Maybe it was too soon

•May 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I was lucky to be able to attend the inauguration of President Obama at the beginning of his first term.  Even though I was there as a bus driver for the Washington, DC police, I was present at a historic event which in turn allowed me to observe a great diversity of people who ventured out for this once-in-a-lifetime event.  I witnessed tens of thousands of people of every color walking towards the inauguration, passing directly in front of my bus.  They carried signs and wore decorated shirts expressing their excitement over the upcoming ceremony.  The temperature was around 25, yet many of the walkers wore only t-shirts.  I was bundled up in my tour bus with the heat on, as requested by the police I was carrying. They did not want to return to a cold bus during their lunch break.  As I sat there watching the events unfold, I immersed myself in the grandeur of the moment.  This was something I could tell my grandkids or anyone else who was willing to listen.

So now move to the present and think about the events that have transpired since the beginning of the president’s term.  President Obama went on to win a second term, initiate universal healthcare, almost get us out of the middle east and reduce unemployment to historic levels.  All this was done despite a hostile congress bent on blocking any legislation supported by the first black president. For most presidents this would have been considered a successful stay in office but for President Obama, according to his critics, it was a total failure and brought about the ruination of this country.

This morning I read an article which stated that our colleges may be cauldrons of racism. This is quite disturbing!  I always felt that the college campus was a place where progressive ideas were nurtured, helping society move into a new and more humane direction.  Now I hear of increasing numbers of racial incidents on our campuses that take me back to the 60’s.  Just recently in Oklahoma college students were seen chanting racial slurs while riding on a bus. At Duke University students were faced with a hanging noose in a tree in a student area.  This brings back memories from a difficult time in our history when racism was common place. One could claim that these are random occurrences by a few crazy individuals and that we as people are not returning to an age of hatred.

I need to approach this issue from a different direction.  Societies are much like giant oil tankers that require large distances to change direction. The physics is simple: an object in motion tends to remain in motion unless acted upon by an opposing force.  Societies as well tend to continue in the same direction unless acted upon by opposing forces. Maybe the gentle nudging of society towards a non-racist agenda would have been more effective, for some people, than the shock of having a person of color in the oval office.  As with many others, I am afraid that there may be a backlash of resentment that will push us in the wrong direction.  Hypothetically we may create a sub-culture of racism that, like a cancer, destroys the body from within.  Somehow we must address this negative energy and reduce its effect!

As President Obama approaches the end of his time in office, we must reflect on where we are going as a nation.  My hope is that we are heading into an age of enlightenment, but there are many troubling signs on our horizon.  The degree of rancor, animosity and hate in this country has risen to levels unseen in recent history, and if it continues, there is no telling where we are going to end up.  There are some who think that Christ will reappear and help us find our way out of all of this, but if he were to actually return, he would be greatly distraught over what the world has become at our hands and the misuse of his name and teachings.

A man who lived in the future

•April 1, 2016 • 1 Comment

There are currently over 7 billion humans living on this planet, with most of them living day-to-day with little regard to what is waiting for us around the next turn.  That next bend in the road could be the curing of cancer, the invention of warp drive or the creation of a clean way to produce energy. There is a small number of people who do look to the future, who live comfortably in the future. We call these individuals visionaries.  One came from right here in Hampshire County: Edward Buckbee.  You can learn a great deal about Mr. Buckbee by simply Googling his name.  This Hampshire County native helped create the NASA visitor center in Florida, as well as working with astronauts in the early space program.

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Buckbee for the first time about his life in West Virginia and how our county helped shape him to go on to do big things.  When I told him the nature of the article I wanted to write, he said that no one had ever written a story about how he grew up.  He went on to say that most everyone wants to know about his time with astronauts on their moon mission.  I suggested that his growing up in Appalachia was an essential part of him that needed to be written about, and he agreed.  Our county taught him that dreams are to be faithfully followed and not easily forgotten. He represents the necessity for young and old to know and understand that anything is possible.

So the story begins:

Ed’s boyhood home was on Route 28, about 4 miles north of Romney, WV.  Born on Sept 15, 1936 at Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Maryland, he was the son of Odel ( Ed) and Jessie (Jake) Buckbee who were an important part of the fabric of Hampshire County. Ed senior worked at Pancake Chevy as a parts distributor as well as at the Romney Fruit Growers’ co-op store in town.  Little Ed spent many hours hanging out at these establishments after school. Jessie stayed at home with the kids and managed the gas station next door until World War II came, at which time she drove a school bus because of a shortage of males in the area. Little Ed and his brother, Robert, managed the gas station after school while mom prepared dinner.

As I listened to Ed tell childhood stories, I felt a bit envious of him and of his time growing up in a small town, which was in stark contrast to my first 10 years of life in Los Angeles and my 15 years in the sprawling Washington, DC suburbs. Ed had lived the childhood I dreamed of.

One of the things that became apparent while listening to him was his love of the South Branch River, the mountains and the freedom that country life gave him. He loved to hunt, and brought down his first deer, a nine-point beauty, on Break Neck Mt. at the age of 15 with a 32 lever-action Winchester.  He spent many hours with his Scout troop #32 camping, hiking and learning about the outdoors. He told me about one of his troop leaders who they referred to as ‘Kerosene’ because he would always sneak in some kerosene when trying to start a fire with a piece of flint. Everyone played along.  John Ailes was also a troop leader who accompanied Ed and his troop on many adventures down the South Branch River.  Frequently they camped at night along the river under the stars enjoying nature at its best. One scout trip that Ed seemed to relish the memories of was a trip to Washington, DC when they slept in sleeping bags at the base of the Washington monument for several days, and then during the day explored the many museums and sites that Washington offered.  At one point in this trip, he entered the old Smithsonian, and low and behold, hanging from the ceiling was the X1, one of the early supersonic jets, once piloted by Chuck Yeager who was also a West Virginian. Ed feels that seeing that prototype spacecraft planted something in him that led him into the space program later on. It was a very special moment!

He attended Romney Grade School untill the 8th grade and then went on to Romney High School where he played baseball and was also a manager for the football team.  During this time he came to love and admire Coach McElwee who in Ed’s words ‘coached almost everything.’  Coach had played football at West Virginia University and was a local hero for many people in the area.  Some think that McElwee was the most successful football coach in Hampshire County history.  He was also a very respected teacher who taught self-discipline and proper behavior to all his students and players. When the team traveled to other schools, they were expected to behave like gentlemen at all times; nothing less was acceptable.  Another person in Ed’s life who made a huge difference was high school principal Gordon Slonaker who ran a very tight ship.  Ed admitted to spending some time in the boiler room with Principal Slonaker as he was reminded of what proper behavior is; these were not fond memories!  Slonaker later went on to become the President of Shepherd College.

After completing his high school education, Ed went on to get a degree in journalism from West Virginia University.  Returning home, he worked at the Hampshire Review writing a column called Drug Store Quarterback. I suggested to him that that title would probably not be politically correct in today’s world; we laughed.  Later Ed was asked by Mr. Ailes, the Editor of the Review,  to cover the Hampshire Board of Education meetings.  When he walked into the meeting, he was asked to leave because they wanted to protect the privacy of the meeting, but he somehow managed to convince them to let him stay to report on the meeting.  Apparently when he wrote the article about the meeting in detail, many people ( including the Board of Ed) were extremely upset.  Since that time the Review has been painstakingly reporting on everything the Board does, much to their chagrin. Somehow Ed was asked to be a stringer for the Washington Post.  His assignment was to report on everything which involved “blood or floods.”  He recalled one such story when he wrote about a severe flood of the South Branch.  His article went something like this:  A small town in WV was destroyed by a treacherous flood as God watched from the banks of the South Branch River. His boss called to say: “Forget the river; get an interview with God!”  So, every time something bad happened in Hampshire County, Ed made $15!

I have to say that talking with Ed Buckbee was a real pleasure for me and I hope to meet him in person someday soon.  As we were finishing up, I asked him this: What did Hampshire County do to allow him to make a substantial difference in the world?  He said it was the feeling of belonging, knowing that there were people always there to help out and never having to face the day-to-day struggles alone.  Having never known what it was like to live in a community that watched out for its own, I was forced to return to my childhood and the feelings of often being alone.  Thank you, Ed, for sharing your life with our readers. By the way, Ed is still playing softball at the age of 79!

If you wish to learn more about Ed’s exploits after leaving Hampshire County, simply Google his name and read about all the neat things he did as a child and a young man.  He also helped write a book, SPACE COWBOYS by Ed Buckbee and Wally Schirra. I know you will enjoy it!

 

 

 

Peering into the darkness; a look into depression

•March 18, 2016 • 4 Comments

depression

As you all know from your own personal experiences, life is a crooked road that leads one through some pretty amazing times as well as some very rough times. Our task is to endure, keep smiling and enjoy all the good things that abound around us. Over the last 10 months, life has thrown me a sizable obstacle that has set me on a new life course. As in all life-changing events, there has been much pain and regrouping as I struggled to redirect my energies. But that is not what I want to write about, but it is related. Let me continue. As a teacher of 30 plus years and a life-long student of human behavior I have witnessed much suffering of friends, students and acquaintances and have counseled my students and friends, who by their own admission, were in deep depression. Since I have never before had to deal with feelings of this magnitude, I have always felt as if I were looking into depression as an outsider to this experience. I felt as though I had an idea of what they must be feeling but never truly felt the full fury of their darkness.

CycleComplex

Recently, I believe I peered into the dark hole of depression, if only for a short time. A series of unrelated events unfolded around me, and for a few long days, I burrowed deeper into this strange world that I have never ventured into. Because of this, I felt the need to share some ideas with others so that they might better understand what people around them who are dealing with this problem are feeling. Make no mistake, my time in this realm was brief, but it helped me begin to realize what other people who live their lives in a constant state of depression must endure.
I am going to attempt to pass on to you some of the feelings I encountered during this brief time. First and most encompassing was the sincere belief that no one could understand what I was feeling. I was marooned on an island with no escape that I could envision. The notion that I was alone was a heavy blanket pushing me to the ground! At times I felt as if I was in a large, deep, dark hole looking up at the sky with no perceivable way of climbing out. In my mind were ideas-some bizarre, some strange and some frightful- like automobiles moving by me at a high rate of speed on an interstate. They came quickly and left traces of pain and remorse in their wake. As I circled deeper into this funk, I imagined I was somehow drowning in my own weird way. I could go on and on about the crazy ideas that coursed through my mind but I think I have made my point. What I endured for a short time was trivial in comparison to the person who spends his/her life in this river of remorse. As I gradually reemerged from this terrible state, I could only think of what it must be like to live in this place full time! In our world, there are many people who suffer from this kind of intense depression. As a society we tend to push them by the wayside, ignore them, and hope that they take their negative feelings somewhere else. It is no wonder that we have such a high suicide rate in this country!
We live in a country that focuses on material things and power and so spend billions of dollars on marginally successful attempts at helping people who are suffering from depression. The basic idea of loving one’s neighbor has all but disappeared for many and been replaced with medicine and counseling. That is what this article is about! I feel that I am one of the lucky ones in that many of my friends and family have stepped up to help me through some of this emotional maze, but I wonder how many people are struggling with depression and do not have the support I had.
When encountering a person who is depressed, it is important to realize a few quick key points. You are not going to fix them! You are not going to say some cute words that are going to magically bring them from this area of darkness. All you can do is be a friend, let them know you are there if they need you. This too can be a problem because depressed people do not tend to call out for help in the traditional sense, so you must generally make the first move. Of course, getting someone else involved who is trained in this area will probably be very helpful as well. All said and done, this is an unlit corridor at best. There are no clear answers or sure-fire cures- only time, patience and love. If you know someone who is dealing with life-long depression, make the difficult decision to be there for them. You might make a significant difference or at least comfort them in their world of suffering.

Idiocracy

•February 29, 2016 • 3 Comments

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It is hard to imagine that there is someone who is not enjoying, if not behind a tear or two, the current presidential election.  Although in recent history the Republicans have offered up some highly creative and entertaining presidential candidates, this election cycle tops all previous contenders for most entertaining.  Starting at the bottom of the heap, one has to consider Dr. Carson.

 

CNN reports: Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson believes the

Egyptian pyramids were used for grain.

In a college commencement speech 17 years ago, Carson told the graduates of Andrews University in Michigan that it is his “personal” belief that the pyramids were built as storehouses for grain and not, as archaeologists say, for the interment of dead pharaohs

 This is the first time I have watched a republican debate and I have asked myself several times, why?  The answer, despite my reluctance to admit it, is Donald.  Let’s face it, he is a loose cannon, and that makes him fun to watch.  I catch myself laughing regularly while watching his antics. Now, would I want him or crazy Cruz in charge of the largest military on planet earth, NO!
So, if you would like to watch a movie that depicts this crazy political atmosphere we live in, you should watch IDIOCRACY, in which the World Wrestling Federation Champion is the President of our country.  If this seems silly to you, look carefully at who is going to win the republican nomination!  We have already had one actor become president, another become governor, a wrestler become governor and a comedian become a senator; do you see a trend?  Sit back and enjoy this ride because it ain’t over yet!  This could stack up to become one of the most entertaining elections in the history of this country, and let’s face it, America, we want entertainment!

Health care reform still not quite there or perhaps even close:

•February 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

med bills 1

Recently a friend of mine experienced the pain and discomfort from a back injury.  Actually the injury occurred several months ago and since then he has been to several doctors, had a MRI, along with a few x-rays.  As of today he is not sure what is wrong with his back or if anything can be done to ease his pain.  He is stretching and doing exercises to help control the pain but is still not back to his normal active self.

Now enter, the healthcare system.  During his last trip to the doctor he was informed that the first MRI did not extend low enough to observe the problem.  I don’t know, dear reader if you have ever had an MRI, but they are terribly expensive in this country. So, he was instructed to have an additional MRI done.  After scheduling it at Hampshire Memorial Hospital, he received a phone call from his insurance company informing him that if he had the MRI done at Hampshire, which is part of the Valley HealthCare System, it would cost him close to $800 out-of-pocket; but if he was willing to drive an hour to Berkley Springs Memorial Hospital, (which is part of WV University Healthcare) then it would cost him less than $200 out-of-pocket. Valley Healthcare as well as WV University Healthcare are very large and ever-expanding mega-healthcare systems.

med bill 2

Now, I want to make sure you understand what I am getting at.  If my friend is willing to drive an hour to another hospital rather than use the hospital right down the street, he can save almost $600. He chose to drive an hour.  The question here is: why?  Why would one hospital work well with an insurance company and the other would not?  I assume the equipment costs are similar.  Their operating cost should be similar as well, so what is the reason for this huge difference in out-of-pocket expense?  Get ready for this! I was told by one individual that Hampshire Memorial Hospital was owned by an out-of-state company and the Berkley Springs hospital was owned by an in-state company.  The obvious question here is, why does that matter?  I have watched TV shows that explored this phenomenon of variations in cost, but never actually saw it in real life.  Stated another way, we need to shop around for a hospital system that charges more consistent reasonable rates.  This is rather bizarre if you think about it enough, but we never discuss money with a doctor when we have something done medical.  It is not in our culture customary to ask the hospital or the doctor how much a procedure will cost, so we just pay, along with the insurance company, whatever they ask.

To sum up, my advice is to shop around.  Ask the hospital what a procedure costs.  Ask the doctor that same question.  Talk to your insurance company as well about different cost options. As usual, you are the only one watching out for you!

This may seem harsh, but S#%@ happens

•January 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

 

rats

Several months ago I was listening to the radio while the announcer talked about the German pilot who crashed a passenger plane into the Himalayan Mountains.  Before the evidence was even collected or the facts of the case exposed, the announcer was discussing additional rules regarding the selection process of commercial pilots.  There is little doubt that what happened was a terrible event and should be avoided at all cost, but I wonder when we will reach the number of rules needed to protect us against  the random craziness of individuals.  I find it hard to believe that the German airline, as well as any airline, does not spend considerable time vetting its potential pilots.  In today’s world with unfettered access to the internet it has become much easier to determine if a person has prior episodes that would determine the applicant unsuitable for a position.  That said, we as a society continue to create additional measures to attempt to decide if a person is suitable for a position.

I can mention several situations that might call out for additional rules to further vet applicants.  What about teachers who take advantage of their students in sexual ways?  How about the Catholic priests who take advantage of the young boys?   Remember the Air Force officer with a psychiatric degree that gunned down several people on a military base.  He was supposed to help to avoid that type of situation!  Are you seeing a pattern here yet?  I could go on for several pages.  Our society has become extremely complex and difficult to manage.  Couple this with the fact that there are lots of people out there who are not playing with a full deck of cards.  In today’s world we look at everyone with a suspicious eye.  We trust no one, yet somehow a small number of deranged people end up in situations where they can cause considerable mayhem!

So, I have stated the problem, what is the answer?  How do we monitor every person in every situation and avoid these kind of crazy violent actions?  Maybe the answer is, “we don’t or we can’t.”  Maybe, when you have millions of people living in close proximity in a stressful environment, a statistically small number of people leave the real world behind and perform reprehensible acts.  Maybe this is the price we pay for the society we have evolved into!  I am certain that this is not the answer that most of us want to hear, but it may be the reality of the situation.

The cavemen were constantly faced with the potential for their life or a family members’ life to be taken at any given second.  Could this be our cross to bear?  Is this nature’s way of keeping us on our toes?  Like I said before, maybe this is the result of an overcrowded environment.  Several decades ago a group of scientists placed a small colony of rats in an environment with enough food to support the existing population.  The population remained relatively constant and the rats behaved in a normal rat-like way.  As a comparison, they took another group of rats and placed them in a similar environment but fed them as much food and water as they wanted.  The population of the community began to grow until it was severely overcrowded.  As the community of rats grew, the rats began to behave in bizarre ways, exhibiting destructive human behaviors seen in many parts of society today, such as rape and brutal attacks on their fellow rat. So, just how different are we from the community of rats?  Probably not that different if my logic is sound.  Maybe we are just rats in a maze and maybe it’s a little too crowded.

rats 2

Bright Star by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, a must see!

•January 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

images

On Tuesday night, my friend and I attended the show, Bright Star at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  The show will only be there until January 10th,  so it may be difficult to see it there, but you should make it a point to see this amazing play sometime in your near future!  The plot twist and turns with beautiful mountain music and terrific voices.  At points in the play I cried, I laughed and became angry.  The story was written by comedian/musician Steve Martin. Edie Brickell and Steve produced the music. Do yourself a favor and see this play, you will not regret it!

 

 
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