Recently posted quotes:

"There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress." Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.” -Will Rogers (1879-1935)

"Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it." -James Madison (1751-1836)

"Liberty must at all hazards be supported." -John Adams (1735-1826)

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Governor of Texas and a few Cronies in Congress have slipped too far off into left field!

Let me think this through.

A couple of years ago the Congress of the United States—both houses by-the-way—passed health care reform. There was stiff opposition, but it passed anyway and became the law of the land.

Now, it seems that the opposition, instead of licking their wounds, continually tries every “dirty” political trick in the books (and some that aren’t in the book) to stop the law of the land.

Now, before you go off half cocked, I have never been an Obama supporter. But that’s not the case here. We are talking about the law of the land—nothing less and nothing more.

The Constitution establishes the rules and steps to repeal unfavorable and unjust laws but these rules are not in any way entering into the debate. The opposition continually looks for tangents to circumvent the law of the land.

In Texas, the Governor is demanding additional training and fees be applied to the “Navigators” who are being put in place to assist in the enrollment of the uninsured—a step that is scheduled to start on 1 October, just some 11 days hence. Where has the Governor been over the past three years? Under a rock? Well, maybe! Just maybe he’s been rehearsing debate tactics for the 2016 campaign—he’ll need them to overcome the gaff filled run of 2012. But he persists anyway.

The changes demanded by the Governor are being called “a top priority for the governor to protect Texan’s privacy and personal information through these common sense rules for navigators.” According to his spokesperson Rich Parsons. The reasoning amounts to little more than smoke and mirrors and is only a delaying tactic. Refer to

State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) responded about his bill (that is being used by the Governor to demand the new rules and fees) “This (bill) is a tool to improve our health care system, not dismantle it even further,” The governor is “twisting the meaning of protecting consumers to fulfill an extreme political agenda. This will hurt Texans who need health care far more than it helps him in some GOP primary.”

The Governor has had years to propose changes and LEAD, but has chosen to block, restrict and derail with his opposition the entire path.

Now, to those shifty House guys in D.C. Just what are they up to these days?

The have completely set aside the Constitution of the United States. They just voted this day to fund the government for three months with interim legislation instead of doing their job and establishing legislation that funds the government for the next physical year—the House of Representatives job as established under the Constitution.

The Tea Party 40 are holding the entire populous hostage to their “their-sided” view of where this country needs to be heading. Oh, you bet, I would like to see some fiscal restraint on the part of the D.C. crowd, but hostage taking is not the path. They are trying to establish a “slippery slope” that we all made slide down should the “40” get their way.

It is past time for the right-minded legislatures to stand up and be counted—Just Do It! To copy the Nike jargon.

“Behind the rhetoric lay the likelihood of another in a series of complex, inside-the-Beltway brinkmanship episodes as conservative House Republicans and Obama struggle to imprint widely differing views on the U.S. government.” Refer to

Continuing: “House Republicans intend to vote to raise the nation's debt limit next week to prevent that from happening, and they have said they will include a one-year delay in Obamacare in the measure — to reinforce their determination to eradicate the program.”

And more: "The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want "Obamacare," Speaker John Boehner said as members of his rank and file cheered at a celebratory rally in the Capitol moments after the 230-189 vote. He stood at a lectern bearing a slogan that read, "#Senate must act."

They are hoping the Senate sends it back to the House and they can run straight into the next battle—“raising the debt ceiling” to the bills already incurred by our do nothing galleywags in Washington.

I don’t think any of these guys understand what Americans want or think. I believe “we” want the people’s work accomplished and some “Real Straight” talk for a change—the idealogs need to sit down and do their job, whether that be in Austin or in Washington D.C.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tickets in the Nose-Bleed Section – Part 5

Time now to move on to the second leg of The Grand Stadium Tour II, New York City. If you haven’t read “Tickets in the Nose-Bleed Section – Part 4”, you might want to check it out before proceeding.


We started the day early with the “free” breakfast downstairs and then caught the shuttle to Wood Island Station and the Blue Line. Always wanting to be early as opposed to late, we were hustling. At the State House Station, we switched over to the Orange Line—one we hadn’t been on before now—and were soon headed to Back Bay Station were we would catch the Amtrak Express to Penn Station in mid-town New York City.

Arriving at Back Bay in plenty of time, we went into the wait mode. Well, we waited and then we waited some more—I began to feel like I was back in the Army, “hurry up and wait”—I started looking for a line to get in. Along with the wait, came the diesel fumes. This was absolutely the worst ventilated station of the entire trip. To breath pleasant air, one had to go outside. They had huge fans moving air but it was to little avail—hack, hack, cough! The fumes were stifling even for an old POL man like myself.

Still waiting, we felt like a coffee but the Dunkin’ Donut concession looked packed every time we glanced that direction. Finally noticed that there was another across the station form where we were and nobody was going there—fine, Joseph and decided to give it a shot. The closer we got to the concession, the more popular we became. Two ladies (in head scarves) began to compete for our patronage; hollering for us to come to their station: “Pick me, pick me; I have the best coffee!” I thought that the way things were transpiring they might begin bidding on our patronage. But, they didn’t and we choose to separate and be served from both stations.

We walked away with now holds the title as the 2nd Hottest Coffee in the World—DFW still holding on to #1. Forty-five minutes later, I was still waiting on the liquid to cool enough for consumption—another benefit of being early.

Finally we board the express and are on our way to The City, as the New Yorkers and everybody else in the area calls it. Not long aboard and we are out of Massachusetts and in Rhode Island. Before you can say “quick as a bunny” we’re NOT in Rhode Island—it doesn’t take long!

All through Connecticut, we travel along the coast but much of the view is obscured by the trees and rocky cuts on the trackside. What we could see, especially around the towns and communities was really nice. Passing through New London, I caught site of the Coast Guard’s training schooner and that was a thrill—but not for me and my sea-stomach!

Watching the houses and thinking “what would it be like to live in this area”, I began to notice that every backyard had a dock and every dock had a boat. Fairly soon we arrived in the New Haven area and this looked very nice from our picture window as we passed by.

Joseph braved the dining car and returned with an extremely hot pita bread//pizza combo that took him and Patsy the rest of the trip to consume. I consumed a couple of power bars that I had drug from home just for this kind of occasion.

Crossing over Long Island Sound, you could tell we were getting close to The City. All through the Flushing and Queens area I looked for landmarks I might remember from my time in the area in the late 70s and early 80s. The only standouts were the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges. Once we started going under ground, it became obvious we were under the East River and soon we would be at Penn Station.

The Station was full of people going everywhere. We took time to buy a single ride ticket just to get to Times Square Station and our hotel in Queens. The ticket kiosk didn’t have a plethora of information and we thought it would be best to talk to somebody before going off half cocked and end up spending too much dough on subway fares that we may not need in the long run.

We made our way to Times Square Station in good fashion and transferred to the #7 train that would carry us over to Long Island and our hotel. The train to Queens was full—what a group! Everybody  boarding the train immediately sat down (where seats were available) or found a pole to latch on to and stuck their nose directly into their smart phone or iPad—never looking one direction or the other. I fully believe that Joseph, Patsy and I were the only people on the train communicating with another live person during the trip.

I hadn’t thought about it before, but soon realized when we stopped at Flushing Meadows that the majority of he riders were on our train to get to the U. S. Open tennis matches. Almost immediately, the train was close to a ghost town; only the three of us and a few early afternoon “coming home” workers. While pulling our luggage around the streets and looking for our bus stop a cabbie offered to take us to the Hampton-LaGuardia for $15—we quickly took him up on his offer.

As usual, we were early—room wasn’t ready—and they stacked our bags to the side and told us about the gift shop next door where we could get our train passes and information about getting around.

We bought the $5 pass which allowed us two train rides and two bus transfers—as long as you stay underground, one train ride pass works for as many trains as you need or want to ride as long as you don’t pass through the escape turnstiles. We sought out the Hilton’s bell captain, Joseph, a heavily accented Queensite for better instructions. Watching and listening to the conversation between the two Josephs (mine and Queens”) was a real treat.:

Joseph-Q “Take the #23 bus that stops right in front of the hotel to Roosevelt Avenue and look up like you’re gonna pray. Take the #7 train to Grand Central and then the #4 train to Yankee Stadium. Got it?”

Joseph-TX Got it!”

Joseph-Q “Take any buss to Roosevelt and look up. Now what bus number did I say take?”

Joseph-TX “The #23!”

Joseph-Q “Any bus. They all go to Roosevelt.”

Joseph-TX Got it! They all go to Roosevelt.”

Joseph-Q also gave us instructions for our Saturday travel, but I will get to that later on. The #7 train into Manhattan was not so bad, only a few riders came along with us and the U.S. Open still in full swing. The #4 train that we joined at Grand Central was packed when we boarded. Resembling sardines, we were headed uptown to Yankee Stadium. The further we moved north, the more crowded the train became—full cans of sardines. People were getting off work, headed home and many more headed to the game. Bad timing, but we had to be early—might catch some of batting practice.

Finally there, we have arrived to join the throng standing around outside gate #6 soaking in the atmosphere. !” We are going to watch those same Baltimore Orioles that we saw two nights ago take on the Bronx Bombers, the New York Yankees. Finding a little used entrance, we are inside the “cathedral of baseball.”

Yankee Stadium

We struck it lucky and were the proud recipients of free Yogi Berra bobblehead dolls that they gave away upon entering the stadium. I plan on passing mine on to my brother, Kenny, who has been a life long Yankee fan.

Yogi Berra touring the ballfield

Not liking the variety of hats available at a couple of kiosks we checked, we moved over and went into the Fan Store. I found a hat I liked and we all spent the $100+ on souvenirs for those back home prior to heading to our seats way up on the 4th deck—on the 1st row in nose bleed area once again.

Coming out of the tunnel and seeing the field in the New Yankee Stadium for the first time, another song//thought popped into my brain: “There’s green grass on the field. Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play. I can be centerfield

In our seats - 4th Deck, front row

Derek Jeter leaving field after batting practice

The game started off fairly tight through the 3rd inning, but starting the 4th, CC Sabathia, pitching for the Yanks, couldn’t keep hitters off the bases and when the hitters got on base, Sabathia couldn’t keep them from scoring. Baltimore started off this evening just like they had in Boston—striking early and fast. Manny Machado scored again for Baltimore, like he had in Boston on a Chris Davis single and Baltimore took the lead through 3 & ½ innings. In the bottom of the 4th, Alfonso Soriano homered to right with Robinson Cano scoring in front of him and the Yanks were right back in the game and leading 2 to 1..

 Yankee Stadium crowd

To start the 5th, Sabathia again allowed a base runner, Nick Markakis  prior to giving up a home run to Danny Valencia. Alexi Casilla got on and Manny  Machado brought him home with a single to left. Baltimore goes up 4 to 2.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees played “Everybody hits and most score.” Curtis Granderson reached base and scored in front of a Mark Reynolds doubled to deep left. Ichiro Suzuki homered to right with Reynolds scoring also. Austin Romine, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter reach base with Romine and Gardner scoring on a Robinson Cano single. After 5, the Yankees lead 7 to 4.

In the Baltimore 6th, Adam Jones reaches base and scores on a single to right by Nick Markakis. Baltimore closes the gap but still trails 7 to 5.

The Yankees 8th saw both Robinson Cano and Afonso Soriano reach base before Alex Rodriguez singles to left driving Cano home. Through seven, the Yanks lead 8 to 5.

The 8th inning was inconsequential for both sides setting up the top of the 9th with Mariano Rivera closing for the last three outs. New York over Baltimore 8 to 5—What a game! It started slow but finished with a wild bang! The game’s over and Frank sings! Amazing to hear 40,000+ singing New York, New York! I wanta wake up in a town that doesn’t sleeps, top of the heap!”

The evening’s attendance was 46, 165 and I think at least 40,000 of them needed the #4 train. Getting there from the 4th deck was a chore—sorta like Rowdy Yates said: “It’s like working tail on a cattle drive!” And, like working cattle, most of our co-train-riders didn’t speak the same language as we did.

After departing the #7 train in Queens at 103rd & Corona, like Joseph-Q had advised, we found that the #23 bus stop was on a one way street heading the wrong direction. Without knowing how far out of the way the loop back to the hotel’s direction might end up costing us—we sure didn’t want a repeat of the fiasco we experienced in St. Louis—especially at 0-dark-thirty; I thought that the next street down was probably a one way heading the right direction. We started to make the block. Walking and walking; sometimes in what during the night looked like a really unsafe neighborhood, some apprehension began to set in. Nobody was behind us and we finally met three guys coming toward us—everybody kept on walking.

The intersection soon found, we crossed to the bus stop and took the #48 bus back to the Hampton. The night was finally over.


Up early, we took the #23 bus (again) to Roosevelt Street and the #7 to Grand Central (like Joseph-Q had also advised). Taking the R train downtown, we were right on Joseph-Q’s schedule—on our way to Courtland Station. We heard what we couldn’t believe over the loud speaker—Canal Street was the last stop before the train passed under the East River for Brooklyn. Could Joseph-Q have been wrong again? Well, Yes! It seems that the R train doesn’t make the last three stops in Manhattan on the weekend. We scrambled off at Canal Street, retrieved our city map and plotted our course.

After a fairly good walk, we arrived at the 9/11 Memorial entrance right at our scheduled time of 1030 hrs. It was a real stroke of luck that I had gone on-line ahead of time and secured passes for us. We hopped ahead of 200+ people standing in line to get tickets—entrance to the memorial is free but a donation is willingly accepted. Next came the security check—same procedures as at most airports: belts, shoes, change, bags on the belt and a scanning portal. Because of my shoulders, the alarm went off and I had to be frisked—old hat now.

The memorial if really impressive—a fitting tribute and a great reminder that everybody killed that day were not all citizens of this country.

 9/11 Memorial (Fountain #2)

 Names in granite


Joseph & Patsy by Fountain #2

 Howard & Joseph by Fountain #2
We spent a good hour or so strolling around both waterfall pools, reading names and just watching the people visiting the memorial—a sad and moving experience.

Leaving the memorial, we strolled down to Battery Park, watched the ferries going back and forth to Liberty Island and Staten Island and the people out for a Saturday in the park. Next, we headed up town and came across Trinity Church. The old edifice dates back to pre-revolutionary days and is the church that Washington attended during the war and his presidency while the original capital of the U.S. was in New York City. The church holds other distinctions as well: the formation of the Society of Cincinnati (1783) and the burial place of Alexander Hamilton plus many others.

A few block uptown, we came upon Wall Street and walked down it and back up—only a block long.

About 1200 hours, we again found ourselves at a street fair on Greenwich—we had passed them setting up on our way down to the 9/11 Memorial—and did the smells entice? Before ordering, we watched a troop of street performers (claimed to all be brothers) doing amazing break dancing, flips and humor. The show finished and donations collected, we each latched onto a lamb kabob on pita bread and something to wash it down with and cooled in the adjacent park.

 Trinity Church (main chapel)
To walk off our lunch, we made our way over to the West Side and strolled a ways up the Hudson, watching the boats and the people out for the day—the people are more interesting to me sometimes than the sites we take in.

Having just about walked ourselves to death, we located a train station and caught the #3 train to Times Square Station and then the #7 back over to Queens and our ole faithful #23 bus to the Hampton.

Finally we rested!


Up real early for our 0755 departure, we caught a whirl wind shuttle ride to LaGuardia and checked in. Security was once again a challenge due to my shoulders. I passed the pat-down and was then surprised that the TSA guard swabbed his gloves and submitted the swab to the spectrometer for an explosive residue check before I was released to join the others.

After our 3+ hour flight to Houston’s Hobby Airport, we snacked down on Papa’s Burgers and then awaited our separate flights to Austin and Dallas.

Before you know it , we were picking up Little Gus and Otis at the kennel and the Grand Stadium Tour II was history!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tickets in the Nose-Bleed Section – Part 4

After a two summer delay, the Grand Stadium Tour II got underway with converging flights to Boston, MA—Joseph coming from Dallas via Kansas City and Milwaukee and Patsy and I from Austin via Nashville. Joseph arrived some two hours ahead of us due to weather on our adjoining flight coming into Nashville from who-knows-where. Dilin could not join us this time due to a scheduling problem associated with school and his night job—too bad!


By 0900 hours, we  had dropped off the Pups and cleared security at the Austin airport. By 0920, I was holding the second hottest cup of coffee ever produced—why do airport concessions have to make their coffee so HOT? By 1125, we were in the air and headed for Nashville. I was sitting next to a nice young lady named Marie, a grant writer for the Austin Mexic-Arte Museum who was headed to Boston for three days of work and then to Maine for a friend’s wedding.

Southwest was on time to Nashville where we had a two hour layover. Around to 1320 hours, I searched out Gibson’s Café and tried to order a chicken fried steak. Both James Lee Carter  and I had tried in 1970 to get a chicken-fried in Nashville and were turned down flat—waitress said: “Not only do we not have chicken fried steak, we don’t have steak fried chicken either.” My friend and I were on our way to Ft Lee, Virginia start our careers in the Army at the time. It seems that in forty plus years, there has been no forward development in Tennessee. Patsy and I settled for a Burger King combo meal.

The connection aircraft to take us to Boston was late arriving due to weather and its departure airfield so we were delayed some thirty minutes getting out of Nashville. On this leg, I sat next to Bill, a young man traveling from Colorado back to Boston for a few days and eventually up into New Hampshire (his original home) for a friend’s wedding. A lot of wedding party people moving about the country today—most of them sitting next to me. Joseph had to wait for some two and a half hours on us at the airport. We caught the Hampton Inn shuttle and were eventually at our first destination.

Unpacked, we headed back downstairs and got Jimmy, the shuttle driver to haul us over to Jeveli’s Italian joint where we had a filling meal—not much taste involved, but filling just the same. If you go lookin’ for Jeveli’s, it is right next to the Neptune Laundry and across the street from Boston Car Keys. While we were waiting on our chow, the upstairs of the café unloaded. It looked like forty guys pored out of the room and all resembled members of the Boston Mafia I had seen detailed on the Whitey Borger trial updates over the last month—a gruesome looking bunch.


After breakfast, I placed a call to Sherman D. Roberts—a friend from Stephan F Austin High School and Texas A&M University. We hadn’t seen each other in forty plus years and decided to get together for lunch sometime in the middle of the day.

0900 hours, the Old Town Trolley picked us up at the Hampton and we headed out to re-discover Boston. Thinking we would ride around and determine the best areas to visit after getting the lay of the land.

Our first stop was Paul Revere’s house (built in 1680 and bought by Revere in 1770), most of which is original; well the frame is. From here, we walked over to the Old North Church (real name - Christ’s Church). I looked around and found, by accident, a pew that Theodore Roosevelt had sat in during 1912—as much as I admire TR, I had to sit in this pew for awhile, at least during the guides lecture. One side note, the church had the oldest pipe organ in the United States.

Back on the trolley, we searched for a stop near a transit point so we could meet up with Sherman. Finding one, we were in Cambridge’s Harvard Square waiting on Sherman to show.

Sherman arrives and directs us to his Natasha’s favorite pizza joint and we order lunch. The slipped some tofu into my salad, but I managed to eat around it and didn’t become sick. We spent an hour or so catching up on mutual acquaintances and who-shot-John before Sherman gave us a personal tour of Harvard Yard. We even snuck in the back door of the chapel—front was locked—and looked over the inside. Amazing to see some of the places you have only read and heard of all your life.

Sherman D. Roberts

Back on the trolley, we visited Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market (oldest market in US) and the downtown Cheers replica tavern killing some time before time to head to the ballpark. While drinking a beer in Cheers (replica), a couple from Nova Scotia sits down near us and we strike up a conversation covering baseball and hockey. One odd point, because of where these guys lived, they had to go north to get south. They were really interesting.

We soon found the blue line train (nice and new) to Fenway Park, switched to the green line (old and crowded) and walked the gauntlet of vendors for several blocks to arrive at our designated gate. Inside finally, I bought myself a Boston Red Sox cap, a couple of dogs and a coke.

Here to see the Red Sox take on the Baltimore Oriels, we climb up the tunnel to field level, and then 34 rows up to our seats—noses began to bleed—and found ourselves just six rows from the top. Huffing and puffing, we made it.

Soon we are joined by a bunch of college guys from Canada wearing purple shirts (2 had on red). Turns out they were a groom’s party. They made racket during the entire game, unmercifully picking on the Baltimore players. Just after the purple shirts got under way, one of Joseph’s former associates, Kim, joins us for the game—she now resides in the Boston area.

Baltimore starts out the game like they are the team leading the division instead of Boston, scoring in the first inning. Then things loosen up a bit and both Baltimore and Boston score in the 3rd.  Through the 6th inning, we have seen two home runs over the Green Monster (one by each team – Machado-Baltimore and Davis-Boston). Baltimore leads going into the 7th, but fail to score. Boston ties the game in the bottom of the 7th causing fear of extra innings to set in.

 Fenway Park

 Green Monster


 The Game is on!

Boston’s Mike Carp pinch hits for third baseman Bogaerts and smacks a Texas Leaguer to shallow left just over the outstretched glove of the Baltimore third baseman scoring  Jarrod Saltalamacchia  and sending Stephen Drew to third. Carp is replaced by pinch runner Will Middlebrooks, who stays in to play third in the top of the ninth. But that’s where the rally ends with Boston ahead. The Boston closer Koji Uehara comes in for the 9th and three outs later the game is over.

Even though the Orioles seemed to be able to put runs on the board at will, I had the feeling that the Red Sox were never out of the game and felt they could do what it took to win.

We made our way out of Fenway and ran the gauntlet one more time to get to the trains—worse now than getting to the park. The Green Line was really crowded but room cleared out when we switched to the Blue Line for the trip out of downtown to get to the Hampton. We were finally in the sack at 0045 hours.


We made it downstairs for a lazy breakfast and caught the shuttle over to Wood Station for another trip into Boston; this morning heading for the U.S.S. Constitution.

The swabbies lecturing the ship tour were all in the 20 – 22 year old range, but did a fantastic job of telling their stories. The ship and its accompanying museum are very much a class act.

After our visit, we are back on the trolley and heading for the tea party ship anchored in the downtown harbor. We had been there in 1979 and wanted to get another shot of Joseph tossing the tea over the side. The re-enactors conducting the tour were fantastic at their jobs as well—these guys made the adventure well worth the time spent. And yes, I got a shot of Joseph  tossing tea!

Joseph in 1979

Joseph in 2013

Departing the ship, we felt ready and energized enough to take on the Red Coat Regulars ourselves.

Soon, we were again on the trolley, this time headed to Beacon Hill. When the driver found that we were getting off at 8 Beacon Hill, we were serenaded to “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”—everybody on the trolley singing.

Down the steps, we enter the real Bull and Finch Pub (Cheers) and start with a beer. Having not eaten since breakfast, we decided to have dinner here. Patsy orders a pinini, Joseph goes for a Reuben and I take the Norm Burger Challenge—ya gotta live sometime, I’ll show them.

Man, that burger was big. It stood about eight inches tall on the plate which was full of fries also. I dug in and got after it. I managed to do the burger in and the beer also but had to go wash up after finishing. Back from the hand washing, I found that I had been inducted into the “Norm’s Burger Society,” complete with a certificate and all—waitress told Joseph that very few ever finish the burger and even fewer clean the plate completely. What an honor! And all I had to do was bite, chew and swallow.

Norm Burger Society Meritorious Achievement Award

To walk off the eats, we walked across the street and strolled around the adjacent end of the Boston Commons (America’s first public park). We felt right at home with all the pigeons, squirrels and ducks.

Heading back downtown, at one of our station changes, I noticed we were at the Scollay Square Station at government Center. I had been singing a portion of the Kingston Trio’s 1959 hit M.T.A. all the time during or adventures around Boston and now here I was right in the middle of the song:

“Charlie’s wife goes down to the Scollay Square Station every day at a quarter past two,
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich as the train goes rumbling’ through!

Did he ever return?
No. He never returned!
And his fate is still unlearned. (Poor ole’ Charlie)
He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston,
For he’s the man that never returned!”

Scollay Square Station (at Government Center)

Arriving back at the Hampton, this effectively finished the Boston portion of this years’ Grand Stadium Tour II. We had now been to a game in the oldest Major League ballpark—Fenway Park—what a thrill!

Now, it’s on to New York City.