music, art and nature education happenings, plus physical changes for the year ahead!

This view along the pathway, looking east from the Arboretum's unusual Peace Labyrinth, will be transformed dramatically in coming months, as phase 2 of Battle Creek's three-.day Fantasy Forest art carve takes place this June, adding 10 to 12 additional fantasy themed tree sculptures, a new musicial stage and landscaping.  Thanks to many generous Battle Creek donors and volunteers, Myers said.

The West Michigan streetscape of the Arboretum will also be opened up, improved and enhanced towards downtown Battle Creek, spotlighting the Children's Garden, and for the first time visually uniting the total Arboretum streetscape along busy W. Michigan Avenue.

An exciting year ahead for the 85-acre Arboretum, Battle Creek's "Westside Gem," that draws 80,000 visitors a year -- many from out of town -- and recently was recognized as one of the top 10 public gardens and arboretums in the state of Michigan.

Hope to see you and say "hey" on a walk there one of these days.  

We're ready for spring in west Michigan, aren't we?  :-)

For more information about the Arboretum, and the Fantasy Forest art carve:



'Changling Lab' A Place of Art and Inclusion



by jim richmond

Photo: Sabine Ledieu (l) and Kimber Thompson are lead artists in Battle Creek's free form "Changling Lab' where all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds and ages are creating art projects, many from recycled materials.

Here they proudly display one of their own creations, a Little Free Library (crafted by Thompson) that will be one of hopefully many to be located throughout Battle Creek, Springfield, Marshall, Albion, Athens and neighboring communities.

The small libraries are stocked with donated books available free, with a volunteer "steward' from the neighborhood or other nearby location who helps maintain each library.

This project -- one of many Sabine and Kimber are engaged in as volunteers -- is part of a national program of "Little Free Libraries", that now are in more than 32,000 locations around the world.

The Changling Lab is at the Burma Center, which is a former Springfield school and first site of the Battle Creek Math and Science Center on Upton Avenue.

The Center is open each Monday evening for visitors and those who want to get involved. Tonight, projects and people kept this large, former school building buzzing with the laughter and art activities of children and adults.

It is managed by and a cultural home for the more than 3,000 Burmese residents of greater Battle Creek.

Stop and visit on a Monday!

It's the kind of place that makes you happy and hopeful to be living in and part of a diverse, inclusive Battle Creek.

And it's going to be a good place to send my charitable donation to help them cover rent and other expenses!

For information: http://www.changlinglab.net

January 17, 2016

Too many doctors in the house.....

DR. DOLITTLEdr doolittle.jpg

     Seems everyone but the city dog catcher has a"doctorate/doctoral degree", mostly earned over the past 15 to 20 years .

     And there is an inverse relationship between where and what people get their degree in, and those who insist on being called Dr. so-and-so.

     For several early years in my career, one of my jobs was to try to make sense out of and then rewrite concepts and copy written by people with doctorate degrees from well-known universities.

     The work almost drove me insane and I started lighting novena candles when I moved on and up from that responsibility.

     It's gotten worse.

     Now we have thousands of people getting doctorates from places like Phoenix University and they run around the streets, highways, worlds of academe and nonprofit management with Dr. on their car license plates and, in my opinion too little intellectually, or work/world wise, behind the wheel or in the backseat.

     Maybe getting any doctorate is a good thing.

     But, I'd suggest you have a science-based Phd from somewhere like MIT, Stanford, Michigan State, Harvard, Michigan, Brown, Northwestern or Chicago before making too big a hoot and holler about your doctorate. (Of course, these people don't.)

     Unless cornered or required to be politically polite, I don't call anyone doctor unless I think they have an earned one from an American or European allopathic or osteopathic medical, dental or veterinary college.

     "Doctors" of Chiropractic have made a fortune wearing heavily starched white smocks, twisting people's spines, and persuading patients to have weekly $65 treatments until put in the grave. (They also allegedly rival only the MEA for political clout in Lansing.)

     In the field of primary health care, I'm happy being treated and cared for by a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant. They don't practice or bill in 15-minute patient intervals.

     These folks know how to listen, diagnosis and help people get well. And when and where to send people for specialized medical care. (In various ways, we have literally run all but the most dedicated real doctors out of specializing in primary care/family medicine.  Another topic.)


James Madison Richmond, BA, MA

P. S. May I burn in hell if I get caught listing degrees on my business cards or correspondence.

December 06, 2015

Don't Call The Police, Say A Prayer


The police two days ago tell me to call 911 when there is drug activity on  Frelinghuysen Street, the next apt over on mydrug dealing.jpg shared driveway.

So 15 minutes ago, `1:23 a.m., there is a stream of cars and people on foot coming into the driveway. I call 911 and wait. The officer pulls up so I go out and explain what I see.

"Well," Police Officer Brown tells me, " How do you KNOW they are dealing drugs? They could be going in there for lots of reasons?"

(The drug dealer's wife also takes care of kids during the daytime. Perhaps a nice "cover" but is THAT the right environment for kids......around a drug dealing husband?)

"I hear them out my bedroom window, talking about drugs," I say to Officer Brown. "At 1:30 in the morning and staying for 2 minutes each. Do you think they are going in there to pick up kids or for prayer services?," I reply, sorry, but a bit sarcastically to Officer Brown.

"Well, you have a good evening," he tells me, getting back in his patrol car and driving away.

Good grief, Mark A. Behnke, Kaytee Vast-Binder Faris, Kate Flores, Deborah Rose Owens, Dave Walters

I think I'll get out my Rosary. Because Its too early in the morning to attend a prayer service. At least saying the Rosary will do more good than calling Officer Brown and, tonight, the Battle Creek police.


ERRATA: I've meet and/or interacted with some fine, helpful Battle Creek police officers, including Chief Blocker, over this problem during the past six weeks. But all it takes is contact with one or two "puffed up or professionally detached" Officer Browns to ruin a lot of good community contact work by his police colleagues...and city commissioners who go out of their way to be responsive to citizen complaints.

November 01, 2015

"Time For Change On City Commission?"



by Jim Richmond


     Kate Flores isn't much concerned that her opponent and the incumbent for the City Commission's 3rd Ward has his campaign posters and signs plastered all over the Northside of Battle Creek.

     FullSizeRender.jpgShe is one of two high energy, feet on the ground, door bell knocking young professional women who hope to be elected and bring a new level of energy, listening skills and strategic experience to their roles as Battle Creek City Commissioners after next Tuesday's election.

     The other is Kaytee Faris, who ran as an at large candidate two years ago, and came within a breathe and a prayer of being elected as one of the four at large Commissioners.

     Only a few votes can make huge difference in City elections.

     “I'm spending all my time knocking on doors and just listening to people in the 3rd Ward,” Flores commented, describing a diverse area that stretches from the Post Addition, to Bailey Park and as far west as Fremont Elementary School.

     “Yard signs and posters aren't as important as getting out and talking with residents.”

     She admits to not “knowing all the details” about current city issues like the Battle Creek Unlimited/City/TIFA scuffle.

    “I'll have steep learning curve. But I'm a quick learner, with experience in policy level decision making – which is the primary role of the Commission,” she said. “And I'm a good listener.”

     Flores is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in social sciences and international development, and earned a masters degree in community development from the University of Toronto.

     Bilingual in English and Spanish, she has worked at the grassroots level in poor areas of eight Central American countries.

     She was the founding director of Voces, a Battle Creek nonprofit organization, which works to improve health care access and inclusion of Hispanics in community life and leadership.

     Flores and her husband, Ifrael, have two children.

     “The Commission should bring the voices of all segments of the community to the table in decision making and planning. I can help make that happen,”she said.

     FullSizeRender (2).jpgLike Flores, Kaytee Faris is a wife and mother, and radiates energy and excitement about being elected next Tuesday as an at large member of the City Commission.

     Faris is a graduate of the L'Universite Laval in Quebec and Eastern Michigan University.

     She grew up in Urbandale and Lakeview, and moved back to Battle Creek five years ago.  “I wanted to be a cheerleader for the community, to get involved and make a difference,” she said.

     Faris has: from chairing the Fremont/McKinley Neighborhood Planning Council to serving on the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Grant Committee, which is focused on what is driving crime in Battle Creek.  It is a collaboration of the Battle Creek Police Department, Battle Creek City Staff, Neighborhood Planning Councils and the Urban League.

     The current “Visioning” going on in Battle Creek with Kellogg Company and Kellogg Foundation support is well and good, but Faris wants to make sure it results in concrete changes in the quality of life, the employment, the educational opportunities of everyday people in Battle Creek.

     “I'm impatient to see things start to happen,” she said with a smile.

     Both Flores and Faris are steeped in community development experience and would bring a younger, and some say, fresh perspective to the Battle Creek Commission, which has been plagued recently by much publicized high absentee rates by some of its members.

     Voters will decide on Tuesday if they think its time for greater diversity, youth, energy and community development experience on the City Commission.




October 24, 2015

When Autumn Begin to Fall in Michigan


autumn leaves.jpg

When Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall in Michigan

Autumn is my favorite time living here in Michigan.

Bright color of the leaves.

Chill in the air.

The innocent enthusiasm of college football.

Halloween fun.

But it’s also a bittersweet season.
Each year, as red leaves turn to yellow, fade and fall, I’m reminded of the story about the little girl, losing her Mother to a rapidly advancing and incurable disease.
The doctor, and the little girl’s father, try to prepare the child for the loss.
“When will my Mommy die?” the child asks the doctor, who replies: “When the leaves begin to fall.”
Six months later, in late-October, the father looks out the window of their home. 

There, in the front yard, is the little girl, trying to paste fallen leaves back on the Maple tree.
Of course, we can’t paste leaves back on a tree. Any more than avoid death of those we love.
Still, at the end, we have our memories to cherish.

My tiny, Irish mother doing the family wash by hand – with crooked arms broken in childhood.

Her saying, late in life and lonely, “Come on Jimmy, let’s go sit on the porch and talk.”
Yes, I remember.

When autumn leaves begin to fall in Michigan.

(Photo below:  Jim Richmond with his Mom, Mary Honora McNamara Richmond, shortly before her death at 88, in 2003.  Hometown Atchison, Kansas  family gravesite.)


September 17, 2015

Pubic Hair and Public Dancing

public hair.jpg



I was listening over lunch to a female friend the other day, unhappy with the sexual interest and performance of her boyfriend.  

"My God, Jim, he even shaves his PUBIC HAIR!  How many men shave their pubic hair,?"

Thinking: 'Way-Too-Much-Information-Here,' I successfully steered the conversation to more pleasant, topics -- nuclear holocaust, famine in Sudan, lung cancer rates.

Then, early this morning, the BBC World Service radio is running a program on -- guess what --  not the origin and proliferation of atom bombs -- but women and men shaving their pubic hair.

Now, I wonder how long before this topic gets to the Sunday Morning Talk Shows?  Chris Wallace:  "SENATOR, DID YOU, OR DID YOU NOT, QUIT SHAVING YOUR PUBIC HAIR?"

Turns out, women and men started shaving (all or most of) their hair with the Egyptians.  Every other day, so they'd be ready to party with the Gods, according to the BBC story.

I remember living in San Francisco in 1969, when my wife suddenly decided she no longer wanted to shave any hair.  (As an always horny U.S. Navy sailor, home on leave just every 9 months, she could've demanded wearing spurs and copulating standing up, and I'd gone along with it.)

So, just as, over the years, I've learned to GET USED to body hair everywhere, it's going out of style again.  

The BBC says shaving of both male and female pubic hair is linked to the rise and spread of Internet porn -- where, allegedly, 30 percent of all online viewers are now  women.   And where a body with pubic -- or any other hair -- is getting to be as rare as a Kansas City Strip Steak.

That's probably a vicious, mean spirited lie, propagated by the folks at Bob Jones University, where there allegedly is a rule against students having sex standing up, because it might lead to dancing.

I don't think public hair or dancing have much to do with the rise in pornography. 

One suspects my friend's  relationship problem is about something more than her boy friend's  pubic hair.

I'd bet a good counselor would advise her to take him out on the dance floor more often.


August 09, 2015

The Art of Listening


On Listening

Humorist and author David Sedaris, in his latest book, says he finds most short story topics in his own life.

“No one could be as bad, as crazy as I’ve been,” he told THE STRAND on BBC World Service Radio early one morning.

399_05_david_sedaris.jpgDavid Sedaris (photo) Sedaris continued:

“I wrote a short story about my Mom dying 17 years ago. 

Then I wrote another one. 

And then I wrote another one.

I realized I was writing too many stories about my mom dying. My readers were probably getting bored listening.”

Truth is, our family life, colleagues and our friends form the core of our experiences.

Many of my own blogs, short stories and newspaper columns over the past three decades are based on people, places and personal experiences.

And some of those are as indelible today as death and dying.

For example, I loved my red-headed little Irish Mom telling, and retelling, the story of her delivering early morning papers, as an 8-year old, on the neighborhood streets of hometown Atchison, Kansas in the early 1920s.

“Want some ice tea? Come on, Jimmy. Let’s go out on the porch.”  I knew she wanted to spend some time, at age 82, talking about her childhood.


My Mom was a GOOGLE MAP and a Wikipedia long before their time.

And she enjoyed the telling and the listening.  It was therapy.  A way to stay connected. To talk.  To care. To bond. To help others.

Whether your Mom, or a friend, real listening, too, is an art and part, of loving or caring for someone.

And it’s not always easy.

Other priorities, distractions try to crowd in the mind and the day.  (Photo: Jim with his Mom, Mary McNamara Richmond, shortly before her death in 2003.

Another of the most vivid examples of such listeners was  Dr. Robert Sparks, a distinguished physician, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nebraska system and dean of the Tulane University Medical School. (He grew up on a small farm near Newton, Iowa where he is buried this day.)

Dr. Sparks was, when I first knew him, a program director in health for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and later its president and chief operating officer.

No matter how busy, he had time to discuss your work and, in an informal way, your health problems if they were interfering with your professional performance.

I remember the total attention, the listening skills, he applied and gave to people in work discussions.

About ten years ago, I had the pleasure of spending several days with Bob, who had retired on the West Coast, but returned to Battle Creek for a speaking engagement.  

        In failing health, he wanted to, so we travelled by car throughout Battle Creek. He talked about his volunteer and career efforts with the Battle Creek Symphony, as chair of the Lakeview School Board, as a volunteer helping to revitalize the local health department, efforts to attract new family practice physicians to Battle Creek and, his role in development of what has emerged into the comprehensive Family and Community Health Center at Washington and Emmett Street.

Much of what he advocated, the positive changes he helped make happen in Battle Creek were never recognized publicly.  He was not that sort of person.

But he enjoyed retelling those stories and difficulties from the '80s.  And I ended up admiring him even more, for his many questions about my own life, my children, changes in Battle Creek, and other topics.

RDS.jpgI kept in touch with Dr. Sparks fairly regularly over his last decade, and  we talked on the phone three or four times from his hospital room in the final weeks as death approached him.

We learn so much from others, if we take the time to truly listen and communicate with them.

  Today, I try hard to listen to those I love and care about.  Even when they repeat themselves.  

And, almost without exception, my real friends and loved ones have the capacity to listen  when I need an ear, a smile, a word of encouragement.

There are many people with no capacity to listen. They only know how to talk.

How boring that must be.


July 25, 2015

Volunteer Group Helping Make Arboretum A Magical Destination For Visitors


Today will be Leilapalooza, a 6 outdoor stage, 35-music band festival rockin, rollin, jazzin on the 85-acres of Battle Creek's  Leila Arboretum. Located near downtown on W. Michigan Avenue.

Almost to the day last year, I published a blog about a group of Leila volunteers called "The Tuesday Group," which puts in hundreds of hours almost weekly to not only make Leila's front entrance  extraordinarily beautiful, but also to help on events like Leilapalooza; and the first-ever incredibly successful Fantasy Forest Art Competition several weeks ago, which drew close to 6,000 visitors.

(I ran across the following blog this morning -- there are more than 200 blog posts on my site from the past 10 years at ragstorichmond.blogspirit.com.With about 6,000 readers each month.)

But in all my years of working with volunteers (and being one), never have I seen a bunch like The Tuesday Group,  dedicated, hard working, persistent, fun and funny... who are not only central to maintaining the Arboretum, but helping it expand and transform itself into the "nature, arts, education and recreation campus" that Mrs. Post envisioned when she donated the property nearly a century ago.

I've worked a couple days a week at the Arboretum for 3 years, and I get to casually watch these volunteers, in the way I watch everything after nearly 50 years as a newspaper columnist, writer and author.

So, here's a link (below) to my story about The Tuesday Group. You'll be amazed at what they do.

And come on out today to the Leilapalooza music festival!

I'll be pouring beer from 6 to 9:30 at the Fragrant Hill Pavilion, up on the overlook.

As they say down south, "Just stop and say 'hey'!"


July 22, 2015

Firing of School Superintendent Symbol of Civic Leadership Gap



First: I agree generally with Commissioner Helmboldt.

(See link: http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/story/news/local/2015/07/21/frustrations-bubble-wake-hicks-resignation/30481031/)

The problems didnt start with School Superintendent Hicks and wont end with her departure.

Enquirer photo.jpgThey are systemic. I did not know Hicks. But I had occasion to watch how she (mis)treated her staff during the setup for a BCPS building principals meeting. She was unsmiling, rude, dictatorial, near abusive. You can tell a lot about how a CEO treats his/her people at all levels.

Of course we need school district consolidation. 

A friend lamented to me recently that there are 500 students at Battle Creek Central, in a building that used to serve 1,500 (and now not including 9th grade), and questioned why voters approved a $68 million building expansion.

All of the districts have rushed pell mell to building new high schools--as if trying to make sure they are the last one standing, if and when consolidation occurs.

Seems closing schools is the equivalent of getting dealt the "death card" in Tarot, if you are a school superintendent. Facing that prospect, a school superintendent should start looking for a nice retirement home in Costa Rica.

And most of us thought charter schools were such a "swell" idea. We should have spelled it s-w-i-l-l.

None of this is funny. Is is extremely sad and discouraging.

Change will not occur until we have another crisis like the City/Township merger or we-will-take-our -marbles -and -leave -home that occurred in the early 80s.

Ain't gonna happen.

Times change. Kellogg Co is treading water. See anyone there with Bill LaMothe's guts and leadership (on both the profit and community sides)?

A Kellogg Foundation program staff person is harder to reach by phone than Vladimir Putin. Some of us remember the days with the WKKF CEO answered his own phone and you could get 15 minutes with him to talk about almost any local, serious issue or problem.

Things are not all bad, all doom and gloom.

I feel the breeze, a rising wind of change in Battle Creek -- for the good.

It will not be painless. A few weeks ago, a Lansing friend and I had dinner and then walked through downtown."Oh, this is so lovely. Much nicer than Lansing!," she exclaimed.

But the really tough issues of disparate educational access and opportunity, of poverty, of largely ignored Northside neighbohoods....the list goes on.....remain.

I understand lots of private sector money is going into "planning" on how to deal with these issues. At Barnes & Noble, S.W.O.T. lists and flip charts sell faster than hotcakees at Ritzee's.

I'd rather see a few real leaders with guts and resources step forward.

Maybe that will happen.

It happened once-- long, long ago Virginia. Maybe it will happen again, and not just for a day at Christmas time.

July 20, 2015

Part Caine, Part Abel?

Part Caine, Part Abel?

Are we all part Caine, part Abel? caine and abel.jpg

Certainly I've been over a lifetime. Some of us are like milk: skim, 2%, 5%, whole Caine, little Abel. 

It's 3 a.m.., my body hurts, and I leave to drive to Chicago in a couple hours. But I have fed the cats...who are chasing each other around the apartment. And I am looking forward, later today, to seeing a friend from 40 years ago. 

But for some reason I have laid awake, consumed with the Caine and Abel analogy -- The following story on Bill Cosby is, in my book, about a man more Caine than Abel. 

Yet we held him up as Abel, as Jesus-like on the tv screen for decades and consumed his public morality statements. How can ANYONE be such a wolf in sheep's clothing?

But there are the true Abels among us. 

For decades, I've disliked and distained President Jimmy Carter, even while several of my friends near Deify the man 

In a long PBS interview recently. he explained the options presented to him by hs military leaders at the time of the hostage taking. ALL recommended destroying, wiping out Iran. 

Looking back, one can still argue whether that might have been the best choice. 

But Carter chose another less violent option. -- I believe the Abel option. And of course has paid the price for doing so, the rest of his life.

Carter was a mediocre President at best. But he has been a wonderful spokesperson and"doer" for peace and for helping others since leaving office. 

But supporting, advocating for this world of evil and random violence only begets violence and evil. And we need role models; people who choose to be Abel over Caine.

Caine will always be walking in our shadow. And we can't let him consume the world....like Iran, China, North Korea and others are still doing today, even if that requires maintaining and using our own military strength. 

but we can try our best to be more like Abel in our lives and toward others. 

On the phone last night, I told my son that I'm working on that..... as I near the end of a wonderful life.

Still it is difficult to do, especially if we lack self examination and self awareness, as we have sadly learned with Mr. Cosby: 


July 10, 2015

Lucy and Ethel in the Candy Lane


Did you know we spend more time watching porn on the Internet than reading The Bible,The Big Book, checking FACEBOOK and all the other combined books, all the other words in print? 

Of course, I (capitalize that "I") have never, never, never watched any porn. 

AND I know YOU have never watched ANY porn on the 



So who are all these people? 

Could Uncle Al be watching porn? 

GOD FORBID, as disgusting as it seems, could Dad or Mother or Father Tim be watching porn?

Could President Obama AT THIS VERY MOMENT be watching porn instead of finishing that 13 inch briefing book on whether the European Central Bank is going to again provide emergency liquidity assistance for the Greek drachma?

JUST THINK. If we all stopped watching Internet porn, we'd probably have time to solve the world's greatest problems.

In the course of full disclosure, let me ADMIT I've watched a little Internet porn in my day. 

But I keep looking in the girls' eyes and seeing thinly veiled pain, shame and the very worst kind of abuse we can inflict on each other as human beings.

Maybe some people just can't get enough of it.

For me personally, watching Porn very quickly is like watching Lucy and Ethel in the candy production line. 

Without the candy.
SEE NETFLEX's hour long documentary and interviews with young women who find themselves caught up in the porn production business.

May 10, 2015

"Sir, can I ask you to sit in the Emergency Exit Seat?"



Twelve years ago this week, I took my last 14-hour direct flight from China. I had done so each quarter, for three years -- traveling from either Hong Kong or Shanghai to Chicago, Detroit or Newark. Living in both worlds -- China and the U.S. Doing marketing here.

But my life had changed. And this was the last of these grueling flights. Never a problem on any of the flights.

We'd been in the air 12 and a half hours. Stiff backs, stale breath, stuffed into economy seats.

Sitting about 5 rows forward from the back of the plane, I suddenly hear a stewardess, who I knew from previous flights, lean over to ask: "Sir, can I ask you to sit in the emergency exit seat?"

"Of course," I replied, getting up and walking to the back of the 747 stretch plane with her, where she motioned to sit in the seat next to the Emergency Exit.

She whispered: "Are you SURE you're comfortable handling the exit door and ramp? The pilot has informed us we've lost primary hydraulic controls. We're approaching O'Hare (Chicago airport) on backup. The runways and approaches have been cleared for our emergency landing."

I told her yes and within 30 minutes, the plane's nose was pitched up, and the pilot came on with emergency instructions for passengers as we made a shuddering final 40-minute approach.

There was no sound but that of screaming engines, shaking seats and loose luggage in the overheads.

No crying. No weeping. No anger.

No sound from passengers.

We hit the runway like a wall, stopping just short on the very last 50 yards of cement.

And broke out in applause for the Captain and crew.

Merry Christmas to all.

And to all a good flight



Momma's Boy

Mother's Day Reflection:

Momma's Boy

My mom died 12 years ago.

mom.scott.josh.jpgBut, it could've been yesterday.

Because yesterday -- last night -- I came back from a business meeting and thought to myself: 'Think I'll call Mom.'

Something I did almost every night into adulthood, even with my own family,  a busy career, and across the long distance phone lines.

Of course, I couldn't call her, yesterday. 

But it's like she isn't gone; it's like I could. And I have that sudden urge many evenings.

 I told my grownup son about having this random thought; he gave me a  stare and said: "You OK, Dad?"

I may be 70, but I'll never forget my Momma. 

I'll always be a Momma's Boy.

I remember my 4'11"  red headed Mom -- not far removed McNamara/Begley Irish immigrant family, --  cooking the turkey in a bag overnight, the fresh cranberries, her special dressing and especially the pumpkin pies this time of year, and at Thanksgiving

I love pumpkin pie the way The Cookie Bear loves .... cookies.

And, at Thanksgiving, Mom always made two large pumpkin pies PLUS a small one....just for me....just for Jimmy.

I'm still a Momma's Boy.

And I'm thankful for all she gave me....not just the special pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving time.

Think I'll call her in my mind.   Just to chat about the day; perhaps share a tale or gossip about others in the McNamara-Begley clan.

"Can you hear me, Mom?"

January 25, 2015

"I don't understand you."



"I don't understand you," a friend of some 45 years said to me recently, referring to his difficulty in pinning down my political views.


I voted for Obama in 2008, but over the years have become critical (like many of his early supporters) at the gap between his rhetoric and results as President.


But in the past 6 months, I've dialed back my criticism and am, today, more open minded, more supportive, of him.


Why? Obamacare is proving to be a good thing. Universal, free child care is long overdue. The Keystone Pipeline is an environmentally dangerous, unneeded project. Undeniable facts show a growing economic riff between the rich and everyone else in America.


But I might change my mind about Obama again.


I'm not a liberal or a conservative. I don't like labels on people. I spend at least 3 hours a day reading and listening to a wide range of news and opinion stories, from The Guardian to The Atlantic, The New Yorker to The New York Times, the BBC World Service to the Battle Creek Enquirer.


I'll never be too old to learn. Never too old to change.



And I don't care if that leads to being misunderstood.

January 14, 2015

“Richmond, this is an AUTOCRACY, not a democracy!”

“Richmond, this is an AUTOCRACY, not a democracy!”


There are some life experiences, stories, you do not tell. They are often clouded in a confusing mixture of pride and shame.

“You need to tell this story!  It says so much about you,” my partner said last night, after hearing my very first telling of the story, to anyone, since it happened 36 years ago.

Here it is.


The USS Coral Sea, an aging, post WWII aircraft carrier, had left its Alameda, California home port jammed with a ship’s company and air wing of about 4,000 sailors, pilots, marines and about 80 aircraft, missiles, bombs, including a nuclear bomb; the aircraft mostly the famous F-4 A Phantom attack jet, and assorted  onboard delivery planes and helicopters.

I was a Navy reservist, called to active duty, and assigned to the Coral Sea.  I served in the Navy reserve to avoid being drafted.  

My wife, Anne, and I had a small apartment across the Bay from Alameda, in the Twin Peaks area of San Francisco.

There were high expectations as we completed carrier “trials” and got underway for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and then on to the Tonkin Gulf, to spend 7 months launching air strikes against North Vietnam targets, mostly the trails and railroads that were transporting North Vietnamese soldiers and equipment to fight the Americans in South Vietnam.

I did not believe in the war.  I did not want to be there.  No patriotic fervor. 

I was assigned to the Aviation Supply Department, where we managed all the parts necessary to keep the planes flying. I had worked as a newspaper reporter before joining the Navy.  But I sorted parts, moved boxes around, typed work orders in the Department’s office.

We had just steamed out of Pearl Harbor (known in the Navy simply as “Pearl”), when a friend of mine, an E-4 Second Class Petty Officer who was assistant to the full Commander of all ship supplies, shared a memo one evening.  It revealed that the Coral Sea would only return to its home port of Alameda for a few days after the current 8 month deployment, and then head to Bremerton, Washington for two months of routine maintenance.  It would deploy again off North Vietnam for 9 months.

I was incensed because there was a Navy Shipyard available to do the maintenance in San Francisco, and these orders meant that ship crew members, like myself, who had family living in Alameda, Oakland or San Francisco, would only have a few days with their family before the next deployment.

I decided to do something about it.

So, I wrote a long, uncritical, but questioning letter, addressed to the ship’s Captain.  A friend in the Public Affairs Office, who edited the ship’s daily newsletter, copied and inserted my letter in about a thousand copies of the next newspaper, distributed through the ship early the next morning.

All hell broke loose.AdmFerris.jpg

Captain Ferris had every typewriter and every one of its keys, on the ship, checked in order to find out the location of the typewriter that had been used to write the original letter.

He started by examining every typewriter in “Officer’s Country,” on the ship, and told several officers: “I thought an officer had to write that letter.  It was too well written for any enlisted person (to author).”

They tracked down the typewriter in the Aviation Supply department.  They tracked me down in two days.

And I was literally dragged out of my chair up to the Captain’s at-sea quarters near the quarterdeck of the carrier.

The Captain stood, with two Marine security guards, before me. “RICHMOND,” he screamed, with face red and bushy eyebrows near waving in the breeze, “This is an AUTOCRACY, not a democracy!”

He was in charge.  This was his ship. And he wasn’t going to put up with any letters like mine to the crew.

Strangely, I did not end up in the hole, the brig, far far down in the lower bowels of the carrier; with shaved head and guarded by Marines.

I received no punishment.

Strangely, The Captain had me transferred from Aviation Supply to Public Affairs, and made editor of the daily newspaper.

He went on speaker and told the crew that yes, we were going to Bremerton for repairs.  But he promised there would be weekly free flights between Bremerton and San Francisco for those crew members who had family there, before we again deployed to the South China Sea.

He also grew to love the way I changed and edited the daily newspaper. 

I started writing front page stories in the middle of each night; interviewing returning jet pilots about where the air strikes were done again North Vietnam; what the bombing results accomplished.  What happened in terms of pilot returns and aircraft mechanical and weapon problems.

I also started writing short features with photos on all kinds of different ship mates – their family, their jobs on the carrier, how they felt about Navy service.F-4.jpg

I added poetry to the newspaper that was submitted by crew members, and coverage of stateside news I thought important and of interest.

About three times a week, my phone would ring an hour or so after I’d distributed the daily newspaper very early in the morning. “HOLD FOR THE CAPTAIN!” his Marine guard would bark into the telephone.

And the Captain would come on, and want to chat about the newspaper content, the interviews, and the stories about crew members. “Great job, Richmond!” he’d say many times.

I went on to serve on the Coral Sea for two combat tours. 

Captain Ferris left the ship after that tour, and was promoted to Rear Admiral – a rare promotion for an officer who had not graduated from the Naval Academy.

For all the ensuing years, I have kept track of Admiral Ferris. 

He soon retired after his promotion, and lived out his life in Alameda, California.  His obituary in 2006 noted that he had been a volunteer deliveryman for “Meals on Wheels” for more than 23 years after retirement.

A great man.  A great leader who was loved by every shipmate.

And I? 

Should I feel shame, or pride, for speaking out on behalf of myself and other shipmates on the Coral Sea, by writing that letter? By breaking Navy regulations.

“No, I really don’t feel shame,” is what I told my partner last night.

Thankfully, I left the Navy in 1970, to travel other life roads, that have always taken me back to the written word, and to watching and writing about people and  life experiences and to speaking out when it seemed necessary.

But you never know what the consequences of doing so will be.  Often far different than in this strange story of Navy service during the Vietnam conflict.



December 07, 2014

Michigan Deer Season: Alone in the Testosterone Zone

deer huntes.jpg

Michigan Deer Season:


A damp, dark cloud of human male testosterone, hung over the Shell Station on N.E. Capital in Battle Creek, Michigan at 5 am this morning, more stifling than any car pollution cloud along 5-Ring Road in Beijing, China.

Fifteen to twenty mud caked F-150s, F-250s and F-350s were parked butt to booty, more Ford decals than in a Dealer display lot. 

Their owners, most dressed in speckled brown camouflage bib overalls, were strutting their stuff like peacocks, as they filled tanks.
Some leaned again truck beds, telling war stories about yesterday’s game-on against the enemy in the woods around Battle Creek.

And they seemed ready for a repeat roust and joust this morning.

"Jesus," I thought, "Bambi wouldnt last five seconds around this crowd.

I got coffee. Paid for my gas. 

I'm sure many are out for much needed "harvesting" of deer, and fill their food lockers, or those of homeless shelters,  with perhaps much economically needed  and appreciated protein.

But this isnt my kind of sport or my way of thinking about hunting animals.

I know....my view is shared by about as many people in Michigan as root for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

“HEY!, HAVE A GOOD ONE!,” I lied in  artificial baritone, bumping into one of the hunters, as I headed out the gas station door.

October 24, 2014

Jeanette Elliott's Woodshop: Building Furniture to Last a Lifetime

Author's note:  Last week, as chilly October winds blew off Lake Michigan, I traveled down Blue Star Highway, which runs north to south almost within sight of elegant homes, barely hidden on direct side roads to the Lake Michigan shoreline.  

The Highway was littered with fancy restaurants and antique shops, like nearby summer Lake homes, closed for the winter.  

In front of one store, still open,  was a "marked down" display of ''Elegant, Hand Made Chesapeake/ Adirondack deck chairs", at the "special price" of $359.99 each.  

I stopped and checked them out.  They were poorly constructed and designed -- pale comparisons to those described in the story below.  At about twice the price.  

So, want the best and the best price in anything wood, stop by Jeannette Elliott's in Battle Creek.  No Lake view at her place.  But what a skilled craftsman.

Jeanette Elliott’s Woodshop:

Building Furniture to Last a Lifetime

           Long before Jeanette Elliott graduated from Harper Creek High School in 1981, she knew what she wanted to do in life:  build beautiful, functional, sturdy things from wood that people could use and cherish for their lifetime, and likely the lifetimes of their children.

         Elliott is the sole, passionate proprietor, and one employee, of Elliott’s Woodshop, located at 449 N. Bedford Road (M-37), just North of Morgan Road.


          Almost anything you want, and can be fashioned from wood, Elliott can make – -- floating boat docks, historic fire station doors, kitchen cabinets, custom deer blinds, library shelves, retail display units – but her specialty seems to be lovingly designed and built summer furniture: Adirondack chairs, picnic tables, wishing wells, fun tete-a-tete chairs, tables – and almost all of very sturdy, lasting cedar and white Oak woods.

     Elliott tries to purchase all of her wood and other materials from U.S. manufacturers, and says her furniture and other creations are better made than those sold in the parking lots of Lowe’s or K-Mart, and which usually are from China or somewhere else overseas.

         “My passion for wood and woodworking began in 7th grade shop class,” Elliott said with a laugh, removing the safety glasses she’d been wearing while operating a table saw. “And I do whatever it takes to make my business possible.”

         That translates into even cleaning school building hallways, classrooms and toilets on a part-time basis, and being thankful for that source of income; while she maintains an 8 to 10 hour Woodshop and display center schedule.

      “Oh, I like to work hard.  And this is relaxing. There aren’t too many woodshops still operating these days.  But my “open” sign is still ‘on’, and I’m thankful for what I have,” she said.

More information about products and Woodshop hours is available by contacting Elliott at 269.962.3700 or 269.965.6732.

October 23, 2014

Deadline for 2015 Art Competition Entries Nears





There has never been a southwestFFart.gif Michigan art competition quite like this one!


Artists from Michigan and around the country will use chainsaws, paint brushes, pottery chards, metal rods and much more to transform a grove of 16 Ash tree trunks at the Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, into a “Fantasy Forest” of permanent art creations June 13-20, 2015, part of a week-long, interactive celebration of art, music and educational events for people of all ages.

A volunteer committee, headed by former Federal Center Executive Gerald Tilmann, is meeting weekly on art competition planning.

Tilmann said he is encouraging artists to submit entries of their original design concepts for the competition as soon as possible.

Detailed “Call for Artists” information on the entry process is available online at: http://lasgarden.org/pdf/FantasyForestCFA.pdf. The project also has a special Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/all.creatures.wood.and.tall

“There're only 16 tree trunks available in the grove, and we expect many artists to enter the juried art prize competition,” Tilmann commented. “So we encourage them to enter now. 

We welcome online, email, telephone and in-person calls and questions about all details of the competition.”

In addition to juried prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and a $1,000 “People’s Choice Award,”  artists selected for the competition receive a stipend, and the opportunity to display and sell their other art to an estimated 6,000 people who will visit the week-long competition.


            For information, contact Leila Arboretum’s Executive Director Brett Myers at 269-969-0270, ext. 123 or email bam@lasgarden.org.

October 04, 2014

Son Finds Hope After Jim Hazel's Death



“I want to bring the (Service) Station back to its former glory:


Son Applies Lessons, Finds New Hope After

Iconic Father and Civic Leader Jim Hazel’s Death


photos and story by jim richmond


Next week will mark the first anniversary of Jim Hazel, Jr’s death, who was a Battle Creek civic leader and booster without peer for decades.

Today, his son Jim Hazel III still runs the Citgo Service Station on Beadle Lake Road that has been in the family for three generations, and which has gone through good times and – more recently – tough financial times.Hazel Citigo.jpg

But the sun is out and shining as far as Jim Hazel III is concerned.

After straightening out complicated and inaccurate sales taxes debts on the station totaling $100,000 from the past 15 years, Jim is ready to focus on renovating the station to its “full service” status, with its historical emphasis on local, quality auto repair.

Meanwhile Hazel, at age 50, is studying full-time at Western Michigan University, finishing a degree in telecommunications information management, after already earning an associate degree in law, and a master mechanic’s certification. While running the station full-time.JimHazelIIIcloseup.jpg

“I was a late starter,” he said, laughing, during a recent interview.  “My Dad started working in the Station when he was 11 (years old).  I was 13.”

His father took care of the business side, but his son learned more than how to pump gas and fix flat tires.

“My dad was like the energizer bunny. He worked constantly.  And he was a ‘connector’ in the community.  He connected people together to get problems and projects solved in Battle Creek. He also taught me to keep going forward.  That you only have so much time in life.”

The night before this interview, Jim said he sat in the Harper Creek High School football stadium, near a special area dedicated to and where his father always sat for games. 

“It’s been a year.  But I sat there and teared up over Dad being gone,” his son said.

But Jim is moving forward. 

And he has high hopes and big plans:

  • To bring the station back to its glory days.
  • To give back to the community as a volunteer, as his father did. 
  • And with wife Nancy, to raise their daughter Alyssia, 14, and a Harper Creek High School freshman, in the Hazel family tradition of hard work and putting community before self.

A year has passed. 

But, son Jim still has a huge blowup photo of his Dad in the service station’s front window, as a tribute and a reminder.

Photo or no photo.

Many in Battle Creek will never forget Jim Hazel.

October 03, 2014

Hospital Confusion Over Ebola All Too Common


Hospital Confusion Over Ebola Victim All Too Common

Jim Richmond's Note:  The Texas hospital screw up in communication between nurses and physicians over background of the Ebola infected walk-in patient is all too common an experience for most of us.

My cousin, a phd educated nurse practitioner and university faculty member, has often cautioned me, and others, “You, a family member or a friend have to be your own patient advocate in the hospital.”

In Texas, TV network news are reporting this morning that the doctors and nurses had separate laptop patient information systems.   Systems that did not communicate with each other about the Ebola patient's travel history.

So, take with a huge grain of salt, all the Interstate Highway advertising signs by megahospitals about how super efficient and effective they are….

Truth is there are a lot of good, compassionate people working in hospitals. But they make mistakes, like the rest of us.  And  most big hospitals operate just like most other big businesses.

And when you're a patient in one, you have to not only watch your back but cover your own ass. 

Literally and figuratively.

Here’s my own little, recent, true experience in back and ass covering at my “hometown” hospital.



“STAT! STAT! Will The Hospitalist Please Call the Intensivist.”

“STAT! STAT!  Will The Hospitalist Please Call the Intensivist.”

By Jim Richmond

     I got wheeled onto a hospital elevator yesterday.  The elevator stopped and a middle aged man in a white coat and wearing the physician’s stethoscope around his neck, got on.

     Funny guy.  We bantered back and forth, as the elevator went up the floors.

     “A neurologist?” I asked the hospital attendant accompanying me, after the physician got off the elevator.

     “No. He’s an Intensivist,” the attendant replied.

     “Is that a new board certified medical specialty?” I pressed on. “What does he DO? Is he anything like being a Futurist?,” trying to joke a bit.

      “Intensivists are physicians who specialize in treating people in intensive care,” he said. “They work with the hospitalists.”

      “The hospitalists?” I asked.

      “Hospitalists are doctors who treat patients in a hospital.  They’re usually hospital employees.  We got lots of them,” the attendant said.

      “Oh.  What about the general practitioners and family docs?  The ones who saw you in their office, knew your medical history and problems, and visited you in the hospital.  They had something called ‘hospital privileges'; and made patient rounds in the mornings,” I said.

   My wheel chair attendant explained, “Hardly any family docs do hospital visits anymore.  It’s specialized now.”

      Yes, I thought.  2 ER doctors, 1 Physician’s Assistant, 1 Hospitalist, 1 Intensivist, 1 Charge Nurse, and 2 floor nurses, all asked me the same basic health background questions, while the majority of them also rather frantically typing my answers on their tiny laptops.

      “Aren’t all your laptops connected in one patient information system?  Do you have to ask  the same questions over and over again?,” I inquired, with a smile, of the CCU nurse.

      She seemed, only for a moment, a bit puzzled by my question. “Some hospital staff can only access part of the hospital

 records for a patient. You DO want your information to be accurate, don’t you?”

      “Certainly do,” I meekly replied, and a bit intimidated

, checking to see the back of my hospital gown wasnt showing my cheeks.

      Lots of hands in the modern hospital pot these days. 

      Progress and technology move ever forward.

      I got excellent care at the hospital, by friendly, very professional people.

      But, I still miss Dr. Robert Oakes.  Our family physician (now retired), who birthed both our sons,  knew all about my bad knee, the kids’ childhood illnesses and allergies, and was always at the hospital too, when you needed him.

      Dr Oakes was my kind of intensivist. 

October 02, 2014

Bad Teeth: Can A Smile Be Your Umbrella

Bad Teeth:

Can A Smile Be Your Umbrella?

Just let a smile be your umbrella,
On a rainy, rainy day . . .
And if your sweetie cries, just tell her,
That a smile will always pay . . .

Whenever skies are gray,
Don’t you worry or fret,
A smile will bring the sunshine,
And you’ll never get wet!

So, let a smile be your umbrella,
On a rainy, rainy day
 . . .

Many of us old-timers won’t soon forget Perry Como’s comfortable smile, singing this tune on his TV show during the late 1950s. Como and the song seemed to say optimism pays in life and that a smile can overcome much, including a rainy day.

It’s still true today.

 Unfortunately up to 44 million Americans don’t dare smile because of the condition of their teeth, and don't have an umbrella for a rainy day, according to an article The New Yorker magazine.

It reported on a  Harvard University study that  “bad teeth” is the No. 1 problem of Americans who can’t afford to go to a dentist.
The Harvard researchers, for their book “Uninsured in America,” interviewed all kinds of people. The most common complaint was about teeth.
There was Gina, a hairdresser in Idaho, whose husband worked at a chain store. Gina had “a peculiar mannerism of keeping her mouth closed even when speaking.”  Turned out she hadn’t been able to afford dental care for three years, and one of her front teeth was rotting.
Daniel, a constructor worker, pulled out his bad teeth with pliers.
Then, there was Loretta, who worked nights at a university research center in Mississippi, and was missing most of her teeth. “They’ll break off after a while, and then you grab a hold of them, and they work their way out,” she explained.
Those Americans struggling to get ahead in the job market quickly find out that unsightliness of bad teeth is a major barrier. If your teeth are bad, you’re not going to get a job as a receptionist or a cashier.

According to the study, bad teeth have come to be seen as a marker of “poor parenting, low educational achievement and slow or faulty intellectual development."


I’d call it another “marker” of how we’ve become a society of have and have-nots.

September 25, 2014

"That'll kill ya, sonny."


“That’ll kill ya, sonny.”


The petite, fragile 80s-something Chinese woman and older buttoned down starched shirt Caucasian husband walked into the Arboretum office yesterday.

“Can I help you?,” I inquired.

“We’re passing thru. From New Jersey. 

Gotta map of the Arboretum?,
 she asked, as I continued to lick envelopes, anxious to get letters to Postman, waiting in the office parking lot.

Smileless, she stared at me like a piece of bad meat at the supermarket, and said:

“That’ll kill ya, sonny.”

I must of looked bewildered, because her husband took pity, and interpreted:

“The wedding invitations.



S-E-I-N-F-E-L-D episode.”

They touched hands … turned to the door …

“Thanks for the maps,” she said, winking at her husband.

September 17, 2014

Bear Claw

Bear Claw

At least twice a year, for more than three years, my Chinese wife and I would take the ferry from Hong Kong to mainland Shenzhen, and then board the train for the then near two-day journey, up through the heart and soul of rural eastern coastal China to visit her relatives in hometown Shanghai.

In Shanghai, a beautiful booming city with interesting reminders of long ago British influence, we did many things – but one we never, never forgot to do. 

We would gather with Li Li’s (my wife) relatives at her parents’ gravesites. 

The cremation urns built into the walls of a large mausoleum, reserved for the “Po Bas” of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which included my father-in-law, who had long marched with Mao and then ruled over all Shanghai importing and exporting for nearly ten years, until he fell out of grace and spent years (as did Li Li, 15 years old at the time) doing stoop labor on a Chinese communal labor farm.

But he and Li Li, the whole family, were “reeducated” and returned to Red China’s graces.  And Mother and Father now interned with other true Revolutionaries.

The cremation urns included little, attached special boxes, filled with toy miniature reproductions of a bed, stove, luxury food items.  And we would add to the boxes, in respect and hope that “Mother and Father” would have access to real life comforts in the afterlife.

 I was reminded of all this recently, as I drove down Gregory Boulevard and past McClain’s Bakery in hometown Kansas City, where one of my own Mother’s (Mary McNamara Richmond) favorite delights was to buy several of the Bakery’s bear claws with almonds. 

So, I stopped at McClain’s Bakery, and bought a bear claw.

And visited my parents’ graves in a nearby Kansas City cemetery. 

I left behind the McClain’s bear claw with almonds on top of the joint grave stone of Mom and Dad. 


They won’t mind sharing one, I thought.



They shared everything. 

September 09, 2014

Boomer Dating In The Internet Age



Boomer Dating In The Internet Age:


Yesterday, a national news outlet carried a piece asserting that an estimated 1 out of 4 males on one of the largest Internet Dating Sites has been convicted of a felony.

This ‘boomer’ dating in the Internet Age is like trying to find out if that “great used car buy,” is the real deal or a leftover from the New Orleans flood.

Not long ago, I was talking with a nice gal on the phone, met on the "Single Seniors Meet" website.

Her photos breathtaking.  They showed her posing jauntily before the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Tiananmen Square, and lounging in the sand on the Star Wars movie set in Tunisia.

She suggested I might visit in her southeast city and “even think about going to Sicily" next October. 

In perhaps 15 email and phone conversations, we chatted exclusively on two topics: 1) her pets; and 2) the PGA Touring Golf Pro she lived with in the ‘70s.

"You can Google him on the Internet," she said. "He was a real star." 

I nudge the conversation to books read, favorite foods, politics (the

Death Star topic), best cities, grandkids.  


It was like trying to get the cat out from under the bed.


One night, we were talking (again) about the new "Luxury Microsuede Snoozer Dog Car Seats" and "Thunder Shirts" for anxiety disorders, she's recently purchased for her four Doxies. 

"Did you Google (insert golfer's name here)?" 

"Yes," I replied. 


Turned out I'd heard of the guy.  He won the first Tournament of Champions and a number of chickenandpees regionals, but was best known for his gambling and wearing a rose between his teeth on the final four holes of a PGA tournament. 

The profile listed his current age as 90. 

Suddenly, the phone went quiet: "I’ve something to tell you," she near whispered, a bit breathless, and I wondered if she wanted to talk a little dirty, or I guess what they call today "phone sex."


"It's the age thing." 

"The AGE THING?," I asked, thinking about her Golfer paramour's. 

"Yes," she replies, "you know my profile says I'm 66." (Long pause.)

"Well, I'm a little older." 

"Oh, how  much?" I asked, like someone afraid to hear amount of the car transmission replacement bill.

"82," she says. "If I'd posted my real age, no one would've replied."

I poo poohed it all, trying to make us feel comfortable again.

"I'm glad we got past THAT," she said, obviously relieved.

Now about those breathtaking photos.

September 07, 2014

Have we got a deal for you at: UGLY ED'S OIL SHOPPE



Have we got a deal for you at:


The elderly woman, about 90, pulled her almost new Buick LaCrosse into the bay, next to mine, at the local Ugly Ed’s Oil Shoppe, to be greeted by a phalanx of uniformed attendants, who jumped to it like a Marine Corp drill team, “upselling” her from the advertised $29.95 Oil Change Special to a list of “needed” and “important” services Donald Trump who have had a hard time paying for.

“Upselling” is as American as apple pie; defined by the Oxford dictionary as “techniques for persuading a customer to buy something additional or more expensive.”

But Ugly Ed’s Oil Shoppe has turned upselling into an unusual combination of persuasion, cornball theatrics, intimidation, fear, persistence and repetition that would warm the hearts of Harold Hill,  Zig Ziegler and Joel Osteen.

First off, the Ugly Ed team is a model of overstated ballyhoo and military drill team efficiency.

Before the lady has her engine turned off, they’re at work on inspections:

“Tire pressure?,” one team member yells to another. 

“36.  CHECK!,” comes the reply.

“Washer fluid?” 


“Wiper Blades?” 


This goes on until a team member with clipboard sides up to the woman’s car window.

        “I’d like the $29.95 oil change special,” she says pleasantly.

The technician tells her,  sorry, but her Buick REQUIRES synthetic oil.  That’s extra. A lot extra from that furnished with the $29.95 “special” on the sign out front.

Her wipes blades also need replacing (he holds up three sets of potential replacements, each increasing in price, and marked something like  “Not So Good,”  “Fair,” and “The Very Best” and explains the potential road dangers of driving with inferior or defective wiper blades.

       He then sells her nitrogen (instead of air) for her tires, two kinds of filters, coolant, and assorted other “critical” items.

         “Nice dog you got there,” he says, pointing to the lady’s gray muzzled black lab in the back seat. “But the old guy kinda smells a bit, don’t he?”

        He extends the clipboard with bill through her car window, “Just sign right here and we’ll get ja goin.”

        Her eyes flare wide, a startled look on her face. 

But she signs the bill and hands Ugly Ed her Visa card.

        I’m thinkin: The dog aint the only thing that smells here.

August 29, 2014

Men's 'War' Stories


Men’s ‘War’ Stories

“I’m not surprised George had the affair,” my female friend said. “He found someone new who’d listen to and appreciate his war stories.”

George, married 40 years to Sue, had been caught through credit card receipts, having an affair with a young office assistant. They’d been working long hours together on a business deal and evidently pursuing each other around bedroom posts at the "Wee Hours Motel."

My friend’s hypothesis is that many older men like George have little left, late in life, but their ego and their “war stories,” that they'll shamelessly repeat  to near anyone who’ll listen.

“I'm attentive and smile, when my husband starts on one of his war stories to others  at a social dinner,” she continued.  “At home, I pick up the newspaper or leave the room.  He could be talking to a fence post. In fact, he'd tell the stories to a fencepost.”

She claimed wives also routinely hear spouses take their rather mundane life experiences and turn them into grand adventures worthy of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc  -- embellishing with fictional details to make them more interesting, self important.

"You know what I mean," she said, "like how they’d tripped out on Acapulco Gold at Woodstock when they’d really watched Woodstock from a bar stool and TV set in Akron, or been a combat platoon 'point man' in Vietnam, when actually they got shot in the ass on third day In-County and shipped permanently stateside with a band aid and a Purple Heart."

You seem a little angry. Does this topic touch too close to home? Don’t women have war stories? I replied.

“It’s different with us,” she said.  “Women may dominate conversation but we’re interested in relationships, small, daily living stories. We don’t have to talk about bagging an 8-point deer or a 28-year old office assistant.” 

She stared into my eyes, winked: “Bet you got war stories.  Don’t you, Jim? Any 28-year old assistants behind those glasses?

Hey, Jim?”

          Me?, I replied, pausing to take a slow, languid bite out of my Ritzee oliverburger.

          Well, there IS a good one about breaking my leg, at age 14, tee-peeing my girlfriend’s house in the rain.  One about living up the street from Janis Joplin in San Francisco.  Interviewing Michael Caine and being an extra in a war movie in the Philippines.  

Let me tell you the one about Chinese Police knocking on my door in Hong Kong…