Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fight for it.

                When I was about five years old in the early 1970’s, my Mother, Father and my sisters all took a trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to visit my father’s family. I can’t recall if it was some sort of reunion or not, I do know that my aunts and uncles also stopped by my grandmother’s house. It was summertime, all of us kids were out of school and I have to believe it was a weekend and us kids were either busy playing on the pool table in the basement or running around the neighborhood playing the games kids play. Hide and seek, kick the can, red rover and tag were the order of business for our over energetic fueled systems. My uncle, at least I believe it was my uncle, had a motorcycle. I can’t say for sure it was a Harley because looking back through the fog of my age, I want to say it was a Triumph or a Honda, the only reason I say that is because I distinctly remember the bike having what is known now as European styling. He was generous enough to give any of the kids rides on it. Even me.
                I remember the ride, it was just down the sidewalk for about a block, I sat in front of him, cradled in between his arms as he navigated us past houses with folks screaming at him to get off the sidewalk. That was all it took. I was bitten by the two wheel bug and infected with gasoline fumed haziness. By the time I was eight, I was riding my buddies go karts and mini-bikes around the neighborhood. In my teens I made sure to make friends with anyone I found out had a dirt bike and rode them as much as possible. I have even written a bit about those early dirt bike rides on this blog. When I joined the Navy I met a fellow sailor, a shipmate really, who owned several bikes. He taught me how to ride on the street and handle myself on the large steel beasts that dominated the asphalt maze of Hampton Roads. I don’t ever think I got to thank him for that.
                When I got out of the Navy, I got married and went to work, no time for a motorcycle when you’re starting a new life and your personal needs grow exponentially by promising to do everything you can to take care of another person. My dreams of buying a motorcycle got shelved as the responsibility of marriage and family come crushing down on you like an avalanche. I stood as tall as I could and went on with making sure I did everything I could to take care of the woman in my life. Soon, our duo became a trio and more and more my dream seemed to be slipping from my grasp. Every now and then though, I would see or hear the glorious, unmistakable sound of America’s best iron. I watched the men and occasionally women, ride down the paved paths of our lives in jealousy. The jealousy was of the freedom and liberation of the mundane life that seemed to be an ever oppressing presence in my life.
                Don’t get me wrong, I was and am grateful for my family. I have never once said to myself or anyone else that they were the reason for me not fulfilling a childhood dream. I knew what was important and I did not forget it. I never will. I will always try my best to do what is necessary to take care of my own. I’ve never owned a new car and I doubt I ever will. I’ve never liked driving; I don’t think I ever will. Anyone who knows me knows this. I don’t like driving so much that I try to rarely do it and I’ve even made up excuses as to why I can’t drive. But riding… that is another story.
                You see my dear reader, riding on two wheels without walls and a roof around you to protect you from the elements seems to me at least, to be a bit like being prom king and having your sister as your prom queen. Sure it’s a nice accolade but you know it will just be a hollow memory as you put your youth behind you. On a bike, you are more engaged with your surroundings and more aware of the asphalt only inches beneath your feet. Yes, I know, people have a definite prejudice against the two wheel riders. I can’t blame them, I’ve seen all sorts of idiots on motorcycles doing all sorts of crazy things, and I hope to God I will never be one of those.
                Today however, today… where to start… I guess I have to start with the unmistakable need that has been growing inside of me for the past year. A need that said “Skip, if you don’t act now, it will be too late.” So I acted, I researched bikes and watched bikes, and read about bikes. I even went so far as to write a short story about motorcycle riding. I knew my time was running short for me to make my dream a reality. So I acted. I went online to both the Triumph website and the Harley Davidson website and tried to find a bike I could call my own. A bike I would purchase and be happy with. Weeks went by and I kept flip-flopping between the either the T-100 Bonneville or the HD 1200 Custom. I didn’t know which one would fit me or make the eight year old living inside me jump up for joy.
                Then, one fateful evening over a month ago, my wife, my daughter and I went to the local Harley dealership, Bayside Harley Davidson, here in the town I adopted so many years ago. I was quite familiar with this dealer because over the past eight years I would take my daughter there to look at all the shiny metal and chrome that seemed to cast its unmistakable magic over not just me but my offspring as well. As a family we walked around the showroom and my inner child tried hard to break free and climb on the wares displayed before us. He was unsuccessful. But I, as an adult, was smitten even more. My wife knew what these machines mean to me and she pushed me ever so gently to take the next step and talk to a salesman.
                Within the short span of two hours I had not just laid down a down payment on a bike but I had custom ordered it. As my wife drove us home I was in a state of disbelief. I kept asking myself if I had just done something I had always wanted to do. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and went about my daily routines as I normally do. But every now and again the reality of what was coming became overbearing for me. So overbearing that for the past five days I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, my chest felt tight and my stomach felt like I had swallowed water balloons with very active goldfish inside them.
                My nervousness did not go unnoticed by my co-workers and I eventually succumbed to their questions about what was wrong and I told them I had purchased a bike. Some were surprised, most weren’t. Those who’ve known me for a long time know my affliction with motorcycles. A few nay-sayers claimed I would kill myself or become a part of the “DONOR-CYCLE” gang. I ignored them. I had to. But over the days that passed some of their comments sunk in and I wondered if I were making a mistake. Should I call the dealership and cancel my order? Should I just purchase a gently used car and drive it two miles a day and be miserable for the next forty-six years of my life? Should I just tell myself that as I approach middle age that I am far too responsible for one of a handful of dreams that have plagued me my entire life and on my death bed look back and regret the things I didn’t do?
                The resounding answer was “NO!” But, what about my doubts, my inexperience over the past years of not riding? Sure, I had my class “M” license, I’ve never let that expire and even if I never bought a bike I never would let it expire. That little “M” next to my name on my license was a constant reminder to me of something I’d always wanted. And, I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve looked at my license and wondered why I kept it there. I know I looked at it weekly at least.
                So today I went to the bank, got a cashier’s check and went and got myself my dream machine. After all the pomp and circumstance that seems to be custom when a person purchases Milwaukee’s best machine, I spent a half an hour getting acquainted with my machine. I practiced starting and stopping, tight curves and I only managed to stall it out once. Yes, I was rusty but those cobwebs soon fell to the concrete and asphalt as I lost track of time and mileage in the oversized parking lot. The oneness I felt with my surroundings as a child riding the dirt paths of Wisconsin soon came flooding back to me. The sound of the engine filled my ears, the wind tickled my face and the feel of the world seem to overtake me. I couldn’t help but feel good. Sure, it was cold out, sure I could be completely insane and yes, this is not something I really needed… I could have purchased a used bike, I could have purchased a car, I could have continued to ride my bicycle and be just as responsible. But deep inside me my past seemed to come into synch with my present and my future. I felt almost perfect.
                My daughter, God bless her, stood watching beside her mother in the grass next to a picnic table. She was wearing her helmet and gloves waiting for me to come and give her a ride. My wife stood there with her hoody pulled over her head watching with what I can only assume was a look of pride on her face. I pulled up next to them and my daughter climbed on and we practiced maneuvering as a team on my black beauty. Soon we were leaving the parking lot, her grip tight on my hips and her head resting comfortably between my shoulder blades. A mile down the road we arrived at her grandparents’ house and they came out and looked at the machine with pride and a touch of jealousy. Fifteen minutes later I was back on the road, by myself this time.
                I needed time to communicate with my new family member, learn her moves, and feel how she responded to my commands. It was a bit rough but eventually smoothed out a bit as I learned her particular needs. I rode around town, took her through old neighborhoods and even up onto the interstate for a few miles. The biting cold of the wind made me shiver but those shivers went unnoticed. I was enthralled with my mode of transportation. When I got home there was an open spot in the driveway and I parked her there. And as I write this, I’m sitting on my front porch looking at the chrome gleam in the incandescent light of my porch light. I’m smiling.
                I still can’t say if what I’ve done is a mistake or if it is one of the most right things I’ve ever done in my life. I can say I feel almost as happy now as I did when I first held my daughter in my arms almost fourteen years ago. These to feelings are ones I know when I’m old and feeble, lying in a hospital bed with a mind filled with Swiss cheese holes the size of the Appalachian Mountains I will never forget.
                Have a great week.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Last week’s blog seemed to touch some sort of fire in some of my reader’s souls. I have received several comments; privately that is, about the blog and I figured I am going to have to explain myself just a bit more.
                Thomas Jefferson said “A difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” I try and keep this quote in my mind every time I hear someone say something I don’t agree with. Because, truly, deeply and honestly I believe we are all traveling on this spaceship we call earth together and we have each other’s best interest at heart. (Ok, I know there are some bad folks in the world who would like nothing better than to see it destroyed but I’m talking generalities here.) That all being said, I know there are many solutions to the multitude of problems that afflict our country. I don’t have the answers, only speculations. I don’t carry solutions only different views. I don’t now or ever want to be a politician. I’m just a concerned citizen who votes at every election be they federal, state or municipal, I always vote.
                I won’t nor can I go into every opinion I have on every topic that this country faces here and now, otherwise this blog would be way too long. I don’t want to do that to you, I can’t do that to you and I won’t do that to you. But I will talk about entitlement programs… Yes, if you wish to stop reading here I wouldn’t blame you. I can hardly believe I am writing this myself. So, if you must stop reading I recommend you go back to facespace or tweetsville and have a blast tearing me a new one. I’m comfortable with your actions and it is within your right to do so.
                I’m not a fan of entitlement programs. I know they serve a purpose and there are people out there who need them and deserve them. But, and this is a big but, I have seen them abused for decades by so many people that I believe it is a system that either needs to be revamped or abolished all together. Since I know the current politicos will never get rid of the system I say we revamp it. Yes, I am for drug testing for individuals who receive federal and state funds. It only makes sense to me. From where I stand it is my belief that a government who is acting under the guise of making sure its citizens have enough food to stay healthy and are giving them free healthcare test for any illicit drugs the individual may be doing that could damage the health of the individual and increase the cost of health benefits to the individual in the future. It lessens the burdens of the tax paying citizens who are actually paying for the programs and it shows a good faith towards the working people of this country who trust the government to do the right thing in the interest of the tax payers.
                Also, if an individual who is on entitlement programs does not deserve to get a tax refund nor should they have to pay taxes. And they should not have the opportunity that the folks who actually pay their taxes have. Sure, they can vote, but as for loans for new vehicles and homes, I don’t think so. I know they deserve a place to live and a vehicle to transport them from point A to point B, but are they viable to receive the same loans a hard working individual has earned? No, I think not. This may sound cold and crass to you but think about it. Why would a businessman give a loan to someone with no real income? It makes no sense does it? Would you loan money to someone who has no income and they don’t know when or if they will be able to pay you back? Would you readily give your car to someone who feels they deserve it just because they say they do? I know I wouldn’t. I work hard for everything I have and I don’t feel it is right to me and my family for someone to claim what is mine should be theirs simply because they think they need it.
                I’m not against charity; I think if an individual wants to give to a charity, it is the individual’s choice to do so. I don’t think it is the governments job to demand we give to charities and that is what most of these systems have become. In my opinion that is. A good portion of our taxes go to fund programs that can be considered charity. And, there are even organizations that come to your house and pick up things and give them to needy people. But this should all be voluntary and not mandatory.
                I’ve heard a lot about the one percenters and I have nothing but applause for most of these folks. A lot of them actually pay more in taxes than I earn in a year and yet they still manage to find ways to donate their time and money for other charitable contributions. Just look at Bill Gates. The guy came from nothing and now gives away more money in a year than I will see in a lifetime. Kudos to him. He is not the only one however; there are many more individuals out there who do the same thing. Yes, they claim their charitable donations on their taxes and get credit for it, so can you. Whether you give a pair of pants or a television to any charity you can claim it on your taxes.
                Speaking of which, the US tax code is non-exclusive, every deduction that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet get, so can you. You just have to go through the effort of doing so. If you are self-employed and drive to a lunch meeting, the gas in your car and the money spent on lunch are completely deductible. All medical expense is deductible including gas for your drive to the doctors.  But, if you as an individual are taking money from the government via the taxpayers, you should not be allowed these deductions. Why? Simple, you did not contribute to the cause. You did not add you ante to the pot, to use a poker term.
                Our system is not perfect, never has been, that is why our founding fathers made the constitution a living document. Sure, it is old and needs some more detail but it is the best damn thing written in the past one thousand years. It works, slowly, but it does work and it is not perfect but try going to another country and receiving all the rights and freedoms we as citizens take for granted. You will be back.
                I could go on but looking at my word counter I have already blown past my self imposed word count.
                Have a great week.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The End is Near

                It has started so slowly none of us really saw the beginning of it. Even me, and my slightly above average intelligence recognized the beginning. Sure there have been bell ringers over the past twenty-five years or so, but most of the American population has chosen to ignore these doomsayers as over-zealous carolers of the end of days. But, as with all end-of-times prophets, there have been some nuggets of truth.
                Oh, I’m sorry; did I fail to give you the topic of this week’s discussion?  I didn’t mean to. The topic is Liberty.
                Not too long ago, some knucklehead in the state of New York thought it would be a good idea to ban large sugary drinks because they help cause obesity. I’m not here to give the pro’s or con’s on this particular detail but I am here to say I believe it is unconstitutional AND say there are a metric-fuck-ton of other important issues that seem to afflict our nation’s health and welfare. Besides, what is to stop someone to just purchasing a large cup, fill it with ice and then pour and entire two liter bottle of sugary syrup in the cup? Nothing… yet.
                In a country such as ours, where anyone sixteen year old can get behind a the wheel of a vehicle and drive at unprecedented speeds with little or no control, why are we concerning ourselves with how much LEGAL beverages one can imbibe at one time. Mind you I am not speaking of alcoholic beverages, just the kind that has been banned?
                If the wise men and women in a leadership position have a true concern for us and our progeny then they would not be concerning themselves with such trivial concerns. They would be more concerned with industrial production in our country. Concern for future entrepreneurs, engineers, inventors and even philosophers, for people that will not just make a difference in our future but people who will increase the general welfare of our Nation, but instead, they choose to pick a cause that means absolutely nothing in a person’s life but opens a crack in the door known as a person’s “Right to the pursuit of happiness.”
                I am a firm believer of a small government is a good government and a government that governs least, governs best. To give an example… in our country we have legalized tobacco, and I am a big fan of certain tobacco, cigars for example, but not cigarettes. I don’t like cigarettes because I don’t agree with the additives and preservatives the manufacturers put into them, those artificial ingredients that have been proven to not just cause cancer but to make the user addicted to the product. A product that has caused more death and destruction than all the car accidents, plane crashes and terrorist attacks have ever inflicted upon this nation. Yet, our government sees fit to keep tobacco, cars and planes legal. As for terrorism, we know how that fight is going, don’t we?
                I heard a politician on the radio say that it is the job of the government to educate those it governs. This flea brained, publicly elected, waste of human genome is so far from the truth that I am absolutely positive our fore-fathers are ready to rise from their respective graves and start the zombie apocalypse just to see the end of their great experiment because of how bastardized the last thirty years of leadership in this country have taken their vision off course.
                It is not the government’s job to educate the public. Nor is it the job of these elected officials to tell us how much soda pop we can drink. It is the job of the government to make sure we have good relations with other countries. Not to be the world police. Not to send the young men and women of our nation into certain death in the face of an unknown enemy. They don’t have the right to pick and choose which Constitutional amendments in the face of what they think is the safety of the citizens they have been elected to represent.
                I don’t now nor can I remember when I have ever trusted our government. I wish I could say I trusted them during my time in the United States Naval service but I can’t honestly say I did back then. I know I definitely don’t trust them now. How can I trust a system that seems bent on making each and every one of its constituent’s dependent upon itself and the men and women who make the gears of the country turn in uninterrupted movement? But, now it seems to me that the movers and shakers who make this possible are becoming few and far in between. Most of these “producers” seem to have seen the writing on the walls of production have either moved their factories and assembly lines to countries where people are more eager to work for a wage than squabble over what sort of government taxes and restrictions that seem to have only the goal of reducing the quality and quantity of what is produced.
                I suppose it is no surprise that one of my favorite books is “Atlas Shrugged” or actually anything by Ayn Rand. I am a supporter of anyone who has the cajones to speak out about people who actually do more than those that take from the people who are doing. This sort of thinking is not popular amongst many of our nation’s residents. Not popular because I expect others to give as much effort to living as I do. Let’s face it, I’m a Polack from Wisconsin who does not come from much and has struggled all his life to make a better living for the ones in my life I am responsible for. That being said, how can one man, like me, fight against what seems to be inevitable? How is it that most of the people that a person comes into contact with depend more and more upon the generosity of the government when their own policies are destined for certain doom?
                We are approaching maximum capacity within our Nations entitlement programs, a capacity that will collapse when there are more people taking then there are more people doing. When this happens, our government who has leveraged every piece of land and taken out every loan from every country it can muster to ask for money from will collapse. The men and women who know how to fix things, change light bulbs and make our fresh water flow will decide that it is not worth the effort to keep the people who don’t want to or are unable to help themselves will just decide to quit. They will walk off and leave nothing but the ruins of a nation behind them and not look back at the helpless who scream for mercy. For they will have no mercy left in their system. They will have learned, first hand from the powers who have handcuffed them to their positions, that saving America and humankind is not worth their effort. Instead, they will only decide that their own preservation is worth more than their fellow man. I can’t blame them nor would I ever be able to convict them for this decision.
                How long can one person hold up the people who have done nothing but be a yoke around this person’s neck? How long can one bear the weight of those who have not taken responsibility for themselves and their family? I can’t say for sure, but I know that in my own life I know several men and women who have through the sheer power of their will, mad things happen against the odds of all the politicians and looters that stood before them. I admire people like that. They are like the underdogs of our generation. If you think about some of the names of the men and women who have helped shape our current technological advancement you may agree with me.
                Here are a few names:
                Steve Jobs
                William Gates
                Willis Carter
                Orville and Wilbur Wright
                Benjamin Holt
                Leo Baekland
And many, many more.

                Have a great week and remember, Question Authority!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Experiment

                Hello once again my dear reader. I’m currently on my front porch (shocker there); I have a nice cigar going and something to share with you. And, as I write this, I have felt a need to revisit one of my favorite books, this time, on audio. The book you ask? Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do so. Or, at least listen to the book on audio. Which brings me to my current blog…
                I came to an odd yet remarkable epiphany about two weeks ago that led me to do something I thought I had been doing all along… setting an example. Which is something I thought I had been doing for years now; apparently I hadn’t. You see, I have this great kid, fruit of my loins so to speak. I love her with all my heart and like all parents, I want what is best for her and I want her to succeed. I want her to not struggle the way I have in the past. Nothing wrong with those sentiments that I can tell, after all, aren’t parents supposed to do everything in their power for their kids?
                But, and this is a big but… aren’t we supposed to show them how life and jobs work? How to make money and how to be fiscally responsible? I say yes; and since my daughter is now in her teen years I felt I needed to take matters into my own hands and show her what a person has to do, have to suffer and has to swallow in order to make even the smallest of cash so that they can call it theirs. Earned through their sweat, their personal struggle and physical effort. Yes, my dear reader, I took my daughter to my part time job to show her how a person makes money. This is that story.
                The idea came while I was at my part time job, my child had almost daily for the past week asked me for money. Not just a buck or two, or even three. But five, ten and twenty dollars at a time; each time she did this memories of my childhood filled me. A childhood filled with odd jobs around the neighborhood trying to earn a few bucks for candy, soda, comic books and records. In the summer I mowed grass, in the winter I shoveled driveways and when I was old enough I got a paper route. When my family moved, I found other ways to make money. I was and have been pretty good at doing this all my life. Now, it was time to pass on to my daughter what one does to earn money.
                When I broached the subject of bringing my offspring to work with the owners of the restaurant I work at, they were both understanding and accepting of the idea. When I informed my daughter, she was excited… I was pleasantly surprised. Her eagerness was as contagious as a winter cold.
                When the day for work finally arrived, she was up early, dressed and full of enthusiasm. I started the day with a weary outlook, an outlook from too many years of repetitive tasks and knowing what the day had to offer. Two thoughts brought a smile to my face, the opportunity to work with my daughter and teach her, and knowing I would be richer economically by the end of the day. I tried to be as excited for her as she was for herself, but I couldn’t muster it. I had become numb to the excitement and enthusiasms most feel when going to work for the first time. I don’t think anyone can keep that level of energy elevated for long periods of time. I know I can’t
                The work shift started out as it always does, with side-work. I showed my daughter how to clean the tables, sweep and mop the floors, fill ice bins, prep salad dressings, stock soda and beer, make coffee and all the other minor duties restaurant attendees take for granted. She was more than eager to pitch in and help. She was like a sponge, absorbing everything I showed her and repeating those tasks easily and readily.
                Once all the prep work was finished, we relaxed a bit and I showed her the special board. Then we waited for the first customers. We didn’t have to wait long. By twelve-fifteen we were in full swing. My daughter followed me around as I showed her the ins and outs of food service and good customer service. Drink orders first, and then get the drinks to the table. Talk about specials, take appetizer or food order, put order in to kitchen, get salads if needed and drop them off to the table and move on to the next table.  Not difficult work and very repetitious and it allows my mind to wander on to other tasks, such as blog topics, story plots and subplots. You know things that an active mind needs to do to survive. While doing all of this my daughter shadowed me and learned.
                Soon, she was making drinks, salads and refilling glasses as well as cleaning off tables and setting them after the customers left. When I asked if she was ok, she readily said “Yes, no problem yet. This is easy.” And I had to agree with her, the motions are easy, the delivery is easy and even for the most part, the customers are easy. I smiled at her and agreed with her sentiments and said “It gets tougher sweetie, trust me.”
                By two-thirty she was ready to quit. The steady stream of customers, the endless refills of drinks and the never ending task of cleaning up after other people had made her tired and aggravated. So much so she begged to take a few minutes to sit down and rest. I told her she could and let her alone for ten minutes, I even got her a piece of bread to eat to stave off the inevitable hunger pains a waiter suffers while working a long shift.
                By the end of the shift, actually an hour after closing, she had done everything a waiter could do except serve an alcoholic beverage. She had rings around her eyes from being tired, she had a small hitch in her step from the constant walking, a hitch that says she may be developing a blister or two. She was thirstier than an ill prepared camel halfway across the Mojave Desert and… she was STARVING! I showed her how to fill out her money reports and sign out. I then tipped her ten bucks for helping me.
                Instantly the tired look in her eyes and face was replaced with a smile that started at her lips, moved to her eyes. Her droopy shoulders and exhausted nature was quickly replaced with a straightened back and an air of pride because she knew she not only worked hard and earned money but also earned respect from her father. I even told her I respected how hard she worked and then told her how proud I was of her for surviving a four hour Sunday lunch service and a six hour shift.
                As we walked out the door, saying our goodbyes to the owners, she told me she was starving; I readily agreed to treat her to anything she wanted. Double cheeseburger was her response.
                When we got home, she flopped on the couch and began to eat. Her only comment was “This is the best burger I’ve ever eaten.” I told her it was because she earned it, everything is better when you earn it.
                Experiment… Successful.