Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lessons Learned From the Pandemic

The plague in Rome. Italy, 17th century.


The sheltering plans were entirely unnecessary. The “experts” and their models were wrong again. We did not need to create a depression.

Parents have been forced into doing home school. Many are learning that public education is unnecessary for education. Take the saved taxes, return it to parents and let them pay for good daycare if they both have to work. It would be less expensive than what we’re paying for public education. Most parents report that they can get the school work done in a few hours. This is comparable to the actual learning time in public school. I heard a report that 23% of students are not participating with on-line public education. That set of students is probably the same 20 -30% who don’t want to be in school, who don’t pay attention anyway and who disrupt learning for the rest. The same 30% that teachers spend the majority of their time on and tailor their teaching to while the majority are bored to death. Parents are being forced to actually be aware of what is being taught and public schools are unable to foist their stealth agenda upon vulnerable children. We can presume that most of the communist, ant-Christian brain-washing is not being promoted on-line, just as the perverted sexuality brain-washing is absent.

More Americans are convinced that China is our enemy along with the deep state bureaucracy and the media. We know that most of what purports to be “news” on mainstream television is truly fake news.

We’ve learned that liberals, progressives, Democrats, the bureaucracy and elites like Bill Gates have an agenda that does not include our health, safety or prosperity. Their agenda is a new world order of global government with them in power. It really is all about power and money and they care nothing for most people. As evidence, the One World at Home Together Kabuki show sponsored by Global Vision and the WHO, which brought us the pandemic in league with China. This is the same crowd that has been trying to use the global warming hoax to establish their new order, Green New Deal, etc. They have no compunction against instilling fear and panic on hapless people in order to achieve their goals. As Rahm Emanuel once articulated, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” This crowd agrees. And they have their collaborators in law enforcement. I support law and order and most law enforcement perform a necessary, often dangerous and thankless task. But, unfortunately there are increasing in the ranks those who thrive on power and control. They are “jack booted thugs”, the new Gestapo who enjoy oppressing their subjects. They bristle with anger at those who would dare to question their authority. They drool at the prospect of any new or contrived “emergency” that they can exploit to bully the citizenry and display their “ultimate” power. The pandemic has seen too many incidents where these thugs have bullied worshippers, protestors and families enjoying the freedom to recreate. They fail to understand, or perhaps accept, that their authority only comes from the consent of the governed, our constitution and ultimately from God. God commands them to enforce justice, not blind obedience.

We’ve learned that liquor stores and infanticide centers are essential, but churches are not. A pandemic that “might” kill thousands is an emergency for most people but the millions of children that are slaughtered on the altar of convenience are no big deal for most people. We’ve put up with it for decades.

The pandemic has shown that we don’t care much for the aged. This pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the elderly and specifically in nursing homes. CDC shows that almost 40% of the deaths have been in long term care facilities. In Rhode Island the percentage is 75%. In Linn County, Iowa, we were forced to limit social contact to our own household (a fancy way of saying, shelter-in-place). This order was not state-wide, but specific to our region. And the order came primarily because of outbreaks in nursing homes. One facility near me had 60 of 100 patients infected with 17 dead. Understand that the patients in these places don’t go out into the community and visitors have been barred for more than a month. So, the logical conclusion is that the employees are bringing the infection in. (Unless there is a secret government plot to kill off the elderly and balance the Social Security budget). A troll asserted that infecting these facilities was unavoidable and that the workers were unaware. I agree that they were unaware, but that is no excuse for carelessness. By her logic, 60% of patients at our hospitals should be infected. That hasn’t happened. That’s because most hospitals use effective infection control procedures. My wife was an infection control specialist for 15 years at the University of Iowa. It all boils down to training and implementation of proven techniques. I suspect that this is not happening in our nation’s nursing homes. Anyone who has ever had a loved one in a nursing home knows that the level of care in most of these places is deplorable. And that happens because most people are too cheap to pay for decent care or take care of Granny at home.

Churches have been forced to close and this has caused some to re-evaluate what it means to be part of God’s body. The crisis has made us realize that continuing community may depend upon following Acts 2:42, meeting in the courts and house to house. Has God worked to wreck pop-culture Christianity, which focuses on centralized leadership and ministry? Could this be the end of the American mega church model that provides entertainment more than an encounter with Jesus Christ and genuine Christian community?

The pandemic has shown that most Americans are sheep who are willing to give up their freedoms for a minimal assurance of security. And that we are scared to death of death. There are few Patrick Henrys here. The transition to a pagan culture is almost total. Few Americans have faith that God offers a better Kingdom.

There is a remnant of people who still believe in the things that made America a great nation blessed by God and they are willing to fight for it. Across the land people are beginning to rise up in protest to imprisonment. The forces of tyranny will be vanquished. That’s a promise from God. He is coming soon and there will be judgment. Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

A Simple Messianic Seder

Last Supper2

Some ask, “But aren’t the feasts for the old covenant?” It’s all God’s word; how do we apply it in the new covenant. Jesus said that no part of the law would pass away “until all is fulfilled.” Has all been fulfilled? Why did the church stop celebrating the feasts? Why did they cease to move in the gifts? Why did they reject the authority of scripture?

To begin to understand how the disciples may have thought about this event, we have to realize that this took place during a traditional Passover meal. The Passover observed in the first century was different than the modern Jewish holiday. It was more like the Passover celebrated by Moses and the Hebrews before the exodus. In the first century, they still had a temple, a priesthood and observed sacrifices, unlike modern Jews.  During Jesus’ three years of ministry, He most likely observed the Passover with His disciples at least twice. But this time, it was different. Jesus broke tradition at His Last Supper. The unleavened bread that Jesus broke had always been a reminder to the Hebrews of the manna that God provided in the wilderness. During the Passover meal it was intended to remind them of God’s miraculous provision and care for them in providing for their physical needs. He kept them alive! Life literally came from heaven. When Jesus said, “This is my body that is broken for you. Take and eat,” it must have stirred a memory for the disciples from an earlier time in Jesus’ ministry. It was not necessarily a good memory. The event is recorded in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. It occurs the day after Jesus had fed 5,000 men plus women and children. This huge crowd followed Him to the other side of the sea at Capernaum. His ministry was growing exponentially. It was flourishing. He was known throughout Judea and the Decapolis region. And then, He tells the people that He is the bread that came down from heaven. People began to complain. Jesus responds, “I am the Living Bread which came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread, he shall live forever. And truly the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) He told them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood! John records, interestingly in verse 6:66, that most of the crowd left. It was bad marketing, Jesus. The Jews, who wouldn’t even touch a dead body, probably thought to themselves, “This man is a pagan. He wants us to be cannibals. The Pharisees are right about this man.” He asked the disciples if they wanted to leave. Peter responded, “where else would we go? You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter and the disciples most likely did not understand what Jesus was saying, but they believed He was God in the flesh and they accepted Him by faith, even though they did not understand. What great faith! Oh, that we could have that sort of faith. So, Jesus was repeating at this Last Supper what He had earlier taught in Capernaum where He was soundly rejected. It certainly must have caused the disciples to think about Jesus being their source of life like the manna from heaven in the wilderness.

The symbols:

  1. Lamb: Christ our sacrifice. The next day John saw Jesus coming, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. (Joh 1:29)
  2. Bitter herbs: bitterness of slavery to sin. Don’t you know, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Rom 6:16)
  3. Matzo, unleavened (no yeast, fungus) bread: pierced and striped. Your glorying is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven multiplies through the whole lump? (1Co 5:6)
  4. Wine: In the same way he took the cup, when he had eaten, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. (1Co 11:25) 4 cups: separation, deliverance, salvation, community. Moreover whom he predestined, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Rom 8:30)
  5. Charoseth: the fruit of the Spirit.


Prayer: How blessed You are, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sent Your only Son, Y’Shua the Messiah, to be the light of the world and our Passover lamb, that through Him we might live. Amen.

Do these essentials:

Bless the children

First cup, holiness.

Story of shame to glory: Stephen’s sermon. Acts 7.

Second cup of deliverance

The Korech  or the sop (unleavened bread, bitter herbs and charoseth, bitter and sweet); Jn 13:21-27

Third cup, redemption, salvation. Mark 14: 18-26

Fourth cup, completion, community

Big Ag is Killing Us

When we think about farmers most of us probably have pastoral images of a hard working rural family struggling to make a living off the land. But, what does the term “Big Ag” conjure up? I recall this old news program sponsored by Archer Daniels Midland, “America’s supermarket to the world.” There was a movie about ADM based on a true scandal. “The Informant” was based upon the story of Mark Whitacre who was a whistleblower/ informant for the FBI in an investigation of price fixing by ADM. It’s a funny movie worth seeing and the main character was a sort of tragic clown. Whitacre actually went to prison for embezzling in the process of his work for the FBI. ADM was investigated for illegal price-fixing on Lysine and eventually settled, paying more than $100 million in fines. In 2004 ADM also settled for $400 million in a class action for price fixing on high fructose corn syrup. That’s what comes to my mind when I think of “Big Ag.”

We have been hearing a fair amount of advertising lately about supporting farmers. America does need farmers. I’ve heard ads from farm organizations seeking to pressure Congress and the EPA to raise the E15 (ethanol fuel) standard. And with the new Trump trade policies, farmers are complaining that their bottom line is suffering. In fact, big agriculture successfully lobbied the administration for an increase in farm subsidies to counteract the new tariffs. “USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.” Ironically, they’re complaining about EXPECTED losses even though most of their profits for this year are already set by contracts. If they are to experience any losses those wouldn’t happen until the 2019 harvest. We are presented a picture of poor, suffering farmers, but is that really the case?

We hear about family farms and it elicits an image of a small nuclear family on a little tract, struggling to survive. In fact, “Family farm” is not a synonym for “small farm.” In 2015, 90 percent of million-dollar farms were family farms. The agricultural industry is perhaps one of the largest beneficiaries of government largesse. According to the EWG Farm Subsidy Database, “The federal government spends more than $20 billion a year on subsidies for farm businesses. About 39 percent of the nation’s 2.1 million farms receive subsidies, with the lion’s share of the handouts going to the largest producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice.”

Almost of all the commodity payments and crop insurance indemnities are going to millionaires and multimillionaires as measured by farm household net worth. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, “America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2017 Edition” reports that, “Large-scale farms (large and very large family farms) accounted for just 2.9 percent of all farms, yet received over a third of the commodity payments (35 percent) and almost half of the crop insurance indemnities (46 percent).” And that “Large family farms, which received 32 percent of commodity payments and 34 percent of crop insurance indemnities, had a median household income of $347,000 (about six times the median income for all U.S. households).

The Farm bill truly is welfare for the rich. And remember, you and I pay for it. Fact: The Farm-Subsidy System Primarily Helps Large Agricultural Producers. The farm-subsidy system provides limited assistance to small family farms. In 2016, small family farms accounted for 89.9 percent of all farms, yet received only 27 percent of commodity payments and 17 percent of crop insurance indemnities. In addition to all of this, farmers are exempt from federal fuel taxes. If you own a business, you pay federal excise tax at the pump, but farmers are exempt. They buy diesel for their tractors without any tax. It costs the rest of us millions.

Besides getting all of that welfare, big agriculture has added to our costs of transportation to prop up their corn industry with federal ethanol standards. Ethanol may be less expensive at the pump than regular gasoline, but it will cost you more in reduced mileage. E10 gasoline, which is the gas we use in America, actually gives you 2-3 miles per gallon less than gasoline. E85 reduces mileage 7-8 miles per gallon.

In addition to reducing your gas mileage, running ethanol in older cars (newer cars have been re-designed to accommodate) actually does damage to the engine.” A 2012 study by Auto Alliance showed that some cars (model years 2001 to 2009) showed internal engine damage as the result of using an ethanol fuel blend. Damage to the valves and valve seats was evident in some of the cars tested. One of the 16 cars in the Auto Alliance study failed emissions compliance standards, which means it emitted more pollution than allowed by the EPA.”

The original impetus for the government to promote ethanol was to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But, with new discoveries in America, we are now the world’s largest oil producer. Then, the government began pushing ethanol as part of the demand for “green” energy to reverse climate change. But, studies have proved that producing ethanol from grain requires more energy than the combustion of ethanol produces. “An acre of U.S. corn yields about 7,110 pounds of corn for processing into 328 gallons of ethanol. But planting, growing and harvesting that much corn requires about 140 gallons of fossil fuels.” 131,000 BTUs are needed to make 1 gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU. We are actually burning more carbon producing ethanol than the energy it produces. So much for reducing our carbon footprint. If there is such a thing as anthropomorphic climate change, we’re making it worse. Even the EPA admits that ethanol production is harming the atmosphere and soil.

It is estimated at this time that roughly 30% of our corn production is used for ethanol. There is little doubt that ethanol production has led to a significant increase in food costs. Have you looked at your food labels? That high fructose corn syrup (hfcs) is in almost everything we eat. Most of our meat is fed on corn.

Have you studied the health impacts of all of that hfcs in our diet? Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death in America and hfcs plays a significant role in all of those diseases. All of that extra sugar in our diet is really killing us. The corn we are using today for our food is not the same as the corn your grandpa grew. Big farms today are using genetically modified corn, mostly from Monsanto. Have you seen the advertisements for “Roundup Ready Corn”? They are literally putting weed killer, glyphosate, in the corn and telling us that it is safe. The World Health Organization has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” A number of EU countries now ban the use of this killer.

These days it seems like many people claim to have gluten allergies. Some researchers think that the real culprit is glyphosate. Monsanto is big Ag and they are killings us.


Response to “10 Things Pastors Absolutely HATE to Admit Publicly”

I recently read this column in Church Leaders. ( I’m not sure that I am really qualified to comment on this as I was only a “pastor” for five years. Actually, I was a church planter. I planted a Vineyard church in a growing suburban area of eastern Iowa. I’m not sure that I was really “called” to be a pastor. My gifting and passion really was teaching, but in the modern American version of church the best opportunity to express that gift is in pastoral ministry. Never the less, I really could identify with many of the author’s sentiments. So here is my take on it.

  1. We take it personally when you leave the church. Yes and amen. I was deeply committed to seeing the church thrive, but American churches are deeply competitive and consumer oriented. Too many church goers have a consumer mentality and shy away from relationships and commitment. It is especially difficult for new church plants without denominational or sending church support to compete with mega churches. We didn’t get much help. I spent four years without a paycheck. The Vineyard helps very few church plants. We gave more to the Association than they gave to us. The church that “sent” us out gave lip service to church planting, but the pastor was greedy. He eventually resigned from ministry because he was discovered to be embezzling donations.
  2. We feel pressure to perform week after week. I never really felt this pressure. I loved teaching, studying and preparing. I felt confident in my teaching/ preaching skills to the point that I never worried about it.
  3. We struggle with getting our worth from ministry. This was probably my biggest problem.
  4. We regularly think about quitting. Not really. Most of the time I loved what I was doing. I developed strong relationships that exist to this day and I know that I was used to help many people to grow in their walk with Christ.
  5. We say we are transparent—it’s actually opaque. I think I crossed the line too many times. We were deeply wounded by people that we thought we could trust.
  6. We measure ourselves by the numbers. Yes, especially in a church planting movement like the Vineyard. While I was serving we attended a number of church growth conferences and our movement placed heavy emphasis on church growth. Yes, Jesus wants a big church. But, He also wants a mature church and He wants His people to be in committed communion/ community. There was not much emphasis placed on the later. Success and support was measured and received based on numbers. I firmly believe that the American church would be stronger if there were fewer mega churches and more small churches characterized by greater commitment and maturity.
  7. We spend more time discouraged than encouraged. Most of the time this was not true for me as our church was growing in maturity, community and numbers for about five years (We were running about 75 in attendance and almost half were in one of several weekly home groups). We were doing relatively well compared to most church plants which fail before five years. Ours blew up over a short time span over a discipline issue. I made the mistake of following the biblical plan of church discipline by dis-fellowshipping a gossip after repeated warnings. My district overseer warned me not to do it. He was right from a strictly worldly business perspective. I should have done it sooner as the damage was irreparable by the time I did it. It wasn’t discouraging until the end. I once had a rude old Methodist pastor ask me, “Why did your church fail?” I wanted to smack him. I told him it wasn’t my church. Those who were blessed by our ministry do not consider it a failure.
  8. We worry about what you think. What, me worry? I should have been more sensitive to what people were thinking.
  9. We struggle with competition and jealousy. Oh yeah. I learned that it wasn’t about me.
  10. We feel like we failed you more than we helped you. No, I know I helped them.


Papa’s Stories

Papa’s Stories
A gift to my wonderful grandchildren who always humored me by listening.



My most cherished memories are of the times that we sat around the campfire as an extended family and the grandchildren would invariably ask me to tell some of my famous stories. It didn’t matter that they and their parents had heard them many times before; they still seemed to enjoy them. So these stories are dedicated to my family with the hope that your children and grandchildren will continue to have a laugh on me.

I attest that these stories are true to the best of my recollection. I really was a lifeguard at the beach during my high school years. And I really was an Air Force pilot for a short time, but not for as long as I had wanted because I made mistakes. I was never a huge “success” by worldly standards. I had many and varied forms of employment. I was a salesman who sold medical supplies, contact lenses, barns and computers. I volunteered to teach at a Christian school for one year and was blessed to have Amy and Beth in my class. I didn’t make any money, but some of my sweetest memories are from that year and my class of all girls. God must have created me to shepherd girls because He gave me four of the finest that have ever lived. And He gave me the most wonderful wife that I didn’t deserve who even supported me from time to time. Thank you, Lord. And thank you, Sherry.

I planted and served as pastor for a great church for five years. It died young because I wasn’t wise about building a big organization, but I was obedient to God and He was done with it. It served its purpose. And so my greatest achievement has been trusting in Jesus and His greatest blessing has been my family.

Post script: Some of these stories took place while I was still young and had yet to give my life to Christ, so keep in mind, I wasn’t always a “good” boy.

“Curse at Me!”

I was a young man in high school and I was working my summer vacation as a lifeguard at a local public beach in West Islip, where I grew up. It was a small beach and only had a small staff of a few lifeguards to do all of the work, including security and safety. We had a single lifeguard stand which was roped off to keep the “public” out. A shift included one guard on the stand and another on the blanket inside the guard area. We also had a supervisor who usually hung out in the guard office which was inside the beach house. The beach house also had restrooms, locker rooms and a concession stand. Outside the cinder block beach house there were outdoor showers in full view of the beach and lifeguard stand. The showers had a concrete floor and only dispensed cold water. Besides being responsible for saving swimmers from drowning, the lifeguards were responsible for safety and security for the entire beach area.

There was one young boy, probably about junior high age, who came to the beach almost every day. I never noticed that he came with his mother because he never hung around her. This boy had a nose for trouble and seemed to enjoy terrorizing some of the young girls. On this particular day, I had to warn him several times about his behavior. He was dunking girls and holding them under water. He was running around the beach chasing girls, knocking over toddlers and kicking sand on young mothers. After warning him several times, I heard a girl screaming behind me. I turned around on the stand to see this bad boy lifting a girl over his shoulders in the outdoor shower. I was concerned that he might drop her on her head on the concrete floor. I blew my whistle to get his attention, but he either couldn’t hear me or he didn’t want to. I jumped off of the lifeguard stand while my backup climbed up to watch the swimmers. I had had enough of this boy’s antics for one day and told him that he had to leave the beach for the day. I did have the authority to ban unruly beach goers. The boy stopped and walked off to get his things. It was over, or so I thought. I returned to the guard area.

If you didn’t grow up in my home town you wouldn’t understand that Italian immigrants made up about half of the population. Many of the parents were first generation immigrants and they had a distinct accent, customs and even dress. Simply by their appearance one could say that they looked like they had just come off the boat from Italy.

Soon after I returned to the guard area this boy’s mother, who I had not noticed before, came waddling over. I say “waddling” because she walked like a duck since she must have weighed well over 400 pounds. She was dressed in a bathing suit with a skirt that was much too small for her huge body. She walked up to me and in a thick New York City Italian accent said, “Why’s he gotta leave da beach?” I told her about all of his dangerous behavior, which she must have seen for herself. After I finished explaining, she raised her hand and with a pointed finger asked again, “Yeah, but why does he gotta leave da beach?” I explained again that since he refused to behave, he was to leave for one day. Finally, my supervisor came over and got her to calm down and leave. Or so I thought.

It was probably less than an hour before she returned. This time she was not alone. With her came a man who was presumably her husband. He probably weighed less than one hundred pounds and was not dressed for the beach. He looked like one of Al Capone’s goons. He wore baggy dress pants that flapped in the wind. His feet were covered with dress wing tip shoes and dark socks. He was wearing a tank tee shirt and a Fedora hat. He threw his cigar on the ground as he approached the guard area. Marching ahead of his wife, he lifted his palm in front of his face, as if preparing to render a back hand slap. He blurted out, “Which one was it, which one?” His huge wife, waddling behind him, pointed at me as I was lying on the blanket in the guard area and proclaimed, “Dat one!”

Before I could get up, the man approached the roped off area and leaning over the rope with his backhand ready in front of his face he demanded, “Coyes (curse) at me! Gah ahead, you coysed at my wife, now coyse at me! I’ll break ya face!” I was shocked because I had never cursed at the woman. By now, my friend on the stand was laughing so hard that he fell off of the stand. I stood up and assured the man that I had not cursed at his wife and that as beach employees we were not permitted to curse at people. But then, being somewhat indignant, I added, “If you want to come back at 4:30 when the beach closes I can meet you outside the gate and I’ll curse at you all you want.” This only made the man more furious. Grabbing at the ropes he yelled, “Get outside dem ropes and fight like a man! I’ll break ya face!”

My supervisor was alerted by the commotion and rushed to intervene. After prolonged discussion he managed to get the man to calm down. He left with his wife continuing to yell threats at me as he left. I left work at 4:30 and half expected to meet him, along with a few button men, by the gate, but I never saw him again. I never forgot his invitation: “Coyse at me!”

Got Ya Birdie

When I was in high school I was pretty good at getting my friends to laugh. You could say that I was the “class clown.” Occasionally, my timing wasn’t very good. Teachers didn’t always appreciate me interrupting the class. Most of the teachers let me off with a warning which I was smart enough to take seriously. I had to be careful because my mom was the school nurse, so I didn’t get away with much.

One day I was in a large “study hall” class of about 50 students. It was in a large double class room. The teacher was the football coach, Mr. Skiptunas. He was a very tall and muscular man. Students were required to be quiet and study or do homework during this “study hall” period. Mr. Skiptunas would sit at his desk in the front and read the newspaper. I sat in the back row, as far from coach as I could get.

I remember that it was a beautiful spring day and the windows were open. There were no screens on the windows. I had developed a perfect bird chirp whistle which I could make through my teeth with my mouth barely open. Some of my friends sitting nearby knew my bird noise. I started with a few short chirps. Other kids began looking around the room for the bird. Coach Skiptunas looked up from his newspaper and I stopped with my head bowed and staring into my open textbook. I waited a few minutes and chirped again. This time my friends started to choke back laughter. Coach looked up and I stopped again, but my friends were still choking back their laughs. Coach stared around the room even longer. We all quieted down again. I waited a few minutes before I started chirping again. But, this time, before I could finish coach swung out a perfect quarterback bullet pass with a piece of chalk. The perfect pass hit me square in the middle of my forehead and knocked me back in my seat. Coach stood up and pointed at me and said loudly, “Got ya birdie!” The entire class cracked up. I just bowed my head in pain.

I left study hall with a big red welt on my forehead and I never disrupted coach Skiptunas’ study hall ever again.

Goober’s Pizza Sauce

When I was in college at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, I worked at the most popular pizza joint in the little college town. There were two colleges in Canton, St. Lawrence and Canton State where Gramma graduated. Like any college town, good pizza places are very busy any night of the week. I worked at Tony Zsa Zsa’s. It was so busy at night that there was no way with two pizza ovens that we could make all of the pizzas to order from scratch. So we would make up the pie crusts without the sauce and toppings earlier in the day, cook them for ten minutes, just long enough to make them stiff, and then freeze them until the evening rush. Once folks ordered their pizza, we would put the toppings and sauce on and then we only had to cook them for about ten more minutes. It was a successful strategy. We kept up with the rush and the people got a fresh cooked pizza in about ten minutes.

My job involved going in to the restaurant earlier in the day and preparing the pie crusts. Tony hired two “special needs” high school boys who only went to school for half the day in the morning. One of the boys was named Billy. Billy had a very short temper and had a tendency to be aggressive, especially toward the other boy named Goober. Billy would get upset about some of the stupid things that Goober would say and Goober said a bunch of stupid things. Billy would often threaten Goober. Besides saying some really dumb things, Goober had a cleft lip and had a speech impediment.

I would mix the dough in a giant mixing bowl. After the dough was mixed, usually about ten pounds worth, we would lay it out on a giant wood cutting board table. I would use a butcher knife to cut off a pie crust weight of dough and push it over to my helpers to knead with their finger tips to a size about a foot in diameter. I would spin the crusts up in the air like a true pizza maker to get them to full baking size.

We would chat as we did our work and I spent a quite a bit of time trying to keep my helpers from fighting with each other. One day as Billy and Goober were kneading the dough piles with their finger tips, Billy and I noticed that Goober was picking his nose and poking the boogers on his finger into the dough with the same finger. Billy went ballistic! He grabbed the butcher knife off of the table and began chasing Goober around the room threatening to kill him.

I had to think fast or Goober was going to be dead. I immediately remembered a refocusing exercise from my Psychology class. I screamed to Billy that we didn’t need to kill Goober because he was already dead. Billy stopped in his tracks and looked at me puzzled. I said, “Goober already died in a car accident.” Billy said, “But, I see him.” I replied, “That’s just his ghost and you can’t kill a ghost.” It worked! We went back to our work. When Goober would say something, Billy would stop and say, “I hear Goober.” I would remind him that it was just a ghost and he should ignore it. By the end of our shift, Goober was pretty frustrated because we wouldn’t answer him and pretended not to see him. I think Billy enjoyed the game. I felt sorry for Goober as we left and he kept trying to get our attention, saying, “I’m heya, I’m heya” with his nasal sounding cleft lip speech impediment. But at least he was alive.

Bull Spittle

One Christmas when Jodi and Suzanne were still toddlers and before Amy and Beth were born we visited my brother Bob in East Hampton, Long Island. At that time, East Hampton was still a rural area with farms. I remember that we had just finished a big meal when my brother and I decided to go outside for some fresh air. Across the road from his house there was a farm pasture with a very large bull in it. We crossed the road and stood by the fence admiring the size of this big animal as he chewed on the hay strewn about the pasture. The bull was only about fifteen yards away from us. Since it was cold out, we could see his breath. It looked like smoke coming out of his mouth.

Suddenly, we both noticed that the bull had a long string of snot dangling down from his nose. This big glob of thick snot must have hung down at least a foot below his nose. Both of us agreed that the giant, dirt strew bull spittle was very disgusting. Bob turned to me and said, “Wouldn’t it be gross if the bull sneezed and the snot hit you?”

No sooner had Bob said that and the bull lifted his head and looked at us. The bull shook his head back and forth with a loud grunt, his giant jowls flapping together. As he shook his head, the bull spittle flew out of his nose as if he was sneezing.

I often hear from people who have experienced a traumatic accident that time seems to temporarily slow down as if what is happening is in slow motion. This event with the flying bull snot seemed to be happening in slow motion. I remember seeing the snot coming toward me, twirling end over end through the air. I remember trying to dodge the snot, but suddenly the giant spittle slapped me right in the face. I let out a scream of disgust. I wiped the snot off of my mouth with my sleeve as I ran to the house. Everyone else got a good laugh over my accident, especially my brother.

Now, whenever I get near a bull, I’m careful to watch and see if they have a runny nose.

POW Training

I graduated from USAF Pilot Training, earning my wings, in December 1972. At the time, the U.S. was still involved in the Vietnam War. There were almost 600 Air Force prisoners in the Hanoi Hilton who had been shot down over North Vietnam and captured. So, the Air Force sent all combat pilots to POW training at McCord AFB in Spokane, Washington state. I went for training there in January, 1973, in the middle of winter.

We spent two weeks in the classroom learning all about subjects like prisoner rights under the Geneva Convention, psychological warfare, and resistance techniques. Our classes ended on a Friday and our instructors told us that we would begin live training in a mock prisoner of war camp on Monday morning. Training would begin with a one and one-half mile obstacle course to simulate combat conditions. We would have to crawl on our bellies through ditches and barbed wire with blank ammunition being fired over our heads. At the end of the obstacle course we would be captured, starting out our prisoner training in an exhausted condition.

On Friday night, the guys in our training group went out to a bar. Most of us probably drank too much, expecting to be able to sleep in on Saturday. I recall that it had already started raining on my way home and it was cold. At approximately 3 am on Saturday, our group was rudely awakened by our training instructors informing us that the training exercise would commence immediately. I’m sure the surprise start time was part of the plan. It’s realistic that a soldier becomes a POW by surprise. It’s not the sort of thing that someone makes an appointment for.

So we packed up what little gear we were allowed and they trucked us out to the starting point of our obstacle course in the pouring, freezing rain. The course was ankle deep in mud. We crawled through the soaking wet ditches under the barbed wire in the pitch dark. Every few minutes there would be a flash of light as automatic weapons fired blanks over our heads. Even blank shells can seriously injure someone, so we were sure to stay on our bellies and crawl. We didn’t dare stand up and run. They issued us a stick to use as a fake rifle. We could use our stick to lift up the rolls of barbed wire and crawl underneath them.

After what seemed like a couple of hours, I reached the end of the obstacle course. It was a long course and I was tired, soaking wet, covered in mud and cold. I was almost glad to be “captured”. When I arrived there was already a line of prisoners waiting to be “processed”. I was ordered by the guards to put my “weapon” in a trash barrel. I was thrown a cloth hood and told to put it over my head and to line up with my arm on the shoulder of the prisoner in front of me. There were no holes in the hood. I could only see out of the bottom around my neck.

At first, with some spunk still remaining in my soul and remembering my resistance training, I just stood by the rifle barrel, poking my stick up and down. After a few minutes a guard grabbed me and threw me back in the line and re-instructed me to keep my hood on while hanging on to the prisoner in front of me. The guards all spoke Russian to each other. I could see a tent at the front of the line. There was yelling and screaming coming from the tent. It sounded like people were being beat.

After a few minutes, I lifted my hood and started looking around. I was spotted by one of the guards who yelled in English, “Igor, show that little man that we mean business.” Suddenly, this huge man approached me. He must have been a foot taller than me, at least 6’6” tall and 300 pounds. He grabbed me with two hands by my coat collar. He lifted me off of my feet and began shaking me like a rag doll, with my arms and legs flailing around. He then threw me to the ground. I felt like every bone in my body was rattling around. After that, I got back in line, pulled my hood down and never uttered a peep.

After we were processed into the POW camp they led us in a line, hoods on our heads and leg irons about our ankles, to our cells. We were put in individual cells, in solitary confinement. The cell only had a small window in the door that was covered with a flap on the outside so that it was pitch dark inside. There was a log to sit on, but we were instructed to remain standing at attention. As I was exhausted, after a few minutes I sat down on the log and dozed off. I awoke to a loud bang and sprang to my feet. Apparently, the guard had hit the door of one of the cells and began yelling at a prisoner that he was told to remain standing. It sounded like they pulled him out of his cell and they were beating him. He was screaming in pain. Much later, after the training was over, I learned that much of this was staged for our “benefit”.

Later, while still in solitary, they brought me a bowl of fish heads and rice for food. It was disgusting. I didn’t eat it. Now, I was cold, tired, wet, dirty and hungry. I have no idea how long I was in there. After some time the guards came back and marched us all off to what sounded like a large open hall. On the way there, as we marched outside, I could see through the bottom of my hood that the rain had changed to snow. Once we were in the hall, they made us stand at attention again. We still had our hoods on. We stood there for what seemed like an hour listening to the same country music tune over and over again. Eventually, the guards would take us, one at a turn, for interrogation with the commandant.

The commandant looked Vietnamese and spoke flawless English. He asked me if I was ok and if I was being fed. He said he could help me if I was cooperative. He said he understood me and that he had graduated from an American college. He asked me where I went to college. He even offered me a cigarette, which I refused since I didn’t smoke. I could sense that I was being drawn into a trap. In our training on resisting interrogation we had learned about the “good cop, bad cop” routine where one interrogator would be kind and the other would be brutal. He asked where my squadron was stationed. As I had been taught, under the Geneva Convention, I was only required to divulge my name, rank and serial number, which is what I did. With my response, the Commandant said, “Well, I guess I’m going to have to get Igor.”

Igor burst into the room, picked me up and threw me against the wall. He was standing over me getting ready to kick me when the Commandant yelled at him in Russian and he stopped. Igor left the room and the Commandant helped me up. He apologized for the rough treatment and allowed me to take a seat again. He handed me a flat board about 6” wide and 2’ long and asked me to hold it up and read the writing on it. It was some stupid nursery rhyme. He then took the board, turned it over and on the other side it said that, “Richard Nixon is a war criminal”. He then pointed to a small hole in the wall behind him and pointing at me. He said, “We have a camera in there.” He then turned on a small television and played a video recording of me with my lips moving but no sound holding up the sign that said, “Richard Nixon is a war criminal”. (Nixon was the President at that time)

After our interrogations, we were marched back to our solitary cells, being tired, hungry, cold, sore and discouraged. The next day they marched us out to the hall for interrogations again. Only this time, after an hour of standing at attention listening to the same song, they ordered us to get on our knees. We still had our hoods on, so we couldn’t see what was in front of us. They told us to get down on all fours and crawl forward. I could feel myself squeezing through a small unseen door. About the time that my head hit a wall, they gave me a boot in the rear and slammed a door on me. We were stuck in tiny animal cages curled up in a ball. It was no big deal at first, but after about 15 minutes we all started cramping up and guys began groaning and whimpering. One prisoner, known for being tough, yelled out, “I love it! I love it! I think I found a home.” The guards immediately pulled him out and began beating him. There was a lot of screaming and yelling. To this day, I don’t know if it was staged. The entire training was intended to break you down mentally.

After a few days all of the prisoners, including myself, were transferred into a group shelter. We were supposed to develop a prisoner command system, which was based on rank. And then we were supposed to come up with a plan to escape the compound and carry it out. The guards gave us chores to do around the compound. Some prisoners snagged some shovels and shears. The escape plan was to cut and lift the chain link fence after dark to sneak out. Before the escape was attempted, earlier in the afternoon, I was called into the commandant’s office. I was ordered to shine his shoes. So I knelt down and started to brush his shoes. I was taught in basic training how to spit shine shoes to make them sparkle. I little spit mixed on the shoe with polish makes it shine brighter. So, I thought it was a good opportunity to show some disrespect and spit on the commandant’s shoes. I sucked up a big wad of snot and let it fly onto the commandant’s shoe. He jumped up and screamed, “What are you doing? You idiot! Guard, take this dog outside and throw him in the hole.”

I spent the remainder of the afternoon in a small box buried in the ground. The bottom of the box had a floor of solid ice and the top had a lid so that it was pitch dark. After awhile my feet began to freeze. Every so often I would push the lid of the box up to see if there were any guards around and every time they were there. I was stuck in the box until late in the evening. I heard some commotion outside and was sure that my fellow prisoners were attempting their escape. I crawled out of the box and ran for the escape point. By the time I got there, it was too late. The guards had already headed off our escape. Somehow, they must have found out. They were herding the prisoners at gunpoint back into the shelter. We were ordered to remain in shelter until reveille (the sound of the morning wake up).

When reveille sounded, we woke up to a bright sunny day. The guards ordered the entire group of POWs to line up in formation outside. The commandant came out and spoke. He reminded us that our escape attempt had failed. He began yelling at us that we were the worst class to ever come through the training program. He told us that we were going to have to repeat the entire course, beginning with the obstacle course. I saw grown men begin to cry. Then they raised the American flag and began playing the Star Spangled Banner. When it was over, the commander said, “Congratulations soldiers, you passed. Dismissed.”

“Stew, You on Fiya. Man, You on Fiya!”

After completing POW training, I went right in to winter survival training. We had a week of classes at the same base where we were taught how to survive in the wilderness in winter. I suppose they were preparing us for a Russian invasion. We learned how to make shelter, catch food, cook food and stay warm. It was similar to preparing for a Bear Grills adventure. They also taught us navigation techniques for evading capture.

After a week of classroom training they shipped us out to a snow covered mountain wilderness area on the far northeastern border of the state of Washington, on the border of Canada. You can find it on a map if you look for the Pend Oreille Indian Reservation or Colville National Forest. In January, the forest and mountains were covered with several feet of snow. We were issued a 50 pound pack with food, clothing and survival equipment.

The first night, I was sent out by myself to simulate a situation where I had bailed out of my plane. I was given a map of the area showing my first rescue point. It was probably a 5 mile hike in waist deep snow over mountainous terrain carrying my 50 pound pack. I had learned how to navigate using a compass and fixing on targets. But, I couldn’t make a straight path because of the terrain and because I was supposed to avoid being seen and captured. The “enemy” was using helicopters to find people and if we were captured, we would be picked up and sent back to the starting point. After hiking all day, some guys would get tired and try to take a short cut through a meadow. They would get about half way across the meadow, in the middle where they could be easily spotted and you would hear the sound of the chopper coming over the ridge. They would try to run for it in the snow, but they always got caught. I took the long route and stayed under the cover of the trees.

There was no way that I could make it to my extraction point in one day, so I had to make camp over night. We had been taught how to make a lean to with bows and how to start a fire. So, I made myself a shelter and made a small fire. It was big enough to keep me warm for a while and to dry out my clothes, but it wouldn’t last the night. Thank God we were issued sub zero sleeping bags. I curled up snug as a bug in my bag.

Now, the instructors had told us all sorts of stories about the famous Sasquatch, a giant ape-like man, rumored to live in the forests of Washington. I never believed that such a monster existed, but there are numerous people in that area who claim to have seen one. Well, as it got dark and I was preparing to doze off in my sleeping bag, I suddenly felt the ground shaking and I could hear something pounding. I heard what sounded like heavy, labored breathing. I covered my head with my sleeping bag and prayed. I eventually fell asleep from exhaustion and fear.

The following morning, I was able to make it to my extraction point where I was met by my other class mates. It turns out, that we all had similar stories about hearing the Sasquatch, but no one saw him. I think our instructors had played another prank on us. I was glad to see my friends. A friend of mine from pilot training, John Stewart, was in the group. We all called him Stew.

That afternoon we were sent out again, only this time in pairs, with new directions to a different extraction point. It was another long hike through waist deep snow and we arrived at our destination late in the evening, tired, wet and cold. But, this night we were put up in luxury tents. Not really. They were 8 man tents made with nylon parachute material. There were 4 hay-filled mattresses on each side of the tent separated by a lane down the middle. There were 2 cut telephone poles down the middle to form an aisle between the mattresses. At the end of the tent and the aisle was a small pot belly wood stove to keep the tent warm. The fires were already stoked with plenty of wood when we got there which would keep the fire going all night. I was in the same tent as Stew, who snagged the mattress closest to the fire on one side. Across the aisle from Stew was a black sergeant whose name I don’t recall. I hadn’t met him before. I ended up with the mattress closest to the door of the tent and furthest from the stove.

We were all soaking wet, so we were glad to strip down and hang up our wet clothes in the warm tent. We climbed in our sleeping bags atop the straw mattresses. Before we fell asleep, one of the camp hosts came in to let us know that we had to put the fire out unless we took turns guarding the fire. We decided to keep the fire going, but no one wanted to stay awake. Stew assured us all that the wood stove was not a fire risk and we all fell asleep.

In the middle of the night I woke up as all of the men in the tent were coughing. There was thick smoke in the tent. The black sergeant suddenly yelled out, “Stew, you on fiya! Man, you on fiya!” The pole next to Stew near the fire was smoldering and smoking and was starting to ignite the straw in Stew’s mattress. Stew began pounding away at his mattress. But, no one was getting up to get out of the tent. That was probably because we were all buck naked and it was freezing out. I knew I had to do something before we all died of smoke inhalation or before the whole tent caught fire. So, I crawled out of bed, grabbed the end of the pole by the door and began pulling it out of the tent. I managed to get it out and freezing cold, I dove back into the tent and my sleeping bag. The next morning I awoke with blisters on my feet from the frozen ground, but at least I saved my buddies. I was so glad that the training was over and that I wouldn’t have to do any more hiking with my blistered feet. They sent a chopper to fly us all back to base. And that’s how I survived winter survival training.

The New Normal

The New Normal

The new normal involves less prosperity, less freedom and less security. The regime’s political opposition accuses them of incompetence. It is easy to draw this conclusion when we observe the implementation of Obama Care, but we should not mistake intentional destruction for incompetence.
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