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FEATURED POSTS

  • March 10, 2022

    THE AGE OF DISCOVERY

    BATHROOM: Crystal Bay Hotel, St. Petersburg, Florida, February 14, 2022

    I’m surprised by how much I like getting old.

    I don’t mean the pains and aches that come with age – those are just the daily dues you have to pay for surviving all the things that could have gone tragically wrong along the way.

    The payoff, if you’re lucky, is that you now have the chance to figure out what it was all about. And what it is all about probably is not what you thought it was all about when you were younger, stronger, and didn’t have the time or the patience to pause and reflect.

    Old age is an opportunity to separate who you are from what you did to put groceries on the table and a roof over your family’s heads. It’s a time for revelation and learning, and I’m getting smarter by the day.

    My wife Carmela and I just returned from a road trip to Florida. We admired the scenery, spent a ton of money on hotels, visited with kin folks and, as with all road trips, took lots of pictures. And what I found is this.

    I like taking the pictures of people and I like looking at them, but when it comes time to pick my favorite shots, they’re usually not of the people – however much I love those people – my favorite photos are of things.

    The desert, the sky, the ocean, mountains, swamps and trees. Bridges, buildings, windows, birds, highways, and other inanimate objects.

    BEACH CHAIRS AT SUNSET: Gulfport, Florida, February 19, 2022

    TREES: Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, Lousiana, February 10, 2022

    Lessons learned:

    1. Being an amateur photographer helped open up the world for me. All the things that people zoom by without seeing, suddenly pop up and reveal themselves through the lens.
    2. I know the people, and I love the people, but mostly we end up taking pictures just for the sake of recording their images one more time. The candid shots are always better, the shots where nobody is posing, where the secrets behind the façade reveal themselves.
    3. As much as I love people, sometimes I crave aloneness, being away from everybody, being by myself in the middle of nowhere, with no electronic and social connection to the rest of the world.

    Strange thoughts for a person who doesn’t necessarily believe in God – at least not the one touted by the preachers and prophets from around the world. Maybe that’s the difference between being religious and being spiritual.

    I’m still working on that.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Credit where credit is due. Two of the photos in this article were taken by my wife, Carmela Cunningham. No problem. I often take credit for her brilliant work. If you would like to subscribe to our work, you may contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know and you will get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • January 2, 2021

    Good-Bye 2020; Hello 2021

    WE KICKED CORONAVIRUS’ ASS!

    As many people know, I have been an outspoken skeptic on the coronavirus lockdown of the country. It’s long past time for folks to go back to work, for restaurants and bars to reopen, and for factories, and farms to once again start supplying the basic needs.

    At the same time, Carmela and I have been very careful how we live and how we relate to other people – mostly because of my age and health. And that has been our attitude. High-risk people – whether because of age or other factors – should take whatever steps they needed to protect themselves. Everybody else should get back to work.

    And some people have. Grocery workers, whether cashiers or truck drivers, have been showing up every day, wearing masks, and making sure people can get the food they need to survive. Doctors and nurses have been manning the front lines at hospitals; many construction workers have also been on the job, and so have other blue-collar folks, such as longshore and warehouse workers.

    Lots white collar workers have been able to perform their duties from home, avoiding the long commutes and the need for a downtown office – an idea that may gain new credence after the coronavirus lockdown has past.

    Most teachers and other unionized government workers have continued to draw a paycheck even if they have not been doing any work.

    Carmela and I are retired, so earning a living is not an issue. But other things are. In my age group and with my pre-existing medical conditions, the coronavirus would be a death sentence – or so we thought. Then in December – 12 days after my 80th Birthday – I went to an oral surgeon for a root canal.

    Without getting into details, this guy was clearly frazzled, not tracking very well, and inserting all kinds of tools into my mouth and a probe into my gums. We left there and vowed never to return.

    Two days later, I developed a sore throat, a cold, and severe body aches. Two days after that, so did Carmela. The final diagnosis, we both had the dreaded coronavirus. And guess what. We are both still here, although I still have the sniffles and Carmela has temporarily lost her sense of smell – which is a tough thing for a woman who loves to cook.

    But we overcame the coronavirus and that’s something for which to be very thankful. And we are.

    2020 may have been a terrible year, but we survived it. So here is to 2021. It’s got to be better than the year just past.

    Or is that just wishful thinking?

    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.

     

  • November 28, 2020

    Old Age

    TODAY I TURN 80. IF LIFE WAS A CHESS MATCH, THIS WOULD BE THE TIME TO START PLANNING THE END GAME. BUT FUCK THAT! LIFE IS NOT A CHESS MATCH. LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE. BALLS OUT TO THE END. THAT’S MY PLAN, AND I’M STICKING TO IT.

     

     

  • October 7, 2020

    REQUIEM FOR A TREE

    BEFORE

    We loved that 40-foot-high pine tree that shaded our patio all morning long, that provided a home to humming birds and sparrows, a high perch for crows and ravens to survey their domain, and a place for bugs and small critters that were a source of food for those birds. The tree grew in our neighbor’s yard, but we considered ourselves stakeholders in its presence.

    We would gather beneath its sheltering boughs for morning coffee and conversation, our dog Henry would curl up on his outside bed and snooze, as we plotted new adventures, traded the latest neighborhood gossip, and poured more coffee.

    But now our tree is gone, taking with it its welcome shade, the trill of the birds, and the majestic boughs that swung back and forth in the breeze above our heads. Our patio suddenly seems naked, exposed to the harsh and blinding rays of the morning sun.

    The removal of the tree was sudden with little time to say good-bye. Our neighbors showed up at the door to announce the tree was coming down that day.

    We had to leave that morning to meet our nieces and nephew for ice cream in Huntington Beach, and by the time we returned not only was the tree gone, but the branches that hung over our patio had been allowed to fall into our flower bed, crushing the plants below, including a Birthday rose – one of two that were a gift from Henry and me to my wife.

    The workmen, who were still busy digging out roots, did not speak English, and we don’t beat up on employees, when the person we need to be yelling at is their boss.

    AFTER

    The removal of the tree left us both sad and disappointed, but that’s how it is when an old friend departs. You tend to forget all the bad things that went along with the good.

    The deep shade of the tree made it difficult to grow our own flowers and plants, and the labyrinth of giant roots that supported the tree was slowly destroying the fence separating our backyard from the neighbors and undermining the foundation of our home. And some point in the future, those roots would also damage the plumbing that provides our water and destroy the underground system that drains away our waste – amenities that people nowadays take for granted.

    There also was the daily onslaught of dead pine needles that showered down in our yard, pine needles that had to be swept off our patio daily, pine needles that lodged in the nooks and crannies of everything, spiny debris that fell across young flowers struggling to break through to the light, pine needles that defied attempts to rake them up without damaging all that grew beneath them.

    And when the wind blew hard and strong as it often does in the pass between Mount San Gorgonio and Mount Jacinto, the boughs of the pine would whip back and forth, sending a shower of needles to cover our backyard with a thick prickly carpet of green and brown. If the tree were to snap, as a number have in the pass area, an obvious target would be not only our backyard but our home as well.

    Still, an old friend is gone, and a new day begun.

    After the tree came down we went to Lowes to buy a backyard umbrella, $150 plus with a concrete stand to anchor it to the ground. A poor substitute for the cooling boughs of the old pine and the constant twitter and trills from its inhabitants, but sufficient to provide a modicum of shade.

    We are still digging pine needles out of the cracks and crannies of the backyard, but there is no daily onslaught of their spiny fallout.

    Life goes on.

    Not for the big tree, but hopefully the avian and insect creatures that called the tree home, will find new places to inhabit – hopefully in our yard.

    Carmela, Henry, and I are still here, Carmela and I still drinking coffee in the morning and arguing about life, politics, and our next big adventure, while Henry snoozes on his bed.

    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.

  • May 27, 2020

    The Power of Magical Thinking

    Photo by djwtwo on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

    Americans believe in magic. And why wouldn’t we? We lead lives of such privilege and prosperity that we have come to think of our place of dominance in the world and our style of life as a God-given right.

    There may be places in the world where people are starving, where disease is rampant, and where human beings are killing one another in savage ways over nothing more than differences of opinion in how they worship. But not here. Not in America.

    We’re special. And we have a government that is going to take care of us, no matter what.

    That’s magical thinking. The truth is that the government can’t give us anything that it doesn’t take from us first. A bug from China (in fact, for the nitpickers, a submicroscopic infectious agent, not literally a bug) is infecting people, making them sick and sometimes even killing them – especially those who are old or in ill health to begin with.

    So what do we do? Exactly what the government tells us to do. We lock ourselves away, and huge numbers of us start getting paid to do nothing. But, no matter how dangerous the virus may be, this can only go on for so long.

    Right now – more than ten weeks into the shut down – many Americans keep insisting that we all stay home and that the economy stays locked up tight. To facilitate that, they’re expecting the government to keep making pay-outs to individuals and businesses – both big and small – to keep everything running.

    The funny thing is that a lot of those same Americans, who think they and almost everybody else should stay home, still want some of their countrymen to go to work. They’re thinking that the doctors and nurses in hospitals, the people who work in grocery stores, truck drivers who deliver food to supermarkets, and the farmers and ranchers who grow the food should still keep hustling their butts. It’s OK though, because they are very, very grateful. They are happy to put signs in their windows and applaud public service messages about what super heroes those people are who are expected to be at their jobs. It’s a big, hearty “thank you” to the folks on the front line.

    A lot of those “stay at home” people also want people who have been put out of work to get more money, they want everyone who wants to stay home to be compensated, and they want everybody on the government dole to get a raise. A BIG raise.

    The problem is this. There is no magic. The government cannot actually create wealth. It can only take it from the wealth-creators – also known as taxpayers. Of course, the government can always turn on the presses and print some more dollars, but those freshly inked pieces of paper only make the dollars we already have less valuable. In other words, they cause inflation, making it a lot harder for Americans to buy things like food and clothes and cars and houses and everything else.

    The economic shut down closed supply chains, food distribution lines, transportation services, government agencies and no end of other businesses that are required to get goods and services to the public.  Getting food to market has become so logistically difficult and expensive that dairymen are dumping milk and ranchers and farmers are losing money on animals that they cannot get to market because of packing-plant closures. All that dumped milk and stranded meat adds up to two things – a shortage of food in the markets and much higher prices on the food that does show up.

    So now steaks, Brussels sprouts, milk, chicken, and other items from soup to nuts is getting difficult to find and more expensive. And it’s going to get a lot worse – even after we open up the country. A shut-down supply chain takes a while to get back on track and up to speed.

    The problem is that people believe what they want to believe and politicians will always be there to support Americans’ magic fantasies in an attempt to curry favor in exchange for votes.

    Magical thinking goes far beyond the Corona virus.

    My brother-in-law, a retired sheriff’s deputy, says all his law enforcement buddies are solidly for Trump and are sure he is going to win. But he recognizes that his law-and-order buds don’t necessarily reflect the society as a whole.

    Not everybody is so perceptive.

    If you were to go my wife Carmela’s former office at UCLA, you would be surrounded by people who think Trump is so stupid there is no way he can win.

    We see what we want to see and believe what our friends and associates believe, so our view of the world tends to be somewhat skewed.

    Remember when Japanese auto makers began taking over the market back in the 70s and 80s. American auto executives were lulled into a sad sense of complacency when they looked out at their company parking lot and saw row after row of American cars. They tended to gloss over the fact that their employees were entitled to deep discounts on the cars they helped build – and so they bought those cars and filled up the company parking lots while much of the rest of America had started buying the Japanese cars.

    You see friends on Facebook, on both sides of the political divide, ranting about how stupid the other side is and reinforcing their own increasingly narrow point of view. Anybody who disagrees, even slightly, is instantly pummeled for his or her political blasphemy.

    It’s both ugly and crazy. Here are the plain and unmagical facts.

    The economy must immediately open and start producing goods and services to get those 30 million newly unemployed people off the government dole – and back to paying taxes.

    The government must stop printing money and handing it out like drunken sailors.

    And while we’re at it, we’ve all got to find a way to get along a little better. Disagreement is fine, and even healthy. Disrespect, acrimony and boorish screeching is not.

    The world is what it is. We can either get along and recognize our differences or break apart and engage in a holy war over politics, money and culture. There is no magic.

    And no amount of Abracadabra is going to change that.

    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.