Monday, October 25, 2010


My son gave me a recorded CD of conservative newsman Bill O’Reilly’s book, “A Bold, Fresh Piece of Humanity”. The title comes from what a grade school nun called Bill as a child. I can relate to that because that’s how nuns in my school talked too. I’m enjoying the book immensely because Bill’s views on life are very close to my own. It’s refreshing to hear a media figure tell it like it is instead of how we’d like it to be. It should be required reading (or listening) in all high school classes.

Anyhow, there’s a chapter in the book called “Self-Reliance” that really hit home. Bill says he learned as a child that the only one who is responsible for you is YOU. Sure, parents and teachers can help with your development and encourage you to think for yourself, but in the end it is you who determines the course of your life. How you go about getting what you want from life (ambition), and how you deal with the curves that life throws you (character), is all within yourself.

He uses Hurricane Katrina as an example. A lot of the human suffering associated with that storm came about because the people of New Orleans had been led to believe that whatever went wrong in their lives, the government would be there to fix it. There is no doubt that government action was slow and inefficient after Katrina hit. The governor of Louisiana had no effective storm evacuation plan, and the federal government was typically bogged down in red tape that slowed relief efforts. But the people in the area were also slow to heed the evacuation warnings, or chose to ignore them altogether.

O’Reilly’s point was that what happened in New Orleans was the result of too much dependence on government. He urges people to get an education and acquire the skills needed to get a job...things that are not handed to you, but are attainable in this country if you work for them. Once you do, like most Americans, you are better prepared to deal with what may happen to you and your family without waiting around helpless for the government to step in. Believing that the government can fix all your problems and right all wrongs is a prescription for disaster, as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina sadly proves.

When too many Americans forget that the only person they can truly rely on is themselves, then stick a fork in us, because we’re done. The notion that the government will provide lulls people. They stop relying on themselves to improve their lot and come to rely on the government instead for entitlements they feel should be theirs by right. Education stops, work stops, and soon the benefits stop because we run out of other people’s wealth to redistribute. The government grabs for more and more power to take care of its dependent citizens, and our freedom and liberty slowly but inexorably diminish along with our income.

Socialism has failed time and again in so many places that it can no longer be considered viable as a form of government. If you want to know who is responsible for caring for you and your family, take a hard look in the mirror.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Gringos Go to Mass

While visiting my daughter in Connecticut this weekend we decided to attend Sunday mass at St. Rose of Lima Church in the town of Meriden. The town is home to a large Mexican population, and so every other mass is celebrated in Spanish. We have been to this lovely old church before, but our schedule this week was such that the 9 am mass was the most convenient for us, and that happened to be one of the Spanish-language masses. I'm not sure we've been to Spanish mass at St. Rose's before, but we have attended such masses in other parishes, and there is really no problem keeping up despite the language difference.

We were among the few non-Spanish speaking people in attendance. The Mexican people are very religious, and seeing them walk in all dressed in their Sunday best, with children respectful and scrubbed within an inch of their lives was sweet. The altar at St. Rose's could not hold another flower. Every niche was filled with colorful blossoms that lent a festive air to the normally sedate interior of a Catholic church. Leading the way up the aisle for the priest and altar servers was the parish Legion of Mary, a group of Hispanic women who were all over 70 years in age and under 5 feet in height.

The Franciscan priest who celebrated the mass was called simply Father Jack. He spoke fluent Spanish but I got the feeling that it was not his first language. As he launched into his homily, Father Jack began to warm to his task. He paced up and down the main aisle gesturing animatedly with his arms in a way that his Latino audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Although I don't speak Spanish, I could tell by the congregation's reactions that he was putting questions to them. In my regular church, when the priest tries to draw the faithful into discussions with him, there are few takers. No such reluctance in this group; old women shouted comments from around the church, gladly playing supporting roles to Father Jack's leading man.

At the presentation of the gifts, a group of young children marched up to the altar carrying a rosary they had fashioned out of colored strips of paper. Father Jack made a fuss out of draping the altar with this offering from the children, who looked very proud to be so included in the service. Near the middle of the mass, when parishioners typically offer each other the sign of peace by shaking hands or sharing a modest embrace, these Mexican families rose from their seats and began walking around the church enthusiastically and un-self consciously greeting friends and relatives with smiles and hugs. It was charming to see.

Sometimes it's a good thing to step out of our familiar boxes to try something new. Every Sunday we go to the same mass in the same church, and I must confess that I am not always as attentive or prayerful as I should be. Seeing these lovely people singing hymns in Spanish to the delightful, south-of-the border accompaniment of guitars and maracas was inspiring to us. They wore their almost child-like faith on their sleeves and it was humbling to be a part of their joy. Matthew's gospel tells us Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

I think Matthew had something there.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Monday, October 11, 2010

America Rediscovered

Yesterday we attended a Columbus Day parade sponsored by the East Hanover, New Jersey Italian-American Club. Along with local resident, TLC's Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, my lovely daughter-in-law Alicia was honored as "Woman of the Year"for her accomplishments as an Italian-American journalist and news anchor for News 12 New Jersey. I sometimes worry that the America I knew growing up is headed in the wrong direction. Living in a big city can give you a slanted view of the country's mind set, but after seeing this parade I'm resting a little easier knowing that the America I love is alive and well in places like East Hanover.

We sat in the bleachers under the reviewing stand near a bust of the parade's namesake, Christopher Columbus, watching as the marching bands and floats passed by. There were the honorees of course, the obligatory politicians campaigning shamelessly, several bands including the United States Marine Band, the town high school band, and a group of older men playing familiar Italian music on well-worn instruments. They reminded me so much of the elderly men who played the same kind of music in the street feasts of my youth, marching behind the statue of Our Lady of Loretto and her honor guard of old women dressed in black.

It was also nice to see young people marching behind a banner promoting the high school Italian Culture Club. We are all proud to be Americans, but our ethnic heritage must also be preserved for future generations. East Hanover is a town with many Italian-Americans and, unlike some modern-day critics who try to devalue his contributions, they are proud of Columbus for his discovery of America. The folks sitting with us in the bleachers were typical warm and friendly Italian-Americans, so naturally we were soon talking and joking with them as if they were long-lost relatives.

The parade route was lined with young and old alike, waving Italian and American flags as they honored Columbus and their Italian heritage. Among the marchers at the parade were were a contingent of Italian State Police who are invited every year to participate in this event. They stay as guests of local residents who welcome them into their homes and treat them like family. These Italian police officers appeared to be enjoying themselves thoroughly as they were cheered loudly by the partisan crowd on both sides of the street.

Being in that crowd as they respectfully stood for the Star Spangled Banner and the Italian National Anthem, and then watching them holler and clap for the uniquely American parade in honor of an Italian hero passing before them, gave me a warm feeling inside. Our country may change with the times, but every once in a while I am reminded that the values that made America great are still in the hearts of our people. I felt like I was stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting as I joined my fellow Americans of all ages in the bright afternoon sunshine of East Hanover, New Jersey. Here's a video clip of the parade for your enjoyment.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rules of the Road: Part II

I know New York State already has a written driver's test, but it doesn't really prepare new drivers to operate a motor vehicle on our roads. I thought as a public service, especially since I have to share the road with the pinheads around me, I would offer some more realistic alternatives to the current test answers. Below are the current rules, the example used in the test book to illustrate them, and my alternative answers based on over fifty years of driving in this state.

Rule: Drivers must yield to pedestrians legally using marked or unmarked crosswalks. Example: You are stopped at a red light. A pedestrian steps into the crosswalk, and then the light turns green. You must wait for the pedestrian to cross. You must also yield to pedestrians in crosswalks on your left or right before turning. Jim's Rule: When the light turns green in your favor, gun the car, then screech on the brakes. As the pedestrian stumbles to pick up his packages and brush himself off, proceed through the intersection being sure to glare at the pedestrian as you go by.

Rule: Traffic conditions change constantly. You cannot afford to let your attention wander from what is going on around you. Always scan the road ahead. Do not use the road or even the vehicle directly ahead as your only focal point. Look ahead so you can avoid, or lessen, potential problems. Example: When a car in front of you puts on a turn signal indication he is about to move into your lane, take your foot off the gas pedal and allow him to safely enter the lane. Jim's Rule: Never let anyone get in front of you. When their signal goes on indicating they are changing lanes, speed up immediately to pass them; blaring horn is optional.

Rule: When approaching a STOP sign, come to a full stop, yield the right-of-way to vehicles and pedestrians in or approaching the intersection. Go when it is safe. Example: When required to stop because of a sign, you must stop before reaching the stop line, if there is one, or the crosswalk. Jim's Rule: Coming to a full stop slows you down and allows annoying pedestrians to cross. Instead, use the rolling stop so pedestrians are never really sure of your intentions. Proceed boldly through the intersection; any cars approaching from your right or left may curse you, but they will stop.

Rule: Even the most careful drivers are involved in crashes caused by unexpected events or the mistakes of other drivers. If you are involved in a traffic crash, you must be ready to react responsibly at the scene and obey the law in reporting the incident. Example: Regardless of the extent of damage. It is a traffic violation to leave the scene of an incident, such as a traffic crash involving property damage. Jim's Rule: If you hit another vehicle, stagger out of your vehicle and fake a heart attack. While the other driver is calling 9-1-1 and looking for help, crawl back into your car and speed away in a direction such that your license plate number is not visible.

Rule: Traffic lights are usually red, yellow and green from top to bottom. Some traffic lights are steady, others flash. Some are circular, and some are arrows. Understand and obey all traffic lights. Example: STEADY YELLOW: The light is changing from green to red. Slow down and be ready to stop for the red light. Jim's Rule: A yellow light is the signal to immediately accelerate your vehicle to avoid getting stuck at a red light. If behind another vehicle at the time, swerve around the vehicle, leaning hard on your horn, and extend your left arm straight up out the window, middle finger raised high. Note: Be sure to grip the steering wheel firmly in your right hand for safety's sake.

Rule: Parallel parking takes practice and skill, and is part of every road test. You should also know where parking is illegal and what NO PARKING, NO STANDING and NO STOPPING signs mean. Example: Many motorists consider parallel parking the most difficult part of driving. But practice will teach you how to back up properly and to judge distances and angles. Patience and self confidence will help you master the task. Jim's Rule: Parallel parking is difficult, but can be simplified immeasurably by using the bumpers of the cars immediately in front of and behind you as guides. (Be sure your own bumpers are equipped with bumper protectors before employing this helpful technique.)

Driving in a crowded city like New York, especially with all the overstressed, psychotic rage-a-holics, can be intimidating for new drivers. Don't let these road warriors kick sand in your face you girly-man. Set aside that wimpy New York State driver's manual and make it your business to live by Jim's Rules when you get behind the wheel. When that frazzled freak you just cut off flips you the bird and screams a string of obscenities in your direction, that's just his way of saying: "Welcome to the road, rookie."

(If you missed Part I of Rules of the Road, click here. View)


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association