Monday, February 1

Advice for a young man in 2034

Last month my first grandson and his lovely wife celebrated the first birthday of my great grandson. He is a handsome, delightful, bubbly Little Man (we call him that). His parents have asked family and friends to not post pictures or other data about Little Man on social networks. Naturally, I defer to them.

At Little Man's birthday party his mother had a jar for people to put comments in for him to read when he is twenty years old, in 2034. She kept the jar open for a few days for those who wished to write a more extensive note or letter. I took advantage of this opportunity to write the following:

January 5, 2016

Dear Great Grandson 

When you read this on your twentieth birthday I will be gone and in your rear view mirror. The Good Lord willing, I will have my hand on your shoulder from afar. 

What is your life like in 2034? I have witnessed changes in my personal life and the lives of those around me that have been some of the greatest achievements of the 20th and 21st centuries. Some of these may still exist in 2034, others will have been supplanted by fresh ideas and accomplishments.

When I began life in 1931, a man walking on the moon was fantasy. Yet it became a reality in my lifetime. Where does man walk today? Take notice of it and appreciate it because it is growth built on earlier accomplishments while you were a baby, a young boy, a teen-ager and are now on the cusp of being a man.

Since I do not have the pleasure of knowing life in 2034 I cannot exult in the roads open to you and your future. I can, however, share some verities that will stand you in good stead. 

One, love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and soul. Two, love and respect your parents now and forever. They were so excited at your birth and being a part of your life. You may have brothers and sisters and they are family. One thing I stressed in my family’s life was to never raise your hand or take sides against a member of the family. As I reflect now in 2015, I am proud to say all my children love one another and help each other, and are a comfort to me and were to their late mother, Mary. 

Most of all, be yourself young man. Dare to dream and achieve what your heart desires. You are from good stock and you can do whatever you set your mind to. And when you reach the final curtain may you be able to say, as I do, that life was worth living, I had a great time, I would do most things again and my regrets are few. 

God Bless you my first Great Grand. Ask your folks about me, learn the good and the bad, and keep me in your prayers.

I loved you.

Francis X. Archibald
Great Grandpa (AKA: Pe-paw)

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Tuesday, January 19

With an overcoat on

Times Square

I went to New York City early this month to visit a good, new friend and despite having a cold, and it being cold enough for an overcoat, I enjoyed this exciting place. New York City to me is one of the three premier cities in the world, London and Paris being the others. I want to share some enjoyable memory moments. For the record, I last wore my overcoat three years ago but on this trip I was glad I had not donated it.

We went to the new  World Trade Center, and an elevator took us to the 101st floor in 47 seconds. That is some ride. I hope you will click on the link and learn about this magnificent structure. To me it is New York saying to the 9/11 terrorists, "In your face, You can't keep us down."

Statue of Liberty viewed from 101st floor One World Trade Center

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Altar in St. Patrick's
The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

Principal Exhibit at MOMA

Another key stop

About 80 years ago workman building a skyscraper sat on a beam like this eating their lunch. 
High above Central Park

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Sunday, January 3

First aggravation of 2016

It was slightly after noon on January 2 when the first aggravation of the New Year reared its ugly head. I went off earlier in the morning to get a leaking tire fixed. (It had a nail in it.) This was a carryover from 2015 so it did not qualify as the first aggravation of 2016. That still lurked in the shadows like a burglar casing a neighborhood. 

On the way home I stopped at Best Buy where “Jose” helped me select a cable modem for $69 plus tax that would replace the modem furnished by my internet provider, Hargray Communications, which was failing fast. Every modem box on the shelf, and there were many, said: Stop renting a modem. Own your own. 

I took it home, dis-enaged the old one which was to be returned to Hargray and end the monthly rental fee of around $7.00. I struggled to get the new one out of the box and finally succeeded. Electronic devices are packaged to minimize sholifting and theft. It would take Houdini to open a box and shoplift one of these things in a Best Buy aisle.

I hooked it up, attached the router, plugged everything in and telephoned Hargray to have them recognize the new piece of equipment on their end. And here is where the aggravation was born. It is Hargray’s position and practice, according to the faceless tech rep on the end of the line, that a customer cannot own his own modem on their system. WHAT?

The Hargray tech rep and I argued over this practice for a couple of minutes. My warning that I would protest to the FCC fell on deaf ears. I thought about throwing Alan Dershowitz and a lawsuit into the mix, but decided against that on two counts: The tech rep probably didn’t know or care about Dershowitz, and, two, no one files a lawsuit hoping to save $7 a month in rental fees. Anyone whose retirement depends on saving $7 a month needs to continue working.  

I had to disconnect the new modem and put it back in the box for return to Best Buy. If getting it out of the box was a pain in the ass, what do you think putting it back in was?

There was one saving grace to this first agravation of 2016. The tech rep advanced Hargray’s planned service call from “next Wednesday” to “this afternoon.” A four-day advance.

The service man came, took out the old and put in a new modem. After going outside and making a phone call to some Hargray site ( I don’t understand why he went out. I wasn’t going to appropriate the secret code or whatever.) everything clicked and service was restored. 

At Best Buy, the RETURNS clerk told me she knew about Hargray’s position and it prevailed all around Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. She did not know why the sales clerks didn’t know all this and dissuade Hargray customers from buying modems in the first place. 

So ends the saga of the first aggravation of the New Year, 2016. 

Monday, December 28

A New Year cometh...

In three days 2015 will be history. This has not been the best of years. Personal loss included a sister and a wife. Personal benefits include good health, five children and families who love and support each other and me, and new friends made and kept. A great-grandson made his appearance and is a loving joy. Out of deference to his parents’ wishes, no one in the family is putting his pictures in social media on the web. But take my word for it he is a handsome little man. Siblings and close old friends continue to do well and we are grateful for that and them. 

As we greet the New Year we are on the run-up to the Presidential primaries and later the election. In this mornings paper a lead story says that all the tickets are sold out for a local (Hilton Head Island) appearance by Donald Trump. At this time a year ago not many saw this wheeler-dealer leading the Republican pack at this time. I belong to the school-of-thought that says thrill seekers will attend a manhole cover opening but not many will jump in. We shall see.

Our country collectively faces many challenges, foreign and domestic in 2016. Some of these are old problems and there will be new ones. Individually, obesity is a major problem for too many Americans. I am shocked at the size of some people I see locally and as I travel around on the East Coast. 

But every year as I grow older, I remain convinced this is still the greatest country in the world. I traveled to Northern Virginia over Christmas and saw new growth and building underway in several venues. Projects I witnessed starting a couple of years ago have been finished. People have new places to live and work.  

I have unbounded faith that we -- the American people -- will meet the challenges in 2016 and a year from now look back on a great year. 

I hope it will be so for all of you and your loved ones. Do the best you can for yourself and others. You will be happiest. 

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 15

They sent me home with the mince pie

As evening shadows were descending on Myrtle Beach, SC, on Saturday (December 12, 2015) my two daughters and a daughter-in-law were wrapping the left over Mince pie in aluminum foil and putting it along with the hard sauce in a paper bag for me to take back to the hotel. They expressed the hope that the pie (only one piece had been eaten during dessert) would also make it to my home in Hilton Head and not be eaten during the night. 

I had requestedd the Mince pie be added to the dessert table for our Big Family Christmas (BFC) get together. Obviously, it was not a big favorite. Carrot cake pastries were in the lead. In earlier days my wife, the children’s mother, and I hosted this event at our house. This early celebration was to accomodate those with small childrn who wanted to be in their own home on Christmas morning. Over the years it also accomodated children who had to travel long distances. This season a son and D-i-L planned to start the drive to their new home in Arizona on December 13. 

My daughter Wynn and her husband Rett have picked up the reins and host the annual get together in Myrtle Beach, a favorite vacation spot for Americans and Canadians who love the more than 30 golf courses available here.  All the children have been able to make it for the last few years. Earlier, some would be overseas on assignment and unable to attend. As the senior present, I gave the thanks and asked the blessing, always remembering the members of our extended families who were elsewhere on the day.

Several years ago we stopped buying gifts for all and went to drawing names and buying a gift for the person whose name we drew. The actual drawing took place right after Thanksgiving and was conducted by my daughter and her youngest son. We would get a message telling us whom we were to buy for. Two years ago we stoppeed that. We are adults and most of us have what we need or want or (excluding the latest Lexus or a trim figure.) We adopted the Chinese Christmas game.

i wound up with a Hillary Nutcracker. Actually I started out with an electronic fly-swatter and swapped it for the Nutcracker.

We had a good BFC, enjoyed the fun with family and a couple who are like family. My great-grandson was on hand with his parents. All day long he was a perfect child, not a cry, whimper or yelp out of him and he is only eleven months old. 

Back to the pie. I put it in the refrigerator at the hotel and brought it home. I am eating on it daily; being good (in case Santa is checking) and limiting myself to one slice a day.

I wish everyone a blessed and Merry Christmas. May we and the World have peace and love on this special day and experience a great New Year full of hope and progress. - Archie

Saturday, December 5

Peanut butter dripped on my shirt

I was still coming down from a non-alcoholic high on Friday morning. The final play of the Thursday Night Football game resulted in a 27-23 win for my beloved Green Bay Packers over the Detroit Lions. It wasn’t difficult to get started for the day, especially after I watched a video of the final play a couple of times and then learned that this Hail Mary pass into the end zone is somethting the Packers practice. Who knew? I would not be surprised to learn all teams practice it.

Buttressed by coffee, toast, the obligatory shower and shave, clean underwear and I was off to the Hilton Head World Affairs Council held in the Presbyteriaan Church to hear a woman who specializes on Middle East affairs, Ellen Laipson. (Click on her name to view her credentials).

Ms. Laipson gave an informative overview of how the Middle East was formed after World War I and how events are playing out in the present. There is so much in the news these days about the Middle East it is helpful to sit back and have an overview presented succintly. Ms. Laipson doesn’t have any “solutions” to the problems posed by the area today and in the immediate future. "If she did,” I told a friend, “she would not be in Hilton Head speaking to more than 300 seniors.” In my opinion there isn’t any one “solution” to the challenges the world faces in the Middle East. But we ( the inhabitants of the planet Earth) go on anyway.

I did a little shopping on the way home. It was past noon when i unloaded the groceries and realized I needed something to eat. I put two slices of cinnamon raisin bread in the toaster and poured a glass of ice tea. When the toast popped I lathered it with peanut butter and carried my snack to my favorite chair where I picked up the current issue of The New York Review of Books to continue reading “Hanging Out With Hitler,” a review of three books by Martin Filler. None of these made me wish I could hang out with that evil man. I belong to the group that wishes I could have been present at Hitler’s birth so I could strangle him as he came out of the womb instead of the mid-wife slapping his arse to make him cry out.

And then I looked down at my blue striped dress shirt and saw a large gob of melted peanut butter still rolling and coming to a stop at the third button from the neck. Heat from the toasted bread was the culprit. It liquidfied the peanut butter. To paraphrase Jimmy Carter I won’t lie to you. I used the index finger of my right hand to scoop the peanut butter off my shirt and popped it in my mouth.

Later in the evenng, I watched  a fine movie written, directed and starring one of my current favorite actors, Kevin Spacey. “Beyond the Sea”, a fantasy telling of the life of Bobby Darin. Spacey used his own voice to sing the songs and had Darin’s moves down pat. It is available on Amazon Prime for free viewing or can be purchased on Amazon. 

After that, I took off the shirt and tossed it the laundry hamper. 

Monday, November 23

Morsels from Book Reviews

A pleasure each weekend is reading the reviews in the tabloid sized Book Review section of The New York Times. There are so many books in print it is not a failing to acknowledge that you will never read them all. As each week comes and goes dozens of new books are announced and those which make the pages of the Book Review are the lucky ones the Times elects to preview. Hundreds more come off the presses that don’t make the cut.

On some weekends (Usually Sunday and Monday) I might read fifteen to twenty reviews and not make note of a book I will buy and read, or look for in the local library. On other weekends I jot down the title and the author of a book I really want to read and later in the week go shopping on Amazon. 

No matter the final outcome each weekend I always find some snippet of information that pleases, informs, educates or provides a chuckle. These morsels might come directly from the book under review or be the comment of a reviewer.

These are some of those special moments from this weekend’s readings.

The unscrupulous editor in chief, Simei, informs his staff that their target audience is nitwits. Crossword clues must be no more challenging than “The husband of Eve.” (Numero Zero, Umberto Eco. Reviewer: Tom Rachman)

There are episodes in his theatrical  chronicle that recall an epigram of Oscar Wilde’s : “My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.” (The Blue Touch Paper, A Memoir, David Hare. Reviewer: Tina Brown)

The stars here are the story and the ideas and Vonnegut himself, who is always funny in the way banging your knee can sometimes be funny.: You hurt like hell and so the only thing to do about it is to laugh.(Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut. An audio book read by John Malkovich. Reviewer: Michael Ian Black)

When former U. S. Senator Alan Simpson was a scout he and another scout were sharing a tent. They became angry with one of the other scouts. Since rain was forecast, and their tent was on higher ground, Simpson and his friend dug a trench around their tent that aimed the flow of water into the other boy’s shelter. That night, it rained and the other boy got very cold and wet. (Lights Out, Ted Koppel. Reviewer: Walter Russell Mead)

Last week I finished reading an audio version of my new book in four days…As I was about to leave, I jokingly asked the audio book audio director if he could make the book a runaway audio brest seller. 
“You should have written a smut novel,” he told me. “Those are the ones that sell.” 
“Who in the world listens to smut novels?” I asked. 
“Long-haul truck drivers!” he replied.
He was pulling my leg, but only slightly. Audio recordings of erotic fiction are a blooming business. (Author’s Note, Aural Sex. Elaine Sciolino)

She slept with Friedrich Engles (He founded Marxist theroy along with Karl Marx), but never read a word of his writings. (She couldn’t, she was illiterate.) (Mrs. Engles, Gavin McCrea. Reviewer: Jan Stuart)