Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Remembering Bobby Pagano and 'The NAM

At the time of this posting, Memorial Day in the US was yesterday – Monday, 28 May, 2012. Honestly, I think it’s a Hallmark Holiday with good intentions. It’s not nearly as blatantly self-serving as, say, Sweetheart Day, Secretary’s Day or Buy Someone A Card Just Because Day for those few days that don’t have a card already attached to them, but given that the original idea of honoring those who have fallen in the line of duty for their country has been perverted to ‘pick the closest Monday so we can weasel a three day weekend out of it’ and ‘what the heck – break out the white shoes and summer frocks and call it the ‘official’ first day of summer’ even though Summer Solstice is actually closer to the end of June than the end of May. I fully recognize the part about honoring fallen heroes. The three day weekend bit?  Not so much.
Still, it serves its purpose
This is the part, faithful reader, where every year at this time and in this spot, relatively speaking, I break out the litany of family members by blood and marital ties (which, come to think of it, still meets the ‘by blood criteria albeit in an entirely different form) have served or are serving in some branch of the armed services in some capacity. Take a deep breath and relax – I’m not doing that this year.
I want to focus instead on the one I missed, and personalize it, if I may.
My war, if you will, was Viet Nam. I missed it for a combination of reasons, the most important of which are my place and date of birth. I was born in north central New Jersey on New Year’s Day, one thousand, nine hundred fifty three anno domini, and therein do it lie, the birthday boy caveat emptor. Yes, I know that’s not the word I want, but my Latin is lacking, and you gotta admit if you’re not fluent in ‘Every Day Latin for the Common Man (AKA ‘Latin for Dummies’), you wouldn’t have been aware of the faux pas.
I was the second child granted admission to the newborn ward of Somerset Hospital Newborn Ward (the preceding comment brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department - don't worry - read it a few times and you'll get it), much to the disappointment to my parents, not the least of which reason being that it totally scrapped their New Year’s Eve party plans. Worthy of a side bar is that the firstborn that day and place was given a full tuition, books, fees, and residents pass to the New Jersey Ivy League college of her (yes, the firstborn was a gurl (sic)) while all my parents got was “Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Roth – it’s a boy!”
The door prize came five years later, when school started. This was, of course, during the Jurassic period (now called Study Hall) when school started with kindergarten at age five rather than the currently popular pre-pre-pre-pre-preschool which begins as soon as they apply enough Max Factor to the newborn’s bum to cover his/her/its first head on confrontation with corporeal punishment – the slap on the bottom to get you to cry – a reaction for which you will be told for most of the rest of your life, is unacceptable socially in good families.
Because of this, I started school a year later than my friends, and if you trace my timeline, something I had long before Facebook, you will note that the occasion of my eighteenth birthday was Winter Break (we still called it Christmas Break back then) my senior year of high school.
I went down the next day, my birthday being not only an international holiday, but the day of the big three parades and bowl games, and registered for the still popular Viet Nam Draft.
The number I pulled in the lottery was in the three hundreds. Mr. Nixon signed the papers ending the war days before my number would have come up (and it wasn’t even an election year – not to mention he was in his second term, so re-election wasn’t on his bucket list, and long story short (I know – too late) the Nam came and went without me.
Not so for many of my high school chums. Jeff, Ilene, Bill and Bobby enlisted into the Army. Bruce went Air Force. Others chose from the remaining three branches of the armed services, and some were ‘chosen’. As I said, I opted for the education deferment to let me finish high school, something two years prior had not appealed to me, and ended up missing everything but the Sylvester Stallone Rambo and Chuck Norris movies.
Jeff, Ilene, and Bill made it home. Bruce died, but not from the Nam.
Then there’s Bobby.
Bobby was my best friend. We were in the same Sunday School class at Northwest Baptist Church. We were in high school together. We walked the Everglades at night with Jimmy Booth, another church friend with whom we’d gone camping in the Glades but didn’t bring a tent. Even with 6-12 (90 weight motor oil masquerading as mosquito repellent) we had to keep moving to give the 12-foot wing span blood suckers they grow in the Florida Swamps a moving target to even up the survival odds). We were both in Campus Life, a Christian service club sponsored by Crusade for Christ, and Octagon, a secular service club sponsored by the Optimist Club, and were in the same Boy Scout Troop and Patrol. I was a guest at his parents’ table and hitched a ride to church with his family now and then if I missed the church bus. Bobby was in the Pep Club, and I was the school Mascot. We were grouped together everywhere except high school class. We were the same age, but Bobby was a year behind me in high school because he was held back a year somewhere along the road. We did all night birthday parties, went snorkeling and rode out tropical storms and hurricanes together.
And Bobby died in the Nam fighting to let me keep and enjoy the freedoms I still enjoy.
Oh, it didn’t get him right away. Agent Orange killed him. Friendly fire, you might say. It gave him the tumor in his brain that took twenty years to put him in the ground.
Bobby is why I observe Memorial Day. Bobby and others like him who fought and sometimes died because freedom isn’t free. It has never been free. It will never be free.
Bobby Pagano and others like him are the real heroes. Not the fake comic book heroes who wear a cape, the wannabe heroes who strut about half naked on a stage with a microphone or in front of a cinematic camera, or the spoiled rich kids who make more money in sixty minutes of playing a game than I’ll see in my lifetime.
Real heroes. Heroes who pull on a uniform, pin on a badge, buckle on a gun or a medical kit, and heroes who wear dog tags. Heroes who put themselves in harm’s way every day of their life in my place.
Bobby Pagano was that kind of Capital ‘H’ Hero. My friend.
On this day after Memorial day, I remember my friends and a real hero, and say Thank you, Bobby, and thank you to all the men and women who wear or have worn the uniform. And especially the heroes from ‘my’ war – the Nam. Thank you, God Bless you, and because we got it so terribly wrong thirty five years ago – WELCOME HOME!

Friday, May 18, 2012


There is a difference between knowing about a thing and understanding a thing.  For example, I know that if I stand in the edge of our front porch roof and step off onto that portion of the space time reality where there is no porch roof, however gracefully done, I will in all likelihood break something when I come to the sudden stop at the end of my rather brief experiment with human flight.  This is the same thing experienced when Sir Isaac Newton was bopped on the noggin while resting beneath the infamous apple tree, resulting in the invention of fruit filled fingerling cakes.
The technical moniker for this bit of discovery is ‘gravity.’ I know it exists.  I even have a working understanding of what it does.  I don’t have a clue as to how it works.  Ditto wind, by which I mean the kind born between high and low atmospheric pressure inversions, as opposed to that which is the byproduct of having consumed too much cheese, which, the wind, not the cheese, can be ‘broken’
I know what it is.  I know what it does.  I do not understand at even the most rudimentary level how it works.  That is true for both gravity and wind.  I know they exist, I have a working, if fundamentally fragile understanding of how they do it, but I’m so far removed from grasping the elemental mechanics of either scientific discipline, I am without question the wrong person to send hip deep into a pool of curious third graders intent upon expanding their circles of scientific inquiry.  I am, however, a good target for their spitballs and paper airplanes, and hence not a complete waste of skin.
My point is this.  I am not the person you would seek out to further your understanding of either scientific theorem.
Why, you ask?
Good question.  One for which I am eminently qualified to provide you with an answer.  Ready?  Good.  Here goes:
I don’t know the answer. 
My education and training, and in no small part, personal areas of interest include neither meteorology nor physics. Oh, I could give you an opinion.  I have one for almost every topic imaginable, and a few on topics about which you never considered,  and in most cases, I could speak for a very long time and give every impression of knowledge in these areas, but the fact remains, I would be mostly making it up.
I call this the IDIOT (the Impossibly Dim Influencing the Ostentatiously Trivial) Syndrome. I am not alone in this field of postulating an opinion on a subject about which I have little or no knowledge.  Depending on the subject, at times it’s a little crowded in here. One might go so far as to suggest that we’re surrounded by IDIOTS.
For example, last week Barry Soetoro, A.K.A. Barack H. Obama,  A.K.A. POTUS (President Of The United States) went on record in support of homosexual marriage. To add merit to his proclamation, Barry called upon the Bible for support by citing, however vaguely, an axiom of Scripture known to Believers and unbelievers alike as ‘The Golden Rule’.  In Leviticus 19, it appears as a portion of Mosaic Law saying, You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (vs. 18, NKJV).
As recorded in the New Testament Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus refers to this passage: Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 NKJV), and again in Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV: Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
The holy book to which Barry personally subscribes makes a similar proclamation: Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13, Quran).
I could give you a forever list of Barry’s stumblings, but since we’re concerning ourselves mostly with how he demonstrates that he is a card carrying, lifelong IDIOT, I’ll stick to the matter at hand.
Barry is not a Christian.  He is certainly not a Bible scholar or theologian. His membership as high ranking IDIOT is demonstrated by how he interprets, or rather MISinterprets the Bible.
The ‘how’ of his misunderstanding is clearly explained by the ‘why’. Barry doesn’t know the Christ of the Bible, and because he doesn’t know the Christ of the Bible, he cannot understand, much less give authoritative explanation of what the Bible is saying.  The Bible itself makes clear the principle of how understanding the Bible works: But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
(1 Corinthians 2:13-15 NKJV)
From Genesis to Revelation, God condemns homosexuality.  From Genesis to Revelation marriage is ALWAYS described as the union of a man and a woman.  The first command given by God to his human creation was that they (man and woman) procreate.  By design, two men or two women cannot procreate naturally. From the very beginning of humankind on this planet, God intended that the growth and continued existence of human beings would be blessed by the union of a man and a woman. It’s not that difficult to grasp unless you’re one of the IDIOTS.  Here’s what God said: So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28 NKJV).
Homosexuality, on the other hand and irrespective of gender (male/male or female/female) is always condemned in the Bible.  In Genesis 19 the depravity of homosexuality is so great that God destroys the city whose name describes the act of homosexual sex.
But this is not the issue in question.  There cannot be a misunderstanding of what God says about sin in general, or about the specific sin of homosexuality.  The misunderstanding lies elsewhere.  The so-called Golden Rule and how that applies to homosexuals and other sinners are what is misunderstood.
You see, God never told His people to hate homosexuals or any other sinner.  God said hate the sin, but love the sinner.  The problem is that the one is not synonymous with the other, and it is only by the clarity of understanding that God bestows on His children through the teaching of His Holy Spirit that clarity and understanding come.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself never means love your neighbor’s sin.
Barry may have suggested that loving your neighbor means approving of your neighbor’s sin, but Barry saying it does not make it true.  Barry, after all, is not God, and God who does not change his mind because the political or moral climate has shifted, has already spoken on the matter.  Despise the sin, but love with the love of God, Who sent his Son to be crucified for sinners, those who sin.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The last time I wrote one of these was back in February.  Oh, I wrote a poem in April, but when I post them in this spot they are, more often than not, filler.

I called this Summertime more because of the weather than the juxtaposition of the sun, moon and earth in their annual transit through the space/time continuum.  I mean, it’s 11:00 PM (2300 hours if you’re keeping score that way) and according to my nifty Weather Channel electronic weather station, it is 79.6°f (26.4°c), 71% relative humidity and the dew point is 71°. I think that means if it cools off another 8.5°, gills are required to walk the dog.  Fortunately, the forecast says we’ve probably already bottomed out for the night.  Barometric pressure is 1014 millibars and falling, so we might get rain.  If the temperature drops, the humidity will take care of it whether there’s rain or not.  There is no wind to speak of, so the ‘feels like’ temperature is the same as the actual temperature.

Of course, the calendar disputes my numbers.  According to the calendar Summer doesn’t start for another five and a half weeks.

Of course, the weather has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on my lack of linguistic legerdemain.  I don’t write because I’m lazy – at least part of me, anyway, and I’m frankly not motivated enough to try and resolve the issues with the dysfunctional bits.

After about a minute of typing and my left hand take an unscheduled, long term break, and I’m not patient enough for one handed typing.  I also have software that will transcribe my spoken word into printed text onscreen.  It’s a great idea, and works well – but (and there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there) but here’s the thing.  For me, writing only works smoothly when it flows from thoughts to fingertips.  Thoughts to spoken word – at least for the purpose of writing – doesn’t work for me.  Oh, I can speak extemporarily at the drop of a hat, but to just start telling a story can’t do it.

 <===And here’s the culprit: the picture is the CT of my brain just a few hours after my second thalamic stroke, which took place on 20th April, 2008 – just a little over four years ago.  The white spot inside the circle is a quarter sized dollop of blood resulting from either a cavernous malformation, or an A/V (arterial/venal) malformation.  Think of it as that old bike tire tube you kept having to patch because there’s a weakness in the rubber that first forms a bubble in the weakened rubber and then finally bursts.  Long story short, it’s like an aneurism.  I had two of them in the exact same location (right side of the brain near the thalamus) thirty three months apart.

I believe God healed the damaged blood vessels, but I now live with the consequence of ignoring high blood pressure for fifty-one years.  My BP in under control, and the CT scans and MRI’s are all clean, but the neurological damage is in all likelihood permanent.

But that’s OK.  It’s even cool that I can walk on a leg I can’t feel.  I cook and do other things with an arm, hand and fingers I can’t really feel.  My speech, memory and cognitive centers were unaffected.  And God continues to bless me and open doors for me to serve Him.

I’m still writing, however slowly, and will dust off the text recognition software and, somehow learn how to direct my creative writing that way.  Even an early summer can’t stop me – as long as the A/C keeps working.

Who knows – I may even get a poem finished this month. AND sometime during the first week of June I get to conduct an exclusive interview with #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger in conjunction with the release of her new thriller, Heartbroken, which comes to stores June 26th.  Now is that cool or what?
So – last night I had this dream about performing “Summertime” with the Wynton Marsalis Big Band in a sultry New Orleans jazz style,  What a shame you can’t videotape dreams, huh?

Happy Trails!