Friday, August 29, 2014

Rant #1,279: The Need (For Things) To Work

Yesterday was as exasperating a day as I have spent in my entire life.

Dealing with government agencies can't ever be easy, but when you actually have to sit down and deal with them, well, you really see how government bureaucracy mucks up everything we do.

I got a first-hand, up-close example of that yesterday, and it is truly sad that a country that is as good as it gets on the face of the globe allows this type of nonsense to go on.

But it does.

It relates to my son getting Medicaid, something he so desperately needs to move on with his life.

It just pains me to see how the process is slower than molasses, and so muddled.

The burden of proof is on him, and since I am his official representative--another story about bureaucracy that I won't get into now--it is also on my shoulders, and let me tell you, the weight of proof is a burden that is very difficult to bear.

I truly wonder how others get the resources they need from our government to survive.

All my son needs is Medicaid, which will provide him programs so that he can survive as we makes that leap from student to an adult in need of a job.

It isn't easy.

He actually applied for another job yesterday at a local establishment prior to our appointment.

He is eager, he is willing to do what it takes to get the job done, but alas, he also has a learning disability, and it is difficult for a potential employer to work their way past that and see that this is someone who deserves a chance.

But he hasn't given up, which is really a good characteristic that he has had since he was a baby, when he tried to roll over on his own and couldn't, but he always tried, even then, to do that.

He has been a fighter his whole life, and I am sure it will lead to something good.

But right now, all that we are getting is exasperated.

Long waits, ineffectual staff, lack of answers ... they all go with the territory when you are dealing with a government bureaucracy so full of red tape that it is strangling the system.

We are hoping that yesterday was the final step in the process, the last step in a steep stairway to my son getting Medicaid.

But we got no assurances yesterday, and certainly weren't heartened by the fact that we did more sitting and waiting than anything else.

Hours in waiting for 15 minutes of work; it doesn't seem like a fair tradeoff, but that is what happened yesterday.

But heck, if this is the way it is, then this is the way it is.

We will just grin and bear it--we don't really have a choice--and we will have to wait, patiently, to see what happens.

There is nothing else we can do.

Patience is a virtue, and well, we have to be very, very virtuous in waiting for the state to make a determination.

If it leads to my son getting what he needs, great, I can say that it was, in a sense, worth it.

If he doesn't get what he needs, then we have to move on.

And whatever the case, I can guarantee you that we will do just that.

Speak to you again next week.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rant #1,278: Driving Home a Point

I had my major car accident on May 10 of this year, where my car was totaled by a kid driving another car who, evidently, never saw me when he plowed into me.

My family and I are lucky to be alive.

I think of that day--really that moment--often, when I am driving and sometimes when I'm not even behind the wheel.

It was life changing, to say the least.

Even though I was not even a scintilla at fault during this episode, have my own personal driving habits changed at all as a result in being in such a horrific accident?


I can be as aggressive on the road as the next guy, but when cars are coming out of corners, like that kid did to me, I am extra cautious.

I have also been one to make full stops at Stop signs, which as you know, for some people, is an amazing revelation.

Yes, you have to make full stops at Stop signs.

I have always done this, whether I am in a rush or just out for a casual drive.

With the summer winding down, I have witnessed, up close and personal, how this really is something out of the ordinary for many drivers.

I guess it is hard to get the concept that a Stop sign is placed for the driver to Stop, not to ignore and not to go right through.

And these incidents have happened on the very block I live on, so they happened literally, steps away from my home.

It has almost been a tradition to go through the Stop sign on my block. Over the nearly 40 years I have been driving--November is my anniversary--I have seen so many things happen at that Stop sign, because people simply do not make full stops at it.

Crashes, near crashes, people nearly being run over ... you can't imagine the havoc the presence of that sign causes for some people, simply because they do not understand what to do at a Stop sign.

Anyway, last week, I made the turn from Merrick Road--one of the busiest roads on Long Island--into the block that connects to mine. As I was making the turn, I noticed that another car also made the turn just about concurrently with mine, but I also noticed that he was tailgating me pretty badly.

I made the full stop at the Stop sign, which obviously infuriated him.

He literally was on my bumper, and went through the sign when I turned, nearly hitting me in the back.

I stopped my car after making the turn, because I was getting pretty angry myself.

Why is this guy not only tailgating me, but going through the Stop sign to boot?

I stopped momentarily, peered behind me--the guy knew exactly what I was doing, and that it was directed at him, and I then quickly proceeded to turn into my driveway.

The guy stops his car, as if he were looking for a confrontation.

I simply stayed in the driveway until he left. There was no way I was going to get into it with a crazy driver in a mad rush.

He drove away, and that was that.

Yesterday, again at the same point on Merrick Road, it was ultra busy, with cars coming from all directions.

The car in front of me had to wait, admittedly, an extra long time to turn into the connecting block to mine, but I, like others behind me, waited patiently for him to make the turn.

He finally did, but when it was my turn, again, it was ultra busy, and we had to wait.

There was a car behind me, and then a motorcycle.

Finally, I made my turn when the path was clear, and drove up to that Stop sign, ready to make the right turn onto my block.

Well, little did I realize that the motorcycle had sped up, and was on my tail, and he, too, did not like that I made a full stop at the Stop sign.

He proceeded to go on my left, passing me, and sped through the sign without stopping, waving his arms as if to say, "Let's speed it up here. You are holding me up."

You know what? Tough tomatoes, as they say.

I have always stopped at Stop signs, the accident hasn't stopped that practice, and I will continue to stop at Stop signs until I cannot drive anymore.

Years ago, when I was a teenager, I actually got a ticket for going through a Stop sign.

The problem was, I never went through it.

A cop was firmly placed on a street, and I was completely bemused that he stopped me and gave me a ticket, because I never went through the sign.

I actually stopped--and I mean a full stop--and went on, only to be given a ticket for something I didn't do.

I protested the ticket, went to traffic court, and found out from others that the cop was simply giving tickets out randomly that day to just about anyone who passed that particular street and where he was parked.

Others were protesting for the same reason, I found out, and I pleaded guilty to an "equipment violation," paid $15, had no points taken off my license, and was on my merry way.

I should have held out to pay nothing, because I did nothing wrong, but I gave in and paid that slight fine.

The cop should have been ticketed himself for his actions.

Anyway, if you see me on the road, just understand that I stop--make full stops--at all Stop signs, so just bide your time. You will get to your destination, even if I am holding you up by following the law.

Let me drive that point home to you.

Anyway, I have to take the day off tomorrow for a private matter, so I will next see you again on Friday.

Speak to you then.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rant #1,277: Whopper North?

I am sure that you have heard that Burger King is set on buying Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee powerhouse which has been likened to Starbucks, in a deal that will expand its reach both here and in our neighbor to the north.

Nobody drinks Burger King coffee--my wife, the coffee maven, says it is horrid--and by having Tim Hortons under its wing, Burger King can better compete for that market with McDonald's, which is so proud of its coffee that it is going to soon sell it in a supermarket near you.

That would be all fine and good, but then comes the kicker to this whole ball of wax--

Burger King will relocate its headquarters to Canada to get tax relief from inflated taxes here in the U.S.

Other companies have done this, but whether you like it or not, Burger King is as American as, let's say, apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet--wasn't that a commercial a few years back?--and it has put people in an uproar.

Even legislators have said that they will boycott Burger King if this happens.

Laws are being looked into, loopholes are being studied, to try to prevent Burger King from abandoning the U.S. for lower taxes in Canada.

They wouldn't be the first company to do this, and yes, as you know, very wealthy individuals go to places like Monaco, where they set up residency and are immune to the taxes of the U.S. and elsewhere.

But they reap their livelihoods on the American dollar, so it doesn't seem quite fair.

Honestly, not being a tax lawyer, I really don't know what the U.S. can do to block such a move by Burger King.

I don't think it can claim a monopoly, because it's not like Burger King is buying McDonald's.

It is simply buying Canada's top coffee house, and everything that goes with it, but Tim Hortons doesn't make hamburgers.

I am sure that legislators and lawyers will figure out something to keep Burger King right where it is, whether the company likes it or not.

You simply can't have major American corporations--which is what Burger King has become--run away to another country to escape taxes.

I am sure Burger King's lawyers are looking into this, too, trying to find every opening for the possibility that the fast food giant will run for the north.

And what can the average American citizen do about this?

Nothing, except not eating at Burger King anymore until, and if, this thing is resolved.

On my end, my son loves Burger King, much better than McDonald's or Wendy's or any other hamburger chain.

I can live without it, although I do eat it on occasion.

My wife hates it, so there you go, it won't affect her at all.

And overall, it won't affect most Americans, whether they like Burger King or not.

Whether they are based in the U.S., Canada, or wherever, if you are in need of a quick fix for your appetite, Burger King will always be there.

It's just the way they are trying to escape this country that is getting some people angry, all the while they still love American greenbacks.

It's a Whopper of a story, and I wonder how it will all work out?

Extra pickles, please.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rant #1,276: Dreams and Nightmares

We all have dreams and nightmares, and me, personally, I usually don't remember them at all.

However, this weekend, I am convinced that the power of Dairy Queen overtook my mind and set me on the course to have a couple of memorable/notorious dreams/nightmares.

Let me explain.

On Saturday, it was my son's birthday, so among the festivities that we arranged was that we would have birthday cake after we ate dinner out in late afternoon.

We ate out, came home, and about an hour later, we had cake.

But not just any cake, we had Dairy Queen ice cream birthday cake.

And it was very good.

We chose their sort of "cupcake" arrangement, where they have about a dozen cupcake-like ice creams all set together. It looked really good, and it kind of portions out the ice cream better than a cake can.

Anyway, we ate the ice cream, and hours later, went to bed.

I then went on to have a couple of the most vivid nightmares I have had a in a long time.

I had several that night, waking me up about every hour on the hour. But the two I remember were pretty lucid.

The first one that I remember is that I was at my son's now old high school. He was with a friend, and we were together. I told him that I had to do something (I don't remember what it was), and that I would be right back, and that he and his friend should stay right where they were.

Of course, being that this was a nightmare, you know what happened.

They were gone. I looked all over for them, but they vanished.

I woke up around the time I exhausted places to look for them.

Then I had the next nightmare, which was that I took my car to the local gas station to fill up my tank.

I got out of the car, went in to pay, and came out, and the car was gone.

I looked everywhere, but I could not find the car. Heck, I even looked under cars to find it.

I woke up when, again, I exhausted every possibility.

OK, that was Saturday night going into Sunday, but it continued last night.

Yes, we had more Dairy Queen birthday cake last night, and yes, a while after eating it, I fell asleep.

Again, I had a few dreams last night, but just remember this one.

I returned back to high school as a 57 year old. I didn't need to be there. But it wasn't just returning to my old high school, it was going to the high school I should have gone to before we moved from Queens to Long Island all those years ago.

Springfield Gardens High School was the high school I was supposed to go to, and in reality, the school doesn't even exist anymore.

But in my dream world, it most certainly did exist, and it was quite different than it ever really was.

In 2014, it was pretty much gentrified, as in my dream, my old neighborhood had, out of the blue, become a very hip place to live for people of all colors and backgrounds.

So SGHS was a mixed school in my dream, and for whatever reason, I went back to high school, but back to a high school that I never actually attended.

It came with all the first-day jitters about finding your room, meeting the teacher, seeing who was in your class, all of that, and I actually met another Larry there.

I took some type of film class elective, and I woke up as we were watching some type of presentation, of which I really don't remember.

That one wasn't a nightmare, but it was scary nonetheless.

Why would I want to return to high school? Yuck, that is the last time in my life that I would want to return to!

Anyway, I got up, kind of got back my bearings after a few minutes, and then went back to sleep.

I am sure somebody well versed in dreams and nightmares would be able to make heads and tails of what I dreamed, but whatever it means, it was pretty chilling.

I have to blame it on eating Dairy Queen so late in the day. We never have Dairy Queen in the house, only on special occasions like we had this weekend.

Why would I dream like that--it had to be the Dairy Queen.

I think we have a little left, but I won't be eating it this time around.

No, I have had enough of weird dreams and nightmares the last two nights.

Tonight, it is dinner and I am done!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rant #1,275: The First Day of the Rest of His Life

Tomorrow is my son's birthday, his 19th birthday.

Goodness, I can remember when I could pick him up with one hand.

He is now almost as tall as I am, he is skinny as a rail, and he is about to embark on a journey that is the most important thing that he has done in his entire life.

And that journey will lead him into finding a full-time job, an occupation, a career.

He has been fairly lucky thus far.

After graduating from high school several weeks ago, he went right into his summer job, working for a local camp as a "video game expert."

So he basically went right from ending his formal education to a summer job, but that ends today, as the camp ends it 2014 summer schedule.

So beginning today at about 4 p.m., my son--shown here with my daughter, his beautiful sister--is unemployed, but it goes beyond that.

As I have told you, he has a learning disability and ADD, and these things make strange bedfellows, we have found, when one is searching for a job.

He has put in numerous applications for work, he has gone online to apply for jobs, but so far, the only thing he has to show for it is one single interview, which didn't lead to employment.

I am in the process of trying to get him into various programs that can help him, including, and most prominently, Medicaid.

Once he gets into Medicaid, there are an array of programs he can use to help him find employment, but we have found that it is not easy to get Medicaid.

In fact, we have been put through the wringer on this.

We have had to fill out form after form after form, go for various interviews--we have another one next Thursday--and it has been hell.

He can get other programs without Medicaid, but he cannot get the majority of these programs without getting Medicaid one way or the other, so it has been tough to say the least.

But through it all, he has been resilient, wants to work, and is never thwarted in trying again.

But he does ask me, "When will I get a job?" and honestly, I have no answer for him.

We will push on as a team, myself, him and my wife, and between the three of us, maybe something will turn up.

I think in the end, it will all turn out fine, but my wife and I do ask ourselves about what our son is going to do in the interim, and we don't have any ready answers.

He will continue to look on his own, hope the programs that he can get will help him, but like I have told him many times, the first job is the toughest job to get, and it certainly has been for him.

But being that as it may, happy birthday to the greatest son a parent could have, a kid who has never given up hope anytime throughout his soon to be 19 years about anything.

He will make it, and you will find out when he does.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rant #1,274: Kick the Bucket

One of the wildest crazes around now is the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Unless you have been under a rock for the past few weeks, you know that this challenge is linked with ALS, the disease that kills thousands every year, and is most famous as being the ailment that did in baseball's Lou Gehrig more than 70 years ago.

The disease has mystified humankind for decades.

We don't know what causes it, why it comes about, and we don't have a cure for the disease.

It seems that we have been running in place with this disease for decades, and we aren't much further in its research than we were when Lou Gehrig made his famous "I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech.

It took Gehrig, one of the greatest and strongest players ever to play baseball, from a Goliath to somebody who had trouble walking in a matter of months.

His link with this affliction has always made it a high profile disease, with the public donating millions of dollars each year for research into finding a cure.

But during the past few weeks, donations have skyrocketed due to the Ice Bucket Challenge.

What the challenge is is that someone sits or stands and has a bucket of ice poured over their head.

The original conception was that if you didn't want to go through that, you simply donated $100 to ALS research.

But what has happened is that people are taking the challenge, donating the money nonetheless, and than passing the challenge over to other friends and family ... and thousands of people have taken the plunge.

And like ALS, the origins of the challenge are quite mysterious. There have been similar events held during the past few years, but it is inconclusive about where this actually started, and how it got hooked up with ALS.

Lots of celebrities have also taken the plunge, and with our society's fascination with stars, many just want to replicate what their favorite actors, singers and athletes--and even politicians--have done, so they go ahead and get doused.

It has pushed up donations at least 10-fold, and it is a fun way to try to tackle an absolutely horrible disease.

There has been some controversy with it.

Groups representing other horrible diseases have said that the challenge is taking away focus from their diseases, but to me, that is pretty much sour grapes.

Nobody has forgotten that there are other diseases besides ALS, and let's be honest about it, this is nothing more than a fad, and it will go away as fast as it came upon us.

But for now, it is THE thing to do.

No, I haven't done it yet, but I know several people who have been doused.

I am not opposed to doing it, but I don't know yet if I will.

Let's see what the weekend brings, and even beyond that.

Probably by the time I decide to do it, the fad will have passed.

But whatever. It is a personal choice, nobody is forcing anyone to do it, but I must admit, it does look like a lot of fun to do.

So to those who have done it, good work, and to those who have thought about it, think a little more.

I think Lou Gehrig is looking down from the heavens and smiling, and smiling a lot.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rant #1,273: Keeping the Peace

I have read the frustrations elsewhere and on Facebook, so I am going to add my two cents. 

I put this up in response to a post on Facebook, but I am going to put it up here on my blog because I now see that a lot of people feel the same, exactly the way I do.

I don't think anyone is saying they condone what happened to this kid in Ferguson--who was no choir boy like he is being made out to be by some, including, of course, Mr. Rabble Rouser himself, the Rev. Al "I just love to get involved in these things because it keeps me relevant" Sharpton. 

I think what a lot of people are saying is that the behavior of some people in Ferguson--and those who have come there looking for some "fun"--is atrocious. You do not rob, loot, pillage and steal if you disagree with something. I do believe Dr. King is turning in his grave not only for what happened, but what is happening as a result. This is not what he stood for.

And where is the Rev. Al in the recent Florida incident, where the Orthodox Jew going to synagogue was gunned down by thugs who probably shot him because he wasn't carrying any money on the Sabbath? They refuse to call this a hate crime, haven't apprehended anyone yet, but remarkably, the people there haven't torn up the town to take out their aggression.

What I am saying is that there is a right way to do something and a wrong way, and businesses that are destroyed for no good reason won't come back, which will make the problem in Ferguson even worse.

For once, I agree with our President. The actions taken by some in Ferguson is making matters worse. The family of the young man have pleaded for the violence to stop, and it should, and should immediately.

There is nothing wrong with peaceful protest. 

However, there is something wrong when protests have morphed into riots and are leading not only to looting, but to carnage--and that carnage has nothing to do with the police there. Shots rang out on Monday night, and they did not come from police guns.

Nobody has been killed as part of these protests, but the window is growing short for civility to ensue.

I heard one woman on the evening news yesterday say that while she did not condone the violence, she said that it was because of the violence that people were sitting up and taking notice.

That might be true, but just think of how many people would take notice if the protests were peaceful? I think many more would feel comfortable participating if things were civil.

So many facts of this case are still out, or at least are not being told to the public, that to make assumptions is simply the wrong way to go now.

We do know the kid was shot several times by a white officer. 

We don't know what precluded the shooting; the officer said that the kid was skirmishing with him and going for his gun. The kid and his friend were stopped for some reason, and whether it had to do with a robbery that they committed a few minutes before is unclear.

That is pretty much all we know.  

Until that time, you want to protest, fine. You want to destroy, not so fine.

Keep the peace until all the facts are out, and then, still keep the peace.

You want to honor this kid? Act like adults.

'Nuf said.

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