Saturday, July 21

Simple Math... Simple Solution...

Confused? No need to be. Ignor what the media talking heads and double-speak politicians rattle on about the woeful state of our nation's degraded economy. Here, in the most simplest of explanations, is an "in your face" illustration of how totally upside down and mismanaged are our national finanaces.  

Illustration No. 1:

* U.S. Collectible Tax Revenues: $2,170,000,000,000
* Current Federal Budget: $3,820,000,00000,000
* New Debt: $1,650,000,000,000
* Current National Debt: $14,271,000,000,000
* Most Recent Budget Reductions: $38,500,000,000

Now remove 8 zeros and use the same figures to illustrate a household budget:

* Annual Family Earned Income: $21,700 
* Money the Family Spent in the Year: $38,200
* New Debt Added to the Credit Card: $16,500
* Outstanding Balance on Credit Card: $142,710
* Total Budget Cuts Made: $38.50

Got it????

Okay, now let's look at yet another eye-opening illustration of our debt crisis...

Let's say you come home from work one afternoon and discover that your entire neighborhood has been inundated with a flood of raw seweage, and your home has the foul mess all the way to your ceiling.

What do you think would be the MOST LOGICAL step to take to eradicate the problem?

Raise the ceiling or pump out the crap?

Your opportunity to place your hand on the pump handle arrives this November. To do nothing is to further guarantee that your children and grandchildren will drown in the crap we've left behind.

Thursday, April 26

"Tain't Funny, McGee..."

"It's always fun to come to Florida because you never know what might kill you."  So proclaimed Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's the Daily Show, where he appeared this past Saturday evening in Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall before a reported sellout crowd of 2,000 Stewart vapid devotees. (I've seen larger crowds of rubber-neckers at a car wreck, but that's another matter entirely.) "It's just a weird state (Florida). You have spring break, where you invite thousands of drunken frat people down. And if you feel threatened by them, you can kill them."  

Stewart, the bombastic, self-anointed king of satirical humor, was lamely attempting to ridicule Florida's "stand your ground" self-defence law, which is currently undergoing nationwide scrutiny principally as a result of the February shooting death that occurred in Sanford, Florida of 16 year old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed community watch guard. A much needed review of the nuances and specifics of the law as a result of that tragic occurrence need not be a subject for debate, but to diminish the importance of such a review by trivializing its life and death consequences with black satirical humor is in poor taste even for someone as prone as is Stewart's relentless pursuit to make fun of anything and anyone that do not measure up to his boundless ideal of self-righteousness and misplaced sense of intellectual superiority. 

Indeed there can be much truth gleaned from satirical humor, as the employment by editorial cartoonist have illustrated for decades. But there must a moniker of recognizable truth underlying the pointed jabs in order to hopefully affect a desired beneficial end result. To merely amuse oneself and supposedly others at the detriment and embarrassing expense of another is neither satirical nor funny. It is merely in poor taste.   

Shakespeare penned, "Jesters do oft prove prophets."  Stewart may consider himself to be a jester, but a prophet he is not. He is just an entertainer in a cheap suit looking for another moment or two of misguided adulation from a collection of malcontents who have nothing better to do on a Saturday night than laugh at their own ignorance.     

"America's Children..."

Which one of the following young boys would you claim to look like your son, Mr. President?

Would it be Nicholas Lindsey, who at the age of 16 fired his illegal weapon multiple times and murdered Officer David Crawford of the St. Petersburg Police Department on February 21, 2011? Maybe you can send him a card on his next birthday. He will be celebrating it in a Florida prison where he will spend the rest of his life.

Would it be Shawn Tyson, who also at the age of 16, shot two British tourist through their hearts who had mistakenly become lost in a Sarasota housing project in April of last year? Perhaps Shawn would also appreciate receiving a birthday card from you. Save yourself some postage, Mr. President, as both Shawn and Nicholas will no doubt become bosom buddies as they serve their life sentences together.

Or do your personal sympathies extend only to 16 year old Trayvon Martin who was shot and killed while walking unarmed through a gated Sanford Florida community in February? Perhaps your expression of kinship was prompted by the fact that Trayvon was the victim instead of the perpetrator in this tragic case, the shooter being, as the media was so quick to pass judgement, an over-zealous neighborhood watch "white Hispanic." Surely Trayvon's killing must signify and underscore a pandemic of white hate crimes against our nation's blameless and persecuted black youth? Surely that must be your motivation. Surely...

Surely your motivation can't be that you are blissfully unaware that "black-on-black crime" is escalating at a near incalculable rate among your African-American brothers and sisters. The 41 people shot in Chicago between March 16th and 19th, your home town Mr. President, must surely have been an anomaly. Ten people were killed, one of which was a 6-year old little black girl. Where's your heartfelt expression of at least sympathy if not outrage that this devastated Mother (not unlike Trayvon's Mother) held her bloody lifeless baby girl in her arms, never again to feel her tender kisses and warm embraces? Doesn't this dead little girl look like your two daughters and doesn't she deserve as much empathy and sympathy as you have lavished on Trayvon? Where's your sense of proportion, Mr. President? Where's your sense of priority? Where is your sense of "fairness" that you are so quick to admonish all Americans to adopt? Have you no concept of non-partisan leadership? Must you continue to emphasize those valueless differences that divides us rather than seek the higher more noble plane of compelling all of Americans to bring forth our better angels?

Perhaps you feel more akin to such infamous social malcontents as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Lewis Farrakhan, and Jeremiah Wright, who, at every opportunity of racial discord do not hesitate to deal from the full deck of racial cards to fan the flames of distrust and hatred of white society. Dare you deny that  indeed these "gentlemen" would look just like your brother, if you had a brother? Where is your bully pulpit fanfare for these "brothers?"

I ask, Mr. President, where is your sense of duty to be the President of all Americans, not just those who bear a striking resemblance to your ethnicity?  I have the answer. You don't possess the desire nor the motivation to be anything more than the dutiful son of your anti-colonialist father, who regarded America as the perpetrator of oppression.  You will not, cannot, nor do you care to see that our nation cannot survive as a house divided. You are a thinly veiled closeted bigot, Mr. President. Your teleprompter speeches may disguise that fact, but your off the cuff remarks confirms it. Your back brothers and sisters may continue to  regard this character flaw as a sign that you are one with them in their alleged oppression, but the rest of America sees you for who you are: an apologist for bad behavior, an opportunist to exploit racial division, and thus, sir, a bigot.

You sully the office of the Presidency. And you defame America.

Monday, April 9

Everyone Hum Along Now...

In 1967 when Paul McCartney penned the lyrics and melody for this song to be included in their The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Heart Club Band, I had just graduated from high school, was anticipating beginning my freshman year in college, TIME magazine had named my generation as their "Man of the Year," and I was otherwise preoccupied with any member of the fairer sex that possessed legs that began at the bottom on their feet and concluded with a winning personality at the opposite end.

"When I get older,

losing my hair,

many years from now.

Will you still be sending me a Valentine,

birthday greetings, a bottle of wine?"

Any meandering thoughts of what the future might have in store for me that stretched beyond the next impromptu gathering of my high school running mates dissolved into a youthful belief that my growing older was an eventuality that was best left unexplored.

"If I've been out

till quarter of three.

will you lock the door?

Will you still need me?

Will you still feed me,

When I'm sixty-four?"

I remember thinking, some few years later as I watched a Saturday afternoon football game on television, that as long as the athletes and cheerleaders on the screen didn't look any different in appearance than me, that I hadn't perceptibly grown any older. And then one Saturday afternoon...they did.

"I could be handy mending a fuse,

when your lights are gone.

You can knit a sweater by the fireside,

Sunday morning go for a ride."

"Doing the garden,

digging the weeds.

Who could ask for more?

Will you still need me?

Will you still feed me,

When I'm sixty-four?"

Now, some 46 years past my 18th birthday, my totally gray hair has at least had the hereditary decency to keep from falling out completely, although the hairline is most assuredly advancing like a thawing iceberg toward the nape of my neck. I collect social security rather than a steady paycheck. My wife and I recently presented our daughter in marriage and my son is the father of two delightful grandchildren.

Send me a postcard,

drop me a line,

stating your point of view.

Indicate precisely what you mean to say.

Yours sincerely...wasting away."

In the happy and contented company of my beautiful and devoted wife of twenty-nine years, the lyrics of the song have become more than just a merry little song to whistle in accompaniment. They have become my song. So, for all those who I have been most fortunate in making your acquaintance, who are my dearest friends, and who took a moment to wish me a Happy Birthday on this particularly special birthday, I say...

"Give me your answer,

Fill in the form...

'Mine forever more.'

Will you still need me?

Will you still feed me,'When I'm sixty-four?


Saturday, March 24

Yet Another Media Injustice...


Let me emphatically repeat the statement so that there can be no ambiguity: "THIS YOUNG MAN NEED NOT HAVE DIED."

Take note that I didn't say, "This young BLACK man, or African-American young man, or "boy." I said, deliberately, "young man."

Unless the readers of this opinion have been sequestered under a pile of rocks for the past week, the national media has elevated the story of the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin into round-the-clock, opinionated coverage. Thus the nation's conscience has become inflamed by this senseless tragedy, even though a full accounting of the "facts" of the incident have yet to be fully vetted. Unless one's blood boils with the bile of vigilantism, there are truisms in this case, as it is true of all disputable incidences, that must be analyzed fully in order to arrive at irrevocable evidence to support or refute the contention of the individual who discharged his personal weapon, as he is allegedly proclaiming, in self-defence.

What is at the crux of the widespread outrage that has quickly evolved into racial disharmony is the fact that the counterpart to this tragedy, a Mr. George Zimmerman, was not immediately arrested at the time of the incident by the Sanford, Florida Police Department. This cited failure to act expeditiously by the local authorities is being perceived principally by the nation's black community as a deliberate attempt to thwart the principle of equal justice under the law because the victim is "black" and the perpetrator is "white." It is at this precise flash point where the very idea of "equal justice under the law" gets tossed unceremoniously under the bus.

Article after article in the print media and news story after news story in the televised news media makes the deliberate and totally unnecessary declaration that Mr. Zimmerman is a "white" Hispanic. Such a distinction is not only pointedly inflammatory, but it is purposefully inaccurate. Why make such a distinction at all other than to knowingly further propagate an escalation in the simmering cauldron of racial discord. Why not just report the verified facts as know at any juncture in time and refrain from pointed headline editorializing so that the wheels of jurisprudence can be re-railed and an unvarnished verdict of guilt or innocence can be ultimately obtained?

Such employment of blatant prejudicial reporting can only serve to embolden the more radical social justice personalities who will invariably utilize incidences such as young Martin's death as a bully pulpit from which to garner yet further much prized camera face time and notoriety. Whereas we are a nation of laws instituted to protect and serve all citizens regardless of race, color or creed, such biased and sensationalized reporting invites an open door through which the self-important publicity pimps such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Lewis Farrakan interject themselves into a racially charged environment that initiates additional escalating threats of violence as exampled by the New Black Panthers placement of a $10,000 bounty "for the capture of Mr. Zimmerman." I would hope and pray that the good people of Sanford do not want, do not need and do not welcome this type outside lawless agitation in order to bring focus and justice to the fore in this matter.

What the media of all stripe should be tirelessly championing is an adherence to the laws of civil discourse, that societal calm should prevail as Florida Governor Scott, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the F.B.I. conduct a full and unbiased investigation into the death of Trayvon, and that no stone be left unturned in determining if the Police Department of Sanford is indeed operating under the unlawful assumption that crimes involving its black citizens warrant no credence in the equal employment of their departmental resources. Given these circumstances under which the wheels of justice will be permitted to slowly grind to an ultimate judgement, it seems highly improbable that Mr. Zimmerman will long avoid the stark reality that the death of Trayvon by his hand will escape punitive retribution.

The people of Sanford are rightfully demanding no less, as well should all law abiding citizens of this country. What we citizens of America do not need and should be demanding is the immediate curtailment of a Fifth Estate that has given itself free rein to manipulatively shape the news rather then merely reporting unbiased and noninflammatory fact. Being the guardians of freedom is not a carte blanche license to sell newspapers or bolster ratings if truth be the sacrificial lamb on the alter of corporate profit. The American people are not lemmings. Treat us thusly at your own peril.

Thursday, March 22

"And Now A Toast To The Married Couple."

As is customary, I was given the opportunity and honor to present a toast to our daughter Megan and our new son-in-law, Greg prior to the wedding reception dinner. The text of that toast is as follows:

"As I held my new born daughter for the first time as we walked from the delivery room to the hospital's nursery, her tiny little head was shaped like a half-sharpened pencil, and I thought to myself, "I'm not too sure how this is going to work out."

When she packed a peanut-butter sandwich in my old briefcase as precocious 3-year old and set off determinedly down the sidewalk away from her mother and me to make her mark on the world, I thought to myself, "I'm not sure how this is going to work out."

When she left our nest years later to head off to the University of South Florida - "Go Bulls!" - to begin another important chapter in her life, I thought to myself. "I'm not sure how this is going to work out."

When Megan brought home a young man from Pennsylvania, who couldn't return to his home to celebrate Easter with his family, and who posses the unlikely nickname of "Butters,'" I thought to myself, "I'm not too sure how this is going to work out."

Megan assured her mother and me that she could "never" marry this young man because her name would then be "Megan Morgan and how silly would that be?" Well, how silly indeed... As the lyric to the country song proclaims, "If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans."

At the conclusion of all these formative chapters in our daughter's life, a new one has begun this day, and her Mother and I can assure you that everything has worked out just fine.

I am a firm believer that a man and a woman's destiny is best realized through God's perfect will...that no person comes into the life of another person's heart without God's hand to guide and shape the encounter. And so it has been with Greg and Megan. Their separate journeys through live have come to this appointed, special day and their individual paths today have been co-joined to travel the remaining road before them as one. For this special blessing we are thankful and praise God for His wisdom in making it so.

Greg and Megan... From this new day forth may all of your hopes and dreams be renewed with each new sunrise. May your disappointments be few and your sorrows fewer, and may each be forgotten with each sunset. May all your future memories be as joyous as is this day. May God lighten your hearts so that they will be forever filled with ever increasing and over flowing respect, admiration and love for each other. And may God continue to pour out His riches blessings on you both with His love and peace throughout all the days that He has set aside for this special union that pleases Him immeasurably. May you strive daily to out-love each other so that at the conclusion of your lives here on earth you discover that this jointly held goal resulted in a resounding tie.

Therefore, our special children, go forth from this hour of celebration in God's grace and love, and strive with all your beings in His presence to be happy all the days of your lives together. Now, let us raise our glasses in celebration of Greg and Megan."

Wednesday, March 21

May I Present Mr. & Mrs..."

"Way back when," my desirous intention was to post my on-going, evolving reactions to all things related to the title of "Father-Of-The-Bride-To-Be." And like all good intentions not acted upon in a timely manner, mine ended up on that well traveled dusty road to Purgatory. The awesome and humbling honor to walk my baby girl down the aisle and relinquish her to the keeping of another on behalf of her Mother and me is now a fait accompli; she having been presented in Holy Matrimony to her betrothed on March 10th past. Although my official title has now been elevated to Father-Of-The-Bride, I believe it beneficial and, by all means, fun to reminisce about my personal observations and experiences as the countdown of months and weeks elapsed until the arrival of "the day."

First... Fathers-Of-The-Bride-To-Be have very little purpose, function or responsibilities to perform during the pre-marital, ever on-going planning and preparation phase. Remaining perpetually silent and out of the way I found to be the best course of behavior when the subject of wedding planning and preparation came to the fore, which, as I observed, was the major topic of conversation for the eighteen months leading up to "the day." I was also advised by several current Father's-Of-The-Bride of noted tenure that standing in the corner like a marbled statue of fatherly virtue, with pen and checkbook ready in hand, is an attribute that would be expected, admired and greatly appreciated. Although for me, that responsibility was principally and more than capably administered by my bride of 28 years, as she squeezed every last financial asset into submission to assure daughter Megan's wedding was a memorable one.

If there is a first, there has to be a second... There are two television shows that I am convinced air 24/7; "Say 'Yes' To The Dress" and "Bridezilla" (with some fanciful documentary about over-the-top Gypsy weddings tossed in for good measure). My Judi does not possess an addictive personality to any perceivable degree, but if she was in a room with a television, one of these shows was on and a critical critique of each episode was sure to follow. Some where in my murky ancestral past there must have been a feline flirtation because curiosity overcame my better sense of leaving well enough alone and I actually accompanied Judi in viewing a couple segments.

My assessment? It is a train wreck! As evidenced by the trials and tribulation that daughter Megan endured before finally selecting her beautiful dress (pictured above), I am fully aware that one does not just tut-tut down to Lula's Ready-To-Wear, Wedding Gown Sales Barn and pick off the rack the wedding dress of one's dreams. What some of the girls/women put themselves through on this television show in order to arrive at their final choice was at times sadly funny and too often excruciatingly painful. General Sherman brought less folks to the gala sacking of Atlanta than some of these brides-to-be brought with them for their fittings. Just a couple of these shows was all I could stomach before consigning myself once again to assume my more comfortable and obscure post in the corner.

Very few times during the planning and preparation was I strongly advised that my opinion and thus presence would be welcomed in the task of making final decisions on matters pertaining to the ceremony and the reception to follow. One such excursion usurped my usual cherished Sunday afternoon nap as daughter, son-in-law-to-be, Greg, and wife Judi sallied forth to finalize flowers, cakes and caterer. My valued contribution to the outing, as near as I can figure, was to serve as chauffeur and plumber. (The lady proprietor of the flower shop had a toilet that would not stop running. I fixed the problem. She was grateful.)

Much to my pleasant surprise, Megan and Greg had made the decision that the wedding was to be a less formal occasion. This meant, in layman's terms, "No Tuxedos For The Men." Hooray!! Fortunately I had previously purchased from that fashion shop of renown, J.C. Penny's, a nice blue, pin-striped suit, which I assumed could be whipped out of its really spiffy plastic suit cover bag thirty minutes before the fateful walk down the aisle and everyone would acknowledge that God was smiling down from on high and everything was perfectly in balance with the world. "Oh contrair, mon ami." Not according to my wife. "This will never do," she proclaimed. "The pants have cuffs. We can't have cuffs. And the coat sleeves are too long and don't show any shirt!" That is one of the basic and necessary reasons why men have they don't show up at some willy-nilly social function looking like they were the last clown to fall out of the Volkswagen bus at the circus. After a couple of alteration trail and errors, I must admit that thanks to the insistence of my persistent and wise wife, I did look quite studly in my tailored suit.

At long last the "Big Day" finally arrived. Daughter and Dad stood poised to make that much anticipated slow walk down the aisle. Megan has always demonstrated a deeply embedded sense of self-confidence and a keen awareness of what she wants and how she wants it. Megan and Greg's theme for the evening festivities was one of simplicity and country-fare; a gathering of dear friends and family in mutual celebration of two lives joined as one. "No drama" was her dictate and desire. But standing together hand-in-hand, awaiting our cue to process forward to her new future as a married lady, that outward exterior of total control belied the little girl inside squeezing my hand ever so tightly. "I'm so nervous," she whispered and I, in attempt to lighten the moment, suggested that "compared to a root channel, this wasn't a bad alternative." "Don't look at me," she whispered more emphatically, and then we stepped forward to her new chosen destiny. "Who gives this woman to be married?" "Her Mother and I." A kiss on her cheek and a hug to my new son-in-law, and my duty as the father of my beautiful little girl gave way to the young man now holding her hand in his.

The reception that followed was a joyous celebration indeed, filled with good food, laughter and fellowship. Two of my very dearest and cherished friends honored Megan, Greg, Judi and me with their participation. Greg Crane, who performed the wedding ceremonial rites, and David Wilbanks, who offered the prayer blessing. As tradition dictates, I was assigned the welcomed duty to offer a toast to the married couple. Megan had given me her suggested guidelines as to how the toast should be delivered; "Humorous, but not silly. Serious, but not too so." The contents of that toast (the text of which shall appear in a follow up post) invoked from the attentive audience the much hoped for laughter, sighs and not a few empathic tears, some of which were my own. And then after the dancing was done...the evening drew to a close. All in all a most wonderful celebratory experience for all.

I have no doubt that I am glossing over many other events that transpired between the announcement of the wedding date and the actual event. But it is my intention here to highlight and preserve for prosperity a select few of the occurrences and events that touched my limited role as the Father-of-the-Bride. Overall, for me, it was a hoot.

And now, may I present, Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Morgan. Have a great life together, you too. Mom and I are so very proud and happy for you both.

Wednesday, February 15

Government Approved...

I'm a little late climbing up on my soapbox on this one, but still color me irate. It seems that our Federal government is now under the impression that it is in the business of telling parents what food items they can and cannot pack in the children's lunches. (Why am I not amazed?)

Case in point... A preschooler attending the West Hoke elementary School in Reford, North Carolina was told on January 30th that the lunch her mother had provided for her to consume on that day did not meet the minimum nutritional standards as prescribed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What terribly unhealthy food items did this mother callously provide for her child? (You may wish to fetch a barf bag before reading further...) A turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips and a carton of apple juice. I know, it turns a lot of folks stomachs who entertain a visual image of this assortment of foul food items all combined together. What was this idiotic mother thinking?

Thank goodness to the rescue came the zealous representative of the Division of Child Development and Early Education of the Department of Health and Human Services who took it upon herself/himself to personally inspect each of the preschoolers lunches to assure each met the USDA guidelines. According to this watchdog agency each lunch must (emphasises mine) consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, "even if the lunch was prepared and transported by the child from home." There shall be no exceptions. Failure to comply with these guidelines, the child care provider must (your government's emphasises, not mine) supplement the improperly prepared lunch with the missing item(s.) And to add further injury to idiotic insult, the child care provider may levy a fee to the parent to offset the cost of the supplemented food item.

Upon arriving home, the child's mother realized that the meal she had packed for the child's lunch was untouched, which prompted an inquiry as to what she had eaten instead. Three chicken nuggets. The balance of the food on the cafeteria tray was untouched and disposed of as waste. Another fine example of yours and my tax dollars being effectively put to work. Aren't you proud?

Also arriving at the mother's attention was a note form the school stating that that students who did not bring a "healthy lunch" would be offered the missing portions that could result in a fee from the cafeteria, which, in the mother's particular care, would be $1.25. The mother, who wished to remain anonymous (are you ready for this?) to protect her daughter from retaliation, complained to her congressional representative rightfully protesting the imposing of a fine of any amount when she had utilized her own monetary resources to provide an acceptable meal that she knew her daughter would consume and enjoy. Silly, misguided woman. Don't you know that the government considers we citizens to possess no more mental acumen than might otherwise be required for each of us to have enough common sense to come in out of the rain?

Here's my take on yet another example of our Federal 's deliberate and increasing interference in the affairs of it citizens. The last thing I would have done would have been to remain anonymous. My voice would have given new meaning to the phrase"Holy Hell," so pronounced would my protest have been that the person responsible for inserting their unwelcomed and unwarranted greasy chicken nugget fingers into my child's personal belongings that their ears would have been ringing like the inside of the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall. "Dear kind sir or gentle lady, if you ever again feel in the slightest compelled to again place your hands on my child's lunch without my expressed written permission, let me assure you that you shall find it painfully difficult to consume your healthy food choices for the next calendar year with only the use of your elbows!"

It marginally commendable that our government has propagated a desire to combat the growing epidemic of obesity that is increasingly plaguing a rapidly growing segment of our citizens, especially among our children. It is at base a worthy cause that deserves our attention and action. But like so many programs undertaken by our unwieldy Federal government, it is itself plagued with self-important, zealous bureaucrats who find it necessary to impose their mandates of regulation where none are necessary or required. Our teachers have enough on their professional plates, attempting to impart the rudimentary educational skills our children must master in order to take their future productive place in our society, to also be burdened with the wholly unnecessary responsibility of being the policemen for government mandates that are intrusive and over-reaching in their scope.

Yes, by all means be a cheerleader for responsible choices, but let the teachers be teachers and let the parents be parents. A lunch consisting of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips and a carton of apple juice isn't going to bring America to its knees. We have far bigger problems than what a child brings from home to eat for lunch.

Sunday, January 29

Listening To Paint Dry...

Let's start out with a given... I like music. I grew up liking music. My Dad had a huge collection of 78s of all the Big Bands and musicians of that era. I was inspired by that music. So much so that I learned to play the trumpet as a youngster, became sufficiently proficient in playing the instrument that I became a member of a Dixie Land Band. The band played during the summer months on a paddle dinner boat that catered to corporate parties as it plied the waters of one of the large lakes in North Carolina. Many a hot and humid summer's night our music was so well received that it was interspersed with the sound of splashes, laughter and applause as inebriated party revelers either fell or were pushed overboard. But that's another story...

I am am member of my choir and also a men's assemble that sings gospel and pop music selections. Aside from opera, which defies rational explanation for its existence, I like virtually all types of music. My enjoyment of music having, therefore, been established, my Judi and I gladly accepted a pair of tickets to attend last evening a performance of classical music by The Florida Orchestra. The performance was conducted in the newly renovated Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg. I use the descriptive adjective "renovated," as opposed to "remodel," because the venue underwent a major overhaul for approximately one year that ventured far beyond just ripping down the old wallpaper, slapping on a new cost of whitewash and tearing up the old tread bare carpet that gave tie die a bad reputation. The acoustics are now such that you can indeed hear a pin drop as well as every cough, belch, burp and the myriad of other bodily expulsions that bellowed forth between each musical selection.

Last evening's "Masterworks" performance was billed as Tchaikobsky's Swan Lake. Prior to the main bout on the card were two selections by the German composer Bela Bartok. The first was a three-parter that the string orchestra performed and the second featured a Concerto for Piano 2 ( although I only counted one piano) that was being played by a guest pianist who, as it appeared to my wife and I, was content with making a concocting of sound that assailed the senses and made about as much enjoyable musical sense as a yard rake on aluminum siding. Nevertheless upon the conclusion of each section of music the audience jumped to its feet erupting into thunderous and enthusiastic applause. They either greatly appreciated the musician's virtuoso performance or they were ecstatically glad, as were Judi and I, that that whole excruciating enterprise had come to a final conclusion. Judi remarked, and I concurred, that this euphoric display reminded her of the Emperor's New Clothes; everyone who was standing did not wish to provide their fellow audience participants any perceptible inkling that they too had no idea why they were standing up in the first place. It was better to stand an feign understanding than to remain seated and remove all doubt.

Intermission. Thank God! Judi departed to the lobby for some well deserved adult liquid fortifications, while I remained in the auditorium to evaluate the multitude of human species that comprised the sell out throng. It use to be said of a yesteryear St. Petersburg, that it was "God's waiting room." They may have left the streets of our fair city, but they all assembled in mass that evening in Mahaffey Theater. There was a smattering of children and younger folks, but for the most part it was comprised of every person that appeared to be a current residence of the county's nursing homes. I surmised that if majority of these folks ever managed to make it out to the lobby, a goodly number would never return, having been summoned prematurely forth to the great concert hall in the sky.

One particular elderly lady immediately captivated my attention. Her hair was the color of a yellow magic marker and was coiffed like a low yield explosion. She was wearing a light blue wool, two-piece suit adorned on each shoulder and extending down each side of her back what appeared to be two grey squirrels, the quantity of fur for each would stuff a fairly good-sized couch. I also noticed that she did a rather superb job of chewing her gum in near perfect matched time with the music's tempo.

The lights dimmed, the octogenarian crowd rumbled and stumbled back to their seats, and Swan Lake began in earnest. Swan Lake is a story of unrequited love on steroids, or Rome and Juliet with feathers. It is a beautiful piece of music that is familiar to any music aficionado, and the Florida Orchestra did itself proud in its flawless interpretation. In one of the major movements of the suite the Concertmaster (a.k.a. first violinist) had a protracted solo, and in performing same gave all the tale tell indications that he was in the throes of a musically induced epileptic seizure, gyrating like a crazed maniac, thrashing about on his chair to all points of the compass, attacking savagely the instrument's strings with unrestrained gusto. Deservedly so, he received the lion's share of the audience adulation at the conclusion of the piece. The lady playing the harp also got a nice round of applause, but I gave her only a five out of a possible ten because she pretty much stayed seated while delivering her appointed solo. Not everyone can be a star.

All in all our evening's venture into classical music was memorable, although I still personally prefer my music preferences to encompass less strenuous involvement. Give me a bubbly evening with Lawrence Welk and I'll follow you anywhere.