Friday, October 28, 2011

R.I.P. Uncle Gilbert

Received the news last night that Uncle Gilbert passed away. He was cremated and his ashes will be interned in a Veteran's cemetery in the Central Valley (CA). A memorial service to be held soon. Here's my April 2011 post about his illness:
Impending death is not an easy event to deal with.

Mr. itsme’s Uncle Gilbert was told by his Doctors to go home, put your affairs in order and enjoy whatever time is left. He’s stopped all treatments like chemo and has stopped taking all medications (relating to cancer) too. Uncle Gilbert is very aware that his declining health is leading him towards death. He faces this fact every second of his life now starting with the moment he found out his cancer was terminal, but his positive attitude and childlike gratitude is an inspiration to me.

Because there are 7 brothers and sisters, the family decided to have a luncheon at a local restaurant. With one or two exceptions, every family member was in attendance.

When we first got the invitation I felt a little uncomfortable by the whole thing. Would it be awkward? Would it be maudlin? What do you say when you arrive “You look good for an almost dead guy." And what do you say when it’s time to leave “Take care, see you soon?” And to the other relatives “See you at the funeral.”

I was surprised that the most important thing I came away with was to make Uncle Gilbert’s passing as peaceful and happy as possible. It is up to us, the family, to be his net of support. Too many times I’ve seen family members overwhelmed with their own grief and instead of providing a joyful atmosphere, they generate an atmosphere of gloom and depression. The luncheon and gathering to talk and reminisce about all the things the family loved and would always remember about Uncle Gilbert was an excellent activity, for him and for us. Lots of pictures were taken, old stories told, and yes, a few tears were shed. A few beers were cracked also.

Life is precious and fleeting, enjoy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street"

Something amazing happened on September 17, 2011, one thousand people began a march through the streets of New York City to protest social and political inequality and corporate greed. Participants of all ages, all races, all religions, all political persuasions, united in the belief that the middle class is being screwed. This march, now called “Occupy Wall Street,” has spread like a wild fire all over the US and now, even to the UK.

One thing is clear, whether you agree with these folks or not, “Wall Street” (investment bankers, millionaires & billionaires) keep getting richer and richer, while “Main Street” (teachers, the struggling middle class & average Joes) are getting poorer and poorer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bankers and hedge fund managers should be held responsible for all the ills of the world; it’s that Wall Street has become emblematic of an entire economic and political system that no longer seems to have the best interests of most Americans at heart. While Wall Street was bailed out of a crisis created by their own greed, Main Street was, and still is, suffering and no one is offering us a bail out.

What I think the “Occupy Wall Street” folks have figured out is that there is no voice in current American politics for the average person, the so-called “99%” of us who make huge economic contributions to this nation and who deserve better treatment. Many of our so-called political leaders say the protesters are not politically cohesive and have no specific set of demands or changes to accomplish (and this may seem true at the moment) but it's ridiculous to say they don't stand for anything. Only proves to me that they still aren't listening.

I admire that the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters have the courage to make transforming our country their #1 obligation. As long as we put survival first rather than patriotism, the moneyed power elite have control over us. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, John Hancock and Paul Revere all knew this. This is what will change the world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

California's New "Dream Act" Law

While I believe that everyone deserves equal opportunity, I must disagree with this law. How are we funding education for illegal immigrants while we cut funding for public education for grades K-12 (the UC and the CSU too)? Our schools are ranked 30th in the nation and 43rd in per-student spending. It has become increasingly difficult for legal residents of California to get financial aid for college, so how can Governor Brown justify spending money that the state supposedly doesn't have on financial aid for illegal immigrants? The educational goals of legal citizens are being compromised in order to serve the interests of illegal residents of California, not to mention that a legal citizen from out-of-state gets to pay more in tuition then an illegal resident. (Isn’t that nice?) It is an injustice that will continue to set back many innocent, struggling legal students in California by making it even harder to receive financial aid.

Under current law, illegal immigrant students who have graduated from a California high school and can prove they're on the path to legalize their immigration status can pay resident tuition rates. This new law, which goes into effect January 2013, will allow illegal students to apply for state aid. Seems to me that this not only undermines current immigration laws but may actually encourage more illegal immigration by granting access to state resources reserved for legal residents, as well as creating an entitlement program for the thousands of illegals looking for a way to stay in the country.

I rarely agree with the Republicans on any issue but why am I beginning to believe that maybe California isn’t so broke after all?

Monday, October 10, 2011

What a Road Trip!

I told you I'd be back!!! Thanks for leaving the light on . . .

Mr itsme and I left Saturday, September 17th, in a rented car for Petersburg, Illinois. We were going to meet up with my newly-found half-brother and his wife at the home of his oldest son, my nephew (who newly-found me on his wife and two darling little girls. We drove through Nevada, Utah (spent our first night in Salt Lake City), Wyoming, Nebraska (spent our second night in Lincoln), the very tip of Kansas, Missouri and then into Illinois. Even though each state we drove through had it's own unique character and beauty, I surely know why they are called "the flyover States." We arrived at my nephew's place just in time for dinner: BBQ steaks! We did bring a case of California wine with us so we knew we'd be welcome.

During that week we went to Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood. Residents of Springfield are B-I-G on Abraham Lincoln. We also went to the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in downtown Springfield. We got our pictures taken with the entire Lincoln family (wax), it was awesome. Also that day we got our first taste of genuine Chicago-style hot dogs: like a salad on a bun. The only thing missing was the neon green relish I was expecting. It's "against the law" to put ketchup on your hot dog in Illinois, so watch yourself.

Another day we went wine tasting at Hill Prairie Winery not far from my nephew's place. The winery is surrounded by restored native Illinois prairie grasses that have been around since the time of the settlers and the advent of the steel plow. They boast over 15 wines, mainly on the sweeter side, but the winery also is a year-round host of Mystery Theaters, a huge calendar of live music entertaiment weekends and festivals. We had a great time and came away with a case of wine to take home. That day the food experience was a "horseshoe." My arteries started hardening just reading the menu - I decided on the Italish beef - but my brother had a ground beef "horseshoe" and my nephew had a buffalo chicken "horseshoe" . . . go here to read about the food and restuarant "horseshoes" Quite an experience. Adam Richmond "Man vs Food" has been here I believe.

My nephew's "place" is over 12 acres in the middle of nowhere and we spent lots of time on the porch in rocking chairs star-gazing - it's amazing how many stars us city dwellers can't see because we're surrounded by all those city distractions. A great time was had by all, getting to know each other a little more and making plans for future visits.

On our trip home we stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats (I stood ankle deep in salt) and watched the sunrise over the Great Salt Lake. Because we had to make the trip short, we took notes on where to go when we come back through with our travel trailer, which hopefully will be sooner than later. It was a quick trip but being able to spend time with family was worth every moment.