• Kaboom
  • The Big Story
  • Port Town
  • Nothing Is Forever

FEATURED POSTS

  • August 6, 2019

    5 THINGS THAT BUG ME IN MY OLD AGE

    FRIENDS AND FAMILY CALL ME GEORGE, BUT IT’S MR. CUNNINGHAM TO STRANGERS

    As I get old, I have discovered two things.

    One, things that used to drive me crazy, no longer do. You know, live and let live. You don’t have to agree with me. Why would I care if you do or you don’t?

    And two, some things that used to be just annoying, now tend to drive me nuts. I don’t pretend it makes any sense. In fact it doesn’t make any sense. It just is what it is.

    For instance:

    ONE: People I Don’t Know Calling Me by My First Name

    I go to the bank, or I go to a hotel, or I go to anywhere else where I have to show an ID, and whomever I am dealing thinks that if they call me by my first name I’ll feel like they are my friends. This is particularly galling when my wanna-be new friend is about 20 years old.

    You’re probably thinking how petty of me, and you’re probably right. But I grew up in the South, where you addressed everybody older than you as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” Even if you were 40 and they were 60, you still showed them the respect that comes with age.

    This also bugs me with cops who pull me over on the freeway. Here’s some kid that just got out of high school five years ago, saying, “Well, George, do you know how fast you were driving?” I know exactly how fast I was going, but I play it dumb. “No officer, I’m afraid I don’t,” I say.

    I am not about to squeal on myself.

    Now I don’t fault the officer for stopping me for speeding, that’s the job. But unless he wants me to call him Bobby or Randy or Susie, he really needs to address me as Mr. Cunningham. So I usually come off as an old guy with a bad attitude. That’s OK. I can live with that.

    TWO: People Who Drive Slow in the Car Pool Lane

    Let’s get one thing straight right off. There is the law as it is written down in the vehicle code and the real-world law that regular people follow. One of those real world laws is that nobody drives at the speed limit in the car pool lane, unless traffic is really jammed up.

    But every once in a while, you get stuck behind some jerk whose driving at 55 or 60 in the car pool lane, with a wide-open lane in front of him and all the drivers to the right zooming by at 75 and 80 mph. I mean this is California, man. Everybody speeds and we all drive too close together. That’s the only way the freeways work.

    Once some timid jerk starts hitting the brakes, the whole system breaks down into a stop-and-go nightmare.

    THREE: Overly Friendly Cashiers or Customers Who Hold Up the Line

    I may be a grumpy old man, but there’s a time and a place for everything. I hate waiting in line at the supermarket with my ice cream getting softer by the minute while some person – I don’t want to be sexist, but it’s usually a woman – takes her own sweet time to check out.

    And it’s not just her. Sometimes the cashier is just as bad.

    “That will be $96.43,” the cashier will say and the customer will start digging in her purse to pay the bill. I don’t want to insensitive, but she had to know that there would come this moment when money would have to change hands. So she reaches down in slow motion, opens up her purse, takes out her checkbook and starts writing a check.

    I mean for Heaven’s sake, who the hell buys things with checks anymore?

    Then the cashier will see that the customer has a picture in her wallet of her grandchild or her dog or a day at the beach, and the clerk feels the need to comment on it. So while my ice cream is slipping from solid to liquid, the two of them get into a conversation.

    “Isn’t that adorable,” the cashier might say, and the customer will stop writing her check to tell her how her child or her dog is a smart as a whip.

    Finally, I very politely say, “Isn’t that nice, but could you please just pay your bill, take your groceries and go home, so I can get home and put my ice cream in the freezer?”

    And all of a sudden, I’m the bad guy. Go figure.

    FOUR: Phone Mail and Being Put On Hold

    I am old enough to remember when you called some company and a person answered the phone. It was a custom that worked pretty well.

    Now a robot answers the phone and gives you a list of options. What language do you want to use, Press One for English, Two for Spanish, Three for Khmer, Four for Chinese, etc., etc., etc.

    Then the phone mail hell tries to figure out what you want to talk about. Another list of options, which most often does not include anything that I want. So I pick the one that seems the closest, and I wait, listening to horrible on-hold music as the minutes go by and death gets closer with each tick of the clock.

    And the real message is this: Your time is not valuable to us. We don’t really give a darn what your problem is. And maybe if we draw this out long enough you will give up and just go away. And sometimes I do … forever.

    FIVE: Surveys and Polls

    Another bunch of people who think my time is not valuable are pollsters and survey-takers. The first want to ask me a series of questions about who I’m going to vote for and the second are customer service folks who want to know how happy or unhappy I was with something they had sold me.

    The first group is dismissed out of hand. It’s none of their business for whom I plan to vote, or what I may think about the state of the world. They’re getting paid to ask me the questions, but they don’t plan to pay me to answer them. So I suspect I end up in the undecided category or maybe they pretend they couldn’t get ahold of me, so my opinion isn’t counted.

    The second group is presumably asking questions so they can improve their service by finding out what their company is doing right and what it is doing wrong.  But here’s the problem. I don’t mind answering two or three or even four questions about my experience with their company, but that’s never enough.

    These surveys are drawn up by a committee somewhere and everybody on that committee has a slightly different idea of what questions to ask and how to ask them. So you end up with 20 minutes of questions many of which are redundant and lots of which don’t apply.

    I mean, I don’t want to be an old grump or anything. But, clearly I am.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have an opinion on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • DOG STAYS HOME, WE FLY ALONE

    HENRY WANTS TO GO HOME

    When we first got our dog Henry, he loved to travel. But now that he’s a little older, not so much. Especially in the middle of summer in Florida with thunderstorms every night, scary critters that lurk in the dark, relentless heat, bugs, and humidity.

    Henry’s gotten used to air conditioning, cool nights, clear skies and his own numerous comfy beds. And he likes it that way. Henry loves his neighborhood, and he has a reputation among the other dogs here. He’s kind of a tough guy in the Hood. There are a few dogs that he likes, a larger group that he hates, and a bunch of human friends and neighbors who shamelessly spoil him.

    If he sees a small- or medium-size dog, he’s ready to assert himself. If he sees a big dog, he tries the same strategy. And if it doesn’t work, he is not ashamed to just run like hell back to his mom.

    Despite his tough-guy reputation, we have to be careful. Some of those big dogs actually may be coyotes, who come down from the hills to hunt little dogs like Henry, and some of the cats may be big, fat bobcats, who stalk the neighborhood, looking for a tender morsel such as Henry.

    Every summer, there are numerous instances of bobcats leaping out of trees or from backyard fences onto unsuspecting little pups. So when we all go out in the backyard, we automatically check out the nearby big pine tree to make sure the coast is clear.

    The dangers where we live are real for a little dog, but this is Henry’s home and this is where he likes it. When we recently returned from a five-week motor trip, he went from asleep on his mom’s lap to looking out the window and beginning to recognize familiar landmarks. By the time we turned in the gate he was shaking and whimpering with excitement. By the time we turned down our street he was barking and straining to get out of the car.

    It is good to be home, especially for a little boy who loves his own turf.

    We’ve decided though, that we’re not taking Henry on long trips anymore. We’ll go and he’ll stay home with his baby sitter and mommy-substitute, “Auntie Bev.” From now on, when we travel, we’ll get on a plane, fly across country, rent a car, eat at nice restaurants, and stay in nice hotels.

    Speaking of nice hotels, one of the pleasant side effects of leaving Henry at home is that never again will have to stay in a La Quinta Inn. Before we had Henry, we never stayed at a La Quinta. But we learned on our first trip with him that while most hotels do not take dogs, all of the La Quinta Inns do.

    The La Quinta’s are a mixed bag. There are few of them – maybe 5 or 6 percent – that are fairly nice. The ones in Mobile, Alabama; Vancouver, Washington; Flagstaff, Arizona; and Broussard, Louisiana come to mind. But, most of them are barely up to standard, and there are a few that are just God awful.

    The San Antonio Dominion La Quinta, north of the city off Interstate 10, was the last La Quinta we stayed in – hopefully, the last forever. It used to be one of the nicer and newer La Quinta Inns, but that was three or four years ago.

    This time around, although the room was clean, the hallways were nasty and the outside walkways were littered with cigarette butts and gum wrappers. And apparently, as with so many hotels in the chain, nobody is in charge of picking up the dog poop that litters the outside grounds. We pick up our own, but for those visitors who are not so enlightened, the hotel grounds people really should do it.

    Dogs used to stay free at the La Quinta chain, but after the chain was recently purchased by Wyndham, it began charging $25 to $50 a night for pups. That’s fair enough – there is a cost to letting dogs stay at a hotel. The problem is that despite the added fee, nothing has been done to clean up the mess, either inside or out.

    That’s not our problem anymore. With Henry at home, basking in Auntie Bev’s arms and with the AC cranked up, we can stay anywhere we want.

    And that’s exactly what we intend to do.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have an opinion on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • June 29, 2019

    WHY ARE EXPERTS SO OFTEN WRONG?

    MY DIPLOMA – Photo by Carmela Cunningham

    I don’t trust experts. I never have, and I doubt that I ever will.

    Experts are the guardians of the common wisdom. They are captives of the group-think of the day. That’s the reason for which they go to school – to learn what they are supposed to believe. And most of them do exactly that.

    When somebody tells me they have a PhD in Early Childhood Education, or Women’s Studies, or Psychology, or Creative Dance, I am immediately suspicious of everything they have to say, even though much of it may be true.

    What is the old joke? A “specialist” is someone who knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.

    I am also suspicious of people who went through elementary school, then high school, then college, and then they graduate and are officially anointed with a certificate (basically a piece of paper signed by some institute that charged them a lot of money) of expert-hood.

    The secondary school system was created more than a hundred years ago to prepare workers for factories. A bell rings and you change classes, another bell rings and you go to recess, another bell rings and you eat lunch. It doesn’t matter if you are really excited about what you have just learned and want to hear more, when the bell rings you go on to the next assignment.

    Today, it’s still the same old shuck and jive – although the world has changed completely in the meantime.

    As you might guess, I really hated school, and I wasn’t too crazy about teachers.

    And though at the end I was awarded a bachelor’s degree, my time spent at the University was mostly a waste. The only thing that saved me from the nonsense taught at college was the perspective I gained working construction, as a party chief on a survey crew, fighting in a war, and living life.

    When I completed my time at the University, I skipped the whole stupid cap and gown ceremony. I told them to send me my degree and I split for California. I still have the degree and it’s still in the little shipping tube in which it was mailed 50 years ago.

    So why do I still have it, stored in a tube in the back of the closet? To remind me, always, of what a waste of precious time it represents.

    The point is that the overriding purpose of a formal education is to pigeonhole people into some kind of occupational box. I have talked to numerous successful people, who when pressed or drunk, would confess that what they really wanted to do was play the saxophone or create art or putter around in their garage inventing products that just might change the world.

    It’s those dreamers and the workers that push civilization forward, not the university-indoctrinated “experts.”

    At least that’s the way I see it.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have an opinion on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • June 19, 2019

    WHEN YOUR DOG IS AMBIURINOUS

    HENRY BEING A LITTLE BOY DOG

    I learn a lot about life when I’m walking our dog, Henry.

    One thing is that Henry tends to be politically incorrect. Maybe even a little bit of a bigot.

    When he meets another Yorkie, like himself, he is ready to jump and play with a new friend. When he meets another breed – especially those damn Pomeranians, he is ready to attack.

    It’s as though he’s thinking, “we don’t like their kind in our neighborhood.” Nobody taught him that. It’s just what he feels. And I have to admit, after hanging around with Henry, I don’t much like those damn Pomeranians either.

    The other thing I noticed about Henry, is that he is ambi-urinous. Sometimes he lifts his right leg to pee and sometimes he lifts his left. Sometimes, in cases where the bush or the fire hydrants is on his left, he will turn all the way around and lift his right leg to do his business.

    And sometimes, just sometimes when it’s late and he’s tired and there is no tree or big rock available, he will squat like a little girl to pee. Maybe, it’s just his feminine side coming out – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    The point is, I’m not worried about it. No gender reassignment surgery is planned. Henry proves every day in many ways that he is pure boy. Henry loves his mama, but he and I understand each other in ways she never will.

    Cause, she’s a girl, and we’re not.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • May 17, 2019

    I’VE TURNED INTO A BLOOMIN’ IDIOT

    THE IMPORTANT STUFF OF LIFE

    Maybe it’s just my age or maybe it’s the political and social times in which I live, but the older I get, the more I find myself disliking people and politics and the more I am drawn to dogs and flowers.

    There was the Socratic Age, the Roman Age, the Medieval Age, the Renaissance, the Age of Reason, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Modern Age. Throughout history, people looked at the world and tried to understand it and figure out where we all fit into the scheme of things.

    Here’s the truth.

    We are currently living in the age of stupidity.  It’s an age where people stake out a political or social position, and only talk to people who agree precisely in whatever dogma they happen to favor. And the more they talk to people who are in complete agreement with them, the more convinced they become that they are the enlightened ones and people who disagree with them are a bunch of ignoramuses, or in the words of one politician, deplorables.

    TOO SMART FOR THE PRESENT DAY

    I have decided to start my own age – the age of dogs, flowers and good food.  The roses are in bloom. The pups are enjoying the warmer weather. And Carmela has a big pot of Jambalaya simmering in the kitchen.

    The age of dogs, flowers and good food may not go down in history as a major movement, but that’s OK.

    It’s a nice place to spend time – and a lot less stressful than watching the news.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.