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May 08, 2013

Don't Listen To The Special Interests

Don't Listen To The Special Interests

The World Health Organization now ranks the U.S. health care system 38th overall;  but #1 in cost.

And U.S. hospitals are the worst, the very worst contributors to our out-of-control system.

We wonder why lawyers, physicians and hospitals in Michigan are tripping over each other, trying to kill HB4936, the effort to limit personal injury coverage?

Do we think it's because of their concern for accident victims?

Don't listen to the special interests.

Michigan is the only state in the Union that mandates unlimited protection -- and it's why our auto insurance is so high. (Let's crack down, too, on the 1 in 5 Michigan drivers who are roaming our streets behind the wheel with no car insurance.)

For another example of U.S. hospitals 'at work', see story in today's NYTimes:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/08/business/hospital-billi...


May 05, 2013

Life's Lessons

 

Life's Lessons Learned.....

Some of life's lessons are learned hard, while others we stumble into and through from ignorance and naivete.

For example, when we innocently volunteered our personal email address to Walmart or Match.com 20 years ago, how were we to know that our email boxes would STILL be crammed full of their nonsense each morning in 2013, or that they would be harder to shake than a recurring case of Navy gonorrhea?  

Not that I have PERSONAL experience, mind you.

April 17, 2013

City Water a Public Rip-Off?

City Water A Public Rip-off?

Like on TV’s Dog The Bounty Hunter or Operation REPO, the Battle Creek Water Department agents can be seen many 7 a.m. mornings in Urbandale, flashlights at the ready in the dark, turning off City residents’ water at the curbside, because of their overdue water bills. 

(Truth is, I wouldn’t want residents catching me either disconnecting their water, any more than Operation Repo snatching that 2003 Ford Escort from Car City that’s in the driveway.)

But the real turnoff and shocker for all City residents – bill slackers and prompt payers alike – isn’t at the faucet, but when we open our monthly City of Battle Creek Utility Bill.

Here is a real life, recent example. 

utilitybill.jpg

Total monthly utility bill: $38.08,

Actual Water and sewer consumed/used for the month: $3.68.

Then an additional $22.83 charge for “water and sewer readiness.”

Maybe this readiness has to do with providing new flashlight batteries or orange traffic cones for the 7 a.m. City Utility Department Shock and Awe Squads.

Not to be labeled a naysayer, I’m sure there are good reasons why we should support City “water and sewer readiness.” 

Some might consider such support patriotic,  like standing  for The National Anthem or when The President enters the White House Press Room.

So, as the City perhaps searches for new “readiness” charges to tack on to our future water bills, may I offer a suggestion? 

* The Dingo Ate My Baby Public Services charge 

            When we compared our City water bills last night, my next door Urbandale neighbor suggested:

* The City Police Alcohol Rehab Readiness charge

Now, now, I chided him:  water or no water, trash in/trash out, we don’t need to be trashing our local law enforcement. 

I’d be satisfied with a moratorium on Utility Bill Readiness charges. 

            But, we all know it’s tough these days to come-by five (5) City Commission votes for most anything.

April 06, 2013

Clean Underpants

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Clean Underpants

 

It’s amazing how we're our parents' children, even in our own old age.

My dear little Irish Mother, bless her heart and her memory, now 10 years passed, had a ritual before taking us kids to see the pediatrician in the early 1950s.

She'd lay out sparkling white and clean underpants for each of us. 

Our clothes might have been a bit thread bare, but she didn’t want the Doctor to see our bare bottoms, unless he had to pull down clean underpants first.

So, I was out at the VA Medical Center the other day, approaching age 69,  getting checked out by my (as always)  proficient and efficient (and attractive) Nurse Practitioner on “Clinic Team A.”

“Drop your drawers, Mr. Richmond,” she said casually.

My blood pressure rose and face flushed red.

  “But,” I blurted out in protest, “I don’t have on clean underpants!”

“Mr. Richmond,” she said, struggling to hold back smile and laugh, “clean or dirty, there aren't any surprises in those underpants.”

March 15, 2013

March 18 Crime Worshop A Chance for Learning, Dialogue

 

Crime-scene-tape.jpg

March 18 Crime Workshop Chance

For All To Listen, Learn and Share

 

The City Commission of Battle Creek is holding a workshop on “Crime and Perception” Monday, March 18, 6 p.m., in the multipurpose room  at the Department of Public Works building, 150 S. Kendall

This is an important and unusual opportunity for residents of Battle Creek to listen to City officials’ comments on current status of crime and its prevention in our community, and also to share their own views. 

It is NOT intended as a forum for bashing the City police or any other public official.

I plan to attend and hope others will as well.  A great chance to learn, share and perhaps consider new priorities about an issue that affects our children, our families, our neighborhoods, and the total community. 

March 03, 2013

'Great Escape' Stage Company Is A 'Great Surprise'

 

C39StepsGESC (1).jpg

GREAT ESCAPE STAGE COMPANY

IS A GREAT SURPRISE

 

Last's night performance of "The Thirty-Nine Steps" was a tour de force by local writer and thespian John Sherwood (former editorial page editor of the Enquirer and now Oaklawn Hospital executive) at the cozy, close-in and comfortable 30-seat Great Escape Stage Company in downtown Marshall.

The two-act comedy and spoof of the famous Alfred Hitchcock film was like Young Frankenstein on Ritalin.

Featured were Sherwood as Richard Hannay, the square-jawed hero with a pencil mustache; and Amity Reading as the myriad of dangerous and seductive women he breaks the hearts of.

Chris Blackford and Randy Lake played every other character they crossed paths with - including the diabolical Man With No Top Joint of his Pinky Finger and "Mr. Memory", a MacGuffin in the whole spy-thriller plot!

Talented, high energy, and versatile group of actors, who handled more costume and set changes than backup singers at an Elton John and Tina Turner concert.

A very fast paced, funny MontyPythonish production, too; held back only by a somewhat confusing, drawn-out second-act plot line and close.

We're going to run not walk to the phone, ordering tickets for the next Great Escape production, "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead"  by Bert V. Royal. Starts March 15th and runs through March 30th.

The Great Escape Stage Company: a delightful surprise and   terrific local entertainment resource.

Times and ticket prices: 269.781.2700.  http://greatescapestagecompany.com/home

February 27, 2013

Love Livin in Michigan!

Arboretum.Snow.jpg

GET THOSE SLEDS OUT!!

Breathtakingly beautiful (and warm!) day at Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek,Michigan.

Birds are cherpin!

So, kids, get those sleds out. Adults, put those walkin shoes on.

This is why we love livin in Michigan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

February 22, 2013

Dr. Russ Mawby's 85th Birthday

RGM.6.14.12.jpgDr. Russ Mawby's 85th Birthday

 

Tomorrow, 2.23, is Dr. Russ Mawby's 85th Birthday.  A great Battle Creek civic leader, philanthropist, educator, and patriot.

If you know and would like to call Russ or send him an email, saying "Happy Birthday", I will forward his phone number and email address to you.

For his email address/phone #, send me an email at: jmadisonrichmond@gmail.com

February 14, 2013

NO TOILETS, NO SHOWERS, NO A/C, CRUMMY FOOD? .... SIGN ME UP!


cruiseship.jpg

NO TOILETS, NO SHOWERS, NO A/C, CRUMMY FOOD? .... SIGN ME UP!


I'm probably among the minority of Americans who look on the latest Cruise Ship mess with fondness and yearning.

In the two years I spent on a WWII-era US aircraft carrier (Coral Sea, '68'69) -- most of it steaming in the steaming hot and humid Pacific -- clogged toilets, no shower water, no a/c, and crummy food were, well, the norm, not the exception.  

We worked 16 hour-days.  

I don't recall the Captain handing out free drink tickets when the heads (toilets) didn't work.

And we paid a lot more than $3,000 apiece for ourUSS_Coral_Sea_cv43_1986.jpg cruise tickets.

So, stranded passengers... suck it up ... make the most of it ... you may look back with fond memories and new friends on what today seems like a really shit*y cruise experience.

I do.

February 12, 2013

Sports Apparel Just Fun For These Two "Volunteers"

 

 

 


Sports Apparel Just Fun For These Two “Volunteers”

Americans spend more than $8 billion a year on sports logo apparel – 60 percent of them men and most have never set foot on campus or in the classroom of the university or college emblazoned on their chest, their undershorts, socks, and ball caps.


I’ve never been able to quite figure out the attraction of the sports clothing thing. 

Tennessee.jpgAnd the two guys I ran into today didn’t help.

“Does that “T” on your caps stand for Tulane, Texas, Tennessee, or Tufts?,” I asked Jerry Tillman (photo, right) and Gary Steiner.

They laughed, looked at each other liked I’d just asked how many pennies are in a nickel.

“We were traveling through Knoxville, it was cold, so we stopped in Wal-Mart,” Jerry recalled, “looking for the cheapest cap in the store.”

They paid $1.98 apiece.

And the Tennessee Volunteers gained two new fans in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Or did they?

February 11, 2013

"You Feel So Good There"

 

oldpeople.jpg

YOU FEEL SO GOOD THERE


"You feel so good there," the aging single male, whispered to his first time date, as he spread four fingers across the valley of her back, caressing, nudging and guiding her, like a beached dolphin back to sea, onto the senior center dance floor.

My long time friend twisted her lips ever so slightly in revulsion and the memory.

"He'd no idea what I was really thinking," she said. "God, I hate dating at my age."

February 07, 2013

The Mailbox

Virginia, honey,

let me tell you a story about 'The Mailbox'

Yes, Virginia, honey.   It's all so very different now that we just communicate with people with our cell phones, I-pads, kindles and computers.

It used to be that people actually went out to dinner together and talked, or visited with their parents at the family dinner table, instead of texting all the time, checking Facebook and Twitter.  

We also put our sympathy, our congratulations, our  fondest love expressions down in writing, and shared them in a very different way, honey.IMG00238-20101101-0808.jpg

We used what was called a  “Mail Box.”  There was one in almost every neighborhood.

Odd as it might seem today, people wrote down their thoughts on what we called “paper.”  They used something called a “pen” or “pencil.”

Grandma or Grandpa would then put the “paper” with their written thoughts into a wrapper, called an “envelope.” And stick a little glued photo on the outside.

And put the envelope in the “Mail Box.”

A strange lady or a man would stop at the “Mail Box”, usually once a day, and remove all the “envelopes.” The lady or man were called “Postmen.”

The “Postmen” were a proud people. 

They picked up and delivered the envelopes even when it rained, or snowed, or flooded.

They wore strange blue and grey tribal clothes.

The envelopes went by train, truck and airplane, to another person, in another neighborhood, city, state or even country, somewhere around the world.

It would take three days for this to happen!  Occasionally a week or more. And, once in a while, the envelope got lost and never arrived at all.

Imagine that!

Then the world changed. 

The Postmen disappeared.

So, too, the paper and the envelopes.

And, so, too,  but a few of these now relic “Mail Boxes” scattered in obscure, hidden away places.

Now, Virginia, honey.  Time to turn off that I-Pad and let Grandpa tuck you into bed.

Sweet dreams, sweetheart.

February 01, 2013

Mr. Kellogg would be proud!

Flatbread.jpgMR. KELLOGG WOULD BE PROUD

I don't put anything on this blogsite that involves any personal remuneration or might be construed as such.

But let me say Mr. Kellogg would be proud of the new Kellogg's microwave sandwiches now available at Meijer's. They are BETTER than fresh breakfast sandwiches at Burger King and McDonald's -- and only 240 calories. If you've tried frozen breakfast sandwiches (like Jimmy Dean) you know they taste like cardboard.

Not's Kellogg's!!

Great job "Kellogg's of Battle Creek"!

January 27, 2013

Shopping at Meijer's

Shopping at Meijer's:

"I JUST SHOVE THIS CRAP INTO THE PLASTIC BAGS"

meijer.png


So I do my monthly staples trip to Meijer's early this morning. And go through a line. A woman with lots in front, and another in back of me.

Evidently Meijer's having a two-day sale, and the gal in front was questioning why there was no discount on an item.

The Meijer's clerk replied: "I don't know. It's all automatic. I just shove this crap into the plastic bags."

I laughed and said, motioning like I was reaching into my cart, "Well, maybe I should take some of this 'crap' back to the store shelves."

I am not humorless; but I think customer service and employee attitude is REALLY important.

Maybe I should look for a job as a "mystery shopper."

:-/

Booty -- or Curtain -- Call ?

Booty -- or Curtain
-- Call ?

 

*Sarah had energy, style, intellect, beauty and assertiveness.

 

woman-silhouette-4.jpgSo I asked her out on a date.  We were adults; middle age.  Well read professionals.

 

We went to a movie the first night.  

 

And then on the second date, I had tickets for a Michigan State University home football game.

 

In retrospect, I should have known something when she used the men’s ‘john’ at half-time because the lady’s line was ‘too long.’ 

 

She bantered with the University boys in the line, and ignored the 'Woo Ha.  Woo Ha," compliments that came her way...sauntering past the line of male back sides, smiles and urinals to the stalls.

 

Driving home from East Lansing, she invited me over the following weekend  “for a casual,  home cooked meal.”

 

So I arrived the appointed hour, with a nice bottle of California Sauvignon.

 

And rang her door bell.

 

Sarah opened the door, wearing a skirt and a kitchen apron.

 

And nothing else.  From the waist up.

 

She smiled and  welcomed me.   We went up the stairs to her lovely  apartment as if there was nothing unusual or needed to be explained, commented on.

 

I sat in the living room, reading the paper; occasionally glancing toward the kitchen where she mixed salad and removed cheese casserole from the oven.

 

She warmed the dinner plates.  Impressive.  How many people in places like Battle Creek, Saginaw or Grand Rapids heat their dinner plates?

 

We sat across from each other,  in candlelight, with soft classical music playing from nearby speakers,  toasted the night, and enjoyed the meal. 

 

Talked local politics.  Favorite books.  Job stuff.

 

And I thought, 'As odd as all this is, if she's not going to say anything, I'm not either."

 

We laughed knowingly over the fruit with rum sauce dessert, as if there was a third person at the table who didn't know our secret code or hand shake.

 

Around 9 p.m., it was somehow clear the evening was nighe over.

 

Sarah walked me slowly, casually to the front door. 

 

Trying to delay things a bit, I bantered: "Do I get a rain check?"

 

She laughed, applying a chaste cheek kiss, "We'll see.  This is just opening night."

 

 

Some time later, by delightful accident, I learned the first evening and Sarah’s ensemble had little  to do with romance or sex.

 

She'd recently had breast implants.

 

And this was opening night.  Like a Broadway Show.

 

Guess if I looked that good, I'd want the right people to see The First Act. 

 

All I could think about that evening was whether this was a Curtain --or perhaps Booty -- Call.

 

----

 

*name and minor details changed to protect privacy.

January 23, 2013

Remembering Jane Wyatt

Somehow, I missed Jane Wyatt’s death notice a few years back.

Wyatt was 96 years old when she died; and I've followed her career for much of my own 68 years.

Wyatt was Ronald Coleman’s love interest in the famous '30s film, Lost Horizon; but was perhaps best known as mother Margaret Anderson in the 1950s tv show “Father Knows Best,” with Robert Young in the lead role.

medium_Jane_Wyatt.jpgWyatt, Young and their three onscreen children did more than 200, 30-minute tv programs from 1954 to 1960. An exhausting schedule that was not without its bumps along the way.

The two were friends, admired each other; but never socialized off the set, and, in real life, their three tv show children lived problemmatic lives.

The Father Knows Best program was criticized in the '60s and '70s as being too middle class, too white, too stereotype.


But growing up, I loved the show.

And I sort of loved Jane Wyatt from a distance over all these years. And I'm not sure why. (I'm sure a shrink would have plenty of suggestions.)

Once or twice a year, I'd go to Wikepedia or 'Dead or Alive' websites, just to check that Wyatt was still around and to read up on her very occasional movie or tv credit, as late as 1986 in one of the Star Trek flicks.

I particularily admired Wyatt  for standing up to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the communist witch hunts of the early 50s.

I admired her for her life long commitment to her husband of some 62 years; and to her children.

She was also always very candid in her observations about the moview business, self deprecating, grounded, honest.

She died quietly in her sleep.

A wonderful life, and a nice last scene, for a fine actress and human being.

January 18, 2013

Rite of Passage

briefcase.jpg

Rite of Passage

 

In the late 80s, I was very successful as CEO in "growing" a struggling NGO in South Carolina. Then recruited for another job,  I informed my Board, and was told they were having a "community thank-you party" in my honor. 

"What would you like as a gift? We are all chipping in," my Board Chairman asked me.

A bit taken aback, I replied: "Well, I've always wanted a leather briefcase." 

So, at the event, my Board presented me with this leather briefcase.

A few days later, I took it into where it had been purchased, and asked  what to use to clean it. The clerk commented: "Take good care of that.... you might want insurance. It's the best we have."


I asked: "Just curious, how much did it cost?" 

The clerk replied: "Oh, about $825."

I about swallowed my dentures.

So, 27 years later,  I'm giving it to my son, when I see him next Saturday.

Hope it brings him as much luck as it has me over the years. It has traveled many career paths since...and the world; stained with late winter snow in St. Petersburg, Russia; pelted by hot rain in Shanghai, China; and battered, buffeted and abused by baggage handlers in Cali, Columbia.

It needs a good, new home, too ...a fresh start and new life... carrying "important" papers and weekend reading assignments.

And there is no better place for it to call home than with my son, Josh.

January 13, 2013

Remember The Red River Valley

Remember The Red River Valley

 

“Eddy,” asks, like clockwork, as he helps pass out food trays and refills small glasses with watery apple juice.


And again at evening time: “What cha doin after dinner, Phil? Goin outside?”old-people-care02.jpg


At breakfast, about 70 seniors, most with noticeable physical and/or mental challenges, wait patiently for staff to distribute small containers of pills.


Kitchen helpers roll in large metal warmers, containing tin trays, with scrambled eggs, sausage, a piece of toast, jelly, butter, and glass of juice.


Everyone waits patiently, 3 or 4 residents to a table, for the food. For the food is the focus on the day -- three times a day for those in this 'assisted living facility.'


“What cha doin after breakfast, Bill? Goin outside?”


“What cha doin after breakfast, Sally? Goin outside?“

 

The facility serves poor seniors; and those with emotional and physical problems that would bar admission or acceptance elsewhere.  


There is no airconditioning in the congregate dining room in the summer, and a chill fills the room this winter  morning.


You're reminded of life changes and lessons in a 'retirement home'. About caring. Weaknesses. Emotional strength and friendship in the face of aged bodies, missing legs from diabetes, missing brain power from onset and end stage dementia.


Residents and low-paid staff are much like family. Usually cheerful, upbeat, encouraging, good listeners. Occasionally loud, unhappy, jealous, brusk.


Then tonight, the late day sun peeks in the first floor dining hall ….as residents eat hamburgers with tomatoes, onions, mustard and ketchup, applesauce, and a single, round cookie the size of a quarter.


This lovely, at one time elegant, elderly lady with red hair had sat, just this morning, with her small table group of resident friends across the way; smiling, engaged, animated.


Now, she sits at the same dinner table,  head half bent forward, resting on her chest, eyes blank, untouched food before her.

 

In the distance, are the faint sounds of the auto organ in the recreation room, playing "Red River Valley":


 From this valley they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our path for a while

Come and sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
But remember the Red
River Valley
And the cowboy who loved you so true

Won't you think of the valley you're leaving
Oh how lonely, how sad it will be?
Oh think of the fond heart you're breaking
And the grief you are causing to me

As you go to your home by the ocean
May you never forget those sweet hours
That we spent in the Red River Valley
And the love we exchanged mid the flowers

 

 

January 08, 2013

A Good Day To Wear My 'Fighting Irish' Sweatshirt

IrishTShirt.jpgA Good Day To Wear My 'Fighting Irish' Sweatshirt

Notre Dame was outplayed by Alabama on the football field last night.

But it will never be outclassed after a football loss -- just as other great universities and programs never will be, when they lose --  the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Northwestern, Boston College....to name just a few.

I'm going to proudly wear the green ND sweatshirt today, the one my son gave me for my birthday.  And keep a smile on my face.

Because, my love of Notre Dame and the Irish has to do with what the University and its football program stand for:  values, treating athletes like students, insisting on performance in the classroom as well as performance on the field.   

Go Gold and Blue. Green and White. Maize and Blue. Purple and White. Cardinal Red. Maroon and Gold.

December 12, 2012

Holiday Blues and Union Dues

HOLIDAY BLUES AND UNION DUES

As some of you know, I tend to obsess about things I see, hear, experience, read, screw up, celebrate. And I'm in that mode this morning, after returning from a 5 a.m. sprint through the Meijer's store to buy a few basics. I'm upset about how truly UNcivil, selfish, meanspirited we seem to be these days.

And about the mess, the lack of civility, the trashing of tents and tempers, the behavior in Lansing yesterday, which was replayed on BBC World Service Radio to 280 million worldwide listeners all last night. The British, of course, love retelling with glee, bad news from The Colonies.

The Meijer worker bees were busy, as usual, this early morning. With stacks of grape crates, tomatoes, lettuce in the produce section. Working hard. But not a smile to be found. And a strange absense of the natural energy you notice in people when they are doing a job they enjoy and/or take satisfaction in.

About eight months ago, when I was literally without both a job and almost enough to eat, I applied for a job to work in this SAME Meijer store produce section.

I was interviewed by the Produce Team Leader, and learned they had 23 people working JUST in the produce section; but were down to only about 13 because of turnover. She seemed excited at the prospect of hiring me, but I became less so as the interview continued.

"Yes," she said. 'We start you out at $7.53 an hour. (Minimum wage). You're eligible for a 10 cent increase in 3 months. You'll have to buy your own standard kakki colored slacks and button down shirts. I can guarantee you 24 hours a week; but can probably give you more ...

"And, oh," she added. "We take out $25 a month (from your pay) for union dues."

I just held my pasty smile tight as glass, and stared at her. $25 FOR UNION DUES?, I thought to myself. And 24 hours at minimum wage, pay for uniforms, and might get a 10 cent raise in 3 months?

I drove home, called and cancelled the scheduled final followup interview with the store manager.

Life has looked up for me, since, and my wants and needs are small.

I have another part-time job now.

I get a little Social Security.

I've been buying small gifts for my grandkids again. I've learned that's more fun than driving a new car, or taking a First Class seat to Hong Kong.

As for the unions, and what happened in Lansing yesterday.... I'm going to try hard to keep my attitude on gratitude this Christmas Season.

But, I still wonder, what those Meijer Associates on Columbia Avenue are getting for their monthly union dues.

It's gotta be more than what's in their paycheck.

November 25, 2012

'Touchdown Jesus' Still Loves You, Frank DeFord

‘Touchdown Jesus’ Still Loves You, Frank DeFord

Frank DeFord was on the radio early last summer. National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

220px-Frank_Deford.jpg Where DeFord, a much decorated sports guru and journalist, proclaimed in his weekly commentary: “Notre Dame Football Is Dead.”


Notre Dame will never compete with the big guys again, he said.

Nada. 

Done.

Overwith.

Washed up.

A pigskin has-been.

A legend lost ….

Future Fighting Irish teams would be off tv and traveling coach by Greyhound bus to play  Division 2 teams in places like Grand Rapids, Michigan and Duluth, Minnesota.

DeFord’s gotten rather quiet since the Fighting Irish took the field in August.

And Wikepedia doesn't say whether DeFord personally follows Christ-as-Saviour or just the baseball box scores.

But, if you learn anything growing up Catholic -- as I did -- it’s the power and potential of casting off personal guilt through confession and forgiveness.

Is DeFord ready for confession?

No matter. 

ncf_u_manti-teo_mb_400.jpgBecause, Frank -- wherever you are this morning after the Irish whipped USC, to go 12-0, and be ranked #1 nationally ...

  The Fighting Irish made their point last night in Los Angeles,

and Frank, Frank.... Touchdown Jesus Still Loves You.

TouchdownJesus3-375x500.jpg

 

November 23, 2012

Black Friday or Dark Day at Wal-Mart's Big House

Black Friday or Dark Day

walmart-protest.jpg at Wal-Mart’s Big House?


Yesterday at Thanksgiving Dinner with friends, we got into a discussion about the employee boycott today over wages at some Wal-Mart Stores, now America’s largest private employer.


Does Wal-Mart have a responsibility to pay “a living wage”?


 What is a “living wage?”

 

Where does personal responsibility come in at life decisions points which impact income?  Decisions like finishing high school, going to college, showing up on time for a job? 


Are we responsible for pulling ourselves up by “our bootstraps” if we had no boots to wear growing up?


What about the uncontrollable influences of family life, racism, and other factors?


We turned off the discussion pretty quick yesterday.  Heady, perhaps inappropriate, topical stuff for Stuffing and Turkey Day.


To be honest, at age 68, I remain conflicted over these questions and what I see and hear – even what I believe.


Over a lifetime, I had my turn grabbing the brass ring, the ride on the corporate merry-go-road – corner offices, world travel, fancy cars, big homes.


I’ve always told myself I earned that success by hard work, long hours, taking risks, going to graduate school, etc.


But, did I, really?


Looking back, I had many unearned advantages:  great parents, direction and hope, values taught and learned, a lot of luck.


More and more people today do not live in that world.


And it seems just too easy to become fatalistic, even hardened to their problems and their lives.


Still, I don’t think “a living wage” for the $7.50 an hour Wal-Mart Associates is either the real problem, or the real solution.


If there’s a problem and a solution, it has to begin with future generations, with our families, our children, our schools…and their future.


Otherwise, Black Friday is always going to be a dark day for some of us.

November 22, 2012

A Bucket Full of Thankfulness

                 

8happy-thanksgiving-day.gif

A Bucket Full of Thankfulness

For several mornings…perhaps in anticipation of Thanksgiving … I’ve been thinking of what I’m most thankful for at close of 2012, my 68th year on this Earth. 

So over the Starbuck’s French Roast at 4 a.m., I jotted down this bucket list of thankfulness:

brother, son, grandchildren, family, deceased parents, 29 close friends, personal health, a Hickory Corners mentor, being an American, good books, a year of golf, a special friend struggling today with illness, enough money to live on, being Catholic, not being Catholic, ND football, Dinki, The Respectmobile, laughter, forgiveness, The Beatles, St. Joseph nuns, growing up in Kansas City, De La Salle Academy, the pleasure of writing, good coffee, waking up in the morning.

October 13, 2012

Beast of Burden: All I want is you to make love to me.

 

beastofburden.jpg

Beast of Burden:

All I want is you to make love to me

Spent yesterday on problems with The Respectmobile, which I’m losing respect for.

It may be the beginning of a failed relationship.

          The second month … and she’s suddenly the horror car in Stephen King’s Christine.

 "So, another paycheck, hey, hay, hay, Jim?” she sez this morning.

“Sweet!

“Put it HERE!  Right in my glove box envelope marked: “CAR REPAIR BILLS.”

“Think you can just ignore me, now you got a litle’ bread.  Do ya, Jim?

“Maybe find someone N-E-W.

          “Faster and who doesn’t pass so much gas?

“Sparkly grill? 

“Big treads, tush tires? 

“Soft back seat?

“A GPS screen on the dash?

“I-Tunes on the radio?”

          “More rock and roll between her rack and pinions?

“I’m just that old, old, worn out puta, right, Jim? That was your go-to girl in the tough times, took you to the store, church, carried you safely through snow and sleet all the way back to Missouri to see that brother of yours …

But, Jim, like Mick and Keith sang:

I'll never be your beast of burden
My back is broad but it's a hurting
All I want is for you to make love to me
I'll never be your beast of burden
I've rode for miles my feet are hurting
All I want is you to make love to me

Am I hard enough
Am I rough enough
Am I rich enough
I'm not too blind to see

“You haven’t lubed my parts or rubbed your hand caressingly over my rocker panels lately.

“You left me out in the cold last night, Jim.  I didn’t like that. 

“Would YOU like to be left outside?  With your doors unlocked? Open, naked, exposed to taunts of the trailer trash and their beer bottles across the street?

“At heart, I’m still a Blue and Black Michigan State Trooper car, police interceptor, a real Crown Vic 4.6 liter V-8, and if pushed could reach that 140-mph peg line again.

See, “I get my props and I get my r-e-s-p-e-c-t.  Or….. 

‘Step outside the car, Sir. Show me your license, insurance and registration. Do it now! Sir.’

“Is that really what you want, Jim?”

“So about that smoke yesterday.  

“Those unsightly new drips under my chassis.

“My hiccups, hesitation, when you pushed the gas pedal. 

The silence when you tried to turn me on in the Meijers parking lot?

“It’s not too late, Jim.

Like Barney sez,

“I love you You love me 
We're a happy family 
With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you. 
Won't you say you love me too.”
I love you You love me 
We're best friends like friends should be.”

Aren’t we, Jim? 

Don’t disappoint me, Jim

October 09, 2012

Red Cheeks But Warm Hearts As Volunteers 'WrapUp' Urbandale Community Garden's Season

 

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Red Cheeks But Warm Hearts As Volunteers

 “WrapUp” Urbandale Community Garden’s Season

 

Photo Caption:  Volunteers Kathy Antaya and Pat Graw begin to winterize the one-acre Urbandale Community Vegetable Garden this morning (Oct 9), located as part of the Leila Arboretum campus on W. Michigan Avenue in Battle Creek. 

More than 15 volunteers, plus 30 Burmese families, have tended and received produce from the Garden, the largest urban garden in the Battle Creek area, during the past growing season. 

The upscale Malia’s Restaurant, downtown Battle Creek, has also purchased much of its produce from the site; with proceeds used to support the community garden operation.  

Antaya is the informal coordinator of the UCVG and a horticulturalist and green industry consultant by profession.  Graw retired after 44 years as a food service manager, including at Bronson-Battle Creek (hospital).

October 04, 2012

Love's Labor Lost in the Wal-Mart Checkout Line

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Love’s Labor Lost in the Wal-Mart Checkout Line

 

No, he’d never been in the Wal-Mart superstore.

Until last night.

Using one of those person-less, scan, pay and bag your own groceries checkouts, the old man in faded blue jeans and frayed t-shirt seemed momentarily confused over where to put the credit card; how to scan the groceries.

He felt a sudden presence, or energy, radiating from behind, like heat from a hot stove.

Almost a premonition.

He turned.

A young woman, about 30, with crystal blue, piercing eyes, was standing there.Unseasonably dressed in modish hat and long skirt – like Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton in a Woody Allen movie.

She flashed a wide, innocent, welcoming smile, teeth as white as ocean pearls.

Even more flustered, the old man thought: ‘If this is heaven, Lord, let her be my guardian angel.’

His eyes traveled furtively, shyly to hers, then uncontrollably down to an oversized breast badge on her green and white-tinged, herringbone coat. 

         SISTER PAVOLA

        Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

He turned back, ashamed he knew not why, to nervously scan bread, peanut butter and cat food, running hand through balding spot on back of head, and tried to keep from stumbling toward the exit door.

October 02, 2012

Driving A Cab In Battle Creek: 'I watch their eyes'

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Driving A Cab In Battle Creek: 'I watch their eyes'

Bright lights of the Yellow cab emerged out of the early morning fog and mist, on time, at 6:05.

It’s been years since they found that cab driver's body, left stuffed in the trunk, in the Riverside School parking lot.

But the cabbies don’t forget.

And lots have changed: Taxi cabs now have a bulletproof, sliding plastic barrier between drivers, and passengers in the back seat.

Rear door locks can be controlled by the driver.

But it's dangerous work. Not much money.

taximeter.jpg"I rent this thing (cab) from the company. $80 a day plus gas. Anything over that I keep," the cabbie tells me.

"You can make $100 sometimes, if you wanna work a 14-hour day."

Cold days are better than warm.

Rain better than sunshine.

He appreciates the approach of winter.

"People don't like to stand out and freeze waiting for a bus," he says.

"First, Second and Third days of the month, everybody’s busy. People get their (SSI or SS) money."

There are usually 8 to 10 'Yellow' cabs on call in BC, plus several other cab companies, if you don't mind the occasional lingering smell of puke in the back seats.

Could he refuse a fare, if worried about getting stuffed in his trunk?, I asked.

"Hey, if we fear for our life, we don't have to pick up nobody," he commented.

How do you decide?

"You get a sense for it after a while.

“Time of day.

“Where they want to go. “

Who'se with them.

“I always, always watch their eyes."

I pay the fare, push a $4 tip through the glass cutout, thinking that, race and class may also be silent passengers in many a cab ride.

September 29, 2012

McNamara, 'Rummy,' And Misery Revisited

McNamara, 'Rummy,' And The Misery Revisited

by Jim Richmond


The old man next to me at the dinner table in New York City was still recognizable. But barely.

 

Gone was the black hair; replaced by a few white strands combed to hide his scalp.

 

Brown, age and liver spots dotted his now sunken cheeks and pencil-thin face.

 

Only the eyeglasses were familar from TV news clips in the mid 1960s.

 

It was Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under LBJ, who with his “Whiz Kids” from the auto industry, carried out LBJ’s dictums in Vietnam; while trying to apply business medium_RobertMcNamara55.jpgmanagement systems to the Defense Department.

 

McNamara served longer than anyone else in American history as DOD Secretary. 

 

But when he retired, many believed McNamara had failed in Vietnam.  And had setbacks in modernizing the U.S. military.

 

So, here it was, in the early 1990s, as I sat next to him at this  black tie, charitable fundraising dinner in New York

 

I was nearly tongued-tied. Not that I didn't know what to say to or ask McNamara.  As a Vietman vet, I had questions.

 

But the evening, the timing seemed inappropriate, wrong.   My questions would be too pointed, I convinced myself. 

 

So I let the chance go by. Confined  comments to small talk about economics and the World Bank, which McNamara headed after leaving government service.

 

Vietnam still seemed like the big, silent elephant at our table.

 

I recalled this unsatisying experience the other evening  as I viewed, again,   the 6-hour Frontline  series "Bush's War," telecast on PBS, and watched another Secretary of Defense, who, next to McNamara, served the longest  tenure in American history as DOD Secretary: Donald Rumsfeld.

 

The PBS-TV series depicts  Rumsfield as a no-holds-barred White House infighter, who took on the State Department and the generals, to advocate,  with Dick Chaney, for  a quick, decisive  invasion of Iraq after 9/11.

 

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Like McNamara, Rumsfield is proven myopic in his global and battlefield perspective of a geographic region and a very different type of military conflict.

 

And, also like McNamara, Rumsfield experiences  setbacks in efforts to reinvent, streamline  and downsize the Defense Department -- some reflecting a new reality after 9/11. (He gets a large measure of the blame/credit  for the latest BRAC efforts to close the Battle Creek Federal Center and other military installations  over the past 25 years or so.)

 

New York Times stories (and Bob Woodward's books and articles) have profiled McNamara and Rumsfield:  Their  micromanaging, impatience,  arrogance. (Rumsfield was a member of the Kellogg Company Board of Directors for a time.  There are less than flattering local  stories in that venue.)

 

Since his DOD departure, the 80-so-old Rumsfield has been out of public view....probably savoring his later years in St. Michaels, Maryland, on the former slave plantation he owns  and calls "Mount Misery,"  infamous as site for  captivity of Frederick Douglass at hands of  "slave breaker" Edward Covey.

 

Rumsfield is reportedly a multimillionare from his business turnaround years as head of G.D. Searle and other multinational corporations.

 

We probably won't know -- for sure -- the outcome of the Iraq War for decades -- just as we are only now rewriting outcomes of the Vietnam Conflict, in light of the 'new' Vietnam's pell mell rush toward capitalism. (The Domino Theory turned out to be about capitalism, not communism.)

 

McNamara died in 2009 at age 92.  Wish I could have collected on a rain check from that dinner chat of long ago.

 

Ask those questions about Vietnam.

 

Hope "Rummy" is happy on  Mount Misery.

 

September 28, 2012

'Kill Chicken , To Frighten Monkey'


 

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Nothing New with Bo Xilai’s Dalian, China Corruption: 

Kill Chicken, To Frighten Monkey 

Bo Xilai was mayor of Dalian, a lovely city in Northern China, next to the Yalu River and the border with North Korea, when I travelled there frequently in the early 2000s to visit with Chinese inlaws, who were also intertwined in local Communist party politics.  I don’t recall meeting Bo Xilai, but his type of behavior was common. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/29/world/asia/bo-xilai-expelled-from-chinas-communist-party.html?ref=global-home

 

***

The Chinese love fish head soup.  With the head left floating in the broth.

The cheeks of the fish head are considered the most delicate and desirable. 

The guest of honor at the typical Chinese dinner is offered opportunity to eat the fish's cheeks.

Which I did one evening.

Dinner with my Chinese wife and her family in Dalian, northern China, just across the Yalu River from N. Korea.

         A typically crowded, noisy, smoky Chinese restaurant -- families having dinner, business/communist party officials soaking up free food and drink.

About 20 family members and their friends, sitting around a table -- rotating food platter in the middle and stacked with perhaps 30 different food dishes.

Suddenly, my wife's uncle, face aglow and eyes watering from the  toasts, a poo-ba in the Dalian Communist Party and host for the evening, yells at the waiter in Chinese about the quality of the fish head soup.

 

The waiter slinks off.  Replaced by the Restaurant Manager dragging behind him a cook clad in a filthy uniform. 

Wife translates for me:

"Cook is fired!," restaurant manager proclaims to Uncle.

‘New’ waiters bring a platter of complimentary green beans with hot, spicy pepper slices, and bottles of pungent rice wine.

Chinese uncle smiles, leans over, says something to Wife.

I ask: “What did Uncle say?”

She whispers: “Kill chicken, to frighten the monkey.”

September 27, 2012

Father Knows Best

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Father Knows Best

Every night now, when I arrive home from work, pull the Respectmobile in the drive, and unlock the back door, my cat Dinky rushes into the kitchen, does a little twirl, a pirouette, of welcome.

It’s not exactly a Margaret Anderson/Jane Wyatt, “Father Knows Best” kiss and a hug at the door.

But it does quite nicely.

Quite nicely.

For now.