HCAYMAN

Seriously Irreverent Musings

Author: hkraushaar (page 1 of 11)

Tonality

Sometimes stuff just hits you right between the eyes. Sometimes it just resonates so totally you know it’s true, that its tonality is utterly undeniable. Then you recoil with the knowledge that you have seen your future.

For Jon Landau, such a moment occurred in 1974, as he watched Bruce Springsteen perform for the first time. He was transfixed by what he saw and heard, motivating him to write that he had seen rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.

For me, such a moment occurred when I saw my first Tonal advertisement. We were at Jeff’s, house watching football games and chatting. Besides the games, the big event of the day for me was the blind bourbon tasting Jeff had planned.

I had come into a windfall late in 2019, ending up with two bottles of 20 year aged Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bourbon, arguably the most overvalued bourbon in history. Over the years, Jeff has plied Pam and me with copious amounts of ridiculously expensive tequila, so I gave one of my bottles of Pappy to Jeff as payback. Rightly, Jeff felt that the Pappy should be the featured bourbon in the taste test.

As I was sampling bourbon, I suddenly knew I would be leaving Equinox sooner rather than later, and that my exercise future would be home based. This realization must have thrown my bourbon taste buds into a tizzy. I ended up ranking my go to bourbon, Woodford Reserve, a great, reasonably priced bourbon, slightly above the 20 year Pappy, which at the time was selling for over $2,000 a bottle. That was the first time Tonal impacted my life. It would not be the last.

Exercise has been important to me since the summer of 1974. both in terms of health and enjoyment. I have enjoyed my years of running by myself and with a track club, swimming with a masters team, and pretending to lift weights at the gym, not to mention my couple of year stint in the Pilates studio.

For the past 17 years, I have been working out at Equinox, spending more time on treadmills than pushing weights. I am a weird guy. I do not exercise with music, and I generally avoid classes. I like listening to my body when I run, and I am not motivated by group grinds in spin classes. As I have aged, nearing and reaching the medicare threshold earlier this year, I have grudgingly admitted to myself that weight training may be more important for my health than cardio.

The thing was, though, that I just was not super motivated to lift. And when I did, I just went through the motions. I spent some money with a trainer which helped, but I could not justify the cost on an ongoing basis.

As Equinox prices continued to climb, I was thinking about quitting. What held me back were my gym cronies. I had been working out at 5 AM in the same place for 17 years. I was part of a great group. We were consistent. We were nice. We got to the gym at the same time. Heck, we even parked at the same meters in the same places year after year. The group was what kept me at Equinox. I would miss Doug, Gene, Josh, Shelley, Gavin, David, Three Bottles, and all the rest if I quit. So I hadn’t.

But I kept thinking about it. Then I saw the Tonal ad. I was mesmerized. I was intrigued. I was blown away with its functional, space saving design. I knew I should get one, but Doug, Gene, Josh, Shelley, Gavin, David, Three Bottles kept popping into my mind.

Then we went into Covid-19 lockdown. The gym was a four letter word to me. I did not care how clean the machines were kept. I just could not get over being that close to the exhalations of the other people. All of a sudden Doug, Gene, Josh, Shelley, Gavin, David, Three Bottles were not so important. I knew I was ready to make the change, but still not quite ready to pull the trigger.

One day I was speaking with my sister, Arlene, and I mentioned that I was thinking about getting a Tonal. She gasped and said, “I just ordered mine!”

At that point, I decided to act. I ordered my Tonal and began the tortuous wait for it to arrive. Well, it finally got here a couple of weeks ago. I am easing my way into it, as I have spent the past five months running and doing light calisthenics, including pushing around five pound weights, not a good platform for beginning a weight training regime.

I love the machine. I am using the coached workouts to get my body back into an overall toned state. More importantly, I am learning how to do the exercises correctly. The machine keeps tons of statistics. I ignore them. It has a killer AI that sets weights for me, I generally ignore that, too. I do not care about my strength score, about how much stronger I am or about how much I have lifted. I just like how I feel after doing the workouts. It is the best of both worlds for me. Coaches without judgement and without the competition of others. Equinox is in my rear view mirror and fading fast. I can see me using this machine for years.

Now I just need to find a few cronies.

Buckless

Just about 75 years ago to the day, Harry S. Truman made what is arguably the most difficult decision any President of the United States has ever had to make. In early August 1945 he decided to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.

Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, had unexpectedly come into office a few months prior, after the death of FDR. Until late April 1945, he did not know the bombs existed. My suspicion is that he wished he never learned they did. But he had to play the hand he was dealt.

33 never shied away from his decision. He never shirked his personal responsibility. No doubt he was the Commander in Chief and it was his responsibility, but with great power comes great responsibility.

We may debate the rightness or the wrongness of his decision, but we cannot debate that it was his call to make, as he was the only person in America, or the entire world, with the responsibility on his shoulders. He made it, and subsequently, he owned it in a manner fitting the placard he kept on his desk stating The Buck Stops Here.

75 years later, the bucks have stopped accumulating in the Oval Office. In fact, the office is bankrupt. No bucks have passed into it in three and a half years, or if they have, they have just kept on going without anybody thinking of stopping them.

The 45th President of the United States has inherited an issue that trumps the decision to drop the atomic bombs. He did not create the issue, but he is responsible for leading our response to it and for helping the world deal with it. Sadly, he does not understand what it means to be a leader, and he has no idea how to lead us in a concerted, unified response. The result is a sub-optimal chaotic response that is, quite literally, killing us.

In his view, all he has to do is talk about his acts, his decisions and the great job he is doing, while at the same time undermining all the attempts to manage the response in states that are on the other side of the fence politically. I guess he thinks that telling us enough times that either the problem will just go away or that he is handling it effectively will make it true. The shocking part to me is that there are Americans who still believe him.

I have lived for 65 of the 75 years since the bombs were dropped on Japan. My first recollection of politics and political leaders occurred when I was forced by my mother to watch the Nixon Kennedy debates prior to the 1960 election. In those days, we only had one TV in the house, not one in each room. So, I really did not have a choice. That was the first time I saw Richard Nixon. It was not love at first sight, even for a five year old.

From that point forward, until 45 came along, Nixon was firmly established in my mind as the oiliest, smarmiest, least trustworthy President ever to hold office. Sadly, I long for him to be back in office today. At least he was a statesman and enough of a leader to collect a few bucks.

Eight Mondays A Week

With all due respect to Carole King and Gerry Goffin, I woke up that morning feeling fine. There was somebody special on my mind…

Unlike most recent days, that particular Saturday was going to be different. Change, glorious change, was in the air.

Our granddaughter, Portia, was coming over, and she was staying for the weekend. My Porsches, the four wheeled kind, as opposed to the two legged kind, were going to be a tad jealous. Most likely, I would not even notice them that weekend, because Portia would garner all our attention.

Yup, I thought, it was going to be an interesting weekend, and that was before I knew Portia’s dog, Stasi, was coming, too. If I’d have known Stasi was coming, I would have gone back to sleep, hoping to hibernate the weekend away. It’s not that she is a bad dog, she isn’t. It’s just that she loves to look out the windows and bark at everything passing by. She and our dog, Jake, love each other and have a good time, but they really raise a ruckus. Stasi takes a lot of work without Portia being here. Having both at the same time always feels overwhelming. Of course, Pam and Kim knew on Friday that Stasi was coming, but they opted to keep me in the dark. Most likely that was a good idea.

Pam loves being a grammy. She is really good at it. She is referred to as Grammy Pammy. I love being grumpy. I am really good at it. That is why I am referred to as Grumpy, with no need to qualify it further, as adding Harry on the end of it would be redundant, not to mention the fact that Harry does not rhyme with Grumpy.

As I lay in bed, I felt more excited about a weekend than I had in quite some time, despite all the extra work Pam, and to a much lesser extent I, was going to have to do.

Since Covid-19 began, most days are pretty similar for us. The Beatles sang about love everyday in Eight Days a Week, using the impossible number eight to stress how they loved their partner everyday. If they wrote the same song today, they would title it Eight Mondays a Week. Not to express their love, but to lament the sameness of every day during the Covid-19 lockdown.

I led a pretty regimented, read consistent, life prior to Covid-19. Some might have said I was on the OCD spectrum. I would disagree, as I believe my actions were predicated on the fact that I did what I did in the way I did it to maximize my benefit while minimizing the cost I incurred in terms of hassle, time, money, pain etc. I felt my behaviors were outcome based and not driven by irrational fears.

I must admit that the benefit I derive from some of my actions is kinda insignificant. One of my habits, a holdover from my more intense running days, is that when I buy a new pair of running socks I number each one with the same number, enabling me to match them up after each wash, thereby ensuring that each sock in a pair is run in for the same number of minutes and washed the same number of times, resulting in consistent wear patterns and the avoidance of sock related blisters. As the number of minutes I run each week has dwindled as my age has increased, the likelihood of me getting a running related blister has decreased significantly, but I still dutifully number each sock. So maybe I have an irrational fear of blisters and am on that spectrum after all.

But I digress. Each week in the Covid-19 lockdown has a cadence. There has been very little variability. Even though I had limited variability prior to Covid-19, at least Pam and I did stuff. We ate out. We went to concerts. We saw shows. We saw movies. We saw friends. We went to our respective gyms. I did stuff on my own. I drove my cars for fun. I had cronies. Our lives were full. Of course, we really enjoyed the weekends we had no plans, as they were so relaxing.

That all changed with Covid-19. Now the only cronies I see are the checkers I know at the market and the lady behind the counter at the bagel store. I really enjoy chatting with them, as doing so makes me feel like life is almost normal, despite our masks muffling our conversations and hiding our facial expressions. We do see a handful of friends in an extremely socially distant way and that also helps us feel more normal.

But the reality is that we have very little we can do outside the house, which results in a daily sameness that permeates us to our cores. So instead of cherishing weekends without plans, now we cherish ones with plans. That is human nature, I suppose.

None of that mattered on that Saturday morning. What mattered was that I woke up feeling fine and there was someone special on my mind…

Divided We Fall

People have been espousing this sentiment for millennia, ever since Aesop uttered it in his fables in ancient Greece.

Americans have been espousing it for over 200 years. In 1792, Patrick Henry, in his last public speech, said, “Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.”

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln referenced it in his House Divided Speech, opening with, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

Apparently, we need to reiterate this sentiment, because we currently live in a house more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Thanks to 24 hour news channels, we are bombarded with biased stories all day, every day. For many of us, the result has been the utter disbelief of anything the other side says is true. Generally, this is dysfunctional, but not deadly.

It is deadly now, as we live in the era of Covd-19, a novel disease without a cure as of yet, a disease that scientists have proven is primarily transmitted via particles in the air, a disease that can infect a carrier without manifesting symptoms, a disease that takes several days for symptoms to appear, a disease that is running rampant across the globe, with its current epicenter in the United States.

Scientists around the world have determined that wearing a mask is crucial to slowing the spread of the disease. Logic tells us that slower spread is better than faster spread until a cure is found or a vaccine is developed. The logic is irrefutable. It is not debatable. More spread means more illness, more hospital stays, more economic impact, and, eventually, more death.

So why is there any debate? Why do we not have a national mandate to wear masks? What irreparable harm comes from mandating their use? No one is espousing that they be worn forever. In my opinion, if wearing a mask prevents the spread of one case of Covid-19, it is worth the sacrifice of each of us putting a mask on each of our faces. But we will not be preventing the spread of just one case. If we wear masks we will be preventing the spread of thousands or, more likely, millions, of cases.

Maybe I am just too much of a bleeding heart to understand what the true cost is of wearing a mask. Maybe I do not sufficiently cherish my right to be free. Maybe I put too much faith in the scientists. I mean, they were wrong about wearing masks several month ago. How do I know they are not wrong now? Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Or maybe not. None of the maybes matter. The absolute fact is that we are facing a common enemy. An enemy that can strike at each of us at any time. We need to fight it with a cohesive, unified strategy. We need to put our bias, our divisions, our beliefs aside and act in a manner that is best for all of us, not in a manner that is best for each of us. To not do so, results in a divided house, which, quite possibly, will fall in on itself.

Pause

I didn’t intend my statement to be taken in a self-centered, woe is me, my life sucks, the world is ending sort of way, though Pam, and then Kim, took it that way. Ever since, I have been the butt of their jokes, even more so than usual. My statement was so funny to them that they even told our friends what a stupid comment I made. I guess it’s good that I have thick, old man, skin.

I had been sitting at my desk, where I have been spending the vast majority of my waking hours this year, when, for some reason, I started thinking about Uber, and how I may never take one again for quite some time. This led me to reminisce about last year.

2019 was a crazy year for me. For the first time in my life, work turned me into a road warrior. I flew over 60,000 domestic miles, traveling every two or three weeks, either to Northern California or to the East or South East. I was at the airport so often, I began to recognize the baggage handlers and the ticket agents, not to mention the flight attendants. It got so bad, I started drinking alcohol, usually bourbon, on the homeward flights. I had never done that before.

I spent over 50 nights in hotels, generally ones that were functional, but not luxurious. I got used to working out in postage stamp sized hotel gyms, usually going to them at between 4 AM and 5 AM to ensure no one else was using them. I ate many, many meals alone, either in hotels or restaurants. Rarely did I use room service, as I found it too claustrophobic.

And, of course, I took lots of Uber rides. More than I could count, and more than I care to remember, though none were bad. The good news was that I took full advantage of my Amex Platinum card Uber and airline benefits, thereby essentially paying for the card’s annual fee.

When I wasn’t traveling, I was working from home or visiting clients. My days started early, as I was always at Equinox in Beverly Hills by 5 AM during the week.

This year I commute to my den where my desk is, though I have made lots of trips via Zoom, Skype, Microsft Meetings, Google Hangouts, etc. I cannot image going to the airport, staying at a hotel, or getting into an Uber. I struggle to even want to drive, having put about 500 miles on my Cayman, my daily driver, since November, though I have put about 200 miles on my 89 Carrera, driving it to Shelby’s sporadically and once in a really blue moon going somewhere else. I would need to review my credit card statements to determine the last time I bought gas.

I have not eaten in a restaurant since early March, and I have no idea when I will go back to one. We do take out on a regular basis, so we are keeping some restaurants in business. Generally, I have been cooking more, though I have to admit my diet is not as clean as it was last year, as I have given in to the desire for Covid-19 comfort foods, especially homemade pizza, beef stew and that all-time artery clogger, tuna lasagna, on a regular basis.

Lastly, I have not been to Equinox since early March, and after 17 or so years, I terminated my membership. I have no desire to be near anyone else while they are working out. Instead, I have been sleeping in, sort of, running outside, and doing a homemade calisthenics routine, complete with jumping jacks, on a regular basis. I have purchased a Tonal and can’t wait for it to arrive some time next month. Ironically, I seem to be healthier since not frequenting the gym at the butt crack of dawn. My blood pressure is down, despite being irritated by DT everytime I listen to the TV.

As I sat at my desk and had that random thought about Uber, all of the changes I was experiencing this year flashed through my brain, and, as is usually the case, without a pause and without any context, I blurted out to Pam, “My life is so different this year!”

Clearly, I was well aware that I was not alone. Everyone’s life is different this year. I was also not complaining, as my life, despite Covid-19, is still really good. I was just stating a fact. None of that mattered. Pam heard what she heard, not what I was thinking or intending, and I have been the butt ever since.

American Spring

I am hopeful that Spring 2020 will be looked back upon as a watershed time for America. Winter ended with the outbreak of Covid-19. We were introduced to social distancing and a concept called flattening the curve.

Spring began, and it was a weird time for us. We were acting like a tale of two countries, those that believed in the need to socially distance and those who didn’t. It did not help that our president continuously played politics while our countrymen died, despite selfless, life sacrificing efforts by our health care and other essential workers.

As Spring wore on, we learned just how critical our governors and local leaders were to the running of America, something many of us, including me, took for granted or, frankly, seriously underestimated. This was hammered home when our president, in a cowardly display of political posturing, correctly informed us that our governors had the power to implement our Covid-19 response and that the federal government was not a shipping clerk.

When it became clear that our economy could not survive the carnage imposed upon it by the lock-down and social distancing, the brunt of the leadership again fell to our governors and local leaders, with our president continuing to show an utter absence of leadership and, even worse, using social media to undermine governors with whom he disagreed.

Then Minneapolis happened.

At first the response was predictable and justified. Shock and rage were rightfully expressed. As the days wore on, the heinous nature of the crime did not diminish. Nor did the heinousness of the local lack of response.

At first the outrage was localized, but that did not last long. It soon began to spread to major cities. In Los Angeles last weekend, I went to sleep to the sound of sirens. I woke up to the same sounds. Walking around my neighborhood, I saw the negative aspects of protests, the shattered windows, the boarded windows, the graffiti, and the stores stripped of goods. On TV I watched the organized looters make a mockery of the Santa Monica and the Los Angeles police, using diversion to attract attention in one area while looting in another.

Then our president spoke and acted. He threatened to send our military against us. He dangerously disrupted a peaceful demonstration for a corny photo op. He proved yet again how useless and misguided he was as a leader.

Frankly, I was mad. And I was scared. Having said that, I was also hopeful. I was hopeful because across America, and to my utter amazement, many other parts of the world, began to protest the actions of the few, to call attention to the systematic, structural issues plaguing the less fortunate in America.

This week, the protests changed. The protesters came from all walks of life. All races. All sexes. All orientations. All ages. The looting stopped. Knees were bent. Hands were clasped. The message was heard. For now.

The protests have achieved their initial goal, opening eyes and calling attention to real issues. Questions remain about how real change will be made, and if it is, how sustainable it will be. Will it be like a rip tide which starts strong and generally peters out after a few hundred yards? Or will it be like a tidal wave that wreaks some destruction in a local area but subsides after a few months or a year? Or will it be a sea change, which generates long-term results? I hope we can achieve a sea change.

The one-two punch of Covid-19 and George Floyd have hammered our faults as a nation home. Too many of us are a week away from economic ruin, and too many of us are an institutionalized act away from losing our lives. The only way to create and sustain change is by voting, voting in every election and in every race. Countless Americans have died to protect our right to vote. Sadly, many of us do not deserve to have that right, as we consistently eschew the voting booths.

It is a sad fact that less than 60% of eligible voters vote in presidential elections and around 50% of eligible voters vote in mid-term elections. On the surface that is bad enough, but a deeper dive into the statistics shows that the majority of those who vote are those trying to hold on to what they have as opposed to those who vote to engender change.

As Americans, we have the ability to mold our world, to create the structure under which we live. To some degree those rights are being attacked, either by preventing voting by mail or making it more difficult to vote due to a reduction in the number of polling places or the economic cost of taking time off to vote.

As Spring winds down and Summer begins, we need to change the dialog with our leaders. We have a window of time in which to act. We need to speak to them, loudly, about how serious we are about voting in the Fall.

It’s A Virtual Life

It’s Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend. Traditionally, on this day I watch The Grand Prix of Monaco followed by the Indianapolis 500, and ….. if I have not totally OD’d on motor sports …. I might watch Nascar’s Coca Cola 600 from Charlotte.

I am so starved for live motor sports, that I would gladly watch all three this year, including all the commercials, but only the Nascar race is being run today. Given my general disinterest in the normal “money sports,” like baseball, basketball, and to a lesser extent, football, I have not really cared that the seasons for those sports have been truncated or cancelled, though at this point in my retirement in place, even baseball might start to be slightly interesting.

Speaking of baseball, I had a really good laugh over the rules that MLB was planning to put into place for re-opening the baseball season. The one that made me chuckle the most was the no spitting rule. I just cannot imagine baseball sans chewing tobacco. What has the world come to? Oh yeah, it’s become a Covid-19, Socially Distant, Virtual World.

Most of the live entertainment I have been watching since the lock-down has centered around home based musical performances, which have been surprisingly good, especially The Rolling Stones predominately acoustic version of You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Bruce’s acoustic version of Land of Hope and Dreams and his version of Tom Wait’s magnificent ballad, Jersey Girl.

The other form of live entertainment I have paid attention to are the morning new shows. In the real, pre-Covid-19, world I never watched those shows. Now I have become a Today Show junkie, something I never would have thought possible, though my ability to continue watching it is in jeopardy. Interestingly, and despite my utter lack of understanding it or expecting it, I do find that I like Hoda.

Some entertainment has actually gotten better this year. Pam and I enjoyed watching the socially distant versions of The Voice and American Idol. Something about the against all odds nature of producing those shows in this environment added to their allure for us.

But what really blew me away was Eric Church’s abridged acoustic set he played in lieu of his cancelled Stagecoach performance. For many reasons, Pam and I never go to music festivals. We had no plans to start this year, even though my favorite country artist, Eric Church, was scheduled to be a headline act at Stagecoach. We have seen him perform live a couple of times, and we love his shows. So as far as I was concerned, his 20 odd minute mini-set that I watched on YouTube, which he never would have produced but for Covid-19, was a real win for me.

So what did I do this morning in the new virtual world? Did I get my motor sport fix? Shockingly, I did. And, duh, it was virtual. I enjoyed watching the F1 Virtual Grand Prix of Monaco. It wasn’t real, but it was fun. I had to laugh, though, at how seriously the announcers took the race. They really brought it to life.

Now it is the middle of the day, and there is no substitute for Indy this year. I am sort of flipping between reruns of the 2006 and 2019 races, but none really hold my interest. At the same time, I am listening to more Covid-19 inspired acoustic performances. Currently, Luke Combs is blasting out of my speakers as I wait for the live Coca Cola 600 Nascar race to start later this afternoon.

While I have enough to keep me occupied this year, I am pretty sure the novelty will wear off real soon, and I hope next year’s Memorial Day will be less virtual and more live.

Memorial Day

Make no mistake about it, we are at war, a war that is affecting the population of our entire planet. A war being fought against an invisible enemy, an enemy that can subvert our family, our closest friends and our neighbors and turn them into our greatest foes.

I am 65 years old, and this is my first war. I came close to being drafted for the Vietnam War, and I remember the fear I felt and the tension in my body as the days wound down to the day the Selective Service System, also known as the draft board, would be assigning me a draft number. Thankfully, the draft ended, and I did not have to serve. I cannot avoid serving in this war. My goal is to do so with honor and integrity.

My dad fought in WW2. He was a member of the greatest generation, volunteering to serve in the Air Force. During the war he performed Herculean acts, all the while knowing his life was at risk every hour of every day for months on end. It took mental toughness, the support of comrades and family, and, yes, a splash of alcohol to survive.

My dad was a flight engineer with the 73rd Bomb Wing. He was part of one of many B-29 squadrons stationed on Saipan, one of the Mariana Islands. He participated in more than 30 bombing missions over Japan, including the dreadful firebombings, which turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.

For a portion of the war, he had it pretty easy, acting as a training instructor in Florida. His worst injury during that time, a broken foot, occurred while playing handball. The remaining portion of the war, when he was stationed on Saipan, was hell for him.

Throughout the years following WW2, he suffered in silence, never really discussing the war or his actions during it, though on numerous occasions he would tell us that he consumed lots of alcohol to numb his senses. When he did discuss it, he usually glossed over the details.

In the late 90s, when he and my mom attended a reunion of the men who fought with the 73rd, some of his heroic acts came to light. Many men from his crew told stories about my dad, how he was a hero, and that without him, none of them would have survived the war. My dad never told us the full extent of the danger they experienced daily, though he did laugh and say, “I used to sit on my flack jacket while we were flying to protect my testicles from the shots from below,” an act I was very happy to hear about.

To a man, his crew wanted to discuss one particular mission. It started like all the others did, as they flew from Saipan to Tokyo to drop their load of bombs. It ended much differently.

While over the Bay of Tokyo, his B-29 was hit, and it was hit hard. While it was still able to fly, the damage to the plane was extensive. It suffered instantaneous pressure loss, causing my dad’s eardrums to burst, which resulted in partial hearing loss for the rest of his life, though he had it easy when compared to the others of his crew who were either unconscious or dead.

The plane was a mess. Not all engines were operating. The rear gunner was partially sucked out of the plane, but was still stuck in what was left of his bubble. Smoke was everywhere.

A Japanese fighter was pursuing them, trying to finish them off. The crew took evasive action. They hit the deck, almost literally, dropping to about 100 feet above sea level. As they passed through 300 feet, the Japanese fighter stopped pursuing them, assuming they would splash into the Pacific.

My dad, as flight engineer, knew they would not be seen at 100 feet because they were below the radar floor, but he also knew they had bigger problems than losing the fighter because they were over 500 miles from Saipan without oxygen, flying slowly in thick, moist sea air. The likelihood of them having enough fuel to get back to base was practically nil.

As flight engineer, he knew all the specifications of the plane, and his job was to use every trick he could think of to save fuel and get them home. No one expected them to return. As the other planes in the squadron returned to Saipan, they reported that my dad’s plane was hit and most likely lost at sea.

Over four hours after the other planes returned, my dad’s plane limped to East Field in Saipan and ran out of gas as it reached the runway. Against all odds they made it back, knowing that they would have to do it all over again. His strength and courage during those times is inspirational to me.

I am not equipped to be on the front lines of this war, which is being fought in labs and hospitals and fire stations and police stations and grocery stores and farms and packing houses and other critical industries across the globe. Our scientists, doctors, nurses, police officers, firemen are our fighting force, but our clerks, truck drivers, meat packers, farmers, farm workers, delivery workers are also on the front lines.

At best, I can play a support role, sort of like those who bought war bonds in the 1940’s, doing what they could to further the war effort. Instead of building planes and other war devices, I need to do what I can to prevent the inadvertent spread of Covid-19. I need to make it as easy as possible for our current combatants to do their jobs, and I need to act in a way that protects their health.

Sadly, we need to fight this war on two fronts. The first is finding a way to beat the infection. The second is to do it without killing our economy. We cannot focus solely on the first and ignore the second, but focusing on the second will make it tougher on our combatants to fight the first.

Memorial Day is a week away. This year it will hold special significance for me. I will be tearfully thinking of my dad in a way I have not done in years. More importantly, I will be respectful of all our past and current combatants, especially the current ones who did not volunteer to be combatants, but instead were drafted into the fight. I will express my appreciation for their acts, both in my actions and my words. I will do everything I can to enable them to to do their part in this war as safely as possible. I will tell everyone I know to do the same.

I am proud of my dad. I’d like to think he would be proud of me.

DeFunked

A few short weeks ago, I smugly thought I knew all about working from home, maintaining a schedule and maintaining sanity during this prolonged period of insanity. Boy, was I wrong.

I may have known what to do, but I could not continue to implement effectively. Through a perfect storm of stress causing issues, including personal, work and fear, I found myself in a serious funk.

My schedule went to hell. I stopped working out early, mainly because the gym closed, but also because I lost the desire to do so. I stopped shaving regularly. I found the need to drink more often. Then I stopped going to the market, something I found very stressful. It turns out that relying upon Instacart to pick fruit and make substitutions was not good for my stress level.

In all fairness, I have it pretty easy compared to most, but that did not stop me from spiraling into a funk. I knew I was stressed. I had pain in the pit of my stomach, resulting in an inability to eat or to at least enjoy eating. I mean I did not even crave chocolate.

My heart rate, which usually hovers at or below 60 was in the 70s. I heard it all night, mainly because I was up most of the night, but also because it was beating faster than normal, a good indication that my flight or fight response was being triggered continuously.

I was working out, but I tried to do it in the middle of the day, a bad idea as that added to my stress.

During this time, one of my friends asked me what I missed most since the retirement in place orders began. He was referring to real acts, like eating out, going to the movies, seeing friends, etc. I answered, eschewing references to real acts. Instead, I told him, “I miss the ability to leave the house, have groceries delivered, pick up a piece of mail. or open a box from Amazon without wondering if I am risking my life.”

Each night, I slept a couple of hours. Then I would wake up to a racing heart. If it wouldn’t have woken Pam up, I would have read my Kindle in bed to relax. Instead, I found myself wandering around the house, laying on the couches in the den or the living room, and reading in one of those places. Eventually, I would fall back to sleep and awaken at some random time. The only good that came out of these nocturnal jaunts was that I heard strange sounds in our crawl space, leading me to determine that we had rats roaming around. Great.

About a week or so ago, my saintly wife, Pam, read a blurb on-line about the importance of maintaining a schedule during this crisis. She mentioned it to me, saying, “Didn’t you write something similar to this?” She went on to say, “What happened to you? Your schedule is non-existent.”

I took her comments to heart. I established a new schedule, running or doing calisthenics first thing in the morning. I re-instituted daily shaving. Though I did not reduce my consumption of tequila. As the days wen by, I noticed two things: First, I was sleeping better. I had no need to visit the den or living room in the middle of the night. Second, my heart rate returned to normal. These two simple acts helped me restore a sense of order in my life, and my flight or fight response was no longer my best friend.

I plan to keep it that way.

Indivisible(?)

For about 100 years or so the Pledge of Allegiance seems to have meant something special to all Americans, including those born here and those who immigrated here and those who have led us from the position of president. Sure it has evolved over the years. Sure it was written by a socialist minister. Sure god was added to the recital. None of that matters. The key to me was one word: Indivisible.

Since 1787, the United States has relied on its Constitution and Bill of Rights to share and balance power between its individual state and national interests. This unique approach became known as federalism, which has worked really well for us for centuries, having been only severely tested during our Civil War.

While this system works spectacularly for balancing power, it sometimes is awkward and cumbersome when dealing with crisis situations that require immediate, coordinated, consistent responses on a nationwide basis. We have been lucky since the Civil War that the majority of the crises arose beyond the borders of the United States or did not require a quick response, giving us the ability to dither for some time before settling on a national strategy. Our current crisis, Covid-19, is testing how we react to a crisis that affects all of us, including each of the states and the federal government, at the same time. It is also illuminating the weakness of our process, as each individual state has the right to pursue its own course of action in response to the crisis.

In times like this, only strong leadership at the federal level in coordination with the governors of all the states will provide the optimal solution to this crisis that all residents of the United States need and deserve. Variations in the implementation can have a very deleterious affect, thereby reducing our solution to its least common denominator, better known as its weakest link.

This is where presidential leadership matters the most. And it is what is lacking the most right now. The President seems to be more concerned with getting re-elected than solving the crisis. He is more interested in telling us he has been perfect than admitting he has made mistakes. He is more interested in playing politics that unifying the country to solve the crisis on a national level, going as far as fomenting divisiveness with his messages. Not a recipe for implementing an optimal solution.

Despite the structural framework our founders put in place to balance power across the branches of government, we need to act like one country. We pledge we are indivisible. It is time to act that way.

I welcome your comments.

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