Sunday, February 28, 2010

Manhood, brotherhood, and U.S. Canadian Relations

I've been blessed in life with many good male friends.

Maybe none so much as a fellow that lives just outside Toronto, Canada.

He is a man I trust and love. If someone has to hold my heart during thoracic surgery, I would choose him.

Of all my male friends, I think he's the only one I've slept with.

Not like that.

There was only one hotel room. It was in his name. And we shared.

No spooning. No cuddling.

He drew the line the next morning with a note.

"I love you, but don't touch my toothbrush."

This is such a good man and such a good father.

Here's how good he is.

One Easter years ago, he and his wife had put their kids to bed on Easter eve.

His wife suggested that he might go out then and put out the Easter eggs.

Being a man, he said he would do it in the morning before the kids got up.

When his wife nudged him awake the next morning, he looked outside and there was a foot of snow on the ground where they live in the countryside of Canada.

My hero went to his garage. He found wood and his bandsaw.

He cut out oversized bunny feet and strapped them on.

He hopped thru the snow to hide the eggs to keep the dream alive.

That's a man. That's a father.

But he is also a friggin' Canadian.

He played hockey like us Americans play baseball and basketball.

He has actually curled.

So, today, the U.S. vs. Canadian hockey game was a test of everything we've been thru.

In true men's style, we bet.

And I made the stakes.

Loser has to kiss the winner's butt in front of Macy's Herald Square.

Oh, Lord, Ryan Miller. If you'd only closed the 5 hole.

Photo opps will be available sometime soon for the payoff.

I'm just hoping the Canadian requirement for French acknowledgement isn't imposed.

A Night of Charity

Went to a Rotary Club charity event last night.

Raising funds for underprivileged kids to go to college.

Perfectly solid idea, and I hope they did well.

But some funny things happened along the way.

My first indication it would be a funny night was a sign I saw when I first arrived at the venue.

Warning: Drinking alcohol during pregnancy might cause birth defects.

This was prominently displayed over the sinks in the men's room.

Perhaps a better idea might have been:

Warning: Drinking alcohol can lead to pregnancy.

As I entered the gathering, it was interesting to observe the people who came for this night of charity. Several ladies in Full Dallas. Showing lots of everything. Probable cougars. Or snow leopards.

A couple of really bad hairpieces, including one gentleman that I believe had his own backwards.

It has a harmless evening, until the live auction took place.

A full length mink coat went for $1600. That lady got a steal.

Two days on a houseboat on a Texas lake went for $2500. He was either generous, or stupid, or really lonely.

But the real heist happened right before my eyes and I could do nothing but watch the crime go down.

The auctioneer announced he had two Masters tickets. Every man in the place came to full attention.

As the auctioneer read the description, it became clear to me that the two tickets were for Tuesday. A practice day.

Tuesday practice day tickets are sold out like Masters tournament badges, that have had a waiting list since 1972.

The face value of practice day tickets is about $75. They can be bought online for about $300.

But even though the auctioneer read the information, very few heard it or understood what he was saying.

The bidding took off and it was the most competitive and lively of the evening.

One man walked to the front of the room and stood in front of the auctioneer. He was marking his territory. He was in effect saying he was going to By God buy those Masters tickets. You could see the excitement in his eyes. The dream of a lifetime within reach.

And that man bought those two tickets for $2500.

I don't know when the reality is going to hit him, but it will.

God bless him. But, walking Augusta National just once, even on a practice day, is worth $2500.

The first time I walked to the crest of the hill on #11 and the spectacle of Amen Corner was before me, I just stopped and cried. It is golf heaven.

I hope he has the same experience.

And some kid just got part of his college paid for.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Real Olympians

Please don't get me wrong.

I love the modern Olympics for entertainment.

But the original Olympics were much different.

Men only.

Usually competing in the nude.

Competing in events related to war.

Running. Martial arts. Rowing boats. Shooting arrows.

They were celebrations of the best warriors.

The modern Olympics are a celebration of great athletes.

And they are great athletes. The men, the women, all the sports.

Frigging ice dancing requires more athletic talent than 99.99% of us have.

So, I'm not here to complain about the evolvement of this spectacle.

But we are not seeing the best athletes on earth.

Imagine the folks running up and down mountains in Afghanistan with backpacks and guns. On both sides.

Let's have the best of the warriors of the Afghans vs. the Russians vs. the Americans vs. the British vs. Chinese vs. the Massai, and the whoever else is out there.

Let's have the SEALS vs. the Rangers vs. the Islamic Revolutionary Guard vs. the Israeli Special Forces vs. the best of China's People's Armed Police vs. the best of the KGB.

Not trying to kill each other for the moment.

Let's just watch them in action. Running with backpacks.

Skiing unimaginable terrain.

Shooting at 500 yards after swimming a river.

Then we would see the world's best athletes.

To all the young men and women who fight for their countries around the world, you are being under-recognized.

The best athletes aren't in Vancouver.

The best athletes are on the battlefield.

Come to think of it, wouldn't that be a great Olympics? Wouldn't that be a great way to bring our young people together?

Way too simple. Would never work.

But, it's worth a shot.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stop whining

I'm guilty of whining.

I've got a few issues in life I'm wrestling with. And I don't like the way the referee is scoring it.

Big issues.

The IRS is late getting a refund check to me.

(But I've got one coming.)

The televised Olympics have been time delayed, and have shown too much curling.

(But I'm still watching.)

The war in Iraq is winding down and I hate the beginning and the end.

(But I voted for the President and the Congressmen that made it happen.)

I met a man this week for a business conversation.

He needed to meet at his home because he couldn't get to his office.

Because of an "issue with his leg".

We met at his home and he couldn't have been more gracious.

He was on crutches.

He sat with us in his living room, and had his wife prop his leg up on a chair.

He is about my age. Somewhere between 39 and 100.

He is positive. He talks about business. He talks about his children and grandchildren.

We learn we are both barbecue nerds and get into a chat about proper smoking techniques and rubs and sauces.

He explains he got a staph infection in his leg seven years ago.

In a hospital.

The infection entered his bones.

He has had 64 operations since. Rods in. Rods taken out.

He has lost three inches in the infected leg since his ordeal started.

He's had skin grafts from his stomach to his leg.

He lost the big toe on his opposite foot to the infection.

He told us he was happy because he and his doctors had figured out how to deal with the infection.

We then went onto to talk about business for over an hour.

As his wife came into the room to help him up and usher us out, it hit me.

He and his doctors had decided to amputate his leg below his knee.

And he was thrilled about it.

He never said the words. But he made it clear that in this next week, he was going to have part of his leg removed.

You would have thought he was going to The Masters. The World Series.

He was so excited about ending one episode of difficulty and replacing it with another, but better, life of difficulty.

Lord, forgive me for whining.

We all have issues in life.

Money, or lack thereof.

Death of a loved one.

Sickness of a loved one.

Political disagreements.

Disappointments in a mate.

Disappointments in business.

Our own health issues.

The only thing we can control is our attitude and response to the difficulties of life.

I hope I learned a lesson this week.

I hope I can learn to deal with my little issues with the grace of that man.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Pitiful Legacy


The U.S. announced today that our troop level in Iraq is below 100,000.

The lowest number since we invaded in 2003.

We invaded with a number prescribed by politicians and appointees. General Eric Shinsheki argued for two to three times the number so that we could have a chance to truly secure the country.

He was fired for his opinion.

Today, the poor man runs the Veterans Administration and is hamstrung by Congress and the administration to get money and services to our veterans who volunteered their lives to go do the country's bidding.

Our troops are on the way out.

It takes lots of planning and logistics to move people and equipment into and out of a war zone.

My question after the trillions of dollars and thousands of disfigured lives is, so what?

What did we accomplish?

Are we safer today than when we invaded Iraq?

Is Iran lesser than or more than a threat than when we invaded Iraq?

Are we any closer to tamping out radical Islam than before we invaded Iraq?

Specifically, how many radical Islamists were there before we invaded Iraq and how many are there now?

How many radical Islamist terrorist actions have happened since we invaded Iraq?

How many WMD's did we find in Iraq?

Does Israel feel safer today than before we invaded Iraq?

Is Hamas, Hezbollah, the Syrian secret police, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, al Qaeda in Yemen, the Muslim Brotherhood less of a threat than before we invaded Iraq?

Is Afghanistan more stable than before we pulled our resources from there after we toppled the Taliban so that they could be reassigned to Iraq?

How stable is the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf today versus when we invaded Iraq?

How happy is the Iranian government, whoever it is and however corrupt and merciless it may be, today than when we invaded Iraq?

How many good American men and women spent countless hours making bonds with Iraqis that wanted peace, and now are leaving them defenseless against the borderless Iraq?

What's different between the Shia, Sunni and Kurds in Iraq since the day we invaded?
(The answer is the Shia now control, the Sunnis are in fear, and the Kurds don't stand a chance.)

What a great day.

What a celebration.

Can't wait until all of our folks are out of Iraq.

My greatest concern is for the family of the last G.I. to fall in that country.

That family will have good reason to ask, why?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympic Tragedy

How can such a thing happen?

With all the planning and all the security, how can this be?

Tragedy strikes the Winter Olympics.

Of course, I'm talking about Johnny Weir.

Rhymes with . .

Yes, the anti-fur people have made horrible threats to Johnny after he added that lovely piece of white fox to his, em, athletic uniform that you can see on his left shoulder.

So poor Johnny is going to have to hide out in the Olympic Village for his own safety.

No club-hopping. No shopping. What's an Olympic athlete to do?

And oh you animal folks, I've done some research, and in addition to that white fox fashion fiasco, you've plenty to beef about with Mr. Weir.

To treat an injury, he once wrapped his foot in a duck fat concoction.

In his apartment that he designed in New Jersey, there are MORE animal pelts and even animal tusks.

He once corrected a writer from USA Today who wrote about him wearing a boa the previous day: "That was a scarf, not a boa - dead chinchilla, not feathers."

Oh, Johnny, this isn't going to be pretty.

Once the PETA folks get riled up, they attack.

This should be quite a cat-fight.

Oh yeah. . . . rhymes with deer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So Islam, what's it going to be?

Dear Members of Islam,

I have no idea what your thougts are. I can't comprehend what all of your lives are like. You span the globe.

As do Christians. And Buddhists. And Hindus. And many other religions.

Just like I can't comprehend what all the Christians think. Nor the Hindus. Nor the Buddhists. Or the secular humanists. Or the Wiccans. Or the Druids.

I can't comprehend what you think.

As we currently sit, it ain't pretty.

The so-called "radical Islamists" have declared war on the West. Meaning Europe. The United States. Canada. South America.

It is their way or death.

Is that the way it is?

If so, we are headed to Armageddon.

Well, we in the rest of the world say it is open to interpretation.

And we will fight you to the death for that option.

You focus on America as the demon.

Let me point out an issue you haven't yet dealt with.


They don't buy your program.

And as a group, neither do we in America. Or Europe.

Nor Australia. Nor South America.

As a Christian nation, regardless of what our President says, we are bound by the call of Christ.

"To love thy neigbor as thyself."

Warring against each other leads to no good end.

You are losing sweet souls. And so are we.

How long do we go on?

Regardless of the geography, how long do we keep fighting?

If there is a moral center of Islam, let it come forth.

I choose to believe that the Taliban and Al Qaeda don't represent the majority of Islam. As of today.

The rulers of Egypt put down the anarchy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

You Saud family tap down on the Wahhabis, even though you allow monies to be poured into the radical Islamist factions.

We are already in World War.

And this is the most serious yet.

It isn't geographic.

It is idealogic.

You and we have to make a decision.

Your radical arm is waging war. They want to blow up airplanes on Christmas Day.

Is that what you want?

If there is a moral compass in Islam, let it come forth.

Otherwise, you are going to see an awful situation where we, the West (and China), declare you an enemy of humanity and will have no choice but to bomb you out.
And Mr. Amajimgobbadadingaling, you will be first.

Tehran will be dust. Which is so sad, because there are obviously thousands if not millions of freedom lovers there that you oppress.

As will Qom. And the rest of your nuclear faciliies.

We will not fight you on the ground.

We will bomb you out from above. Just like we made the decision in the war with Japan. It was worth it to bomb civilians in your country to save the lives of our soldiers if it was to be a ground war. We own the skies. You own sand.

Having lost a son in this calamity, I pray that you might not want to lose anymore.

But again, I don't presume to understand.

All I know is if your way is the only way, buckle up.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Death of an Idol

One of my idols died today.

Jack Conn.

He was bigger than the rest of us.

Physically. Six four and fully mature at 16.

But more important, he was bigger in his humanity.

Jack was bigger than sports. Although he was a stud.

Jack was a friend to all.

He was the guy in high school that had all the physical and mental gifts to be a snoot.

Yet, he wasn't.

He was a guy. A friend. A protector of the little people.

This world has a new hole in it. The size of Jack Conn.

Someone needs to fill it.

I wish I had known him longer and better after our high school years.

He was the guy I wish I had been.

I was a punk physically.

Jack was a giant.

But I learned from wathcing him that it was more important to be a gentle friend.

Godspeed Jack.

Godspeed to Jack's family that is hurting tonight.

Know that he inspired at least one human to love like him.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

This is so not a man's world

This is a man's world, this is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

-James Brown, Godfather of Soul


Brother, I got bad news.

It ain't even close.

It's a woman's world.

At least in these United States.

Example 1.

For the first time in my life, I am living alone. Since I left my parents home to go to college, I have always lived with other people. Roommates, wives, children.

Go to the grocery store tonight to buy dinner makings.

Green beans and Success Rice.

The directions say I need a medium saucepan.

Whoever wrote those directions was a woman writing to another woman. Women know what a medium saucepan is.

I'm not making sauce.

Just need to boil some stuff.

I think that's a pot. But, now I'm so confused, I'll just order pizza.

Example 2.

All across the country, there are restaurants that feature wings, burgers, and other fried foods. And the servers are all 20 something beautiful girls the age of my daughters.

It's the kind of food men like. But I can't go in there for fear of meeting one of my daughter's girlfriends or classmates.

The women make good money doing their job. And not because of the quality of the food.

Where are the diners like Mel's or the Silver Spoon where a man can go get a square meal without a show?

Example 3.

The internet.

Supposedly invented (I'm joking because he wasn't smart enough to do it) by Al Gore.

It is a female feeding frenzy.

Women have an instictual need and ability to communicate 24/7. And they do via the various methods on the world wide interweb.

Men just need short quick messages.

"Where?" "Colts or Saints?" "What time we leaving for the deer lease?"

Our lives were better when payphones were king.

Example 4.

The ladies have taken over the music business.

Sorry, bro, but you wouldn't have made the finals for the Grammys.

There's no room for your type. Or Teddy Pendergrass. Or Elvis.

It's all Lady Gaga and Pink.

James, it's all gone wrong.

We need you back.

Or a close equivalent.

Until then, I'm going to be trying to figure out the difference in paper towels between select-a-sheet and superabsorb.


There's not much time.

Peace and love,

White Chocolate

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


It is an uncommon word.

And a more uncommon name.

It's my dad's first name.

Why? I asked my grandmother that question.

"I heard it one day, and I just liked it. So that's what we named him."

Pops has been called Hershcel, Hashmill, and a thousand other twisted versions over the years.

When Pete was born, he was named for his two grandfathers. Peter Haskell Burks.

The day after Pete was killed, I was sitting at the dining room table with Hardtail, just trying to make sense of all that was going on.

My cell phone rang. "Unknown" said the caller ID.

Thought about letting it pass, but I answered it.

"Alan, this is Rick Perry."

Rick Perry was and is the Governor of Texas.

I had never met him, never made a contribution, never known anything about him.

Governor Perry, or Rick as he insisted, talked to me for 35 minutes that day.

He is the Governor of a state of 25 million people.

But he talked to me that day as one father to another.

He wanted to know about Pete, his family, his time at Texas A&M, his fiancee.

There are over 400 Gold Star families in Texas from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect Governor Perry has talked to them all.

I was invited to a fundraiser tonight for Governor Perry. He is in a competitive primary facing Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

I'm not real polically active, but I went because I wanted to meet Rick Perry and thank him for that phone call.

The function was at a mansion in Highland Park.

There were at least 400 people there.

I got in the greeting line.

When it was my turn, I put out my hand.

"Governor, we've not met personally, but we have talked before. You called me the day after my son was killed in Iraq."

"Alan, it is so good to meet you. Pete's middle name is Haskell. Named after his grandfather. Thank you for coming tonight."

"Governor, I just wanted to come say thanks for that phone call. It meant a lot."

With a greeting line of hundreds of young Republicans eager to shake his hand and have a photo taken, he took me by the arm and we walked to a far corner of the room. I could see the security guy and his aides eyes open wide.

We talked for about ten minutes. He expressed his appreciation for Pete's sacrifice. He was aware of the Unsung Hero Fund and our shipments to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wanted to know how everyone was doing.

As we ended the chat, I noticed a tear in his eye.

"Alan, I want you to know you and your family have been and will be in my prayers."

He went back to the greeting line and gripping and grinning.

He didn't have to call me that day.

He didn't have to spend the time with me he did tonight.

But he did.

That says something to me about the character of the man.

I'm sure that Kay Bailey Hutchison is a fine person.

But I do know that when I went to Washington, D.C. last year, she was the only Texan in Congress that didn't meet with me personally.

And for whatever reason, her letter of condolence about Pete arrived almost a year after his death.

I don't know Rick Perry from sic em.

But I do know he took time out of his life to console me and to express his interest and concern for my family.

Interestingly, Rick Perry was born and raised in Haskell, Texas.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The toughest job on earth

There are alot of candidates.

Chaplains. Funeral directors. CEOs. CFOs. Prostitutes. Infantrymen. Writers. Garbage collectors. Police. Public defenders.

I vote for the single parent.

Meaning, a person without a partner who wants to be a parent. And is carrying out the responsibilies of being a parent.

The job is 24/7.

The job is physically and mentally challenging.

The job is unrelenting.

And, because a child needs mother and father, the truly single parent is left trying to do a job they can't do.

And the child doesn't understand that issue.

The child comes into the world with the natural need for mom and dad.

If it is only mom or only dad, the parent can do all they can do. And it is not enough.

But Godspeed to those moms and dads that do it.

It is the most demanding job. Children need attention, and they will get it.

And the single parent will have the requirement of filling the gaps that the absentee can't and won't provide.

When the kids are young, it is physical exhaustion. Without any relief from another caring adult.

There is always something needing to be done. Laundry. Homework. Medical issues. Emotional issues.

And the single parent never has time or the aid of a partner to take care of themselves.

It is true of people of means. It is true of the poorest on earth.

Kids need feeding three times a day. Or more.

They need exercise. They need social interaction. They need play. They need life teaching. They need to learn how to take out the trash. They need to learn how to manage money. They need to learn how to properly brush their teeth.

I have but a small version of this, but I've lived it.

What I realize is that there is no relief for the single parent.

On Sunday night, when they are finally asleep, and you are exhausted, there is still work to be done. And you have to do it, and still find the energy to go work the next day to provide for them.

It is so hard because it isn't the way God designed it. There is a reason it takes two to make one. And, the two need to stay together committed to raise one. Or two. Or five.

God bless the single mothers and fathers who take their jobs seriously.

They are the barriers between civility and anarchy.