Toddler Trains a Target Cashier

Ms. Brandi Benner of Clover, South Carolina recently took her two-year-old daughter, Sophia, shopping at a nearby Target store. Mom’s goal was to reward her girl for successfully completing the potty training stage in her young life. Together, they spent twenty minutes checking out all of the dolls on display.

Sophia, who already aspires to be a physician, felt an immediate bond to a female doll wearing a stethoscope and doctor’s white lab coat.

At that point, it should’ve been a simple matter of heading for the check out lane to pay, right? Well, that’s not what happened.

Check out the following conversation that took place, instead…

Cashier: “Are you sure that this is the doll you want, honey?”

Sophia: “Yes please!”

Cashier: “But she doesn’t look like you. We have plenty of dolls that look like you.”

At that point Sophia’s mother was about to chime in to end this cashier’s thinly veiled racist remarks… halt this commentary, which was (and is) totally unacceptable, uncalled for and unwelcome.

But, as it turned out, Sophia was fully capable of taking care of herself. Picking up where we left off…

Cashier: “But she doesn’t look like you. We have plenty of dolls that look like you.”

Sophia: “Yes she does. She’s a doctor — I’m a doctor! And she’s a pretty girl and I’m a pretty girl. See her pretty hair? And see her stethoscope?”

For raising her daughter superbly, Ms. Benner has much to be proud of. Sophia not only is brilliant, well mannered, open-minded and loving, but also possesses a steadfast, positive self-image and displays the assertiveness of a feminist who knows she can choose whatever career path she sets her mind on.

Our world needs millions more just like Sophia!

Taking Inventory Of My Life… Before It’s Too Late (Intro)

While journeying down life’s road most of us take an occasional, over the shoulder glance. However, as of late, my peering into my “rearview mirror” can best be described as excessive and obsessive. Try as I may, it has not been easy to ignore my vivid reveries, dreams and nightmares… as well as the oft accompanying intensely felt emotions.

On the up side… so far… this has not morphed me into a 24/7 basket case. These incidents have only been occurring during my idle daytime hours and nightly REM sleep phases.

On the down side… especially re those abovementioned nightmares… I’m seeing that ominous warning:

“Objects in this mirror are closer than they appear.”

I’ve tried to literally write off these occurrences by typing them into a word document… in hopes that actually seeing the words appear on my computer screen would help put everything into proper perspective? No dice.

I’ve also tried to figuratively write off all of this stuff as something someone merely starts to experience once one’s cake gets set ablaze with sixty plus birthday candles… you know… once one realizes the “road” ahead has far fewer miles than the “road” behind? Again… no dice.

You see… there seems to be… correction… there IS far more happening here than my casually strolling down Memory Lane. I think I’ve been watching my life pass before my eyes. And whether this has involved pleasant experiences or not… I cannot help but wonder if this has been akin to a NDE (Near Death Experience)?

Which begs the follow up question…

Just how, pray tell, does a man (supposedly) “mens sana in corpore sano”… who hasn’t chosen a dangerous occupation… who isn’t a driver headed for an unavoidable head-on collision with an 18 wheeler… ever get to the point where he believes the final sentences within the final chapter of his life’s story are getting written?

Well, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that virtually seeing myself as a chalk-outlined lifeless body can be chalked up to the following two quotations…

“If we have nuclear weapons why can’t we use them?”

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Those above two sentences (death sentences) were, respectively, uttered and Tweeted by an unwise, unstable, un-American… one who now possesses… correction… one who is now possessed by the nuclear launch codes… namely… the unwisely elected “leader” of the “free” world… an entity I never voted for and have elected to keep nameless in my blogs.

Uh… let’s just refer to that YUGE nobody as #45.

That duly noted… before that nuclear saber rattler ever manages to deadpan, “You’re fired” to our Creator and then promptly incinerate His creation… time permitting… I do have much more to blog about.

In future posts, I’ll be taking an inventory of my life and times… in hopes that, if I’m lucky, someday, somehow, either surviving mutant earthlings or maybe even visiting ETs on an archeological mission, might still find fragments of the WordPress “universe” intact.

Why bother?

Well, primarily, to let everyone know that I have… uh… I guess I should say… I had absolute zero confidence in #45 and the same could be said regarding nearly all of his deplorable and/or delusional appointees and supporters.

I’d want future archeological diggers to know that I was a good man who had absolutely nothing to do with fascist 45’s destruction of Earth’s ecology, economy and society.

Of course, in posting my life’s inventory in the days to come… i.e., #45 permitting… there’ll be a slightly selfish fringe benefit, too. That’s because nothing / nobody ever really dies on the www. That’s because a blogger’s / author’s thoughts can speak from the grave and span millennia.

Indeed, my posts could be my one last shot at a form of immortality.

Remembering & Immortalizing Snoopy…

 

Two score and one year ago, on this very day, I was pulling an all-nighter within the four walls of my bedroom / recording studio… laying down some tracks on the Reel-To-Reel to produce an audition tape I’d be submitting at various progressive rock radio stations. Since my room was not soundproofed I’d often opt for the wee hours because they afforded me the best chances for avoiding extraneous, distracting background noises.

Well, unbeknownst to me, while those long, five hours had been ticking down, a dear friend, one I had known and lived with for nearly nine years, had been experiencing some serious medical difficulties… a discovery I made soon after powering down all my audio gear and emerging into the hallway. There I found him sitting just outside my door… in the exact same spot where he’d be waiting for me whenever inviting me to join him on our long walks through the wilderness.

At first… nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary… however…

As we silently walked side by side into the dining room, just as I slid the patio doors open, Snoopy, a Labrador/Sheppard mix, let out the doggy equivalent of a moan. His hind legs seemed to give out a bit but he did manage to, somehow, muster sufficient strength to make it outside into our dark, snow swept backyard where, for a moment, he looked back at me before continuing onward… prior to lying down.

What I suspected was happening… well… this wasn’t totally unexpected. You see, the previous fall his veterinarian had discovered that mosquitos had exposed him to heartworms and, while the good doctor’s treatments had managed to eradicate them… well… too much heart damage had already been done… and that meant a shortened lifespan.

I grabbed my parka and rushed outside to be at Snoopy’s side. The snow had started falling all around us as I crouched down to say my final, “Bye-Bye” and give him one last, long hug, pat on the head and tickle behind the ears… all that transpiring just as he was taking his final breaths.

As I stood up and looked down at his now lifeless body, I first thought back to how, just prior to my recording session, he’d been outside frolicking in the snow drifts… assuming that classic, “Let’s play!” posture… crouched low on his front legs, butt high in the air, tail wagging at 100mph… even letting out a few excited woofs. Oh, how I wished I had taken the time to join him… so we could’ve revisited nearly a decade’s worth of those similar fun times we had shared together.

All the sudden, it dawned on me how, geographically, we had been here before. My mind vividly flashed back to a warm, sunshiny, midmorning Saturday… June 10, 1967… Snoopy’s first day with us… his new human family. I had carried him from our family car and had set him down on the very same spot where he had chosen to die. That had to have been more than coincidental.

Admittedly, most pet owners do tend to assign goodly amounts of human intelligence to their dogs… but Snoopy more than lived up my benchmarks… debunked what many skeptics would be too soon to dismiss as “hype”. A few examples…

When I was a commuter attending a community college, Snoopy was fully aware of the subtle differences between my MWF and TT class schedules… my Mom telling me countless times how he’d always head for our home’s side door where he’d sit and wait for me… like clockwork… five minutes before I’d be pulling into the driveway.

He understood English phrases… even if I deadpanned my words. All I had to say is, “Din-din time.” and he’d rush to the kitchen and await his meal. All I had to say is, “Let’s go bye-bye.” and he’d be wagging his tail and bolting for the backdoor where his leash was hanging. And, if I didn’t initiate that activity, he’d sit outside my closed bedroom door, right on schedule, and repeatedly and loudly plunk his butt down to remind me.

Snoopy knew his math, too. We’d play a game where, in the kitchen, I’d load up his doggy dish with his favorite Milkbones™ and then head for the living room to read the newspaper or watch TV. He already knew the rules to our game. He’d first wait for me to say, “Go See!” and next retrieve one of those snacks… returning to lie down beside my chair to crunch away. After he’d finish, once more I’d say, “Go See!” and he’d repeat everything. Now here’s the amazing part… I knew how many bones I had served up and just to test him, I’d say, “Go See” even though I knew his bowl was empty. He already knew the game was over and didn’t even bother rushing back into the kitchen!

Snoopy felt empathy, too… far, Far, FAR more than we’ll ever see exhibited by present-day politicians. For example, late afternoon, after my doggy’s doctor had presented the facts… the glum prognosis re that heartworm damage… I found myself back home, sitting on the living room floor crying. Snoopy slowly approached… our brown eyes making contact… and then sat closely beside me. Leaning into me it was as if he was saying, “Don’t cry Tom… it’ll be OK.” At 80 pounds he was far from being a lapdog but he did wind up stretching out his front legs over mine and there we stayed till dusk.

Well… I could go on… but… I’m already way past the halfway point of this word document’s page two.

I’d like to thank all of the intrepid souls who’ve stayed with me to these concluding paragraphs.

Snoopy (Born May 7, 1967 ~ Died January 29, 1976) vividly lives on in my mind and by my blogging about him, here, today (especially following this day’s curiously similar snow swept morning), I do hope to immortalize him… his story… our story on the Internet, too… for it’s oft said that no one / nothing ever dies on the World Wide Web.

I also hope that, someday, when my time is up, too, I’ll discover that Heaven (not oblivion) not only awaits me but that I’ll also find my overjoyed, beloved pet, Snoopy, awaiting me right on time…woofing… wagging his tail… right beside our Creator’s “All Pets Allowed” sign.

“I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying…”

Today’s lead video features a virtually stripped down to the bare lyrics rendition of the King Crimson composition, Epitaph… a collaborative effort of bandmates Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake, Michael Giles & Peter Sinfield… one, which showcases the a cappella, emotionally driven performance by the late, great Greg Lake (11/10/1947 ~ 12/7/2016).

These five songsmiths originally spoke of a confused world gone mad and, in view of more contemporary political events, their words are proving to be even more relevant… perhaps even prophetic… than when first penned in 1969.

EITHER give this song a listen prior to OR while reading onward to learn my reason for featuring it at this particular point in American History.

It all boils down to this…

Ever since we first learned that the Russians had hacked into and warped the outcome of last November’s Election Day… and that the GOP powers-that-be are not concerned in the least… only care about untying the pretty bow and tearing off the gift wrapping paper from Putin’s “present”… I’ve been dreading this particular Friday (a.k.a. tomorrow… a.k.a. the Inauguration Day from HELL).

Yep, phase two of the GOP/KGB overthrow of America is now breathing down our collective neck. For all liberally, ethically and patriotically minded Americans (and likeminded souls throughout our global community) there’ll be NO TGIF this week… perhaps never again… and that’s for damned sure!

Ergo, from this DJ’s POV, Epitaph sets the appropriate mood for what is certain to pan out as a societally, ecologically and economically backward four years ahead… if we even last that long. That’s all in doubt since the unethical, excessively empowered rightwingers will start calling ALL the shots tomorrow… and are virtually unchecked by the powerless leftwingers.

Indeed, this horrific imbalance will produce such deleterious and devastating effects that, sooner or later (unlikely the latter), they’ll go rippling outward until they negatively severely impact every last damned life form fighting for survival on our politically imperiled planet.

No, I’m not being melodramatic… unless by some unforeseen miracle there’s a drastic 180-degree shift in the attitude of the unprincipled, principle political players residing on the far, Far, FAR right…

We are SCREWED!!!

But, returning to the music at hand, let’s now give a listen to Epitaph’s fully orchestrated mix… get a preview glimpse of what could easily become America’s / our world’s not too distant future.

One thing for sure, whenever I view this vid, I can empathize with the profound sorrow the depicted man is feeling. It’s as if I’m living out that last man on Earth scenario… walking, all alone, through the rubble of that post nuclear war apocalypse.

In the event that either or both of these videos, someday, get yanked from YouTube here’s the printout of the lyrics.

Epitaph (including: March For No Reason and Tomorrow and Tomorrow)

By Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake, Michael Giles & Peter Sinfield

The wall on which the prophets wrote,
Is cracking at the seams.
Upon the instruments of death,
The sunlight brightly gleams.
When every man is torn apart,
With nightmares and with dreams.
Will no one lay the laurel wreath,
As silence drowns the screams.

(Chorus)

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh,
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying.

Between the iron gates of fate,
The seeds of time were sown.
And watered by the deeds of those
Who know and who are known.
Knowledge is a deadly friend,
When no one sets the rules.
The fate of all mankind I see,
Is in the hands of fools.

(Repeat chorus)

Last Christmas

This past Sunday, I opened my eyes to greet Christmas morn just before 7 o’clock. My first waking thoughts were of fond distant, boyhood memories… perhaps, it had even been a quickly fading dream? Whatever the source, my recollection was of bounding down the staircase to find all the presents Santa had left me under the tree.

As I caught my older self smiling, I realized that this special morning required a break in the routine. Instead of immediately heading off to the kitchen to scare up some breakfast, I’d first head out on a half-mile hike to purchase a newspaper.

Some might call me a throwback to a bygone era, but there’s just something special about shutting down the tech to read from an actual, held-in-the-hands, ink-on-paper publication and, afterwards, filling in the Sudoku, Jumble and Crossword Puzzles (LA & NY Times) with a ballpoint pen.

And so, I donned my down parka and stepped out onto my front porch. It being mere days following the Winter Solstice, it was still dark outside and the overnight hush that had descended over my lifelong hometown was still working its magic.

The only audible sounds were the gentle, yet steady, chilly wind whooshing through pine needles and the crunch, crunch, crunch of my Sketchers™ as I traipsed through the lingering patches of snow and frozen slush.

The ambiance of the homes lit up with festive, outdoor and indoor decorations, against the backdrop of an inky sky, easily transported me off into a timeless, fantasyland, all of which significantly slowed my customary walking-run stride. I now wished to make these scenes last an eternity.

It was around this time that an approaching jogger and I exchanged our “Merry Christmas” greetings… but as for any other townsfolk stirring about, either on foot or in their vehicles, these incidents were so rare it eventually felt as if I were all alone in a community of 9+ thousand… in a world of 7+ billion.

I’ve come to know, all too well, these “last man on earth” vibes and the strong sense of impending doom…

While wallowing within the post 2016 Election Day funk.

While fretting about a nuclear saber rattling Twit’s Tweet posted just three days prior to Christmas.

While dreading the incoming admin’s flat-out opposition to intellectual curiosity, integrity, diversity, equality, liberty and sobriety.

While dwelling upon how, in all likelihood, we’re a nation transitioning towards an ecological, economic, and societal nightmare… if not all out apocalypse.

Such serious reservations regarding that well-heeled, untrustworthy entity even caused me to free associate the motto appearing on my own nation’s oft-filthy lucre. Indeed, “In God We Trust” gets minted onto all of our currency and coins. As if what? That we could ever expect God to teach each and every moneygrubbing american [sic] not to worship that false god… a.k.a. the almighty buck? If He has attempted to get His message across before, it has, for the most part, fallen upon deaf ears.

My Godly thoughts next gravitated towards Christmas’ true meaning… about a birth, which, purportedly, had taken place long ago on this very night… off in the faraway land of Bethlehem.

It was about then when I sufficiently surfaced from my deep thoughts to realize the time had come to plink my six, silvery 25-cent pieces into the liquor store’s, storefront vending machine. Through the display glass I had already read one of the front page headlines… a report telling how homeowners, who are installing solar panels, are getting penalized with sky-high property tax assessments. Imagine that… instead of being commended, folks are being condemned for going green… having to shell out extra “green” because they had hoped to help save our planet.

Slowly shaking my head side to side, I slid my newspaper into my tote bag. At that stage, I could’ve immediately headed for home, but, all the sudden it dawned on me… considering the inconsiderateness of the soon to be installed new admin, this could very well be the last Christmas I (or anyone else) would be experiencing.

With that in mind, this called for a course-correcting maneuver.

I reset my bearings to pass through my once-upon-a-time neighborhood… revisit the place I had called home for the first seven years of my life. Perhaps I might even catch a glimpse of a framed in the window, fully lit Christmas tree? Maybe it’d even be located in the very same southwest corner of the living room, where, more than half a century earlier, my sister and I had discovered all the toys Santa had left for us?

Crossing at the next intersection and briefly heading west… then south, I deliberately slowed my pace as, yet, another little boy recollection kicked in. It had been on an early spring evening where I had raced my bike at top speed down this very same stretch of sidewalk. Oh, the freedom that once represented. Oh, the freedom that might soon be torn asunder.

Once at the bottom of this hill (both in memories and reality), I felt disappointment as I discovered the new occupants were still asleep and their holiday decorations were all dark.

With a long sigh, I hooked a left at the corner. Passing by a nearby home, the sound of a man filling his bird feeder with seed drew my attention leftward. As our eyes met, he wished me, “Merry Christmas”… and I echoed those sentiments back to him.

By this time, dawn’s early light had changed the sky from black to bluish gray. Walking past a hedge still sporting most of its brown leaves, all the sudden, I realized I was practically living out the lyrical story, which songsmiths Michelle and John Phillips had related in their mega hit, California Dreamin’. Deep down I, too, was California Dreamin’ on such a winter day… especially since that West Coast state is where my last surviving family members reside.

As I trekked onward, my next stop was the nearby town square. For multiple decades that main four-cornered intersection had boasted our one and only stoplight. As I peered up and down Michigan Avenue, I couldn’t help but notice how, while the skyline had basically remained the same, the storefronts certainly had wound up quite different from their yesteryear signage… as had their new proprietors’ offered products and services.

A tavern, nightclub and a several eateries had replaced a “Mom and Pop” grocery store, the “Five and Dime”, the Family Apparel and Gambles Hardware stores and the Rexall Soda Fountain / Drugstore. About the only businesses that have stayed the same and still remain within their original buildings are a bank and barbershop… albeit both under new ownership.

Of course, Christmas morn’s nearly non-existent, vehicular traffic would’ve made it so easy for me to fully flip off the crosswalk’s “Don’t Walk” admonition, yet, I waited obediently. I wanted to take in and fully savor, in its entirety, the recently renovated and resurfaced, disappearing into the eastern and western horizons, Michigan Avenue, itself.

Upon crossing over to the south side of the street, I soon found myself standing in front of a factory. Prior to its construction, that entire block had been zoned residential… and one of those homes had been where I had lived during the first two months of my life. Of course, images of that long ago, razed house now only exist in the snapshots posted in my family photo album.

Traveling down to the next intersection, I crossed Michigan Avenue once more and headed northward. With that California Dreamin’ story and lyrics still fresh in my mind, I stopped at a church I passed along the way… pausing long enough to admire their Nativity Scene… to offer up my heartfelt prayer to Him… to beseech Him to intervene… to deliver the Christmas present of tact to that hotheaded man… to spare humanity our eons too early mass grave.

I no sooner said my “Amen” than I began diagonally traversing the soon to be filled, church parking lot. I next crossed a side street to wind up right in front of the very first house my (then) newlywed parents had rented upon their arrival in town.

At that juncture, my Christmas morning hike was starting to come full circle. I did opt to return, one last time, to see if the Christmas decorations had finally lit up my old home. Alas… they hadn’t.

For the first time since setting forth that morn, I checked my wristwatch. I had covered all of this old, familiar ground in less than 40 minutes. Considering that it’d take me another 15 to make it back home, my entire walk down memory lane would be completed in under an hour.

Starting to feel a bit hungry in the here and now, I headed for home… where I’d soon be brewing up some fresh coffee, flipping pancakes and drowning them in maple syrup… flavors I’d be savoring as much as the “flavors” of my sweet memories.

With each forward step, I found myself hoping that my prayers for repeated, Divine Intervention in post Inauguration Day 2017 DC will be answered. If that’s not to be… well…

All I can do is urge all who read this… all over our world… to cherish our waning days of “normalcy”… to fully appreciate whatever good, we may still find… to hold on to our pleasant thoughts for as long as we still can. Regrettably, that all can be easily obliterated once a small handed, small thinker pushes that Big Badass Button.

 

Cindy Stowell’s Incredible Jeopardy Finale

 

The Cindy Stowell Story is heartwarming, inspiring and extraordinary. Despite the grim diagnosis of stage four cancer, she auditioned and proved herself fully qualified to appear on Jeopardy. Because she had advised the program’s accommodating staff of her medical condition, they had sped up their normal contestant selection process so she could compete sooner.

Only a few of the show’s producers and host Alex Trebek had known that the time she had left was limited.

Well… Stowell not only competed well but competed while ill.

During one taping, she had been nauseous, feverish and in need of painkillers… those meds slowing down her reaction time, which made signaling in to provide the questions to the answers an even greater challenge.

Even more miraculous, there had been a Jeopardy taping hiatus, which, purely by coincidence, had perfectly jibed with her need for hospitalization… allowing her sufficient time to regain her strength… to come back to compete again.

In the end, champion Stowell had won $103,803, which she pledged to donate to the Cancer Research Institute. As for her six game winning streak, only 38 contestants have equaled or exceeded that plateau since Jeopardy’s “five wins and out” rule ended in 2003.

Though she died on December 5th (a little more than a week before her episodes were to air on TV), thanks to the kind folks at Jeopardy, the DVD they had provided allowed her to see three of her appearances.

As for my own reactions…

If I hadn’t been aware of Stowell’s story prior to watching her compete, I’d have never guessed in a million years how seriously ill she was. As far as I’m concerned, she could’ve also won an Academy Award for acting so healthy.

Seeing her dream of appearing on Jeopardy come to fruition had to have been the thrill of her lifetime and, doubtlessly, in giving her something to live for, kept her going strong a bit longer than had she wallowed in sorrow in some hospice bed.

I only wish she could’ve gone into remission, lived a good long life and appeared on Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions.

When TV had gone digital back in 2009 I had ceased viewing all first run programming. I only reentered TV Land this past June after my sister had provided me a digital converter she no longer needed. Admittedly, I’d been feeling mostly underwhelmed about what TV had become during my seven year absence… well… at least until I had eye witnessed Stowell’s stunning display of courage… her looking at death squarely in the eye and telling it to go to hell.

Cindy Stowell had a fighting spirit… in the game of Jeopardy… in the game of life.

Her never say die determination has been an inspiration to millions… and I count myself among them. She will live on, forever, in the memories of all who witnessed her will to live.

I only wish I could’ve thanked Ms. Stowell in person.

My heartfelt condolences go out to her surviving family and friends.

Diversity’s Verses… A Holiday / Every Day Message

 

The dark cold cosmic fabric, bright warm Sol’s embrace,

Tuck in Ol’ Big Blue, as it spins through vast space,

For all we may know, it’s the one, ONLY place,

The fragile home world, of the whole human race.

 

We look like our Creator, so say many preachers,

It’s DNA’s double helix, so say science teachers,

Be beliefs fact or faith based, humans are the same creatures,

We must never prejudge, based on external features.

 

Our world’s latitudes vast, within which we spin,

Helped ordain how much melanin, tints all our skin,

The isles, seas and mounts, which once kept us apart,

Caused diverse accents, tongues, cultures, right from the start.

 

Genetics’ roll of the dice, dictates whom we’ll date,

Be we transgender, bisexual, gay, lez or straight,

Just like left or right-handedness, blue eyes or brown,

We must accept diverse traits, with wide smile, not snide frown.

 

From conception to birth, sometimes, things go wrong,

Flaws that defy, deny newborns, a mind / body strong,

They must never be mocked; we must give a damn,

Open all doors for disabled, not in their faces slam.

 

A woman is far more than bride to a groom,

She’s not chattel to man, she’s more than a womb,

She must soar towards the future, not drown in dark ages,

Be all she can be, throughout all life’s stages.

 

Be beliefs Muslim, Jew, Christian or no one above,

At the heart of the matter is peace, kindness, love,

Keep your minds and hearts open to all that you’ve read,

As this year draws to a close, in each New Year ahead.