Thursday, December 27, 2012

Down, Down We Go...but, Hold the Loafers!

Downsizing is a contemporary, worked-to-death word, and we went through our downsizing several years ago when we moved from a Cape May home with a swimming pool, three decks, and more than an acre of ground to our present home, which is little more than a cottage.

Now there’s a lot to be said for having a big seashore home with plenty of ground for kids and grandkids to romp, but it also means you run a motel six months of the year. You see, when family comes to visit, they don’t stay for several hours and go home—they stay for several days!

Thanksgiving used to be an especially big deal that started on the Wednesday prior and lasted through Sunday. This year it began Thursday afternoon and ended Thursday evening. And there wasn’t a cargo bin of towels to run through the washer and dryer afterward. Just a dishwasher load or two.

Ahhh…it’s great when they come to visit…and great when they go home. Hey, who said that?

We thought we were all downsized—my wife and I. She retired, and me; well, writers never really retire, so I continue to work from my home office, but it’s been a while since we both dressed in our business-casual finery and left for our respective days at the office. My wife was in medical billing and I was a newspaper editor.

Recently, however, we finally came to the realization that we had never really downsized our wardrobes. We each still have a closet full of business-casual slacks, blouses, shirts, sport coats, skirts, and shoes…shoes; don’t even wander there! I think there were fewer shoes in the barracks during my Air Force days.

So our downsizing now goes into phase two: Dozens of stylish, well-kept, business-casual style outfits—male and female—are being packed into contractor bags (folded nicely, thank you) and will be promptly transported to the local Goodwill store. We’ll keep some fashionable togs for church and family gatherings (New Year’s Day of course), but we have to admit that we’re no longer the casual-business type.

Oh, we’re still casual—I won’t tell you have many of these columns I’ve written in pajamas—but at least a few other souls will now get a chance to dress in Dockers, a Van Heusan shirt, and Floorsheim penny loafers when they never would have imagined they could have looked so…metrosexual. At least that’s what I’ve been told the word for stylish is today.

So we’re glad to be able to spread our fashion sense around. Hey…wait a minute…you know what…I’ve had those penny loafers since Regan was president. I can let go of a couple dozen pairs of khakis, and a bundle of sport shirts, but…I think the penny loafers have to stay. They’re too much a part of me.

I think I see a semi-worn pair of Rockports that might do instead. This downsizing can really get painful. I’m going to have to think about this.

Happy New Year!  May 2013 be your best year yet, but may it pale in comparison to those that follow.

Now excuse me, but I’ve got a pair of cordovan penny loafers to polish for New Year’s Day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Good Ol' Fashion Christmas

To me, our society seems too permissive…too…oh, I don’t know…too non-responsible. And this is the time of the year when that is most clear to me.
Gene Autry is telling us that Santa is coming to town, and the Little Drummer Boy is telling the king to bring silver and gold to the child in the manger, Burl Ives wants us to have a holly, jolly Christmas…
But does everyone really deserve a holly, jolly Christmas? What ever happened to the good old days when the nasty boys and girls got coal in their stockings? Did the environmentalists put the kibosh on coal? What’s a parent supposed to put into his child’s stocking if the kid’s been a horse’s neck all year—solar panels?
I think there’s a time and place for everything—even coal. And since we’re in Pennsylvania, the anthracite capitol of the nation, what better surprise for a menacing Dennis to find upon awakening Christmas morning?
Well…be of good cheer, for I bring you tidings of great joy, for last week, in a South Jersey Dollar Store, I found Christmas coal for sale! And it was very affordable (Well it was a dollar store!).
I’m so glad to see that some merchants are not neglecting an often-overlooked segment of our population—those bad little boys and girls who deserve coal in their stockings.
Each of the little packets I found for sale contained two separate lumps of coal, so if you have what used to be called a rich man’s family—one boy; one girl—(and, both have been naughty this past year) you can get all of your holiday shopping done in one location, and still get change for your five dollar bill. Charles Dickens would be exultant.
So let’s stop pandering to those undisciplined, bad-tempered, wayward street urchins that turn their noses up to the vegetables at your dinner table night after night. Give them what they’ve been asking for—a little bituminous, some lignite, or my personal favorite—good old anthracite.
But don’t wait too long, because coal is simply a form of carbon, and if it’s put under enough pressure for a long enough time, it turns into diamond. And you don’t want to give diamonds to a delinquent.
Boy, I gotta tell ya…I’m really getting into the Christmas spirit.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Does His Writing Pass the Smell Test?

We can’t live in a perfect world. Or maybe I should say…why can’t we live in a perfect world? There’s a good reason: What one person considers perfect, another may probably think of as…flawed. Consider…smells, if you will.

Surveys of Americans in recent years illustrated that cigarette smoking is down among adults, but both cigar and pipe smoking is on the rise. Yes, I said pipe-smoking! That’s the thing you may have seen protruding from your grandfather’s teeth as he ambled about the house.

Four-term New Jersey Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick who served in the 1970s, was known for smoking a pipe—a characteristic she adopted when her doctor advised her to quit cigarettes.

Personally, I quit smoking in 1980, but I keep a full cigar humidor handy for guests, and I still have a nice collection of pipes. And although it’s been years since I fired-up one of my briars or meerschaums, I can still recall the enjoyment I got from lighting up a bowlful of my favorite black Cavendish pipe tobacco.

Curiously, I have found over the years that a lot of cigar smokers also own a pipe or two. And a lot of the pipe smokers I knew would not turn down a good cigar if offered one. Cigarette smokers, on the other hand, I find almost parochial in their choice of tobacco. So much so, that most won’t even stray from their steady brand.

At least that’s the way it used to be. And I have smoked all three devices. I always considered a cigar or pipe something to be enjoyed slowly, and usually when I’m alone, whereas cigarettes were more of a …social activity. If someone else lit up; you did too.

Now, with cigar and pipe smoking on the rise, well, I guess that will also bring a new brand of tobacco Nazi out of the woodwork. I heard one recently on Philadelphia’s local news. “I can’t stand it when I’m on the beach and I’m downwind of someone smoking a cigar,” she complained. “They smell terrible! They think just because they’re out in the open they can smoke!”

Well, imagine their nerve: Smoking out in the open by the sea, and assaulting a TV personality’s nostrils. I wanted to talk back to my TV and tell Suzie newscaster that it’s just not a perfect world. Not for her; not for me.

Of course, I enjoy the aroma of a good panatela, but I am usually repulsed by the stench of some of the perfumes worn by contemporary women. There’s one omnipresent fragrance that—to me—smells suspiciously like cat urine. Yet I catch that aroma often—especially in restaurants.

And, although not as offensive to me, I certainly don’t want someone doused in Jean Nate’ sitting at the next table while I’m trying to enjoy a steak—medium well, please.

No matter how delicate your olfactory senses, you can log on to anytime, and not have your nose offended. Even though I have heard people exclaim from time to time, “That guy’s writing stinks!”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Should She Be In her Tree?

Well, tis the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house…well, at least all through the kitchen…my wife is running around like a chicken, er…turkey with her head cut off. You see, we have Thanksgiving at our home every year—always have had—and that means Barbara runs the show.

Daughters will be here…sons-in-law, grandchildren, and this will be the first year we entertain a great-grand-child — 13-month-old Andrew. So his gifts from Turkey Claus are already under the Thanksgiving Tree, which, anyone who has ever visited our house can tell you, is a staple in the Vanore Home. As is an Easter Tree, Valentine Tree, St. Patrick Tree, Summer Tree, Halloween Tree…and, oh yes, we also have a Christmas Tree.

Lest you think that our home is a veritable forest…you should know that they are all the same tree, re-decorated for every season. My wife has done this for more years than I can remember, and although there are probably others who decorate their home in this fashion, I’ve certainly never seen another.

By next weekend, while we’re having cold turkey sandwiches with turkey soup, the Christmas tree will no doubt be in some process of final assembly. And before you ask, yes, my wife has finished her Christmas shopping, which should come as no surprise, since she started in August, while the Summer Tree was still prominent in our living room.

But even so, we do not rush the seasons. We don’t want to hear Christmas music until at least Thanksgiving. When I heard carols being played in the local WalMart last week, I remarked to the saleswoman that it was not yet Thanksgiving. She very wearily told me that if I thought it was too early, I should be thankful that I didn’t work there, because the store started Christmas before Halloween this year.

“They’ve taken all the enjoyment out of the holidays,” she complained. She told me that she had spent many years in retail sales, and always enjoyed the Christmas season, with people showing an advancing Christmas spirit as the holiday approached. “But they start too early now,” she sighed.  “Everyone’s tired and fed-up by the time Christmas week arrives. And …they spend far more than they can afford!”

Well…she bagged my purchase and wished me a happy Thanksgiving…reluctantly, so it seemed. Sadly, in some way, I guess her manager was already getting the staff ready for Valentine’s Day…or at least the January White Sales.

I just had a disturbing thought…the Vanore household has never had a Presidents’ Day Tree. Oh, Lord A’mighty…what have I done? I don’t need to give my wife any more ideas.

She’s already out of her tree.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ignore This Till After the Holidays

Thanksgiving’s around the corner, so I’d better get this one out of the way. Just file it away so you can start fresh after the holidays.

We are perpetually hammered with stories about how “fat” we’ve become as a society. And just as often, that increasing girth is randomly attributed to Big Macs, Whoppers, cheesesteaks, hoagies, pizza, Egg McMuffins, and just about any other fat-filled, high calorie American meal that can be had in minutes from a roadside fast-food dispensary.

But why do we ignore the other side of bodily functions? Why do we focus primarily on the fuel that goes into our bodies and give secondary consideration to the engine that uses that fuel? Simply put: I believe our “fatness” is due more to our inactivity than to the ingestion of a Big Mac.

A recent article in American Legion Magazine indicated that the average American burns 150 calories less per day at the workplace than they did 50 years ago. That’s because many American jobs today involve more sitting around (usually in front of a computer screen) and less moving around.

That means we carry around more than thirty-seven-thousand calories per year—every year. That’s fuel that we store instead of burn up. And that’s how we get fat.

And it’s not just the workplace. Think about it. Fifty years ago, if you wanted to change the channel on your TV, you had to get up from your seat, walk across the room, turn the channel selector, and walk back to your seat.

Most cars in 1960 had windows that had to rolled down manually. Even that burned a few calories at the toll both—at least a few calories more than are burned by the act of pressing a power window button. In fact, now we don’t even have to do that. We have E-Z Pass!

 The differences may be meager in these examples, but thirty-seven-thousand calories here; thirty-seven-thousand calories there—it can add up over the course of lifetime.

This trend has developed over two generations. Young people today don’t seem to walk anywhere. And it’s not exclusively their fault. Parents are too quick to transport them: to school, to the ballgame, to the mall…

I can just imagine asking my dad to drive me to my little league game. He would have begun his answer something like this, “Do you see those two funny-looking things at the ends of your legs? Well, try putting one in front of the other. Before you know it, you’ll be at the ball field.”

Well, now I’m going to get hypocritical and recommend you do something sedentary. While you’re sitting in front of that computer, log on to, where you can download all of my work by just pressing a key.

Think of it—you can download my novel, “Grave Departure” for about the price of a Big Mac. Hmmm…how about that—fast food for the brain.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Scowls on the Honeymoon

Here in the south Jersey-Philadelphia area, we were fortunate, in that Hurricane Sandy didn’t slam into us the way it did to the shore’s barrier islands, or the way it disrupted New York. My cousin, who lives near the water in New York, lost his car and still doesn’t have power.

I thought I’d take a moment to let you know how we—my wife, Barbara and I—spent those “hurricane days” while hunkered down in storm mode.

Barbara read two books; I read two books. I tried watching the first half of the Eagles’ lifeless performance against the Atlanta Falcons that Sunday, but returned to my murder mystery before the second half started. I found the characters in Caroline Graham’s novel far less boring than the Eagles offensive attack—or rather lack thereof.

I stopped looking at the Weather Channel early Monday morning, because I didn’t need to hear any more about Michelin Tires or Allstate Insurance. The ratio of advertisement to actual storm information was running about three-to-one, so I opted to recline back on the couch and pick up another novel—this one by Mary Higgins Clark.

Here in south Jersey, we were right in the storm’s anticipated path of landfall—as the Weather Channel was persistently warning us. I know that information is intended to cause us concern, but as Barbara was quick to tell me, “There’s no sense worrying about things we have no control over.”

See, I would not have said it that way. Being an editor, I would have said, “There’s no sense worrying about things over which we have no control.” Because every English major knows you should not end a sentence with a preposition.

Can you guess what kind of reaction I got when I admonished her language skills? Let’s just say that it’s difficult to imagine how a pretty face such as her’s can form such a disagreeable scowl. It’s almost as though she’s had a lot of practice.

Well, she has been enduring me for more than 34 years, and next year, when we celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, we’ll be renewing our marriage vows in front of children, grandchildren, and some close friends that have been instrumental in our lives, but just couldn’t make the original ceremony.

We even located the priest who originally married us back in '78. He thinks the idea is pretty cool, and he’s really looking forward to “marrying” us again. Why not? It worked pretty well the first time, so I’m hoping to get another 35 years out of this ceremony.

And we’ll be taking a honeymoon afterward.

No doubt, we’ll also take a couple of books along. But…I’m going to try my best to refrain from correcting Barbara’s grammar if she does happen to make a slip.

A honeymoon is not the best place to tell your bride that, “There’s no such word as irregardless!” Or, “Two negatives do not make a positive!”

I don’t need to see no disagreeable scowls on my honeymoon!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

No Bald Reunion

Listeners to my weekly radio broadcast (!/pages/Cucina-Chatter/110141525699341?fref=ts) on “Cucina Chatter” are aware that I recently attended my 50th high school reunion. It was everything I thought it would be, and perhaps a bit more.
I was amazed at how many guys had kept their hair, but—although envious—I was pleased to see that those big crops of gray hair actually made them look older than did my nicely tanned pate. At least that’s what my wife told me, and she would never lie to me.
About 100 graduates (20 percent of the class) attended, and the list included doctors, two priests (one who is now the principal of my alma mater—Father Judge), engineers, business executives, educators, law enforcement officers (OK, they were cops—like me), and various other professions. I was quite impressed by the prosperity of my fellow alums.
When I mentioned this heady indicator, one of the wives at my table brought me back to earth. “Only the successful attend reunions,” she warned.
And how can you argue with that observation. How many of the other400-plus were ex-cons, neurotics, drunks, drug addicts, street people, or just plain bums? Sobering thought. No pun intended.
But I won’t dwell on what I don’t know. I just feel vindicated that a four-year Catholic high school education from the late 1950s to the early 60s seemed to have worked well for the Class of ’62.
There was a noticeable paunch here and there, and even a cane or two, but it felt good to reconnect with some of the wisenheimers I knew back in sophomore year. In their way, they were still wise guys, but it had evolved into wisdom—an excellent trait in a senior citizen.
I’ll be meeting soon with one of my old colleagues—a guy I literally had not seen nor heard from in 50 years. Like me, he’s a cancer survivor who leans heavily on his Catholic faith. So I’m sure we’ll talk about old times, old pranks, and old friendships. But newly added will be a different way of looking at life.
It’s funny how your perspective changes with the mere passage of a half-century.
A lot of the talk at the reunion was about how we have to do this again. So I guess we should form a committee to start planning our 100th reunion.
Maybe some of those gray, wooly-headed grads will at least have a receding hairline by then.
One can only hope.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is This How it Begins?

The local Philadelphia high school incident, wherein a black teacher intimidated a white, 16-year-old student because she had the audacity to express her First Amendment right and wear a Mitt Romney T-shirt on dress-down day, has garnered some national interest, but not the kind it would have produced had the roles been reversed.

It’s my opinion, of course, but I truly believe that if a white teacher had harassed a black teenage girl for wearing an Obama shirt, that teacher would have been summarily dismissed, and likely even charged with a “hate crime.”

The incident took place at Charles Carroll High in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. I lived in Port Richmond, and I can tell you that there are few neighborhoods more patriotic, more hard-working, and more passionate about individual rights than this bastion of blue-collar pride.

So where is the outrage? Where is the good, old, Philadelphia neighborhood support for this child who was in effect bullied by one of the adults that’s supposed to be a safeguard during school hours for students’ rights?

I, my wife, and children have always been proud of our attachment to Port Richmond. One of our daughters and many of our friends still reside in this row-house region of typical, middle-class Philadelphia.

I can’t imagine that the folks I know who call Port Richmond home are not embarrassed, humiliated, and angered by the thought of a student who cannot express her Constitutional right without being accosted angrily by a member of the faculty.

Many Port Richmond veterans served abroad in the military to defend against precisely this kind of tyranny. And here it is raising its ugly head right in their own back yard. Or rather right in their local schoolyard.

I majored in history in undergrad school, so I’m particularly upset whenever I hear anybody deny that the Holocaust of World War Two ever took place. The murder of five-million innocent Jews was a myth, they say, created by those who would color history for their own devious purposes.

I’m old enough to have met several people who still wore the numbered tattoos of Auschwitz, so I’m not fool enough to believe that there was no Holocaust. Yet there are far too many people—adults and children—who today know nothing about the way Jews (and Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, and other denominations) were imprisoned, tortured, and exterminated by those who found themselves with the upper hand politically.

Who knows—perhaps it started with some teacher angrily denying the right of a 16-year-old Jewish girl to express her belief.

We’d better learn from history—true history. When good people fail to stand up for the rights of children who are intimidated by those in authority, well…then everything those Port Richmond veterans fought for will be little more than a fading memory—if it’s allowed to be remembered at all.

Ciao, for now; and I hope this isn’t the beginning of ciao to our Bill of Rights.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Really? A Half-Century!

I’m attending my 50th high school reunion later this week. I’ve never attended one of these, but the 50th seemed…well, kind of special, so I really want to do this.

I’ve lost track of most all of the 550 guys I graduated from Father Judge with, except a few who, like me, were career Philly cops.

Some turned out to be doctors, some realtors, some business executives, some career military, some teachers—all honorable, productive ways to earn a living and spend a lifetime.

And a few have become priests. One of those priests is now the principal of the school, so it’s his 50th reunion also, which makes this even more special.

When looking at the “before and after” photos that are now on the reunion Web site, I’m amazed at how many of the class of 62 kept their hair! I find this particularly annoying since in my graduation photo, it looks like I’m wearing a toupee. And it’s remarkable how realistic my toupee looked back in 1962!

I’m curious to find out how meeting up with this group is going to affect my emotional status. Am I going to feel old? Young? Good about myself? Or perhaps not so?

This may turn out to be a “zero-sum” proposition, in that I’ll feel as good about myself as I believe the others should feel bad about themselves. And doesn’t that sound terribly selfish!

There is of course a danger in all this. One can take this all too seriously, instead of what it is: just a bash were a bunch of senior citizens get together and reminisce about when they were merely seniors.

All-in-all, I kind of think it’s going to be fun, interesting, and ultimately enlightening. Who knows, I may find some new friends.

Seriously! I could get to know some of those long-ago acquaintances in a new and improved light—a light enhanced by maturation.

Maybe that guy that I used to always be at odds with over who-remembers-what from the early 1960s will turn out to now be a kindred spirit and a new colleague that meets me every couple of weeks for lunch.

And if it’s one of the doctors, maybe I can get him to buy.

You see, I’m already looking on the positive side.

I hope all you readers can look on the positive side of my Web site,
And if you won’t spring for lunch, well, at least you should think about downloading one of my novels.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Big Boom

Recently, I heard this remark: “What is it with your generation?” I have a problem with labels, and this is one I especially get revved up about.

I never considered myself a member of a ‘generation.’ I was once doing a newspaper column about the deteriorating health of the Baby-Boomer Generation. The physical therapist I was talking to found out that I was born during World War Two and said, “Oh, you’re a Baby-Boomer too.”

That stopped things dead in their tracks. “No,” I replied, "I was born during the war, so I can’t be a member of the Post-War-Baby-Boom, which is of course how that generation gets its name."

Well, she said it didn’t matter—I was still a Baby-Boomer. "Now wait a minute," I said (I told you the interview stopped dead). "It’s called the Post-War Boom for a reason—because it took place after the War. I was born during the War."

Close enough, she said.

Sorry, I guess that’s why I’m a writer. Words—and the phrases they construct—are important to me. I am not (cannot) be a member of the Baby-Boom Generation. And by now, you’ve probably become quite aware that this is a sore point with me.

I don’t like being categorized—in any way. I’m not a member of the Greatest Generation, nor a Boomer, a Gen-xer, a Gen-yer, a Gen-zer…I’m me. And therein lies the root of a problem in our culture. People have to be pigeonholed—branded. And why? So we can be targeted by a marketing campaign.

I’d like to think a little more of myself than a simple member of a group whose actions, thoughts, values…can be easily quantified and qualified. You see, pigeonholing people is what can ultimately lead to prejudice and bigotry.

Oh, he’s a so-and-so; you know what they are like!

The only so-and-so I am is Joltin’ Jim Vanore. You want to know what I’m like? Don’t ask when I was born, or where I grew up. Just go to You’ll find out what I do, who I am, and what I write.

There you’ll also find you can download my novels for the price of a gallon of gasoline. And, whereas that gallon of gas will be gone after about thirty minutes on the highway, my novels should stick with you for the rest of your lucid life.

In fact, I personally believe that reading my material can help you maintain your lucidity well past the time when most of your generation has lost theirs.

If you believe in that generational sort of thing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Save Your Lungs; Improve Your Mind

I quit smoking thirty-two years ago, when cigarettes were well under a buck a pack—about sixty-five cents, as I recall. Today, here in Jersey, I was surprised to find out that they hover around eight bucks a pack, and in New York, they can cost twelve dollars.

That means each smoke you light up today can cost essentially what an entire pack cost in 1980. You would think that economics alone would bring the tobacco industry to its knees, and in fact, that largely is what’s being done—or at least being attempted, because the majority of that price increase over the years has been from taxes, as opposed to the actual cost of tobacco.

So if you smoke a mere pack a day and gave up the habit, you would stash away more than three grand a year—tax free! And even if you’re not a saver, think what you could do with an extra eight dollars a day. Every day!

Someone once scoffed at the price of my first novel—Grave Departure—which retails for $9.95. “Ten bucks is a lot to pay for a book by an unknown novelist,” he told me as he lit up a cigarette.

Now, I have a pretty good brain, but not a terribly quick one. If it were quicker, I would have done the afore-mentioned calculations and told him that if he gave up smoking for two days, he could afford my novel. If he gave it up for a week, he could afford the top tier of the New York Times Best-Seller List!

Well, today, all of my published work—short stories and novels—are available as e-books, that is, every one can individually be downloaded to your Kindle or Nook e-reader. It’s quick (takes seconds, literally); It’s cheap (even the novels are below four bucks); and heaven knows, it’s healthier for you.

And, whereas a pack of smokes may last you a day, it will probably take you several day’s worth of reading to get through Grave Departure.

Both activities—smoking and reading—will (or should) cause you to think. Grave Departure will compel you to think about how you would have acted, had you found yourself in such a position as the detective portrayed in the novel finds himself.

Smoking will (or should) compel you to think about how your health is deteriorating with every passing day. So, in paraphrasing the Surgeon General’s remarks: Warning, failure to download Grave Departure can be hazardous to your health!

Be good to your body, and start clearing up both your lungs and you mind…download a bargain instead of lighting up.

For Kindles: Amazon

For Nooks: Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So Who's Abusing Children Now?

NCAA President Mark Emmert recently placed punitive sanctions on Penn State University for allowing a known pedophile to victimize boys on their campus from 1998 to 2011. That felon has been dealt with by the legal system and is now facing a lifetime behind bars.

The “big four” administrative department heads responsible for allowing this abuse of children, are University President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy Curley, and head football coach Joe Paterno.  Paterno died earlier this year, and the other three face their own day in court.

Emmert said, “…the cultural, systemic, and leadership failures at Penn State had to be addressed, and that the NCAA’s  approach demands that Penn State become an exemplary NCAA member by eradicating the mindset that led to this tragedy.” 

His words.  You see, he just wants to eliminate the “mindset” that placed football above the welfare of innocent children.

So who is he punishing? Obviously, Emmert thinks that the football team (all of whom were in grammar school when this crime began) must answer for those who were complicit in these crimes. That's sort of like the IRS telling your children that they must take a year off from their 7th grade studies and do time in prison, because you cheated on your tax return.

After all, the IRS would want to eliminate the “mindset” that it’s good to cheat the Internal Revenue Service.

So why is Emmert sticking it to Penn State and their thousands of students, alumni, and followers? Surely he can’t consider them guilty of anything more than pride in their school and their football team. The guilty parties are either deceased, behind bars, or likely soon to be.

Abusing those younger and less powerful than yourself is not condoned by many in Western Culture, at least outside of Oscar Wilde and his admirers. Some people abuse those they consider subordinate for a simple, albeit psychologically cruel reason—because they can!

NCAA president Mark Emmert certainly can punish the thousands of innocent fans and students of Penn State who were completely ignorant of anything wrong with the football program outside of its failure to win a national title since the 1980s. So he did—punish the innocents, that is.

What good these punitive measures do for the football program, the university, its student body, or its legacy, is beyond me. And keep in mind; I said what good do these measures do.

This isn’t the first time there has been a massacre of innocents. I just wonder if King Herod the Great rationalized his slaughter of the innocents by declaring that he was taking this punitive action to eliminate the mindset that anyone but he should be king.

Crowned heads seem to still have a way of abusing those younger and less powerful than themselves.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hey! Got a minute?

I can’t—and won’t —speak for anyone else, but when we were kids hanging on a street corner, we always viewed ourselves as “being busy”—that is, we had to be doing what we were then doing, which of course, was “nothing.”

Anyone who has ever seen the 1956 Academy Award-winning movie, Marty would know exactly what I’m talking about. The theme of that film revolved around a group of single young men who, night after night, did little more than hang around a bar and talk about what they were going to do. Which usually turned out to be—hanging around!

I will have to admit, as teenagers, we would spend our summer days playing ball, then at night, we’d all gather on the corner and do essentially the same thing we had done the night before…and the night before that. And what we did was—nothing! It’s what young people tend to do with their time. Time means less to them than it does to someone in middle age, and a lot less to them than it means to a senior citizen.

That’s why it annoys me—yes, I do get annoyed—whenever I see a TV show that depicts youth as perpetually busy, while senior citizens are continually shown as dozing, sitting on a park bench, dozing, ambling along with a walker or cane, dozing, gossiping unashamedly, dozing, and drinking the omnipresent cup of tea.

In truth, I have much more on my plate nowadays than I ever did as a teenager. For example, in the past three months alone, my wife and I have decorated our daughter’s house for her daughter’s wedding, attended a college graduation of  another daughter who went back to school after having one successful career, saw a granddaughter off to a senior prom, attended another granddaughter’s wedding rehearsal, followed two days later by her wedding.

In that time I also published two novels as e-books, edited a dozen special sections for the Cape May County Herald, and celebrated our wedding anniversary ( and of course, Mother’s Day). Moreover, we usually spend one day a week volunteering at a local nursing home in our “spare time.”

I added one other activity for 2012—having cancer radiation therapy every weekday for 39 days, which, by the way, did slow me down.

All this is a lot better than “killing time hanging on a corner,” but then again, adults—at least those in middle age or their senior years—know that time is not to be killed, because as a wise senior citizen once said, “Lost time is never found again.” I think that was Benny the Frank.

So…the next time you see some 60-something adult portrayed as just watching the world pass them by, remember…it’s fiction!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Say It Ain't So, Joe

I was hoping I’d never have to write this piece, but recent revelations regarding the Penn State cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual predations dictate that I do.

If the information uncovered by the Freeh investigation is accurate—and I’ve little reason to believe it isn’t—then Joe Paterno did indeed take an active part in hiding the deeds of his assistant coach. Deeds that were both illegal and monstrous.

The damaging evidence can be inferred from the “Timeline” section of the report on page 23, wherein the plan devised by University President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Timothy Curley on February 26, 2001 includes a three-fold action: 1. Confront Sandusky, 2. Notify the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), 3. Notify the Board of the Second Mile Foundation.

However, this plan is “downgraded” to just confronting Sandusky after it is discussed with Paterno. The ‘new’ plan is to offer Sandusky professional help. If Sandusky does not then cooperate, the notifications to the DPW and Second Mile can proceed.

I read this as Paterno having the ultimate authority here. What else could I infer?

I at first gave Paterno the benefit of the doubt—doubt motivated by my lack of knowledge about what exactly he knew, and what exactly he could have done. I believed he followed the rules strictly and took what action he was mandated to take.

Now, e-mails attributed to Paterno indicate that he not only advised those around him to keep silent about Sandusky’s crimes, but his inaction even allowed this predator to continue his odious assaults for more than 10 years following the discovery of the crime.

The Freeh report states that the four most powerful people at the university—Spanier, Schultz, Curley, and Paterno—failed to protect against a child sexual predator for more than a decade! These men failed to notify the school’s Board of Trustees about allegations against Sandusky.

I initially defended Paterno’s actions, saying that he did what was required. But it appears now that he did not. He may have even been complicit in the crimes by his colluding with university officials in concealing the abominable actions of another—another over whom he obviously had some control.

Cover-ups beget cover-ups; lies beget lies. And now Paterno’s legacy is taking on the shape of someone who aided and abetted a serial rapist. Although the executives of the college—the president, vice president, and athletic director—were making the Lion’s share (pun intended) of decisions, it’s Paterno’s legacy that most people around the nation are interested in.

As one who has been a fan of Penn State football since childhood, and one who has admired Joe Paterno for almost half a century, what do I now request? Say it ain’t so, Joe?

So what do we do now? The legal system has taken care of Sandusky, and I believe it will soon do likewise for other culpable figures. But Paterno died months ago.

Legal punishment is impossible, but the school, its untold numbers of students and supporters, need to take more action; action outside the law, if you will. The prominent debate on that score is now revolving around the bronze statue of Paterno that is captioned with the words, “Educator, Coach, Humanitarian.”

Should the statue stay or go? Paterno did a lot of great things while at Penn State, not the least of which was endowing a library with a lot of his own effort and money. And he won a lot of football games, including two national titles. So perhaps the sculpture can remain.

But if it does, considering his failure to protect the young boys that came under his assistant coach’s influence, and his conspiracy with those around him to cover up that coach’s crimes, it is not unreasonable to suggest removing the first and last words of the statue’s caption.

Much the same as the stripes are ripped from a soldier’s sleeve when he is disgraced and reduced in rank, Paterno’s sleeve should be stripped of the labels Educator and Humanitarian.

Library notwithstanding, he failed to educate Sandusky’s victims to the danger of the man.

And that is flagrantly inhuman.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bully for Us All

Bullying seems to presently be our culture’s “cause da jour.” Barely a week goes by without someone writing a book about this problem or starting a charity to combat its consequences. And that’s admirable. As far as it goes.

But as is the case with so many of our difficulties, no one I’ve heard thus far is attacking the root cause. If this is a cultural malady, then there’s something festering in our culture. That fester needs more than a Band-Aid. It needs an antibiotic.

Bullying has always been prevalent. But why does it seem so much more common today? Well, I’m going to blame the same culprit that I see as having a bad influence on most of our society—Television, or more broadly: what passes for entertainment today.

Watch most any sit-com long enough and there will be an episode wherein there is an attempt to joke about some poor young soul having to systematically give up his lunch money to the school thug. Anyone who’s ever been in that position knows that’s not funny.

But what do you expect when children rule the roost? That’s exactly what has happened. Before the 1960s, most bullies were eventually dealt with sternly by the adults in their lives: their parents, their teachers, their neighbors…and even some of their victims. Now, sternness (however deserved) of any degree is interpreted as brutality.

There is an episode of the old Dick VanDyke show, that could never be aired today. It’s episode 20 of the first season, broadcast February 7, 1962, and entitled, “A Word A Day.”

Dick asks a clergyman how his father disciplined him as a child, and the clergyman answers, “With an understanding smile and a rap in the mouth.” The line got a big laugh—back in 1962.

Today, that line would generate hate mail, boycotts of the program’s sponsors, and perhaps even cancellation of the show.

An increase in bullying is a symptom. That increase is a part of the price we are paying for relinquishing our responsibility as adults—a tendency that has increased over the past several generations. It’s a signpost indicating: you are now entering 21st century culture.

My task here is not to advocate one form of chastisement over another. I’m not a child psychologist; just a parent. As always, my goal is to make people think. Every change comes with cost. Did the escalating permissive attitude that took hold in the 60s cost us control over our children? If so, how much control did we lose?

More importantly, how can we regain that control without swinging back too far in the opposite direction?

If you’re at least thinking about this right now. I’m content.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Love the Glove

Although it’s been no strict secret, it hasn’t been common knowledge that I’ve been going through radiation treatment for prostate cancer these past several months.

I was diagnosed in December, 2011, and for the past six months I’ve gone through bone-scans, pelvic scans, cat scans, dog scans, raccoon scans…hormone therapy, and ultimately the radiation, which concluded in June. Prognosis is excellent since they caught this early, and Doc says I could be back 100 percent by the end of summer.

So guys, I’m here to join a long list of people, like baseball manager Joe Torre and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who encourage you to get checked out. This is no big deal if caught early. Get yourself to the doctor and go through the tests.

As adults, we know that sometimes we have to do things we would rather not—things like a rectal exam once a year. Hey, it takes four seconds for one of these exams! And those four seconds can bring a year of peace of mind.

Along with a simple blood test, you can spot prostate problems quickly, and if a biopsy is called for and proves positive, there are several different treatments that can beat this thing. Prostate cancer is one of the most curable of cancers, and although you’ve heard this before—early detection is key.

I can’t tell you enough about how swift and stress-free this treatment is. It poses no real threat to a normal lifestyle while you’re going through it (some guys get their daily five-minute treatment on the way to work), and side-effects are both bearable and temporary.

And while dealing with my people—the staff at Delaware Valley Urology Cancer Treatment Center in Cherry Hill—I found them to be one of the most professional, friendly, and calming medical offices I’ve ever been to.

Guys…if you’re over 40, just start looking into this. Don’t put this off. Get taken care of early. The technology available today means that prostate cancer has met its match.

So don’t be afraid of that rubber glove. Four seconds now can mean a lifetime of health.

Besides, I need all the healthy readers I can get to log on to

Although you’ll find access to all of my published work there, you’ll find no mention of rubber gloves on that Web site.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Class of 2012 Shouldn't Neglect Paul

Fifty years ago this month I graduated from high school. I like to believe the intervening half-century of experience has conferred upon me at least some ability to give advice to those of you who now sit where I did back in June of 62.

You’ve heard all the platitudes by now, so I’ll try to be brief, and I’ll try to make some sense—by first telling you a quick story, then, I’m going to get a little Biblical on you. Don’t worry; there’s a lot of good advice in Scripture—not all of it especially religious.

I was not the greatest student back in high school; Aaah, let’s face it…I was a wise guy. No one…and I mean no one…could tell me what to do at age 17. And I had a favorite response for anyone who would try. “I got everything under control,” I would say.

That line always sent my father into hysterics, because, truth was, I had control of very little in my life. That’s because my education (despite my cap and gown) was far from complete.

Well, after military service, and after putting myself through college, I kind of realized that my education was still not complete. I also began to realize that my education would never really be completed.

Then came a day ten years ago, when I finally started to understand why. I reunited with a high school buddy that I hadn’t spoken to for 35 years. After ten minutes he said to me, “What the hell happened to you? You used to be so crazy!” And believe me, he didn’t mean this as a compliment; that is, he didn’t think I had improved since high school.

Well, that’s when I quoted to him from First Corinthians. In chapter 13 verse 11, Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

So…I’ve been gradually putting away the things of a child for 50 years now. Not all of them—I still try to hang on to my childish amazement of a 500-foot homerun, or of a good guitar riff, or even a pie in the face (done correctly, of course).

And there’s nothing quite as delightful as children’s innocence as they look hopefully at the great things in life…like a loved-one’s smile, or a day at the beach, or a really cold fudgesicle.

So now, as you look at yourself wearing that mortarboard and tassel on your head, believe this if you believe nothing else: Your education begins in earnest—now! And if you’re fortunate, it will never stop.

Best of luck to the Class of 2012 as they move forward. And if you read First Corinthians, Chapter 13 every once in a while, I think you’ll do just fine.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Honor Is Not Chiseled in Stone

My brother John is a doctor of chiropractic. He is convinced that he was put on this earth to get people healthy—one spine at a time! And to that end, he is a zealous worker and advocate for sensible diet and lifestyle choices.

OK, so he knows his mission on this Earth. While recently at his office in Furlong, Pennsylvania, I asked him just what he thought were my reasons for being here. I mean, what’s my mission here on Earth?

He said that I was here to tell people the truth—but in an almost evangelical way. He said that I was to use my writing ability to bring people into the light, as it were. To help the scales fall from their eyes.

He thinks people have been spoon-fed a way of life founded on self-gratification. It’s fed to them through the entertainment industry and through the news media.

This is nothing new to me; I’ve essentially known this for decades. It’s now culturally popular to believe that today’s self-aggrandizement is hip, moral, and if you feel or do otherwise, you just may be bordering on committing a hate-crime.

But this is the first time someone has declared to me that it’s my task to start helping people open their eyes.

So Dr. John has proclaimed me the eye-opener for our country. Well, at least an eye-opener. I have to really bear-down and start exposing untruths. Start debunking some commonly-held dogma.

I’ll start with Oliver Stone, the acclaimed Hollywood director that came into his own after making the movie, “Platoon” back in 1986, for which he won an Academy Award as best director.

Many young people (who would otherwise know nothing about the Vietnam War), take the movie “Platoon” to be gospel in its depiction of the depravity of our army. They in effect, believe Stone, who served in the outfit portrayed—that of B Company of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Infantry Division.

There’s one problem: Stone made it up. When his former commanding officer, Colonel Robert Hemphill, saw the movie, he contacted Stone and asked him why he portrayed events in the movie that never, in fact, took place. Stone gave a terse answer to his former colonel—he said he used artistic license. That was his excuse!

And isn’t that what we’re seeing being advocated today by the industry: a licentious lifestyle?

Most of the soldiers, sailors, guardsmen, airmen, and marines who served in Vietnam did so honorably. Perhaps even Oliver Stone did. Too bad he didn’t continue to act honorably in his post-military career.