A few thoughts on being Gay,

or as the science community refers to it, homosexuality. Last time I checked, we lived in America, where we are protected by a constitution that states we have the right to say any stupid thing we want. Since our beginning as a country we have pretended that we are tolerant of ideas that may not correspond with what our general public thinks. The truth is, we have always been a country that is very intolerant of anything that does not fit into our idea of normal. Despite the fact that the man on DUCK DYNASTY is a moron, he has the right to say any stupid thing he wants. Having been born in 1950, I have had to reevaluate my philosophy in numerous ways. In many cases, I am uncomfortable with the direction that our world is heading, but one simple and true directive has helped me navigate through this choppy water, we are all trying to find our way through life in the best way we can.
One thing that strikes me as sad, is how thin skinned we have all become. People in the media or politics live in fear that they say something that may offend a small group of people thus destroying their careers. The man on Duck Dynasty may, in the end may do more good for the Gay Rights movement than anyone can imagine. In his own crude way he is forcing millions of people to reevaluate their own thinking on this issue. If all we listen to is the ideas we agree with or that make us comfortable than we are missing one of the most important aspects of living in a free speech country! New ways of thought are what make us grow intellectually and emotionally!
No doubt it has been a rocky road for many of us over the last 50 years. We have dealt with a sexual revolution, increased violent crime, rampant uncontrolled technology, the fragmenting of the family unit, just to name a few. The direction our world is headed is uncertain at best! The one thing that is constant in all of this-is human nature. Despite how crazy it the world seems at times, we have our friends and family to help us find our way through the chaos.
Being gay is a way of life that makes many people happy and makes some others very unhappy. I am a firm believer that being happy is an essential part of being alive. If being gay makes someone happy and allows them to enjoy their short time on this planet, who am I to cast a stone in their direction? As I have said often, we are all passengers on spaceship earth and we need to get along with each other, even when we are on opposite sides of that proverbial fence.
Merry Christmas!

Alien encounter from the planet DEAN


You have heard many stories of aliens living amongst us. I may have the first real proof of their existence. This photo was taken by a photographer who wishes to remain anonymous. Notice the low sloping forehead and the peculiar markings on the skin. The tiny ears are another point of interest. The elongated chin also seems unnatural. Take note of the sinister look and the half closed eyes which tell me that doom is close at hand! Some of you may remember Jerry Dean who is the host for this strange alien creature. Lock your doors and windows! There have been reports that this creature is in the area on weekends!
Check out my Christmas story!

My Christmas story revisited again…and again…and again…

This is one of my favorite stories and it helps me remember what Christmas is really about. If you read it last year or the year before, read it again and if you are new to my blog, I hope you enjoy this touching story. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! You can find Naotaka Maehara on Facebook. Maybe someday parents will sit around the fire and read this to there children…or maybe not…


Naotaka Maehara arriving in Augusta

The other day my friend Steve Bailes called me up to ask if I would be interested in housing a young man from Japan for the evening. He is riding his bike across America, having left from Vancouver 70 days ago. He was coming from Clarksburg and would arrive on Saturday if things worked out. I agreed, and contacted Nao (pronounced NOW which is short for Naotaka Maehara) by email to invited him to stay with us for the evening. He replied that he would like to stay with us Saturday evening. The next two days were interesting as I stayed in contact as much as possible via e-mail. If you remember, this past Wednesday and Thursday we experienced our first major snow fall of the season so Nao was right in the middle of it with the continental divide directly in front of him. To make a long, involved story shorter, he made it across the mountains to our home by 4pm on Saturday. I quickly suggested he take a bath to get warm. He agreed and headed for the bathroom. About an hour later he emerged, hungry, relaxed and anxious to get to know us. Steve had asked if he could come over and meet Nao so I suggested that we do dinner ; at about 6pm Steve and Terry arrived. It was one of those magical evenings that happen so rarely. We talked, exchanged stories and ate until we were ready to pop. Nao turned out to be charming, pleasant and a very gracious guest. I will remember the evening for a long time. With my fading memory that could be months from now. After dinner, us guys went down stairs to give Nao’s bike some tender loving care, which it needed badly. We reattached the front racks, cleaned and oiled the chain, pumped up the tires, and gave it a quick inspection. Later Nao and I went upstairs to spend almost two hours planning his route to New York City. He was ready for his journey to continue in the morning. After I went to bed, Sue stayed up until midnight talking with Nao about who knows what.

Resting after dinner

Relaxing after dinner

The morning came; Nao had several bowls of cereal and began to ready himself and his bike for his journey to New York City where he was scheduled to arrive on December 23. We created a Skype connection so that he could contact us with his computer, if needed. Shortly thereafter, Nao headed down the driveway.

After Nao had left, we found a note in his bedroom. In the note was a twenty-dollar bill. At first I considered getting in the car and catching him to give back the money but after reading the note I decided not to. This is written in Nao’s own words. He has only been learning English for three years. I’m impressed!

“I met woman in that time. (before he met us) She listened my serious talking and gave this $20 to me. She gave money and I received money. And also I received her kindness. She said, “I can’t help you now, but use this money and stay in hotel. I want you guys receive this $20. I mean it is not a staying fee, it means a woman’s kindness.”

I will keep this twenty and pass it forward when the time comes. Experiences like this one only intensify my belief that life is about the people you meet and the memories you take from those meeting. My only hope is that someday I will get to see Nao again!

After Nao returned to Japan, his country suffered a massive earthquake and tsunami which Nao and his family survived with minimal damage. Based on his last message, he is anxious to hit the road again and explore another part of our planet.

Cuurently Nao is working in India as an engineer and is anxious to get back on the road.

Diving into the dark water-Our State medical system (PEIA)


I have always had a fear of swimming in dark water and think it may be a result of my childhood in Torrence, California where our family took trips to Long Beach to spend the day in the Pacific Ocean. Although I never witnessed a shark attack, I had heard many stories of them occurring right on the beach where we swam. This may seem totally unrelated to any discussion of medical care, but as I get older I have come to see the medical system as dark water that I am more than fearful to enter. It has become clear to me that my body is now much like my old Honda Accord, which is like me, beginning to break down. As a result of my aging, I have needed periodic medical attention, in contrast to my younger days of carefree living with infrequent trips to the doctor. As an aging American, I am one of many with the same scary feeling about a trip to the doctor. It is important to understand that doctors do amazing things to extend and enhance people’s lives, but it is also essential to remember that medicine is a very imperfect science, and at times creates more problems than it solves. Because we live in a capitalist society, the pure goal of treating and helping people is tainted by greed and too often the procedure that is best for a patient is passed over for a less expensive or more expedient procedure.
Recently my wife was in need of a hip replacement. We did the usual research and then talked to several orthopedic doctors. We came to the conclusion that the best way to have the operation done was with the relatively new ANTERIOR APPROACH. This is when the water darkened and the sharks began to circle. Our insurance company, Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), was insistent that we stay in their network of doctors so as to help them economize. Although, when I asked for a doctor who performed the anterior approach in network, they said that they had no available information on which doctors did what procedures. Left to fend for ourselves, we found the closest doctor two hours from our home, who was considered one of the leading orthopedic doctors to use this technique. PEIA was of little help after numerous calls. The day before Sue’s surgery, as we were driving down to Washington, DC, PEIA called to inform me that they found a doctor who performed this procedure in their network. I asked where he was located and what his name was. It turns out that he practices in Huntington, WV, almost six hours from our home! I asked her if she thought that was a reasonable distance for us to drive. Since it was not her hip and she did not live six hours from the surgeon, her answer was predictably “yes.” Sue and I continued our trip to Sibley hospital in Washington, DC where the procedure performed. The results were amazing! After two months, Sue is living her life unhampered by pain or discomfort! Now we must face huge medical bills because we bucked the system and left the network.
What is truly incredible and depressing about this situation is the lack of information available to policyholders. We have learned since the operation that if we would have stayed in network and driven to Huntington, PEIA (so they say) would have helped us with gas and accommodations. Since the operation, we have written several letters to PEIA asking them to reconsider their decision of forcing us to pay out of network fees. After exhausting that option, I began to email our local politicians. Shortly after sending these e-mails, I received a phone call from a state representative. She was very empathetic and so agreed to call a person at PEIA to ask them to contact us. Well, shortly after talking to our representative, we received a call from PEIA. In short, her remarks focused on the fact that PEIA members do not pay a high enough premium to get top-of-the-line medical coverage. Therefore, according to her way of thinking, we should be happy with reduced service. To quote her, “If everyone wanted top-of-the-line medical treatment, then he or she should pay more for it.” I am not sure how my readers feel about the PEIA representative’s point of view, but I am infuriated over it! In other words, people insured by PEIA should not expect top quality care! Maybe we should consult the local vet to save even more money! The lady from PEIA also made the point that doctors in West Virginia get paid less than most doctors in other States! I am not suggesting that in order to attract good doctors, one has to pay more, but when a doctor graduates from college with a $300,000+ tuition bill, he might understandably go to the state that pays the best.
So here we are, in a situation where we are forced to make decisions about our health based on how much money we have. Said another way, the wealthy will continue to get the best medical treatment money can buy. I guess this is the way it has always been in our country. I think that the Affordable Care Act is trying to level the playing field so that this inequity does not is not so pervasive and prevalent. Maybe that is why the health industry and the wealthy are so against it. So, as many of my fellow Americans climb up the age ladder and need increased medical care, it is important to know how to swim in the murky waters of health care so as to avoid being eaten by sharks. An interesting statistic to throw out here is that senior Americans are some of the least healthy folk in the industrialized world and will need considerable medical care. It is a shame that, for Americans that most if not all of those decisions will be based on how well off they are. Live long and prosper!

A spritual moment for a non-believer


Our sun was resting behind a cluster of clouds as the day was coming to an end. The immense power of our star peaking out from behind the clouds struck me as a special moment. Slowly, the sole ‘giver-of-life’ to this planet came into full view as it settled towards the horizon. The magnificence of the event created a sense of power in my body as I marveled at the unmatched beauty and grace of our sun. Since I consider myself much more of a secular than religious person, one might ask how I then fail to see god’s hand in this beauty. The universe, or as some like to refer to it, nature, is my deity. Every time I look to the heavens, I take a deep breath as I marvel at the countless miles of empty space and the unfathomable number of galaxies, stars and planets. Many people search for god through the writings of man or deep in their souls, but I search for inspiration provided to me by the complexity of the world around me. Many of these answers are seen in the eyes of our fellow humans or a stone lying on the ground; mystery is all around us, all we need to do is open our eyes to see, while we ask the right questions.